[OOC: Now for out-of-Fenris updates.]
The trio disguised Jin'rokh by magical means, and looking like any other forest troll would, they descended the stone ruins into the city proper. They had several objectives in mind; finding Ba'jal, first and foremost, followed by Jin'thek's ambition to see the political thorn that was Jintha'alor solved forever. The slaves and the priests would be addressed in due course.
"Where we goin', mon?" Exhel asked as Jin'thek led them through the streets. The deeper they travelled into the city, the more Vilebranch appeared around them, sleeping, eating or cooking. They sharpened spears and generally ignored the newcomers, who they did not imagine were Amani and a dragon.
Eventually, the trio stood by a ledge overlooking closer the temples on the skyline; they were closer than ever. Several highways led down to the mountainside and the ziggurats on the sacred tier of the priests of Shadra and the Aman'zasi Guard.
They could also see the series of pits in the sacred tier, filled with slaves in chains. The slaves were busy digging into the mountainside from their pits, tunneling their way. "We must go to the slaves." Jin'thek commanded.
Waiting for night, the trio moved down into the slave tier. Many of the slaves had been moved into giant, crudely built huts, watch over by a handful of soldiers. Exhel managed to drive an opening through the back of one of the central huts, and the trio stepped inside carefully.
The hut was filled to the brim with slaves. Most were forest trolls, but it seemed that there were trolls from other lands as well, including a few that were likely ice trolls of Alterac. While most were asleep, those that were not turned to Jin'thek in surprise. Amidst the heat and stench of sweat and dirt, they all looked miserable. Then Jin'thek realised that he recognized at least one of the forest trolls in chains. It was one of his messengers; the Vilebranch must have captured him instead of letting him return to Zul'Aman.
"Chief!" Torosh the messenger hissed in surprise and relief. "What do you doin' here' mon?"
The slaves awaited Jin'thek's next words.
Far, far away, in the southern forests of Quel'Thalas, Ha'lin and his party were sitting tight. It was still unclear exactly what had prompted Thalassian aggression into the south. Perhaps it was possible that they were simply witnessing Quel'Thalas attacking the Benefactors, and the trolls happened to be in the way by a coincedence.
In the Amani Catacombs, they hoped to ride out the storm. The hunters eventually returned, bearing news that the two elves had escaped. It seemed that the elves who had attacked Ha'lin were Benefactors, however, as they fled into Benefactor held areas and soon, Nuvazgal contacted them to let them know that fighting was breaking out in the highlands between the Benefactors and the Silvermoon elves.
No doubt, the false leads Ha'lin had planted would escalate the violence. One problem remained; Ha'lin and his force might become trapped in the middle of a battlefield very, very soon.
A scout ran into the catacombs bearing news. "Ha'lin! Da' elves have crossed da' river, mon! They marching on Tranquillien, da Benefactor town to the west. Maybe they be passin us soon, we be in danger."
One thing was clear, however. With one of the key Thalassian armies engaged in the south, it left Silvermoon's provinces exposed in the north by Tor'Watha. An opportunity was presenting itself.
Myrokos had set up a tight perimeter. Every so often, a forest troll would wander out, likely bored to death and looking for a squirrel or two to kill. It was in those times that Myrokos would drop down and mutter "BJ?". When met by a confused expression or a roar of outrage, Myrokos would dispatch the troll.
The Nightstalkers were fast growing impatient. Charlie the Knife made that evident under the moonlight as he began playing cards on the branch of one of the trees. "Say, boss, are we actually expectin' somethin' to happen or what?"
"Silence, Charlie the Knife!" Myrokos cursed.
They all fell silent as another couple pairs of feet could be heard drawing nearer. A clatter of cards fell from Charlie's branch to the grass. Knives were drawn. It was, altogether, not the most brilliant conversion into an ambush stance. Myrokos did have a base grasp of the trollish tongue. It had come in useful over the years; and he thought he could understand what these trolls were saying as they drew close.
