Nostalgic Without Time

I’ve been on a retro games kick recently, but also on an Overwatch kick, which I started after the last free weekend. It’s actually quite fun, which is something I never thought I’d say about an FPS game. But the thing that’s been occupying my mind recently is how fast time seems to slip away.

I also turned 21 last week, which may be somewhat to do with this. But I have also been thinking a lot about the games I played when I was younger. Many of them were MMOs, and many I drifted between in a time when more MMOs were P2P and I was still a very young gamer, before I eventually settled on WoW. Despite the fact that I ended up playing some of these games for little more than an afternoon, and certainly never progressed far in any of them, they all do collectively hold a place in my happy childhood memories, and the music in all of them is still very evocative to me.

Part of the reason for this consideration has also been the fact that in 2016 I’ve become a much more varied gamer. Most of my teenage years were spent exclusively on WoW, but I’ve realised that as I grow older I simply do have less time for it. Hell, I don’t think I’ve been on the game in about 8 weeks now, and while it is still a favourite when on holiday, at university I just don’t have the time to fit it in (or a computer that can play it decently). I’ve really enjoyed games like Stardew Valley and Tomb Raider this year that I never before thought were genres that interested me, and now as we head towards Christmas I’m looking at a wider variety of things to have a go with.

I simply don’t have the time to play WoW, do all my academic work and write and read for leisure, which is something that’s been quite aggravating to me over my university career. Part of this inevitably comes down to my fatal flaw of timing and planning, but part is also simply the fact that university is so busy and filled with things that I consider more important. Gaming is a great release and wind-down for me, rather than an all-consuming hobby, and so WoW sort of fades back into the background. If I don’t have the time to dedicate to making it fun, what’s the point of playing it when I can play something that is immediately fun?

I think that’s part of the reason why I’ve been so occupied with a time where I was more innocent and where games were just fun whatever I did. There’s something that is unbeatable about the feeling of just starting a game, having no idea where anything or what anything is, and just finding out by accident. I don’t think I’m alone in trying to recreate that, whether through expansions, different game modes or indeed different genres.

But in the end, I guess I have to keep moving forward and just try to make time – like I am doing now, instead of writing an essay.

There’ll always be more games, at least – and the last part of the reason for this occupation of my mind is that Maplestory 2 is finally on its way to North American servers! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_f_oWzZSGCI&t=31s

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The Jade Forest: Part 11

I and Velore remained in blissful silence, both merely happy to be in company, as we rode north. The forest was quiet, as though it anticipated a fight. The sky was dark, but my happiness and resolution was all the light I needed in the world at that moment.

When we reached Grookin Hill, Chief Kah Kah and General Nazgrim were surveying a map of the Forest.

‘Throm-Ka, Keliera! Our preparations are almost complete. I hope you learned valuable information on your trip, for we have need of you now. We have been training the Hozen since you left, and they are almost prepared for war. I would like you to oversee training, and motivate the less-disciplined ones. There is no room for slacking in the Horde!’

The Hozen moved around the Hill with efficiency now, in formations, undergoing constant drills. Fishy water quickly awoke slackers, and by the south side of the village a line of refurbished catapults were practising. Down at the Murky Bank, the Hozen gathered supplies extremely efficiently. I was not the only one surprised by how well the survivors had been able to turn the Hozen into an army – it was also slightly scary. Nazgrim was pleased with the progress, but he did not seem overconfident.

Later that day Lorewalker Cho arrived at the gates of the village to see me.

‘This new way of the Hozen is troubling. They march in formation and carry arms. It is not their way. Still, we can discuss that later. The ancient fresco you aided me with restoring earlier is almost fully revealed. I am certain that it holds ancient knowledge the last emperor wanted us to remember. My meditations may not be enough to find its meaning, however – I will require the blessing of my ancestors, and I would like you to present an offering to them for me while I journey back to the Omen. Mishi can take you to the shrine.’ With that, Cho gestured to his companion, a bright red cloud serpent that I had not seen before. Mishi was very friendly, and flew me to the shrine with no complaints. It was quite amazing to fly on such a majestic being, and it felt like floating in mid-air.

Mishi flew me to Serpent’s Overlook, a collection of memorial buildings on top of a small plateau just north of the Nectarbreeze Orchard. Though it was passing into night, I found the shrine of Cho’s family quite easily. I knelt before the shrine, presenting a family heirloom – Cho’s offering – at the foot of the shrine, as Cho no doubt looked to the fresco for guidance.

The last emperor cleared his mind and looked to the future for guidance.

He saw races woven together by history break apart and fight, brother versus sister.

The war given to them by others will release ancient evil upon all of the lands.

The next morning I was woken by the cacophony of battle. Already? I scrambled to the edge of the Overlook to see an army of hozen fighting an army of jinyu on Serpent’s Heart. The Horde and Alliance would war? Here?

Brother versus sister, bonds shattered and flung into the fire. Doubt in their history, doubt in their bonds and commonality. The loss of their faith and the start of their war.

The sky cracked and rain began to fall. Lightning and thunder echoed the ongoing battle. Gunfire and explosives filled the air with the wrong kind of light.

Bang.

No! They’d hit the statue! The Jade Serpent was falling!

‘Keliera!’

Cho’s voice sounded as he weaved through the fire on Mishi and landed beside me. I was locked onto the fight, paralysed by doubt. How could I fight this war when it created such destruction of beauty? What was I fighting for? Who was I fighting for?

