With the Shado-Pan forces from across the Summit organised to retake the Monastery, I met Ban again.
‘Good, you made it. I have discovered that, to our great detriment, all three of the major Sha housed in the Monastery escaped their bindings as Doubt and Despair did – Anger, Violence and Hatred are loose in Pandaria.
While Anger has already made its way onto the plains of Kun-Lai and has corrupted many of the local population, as you encountered already, Violence and Hatred remain here, corrupting the monastery. Violence has corrupted most of the forces that once imprisoned it, and Hatred has corrupted Taran Zhu himself – explaining why the Monastery has been closed off and outright hostile to both the Alliance and Horde, as well as the idea of supporting its own troops.
This is a calamitous situation. If we do not eliminate the Sha and save the Monastery’s troops, then Pandaria will be helpless against the Sha. Taran Zhu is in the Grove of Falling Blossoms, but the way to the most protected gardens of the Monastery lies directly through the mess that is the rest of it. You will have to free the corrupted and grant the dead their rest before you can access him.’
We made our way in to the first chamber of the Monastery, where wardens of the Shado-Pan, corrupted by the Sha, awaited us.
‘Intruders! Initiates, remove them!’ On command, almost a hundred hidden Shado-Pan ambushed us, and a huge battle immediately broke out. I was taken off-guard, and was forced into a literal corner by flying fists and shadowy spells. The abilities of the uncorrupted army won out, however, and as they began to force the Sha from the wardens it caused a chain reaction of cleansing that resulted in a single unified force against various manifestations of violence and hatred. It took several minutes of continuous battle, but soon the wardens were cleansed. Taking stock of the situation, they agreed to guard the way for us and provide reinforcements if necessary.
We made our way out onto the terrace of the Cloudstrike Dojo, where on the balcony Gu Cloudstrike awaited us.
‘Gu used to be the trainer of our spellcasters before he became corrupted. He commands intense mastery over storms.’
On cue, Gu turned to face us, filled with corruption.
‘Approach… your death awaits!’
We engaged Gu, who threw lightning bolts at us and swept the balcony with electricity. As we sped up and began to learn how to dodge his abilities, he called upon an… ally?
‘Come to me, dragon! Together we will destroy these intruders.’ With a burst of lightning from the clouds above, an azure cloud serpent teleported onto the balcony.
‘No! He has corrupted a serpent too? His powers are stronger than I anticipated. Be wary, everyone!’ The serpent threw fields of static energy at us, electrocuting and freezing in place those who it hit. We adjusted, moving troops back into the corridor of the dojo, and focused on preventing the two from casting.
‘Serpent, charge me with your power!’ The serpent cast a great electric shield over Gu, and he began to meditate within it. It was clear that he was becoming more powerful, and the sky overhead flashed ominously.
‘Quickly! We must bring the serpent down or he will call lightning down and kill us all!’ We moved towards the serpent, attacking it relentlessly despite its electric breath. The great serpent roared and crackled at us, but we dodged its waves of power and fought past its effects. It fell.
‘No, NO! DO NOT FAIL ME!’ Gu burst out of his shield, faster and more powerful, and began to toss electricity all over the place. We quickly moved in and fought him down, as he became more and more powerful as he absorbed the serpent into him. Though severely damaged, he fell.
‘Even together… We failed…’ Gu collapsed on the ground, dead. The Shado-Pan bowed their heads in a moment’s silence for him, and then we moved on, some remaining behind to tend to the wounded and give rest to the fallen.
The next corridor in the dojo was filled with malign Sha, corrupting, destroying, and reforming the area in their twisted image. The strongest and most balanced warriors went ahead, bringing them down and then moving back to rest and recuperate while others thought. We did not want any to fight too long, or we would risk corruption by the freed Sha.
After making our way through the corridor of the Cloudstrike Dojo, we found ourselves in the ruined grounds. The sky darkened overhead, and more sha littered our way, as well as corrupted archers. As we fought our way along, they rained fire on our heads, fleeing back or becoming freed as the sha were slowly defeated. We crossed a rope bridge slowly but successfully, and found ourselves in the Snowdrift Dojo.
On a balcony above us stood Master Snowdrift, the highest-achieved martial artist of the whole Order. He yelled at us in a booming voice.
