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Archive for the ‘Pandaren’ Category

click on the images to see the full-size versions of these pictures

I began this project last summer, as a follow-up to my rather crudely-assembled racial height and build comparison.

At the time, however, the sexism-in-WoW discussion was going around again, and I felt that it would be rather gauche to post what is undeniably an objectified image: I have reduced my models to shapes to be studied.

I’d been meaning to complete it anyway, but somehow BTH always seemed to already be using the tablet to work on his comic whenever I wanted to work on it :P

With all the wonderful new model previews being released, I figured I’d better finish this up quick, even though some of the subtleties of the stances and the shapes will soon be out-of-date.

I had been thinking I’d do a further follow-up of close-up studies of the front and profile shapes of the faces, because I feel like I still don’t have a really good grasp on how to make some of the races different from my standard way of drawing human people. I’d like to do a companion set of “beach bums of Azeroth”, too, because I feel that I understand the male shapes even less than the female shapes. Maybe I should wait on that until all the new models come out in 6.0, though.

Speaking of the new models, I’ve liked all the ones we’ve seen glimpses of so far, and I look forward to seeing the Night Elf, the Troll, and especially the Tauren. The new female Orc makes me wish I hadn’t deleted my level 35 Orc Enhancement Shaman. I do hope the shaved head texturing makes it into the final model.

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Well, now that I don’t have the Legendary Cloak haunting me as unfinished business anymore, it feels like the leveling floodgates have opened. In the past few days, five alts — including a brand-new one — have gotten some serious playtime.

Kaelinda the Blood Elf Mage, who’d been sitting at about halfway through level 88 since she accomplished her goal on the Molten Front, pushed through a bit of the Townlong Steppes, some of the Dread Wastes, and a few dungeons to become my tenth level 90 character.

Kilauea the Troll Shaman went from level 22 to level 25, putting her right at-level to do Arathi Highlands and then the Hinterlands, two zones which I have not yet quested through since Cataclysm.

Kalaneia the Blood Elf Warlock went from level 55 to level 58. She might have gotten to level 60, but then I got distracted….

Tome and I took our wee Dwarf lassies, Flaminga the Warlock and Kjerstin the Shaman, to the Wetlands and played through most of the first major hub there before Tome had to sign off. Kjerstin is already overleveled for the zone, so she didn’t quite get a level out of it, but I really want to see the storyline.

When BTH and I began leveling our Monks, I joined BTH’s guild with my Monk so that we’d have the same guild XP bonuses — my personal guild wasn’t yet leveled enough to have all of those perks. That meant, however, that my little all-Tauren guild has been missing Monk from the “Classy Tauren” achievement. My guild is now leveled enough to have all the XP perks, so I moved my Monk over to it… but that did not give me the ‘chieve. It seems that I have to actually ding 85 with the class-race combo in-guild to get the ‘chieve credit. So I rolled a new Monk. I started her as a Pandaren, so that she could have the cool Wandering Isle leather gear for RP wear, then race-changed her after she got to Kalimdor. She is going to level primarily through LFD, Archaeology, and Pet Battles.


And though I haven’t managed to give her any playtime yet, Kelisanna the Blood Elf Rogue wants to level, too. BTH gave me Mistborn for my birthday, and Keli is still too low-level even to acquire the Survivor’s Bag of Coins, let alone use it.

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Brewfest, 2012

Brewfest, 2013

I would have been quite disappointed if there had been no Pandaren Brewmasters at Brewfest this year. But Blizzard remembered, and, even more delightful, their stock of small-batch Pandaren specialties is a complete cellar list of brews that can otherwise only be obtained from the brewmasters at the Celestial Court on the Timeless Isle.

This year, Kaoling insisted that as a Pandaren from the Wandering Isle, she must have a Pandaren Brewpack to tote around as she explores the rest of Azeroth. A hundred Brewfest Tokens are quite easy to obtain, so I obliged her.

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Every day, when the Shado-Pan Trainee comes to pick up my green cabbages, he says,

I’m never quite sure if he’s being sincere or sarcastic.

