Binan Village seemed like a small fishing village packed to bursting with refugees. It was surrounded by the verdant amber plains and orange-leaved trees of Kun-Lai. A refugee camp had been set up just next to the docks we had arrived at. I hurried into the main village to find Lorewalker Cho and figure out what was going on.
First, I was interrupted by Apothecary Cheng, one of the village healers.
‘Hail, traveller! If you intend to look around the plains of Kun-Lai, you’ll need this. The Yaungol have been attacking recently.’
‘If you don’t mind me asking, what are the yaungol?’
‘Your people – Cho’s companions, that is – described them as a tauren crossed with a yak. I have no idea what they meant. To us, they have always been the Yaungol. Now there are people to heal, and I must be going! Use that ointment if you need it!’ Pressing a bottle of ointment into my hands, she dashed into the refugee camp.
By the inn, I was met by Mayor Bramblestaff, the leader of the village. ‘Please, elf, help us. The refugees have been flooding in for days from all over the Steppes – I fear that the Yaungol have broken through the Wall!’ The Serpent’s Spine extended right through the continent, cutting off the mantid territories from Kun-Lai. I was unsure why the Yaungol lived in mantid territories, but I volunteered my aid and the knowledge that I was searching for Lorewalker Cho.
‘Ah, a friend of Cho’s. I would throw you a banquet, but there will be time later. The closest invading Yaungol tribe is the Bataari tribe. If you kill some of their members it should rouse the Fire-Warrior – and they should stay well enough alone if he is removed. I am afraid we are too desperate now for any other option.’
The mayor pointed me to the western border of the village, where the defenders fought a close battle with the yaungol. Drawing closer, I could see a vague similarity between them and the tauren – but only a vague one. They probably were no closer related than tuskarr and murlocs. I found the commander at the back of the line, overseeing the battle.
‘As soon as yaungol reinforcements arrive, the battle will be lost. I have a plan, but it involves more dead yaungol than there are now and you recovering arrows for the archers. We’re almost out.’
The arrows were easy to gather since few yaungol were not occupied by the battle at hand. I managed to kill enough along my way to gain the interest of the Fire-Warrior, and a few troops managed to aid me in killing him. I spent most of my time healing the injured with the ointment I had been given earlier, however. I hurried back to the commander.
‘Good job, that should be enough. The reinforcements are massing on the horizon already. Your general – the one they call Nazgrim – awakened while you were on the field. You should go speak with him.’
Upstairs in the healers’ building I found Nazgrim, Kiryn and Rivett arguing with some survivors of the Alliance army. Apparently, Pandaren did not know when it was best for some to be separated.
‘Keliera! Where have you been? As you can see, we survived the battle at the Jade Serpent. Unfortunately… so did they.
I am injured, but we cannot stay here. The hozen were.. unreliable allies. The pandaren would be better ones. You have seen the refugees in this village and heard of the yaungol invasion.
Eastwind Rest, a nearby village, was destroyed by the Yaungol recently. Some survivors have gathered on the road out of town. Head west. We will help them rebuild and show them the glory of joining the Horde.’
On my way out, the Mayor stopped me. ‘Thank you, mage, for your aid. You have undoubtedly saved our lives. But the yaungol invasion has had many effects, and we have lost contact with Inkgill Mere – a village of jinyu across the river from here. If you have time, make sure they are alright.’
Inkgill Mere was a small jinyu village just separated from Binan by a bridge. I found it odd that they had not been able to send anyone over. Better safe than sorry, I supposed. When I reached the first cluster, I saw that it stretched around a whole lake across from Binan – and the first cluster was full of dead pandaren and jinyu. I found a swordsmistress and a merchant among the wreckage.
‘I don’t think I have ever been so furious! What betrayal!’ The swordsmistress stayed in position, not willing to speak with me. The merchant, Shi, spoke to me hurriedly.
‘We don’t know what made the jinyu attack, but they still have our food and my son. Please, I beseech you, search for him. I would ask Mei – but since the attack, something in her has changed. I do not trust her to bring him back.’
Not far in, I found a mournful waterspeaker.
‘My people… corrupted.
Shai Hu was the first to drink of the tainted waters. He urged others to do the same. I warned them against it. I sensed danger, corruption… but they drank, and now they are lost to rage. When they forced the rest of the village to drink, I spoke out, but they took my staff and banished me. Now I am unable to find what taints the water. Orachi, the Guard Captain, has my staff. Some fled, unwilling to drink the sha-tainted waters. If you find them, please free them.’
