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

Slayer Report 7
Meeting Wolves

Gray Winds, 3123 Under the Light

Holy Father,

I am not embarrassed to say that I was unable to find the were-wolf in the city of Echer’Naught as we discovered, shortly after the search was concluded, that he was NOT in fact within the walls as he promised the Col. during their “meeting” in Center Pointe.

In fact, we were called into the Cols office mid Gray Winds and given a coin from Wolfhaven’s own hand and ordered to undertake a simple, but curious mission. Apparently, the were-wolf had not gone far, taking up residence in the city of Harken so as to be close enough to intervene should his sister require; it being only a days run for one of his kind.

I was surprised to think that the Col would consort with such as he, but desperate times, I suppose. Von D and I departed and made the quick ride in a little over a day to the city where we followed our instructions. To my, not quite surprise, we found the beast sitting pleasant as could be in a tavern near the western gate. Approaching we offered the coin as assurance of our intentions.

He seemed…relaxed. Perhaps he expected this turn of events? Regardless, the were-wolf agreed to speak with us.

We were authorized to reveal that our scouts had been, yet, unable to locate the central keep of the Blood Lord’s forces and asked if he might know more. He did not, but agreed to seek out contacts that would likely not speak with out kind. With that, we departed back for Echer’Naught and our next mission.

It should bother me more, this consorting with Evil, but try as I might, I cannot find fault with the boy. He neither asked for his condition, nor has he used it as an excuse for barbarism. End yet, I cannot deny the drive to slay him as a creature of Darkness out of hand.

War makes strange bedfellows does it not?

A. Alystar

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General Order 3, Echer'Naught
LRHFH203124

From the desk of:
Lt. R.S. Hawksclaw
12th of First Hunt
Echer’naught

For:
Immediate distribution to all Rangers, and Ranger Trainees in Echer’naught.

Greetings,
I am writing this missive to all Ranger Trainees who, by their virtue and dedication to service, have elected to join our ranks. Having been appointed a trainee, you have already shown that you are skilled and courageous. However, that is not all that it takes to become promoted to full Ranger status.
Here, I hope to briefly discuss some of the finer points of what it means to be a Ranger. Listed below are a few of these.

Your station:
You are now in the probationary period of your service.
You shall respect and obey the orders given by your instructors.
You will be prompt for formations, and courteous to your comrades.
You will strive for excellence in your studies, both marshal and intellectual.
You shall be compassionate to the needs of the civilians, which we are sworn to protect.
Remember, a single Ranger may be all that stands between order and chaos. You may mean the difference between Life, and death.

Your appearance:
Owing to our diverse nature, our members may vary greatly in their manner of dress.
Any who need, in addition to their Ranger “kits”, items of basic clothing may requisition them from the quartermaster.
You will remain in reasonably neat order, and should groom yourself accordingly. A bi-monthly bath, where practical, is encouraged.
You will, at all times, wear the cloak of a Ranger Trainee. Your cloak acts as your badge of rank, and station.
Remember, always, that you act as an emissary for justice, Life, and a power far greater than yourself. Your dress and conduct should reflect these virtues with pride.

Your training:
The training regimen is broken into several sections, and will be taught by proven instructors.
Some of the skills will include:
Horsemanship (as we are, primarily, a cavalry force), combat manouvers (both offense, and defense), scouting, field craft, tracking, weapons training, basic Olaran reading and writing, basic codes of justice, healing, and Ranger etiquette.
These, among others, are the skills you will learn before becoming a Ranger.
Some of your instructors shall include:

Stealth/reconnaissance-
Sgt. Longtail
Melee combat-
RFC. Ryldryrr
Scorcery/magic-
RFC. Quesekars
Recruiting-
Rngr. Trnee’s.
Thorgram
Ravenwood
Ryzak

Ranger Ranks:
Rangers gain promotion for various reasons. Some include; valor in combat, years of service, special skills, and many others.
The basic Ranger enlisted ranks are:
Sergeant Major
Sergeant
Corporal
Ranger First Class
Ranger
Ranger Trainee

Your Company:
The actual number of Rangers in the Company will vary. All numbers are an approximation.
The company is more or less subdivided as such:

Team- approx. 5-10
A group consisting of one Ranger First Class, and four to nine Rangers. (This is the common size of a scouting party, or patrol.)

Squad- approx. 10-20
Two teams, led by a Corporal, or the senior First Class of the Squads. (This is the common size of a constabulary, or reconnaissance force.)

Platoon- approx. 20-30
Two Squads, led by a Sergeant or a senior Corporal. (This is the common size of a reconnaissance in force, or small assault force.)

Company- approx. 60-90
Three platoons, led by a Lieutenant, or a senior Platoon Sargent. (This is the common size of a garrison, or large assault force.)

Our mission, and duties:
The Rangers are called upon for many diverse tasks. The broad nature of our endeavors is why we strive to ever expand our skill sets. You may be called upon to settle a civilian dispute on one day, and the next you may be called into line of battle. We act as scouts, guards, peacekeepers, investigators, and any number of other roles. We all have different skills, and that is why we rely on our comrades. Remember, as Rangers, we work together to accomplish our common goals.

Courtesies and bearing:
I ask each of you to always be mindful of proper Ranger etiquette. Not only should you pay respects to civilians, but to your peers and Officers. Any enlisted Ranger should, upon meeting an officer for the first time (daily), salute him or her. This shall be done at the position of attention, until the salute is returned.

A salute shall be delivered:
Armed- with the right hand, fist lightly clenched, across the left breast.
(If a weapon is in hand, the weapon shall be presented at eye level. For swords, at the cross guard, for bows and pole arms, at the mid section of the weapon.)
Unarmed- with the right hand, palm outward, and the index finger resting above the right brow.

The position of attention:
Shall is assumed to be,
On foot- Body erect, heels together, knees unlocked, arms downward.
(The ranks will stand closely enough to permit light elbow contact.)
Mounted- Sitting straight, knees bent, reins held in left hand, right arm downward.
(The ranks will ride closely enough to permit light knee contact.)

Items considered contraband:
Very little is “off limits” to a Ranger. We are all assumed to be both reasonable and competent. However, there are certain items that will not be allowed in the Echer’naught Company, unless special dispensations are made.

These include:
-Arc Fire weapons or devices.
-Weapons of Black Iron, or Blood Steel construction.
-“Floaters” are not permitted within any Ranger facility.
-Alchemical reagents, unless in the possession of one trained to use them.
-Any stolen goods.
-Any other items deemed “unfit” for possession, by command.

In closing,
Know that I am proud of each of you. You will do well, and given time, will make a fine crop of Rangers. Know your station, do your duty, and remember those that have gone before you. Together, we will be a force for good.

May the Ascended watch over each of you,
Lt. R.S. Hawksclaw

From the desk of:
Lt. R.S. Hawksclaw

For:
Immediate distribution to all Rangers and Ranger Trainees in Echer’naught.

Regarding:
Addendum of declaration to Ranger Trainee pamphlet.

Rangers,
I have confirmed a point of order, in regards to my previously issued missive.
That is, that, the Company shall henceforth be officially known to Ranger Command as,
The Echer’naught Company of Rangers.
I, however, and in regards to the Regional Command, have made the decision to title our Company,
Wolfhaven’s Free Company, of Echer’naught Rangers.
Or,
“The Free Company”
By this act, we will pay homage to Colonel Alexander Wolfhaven. A man who, in both word and deed, has helped to make our region one of the safest, more prosperous, and well regarded provinces in Olara.
Also, we pay tribute, and legitimize the name given to the men who served in both The Defense of Eckhart, and the relief of Bearheart. Many of you were part of this gallant force, and have formed the core of our Company. I pray that this will do you honor now, and in the future.

May the blessings of The Ascended rest upon you all.
~ Lt. R.S. Hawksclaw

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Campaign Report 37
Dragon Cult

Ranger Trainee Larken
Report

Twentieth Day, First Hunt, Year 3124

Lt. Hawksclaw informed me that Ranger Evoran would be mightily cross with me should I fail to turn in a report of my first mission. I would not like to see the Sorcerer cross. He frightens me something fierce.

So…

I arrived in the great city of Echer’Naught on the 2nd day of First Hunt along with a number of other Ranger hopefuls. My father was born a serf, but served his liege well and was made free in his retirement passing that boon on to me, his only son.

When I came of age, my father asked me what it was I wished to do, as I am a terrible farmer. Rangers I said. I have always wished to don the cloak.

So, with his blessing I left home and traveled to Echer’Naught. The city is huge! I very nearly lost my way but a kindly local guided me to the Outpost, though it cost me most of the coin I had.

Within I found a number of other hopefuls, more than twenty all gathered to join the Rangers. I had only the clothes on my back and my father’s bow. We were given food, shelter and waited for the assessments to begin.

On the 4th day of First Hunt, I gathered in the pre-dawn chill to begin testing. First we ran the entire perimeter of the city. I very nearly lost my breakfast. Others did.

Then, we were given climbing rope and instructed to scramble up to touch the cross timbers of the HQ. One man fell and broke is crown. Priests were called and I saw him no more. After that, were given dry moss and a fire-bow and tested on our survival skills. I passed…barely. One poor sot actually lit the Ranger on FIRE! Fair to say he failed. Then we were given a meal and sent out for combat. I nearly lost my head in the melee bout, but scored high marks in archery. Lastly, we were given horses and instructed to follow a course. I stayed in the saddle. That is all I will say on that.

On the next day, the Fifth of First Hunt, I was sent to the Church of Light infirmary where I was given a thorough, and rather intimate examination. They also had priests on hand to ensure that none harbored evil intent. With this concluded, I was given a series of papers with my results and sent to the Regional HQ on the hill.

I have never seen such manor houses. My eyes bugged. We we arrived at a beautiful house guarded by the ugliest Ogress I have ever seen. Also the first I ever saw. She spoke to no one, but glared meanly from her good eye.

Inside, we were put in a line and waited out turn with the Adept. When I was allowed to enter her room I was struck dumb by her beauty. She kindly asked me sit and bade me relax. If I thought the physical examination was intimate this was…I haven’t the word.

