((Here’s our wrap up from Sunday’s event, Forward Momentum!))
Vosgonar pulled his reins, slowing his worg as he approached what had been known as the Illidari Stand. Sylvannas had placed the Blacktooth Grin there to provide backup for the Illidari forces, as their tenuous contract with the Horde allowed. Many had grumbled at this, though a number of Demon Hunters had pledged themselves to the Grin’s overall cause. Ultimately, the Grin had to make a move; being forced to fight alongside wary allies and outright enemies has never been the style of the clan, but doing anything about that in the open would be disastrous for everybody involved. That said, the Stand had become a set-in foothold for the combined might of the Horde, Illidari, and occasional Alliance cadres, and a number of new opportunities had presented themselves for movement across the battlefronts.
Vos grinned as he rounded the corner, spying the white grin splashed on black cloth over the ridge. He had called for a meeting as one of these opportunities presented themselves, and had ordered the grots and grunts to make preparations for movement.
Vosgonar brought his worg to a stop at the encampment. There was some movement, namely the grots running about saddling worgs and loading carts. A massive tauren clad in metal plate armor stood in the clearing, speaking to a normal sized tauren dressed in leathers and leaves. He approached the two and offered a salute.
“Chieftain. Lorekeeper,” he said, suddenly grinning. “How goes the battle alongside the elves?”
The massive tauren snorted, pressurized gas jetting from his visor. The smaller one smirked, casting an amused glance at him, and Vos merely nodded, still grinning. “I figured as much,” he said, hint of a chuckle in his voice.
He turned his gaze toward the south, where the Illidari were in what seemed like a constant battle with the Legion forces. They worked in pairs, tirelessly diving into the Legion’s forces, while a number held a battle line on the outskirts of the encampment. The orc nodded, satisfied.
The massive tauren and spoke, his deep voice resonating with a slight metal sound, “There is disorganization everywhere. The forces that be treat each part of this land as a single battle, but fail to plan for war.” He snorted again, more steam pouring forth. “If anything gives confidence, it’s that the Demons seem just as foolish. I’ve found them plotting with the various denizens of this place like common merchants.” He shook his huge head, dispersing the lingering steam.
Vos frowned. “Foolhardy, on their part, planning their victory while boots are on the ground resisting them with good effect,” he said, also shaking his head.
“Thankfully there are several places where honor seems to be holding,” the smaller tauren offered, smiling. Vos nodded at her, considering. Felora had been one of the few he had spoken to about this meeting, and she had pulled strings of her own to make it come to fruition. She continued, “ We’ve recently made a few inroads with the Highmountain tauren, thanks to our contacts in the Thunderhoof Clan.”
Gorum eyed Felora steadily, stating, “They seemed too peaceful for my liking, though their defenses at the Totem seem to have improved of late.” Felora bobbed her head in agreement, grinning and raising a hand in greeting to another tauren approaching from behind Gorum. Crow Blackhoof strode into view, offering a salute to Gorum and the Sythegar. A few more grunts and grots gathered as they continued talking, clearly finished with their tasks and itching to do something. The elf Soleindra Felstar glided into view, smiling coolly and greeting the group, a strange skull bobbing about her head. The goblin hunter Pikki strolled into view from the opposite side of the camp, tugging her worg along and shooting a sidelong glance at Soleindra before waving at Gorum. “Hey boss,” she said, tugging the worg forward a bit more. A few pleasantries were exchanged as everybody continued to gather.
“Our relationship with the Highmountain tauren is part of the reason I’ve asked for this meeting, chieftain,” Vos offered. Gorum’s gaze turned to him, studying the orc. A shiver began to wash over him, but he shook it off; though he had known the Eater of Chaos for some time now, and grown accustomed to his intensity, there was still something unnerving about having his full attention from time to time. He continued, “Through the Thunderhooves and the combined Highmountain tribes, I may have negotiated a foothold for us on the far side of the Highmountain lands.”
Felora nodded in agreement, while Gorum continued to consider the orc. After a minute, he asked, “Negotiated?”
Vos relaxed a miniscule amount. “Took note of the gaping hole in their defenses, and offered our assistance,” he said, grinning.
Felora offered, “We will be in need of an isolated location, Gorum. Somewhere defensible from which we can launch strikes on the Alliance. It is not a permanent solution. More of a…forward base.”
Gorum frowned. “I’m not sure I like the powers of this land knowing our movements. But I’ll trust your judgment as I have in the past. But let us not speak of the place here…too many ears,” he said, eyes narrowing at the Illidari camp. A murmur of agreement spread through those gathered, though Pikki had rolled her eyes halfway through the cheiftain’s statement muttering ‘oh blah blah.’ He turned to look at her, and she jumped, startled. “Oops, sorry boss,” she said, nervous laughter under her voice.
He snorted, amused, before turning back to the orc. “Very well. We will move as a forward scouting party, and notify the rest of the clan of our movements through the normal means. Mount up, Grin!” Those gathered scrambled to collect their worgs, and in a few moments were gathered astride their snarling and snapping mounts.
