Time passes, not knowing or not caring about those that go about
their lives in the grind that is life. People love, fight, and
die and still time passes on like rolling water in a river.
It's in the passage of time that Stormwind grows into a much greater city than it was ever before. Seasons and generations pass through the ever growing cityscape until the present day. Streets now hold a greater populace, wagons with varied beings rumbling on the worn cobblestones. Peddlers set their wares in the cul-de-sacs around the city, ready to peddle their products. Horsemen patrol the uneven streets, always and ever watchful for threats to the peace and sanctity of the city-state of Stormwind.
One such cul-de-sac, located amongst the blue-roofed buildings and apartments of the trade quarter of the great metropolis a lone figure roamed the carts. The old man, wizened from advanced age, marveled at the wonders of magic and science that sat in the different tables and trays that had arisen through discovery, research, and in the cases of the vendors, a lot of blind, dumb luck. His forest green robes rustled slightly with each slow step, the slouch hat upon his balding head, slid slightly back to expose his bespectacled face. Kindly-looking lines covered his face with a blanket of experience and wisdom few would know.
To his right, a small scuffle arose. He turned his gaze to observe just what was so important that it deserved such a loud bit of noise. Of course, it would be children, he thought.
"Stop it Gavin! You're going to pull her hair out!" hollered the little girl, tugging failingly at the rag doll her antagonist, a lanky youngster with blonde hair and a mean-spirited sneer on his face.
"Nyeah, nyeah, I got your dolly!" teased Gavin, tugging enough to keep the little girl upset while reveling in her dismay, "What are you going to do, call your mommy, Elise?"
The old man clicked his tongue at the fracas, slowly hobbled over and grabbed the lad by the scruff of his shirt collar with a grip much greater than his frame let on and scolded, "Now then, young man, nobody likes a bully."
The boy struggled, hollering, "Hey! Let me go! I'm gonna tell the constables," and then found his way out of the old mans grip and turned to confront his new opponent. His hands fell limp to his sides while his face dropped open in a look of complete awe and surprise. The little girl, who had fallen silent, was already in a similar state: staring with reverence at the old man now standing before them both.
"T-Topper McNabb…The Old One!" was all that the little girl could say; her bright green eyes wide with wonder. The little boy, Gavin merely nodded at her words. What kid hadn't heard of Topper McNabb, the story-teller? He had seen so much in the walls of the antediluvian city that people sought him out just to hear him speak. Books were written from what was thought, a long time ago, as ramblings from an old drunken bum. His stories, or so they'd heard from school-mates with fathers that worked Stormwinds docks, could be confirmed as truth based on sailor's tales of heroism and adventure told to their fathers. It was even said, in school, that Old Man McNabb heard stories from the wind that blew from across the sea and told Topper the stories he regaled the citizens with.
Topper looked from Gavin to Elise, a slight smile parting his lips, growing into a full smile. Perfect teeth, much finer than the norm for one his age gleamed in the morning light, "Now then, I'm not as old as all of that, good lady," bowing respectfully to the ginger-haired girl who giggled sweetly.
"Yeah, I heard of you," Gavin interrupted brusquely, "you're the one that my old man says is just a crazy old man telling stories all around town. He says you should be in the stockades for being a crazy, old coot."
"Maybe he's right, young sir," Topper responded, a bit haughtier than he'd intended, "but until he's in charge, he might wish to mind his own fishing then, hmmm?"
Young Gavin was about to speak again when Topper interrupted, "You know I knew your grandfather, William. He was something of a little bully too. As I recall he and his wife, Donna, were in a similar situation oh-so-many years ago. "Odd, "he thought aloud, "it seemed like they were always arguing over her dolly and running around town. Hm."
"You-you know Grandpa Bill?" The blond lad stammered, surprise now doing a veritable dance over his features.
"Oh yes, I do. He actually grew into a fine young man and when he married your Grandmother, the whole town was shocked. Turned into a fine and outstanding couple, I must say," the kind old man complimented with a mild chuckle in his voice. He folded his robe within his hand and sat on the edge of the planter surrounding the great oak in the center of the cul-de-sac and then folded his hand over each other atop his blackthorn-wood cane.
"But that's not why the fates have brought us together now is
it, eh?" he offered the children with a wry smile.
