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Archive for the ‘Shadowlands’ Category

Gnomecore wrote recently about the Anima drought and the absolutely staggering total cost of attempting to get everything that requires Anima. He concludes, and I agree, that for now it’s not worth it to stress about getting more Anima each week than the Renown quest requires, and that one should spend what Anima one does acquire on gear and Sanctum Feature upgrades — leaving the cosmetic & Collections rewards for much, much later.

I don’t intend to get everything. I’m ignoring the mounts, pets, and Command Table/Adventures entirely. I’ll only be upgrading the Anima Conductor to stage 2, because with my playstyle I’m not interested in an Elite enemy that requires a group to defeat, nor in special armor enhancements (I haven’t even bothered with regular gems and enchants for the last couple of expansions). I do plan to fully upgrade the Travel Network and Special Feature MiniGame eventually, though, because I want the Covenant armor recolors from those sources. I definitely want to fully upgrade my base Covenant armor set, and, depending on the Covenant, I want to get some or all of the backpieces and weapons (for my classes of choice). Even with the handful of things I’ve chosen to ignore, I’ll still need immense amounts of Anima — not to mention other resources, such as souls saved from the Maw — it takes 70 of those just to get the final MiniGame upgrade! — to get all the stuff that I’d like to get.

And then there’s Renown, which already goes out to 40. People who were keeping up had been getting 3 Renown per week, but now that the Covenant Campaign Finale has been reached, there will only be 2 Renown available per week for folks who are caught up — which means that it will take half again as long as the expansion has been out so far to reach Renown 40.

It seems that for Shadowlands, Blizzard has planned a long, long game for us — and that’s just with what we know about already. The devs don’t want to hear us complaining that we have nothing to do. And yet, with the trickle of Anima available at present, it will be a tedious, exhausting grind to get All The Things. We already know that the Soulkeeper gets increased capacity at certain Renown levels, allowing more souls to be rescued from the Maw to help with Sanctum Feature upgrades — if the final upgrade of the Soulkeeper allows it to house 20 souls, those 70 souls for the final MiniGame upgrade will only take a month to collect. Likewise, I can’t help but think that there must be plans to increase the availability of Anima in the 9.x patches. Storywise, it seems to me like it would make a lot of sense for the availability of Anima to increase at least somewhat in Patch 9.1, now that Sire Denathrius and his minions at Castle Nathria will be canonically defeated, and the flow of Anima to the Maw from Revendreth abated, if not entirely quenched. Then our activities in each successive patch could steadily ramp up the availability of Anima, until the drought is ended when we manage to restore/revive the Arbiter. Then we can spend the final patch of the expansion romping in Anima like Scrooge McDuck in his money bin, and finally getting all of those cosmetic and Collections rewards!

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As I’ve been bopping around in the Shadowlands with Kaelinda and Kaurinka, I’ve discovered that I have specific mounts that I prefer for each zone. In Ardenweald, of course I’m using the Wildseed Cradle. In Bastion, since I’m not anywhere close to being Exalted with The Ascended and being able to get the Gilded Prowler, I’m using the Winged Guardian. In Maldraxxus, I like my Gilded Ravasaur because I think it expresses primal might and apex power while also being pleasing to look at. In Revendreth, Kaelinda prefers her Creeping Carpet, while Kaurinka has chosen the Crimson Direhorn*, and Keliora and Kalaneia will use the Swift Red Hawkstrider. Kaelyla has chosen the Fossilzed Raptor for Maldraxxus and the Smoky Charger for Revendreth.

Have you chosen mounts to fit the ambiance of the Shadowlands zones, or are you just continuing to ride your old standbys?

~*~*~

A question in a recent Blizzard Watch Queue asked if the Queue writer of the day/Queue commenters were spending their Anima on Sanctum upgrades or Covenant Armor upgrades. The Queue writer answered that she’d been spending it on Covenant Armor upgrades, and hadn’t upgraded any of the Sanctum features to stage 2 yet. That sounds like a rather good idea, actually, since with my very slow, meandering playstyle, Covenant Armor upgrades will be the path of least resistance to improving my gear. Of course, that means I have to actually finish my Covenant campaigns and get all of my base Covenant Armor sets…. Kaelinda is still stalled out at the beginning of Chapter 4 of the Venthyr campaign. I finally managed to push Kaurinka through Chapter 2 of the Night Fae campaign, though. By now both of them have their Renown more or less high enough that they could get to Renown 22 and access the final chapter of their Covenant campaigns just by powering through all the other chapters — so perhaps I should prioritize/focus on that for the next couple of weeks.