‘YOU! You have allowed the Sha to reawaken after all these years. If you truly wish to undo what your kind have wrought upon our land you must first prove yourselves in our school. First, you will face initiates!’
A portal rose up, blocking the staircase to the room above, and more violent initiates streamed out. Each initiate made for a single person, and upon defeat was cleansed of their violence, springing back to the edge of the circular arena and waiting for the end of the event. Though strong, each initiate was eventually defeated.
‘You have bested our most junior of students – but they have much to learn if they wish to defend their people from the Sha. Now you will face two of my most senior. Flying Snow! Fragrant Lotus! Step forward!’
Two black-belt students rushed through the portal, unleashing masterful volley of martial arts against us. But we still outnumbered them, and their tactics were little match for our combined strength. Soon they too were defeated, taking their places at the columns holding up the room.
‘You have bested my prize students. Perhaps you may be of use to us after all. As my master once said, “You cannot truly know someone until you fight them.” Come forward, so that we may be properly introduced.’
The remaining troops moved up the now-open staircases to the higher room of the dojo, larger than the arena and arrayed in three directions. The students formed ranks behind us, preventing our exit.
‘Very well then. Let us see your true strength. Do not hold back, for I will not.’
Ban took the lead against the Master, matching his kicks and punches blow for blow while the rest of us dodged and contributed.
‘Skill with a weapon is but a physical manifestation of one’s martial strength. Let me show you what spiritual power is!’
With that, the Master split into three images, one in each end of the room.
‘Master Cloudstrike has attained complete perfection of body and mind! Stay alert!’ With that, the Master began to throw chi energy around the room, and we were blind for several minutes before we took out the mirror images and isolated the real Master.
‘When I was but a cub I could scarcely throw a punch, but after years of training I can do so much more!’ The Master sped up immensely, throwing chi and fire around the room, spinning, parrying, kicking and slamming. It was an immense barrage of abilities, and time seemed to speed up alongside him – soon he was kneeling on the floor, defeated, contrary to everything I had thought. We had bested the master of the Shado-Pan training school.
‘I am bested. Give me a moment to rest… and we will face the Sha.’
After we rested, Master Snowdrift stood up and took the lead.
‘You have proven yourselves in battle. Still, if you would help us further, I must ask you to help me. The Sha of Violence is the only remaining Sha in the containment chambers. It must be destroyed if the Monastery is to be freed.’
Master Snowdrift opened the back doors of his dojo, leading out into another courtyard filled with Sha. Archers lined the area again, firing frost at us as we cleared out the courtyard. Troops came and went as we freed the corrupted and others stayed behind to guard the area or because they were too injured to continue. Soon, we journeyed across a large rope bridge to the largest building in the grounds, the Sealed Chambers of Containment.
The three Chambers were gigantic blue columns of energy, which now lay disused and broken.
‘The three Sha defeated in Kun-Lai – Anger, Violence, and Hatred – were imprisoned here ten-thousand years ago by Emperor Shaohao after he defeated them. There was no sign that they would escape, but clearly we did not read the signs well enough.’
As we entered, the doors slammed shut and the lights went out. Shadow swirled around us.
‘I will not be caged again! These Shado-Pan could not stop me! Neither shall you…’
The shadows moved from all corners of the Monastery, with no more hosts to feed on, and formed into a massive swirling vortex, from which countless weapon-like limbs erupted.
‘Be careful, everyone! Violence is perhaps the most corrupting of all the Sha, and do not be afraid to stop if you feel it overpowering you. Balance and reservation is your ally here.’
The Sha swept at us, and the grey field surrounded us, filling our heads with images of the wars we had fought. It summoned Sha from the remaining taints on the Chambers, filling the room with their dark smoke and smashing the floor with its fists. We fought, but soon Violence began to overcome us.
The orcs streamed forth from the Dark Portal, consuming all in their wake.
Lordaeron fell under siege from the undead – as did Dalaran and Gilneas. Alterac and Stromgarde crumbled while Stormwind burned.
Arthas decimated Quel’Thalas.
War after war after war, all filled with the excessed of violence. My vision greyed further and I became unaware of whether I was attacking or not.
