The camp was silent until the next morning, when Ban made attempts to rouse the group’s spirits and keep us moving on with our mission.
‘There is much work to do in this place. We came here seeking vengeance and driven by our own hatred – it is now clear that we have a greater purpose. The yaungol are no longer our enemies here, but an unfortunate casualty that currently seems unavoidable. It is conceivable that this whole invasion began because of the fall of the Monastery. But until we can track down the Sha of Hatred and end the madness in the Steppes, we must press on. Killing yaungol indiscriminately will only play into the Sha’s hands – we must practise love and compassion, and cleanse as many yaungol as we can. They are a difficult people, and no doubt any remaining would rather die alone than let us know that they needed aid.’
The camp began to mobilise in an effort to clear up the devastated village, and Yalia spoke to me.
‘Keliera, our scouts have reported attacks by the yaungol on the mistlurkers in the Sumprushes, the marshes south of the main road. The yaungol attacks are disturbing the natural balance of Pandaria, and if allowed to continue, our problems will only get worse. We do not want angry mistlurkers spawning hundreds more to defend their home, because then they will spread beyond measure throughout the Steppes. The calling of the Shado-Pan is one to bring peace and harmony to this land – and you too have been bestowed this responsibility. Please, while we clean up, find out why the yaungol are attacking the Sumprushes – and put an end to it!’
After a small breakfast, I made my way through the rainy village onto the southern road. The dark pink trees of Townlong gave way to the marshes of the Sumprushes, where little islands floated above pale, misty water. Across it, yaungol performed strange rituals on the water and on the enraged mistlurkers of the area, which rose from the swamps but were stunned mid-attack by the mist-shamans’ spells. Further in the marshes, great roots rose out of the ground, leading through to a huge, twisted bonsai-like tree, not matching Nordrassil or Teldrassil in size or thickness, but certainly as eye-catching and imposing – perhaps moreso for their curious structure and the silhouette of a giant flower atop the side of the trunk. Showers of spores rained down from the distant tree and floated towards me, and I shook myself out of my daze at the view and hurried further in, looking for yaungol encampments.
As I made my way through, the great tree I’d noticed earlier exited the shroud of the mists, and it was revealed that it was much closer than I had first thought – from my high position I could see it was just a short trek through the Sumprushes. Basilisks, deer and engorged insects moved around underneath the canopy, and the main road peaked and began to lead back down into the swamps. Past a mysterious mist-line I entered a clearing, where a more visible section of the area – the Lower Sumprushes – was surrounded by a chorus of the trees indigenous to Townlong, but more twisted and deformed in shape.
Here, more yaungol committed strange crimes upon the local mistlurkers, and I scouted around for a while, but could find no information – until I saw a lone mistlurker caught by a yaungol ritual, ensnared by a great tunnel of energy that sourced unbroken from the higher ground on the other side of the pools. I approached cautiously.
‘Uh… Hello? Do you need aid?
Can you understand me?’
The mistlurker, shrouded partially in clouds, groaned in agony, its voice a deep, watery bass, and it pulled its arms back in pain, revealing twisted limbs ending in spotted, sharp claws, and draped in soggy red vines.
‘So… the Shado-Pan have sent you to see what the yaungol are doing… Well, do you see?’ The mistlurker gestured wildly across to the cliffs above, where the faint outline of a yaungol was casting the ritual holding the mistlurker hostage. ‘I… am Orbiss. My fate is sealed. The yaungol put this spear in my side, and it will kill me.
The yaungol hold me here in place with their twisted, corrupted magic. The indignity of it hurts me worse than the wound. My death, you and I cannot stop. My imprisonment… you may be able to help with.’ Orbiss gestured again to the yaungol up at the top. ‘Kill Dmong Naruuk, and I may be free.’
I made my way without interruption across the Lower Sumprushes, and found another path that took me up the cliffs, beneath the boughs of the great tree, to where Dmong Naruuk performed his ritual. I did not know yet what the yaungol did, but I knew it was hurting the mistlurkers, and thus the balance. I engaged Naruuk.
‘You are on the wrong side of this battle, elf! You side with savage beasts!’ Naruuk was stronger than I anticipated, and quickly damaged me with frostbolts. I quickly called upon the powers of my runes, making myself faster, and dodged his spells and the shards tossed by his frost orbs. The battle went on evenly for several minutes, both of us doing damage but not able to bring down the other, until the staff he had been using to entrap Orbiss began to wobble and hum loudly and violently.