Elise spoke up while swiping her rag doll from Gavin's clutches, "Are you going to tell us a story, Mr. McNabb?" she asked, her curiosity equaled only by the sense of expectations of hearing one of Topper McNabb's grand fables.
"You are quite correct little miss. I'm in the mind of a great story, or rather more of a retelling of actual events," Topper offered.
"Is it a love story? I like love stories with happy endings," Elise cooed happily.
"Awh, who wants to hear some dumb story with a lot of kissing and lovey-dovey mushy stuff?" Gavin pouted aloud.
"Well, let's see. There's nothing wrong with a good romance, my boy, "winking at Elise, "but I am actually more in the mind to tell you of the Battle of September. Have you ever heard of it?"
He looked both children over as they sat, both shaking their head in the negative. Another quick glance around offered him the knowledge that others had gathered loosely in a crowd, knowing this old man's reputation and if such an opportunity would ever be given again. Old Topper smiled, nodded and looked the children in the eye and began…
"Way back when, when most of your parents and grandparents were no older than these little shavings, the world was a much different place. Conflict was every where; the world was at war with itself. It wasn't until many years later would Azeroth know the peace it does now. It was a time when the protectorate was actually two factions, the noble Alliance and the wild Horde.
"It seems like whenever one of these factions met, sparks always flew. Even our king, Varian Wrynn and the orc King, Thrall, were always trying to find ways to kill each other and the other's army. Oh, it wasn't a safe place for little ones outside the gates of the great cities," Topper said, a wash of sadness falling over his face momentarily as he looked at Elise and Gavin, and then to the other children that had seated themselves around them. The old tale-weaver paused for a moment, lost in thought, and then rejoined his story…
"But remember, this was also a time of great heroism, for both sides. It was the time when evil was always looming over the lands like a great shadow. It was the time of Onyxia, the discovery of the Outlands, the Lich king, the Great Cataclysm, and so on and so forth. Each side had its heroes that ventured forth, spilling their own blood while saving lives, saving Azeroth, history, and saving the whole of reality. Valiance took many forms from the enigmatic Night Elves," he motioned to a green-haired little girl behind Gavin, "to the stout Dwarves, " motioning again to a little boy between Gavin and Elise, "even the troll and tauren folk had great and mighty guardians," gesturing to two little ones of the mentioned races to enhance his point.
"However, there were times when the tides of hate could not be kept behind the walls of diplomacy and understanding. Stormwind was a favored target of the Horde battlers. One such an occasion was just such an incident, the one history recorded as 'The Battle of September'.
"It was a pleasant day, sure and well. I was on my usual corner, back then, looking for coin. My luck, back then wasn't so good. It was all I could do to get by.
He shook his head from that aspect flooding his thoughts, "I was on my corner, as I said, when this shadow falls over me. I look up at who was blocking out the sun and almost wished I hadn't.
"Here was this Draenei warrior in front of me. Oh, he was a frightening one, that. I remember the look on his face. Most of the Drae men always look like they have a sour look on them, yes? Well, this one…I don't know. There was something different about him. So we're there, just looking each other over when this gigantic blue fighter dropped a few gold coins in my hat, and some of the sweet Northrend plums that were just becoming popular.
"I didn't know what to say. Back then, adventurers rarely ever paid me any mind, and yet, behold this warrior just out of the blue giving me a small fortune enough to allow me to live and eat. I sit there, speechless and all he does is step back and smile.
"Now, while all of the Draenei men are gigantic and imposing, this one, well, not so much so. He didn't have all of the fancy armor that the other heroes had. He looked powerful, but he wasn't like one of the great heroes like the mystical Celise or the mercurial Tzirak. It was my impression he was one of those field knights you see in Westfall. It didn't matter, he had given me money and I was about to thank him.
"I never got that chance because right at that moment the city's criers sounded out the alarm that Goldshire, which was a small hamlet at the time, was under attack. As usual, I was gathering up my few belongings and running to my hiding spot but saw this Draenei looking down the street in the direction of the main gate. He didn't hesitate. He conjured up his nightsabre mount and ran into danger.
Topper took a break, listening to the "ooh's" and "ahhh's" of wonderment from the ever gathering crowd. Dozens of children had joined the impromptu story time, all of them now their eyes as large as saucers, their teachers and parents also enthralled with McNabbs web of daring exploits.
