Even with the fading vestiges of twilight framing the city in mournful violet, my conversation with Zallas had put a spring in my step, one that a few hours prior I didn’t know if I’d find again. I followed his lead as he seemed to wander around Orgrimmar, looking for something. Eventually he spied a blacksmith selling plate mail and tapped me on the shoulder. “If you’re going to be on the road for as long as you think you will, you need better protection than some old farming clothes,” he admonished gently. “Let’s see if there’s anything in your size.”

Walking into the stuffy, forge-heated shop, I was stunned to see the intricate and personalized touches that each set of armour had; in my mind armour was a tool, like a hammer or pitchfork, something that served its purpose and needn’t do more. Looking closely at the metal casings, I saw that they were as individual as their wearers – these weren’t standard-issue soldier gear, these would instead become a warrior’s trademark look, and the decorative aspects were very nearly as important as the defensive qualities. I briefly wondered what my sister wore on her armour and what it represented – or if the army would let her choose her own ornamentation at all.

Zallas inspected the wares before eventually finding one that suited his tastes. “Not exactly what my friend Tynna would put together, but I don’t have the time to take you to Silvermoon City,” he remarked, out of earshot of the blacksmith who had crafted the plate mail. I couldn’t tell if he were joking about having been to the fabled capital of the Blood Elves, but I didn’t want to prove my ignorance and find out. He nodded again, satisfied at the suit’s quality, and looked to the smith. “See what we can’t do to get my friend into this plate mail, eh?”

Over the next hour the blacksmith adjusted straps and bindings, re-set fasteners and buckles, and seemed to make a big fuss out of getting me into the suit of armour. When he was done though, I stood amazed; not simply from the fact that I, a simple farmer, stood in the middle of Orgrimmar wearing real Horde-forged plate mail, but also that it was so agile – all that adjustment was to make sure I was as mobile as possible even while wearing the heavy steel. I would have been happy with new, sturdy boots, and there I was, looking like a real knight!

Zallas paid the smith while I was fawning over my new protection. He didn’t want to make a big deal of it, and I’m glad he didn’t; after the exquisite meal and listening to my tale, I couldn’t believe how unimaginably charitable the old Warlock was being. While I’m sure to someone of his stature the few gold spent here or there on young adventurers was hardly even a passing thought, to me it changed my whole world. Fully geared-up I felt ready to push all the way through the Barrens and into the Tanaris desert if need be, all to find my sister. It was a boost of confidence I didn’t realize I needed, and it genuinely felt like my journey was a lot closer than I had feared.

Thanking the smith profusely, I left the shop with Zallas, who promised to show me the way Westward, before he had to depart on other business, the scope of which I figured I wouldn’t even be able to conceive. “The Crossroads is still your best shot,” he offered, scratching his chin with a ringed finger. “But the Barrens have changed a great deal in the past decade. They used to stretch all the way down to Mulgore and Thousand Needles, but the land’s been severed, cut in half.” My brow furrowed, wordlessly asking for more information. “You’ll see,” was all he added.

As we stood at the Western gate of Orgrimmar, the great bridge spanning the deep Southfury River which separated Durotar from the rest of the continent, he stretched forth his hand. I took it as a comrade-in-arms, overwhelmed with appreciation and thanks. “You have many adventures ahead of you yet,” he smiled. “I’m glad to have helped see you begin them.”

With a snap of his fingers the skies darkened once more and his powerful flying pet-mount-companion landed heavily next to us. “I hope we meet again,” he added, climbing onto the simple saddle. I waved at him as he ascended, back into the skies from which he came, having done so much to change my life in just a few short hours.

Zallas had invested in me, and it was my turn to make it up to him – I had to succeed, I had to endure, and I had to share the story of his generosity with my sister.

Without waiting for daybreak, I began walking across the great bridge and into the unknown, bolstered confidence and real-world protection putting a very real spring into my steps.