Part 14: Cum mortuis in lingua morta

Thunderpetal was sitting in front of his tent, with a wooden board on his lap. He’d used a ball of putty to keep the inkwell from falling off, and he was writing a report for Aysa Cloudsinger. As he looked up, he saw Lei-huen step out of the boat, wave, and walk towards him. She dropped her bag on the ground, opened it and took out a few bottles.

“One Thunderbrew Old Peculier, one Barleybrew Special Reserve, one Star Spangled Chicken don’t ask me why they call it that, one Hopping Goblin ditto, and four Darnassian style pale ales, because I like that as well.” Raven undid the metal wire at the top, pulled out the cork and handed one bottle to Thunderpetal. She held out her own bottle, and touched Thunderpetal’s. “A Dwarven toast,” she said. “May the best ye’ll ever see be the worst ye’ll ever see, may the wee mouse ne’er leave yer grain store wi’ a tear in its eyes, and may all the bloody tourists bugger off and leave us in peace.”

“Long life, and good health,” said Thunderpetal. He tasted the ale. “This is brewed by the Kel-do-lei?”

“Naah. I think they hired an Elf to look down his nose at it. I just like the stuff. What can I say? I’m cheap and cheerful. The other bottles are the nice stuff.”

Thunderpetal looked at Raven. She was sitting on the ground, legs stretched out, face turned up to the sun.

“How does your journey go, to Ironforge?”

Raven slowly drank from her bottle. “Didn’t find Baltar. Killed a lot of people. Got nowhere in the end.” She looked out over the water. “I just wanted them to leave me in peace, you know. Didn’t need to kill the lot of them.” Raven drank the last of her ale, dropped the bottle on the ground and sat up with her arms round her knees. “Maybe he’ll be spooked enough to stay the hell away from me. Maybe not.” She shook herself. “What are you writing?”

“Teacher Cloudsinger asks me to write down the story of how I come to Stormwind.”

“That’ll take a bit. You’re a long way from home. Do you have any family back in Pandaria?”

“My father,” said Thunderpetal. “He writes to me last week. All is well on the farm. A traveling Grummle brings him news of the coming of the Olu-ku and Chiu-man to the Jade Forest. They make a lot of noise.”

“Grummle?”

“A very small people, no taller than the No-mu. They carry very large backpacks, and are considered very lucky.”

“As in don’t play dice against them, or as in keep a dried one for luck?”

Thunderpetal laughed. “You are not a nice woman, Lei-huen.”

“Tell me something I don’t know,” said Raven. “So how did you come to stormwind? By balloon?”

“On foot, by kite, by giant turtle and by balloon,” said Thunderpetal. He handed Raven another bottle. “I will tell you.”


Thunderpetal sat in one of the gardens round the Jade temple, in front of a small shrine. He’d lit a few sticks of incense. The smell of sandalwood drifted on the breeze. His eyes were closed. Inside his mind, all was quiet, all was still. He thought of fighting. Of beating some hapless creature to death. Cracking of bones. Gasps of pain. Blood. Nothing stirred. The angry spirit that dwelt within him was not so easy to lure out into the daylight. Thunderpetal knew it was there, hidden, biding its time. Thunderpetal sighed and opened his eyes. His training in the Way of the Brewmaster was not going well. Word had got out that he was cursed, and woe to the miserable Panda cub who stirred up his anger. In his group, there was an odd number of monks, or rather, there was an even number of monks and there was him. Liu Flameheart had stopped sparring with her students. She had never been afraid that she might hurt them, always completely confident in her ability to hit exactly as hard as she needed. Thunderpetal thought he’d seen her once, late at night, practicing her moves. She didn’t look happy at all. As the flowerpetals fell from the orange trees, he was struck by the thought that it was time to leave. But where to? He was no closer to controlling the anger within him than he had been on leaving home. There was the soft sound of footsteps, and the rustle of pale blue robes. Thunderpetal looked round to see Lorewalker Stonestep standing next to him, looking at the shrine. Thunderpetal bowed.

