Bergan turned to Xie as they prepared to leave the carnage at Fenris. "Mister King, I have a pretty deviant idea!" "What you say?" Xie asked his Chancellor.
It seemed that Bergan had that twinkle in his eye; much like the twinkle the milkman had in his eye every time he visited Xie's pretend-slave wife. "Are you going to milk a plan together, Bergan? No pun intended." laughed Xie.
Bergan scratched his head, coughed and went on. "We should play the cards, Xie. Play them, so that we may cheat the deck, per se. Do you get my meaning?" Xie smiled. "Of course I do, Bergan, but you are bad at Crazy Gnoll card games!"
Bergan facepalmed and grunted several times before clearing his throat. "No, Xie. I mean, we should be the guys to make the secret plans! Now listen, I have an idea. Did you see that assassin guy? The guy who chased the Grand Admiral of Kul Tiras? He was even more skilled than Shade. We could use his help against pagans. Xie, I propose we invite the Grand Master of Ravenholdt to Alterakc! What you say?!"
Lordaeron and Dalaran
The Garamonde did not take long to begin to catch up with the remaining Dalaran vessel. Having already been damaged in the conflict at the docks, the boat was not making fast progress across Lordamere Lake. With Katherine Adai to direct it, the Garamonde would not be stopped.
King Alford Menethil and Marshal Sherman braced themselves; despite the carnage at the Keep, this was their chance to end the war before it could truly begin. It was not unlike Grigori Dosantos' logic, or that of the unpredictable Adaen Melrache either; but they had been left with little choice.
The Dictator of Dalaran could not be allowed to live, or he could coordinate a war more terrible than Azeroth had seen since the Troll Wars.
Aboard the Pagan's Mind, Javali was supporting himself against the ship's mast. His breath heaving, he looked around at his crew executing a poor job of getting the vessel to safety. Their incompetence would make Ulyssan's sacrifice in vain at this rate. Too torn by a combination of fear and adrenaline to keep the sails or the ship's direction in harmony, the crew was only going to get everybody killed.
The approach of the Garamonde had not escaped their notice. While Fenris Isle began to vanish into the distance, the Lordaeron flagship only grew larger over time. Something had to be done.
Javali had gathered enough strength and had enough time left before the Garamonde caught up with them to execute a plan.
The Garamonde certainly caught up. The massive ship drew steadily nearer to the Pagan's Mind, so as to attempt a boarding. Katherine Adai paced about the deck, organizing her crew into parties to cross over into the enemy ship and fight in a melee. Alford Menethil, though a shrewd tactician, knew that the domain of the waters and high seas were best left to his admiral. Nerves grinding his mind and bones, he simply remained at the rails of the ship, hands clenching the wood. Sherman remained at his side, eyes narrowed with anger at what had transpired this day. Alford could guess that Sherman's thoughts rested both on the pagan threat, and likely on Adaen Melrache. The two commanders boasted the finest military minds Lordaeron had to offer, and Sherman often enjoyed competing with Adaen. Once again, Sherman had failed to predict his competition.
"When we get back to Lordaeron City." Sherman murmured. "I will make Adaen scream more than his own prisoners do when subjected to Witch Hunter interrogation." "At ease, Sherman." Alford reminded, a pained expression on his face. It was hard to have to say this, for his own thoughts followed a similar course. "Look to the here and now. We will deal with the Church tomorrow."
Finally, Katherine Adai was staring into the eyes of the captain of the rival ship, as the Garamonde drew alongside the enemy vessel. "Men; draw your swords! Grappling hooks at the ready - and, to arms!" The Dalaran sailors put up a pathetic resistance at best. Vengeful and outraged, the marines of the Garamonde soon found themselves in possession of the Pagan's Mind with more prisoners than they could handle.
"Do we have the Dictator? Is he taken prisoner?" Alford was quick to ask. Katherine Adai shook her head, her brows furrowed. Sherman attended them, similarly concerned. "He must have taken the chance to teleport safely to Dalaran." Sherman grunted. "He'd find no resistance to such an attempt way out here. I should have known."
Suddenly, the air was pierced with a horrific, unearthly shriek. The crew of the Garamonde turned to look at the Pagan's Mind, ladden with men from both ships. They milled in confusion, and then there was white light, and sound died with a deafening wail and was silent.
Alford must have blacked out, but the next thing he knew, he was looking up at a blue sky. Feeling his arms held down, he struggled, before realising that it was Sherman supporting him. The King of Lordaeron raised his head and rubbed his eyes, confused at the view which followed.
He was looking at the Garamonde; or rather, what was left of it. Alford, Sherman, Katherine Adai and but a handful of other soldiers were in a rowing boat, watching as the burning husk of the Garamonde sank alongside the Pagan's Mind.
Not only had the Dictator teleported to safety... but he had left his ship as a sailing, explosive trap.
Alford swore that he would never let such a humiliation as the likes that the Light had suffered this day happen ever again... and Javali, oh, how he would pay...
King Alford Menethil waited patiently for a response from the Silvermoon end of diplomatic relations. Whatever Rommath was thinking, it had best lead to Anasterian picking up the line. "I am a busy man, Magister." Alford had to chime in.
