After a short rest, I returned via kite to Klaxxi’vess, where Iyokkuk the Lucid had… settled in. He was not like the others, as he had been completely aware of his 877 years in encasement – and even he was unsure that his sanity had survived it intact. However, with the role of the pandaren in his freedom, the Klaxxi were content to let them stay “until the Swarm is dealt with.”
I had little time to dwell on that, as I was informed that another non-mantid race had crashed on the southern coast.
‘The presence there is not of our kind and they are of no value to us. Their supplies, however, could prove very valuable. If there is anything of use there, we must get there before the empress. Now go!’
I made my way across the Horrid March, down past Kypari Zar, and in a little cove on the southern coast was what looked like a hastily-constructed fishing town, with a wrecked boat preventing their exit via sea. I found the leader, Deck Boss Arie, in short time.
‘So the bugs have taken an interest in us, have they? Well if they want somethin’ from us they’ll have to come and earn it themselves! You work for what you get here – that means you too!’
Despite my protestations that I was merely a mantid envoy, they put me to work in Soggy’s Gamble – and the first thing I was forced to do was drink a disgusting water-breathing potion.
‘Tastes like seaweed and hot garbage, don’t it? You’ll thank me later.’
I was put to work helping to re-fill crab traps with bait, and feed the protected otters nearby that had been scrounging from them. It was not all that hard (once you learned how to avoid angry grouper) but it was not what I had intended to be doing.
‘Not bad, green, not bad. Now, another job for ya. You see that sea lion in the pen over there? Name’s Dog. He’s been Soggy’s pet for years. I think he’s been gettin’ restless lately. Why don’t you go talk to Soggy and let ‘im know – I’d say it’s about time you meet the cap’n anyway.’ I made my way up to the top building, where “Soggy” awaited me.
‘New deckhand, eh? We’ll see about that. I run a tight ship – even if she IS at the bottom of the sea. Now, about Dog.
Dog ain’t my “pet”. He’s a member of this crew, and my best friend. Saved my life more than once, you know. But I’m gettin’ too old to walk him anymore, and he still needs his exercise. Take Dog for a trip around the shelf, would ya? He loves to swim through the hot geysers just southeast of the shallows. He absolutely has to, er… “leave his mark” on the dead whale at the far western side. Oh, and he likes reminiscing at our old shipwreck.’
I was about to leave, when Soggy called me back.
‘Er, look, I ain’t got reason to trust you, but there’s a task I can’t give to my crew. I need you to search the wreck of our old ship, the Mist-Hopper, and bring back the charter. It’d be sealed up in a silver tube, in a footlocker. It’s sort of, uh, incriminating. I can’t risk any of the crew finding it if they decide to visit the ol’ girl. She’s resting on the Shelf of Mazu, to the west. I’d suggest riding a rip current there, if you got the stomach.’
On my way to meet Dog Arie called me over again.
‘Listen, I just got word that a string of pots we dropped this morning hit it BIG. We’re on the crab! Problem is, the rips are getting stronger, and we lost track of some – they’re just sitting out there, filled with spiky blue GOLD! Hook up buoys to any you see when you’re out there with Dog – it’ll send them to the surface for us. Oh, and there’s a big craze on the mainland for thresher teeth at the moment, so bring me any you find!’
I released Dog from his pen and took him west, to the Shelf of Mazu. It was filled with makrura, which Dog gorged happily on while I attached buoys to filled crab pots. Soon, we ended up at the Wreck of the Mist-Hopper, and while Dog happily swam about its algae-covered hull and masts, I went onto the deck of the ruined ship, and almost immediately found the footlocker Soggy had wanted me to find. I took the sealed tube and returned to Dog.
North of the old boat we found the Silt Vents, through which Dog eagerly swam for quite a while. We then swam west, and I killed the sharks we saw along the way, taking as many intact teeth as I could find. Finally, we reached the skeleton of an old whale shark, where Dog… “made his mark”. He seemed fully satisfied, so we swam back to Soggy’s Gamble. Arie took the thresher teeth warily, with a commendation on my work with the crabs. Finally, I returned to Soggy.
‘Good job, Dog seems really happy. That’s the charter tube, alright. I guess you’d like to know what all this fuss is about?’ Soggy sighed, uncapping the tube. ‘Might as well get it over with.’ He unrolled the charter and gasped. ‘What the-?! This ain’t the charter! It’s a letter. In Arie’s handwriting?
If you are reading this, it means you finally worked up the guts to send someone after the old charter. Well, you’re too late. We know the Mist-Hopper wasn’t hired to venture this far beyond the wall. We know it was supposed to be a routine job off the coast of Jade Forest. What should have been a weak of easy fishing turned into a wild misadventure that ran us aground in the most dangerous place on the continent and nearly got us all killed, because you couldn’t stop chasing your hunches.
We just wanted to say: Thank you.
Thank you for chasing fortune on the distant horizon. Thank you for dreaming. And most of all, thank you for bringing us along. We’ll always be your crew, Soggy, ship or no ship. We’d follow you anywhere.
Sincerely, all of us. Even Dog.”
Dog barked happily in agreement at this last statement. Soggy was speechless, and seemed to be crying. I left him to it, and returned Dog to his pen. Arie called me over.
‘He read the note, then? Good. Took him long enough. I never thought I’d see this day, but I never thought I’d see Master Angler Ju Lien ask for help with his lines either – the sea is going crazy and he can’t keep up. Go give him a hand, I’ve already sent some others.’
I headed south to where Ju Lien was stationed, and on his fishing rack was some horrific variety of winged squid I had never seen before.
