“Welcome to the Peak of Serenity!” Tock’s new gnome friend said, holding her arms out to her sides.
Tock spun around, marveling. They stood within a building that must have been incredibly ancient, and yet incredibly sturdy. There were signs of stress and age in the smooth, worn stones that made up the floor and walls. Gigantic pandaren conversed quietly nearby. An arrangement of kegs lined one wall, and open archways revealed snowcapped mountains beneath a vibrant blue sky. The place pulsed with life, and cold. A brisk wind blew through, sending a shiver through Tock. Tock’s new friend and the pandaren hardly appeared to notice.
“Wh-where are we?” Tock asked.
“Pandaria,” his new friend answered simply.
Tock blinked his eyes. “You’re…not kidding?”
“Of course not!” she answered, leading him outside. As they stepped out into the open air, she pointed to a mountain not far away. “There’s Mount Neverest, right there…the tallest peak in the world. But this is where we monks train, meditate…where we learn. Come on.”
She led him down two flights of stairs and into a large open courtyard. Monks were everywhere…many of them pandaren, but there were numerous races of both Alliance and Horde also represented.
“The only type of violence permitted here,” Tock’s guide explained, “is sparring to improve your skills as a monk.” No sooner had she said this than a deafening crash rumbled through the area from above. Tock looked skyward to see two pandaren grappling with each other in midair, having leapt at each other from some high structure. Few others, Tock noticed, even looked up. Were those two…flying? Just as his friend had done! And without a single shred of visible technology either!
“Do…you think they would teach me to do that?” he heard himself asking.
She nodded. “Of course! I’ll speak with Mister Oxplow, if you like. He’ll be able to make arrangements for you.”
“How long have you been doing this?”
She looked away for a moment in thought. “Hmm… About two years?”
Tock blinked again, staring in disbelief. “Really? And you can…can you do THAT?” he asked, pointing to the pair of fighting monks in the air.
His guide nodded without hesitation. “Yeah. You just…have to feel the chi flowing through you, and push it where you want it to go. Simple, really.”
Tock stared again into the air. He was nearly a century old! To think he might be doing THAT in two short years? It was fascinating…and exciting. “I…think I’d like to learn how,” he said.
She nodded. “All right! I’ll talk to Mister Oxplow. I think he’s back in Stormwind. Oh! I didn’t get your name.”
Somehow the reality of his rather embarrassing name snapped him back to reality. “Oh! It’s, uh… Tock. Tock Plasmawrench.”
She smiled. “That’s an interesting one! I’m Robin Gyroshock.”
Tock felt himself blush. “Yeah, it’s…my parents invented the Cherry Watch. Guess they wanted to name me after clock-related things.”
“Oh!” Robin’s hand went to one of her wrists, though she was wearing long gloves so he couldn’t see if she was wearing one.
“And Plasmawrench,” Tock explained, “Well…that’s…all that was left when I fumbled my wrench and it went right into the lava under Ironforge.”
Robin winced. “Ouch.”
“Yeah…so it’s, um…really cold here!”
Robin put out her hands for him. “Right! Let’s get back to Stormwind then! Now just like before…close your eyes, clear your mind, and relax…”
- * * *
“Hmm.” Oxplow turned his eyes on Tock with what the gnome thought was a frown. He couldn’t read the face very well under that wide pandaren-styled hat. “If I train two gnomes at once, people will start to talk.”
What did that mean?
“…Oh. Right, of course.” Robin looked down with disappointment, as if that reasoning made perfect sense to her, but Tock felt pretty sure that she was just as confused by Oxplow’s statement as he was.
“But,” Oxplow rumbled in a deep voice, “perhaps you could help, Robin. Help with teaching him the basics. Start with stances. There is a point where the best way to learn is to teach another, and it will make you reexamine the basics yourself.”
Robin looked up at him, her eyes alight with excitement. “Really?”
Oxplow turned to her and gave a sage nod, then looked back to Tock. “So, Tock. Your first tasks will be as follows: learn the stance of the Fierce Tiger from Robin, give me one hundred jabs on a training dummy, and meditate on this queston… The answer does not need to come immediately, or even soon, but you must tell me.” He leaned forward, a piercing look in his eyes. “Why… do you fight?”