When we reached Thunder Cleft, we first delivered the leaves and water to Dezco. ‘Thank you both. Kor is a brave warrior but he lacks compassion. He must learn that life needs to come before death, or there will be no one left when the fighting is done.’ He eyed the water warily. ‘I am unsure of this, but at this point I am willing to try anything if it will help Leza even a little. The land is claiming her and her child slowly, and I fear only divine powers could save her now.’
‘Dezco!’ Leza’s nurse Nala called frantically from the tent. ‘Whatever is going to happen, it is starting now!’ Dezco hurried in, leaving the rest of us to wait, and protect the encampment.
Though there was great toil that night, Leza did not survive the birth. None of our remedies worked, nor the triune of light, nature and elemental healing. The alliance did not come near, and the next day the entire camp was silent in solemn solidarity. The Tauren all adopted mourning facepaints, though the wilds provided different plants, and Dezco spent much of that day aside from Leza’s cremation caring for his new young. Leza’s death had brought twins into his world. We all took brief hope from the fact that our efforts to remedy Leza’s illness may have saved the lives of her twin sons.
Kor departed along with a collection of scouts while the Tauren mourned. The alliance were moving west, and so would the Horde. I decided that it would be best to journey first to the Temple of the Red Crane. Krasarang was plagued with despair like the Jade Forest had been with doubt, and I felt sure that the priests of the Temple would have an answer to the curse I kept seeing the effects of again and again.
The gloomy rain did not halt as I pressed further west. Kang moved into the forest to meditate on the mogu, and had not found the Hidden Master either. The winding paths led around the ruins, into an area known as the Deepwild. This area was the last territory of the serpentine saurok, and was somehow even darker, hotter and wetter than the rest of Krasarang. By now, a consistent layer of sweat and rain clung to my clothes, and I had learnt not to pay it attention. Cranes, moths, snakes, bats and wasps moved around in the undergrowth as I continued along the main road.
Almost a day later a curious shaft of light pierced my vision. It looked eerily familiar, and spurred me onwards. Coming to the shores of an oxbow lake on the River Krasarang, I saw a group of Pandaren with several saurok captives. Drawing closer, the view finally opened up, and I could see the Temple of the Red Crane, no less beautiful than that of the Jade Serpent. It was smaller, with domes on its spires, and built out of beautiful red and white stone. The view was still spellbinding despite the haze of the Wilds.
Amidst the camp I found a Shu’halo scout, felled by saurok arrows. Dezco had sent out a scout days ago to establish contact with the temple. I took her report and murmured a prayer. I would deliver it to Kor when I reached him.
‘The land here is harsh. Past the Ruins of Dojan are the marshlands of the Krasari River. My fur feels as though it will never dry out.
What is worse, the landscape seems to have an almost overwhelming sadness to it. I’m no druid or shaman but I can feel when the light has left a place.
There appear to be patrols of local lizardfolk. The locals I have experienced refer to them as “soren” and they are an ill tempered lot.
To compound this issue, I have encountered a band of priests fleeing their Crane Temple as the physical embodiment of sadness appears to be welling up and attacking everything on sight.
These people must be protected. I will do what I can to assist them.’
A noble end. But the physical embodiment of sadness… Another major Sha, in Krasarang. My suspicions had been right, and I now recognised the pillar of light in the temple grounds. It was identical to the columns of corruption I had seen the Sha of Doubt siphoning energy from in Serpent’s Heart. But there was only one, and I had stopped the effects of despair elsewhere in the Wilds. Perhaps it was not as powerful yet. I spoke to the leader of the group of priests that had fled the temple, Koro Mistwalker.
‘You come from further out… I see… And the sha have seeped as far as the province already, have they?
Well, I hate to break it to you but the temple is overrun with the things. Those of us not dead or possessed are fleeing for our lives. If you defeated the sha at Zhu’s Watch, I have to implore you to help us here.’ Driven by curiosity as to the source of these Sha, and the desire to avoid the same devastation as had befallen the Jade Forest, I agreed.
‘There is a camp to the north, but refugees are being ambushed by packs of sauren on the way there. Help us escort the remainder, and we can make plans when we are safe there. Old temple wisdom: Never fight a tiger with a hozen on your back. The sauren are a more immediate nuisance, even though the sha are the greater threat in the long run.’
The priests had not been able to extract knowledge of sauren patrols from the few they had captured, and we were forced to make a blind run. Two patrols ambushed us with arrows, but they were small in number, and the majority of us made it to Crane Wing Refuge, a hastily-constructed camp where most of the surviving temple-goers resided, and… Anduin Wrynn!?