“Lorewalker.”

“Good evening, young Thunderpetal,” said the Lorewalker. “Are you well?”

“Very well, Lorewalker.”

Lorewalker Stonestep nodded, breathed in the smell of the incense, and said nothing. In the orange trees, the birds were singing. Small insects buzzed. A cool breeze stirred the leaves.

“I am afraid, Lorewalker,” said Thunderpetal. “Afraid of that which is inside my Self.”

“You have meditated long on this. Have you not seen this anger in all its aspects?”

“It hides from me,” Thunderpetal said. “Almost like a creature with a will of its own. Though it is my anger, I have no control over it. This worries me.”

“You are right to be worried. I do not know the proper kung fu to use against the Sha of Anger within. It is a subtle and difficult lore, and in all my life, I know only Master Shang Xi to have mastered it.”

Thunderpetal looked at Lorewalker Stonestep’s face. “Then I must seek him out, and gain the knowledge. I do not wish to become a savage and perhaps hurt my friends.”

“He has gone on a long journey, beyond the Mists,” said Lorewalker Stonestep. “He said goodbye to the woman he loved, and set off to find the lands of his ancestors.”

Thunderpetal bowed his head. “I am sorry to hear that. May his spirit be at peace.”

Lorewalker Stonestep blinked. “I do not mean that he died. He was born on the shell of Shen-zin Su. He went to find the Turtle in its wanderings. Whether he found it, we do not know.”

“Has the Master left us any writings, Lorewalker?”

Lorewalker Stonestep shook his head. “Master Shang Xi said that even though he had penetrated the nature of the thing, he still lacked the wisdom to put it into words. He then put the matter to one side and went to do something else.”

Thunderpetal’s eyes turned to the sun, squinting against the late afternoon light. “It is now clear what I must do. I must follow in the footsteps of Master Shang Xi, and beyond. If only I could speak with him.”

“That is not possible,” said Lorewalker Stonestep. “He has left Pandaria, and we cannot find him. Unless… but no. It would be madness.”

Thunderpetal looked at Lorewalker Stonestep. “What are you thinking of, Lorewalker?”

The Lorewalker shook his head. “A stupid notion. A mad idea. So many things to go wrong.” He looked into Thunderpetal’s eyes. “Understand that I tell you only to satisfy your curiosity, and warn you against acting upon this notion. Master Shang Xi loved a woman. Bao Yu was her name. Her beauty and kindness had no equal in his eyes. When it became known to him that he must return to Shen-zin Su, he asked her to come with him, because he did not wish to part from her. Bao Yu would not come. The journey would be too dangerous for her, and they parted with many tears. But before Shang Xi left, Bao Yu made two pendants of the most lustrous jade, and poured all her love for Shang Xi into them, so that even if he travelled to the world beyond, they could look at their pendants and face each other.”

“Lorewalker,” said Thunderpetal, “I would not ask Mistress Bao Yu to part with such a thing.”

“She passed away some years ago, in the temple, holding the precious necklace, and smiling.” Lorewalker Stonestep took a deep breath. “It is in my library, attached to the scroll in which I wrote of them. If the magic still holds, it may point you to the other pendant, which may be in the possession of Master Shang Xi, who may still be on the Wandering Isle. I know of no way that would allow you to travel there.”

Thunderpetal bowed. “Lorewalker, may I see this pendant?”

Lorewalker Stonestep smiled. “Since you will need to follow in the Master’s footsteps, you may have it. Maybe it will inspire you to the wisdom you seek.”

Huang walked into the dormitory, and put down his bag on the rice mat on which he slept. Thunderpetal sat on the next mat, holding a thin silver chain up to his eyes, on which hung a flower made of jade. As Thunderpetal spun it in his fingers, the petals pointing away from him turned from green to yellow.

“What is that, Léi-shēng Huā-bàn?”

“It points to the Panda-ren who has the knowledge that I seek.”

“That is good news. Will you visit him tomorrow?”

