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((This story originally written by the player Baern on the Sanctuary discord)) Zhanhao carried a fat sack of bok choy down the streets of Dalaran, winding slowly away from the wide streets of the Magus Commerce exchange and into the small residential streets that hugged the walls of the flying city. He'd picked up the vegetables at a premium, though one he happily paid, from a pandaren farmer who shipped his wares from the Valley of the Four Winds to Dalaran through expensive, powerful portals. He had more to offer, massive soy and humongous radishes and squat squash, but the bok choy would make for the perfect base tonight in Zhanhao's steaming ramen. He found his way to the Arcanist's Abode, a poorly named tower that contained barely any mages at all. Rebuilt after the Third War to an unexpected staggering height, it served chiefly as an inexpensive residence for merchants and traders that worked the exchange, and of course, enterprising old gardeners who managed shrubbery and flowers and herbs all across the city. Having spent most of his life a travelling trader and alchemist, Zhanhao's small caravan took on grand heights when Pandaria became the focus of the Horde and the Alliance. Travelers who could get from Krasrang to the Jade Forest to Four Winds to Kun'Lai, alchemists who could teach recipes using the unique fauna found in Pandaria, merchants who could introduce outlanders to the Cloud Serpent Riders, Tian monks, Shado-Pan wall watchers, and the fishermen of the Anglers they were all in very low supply and now in very high demand. Zhanhao had little trouble translating his skills into a hefty payday, but he saw almost none of it. His wife of many years had died only a few months prior to the commotion, and they had never started a family together. Pushing it off endlessly because they had so much life yet to live, and so much love for their days on the back of a mushan pulled wagon. But Zhanhao did have a family. He had doting parents, a brother with a bundle of kids all his own, a sister who had answered the call and was still an ascetic in the Tian Monastery. It was them he gave most of his newfound gold to, so that they could have the lives they'd always wanted without worry. But he didn't leave Pandaria empty handed. Most of the world was gripped with the new continent, but for a pandaren there was still most of the world to explore. Cities across Azeroth swung into lifelessness as the focus of their denizens swept south, and so finding a cheap apartment in Dalaran and buying outright with the remainder of his gold sounded a good idea for Zhanhao. It was also easy to find employment, as an alchemist and herbalist teaching those that remained behind in the floating city precisely what to do and how to grow herbs like Green Tea Leaf and Rain Poppy. Most pandaren plants were found to be quite robust, all told, and bringing them into the city was a lucrative way for the shaman to find employment. But seeding the various alchemists' gardens with them wasn't something that he wanted to spend all his time doing. Slowly, he started picking up employment as a gardener for the wealthy all across the city who wanted beautiful flowers rather than utilitarian herbal beds. But even as the world equalized again and the secrets of pandaria were no longer in short supply, there was still one trait that Zhanhao possessed, one skill that made an unassuming gardener in Dalaran unique. The magical elevator that took him to the forty-seventh floor was one of things he loved about this city in the clouds. Unlike in many other metropolii across Azeroth, a tall tower was not in high demand. The lifts had a frequent habit of failing and being unable to transport anyone until a special arcane mage arrived to fix the enchantments governing the structure. It was on these days that Zhanhao did not love them. But when they worked, being whisked up to his apartment was a comfort to be cherished. The shaman was greeted by half a dozen elementals, two earth, two water, two air, who jumped and frolicked at his shins. They were small, no more than a few inches high, but something about their energy always put a smile on his face. He handed the earth elementals the sack while the water dove into his feet, making them sopping wet, in the hopes to clean off a few flecks of dirt and mud. As the earth pair started hefting the sack to the counter to Zhanhao's right, the wind pair flew up and pulled out one bok choy each, floating it slowly over and plopping them on a bare section of counter, impatiently. Luckily, the lightened load was easier for their brethren to carry, and they stopped up a rickety wooden ramp to get the sack on the counter as well. Unfortunately, none of the elementals could be called "thoughtful" and as they threw the emptying back on top of the small pile of vegetables already removed, it just rolled off them and back onto the floor, spilling out the entirety of their contents for good measure. One of the earthen climbed the pile and began to wave its arms frantically at the pair of air elementals, but neither seemed very willing to accept responsibility. Their competitive nature, however, kicked in when the second of the earthen dropped back to the floor and began picking up bok choy and running it up the ramp. Not to be outdone, the hovering elementals swooped in and began carrying their own, adding it to the pile they'd already started. When they were finished, all four elementals fought over the sack, trying to claim the honor of clearing the final piece of things, but the shaman plucked it from them and placed it on top of the hapless mound of vegetables he'd had. Dutifully, the water elementals slid up the ramp and began washing the food, depositing it finally into the basin on the far side of the counter. Zhanhao's apartment was narrow, but long, ending in one great, wide window that stretched from floor to ceiling, wall to wall. Its curtains were drawn, though the dark green glow of fel peaked out at every available opportunity. Before Dalaran's teleportation, he'd had a beautiful view of the ocean. Now, he had a view of the fel beam above the Tomb of Sargeras. His plump pandaren bed filled the space just under the curtain, stretching from the wall on the left to the kitchen counter on the right, itself full of all kinds of vegetables, fruit and grain that made for large meals. That counter ran the length of the room with a basin for water dividing it in half. On one side, Zhanhao seemed to keep things neat, orderly, organized, a storage space for the fresh food he brought in but wasn't prepared to eat or cook immediately. On the other, chaos rained, as the ramp that allowed his