(Ed. Note: This is taken from an RP log, and as such is a little more rough than a usual journal entry. Probably see a lot of those with the Shon storyline, so there! FOrgive us, we thought it was too good not to share. 🙂 )

(Some (short) time ago:)

The temple is certainly not the well-guarded impenetrable fortress one might imagine. It certainly has ‘remote’ and ‘inaccessible’ going for it, hanging as it does on the side of a rugged, stony rock face at an altitude where the concept of spring only occasionally makes an appearance – and then generally only to laugh a little at how silly it is to live where the snow never melts and run away before flowers bloom.

From a distance, the wall surrounding the old building is impressive – fully twelve feet high, and of a sort of mismatched stone that ranges from white to deep grey. Crenellations on the top hint at the idea of battlements; the temple itself rises another good three stories above, and has several, lower outbuildings, all with red-rock roofs in the strange, sloping Pandaran style. Getting closer, though, reveals… a few illusions. The multicolored rock is simple mountain granite, once whitewashed and now peeling – likely due to the depredations of mountain wind and driving ice. The path is treacherous, yes – but the temple doors stand open and unguarded.

The Gilnean captain, ever on the hunt for treasure, had taken his time on this one – he had watched from afar, and spied the open entryway to the temple complex. Was it unguarded, truly? Was it empty? What of the monks and guardians who must surely live inside? There was only one answer, and only one path: Right through the front door. Closer and closer he moved, ascending that single path towards the temple… yet before he drew closer, the dark-haired Captain paused and crouched beside the wall. From around his neck, he drew forth a singular lens – a monocle, fitted to him, passed down from father to son, and enchanted by elven hands… and he leant in further. Where once his vision had been the keen eyes of a man, now it had been enhanced by that fine piece of work. Peering inside the temple, looking for any signs of what he sought… and its guardians.

The courtyard isn’t crowded; an elder monk leads six younger Pandaren in the graceful motions of martial exercises; it is obviously a new lesson, as he moves slowly, and the younger ones follow him uncertainly. Two giant stone Qi-lin stand sentinel just inside the gates; magic is close around them, but it slumbers… the stone does not move. The temple doors beyond are open; a female Pandaren in a robe works with a broom, industriously cleaning incredibly worn flagstones, in the way of easy access to the door.

Even the barest glance through that enchanted lens told the captain much. It was old… very old, older than it had any right to be. What had once been beautiful and glorious now languished in a state of decay, like the body of an old monk that bore the signs of battle, but had long since given up the fight. Had this place, too, given up? Or was it merely waiting for the moment it was needed, when dust could be brushed away from the wood, when a clean wash could rub away the decay on the walls? A curious thought, to Victor – how it seemed as if it waited only the loving touch and attention of the other Pandaren. Ah, and speaking of such things, his attention fell upon the seven training monks – no doubt future caretakers of the temple, future watchers of decay.

Still, there might be something more impressive within – those watching quilen speaking of ancient power. A mogu temple, perhaps? Or some relic from their empire that the Pandaren squirreled away? Who could tell. What he -did- know, however, was that the woman sweeping the door was a problem… though was she caretaker, or assassin? Only one way to find out – for she might well have the keys to the door, or a hidden weapon. Two fingers tapped the side of his monocle… and that magic-detecting view switched to one to seek any hidden weapons or other particularly stabby surprises that might soon find themselves jammed in his throat.

She was… young! Surprising, given the bundled robes; a slight limp marred her movements, but she otherwise seemed quite fit enough.

More telling, however, was the belt of pouches tucked under the outermost robes, and the long blade sheathed at her back, hidden beneath her outer garments. She most certainly was not unarmed, and she… sang as she worked.

It was haunting, that melody – in Pandaran, the words were impossible to know. But her voice was clear as birdsong, if quiet, and terribly happy.

The monk outside snapped something in the same soft language.. and the younger ones set off at a sprint around the courtyard. Laps. Ugh. He spoke to the female in Common, voice gentle and rich and deep, “You will wear a groove in the floor, Petal. It does not /need/ sweeping.”

“Hmph. It does not /hurt/, and I have nothing better to do until the sun is high. You, however, need a bath, Uncle.”