In a moment, I felt a pressure in my mind, then my life flashed before my eyes. And then it was done. She handed me another paper and sent me downstairs. I swear her room was guarded by Camonese soldiers! But that is hardly likely.

On the ground flood I entered another line. After a time, I was let into a massive two-story library. Sitting behind a large desk was the oldest, shriveled Goblin I had ever seen, but he spoke Olaran better than I! Beside him was ANOTHER Eldakar like the Adept upstairs. In one day I had seen an Ogress and two Eldakar. I would not be surprised to see an Aevakar here, though I know that to be wishful thinking.

I discovered the severe looking Eldakar was in face Ranger Evoran, the Goblin Lt. Olgor. I said nothing and handed them my sheef. Ranger Evoran snatched sniffing at my attire and carefully read each paper, occasionally giving me a disapproving glare. I was very nearly unmanned. I could not for certain say which is worse, the Ogress who appeared about to eat me, or the Eldakar who seemed to see deeper into my soul than the Adept.

At long last, he sniffed, signed the paper and in a very haughty voice dismissed me back to the HQ. I very nearly ran out the door…into a human girl very nearly my own age, maybe younger.

I think she said her name was Sara? I cannot be sure. She spoke so quickly and with so much enthusiasm that I scarcely knew which way was up. She hugged me twice…or three times and welcomed me to the Rangers. Then sent me on my way.

Heart pounding, I spilled out of the back door and followed other dazed recruits into the streets. Together, we managed to find our way back to the lower HQ. I now understand that lower officer handles local affairs, the upper regional ones.

Anyway, now mid-morn, we queued up outside the commanders office, our stack of forms in hand and waited. Ahead of me was a Dwarf, Rysak who was armed to the teeth, unlike so many others. He seemed a man who knew what was about.

Anyway, after he entered and met with the commander, I was next in line, but suddenly…an Aevakar appeared. I nearly soiled myself. The elf very nearly knocked me over as it swooped in. I saw the Ranger cloak about its neck.

He announced himself as Sarin and was admitted to the Commander. They embraced as old friends and chatted…at length. Finally, taking note, the Commander dismissed the Aevakar who brushed by me without so much as a how-do-you-do and soared off again.

Then, the half-orc at the door gave me a weary glare and shouted “NEXT!” so loud I nearly jumped out of my skin. Stepping in, I first laid eyes upon Lt. Hawksclaw, a man they say cannot be killed by mortal hands.

I trembled so much I nearly dropped my papers. The Commander was much as I expected, and so different. He seemed severe, yet kind. Anyway, he read my packet, asked a few questions before sending me upstairs to find a bunk.

I gave the best salute I could, turned and headed upstairs to the sound of “NEXT!” behind me. Upstairs I found other recruits…no Ranger Trainees talking excitedly. I found an open cot with a well crafted trunk at its foot. In the lock I found a key. Opening the trunk I found a small bundle, a light green cloak and metal clasp styled in the Ranger crest.

I confess my hands trembled as I lifted it out. My cloak. My Ranger Cloak. I…am a Ranger. Putting it on, it took nearly a quarter hour to fix the clasp so it would sit right on my shoulders…but when I finally got it settled right I could feel the weight of it, like responsibility resting on my shoulders.

I saw the Dwarf too, Ryask Ironblood. He apparently made the cut too. (5th First Hunt)

The room was full of excitement as we admired each others cloaks. Then, as a group, we went downstairs and out to the practice yard behind the HQ where one of the Rangers was leading combat training.

He was the biggest man I had ever seen. Corporal Rildrirr. I hear he is a barbarian from the north and that he eats human flesh! We all fell in and spent the evening beating each other’s brains in with practice swords. By nightfall, I could not feel my arms.

And then, the bell rang and we were given leave for the night. My first night on the town…as a Ranger!!!! I remember little of what happened next, but we drank every drop of ale from every alehouse we could find. By stroke of midnight, I collapsed into my bunk.

For the next few days, we drilled in the morning, and were assigned tasks with senior Rangers: patrol, guard duty, messengers, and general tasks around the HQ. That girl Sara is actually a Ranger! I don’t know her exact role, but she seems to manage all the kitchens, help with the Sergeant Major (Stormhammer I think), run errands for Ranger Evoran, and other duties around the town. She never stops moving…or talking. I feel tired just watching her.

Of Lt. Hawksclaw I saw little. Mostly, we worked with Corporal Rildrirr, Sergeant Major Stormhammer, and Ranger Lugard. Oh, I also discovered that Sergeant Gendarre and his men ARE Camonese. They apparently serve directly under the Regional Commander, Colonel Wolfhaven. I haven’t seen him yet.

Anyway, on the 8th day we were all told to report before dawn east of the city. I arrived to find a great crowd of people and Rangers. I was given a horse and told to fall into line. Lt. Hawksclaw seemed surprisingly serious as he called the Rangers and then a group called the Free Company to attention.

Then, just as the sun rose over the walls, the gates of Echer’Naught creaked open, banners dropped from the walls, there was a great fanfare of horns and pipe and the order was given to move out.

I had no idea what was going on.

As confetti rained down, we rode like kings through the streets thronged with onlookers. The trainees like myself stared around in wonder. Turning north, we exited the city and then turned onto a large parade ground. We made on while turn around the ground before halting before a grande review platform.

The lieutenant called us to attention, then rode up to stand before the dias. Apparently, the Lord Mayor himself stood up there along with other nobles. I was paralyzed with fear. What if I fell from the saddle?!

Luckily, I did not. The Commander spoke a few words about his men and their bravery. Then, the Lord Mayor spoke and gave each man of the Free Company a Gold Piece!!! That is more money than my family earned in a year! Each man received one!

Then, with great ceremony, the Free Company broke ranks and the crowds rushed in. It was like Festival Day at home, but hundreds of time bigger. Our orders were to maintain the crowds and be seen.

I found Rysak and few others and we stuck together in the crowds. It is funny, even though I wear only the light cloak of the Trainee, the civilians do not seem to know the difference.

At some point, Rysak asked another Trainee, the half-orc Thorgram, who apparently served in the Free Company, what the fuss was all about. He told a story of the defense of Eckhart keep, of the hundreds who died there…

I have heard of this. Now I understand.

Anyway, we stayed around till after dark, then went back to barracks.

On the 9th day of First Hunt, the Commander called a few us together: me, Thorgram, Ryasak, Wiliam and that Aevakar Ranger. I was to embark on my first mission! I threw up.

We went with Sarin (the Aevakar) to Sergeant Stormhammer to requisition our gear. Then, we worked around the HQ trying not to get too nervous about the next morning. I could not sleep a wink all night.

Before dawn on the 10th of First Hunt, we gathered in the stables behind the HQ, mounted our horses and tore out of the city. We rode for 4 days straight. I could not even walk straight my buttocks were so sore.

On the morn of the 14th, we arrived at the gates of the city of Olara. If I thought Echer’Naught was big, I now knew different. Olara must be the largest city in the WORLD! Walls miles high!

I found it odd that the Commander ordered us to remove our cloaks, but I followed orders and said nothing. We passed the gates and entered the city. Were it not for Lt. Hawksclaw leading us, I wold have quickly gotten lost. It seemed that Thorgram had been here before, but couldn’t remember much of the city. I’m going to ask him why later.

We arrived at a large library and entered looking for a man named Master Geison, a librarian and friend of the Commander. After speaking with the desk, we found the old man deep in the stacks.

He informed us that he had been doing research for years, but of late, some of his contacts had gone silent and many of the tomes he was trying to collect had disappeared before reaching him. Though he could not prove it, he feared foul play.

More to the point, a local contact, a minor noble, Lord Orak was to send him an ancient diary, but the Lord had ceased communication some time passed and the tome never arrived. He bade us ensure that his friend was in good health.

Leaving the Library, we headed through close and clogged streets to a nicer part of town. There, we arrived a quaint two-story stone home. Clearly, the man was of means, but hardly rich.

I and William stood post at the gate while the others walked up to the house. No one answered the door, so Ranger Sarin flew above and the other Rangers scouted the house. We couldn’t hear, but it appeared that they were stumped.

I was sure they were about to return to us, when all of the sudden the air was split by a awful wailing noise and they all spun, weapons draw at an upstairs window. I couldn’t see, but immediately Ranger Sarin flew up to the window towing a climbing rope while the lieutenant signaled for us to cover the front door and Rysak and Thorgram to take the back.

William and I bolted for the door and drew bows. We waited for what seemed an eternity when there was a loud BOOM out back. I very nearly jumped from my skin. We heard footsteps from within and started pounding on the door, trying to get inside.

It was opened, a moment later, by Lt. Hawksclaw who made us lower our bows. While we waited out front, a blue/white masked man had blown the back door off its hinges very nearly knocked down the other trainees. Though they tried, they were unable to hit him as he fled.

The commander tasked us scour the building and we did, finding the body of the butler lying dead in the kitchen. Upstairs, Lord Orak was also dead. Rysak found a red thread on his body and the room was ransacked. It seemed our tome was stolen.

We posted guard below and soon town guard arrived. Next, the Sheriff arrived. After that, we saw Sarin soar out a window and he returned later with old man Geison. They all stayed upstairs late into the evening. Then they came down saying to search for a grocery list. This was found. We posted guard again and coroners gremlins arrived.

They hauled out the bodies on carts and left. Then the Sheriff left. Then the town watch posted guard. Then we were called up to the office of the dead man. While we waited, we discussed our next course of action. Eventually we were ordered to break into teams. I would go with Rysak and Sarin, while William went with the Commander and Thorgram.

However, that would be in the morn. For now, we went out into the yard and encamped.

Before dawn on the 15th of First Hunt, we awoke without breakfast and headed off. My little group followed Sarin the merchant quarter checking off each store on the butlers list. At the last, the grocer, we discovered that the Lord had a housemaid but we could not learn her name.

When we returned, we found men tallying up the dead Lord’s estate. These nobles don’t muck around with assets. After ensuring they were not villains, we entered the house looking for a ledger.

We found it and learned the woman’s name. Sarin ordered that we remain here and took off into the air.