On the premise that he is sincere, I decided to try to figure out just what sort of soup the Shado-Pan make with all those green cabbages I grow for them. This recipe is adapted from these two asian cabbage soup recipes that Google found for me.

Shado-Pan Green Cabbage Soup
4 servings

8 Dried Mushrooms (preferrably shiitake)
4 c Golden Carp Consomme, divided (or chicken or vegetable broth)
1 onion, thinly sliced
1-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 head of Green Cabbage, chopped
1 Juicycrunch Carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 inch knob of Ginseng, peeled and thinly sliced (or regular ginger)
2-3 T Thousand Year Soy Sauce
Cindergut Pepper sauce, to taste (asian chili paste or Tabasco sauce)
2-3 Scallions, shredded, including the green parts

Heat 2 c of the broth and soak the dried mushrooms for about 15 minutes.

While the mushrooms are soaking, caramelize the onions in a dry pot over medium heat. When the onions are just starting to turn brown on the edges, add the garlic and cook, stirring, for another 2-3 minutes, or until the onions are golden brown and the garlic is starting to brown also.

Add the remaining 2 c of broth to the pot. Strain the mushrooms and add the mushroom-infused broth to the pot. Stir the ginger, carrots, and cabbage into the broth. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes.

Remove the stems from the mushrooms and discard. Thinly slice the mushroom caps. Stir the mushrooms, soy sauce, and chili into the soup and garnish with scallions immediately before serving.

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Ken-Ken’s Mask

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Kamalia’s Guide to the Barbershop (bonus edition)

Okay, so, height and build aren’t exactly things that you can change at all, let alone at the barbershop. They are, however, appearance-related. I put together this scale comparison of the various World of Warcraft player-character races for my own reference. Although it’s kind of rough around the edges, I thought others might find it useful, too.
Click on the small picture to see a larger version.

The Alliance races were all compared to a normal-sized NPC human. The Horde races were all compared to a normal-sized NPC blood elf. I used a comparison between a tauren and a normal-sized, neutral night elf (a Moonglade NPC) to make sure that the two factions were correctly scaled relative to each other.

Also, I finally managed to update the rest of the Azeroth Beautician’s Manual of Feminine Style to include pandaren color and style information.

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For Akabeko.

In one farming village, after what even Akabeko could tell was one ale too many for her pandaren companion, Weipon was convinced to break out her sanxian. Although Akabeko often heard Weipon humming or singing to herself, the long-necked instrument had remained in its case, quiet and safe from the elements while they traveled.

Now, though, eyes swimming with drink, Weipon laughed, said something that made the pandaren closest to her gesticulate encouragingly, and plucked a string experimentally. The room quieted as she carefully tuned the instrument. From the bar, a voice called out something that had other pandaren nodding in what Akabeko assumed was agreement.

“They are requesting songs,” Weipon said suddenly, looking at Akabeko. The sudden burst of Orcish made the druid jump, sloshing ale over her fingers. “Some of the titles sound familiar. Others may be songs I know by a different name.” She grinned, looking like a very different pandaren than the one that had shied away from an angry General Nazgrim, and began to play.

The gathered audience was mostly silent for the first verse. The pandaren nodded their heads, clapped, or turned to each other to whisper excitedly. Akabeko listened with interest, appreciating the sincerity and huskiness of Weipon’s voice. By the second verse, the older pandaren in the inn were singing along, ribbing each other when they forgot the words or differed from what Weipon was singing. The song continued, picking up speed, and those who couldn’t sing along made up for it by clapping, pounding the tables, and stomping their feet. Even Akabeko found herself humming along by the end.

Before the last note had died away, Weipon was slipping into another song, this one eliciting more cheers of recognition. Akabeko drained her glass, absently thanking the person next to her as they topped it off again. It seemed that the night was just picking up.

The following morning, Weipon still managed to look only slightly rumpled compared to Akabeko, who was more or less wrecked. She rubbed irritably at her temples, trying to pay attention to the new map the innkeeper was explaining to Weipon. The impromptu concert the night before had gained them not only a clean, locally-drawn map of the area, but a handwritten introduction from the village leader to the mayor of Dawn’s Blossom, which appeared to be a major nearby city.