‘No! I’ve lost focus on the torch!’ Abandoning the battle, Dmong Naruuk ran for the torch to stabilise the ritual – and the torch exploded in a fit of unstable energy as he reached it, killing him and flinging the drained torch harmlessly into the marshes.
I rested before working my way back into the Sumprushes and to Orbiss. With the energy entrapping him gone, I was able to see semi-clearly what he was like. An auburn colour, he was separate from the grey and green mistlurkers common to the area, with a haunting single blue eye. The spear he had mentioned earlier was visible, cutting straight through his shoulder, and he blurred there as mist itself poured from the hole.
‘I am freed. But the yaungol must be stopped. Until recently their shaman would come here to work alongside us. Now, they bend my people to their will – if we refuse, they kill us. If we oblige, they kill us. The yaungol mist-magic comes from the torches they possess, crafted by our ancestors from the great Kypari tree beyond many years ago as symbols of our bonds. Take the torches away, and they have no more mist-magic.’
I proceeded through the Lower Sumprushes, killing the mist-shaman when they attacked and pulling their lit torches from the ground, freeing the captured mistlurkers. Though I pulled as many torches from the ground as I could, I only managed to save a handful of mistlurkers – the torches drained them dry of energy until they collapsed dead. I took the recovered torches back to Orbiss.
‘These torches once served to embody the peace between our people. Now they will be used for my vengeance. This wound had not taken me yet – time remains for me to have my revenge. These torches were used for communication – and now they are twisted, used to undo us.’ Orbiss tossed the torches on the ground before him, thinking. ‘If I am going to die, I will die with my friends by my side, knowing I did everything I could to avenge my people – I will die staring directly into the shamed face of my enemy.’
Orbiss picked up a torch, and handed it to me. ‘The leader of the yaungol mist-shaman is named Jahesh. He is known for his strength.
One of my kind is known also for his strength. His name is Golgoss. He sleeps within the mists of the Upper Sumprushes. So does Arconiss. His ferocity is unmatched by any yaungol, and I must have him by my side to battle Jahesh.’ Orbiss handed me a second torch, gesturing up beyond the mistfalls to the Upper Sumprushes.
At the top of the falls, I found a bubbling peat bog, marking a sleeping mistlurker. I placed a torch in the ground, unsure of what would happen.
The torch sent a stream of energy, similar in appearance but completely different in nature to the spells used by the yaungol, directly into the bog, and the bubbling stopped as the mud began to take shape. As a mistlurker formed, I found myself under attack by enraged yaungol, eager to take the mistlurker for themselves. The mistlurker formed slowly, and as I defended him he granted me boons of nature, soon joining in and sending the yaungol fleeing.
‘Gol…goss…’ The great mistlurker bowed before me (or as close to a bow as their body structure allowed) and shambled into the Lower Sumprushes to meet Orbiss. Golgoss was a tall, dark purple mistlurker with yellow limbs, and he appeared to match the description of his strength – he was imposing, even among mistlurkers.
I was attacked by less mistbreakers when I summoned Arconiss, having driven them off already, and was able to speak to Arconiss for a brief moment before he moved quickly off to Orbiss.
‘Must fight Osul. Must stop hatred.’
I hurried back behind Arconiss, a blue mistlurker not much bigger than myself, and only about a third as large as Golgoss. Upon our return, Golgoss said something to Orbiss, but all it sounded like to me was bubbling water and wet leaves.
‘Ah, Golgoss does not speak your language. I suppose I am unique in this regard. He thanks you for summoning.’ To be honest, I was surprised any of the indigenous races on Pandaria knew a shred of common between them, but it was a simple language and one known through most of Azeroth. If Pandaren had been leaving and re-entering the Mists for thousands of years, it was conceivable that at some point common had entered its libraries. ‘With Arconiss and Golgoss at my side, we will find it difficult to lose. But to have them both at my side, this spear will have to go. Your hands will get a grasp on it easier than Golgoss’ or Arconiss’ – could you aid me?’
I got hold of the spear and pulled, and as it did so Orbiss almost seemed to unravel and reform, mist hissing out of him. He was paler than he had been before, and I knew his end was nearing. ‘By removing this spear, my own death is guaranteed, but I do not fear death. I would sooner die than live carrying the weapon of an enemy.’
Orbiss looked out over the fields of the Sumprushes, almost empty now of mistlurkers. The few remaining had returned to the marshes to heal, or wandered around, trying to undo the damage done by the yaungol.