It was getting on toward lunch so Rysak and I went down to our camp and cooked up fine vittles. There we remained for a time. Before the men left, Rysak got the name of some people who might broker for local housemaids. Maybe we could learn more from them.

Right at dark, after we sat alone and chatted for 4 hours, Sarin and then the other group arrived. Poor William looked fit to collapse. It seemed the Commander had run them hard.

In a nutshell, the lieutenant had taken the thread to a weaver who told them it was silk from some Island or other. He was the only dealer in silk, but said his last shipment had been purchased in bulk by a clothier. They headed to the clothier who had made fine clothes on contract and had them couriered to an address. They followed the address to an empty lot. William remember the bit about a courier so back they ran to the clothier to get the couriers name. Then, they ran to the courier, but had to wait an hour before the actual boy returned.

He informed them that he often delivered to the vacant lot, last time about a week before. With that, tired and hungry, they resolved to return. But, not before the Commander wisely told the boy that should his officer get another package for the vacant lot that he should send yet another courier to warn us immediately.

Sarin had headed to cheapside to find the washer woman. After asking around a bit, he found her flat and her meagre possession, but she had been missing for two weeks which is about how long the Lord Orak and his man had been dead.

While they reported this, Thorgram ate half our stew. Anyway, they had no word on the strange masked man who they had caught kneeling over the dead lord’s body, nor any more information on the vacant lot. With nothing more to do, we sat down to eat and had taken our first bite when a courier appeared at the gate.

Summoned, he informed us that a last minute package had JUST been sent to be delivered to the lot. Like an arrow from a bow Sarin took to flight without so much as a by your leave from the Commander.

Lt. Hawkclaw shouted to mount up and we tore out of the yard and down the street. A few blocks from the lot, we dismounted and crept forward, but there was no real need. Sarin waited at the lot, vacant and without the package.

He swore he could not have been more than a few minutes behind the courier so we knew the villains were close. As they discussed options about waiting till the morning and tracking who owned the lot or going door to door to look for witnesses, I happened to notice a figure running along the roof opposite the lot.

I told the Commander who sent Sarin to investigate while we went around to the gate. The Commander ask a rather rude guard about any commotion and we were instructed to shove the hell off. Returning to the lot, we looked for Sarin who appeared to be sitting on the roof.

The Commander seemed resolved to wait until morning when the Aevakar finally swooped down to tell us he sensed powerful magiks from within…including Thaumaturgy and Necromancy!!!

The sealed the deal. The Commander ordered us over the wall. Sarin took off again and we tossed ropes and climbed over without much issue. William was sent to secure horses.

Once in the yard, we sneaked our way toward the nearest building and we very nearly made it, but two guards stepped from the shadows right into our path. There was nothing for it but to fight.

Thorgram moved first, dropping the first man in a single hit. Though he may wear the trainee cloak, than man has seen his fair share of combat. The second guard was more fortunate. None of use could bring him down and he managed to off a shout before Sarin’s arrow silenced him for good.

With guards approaching from all sides, the Commander ordered us through the door. Rysak and Thorgram made short work and soon we were inside, running up marbled stairs with the guards hot on our tail.

By sheer luck we dodged them for the moment and found ourselves on a balcony as they spread out below us. Then Sarin put a finger to his ear and signaled to follow.

Moving from thickly carpeted room to more thickly carpeted room we slipped over balconies and through grand open courtyards. The building was a palace.

Soon, however, we entered the second balcony of a massive library and there we all heard the chanting as a dozen robed figures in strange lizard masks stood upon a golden symbol on the floor and summoned forth arcane energies.

I swear the Commander was about to order the attack when we were stopped by a quiet voice. The Masked man stepped from the Shadows. Up close, he looked almost like a hermit were it not for the strange blue-white mask.

He informed us that should we upset the ritual we might cause a catastrophic explosion. Rather, he asked that we make our way toward the study of the chief mage while he handled the ritual.

Lt Hawksclaw nodded and we sprinted on, turning a corner and running down another marble staircase. Very near the bottom we spotted the mage sprinting across out vision down a hall to our left. The lieutenant and Ranger Sarin fired. Sarin his, but his arrow burst into flames and vanished in smoke. The commander struck, spinning the man on his heel, but the mage ran on around the corner.

We pursued, rounding the same corner and nearly collided with a raging minotaur. Sarin hit is again, but only seemed to piss it off. Then Lt. Hawksclaw burst into green light, his eyes burning emerald. From his hands shot a jet of pure life energy and immolated the minotaur where it stood.

2016MinotaurJJAlt.jpg

Blinking spots from my eyes, I followed the others down the hall, around a corner and into the man’s study. Just as we got close enough to fire, he cursed us in some foul tongue and then burst into flames, reducing himself to a pile of ash.

A moment later, the masked man arrived looking fairly rough. and beaten up. He thanked us for our aid, but revealed the Thaumaturgist had, in fact, escaped. He also informed us that this was a Dragon Cult and that the Commander should inform his people immediately that cult had returned and was embedded in Olaran high society.

With that he suggested we take what evidence we could while he cleared a path to an outer gate. True to his word, we quickly saw the evidence of his martial abilities. Grabbing what documents we could from the cultist’s officer, we sprinted out a side door and out the main gate.

No sooner had we reached the road when we heard the shouts of Town Guards heading in out direction. Lt. Hawksclaw was about the shout an order when the sound of thundering hooves drowned out any words.

Blessed William came charging down the street leading our string of horses behind. Like heroes from an epic tail, we mounted our horse, well, some managed to mount, and rode away from the scene moments before the guards arrived.

Sarin took off for Echer’Naught while we returned to our camp to rest after a long, hard day. Thorgram helped finish off our meal, now stone cold and we bedded down.

I slept the sleep of the just so tired was I after such an adventure. In the morning if 16th day of , we packed up and headed back to the library. The commander took a moment to confire with Master Geison before we departed the city and headed south toward Echer’Naught.

The weather was pleasant though the ride was subdued. Each man seemed lost in his own thoughts. Nevertheless, we made good time along the road and by mid-day on the 20th of First Hunt, we rode through the North Gate of the city and arrived at the HQ not a quarter hour past one. We stabled our mounts and returned our gear to the quartermaster.

Lt. Hawksclaw was kind enough to relive our duties for the remainder of the day, but strongly suggested that we each turn in a report to Ranger Evoran. I resolved to do just that and have now spent the better part of the afternoon sitting on my cot writing my first official report. I do hope I have done well.

Nevertheless, I am signing off here. Tonight I and some of the other trainees are headed down to the Red Lamp. I hear it is quite the place to be.

I record this as my official record, though much of what happened I cannot reveal to my family. We have been sworn to secrecy. The Dragon Cult seems a rather evil thing and apparently not something the Rangers want word getting out.

Larken

P.S. I followed my very first mission order and I successfully did not die. I hope Lt. Hawksclaw is pleased.

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General Order 2, Echer'Naught
Attire Affair; LRHFH053124

From the desk of:
Lt. Hawksclaw

For:
Immediate release to all Rangers in Echer’naught

Re:
Ranger dress

Rangers,
It has come to my attention that one or more of our members has been ignoring certain codes of socially acceptable dress. This is most unbecoming to a member of our Corps.

I do not wish to impose a dress code as it would compromise our diverse nature and needs.
However, from this point, any member of our command, found to be in violation of the basic standards of socially acceptable appearance, (unless under abnormal circumstances) shall suffer a fine to be levied against them. If multiple violations shall occur, that individual shall be subject to an appropriate degree of punishment, to be determined by the commander.

If any member of our command is in need of basic attire, (trousers, etc.) these items may be obtained from the Quartermaster stores, for a nominal fee.

I can only hope this issue does not arise, again.

Signed,
~Lt. R.S. Hawksclaw

View
Campaign Report 36
Vacation at Last! New Recruits & Hawksclaw returns victorious!

