Before this kicks off, know that no copyright infringement is intended. Blizzard went above and beyond the call of duty when it came to establishing the lore of Pandaria. Some of it was good, other aspects are problematic, but here we are…with not a great deal to show for the effort that went in.
I've seen some FanFictions out there that attempted to explore Pandaria, but they did so from the perspective of the outsiders. That's' not something I'm too thrilled about. This is the exploration of the events of Pandaria…from the perspective of the Pandaren.
Without Further Ado, I present…
TURMOIL IN THE LAND OF MISTS – THE SHADO-PAN
SHADO-PAN MONASTERY, KUN-LAI SUMMIT
The assassin known as Jansho Ghostpaw was regarded by his fellow Shado-Pan as someone who was very difficult to get a rise out of. He took things in stride, striving not to lose his temper at events that evaded his control. Now, however, he was irritated. Standing at six feet, three inches, and with a thick stomach rising above the ceremonial Shado-Pan belt, Jansho was an imposing person when he was in a foul temperament.
The source of his irritation stood not far away. Master Snowdrift, the leader of the Shado-Pan's Blackguard Discipline, stood five inches taller than Jansho. His braided beard was circled by three red bands to hold the long strands in place, and his long trailing mustache bobbed when he spoke. While Jansho reported to Hawkmaster Nurong as the leader of the Wu Kao Discipline, Snowdrift was the one to whom every single member of the order had to prove themselves in battle.
This was not the first time that Snowdrift had put Jansho to the test. However, this time came at an inconvenient moment. Jansho had been in the middle of a particularly intense meditative state when the triple knock of Snowdrift's heavy fists on his door woke him.
"I would have you prove yourself to me, Jansho Ghostpaw of the Wu Kao." Snowdrift stated when the door was opened to him.
Jansho allowed the meditation to fade and unfurled his legs from their crossed position. "Very well. If we must do this now…then let us get it over with, Master Snowdrift." His dark eyes closed. He stood to his feet and met Snowdrift's dark brown eyes…eyes that almost mirrored his own. But Snowdrift had two decades on Jansho in terms of experience and far greater responsibility. Jansho did not envy the heavy Pandaren that.
Once they were in the hall of the dormitory wing, Snowdrift gestured down the way that would take them to the Snowdrift Dojo in short order…his Dojo. Of course. Jansho felt a smile gather about the corners of his lips. He wants his students to understand that there is much more they must learn before they can take their proper place among our warriors.
They were silent through the dormitory block. The Shado-Pan they passed made certain to bow or salute Snowdrift properly, and the Master of the Blackguard Discipline seemed as unreadable as ever. Once they were in the open air of the Monastery grounds, Snowdrift broke the silence by clearing his throat and asking, "Jansho…how is your son?"
"I have not heard from Ruun in many months." Jansho responded quietly. "I suppose that is as it must be, Master."
The silence returned for a moment as the huge warrior monk considered this. Snowdrift cast Jansho a glance. "I am curious. Why didn't he take the Trial of the Red Blossoms?" Jansho shot Snowdrift a cold stare. The Master of the Blackguard Discipline froze on the spot and turned to meet Jansho's eyes directly. Then he folded both of his heavy arms over his chest. "Well?"
"He is my only son." Jansho answered, gathering his thoughts. "I had no interest in watching him die at fourteen, Master Snowdrift."
The Blackguard Master nodded once, but said nothing for the time being. They resumed their walk, and a passing acolyte of the Shado-Pan's Omnia Discipline passed by them with a bow. The heavily built young Pandaren man cringed after catching the look in Jansho's eyes. He could not have been more than fifteen years old, in Jansho's opinion.
"You understand why our trials are deadly." Snowdrift stated, shattering yet another extremely uncomfortable moment of silence. "The prospects who make it here must prove their worthiness of standing among the ranks of the order."
Jansho sighed. "Perhaps. I take exception with eight prospects plunging to their deaths in icy waters within the first minute, Master." Snowdrift paused in his walk and nodded mutely, turning his head to Jansho once again. The Shado-Pan assassin met Snowdrift's eyes and stood closer. "Snowdrift, I barely survived the Trial of the Red Blossoms when I took it. Lord Taran Zhu barely survived his own." Again, the warrior monk bobbed his head in acknowledgement.
