Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander
Commander of the Legio Heroes
Regional Command at Echer’Naught, Olara
Twenty Second Day of Thunder Hawk, Year 3124 Under the Light
These are the days whose deeds echo into myth and legend. A day of heroes.
Even as I sat to record the past week’s events, flaming concoctions of death and destruction rained down upon my city, reducing her once proud monuments to smoking ruin. Yet even this was but a prelude to our destruction. For nothing, not the days of constant bombardment, not the waves of Childer, demons and Kal-A-Nar soldiers compared to the horror that was unleashed upon us…
It was a demon, well over 20 feet in height, perhaps so tall as 30. Our first warning was a bellowing in the darkness which rumbled like thunder. Then, heavy footfalls, like an earthquake shook the very walls. From my vantage, standing on my balcony I watched in muted horror as Ceynara’s brood crashed through our great barrier wall as if it were made of kindling rather than the finest dwarven stone.
My Rangers, led by Lt Hawksclaw, were at that moment recuperating from the latest assault on our walls at the north gate. From where I stood, I feared that they had been destroyed with the collapsing wall. Despite the loss of many good and honest soldiers, my team was not listed among the dead.
Rather, they flung themselves from the top of the wall in a desperate attempt to escape the demon’s wrath risking great injury but preserving their lives.
Seeing the breech in our walls and the flood of Childer, Abyssal spawn and Kal soldiers beginning to pour through into the city, I sprinted to the war room beneath my manor where Sir Lugard and Sergeant Gendarre had kept vigil over Eris during the entirety of our siege. Through her connection to Hawksclaw I learned that he and his team had survived, but that their position was untenable.
I ordered Eris to establish a mental network to all the commanders within the city and begin to relay my orders. The task would be tiring and I could not know how long she could maintain the spell under such conditions, yet we had little choice. And then I sprinted for my horse and rode hell bent for leather toward the Beacon Tower.
That climb was the longest of my life and, despite the physical training I endure, I was nearly spent when I reached the top. Spotters manned every station, a team of roost masters frantically launched messenger birds to every post in Olara and Lamplighters poured fuel on the beacon fire. From the tower, I had a clear view of the city and the surrounding land, a frightful sight at that moment.
Echer’Naught was surrounded in all directions, the highest concentration of troops at the North and the West. Most of the enemy army was mobilizing to the north around the three strange flaming peaks and marching directly for the breach in the wall. The Elven gate was in flames despite Ranger Silverfeather’s sanctity, though the Dwarven and southern were holding well enough. Harken’s men knew their tasks and performed them well.
The beast had breached just west of the North gate and was beginning a thorough destruction of the city’s brick yards. Our forces were thin in the warren of warehouses just south of the brickyard and the terrain made containing the creature there was impossible.
Through Eris I ordered Hawksclaw to establish a base camp between the North gate and centerpointe to link up with Field Marshal Von Wrangel and establish a fire break along the North Barony Road from Centerpointe and along the Greenway Road between Centerpointe and the Elven Gate. I hoped to cut off the Warehouse District, but even if we could contain the lesser creature and soldiers of the Kal, we had no hope of stopping the Demon, not until we knew how to destroy it.
The task of determining the demon’s weakness would fall to Evoran. He alone had the clinical disposition and patience process through elimination, even if it cost precious lives. The rest of their team, Thorgram, Rysak and Samira would help establish the fire break, with Samira manning the City Watch tower at Centerpoint as a defensive tower.
To Fekla I assigned the most difficult task…slowing the beast. Sophia Longarm was known to employ an Ogre named Transom, at least the size of Fekla. Fortunately, Transom was in Echer’Naught and Lady Longarm agreed to task the Longarm bruiser to assist Fekla. I knew they could not stop the beast, only slow it, and that for only a short time. In all likelihood, I was sending her to her death, but Fekla would have it no other way.
I watched as my Rangers retreated before the Kal soldiers, Hawkslcaw heading straight for his post, Fekla doing the same. Evoran disappeared into the Church district, I assume to find reinforcements. Fekla and Transom vanished into the blast zone of the demon’s path. All I could see through the smoke and darkness was that the creature’s progress had slowed.