Report of Lt. R.S. Hawksclaw
From Echer’naught,
5th of First Hunt

Flaming robes, wayward trousers, disorderly sergeants, agitated adepts, and a stumbling block… It is good to be home.
After months of traveling, countless battles in the mud, blood, and snow, I have returned to Echer’naught. I don’t think it is possible to be more content than I am, at this moment.
Ryldryrr, the Free Company, and myself arrived yesterday. Our journey was easy, and without incident. Unusual, but fortunate, as my diminished Battalion had already seen a lifetime’s worth of warfare. Now, after nearly six months, two sieges, and hundreds of miles underfoot, my men were returning home. They were in good spirits, and stepped lively. But the cost of taking the Bearheart pass was palpable. With thirty five percent casualties, there will be many “Last Calls” in the week to come. Some have already begun, so I will try to attend as many as I am able.
But I digress.
As the column approached the city, I could make out the sentries on top of the wall. I could see the archers prepare their bows. I cannot say I blame them, because we looked a mess. However, as soon as our banners crested the rise, the guards relaxed, and began to call out.
A lone figure dropped over the wall, and ran directly towards me. Even at distance, I knew it was Sgt. Longtail. I spurred my mount, and met her just ahead of the column. I lept down, and she met me with a long embrace. I could not help but to think how I had done the same for the Colonel, months ago, outside our lines at Eckheart. It truly warmed my heart, and the column split in half to pass by us. I pushed Aradove to arms length. I asked her to go back and announce our return, which she did promptly and loudly.
I remounted, drew my sword, and rode to the head of the column. The Battalion was called to the step, and the gates to the city were thrown open. With great fanfare, the column entered. The soldiers’ drill and bearing were impeccable. Their demeanor was inspiring. These men, these survivors, these warriors, were surely the wheat that had been sifted from the chaff. I must confess, I very nearly wept at the sight.
As we passed the entrance to High Town, I looked toward the Wolfhaven manor. “I’ll be home soon, Eris”, I thought.
As the newly constructed Ranger Outpost came into view, I was struck with a wondrous thought. I looked back towards my victorious soldiers, and thought quietly, “Rangers…” This very night, I will pen a letter to Kythros.
The column halted. I ordered them to front, and right dress. I called the sergeants forward, and gave orders to parole the men for one week, so that we might organize a “mustering out” ceremony before their final formation. After that, and with a shout, the battalion was dismissed.
I dismounted, and turned to face my friends. Sgt. Longtail had assembled the Rangers, and I moved to greet them in turn. First was Aradove, who wore something of a maniacal smile on her face. Sara was next, with her usual excitement which, by now, was spilling out in a rush of hugs and chatter. I ruffled her hair and smiled.
Then my Eldekar brother, Evoran, who looked more “put out” than usual. Followed by Thorgram, who by way of greeting, blurted out, “I have pants, sir!”
“Indeed you do, Thorgram…” I replied, confused. I quickly realized that asking too many questions, too soon, would result in a headache…
Then I saw a fifth. An Alakar girl, wearing a Ranger Trainee cloak. She was of slight build, and seemed somewhat uncomfortable. I noticed a fine looking bow strung across her back, and she bore an uncertain but enthusiastic look on her face. Untested but strong, I think. I suppose I looked much the same a few years ago…
I looked at Evoran, and he piped up with his usual efficiency, “Lieutenant, this is Samira Ravenwood. We met her on our journey home, and she assisted us in dispatching some bandits. Now, she has elected to join on with the Rangers.”
“Excellent. Has she been read, and taken her oath?” I asked.
Evoran replied, “Indeed. The Sergeant has seen to it.”
I herd Aradove chuckle. I can only imagine that her induction to the Rangers was… Interesting. I smiled at the thought.
I looked back to Samira. “Very well. My name is RahSahn Hawksclaw. It is good to meet you.”
After all had exchanged pleasantries, I felt a sharp tug at the back of my mind. Apparently, Aradove read my expression, and said, “You need to get back to the Manor. You have some duties to see to.”
I nodded, and tried not to blush. “Well, I will return this evening.”, I said. Then I looked at Sara and said, “let’s have a party. Tonight, we will open our new outpost and all are invited.”
Sara, immediately began shouting orders in a way that would have made Wolfhaven proud, and I took my leave.
I made it to the corner, and out of sight, before I started sprinting toward High Town.
Later, when I arrived back at the HQ, the place was abuzz with excitement. It was a wonderful opening ceremony, and visitors came in droves. It was as if life had returned to the Outpost and the entire city.
I talked with my Rangers, and got a brief summary of the recent goings on.They told me of the bandit ambush, and Longtail’s wounding. I herd of Samira’s astounding feat of marksmanship, and subsequent meeting. I, also was told of Thorgram’s bravery, and how he came to Longtail’s aid. Apparently, his “windmill” attack style, (unconventional but effective) was more than the enemy could bare…
Next, I herd of Longtail’s riding course, and it’s subsequent cleanup… That explained a great deal.
Finally, I enjoyed the evening with my family, and friends. Some old some new, but all (more or less) united.
This morning, I received a comunicade from Olara. It came through official Ranger channels. It is from someone in need of assistance, so we will do what we can.
After I had written my reply, I went and spoke with Sgt. Vasser. I assured him that we would help him to replenish the ranks of the Town Guard. He thanked me, and we discussed a few plans to help maintain an effective defense force. I revealed that I have a few ideas.
In truth, it is More than that. I have several ideas, now. Ideas for the future of the city, my loved ones, our friends, and for the good of these people. I will need much help, but I will keep my vow that I made to Leandra.
My vow to all of them.

Respectfully submitted,
~Lt. R.S. Hawksclaw

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Campaign Report 35
Victorious Again

Colonel Wolfhaven, Alexander

Commander of the Legio Heroes

Regional Command at Echer’Naught, Olara

Second Day of Dark Moons, Year 3123 Under the Light

Seeing the broken and smoldering tower of the Eckhart Keep (15th of White River) was one of the sweetest sights of my life. My only communication from Lady Moonsilver had confirmed that Hawksclaw and Longtail had survived their encounter. I was anxious to confirm this report for myself.

Riding across the snow covered field and seeing Hawksclaw’s horse at full gallop charging toward me will resonate with me until my wit dulls. I could not suppress the joy in my heart as we embraced there between our two lines. Though I am fully aware that it is common wisdom to remain apart from one’s subordinates, I find more and more that Hawksclaw and Longtail are, to me, more than my soldiers…they are family in far more than just on paper.

As I led my weary troops behind the safety of the Eckhart walls, Hawkslcaw galloped ahead as my herald, summoning healers and provisions for my victorious troops.

Riding in, I was struck by the sheer cost our victory had wrought upon this land. Lingering over the whole was a pall, a cloying and choking haze of smoke and soot wafting up from the funereal cremation pits. With so many dead, there was simply no time or energy to bury so many bodies. So too, facing Darkness we knew all too well the danger of graves. So, the dead were heaped into piles and burned.

Regrettably, this duty fell mostly to the young who were forced to destroy the remains of their families and loved ones.

I arrived in the keep to a throng of onlookers. With me were Sir Landen, Shayline and Murvoth with a host of other heroes. As I sagged, wearily from my saddle, I asked of Shayline to lay her healing hands upon Longtail. This was completed with dispatch and my Sergeant was quickly freed from her body cast by the inestimable Murvoth. Who, it seemed, was unaware that Longtail was naked beneath her bandages. Strange how her nudity was hardly a surprise to me or my team. Hmm.

Once assured of Longtail’s health, I requested that Shayline and Murvoth please secure the Butcher’s sword “Souldrinker” which still lay in the road where I had cast it aside after ripping it from Hawksclaw’s chest. We had discussed this task after the victory of the Blood Lord’s Shade. In truth, this task was their primary reason for joining my march north. Where all others had failed, those two manage simply pluck the weapon from the ground and deposit it in a wagon. I should no longer be surprised.

I will set Stormhammer to secreting the weapon wherever it is her hides all the fell weapons of our enemies.

So grievous were my wounds and my fatigue that I was forced to lean heavily upon my squire, Alfred Ranger. His appointment as my squire was a mission necessity during our contest with the Tempest. However, I have found the young man to be both diligent and conscientious. I could ask for none better.

With my able squires assistance I staggered to a chair and took a moment to revel in the rest. Only then did I realize that my man had deposited me in the Baron’s own chair, more a throne from which the Eckharts dispensed justice and law. I could hardly protest as tired as I was.

Alfred fetched food and drink as Hawksclaw and others assembled for debriefing. As I refreshed myself, I requested his report. The cost in life and material was obvious to me, though I was pleased to hear that our team had survived, more or less, and that reconstruction was well in hand. Supplies escorted by our hired swords the Longarms had arrived in the morning and were already alleviating suffering and hunger.

Expected, though no less inspiring, Hawksclaw was already establishing a new chain of command, separating the survivors into those who would remain in the Eckhart lands, those to return to their shattered homes in the Wildlands and those few to join our trek north to Echer’Naught. In truth, my presence was mostly superfluous.

After that meeting was completed, I retired to the map room where I espied the table upon which Hawksclaw’s body had lain. The stain still soaked the table. For a heartbeat I was transported back to that terrible moment…

It was Longtail’s warm embrace which brought me out of my reverie. She seemed much better than last seen AND some kind Ranger, no doubt Hawksclaw, had managed to preserve a vestige of her modesty by the donation of a Ranger Cloak.

Once my men assembled, I briefly explained the nature of my battles to the south. That sad tale is enclosed in a previous report. With that, I took my leave to rest and recoup.

Two days later, on the 17th of White River, the new Lord Eckhart arrived. A boy of no more than fifteen years, he had the same haughty aire as his fore bearers. I could not speak to his actual character as I had never met him.

I was away from the keep assisting in the cremations when I was alerted to the arrival of the new Baron. By the time I arrived, both Evoran and Hawksclaw had both been addressed by the young noble. Neither Ranger seemed all that impressed. Nevertheless, we have a duty of Rangers to comport ourselves with dignity and graciousness regardless of the situation.

And so, with a sign, I went to don a set of temporary armor and what clothes I could muster before attending to the young man. He was…difficult, but no more so than the head merchant of Farwatch of Lady Grayson can be when she feels disappointed. Transfer of command was handled swiftly and we were given leave.

I commanded my Rangers to see to the matter at hand of preparing the troops for departure. Each Ranger departed immediately to their pre-determined tasks. Again, I am amazed by their industriousness. If the quality of men reflects upon their command, I could not be more pleased in my performance…or theirs.

We rose with the dawn on the 18th, each unit assembling in their camps. What a motley crew we made. Perhaps 400 or 500 Goblinesh trudged along behind Grimbore. It is still a shock seeing him alive. In the rush of battle I never received an answer. I hope that Longtail will be forthcoming in the days to come. Hawksclaw’s Echer’Naught Free Company is up to 500 strong, though only a fraction of the original compliment survived the siege. Only about 1000 knights and men at arms of the original 3000 man force I assembled in Echer’Naught survived.

All told, our numbers were somewhat less than 1/3 of those that had so gallantly marched south those months ago.

We marched east and then north, a trek of some 4 days. At the new Southern Military Road, Grimbore’s Stone Tower Gather turned their way south to their new Gather near the Goblinesh waystation between Echer’Naught and Farwatch. It was a tearful farewell between Longtail and her old friend. From there, we turned north.

We arrived late on the 22nd to a hero’s welcome. Banners emblazoned with the symbol of the Rangers and my own Wolfhaven Crest streamed from the battlements. A large group came out to meet us, at their head, the Lord Mayor. He and I met and he welcomed me with great enthusiasm and reverence. I know his recent troubles and he seemed more than happy to be seen welcoming our victorious army.

Also in the crowd were familiar faces. Hawksclaw’s mother and sister stood by with beaming smiled. Old Fateweaver expounded upon our legend from a fence post along the road. Other families waited anxiously praying to the Ascended to see their own son or husband among the living. Many faces showed anguish at the futility of that hope. My heart broke to see it.

I and my assembled entourage entered the city with the Lord Mayor. I commanded Lt. Hawksclaw to march his men to their camp and see them dismissed. The knights and nobles made their own way into camp to rest and then disperse to the four corners.

