We Need a Rest

It can’t just be me thinking that.

Wars are predisposed to end over time. Resources run low, places run down, people run out.

The Legion. The Scourge. The Hammer. The Horde.

Great threats that Azeroth has suffered through and defeated – but we are coming perilously close to running out. We may just be one war from it being us collapsing, rather than the enemy.

In the course of an expansion, there are always deaths. The occasional major character, several minor characters, a settlement or two – nothing severe. Nothing that can’t be recovered. The issue here is that those are on-screen deaths – and off-screen numbers are quite different.

There may be 5.4 spoilers ahead.

The easiest way for me to cover this is to go through it on a group-by-group basis. As the original set of protagonists, we’ll start with the Alliance, and that of course means we start with Stormwind.

Stormwind. Or, as it should really be called, New Stormwind. It’s a settlement that’s only twenty years old, though that is older than a lot of the others right now. I say New Stormwind because the original was of course totally destroyed by the orcs. Despite the large amount of refugees that fled to Lordaeron, the outlying kingdom was decimated by the Horde, and there must have been a large population hit.

Let’s move on to the Second and Third Wars, and extrapolate from Stormwind to all of humanity. All things considered, Stormwind had it easier than the rest of humanity. A majority of Lordaeron was killed during the Third War. The Alliance itself ransacked Alterac and turned it into a wasteland, its surviving inhabitants forced into banditry. And they’re dead now, too. Dalaran was destroyed by Archimonde himself, and also took a large population hit. No one has heard from Kul Tiras in decades, but it was also hit by the Scourge and the Shattering according to some sources. Stromgarde is abandoned and does not even have a transient population, never mind a permanent one. Gilneas had its northern lands cut off by Scourge, went through a famine, civil war, the Worgen curse and were attacked by the Forsaken. It’s a given that the population of Gilneas dropped also, especially considering its comparative backwardness to the rest of humanity.

So, even before the beginning of World of Warcraft, humanity has been massively reduced from seven city-states to two. Let’s cover more recent events. The surviving members of Lordaeron (the subcontinent) have all been absorbed as refugees into the rebuilt Stormwind and the new state of Theramore. There’s been a sufficient chance for some population growth in what has been five years of peace (aside from that orcish occupation of Theramore when Daelin tried to attack Orgrimmar).

Except the King of Stormwind goes missing for two to three years, setting in motion a chain of events that results in Stormwind losing direct control over all its provinces, a huge bandit organisation is waging guerilla warfare against the capital from Westfall (which they entirely control), Blackrock orcs and dragons are making incursions into Redridge, undead and worgen are rising in Duskwood, and a human colony in Stranglethorn completely goes insane.

So that puts paid to anything that was accomplished in the last five years. But there is some good news when Dalaran is re-established – and then it ends up in a war with the Blue Dragonflight, and is forced to accept Horde forces into the city so that it remains strong enough to win.

Oh, and then in the Shattering, we find out that over 50,000 Alliance service members die during the Northrend campaign. This is an almost exclusively human number, because the Alliance’s army in Northrend was almost exclusively human. So Stormwind has another population drop, which is mirrored when humans leave in droves to join the Twilight Hammer, and many more go to die in the war against the Horde. And then Theramore gets blown up, and humanity is back down to two city-states.

Humanity was, upon the eve of the First War, the most widespread and most populous race on the planet. More than the Pandaren, more than the Trolls, more than the Elves. But humans have been in freefall since.

This post is already far longer than I anticipated. Let’s move onto the dwarves.

Compared to the humans, the dwarves haven’t actually lost that many forces recently. Well – the Bronzebeard clan hasn’t. The Civil War, three centuries ago, would have killed a few, but easily recoverable – except for Grim Batol. And Thaurissan. Both cities were wrecked during the attack the Dark Irons made later. The Dark Irons would go on to lose even more forces to the fury of Ragnaros, and the split after the Shattering which saw only around half of the clan’s members return to Ironforge. There is a parallel here’s with the Wildhammers, as although Aerie Peak has been fairly stable, the clans within the Highlands were decimated.