Vosgonar grinned, but set his jaw after a moment. “Grin, we will ride through the better part of this land, across many battlefields,” he said, maneuvering his worg up and down the line. “The towns we cross will be protected by neutral forces, and it would be against our contract with the Horde to cause any issues in them.” He stopped, and grinned widely. “So let’s show the Alliance they should still fear the roads.” An amused murmur greeted him, and many nods of approval. “Let’s ride, Grin!”
With a collective shout, the Grin spurred their mounts forward, charging inland from the Azsuna coast toward Val’sharah. The road was, unfortunately, fairly clear, with only a small handful of foolish resistance in blue. They stopped at the sound of shouts from the Warden tower in Azsuna, noting the Alliance banners flying from splintered posts.
“These towers hold some significance to the Horde interests, it seems,” Vos noted as they approached, noting a stomped red flag in the dirt.
“It is within our contract to clean up after Sylvannas’ poor attempts of dominance in these lands,” Gorum noted, visor clacking into place as he gazed down on the worgen fighting below. “Grin!” he shouted, his visor snapping up with a grin on his face. “Let’s show the Horde how to take a tower.”
With a warcry, a mass of worgflesh rolled down the mountain toward the tower, toppling every worgen in its wake. Shaking frozen gore from his blade, Vos smiled at the carnage. “We’ve done well, Grin, but we still have a ways yet to go,” he said, sheathing his twin blades at his hips and noting a small Horde craft approaching from the water. “We’ll let Sylvannas lay claim to this place. For now, we move.”
The Grin moved through the rest of Azsuna without much trouble, and into and through Val’sharah, pausing only to note the Nightmare corruption dotting the landscape. The road rose before them, and Highmountain came into view. A similar Warden tower lay before them, this one dotted in Horde banners.
“This is good location to note, once we become established here,” Felora stated, nodding down towards the path from the main road, as they stopped to briefly water the worgs. “We can begin patrols and defend this place as needed.”
From the tower, the Grin struck south, stopping only briefly at Riverbend to make acquaintance with the eagle master. They then went east, toward Thunder Totem. They stepped toward the Gate of Water, leaving their worgs with a handful of grots to wrangle up the Totem.
They walked through the gate, stretching legs after a long trip. A handful of tauren, and one massive drogbar, stood on the dais before them, eyeing the visitors. Vosgonar bowed before Mayla Highmountain, speaking briefly with her. Gorum eyed the drogbar carefully, while Crow, in his bear form, bared his teeth and growled low at the gazes the guards gave them. Pikki looked at him and smirked, while Soleindria made her way toward the elevator to examine it. Business done, Vos ushered the rest of the Grin toward Soleindria. She shrugged as they approached. “Inventive machine, if not primitive,” she said as it creaked down to rest in front of them.
“I find the parallels to Thunder Bluff quite comforting,” Felora said evenly as they stepped onto the wooden platform. With a lurch, the elevator moved upward, bringing them to the top level of the Totem where their worgs and the now haggard grots waited.
The Grin mounted up and made their way towards the Highmountain peak. “From here, we climb,” Vos said, steadying his mount.
“Keep your worg steady, and it should navigate the trail easily enough,” Felora added as they began their ascent.
The trek was quiet for the most part, as the climb took most of the concentration. Highmountain markers dotted the way, as well as some paths carved from the rock, ice, and snow. They paused near the peak, where a small outpost had been established. A long, narrow bridge crossed the chasm between the outpost and the peak of Highmountain. Gorum brushed snow from his visor as they came to a stop, and Soleindria shivered, pulling her cloak tighter around her.
“I greatly dislike this cold,” Soleindria said.
Vos only chuckled, clearly not fazed by the cold. “You get used to it,” he said.
Felora shook her head, grinning. “The rest of us will have to wear furs up here.”
“Just across the bridge now, and over the next ridge,” Vos said carefully. Pikki eyed the bridge, and looked at Vos incredulously. “We’re nearly there. Steel your worgs and move slowly.”
“Screw the worgs, I’m thinkin’ ‘bout me,” Pikki muttered, but nonetheless spurred her mount slowly forward.
The bridge swayed in the snowy wind, but the Grin held fast and made their way across without any issue. Unshaken, they continued down the peak, and the sound of hammering began to echo around the mountainside. “Aha, here at last,” Vos said as they rounded a bend.
“Welcome to Ironhorn Enclave, friends,” Felora said. The road opened to a small valley, set into the mountainside, where Highmountain smiths worked using magma drawn up from below.
Gorum grinned and spurred his mount forward, examining the surroundings. “A depression, shielded from the worst of the weather…natural sentry positions there and there…” he said to himself. The rest of the Grin dismounted, stretching and warming themselves by the bonfire in the center of the encampment.
“Oh yeah…much better ‘ere,” Pikki said, stretching. “Where’s the pub?” she asked, poking through the tents.
“Water for us and for the worgs, and regular supply caravans from Thunder Totem,” Felora said, nodding toward the eagle master on the rise across the runoff pool.
Pikki grumbled, exiting one of the bigger tents. ”Must be a dry county,” she said. “Only water here.”
Soleindria smirked. “The innkeeper could not sate your mortal pleasures, Pikki?” she asked innocently.