"I believe that I understand." Snowdrift murmured.
"Few excel at the trials because they are so difficult. Some survive. Most do not." Jansho bowed his head. "Losing my own son to such a trial would have been devastating." The weary nod that Snowdrift directed at Jansho indicated that at last, the warrior monk understood.
"What has he done since then?" Snowdrift inquired, holding one hand to his braided beard.
"His mother arranged for him to be trained at the Tian Monastery in the Jade Forest." Jansho answered as they arrived at the heavy doors to the Snowdrift Dojo. "I know that he graduated from their ranks some time ago. I haven't heard any news from him since."
Snowdrift looked up, and with both huge hands, opened the double doors to reveal the lower floor of the Snowdrift Dojo. Every single member of the Shado-Pan had to prove themselves to the Blackguard Master here. The Pandaren that watched the Serpent's Spine in the service of the Shado-Pan were tested here before they were allowed to go westwards. Healers weren't exempted. If they didn't prove themselves here, they wouldn't have a chance in the future.
The students of the Blackguard discipline were training with one another at the moment. A few were participating in two-on-one lessons that would help them deal with multiple opponents, or build chemistry as a team. Jansho chuckled as he realized Hawkmaster Nurong's lessons were much the same way for the Wu Kao. He stepped between two students who were dueling with two training swords, neither of their strikes coming close to him.
Jansho walked to a chest of training items and selected a single wooden sword. After testing the weight, he decided it would suit his purposes, and turned to catch Snowdrift's eye. The Blackguard Master had gone to the other side of the Dojo and gripped a heavy wooden staff, which had no blades. The combatants could scarcely learn from their mistakes if they killed one another…
Snowdrift locked his eyes with Jansho, caught the assassin's nod, and then directed a swift glance to Lao-Chin the Iron Belly, the heaviest of the Shado-Pan, who stood near the edge of the Dojo's training floor. The gigantic brewmaster stood easily seven feet tall, and when he clapped his great hands together, the boom echoed through the room.
The students at once ceased their activity and regarded Master Snowdrift. "STUDENTS!" The Master of the Blackguard Discipline declared. "Clear the lower ring. Jansho Ghostpaw of the Wu Kao, I challenge you to prove yourself against me." Before Jansho could answer, Snowdrift looked about, meeting the glances that the junior members of his discipline directed at him. "One day…you will have to do this yourselves."
Jansho stepped forward as the students nearest him stood away and began clearing the floor. "I shall answer this worthy challenge, Master Snowdrift." He held the wooden blade to his nose, then swept it down and to the side in a salute.
"Then let us begin!" A smile transformed Snowdrift's features, and the huge Pandaren saluted with the staff in turn. "Students, observe closely!"
They began. The students watched as the two adult Pandaren males approached one another. The staff and sword probed for the first strike. The assassin initiated cautiously, launching a single light stab which Snowdrift swatted away contemptuously. The sweeping staff strike was swift, efficient, and left him in good position. His opening attack launched out of the Fierce Ox's stance, Jansho chose a different tack, shifting his position into that of the Swaying Serpent. Snowdrift's eyes narrowed, and he fended away the two quick sword strikes directed at him. Then he chose to stop defending and launch his first attack, a heavy sweeping blow that would take Jansho's legs from underneath him…well, unless he countered.
Jansho sidestepped to the left and with a graceful push, fended away Snowdrift's blow. He had a chance, now, and capitalized; feinting first to the left, then bringing the sword back to the right. Snowdrift's stance was easy to read, he fended away the obvious attack to his right shoulder and had prepared for an identical blow at his left…only to fall into the assassin's double feint. Jansho Ghostpaw's hard strike landed the first blow of the match on Snowdrift's right shoulder. The mighty muscle absorbed the blow, but the students let out an 'oooh!' of shock. Snowdrift looked up, his implacable expression not showing any surprise.
Jansho observed as Snowdrift transitioned from his current stance into that of the Crane, and prepared himself for a rain of staff blows. But the Blackguard Master was far cannier, and Jansho only recognized at the last possible moment what Snowdrift was trying to do. He had the merest instant to protect himself from the devastating snap-kick that Snowdrift launched at his side, but he wasn't quick enough to avoid it entirely. The ferocious blow of Snowdrift's left foot landed hard against Jansho's guard hand as he pulled it into block position, and forced him to stagger away.
