We return to Howling Fjord, to quest in Valgarde! And other assorted places.
(And again, apologies on the delay.)
As one would expect, most of the quests in Valgarde send players to deal with the Vrykul presence in the zone, since the town is under constant siege. I can’t help but feel like that’s what they get for building their town right in front of an evil war fortress. I have no sympathy for you people.
However, you give me quests, so sympathy can be feigned. One of the first quests asks me to go look for missing scouts. As it turns out, of the 15 or 20 scouts they sent to check out Utgarde Keep, every single one of them was caught and impaled by the Vrykul barely 100 feet from the gates of Valgarde.
That, my friends, is complete, abject failure on an absolutely unprecedented level.
Upon being un-impaled by a player, the scouts invariably croak out one last “meaningful” phrase before keeling over.
I have healing spells, guys. I can heal you. Really, it’s not that bad. You’ll be fine.
You want a Lifebloom? I can give you Lifebloom. I’m not even specced for it!
Wait, no. Don’t – why are you just dying like that, guys?! If I can heal a tank repeatedly getting mangled by a giant oversized lizard, I can heal you from a wimpy puncture wound.
For crying out loud, Impale does like 600 damage a tick!
Fine, you want a rez? I have an out-of-combat rez now!
…I swear, these Alliance NPCs can be so melodramatic.
Another quest sends me to rescue some more Alliance soldiers, who managed to fail slightly less – they made it all the way to the Vrykul town before being caught, and they only ended up captured! Upon freeing them from their cages, they will stick around for a short period of time fighting at your side (I saw Warriors, Mages, and Priests, but there might have been more classes), resulting in a little mini-party of NPCs. It was kinda fun.
While tracking down some (dead) Dwarves of the Explorer’s League, I’m sent to the catacombs below Utgarde, where one of their (not so dead) compatriots greets me and gives me a quest to go collect ancient tablet fragments or whatever the hell those Dwarves are always doing. Some of these fragments can be found beneath beds in what I’d imagine is a Vrykul barracks of some sort … kind of like archaeological dust bunnies, in a way.
The catacombs have a very creepy atmosphere to them, with the ghostly Val’kyr Battlemaidens flying around overhead. I don’t think they attack you, but I could be wrong. At the end of one of the hallways is an injured Paladin named Ares the Oathbound. He talks about his sacred duty and the “cleansing” of an “artifact” by the “light of dawn,” though the artifact in question ended up here in the Utgarde Catacombs … somehow. He asks me to retrieve it.
He also gives me a special bubble. No, not the usual Paladin bubble, but rather one that causes me to glow brightly – and that will burn any Undead that come in contact with it. Shiny – and for once, I mean it literally. With my time-sensitive bubble shield, I run down into the basement (of the catacombs, which means we’re really far down there), which just so happens to be filled with undead. Of course, the presence of the bubble causes them to run in agony and pain, because it buuuuuurns them!
All the steam effects cause a heavy drop in FPS, but I don’t care, because it’s awesome. At the end of the tunnel is a sword bathed in a column of light, which I’m fairly sure is the Sacred Artifact in question. It turns out my intuition was correct, and I return upstairs to tell Ares that I’ve succeeded. He gives me the quest to return to Valgarde, and promptly dies. Dude, I have a rez now! …
… oh, forget it.
I’m not done here, though. To find the last Dwarf, I head down to where the Vrykul are apparently holding a makeshift gladiatorial ring, using captured Alliance to fight to the death. Since I’m a Player Character and consequently not worthless, I step in to succeed where they failed. Four named Vrykul warriors come to take me on, and they all drop easily.
Incidentally, one of them has the title “the Violent.” I question this title. I don’t think it’s particularly fair. I must have killed at least 40, maybe 50 Vrykul just since I logged in today, let alone other types of enemies. That’s a light pre-breakfast workout for an adventurer, you know? But somehow, this chump is “the Violent” and I’m not? Geez, that’s a rip-off.
I free the prisoners, I head back up to Valgarde, and I deliver the Sacred Artifact to the local leader of the Argent Crusade – surprisingly, Tirion is nowhere in sight. There is, however, a hooded “Cleric of the Crusade” nearby.
That’s not suspicious at all.
Upon completion of the quest, the Cleric reveals himself as – wait for it, wait for it – Tirion Fordring! Gasp! He tells his buddy that it’s not fair for him to hide in protection while others are giving their lives, because he’s a badass like that. He takes the Sacred Artifact for himself, and lo and behold, it turns out to be … the Ashbringer!
Raise your hand if you saw that one coming.
All right, so, I’m going to go back to the confusion over the Ashbringer lore here. The quest from Ares did say that it was cleansed by the “light of dawn,” after many had given their lives. That could very well refer to the final quest chain in the Death Knight storyline with the climactic assault on Light’s Hope Chapel, in which that exact phrase (light of dawn) is used. The sword was cleansed, many Argent Dawn/Crusade gave their lives, everything fits.