‘Keliera, I-I saw-‘

The statue hit the ground, throwing earth and soldiers everywhere. From the Temple the Pandaren looked on, horrified.

The statue’s spine cracked, and soon it was shattering into hundreds of dull pieces of jade. The stone base of the statue ripped open with a horrifying scream. The ground turned black and consumed the soldiers whole.

‘It… we are too late… The Sha returns..’

From beneath the ground the statue had once stood on, shadow swept out like a tornado, engulfing all that lived on the island and seared the ground with black and white energy. The energy rose up into a behemoth as tall as the Temple itself.

The Sha of Doubt. The Sha that the last emperor had bound beneath the Forest. A leviathan of shadow and emotion, with gaping jaws that open up only into oblivion. It had a body that moved as though made of smoke, and horrific, malformed claws. I had seen the Sha before, in Thunder Hold – but this was greater than anything I had ever thought possible. All the doubt of the Forest had formed into this – and the words of Tarun Zhu came true. Our bloodbath had had far worse effects than we had considered possible.

Cho stood beside me.

‘The legends… they’re true! I thought Sha of this immensity were but legend – we all did. Just a story to prevent fighting amongst the young and keep the smaller Sha at bay. There is no time to talk! The Sha is feeding off the fissures created by its release and the war made above its prison. Take Mishi and seal the fissures before it can grow stronger!’ Cho handed me a cannon and Mishi lowered her head for me to climb on.

‘I will research the archives of my family. There must be something we can do to contain this horror!’

I mounted Mishi and we set off towards the Sha. There was no time for fear, even though it gripped me like ice – Pandaria needed us. Around what was once Serpent’s Heart, the trees had turned blackened and twisted, and the statues had been destroyed. Great tears in the land oozed dark energy, which floated towards the Sha. Using the hand cannon, the explosions made the holes collapse. The Sha turned and swept a great shadowed hand at us, and Mishi rolled in self-defence. I lost the cannon to the Sha’s claws and it shattered like glass. Now with merely my own magic to spare, I threw fireballs at the ground, hoping that they would be powerful enough to cut off the Sha’s link to the surface. As we circled, it barely worked, and the Sha was cut off from its power – dragged back into the earth. We landed by Cho, who had moved to the gong in Serpent’s Heart. Above us, the sky grew black and foreboding with residual energy.

‘The emperor’s message warned only of the unique threat war would bring to Pandaria – the release of powerful Sha of old, like this one. The Omen is silent on how we are to end this crisis. Pandaria is a mystical land, and not all of its secrets are known to the Lorewalkers. Sealing the fissures did not mend what has already been broken. Many minor Sha were formed by the aggression of the previous battle. For now we may only try and diminish their presence here.’ Cho gestured to the chunks of the statue strewn about. ‘Though alone you will not be able to defeat the stronger manifestations, the power of the celestials is imbued in the jade here, and would weaken them. If you meet any of your allies that yet survive, signal Mishi. She will bear them to safety in the Temple for healing.’

I proceeded into the devastated glade, trying to fight past the negative surges that resulted from my proximity to the Sha. Their blinding energy corrupted the ground and surged into the heavens, corrupting the sky as well. The sky flashed ominously, signalling as though it had known the outcome of this day all along.

Though the power of the celestial jade indeed weakened the Sha, it did not do much, and I could only kill a few before their sapping power exhausted me. I only found a few survivors of my own side, Nazgrim included – the Sha appeared to have devastated the tribes of forest hozen and jinyu that had once lived in peace. I mourned them. Their deaths were not their own doing, but the Horde and Alliance’s. Cho was in deep contemplation when I returned.

‘So much lost in so little time… And I fear that this is only… the beginning. We must find a way to undo what has been done here. All this was meant for so much more.’

‘Heroes, I require your aid!’ The call of Yu’Lon sounded as she swept down from the sky beside us.

‘After what has happened here today, it is clear that my destiny will continue for a time. I require your aid, Keliera. Residual energy of the Sha of Doubt has begun to consume the Temple!’

The Jade Forest: Part 5

‘We are lucky to have gained such a prize, Keliera. But foolish, too. The Alliance will no doubt be scouring the forest for him. Quickly, we must eliminate them before they reach the village!’

With the Hozen keeping Anduin imprisoned, Nazgrim led our group into the forests south of Grookin’ Hill. The eagles in the area screeched loudly, flying up in fright as the Alliance shot at them and searched for signs of the Prince. Barely seconds past before Nazgrim charged and the sounds of war drowned me once more. The Hozen swarmed the field, bolstering their defences with wood from the trees and fighting the Alliance in surprisingly effective primal ways. We quickly overpowered the Alliance and took them out.

However, at that moment the Jinyu launched a tremendous counterattack on the eastern side of the village. While the sounds of fire and explosions rattled, Nazgrim quickly pushed on.

‘We must reach the Alliance camp and destroy it while they are preoccupied with the battle!’ Nazgrim led me to an overlook opposite the village, and as we climbed we saw the tide of battle turn in our favour at the village.

‘Quickly, we are losing time!’

Nazgrim led the way, quickly cleaving the Alliance as they rushed to defend their outpost, while I threw explosives into their fires, destroying their supplies. Soon, we had won.

‘Excellent! It appears the Alliance can’t handle the heat. Let us return to Grookin, Keliera.’

