Lazarus

Hello.

I spun at the voice from behind me.

“Who’s there?” I cried into the jungle darkness.

I am here. You hold me in your satchel.

“Who- what-“ I scrambled through my satchel. Wands, mana gems, rations, bandages, Lakka’s ashes. Lakka’s ashes.

“You – it can’t be-“ I stared at the ashes, feeling sweat trickle along my neck in the jungle heat. I reached down gently, grasped the case, pulled it out of the bag. It thrummed with energy.

Oh, it can. The magic of Rukhmar transcends death, child. Especially when there is… Unfinished business.

The case thrummed harder, hotter. I set it down on the floor.

“I- I don’t understand…”

In time.

The case shone and light beamed out, bouncing off the trees, their tainted leaves being burnt away. The light cast shadows over me, until I could see the figure form within it – thin, tall, proud. As the light faded away, she was left there – Lakka.

I scrambled back, falling onto my hands and feet.

“You’re supposed to be dead! I saw you die!” I hissed.

And I am. I can no more effect this plane now than the High Sage could.

“Then why? Why are you here?”

That is for us to find out. You were at the council with the emissaries. The arakkoa have a new god. Asghar dares not speak its name. The Conclave have plans, child. Plans for the Legion, and this world. Plans neither you or I factor into.

“Plans? But we all have plans.”

Make no mistake. You are involved now, more involved than you know. The future of this world is far from decided. The future of my people even less so. I could not see how blind Sethe made me – how blind he has made my people, how blind the gods of Arak have made all arakkoa.

The future is coming. It is fast and bright and beautiful. It is dark and clutching and terrifying. It is everything and nothing. It must be shaped. And as I am beyond help, it must be you to do so.

The arakkoa sat down in front of me. Unlike before, the fel taint was gone from her wings, the maddened red eyes now clear and bronze, any sign of the curse absent.

Let me tell you of my people.

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Light’s Blessing

Look at the sky above you, child. The stars are bright and eternal, but between them lies darkness. The stars burst, one by one, brilliant sclera of light and matter. Then they reverse, fall into each other, great hungering holes of darkness.

Each of these stars can, will, turn to darkness eventually.

This is the nature of the universe. The light fades into the dark.

“But can’t the dark fade back?” I intoned.

Well, that depends on your perspective. Which is the natural state? Light, or darkness? The arakkoa swept her wing up and drew it across the sky. There is no natural state in a cycle. There is only change. The balance lies in these. Will every star collapse and begin consuming all around it until only void remains? Yes. Will every void be overpowered by matter and eject it all in a bright burst? Yes.

Our magic – arakkoan magic, Rukhmari magic, Apexis magic, whatever you call it – it all comes from this cycle. The Adherents push forth the Light from the stars and sun; the Outcasts push the darkness forth from shadow and void.

“So – for every magical action, there is a reaction?”

Lakka smiled. Now you are beginning to understand. Arakkoan history is a cycle. Each arakkoa feeds off others – they become so bright they must collapse, or so dark that they must burst. Only together do we balance.

“But this magic goes beyond suns and moons. They are drawing on the deepest magic of darkness.” I leant over the tower, the moon shimmering over the surface of the Pure Intent, the steel barrier cold on my fingers.

That is true. The Elder Twilight is beyond any dark magic the Outcasts have yet used. So you can see how it will go. They will create the largest darkness, and in turn you must bring forth the largest light.

“But how? Rukhmar is dead – or at least, no longer on this plane. What other light is there?”

The Sun Goddess has left this world, yes, child. But her feathers and her children remain. The sun still rises and sets. It will not be easy. But this world thrums with Rukhmar’s warmth. It is protected in the right ways. You can find those ways – your friend already found her Lash, though my own mistakes tainted it. The blessings are there – you just have to unlock them.

Lakka swept me up and suddenly we were no longer on the ship, but soaring above the ocean, the arakkoa’s red and orange plumage fluttering, illuminated by the moonlight. I laughed with glee as she drew close to the ocean’s surface, fish bubbling away, before pulling up, racing beyond where the ship had been.

Soon, we were passing over the rich forests of Talador, red and orange as Lakka herself, deep green glades separated by acres of forest. The sun was rising now, and as we passed over Auchindoun, I could see what she meant.

The Light isn’t just an Arakkoan invention, child. Nor was it just draenic. But you will not find any blessings of Rukhmar in the Apexis now that the Legion have scoured this world for them. But there is one race that has defied the Darkness for as long as your people have existed.

As the sun rose, columns grew to full height surrounding Auchindoun. They drew the sunlight into themselves, the crystals activated, and soon a glorious hum burst out over the forest. From each crystal came the song-prayer of the Draenei; from each column a beam of Light to match the sun. All drew inwards, towards the largest crystal atop the great dome of the city, until the prayer was all I could hear, pushed out further and brighter by every singing crystal, the prayer powering the very shield keeping the city safe.

