Campaign of the Month: June 2018

Shaintar Legends Awaken: Rangers of the Greenway Road; Regional Command-Echer'Naught

Campaign Report 112
Paradise on Earth

Steelwing

Planting Moons 23rd, 3127

There are moments, few, perhaps, but in those fleeting moments of perfection, we find divinity here in the strife and mud. Flying, can be like that…soaring far above the world, the wind caressing your skin. Victory after a hard fought battle. But, nothing in this life compares to love. When hearts beat in perfect sync, when all the barriers that separate us and we become one existential being of pure love, joy, passion… Love…is perfect.

Golden Eagle 33rd, 3127

Early in the morn on the 33rd, the Sea Ranger and two escort ships shipped anchors and slipped away from the port in Prastul, heading back to Granite Port. Our plan was to reach Granite Port within the week and begin a more thorough search, with Newt reporting any sighting along the coast. That was the plan.

A day out of Prastul we hit a fog bank like nothing I have seen. The sailors, though… I’ve found, during what little time I spent near a coastline, that sailors tend toward superstition. Ghost ships, sea people, and more. But nothing strikes more fear, nor has more legends, than the Veil…that milky white mist at the ends of the map.

I have not seen it myself. Though, I have seen the Everwall. I will never forget the fear and anxiety on the faces of the sailors as we slipped into that fog bank. Hardened men who feared neither storm to steel. Yet, these men and women stared into the mist like they could see every horrible death imaginable in its impenetrable white.

Though I never had the courage to ask, I imagine this is what the Veil looks like…from within. Not that I’m stupid enough to actually find out! Still, we drifted through that haze for most of the Golden Eagle 33rd and into Planting Moons 1st.

Planting Moons 1st, 3127

I know that we we drifted no more than 20 hours or so, but it felt as if time stretch out thin. The fog was so thick, you could not see from side of the ship to the other. Every so often, I would reach down to feel the secure substance of the deck or my mind would begin to play tricks, convincing me I was flying through a cloud…even though my wings were still.

And the sound…everything was muffled and hollow. Voices seemed to die on the air. Even the constant creak and groan of the ship faded to a dull ache. It was eerie.

But that was not the most bizarre occurrence in the mist.

At some point, by my guess mid-morn on the 1st, I was on the bow of the ship, helping guide as we split the Jewels. Over the sound of my own breathing, I heard a muffled sound somewhere off the Starboard bow. It was faint, but almost like coughing. I called out, signalling to the pilot.

In the mist it was almost impossible to determine any progress or direction, but slowly, ever so slowly, a shape, low in the water, resolved into view. At first, I could only make out an imperceptible smudge of slightly darker grey in the whiteout of the fog. But, after a moment, the smudge took shape, a low, oblong vessel in the water. Despite the urgency of our mission, we could not help but offer aid. Still, I was anxious. I have known the Winghunters to use wounded Aevakar to lure my kindred to their deaths.

So, as we approached, I kept a close watch around the boat, seeking the telltale flash of Thaumaturgy in the white.

As it neared, I could see the vessel was a small boat, more a life-raft than as ship. And it was heavily laden, lying low in the eerily still waters. And then, I heard it, a faint sound, more a gasp…or a yawn…

Ingrid!

I know her voice like I know my own heartbeat. Shouting to the ship to heave to, I leaped off the bow, fear giving me power. I dropped low to the waves, picked up speed, pulling up right as I reached the smaller boat. It as full of bodies!

Oh Zavonis NO!

I landed as lightly as I could, but the small craft bobbed dangerously. I peered through the murk, trying to make out individual forms in the mass of soggy, ragged arms and legs. Here an ogre head…Ranna! There…a bushy beard. Blackstone!

It was the entire team…plus one more. A strangely dressed, black haired warrior slumped in the bow, seemingly dead. And then I saw them. Kenzie unconscious, head lying in Ingrid’s lap. the fire of her ginger hair a splash of color in the almost uniform white. Ingrid’s eyes fluttered open as the boat jostled. She seemed dazed for a moment, then her eyes locked with mine. They widened suddenly, those beautiful hazel eyes…

Her lips were parched, her skin raw from exposure. He hair was crusted with dried sea-salt… She had never looked more beautiful and ALIVE in that moment. Then others stirred. A voice, I’m not sure who called my name.

Alpha Team was ALIVE!

My girls were alive!

Out of the gloom, the Sea Ranger’s bow loomed and a rope was tossed over. I caught it and secured the boat. Then, a boarding ladder was rolled over the side and I began helping those that could move up onto the deck. Toward the rear of the life-boat, a stretcher was lowered, stabilized by four ropes. I loaded Kenzie onto the cot and watched anxiously until she was safely aboard. Then, I went back for the others. The new guy next.

Everyone seemed exhausted from their ordeal, and some were wounded, from which fight I cannot say. But with a bit of grog and bread in their bellies, they soon showed signs of life. Captain Roberts was kind enough to offer his cabin for those hardest hurt by their time at sea. I personally escorted Kenzie to a bed, Ingrid close by our side. There I stayed for much of the trip to Anasia.

I know through private conversations with Ingrid, and overhearing discussions with the rest of the team and Captain Roberts something of the Alpha Team’s ordeal. After the Malakaran smuggler ship was sunk by the Winghunters, most of the team was washed away. They soon found themselves floating through a heavy mist, not unlike the one in which they were found. After drifting for a while on the open sea, they found themselves washing up on a strange shore.

It was grayish, and rockier than most in Shaintar. The Explorer was unconscious, though I believe the others survived more, or less, intact. The sky was gray, but all admitted to feeling something off about the place. While the others milled on the beach, assessing their situation, Blackstone climbed up the beach to the beachhead. When he reached the top, he described a wide, scrubby plain. In the distance, he saw mountains, and a lone keep…aflame.

One rider, pushing his horse hard, made for the coast, right where Alpha Team had washed up. Blackstone shouted, and the rider veered. That rider, the same man we pulled unconscious from the bow of their boat, is named Marcus Regillus…

And yes, he is related, cousin I believe, to Sir Anaxelum Regillus, Wolfhaven’s right hand man.

When Marcus skidded his horse to a stop, he pulled a scrap of silk from his tunic and held it up for Blackstone to see. It was a crudely rendered copy of the Wolfhaven crest. Clearly, he was seeking Colonel Wolfhaven. When Blackstone nodded in affirmative the man rode down to meet the rest of the Rangers, clearly agitated. From his vantage above the beach, Blackstone spied a horde of angry warriors pouring over the plains toward the coast.

Marcus Regillus motioned for the Rangers to follow, before spurring his horse down the beach. They followed and soon found their way to the life-boat. Marcus Regillus then stripped the saddle and bridle from the horse, before slapping its rump and setting it free. Then, he loaded what little he had on the boat and motioned for the Rangers to hurry. With the enemy horde bearing down on them, the Rangers climbed into the boat, Grendel pushing it out to sea, before climbing inside. On shore, the horde of angry natives fired bows and shouted, but did not attempt to swim out.

After that, none of the Rangers quite knew where they were. Marcus Regillus claimed to be Caladonian from Caldadon or Caladonia. Though he at first could not speak Galean, he quickly, perhaps magically, mastered our tongue. When asked about his world, he said Austeria…wherever that is. From the debates I have overhead, the land is either another land in the Veil around Shaintar, or somewhere else entirely. Another magical plane?

Whatever the case, soon the coast drifted from view and the Rangers found themselves caught in a seemingly endless cloud of thick, white, soupy mist…or fog. Again, not unlike that which they were in when we found them. All attempts at navigation proved fruitless. None of the Explorer’s advanced tradecraft provided a location, though he managed to keep them alive with water from a condensation rigs constructed of their shirts…

Clever…

More worrisome. When Ingrid attempted to summon a Fairy from the Eternal Forest of Landra, she discovered that she was cut off from Life! It was at this point that the Explorer theorized that they were IN the Veil. As mentioned, I have heard in recent days, enough superstition about the Veil to fill a lifetime. The prevailing wisdom is that anyone who enters the Veil, disappears forever, destroyed by the roiling energies trapped in the mist. Though some claim that boats are occasionally simply transported to far flung parts of the world, like time and space have no meaning. A few claim that ships have entered the mist, only to return centuries later full of skeletons, but with fresh food still sitting on the table…

Whatever the case, if they HAVE traversed the Veil, they would be on of the first to live through the experience.

Ingrid speaks of being marooned in the boat, trapped in an endless milky white void, denied day or night. There was no wind, and the water was still as glass. An endless, white torment of slowly losing your mind as you starved to death, or died of dehydration. An inescapable living nightmare…

Soon after rescuing the Alpha Team, the mist burned off and we made good headway. As soon as he awoke, Marcus Regillus demanded to be allowed to contact Wolfhaven. Fortunately, Captain Roberts staffed a Farspeaker who agreed to make contact. I do not know what was said, but our orders were to deliver the team, and Marcus Regillus to Anasia safely. There, we were to wait for an escort from Echer’Naught to secure our travel home.

For the next five days, I split my time between watching the ship’s backtrail and curling in the bunk with Ingrid and Kenzie. By Planting Moons 2nd, I could see the red sailed Pinnace of Andak-Gol Ivar ki Novri on the horizon, dogging our every tack. They are persistent, I will give them that.

Planting Moons 6th, 3127

Early in the morning on the 6th, we arrived off the coast of Anasia. Our escorts peeled off to screen us from the sea. Even as we dropped out anchor, a flotilla of small boats paddled toward us from the shore. The lead boat docked alongside and an elven Ranger Lieutenant climbed aboard. He informed Captain Roberts that the Rangers had established a Ranger station in Anasia for Alpha Team to rest and recover until their escorts arrived from Echer’Naught.

We were loaded onto boats, and paddled ashore. Just east of the port town, the local elven Rangers had set a rather large medical encampment. Rangers requiring medical attention were sent to a spacious infirmary tent. The rest of us were provided arms and armor, but no Ranger cloaks or gear. Then, we rested.

Kenzie recovered quickly and I spent most of my time with her and Ingrid. The other members of Alpha team groused and complained about the equipment. But, I think everyone was happy to be on solid ground. When the dregordian of the group is sick of the sea, you know you had a bad trip.

Of the Kal, we saw not sign, but I knew they were out there, waiting. Corporal Sssahliissstah remained with Marcus Regillus. The camp was secured by the elves.

Planting Moons 10th, 3127

Early on the 10th, Sergeant Alfred Wolfhaven arrived with the rest of Beta Teams to escort Alpha Team and Marcus Regillus back to Echer’Naught. I’d not met Alfred before, but I’d heard rumors. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting, but he was shorter than I imagined. Still, he had the elven grace about his features and an easy manner. His men said little, going about their tasks with quiet efficiency.

Most importantly, Sergeant Wolfhaven brought a large wagon for the ogres, and a few casks of dwarven ale. We all drank and ate well that night.

Planting Moons 11th, 3127

In the wee hours of the morning, we embarked on our homeward trip back to Echer’Naught. Sergeant Wolfhaven rode with us, while two of his men rode off as flankers. The fourth, and last, dismounted and roade int eh wagon with Marcus Regillus. Though Sergeant Wolfhaven was pleasant enough, conversing amiably, his men said next to nothing.

First, we passed Ey’Driegh. The isolated Elven city has grown to serve as the Regional Ranger HQ for the Elven lands. There we stayed in their treetop outpost. I quite enjoyed myself, showing Ingrid and Kenzie the beauty of the elven wood’s canopy.

After that, we passed through Greenvale and the Rangers therein. They welcomed us as long, lost brothers. Apparently, the Rangers of Echer’Naught, and Alpha in particular, have a strong relationship with Greenvale which dates back years. The Rangers who operate from an L-shaped building, at the base of a small hill, just north and west of the city. This headquarters is equipped with its own training grounds, stables, forge, armory, and barracks."

Once through Greenvale we turned north to Farwatch. Again, the Farwatch Rangers share a close, special relationship with Colonel Wolfhaven. As I understand, their commander Thaleon is the Colonel’s personal Priest. We stayed in the renovated the Ermengild Manor. It sits on a key vantage point overlooking the heart of Farwatch. We ate well, and were toasted as brothers.

Planting Moons 21st, 3127

And then, it was the last leg toward Echer’Naught. We reached the city late in the afternoon. As soon as we spied the walls in the far distance, Sergeant Wolfhaven handed Ingrid papers and informed her that were would be entering the city as a merchant caravan. It was then that I noted nothing in our equipment identified us as Rangers. In fact, by any reasonable observer, we were just that…merchants headed into the city to purchase goods. He and his men, save the one who rode in the wagon, rode off.

