Lord Mayor, Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander
Commander of the Legio Heroes
Regional Command at Echer’Naught, Olara
Twenty Fifth Day of White Stagg, Year 3125 Under the Light
By the grace of Archanon, the lord of Light, and the agape of my lady, Celesia, the Silver Unicorn, I am renewed. Thank the Light.
Such time has passed in my absence I scarcely know where to begin. I suppose, as the great poets say, one must begin at the beginning. So for me, that beginning, is the end…
My last waking thoughts were far to the north in the White Silver Wolves encampment just north of Stonefinger Dwarven Clanhome. I was recently arrived, my column reaching the finely fortified encampment just seven days prior. Already we had engaged in a handful of skirmishes with the forces of Darkness as we scouted Shaya’Nor’s positions not far to the north.
Odd, I took little note of him at the time, as he was but one knight amid hundreds, but twelve months later I would find this same knight of the Crimson Wall among the Rangers of Echer’Naught’s Alpha Team. Fate is a curious thing. I think, at the time, I nodded to Sir Volstagg on some bloody field. I must remember to inquire what, if any, he remembers of me during those brief moments of violence.
At any rate, I was tired and saddle sore by the 33rd and lay down for some rest before that evening late night meeting. Rest, however, eluded me. I recall being beset by the most vivid and horrifying nightmare. Thought the details elude me, I do recollect a nightmarish scenario in which creatures more powerful than Tempest had all but conquered the lands, and most of the greatest heroes had long since fallen in a desperate war.
I vaguely remember that I was to lead a team, not of allies and heroes, but the greatest villains known to me, though I now could not tell you who. Somewhere, in the deepest recesses of my consciousness, a worry niggles…as if the dream were something more? Whatever the case, the events of the next few hours, and indeed months, have all but washed away any truth to be gleaned from one night’s lack of sleep.
I awoke, prepared, and joined my staff in the command tent to lay out plans for the defense of the Southern Kingdoms. New arrived, dwarves arrived, and an aevakar? I apologize, much of what happened next is but shadow and smoke.
A threat was made upon my life. Hardly new. But this news came with much urgency, and the deaths of at least two Rangers in the attempt to warn me. My Rangers took no chances and warded me well enough to stop the most determined assault upon my person.
Sadly, even that was insufficient. I must inquire as to whether we have yet determined WHAT manner the enemy used to fell me that night. I certainly have not even a shadow of an idea. All I know is that one moment, my men fussed about me, rushing to secure my personage, and the next…
But not just of the physical form, though, there was such in abundance. Something so deep and so cold, it seared my very soul. My my screamed and I felt the chill hand of death clutching about my heart, my mind…I was not just dying, I was…falling into Darkness. Not falling, being pulled by some inexorable force…
And then a flash of light, so hot, sure pure… Not warm like the Light of Archanon, which feels almost like the kiss of a warm summer’s sun on your face. No, this was…harder, sharper, more…sidereal.
Then, there was nothing. But…not nothing…
I existed, and I was not alone. But I was not me, or not only myself. I was part of a chorus of voices, but more thought, emotion, all swirling. Like melting into a pond. At once me, and also everyone.
Time lost all meaning, as did space. There was no concern, for if there is no time, if you have all time, and none, what matter is to worry? No care, or pain. No, without feeling, nor feeling of bliss…just, an enduring contentment. A knowing.
Knowing. To know all, but to retain none. Imagine the entire flood of history sifting through your mind, like a sorcerer’s illusion. Seeing everything and everyone. All moment happening at once, but also, not.
Words fail. Some experiences go beyond the realm of language. Something must be, well, experience to be understood.
But there were voices, among the throng, that seemed louder, or stronger. Familiar voices, like those of my father and mother. Speaking kind words, loving words, proud words, I so long to remember… Sadly, that, along with almost everything else is gone now, faded even as I settle again into this…heavy form.
Still, there are things I do know. I know that Vainar has returned and that he is growing in strength. There are pieces of his designs that, even now, I can almost fathom. Just, what is endgame?
I know that my Rangers have suffered long in my service. I could feel their pain even there. Wherever there is. So much loss, so many fallen.
