The Loremaster turned off the magical quill as Sionis Sepher stood by his stove. The story, as engaging as it was, had ended for now.
“Why stop now?” the Loremaster asked.
“From here out, my time in Northrend becomes… complicated,” Sionis answered.
“You still haven’t exactly explained why you’re in Northrend, or how this impacts the story of the wand,” the Loremaster said. “To be frank, this is all rather complicated already.”
Sionis smiled. “I suppose it is. Regardless, if I’m going to talk about my experience with the Lich King then I am going to want to be well fed.”
The Loremaster nearly gasped. “You actually faced the Lich King?”
“No,” Sionis said, looking sad. “I merely got in his way.”
“Okay, sure. Now I’m interested again. So, what can I get you?”
“Mantis shrimp dumplings,” Sionis said, looking thoughtfully upward. “Yes, I don’t think I’ve had a good shrimp dinner in some time.”
“Alright. Where do I go for that?”
“The Jinyu farm them. I have a vendor in Pearlfin Village that’s bound to have the best pick for our purposes.”
“Wait,” the Loremaster said. “Isn’t that in the Jade Forest? That’s like… at least a full day of travel each way!”
Sionis nodded. “Are you interested in my story, or should we stick to farming?”
“This is exploitation,” the Loremaster grumbled. “Fine. I’ll get your shrimp.”
“Excellent. I’ll make a list of the other ingredients you can pick up too.”
The Loremaster wanted to complain, but he bit his tongue and waited for the mage to write up his list. He wasn’t brave enough to ask Sionis for a portal, so he snatched up the finished list and headed outside, turning toward Halfhill where he could try to get a ride on someone’s travel cart, or pay for a flight to a closer area.
Either way, the shrimp were going to have to taste fantastic to be worth it.
The Jade Forest was a beautiful place. Many of the areas in Pandaria had a mystical charm to them, but none so much as the rich bamboo forests and ancient stone statues that littered this area. They grew so thick and tall that the light filtered through them, giving everything a surreal glow.
Despite being an outsider to most of the Pandaren here, the Loremaster was treated with kindness and respect, even when he deserved none from them. The man who had let him ride in his cart of sweet melons even offered up a blanket to keep him warm through the night as they traveled from Halfhill to Pearlfin Village.
Along the way, he had instinctively began chatting with the cart driver, and he instantly realized that not everyone had an interesting life tale to share with him. The cart driver, a Pandaren named Changpu, lives a life of beautiful simplicity, taking over his delivery service from his father, after his father took it from his grandfather, and so on and so forth reaching back at least a few centuries.
He even had enchanted images, living art, reflecting the proud day of this family tradition reaching back as far as his lineage could trace. It was all well documented, from a Loremaster’s perspective, but it lacked the shock or awe of the adventures that Azeroth citizens had come to live with each day.
Indeed, Pandaria was a place where time itself seemed to have simply… slowed down.
“Have you ever met the Jinyu before?” Changpu asked as he pulled on the reins of his yaks, slowing them for the approach to Pearlfin Village.
“They are mystics, and they delight in it. Many have become… distant since the events in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms. It would be wise for you to wait. I will bring Shaoshu to the cart and he can collect your items.”
“Okay, sure,” the Loremaster replied. “Whatever works.”
When the cart reached the village, the Loremaster quickly realized that this place was more of a loose collective of Jinyu citizens populating ancient structures, rather than a proper village with amenities or anything that he might have expected.
Changpu pulled the cart up to one of the stone buildings, then stepped off and reached up for the Loremaster’s list, which he provided. The Pandaren headed inside, leaving the Loremaster alone in the cart. He leaned back, trying to get comfortable, but the plain wooden seats of Changpu’s vehicle were anything but accomodating.
“Excuse me,” a voice said from the far side of the cart. “Excuse me, Aier.”
The Loremaster, shocked to hear his birth name, turned to see a Jinyu had approached the cart. He was a tall and slender… fish-like humanoid. His head resembled nothing less than a massive carp, but his body looked almost human. He was covered with scales, and small scraps of metal that must have counted for armor… or decorative attire… the Loremaster wasn’t sure.
“How do you know my name?” the Loremaster asked.
“You speak with the timeless one,” the Jinyu said. “I hear your name in the waters.”
“I don’t understand.”
“The timeless one speaks. You listen.”
“You mean Sionis?”
The Jinyu nodded.
“I’m sorry, how do you know who I am, or what I do?”