We waited almost two hours in the long line of wagons seeking to enter the city. Eventually, we were inspected by the Rangers and watch at the gate before being allowed entry without issue. Reaching the Farwatch Gate Market, we were met by Sergeant Wolfhaven and his men, all wearing non-descript clothing. Apparently, they had rode around to other entrances, entered the city, changed and had time to meet us at the market all while we waiting in line for entry. Still, not a bad bit of tradecraft.

We followed the wagons into High Towne through the southern gate and right up to the Regional Headquarters. There, Marcus was immediately escorted to meet Colonel Anderson. We were placed on convalescence and given leave.

Later that evening, we all meet at the Wayfarer’s Rest for drinks. Ivan “The Lighthouse” Sokolav provides a private back room for our party. I admit, I get a bit tipsy, though, I get to show the Explorer a “Tour of the World.” About when we reach Kal, he opens up. He’s actually a funny guy when he’s not being a prick.

At sometime after dark, the party breaks up. I excuse myself to escort Ingride and Kenzie back to their barracks…though we never arrive…

It seems they had done some soul-searching. Funny how almost dying changes priorities. I will say only this, I have never felt closer to my fellow Rangers.

Planting Moons 22nd, 3127

We woke before dawn, procured bribes and headed to recover the unit’s lost gear at the Quartermaster Station. Sergeant Major Stormhammer was NOT pleased to see us. We were “escorted” to a small, private storage room where we spent four hours signing out for our personal gear. Afterwards, the unit breaks up for a bit, I remain with Kenzie and Ingrid.

Around 7:30PM we were all "summoned’ by Lady Moonsilver to meet at the back room of the Barracks Tavern at 8PM, “Sergeant Whitestone’s Old Office”. When we arrive, we find Captain Hawksclaw waiting. Drinks and food provided, he sat us down to chat. The main purpose for the informal meeting place was to discuss our current situation. It seemed that the Winghunters had followed us and were reported to be just south of the city. I imagine they have long since entered, but without proof, I said nothing.

For the time being, until something can be ascertained, we are being kept within the city. For Ingrid and Kenzie’s sake, I approve, though I know has little good it will do ultimately.

I respect the Rangers, and this command, for what they do. But they are ill equipped for this kind of war. Andak-Gol Ivar ki Novri is coming and walls or guards won’t stop him. He’ll hit us where we do not expect. Wear us down till we are too weak, and then strike.

To Captain Hawksclaw, I offered myself as bait to draw them out. He seemed amenable to the idea. I just hope the Rangers to do spend to much time deliberating. Every hour we grant them cedes the advantage more and more. If I must sacrifice myself so that they may live, so be it.

After the official brief, the Captain spoke of the old team, reminiscing about days gone by. It is hard imagining the man before me as a young, brash Ranger Trainee… Just five years changed him into the hard bitten warrior Captain so feared and idolized by the Rangers of the city? What horrors must he have seen. This is a hard life. We should find comfort and solace where we may.

With Last Call, we all headed out, us to our barracks, the Captain home to his family. Still, the evening left me with a deep sense of melancholy. Just a feeling that these happy days in the sun may soon fall into shadow and darkness. I clutched Ingrid and Kenzie a bit tighter as we walked back to the barracks.

Planting Moons 23rd, 3127

In the AM, we were invited to the Local HQ. There, we were posted on light duty for the duration. I believe we have mandatory training scheduled. Of our mission, we were sworn to the most absolute secrecy. Which, is easy enough for me, I still have no idea what happened.

With Spring turning to Summer, Alpha Team is home, but stalked by a dangerous enemy. While we tilt at windmills, death stalks our every movement. Still, nothing seems to drag me down. My newfound intimacy is a strong wind which lifts me above such worries and wraps me in warmth and comfort.

Steelwing

Addendum:

Planting Moons 24th, 3127

Tal’Car joined the Rangers

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Rysak Ironblood Last Will and Testament
Died Red Wolf 6th, 3127

To the current members of Alpha team

You may not know me, and I may not know any of you, but I want you to have some advice so you don’t repeat my sins and find yourself dieing all alone without even your cloak to keep you warm. I made a stupid decision that cost me my team, my cloak, and a good friend. Do yourselves a favor always trust your command. Trust your instincts, and above all else trust each other. No one gets put on this team by accident. You will be put Into down right suicidal missions sometimes. You will be shoved into politics, sent to places where no ranger should go. But, in the end you will find it to be the most rewarding team, you will have respect from fellow rangers and mercenaries, and anyone who know of what alpha team does. Trust me when I say it is all worth it. Never loose sight of that and you will be just fine

Sincerely Rysak Ironblood formal ranger fist class of greyson grey rangers alpha team

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Memorandum from Capt. Hawksclaw
Dated Planting Moons 22nd, 3127

From: Capt. R.S. Hawksclaw
To: Regional HQ, Command Staff, and Finance Office
Re: Funding, and special projects for the Echer’naught garrison.
CC: Sgt’s. A. Longtail, S. Ravenwood, Col’s. A. Wolfhaven, Anderson

Greetings,
I have been in this office for just under four months now. The organizational duties, and details are done. Now it is time to get to work.
Per recent events both local, and abroad, I would like to propose a number of initiatives to be undertaken (pending approval/funding) immediately. These are laid out below in order of the urgency that (I feel) these projects merit. If more details are necessary, I will be happy to discuss these initiatives in person. In short, it’s time to expand our operational capacity; with a renewed focus on recruiting, and these measures, I believe we can do just that.

1. Lease or buy more storage space, that the Echer’naught garrison might increase it’s grain, and salt meat stores. This will help, alleviate shortages which would certainly arise, not if but when the conflicts abroad come closer to home.
This initiative would also include increasing our procurement of timber, and other non-consumables. To these ends, and pending approval, I intend to contact Capt. G. Völkstagg via Farspeaker in attempt to secure his estate (already under Ranger contract) for the planting of timber, and/or grain.
I will also make contact with my own people in the Elven Nation to obtain suitable, fast growing saplings, and to research what grain(s) might be planted or hybridized with our native seeds to produce a greater harvest.

2. Train, and equip heavy mounted Ranger infantry. To build on the success of the Wolfhaven Free Riders, I would like to select a small number of suitable Rangers under my command to begin training as heavily armored/mounted infantry.
I would use this team as the core to build a detachment that would act in support of our more conventional/lightly armored Rangers. (Much in the way that the Olarans use their Knights.)
If approved, I intend to seek the guidance of Sir Eric Halten, and work to secure his, or one of his subordinates assistance, and guidance in the training program.

3. Heavy weapons. I want to build a battery of no less than eight smaller/mobile siege weapons (preferably wagon mounted ballista or scorpions) to support Ranger operations in the vicinity of Echer’naught.
This one is pretty straightforward. We will acquire the weapons, train the crews, and divide the battery into two sections consisting of three or four engines each. The sections would be supported by an ordinance wagon, and a detachment of mounted archers each. The ordinance wagons will be fitted with parts for repair, and ammunition. The detachment of mounted archers will serve as scouts, spotters, and support.

4. Form a committee to research less conventional tactics, and weaponry. For instance, more effective means of weaponizing salt. Whether it be through napping it into arrow, and/or crossbow heads.
Researching Arcfire, and how it may be employed more effectively, and on a larger, more accessible scale.
More effective deployment of magic, both offensive, and defensive.
Things of this nature… In short, to improve, and continue to build on what we already know. All this is because if we become complacent it will be our downfall, and while I’m in command we will continue to change, and improve.

That’s all for now, but I’m sure there will be more to follow. Thank you for your consideration. Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Respectfully Submitted,
Capt. R. S. Hawksclaw

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Campaign Report 111
A Pirate's Life

Steelwing

Golden Eagle 33rd, 3127

Like old times. Bad memories. Two months, still no sign of the Alpha Team. No sign of Ingrid or Kenzie. Ascended protect them…wherever they are…

First Hunt 2nd, 3127

Up close the Kal-A-Nar Carrack was a MONSTER. Sixty meters long, twenty meter beam, displacing 500 tonnes, she sported three square rigged masts. For defense, she was armed to the teeth with fourteen ballista, and a crew of dozens. Daunting to say the least.

Facing off against the titan were three Black Armada war caravels. By comparison, they looked like flees harassing a bear. Only eighteen meters long, and five meter beam, even combined they were dwarfed by Carrack. But they were fast, and circling like sharks. Each with four ballista of their own, they had almost the firepower of the Kal warship.

Unfortunately, the rest of the team, minus the command staff, commandeered the slowest dinghy in the fleet. I made a few passes of the Carrack, looking for Novri or his merry band of murders, but saw no sign of the Winghunters on the deck. A few of the ship’s crew took pot shots, but I stayed out of range.

Banking back around the stern of the ship, I caught the flash as the hot shot fired from the port side ballista blew the team’s longboat to smithereens. There was nothing I could do. I sprinted for the wreckage, heart in my throat. To my relief, I could see the bobbing heads of the Rangers splashing toward the Carrack.

Fortunately, with their boat destroyed, the Kal turned their attention back to the circling Caravels. I have to give them credit. The Malakaran certainly knew their work, and were bold. Stone shot shattered against the hull, raking the deck. Solid iron shot slammed into the hull, bouncing off the reinforced timbers. For their part, the anchored Carrack had difficulty targeting the fast moving pirates. For the moment, the battle was a stalemate.

In the water, the Rangers, and surviving allied pirates swam, or in the case of Blackstone and the Explorer, paddled for the ship. The dwarves each bobbed with the swells, tied to empty barrels. Their pace was torturous.

Crossbowmen along the port bulwarks knelt, keeping aim on the Rangers in the water, waiting until they swam into Range. They were bobbing ducks. I knew they would never reach the ship alive without cover. Over the next 10 to 15 minutes, I fired on and dive-bombed the port side of the ship, trying to keep the Kal focused on me and not the team in the water. It worked well enough, but with the high swells and choppy ocean waves, the team made almost no progress. Worse, I see Kenzie and Ingrid far behind the others.

Abandoning my efforts to provide cover, I spring past the lead group and drop lines to Kenzie and Ingrid. I need to get them to the boat fast, before they are riddled with crossbow bolts…or worse. Ingrid grabs on, but Kenzie takes a few tries. A firepot smashed in the water around them, lighting the ropes on fire, but not enough to shake them loose. I take a bolt to my shoulder for my efforts. It hurt, but not enough to impair the wing. Once both women are tied fast, I spring back for the ship.

By this time, the others were in range and the aforementioned crossbowmen had opened fire, peppering the sea. As mentioned, the boat was huge, and the deck loomed over a story above the waterline. With few, if any handholds, and the hull slick with brackish algae, there was little, if anything, to use to climb. But that was their problem. I was rapidly approaching that massive, wooden wall. I had to time it just right. Too soon and Kenzie and Ingrid would miss the deck and be flung over the starboard side. Too late and…splat.

Waiting until the last moment, I dropped to the deck, picking up speed. Cleared the bulwark by a feather. Scared the scat out of two crossbowmen leaning over for a shot at the Rangers in the water. Then I climbed for all I was worth. Pulling both Kenzie and Ingrid out of the water took everything I had, plus I think I got a boost from Zavonis. The sea wind certainly buoyed me at that moment. I blasted into the air faster that I have ever flown in my life, and then felt the sharp, painful jerk of the line as Kenzie and Ingrid were yanked out of the water like trout on a line.

Whether by skill or luck, my plan worked. Both women cleared the bulwark and started swinging over the top deck. I banked hard fore, trying for an arc, rather than just launch them over the other side. Kenzie made the drop, hit the deck and slit hard into the far bulwark. But she made it. Ingrid hung on a bit longer, flinging further across the deck, but she stuck the landing. The weight shift nearly slammed me into the mast, but I managed to recover.

The rest of the crew was still paddling in the water. Some of the pirates were trying to scale the port hull with knives, while the Rangers paddled to the anchor chain. On deck, the pirates swarmed Ingride and Kenzie, who were now alone. I came across for a pass to clear the girls, before banking around the far side and covering the Rangers in the water. Out to sea, the Black Armada ships were closing. With the Ingrid and Kenzie tying up two ballista crews, the outgoing fire dropped, allowing the pirates to close.

