|Operation Derelict: The Durnholde Incident|
|Campaign: Operation Derelict|
|Date: August 20-23 L.C.|
|Place: Cellblock Stormwall|
|Outcome: Syndicate prisoners liberated. Derelict Battalion forces capture potential recruits for conversion.|
|Commanders and Leaders:|
|Casualties and Losses:|
Operation Derelict: Durnholde was an incident that occurred within the internment pit within the Ruins of Durnholde. Overseen by Thirnas Kessler and Henry Stormwall, Syndicate forces fortified a portion of the complex in order to stage a prison racket. Trafficking prisoners from various affiliations, Kessler sought to ransom high profile individuals for large payouts to his mercenary company, whilst using the rest as slave labor.
Moonlight swept the hoary ruins that once comprised a great stronghold for the armies of Lordaeron. It was Blackmoore's seat of power, a prison, and now, a caved-in pit of debauchery. Who better to claim such a place than the rapacious, perfidious likes of the Syndicate? Whatever use they had for what was ostensibly a pile of rocks, it must have served them well, as quite a few of the orange-masked thugs were bustling within its walls.
Meanwhile, the forces that remained of Hillsbrad were stripped thin, as Southshore faced a devious foe in the Forsaken. Markus, despite still bearing the azure twin-headed eagle on his chest, was on his sigma grindset, and wasn't about to be distracted going around questing like some sheep. Kessler's goons had been a blight within the foothills, royally pissing off the hardened scout. These dregs had become Quinn's favored quarry, as they had been the source of most his woes. The last dwindling hope to gain some answers within the daunting, shrouded garrison.
Markus was also not going to stomach the heinous operation that his former superior officer was now running. How a man who served his kingdom so loyally would succumb to intending to trafficking his own kin like livestock would be a question that lingered for the evenings to come.
It was the night where the pearly, star-spangled sky shined providence, though Quinn had barely made it to his destination before he'd catch a stench, a rotten one. And it grew it closer, stronger even, regardless of the fact that he was standing still, covered by the brush. Corpses weren't supposed to walk, and if they did, it meant trouble...
Quinn dove from the bush as a blade carved through it with a vicious rasp. It was a gangly husk of an assailant, one of the Forsaken. His dim, pale-glowing eyes were narrowed and beamed with malice as he measured up his living opponent
Birds of a Different Feather
-- Within the woods outside Durnholde held another figure, armored in plates of red steel atop a coat of mail and draped in a tabard that bears the sigil of Stromgarde. He stalked through the brush with a great sword clenched tightly in one hand, disturbingly patient and calculating for such a heavily armed figure.
He crept among the bushes, his heavy armor rustling and rattling as he darted from shrub to shrub, tree to tree, then he did stop and watched. Waiting. The two eyes behind the helmet moved back and forth between Quinn and his undead foe, pondering for a few moments as they sized one another up.
The two combatants were firmly locked. Quinn ducked and weaved beneath each of the Forsaken's deft slashes. The hunter kept his crossbow drawn, deciding it would be best to keep it ready should he need to parry and new thrusts. Something gave the undead pause, however. Quinn would capitalize on this, and loose a bolt straight into one of those beaming eyeballs that stared him down. The foe groaned in what sounded like mild annoyance more than pain, as he certainly could not feel any sensation other than cold grip of the grave.
Have they noticed me? Who is this man? were both questions going through Aelfric's head as he hid... until finally he came to a conclusion; and that was to fight. He leapt from the brush with steel in hand, sprinting towards the Forsaken with all the sounds of a kitchen drawer being ripped from its place and thrown down the stairs. The young knight's intent was plain for the two strangers, and one would most certainly die. He swung his heaving great sword with a mighty cleave aimed right for the undead.
The Forsaken was swift enough to shimmy aside, but dealing with half his vision left his judgment of distance slightly off, which meant doom for his blade wielding arm. Rotten blood sprayed as the limb tumbled to the grass. Another bitter hiss, but the gangly rogue was not done yet. One arm, one eye; he could still fight, so long as he was mostly intact.
