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