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

Master Wilhelm Ritter Wolfhaven Born
Forest Dance 8th, 3126

Lord Mayor, Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander

Commander of the Legio Heroes

Ranger Regional Headquarters, Echer’Naught, Olara

Eight Day of Forest Dance, Year 3126 Under the Light

It is with the greatest joy and pride that I am able to announce that on this day, under the light of Unidar and Diadar, my son, Wilhelm Ritter Wolfhaven was born. My happiness outshines the light of the son.

But, even as his mother swaddles and rocks the boy, I cannot help be think on my Rangers, so many out of contact, lost and trapped behind enemy lines. Farspeaker Moonsilver cannot contact Alpha Team in the desert, but by our estimation, they should be approaching A’Tora. If they are not dead. My Long Recon Rangers have vanished into a Tempest Portal at the heart of the most dangerous places in Shaintar. Truth be told, every agent sent in to scout Tempest has failed to get close, or died in the attempt. That, or disappeared. To the north, the White Silver Wolves and our “allies”, the Prelacy, close in on Lanier with the entire might of Shaya’Nor’s army bearing down upon them. First and Second company are still trapped in the Clannhomes, surrounded.

What world are we making for our children? What will it be? Will any of us still be alive to see it with them when they reach adulthood?

Joy and sorrow. It would seem that such things go hand in hand. Still, having Rah-Sahn and Aradove here, our families together. Even in midst of all chaos, we still have each other.

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Campaign Report 94
Black Sand Wall

Ranger Serys

Report Filed: Forest Dance 23rd, 3126

Forest Dance 3rd, 3126

Alpha Team, plus one Tempari found ourselves “Guests” of Desert Riders. Though not ill treated, we were clearly prisoners. After waiting a few hours, we were approached by the camps Shiek, one Badieh Basheh and his galean, girl slave translator. Though, I imagine the Shiek spoke Galean perfectly well.

Classic show of power/test enemy ruse. Pathetic.

Their “camp” was hidden in a twisting, wind cave worn like wormtunnels through the pale sandstone. The Desert Riders had turned the caverns and tunnels into rooms and halls. From our vantage point close to the “east entrance,” I could only mark two other access points: open roof (3 yards by 17 yards), and a second smaller entrance south and east. I assume there are many others, deeper in the network.

Every entrance is covered by no fewer than four bowmen, and two spears. The bows are smaller, and shorter range than elven, but better suited to firing in the narrow spaces. The riders wear leather, and scale armor, but little more. No helms. They also use scimitars. Good on horseback, and fair in close confines, but less effective than straight blades for dueling.

Of the 218 people I counted in the camp, only 43 were true warriors, though every man was armed. All showed the telltale walk of a cavalry, so I believe the entire camp are riders, but there could not be enough space within the caverns to house 218 horses, or 43. I imagine no more than a two or three dozen. Meaning, that the camp is vulnerable to cav attack, assuming one could survive the storms. The caves are also a tomb.

Also, fire. They have enough straw and dried goods to fuel a decent fire. Once hot enough, body fat would keep the blaze hot enough to burn or smoke out the desert people.

The Sheik showed “honor” to Lt. Volstagg and the Tempari. They spoke about our mission. Lt. Vosltagg was forthcoming. I suppose we had little to gain from lying. Honesty is the best policy? Hardly, but it worked this time.

The Sheik offered supplies, a guide, and horses. That last being the most important “gift.” He then pulled Volstagg aside. Something about not trusting Tempest. I wasn’t supposed to hear, though.

We left that night, after the rest of the team napped. Out by eve on the 3rd, and north on horseback. Making good time riding hard at night on Desert horses. Managed two night, before the storms hit again in earnest. He huddled for two days under the Ogres.

Forest Dance 5th, 3126

Never been a big fan of Ogres. Too slow and stupid to be of more use than beasts of burden, or when you need to smash through a wall. But, Grendel and Ranna have proven useful during this trip. Though, the smell…

Forest Dance 7th, 3216

We were out, late in the eve. But, the Desert Rider, called “Rider” led us to within sight of the Black Sand Wall. The ride took 2 days.

Forest Dance 9th, 3126

Stretching across the horizon and high enough into the sky to blot out stars, the Wall was intimidating. We slept the 9th, and made our move the following night.

Forest Dance 10th, 3126

Approaching the Black Sand Wall on horseback, we released the horses to return to their stables. Here, the Tempari used a Tempest cyclone to counter the power of Xaos massive Sandstorm. Meanwhile, with out protection gone, the Team suddenly faced the full fury of the storms. We almost did not survive.

About a minute into summoning the Cyclone, a 2 min ritual, the Tempari was ambushed by a pair of massive, ogre+ sized black scorpions. Alpha Team engaged to draw attention from the Tempari.

The Xaos Scorpions are large, armored and immune to blunt and non-magical edge weapons. They are susceptible to arrows, and appeared to take damage from Whitesilver. They are also armed with a potent venom. I imagine were we not magically protected, it would be quickly lethal. They do not appear to be able to recover from stunning attacks well. Eventually, both were slain, and the Cyclone breached the wall.

Charging through, we found the city of A’Tora, the Oasis Lake, and the lands surrounding untouched by storm. The Black Sand Wall serves as a magical fortification which cuts off A’Tora, but leaves the city and its countryside untouched with pleasant weather.

Unfortunately, the Tempest magic alerted the Xaos within and we were met with 20 desert riders, not unlike our “allies.” By Lt. Volstagg’s order, we sprinted for the lake and the surrounding palm forest and villages.

We reached the trees just as the riders closed. By luck, more than tactics or skill, we lost them in the trees and reached a village house. Breaking through the door, we surprised a family (father, mother, child). The Tempari smashed them against a wall, stunning them.

The team hunkered down in the home, which also proved to be a basket weaving shop. Lt. Volstagg ordered the family treated for wounds, then bound. Again, more by luck, we were undiscovered, but the guards quickly secured the area and began more thorough sweep.

Our Desert Rider, bandit, ally left to go find his kin who could help us, while we waited and tried to remain silent. I took position on the roof and kept watch as the guards expertly secured the village and went door to door. The rest of the team barricaded the room, and scrounged for clothes and provisions.

Just after dark, the Guards reached out door. The Tempari silenced them with magic, I killed each with an arrow to the eye, and Volstagg pulled the bodies through the door. Unfortunately, the constant damage of the sands storms hand altered the fletching of my arrows. On at least one target, I hit the wrong eye.

Forest Dance 11th, 3126

It was only a matter of time before they came looking for the missing guards. It happened the following morning. More guards, this time with backup too near to ambush, arrived and demanded to search the house. We were more prepared.

RFC Zathlan, wearing Lt. Volstagg’s medallion of language, gift from the Emissary, managed to convince the guards that she was alone, that she had seen no strangers, and that the house had leprosy. Convinced, they went on their way.

Shortly after, our bandit ally arrived and took the disguised Zathlan to the location of his kin. Sending her back, he posted a watch. Zathlan returned, gathered the group, and attempted to lead us all to safety, Lt. Vosltagg in the lead.

Unfortunately for Volstagg, he ran into a patrol just before reaching the “safe house.” Rather than have everyone caught, Volstagg took off running to lead the guards away. The rest of the team reached the safety of the house without issue.

Inside, we found three more bandit Desert Riders, and a familiar assassin, named “Our Friend,” in most past reports. This assassin is known to me and he, without much issue, agreed to go help Volstagg. Meanwhile, the bandits provided fresh food and water, the first we had eaten since Paradise.

Volstagg saved and returned, we questioned the bandit Desert Riders and the assassin on the situation in the city. They confirmed that Xaos controlled the city, though they were unsure whether Prince Hesham amin Jomil, Emir of A’Tora was working willingly with Xaos forces, or under duress. They also confirmed that the Black Sand Wall circled the city, preventing easy escape. Worse, they claimed that whatever power was creating the sandstorms was NOT located in A’Tora. The city was merely a stating ground for a Xaos army.

The Seh’t Cult were based deeper in the desert, north and east of our position. Armed with this information, Lt. Volstagg decided we needed to leave the city quickly and head into the sands. Unfortunately, without proper gear, we would be obvious outsiders and quickly captured.

With the assassin’s help, we developed a plan. Corporal Daynore and I could wear the traditional desert garb of the bandits. The Olarans actually could pass as mercenaries. The Emir had built himself quite an army, it seemed, complete with mercenaries from as far as Olara. Also, the Emir used a cadre of Ogre bodyguards who wore complete sets of golden armor. RFC Zathlan already had appropriate garb. That meant we just needed some Xaos clothes for the Tempari and we could move freely through the countryside.

The city would be dangerous, as we would not have papers, but so long as we avoided checkpoints, none of the desert villagers would dare approach us.

At some great cost, the Assassin agreed to help infiltrate Zathlan into the Palace while I provided cover. With little other option, Lt. Volstagg agreed. Corporal Daynore created the mind link. Dressed as a Desert Rider, I tracked the Assassin and Zathlan out of the safehouse.

The assassin took her into the city. There, he “sold” her to a man who clearly made his business int he flesh trade. The assassin left.

Forest Dance 12th, 3126

The next day, Zathlan was taken with four other women to the Palace. I lost sight for a few hours, but eventually spied Zathlan scrubbing floors on one of the upper tier porticoes.

Security at the Palace was unusually tight. While the interior sections reminded me of Almahrad with their wide halls, and column lined courtyards, this Palace was subdivided by large, thick walls topped with crenelations, guard towers, and guards. Every section of the wall was heavily patrolled by archers and spearmen. The grounds were patrolled day and night by six man squads of guards on rotation. There were also a pair of guards inside and outside every entrance. Large gates had four in and four out.

From what the Assassin had said, we also knew that any woman within the walls could be a “Consort,” trained killing. None of this included the Xaos presence. While they were not on guard, there were strangely dressed Xaos everywhere. Bronzed armor with strange geometric patterns of fire (similar to arcfire), white, flowing cloth. Their weapons narrow and oddly curved, with right angles and hooks.

After working her first day, she and the other slaves were escorted under heavy guard to a compound outside the palace walls, more a prison than housing. There, they were allowed to sleep in communal rooms and fed little. From my count, there ware four dozen slaves or more, all housed together.

The routines were the same. Every morning, they were wakened before dawn, given a little food and water, then escorted back the palace to perform menial labor. By moving vantage points, and mapping patrol routes, I was able to keep Zathlan in bow range most of the time, except when she cleaned interior rooms, or worked the kitchens. Still, the routine was easy enough that I could follow where she worked in the Palace usually without issue.

If I did lose her for too long, I just contact her through Daynore.

Everything seemed well enough until six days in.

Forest Dance 18th, 3126

While working, Zathlan had been making contact with other slaves and servants. It didn’t seem as if many would talk, but I would see her huddled with the others between tasks. However, late on the 19th, she was grabbed by one of the guards sent to watch the slaves and hauled into the Palace. Via contact, she told me to stand down.

She was questioned, and failed to produce the answered they wanted to hear. So, she was thrown in a cell on the Palace grounds awaiting an interrogator. Read, adept, torturer, or both.

Forest Dance 19th, 3126

The next morning, Zathlan was hauled out of her cell and appeared on an upper, covered balcony. It was a far shot, but within range. The balcony was colonnaded and standing at every column was one of the Emir’s guards. She was thrown down in the center, and a well dressed man questioned her. After a while, though, he paused and sent for another.

After about an hour, a woman in diaphanous silks appeared. Dark eyed, makeup, clearly a member of the Emirs harem. I took aim and waited, but…then the woman took Zathlan to a small reclined lounge nearer my side of the balcony. They both disrobed, and…the woman “tested?” Zathlan. That went on for an impressive length of time.

Obviously, Zathlan was pleasing, because the woman rose, dressed, nodded to the man and took Zathlan into a part of the Palace I could not see. I lost contact for a couple of days. But, from reports via Daynore, she was cleaned, shaved, dressed, fed and introduced to other Palace courtesans.

She stayed, under heavy guard, with the harem girls until the 21st.

Forest Dance 21st, 3126

It took some time, but I managed to get on the roof of the Palace and make may way over the course of the two days to a vantage point, beneath on onion shaped tower peak, where I could observe the harem.

The girls were kept in a series of inner courtyards. One large room housed hot baths. One, a series of piles of pillows and couches, and the last had benches, tables, and other furniture. Every room was heavily guarded day and night by a dozen guards. No way in or out.

Late on the 21st, Zathlan and two other girls were selected and escorted to a private room. I managed to stalk them, close enough to see them given over to one of the men I had tagged as a Guard Captain. Zathlan and the girls “entertained” the man for about 5 minutes before he fell asleep. They lay with him till morning. But, she relayed through Daynore that she had the intel and needed extraction.

The palace was too well guarded, and they were meticulous about tracking wh
Knowing the Assassin’s reputation, I relayed to the the Team that I needed “Death’s Embrace” or “Death’s Kiss,” a poison that can mimic death. It is a risk. Many people never wake, but from what I know of this land, political poisoning are common.

Again, a price was met and the Assassin not only found me, but manage to infiltrate the Palace, in a few hours what took me 2 days, AND got the drop on me. His reputation is well deserved. With the poison, I manage to poison all Zathlan and the two girls.

I couldn’t risk only poisoning Zathlan as that might arouse suspicion. If all three were poisoned, then it would look like a failed attempt on the Guard Captain. Once done, I had to clear the Palace as the search would surely find me.

Everything went as planned. When the guards came to escort the girls back to the harem, they found all three poisoned. The alarm was sounded and every inch of the Palace was searched. Roof included. They used mages, adepts, and their own scouts.

Forest Dance 22nd, 3126

The three bodies were removed and taken to a cellar used to keep corpses cool till disposal. All standard procedure. I’m just glad they didn’t cut on the bodies to determine cause of death.

Once the room was clear, I reached Zathlan and the others in time to administer the antidote. Zathlan awoke. The other two I could not waken. They died before the antidote could work.

Nevertheless, I provided Zathlan a change of clothes. We moved to a position nearby until the search ended. I dressed another young corpse in her clothes and left that behind.

Forest Dance 23rd, 3126

Pre-dawn on the 23rd, we made our way back to the safehouse. Lt. Volstagg and Zathlan went to talk. I took a moment to eat, as I had had little over the past 10 days. After they discussed what happened, we had a group meeting. Turns out, the Golden Ogres had a watering hole they frequented. As did the Xaos. All within close proximity to the Palace, but on opposite sides.

So, we split into two groups.

Sergeant Amaroth took Grendel, Rana, and Danica north of the Palace to ambush the Ogres.

Lt. Volstagg took the Tempari, Corporal Daynore, RFC Zathlan, and I to ambush the Xaos mage.

The Xaos forces had constructed their own private club just outside the shadow of the Palace walls, but within extreme bowshot in, what appeared to be, the ruins of a Golden Sun temple. We made our way the same night, 23rd, under cover of Darkness.

I scouted and found only a single blind turn from the club to the Palace. We would have on shot, and it would be close. So, we waited. Shortly before the 13th hour, a single Xaos mage, two “Templars”, and four Palace guards made their way back to the Palace from drinking.

We hit them fast. I dropped the Mage with a single shot to the back of the head. Daynore unleashed on one Templar. The Tempari silenced the field as Lt. Volstagg broke cover and drew fire. His first shot felled one Templar, but the others rushed him.

Before anyone could really act, Volstagg fired a second shot point blank at the surviving Templar, but the handcaster ruptured and blew. Volstagg was mortally wounded, the Palace guards incinerated, but the Templar staggered back, only to be cut down by the Tempari.

We rushed in, sound resuming its normal behavior. Zathlan treated Volstagg, Corporal Daynore looted bodies and the Tempari stripped the Mage. I covered them all.

We managed to reach the rally point late in the 13th hour. The Ogre team were also successful, beating us there. Grendel and Ranna looked good in gold. Our Friend, the Assassin, congratulated our success, and then told us there was a ship and captain at the shore of the lake waiting to take us across to the east side.

I scouted ahead while the others followed.

Lieutenant Sir Gunther Volstagg
It is idiocy to have a marriage couple on the same team. Worse when one is in a position of command. Even worse to have the wife pregnant. Elves do this all the time. I know the Sergeant is worried about Volstagg not being able to be objective about Zathlan. Me, I think the bastard is going to get himself killed trying to prove he’s NOT compromised. At least he is staying on mission. For now.

Sergeant Audric Amaroth, Sword of House Wolfhaven
Before this mission is over, I am going to have to kill the Sergeant. He spends more time nipping at the Lt’s heals than worrying about the fact that he is one bad call away from going bloody mad. On a team where the Commander nearly whipped his pregnant wife to death, and she then seduced another man to get intel. Where our Farspeaker had his mind flayed by a Shayakar on the orders of the Commander. On this team, the Sergeant is the most compromised and dangerous variable in the group.