It’s quite poignant that despite having three clans and some gnomes in a city that three hundred years ago was barely big enough for one, Ironforge shows no signs of overpopulation. In fact, it’s quite comfortable.

Next up are the gnomes. This is fairly simple, because it concerns one event: the Trogg Invasion of Gnomeregan, which resulted in numerous deaths, and countless more to the ensuing radiation (the manual states that around 80% of the race died). Despite their amazing technological contributions to the Alliance army, the gnomish race today is only a fraction of what it was before the Second War. I’d estimate that they all could live in New Tinkertown, never mind Gnomeregan, without problems.

Then there are the Night Elves. Though they no longer have the largest empire in the world, the population of this race was fairly consistent up until the Third War, when they did indeed experience some deaths due to owning the only place that the Burning Legion invaded. Felwood was corrupted, Nordrassil exhausted, Ashenvale was wrecked by Mannoroth and Cenarius was killed by Grom Hellscream. But the Night Elves, like the humans, got a chance to rebuild. And then the orcs started logging Ashenvale, setting in motion a decade-long conflict that is probably the biggest long-term factor in the occurrence of the war we see in Mists of Pandaria.

The Gates of Ahn’Qiraj reopened, and the Kaldorei contributed their forces. In the Northrend campaign, they also contributed, but the biggest effect on the Night Elves came with the Shattering. Darkshore was annihilated. Hyjal literally burned. Hellscream expanded into Ashenvale. And the Kaldorei began to take a more prominent role in Alliance politics (in that they actually started showing up to meetings). The existence of the Druids of the Flame as a backlash to the doormat policy of Tyrande and Malfurion shows just how much war impacted upon them. As a race that lost their immortality just ten years ago, the Night Elves have not yet adapted. For ten thousand years, they did not need to worry so much about the future or about whether they were having enough children. Now they do.

The Draenei are fairly self-explanatory. 95% of an already small race were wiped out by an act of demon-induced genocide. Now, their population is split across two planets. Of all the races on Azeroth, they are the most thinly-stretched.

And that roughly concludes the Alliance. I’d like to wrap them up with one point that I hope has more impact than the giant list of deaths.

Stormwind is the largest surviving city on Azeroth. It contains refugees from every nation in the Alliance and every defunct nation that was in the Alliance. It is the heart of the Alliance: economically, culturally and militarily. And yet it has not increased in size in thirty years. The Stormwind of today is the same size as the Stormwind of Adamant Wrynm III. To put that into perspective, four generations ago. Stormwind is on the brink of industrialisation, it is a magical hub, it is a naval superpower – but its population is no different. If anything, its population has fallen.

Onto the Horde, and first of all, the orcs.

Unlike just about every nation of the Alliance, the orcs have never actually mastered agriculture. Prior to the Wars, they were hunter-gatherers. They probably kept some livestock, but there was never any farming. There was hunting and shamanism. So from the start, there was never a high orcish population because they wouldn’t have had any food surpluses. Years of ‘take, take, take’ followed, and this trend continues right up until the present. The orcs still cannot farm. They cannot cultivate the land, grow crops, sustain their population without help or a rich land. This explains why the race was never unified.

I’m talking about this because there’s less coverage of just how many orcs have died during the course of Warcraft – though they have been defeated twice, neither time has there been a large act of vengeance or retribution. The orcs were imprisoned in the aftermath of the Second War, but after Garrosh’s fall they are left mainly intact.

However, the nature of the orcish race inherently caps their population at a certain level until they master their own agriculture. They cannot live off the hands of the Tauren forever, especially now that the blood debt is paid. As the backbone of the Horde’s military, the Orcs have suffered similarly to the human forces of the Alliance in the four most recent conflicts – but they possess no infrastructure for recovering their population like the humans can.

The Tauren, while now settled, spent most of their existence as separate tribes (to the point where they evolved into three different races). United only by a hatred of centaur, the Shu’halo of Kalimdor were (to quote Wowpedia) on the brink of extinction when Thrall offered them aid.

The brink of extinction. Which the Tauren have moved closer to since the end of the Third War.

