I and Velore remained in blissful silence, both merely happy to be in company, as we rode north. The forest was quiet, as though it anticipated a fight. The sky was dark, but my happiness and resolution was all the light I needed in the world at that moment.
When we reached Grookin Hill, Chief Kah Kah and General Nazgrim were surveying a map of the Forest.
‘Throm-Ka, Keliera! Our preparations are almost complete. I hope you learned valuable information on your trip, for we have need of you now. We have been training the Hozen since you left, and they are almost prepared for war. I would like you to oversee training, and motivate the less-disciplined ones. There is no room for slacking in the Horde!’
The Hozen moved around the Hill with efficiency now, in formations, undergoing constant drills. Fishy water quickly awoke slackers, and by the south side of the village a line of refurbished catapults were practising. Down at the Murky Bank, the Hozen gathered supplies extremely efficiently. I was not the only one surprised by how well the survivors had been able to turn the Hozen into an army – it was also slightly scary. Nazgrim was pleased with the progress, but he did not seem overconfident.
Later that day Lorewalker Cho arrived at the gates of the village to see me.
‘This new way of the Hozen is troubling. They march in formation and carry arms. It is not their way. Still, we can discuss that later. The ancient fresco you aided me with restoring earlier is almost fully revealed. I am certain that it holds ancient knowledge the last emperor wanted us to remember. My meditations may not be enough to find its meaning, however – I will require the blessing of my ancestors, and I would like you to present an offering to them for me while I journey back to the Omen. Mishi can take you to the shrine.’ With that, Cho gestured to his companion, a bright red cloud serpent that I had not seen before. Mishi was very friendly, and flew me to the shrine with no complaints. It was quite amazing to fly on such a majestic being, and it felt like floating in mid-air.
Mishi flew me to Serpent’s Overlook, a collection of memorial buildings on top of a small plateau just north of the Nectarbreeze Orchard. Though it was passing into night, I found the shrine of Cho’s family quite easily. I knelt before the shrine, presenting a family heirloom – Cho’s offering – at the foot of the shrine, as Cho no doubt looked to the fresco for guidance.
The last emperor cleared his mind and looked to the future for guidance.
He saw races woven together by history break apart and fight, brother versus sister.
The war given to them by others will release ancient evil upon all of the lands.
The next morning I was woken by the cacophony of battle. Already? I scrambled to the edge of the Overlook to see an army of hozen fighting an army of jinyu on Serpent’s Heart. The Horde and Alliance would war? Here?
Brother versus sister, bonds shattered and flung into the fire. Doubt in their history, doubt in their bonds and commonality. The loss of their faith and the start of their war.
The sky cracked and rain began to fall. Lightning and thunder echoed the ongoing battle. Gunfire and explosives filled the air with the wrong kind of light.
No! They’d hit the statue! The Jade Serpent was falling!
Cho’s voice sounded as he weaved through the fire on Mishi and landed beside me. I was locked onto the fight, paralysed by doubt. How could I fight this war when it created such destruction of beauty? What was I fighting for? Who was I fighting for?
‘Keliera, I-I saw-‘
The statue hit the ground, throwing earth and soldiers everywhere. From the Temple the Pandaren looked on, horrified.
The statue’s spine cracked, and soon it was shattering into hundreds of dull pieces of jade. The stone base of the statue ripped open with a horrifying scream. The ground turned black and consumed the soldiers whole.
‘It… we are too late… The Sha returns..’
From beneath the ground the statue had once stood on, shadow swept out like a tornado, engulfing all that lived on the island and seared the ground with black and white energy. The energy rose up into a behemoth as tall as the Temple itself.
The Sha of Doubt. The Sha that the last emperor had bound beneath the Forest. A leviathan of shadow and emotion, with gaping jaws that open up only into oblivion. It had a body that moved as though made of smoke, and horrific, malformed claws. I had seen the Sha before, in Thunder Hold – but this was greater than anything I had ever thought possible. All the doubt of the Forest had formed into this – and the words of Tarun Zhu came true. Our bloodbath had had far worse effects than we had considered possible.
Cho stood beside me.
‘The legends… they’re true! I thought Sha of this immensity were but legend – we all did. Just a story to prevent fighting amongst the young and keep the smaller Sha at bay. There is no time to talk! The Sha is feeding off the fissures created by its release and the war made above its prison. Take Mishi and seal the fissures before it can grow stronger!’ Cho handed me a cannon and Mishi lowered her head for me to climb on.
‘I will research the archives of my family. There must be something we can do to contain this horror!’
I mounted Mishi and we set off towards the Sha. There was no time for fear, even though it gripped me like ice – Pandaria needed us. Around what was once Serpent’s Heart, the trees had turned blackened and twisted, and the statues had been destroyed. Great tears in the land oozed dark energy, which floated towards the Sha. Using the hand cannon, the explosions made the holes collapse. The Sha turned and swept a great shadowed hand at us, and Mishi rolled in self-defence. I lost the cannon to the Sha’s claws and it shattered like glass. Now with merely my own magic to spare, I threw fireballs at the ground, hoping that they would be powerful enough to cut off the Sha’s link to the surface. As we circled, it barely worked, and the Sha was cut off from its power – dragged back into the earth. We landed by Cho, who had moved to the gong in Serpent’s Heart. Above us, the sky grew black and foreboding with residual energy.
‘The emperor’s message warned only of the unique threat war would bring to Pandaria – the release of powerful Sha of old, like this one. The Omen is silent on how we are to end this crisis. Pandaria is a mystical land, and not all of its secrets are known to the Lorewalkers. Sealing the fissures did not mend what has already been broken. Many minor Sha were formed by the aggression of the previous battle. For now we may only try and diminish their presence here.’ Cho gestured to the chunks of the statue strewn about. ‘Though alone you will not be able to defeat the stronger manifestations, the power of the celestials is imbued in the jade here, and would weaken them. If you meet any of your allies that yet survive, signal Mishi. She will bear them to safety in the Temple for healing.’
I proceeded into the devastated glade, trying to fight past the negative surges that resulted from my proximity to the Sha. Their blinding energy corrupted the ground and surged into the heavens, corrupting the sky as well. The sky flashed ominously, signalling as though it had known the outcome of this day all along.
Though the power of the celestial jade indeed weakened the Sha, it did not do much, and I could only kill a few before their sapping power exhausted me. I only found a few survivors of my own side, Nazgrim included – the Sha appeared to have devastated the tribes of forest hozen and jinyu that had once lived in peace. I mourned them. Their deaths were not their own doing, but the Horde and Alliance’s. Cho was in deep contemplation when I returned.
‘So much lost in so little time… And I fear that this is only… the beginning. We must find a way to undo what has been done here. All this was meant for so much more.’
‘Heroes, I require your aid!’ The call of Yu’Lon sounded as she swept down from the sky beside us.
‘After what has happened here today, it is clear that my destiny will continue for a time. I require your aid, Keliera. Residual energy of the Sha of Doubt has begun to consume the Temple!’