- "We must force Pyro to overplay his hand before he becomes too powerful. Are you willing to take on the responsibility of defending Surtur's Keep?" – Stratos, Balance of Power (Intermission)
- Mission Giver: Stratos
- Location: Surtur's Keep
- Map Creator: Scott Holty
- New Spell: Freeze
- New Creature: Squall
- Stratos' champion Abraxus set out immediately to attack Pyroborea, sparing little time for a reunion with her husband, who had but recently returned from his imprisonment. – Eldred
After Stratos sent Abraxus to attack Sere, home of Ambassador Buta, he knew that Pyro would immediately react and send his sorcerers to attack Empyrea. Since the closest land to Sere is Surtur's Keep, it's the land you'll have to defend. The first to arrive is the Empress of Pyroborea, Sorcha. Apparently, she came here before you, since some of Pyro's Proles are already guarding key positions on your side of Surtur's Keep.
When you start, it is recommended that you build an army before going any further, since four Firefists will attack you shortly after you build your first manalith. Sorcha can't collect them so they're just free souls (if you really need more souls, there are four snowmen behind your altar and Stratos won't mind if you kill them). About half of mana founts on your island are guarded in a similar fashion, with perhaps the addition of some Spitfires and/or Flame Minions. You might also notice a big arch which is also guarded, although a bit more heavily; it's the gateway to the other island, but since it's deactivated for now it doesn't matter.
Sorcha will try to capture as many manaliths as possible, but will still leave some creatures to guard the manaliths she has. She is accompanied by her Manahoars, several Firefists, two of each of Pyro's level 1 creatures and a Pyromaniac. Her altar is not guarded and the manalith next to it is only guarded with a single Flame Minion, so desecration should go smoothly.
If you have not banished Sorcha before 10 minutes from the start of this mission have passed, both Abraxus and Buta will arrive at Surtur's Keep. If on the other hand, you have desecrated her altar, they will appear immediately afterwards. However, unlike you and Sorcha they will appear on the other island, connected to yours with that gateway mentioned previously (it will also become activated now). If you've banished Sorcha, you'll get the boon and you'll get to choose the tactic with which you'll battle Buta: you can either tell Abraxus to destroy Buta's manaliths while you desecrate his altar or you can use no tactic at all. Both ways will result with you both overwhelming Buta and defeating him in the end.
If you, on the other hand, haven't banished Sorcha on time, Abraxus will have to deal with Buta on her own until you do banish Sorcha. When you arrive you might find Abraxus fighting with Buta at her altar or vice-versa. They are equally matched, so the one to lose the first fight will gain the advantage that they alone won't be able to shift.
After both Sorcha's and Buta's altars have been desecrated, Lord Surtur (if he survived) and Lady Abraxus will have a proper reunion and you'll get the chance to see it (choosing not to see it doesn't effect anything in the game).
The boon benefactor for this mission is Stratos. He gives you the boon if you've banished Sorcha before Abraxus shows up (10 minutes). Abraxus says that Stratos will be pleased that Sorcha was banished so quickly, but he doesn't appear himself.
10 minutes might be a short time, but still if you want to be extra sure you get the boon, set a timer.
There is no karma boost for this boon.
- Abraxus's manahoars seem to belong to Buta, so she'll slaughter them right away. This might result with either Abraxus losing because of lack of mana or Buta stretching his forces all across the map when trying to retrieve those two souls.
- If both Abraxus and Buta are banished before Sorcha, the game might become locked in a black cinematic screen.
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