Quinn, meanwhile, ducked back into cover. He did not know this Stromic man, but he arrived in the nick of time. The hunter gave no chase to the fleeing undead, so it was up to Hassler now.
"Not again!" hissed the Deathstalker. It seemed this wasn't the first time went out on a limb...
Aelfric wrought upwards his steel as it cleaved off the Forsaken's sword arm, staring down the forgone limb as it twitched lifelessly on the ground.
The Forsaken's lone eye flared as he saw the steel-clad warrior surge his way. Though, he was thankful his opponent was so loud as to alert him the impending danger. A skeletal grin spread from his torn lips, and as the blade arced, the scout ducked beneath, and cackled, mocking the Stromic fighter.
"Like an overstuffed hog--is that how you idiots fight in Ara--AHHHH--"
As the undead jeered, another bolt came careening from the bushes. Both eyes were pierced now. Now came the pain, not from his rendered flesh, but the hopelessness that washed over him. He was blind, and at was a the mercy of his executioner.
"It seems to work," Hassler muttered before his hefty sword.
"Bury me... upside dow-EEUGGH--" came the last sputtered words of the Forsaken before the blade came crashing down to cleave the scout's head from his shoulders entirely.
A light breeze followed, as if carrying the misbegotten soul into the abyss. The Stromic was not alone in the quiet, however. That would become quite evident soon enough. To Hassler, it was as if the trees were talking to him, threatening,
"AH! Ah! Keep those eyes forward. I'm two for two tonight! Don't play the odds!"
Then came a rough rustling. The blue and brown clad hunter emerged slightly from the leaves, pollen dusting his pale face as his flinty gaze glinted in the moonlight, as did the barbed-tip of his crossbow.
"Hrm..." uttered a voice behind the helmet as Aelfric spotted the pale faced hunter emerge from the brush. The knight didn't move, at least not yet; he simply stared at the imminent death trained right between his eyes and defiantly raised his sword before dropping it tip first into the body of the mutilated scout. He clenched the hilt tightly with his one hand as he drove it further and further into the body until finally it went through the other side. "You're welcome."
"For stealing my kill?" Markus riposted bitterly.
"Never in my time have I seen a man so brazenly threaten me. Especially after I fought his battle for him," Hassler's demeanor was impenetrable.
"There's a first time for everything, I suppose." Not relenting his threat one bit, Quinn only stepped closer and closer to knight, just outside the reach of that greatsword. The hunter canted his head toward the corpse, gaze yet stern and narrow.
Aelfric removed his hand from the pommel of his sword and simply pointed towards the towering walls of Durnholde, "Therein lies your answer, Lordaeronian. Syndicate rats have pilfered items of great value to my order," the warrior said very plainly to the suspicious hunter; still staring down the crossbolt pointed at his eyes. "I assume this rotting beast is not your preferred quarry, hm? You're here for something more important. Why else would you come to this crater of misery...?"
Aelfric rested his palm on the sword's pommel once more, his eyes shifting away for a moment to steal a glance at the derelict fortress, only to swiftly return to Quinn a few seconds later. "Lower the crossbow before we both make our mistakes."
"I'll lower it because I feel like it," Markus groused in a prickly manner, slinging the weapon over his shoulder. He marched forward with a hurried pace, eyes fixed on the butchered corpse. He was looking to inspect, and not even sparing Aelfric a passing glance. The hunter gave a vague wave of his hand, a gesture to move the knight away from the gory aftermath. Quinn was nothing if not thorough after all, and the scout might have something he or Aelfric needed.
A Dry Smoke
Markus procured his machete from its sheathe and began to prod the body, rolling it over like he was checking a steak on a grill. Beneath was the scout's satchel, gore-stained, but intact. The hunter was careful not to get too much of the fetid blood on him, as it was fairly unsanitary.
"And what are you here for, then? We must share some common interest... seeing as how you're not pointing a crossbow at me anymore." Aelfric said as he took a small checkered red and black cloth out of his pack and wiped his sword clean of the undead's rotted blood.