And then a new vessel, smaller even than the pirate carracks appeared. I could not tell from the distance friend or foe. But, I had an ill boding. Where was Andak-Gol Ivar ki Novri and his team?! Why had they not appeared. Something wasn’t right.

On the aft castle, the ship’s captain shouted for the crew to get underweigh. One crew put their backs into the anchor winch, while others unfurled the sails. If they didn’t hurry, the Rangers in the water would be left behind. It broke my heart, but I left Kenzie and Ingrid, circling back around for the dwarf and the builder. They were the slowest. I threw them lines, and they both managed to grab on. This time, I just aimed for the anchor, where Aronzo was already scrambling up…

Where in the Abyss did he come from?!

With three Rangers on the chain, Nest clawing up the side, and Kenzie and Ingrid on deck, things seemed to be going our way at last…until I saw the first pirate ship burst into flames. I never saw the shot, just flames rippling over the deck like a living thing. Then Aronzo because Grendel, and the anchor crashed back into the sea, taking the, now, ogre with it. Newt made the deck and engaged the Kal crew. Ingrid lay down a torrent of bolts, ripping through the crew, but Kenzie was hard pressed.

I swept around, clearing space for Newt to break free as Aronzo, as Grendel, launched the brinchie and dwarf onto the deck…right into a group of Kal. Winging back around, I ripped through their ranks, cutting down two, and nearly knocking another off the boat. Kenzie started grappling one of the Kal crew, dangerously close to going overboard and our boatswain, the pirate in charge of the sunken longboat reached the deck. He immediately started to turn one of the ballista.

A second pirate ship exploded off to starboard and the third was tacking in our direction. The Kal Captain ordered the ballista turned in and fired away at the Rangers on the deck, paying no heed to their own crew. The Explorer tried to disable one of the ballista but his waterlogged arclance sputtered. Newt sprinted for the lower decks, while the rest of the Rangers battled to clear the top deck. I was swinging around for another pass when a flurry of bolts slammed into me. I hit the deck hard, nearly blacking out.

Above me, Kal were leaping over railings, swords drawn. Then the entire ship lurched to the side as the last pirate ship, ablaze, rammed us amidships. From the flames floated a familiar figure. My heart sank. Novri’s Flamedancer…

Now I know what happened to the pirates. Of the Winghunter himself, no sign. But she was enough.

Rough hands grabbed me. I saw more Kal tackle Ingrid and Kenzie, struggling to subdue them. Amidships, the Carrack exploded as the Flamedancer brought down a veritable firestorm. Two blasted near the center mast cracked the 200 foot vessel in half. A third blew off part of the bow, obliterating the Blackstone and the Explorer. From that direction, a Horde Champion reared its head, and began to bathe the ship in flames. Only Newt remained. The rest of Alpha Team were missing, captures, or dead…

And the ship was sinking around us. I tried to cut my way free to Kenzie who was nearest, but the ship pitched wildly and I was dashed against the aft castle, which was suddenly below me. I must have hit my head, because by the time I regained consciousness, I was no longer in the sea. I woke in an iron cage. Someone was kind enough to line the floor with straw.

My worst fears were suddenly realized. The Winghunters had captured me…I knew what would happen next. Oddly, all I could think about were the Rangers, in particular Kenzie and Ingrid. Had they survived?

But, it was not the Winghunters… The man who crawled into the small after compartment where my cage hunt was a Malakaran. Smuggler, by the stench. He cooed over my pretty plumage. Though I was certainly pleased to be spared the horror of the Kal, I doubted that this man had much better planned. He ignored my demands to know who had captured me, or where I was. Something seemed off about all of this. How was I found and “rescued” so quickly after the battle?

First Hunt 3rd, 3127

I’m not sure how long I was in the dank cell, though it did not seem like more than a day, when the ship started lurching violently. Then, a hole burst through the hull near me. Water began to pour in. Wonderful. The smugglers were under attack!

I worked feverishly at the bars, but to no avail. Stripped of gear, tired, wounded, and weak from exposure, there was little hope I could break free on my own. Ultimately, I was freed, but not how I would have preferred.

As I struggled, a shot tore through the hull and smashed the cage against the wall. On the bright side, it warped the bars enough for me to escape. On the other hand, my right wing shattered under the impact. Through the blinding pain I swore as I wrenched the door open…water pouring in over my head. I just managed to free myself when the ship exploded.

I was under water, so the shockwave only knocked me out…again…

First Hunt 5th, 3127

When I regained consciousness this time, surprising as it seems, I was popping in the tide along a wide stretch of white sand. My wing ached, clearly broken, my lips were cracked, throat parched. I was in bad shape, but alive. Dragging myself ashore, I looked around through eyes nearly swollen shut for other survivors or debris…but saw nothing. So, I staggered inland, looking for water, food, and shade. After a while, I collapsed near a fresh water stream. There, I faded in and out of consciousness. I’m pretty sure a night passed.

First Hunt 6th. 3127

I woke, sometime on what I now know as the 6th. Local natives, darker skinned Korindians found me and brought me to their village. I don’t understand the language, but they seem kind enough. Their “healer” set and bound my wing, but I won’t be flying for some time. I tried to ask about other survivors, but either they don’t understand, or they have seen no one. As soon as I am able, I will go looking myself.

First Hunt 13th, 3127

Over two weeks and nothing. I have no idea what happened to the rest of Alpha Team, whether they survived the battle on the Carrack, or where they could be. But, every time I think of returning to Echer’Naught, I get this terrible feeling that I must stay. Call it loyalty, call it intuition, but I don’t think the others are dead… No, Kenzie and Ingrid are alive. But where?! I will find them. Whatever it takes.

First Hunt 15th, 3127

They found me!

I could smell the smoke from the shore. A black column blotting out the morning sky. The village was burning, villagers slaughtered. All because they gave me shelter. Damn the Kal.

I was fishing with some of the villagers, tossing nets from small boats when Novri’s band struck. I tried, Zavonis knows but I tried to get back. It was too late. And, the dying villagers were just the bait, to draw me out. Damn but it almost worked.

I couldn’t save them, but I did not allow their death to be in vain. My wing doesn’t work well, but I can glide. And I’ve been here now for almost a month. I know the land, the terrain. The locals showed me what to eat, how to fish. The Kal must burn their way through, but I can move faster. Stay ahead.

Danton. I think that’s a large town, or a city. Maybe the only on the Island. Maybe there I can find help.

First Hunt 17th, 3127

Killed two Kal today. But they got too close. Damn the Flamedancer. She’s taken one of the locals. Using him as a guide…must keep moving.

First Hunt 20th, 3127

Reached Danton. Large naval town. Not much different from any other. But not big enough to hide me. Stay on the island, keep dodging the Winghunters, or try a ship?! Dammit.

The Kal are already here. Their ship is off the coast. A small Pinnace. That was the ship I saw near Granite Port. Small, fast. They are watching the docks while their hunters close in from the jungles…

If I can’t slip passed, I’m a dead duck.

First Hunt 18th, 3127

Stowed away on a cargo hauler. Glided from the docks and slipped in past their sentries. At least the Kal won’t know. Hopefully they won’t find me for a few days…

First Hunt 19th, 3127

They found me. Have to fly…

Zavonis be praised, found another ship. Galean warship on escort to Nazatir. Captain Gillead welcomed me aboard, once I proved I was a Ranger. Looks like I’m going to Nazatir. At least the wing works.

First Hunt 23rd, 3127

Lookout spotted a sail on the horizon. Captain Gillead thinks we are being followed. Novri. Even he isn’t fool enough to attack a fully armed Galleon even with his precious Flamedancer. But, what happens when I get to Nazatir?

First Hunt 27th, 3127

I asked Captain Gillead to let me off at the South Landing of the Jewels. Less civilized, with a cluster of island close together. I can keep ahead of the Kal for months if need be. The good captain obliged and I arrived at the landing late on the 27th. By the 13th hour, I watched from a high perch as Novri’s crimson rigged Pinnace sailed into view, dropping anchor just off shore. The hunt resumes.

Golden Eagle 30th, 3127

Sleeping briefly, moving islands every few days. I think the Winghunters are getting frustrated. They’ve torched half a dozen communities, but I’m careful to avoid the locals. No reason to involved them in this. Still, the local population do not appreciate the Kal presence… Already Nazatiran privateers have arrived. I haven’t seen the Kal Pinnace in a week or two… Maybe I can leave now. Leave Novri trapped here…

Golden Eagle 31st, 3127

Hitched a ride with one of the Nazatiran privateers. Promised payment when we reached Nazatir. I know we don’t have an outpost, but I know the Rangers have a presence.

Golden Eagle 32nd, 3127

Ascended be praised. None other than Captain Roberts was docked in Nazatir. He happily paid my passage, and for the first time in months I am clean, fed, and armed. But, his news could not be more dire…

Alpha Team is missing! Corporal Newt reported in week after the battle. She washed up east of Granite Port. Took her weeks to fish wreckage out of the sea, but most of the smuggler’s cargo was recovered, along with much of Alpha Teams gear, neatly packaged and ready to sell on the Black Market. That was around the 17th of First Hunt. Then, around the 30th of the First Hunt, Muriel arrived in Echer’Naught along with Tina, Tiny, Max, King, and Diego. All accounted for and healthy. They even managed to bring along Grendel’s club and Ranna’s Great Crossbow which they, apparently, recovered from the street in Granite Port.

I was presumed dead, along with the rest of the team. For some reason, even Lady Moonsilver could not contact me. Though, she was able to communicate with Newt. By the 32nd of Golden Eagle, when I ran into Roberts, all the Team’s gear and mounts were back in Echer’Naught and there was a discussion whether to declare them Killed in Action. Again, the inestimable Captain Roberts paid for the services of a Farspeaker to let me contact Regional Command and inform them of my situation.

Command was surprisingly happy to hear that I had survived, but were concerned that I had no more information to provide. Situations were progressing back home. The War in Camon was over, more or less. Apparently a Coronation was set for next month. I explained that the Winghunters were still tracking my movements. The Rangers ordered me to remain in the region, authorizing Captain Roberts to provide transport and protection.

The search for the team continues.

Golden Eagle 33rd, 3127

The Sea Ranger and two escort ships left port in Prastul, heading back to Granite Port. Corporal Newt has been keeping an ear out for information about possible sightings. We should be there in a few weeks…

Ascended save that they are alive…somewhere…

Steelwing

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Campaign Report 110
Wherein Alpha Team Turns to Piracy

Steelwing

First Hunt 2nd, 3127

We can never outpace our demons. This much is true. How much worse, then, when one’s demons are actual…demons?

Falling Ice 32nd, 3127

We slipped out of sight of Almahrad aboard the merchant boat. Though I shared my bed with Kenzie and Ingrid, we did not share ourselves. Quarters too cramped and I fear that the good Corporal has allowed his position of power, and moral authority, to begin imposing his will upon us.

That will go poorly for him in the end. But, for the time, I must abide.

The trip was a lazy, if boring, drift down the river to the port city of Granite Port.

First Hunt 1st, 3127

We arrived in the soot covered city late in the eve on the 1st. There, we disembarked, along with our animal companions. All were winched, or led, safely to the docks. Muriel, ever the ass, elected to leap off the boat and swim her way to shore.

Once on solid stone, Corporal Grendel elected to split the party. He took Ingrid and Aronzo with him, leaving Corporal Sssahliissstah in command of the rest. I take it, from his tone and bearing, that he intends to intentionally keep me apart from Ingrid. Which, is entirely within his purview, though if a case can be made that we are being singled out for biased treatment based upon his own proclivities, I will have no choice but to file formal charges.

If fraternization within this unit is disallowed, so be it. But, for the good Corporal to maintain a flagrant relationship with someone UNDER his command, and punish peers for similar conduct, that will not stand.

Corporal Grendel, and Rangers Ingrid and Aronzo headed down the docks to find a ship home. Corporal Sssahliissstah took the rest of us into the city to find lodging. It was only well after this, that we were informed that the Corporal’s had made no provisions to link up after our tasks were done.

If that bit of poor planning were insufficient, Corporal Sssahliissstah got our party well and truly lost, at night, in a foreign city. Things became so dire at one point the ass strolled into a nearby bar and purchased a drink, with the druid Blackstone, and my dear Kenzie trying to lure her back. At that moment, I was sore tempted to join Muriel.

