So, Patch 5.2
What we have coming next should answer a lot of our questions. Up to now, we've seen the mogu as a threat, yes, but our conflicts with them have been in the Jade Forest, Krasarang Wilds and Vale of Eternal Blossoms - with the rise of the Thunder King comes our taking the attack to him, and setting foot on the mysterious Thunder Isle. We are not at present sure o where this place is, as Anne mentioned this week. There's an island that could be the Isle of Giants to the north of Townlong Steppes, we don't yet know. (It does seem likely to me.) One of the interesting permutations of patch 5.2 is the fallout from the Sunreavers having been driven out of Dalaran. The Sunreaver Onslaught will be leading the charge for the Horde's attempt to explore the new lands and defeat the Thunder King, while for the Alliance the Kirin-Tor Offensive will be doing the same.
This is a big deal because it means that the end of Dalaran's neutrality is enshrined in game past patch 5.1 - the Sunreaver decision to aid Garrosh not only in creating the Mana Bomb that destroyed Theramore and killed Rhonin, but then again during the quest for the Divine Bell, as it was direct Sunreaver action that allowed the Horde to infiltrate Darnassus, despite Jaina's pledge of neutrality on behalf of the entire Kirin Tor, led us to the current situation. This chain of consequences actually may strengthen the Horde, as it gains the services of the most talented of the blood elf mages, those that up till now were officially not taking sides in the Horde/Alliance conflict. Although it's true that the Alliance also gains the Kirin Tor itself (and the Silver Covenant, high elf forces led by Vereesa Windrunner) we have yet to see if Jaina Proudmoore can lead the Kirin Tor to war for the Alliance.
What comes beyond
Once the Thunder King and his Zandalari allies (and whatever the mysterious 13th boss of the new raid turns out to be) are dealt with, what's next? Will there be another raid? More factional conflict? Is patch 5.3 to be another smaller content patch like 5.1 (which still had plenty of content, especially unfolding lore through the Operation: Shieldwall and Dominance Offensive quests) or another raid or instance patch? Clearly, I do not know. But I do know that there's room for some interesting developments in mantid culture.
At the end of the events in the Klaxxi reputation questline, many of the Klaxxi'va are dead, and the remaining Klaxxi are severely weakened. Down below Klaxxi'vess, a lone casque with several eggs lays hidden. Meanwhile, thanks to the action of a traveler from beyond the mists who earned the title of Wakener from the Klaxxi, the mantid Grand Empress Shekzeer is also dead, as is her Vizier and many of her closest subjects, and the Sha of Fear that controlled her and through her the mantid people has been balked and temporarily defeated. That leaves the Dread Wastes in disarray, the land scarred and despoiled by the Sha, and the leadership of the people dead. The Klaxxi are many things, but they are not rulers, yet they must attempt for the first time to lead a regency until their candidate for the title of Grand Empress is old enough to rule. Worse yet, with the Empress slain by an outsider's hand, the young Empress designate was not able to ritually consume her predecessor.
Mantid society is in flux. It's in fact possible that the Klaxxi will choose to expand their people's drive east. As we learned, the mantid engage in their cycle of expansion, following the kunchong insects and using their amber resin as a means to winnow out the weak from their ranks. But that was when the established order of their society was intact, and due to outsiders from beyond the mists, it now absolutely is not. We may see the mantid actually becoming an integrated part of Pandaria, whether through their own actions of those of others, and it could be peacefully or through naked conquest. Either way, the Serpent's Spine is breached and the mantid swarm itself is mostly untouched.
And don't forget, the Klaxxi themselves make no bones about the fact that, if called by the Old Gods, they would answer.
The pandaren themselves
The pandaren are in an interesting and unique position. They've maintained their unique status as an empire without an emperor or even much of a government for 10,000 years following Emperor Shaohao's disappearance and the rise of the mists. And in all that time, it seems they've not really needed one. The Shado Pan maintained their vigil, defending the pandaren (and the jinyu and hozen and grummles) from the Sha, the yaungol, and even the mantid. But with the return of the Thunder King, the mantid swarm a century early, the coming of outsiders and the yaungol push into Kun-Lai Summit, it's clear that these are times of change and chaos besetting the established order of Pandaria. Both the Alliance and Horde seek a foothold here, bringing their war to Pandaria's shores and threatening to empower the Sha even further.
In the face of all this, can the pandaren of Pandaria retain their isolation and their non-rule of the Empire? The hozen and jinyu chose allies and made war on each other at the prompting of those allegiances, helping to awaken the Sha of Doubt and nearly destroy the Temple of the Jade Serpent - While this is certainly the fault of the Horde and Alliance outsider in part, one could argue the pandaren unwillingness to rule the empire they seized isn't helping matters any. Can the pandaren keep their society as it is? Do they dare? And if so, how would they go about reforming it? Would they appoint a new emperor?
The way the people of Pandaria deal with the Alliance and Horde going forward is of great concern. Up till now, it's mostly been the story of these outsiders finding Pandaria and fighting to claim it, or to keep it from being claimed. Neither faction fights for Pandaria, they fight over it. Will that begin to change?
Next week, we'll talk more about what we may yet see.
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