Malcolm Report, Part Two
Harvest Moons 29th, 3125
So many questions left unanswered. So many…moments. But, life is but moments. Fleeting motes of time that we grasp, then let slip through our fingers. Sadly, I am not paid to wax poetic. I am only paid to record and file.
At the conclusion of my last report, Harvest Moons 2nd, 3125 the day began in the Abyss. Smoke, fire, and blood rained down across middletown. Smoke and fire from the arcfire blast, blood from my brother Rangers.
The previous night, before or after the 13th hour, Anaxelum Regillus, currently in Ranger custody, “went crazy” screaming about Corporal Ravenwood and a Ranger team in imminent danger. He then, proceeded to rip the ironwood door out of the stone wall and threatened to “report directly to Captain Celebor” if his message was not immediately delivered.
He did not offer further resistance and was placed under heavy armed guard.
Celebor arrived on scene while Lady Eris Moonsilver was informed of the situation and alerted to contact Corporal Ravenwood to determine the veracity of Citizen Regillus’ claims.
I was awakened to facilitate coordination with Ranger units as Captain Celebor called up all active duty and emergency teams to a rally point at Regional HQ. Fast response teams were active within minutes.
Lady Eris Moonsilver established a Battle Net and confirmed that Corporal Ravenwood was approaching a warehouse in Middle Town and that four Rangers, RFC Ironblood, Rangers Zulcrum, Afliem, and Kura were engaged with enemy forces and required immediate assistance.
Lady Moonsilver was unable to contact the Rangers inside to provide further intelligence about situation. So, with a potential invasion situation, Captain Celebor used Corporal Ravenwoods position, relayed via Lady Moonsilver, to coordinate fast response teams.
First teams on the ground reported arcfire weapons exchanges. Captain authorized full mobilization, stand by, reserve, off-rotation, he called up all Rangers, sending in teams to secure the area around the warehouse and pull out our men inside.
We were nearly fully mobilized when Ranger Nazir spotted lurkers around the warehouse holding back at least two blocks away. Something in their demeanor alerted her to danger. She shouted a warning to Lady Moonsilver who immediately recalled all Rangers from the warehouse. Without the alert, everyone inside the warehouse would have been killed.
As it is, we lost 27 Rangers killed, another 13 severely wounded requiring immediate medical attention. Those counts did not come for hours. Medical teams pulled the last bodies out of the rubble 12 hours after the explosion.
When the explosion happened, we lost all contact with teams on the ground. Even Lady Moonsilver was overwhelmed by the backlash. It was nearly an hour before we were able to determine if the Captain, who was inside the warehouse at the time had survived. All available teams were pulled back to forma perimeter and to sweep the area for the “lurkers”.
Whoever Ranger Nazatir had seen, were gone by the time the dust settled from the explosion. We must assume they were spotters, or enemy agents. We made a full sweep of the area, only frightened civilians and Rangers.
The blast was seen and heard across the city. Captain Vasser arrived with City Guard units. Even Commander Schenkle arrived with full time soldiers from the milita. Relief operations were initially under command of Captain Vasser until Captain Celebor staggered out of the smoke, waved off healing, and assumed command.
Once some semblance of order was made of the situation on the ground, I was tasked with discovering which operation had gone so horribly wrong. Since the Captain was unaware of any active operations which would involve this warehouse, the assumption was that it was either off-book, or lost in the shuffle. The more I researched, the more I came to fear that the four Rangers of Alpha team were engaged in an unsanctioned mission.
Relaying that information to the Captain, I was ordered to write detention orders for Sergeant Amelia Whitestone, Corporal Samira Ravenwood, RFC Rysak Ironblood, and Rangers Thomas Zulcrum, and Dakota Afliem. Security teams under command of Chief Investigator Lieutenant Barand. The Lieutenant and a Ranger Adept conducted interrogations with the Rangers involved, beginning with Sgt. Whitestone. During her interrogation, a new order was sent requesting detention orders for Ranger Gunthur Volstagg.
By mid-morning, most of Alpha team was waiting interrogation, with the exceptions of Corporal Sarin Silverfeather working healing at ground zero, RFC Thorgram Ramshorn and Ranger Audric Amaroth worked security at the sight. I was in my office overseeing coordination efforts when a casualty report crossed my desk.
Ranger Kura’Kai Afliem was confirmed killed in action, his neck pierced by a Ranger arrow, his body then blown nearly apart by the subsequent explosion.
The interrogations took most of the day. I am not privy to all the details, but what has been released is…telling.
Due to frustration at the apparent lack of action on the part of the Ranger Corps in regards to the multitude of threats against the city, Ranger Dakota Afliem approached RFC Ironblood about engaging in an intelligence gathering mission to find those responsible for the atrocities in the city. RFC Ironblood agreed. He in turn recruited Ranger Zulcrum who maintains contacts in the city from his time in the Guard. Ranger Afliem recruited her husband, Kura’Kai.
