OOC: Sorry it's been so long. More exams. But next Saturday my Summer begins. And thus we come to this merry chapter in the epic saga of... stuff.
Xanthus Alverold provides Admiral Thaumas with a modest bow.
"My eternal thanks, Admiral. I will keep an eye on the kingdom in your absence, as is my duty."
Thaumas and Phorcys depart for the city's lower district, accompanied by a platoon of soldiers. Citizens stop routines, and the sound of metalwork and daily chores comes to an abrupt halt as the Admiral passes. The people salute him, courtesy and bow. Thaumas is a beloved man. Only very few of the people slink away, likely being Lightists or troublemakers.
"Were my wishes carried out?" Thaumas asks as they round the corner into the trade district.
Phorcys has his arms folded behind his back. Now, under the clarity of full daylight, Thaumas can see how time has taken its toll on his father. The man is old; truly old. His face is lined and harsh, and his gnarled form, though proud, exerts itself with every step.
"Of course, my son. While we sail to the mainland, we will be tailed by your special new cavaliers. The creatures you summoned are hard to tame, but with my assistance, their will was broken... eventually."
"Excellent. Then what remains to be done?"
"Not much, Thaumas. Your men are ready, your riders are equipped and your ship has been provisioned. All that remains is for you to decree where we make our landing."
Thaumas' brows knot.
"Yes, I had almost forgotten. What are our options?"
"To reach Fenris Isle we must traverse Hillsbrad; or rather, Hesperia, as its locals like to call it. Unfortunately, we don't have many friends in Hesperia. The city states there do not take kindly to outsiders. There are two coastal towns we can make a landing in. One is Seashire, which we blockaded years ago. They probably won't be friendly, but they are too small to stop us. The other is Firezne, a larger city, but we will attract a lot of attention. It all depends on how you want to make your entrance, though it is best not to alert the entire country to our presence. If we have any enemies in Hesperia, it is best they not know we are passing through before we are already at Fenris."
Captain Reginald Redpath is awaiting them at the riverside. A huge ship is moored safely. Workers are exchanging instructions across the deck, rigging the craft for its voyage. Redpath passes his standard salute to Thaumas. "We await your word, my lord."
Hours after the grand meeting, Javali is meeting his two generals in private. Not all words are for the public ear to absorb.
Generals Leo and Marius stand at attention, two burly men from different areas of life, drafted together to serve one man; one dictator. Now it was Hesperia that they would serve.
"You received your instructions before the meeting." Javali says calmly in the sanctity of his private chamber. "I want you to affirm that all has gone according to plan."
It is Leo who speaks first.
"Aye, liege. The propoganda campaign has been successful, and we have both the Militia of Dalaran and the army ready to be mobilized. All that is left are your final orders."
"Excellent. What you will do in the following days and weeks will determine the future of our glorious home." Javali speaks earnestly. "I have chosen you two to be my hands in action because I trust you dearly. Do not let me down."
"Never." Marius grunts. "I would rather suffer death than let Hesperia slide into the hands of the enemy!"
"Then this is what you will do. Leo, you are to meet with reinforcement battalions from the other members of the Alliance of Hesperia. You will travel to Tarren Mill, where you will await further orders. I expect we might have trouble from the mountains, so be on your guard. You, Marius, will go west. The Kirin Mora rebels must be dealt with once and for all!"
The two generals salute.
Before they can be dismissed, a pair of gentle hands rest on Javali's shoulders. A sweet, feminine voice whispers into his ear.
"I see you are busy working. I am sorry to disturb you."
Javali's recognizes Zinizar's voice. A chill runs down his spine.
"Next time, knock before you enter. These are my private chambers."
"Oh? Did I interrupt you boys and your little party? Are no girls allowed? I'm so sorry."
The woman was a mystery, but not one Javali ever planned to figure out.
"What do you want, Zinizar?" he asks, turning to face the gorgeous woman who haunted the Violet Citadel.
"Tell your cronies to get out." Zinizar's only answer is.
"Yes, yes." Javali grumbles, waving for Leo and Marius to leave.
When they are gone, Javali returns his attention to her.
"Are you trying to make me look like a fool before my generals?"
"Don't be so sensitive, Javali." Zinizar teases. "But to business."
"To business." Javali affirms.
"Hesperia is under your thumb, and my Hareveim are spreading through every city, from Tarren Mill to Seashire. Now we will train your elite to be Zaramim, the chosen soldiers of Zinine. They will bear our enchanted arms into battle against the infidels of the Holy Light."