The tribes of the Thousand Needles have been wiped out. Mulgore has been tainted, and probably now produces less supplies, limiting the population growth. The Grimtotem tribe has suffered heavy losses, and the Tauren made considerable losses in the Barrens. Furthermore, the sister races – the yaungol and taunka – both have minuscule populations in comparison. The yaungol are all but extinct after the events of Mists of Pandaria. The taunka lived in the coldest place in the world, where they had to enslave the elements just to survive.

The story of the trolls is another of extinction and terrible losses. The Darkspear probably sent as many sacrifices to Hakkar as all the other jungle tribes before they were exiled – being a small tribe anyway, the events of the Broken Isles and the Echo Isles have further weakened them. It’s amazing that they were able to create a rebellion at all.

In terms of the greater troll race, deaths abound. The Drakkari Empire collapsed. The Gurubashi had to be saved from Hakkar by the Zandalari. The Amani were humiliated by several defeats by Quel’thalas, despite the elves being in their weakest state in millennia. Zandalar itself sank beneath the ocean.

The Forsaken – it is hard to say, but it’s probably more sustainable than any other race. You don’t need to wait several months to raise a dead body. Forsaken expansion suggests that their population can handle it, but they might start running out of corpses soon. They’re a race that naturally tends towards extinction anyway, as they are unable to reproduce. Who can say what would happen if Sylvanas ran out of Val’kyr?

The blood elves have had some of the largest population losses. 90% of their race was killed by the Scourge and the ensuing withdrawal, and while the RPG states that 9% of the remnant became Sin’dorei with 1% staying Quel’dorei, in-game it looks like Blizzard is trying to portray them as evenly-matched. Both have lost forces in the Nexus War, in the retaking of the Sunwell, during the Dalaran Incident and the Offensive on the Thunder Isle. The entire race lives comfortably in a small part of the city with massive empty space.

The goblins, like everyone else, have suffered massive losses. Kezan was destroyed, and only one cartel is currently known to have escaped in time. Imagine how many goblins were left behind.

However, goblins breed like rabbits, and they can have incredibly dense populations. They may be able to bounce back easily if there are enough resources.

With the two primary factions covered, I feel it’s necessary to use some heavily biased examples before moving on.

The mantid race has a lower population than ever before. The Klaxxi have been obliterated, the Empress is dead, the swarm has collapsed and the heir is not old enough to take over.

The Nerubians were almost all exterminated by the Scourge during the War of the Spider.

The Pandaren have gone through an unprecedented period of turmoil, as have the jinyu and hozen, and all have lost parts of their population and larger parts of their lands.

The Tol’vir have gone from three tribes to one. There are so few surviving Orsisi and Neferset that they’re unlikely to recover soon, if at all.

There are more examples, but I feel I have made it quite clear. The last ten years, the last thirty years, the last century – they have held enormous numbers of deaths, on a scale and range not seen since the War of the Ancients. Towns, cities, kingdoms, empires destroyed.

We have had no chance to recover. Bear in mind that each expansion takes up an approximate year, lore-wise, and you see that the events of World of Warcraft do not stretch over ten years but five. It’s been just a decade since the end of the Third War.

My point – my long, ridiculous point – is that we need a rest. The defenders of Azeroth need a rest. The cities and factions and peoples of Azeroth need a rest. The druids and the shaman, the priests and the warriors, the dead and the living. If we do not have a rest soon, we will run out of people. Whole races will start collapsing and going extinct.

As much as Azeroth has gotten stronger, even though it has repulsed all the Lords of the Burning Legion, war cannot go on forever. There needs to be a proper period for rebuilding, for regrouping, regrowth and repair.

Obviously, that is not something that would make an enthralling expansion in a game like this. There needs to be a fight of some kind, a purpose that can be easily converted into raid boss form.

I’m not entirely sure how, but the best solution for this is a time skip. A year, five years, fifty – it doesn’t matter. But it’s not going to be long until the threats become insurmountable, until the losses become irrevocable, and the clash between game and lore becomes inexplicable.

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Uprising: Post-Traumatic Sha Disorder

How could it all go so wrong?

I stood atop the Shrine of Two Moons, looking out over the eastern Vale from the balcony. Nothing had truly survived intact. The last three days had heralded reports of continent-wide chaos.

