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Ziya watched him go. Then she looked up at the beacon's tiny speck of light just in time to see it wink out.

"Great," she said.

Rakalaz's hand closed almost gently around her and lifted her, struggling, toward its dripping maw.

A rock whirled out of the dark and struck one of the moon eyes. The hand holding Ziya spasmed, and she fell…

… into furry arms.

"Hello," said the pandaren, setting her down with casual strength. She nodded at Rakalaz. "I don't think I know this one."

"What?"

"This character," her savior said, paws on her hips, surveying a nightmare from Ziya's youth with a professional eye. Growling, Rakalaz shifted its good eye between them, perhaps trying to figure out how to eat them both at once. "You were telling a story and it popped up, right? Out of curiosity, how does the story end?"

"Are you serious?" Ziya looked for the uberzeppelin. Surprisingly, it was slowly turning their way.

"Almost always," she said. "Quickly now."

"Miz throws his last stick of dynamite down its throat."

The pandaren's gentle smile froze.

"Oh, a goblin story," she said. "Of course it ends with explosions. Don't drop it."

Ziya flinched. Her right hand was suddenly heavier. And sizzling.

A calm certainty, of all things, fell over her. She had grown up with this story. She had seen herself in Miz's place, had imagined this moment with a child's vivid terror.

Without further thought, she hauled back and hurled the story's dynamite down Rakalaz's cavernous throat.

Rakalaz stared at her, puzzled, and swallowed. Ziya's eyes flickered between the creature and the emptiness of her outflung palm.

"Muh?" she said intelligently.

The pandaren's paw shot up from somewhere near Ziya's feet and yanked her onto the sand.

After a brief, interesting period of noise and splattering, Ziya raised her head. The burning remains were fading as she watched. The hole in the ground was filling with sand. Soon it would be as if nothing had happened at all.

Pieces clicked together.

"I did that," she said.

"You did," the pandaren said, rising and brushing herself off with precise grace. Gallywix's uberzeppelin was close enough that they could see the rum slides and pudding jacuzzis in the airship's lower levels. "You started a story. You finished it. That's storytelling. All the rest is decoration."

"But we lived."

"Yes?" the pandaren said, frowning up at the uberzeppelin.

"Miz didn't survive the explosion. In the story."

The pandaren smiled. Her teeth were sharp and dazzling white.

"Well, I'm glad you didn't say that before."

***

Something was wrong.

The uberzeppelin hovered over the breakers. Spotlights roved between Ziya, the pandaren Shuchun, and the hole Rakalaz had made in the cliff.

Shuchun was a Lorewalker, a trade that Ziya barely understood. Lorewalkers told stories. They searched for artifacts from Pandaria's long past. And, if Shuchun was any example, they talked with their mouths full and smiled a lot.

Framed in the blazing circle of light, the Lorewalker looked up, took another bite of her cold wildfowl roll, and chewed thoughtfully.

"You really should get out of here," Ziya said. "Gallywix is up there. He might start chucking megabombs at us for fun."

"Oh?" said Shuchun, swallowing. "I've heard of him. But I think I'll stay."

"Why?"

"Let's hope you don't find out."

They sat in uncomfortable silence. Finally, Ziya said, "Thanks for the rescue. Look, I should probably tell you—"

"That you're here to steal treasures and artifacts?" Shuchun said. "I know. I came to stop you."

"But you saved me!"

"I said stop, not kill," Shuchun said mildly.

The Blank Scroll

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