This was a calculated move, though, and an exaggerated motion. You respond to someone who kicks as hard as Snowdrift does by taking a Drunkard's stance, Jansho recalled, readying himself. He sidestepped a second roundhouse kick, avoiding this one entirely, then pivoted into the Swaying Serpent Stance once more. Snowdrift threw himself into a tight spin, his leg swinging once more…
Jansho balled his hand into a fist and launched it instinctively. If it worked, he would interrupt Snowdrift's Spinning Crane Kick. If he was wrong, he'd take a bit of a beating. Then his stagger would be less one of choice and more a necessity. Fortune, however, was on Jansho's side, his flying fist slammed hard against Snowdrift's left shoulder and knocked him off balance, interrupting his spin as well. Snowdrift backed away and nodded tightly, satisfied by Jansho's efforts.
The two were not finished. These were the opening blows of a duel that could go on for several minutes…and both were ready. The Wu Kao Rogue and the Blackguard Warrior Monk circled one another, preparing their next strike. This brief lull in the fight did not last as they both decided what they would do; the wooden weapons clashed again and again.
LAO-CHIN THE IRON BELLY
The massively-built brewmaster observed the duel, paying close attention to the movements and the motions of Jansho Ghostpaw in particular. Lao-Chin knew Snowdrift's style particularly well, and had proven himself when he'd faced the master of his discipline every single time for the past five years.
That was one of the reasons why he would head with a handful of other Shado-Pan to the Ox-Gate that separated Townlong from Kun-Lai later this month. The other reason was that he could not stand idly by in this Monastery much longer. Some of his fellow Blackguard called Lao-Chin soft, foolish, and slow. These were not bouncing off of him as the insults had for the longest time. He was displeased with his fellows, and given his normally laidback temperament…this spoke to how long he'd had to put up with the insults.
Jansho had calm that Lao-Chin envied. Even in the face of Master Snowdrift's powerful Spining Crane Kicks, Jansho somehow managed to find the gaps, the openings that kept him from taking the blows directly. That which he could not entirely avoid, he partially blocked.
"A master of defense is not necessarily the one who fends away every blow. They make sure that they aren't where the attack is directed." Snowdrift's advice to Lao-Chin came to mind. The Wu Kao vanished like smoke before an opponent could hit them, and then punish them severely for the slightest misstep. Yet Jansho was brawling with Snowdrift and had not disappeared once.
Snowdrift made one of those missteps, wrongfooting himself at an extremely inopportune moment. Jansho capitalized, stepping close to the staggering Blackguard Master and landing a devastating Blackout Kick against Snowdrift's chest. Jansho suddenly vanished and then reappeared at the staggering Warrior Monk's side, matching him step for step. Lao-Chin's eyes widened as Jansho wrapped both arms about Snowdrift's huge chest and belly…
And then Jansho threw the huge Blackguard Master across the dojo, much as a farmer would throw a particularly unpleasant crane out of his field. Snowdrift went flying through the air, right towards Lao-Chin. The brewmaster's eyes widened to the size of dinner plates as he realized that Snowdrift was on course to hit him, and stepped to the side just as Snowdrift spun in midair and landed with a thud in front of him.
The Blackguard Master was able to land on both feet, but he was panting hard and sweating. Not even in the many matches he'd had with Snowdrift had Lao-Chin been able to exhaust Snowdrift quite like this. The duel had taken almost fifteen minutes to resolve itself, and Lao-Chin realized with a grin that he'd gained a new respect for Jansho Ghostpaw. The rogue was clearly a magician as well as a skilled battler.
In the silence that followed Snowdrift's landing, a single raindrop could have fallen in the dojo and it would have been deafening. Master Snowdrift stood to his full height at the edge of the ring, faced Jansho, and slammed his right hand to his left palm with utmost respect. Jansho returned the gesture. "You have proven your worthiness to me, Jansho Ghostpaw of the Wu Kao." Snowdrift stated decisively, his deep voice booming through the Dojo.
"I thank you for the spirited duel, Master Snowdrift. Until the next time." The burly rogue bowed and left the Dojo.
