Li Li's Travel Journal

Part 5 of 11
Entry Five: The Jade Forest

A lot's happened since I last wrote in this journal. For one, Uncle Chen finally came home to the Wandering Isle (thanks to the help of yours truly). A little while after, we ventured to the far corners of the world, searching for the legendary continent of Pandaria. Most folks on the Great Turtle believed the place had been destroyed long ago, through war or disease.

Well, they were wrong.

After battling pirates, surviving a violent storm at sea, and overcoming all sorts of other perils, Uncle Chen and I did the impossible: we found Pandaria, the lost homeland of our ancestors!

But getting there didn't go exactly as planned. Our guide for the trip was the Pearl of Pandaria, a mystical artifact that granted me visions of how to locate the continent. I only wished that dumb pearl had warned us how dangerous the journey would be.

The important thing is that we reached Pandaria in one piece. We made landfall near the Jade Forest, a region that stretched across the continent's eastern shore. The woods were green as far as the eye could see, with dense bamboo thickets full of strange plants and critters.

Uncle Chen and I didn't have a map, but that wasn't a problem. After having a look at our immediate surroundings, we picked a random direction and began our journey as any true follower of the Wanderer's Way would: one step at a time.

It wasn't long before the locals showed up to greet us. Dozens of beady-eyed lizard-men (called saurok, I later learned) burst out of the forest. They smelled something like old leather that was soaked in rotten ale and then stuffed into a barrel of Granny Mei's fermented fish paste. And that was the best part about them.

We made short work of the leather-faces (well, maybe it was mostly Chen). The only one that gave us any real trouble was the leader, a huge saurok covered with scars, war paint, and more scars. Pretty soon he was retreating through the forest, hollering like a baby.

We found the saurok's dingy camp nearby. It was filled with what looked like plunder: carts of grain, vegetables, and big chunks of pure jade. As we sorted through the stuff, a group of pandaren slowly emerged from the woods. When they saw that the saurok were gone, they bowed low and praised us like we were heroes! It turned out the leather-faces had been terrorizing the area, and all attempts to defeat them had failed.

Our new fans were dumbfounded when Uncle Chen told them we'd come from the Wandering Isle. The folk in Pandaria hadn't seen the Great Turtle in centuries, and most of them had started thinking the island was no more. I was surprised how similar the pandaren in the Jade Forest were to those back home. Apart from some minor differences, like clothing, not much had changed over the generations.

Once they learned we were good old-fashioned explorers, the pandaren told us a lot about the Jade Forest, its inhabitants, and its most important site: the Temple of the Jade Serpent. Apart from being a monument to the pandaren's legendary emperor Shaohao, the incredible temple was closely tied to the Jade Serpent, Yu'lon, one of the four celestial beings that watched over Pandaria.

When Uncle Chen and I reached the temple grounds, workers were carving an enormous jade statue called the Serpent's Heart. Every hundred years, Yu'lon would transfer her life essence into the sculpture, which would then turn into a new being. This cycle—creating statues so that Yu'lon could undergo her rebirth—had been going on for generations, and those saurok raiders had threatened it all by stealing the workers' supply of precious jade.

One of the temple's caretakers, Elder Sage Rain-Zhu, was kind enough to give me and Uncle Chen a tour of the surrounding area. He took us north to the Arboretum, a beautiful spot of land that was home to the Order of the Cloud Serpent. This fearless group had a long history of taming, raising, and riding the region's cloud serpents, majestic flying beasts that I'd seen in the sky above the temple.

Old Rain-Zhu said he'd grant us any request as thanks for defeating the saurok and returning the jade. My first instinct was to ask for a serpent of my own (the babies were adorable), but Uncle Chen thought that was going too far. So I settled for the next best thing: a ride on a cloud serpent!

Now, I'd flown on one of the giant cranes back home—and even on a goblin-built zeppelin—but this cloud serpent was in a class of its own. The beast rocketed into the sky faster than I'd seen anything move before. Being up so high gave me a clear view of what lay beyond the Jade Forest. To the west: rolling plains and farmlands. To the northwest: a range of impossibly tall mountains, their peaks capped with snow. Pandaria was huge. There was so much out there to discover. I was exploring an entire continent that no Wandering Isle pandaren had laid their eyes on for generations!

Before my uncle and I set out across the rest of the forest, we decided to give Rain-Zhu the Pearl of Pandaria. He'd treated us like family, and seeing as how the pandaren revered the temple as a center of wisdom and insight, we couldn't think of a better place to donate the pearl. It was tough giving it up, but it had already led me to Pandaria. It was time for the pearl to guide someone else toward their destiny.

In the weeks that followed, Uncle Chen and I walked... and walked... and walked. The Jade Forest seemed to go on forever, and around every corner was something new and exciting: secluded pandaren shrines, ancient vine-covered ruins, and monasteries tucked high in the mountains. The only problem was that my uncle moved at a snail's pace, stopping every few minutes to sit and "enjoy the scenery," as he put it.

Finally, we reached the Jade Forest's border. Ahead lay the Valley of the Four Winds, the farmlands I'd seen from atop the cloud serpent. By that time I was itching to explore anything that wasn't a forest, but I never could've expected what Uncle Chen and I would find on the next leg of our journey.

Soon, we'd make a discovery that would change what we knew about the Stormstout family forever!