Pretty much every morning – or afternoon – I woke up in Freewind, there was a brass band playing behind my eyes and a game of orcish canasta winding down in my mouth. So I didn’t immediately associate all the ruckus I heard outside the tent with anything other than all the wine I’d drunk last night.
Turns out, though, that it was some kind of protest. Or, like a preliminary protest. A pretest.
Anyway, there was a milling crowd of slightly reedy, bookish types, some with kids on their shoulders and others with placards in hand, trying to get themselves organized for a march north across the Barrens towards a populated area and thus someone who might give a darn. Mingled among them were sturdier orcish types who I recognized as tradesorcs from the Pork Farmer’s Union in Orgrimmar, and at the head of the crowd was a guitar-wielding fellow in overalls.
“Who’s that?” I asked Manny Umpo, a troll drummer who was leaning against the tent post nearby and cleaning his teeth. While all this was going on, I realized my braids had collected an astonishing collection of cling-ons during the previous night’s festivities – bay leaves, clods of wax, bits of fruit, and – oh, ancestors, is this an eyeball? whose was it? euuugghhhh.
“’dat be Spruce,” said Manny. “He sum bigtime shouter from Durotar.”
“Ya, Spruce Winterspringsteen.”
“Doesn’t sound like an orcish name.” I have to confess, readers, that at the time I wasn’t familiar with Spruce’s oeuvre. I was a good ol’ down-country Bloodhoof boy, and as far as musical tastes went anything you couldn’t square-dance to was a bit foreign to me.
“’is daddy was in Durnholme, same time as’eh big-big chief,” said Manny thoughtfully, as if this were all the explanation required.
Spruce had struck some chords on his instrument, howling and brandishing it over his head for the attention of the crowd. He started to sing and they all joined in, though a bit nervously and patchily. “Shout it like you mean business!” he cried.
“He’s trying to get mages to sing,” I observed. Manny put a finger over his mouth.
When the mana’s inspiration through your treasured kit shall run,
there can be no stronger raider anywhere beneath the sun,
yet what force on earth is weaker than the unenchanted one,
for the Union makes us strong!*
I raised an eyebrow at Manny. “Dey be enchanters, mon. Angried up about somthin.”
It is we who turn the Dream Shards into bonuses galore,
and without our Cosmic Essence you’d be dead upon the floor,
yet the buffs you proc’ upon our backs scare Scourglings to the core,
and the Union makes us strong!
for the Union makes us strong!
For years and months we slave to turn our arts to warchief’s call,
and though the cost was high to us, we gladly paid it all,
but our cry for fair recompense on your deafened ears does fall,
so the Union makes us strong!
This went on for a while, and though the tunefulness of the rather academic-looking crowd left something to the imagination, I think you’ll agree that the lyrics more or less got their point across.
As they were queuing for the elevators I managed to have a chat with a few of them, including their artistic general, warrior Winterspringsteen, who was a genial enough fellow. My understanding is that they are suffering greatly from a new law that decrees that all companies of the Horde offer immediate disenchanting to all members who ask for it regarding an otherwise unwanted piece of treasure. They then receive the resulting reagants, and generally for free.
But wait, I asked, hold on. This law has allowed a lot of the Horde’s warriors to get their own enchanting ingredients, and enlarged the market for the enchantments themselves. You can’t expect most people to sympathize about the breaking of a cartel.
“Junior enchanters have to outlay thousands of gold to get their skills to the point where they’re in demand,” explained Spruce. “The monopoly prices on materials used to be used to pay back the debts they accrued as students. Now no one buys mats, so they can only live on tips for service. It’s begging! No honorable warrior should be reduced to being laughed at in the trade markets because they expect people to pay for a service that costs them money to learn!”
“Yes, but why don’t they just negotiate payment ahead of time?” I asked. Spruce snorted.
“First, there’s always someone desperate enough to undercut you. Some cowards will work for nothing but the experience. They’ve lost the dignity of clan and battle, living only for themselves.
“Second,” he continued, “the mercenaries and raiders have grown soft and stupid. They no longer care where their enchantments come from, nor do they deign to learn the effort that is required. So they refuse to pay when asked. We demand redress!”
A bespectacled troll shook his fist in the air in agreement. “Ya! Here, I go to Ashen Verdict, they say – you want to know secret technique, you pay us three, four thousand gold. The people in Dalaran, they want these buffages for free! When I ask for payment, they tell me I am a homosexual – what this has to do with anything I am not sure! Man-loving warrior, he still get paid loots for his strength!”
“So you’re forming a union?”
“Yes, we will band together and set prices on enchantments that reflect their fair market value,” says Spruce. “These people are not greedy, they want their due as those who fight for the honor of the Horde – look around you, they are raising strong children, they need homes and food – and weapons of their own so that they will live to support their families! Our message is: the whole Horde must unite or fall – but we will not be slaves to those who are our brothers!”
Gradually, people filed into the elevators and assembled at the bottom for the march to Orgrimmar. I shook hands with Spruce and wished him luck; though I sympathized with his cause, I explained, my route was still south to the desert sea, and it was calling me onwards. An eyeball in my beard was really the last straw, and I wanted to hoof it (ha, ha) before its owner came around asking questions. It was time to put freewind behind me. As I mounted up, I heard verses of the song echoing off the Needles behind me:
When your weapon procs your enchanter is standing by your side,
as your sister in the fray her valor cannot be denied,
so smash our cruel indenturehood before the Light has died,
for the Union makes us strong!
Even if you have no social conscience, fellow warrior of the Horde, tip your Enchanter. Save us from the interminability of folk music.
*Solidarity Forever by Ralph Chaplin in 1915, filk lyrics by A. Galley with apologies; sung to the tune of “John Brown’s Body”. Although I think at this point almost no one knows “John Brown’s Body”, and it might be more accurate to say that “John” is sung to the tune of “Solidarity”!Next: The Flats Diary »