Lord Mayor, Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander
Commander of the Legio Heroes
The Sacred Grove of Evoran Que’kassars, Landra’Feya
Second Day of White River, Year 3125 Under the Light
The heart of an Olaran is Duty and Sacrifice. We are born into this, forged, tempered into warriors without peer. But what happens when you have more than one Duty? How much can a man Sacrifice before there is nothing left?
I left my last report on the 26th Day of Gray Winds. In time, I know this information will become public record, so I shall include it here, but delay its filing officially, at least until such time as it becomes necessary. Though, I must say that I utter detest the false pretense and deception necessary given my current situation. I am more troubled by how comfortable I become in its execution.
We know now that Sergeant Major Magor Stormhammer was abducted during the recent raid by forces of Darkness. The where and when of this abduction remains unclear, but I am now convinced that he is, in fact imprisoned in Shivak Novos, the Gray Lands, but that I will get to in due time.
Under the pretext of a “social visit” my wife left Echer’Naught in the company of Madame Lilithien and under the protection of the Alpha Team of Rangers, with Sir Halten’s approval, if not blessing. For security reasons, the Rangers were kept in the dark about the entire operation. They acquitted themselves admirably.
They rode hard and fast and did not stop other than to leave my betrothed and her companion in a tavern on the outskirts of Kore in the company of a man they knew not. And then, they made all haste to return, making a two day trip in a day.
The mysterious stranger was none other than my Lady Elyanna’s brother. A werewolf of some power, and her constant guardian. He and I have an arrangement when it comes to his sister, though I fear her mission stretches the limits of that contract.
In short, if, as we suspect, Stormhammer is in Shivak Novos then it is impossible for our forces to scout him out. Any length of time spent in that dark realm risks corrupting my Rangers. Not to mention, it would be next to impossible for them to blend in sufficiently to gather any valuable intelligence.
That said, my bride to be, madame Lilithien and, of course, her brother could all pass, more or less, without incident. At least, that was the hope. And, over my STRENUOUS objections to the plan, Lady Elyanna convinced me to approve her reckless endeavor. A “Wedding Gift” I believe is how she phrased it? Of course, were it not for Lady Moonsilver’s guarantee that she would remain in constant contact, I would never have conceded.
Yet, I did so. To prevent agents of Vainar from breaking the Sergeant Major and endangering countless lives, I committed my own bride to the cause. Worse, by sending her to Shivak Novos, I risked her losing to her Dark Gifts, forever condemning her soul to Darkness…and any chance we would ever have at being together…
How much sacrifice is too much? Perhaps I will never know.
So, while waiting to hear about the death or fall of the most important person in my dreary little world, I focused on other marginally less depressing efforts, namely the complete collapse of our northern defense and the impending invasion of an unstoppable Dark Horde into Olara. Unsurprisingly, the ArchCardinal had made an offer of Alliance, though I cannot see the Southern Blades agreeing to that. Not after Archanya and Mindoth’s Tower.
I would vote yes, but I have faced hopeless wars. The Blades no nothing but Victory. I pray they never taste the bitterness of defeat. Still, I dispatched correspondence to Camp Wolfhaven and my other allies. If they offer of Parley is refused, I must march immediately north and try to beat Darkness to the northern pass. As always, the Forges may offer shelter from the coming nightmare. If the Blades show unexpected wisdom, then I may consider a more radical maneuver, perhaps flank through Stahlheim to the West, or even a naval attack from the East…
Time will tell. Missives dispatched, I went to speak with Widow Hawksclaw with a request to take the lead in planning the Wedding. My betrothed had apparently made the arrangements prior to her mission. She is imminently prepared.
With the Wedding details arranged, I then focused on security…and other concerns. Here, I turned to Sir Halten. Odd as it might seem, I have come to note that his office seems less…susceptible to infiltration than the Rangers. I think it less that his forces are better and more than since he lost the bid for power, fewer enemies seek to pry into his private affairs. Add to that he is in command of the joint team made him vital to my preparations.