Grookin Hill was full of celebration on our return. Had the Horde not been present, it appeared that the Forest Hozen would have been wiped out – as a result, they were now firm allies with us. With Anduin secured, Nazgrim quickly went to join the celebrations. I was left alone, for what seemed like the first time in weeks. It had only been days since our crash.

Would there be repercussions from this battle, too? Had we merely restored the balance of the forest, or had we unleashed more Sha upon the land? Things seemed peaceful enough for now, and there were certainly no negative emotions in the celebrations… but I could not help but doubt that we were missing something. Why was Anduin Wrynn in Pandaria? Why would he be in a naval battle in the first place? And what were Nazgrim’s plans for him?

I was so caught up in my own thoughts that I did not notice the arrival of Chief Kah Kah until he sat next to me.

‘Your Wikkets good friend to us Hozen. We thank you.’ The Chief searched his person and found a scroll, passing it to me. ‘Pandaren give us this. It for you.’ The Chief bowed, and went to rejoin the celebrations.

The scroll was identical to those in the Cave of Words. Pandaren script flowed out as it unfurled majestically, and though I could not read it, it conveyed its own message into my thoughts.

‘Well done, Keliera. You have indeed walked resolutely along the path I indicated for you.

Remain diligent in these forests, and meditate upon what you find often – there are more secrets around you than you may think.

I am with my people, in the village of Dawn’s Blossom. They will be thrilled to meet one from beyond the Mists. Please join us when you can.

Lorewalker Cho.’

I slipped away from the celebrations into the forest. No one would notice – and it would do good to meet other Pandaren, regain a sense of calm. I left a note for Nazgrim with some more spiel about diplomatic relations, and began the path along the river to the bridge I had seen earlier – which I assumed led to Dawn’s Blossom, or at least to direction.

The Jade Forest was beautiful at night. The wildlife is quiet, and each bird call can be heard as clear as it would be next to you. The river provided calm, and I was steady as I wandered its banks. The locals called it the Slicky Stream, and its opalescent waters magnified the moon’s light onto my face. As I passed a waterfall I saw curious creatures in the calm water below – like mosquitoes the size of a boar, skittering along the water’s surface precariously but never falling in. In the rest of Azeroth, these pond-striders never grew beyond insect size, but the waters of Pandaria were utterly mysterious. Every so often, the striders leapt below the water and swallowed a fish whole, then returned to their gliding on the waters. Past a steeper waterfall, I saw the forest darkening ahead of me – curious dark bamboo trees began to pepper my way forward instead of the usual willows behind me. The native fronds grew larger and wilder here.

I would only lose my way if I continued to follow the river aimlessly. Having reached the bridge that bordered the Forest Heart, I looked around for some signpost or direction that would help me find Dawn’s Blossom – instead, I found a Pandaren Cub clinging to a lantern post for dear life, clearly terrified.

‘Hello? Are you alright up there? I mean no harm, I’m looking for the village of Dawn’s B-‘

‘Shh! The monsters will hear you!’ The cub squeaked at me.’ Turning from her, I looked deeper in the forest. The very plants seemed to move about. Then I realised.

They were statues. Moving statues, cat-shaped. Could this be- could it be where Sergeant Gorrok was lost?

Not wanting to stay and find out, I urged the Pandaren cub down, and she quickly raced off, leading me along a path I had not seen before, winding through the deep forest.

‘Wait!’ I raced after her, worried that anything lurking in the shadows may see us first. But before I knew it, we were back in the open. The sun lurked beneath the mountains, and it was still pretty hard to see.

‘This is the Silkwood. We don’t want to stay here. Come on!’ She urged me further in, and we hurried along the path, chittering noises bouncing at us from the trees. They were covered in webbing – spider lairs. We reached a wooden staircase, leading up and down the valley we were in.

‘Dawn’s Blossom isn’t far now! Hurry, before the sun wakes the spiders up!’ The girl clattered down the stairs and onto another winding path, and I followed. We came forth into a clearing, and as the sun began to come up, I could see huge buildings in the distance. Was that – a temple? And a statue of a dragon? I stood there, encapsulated by the beauty of the jade creations as the sun glittered off them. The girl, noticing me stood still, bounded over and tugged at my arm.

‘You can look later! They’re waking up!’ The girl ran at full speed up another path, as the squelching and chattering sounds of active spiders sounded from the trees. I did not need reminding again, and we raced up to the gates of a small Pandaren village.

‘Guardians of the Dawn, please let us in! We need safety from the spiders!’ The girl knocked five times on the great stone gates, and they echoed like a gong in the early dawn.

The gates quickly rolled open and we were escorted in. While the girl ran off to be united with her parents, I found Lorewalker Cho in the central pavilion.

‘Ah, Keliera! It is good to see you in Dawn’s Blossom. I am afraid I cannot stay long, for my people have need of me elsewhere. There is need of you here, too. My people could use your skills. Make yourself at home! This is the heart of Pandaren life in the Jade Forest.’ With that, Cho was on his way.

As the sun rose over the Forest I was shown just how majestic Dawn’s Blossom was. With spires and beautiful Pandaren architecture the town was indeed the largest I had seen on Pandaria so far, and tradesmen and guards walked about contentedly. I decided to ask around and try find out what I could about the things I had seen earlier.

I was given short shrift by a busy brewmaster. ‘The whole life of Dawn’s Blossom revolves around the Goldendraft Brewhouse – if you enjoy swill, that is.’

There was a beautiful shrine in the central pond in the town. I had a little look, and found a mysterious scroll in the middle of it. Among the offerings I found a curious story scroll. As I unfurled it it bestowed its story upon me.