Corporal Durlan Daynore, Farspeaker
Daynore is compromised. That Shayakar put memories in his head, but took something as well. I know he’s hesitant to use his powers, and THAT will get us all killed. Hesitation is worse than a choice one way or another. He needs to either sort himself, or leave.

RFC Lady Nexuz Zathlan Volstagg
Impressive work. Of course, she’s pregnant which means that her effectiveness will soon cease. That, and from what I’ve been able to observe, the Emissary healing her child after Lt. Volstagg whipped her nigh to death altered the kid. No doubt she can now be tracked, and is a target for every enemy we face. So, soon to be ineffective, a target, and can be tracked. My call, cut her loose. But the Lt. will never sacrifice his wife and child.

RFC Danica, Golden Gryhpons
If Danica doesn’t step up and do more than twirl her sabers, then we need a replacement. Other than glare at Amaroth, and grumble about everyone we meet, so far she has offered little advice on any foe. I’ve killed Gryphons before. They are supposed to be Evil slayers. So far, she has not impressed.

Ogres
So far, compenant. More so than expected. The armor, however pretty, is going to get us killed when we need to evade at some point in the near future. That, and they could use a personality.

Serys
I do not know if I can continue to protect this team and maintain the Ranger high standard of ethics and morality. What my team does not realize is, out here, their rules A) don’t matter, and B) will get us killed. The others are learning, but while they will do what is needed, they spend too much time afterwards whining about it. The hesitation will get us all killed. Still, when we return, I will be court marshaled over those prostitutes. It does not matter that they would have betrayed us all. It does not matter that they had the same chance as Zathlan. Only, my actions will be considered too extreme, even given the high price of our failure had I not. Still, maybe it is best I do what my team cannot and deal with consequences later. I’m not likely to return from this mission anyway.

Serys

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Campaign Report 93
Trouble in Paradise

Lord Mayor, Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander

Commander of the Legio Heroes

Ranger Regional Headquarters, Echer’Naught, Olara

As relayed from Echer’Naught Alpha team under command of Lieutenant Gunther Volstagg (via Farspeaker Daynore; Farspeaker Moonsilver)

Third Day of Forest Dance, Year 3126 Under the Light

One would think having ones fears confirmed might, at least, offer vindication. Sadly, I feel only apprehension, and weariness. Despite my recommendations to High Command, at my core I begin to fear the sequence of compromises my forces are increasingly being required to make. Though I understand the necessity, how much is too much? How far must we be willing to go?

Every sacrifice I have asked of my Rangers, they have given freely, and more. Now, my Farspeaker, Corporal Daynore, may be compromised, in more ways than one. My Team commander, Lieutenant Volstagg, is emotionally compromised because his wife is on the same assignment. He personally nearly whipped her to death, due to extraordinary circumstances. But, despite his willingness, I know how much it cost him, and his behavior since… Not to mention his wife, RFC Zathlan, is also compromised since her “healing” by the Emissary, a trusted, but non-Ranger ally.

Everything about this mission, the emerging threat in the desert, feels wrong. Ascended help us. I fear I have just sent them to their death, or worse. I only pray the heavy price is worth what can be achieved.

Dancing Clouds 13th, 3126

The Alpha Team left Almahrad with the Emissary’s guide, the dwarf Stonefoot. They departed before dawn, heading west into the mountains. Due to the roads, Stonefoot took them north along the dwarven roads to the Clanhome of Midril Hall. Hugging the Black Mountains as it does, Mindril Hall has been spared the worst of the desert storms, though is nearly overrun with refugees.

Per my Ranger’s reports, the dwarves of the Black Mountains have shut their doors to any not of the Clanhome, even other dwarves. Mountain routes have kept the dwarves supplied, but the tent city at their gates grows desperate. What happens when food stores run low? Not to mention latest reports suggest that Xaos cultist have been infiltrating even closed societies such as the dwarves. More castles fall to treachery than siege. What happens when these cultists manage to incite the mobs of starving men and women outside to attack…and leave the door unlocked?

We could have a small scale war in the Clanhomes.

Closer to home, sad news has reached our ears. Ranger Katyr was slain while on a mission in a crypt just outside of Kator yesterday, Dancing Clouds 12th, 3126. As an orphan, Katyr has no survivors to receive benefits, and no one to claim his remains. He will, therefore, receive a Ranger’s funeral and internment. I have ordered his name to be logged in the Record of Honor.

Dancing Clouds 15th, 3126
After lengthy negotiations, Madame Lillithien surrendered rights to her son, Dom Athrait Tenebris Von Dietrich, born Golden Eagle 16th, 3215. He is to be raised in my house, as hostage. As Elyanna is of his people, she has agreed to see to his education, and training. It brings no joy to separate a mother from her child, but I could find no other way of securing his future, and hers.

To her credit, Madame Lillithien seemed to understand the situation, and even thanked me for my willingness to hostage the boy. She wished for Dom Athrait Tenebris to learn of his father’s people. I will do my best welcome him into my House and home.

For her part, Madame Lillithien agreed to abjure the realm, leave by sea, and never set foot within the land of the Southern Kingdoms. Her oath was certified by Sergeant Alystar, and myself. Though, something about her willingness to depart our shores left me with a certain suspicion that her feigned resigned acceptance might be a ruse. Some part of me senses that she wished for this outcome all along.

As to why, I cannot hope to guess. Still, the boy seems pleased enough with his new home. He is quiet. Much like his father.

My Archanon and Celesia see him safe and happy.

Dancing Clouds 16th, 3126

Due to the conditions, the Alpha Team pushed on from Mindril Hall to the clanhom Lowhome. Here the conditions were both better and worse. Due to the smaller size of the clanhome, fewer refugees had sought sanctuary there. However, being farther from the main mountain strongholds, Lowhome is isolated and somewhat more vulnerable. I have read reports that the dwarves are struggling to prevent these refugees from raiding their fields. The lush lands around Lowhome being one of the Clanhomes of the Black Mountains primary food sources.

With all the banditry and unrest, the Lt. Volstagg elected to push past Lowhome into the night and camp on the west side, nearer their target of Paradise. Staying close to the clanhome with the throngs of desperates, or farther away and being isolated presented equal difficulties. In the same situation, I would have done the same.

Dancing Clouds 17th, 3126

Nevertheless, at some point after the 13th hour, bandits attacked the Ranger camp. Using archers and alchemical blasts, the bandits scored early success in the ambush. Only the watch was awake and the first blast thrown struck all the sleeping Rangers still in their bedrolls.

Even so, once the Rangers awoke, the tide quickly turned. Lieutenant Volstagg covered his wife, RFC Nexus Zathlan Volstagg admirably, though his protectiveness of her, however justified, may ultimately result in disaster for the team. Still, were I in his position, I cannot say I would do differently.

RFC Grendel and Trainee Ranna performed admirably as a team. Corporal Daynore, separated early in the combat managed to acquit himself with distinction. I see promotion in his future. Both resident warriors, Sergeant Amaroth and RFC Danica did what they do best, claiming bandits each.

Of Ranger Seryrs, I am growing concerned with his increasingly cavalier regard with life. His reputation was well known to the Rangers prior to taking the cloak. And, while working within the Southern Kingdoms his more violent nature seemed contained. But now, outside normal Ranger authority, he seems to be “adapting” to his environment. I will have a note relayed to Lieutenant Volstagg to monitor his conduct.

Still, on a whole, the team performed above expectations. Though, the Emissary’s guide, Stonefoot, did little more than shout encouragement. I wonder how jovial he would have been had my Rangers failed, and he left to the mercy of the bandits? Still, his was only to serve as a guide for the Rangers, so I cannot accuse him of dereliction or cowardice.

Their sleep already disturbed, Lieutenant Volstagg ordered the team onward. Idly, I wonder how many hours of sleep has been collectively lost by Rangers over the last century because they just decided to get up after an attack rather than try to go back to sleep? At any rate, the Rangers made good time.

Dancing Clouds 20th, 3126

Early on the 20th, the Greenway Road Rangers Alpha Team arrived at Paradise. From across the Lifegiver estuary, the team observed the massive tent city hugging the walls of the city, and choking the banks of the Lifegiver. From descriptions by the team, and other points of intelligence, the Rangers are confident that there are at least as many refugees camped outside the walls, as people huddling within.

Violence and depredation is common, made worse by the constant incitement by Xaos cultists. If such reports are to be believed, there is some evidence to suggest that Red Store agents have been working WITH local Prince authorities to track and eradicate the cultist infestation, in particular in the city. Still, hunger, fear, and desperation are fertile ground for saviors, and these cultists prey on the worst of human misery to breed zealots willing to serve any master that would lift them from their current situation. And so, out of the crisis brought by the sandstorms, a new threat is born.

I fear an attack on Paradise by the hordes of dispossessed, armed and incited by these cultist is imminent. And, if on Paradise, why not A’Davar, or the western Clanhomes? I will sent requests for our allies to begin marshaling resources in the event of such a crisis.

Nevertheless, his job done, Stonefoot departed company of the Rangers, taking their mounts, Muriel as well, back to Almahrad and the Emissary who will look after the animals until such time as they can be shipped back here, or returned to the team. Whichever eventuality comes first.

Lieutenant Volstagg’s Alpha Team proceeded into the throngs of refugees crowding the east gate of Paradise. We are aware that several large grain shipments are languishing in the harbor due to safety concerns bringing the food into the docks. Several such shipments have already been ambushed, raided or sunk, by desperate and starving people trying to survive. If I could spare a Company of White Silver Wolves, perhaps I could negotiate with Prince Esteban amin
Firenzo, Lord of Paradise to accept the Wolves as additional security…

Placing the more vulnerable members of the team in the center, Alpha Team managed to push their way through mobs and approach the guards. Here, the Emissary’s plan proved superior. Though initially turned away, Lieutenant Volstagg produced the Letter of Favor from Prince Velthana of Almahrad. As representatives of the Prince, not any associate with the Rangers, Alpha Team was permitted entry to the city.

There, they found conditions little better than outside. Even with sea trade, there are simply too many people without coin or trade to feed. The city is starving.

Alpha Team was taken to the Palace, but not to meet the Prince. He was busy. They did meet his representative who demanded, though not discourteously, their intentions in the city. Choosing honesty, Lieutenant Volstagg informed the Prince’s man that Alpha Team was on a mission into the desert to locate and eliminate whatever force was generating the life choking sandstorms.

Here, is where team mission reports begin to take a strange turn. Leaving the rest of the team to rest from their recent battle, and travel, Lieutenant Volstagg was escorted to meet a guest of Prince Eseban, a Tempest Mage. The Magus greeted Lieutenant Volstagg without hostility, though he was curious about the reason the Olaran was in Paradise.

Again, Lieutenant Volstagg opted for honesty and explained that he was on a mission to stop the Sandstorms. Here, the Tempest Mage, who called himself only Tempari, a rank of some kind, imparted vital intelligence. He claimed that the Sandstorms were NOT the work of the Tempest. Though I am loathe to believe the word of an active enemy, both secondary intel sources, and my commander’s instincts lead me to believe that Tempari can be believed, at least in regards to this.

Whatever threat is emergent in the desert is not the work of Tempest.

And, like that, the Tempari offered a temporary ceasefire of sorts. If the Rangers would provide “physical security,” he would use his Tempest powers to protect Alpha Team from the worse of the Sandstorm’s effects. In these moments, I try again to put myself in the shoes of my men. Isolated, in a foreign city practically besieged, with orders to enter the desert, and the world riding on my shoulders…would I make the deal?

I have no doubt I would.

For the official record, I, Lord-Colonel Alexander Wolfhaven, fully approve and authorize the decision of Lieutenant Gunther Volstagg to utilize the skills of the Tempest Magus, Tempari, to enter the desert and complete my assignment of Alpha Team. I also accept full responsibility for this action, and resulting actions.

Deal struck, Lieutenant Volstagg, and his new Ally, rejoined Alpha Team and proceed together to the Zayid Library to further research information about sites of significance to the ancient Empire of the Golden Sun. Lieutenant Volstagg believes, and I concur, that whatever threat is emerging int he desert is connected to the Empire of the Golden Sun, specifically cults of Raz-Dash which have existed since before the dawn of civilization, or at least our civilization. And, if our supposition is correct, then this new cult of Xaos is either involved, co-opting, or replacing the more ancient cults. Either way, these sites may still have great religious, or cosmological significance.

The team arrived by mid-afternoon and were greeted by the Head Librarian. He seemed aware of their arrival, and perhaps the mission. As the Tempari spoke with the Librarian, clearly he was known to the Library, a message arrived for Lieutenant Volstagg. An asset wished to meet with him. Curious, the Team, plus the Tempari, were escorted by the Head Librarian to meet with a mysterious elf introduced as a head researcher for the Library.

While the Lieutenant sat with the Tempair to discuss with the Elf, who never offered a name, the team established a perimeter of sorts. Their analysis of the elf are chilling. Both Corporal Daynore and RFC Zathlan confirmed that he was of immense magical potential, though neither could identify his power. And, RFCs Zathlan and Danica confirmed that he was, in point of fact, a Shayakar of some ancient age.

Meanwhile, the Shayakar informed Lieutenant Volstagg that he was speaking on behalf of the “Patron” and offered to answer question pertaining to the Empire of the Golden Sun. Volstagg asked of locations of importance and the Shayakar confirmed that many existed, but since the Lifegiver’s course had moved over the centuries his “memory might not be wholly accurate.” However, he was willing to import location information to the team, but required the Adept, being Farspeaker Daynore.

Again faced with an impossible decision, Lieutenant Volstagg agreed to allow Farspeaker Daynore to receive the information the team needed to navigate the vast deserts and locate potential sites for investigation. The Shayakar and Corporal Daynore departed, however, after a short time, Sergeant Amaroth and RFC Danica heard screaming they claimed was the Corporal and went in search of both men.

After a couple hours, now into the evening, the Shayakar returned with Corporal Daynore. The Farspeaker had no memory of what transpired during their encounter, but soon felt that his powers had been “tampered” with. Sergeant Amaroth and RFC Danica were recovered and the team returned to the Tempari’s suite at the palace.

Here, another fascinating piece of intelligence was gathered. The Tempair excused himself to meet with the Prince. Within the hour, a Tempest Storm, not Cyclone, formed above the city offering pure, clean rain. It would appear that part of the price for hosting the Tempari was regular fresh water for the city of Paradise. Though, this begged the question as to why would the Prince allow the Tempari leave with the Rangers? Clearly stopping the storms was worth the risk of losing the constant supply of water.

That night, a few things occurred. First, Corporal Daynore began to suffer from nightmares pertaining to the desert, though, based on descriptions, the nightmares featured landscapes and sites that do not, at least presently, exist. I believe, and experts corroborate, that this MIGHT be a side effect of whatever transfer of knowledge occurred. Second, the Farspeaker believed he was compromised and refused to relay any further confidential information. All future communications would be relayed directly to the Lieutenant.

Dancing Clouds 21st, 3126

The team departed the city early, via one of the northern gates. Here they found nearly as large a tent city as on the east side. However, the camp ended long before reaching close to the beginning of the sands, as the people rightly feared the storms. Within a short time, the Alpha Team was the sole moving group in the desert. And the true horror of the storms became quickly apparent.

The team attempted to follow the Lifegiver, but was quickly overtaken by a large sandstorm that swept in too fast to even pull in Serys from scouting. Though it came upon them fast, the storm lingered for three days, stretching their resources to the brink and nearly overwhelming the Tempari who appeared to struggle to protect them. Clearly, he was being honest with his previous statements about the Tempest involvement in the calamity in the desert.

Dancing Clouds 24th, 3126

The team dug themselves out of the sand and rushed to reclaim Serys who was unconscious. While working to rescue the scout, they gathered water from the nearby river. However, another storm struck and they were buried for two days.

Dancing Clouds 26th, 3126

Having made less that 20 miles progress in nearly a week, Alpha Team once again emerged from the sands and quickly filled water skins before making their way again north. They managed another 5 miles before another storm struck. This one lasting a day.

Dancing Clouds 27th, 3126

The team emerged, collected water and hiked north across the dunes by night. By morning of the 28th they were hit again. Just before going under, Grendel spotted strange man made shapes in the dunes, but they were unable to reach them before the wall of sand hit. This time, three day passed.

