Southeast Elwynn, Approximately 19 Years After the Dark Portal
“Mama, who’s that man Papa is talkin’ to?”
Emma Salter turned from her work in the kitchen to regard her son. He was tall for his age, standing a head taller than even his father, who was a tall man himself. Of course, he also had palest blue skin and terrifically elongated ears. He was a foundling. As always, when she recalled the day she discovered him, conflicting emotions warred within her. She felt a pang of regret for the boy’s birth mother, slain by what they would later learn were orcs invading from their savage homeland. And to this day, she had no idea what exactly the boy was. He was like the elves far to the North in Quel’thalas, but not quite the same. Was he of some undiscovered race from an unknown land? Did he come here through some magical doorway like those horrible orcs? She sighed, thinking, It doesn’t really matter, does it? He’s mine, and I love him as if I had borne him.
Shaken from her reverie, she smiled and answered, “I’m sorry, Goldie, I was woolgathering. Your father is talking to Jonah, his brother.”
Surprised, the boy replied, “His brother? I’ve an uncle? Why’ve I never met ‘im?”
Frowning slightly, Emma said, “Oh, my boy, your accent is just awful. You sound like you grew up in a barn.”
“I kinda did.”
Laughing, she retorted, “You grew up near a barn, not the same thing. You need to work on your pronunciation. If you talk like a bumpkin, that is all people are ever going to think of you.”
“Ok, Mama, I’ll work on it. So why’ve I never heard ‘o this uncle?”
Hesitating, Emma replied softly, “He doesn’t come around much. He works for the King in Stormwind, travels a lot, you know.”
“Oh. C’n I meet ‘im?
Wincing, she replied, “Ask your father if its all right.” The boy grinned and started to dash out the door, but was brought up short by his mother barking at him, “Ah ah! After he is done speaking. Keep your head down until then.”
Sulking, Goldie stomped out the door and back to his chores, simply saying, “Yes’m.”
“You let her call him ‘Goldie’?”
“Sure, an’ why not? He’s got eyes what glow gold from inside, all elf-like.”
Shaking his head, Jonah Salter went on, “And why have I never heard about this foundling of yours? Did you pick him up in the woods last week?”
“Nay, I pick’d ‘im up in the woods 19 years past.”
Blinking a few times, Jonah looked at his brother and asked incredulously, “I’ve been by at least four times in that span! Why am I just learning of him?”
Scowling, James met Jonah’s eye and said matter-of-factly, “‘Cos I kept ‘im hidden before. Same as I would’a this time if I’d known ye were comin’.”
“But why, James?”
“‘Cos, Jonah, I don’t need me son ‘earin’ yer tales of adventure fer the crown an’ runnin’ off int’a the blue.”
“Still don’t approve of my work, I see.”
“I approve of you doin’ it jus’ fine. Not my boy.”
Grunting, Jonah simply replied, “I’m not here recruiting, James.”
“Wouldn’t put is past ya.”
After speaking to his brother, Jonah Salter went for a walk. He often needed to clear his head after talking to James. His older brother had always disliked his choice to leave the farm, and remained a steadfastly uneducated man of the soil. Speaking to him was infuriating. He saw nothing beyond his tiny corner of Elwynn Forest.
Unbeknownst to Jonah – at least at first – he was followed. Goldie had seen him stray off into the woods after his conversation with James, and quietly followed along, curious about the man. Goldie was unusually quiet for such a big boy. He had a natural knack for moving silently in the forest. Even so, before long Jonah, his instincts long since trained to detect danger, realized he was being followed. He began to try and see his shadow, to no avail. Every time he thought he got a glimpse, there would be nothing there. Distracted by his efforts, he snagged his foot on the gnarly roots of an ancient oak, and went tumbling down a small hill. Coming to rest in a pile of leftover fall leaves at its base, he pushed himself up on his hands. Grumbling about his own clumsiness, he raised his head to spy a pair of booted feet not a handspan from his face. Raising his eyes, he looked into the startled face of his brother’s foundling son, his own nephew. Jonah’s first thought was, he got around in front of me! Sneaky little bugger! But that was soon wiped from his mind as the boy called Goldie leapt backwards into the shade of a nearby oak and simply vanished from sight.
Jonah blinked, shaking his head to clear it. He was unsure of what he’d witnessed. The boy had been there, right in front of him. He hadn’t hit his head, he wasn’t seeing things. But there was no sign of him at all now. Summoning his training, Jonah held his breath, tried to isolate his senses and just listen. There was a slight wind that day, and he could hear it twisting through the tress, making the leaves rustle. Far off, a wolf could be heard to howl. And there, just a few feet away, breathing. He couldn’t see anything, but the boy was there. His brother’s foundling could cloak himself in daylight. It took men years to learn the skill, only the most dedicated could master it.
Speaking slowly and evenly, Jonah called out, “I saw you, son. Your name’s Goldie, right? I’m your father’s brother. I’m your Uncle Jonah.”
From the space in the shade of the oak came the whispered words, “Aye. I saw ye talkin’ to my Papa.”
Grimacing slightly, Jonah replied, “Well, you speak like he does. Too bad you didn’t get your mother’s habit there.”
“Nuthin’ wrong with my speakin’,” came the defensive reply.
“Yes, well, there’s those that would disagree. Let me see you, son. I won’t hurt you.” Before his eyes the boy faded into view, seeming to coalesce from the shadows beneath the tree.
“Cain’t hurt me. Cain’t even ketch me, old man.”
Chuckling, Jonah retorted, “You’ve got a mouth on you, don’t you? Your mother’s sass and your father’s brains, looks like.”
“Ain’t nuthin’ wrong with my Papa!”