Now, child.

Now, you see.

Valley of the Four Winds/Krasarang Wilds: Part 5

The ancient grounds of the Temple of the Red Crane were no doubt beautiful and mystifying when they had been uncorrupted. Now, the sacred grounds were tarred black and white by corruptive sha energy, and hopeless temple priests wandered desolately while Sha wandered, spreading corruption and growing stronger. I and Anduin pushed our way first onto the terrace leading to the main entrance.

The Sha here were more powerful than any I had met before, save the Sha of Doubt. Being near them clouded one’s vision, and slowed the limbs. Upon death, however, their effects lifted, and renewed hope spread quickly amongst the nearby priests as we made our way to the first maw, inside one of the pagodas on the west side of the temple. Though a minor sha in shape, the Maw of Despair that perpetuated the darkness was far larger than we had anticipated.

Anduin’s light broke the veil, and I must admit I would have been unable to do it without him as a beacon of hope for the priests and against the Sha. With both Maws destroyed, we made our way into the grounds, freeing all the priests we could, and soon most of the grounds were back under their rightful owners’ hands.

‘Pandaria certainly proves to be a land where metaphor and reality blur. Koro was right. “Broken are the bodies wherein hopeless hearts reside – the blight of despair strikes forth from inside.” This was the last piece of wisdom imparted to me by the Red Crane just hours before the Sha outbreak. Now, it all makes sense. Keliera, when the Sha attacked they did so from the basement of the temple – this training all along has been to prepare us to face the Sha of Despair. The Red Crane has been expecting this conflict for centuries! We must hurry!’

We cleared our way through the temple, but were stopped mid-way by a story scroll. We read it hurriedly, in case it would give us guidance.

‘The Emperor’s Burden – Part 4

It was at this very location ten thousand years ago that Shahao, the Last Emperor of Pandaria, defeated the Sha of Despair and imprisoned it within the land.

From the Book of Burdens, Chapter 9:

“After his success in the Jade Forest, Emperor Shaohao was filled with courage but fretted over an uncertain future. He sought the counsel of the Red Crane, the spirit of hope, deep within the Krasarang Wilds.

The Red Crane told the Emperor that hope was within all of us, if we looked deep enough. With that, the Monkey King presented Emperor Shahao with a mask of Despair, a forlorn visage of a terrible sadness. The Emperor donned this mask and drew out his own hopelessness…”

The battle against the Sha of Despair lasted four days and five nights in a pouring rain, but with the help of the Red Crane and the Monkey King, all of Shahao’s despair was extinguished.

From that day forth the Emperor knew the future was bright. He became a creature of hope.’

While no doubt a valuable lesson, this merely reinforced what we already had learnt ourselves – it would be the application of these skills that would truly matter. We headed lower and lower into the Temple’s basement, until on the final level we saw the Crane himself, Chi-Ji. He lay motionless on the floor, dark energy flickering around him.

‘Master Crane!’ Anduin ran over. ‘He’s succumbing to the Sha! We must help him!’

‘Go… while you can…. All is… lost.’

With that, the crane raised up into the air, dark energy pulsating around him. The floor began to darken, and we barely had time to dive out of the way before the Sha of Despair erupted from the floor.

‘Have hope, Keliera! That is all we need, no matter how great the odds!’

The Sha swept at us and gloom erupted in its wake. We dashed around the room, flinging Light and Arcane at its underbelly, and in fury the great fiend roared, calling the minor sha of the Temple to its aid.

‘Focus on the minor Sha, Anduin! They will give us the strength we need!’

As the Sha streamed through the doors we turned our efforts to them as shadow belched out from the largest one, blinding our sight. With each Sha that fell our hope grew stronger, and the power of the Sha of Despair weakened.

‘Die, fiend!’ With that, Anduin threw a bright ray of Light at the Sha, blinding it in turn. The tide began to turn with our hope, for we knew in our hearts that we would succeed if we believed in ourselves – and the Sha fell upon the floor, defeated. Almost immediately, the air around us became brighter, cleaner, and silence fell on the Temple at last.

The Red Crane floated down on to the floor, the energy of corruption leaving his form.

‘It seems hope has triumped after all, young ones. But this is no time for celebration – the battle rages on outside, and many followers of The Way still remain hopeless. Meet me at the statue outside in the centre of the Temple grounds. We will speak there.’

After recovering, Anduin and I returned to Chi-Ji, fully-cleansed.

‘You defeated the Sha of Despair. My order can handle the remaining clean-up from here.

