Our first dramatic entanglement with the Crimson Hand on Kalimdor out of the way, we set up camp for the night in Ashenvale while we went through what we had learned.
The Crimson Hand had expanded its retinue to include forces no doubt scavenged from Outland. The numerous rangers were new, but led by Enala Boughstrider, a member of the Farstriders whom we’d met before. Intelligence suggested that former members of the Eclipse and a delegation of Kor’kron were also among the Hand’s numbers. As well as numerous Sha artifacts that we’d already seen utilised in Pandaria, the Hand had an entire network of bloodcrystals, adapted from the fledgling variety Khairan had set up during our passage through the Jade Forest months earlier. Anything else was a guess.
For now, the way into Azshara was blocked by the former encampment of Valormok, abandoned by the Horde as their focus had swung to the Barrens sometime earlier. The Hand had moved in, re-purposed it, and left it supposedly empty.
Supposedly. The wards and the single bloodcrystal in the middle of the camp suggested otherwise. As daylight came to a close, we made the decision to use the trees as cover and use a zipline created by Thialen to gain entry, then besiege Valormok before too many reinforcements arrived.
Of course, in our usual style, things did not go -entirely- to plan. Though most of us entered unimpeded, we were detected by the wards regardless, and instead of Hand reinforcements, we were greeted by Korune artifacts which released a mire of sha and a cho’thak before the bloodcrystal was destroyed.
Moving swiftly onwards, we headed north, where we were able to briefly form a camp in the mountains. The Crimson Hand base was a significant distance away, on a section of the northern peninsula known as Sable Ridge. Notably in our way were the legions of Kor’kron guards that Garrosh had dropped into Azshara, it being his secondary seat of power (by this point in time, only the goblins were still totally allied to Garrosh, and support was dropping fast as stories of slave labour in Orgrimmar leaked through).
Our passage north to attempt to establish contact with Alliance representatives was impeded by the fact that a legion of guards, riding proto-drakes, no less, detected us. A rather dramatic aerial battle ensued, in which most of the tinder-dry meadows we were on caught fire, part of the Rocketway was destroyed, and I accidentally collapsed part of the Pleasure Palace with a mis-aimed projectile. All in a day’s work.
The following events can only be described as interesting. Upon reaching the furbolg/Kaldorei camp, we found their leader to be none other than Seliel Brightglow, the High Elf we’d spent half of our time in Outland pursuing. By the skin of our teeth, we managed to convince her that Khairan was no longer in league with us (fortunately, he had elected to stay in Durotar and help the Rebellion for an extended period.)
The random intervention of one of the Silvermoon nobles put us on a rather dramatic collision course, as we ended up defending a multi-pronged attack and took captive Chernow Jarath, father of the Milva Jarath whom I had been significantly repulsed by for her love of trollskin clothing. Chernow came accompanied by a lesser noble from House Sehsel, a young man called Firsandal who was well known as the protégé of the house’s leader Verian.
It was thus, that following the easily-accomplished destruction of the Crimson Hand base (as they all fled as soon as Khairan was able to wipe out their bloodcrystal network), we ended up in a complex set of negotiations with Verian, who agreed to betray Sorlain (as his supplier of magical technology) in exchange for Firsandal and a pardon. In the meantime, we amused ourselves by taking out the northern Rocketway stations.
Things concluded rather dramatically with a staged battle in the Ruins of Eldarath, which Sorlain had filled with ethereal cannons and Korune artifacts. Making a getaway to Northrend, he left us to deal with the fallout – an increasingly heavily-fortified Bilgewater Harbour.
Our unusual saviour came in the form of Trade Prince Jastor Gallywix, who gave us considerable aid in reclaiming Bilgewater in exchange for the riches of Sehsel as compensation for the portion of the Pleasure Palace we had destroyed, as well as the ruined Rocketway and Secret Laboratory.