You’ve made valuable progress, but we need mobility to maintain this foothold against the yaungol. There are few worgs or kodo here. But the pandaren speak well of the yaks, and they’ll have to do. Go round up a few next time you go out. And the village will need some more food if we’re to coexist here. And Kiryn said something about mogu… Go talk to her about those. Dismissed!’
Nazgrim sent me out of his command tent, and I found Kiryn in animated discussion with a couple of villagers.
‘Ah, Keliera. I could use your help. Northwest of here are some mogu ruins, known as Moguija by the locals. Something’s causing the statues there to reanimate, and we don’t have the time to deal with an army of statues. Deal with them, before they deal with us.’
On my way out of town, I encountered Elder Shiao and the Farmhand, Ko, who I had met earlier.
‘Hello again, elf. We hear your friends are worried about the statues at moguija – there is a simple explanation, however. Where there are mogu statues, there are mogu spiritbinders. Usually with a soul-caller in charge.’ I thought back to the Terrace of Ten Thunders in the Jade Forest, which had had the same problem. ‘Take out their leader and they should quieten down for long enough to strengthen your forces. And there is – another thing. The yaungol are still at Chow’s Farmstead, the largest farm in the region, and neither Chow nor his wife are accounted for. I suspect they’re still there, fighting as stubbornly as the day they married. Please, go let them know that the villages are now safe, even if they will not leave.’
I headed southwest along the Yaungol Advance to the Chow Farmstead, where yaungol slavemasters forced the captive slavehands to harvest food for them. In a clearing of rocks nearby, I found Farmer Chow and his wife Uyen holding out with three yaks.
‘You’re a sight for sore eyes! I’d be glad to help you out with these yaks, but first you gotta help me get my farm back.’
‘She don’t gotta do anything, ye lily-livered old goat!’
‘Ah, shut your piehole!’
What a lovely couple.
‘Anyways, mage, the slavers are working my farmhands to death! It ain’t right! Save them before it’s too late.’
‘And while you’re at it, fetch me some veggies for a stew, dear!’
‘She’s gettin’ you a stew while my hands are dyin’?!’
‘She’s gettin’ food for the hands so they don’t die, you fool, and shut your trap or you’ll get none!’
I made my way into the fields, where I managed to take down a few slavers, allowing some farmhands to get away. I was doing quite well, and picking some vegetables when the ground rumbled beneath me and a huge virmen jumped out.
‘MY FOODIES!’ The beast yelled, attracting some of the yaungol, and as they fought I hid from it. The distraction allowed the farmhands to run away, and I quickly pilfered the farmhouse of its own vegetables and a cauldron, bringing them back to the Chows.
‘Excellent! Now, at least we have food.’
‘Not that it’s any good, with the way she cooks.’
‘Oi, mister! I heard that!’ Uyen brandished a rolling pin at her husband, and the two chuckled at each other.
‘We got a lotta rebuildin’ to do here, and I’m not about to keep my farmhands here with no work to give ’em. You’d be best takin’ em back to your Horde – it’ll be safer for ’em than stayin’ here.’
Taking the farmhands, the yaks and a hefty donation of food, I hurried back to the Rest.
‘Thank you, Keliera. The village should do well with these. We will reappropriate these supplies, and you should deal with Moguija.’
A few more troops had begun to arrive in my absence, and from the outside Eastwind Rest looked to be running at full strength again – but I worried that it was being prepared for war like Grookin Hill as I moved north to the ruined terraces of Moguija. I was surprised by the uniformity of the mogu architecture to that in the south – the pandaren architecture here used considerably more wood, and the elaborate patterns of pandaren architecture across the rest of Pandaria varied by region.
Just south of Moguija I found a single pandaren in his tent.
‘Ah, hello friend! I am… conducting research on the mogu! Yes, yes! It would be most beneficial if, should you see any artifacts during your trek, that you bring those to me! It will, uh, be most valuable to my research! Thank you.’
Something about him seemed… off, but I agreed and made my way into the ruins. However, stopping mogu operations took precedence over relics right now.
