The pandaren woman poured a cup of tea as Victor returned to the home dodging through fields of oversized vegetation. He inclined his head to the pandaren with a faint smile, “Ahoy, lass. Mei, is it?”


“Yes, I’m Mei,” she offered him the cup,”Are you Mister Blackwald? Lei said you would be stopping by.”


“Captain – though the title’s a wee bit hollow these days.” He reached out for the cup of tea and wrapped his hands around it, lifting it to breathe in the exotic aromas,”A pleasure, aye? Any kin of Lei is a friend to me.”


Mei smiled,”It’s good to finally be able to put a face to all of the stories,” she poured a cup for herself but seemed to keep a watchful eye on her sister,”She talks about you and her other friends often.”


“Does she now? Hopefully it’s charitable, though given Lei Pan…I’m sure she made us sound like we were ten feet tall and punched boulders to wake up in the more, aye?” he chuckled and then took a sip of the tea. For the briefest moment, he mulled over the flavors, his remaining eye closed in contemplation,”Good to see too that she has some family of her own.”


“I’m her only blood family left, but I think she sees you Templars as family as well.”


“Ah, I…I didn’t rightly know. My apologies. But aye, she’s right. We Templars are a family as well. Oh sure, we may not share blood – fel, or even species, but family is what you make of it.”


“I believe that too,” she took a sip of the tea and gave a knowing smirk,”Lei never mentioned me, did she?”


An awkward smile flitted across Victor’s features,”Not as such, no. Honestly I wasn’t even sure Lei Pan was her actual name. But….well, suppose it’s time I hear it from the horse’s mouth, aye?”


Mei broke into a fit of laughter – obviously familiar with her sister’s version of the truth,”Lei Pan is her real name, though with the stories she tells I can see why you would have your doubts.” her expression changed to a more somber one,”She likes to imagine a better story for herself. It helps her cope.”


The Captain’s dark brow rose, his eye locking on to Mei. ‘Cope’ was not the best word in the world to describe anything positive,”With what, if you don’t mind my asking, lass? If it’s not too painful to speak of.”


“It’s alright. It’s easier for me to talk about than it is for her. We originally come from the Wandering Isle. When we met your Alliance we traveled to Stormwind and stayed there for a time. Lei visited the library almost daily to learn as much as she could about the world outside our island. I think that may be where she gets some of her stories. When the Alliance began moving more of its people to Pandaria, we came along to see the land of our ancestors. I fell in love with the Valley and wanted to settle down here but Lei had a heart for adventure and exploration. She wanted to protect our new home from the Horde and the Sha. That led her to the Vale that day…” she sighed and cast a look of pity at her sister who continued working.


Victor had been marveling at how improbably the journey would be. The descendants of ancient wanderers born on the back of an island-sized turtle, raised in isolation from a world that knew nothing of them, and not only thrust forward into that grander world but given an opportunity to return to an ancient homeland. The mention of the vale snapped him out of his cloud-rimmed musing down to a very dark, rolling, shadowy place. The Vale – a place of phenomenal beauty reduced to a wasteland of almost divine tragedy,” And this is why she worries? Because she has seen the very worst? Seen her dreams shatter, aye?”


Mei shook her head sadly,”I can only guess. I don’t know what she saw that day, but she was found kneeling in sha-touched ground in a state of shock. There were dead and dying all around. I think she had tried to save others but became overwhelmed by the horror. She was like that for weeks after. The only time she spoke was to ramble about hearing people cry. She was distant, quiet, and like a ghost wandering through the land of the living. Somewhat like she is today. Then one morning she changed. Oh she was always confident, impulsive, and eager to prove herself in battle before, but one morning I woke up to find her training again and boasting about past accomplishments she couldn’t possibly have done,” she smiled a little,”It was strange, and a little trying at times, but her spirit was back, and that meant a lot to me. She wanted to go out and have another adventure, and I couldn’t have stopped her even if I tried.”


Another small pause from the Captain as his gaze settled on Mei with no small amount of confusion, then a slow realization,”She uses the tales to hide herself from what happened. To try and make up the past rather than acknowledge what happened. Or something of that sort, aye? If telling tall tales is the price for her to be happy…well when I guess I am ten feet tall and eat boulders for breakfast.”


Mei giggled a bit,”If only it were so easy for all of us. Every now and then she comes back here. Maybe to find whatever helped her recover from the tragedy in the Vale again. She spends some time working the fields and then returns to her life of adventure,” she looked the worgen over,”Is that why you’re here, Captain? Are you trying to find your spirit again?”


When the pandaren has shone a light on him, Victor froze. He had stared down a hundred fights, faced more cannon fire than any man had a right to, but that question pierced more than any shrapnel,”Aye. In a way – or at least…at least a way to live with it. I’ve lost so much lately. My dignity, my pride…my beloved.”


“I hope you can either find them again or find peace. Maybe you can try telling the tall tales of Captain Blackwald – slayer of demons, bane of the Lich King, terror of the orcs.”


Victor gave a bitter chuckle at that,”Beats the fel out of Captain Blackwald, kind of bad ideas, dying alone and unremembered, eh?” he sat in contemplation for a few moments then nodded,”I think I know what I need to do, Mei. You mind if…if I stay here a day or two longer?”


“Of course. You are welcome to stay as long as you like. And if you’re looking for work while you’re here, there’s a virmen den nearby that needs clearing out. Lei might even give you a hand.”


He nodded and finished his tea,”I’ll get to it then.”


Across the way, Lei Pan was watering a small pink flower she had planted in the tiny garden. She sat there staring at it until her sister called her name.


“Lei, when you finish that how about you take Captain Blackwald to clean up that virmen den that’s been causing us problems?”


The monk waved her hand dismissively over her shoulder as Mei and Blackwald approached,”Mm, no. Work to do. I’ll stay here.” she muttered even though her work was finished for the moment.


Mei huffed and sighed. She looked back and forth between the Captain and her sister as an idea formed in her head,”Yeah, you should sit this one out,” she smirked,”I’m not sure you could handle that many deadly, ravenous rodents. I don’t even think Captain Blackwald stands a chance of survival.” she amped up the drama in her words,”Oh woe is me, my farm will be forever plagued by virmen and there isn’t anything anyone could possibly do about it.”


The corners of Lei’s mouth slowly rose as her spirit did. She set her gardening tools aside, stood up, dusted herself off and turned around to the other two with a determined grin on her face,”Bitch please, I’m a panda.”


Mei smiled with satisfaction as her sister ran past her to the house to get her uniform,”Sometimes she needs a little push.”

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