"What be they diggin out in da mountains, you think?" "Hmph. Rothtusk say Shadra commands it. That da' old cave system must be reopened." "Ay, ay. But I don' trust dat scum from Zul'Aman. Ba'jal no here to help the Vilebranch. I know it. You saw what he did to Vacax." "Jodax."
Once Myrokos had tied them up and had questioned them, he cut their throats and briefed the team. It seemed that if this Ba'jal was in fact the 'BJ' of legend, then he was apparently holed up in an overseer's tent in a slave tier, overlooking excavation operations. Myrokos could guess that the Ancient Egg was probably the target; whatever it was.
One issue became clear at that point. Ba'jal was unlikely to be a fellow human. No mysterious ninja-contact had shown up. Ravenholdt could have been dealing with a forest troll. Unnerving as it was, this Ba'jal had still requested their attendance.
Mapping out a route, it became clear that the party could probably sneak through the tiers and find what they were looking for, with luck. Yet again, there was no doubt in their minds that Ba'jal was hoping to use them, and probably would not prove a loyal friend in the long run. If there were any Ancient Eggs, Ravenholdt would probably do best to have its hand on such things without strange forest troll allies.
Affairs with the Gilnean messenger had been settled. Javali could not help but feel suspicious, however, as he had expected such diplomatic talks to be held at the upcoming Fenris Isle. Of course, Fenris was a public meeting, and such secret deals were always best kept under the table. Then there was the minor detail that he had just negotiated with this General Mordred rather than the King Greymane.
Waving aside such concerns, Javali turned his attention back to matters of the present. Zinizar had been busy rooting out unhappy citizens, convincing them the truth of their happiness, and Magus Rimtori had been busy sampling the nation's wines. All of them.
Stepping into one of the main lounges on his way to meet Zinizar, he was not surprised to see Magus Rimtori and some of her retinue, well, lounging. She beckoned him over. Rolling his eyes, Javali walked over to her. "What is it you want, Rimtori? I am in a hurry." Much to his surprise, her expression was rather serious. She tood up and put her wine back on the table. "Master Kariel Winthalus was captured."
Well, Javali figured he should have seen this coming. Proud elves not knowing when to stand down and getting themselves in trouble. It was fortunate the Council of Six had not been graced with an elf in years. "How is this my problem?" Rimtori snarled at him and scoffed to top it off. "Our deal hangs on it; we were to make a portal between Dalaran and our headquarters in Quel'Thalas. We contacted Gilneas for you and brought the emissary here. But Kariel is the heart of our order. This sets our plans back."
Javali shrugged. "What do you want me to do about it? Kariel was foolish enough to get himself captured. In fact, who has him?" Rimtori paused for a moment, as if embarassed to speak. "Lordaeron does. An incident occured at Caer Darrow. Kariel was there under instructions of our great Prophet."
This was starting to become somewhat ridiculous. "I don't believe in your fairy tale Prophet, and frankly, it sounds like Kariel deserved it. Now what are you asking of me?" Rimtori did get to the point. "King Anasterian has learned of this development, and he is attacking our strongholds. I am now de facto leader of the Benefactors, and I speak for them when I say that I want us to open the portal now. Lend us some battalions, and we will bless them and use them to defend our lands. When I return them, they will be Viridian Templar, the best our order has to offer, very much like your Zaramim."
Javali took a moment to think. This was a serious request, but with two sides to it. Rimtori would be a dangerous person to displease; she had already directed the Bruxists towards Dalaran, and had engineered at least a few events in Dalaran's favour. Yet again, this could mean an indirect declaration of war on Quel'Thalas. The political rift that could cause amongst the elves in Dalaran was dangerous; though many of them were likely Benefactors anyway.
Earlier that day, Javali had also been sent in to review two new developments. Zinizar embraced him casually as he set foot in the grand armoury, to look over what the Hareveim had yielded.
Row after row of city guard stood at attention, decked in blue tinted armour and carrying weapons unfamiliar to the city's usual design. "Behold - the Zaramim! They are as was agreed; their armour blessed by the Azure Goddess Zinine herself through us, and thus, the men and women who call themselves Zaramim are also her chosen."