“The waters tell us of the timeless one,” the Jinyu said. “The waters—”
“That’s enough of that,” Changpu’s voice broke the Jinyu’s words and it suddenly stepped away from the cart, leaving the Loremaster with absolutely no clue about what had just happened. As the Jinyu walked off, almost mindlessly wandering from the looks of it, Changpu began loading a crate of goods into the back of the cart. He waited for a few other Jinyu to emerge from the building where he’d been, and they quickly began unloading the melons that he had brought.
As they did their work, Changpu climbed into the front of the cart, next to the Loremaster, and eyed the wandering Jinyu before looking over at the Loremaster.
“You alright?” he asked.
“I’m fine,” the Loremaster replied. “He didn’t do anything.”
“That one is a Waterspeaker,” Changpu explained. “They use a magic that’s deeply tied to the lands of Pandaria. They can hear the land and the water, the world, I suppose. They use it to listen for whatever they may want.”
“He knew my name.”
“Have you spoken your name since you arrived in Pandaria?” Changpu asked.
“Then the land heard it. The river carried it here, and the Waterspeaker listened.”
“It’s more harm than good,” Changpu said, clearly expressing his opinion.
The Loremaster looked out after the Waterspeaker, watching him vanish inside one of the other ancient structures. He thought about Sionis, about how the mystic had called him the timeless one. There had to be something to that, right? He wondered if the real story of Sionis Sepher would ever come to light.
He heard two thuds on the back of Changpu’s cart and the Pandaren smiled. “A successful delivery. Now, we can return to Halfhill.”
The Loremaster watched Sionis Sepher go to work on the supplies that he brought back with him from Pearlfin Village. The mage had clearly gathered some of his own materials from the market while the Loremaster was away, and soon enough the small farmhouse smelled like a dream.
The rice, the dumplings, and even the shrimp… it was all a heavenly combination of flavor that the Loremaster instantly appreciated. He ate plenty, and Sionis had plenty more to make. In fact, as the day went on, it became apparent that Sionis planned to cook well into the evening, and soon enough the normal crowd of farmers, merchants, and travelers began to make their way through the Sepher farm to get their meals from the mage.
The Loremaster was impressed.
Sionis Sepher had lived an interesting life, and soon he would share the story of how he came face to face with the fallen prince of Lordaeron, but despite the grand adventures and deep mysteries, here the mage lived and worked, part of a community that clearly respected and appreciated his skills, but oblivious to the real man that lurked in the past.
As he bit into another shrimp dumpling he couldn’t help but wonder if that was exactly the way Sionis wanted it. A life forgotten, a time forgotten. Perhaps that’s what the Jinyu had meant when he called the mage timeless. He existed outside of his own story, a simple cook and farmer that knew nothing of the time that had passed.
Or maybe he just really liked cooking.
Right now, the Loremaster didn’t’ care. He just wanted another serving.
The next morning, the Loremaster arrived at the farm still feeling full from the big meal he’d had the day before. He found Sionis at work, as usual, cleaning the massive pile of dishes that he would pull out for his big meals. It was here that the Loremaster saw just a peek of the mage’s power. The dishes, while numbering in the hundreds, were all neatly stacked in a cupboard that stood only a few feet tall. The pots and pans sat in buckets of water while sponges scrubbed magically to wash them. Sionis still did a lot of grunt work, but it was clear he could have conjured the plates up in an instant and disposed of them too, if he really wanted to do so.
“Good morning,” the Loremaster said as he took his place at the table and started retrieving his next pile of scrolls.
“What did you think of the meal?” Sionis asked.
“The best one yet.”
“I agree. I was most pleased. How was the trip to Pearlfin Village?”
“The trip was good. I like Changpu.”
“He’s a kind one.”
“There was a mystic there, in the village, a Waterseeker.”
“He called you the timeless one.”
Sionis stopped scrubbing, only for a second, and then went back to work. “That’s odd,” he added. “I’ve not been called that before.”
“Do you have any idea what it means?” the Loremaster probed.
Sionis shrugged. “I might have an idea. I can’t say for sure, but perhaps we’ll all find out… in time.”
“More mysteries,” the Loremaster grumbled.
“Don’t skip ahead,” Sionis replied. “Today, we pick up where we left off. You see, I think in all, I spent at least a few months living at Amberpine Lodge. It was comfortable, to be with Angus again, and I dare say I started to lose sight of my prize, but all of that was about to change.”
“Yeah,” the Loremaster said. “You ran into the Lich King.”
Sionis smiled. “Are you ready to hear about it?”
“I was ready the day you mentioned it!”
The mage turned back to his scrubbing, and then began. “It was colder than usual…”