What I don’t get is how the sword ended up in the basement of Utgarde Keep. Tirion already had it at Light’s Hope! Somehow he lost it again, and it “fell” down to where I picked it up for the quest? That’s a bit hard to believe.
Then again, this is a world where a giant being made of living flame collects pants. So I guess I can let it slide … this time.
While the Dwarves have been busy excavating and focusing on the physical past, the local Shaman has a different method he wants to try – looking into the world of the spirits. He is obviously in a drug-induced haze. I kind of want whatever this guy’s on, to tell the truth.
Apparently, he’s fine with sharing his stash, because he asks me to go on some sort of vision quest into the “world of spirits.” Trippy, dude. Far out. Like, whoa.
I head to the center of the Vrykul village as instructed, down his specially-prepared mojo juice cocktail, and …
OH CHRIST LORD THAT’S THE FREAKIN’ LICH KING WHAT HE’S LIKE RIGHT THERE
Right, uh. So, it turns out that Arthas, the Lich King, is somehow chillin’ like a villain in the “Spirit World,” right in front of the stairway to Utgarde Keep, flanked by two Val’Kyr. I’d entered the drug trip not ten steps from him, and he promptly yanks me over to him, taunts me chidingly, and then one-shots me.
It doesn’t even do damage. Literally, it’s just “You die.”
That was pretty crazy. Also, unexpected.
Upon rezzing and re-entering the world of spirits, I go into Cat form and see if Arthas can see through stealth.
As it turns out, he sure can. That’s death #2 at his hands.
While being one-shot by the Lich King himself is sorta kind of actually really goddamn awesome, I eventually decide to get on with the quest, seeing a vision from the Vrykul past involving a cursed baby or something like that but I really don’t care because that was the Lich King, man!
Ahem. Right. Moving on now.
Further questing (in the non-Lich-King-inhabited Normal World, thankfully) has me sent on a mission to turn the Vrykul harpoon guns against them. No sooner am I flown up to the bluffs (on one of the new two-person flying mounts, it looks like) than the world server crashes. Taking that as a sign, once I’m able to log back in, I decide to head back to the old world and log out.
First, though, I head to Stormwind and check out the new barbershop! With barber Sween Neetod.
…I think I’ll get my hair cut in Ironforge instead.
Logging back onto my Mage, I quest in Vengeance Landing, slaughtering stranded Alliance soldiers (who probably deserved it) and gathering intelligence on the Vrykul for the local Executor.
Once I complete these quests, there’s a little event in which Prince Keleseth (of Utgarde Keep fame) shows up with a contingent of Vrykul bodyguards, offering Executor Anselm the chance to blow off Sylvanas and join back up with Arthas, because Arthas is cool like that. Anselm flips Keleseth the metaphorical bird, and orders his archers to open fire.
Keleseth uses a Cone of Cold, slowing the flight of the arrows in midair. Yes, it looks really cool to see the arrows moving in slow-motion. I wish my Cone of Cold could do that 🙁
Of course, though his Vrykul bodyguards are all dead, Kelseth does an evil soul-suck-horror thing to kill the archers, and exits stage left. He’ll get you next time, Gadget! Next tiiiiime!
If you now have the Inspector Gadget theme song in your head, my apologies. You aren’t alone.
While helping the local Apothecaries to perfect their plague, a test run (dive-bombing an approaching Alliance fleet) reveals that this current strain manifests itself not so much in horrible melty death, but in severe stomach pain.
Horde players questing in Vengeance Landing will grow very accustomed to seeing the lead apothecary /yell “SEVERE STOMACH PAIN?!” Trust me on this one.
I ride up to a Horde outpost outside the Vrykul town of Baleheim, where Sergeant Gorth asks me to go to the village and set everything on fire. Everything.
It’s so pure I think I’m going to cry.
In the end, though, I’m not able to set everything on fire. Just… most of it. Gorth is slightly let down (you and me both, pal) but reasons that I did the best I could. So he rewards me for setting the place ablaze. I like Sergeant Gorth. He’s kind of cute, in a big disgusting plague-ridden sort of way.
A short quest chain involving planning the ambush and assassination of one of the Vrykul chieftains eventually leads up to one of my personal favorite moments in the expansion thus far: yelling a crude Vrykul insult about the chieftain’s mother to lure him into a trap.
Sometimes it’s the little things, y’know?
Further exploration of Howling Fjord, to the West, takes me past an ancient Vrykul burial ground, where a Tuskarr asks me to investigate the cause of all the undead roaming around the area all of a sudden. Apparently, they use this place to hunt or something like that, and the presence of mindless vengeful undead monsters complicates some things. Methinks the Tuskarr need to watch more horror movies, because then they’d know absolutely no good comes from doing anything on ancient burial grounds.
However, upon inspection, it seems that all four prominent graves appear to have been tampered with …
… by pirates. Yarrr!
To get to the bottom of this, I guess we have no choice but to check out the walrus-men over in Kamagua. But that’ll come next time!
(Which won’t take nearly as long to get up. I promise.)
See you soon!