However, the manifestations in the ponds were not Sha, and fell quite easily. There were not many surviving fish, but I found enough. The manifestations made me feel sad the closer I got, and extracting the salt proved immensely hard. I had to take several rests and the night wore on quickly. By comparison, extracting honeycombs from the nearby beehives proved wonderfully trivial.
Unfortunately, the remedy only caused the pandaren wardens to vomit violently. So Ken-Ken decided to try another one.
‘Okay, so that only cheer Ken-Ken up. This time Ken-Ken need to do woodcutting. You need bring him big teeth – like panther teeth! Oh, and paint. Maybe Mei knows where paint is?’
Mei was caught up in reflection. ‘This cannot be how Zhu’s legacy ends.’ She looked me over. ‘But you are a visitor, you do not know what I am on about. Centuries ago, this land was untamed and part of the wilds. Reaching the south coast was a perilous journey, and many Pandaren were lost to the wilds, home of the great cranes.
Then, the famous hunter Zhu Longbrow came along. Tired of the needless loss of life, Zhu and his family carved out a corner of the wilds and settled in it. Despite the other pandaren begging him, Zhu did not want to settle the wilds entirely, for the wilds housed unique animals like the great cranes, and so Zhu Province was born – and Zhu’s Watch to protect it.
Yi-Mo is the last descendant of Zhu’s line, but he is not entirely made of the same stuff. You may have noticed how dramatic he can be. Some day, he will come to understand that you must fight for what you love, but the burden of his lineage weighs heavily on him. Was there something you wanted?’
After explaining about Ken-Ken’s next request, Mei chuckled, and thought for a moment.
‘Our grip on the province loosens with our wardens not active. Some saurok have moved in to a nearby cave north of town, and the saurok love to poach, so they have used the passiveness of the guards to walk in and take whatever they want. No doubt they are sitting on some crafting materials there. And while you’re there, please send them a message not to come back. Oh, and one more thing!
At the borders of the province are three bonfires, lit to keep out wildlife and the spread of the forest. They act as memorials to the founders of the town – Zhu, his wife Rin and his son Po. If they are not re-lit soon, the wilds will creep back and overtake the whole Province.’
I headed for the saurok-inhabited cave, as they seemed to pose the closest threat. I quickly fought my way into the cave. The saurok were large, humanoid lizards, and within the cave were all manner of supplies. I eventually found at the back of the cave some pigments and paints for Ken-Ken, and with some saurok dead and others driven off, the town was safe. Now that they no longer had the element of surprise, they were much easier to defeat.
I made my way further south, where panthers patrolled the border with the real wilds. After slaying a few of them I came across the memorial flames, three large beacons in a line along the Borderlands. I made my way across, re-lighting each. As the red flame burned in the darkness, the gloom of the wilds seemed to shrink away.
The rain remained constant, even though by the time I got back to the village I had been there almost a whole day. Everything Mei said about it had been true, and I found it hard not to let the despair overtake me as well.
‘Thank you for your aid, Keliera. Keeping Zhu Province viable as a corridor from the top of the Valley to the sea remains constant work, and you are the town’s only aid in this curious time. Come, Ken-Ken is almost done with his new… creation.’
Ken-Ken showed us a mask carved from wood with a ridiculous face when we arrived. It looked stupid, but I remembered the wisdom of the tale I had read outside the Temple of the Jade Serpent – the emperor Shaohao had made his doubts defeatable by a Mask of Doubt made by a hozen. Had Ken-Ken unknowingly stumbled upon the key to all our problems?
It appeared we were about to find out. ‘We just need to put on finishing touches and we gots us a guaranteed fun machine!’ Ken-Ken decided to test it out on one of the guards. We stood back as he put it on – and a Sha burst forth from his person and fled into the wider Province!
It had been the Sha all along, creating despair in Krasarang. Sure enough, when the Pandaren took the mask off, he was back to normal.
‘Ken-Ken remember why Hozen use mask now! Legend about Monkey King – they say he use mask to cure old pandaren emperor, Shaohao, when he was too sad to lead his people. They buried mask – with all his sadness – in ground! We should use mask on Pandaren here, but we not bury it – we kick its butt instead!’
I, Ken-Ken and Mei proceeded through the village, curing the Pandaren of their despondence. The Sha leapt forth as soon as the Pandaren wore the mask – we destroyed each one, freeing the Pandaren. Though the curse had been lifted from the townspeople, the rain did not end, and the land did not change.
‘Hey, is that Yi-Mo. He don’t look so good.’ Ken-Ken motioned us over towards Yi-Mo, the most despairing Pandaren of the town, but before we could reach him, Sha began crawling out of the desolate ground itself! Fortunately, the small Sha had had no time to fester within those they controlled, and fell easily. We cleared the way to Yi-Mo.
‘GIVE IN TO YOUR DESPAIR! LAY DOWN AND SUBMIT, FOR ALL IS LOST!’ The voice that came from Yi-Mo as we approached did not sound like his own. Ken-Ken quickly placed the mask over Yi-Mo’s face. A massive Sha rose out of his person, though not as big as the Sha of Doubt I had seen earlier – Yi-Mo was indeed affected most of all. The freed villagers rallied and quickly attacked the Quintessence of Despair as it called all the Sha in the village to its aid. The tide began to turn against us, and then I was knocked out.