Despite our best efforts, Hellscream had killed Taran Zhu and thrown the heart of an Old God into the Vale’s waters, draining and corrupting them. Successful, he had already left the continent, leaving behind the tattered remains of the Dominance Offensive.

Hellscream’s arrogance had done the unthinkable, and released a seventh Sha Prime. Known as Pride, it had transformed the Vale in seconds while the Old God left us paralysed. The entirety of the eastern Vale was corrupted. The air had gone dry, harsh and cold. The sky was eternally grey. The animals and plants were slowly succumbing, their formerly beautiful gold now a pallid brown.

We had stumbled across the Crimson Hand’s trail in rather morbid detail. They had plundered both the remains of the excavation and Mogu’shan Palace while we watched helplessly. They were apparently holed up in Mistfall Village.

The Golden Lotus had been crippled, their base in the centre of the Vale having been utterly destroyed by the Sha’s rampage. What remained of their forces were holed up in a base to the west.

Reports suggested that the remaining mantid had been roused by the events, and the swarm was beginning to pick up again.

We were so sure…

Somehow, we had mostly made it out of the battle intact. No one had been lost to corruption, though it was there constantly now, the corruption throwing itself at our minds, the malignant influence of the Old One permanently stained upon the land.

~~~

We are absolute. We are eternal. You have already lost.

No. Hellscream has brought the armies of three factions and two worlds upon his head. The Vale is only a further incentive to keep going. We have lost too much to stop now. I have lost too much to stop now. I will fight for a better world.

Breathe.

~~~

We were on our way west, Mistfall Village having proven entirely useless in our search for the Crimson Hand.

I was not entirely sure of why we were trailing Sorlain’s forces, but over the course of the month we’d collated bits of information that suggested Sorlain had amalgamated several struggling sections of the blood elven army into the Hand while we were at Coilfang Reservoir. Beyond his affiliation with Garrosh, however, it was very hard to determine what Sorlain was planning.

Stopping off at the Setting Sun Garrison, we waited while Taleberaite asked for any information on the Hand. Things were tense. That much was unsurprising, given how close to a major sha infestation we were. No one had any idea of what could lay ahead.

The Golden Lotus were of little help. The Hand had passed through, but in their current state the defenders were unable to oppose them. For all intents and purposes, the Gate of the Setting Sun belonged to the Crimson Hand – and that was a very bad thing.

When we reached the centre of the courtyard, the portcullis dramatically closed behind us.

I suppose we should have seen that coming.

Ahead, Sorlain awaited. Or at least, a hologram, from the looks of the transmitter at his feet. Behind him stretched the very large cage that we’d seen the Hand carting through the Vale days ago.

Please not another Cho’thaki. Can they even reach that size?

~~~

See how weak you are. Cower before your end.

I have come too far to cower. It is an insult to those who gave their lives for me to live. Survival or not, there is no longer anything to fear.

Breathe. We will succeed.

~~~

‘-Darkstrike too dealt with me. None of you truly know each other. But the Horde is strong, stronger than Quel’thalas will ever be. Look behind you. It is like the Dead Scar, is it not? Hellscream has the power to visit it upon others – something Quel’thalas has never had.’

I zoned back into the discussion, stepping forward from the portcullis. The voices of the sha drifted away to whispers.

‘Yes. We have lost, here. But we are strong, stronger than we have ever been. Silvermoon knows what it is to lose. We are grateful now for all we took for granted before. We are no longer cowering within a ruined city. What do you have left, when you have given up everything you fought for?’

Sorlain stopped for a moment, but it was not long before his arrogant tone rang out over the field. ‘We shall see.’

The Hologram disappeared and the veil over the cage vanished as the door swung open, revealing a demonic beast at least thirty, perhaps forty feet tall. Covered in spines and sickly red mucus, it shambled out.

Lareen.

I dashed for cover as the others leapt into battle, scrambling atop the wall and firing from the sides. Lareen’s head swung round, and I caught a faint glimpse of the vain elf within the demon as a bright red beam shot towards me. The wall exploded and I was flung backwards.