Within Echer’Naught I was feted by the Lord Mayor at his manse. Many nobles and merchant lords sought a word with me. To be honest, I would rather have been battling the forces of Darkness. At least their desires were obvious. These men seem disingenuous to me. But, as my Rangers have so often pointed out, I have a duty to the Rangers not solely as a military commander but also as an emissary to the nobility. My rank and station demand this of me.

So, for two days while my Rangers received much needed rest, I continued about the business of the Rangers. It was late on the 24th that I escaped to my own home. I called my Rangers together at last and set them to resuming normal routines. Hawksclaw set up patrols, Longtail worked with Stormhammer to set our supplies to rights. All seemed to be returning to a semblance of “normal.”

Yet, late on the 26th, I was forced to call them back to my home, disturbing them from their tasks.

I had received intelligence suggesting that a second “Blood Chalice” had been recovered from an attempted sale in Karas. Corporal Alystar and Ranger Von Dietrich had been dispatched to secure the artifact. They were somewhat overdue when they stumbled into my home, a half-orc warrior in tow.

As it happened, they were nearing the city when agents of Shaya’Nor attacked them in a copse of trees just to the east of the walls. They might very well have been overwhelmed were it not for the timely intervention of the half-orc, one Thorgram who it seemed was a soldier in Hawksclaw’s Free Company. I thanked him for his service and bade him go to the kitchens for food. After he left…

I called my men together to brief them on this development…and to reveal to them the Chalice. Much blood has been spilled over these cups. With Alystar’s warning in my ear I explained how these dark creations could create Vampires of any and turn those Vampires to the service of their master. Rildrrir I dispatched to go and search for these villains on the Eastern Road. To Hawkclaw, Longtail, and Evoran I charged with discovering whatever they could about this young half-orc who so fortuitously arrived to be of service. Perhaps my dealings with the Nobles is making me paranoid. Nevertheless, I would see him vetted.

It was at this point that Sergeant Major Stormhammer stumped me again by introducing the young woman, Elyanna, to our company. After the somewhat suspect mission to sneak her from the city, I had simply left her fate to the dwarf. Truthfully, I had never expected to lay eyes upon her again.

I was to be proven false…and stunned a second time when she requested Sanctuary within the city. My Rangers concurred that despite her lineage, it would be wrong to turn away a penitent. So, with the authority of the Ranger Corps, I officially extended sanctuary to her.

Her expression of relief and gratitude was so genuine that I felt as if her mask of stoicism slipped revealing something…softer beneath. I must admit that at that moment, I was intrigued by this woman who at first seemed so cold and distant. Yet, trying to view the world from her perspective, I suppose her behavior makes sense. If she is to remain within my home, I resolve to make her stay as pleasant as possible. Perhaps it will do me good to have a civilian guest within our midst.

Though this will present new operational security issues.

By the morning of the 27th, all three had returned with more or less the same report. Thorgram’s farm family had been wiped out by the Blood Lord’s army. In revenge, he had traveled to the Eckhart keep to destroy those that had destroyed his home. He was a doughty warrior and an able companion, though his passion for revenge often outweighed his common sense…and his commitment to command. Longtail uncovered that his original home, his Gather, had been wiped out in the early run-up to the War of Flame.

In this, I shared a bond with the boy. Brashness I could accept. It was not as if her were the only one to give in to his, or her, passions in this company.

So, with Alystar’s recommendation and my Ranger’s reports, I summoned the boy. To him I posed this choice. First, he could choose a purse of coin as recompense for his heroic actions. Or, as a second choice, he could join our company as a Ranger. Perhaps not as financially attractive, I assured him that as a Ranger he would have ample opportunity to combat both Flame and Darkness.

As I had hoped, Thorgram chose the latter. And so, Lt. Hawksclaw administered the oath bringing him into the Ranger Corps for his three year commitment. His first assignment was to join Alfred in mucking out the stables. I could see how that pleased our newest trainee.

Also, Longtail and Sara requested the 1st of Dark Moons to host the Grande Opening of the Wolfhaven Refuge. I assented of course. Scarcely can I express my enthusiasm for Longtail’s orphanage project. I hope that in time my other Rangers will also vest their own personal energies into the city.

Odd enough, Longtail also received a visitor. Young Eric Schenkle of the Schenkle Bakery arrived and went into seclusion with the Sergeant. Though I was not privy to the conversation, his affection for young Sara is well known. I suspect he seeks Longtai’s permission to ask her hand. I wish him all the best.

On the 28th Rildrirr returned. He could only tracks and cold camps. The agents had fled the area, far beyond our grasp. I sent a message to Harken via Lady Moonsilver alerting the Duchy of the situation. That operation I shall leave to her men.

Rildrirr himself seemed out of sorts. Though he was loath to speak on the matter, I gathered that his recent experiences in war were unpleasant. He seemed critical of his performance in the whole. I, for one, have no complaints and could not be more pleased and impressed with how he handled a harrowing situation.

Also of note, I had received word that Lord RabenClau wished to conference with Longtail. About what, I could hardly guess. She departed the evening of the 28th and made her way, alone, to his manor. Of their discussion, all I will say here is that it bodes ill for the me personally, the Rangers and the city. May Archanon guide us.

Not much transpired until the end of the month. My Rangers went about their assigned tasks and when not directly engaged in Ranger affairs, or catching up on sleep (or other activities), young Sara roped them in to assisting with preparations for the Grande Opening.

The 1st of Dark Moons came swiftly. Sara’s preparations were impeccable. I joined Longtail and the Lord Mayor on the steps of the orphanage as every individual of import sat in the quickly cooling evening listening. The Lord Mayor spoke first, and though his words were warm and wise, he received a cool reception. I fear that situation is growing to a head. Next, Longtail spoke with both sincerity and brevity. Lastly, I was given a moment to express my gratitude. And then, with a flourished slash, Longtail “officially” opened the Orphanage to the public.

All the guests and dignitaries were given an open house tour. For the rest of the day, the orphanage was open to all as my Rangers acted as diplomats and the children serenaded with ensemble with their heavenly voices. To be honest, my only real concern is Longtail’s choice is nursemaid. The glowing…“Skullcrusher” seems a rather severe choice, but I suppose it would discourage anyone from attempting any harm to the children?

On the 2nd day of Dark Moons, after a long and busy day before, I called my Rangers together early in the morning for our standard briefing. I did my best to hide the glee I felt in their next assignment. Considering all they have sacrificed for my schemes, I felt is only fair that they have amble time to rest and recuperate.

To that end, I assigned Lt. Hawksclaw, Sgt. Longtail. Rangers 1st Class Rildrirr and Evorn and Ranger Trainee Thorgram to escort diplomatic dispatches pertaining to the Echer’Naught Accords directly to Olara. There, they would place the dispatches in the hands of the King’s seneschal. At which point, they were officially relieved of duty until the 33rd of Dark Moons.

Hawksclaw, of course, had his own orders to join me at Camp Wolfhaven on the 25th of Dark Moons. For the rest, they would return to the city. This will be a grand opportunity for Sgt. Longtail to have a turn at overall command. I have ultimate faith in her abilities.

In addition to this new assignment, I also authorized Ranger Eris Moonsilver a months vacation. Hawkslcaw seemed most pleased at that. Though I enjoined them to be on conspicuously good behavior in our nation’s capital city. I trust Hawksclaw to keep them in line.

May the Ascended bless their travels.

Your most obedient servant,

A. Wolfhaven, Colonel

Regional Command at Echer’Naught, Olara

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Field Report: Echer'Naught Free Company
Thorgram Ramshorn and the Ghoul pack

Journal entry 1

I’ve never really been an individual to express my thoughts and exploits through pen and paper, but many of my fellow comrades say it is a good way to stay sane in our line of work. It’s funny as to how we can only describe this as our job but there seems to be not much else to describe it. Either way I seem to be wandering from the point.
I and a few fellow soldiers were sent to scout a road about 2 miles outside of Echer’naught. Not long into our journey we were attacked by a pack of ghouls. Sadly most of the others were killed by the vile creatures, however there were signs that one had been taken captive. Luckily I had some experience in tracking as me, father, and my brothers had hunted regularly. It is funny how even writing about them is almost unbearable. It’s hard to believe that two months have passed since they were slaughtered. Everywhere I look I can see their faces, even hear their voices, but I know it is only my imagination getting the better of me. Regardless I began to trudge forth to find my comrade.
As I continued into the bitterly cold night I was blinded by the snow and wind until a flash of pure white light caught my attention. Hoping it was my friend signaling for help I quickly ventured towards it. As I neared the light I could make out many shapes and realized that this was no call for help but instead the call of a battle. Once I had realized this I quickly picked up my pace and raced to the aid of whoever needed it. Finally it seemed that I was nearing the battle and above my head was an angel raining down bolts of light upon troglodytes and trolls. It seemed that I was to have the upper hand to one of the trolls as it had its back to me and was clueless to my nearing presence. With all my will I leapt towards its massive back and with my axe I split its back right down the center. As it fell with a roaring grown it acted as a curtain revealing the two warriors who were facing it and its allies. In front of me stood two peculiar characters. One seemed to be the one endowed with the powers of light, and must have been the one who had summoned the angel, who had now vanished with our foes vanquished. The other seemed to be his slayer comrade. Soon they asked to why I had been in the area and I explained to them of how I was searching for my comrade. Surprisingly they agreed to accompany me in my search.
With their help we were able pick up the trail fairly quickly. Soon we came to a thicket and could tell that he was there. As we drew closer we found him, however he had been sacrificed upon an altar of darkness. I felt sorrow for my comrade as we stared upon his mangled body but we were too late. Soon my two new comrades urged me on to the city and we continued into the night.

Thorgram Ramshorn

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Field Report: Church of Light, 4
The Blood Chalice

White River 26th, 3123 Under the Light

Holy Father,

I am not one to take offense at not being fully aware of the details of my missions, but I must admit discovering that our entire trip to the Elven Nation was a farce put me off. Even so, I must say I found a certain pleasure in discovering that even Lord Colonel Wolfhaven was also kept in the dark about the true whereabouts of the girl. I suppose we may discover what happened to the girl eventually.