There weren't many words coming from Quinn in response, only the occasional huff as he rummaged through the Forsaken's belongings, eventually finding what he was looking for: a journal of some sorts. Only after he flipped through a few of the pages did he forfeit a terse response: "Alright, Big Red. The Syndicate are in there. They harass Hillsbrad like a plague. I plan on annoying them a bit tonight. You in?"
Quinn halted himself. Something on one of the pages roused his interest, though his mild surprise turned to disgust quickly, as his features began to scrunch, and his lips drew to a snarl.
Aelfric wadded up the now bloodied cloth and threw it off to the side as he watched Quinn rummage through the Forsaken's satchel, "Big re--" he began to say until he came to a sudden stop.
He peered down to the journal and the now disgusted Quinn with a smirk, it's a good thing he was wearing a helmet. "The Syndicate are a plague, no better than the Scourge, truly. They scour and pillage like common thugs, but fancy themselves nobles with birthrights. Disgusting, isn't it?"
"Did they take something from you? They are thieves after all."
Hassler was reluctant to spill too much, but he was willing to curry favor to make this team work. They needed each other in an odd way. I was sent to retrieve an ancient relic rumored to belong to a long dead king. It was stolen, and we believe Thirnas Kessler put them up to it." He then stared out at the walls of Durnholde once more. "I'll be bringing back his head on that spear."
Quinn slammed the book shut and let out a chuff. He still had yet to regard the man in the eyes for whatever reason. The hunter looked toward Durnholde's wall, appraising both distance, shade, and wind. "You came to hunt down the kingpin?" he snorted derisively. "Maybe if you shout loud enough he'll show himself." Sarcasm oozed from his pores at this point.
Aelfric stared down Quinn as he appraised those old stone walls, silently thinking to himself, perhaps even judging the jaded hunter. "Don't think I'll let a few of his dogs get in my way, Lordaeronian. Kessler will die tonight."
"Not just his dogs, Red," Markus couldn't help but to sigh. Maybe it was his jaded mind, but he being lone wolf made this kind of chatter tiring. He resorted to simple things in times like these, like: "Chess. You ever dabble with it?"
"Have you ever played chess?"
Markus motioned for Aelfric to follow as the hunter would proceed to lead on toward the wall.
"No," he said in response to the question, "Never had the patience for it. Sergeant Stormwall used to always make analogies with it, though." He stopped for a moment, looking for a way up the cliff that wouldn't prove too taxing. He was eyeing the southeast breach.
"And you understood them?"
"On his terms, mostly. Fast and loose. I'd say it was more of angry checkers in his case, but I'll try to invoke his sagacious wisdom in these dire times..." More of Quinn's dry sarcasm took the moisture out of the air. He began to gesticulate vaguely in order to illustrate his flimsy analogy, ""Kessler? He's got a full board. Us? We have... just two. Two 'knights'."
"One knight." he replied to the chess analogy with a snort, matching Quinn's aloofness with a tone of irritability.
"I'm gonna' ask again: How do you think you're getting him out of hiding? What's your plan, other than storming the gates? Did you have one before you stumbled upon me so serendipitously?"
"Do you intend to take it stealthy, go in quiet?" The hunter eyes the knight up and down. "You don't look the part, that's for sure. You stick out like a sore thumb. You look like a sore thumb."
"Stealthy and quiet is ideal. But rarely are circumstances ever ideal, Lordaeronian."
The two had begun scaling the cliffside amidst their banner, at least trying to reach the foot of the fortress walls. Quinn was apt for the rugged terrain, often finding himself on vantage points for overlooks. Aelfric, however... not so much.
He scaled the jagged hills with Markus, clambering upwards with great struggle, no doubt caused by the combined weight of his armor and weapons, and he wasn't quiet about it either; plates clanked and the mail rattled. A walking cacophony truly.
Quinn gave a smarmy grin toward his loud, slow acquaintance as he offered a half-hearted clap for Aelfric's conquest of this shallow summit. With a high-standing shrub shrouding his position, Quinn rummaged through his satchel. He procured what appeared to be a shoddily rolled cigar of some sort and a match to spark it. With a deep draw, he took in a large swell of smoke, and chuffed out heavy plume that breasted coolly in the air.