Dancing Clouds 31st, 3126

Emerging again, the Alpha Team quickly gathered water from the increasingly difficult to find, sand clogged river, and made for the shapes seen before. Arriving at the structures, they realized that these were the flat roofs of buried buildings, most likely a village.

Working together, the ogres and Tempari blasting holes, and Serys scouting, they managed to break into the first. Inside, the find the dried and desiccated corpses of a family of three, father, mother, and child. They also find dried grains in some baskets. Clearly, the family ran out of water before food. Hitting up on the idea, the team quickly foraged in the rest of the structures and managed to collect about a weeks worth of food for the team, if they reduced to half rations.

By that night, a storm hits, pinning the team another two days.

Dancing Clouds 33rd, 3126

Alpha Team emerges from the buildings and starts making their way north, after eating through almost half rations. They make three days moving at night, though covering less than 10 miles per “day.”

Forest Dance 3rd, 3126

However, with dawn approaching on the 3rd, the Tempari suddenly alerts them to a massive wall of black sand sweeping down from the north… They frantically search for cover when they spot a figure standing on a dune far to the west. Robed in white, the figure appears to be observing them for a moment, when suddenly dozens of white robed rides crest the dune and gallop toward them even as the wall of death and sand bears down.

The riders skid to a halt and challenge them. Lieutenant Volstagg shouts that they are allies seeking to stop the storms. The desert rider identified the Tempest mage, but summons mounts for the Rangers even so. All mount and turn, heading back west, the wall of black death closing rapidly.

Over the dune, the desert riders spur to a rocky ridge. With the Tempari carrying the unmounted ogres within a cyclone of air, and the Alpha Team riding hell bent for leather, desert riders, Alpha Ranger Team, and tempest mage make the desert caves just as the biggest sand storm yet smashes into them.

Once inside, the Rangers are surrounded and forced to drop their weapons. Now captives of the desert riders, they are taken to what appears to be a desert refugee camp, fed and watered by the riders. here, the Rangers are allowed to rest. The leader of the camp offers them the traditional gift and exchange of water. With that, they are left, more or less, along, though under heavy guard.

This is the last report I have received, though Farspeaker Moonsilver cautions that the deeper into the desert the team moves, the harder it is for her to reach them. It appears that the magical nature of the storms, or whatever has summoned them is powerful enough to interfere with telepathy and other means of magical scrying….

Much deeper, and we may lose contact entirely with Alpha Team. They will be, completely, on their own.

Addendum

High Command is not entirely pleased with the latitude I have taken in making “compromising arrangements” with enemy factions, and agents of questionable character. However, they continue to support my decisions given the extreme circumstances we now find ourselves.

Archanon and my Lady Celesia granted their faith in me is warranted.

Your most obedient servant,

Lord Mayor Wolfhaven, Colonel

Ranger Regional Headquarters, Echer’Naught, Olara

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Campaign Report 92
Sand, Death, and...Cats?

Lord Mayor, Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander

Commander of the Legio Heroes

Wolfhaven Manor, Echer’Naught, Olara

As relayed from Echer’Naught Alpha team under command of Lieutenant Gunther Volstagg (via Farspeaker Daynore)

Thirteenth Day of Dancing Clouds, Year 3126 Under the Light

The Rangers say, “There is no heroism without sacrifice.” Olarans, “Mit Ehre sterben,” or “Die with honor” in the Galean tongue. Such things are more easily said than done.

I have always prided myself that I would never ask another to do in my name what I would myself refuse. However, as I write this report, I am no so sure I would have had such courage. Truly, these few are the best of us.

Festival Moons 33rd, 3126

The Rangers returned to the Emissary’s Estate in the wee hours of the morning. Though their “dinner” had been successful, Lieutenant Volstagg was forced, one again, to take a man’s life. I know from bitter personal experience the weight each death bears upon a soul. Even justified, it is a hard thing to take a life. Harder to live with oneself after.

But, my Rangers performed without failing, as they always do.

After this…spectacle, the Rangers were given time to rest, heal, and prepare for the next duty. I wonder, at times, if they could even comprehend that, however difficult the past weeks had been, nothing could prepare them for what was to come.

Dancing Clouds 2nd, 3126

After two days, Prince Velthana of Almahrad invited Lieutenant Volstagg and the Emissary to a private brunch. Leaving the rest of the team at the Estate, Vosltagg and the Emissary departed riding the Emissary’s palanquin that morning and arrived without incident at the palace. They were met by the Vizier who escorted the Ranger and the Diplomat to a familiar balcony, one the Prince had used to meet with the group before.

There, they found the Prince alone, awaiting their arrival. Food and drink were provided and the Prince played the gracious host. Once small talk and formalities were completed, the Prince then broached the subject that had inspired the meeting.

Lieutenant Volstagg’s “performance” with the investigation, and the subsequent execution, had impressed the Prince and now he wish to see a martial display provided by the Rangers. To prevent any unfortunate incidences with his nobles, or other guests, the Prince requested that the Rangers, instead, pair up and duel each other.

He asked that Lieutenant Volstagg select partners for varied fighting styles and for entertainment value. With the Emissary’s blessing, Volstagg agreed, though confirmed that the bouts would be with training weapons only. The Prince promised that the city’s artisans would recreate all the Ranger’s weapons faithfully with blunted versions.

That agreed upon, Prince Velthana dismissed his guest to go and make preparations. After departing the Prince’s company, the Emissary seemed unusually tense. During their meet, the Prince had expressly stated that he wished for the Rangers to put on this martial display for “visiting Dignitaries.” The Emissary noted a number of “new” factions operating in the city, seeking the Prince’s ear.

She produced a large gold coin and gave it to Volstagg. For months, almost a year, similar coins had been appearing in ports and trading hubs across Shaintar. Every expert confirmed that the coins dated back to the Empire of the Golden Sun which reigned across what we now call the Eternal Desert some 7000 years ago. And yet, the coins appear near pristine, weathered by time or sand.

Volstagg kept the coin, and once back at the Estate, the Emissary departed to reach out to contacts while Lieutenant Volstagg assembled the team and made arrangements for the combat. The team was paired as follows:

First Duel
RFC Danica vs RFC Nexus Zathlan Volstagg

Second Duel
Corporal Durlan Daynore vs Ranger Serys

Third Duel
RFC Grendel vs Trainee Ranna

Fourth Duel
Lieutenant Gunther Volstagg vs Sergeant Audric Amaroth

Before breaking, Volstagg also ordered the Rangers to keep their eyes open, to observe those watching the event. He relayed some of the Emissary’s concerns, and stressed that gathering information was FAR more important than the actual combat. Though, they also must impress the Prince and put on a “good show.” He showed them the coin and Grendel smelled upon it sand and death.

That done, the Rangers went about preparing for the coming event. The Emissary spoke with contacts.

Dancing Clouds 3rd, 3126

The following morning, the Rangers awoke to find a long table laid out with blunted replicas of most all of their weapons, warhammers and a few others aside. Leaving their “normal” weapons in their rooms, the Alpha team outfitted themselves with the well-crafted training gear and joined the Emissary at the gate to the Estate. There, a phalanx of guards stood ready to escort them out of the 4th tier, and through the 3rd tier of the city to a special venue that had been hastily erected just outside of the Grande Bazaar.

Already, nobles, and dignitaries were sitting under large, colorful awnings. The Alpha team made quite a stir marching heavily armed as they were through the city streets surrounded by an honor guard of the Prince’s own men. By the time they reached their destination, they had accumulated quite a following.

In an odd juxtaposition, the area was constructed of rough wooden planking around a sandy field. However, along the side reserved for the Rangers was a silk pavilion with attached awnings. There were cushioned benches, servants with palms and feathered fans. Even a banquet of light foods, wines, and “citrus water,” were arrayed before them.

As reported, they simple found their places, tightened straps and awaited their turn on the field.

Finally, the Prince and Princess arrived, taking their places of honor opposite the Rangers. Here again the Vizier announced the event and introduced each combatant by formal Title and Rank as they entered the field.

First, as noted, were Danica and Nexus. Danica chose to fight with a pair of sabers, a 3rd tucked in her belt. Nexus switched between warhammer, bow, and knifes. Their bout lasted far longer than any expected. So savage were the blows that with the first, Danica snapped her saber off at the hilt and had to rearm with her reserve. Despite fierce fighting by both women, ultimate Danica proved victor, though it was a narrow victory.

And then, Danica “won” a second fight when she hurled Nexus’ warhammer at Lieutenant Volstagg, I cannot say why, and felled a healer rushing to check on Nexus. Danica’s fiery temperament is well known. I hope she is able to keep it in check as they continue their mission.

Second up, Corporal Daynore vs Serys. Again, this fight lasted far longer than expected. Serys fired only one shot. Daynore used tactics to get inside the archer’s range and force a melee battle. However, even with use of his Adept powers, Serys was simple too fast and eventually managed to drop the Farspeaker, though not without suffering injury. Having never seen their close fighting skills, I am impressed with both men.

Third up, war of the titans. The ogre and ogress, Grendel and Ranna, squared off and beat each other senseless. I understand that they garbed themselves in tradition dress and warpaint. Just the concussion of their bodies hitting the sand caused structural damage to the area. But, in the end, Grendel proved winner. Though, I understand that a burgeoning respect, and possible infatuation, was born from this bout.

That, and Ranna was too large for any but Grendel to clear from the field.

Fourth, and final, was the long awaited battle between Lieutenant Volstagg and Sergeant Amaroth. I know the good Sergeant, at least, has sought this contest. This fight, from reports, was the most contested and brutal yet, if such a thing can be believed after the enormous display of the other Rangers. Both men fought until they were bleeding and staggered. It came down to perseverance and a bit of luck. However, Sir Volstagg claimed victory in his undefeated streak of 4 duels. I am unsure how pleased he is of such accolades, but the record speak for itself.

With that, the event was completed and the Prince seemed well pleased. The Rangers were again escorted, or carried, back to the Estate where they were showered with gifts, even a small purse for each from the Prince himself. Healers roused the fallen and they were treated to a feast by the Emissary in the Estate.

When they had time to speak, each discussed what they had observed. Serys and Danica both noted an odd faction watching their performance with cold intensity. Though dressed as the desert folk, there was something “off” about them. Moreover, Grendel smelled upon them sand, death…and cats? Clearly, these were the dignitaries the Prince wished to impress…or intimidate. Their duty done, each separated to their own devices, secure that they had done well…

And then, they heard nothing from the Prince, or anyone from the palace for days.

Dancing Clouds 8th, 3126

After a week of waiting, the Emissary grew concerned. I know of no specifics, but the reports sent back to Echer’Naught warned of dire events in the desert. Travel by any but Dwarven roads through the mountains have been totally cut off. Refugees pour into the few Clanhomes still accessible and A’Davar and Paradise are overrun. Paradise suffering the worst of it as thousands seek refuge or escape from the all encompassing Sand Storms obscuring the desert.

Most all of the carefully cultivated contacts fell silent. Only the new Xaos cultists appeared active in the desert sands. Whatever was happening was coming to a head and needed to be confronted before it was too late.

With my reserved blessing, the Emissary summoned Lieutenant Volstagg early on the morning of the 8th and revealed to him some suspicions. Having no other options, the Emissary asked Sir Volstagg to use his report with the Prince to arrange a meeting so that the Emissary might finally convince him to support a mission into the desert. And so he did, to his great sorrow.

Had we known the end result of this simple request, I would have forbade it. But, my Rangers have always done their duty, to the bitter end. More’s the pity.

The Emissary suggested Volstagg take Lady Volstagg with him, her beauty and charm being somewhat legendary. When the departed in the Emissary’s own palanquin, he was dressed in full Olaran White Silver plate, she like a desert goddess, adorned in gold and jewels from the Emissary’s own wardrobe.

They arrived to find the palace filled with other petitioners. There were city nobles, traders, craftsmen, and dignitaries from lands to the east and west. All had gathered to beg some favor or boon from the Prince. Even present was the faction of strangers wearing desert garb, but smelling of Sand, Death, and, again strangely, cats.

Pressing through the throng, and a few well wishers, Volstagg and Nexus found the Vizier and convinced him to permit them a moment with the Prince on a matter of extreme urgency. Grudgingly, the Vizier complied, but I understand that he bears little love for the Rangers.

Despite the obvious busy schedule, the Prince permits the Rangers a quick private audience. They are escorted by an aide through a side corridor where the Vizier awaits to lead them back to the throne room. There they arrive in time to witness a group of merchants just exiting an audience with the Prince.

Once the room is clear, they approach and bow before his Royal Highness. Only then, everything goes wrong. Immediately, the Captain of the Guard shouts and Lieutenant Volstagg and Nexus are surrounded by armed guards, blades at their throats. I can only imagine their confusion as Nexus is hauled roughly to her feet, Volstagg resisting the urge to fight.

At a run, the Vizier rushes up the length of the room, as Prince Velthana rises to his feet demanding to know why his guests are being ill treated. Only then does the Captain indicate the glint of metal tucked into the back of Nexus’ revealing dress. Reaching inside, the Vizier withdraws Nexus’ personal knife.

When confronted by the Prince, she admits the blade is hers, but last seen in her room where it was left before the contests days ago. The Prince then demands who dressed the Lady. Volstagg very nearly implicates the Emissary as it was the Emissary’s staff which dressed his wife, but instead he simply says, “staff.” Not a lie, but a deflection meant to save lives.

From what I have learned from the reports, the Prince clearly believed the Volstagg’s when they claimed innocence and ignorance of the crime of bringing a weapon into the presence of the Prince. Still, the law was clear and by violating this most strict principle, Nexus was in fear for her life. The Prince could order her execution and be in the right.

To save his wife, Lieutenant Volstagg suggested a mind scan, but the Prince countered that, A) such things could be evaded or faked, B) they had their own adept who might have arranged this assassination, C) He could not allow potential assassins to use such a ruse in the future.

The Vizier also pointed out that any favoritism shown the Rangers would only cause more resentment and potentially enrage the noble houses. Even Volstagg had to agree that a trial might not prove their innocent, and potentially damn other members of the Emissary’s entourage.

The Prince, Princess, and Vizier spoke privately, before, with a heavy heart, the Prince asked Volstagg how such a crime would be handled in his own country of Olara. Volstagg wisely accepted any justice the Prince order. And so, rather than execute Nexus as a potential assassin, the Prince ordered her receive 9 lashes.

As an honor to Sir Volstagg, the Prince offered him the whip as his own Captain of the Guard would surely do his utmost to take Nexus’ life. Though he warned Volstagg that any attempts to hold back the lash would result in her death, and likely his own.

I simply cannot imagine the pain and anguish both Volstagg and Nexus felt in that moment. Trapped by duty, a husband was forced to whip his wife, nearly to death. And she, to kneel taking the pain…for honor and duty.

As I said, I cannot say I would have had the courage or strength. That Archanon and my Lady the Silver Unicorn that such a task fell to better men and women. Though, I would have given up the entire enterprise were it never to have occurred. Once again, we owe a debt to these Rangers, a debt we can never repay.

The sentence passed, they were led to a nearby courtyard where Nexus was made to kneel in her gossamer gown of gold, and given a piece of leather to bite down upon. The Prince, Princess, Vizier and Guard Captain all stood in attendance, none looked away.

To her immortal credit, Nexus refused restraints, taking the punishment as an Olaran. More than.

And then, with the Princes command, and the Vizier’s low and solemn voice counting the lashes, Sir Volstagg raised the barbed whip…and lashed his wife over…and over…and over…

Nine times the lash fell, and nine times Nexu’s back as ripped to shreds, blood staining her clothes, and his. But she never faltered, never cried out more than clenched teeth and grunts as the wicked barbs tore and ripped her flesh…

To his honor, each blow was delivered with impassive brutality. Volstagg neither withheld, nor stuck with any passion. He did his duty. And I swear this, should either man or wife’s honor, integrity, or Olaran heart ever be questioned, I shall personally take a whip to any who doubts what blood flows through the hearts of these.

I have never met a more Olaran house.

When the last stroke fell on the brutalized Nexus, Volstagg returned the whip to the Vizier as the Prince’s own physicians rushed to staunch the bleeding and stitched the wide, open wounds across Nexus’ back. When he knew his wife would survive the assault, Vosltagg lifted her into his arms and strode out of the palace and carried her tightly against his chest all the way back to the Estate.

As they entered, Danica and Serys were on the roof doing some…calculations. Lieutenant Volstagg ordered the team assembled as he carried Nexus into the main courtyard and laid her on a reclining couch. The team arrive quickly, only to find Nexus weak with bloodloss and her clothes cut to ribbons and soaked in blood.