I’ve noticed — as I’m sure everyone else has by now — that the Calling each day is the same the for all of the Covenants. Everybody gets “Fill the Bar in Ardenweald”, or “Do 3 World Quests in Maldraxxus”, or whatever. I’ve also noticed that Callings tend to “stack” — one day will be “Fill the Bar in Zone A” and the next day will be “Do 3 World Quests in Zone A”, or something similar. I’ll often do Callings in my Covenant zone — Revendreth for Kaelinda and Ardenweald for Kaurinka — immediately, but wait for Callings in other zones to stack before I go do them.

Kaelinda has been having an easier time of finishing the 1000 Anima weekly lately, it seems. She’s got her Anima Conductor channel to the special treasure permanently activated and has been doing the special enemy channel (SMASH BAD BAT!!) for about a week. Kaurinka just permanently activated her special treasure channel; I’m looking forward to activating the special enemy channel, since I’ve read that for Night Fae, it’s encore performances at the theatre.

Now that I’ve run the easymode version of a Torghast wing in which Baine is found for Chapter 2 of the Covenant campaign twice, I’m not worried about getting through it with any of the rest of my characters. I still think I’ll only pursue the full Torghast quest chain from Bolvar with one character, though. Kaelinda does want to rescue Jaina, at least — eventually. I think my difficulty with both Torghast and the Maw is that I find them to be… tedious.

Meanwhile, I’ve also gotten distracted by collecting the armor sets from World Quests not for their potential to improve my item level but rather for their appearances. Just as with the leveling gear, each zone has its own recolor of the World Quest/Dungeon gear. With Kaelinda, I’m trying to get all of them, but with Kaurinka, I’m only going to get the Ardenweald set.

~*~*~

* These are the mounts that Kaurinka uses when she’s not Prowling in Cat Form, that is. She tends to spend most of her ground travel time in Cat Form, unless she’s going a relatively long distance along a road.

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In Bastion, Kaelinda had been dismayed that becoming Kyrian meant taking on a new form, even if that form was beautiful to look upon. The waiting Aspiring Souls, at least, had retained recognizable forms; well, the ones from Azeroth had been recognizable; souls from other worlds had appeared as blurry, generically humanoid shapes.

She recalled that she had observed the same phenomenon during her initial, relatively brief, sojourn in the Maw. When she and Jaina and Thrall had liberated souls from the Tremaculum, souls from Azeroth had appeared in their own shapes, whereas souls from other worlds had been featureless ghosts.

Kaelinda wondered if souls from other worlds saw their fellows from their own worlds as recognizable individuals and Azerothian souls as blurs.

In Maldraxxus, the forms of the inhabitants were horrific — how could any soul be satisfied to spend the eternities in such shapes? — and she saw no blur-shaped waiting souls. She wondered how the few individuals whom she recognized from Azeroth whom she had met in Maldraxxus had maintained their own forms. Would a soul from Baron Vyraz’s world see Baron Vyraz in his own form as she saw Baroness Draka in her own form, and see Baroness Draka in the generic female Chosen warrior form as she saw Baron Vyraz in the generic male Chosen warrior form?

In Ardenweald, ordinary souls — those who were not great nature spirits of their worlds, placed into wildseeds to be regenerated and returned — took on the forms of animals, apparently of their own choosing. Yet the Night Fae claimed to see so many races from so many worlds that they didn’t immediately recognize her race or her world origin. When she helped Choofa restore animal forms to his friends, Kaelinda saw their souls in the same blurry forms that she had observed in Bastion. It seemed, therefore, that when ordinary souls originally arrived in Ardenweald, they appeared in their own forms until they chose their animal shapes. If only she could see a newly-arrived soul from Azeroth! And then, somewhat to her surprise, she did. At Hibernal Hollow, she saw Night Elf souls, seemingly come from the burning of Teldrassil*, still in their own forms.

