Colonel Wolfhaven, Alexander
Commander of the Legio Heroes
Regional Command at Echer’Naught, Olara
Sixteenth Day of Harvest Moons, Year 3123 Under the Light
There is, in my humble opinion, truth to the curse, “May you live in interesting times.” For, our time is far too interesting. It seems that no sooner do we vanquish one foe than another rears its ugly head like some monster from the depths. I had hoped, though vainly it seems, that with the conclusion of the War of Flame that my country would afforded some measure of peace. But it is not to be.
I gathered my Rangers on the morning of the 8th of Harvest Moons to discuss recent events and lay out plans for the future. I revealed to my Rangers that as Winter fell upon the lands, plans were already in motion for the resumption of hostilities with Camon when Spring thawed winter snows. My operations commander, Hawkslcaw has his orders.
I revealed to them also of the coming Winter summit when representatives from three independent kingdoms, Eon’Voltuh, Stahlheim, and Jasara, would gather in Echer’Naught to officially sign the Ranger Charter. Every energy would be bent to ensure the town’s readiness and security of the delegates would be paramount. To that end, all local threats would need be swiftly and harshly dealt with.
On a good note, word had reached my desk that my old friend Ivan “The Lighthouse” Sokolov’s new restaurant, The Wayfarer’s Rest, neared completion and an opening night was in preparation. As shareholders and local security we would be invited to attend the opening as honored guests and additional security. I tasked Hawksclaw to liaise with Lighthouse on security.
Another even better turn of events, was a letter from Master Builder Garok Mason to Corporal Longtail revealed that the construction of her Wolfhaven’s Home for Lost Children had been completed on the 6th. He waited on her arrival to turn over keys and completed paperwork. To this I tasked Longtail, though I required her to maintain the ruse of the her death.
Unknown to my team, I had received word from an old friend of mine, and a former comrade of Longtail’s. Athrate Alystar, Priest and Paladin of Light, that he and a small team were close and bearing vital intelligence for my Rangers. They were on the trail of a situation which might threaten the entire region. I let my team know that we would be having guests, but as I knew not the time, I was vague on the timeline.
My last order of business for the morning was to promote Sergeant Rah-Sahn Hawksclaw to Lieutenant for his exemplary service to the Rangers and to this outfit. I presented him his gold ring personally. In my position, there are few more rewarding moments than these.
After that, I dispatched my men to their various tasks. I find it disheartening that each time I dispatch my team I wonder if I will ever see them again. Perhaps one day we will all be able to retire and live our lives in relative peace. But not this day.
From her reports, I know that Corporal Longtail went to check on the status of her orphanage. There she found the crews finishing cleaning and trim work. With little pomp or circumstance the Dwarven master builder turned over the keys and deed papers to Longtail. And with that, my Ranger took command of her first post.
Of note, I understand that she acquired a female orc to run day to day operations at the orphanage. Perhaps I grow paranoid, but asked Sergeant Major Stormhammer to pull what information he could find on Longtail’s hire, just as a precaution.
It took some doing, but what he found either instills me with great confidence or fear.
Her name is Brunhild Hildebrandt. But she is better known as Skullcrusher. As it happens, a local trader long ago reported to the Olaran military that she worked in or ran a nursery up to the War of Flame, It is unclear, but Stormhammer supposes that she must have had her own brood as she worked as a wet-nurse (according to very sketchy reports). Her gather was annihilated during the War of Flame and all of her family, and the children in her charge, were killed in the attack. Stormhammer believes the young goblinesh might have been used as fodder for childer. How she survived is unclear, but after reading her intelligence report, I would be surprised if anything could kill her. Brunhild was taken captive by the Kalinesh forces and used as slave labor until she saw her moment and in a blitz attack, grabbed her jailer’s skull in her bare hands, crushing it to pulp. She she snapped her own chains and bludgeoned the other guards to death before grabbing a battle-ax and staggering into the wilderness. She re-appeared a short time later in the ranks of a mercenary company of war refugees and ex-Olaran soldiers. There she served during the bulk of the war as a berserk fighter racking up an impressive number of kills. During one particularly savage engagement, she purportedly twisted off a Minotaur’s head with her bar hands. Her service was exemplary, but not without issue. On multiple occasions she defied direct orders when the lives of children were in jeopardy. The first time, she ran into a burning building to save three kids getting severe burns over most of her body, an injury which continued to plague her. This culminated in an altercation with her superior that landed her a discharge and him in the hospital with severe head trauma that left him “never right afterwards” according to his companions. Rather than be kicked out of the service, she was transferred to a supply unit where she quickly rose to command. That is until in the course of her duties, the commander of the Kalinesh unit who slaughtered her brood was processed through her post. The moment she spotted him her rage overtook her. Before the guards could stop her, she grabbed the man, twisted off his head and ripped out his spine before bludgeoning his headless corpse into pulp. After that, the military was forced to release her. Her records vanish until after the war where she appears again as an administrator for the LongArms security company in Echer’Naught. Until being hired by Corporal Longtail as the Operator of the orphanage. Stormhammer checked out the orphanage, just a courtesy, and her reports that Brunhild’s office is the only room already set. It contains, a cot, a desk, a dresser, a stuffed Minotaur head on the wall, a Bloodsteel Battleaxe with a pair of iron shackles as counterweights hanging from the haft and a sun bleached skull, surprisingly human looking, as a paperweight on her desk. But, she submitted to a mind scan by Eris who approved her posting. It is a fair bet the children of the orphanage will have no issue with discipline…or safety.