Thunderpetal turned his eyes to Huang. “He lives beyond the Mists, on the Wandering Isle. There is no way to go there.”

“Priestess Summerpetal took me to Dawn’s Blossom today, on a hospital run.”

Thunderpetal frowned. “That is many miles away. How did you get back so soon?”

“We flew, Thunderpetal. We flew on kites! I could see for miles!” Huang reached into his bag and pulled out his bowl and chopsticks. “One of these kites could take you to the ends of Pandaria. Perhaps even beyond. I hear we have spiced noodles for dinner. Are you coming?”

Thunderpetal put the necklace in a pocket and got to his feet. His eyes suddenly gleaming with a new purpose. He needed some food, and he needed to plan.

“I am,” he said.


It was a little past midnight in Stormwind as Griggin stepped out of the tunnel to the Deeprun Tram. It was only a short walk from there to Steambender Manor. Griggin had walked it often, visiting customers and suppliers in Ironforge. A good chunk of his business still came from maintaining customers who were using the water heaters he had designed together with his associate, the eccentric genius Marvin Sprocket. Gnomish engineers came in pairs. One, known as the “Mad”, had a mind that was insanely creative, and produced an unbelievable number of designs, ideas, hunches. There were places where creative geniuses were called “sparks”. Mad Gnomish scientists would produce a rain of sparks like an angle grinder on a piece of metal. Most of their ideas were worthless. Impractical, too dangerous, impossible to build without the wealth of a whole kingdom, or simply in breach of one of the laws of nature. The job of the other engineer, the “Sane”, was to stand in the rain of sparks and catch the one idea that worked. In Marvin and Griggin’s case, that spark had been to use the crystals that you could find by the dozen in Un’goro crater, to boil water. The crystals lasted nearly forever, and a single one could provide for a large home. The latest prototype of Griggin’s water heaters, the Optimal Prime 6000x, used six of them. He was currently working on removing some rough edges before declaring the things fit for use in castles, shipyards, or as a communal water heater for blocks of houses. Then, it was a simple matter of writing down building instructions and finding customers who wanted to get steamy and hot.

As Griggin walked up to the front door, the house was dark, with only a small light burning in the porch. He turned the key quietly and walked in. The door to Nix and interalia’s bedroom was open and the light was on. Nix was in the kitchen filling a hot water bottle, and Interalia was sitting up in bed, her hair down, feeding Aubrey.

“Hi Boilerman,” said Interalia, looking up. “All the demons happy?”

Griggin nodded quietly, and waved at Aubrey. Aubrey didn’t even move an eyelid. She had more important things to do.

“Do you mind if I come in a moment?”

Interalia’s eyes gleamed at Griggin. “Sure. This is Aubrey. Now if it was Nix, then…”

“You are commendably discreet.”

Griggin sat down and looked at his grand-child. After the last few days’ work, he longed for a glimpse of innocence, a soul untouched by darkness. A creature that had never felt pain. Griggin blinked. Nix came walking in with the hot water bottle, wrapped in a fluffy cover that looked like a polar bear. The stopper was on, so that boiling water would not splash onto Interalia and the child. Interalia stuck a finger in Aubrey’s mouth so she could suck on that instead of her nipple, covered up her naked, swollen breast and transferred Aubrey to the other side. The creature started to drink greedily.

Griggin shook himself and suddenly stood up. He found that his face had folded itself into the impenetrable mask that let no emotions out. Nix looked up at him.

“Dad? What’s up?”

“Nothing. Good night.”