Lao-Chin felt a grin come to his face as Snowdrift turned to face him. "What?" The warrior monk asked plainly, his expression inscrutable.
"I've never seen you sweat so, Master Snowdrift." Lao-Chin admitted, unable to keep from chuckling. "Perhaps you are mortal after all."
"Perhaps." Snowdrift admitted, clapping Lao-Chin on the shoulder. A smile came to his face as well. "He didn't vanish until before that last throw. That's far from what I'd expect from a rogue…" Snowdrift looked after Jansho as the doors closed after him. "He must truly be confident in himself. A good sign, to be certain." The Master of the Blackguard Discipline patted his huge belly and sighed. "I've never been thrown quite like that before, but I'll make certain it doesn't happen again." The smile that lifted Snowdrift's mustache hairs was a rare one, given his normally ornery disposition.
The sound of the duels resuming allowed their conversation to go by without eavesdroppers. "You think you're ready to go to Townlong, Lao-Chin?" Snowdrift asked, his face indicating his concern and the smile fading from his features. "I've heard some nasty things of late."
"I believe I am, Master." Lao-Chin replied.
"You know to be on your guard." Snowdrift sighed as they walked up the staircase to the upper level. "The yaungol are on the move."
Lao-Chin sucked in a tight breath. There was very little in Pandaria that did not reach the ears of the Shado-Pan's watching sentries. "Master Snowdrift, your lessons and training have prepared me for whatever I might hope to encounter. I will be ready."
"Good." Snowdrift stopped, removing his hand from Lao-Chin's shoulder. "For now…give my regards to Shado-Master Zhen and tell him that I would like to see him at once."
"Yes, Master." Lao-Chin bowed and went to do as he'd been ordered.
Zhen would find the news of such a duel very interesting. Of that…he had no doubt.
The Shado-Pan assassin knelt on the padded mat within his quarters and let loose a long sigh as he prepared to return to his meditation. He'd received some bruises, which ached, but he'd expected to leave that match with a few new ones. A fighter of Snowdrift's caliber simply didn't let their opponents come out of matters unscathed, after all.
"Didn't he go just a bit too far?" Jansho ignored this voice, throwing up a mental wall against it.
The voice spoke again, stronger this time. "A good fight. Pity you didn't leave more of a mark on him than you did." The presence Jansho felt had somehow disregarded his mental defenses.
The rogue's eyes opened and he broke from his meditative position. He had a strong idea as to what that presence was, and he would not dignify it with an angry reply. Though he'd heard that voice before, it was normally faint. This time was an exception. It was far stronger now…
He hefted the top half of his uniform and left his room, resolutely walking through the Shado-Pan Monastery's dormitory block. He passed by Yalia Sagewhisper, the Master of the Omnia Discipline, who meditated under a cherry tree, and nodded in passing. She returned the gesture but added, "Your mind is troubled?"
"I felt the presence of an evil spirit. I believe it to have been a Sha." Jansho admitted.
Yalia's eyes opened at once. "May I walk with you, then?" She asked. "Two minds are better than one if Sha are attempting to speak to us. And…I believe I know who you want to talk to."
"I'd be honored, Master Sagewhisper." Jansho bowed. It was not his place to refuse. And her intuition was correct…he wanted to see Taran Zhu.
Jansho led the way, Yalia to his left and somewhat behind him. He wasn't close to her, but she'd earned his respect…and he had earned hers as well. A practitioner of the light and of the arts of Mistweaving, Yalia masterfully combined both and was the most skilled healer in the Shado-Pan. By contrast, Jansho dealt out death and taught other Wu Kao in how to hide themselves and launch hidden strikes from the shadows. He'd even taught some of the Omnia who were not normally skilled in vanishing techniques.
"You've been injured?" Yalia asked as they walked.
"Mater Snowdrift asked me to prove my worthiness." Jansho answered. "I did expect at least a few bruises from our fight, Master."
"I see." Yalia's expression was hard to read, but now displayed the merest ghost of a smile. "I am certain you gave as good as you got."
"I have a lot to learn for the next time." Jansho bowed his head. "All of what I did this day can be improved on."
