Hollow: The Storm


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The day had finally come. The Warchief had signed off a contingent of soldiers to operate under his command, with a small envoy of demolishers and aerial support as well. All for one purpose: tearing through Grim Batol and killing anyone not bearing Horde colors. A psychotic human named Morinth had been causing trouble for a lot of people, and the hammer was about to fall on her. But all Fhenrir cared about was the fact that Xaraphyne was amongst Morinth's captives.

It was true he would have joined the battle because another captive was Lilliana. But because it was Xaraphyne, there would be no hesitation, no quarter, no compromises. It took all his self-restraint just to not go charging in alone as she had against his protests. If he wanted to see her again, he had to do his part on a team. So the Lieutenant General grit his teeth, petitioned the Warchief, and agreed to the plan. Now his battalion was formed up, preparing for their end of the assault.

The plan was simple enough. Fhenrir and his grunts would march on Grim Batol through the main roads, cutting off any escape to either the Highlands or into the Wetlands below. If the reports were true, her forces were quite numerable, and she would take the fight to them directly. Fhenrir's forces were a front, however, as a secondary strike force was assembled to free the captives and cut the head off of the snake. In the end, a simple plan for a simple thug wanting to play queen.

But things are hardly ever so easy, and he knew this was no exception when he heard the report passed along on Leyu'jin's order. An enormous fel-reaver sized automaton had been sighted along the main road – one with significant armaments. Fhenrir had fought in Outland and knew better than to underestimate these colossi, especially ones reportedly outfitted with poison launchers and artillery cannons.

He looked over the map once more. The reaver would most likely be waiting on the southern road, a wide range for it stomp around with little cover for its unfortunate targets to hide behind. Then there were the mountain bunkers and towers dotting the mountainside from which Morinth's forces could mount ranged attacks. If he tried to march into that kill zone, he and his men would be steaming pulp before Ley's team could even knock on Grim Batol's doors.

The available air support was minimal – a flight or two of gyrocopters, maybe nine or so in total. Enough to pester a reaver, but nowhere near enough to take it down or cripple it thoroughly. Staring at the map, its folds decorated with small miniatures to represent the combatants of both sides, a plan began forming in the tauren's head. If the choppers could disable its cannons, it would give the demolishers and sappers time to...

"Lieutenant General!" The sudden call of a tauren soldier running up to him made his line of thinking halt. He hefted himself up, his large, dark frame turning to the newcomer entering the tent.

The scout was lanky for a tauren, albino white fur offsetting the dark red armor he bore. A young buck to be certain, one who probably hadn't seen an actual battle yet. A quick salute was returned by Fhenrir, the go to deliver his report.

"Sir," the scout began, relaxing his stance before the veteran, "Communication with Crushblow has been terminated. We can't seem to reach them."

Fhenrir frowned at that. Crushblow was to be their forward base for the operation against Morinth. It was a small outpost in ogre lands, but defensible enough with the mountain range at its back. Could Morinth's forces have gotten there first?

"When." Less of a question and more of a demand. Fhenrir didn't waste words.

"A few hours ago. We deployed scouts to survey what had happened. They have only just returned."

"Take me to them." Fhenrir rose and made for the tent's flap, shoving the poor lad with his shoulder and nearly toppling him over as he passed.

With a startled, "Yessir!" when he recovered, the scout led them through the tents and temporary barracks of their camp within the southern forests. They had marched the moment they made landfall in Dragonmaw Port, making for the southern route in the low plains rather than the obvious path through Bloodgulch. The latter it would have been easier, but it was too probable they would encounter a Wildhammer force from Thundermar along that route, and every soldier was needed for Grim Batol.

Nearby upon a fallen log sat a trio of lightly-armored soldiers, leather and hide rather than steel and plate. The tauren lad guided him to them, at which time all three stood and saluted. Strange group it seemed: a pandaren woman, scarlet fur with her face hidden behind a red face mask; an orc man, though he was skinny and small enough to possibly pass for a goblin should be he a foot shorter; then the leader of the group, a strangely muscled troll woman...or man, he couldn't tell one way or another.