“Of course not. He’s my brother, isn’t he? Come here, son, let me look at you.” Slowly, warily, the boy stepped into the light. James had been right, he looked elf-ish, except not. His skin was a very pale blue-violet, and the ears! Light preserve me, thought Jonah, any lord of Silvermoon would kill for a set of ears like that. They were long, nearly twice as long as the high elves Jonah had met, and they swept back like the horns of a goat. The boy was tall, taller then any man would be, and any elf, for that matter.
Warily, Jonah asked, “How’d you do that vanishing act, boy?”
Goldie shrugged, said, “Always been able ta,”
Thinking a moment, Jonah spoke a high elf greeting, “Baladash Malanore?”
Goldie just gawked at him a moment then laughed, saying, “An’ ye says I talk bad! That were just gibbers!”
Worth a shot, thought Jonah, but he simply said, “I was speaking the elvish language, boy. Anyone ever tell you that you look a bit elf-like?”
“Aye, neighbors always givin’ me guff o’er it.”
“Yes, well, simple folk don’t deal kindly with the unknown.”
“Ah’m simple folk!”
Laughing, Jonah retorted, “Your father is simple folk, that’s for certain. Your mother, less so. You? That’s for you to decide.”
“What’n fel’s that s’posed ta mean?”
“I’ll explain another time. Let’s get back. Your father will think I’ve stolen you.” Confused, the boy made to protest, but stopped himself at Jonah’s stern look. Together, they walked back through the forest towards Goldie’s home.
Many hours later, an argument was raging at the Salter farmhouse. One that had been going for some time.
“He needs to be trained, Jimmy!”
“Says who? I knew you was up to no good, ye bast’rd! Git out ma home!”
“Damnit, James, listen to me,” cried Jonah with exasperation, “You cannot hide him forever!”
“Done good so fer.”
Slumping in near-defeat, Jonah, grudgingly admitted, “You have, James, to your credit. But it won’t last. Do I have to spell it out for you?”
“Don’t see nuthin’ need spellin’”
“No, you wouldn’t,” Jonah said irritably. “He is unique, Jimmy. And he has inborn abilities, perhaps mystical in nature.”
“He c’n hide, s’what?”
“He can disappear, you stubborn old goat!” At this Jonah thumped his hand flat on the table.
Upstairs, Goldie hunched in a corner, looking scared. His mother walked over and stroked his brow, trying to calm him. “Don’t worry, my little one. Everything will be all right. They’ve always fought a lot.”
“Ain’t li’l no more, ma.”
Smiling, Emma Salter said gently, “Oh my boy, whatever happens to you, whatever you do. No matter how many years pass or where your path takes you, when you come home, you will be my little boy.” Goldie looked embarrassed but still comforted at her words. He smiled up at her weakly and seemed to relax. She handed him a small slate, saying, “Here, work on your letters. I have a feeling you are going to need them.”
“We ain’t havin’ this talk no more, Jonah. He’s my boy an…”
“Enough!” Jonah slapped the table again, fed up with his brother’s short-sightedness. “If you won’t look past your own nose, I’ll show you what’s in store, Jonah. Your little farm is not many leagues off from the north reach of Stranglethorn. And let’s not forget the Black Morass to the east. You may feel safe in your little corner of the world, but creeping all around the edges are troll and goblin slavers, trying to find interesting new attractions for their gladiatorial arenas. You know what is interesting, Jonah? Unknown blue elf-people who can disappear!”
James looked at his brother with frank hostility, muttering only. “Ye son of a bitch…”
“Nice way of talking about our mother.”
“She was as ‘shamed of ye as I am at the end.”
Gritting his teeth, Jonah only said, “That’s as may be. I am not here to argue about my own choices. I am trying to protect your son. If he is trained, he can look out for himself.”
Scowling, James replied, “And do li’l favors fer the crown, aye?”
“That would be for him to decide, Jimmy. You have my word, he won’t get drafted in. Let me have him for two years. He’ll be trained, and educated. Then he can come home and decide for himself what he is going to do after.” James Salter eyed his brother suspiciously, but deep down he knew Jonah was right.
“Damn you,” James muttered.
Upstairs, mother and son noticed that the yelling had stopped. Looking towards the stairs, Goldie asked, “Think all’s clear, ma?”
Emma, her voice tight, answered, “It looks that way, little one.” Inside, she was weeping, she knew this day would come, but hoped she’d have more time.
“C’n I go down?”
Shaking her head, she replied, “No, Goldie. Go get that rucksack you keep by your bed, and put a couple of changes of clothes in it.”
“I’ll tell you in the morning. Do as your told, boy.” Goldie moved to obey, he knew his mother meant business when she called him “boy”.
The next morning, a confused Goldie sat in a wagon with a rucksack over his shoulder. He’d awakened to learn he was going off with his uncle for some reason. He’d asked to stay, he practically begged. He hugged on his mother and cried like a child. She wiped his tears and told him it would be all right, he could come visit, and this was for his own good. So he sulked in the wagon, awaiting his fate. He never disobeyed his mother.
James Salter glared at his brother as Jonah made ready to depart. “Ye’ll look after him?”
“You have my word, James. No harm will come to him. He’ll come visit regularly, I promise you.”
“This be one promise ye better keep, Jonah.”
Sighing, Jonah nodded, “I will.” He nodded at the teary-eyed Emma and turned without another word. He walked over to his wagon and hauled himself up to the driver’s seat. Gazing down at Goldie, he said, “Don’t look so glum, boy. Stormwind is like nothing you’ve seen.” With that he cracked his whip and the horses started moving. Goldie looked back at his mother and father, tears in his eyes.
It would be far longer than 2 years before he would return.