Having finished our tasting, Li Li confronted Grainlord Kai.
‘Why is all of your grain so… bland?’ The pandaren chuckled at her.
‘The grain we collect needs to be in large quantities for the brewery.. But I may know of a grain that could suit your Uncle’s needs. There was a time when my father would spend days in the jungle hunting for the perfect cave barley. It was very dangerous, and something I can’t bring myself to do.
Not worth it. Stormstout only pays for quantity, not quality. My father mentioned a malted barley cave that sounds perfect for your needs. If you are willing to brave the peril, south of here that cave lies at the bottom of the Winds’ Edge. My father made an old lift that would take him down the cliffs when he went into the jungle – it should still work. In the cave is a bush as old as my family, that should have grain so sweet it will humble your senses. But beware of the cave’s guardians. Oh, and if you’re heading south, could you reclaim some of the bags of grain that the sprites gave to the local wildlife?’
I made my way south along the aptly-named Plain of Thieves, where sprites fought with eagles over grain. I scared some of them off, sending the grain back towards the granary, before I crossed the Yan-Zhe River and reached the Winds’ Edge. I spotted a pandaren by the edge, along with some grain and a rappelling rope.
‘Hello. My name is Shai. I watch these cliffs. Sometimes cubs come because of a dare, or because they are curious. The cliffs are sad, and the jungle is even more sad. You may descend, but know that it is a very sad place.’
I rappelled down into a section of the Deepwilds, and began looking around for the cave that I had been told about earlier. It was almost invisible, carved right into the cliff. Inside the air was dark and stifling, but I found some barley at the edges. Behind me, a great groan sounded, and I spun round to see the smoke and plants of the cave form a gruesome, terrifying beast. I shrieked at the horror and ran out. The creature did not follow, staying as a great unknown in the cave. I did not stay to figure out what it was, and quickly scaled the cliffs.
Knowing why Shai had told his sorrowful tale (but not really having learnt what the creature had been) I hurried back to the granary. A slight peace had settled over it, and the granary workers were scurrying about again.
‘We may yet meet our quota for the Brewery.’ Kai bowed to us and headed inside.
Li Li ate lunch with me as I told my tale of the creatures in Krasarang.
‘That jungle sure sounds spooky.’ She smelt the collected malt grains. ‘This smells really sweet! It might be the right stuff! I hope Uncle Chen likes it.’
When we made our way back to Halfhill, he most certainly did. ‘Now these are some beautifully malted grains! You two have a good eye and nose. We have everything we need, so let’s start brewing! Now I’ll need you to throw the ingredients in the pot when I yell them out… Ha! Just kidding. I’m the best brewer across three continents – I think I can handle this part! It might take a long time, though…’
The brewing did take Chen a long time, and several days later, he was finally done. Li Li had become her trademark bored self at having been in Halfhill so long.
‘Now now, it is good to be as patient as you are brave, Li Li. I am done. Onward to the Stormstout Brewery! No better way to be reunited than with a few mugs of ale, eh? We just need to follow the main road – you can see the Brewery from here!’ With all the mugs of ale loaded onto a cart, Chen invited Mudmug to join him on the road.
‘I dunno… this seems like a family thing yer doin…’
‘It is a family thing, Mudmug. And I want you to join us. We brewed beer together – that practically makes us brothers!’ As the two hugged it out, Li Li made retching noises.
‘You guys are gonna make me throw up! Seriously though, can we get going?’
They set off, Li Li yelling things about going faster at them. I had no chance of catching up, so I walked along at my own leisurely pace. The Valley was a lovely place, but after all the fast-paced drama of the Wilds and the Forest… it seemed out of place. Which was odd in itself, as the Valley was perhaps the most pandaren-ish part of Pandaria.
It sounded weird, but I could see myself in Halfhill when this was all over. Or perhaps I could go to the Temple of the Jade Serpent – maybe things had calmed down after the Sha of Doubt incident.
A migrating herd of mushan brought me out of my reverie, and I realised that I was almost at the Brewery – a huge structure of layered wooden buildings, connected by tiled roofing, bright lanterns and silo-sized kegs, all situated on top of a lake connected to the Yan-Zhe River. Water-wheels lined the thatch walls, and huge goats wandered about the opposing fields. A small village of workers’ houses was opposite the larger brewery. I made my way to the front entrance, where I found Chen, Mudmug and Li Li.