"Lieutenant General." The troll spoke; definitely a woman. One mystery solved.

"Lieutenant Jo'gam." A nod from the commander signaled her to relax her stance.

"We circled 'round tha mountains, got a nice view o' da place." She became somewhat solemn. "Quiet. Too quiet....nuthin'. Bein' still as tha grave..."

"Signs of battle?" Fhenrir asked.

"Nothing, sir. No blood, looks like they up and died in their middle of their meal." The orc made himself known. "Bodies were normal, no cuts, no burns."

"We scouted Victor's Point as well." The pandaren spoke, her mask shifting as she spoke through the fabric. "No bodies, but it was empty all the same."

Fhenrir rubbed his beard for a second, absorbing this new information and pondering his next move. Coming to a decision, he nodded in dismissal and marched away, speaking to the scout. "Send word to the men to break camp and make for Crushblow."

"Sir, isn't—"

The petty officer was gifted a cold stare, one that signaled a harsh punishment for future interruptions. Fhenrir continued, brushing past soldiers as he made for his tent. "Gather up Rampage Squad and tell them we're going ahead."

The young buck didn't need to be reprimanded again. He saluted and disappeared from view as he entered the mass of soldiers.

Snorting a bit, Fhenrir reached his tent and threw aside the flaps to enter. There, sitting in the corner practically calling him to wield it, sat the man-sized greatsword of his. Gripping it in his massive hands, he hauled it to rest on his shoulder, inspecting the edge with a finger running down its breadth. It called for blood, and he would deliver in spades.

((Edited by the wonderful Xara))

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Acherus, Eastern Plaguelands

It had been a long time since he had been here. Naheal looked around the gloomy necropolis. Really, it was more a grave than anything, a reflection of how many of Highlord Mograine's knights viewed themselves and a viewpoint Naheal shared. They stood, not above, but apart from the world – a world which they didn't belong, but swore to protect. So, here he was, looking for those protectors. He needed the ones who had already lost their souls to damnation, but maintained the spirit of their oaths, if not the letter.

As he approached the center of Acherus, he took a knee. “Highlord,” Naheal said.

“Do not kneel, Knight. I am not that monster. Your will is your own.”

“It's respect that brings me to a knee, not submission.” He looked up to the death knight. Once the Ashbringer, this man not only served to defend the Knights of Acherus when Arthas would abandon and betray them, but he led them in a war to eliminate the Lich King in Northrend and, even now, searched for a way to ensure that the “new” Lich King could be freed.

“The same sort of respect you gave our former master?”

“No, my lord,” Naheal said. “The one who held our reigns was one who demanded submission, not one who commanded respect.”

“What brings you here, then? I had heard that you were trying to use holy magic again. How is that working?”

“Poorly. Not a moment goes by that I don't feel the Light burning my very soul. Every time I use either of my runeblades, they scorch my hands. Channeling the Light scorches muscle and sinew. Nothing can escape it.”

“You wish to turn back, then?”

“I'd sooner meet my end, my lord.” Naheal said with finality. “Have you received my letter?”

“The request for aid? Yes. I had reviewed it and approved a squad for you. We have a few volunteers, but our focus must remain on Draenor and Northrend.”

“I understand.”

“Do you have a plan?”

“Yes, my lord. In fact, I was hoping you might approve some other troops to add to our forces.”

Mograine thought for a moment. “I've already approved a squad.”

“And we're already a formidable force on our own, but I was hoping you could supply us with a couple abominations to act as shock troops or some skeletal gryphons or gargoyles to assist.”

Mograine nodded. “Very well. Two abominations and gryphons to ensure an air assault. When do you leave?”

“As soon as we're ready, my lord.”

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The deep hum of the Skyseeker’s well-oiled engines reverberated throughout the deckboards and could be felt through the soles of the Grim assault team’s boots. Having finished refueling at the Krazzworks and shooting down no few Wildhammer gryphon riders, the airship was en route to Grim Batol, sailing high above the rocky crags of the Highlands. Damp clouds whipped through the old machine’s timbers like the whisps of half-seen ghosts and soaked the occupants with a dank chill.

