Thursday, October 4, 2007
To enter Ironforge is to enter another world. The snow-covered lands of Dun Morogh vanish in its confines, replaced by immense vaulted halls of ancient stone. Gruff Dwarvish words fill the air as thousands of merchants, craftsmen, and travelers argue, converse, and make merry. The cold disappears in an instant, the suddden influx of heat sometimes disorienting visitors. The heat comes from both the countless people within Ironforge as well as the innumerable forges scattered throughout the city, not to mention the Great Forge at its center.
Ironforge is the only great city that survived the devastation of the wars. The orcs razed Stormwind City at the end of the First, though the humans eventually rebuilt it. Silvermoon, Stratholme, Dalaran, Stromgarde and Lordaeron (though one could make the argument that Undercity is a continuation of Lordaeron) all fell. The cities in Kalimdor are new creations.
Some say that only orcs are bloodthirsty enough to lay siege to a mountain, and they can cite the Second War as proof. Countless Horde warriors fruitlessly dashed themselves on the gates of Ironforge during the interminable siege, unable to rein in their desire for battle. When the orcs heard that the Alliance armies had broken through the Wetlands, an ogre-mage general named Dol’bol ordered all the orcish forces in Dun Morogh to attack the dwarven city en masse.
Dwarven cannons fired a deadly hail of shells, tearing the Horde forces to pieces. When dwarven troops at last slew Dol’bol and his guards, the snow for a mile around Ironforge was stained red with orcish blood. As a child I remember the small dwarven community in Lordaeron celebrating that event, which they called Victory Day. There were not enough dwarves in Lordaeron to make a very large festival but they were quite enthusiastic with what they did have.
The grandeur of Ironforge is immediately apparent. While the dwarves are often associated with cramped underground tunnels, the Commons of Ironforge are anything but claustrophobic. Literally thousands of people walk comfortably beneath the magnificent vaulted ceiling every day. The air is admittedly rather smoky, the natural result of the constant industry that goes on within Ironforge.
A sense of order rules the place despite the crowds. The dwarves will not tolerate the chaotic bazaars of old Lordaeron, and make sure that activity in the Commons runs as smoothly as possible. I would not wish to overstate this; it is still very noisy and vibrant, and the rough sounds of the trade nearly shake the vast hall. It is merely more orderly than a human marketplace of equivalent size.
I made my way to the Stonefire Tavern, an establishment famous enough that I had heard of it in far-off Dalaran. On the way I passed a work team of Dark Iron refugees excitedly pulling a bulky wagon packed with crates. I realized that I would eventually have to travel through Dark Iron territory. As they are hostile to most outsiders, living or otherwise, I knew I needed to find a way to gain safe passage.
Patrons filled the Stonefire Tavern from wall to wall, their laughter and conversation nearly deafening. I almost despaired of being able to buy a room there, but to my surprise a small one was available. I rented the room and bought a mug of Ironforge bitter.
As the seats in the parlor room were all taken, I leaned back against the stone wall and made myself as comfortable as possible. This was my first time drinking Ironforge bitter, and undeath is not a state conducive to a good palate. I could only taste hints of its legendary flavor.
“Say, human, they really ought to get more chairs in this place don’t you think?”
I turned to see a pale dwarf woman looking up at me, carrying a mug brimming with foam.
“It is always this crowded?”
“Usually it’s worse. A toast then? To chairs?”
Our wooden cups met and she took a long draught.
“Ah, I love this stuff. I’m Kara Coalblade. I’m waiting here for some friends, and I thought I’d practice my Common.”
“You speak it well. My name is Talus Corestiam, of Lordaeron.”
“I’m glad you made it down here Talus. We have troubles, but nothing like yours,” she said.
“That's one reason why I'm here. The people in Ironforge seem friendlier than in other parts of Khaz Modan.”
“Aye, well we’re a little more open in the city. But of course you’re in a tavern! That’s the beauty of drink, it lessens the barriers between folk. Do they have any of the Joyous in Lordaeron? It seems you might sorely need it up there.”