‘The Emperor’s Burden – Part 1.

Ten thousand years ago, the day Shaohao was crowned Emperor of Pandaria, he followed the tradition of all the emperors before him and sought the counsel of the Great Waterspeaker of the Jinyu. With a light heart the young emperor stood before the prophet and awaited to hear what he presumed would be good news.

The Waterspeaker listened to the song of the great river, but his eyes widened with terror.

From the Book of Burdens, Chapter One:

“And the Waterspeaker saw before him a kingdom of sorcerers surrounding a great well, and from this well they called forth a host of demons. Green fire rained from the skies, and all the world’s continents shattered.”

Terrified by the vision presented before him, Emperor Shaohao realised that he was not able to live a life of luxury. From the humble town of Dawn’s Blossom, his journey to save Pandaria began.’

The tale of the Burning Legion, ten thousand years ago. It filled me with dread, and yet it had already happened. As I left the scroll, my curiosity in Pandaren history sparked brighter than ever. I headed further up into the village, where in the Drunk Hozen inn cheerful music played and drink was served by the barrel. It was a wonderful place, with only laughter and enjoyment, no bar fights. The Pandaren were a unique people indeed.

‘Hello, traveller! Welcome to the Goldendraft inn, the finest inn in all of Pandaria! Unlike those of the Wanderbrews, who bring shame to the name of brewmasters everywhere! But enough about my history, sit, and enjoy yourself!’

I stayed there a good hour, and the tales of the Pandaren enchanted me, but their brew was too strong. I continued to look around, and eventually came to the largest building at the peak of the town – the mayor’s residence.

‘Welcome to our village, elf. Lorewalker Cho told me that you are a guest of the Forest Hozen. To have made it so far into the Forest says great things about you. I hope you come to our lands in peace. Please make yourself at home.’ Outside, an old man meditated in the breeze.

‘Stranger, my sight is not as it used to be. The orchards to the southwest once smelled as fragrant as the days I worked there, but they are befuddled with smoke these past few days. They border the Statue of the Jade Serpent. Please, when you have time, investigate. I cannot go there unaided anymore.’ Accepting his request, I made my way down to the village gate when a Pandaren cub all but crashed into me.

‘Thanks for saving me, miss! My name’s An Windfur! You remember me from the Forest, right?’ I was only able to nod as the Pandaren went into full-stream.

‘My friends and I were doing dares in the Heart and we double-hozen-dared my friend Shin to go up to the Jade Witch’s house, but she turned him into stone! Please, help my friends get back before she gets them too!’

‘Easy, An. This visitor has little time for your games.’ An aged Pandaren tapped An on the shoulder, reprimanding her.

‘My apologies, elf. The little ones around here tell stories even better than those of our ancestors sometimes. My name is Tzu the Ironbelly. Please, accompany me to the village gates, and I will explain.’

We walked back down the village to the front gates, and Tzu began to speak.

‘The great Silkwood spiders are frequent hazards to Dawn’s Blossom, and we are not always able to govern where the children play. The Widow Greenpaw has always been friendly, but the children remain scared of that they do not know. I think it is more likely that some children got lost… and the others invented the story about the ‘Witch’ to cover their own guilt. They will learn, in time, but please see what you can find amongst the spiders. Even if no relief comes from it, at least we will gain answers.’ The Pandaren bowed to me, leaving me outside the village.

How quickly my work had changed from death to life.

The Jade Forest: Part 3

I met Nazgrim back at the abandoned airstrip, looking out over a curious field of standing stones. They had the same markings as there had been in Konk’s Nook. We were no longer fighting the Alliance, it seemed.

‘The Hozen. Natural predators of Pandaria. Stupid, too. We have monkeys to take out if we want to get past this perimeter.’

While the remnants held ground at the Strongarm Airstrip, I was to sneak down to the nearby grove bordering some mountains and retrieve some reagents to help us get past the Hozen. Chlorophyll. Nasty stuff. But necessary. I guess.

Fortunately, most of the nature elementals down at Serenity Falls (as the Pandaren call it) were peaceful and content to yield a flower or two. When I stumbled across the Falls proper, it was breathtaking.

Sprites of water that resemble the Kalimdorian Treants litter the place, casting rituals of rejuvenation and purity across the area. Glistening pure waters tumble from the cliffs above and come to a beautiful, soothing calm in the pools below. Trees that look greener and more alive than any I had ever seen grew out of the enriched water.

I cupped the diamond-coloured water in my hands and sipped it. It was wondrous. Tasting it gave me a wonderful clarity and calmness and immediately I knew which direction to head in for the necessary supplies. But I walked calmly, like all my fears and doubts had left me. As though war no longer mattered, but every small sign of life around me did. I found a crashed drone half-submerged in the water, one flung from Hellscream’s Fist when it had been destroyed.

I was brought from my clarity by the evidence that the native sprites had taken all the supplies. I did not wish to take the supplies back by force – but their repossession was vital to our survival in the hostile forests, and the sprites could easily sustain themselves. I simply did not wish to ruin the natural climes of such an isolated paradise. But war facilitates necessity, and taken by surprise the sprites were no match for a fireball at their necks. With the supplies regathered, I headed back to the Airstrip.