Serys demanded of Volstagg simply, “who?” but could not understand the answer when Volstagg replied, “Me.” The Emissary arrived and rushed to Nexus, checking her wounds. The Emissary demanded what happened and Lieutenant Volstagg grimly recounted the horror of the last few hours.

The Emissary ordered that he check their room to see if the dagger found on her person earlier was her own, or a replica. Lieutenant Volstagg, Sergeant Amaroth, and RFC Grendel went through the room but found no knife. The one in the throne room WAS her own, personal blade.

Hearing this, the other Rangers left to inventory their own gear, but nothing else was missing or out of place. Once together again, Nexus was feeling much improved, her wounds healed. Lieutenant Volstagg then ordered that until they were clear of the city, they would all share one room. Serys, who had apparently been preparing for this, provided the best room, guard rotations, and optimal watches for the Rangers.

With that, the Rangers all converged in one large room in the Estate and fortified it against attack.

At nearly the same, in Echer’Naught, Captain Rah-Sahn Hawksclaw emerged fully from his lengthy convalescence. I was called to his bedside on the evening of 8th to find him conscious and responsive, holding his son and wife. I cannot accurately express my joy at his miraculous recovery, due almost entirely to Farspeaker Moonsilver’s ministrations, and that of Eve.

Dancing Clouds 10th, 3126

After two days of rest, Captain Hawksclaw was finally well enough to move. His first order of business, wedding Eris Moonsilver. The ceremony was private, officiated by High Druidess Treesinger, and witness by my Lady and myself.

Once official, I took a moment to speak with Hawksclaw. Despite his obvious need to rest, I wanted to begin moving forward with his reinstatement if desired. We spoke, and he agreed to resume his post as Commander of the Ranger Outpost of Echer’Naught.

As of Dancing Clouds 10th, 3126, Captain Rah-Sahn Hawksclaw was officially reinstated as Captain of the Echer’Naught Ranger Outpost to resume his full duties upon certification for fitness of duty by Ranger healers. It is good to have my first Ranger back. And, to have Rah-Sahn liaison with my chief, Aradove. The world feels just a little more right in these dark days.

Dancing Clouds 12th, 3126

Later on the night of the 12th, the team was mostly asleep, save for those on “watch,” when A’kavir, the Emissary’s trusted guard, approached and informed the Rangers that they had a visitor in the main courtyard of the Estate. Roused, and well armed, the Rangers entered the courtyard to find the Emissary speaking with a cloaked figure.

As the approached, the figure stepped into the moonlight and lowered the hood to reveal the face of the Prince. He seemed genuinely concerned for Nexus and relieved that she had survived her ordeal without lasting injury. He apologized to both Volstaggs, but that was not the purpose of his visit.

The Vizier had examined the knife and found it coated in poison. Nexus protested that she would not have access to such, and the Prince confirmed. This particular poison was produced from a specific flower found along the banks of the Lifegiver River running through the heart of the Eternal Desert.

Then, he asked Sir Volstagg to venture into the desert with his authority and backing, find the would be assassins, and bring them to “Olaran” justice. The Emissary had what he or she desired. My concerns about the Emissary’s involvement in all of this, the Rangers had what they needed to pass through the Desert Princes.

And, under the guise of a mission for Almahrad, they would be able to discover the cause of the Sand Storms and prevent whatever catastrophe was about to befall the lands of Shaintar.

The Prince thanked them all, and offered the blade to Nexus who, understandable, refused. Afterwards he left. The Emissary then confirmed the Prince’s request, but also ordered the Rangers to seek out the source of the emerging threat in the desert. The Emissary also provided the name of a local guide, a dwarve named Stonefoot, who would be able to lead them over the mountains safely. Volstagg need but tell the dwarf, “The Emissary sends regards,” so Stonefoot would know they acted with the Emissary’s own authority.

Though Sergeant Amaroth suggested to sleep the night, Lieutenant Volstagg seemed more than ready to be rid of the place, and the Rangers had no objections. Gathering their gear, plus the coins provided by the Prince and Emissary, the Rangers left the Estate and were escorted under cover of night to the second Tier and the Grande Bazaar where they were fairly easily able to locate Stonefoot in a large tavern near the west gate, as the Emissary had instructed.

By the time they arrived, however, he was well into his cups, but seemed amiable enough to their request. He promised to be ready to leave by morning and suggested they drink. Lieutenant Volstagg chose to rent a room to sleep that night. The ogres rested under a pavilion out back.

In the morning, well before dawn, the team was awakened by a sober and chipper Stonefoot who rousted them out and downstairs where, surprisingly, a line of small, mountain ponies awaited, plus Muriel and King, along with supplies for everyone. The ogres would have to walk.

Everyone mounted, except for Corporal Daynore who was brutally kicked by his pony, Goat. But, after a bit of cursing, and a healing potion, everyone mounted and rode out.

This was the last communication received from a sore and tired Farspeaker Daynore. Archanon speed Rangers. Be safe, and may the Silver Unicorn guide and protect.

Your most obedient servant,

Lord Mayor Wolfhaven, Colonel

Ranger Regional Headquarters, Echer’Naught, Olara

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Campaign Report 91
Almahrad, City of Dreams

Lord Mayor, Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander

Commander of the Legio Heroes

Wolfhaven Manor, Echer’Naught, Olara

Thirty Third Day of Festival Moons, Year 3126 Under the Light

If we could afford the cost, I would put Farspeakers in every team. Corporal Daynore has proved himself a most valuable resource. Via his connection with Farspeaker Moonsilver, we have nearly instant updates on the Alpha Team’s mission to Almahrad. I can now divulge their destination as our enemies most certainly know the team’s location by now.

Festival Moons 7th, 3126

Sir and Lady Volstagg return late in the eve from their honeymoon in my friend’s Harken estate. Though I have never actually been to that particular home, I hear that it is most beautiful from spring to fall. From Sir Volstagg’s description, it was like sailing a sea of gold. And, for once, the heat was not as oppressive. I hope they made the most of their short respite. I have learned through bitter experience that we must bask in the light while the sun shines, for there will ever be shadows, darkness, and cold…

Festival Moons 8th, 3126

My day was met with news both boon and ill. Ranger Sara Schenkle (Longtail) of House Wolfhaven formally retired from the Rangers this morning. She explained that her duty to our Corps was one of the most cherished facets of her life. However, her experiences under deep cover had left her feeling detached, and hesitant.

She wished to put the pain behind her and move forward with her new husband, Commander Eric Schenkle. I could not have been more pleased, though I was loathe to lose her. And, in recognition of her exemplary service, her rank was promoted to Ranger First Class, and she was awarded a full, if small, pension for completion of a full three year contract.

On somewhat better news, a new arrival graced us with her presence. Ranna. She is an ogress, and crossbowman to boot. I have heard legends of the ogre heavy crossbow teams. More walking siege towers than warriors. I expect Lieutenant Volstagg to make great use of her skills. I also hope that she and Grendel are able to bond and find common experience being both ogres.

Worse news, after the Alpha Team’s meeting with Sir Halten at his manor, briefing on the mission, I was alarmed to hear fire bells in the streets. I, and much of my staff, rushed to offer aid, fire being a constant hazard in the city, where I came upon a strange sight. The courtyard of Sir Halten’s keep ablaze, Sir Halten himself laughing amidst the chaos as his household battled the blase, and his wife, the formidable Lady Halten, berating him and screeching in a voice that has seared into my memory. Seeing he had the situation well in hand, my Rangers and I beat a hasty retreat.

Later, I received a report. Apparently, the good lady found his manor “dank and dingy,” so she ordered something akin to 3000 candles to be lit in the halls to add light and atmosphere. Predictably, flame met curtain and the rest is the natural course of nature. Ultimately, the Lady claimed that the manor needed a remodel anyway and I saw construction crews on sight the following morning.

Sir Halten has, strangely, taken up residence with an associate elsewhere in High Towne. There is still the curious report of a broken wagon. It seems that just prior to the blaze, one of Halten’s hostlers reported that one of the wall tower ballista had shot one of Lady Halten’s wagons, running some of her personal effects. Which, would most likely have been a cause for uproar if the wagon, bolt, and effects not all burned moments later. Still, I have the entire city doing a thorough inventory of every bolt, arrow, and quarrel in the City Watch and the Rangers.

None are pleased with the extra work, but it should do well to instruct them NOT to be careless with their ammunition. If someone had been harmed…

Festival Moons 9th, 3126

I have heard that my Rangers, namely Sir and Lady Volstagg, and Sergeant Amaroth and RFC Moldova, quite enjoyed themselves at the Wayfarer’s Rest on this particular eve. I had not been made aware of a budding relationship between the dour “The Bloody” and the gentle pacifistic. Opposites attract? I hope their relationship had no bearing on her choice to depart the Rangers. That would disappoint me greatly. But, I cannot begrudge their finding happiness among all this pain and death.

Duty weighs like a mountain.

I would ALSO note that Captain Vasser, via Sir Halten’s runner, informed me that three of my Rangers, RFC Serys, Ranger Johns, and Trainee Ranna engaged in some extracurricular bounty hunting? They retrieved the bodies of three wanted felons. The Warrant was dead or alive, and they were turned in most assuredly dead. On the one hand, I dislike my Rangers, even on personal time, hiring out a killers. On the other hand, their actions were legal, and within keeping with Olaran law, which also keeps with the Charter. The entire incident is unsettling, but I am electing to refrain involvement…for the time.

Festival Moons 10th, 3126

In the early morning, Alpha Team departs the west (Elven) gate heading along the Greenway Road toward Eldara. I know at this point the team would be unaware of their destination, just that they were being dispatched on a “Diplomatic Mission.” Still, they seemed in good spirits as the headed west.

Shortly after my Alpha Team departed east, I departed west and then north. Over the summer of 3126, Red Wolf to Festival Moons, my White Silver Wolves had crossed the Crystal River and steadily pushed Shaya’Nor’s forces back. Word reached me that the army was closing in on Tirene. Being one of two key Darkness strongholds still within the region, I elected to take command personally. Though the Ranger High Command was not particularly pleased with my decision, they, nevertheless, afforded me the personal leave to conduct my affairs.

Details of that mission may be found: https://shaintar-j-l-rangers-at-large.obsidianportal.com/adventure-log/liberation-of-tirene-report-one

Festival Moons 12th, 3126

Alpha Team arrived in Erda’Meias. It has been reported that the Alpha Team in particular were very well received as they brought relief from the plague.

Festival Moons 15th, 3126

Alpha Team arrived in Eldara. Here, the Rangers bunked at the local HQ, while Corporal Daynore and RFC Nazir sought passage on a riverboat headed to the coast. Again, I cannot fault the results, but I am not particularly predisposed to Lady Nazir’s method of “negotiation,” regardless of how spectacularly successful she might have been.

Nevertheless, Alpha Team secured passage aboard an Elven Swan Boat, a treat I myself have never experienced.

Festival Moons 16t,. 3126

Alpha Team departed Eldara headed South toward Eastport aboard the Elven Swan Boat. Only RFC Danica took her mount, Muriel. All others were left in the elven capital.

Festival Moons 18th, 3126

Reports indicate that the team reached Loreli about mid day. Lieutenant Volstagg reported in to the local HQ.

Festival Moons 20th, 3126

Alpha Team passed Syvan in the morning.

Festival Moons 22nd, 3126

Alpha Team arrives is in Eastport. The first order of business, Lieutenant Volstagg reported to Captain Roberts of the Sea Ranger, a trusted associate. Their gear was stowed and the Rangers were allowed an evening to relax before beginning their sea voyage.

Festival Moons 23rd, 3126

Onboard the War Caravel Sea Ranger, under command of Captain Roberts, the Alpha Team departs for their final destination. Once in open waters, Captain Roberts and Lieutenant Volstagg meet in the captain’s room to read their orders. The Captain is instructed to sail the team to Granite Port and wait in port until Alpha Team makes arrangements with their contact in the dwarvish port.

Lieutenant Volstagg is ordered to proceed to Granite Port. There, he will be an associate of the Emissary who will make arrangements for final travel to the independent city of Almahrad. With that, the ship turns west and beats toward Granite Port.

Festival Moons 29th, 3126

The Sea Ranger arrives in Granite Port and the Alpha Team disembarks. I have never seen the port myself, but I have heard that it hosts marvels barely imagined. As described once by Therel Fateweaver who traveled widely,

“Granite Port is the sole Dwarven seawater port in the whole of Shaintar. Built into the foothills of the Black Mountains, the port is carved out of the southernmost cliffs, before spilling out into the lower marsh and tidelands. Everything in Granite port is granite, from the peers, to the shops, docks, and fortifications. What makes the port most remarkable are: A) dwarven sailors, entire clans of shanty singing, sea swept, gruff sailors, B) massive mechanical and clockwork booms and cranes, hauling tonnes of cargo out of the bellies of the beasts, C) iron ships with massive wheels, gears, and sails. Some of the smaller vessels even has what appear to be massive, hissing engines."

It is a wonder I hope to one day behold in person. Nevertheless, once on dry land, the Rangers headed to the largest Granite Inn and Alehouse where they managed to find lodging in the bustling seaport establishment. Here too, was running hot and cold water, massive fires and ovens, and every conceivable mechanical contrivance.

The Rangers bunked for the night. Even the ogres found rooms inside. That eve, they all had succulent meals from across the sea, before getting a full night of undisturbed rest.

Festival Moons 30th, 3126

In the morning, Lieutenant Volstagg apparently challenged the owner to provide a unique meal. And, with that, they were served Kraken!!! If that is to be believed. It was at this time, they were approached by their contact, an A’kavir, one of the Emissaries trusted associates.

He informed the Rangers that a ship waited for them at the headwaters and could leave then, or in the morning. Not wanting to remain in the open, Lieutenant Volstagg ordered the team to move while Corporal Daynore contact Captain Roberts and released he and his ship from service.

RFC Danica was forced to settled Muriel’s bar tab as the irascible mule had managed to raid the ale larder. With that handled, the Alpha Team headed on foot, with Muriel in tow, to a point where the Granite River flowed into the sea. Here, was docked a massive two masted galley! Oh to have seen such a sight.

Once aboard, the crew, two rowers to a side, began to pull away north, up the river toward the Black Mountains. Starting in the early morn, the rowers pulled for 10 hours, arriving in later afternoon at rising cliffs of the Black Mountains. Here, the galley reefed sail and slipped into a narrow cut through the rock face, carved over eons by the flowing river.

Just beyond, the Rangers entered a large, hidden valley of lush forests, farmlands, and fisheries. And, on the horizon, the Great City of Almahrad glittering like a jewel in the dying of the day’s light. Lady Moonsilver, upon seeing the image relayed by Corporal Daynore said one could weep for the beauty of it.

Just as darkness fell, cooling the hot valley, the galley pulled up at the Stone Docks, dwarven built like the Granite Port south of Almahrad. Here, they were met with an armed escort sent by the Emissary. The Rangers were then led by A’kavir through the city from the lowest tier to the upper, describing along the way each district’s unique essence and culture. As relayed by Farspeaker Daynore,

“Almahrad is a beautiful four tier city nestled at the base of the Black Mountains. It sits like a jewel at the north end of a hidden, lush, and verdant valley fed by the Granite river which flows through, and around the_ city in beautiful cascading waterfalls. The valley is safely reached via a narrow river cavern from the south, from the east mountain pass from Three Points, or from the West mountain branch where the LowHome road turns south toward Daltor.

Just outside the Southern gate, in the lowest tier, are the Stone Docks encompassing the Port area full of shops, fisheries, and netmakers. Within the walls are warehouses, and river trade district. Here, the dwarven metal and stonesmithes from Granite Port mingle with the traders and craftsmen of the city. The air is tinged with the scent of salt, soot, spice, and fish.

Up the main rode, finds the second tier. Here, the East and West gate roads meet in the Grande Bazaar. Dwarvencraft from Temper and Granite Port, exotic goods from the Desert Princes (via Low Home and Daltor), fine Malakaran goods from Lann and Centerport, and every concievalbe rare find fed from Sunset, Granite Port, and Westport, all converge in one of the worlds largest open air markets. All can be found for a price. And, these raw materials are taken and refined into the finest crafts by the artisans of Almahrad.

Nestled in the hanging gardens, the frescoed porticos of the third tier are the homes and studios of the famed artisans of Almahrad. None outside the city understand why the crafts of the city are so exquisite, but their perfection cannot be ignored. Here is the heart of the city, the prize and fame of Almahrad.

In the fourth, and last tier, sits the higher noble houses, and grande palace. From their lofty perch, the blood of Almahrad controls the money and power of the city, forging alliances, playing the game, and ensuring the independence and prosperity of the city.