‘The door… it’s boarded-up!’
‘Huh! Looks like they’re closed.’
‘Yes, strange. This door was not here before.’
‘Y’all think they’re hidin’ somethin’ in there?’
‘We will find out.’ Chen charged the door, and began knocking loudly on it.
‘STORMSTOUTS, OPEN UP! I have returned, and I brought beer!’
Li Li tugged at my arm. ‘Um, guys…’
‘Settle down, Li Li. You know that I hate to be interrupted when I’m knocking on doors.’
I and Mudmug turned as Li Li jumped behind me. Standing before us was a hozen that was easily 15-feet tall.
‘Ch-Chen! It’s a giant dang ol’ hozen!’
The behemoth yelled at us. ‘WHO CRASH OOK OOK PARTY?!’ It flung barrels, trapping me, Li Li and Mudmug inside.
‘Hozen attack! Don’t worry, I’ll get you out of those barrels.’
Chen broke us out, and by the time we had recovered hozen, virmen and beer elementals were all over the place, just like in Chen’s story.
‘Are you seeing this? What the heck is going on in there? I remember that there was another entrance around the east side. I’ll go check that out, and you all stay here and try to take out some of these pests. There’s nothing worse than a drunk hozen.’ With that, Chen ran off.
‘I’ve heard lotsa rumours about this place, but I thought they were all false until I saw the giant hozen. What if the other rumours are true? I heard last week that some water sprites are running around inside the brewery causing a ruckus. Imagine if you could get water from them – it’d make some mighty fine beer!’
‘I can’t believe that giant hozen! He’s throwing barrels everywhere! It looks like he’s managed to imprison every pandaren outside the brewery. Maybe you could free some of them before you make your way to Chen. We’ll meet you there.’ Li Li and Mudmug snuck past the hozen after Chen, and I was left alone.
I fought my way along the alley, freeing as many pandaren as I could, and not far up I saw the sprites. Living water themselves, they soon yielded some water I could give to Mudmug. I was then distracted by the sight of a giant virmen hopping around on the rooftops of the brewery, and hurried round to the side entrance.
Chen, Li Li and Mudmug awaited me at the opened door.
‘I’ve had just about enough of this brewery. I’m starting to think I should bust through the wall and clean house. If someone doesn’t do SOMETHING to take care of this brewery, we’ll lose it forever. And there’s far too much history – and beer – in there to take that risk.
So, we’ll break in through the backdoor. You, me, Li Li and Mudmug. Let’s go!’
After some last-mintue preparations we headed in, and found ourselves face to face with a huge water sprite known as Eddy.
‘We’ll take care of this varmint! Y’all go on ahead!’ I joined Mudmug in fighting the elemental. Every so often, he would surround himself in a huge bubble, and we spent more time popping those than on anything else. The bubbles did more damage to him when we popped them than he could do to us.
Li Li was further in, facing off against a large hozen known as Jooga. She was faster than he was, and able to dodge the bananas he threw.
Jooga was not so lucky, sliding over his own bananas while Li Li threw barrels at his head, and soon he was knocked out.
‘Not so tough now, are you? That’s right, you look so dumb there laying on the ground. Don’t make us throw more barrels at you. Chen’s waiting up ahead for you, Keliera.’
Chen was in a room filled with… hundreds of ale elementals.
‘What is going on inside this brewery!? Has nobody maintained this place? Where are the brewers? Where is my family?
They must have gone somewhere, if they were here then they’d be cleaning up this mess!’
Chen and I moved through the room, eliminating the elementals. They fled into a pot in the middle of the room.
‘That sure was nice of the alementals to hop into this pot-Whaa?’
Chen jumped back as the elementals coalesced into a single, fizzing alemental that filled the room. It took us several minutes, but, drenching us in alcohol, the alemental collapsed.
‘I think that’s enough damage for one day. Let’s go to the rear entrance and meet the others.’
When we got outside, everything appeared to have calmed down.
‘See, all this place needed was someone strong to take care of things. I think we’ll be stuck here a while cleaning up, but I don’t mind. This is, after all, my home. Would you mind lending a hand for a while?’