Report #00004: Biographical Data Post-Gnomeregan
I often meet people… elves, humans, etc… who have traveled all of Azeroth and experienced so much more than I have. Even most gnomes, regardless of having spent much of their lives in Gnomeregan, have supported the Alliance in many battles through engineering and combat. I meet people who have spent great amounts of time battling the Legion in Outland, then gone on to assignments in Northrend to fight against the Scourge. Myself? I’m seeing most of Azeroth for the first time in my life, and fighting battles I never could have pictured myself being thrown into before.
My personal history in Gnomeregan is nothing of great interest, outside of the work I did at the Quantum Understanding and Replication Kraftshoppe. To be completely honest, I’d have to say that isn’t even as noteworthy as one might think. Quantum Mechanical Engineering is a rather small field, and often not of interest to anyone other than Quantum Mechanical Engineers. Other engineers tend to look at it as being a waste of time, as we aren’t finding new ways to turn people into chickens, or building powerful weapons that are as whimsical as they are deadly. Having never felt completely “at home” in Gnomeregan, or among other gnomes, combined with my work to make me something of an outcast. Some news from outside Gnomeregan couldn’t go un-noticed, but there are many things I was rather oblivious to until I began my life in Ironforge.
I suppose it’s not entirely accurate to say things started changing at that point exactly. I began my life in Ironforge as an invalid. After multiple radiation bombs were detonated in key locations around Gnomeregan, and the exhaust pipes from the central reactor diverted to strategic points in the city and opened, we were still unable to leave for some time. A careful count had been made for how many radiation suits we had, but many of those suits were missing at the last nanosecond. (Some have said that Thermaplugg probably had the suits hidden after the final count. It’s merely a hypothesis, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it proven one day.) The air was filled with an engineered equivalent to what you find floating in the sewers of Dalaran, and we were breathing it in. Breathing it, feeling it stick to our skin, eating dwindling food rations we couldn’t prevent the contamination of.
I don’t know how much longer I was in there. I once saw a proto-type GyroMatic Portal Generation Unit that had an odd effect on anyone who stared into the portal while it was being generated. Time itself would feel like it had come to a halt, yet one could observe events still going on around them. That is exactly what seemed to happen in Gnomeregan. We could have been in there for months after the radiation and gas was set loose, or may have been rescued within hours. I simply do not remember.
What I do remember is seeing a kind face framed by braids the color of spring wheat, and arms that could move mountains pulling me up and out. And I heard a voice that was as rough as an uncut stone, but also as soft as fresh warm bread say, “Poor little thing… We’ll get some food in you, and I know who to take you to.” The dwarven woman fed me my first taste of Dwarven Mild, and it has been my favorite food since then! That’s also the last thing I remember before I woke up in Greta Stouthammer’s home.
Greta seemed to me to be as old as Ironforge Mountain. In truth, she was exceptionally aged for a dwarf, though not to the point of being an isolated case. Greta had been a small child when the War of the Three Hammers happened, which means she could remember when Gnomeregan was built. Her parents had assisted with the construction, and she told me stories of going to the site when the ground was broken for it and wondering if the gnomes were going to make toys for her and her friends. When her parents made her stay in Ironforge to keep her out of trouble at the construction site, one of the gnomes sent them home with a mechanical squirrel for her one day.
I floated in and out of consciousness for some time in Greta’s home. She kept me tucked tightly into a bed, the blanket becoming both my comfort and my jailer. I sometimes knew stew was being gently pushed into my mouth, and I think Greta fed me at other times without me ever really waking up for it. I tried to get out of bed several times, muttering about needing to check on the Ionization and Particle Gyrometer readings, but she’d push me back into bed and say, “If I have to put you in that bed one more time today, I’ll do it with my fist. That’ll keep you there until next week, at least.” As I started spending more time awake and aware of my surroundings, she told me stories and brought me books to read.