In Revendreth, Kaelinda saw many suffering souls in the same blurry form that she’d seen elsewhere. Occasionally, however, when confronted, some of them transformed into shapes she recognized — Orcs, Hozen, even Arakkoa — which she’d only seen on Outland or Draenor. Curious.

It seemed to be a general property of the Shadowlands that an individual could only see souls from their own world — or maybe worlds they had visited? — in their own shapes, and all other souls would appear in a shape governed by the particular sub-realm of the Shadowlands to which the Arbiter had assigned them.

~*~*~

From an OOC standpoint, of course this is what the developers are doing. It would be extremely labor-intensive to create hundreds of new character models and dialogue flavor text to explain a little about the dozens of worlds that they are from. It’s still fun, though, to think about an in-character rationalization for the phenomenon, and to ask some of the questions that might arise from trying to figure it out.

~*~*~

* But how did they get there, instead of being funneled into the Maw? Had they been rescued from the Maw somehow… by Tyrande, perhaps?

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With doubled-up Callings to Maldraxxus this week, I finally made it back to the place — and it still grosses me out. I’m so glad that I don’t have to smell what my poor characters must be smelling!

~*~*~

They said that we wouldn’t need the Flight Whistle because we’d be spending most of our time in the zone associated with our Covenant choice and the Travel Network would make getting around that zone easier. I still miss the Flight Whistle, though. I think that statement from the devs (was it from Hazzikostas, even?) misunderstands what the Flight Whistle is really for. The Flight Whistle is for quickly and easily getting out of the depths of some WQ area once you’ve completed the quest requirements, so that you don’t have to fight your way back out to the road through all the respawns.

~*~*~

I am struggling with prioritizing all the things available to do.

Kaelinda has reached Renown 10 and has accepted the starter quest for Chapter 4 of the Venthyr campaign, but I keep deciding to do Callings and WQs instead. The “get 1000 Anima” weekly has not been exactly trivial for me. I spend a lot of time chasing Anima WQs at the expense of playing through the next Chapter of my Covenant campaign — and I’ve had weeks where I didn’t quite make it because I didn’t feel like playing enough to clear all the available Anima WQs in all four zones. Is it better to prioritize getting Anima, to fill up the Sanctum Reservoir and increase my Renown, or would it be better to prioritize getting through the Covenant campaign story?

Kaurinka has reached Renown 11, but she is stalled out near the beginning of Chapter 2 — the you must do Torghast Chapter — of the Night Fae campaign, even though she knows that she’ll be rescuing Baine and does want to do so. Torghast hasn’t been quite as awful as I’d feared it might be, but it hasn’t tickled the “this is so fun!” spot for me, either. Kaelinda, who is currently Fire, managed not to die at all on her first true run through a Layer 1 wing of Torghast, though she did go through most of a stack of Mana Buns. I will probably not return there any more often than storyline quests send me there, and I may only complete the full questchain from Bolvar on one character (most likely Kaelinda).

I’ve decided that I should just go to the Maw more or less first thing on Tuesday evenings and rescue souls, then get out of there — ideally before my Eye of the Jailer even gets to 1. That, at least, will be a reliable source of Renown, and I’ll steadily collect the souls needed to lend their labor to Sanctum upgrades. If I’m spending as little time in the Maw and Torghast as possible, and only running Torghast on Layer 1 difficulty, repping up with Ve’nari to get stuff from her isn’t a high priority.

I decided to activate the Anima Conductor before activating the Special Feature and both characters are currently channeling anima to the location that has a special treasure. Each of them makes sure to go get their special treasure each day. So far, the Greater Greedstone has proved to be a reliable source of Anima tokens, but the Large Lunarlight Pod has mostly yielded Conduits — often duplicates of Conduits I already have.

With Anima being so scarce, I’m trying to decide how to manage my Sanctum upgrades. I’ve got the first stage of both the Travel Network and the Anima Conductor. Now, do I save up to upgrade one or the other of those things, or do I activate the first stage of the Special Feature?
I have made a tactical decision to ignore the Command Table entirely. I’ve got too many things competing for my attention already (especially if I decide to activate the Special Feature before upgrading the Travel Network or Anima Conductor). Besides, I’d rather save that precious Anima to spend on other things, such as upgrading the other Sanctum features, upgrading Covenant armor pieces, or acquiring the other tints of the Covenant armor and backpieces (once I’ve unlocked them).