“Aye. We’re those who believe that the best way to be one with other living beings is to be drunk. It creates a great sense of happiness and, well, joy! For us, beer is the path to the Holy Light.”
“Not a bad philosophy. What about those who become angry or withdrawn when drunk?”
“Then there’s some trouble that’s plaguing their souls. A demon that’s best exorcised with love, mercy, and ale. That’s more of a human thing really, no offense Talus. Some gnome proved that humans process drink differently than dwarves, so the effect is less predictable on you.”
“I can well believe it.”
“Can you believe that four-hundred years ago, the Stormwind Church tried to declare the Joyous a heresy? They came to their senses soon enough though, and I think some Ironforge bitter, like what you’re drinking right now, straightened them out. I’ve been yammering on and on though, tell me of where you’ve been? I’ve never left Dun Morogh myself.”
I told Kara of some of my adventures, with which she seemed impressed. She told me more about the Joyous, who are a sect that is not officially endorsed by, but is in good standing with, the Church of the Holy Light in Ironforge. It does not have much influence outside the city though many of the inhabitants of Brewnall Village in western Dun Morogh adhere to the philosophy.
“The only real problem is that some of the other clans think we’re too frivolous about drink, even though we probably take it more seriously than anyone else. As a result, we sometimes have a hard time getting brother-clans.” By that, of course, she meant marriage.
“Would someone marrying into the Coalblade clan be required to become one of the Joyous?”
“Not required. It’d be mightily strange if he didn’t though.”
It was about then that some of Kara’s friends arrived, and they all began drinking. Despite the difficulties with marrying other clans, the Joyous were clearly not isolated, as only one of dwarves in the group besides Kara was actually a member. I drank with them and I have to admit difficulty in recalling the rest of the day.
I awoke some time later (I was told it was the next morning), my head down on one of the tables. The place was already filling up, though more to get ready for the day ahead than for inebriation. Kara left me a short note, saying that she and her friends had enjoyed my company and that I needed to work on my alcohol tolerance. Then the innkeeper warned me not to pass out in the common room, because it made me look like an idler and he did not want that in his establishment. He then commented on how I looked horribly pale and smelled very strange. I apologized, quickly went into my room and used the reagents I had bought from the Masquerade so long ago. I rested a while to clear my head before going out to explore the city.
The Commons are just as crowded in the morning as they are at night. Solidly constructed dwarven buildings line the walls, the homes and businesses of Ironforge’s countless shopkeepers. Those buildings are not carved from the living rock of the mountain, and are instead constructed separately. There are not as many “outdoor” vendors as there would be in a human city, though they are certainly present.
In addition to being underground, Ironforge is similar to Undercity in having a circular layout. Walking counterclockwise from the Commons I entered the Mystic Ward. Though the noise of the Commons is still audible there, the Mystic Ward offers a feeling of serenity. Azure hues fill the great cavern, and a circular pool of clear water lies in the center. The Hall of Mysteries, the center of dwarven spiritual life, dominates the Ward.
The Hall of Mysteries is less elaborate than the old human cathedrals, with their spires and flying buttresses. Though grand, the dwarves wanted it to look relatively practical. The first room is a great foyer made of carved porphyry. Dwarves in white robes walk through the sanctuary on ecclesiastical business. An mezzanine goes around the chamber, supported by pillars decorated with sharply intertwining strands of gold.
Braenna Flintcrag was a serious looking priestess who agreed to an interview with me. She joined the Church at an early age and was a close friend of High Priest Rohan, the current head of the dwarven church.
“It seems that faith exists to be tested. Hence the importance of perseverance. I can remember how hopeful we were in the days after the Second War, yet now our challenges are greater than ever.”
“What would you say is the church’s role in Ironforge?”
“To heal those who are hurt, and to keep brotherhood among the people. Inter-clan blood feuds were almost common before Galdacius came to us. The dwarven nation did not truly exist until we understood that we are all connected by the Light. The early Anvilmars, you see, had only loose control over the kingdom. The Foundry didn’t even exist in those days.”
“Interesting. Even though the Light helped unify some of the groups of Lordaeron, it did little to bring the entire race of humanity together. The nations still fought. Why do you think the Bronzebeard kingdom avoided this fate?”
