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Plans and Portents

By Dentin, who was trying to come up with creative stuff for newbie quests, (C) 2010

It's all Kenai's fault.

The cultists had been setting up camp for months. One wagon load at a time, coming through the portal in Vemarken, they moved in equipment, supplies, and minions. One follower at a time they came, finding their way to the abandoned temple in the dark. At last they were ready to strike.

On a moonless night their small army set forth. Too small to go against Vemarken, but more than enough to catch Pellam unaware. The townsfolk fell screaming against the horde of goblins, imps, and kobolds, while the casters duked it out with fireballs and curses. The few survivors were herded northwest toward the graveyard and away from the nearest help in Vemarken.

It was several days before anyone in Vemarken knew anything was wrong. There had been no traffic from the village, but that was hardly unusual. There seemed to be an unusual amount of smoke, but perhaps the yearly brush burn had come early. Eventually a scryer at the mages guild noticed something seriously amiss, and a scouting patrol was sent at once.

The town had naturally been reduced to ash, the goblins and other minions not requiring or desiring houses to live in. The army sat strangely idle outside the town, blocking the return path of the survivors and awaiting further orders.

Meanwhile, the temple sat hidden. An unfriendly false priest of Bobcat turned away the scouts that happened across it, and magical eyes kept close watch on the forest to make sure the illusion was kept intact.

Qoorik was not pleased. So many things had gone wrong with the plan that it seemed almost unrecoverable, and probably had made things worse in the long run.

The plan had been fairly simple: an overwhelming attack on Pellam, then a massing of forces outside the town to make it appear as though Bandera Azul was next. More powerful minions would be left behind in the various places to help hold the territory. They had even gotten lucky, in that Remondadin had found an ideal human candidate among the surviving hostages - Remondadin had wanted to create another vampire for quite some time.

Yet as smart as he was for a kobold hybrid, that idiot Uffspigot had managed not only to allow survivors to flee from Pellam, but had divided his forces and wound up losing his own life as well as nearly the entire army. Everything had gone downhill from there. The first two minions, Ahpuch and the newly created vampiress, had both been defeated prior to Uffspigot's fall. Now the army lay scattered, the less intelligent footsoldiers remembering less and less by the day and gradually reverting to their instinctual behavior.

Yet the worst part of it? All this damage had been done by a few well organized heroes. The reports he had received told that they came from the camp of Pellam survivors, though none of them had been with the fleeing citizens during the raid.

At least he still had Remondadin. She was smart and well hidden - it was unlikely that she would be found, and she would be able to take care of herself even so. That said, he had expected another report from her by now...

He tossed about his own orders in his mind, not wondering so much at the source as the meaning. Why bother to take over Sloe? It seemed more trouble than it was worth, given that Vemarken and Indira would both have to be conquered to gain control of the portal. Without that critical link, the citizens of Sloe would be at his mercy, unable to send for supplies or reinforcements. And that is why the two towns had mutual defense forces and would fight to the death to defend it.

Uffspigot's part in this was to make a big enough showing to draw defenses away from Vemarken and Indira. If the townspeople could be convinced that the problem was a local issue, they would be more willing to send away the city defenses, leaving both cities open for the real attack.

Instead, both cities were now on alert and fully armed. It was a serious setback, but he had time and was very patient. He wondered if the takeover of Azeroth Keep on Archais had gone more smoothly, and pondered what other plans may have been laid that he did not yet know about.

The cave system that made up his current home was annoying but usable. He had chosen a place near the surface to get as far from the damp lower caverns as possible. The fire in the forge was an extension of himself and burned without fuel, but even so it managed to keep the room tolerably warm. It also served him well to relieve boredom, as he had forged many horrific accursed weapons in his stay here. For the last few days, he had been working on a particularly special enchantment which he hoped to lay in the path of those annoying heroes.

It had taken years to carve out a base of operations here. The caves were sufficient space on their own, but footsoldiers, minions, resources and equipment had to be accumulated and trained. The nonhumans and slaves were the easiest to deal with, in that chosen wisely they needed only minimal access to the surface and could be controlled fairly easily.

A few dedicated, powerful humans had joined the cause and were largely allowed to roam free to collect information and set plans into motion from the inside. Other human forces knew only the essentials, and were dealt with on the surface in the guise of a new religion. When the time came, they would be conscripted or killed based on the decisions they made.

The demise of Uffspigot meant that he would have to build his forces further and hatch more plots to sow confusion between the towns before attacking. If Azeroth Keep had been successfully taken, it would serve to direct some attention away from his own doings. He would have to send a messenger soon to find out, and perhaps establish a magical link to allow for faster communication.

He set down his hammer, barred the door, and shifted out of his human form before walking into the fire. It was time to rest.

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