Griggin turned round, and walked out of the room. He half imagined cruel laughter coming from the Light only knew where. He walked into his own bedroom. Lenna was asleep. The blanket had fallen away and Griggin could see the night-gown wrapped tightly round her body. She is yours. Take her. As if on cue, Lenna turned onto her back. The nightgown was only thin, and hid none of Lenna’s ample curves, large and small. Take her! She is begging for it! Griggin took a step back, and looked round the room for anything out of the ordinary. You want her to beg, don’t you? Griggin looked at Lenna. He had, in the past, with mutual consent, ripped clothes off her, but… Do you want her to beg for you to start, or to stop? With a sudden whirl of movement, Griggin turned round, his back to Lenna, and spoke three short syllables of a spell that shut out all emotion, and put a stop to all attempts to control his mind. This being a Warlock’s spell, and roughly the equivalent to slamming on the brakes on a fast moving mechanostrider, he winced at the pain in his head. At least the spell would wear off soon. Griggin ran to the entrance to his workroom, climbed down the steps, and walked to his summoning circle. Whoever had attacked his mind, now no longer bothered with secrecy. A shadow flowed down the steps, into the room. Griggin ran to one of the walls and pulled a chain. With a metallic clunk, the hatches shut. Griggin turned up the lights.

“Show yourself. Who are you?”

“Don’t you remember me?”

The cloud of darkness swirled, as the form hidden within drew the smoke back into itself. It spread wings. A long whip unrolled itself. Griggin’s breath stuck in his throat.

“You do, don’t you?”

“Neera,” said Griggin. “How did you come back? I banished you.”

Neera stepped forward, into the light. Succubi took the form of women. There was no woman more beautiful, more alluring, than a Succubus. There couldn’t be, because they projected into each of their victims’ minds a mirror image of what they themselves thought of as perfection. They were impossible to resist. Impossible to forget if by a miracle you escaped them. When all their victim’s mind was filled with a desire to touch that perfect skin, when a single kiss from those perfect lips was all they needed to complete their lives, Succubi would inflict unimaginable pain, tearing one’s soul between torment and unquenchable desire, until nothing was left.

But not Neera. Its body was twisted, scarred, deformed into a grotesque parody of what a woman should look like. Long, matted black hair concealing huge breasts, wide hips, the skin a sickly grey with bones clearly visible beneath. The creature was naked, but had no genitals, like a child’s doll. Its hands had long claws. Its eyes burned with a grey light in a face like a bare skull. An expression was on its face of a starving creature when it first sees a table laden with food.

“Surely, the great Griggin Steambender can do better?”

Griggin drew himself up to his full height, drew breath and chanted out the thirty-two syllables of Neera’s full name. Neera screamed, raised its arms to protect its face, then stood still.

“Thus I name you, and thus I banish you,” said Griggin.

Neera lowered its arms. Its laugh was the most frightening sound ever heard.

“That, Griggin Steambender, is no longer my True Name.” Neera slowly walked up to Griggin and bent down till its perfectly symmetrical, skeletal face was inches from his. “You took my name away from me when you banished me. After you denied me my just revenge when that impertinent young girl violated me.” Neera put a claw on Griggin’s cheek. “Can you even imagine how I have suffered? A Sayaad of high destiny, with wings clipped like a pet crow? I promise you this, Griggin Steambender. Before you die, I will give you one moment. One moment of pure bliss.” Neera’s claw stroked Griggin’s cheek, and only later did he notice he was bleeding. “And then, I will take everything away from you. Everything.”


“Thermals.”

Thunderpetal nodded sagely, the look in his eyes urging Master Windstrong to continue.

“When people see our kites, they always think they are powered by the rockets, but those are only to get the kite off the ground, and perhaps give a little boost in adverse conditions. The real answer is thermals. Hot air rising from the ground.”

“I see,” said Thunderpetal. “How does one see these thermals?”

“An experienced flier can feel them,” said Master Windstrong. “When there are clouds in the sky, one can observe their shape, but the Master does not need them.”

Thunderpetal’s face fell. Master Windstrong laughed and slapped his back.

“There are two kinds of people who come to talk to me about kites,” he said. “The first kind are interested in flying, and they will ask all kinds of questions on what bambu to use, where to get the rockets, how to shape the wings. Then they go away, and come back, freshly healed of broken bones, and then they ask me how to build proper kites.” Master Windstrong chuckled to himself. “I do not see many of them, but they give me great joy. I recognise myself in them, broken bones and all. The other kind, they simply want to go somewhere.”