At the time of this agreement, Rangers were still barred from engaging in any unauthorized operations, including intelligence gathering missions.
Not much came of this operation, though on at least three occasions Ranger Afliem approached Ranger Volstagg. According to Ranger Afliem and Ranger Volstagg, he was unaware of the extent of the operation or the conspiracy to defy orders. Though, he approached Sergeant Whitestone with suspicious of illegal activities, yet failed to report on his fellow Rangers.
I believe it was the attack on the Thieves Guild Headquarters which altered the situation. At the very least, it pushed the conspiracy to more reckless action. After the attack, however, the Rangers changed their stance on independent intelligence operations. In meetings both with Captain Celebor and with Sgt Whitestone, Rangers of Alpha team were informed that they would be permitted to gather intelligence from local sources, but would not be allowed to any direct action.
This, effectively, authorized the previous activities of the conspiracy. Had they stopped there, even had their efforts been discovered, they were tacitly in keeping with their orders.
We know that sometime during the 1st of Harvest Moons a local citizen approached Ranger Zulcrum with information regarding a high level meeting of criminals happening in a warehouse that evening. During his interrogation, Ranger Zulcum offered a description of the citizen who provided the information. The man’s body was discovered by Ranger patrols four days later, on the 5th of Harvest Moons, murdered by a knife through the heart.
That afternoon, the conspirators gathered to plan their action. All conspirators agree that Ranger Afliem had second thoughts and attempted to convince the others to take their evidence to Sergeant Whitestone. At this point, RFC Ironblood took command of the conspirators, ordered no one to speak to the Rangers and planned a raid on the warehouse that evening, on the 1st of Harvest Moons.
The conspirators removed their cloaks, and made their way to the warehouse. Outside, they spotted sentries disguised as vagrants. Without sufficient forces to take the warehouse by force, the conspirators elected to sneak into the warehouse through a roof access. They found a meeting of half a dozen men in a central “office” protected by six patrolling arclancers.
The plan was for RFC Ironblood and Ranger Afliem to cover Rangers Zulcrum and Kura’Kai’s assault on the office. The plan failed before it was begun. Halfway to the office, Ranger Kura cut Ranger Zulcrim from behind. He then turned and charged RFC Ironblood, taking him down quickly. Arclancers opened up and in the crossfire, Ranger Alfiem went down.
It was at this moment that Corporal Ravenwood arrived through the same roof access the conspirators had used. Seeing Ranger Kura’Kai about to execute his own wife, she fired an arrow, felling him. Then, she attempted to provide cover as Captain Celebor’s reinforcements began to arrive.
We have only her word as to how she came to know of the plot as all conspirators confirmed that she was never approached. It would appear that she was in bed, early on the 2nd of Harvest Moons (or late eve on the 1st), she was awoken by a Ranger messenger who informed her that “someone” wished to speak with her.
Why Corporal Ravenwood would willingly leave her home in the middle of the night to meet with a stranger is a matter of debate. However, as the messenger was a Ranger, she followed orders.
It would appear that the meeting was NOT a sanctioned Ranger appointment and, rather, a man representing “concerned citizens” informed her that at that moment a group of Rangers was entering a warehouse on information to raid a high level criminal meeting, but that the entire event was a trap. With no time to return to the Rangers with this information she “contact” her husband who was still in his cell, and ran immediately to protect her team at the warehouse. And so she arrived in time to prevent Kura’Kai from killing his wife and team.
This all brings us back to the beginning. Citizen Regillus alerting the Rangers of the danger and Captain Celebor sending Rangers into the warehouse.
A complicated plot to be sure. Further complicated by the fact that, this concerned citizen does not appear to exist. His description, his identity is a complete mystery. Worse, half of Ranger Kura’Kai’s mask was discovered broken and charred in the rubble. However, both Lieutenant Barand’s adept and Corporal Silverfeather both agreed that the mask found, the one Kura wore into battle, was a fake. Every effort both mundane and magical was employed to locate the true mask. To no avail.
Even Lady Moonsilver was tasked on the 3rd to track it with Corporal Silverfeathers assistance. All efforts failed. Mystery piled upon mystery.
On the 5th of Harvest Moons, I wrote orders for the arrest of RFC Ironblood, and Rangers Zulcrum and Afliem. They were taken into custody in Ranger detention to await court martial. Trial date was set for the 11th of Harvest Moons.
Advocate Evanor Qularian was appointed to speak for the accused. An Eldakar, newly from Kythros, I conducted a quiet review of his resume and could find no fault with his credentials. Despite their actions, they will receive the best representation possible. Well, other than, perhaps, Evoran. But, we cannot always have miracles.