After returning to the city of Echer’Naught on the 6th of Gray Winds, I joined my Brothers of light to scour the city for any trace of the werewolf or the Shayakar agents. Predictably, we found neither. I am not much surprised.

The month was pleasant enough with plenty of time for prayer and reflection. Reports from the south were hardly encouraging. By the 9th of Gray Winds, all roads has been cut off. By the 26th, the final assault had begun. I did not learn more until I returned nearly a month later.

However, my personal respite was not to last. Around the 29th (Gray Winds), Col. Wolfhaven called Von Dietrich and me into his office. Reports had reached the good Colonel of a possible “Chalice” somewhere near the coast of Galea. With little more intelligence to go on, the Colonel dispatched us to Karas to link up with Rangers there to continue the search. We departed Echer’Naught on a blustery afternoon and began the long slow ride.
Though cold and miserable, the trip was uneventful and the roads good. Despite the weather, we made good time. Traveling east from Echer’Naught, we first passed through Harken, then Hale, turning south we passed through Southgate and finally entered Karas on the 10h of White River.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Karas Rangers had already completed our mission. From their report:

“The Rangers tracked down the chalice being protected by a hidden goblin gather called the Two Rivers Gather. They had a large cave that they held scary dark items in to keep them safe. They caught up with the place just as the Red Store was storming it and came across orders on some of them men indicating that the Rangers of Echer’Naught were seeking to retrieve it before they did. With the blessing of the goblinesh ghosts and spirits within (which they got because of the paladin and druid types present) they left with the chalice and Sabine sent word that they had it and wanted to see it in the right hands.”

There was a spot of confusion when we arrived. Apparently a flight of Aevakar was arriving at the same time. Archers atop the walls appeared a bit excitable. For a moment, I feared we would be filled with arrows, but it was soon sorted.

We made our way to the tower held by the Rangers of Karas, and were quite impressed by the new construction (the place was certainly very changed from the last time either had seen or heard of it) and spent much of our time learning about the Karas unit and their improvements. With nothing pressing, we took a tour of the city. We departed Karas on the 12th of White River with the chalice in hand. I confess, the pall of death wreathing the artifact unnerved me. As usual, Von Dietrich took it in stride. Before we left, we had an opportunity to consult with the Karas rangers on their battle plan for the impending Prelacy return.
Of those we met, we mostly interacted with Sabine (the paladin and priestess), Carn Mindrill (the master Wright) and Solvayus a Kor Druid and practitioner of The Way. I found the priestess a delight and avid listener. Before departing, I offered her my holy symbol. She accepted, but insisted that I take hers in exchange. I asked…if I could write her. She acquiesced. Von Dietrich says I am a fool.

After another long and bitterly cold trip, we arrived to within a day of Echer’Naught on the 25th of White River. Though we might have reached the city that night, we chose to camp in a familiar location and warm ourselves by a fire.

Whether it was a mistake or not to camp, I know not. However, that night agents of Darkness attacked us in our camp. It started with a small skittering sound and a sense of evil. In moments, poisoned knives hurtled from nigh invisible shadows. I roused Von Dietrich who stood too almost instantly. This is apparently becoming routine.

They came at us in waves, Troglodytes, Hobgoblins and a Troll. I called the power of Archanon, letting his light fill me and strike awe into our foes. In answer to my prayers, he dispatched an Angel to aid us. It appeared in a burst of celestial light, blasting away at the Darkness.

Even with our combined might we might have perished were it not for the timely, and surprising assistance of a young half-orc name Thorgram. He was apparently a scout serving with Lt. Hawksclaw’s Free Company recently arrived from their victory against the Blood Lord’s forces.

He had been part of a five man patrol who were attacked by ghouls. These beast, though, had collars and chains. Clearly they were horrific hounds of some foul master. Though Thorgram himself had killed three of them, his companions were less fortunate. Though they slew half a dozen, they were, in turn, slain.

After our rescue, we aided the young man in tracking down the ghoul master. Though we found no sign of the creature’s controllers, we did discover the evidence of their camp and the site of a profane ritual. Though I am no Necromancer, I’ve seen enough to know that this was a summoning ritual. No doubt, the Necromancer who “owned” the ghoul hounds was also responsible for the party which attacked us.

Of Necromancer and remaining ghouls, we found no discernable sign other than the remains of their victims. Our mission took precedence and so, sadly, we left these villains to other forces and made all haste to Echer’Naught, only arriving on the 26thof White River.

We found Wolfhaven in good spirits and the other Rangers celebrating their victory and life. For Von Dietrich and I, this was hardly a time for celebration. The “Blood Chalice” as we know it to be called had nearly cost us our lives, not to mention the lives it cost in Karas. From the Colonel we learned that, though his army was defeated, the Blood Lord escaped.

Clearly, he still had agents in the area. I wonder how many of his people are still in Echer’Naught. Nevertheless, the Chalice is now under guard and deep in whatever hole the girl vanished into. From Wolfhaven’s previous ignorance I wonder exactly who is securing these things.

Nevertheless, Wolfhaven was able to determine the nature of the cup, or cups as the case may be. As it happens, there are at least two. During the battle in the south, one of the Blood Lord’s agents, the Baron of Farwatch, attempted to use another of these Chalices to turn a young Ranger, Maggie Silver, into a Vampire.
Worse, through the combined efforts of Ranger Silver, Brother Thaleon and the legendary Shayline, we learned that the Blood Chalices not only create Vampires, but apparently make those turned into thralls of their new master. Worse, these artifacts can convert anyone.

A close review of historical records suggests that these Chalices may have existed since the Age of Darkness; perhaps even earlier. How many exists is not known.

Perhaps we will be dispatched to discover more.

Obediently yours,

A. Alystar

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Campaign Report 34
Dead of Winter, Vampire's Heart

Colonel Wolfhaven, Alexander

Commander of the Legio Heroes

Eckhart Keep, Wildlands

Fifteenth Day of White River, Year 3123 Under the Light

“In honour I gained them, and in honour I will die with them.”

I once swore that I was done with ordering good men to their deaths while I stood by and did naught. And now, I have made a liar of myself and sacrificed those that mean more to me than anything in the world.

The Accords were signed on the 3rd and by the morning of the 4th, I was gathering an army larger than I have ever fielded. With me were the Hammerfalls, eager to avenge their fallen brothers. So too the Lord Mayor sent a large contingent of his personal guard. From Sun’s Crossing came 20 of the Sun’s Guard militia. And from across Olara came nights, nobles and free-swords, all seeking to heap glory and honor upon themselves.

I cared little for honor and glory. Saving my family was all that mattered to me.

Looking back I realize now I was a man obsessed. Longtime associates and battle brothers seemed to give me space as I worked tirelessly to forge the coalition force. I know now that politics are of little interest to me. Only my duty.

And so, for a week, as the emissaries of foreign nations toured my home, gathered their tribute and began their long treks home, I gathered men, forged and army and turned south for war.

We stepped off to the beat of the drum on the morning of 8th of White River, pushing hard each day. Those primarily Cavalry, my force contained a significant force of foot and supply, but their orders were simply to reach the Eckhart keep and hold the line.

As for my Vanguard, we barely slept, eating in the saddle as I pushed them to the point of exhaustion and beyond. I for one cared little for food or sleep, keeping in the saddle even when my army was forced to halt. Some questioned my sanity, I know. No one questioned my orders.

Upon the 13th hour, the witching hour, my vanguard crested a rise just North and West of the Eckhart keep. What appeared below me chilled me to my very bones. Surrounding the keep was an army far larger than even my estimates had ever considered. 8000? 10000? From my vantage it appeared that the keep was a single point of failing light amid a sea of inky blackness.

Cold white rage settled over my heart for I knew I was too late. Perhaps by minutes. Perhaps by hours. I had failed Hawksclaw. He held for me. But I did not reach him in time.

My last order before all thought abandoned me was to break my cavalry force in two, sending the flanking part under command of Brevet Captain Panta around the enemy force to the west to swing back and hammer them as I drove them from the field.

After that, everything else seemed to happen out of time.

Shouting in anguish I put spur to flank feeling Thunder surge beneath me. We charged down upon the enemy like an avalanche, slamming into their disorganized rear guard and grinding them beneath out hooves. I could hear and feel the ground shaking as thousands of heavy horse followed my charge forming a tight wedge which carved through the Troglanesh like a blessed blade through corrupted flesh.

How long we rode, how many we slew, to be honest I know not. It seemed but a moment between heartbeats before I was there, amid the heart of the carnage to find Hawksclaw lying dead upon the field, the “Butcher’s” blade Souldrinker up to the cross guard in his gut.

Time froze.

Dimly I was aware of the battle still raging around me. I could feel Alfred, my squire, standing guard. But at that instant, there was only me and my fallen brother.

Vaguely I recall dismounting and crossing the ichor soaked ground to where his body lay. Over him stood Evoran. Blood spattered, find robes in tatters, the Eldakar sorcerer stood as defiant as a mountain in the face of unspeakable horror. His eyes were clear, his jaw set. He would die before he allowed the body of his commander to be taken.

I owe him magnitudes of debt.

Yet, at that moment, I had no thoughts of Evoran, or Longtail whom I could not see. Only my Lieutenant. My champion.

Dumbly I reached down and clasped the sword which pieced him. Yet when my guantleted hand touched the foul artifact, I nearly recoiled in agony. It felt as if my very soul were being rent by unspeakable forces. It took all my will just to prize it free and let it fall, blood soaked to the ground.

Despite the pain, I lifted Hawksclaw’s lifeless body into my arms, laying his fathers sword upon his breast and carried him in state into the shattered keep. There, I laid him upon the map table and knelt to pray.

Though I know the Lord of Light does not bargain so, I offered my own life for his. Unsurprising, Hawkslcaw’s patron had other plans. I know not what happened in that room. Only Evoran knows. But I felt life return to my brother.

Rising, I turned to Evoran expressing my sincerest gratitude for the sacrificed of my men and apologizing for failing to return in time. He nodded his understanding and I nodded mine. With that, I departed, striding quickly for my mount.