Once she returned, I was ordered to fly aloft and find the others.I did so, though the process was both foul and infuriating. Still, I did my duty and spotted Corporal Grendel, standing on the docks where we had parted was hours before like a lost child waiting for its mother.

So, covered in soot and grime, I led my group back to the docks. And if that were not bad enough, things were about to get far, far worse.

We reached a sidesreet between a row of taverns perpendicular to the docks, and just in shouting range of Grendel’s unit when RFC Ranna, who was with our group, stopped, raised her crossbow, and fired a bolt into Grendel’s head…

That was about the time I realized that we were all going to die.

Crossbowmen appeared on the roofs to either side, and RFC Ranna racked another shot.

The alley exploded into action…and also it exploded.

The fireball lifted me up, and dashed me into a wall. Also, it lit my wings on fire.

The rest of my group were scattered, dazed and badly burned, save for maybe the dwarf. I’m not entirely sure. I did spot some of the animals, King the mule and Max the goat, fleeing with their tails, quite literally, on fire. The others, better trained, stayed their post. Mores the pity for them.

Then, something landed heavily on the Explorer. Some gangly for armed monster. Before we could help, it clamped down on his rifle sack over his shoulder and started…feeding.

Great, now the winghunters have creatures that eat arcfire. Ranna continued to pour fire into Grendel who was charging her. In that, at least, he put duty above his tarse.

Crossbow bolts rained and a figure stepped from the smoke behind us in the alley.

Andak-Gol Ivar ki Novri

My worst fear was realized. And these damn fool Rangers would probably stay in this charnel house until his men cut them down…every, last one. To save them, I would have to possibly kill Ranna and then lead that bastard away. If not, I would have to watch him rip the hearts out of more women I love…

He flicked through our ranks like a thratchen, his blades cutting a bloody swath through the Rangers. And then he came for me, as I knew he would. I danced back, pain shooting up my wings. He missed, his bloodsteel blade biting deep into the cobbles. Before he could reset, I moved.

Wings ablaze, the heat and agony making me dizzy, I launched, clawing to gain altitude. Ranna was easy to hit. A wing blade across her throat…and she topped like a child’s toy. I heard, more than saw, her crash through the front display of one of the tavern.

Behind me, Novri howled in rage…and then pursued. I could feel the heat of his rage, hear the sick pop as he winked into and out of existence. I had little time before my feathers all burned up and I was a dead man. But, I had speed. Even his little magic trick was little match for Zavonis’ child.

As I turned the corner out of the alley, I screamed for them to run…though I very much doubted commanders had that much sense.

I poured on as much speed as I could, ignoring the stench of my feathers and flesh burning. Below me, ale addled faces stared up in mute horror and fascination as I roared past like some crazed meteor. Slowly but surely, I gained ground and put buildings between myself and the hunter.

When the time was right, I dove into a canal, plunging into the oily, stinging water. Instantly my wings doused, and I passed out from blood loss and pain. Novri obviously didn’t find me. And I don’t know how long I was out. Not long, as I didn’t drown…though very nearly did.

Crawling out of the drink, I got my bearing and tried to move my charred wings. The agony was too great. I couldn’t flap…but maybe glide?

So, like a damn fool, I mounted a nearby roof and tried to get altitude for a least a brief flight…and simply crashed through the front of a bar. My vision swam as pain quickly overtook me. Before I blacked out again, I availed myself of the ready ale, trying hard to dull the pain in the wings.

I was well and truly in my cups when boots crunched on the glass behind me. As drunk as I was, I showed far less apprehension that I should have, given the circumstances. But it was not Novri, or any of his ilk, but the Builder, out hunting on his own.

Dear ascended, what terrible calamity must have ensued for the Builder to be off alone. Was he the only one left? Even through the haze of alcohol my heart sank.

But, it seemed my worst fears were not realized this day. Most of the team had actually survived. Well, not the COMMAND element, but based on their recent behavior, I am neither surprised, nor particularly put out. Honestly, Muriel and Tina seem to have the most experience, sense, and grit than the rest of us. Were it up to me, I’d vote for them to take command.

Anyway, the Builder covered me as I staggered north. There, he pointed out a seemingly abandoned warehouse where, it seemed, that the team were holed up. A new character, I would discover after sobering her name was Newt. An attractive Brinchie. Coal black with a white tipped tail.

You know, I’ve never been with a Brinchie. Something about cats and bird, but…I’m not averse to the idea.

Blackstone appeared with the Brinchie. She bore a Ranger cloak, RFC pin, and a faded and charred Alpha Team patch. Hmmm?

Someone led me to a bed. I think it was Blackstone as the hands were rough, and right around my left knee. I THINK Ingrid and Kenzie tried to come to me, but were prevented…again. This by the cat? Maybe? There was a lot of shouting and I was, if I have not said, quite sloshed.

Someone steered me into a bed and I remember nothing else…

…until Newt kicked me awake and shoved something between my lips. It tasted foul, but damn if it didn’t pick me right up. First off, my wings sprouted new feathers and my inebriation vanished like shadows at dawn. I was healed, mostly, and sober.

First Hunt 2nd, 3127

Sometime during or after the 13th hour, I stood in a back safe room with what remained of the Alpha Team. So far as I can gather, this is what happened after I led Novri away.

Aronzo got the bright idea to run away. For some reason, the four legged monster went after him. Kenzie got a vision from the Silver Unicorn to retreat north. Which, of course all NCOs ignored. Corporal Grendel was puppeted and nearly slaughtered Kenzie. The explorer took out Grendel, leaving Corporal Sssahliissstah in command. She went berserk.

This left Blackstone in charge. HE ordered the team to retreat north. Finally. So, he, riding Tiny, and Ingrid, on foot headed north, and the Builder loaded Kenzie on Muriel’s back, and covered her north.

Wait, I completely forgot the part where in the midst of this insanity a flamedancer appeared cutting Rangers down, then ordered the puppeted Grendel to pick up Ranna and take her south along the docks.

What makes that interesting is even AFTER regaining what passes for her sense, our fearless leader, Corporal Sssahliissstah, charged after the Ogres, for some damn reason. Oh, and a gargoyle, or Aronzo appeared. Still confused on that point.

Anyway, someone FINALLY did the sensible thing and dropped Sssahliissstah. Our or theirs, hardly matters. And Aronzo fell into the ocean. Tina had to save him. See? The mule and the goat. Clear leadership material. Can’t hardly do worse that the Ogres and the Dregordian?

Now, The team is safe, save for the Ogres who are LONG beyond resucing without a team effort. And Sssahliissstah who is bleeding out on the docks. Oh, and Aronzo who is puking in the water.

The team, en mass, elects to go back to rescue Corporal Sssahliissstah. Makes sense, right? Except, those crossbowmen that were riddling them with bolts about five minutes before, are just covering the Dregordian’s body waiting for one, or two of the Rangers to break cover to rescue her.

The ENTIRE team obliged.

I was honestly at a loss. Blackstone resurrects Corporal Sssahliissstah putting her back in charge. Now, in her defense, she was not aware that they were standing in the crosshairs of the bowmen. But, instead of pulling her decimated and HIGHLY injured team back to regroup, no, she orders most of the Rangers north with Newt, who she did not know, and she orders Kenzie, on Diego…

…Oh, yes, during all of this, Blackstone healed Kenzie and Ingrid as Newt collected the scattered team after the fight. Sorry.

Back to the docks. Corporal Sssahliissstah decides to run down the docks, into the night, after the flamedancer who just wrecked her team, with just Kenzie. Oh, and she AGAIN did not establish where the rest of the team would be. So even if she HAD found the ogres, who would she tell?

Then the crossbowmen opened up and started dropping people. RFC Newt leads most of the rest of the team out of danger, but Kenzie, my beautiful, bold Kenzie followed orders…

Until Sssahliissstah went berserk, rushed the crossbowmen and was cut down. After repeated insane orders, Kenzie took command of the situations and got herself and Diego to safety leaving the Corporal bleeding out on the docks.

Newt led them to her safe warehouse. Where Blackstone healed up the Explorer with the last of his juice. He came to find me and that’s where my recollection began…

This was all explained as a stood alternatively bewildered and seething with rage. Every fibre of my being screamed to leave the ogres and dregordian to their fates. But, I swore an oath, and I am a man of my word. So, I agreed to help the Explorer hunt down the ogres.

Slipping out into the wee hours, we stalked through the city, my low flying, his covering me from the ground. It took hours, but we found ourselves at the southern docks. Where I expected this chase to end.

So, while the Explorer perched on the roof of a dockside wainright’s office, I spent an hour low flying every ship in the harbor. Dozens of ships. One of the farthest out was a massive three masted carrack.

I’m no sailor, but the ship was large enough for hundreds. No sooner did I buzz the mast then archers opened up. Two grazed me and I could feel the bloodsteel burning. Yep, that was our ship.

Making my way at top speed, I dodged missiles until I reached the Explorer. He covered the ship while I headed back to report. So, the Ogres had been taken by the Kal to their ship sitting a quarter mile off the coast. They had maybe a hundred Kal soldiers, plus crew. Let’s not forget the flamedancer, the beast, and Novri himself.

I requested permission to return to the Builder. Mostly because I feared leaving any of our team alone in this particular theatre of war. But mostly because I was beyond caring what insanity we embarked upon.

We were going to attempt a rescue. That was a given. How many we would lost for the sake of two? That remained to be seen. But I swear to whatever powers hear such things, I will die before those bastards take Kenzie or Ingrid. If only I could make the Rangers understand. This whole operation is suicide.

We have only three options. Run, and live at least for a while. Eventually Novri would find us in Echer’Naught, but there we would have the backing of the corps. Yes, we’d lose Corporal Grendel, RFC Ranna, and Corporal Sssahliissstah. But, truth is, the dregordian was gone. He body had been removed from the docks and we have no idea if the Kal took her or another faction.

Second option, fight. But, what the Rangers fail to understand is that the ONLY was to survive is to kill EVERY LAST KAL. If even ONE lives, they will never stop hunting us. These are Winghunters. They do not stop, they do not relent. Only the Tor Mastak are more dogged, and odds are that Novri and the Empire’s secret police have quite a cosy relationship.

Third, die.

Honestly, we’ll probably all die no matter what we do.

An hour before dawn, the team arrived following RFC Newt. They were all kitted up with warfaces on. As I feared. Group suicide.

From the harbor, a longboat padded quietly to beach on the sand nearby. A swarthy boatswain stepping off and scowling at Newt. In short, Alpha Team had hired a flotilla of pirates through criminal proxies to assault a Kal vessel under a sovereign flag in international waters. And, during the midst of the assault, our team was going to board the ship and effect a rescue of two towering ogres, on the ocean, with nothing more than a dinghy and gumption.

Damn my word.

With the rising sun, three black sails appeared on the horizon. They turned like sharks toward the carrack bobbing lazily in the distance. As they closed, they hoisted the flag of the Dominion’s Black Armada. The worst of the worst. The Maelstrom of the sea. Perfect.

RFC Newt ordered the team, sans the animals, into the boat and the oarsmen pulled away from the beach. I floated above until they rowed past the congestion of ships into the deep greenwater of the coast. Out to sea the carrack’s siege weapons woke and went about their deadly work. In answer, the war caravels of the Black Armada circled raining their own death upon the Kal crew. Overhead, the clouds spun as the wind picked up, clawing at sails, cloaks, and flags. Sea magic.

Battle was joined.

The oarsmen put their backs into the work and the little ship lurched into the teeth of hell. With a kiss to my ladies, I sprinted ahead, tasting the wind. If we are to die, let it be glorious. Tonight, we dine in the Abyss.

Steelwing

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Back in Desert City
Grendel's report

We back in big fancy city next to desert. I fear being this close to that place. It full of hardship and death, but luckily we not have to go there.

We sent here to escort Nexus, Captain Volstagg’s mate and trusted friend and ally, and their three children.

We arrive by boat a few days prior and the city had just allowed Rangers to open a new headquarters. That also why Volstagg here since his is the new tor’mastak, or what humans call Captain.

It was nice to see him again. He helped me become better at leading this team. It full of new and strange beings and cultures me never interact with before. But I know that I can rely on them, especially Rana.

Luckily we will he leaving soon, and me ready to get the team away from this place.

We have also gained a new team member. He look like dwarf but me know he not. He have strange new smells, that me assume come from strange magic he wear and use, I believe it called arc-fire. He seem strong and capable and Grendel believe he will be a good addition to the team.