Thunderpetal nodded his head.

“Well?” said master Windstrong. “Where do you want to go?”

Thunderpetal produced the necklace with the pendant from one of his pockets. “I wish to go to the Wandering Isle, and speak with Master Shang Xi, so that I can control the Sha of Anger in my soul.”

Shen-zin Su? You seek the Great Tortoise?”

“Yes, Master. Could one of your kites take me there?”

Master Windstrong shook his head. “No, young monk. The sea is cold. No thermals will rise from them. The rockets on a kite such as these ones would not carry you far. There is only one kite that will do that.”

Master Windstrong took Thunderpetal to his workshop. In a corner, there was a shape hidden under a tarpaulin. From the sight of the thing, it was clear that it had been there a long time. Master Windstrong pulled off the cover, and waved away the clouds of dust. Underneath was a strange device.

“This kite was built by a small man named Jonno Smallfly. He was a strange creature from beyond the Mists. His landing on these shores was not a perfect one, and his flying machine did not survive. He built this kite, using parts from his broken flying machine, to take his friend flying in it.” Master Windstrong smiled. “It was a great honour. Because Smallfly was not very good at reading the winds, he made his own with the machine you see before you. He showed me how he could fly, even against the wind. But then, after many hours, his machine stopped working and I had to help him land softly. I have not heard this machine’s roar since then, and Jonno Smallfly learnt to fly one of my kites, and passed away, quietly, in his sleep.” Master Windstrong’s eyes stared far, far away. “Unfortunately, he was flying one of my kites at the time.” Master Windstrong pushed out Jonno Smallfly’s device and extended the wings. “I will make you a deal. This device is of no use to me. If you can get it going, you may, shall we say, ‘borrow’ it.”

Thunderpetal tried, for the hundredth time, to turn the propeller on the aircraft. The thing didn’t show any sign of life. Thunderpetal could see how the machine was supposed to work. The blades spun round, producing the wind that blew the kite forward. Except, of course, at the moment, they didn’t. You could steer using the horizontal bar in front of the seats. Master Windstrong had brought him a cup of green tea with some rice cakes. The glint in his eyes told Thunderpetal that he was not the first hopeful young Pandaren to try and get it going again. He sniffed, drunk his tea. He might not be the first, but he would be the last. Thunderpetal carefully looked at the flyer. He frankly had no idea at all how the engine worked. There was a tank at the top, and a strangely-shaped piece of metal that was most likely the muscle of the beast. He looked at his tea, and his eyes opened wide. Drink! Of course! He walked over, opened the lid on the tank and sniffed. It smelled like nothing he had ever smelled before, and it didn’t smell like something he’d drink himself. At any rate, only the smell remained. The drink that had pushed the aircraft aloft had long gone. Hmm. What drink would be right for a creature like this?

Master Windstrong walked up to Thunderpetal and his project. “How is it going? Are you any nearer to repairing this machine?”

“I do not think it is broken,” said Thunderpetal. “It needs drink to work.”

Master Windstrong chuckled. “That is not an uncommon trait. How is Pang Thunderfoot these days?”

“He is well, Master. His sons are helping Father on the farm in our absence. But I do not know what drink this machine needs to work.”

“I do not like it,” said Master Windstrong. “It uses fire and anger to push itself where it wishes to go, without any regard to the wishes of the wind.”

“Fire…” Thunderpetal pulled out a bag of biscuits, offered Master Windstrong one, and chewed thoughtfully. “The machine uses fire. Fire water.”

Master Windstrong laughed and slapped Thunderpetal’s shoulder. “If this machine needs whisky to work, it has expensive tastes. I am late for dinner. Please help me push this thing back inside. You can come back tomorrow if you wish.”

As being late for dinner was a matter of the greatest concern for a Pandaren, they pushed the flying machine back inside. Thunderpetal gently patted the engine.

