Midsummer celebrations comes to Azeroth, and Knifey finds bonfires and fire jugglers everywhere he goes. Interested in why people are throwing fire everywhere I ask the fire juggler in Ironforge what is going on, and he offers to give me some flowers if I manage to throw some of my own fire around. I light some braziers easily enough, but lose my eyebrows whilst learning to juggle fire. Being given a chunk of experience for doing so makes it worthwhile, particularly as I'm so close to hitting 60. I run out of Ironforge to Kharanos and honour the flame there. Not only does this cause the small sprite to grow in to an image of Ragnaros, giving me some other-characterly flashbacks, but it puts me a whisker away from level 60. I pop to Burning Steppes and kill a couple of dragonkin to push me over the edge. Ding!
It's not just honouring the Alliance flames that gains rewards, the loremaster hints at more riches awaiting anyone brave enough to defile the similar flames for Midsummer that the Horde have burning. Of course, these fires happen to be in Horde settlements, or more precisely in their capital cities. It won't be an easy task to defile the flames, but with Kinless showing how a stealthly druid can get the flames I am keen to put my stealth abilities to good use. My training for level 60 will help, as my rank in stealth improves. I head to the gryphon master and ask for a flight to the Plaguelands. My first stop is Undercity, home of the undead.
I ride through the Plaguelands in to Tirisfal Glades, along the outside wall of the fallen city of Lordaeron. As I approach the entrance to the ruins I jump off my mount and become stealthy. I have good intelligence on all of the Horde cities, as if I have visited them before, and know their layouts. What I don't fully know is where the fires are. As luck would have it, the fire for Undercity is in the ruined city's courtyard, meaning I don't even need to pass any city guards to get to it. City guards are only half the problem though, as there are undead revellers enjoying the festivities in their own hideous fashion. I tense up, seeing so many enemies before me, half of them considerably more powerful than me, and no doubt all of them wanting me dead if they knew I was there.
There is even a warlock running around randomly with his Felhunter minion, which is a worry. Felhunters offer a boost to stealth-detection, and it seems that this warlock is running around looking for hidden Alliance characters, like myself, ready to uncover them to prevent the fire from being defiled. I hide quietly in some bushes, hoping that he'll get tired soon and let me get closer to the fire. It is only after a couple of minutes that I realise he isn't running around randomly but is trying to juggle fire like I had done a little while ago. His Felhunter is probably just happy to be there, and I am being somewhat understandably paranoid. I edge closer to the Horde fire, and bide my time whilst a Tauren tries to light braziers. When he's finished I sneak over to the fire and start to defile it, which breaks my cover. I ensure that the fire is between me and the enemy, and once defiled I cloak myself in shadows again. One fire defiled! I sneak out of Undercity, PvP flag on for all to see, and ride back through the Plaguelands.
Being in the north of the Eastern Kingdoms I continue along my path towards Silvermoon City, capital of the Blood Elves. I heard from Kinless where the flame to be defiled is in the city, and start my stealthy approach once I get close enough, bolstered by my success in Undercity. Silvermoon City is rather more protective of its flame though, and there are plenty of guards to get past. After the opening of the Dark Portal, the guards of all major cities decided they should be better trained and gained 10 levels pretty quickly, making them all level 65, 5 levels above my current standing. Despite being able to distract one of the guards at the entrance to Silvermoon City he still heard me trying to sneak behind him and he started attacking, quickly calling for assistance in stopping the intruder. I managed to run in to the city itself before my feeble defences saw me fall.
My spirit appeared in a graveyard some distance away from the city and I started running back to my fallen body. It took a short while but I had time. Once close to my body I made sure I was far enough away for any guards to spot before reuniting flesh and soul, quickly slinking back in to the shadows and sneaking further in to the city. There were few guards further in, people quite rightly relying on the guards at the entrance to stop intruders. A large mechanical patroller was lumbering along ahead of me, and he could see through my stealth if I should get close enough. I was foolish in thinking I could rush around one side of a doorway while the sentinel went the other way, as it spied me and pounded large metal fists on to my head.
Another corpse run back to the city and I had another problem in the form of a Blood Elf wondering what a gnome's dead body was doing lying in the middle of Murder Row, and he wasn't going away until he had answers. I had little option anyway, as there were more guards just ahead, but at least I could see the flame just beyond them! I revived myself and made a frantic dash for the flame, getting stopped by guards one more time on my way to it. Running back as a spirit again I was able to wait for the right moment and live again, hide behind the bonfire, defile the flame, then use my hearthstone to escape that dangerous city. I ended up back in Shattrath City with my PvP flag on, but with neutral guards all around. Next stop, Orgrimmar.