As Zinizar speaks, Javali can only acknowledge the list of debts building up.
"You have my eternal gratitude, of course. And Dalaran is now open to you; an entire city in the middle of this half of the continent which will harbour your pagan worship after years of oppression."
Zinizar's mouth is clearly home to a forced smile. The edge of her mouth twitches.
"Dear Javali. None of that means anything to me. Your thanks will not pay tribute to Zinine. Nor will they sate the wrath of any of the other Four Gods. No. It is time for you to honour the first half of your bargain. You have made a pact with the Blue Child. She would have her due. I want the Archivists to be assembled. Let your wisdom judge them for their misdeeds."
Javali heaves a sigh. This was a long time coming, and yet, still he hesitates, for he knows that such a motion would have echoes throughout Azerothien history. Some things can never be reversed.
Jin'thek stands above the vast crowd, bearing the legendary blade of the past in his hands. The sight of it, coupled with his words, drives over half of the asssembled trolls into a frenzy. They cheer and cry out, and the beating of drums resumes. The pace of the music increases into a tempest. Already, Zul'Aman is celebrating. The crescendo reaches a climax, and Witch Doctor Gruc'jen throws his arms into the air in jubilation.
A great screech is heard, and Jin'thek turns to face his ferocious mount, his landed hawk, the creature that they said was a gift from the Loa. It bristles its colourful feathers, beak gaping as it screeches in triumph at the call of its masters. Jin'thek grins at Ker'ah; for that is the name of his mount. He climbs atop its back, and it bounds down amidst the crowd. Trolls clamber around, cheering Jin'thek on.
"Zul'Aman! Let it be one again!" Jin'thek cries.
"No!" a rival roar arises. It is the messenger from Jintha'alor. "Elortha no Shadra does not will it!"
Jin'thek knew something like this might happen, but he would never have imagined that the troll emissary would be as bold as this. Suddenly, several trolls in the crowd bound up and leap at him. He swings Jin'rokh, cleaving two of them to the floor instantly. Ker'ah's beak catches another, gouging into its chest.
Two rival trolls remain, axes drawn, but they are quickly cut down by the surrounding loyalists. Only the Jintha'alor emissary is left.
"I be Vile Priestess Jo'ra, mistress of Jintha'alor. You step out of place doin' this, Jin'thek, mon. This not be your empire. Da Amani Empire is dead. Now we of Jintha'alor rise to take its place!"
"Madness!" Gruc'jen spits. "You be a heretic; you praise one Loa alone, when we trolls must serve all!"
"Dis' not be the last you heard o' me." Jo'ra shouts to the assembled crowd. Suddenly, her form shifts, and mandibles rip from her face. Her limbs extend and duplicate, and her colour changes until she appears as a humanoid spider. She clambers through the trees and into the darkness.
"What was 'dat, mon." Gruc'jen says, shaking his head.
Nuvazgal of the Mosstusk steps forward grimly.
"No matter, mon. All who are here tonight!" he roars. Attention turns to him. All of Zul'Aman respects Nuvazgal's power. They will hear his words.
"I think I have a say in all 'dis'."
Gruc'jen nods at Nuvazgal.
"Aye, mon. Speak, or hold your peace."
"Jin'thek may'a been my enemy for a decade, and he may not even be full forest troll in blood." Nuvazgal begins. "But he brings da' Jin'rokh, and his words be true. My men were killed by elves... IN ZUL'AMAN. Dis is OUR LAND. No more shall them long-ears come in here and kill our people. I stand behind Jin'thek!"
"Jin'thek! Zul'Aman! Zul'Aman!" the crowd roars.
"For Jin'thek! Jin'rokh!" Nuvazgal bellows, head high.
Jin'thek raises his mighty warblade into the night sky one last time, and the Summertide festival then truly begins in earnest...
The following morning, the tribes awake and assemble again under the morning light before the Shrine of Ula-Tek. Lieutenant Ba'jal sits at the foot of the temple on one of the stone steps, sharpening his axe. Jin'thek walks to address him.
"Two things, mon." Ba'jal whispers.
"Anything, Ba'jal." Jin'thek says.
"Dem dwarves escaped. That be one." Ba'jal grumbles. "Two; you gots a visitor."
"A visitor you say." Jin'thek muses. "Who be this visitor."