“That’s a very good question. I do not think anyone can truly know the answer, though I can hazard a guess. Every dwarf is part of a community. Even before we embraced the Light, we still had our clans and brother-clans. Yet the humans are much more, I would say, isolated, at least on an individual scale. Perhaps that is why. Some of the archaeologists have evidence that we were created to act as custodians for the world, which could also be a factor in our relative unity.”
“The church is entirely in support of the Mystery of the Makers?”
“Our church is of the Light. The Light exists with or without Titans. Every member is free to believe or disbelieve the Titans as they see fit. In truth though, everyone in any position of importance believes in the Titans.”
“Has there been much opposition to this?”
“Very little. Most of the ones who were upset by this moved to Stormwind.”
“In a way, the dwarves were almost natural converts for the Light.”
“Aye, I believe so. Still, it is almost, how shall I say, too natural for us. In other words, many dwarves take it for granted. While the days of blood feuds are long since gone, dwarves are still suspicious of strangers. Not as much as they used to be, and Ironforge is relatively accepting. Even if we are naturals for the Light I think that our nation strongly needs the church.”
“So you would say that the church has been a major factor in the shaping of dwarven society.”
“Very much so. Before Galdacius, dwarven women were little more than bargaining chips for clan patriarchs. The Light revealed that men and women alike were part of the same cosmic skein. Many of Galdacius’ most fervent followers were women. In fact, the leaders of the dwarven church have usually been high priestesses, rather than high priests. Rohan is an exception, of course, not the only one we’ve had.”
“I spent some time among the Wildhammers. While I’m by no means an expert, women there seemed on equal level to men. Yet they are not followers of the Light,” I said.
“They are not like the pre-Light Bronzebeards either. They are now entirely different.”
I went back out into the Mystic Ward after speaking with Braenna. Because I recently spent so much time out of doors I felt disoriented when unable to tell the time of day. In the early days of my awakening, when I made my home in Undercity, I grew used to a subterranean existence. Standing outside the Hall of Mysteries I found that spending days at a time beneath the ground again felt alien to me. Each day in Ironforge is split into three parts; loud whistles through Ironforge announce the end of one, and the start of another. Most dwarves work through two (at jobs of differing intensity), and rest through the third.
A great passage leads from the Mystic Ward into the burning heart of the ancient city. Going closer, one hears the roar of a mighty furnace joined to the ring of a thousand striking hammers. The cool airiness of the Mystic Ward is burned away, the hall pulsing with fiery heat. Long since used to it, the stout dwarves take no notice.
A blast of heat hit me like a dragon’s breath and I almost fell to my knees. The scorching air and metallic clamor in the Great Forge creates an atmosphere worthy of the Burning Hells.
In the center of vast cavern is a pool of churning, molten metal that casts an infernal glow onto the cavern’s stone walls. An imposing bridge as wide as a city boulevard spans the searing pit. Dwarven blacksmiths practice their craft on the grand bridge, oblivious to the crippling heat around them.
I realized I stood in the heart of dwarven civilization. In that place is the representation of their cultural mores. They work and labor in an environment that would cause most humans to flee in terror. What was more, as I soon realized upon seeing the faces of the workmen, they could not be happier. The endless storm of industry, of fire and earth, is not hellish to the dwarves. Instead it serves as a monument to their values and beliefs; a paradise on Azeroth. Theirs is the endless striving, the desire for perfection in one’s chosen field.
King Magni Bronzebeard holds his court in the midst of that tumult, overseeing his realm and discussing matters with the Foundry inside a small, elegant building across the bridge. As the Great Forge serves as an example for the dwarven people, it is only appropriate that the king live near it. Not far from the doors of his base lies the Great Anvil. According to legend, the anvil is actually the scale of an ancient dragon (either Alexstrasza or Malygos, depending on who is telling the tale) who gave it to Khaz Anvilmar, the first Emperor of the dwarves. On the Great Anvil the most skilled blacksmiths in the land, perhaps in the world, forge items of wondrous power.