The two Shado-Pan approached the office of the Lord of the Shado-Pan. Taran Zhu was likely within, in meditation of his own, and the door was closed. Jansho knocked three times and waited for an answer…which soon arrived. "Enter!" Taran Zhu's deep voice declared inside the room.
Jansho pulled the door open. "Lord Zhu." He bowed at once, then looked up to meet the alert golden-yellow eyes of the Lord of the Shado-Pan.
Yalia followed suit. "My Lord."
"Jansho, Yalia." Lord Zhu greeted them simply, bowing as well. "Are matters...unsettled?"
Yalia gave a nod to Jansho, who spoke simply. "I proved my worthiness to Master Snowdrift, Lord Zhu."
"Again?" Taran murmured. "I'm certain it was a good match. I wish I'd been there to see it myself." Those golden eyes closed and the corners of his lips turned upwards in a smile. The facewrap made it difficult to make out Taran's expressions, though…
Jansho held a hand up. "My apologies, My Lord. That is not the whole story. I attempted to meditate afterwards, and I felt a malevolent presence when I did so."
"What did you feel?" Taran's eyes snapped open at once.
Jansho searched for the words…only for them to spill unbidden from his lips. "I felt the urge to violence, mixed with no small amount of anger."
Taran's eyes filled with worry. "Did you act on it?"
Jansho shook his head. "I left behind my meditation and came here to inform you. You have said many times that one should not meditate when possessed by darker impulses. This is why I am here, Lord Zhu."
"Indeed…one should not." Lord Zhu nodded. "I'm glad you came to see me. Well…what should I do? You felt this most keenly, after all."
"I felt the touch of violence from within my own quarters, Lord Zhu." Jansho said decisively once he'd collected his thoughts. "Therefore, I would suggest that the Sha of Violence be more closely watched."
"A reasonable suggestion." Taran nodded. "And that will be acted on. Yalia?" The Omnia Master stepped forward. "Task eight Omnia mages to watch the Sha of Violence more closely, and instruct them to steel their minds against it. It may be waking up…and we had better be prepared for that."
Yalia nodded…then looked about the room. "I shall do so. Lord Zhu, are you traveling somewhere?"
The evidence of this was scattered about the room; Taran Zhu had gathered his favored two-handed war sword. The mace his father and grandfather had carried remained on the wall, tacked in place. A small pack of supplies with enough food to last several days lay on the table…
Taran nodded and replied with resignation in his deep voice. "I am. Missives have arrived from the Jade Forest, indicating that outsiders of some sort or other are present in the region. They seem to be stirring malevolent spirits, to make matters worse. The letters indicate that they need someone to...handle the situation." Taran concluded, his voice taking a decidedly sour note. Whatever the situation was, it sounded most unpleasant.
Jansho did not believe it his place to ask, but he did so regardless. "Lord Zhu, do you plan on traveling alone?"
"I had planned on it." Taran Zhu answered. "Why do you ask, Jansho?"
"If you are bound for the Jade Forest, I was wondering if I could accompany you." Jansho answered this question. "The last news I had heard of my son was a good eight months ago. Someone at the Tian Monastery would know more about him. I would be quite glad to help you in the Jade Forest, for that matter."
Taran held a hand to his facewrap and nodded, meeting Jansho's dark brown eyes. "I see. You wish to make certain he follows the right path?" He was looking for any hesitation, any warning sign. Seeing none and Jansho's nod, Taran let loose a short breath. "I would be happy to have you to accompany me, Jansho Ghostpaw. Get some dinner, then prepare your riding tiger and whatever else you will need for a week's journey. It is two days to the Jade Forest from here."
Jansho bowed at once, feeling anxiety settle within his big stomach as he left the room. Tian Monastery was the last place that news of Ruun had come from…and that was more than half a year ago. Was Ruun well? Was he all right? It was Jansho's place as a father to worry. It was his right to make certain that his son's road was not one that would end in destruction.
The Lord of the Shado-Pan watched the assassin leave the room, and nodded more to himself than to anyone else. Master Sagewhisper's eyes also followed Jansho's departing figure. "His son walks a road that none can see clearly, and he desires to give him guidance, if nothing else." Taran Zhu let loose a long, ragged sigh. "I cannot refuse a request such as that." He met Yalia's eyes. "Before I head out, Yalia, I would like to meet with the Leaders of our disciplines. Ban, Cloudstrike, Snowdrift? Bring them here. Nurong and Ling are outside of the Monastery, and I am reluctant to hold a council without them…but we must discuss recent events before I leave."
