Previously: The Tree in the Arboretum
...'mogu' returned same time we arrive. Coincidence? Ruled Pandaria thousands of years ago. Dark magic – fel influences? Contemporaries of troll empires? Potential threat? Further study needed.
Hadakha looked up from his letter as the strange birdcall rang out through the cool night air. The bright moonlight made it easy to read the secret marks he'd carefully written on the fine paper that Jiang had found for him. He gazed out from the tiny terrace over the temple walls into the forest beyond. It looked so peaceful, so serene. Well, apart from all the cloud serpents, he thought with a wry grimace. He'd seen more and more of them in the skies over the last couple of days as they'd approached this place. Probably not surprising, given all the jade cloud serpent statues throughout the temple grounds.
Land has energy. Not natural, not elemental, feels different. Almost living. Dark energy beings possessed troops, triggered through violence? Connected to mogu?
He became aware of eyes upon him. Instinct screamed at him to shift, but he swiftly suppressed the urge. It was too late now, the intruder had already seen him. Without lifting his head, he flicked his gaze around the terrace. There, off to the right, a small figure. The child from earlier today, the one who had them chasing after cloud serpent hatchlings. Definitely a salvagable situation.
"You move silently, child." he said in Taurahe, still not looking up from his letter. No reaction. Brave, too. Ah well, as long as it didn't make a fuss he may as well finish his letter. He was almost done, anyway.
Lost contact with Akabeko Runetotem, primary mission on hold until contact re-established. Proceeding to Tian Monastery to begin search.
"Can I see?" He raised his head at the thin, piping voice and looked hard at the cub. Ah, it couldn't do any harm, and it might be useful to have a friend inside the temple. He slowly nodded, beckoning the cub over. Solemnly it walked to his side, standing at his shoulder as he held the paper to catch the moonlight. He expected questions, but when he glanced at it, the cub was staring fixedly at the writing, giving every pretense of reading the strange script. He smothered a chuckle.
"Are you writing to your family?"
"No. I....I don't have any family. Not anymore. This is for my....." he racked his brain for the word. "Master? Yes, I think master is the word."
"Are you a monk?"
"No. I am a druid." he said the last word in Taurahe. "I don't know the word in Pandaren. I don't think there are any druids in this land."
"Would you like to see a trick?" The cub smiled and nodded vigorously. "Alright, stand over there." As it backed away, Hadakha rolled the paper and sealed it with wax. Then, he started a long, low, complicated chant, adding specific gestures at the appropriate times. When he was finished, a ghostly stormcrow glided down to the terrace, alighting on Hadakha's broad shoulder. He whispered to it, then held the rolled letter up. With a screech, the spectral bird took flight, snatching the letter out of his hand as it flew into the night. The spell would carry his letter to Moonglade, and deliver it to the Archdruid he reported to. Unlike a real bird, it didn't tire, didn't need to stop for food or rest, wasn't affected by weather or predators, and didn't get lost. Only agents such as himself were taught that particular spell, as their reports were vital to Cenarion Circle operations.
The cub grinned and clapped delightedly. "Do another trick!" Hadakha thought about it. Then, beckoning the cub to his side once more, he assumed a very serious demeanour. "Only druids know the secret of this Mark. It will let you feel, for a short time, the power of nature, of the wild things. Are you ready?" The cub nodded. He traced a sigil on its arm, murmuring the spell. As he finished, the image of a pawprint glowed briefly where he had drawn, and the far-off shriek of a hawk, the roar of a lion, and the growl of a bear all echoed in his mind. He knew it had sounded in the cub's mind, too, from the way its eyes went round with wonder. He gathered his things and stood.
"That is enough for one night. Perhaps we will meet again."
"Good night!" The cub nodded and trotted off.
The next morning, he was back in lionform, padding alongside Jiang and Jessha as they paid their respects to the temple masters before resuming their journey. He spotted the cub again, standing off to the side as his companions received the monks' blessings. It was staring at him thoughtfully, and he suddenly felt the urge to leave this place, to be out in the wilderness once more. As they walked off towards the temple gate, a voice sounded in his mind.
"You are an enigma, Hadakha. Your life is full of danger and violence. Yet, I sense that you may bring peace to this land. Can you be trusted? Will this 'Cenarion Circle', that you hold so dear, be able to save Pandaria from the oncoming storm? Return here when you have met my brethren."
He looked back, but the monks were disappearing into the temple halls. The cub was gone.
Next: The Heart of the Forest