The Forsaken commander, Kiryn, handed me a set of poisoned throwing weapons. ‘The Hozen are massing for an assault. You must sow discord among their numbers.’ If the Hozen were massing to assault, then I would rather them than me. I quickly started up a surviving gyrocopter and flew around the copse nearby. The Hozen, having never seen such technology, were powerless to fight back and quickly fled back into the forests as I tore their ranks apart with poison.

Nazgrim already had new orders by the time I returned. ‘You are the quickest of our remaining number. Scout the area for any landmarks we may use as a base, before they can regroup.’

I made my way relatively quickly up the hill, and stumbled across a little camp, where the largest Hozen I had seen yet was busy re-organising them.

‘GET BACK DOWN HILL! OOK EM IN DOOKS!’

I shot a fireball through the amassed crowd and they scattered in fear.  Splitting mirrors from myself I quickly engaged the commander in combat. It was the only way to end the attack, but I was more than a little worried about the size of the thing.

‘DUKE OOKEM GROOK YOU!’

At his yell almost all the forest Hozen seemed to mass around us, chanting in a fierce, war-drunk language as we fought. My skills of arcane were no match for the lumbering Hozen and as he fell, the Hozen troops fell quite. I was terrified that they would set upon me and tear me apart, and the seconds ticked by in silence as they registered the death of their leader.

‘WIKKET OOKED DOOK!’ The Hozen shrieked in fear at the realisation and ran wildly into the forest, knocking over shrubs and trees in fear. I let out a sigh of relief, only to see a Pandaren approaching the other side of the settlement.

‘Hello, friend! You must be one of the folk that crashed here. I would love to talk, but here is not the place. Please, follow me to the Cave of Words at the top of this hill.’

I did not quite trust my chances getting back through the Hozen to the settlement, but I knew I had duties to do for Nazgrim first, so I nodded politely to the Pandaren for his offer, setting across through the Forest to scout the rest of the hill.

Atop a small plateau next to a steep mountain range, I first found a curious shrine. It was abandoned, but around a little fountain were painstakingly crafted emblems of the sun. I made a note to ask the Pandaren in Honeydew Village about it, and headed further up the hill in the direction the Pandaren had walked, since there was nothing further down except the Hozen-inhabited copse.

I found a Pandaren path which led me along the hill until I reached another shrine. The only indication it was a shrine was that the gating was identical to the first – beyond it was little except a quiet spot of contemplation, and a table. However, the view was magnificent. From the table I could see over the whole Ascent, past the Hozen and through the Airstrip down right to the Village. On my left was Serenity Falls, and a second, higher level of the Falls I had not seen before. It was truly quite beautiful to behold.

‘Ah, friend! You have found the Shrine of the Moon, I see. Come with me. The Cave of Words is just around the corner.’

The Pandaren from earlier led me along the ridge I had been following before, until we came to a little cave built into the rock. Within the Cave of Words were countless scrolls, longer than any humanoid and written in elaborate, flowing Pandaren script that was enchanting just to look at. Warm ruby lanterns hung from the roof. The Pandaren led me to a brazier to warm up.

‘This is a wonderful time for Pandaria – the Mists have parted and we have rejoined Azeroth at last. Please, visitor, make yourself comfortable.’

Despite my protests, Cho (as he introduced himself) insisted I stay for tea. My concern lay with the Horde back at the Airstrip, but I was quite in need of an actual rest.

‘Fear not. We will discuss your people’s plight.’ Cho wandered over to a shelf full of scrolls as I drank, and began to read it.

‘Here we go. Over 14 millennia ago, this entire land was ruled by a race known as the Mogu.’ As he said the word, the braziers began to pump smoke out, and within the haze a figure became distinct. A towering, jade-coloured humanoid of incredible proportion. The same exact figure I had seen in the statue in the Ascent, and the statues acting as supports for the Thunder Hold Ruins.

‘The Mogu warlords ruled Pandaria through fear. Fear kept them in power, until the first monks of the Pandaren taught Pandaria courage. And courage overthrew the Mogu.’

Cho closed the scroll and joined me, sipping from his tea as the smoke cleared.

‘Those who govern through fear rule only while those they govern lack courage. The Hozen fear you now, but soon they will become courageous. In order to keep them in check, you must not make them fear you – but you must inspire them.’

I finished my tea. Despite the lesson Cho was teaching, a feeling of blissful courage and calm had set over my entire self.

‘I will help you learn. But first, I wish to learn about your ‘Horde’. But where are my manners! No doubt you have questions of your own first, and I am the host! Come, and we will learn more of each other.’ As Cho finished his tea he clapped his hands in peculiar rhythm, and from the shadows of the Cave a large turtle wandered out. Cho mounted the turtle – a deep, purple turtle with vivid and ancient scales, and led me back out, along a fork in the path I had not taken earlier.

‘I am what Pandaria calls a Lorewalker. We are considered the historians of this continent. As such, my weapons are quills and words, not swords and spells.’ As we walked, I took notice of the wildlife. Curious quilled mammals that I had never seen before, and large, beautiful wildcats identical to those that had been corrupted near Honeydew Village.

‘Pandaria’s history is shrouded in myth, even to us, and the Lorewalker’s job is to rediscover our history – rending the shroud, piece by piece. This task demands endless vigilance and searching – the eye to obtain clues that anyone not attuned to history would miss. We’ve arrived. This is the Circle of Bone. Keep watch. I’ve had trouble here before.’

We had reached another clearing, with polished standing stones and ritualised bones decorating the ground. Lorewalker Cho led me to a shrine, then stopped.

