Quest for Pandaria

Part 1 of 4

Li Li slowly turned the great pearl in her paws. The world held many secrets, and magic could do many things.

"I need to find it," she whispered. "That's why I saw the vision, isn't it? Wanyo didn't, and none of the Elders. Not even my father or Uncle Chen. Just me."

The colors on the pearl swirled again, and Li Li took that for a good omen.

"You'll have to come with me," she said, tucking the pearl under one arm. It was a bit unwieldy, but it was nothing she couldn't fit into a pouch or travel pack. Quickly, Li Li hurried back through the library, heading for home. She had so much to prepare, and time was short. Who knew how long she'd been in the vision?

Once, she had set out to find Chen, and she had succeeded, though it had come at the terrible price of Bo's life. Li Li's heart hammered in her chest. She would not repeat her mistakes. Her mission was clear.

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***

Extra clothing, her journal of notes and copied maps, rations stolen from the kitchen, various knickknacks she thought would be useful, and lastly, the pearl. Li Li reverently wrapped it in a cloak and laid it on top of her other belongings in her traveling pack. That was everything she needed to get started on her journey. She strapped on a little pouch full of enchanted powder—it always came in handy—and surveyed her room one last time, deciding whether she had forgotten anything. Convinced that she had not, she went to the dresser and retrieved her crane whistle from the drawer, draping the cord around her neck along with the string of draenei beads Chen had given her as a gift. She rubbed both necklaces between her fingers, wishing herself luck.

"Only one more thing to do," she said softly.

Li Li had written a letter like this to her father once before, and the words came easily as she drew the stylus across the page.

Dear Papa and Uncle Chen,
By the time you read this, I'll be on my way to Ironforge. Shen-zin Su is not the place for me. I've told you this for years.
Uncle Chen, finding you was like solving a great mystery, but there is another one left—an even bigger one. Wanyo's pearl has shown me how to solve it, so that's what I'm going to do. No one will get hurt this time, I promise. When I see you again, you won't believe what I'll have found!
— Li Li

***

Far from the center of town, Li Li raised the whistle to her lips and blew a sharp, clear note. She only had to wait a moment before she heard the quiet rustle of feathers, and her old friend the Crane landed before her. The great bird cocked his head to the side and evaluated her with a dark, fathomless eye. Li Li smiled sheepishly.

"You'd probably say the same thing as Papa right now. But I can't sit around waiting for the world to come to me. I've got work to do."

The Crane arched his neck and hooted at her, beating his wings and prancing from one lanky leg to the other.

"All right, go on and laugh." Li Li rolled her eyes. The Crane honked gleefully at her again and lowered himself to the ground, allowing her to climb upon his back with ease. When she had settled, he leaped straight up, taking to the sky with a powerful downstroke of his wings.

"Pandaria's to the south," Li Li called above the wind, her face pressed low against the base of the Crane's neck, "hidden in a huge bank of mist."

The Crane pitched forward, nearly tossing Li Li into the ocean. "Honk?"

"What was that about, you crazy bird?" Li Li clutched at the Crane's feathers, her sore head aching again from the sudden movement. "Of course I don't expect you to take me the whole way! We'll need days' worth of supplies and food, for crying out loud."

The Crane seemed unconvinced. "Hooonk?"

"An airship!" Li Li grinned. "And I happen to know someone who let me use one before."

"Haaaaaaaaank?"

"Ironforge! King Magni! Are you going to blab the entire time, or what? Get flying!"

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