|Preceded by||Forces of Hordes: Minions|
|Followed by||Hordes: Gargantuans|
On the Kovosk Hills in Khador, Lylyth silently observes a Cryxian convoy, led by a lich lord whom Everblight identifies as Venethrax. To her blighted vision, the machine being escorted appears to be nothing more than a sphere of absolute darkness. Everblight orders her to remove her helmet, and with naked eyes she sees several concentric metal rings, housing a metal cube, spun above the platform and generating some sort of energy field. Across the connection of their shared athanc shards, Vayl says the way it reacts to Lylyth's blighted vision suggests it is impervious to blighted energies. As the Cryxians enter a cave, Vayl orders Lylyth to wait for Bethayne, Saeryn and Rhyas and find a better place to stage an ambush.
Following Wurmwood's orders, Grayle arrives south of Mount Shyleth Breen in Ios where Baldur was killed by Lylyth, without knowing his true purpose. Spotting Megalith and a few other wolds, Grayle asks Baldur for permission to use the wolds elsewhere, but to his shock Baldur wakes up, informing him that Megalith rebuilt his body and Orboros sent his soul back. Baldur tells Grayle that he has a great ceremony to perform and orders him to keep Kaya safe from an incoming peril.
As Thagrosh is conducting an ambush on a dwarven patrol, Vayl tasks the newly-created warlock Kallus with finding the bones of a dragon - ideally a skull. Kallus, despite not having been born at that time, immediately thinks of the Castle of the Keys where the Legion killed Pyromalfic. Vayl has forseen that the skorne will soon be distracted - the perfect time for a small force to enter the region unseen.
Jarl Skuld is making a simple journey southeast through the Glimmerwood to contact the kriels that had settled around Lake Scarleforth, looking to ask Calandra Truthsayer for a favour, fighting off Tharn bands along the way. A bit of scouting reveals that the local Tharn army is led by none other than Kromac.
Near the Castle of the Keys, Alten Ashley, Grim Angus and Grissel Bloodsong notice that the skorne have come back from the east, with a new banner and more numbers than before. As they head back towards their territory, they notice Calandra and Jarl, who ask them for help: the kriels left in the Thornwood are in trouble and have both Cryx and Khadorans moving in on them. Grissel accepts on the condition Jarl and Alten help draw the attention of the Tharn away.
Baldur takes the Bones of Orboros holy site from the trollkin and restores the ley line node. Filled with the thrumming power of Orboros, he communicates with Morvahna, summons her and orders her to aid in his ceremony. Morvahna is irritated, until Baldur explains: Cryx has made a singular discovery in the mountains between Khador and [[Rhul]: a prize beyond all reckoning which they hasten to return to Toruk, Everblight has caught its scent, and the Circle must place obstacles before them; at which points she relents and accepts to aid him.
Lord Arbiter Hexeris is surveying his forces arrayed near the Castle of the Keys when he senses Supreme Aptimus Zaal. Zaal has two pieces of information coming from the ancestral guardians for Hexeris: a Legion warlock is approaching and capturing this creature to seize its athanc shard for study would be far simpler than killing a dragon itself; and some occult ritual of tremendous power is about to be invoked at a site northwest of the Scarleforth Lake which must be interrupted. Although Hexeris is surprised at the size of the upcoming skorne expedition and the presence of Hakaar the Destroyer, Zaal cannot provide answers for him.
Near Kromac's camp in the southeastern Glimmerwood, Jarl Skuld steals one of Kromac's axes, then has his swamp troll lick it. Kromac wakes up in a temper tantrum as the Tharn are frantically searching the camp. Jarl then appears with his band, holding the missing axe in his hand and offering to parley with Kromac. Despite immediately realising Jarl has been responsible, Kromac orders the Tharn to stay back and allows Jarl to speak. Jarl throws the axe back to him, and, upon finding it has been desecrated by a swamp troll, Kromac immediately falls into a rage and orders the Tharn to engage. After a short fight, the trollkin eventually slip away, and the Tharn fall on an approaching skorne army on the plain.
In the northern Glimmerwood, Grayle comes upon Kaya fighting the forces of the Legion and aids her in routing their enemy. Kaya, seemingly irritated by Grayle's presence, tells him that she's tracking a Legion warband in the hope of capturing one of their warlocks, but once he tells her that Baldur is alive, she immediately abandons this mission and demands to know Baldur's location and speak to him. Grayle initially refuses to let Baldur's ritual be disturbed, but eventually decides to let her know and go with her. Alten Ashley then suddenly appears, informs them that a massive skorne army is closing on Baldur, and offers himself for hire.
Naaresh and Hexeris has taken smaller forces away from the main army as it travels with Xerxis to confront the scattered trollkin defenders near Scarleforth Lake, in order to intercept a small army of blighted Nyss led by Absylonia, whom Naaresh knows as the one he must engage in battle to test her power and resolve against his own. Deciding he needs to isolate her and push her to her limits, Naaresh has his titan and rhinodon open a clear path toward her, then throws himself at Absylonia. Naaresh initially easily overwhelms Absylonia until her wounds are suddenly whole again. Naaresh barely manages to survive her next onslaught, and is forced to transfer his wounds to his warbeasts to preserve his life.
