The southern islands were known as Unga Ingoo, and they had been hozen territory for years. As I made my way along the beach, I tossed back as many living fish as possible when the hozen scattered. I did not linger too long – I only wished to send a message, and I doubted that I would be stronger than the entire village if I caused it to rally.
As I made my way back out I tripped over in the sand. I had fallen over some crude hozen box – perhaps it was the buried treasure that the map I’d found had indicated. With some effort, I prized the box open to find… a golden banana?
Hozen certainly had interesting value systems. I crossed the lagoon again, this time heading back to Marista. Jay and Tony met me upon my return as I discussed what I had found out.
‘I see. We will keep an eye on the Unga hozen from now on – and make sure we do not overfish these waters either. There is a delicate balance here indeed.’
Nayeli Lagoon saw less crocolisk attacks as the day wore on, and soon they stopped altogether. With the islands now safe, I made my way back north. By now, all of Thunder Cleft had probably moved west, and though the Temple was saved, I still had news of the scout’s death to deliver to Kor and Dezco.
As I wandered north through Kea Krak and into the Deepwild, I came to the realisation that at some point, the cursed rain had stopped. Making my way past the delta in the Krasarang River, I passed the Temple and returned to the main road. The sky was bright and the land peaceful and quiet now that balance had been returned, but I noticed that the wilds were full of sauren.
I managed to sneak along for a while when the sounds of battle rang out from my north. Fighting through the wilds, I came across an isolated jinyu village under attack from a full sauren raid. The jinyu happily let me in when they saw that I fought the sauren too, and I was led as a visitor to their leader, a waterspeaker named Shushen.
‘Welcome, Keliera. The waters foretold of your arrival – sadly, they did not foretell us of the raiders hitting us this hard. I am Waterspeaker Tired Shushen. Welcome to Fallsong Village. These vile Saurok are obsessed with killing and stealing all that we hold dear. They attacked the settlement without provocation or warning. Usually, the Crane Temple aids us against them but we know already that they are too preoccupied – and we are outnumbered. Their leader, Slovan, resides in a lair behind the Krasari Falls. Please, aid us – destroy him so that we can recover what we have lost.’
While I would have liked to stick around and get to know jinyu culture, I could not do that without an intact jinyu settlement. So I headed north, to the large cave on the Krasari River. Here it met the Valley of the Four Winds, or rather came from it. Slovan was not far into the Riverblade Den, but surrounded by his fellows, and equipped in curious mogu-like armour. It took me a lot of power and several tricks – mainly mirror images – to stay out of his reach, but he soon fell.
With their loot in my bags, I found a story scroll by the shores of the river.
‘The Last Stand
Defiant to the last, the saurok stood their ground against the mogu in the swamps of Krasarang. It was here they had a fighting chance, drawing the imperial forces deeper in to unfamiliar territory.
The mogu death toll began to climb as the rebels poisoned water supplies and sabotaged structures.
In his fury, the Emperor Dojan continued to send troops, slaves and weapons to Krasarang in an effort to eradicate what remained of the saurok.
They were never successful.’
I made my way back to Fallsong Village, which was holding its own against the attack.
‘Not many would stop on their own journeys to aid a village in need, Keliera. Especially this deep in the wilds. You are a champion to our people. On behalf of all of us, I thank you.’
I stayed in Fallsong Village for another day and a half after that, aiding in sending off the rest of the saurok, and learning more about the jinyu. The jinyu are perhaps to water as the tauren are to earth. They know more of it than any of their contemporaries can hope to, but they are not unwilling to share their knowledge with those they trust. Their architecture is beautiful, though they live in simplicity. Most tribes are led by waterspeakers, who listen to the water for guidance and use it only to help their villages, and the nearby races if the knowledge applies to them.
The jinyu were not a race that wished war on others, but the Pearlfin jinyu had made alliances via trickery and false friendships much like the Forest hozen had. In the village’s central temple lay another story scroll, which I was told were left in places by the Lorewalkers, for the benefit of those they applied to – even the saurok. Those who wished to hear the stories were free to seek out Lorewalkers or the scrolls – though knowledge was not always a safe pursuit.
This early jinyu shrine may provide some insight to the origins of the race. Depicted is a collection of squat, primitive aquatic creatures. They surround a series of pools on a field of gold – perhaps a rendering of the Vale of Eternal Blossoms.
One of the primitive creatures holds a staff aloft beside the waters, but the symbols that surround his head are of an unknown language that likely predates the first mogu dynasty.
The exact connection between these early aquatic creatures and the Vale remains unknown.’
With a little bit more understanding, and the village safe, I moved on again. I could not keep putting off aiding Kor and the remaining Horde troops in Krasarang, for the cause I supported matched theirs. Reservations about Pandaria could not make me doubt my cause there anymore – though there would be hard times, the War had brought me here with purpose. And I would endeavour to fulfill such a purpose for the good of as many as I could aid.
When I reached Dawnchaser Retreat, named in honour of Leza’s memory (for she had helped the Horde establish this foothold), I found it under attack by packs of mogu troops. I had not seen signs of ruins nearby. I took advantage of a gap in the mogu line and fled through, barely dodging the swing of an ancient axe as it cleaved my cloak in two.
Relief flooded across Kor’s face when he saw me. The troops around the Retreat looked hungry and tired, and I presumed that the mogu raid had been going on for several days.
‘War, Keliera. It always comes down to war.’ Even in light of the Sha of Despair’s defeat, the slight hopelessness felt by everyone in the encampment was clear to me – a fact not helped much by the news of another death.