On the 11th of Harvest Moons, 3125, I attended the formal Court Marshal of RFC Ironblood, and Rangers Zulcrum and Afliem. Few others were in attendance. The remainder of their team, Captain Celebor, a handful of Rangers, and the Royal Sheriff, Sir Halten. It was presided over by a Col. Ashford, a Major Karlax, and a Captain Gissold, all representatives from Kythros.
I note that these were the very same men who attempted to extradite citizen Regillus to Kythros after his capture during the Tempest battle. Seeing those three on the bench did not instill me with great confidence for the fates of the Rangers on the stand. Still…
Advocate Qularian entered a plea of guilty for all parties. It seemed they were not going to fight the court’s justice. Just as well.
Without much deliberation, the Court Marshal sentence each of the accused to two years incarceration in Kythros. RFC Ironblood and Ranger Zulcrum were to be remanded immediately. Ranger Afliem was allowed to remain, turned over to custody of the Sacred Grove to tend to her daughter until the child was old enough to survive without her mother. I see High Druidess Treesinger’s hand in this.
But, if half the rumors about the child are true…
Thomas and Rysak were led out in chains. Druids arrived and quickly shuffled out with Dakota. Sergeant Whitestone, in her finest dress simply sat, stone faced, lost in thought.
As I left, I noted that Sir Halten and Ranger Volstagg having a private word. The two had grown close, so I thought nothing of it at the time. I should have known better in Echer’Naught.
Then came the hard part. I was unable to release any “evidence” until after the court marshal which included Kura’Kai’s remains and belongings. As soon as the trial concluded, I sent word to those closes to Kura to attend a private Last Call for him. It pained me that Dakota would miss her own husbands funeral, but she chose her actions. He his.
We met that night, on the 11th. Sokolov was kind enough to rent out the entire Wayfarer’s rest for a very reasonable rate. I only invited a few guests as I paid for the affair out of pocket. I admit, I was upset to see Thorgram arrive with so many uninvited guests, but I suppose we all grieve in our own way.
I tried to speak. Failed miserably. Others spoke more eloquently. Ranger Amaroth gave quite the rouser, starling Thorgram’s flock of sycophants with a Kura Kai! warcry. Last to speak was Sergeant Whitestone who arrived late. She spoke well, as a soldier. Honored her fallen and then left.
I worry for her. More for what came later. But, I get ahead of myself.
Kura’Kau’s ashes will be held for his daughter until she is old enough to choose how they will be handled. And, since we do not know his religious practices, if any, no real funeral was held. Though, I asked a priest to say prayers for him on the following morning in a very very private ceremony.
Late on the 14th of Harvest Moons I was asked to write a bizarre set of orders. The remaining members of Alpha team were being sent on a “team building” exercise somewhere on the Wildlands border…
As I understand, they met on the 15th, the following morning, and Sergeant Whitestone gave them the odd news. En mass, the team agreed and headed out to the camp on the morning of the 16th of Harvest Moons, 3125.
I know it was a two day trek and they arrived on the 19th of Harvest Moons. I know that the leader of the camp was a Dregordian adept known as Sssvaren ran the camp which specialized in treating crippling wounds, physical, spiritual, and psychological. He assigned the daily “exercises” such as they were.
On day one, the 20th, he organized a hike that only Corporals Ravenwood and Silverfeather attended.
On day two, the 21st, they were tasked with “going to a warehouse.” In truth, from reports, it was a logic puzzle which forced the team to choose between failure or sacrificing one of their own? I am confused as to the details.
On day three, the 22nd, they were sent on an errand for Sssvaren to a neighboring town to get his tea herbs???
On day four, the 23rd, they were sent to over a few hills to a sacred spring to bring back water. As it turns out, the task was impossible to complete. Thought they stayed until the 24th trying to complete it.
On day five, the 25th, they were allowed to return home after answering two question, “Who are you?”, and “What do you fear.”
And that was it…
I will note that during most of their tasks, save for fetching the herbs, the party ended up split. On the first task, most of the party simply ignored. The barn/warehouse required one to be left behind and they chose Ranger Amaroth. Odd, though, at the spring, Corporal Silverfeather abandoned his team to sleep at the base of the hill rather.
Perhaps that is the lesson? That they continue, even after the loss of their comrades to work together? I fear it will only get worse.By the 28th of Harvest Moons, the team arrived in Echer’Naught to be assigned light duties. I had my hand full. While gone, I processed paperwork transferring citizen Regillus to Olaran custody, specifically that of Sir Halten.