Not long into his journey, Kallus finds Absylonia and her warbeasts following him. He greets her and invites her to join him, but she refuses to answer. Soon after Kallus' force is ambushed by the skorne - his attempt to sneak undetected into the Castle of the Keys has clearly failed, and his army has been separated from Absylonia's. Spotting Hexeris, Kallus orders his men to distract the main enemy line while he breaks through and eliminates Hexeris. Kallus carves a bloody path toward Hexeris, though his legionnaires are unable to break through the skorne, and most of them lie dead. Hexeris' razor worms quickly dispatch of Kallus' carnivean before Hexeris overwhelms him. Kallus takes one last look into his enemy’s face, memorising every detail before Hexeris plunges his sword into Kallus' heart.
Calaban the Grave Walker leads Maelok, his dreadbound slave, near a village and makes it clear to him that this is Maelok's home, who refused to join the Blindwater Congregation even after Maelok was killed. Deciding to use Maelok as an instrument to warn others of the consequences of defying Barnabas, Calaban unleashes Maelok on his village, compelling him to massacre them to a man. Maelok can do nothing but watch in anguish as he tears through old friends and neighbours. He becomes convinced he is now Calaban's slave, bound forever.
Barnabas later orders Maelok and Wrong Eye to fulfil his contract with the trollkin to ambush an incoming army of skorne. After the skorne are defeated, Wrong Eye suggests to Maelok there's no magic that can't be undone. Long after Wrong Eye's departure, his words continue to ring in Maelok's mind: find the loose thread and pull.
During the ritual, Baldur is thinking of Zevanna Agha and the role she might be playing in the chain of events surrounding the athanc when he's informed about a massive skorne army approaching.
Grissel Bloodsong has just turned back a skorne assault with Gunnbjorn and their army when Jarl Skuld returns and reports of his success. However, knowing the fortress can't be held forever, she decides to move northeast, along with the kriels that pulled out from above the lake. When Jarl asks her to fulfil her end of the bargain, she tells him to follow her since the warriors she was going to loan him are on the way ahead.
After defeating Kallus, a fascinated Hexeris orders his mortitheurge subordinate Rukaash to bring the creature to his dissection chamber and a group of Praetorians to escort them while forbidding anyone else access to the specimen. When a Cataphract reports to him that Naaresh has been defeated, he rushes to the ascetic's position, forcing Absylonia to flee. Naaresh pulls himself to his feet and thanks Hexeris for this opportunity and asks him to inform Naaresh whenever he locates a worthy adversary. Hexeris tells him they're to rejoin Xerxis' force for more battles ahead, but Naaresh decides to withdraw to meditate upon this battle, and warns Hexeris to not seek him - any messengers he sends will not return.
As Rukaash empties Hexeris' dissection chamber of servants and seals the doors, Kallus compels him to take his athanc shard and drive it into his own chest, in the process reforming Kallus from Rukaash's corpse. He then receives a message from Thagrosh, conveying approval, as well as the layout of the fortress from Everblight.
Makeda, Morghoul, Xerxis and Zaal march toward the Bones of Orboros in an attempt to disrupt the ritual. Makeda demands to know the nature or the threat of the ritual, but Zaal can only provide vague information from the ancestors.
Grayle, Kaya and Ashley see the fighting between the skorne and Circle forces coordinated by Bradigus Thorle and Tamora. Spotting the enemy commander as Tyrant Xerxis, Grayle and Kaya order their men to aid the rest of the Circle while they decide to go for Xerxis. Xerxis successfully subdues Kaya, but before he could kill her Grayle stabs at his back with his two swords. Seeing Xerxis' plight, his subordinate orders a line of Cataphracts to rush forward, shield Xerxis and carry him away from the battlefield.
Spotting the unconscious Kaya being carried by a shadowhorn satyr while Grayle and Laris protect them from incoming ferox riders, Baldur temporarily takes the burden of the ritual from Morvahna and tells her to save Kaya. At the same time, Void Seer Mordikaar approaches the battle from the west. Quickly teleporting with two Celestial Fulcrums into the site, Mohsar reaches into the ley line nexus and banishes Mordikaar and his nearest allies, hurling them through the connected nodes deep into the desert to the southeast. Mordikaar is gone, but one of their sites has been sacrificed. Mohsar then opens a chasm in the earth, killing the majority of Mordikaar's forces and prompting the rest to flee.
As Mohsar aids Baldur in finishing the ritual in Morvahna's place, the shadowhorn carrying Kaya comes to the clearing alongside Grayle and Morvahna. Morvahna bids the satyr to lower Kaya on the earth and uses her blood to fuel the ritual. A wave of renewed power flows through the ritual site as the body of Orboros recognise a sacrificial offering. The tunnels where the Cryxians are passing collapse as the Devourer Wurm brushes against the surface of Caen. While some Cryxians would manage to escape to the surface, it would take time and leave them vulnerable to the Legion and Krueger's army. Morvahna then heals Kaya while Mohsar teleports the surviving Circle forces away, after Baldur assured him the ley lines will heal in time.
As soon as the Circle army disappears, Hexeris arrives, informs Zaal he successfully captured a dragonstone, and asks him what predicted disaster has come to pass. Zaal sees none, but admits Jyvox is never wrong, and decides to destroy the Circle's stones first. Both Hexeris and Zaal agree to tell Makeda the attack was a success. Makeda soon arrives at the area with a team of builders and announces to them her plan: use the Bones of Orboros as a mustering point to invade Ios, the new home of the skorne's ancient enemies, the elves of Lyoss. Hakaar has divined the Iosan borders are weak, as the elves have sent a substantial portion of their military strength abroad.