‘But of course, the best way to show you what a Lorewalker is… is to show you. The stones here have been locked from our knowledge for years by an ancient language I have only recently been able to begin deciphering. Please, do the honours. Use this key to unlock the secrets of these stones.’

Handing me the secrets of decryption, Cho accompanied me to the first stone. It told of a great Hozen Warlord who had lived in the Forest twenty-five hundred years ago.

‘What are your leaders like? Poets? Warriors? I should like to meet them someday.’ We wandered to the next stone. However, before I could decrypt it, Cho stood straight up. ‘Watch yourself! Saurok attack!’

A giant reptilian-humanoid creature leapt from a nearby tree and slammed me into another monolith. ‘DIE, SSOFTSSKINSS!’ The creature called lightning down and began to battle hand-to-hand with Cho as I lay dazed against the rock. Blood trickled down my back. Though the Saurok was the height of a full-grown magnataur Cho was too quick for it, and defeated it in short succession with well placed fists.

‘My apologies, friend. The Saurok have been hostile since the time of the Mogu, and though we have never given up on attempting to negotiate with them, sometimes we must fight.’ The Saurok’s corpse had stained the monolith.

‘Let us attempt the next one instead.’ Cho offered me his hand, and though dazed, I was not badly wounded. We walked to the next one, and Cho looked around as I decrypted it. Although there were other standing stones, Cho insisted upon my not overexerting myself, and we sat in the clearing for a rest. At some point during the last few days I’d lost my sense of time, and as the sun rose over my head and indicated noon I was taken by surprise.

‘Come, there is one more place we would visit. This place is called the Circle of Bone – and we travel to the Circle of Stone now.’ After gathering the notes he had made on the translations, Cho remounted his turtle and led me back up the way we had come, along a side-path to a small shrine.

‘I have learned a great deal from watching you so far, traveller. The fervor of youth, the experience of age. You have been through a lifetime of warfare, haven’t you?’

The comment was merely observation, but it still stung. I remembered the Wars, First, Second and Third, draining our people and eventually felling Quel’Thalas almost altogether. Since, the blood flow from Silvermoon had not been abated by the Outland and Northrend campaigns, the war against Deathwing, and this new war. I thought of my mother and father. I wondered if they knew I was here, stranded, on a beautiful new world. I wondered if they even knew I was alive.

‘This is a special place. My Great-Grandparents called this part of the forest home.’ Cho turned to me, seeing the sorrow across my face as I remembered my family. Mother, father, still safe, but for how long? Sithrial, my cousin, my dear love, taken from me in Theramore by the actions of a coward.

‘We Pandaren do not worship our ancestors. We learn from them, revering their memory and the wisdom they pass on to the world. My Great Grandfather first told me the tale of the Mogu that you heard from me earlier.’ As Cho spoke, he lit incense at the shrine, and from it came more smoke, and the silhouettes of Cho’s family – images of his relatives, stretching back thousands of years into the past, until they were too small to see.

‘I am most grateful for their knowledge. I stand on their shoulders. So, there is our introduction, Keliera. Our introduction. What of your people? Are they so different from mine. Let us find what we have in common.’ Cho indicated the second unlit incense bundle on the opposite side of the shrine.

I was not sure. But I took a deep breath, summoning a spark in my hands and dropping it onto the incense, which took light.

‘Let us hear of your ancestors, and where you came from, shall we?’ As the incense took light, the smoke made its images across from Cho’s, showing me, my parents, and all that came before. Blood elves, Farstriders, Traders, High Elves, magi, spellbreakers and rangers, stretching back far past the Highborne and into the domain of the Kaldorei, druids and hunters, warriors and conjurers, until the images stretched so far back that they blurred and hurt my eyes.

‘Noble is your lineage. Great is your power, and greater is your grief. It is clear why your people call themselves the Blood Elves. We are not so different, you and I. I think we will become good friends.’ Though I was emotional from what I had seen, I knew in my heart that Cho was right. I did not wish war upon this land, nor did I really wish it upon any other.

Mists of Pandaria Liveblog/Jade Forest Part 1

Quick intro, I decided to liveblog (then post later) my thoughts as they happen both from my perspective and my character Keliera’s perspective. Keliera just went through Theramore and the death of some close family, so she is bitter as all get up right now. I’m happy, since my copy of MoP arrived 3 days early ON LAUNCH DAY.

Let’s begin. I’m in Dalaran with a ton of mail. Ignoring that for now and going to dump my bag contents in the bank then head to Orgrimmar.

Ten minutes later I’ve arrived in Orgrimmar. XD

We have been ordered to report to General Nazgrim in Orgrimmar, the surviving leader of the (unsuccessful) Vashj’ir Offensive. What city full of innocents shall we be destroying today, I wonder?

Right. Through void storage and bank dumping, I now have 86 spaces in my bag. Now to train Zen Master in my professions!

There are huge crowds of soldiers in the Valley of Strength, all waiting for reassignment. The orcs seem jovial. At least someone’s enjoying this.

Aaand ready.

I’ve been here fifteen minutes already. What does this pointless waiting serve? Oh, we’re going in now.

Oh, cutscene. Wow. Garrosh has a face. Nazgrim seems pretty nice. Garrosh’s characterisation is out the window already. And I’m guessing I don’t see this ICly. Nazgrim’s voice actor is Hamuul’s. CHEATS.

A… new land…

Full of promise, and hope, and no war…

And we’re going to butcher it.

Well, I don’t have a choice. I must survive this war for Silvermoon.