After which, Longtail requested permission to travel south to Eckhart lands to check on the orphan she saved during the Shadowboar incident months ago. I, of course, approved, but dispatched Ranger Alfred to accompany her. We are still under orders to travel in pairs.
At the same time, Lieutenant Hawksclaw took Ranger Que’kasaars to the Wayfarer’s Rest to liaise with Lighthouse about security for his grand opening celebration. By all reports, the ale was “interesting, but good.” Lt. Hawksclaw met with Ivan’s chief of security, an Orc fighter who laid out their security details and established a timeline. After leaving the Rest, my men spoke with Vasser about the Watch. Hawksclaw had a private meeting, details forthcoming later.
Then, as a reward, Hawksclaw and Que’kasaars stopped by the Autumn Spring for lunch.
Two days later on the 10th, my team, minus Longtail, gathered at the Wayfarer’s Rest just after noon. As expected, the restaurant was in an uproar making final preparations for opening evening. Working with local security, Lt. Hawksclaw posted the Rangers out front to manage the crowds which had already started to gather.
By dusk, when I arrived, the streets were thronged with eager diners and Lt. Hawksclaw had everything well in hand. I confess an overwhelming sense of pride seeing ranks of Green cloaks striding confidently through the streets.
Displaying his usual ability at perfect timing, the Lord Mayor arrived in a horse drawn carriage and was the first admitted to the Rest. He stepped out like a king and made sure to be seen by all of the lesser nobles and sycophants waiting in line. With that, the floodgates opened and we spent the next few hours checking weapons at the door and making sure no one was trampled.
At about 10, Ivan himself came and invited my Rangers to a private meal at the Chef’s table, which turned out not to be in the kitchen, but high above the building in the rat’s nest of a ship’s mast. The ship, taking up about 1/3 of the building had been turned into a massive sea aquarium. According to Ranger Que’kasaars, retired members of an ancient Naval Sorcerer’s Guild the Navaquilera had been hired to maintain the salt water environment.
After a harrowing climb up “rat-lines” we came to an overlarge “rat’s nest” we were seated around a table set about the mast. Then, in a magnificent display of acrobatics, a serving team of Goblins laid out the table and served wine, ale and water. Then, they brought up something called Lobster, some form of sea-bug. Once you get past the repulsive exterior, it is actually quite good with melted butter and garlic. There was also sauteed muscles and sea-salt taffy.
I typically avoid such fine foods, but I am quite impressed with the flavor of the meal.
After dinner was completed, we returned to our duty seeing the last of the guests safely to their doors. And, after short after party, we all returned to the Manor for a decent nights sleep, other than those required to stay on duty such as Ranger Sir Lugard.
Hawksclaw also brought news of a possible deal that would, once and for all, deal with the assassin threat to my men. But to win, we would be forced to make a deal with the assassin responsible for attempting to murder Longtail. I know I had informed Hawksclaw to do whatever it took to find those responsible, but it still does not sit well with me to deal with that monster. Even so, I refused to make a decision until speaking with Longtail.
I also informed Hawksclaw that there were rumblings in the Duchy of Harken to remove Lord Mayor Von Haber from his position. During our meeting, the Lord Mayor had pushed me for my loyalties. At the time, I demurred.
However, I feel more pressed than ever to pick a side in a political battle I have avoided my entire life. Choose wrongly and I might thrust my entire command in a war which we cannot hope to win. But, failure to take a side will certainly result in great upheaval which threatens to destroy everything we have built. It might even result in the expulsion of my Ranges from Echer’Naught. I admit, in this battle I am at a loss on which route to take.