My elite team in place, I issued orders to all available units to begin evacuating to our fallback position in High Towne. I sent Anaxelum and his men to secure the Red Lamp along with Elyanna who demanded I allow her to assist. Despite every fibre of my being compelling screaming to lock her in the command room, I relented. I seem to have no will to deny her.
The druids, through their spirit, informed me that they would secure the Sacred Grove and I need only dispatch a detail to help move the wounded to our rally point.
With men and women flooding through the two gate into High Towne and the Dwarven Gate close pressed, I dispatched the LongArms to secure High Towne’s North Gate.
Troops moving into position, I again turned my attention north. It is strange to watch a battle from the vantage point of a general, to see the different units shifting across the ground like set pieces in a child’s game of toy soldiers. There is a sense of power controlling the fates of so many, but there is also a sense of hopelessness watching your friends and colleagues suffer and die knowing there is little you can do but put them in harm’s way.
I watched as troops fled from our southern and western positions toward High Towne carrying with them our wounded. They looked like ants fleeing a rising stream. All along the walls men battled Gargoyles and Ratzin as more incendiary devices rained down. It was a scene from the Abyss. And all the while the beast raged, wreaking destruction with every step. Only through Eris’ connection did I know that Fekla yet lived.
My most disturbing report came from Ranger Silverfeather who informed me that our local Ranger Outpost had been taken by an elite team of warriors and adepts. I suspect Tor Mastak. No doubt they were keen on capturing vital intelligence. Ranger Silverfeather had the presence of mind to gather all the most important documents and evacuate them with young Malcom. Thwarted in their mission, they still very nearly managed to take Silverfeather’s wings as a prize. Narrowly he escaped.
This meant that the enemy was well and truly behind our lines executing acts of sabotage. A quick check of other high value target teams confirmed that, at present, only the Local HQ was compromised, but with everything on the west side of the city was already abandoned I had no means to verify.
Hours passed and I watched as the positions on the walls began to fall. The west gate fell first, the last soldiers and civilians fleeing before a horde of Kal. Members of the Town Militia fought a fierce rear-guard action, holding back the tide of Flame. Our east-west defensive line collapsed along the Greenway Road, falling in back in good order; the north-west line holding fast.
Low Town was in flames, but Fekla’s warrens slowed the enemy advance to a crawl. For the moment, Harken held, but the beast continued to cut a bloody swath through all defenses. Nothing seemed to work, not white silver, not spells. The creature was unstoppable.
And then, the word came from Evoran. He knew how to kill the beast. It cost the lives of his entire team of priests and paladins, and the lives of hundreds of soldiers, but at long last, we could kill it. Blessed heavy weapons were the beast’s only weakness.
Unfortunately, the gargoyles had targeted our weapons, taking out most along the north, west and southern walls and what the flying devils had missed, the Kal siege engines had finished. Our siege engines along the High Towne walls were yet untouched and we still had a few operational ballistae around the east gate.
Time. It was all a matter of time.
I gave the word to double guard on all remaining siege weapons and salvage any that could be repaired. Sophia LongArm’s men were to secure High Towne’s north gate and establish a shield wall to protect evacuees. Word came again through Eris that Transom was down, dead or incapacitated, no one knew, but the demon was coming.
And, all our preparation would be for naught if we could not lure the creature into range of the weapons. Evoran, Rysak and Fekla were still in position, so to them fell the grim task of baiting the beast. To the west, our defenses collapsed. We were out of time. My final order was for every available priest and druid to assemble at the siege trap and prepare.
From the peak of the tower to my horse lasted no more than two or three minutes. The ride to the north gate no more. Yet every step, every second weighed heavily upon my soul.
By the time Thunder skidded to a halt, blood spattered and sooty figures swarmed the walls, frantically securing the siege weapons as the skies filled with the leathery wings of gargoyles. Leaping from Thunder, I sprinted up the narrow stone steps to the top of the wall just as the demon came thundering into view. Its towering form was crashing through Centerpointe.
With a single swipe of its massive flaming sword, the demon toppled the City Watch tower like it was a toy. Just before the stones shattered, figures hurled themselves from the upper windows. I prayed to Archanon that Samira and her team had made it out in time.