elementals to access the counter denoted that side to be their mischievous domain. In fairness, the floors were also a mess. One corner seemed dedicated just to gardening supplies, including a wet smock to work in, wet trowels and shovels and tools, and two and a half bags of soil lazily propped up on one wall. It was an odd layout for an apartment, and on the wall across from the counter, two clear doors stood as well. Most of the room was dominated by the bed at the end, but it didn't seem to belong, as if cramped in there rather than in a space all its own. After he'd cleaned himself off and cleared himself of his traveling clothes, Zhanhao stepped into the back room, careful to close the door off to any six inch intruders. What was clearly meant to be a bedroom had no bed in sight, almost no furniture at all, in fact. A single cylindrical block of jade with a fluffy pillow atop it was the only thing coming close, right in the center. To the right, another curtained window, to the left a wall with a few decorative scrolls hanging. But the main feature was across from the door as one entered. Three shelves, as wide as the wall, with tall glass boxes end to end standing on all three. They seemed to be made of discrete panels, glass framed with wood, that were nestled together into containers, maybe a foot and a half tall each. But the containers weren't the important part. Twenty three out of thirty six had a plant inside, a small flower with golden petals lilting softly to one side. Some of the rest had seedlings or buds yet to flower, though others were empty. Uniquely, one container held snow covered soil with soft, yellow grass shooting forth, so tall as to bend at the top of the container. Four totems glowing with energy lay on the floor under the shelves, one for each element. As Zhanhao takes his place atop the Jade block, folding his legs and closing his eyes, he connects to the flagging totems, slowly opening the flow of power between himself and them. It's the totems that govern the plants inside the containers, fire dictating the artificial sunlight hitting their leaves, water keeping them hydrated, earth making sure they have the proper nutrients, and air managing the atmosphere inside each of them. Zhanhao had always thought of himself as a strong shaman, able to conjure spells at their most powerful, the hottest fire, heaviest earth, quickest lightning. But the magic that he was using now wasn't about monumental exertions. It was about precision. The importance of totems in shamanistic magic was an interesting phenomanon, as Zhanhao learned that orcs, trolls, tauren and pandaren all seemed to learn the same process for decentralizing their power into totems. And while certain cultures had focused on certain uses of totems, Zhanhao had stubbornly refused to learn from them for months after moving to Dalaran. He knew his goal was to cultivate Golden Lotus plants outside of Pandaren soil, but however he tried to make the magic work, the plants withered and died before he was able to reach them. It was only after consulting with tauren shaman on the kind of magic that allowed their farmers to irrigate so effectively that the final piece of the puzzle fell into place and he was able to grow the plants in his home. By pumping huge amounts of energy into his totems, but restrict the way it flowed to a slow trickle, he was able to charge totems that lasted for hours, even days, maintaining the conditions needed for the flower to bloom. Now, the spell was routine, and by combining it with the techniques he'd learned in his training as a monk, almost a subconscious effort. Four hours blinked by effortlessly for the old shaman, only roused by his rumbling stomach. Rising from his position and sore to have remained still for so long, he fixed the pillow to make it center on the block again. His stomach rumbled a second time, but he ignored it, choosing instead to regard the lotus containers with sad eyes. He'd worked so hard, spent so long waiting for one them to bloom, that picking the petals from the flower and grinding them into alchemical powder or dropping them into boiling concoctions almost felt like slaying his own children. It took months for a lotus to bloom, daily adjustments in temperature, lighting, soil, and water. Selling one brought in thousands of gold, paid for his food, and his home, and his trips to his brother's, and medicine for his parents, but somehow the cost never seemed high enough. He broke a rule of his, placing three fingers on the glass, caressing it. The slightest changes could cause a flower to wilt overnight if he wasn't careful, a problem that he'd discovered early. This particular plant would be sold in less than a week, anyway. He'd hug it, if he could. Tell it that some child somewhere needs the magic it carried to cure them of a deathly ill. But he removed his fingers, nonetheless, hoping that he hadn't ruined it with his few moments of tender sadness. It was always so strangely painful giving up one of his flowers. Still, there was no better task that took his mind off it than cooking, and his stomach rumbled a third time just to remind him of that. Bok choy and onions and garlic and ginger and ramen awaited him, so he let out a soft sigh, shook the thought from his head and returned to a kitchen he'd hoped wasn't a mess thanks to rambunctious elementals.
Kate and I were chatting about food and we decided we need a recipe thread. So...here! Chickpea and Vegetable Curry (Crock Pot) 1 can (about 14 oz) unsweetened coconut milk 1 cup vegetable broth, divided 2 teaspoons curry powder 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper 2 cups cut fresh green beans (1-inch pieces) 1 can (about 15 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained 2 carrots, very thinly sliced 1/2 cup golden raisins (or black raisins) 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 2 cups hot cooked couscous (or rice) Chopped green onion and toasted sliced almonds (optional) 1. Coat the inside of crock-pot with nonstick cooking spray. Combine coconut milk, 3/4 cup broth, curry powder,and ground red pepper in crock-pot. (Adjust spice amounts to taste.) Stir in green beans, carrots, chickpeas, raisins; mix well. Cover, and cook on LOW 6 to 7 hours, or HIGH 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until vegetables are tender. 2. Whisk remaining 1/4 cup broth into flour in a small bowl until smooth. Stir into vegetable mixture in crock-pot. Turn crock-pot to HIGH. Cover, cook on HIGH for 15 minutes or until thickened. Ladle into shallow bowls. Top with couscous. Sprinkle with green onion and almonds, if desired. Makes 4 servings. Recipe and picture from CROCK-POT Vegetarian Recipes book