It seems that for Pandaria, the time to face the consequences of Shahao’s actions has finally come. This conflict has been a long time coming – the arrival of your people was merely a catalyst. Now, your help is necessary if we are all to survive. But for now, your aid is better spent elsewhere. The lagoon to the south has suffered as well. You would do better to make your way there while I aid Anduin in where his path next leads him. Good luck to you, and thank you once again, Keliera.’

I made my way alone into the southern reaches of the Deepwild, beyond the temple, towards the Lagoon Chi-Ji had spoken of. The touch of the Sha lessened here, but the rain continued – the effects would probably last for a while. A few animals were corrupted, but I could see no major devastation. Luckily, the Sha of Despair appeared to have had less of an impact in its immediate area, but the effect over all of Krasarang was unknown.

I made my way across the bay to the first island in Nayeli Lagoon, known as Kea Krak, and began looking around for any areas that may have been adversely affected. The local crocolisks and exotic birds seemed unaffected, but the rain continued as I made my way around the lush beaches. I soon spotted a house on an outlying island, and made my way across to see if the people there were alright.

A fisherman’s haven known as Marista, the place was under attack from wild crocolisks, and the Pandaren fishermen seemed hard-pressed to keep them from… something. It was all a little confusing – the area hadn’t looked corrupted at all. I spoke to the leader, a Pandaren by the name of Tony Tuna.

‘Something’s made the local crocolisks far more aggressive than ever before. It’s scared up the local lories from their nests, and once the crocolisks are gone, their feathers would make for some decent bait. We’re able to handle the crocolisks here, but those lories won’t be around forever. It’d be very useful if you could get some of the feathers for us. And if you happen across any crocolisks on your way, feel free to take them out too.’

I made my way onto the larger island, Kea Krak, where I found several disturbed lories. Their feathers were easy enough to gather when they were dead, but with territorial advantage they proved particularly dangerous. The crocolisks did not help, and I came to the conclusion that they had to be overpopulated, because I saw two crocolisks for every one animal on the island.

I made my way back to Marista, where crocolisks were attacking in lesser numbers now.

‘Those feathers have made my day, Keliera. It’s strange… yesterday fishing was fine, then today the crocolisks just started trying to eat us! Something must be up. We’ll have to try other tactics, since they aren’t calming down. Jay Cloudfall, up by the Bait and Brew, can make you a raft if you bring him some wood and seaweed. You’ll be needing one.’

Fortunately, Marista was in no shortage of kelp or wood, and Jay Cloudfall made me a raft in record time. The Pandaren were truly masters of their arts.

‘Take your raft out to Ana Wu in the middle of the lake. Whenever anyone in Krasarang’s had a question they can’t solve, Ana’s had an answer. She should be able to figure out why the crocolisks won’t stop attacking.’

I took the raft out to the water, where it proved itself to be very sturdy and capable. I met Wise Ana Wu out on her own raft, meditating peacefully amongst the fish.

‘You appear troubled, traveller. How can this Lorewalker serve you? What is it that you seek?’

Ana nodded patiently as I explained the plight of Marista.

‘Crocolisks attacking? I know a story about crocolisks… but first, I grow hungry. I will share my knowledge with you if you bring me some shark meat from the waters below. And while you are there, one of the oldest crocolisks of the lagoon has grown tainted in his old age. Nahassa, the Mortbreath patriarch suffers – his death cries call up to me from the bottom of the depths. Find his cave and put him out of his misery. It will not solve Marista’s problems. But it is a merciful start.’

Dodging through the sharks below, I found my way into the Mortbreath Grotto, where the beast Nahassa lay on his side, crying in agony as his death approached. It was quite haunting to see such a thing. Though a strong creature, the throes of his death meant that he could not see me and could only thrash as I ended his life. With his death, a new calm seemed to fall around me.

The sharks in the lagoon moved faster than the currents by far, and I found myself facing down their maws more than once. I was usually only a split second fast enough to prevent my own death at their hands. I gathered a few fillets, and then hurried back up to the surface before the breathing spell on me ran out.

‘Ah, this is more food than I could ever hope to eat. Thank you. I suppose I owe you my story now.’ With that, Ana recited a spell, causing the waters to splash up and form images as she spoke.

‘This is the tale of the Hungry Crocolisk. The crocolisks of Narsong Trench ate fish. They were fat and happy. Then the sharks came. The sharks competed for the fish, but the crocolisks survived. Soon after, the Pandaren arrived. The Pandaren fished in the trench’s waters, but the crocolisks survived.

Finally, the Hozen came to Narsong Trench. The Hozen overfished the area, catching more fish than they could eat. With no fish to eat, the crocolisks became hungry and desperate. They attacked the Pandaren out of sheer hunger. The Pandaren, in fear and defense, killed all the crocolisks of Narsong Trench. The Narsong crocolisk is no more… simply because the Pandaren did not see the whole story.