Armed? Curious indeed – and one that spoke of the hidden nature of the monastery. What, on the surface, appears innocent or ill-used might well bear beneath it steel and fire.

Just as quickly as he had shifted to it, the cursed fellow tapped the lens back to its ‘default’ setting. He had what tools were available – the stage set for his grand pilfering. Hm. Perhaps he would raid the laundry as well, before he departed – a treasure of Pandaria as any that lay inside the temple. That song… that -song-, however, gave Victor pause. It was… joyous, in a way that only singing could be – like a bird in the beauty of summer, a lilting and haunting tune that was sung by far-too-cheery lips.

That feeling in his gut – guilt? To deprive these people of the treasures they had so long guarded, to take the last glittering things from this ancient place. No, he would not leave them empty-handed, nor without a tale to tell. He would not be the one to put this monastery in its death-throes, no matter how beautiful the treasure.

With a burst of speed, Victor rushed from his observation place in the wall, moving beside the ‘resting’ quilen – watching the two Pandaren speak. This was his opportunity, a chance distraction, as he fumbled about his belt… and pulled out a round object with a wick on the end. A smoke bomb would do it, enough to cause a startle but not to incite fear – and as he tugged the fuse, he tossed it as far as he could away from the door. May the gods ensure it was far enough…

…. it bounced and tumbled to a halt amidst the broken flagstones. It sputters for a moment… then.. FWHUMP Smoke billows from that corner – and the two at the door, alarmed, start that way. The female Pandaran’s eyes… spark? That sudden blue-violet glow -stinks- of the arcane, and illuminates doubly in that monocle. “Hurry, Petal – get the buckets!” The monk heads off at a run; the female Pandaran isn’t as quick, limping as she does, but she nonetheless splits away, heading for the well at the far end of the courtyard.

Beyond them, the open temple door reveals an interior in shades of crimson and gold, with ancient banners made of plaited ribbons fluttering in the wind coming from the mountain. The smell of incense and … dumplings lies heavy on the air.

That’ll do it. The instant the two monks ran away – curious, was that one a magus? – Victor had rushed for the door, slipping inside as he spied that ornate interior. Incense… dumplings… this is something that he must find. There had to be some living area, some place where they kept their treasures and their belongings – and, if he knew Pandaren, where they kept their kegs. All he must do is find it – to explore and learn, as he began making his way through that interior, running his hand along one of the ancient banners. Perhaps behind one of these?

No such luck – that is stone, weathered and old. The main entryway of the temple has… a robe. A gorgeous, silken robe, hung, somehow suspended, between the two great columns, with incense in offering bowls at its hem. Great scrolls likely telling its story stand on either side, with ancient calligraphy – that paper has to be older than the temple itself. The room beyond is a great library, absolutely filled with scrolls. Twenty feet up on each wall, with reading benches in the center of the room… and a mirror and padded circle in the floor… most definitely nonstandard Pandaran architecture.

The robe had caught the plunderer’s attention, both by its gorgeous detail and by the reverence afforded it. Scrolls, written in a language that even he would only barely be able to parse – his Pandaren rusty and child-like at the best of times, and absolute word-spaghetti at the worst. Still, the library… the -library- was where he truly drew his attention, stepping inside and breathing in the scent of aged scrolls. Old paper and ink, the skin and lifeblood of history… And that glittering mirror and circle. -That- was the key, he knew it – for why have a mirror on the floor? Yet… he nevertheless looked to it. Trying to see what it was reflecting upon the ceiling…

Nothing. Literally… nothing. The mirror did not reflect the ceiling, but, rather… some other place. Like a swath of starry night sky, embedded in the floor, with the padding forming a seat all around its edge, nearly six feet across.

Outside, the commotion of the smoke bomb begins to die away, the sounds of loud conversation in a mix of Pandaran and Common audible as far as the library itself.

Well. -That- was new. Those strong hands gently danced along the mirror, tracing out the patterns in the sky of any constellations he might find… but… perhaps he was overthinking things. Perhaps, in a way, when faced with elaborate puzzles and riddles… the simplest path was the most effective. Or at least, one worth trying before resorting to more desperate measures. Even as he turned his head to listen, he squatted down and slid his fingers on the padding… and began to try and -lift-, curious if the mirror might be slid upwards from its resting place.

