The world had been brought to order. All was well. The Makers, as always happened, wished to stay and ensure that it grew to be exactly what they wanted—especially here, in this case, even now the corruption had been contained. But they could not. They never could.
So, as always, they created simulacra of themselves. Most were placed in the north, above the prison of the strongest piece of corruption. In the end, the Prime Designate was also placed there so that any escape attempts on the corruption’s part would be noticed and reported and dealt with immediately.
There was a southern council of simulacra in the interests of balancing the northern one, though it did not have a prime designate. East and west each received one image; those pieces of corruption had fought the least.
And then it came time to decide who would do the most part of the work; the simulacra were large, and powerful in magic, but could not work at a smaller scale. In the end, it was decided that both north and south would have a race of warrior-people; the north was the strongest, and though the southern piece had been slain, its essence continued to plague the land. It was almost drawn to the Titans’ workplaces. That simply would not do, so the heart of the southern corruption—the only remaining piece of it after it had died—was imprisoned in a chamber suspended above the ground and guarded by a watcher specifically created for the task.
The mogu were created to be the first line of defense should it break out. They were, in fact, created somewhat like the eredar—one of the few races created by chaos the Titans had not been able to bring themselves to obliterate—powerful in both hand and magic. But unlike the eredar, the mogu were programmed to serve: themselves before any chaos-generated races, other titan-created races before themselves, and the Titans above all others. They would never and could never serve any form of corruption; the Titans made certain of this. Just in case.
The ramkahen people were created to be the second line of defense in the south; if the mogu should fall (unlikely), they too were warriors and ought to be able to prevent the corruption from gaining a foothold long enough for a message to be sent to the Prime Designate and reorigination started. And just in case a message could not be sent, a reorigination control was placed within the hands of the southern council of watchers, so that the ramkahen could begin the process themselves if necessary.
Then in the north, the entire prison was built to guard against the attempted escape of the northern corruption: bristling defenses pointing both in and out. Not even a titan creation or outside watcher could enter without requesting permission from the Prime Designate. If all the prison’s immediate defenses failed, there were more defenses pointed at the prison scattered all over the immediate southern area. The mechagnomes were created to care for those defenses, and the vrykul created to protect the mechagnomes. All the watchers in the prison had temples from which they could command the defenses if necessary.
The earthen, meanwhile, were spread across the entire world. Their primary job was to ensure the world not under the direct control of the other titan races grew as was intended. They could fight of course. But fighting was not their primary function.
It swiftly occurred to the Titans, just before they left, that if the mogu people had no orders coming from them, things could swiftly go badly. So they created a final watcher just for the mogu, to give them orders. It was linked directly to the Pantheon itself, which would never fall, and so the orders would never stop coming.
“Such was written of the beginning of this world’s Ordered Phase,” the ancient mogu informed the much smaller mogu seated in front of him. The smaller mogu was as attentive as ever, but then it held only a bare spark of life. Just enough to record what it saw, what it heard, what it felt. Beyond that it was an empty shell. It did only what the ancient mogu ordered—and the ancient mogu now heard a deep banging on the door leading into this most sacred of abodes. “Admit who has come,” he told it, and it got up, bowed, then went to open the door.
Its head was the first piece to come sailing back into the room. The ancient mogu sighed, then rose. So Lei Shen had come at last. “Well done. You have killed an empty shell, Lei Shen,” the ancient mogu clapped slowly, the sound mocking in the empty hall between him and the upstart warlord. “You have set me back approximately one month, for I must spend two weeks forming another shell and another two weeks catching it up to where that one was.”
The mogu warlord before him was decorated with the trophies of his last kills. The spear he held crackled with power—power which, the ancient mogu suspected, Lei Shen barely knew how to use. He growled and threatened the ancient mogu with the spear, only for it to be calmly removed from his grasp and placed on a nearby table. The whip—singing with lightning—was placed beside it. Lei Shen—the mogu warlord—curled his fists and growled menacingly.
The ancient mogu was unmoved.
“Where are the others!” Lei Shen bellowed.
“There are none, Lei Shen.”
This brought him pause. “What happened, then?”
“The same as happened to all our people, save that they could not bear the change nor think a way out.”
The warlord harrumphed. “Then they were weak.”
“Of mind, yes,” the ancient mogu agreed.
“So why do you stay, old one. Why stand between me and my goal? I could crush you easily, even without my spear or my whip.”
“Because it is my duty to stay, Lei Shen. I am a Speaker; my duty is to remain within these halls and listen to what Ra-den orders, and thence to ferry those orders to my people.”
“The orders stopped coming long ago, old man. It’s time for you to accept that, like the rest of my people.” Lei Shen moved as if to strike the ancient mogu, but found an invisible force holding his arm back. Then he found that the same force imprisoned his body, rendering him immobile.