And yet, there was one voice conspicuously absent from that chorus. My friend, my brother in arms, sworn to my House, Rah-Sahn Hawksclaw was not among the dead. Of that, I am certain. Now, more than ever, I am determined to find him and bring him home.
But, those concerns were so far away that I was all but lost to wordly concerns when a voice, sweet and tender, whispered to me. Not a voice I knew, not the clarion sound of the Silver Unicorn, or the quite whisper of the Raven. No…this was something different, and older.
And then another voice, one from FAR distant…so faint, I almost missed it for the crowd, but this voice I knew. It trembled in fear, but not of self, of love…for…a child.
Ranger Afliem? But she was not of the dead.
And then I heard more screams, Rangers dying, explosions, the raucous and jarring clash of arms. In that final moment, between the here and there, that soft voice spoke again, “Go. Your task is yet done. Go Wolf and protect them.”
The next moment, pain, almost as searing as my death. My strength drained from my body. I felt suddenly weak, feeble, and oh so heavy. Meat, bone, sinew…such clumsy constructs. It felt almost like being squeezed into an overstuffed sausage.
And then the pain receded to a dull ache, in my bones, my knees, my back…
Light pieced my eyes as they opened, bursting with the light of a thousands suns…and yet, it was but a candle. I blinked away tears of pain, loss, and joy. I was alive, so. painfully. alive.
And then another voice, whispering from the shadows at the corners of my vision. “He is awake, tell the others.”
My mind swam. Others? Who awakes? Groggily, as the cobwebs of my mind cleared after months of ill use, I struggled to rise.
“Where…am…I?” I managed to croak through parched lips, raspy dry throat.
A figure appeared beside me, kneeling. “My Lord! You live?!”
Things began to align within my mind. I had been killed. I died. But, not?
In the the light of the candle I looked down to see my armored body, just where I expected it to be, no obvious wounds, no blood leaking from the seams of my armor.
“Where am I?” I demanded.
“Echer’Naught, my Lord, within the Temple of the Silver Unicorn. You have been..unresponsive for many months.”
Time finally began to speed up. “How long have I been…dead?”
More footsteps now, whispered voices. A doorway, a slightly less darker patch of shadows off to the side of the…was I lying on a stone slab. Then I understood, I was in a mausoleum.
The Paladin kneeling before me considered. “Twelve months.”
I clutched my chest. Twelve MONTHS! How could that be possible…my family, my Rangers…the WAR?! I very nearly swooned, then I saw my hands…
Strong but aged. Thick veins, splotchy. The hands of an old man. “What happened…?”
The room shook. Dust most drifted to the floor. “We are under attack.” It was not a question.
Before, the kneeling Paladin nodded. “Yes sir, but you must re…”
“My Sword,” I ordered.
With a pained look, he nodded to the slab beside where I had lain. I could clearly see an outline of my body in the dust. And, right where my right arm had laid, my father’s sword.
“My Lord,” the Paladin protested, but I ignored him, staggering to my feet, I reached out and grasped the sword.
Power, thoughts, energy flooded through my body. Like a lightning bolt. Fatigue and pain washed away in an explosion of Light.
Like scales being ripped from my eyes, I could see the battle before me. Hordes of Darkness surrounding the walls of the Church…and elsewhere. And then, a familiar presence…once an ally…now a mortal foe who I personally abandoned to Darkness.
Through the flood of Light, I felt a gentle nudge against my knee. Looking down, I peered into the too blue eyes of Sasha, the Northern Wolf I had “acquired” during our march through the gathers to reach the White Silver Wolves encampment. I nodded.
Go, find the trees. Help the Druids. I don’t know how, but she seemed to comprehend and bounded out of the room, nearly toppling a handful of warriors clustered in the doorway.
The Paladin rose. “Preparing now. We…”
Voices screamed in the night chill. Whispers in the Darkness. That voice, “You must go…”
I gripped my sword and strode for the doorway, not looking back. “Protect the Church, you must not let the enemy enter this Holy ground. I must stop the Lich.”
Behind me, I heard protests, but I had no time for discussions. Though a series of White Silver doors, up a set of stone steps, and ducking under a tapestry, I found myself in the deceptively small Chapel of the Silver Unicorn.