Outside, in the valley are nestled farms, fisheries, and limited wood harvesting. Just enough to provide basic necessities, but the life’s blood of Almahrad is trade; trade and artisans."

When the party reaches the fourth and highest city tier, A’kavir escorts the Alpha Team to a beautiful Noble manor full of airy walkways, porticoes, gardens, and fountains in sandstone and marble. Upon arrival, each Ranger, or couple, is given their own private room, though lacking in doors, it seems, and a banquet of fresh and dried fruit, dried fish, figs, dates, and other local delicacies. Also, cool water to bath, and local garb already provided as the climate is hotter and dryer during the summer months than our native lands.

Once refreshed, Lieutenant Volstagg and RFC Zathlan were escorted to finally meet the Emissary. I had met her, or him, over a year prior before sending the Long Recon Team to escort the emissary on the survey mission into the Eternal Sands. I found the Emissary to be courteous, intelligent, but ambitious. I suppose that would be a necessary trait given his or her line of work.

From what I gather, the Emissary had “arranged” for a local noble to turn over his estate as the base of operations for the Emissary. When the Rangers arrived, he, or she, was reclining on pillows, as is the custom in that land, dressed from head to toe in emerald robes of fine silk and Paradise cotton. Only the Emissaries eyes could be seen.

The Emissary explained that the Rangers were there to assist in establishing diplomatic relations with Almahrad and then to help investigate the growing unrest in the Eternal Sands. They also had an audience with the Prince of Almahrad in the morning. It would be their first opportunity to impress and ingratiate themselves with the ruling family.

They would also be denied weapons outside of the manor grounds. I am aware that both Sergeant Amaroth and RFC Danica found great difficulty with this order, but they complied.

RFC Leora and Ranger Newt elected to remain with the Emissary in the Estate for the duration, at the Emissary’s request. Her man, A’kavir would accompany the Rangers, while the bard and the brinchie would protect the Emissary.

Festival Moons 31st, 3126

In the morning, A’kavir prepared Lieutenant Volstagg and Corporal Daynore in the traditional garb of the kingdom for their meeting with the Prince. They arrive early to find the Prince and Princess Velthana, and the kingdom’s Vizier awaiting them in the throne room, a long and columned, open air room. Per reports, Lieutenant Volstagg was the perfect guest and representative. Corporal Daynore even provided the Prince a gift of an everwood flute that he carved for the occasion.

As I understand, the Prince was MOST interested in Lieutenant Volstagg’s dueling record. The prince, it has been reported, is a duelist himself and I can imagine he would be intrigued by the Olaran Knight’s prowess. But, as it happened, it was not the Ranger’s skill with a blade he sought to test, but the Ranger ability to investigate crimes.

As they stood before the Crowned Prince, a prisoner was brought forth in chains. One, Al’Sahi, Master Painter. The poor, disheveled man had been accused of murdering his partner, Abin’Awahi. The murder had transpired three days prior. But, the report was that Al’Sahi had accosted his partner in a cafe in the morning, demanding money for back rent on their studio and threatening to kill Abin’Awahi when he refused to pay because he had spent all his funds buying a Masterwork Painting.

According to the City Guards, they responded to the house about an hour later to find Al’Sahi standing over the body of his partner while holding the bloody murder weapon. The Guards arrested Al’Sahi and he was scheduled for execution in three days. Al’Sahi claimed innocence, and the princess seemed to believe him genuine. Prince Velthana offered the Rangers three day to prove the condemned man’s innocence or guilt.

Corporal Daynore confirmed that the condemned Al’Sahi believed he was innocent. He also noted, while using his abilities, that the Prince, Princess, Vizier and many of the guards were all magically protected.

To Corporal Daynore’s mental probing, Al’Sahi admitted to accosting his partner, but after cooling off for a bit, Al’Sahi claimed he returned to his studio, but realized that he had forgotten his keys at home. He was about to return to his home nearby when he said to have heard a commotion within. And, the door was unlocked. Entering, the found the studio dark, all shades drawn, and as he moved inside he tripped over something. Stunned, his had brushed something which he unwittingly picked up. Only then did he realize he had fallen over the body of his slain partner, and he was covered in blood. That, and he now held a bloody sword. That is when the guards busted in. That is all he knew. He begged the Rangers to prove him innocent.

Dismissed, the Rangers assembled at the Emissary’s manor before heading off to the murder sight, the Paint Studio. Before departing, A’kavir informed Lieutenant Volstagg that the Prince was permitting HIM to bear a sword. Volstagg immediately strapped his longsword before heading out. Led by A’kavir, they arrived to find a small, but quaint studio off a small courtyard. There were two City Guards out front who confirmed that no one had entered or disturbed the site since the arrest of the painter. Inside, the Rangers confirmed the location of the body via dried bloodstains, though they found no sign of the masterwork painting. More curious, Ranger Grendel and Trainee Ranna discovered that the back door and the rear courtyard gates were also unlatched. Which would mean that every door to the studio was unlocked, but all the shades were drawn closed. Curious.

The guards outside were the very same to originally respond to the murder. They confirmed that a local citizen, a young woman, had rushed up to them claiming of a commotion in a nearby studio. When the arrived, the found the door open. Entering, they found Al’Sahi standing over the corpse of his partner, the bloody murder weapon still in his hand. They saw no one else in the studio, nor did anyone leave the rear while they were present. Though, they reported that a small crowd of onlookers had been drawn by the noise by the time they arrived, though none claimed to have seen anyone aside from Al’Sahi.

From there, the Rangers headed to the Al’Sahi’s house to find it locked. Sergeant Amaroth picked the lock, and the Rangers entered to find a spartan apartment. Clean, with a bit of stale food, about three days old. Curious, they found no keys. Nor could Al’Sahi have locked his own house without keys. Meaning, his keys were lost, or stolen, between his house and the cafe. Also, no sign of the painting.

The next task for the Rangers was to locate the who sold the painting to the deceased Abin’Awahi? For this, the Rangers, led as always by A’kavir, headed back to the palace to speak with the Al’Sahi and the Vizier.

Al’Sahi was chained in the heart of a lush garden, surrounded by opulence and comfort while he starved and chafed under heavy chains. Again, Corporal Daynore scanned his mind. This time, Daynore was able to make a rough sketch of the painting so they would know what to look for. From there, to the Vizier.

With a single glance, he determined the painting was a Marishi. He had been regarded as a Grand Master until his demise a decade prior. The Vizier provided the Rangers the only auction house he knew that would handle such a transaction, the Answaran Gallery.

Arriving at the Gallery, the Rangers were at first rebuffed by the Gallery master until A’kavir showed the Prince’s seal. From there, Lieutenant Volstagg, Corporal Daynore, and A’kavir were taken into the private offices while the rest of the team searched the grounds. Corporal Daynore presented his sketch and demanded to see the Gallery records. With bad grace, the Auctioneer produced the records, and they confirmed sale of the Marishi, but under an alias. The seller was equally obscured, but the Gallery owner suggested that only the family could sell such a piece.

When asked who retrieved the sale, he directed them to his dock master. That man, a Nazatiran, confirmed that the piece had been retrieved by Abin’Awahi the night before he was killed.

From there, the Rangers headed to the Marishi Estate. They met lady Marishi. She denied any knowledge or involvement. When Corporal Daynore produced his sketch of her father’s painting, she angrily led them to a central vault, allowed Lieutenant Volstagg, Corporal Daynore, and A’kavir entry and showed them that very painting still in the vault, bolted to the wall. She confirmed that only she and her Head Servant visited the vault, if rarely, and they certainly had not sold it on the black market.

Lord Marishi, the lady’s brother, was summoned. He refused involvement and suggested that he had not entered teh vault since his father’s death over a decade before. He also claimed that he was a disappointment in that he possessed his father’s skills, but not his creativity.

However, during questioning, RFC Danica noted a few oddities about the Lord Marishi. First, he blanched when the forgery was mentioned, and Second, he showed visible fear when he learned that the buyer had been murdered. Still, he professed innocent.

Oddly, though, he embraced Lieutenant Volstagg in a handclasp, a tradition of the Southern Kingdoms. The Rangers noted the unusual nature of such a gesture. After departing, Grendel commented that Lord Marishi smelled of paint, so he had obviously been handling such recently, despite his statement to the contrary.

Despite the lateness of the day, the team returned to the Palace to speak with the Prince. He was dining with the princess on a balcony when the entire team arrived. They began to recount their investigation so far, but he seemed to already know everything they had done. He even knew of their encounter with Marishi even though they had JUST returned from their estate.

They provided all their evidence and their belief that Al’Sahi was innocent. However, the Prince demanded proof. Where was the painting? Who was the killer? They had provided theory, but no evidence. Unless they could provide more, Al’Sahi would be executed.

With few leads left, they excused themselves from the prince and went to rouse the Vizier from his bed. In bad humours, the escorted them to the armory and allowed them to examine the murder weapon, a fine scimitar, if unadorned. It seemed unremarkable, but a find blade mostly likely carried by a noble.

At this point, being WELL passed the time most people would be sleeping, A’kavir suggest the team might eat and rest as they had not paused in their pursuit all day. Suddenly tired, and very hungry, the team returned to the Emissary’s manor to eat a late dinner, and sleep.

Festival Moons 32nd, 3126

Rising before dawn on the 32nd, the team resumed their investigation. This morn, they headed to the cafe of the initial confrontation. The proprietor confirmed everything that had been reported. He never saw the young woman who approached the guards. And, he only knew of the murder via news and rumor. Nevertheless, the team was certain Al’Sahi was innocent of murder, and there was great suspicion that Lord Marishi was involved in forgery and illegal auction of the painting, but they were still undecided on who murdered Abin’Awahi.

The Team headed back to Al’Sahi’s studio and confirmed, via scent that the painting had been there, and they found the unique burlap of the Answaran Auction Gallery, but could not track the painting, if it even still existed. All leads followed, they were stuck. Without some proof, they could not proceed. And, answers could only be found with the Marishi House. It was a risk, if they failed, it would likely cost Lieutenant Volstagg his life. But, without the evidence, they had nothing.

So, Lieutenant Volstagg sent the rest of the team to the Emissary’s Estate along with Volstagg’s sword. Then, taking Corporal Daynore and A’kavir, headed back to the Marishi Estate. This time, they were stopped at the gates by the Marishi Guard. It required A’kavir to demand entry in the name of the Prince. As the guards opened the gates wide, A’kavir noted to Lieutenant Volstagg that if they failed here, they would surely be executed.

Within, they found both Lady and Lord Marishi waiting, as well as their Head Servant. Again, Lady Marishi denied any knowledge of involvement and grew quickly hostile. But, Lieutenant Volstagg directed his questions at Lord Marishi who was reluctant. However, when A’kavir threatened to take the matter before the Prince, the Lord finally relented and admitted that he had forged the painting and sold it via blind auction to Abin’Awahi under alias, he still claimed innocence in the murder. Furious, the Lady Marishi demanded he leave.

Corporal Daynore requested to review the armory to compare the Marishi weapons to the murder weapon. Angrily, Lady Marishi complied and when the Rangers reviewed the armory inventory, they discovered one of the House scimitars was missing. In a fury, she demanded the Rangers arrest her brother. The Rangers asked to take one of the house scimitars and she snapped they could take them all. So, as he was allowed to bear weapons in the 3rd and 4th tiers, Lieutenant Volstagg slipped a scimitar into his belt.

Here, Lieutenant Volstagg asked who had actually taken the painting to the auction house and Lord Marishi admitted that their head servant had done so. Enraged, Lady Marishi demanded the Rangers take both men. A’kavir kept eyes on the Lord and his servant while Lieutenant Volstagg and Corporal Daynore searched the servants rooms where they found a set of keys.

With this evidence, they departed, leaving the Lord and the servant. Making their way first to the Estate to collect their team, and have Grendel smell the keys for verification, he confirmed they were covered in paint scents, the Rangers headed immediately to the palace and the Prince.

When the arrived, Prince and Princess Velthana awaited in the long, columned throne room, flanked on each column by guards, and standing just off their dais, the Vizier, just as they had when the Rangers first arrived. Under two guards, knelt the beaten and battered Al’Sahi awaiting his judgement.

The Rangers arrived, in a group, Volstagg surrendering his blade to a guard before entering the Prince’s presence. Once, admitted, they knelt and presented their case. They asked Al’Sahi to describe his keys, and Corporal Daynore was again allowed to use his powers in the throne room. He confirmed that the keys Al’Sahi described were those recovered from the Marishi House Head Servant’s personal quarters.

As they began, the Prince had both Lord Marhishi and his Head Servant brought in to testify. The Rangers reported that the murder had stolen Al’Sahi’s keys the morning of the murder and used them to enter the studio to steal the painting. In the process, he was surprised, or surprised Abin’Awahi and murdered him in the dark. It was crude work, not that of a warrior, or a noble.

Then, the killer stole the painting and fled out the back, leaving the back door and courtyard gate unlatched. Neighbors heard the commotion and alerted the guards. Unfortunately, Al’Sahi was just outside and entered, falling over the corpse and being found by the Guards.

The painting was a forgery, created by Lord Marishi, who admitted as such when demanded by the Prince, but he again claimed innocence in the murder. Here, the Head Servant stepped forward and confessed to taking the scimitar, following Abin’Awahi, stealing Al’Sahi’s keys, killing Abin’Awahi, and escaping as Al’Sahi entered. He claimed Lord Marishi was totally innocent in the murder, and had no knowledge. He claimed full responsibility.

The Prince was most pleased by the Rangers. In three days they had solved a murder, freed and innocent man, AND shut down an illegal forgery operation of one of the Great Masters of the city. Lord Marishi was stripped of his title and property, and then banished from the realm upon pain of death. Al’Sahi was released. The Head Servant was sentenced to death and lead away. He claimed to have no regrets.

As for the Rangers, in recognition for their amazing talent, the Prince hosted a feast in their honor that very eve. And, as a gift to thank him for leading the investigation, the Prince offered Volstagg the Headman’s axe. To him would fall the execution.

It is hard thing to take a man’s life. I know. In battle, there is a sense of chaos, everything happens so fast, so violently. You are trying to survive. Killing in combat is entirely survival. You have to kill them before they kill you. But executions are different. No one is threatening you. It goes against everything within a Knight to kill an unarmed, defenseless man.

But justice must be served. I cannot say I agree with the Prince in this, but I also believe that without consequence, often lethal, laws mean little. Upon hearing of this news, y heart sank. I have nothing but respect and admiration for Lieutenant Volstagg’s courage and fortitude in this matter.

With the confessions, the investigation was concluded, as was the audience. Prince Velthana dismissed the Rangers until that eve.

Back at the Emissary’s Estate, the Rangers prepared for the banquet, while mulling over recent events. It was not lost upon them that they had utterly destroyed the Marishi House. Just the taxes and penalties alone for the illegal sale of forgeries would ruin them, not to mention their loss of status.

Lord Marishi banished in poverty, the servant dead. And, they would soon learn that Al’Sahi’s hands were so damaged during his interrogation that he would likely never paint again. Justice bears a heavy price.

I know not if they decided to individuals, or as a group, but when the time for the banquet arrived, the Alpha Team had elected to wear their own garb, not that of Almahrad. Volstagg wore his heirloom armor, carrying his longsword, as per the Prince’s invitation. Lady Volstagg wore the colors of her House, with the Ranger Cloak and clasp. Sergeant Amaroth bore House Wolfhaven Colors, and Corporal Daynore wore his uniform and Night Chain. Danica wore her Golden Grphons color and the others, Grendel, Ranna, Newt and Seyrs bore their Ranger cloaks with pride. Leaora went as a bard, as ever. And the Emissary wore the silks of Almahrad nobility.

They must have been quite a site entering the Prince’s gardens. Lieutenant and his Lady were permitted to sit at the Prince’s own table. The Rangers were given pride of place just below.

Prince Velthana welcomed the Rangers and thanked them for their exemplary service to his City. He introduced them to the court before beginning the meal. At the height of the eve, the Prince clapped his hands and had the condemned brought forth in chains. He then turned to Lieutenant Volstagg.

Rather than take up his sword, Volstagg ordered a crossbeam, rope and stool be erected. Before the eyes of the court, the servants built a gallows in the garden, and the Servant was ordered to place his own head in the noose. Without taking his eyes off the Prince, the man complied.

The Prince offered him last words. All he said was, “I have no regret.” Then, with a word from the Prince, Volstagg kicked the stool and the assembled nobility watched in shock as the man died.