To Bladefist Bay we go!

I had to take a wyvern with me to the gunship. I hate gunships. They over-compensate. Anyway, I don’t have much time to dictate. We’re leaving soon.

I didn’t even notice this one was here. Was it here like the Skyfire?

Wait, maiden voyage? This thing hasn’t been tested yet?!

I hope there isn’t a long cutscene…

I can’t see anything in this mist. Where are we? I’ve lost all sense of direction. We’ve been here hours and nothing. This is a lost cause. I hope the Alliance got away.

Huh? Is that… land! Oh, sweet land! Green and mountains and- Alliance? Oh no.

Fire is already raining down from our ship, and they are- are those bombs? Oh god!

We’ve been hit! I can’t see! There’s fire! I-

Wow. This is impressive cutscening.

… Are those alarms? I don’t have an alarm in my room.. Someone turn it off..

Oh gods, the ship! Where are we? I can’t see! We’re on fire! General?!

I need to get to the cannons before we crash! We’re still being fired at! Agh!

SO MUCH TENSION

Oh… My god! A temple! The Alliance are all over it. Must I fire at this?

Agh! That fireball says yes.

Well, it’s them or me. I do what I must.

I think we’re winning. Most of their cannons are down, they’re running – What is that place? Oh god, the ship’s been hit again! What if we go down?

First quest done. This staff is hideous and far inferior to my own.

Their firepower is down. It’s quieter now. I’m being assigned to a ground assault.

I hate close fights. I hate rappelling down from a gunship in the midst of battle moreso.

Momentary interruption since I fell off the gunship and broke the quest. Ran around and hearthed before I found the portal to the gunship.

Ugh. Here goes nothing.

Hang on- is the engine room on fire?!

No no no I don’t want to go ye-WHooaaaaaaaa!!

Oh. Well that was not as far down as I thought it was.

This is all beautiful so far.

… What are those things that that building’s support beams are based off? They look humanoid.. Well, I guess I have to get my hands dirty sooner or later. At least Velore is with me.

LEVEL 84 WITH A HUNDRED AND THIRTY THOUSAND HP YOU ARE KIDDING ME

There’s fire all over the place. I can barely tell what’s going on long enough to cast spells. I think the fire is damaging the Alliance more than I am.

It’s not too crowded. CRZ’s seem to be working. Quest target respawn is a little slow I should conjure food and eat it stupid me.

Huh? What is this thing? It’s like a mote… the congealed masses of nature we found in Outland…

I think things are pretty much over. I can’t see any living Alliance, and all their supplies are on fire.

I guess I’d better head up top and regroup.

I think I’m in some kind of forest. I can see some ocean bluffs from this high up. The gunship survived, at least. I’m not sure where my hawkstrider ended up. I hope he’s okay.

Of course the Alliance captain is stuck above us. How quaint. Not like he’d lead the charge or anything.

This place seems abandoned. The place looks like some sort of temple and it’s covered in webbing. But it’s not damaged at all and all the lighting and statues have survived. It must be recently abandoned – that or it’s owned by some big spiders.

It’s all been barricaded by the Alliance. I think there are more troops in here than there were outside! But at least flare guns are effective – as is tearing the Alliance apart with magic. I think this place is coming down. I can see rubble falling. Well, let’s get this over with quickly.

The coward’s got a gyrocopter!

No, they wouldn’t!

OUR SHIP! They-

That gap there is her being knocked out again, just a friendly reminder.

Uh…. What happened? Is the ship alright? I have to see-

Huh. I guess our way home is gone. I’m too tired to teleport. And it looks like the ship took out a tower and a swathe of forest, too. How did the Alliance hide an entire air base in this place? Well, I suppose we have to- Nazgrim?

Nazgrim? Oh god, Nazgrim, what’s happening to you? He’s gone all dark and he’s screaming – what’s wrong with him!?

His arms! They’ve gone like a fleshbeast’s – I – hang on, what’s that thing?!

Some kind of bear-man… He took the energy straight from Nazgrim and now it’s… on the floor. Dead. Like it was living energy. Pandaria… what kind of land have we crossed?

This place is filled with… energy. Living negative energy that our battle unleashed?

I don’t understand it at all. But these things are here, and I must fight them to get to the forest and aid the survivors. Get them to that town across the battlefield.

There are larger ones and smaller ones. They make me feel hatred and violence and negativity whenever they near me. Their jaws are endless pits of emotional drowning. But I feel calmer when they are gone. I must get through. Then I may get an explanation. They seem to die to magic fairly easily.

At least the ruins made it through the battle intact. I would hate to be trapped with these things. Agh! There is some kind of… blinding energy on the floor downstairs. It hurts me to be near it, like my soul is in pain… I need to get outside!

I managed to get out by a quick bout of invisibility – the outside is not much better. Some of these wretched creatures are perched outside shooting dark energy at the green lands below. And the dead – they have raised the dead from the battle, converted them into twisted walking corpses. It is sickening. I need to get out of here. I will have to make a jump into the water below and hope that I can aid my fall with magic. Here goes nothing!

This is all so amazing and beautiful and I wish I could play forever.

Our supplies are all burnt out down here. The forest is intact. I need to look for survivors of the crash. I think the gunship is to the south.

Oh my goodness! The predators here – some kind of tiger – are all infested too. This energy is spreading beyond the battlefield!

There are two of those funny bear-people here. And one of our troops! They must have aided him. They seem awfully sad.