Outside, towering Trolls battered at the walls as a handful of defenders tried to push them away with flaming polearms. Where are were all the Paladins of Light?! Behind me, Silver Paladins appeared and rushed to the wall’s defense. I strode out and whistled for Thunder.
Barded and saddled, he skidded to a halt beside me. Mounting, I spurred him on and we surged forward, bounding up a stack of stone and leaping the wall. On the far side, we crushed a handful of undead as Thunder muscled his way through the enemy ranks and sprinted for High Town.
Cutting through Center Port, I noted a lone Ranger standing somewhat befuddled, wreathed in magical energy. He watched me as a I rode passed. Onward, I passed another group of Rangers battling a Troll outside a half destroyed Barracks.
Bloodied but unbowed, Thorgram Ramshorn stood before the beast, shield broken. I could see the rage in his eyes, but felt no hint of Flame. It would seem he, at least, has learned to tame the beast within. Another Ranger battle near him, though her face was a blur as I rode past.
My heart ached to stop, but my true foes stood before me and so long as they remained…
So on I rode, powering up the hill into High Towne, whose gates stood open. Guards battled a died. A line of Rangers struggled to cut through a group of Hobgoblins. Thunder bunched and leaped, clearing the heads of the Rangers and Troglanesh by a foot. My loyal mount. Even after all this time.
Hooves sparked as we hit the ground. Ahead of my I saw a desperate fight. One lone knight stood within a ring of zombies as he fought to protect something at his feet…
…and then I saw her. Ranger Ravenwod. Samira. Did she live? Duty compelled me to ride past…for my true target stood there.
Clad in full Black Iron Plate, cloak billowing in the wintry wind, black snow swirling about him as he strode through the blood and death…Mugin Von Dietrich.
I felt his power, radiating in cold waves, like the chill of an icy grave. He turned as I rode… But, there was a shimmer, behind him. Unseen, but felt. Clever. Von D was always the cleverest of us.
Flashing past, I brought my sword down in the space behind Von D, and steel met flesh as I cleaved the Necromancer Warlock in half. Kill the caster, Kills the spell.
I felt Von D’s defenses drop as the Warlock’s spells faltered with his dying breath. Even so, Von D had far surpassed himself in power since last we met. I wheeled and struck, a glancing blow which staggered, but did not fell the Undead Champion.
Spinning Thunder, I threw myself at Von D. His sword was quicker, raking me across the ribs. Pain exploded, but I pushed on, bringing my sword down hard, punching through his armor. This blow staggered him. Lighting, from the Tempest curse ripped through him.
Leaping free, I raised my blade. “I release you, my friend.” I slashed and severed undead Von D’s head from his body. Then, reversing, I stabbed downward, piercing his body. Channeling all the newfound power through the blade, I summoned the power of the Silver Unicorn to smite and banish the corrupted abomination before me.
The corpse exploded.
I could feel him fading, being consumed by the same Darkness which sought to claim me. With every fiber I reached out, grasping…and felt him…the true Von Dietrich…my friend. I felt his soul burn bright, then ascend. In my mind, my soul I heard his voice, free of Darkness… “Protect the child.” And then, he was gone, passing into the next life.
Releasing the power, feeling like a blast of energy, I turned to see a battle in chaos. Black snow drifted down, Rangers battle everywhere. Darkness threatened to consume all.
Reaching out with my mind, I called upon Eris Moonsilver, hoping that she could feel me, connect…but I heard nothing but silence…
A strange power, like static in the air, seemed to cloud my thoughts, like a faint but persistent buzzing. Powerful, too powerful to be accidental.
No Battle Net. The enemy came prepared. Curse Vainar!
Turning, I raised my voice so that all Rangers could hear me and take heart. “Follow me, my Rangers.” I said, hoping that my return my offer some small encouragement.
First, the battle at hand. Leaping again upon Thunder, we rode down the zombies threatening to devouring Corporal Ravenwood and this young knight. Thank Archanon and the Silver Unicorn, she was alive, and fighting. She felled 2 or 3. I know the knight, Galean by heraldry, Ranger by cloak, handled himself well.
That handled, Thunder and I rode down the last of the Troglanesh holding back reinforcements. I was at this point that I saw Sir Volstagg standing with the Rangers, his chest plate cracked, his cloak in tatters, a Ranger nonetheless.