Our meeting was cordial and brief. He agreed to my proposal on the condition that I immediately approved the promotion of RFC Volstagg on the grounds that the team would require solid leadership should the worst befall them…
I agreed and so, he, or his man, drafted the orders specifically to our agreed upon parameters. I have yet to see tighter security around any venture. I only hope that our enemy is satisfied to believe in the false pretense we established.
Using my own wedding as a smokescreen. Duty. It weighs like a mountain.
And so, on the following morning, 27th of Gray Winds, Sir Halten summoned his Rangers and delivered to them my orders, and Sir Volstagg’s promotion. They were given a day to get their affairs in order. A day I also put to good use.
At just after dark, I summoned my new Sworn to my Manor to conduct their official induction into the House Wolfhaven. In other times, it would have been a more elaborate affair, but sadly, I lack either the interest or time to put on such airs. So, I called them in, recited the oath and gave them each the traditional Whitesilver Cavalier Parrying Dirk with the Wolfhaven crest embossed on the guard. I could not help feeling a pang of pain from the memory of presenting similar blades to my first sworn, Aradove and Rah-Sahn. May my Lady the Silver Unicorn keep these men safe and save them from such fates as their predecessors.
Though, my prayers are likely wasted. It seems the blood tax may never be paid in full.
After the Sword departed, I had Sirs Stahn and Olmaran attend. Again, the oath was repeated and to each given a traditional Whitesilver Cavalry saber, crest embossed at the base of the blade. With that, my duty to my House was completed.
And so, I set down to write out invitations and pass-phrases for my impending nuptial, assuming my bride survived the next few days.
The Alpha Team departed Echer’Naught heading North the following morning, on the 28th. Though, I know they were unaware of their final destination, save the Sergeant who was under strict orders NOT to speak of it where she could be scryed.
On the following day I received word that the Heart of Light, Mistress of the Council of Archanaya Istella Nollan herself drafted a letter refusing the ArchCardinal’s offer. And so, orders were dispatched for all available forces to assemble at Camp Wolfhaven and prepare for a winter march north to the pass. I would be arriving within two weeks.
I only needed to get married and petition the King of Olara before assuming command of the armies. Just a few minor errands.
Only upon arriving later did I learn of Flames unexpected attack on Alpha Team’s camp just a day from their destination. The skirmish was fierce and bloody, but none of the team was seriously injured. Ceynara’s Temple must be found and purified…but that is a battle for another day. For now, we must focus on the greater threat of utter annihilation.
Over the next few days, select guests departed for the secret location of my wedding. Sir Halten, of course, and his retinue. A unit of the Wolfhaven Free Riders for added security. A few notable allies and Lords I need to garner favor with to ensure support in the coming battles. And, of course, Fateweaver…
I departed on the 31st, a day after my team was attacked and made good time heading north-west. To be honest, I had not slept since I watched my beloved ride away into the wintry night. I cannot describe the sheer and utter joy I experienced in seeing her again as she joined our column. My heart soared to see her well.
Per our arrangement, Madame Lillithen returned to Echer’Naught and her son. However, Lady Elyanna had picked up a new companion, the familiar, but little understood, Master Trokash who greeted me warmly and offered his sincere congratulations on my impending marriage. Together, with Elyanna’ brother lurking along, we arrived at the site of Evoran’s Tree on the eve of the 33rd of Gray Winds.
My trip occurring without incident.
We arrived to find the encampment just as I had ordered. The Free Riders forming a tight perimeter, my Rangers patrolling the grounds and…Sir Halten already deep in his cups. It was a glorious night, chill and crisp, snow blanketing the ground, save for the green carpet in a near perfect circle around the tree.
Rising from a bed of lush grass and wildflower rose Evoran’s Everwood Tree, branches spreading out like welcoming arms. And around the trunk winding like wire wrapping on a hilt was the thickest vine with the most fragrant flowers and the sharpest thorns I have ever seen.
There was also, per my instructions, a fine tent…with a bit of field repair, waiting under the tree. I learned later that the tent was a gift of Sir Volstagg. Sergeant Whitestone informed me that he acquired it special order. The stitching was added by Ranger Daynore. Apparently the command tent had been the first casualty of their skirmish with Flame. The second being Sir Volstagg himself who received and unexpected and unwelcome ride on a minotaur’s horns.