‘She’s not taking any damage!’ Taleberaite’s frantic voice echoed through the communicator gem as I struggled out of a pile of rubble. There was a convenient door to my right, and I bolted through it before Lareen could see me. Inside was a rather surprised mantid, whom I dispatched before heading up to the top of the wall.

The wall was grand, but little was obvious from atop it. The place was covered in the corpses of Golden Lotus defenders, while mantid streamed overhead, unfettered due to a lack of anyone attacking them. Just ahead of me was a warlock whose gaze was solidly fixed upon the battle below.

That’s it.

‘There’s some sort of ritual going on. There’s a warlock here.’

I shot an arcane bolt at the warlock, knocking him off the wall before he could respond to my presence. There were clear traces of fel stemming from all over the wall, and I proceeded onwards. A further two warlocks were hidden just out of sight along the way.

‘Hurry up.’ Taleberaite’s voice sounded over the communicators, increasingly stressed. ‘We aren’t going to last much longer here.’

An attempt to distract Lareen, first via cannon and then by ringing the bells placed above the courtyard gained me a further reprimand from Evy’lin. I took a few breaths, ignored any urge to anger and pressed on. I found one more warlock after fleeing the collapsing cannon-tower (hit by Lareen), then doubled-back as the yells over the communicators became increasingly annoying.

Finally, I spotted one warlock hidden atop one of the parapets within the courtyard, and threw my dagger at her. As she fell from the tower, the magical effects rippled across the area as the ritual destabilised and Lareen disappeared.

‘About time.’ Taleberaite muttered.

Uprising: Devastation

‘The Warchief is on the move.’

The word spread like a plague across Pandaria. By the end of summer, all of Pandaria had learnt of Hellscream’s crimes, both within and outside of Pandaria. Scouting reports suggested that the full force of the Grand Alliance Fleet was mobilising – and those battleships hadn’t seen activity since the Second War.

The Rebellion was at its peak, as the influence of Ratchet was beginning to turn the tide in the Barrens. Stonetalon was cut off from Hellscream, and the Kaldorei were making ground in Ashenvale due to the stagnation of the goblins in Azshara. The time to cut the head of the hydra off would be soon at hand, which had led many to Pandaria. If the Warchief could be taken out without having to assault Orgrimmar – well, that would be too good to be true.

The Golden Lotus and the Shado-pan had mobilised along the ridge cutting the eastern valley off from the rest of the Vale. Both the shrines and Mistfall Village had been evacuated to the Jade Forest in anticipation of a large battle.

Along with the Alliance representatives, we rendezvoused with the Golden Lotus and Shado-pan briefly at the Golden Pagoda in order to discuss last-minute tactics.

‘Good luck to ya. Shed some blood.’

