7th First Hunt, 3125
(transcribed by Malcom)
The 33rd of Falling Ice ended well enough, for me at least. For my Alpha team, not as much. On the 30th, Evoran received news that one of his oldest friends, Aradove Longtail had been killed. The news hit him hard.
I have known Longtail for years, but I would not say we were ever close. Wolfhaven cared for her greatly, as did Rah-Sahn. Her loss is a tragedy. Unfortunately, with the attack on the Red Lamp Infirmary, we were unable to hold a last call for our fallen.
So, on the evening of the 33rd, Evoran’s team and what turned out to be half the city, from nobles to paupers, gathered at the Wolfhaven Refuge for Children to toast the life and death of Sergeant Minor Longtail. Per tradition, I declined to attend. Truth be told, I find the Olaran obsession with death to be a tad too morbid for my tastes.
The toast were memorable I heard. Evoran, of course spoke. As did Fateweaver. I think he and Longtail were romantically involved before she married his best friend? In any event, the most surprising eulogist was Eris Moonsilver.
Since she discovered her pregnancy, the Farspeaker has not left the Wolfhaven Manor. And, with the plague targeting Elves, her security has been extraordinarily strict. In her first public appearance in almost a year, Lady Moonsilver made an appearance, if briefly, to remember her fallen friend. Despite the risk, she honored the closest friend of her lost beloved.
No one can accuse the Rangers of lacking loyalty.
In the pre-dawn hours of Falling Ice 34th, Festival Day, a small group gathered again at the Orphanage to hear the last rites performed. Again, I could not attend, this less to do with tradition, and more to do with duties. Despite my strenuous objections, the powers that be demanded Festival plans go ahead as scheduled.
I spent the morning going over security with Captain Vasser of the Watch, Commander Schenkle of the Militia, Sherriff Halten of the King’s Men, and Ranger team leaders. In respect for their loss, I gave Evoran and his team as much time as I could, but by dawn, I needed the on post.
Though I offered him leave to attend, Alfred refused. He said that Longtail would understand. After all, she trained him.
The last rites were conducted by a Druid arranged by Fateweaver. Something of a lush? But, he followed the path of Zavonis. How did Longtail get blessed by an Ascended?
I do know that her urn was donated to the family jointly by both the Kilnfire and StoneMason Clans. Apparently, they set aside their feud long enough. Considering Longtail’s history with the dwarves, I am surprised.
Nevertheless, Evoran and his team left the funeral and made their way to secure the new Stahlheim Housing projects in advance of the big Festival Day Grand Opening. Before riding off to vanquish Vainar, Wolfhaven made arrangements for a series of public works projects in cooperation with the dwarves of Stahlheim, our own clans and a number of business interests. These projects included the rebuilding of the Brick yards, the construction of a new stoneyard and siegemaster proving ground, the repair of the stockyards and warehouse district, the rebuilding and expanding of the Town Watch post, and construction of a new Town Hall building and a Chamber of Commerce.
However, his crowing achievement was the construction of two, and the ground breaking of a third, three story, stone and brick housing block complete with fire places and wells. These Housing Blocks were constructed in Low Town, with the assistance of many of the residents. For the last few months, hundreds of displaced citizens have been moving in.
Now, apparently it is necessary to commemorate this generous gift to the populous and I must oversee the ceremony. Not to forget that a deadly plague stalks the streets of Low Town, or that we are, once again, at war, or, mind you, that an insane self-styled crime lord has issued a bounty on Rangers. But no, let’s have a grand ceremony in the single most unsecurable place in the entire city.
And as luck would have it, things went about as well as you would expect.
Sergeant Que’kassars and his team arrived on station where Baker Street literally runs into dirt. This is also the intersection where the first two Housing Blocks were constructed. Luckily, Thorgram and Ben had had the presence of mind to establish City Watch station IN the buildings so we had local support. Bully!
They set up a cordon as I herded our dignitaries to the stage erected to make them the easiest targets possible. I considered issuing vests with painted targets, but thought it might be a bit gauche.
At any rate, things started well enough. Samira and Dakota were on overwatch from the Block House balconies behind us. Thorgram stood on the stage with a couple Rangers just in case there was trouble. Evoran decided to climb up on the roof to get a good view. Ben, with his partner took the back, while Drainar and another Ranger took up post on the Middle Town access street.