"Well, you can imagine how I felt. This young hero throws himself into harm's way while I'm hiding like a frightened mouse. I felt horrible. So, like a fool, I bundled up my things and ran to the main gate as well. I wasn't very fit in those days so it took me a bit, and then I was winded. I could hear the sounds of fierce battle off in the distance, but kept going on, again - foolishly.
"I had no sooner than made it to the gate when there was an explosion of eldritch fire just behind the wall! I can tell you that was a fright! I was going to run away but saw young master William and Donna, as well as some of the other kids from Miss Danna's class. They had all managed to scale the outer wall using the hill next to it and were watching the melee beyond. Such clever children they were," Topper admired openly
"I followed suit. Wading across the water by the wall and then climbing the hill was surprisingly easier than I thought. A couple of the boys, Steven and Mikey helped me up onto the top of the wall so we could all watch the terrible battle that was going on below.
"I noticed that a great many of the invaders were wearing the same tabard, part of one of the guilds of the Horde; a frightening black thing with gold fringe and a gold mask upon it. It seemed like all of these invaders wearing the tabard were prideful of their guild. Now understand, there is nothing wrong with being proud, but being prideful isn't a good thing. Nor was what these raiders were doing.
"Something had sparked dozens of the Horde's fighters. To this day, nobody knows. All that is said is that many Horde were out for blood and they weren't going to stop until they got it. I'd noticed that as the fight progressed, more of them had kept joining the battle while few of our Alliance protectors battled on.
"And then, something clicked. I don't know what. Again, I don't think anyone knows, but a sudden rush of our heroes flooded in like avenging angels in a great war! Our heroes, emboldened by the arrival of their compatriots seemed to become juggernauts and fought like lions! Oh it was terrible and fascinating at the same time!
"So many spells were cast; swords, maces, axes and spears clashed with sparking fury, howls of fury and cries of pain filled the air like water in a jar. It lasted for so long. There were even explosions from weapons fire or damaged arms flying up at us. Shrapnel embedded itself in the outer walls as Horde and Alliance combatants ran amok in blood fury."
Topper stopped for a moment, needing to whet his whistle. From his left and behind, a Gnome female produced a skin of water and offered it to Topper. He looked down at the diminutive lass smiled and took two drinks from the soft water vessel. He placed the cap back and handed the skin to the Gnome girl, who beamed brightly and ran to her friends, showing off the skin and hugging it like a cherished childhood toy.
Topper McNabb, the Old Story-Weaver, continued, "So here we sat, these children and I watching the battle rage below us. Such acts of bravery from both sides we could see, yet for some reason, brutal acts of villainy were committed by those of the Horde. I don't mean to speak ill of them, as they are our staunch allies now. Most of what transpired back then happened because there were quite a few misguided and base individuals to begin with, and they managed to fool others into joining them.
"Our heroes had managed to route the Horde more than once. All they did was regroup and return, angrier and more driven than before. I recall one lull in the fight where I saw my friend that had given me so much gold, give chase to one of the enemy on his nightsabre. I lost sight of him after that, and was worried. His armor wasn't the best, and his weapons, I was guessing, weren't as wondrous as those of his compatriots, but yet he still lived and continued fighting. I found out later he chased his quarry all the way into Darkshire before he lost whoever it was he was chasing. Oh yes, he survived the chase and returned just before the battle was once more rejoined - and right here in the city streets!
"The Horde raiders had come back. More terrible and more powerful than ever, and their fury was like a living thing, seeping into your very pores. I don't think there was a single soul left untouched by hate for those filling our city with violence and bile. I even found myself restraining the boys atop the wall from joining in the horrendous combat drifting into the city proper. Even from where we all sat you could clearly hear the fighting as if it were right next to us.
"We all climbed down. Our curiosity had gotten the better of us. Thankfully my companions knew of all sorts of sneaky little tricks and paths through the city that enabled us to get atop the bank over there," pointing with a gnarled finger off to his right at the pillared entrance to Stormwind's main bank, "and could watch everything from there.