Yalia nodded. "When do you plan on leaving, Lord Zhu?"
"I hope to depart by early evening." Taran answered her. "I do not know exactly when I will return."
"Should I summon them to the Grove of Falling Blossoms?" Yalia inquired helpfully. Taran nodded in confirmation, and with a respectful bow, Yalia left him in his office.
Taran Zhu sighed once more, the ragged breath escaping his lips and twisting about his office. The mists that had protected Pandaria from the eyes of the outside world were fading, with no explanation. They'd shrouded his homeland for generations, ever since the Sundering had ripped Azeroth apart some ten thousand years ago. Shaohao's sacrifice had split Pandaria from the rest of Azeroth and spared his people from the Burning Legion. Since then…civilization had stagnated. The Pandaren were not ready to wake from their slumber of ages. How much time would they need, then? Decades? Centuries? The outside world was a terrifying place…
Taran wondered for a moment what his father might have done in his position, but realized that wouldn't help him. Jet Zhu, the previous Lord of the Shado-Pan, had been a distant figure (at best) in Taran's youth. Thirty-eight years before, a mantid assault claimed many Shado-Pan lives…and a kunchong had claimed the lives of Taran's older brothers. Taran was left as the sole heir to a man hardened by more death and violence than any three of Pandaria's emperors combined.
But Jet Zhu had been a distant, unreachable man before then. The daily threat of the Sha imprisoned across Pandaria, the mogu that had enslaved the Pandaren people and refused to relinquish their claim to the land, the need to fend away the Zandalari that had aided the mogu before… All had worked together to harden Jet Zhu, even against his own wife, even his only surviving son. While Taran had seen his share of conflict over the thirty years since his father's passing, nothing compared to the horrors of Jet Zhu's campaigns against the mantid in the Dread Wastes.
He knew the history of the region well. The mantid attacked the Serpent's Spine every year without fail. This meant the Shado-Pan absolutely had to keep a constant vigil on the protective wall, and while these yearly assaults didn't amount to much, they were preparation for the more devastating attacks that came every century or so. Instead of the two hundred some that attacked in an off-year, in a century level swarm, hundreds of thousands of gigantic insects roiled from the Dread Wastes, looking to act on their ingrained racial bloodlust. Pandaren and mantid had been enemies for almost the whole of eternity.
That was just a single front of Taran Zhu's responsibilities. The yaungol, who lived in isolated regions throughout Western Pandaria, were often driven from their homes by the mantid. But instead of fighting alongside the Pandaren against a common foe, the yaungol viewed their fat, lax neighbors to the south and east as far easier pickings. This was a mistake that the Shado-Pan made certain to bloody their nose for.
Then there were the mogu. Taran's mind was often filled with concern whenever he considered the other ancient enemy. They were as ruthless as ever, striking down Pandaren civilians and enslaving their spirits. They could extract the spirits and souls of their victims and use them to power their dreaded machinery… Mogu colossi were slow, but incredibly dangerous, and if they were not opposed, they could wipe out whole settlements. Yet they were not the worst threat the Pandaren faced.
The threat that worked at Taran's mind every day was the Sha. The legends of Shaohao spoke of six: Anger, Despair, Doubt, Fear, Hatred, and Violence. While the sha could not manufacture emotion on their own and thus fuel their rise that way, they could easily take advantage of thoughts already there. Three had been imprisoned within this very monastery: Anger, Hatred, and Violence. They had been weakened by Shaohao's actions of casting them out. Taran questioned why Shaohao had done that. To found his order so close to such things could be a fatal mistake if the Sha ever escaped their confinement. And if the Sha took the Shado-Pan, then...
He stopped that thought immediately. No. The Shado-Pan had survived the incompetence of its worst leaders. It had survived his father. And it would survive Taran as well. It had endured so much, the casualties of so many of its faithful few...and it still remained strong.
Taran Zhu prepared the last few things he would need for his trip to the Jade Forest and left his office. As he made his way to the Grove of Falling Blossoms, he realized that what the future held in store for his people might be very dark indeed. He'd better be ready for it.