“I have made a new duty for myself, Lei Shen,” the ancient mogu said, resuming the seat from which he had been dictating a lesson. “And if you would be our emperor as you desire, then you have much to learn,” he gestured, and Lei Shen moved as if on strings to sit on the floor before the ancient mogu.
“You know a bastardized version of our history, Lei Shen. A true emperor, as Ra-den once was, must know the whole of it, and my duty ever since the orders ceased and my body became flesh has been to know it, and to record it.” The ancient mogu paused. “What you do with this knowledge is your choice. Ra-den will not stop you. I will not stop you. No other mogu will stop you. The consequences will be yours as well, since the Titans have let that mantle fall upon us.”
“Old man, you speak treason,” Lei Shen growled; he could speak, but not move, though he tried valiantly to break the spell holding him.
“Indeed I do. And you will hear much more of it before I am done,” the ancient mogu said, and with that began his lesson.
In the beginning, Lei Shen looked restless, defiant—as any mogu would, given the circumstances. By the middle, he looked violent and would have killed the ancient mogu where he stood if only he could move. But then the end came, and he was simply dumbfounded. He stopped fighting the spell, and so the spell released him.
The ancient mogu expected as much. There had been a lot to absorb. “If you do as you have come to do,” he informed Lei Shen. “You will become as he was. You will gain all his power…and all his weakness. The better part of his strength came from the Makers, and the Makers no longer speak.”
Lei Shen’s jaw worked as he considered this. I suppose he could be a good emperor, for all his shortsightedness, the ancient mogu decided.
“How can I do what I have come to do if your spell holds me?”
“The spell does not hold you, Lei Shen. It has not held you since you ceased to fight,” the ancient mogu told him.
Lei Shen stood immediately and tried to grab the ancient one by the throat, but an invisible field kept his fingers at bay. Still he tried, and still the ancient mogu did not fight back. Eventually frustration won, and Lei Shen turned his magic against a nearby worktable; the ancient mogu did not flinch.
“Why will you not fight me!” he roared.
“I am a Speaker, Lei Shen. We fight only in direst need.”
Lei Shen could hardly believe this, and would have argued, but the ancient mogu interrupted him before he could. “To reach the chamber of Ra-den, turn always to the right,” he said, and rapped his knuckles on a piece of wall, which slid back to reveal a door and beyond the door, a maze. “All paths in the maze lead to Ra-den, but only the right hand paths will take you to him that you will arrive with sufficient strength to fight him and win.”
Lei Shen nodded, then started for his weapons, but a field protected them just as it protected the ancient mogu. “You will come before Ra-den as you were when you were born. The maze will see to your armor and trinkets,” the ancient mogu told him, as Lei Shen turned again on him in fury.
“Old man, when I come back—”
“If you come back, you will have the knowledge necessary to make a wise decision about what to do with me. If you are going to go, go.”
Lei Shen went. And Lei Shen returned.
His skin was the color of Ra-den’s, when Ra-den had been speaking with the Pantheon. Power manifesting as lightning crackled around his body. Every alternate step, the power struck the top of his head, but he did not flinch. Instead, his eyes glowed with a reflection of the power he had only just consumed.
He stopped before the ancient mogu. “If the Pantheon calls for help…is it truly a Pantheon?”
“A Pantheon—or a council, or an army—is only as strong as its weakest member,” the ancient mogu answered.
Lei Shen nodded, static lightnings arcing between his body and that of the ancient mogu. “You will not trouble my empire, old man. Find a clan and stay with them,” he ordered, brusquely, then moved past to retrieve his spear and whip. The field no longer stopped him; the ancient mogu’s power was no longer a match.
The ancient mogu bowed. “This island…” Lei Shen turned to face him—a much more impressive figure now he had visited Ra-den. “Will be my throne. Should you so much as cough in its direction, I will not be so merciful as I am now. Gather only what is absolutely necessary for your…profession…and begone. You have three sunsets,” he ordered, and then he left to greet the army he had come with.
The ancient mogu left that night with only a hammer and a chisel. He snorted to hear the title Lei Shen had chosen for himself. Thunder King indeed.
The ancient mogu stopped once he reached the shores of their homeland. The boat he had sailed in he left above the tide line for the nearest village of pandaren to find and repurpose. He could have sailed directly into the village and demanded shelter of them. Food. Clothing. But he did not. The enslavement of the pandaren—a chaos race—had come well after the orders had ceased. Before that, they had received no orders regarding them.
And that besides, he had bigger problems to worry with…his body would not hold up much longer, and Lei Shen had destroyed his protégée. Even if he hadn’t, without Ra-den to give it the gift of life…the ancient mogu sighed and walked on towards the mountains.
