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.
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.
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.
‘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.