“I will find you drink. I promise.”


Nix walked into the hallway, noting out of the corner of his eye that Dad’s ‘Do Not Disturb’ light was on. He locked the door behind him. Interalia was taking Aubrey to the priestess for her checkups, Mum was at the shooting range with Bieslook, and Trix was… nowhere to be found, actually. He’d vaguely got the message that she and Richard were an item again, and that he’d finally told his dad so. Well, good for him. Let’s see how long it would last now. Nix set off at a trot towards SI:7. Dad seemed out of sorts. It probably had something to do with the work in Ironforge. Dad had done most of the fighting, and the thugs hadn’t had a chance. It was always a bad sign if Dad didn’t take a demon out to fight for him. It meant that he wanted to take the blame for himself rather than being able to put it on some creature unable to resist his commands. Which meant that Dad felt there was blame to take. As far as Nix was concerned, there wasn’t. The gits would have killed Interalia if they could, and possibly Dad as well. Not to mention Aubrey. The more people found out what a bad idea that was, the better.

Raven had once tried to kill him, but the silly Human couldn’t help herself. Tiny little mind controlled by some bastard of a wannabe warlock. Come to think of it, she’d tried to kick him in the butt on several sparring sessions, back in the day. She’d tried to set him up for a savage beating from Dora Rainfist. Dora. The most dazzling light blue eyes he’d ever seen, and quite able to hand him his arse in a fair fight. And then, he’d met Interalia, who eclipsed all others. She’d pulled him out of trouble. She had said that she also got him into trouble, but honestly, Nix wouldn’t have missed that trip for the world, just to watch Interalia move. Being caught and tortured, obviously, he could have done without. The priests at the castle had healed him of his wounds, but without her, he’d have given up, and ended up doing the Light only knew what.

Thinking warm fuzzy thoughts about Interalia, Nix walked past the Tram entrance. A feeling of watchfulness came over him and he looked round to see a Gnome walking next to him, wearing a hooded robe, and about to put his hand on Nix’ shoulder.

“Nix Steambender?”

Nix sneered. “Depends on who wants to know.”

This was a phrase he’d always wanted to use, but the opportunity never came up somehow. And now that he had, it didn’t have anything like the effect he’d hoped for.

“I am Chief Warlock Sindala. Don’t play games with me, boy. I need to speak to your father. It’s urgent. Someone is after him.”

“What, after the butt-kicking we gave them? Humans. Can’t win, won’t quit. Idiots.”

“It’s not Humans. Damn you, boy, where is he?”

“Working at home.”

“Take me there. Now.”

Nix overcame his instinct to tell Chief Sodding Warlock Sindala where to stick it and turned towards home. He returned to the front door to find Trixie already there, looking annoyed.

“Where have you been?” said Nix.

“Mustrum Sparkbolt’s room at the Gilded Rose,” said Trixie. “He had to leave early.”

“So what were you doing there?”

“Doggy style with Richard, if you must know. We were making up.”

Nix desperately wanted to say something, but was having serious trouble figuring out what.

“Fascinating though this is,” said Sindala, “I need to speak with Warlock Griggin.”

Sindala took a step towards the door. Trixie grabbed his arm and stopped him. Sindala tried to pull free, but Trixie had a firm grip.

“House is in full defence mode,” said Trixie. “You really don’t want to step up to the door right now. We boiled some serious zombie back when we had the plague, and the new boiler has twice the power of the one we had back then.”

Sindala stared at the door.

“He has locked himself in. It must already have got to him.” He looked at Nix. “How do we get in?”

“We don’t,” said Nix. “Dad designed this specially to guard against, shall we say, industry accidents.”

“Then he is lost,” said Sindala. “He is facing an old enemy in there. An enemy who is seeking revenge for an old injury. If there is even a hint that it may have a valid claim, then he will not be able to resist.”

Trixie looked at Nix. Nix looked back at Trixie.

“Crap,” they said, at the same time.

Part 15: The hut on fowl’s legs

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