When I finally scaled the plateau Moguija was based on, I saw to my shock the same strange statue beings that I had seen in the Krasarang ruins – halfway between lion and dog, yet completely inorganic.
As I made my way through the ruins, I noted that the constructs around the area were not yet fully animate – on occasion, a beam of animation would hit a statue from afar, and for about a minute it would become fluid and aggressive, then freeze back into a statue. I took down as many as I could. Fortunately, when inanimate the statues were entirely unresponsive and did not fight back. The animated statues would occasionally yell generic propaganda such as ‘For the Thunder King!’ and were several times more powerful than the inanimate constructs. The inanimate constructs had regenerative capabilities, however, and I realised that in order to take them out for good I would have to remove the soulcaller granting them animation.
I traced the bolts of soulcaller energy up the mountainside, through a statue-filled path to an altar where a soulcaller was channeling vast amounts of energy from the afterworlds. I took him by surprise, and weakened from his spellcasting, he proved to be of little difficulty other than the occasional shadowbolt. With his death, most of the statues in the area crumbled, and those remaining lost their regenerative cabilities and ability to animate. I combed the ruins thoroughly, searching for any remaining animate statues and collecting some relics for the pandaren I had seen earlier, but I did not encounter another living mogu. How odd. I would have thought that they’d send more. Perhaps they assumed that with the yaungol invasion, no one would come to the ruins. Or maybe they were arrogant enough to think the statues were defence enough.
I hurried back to Bao Jian, the collector from earlier, and delivered his relics.
‘Oh, I can’t thank you enough! Now you’ve, uh, softened them up, I might head in. Just for a few relics from the outskirts, nothing more, you understand…’
It was his decision. I doubted there were more mogu in the ruins, but anything was possible here. I headed back to Eastwind Rest, which was busy feasting on the food brought from Chow’s Farmstead. Elder Shiao met me there.
‘Ah, Keliera! Thank you. You have little idea of the trouble mogu can stir up – especially if they’re allowed to do that for a couple thousand years. Now, your general will probably tell you this later, but there aren’t many battle-able pandaren here to help you with whatever your aims are – but a lot of my people are held by the yaungol in Fire Camp Ordo, near Westwind Rest. I’m sure they’d be willing to help the cause if you freed them. But we can make plans in the morning. For now, eat, and rest! You and your allies have more than earned it.’
The pandaren feast was surprisingly large and varied considering the situation it had been made in, but I enjoyed my rest. The mountains were quiet that night, and the sun dawned brightly the next morning in the pale mists, colouring the land dark shades of orange. At breakfast, Nazgrim took me aside.
‘Keliera, we have gained more intelligence about the yaungol from our new allies. They are far less primitive than we had imagined, and their leader is kept under guard by a fire shield. To obtain his head, you will have to take out the village’s firecallers. Furthermore, they have explosives and small oil rigs. You can use one to take out the other, and that should remove their force against us. Once you bring their shields down we will send in troops to help with the rescue of the pandaren there. Lok’tar!’
I made my way along the main road to Fire Camp Ordo, passing by the great tumbleweeds of Kun-Lai’s plains. In the shadow of Westwind Rest, the path split, creeping off into the maw of the curious gate I had seen earlier. Up closer, I could see mogu statues lining its base, but the thing looked considerably more well-kept than any other mogu construction I had seen in Pandaria – glittering in the sunlight, untarnished marble walls gilded with gold bordered off… Something.
The Vale of Eternal Blossoms, said the signpost at the crossroads. I made a note to ask someone in charge about it later, and continued west to Fire Camp Ordo. The Serpent’s Spine became visible this far west, and great streams of fire magic lit up the yaungol windmills of Fire Camp Ordo like great beacons. I moved closer, taking in the surroundings. There were four streams of fire all connecting at a single apex, and I assumed that they were the firecallers’ wards. The yaungol buildings here were simple stone huts with hundreds of spiked logs as defences – though they looked primitive, I knew not to underestimate yaungol, and I assumed that these simple constructions were a result of their sudden invasion. Coming closer, I could see that the wards connected to four huts – no doubt the residences of the firecallers.