There was Thorgram, looking somewhat stunned. Likely at my arrival. At least, that was the assumption. Arrows rang off my armor. The fight was far from over.
Forces of Darkness were overrunning the Sacred Grove, where I had sent Sasha, the militia and townsfolk were fighting losing holding actions at the Muster Grounds and the new housing blocks in Low Town. The Regional and Local Headquarters were under assault. Adepts were blocking Eris from establishing any semblance of communication…
…and worst of all, Von D’s older brother, the Lich of OUR making, stood atop the tower weaving the Darkest of spells. I ordered Corporal Ravenwood to take her team to support the Town, picking up what support she could on the way.
Thorgam began protesting, then speaking nonesense, then hugged me. I embraced him back. My stalwart defender. He will never know the sense of relief I felt knowing that he still stood in defense of my Rangers.
Then, I wheeled Thunder and galloped for the Regional HQ. Behind me, I could hear Thorgram protesting, but his voice was lost in the howl of the wind, the rasp of my own breath in my helm, and thunder of Thunder’s hooves.
We had all but reached the HQ, when I pulled up short to see Sir Halten leading a wedge of Olaran knights as they cleared the streets. I saluted, though I might of cause him to misstep and almost take a fatal blow. Still, it heartened me to know that he was on had to secure High Towne.
Werewolves scrabbled up the walls, Trolls battered at the gates while Shayakar on rooftops laid down a deadly fire on the Ranger defenders. Coming from behind, and unawares, I charged the forces at the gate, scattering them, then summoned the Power of the Unicorn I teleported to the far side MUCH to the shock of the Ranger defenders.
One young trainee actually shot me. Fortunately, his arrow had little effect. The two MOST shocked at my sudden arrival were Celebor, Captain? there’s a story, and Sergeant Alystar. Both nearly died from shock. More, they nearly died because they stopped to stare.
With no time, I shouted to Celebor that Adepts were targeting Eris and they needed to be dealt with. Also, that Alpha Team was headed into Middle Town to reinforce defenders there. He shouted something particularly unflattering back, but duty compelled me to ride on.
Through the scramble of Ranger defenders, through the hail of arrows I rode for the Beacon Tower. Dismounting, I kicked open the door and started to ascend. Whatever power was sustaining me began to flag as I charged up the tower.
Rangers at the lower floors moved aside at my passing, but by the fifth platform, all I found were the dead and undead. Fighting through, I forced myself to the peak.
What defenders had been on post when Darkness attacked, now were slain. Most had been turned into mindless Zombies, a few had been used to fuel the profane ritual now being cast by the elder Von D.
Hovering above the beacon, he hung there, snow swirling around him, black robes flapping. Laughing, he ignored my presences as if I were but an insect while he continued to chant and gesture. Overhead the black clouds swirled with malice.
He was protected by the same spells that Von D had used, but the Lich required no other to fuel his magic. With me was but my sword, long though it may be, the Lich was far to high to reach. I considered, for a moment, going back down in search of a bow, but what good would it do?
Celebor perhaps, Samira certainly could make that shot. But I am but a cavalryman and poor archer. Casting about desperately, I was very nearly despair when I noted the Beacon. Beside it, a young man, face pale in death, lay, his hands still clutching the ever burning torch that would light the signal fire.
Even in death, the Lamplighters continue to defend their city. The first defenders and the very last line. Ignored by the Lich, I snatched the torch and hurled it onto the pitch soaked beacon. From one heartbeat the next, the fire roared to life, blasting high into the sky with a searing heat, and catching that flying fiend in a column of pure, white fire.
He screamed. It would seem I now had his attention. Concentration momentarily shattered, he slammed to the earth…well within range of my blade.
I charged hoping to catch him stunned, but he merely raised a hand and blasted me clear across the tower. I skidded across icy stone, by armor sparking as I crashed into the far ramparts.
Wreathed in hellish smoke, eyes burning green with hate, the Lich rose to its feet and glided toward me. Pale, clammy skin stretched taut in a rictus smile, the creature raised it hands and unleashed an onslaugh of black bolts of energy so cold it burned.