~*~*~

And then there’s the other three characters who are patiently waiting in the wings in Oribos for their turns to level and choose their Covenants. I’m half-inclined to do it — to level them and play each of them through the first chapter of their chosen Covenant campaign and get them settled into their Sanctums — even though doing so will delay the progress of Kaelinda and Kaurinka through their Covenant campaigns. I think I might be able to resist doing anything else with them beyond the “rescue 5 souls from the Maw” weekly (and maybe the special treasures from the first stage of the Anima Conductor) until I’ve completed the Venthyr and Night Fae campaigns — especially with the you must do Torghast barrier of Chapter 2 of the Covenant campaign.

~*~*~

And then there’s Horizon Zero Dawn waiting for me on Steam. I got through most of the first area and to level 4 in my first play session before I looked at the clock and realized that I really ought to go to bed. I need to finish up the last couple of side-quests in the first area before I turn in my current main storyline quest, which I think will move me out of that area into the next one — the challenge and rewards of side-quests are really only worth doing while I’m still at-level for the area. The gameworld is beautiful, and I was genuinely enjoying exploring around — and since I’m playing it on Story mode, of course, the combat hasn’t been overly challenging (yet). I want to play more — if only I can resist auto-pilot logging into WoW to do dailies after my schoolwork is done each evening (Spring semester classes begin on Monday!).

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Since reaching level 60 with Kaelinda and Kaurinka, I’ve spent a lot of time in Revendreth and Ardenweald, of course, and also Bastion.

For all of its grim ambiance, Revendreth has proved to be rather entertaining. The severity of the treatment received by the souls there and the seriousness of the Campaign to defeat Sire Denathrius is counterbalanced by the droll commentary of the Dredgers and the cheerful insanity of Duke Theotar. The WQs in the Redelav district, messing with those hoity toity Venthyr nobles, are particularly fun.

Ardenweald also is a pleasing blend of seriousness and whimsy, perfectly exemplified by Lady Moonberry’s WQ to rain sparkly destruction on the Drust at Tirna Noch. The introduction play in the first chapter of the Night Fae questline was just as hilarious as I’d heard that was — especially the audience reactions.

Kaurinka spent a lot of time in Bastion because she had “Aid Bastion” from Threads of Fate partially finished when she dinged 60. Although she would no longer get Renown from completing it, the gold reward was still worth getting. Bastion has seemed less fun than the other two zones, though perhaps I just haven’t yet seen — or have simply not done because I wasn’t interested in the offered reward — its more light-hearted WQs.

I haven’t done a thing in Maldraxxus. I think I’ve only gotten a Calling to go to Maldraxxus once, and I didn’t manage to get out there to do it before it expired. I suppose I’ll discover its hidden delights eventually.

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Kaelinda’s progress through the first chapter of the Venthyr Covenant campaign was slowed by searching out and doing a handful of side quests that she hadn’t discovered while leveling in Revendreth so as to finish up the Sojourner achievement for that zone. Eventually, I made my way through it and unlocked Threads of Fate for everyone else.

Except for Kaurinka, who was already most of the way through level 59 and chose Threads of Fate, they all chose to continue the story campaign. Kaurinka chose the Night Fae, then did “Aid Ardenweald” and part of “Aid Bastion” to get to level 60 and complete her initiation into the Night Fae. She has one more side quest left — the one that doesn’t unlock until a Covenant is chosen — to complete the Sojourner achievement for Ardenweald.

My opinion of Bastion and the Kyrian has gradually improved as I’ve visited the other zones. In Revendreth, too, the souls unburden themselves of the memories and experiences of their lives — though they do not completely forget who they were in life — and those who choose/are selected to become Venthyr take on new names and new forms, as the Kyrian do. I also understand now, which I didn’t quite at the beginning of my journey through the Shadowlands, that choosing a Covenant now doesn’t irrevokably bind my character’s soul to that realm & Covenant when she passes through the veil — the Arbiter (once we revive her, as I’m sure we’ll do by the end of the expansion) will still determine which realm is the most appropriate place for her. If I ever manage to get Kasheena up to level 50 and decide to bring her on to the Shadowlands, I’ll probably choose Kyrian with her. Having two Tauren Night Fae Druids would be rather redundant, don’t you think? I like the Kyrian leather set better than the Venthyr leather set, for a Tauren, at least (the Venthyr set would suit my Blood Elf Rogue or Demon Hunter quite nicely, though), and the Necrolords leather set is a flat NOPE.