That story did not end happily. The Narsong Crocolisk is no more. But this time, you have a chance to change the ending. The hozen to the south are overfishing these waters. With the fish gone, the crocolisks become hungry and desperate – eating each other and attacking the pandaren at Marista. Stop the hozen from their reckless fishing and you shall have your solution, elf.’

I used my raft to get across the lagoon to the southern islands, where hozen speared fish by the dozen for their village – fish they indeed could not all hope to eat. I had to send a clear message, and so I killed a few of their fishermen. While the others fled, I noticed a curious bamboo map amongst the fish hauls. It indicated that something was buried on the island, but that was it. I made my way to the shore.

Valley of the Four Winds/Krasarang Wilds: Part 3

After that enlightening tale, I made my way back to the jungle and collected the rest of the cranes and tigers I needed.

That was not the end of it, sadly. She set me about taking out the largest crane and tigress in the nearby wilds.

The tigress, Chasheen, was the oldest and fiercest of all in this area of the Wilds. She ruled over the Krasari tigers as Alpha Female, and had a dark, rich fur that had resulted in a camouflage allowing her to surpass all her peers for years. I felt uneasy killing such a noble beast, but I took solace in the fact that she was responsible for the deaths of many innocents herself on the banks of the Dojani River – and she did not make it an easy task to hunt her down. Bones were arrayed like traps around her lair and she had the sharpest teeth I had seen on such an old wildcat.

The crane, Needlebeak, was further north, below the waterfall. From there he had the prime catch of the largest migrating carp from the Valley of the Four Winds, and though old age and generous feasts had made him plump, his plumage and poise kept him almost invisible among the trees. Fortunately my magic meant I did not encounter his beak – easily sharper than any well-made sword.

With their hard-obtained corpses in tow I made my way back to Daggle, hoping that that was enough carnage to satisfy her aims in Krasarang.

‘Excellent! The rest of the safari is up the western side of the Valley of Four Winds. If you find yourself there, join us! Good hunting!’ With that, the goblin strapped herself into her rocket and launched, cargo in tow, over the cliffs towards the Valley.

With that unpleasant business sorted out, I resumed my journey along the path past the Dojani River. Along its delta I found the corpse of a Pandaren alongside that of a local tiger. The Courier had met his end, and the tiger had succumbed to the wounds he had inflicted upon it. After murmuring a quick prayer, I sent an arcane construct back to Zhu’s Watch to notify the village of his demise, and picked up the courier’s unharmed supplies satchel. The Temple might be able to use them.

I did not know which way to go yet. The Temple was supposed to be along this river, but I couldn’t see any sign of it in the rain. However, not far off I saw a bridge along the path, and beside it… Tauren buildings? It couldn’t be. There were other soldiers here? Suddenly, the presence of Sha earlier in the Wilds was possibly explained. I hurried along, knowing that as a Horde soldier I could take refuge there, and possibly find my way to the Temple.

The bridge across the Dojani delta was in fact a fallen jungle tree – the wood and ground were so dark I had not been able to distinguish it. One of the Tauren Braves met me as I approached.

‘Hail, traveller. You are of the Horde, yes? Welcome to Thunder Cleft, a small beacon of the Earthmother’s Light in these dark, unforgiving lands. Please, come inside. Sunwalker Dezco will be pleased to meet a friendly face.’

Inside the encampment were a collection of Tauren Braves and Sunwalkers, as well as an orc. Sunwalker Dezco was the most decorated of those present.

‘Greetings, traveller. I had not thought we would see other friendly Horde faces on these shores. On the command of our Chieftaine, Baine Bloodhoof, we were ordered to sail into the unknown waters of the south. Our people were granted visions by the Earthmother – of a promised land, filled with golden blossoms. My wize, Leza, had visions that led us here. She pushed us north until we reached these cliffs. She is-‘

Dezco was cut off by a strangled scream from a nearby tent. He sighed at the ground. ‘She is in labour, blood elf, and the water and heat here are taking a toll on her. I fear she and our child may not make it out of this jungle. But you are welcome to stay here while we decide upon a path that will take us safely north.’

I met Kang Bramblestaff later that evening (I think it was evening), one of the monks that had been searching for the Hidden Master. Whereas Ken-Ken had followed the east wind, and not really gotten anywhere, Kang had gone south, and had apparently ended up in the central Wilds.

‘This place is most interesting, elf. This settlement is but a few weeks old – as though it arrived as the Mists cleared.’ I was about to ask Kang about his progress searching for the Hidden Master when I remembered my experience at the mogu ruins in the Borderlands. The Shu’halo there had told me to warn Dezco at Thunder Cleft of the mogu! I quickly retrieved the weapon and poison samples I had taken from the ruins, and hurriedly informed Dezco.