Orgrimmar, capital city of orcs and trolls and headquarters for Thrall, has two entrances. I decide to take the side entrance with the hope that Thrall hasn't forseen my arrival and has stationed a whole garrison of troops there. Sadly, it only takes a couple of guards to stop a squishy rogue, although I manage to make it in to the city before I collapse. There are orc guards dotted throughout Orgrimmar, in more strategic places than in Silvermoon City too, making progress slow and painful. A few deaths later sees me standing behind the Orgrimmar bonfire, with some keen Horde eyes seemingly looking specifically for Alliance intruders. As I am waiting for my ability to Vanish to become available again a Night Elf appears to my side, defiles the flame, then disappears from view again. I am not the only one out on a daring adventure today. I take the cue, defile the Orgrimmar flame, then vanish from sight. Now to escape!
I can't return to Shattrath with my hearthstone this time, so I have to get out another way. I pick my way through a couple of guards, but it is not long before the guards' sense sniff out the gnome amongst them and I am running for my life again. I use Evasion and Sprint, running sidelong to protect my back and help against becoming dazed, but I am just running in to more guards as I escape others. Luckily, Orgrimmar is built on more than one level of rock and stone. The layout of the city can be a little confusing for newcomers, but as I have some curiously-complete knowledge of the city I keep a good sense of my surroundings as I run. I jump down from a ledge on to one roof then another, then on to the ground level before hiding between two shacks. By this point the guards have lost track of me, jumping not being part of their training apparently. I am able to hide in shadows again and recover my lost health.
The only disadvantage to my leaps to lower ground is that I find myself outside the bank and close to the auction house, the meeting ground of every Horde player outside of Shattrath City. My little gnome heart is pounding, with guards dotted all over the place, patrols wandering past every now and again, and the occasional General scanning the area. My one weapon at the moment is surprise; with just about everyone unaware of my presence I can move with some freedom. It would be far more difficult if anyone was actually looking for me. I time my movements between alleyways, gauge my distance from guards, and head towards the exit carefully. This time, because of my escape route, I am heading out of the main gate, which is guarded heavily. I know I won't get past the guards so I again activate Evasion and Sprint and make a break for it! With some skill and a dash of luck I find myself out in Durotar, hoping that the duelling Horde in their epic gear pay me no mind before I leave combat and Vanish once more. Three down, onwards to Thunder Bluff!
The journey to Mulgore is uneventful but full of gorgeous scenery. I head north through the plains towards the rising stone that carries the capital city of Tauren. As with Orgrimmar I choose to enter the city from the alternative entrance, knowing that there is one to the rear of Thunder Bluff. It is now that I realise I was lucky not to try the same with Undercity, for if I had entered that city by the sewers I would have had a much harder time than simply walking in the front door. The lift in to Thunder Bluff is unguarded, carrying me to the edge of the city. This time, with the city being perhaps the least populated of the Horde's, I decide stealth is a secondary option and stay on my mount for the increased speed. I ride past the two guards at the end of the lift platform, but one skillfully knocks me off my mount as I pass. I Vanish and find somewhere to hide to heal up and prepare my Vanish ability again.
I scout a little, working out my route to the bonfire on the Spirit Rise, realising I will have to run past two more guards at least in order to cross the rope bridge leading there. I mount up and race past the guards, making it half-way across the rope bridge before they give up chase and return to their posts. The way to the fire is clear and although I get some harsh looks from the Tauren revellers I am able to defile the fire without interruption, and this time I use my hearthstone to escape. No deaths from entering Thunder Bluff and I have all four fires defiled!
I head to Stormwind City and speak to the Midsummer loremaster at the Stormwind fire. He is increasingly excited as I hand over each flame, one at a time. With the final flame he presents me with a special reward for my brave accomplishment, a fiery crown. In one afternoon I entered all four Horde cities and returned to tell the tale.
Oh, and as well as getting the crown from the adventure, hitting 60 let me buy my swift ram from the Amberstill Ranch in Dun Morogh, having reached exalted status with Ironforge a couple of levels previously. My Stormwind pony has served me well, and now it can relax in an open stable.