We all watched in muted horror as the demon thundered its way down Main Street, melting paving stones with each step. Running just ahead were three figures, one towering Ogre, staggering almost spent, the flapping robes of a sorcerer and the small squat figure of a dwarf. Fekla was staggering her wounds were clearly serious. She managed to just reach the mark when her monumental strength finally failed her.
How she had stood for hours on end against a creature our own walls were powerless to deter I may never know. But, her sacrifice had bought us, bought me, the time needed to finally stop the creature once and for all. I stood powerless atop High Towne’s gate as the demon raised is flaming sword, Fekla prostrate in the dirt before it.
Everyone froze in terror as our most stalwart defender gave her life for a cause she did not even claim as her own. I know that Fekla came to this city to prove her brother’s innocence. And as I helplessly watched the killing blow, I felt a sense of failure. She sacrificed all in the faith that I would avenger Grimbore’s would be executors.
And then, before our stunned eyes a long figure sprinted across the road, hurling itself between the demon and Fekla’s lifeless form. As the flaming sword crashed down, Thorgram Ramshorn stood alone, his Targe shielding Fekla from the demon’s wrath. And then, all vanished in a maelstrom of heat, smoke and dust as the street disintegrated into shrapnel.
I leaned forward, my fingers digging into the stone parapet. Had I lost another?
And then the cloud dissipated and time seemed to slow…
The beast pressing downward, almost confused at the sudden resistance to his attack. And there, beneath the savage sword a defiant Thorgram, body in flames, but unyielding.
I have seen many great and wonderful things, many sacrifices on the battlefield, but this act of defiance in the face of oblivion rivaled them all. Before this act, we knew only defeat…
But one man refused to break…and in that moment I knew that, come what may, we would stand to the bitter end.
“Beautiful,” I whispered and then signaled the attack.
Beams of pure white light exploded from the hands of priests along the walls, met by equally brilliant streams of pure emerald energy from the druids. One by one, ballistae thundered hurtling their arc-fire enhanced ammunition each man-sized spear blessed by Archanon’s Light or the spiritual power of Landra.
Fire rained down, staggering the beast. More beams, more enhanced heavy darts slammed into the creature. Yet, it refused to fall. Already I could see the demon rising again…
There was no choice. I leapt into the saddle, spurring Thunder down the parapet and up the narrow stone stairs to the first, and nearest, tower. Ignoring the shouts of alarm, I pushed my mount up and over the wall.
No other horse would have trusted a rider so. No sane man would have attempted what I in my desperation attempted.
Reaching deep inside, I summoned that power which I seem to carry and stepped. Again I felt the surge of energy and the world blurred for a heartbeat and then I was there, handing in the air beside the demon’s head. With all of my might I leaned into the stirrups and swung, my father’s blade flashing white as it bit deep into the demon’s flesh.
And then the pull of the earth grabbed me and I began to plummet to the ground. Digging deep I grabbed the power and stepped…
…and felt Thunder’s hooves striking sparks on flagstones.
Releasing the power the normal fatigue washed over me from the strain of stepping through space and time. Behind me, the demon bellowed once, then sagged to its knees, angry orange flames gouting from the wound on its neck. And then, it toppled forward, smashing the street to bits under its bulk.
Our relief was short lived. Kal forces had already reached CenterPointe and would be on us in minutes. I sent an order through Eris to have all forces fall back, but her mental network had fallen silent. So, I shouted to every commander in earshot retreat behind the walls of High Towne and spurred Thunder to where Fekla’s body had fallen.
With immense effort, we managed to drag her through the gates just as the Kal army reached our position. They were boiling over and howling for blood. The thunder of their blows on the stout ironwood gates drowned out the frightened babble of voices sheltering behind the walls.
As I stood looking back at the defenders of Echer’Naught I was struck by their uniformity. When the siege had started we were divided: Rangers, City Watch, King’s Guard, LongArms and mercenaries. But days of constant battle had stripped us of our ranks, scorched our tabards and leaving our soot covered clothes a uniform gray, stone gray.
To the east a thin, lightening line presaged the dawn.
As the first light of dawn stretched across the land I came to a decision. If Echer’Naught were to fall that this day, I would ensure that this army broke on the stones of our walls. Turning I asked for volunteers to join me in this our final hour. Bloody, but unbroken, my Rangers stepped up, one after the next. Soon, others followed.