On the night air I could hear his hoarse mirthless laughter. Rising to a knee, I fought with all my strength against the sheer power of his attack. It felt as if I were battling to lift the entire tower…
…but somehow I gritted my teeth and staggered to my feet. Inch my inch I closed to distance between us even as my tabard, cloak and skin where savaged to ribbons.
…finally, I was just in reach. Surging forward I swung hard. My blade slammed into his side, hard, but rather than soft flesh the blade rebounded as if I had just tried to bisect an anvil. Black smoke coiled and wreathed his body.
He rasped another laugh at my expense…then clenched his fist. Pain exploded in my chest and I was driven to my knees. He twisted his hand and I felt my heart being ripped from my chest.
In short order I experienced the THIRD most excruciating pain of my life. In that moment, I pondered if there were, in fact, some profound truth in the sum total of my most recent, to me, experiences being of pain and suffering.
I tasted copper and coughed, splattering the icy stones with bright red blood. Over the sound of my own heartbeat racing, I could hear his voice, dripping with scorn. “You will make a find servant.” And then he jerk his hand up, and I was lifted off the ground my chest collapsed within my armor…
My vision dimmed as I felt the life being, literally, crushed from me. Focusing on the two green, glowing points swimming in front of me, I summoned the last of my strength, called upon the Unicorn and stepped…
The sound of ripping was…sickening. I may never really know, but at that moment I was CONVINCED that he had just ripped out my heart. Nevertheless, I appeared behind him and had just enough life left to make the swing.
Archanon and the Silver Unicorn were with me. My blade caught him from behind, piecing his armor as lighting from a sudden storm blasted him where he stood. My vision swam and, I fear, I blacked out.
How long I was out, I cannot say. Minutes, days, hours? Truth be told, since my return, what, a hour before, my sense of date and time was still fuddled.
All I know is that I jerked awake, rain pelting my face. I could smell Tempest on the winds. Samira… So another has learned to use their powers. My Rangers have certainly come far in this last year.
The pain in my chest quickly subsided, so I grabbed my sword and started to rise again. From across the top of the tower, I heard the rustle of cloth and the clink of masonry shifting. Quickly, I sprinted over, slipping on the wet, and icy stones.
Rounding the quickly dying beacon, I skidded to a stop just in time to avoid being blasted off the tower by another volley of black bolts. It would appear Lich’s are as notoriously difficult to slay as reported. Like my own, his wounds appeared to be healing quickly, though, I could feel his power waning.
Ravenwood’s Storm, with all the energy spent on the ritual…and my small contributions had sapped much of the foul creatures power. He was growing fatigued. I, however, was not.
I launched at him, pressing the attack. He surprised me. I would not expect a caster of any kind to be so well versed in combat, but he handled his Black Iron staff as well as any warrior I have faced. Back and forth we battled, but his strength comes from Darkness and vile magics.
Mine, comes from Light, the Silver Unicorn, and the strength of my brothers and sisters. Blow for blow, bolt of bolt, his attacks grew weaker by increments, while I drew deeper and deeper upon the power within.
Again, I know not how long the contest lasted, but with a final blow I dashed him to the floor. It lay there a moment, glaring up at me. Then, with but a whisper summoned a portal, an Ebonway, like a pool of infinite blackness directly behind him.
I struck a heartbeat too late. He was gone, but striking the Ebonway had a gratifying effect as it exploded into smoke and with that, his power was broken, his profane ritual disrupted. Suddenly weary, I crossed to the east battlement and looked out over my city.
Battles yet raged, but I could see Rangers, knights, guards and citizens all banding together, pushing back Darkness step by step, inch by inch. Stepping up on the wall, I raised my father’s sword high into the air, letting its light shine like a beacon and shouted the one word that would stir my city, and strike a blow to the very heart of the enemy.
Better than I could have hoped, enemy forces began and immediate, but rather coordinated retreat. Apparently Von D had planned for all contingencies. Had he even predicted my return? Who knows what other secrets he revealed to the enemy during his time as their slave.
I fear it may be quite some time before we truly realize the full extend of this attack. For I fear, that rather than a random raid, this coordinated battle had much more tangible purposes. What those may, or may not be, I hope time will tell.
