I found my way to a stoneworks shop, where a stonecarver laboured enthusiastically. ‘Hello friend! What can I do for you on this fine day?’
‘Well, I was wondering if you knew where I could get hops in town.’
‘Ah, you’ll be better off speaking to the farmers. I don’t buy the hops, I just drink the ale. Say, while you’re here, could you do me a favour? We are all children of the water here in the Valley, but recently some of the children have drunk far too much – and they must be eliminated before they cause havoc. I am but a simple stonecarver, but you have much magic about you. Could you aid Halfhill and get rid of Kracor, Thundergill and Succula?’
I agreed, but continued to look around for hops first. Chen, however, found me first.
‘Keliera! I just realised, I never told Li Li what type of beer I was making! She’ll have no idea what grains to bring back! Could you speak with her? I need the sweetest malted grains she can find. She should be at the Imperial Granary not far from here. And if you see Mudmug, help him with the water – I doubt he can carry all of it on his own.’
I continued to search for hops, but instead found myself in a food market, full of wondrous smells of spice and fruit. A friendly pandaren woman waved to me.
‘Hail, traveller! My name is Sungshin Ironpaw, and I train those in search of cooking skill. You’ll find many artisan cooks here – Halfhill has the best cooking supplies in all of Pandaria. Come, let me give you a lesson. My family are all chefs in the different cooking methods here, and if I give you a little introductory lesson, I’m sure they’ll be happy to teach you too.’
An introductory lesson consisted of me managing to master over thirty pandaren dishes in just an hour. I did not doubt its effectiveness, however, because even after the lesson I remembered the detail of each recipe, and wondered if Sungshin had used some kind of magic. The dishes were amazing, and I was surprised at what I’d made with my own hand.
‘Now, dear, I think my daughter Jian would speak with you. You are indeed ready to take on the Pandaren Ways, and she will teach you of the Way of the Oven. I’m sure she’ll accept you as a student if you bring her some wildfowl breasts from the nearby cranes in the Gilded Fan.’
I headed north to the Fan past the Verdant Belt, where many of Halfhill’s outlying farms were situated. On the path, I met Mudmug.
‘Hello again! You here to help out? Mighty swell of you.’ Mudmug led me through the pools, gathering dark water. Not far in, I sighted Kracor, the leader of the cranes. Twice as tall as her peers, the Songstress of the Glade filled the air with incredibly loud singing that I had heard all the way from Halfhill. It was a relief when she was silenced.
Despite surprises from crabs, water-spiders and crocolisks, soon enough Mudmug had enough water.
‘Don’t you worry none. I can handle these barrels just fine. I’ll meet you back in Halfhill.’
Mudmug left me to my remaining devices – killing Thundergill, an extremely large fish that had taken over the northern waters, and Succula, a monstrous spider. Though large, they did not know how to use their size, and I managed to exterminate them both.
There was indeed something strange about the pools. Extremely large spiders, fish, crocolisks, cranes, turtles and vegetables. What was in this water? I wondered to myself as I collected a few more crane breasts.
I found Mudmug struggling his way back to Halfhill. ‘Sorry, Keliera, but I just can’t find my way with this many barrels. Y’think y’could lead me there?’ So, with my directions we reached Halfhill, and Chen.
‘Good! The water’s here!’ Chen and Mudmug left to sample some more ale, while I returned to the market, and Jian Ironpaw.
‘Ah, these will do. You need wildfowl breast to make wildfowl roast. Come with me.’ Jian led me to the large oven by her stall. ‘They say that the crane appointed sentry by its flock stands guard with a stone in its beak, so that, should it fall asleep, the stone drops and it awakens. To be skilled with the oven, you need to have endurance and patience. Let me teach you the recipe for wildfowl roast, and show me that you understand.’
I spent most of that afternoon learning how to perfect the roast, and by the end of the afternoon five roasts of my own were served to Halfhill.
‘To slave over a hot oven takes patience, but the results are well worth the effort, do you not agree?’
Then next morning, I set out again to try and find some hops for Chen. I set out for the farms on the border of the Heartland, hoping that someone there would know, but I was distracted by the plight of a farmer in Halfhill.
‘I’ve been pushing and shoving and hammering all morning, but these rocks won’t budge!
‘”It will be a breeze. It’s just like breathing.” Grandpa said. Maybe it is for him, but not for me! Sorry, I’m just so frustrated. My name is Yoon. I’m supposed to start planting on my farm, but I can’t even clear it first! Could you help me out?’
Yoon and I managed to shift the unruly rocks between us. After that exertion, we had tea in his house.
‘Maybe now I can actually start growing things on this farm. Huh, what’s that?’ A knock on the door indicated the arrival of a burly pandaren, followed by two lackies.
‘Oh my! You’re THE Haohan Mudclaw, leader of the Tillers Union! You’re the best farmers in all of Pandaria!’
‘So, you’ve finally taken over the ranch, rookie?’
‘Yessir! My grandfather left me this farm.’