I hope Celesia will guide me in leading my new gather, me I know I need all the help I can get. Though I know I can rely on them too, and me hope they can rely on me too. That all.

- Grendel

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Echer'Naught Patrol Report 1
International Tabletop Day at Tyche's Games 2018

First Hunt 7th, 3127

Incident along the Farwatch Military Road.

To: Captain Hawksclaw, Commander Echer’Naught Ranger Corps

Sir,

We have received an urgent request dated, First Hunt 7th, from Ranger Trainee Kyrie Swiftsword. You may recall that on First Hunt 4th, 3127, you assigned Trainee Swiftsord and three other trainees, LostClaw, Brynthaxis, and Silvermoon Johnson to scout the southern Farwatch Road along the Wildland border for bandit activity.

Per their report:

The team under command of Trainee Swiftsword pulled rations and mounts from the city HQ and proceeded immediately south after receiving orders from you. By evening on the 4th, they rested at the Roadside Inn. There are some notes here about meeting a bard performing The Ballad of the Stagg and Lion. I note it only because it is technically banned on sovereign Olaran soil. The team rested with little issue.

Rising on the 5th of First Hunt, the team continued south. However, just before dusk, Trainee Swiftsword spotted a column of smoke on the horizon. She sent their brinchie scout, LostClaw, forward to scout. Per LostClaw’s own report, he crested a small rise on the west side of the road, and spotted a burning merchant encampment just across a creek wash. Six bandits were rifling through the merchants wagon, tents, and personals. The merchants were already dead by the Ranger’s arrival.

Still unseen, LostClaw had only moments to alert his team who were approaching on horseback along the road. Thinking quickly, he let out an approximation of pheasant. Though, the other trainees described it more as a dying pheasant being molested. LostClaw was successful, and Swiftsword was alerted to the danger.

Following her training, Swiftsword sent the archer Johnson and the sorceress Brynthaxis up the rise while she spurred her mount Cinder around from the road. The team operated to perfection. Swiftsword road in from the east, splashing through the stream and riding down the first bandit before he drew his sword.

From his perch, LostClaw flung a dagger nearly felling a second bandit. From the hill,Johnson loosed an arrow, dropping another bandit, and Brynthaxis blasted a third into oblivion. The remaining bandits split. The nearest charged Swiftsword and Cinder, cutting the Paladin through the side. The other two took cover behind the merchant’s wagon and loosed arrows at the alakar archer, and the eldakar sorceress. Both were struck, but not badly.

Swiftsword switched side and battle the bandit, while Brynthaxis blasted a hole in the wagon, and Johnson sniped another bandit. Behind the battle, another bandit, a leader, appeared and fired at LostClaw, nearly sniping him from the branches. In response, the brinchie sprinted from tree to tree, launching a furious, flying attack against the bandit leader, all while squawking loudly. Though he struck hard, the leader was cut above the rabble and returned a furious attack, slashing the brinchie deeply in the upper, right thigh. LostClaw was put on the defensive, fending off a flurry of blows.

Back in the camp, Brynthaxis nearly self immolated, while Johnson dropped the last archer. Seeing his situation, the last bandit fled, ducking a blow from Swiftsword. Unfortunately for the bandit, Swiftsword spurred Cinder and ran him down a few yards into the woods.

Behind the treeline, LostClaw shouted for the other Rangers. Johnson sprinted through the grass, loosing a running shot that grazed the leader. Recovered from her ordeal, Brynthaxis was hot on his heals, loosing her own eldritch bolt. The bandit leader took a blast to the feet, but kept his feet. Then, from the flank, covered in blood, Swiftsword and Cinder charged through the underbrush, thundering toward the bandit.

Outnumbered and wounded, he chose discretion, throwing his sword through Cinder’s heart. The noble steed shuddered and died, pinning Swiftsword beneath. The bandit then sprinted into the woods. With is leg wound, LostClaw was unable to pursue, despite his deep desire to do so. Brynthaxis got a shot off, but the bandit leader escaped.

The field clear, Brynthaxis freed Swiftsword from beneath Cinder, while Johnson put the beast out of its misery. Then, the Rangers tended their wounds, and began to search the bodies, and bury all.

It took the better part of the night, but the team recovered identification papers for the merchants, a family out of the Freelands on route north. And, they found a blood stained red sash or cloth on each of the bandits. Intelligence suggests Red Store is making a resurgence. Camping late on the 5th, the Rangers rose again on the 6th.

Riding two mounts, the team rode north to the Roadside in, arriving late on the 6th of First Hunt. There, they passed the above report to inbound Rangers who traveled the following day, arriving today, late on the 7th of First Hunt, 3127.

Swiftsword’s team is requesting remounts, fresh supplies, and reinforcements to track the bandit leader south to their base of operations.

Scribe Smith
Echer’Naught Headquarters.

RFC Kyrie Swiftsword, human, female, Paladin of Light, Olaran
Ranger LostClaw, brinchie, male, scout, Freelands
Ranger Brynthaxis, eldakar, female, sorcerer, Landra’Feya
Ranger Silvermoon Johnson, alakar, male, archer, Wildlands

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Campaign Report 109
Farewell to Volstagg

Steelwing

Falling Ice 32nd, 3127

My first mission with the Rangers was a success, though departing this paradise of a city leaves me with a sadness I cannot deny. Such beauty. I envy Captain Volstagg and his wife. She is a beauty. They seem happy, and content. Though, from the stories and the look in their eyes, I know the road to happiness was long, bloody, and harrowing. I wonder if I shall ever find such contentment?

No, I suppose not.

My flight ends only one way. Flame, blood, and death. So, drink well, and love with abandoned, for tomorrow, you face the fall.

Falling Ice 29th, 3127

We woke from the party, honestly a bit rough from the overindulgence. In those quiet moments between sleep and awake, I could feel their two hearts beating as one, their soft breath on my skin, warm bodies pressed tightly beneath a blanket of silken feathers. For just a moment I lay there, listening to the sounds of the Household rousing from slumber, and held that perfect moment, like the first snowflake in winter…

But, duty called, and I rose, letting the chill wake me. My movement woke Ingrid and Kenzie. Ingrid rose to join me. I watched as she slipped the tight breeches over her hips, then wiggled into the green cotton tabard, cinching it around her slim waist. Lastly, she draped the green cloak, clasping it at her shoulder, then freed her raven hair with a practiced motion. Light shimmered as it caught the strands. Every inch strong, firm Olaran woman, despite her tender age. Beautiful. She didn’t catch me watching.

Kenzie, as usual, nested among the sheets, reveling for a moment in solitude. She is funny like that. One moment craving company, and the next, pulling away. Like a doe. We invited Kenzie to join our breaking fast. At first she declined, but then, as always, darted out of bed and started hastily dressing. Ingrid DID catch me watching Kenzie tug on her breeches, then button her half coat over her lithe body. She just rolled her hazel colored eyes a bit.

Kenzie threw on the cloak, shaking out her red hair to cascade over the green cloak, a beautiful contrast, and flashed her magenta eyes. For the second time in as many minutes, my heart skipped.

Together, we headed into the commons area for food. Having only been with the Rangers, I have no real basis for comparison, but this outpost seems far more…expensive than others. Our stay felt more like fine dining and dwelling in an upscale in than a military outpost. We sat at a long table as servants brought menus and glasses of wine, juice, water, and morning ales. I selected fruit and nuts. In moments, my food was delivered. Delightful!

We were joined at the meal by Captain Volstagg, the Crimson Knight, himself. Over half an hour, the other members of the team drifted in and joined us. At some point, Ranger Blackstone produced an official looking message from the Black Mountain Clanhomes. Apparently, he had entered into negotiations over ales. They now sought for formalize whatever agreements he had made. Captain Volstagg looked angry enough to chew iron, but tersely agreed.

The REST of us were ordered to assemble in the yard. Corporal Grendel seemed intent on leaving Almahrad as quickly as possible. Apparently the unit had previously had some bad experiences, though I cannot imagine what would compel anyone to leave such a beautiful place. So, Corporal Grendel, Corporal Sssahliissstah, Kenzie, Ingrid, and I assembled, along with four City Watch, and headed down to the Granite Docks in the harbor. The trip through the city was invigorating. We got there mid morning and found out way to the HarborMaster’s office. Polished sandstone walls, tiled frescoes, and painted columns, the office was gorgeous. We entered the queue along with traders from all over. Eventually, the Corporal’s were allowed to approach the Harbor Master’s desk.

We could see them through a polished, waist high wood railing. But, with the draped silks blowing in the breeze, the din from outside, and the low murmur of voices, there was no way to make out what they were saying. Eventually, the Corporal’s were escorted to a nearby room. So we waited. And waited.

Almost an hour later, Corporal Grendel popped his head through the door behind us. Apparently, they had filed the appropriate paperwork and initiated a request for our departure. We stepped out onto the docks, stinking of soot, fish, and brackish water. Even over the noise of the criers, the cranes, and the stevedores, we could hear the low, angry rumble of the dwarve’s stomachs. I had to admit I was a bit peckish myself.

So, with our guard around us, we headed up into the bazaar. Scents assaulted our noses; spices from Nazatir, freshly butchered goat, ox, lamb, and even horse. One stall reeked of fish, another urine and boiled leather. The sounds and colors were not much better. Men and women shouted in a dozen different languages, extolling the virtues of their various wares. Nazatiran silks, shimmering Korindian shell armor, steelcraft from Olara, swords from Camon, and more…

The world was at our pleasure.

Wending our way through narrow, congested streets, we found a food district. Corporal Grendel followed his nose and found the least offensive offering, some meat, heavily spiced and on a stick. But, when the Corporal went to pay, he fond his wallet had been stolen. Great…

About that time, a kindly Galean, likely spotting fellow foreigners, approached, and was stopped by the Almahradi Guards. He extended Corporal Grendel’s purse to him, with apologies. Apparently, the ogre had lost it somewhere along the route. Though, I suspect small hands had relieved the ogre of his funds. How the Galean came to recover it, who can say. Though I am certainly pleased he did so.

Coin returned, we all enjoyed the sweet and spicy treats as we made our way back to the outpost. We arrived shortly after Corporal Volstagg, and Blackstone had left for their meeting with the dwarves. Blackstone was only gone for a few hours. He returned along with most of the post Rangers by dinner time. They arrived lugging a massive metal cradle for the Volstagg’s. A gift from the dwarves. Corporal Grendel and Corporal Sssahliissstah interrogated the poor dwarf. All he would say was that a “package” had arrived and that Captain Volstagg would have to explain further. We were ordered to private chambers, but even in complete isolation, he would say no more. Frustrated, the Corporals dismissed us. I asked permission to remain with Ingrid and Kenzie. Corporal Grendel allowed us, to my joy.

I caught Blackstone mumbling something about marriage negotiations as he left…wonder what that was about?

The rest of the day was relaxing. I spent most of the time with the girls, when they were not not otherwise occupied. Around three, the Emissary, Captain Volstagg, and Ranger Blackstone departed the Outpost to meet with the Black Mountain dwarf contingent. Ingrid, Kenzie, and I decided to sample the Outposts rather extensive wines, ales, and liquor. We laughed, drank, danced…and then they passed out.

So adorable, hair a mess of black and red, Kenzie huddled against Ingrid who lay half on, half off the mattress. Our party done, I cleared the bottles, undressed and cleaned the girls, before trying to get some sleep. Sadly, sleep never came. I was…overstimulated.

Around 1 AM I heard a commotion outside. Looking out over the courtyard, I saw Captain Volstagg, the Emissary and a third figure arrive. They were met by the Corporal’s I endeavored not to overhear, rather returned to the warmth of my bed.

Falling Ice 30th, 3127

After untold hours of staring at the ceiling, I welcomed the weak light of morning filtering through the silken screens. Neither Kenzie nor Ingrid so much as stirred when I rose. They were both quite out. I went to find Captain Volstagg’s subaltern. A Lieutenant Crasser. He was walking the walls when I found him. A nice enough fellow, he seemed out of place amongst all this posh, but he confirmed I was permitted to fly, so long as I avoided leaving the grounds. With his approval, I took the morning to fly off some of my excess…ah…energy.

By the time I was wrapping up, I spied most of the team already breaking their fast, so I joined them. Captain Volstagg looked…disgruntled. Something about last night’s meeting had not set will with him. Of the mysterious third figure, I saw nothing. Again, breakfast was excellent. And, while eating, Ranger Blackstone received yet another missive. This was an invitation to drinks with the dwarves that evening. Reluctantly, Captain Volstagg agreed and Kenzie volunteered to join him. More time to spend with Ingrid!