The title of this post is a reference to the song of the same name from the Brubeck/Armstrong collaboration “The Real Ambassadors”, in which, after a chorus by the state department ambassador characters, Louis Armstrong’s character, a jazz musician, sings:
I’m the real ambassador.
It is evident I was sent by government to take your place.
All I do is play the blues and meet the people face-to-face.
I’ll explain and make it plain, I represent the human race.
I don’t pretend no more.

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Physically, the towering personage who seemed to be the leader of the strange beings camped around the hermit Wei Palerage’s hut reminded Kaoling very strongly of Wugou. He had nothing of the ancient earth spirit’s sleepy, placid nature about him, however. As the — tauren, Kaoling remembered from her childhood lessons — briskly described to Ji, Aysa, Kaoling, Koralyra, and the others who had come from the Academy and the Temple the circumstances that had led to the crash of the sky-vessel into Shen-zin Su’s side — a battle of ships off an unknown coast, the capture of himself and his “Horde” companions by their “Alliance” enemies after their ship capsized, an insurrection against their captors, an attack by lizard-men who had stowed away on the airship that took everyone by surprise — and his efforts to locate his comrades and survive in the Pei-Wu Forest over the past weeks, he was also listening to reports from his people and issuing new instructions. The tauren’s decisiveness impressed Kaoling, as did the shelters, the pile of crude weapons, and what appeared to be the skeletons of several small boats he and his people had constructed from broken bamboo trunks and other woodland materials.

Aysa and some of the others left to find the survivors from the other side of the sea-battle the tauren had described as soon as he had finished telling them about why the airship had crashed.

“We want to return to our homes,” the tauren was saying, “but that airship isn’t going anywhere ever again. We can help you dislodge it from your island, but we need to find our engineer. He parted ways with us when we were escaping the wreckage. We’d also appreciate it if you helped us find a way back to our own country.”

Ji quickly agreed, and Kaoling could see the twinkle in his eyes that meant he was thinking up a Plan.

They found more small groups of “Horde” survivors, including the engineer, as they pushed through the woods toward the crashed airship. They also discovered that the strange lizard-men had survived the crash, too, and were wreaking havoc on the entire Pei-Wu Forest ecosystem.

The “Alliance” survivors had gathered and set up tents quite close to the wreck. Their leader, a slender creature who looked to Kaoling very much like an oversized, oddly-colored sprite, gave a rather different account of the sea battle, the fight aboard the airship, and the crash.
“This island wasn’t on any of our charts… we came through a thick mist and ploughed straight into the forest. We didn’t see it coming,” she said.
She explained that over the past weeks, she and her people had been scavenging as much as they could from the wreck, but their efforts had been severely impeded by the lizard-men. She praised Aysa for having gone off immediately to distract the leader of the lizard-men so that a final collection of materials from the airship could be made, and she asked for help in reclaiming the supplies and rescuing those of her people who had been wounded during the most recent clashes with the lizard-men.

“I think I like these people,” Koralyra mused quietly as the two girls carried a stack of crates back from the wreck to the tents. “See how they have gotten all of their people into one place. See how they are salvaging as much of their own material as they can, so that they take as little as possible from our land.”

“But they had taken those other people prisoners,” Kaoling replied.

“Their ship was sinking. They saved them from drowning. And it doesn’t seem like they’ve made much of an effort, in all these weeks, to go find them in the forest and re-capture them,” Kora pointed out.

Kaoling didn’t have a good answer for that, but she still felt more sympathetic toward the tauren and his fellow Horde.

~*~*~

The blast knocked Kora to the ground. The land heaved beneath her as Shen-zin Su groaned in agony. It was the most awful sound she had ever heard, worse than a whole herd — worse than ten herds — of yaks in labor. She struggled to her feet. The wound in Shen-zin Su’s shell gushed terrible rivers of blood. Though she was not at all squeamish, Kora began to feel a little light-headed and quickly looked away. Nearby, Kaoling was getting up. Kora saw her friend sway and her face pale as she caught sight of the awful wound. Quickly, Kora grabbed Kaoling’s shoulders and turned her away.

