I found the first missing serpent not far from the courtyard as I headed north. Interested in me and all alone, it happily followed, whizzing about my head and performing entertaining aerobatics. It was good to laugh now and again. I headed into the north tower, into the ground section known as the Fountain of the Everseeing. Here, pure water ran through the walls, collecting in glittering pools around a central fountain, where a jinyu stood. He appeared to be chasing a number of water sprites.
‘I say, give me back my staff! I need that for tonight!’ The elementals chattered and giggled in streams of bubbles, and I quickly stopped some short with a wave of ice. Shocked, they yielded the staff quickly, and I passed it to the jinyu.
‘Thank you. I am Wise Mari, the scryer of these halls. The waters have clouded, and I need this staff to calm the spirits and speak to the water. I am but an old jinyu, and without you I would never have caught those sprites. Once again, thank you. Please tell Elder Sage Rain-Zhu that I will be here continuing my work.’
As I went down the hall, he gave me a piece of wisdom. ‘Water is life. When the waters feel torment, then so shall we.’ As if on cue thunder burst above the temple, preceding another bout of rain. I was beginning to suspect that the rain was not natural. Heading out of the Fountain and onto a sheltered parapet, I found another serpent bobbing its head up and down to the rain. Noticing its friend it flew over and the two chittered excitedly.
I made my way back to the central courtyard, noticing that every few minutes fireworks would go off at random places in the temple. They lightened the mood of the rain considerably, and I set off some from my location before returning to Rain-Zhu.
‘Excellent! Knowing that Mari can once again work has lifted a great burden from my shoulders. However.. there is one other problem I have. Something has been troubling Lorewalker Stonestep, who is in charge of the Temple’s Library. Right now, we don’t have time for him to be distracted. Could I ask you to search in the south tower and find out what ails him?’
With serpent hatchlings in tow, I headed back across the courtyard to the entrance to the south tower, and entered the Scrollkeeper’s Sanctum. The place was wide, old, and just like a library should be – warm, inviting and filled with countless tomes and scrolls. I spotted Lorewalker Stonestep down on the lower level, and walked round to meet him. Curiously, the place was filled with small moths.
Just before Stonestep I found a third young serpent playing hide-and-seek amongst the bookshelves, being scolded by a pair of scrollkeepers. I brought it along with me. Stonestep looked up from his work as I approached.
‘Elder Rain-Zhu sent you? Very well. You are the one who shall help me. Look around you!’ Stonestep gestured wildly to the rafters above. ‘Moths have infested the library! Moths! All the books in here are in danger as long as they remain here. Please, make them go away! My cowardly assistants are scared of the things, and the works of a thousand storytellers depend on the removal of the moths. And that is but the half of it! The moths have already laid eggs, and bookworms are infesting the books as we speak! Remove them immediately, before the books become unsalvagable!’
Stonestep looked considerably stressed, and I obeyed his words. The bookworms were considerably easy to remove, as they could barely move an inch once you shook them from the bookcases. The moths proved more difficult, shaking dust into my eyes and flapping at my head. However, once a few had been taken out the rest took their senses and were driven outside easily with broom and brush.
‘Thank you, oh thank you! You’ve thinned their numbers considerably. I’m so relieved that we were able to avert this potential disaster. Some books will need careful restoration of course, but none are irrecoverable. Please return and inform Elder Rain-Zhu of the good news.
Leaving the library, I returned to the terraces, and found on my way back to the central plaza the last of the missing serpents. Fei looked extremely relieved to see me.
‘Thank you so much! You found them! Now don’t you run off again!’ She waggled her finger at the serpents, feigning disapproval, but quickly lost her facade and began laughing and playing with the serpents.
Elder Sage Rain-Zhu was pleased as well.
‘I do believe my headache is disappearing. Everything is in order once again. You have done what four accomplished priests of Yu’Lon could not. Remarkable. I think it is time that you met the Jade Serpent. You came to deliver a message to her, did you not?’
I felt more than a little nervous as we proceeded in to the final spire. How was one supposed to speak to a flying serpent, especially one revered by every Pandaren you had met?
