Damn it all. How did we end up here?
Right now, I’m stuck on the outskirts of a Mag’har village on the edge of, quite literally, nowhere. Out on the ridges of Hellfire Peninsula, waiting for death, or otherwise.
How did we get here?
Well, it started a while back, after Silithus. When – as I predicted, though a small part of me did hope that I’d be wrong – we were beaten to the strange artefact on the Path of Hands, we moved from Gadgetzan to Ratchet to Booty Bay, on some long quest to do… something in Outland for someone. Leave it to Sorlain to be cryptic, I suppose.
Following that, we ended up on a little trip through the southern states of the Eastern Kingdoms, battling naga and trolls. Well. I say battled. I stayed back while Lareen ate the living. I’m still not sure what possessed her to leap off a wyvern into Zul’Gurub itself and take on any trolls she could find, but it delayed our passage to Outland by too long.
Throughout this time I was again and again reminded of the drastic changes that Dawnlake’s ‘transformation’ had made not just to her appearance but also to her personality. She was definitely becoming more certain in her own ability, to the point that she would rush in unheeded, unaided and (more often than not) against Sorlain’s orders. It had not yet reached the point where she was actively endangering us for her own sake – although the same could not be said for the Crimson Hand. Formerly Sorlain’s loyal troupe of mindless bodyguards, they were now something more akin to some terrified recruits that had been kidnapped from Sunstrider Isle.
Then, we reached Outland. Outland. Even though it was no longer the supposed salvation of my people, I was not prepared for stepping onto the red deserts beyond the Dark Portal for the first time. We emerged through the portal onto a vast staircase, below which an endless red steppe almost stretched to the horizon – bordered by the murky twilight rivulets of the Nether which stretched all around. Above, the sky blossomed into an unnatural mesh of orange Nether currents and far-off planets, visible through the Great Dark Beyond. Stars glittered in formations that appeared to warp of their own accord as time moved on – a far change from the familiar constellations of Azeroth’s blue skies.
As Khairan waxed lyrical about his first time stepping onto Outland, I noticed the immense amounts of magic pressing down all around. It was a natural effect, as Outland is within the Nether itself; unlike the oppressive, sweet mana of the 7/7/0 party we attended in Quel’Thalas, those skilled in magic can detect many strands of magic weaving together. Nether magic is indeed said to be the purest source, but equally present was fel, the purest of magic’s corrupted forms. I warded myself against the rather overwhelming fel.
Anyway, getting back on topic, whereas the fel disagreed with me (I was not a proficient user) the others appeared to enjoy it. I view it as filtration. You wouldn’t drink wine if it had sand in it, after all.
It agreed with Lareen all too well. From behind me I heard a rather awkward shriek, and turned to see her growing rather large wings, a second pair of horns and teeth so large they looked like tusks.
After that, it was agreed that she would be kept out of Thrallmar – a settlement that had been left virtually unchanged by Hellscream’s appointment, aside from the usual powerless Kor’kron official.
In the usual fashion, we went about asking questions until we discovered that relations were becoming strained by attacks upon various elven settlements by other elves – but no one in Thrallmar knew on what settlements or by who.
So, instead, we were sent northwest, to a demon-infested area to clear out some cultists. Quick, easy, stock Convocation business.
Well, it was supposed to be.
When we reached the Pools of Aggonar (the flight didn’t take too long, but acclimatising to the unpredictable currents of the Outland sky was… interesting) it was a rather awe-inspiring moment. The skeleton of a pit lord stretched before us, easily 100 feet long and 30 feet high. From out of its torso stretched a hundred or more pools of varying size and depth. Each pool was a dark green, the waters totally fused with the blood of Aggonar, the pit lord whose corpse looked over us menacingly.
Our task was to clear out the cultists, but as we proceeded into the fel-ruined marsh our task was made slightly harder by the realisation that an attempted demon-summoning was in progress, and the outline of a large Annihilan was already taking shape. The cultists appeared to be summoning through blood sacrifice, if the altar was anything to go by. What I forget to mention, of course, is that half of us had spent an evening barely two days prior fighting a fully-summoned Eredar atop the Throne of Kil’jaeden. I had survived, but a felblood had knocked me out against a fel iron column. I was still wincing from that, and I was not convinced luck would be on our side against a Pit Lord.
Armed with the Light, Thelnarion and Sorlain were supposed to be our best bet. Sadly, a stealth attack failed terribly when several of us were thrust into the acidic pools, taking the cultists with us and paralysing half our forces for the entire length of the fight. The Pit Lord burst into the plane only to have Lareen attack it in all her hubris.
I was not sure what anyone was expecting, but even in my pained and paralysed state it was hilarious to see her thrust twenty feet back by the backhand of a Pit Lord. Fortunately, the distraction gave us a long enough pause to have Khairan and Aleck attack the demon lord simultaneously, while one of our rogues (some envoy from the Spire or somesuch, I hadn’t really gotten to know him) began to backstab it. Between Aleck, Khairan, Lareen and Dinoriel, the Pit Lord fell.
I dearly wish I had heard what happened next, but my acid-drenched state and the long distances obscured most of it except for cursing.
Having already been (I assume accidentally) set on fire by Khairan, Lareen promptly began to eat the pit lord in order to rejuvenate herself.
This was met with enough horror and shouting to actually pierce the veil of silence I was under, but I was rather powerless to act as Lareen was set on fire by Khairan and Aleck again, and she promptly sprinted into the acid to put it out. When that did not work she leapt almost thirty feet onto Sorlain, ripped his arm straight off at the shoulder and then fled, Draevon tearing after her in pursuit.
I forgave Aleck, since he did seem genuinely sorry for the affair. But I keep my doubts. Neither he nor Sorlain appear to have been humbled by this whole sorry mess, and Sorlain lost his fel-damned arm, which Lareen probably ate. Draevon returned the next morning with enough of Lareen’s skin to fashion a cloak – because apparently Milva Jarath is considered a fashion icon these days – but I maintain that there is not enough proof to consider her dead. For now, the Hand are in Khairan’s hands. Whether they’re well-equipped for such a venture, I have no idea. But no one else is willing to try and sort out the mess created by Lareen running a guard organisation as some sort of guerrilla-dictator who was prone to eating her own troops.
And I still don’t know why we’re in Outland.