"Throw me into Shadra's web if I know, boss." Ba'jal shrugs. "He a troll; he came at night after the festival, wearing a green robe. By the light o' the bonfire I saw that his skin was purple, mon. Purple. I tol' 'im that in this festival, all trolls were welcome. He took up lodging in an old hut. I think we wants to speak with you, mon."
Jin'thek scratches his chin thoughtfully.
"A strange description. A purple troll?"
"Aye." Ba'jal confirms. "That be wot I said."
"Later I address him. Now I think that my people will want to hear what our next move is, now that the tribes obey me."
As King Eralas Trollbane begins his journey through Hesperia, he remembers the events of the previous couple of days.
The rebels at the wall had been foolish to reduce the strength of the fortifications. They had endangered the entire nation; and yet, it seems, they had listened to reason after all. Eralas recalls how they had been struck by fear at the thought of their own deaths at the hands of the imperial army, as was inevitable. Thus had they dispersed. A few had asked for a pardon, but the rest had mounted their horses and had made for the hills, likely returning to their noble patrons with word of what had transpired.
Now it was Hesperia that would be the next challenge. The land was not unfamiliar to Eralas. He had visited it in the past, and decades ago, the city of Andriano had been attacked by Stromgarde for its choices. Nonetheless, it was a relatively peaceful land, filled with farmers and wildlife which rarely stepped onto the roads. Crossing the main river, Eralas and his company come across an unsettling sight.
In the distance to the north, banners rise above the horizon. They bear an unfamiliar mark; as if the symbolic eye of Dalaran had been combined with the crests of many nobles. Bearing these banners were men assorted from different factions, for their uniforms were different. Most of them seemed to be from Dalaran.
"What in the Light?" the Captain mutters.
Eralas reigns his horse in.
"I have not heard of such an army before."
The Captain sighs.
"I had heard rumours, and it seems they might have been confirmed by this sight."
"What rumours, Captain?" Eralas asks sternly.
"During our shorty journey, the peasants I questioned spoke of a union being made in the northwest. Dalaran called the Hesperian nobles together and formed an alliance, or so they say. It seemed far too odd to believe, but it seems that this army might be the result of that."
"The likes of this has not been seen for centuries!" Eralas' squire shouts in dismay. "Their forces seem so vast."
The Captain seems resolved.
"My lord, may I make a suggestion?"
"Of course, Captain." Eralas replies.
"I think that we stand at a crossroads. Our destination remains Fenris Isle; but we have a new problem. The army is marching across the road we had planned to use. That road leads to the city of Andriano, which we were set to rest in. The other roads will take us many days more to reach Fenris Isle, leading us along the sea to Seashire."
Eralas covers his face with the palm of his hand in frustration.
"They are a sea of steel; the first sign of military might I have seen outside of Stromgarde in a long time indeed. If they are to be our enemies we may have a difficult war at hand. But nonetheless, they are not our enemies yet."
"Aye liege." the Captain confirms. "Not yet. We can still use the road to Andriano and go directly to Fenris Isle. They have no reason to stop us. In fact, perhaps you can speak with the general of that army and ask him where he is going. After all, it is our business to know. Or else we can be safe and go past Seashire."
Eralas halts to ponder for a moment.
In the distance, the Hesperian army continues its march east.
East lies Stromgarde. Wherever this army is marching, it would be best to find out soon... somehow.
Urel adjusts his backpack as the two dwarves move into the lowlands towards Quel'Thalas.
"I aint got a clue where we are exactly, just so ye know."
Skirvar passes Urel a wink.
"We will figure this out, either way. I can see a road ahead, and a road always leads to civilization."
Contented at that fact, Urel leads the way.
"Aye, me pappie always used to use that sayin'. Amongst others. But we got one issue 'ere, Skirvar. Roads lead in many directions. This one leads in two. South is prolly faster to human territory, north should take us to their capital. But I gots no clue how safe we are in elf territory either, lad."
"One thing is certain, Urel." Skirvar grumbles. "We can't fail the Highthane again."
"But wot can we possibly do now?" Urel asks.
"We can find Jaril. Maybe he can find a cure for the Highthane amongst these elves. And then we have our other duty. We sent a messenger to Dalaran, did we not?"
"Aye, we did." Urel remembers.
"Well, we should check up on him. We cannot return to Ironforge empty handed. Perhaps the elves can take us to Dalaran to find out what happened to him."
As the dwarves reach the road, they nearly bump into someone.
"How in the 'ells didn' we see this one in front of us?" Urel gasps as the elf looms above them.