There was little to be said. Hellscream was inside the excavation, and had plans to leave today. There would not be another chance until we attacked Orgrimmar – the entirety of the Dominance Offensive had relocated to the Vale of Eternal Blossoms.

~~~

‘They are leaving now.’

We were arrayed on the southern side of the ridge, above the excavation that had cut into the Vale. Kaldorei, Sin’dorei and Pandaren. THe Tauren and humans were further north. As soon as we saw the convoy leave, we opened fire, cutting down the magi around the edges.

Meanwhile, Archon Kal’es sung songs of morale directly into the heart of Hellscream’s camp.

‘I am your Warchief Hellscream
My graces are infinite
And I shall leave you breathless
For 2 gold 95 per minute.’

Several calls came from the fighters in the north of the camp, who were struggling against the numerically superior Dominance forces, and I scaled the ridge, heading along the northwestern side to reinforce their numbers. The air became filled with the sounds of battle as fire streaked down into the encampments and flew back out.

‘I am the mighty Hellscream
My strength is in my loins
If you see me on the street
Please kick me in the groin.’

‘Hellscream is warded! We can’t hit him!’ The calls quickly came over the communicators, and I turned my attention from the melee at the northern edge to where huge iron cranes stretched over the camp.

Now is not a time for mercy.

I conjured fire, letting it streak into the tops of the cranes, following up with frostbolts. One by one, they toppled, wrecking the camp. Hellscream, sure enough, continued on without a scratch, a large pulsating chest behind him.

Kill them your enemies no one is your friend you are alone-

I turned my view swiftly back to the combat in front of me.

‘The Warchief’s dressed a jester
He acts the fool and mime
All the actions of him curse
And spit on him all the time.

I can’t believe I stand here
With Hellscream time I waste
And you who sit and cheer at him
Sincerely have no taste!’

The tide very slowly seemed to be turning in our favour, but Hellscream continued unfaltered. The camp was mostly ruined by this point, but out of the corner of my eye, I saw peons grappling with a large wooden construct.

A bridge.

‘They’re building a bridge across to the Palace!’

I teleported closer to the Shrine, atop a vantage point that several of the Shado-pan had been using to fire into the camp, and Archon Kal’es joined me. I rained fire down upon the bridge. Nothing. Barely even scorchmarks. Attempting telekinesis yielded similar results.

‘It must be reinforced.’ I murmured. Hellscream continued to advance. The battle was dying down, but any who attacked the Warchief were easily struck down. Edanna pointed to the road.

‘Look! It’s Xian!’ The Pandaren guide who had let us enter the Vale a week ago raced across the battlefield faster than sound. He appeared to be more wind than humanoid.

‘That can’t be…’ Edanna spoke into her communicator. ‘I don’t think Xian is a guide… I think he’s Taran Zhu.’

Sure enough, the figure reformed, blocking Hellscream’s path to the centre of the Vale’s waters. A full foot taller than the Pandaren we had been travelling with, there was no denying that the imposing stance of the monk who stood in the way of the Warchief belonged to the leader of the Shado-pan.

It was impossible to make out what they were doing, and we resumed our efforts, I collapsing part of the camp onto the mines while Edanna maintained her demoralising song.

‘I will sing in praise of Thrall
I will croon in praise of Baine
I will laugh in Hellscream’s face
When I recall his name.’

The song was interrupted by the sickening crunch of Gorehowl entering Taran Zhu’s chest. A collective gasp rippled through the Vale as Hellscream tossed Taran Zhu’s body into the water, and proceeded. Edanna attempted to pull him towards us with levitation, but doubled back when she saw what Hellscream was doing.

‘Get back! Now!’

Hellscream cut open the chest with Gorehowl before tossing the axe itself aside. Our minds were wracked by oblivion in the form of a thousand screams and laughs.

It’s true. He has an Old God.

My vision began to blur as the land warped around me, a flash of purple before everything went black.

Uprising: Return

The journey was too long for me to not dwell on what had occurred during our last excursion to Pandaria. The emotion welled up within me quite easily.

Focus. Remember what the Pandaren say. Do not prostrate yourself as slave to emotion; acknowledge, rise above, conquer it.

You can do this.

My philosophising was interrupted by the prompt sinking of our troll longboat by cannons manned by gnolls, and, taking a (fortunately defective) cannonball to the chest, I was knocked out until the next night.

‘Does all this death not worry you, Sithrial? They’re saying all of Lordaeron will have to evacuate.’

‘It doesn’t affect us. We’re stronger than any paltry human nation.’

‘Paltry? Lordaeron takes up almost the entire continent. Dalaran, Alterac and Stromgarde are all enclaves within it. If the Plague reaches here-‘

‘You don’t need to fear. We are Highborne. We shall always triumph.’

‘You sound like one of the history textbooks.’

~~~

‘Go, Keliera!’

‘I can’t leave you behind, are you mad?’

‘The Scourge are coming! They’ve already taken Tranquillien!’

‘But – but that’s impossible! You said so!’

‘I – maybe I was wrong! That doesn’t matter now, you have to go, you have to keep going, we all have to! We need to survive, to make the world a better place. You understand this, I understand this. Now go. I’ll hold them off.’

‘I won’t let you. I can run just as fast as you, I don’t need you giving up your life so that I get a headstart.’

‘Just go-‘

‘Graaagh…’

‘Come with me!’