It didn't smell like tobacco, and it looked like Quinn's eyes glazed over upon taking the hit.
((INSERT MAP DIAGRAM HERE))
Deep, deep thought. A sudden bout of stress suddenly struck Markus like a hammer, and the harsh burn took the edge off.
"You know, some of those Syndicate like to hide in trees. There's--" Quinn paused for a moment as he flipped the journal pages again, "There's three... wait no--four wall breaches. Then there's the front entrance, which is likely guarded. Apparently there's a mining crew in the back. They're likely being worked to bone - doubt they see us--" He was halted by cough as he tried to take in another draw of his cigarette.
"I see you're not doing us any favors either," Aelfric chided as he stomped over towards Quinn alongside the wall and quickly snatched the cigarette with a leather clad hand and inspected it for only a second, smelling the aroma through the breathing holes in his helmet. He chucked it down the cliff side.
Quinn knit his brow and raised his arms in protest. He was aghast, incredulous, his mouth agape. He was enjoying that smoke. "You worried about my lungs or something? " he groused, "That was my last one."
Skinning the Cat
Aelfric was impassable once again, delivering a stern glare from behind his visor, "Focus," he said as he clenched his blade tightly in one hand, eyes set on the rear breach of Durnholde illuminated by the moonlight. "Five entrances. Five ways to skin this cat. Take your pick."
“Trying, but your lips keep moving,” Markus grumbled, pantomiming flapping gums with his hands. He made a show of unfolding the map before him. "The breach right ahead is probably filled with rats that are more likely to run than to stand their ground. They'll probably rouse the attention of the mercs. This crossbow is custom made to be quickloaded but I doubt I can pick off all the roaches. Unless you're feeling confident we can wrangle them before they skitter off, I'd say we're best suited to the back: Northeast."
"We've discussed this long enough. We have our plan and now we attack... hrm." Hassler gestured Quinn onwards.
“Our plan isn't as ironclad as you, Red. Rein it in a second--A bunch of tired workers are not likely to bother us, but we'd need to stay quiet... and I'm not sure that's all too feasible at this point, especially since you--"
"I don't cower in the shadows, Lordaeronian. Besides, we'll persuade them to keep quiet if we have to, maybe we will regardless. Syndicate rats like to squeak, and if they do, we'll stomp them out."
Markus’ expression turned icy, no longer as aloof as before. “Who do you think’s running this place, huh? It might not look like much from here, but do you think Kessler’s goons are the main muscle behind this elaborate prison ring?”
“I wouldn’t doubt it. That knave has enough gold to hire a sizeable force.”
“Remember what I was saying about Stormwall? That same guy is running this place. Those men down there are my countrymen. I haven’t gone in guns blazing because there’s collateral in the way. So take a deep breath, and follow my lead… please.” A somber tune from Markus for sure, but he wasn’t comfortable showing this degree of vulnerability, especially to this hotheaded young knight.
Naturally, the sobering dialogue dripped off of Aelfric like warm rain. “I’ll let you worry about that then, Lordaeronian.”
The Sinister Hostess
Aelfric looked out to the the arena with a mild bit of curiosity in his eyes, various murmurs leaving his lips as he cursed the Syndicate and his eyes fell on the battle between the watchman and the mountain lion, his hand clenching ever so tightly on the hilt of his blade as he felt something very familiar; rage.
Silent and stalwart was the knight for a few moment more as he watched the Lordaeronian dodge the sweeping strikes of the mountain lion until he finally had enough. He left Markus' back and with a vicious roar to announce his arrival he charged past the breach with steel in hand and rage at the forefront of his thoughts. Leaping into the arena with nary any regard for himself or the mission he brought down his sword and crashed atop the mountain lion with all the momentum of his sprint and fall combined; severing the beasts head in one fell swoop. Even if he knew this was far from the end, it was a good beginning. He cast an inviting glance at the prisoners in the dark, then soon staring back at the shrouded figure standing atop the gallows.
"No-no-no... what the hell are you doing, Red? Get back h--" Markus' protests came too late. He wasn't going to leave the shadows and jeopardize this mission so recklessly. He let out a sigh as he simply watched the zealous Strom plunge into the pits. It seems the hunter was left to his own devices once again.