‘We were laying an ambush for the Alliance in the ruins west of here when the mogu arrived and ambushed us in turn. In their attempt to reclaim the ruins here as well, they have opened mage portals and reinforcements have been streaming through for days. We fell back to this refuge when they attacked but lost a number of troops along the way. The mogu took them captive.
Keliera, I.. apologise for the way I treated you and Dezco back in the Cleft. I see now that it may have been wiser to move as a unified force, and the Alliance has not shown interest in fighting us yet. But Leza’s last visions led us to the light of this place like moths to a flame.
I am afraid that you are the only one among our number who we can afford to send after the troops – those here are too weak to fight further out, and they must remain to defend against the mogu. Though I suspect that, weakened by forced labour, the captive troops will not be stronger than those here, their presence alone will bolster our strength and greater numbers will help our morale. Please, go north and help save our troops.’
Kor remained brooding by the fire as I snuck east out of the Retreat and into the undergrowth, avoiding detection by the mogu. The Wild here was eerie – quieter than any of the areas in the jungle I had been before, but still filled with the dark noises of the jungle that can wake you up in the night with a sweating brow and a terrified chest.
I made my way west to the Ruins of Korja, where ritualists opened portals using ancient relics and weary troops fought their captors. I found Kang Bramblestaff again not far in.
‘It is good to see you again, Keliera, though I wish the circumstances were better. I followed the path of the mogu to these ruins. They are using the relics they reclaimed earlier to summon reinforcements, but I am not sure where from. If you have business here, any relics you find on the portal-openers will aid my search – the mogu have not commanded magic since the time of legends, and these relics are the key to their magic.’
The ruins were considerably more dilapidated than any I had seen before, and opened up into a large field where portals pumped constant reinforcements to the massing mogu army. The captive troops were chained to their locations by runes, forced to excavate endlessly until exhaustion took them. The runes were easy enough to break, but the mogu themselves were more domineering than the weak tribes I had seen earlier in Pandaria, and I found it much more effective to keep to the shadows, flinging the occasional untraceable fireball. In time I made my way around the whole field, having disrupted a large section of their operations – but the portals remained open, and I did not have the ability to exert enough magic to close such large portals.
Kang rendezvoued with me in the Retreat.
‘Well done, Keliera. You have removed the swords from the hands of the children. Now we stand a better chance. Those relics were a brutal weapon waiting to happen, and thanks to you they will not.’
At breakfast the next morning, everyone appeared a little brighter, having gotten more sleep and a bit of peace of mind. Kor seemed reinvigorated now that the battle was turning in our favour.
‘I will not let another troop die against this enemy, Keliera. The mogu are brutish thugs who deserve no power, and certainly not the satisfaction of killing our soldiers. They were brought here for greater things than to die like swines. With the relics in Kang’s possession, the mogu’s ability to call reinforcements is restricted. Now, we can make preparations to bring the battle to their Lord Reclaimer, who has been overseeing the mogu incursions into all their ancient territories.’
The morning was quiet, until the sudden and dramatic arrival of scouts bearing the battered form of a pandaren. Efforts were quickly made to administer first aid to him, and I and Kor sheltered him within Kor’s tent until he was able to speak.
‘Pandaren, what is your name and what manner of being put you in this state?’
‘My name is… Han. I am an ambassador from Stoneplow Village in the Valley of the Four Winds. I was part of an envoy to the Crane Temple, but the mogu ambushed us on the way here.’
I took the lead. ‘The Crane Temple was attacked by the Sha recently. They only overcame the infestation a week ago. The paths are unfortunately not clear. Why were you on your way to the Temple?’
‘The villages of the Pandaren have all been recieving visions recently. The Mantid! They fly across the Wall and assault our homes, attacking in force and devouring our lands! These visions are… occasional, for we live in proximity to the Wall, and Mantid incursions happen, but only one or two. Never have we seen the numbers as we saw in those dreams, and the dreams are happening every night. We fear it is an omen, and were seeking the knowledge of the August Celestials in explaining this.’
The August Celestials were as to the Pandaren as the Ancients were to the Kaldorei or the Loa to the trolls – ancient, immense beings gifted with mystical and unknown power and knowledge. I had met two already – Yu’Lon, the Jade Serpent, was the Spirit of Wisdom and Foresight. Chi-Ji, the Red Crane, was the Spirit of Hope. Their guidance – and those of the others, who I had yet to learn of – had aided the Pandaren for thousands of years. Their knowledge would prove helpful, yes, but what was-
‘Pandaren, we are newcomers to your land. Please, explain – what are these mantid you speak of, and what is this wall?’ Kor asked the questions I was thinking.
‘The mantid are haunting, terrible creatures! They are like insects, but violent and ruthless, and they devour all within their wake! Years ago, the Shado-Pan Monks sealed them behind a wall that cut off a quarter of Pandaria, but it was a small price to pay for the rest! Please, they are preparing to hit Stoneplow! You must go to the border between the Wilds and the Valley where they are massing and get rid of them!’ By now, Han was almost in hysterics, and while a pair of healers calmed him down I and Kor spoke outside.
‘Keliera, we are able to hold our own. The Pandaren have already been valuable friends to our peoples, and this mantid threat sounds more immediate and dangerous than the isolated mogu. We will continue to assault the mogu and you go and aid the Pandaren for now. When you are satisfied that Stoneplow is safe from this ‘Mantid’ threat, return to us and we will prepare for our final assault. Lok’tar Ogar!’