The trail of the Crimson Hand stretched distantly across the savage wilds of western Pandaria, most of them having escaped via the Gate of the Setting Sun long prior to our skirmish with Lareen. It was several days before we were fit to travel, and none too soon. Everyone was feeling on-edge from the intense concentration of nearby Sha, yet it was all we could do to stop the slow boil of emotions. I was intensely angry at Taleberaite, who (it seemed) was nigh-constantly commenting on my apparent sluggishness during the battle. Tuning people out is not as easy as you could hope when the Sha are constantly whispering at you.
Who is he to question you? He was not there.
After a couple of last-minute preparations, our motley crew set off on our way to the Townlong Steppes, where we had been called to reinforce and retrieve a straggler’s group of Sunreavers who had been caught in the southern Steppes by a sudden surge in the activity of the previously-waning Mantid swarm.
The Steppes, though not altogether peaceful, were a quaint getaway. Despite this, it seemed to exist within a time bubble, and the Shado-pan we met (themselves rather drained both in terms of strength and numbers) seemed to act as though we were still members of the Horde. Which, given the Regent Lord’s activity on the Thunder Isle prior to the Rebellion, could be forgiven. A stray mantid attack gained us both passage and the knowledge that the mantid were under some kind of forced control similar to the Swarm. The Shado-pan, however, informed us that due to the pivotal role of the Empress (who was, by this point, totally dead) it could not be a Swarm – and that someone must be meddling.
It did not take us long to decipher that Sorlain had gotten very involved with the mantid, and several further attacks as well as the kidnap of the Sunreaver platoon by mantid confirmed this entirely. Despite our speed, we recovered only a handful of intact Sunreavers, most of whom were suffering from an all-too-familiar remnant of Amaran’s reign over the Convocation. Mind-wipes.
The Sunreavers we recovered had little to no memories of their families, their history, the history of Quel’thalas or indeed the colours of Silvermoon City. They rolled off impeccably the lists of spiels about fighting for honor, glory, the Horde, the Hand, but they could not quantify any of what they were proclaiming as easily as breathing. Thus began a long struggle among our number to attempt to reverse these wipes, which led to the conclusion that Sorlain’s methods had significantly developed in the time between the battle against the Eclipse and now. The Eclipse whose methods Sorlain seemed to have picked up rather well.
We’re doomed. How can we hope to survive? We’re unorganised, split down the middle and weaker than them.
We still have ourselves.
We pushed further in, liberating what we could from the Mantid camps, and after a rather worrying episode where I ended up pointing a fireball at him in my anger, Taleberaite took a leave of absence to go purchase a cloud serpent. After that, my own troubled emotions seemed to relent for a while.
Around a week passed between the Sunreaver capture and our arrival on the northern hem of the Dread Wastes, poised to head inwards and find Sorlain.
We were merely a few minutes in when a figure appeared from out of the sickly undergrowth. Soon enough, the rather familiar poise of the camouflaged master archer Thialen became apparent.
As it turned out, we were both on-course to try and confront/apprehend/kill Sorlain, so Thialen accompanied us as we travelled to the only Pandaren encampment in the northern Wastes, the Sunset Brewgarden. From there, things became a blur of experimental sonic technology, tracking the movements of the Hand, warding ourselves against the Sha and pinpointing the location of the mantid.
The Hand left before we could catch them, but at the very least, we managed to eliminate the sonic transmitter within Klaxxi’vess that the Hand had repurposed to draw the mantid to Garrosh’s cause.
Our escapades in Pandaria over for the foreseeable future, we gained passage back to Kalimdor from a servant of Edanna’s household named Banthomil and his crew. A brief and interesting stop on a mid-ocean island inhabited by remnants of the Darkspear tribe (whom we managed to convince to join Vol’jin’s cause) followed, and we eventually arrived back in Durotar.
Intelligence suggested that the Crimson Hand had set up its headquarters in northern Azshara, yet neither the Rebellion nor the Alliance currently had a foothold there due to Bilgewater’s support for the Horde and the focus of the Kaldorei on Ashenvale. Thus, to find Sorlain, we would have to enter Azshara ourselves.
I am not quite sure where our resultant plan to avoid the Kor’kron came from, but suffice it to say that it involved sailing up the Southfury River in some illusion-disguised canoes.
All things considered, it went remarkably well until the Kor’kron noticed us, caused our boats to capsize with gunfire, and made us lose some supplies and several troops.
I called upon my own stored mana, dispelling our illusion by pulling a rather large water elemental into being in order to save our journey. Unfortunately, we were then set upon by a group of Crimson Hand soldiers and a construct, all of whom quite literally teleported out of nowhere. As a bombardment began against the others, I quickly teleported to the eastern shore, scrabbling up into the abandoned base of Talrendis. Empty. Except for…
‘A bloodcrystal.’ The sound of arrowfire mirrored by own realisation and I ducked, rolling to my right and turning to see a single raven-haired elf, a slight sneer on her face. Others were undoubtedly in the shadows.
‘Surrender and I will give you a clean death.’ Obviously one of Sorlain’s commanders. I judged, quickly, and shot a bolt of arcane energy at the bloodcrystal fragment. It shattered into useless red shards, and Boughstrider loosed an arrow, piercing my arm before Edanna teleported me back.