“Remember Master Firepaw’s plan,” she said urgently. “Hurry, go find as many healers as you can and bring them here to save Shen-zin Su!” Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a movement — the strange lizard-men, maddened by the scent of blood. “I will stay and defend the healers once you get them here. Hurry!”

Kaoling nodded and dashed off. Kora settled into a comfortable stance and began running through warm-up movements and incantations. Soon Kaoling was back, carrying one of the slender, white-robed Alliance priests over her shoulders. Like the wind and fire of the philosophy she favored, Kaoling darted about, bringing back one healer after another. Like the earth and water of the philosophy she favored, Koralyra was both firm and fluid as she fought off the frenzied lizard-men and kept them from attacking the healers. All around, others from the Academy and the Temple were doing the same.

For hours, it seemed, they fought while the terrible flow of blood continued and Shen-zin Su groaned and writhed. The healers poured all of their energy into their spells, until they began to collapse from exhaustion. Slowly, the torrent quieted to a stream and then to a trickle, and then, almost suddenly, the wound sealed. The troll and tauren healers joined their hands in a great spell, and everyone stumbled as earth shifted out from under their feet to cover and protect the raw flesh. The Horde healers then flung enchanted seeds over the dark, bloodsoaked soil. As they chanted, grasses, bushes, and trees sprung up, magically, to further stabilize the earthen scab. It would still be centuries before Shen-zin Su’s shell completely recovered — and there would always be a scar, a weak spot, in that place — but for now, at least, he would not die, and his pain, while perhaps greater now than it had been when the wrecked ship had still been embedded in his side, would eventually subside and vanish.

~*~*~

~*~*~

For a fleeting moment, the scent of the breeze shifted from canal water and pumpkin pancakes to cherry blossoms and ginseng tea, and a piece of parchment hastily folded into the shape of a crane tumbled through the second-story window of the inn in Stormwind where Koralyra was packing her bags and came to rest at her feet.

Kora picked up the parchment and carefully unfolded it, smiling as she recognized the calligraphic scrawl.

Koralyra–
I promised to write to you when I got to Orgrimmar, did I not? The EmperorWarchief of the Horde would consider even this contact treasonous, yet I cannot so blithely cast aside what Master Shang Xi told us so many times: “Forget injuries. Never forget kindnesses.” And you have been far kinder to me than I deserved. May your days bring you joy.
–Kaoling

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Though she had heard the tale of Liu Lang and the story about his umbrella and the Wood of Staves all her life, Kaoling had never really expected to ever set foot in that mystical place herself. She would have imagined even less that she might do so in company with all the monks and students from the Academy, but for some reason, it had seemed vitally important to Master Shang Xi that they all attend his final meditation. As the aged Master simply faded away and his charm-bedecked staff burst into bloom, Kaoling glanced, through her tears, at Koralyra and was a bit surprised to see that the other girl was also crying. Cool, emotionless Kora was actually crying. On a sudden impulse, Kaoling put her arm around Kora’s shoulders. The other girl covered her face with her hands and cried even harder for a minute or so. Then she wiped her eyes with the back of her paws and stood, pulling Kaoling up with her.

“Let’s go, Kaoling,” she said, “We’ve got to finish the task Master Shang Xi has set us. Let’s go find Master Firepaw and Master Cloudsinger at the balloon platform and see if Shen-zin Su will speak to us.”

~*~*~

Kora’s emotions roiled like a pot of her mother’s sweet-and-sour soup. Exhilaration from the soaring balloon ride, awe at the privilege of actually speaking with Shen-zin Su, horror at the huge airship embedded in the great turtle’s side, curiosity about the strange beings in and around the wrecked vessel, grief at the passing of Master Shang Xi. It was almost too much to bear, so she merely stood, staring blankly ahead at the statue of Liu Lang, barely listening as Master Firepaw and Master Cloudsinger reported their conversation with Shen-zin Su to Elder Shaopai.

“And you, Koralyra, Kaoling,” Elder Shaopai suddenly addressed them, “Master Shang Xi thought very highly of you indeed. What do you think we should do?”