Nevertheless, with their Lich and Champion vanquished, the lead elements of Darkness retreated leaving behind hordes of undead to secure their withdrawal. I retraced my steps back down the tower, as quickly as I could, though admittedly, slower than my ascent. Reaching the ground floor, I joined the Rangers in securing the Regional HQ.
Celebor, as ordered, had gone hunting the Adepts and Alystar was focused on defending the most critical guests of the manor. It took some time, but High Towne was cleared. I left Sir Halten in charge, after a few brief words exchanged.
Commander Schenkle had the middle of the city well buttoned, so I rode into Low Town to offer my assistance there. Most of the rest of the night was spent in fierce street to street fighting with Undead and a few Shayakar Nightguard left behind to achieve some vital missions.
By an hour before dawn, I found myself at the Local Headquaters, that small warehouse which now had grown in size and number of Rangers. Most of the command staff was in the field, so I lent my expertise organizing relief efforts and triage for the wounded.
They tore through our potions and elixirs before I even arrived. Most of the Priests and Druids were far too exhausted to do much more than offer words of comfort, so we switched more more mundane methods of treatment.
I do not know if this is comforting or not, but being there, on the ground, organizing my force had a strange sense of rightness. There was no confusion or panic, even amid the chaos. One battle is more or less like another.
An hour or so after dawn, who should drift into the the HQ, but Corporal Ravenwood and the rest of Alpha Team. They looked tired, bloodied, but triumphant. Seeing me, again, was something of a shock.
I feared the might be running on courage alone, so bade them sit and drink. Hawkclaw’s young sister had arrived once most of the fighting had died to help. She proffered drink for the team, and I took a brief moment to rest with them.
So many questions, so many expressions and emotions at once. I greeted Volstagg like an old friend. For the rest, I tried to explain what had happened, but we were all tired. In time, I will put their minds at east to the best of my limited ability.
Beside Volstagg was a man, an Olaran who seemed to be struggling to place me. When he did, however, he immediately pledge himself to my service. I accepted his oath on the spot. However, I will need to make that legal as soon as I am able. Whenever my status in the city is determined. After all, I did, in fact, perish.
But, there was one piece of information that, even as the knowledge of my experiences beyond faded, I held, clutching with all the strength within.
“Hawksclaw is alive,” I said, “I don’t know where. I don’t know when. But we will find him and bring him home.”
Those that understood looked understandably stunned. As for the rest, they will learn. However, I also explained that things would likely be confusing for a while considering my status within the Rangers, in fact, my status as a legal citizen was in question considering my recent circumstances.
No sooner had I made the statement then the door behind me burst open and a very bloody and very pissed Celebor appeared as if summoned. He stormed up to me, shouted me down and called me some rather inappropriate things, then threatened to quit if I did not immediately assume command of Echer’Naught and relieve him of command.
Stunned, and concerned he might ACTUALLY quit, I relieved Captain Celebor of Command. This being on the 25th of White Stagg, 3125, the day after I returned from the grave.
Then, he shouted something about tracking down a lost goat on the Everwall, said he would see us again in 10-15 years and stormed out. I actually believe he is serious?!
Well, now officially in charge, I had a duty to assume command as someone would need to organize the unmitigated chaos that follow any such battle. Corporal Ravenwood bade me rest, but, truth told, I felt fine…other than being a 50+ year old man… ascended my knees!
I was about to leave, when the young sworn, Amaroth, pointed out that I required an escort as the rules, I had written, stipulated that no Rangers were to travel alone. Good man. He will be a fine addition to the Wolfhaven House.
Thanking him profusely, I invited a nearby Trainee to escort me. I do believe the young man may have wet himself. But, he tagged along.
I was…almost out when Corporal caught me. In a quite voice she explained the situation with her husband. My heart warms to know that she has found a life and partner. Despite his former allegiance, Anaxelum is a good man. Still, it is criminal how he has been treated. That, I must ruminate upon.
But first, I must report to duty. Put to rights my command. And then…I have a Lady to see…
Light but I have missed her. Even in death, hers was my own regret…
My heart would have me abandon all other pursuits and ride to her side, but honor compels me otherwise.
So much to do…and then, Vainar.
Your most obedient servant,
Lord Mayor Wolfhaven, Colonel
Regional Command at Echer’Naught, Olara