The searing heat was palpable as the team entered the Firelands portal. On the other side, the Avengers of Hyjal, the night elves’ elite troops, had established a beachhead.
Wiegraff spoke to the night elf commander and nodded even as his team availed themselves of much-needed provisions. The Tauren druid returned with a determined look on his face.
“Hunters, I’ll need you both to map the area and pick out our targets,” Wiegraff started issuing instructions. “This will serve as our fallback position. If things go badly in there, we rendezvous here. The Avengers of Hyjal have agreed to provide us with as much support as necessary. We move out once the hunters are done.”
In a corner, Killstrike and Bladewisp stood with eyes closed and palms held outward, rotating slowly. The skill was called Eagle Eye and was taught to all hunters. With this, they were able to get a bird’s-eye view of the territory for a long distance. “You got it, mon?” Killstrike asked.
Bladewisp nodded. “More or less. There’s a lot fo roving patrols to handle, and some of those giants look nasty. We’ll need to clear the immediate area before the primary targets.” The orc hunter pulled out a roll of soft leather and a hefty piece of charcoal and started sketching a rough map.
Even as he did so, Killstrike was talking to some of the night elves, gathering what information he could. He returned shortly and called Wiegraff over. Bladewisp’s map was done.
“Dere’s a lot of roving patrols and giants, but nothin’ we can’t handle easily,” Killstrike began, pointing at specific points along a rough path that circled the plain. “Mostly elementals, molten giants, core hounds and scorpions.”
“Dere’s a citadel here,” the troll hunter pointed at a northern structure that seemed cut off from the rest of the land. “But dere’s no bridge so not sure how we’ll get across the chasm. Dere be 4 primary targets we can see, and 1 we know about only from de night elves.”
“According to de Avengers o’ Hyjal, dis here be de lair of Beth’tilac,” Killstrike pointed at the eastern part of the map, where a narrow pathway led to a cul de sac. “From what de night elves say, she be a mean old flame spider dat has killed many a mercenary company like ours.”
The troll’s finger moved to the western part of the map. “Up dis ramp is da elemental Lord Rhyolith, supposed to be da strongest molten giant in da Firelands. Near his lair is the Shatterstone plain, where da night elf traitor Fandral Staghelm is supposed to be. Da gateway to da citadel is guarded by Baleroc, called da Gatekeeper. Dat makes 4.”
“De night elves say there is a fifth one that roams around this plain,” Killstrike indicated the central area of the map. “He be Shannox, called the Hunter. He only comes out when many of the beasties in the area are threatened. We’ll likely see him before any of the others.”
Wiegraff nodded slowly, brows furrowed. He called the entire unit over and explained his plan. “Very well, we push outward down this ramp to the flatland. Once there, we’ll head east. I want the eastern area leading to the flame spider cleared of all elementals, scorpions, molten giants, and core hounds. Once we clear enough, I daresay this Shannox the Hunter will show himself. This cleared area will serve as our battlefield to take him out before heading to Beth’tilac. Any questions?”
A bony hand went up. Slippy, the troll rogue, piped up. “What do we know about dis Shannox? Does he have pets like our hunters? Traps mebbe?”
Killstrike stepped forward. “The night elves tell us dat Shannox is accompanied by 2 hounds, named Riplimb and Rageface.”
“We must assume that this hunter will have trapping abilities just like ours,” Bladewisp chimed in.
Oicmus, the other blood elf paladin, waved airily as he patted his nose with a cloth. The sulfurous smell here was annoying. “Pah, hounds. Filthy creatures. We should take them out before focusing on Shannox himself.”
Cyan was already rubbing his hands together. “Wonder how much gold we’ll make off of the leather from those hounds? Ok, who wants potions? Just 50 gold a vial!”
Wiegraff stared at Cyan sternly.
“What? I’m kidding! Here, everyone get a flask from my cauldron.”
Wiegraff turned to Mal and Jizal. “You two will be the vanguard of our assault. Bulalo and Slippy will be melee support while Cyan and the 2 hunters will be ranged support. Oicmus, Veexie, and myself will make sure people don’t die. Understood?”
Mal shrugged. “Jizal can pick up any stragglers after my initial assault.”
Jizal’s eyes widened. “Stragglers? My avenger’s shield will show you…”
The two were still arguing when the mercenary company mounted up and rode out. Killstrike hefted his longbow in one hand.
“You trolls really do favor longbows, eh?” Bladewisp commented.
“Yeh, mon,” the troll responded with a toothy grin. “Nothin’ like a bow and arrow to deliver death from afar with no one da wiser.”
A few hours, 2 molten giants, 2 packs of scorpions, 4 elemental scourges, and 1 core hound later, the mercenary company were gathered on the cleared flat plain resting and preparing for the arrival of Shannox the Hunter.
Earlier, they had heard his horn a few times, each one closer than the last. It was time.