Seeing so many friends and family about both filled me with a sense of joy, but acute sorrow as well. I had always hoped that Rah-Sahn, or Rouark would stand beside me when I took my vows. Even Celebor…
But as I struggled to choose a man, or woman, of honor to attend my on this most auspicious day it occurred to me that everyone I loved was sooner or later ripped from me. So, to honor their memory, I decided to walk the isle alone and unattended… Just as the empty cup signifies the lost brother during a Last Call, so too was my conspicuous isolation a dedication to every man and woman who has been lost on my orders.
Sadly, that list is soon to grow long indeed.
My bride was attended by Lady Moonsilver and Widow Hawksclaw. Both ladies resplendent in their red gowns…
Lady Elyanna stayed within the circle of protection offered by Evoran’s power, in Volstagg’s tent, while I spoke with my soldiers encamped around.
In the morning, on the 1st of White River, I was preparing myself for the day when a shout went up from our sentries. I stepped out of my tent and shielded my eyes to the East when I saw the fast moving sun streaking toward the encampment.
I was filled with both dread and excitement in that moment. For I alone knew what doom was approaching and part of my idly wondered if Thaleon would kill me or not. Like a Celestial Angel of the First Host, he, quite literally, slammed into camp, startling all. I braced for the onslaught.
Thaleon was madder than even I had suspected, but it was tinged with worry and relief. Apparently he had “stormed the Celestial Halls” seeking my soul after my “death” Something in the back of my mind niggled with that…did I remember hearing that…or…but it was gone as soon as it had come.
Mid tirade, he embraced me like a brother and I could feel his relief at the confirmation that I was, in fact, real. With so may of those I have loved taken, it was good to see such an old and dear friend. Especially on this day.
Only then did I notice the growing ring of armed and very nervous guards standing about. I gave them the all clear and they reluctantly sheathed their weapons and resumed their post. I hadn’t the heart to tell them it would have done them little good against my brother, but…oh well.
Thaleon left to prepare as did I.
At 10, under a clear, blue sky and the bows of Evoran’s tree we gathered. Surrounded by friends and family, standing before my confessor and brother, Thaleon, I waited surprisingly nervously for my bride.
When she appeared at the end of the isle of guest, my heart stopped. Dressed in a cream colored gown, fringed in lace, tooled in flowers she was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. Time seemed to slow as she slowly glided toward me. And, I should know…I have seen time slow…more than once.
She finally arrived smelling of flowers. He violent eyes shone bright as we clasped hands and turned to face Thaleon. In true Olaran fashion, even if his is a winged elf, Thaleon was brief in his address, though his words were warm and kind. I also felt his power surge as he asked for our oaths…
I had not seen him since achieving a state of Archon. Truly he is blessed of Archanon, as am I of my Lady Celesia.
With a love I can scarcely describe, I pledge my life, my honor, and my love to my Bride and she to me. Then with a kiss, it was done. I was a married man. It was…surprisingly easy. Strange, everything else in my life has been such a struggle to simply say a few words and have it done…
Yet, that was it. Thaleon presented us as Baron and Baroness Wolfhaven to the crowd and we left the circle of Evoran’s protection for the reception. Fateweaver serenaded us with song as guests drank, danced, a few brawled, but all appeared to enjoy their time. I noted that Anaxelum and Samira seemed to enjoy seeing each other.
It pains me to know that they too will be separated by this war. Like so many. Though, I hope she is at least pleased somewhat to learn of his recent posting. Despite my best intentions, my most recent demise stalled repairs on the Wolfhaven Barony leaving the entire operation in dire straights. With a potential invasion enroute it seemed appropriate to assign a capable military commander to the post Bailiff. Someone to not only oversee continued renovations, but to fortifiy the land in the event that our lines are breached. I could think of no man better.
So while I head north to war, and Samira prepares for the most difficult mission of her life, he sets out to assume command of our Ancestral home. My wife, of course…so strange to say that…she returns to Echer’Naught to continue operations there.