‘Hush, she’s coming to.’
I awoke to see the concerned faces of Yi-Mo and Ken-Ken. The rain had stopped.
‘Keliera… To think you risked your life to save me from despair and I acted only with disdain. I am shamed beyond comprehension, but you must understand my mind was not my own. Should you ever need aid, Zhu’s Watch will offer it. But for now, my efforts lie with rebuilding our village. Thank you for your help, but we cannot accept any more. It would be asking you far too much.’
I met Ken-Ken back in the inn. ‘We did it, Keliera! Something tells Ken-Ken that that not last of the sads though. Where they all come from? Still, we did good work today. Monastery always tell us to leave place better than you find it.’
After some decent rest, Mei met me the next morning. ‘Deep in the wilds, on the southern coast where the Krasarang River joins with the sea is the Temple of the Red Crane. There, the August Celestial Chi-Ji makes his home, along with his followers. They must be informed of what happened here. We usually send couriers with supplies, but in the events that happened here the last courier never returned. Please, on your way try to find out what happened to him. Where the road forks at the Dojani River, he’d have gone north. When you reach the temple, find Koro Mistwalker.’
I left Mei, Yi-Mo and Ken-Ken (who showed no signs of searching for the Hidden Master now that he was the saviour of a village) in Zhu’s Watch, and took the path further southwest out of town. Sure enough, the rain began in force when I left the town, indicating that the problems of Krasarang were not over yet. Huge clouds of mists obstructed my view as I passed through the Borderlands, and into the Wilds proper.
The Krasarang Wilds are like something out of dreams. Trees push steeply upward, and dark jade leaves and vines hang down in the mists. Vivid red and green plants clutter the place, and the deeper in you go the more alike it looks, and the less likely you are to find the way you came from. Fortunately the path was fairly clear for now. The orange sky can barely be seen through the canopy, but the rain stopped not far in. The mists and tall fronds blocking out almost all light remained.
I did not expect to find mogu ruins, nor hear a mogu yell as I came into a clearing.
‘Beggers and usurpers, we will burn you and your pandaren allies to ash!’ I found a wounded tauren, his breath short and fading, not far from the path.
‘The… mogu. Do not trust. Poison… get sample. Sample blades… Bring to Dezco… Thunder Cleft, west of here…’ With that, the tauren collapsed on the ground, dead.
The ruins here were the third instance of mogu reclaiming their ancient territories for some unknown purpose. I quickly disrupted their operations, unknown though they were, and took some of their weapons. I was on my way further south when I heard a gobin chattering to some companions.
‘-leapt out of the Temple, I tells ya. If we could get that dragon to Nesingwary, we’d get a huge- Why, hey there!’ The goblin woman waved and I wandered over.
‘Name’s Daggle Bombstrider, I’m part of the Nesingwary Expedition.’
Nesingwary? Here in Pandaria? How was that possible?
‘We were riding along in our hot air balloon when Nesingwary spots this place. He went north for the hoofed things in that big plainsland, but I decided to come to the jungle where the real beasts are. Fancy helping a girl out? There’s some good tigers and cranes about here, and I could do with a couple of their skins if you can spare the hands.’
While I detested Nesingwary, this little troupe of hunters had probably bitten off more than they could chew, and if it got them out of Pandaria faster, then it was all for the best.
As I proceeded through the undergrowth, killing wildlife, I came across.. A Darnassian camp? What were the Night Elves doing in the middle of Pandarian ruins? I thought it for the best if I stayed away, and quietly crept back into the bush. Somehow, I accidentally fell down a slope and rolled onto a nearby beach. It was filled with passive turtles, like the one Cho had rode in the Jade Forest. In the centre was a huge bronze statue. It was a wise, aged pandaren sat on a turtle, under an umbrella. Liu Lang. The pandaren spoke of him as the first Pandaren to leave Pandaria proper, with nothing but his turtle Shen-zin Su for company. It was rumoured that the same turtle had grown to accomodate whole colonies, and that was where the Pandaren of the Tushui and Huojin originated. A story scroll lay against the statue, and I walked over and read it.
‘Waiting for the Turtle
On this site many generations ago, equipped with little more than an umbrella and pack full of food, the young pandaren explorer Liu Lang set forth to explore the world on the back of a sea turtle.
At the time it was widely believed that the rest of the world had been destroyed in the Sundering. Common wisdom also had it that Liu Lang was… “damaged” in the head.
Everyone was proven wrong when Liu Lang returned five years later, spouting tales of mysterious lands beyond the sea. He would go on to return to Pandaria every five years for the rest of his days, his turtle growing bigger and bigger with each visit until it was large enough to house an entire colony.
Pandaren afflicted with the wanderlust often stared out at the sea awaiting his return. To this day, when someone is caught gazing off to the horizon for any reason, they are often asked if they are “Waiting for the turtle.”‘