‘Let’s get one thing straight. You may be Old Yoon’s cub, but you’re still a citypaw. You even know how to run a farm? I’ll give you some advice. Sell this place to me, and go back where you came from.’
‘But I can’t just sell it! It’s my grandfather’s farm! Besides, once I get the hang of it, I want to be a tiller just like you.’
‘You? Join the Tillers? Ha! You’ll have to prove your worth to all five members of the council, and they’d never vote for you!’
‘Never say never, my grandpa always said. I’m going to give it my best shot.’
‘Do as you please, but it won’t last. Look at this dump!’ Roaring with laughter, Mudclaw and his lackies left.
‘I’m going to show him! I may have grown up in Dawn’s Blossom, but I’m gonna turn this into the most prosperous farm in the Valley!’
Leaving Yoon to his work, I headed north into the Heartland. The place was bursting with incredibly large crops, and I found a woman tending to her crops.
‘Hail, friend! What brings you this far up into our corner of the Valley?’
‘I’m helping a friend brew some beer, and we need some hops. Do you know where I could find any?’
‘Nothing is free, I’m afraid. If you want hops, you’ll have to work. You want me to just GIVE you some hops? You’re the third person here today asking for food! You want food, you work!’ With that, the woman shoved a watering can into my hands.
That was a little rude. The woman – Fran – had me water her plants for about ten minutes, yelling orders on which ones needed more and where to go next. Quite tired, she finally had me stop.
‘That was good enough, I suppose. I’ll send some hops to Halfhill. If you want any more, take a look around – there should be some more farmers round here with some.’
However, the rest of the Heartlands were infested with very large virmen that took quite a while to sneak past. I found another farmer, Den Mudclaw, along with his hozen farmhand Mung-Mung stuck in the middle of the infestation.
‘Virmen! Gah! Their numbers are endless.’ Neither seemed in the mood to talk about hops, so I instead helped out with the infestation.
‘Mage, my daughter has gone missing! No doubt the virmen took her into that disgusting warren of theirs. I am too old to venture in, and Mung-Mung must hold the line here… Could you see if she is in there?’
The Springtail Warren had an entrance not far from the house, so I took a look inside. Halfway through I found Mina Mudclaw, being forced to dance on top of a giant carrot by some virmen. I scared them off with some turnips and helped her off.
‘No.. no! Get back! I don’t- wait… you’re not a virmen! You’re not a carrot either. You’re here to save me? Let’s not waste time – Get me out of here!’
Den awaited us upon our return. ‘Mina, thank goodness you’re home!’
‘Dad!’ Mida took a look around at the farm and gulped. ‘I never want to see another carrot again. Mina hurried inside, looking quite ill.
Mung-Mung agreed to send some hops to Halfhill in exchange for some more dead virmen. I fought my way through the Heartland, searching for some more farmers. Eventually I made my way out of the Virmen-infested area, and found an empty field where a pandaren was perched atop a rock.
‘I’m keeping my fields fallow this year, friend. The soil needs its rest, and a good farmer knows when that time is. You want something? I’ve got crops in the shed out back, but could you help me out first? My field needs weeding.’
I couldn’t see any weeds on his field. Then, the waters of the Valley proved themselves again, and weeds rapidly sprouted. I and Gai Lan spent about a half hour forcing the weeds out of the earth before the field settled down.
‘You weed like a champion. Pity this will happen again tomorrow. I’ll send some hops your way.’
With hopefully enough hops on their way for Chen, I set back out towards Halfhill, making it back around nightfall.
The next morning, Chen was in good spirits. ‘Look at all these hops! We’re almost ready to make the perfect brew. Now, if only Li Li would hurry up with the grain…’
I made my way south to the Imperial Granary to find Li Li. When I got there, huge piles of grain were messed up in the courtyard, and nature sprites dashed about, throwing sacks of grain and generally causing chaos.
‘Keliera! What are you doing here?’ Li Li dashed up to me, seemingly oblivious to the fact that she had been here three days without word and that the place was in the midst of catastrophe.
‘Chen forgot to tell you that he wanted sweet malt grains for his ale.’
‘No problem! Let’s get to taste testing!… Uh, could you help me out? I’ve never had a beer in my life, so I don’t really know what Uncle Chen is after. We need to try a sample of each grain they have to see if the stuff is sweet enough.’ Before we could start, however, we were met by two of the workers – Grainlord Kai and Grainer Pan.
‘Hello, mage! Would you be able to help us? We have a small problem. A large purchase of grain we made last week was infested with sprites, and we’d rather this be resolved before word gets out.’
Pan took over. ‘Just to be clear, I had no idea that a sprite invasion would happen just as I perfected my “Pan’s Miracle-Gro” formula! What I did was for INDUSTRY. But there is now a very angry and large sprite in the Granary leading the others. No one has been able to get close to him. Could you help us?’
I forced my way into the granary and dispatched the largest nature sprite, Cornan (who was really just an over-active regular sprite) which scattered the rest for a while.
Li Li and I tasted each of the granary’s grains, but none were the right taste.