We were also treated to an incredible display of horsemanship by a horse, two goats, and a mule…the other mule, a Sergeant Muriel, chose to join us at the table. Blackstone shared his ale, and I swear the mule showed gratitude. Something odd about the animals of Alpha Team. Someone will have to explain these creatures.

Let’s see: We have Sergeant Muriel and King, the mules. Then, there are the three goats, Sergeant Tina, Tiny, and Max. Tiny is a size of a pony, and oft ridden by Blackstone. Max is…special. He seems able to eat anything. I have personally witnessed him devour metal weapons and armor, wagons… I’m curious whether he has some supernatural abilities.

They drilled outside showing surprising military bearing. Even snapping to attention when the Captain entered, or exited the room.

Speaking of, while we ate, the Captain informed Alpha Team that our presence was expected at a formal ceremony at noon. So, for the rest of the morn, we had to ourselves. I saw Corporal Sssahliissstah head off with Blackstone, a research project. I followed the girls to the stables to check on the animals. Diego seemed to be getting along well enough with the others.

At noon, we all arrived in the formal chamber. There, I noted the trappings of a swearing in ceremony. Apparently, we were to receive a new Ranger to our ranks. Captain Volstagg took his position at the head of the room and signaled for a door to open and our newest Ranger entered…a Builder. Around me, the team gasped or looked on incredulously. Save for the Corporals…and Blackstone.

Some negotiations.

I for one, am not familiar with the red skinned devils from the Hard Lands, but I have faced them and their cruel artifice, arcfire. More than one Aevakar has been struck shrieking from the sky, wings burning like torches. I have no love for them, but the bleed just like any other. At least a bit of the blood on my blades once flowed through the veins of a Builder. I will try not to hold the sins of his people against him, though I cannot say I trust him, yet. Trust is earned.

Captain Volstagg introduced the Builder as The Explorer. The Explorer speaks Galean well enough. Better than we speak his tongue. At that, Captain Volstagg handed the Papers to Corporal Grendel who led the Explorer through the Ranger’s Oath. I wonder if he means the words. I know very little of his ken, but they are a mysterious lot.

Once that was complete, the Captain had another surprise. He rang another bell and a pair of large, vaguely human shapes, draped in sheets, were wheeled in. With a dramatic flair, he ripped away their shroud to reveal matching sets of full Albrecht steel ogre plate. Corporal Grendel nearly fell over himself. Ranna was more reserved, but I could see the gleam in her eye. Captain Volstagg, with Lady Volstagg now in attendance, thanked the ogres for protecting their trials in the desert, and allowing for the life they now shared. Captain Volstagg also provided the ogres a large purse, and an offer to take the Oath of Sworn to House Volstagg.

Again Corporal Grendel leaped at the chance. Ranna was more demure. I have a feeling we shall soon have an ogre Olaran. I wonder how the starched shirts back home will take that? Regardless, it was a joyous occasion. We celebrated, welcomed the newest member into the unit.

We also learned that afternoon that we had received authorization to leave. Which mean, that we were soon to depart this beautiful city. That evening, Kenzie accompanied Blackstone to another party with the dwarves. This to celebrate the successful negotiations. Ingrid, Corporal Sssahliissstah, and even Tina the goat threatened him should she come to harm. I declined. For all her timidity, she is hardly defenseless. I pity the fool to underestimate her. She is far more fierce than the others realize, though I see it.

I spent the eve with Ingrid. Quite enjoyable.

Falling Ice 31st, 3127

Early in the morning Kenzie returned. She was a bit tipsy, but none the worse for wear. Before drifting off to sleep, she muttered something about a Blackstone marriage to a Ruby? I’m not sure if she meant an actual gem or someone named Ruby. Though, she did manage to tell us about using her ability to speak to animal’s as a “party trick.” So long as my gift kept her safe, I am pleased.

As this was our last day, the Captain planned a grand, private feast for us. We met a bit after noon in the private quarters of the Volstagg’s, even The Explorer joined. Around the table, Sir and Lady Volstagg invited us all, and thank us for our service. They talked of Alpha Team members past, and cautioned us to rely upon each other, trust the team, and together we could survive any trials.

With drinks flowing, the stories began. Blackstone explained the armor he recently acquired. Apparantly for generations, one member of his bloodline inherits the armor, and the title of “Mountain.” That dwarf holds a deep connection with Dranak, gaining longevity and other gifts, but a responsibility to serve as Dranak’s representative to the clan. Sadly, when the armor passes, the life of the previous bearer ends as his service is no longer required. Somewhere, Blackstones ancestor dies so that he may carry on the mantle.

Lady Volstagg told of the time the Captain found himself stuck, ass first, in a rotten log. During one of the engagements against the villain known as Velkalar, he was blown into a forest while shielding her from the self detonation of a man charged with arcfire energy. I watched The Explorer carefully during the story. He didn’t react, though I noted him scratching in his journal. Anyway, once she found him, amidst the carnage of battle, even the strength of Grendel could not dislodge the knight. Eventually, they slathered him with rancid pig grease to get him free. Captain Volstagg seemed mildly embarrassed by the story, but took the ribbing goodnaturedly.

Corporal Sssahliissstah spoke of her old team, from the wildlands. How there was one member, a girl, who showed her kindness. Apparently, the other members were prejudiced against her species, being a “murder lizard.” A moniker she rejected. Until the day her one friend was slain by Tempest. Only then did she succumb to the battle rage of her species. In that moment, she became what they most feared. She could not save her team, but she avenged them. I could see the pain writ on her face…

These Rangers are more like me than I had imagined.

To break the mood, I think, Captain Volstagg shared a memory of one of the most famed members of the team, RFC Thorgram Ramshorm, of the shield Blackstone now bears. Apparently, early in his career, Alpha Team found themselves in an inn run by creatures of Darkness using some high magic to cloak their true identity. A vampiress seduced the young Thorgram and proceeded to perform fellatio on him, before trying to drink his blood…

Captain Volstagg finished the story by regaling the story of how Thorgram died, facing down an army of werewolves, sacrificing his own life to save the team. At that, the Volstagg’s bowed their heads. I asked how many they had lost. “Too many,” was the reply.

Corporal Grendel stood and yanked the cord from the summons bell. At the signal, a servant brought forth a wrapped bundle and the Corporal presented to Captain Volstagg a beautiful Hek-Chucktar for his eldest son. Captain Volstagg accepted, and we toasted the couple.

After that, we talked, drank, and shared the moment. The Explorer just watched and wrote. I enjoyed the company, but was plagued by ghosts of the past. At least, I learned about the plaque outside the Local Ranger HQ in Echer’Naught. It lists the names of all the commanders of Alpha Team over the years. In five years the team has gone through six leaders…

Captain Gerald Manning

Colonel Alexander Wolfhaven

Captain Rah-Sahn Hawksclaw

Sergeant Evoran Que’kasaars

Sergeant Amelia Whitestone

Captain Gunther Volstagg

Corporal Grendel will be the next name on the list. Though, only if he survives long enough to transfer out…or doesn’t survive.

We drank late into the afternoon. Before asking, I asked Ingrid for a private date with Kenzie. She smiled, and nodded.

After, I invited Kenzie to join me. While flying about the outpost, I had found a few out of the way spots. She joined me in the stables, where I had prepared the loft. There, above the sleeping animals, and beneath a roost of pigeons, we talked…I talked. She told me of her home, before Kal’Montak. I told her of my home…or, the loss. Then she asked to fly.

So, we headed to one of the outposts towers. She stripped while I prepared the harness. And we flew…

After, I thought, for a moment…but no. She wanted to walk, so we walked the walls, and towers. The quiet places and watched the lights of the city below us, shimmer in the prism of the waterfalls. It was…near perfect. Beautiful.

We slept well that night.

Falling Ice 32nd, 3127

Morning came too early. Preparations were made We all packed and prepared to leave. Captain and Lady Volstagg accompanied us to the docks, along with the post Ranger contingent, and half a dozen City Guard. At the pier bobbed a large trader ship. The ship’s skipper agreed to transport our group, along with our animals to Granite Port. From there we could find a ship to return us home.

We filed across the gangplank while the Rangers of Almahrad lined the docks opposite. Corporal Grendel and Captain Volstagg embraced as the lines were thrown. Volstagg thrust a wrapped parcel into Grendel’s hands, and the ship cast off. Our parties drifted apart. Captain Volstagg called a salute, which we answered with our own. And then, the boat picked up speed and the Almahradi Rangers shrank out of view.

It took most until that evening, but by night, we reached the narrow water gap through the Black Mountains and as the shadow of the mountain fell over the deck, the glittering jewel of the City of Dreams faded from view. And with that, Alpha Team was again, on its own.

I admit a feeling of longing fell upon me. I may have hugged Kenzie and Ingrid more tightly that night…

Steelwing

View
Grendel Learned Something New
Grendel's report

These past few moons me and team stationed here in Echer’ Naught. The higher ups, have given each member a task to learn to make us better at being rangers.

My station was with an old Olaran man named Audwin. He smell of stale bread and water but I can feel a lot of power from him. He seemed to be a strong healer and he even better teacher to show Grendel so much. He make it easy for me to learn and patient when me not get something very quickly.

Over the past weeks me shown how to bandage wounds and treat ailments. Me know of some healers in gather but me never interact with them. Maybe me should have since I seem to be pretty good at it, at least for new learner.

I hope Grendel can help team more with this new skill. I hate seeing Blackstone and Ingrid having to be only healers in our team and the strain it put on them. I hope to learn to be better and help my team in other ways than just hitting enemies. Me hope Celestia guide my journey down unfamiliar paths.

That all
- Grendel

View
Campaign Report 108
Celebration in the Clouds

Steelwing

Falling Ice 27th, 3127

Well, I am now a Ranger. But, we’ll get to that…

Dark Moons 32nd, 3126

I woke beside Ingrid. Can a heart love two women? Perhaps. As much as I wished to stay her, I could almost feel Kenzie needed my help. So, with the sincerest apologies, and serious regret, I took off in search of the wild woman. She was difficult to find, but it seemed she’d had quite the night. As much fun as it might have been, I cannot say I am sorry to have stayed in with Ingrid. I would not have missed it.

Kenzie wound up in Middle Town, in some Ranger’s flat. I knocked on the door, to be met by a man in his small clothes. Beyond, half dressed men and women lay everywhere. It would appear that these Rangers know how to party. Excellent. When I asked for Kenzie, the man shouted to the room if there was anyone named Kenzie within. He did not even know her name?!

Still, she appeared, looking confused and beautiful. Her joy at seeing me lifted my heart. So happy was she to leave, she almost forgot her kit. Once everything had been collected, I invited her to break fast with me.

We headed a few blocks over to Schenkle’s Bakery. I have heard good things. Apparently, the proprietor’s son, Eric Schenkle, is the commander of the Echer’Naught Militia and married to a former Ranger, Sarah. More to the point, anyone asked swears by the bakery’s sweet breads. So, we waited in line, and managed to get some hot, sticky buns.

After which, we sat on a wall and watched the busy traffic on Main Street, or the Greenway Road, as it is called. Echer’Naught is bustling with peoples from all over. Quite exciting. Not unexpected, about a quarter of everyone we saw wore some shade a green cloak. I suppose that makes sense. It is the Regional Headquarters.

While we sat, I asked how Kenzie was doing. She is not very forthcoming, but I learned that she felt she must leave her animals behind. As I feared. Seeing her sad cut me to the quick. So, I offered her my amulet. No doubt, I broke some ancient, sacred taboo of my people, but…I cannot watch a woman cry. She seemed pleased. Someday, she will have her own means of communicating with her horse Diego, and her bear, Volstagg. On that day, she may return the amulet to me. Twin feathers, one of my own, and one of my guardian eagle, Aetos.

Once finished with our sweets, I invited Kenzie back to my room at the Cloak and Pin. Some entrepreneurial soul had converted their home into a hostel for travelling Rangers. There were two such in the city, The Cloak and Pin, and the Sword and Bow. Both catered specifically to the Rangers and served as an overflow for the barracks. Only Rangers assigned to the city stayed there anymore.

When we arrived, we found Ingrid, looking lovely in the morning, sitting at breakfast in the main hall. She had a certain glow about her. Kenzie and I joined her, and we all had a warm meal together. Afterwards, the ladies decided to go shopping, so I joined them. Kenzie asked me to manage her funds, which I was more than happy to do. Together, arm in arm, we shopped till I nearly dropped.