Once Lieutenant Volstagg had confirmed his death, the Prince ordered he be taken down and given a proper burial. Then, the evening continued, though understandably subdued. Later in the eve, before all were dismissed back to the estate, Corporal Daynore gifted the Prince once more, this time with a carved Karken barb. For his generosity and “peasants skill,” the Prince offered to introduce Daynore to one of the city’s Master Carvers.

Festival Moons 33rd, 3126

I returned from the front mid-morn on the the 33rd. Details may be found here: https://shaintar-j-l-rangers-at-large.obsidianportal.com/adventure-log/liberation-of-tirene-report-two. It was then that I received reports of the Alpha Team’s success in Almahrad.

They only returned to the Emissary’s Estate early on the morning of the 33rd of Festival Moons. Tired, troubled, but successful, the Rangers at the very least were able then to enjoy the beauty around them as they waited for the next task or summons.

I could not be prouder of Alpha Team’s performance. There are Ranger teams that categorically refuse Diplomatic encounters. Without something to hit or kill, they seem impotent. Yet, my Alphas understand that power is not measured in martial power, nor is success measured in the corpses of your enemies. True power is the ability to create alliances, and harmony so as to create. Yes, violence is necessary, sadly often, but the Alpha Team has proven beyond doubt why the are the premier Ranger unit in Echer’Naught.

Addendum

At home, in Echer’Naught, things continue. Sergeant Minor Longtail continues to train her staff, and I note spends many lunches with Sergeant Samira Regillus. It is pleasing to see such friendships growing. Family is vital to our shared strength.

Sir Halten continues to adjust to his new circumstances. Though, I fear that his Lady might soon begin to interfere with joint operations. Hopefully, he will manage to sort his personal finances. Im sure they would both be happier.

RFC Nazir’s Elven/Olaran project continues apace. The new leaders are proving capable, with help from High Druidess Treesinger.

My own projects continue. Though the announcement has been made to improve the city’s governance, the loss of the Seneschal has set us back. A replacement must be found before we can fully move forward. And, as always, there are new problems. Petty crime and gang activity has increased. Under Velkalar, there was a more uniform enemy, now we face dozens of competing factions. So far, their conflict has not spilled out of their own sphere, but the City Watch is ever vigilant against a crime spree.

Reports from the North indicate the White Silver Wolves 3rd and 4th Companies are closing in on Tieren and should be within range to siege within a couple of months. The fighting has been brutal, but with each mile retaken, new allies emerge. Of particular note, the Cavaliers of Camon seem to ever grow in numbers as they throw of ancient shackles.

But, news from the desert grows worse. Despite their victory, the Alpha Team will soon be thrown into that conflict. May the Ascended protect them. I will do what I may, but I fear they will be on their own deep in enemy territory.

Your most obedient servant,

Lord Mayor Wolfhaven, Colonel

Ranger Regional Headquarters, Echer’Naught, Olara

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Campaign Report 90
Aftermath and Wedding

Lord Mayor, Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander

Commander of the Legio Heroes

Wolfhaven Manor, Echer’Naught, Olara

Seventh Day of Festival Moons, Year 3126 Under the Light

I have lived my life by a simple code of Honor, Duty, and Sacrifice. In all things, I have tried to do right by the Law and my own Code. But, there is a simple truism that as one rises in authority and responsibility, the line between what is right begins to blur.

Should my Rangers have allowed Sir Halten to die at the hands of his own Olaran kin? They would have been within their rights, but would it have been right? The Sheriff’s office has never been particularly close with the Rangers, but could we have allowed such pettiness to affect our decisions? Or, did the relationship between Sir Volstagg and Sir Halten lead to the events which transpired. A relationship that I not only encouraged, but ordered Sir Vosltagg to pursue.

Is vital knowledge usable if gained with ill gotten means? Certainly we would never condone torture, but what about words spoken in confidence? Would Lady Moonsilver betray her oaths to the Farspeakers to save lives? The lives of her family?

Though I did not send Sarah Schenkle into Velkalar’s camp, I knowingly approved the mission and then lied to my fellow Rangers and friends. I looked into her husbands eyes and told him she was a criminal, knowing that she risked all to bring down a madman. But, had I not, she would be dead along with so many others. Was I wrong?

Somewhere, I suspect, someone held the knowledge that Streetrunner’s location had been compromised. Did they weigh their conscience, considering the risk of revealing that knowledge to the Rangers? Did we get a good man or woman killed when the information was made public? And yet, could I have saved Longtail’s husband if we were not so protective of our secrets.

Would that we could all trust each other to be honest, to fight for the same side. But history has proven such as falsehoods. Enemies abound and we can scarcely trust those closest to us for fear that behind their eyes lies a traitor and a villain.

Things were simpler in the war. On the back of a horse, riding into enemy lines, there is only you, your men, and the target.

Yet, sitting here, every thought, every word, every action is fraught with danger. Worse, inaction. Would that I knew no secrets worth keeping. But behind secrets are the lives risking all in faith that I am not the villain.

In the end, I suppose that each man and woman must draw the line in the sand upon which we will not cross and pray the the sum total of our actions, good or ill, will be weighed with kindness in the cold light of posterity.

Ever more often these words come to mind. “Die a hero, or live long enough to become a villain.” Some days, I pray for the honorable death…

Thunder Hawk 30th, 3126
I must confess the joy and utter shock at being reunited with my son and Longtail overwhelmed everything in those first few heady moments. Dimly I recall Sarah Longtail being wed to Commander Eric Schenkle. There was laughter, tears, and a mad, confusing gaggle trailing back up the street to High Towne and the Wolfhaven Manor.

After a time, things began to setting down. I hugged Sarah Schenkle tightly and welcomed Commander Schenkle to our bizarre clan. Though, not a sworn through his marriage to Sarah, he is, nevertheless, a fearless commander and a good man. Seeing her happiness filled my heart, though I could also see the hardness behind her eyes. It is the same I see in Alfred, Longtail…so many of us.

Our laughter always rings a little flat, our smiles just a bit forced. Given a choice would we live lives of simple mediocrity if it meant was need not suffer such indignities? Sadly, I fear any one of us would make the same choices given an opportunity. What does that say about us?

Though, the most difficult moment of the evening was facing Aradove. I knew I had done all in my power to save Streetrunner, and she understood the risks we all face everyday. But, knowing and accepting are very different things. Though our words were private, seeing her again…indescribable.

The party continued as we all laughed, danced, and reunited under a late summer moon. The weather was mercifully cool, despite the heat of the season. My Lady, Baroness Wolfhaven, was a delight. She floated among the guests, speaking easily with all assembled. I wish I had her ease in social situations. Without a mission or objective, I find myself at a loss for what to say. Late into the evening, I was surprised at the arrival of Evelyn (Eve) Afliem. She, apparently, had arrived at the behest of Lady Wolfhaven. They both took their leave to look in on Hawksclaw. It was hoped that her “powers” would be able to undo some of the damage inflicted at the hands of Velkalar and his men. I pray that it would be so.

Sooner, rather than later, my Lady returned and the night began to wind down. The newlyweds entered their carriage and rode away to his household. With that, guests began to break up. I spoke with many that eve, and more in the coming days.

It seems that with our great foe defeated, everyone is contemplating the future. Now that we have some reasonable assurance that a future is even possible.

Thunder Hawk 31st, 3126
In the morning, before the dawn, I asked the Alpha team to attend me in my office at the Regional HQ. Among other things, there was the small detail of the powerful artifacts they were all still carrying. Also, it appeared that the paperwork had not been filed to release Ranger Sebastian from his protective detail. I also need to invite Sir and Lady Volstagg to dinner that eve.

They arrived, Sergeant Minor Longtail and RFC Leaora with them. Malcolm had already arranged for the case, and Alpha team gladly returned the weapons of their former teammates.

Sergeant Volstagg DID warn me about the Ancient Von Dietrich sword. The analysis of the priests who cleansed it and certified it for use, cautioned that while it was not “evil” in the sense of Corruption, it was dangerous. I am glad Sir Volstagg suffered no ill effects from its use.
Also, in an emotional moment, RFC Newt returned to Sergeant Minor Longtail her lo-sska which had been added to the collection upon her “death.”

Then, Malcolm presented Longtail with her “personal effects” box. She now has two. One from her father, and one for herself. Ironically, my own effects had been collected and added to one of the same make. Two thoughts struck me. Who makes these boxes? And, how many Rangers over the years have managed to receive their own death boxes?

I would have preferred to handle the next bit myself, but the agreement with the Sheriff’s office guarantees that he approves, and executes all personel changes. So, with restraint, I bid the team head over to his office. Before they left, I did request that Sergeant Volstagg and RFC Zathlan attend me at my home office that eve.

From the signed papers I know that the following promotions were approved:

  • Sergeant Gunther Volstagg was promoted to Lieutenant Volstagg
  • Corporal Audric Amaroth was promoted to Sergeant Amaroth
  • RFC Durlan Daynore was promoted to Corporal Daynore
  • Ranger Grendel was promoted to RFC Grendel
  • Ranger Newt was promoted to RFC Newt

The second commendations were placed in the files for both RFC Gracelyn Moldova and RFC Nexus (Zathlan) Volstagg.

The Royal Sheriff, Sir Halten, also covered the team’s impending mission. Last year, an emissary was dispatched to the west to establish ties with the locals and to investigate disturbing rumors. She was escorted by the Long Recon Team, and met with local assets to provide security. Other than regular updates, we had heard little from her. But, a request reached out offices for the Alpha Team (by name) to join her in the independent city-state of Almahrad. We know very little about this small, but rich nation. Apparently, the Emissary is making overtures for official diplomatic relations. To that end, the Alpha Team will be dispatched to facilitate the negotiations and provide security. They depart as soon as able.

After the Alpha Team’s departure, I sat with Sergeant Minor Longtail and asked what she might want to do in the future. I hoped that she would be willing to remain with the Rangers, but truth be told no one would blame her for “getting out.” Thankfully, she wanted to remain, but was done with field work.

Malcolm and I had a few options already prepared for most eventualities. I offered her a position as the Staff NCO in my office. As a Colonel, technically, I ranked a Master Sergeant, but to be honest, I had not found the right fit for senior NCO. To my delight, Longtail accepted the position and the paperwork was finalized on the spot. Malcolm set up her office right outside my door and to the left in a small, vacant office. Interestingly, Sergeant Samira (Ravenwood) Regillus works in the Diplomatic office just around the corner and down the hall. Life is strange at times.

The rest of the day was spent in meetings. I fear most people mistakenly believe that my days are spent leading charges against the enemies of the Southern Kingdoms. While occasionally, I am let out of my offices to do just that, the overwhelming majority of my time is spent siting behind a desk filling out paperwork or sitting in endless meetings.

Of note, the Long Recon Ranger team under command of Sergeant Flint Ironfinder assembled on 31st as well. Before their next operation, I took a moment to also promote several members.

  • RFC Zathras, goblin, was promoted to Corporal and given second in command.
  • Ranger Wonderkill, brinchie, received commendation for actions during the Crystal River action.
  • Ranger Ssslikk, dregordian, was promoted to RFC

In addition, a new recruit Elrick, human priest of Light, also took the oaths and the cloak. As usual, Drew, our resident rogue demurred.

Formalities aside, I briefed the team on their new assignment and dismissed them to begin. Reports may be found here:

I was pleased to receive my commission for Alex; a White Silver Cavalry saber, cut down, of course, for a boy. When he is old enough to carry such a blade, he can grow strong with its use. Sir Regillus was perplexed by the gesture, but I have faith Samira can explain to him the concept of gifts for new births.

I managed to escape early and arrived home to find that my Baroness had the house in preparation for the evening meal. Our first as a House. Most of House Wolfhaven Blood and Sworn working in the city were invited. It was to be a thanks and celebration for their service and loyalty. A few notables were otherwise occupied. Sergeant Amaroth was busy putting together supplies and requisitions for the new mission. Paperwork initiated, odd enough, but Sergeant Minor Longtail and her staff. Odd times indeed.

Dinner went well, and by evening, I was sitting at the head of my table with my Lady beside me, Ferradin sitting her lap. To my right, Alfred, Sir Regillus and Lady Samira, with baby Alex in her arms. To our left, Longtil with her three kits crawling over her and, well, everything. Beside her, Sarah Schenkle and Commander Schenkle looking stiff and out of place. Then Rah-Sahn’s mother and sister who have lived with us for years now. My family.

At the appointed hour, Sir Volstagg and Lady Nexus appeared, joining the festivities. I was honored to present them with the gift of an overlarge tub in their home, with dwarven engineered plumbing. Though hardly appropriate, Anaxelum was likely correct in that the tub would be used for “communal bathing and fornication.” I nearly spit my beer at that one. I ALSO gifted them with three days in a villa north of Harken. Owned by a Captain within the Hammerfall Riders, the estate is a beautiful ranch spread which he has little use for as his duties have him posted on the far side of the country. He was kind enough to lend the villa and its staff for the purpose.

To Sarah and Commander Schenkle, House Wolfhaven gifted coin, and leased land at the southern edge of Barony Lands. Sarah has requested to build a “girls school” for education and training. There are few of such things in Olara, but refinement must be taught. The plans are being reviewed for approval.

After presenting the gifts, I retired with the men to the front parlor while the ladies remained in the grande dining hall. It is seldom that I can relax with men of my House. I fear we got a bit carried away as Sir Volstagg desperately tried to instruct Sir Regillus in the “art of relaxation.” I have always been seen as a bit too rigid, but I have met ironwood more flexible that Anaxelum. He shattered seven good chairs in his attempts to “flop”, while Eric Schenkle looked on in mute horror. Alfred found the entire scenario hilarious.

I worry, though. Despite his easy nature and ready smile, I sense a deep wariness in my son. Only those who know him best would see, but he is not nearly as relaxed as he appears. Whatever trials he endured during his undercover mission have left deep and abiding scars.

I had many talks that night, with Lady Zathlan, Sir Volstagg, Sergeant Minor Longtail, and more. Of those conversations, I will say only that it warms my heart to see my Rangers planning for the future. I only hope that all of their dreams might be realized.

Before bed, Lady Wolfhaven informed me that she would be meeting with Lady Nexus in the morn to help instruct her in the ways of Olaran Ladyship. That night, I sent a silent prayer to Archanon and Celesia for the poor young woman. My wife is generous of spirit, and capable of absolutely altruism, but she is also a severe mistress and taskmaster. Of those she commands or instructs, she has little room for foolishness and expects excellent.

Thunder Hawk 32nd, 3126
More meetings. More paperwork. Where Malcolm finds them, I shall never know. He seems content enough with his duties so I try hard not to distress him overmuch. Longtail seemed to be fitting in well. Her staff were just beginning their duties, but seemed capable. She is much as I remember her to be, efficient, careful, and cunning.

It is good to have her watching my back.

Early in the morning I met with Sergeant Amaroth concerning the man he slew during the battle of the Vale. As it happened, I had Rangers collect the body for processing. Everything was inspected and cataloged. Everything, including the autopsy report was rushed to my office.

He went by many names. His most recent, Kalath Morgram. Upon his death, he served as a recruiter for Velkalar’s forces, having worked for the mercenary army over a year. Prior to that, we know that he served as a bandit and sell-sword for various unsavory companies, prominently with the Maelstrom during the War of Flame. Before THAT, however, he served as a regular in the Kal army.

All of this was turned over to Audric along with the man’s bloodsteel dagger. The truth, sadly, would be found in the Empire. I hope that he is able to find his answers. He deserves as much. I also hope, in doing, that he can overcome his more heated nature and bring the man in for justice, not seek revenge. I fear that that singular moment, whatever choice he makes, will seal his fate, or free him from his bonds.

Whatever befalls him, his team will be there to comfort or destroy him should he fall.

At mid-afternoon, I broke and headed home to prepare for Streetrunner’s Last Call. War makes strange bedfellows. I know that Streetrunner was a criminal, and a thug in his time. But he was also a husband to Longtail, a father, and a good man. Can one be both? Can one makes questionable choices, lead a troubled life, but still be honorable and good? I pray that is so.

For I have sent men and women to their deaths. Sometimes fruitlessly. I hope that I too can find redemption in the end.

We arrived at the Wolfhaven Refuge for Children. We were one of the last to arrive. Already the room was filled with an odd assortment of Rangers, local notables, and “performers” from Low Town. Skullcrusher met us more kindly than usual, but she demanded our papers anyway. She is a formidable woman.

After that, the Last Call. Longtail spoke. Then I. then Volstagg. Then others. It was a solemn affair, made more so in that so few had been there. Only I and Sir Volsagg saw his end. Us and the children. The memory of that still haunts me.