We also had local Watch support and plains clothed Rangers imbedded in the crowed. All in all, the best of a horrible situation. Then, Danica comes screaming down Baker Street with a couple of thugs hot on her tail and everything pretty much went to the Abyss…
All security immediately focused on the sudden commotion, but I noted a man pushing his way through the crowd making his way toward the stage. His cloak was bulging and his body language suggested that he was about to do something bad.
Drainar and Ben immediately assisted Danica who was down on the ground, fighting off her two attackers. Drainer fried one, Ben rendered the other unconscious.
As for me, I fired at the figure in the crowd, but missed trying to avoid hitting innocent bystanders. Rare for me, yes, but it happens. Fortunately, I wasn’t the only Ranger to perceive the real threat.
Evoran reacted instantly, unleashing a violent beam of purple Eldritch energy. The assassin vanished in a blast of arcane power. Of course, that sent a shockwave through the crowd resulting in a stampede to clear the intersection. Subtle Evoran is not.
Rangers in the crowd were nearly trampled desperately trying to at least direct the mayhem. My team on the podium, covered their assigned dignitaries as we made our way to a secure fallback position. I never even glanced back assuming Evoran had control of the situation.
I was wrong…horribly wrong.
From what I was able to learn after the fact, Samira, seeing all threats down, looked for Evoran to get new orders. What she saw made no sense. In the commotion, the Sorcerer had gone down and even from her vantage point high on the 3rd floor balcony, Samira could see rivulets of blood coursing down the gutters from the roof Evoran’s body lay upon.
Wasting no time, she leaned over and shouted for Darkota to remain on the 2nd floor balcony as cover. Then she sprinted for the stairs. On the ground, Danica, Drainar and Ben linked up, Ben taking custody of the captive, while Danica tried to explain that there was a problem at the North Gate.
Earlier in the morning, she gathered at the office of the goblin fight promoter, Mitty, to wait for her day’s assignment, being undercover as one of his hired muscle. She happened to overhear he and some of his toughs discussing a big event happening at some point in the day. They also made mention of one of their “special” clients. Danica assumed this had to do with Velkalar so she resolved to warn Thorgram when she was put on his detail.
As it happened, Mitty sent her with a group of hired thugs to the Festival Grounds, far away from Thorgram’s team. Worse, when she tried to slip away, the head man noticed her, losing Danica any chance for surprise again. That, and it dawned on her that she was in a group of Mitty’s most seasoned fighters, his top men. She knew she was in trouble.
With no other choice, Danica made her rounds as ordered, desperately seeking her team, or any sign of villainy on the part of Mitty’s men. It took her hours, but almost at noon, she realized they had been slowly but steadily fouling traffic at the North Gate increasing congestion and slowing the flow to a trickle. With a huge portion of available Rangers running security for the massive Fair Grounds, if anything happened IN the city, response time would be…hours?
That’s when she heard a town crier, hired by Fateweaver at Ben’s behest, announce the Grand Opening of the Stahlheim Housing Blocks. All dignitaries were to attend. Danica had no choice but to blow her cover and make a break for the city.
She was spotted immediately and two of Mitty’s goons were sent to chase her down. Which brings us back to the attack’s aftermath.
As quickly as possible, Danica tried to explain to Drainar the situation at the North Gate. He, in turn, looked for Evoran…only to see the post abandoned and no sign of his Sergeant. Leaving Ben with the prisoner, Danica and Drainar pushed through the thinning crowd, headed for Evoran’s last position.
They very nearly collided with Samira who was also just arriving. Seeing the blood, both Samira and Drainar shimmied up to the roof to find Evoran’s body growing cold and…gray. Also, there were two black, fletched arrows protruding from his chest, on buried deep in each lung.
Drainar, calling on his little Life magic, attempted to heal Evoran. However, as he later described, it seemed like trying to revive a slab of meat. Only then did they realize the horrible truth. Evoran was dead, or very nearly so. Far beyond their powers of healing.
Frantic, they discussed options when Eris, who had suddenly lost mental link with Evoran, contacted Samira for a report. In the matter of a thought, Samira relayed the situation. At which, and here is where I realized a problem was happening, Eris closed down the entire battle link.