‘Creepy, aren’t they? Never seen ’em before, but I’ve been pulling ’em in all day.’ I aided, pulling in as many of the aggressive flying squid as I could while Ju Lien struggled with a huge catch.
‘What… in… Mazu’s… name… HHHHRGH! What the…’ A huge tentacle swept up out of the depths, followed by a giant squid head.
‘LEVIATHAN!’ We scattered as the tentacles began to pick people up, and I rushed into Soggy’s Gamble to warn the others.
The spawn of the leviathan were flying around all over the place and it began to rain heavily. I hurried back to Soggy and Arie.
‘What happened out there? I heard a scream and next thing I know these nasty things came rolling in on the next wave!’ I quickly explained the situation.
‘I’m not gonna sit in a damn rocking chair while my crew gets devoured by a leviathan! Come on, let’s get to the dock and set up a dinghy. I got plans just for this sort of situation. We’ll give that thing a case of harpoon fever.’ We headed southeast to the furthest dock, where a small boat was equipped with harpoon guns.
I and Soggy set off. ‘Fire harpoons at the bow, the port, the starboard and the stern! If we can take out its buoyancy sacs, it’s a goner!’ I launched the gun, firing harpoons at the great beast on all sides as we moved swiftly round it, and one by one they all burst. Soggy took out a handheld harpoon. ‘Mazu, guide my arm…. HURGH!’ He threw it, hitting the leviathan square in the face. The beast roared in pain, and swam back into the sea.
‘Ha ha! What do you think of that, you old squid? Back to the depths with ya!’ Soggy chuckled as we headed back to the shore where Arie awaited. ‘Never met anything that can’t be killed with enough harpoons.
‘That was some amazing work you two did out there. Oh, and Ju Lien survived! He swam ashore just after you started letting the harpoons fly. He was raving about some kind of gigantic egg or something that washed in with the leviathan. We should check up on him – he’s probably hauled it out of the water by now.’
By the time we reached the main body of Soggy’s Gamble, a whole containment structure had been constructed for the egg – but it was no egg.
It was another amber block! With another Paragon inside, no doubt!
‘Hey there! Would you look at the thing? Spotted it peeking out of the sea floor when I went under – Jiao must have dredged it up while he was thrashing around. Not really sure what to do with it, but it looks valuable. Seeing as how you and Soggy saved our hides, I think you should decide what to do with it.’
After I explained the amber’s true nature and the likelihood of a very strong mantid inside, the fishermen were happy to let me deal with it. I quickly broke Ka’roz the Locust out.
‘Tremble, fools! The locust has awakened! Get off me, insolent crabs! The Klaxxi beckon!’ The Paragon flew into the air, shaking off the crabs, and headed towards Klaxxi’vess.
At almost the same time, the Klaxxi whispers invaded my own head.
“The time has come, Wakener.
The council’s power will combine to put an end to the corrupted empress. This ritual has not been witnessed in one hundred of your kind’s lifetimes – and never by an outsider. In exchange for your deeds as Wakener, the Klaxxi’va invite you to behold this great moment in our history.”
I quickly took a kite back to Klaxxi’vess. The closer I got, the heavier and stronger the rain seemed to become – as though the whole land knew what was coming.
The council of Klaxxi’va and Paragons were gathered as I arrived.
‘Your arrival is timely, Wakener. Our ritual is underway. The council is in harmony. Our ritual will bring about the demise of the empress and allow us to secure the future of our great empire. Behold the power of the Klaxxi!’ All the gathered Klaxxi’va began to channel their whispering power into the great beacon of Klaxxi’vess – but suddenly, a great sha fissure erupted from the ground, and from it leapt the corrupted empress, Shek’zeer.
I do not know what I expected, but all my fears were met. The Grand Empress of the Mantid was the largest I had ever seen, as tall as a fully-grown Kunchong with glittering amber-coated limbs. The ends of her crown and limbs were tainted with the tell-tale smoke of sha corruption. She roared, and with a great burst of energy, killed almost all the present Klaxxi’va.
‘Death to all who dare challenge my empire! Such is the fate of those who question authority!’ With a last blast, she corrupted the Klaxxi’vess beacon, and disappeared back into the fissure to the Heart of Fear.
Of a council of between ten and fifteen, only three Klaxxi’va – Sra, Vor and Kor – remained. And they were all significantly weakened.
‘We are… undone, Wakener.’ The normally boastful and arrogant chittering voices of the Klaxxi were hollow, broken.
‘Your efforts appear to have become imperative to our cause. On behalf of the remaining council, I implore you to aid us. We have no strength now to complete the ritual or to hold back the swarm. We barely now have enough to defend our own lands.
Though we have claimed much from their empire in times past, the only hope for the mantid and for the whole continent lies with the Pandaren. The defenders of the wall must be told that the swarm cannot be stopped. The pandaren leaders must know that unless they send forces beyond the wall to rout the production of swarmborn, this war will never end. They must help us, so that the Paragons can storm the Heart of Fear and finally put an end to Shek’zeer’s corruption by the Sha of Fear. Only then will the Klaxxi be able to put in a new empress who can stop the madness – and only then can Pandaria be freed from the Sha.
Now go, quickly!’
I hurriedly flew into the Vale, arranging meetings with the Shado-Pan, the Celestials, the Alliance, the Horde and the Golden Lotus, until at last all were present.
At length the future of the mantid empire was discussed, until all came to an agreement that representatives of the Klaxxi would be allowed into the Vale to recruit troops to stop the Swarm. The Shado-Pan would reinforce the wall and the Gate of the Setting Sun, and the Klaxxi would call upon the Shado-Pan when the time came to storm the Heart of Fear.
I moved to the Vale, for there was still much to do there, but Pandaria became almost like a second home. Things were good, for the most part.