Stamp: The End

Written a few years back as a creative exercise on the World of Warcraft Earthen Ring forums, this is probably one of my enduring favorites among the stories that I’ve done about Stamp – the Tauren warrior I still find occasional time to play.

A cool wind whipped the hide flap of the tent as its occupant emerged into the ebullient amber glow of another autumn morning on the rises of Thunder Bluff.

Stamp Bloodhoof, his coarse fur now hued more snow than soil, no longer wore the gleaming armor of his younger days. Instead, he wore simple cloth robes of black and brown, trimmed in pale orange. Although he remained relatively strong even at such an advanced age, his joints and bones had betrayed him perhaps as retribution for all the abuse they’d taken over the years. He suffered a wince for every blow struck against the Scourge in Stratholme; a cringe for each slashing blow endured in battle against the immortal dragons of Azeroth; a twinge for all the leaping jumps across gaps in the shattered halls of Blackrock Spire.

His blue eyes had grown faded and rheumy with age. He couldn’t see very well at all anymore, and thus found it safer not to range too far or wide from his corner of the encampments on Elder Rise. That saddened him more than most could know, for Stamp Bloodhoof had drawn the most joy in his life from experiences gathered while roaming the world at large. It was also how he had made such a name for himself in his youth. Well, that and his association with a huckster, charlatan and entrepreneurial storyteller nee Shimmering Flats racetrack scorekeeper named Gizmik Fazzle.

He found the old goblin sitting on a lumpy boulder next to the edge of the great earthen column that formed Elder Rise.

“You woke up late again!” Gizmik rasped in complaint to his Tauren friend. His skin had grown wrinkled like a leathery prune and his eyes were now a milky white, sightless, even less useful than the cocktail onions they’d come to resemble.

Stamp shrugged. “Stamp sleepy.” Stamp found his own usual boulder and leaned against it, staring out over the rolling green hills of Mulgore far below.

“There’ll be time enough to sleep when you’re dead,” Gizmik said.

Stamp bobbed his whiskery gray snout. “So Stamp friend Gizmik think that’s all Stamp got after Stamp die? Stamp sleep? Stamp not see all Stamp old friends? Stamp not get more adventures?”

“The big dark, buddy,” Gizmik said. “That’s why you make the most of what life you’ve got, here and now.”

Stamp considered this. It seemed a lonely and depressing way to think of one’s final demise. Surely, there must be more to death than a return to the soil, the Earthmother’s embrace, from whence one came. He had suffered the death of his physical form several times over the years and had caught glimpses of spirit healers and the swirling nether reaches of the world between worlds. But what would become of him when the spirit could no longer be healed; when he had grown too old and too frail to endure the rigors of resurrection?

He didn’t want to think that all he would amount to in the end was a pile of fading books by Gizmik Fazzle and a lump of rotting bones and flesh bound for dust.

“I hear your teeth grinding,” Gizmik grunted. “Let me guess: You think there’s more to do, don’t you? You think old Gizmik’s just a crazy, morbid cynic.”

Stamp shrugged. “Stamp think Stamp friend Gizmik think that to make it easier on Stamp friend Gizmik.”

“Easier? What the Seventeen Shades of Nozzlefogger does THAT mean?”

Stamp took a few moments to think about this. The truth is, he hadn’t completely thought it through yet. The words had slipped unbidden from his mouth before the underpinnings had been firmly established. Now he found himself grasping for some way to simply explain the complicated thoughts behind this assertion.

“Stamp friend Gizmik done some not so nice things over the years,” Stamp told the old goblin. “Stamp think Stamp friend Gizmik rather not run into anyone else in an afterlife. Stamp think Stamp friend Gizmik not want to be punished.”

Gizmik sighed. “Or maybe I just don’t believe in hokey nonsense about long tunnels and bright lights and supreme beings lifting you up to a better place or throwing you down to eternal damnation.”

“Maybe,” Stamp said. “Stamp try to do a lot of good in life, though. Stamp not grumpy if Stamp spend all life trying to do good things and Stamp not get reward in not life. Stamp not do things Stamp do for fame or money or not life rewards. Stamp just Stamp. But Stamp miss Stamp friends – the ones who’ve gone on. Stamp miss Dingo and Cairne and Cruljin and Sarya and Stamp sister Raysha and …”

“And you think you’re going to see them again? Fat chance! I’m all you’ve got left, buddy. All you’ll ever have. Get used to it!”

Stamp smelled a brothy vegetable stew cooking on a fire. He smiled faintly, then shook his head and glanced over at the blurry form of his old friend. “Stamp not know. Stamp *want* to see them, though.”

“Want in one hand, spit in the other, and see which fills up first,” Gizmik snorted.

Something about that stew seemed so familiar to Stamp. It brought to mind an evening in a camp near Cenarion Hold in Silithus, where the troll mage Clypsia favored Stamp and other clanmates from Storm Earth and Fire with a bubbling kettle of homemade stew. She’d put squid in it. Stamp didn’t care much for squid. He found it too rubbery and slithery and bland. But he was too polite to complain to the stewmistress, and the broth itself mixed well with the vegetables included in the recipe, so he enjoyed what he had while pushing aside the squiddier bits.

“Joo ready for seconds?” Clypsia asked.

Stamp blinked and looked at her. He hadn’t expected her to talk to him. He didn’t think she was really there. After all, he was just on Elder Rise, and it was morning, and he was with Gizmik. He looked down at his bowl and noticed his hands were clad in his Death Grip gauntlets. Starlight gleamed off his scuffed and battle-scarred armor.

His eyes scanned the camp and he recognized everyone as friends from his past, lost over time. He saw Kadingo in the troll shaman’s favorite dress, Corah and her pet frog Giblets, Eriyne, Cruljin, Mierkekan, gentle but strong Kormok, Dohas, Ralnar and his faithful hunting companion Wolf, Stamp’s sister Raysha, the orc rogue Sarya, the sometimes flimsy-and-prone-to-burning undead priest Terrick, the troll singer and poet Anansi – they all sat around the fire of the Silithus encampment. One among these stood out more than the rest, however: Mottle, the Tauren warrior he trained and grew to love but lost before he could make anything grow from those feelings. She had scarcely left his thoughts over the years, but he had lost the details of her face from his memories over time. Yet he knew her right away. He knew her smile. He knew her eyes. He knew the slope of her snout and the curve of her hooves.

“Stamp, joo listenin’ to me?” the troll mage asked again, waving a ladle over the stewpot and the crackling fire.

Stamp let his gaze shift back toward Clypsia and nodded. “Stamp ready. Stamp ready for seconds.” He held out his bowl to her. This time, though, he vowed to enjoy it all – even the squiddier bits.

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