‘Chezin is dead to these foul mogu creatures? This is bad news indeed. I have fought alongside Chezin and Kor on almost every shore that has a name.’ The orc, Kor, nodded grimly. ‘Thank you for recovering these weapons, Keliera. It will give us some knowledge about our new enemies.’

As Leza continued her fraught labour, Dezco and Kor worriedly discussed their options.

‘Dezco, we must strike at the mogu now while they think us weak. This is a weapon of the Horde now and we must use it on the Alliance.’

‘This was not supposed to be a combat mission, Kor.’

‘And the Alliance was not supposed to follow us here!’

Dezco went to be with his wife, and I spoke with Kor alone.

‘The Alliance has spies all around us, Keliera. We cannot let them know of our internal problems. Make sure that no information reaches their camp on the south coast.’

Kang spoke with me as I was leaving.

‘Keliera, is it? I remember you now from back in the Valley. My mother, Mama Greatstaff, once told me of a recipe that could heal almost any illness – Skitterer Stew. We must find out if it will help with Leza’s fever – no mother in labour should have a fever. Gather some glands from the pond skitterers around here, and I will gather herbs for the stew.’

Despite appearances, the local pond-skaters were actually pretty slow, since as soon as they ran towards me they fell in the water and were taken completely off-guard. I had managed to collect a few glands when I saw the Darnassian spy making her way south along the riverbed, no doubt from the outpost. I could not let the Kaldorei have an advantage over us, at least while Leza remained in labour, and I quickly engaged her with spellfire. She proved more than a little challenging, especially with her nightsaber leaping at me from the shadows, and I was forced to use almost every evasive spell in my repertoire to get range.

With a suitable collection of glands gathered, I made my way back along the river to Thunder Cleft. Kang awaited me on my return.

‘Even the air here can be dangerous, Keliera. Be careful. Luckily, nothing clears an illness like Mama Greatstaff’s stews.’ When I returned to Kor, he and Dezco were arguing again.

‘Dezco, we must press westward. We are vulnerable if we stay here. The Alliance knows our location.’

‘We must wait. We cannot move Leza while she is in labour.’

‘I appreciate that your wife led us this far in, Dezco, but this is a poor choice of-‘

‘There is no choice here, Kor. We cannot move Leza and we cannot leave her behind.’

‘Very well then. We will simply have to prepare to move westward and move Leza as soon as possible. Keliera, there are mogu ruins to the west. The mogu are like night elves – ancient and with an over-developed sense of entitlement. They must lose it soon enough. Quell their numbers and find out what they are doing there before they have a chance to attack.’

Kang accompanied me on my path west when I set off the following morning. The stew had not worked, and Leza’s condition was worsening. Kang had another idea. ‘This fever is not simply a fever. There is something in the land affecting all of us, sapping our hope and placing despair in its place. The lotus plants in the wilds may be able to help. They grow nearest to us at the Ruins of Dojan, so it is as good a place as any to go picking them. And I hope to find out what is going on at the ruins while we’re there.’

The path to the ruins led us into a curious clearing. An orange sun beamed down from over the cliffs of the Valley, and few trees grew among the ruins. Mogu yells were easily heard. We fought our way in, picking Imperial Lotus leaves when we rested. I could not see any signs of leadership yet, but the mogu were casting curious rituals on the local stone. I saw the statue of a creature I had never seen prior, like a lion but with its hair in ringlets. I wondered if it was a native creature to Pandaria.

‘For the Thunder King!’ A runecaster yelled as he attacked us, and fell.

‘The Thunder King? That doesn’t make sense. The mogu have not had proper leadership since their empire fell fourteen millennia ago. Perhaps they-‘

‘Faster, you fools! We need every one of these artifacts soon or it’s the cane for your hides!’ The voice boomed from the centre of the ruins. Their leader. The mogu were gathering the ancient artifacts here for some purpose, but why here? Why now?

‘I don’t think these mogu are from here. They’re only scavenging relics, not pillaging or digging in. They must have been sent from elsewhere.’ We fought our way up the terraces, as the Ruins led upwards to the top of the hill they were built on. At the top of the terrace a single mogu stood, yelling orders to his brethren. Though taller, armoured and generally stronger than the rest, with Kang’s aid we defeated him in short time. On his person we found some orders.

‘The Reclamation

By the order of his exalted, the reclaimers shall be dispatched to the ruins of Dojan. There they are to recover any artifacts that may be used to arm our people. We need guardian statues, scrolls, any arcane devices that will help us rekindle our former glory.

