In mid-spring — or what she was told was mid-spring, back in Azeroth; here in Outland, there did not seem to be any noticeable seasons — Kaumalea returned to her lodging house one evening to find the public areas filled with chattering orcish and blood elven children. Surprised, she asked the innkeeper what was going on.
The innkeeper raised an eyebrow at her. “Ah, right, you’re one o’ them taunka from Northrend, ain’tcha? So you wouldn’t know ’bout Children’s Week. There have been so many wars everywhere that all the big cities have orphanages overflowing with children that have lost their parents. Once a year, the orphan matrons do a charity drive to get adventurers to recognize the cost of the wars by giving a little of their time to these poor kids.”
“But what do you, well, do with one of these children?” Kaumalea wondered.
“Oh, mostly you just let them follow you around as you do whatever it is you do everyday anyway. Usually, the kids have a few particular things they really want to do, too — places they’ve dreamed about going, famous people they want to see for themselves, that kind of thing. And it’s nice to buy them a treat or a toy or something at the end of the week, to help them remember you.”
Kaumalea looked around the crowded, noisy room. “It certainly seems to be popular.”
“Aye,” the innkeeper smiled. “The kids, they want you to remember them, too. They’re always taming little critters of one sort or another, and of course the orphan matrons won’t let them keep them, so they’ll give them to you. A lot of adventurers treat the orphans they sponsor kind of like a little sister or brother — write them letters, send them trinkets, that kind of thing. Those folks over there,” the innkeeper indicated an orc warrior and a troll hunter who were playing cards with two blood elf children, “have sponsored those same kids from the orphanage over in Shattrath for three years or so now. It’s great experience, they say — doesn’t strengthen the body much, but does wonders for the heart.”
Kaumalea considered this. She could definitely use more experience, in whatever form. The Battle for Light’s Hope Chapel had left her severely debilitated, making the usual ways that adventurers gained experience very difficult for her. It had taken her nearly a year in Outland to gain enough strength to even think about trying to return to her once-home of Camp Winterhoof, and when she’d gotten there, she’d soon realized that she wasn’t nearly strong enough yet to contribute meaningfully to the defense and provisioning of the tribe. So she had come back to Outland. She had surely created orphans herself during her time as the Lich King’s thrall. Because of her weakness, she was used to being careful, so she wouldn’t have to be any more careful than usual with a child in tow. Sponsoring an orphan was something that was certainly within her power to do.
Kaumalea had such an agreeable outing with the orphan that she sponsored from Shattrath — a clever-fingered blood elf girl named Ameridala who soon had her hair out of its customary braids and twined up into an elaborate crown never seen before or since on a tauren (or taunka) — that she decided to sponsor an orphan from Orgrimmar as well.
With the talkative orc boy Ezrom as her guide, she learned much more in a day or two about the history and heritage of this “Horde” that she had been swept up into upon being freed from the Lich King than she had gleaned during a whole year in Horde settlements in Outland.
“I am sorry,” Matron Aria in Dalaran said, “but only adventurers who have already reached their 70th season are allowed to sponsor the wolvar and oracle children. I have heard, however, that there is an orphanage of taunka children at Agmar’s Hammer in the Dragonblight; the matron there does not like to ask for help, but I am sure she would accept it gladly if you offered.”
“Oh!” said Matron Twinbreeze, when Kaumalea explained her intentions, “I had never thought of something like that, but, yes, it would be a wonderful thing for one of the older children!”
She introduced Kaumalea to a youngster named Omner.
“I miss my sister, Abish,” Omner said when Kaumalea asked him where he would like to go first, “She’s the only other member of my family who escaped when the Nerubians overran our village. She’s almost an adult, though, and she’s already started her real training to be a hunter. I think she’s probably at Westwind, where we’ve had a hunting camp forever. Everyone knows where it is — west of here, just this side of the bridge to Borean Tundra. That’s what made it such a good spot for the refugees from the Scourge attacks to gather.”
“I can’t wait until I’m old enough to start my real training, too!” Omner enthused. “Then I’ll get to be with my sister and her friends all the time!”
“Greatmother Icemist tells us a story about ancient druids trying to grow a huge tree in the middle of the Grizzly Hills,” Omner said next, “I don’t know how growing a big tree could fix the world in the first place, but I guess it didn’t work because she said the tree died. I don’t know if I belive that a tree could get that big, either. Can we go see the place where it was?”
“Wow,” Omner said as they flew over the fallen pieces of Vordrassil and down into Grizzlemaw, “that must have been some strong magic. Usually trees rot to splinters in only a few years after they fall, but Greatmother Icemist said that this tree fell thousands of years ago! I guess that strong magic is why the furbolg decided that this would be a good place to live.”
“Sometimes at night,” Omner confided, “I sneak downstairs and listen to the adventurers talking. Once, I heard one of them saying that he went to a place called the Bronze Dragonshrine, northeast of the dragons’ Wyrmrest Temple, and saw himself, only from the future! And then another one laughed and said that he’d done that, too, and then he’d come back later, and seen himself, only from the past, when he was there before! If we go there, do you think we might see me from the future and you from the past?”
“I wasn’t expecting that… I’ve always wanted to be a hunter. But I guess being a wind tamer wouldn’t be so bad.”
As they rode out of the pass leading to the Bronze Dragonshrine, Omner pointed at the great Titan structure rising up in the distance. “Wyrmrest Temple! That’s where the dragon queen lives, up on the very top floor. I’ve always wanted to see a dragon up close, and she’s supposed to be friendly… right? Let’s go!”
“I never knew that dragons could do that, change their shapes. It makes sense why they do it, but I’d still like to see her dragon form, someday. If her dragon form is too large for even that big room, she must be simply magnificent!”
Finally, Omner said, “I love to hear Greatmother Icemist’s stories. Matron Twinbreeze tells some good stories, too, about the place where she comes from. You know who has all the stories about our people, though? There’s an Elder named Xarantaur who knows everything! He lives at Tunka’lo Village. It’s on a mountaintop way up in the Storm Peaks, north and a little east of the frost giant place called Dun Niffelem. Will you take me to visit him?”
“That was so cool! Maybe being a wind tamer will be better than being a hunter, after all, if it lets me spend more time learning stories.”
Before returning to Agmar’s Hammer, Kaumalea took Omner to The Wonderworks in Dalaran. His eyes grew big and round as he took in the variety of toys. He inspected them all carefully, lingering longingly over the copper racers. Eventually, he chose a paper zeppelin kit, explaining that this toy was simple enough that maybe he could figure out how to make more, to share with the other children, from materials he could scavenge.
When Kaumalea at last came back to her lodgings in Outland at the end of the week, the innkeeper asked, “So, how did you enjoy helping the orphans?”
“It was good experience. It made me feel… warm. On the inside. I think I’ll do it again next year,” she replied.