“I think that the sky has gotten dark,” Kaoling answered, “and the stars are shining, and whatever we must do to cure Shen-zin Su, it will take great effort. I think we should rest and make plans in the morning.”

Master Firepaw and Master Cloudsinger’s faces displayed identical expressions of mingled approval and dismay as Kaoling bowed to each of them and to Elder Shaopai, then turned to leave the Temple of Five Dawns.

“Come on, Kora,” she said, tugging at Kora’s hand, “my parents live just down the hill. My father makes the best steamed buns in all Mandori Village, and I’m sure we can find a couch for you somewhere in the house.”

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Legend had it that the first hozen had come to Shen-zin Su as the servants of the priests and scholars who had initially coaxed the four ancient elemental spirits to bring their blessings to the great turtle.* As far as Kaoling knew, however, hozen were nothing but a nuisance. She couldn’t understand how anyone, let alone a great thinker, could have willingly brought them to the Wandering Isle. She suspected that, like the virmen, the first hozen had really been stowaways. Still, she was glad to be doing something, helping Ji roust the hozen from Wu-Song Village while they waited for Aysa to finish meditating about Huo.

They’d sent the hozen scampering off, whimpering, helped the villagers gather and re-organize scattered belongings, and were starting to get a little bored when at last a messenger approached. Kaoling felt her expression turning to a scowl as she recognized her roommate.

“Master Cloudsinger has spoken with Master Li Fei,” Koralyra said primly, “and she has learned that Huo is weakened and requires fuel and fanning.”

Ji smacked his forehead with the palm of his hand. “Of course,” he said, “it’s so simple and obvious! Why didn’t I think of that already?” He shook his head and continued, “Quickly, friends” — he waved a paw at both of them — “with all the strange weather lately, it shouldn’t be hard to find some dry roots and twigs in the dogwood thicket just west of here. As for the fanning, well, if it can punch you, you can punch it back, and it won’t slip through your grasp. We ought to be able to invoke a minor air spirit at the shrine in the thicket.”

When Koralyra began gathering the kindling, Kaoling raced to the shrine. The gentle breeze kicked up into a brisk wind that whipped her hair as she battled the air spirit. She used mostly spells, but was delighted to find that she could, as Ji had said, strike the animate cloud with her quaking palm. As she forced it into her bag, she felt like the defeated mist was continually slipping from her paws. Amazingly, once she got it in, it stayed there, puffing the bag up into a fat little balloon that surely would have floated away had it not also been laden with books, her fan, and a little something for lunch.

The monk at the entrance to Huo’s cavern shrine bowed nervously. “Huo has not been well, and that has put him into a temper,” he warned, pointing at the jets of fire blossoming randomly from the floor of the tunnel leading deeper into the shrine.

“Excellent, an obstacle course to keep us on our toes!” said Ji, darting immediately into the tunnel. Kaoling promptly followed. She and Ji had more than enough time to catch their breath by the pool in the next cavern before Koralyra finally emerged from the firestorm, carrying the kindling.

“What took you so long?” Kaoling demanded.

“I had to meditate and center myself to see clearly the path through the fire,” the other girl replied with irritating calm.

“Well, then, let’s not keep Huo waiting,” said Ji, bounding up the stairs to the next room. The spirit of Master Li Fei awaited them there, standing by a shallow pool surrounded by smoldering braziers.

“You,” the ghostly Master said after several long minutes, tipping his staff toward Kaoling, “yes, I think it should be you. You should be the one to face the challenge. You have much energy and enthusiasm. Huo likes that. But do you also have the equilibrium and endurance to weather his caprices?”

He instructed her to take a brand from the brightly burning brazier at his side and light the braziers in the other corners of the chamber. As she lit the braziers and smelled the different herbs and woods within each one, Kaoling felt invigorated and refreshed.

Even as a ghost, Master Li Fei was a formidable opponent. Ji — and even Koralyra — several times attempted to join the fight, but every time, the spectral Master had held up a warning paw and sent them back to the stairs to wait.

“You earned the right to proceed,” said Master Li Fei at last, as Kaoling stood panting in the middle of the pool, not caring that she was thoroughly soaked. “Huo lies beyond. May your offerings soothe and strengthen him.”