Of note, I need to speak with Longtail about the children’s “extra curricular” activities. I hope her staff is doing their best to curb such illicit tendencies. Like Aradove, these children have survived on cunning and guile, but the purpose of the Orphanage is to provide a refuge, education, and a better life. Not train delinquents, however cute they may be.

My wife and I departed early, not out of disrespect, but moreso to allow the others to relax. I know many in the room felt a distinct awkwardness at my presence, being both Colonel of the Rangers and the Lord-Mayor. So, I paid respect, and departed.

That even, though, I returned at the 13th hour. Orders forbade any official recognition or celebration of Therel Fateweaver, but there were no orders that he could not be honored by his family and Aradove was that. Family.

At my own expense, and through personal channels, I had an urn prepared the Olaran fashion. Though, in deference both to Fateweaver, and to his past iniquities, only his name, There Fateweaver, and his works under that guise were engraved on the surface. He will be remember for who he is, not for what he was.

I know not his sins, I never asked and, to be honest, I do not wish to know. Only, in a moment of unusual frankness he once told me that he sacrificed everything for Love, his name, his honor, his all. But, that stories of his past were told by those who wrote the histories, and not by those who knew the truth. That was all. I never pressed.

Now, the past will remain buried. The Crown has seen justice, and Fateweaver paid for those sins with his life. For my part, I will accept him as he was, criminal, hero, bard, noble, a villain, and a good man. Perhaps one can be all?

Trokash appeared. That orc does get around. He presented me a copy for Davos Olandoran/There Fateweaver’s Completed Works. I admit I was aware that there were those who sought its collection. And, I knew that the Great Library at Rhion kept copies of all Olaran bardic works, even those out of favor with the Crown. I had nothing to do with the collection of said works, my honor would allow no such thing, but I did sign off on the joint taskforce to collect the memories of those who attended the House Zathlan wedding celebration that ended in his death.

The reasons for collecting that information were sound, and had been demanded by the Galeans, the Olarans, and the Rangers. But, I also knew, that friends would have access, it being public record, and it might be used to recreate that seminal piece of art, his last concert. I fully admit my desire to hear him sing, if only an illusion. But, Baron, I could offer nothing in the execution of any endeavors forbidden by the Crown, even if I disagreed personally.

Personal feelings do not superseded duty. Were that not the case, I would find the bastard responsible for those damnable Wolf-Man figures and have him publicly flogged.

As for Fateweaver’s ashes, I never asked how Longtail arranged to collect them. I know she did nothing personally. I also know that they were not stolen, not exactly. Because, after the examination, and the cremation, his ashes were tossed in a midden heap, to be discarded as refuse and forgotten.

Criminal though he may be, would we even treat enemies with such disrespect? Al to serve as a cautionary tale. Should our own stars ever wane, we can expect no more than this, a paupers funeral and to be cast aside and forgotten. I have never once willingly cast aside honor or duty, I would not shame my name in such a way, but there are times when I wonder if our vaunted Olaran pride is not as flawed as those we profess to condemn?

For all his bluster, would Sir Halten not admit as much seeing as that pride nearly cost him his life?

Nevertheless, I honored my Sworn and her mentor, but could do little more. Trokash presented me a copy of the book, which I refused. He then, adeptly, professed outrage at such a refusal. I accepted, if only to keep peace. A mummers farce, perhaps, but an important one.

Trokash had one last gift. The last page of the book, his final work, “The Ballad of the Stagg and Lion” had been bespelled, so that those who laid a hand upon it and uttered the true name, There Fateweaver, Master Bard, would be immediately, and magically, returned to that moment in time, to witness the duet and of Fateweaver and Leaora Nazir serenading the union of Vosltagg and his bride. Fateweavers last, and finest work.

The controversial tome in hand, I departed then and returned to my bed. But I could not sleep. Are we good men? Truly? In a certain light, our feud with Velkalar was one of honor. His story is as tragic as Fateweavers. Some men would call them both villains deserving of their death…but is that right? Or is the truth more complicated? I admit I slept none that night.

Conscience and honor. Can both be met, or only one at the expense of the other?

Thunder Hawk 33rd, 3126
Just as well. I was alerted by Lady Moonsilver that a body had been found. Alpha Team, still communing at the Orphanage were dispatched to “Mitty’s” establishment. He, the goblin fight promoter and trainer who ran a gym long suspected a front for Velakalar, and also believe to provide “muscle” for his local operations.

In a twist of fate, Danica was in the city, on leave for her work with the Olarans. She had, in another life, gone under cover in Mitty’s crew as a fighter. Danica knew more about his operations than any other Ranger, so she was summoned by our chief investigator, Lt. Barand.

When the Alpha Team arrived, they found the fight club littered with the bodies of Mitty’s former associates and Lt. Barand’s team processing the scene. Barand led them to Mitty’s back office where they found the goblin tied to a chair, tortured, and killed by pouring molten gold down his throat.

Corporal Daynore posited that the gold might represent the “Golden River” of Red Store or the Dominion. Perhaps Red Store is taking out the competition now that Velkalar is dead. Lieutenant Volstagg suggested that this looked like punishment of a snitch. It could be that Velkalar loyalist were cleaning house. Whatever the truth, I fear that the power vacuum of Velkalar’s removal will spark an all-new shadow war as various faction vie for dominance in the underworld.

A troubling prospect.

Lt. Baranad and his adept reviewed the older cases with the team, and have put in requests for that information to be compared to existing accounts. Perhaps some new piece of information might be remembered.

Danica noted that a number of Mitty’s closest associates were not among the dead. Alerts have gone out, and their sketches have been posted at every gate in the city. If they remain alive, they will be found.

Festival Moons 1st, 3126
It should not affect my now, losing members of my teams after so many years, so many Rangers. However, it does. Though, I much prefer to lose Rangers to leave, retirement, or transfers rather than the alternative.

Per her request, I allowed RFC Moldova to inform the team herself. She requested leave for “personal reasons” and left the team. In one of those twists of fate, Danica was herself on leave from the Olarans and was available to rejoin the team. I approved it.

With hope, she will remain for a greater length during this tour. Of better note, Ranger Sebastian’s promotion cleared.

Sebastian was promoted to RFC Sebastian.

In the happiest news, Sir Volstagg and his blushing bride departed Echer’Naught on their honeymoon in Harken. Two days to the city, three days of bliss, and two days back. They were scheduled to return the 7th.

More meetings. More information. More investigations.

So far, nothing has turned up on the missing Mitty’s men. Also, no word on RFC Moldova’s brother or his team, other than the one which died in the explosion at Velkalar’s Vale Gate.

After each Victory, another battle, another foe. It never seems to end. And with it, the choices get harder. The lines…blur.

But, as I sit here, in the cool of the eve, Rah-Sahn breathing easily, Eris asleep by his side, I listen to the sounds of the household. Ferradin chasing the cat, oh, we have a cat now. My wife, chasing after him. In the hall, I can hear Alex fussing, Samira singing softly. Anaxelum murmurs something low.

Outside, in the yard, Wolf’s Guard chat, laugh. I hear the Sergeant of the Guard making the rounds, exchanging the pass phrase in hushed tones. All clear.

The enemies will come. They always do. Both outside our ranks, and within. But we will face them as we always do. Together. And, we will prevail.

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Campaign Report 89 (Third Movement)
All Dreams (KellyCon 2017)

Lord Mayor, Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander

Commander of the Legio Heroes

Wolfhaven Manor, Echer’Naught, Olara

Thirtieth Day of Thunder Hawk, Year 3126 Under the Light

I have them back. Thank the Silver Unicorn. I have them back.

Thunder Hawk 16th, 3126

In the distance, I could still hear the occasional clash of arms, or the shout of dying men. But for the most part, the skirmish for Velkalar’s hidden vale was won. Not without cost, however. Already the hastily erected infirmary tents were overflowing those that could be saved. Those that couldn’t were being laid out in rows. All that could be done for them, a quick prayer by our priests, and then tossed in the pyre.

Smoke was already coiling up into the lightening sky as the funeral details went about their grim and thankless work. I rode passed. They had their task, and I mine.

I found my command tent already set by the time I reached our forward post near the east end of the vale, a hundred yards inside the treeline, but close enough to see the enemy fortification blocking our way.

Soon, I convened a meeting of commanders, and dispatched someone to locate and collect the Alpha Team. It concerned me that they were not present when I arrived. My heart lurched, but I could not spend time on the lives of so few, no matter how important to me.

The entrance to the vale was narrow making it laborious and time consuming to move troops into position. We were exposed and flanked on all sided by mountain which the enemy had had years to prepare. Our position would quickly become untenable should the enemy counterattack with any real force of arms. Plans had to be made, troops positioned, and a strategy developed.

I sent for all commanders to hurry to the meet, and most were close enough to arrive by early morning. Tired, weary, muddy from the rode, but they arrived. With such an eclectic force, my command tent filled to capacity. Captain Walter Vasser of the Echer’Naught City Watch, Lord Zathlan of House Lyonn, Mak Torkash Grimbore of the Stone Tower Gather, a handful of Wolfhaven Free Company Captains, three Lieutenants from the White Silver Wolves of various companies, Captain Celebor and his “team”, and too many others to recount.

There were a few who surprised me. Sir Eckhart from Eckhart’s keep. I had sent a missive, requesting aid, but had not expected any response. With the recent events involving Sir Halten and his family connections to the Eckharts, and the Crown, I assumed that they would decline any involvement in my “personal vendetta.” To my surprise, they were the first to arrive. When asked, the knight, uncle to the current lord of the castle merely responded, “Eckharts pay our debts.” Nothing more was said. Nothing need be said. And so, he stood in the back of the group, grim, but his men had taken the van and more than a few of his kin now burned on the pyres.

Not surprising, Sir Hevain. I knew Sir Halten could not participate, should he even desire to do so. I understood. Having read reports, and spoken with Sergeant Volstagg about the enigmatic Sir Hevain, I knew not what to expect. When we met on the field, he was wrenching a blade free from a woman wearing the bloodstained colors of the Maelstrom. As I rode upon him, Sir Hevain, looked up, smiled and saluted with a bloody gauntlet before quipping, “Lovely night! Though twould be better with a woman.” He seemed to notice the corpse sliding off his blade for the first time. “Perhaps not this one.” And then he sauntered off whistling. In the trees, I could see other figures moving furtively. Not elves, or dwarves. Olarans. They seemed at home under the green canopy of the forest. On I rode unsure of how to respond.

There were others in the tent. Uninvited, though not unwelcome. A man in embossed Kal spiked plate standing beside another figure in full Olaran plate embossed with the Volstagg crest. It occurred to me that Sergeant Volstagg might know the man, or woman. Perhaps once all was said and done? I caught a glimpse of Longtail’s “friend” the sometimes ally, sometimes enemy assassin with no name to speak of. There were also members of the Artisans Guild of Malakar, there to ensure their investment was being wisely managed. There were also at least two of Sery’s elven associates. Well, two that I noticed. And more. I could fill volumes with the names and titles of the assembled. Suffice to say, we made a curious war council.

My runner returned and informed that the Alpha Team had been located. Sergeant Volstagg was in the infirmary. No surprise to me. With him, his wife, RFC Zathlan, RFC Daynore, and Grendel. They had brought their commander, but were themselves, unharmed, or at least not critically so. Corporal Amaroth was found sitting on a mound of bodies, taking a breather from battle. RFC Nazir was already at the tent. She found me in the field and immediately reported the situation. Newt was…hunting. That was all I was told.

After a moment, they arrived. Sergeant Volstagg’s armor was scraped and dented and he moved like a man suffering affliction. Stranger though, his armor glistened if freshly waxed and he smelt of…bacon? The others looks about as I expected, save for Corporal Amaroth. The man was covered from the top of his head to the soles of his boots in blood. It smeared his face, and ran down his arms leaving a bloody trail wherever he walked. Many of the assembled stepped back in shock.

I resolved to deal with him momentarily. First, however, I focused on the Sergeant and demanded a report. He recounted their arrival, the investigation, and the subsequent trip to the vale. He then spoke of the man who staggered into their lines, of the gibberish he spouted before exploding in their faces.

The sergeant’s description of the man elicited a gasp from RFC Moldova. She recovered quickly, but not quickly enough. There was little time for secrets or intrigue so I asked outright whether she knew the man. She did. He was her brother’s best friend and member of his squad within Echer’Naught’s City Guard.

RFC Moldova had reported her brother missing some time back. As it turned out, his entire team was taken. And they were not the last. The Corps had suspected Velkalar’s involvement, but could never produce evidence. I would say the proof is fairly clear now.

The mixture of hope and anguish on the young Ranger’s face tore at me, but I focused on the investigation and turned the conversation back to what the ill-fated man had said before detonating. When pressed, Sergeant Volstagg and Corporal Amaroth were able to piece together what the man had repeated well enough to get a translation.

I had RFC Daynore contact Eris for translation, and after twenty minutes of back and forth, we learned that the language was that of the builders. The message was as simple as it was familiar. “Long shadows gathered upon the floor in days grown longer than before. In angst like toys row by row, stood silent, girded, dire wrath to sow.” How many times had I heard those same lines?

Most of the Olarans in the group mouthed the words as they were spoken. The older ones at least. Everyone else seemed confused, and more so that it was familiar to us. For their benefit, I explained. The words were the first lines in an ancient Olaran story, more parable.

In a time long forgotten, a knight, called the Blue Knight, in the story, had greatly offended his peer, called the Green Knight. The Green Knight vowed vengeance upon his neighbor, but rather than stand and fight with honor, the Blue Knight retreated to a mountain stronghold. Undaunted, the Green Knight pursued with this entire host, and eventually overwhelmed the mountain keep, slaying the Blue Knight’s house to a man. None were spared.

The theme is common in Olaran story, but this particular legend is unique and often used as a training exercise with the esteemed Helt Academy. Which is where I first hear the words. For you see, the message of the parable depends entirely upon interpretation.

Most assume that it is a cautionary tale against cowardice. The Blue Knight doomed his people by refusing honorable battle and, instead, made a tactical blunder by trapping his force in the mountains with no avenue of escape. But a second interpretation centers on the last verse of the tale. For, in his rage and arrogance, the Green Knight lost the lives of nearly all of his men in his headlong rush for vengeance. He too was slain, and every male who carried his blood. Thought the Green Knight’s house was victorious, their line died on that field, and their house did not survive to the next generation.

So, is it a tale to caution against cowardice, or vengeance? As with so many things, it depends entirely on perspective.

Of course, there was another message as clear to me as the irony of Velaklar using that particular tale. The name of the legend is, “The folly of the Mountain Keep.” Our host was telling us exactly where he waited. His Blue standard versus my Green cloak.

I thanked Sergeant Volstagg for his report, and dismissed his team. But, before they departed, I stopped the Sergeant and the Corporal. Turning to Corporal Amaroth, I asked simply whether he was in control. He merely nodded. Sergeant Volstagg confirmed, saying that this was just Audric, and had nothing to do with Flame. Taking both men at their word, I released them to rest and prepare.

Over the course of the wee hours long lines of road weary men shuffled into position. Banners were unfurled, and last minute checks were conducted on arms and armor. I chocked down some bread and cheese washed with warm ale while ready reports trickled in. With light peeking over the ridge line, I had sufficient force to begin my assault.

Leading the attack, my White Silver Wolves, Eckhart, and Zathlan men. Behind him, Amaroth’s mercenaries, Rangers, and the Echer’Naught City Guard, bolstered by men from the City Company as well. My flanks were secured by Sir Hevain’s company to the south, and a company of the Order of the Stone Rangers to the North who scaled the scrabble like goats. Lines of Ranger archers and Celebor’s unit equipped by “friends” stretched across a low ridge just inside the treeline on my right flank.

In reserve, I held Grimbore’s Gather, and most of my miscellaneous forces. For this assault, I needed sharp, close-order lines. Alpha Team also stood in ready reserve, resting for when I would need them most.

As soon as all was in place, I gave the order and the assault began. Out of the trees my ranks of soldiers marched, straight into the teeth of oncoming fire. At extreme range, the enemy fired arcfire projectors cannibalized from golems. Burnt orange meteors shrieked through the air to explode, ripping huge rents through the ranks of men. But the disciplined Olaran and Galean troops simply closed rank and marched on. The first wave reached halfway before being pushed back by the sheer intensity of incoming fire.

They withdrew in good order to reform their lines within the cover of trees, just out of the range of the enemy projectors. Again, I gave the order and again, they marched out. Enemy projectors opened up immediately. But this time, behind my lines, special units, recently arrived, followed them onto the field and began to set up my “surprises” for Velkalar’s mercenaries. My lines made it another dozen yards closer to the wall, before they were again forced back.