At this moment, I was trying to calm down some VERY angry bodyguards when my connection with Eris went dark. Using my own abilities, I attempted to re-establish contact, but was soundly rebuffed. Confused, and now a bit concerned, I excused myself from the gaggle of screaming nobles and started making my way back to team.
Eris reached out to me shortly before I arrived and explained, quickly what had transpired and that Evoran was being, “handled”.
While I was enroute, Thorgram in tow, Eris re-connected with Samira explaining that they needed to get Evoran’s body off the roof and onto solid ground. An odd request, to be sure, but the Corporal did not waste time with pointless questions. She and Drainar immediately bound Evoran wrist and foot and lowered him to Danica’s waiting arms.
No sooner had Danica lowered his body to the ground than the earth began to quake. Well, that pretty much finished off any lingerers. Anybody left in the intersection or on the balconies simply scattered. The Rangers backed off as roots began to punch through the cobblestones.
With the roots came wildflowers which inexplicably grew, spreading out from beneath Evoran until he was lying on a bed of soft grass and wildflowers. Then, a figure emerged from the soil, part vine, part elf until the figure of Treesinger resolved. With a gentle hand, she reached out to touch Evoran’s chest and then, both sank into the earth and vanished leaving behind the little island of green and the stunned Rangers.
I then arrived, shortly after to receive a debrief from Samira. Danica quickly alerted me to the possibility of further aggression at the North Gate, so I ordered the team there to secure it while I went to coordinate our response with the Watch and Militia.
The rest of my afternoon was spent calming ruffled feathers, apologizing profusely, and generally dealing with pretentious idiots with less sense than a rock. Samira’s team spent their time unfouling the jam at the North Gate. Fortunately, there were no further attacks. Also, there were no more sightings of Mitty’s men. No surprise.
Falling Ice, 34th 3125 finally came to a close much to the relief of my Rangers.
Regrettably, no word on Evoran. So, on the 1st of First Hunt, I sent Dakota Afliem with another elven Ranger not diseased to the Sacred Grove to inquire of the druids Evoran’s condition. This being Dakota’s first venture into the Sacred Grove I have no doubt it left a memorable impression.
When she returned, Dakota informed me that Evoran remained with us, but he was neither alive. GREAT! Though the High Druidess has my complete respect, she can be utterly frustrating. At the same time, I asked Corporal Ravenwood, if she wanted a couple of weeks to track down information on Evoran’s assailant, or would she prefer to take on her next mission.
For the last few weeks we had received unconfirmed reports of vicious attacks, razed vills, and disappearances occurring all across the northern territories, not to mention the Ranger abductions and murders to the south. Key word, unconfirmed. Actual intelligence that could acted upon was infuriatingly absent. I needed SOMEONE to provide some semblance of a report.
There was also the small matter of any Ranger outside of the walls subject to murder by Velkalar’s trophy hunters.
To my surprise, Samira chose to take on the Long Recon mission north. It would take a few days to make arrangements. So, with Evoran, mostly dead? and Samira in command, but struggling with her own afflictions, I afforded the Alpha team some Administration and Training Time.
I hoped that we would get some word out of the Sacred Grove, an indication of Evoran’s condition. A day later, First Hunt 2nd, 3125, I received just that. Well, I actually received Evoran who, quite literally appeared at the Regional HQ.
When he was ushered into my office by a flustered Malcom, I nearly fell out of my chair. He looked…horrible. His robes were dirt and blood stained. I could still see the holes where the crossbow bolts hand pierced his chest. The Eldakar himself looked worse.
It took me a moment to understand why. I mean, yes, he was recently returned from the dead, but it was something else, something…ephemeral. When I looked at him, I mean really looked…I suddenly understood. Evoran was diminished…still Eldakar…but…mortal.
His expression revealed all. The price of his return was his immortality.
In a few words, he explained his miraculous return. I will leave those to his own words to follow.
At any rate, I asked if he needed time to recover or would he prefer to resume command. Wisely or not, she chose to rejoin his team, so we summoned Samira who was overjoyed at his return.
Together, we quickly filled him in on the mission and our preparations. He would lead a small team north whose mission would be to gather intelligence on reports of recent attacks and confirm or refute claims of agents of Darkness stalking the northern baronies.