On the eastern ridge, I found numerous barrels of explosives foolishly arrayed around the first oil rig – I lit them and quickly moved back down before the first oil rig blew up, lighting the sky on fire momentarily and drawing half the camp’s attention. I took advantage of the distraction to move unheeded through the camp to the southern oil rig and repeat the process. The camp quickly filled with chaos as troops from Westwind and Eastwind began to attack the camp simultaneously, filling the smoky air with sounds of battle. In the chaos, I managed to kill two of the firecallers who were by the oil-rigs, Akonu the Embercaller and Pao-Kun the Pyromancer, in the process destroying the western oil rig and causing several structures to collapse due to explosions. I worried I was being too destructive. I had not intended to do so much damage.
On the higher plateau I discovered a Lorewalker Scroll, which I quickly placed a flame ward over to protect it.
Forced to survive in the harsh terrain of the Townlong Steppes since the time of the last pandaren emperor, the yaungol have adapted their tactics accordingly.
The race is constantly on the move, establishing short-lived “Fire Camps” in areas of abundant natural resources (specifically oil and game) before moving on. Where to set up camp, how long to stay, and when to move out remains the sole discretion of the chieftain.
In combat, the yaungol prefer to hit hard and fast, making heavy use of their cavalry to flank and harass the enemy while hard-hitting infantry assaults the weaker parts of the enemy line. Fire sorcery and flaming siege weapons back this initial assault.
Yaungol are known to retreat as quickly as they charge, always reading the enemy and only fully committing their forces to sure victories.’
Perhaps that meant that they would retreat soon. I hoped so.
I proceeded onto the highest plateau, killing Musaan the Blazecaster and Harala the Firespeaker – though strong fire sorcerers, they proved ineffective in the smoke and I had aid from my own forces. With their deaths the last fire wards protecting the chieftain of the Ordo tribe fell. With no shield remaining, I was able to proceed into the cave at the back of the camp, where Ordo Warbringer awaited.
‘I’ve been expecting you! RARGH!’ The chieftain charged, knocking me back twenty yards before I split into mirror images to cover my retreat. I did significant damage, but he cast a ritual and the cave turned into magma, spawning elementals and spirit wolves. ‘Spirits and elements of Pandaria, I call upon you! Destroy this mage!’ I managed to break through the fire and smoke, landing a killing ice lance upon the chieftain’s chest. The elementals scattered as the cave began to collapse.
‘Our homes… destroyed… We did what we had to…’ The chieftain’s last words worried me as he collapsed and I fled. The yaungol’s homes had been destroyed? Was that why they were invading? Putting my worries to the back of my mind until I could get to safety, I turned invisible, sneaking my way out of the camp as burning oil and dense smoke filled the air above the camp. Even on my way back to Eastwind, the plume followed me like a haunting reminder that the yaungol were not invading out of greed or jealousy, but necessity. I had to inform others before the yaungol here were wiped out totally.
Nazgrim was training the local pandaren when I returned. ‘Keliera! The haze surrounding you smells of blood… and success. Victory to the Horde! Thanks to you we have a small army forming here… Not much yet, but they’ll be Horde-standard by no time. Now, I have heard some of these pandaren speaking in hushed tones about the ‘Shado-Pan’, an elite order of Pandaria’s warriors. They are very strong and very secretive – and an alliance with them is crucial to our operations in Pandaria. They apparently have a base in Firebough Nook, in the shadow of the great wall. You will go there when you have rested, and curry favour in the Horde’s name. Dismissed!’
I spent a good hour cleaning the oil, smoke and soot off me, and after lunch I was ready to set off, but Elder Shiao asked one thing of me first.
‘Keliera, up the Advance to the northeast is a small ranch owned by a man named Muskpaw and his son. We haven’t heard from them since the yaungol invaded, and it would be most helpful if you could check up on them before you head west – with the Horde training the villagers here I doubt we’ll be able to send anyone out there.’