‘Golgoss will require nutrition to activate his strength. The heavy branches of the snarlthorn bushes will suffice. Arconiss requires blood to reignite his spirit and unmatchable fury after his long imprisonment below the mists. The creatures of the Upper Sumprushes should give you enough. And I… did not realise that my death would come so fast. I must buy time. If you collect mists from the Upper Sumprushes, their warm, fragrant nourishment should help me remain corporeal for some time longer. Gather it however you can – jars, vials, bags – I do not have long.’
As I dashed back up the wet slopes to the Upper Sumprushes, I thought about the mistlurkers. On my first few encounters with them I had been scared, but I realised now that the mistlurkers were indigenous protectors of Pandaria’s ecosystem – I was unsure of their connection to the Mists that had separated the continent from Azeroth, if there was one at all, but they were no longer threatening.
The mist spewed out of the marshes and proved quite easy to isolate – the snarlvines, thin rose-headed bushes that grew in the darkest, most tight spaces of the marsh, were less so. The blood of the local animals required immediate clotting after death otherwise it drained into the mists and became impossible to gather. With enough of each to satisfy the mistlurkers (and my unwillingness to let Orbiss go without mists for any longer) I hurried to the Lower Sumprushes, by-passing the main road and using a spell to slow fall down there immediately.
‘This wound will still be my death – I have not long left, but thanks to you I have a bit more time than I would have had otherwise.’ Orbiss distributed the blood and branches before consuming the mist I gave him. He gained more corporeality, but remained translucent. ‘We are now ready to complete my last mission. Golgoss, Arconiss and I will go east, into Jahesh’s domain. Prepare for battle, for today we restore the pride of our people. Glory awaits us!’ The three mistlurkers swept up the hill, more mist than lurker at this point, and I headed up the main road to follow their tracks.
Back up the road, where the Sumprushes met Palewind Village and the air became brighter, I saw the great fire where Jahesh of Osul had collected hundreds of the torches used to commune with the local mistlurkers. As I attacked, Golgoss, Orbiss and Arconiss jumped from the mists below and joined me.
‘So, you are the little Shado-Pan that’s been helping these pitiful mistlurkers!’ Jahesh jumped at us, throwing lightning bolts. Golgoss slammed him again and again as Arconiss jumped around, jabbing and throwing dirt.
‘That’s enough! I have enough torches to erase all three of you!’ To my horror, he literally did just that, surrounding himself in a circle of torches and shielding himself from all damage. ‘The elements shield me!’ I was powerless to help, the great bundle of torches firing energy first at Golgoss, then Arconiss. ‘If you refuse to bend to my will, you will die to the torch!’
The beam of fire wiped both mistlurkers from my sight, and they decomposed into mists instantly, never to return.
‘There’s another mistlurker here… I can smell his stink. Don’t think I can’t see you back there, hiding in the shadows!’ Jahesh fired the dark beam at Orbiss, who was plunged into the light. But Orbiss did not decompose or crumble against the power of the torches. He moved forward, advancing upon Jahesh. ‘You resist the power of the torch… Why won’t you die, beast?’
Orbiss fired his own beam straight from his heart at the bundle of torches, destroying them one by one.
‘Because my will… the will of my people…’ Orbiss destroyed the torches shielding Jahesh. ‘…is stronger than yours.’ Orbiss’ beam neutralised Jahesh’s own, annihilating him.
Jahesh fell upon the ground, life leaving his form as quickly as it had left Arconiss’ and Golgoss’, and Orbiss turned to me. He began to fade rapidly now, the mists composing him unravelling.
‘My name will be forgotten, elf… as will yours… but our actions will be remembered… by all the swamps…’ With his last words to me, Orbiss faded, and I was alone in the swamps. I stayed silent for a moment, just looking over the Sumprushes. I could not see any mistlurkers left there now… but maybe one day they would work alongside the yaungol again. In remembrance of our deeds.
I set back off up the road to Palewind. In the evening light, the village was clean – no more corpses, no devastation, no scavengers or fire or spirits or sha. Just the houses, tattered and empty – a reminder of what once was.
Yalia saw me approaching. ‘Keliera! Are you alright? We heard yelling north of the village – my, you look awful.’
As I sat around the campfire, I explained everything – how the yaungol had enslaved the mistlurkers with the ancestral torches, how I had fought, how the swamps themselves had fought – and how victory had cost almost every mistlurker there. We stayed silent afterwards, until Yalia spoke up.
‘I will sent a message to the Temple of the Red Crane. There are many mistlurkers in Krasarang, and even some in the Jade Forest – if we can find them, they would undoubtedly come here to help undo the damage caused by the yaungol. This was a tragedy, but… we still do not have reasons for why the yaungol do this.’
‘And so, we must fight on.’ Ban said, stony-faced.