Khorvis sat below decks with his feet planted firmly to the floorboard and his greatblade held vertically, point down between his boots and gauntlets wrapped round the handle in a tight grip. The old warrior’s head was lowered, chin near his chest, and the long braids of his beard nearly reached his feet, dripping with the condensation of the altitude. Though he would show no sign of weakness, the orc was grateful for his faceguard to hide the queasiness of his troubled stomach. In attempt to ignore his skysickness, Khorvis looked up to meet the eyes of his fellow Earthshakers and Bone Collectors. Each of them were grimly ready for the coming hell, returning the High Inquisitor’s nods with those of their own, alongside grunts and other more coarse affirmations. To breach the fortress of Grim Batol from the sky was a wildly bold move, one which would most assuredly end in spectacular fashion – for good or ill. Bloodstar knew that the idea was planted by his own words, and he would hold himself responsible, whatever the outcome. Shrugging his shoulders under the weight of more than just his parachute pack, Khorvis lifted his eyes to the ceiling and the quiet above.

The Wordbearer stood squarely at the head of the Skyseeker. One foot on the prow, Leyu’jin Zey’soga seemed to bore a tunnel through the cloud-cover with his very eyes. As the greatsword of the Mandate was strapped to his back, the glare on his brow was shielded from the rest of the crew, who worked the ropelines and ballasts of the airship frantically to keep her sailing through their foggy ally. The plan was sound. Use the incessant stormy weather of the Twilight Highlands to hide their airborne approach to Grim Batol and execute a surgical insertion of Grim forces into the mountain stronghold. The only catch was the constantly changing weather patterns of this volatile region – a challenge suited finely to one of the few remaining sky captains of the Horde.

The great rudder-wheel of the Skyseeker spun madly as Selash Gustblade steered the ship through the tumultuous storms. Uncorking another bottle of Burnside Brandy, the tall captain took a deep swallow of the ancient spirit. The negotiations for the use and piloting of the Skyseeker had been argumentative, to say the least, with the Grim approach to the Sin'serrar being heavy handed and demanding. It was not until Bloodstar promised three casks of century-old brandy, sealed by the ancestors of the Burnside gold merchants of Stormwind and looted by the Blackrock during the First War, that Selash agreed to assist in this mad endeavor. The blood elf cast a cursory glance at the two mounted drakes flapping on either side of his ship, each bearing a Grim escort, and took another swig.

“To the Nether with this cat and mouse game…” the Gunslinger muttered under his spirit-soaked breath. He peered up at a momentary glimpse of Azeroth’s sun, quickly noting their position and heading. “Hold onto your hides, Grim!” he shouted. “We’re moving in!”

With the words of the captain, the cloud-cover broke. The Skyseeker descended into an already-ignited warzone and hell rained down from the Highland sky.

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Shaelie Brightwing kept her rocket high in the clouds on her approach to Grim Batol. The engine of the machine purred quietly, thanks to the efforts she had made to keep the motor fine tuned to be as silent as possible. It was the most stealthy approach she could make from the air.

Below her, the dwarven bunkers that lined the road leading into Grim Batol came into view. Reaching down, she flipped up the flap of the saddlebag that was strapped to the side of the rocket and carefully withdrew the first of the iron star power cores that had been given to her by Naheal. The explosives were extremely powerful, but also highly volatile. She knew very well the risks. If even one of the power cores exploded, it would kill her instantly. And she carried dozens of them in the saddle bags strapped to the rocket. This mission was incredibly dangerous.

From below, Morinth's forces would see the small rocket dip down beneath the cloud cover. The rocket streaked over head, high enough that the rider wouldn't be easily visible. Her slight frame was cloaked in dark leather, and a pair of goggles shielded most of her face. Something small and dark streaked down from the rocket as it passed by, falling towards the first of the bunkers.

The explosion rocked the area, shattering the stone and concrete of the bunker. The blast took out any of the enemy soldiers that had been standing in it's vicinity. A couple of seconds later, another explosion followed as the next bunker was destroyed.

The rocket sped onward, leaving a series of explosions in it's wake, crippling Morinth's defenses and clearing the way for the assault team that approached.

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