If we were to die, we would die together. I ordered the gates open.
As the doors swung open, I could see the hungry gleam in the eyes of the massed Childer and they howled in victory surging the through the open gate. I spurred Thunder forward and charged.
Behind me the Defenders of Echer’Naught roared and drove through the enemy. Time slowed as it does in the heat of battle. Arrows buzzed around me like hornets, purple eldritch energy crackled, white light so bright it left stars in my eyes exploded as a choir of angels descended from the heavens.
Our cry was answered by a horn from the east as the forces of Harken and Ranger broke through the Dwarven gate. From the west came the elves, their arrows falling like rain. From the south, Grimbore led the Stone Tower gather like some avenging avalanche and by his side, Rildrirr wielding his icy demon’s bane.
A heartbeat stretched to a minute, a moment became hours. By the time the battle was through, I could barely sit my saddle. Covered in blood, soot, and ash, I swayed drunkenly, my arms so tired they felt as if they were made of stone. Around me, soldiers collapsed where they stood, all life finally spent.
It was with the greatest effort that I dragged myself from the saddle to meet with the other commanders.
Field Marshal Von Wrangel, surly as ever. There was an elven military commander, an Eldais I had never met. Lord Haken himself commanded the relief force from Harken. Mak Tokash Grimbore met us as well and declared it a good fight, though with Sheriff Halten’s ultimatum that he would only delay Grimbore’s arrest.
Our meeting was brief, though productive. Each army separated and went into quarters outside the ruins of our city. I requested that they dispatch fresh units to secure the city and begin re-establishing order within the city allowing my own weary forces a much needed rest.
My men seen to, I walked Thunder to the nearest well, drawing enough to bury my head in the cool water. As I sank down beside the well, it occurred to me that the temperature had finally broken, much as the Kal army. Autumn quickly approached, harvest season.
Leaning my head back against the warm stone I considered the task before me. No Mayor, a town in ruins, nearly half the population missing, dead or permanently relocated. Not to mention, I had heard nothing from the Sun’s Crossing Rangers…
Closing my eyes, sleep finally overtook me there, slumped against the well beside the road, Thunder breathing heavily beside me. Days of fighting with no sleep had taken its toll.
It was late afternoon before I finally roused myself, cold and overlooked by the swarm of men and women already beginning to clean. Sore and hungry, I made my way back to the outpost, but approaching the gate I knew there was a problem.
Dread filled me to my very core. Entering the house, I found the bodies of my Rangers already laid out in rows in the yard. Looking into the faces of the survivors I knew something was horribly wrong. Evoran met me, his face a mask of pain and anguish.
Olgor was dead.
The little goblin was laid out in the library, a blanket covering his frail form, so small in death. Hawksclaw was absent and after a quick search I found him asleep beside the comatose form of Eris Moonsilver.
Evoran filled me in. During the final assault, agents of Tor Mastok had assault the HQ, fighting passed my House Guard and raiding my home. Lieutenant Olgor defended the library alone, fending off a team of Kal agents. In the command room beneath the Manor House, agents managed to force their way into Eris’ room, but were stopped by Sir Lugard and Gendarre himself.
Eris eventually succumbed to the stress of maintaining the bond too long and rendered herself unconscious. It would be some time before all of our dead could be dug out of the rubble.
Standing among the dead and dying I was overwhelmed by sadness. I should have been here. Why would Eris not have alerted me to the attack?
But I knew. Even at the risk of her own life, Eris would not have distracted me from my duty. She only informed Hawksclaw due to their connection. And he stood beside me even as the woman he loved could have been dying.
I have not cried in a long time. Despite everything we have survived, tears have seldom come. I am not ashamed to say that I knelt among the bodies of my men, MY MEN, and wept like a child. How long I remained, I cannot say, but it was well past dark when Elyanna finally put an arm around me and pulled me from the field of dead.
I write this report in the library that my friend Grizhnak saved at the cost of his own life. My second in command and my Farspeaker lie incapacitated upstairs and my city burns around me.
In truth, I have little to report. Perhaps tomorrow.
Your most obedient servant,
A. Wolfhaven, Colonel