Huo was a tiny spark in the darkness of the uppermost cavern of the shrine. Kaoling thought she heard him growling as she approached, and her shadow flickered frighteningly on the rough cavern walls. Not knowing quite what to say to the ancient fire spirit, Kaoling simply tossed one of the dry pieces of dogwood at him and released a puff of the captive breeze from her bag. Huo crackled as he devoured the wood, and he seemed to grow larger. Encouraged, Kaoling tossed him the rest of the wood, alternating with puffs of breeze. Huo grew larger and his crackling became more and more like laughter with each piece.

His catlike face smiling broadly, Huo danced about Kaoling as she returned triumphantly to where the others had been waiting.

*see Pearl of Pandaria page 2

~*~*~

“Lyra, darling!” said Nai-nai, wiping her hands on her apron as she came around from behind the counter of the family stall at the Dai-Lo market. “I didn’t expect to see you home from the Academy so soon. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong, Nai-nai,” Koralyra said, giving her grandmother a hug. “Or at least, nothing’s wrong with me. Something has been wrong with Shen-zin Su lately, you know, and Master Shang Xi has sent us” — she waved her hand at the small group of monks and other students from the Academy who had come with her — “to bring Wugou back to the Temple so that he can help us find out what it is.”

“Ah, yes,” Nai-nai sighed worriedly. “Wugou has not been well. He fell into a deep sleep when the ground shook, just before Shen-zin Su began to carry us into harsher climates.” She gestured toward the recess gong in the center of the market. Wugou lay snuggled up against the decorative retaining wall around the gong. Kora suddenly realized that the unfamiliar sound she’d been hearing was the gentle snoring of the ancient earth spirit. Nai-nai continued, “Since then, the land has been drying out, and fewer and fewer of the seeds we plant actually sprout. We are in for hard times if Wugou and Shen-zin Su do not recover.”

Though she was shocked by this news, Kora kept her expression as composed as she could manage. Wugou had been a constant presence during her cubhood, sedately rumbling hither and thither among the fields and crops. She and her siblings, cousins, and friends had made a game of trying to corral him in the center of a field as they attended to their chores of watering and weeding, but somehow, as slow and placid as Wugou always seemed, they had never succeeded. Indeed, it had been she who had reminded Master Shang Xi that Wugou dwelt at Dai-Lo.

As she watched the impatient monk buffeting Wugou in a most disrespectful — and futile — attempt to wake him, Kora wondered again why Master Shang Xi had sent Master Firepaw to Dai-Lo, and Master Cloudsinger to the Singing Pools, instead of the other way ’round. Surely there must be a better way to rouse Wugou. Kora sat down, settling into a meditative posture, and began pondering….

The shadows had shifted direction when the resonating clangor of the recess gong and the sound of Nai-nai laughing brought Kora back to full awareness of the world around her, still without a best solution to the problem.

“Silly monk,” chuckled Nai-nai, shaking her head, “if he’d thought to ask, we would have told him that we’ve been ringing that gong three times a day just like we always do for weeks without waking Wugou.”

A delivery cart rattled into town, carrying Master Cloudsinger and the others who had gone with her to the Singing Pools. Bobbling along behind it was… Shu? It seemed that they been successful in contacting the ancient water spirit. Master Cloudsinger conversed briefly with Master Firepaw, then Master Firepaw clapped his hands together with an air of great excitement and indicated that one of the students who had come with Master Cloudsinger should go do something. The girl nodded and started in the direction Master Firepaw had pointed. Then she hesitated and turned, and, with a sinking feeling, Koralyra recognized her rival.