“Nobody can sate my mortal pleasures,” Pikki responded, winking. “There’s a lot of noise here, though.”
“Just a different sort of noise,” Felora said, grinning. “Fewer swamp creatures, more blacksmiths.”
Soleindria sighed wistfully, “Ah, but the swamp is so lovely.”
Crow settled his bear form next to the fire, rumbling, “It’s a good spot, I think.”
Soleindria frowned as Gorum returned. “Our enemies will come from uphill,” she said, nodding back toward where they came. “It may be difficult to defend; if they make it that far.
Gorum frowned, saying, “The Highmountain are neutral are they not?”
Felora shrugged. “As much as I can tell,” she said, “though this area is settled well enough away from where the majority of the Alliance would be.”
As they spoke, a plate clad human paladin stretched and strode out of the tent that was set behind the inn, stopping short on seeing the gathered Grin there. Dark energies wrapped around him as he was pulled toward Gorum, and short work was made of him. “They’ll learn soon enough,” he said.
Grots took to the worgs, and the group gathered again. “What do you think, Gorum?” Felora asked.
The massive tauren glanced around, thinking aloud. “As we noted, there is only one way to access the peak from below,” he said. “The Bridge is easily defensible, and the ridges can be sentried, a small force could hold this place. A flightmaster makes resupply by air a possibility. The Mountain road is treacherous, and there is little natural forage…”
Pikki muttered, “An’ it’s cold as sh….uh…” she petered off, as she was the only one talking.
Gorum didn’t seem to notice continuing, “But if outer defenses are breached, a depression like this leaves much to be desired.” He knelt down, suddenly, extending a hand to the bare stone. He stayed like that for a moment, and Pikki rolled her eyes, breaking off and exploring a bit herself. Gorum’s hand thrummed, an almost imperceptible vibration. He nodded, pointing toward where Pikki had disappeared around a corner. “This way,” he said, standing and striding that way.
“We must also be mindful of who these, “Highmountain” allow into their domain,” Soleindria said evenly. “Their allies may be our enemies.”
Crow rumbled, “Or our food food.” Soleindria chuckled, nodding in agreement.
“Which is why I’m concerned with their knowledge of our movements,” Gorum said. “What we need is cover. A way to hide our numbers and movements…” They approached the ridge. Gorum nodded. “The Banshee Queen’s forces made a beachhead in that direction,” he said, turning south, “And Suramar is there, where the true battle will be fought unless I miss my guess. Fitzsprocket’s engineers could make us some gliders to strike anywhere on the isles from here.”
Pikki burst out from around the corner. “Guys, there’s a cave ‘ere!” she said excitedly. “It looks warm too!”
Gorum grinned, following the excited goblin. “Well spotted, Grunt,” he said as the rest of the Grin approached behind him.
“Good eye, Pikki,” Crow growled.
Pikki flexed, brushing her shoulderguards. “Yeah, I still got it.”
The cave opened up into a wide open space, yellow crystal shards sprouting from the walls.
“Spacious,” Felora said. “A quarry of some kind, I wonder?”
“Good sightlines from the entrance,” Gorum said. “If it was a quarry, it was abandoned by the miners it seems.”
“But for what reason, I wonder?” Soleindria questioned aloud.
As they delved deeper into the cave, it opened wide into a chamber that could fit the first chamber many times over. A number of gasps rose from the Grin.
“An entire warcamp could fit in here,” Gorum said, hint of amazement in his voice. “Crow,” he snapped, suddenly aware of himself again, “Are there any other exits?”
“I can find out,” Crow said, his form shifting into a lithe cat. He scampered into the depths of the massive chamber as the rest of the Grin explored.
A ramp led down to a lower section, and a large stone statue of a drogbar rose behind an altar where a skeleton lay. “Perhaps this was a ritual space for the drogbar,” Felora mused. Pikki picked up one of the bones on the altar, knocking the skeleton to the floor. She scowled and kicked the bones away from her. “Either way, I doubt the Highmountain tauren use this area, or if they did, they don’t any longer,” she finished, watching Pikki, amused.
“Again, I must wonder why?” Soleindria asked.
“Maybe cause a da sacrifice thing,” Pikki said, kicking at the bones again.
Crow appeared silently next to Gorum, growling, “I have not yet found another exit. Ratholes, yes, but nothing large.”
Satisfied, Gorum nodded. “We could keep the bulk of our forces and supplies here, out of view of the Highmountain or any Alliance that may turn up,” he said.
“It is a good shelter for our purposes,” Felora said, grinning.
“We can keep scouts and a token force in the Refuge itself, to keep up appearances and to monitor who comes and goes,” Gorum concluded, turning to Vosgonar. “You’ve done well, Sythegar. This peak and the cave is an ideal position for our purposes.”
Vosgonar nodded, a grin sliding across his face. “The cave is a welcome surprise to me, chieftain, but thank you.”
“Lorekeeper, send word to the wizards of the guild,” Gorum said, making his way towards the cave mouth. “Have them open portals here and we’ll begin moving supplies here. Our forces may be scattered after the initial push. Send word to the rest of the clan, Grin. We’ll set our camp here.”