Why didn’t you come with me? Could we not have made the world a better place together?

~~~

‘Go, Keliera. This is it. This is our final stand.’

‘I can’t let you do this, not again, not now. Garrosh will kill every one of you!’

‘Then go back before he kills you for talking to me. It does’t matter. You know what to do. You can do it. I’ve always believed in you. Go make the world a better place.’

‘Sithrial… I can’t say goodbye again… Don’t make me…’

‘You have to. Go!’

‘I-‘

‘GO! They’re coming!’

~~~

Annoyingly, when I woke up everyone else was in a better position than I was to go walking forty miles south. I stayed at the back after our balloon-ascent to Whispercloud Rise, using a staff to help me close the distance between Zouchin and Eastwind Rest. I couldn’t complain now. Too much was at stake. Hellscream was in Pandaria, and he had found something in the Vale, something that warranted a fleet of Sin’dorei warships and the mobilisation of the whole Dominance Offensive. Something had even roused the Crimson Hand, who apparently were staying north of us.

It was imperative that Hellscream did not obtain whatever it was that had been found, and to that end we dove into an assault on Firebough Nook and the Shado-pan Fallback, which Hellscream’s forces had captured. Though it was relatively easy to re-capture once we negotiated with Westwind Rest, almost all of the Horde had vanished – along with the Fallback’s kites.

Where could they have gone? Are they already in the Vale?

Our journey led us to the Gates of the August Celestials, the entryway into the Vale of Eternal Blossoms itself. After settling business with the Shado-pan, who we were helping to track Hellscream, we passed into the Vale, bound first for Mistfall Village, where we dropped off some refugees from the Gates before heading to the Shrine of Two Moons.

The Vale of Eternal Blossoms matched every description I had ever read. An intense feeling of peace and serenity envelops you instantly, soothing your fears, assuaging your doubts. It is as though someone has merged gold and silk and wrapped you tightly within.

This is to be it. This is where we make our stand against Hellscream, for better or worse, with the knowledge that it is we who are the ones striving for a peaceful world, a better world. A world once had, and lost twice over.

No doubts. No fears. No hate. Just us, and Hellscream, fighting for the direction of Azeroth.

And we will win.

Uprising: Stonetalon

We are cut off from Orgrimmar. We are cut off from Silvermoon. Sorlain has betrayed us and replaced us with the Hand; Right now, the Convocation may as well be defunct.

No one ever said leading a revolt against Garrosh Hellscream was going to be easy.

We’d moved to Thunder Bluff to recuperate after the disastrous near-miss at Razor Hill. We hadn’t specifically lost anyone, but Edanna had lost most of her hair, and two-thirds of the Crimson Hand had defected back to Garrosh (presumably on Sorlain’s orders). I remained convinced that I’d seen Thialen during the battle, but no one cared to speak much of her. Until we moved to Stonetalon, almost everyone vanished for a while.

The Barrens were hotly contested, and until the Alliance landed on Kalimdor in force it was likely to remain so indefinitely. There was one region where we – and the rest of the Commando that formed – could help out. Stonetalon.

The Mountains had been relatively uninhabited since the Shattering, and after the Bomb incident the Alliance had abandoned plans to open a supply route through it, especially as the Kaldorei fell back and Krom’gar Fortress strengthened its position despite the unfortunate fate of its namesake. At the time the Rebellion broke out, Krom’gar Fortress was the strongest and most senior of all Garroshian settlements besides Orgrimmar itself – which, we had already seen, had been turned into a fortress itself. Intelligence sporadically received indicated that things were only getting worse there – rationing was on the up, the Darkspear were being held captive in the Valley of Spirits, and those who showed no desire to be incorporated into the largest army on the planet were also being incarcerated as ‘enemies of the Horde’.

Our entry into the Mountains proved rather easy, as Malaka’jin had yet to be fully fortified by the Kor’kron, and a convenient Sunshardian landslip took out most of the opposition. Following several days of ensuring supplies from Hunter Hill (aided by Edanna’s creation of an illusion to make the area look like a Kor’kron base) we proceeded with plans for the region.