New life could only come from the Titans, or from their watchers. Or chaos, he supposed, since the pandaren were clearly living creatures, even if they were lesser beings even by pre-silence standards. But what about old life…?
The ancient mogu paused. There had always been mogu capable of binding the spirits of creatures to living stone, and to thus create golems. Those could then be used to guard, to protect…to war. He had never heard of anyone binding their own soul to such a creature…but if it was possible to bind the soul of a forest stripe-cat to a golem shaped like a mogu…
The ancient mogu walked with new purpose in his step. The spell would need only minor modifications to work. A body was the next necessary item, and he had the tools to create one. And…he thought for a moment, then nodded. A name. He would need to create a new name for himself; Lei Shen had consumed Ra-den’s heart and therefore power, so he knew his old one. The ancient mogu couldn’t very well continue to use it; he trusted Lei Shen about as much as he trusted a sha or an elemental.
His teacher, who had been among the first Speakers of Ra-den’s orders and among the last to die, had been named Norok. Norokja, he thought to himself. “I will always be your student, Norok-den…” he muttered.
At the base of the mountain, he found a snake threatening a small pandaren child. Norokja sighed, then measured his steps so that he stepped on the snake as he walked up the path. It died within seconds, and the pandaren child fled. Halfway to his destination (an old mine few mogu had known of even when it had been active), he came upon a wounded quilen, which some particularly callous mogu had abandoned.
He paused for a moment, then fixed the broken paw. It had broken off the leg cleanly, and would not have taken that much power to fix even for an average mogu. When it stood up and made to follow him, Norokja halted it and gave it the image of the pandaren girl. “Protect her and her family,” he ordered. The quilen did not bow; it simply trotted down the path to find the child.
At the entrance to the mine, he found a sha. A rather large one, with claws that alternated between red and the typical white. He stayed out of sight while he observed it; it seemed peaceful enough, though it appeared to have made a den out of the mine’s entrance. Norokja considered; he had the strength to defeat the creature, but not without drawing a great deal of unwelcome attention. The entrance it had chosen for its den wasn’t the only way into the mine, but it was the safest…
Norokja considered. “I am dying in any case,” he decided. “And I am near enough the mountain that my spirit will wander houseless until it finds a suitable body. I will leave the sha alone for now and decide what to do with it when I have done what I came to do.” With this, he stepped into the sha’s line of sight.
It immediately raged at him, but did not go far beyond the entrance of the mine. Noting this, Norokja kept well out of range and did not deign to look at it. The sound of the creature followed him until he reached the nearest side entrance. Thankfully it was open and looked more or less safe. He wriggled his way inside and moved to the back of the mine.
Once, it had produced the finest marble within mogu lands. When the marble ran out, the mine was abandoned, even though it still had good stone within it. But the stone wasn’t marble, and marble had been in demand at the time.
Plain stone was the best for this sort of work. For whatever reason, it held onto spirits the best. Perhaps the Makers had designed it this way; perhaps they hadn’t and it was only a quirk of the world. In either case, he would need to find a block of stone about his size. He searched for what felt like several hours until his legs felt stiff and he had to sit.
It was then that he heard a chirp from the sha that guarded the main entrance. He looked hurriedly, and noticed immediately that the sha that had made the noise wasn’t the sha from the entrance; this sha was smaller, had no ribs, and did not float on invisible legs. The sha from the entrance, now that he looked, wasn’t far away though. The smaller sha chirped again.
“…Go away,” he told it, and it appeared to tilt its head at him. It chirped again, with a questioning tone. “I am busy. Go away.”
It peeped, this time, and insistently, then settled firmly on the ground. Norokja sighed in disgust. Corruption always went out of its way to be disobedient…
Norokja closed his eyes in annoyance when it peeped again, and made a tapping noise. Wait…a tapping noise? Only the large sha had claws… he turned to look again, and was stunned by what he saw. The smaller sha had found a soft piece of rock and had written out the words “What you do” with a symbol he supposed was meant to mark a question. The characters were drawn nearly as well as any professional scribe could have done…
Did the Makers know this could happen…? Norokja settled on the floor in front of the sha and drew with his finger and a blue color-spell the proper character for a question under the odd symbol. “For questions,” he told it. It cheeped, then wiped out the odd symbol and copied the proper one in its place. Its stroke order was off, but the end character was an exact copy of what Norokja had supplied. Then it looked at Norok expectantly.
It is only a crime if I am caught, he thought; and there were no other mogu around to catch him. They would all be busy celebrating with the new Thunder King. “I seek a block of stone about as tall as me,” Norokja told it.
It blinked at him in confusion, then drew out the symbols—its grammar was nonexistent—for “wall stone be”.
“Yes, the walls are made of stone,” Norokja agreed, uncertain where the creature was going with this.
“Take stone out wall,” it drew.