Giving me a small blessing to allow me to traverse the waters, Waterspeaker Gorai remained in mournful silence.
The jinyu had indeed been taken by rage, and across the lake I saw the waters turn white and black – sha corruption. The village itself seemed to blur menacing grey colours. Inside one building, I found a Lorewalker Scroll, saved from defilement by the jinyu’s fall into fighting one another.
The jinyu operate in a strict caste society, clearly evidenced by this stone tablet engraved with names. Eggs are sorted early on based on the needs of the community.
Many jinyu are cast as workers, diligently put to work building dams or other structures. Others are selected to be craftsmen, and immediately undergo a rigid apprenticeship on hatching.
Only warriors and priests are given access to the most food and finest shelters, and only the most successful of priests can ascend to the role of elder or waterspeaker. It is a taboo for the jinyu castes to intermingle.’
The jinyu in the village were clearly corrupted, and left dark steps in their wake. Their abilities were shadowy corruptions of the functions they had served before. Fortunately, there were more hiding dissenters than I had anticipated, and as I freed them a glimmer of hope appeared in this tragedy.
I snuck over to the third cluster, where the ground began to dry out and the native Pandaren willow trees twisted and malformed. Cavaliers rode pond-skaters around the lake, searching for victims in their blind rage. In the third cluster, the Mere’s Guard Captain, Orachi, patrolled. With any luck, he still had Gorai’s staff – and I quickly engaged him. Though not especially stronger than any of the maddened jinyu, he proved one of the most sha-corrupted, summoning fissures of corruption beneath his feet.
After his death, I found the staff on his person, and not far behind where he had stood, Wu Peng, the missing pandaren.
‘So horrible.. When I saw the killing, I ran… My father, is he alive?’ I quickly calmed Wu Peng down, assuring him of his father’s safety. ‘They survived? My father is alive! I thought we would all die here at the hands of these insane jinyu. I will make my way around the Mere and meet you back at camp.’
We split up in order to attract less attention, and met some minutes later back with Mei and Merchant Shi, as well as Gorai. By now, the first cluster was brimming with the freed refugees, who were clearing up the wreckage.
‘Son! Thank the Celestials you’re well.’ Shi turned to me. ‘You found him. You have earned more than any reward I could give you by finding my son, by saving him. Thank you so much.’ Shi began distributed the reclaimed supplies so that everyone could eat, while I returned Gorai’s staff to him.
‘You have found my staff… Good. Now we have some hope of reclaiming the situation. From these inauspicious beginnings we can rebuild. Thank you, friend.
From the moment I rose from the river, I knew I was destined to be Waterspeaker. I was taught many rituals, and I have performed all of them – save one.
There was one, an extremely ancient one, that we were told to call upon if our people ever turned against us. This must have happened in our people’s distant past, because we haven’t needed to use it in our village’s memory. Now it is the time to do so.
The ritual is one to purify not physical corruption, as I will do after we win this day, but mental corruption. It is an ancient ritual, one we have not needed since the days of legend – when Shaohao walked Pandaria.’
We walked to the centre of the cluster, where the reclaimed dead lay. ‘I’ve never performed this ritual. I do not know what will happen, exactly. Let us see if it is sufficient to cleanse the corruption from my people’s souls.’ Gorai sunk his staff into the mud, and whispered in the garbled, water-like tongue of his people. Energy flowed from the staff to the bodies of the jinyu, and the sha corruption dissipated from them. ‘It worked! It wo-‘
Suddenly, the energy swept over Mei, stunning the swordsmistress.
‘Wh… What is happening? Why is the ritual affecting her?’ I feared that I knew already, and I was proven right. The corruption began to bubble out of Mei, twisting and writhing, rolling out into a fully-formed minor sha.
‘What is that?!’ I tossed fire at the sha, engaging it, and leading it through the cluster away from the others, before I destroyed it with the Arcane. Mei looked around.
‘I feel so much calmer. I felt a presence, a burning pain and rage in my mind… it is gone now.’
‘Those.. things must be controlling the villagers! I now know what we must do! The ritual rips whatever was controlling the minds of these people from them. Pools of the same substance that thing was made from emerged in the lake recently. I will travel into the Mere with you and we will cleanse this corruption.’
