The Jade Forest: Part 5

‘We are lucky to have gained such a prize, Keliera. But foolish, too. The Alliance will no doubt be scouring the forest for him. Quickly, we must eliminate them before they reach the village!’

With the Hozen keeping Anduin imprisoned, Nazgrim led our group into the forests south of Grookin’ Hill. The eagles in the area screeched loudly, flying up in fright as the Alliance shot at them and searched for signs of the Prince. Barely seconds past before Nazgrim charged and the sounds of war drowned me once more. The Hozen swarmed the field, bolstering their defences with wood from the trees and fighting the Alliance in surprisingly effective primal ways. We quickly overpowered the Alliance and took them out.

However, at that moment the Jinyu launched a tremendous counterattack on the eastern side of the village. While the sounds of fire and explosions rattled, Nazgrim quickly pushed on.

‘We must reach the Alliance camp and destroy it while they are preoccupied with the battle!’ Nazgrim led me to an overlook opposite the village, and as we climbed we saw the tide of battle turn in our favour at the village.

‘Quickly, we are losing time!’

Nazgrim led the way, quickly cleaving the Alliance as they rushed to defend their outpost, while I threw explosives into their fires, destroying their supplies. Soon, we had won.

‘Excellent! It appears the Alliance can’t handle the heat. Let us return to Grookin, Keliera.’

Grookin Hill was full of celebration on our return. Had the Horde not been present, it appeared that the Forest Hozen would have been wiped out – as a result, they were now firm allies with us. With Anduin secured, Nazgrim quickly went to join the celebrations. I was left alone, for what seemed like the first time in weeks. It had only been days since our crash.

Would there be repercussions from this battle, too? Had we merely restored the balance of the forest, or had we unleashed more Sha upon the land? Things seemed peaceful enough for now, and there were certainly no negative emotions in the celebrations… but I could not help but doubt that we were missing something. Why was Anduin Wrynn in Pandaria? Why would he be in a naval battle in the first place? And what were Nazgrim’s plans for him?

I was so caught up in my own thoughts that I did not notice the arrival of Chief Kah Kah until he sat next to me.

‘Your Wikkets good friend to us Hozen. We thank you.’ The Chief searched his person and found a scroll, passing it to me. ‘Pandaren give us this. It for you.’ The Chief bowed, and went to rejoin the celebrations.

The scroll was identical to those in the Cave of Words. Pandaren script flowed out as it unfurled majestically, and though I could not read it, it conveyed its own message into my thoughts.

‘Well done, Keliera. You have indeed walked resolutely along the path I indicated for you.

Remain diligent in these forests, and meditate upon what you find often – there are more secrets around you than you may think.

I am with my people, in the village of Dawn’s Blossom. They will be thrilled to meet one from beyond the Mists. Please join us when you can.

Lorewalker Cho.’

I slipped away from the celebrations into the forest. No one would notice – and it would do good to meet other Pandaren, regain a sense of calm. I left a note for Nazgrim with some more spiel about diplomatic relations, and began the path along the river to the bridge I had seen earlier – which I assumed led to Dawn’s Blossom, or at least to direction.

The Jade Forest was beautiful at night. The wildlife is quiet, and each bird call can be heard as clear as it would be next to you. The river provided calm, and I was steady as I wandered its banks. The locals called it the Slicky Stream, and its opalescent waters magnified the moon’s light onto my face. As I passed a waterfall I saw curious creatures in the calm water below – like mosquitoes the size of a boar, skittering along the water’s surface precariously but never falling in. In the rest of Azeroth, these pond-striders never grew beyond insect size, but the waters of Pandaria were utterly mysterious. Every so often, the striders leapt below the water and swallowed a fish whole, then returned to their gliding on the waters. Past a steeper waterfall, I saw the forest darkening ahead of me – curious dark bamboo trees began to pepper my way forward instead of the usual willows behind me. The native fronds grew larger and wilder here.

I would only lose my way if I continued to follow the river aimlessly. Having reached the bridge that bordered the Forest Heart, I looked around for some signpost or direction that would help me find Dawn’s Blossom – instead, I found a Pandaren Cub clinging to a lantern post for dear life, clearly terrified.

‘Hello? Are you alright up there? I mean no harm, I’m looking for the village of Dawn’s B-‘

‘Shh! The monsters will hear you!’ The cub squeaked at me.’ Turning from her, I looked deeper in the forest. The very plants seemed to move about. Then I realised.

They were statues. Moving statues, cat-shaped. Could this be- could it be where Sergeant Gorrok was lost?

Not wanting to stay and find out, I urged the Pandaren cub down, and she quickly raced off, leading me along a path I had not seen before, winding through the deep forest.

‘Wait!’ I raced after her, worried that anything lurking in the shadows may see us first. But before I knew it, we were back in the open. The sun lurked beneath the mountains, and it was still pretty hard to see.

‘This is the Silkwood. We don’t want to stay here. Come on!’ She urged me further in, and we hurried along the path, chittering noises bouncing at us from the trees. They were covered in webbing – spider lairs. We reached a wooden staircase, leading up and down the valley we were in.