Oh, no. Touching it precludes lifting… because ripples fan out from the contact. It is… water. A pool, cunningly designed, with bits of gem and crystal embedded in the sides of the black stone cistern containing it; the ripples break the illusion instantly, and the lights within dance crazily as tiny waves bounce and flutter across the surface. A quick poke with a finger reveals surprising depth – at least more than a hand’s length.

Well, well. Water? His element – his home. The thing he had dedicated his life to, that he would live and die upon… … let us hope that day is not this day. For, in defiance of all sense and sensibility… Victor draws in a deep breath… and -lunges- his upper half through, both hands reaching out as he dips his head below into the water.

… it is deeper than /that/, at least.

It’s hard to say /how/ deep; the lunging in turn creates splashing; the worn padding around the edge is soaked rather quickly. At least an arm’s length and fingertips do not brush floor… only sides.

… then he must make the plunge. Pulling back for another deep breath, Victor rises to his feet… and draws in a deep, calming breath. Another exhale, another intake… and he steps forward, to fall into the starry abyss.

It is like.. plunging into the sky; the shock of something wet, but blood warm, and then falling… it takes no effort to descend, for some reason. It is not quite floating, not quite sinking; something else entirely. In the distance, a ‘sun’ swims into focus, a bright moon-like star that somehow reveals a tunnel to the side in the starry darkness, a path forward there. Looking up is a circle of light leading into the library… rippling and twisting and waving, unsettled by the passage.

For a brief few seconds, Victor had to fight to keep his jaw from dropping. It was a sea of stars, warm and wet and welcoming in an infinite expanse of beauty. Was this how the watchers traveled beyond the depths of the monastery? To see such beauty every day? It was almost unthinkable… and indeed, there was that gentle pang of envy. Perhaps he could stay here, rather than pilfering it – a home, away from home. … but he had already come too far. He had entered as a thief, rather than a friend, though he aimed to depart as more than simply a cruel plunderer. These humble people had done nothing to him, and in return, he would do no harm to them. A flare of his nose – or, rather, a soft exhalation of bubbles – caused his purpose to be set… as he aimed to move quickly towards the starry tunnel, curious what lies beyond.

Swimming forward almost immediately cuts off the light from above – it is disorienting at best, the starry tunnel; were it not for the brighter moon-stone, bearings would be near impossible to maintain. The swim isn’t long, but it is long enough – lungs would likely be close to bursting as the tunnel turns up. Surfacing is, in itself, an unusual experience – the water is so close to body temperature that breaking its surface likely comes as a shock, especially as the space beyond is still just as black, with the pinpoints of light barely illuminating the space. It is easy enough to pull oneself out of the water, and the ceiling is high – plenty of room to stand, here. Barely visible in the dim is a small dais, on which rests a box, perhaps a foot on a side. Details are difficult to see, but .. it seems.. ornate? There is the faint glimmer of gold in its fittings and filigree.

Emerging from that starry water into the inky blackness, that feeling of being alive… but also deprived of all sense. Why, even the warmth of the water deprived him of a certain sensation of cold or chill. Yet… where had he found himself? No the priestly dormitories, nor the storage room. Had this, truly, been the temple’s treasure? A box… glittering. Shining, even. He must see more… he -will- see more, as he began patting down his thoroughly soaked form. The bombs would, no doubt, be soaked through… but a glow-crystal, that should still function. But which pouch, which had he kept it in… ah. And there it was.

Familiar to the thief’s touch, he pulled it from its pouch and held it aloft, shaking it slightly to activate its iridescent glow, and gain a more firm footing of his bearings.

The light illuminates… and the box is beautiful, if old and weathered. A small chest, it is made of rosewood and bound in what is likely brass, with the filigreed image of a robe on its surface.

The light, though, reveals something more – ropes of metal, likely gold, embedded in the walls catch the light and reflect it, glittering. Five feet high, a Pandaran pictogram illuminates, but it is likely unfamiliar, connecting points of the stars in a wholly new constellation, just here, in this space. The water ripples, and a wave breaks near the pirate’s boots.

