The ancient grounds of the Temple of the Red Crane were no doubt beautiful and mystifying when they had been uncorrupted. Now, the sacred grounds were tarred black and white by corruptive sha energy, and hopeless temple priests wandered desolately while Sha wandered, spreading corruption and growing stronger. I and Anduin pushed our way first onto the terrace leading to the main entrance.
The Sha here were more powerful than any I had met before, save the Sha of Doubt. Being near them clouded one’s vision, and slowed the limbs. Upon death, however, their effects lifted, and renewed hope spread quickly amongst the nearby priests as we made our way to the first maw, inside one of the pagodas on the west side of the temple. Though a minor sha in shape, the Maw of Despair that perpetuated the darkness was far larger than we had anticipated.
Anduin’s light broke the veil, and I must admit I would have been unable to do it without him as a beacon of hope for the priests and against the Sha. With both Maws destroyed, we made our way into the grounds, freeing all the priests we could, and soon most of the grounds were back under their rightful owners’ hands.
‘Pandaria certainly proves to be a land where metaphor and reality blur. Koro was right. “Broken are the bodies wherein hopeless hearts reside – the blight of despair strikes forth from inside.” This was the last piece of wisdom imparted to me by the Red Crane just hours before the Sha outbreak. Now, it all makes sense. Keliera, when the Sha attacked they did so from the basement of the temple – this training all along has been to prepare us to face the Sha of Despair. The Red Crane has been expecting this conflict for centuries! We must hurry!’
We cleared our way through the temple, but were stopped mid-way by a story scroll. We read it hurriedly, in case it would give us guidance.
‘The Emperor’s Burden – Part 4
It was at this very location ten thousand years ago that Shahao, the Last Emperor of Pandaria, defeated the Sha of Despair and imprisoned it within the land.
From the Book of Burdens, Chapter 9:
“After his success in the Jade Forest, Emperor Shaohao was filled with courage but fretted over an uncertain future. He sought the counsel of the Red Crane, the spirit of hope, deep within the Krasarang Wilds.
The Red Crane told the Emperor that hope was within all of us, if we looked deep enough. With that, the Monkey King presented Emperor Shahao with a mask of Despair, a forlorn visage of a terrible sadness. The Emperor donned this mask and drew out his own hopelessness…”
The battle against the Sha of Despair lasted four days and five nights in a pouring rain, but with the help of the Red Crane and the Monkey King, all of Shahao’s despair was extinguished.
From that day forth the Emperor knew the future was bright. He became a creature of hope.’
While no doubt a valuable lesson, this merely reinforced what we already had learnt ourselves – it would be the application of these skills that would truly matter. We headed lower and lower into the Temple’s basement, until on the final level we saw the Crane himself, Chi-Ji. He lay motionless on the floor, dark energy flickering around him.
‘Master Crane!’ Anduin ran over. ‘He’s succumbing to the Sha! We must help him!’
‘Go… while you can…. All is… lost.’
With that, the crane raised up into the air, dark energy pulsating around him. The floor began to darken, and we barely had time to dive out of the way before the Sha of Despair erupted from the floor.
‘Have hope, Keliera! That is all we need, no matter how great the odds!’
The Sha swept at us and gloom erupted in its wake. We dashed around the room, flinging Light and Arcane at its underbelly, and in fury the great fiend roared, calling the minor sha of the Temple to its aid.
‘Focus on the minor Sha, Anduin! They will give us the strength we need!’
As the Sha streamed through the doors we turned our efforts to them as shadow belched out from the largest one, blinding our sight. With each Sha that fell our hope grew stronger, and the power of the Sha of Despair weakened.
‘Die, fiend!’ With that, Anduin threw a bright ray of Light at the Sha, blinding it in turn. The tide began to turn with our hope, for we knew in our hearts that we would succeed if we believed in ourselves – and the Sha fell upon the floor, defeated. Almost immediately, the air around us became brighter, cleaner, and silence fell on the Temple at last.
The Red Crane floated down on to the floor, the energy of corruption leaving his form.
‘It seems hope has triumped after all, young ones. But this is no time for celebration – the battle rages on outside, and many followers of The Way still remain hopeless. Meet me at the statue outside in the centre of the Temple grounds. We will speak there.’
After recovering, Anduin and I returned to Chi-Ji, fully-cleansed.
‘You defeated the Sha of Despair. My order can handle the remaining clean-up from here.
It seems that for Pandaria, the time to face the consequences of Shahao’s actions has finally come. This conflict has been a long time coming – the arrival of your people was merely a catalyst. Now, your help is necessary if we are all to survive. But for now, your aid is better spent elsewhere. The lagoon to the south has suffered as well. You would do better to make your way there while I aid Anduin in where his path next leads him. Good luck to you, and thank you once again, Keliera.’