I gradually grew more accustomed to the raging din of the Great Forge, but even the living dead can't help finding it a bit overwhelming. I retreated to a small tavern on the perimeter of the Forge, perhaps a bit too close to the seething pit. I was a bit comforted to learn that the buildings around the Forge have sound-dampening enchantments.
While I rested inside I met an off-duty guard named Ardros Redshield. Ardros was a relatively young dwarf. Though only a low ranking soldier, he planned to join the Foundry one day. He was quite curious to learn more about Lordaeron’s complex history and I obliged him in that regard. In return, he explained some of Ironforge’s early history, about which he had a thorough knowledge.
“The Anvilmar emperors ruled for two-thousand years. Now Ironforge wasn’t nearly as grand then, though it was still a damn fine piece of work. The dwarven clans didn’t like each other too much so it was hard to get big projects done. It was nearly a miracle that Emperor Dalgos Anvilmar got us to build the place, dwarven stubbornness being what it is”
“How did he do that?”
“Ah, the usual politicking. He had to beat a few heads about the brow to get it done, he wasn’t the most gentle fellow. He made friends with the Bronzebeard Clan though, and the Bronzebeards were heroes to the rest. They led the campaign that drove the Frostmane Trolls into the crags of the west.”
“The Bronzebeards had something of a head start in the political arena?”
“Aye. Dalgos strong-armed the Darkiron Clan—back then it was just one word—into using their magic to help carve Ironforge.”
“Why did it change from one word to two?”
“I’ll get to that. So that’s how Dalgos got this whole place up and running. Even the most stubborn clans were stupefied by the project. Sure, every dwarf digs but no one ever saw anything like Ironforge before!” laughed Ardros.
“What about the Wildhammer Clan?”
“They had influence and they cast their lot in with the Anvilmar project. Things were fine until Emperor Modimus Anvilmar, or rather the death of Modimus. The man had no children to carry on the line. He did have four brother-clans though, each one having potential heirs of one sort or another. You know about the War of the Three Hammers, right?”
“Well are you can probably guess, three of those brother-clans turned into the main combatants of the war.”
“What happened to the fourth clan?”
“Oh, the Graystone Clan. They’re still around. They didn’t make any bids for the throne though, they sided with Madoran Bronzebeard. It’s interesting though, you could tell a lot about the three warring clans by the titles of their heirs to the throne. Kharanos declared himself king, not emperor. He had respect for the Anvilmar line, you see. Khardros just kept his title of thane, which was typical for them since they didn’t much like anyone else. Only Thaurissan had the sheer gall to say he was the new emperor. That’s why the Dark Iron name was split into two words. To forever mark them.”
“How active is the war with the Dark Iron?”
“Maybe more now, with that business up in Dun Modr. I hope our lads drive the Dark Irons out of that place. Occasionally you get some fool helping the Dark Irons here.”
“Oh you know, causing trouble. Mostly it’s the bad crowd in Ironforge, though occasionally someone more respectable will turn out to be a traitor. It’s nothing major though.”
Somehow, I did not quite believe him.
A symphony of hissing steam, whirring cogs, and ticking pendulums plays endlessly in the gnomish community of Tinkertown. Once the dwarves overcame their distrust of their diminutive neighbors’ fondness for the arcane, the two races soon intermingled. Tinkertown was the site of the old Gnomeregan Embassy. A similar dwarven neighborhood had once existed in the clockwork tunnels of Gnomeregan.
After the catastrophic fall of the old city, most of the survivors crowded into Tinkertown, which was not nearly big enough to accommodate them. The gnomes are nothing if not ingenious, and they drilled small tunnels beneath the surface of Tinkertown, creating a warren of tiny homes for the refugee populace. Though a step dowon in living standards, it proved sufficient.
Much like the dwarves, the gnomes are extremely industrious. Everyone I saw was occupied with something, often tending to one of the great machines in that garden of brass and wrought iron. Others dabbled in strange alchemical mixtures, and some made their way with that profession common to all races: trade.