"I can choose not to be seen when I wish." the elf says with a smile. He is tall and imposing, with black hair streaking down his shoulders. His eyes shine a brilliant blue, crowning his gentle face and fragile, pointy ears. "I remained hidden, lest you two be enemies. My name is Kariel Winthalus; it is an honour to meet you. Still, what are two dwarves doing in Quel'Thalas?"
"That be our business." Urel snaps back. His trust has clearly been eroded by recent events.
"The last dwarf to amble into our land told us that as well." the elf says with disdain. "But he talked eventually. I presume you are the companions he jabbered about in his thick, drunken accent. And oh, he did talk. There's nothing you can hide from me. Believe me."
"I dun' like this one." Urel mutters to Skirvar.
Skirvar gathers himself.
"Sir, we're lost. We stumbled into Quel'Thalas looking for our friend, who you seem to have found."
"Your friend? He said you came out of Zul'Aman. ZUL'AMAN. Are you friends with the trolls?"
King Alford, Thomassy and Sherman return to the throne room, where Archbishop Marden awaits them. He has been summoned from the Church of the Holy Light complex in northern Tirisfal, at the king's behest. Alford dearly hopes that he has only comforting things to report. Canbrad and the rebels escaped into the countryside again, and this fact has greatly bothered Alford. It means that despite his pact with Krowl, the People's Front has endured.
"Do you bring word of success?" Alford asks, as he walks up to the Archbishop. He expects a positive answer, for Marden's face has been lit up with some semblance of glee.
"Word of success, my king? Word of success?" the Archbishop guffaws with a tinge of sarcasm. "Never underestimate the Church, my king! I bring you nothing but good news. My experiments yielded some unpleasant results, but quite a few fascinating ones as well."
"Walk with me." Alford commands briskly, and heads towards the royal gardens. It is easy to forget that they have been dug up. As they walk towards them, Marden talks.
"While men of the cloth such as myself can wield the Holy Light with ease, it is another thing entirely to be infused with the Holy Light." Marden says eagerly. "Do you understand? It is the same difference between wielding the sword, and actually being the sword. In swordmastery, the teacher always speaks of the blade as an extension of oneself. What I have done is learned to make that a literal truth in regards to the Holy Light!"
Alford shakes his head slowly.
"You use a lot of fancy words, but what I need is a plain meaning, Marden. Summarise your findings."
"At your word, I can change your chosen into a new order of Witch Hunters of the like that the world has never before seen!"
Alford suddenly stops. They have entered the royal gardens, or rather, what is left of them. A massive set of trenches stretches out before them. Several magi are walking around half a dozen massive, black statues.
"What are those?"
Thomassy steps up behind Alford.
"Those are Black Iron War Golems. Or at least, that is what we are calling them."
Several hours later, Jamal returns to his king with news.
"Liege, as you ordered, the tunnels have been scouted out. It seems they are in good enough condition for us to brave them, should you command it. We can be behind enemy lines by tomorrow. Though if you have any last orders for your forces in the city they should be made now. Mordred's Zinites are breaking through. I think that we have been compromised, so we should hurry. I believe they have agents within your personal guard. Trust no one."
Viktor spits in anger, as he steps up onto the battlements. Below, the Zinites are bringing a huge ram up against the city gates.
"They're at it again."
"My lord? My lord!" Jamal grunts.
"Shut up!" Viktor hisses, slapping the man. "I'm thinking, damn you! But what do you want?"
"We need to move, my lord. Riots are breaking out in the market. The pagans in the city who pretended to convert to the Holy Light are showing their true colours. We also have one last problem. There are three tunnel networks for us to choose from. One leads through the Mines of Dorios, long since abandoned by our forefathers. It is said that they awoke an ancient evil in their digging. Something that was slumbering; a remnant of the old world."
"What? Are you seriously proposing that as an escape option? Damnit, Jamal! Think before you speak!" Viktor says, slapping Jamal again.
"Let me finish!" Jamal shouts defensively, covering his face. "My lord, you haven't heard our other options yet. The other passage leads to the Underdeep, a place dug out by ancient cultists during the time of the founding of Gilneas. We are not even sure what lies within, but it is certain to lead us out of the city."
"Ancient cultist tunnels you say." Viktor muses.
"Finally, there's the secret exit you constructed for this very purpose."
"Damnit Jamal! Why didn't you mention that before!" Viktor shouts yet again.
"Don't hit me!" Jamal pleads. "I didn't mention it before because Zinite forces are using it to enter the city! We might sneak past them somehow, but we would probably end up in Mordred's grasp.