… I’m sorry? You want me to help you with spilt ale? There are people dying and corrupted wildlife! These people are insane!

I think I’m going to have to help them if I’m to get through this forest without being eaten by corrupted cats. A pity, these cats look so beautiful.

Apparently, this place is the Honeydew Glade. The ruins I was at are known as Thunder Hold, and they overlook the Spiritsong River. How interesting. With the battle over this place is pretty beautiful. It reminds me of Eversong. I do miss it.

There don’t seem to be many survivors. And the energy corrupting these cats can’t be removed without their death. This is not a good aftermath. It’s taking quite a while to get near Hellscream’s Fist.

Huh. There’s some kind of farm here. Was. It’s on fire now. I wonder if I can help out. This is my mess, at least partly.

My goodness, the corn here is incredibly tall. If only Durotar had such farms we wouldn’t be in this mess.

Those people with the ale said that the … man? I saw earlier was called Tarun Zhu. Apparently he’s some sort of monk. I only found four survivors, but I think I’d better head to the village. I’m already pretty drained from fighting such an extended battle.

Honeydew Village… Sergeant Gorrok is talking with the mayor and Tarun Zhu. I suppose I had better report in.

Those things earlier were a greater effect than ever seen? This is the tip of the iceberg of war. This doesn’t sound good.

By the Light, Tarun Zhu is riding some kind of flying serpent…

I think I will rest here for the night and help out in the morning, when things are clearer. I could use some calm after this storm.

That’s all for tonight!

~~~

Fresh Growth – Chapter 11

Most of Raynewood’s forces were asleep when we landed, covered in soot and ash and huddled under blankets and leant against trees and buildings. As I dismounted the hippogryph, Beltheron gave a welcoming purr to me and dashed over. I knelt down and stroked him. He was covered in ash too.

What’ve you been doing? You’re a mess.

You too. Helping. Many animals homeless – some dead.

Horde didn’t cause the fire. Someone stole the machines for the bomb. Set it off elsewhere.

Bad. Astranaar joined us. Raene.

Is she here? Does anyone know how Stardust Spire is?

Raene.

What?

“Not interrupting, I hope.” She cleared her throat from behind me.

“Oh – Commander Wolfrunner.” I sprang to my feet and saluted. She looked worn out, putting me at ease with a tired wave.

“No time for formality, Glowsong. Come inside, these matters are best discussed inside.” She led me into the tower itself, where we joined in the top room a small council of the leadership of the Tower and Retreat. Once assembled, Raene resumed her conversation.

“I heard you went flying off into Horde territory.” She gave a weak smile when I tried not to meet her gaze. “I’m not going to reprimand you – it was foolish and it’s a miracle you’re still alive, but I understand your reasoning. What did they have to say for themselves?”

I sighed a little, wishing I could give some better news.

“They had no idea that it had been detonated. They’d had no communication with Silverwind all night. There were no orders to detonate the bomb – from anyone. They even brought the second-in-command up from Orgrimmar.”

The Keeper, Ordanus, broke in at this. “But it went off somehow. If they have no proof then there could be a retaliation anyway.”

“That’s the worst thing. It was no accident. We can assume that much. But whoever did it wasn’t working on Horde orders-”

“How can you be sure?”

“The detonator was stolen from its vault at the Harbour. As was every piece of military info, intel, all commands, blueprints, movement, shipment and supply orders, every piece of offensive and defensive technology they had in the vaults at their command hall. No Horde agents were near those vaults all day except the guards, and they wouldn’t have moved everything in there out unnoticed. Besides that, there’s only one key to each vault. It was a break-in, and whoever broke in can be assumed to have set the bomb off.”

Halannia spoke up, nervously. “You don’t think – the Hammer-”

“It’s likely, but no one can think how they would have done it. Those vaults are the most well-protected in all of Azeroth now that Kezan has been destroyed.

Raene frowned.

“This is all well and good, but I worry that it might not be enough information for the Sentinels. They’re not known for being rational when the forest is harmed. If I can get to Feralas today then I may be able to convince General Feathermoon to delay any retaliations by Alliance leadership – the High Priestess may be content for us to find the culprit, but I doubt Stormwind will want us to sit here ‘in the face of unbridled aggression.'” She smiled weakly at her own joke. We all knew that we’d faced far worse aggression as a race than the Horde’s actions.

“And – are we to sit here twiddling our thumbs for you, Miss Wolfrunner?” Ordanus’ deep voice asked her.

“Absolutely not, Keeper. I fully expect that you and the rest of Ashenvale are going to try and find any possible remedy for this tragedy. Oriet, I have a request of you in relation to that matter.” Our eyes met. “If we are to succeed in this endeavour, then the cure may be better than prevention. You appear to have a knack for surviving in enemy cities. I need you to go to Thunder Bluff. Find Arch Druid Runetotem. If we have agents on both sides of this conflict working for the same aim it reduces the risk of hostilities and it may speed up the process of healing the forest. Besides, the sooner the other half of the Circle is made aware, the better.”

There was no dissent, so we headed outside and made our way to the hippogryph roost.

“I know it’s not going to be easy, Glowsong. You’re barely-trained. You do have things to take with you. But I doubt Garrosh will soon inform Thunder Bluff – and the tauren may be more receptive to you than the orcs. Good luck.”

“I’ll need it.”

“We all will. Goddess protect us.” With that, the commander took off into the shady sky, and I was left under the dim rays of the sunrise – with my son, my sabre, and my task.