In terms of progression through Covenant stories, I’m currently working on Venthyr, of course, and will probably continue to keep that Covenant in the lead. I’m next-most interested in Night Fae, then Kyrian, and Necrolords last. I am slow enough, and there is enough to do with each Covenant, that it might take me half of the expansion just to get through the 9.0 content! Looking at the sources for the four tints of the Covenant armor sets, it looks like I want to prioritize getting the Travel Network and the Special Feature up and running first, then the Anima Conductor to boost my Anima-gathering capability to supply the staggering amounts of Anima required to upgrade the other features and to purchase the various items of the armor sets. I might just ignore the Command Table/Adventures entirely, though.

Kaelinda is for the moment stalled out on the quest to go back into the Maw and ask Ve’nari for help getting into Torghast. I’ll likely do as little of both the Maw and Torghast as I can — basically just what the Covenant campaigns and Renown quests require of me. Other heroes of Azeroth can be the champion Maw Walkers, just as other heroes of Azeroth have been the ones to defeat the most challenging threats ever since we went to Draenor…

~*~*~

Meanwhile, Real Life is piling on distractions from Azeroth. I had an unusually light class schedule in Fall semester; for Spring, I have a much busier schedule of four lecture classes and two lab classes. Two of the lectures are the same course, but one section is MWFx50-mins and the other section is TThx75-mins, so they will require different preparation! I just had a birthday, and BTH gifted me Final Fantasy X and Horizon Zero Dawn on Steam. The last time I actively used Steam was while Portal 2 was the new hotness, so just getting my account reactivated is going to take some fuss and bother. BTH would like us to do parallel plays of FFX — we haven’t played a game together for a few years now — and I did enjoy watching him play HZD a couple of summers ago when a friend loaned BTH his PS4 while he was out of the country for the summer. Thus, my continuing progress through the Shadowlands is likely to be quite slow indeed.

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Revendreth was a nasty place. Kaelinda hated the things that she had been asked to do by Sire Denathrius and his courtiers. Even as those repugnant actions added to her own sinstone, she fervently hoped that her life in total had not been and would not become so overwhelmingly vile that, when the Spirit Healer (whom she now knew to be a Kyrian Watcher) at last said to her “go on” instead of “go back”, the Arbiter would send her soul here.

Indeed, of the four — no, five — realms of the Shadowlands that she had seen, Kaelinda did not particularly want her soul to be assigned to any of them. Hadn’t Tal-Inara said that there were “infinite afterlives”? Surely somewhere there was another realm that would be a more appropriate place for her soul.

Things got better after she finally managed to fall in with the rebels that she’d been hearing about from the beginning of her travels through the realm. The situation in Revendreth, and Prince Renathal’s rebellion, reminded her, in certain aspects, superficially, of various situations she’d encountered before. The Scryers in Outland. The flightless Arakkoa in Spires of Arak. The Nightfallen of Suramar.

Though none of the four realms felt like a place where she truly belonged, nonetheless she had to choose one of the four Covenants to pledge herself to. After reviewing the options, she felt like she had the most to give — that her skills and experience were best suited — to assisting the Venthyr.

Furthermore, she had heard rumors that Prince Kael’thas’s soul had been assigned to Revendreth, and she was keenly interested to find out, if she could, his fate. Though of the three options — redeemed and returned to the Arbiter for reassignment to another realm of the Shadowlands, redeemed and become one of the Venthyr, or unredeemed and consigned to the Maw — she was not sure which she wanted it to be.

~*~*~

I was doing the side quests for each area before I accepted the main story quest to move along to the next area, and so I dinged noveau-60 partway through the third chapter of the main story.