Meanwhile, the captive guard had been cornered, the maw of the slavering lion ready to clamp down upon its quivering prey. The man's eyes clenched tight, and he muttered his final prayers, hoping that the beast would sever the spine first to spare any pain.
The next moment, he felt only a spray of a warm blood splatter against his face, and the final, scalding breath of the feline hiss out in a final, baleful, gargling roar. Slowly, he opened his eyes to behold his unlikely savior. The man could only flit his head about in utter confusion. He was slated to die. What was this sudden intrusion? It seemed that he wasn't the only one racked with befuddlement, shock, and surprise. The Syndicate had drawn their weapons, glaring down at the pit as they erupted into a furor. Their boos were many, but the shrouded woman shouted over the clamor to halt the rowdy throng.
"Stupid cat! Aren't you supposed to have nine lives!? Oh... what is this?"
The prisoners were yanked aside from the ledge, and the knights parted to allowed the announcer to reveal herself before the moonlit stage. She was not the tallest figure, but the pale raven-haired woman had an undeniable air of malice. She was clad mostly black, with dark jewelry, studded bracelets, and a massive scythe that was larger than her entire body. An aura of inky smoke swirled around her form in graceful eddies, wrapping her in a cloak of sinister magic that flowed from her spindly fingertips. Her gestures mimicked that of a harpist strumming softly and elegantly, but this was not an enchanting performance; it was a grim ritual.
Aelfric stared down the woman as she stepped from the shadows and the moonlight illuminated her small frame and threw the tip of his sword into dirt floor of the arena lodging it in the earth as he stood there with his hands at his side; brave, but stupidly so. So brash was the bull headed young son of Stromgarde as he stood defiantly. "I am Aelfric Hassler of the Highlands, Sword-bearer of the Order of Thoradin, witch." he paused and ripped his blade from the earth, threateningly pointing at the sorceress with his free hand. "Your theft will be repaid in blood. Send me your men, and watch their life's blood pool at my feet." The knight looked out at the crowd of Syndicate gathered before the pit, stealing a glance at each of them before he once more focused his gaze onward, at the woman.
The Stromic knight's proud declaration only served to give yet more glee to the sadistic witch. A wry grin spread across her lips. "Aelfric Hassler... of the Highlands..." she repeated with her own venomous tongue. "Since we are being so cordial, I shall introduce myself..." She planted her scythe onto the stone beneath her feet, the corrupted metal resonating a horrid note, and she offered a curtsy. "I am Janara Deichert, the author of your fate at this juncture. I'd urge that you appreciate the gravity of this situation a bit more before we start making such heinous accusations."
A cloaked figure then emerged from behind Janara, and though it was stood in the moonlight, it remained as a blurry shade. She didn't acknowledge it, and merely continued on. "Before I oblige your request, I would like to inquire as to what exactly was stolen. And if it was so precious to your order, why have they sent a lone boy to retrieve it, hmm?"
Aelfric set his eyes upon the new arrival as Janara carried on. He was silent, deathly so.
"The time for talk is over, Janara. Kessler knows what I have come for, and I will take it back; one body at a time."
The knight gripped his sword in both hands as he readied himself, the young fool was ready to fight to the death over his prize. None of the prattling of the announcer nor the boos of the crowd would perturb him.
Janara tilted her head curiously and placed both hands on her scythe, leaning on it in an almost playful manner. An eager energy surged through her.
"Would you deny this man his freedom in the face of your greed? I wonder..."
She gestured toward the Lordaeronian, who was just barely regaining his composure and staring daggers at the witch. The man glanced over toward Aelfric and went even paler than before, shimmying away from the knight.
The First L of the Knight
Aelfric cast a glance over his shoulder at the cowering watchman, exhaling heavily through his nostrils before he set his gaze forward once more and glared daggers into Janara. "I have no interest in entertaining your nonsense witch. Send in those deserving of my wrath. I'm here for justice, not sport."
Once again, the crowd was spurred into frenzy. They wanted Stromic blood, but the witch's whim was far too strong to allow such a simple challenge be.