Norokja opened his mouth, about to argue, but then closed it, thinking. Why shouldn’t he do such a thing? True, such a thing wasn’t in the Makers’ plan, but neither had the mine. And even if the Makers weren’t silent, surely they would know what was going on, and understand why he needed to do this… “You clever little creature,” he finally said, standing and walking to the nearest wall; there was a pleased-sounding cheep behind him.
He took some time to make sure the wall he had chosen did not support the weight of the mountain above them; it would not do to be crushed before he could complete his task. Then he chiseled guide lines into the stone—he needed it to be just so wide, and just so tall—and once done, stood back and used his magic to pull it out of the wall.
And now that he had his stone, he knew how to sculpt it. It didn’t even need to be an image of himself; in fact, it would be better if it wasn’t. Once working, he felt no need to stop, as always; that particular fact caused no end of upset in the little sha, who continuously insisted on trying to get him to eat. He did so only when his golem was complete in form, and then only because he needed his strength.
The little sha never stopped making scolding noises while he ate. Eventually, Norokja grew tired of them. “I am dying anyway, little creature, so it matters little if I did not eat,” he told it.
It stopped making noises, but then wrote on the wall beside his golem “Then what do?”
Norokja thought about this. “…my soul is hale and healthy. It is my body that is failing me. So I’m making a new one.”
The sha headtilted, then nodded firmly once and left him alone. Good, since Norokja would need the alone time to complete his spell, in which he would be throwing himself into the golem. A problem presented itself to him; if he was both throwing and being thrown, what would stabilize the spell in case it backlashed?
Norok blinked; he wasn’t sure those thoughts had been his own, but the more he thought about the concept, the more it made sense. By its very nature, a golem without a soul was a force of stability; it would suffer no harm from backlash, since it was not casting the spell, merely holding it down. This determined, Norokja drew the lines of his spell and began to speak the words. It took hold the moment he spoke the name of the soul it should throw into the golem.
Norokja’s eyes opened; they were stiff, as though he had awakened from another decades-long sleep. He had begun making his preparations for who would carry on his legacy (and thus the legacy of all the Speakers) when he had awoken from the first of these. They were the warning signs that a body was beginning to fail. Had the spell worked?
He looked around slowly; all his muscles were stiff. It must have been a sleep, and it must have struck him in the middle of the spell. Something cheeped in front of him; it took him a few moments to focus. The little sha, and the words “It work.”
It had ample opportunities to attack while I was casting…and it did not. But what could it mean by—oh.
Norokja looked down. His old body lay as a husk before him, empty and for all intents and purposes, dead. Dead…that gave him an idea…
“Little creature, would you drag this to the entrance and pretend to have killed me?” Norokja nudged his old body with a foot.
It made a throaty chirping noise, then drew out “Why?”
“Because the new mogu emperor isn’t very fond of me. And if he thinks I am dead, he will not pursue me,”
This time the bigger sha moved to answer. “We will” it drew out, then pulled the husk that had been Norokja to the entrance of the mine and began to take bites out of it. It made noises that sounded most unhappy with the quality of its food. Norokja raised an eyebrow at the smaller sha.
“Mogu taste bad” it wrote, then went to join its larger cousin.
Norokja snorted in amusement, then left the mine through the side entrance. He would indeed find a new clan to call home; perhaps one he could nudge in what he thought was a good direction. Such a clan would need to be of low rank; all the better for avoiding the gaze of Lei Shen, and the emperors that came after. He would explain all to the Makers once he found them again.
The celebrations for Lei Shen’s ascension to emperorhood lasted a full week; they sailed for the mainland after that, seeking the only mogu who had not sworn faith to him. It did not take long for them to find his trail; he hadn’t even bothered hiding it. The only odd thing was the quilen that had taken up residence in a pandaren village at the base of a mountain. A quarry village, owned by a small, low-ranking clan which had barely even fought him as he gained his power. The quilen was destroyed; Lei Shen couldn’t imagine how it had gotten there, and didn’t care to guess. A small pandaren child wept over its remains, so he killed her too. The pandaren had to learn that attachment was weakness. Her family did not move, but they did glare.
It mattered not; their anger was nothing compared to even the weakest of mogu. Still, angry lesser creatures with weapons were a bad plan; he ordered his escort to strip the village of them and anything which could potentially hold magic. Then he ordered one of his quilen riders to carry his latest order back to his court, who would put it into practice for the rest of his empire.
There was a small game trail leading up to a cave in the mountain; a cave which a pair of sha had taken over, and to judge by the body they were chewing…
Well, well. The corruption did my job for me, old man.
He gestured; a slab of the mountain came down to cover the entrance, hiding the sha and their prize from view.
“The mountain is cursed. No mogu shall set foot on it while I am emperor,” he ordered when he came back down.
And every mogu emperor after him renewed this decree.