Priority must be given to the Pools of Youth on the north side of Dojan. These waters are vital to the continued strength of the empire.

-Groundbreaker Brojai,
The Lord Reclaimer’

‘So the mogu are reclaiming their empire. They used to subjugate all the races they encountered. It seems that these particular mogu have aspirations of reliving the past. Wait. This document talks about the Pools of Youth! These pools exist?!’ Kang began to chatter excitedly. ‘The mogu found the Pools of Youth! Mama Bramblestaff used to tell me old stories about those. During the mogu empire they would use the waters to extend life.

Thing is those stories never ended well for some reason. As if the waters were cursed. Either way, we should investigate. There is a good chance those waters might help Leza. It looks like the Pools of Youth are on the northwestern side of the ruins.’

We hurried off the terrace, scrambling down the hill to the northwest. On the northwestern side the terrace linked to a bridge. On the other side, an abandoned pool stretched past intact statues – and in the middle was a massive, chained water spirit. By one of the statues I found a story scroll.

‘The Lost Dynasty

Even by mogu standards, the reign of Emperor Dojan II was short and brutish. His maniacal drive to finish his father’s work and complete the great purge against the rebellious saurok legions drove him to leave his court in disarray while he set out on a doomed military campaign.

From his perch high on the cliffs overlooking the Krasarang Wilds he oversaw the slow clear-cutting of the jungle, the establishment of the Dojanni Dungeons, and the gradual genocide of the saurok race.

What he didn’t expect was for the remains of the saurok fifth and seventh legions to scale the enormity of the cliffs in the dead of night, ambushing his imperial pavilion from the Valley of the Four Winds and forcing him over the edge. His body was never found, and the resulting disarray in the capitol left the empire in chaos for over two years while the saurok melted back into the wilds and disappeared…’

Setting that story of the ruins aside, I and Kang raced into the pools to examine the poor spirit. Red energy like that of the runecasters pulsated around it, sapping its energy. As we approached, the weak spirit smiled at us. Somehow, I felt invigorated. We attempted quickly to free the spirit, and I wondered if the tainted water of the Wilds had something to do with the events here.

When the elemental (who was apparently revered as Na Lek) was freed, a large mogu overseer teleported to the pools.

‘Halt, supplicants! These waters belong to the Thunder King. Your presence is unwelcome. GUARDIANS! KILL THESE INTRUDERS!’ His booming voice shuck the ground, and as it did the statues of the curious lion-beings came to life. Though we were outmatched, the aid of the water spirit quickly struck them down, and Na Lek returned to the pools. Kang collected a small portion of the water, bowing reverently to it. With that done and the local power of the mogu broken we were left to make our way back to Thunder Cleft, and wonder what the mogu’s next step would be.

The Jade Forest: Part 10

I found the first missing serpent not far from the courtyard as I headed north. Interested in me and all alone, it happily followed, whizzing about my head and performing entertaining aerobatics. It was good to laugh now and again. I headed into the north tower, into the ground section known as the Fountain of the Everseeing. Here, pure water ran through the walls, collecting in glittering pools around a central fountain, where a jinyu stood. He appeared to be chasing a number of water sprites.

‘I say, give me back my staff! I need that for tonight!’ The elementals chattered and giggled in streams of bubbles, and I quickly stopped some short with a wave of ice. Shocked, they yielded the staff quickly, and I passed it to the jinyu.

‘Thank you. I am Wise Mari, the scryer of these halls. The waters have clouded, and I need this staff to calm the spirits and speak to the water. I am but an old jinyu, and without you I would never have caught those sprites. Once again, thank you. Please tell Elder Sage Rain-Zhu that I will be here continuing my work.’

As I went down the hall, he gave me a piece of wisdom. ‘Water is life. When the waters feel torment, then so shall we.’ As if on cue thunder burst above the temple, preceding another bout of rain. I was beginning to suspect that the rain was not natural. Heading out of the Fountain and onto a sheltered parapet, I found another serpent bobbing its head up and down to the rain. Noticing its friend it flew over and the two chittered excitedly.

I made my way back to the central courtyard, noticing that every few minutes fireworks would go off at random places in the temple. They lightened the mood of the rain considerably, and I set off some from my location before returning to Rain-Zhu.

‘Excellent! Knowing that Mari can once again work has lifted a great burden from my shoulders. However.. there is one other problem I have. Something has been troubling Lorewalker Stonestep, who is in charge of the Temple’s Library. Right now, we don’t have time for him to be distracted. Could I ask you to search in the south tower and find out what ails him?’

With serpent hatchlings in tow, I headed back across the courtyard to the entrance to the south tower, and entered the Scrollkeeper’s Sanctum. The place was wide, old, and just like a library should be – warm, inviting and filled with countless tomes and scrolls. I spotted Lorewalker Stonestep down on the lower level, and walked round to meet him. Curiously, the place was filled with small moths.

