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"You could talk about your mutual love of sunsets," she said.

"Any stories that could turn into?"

Shuchun thought.

"Several," she admitted.

Silence.

"I don't understand," Ziya said. Druz nudged her, and she ignored him. "Why do the pandaren use their stories to solve problems?"

"It's not just us," Shuchun said. "Every race has stories that are told and retold. We enjoy them because they have simple answers that help us find the hard ones. But stories are dangerous."

"You don't say," said Druz. The Lorewalker smiled.

"Sometimes, we forget that stories break rules," Shuchun said. "Simple answers don't care about consequences, and there are plenty."

"I get it," Druz said. "Your artifact is a simple answer. But you're neutral, Lorewalker. We don't have the luxury of… We have to make hard deci—oh, hell."

Far beneath their feet, under the previously opaque white of the floor, something dark and terrible stirred.

"You knew this was going to happen," he said.

Shuchun shrugged.

"I didn't force you to enter the lorevault," she said.

"Which one is it?"

Shuchun peered at the uncoiling horror below.

"If I had to guess? 'The Spiders of Te Zhuo,'" she said.

Druz and Ziya closed their eyes. The black cloud beneath them expanded as a thousand tiny—but not tiny enough—bodies scurried toward the light above.

"How are you with spiders?" Ziya said.

"Not great. Lorewalker? Any chance of us skippin' ahead to the moral of this story? Something about actions and consequences? We get it."

"Do you?" Shuchun said politely. "They're still coming."

The white walls whirled away like gray clouds in a high wind. The goblins and the Lorewalker stood on dull stone, a platform in the center of a vast room filled with noise. Thousands of legs skittered up from below, and massive, heavy shadows circled through the darkness around the platform with crushing speed.

"Well, tell the end of the story," Druz said through gritted teeth. "Make this stop."

"That's going to be a problem," Shuchun admitted. "No explorer who entered the lost temple of Te Zhuo was ever seen again, so it's more a cautionary tale than a story."

"A cautionary tale about not entering the temple we're already in?" Ziya said wearily.

Shuchun beamed.

"Wait, hang on," Druz said. "No one ever came back, yeah? So no bodies were ever found."

Shuchun cocked her head. "Yes?"

"So, how do we know it's a bad place?" Druz said. "Could be it's so wonderful inside that no one wanted to come out."

"That's certainly possible," Shuchun allowed as Ziya buried her face in her hands. "Except the story is named after the spiders for a reason."

"Oh?" Druz said. He and Ziya moved together, shoulder to shoulder, by unspoken arrangement.

"Well," Shuchun said, "I never said that the explorers were never heard from again. They scream."

"Let me guess. They scream about spiders," Ziya said.

"Oh yes."

A wave of black death on a multitude of hairy legs exploded from the pit below. And froze. Clusters of glittering eyes burned with hunger.

"So, if we enter this Te Zhuo place," Druz said after a deliberately calm breath, "we might find anything. Traps. Very impressive spiders."

"Servants of the Old Gods, maybe," Ziya said. "They get everywhere."

"One action," Druz said slowly. "One outcome: viz, we never get out."

"We don't have a way out of this, do we?" said Ziya. "Our actions brought us here. We have to deal with the consequences."

"Yes," said Shuchun, smiling. "Well done."

Darkness flooded over the platform, washing the goblins away.

***

Ziya opened her eyes. The cold against her cheek was a marble floor, long and pale, stretching toward…

… a scroll hanging on the far wall of a narrow, doorless chamber. The ghosts of words raced over the scroll's surface as fleetingly as thought. It was the blazing white of a pupilless eye, staring at her, waiting.

Shuchun stepped over her head and blocked her view of the scroll with a footfall as measured and precise as if it had been foretold.

Groaning, Ziya pushed herself off the ground.

The Blank Scroll

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