“Come with me to speak to Shu,” Kaoling demanded, imperiously thrusting out a paw as if to help Kora up from her meditative pose. Kora ignored the proffered paw and raised a questioning eyebrow. Kaoling rolled her eyes. “Ji thinks Shu can help us wake up Wugou,” she explained.
Still ignoring Kaoling’s outstretched hand, Kora rose gracefully to her feet. The two girls walked to the pond, where Shu was coaxing the water to spurt up into geysers.
“Shu!” Kaoling called, “Wugou is asleep and will not waken. Will you come blast him?
Kora barely restrained a gasp. How impertinent! But the water spirit just burbled and darted to the other side of the pond.
“I think he wants us to play with him,” said Kaoling with a mischevious smile. “You go first!” — and she pushed Kora toward the water. Kora stumbled and was surprised to find herself walking on the water instead of floundering in the water. She folded her arms and glared at Kaoling.
“Go on,” Kaoling urged, “stand in the waterspout!” When Kora didn’t move, Kaoling came out onto the water, too, and pushed her toward the patch of water that Shu was churning up. Kora resisted, but finally Kaoling struck her with a quaking palm, and, stunned, she fell over, right into the agitated water. Suddenly, she was flung into the air by a geyser. The view from the top was amazing! As she fell back toward the pond, she heard Shu giggling — and she was laughing, too.
“That was kind of fun,” Kora admitted, after she caught her breath — but Kaoling did not hear her, because she was high in the air on another waterspout.
When Kaoling landed, Shu burbled in a different way and bobbled off toward the market square. The two girls hurried behind him, arriving just in time to see the water spirit summon a powerful jet of water right in the earth spirit’s face. Wugou roared and began chasing Shu all around the market. Master Firepaw laughed a great belly laugh, and Master Cloudsinger smiled.

~*~*~

True to his word, after dealing with Morning Breeze Village’s hozen problem, Ji set the monks and students of the Academy to helping Elder Shaopai rewrite the destroyed defaced scrolls of wisdom. Although this was an honorable task, Kaoling’s mind soon wandered. She sat idly bouncing her toes, barely stifling her giggles as she remembered how she had only with great effort not laughed when the conceited, pompous Jojo Ironbrow had finally met his match in the beautiful jade and bronze tiger pillar that they’d retrieved from the hozen village.

“Do you mind?” a cool voice interrupted her thoughts. Across the table, Koralyra was giving her a steady, disapproving stare. “Writing these scrolls is a form of meditation, you know, and you are disrupting mine. I would thank you to stop fidgeting.”

The sun was setting when Ji finally declared that they had done enough work with the scrolls, for now. He called Kaoling and, to her irritation, Koralyra, to go out to the lake and discover if Aysa’s contemplations had yet revealed anything useful. Aysa raised an eyebrow as they approached her, for for all of Koralyra’s practice and meditation, it was Kaoling who had run nimbly over the taut ropes and arrived first, with dry fur. Meanwhile, Koralyra had stopped mid-path to appreciate the spectacular view of the sunset over the lake, wobbled on the ropes, fallen, and now came panting up second, soaking wet.

“It is often both necessary and admirable,” Aysa said mildly, “to keep one’s eyes and mind fixed on one’s true objectives.”

(A.N. This actually happened while I was leveling these two characters through the Wandering Isle. I got across the ropes on the first try with Kaoling, but with Koralyra, I stopped in the middle to take some screenshots, fell off, and had to try again.)

~*~*~

When at last the huge black cloud serpent curled up in death, Kora thought her fur would never lay flat again. All around, static discharge still crackled from the lightning pools the serpent had spit on the ground as they tried to bring it down with fireworks. It had been a crazy plan, but somehow, it had worked. The fight had been quite exhilarating, and she had to admit that she and Master Cloudsinger — and Master Firepaw and the impetuous Kaoling — had made a terrific team. The ancient spirit of air, Dafeng, fluttered around them all, cooing thanks and relief. Master Cloudsinger knelt in respect at the great beast’s head for several minutes. For all that he had been terrifying Dafeng, Zhao-Ren had been a magnificent — and, as far as Kora knew, a unique — presence among the mountains of the Wandering Isle.

Master Firepaw shifted awkwardly from one foot to the other. Kora wondered if he was thinking about speaking to Master Cloudsinger, as she had suggested — and she was secretly glad that for once in his life, he was choosing to exercise restraint. Beside him, Kaoling suddenly dropped to her knees, too, and Kora was startled to hear her sniffling. Could it be? Obnoxious, thoughtless Kaoling, crying?

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