His connection to Corporal Ravenwood made them both a massive security breach and the Rangers felt that the Olarans would have more “latitude” in ensuring operational security. Meaning, I gather, if he causes a problem the Olarans would not hesitate to execute him.
I am not privy to the means by which they plan to sever the mental connection between Corporal Ravenwood and her husband, but knowing now HOW it was created, I am concerned for them both. Loss after loss. Not only is her husband in prison, now, because she wished to save her friends who had betrayed her, she lost him all over again. No legal gymnastics could prevent this.
Worse and worse, after years of a spotless record, I authorized a written reprimand for Lady Eris Moonsilver who performed the ritual that bound Samira and Anaxelum. So many people hurt. So much loss. I understand that her Guild is revering her Bond to determine if she violated the terms of her contract with the Rangers. If they rule against her…we may lose Eris too.
And things only got worse. On my desk was an official request from the Olaran crown requesting that Sir Halten be placed in charge of a “joint task force” of members selected by the Sheriff to “deal with the continuing crisis in Echer’Naught.” Not even then did I put it together with Ranger Volstagg…not until the following morning.
On the 29th of Harvest Moons, a bitterly cold day, I was called into Captain Celebor’s office for a meeting. There, I was joined by the Captain, Sir Halten, Sergeant Whitestone, and Rangers Volstagg and Amaroth. Only then did I begin to see the Sheriff’s brilliant maneuver.
He formally request approval of his proposal for the task force. Given the grievous losses and the current climate within the Rangers, Captain Celebor demurred. His rationale was that the timing was not right. He hoped to get his own house in order before having his authority undermined.
And then Sir Halten played his trump card. Sir Volstagg stepped forward to endorse the plan. With Rangers support, if Captain Celebor denied the request, Sir Halten would have all the leverage he would need to show that the Ranger command no longer spoke for the best interest of its own members. Certainly, we could fight the Olarans, but to what end?
In a last attempt, Captain Celebor asked Sergeant Whitestone if she considered such a drastic shift in command to be appropriate at this time. All she said, in typical Olaran stoicism, is that she followed orders. If these were her orders, so be it. Crestfallen, Captain Celebor ceded Ranger authority to a visibly giddy Sir Halten.
After they all left, Sergeant Whitestone fuming, Sir Halten actually whistling, I noted Celebor slumped in his oversize chair, head in hands. Out the open door, Whitestone stalked away, Volstagg and Amaroth sauntered off together and Sir Halten…began preparations.
As for me, I returned to my small desk and stared at the mountains of paperwork stacked around me. What was it all for?! Was it worth the price?!
The irony is that after examining the bodies of the “merchants” killed in the explosion, we have confirmed that no fewer than two have confirmed links to Red Store. So, the conspirators were right about the meeting. This information, couples with the staggering amounts of Arcfire, all-but certifies that they DID raid a high level meeting of criminal operatives. The sad part, if they had approached command there is every likelihood that our enemies, who have certainly compromised our ranks, would have learned and alerted the perpetrators. At the very least, the meeting would have been cancelled and we would have lost the opportunity.
And yet, what have we gained?! So, we killed three criminals. That hardly stops crime in Echer’Naught! And with them all dead, we have no new leads. So…we gain, in essence, NOTHING!
But the price…
Captain Celebor is badly wounded, worse, the blow to his command is such that I fear he may simply resign from the Rangers rather than continue.
I know that Sergeant Whitestone’s request for transfer have been denied. As an Olaran, I can almost guarantee that her resignation is not far behind.
Ranger Kura’Kai Afliem is dead, and with him, Toma’s Mask is gone, so, in effect, we lost two Rangers.
And, now three Rangers are in prison, and Dakota’s daughter has lost a father, and will lose her mother during her most formative years.
Then, there are the 27 Rangers KIA whose names I am sorely tempted to list. Thirteen had spouses, 11 had children. One had just mustered out that night…he was celebrating his 11 year tenure in the Rangers when the call went up. He didn’t even have to go. But instinct, loyalty, and training.
Corporal Ravenwood was forced to fire, again, on a comrade and this time kill them. And, now, her husband has been locked away in some Olaran secret prison for magic users.
Lady Eris Moonsilver MAY just lose her Farspeaker’s bond over this, and with it, her career, reputation, and position within the Ranger organization.
What of the remains of the team? Thorgram will take this hard, more the loss of Toma’s mask. And Volstagg is now Sir Halten’s man. I’m not sure if the Rangers, or Whitestone can trust him anymore? I suppose Audric, Sarin, and Leora are going to be alright. Ranger Leora Nazir is in for promotion for her part in the peace talks between the Elves and the Olarans. So, one small bright spot.
All of this, all the death, all the loss, all the broken trust, and shattered friendships…
…to kill a dozen men who may, or may not, have been key players.
Evoran help me.