Just before Stonestep I found a third young serpent playing hide-and-seek amongst the bookshelves, being scolded by a pair of scrollkeepers. I brought it along with me. Stonestep looked up from his work as I approached.

‘Elder Rain-Zhu sent you? Very well. You are the one who shall help me. Look around you!’ Stonestep gestured wildly to the rafters above. ‘Moths have infested the library! Moths! All the books in here are in danger as long as they remain here. Please, make them go away! My cowardly assistants are scared of the things, and the works of a thousand storytellers depend on the removal of the moths. And that is but the half of it! The moths have already laid eggs, and bookworms are infesting the books as we speak! Remove them immediately, before the books become unsalvagable!’

Stonestep looked considerably stressed, and I obeyed his words. The bookworms were considerably easy to remove, as they could barely move an inch once you shook them from the bookcases. The moths proved more difficult, shaking dust into my eyes and flapping at my head. However, once a few had been taken out the rest took their senses and were driven outside easily with broom and brush.

‘Thank you, oh thank you! You’ve thinned their numbers considerably. I’m so relieved that we were able to avert this potential disaster. Some books will need careful restoration of course, but none are irrecoverable. Please return and inform Elder Rain-Zhu of the good news.

Leaving the library, I returned to the terraces, and found on my way back to the central plaza the last of the missing serpents. Fei looked extremely relieved to see me.

‘Thank you so much! You found them! Now don’t you run off again!’ She waggled her finger at the serpents, feigning disapproval, but quickly lost her facade and began laughing and playing with the serpents.

Elder Sage Rain-Zhu was pleased as well.

‘I do believe my headache is disappearing. Everything is in order once again. You have done what four accomplished priests of Yu’Lon could not. Remarkable. I think it is time that you met the Jade Serpent. You came to deliver a message to her, did you not?’

I felt more than a little nervous as we proceeded in to the final spire. How was one supposed to speak to a flying serpent, especially one revered by every Pandaren you had met?

We entered a large room which connected to a viewing platform. From there you could see all of the eastern coast. But.. there was no jade serpent there.

‘Fei, if you would.’

The little pandaren girl giggled, leaving her hatchling friends and running over to the centre of the room.

She was not a pandaren. She rose in size majestically, darkening in colour and forming into the Jade Serpent, glittering with scales of pure white and dark jade. I was speechless.

‘I apologise for this deception, friend. But you were a stranger, a member of a race we had never seen before. I had to know the bearing of your heart. It is clear to me now.’ The doors shut behind us, and I and Yu’Lon were left alone.

‘The Temple priests are too frightened to face the truth, but I grow old. My time on Pandaria and all of this world is almost up. Do you remember the great statue in the distance? The likeness of myself, built from jade? The workers have toiled for one hundred years on it, and with a little more jade – the jade you brought us – it will be complete.’ The serpents moved to the platform, and indicated for me to climb aboard her back. She flew out of the room and rose high above the temple. It was a wondrous sight, and I was completely awestruck.

‘With my last breath, I shall transfer my life essence to the statue, bringing forth the birth of a new guardian. Do not be sad for my passing – I am but part of the cycle. The beginning came long before me, and the ending will come longer still after me. Someday, you may be called to defend all that is dear to you, as I have done all my life. When that day comes, take my blessing, and seek all the light and wonder of the world, and fight with all your heart. We live together, or we die together. All of Pandaria is connected, as you will grow to know.’

Looping around the statue, Yu’Lon headed back to the temple.

‘I grow weary now, and must rest for when the statue is ready. Goodbye. I will see you soon enough.’ With that, Yu’Lon dropped me off in the courtyard at the front of the temple, and returned to her chambers. Elder Sage Wind-Yi met me again.

‘I see you delivered your message, friend. And I have a message for you. Your companions urgently require your presence back in the Hozen villages. I have arranged transport for when you are ready.’

I took several minutes to think. I had enjoyed aiding the Pandaren, and getting to know their way of life – these past few weeks had meant more to me than all the war before it. But I could not escape the war, and the words of Yu’Lon rang true. I was not just fighting to kill, or to protect myself, or all those fighting alongside myself. This was total war, and I was fighting to defend my way of life, and Quel’Thalas. Maybe I did not want to fight, but I had the most glorious of opportunities – that of protecting all I held dear, and using my love to save others from the sword, and see all the beauty of Pandaria along the way.

Elder Sage Wind-Yi was stood next to a shrine. It seemed familiar, and a curious story scroll was attached.

‘The Emperor’s Burden – Part 3

It was at this very location ten thousand years ago that Shaohao, the last emperor of Pandaria, defeated the Sha of Doubt and imprisoned it beneath the land.