"No, no, NO! That won't do at all. Your conviction must be tested on whether your GREED trumps his WILL TO LIVE!" Janara hissed. Her demeanor shifted, and Aelfric's defiance spurred spite in the witch. The Lordaeronian was precariously gaining his space, but also sizing up what could be a potential opponent.
"Go on little guardsman! Beat this boorish Stromic boy down, and you may waddle back to Southshore! You have my word..." Janara goaded.
The guard felt and looked sick. A fever washed over him. He wanted to see his family again. It was this thought that lifted his fists, ready to claim whatever chance of freedom he had.
The knight stared right into the soul of the watchman as he raised his fists to him. Weak, battered, unarmed; Aelfric would not kill him unless he had to. He looked back to Janara and her hooded accomplice for a moment before he finally set his gaze on the watchman. "You made your choice, Lordaeronian." He said as he threw the tip of his blade into the dirt once more, ever so abusing of his sword. Aelfric stomped towards him, kicking up dirt and gravel as his heavy plated boots kicked along the ground and he grappled the weakened man by his shoulder.
Crack! The pain was overwhelming, and he couldn't help but to whimper, "I have to get back... please!" Blood choked the rest of his words. He was too dazed to strike back.
Aelfric didn't reply to the man's pleading as blood wept down his face. He simply stared as he held onto him. It didn't take the knight very long to make up his mind as he delivered one last punch to the watchman's face, coming in with all the force he could muster as the steel knuckles of his gauntlets collided with his nose a second time with a sickening crunch that echoed cross the pits.
The watchman finally fell unconscious and Aelfric flung his limp body off to the sides of the pits.
"More..." Hassler demanded as he looked back at Janara.
Janara's grin returned as her sadistic wish was indulged. The pooling blood on the floor of the pit was nearly intoxicating to the witch. Meanwhile the crowd roared, barking madly as they were similarly roused by the violence visited upon the hapless Lordaeronian. "How lovely! I reckon you're here for a reason, so I won't bore you with needless pageantry," Janara cooed. "He wants more, boys! What say we move onto the main event, hmm?" With that, she retracted herself, though not before a dark miasma began to filled the pit, emitting from the grates below. The shadow stood atop the stands leaped into the pit shortly after. Hassler would soon find himself swallowed by a sea of blackness.
"You came a long way to be humiliated, boy. What's this all about? You say you want justice, but you sure are making a show of it..." taunted an unfamiliar voice.
Aelfric tries to solo the boss because he had to go to be early that night, but Thirnas was more than glad to tuck him in...
"What will win the end: Blood or gold? Will you still fight knowing your order dispensed of your paltry life? Take your bet, Hassler. Pledge your wager, and run me through."
An Opposing King
--Leon "Manger" King. An unrepentant reprobate and cannibal. What reason could he have to be wandering outside of Durnholde was beyond anyone's judgement, especially with the bold and emergently infamous Scarlet Flame on his chest. Regardless, he was sent here for a reason, but for something he couldn't quite remember the specifics of, but this was the destination; something about prisoners? Durnholde was a prison, after all. His mind wandered, though the smell of fresh meat wrested him out of his trance.
Now, all Manger could only think of was his growing excitement as he slipped through the south-western break in the walls. His heart raced; it was pure ecstasy. He's only eaten cultists and maybe a couple failed initiates--Syndicate would be good eating, since they probably had a bit more than gristle, fat and bone. Indeed, he was due for a proper lean feast.
More on the mission at hand: As a purifier-adjacent, Manger seemed perfect for the task of infiltrating Durnholde and acting as a vanguard. More like an ambusher--his posse would arrive not too long after him, and with some luck he would have already secured the good stuff.
He kept his daggers pointed downward as he crouched and shambled over the rumble. Time to KILL.
--Time to void the warranty!
Down to the Wire
The epic boss fight between Markus and his father figure of sorts. Unfortunately, Stormwall beats the living hell out of Markus, and need a bit of help from his friends. With the power of friendship, Markus and co. brutally beat a man to death in front of his wife in a wholesome moment of triumph.
Light It All On Fire