I, Gorai and two surviving guards made our way across the lake, where dark spires of steam indicated where the sha corruption was boiling the lake away. Gorai placed his staff in the corruption, undergoing the ritual again, and boiling sha manifestations erupted from each. The waters cleared when they were defeated, and soon we had removed all of the corruption – except for the large, ruined island in the centre.
‘The Mere… I can feel the corruption clearing. At least now, this corruption will not spread. But there is one more thing we must do. I can hear the purified voice of the Mere. This chapter in my people’s history will not be closed until we defeat Shai Hu. He has retreated to the central island, corrupting our holiest site. He is strong – but after all we have done, I believe we will be stronger.’
We made our way to the Waterspeaker’s Sanctuary, now flattened under the corruption of the sha. The manifestations littered the isle, but fell easily due to the work we had done so far. In the centre of the isle was Shai Ju, maddened with power and deeply unhinged, but his power rested upon the sha and he weakened as we defeated them. He was strong, and the corruption here was powerful enough to nearly overwhelm me, but when he fell, the corruption immediately seemed to lift from the area.
‘I… feel something. Is it… peace?’ Shai Ju lay dead, and the sha with him. We returned to the refugees.
‘Thank you, Keliera. You have assured that the corruption here will not spread, and that my people will be able to live on and find a new village. With the death of Shai Hu, any of the remaining corrupted villagers should have been freed from these sha. Please, I will not keep you here any longer. Thank you once more.’
I headed back through Binan Village and into the wild plains of Kun-Lai Summit. Birds of prey soared overhead as wild mushan herds went by. The plains were deep gold as they had been in Binan, but slightly muddy. Some fires were visible in the distance. I hurried along the main road, to where Eastwind Rest was said to be located. I soon saw a caravan of refugees.
‘Hail, pandaren! Are you alright?’
One of the farmers spoke to me.
‘The… the yaungol! They attacked my farm, and the nearby village, Eastwind Rest, killed some and chased the others off! I managed to gather some of us here. Is there word of aid from Binan?’
‘Binan is still fighting the yaungol off, but I have been sent from the Horde to help out your village, and others will be on their way shortly. It would help me greatly if you could direct me there.’ The farmer pointed to a succession of ruined stone buildings along a plateau against one of the mountains. ‘Keep going towards those mogu ruins, and the path will split to Westwind and Eastwind. I’ll gather everyone up and meet you there later. I don’t know about the Horde, but you look trustworthy enough.’
Further on, past several burning farmsteads, I met another group of refugees at the crossroads to Westwind and Eastwind, and spoke to an Elder there.
‘As dark as things seem, we pandaren never give up hope. We must not be cowed by the violence of the yaungol. We are alive, but you must help us guarantee our security before we can consider your politics.’ The Elder sighed momentarily, and continued. ‘I do not know why the yaungol behaviour has changed. They were always a difficult, proud people, but never violent or aggressive. We have no time to investigate this change in their behaviour. We fear for our lives and livelihoods. You must go into the Bataari camp and set their banner ablaze. Then, defeat their leader, Ur-Bataar. That will break the tribe’s power for now, and distract them from attacking us. Then we will be secure.’
Fire Camp Bataar was not far from the refugees, just west down the plains, and in the shadow of some great mogu or pandaren gate (I could not be sure which from so far away). I found the great yaungol banner, a curious blue and grey tapestry with simple patterns in a tribal emblem. I burnt it, and the sight aroused the leader of the yaungol, Ur-Bataar.
‘FOOL! I will crush you!’ He leapt at me, and I had only enough time to split into a mirror image before he cleaved the image where I had been stood. I got range, bringing him down with fire from afar, and though his skill was great and his weapon strong, he could not defeat me while I was at range.
‘No! Kun-Lai was… ours…’ He fell dead upon the floor, and I quickly fled before the other yaungol discovered him. The refugees had gathered in Eastwind Refuge, a half-razed pandaren village. Elder Shiao awaited my return, and I showed him a remnant of the banner as proof.
‘You did it. At the very least, we have justice and safety now, though we have lost so much. Regardless, it has been decided. Eastwind will join your Horde for now, and rebuild our village with your aid.’
Within an hour the fires were out, and by the time of Nazgrim’s arrival along with the surviving troops, rebuilding efforts were already underway, outfitting the village in Horde colours.
While I was glad that the Horde was not on its own in Pandaria now, I could not help but fear we were going to bring more innocents into our war, like in the Jade Forest. Westwind Village had joined the Alliance, and I did not want to force fights between twin villages.