I spent most of the day there. The gnome insistence on precision filled Tinkertown with tiny clocks, making it easy to plan a schedule. I spoke with a sharp-tongued gnome bureaucrat, and after some persuasive words I secured an interview with Zinna Sparkshine, an elderly woman who used to serve on the High Council.
Zinna’s hair was white, her face aged and matronly though her eyes sizzled with youthful zeal. She cheerfully greeted me in lightly accented Common.
“The gnomes here seem be handling the situation rather well, all things considered,” I said.
“Hmm, yes of course. It wouldn’t accomplish anything to get depressed about it. Honestly, I don’t know how you humans function. You let yourselves be dragged down by such inconsequential things. Like that story about the soldier who could never forgive himself for not saving his wife... the Lament of Corz?”
“The Lament of Corsi,” I corrected. It was an old ballad of Lordaeron, frankly a rather silly and overwrought one.
“That’s the one! Thank you. Dwarves let things get to them too, and they live a lot longer than you. Us gnomes though? We just go forward.”
“This is the case with the average gnome?”
“Isn’t that what I just said?”
“Sorry, it’s difficult for me as a human to comprehend that.”
“Look, we aren’t happy. I lost my only son to the troggs. I mourned as long as any mother would. Tears can’t bring him back.”
“That is very logical.”
“It’s part of being a gnome. We’ve done extensive studies on cadavers—don’t worry, they were dead when we found them—of the various races. The brains really are quite different, not so much in capacity but in interpretation. What I mean to say is that the way a race reacts to certain stimuli is, in a sense, hard-wired. It’s more than just the result of culture. Of course, culture plays a very big role in it too!”
“What could you tell me about gnomish spirituality?”
“Oh, it’s there! People might not think it is, but we do have beliefs,” she laughed. “Thanks, by the way, for asking. Most humans assume we worship some kind of giant machine god, which is nonsense. To start with, yes, there is a Gnomish Church of the Light. It’s not very influential and for the people in the hierarchy it’s more like a second job. Bishop Fizzleforge is really more well-known as an Electromagiker than as a bishop.”
“Pardon my ignorance but I must say it sounds like you don’t take it very seriously.”
“We believe in the precepts of the Light. Our laws are based around community and fair-play, more individualistic than the dwarves but otherwise similar. You see, only a handful of gnomes in history have been able to wield the Light the way human or dwarven priests do. We don’t know why that is. Plenty of research has been done, but nothing conclusive has been found. Like I said though, we follow the ways of the Light. I mean, if we didn’t we’d probably have a chaotic mess of a society, like the goblins do.”
“So the Light is important but more limited in it’s wider application than it is in, say, dwarven or human society.”
“Right. In terms of belief though, every gnome believes a few theories that aren’t widely accepted. The great spiritual debate of our people has been over the Impossibility Engine. Do you know what that is?”
“I do not.”
“The Impossibility Engine is a device that can do literally anything you want it to. You need a mountain? It can make one. Want to defy the laws of reality? Just turn it on and set the switch. Needless to say this doesn’t exist. First the question was, can such a device exist?”
“It sounds farfetched.”
“I’m sure to your distant ancestors, and mine too, the idea of a suit of iron armor seemed farfetched. This question can’t be conclusively answered but most of us think that it is possible to make an Impossibility Engine. Tinker Geowire, a thousand years ago, stated that new arcane and technological paradigms completely change everything we know. What we think is impossible becomes possible. A few still hold the idea that an Impossibility Engine can never be, but they’re definitely in the minority.”
“You said that was the first question. There is another?”
“Yes. That is, assuming that the Impossibility Engine can be built, should it be built? The Supporters say that it should definitely be built since it would usher in perhaps the Final Paradigm. Then there’s the argument within the Supporters faction about whether or not there can even be a Final Paradigm but that’s a different matter. The Condemners say that it’s too dangerous and that no one has enough responsibility to use such a device.”
“Are these beliefs held very fervently? Do fights or riots break out over it?”
“No. That'd be very silly. Supporters and Condemners can be the best of friends, each doing some side-research on their own time. I’m a Supporter, but believe me I’m not going to stop a Condemner from conducting ethical research. That would be abominable. Most gnomes just like having the debate because it goes well with a jar of sparkwater. Only a few really get involved with it.”
