Ruination: First Phase

We stayed only briefly in Thrallmar after our rather exhausting battles against the Legion’s forces. We had, it transpired, been called to settle grievances between various squabbling Sin’dorei forces. I was not surprised.

A short and uninterrupted journey led us to Falcon Watch, the elven outpost in southwestern Hellfire Peninsula. Even entering, the atmosphere seemed unusually tense, elves or no elves. There were several orcs scattered about, but the Watch was quite busy. It was intended as the main drop-off point for a new wave of Sin’dorei emigrants who would resettle the various Sunfury positions which had fallen out of use since the Shattering. Currently, the camp was divided rather obviously between a contingent of Scryers (or Blood Magi or Sunreavers; they were mages, but I’ve stopped caring which) and a group of Farstriders. At the top spire of the settlement, their respective leaders were arguing, and Sorlain and Thelnarion stepped in to try and defuse the tension.

After all this, we’d come full-circle again. Acting as hopeless intermediaries between the squabbling political idiots of our people. And there I was thinking that the events thus far – Dalaran, Garrosh’s treatment of our people, the state Silvermoon was in, the resurgence of the trolls – had unified us. Oh well.

I slipped away from the group to explore the rest of the settlement. No one was particularly willing to converse, but halfway down into the main Watch there was a group of Mag’hari orcs carrying some unusually large satchels, vainly struggling up the hill against the wishes of several rangers, who had intercepted them to ask their purpose. The brown-skinned orcs were all fairly youthful but drenched in sweat. The nearest Mag’hari settlement was easily forty miles to the north, on the other edge of Hellfire. Thrallmar, and the settlements in Nagrand and Terokkar were even further – I had studied the maps of Outland in preparation. What were they doing? I was intrigued, and so slowed my walk, leaning against a fence across from the group.

The orcs protested weakly, but the rangers would not let them pass without identification or purpose, which the orcs did not seem to know.

‘At least let them put their bags down. They’re exhausted.’ The rangers relented at my comment, and let the orcs drop their bags – but the orcs dropped alongside them as soon as they let go of the bags. I hadn’t realised they were that tired. I became aware of Khairan’s presence at my side as the orcs began to turn pale rather rapidly.

‘What’s going on?’ I murmured to him, and he turned his arcane sight to the situation. The rangers seemed as perplexed as we. The bags began to expand slightly, as though they were being inflated.

Khairan went pale too. ‘Arcane bombs.’ He murmured. ‘Arcane bombs. Run!‘ Khairan shot off towards the top of Falcon Watch, setting off the alarm, while I froze for a moment, staring at the packages before turning tail and following the rangers as they skidded down the hill towards the bottom of the Watch. Soldiers and citizens alike were scattering, but through suicidal hope and orders from above, I headed back to the bombs alongside Taleberaite. Khairan had through spellcraft and logic already determined that the bombs were tied to the lives of the orcs – sever the ties and the bombs detonate. Unfortunately for us, the bombs were also draining the life force of the three orcs, who had begun to moan in pain.

An alliance of Khairan attempting to drain the bombs and Sorlain and Thelnarion healing the orcs resulted in a few moments of equilibrium, while I levitated the three bombs into the air above Falcon Watch and positioned myself atop the ridge overlooking the great canyons of Hellfire. As skilled as I was becoming, I had never been prepared for this. Khairan disabled two of the bombs as the orcs they were tied to died, the bombs clicking harmlessly as the mana currents were ejected.

This, of course, set off the third bomb with its own orc still alive, and I tossed it over my head into the canyon below where it blazed across the night sky and shook the ridge I was on. I toppled down, drained almost totally by the bomb’s atmospheric effects.

~~~

Of the three orcs, the sole survivor was awake the next morning, not that he was much help, telling us some nonsense about a plague and elves. It was determined that I would go to Mag’har Post, the only village the orcs could have come from, to identify what was going on.

A short flight later, I alighted in the village. It was almost totally silent, aside from a single orc screaming at an elf quite far away. I took stock of my surroundings.

The population of the village was split between unconscious orcs and rather odd white-robed Sin’dorei, all of whom were entirely blank-faced and unresponsive. The orcs were the same. The only thing that had made any sense from the surviving orc had been that he had purchased an infected pelt from an elven hunter. The shaman had told him it was cursed and confiscated it to cleanse it.

A quick peek in the shaman’s hut revealed several orcs, one of whom was dressed in shaman regalia. All were asleep, but the infected pelt looked to have been cleansed. I resolved to ask the orc I’d seen earlier what was going on. I made my way into the shadow of a hut and waved to him to get his attention. He waved similarly, abandoning his discussion with a red-robed elf.

‘Throm’ka, elf. Are you with these ones?’

‘No, Chieftain, I am from Falcon Watch. We received word from your messengers yesterday. What is going on, and who are these elves?’

‘You do not know?’ The orc frowned. ‘They said they were aid from Falcon Watch. They took our best hunters, and now none of them will talk to us.’ He was clearly becoming frustrated.

‘I see. I can assure you that they’re not with Falcon Watch. What ails your clansmen?’

‘This lethargy, it came from the pelt!’

‘The pelt your shaman has?’

‘Yes, but they boarded up his hut. Apparently he took ill. It’s not the red pox, is it?’

‘No… I suspect, Chieftain, that these people wanted to keep your shaman from freeing the rest of the village from this… curse. If you wish, I will go and speak with him. I advise you not to talk to any of these elves any more than you need to, and I will work on getting real aid from Falcon Watch.’ Momentarily reassured, I left the chief and ran back over to the shaman’s hut. Peering in through the window, I could see that he was now awake.

‘Hail, shaman.’

The orc looked up at me and staggered back to the wall. ‘Who are you?’

‘Relax, wise one. I am not with these other elves. I have come from Falcon Watch. I am here to help you. Do you know what ails your men?’

The shaman relaxed slightly, and gestured to the pelt. ‘It is demonic, whatever it is.’

‘I see. Will you be able to free the villagers?’

‘Yes, but we need food. We have had nothing to eat for a week now. We will not last much longer, elf.’

I nodded. ‘I can only conjure food, but we can bring you real supplies tomorrow.’

He grimaced. ‘It will have to do.’ I conjured some loaves and water and passed them through him to the window. ‘What can you tell me about these elves?’

‘They said they were from your village. Came not long after the men started falling asleep. They said they would heal them, but they sent our hunters away. The one in black locked me up and I haven’t heard anything since.’

‘I see. I’m afraid I can’t free you without arousing their suspicion, but we will bring forces tomorrow. We will free you first. Good luck.’

He nodded and I set back off to Falcon Watch.

~~~

A quick investigation yielded the knowledge that the elves present were all under mind-control, and their numbers matched those of the missing villagers from the Scryer outposts. Weak as they were, our attack the next night went perfectly, leaving the orcs in our debt – though we could not find the location of their hunters.

We managed to take the mage in black captive, but he yielded no information. Between the strange mind control and his own implicit guilt, he immolated himself the moment we took our eyes off him.

Though Hellfire was back in some order, we had learned little about this mysterious force of elves whose only purpose seemed to be to disrupt the Horde’s efforts. We could not even say with certainty that they were being led by elves. Turning our efforts to the Horde, we set off to Terokkar, where similar problems for the local orcs had been reported.

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