Ulyssan was also present, his hands fidgeting with suppressed excitement. "Master?" Javali spared him a moment's glance; he was busy reviewing these Zaramim, and wondered what Ulyssan could have to say that was so important. "What, what is it Ulyssan?"
The young mage pointed to a stockpile of metal caskets. It occured to Javali that these might be the first viable products of Ulyssan's project. "Are they what I assume they are, my dear friend?" Javali asked with a smile. "Yes, my lord. Metal dust is in those devices so fine that any man who breathes them will bleed internally until death."
Dalaran and Skirvar
Choosing to opt for the ship safely away from the Perinany Legion's agents, Javali and his retinue dashed towards Captain Redpath and his men. Though many of them had been flung aside, they still held their ground against the Thane Skirvar Thaurissian.
"Get to da choppa!" someone cried behind Javali; a voice that was soon stiffled by the Witch Hunters.
"Traitorous fool, you broke our pact!" Javali shouted at the dwarf, as he was one of the first to reach the scene. Ulyssan continued to hold the rear of the party with sword and staff in hand. The Witch Hunters had noticed what their targets were attempting, and were once again trying to surround their prey. Javali would have none of it.
The dwarves faced him, and spells shattered against Javali's defenses. Kirin Mora magi split the air with thunder and lightning. "Get on the ships! Ulyssan, you too! Now!" Captain Redpath saluted, shield extended to ward off oncoming attacks. "Where is the Grand Admiral? I will not leave without him!" "Then die here." Javali declared, and turned on the dwarves.
The priest, Jaril, was just going to heal whatever wounds could be inflicted against the dwarves. Sparing the time for a final act of vengeance, Javali nodded at the two Hareveim left standing, and they coordinated their effort.
Skirvar saw what they were trying to do, and conjured a blast of fire which threw one of the Hareveim into the air, and she landed with a fleshy crack as her neck broke. Though it was too late, and they watched as a wave of energy tore into Jaril's chest, and the dwarven priest collapsed.
As a sorceror, emotions played a key part in Skirvar's spellcasting abilities. Enraged beyond reason at seeing the friend of so many years fall, he called upon every vestige of hatred and fury in his body. Eyes blazing, hands scalding with fire to the extent that he himself might as well burn with the inferno, Skirvar let loose. Captain Redpath, catching the impact of most of the wave, was utterly incinerated. Javali's defensive spells managed to save him from the worst of the attack, though many others were not so fortunate.
The Thane collapsed unconscious, and Urel grabbed him by the shoulders to drag him to safety. Javali wasted no more time. He set foot aboard the ship and was not surprised that its surviving crew had already thrown the lines and were trying to push the ship away from the docks. "Wait, you fools!" Javali shouted, seeing Ulyssan and his party trying to run for the ship. His heart pounded. He wanted the boy onboard; that stupid, clumsy boy. Why could he not obey simple orders?
Ulyssan gritted his teeth, as an arrow thudded into his shoulder. One of the Witch Hunters had let fly. Javali recognized that it was their leader; the man he had heard call himself 'Adaen Melrache'. "Ulyssan!" Javali shouted, but the crew were too terrified to wait. The boat was already too far from the dock to be reachable.
Redpath's Tirasian guard and half of Javali's own retinue had been stranded in their effort to buy time. Ulyssan turned, bleeding, and yelled in defiance. A sword in one hand, his staff in the other, he barrelled into the Witch Hunters, and was lost from sight, vanishing beneath black shrouds and knives.
Javali fell back against the mast. So few who had come this far had survived. Ulyssan; the boy was gone. Where the Grand Admiral of Kul Tiras had gone, Javali had no idea, and frankly, at this point, he could not have cared less. Had Javali been a weaker man he might have shed a tear, perhaps two, for Ulyssan. The former Kirin Mora rebel had served him well, and might have one day meant something to him.
Well, there was work to do. Yes, there would be a lot of work to do now.