Though no longer part of the High Council, Zinna still had important duties as an educational administrator, so we cordially ended the interview. Towards the end of the day, I visited the Deeprun Tram.
The Deeprun Tram is another one of those seemingly incredible creations of the gnomes and the dwarves. Stretching for miles underground it connects Ironforge with Stormwind City. The purpose is twofold. The obvious advantage is for trade. While it still takes a long time for a tram to get from one city to the other, it is considerably easier than going across the surface by foot. The tram makes it much easier for merchants to ship supplies, and both cities benefit immensely. The other purpose is military. If Stormwind or Ironforge are ever again threatened, it will be a simple matter to send reinforcements from the other city.
The cavernous tram station is utilitarian in construction though still possessesing the mechanical elegance often seen in gnomish architecture. A time table, the numbers lit up like stars, gives the schedule for arriving and departing trams. The only person there at the moment was a bald gnome with a bushy pink moustache.
“Are you waiting for the tram to Stormwind?” I asked him.
“Huh? Oh, no, I work here. I make sure all the gadgets are running the way they’re supposed to. My name’s Dissyl Spinsprocket. The second.” He added the numerical suffix in a slightly abashed voice.
“The Spinsprockets are a family of some renown, I take it?”
He blinked, and gave me a confused look.
“No. Why would that be?”
“Usually when someone is named ‘the second’ it’s because their father wants to continue a line.”
“Right. That’s how it is in human society, I forgot. It’s different for us gnomes. Gnomes don’t usually keep their family name. Basically, after you’ve been around for a while you’re supposed to have accomplished something. Maybe something useless or stupid, but the idea is it’s supposed to be memorable. That event becomes your last name.”
“Why do you still have your family name?”
“I haven’t done anything yet,” he shrugged. “That’s why I’m Dissyl Spinsprocket the Second.”
“How badly has that affected your status?”
“It’s not bad. I mean, I have the same rights as any other gnome. Not as much respect. I’m only sixty though, I still have about a century and a half to accomplish a Naming Deed.”
“It’s good that you’re optimistic.”
There was a sudden clatter behind us. I turned around to see an overturned waste basket. A gnome stood next to it. His skin was green, like the contaminated gnomes in the old city. Dissyl did not seem fearful.
“Haggle! Are you all right?”
“Yes. Yes, I’m fine. I need—I need something. I can’t remember what though. I’m sure I’d know it if I saw it again. Have you seen anything unusual? Either of you?” asked Haggle.
“You need food, Haggle. Here take a few silvers. You need it more than I do.” Dissyl handed four silver coins to Haggle, who accepted them gratefully.
“Thank you. I’m sure this will clear my head.”
Haggle limped down the tunnel leading to Tinkertown.
“That’s Haggle. I don’t know his real name. The poison got him pretty badly in Gnomeregan though.”
I recalled Zinna explaining how the gnomes overcame the trauma of their homeland’s destruction. Haggle seemed to undermine that explanation.
“How many are like Haggle? That is, having a hard time functioning?”
“You have to understand everyone was affected. We all lost family and friends. My parents both died, as did my two brothers. Most of us can keep going. We just focus on work. That’s why everyone is so keen on retaking Gnomeregan. It gives us a goal and keeps our minds off of what happened. Some people though, like Haggle, couldn’t do that. They can’t focus on something else. Haggle’s sort of an extreme case. Usually it isn’t as bad; a more common example would be my boss who has a hard time sleeping. Another time I met a woman who had a hard time staying awake. Things like that.”
I spoke with Dissyl for a few more minutes until he had to return to work.
The next day I visited the Hall of Explorers. It has become almost like a second Hall of Mysteries. In the first, dwarves meditate on the mysteries of the Light, while the second is devoted to the Mystery of the Makers. Strange and wondrous artifacts are displayed, gathered from the far places of the world. The volume of the books in the library is staggering, and most of it is accessible to the public. I spent the rest of the day and most of the next simply browsing the voluminous Common language collections.