From the Book of Burdens, Chapter 5:

“Shaohao meditated for three days and three nights, for the counsel of the Jade Serpent was unclear. How could one purge oneself of all doubt?

Weary of waiting, Shaohao’s travelling companion the Monkey King whittled a strange grimacing visage out of bamboo. He urged the Emperor to place the Mask of Doubt on his face…”

While mischief was the Monkey King’s motivation, the mask worked – as Shaohao pulled the mask away, his doubts took on a physical form. For seven hours they fought, until the Sha of Doubt was buried.

From that day onward, the last emperor had no doubt that he would save Pandaria from the Sundering. He became a creature of faith.’

It was the same story as I had read about in Dawn’s Blossom. Its message was clear, that doubt would only lead to downfall. And I was ready.

‘Good. Your transport is around somewhere.’ The Elder Sage whistled cheerfully, and was responded to by the call of… a hawkstrider?

It couldn’t be. It was.

Velore burst forth from behind one of the trees, worm in beak, and nuzzled me.

‘I’ve missed you, old friend. Come. We have a war to fight sometime or other.’ Bowing once more to Elder Sage Wind-Yi, and telling her to pass on my gratitude to the Temple for keeping Velore safe, I set back off through the gates of the temple, towards the north, and Grookin Hill.

To war.

Fresh Growth – Chapter 8

The hippogryph moved almost at my thoughts, its connection to the forest mirroring mine. I steered it towards Azshara, and as soon as we were above the path of the smoke I took several gulping breaths of reassured air. It would take considerably less time to get to Bilgewater Harbour by flight than by walking, thankfully.

“Thanks back there for keepin’ me alive.”

“Not a problem. I’ve seen kaldorei justice before – not all of us realise when we overreach. Besides, you’re more important dead or alive, and by the time I’m in a position where I would want to kill you, you’d be far too safe.”

“Y-you want to kill me?”

“By the Goddess, no. Not after tonight. If I had known about this bomb a month ago, a week, two hours, maybe. But there’s been too much death tonight. Too much death recently.”

“Guess I didn’t think of it that way – just with you bein’ an elf an’ all…”

I smiled coyly at his naïveté, a welcome distraction from the death weighing on my mind.

“I’m an elf, yes. But I’m also a druid, and a mother. Death where there’s any hope of redemption is a waste, especially in the face of more death. There are certain pillars in druidism, in balance, in our entire culture – Duty first. Others second. Self later.”

“I guess you’re right. Never considered it really – it’s been them versus us since we got here.”

“Some are inclined to deny it for posterity’s sake. But peace in Kalimdor is in the best interests of our race as protectors of the forests. What happens now is simply how we come to that peace.

So, we have a while – is there anything else about this bomb I should know before we reach Bilgewater?”

He shifted uncomfortably.

“I don’t know much about it, really. I heard that it was to be used against the Alliance in Kalimdor, but we weren’t sure where. Main guesses would be Darnassus or Theramore.”

“But – there are more civilians than soldiers there! This is a war, not a genocide!”

“Hey, I’m not saying it was gonna be used there! All we knew was the Horde leadership wanted another one. Besides, it didn’t exactly get a chance to be used.”

“That can be debated. We’re coming to the bridge across Southfury River now.” Below us, the beautiful sapphire waters of Southfury drifted out of mountain crevasses and through towards the obscured shores of Durotar. We passed Talrendis Point without interference.

“The bomb was supposed to be enough to do a lot, wipe out an army before a major fight at the very least, put the Horde in a good position for takeovers.”

“Well, we’re both worse-off now. And I doubt you’re going to be able to make any more of those things, anyway.”

“Yeah. Garrosh isn’t gonna be happy when he finds out.”

Garrosh can go to the fiery pits of the Firelands as far as I care, half of Ashenvale could be on fire now because of his warmongering.”

“He’s hardly the only one to blame for all of this, y’know.”

I sighed. “I know. But this event could make things so much worse for everyone, and I doubt the Horde would be making such large bombs if Thrall were still in charge. We’re getting close now, that looks like the coastline.” I pointed ahead to where small stretches of ruined kaldorei cities shrank into a dark, looming mass. Ahead of the looming mass was a spectacle of late-night oil lighting.

“Yep, that’s the Harbour alright. Come down as close to the top building as you can, the less people know about this right now, the better.”

“Alright.”

I leant forward on the hippogryph and it began to dive towards the largest building on top of the island, the wind bristling against us as we dropped in altitude. Within a few minutes, we hit ground and the hippogryph ran to a stop outside the dimly-lit doors of Bilgewater Harbour’s Command Hall.

“Stop right there, elf!”