I agreed, heading first up the Yaungol Advance to find Muskpaw Ranch. As I travelled, I noticed that this area of the advance had the same occasional patches of sha corruption that the western side had had – I wondered what had caused it. Perhaps it was just the yaungol, but they seemed fairly random. I passed by a yaungol-inhabited farm across from a fire camp. I hoped the Muskpaws were alright, but the directions on my map led me further on.
It appeared that after their defeat the yaungol had simply moved east in retreat and attacked those farms. Maybe here I’d be able to find out why they were invading. A rocky path led me past the farms I’d seen earlier and down to a smaller one in the shadow of a second fire camp.
‘If you think I’m going to be intimidated by a bunch of filthy yaungol, you’ve got another thing coming!’ That was a pandaren voice, and I followed it right outside the farm, Lao and Son’s Yakwash, where an angry pandaren patrolled his perimeter with a rake.
‘You here to steal my yaks? If so, be ready for me to slap that look off your face!’
‘Eastwind Rest sent me to see if you needed aid against the yaungol invaders.’
‘Oh, you wanna help? What kinda creature are you, anyway? Look, if yer’ insistin’ on helpin’ go find my boy. He got grabbed by a bunch of sprites and probably doesn’t even know half the farms here have been lost. They dragged him off to Pranksters’ Hollow south east of here. Go rescue him, and take some pine needles off the sprites while you’re at it. The grummles don’t believe in luck you can’t smell. They pay better for yaks with a scent.’
I hurried down to a sprite-infested cave embedded into a nearby hill. The sprites here were sharper and hardier than those in the lower reaches of Pandaria, reflecting the climate they embodied. They were vulnerable to fire and yielded some needles easily. I fought my way into Pranksters’ Hollow, a dank cave filled with all sorts of stolen items. At the back, under attack (I think) from a sprite swarm was Muskpaw Junior and two yaks. I quickly threw them off.
‘Thanks for the save, stranger! Look, my father is crazy. I love him, but he’s crazy. The yaungol completely obliterated our ranch and scattered yaks every which way. If I know my father, he’ll go head to head with the yaungol for those yaks. Can you help round up some yaks and ride them to the Wash so he’s busy and doesn’t do anything stupid?’
I escorted Muskpaw Junior to the entrance to the cave and he led his two yaks back to the Wash while I journeyed into the wilds and rode yaks back to the farm. Yaks were entertaining to ride, to say the least. However, I was attacked by yaungol at my second yak, and decided it best to take out a few of their number before I rounded up any more yaks.
Curiously, I found a strange band on the ground in the ranch, with simple symbols carved into it professing the love of Mrs Muskpaw for her husband. I resolved to bring it back to the Muskpaws, and began to round up more yaks. With the Autumn Plains around the Ranch more secure, I spoke to the Muskpaws.
‘You saved my son and my ranch. I am very grateful to you, stranger. Hopefully your reclamation of our yaks and culling of the yaungol’s numbers will discourage them from further attacks. And – what’s that you have there?’ I handed over the bracelet to Lao. ‘Oh, this was my wife’s. You never know how much you have until you lose it. My wife passed a few seasons ago, but this is definitely a day when I could use her smile the most.’ Lao frowned. ‘At least she doesn’t see what the yaungol are doing to her ranch – she poured her heart and soul into that place. I’m not gonna stand for this any more. Go and drive the yaungol outta my ranch. Kill their smug leader.’
The Fearmaster was outside the wreckage of the old farmhouse, and riding the largest and most angry yak in the area. Though large and imposing, the yaungol were not familiar with my magic, and once separated from his yak by my mirror images, he was vulnerable (but no less damaging). Drained from the fighting, I made my way back across to the Wash. Most of the yaungol had fled back to the fire camps.
‘I think we can handle the rest of the farm on our own now. If you’re not busy, we haven’t made our yak shipments in a while. Could you help Junior take some of the yaks up to the Grummle Bazaar? Usually he can do fine, but we need to take a lot more yaks this time.’
I worried about my commitment to the Horde, but it was only a single delivery, and I had pledged my aid, so I agreed.