The magical window revealed a new face, and a new voice. Here was an elf in splendid regalia, his very clothes interwoven with the symbolism of the fiery phoenix. Alford was unsure how to address or deal with who he thought this was. The ancient elven king held no superior rank to Alford, and yet, even Alford felt at least slightly awed by this ageless elven king making eye contact with him. Alford decided to incline his head, expecting Anasterian to do the same.
Surely enough, King Anasterian inclined his head, though his was a brief and formal gesture, empty of any true respect. The Sunking's powerful voice shone through. "Ah, King Vandermar Menethil, I presume?"
Alford managed a chuckle, and shook his head. "I see you are out of touch with the world beyond the borders of Quel'Thalas, King Anasterian Sunstider. King Vandermar, my father, has long since passed. I am King Alford Menethil, his son, and I speak now on behalf of Lordaeron in a time of dire need."
Anasterian raised his hand, as if to silence Alford. "You humans live fleeting lives. I cannot be expected to remember every detail of your flickering ancestries. But Rommath has told me enough to guess what you will ask of Quel'Thalas, King Alford Menethil. But first, tell me, by what devilry has a mere human come to know of the devices of the secretive Benefactor rebels? They are our greatest shame, our greatest fallacy, and we have done our best to keep this black mark on our nation's pride secret from the rest of the world. How is it that you know of them?"
With Torosh and the slaves of this quarter on his side, Jin'thek knew that the time had come to act at last. It would probably be impossible to stealthily continue the operations further from this point on; one could not sneak an army under the nose of slave drivers. The sentries outside would likely alert all of Jintha'alor.
"What now, mon?" Exhel asked. Jin'thek tested the point of one of his tusks on the tip of his finger. "We might."
Lethon coughed into his hand, drawing their attention. The dragon's human form pointed outside, gesturing over his shoulder. Jin'thek peered out to see the body of one of the sentries on the far end of the square. The sentry had let them pass, deeming them fellow Vilebranch. It had certainly not been one of them who had killed the sentry. Then Jin'thek realised that it was not just one sentry who was slain; it was all of them. All around them lay troll guards, scattered with their throats cut.
"We are not alone, mon." Exhel said. "I can smell humans. The same smell o' the same humans who tried to catch me." Lethon let out a purr. "Hmmmmm. More civilized company at last?" Jin'thek let it slide. They had been given a window of opportunity either way.
Having used Jin'rokh to break the chains of the slaves, Jin'thek ordered Torosh to lead them out the back of the giant tent through the gap they had carved. Torosh stretched in the cold air, free of his imprisonment. "Been too long, Chief." he said. "An' I tell you, I know this place well by now. I can take us to the armoury." "Take us, Torosh."
Without their chains, the forest trolls could almost pass as Vilebranch, if not for the fact that they were wearing slave rags and were dirty and underfed. Nonetheless, in the dark it was easy to pass them for just another bunch of locals. Torosh led them to a tier above, where there was a giant wooden shack under the shelter of the ruins which terraced the mountainside. A batch of soldiers stood watch. Lethon walked up to them. "Halt! Nobody goes in!" one of the guards said to Lethon.
The dragon smiled, grabbed a guard's head in one hand each, and snapped their necks. The two guards fell without a struggle. Jin'thek could arm the slaves now.
They could try free the other slaves, but it would likely be a slaughter once the warriors of Jintha'alor caught wind of what was happening. One problem was that the caste system of the city was supported by most who were elevated from the slaves. Many might not listen to reason.
Or they could go to the temple directly; or even into the caves that Torosh and the salves had been excavating. "Torosh, why are you trolls being put to work digging into the mountainside?" Torosh's eyes widened, and he grabbed Jin'thek by his vest. "Mon, Ba'jal. Ba'jal is here! I asked him to free me, because he would recognize me, but he ignored me! He put us to work. We don' know why, mon. But he is looking for something in those caves."
Jin'thek growled. "Where is Ba'jal?"
Torosh sighed. "He might be in the temple, or in the caves. But if he is at the temple he is probably near the avatar of Shadra. She sleeps and only wakes to feed... always hungry. Always angry. We who are too weak to work are fed to her as sacrifices atop the ziggurat."
Ha'lin and his trolls braced themselves in the catacombs. Meanwhile, the Firetree under Maka began their raids. As unexpected as their incursion was, they were met with little resistance. Using the communication stones, Maka, Nuvazgal and Ha'lin remained in contact.
Word spread that the fighting had truly begun not a few miles away from the Amani Catacombs. Supporters of the Benefactors had risen up from the villages, and had barricaded them. They were blocking the roads and cutting down southern Quel'Thalas' infrastructure.
The Thalassian army that had been sent south to fight the Benefactors had been split up and forced to a crawl in this manner. Reinforcements would not arrive to stop Maka and the Firetree; not from the south.
Their work was going well indeed. The first village they sacked, they unleashed the fury of the elves' oppression, slaughtering everyone down to the children. The fire burned into the night, the black smoke blocking out the elegance of the stars and the comfort of their light.
At last, patrols were sent to engage the Firetree, but Maka did not make a stand. As ordered, he fell back. Soon, however, the elves were forming a perimeter guard; a net to stop any parties from sacking further inland. It was a weak net against a troll tribe, but if they made a stand to break through, it would likely provoke the wrath of Silvermoon.
Meanwhile, Ha'lin awaited further orders while the Benefactors and imperial elves fought in the forests.