If it was revealed that we WERE under attack, Evoran would use his judgment to determine whether his team could handle the situation. If so, all to the good. If not, he would wait until the following morning when Eris made routine contact. He could then request reinforcements.
Wolfhaven Free Riders had been making routine patrols between the Wolfhaven Barony and the city. They had delivered some of the rumors themselves, but their purview was to keep the roads open, not track down weak rumors of ghostly figures and arcane horrors. That task was left to the Ranger Corps proper.
Despite my concerns over the well-being of both Evoran and Samira, the two senior commanders, I authorized the team to leave that same evening, First Hunt 2nd, 3125, under cover of Darkness.
We know we are being watched. That much is a given. But, there was at least some hope that news of Evoran’s miraculous recovery might not have reached the ears of our enemy. So, taking what precautions could be taken on short notice, the team rode out the north gate with 3 extra Rangers pulled from the rotation to fill slots made absent by Sarin and Amelia.
From Eris’ reports, the team camped about an hour north of Echer’Naught the night of the 2nd of First Hunt before heading on the morning of the 3rd of First Hunt. By noon on the 3rd of First Hunt, they arrived at a small thorpe complete with an inn (a house that served some fermented draught and provided wooden plank benches by a small, piteous fire).
Danica, who actually speaks Olaran, and Samira entered the “inn” to seek out rumors. The innkeeper seemed amenable enough, if filthy, offered a few tidbits of info, one blood drained cow and a column of black smoke on the horizon to the west. Neither seemed that promising, but the cow was closer. So, after Samira spit out the piss-poor ale all over the innkeeper, the scouts returned to the team who had been watering the mounts.
Evoran elected to investigate the cow as it was closer and more indicative of Darkness activity in the area. Before leaving the hamlet, however, they had to locate Thorgrams ass, Muriel, who had managed to slip her lead and disappear. She was quickly located behind the inn consuming an entire crate of the same swill that was so foul it caused Samira to spray all over her host.
With drunken mule in hand, the team followed the spotty directions provided by the innkeeper toward “Farmer John’s” fields and the exsanguinated bovine. Sadly, the trip was interrupted midway when Muriel stubbornly refused to jump one of the farm’s stone walls and, instead, chose to plow right through.
The rest of the team settled down for an afternoon lunch in the sun while Thorgram restacked the heavy stone, cursing the entire time. Damage repaired, they proceeded to Farmer John who, by all reports, was an amiable fellow. He confirmed the cow story, but since the beast had since been butchered, there was little evidence of the crime.
He did add that all the farms had suffered increased predation lately, but had seen nothing out of the ordinary beyond that…and the blood drained cattle.
Evoran elected to establish camp on a nearby hill the farmer had indicated so that they team might set up a watch over the countryside. Farmer John was amenable, so the eve of the 3rd of First Hunt, 3125, the Alpha Team set up camp on a hill a day and a half’s ride north of Echer’Naught and proceeded to set watch over the farmlands.
All seemed well, no sightings of anything amiss, but the following morning, on the 4th of First Hunt, things began to go awry. That morning, Samira woke with a bloody cough, so imbibed one of the Greater Healing Potions her paramour, Anaxelum, had “procured” from Flamel’s Apothecary. All as the healers had proscribed. Unfortunately, it seemed to have little effect.
The next morning, on the 5th, her symptoms worsened. Still, no sign of Darkness in the surrounding county. Again on the 6th, her condition worsened markedly and again, the land around seemed unchained with no sightings of Darkness, cultists, or anything amiss.
However, by afternoon, Samira was bed-ridden, so Evoran made a call and had the camp broken quickly. The Rangers rode HARD for the Wolfhaven Manor, arriving late the evening of the 6th of First Hunt.
What they found surprised them all. It would appear that, in addition to his many civic projects in Echer’Naught, the good Col had ALSO been making repairs to his ancestral home as well. He had been a busy lad. Foremen, laborers, architects, stonecutters, and all manner of craftsmen had established a large, heavily armed camp and were already well on their way to renovating the first floor of the Wolfhaven Estate.