We entered a large room which connected to a viewing platform. From there you could see all of the eastern coast. But.. there was no jade serpent there.
‘Fei, if you would.’
The little pandaren girl giggled, leaving her hatchling friends and running over to the centre of the room.
She was not a pandaren. She rose in size majestically, darkening in colour and forming into the Jade Serpent, glittering with scales of pure white and dark jade. I was speechless.
‘I apologise for this deception, friend. But you were a stranger, a member of a race we had never seen before. I had to know the bearing of your heart. It is clear to me now.’ The doors shut behind us, and I and Yu’Lon were left alone.
‘The Temple priests are too frightened to face the truth, but I grow old. My time on Pandaria and all of this world is almost up. Do you remember the great statue in the distance? The likeness of myself, built from jade? The workers have toiled for one hundred years on it, and with a little more jade – the jade you brought us – it will be complete.’ The serpents moved to the platform, and indicated for me to climb aboard her back. She flew out of the room and rose high above the temple. It was a wondrous sight, and I was completely awestruck.
‘With my last breath, I shall transfer my life essence to the statue, bringing forth the birth of a new guardian. Do not be sad for my passing – I am but part of the cycle. The beginning came long before me, and the ending will come longer still after me. Someday, you may be called to defend all that is dear to you, as I have done all my life. When that day comes, take my blessing, and seek all the light and wonder of the world, and fight with all your heart. We live together, or we die together. All of Pandaria is connected, as you will grow to know.’
Looping around the statue, Yu’Lon headed back to the temple.
‘I grow weary now, and must rest for when the statue is ready. Goodbye. I will see you soon enough.’ With that, Yu’Lon dropped me off in the courtyard at the front of the temple, and returned to her chambers. Elder Sage Wind-Yi met me again.
‘I see you delivered your message, friend. And I have a message for you. Your companions urgently require your presence back in the Hozen villages. I have arranged transport for when you are ready.’
I took several minutes to think. I had enjoyed aiding the Pandaren, and getting to know their way of life – these past few weeks had meant more to me than all the war before it. But I could not escape the war, and the words of Yu’Lon rang true. I was not just fighting to kill, or to protect myself, or all those fighting alongside myself. This was total war, and I was fighting to defend my way of life, and Quel’Thalas. Maybe I did not want to fight, but I had the most glorious of opportunities – that of protecting all I held dear, and using my love to save others from the sword, and see all the beauty of Pandaria along the way.
Elder Sage Wind-Yi was stood next to a shrine. It seemed familiar, and a curious story scroll was attached.
‘The Emperor’s Burden – Part 3
It was at this very location ten thousand years ago that Shaohao, the last emperor of Pandaria, defeated the Sha of Doubt and imprisoned it beneath the land.
From the Book of Burdens, Chapter 5:
“Shaohao meditated for three days and three nights, for the counsel of the Jade Serpent was unclear. How could one purge oneself of all doubt?
Weary of waiting, Shaohao’s travelling companion the Monkey King whittled a strange grimacing visage out of bamboo. He urged the Emperor to place the Mask of Doubt on his face…”
While mischief was the Monkey King’s motivation, the mask worked – as Shaohao pulled the mask away, his doubts took on a physical form. For seven hours they fought, until the Sha of Doubt was buried.
From that day onward, the last emperor had no doubt that he would save Pandaria from the Sundering. He became a creature of faith.’
It was the same story as I had read about in Dawn’s Blossom. Its message was clear, that doubt would only lead to downfall. And I was ready.
‘Good. Your transport is around somewhere.’ The Elder Sage whistled cheerfully, and was responded to by the call of… a hawkstrider?
It couldn’t be. It was.
Velore burst forth from behind one of the trees, worm in beak, and nuzzled me.
‘I’ve missed you, old friend. Come. We have a war to fight sometime or other.’ Bowing once more to Elder Sage Wind-Yi, and telling her to pass on my gratitude to the Temple for keeping Velore safe, I set back off through the gates of the temple, towards the north, and Grookin Hill.