In order to liberate the region, we would first have to take the formerly-Alliance quarry just north of Malaka’jin, as well as ensure that no Grimtotem remnants were nearby. Closing off the mine would prevent Kor’kron reinforcements from coming from Krom’gar to retake it. Simultaneous to that was the necessary capture of a Kor’kron roadblock established between Malaka’jin and Sun Rock Retreat in order to prevent rebels getting in or out of the main area of Stonetalon. Once we captured/allied with Sun Rock Retreat (as we were not sure who was in control) we would be able to proceed to the Sludgewerks, Cliffwalker Post and eventually loop round to cut off Krom’gar Fortress’ supply route from Ashenvale.

This was all possible, so long as we worked subtlely and quickly. Whether it was sustainable afterwards, no one could be sure, but the estimates of 500 Kor’kron ground troops at Krom’gar compared to our 30 or so did not make our chances look high.

Beset by numerous bouts of factional squabbling (as elves, trolls and tauren all had representation within the Commando) we eventually utilised an Alliance reclamation force to help us capture the Quarry, which we handed over to them. Diplomatic tension flared with our destruction of the mine, especially as the Alliance had previously promised us 50% of all supplies that passed through. This went on for about a week, during which the commanding officer of the Alliance in Stonetalon mysteriously disappeared and was replaced by another zealous Silver Covenant agent in search of Khairan’s head. I was beginning to sense a pattern. However, the Grand Marshal in charge quickly returned after we exposed that his dismissal had not been intentional. For the most part, there was a successful armistice between both forces in the region from then on. The Quarry was further strengthened by our alliance with one of the region’s native air elementals on the plateau between Krom’gar and the Quarry, although the expansion of the Dark Shaman onto the plateau meant that this was a limited-time alliance.

The road block was slightly easier to clear than the Quarry, especially as there was no collateral in the form of slaves. The road block was thankfully weaker than our earlier intelligence reports had led us to believe, manned by just five tauren and a Kor’kron orc. The tauren were easily convinced to switch sides, and while this was occurring the Research Division noted a significant lack of elemental traces in the former Grimtotem village, engineered by the Grimtotem themselves to curse the land against the Kor’kron when they were driven out.

Following this, we sent several emissaries to Sun Rock Retreat, among them Thelnarion and Evy’lin. Unfortunately, this did not go quite as planned, as their tracks were noticed by the Kor’kron, who promptly investigated the Retreat for spies.

Several days later we would return in force, only to find the entire population silent and terrified. Between Evy’lin and Edanna we discovered significant magics of the Dark Shaman at work in the area, spying on us – which quickly brought attacks from Kor’kron forces. Though we fended them off several days in a row, it became quite clear that our position was already becoming untenable, and our forces quickly moved to finish up business; the Eyes reinforcing Sun Rock and Malaka’jin before pulling out, and the Convocation forces pushing for the Sludgewerks and control of Windshear Pass.

The Sludgewerks, mercifully, proved extremely easy. The goblins had not been paid in a significant amount of time, coerced and eventually forced into continuing their work unpaid by the Kor’kron. They were all too happy to jump ship and prevent any other work from occuring at Mirkfallon Lake. Following this, we were able to move quickly to Cliffwalker, where we faced another ambush from Kor’kron. Though weary, the tauren there were extremely reluctant to leave, content to take what the Kor’kron would throw. The entire tribe seemed to have been broken by the events of the Shattering, but we did as requested, giving them the necessary materials to reinforce the area before pulling out.

After the capture of Windshear Pass (promptly handed over to the Kaldorei) the Commando rendezvoused at Malaka’jin for one last time, in order to begin a push to cripple Kor’kron activity, by destroying what we assumed to be elemental weaponry in the mines beneath Krom’gar Fortress. With the Sludgewerks, Sun Rock Retreat and Malaka’jin all prepared to pull back to Thunder Bluff before the Kor’kron could retaliate, we used the Alliance entrance to sneak into the mines, discovering an elemental forge of immense proportions on the bottom level. Taking them by surprise, Darkstrike destroyed the ventilation as we attacked the forge itself, destroying it and forcing the Kor’kron to evacuate the mine as it began to collapse around them.

Recuperating within Thunder Bluff, we received word from the Rebellion that Hellscream was planning something in Pandaria – and that we were to travel there immediately.