I made my way alone into the southern reaches of the Deepwild, beyond the temple, towards the Lagoon Chi-Ji had spoken of. The touch of the Sha lessened here, but the rain continued – the effects would probably last for a while. A few animals were corrupted, but I could see no major devastation. Luckily, the Sha of Despair appeared to have had less of an impact in its immediate area, but the effect over all of Krasarang was unknown.
I made my way across the bay to the first island in Nayeli Lagoon, known as Kea Krak, and began looking around for any areas that may have been adversely affected. The local crocolisks and exotic birds seemed unaffected, but the rain continued as I made my way around the lush beaches. I soon spotted a house on an outlying island, and made my way across to see if the people there were alright.
A fisherman’s haven known as Marista, the place was under attack from wild crocolisks, and the Pandaren fishermen seemed hard-pressed to keep them from… something. It was all a little confusing – the area hadn’t looked corrupted at all. I spoke to the leader, a Pandaren by the name of Tony Tuna.
‘Something’s made the local crocolisks far more aggressive than ever before. It’s scared up the local lories from their nests, and once the crocolisks are gone, their feathers would make for some decent bait. We’re able to handle the crocolisks here, but those lories won’t be around forever. It’d be very useful if you could get some of the feathers for us. And if you happen across any crocolisks on your way, feel free to take them out too.’
I made my way onto the larger island, Kea Krak, where I found several disturbed lories. Their feathers were easy enough to gather when they were dead, but with territorial advantage they proved particularly dangerous. The crocolisks did not help, and I came to the conclusion that they had to be overpopulated, because I saw two crocolisks for every one animal on the island.
I made my way back to Marista, where crocolisks were attacking in lesser numbers now.
‘Those feathers have made my day, Keliera. It’s strange… yesterday fishing was fine, then today the crocolisks just started trying to eat us! Something must be up. We’ll have to try other tactics, since they aren’t calming down. Jay Cloudfall, up by the Bait and Brew, can make you a raft if you bring him some wood and seaweed. You’ll be needing one.’
Fortunately, Marista was in no shortage of kelp or wood, and Jay Cloudfall made me a raft in record time. The Pandaren were truly masters of their arts.
‘Take your raft out to Ana Wu in the middle of the lake. Whenever anyone in Krasarang’s had a question they can’t solve, Ana’s had an answer. She should be able to figure out why the crocolisks won’t stop attacking.’
I took the raft out to the water, where it proved itself to be very sturdy and capable. I met Wise Ana Wu out on her own raft, meditating peacefully amongst the fish.
‘You appear troubled, traveller. How can this Lorewalker serve you? What is it that you seek?’
Ana nodded patiently as I explained the plight of Marista.
‘Crocolisks attacking? I know a story about crocolisks… but first, I grow hungry. I will share my knowledge with you if you bring me some shark meat from the waters below. And while you are there, one of the oldest crocolisks of the lagoon has grown tainted in his old age. Nahassa, the Mortbreath patriarch suffers – his death cries call up to me from the bottom of the depths. Find his cave and put him out of his misery. It will not solve Marista’s problems. But it is a merciful start.’
Dodging through the sharks below, I found my way into the Mortbreath Grotto, where the beast Nahassa lay on his side, crying in agony as his death approached. It was quite haunting to see such a thing. Though a strong creature, the throes of his death meant that he could not see me and could only thrash as I ended his life. With his death, a new calm seemed to fall around me.
The sharks in the lagoon moved faster than the currents by far, and I found myself facing down their maws more than once. I was usually only a split second fast enough to prevent my own death at their hands. I gathered a few fillets, and then hurried back up to the surface before the breathing spell on me ran out.
‘Ah, this is more food than I could ever hope to eat. Thank you. I suppose I owe you my story now.’ With that, Ana recited a spell, causing the waters to splash up and form images as she spoke.
‘This is the tale of the Hungry Crocolisk. The crocolisks of Narsong Trench ate fish. They were fat and happy. Then the sharks came. The sharks competed for the fish, but the crocolisks survived. Soon after, the Pandaren arrived. The Pandaren fished in the trench’s waters, but the crocolisks survived.
Finally, the Hozen came to Narsong Trench. The Hozen overfished the area, catching more fish than they could eat. With no fish to eat, the crocolisks became hungry and desperate. They attacked the Pandaren out of sheer hunger. The Pandaren, in fear and defense, killed all the crocolisks of Narsong Trench. The Narsong crocolisk is no more… simply because the Pandaren did not see the whole story.
That story did not end happily. The Narsong Crocolisk is no more. But this time, you have a chance to change the ending. The hozen to the south are overfishing these waters. With the fish gone, the crocolisks become hungry and desperate – eating each other and attacking the pandaren at Marista. Stop the hozen from their reckless fishing and you shall have your solution, elf.’
I used my raft to get across the lagoon to the southern islands, where hozen speared fish by the dozen for their village – fish they indeed could not all hope to eat. I had to send a clear message, and so I killed a few of their fishermen. While the others fled, I noticed a curious bamboo map amongst the fish hauls. It indicated that something was buried on the island, but that was it. I made my way to the shore.