Greta’s books! I’d spent over seventy years of my life reading engineering manuals, technical reports, mathematics texts… and I’d missed so much! Greta gave me books about history, dragons, elves, Titans, demons, and arcane energy. She also brought me books about the Holy Light, and told me stories from her own life about the Light when I asked her questions. She told me about great healers and mighty paladins she’d known, and how the Light could bring comfort to anyone who wanted to feel it. Even little gnomes who’d never thought much about it before.
Greta had many children, in a way. She’d lost her husband many years before when he defended Loch Modan against an attack from the Dark Iron dwarves, and she’d spent the years after his death taking in orphans and refugees when they needed someone to care for them. Each of them was very precious to her, and some became the children she and her husband were never able to have. They did have one child before his death, though, and that’s my brother Friginne. When I was turned over to Greta’s care, Friginne was away learning to be a paladin after having been a warrior at Mount Hyjal. He was not particularly happy to find a gnome in the house when he got back to Ironforge. Friginne had lost his wife and fellow warrior, Krona, at Hyjal. He was battling his own personal demons and did not know yet why the gnomes had not been there to help.
I woke up one afternoon and heard a voice downstairs yelling, “She’s a bloody gnome! They abandoned us! The gnomes are as responsible for Krona’s death as the bloody demons are, and you’re treating her like she’s some wounded bunny?” This was followed by something like the sound of a solid wood table being thrown against the wall and a shelf full of mugs shattered all over a melon. Then I heard Greta’s voice, much harsher than ever before but still full of maternal concern, say, “Are you done telling your mother what she can and cannot do in her own home? Maybe you’d like to go back to your mentor and tell him how the mighty paladin got his nose bloodied by an old woman, then?”
It wasn’t until much later that Friginne knew I’d overheard this. All he ever showed me from our first face-to-face meeting was brotherly love and protection. Greta had told him that night what happened in Gnomeregan, and Friginne decided for himself that he’d been given another chance to help save someone. He couldn’t save Krona from the demons, but he could help his mother nurse me back to full health.
I suffered from terrible technophobia after the fall of Gnomeregan, even once I had recovered physically. I wouldn’t go near an arclight spanner or toolbox. Even watching the blacksmiths around the Great Forge work made me start breathing too fast, and I passed out and almost fell into the lava more than once. I started standing back near the shops when I walked through there, and wandered into the tailoring shop one day. My days became filled with sewing, helping Greta around the home, and asking endless questions of the historians in the Hall of Explorers and the mages in the Mystic Ward. I saved my questions about the Light for Greta and Friginne.
Advanced age finally started to take it’s toll on Greta, and I was happy to help Friginne take care of her. I will never forget setting dinner out on the table one night, and I gave her a hug and said, “Thank you for letting me take care of you, Greta. It’s a small thing compared to what you did for me, but I want to do it.” She looked at me with a soft smile and said, “You don’t have to thank me, Fizzy, but a mother does like to know she’s done good by her children.” That gave way to a long discussion among the three of us that went well past the meal and into a night by the fireplace with mugs of ale. I’d recently taken the name Runesprocket and was working to master what the mages were teaching me, but as far as any of us in that house were concerned, I was a Stouthammer. Sort of a Stouthammer Lite, you could say.
Friginne and I said our goodbyes to Greta in the spring of last year, and she closed her eyes with a smile on her face. We laid her body to rest, and then we drank no less than half the brew in Dun Morogh. We had help drinking it, though. Mountaineers from Kharanos came, and Brewnall Village was empty for the night. Guards from Thelsamar and checkpoints in Loch Modan came and went in shifts, as there had to be someone on duty at all times. The Stonefire Tavern was filled throughout the night with laughter, jokes, dancing, and songs! Very few tears, though. I think something about the joy Greta had filled our lives with made it impossible to become sad enough to cry when we talked about her. If I ever manage to be even half the dwarf Greta Stouthammer was, I’ll still be legendary.
Finally, just after last year’s Brewfest, I stepped out into the world with greater purpose. I lack the experience of others in seeking answers and battling enemies, so I sometimes seem to be in a hurry to go everywhere and do everything. I’ve seen eighty-three years pass in Azeroth, but had never really seen Azeroth in those eighty-three years.