On either side of the road, I became aware of throngs of people standing in silence, but by this point my thoughts were far to the south. All my energies aimed at seeking out and destroying the Blood Lord.

With a shout, I spurred my vanguard forward, turning south, we sped away from the keep and rode south driving the enemy before us. With their leader gone and our army on their heels, the Blood Lords forces broke and fled.

Within the hour, I rejoined Panta’s force and together we rode them down. Dumbly, somewhere in my mind I knew that our victory came to easily. Should the horde turn, they would easily overwhelming out smaller force given surprise was no long on our side, but they continued to flee.

We rode for hours until our horses began to flag and many sword arm began to falter. Idly, I began to wonder if there was a plan afoot. Perhaps a trap. Only then did a warning cry from our mages alert us to the presence of a gateway ahead.

I had expected this. What my companions did not know, could not be told was that my entourage included one of Vainar’s own servants. The De’Lear wolf, the girl’s brother had joined us. He had briefed me on the possibility of the enemy’s use of ebonways. He was correct.

He also assured me that he could get us through…a prospect I loathed, but Von Dietrich assured me that I could trust this beast up to the point of slaying the Vampire Lord. And so, we charged straight into the Void.

It felt like dying, unnatural cold. My breath was ripped from my chest. Every fibre of my being screamed with the wrongness of it…and then I appeared outside the gates of a massive Builder Keep. I knew that we were underground, but other than that, my sense of location was entirely skewed.

Standing beside me were the incomparable Murvoth and the esteemed Shayline, warriors I have come to know and trust. As to the others, Macha Panta, Thaleon, Sir Landen, Ranger Silver, Cedruss, Chuck, Alfred, Whit, Ash, Bait, Gratien or the Wolf I knew not.

However, standard before our triad was an entire pack of Werewolf Alphas led by the Blood Lord’s personal protector, the Werewolf Lord known only as “The Wolf”. I cannot say if they were surprised by our sudden appearance or simply waiting to shred us with tooth and nail. I can say that whatever they expected nothing could have prepared them for what they faced.

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We struck as one. Murvoth a whirling dervish of destruction, Shayline the very fount of healing energies, sealing would almost as quickly as we received them. As for my part, only that my father’s sword sang in my hands as I cleaved through their corrupted bodies.

The battle raged for hours, but soon enough, all that remained of the Blood Lord’s personal guard were rapidly cooling corpses. We beheaded them and burned them with Archanon’s light so that they could never return from whatever pit their immortal souls had fled.

Power flowed through me, a river of strength I could scarcely describe. It was as if every part of my being was resonating with some arcane force. Drawing deeply, I kicked the Black Iron doors with all my might and felt them give way beneath my heal.

Then, together, we strode confidently into the Blood Lord’s Grande Hall.

Clearly this citadel had been crafted by Builder hands. Each column rose so high above our heads that their tops were lost in shadow. And each was nearly as big around as the Beacon Tower of Echer’Naught. Behind my feet, the flagstones were huge beyond imagining. What kind of monstrous magic would be required just to maneuver a single one into place?

Running in a row along the red carpeted hallway leading to the throne were massive Arcfire generators of some kind. I could feel them dulling and deadening my senses. It was Shayline who realized their purpose and with a shout of pure power shattered those flanking the Blood Lord’s throne opening a way to reach him.

Only then did I notice the body of Cedruss floating near the Blood Lord’s throne, caught in waves of Darkness.
He was alive and that was no small thing.

Three Rangers against one of the most powerful servants of Vainar in recorded history. I smiled. Turning to my companions, I gave them orders.

I would draw the Blood Lord’s ire, while Murvoth flanked and closed. Shayline would provide support and keep his dark power at by. And with that, I reached inside myself, drawing on a power I had used first against the Tempest and more recently against the Builder Golem at the road. I held my breath and leaped…

…appearing above a very surprised Blood Lord’s head.

Raising my father’s sword high over my head, I brought it down with all my might. White light and Black smoke roiled and sparked as the power of Light and Dark clashed. From my right, Murvoth, shining with silver light hurled himself bodily at the Blood Lord. From somewhere above Shayline rained down silver bolts of pure White Silver light.

The battle of the Blood Lord was joined.

How long we struggled, I cannot say. Only that I could feel my life’s energy bleeding away like the tide before the dawn. Again and again I slashed, and again and again the Blood Lord rent my very soul. Were it not for Shaylines healing powers, we would all have certainly perished.

But, there are few beings indeed who can stand before three such as these. And, after very nearly shattering the eons old Grand Hall with our combined energies, the Blood Lord was struck down by a titanic right hook from Murvoth.

His body broken, his spirit fleeing, the Blood Lord began to laugh. And the, before our eyes, his body melted away leaving only a broken indistinct husk of a creature…but certainly NOT a Vampire Lord. Cedruss’ voice rang out of the shadows. This creature was a Shade, an impersonator. Powerful yes, but the Blood Lord had escaped once again.

Then the world began to crumble. Slaying the Shade had triggered a fail-safe system. If the Blood Lord’s minions could not destroy us, he would simply let us fall into oblivion. What is the cost of a single fortress, not matter how grand, if it means the utter annihilation of your greatest foes?

The trap was sprung.

I shouted for Shayline to find the others who I hoped beyond hope still lived. Then, I called Murvoth and Cedruss to my side. Grabbing them, I reached inside to that burning ember of power and stepped…

…into blackness.

What happened next, I only heard about later. Apparently, Panta and Thaleon were making quick work of the enemy army when the Silver Unicorn appeared and spirited away much of the enemy force. We discovered later that they were found wandering the snow fields cleansed of all corruption.

I managed to reach the army, but collapsed from my wounds and exhaustion. Sir Landen plucked me from the ground and pulled him onto his horse. At the same moment, Ranger Silver appeared clutching a half burned rag doll…and one of the Blood Lord’s Chalice’s.

She prayed to the Silver Unicorn as the ground we stood upon began to fall away. Whether it was divine intervention, or some quirk of the power, our entire force managed to ride along with the Blood Chalice when it teleported away from destruction.

The next thing we knew, we all stood, or lay as in my case, in an open snow blanketed field with perhaps 5000 dazed and confused Goblinesh. Shayline quickly healed my physical wounds bringing me back to consciousness. I fear my spiritual wounds my never heal.

When I woke, I found most of my elite force intact, though many worse for wear. As for my army, we had lost nearly 1/3 dead and at least that many walking wounded. After a brief conversation I learned some fascinating and troubling information.

The Chalice apparently could be used to create Vampires that are bound to their creators. Thralls. Ranger Silver promised to take the one she recovered to Kythros. Of the Blood Lord’s minions, The Wolf, Fiend and Butcher were dead. The Vampire Morden, The Baron of Farwatch and the Mechanist were still at large. And, of course, the Blood Lord himself had not yet been found.

However, his army was shattered, many of the corrupted Goblinesh had been returned to the Light and it appeared that the immediate threat was over.

Thaleon and Ranger Silver…or Branowen as she revealed had much to discuss. It appears that the Baron of Farwatch made a visit to Farwatch recently and that he MAY be Ranger Branowen’s former betrothed. Or he could be a Shade wearing the boy’s face. Either way, they departed together to deal with it.

Shayline, Murvoth and Sir Landen joined my and Alfred on our way back to the Eckhart keep. I need Shayline’s help to secure the “Butcher’s” blade. I also need her to repair any long term damage to my men should they require.

After saying my goodbyes and thanking my fellow Rangers, I turned north for the long trek home as it appeared that whatever portal we had stepped through had deposited 100 miles south of our previous point, somewhere in the Northern Hills foothills just west of Silverport.

Slowly, wearily, I turned my horse North and began the long, slow ride. It was not until the 15th of White River that I saw the crenelated keep of Eckhart.

Your most obedient servant,

A. Wolfhaven, Colonel

Regional Command at Echer’Naught, Olara

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Campaign Report 33
Last Stand of Eckhart Keep