I died a lot in Revendreth. I had a stack of about 20 Legion augment runes sitting in my bags and I went through all of them.

I will probably end up doing LFR of Castle Nathria with Kaelinda at least once at some point during the expansion, just to close out the Venthyr story properly — and for the skybox changes that occur after defeating certain of its bosses. After looking at the quartermasters, though, I see that the Castle Nathria weapons are simply recolors of the Covenant weapon models available by other means — which means that I don’t need to go chasing the Castle Nathria weapon tokens.

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Kaelinda blasted and burned her way through Ardenweald and didn’t have as much trouble with survival as I thought she might. Well, she did have to sit down and eat frequently, but with Mage Food, she wouldn’t run out.

Kaurinka didn’t ask Korenth to sing and dance, but Kaelinda did — and she was rewarded with some different conversation text when she turned in the quest to Lady Moonberry!

With Kaelinda, I noticed some neat visual effects during some of the quests that I’d completely missed with Kaurinka, perhaps because they didn’t show up on the Boomkin shapeshift. I’d been thinking about doing Threads of Fate from the beginning with Kaelya, who will pledge to the Night Fae, but now I want to level her through Ardenweald properly so I can take screenshots with those neat quest visuals — and maybe have a Mog to go with them!

Kaelinda was 65% through level 58 when she finished the main storyline of Ardenweald.

I continued immediately on to Revendreth — a zone which I will very likely only play completely through once. I didn’t do much there before I logged off for the night, though. First impressions: it’s like a mashup of Gilneas and the Forsaken town The Sepulcher, dialed up to, like, 13.

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Kaurinka felt like she already knew Ardenweald. One winter when she was an adolescent, she had gotten pneumonia and nearly died. She remembered little of her illness, except that it had seemed that while her body lay delirious in her tribe’s longhouse, her spirit had wandered freely over the dark, snowy landscape around the camp. Out of the corners of her eyes, she’d caught glimpses of towering, sigil-scribed trees with swirling, starry canopies, and underneath them, smaller trees, or maybe bushes, laden with glowing blue globes — but when she turned to try to look at them straight on, she saw only the normal, familiar trees. What was that place?, she had wondered many times during all the years that had followed. And now, here she was. If I had managed to find that place, and walk between those trees, she realized, I would have died.

~*~*~

I felt much weaker in Ardenweald than I had in Bastion or Maldraxxus. Enemies were harder to kill and took off more of my health in the process. I was using Regrowth more-or-less rotationally just to stay alive, which makes me rather worried for the survivability of my other characters.

Although I did a couple of side quests in Bastion with both Kaelinda and Kaurinka, I ignored side quests entirely in Maldraxxus. I wanted to know the whole story of Ardenweald with Kaurinka, so she did all the side quests. In the process, I discovered that for each zone, there’s one Achievement for completing the main storyline of the zone and another Achievement for doing all of the side quests* — and that both Achievements are required for each zone to complete the Loremaster meta-Achievement. Unlike Legion and Battle for Azeroth, side quests are not optional for Loremaster**! Fortunately, Loremaster is an account-wide meta-Achievement, so I can continue with my original plan of having the character who will pledge to the Covenant of each zone do its side quests — Keliora will do all the side quests of Bastion, Kalaneia will do all the side quests of Maldraxxus, and Kaelinda will do all the side quests of Revendreth — while all the others just barrel through the main questline.

Between the Rest that I accumulated last week and doing all the side quests, Kaurinka was 58% through level 59 when she finished the main zone storyline. She’ll now slumber in Ardenweald until Kaelinda has activated Threads of Fate, then use Threads of Fate to select the Night Fae as her Covenant and level the remainder of the way to 60.

Lorewise, Ardenweald delivered on the themes of heartbreaking loss and sacrifice promised by its Afterlives short. (more…)

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the fifth Horseman

I was supposed to be assembling an OChem exam tonight, but this idea for a short story grabbed my mind and wouldn’t let go.

This story is inspired by the “We Ride Forth” short story from Blizzard, the events of the introductory Shadowlands sequence in the Maw, and the further events that occur in the Maw as part of the Maldraxxus leveling storyline.

Spoilers for We Ride Forth, so if you haven’t read it yet, go do that before reading this story. (more…)

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