The arched chamber here is… surprisingly large. The pool opens to one side of the space; the floor describes a circle nearly fifteen feet across.

That pictogram – what could it be? If he hadn’t had to travel through water and star to get here, he would’ve jotted it down… but… that box. That box is the prize – hidden away in a secret vault, the only thing truly kept secret within this ancient monastery. It is what it was designed to protect – perhaps belonging to the fellow or lass whose robe hung in the main temple? Such elaborateness would match the gold in the wall, and the crest on the surface matched it. It was his prize… and as he saw the wave break and the water ripple, Victor suddenly felt fear. Was someone coming to check on it? He had to move quickly – tossing the light-crystal into the water… and moving to take that tiny chest under his arm, as he moved to stand -behind- where one would naturally emerge from the pool.

… it is the female that eventually does, struggling out of the water with a remarkable lack of grace (clumsy as she gathers her legs under her), and wearing little beyond a sort of smock that was likely under the overrobe she had been wearing. That blade is still at her back, however. Breathless, she mutters.. “Nononono..” Common. Odd.

… Odd indeed, as Victor quickly eased forward – as quietly as he could, and under the sound of her panting and muttering… and moved to try and slip that blade from her back – like picking a pocket, but far more pointy and sharp. From what his gaze could see, she at least didn’t have another blade to her.

She reaches for that one in the dark, as she limps to her feet; when her paw closes on air, she whirls, quickly, going into a fighting stance that favors what seems to be a bandaged leg, fur dripping. It is impossible to say how much she sees, but bare metal stands out even in the dim light, and she swallows, staring at it.

Now armed, and holding the chest, Victor spoke – his voice calm, almost easy-going, as he cleared his throat. “Now, lass… there’s no need for blades, nor violence. Just a lad on me merry way, and I’ll leave you and your lovely lot to their vigil. … Still – your leg. Will you be able to leave this place? Or shall I warn the lad above?”

“You can’t leave. Not with that.” To her credit – those paws stay solid, and she lifts her chin. “It does not belong to you. Even if you kill me, Uncle or my Sister will stop you.”

That’s still a somewhat terrified panda – Worgen senses rarely lie. Not about fear, at any rate.

“… Lass. You misunderstand me. I’m not going to kill you.” At that, he held up the blade to show her… and then dropped it into the water, pulling up to his full height… and stepping into the light of the pool, the smaller human form replaced by the grey-furred beast that was Victor Blackwald. “Tell me. Why’re you guarding this, hm? Why the robe?”

Fluidly, the Pandaran slides a step back, eyes wide, nostrils flaring. Yup. A paw shakes – fear. It isn’t, after all, every day something like /that/ comes out of the shadows, and, truthfully, this remote corner of Pandaria doesn’t seem the place to have gotten many visitors even after recent events. Flame sputters into existence around the female’s paws – but it is thin, guttering, barely alight. “It is a weapon.” Her voice remains clear. “It is meant to fight a great evil – and that is why you are here. You… you are Yaoguai. ” She shudders. “Put it down. Go away. I will destroy you if I must.”

Fear? Some part of Victor tugged at him – that lupine core that saw weakness, that saw fear, that saw -prey-. A faint crack of his neck, his bones popping in the silence of the depths, as his nostrils flared and huffed. No. He would not hurt this one. She had not harmed him – and he was the one stealing from her. With a soft rumble, the wolf parted his maw, displaying that row of fangs… Before he then sighed, speaking softly. “Mm. If it is a weapon… then it will be put to better use in these hands, lass. What’s your name, Pandaren? I would know the name of the lass I steal from, the clan whose treasure I take.” There was a pause, then a beat. “… and where in fel’s name do you -live- up here? Didn’t see any houses.”

“I am Nightpetal, of the Seekers of Shon.” The flame solidifies… and intensifies… going from faint orange to burning red; the faint smell of arcane magic comes from that fire. “And I live above the library.”

… well, she answered the question. The bolt of fire that follows it roars as she pushes it forward with a palm. It isn’t Nereia’s class of fireworks, but it’s definitely. Er. Warm.