Mother,

What shall I say? What might I tell you that would help me convey what is in my heart?
We are alright.
I have no doubt that you have herd of our expedition to the Eckhart lands. Details have been scant, I can imagine. I am sure that many in Echer’naught are worried. They are right to be. If you are able, please go to them. Go to the people and tell them that their fathers, sons, brothers, and husbands are coming home. Or, those that are left will come home.
Mother, we lost so many.
Our cause was just. I believe that. We did or job. But many are gone. We know how that feels, you and I. You can help them.
We are still picking up the pieces here. I don’t need to tell you what it is like. You, no doubt, remember the War of Flame, and the aftermath. So I cannot say how much longer we will remain.
I wanted to write you, though, to recount what has happened here. I want to let you know, so that perhaps you will understand.
The man who killed Father is dead by my hand. My vow that I took so many years ago, as a child, is fufilled. Everything which has defined who I was for my adult life is now over. A weight has been lifted, it feels. But now I feel a new one in it’s place. I hope that through my actions, I might prevent another child from being forced to take that same vow.
But, in the end, I did not kill him out of revenge, or anger, or even to avenge Father. I killed him to protect those I love. To protect those who, yet, live. I know why Father sacrificed himself, now.
When I herd that Aradove had been killed, I was beside myself. I had lost all hope. I could not help her. Not her, nor Evoran, Eris, Ryldryrr, Alfred, or Colonel Wolfhaven. I thought us all finished. I would imagine that Father felt much the same. Hopeless.
But then, when their armies had surrounded the keep, and their victory was nigh, we saw her. The Butcher brought her out and tied her to a post. He was going to burn her alive… alive.
Aradove was alive. Mangled, and broken, but alive. Hope surged anew. I looked to Evoran, and he to me.
From below us, we herd a mighty shout. Grimbor was surging toward the gate, and none could stop him.
In my mind, I knew that the end would come soon. But I reasoned that it would be better for those that could bear arms to do so, and die on the field. At least they would not die trapped within their own walls. To that end, I had previously ordered the armory cleared, and all the weapons had been distributed. The stage was set for our final act. The Butcher had Trogledesh, Vampires, werewolves, legions of undead, Builder Gollums, and all the creatures of Darkness and Flame leveled against us. We had a few hundred worn and bloody men, Elves, Brinchee and Goblinesh. This was the time. The last ragged breath of resistance.
But in that, there was hope. For behind Aradove, stood The Butcher himself. I reasoned that if I could stop him, or at least slow him, my friends might make it back to the keep where they could last for perhaps one more day.
I turned and ordered the attack. I dropped my rope over the wall, then Evoran and I rappelled down.
Mother, at that moment, something happened to me. I felt the presence of Leandra as I have never felt in my life. As I dropped to the ground, I became wreathed in the aura of life, itself. I, for the first time, I could feel the struggle of life and death around me. I could sense the darkness and flame as they tore the souls from the bodies of my men. I felt the suffering of my friends. At that moment, Mother, I knew why I was born. I was given this power by Leandra, herself, to protect the lives of others. I am meant to try to guard the souls of the innocent, even if it means forfeiting my own life. This has humbled me greatly. From now, until my end, I will ever draw my blade and wield Leandra’s power as a Warrior Druid, to protect her children. In this I shall not fail.
All this, as we sought to pry apart the jaws of death, itself…
We came up just behind Grimbor and our men surged around us. Grimbor was trying to clear a path through the center of their line. He was making headway, so Evoran and I called upon our power to help him. But, then the pyre under Aradove was lit. I watched, screaming, as the flames danced to life roundabout her, and her fur began to smolder.
Tears welled, and I began to despair. We had to make it. I could see her face as the flames rose to consume her, and behind the pyre I saw him. The Butcher.
With a sudden push and some well timed explosions of energy, a small gap opened in their line. It was the only route, but it was closing quickly. The Trogledesh were cutting a swath through our thin line, and blasts of Arcfire leveled friend and foe alike. Grimbor made for the gap, and I took to his heels. Evoran held his ground. Our trip would have no return, and he was the last who could command what was left of our force.
With that Grimbor and I raced forward, through the carnage. It was a horrendous thing. On all sides, the bodies of friends and foe laid atop one another. The ground heaved with the concussion of Arcfire. Blood ran in rivulets under our feet as bodies were cut in half by scorcery and blades. The screams of the combatants mixed with the groans of the dying to create the cacophony of slaughter. Then I felt the heat of the inferno which was building around Longtail. I looked up to see her staring into the flames. Her joints had been wrenched apart and she was unable to even try to stomp at the flames. I felt anger, and fear rising in my gut. I swallowed them back. There was no room for those emotions. I fixed myself on the hope that I could buy Grimbore time he needed to get to her. Then, I saw him.
I broke through the gap, and before me stood The Butcher. He looked at me with a muted scowl. It was a stare that one might give an insect before they crushed it. That was his intention. Not only to cut me down, but to destroy me in full view of my friends and allies. He did not want victory over us. He wanted utter annihilation. With a wave of his sword, he cleared the field between us. Even his own troops stepped away, lest he cleave into them as well. For a moment I stared at him. I expected the anger, or fear, but I felt neither. It was right, no matter the outcome. I would succeed or fail, live or die, but I would fight for their lives, not my own. It was not, nor had it ever been about me, or my vengeance. I would fight for my friends, my loved ones, and for all those whose lives might depend on it. At that moment, I was at peace.
I took a step forward and simply said, “You killed my father.”
I looked up, into his face, and realized that he was no longer a man at all. He had been consumed by Flame. There was nothing that remained except for murderous rage. This realization made my vow against him seem hollow.
I expected him to lunge at me, but instead, he pointed his sword at my chest. As he did, a rush of energy slammed into my chest and drove me to one knee. I coughed and tried to catch my breath. I rose as he began to stalk forward. I had to give Grimbor time. I knew that Evoran was doing his best to hold, but it wouldn’t last much longer.
For his part, The Butcher was in no hurry. He would kill me, and then walk into the keep itself. He had time to kill.
This time, he swung his sword at me. It was a great, blackened, and razor honed instrument. It radiated a powerful heat and I could hear it cutting the air as it came down upon me. I swung to meet him, and our blades crashed together. I could see the energy emitting from them.
It was as if Life and Flame, themselves, were locked in combat and we, their mortal instruments.
I was driven back, and he was on me before I could regain my footing. I tried to intercept, but he was too fast. He swung again, and his blade cut through my armor. As my chain fell away from my chest, I became suddenly aware of everything around me. My senses focused. I could hear the battle, smell the sulphur, and in my peripheral vision, I could see Aradove on the pyre.
I knew why, in an instant. He had beaten me. I looked down, and his blade was sunk into me, just under my ribs. The pain had not come, yet the blood was already pooling on his sword. I was dying.
I looked up, and his expression was unchanged. I coughed and the blood splattered across his breast-plate. Then he began to lift me toward the sky. That’s when the pain came. I felt the tears, hot on my cheeks. My feet left the ground, and I dangled on the blade. He was going to show the world that he would not be beaten. He would take my life, and next he would take my friend’s. I knew that there was only one thing I could do.
I beseeched Leandra, herself, for strength, one last time. I dropped Colonel Wolfhaven’s dagger, and with trembling hand, grabbed the hilt of his sword. I could feel his blade leeching at my soul, and I knew that my time was short. I looked him in the face, and spoke weakly, saying
“You can’t have them.”
With that, I raised the sword of Ferradin Hawksclaw, and pointed it toward his throat. I aimed for the gap between his helmet and breastplate, and with my left hand, I pulled my body fully to the cross guard of his sword. I felt his blade exit my back, and I screamed. My blade found it’s mark, and I drove it through until it exited his neck. His eyes went wild with bewilderment, and my own vision dimmed. The noises and sights around me faded to black, as we slumped together, onto the snowy dirt.
I felt myself slip away, into the inky black. I closed my eyes. My heart was no longer beating. My breathing had ceased.
Suddenly, I opened my eyes. I was laying flat. When I looked I saw a canopy of towering trees.
I blinked to clear my vision. I wondered if it was all but a dream that I’d just waken from. But, then, I felt the burning in my chest. It was dull, but present. I could feel a void within myself. It was as if a piece of my very soul was gone. I knew that to be true. The Butcher had robbed me of it.
But, even with that, I was at peace.
I stood, and surprisingly, I felt little pain. I looked about me to see trees and plants of ancient and colossal size. A cool breeze blew across my face. I knew that I was in Leandra’s realm.
I was in the First Forest.
There was a path in front of me, and without knowing why, I knew that I should take it. It seemed that I walked for hours. But, then again, it seemed that I walked but for a short time.
It was then that I realized a great truth. Time has no meaning in the realm of life. Life is perpetual, and ever present. While a single entity may die, another life will take it’s place, and thus, is fragile yet everlasting.
I pondered this as I walked, and soon, I came upon a clearing. I herd a soft rustle, and looked to see Her. Leandra. She was grieving, I could tell. Tears streaked her face, and her expression was sadness. I went to her, as she rose. She looked down but I could feel power emanating from her. I wanted to speak, but I could not.
Without a sound she reached, placing one hand on my shoulder. With the other, she touched the wound that The Butcher’s sword had made. She looked up, and even in sadness, was beautiful. Leandra stood on her toes, and pressed her cheek to mine. She whispered in my ear,
“Not yet.”
She kissed my cheek, and then.
Pain.
I returned to semi-consciousness, and I knew that I was alive. I could feel the burn of the sword wound. Also present, was a deep sense of loss. I felt, and still feel a void within my own soul. I herd muted voices, but they seemed very distant. I strained to listen, and words began to form. I knew it to be Evoran. But there was another. It was Colonel Wolfhaven!
I commanded my body to move, but it would not. I tried to speak, but I could not. How I wanted to see and talk to the Colonel! To tell him what happened, and more importantly, to ask where Aradove was. Did she live? Did we succeed?
But, alas, I could not. I was trapped, nearly conscious, in my own body. For three days, this condition persisted. Each day, however, I became more and more aware. On the second day, I herd Longtail speak. I was happy, but I could do nothing.
I still could not hear Eris. I suppose it was due to my mind’s isolation. This pained me greatly. I knew that most of my friends were alright, but I wanted to hear her voice.
Then, on the third day, a miraculous thing happened. As usual, I tried to command my body to move. When I did, I was able to make my finger twitch. When I did, I began to fight. I tried to tear away the veil that separated my mind from my body. As I did, I herd Evoran shout. “He is awake! Hawksclaw is awake!” I herd Aradove near me, and I knew I was close.
Then, with a push, I opened my eyes.
What followed was a joyous time. I was able to embrace my friends. My family. I could feel Eris. The joy washed over me in waves. We were alive. Together.
When I was able to stand, I embraced Evoran. I grabbed his shoulders, and spoke as firmly as I could. “I am still in command here.”, I said.
He looked surprised.
“So, with that in mind, I hereby promote you to Ranger First Class. However, you will, act as brevet Ranger Sergeant, until I feel better.”, I finished.
He smiled, and I laughed. It hurt tremendously to laugh, but at the same time, felt glorious.
We sat together, and Evoran recounted the events which followed our “last stand”.
Suffice to say that Col. Wolfhaven was, as always, better than his word. He came for us.
The man has my unyielding affection, and I will be ever grateful to him. The Colonel is a force of the Ascended, and is a true patron of Light. He has, now taken a large army south. I pray for their safety and success.
Now, mother, I am sitting on a wheelbarrow, with Longtail. She is unable to move, due to her heavy bandaging. I shall find a stick, with which to prod her. Grimbor is close by grinning. Evoran is scowling, shouting orders, and searching for a clean set of robes. Ryldryrr is off somewhere with our remaining men. The Colonel is marching south to deliver righteous justice.
And myself… Well, I just finished a Goblinesh newspaper, drank a cup of ale, am enjoying the sunshine, and chatting with Eris. My pipe is broken, but it will still smoke. Father’s sword lays beside me.
This blade, retempered by Flame, will ever serve to remind me of who I now am. A warrior Druid, blessed by Leandra, sent to guard the lives and souls of all that I am able.
Meanwhile, in Eckheart, life is resuming. Life has triumphed.
For our part, we are, thank the Ascended, alright.

Your son,
Rah-Sahn

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