"I was starting to regret my new point of view because the fight not only carried into the streets of town and almost to the king, but back to the very inside of the bank! What could anyone do? Heroes kept running in and then came flying back out, expelled from the inside of the building. Blasts of supernatural energy, arrows, bullets, all sorts of things flew out of the bank, and our defenders followed up with ranged fighting of their own. I'm surprised the bank still stood. I think I even saw a mailbox get thrown into the battle," garnering a bit of a chuckle from the gathered adults and some merry laughter from the children.
"However, the battle was locked in a standstill. If either side tried to rush the doorway, they would get squeezed into a tiny spot and mowed down like stalks of Westfall wheat. Both sides just kept shooting and spell-casting at each other, neither gaining any ground.
"Then I saw something that caused us all to hold our breath. It was my newfound friend, running toward the bank!" All eyes widened, faces expectant mouths agape as all of the gathered were drawn into the skein of dauntless courage Topper spun, "he was lost in battle lust, it was very obvious but I think he wasn't howling nonsense or just raging, but was yelling at his fellow fighters to cast all of their spells onto him.
"So many streaks of light, billowing smoke streams and rays of energy shot into him making him a truly frightening sight to behold! Others caught on and were also turned into behemoths and charged into the bank closely followed by everyone else.
"The earth rumbled violently once, twice, and then a third time. Then it felt like the whole city had sprouted legs and jumped. Ol' Emma, a friend of mine from back then, even said she thought it was the end of everything. Lamp posts fell over, houses collapsed, it's even said that the quake was felt as far away as Menethil Harbor. And then…silence," Old Topper McNabb finished with his voice changed to be menacing and enigmatic. The children sat in total silence. In fact, nothing moved, spoke, it seemed that not even the birds chirped so heavy the moment.
"Then: BOOOOM!" Topper playfully restarted. "A gigantic jet erupted from the bank door, blowing everything backwards. It collapsed the entrance, and from where I was kneeling, I was falling to the street as well, but I never hit the ground, one of the attending mages kept me from harm, thankfully. Once she set me aright we all looked into the entrance, which was now no more than a gaping hole than a door. We couldn't see anything; there was nothing but smoke coming from the inside.
"Something moved, shuffling in the smoke and debris. It shuffled forth and the heroes were ready for it. Even the townspeople were ready for a tussle. We all gathered up boards and rocks, someone brought swords from Weller's and handed them out. We were through with the raiders and were going to defend our homes no matter what it took.
"For once, the entire of Stormwind stood together. All egos set aside. There were no individuals; no warriors, no weapons sellers, no bickering children or anything of the like. We were a people united; we were a people of one mind, one heart. And it was as one we were going to end the horror these Horde had visited upon Stormwind or die trying."
Waiting with a dramatic pause, Old McNabb leaned forward to slowly scan over the gathered crowd, each and every participant all waiting, breathless and anticipant.
"A night elf priest was the first to emerge, followed by a
couple of human paladins, and then the rest of them all filed out
either under their own steam or helped by the others. The
fighters standing with us dropped their weapons and immediately
took to the task of healing the injured. More and more poured
through the ruins, exhausted and barely able to walk.
"Once the shock had passed, those not helping the wounded heroes were cheering as loudly as we could. We all felt the wash of triumph hit us like a wave! It was the grandest and most powerful moment of this old codder's life, let me tell you!" The story teller tried desperately to be heard over the din of applause and joyful shouting, a lot of hugging and cheer.
He tapped his cane on the cobblestones getting the attention of the gathered throng, and after a few moments succeeded, "Yes it was a joyous victory we were all so proud of ourselves and in our saviours. Of course we held a grand feast in the park, sponsored and hosted by none other the King Wrynn himself. Oh yes, we had a most joyous party that lasted for days. When it finally died down, there was a definite change in the air. The sun from that say forth shined a bit brighter, the air a bit sweeter, and every hello or glance on the street was more cordial than before.
"We had connected on that day; fighter, merchant, guard, and even this old beggar and were better for it and never forgot that lesson. However," he paused, looking toward some of the children seated and adults gathered, all looking dismayed and slightly dejected as they were of blood elf, orc, troll, and tauren.
One of the tauren children even had tears streaming down his fur-covered cheeks. Topper's heart went out to him. The withered old man reached out a hand to the sobbing calfling, who reluctantly approached and took the oldsters hand. The old story teller weakly lifted the little one onto his lap, took a swatch of his robe and wiped the tears from the little ones face while holding back a tear of his own. The entire gathering watched with near-reverential silence.
