We covered Magni’s reaction to the death of Muradin and the tension he has with Moira in the first scene; what’s next for our king?
Scene 2; Silithus, the Council of the Might of Kalimdor. After the Scarab Gong tolls.
“…as you yourself commanded, my king.”
Marshall Snowfall’s squire looked hesitantly up at the king, and Magni in turn looked across the council table at the imposing figure of the orcish overlord, Saurfang. “Ye’ll have tae excuse me, High Overlord,” said the king, attempting to keep his temper in check, “but I’ve an urgent family matter to attend to.”
One of the orcish shaman on the war council looked as though he was about to scoff, but Saurfang’s voice, distinctive in its clarity, cut him off. “No excuse is needed, Your Majesty. There is nothing more important to my people than family. We shall wait upon your pleasure.”
The sincerity of the veteran’s voice surprised Magni, but he did nothing more than nod his respect and walk out of the tent into the whirling sands of Silithus, with Snowfall’s squire at his side.
Without looking back at him, the king spoke. “What’s yer name, boy?”
“Declan, son of August, of Clan Foehammer, my king.”
“Ye’ve brought news of me fool brother’s good health, Declan Foehammer. Assumin’ we all survive these monsters, I’ll have ye as a guest at me table when we return tae Ironforge.”
The younger dwarf must have looked at Magni like he’d grown a second head, but the king wasted no time looking back at him. After a beat he said, “I’m nae worthy of such an honor, my king. I’m but Marshal Snowfall’s messenger…”
“There’s a tradition amongst th’ thanes of old. Not many still practice the old ways, but tis th’ task of a king to hold th’ heart of his people’s history close. Whenever a messenger brings ye good tidings, he dines at yer table as a reward for bringin’ light into yer home. Should a messenger bring ye dark tidings, ye give him yer fastest ram and speed him whence he came, tae bear yer answer. Maybe old Snowfall merely sent ye t’ me from the other side of the camp, but it’s yer words that have lightened my heart, and ye deserve th’ reward fer it.”
Declan could only stammer his thanks again, and the King paid him no more mind until he reached the tent. Flying sand pinged off his armor with a kind of dull music, but the music stopped when he pulled aside the flap and strode inside alone, the squire waiting outside.
Brann was pacing about the tent, his clothes stained a vomitous color, rips and tears everywhere, and one of the braids of his beard was missing. His eyes lit up when he saw Magni, and he smiled his “let’s start some trouble” smile.
“Ye’ll never believe what I found, Mag–”
Magni cut him off. “I dinna care.”
Brann’s smile faded slightly, more confused than anything. “What?”
“Ye broke yer promise, Brann.”
Brann’s confusion deepened.”My what? I’ve nae broken any promises!” He paused. “Well, there was that matter with Junior, but–”
“I asked ye to leave the explorin’ to th’ rest o’ th’ League. I asked… nae, I commanded ye t’ be th’ Crown Prince of Ironforge, and time and again ye’ve disobeyed me.”
“What’s gotten into ye, brother? Don’t ye want to know what I’ve found behind the wall?” Brann threw an arm out, gesturing at where the Scarab Wall stood beyond the sandstorm.
Magni took a step forward, his voice dropping to a whisper. “Is it going to help us win this war, Brann? Will it keep me from losing hundreds o’ stouthearted dwarves t’ these blasted insects? Will it bring back all their brothers that have fallen already?”
Brann raised a finger, as though to speak, but thought better of it. After a beat, he whispered, “I didn’t ask anyone tae throw a war for me. Aye, it might’ve taken a bit more time fer me tae find my way out of the place, but I had the situation under control…”
Magni’s voice shook as he struggled to keep it low. “And what happens when ye lose control? What happens when ye’re really dead and Ironforge has no prince to rule when I’m finished? What happens when ye stop bein’ so damned lucky?”
Brann chuckled. “But I’m not dead, Magni!” He patted his chest with both hands, and Magni noticed that Brann was still surprised at the missing braid off his beard. Whatever had shaved it off had clearly almost taken Brann’s head.
“This time. Ye’re not dead this time. Disappearin’ fer months at a time, hearin’ nothin’ so much as a peep from ye unless someone comes across one o’ yer damn journals. Ye have any idea how long the Senate’s been pestering me to declare you dead?”
Brann looked exasperated. “Can ye name a day when th’ bloody Senate isnae pestering ye about somethin’?” He paused for a beat, in which Magni considered that he was right. But then: “Besides, even if I did turn up dead, that means ye’d have to finally tell those yahoos to swallow their pride and let Moira rule.”
Magni’s breath caught in his throat. His eyes must have told Brann something, because his brother’s face suddenly lost a bit of color. “Has… has something happened to Moira?” Magni recalled how often Brann was thick as thieves with his niece.
Magni recounted the long story that Brann had missed in his absence: Moira’s capture by the Dark Iron dwarves. Her ensorcellment by Thaurissan and their subsequent marriage. Thaurissan’s death at the hand of Magni’s chosen assassins, who then delivered to the king Thaurissan’s parting stroke: Moira’s pregnancy with his heir.
“That right bastard…” Brann muttered. He thought for a moment, looking distant as he paced a few steps, but then looked at his brother once again. “Well, there’s a clear solution. Tell Moira all is forgiven, and bring her back to Ironforge. We raise the boy a Bronzebeard, and he’ll make as fine a king as ye could ask for. Without his sneakin’ cheat of a father around, he’s raw ore, ready to be shaped and–”
“Ye think our people would follow a Dark Iron, Brann? D’ye lose yer mind behind that damned wall?”
“Well ‘ave ye got a better idea?” Brann’s exhaustion was beginning to show. “Moira’s yer heir!”
“YE’RE the heir!” Magni shouted, pointing a mailed finger at Brann, “you! Th’ people love ye, the League wants ye fer their leader, th’ crown fits yer empty head… ye can’t see any of that, can ye? Ye can’t see that yer th’ future of our people?”
Brann walked up to him, silent. Magni tried not to recoil from the stench wafting off his brother, which until now had been concealed by the dry angry air of the desert. Brann looked him straight in the eye, and the words he uttered shook the king to his core. “My future isn’t more important than our people’s past. If ye can’t see that, I know I can’t convince ye. But I’ll not come back to Ironforge until I learn the truth. So I suppose I can’t keep that promise, brother. Declan!”
Magni was silent as the squire threw the flap and entered the tent, sand in his beard and his expression curious. The king knew what Brann was about to do, and he knew those words couldn’t be taken back once they were uttered. Magni swore to himself that he would not utter those words. Then Brann did it for him.
“Squire, carry a message to yer master. I, Prince Brann of the Clan Bronzebeard, do hereby abdicate my claim t’ the throne of Ironforge. Let the Senate call me dead, unfit, whatever they prefer.”
The squire’s eyes went wide, and he looked to Magni for approval. Magni knew he couldn’t prevent Brann’s wish from being carried out, so he simply nodded. The squire saluted and dashed back out the flap from whence he came, back into the sand.
Brann looked back at his brother, his face already beginning to soften now that the hard words were out. “If’n it’s a choice between bein’ king and learnin’ how our people came to be, then that choice is clear to me, Magni.”
“Oh, little brother,” said the king, “what have ye done?”