That night, we returned to the Watchpost, and for the first time, silence fell completely over the Steppes.
The yaungol invasion had stopped, and they had been freed from the Sha and their homes had been reclaimed from the mantid.
The mantid had been driven out of the Steppes and the defenses against them restored. The influence of the Sha over those native to the Steppes had been removed.
The Sha of Hatred had been destroyed and the Temple of Niuzao reclaimed.
But the costs were not light.
Over the fire that night, Taran addressed me.
‘Keliera, there are no weak spots in our defenses right now. The Shado-Pan are going to monitor the Steppes and secure the lands of the yaungol and the Temple while we drive out the last mantid vestiges.
You are not of the Shado-Pan, though you fight as one, and I will not keep you here when your work can be used elsewhere. Take a rest, and I will arrange travel for you to go to the top of the Serpent’s Spine and help with its defense against the mantid from the Dread Wastes.’
The next morning, I awoke to find a messenger from Kun-Lai Summit.
I don’t know what you did, but you have done something. Xuen has agreed to open the Gate of the August Celestials and let the Alliance and Horde have refuge in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms. All four Celestials are in agreement, but they wish you to be there. Please, come as soon as you receive this letter.
It appeared my path had already been decided, and with Taran’s blessing, I took a kite through Townlong and back to Eastwind Rest in Kun-Lai Summit. From there, I set off towards the Gate of the August Celestials. Stone mogu ruins marked the way, where great mogu statues guarded the gold, red and white gates. Intricate patterns were marked in symmetry across it, and two towers stretched up above it, one on either side, with a wall linking them. The Gate iself was a huge brass creation with a complex mogu lock.
On the courtyard in front of the Gate were countless refugees from Kun-Lai and the Steppes, as well as their yaks and carts of supplies. Members of what was apparently the ‘Golden Lotus’ guarded the way and kept people in check. I bowed politely to Anduin as I passed him and met Dezco.
‘We are all here. This is a historic moment. My dying wife envisioned a city of light beyond these gates. There is only one way to find out what is behind them.’
The refugees gathered as the Celestials approached. From the west, Niuzao the Black Ox, the Spirit of Bravery and Fortitude, guarded one of the statues. From the south, Chi-Ji the Red Crane, the Spirit of Hope, guarded the other. From the east, Yu’lon the Jade Serpent, the Spirit of Wisdom and Foresight flew overhead, guarding the skies, and below, from the north, Xuen the White Tiger, the Spirit of Strength, approached the main gate from the earth.
Each was awesome to behold, but united they commanded all thoughts. The greatest treasures of Pandaria lay beyond these Gates, and its greatest guardians had gathered to open them for the first time since the Mogu Empire was overthrown fourteen-thousand years ago by the first monks of Pandaria.
‘Children of Pandaria.’ Yu’lon’s voice boomed out across Kun-Lai. ‘The mists have fallen. A new era dawns for us all. Accept the healing powers of this Vale… but use these gifts wisely.’
Xuen struck the gate with his paw and roared. Then, Chi-Ji approached, knocked it with his beak, and called out in song. Niuzao rammed the gate with his horns and a gruff bleat. Finally, Yu’lon descended, and pressed her mouth to the gate – with a whisper, then a shout.
The Gate responded, inner cogs whirring and blue light spreading over the entire structure as the first Gate opened – then another marked with the symbol of the Tiger, a third marked with the Ox, a fourth marked with the Crane and a final one marked with the Dragon.
Before us, the lush lands of the Vale of Eternal Blossoms stretched out – a land of golden lights, golden grasses and trees. The refugees began to move inside, murmuring excitedly. There were pandaren from all over Pandaria here – and even some jinyu, hozen and yaungol.
‘We risk everything, allowing so many into the Vale.’ Yu’lon voiced her concerns to the others as we entered.
‘I have faith in our friends from beyond the mists.’ Chi-Ji answered boldly.
‘I, too. They have aided us well, and revealed that which Pandaria has always hidden from its children.’ Niuzao nodded along.
‘Their strength is an inspiration… and sorely needed. We must trust that their hearts are pure.’ Xuen finished.
‘Indeed. We must hope that these gifts will be put to the use for which they were truly designed.’ With that, the four Celestials turned, returning to their sacred temples.
The Vale glittered with gold before me, great pagodas and statues and forests and, yes, blossoms.