Most of these men had survived last summer’s (3124) attack by Flame and returned to resume their work. Farmers were already sowing seeds in once barren field. These men knew Thorgram well and invited the Rangers in with open arms, providing them lodging in a few of the completed rooms in the Manor House proper.
Danica and Ben stood watch, being immune as they were to the disease while the others spoke with the laborers, using Thorgram as a guide and interpreter in some cases. The Half-Orc speaks dirt.
That night was a long one with Samira growing ever worse…
…in the morning on the 7th of First Hunt 3125, she was dead.
Evoran clearly sensed her spirit fade and Darkness begin to overtake her. He was just about to destroy her body when it was consumed by power. Outside, the terrified workers looked up to see a massive Tempest Cyclone begin forming overhead.
Within the chamber itself, an even stronger wind picked up as lighting began to play over Samira’s corpse. Thorgram, having faced this before, shouted for everyone to take cover as the Rangers sprinted for cover in the Manor House.
In the room, Evoran ordered Danica out even as the gale-force winds threatened to slam them against the walls. Half of the Rangers were nearly killed by lightning strikes as the weather outside went haywire. Snow, sleet, and hail hammered the roof while rain poured from the sky and thunder and lightning created a deafening cacophony.
A little singed, the Rangers made it to cover to find Evoran and Danica backing away from Samira’s door. Dakota shouted over the din, demanding to know what was happening and Evoran was screaming back when everything went eerily silent. The rain stopped and the wind died leaving the team in deafening silence.
From the gloom of the chamber, a figure appeared in the doorway. Reacting to a potential attack, the team readied itself for war.
Ben stood, mask on, sword ablaze in blue/white light even as his cloak still smoked…
Dakota drew her bow cursing her fate of losing every new friend she found…
Evoran summoned his power, wreathing himself in eldritch protection…
Drainar summoned arcane armor and prepared for the worst….
Danica fingered her saber, readying for the rush…
Thorgram locked his shield, axe ready to hew…
And from the wreckage stepped Samira, very much alive, though obviously disoriented by the reaction of her team. From behind the group, the three Rangers stood stunned, unsure of what to do next.
Samira broke the spell, demanding to know why they appeared about to murder her. Only then, did the team relax, somewhat. Ben and Evoran maintained that she was now a threat and should be escorted back to Echer’Naught immediately. Thorgram jumped to her defense pointing out that she as not the only marked member and if they arrested every Ranger who was cursed by some power they would have no one left to fight.
The argument continued until Eris contact Evoran as scheduled. She, telling me later, linked with both Evoran and Samira allowing her to interrogate the one for the other. After a brief, but intense questioning, Evoran agreed to allow Samira to remain in the field, though he harbored deep reservations about her reliability now that she had willingly embraced the Tempest.
That crises resolved, the Rangers stood down and prepared to resume their breakfast that had been so rudely interrupted when the Foreman approached with grim news. A young boy had just been found, half-starved and terrified babbling about his village being destroyed.
Exhausted, hungry, half the team either suspect or devastated, the Alpha team put aside their own concerns to face what new horror awaited them.
Eris, of course, relayed this latest to me via her connection with Evoran. So much had happened over the last few days that I completely forgot to inform him of the most unusual event in a long string of unbelievable events.
The morning of the 1st of First Hunt, after I met with Samira, I had a visitor. Captain Vasser of the Watch arrived to personally deliver the previous day’s crime report. As he explained, the 34th of Falling Ice traditionally had the highest crime rate of any day in the year as it was the Festival Day and usually saw huge crowds arrive in Echer’Naught. With so many people spending so much coin and security stretched to the limit, it was always a busy time for the city’s criminals.
What Captain Vasser handed me, however, was a blank sheet of paper. Confused, I asked what he was about. With wonder, and a bit of a smile, he informed me that there was not a single reported case of theft from start of Sergeant Minor Longtail’s Last Call for the next 25 hours…
On the single most lucrative day, it seemed that every thief, cutpurse, draw latch, and pickpocket in the entire city simply…took the day off. No one ever explained why, and the Watch was at a loss to explain it, but Vasser and I both believe that it was Longtail’s “associates” way of honoring her memory, but honoring her commitment to the Rangers.
To my knowledge, and his, that was the only day in the city’s long history this ever happened.
What better tribute could there be?