She had answered his question… and as the bolt of fire came towards him, Victor used the only thing that might protect him – he held the chest out in front of him, aiming to use what he presumed was a warded and guarded chest as his own personal shield, growling softly as he hunkered down low. “… naughty of you, then, Petal. Grh… then I offer you this. You seek revenge? Then come take it, from old Captain Blackwald!” Ah, and with that, the wolf -lunged- forward, all fangs and claws and fury… … right into the pool. Damn bastard was running away!

…. warded and guarded? Well. Mostly. It /does/ deflect the majority of the fireball… /up/., where it explodes against the ceiling in a pretty shower of shattered crystals. With a startled yelp, the Pandaran chases – but she isn’t as fast as the Worgen… Not with that wounded leg. The swim back is as long as it was the first time through, but this time, the exit is far more visible, rippling light revealing the library.

Sitting, crosslegged, in the middle of the library’s floor is… “Uncle”. Who is… sipping tea. Blissfully.

Ah, and from the pool… bursts a bedraggled, wet, chest-holding wolf. Emerging from a still pool of stars, as he growled, falling on all fours and panting for breath – having burst through the water, and still getting his bearings through that disorienting traverse. Yet… he huffs, and puffs, glancing to the tea-sipping Uncle… and he lifts a clawed hand, grunting softly. “Grh… morning, mate.”

“Good morning.” Sip. The Pandaran holds up a scroll. “You are forgetting something.” He offers – “Tea?”

Looking to the scroll, and the teacup, Victor paused… then reached out to collect the scroll. “Er… thank you, lad. Think you’d best save the tea for Petal, she’s in a right state.” A huff of his nostrils, as he began to push himself up… and crack his neck slightly, moving to collect the chest. “… care to, just say I ran off out the front, aye? Going to lie low upstairs. Rooftop’s more my style – makes for a better tale.”

“That is probably not wise.” Sip. “Petal has her tantrums.” He tilts his head. “Yaoguai – were I you? I would run.” It’s said in good humor, but it is obviously intended as advice. Especially when that pool positively /explodes/, and a steaming, angry, limping.. /crying/.. pandaran lands on the cushions.

“PETAL!” Uncle’s voice is like a whipcrack. “NOT in the LIBRARY.”

“… right, probably for the best.” At that, Victor doffs a non-existent hat, and scoops the chest up, clearing his throat. “Victor. Nice to meet you, mate – owe you a pint.” Ah, and with that, he looked to the steaming, angry Pandaren that is -very- likely to set his everything on fire. With a snarl, the wolf settled on all fours, chest tucked under one arm, as he began to -run- as fast as he could out the temple.

“Uncle! He’s getting /awaaay!/” She might be younger than Victor expected – but the Pandaran mage still limps after him, as fast as she can. It’s not fast enough, not to catch a Worgen in full run-mode.

“Get back here, wolf-thing! That is /not yours/! Put it /down!/”

One can almost /feel/ her will reaching for the Qui-lin. As Victor nears them, one can almost feel /their/ amusement.

The one on the right raises a massive, stone paw.

Oh -Light- above. The instant the quilen on the right raised his paw, Victor -barreled- for the left one… and actually aimed to climb on top of it, hoping to -leap- from it over the high wall of the temple. All the while, he’s muttering out growled – “Sorry mate, sorry, sorry, sorry” with each motion, as he called back to Petal. “If ye want the chest, you’ll have to find me, lass! Best hope the seas are kind!”

Cursing and fireballs follow. The latter aren’t very accurate; as Victor makes the top of the wall, she tries one last time, staggering on that wounded leg, “Please… don’t! You don’t know what it is you are doing!”

Yup. Crying- another panda, a female of nearly identical coloration, comes barreling up from some space behind the temple. “Petal!” Oh dear. Twins.

… oh -no-. Yet even now, Victor had a flair for theatrics – and with two Pandaren guardians before him, he sweeps into a low bow from atop the wall – a parting farewell, and a salute to their attempt. “I know right well, you two – do not worry! It shall be kept safe. For every Shaohao needs their Monkey King… but I, at least, do not speak in rhyme! Your treasures shall be tended to, their destiny fulfilled… by me, Captain Blackwald. I had hoped to accomplish it with subtlety…”

“… but now I end with -flair-. Farewell, fair Pandaren maidens – we shall meet again, in better times.”

Author Aunne
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