‘Dawn’s Blossom isn’t far now! Hurry, before the sun wakes the spiders up!’ The girl clattered down the stairs and onto another winding path, and I followed. We came forth into a clearing, and as the sun began to come up, I could see huge buildings in the distance. Was that – a temple? And a statue of a dragon? I stood there, encapsulated by the beauty of the jade creations as the sun glittered off them. The girl, noticing me stood still, bounded over and tugged at my arm.

‘You can look later! They’re waking up!’ The girl ran at full speed up another path, as the squelching and chattering sounds of active spiders sounded from the trees. I did not need reminding again, and we raced up to the gates of a small Pandaren village.

‘Guardians of the Dawn, please let us in! We need safety from the spiders!’ The girl knocked five times on the great stone gates, and they echoed like a gong in the early dawn.

The gates quickly rolled open and we were escorted in. While the girl ran off to be united with her parents, I found Lorewalker Cho in the central pavilion.

‘Ah, Keliera! It is good to see you in Dawn’s Blossom. I am afraid I cannot stay long, for my people have need of me elsewhere. There is need of you here, too. My people could use your skills. Make yourself at home! This is the heart of Pandaren life in the Jade Forest.’ With that, Cho was on his way.

As the sun rose over the Forest I was shown just how majestic Dawn’s Blossom was. With spires and beautiful Pandaren architecture the town was indeed the largest I had seen on Pandaria so far, and tradesmen and guards walked about contentedly. I decided to ask around and try find out what I could about the things I had seen earlier.

I was given short shrift by a busy brewmaster. ‘The whole life of Dawn’s Blossom revolves around the Goldendraft Brewhouse – if you enjoy swill, that is.’

There was a beautiful shrine in the central pond in the town. I had a little look, and found a mysterious scroll in the middle of it. Among the offerings I found a curious story scroll. As I unfurled it it bestowed its story upon me.

‘The Emperor’s Burden – Part 1.

Ten thousand years ago, the day Shaohao was crowned Emperor of Pandaria, he followed the tradition of all the emperors before him and sought the counsel of the Great Waterspeaker of the Jinyu. With a light heart the young emperor stood before the prophet and awaited to hear what he presumed would be good news.

The Waterspeaker listened to the song of the great river, but his eyes widened with terror.

From the Book of Burdens, Chapter One:

“And the Waterspeaker saw before him a kingdom of sorcerers surrounding a great well, and from this well they called forth a host of demons. Green fire rained from the skies, and all the world’s continents shattered.”

Terrified by the vision presented before him, Emperor Shaohao realised that he was not able to live a life of luxury. From the humble town of Dawn’s Blossom, his journey to save Pandaria began.’

The tale of the Burning Legion, ten thousand years ago. It filled me with dread, and yet it had already happened. As I left the scroll, my curiosity in Pandaren history sparked brighter than ever. I headed further up into the village, where in the Drunk Hozen inn cheerful music played and drink was served by the barrel. It was a wonderful place, with only laughter and enjoyment, no bar fights. The Pandaren were a unique people indeed.

‘Hello, traveller! Welcome to the Goldendraft inn, the finest inn in all of Pandaria! Unlike those of the Wanderbrews, who bring shame to the name of brewmasters everywhere! But enough about my history, sit, and enjoy yourself!’

I stayed there a good hour, and the tales of the Pandaren enchanted me, but their brew was too strong. I continued to look around, and eventually came to the largest building at the peak of the town – the mayor’s residence.

‘Welcome to our village, elf. Lorewalker Cho told me that you are a guest of the Forest Hozen. To have made it so far into the Forest says great things about you. I hope you come to our lands in peace. Please make yourself at home.’ Outside, an old man meditated in the breeze.

‘Stranger, my sight is not as it used to be. The orchards to the southwest once smelled as fragrant as the days I worked there, but they are befuddled with smoke these past few days. They border the Statue of the Jade Serpent. Please, when you have time, investigate. I cannot go there unaided anymore.’ Accepting his request, I made my way down to the village gate when a Pandaren cub all but crashed into me.

‘Thanks for saving me, miss! My name’s An Windfur! You remember me from the Forest, right?’ I was only able to nod as the Pandaren went into full-stream.

‘My friends and I were doing dares in the Heart and we double-hozen-dared my friend Shin to go up to the Jade Witch’s house, but she turned him into stone! Please, help my friends get back before she gets them too!’

‘Easy, An. This visitor has little time for your games.’ An aged Pandaren tapped An on the shoulder, reprimanding her.

‘My apologies, elf. The little ones around here tell stories even better than those of our ancestors sometimes. My name is Tzu the Ironbelly. Please, accompany me to the village gates, and I will explain.’

We walked back down the village to the front gates, and Tzu began to speak.

‘The great Silkwood spiders are frequent hazards to Dawn’s Blossom, and we are not always able to govern where the children play. The Widow Greenpaw has always been friendly, but the children remain scared of that they do not know. I think it is more likely that some children got lost… and the others invented the story about the ‘Witch’ to cover their own guilt. They will learn, in time, but please see what you can find amongst the spiders. Even if no relief comes from it, at least we will gain answers.’ The Pandaren bowed to me, leaving me outside the village.

How quickly my work had changed from death to life.

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