Two days later, on the 12th, we received a messenger from the Town Watch that Longtail and Alfred had been spotted south of town, but in the company of a large wagon. I dispatched Hawksclaw to meet her at the Orphanage. As it turned out, while in the Eckhart lands, Longtail had acquired 24 war orphans who sought sanctuary in her new orphanage. Worse, she returned with reports of lands under siege by forces of Darkness and confirmed political intrigue in Echer’Naught. She also brought news of a possible deal. If we would agree to send an army to support young Lord Eckhart, he would agree to support whomever I chose.
I will defend the lands of Olara, regardless. But as to the battle at home, I know not.
After Longtail delivered her report, I asked to speak with her privately. There I asked frankly whether she wished to move forward with the assassin’s deal. I would have much preferred to to refuse the deal and find a way, any other way, to deal with the threat. But, showing immense dedication and mercy, Longtail consented to the deal only if she could be the one to meet and to deliver the final goods to the assassins.
I reluctantly approved the mission. The deal was simple, the assassin leads us to the “broker” who holds the contract on our lives, and the bounty, and we allow him to take his “cut” for Longtail’s assassination…and let him leave alive and free. Hawksclaw arranged for a meet with the assassin.
Longtail apparently went shopping and then arranged for young Sarah to move in permanently to the outpost. I am well pleased to have her here with us.
Later that evening, more, early the morning after, Athrate Alystar arrived with his associates, a human Darkness Slayer Mujin Von Deitrich, and a massive Ogress warrior named Fekla. I sent Felka to our stables, the only structure large enough to house her. Von Dietrich I sent with Evoran to the kitchens for food while I went into conference with Sir Alystar.
What he revealed has rocked me to my core. If his information is correct, as we have battled storms, arcmancers, criminals and Prelacy agents, a much larger threat has been growing just south of our lands. A threat, if not checks, threatened to destabilize our entire region.
As we spoke, Evoran pulled reports from all corners and going nearly a year back. The picture they painted lined up perfectly with Sir Alystar’s warning.
In summation: Forces of Shaya’Nor had for almost a year been sending teams of agents into the Southern Kingdoms hunting for arcane artifacts of extraordinary power. During their missions, they had managed to dig up numerous powerful servants of Vainar and raise them from torpor. One of these servants, or another Lord of the Dead had began to establish a base of power south of Echer’Naught, but north of Farwatch. In addition, the sudden appearance of a strange dark powder that seemed to have the ability to forcibly convert Goblinesh to Trogladesh and reports of Builders and forces of Flame working with these teams presented a terrifying prospect.
Someone of immense power was raising an army of Darkness in the Northern Wildlands. And, we had very little information as to who. We had received rumors of a “Dark Court”: a powerful warlord known only as “The Butcher”, a suspected builder called “The Mechanist”, a possible vampire known only as “Morden”, a Wraith called “The Fiend”, an immense werewolf known as “The Wolf”, and someone called the “Baron of Farwatch”.
And at their head, a new Dark Power who seemed obsessed with ancient artifacts of Dark power, and one particular item…something called the Chalice of Blood.
After delivering their report, and hearing about the woes in Eckhart lands, Alystar and Von Dietrich resupplied and then left to head south to continue the fight.
All of this happened on the morning of the 13th. That evening, we received word that the Assassin would meet and I sent Longtail and Hawksclaw to the meeting with a heavy heart. Of the meeting, I know only that it was mediated by our sometimes friend/ sometimes bane Therel Fateweaver.
That was a very sleepless night.
Upon their return I learned that the assassin, a Malakaran had met them in the wee hours in a tavern in Low Town. He led them out of town to the North where the traveled until dawn arriving at a quaint farmhouse just off the main road.
The assassin explained that the house would be guarded by about 8 guards and it was not nearly as quaint as it seemed. In truth, in the bucolic design, my Rangers noted a flat, open killing field and a sturdy stone house with clear lines of fire on all sides.
Hawksclaw sent Longtail and the assassin as scouts, while he approached the house from the side. He had nearly reached the killing field when a bolt from an upstairs window pierced his shoulder.
His position revealed, Hawksclaw quickly engaged, sprinting across the killing field and blasting the sniper’s perch with a Jet of pure Life energy.
Meanwhile, at the front door, Longtail picked the lock and walked into a fire trap and an ambush. With her usual courage, she pushed through and quickly dropped one bandit. Outside, Hawksclaw was climbing up the house and through the hole he created.
When Hawksclaw entered the house, he found the body of the man he had blasted, alive, but down. Another man fired at him missing. Hawksclaw again unleashed a magic torrent and blasted a hole in the wall, but this time missed the man.
Downstairs Longtail attacked the second bandit, engaging in melee. Trading blows in a furious battle, my Ranger taking only superficial wounds.