‘You. I remember you, elf, from the Forest. The Pandaren have shown you and I great hospitality, and now is not the time to resume our quarrel.
After your people left to start the fight, SI:7 agents found me. Though they tried to take me home immediately, I ran away – there is more to this land I need to learn about. I cannot sit idly in the Keep while my people spill their blood. Pandaria could hold the secrets to saving thousands of lives in this war.
I slipped away during the battle for Serpent’s Heart, and fled to Zhu’s Watch, where Mei Barrelbottom recommended I seek an audience with Chi-Ji, the Red Crane, in the temple. I was studying there when the sha arrived.’
I had no reason to quarrel, and left Anduin aiding the villagers. I spoke again with Koro now that the remaining refugees had settled in.
‘Thank you, Keliera. We could not have made it unaided. The saurok still have many scouts all over this region. We will not be safe unless they are taken out, and you have proven your skill in magic already. It would be very appreciated if you would aid us. And here-‘ Koro rifled around his person, bringing out a long, thin branch. ‘This is scrutiny. Use it to set off the saurok traps before you stumble into them.’
I was about to set off when Anduin called after me again. ‘Blood elf! I would speak with you before your departure!’
‘Yes, Prince Wrynn?’ There was a tiny hint of sarcasm in my voice.
‘Several of the villagers were bitten by the snakes that swarm amongst the river on their way here. Their bite causes murksweats – a terrifying condition that is fatal if not cured quickly as it causes the body to reject all fluids. I need venom from the snakes for the antitode. We may be on separate sides in this war, but know that I ask you because I know you wish to aid these innocents as much as I.’ I could not disagree with him and leave innocent pandaren to die, he was right. So, I set off first towards the river’s edge.
The Murkscale serpents were certainly venomous and dangerous, but they were also limited to the river, and I obtained several corpses fairly easily. The sauren traps proved more dangerous, as they were spike traps that almost took off my hands even when activated from afar. The sauren pathstalkers were masters of the wild, but in the open they were vulnerable, and the few that lingered too near the camp were killed quite easily.
Anduin was busy carving a pile of already-hunted murkscale serpents when I deposited mine.
‘Thank you mage. Judging by the sounds coming from the refugees, I would say we are lucky not to have the murksweats. I need to focus to obtain the venom from the head, so please leave me to my work. I would certainly not wish murksweats on my worst enemy.’
Koro met me as we rested that evening.
‘Thank you for all you have done, Keliera. No one deserves a death at the hands of the sauren, be it person, beast or otherwise. They are honourless killers.’ Having supplied anti-venom enough to quieten all of the infecten, Anduin joined us.
‘With the threat of saurok now at bay, we just discuss our next move, Koro.’
‘Certainly. First, thank you – both of you. The Red Crane has always symbolised hope for our people, and I am afraid that even my thoughts began to darken in his absence.’
‘Do not despair, Koro. Where I come from, we have a saying: It is darkest just before the dawn.’
I nodded in agreement, and Koro chuckled.
‘That it is. You speak with a wisdom beyond your years, Anduin. If we get through this, I would like to learn about where you are from.’
We moved on to discussion about the Temple.
‘My time with the Red Crane was short, but I learned a great deal under his tutelage. This Sha energy is something the Horde and Alliance have never faced before – physical manifestation of negative emotion that was bottled under the landscape until the parting of the mists that protected Pandaria.
Having been released, it bursts forth to find living hosts to possess. If we do not aid the Pandaren in fighting them, all of Pandaria – and the world – could be lost in their swarm. They have the mysterious ability to evoke powerful and overwhelming emotional responses in their victims to allow them to possess them. As we fled, senior members of the Order stayed behind to cover our escape. Every moment they stay there they are being subjected to emotional truama, and they may not last long. We must show them hope by defeating the Sha that have overrun the Temple.’
‘It seems that after a few days you understand the ways of the Red Crane already, Anduin. Perhaps you knew them already. Huge maws of despair have been spewing out sha on both sides of the temple – and she who mends torn umbrella will be more dry than she who strikes at rain. We have a way in to the temple if you can close those maws. But as for the striking at rain part… I disagree with it. Sometimes it is very effective – and necessary – to strike at the rain. In order to see through the veil of despair, you will have to carve a hole into it.’
Setting aside our differences, I and Anduin Wrynn, Prince of Stormwind, made our way along the river-bed to the Temple of the Red Crane to help free it from the Sha that plagued all of Krasarang.