Yu’Lon flew me to the entrance to the Temple, where a group of devotees were preparing to attack and re-take the Temple. I was met by Priestess Summerpetal and Master Windstrong, who were leading the offensive.
‘What happened here?’ I asked hurriedly.
The Priestess answered quickly. ‘When the Serpent’s Heart was destroyed, with it went the protective wards of the temple. When you banished the Sha of Doubt back into the ground it entered the Temple grounds and corrupted the whole temple. The Heart of Jade itself is threatened by it.’
Yu’Lon collapsed upon the entrance floor in pain.
‘The Sha is corrupting the Heart of Jade, and with it, Yu’Lon’s strength will be sapped until she is but a pawn of the Sha! You must hurry! I and the Priestess will hold the line here.’ With that, Master Windsong urged us onwards towards the entry chambers to the Fountain of Everseeing.
The once-pristine waters that lined the halls leading to the Fountain were corrupted, turned into oily, dark waters that spewed venom into the halls. The local water sprites had been infected too, spraying corruption across the floors. The students of the halls were all dead. We fought our way through, careful to avoid standing in the corruptive sludge.
Upon reaching the Fountain proper, we saw Wise Mari, the jinyu who was waterspeaker of the Temple, affected too. His pale blue skin had turned blood-red, and spikes had grown along his body. He cast spells of corruption, tainting the waters of the Fountain. Upon seeing us, he protected himself in a bubble and began to summon corrupted elementals from the four springs in the room. Meanwhile, the living waters lining the room bubbled and became scalding hot.
As we fought the elementals, cleansing them of corruption, Mari agitated the water further, so that it spat and crashed around us, threatening to boil us alive. With the death of the last elemental, the waters began to calm, and Mari’s bubble burst open, the shockwave sending us flying across the room.
Engaging him in combat, he began to pull the water of all the room to his person. Magic and blade did nothing to stop it, and soon he began spraying jets of corrupted water around the room. Though for a short while we were on the run, the corruption in the water became weaker the more it moved from Mari, and soon Mari had weakened enough for us to defeat him, and he collapsed upon the floor. Cleansed and unconscious, the water followed Mari’s lead, becoming pristine and tranquil again.
Our next destination was the Scrollkeepers’ Sanctum, where the Sha had infested the books themselves. The Scrollkeepers had since fled or become corrupted, and minor Sha wandered the ancient halls. The books themselves had been made animate by the Sha, and corrupted imagery wandered the halls. Tales such as Jiang and Xiang, the juggling brothers, The Talking Fish and The Songbird Queen, and curious collections of beasts I simply did not understand jumped out at us as we fought past the Sha and into the heart of the library, where Lorekeeper Stonestep duelled with a corrupted scroll. As we approached the Sha began to mass, channeling their beings into the scroll, which rose up and formed one last tale: The Trial of the Yaungol.
The Trial of the Yaungol, as explained to us by the Lorekeeper, was a tale of a Yaungol who was ambushed on a trip through Kun-Lai Summit by peril and strife. The only way to defeat it was to focus our attacks so that neither became weaker or stronger than the other, achieving balance and giving the yaungol the inner peace to pass through. With enough of that tactic, both creatures fell.
Making our way next onto the terraces, we found the jade statues malformed by the Sha, and all the priests dead. In the courtyard, the remaining Sha and priests dueled in a great battle. The numbers we brought with us turned the battle in our favour, Sha by Sha, until Liu Fireheart, the priestess in charge of the Jade Serpent’s rebirth, was left in the middle, overcome by doubt. Despite our numbers, her abilities were incredibly powerful, and with martial arts she matched every one of our blows with two, sending fire and serpentflame shooting across the courtyard.
When it looked at last as though the battle was turning in our favour, she leapt up into the sky. ‘Jade Serpent, bestow upon me your aid!’ Over flew the now-corrupted Jade Serpent herself, Yu’Lon, to her aid.
‘No! Yu’Lon!’ the remaining priests and priestesses were terrified, and fled. They were losing their faith. No!
The remainder of us leapt in to battle with the great serpent, who, though corrupted, was aged and weak, and was defeated. With her being cleansed, she breathed soft, calming peace onto Liu.
‘May your doubts be assuaged, my student, in your sleep.’ Yu’Lon nodded to us in thanks, and the doors to the final tower swung open.
Sha leapt out at the great serpent, who was too weak now to defend herself, and we battled them, defeating them, until shadowy tendrils grabbed us and pulled us into the Heart of Jade.
Within, the Sha of Doubt filled the room, reformed after its second banishment. We had no option but to fight it with few, and the battle began to turn against us as the Sha split our wills from ourselves and began to corrupt them. Soon, we were battling ourselves, and yet there was only battle in our minds.
Your friends are not your friends.
Death awaits you.
Pandaria will be your end.
You have no hope.
I could feel the grey doubts invading my mind, and I began to lose myself, drowning. This couldn’t be! We had come so close!
There had to be something to have faith in, something to stop the doubts before it was too late.
And yet… the only thing I could have faith in now… was my ability to still hold faith.
And that was all I needed. With it, I broke free of the bonds the Sha held over me, and colour flooded my senses. With my own freedom my companions regained faith in me, and with it so too were they freed. Under our might the Sha began to fall.
‘No… This cannot be… You cannot escape me… I am… in… every… breath…’ With one last curse, the sha fell to the ground and shattered into pieces. Wisps of its being flew out and were dispelled forever.
The Temple belonged to the Jade Serpent once more. The curse of Doubt had been freed, and Faith had truly returned to Pandaria.