I must say, while I am not much for the crowded streets and claustrophobic holes these Olarans call shops, I quite enjoyed helping the women into…and out of their various dresses. Ascended bless me.

Just about noon, we all joined up with the rest of Alpha Team at the Regional Headquarters. As usual, the Regional headquarters was bustling. Rangers training in the yard, the barracks a hive of activity. Overhead, banners and streamers flapped in the chill winds, and all in the mighty shadow of the beacon tower. Entering through the back, we found the HQ reasonably warm. Fires burned in hearths in every hall and room. Ranger guards stood at sharp attention near every door. Green, lush carpet, flowed from the back door up to the wide, ironwood double doors of the Colonels office.

The inestimable Colonel Anderson was on hand to provide a briefing. Also in the room, the Ranger’s Chief Investigator, Lt. Barand and his Adept. Col. Anderson allowed the Investigator Barand to open the discussion. Again, most of the technical information was beyond my understanding. However, I understood that the Tempest mercs were using some blend of alchemy, stormfire and magic uncommon to Shaintar. Though, the Ranger team had been unable to learn much in such a short time. All they seemed to grasp was that these mercs used this blended magic to coat the lead with gold.

Also, the operation was no more than six months old. Though well funded, based on the eclectic variety of equipment unearthed at the farmhouses, the Rangers doubted whether these mercs served Tempest directly. Even so, it was clear that someone was making good coin selling Tempest tattoos on the black market. Red Store? Perhaps. Or, perhaps Tempest had their own growing underworld empire. Whatever the case, magic tattoos would clearly be a new threat.

Then, they spoke of about Sir Halten, the Royal Sheriff. I gather he is the King’s Warden in this city? Fairly highly placed, and not too friendly with the Rangers. Corporal Sssahliissstah, Ranger Aronzo, and the Ranger team had managed to recover about 80% of the stolen gold. 20-15% were missing. However, it is unclear how much was lost during the alchemical “process.” Colonel Anderson assured the Rangers that he would mollify the Royal Sheriff. 80% was better than nothing?

With his briefing complete, Colonel Anderson dismissed Lt. Barand and his Adept. Once the room was clear, he informed Alpha Team that they would no longer be reporting directly to Sir Halten. It appears that the Royal Sheriff dislikes non-humans? The previous command element of the Alpha Team consisted of primarily humans, Olarans, and nobles. Now that we are led by Ogres and Dregordians, it seems the good sheriff wants nothing to do with us. Funny that.

Colonel Anderson also informed the team that someone named Gracelyn Moldova had given birth on the 29th, of Dark Moons, just a few days ago. He said that she was waiting on Grendel and Ranna at the Wolfhaven Manor. Only later did I learn that RFC Moldova was actually a surviving member of the previous incarnation of Alpha Team. She retired to begin her family. Her lover, as it were, was ALSO a previous member of the team, a Sergeant in fact; second in command. He had disappeared during a recent battle. Rumors say that he was seduced by Flame, though no one can say for sure. Grendel seemed overjoyed to hear of the birth. Audren Bartholemew Amaroth. Well, best wishes I suppose.

After delivering this news, the Colonel asked me to make a decision on the request he had made before. Would I join the Rangers. Since flying across this team, I had considered the question. I have never been much for following orders. I left the aeries mainly because I felt that hiding up on our perches till we were hunted to extinction to be sheer folly. I never joined any of the hunting wings because I couldn’t stand the preening peacocks all pecking for fame and glory.

But, after last night? And with the hope of many more…how could I say no? Despite my previous notions, the Rangers make some of the best fighters, and lovers, I have met. So, why the hell not.

With the Team chanting “One of Us,” I accepted the offer to join the Rangers, though I declined the horrid cloak. I mean, wings? Still, the pin looks nice pinned there on my chest. I’ll fetch some green cloth and make a nice sash.

Now a member of the team, I was permitted to learn of the new mission. We were to escort a high value noble, Lady Nexus Zathlan Volstagg, Sergeant in the Ranger Corps to the city of Almahrad. I learned that Sergeant Zathlan was a former member of this team, as was her husband, Captain Volstagg. He was already in Almahrad heading up the Ranger Outpost there. The lady, and her three children were to be our highest priority. The security on this mission was so high, we were not even told when we would be leaving. Only, soon, and as soon as the snows thawed.

Along with our team would be another group led by Sergeant Tina, a goat…are they kidding? The, um, goat’s team included two other members, Tiny and Max. Their mission was to recover a pair of mules…

Is this right? Mules?

Muriel and King?

Bizarre people, these Rangers.

We were sworn to the greatest secrecy about the upcoming mission. Apparently there was great fear that the “enemy” would make some attempt on the life of Lady Zathlan. Prior to this super secret mission, we were all being sent to training.

Apparently, Alpha Team of Echer’Naught’s Rangers are a cavalry unit. Everyone, aevakar included are required to be proficient horsemen. Of all the absurd things. See, this is why I’m not a joining. But, I am a man of my word. I like how they failed to mention the whole horse part until AFTER I accepted. But, oh well. I’ve had plenty of practice riding…

We were dismissed and told to return here in the morning to begin out training. With free time, I invited the ladies out to the Autumn Spring for a proper date. I hadn’t been to the Spring in…years. Just inside the Elven gate of Echer’Naught, the Spring is sung from five great Everwoods. At the base of the center tree pools a fresh spring. The water is purported to have great healing and magical qualities. There is a small library in one corner, and a soothing atmosphere.

Kenzie and Ingrid seemed to quite enjoy themselves. I more enjoyed watching their delight at the new experiences. Then we retired to my room, which would sadly be out last night together until we departed the city. I have become accustomed to their naked bodies snuggled with mine beneath my wings. If my choice to become a Ranger gets me killed, it will be worth it for this. All we managed was sleep, but that is fine.

Dark Moons 33rd, 3126

We all arrived at the rear quad of the Echer’Naught Regional Headquarters. The morning was brisk, our breath steamed in the air. Colonel Anderson personally came out to meet us. I gather Alpha Team are given certain perks. At any rate, he welcomed us, and introduced our training Sergeant, a taciturn dwarf named…whatever.

Once the Colonel left, the dwarf explained that, with all due respect to the Colonel, our training would not be easy, and that he expected nothing less than perfection. At this, my dearest Kenzie made an honest observation which irked the dwarf. He proceeded to make us all drop and give 20 pushups. And thus began our training. After that, we were ordered to run to the top of the beacon tower and back. Last man had to much latrines.

We took off running, actually running on foot. Kenzie and Ingrid making a good showing. Ranna and Corporal Sssahliissstah also keeping pace. After ten flights of stairs we emerged on top of the Beacon Tower. After all the years of winging through this region I cannot believe I never ventured to the top of the tower?! The view is stunning, even for an Aevakar. I wonder if I am allowed to jump from the tower?

I also noted the three groups patrolling the summit. Around the perimeter were Ranger scouts. Guarding every entrance and exit, dour Echer’Naught City Watch, in their gray and black tabards. And, around the great beacon itself, the massive iron pot piled high with logs, pitch and tar…gaudily dressed warriors more suited to a posh military parade that actual guard duty. Feathers, really? I learned later that these are members of the Lamplighters Association of Echer’Naught. Legend holds that the local order was founded by the original garrison of Echer’Naught when the city passed from a strictly military outpost, to a “civilian” administration. Despite their haughty air, and garish dress, the Lamplighters have been manning the tower for centuries.

Well, back down we went, and out of breath, arrived back at the Sergeant who was glowering as we came. Sadly for him, Corporal Grendel was the last to arrive. I hear he mucked latrines for days. After that, we were divided up. The Ogres were sent to the Church of Light infirmary to learn the basics of healing. The rest of us were sent to the Stockyards to learn how to ride a horse…

And so, our days went. Wake. Exercise. Train. Quick meals in between. At night, clean gear or stand watches. The worst part! Because I was not officially a Ranger, and not a guest, I was given quarters in the barracks. Kenzie and Ingrid were given lodging elsewhere. Cold, bitter nights indeed!

Still, we all made a good showing and after a couple weeks, even I could stay mounted without needing to use a flap here or there. Kenzie and Ingrid both enjoyed talking to the horses, though I gather neither were particularly good conversationalists.

Somewhere in the midst of all this, Corporal Sssahliissstah and Blackstone managed to acquire nice suits of armor. She dregordian scale from a local shop, Gorli Glamrinson Works. I have no idea where Blackstone got his dwarven plate.

Falling Ice 12th, 3127

Two weeks later, we graduated basic horsemanship training! Happy New Year! I was sore in places I never knew existed. In retrospect, I’m glad I was not sharing a bed with Kenzie and Ingrid. I don’t look so good bruised and battered. We celebrated as a group, but mostly we rested that eve.

Falling Ice 13th, 3127

In the morning, we were all summoned by the unit Adept, Lady Moonsilver. Though her touch was gentle, I sense that she is far more powerful that she may appear. Colonel Anderson was happy to report that the snows had thawed and the roads were now passable. Corporal Grendel was ordered to prepare for two weeks of travel, but to do so quietly. Again, secrecy was paramount. We were to gather again at the local HQ at 9PM the following day, the 14th. There we would gather our horses and leave under cover of night.

I volunteered to escort Kenzie to the Sacred Grove where Volstagg the Bear was being kept. When we arrived, we found her friend in mortal combat with another bear, this one we learned was named Kujo and companion to a Sergant Murvoth who was off fighting in the north with Colonel Wolfhaven. With my pendant nestled against her chest, Kenzie was able to speak with her friend. She explained he needed to stay while she went out on a mission. Then, she tried to make friends with Kujo, my brave but reckless girl.

Fortunately, Volstagg had better sense and she was saved from herself. With that, we worked to make preparations with the rest of the group. Honest, i was just happy to be on the road again and sharing a warm bedroll with two beauties.

Falling Ice 14th, 3127

Just before 9 in eve, we all arrived at the Local Ranger Headquarters. Understand, as Echer’Naught is a Regional Headquarters, there are two separate organizations operating out of the same city. Confusing? Yes, but necessary to handle the hundreds, or thousands, of green cloaked warriors swarming the city. Entering, I saw a plague which stated “Established 3122” and then a small list of names:

Captain Gerald Manning
Colonel Alexander Wolfhaven
Captain Rah-Sahn Hawksclaw
Sergeant Evoran Que’kasaars
Sergeant Amelia Whitestone
Captain Gunther Volstagg

So, we stepped oddly quiet main street into a well cobbled alley between the Outpost and the building next door. A few steps down stood a pair of guards flanking a heavy door. Oddly, the door opened at our approach and we stepped into bustling common room. If I did not know already, I would have believed this to be some large in, except for the heavily armed Rangers everywhere. As we walked across the open floor toward an opposite door flanked by more guards, I saw to my right a long, open building. In the center, low stone fire pits, glowing warmly in the chill. Between them, long tables busy even this late. Balconies overhead thronged with Rangers talking, reading, laughing, training, smoking, drinking, or just…being. At the back of the room, far to my right, massive doors, barred now, but postern doors occasionally opened to admit a lone Ranger being chased indoors by the chill. Outside, I could smell fresh hay, mud and dung. A rear quartyard?

We were immediate permitted into the office, the door plague, wooden but gilded in silver lettering, stating this to be the office of Captain Rah-Sahn Hawksclaw. The same name on the plaque outside. As it happens, Captain Hawksclaw was not in the office this late, this eve. Instead, we were met by a kind faced lieutenant who introduced us to a beautiful elfin woman sitting in rich, thick furs. She smiled beatifically when we entered, and greeted Corporal Grendel and RFC Ranna. Old comrades greeting each other after an absence.

I’ll be plucked if there aren’t members of this team everywhere! With Lady Volstagg were two servants, each holding a child. Of the children, there were three. One larger, dark haired boy, and two newborns, twins. They took much after their mother. Corporal Grendel and Ranna bantered with Lady Volstagg, but the Lieutenant ushered us out quickly, time being of the essence. Outside, we met the other members of the team. And yes, they were goats. Tina, barded and wearing a custom green cloak and pin, Tiny, the size of a large pony, and Max, a normal goat with two lazy eyes who was actually in the process of eating some poor sods tack.