The gnomes are also curious about the Titans. It is a branch of belief that more readily lends itself to their inquisitive minds than the Light. However none of the gnomes I spoke with ever came close to the intense zeal I had seen in Ironband and some other archaeologists.
The people of Ironforge have endured the rigors of history through the strength of family and community. The support provided by clan networks is one of the reasons that poverty is extremely rare among dwarves. A clan that falls upon hard times can count upon its brother-clans to lend a helping hand. While in a human society that sort of system would result in some destitute families living off the generosity of others, the seemingly biologically ingrained dwarven work ethic prevents such behavior.
Yet the strength of the clan is based nearly as much on exclusion as on inclusion. Their clans disown dwarves who commit criminal acts, or who dismiss the norms of society. In the early days of Bronzebeard rule, any dwarf expelled from his clan would suffer death at the hands of the patriarch. The introduction of the Light, as well as other factors, put an end to that practice. But those unfortunates forced to join the ranks of the Unwanted still face a truly bleak situation.
The Unwanted make their home in a gloomy section of Ironforge called the Forlorn Cavern. In truth, it does not look significantly different from the Commons. Though darker, the houses are still relatively well kept. Not even the lowest in dwarven society tolerate the sort of disarray sometimes seen in an equivalent human neighborhood. The only feature of note is a large lake on one side of the cavern, where pale fishes swim through the limpid water.
The Forlorn Cavern is also the home of the dubious handful of gnomes who practice infernal magic. In the past, Gnomeregan was the only Alliance city where warlock studies were widely accepted. It was still extremely difficult to be allowed to learn them, as only the most self-controlled and patient gnomes were trusted with such potentially dangerous and corrupting power. After the fall of Gnomeregan, Undercity became the only real haven for warlocks.
As much as the practitioners of infernal magic are detested, none can deny their usefulness. Therefore, the gnome warlocks are still allowed to study their craft in the Forlorn Cavern. If some demon breaks loose and wreaks havoc, it will not cause any damage to a place valued by Ironforge. The law still demands death to dwarves who become warlocks, though I have no doubt that a few of the Unwanted surreptitiously study the dark arts.
Most of what I saw of Ironforge (and indeed, all of dwarven society) indicated stability and a degree of contentedness. Still, that is clearly not the entire picture. Dwarves prefer not to talk about the Unwanted, who in some ways are more despised than the Dark Irons. To me, it seemed the height of foolishness to determine someone’s entire identity and worth on the basis of a social label. It was only appropriate for me to try and learn more.
Five shouting dwarves mobbed me the moment I entered the Forlorn Cavern.
“Human, have you ever had any real Ironforge pale ale?” cried one.
“You’ll want a guide through here lad, not a safe place for outsiders,” warned another. “I’ll make sure you get through in one piece for a few silver.”
The dwarves accosting me were notable only for the more tattered condition of their clothing. I did not quite trust the group that surrounded me, particularly not the one who offered to be my guide. With some effort I got them to leave. I became conscious of a light feeling on my belt a few minutes later. The bag of coins I had carried was missing, the strap holding it neatly cut. Fortunately, most of my money was back at the inn.
Perhaps seeing that I had no money, the neighborhood’s thieves and grifters lost interest in me. I entered a small tavern next to the lake. A few patrons nursed their mugs as they stared at me with suspicious, defeated eyes. The proprietress actually seemed enthusiastic to see me. Her expression became offended when I explained that I had been robbed.
“Ach, it’s bad enough that ‘good’ dwarves won’t buy anything from me. Now my neighbors rob my livelihood, damn them! You should keep a closer eye on your coins,” she sniffed.
I left the tavern, wondering if I should get some money from my room. From what the tavern keeper had said, the inhabitants of the Forlorn Cavern rely on travelers for business. They are fortunate that Ironforge is such a cosmopolitan locale. The fact that mainstream Bronzebeard society sees fit to economically ostracize the Unwanted is troubling. That said, there was no real way for me to find out why most of the people there had been relegated to the Unwanted. Few wished to speak of it.