Upstairs, Hawksclaw chased his foe around the house until he heard the man throwing himself out of a second story window to escape the Alakar Ranger. What Hawksclaw did find was the last two bandits dead outside a cracked door. Below, Lontail slew the last bandit and turned to head deeper into the downstairs rooms.
Cautiously, Lt. Hawksclaw entered the room to find a tidy office, a large desk before a window overlooking the farm. Slumped over the desk was an Olaran man in fine clothes and beside the unconscious man was the assassin. The man claimed that the “broker” was not dead, but unconscious and that he had his money.
Lt. Hawksclaw allowed the assassin to leave with his coin, but before he did, he made sure the contracts on our lives remained. Not only did Hawksclaw recover the contracts, but also a wealth of information on Red Store in Echer’Naught. He might have uncovered more, but his earlier display of power had severely damaged the house and Longtail shouted a warning that the house was coming down.
Without hesitation, Lt. Hawksclaw lifted the unconscious man and hurled him out of the window before racing back to the first man and dumping him, still unconscious, out of his original hole. The prisoners out of danger, Hawksclaw scrambled out the hole and to the ground.
As he secured the guard, he sent Longtail to grab the “broker”. Just as they began to load the men on the horses, the house behind them collapsed and caught on fire. Leaving the ruins behind them, Longtail and Hawksclaw mounted their horses and returned to Echer’Naught by the evening of the same day, the 14th.
With the assassin’s dealt with, we were more free to move about the town. It was on the 15th that young Sarah began to act very oddly indeed, spending long hours within her chambers, sewing. Early in the day, she handed each of us an invitation that announced the union between [redacted] and [redacted] at location [redacted]. Then, about mid-day Longtail was taken away by a group of 12 heavily armed Brinchie. Throughout the remainder of the day strange visitors arrived including High Druidess Treesinger, a rare and delightful treat.
A few hours before dusk, Sarah broke us into groups and handed each group a series of directions. I was paired with Stormhammer and after a rousing romp through half of Echer’Naught and the region to the north of the town I entered an enchanting glade filled with a Brinchie tribal camp.
Garlands of flowers, blooming out of season strung between trees and saplings. A great roaring fire spat sparks into the night’s sky. Food and beverages, casks of ale and bottles of wine were stacked around a ceremonial ring. The last to arrive was Streetrunner in a intricately tooled leather armor and ceremonial Brinchie armor. Out of the great tent stepped Aradove Longtail in a close fitting dress of fine linen with loose fitting arms and careful needlework around the throat, cuffs and hems. It was a cream color and far less provocative than the first outfit she wore when we first met.
And yet, there was a simple purity to the dress which hugged and complimented her form, light against the gray of her fur. She was at once elegant and innocent, beautiful and proud. I could not have been more proud of her if I were her own father.
She came to Streetrunner and in a language I do not know, Brin, exchanged vows of undying love. Then, their hands were tied and a voice rang out through the night air singing in the same tongue a song of such beauty and loss that I nearly wept. As he sang, Treesinger and her four Druids sang blossoms into being which carpeted the ground and filled the air with the sweet scents of wildflowers.
I have never experienced such a moving ceremony and it will carry with me throughout the rest of my life. Before the revelry became too much, I pulled young Longtail aside. Since Streetrunner had asked for my blessing to marry Longtail, a custom he little understood but wished to respect our custom, I have wracked my brain for a suitable wedding gift.
After much deliberation I resolved to offer Longtail my most precious possession, my name and honor. To her, I presented papers inducting Longtail and her future family as a Vassal family to the Wolfhaven estate. She seemed overjoyed and I detected tears. She accepted and released me to depart before any sort of depravity could sully my reputation.
Before leaving, I revealed to Hawksclaw and Longtail that, after accepting Hawksclaw’s request to enter his family as a Vassal to my own that, with the signing of the papers, we would all be a family not just in the strength of our bonds but in all legal matters. With that, I departed, but leaving a happy couple and my new kin.
I rode back to Echer’Naught, my only companion young Alfred who has taken his oaths as my squire to heart. Together, we entered Echer’Naught during the 13th hours, as the cold winds of winter began to tug at our cloaks.
Yet as the warmth of the matrimony fire faded, thoughts colder and darker than the wintry night invaded my mind. Plans were already in motion for the Echer’Naught summit, and while we had vanquished Assassins, Prelacy, Red Store, the Mad Bomber and suppressed the Flame Archer, now a new, graver threat loomed on the horizon.
I must secure out southern border and at the same provide superlative protection for the Summit. Never mind future plans for the Crimson Crusade.
Quietly, I returned to my office and began plans which would have ramifications for my family, my city, and my country for decades or centuries to come.
Your most obedient servant,
A. Wolfhaven, Colonel
Regional Command at Echer’Naught, Olara