Tina snapped to a crisp goatlike salute and followed us out to the main road. There, we found an ornate black carriage pulled by four horses. Apparently the heavily armored carriage had been lent to the team by the self-same Sheriff Halten. He seemed to have a good report with Captain Volstagg, the lady’s husband.

Once Lady Volstagg was loaded and comfortable with her retinue, Corporal Grendel squeezed into the driver’s seat meant for two men, and RFC Ranna scaled the back, taking both footmen’s posts. the rest of us mounted up, Kenzie on Diego, her warhorse, and Blackstone on Tiny… Though, I heard a story that the Great Wolf once ALSO road Tiny, but this time triumphantly into Echer’Naught. Strange people these Rangers.

I, however, looked DASHING atop my black steed, with my wings fluttering in the wind. Cutting such a rakish figure, Aronzo offered me a sharp hat, to which I added one of my own feathers for the perfect air of unrestrained passion. Though I find the idea of riding horses ridiculous for my kind, we do look good doing so…

And so, by 30 past the hour we were moving. Guards at the gates opened without question and we departed the city of Echer’Naught. We pushed hard for a few hours, then camped by the road. OH it was GOOD to once again lie with the beautiful creatures of Kenzie and Ingrid.

Falling Ice 16th, 3127

We reached Erda’Meias by the 16th. The hunters of the community are well known, though they spend most of their time hunting creeping darkness, Red Store, and Maelstrom. I’ve known a few elves of this realm, but not many. Surprisingly, the Alpha Team was welcomed. Apparently, this was the team which helped bring the horror of Vainar’s Plague to an end. For that, they have earned the loyalty of most of the local elf families. An elves trust is hard to win, but once earned, it is a powerful bond.

While in cities and towns, we stay in hotels, the team split into two rooms, with the Ogres in the barns. I much prefer the open road camps. There, we are free to share our beds with whomever, and, not so crammed together, offer some semblance of privacy. Even IF our guard shifts were doubled for the sake of Lady Volstagg.

Falling Ice 18th, 3127

Four days out of Echer’Naught, we arrived in the Elven capital of Eldara. Well, the capital of Landra’Feya, though if you asked the elves of this wood, they oft believe they rule us all. I wonder what the elves of Tar’Imas would say to that, eh? Still, we were welcomed in the grand city. Here, Lady Volstagg requested a banquet meal, which the elves happily provided. We ate, drank, and reveled in being alive. I suppose for members of this team, we must take our pleasure when and where we can?

Falling Ice 19th, 3127

In the wee hours of the morn, the Alpha Team boarded one of the elves’ great swan boats, leaving out mounts behind, we began the trek down river. I have never chanced to ride a boat before. Because…wings. Other than being a bit ill for the first day, I find I quite enjoy the trip. I was even allowed to sit at the top of the mast and let the world slip by. Again, the downside, we bunked alone, and with limited space. Still, the elves certainly know the boatcraft.

Falling Ice 20th, 3127

We arrived, in the Eastport harbor late on the 20th. There, we sailed straight into the sea to meet another ship at anchor, this a two masted war caravel. The Sea Ranger. I gathered from the greeting that the Captain Roberts of the Sea Ranger knew our unit well. I wonder how many iterations of this unit he has conveyed over the years? Perhaps its best I don’t know.

Still, with great ceremony, Lady Volstagg boarded the ship with her retinue, followed by our team, and the goats. Then, as the gangplank was pulled, every elf stood at the rails and bowed, before turning about and sailing back toward the harbor. We, or I should say Captain Roberts, immediately shouted orders and the swift little caravel filled her sails and pulled away.

Falling Ice 21st, 3127

Late into the eve on the first day of travel, I was awakened by shouting on deck. When I emerged from the crushing interior of the ship, I spied flames on the horizon. Captain Roberts, his first mate Kira, the Sea Mage, and the black skinned Orc which served as his sailing master all stood on the starboard rail of the ship, watching the growing conflagration with a worrying concentration. As I know nothing of ships, I can only guess at what transpired, but I gathered from the low whispers of the crew that our escort ship was caught and sunk buying us the time to escape. I weep for all the souls lost for our sakes.

Only then did it occur to me that while we traveled in safety, never setting foot on foreign soil once departing elven lands that others, less fortunate, died so that we could pass unnoticed. How many fellow Rangers now lay dead since we left the city? Would we ever know the names of those brave souls who gave their lives for us?

That sobering thought has stayed with me.

Falling Ice 22nd, 3127

Again, late in the eve, we arrived at the harbor of Granite Port. I have never seen such sights! Massive metal armed cranes, clockwork cranks, even belching steam. The dwarven wonders are like another world. And, bobbing in the harbor a ship so out of place it could have come from another plane of being. Long, low, powered by oars, with a canopy covered most of the rear half, a brightly colored, elegant ship. Captain Roberts pulled the Sea Ranger alongside, and the boarding ramp was lowered.

The crew of the other ship, wearing bright silks, and strange headgear bowed low as an immaculately dressed man, of almond skin, and brown eyes invited the Lady Volstagg aboard. She seemed to know him, naming him A’kavir. Once she and her retinue were sitting comfortably on silk cushions under the canopy, the Alpha Team was invited aboard. A’kavir greeted us each in turn, with consummate politeness. When we were all aboard, the Sea Ranger pulled up the gangplank and with a final salute, the ship turned nimbly, dropped her sheets, and sailed away.

Lady Volstagg was offered every courtesy, every luxury as this fine ship turned in the harbor and rowed north, upriver. Past the stone docks, and metal ships we sailed. Every four hours, a new crew took the oars, and so we sailed almost non-stop. And, at all times, sharp eyed guards scoured the banks with intensity.

Falling Ice 26th, 3127

We sailed four days to the beat of the drum. On the 3rd, we passed through a narrow cleft in the cliffs of the Black Mountains. So narrow, we had to ship oars and pole through. However, on the other side, a valley opened wide. As we passed through, beacon lights lit, and horns sounded. In the distance, I could see a glittering jewel, cascading water, and gardens suspended almost as if by magic.

We arrived late on the 26th, 3127. City guards in the colors of Prince Velthana of Almahrad waited. Lady Volstagg was escorted from the boat and lifted into a palanquin hoisted by eight men and carried at the head of our column. Behind her, we marched in good order, escorted, as always, by the Prince’s men. The city is HUGE, and gorgeous.

The docks were a congested stone wharf filled with fishermen, workers, and the scent of fish, soot, and brackish water. Late evening crowds parted as we marched through, most bowing, though lurkers in the crowd eyed our caravan with hard eyes. Once through the docks, we entered a gate almost as massive as Echer’Naught’s east and west gates. The road opened into a massive city, surrounded by high granite walls, and dominated by an open bizarre nearly the size of Echer’Naught’s High Town. This late, the streets were mostly clear, but warm light and laughter spilled from inns, alehouses, and bawdy houses.

We marched through the bizarre, following the rising road, and passed through another gate. Here, the streets were wider, the houses more orderly, more fine. Music drifted on the winds, scented by spice and sweet flowers. Every turn featured a fountain, or garden. Finely dressed men and women walked under the stars, laughing lightly with the Almahradi accents. And finally through the last gate, we entered the wide avenues of the Houses, above us sat the palace, glittering in the night.

Our caravan took a few turns before stopping outside an ornate, palatial estate. Everything about it was Almahradi from the polished sandstone walls to the onion shaped spinnerets. All this made the emerald Ranger banners draped from every wall stand out in stark contrast. The main gate was flanked by a pair of Rangers, who admitted our small group. The Princes men remained behind. Inside the courtyard, local servants guided us into a great, open courtyard. Lady Volstagg dismounted, and A’kavir escorted us through rows of columns into an interior garden flanked on all sides by wide marble portico, and ornate blue, white, and gold columns. FINALLY a building without walls, or a roof. I rather like the architecture of Almahrad, despite the Rangers best efforts to ruin the ascetic with fortifications and walls…

At the heart of the garden was a stone gazebo, and within reclined a cloaked and hooded figure. Even their face was covered. All I could see were a pair of intense eyes watching our approach intently. I rather imagine that is how the mouse feels under the gaze of snake. He, or she, it? welcomed us to Almaharad. A’kavir introduced our host as the Emissary. We were all allowed to retire to our private rooms to freshen before dinner. At least there is now room for Kenzie and Ingrid in my quarters. The entire TEAM could bunk with us and have room to spare.

When we returned to the inner garden, servants were on hand, preparing a banquet. Then a bells was rung…and A’kavir announced, “Now presenting, Sir and Lady Volstagg!” That’s was my first glimpse of the famed “Crimson Knight.” Few names actually scare the Kal, and his is one. Even taking into account exaggeration, the man’s exploits are legendary. He was large, as expected, and hairy, also expected. When I think of Olaran, his image comes to mind. Still, the way he looked at his bride, I could tell he was deeply in love. They both were.

Someday, I hope to share that…maybe with more than one?

After a brief meal and discussion where the Emissary explained the rules. No weapons outside the walls of the Ranger Outpost, we represent our kings and countries, etc… He, she, it excused themselves leaving the hall to the Rangers. We ate, drank, laughed… The fellowship was good, and warm. True.

Captain Volstagg, Sergeant Zathlan, Corporal Grendel, and RFC Ranna spoke a bit about their exploits, though I can see the losses of their team members still weigh upon them. Late into the eve, we retired. I think Kenzie and Ingrid joined me, though to be honest, it was all such a swirl. I passed right now.

Falling Ice 27th, 3127

We were wakened by the staff and began a long morning of preparations. The Emissaries tailors fitted us each with new outfits. We were groomed, and bathed, not unlike prized horses. Then, we were fitted into our costumes, oiled up like harlots, and paraded outside for the show. Again, Lady Volstagg was offered the palanquin. Her, and Captain Vosltagg. The rest of us peasants trotted along like good asses. Though, the actual asses stayed behind…

Tina, Tiny, Max, Muriel, and King remained at the outpost, having quite a party in the stables. Damn but Muriel can drink.

We arrived at the palace just at dusk, and the lights glittered like stars. Banners streamed from balconies and hundreds of guests, each more ornately gowned than the last shuffled and swirled in a dizzying riot of color. We plebes were only allowed to enter the second tier of the party, though we were a step above the hostlers. The Emissary, with Captain and Lady Volstagg, were permitted entry into the Prince’s own hall. Just the same. I find such events stuffy and boorish.

Everything was going well enough, we were all huddled in a corner like frightened sheep with a Camonere on the loose, when I spied across the crowded patio, none other than Andak-Gol Ivar ki Novri, that scrawny little shite. I swore the next time I saw him, I’d slit his throat, he more or less the same for me. I’ll say one thing about the party, it was interesting. I invited Kenzie and Ingrid to join me as I introduced them to the Kal Wing Hunter. Kenzie looked uncomfortable, though I am unsure whether it was meeting the bloodthirsty murdered, or just the party in general. Ingrid was clearly put off by the while Flame touched aspect.

My thought was simple, hiding from them would only show weakness and invite aggression. Like showing fear to a rapid animal Better to remain calm and unafraid. Still, I have this bad feeling we will be seeing them again. Eventually, Corporal Sssahllissstah came over to “rescue” us before I embroiled us in an international incident. Ingrid at least seemed relieved. The rest of the night was more of the same, each member of our party pointing out various villainous factions in attendance.

Let’s see if I remember correctly, other than the aforementioned Wing Hunters of the Kal-A-Nar Empire, we had in attendance:

Various Doms of Nazatir
Fists of Kor from Korindia
A Pirate Lord from the Archipelgos
Counselors from Dregordia
Masked Dragon Cultists
Clan Chiefs from the Black Mountain Clanhomes
Red skinned demon dwarves
Dominion Ministers
Blooded noble houses from Almahrad
Sheikhs from the desert, most notably Paradise
Xaos Priests in gold and black
At least one Mordin Vampiress stalking the crowds

And, the Rangers, et al.

It was quite the assemblage. All we needed were a pack of werewolves and De’Lear to complete the set. So many enemies in one place, it was exhilarating. But, after Corporal Grendel had his minor heart attack over the Dragon Cult…odd as I would have assumed that to come from Corporal Sssahllissstah. Whatever the case, Blackstone was invited by the Black Mountain dwarves for drinks and Aaronzo tagged along. The ghoulish man looked even paler than usual, even past his “makeup.”

After that, we excused ourselves. Back at the outpost, we spoke for a bit, but eventually, our trio got some sleep. Though, to be honest…I expect the morrow to be very interesting indeed!

Steelwing

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