As I walked through the small group of guests, listing to the music and watching snow stain Baroness Elyanna’s hair white, I could not help but see families faces in the flurries and eddies of snow, catch snippets of well known voices, hear the cadence of familiar laughter. Even as I honored my wife and our union, I was beset by ghosts of the past, everyone I had known, loved, and lost during a lifetime of war and death. My beloved could sense my melancholy, though she was gracious enough to put on a brave face. I know not whether it is a byproduct of my experiences beyond, or simply a factor of my new age but I cannot seem to escape the ghosts of my past, the haunting memories of all I have failed.
Or, perhaps it is because I know what is to come. I cannot speak against the orders given in my absence. I will not divide the Rangers, but by the Ascended! Could they not hold back their rage for a time, just a little while?! Was revenge so necessary that they would allow themselves to be swallowed by Darkness to get at those who slighted them?
While my guests dined and drank, danced and sang, others were preparing a tent high on the nearby ridge. Adepts, Sorcerers, Priests, and Druids all placed protections shielding the meeting place from prying eyes. Were the invited guests different, we would have held this gathering within Evoran’s protection. But no. Alas, for this battle, we needed allies of a more dangerous nature.
At the 13th hour I retired with my new bride to the tent on the hill where I was unsurprising to find a gathering already in place. Elyanna’s Brother lurked withing, as did Trokash, our earstwhile friend. Lady Moonsilver as well, looking radiant. After a time, the Alpha Team was summoned and I revealed to them the truth of Elyanna’s mission, the choice for the site of the wedding, all of our subterfuge.
I ordered my most loyal Rangers to attack Echer’Naught.
Their reactions were as expected. What Elayanna’s team had discovered was that Sergeant Major Magor Stormhammer WAS in Shivak Novos, but not far, cosmological speaking. It seemed that the vestiges of the army we turned back so many weeks ago were encamped in our own city, or its dark mirror. They used that knowledge to plan and execute their attacks with a precision we ill understood until now.
Worse, Stormhammer was the subject of some profane rite in the their twisted mockery of the sacred grove which threatened to corrupt him mind, body, and soul. We knew all too well, given Von Dietrich, what the price would be if the ritual was completed. And so, with a heavy heart I ordered my Rangers to enter the Gray Lands, infiltrate their own city, and rescure or kill Stormhammer.
But, before they pledge themselves to the task, I warned them that should this mission fail, or even in its success, there would hardliners within the Rangers, already angry at my actions in freeing Anaxelum, that would take our working with Darkness as a sign of betrayal, corruption and another investigation into my command could be launched. If that were to happen, I could not protect them from what was to come…
Corporal Volstagg asked about legal ramifications, and would this fall under Ranger or Olaran justice. I informed him this matter was exclusive to the Rangers. He then nodded and requested an extended leave of absence from the Rangers, as did the others. Granting them this, they laid their sacred cloaks upon the map table between us and prepared to die alone and friendless at my command…
With that, I informed them that from that point forward, they were to have no direct contact with Ranger command until the mission were completed. Our enemies are too well entrenched. We cannot risk Stormahmmer being moved. In addition, I assigned Trokash as their procurement specialist. Anything they might need would, by necessity go through him. Sergeant Whitestone informed that it would be done.
As I rose to leave, Corporal Volstagg handed my a drinking horn crafted from one of the two on the head of the minotaur he had just tangled. He bade me take it, seeing as he would not need it where he was going. I took it, but with a silent promise to return it to him soon.
With nothing left to say, I bade them farewell, and good luck and I retired with my wife to our tent beneath the tree. What happened there is between a man and his wife. But, in the morning, I rose, kissed her goodbye, tears staining her perfect cheeks, and donned my kit. Outside, Thunder pawed at the earth and somewhere Sasha howled in the distance. Looking once more into her loving eyes, I turned and left.
My Rangers sent to their doom, my wife again abandoned and an impossible war waiting for me at the end of a cold, dark ride…
…my we all do our duty as Rangers, as Brothers, as…as Family. May our sacrifice be enough. Ascended please let it be enough.
Your most obedient servant,
Lord Mayor Wolfhaven, Colonel
The Sacred Grove of Evoran Que’kassars, Landra’Feya