I have no doubt that in some or even many cases, the Unwanted are like the incorrigible criminals that sometimes appear in human lands, who simply refuse to stop defying the law. It seems as if that behavior would be less common among the dwarves, though certainly not absent.
I got more substantial information from a middle-aged dwarf named Enfrig. His demeanor was much friendlier than the other Unwanted I’d so far met.
“I’m glad someone’s taking interest in us,” he said.
“I want to learn as much as I can.”
“That’s a noble goal. I used to be Enfrig Stoutfist, though I don’t think my clan would much care for me to tell people.”
“How did you become a pariah?”
“I stopped drinking.”
“You mean you stopped drinking beer?”
“Aye. I marched with the army during the Second War and fought the orcs at the Dark Portal. When it was over I helped out in the rebuilding of Stormwind City. Some of the priests in Stormwind practiced temperance. Most dwarves believe that drunkenness reduces barriers, but the humans said that drunkenness is a distraction from the Light. The more I thought about it, the more I agreed with them.”
“And thus you too abstained from alcohol.”
“When I came back to Ironforge my clan had a celebratory dinner. 'Young Enfrig, back from the war!' they said. My father had this great big keg of Ironforge Bitter and I explained to him why I couldn’t drink it. You can imagine what happened.”
“I’m very sorry to hear that.”
“It was the path I chose.”
“That seems like such an insignificant matter though. Was it really that important for you to drink?”
“It was very important. My clan felt that I was cutting myself off from them. It’s what I had to do though.”
“Are there many Unwanted who have been expelled for similar reasons?”
“A fair amount. I’m not the best person to ask though. Most of the Unwanted don’t care for me at all. Because I don’t drink,” he laughed. There was an edge of despair to his laugh.
“Then there isn’t much camaraderie among the Unwanted.”
“Very little. Most of us don’t much trust one another. Some were expelled from their clans because they did something that displeased their mother and father. Others because they did something criminal. Every Unwanted has a different story to tell, and most look down on all the others. It’s a sad and lonesome life we have.”
“Couldn’t you move?”
“Oh I’m planning to move to Menethil eventually. It’s rough but I’m sure I’ll be able to handle it.”
“Why haven’t you left already?”
“I don’t have much money, and no one wants to hire me. I’m not going to take some damned handout from the church either. I may be Unwanted, but I’m still a dwarf!”
“What is the Unwanted relationship with the church here?”
“Ah, well the church doesn’t much like us but they’re obliged to at least be somewhat merciful. Of course the dwarven church thinks a drunken stupor is a good way to get close to the Light, so I’m not sure how much I care about their opinion.”
“What happens to children who are born to the Unwanted? I’m sure it must happen on occasion.”
“It does happen. When it does the law states that the Unwanted parents have to surrender the child for adoption. Ironforge does not want children being raised by our kind.”
“Not really. If those children were raised as Unwanted, they’d not have a good future. Most of the parents realize that. I think that’s one reason it doesn’t happen often. Sometimes a married couple that is Unwanted will move far away. Usually to someplace like Menethil or Theramore. There are many Unwanted in Menethil, or so I hear. They’ll make up their own clan name and try to pass themselves off as normal dwarves.”
“What happens if they’re found out?”
“I wouldn’t know. It depends on the place I’d think. Last year, a couple living next to me moved out, said they were going up north to Menethil.”
It was my last night in Ironforge. While I sat in the common room of the Stonefire Inn, as crowded as ever, I pondered the situation of the Unwanted. Seldom has an epithet been so sadly appropriate. The tight-knit nature of the dwarven clan has its downside. What struck me as particularly fascinating was that many of the Unwanted regard their condemnation as justified. Even Enfrig said that he understood why his family disowned him. Wealth in dwarven society is usually controlled by the clan, not the individual. Thus, the Unwanted are often nearly penniless.
The time came for me to leave Ironforge. The tortured lands to the south beckoned me, and I prepared once more for travel. My plan was to take a griffin flight back to Thelsamar and from there walk to the dusty Badlands south of Loch Modan. I was leaving the realm of the Bronzebeards, and entering the domain of the Dark Irons and the Old Horde.