Wars over Outland, deaths in Northrend, the world burning.
The destruction of Theramore.
Theramore… Where had I heard of Theramore before?
Theramore. Theramore was the city of human pacifists. Led by Jaina Proudmoore. The last survivors of the continent of Lordaeron.
Theramore was innocent. Theramore advocated peace.
Theramore was where Sithrial had been. Where he had been until war took him.
Theramore was gone, but what it stood for remained.
Peace. That was what war worked towards. Greater peace and harmony in the world. Not more violence. Those who sought violence were mistaken, barbaric, wrong.
And I would fight for peace.
We would fight for peace.
‘We fight for peace!’ My vision broke open in clarity and I leapt back from the attacking sha, flinging fire and spells at the Sha, knowing that I fought for peace, that we fought for peace, and that we would not give in to violence for violence. The tide began to turn, as my words shattered the distraction of others and soon they began to join in.
‘No… NO! So long as violence lurks in your heart…. I… will… return!’ With a last brutal scream the Sha struck the ceiling in violent motion, and collapsed upon the floor, defeated. The chamber rumbled.
The ceiling was coming down.
‘Everyone out!’ We fled out of the doors onto the final terraces, and behind us the chamber of Sha containment fell into itself. The end of a legacy.
‘There is no point dwelling on the loss of a building. What it represented ended before it. Now, we must save the rest of the monastery from Hatred, or all will be for nought.’
The few remaining troops headed across the rope bridge onto the final terrace, where sha inhabited the corpses of the fallen, brimming with hatred. As we fought our way through their dark, possessive energy the grounds seemed to brighten, the corrupted ground receding. Giving peace to the dead, we made our way finally onto the shores of the Grove of Falling Blossoms.
‘Tarun Zhu is inhabited by the entirety of the Sha of Hatred. He will not fall easily.’
The darkened Lord of the Shado-Pan turned to us at our approach into the relatively untainted gardens. Sha energy emanated from him, turning the air around him black and twisting his limbs slowly. As he spoke, the Sha’s voice came out.
‘Taran Zhu and the Shado-Pan are MINE. Come forward and die by my hand, as all who oppose me shall in the days to come! Hatred will CONSUME and CONQUER ALL!’ The possessed Taran Zhu leapt at us, inflicting us with a red haze of hate that slowly began to grow on us.
‘If you feel hate taking over you, stop and meditate it away! We will cover you!’ Ban yelled, as Master Snowdrift took the lead in battling Taran Zhu. Taran flung shadows at us, which pumped sha energy into those near them, convincing them to hate. We fought on with purpose, some stopping to meditate when necessary. Great fissures of sha energy erupted in the grounds, pulling our troops to and fro, until the energy was sealed off.
‘Rage at your defeat! Give in to your hatred! Feed it to me!’ As we fought, the events in Kun-Lai fell into place. Anger, Violence and Hatred had swept out, casting their influence over all of the mountains, twisting the jinyu and yaungol in the southeast, and causing the hozen to ravage all in sight. But one crucial question remained – why were the yaungol invading? What had happened to their home? The Sha were not responsible, because they were here.
The Sha was beginning to lose its grip over Taran Zhu, and with it, the Monastery. Light returned to the grounds, and soon the Sha energy around Taran began to fade in and out, conflict returning to Taran’s soul as he fought to be freed.
‘No… NO!’ With one last roar, the Sha was driven from Taran Zhu’s body, and the Lord of the Shado-Pan collapsed upon the floor. The Sha, a great cloud of Hatred, hissed out and fled, flying over the Monastery ground and over the Serpent’s Spine, right into Townlong Steppes.
We all rested while Taran Zhu was tended to. The Monastery was ours.
‘The Sha of Hatred has fled my body, and the Monastery as well. Thank you, warriors of the Shado-Pan, and strangers from beyond Pandaria. You are all heroes of the Shado-Pan and of Pandaria. Perhaps we were wrong about the Alliance and Horde. You defeated the Sha of Violence and enabled the Shado-Pan to go on protecting the peoples of this continent. I am eternally grateful.’
We would have rested throughout the night, had information not arrived that moment at the gates of the Monastery, yelling that the Sha of Anger was headed for the Valley of the Four Winds.