"Now you need to remember," Topper began addressing the calfling first then looking around the crowd slowly, "those people, like all people on Azeroth, are individuals. We are all different in our hearts and our thoughts. The greatness of 'They Who Watch from Above' is what has given us that great gift. It's what makes each and every one of us all that more special. Just because some commit acts of evil," looking into the eyes of the calming tauren child, "doesn't mean that the entire race is evil. Never judge another by what they are, whether they are human, orc, night elf, or gnome - but by the actions of those you meet. It's there where the secrets of the sentient heart lie. It's there," Topper paused again, looking out to the crowd then back to the tauren calfling on his lap. With a flourish of his free hand he produced, through sleight of hand, an ivory cat statue and put the tiny toy in the little one's furry hands. He finished, "Where true magic comes from."
Once more the crowd erupted in raucous cheers and merriment. Even the saddened child on his lap cheered and gave Topper a warm hug. The old man smiled as he set the little one down and watched as he ran to another tauren, an adult female, who took he calfling in her arms and gave Topper a kind look before turning to make her way back through the now thinning crowd.
Topper was about to stand when he felt a tug at his sleeve. It was Elise and Gavin, both looking closely at Old McNabb curiously.
"But…but…Mister McNabb? What happened to your draenei friend? Did he die? Have you seen him again? Is he okay? Did you even get to know his name?" Elise practically begged.
Gavin also asked, "Yeah, hat happened to your pal? It's not fair if he didn't live!"
Topper looked to the sky for a moment, smiling he looked back to the children, "You know there are many worlds out there, many realms that exist right along with ours. No I've never seen my friend again, but I am sure that somewhere, out there in the great big universe, he's doing what he sees fit and right. And who knows," he looked to Elise, again smiling; "He's found someone to love and is having a romance that would make your young heart proud."
The children looked to each other, each with mild perplexity on their faces, and then grinned. They looked to Topper and said their "Thank you's" and ran off, playing chase to see who made it home first.
The old man struggled from a moment trying to stand, and then made it to his feet. The crowd continued to disperse, some walking by to help steady the old tale-spinner, others to offer their thanks for the story, and still more offering a simple pat on the shoulder. Topper nodded and replied to all of them, thanking them back for their kindness and for humoring an old man. He then turned and began walking back through the alley to the back street leading to the canals.
Once he'd completely passed through the alley, he turned and
looked to his left.
"My old spot," he said to nobody but himself. A flood of emotion swept over him. It took an act of kindness from a complete and total stranger, and an alien to boot, to teach him a lesson in courage and sacrifice...in humanity. He offered his gratitude every day in his long life from that fateful day to the one being he'd felt truly deserved it.
Topper simply bowed his head, closed his eyes for a brief moment, and said it again.
"You're welcome, old man."
"Who's there? Who said that? Where are you?" Topper called out in alarm looking all around him.
He caught a flicker of shadow passing to the right, just beyond the passage to the canal. He struggled to get to that spot, his ancient legs faltering and his hands fumbling with his cane.
He looked over the rooftop where the shadow disappeared. All he could see was the long, wide road to the main gate and passers-by going about their daily lives. He stood and watched for a moment more than shook his head. He'd been hoping that, perhaps, his friend had made it back. That he'd survived and was living somewhere on a nice homestead with a beautiful wife and a bunch of children. Sadly, old man Topper McNabb turned and thought of heading home, a spot of tea now in on his mind, when he spotted something on the ground.
He stooped low to pick up the object, a small silver medallion and held it in the light. Turning it over and over he admired the shiny object until he fund an inscription on its surface. He adjusted the jewelry a little more and read the name from the inscription.
"Thurulargh," he spoke aloud.
He looked around, shock on his face almost as if he'd been slapped. His expression then slowly turned to surprise and expectancy. He was just here! It had to have been him! He looked a little more only to find nothing more than the usual corner with the usual scenery.
The old man stood silently, staring at nothing and then back to the small bit of jewelry in his hand. He chuckled, putting the glimmering medallion in his pocket and hobbled down the street, feeling that somehow he'd been heard and answered.
Finally completely at peace, old Topper made his way home, yes tea was sounding good. Maybe perhaps a second cup, he felt there would be company coming shortly.