This time, however, the order came to split, and in perfect synchronization as if on the drill field, the lines separated opening gaps for my special units to pass through. The instant they were clear, the crews dropped the facade and opened up with our own arcfire projectors. Over the years, several badly damaged arcfire golems have been recovered in various fights. In each case, I have had them dismantled, but recovered select critical pieces.

Working with the Siegemaster of Echer’Naught Withenbrow “Whit” Brimstone, we managed to mounted the arcfire projectors on wagon wheels making them, relatively mobile. Unfortunately, something about removing them from the golems makes them highly unstable. Many brave souls selflessly sacrificed their lives when these wheeled abominations self detonated killing the crews and anyone standing around. But, they did their bloody work.

For an hour, siege artillery dueled. Heavy trebuchet launched massive boulders to smash against the wall, while our arcfire traded counter-battery fire with theirs. But in the end, numbers were on our side and slowly their fire slackened. I knew that they would soon bring up fresh troops, supplies, and projectors, so time was now essential to success.

Even without their larger projectors, they still had arclances and boom troopers, archers and crossbowmen, and the standard siege fare, oil, flame, and stone. Taking that wall would cost countless lives. More than I had to spend. The cost was already high. Bodies littered the killing field.

Once again, it would fall to my Alphas. My heart was heavy. They had endured so much. Yet, I had no choice.

In they would go, but not alone. Not this time. For months I have prepared. Ever since my rebirth, I have had a singular goal, to prepare for this battle this day.

And so, I have squirreled away assets, established secret training bases and sneaked off my best commanders under pretext. Celebor’s injuries were hardly exaggerated, but his recovery was swifter than reported. Though he will never fully recoup, he is more than capable of service. Who would think to find arcfire training camps in the very heart of sacred groves? The very idea is sacrilege. And so, it was done in secret, and well so.

Captain Celebor was not the only trick up my sleeve. I lifted my head and shouted above the din. WRECKING CREW! And my call was answered. Two, deep bass voices rumbled from the rear of my army.

Reking KRU!

Fekla, and Grek. Two massive forms strode through my lines like titans of old. Each bore a massive plate of Albrecht steel 16 feet tall, by 8 feet wide enhanced by magic. Crude mockeries of the Tempest tower shields with “Reking Kru” written in white across their faces.

My guardians reached the front lines, just inside, and towering above, the trees. A message dispatched, the Alpha Team was ordered to assemble behind the ogres. My plan, simple. Behind the cover of their shields, Fekla and Grek would cover the Alpha Team to the gate. Then, the Ogres would smash the doors, and the Ranger would hold the breach long enough for reinforcements to arrive.

It would work. If they could withstand the fire. If they could break the gates. If they could hold them. If…if I did not lose them all.

Motion to my right drew my attention. Coming to stand beside me, Tina, Grek’s goat companion and RFC. Striking a pose not unlike Thunder, she watched intently as Grek started moving forward into the killing field.

Just as they cleared the trees, I unleashed my next surprise. With a signal, a banner was waved, indigo with an azure lighting bolt; Tempest. From behind me, to the left, a lone figure rose into the sky, cracking with lighting. Instantly, storm clouds began to gather. Nell, Storm Druid. Once a slave to Tempest, she broke free her mental bonds with the help of Alpha Team, though few of those Rangers live today. She has never had any love for the Rangers, or me. But, she owes Hawksclaw a debt. His name was all I had to utter and she was here.

At her command, the skies darkened blocking the light and a thick heavy fog rose to fill the vale and obscure our advance. If they wanted to hit the Rangers, they would now need magic…or luck.

Velkalar’s mercenaries were no fools. The moment the breaching team was in range, or they believed them to be, every weapon on the enemy side opened up raining arcfire and death. They all zeroed in on the two ogres, and the small team huddling in their shadow. In the shadow of the fog, all that could be seen were bright flashes in the fog, followed by muffled booms. And then, the screaming as arcfire arced through the sky, only to explode. In each flash, we could see them, backlit for one horrible instant, before being consumed by darkness.

The fire was so intense, the grass and bodies around the target zone burst info flames, flesh melted, bone charred. Nothing lived, nothing COULD live in the hellfire… But with each flash the team was revealed, leaning into the oncoming fire like a gale force wind. And step by agonizing step, they closed.

The enemy realized it as well. Halfway to the wall, they started lobbing blasts, huge gouts of flame erupting throwing up columns of earth that rained down like hail. The earth bucked and buckled from the barrage, but the Rangers never faultered. Even as their shields were chipped away, cracked, and scorched, Fekla and Grek, heads down, marched on. Behind them, Alpha covered themselves as best they could from the horror.

And then, they reached the wall. A cheer went up from our lines. A cheer which turned to cries when a pair of projectors unleashed bursts of arcfire, liquid fire into the ogres faces. My commanders looked at me in horror. Nothing could survive that. Nothing.

I did not look away, just raised a hand and ordered my lines forward. For a heatbeat the signaler regarded me as a madman, but raised the flag and sent the lines of Olarans and Galeans once again to their deaths.

Across the field, alone, Fekla and Grek discared the shattered remains of their useless shields and went to work on the gates, ignoring the flames consuming their bodies, or the arcfire shredding their armor. Behind them, Alpha Team opened up, providing the ogres cover, while taking cover behind the ogres.

The ogres battered at the doors, and then…a crack. The gates were breached. Fekla and Grek grabbed the ruined doors and hauled back.

A commander behind me shouted in shocked disbelief. “They’re THROUGH!” I said nothing. Of course they were through. My Rangers have never failed me.

Then the battle shifted. Alpha team poured through the opening and disappeared from my view. Mages and Adepts continued to give reports using magic to scry the battle even from this distance. Seeing the opening in the wall, our battle lines broke into a run, roaring in triumph, but they still have half the distance to cover and Alpha Team was alone.

As I watched from my vantage point, Fekla climbed up on the wall and began to smash the arcfire projectors and their crews. Flashed from behind the wall confirmed that Alpha Team as still alive and fighting. And then, our lines reached the wall and swarmed.

We held the gate.

I called for Tina to follow, and spurred Thunder. I rode down the hill, through the trees and onto the killing field. The scent of burning flesh and hair hit me like a wave, making me sick. But I did not flinch, did not avert my gaze. These men died on my orders and I would not dishonor them.

Over the carpet of dead and dying I led my commanders. Around us, troops rushed forward to hold the gate. But, the enemy had pulled back with no heart to counter.

I rode through the gate, under the pocked and smoking stones, out into the courtyard beyond. Around me men moved bodies, gathered weapons, treated wounded, and began setting up camp. To my left, Alpha Team sat or reclined in the shade of the wall.

Miraculously, they all lived, though wounded and scorched. I paused, my staff reigning up behind me. Sergeant Volstagg stood and approached. I thanked him for he and his team’s superb display and ordered him to rest, recoup, and heal. In the morning, I would have need of his team again. He saluted, but the fatigue was plain on his face. I left them there, in the lee of the wall, an all too familiar weariness in their every movement.

I rode on. Ahead, a narrow path, wide enough for a cart, inched its way up the mountain, zigzagging until it vanished high above our heads. Already battle was joined at the first bend. Fire, oil, and stones rained down as Grimbore’s Gather, ogres hurling massive stones, battled and died for every foot of path. My staff and I pulled up short, out of easy bow range, though far closer than my guard would have liked. An occasional ambitious archer or arclancer took a shot in our direction, but only ever found their mark once. My herald took a bolt through the throat and died at my horses feet. We were otherwise untouched.

Throughout the day, the fighting inched upwards, pushing the mercenaries back as we crisscross the face of the mountain. Every section was littered with bodies, our and theirs, the stench of offal, blood, sweat, and fear curdled in the summer heat. There was not a cloud in the sky. In fact, there could not be.

Veklakar controlled this mountain, but I controlled the sky. Nell saw to that. And so on a beautiful cloudless day, we went about the bloody business of brutally battle.

Thunder Hawk 17th, 3126

Fighting raged all day, and through the long night. But, by dawn of the next day we had almost reached the summit. Only one more barrier stood between our forces and Velkalar’s door. I could see the commanders around my stifling yawns, a few looking longingly at the soldiers sleeping on the side of the path wherever they happen to drop. I never acknowledged them, and to their credit, not a man asked to be relieved. While was sat upon our horses, protected by guards, and sipped from cool canteens, our men fought and died in the relentless heat, or were pushed to their deaths at the foot of the mountain. We could do them the honor of sitting on our hind quarters while they did so.

By mid morn the army was flagging. Even rotating troops could not counter the heat, the lack of room to camp, the hunger, or the simple fact that these men and women had given more than any could have ever hoped. There was no shame in being tired. It was well earned. And so, I summoned them again.

Alpha Team.

Came they did. Rested, if only a little, Sergeant Volstagg reported to me there on the side of the mountain. I explained simply that there was a final obstruction preventing our forces from reaching the summit. I had a team of arcmancers prepared to reduce the barrier to rubble, but I needed Alpha Team to protect them while they sapped the wall. Sergeant Volstagg saluted and assembled his team. Fekla and Grendel advanced with Sergeant Volstagg, Corporal Amaroth behind. The rest followed, Serys bringing up the rear. Behind them, the arcmancer sappers followed letting the Rangers take the fire while they went about their work.

From two hundred yards away, I watched as the Rangers battled. Fekla smashing stone walls, Serys, and RFCs Daynore and Moldova covering the advance. Sergeant Vosltagg, RFC Zathlan, and Corporal Amaroth charged the wall, eventually gaining the left battlement and pressing the defenders hard. Then the signal went up and everyone scampered back from the blast.

The mountain shook as the wall was blasted into the sky. Bits of stone, bone, and blood rained down, coating everyone in soot, ash, and offal. Two of the surviving sappers died in the blast. Alpha Team was scorched, but unharmed by the blast. The fighting had taken its toll.

Riding on, I congratulated Sergeant Volstagg on his success as I passed their position. Though he doubtless never intended it to reach my ears, I heard him say, “There goes the Green Knight.” I pray he is not right.

By late afternoon we reached the summit and stood before the gates to Velkalar’s keep. It was well construction, hugging the mountain. To one side of the gates, a sheer cliff. To the other, a sheet drop. The walls, 15-20 feet high and reinforced by magic. So too was the Black Iron bound Ironwood doors the size of Fekla. Twin towers flanked the gate and bristled with ballista, mangonels, archer slits, murder holes, and, of course, arcfire. It was a death trap.

We rested for a few hours, gathered ourselves and hurled everything we had at that barrier. Nothing had the slightest affect. Stones shattered harmlessly. Magic fizzled or deflected aside. Even what little arcfire projectors could be brought to bear were destroyed long before they managed to do any damage. Any frontal assault would be suicide. Which left siege. Unfortunately, we hadn’t the time, nor could I guarantee that the keep had no hidden supply lines, or magical transportation.

We had reached the end, only to find our way barred. There was nothing left but my last plan. A singular act of desperation that would see victory or defeat.

I summoned Alpha Team again for one last mission. When they arrived, all I could do was explain our situation and order them once again into fray. But, before this final fight, I had a chest brought forth. This chest, shielding in the greatest magic held my most precious possessions…the weapons and gear of every fallen member of Alpha Team throughout the years. Within each, was the essence, the spirit so to speak of our fallen comrades. It seemed fitting that we would battle together once again, past and present, for our future.

To Sergeant Volstagg I handed Von D’s enchanted Black Iron bastard sword. Lifting it from the case, I could feel the deathly cold biting through my gauntlets despite the heat. It steamed in the air as I handed it to Volstagg. To Serys went the Ironwood Bow of Echer’Naught, passed from archer to archer. To Moldova, Evoran Que’kasaars’ staff. Ironwood, scrolled in living vine, one of our most powerful and precious artifacts. To Amaroth, Von D’s elven blade, white silver and a slayer of undead. Lastly, to Newt, the Brinchie, the personal lo-sska of our fallen hero, Aradove Longtail, my sworn, daughter of my heart. Just holding the blade filled me with sorrow.

So many gone. But there was a task to be done. And so, I closed the case and gave what might very well be my final orders.

I and Sergeant Volstagg would face Dom Diego. He was a duelist and would not resist the chance to slay a known Olaran duelist and a commander. His pride and code would ensure he remain just were we needed. Fekla and Grendel were tasked with holding Korash as long as possible. He would see Fekla as the biggest threat and focus mostly on her. And, she was the only one of us who could stand long against his blows. Audric, Newt, and Zathlan needed to protect Moldova so she could get close enough to Korash to use her power to confuse and disorient him.

Serys I ordered to spot for the shooter. Once done, he was free to clear the field. Of Daynore I asked the most. Somewhere the adept lurked. If she managed to puppet Fekla, Volstagg, or I, it was all over. But, Daynore had ruined her plans at Erlgen keep and in doing, embarrassed her. She would seek him out. More so, if he were close to revealing her position.

I knew that RFC Daynore lacked the power to stand against her long, but he COULD last long enough to keep her distracted. I asked him to die. He agreed without hesitation as I knew he would. Daynore took a special potion I had had brewed to give him some protection from her powers. But there was nothing more I could do.

Our plans prepared, we readied and struck. Calling upon the Silver Unicorn I teleported Felka and myself just behind the massive gate. At first she was disoriented, but quickly turned and put a shoulder to the massive bar weighing more than she. I put my back to the ogress and faced off against Dom Diego and Korash.

The duelist was on me before I knew he was there. His moves were quicksilver, his blade a faint blur. It was all I could do to keep him at by as his tiny rapier pieced my White Silver plate with ease. My blows were ineffectual and clumsy.

I have never counted myself a great warrior, certainly no duelist. But this man outclassed me in the sword arts at levels I never knew possible. He may well be the finest I have ever faced. I gritted my teeth, kept up my guard and kept a wary on the massive Ogre who was lumbering toward Fekla’s rear with death in his eyes.

Fekla strained to lift the massive beam. Even as the shadow of Korash fell over the 14 foot Fekla, she focused her one eye on her task and gave it one final mighty heave…

…and the bar slipped from from the massive iron fittings and crashed to the stones, shattering them like clay. The doors creaked open and the team leaped through.

Sergeant Volstagg rushed Dom Diego and took a blade through the side for his efforts. Corporal Daynore, RFC Moldova, Newt and Grendel closed on Korash who was too focused on Fekla to see the danger. As a team they battered, hacked, and slashed, but his armor was too strong. Then, Newt fell on his big toe, Longtail’s blade opening his armor like a can. Fekla recovered and swung hard.

RFC Daynore appeared and dropped Thorgram’s shield for Moldova to take, before striding through the battle, a man without concern. Invisible to the eye, he stretched out his mind for the adept, and she found him. His body jerked as she assaulted him.

Dom Diego, grinning like a madman pressed us back. Neither Volstagg nor I even came close to landing a blow. We both bled from multiple wounds forcing us to give ground.

Korash recovered and in a mighty swing swatted Fekla and Moldova aside. The young Olaran sailed through the air like a meteor, crashing to the ground. Then, the shooter opened up.

I never even saw the bolts that passed through my body. Nor did the other. Fekla took a hit and went down at Korash’s feet. In that some instant, the Adept shattered RFC Daynore’s defenses, and ravaged his mind. Blood poured from his eyes, ears, and mouth as his face contorted into a silent scream.

Dom Diego saw victory and attacked with renewed ferocity. Korash raised his maul for the finishing move on Fekla. The shooter put a bolt through Serys who had just reached the courtyard. Defeat seemed all but certain.

Yet, even as he fell, Serys shouted, “South West!” and then went down. Moldova, having teleported closer to Fekla with Evoran’s staff now rushed to heal her, dousing her wounds in healing potion. The ogress roused, Korash looming overhead.

Seeing her stir I ordered her to crush the South West tower of the keep. Paying not heed to the killing blow falling toward her head, Fekla staggered up and rammed the tower. It toppled like children’s blocks, a figure being thrown clear, and over the side of the cliff…

Korash’s death blow never fell. At the last moment, a figure appeared as by magic. Clutching Ramshorn’s shield, RFC Moldova intercepted the blow. It was sheer insanity. The maul was many times her size and moving with the force of a 20 foot ogre, and yet, maul met shield and there was a resounding CRACK! The blow deflected, and smashed through a wall just above Fekla’s head. Moldova was smashed across the yard. I knew for certain she was dead, but I swear I saw as she fell, the ghostly outline of a green-skinned figure wrapping her tight as she slammed into the ground and skidded to a stop.

In that moment, I played my final trump card.

Lady Eris Moonsilver, Rah-Sahn Hawksclaw’s betrothed, Farspeaker, and the most powerful adept I have ever known strode through the open gate. It might be treason against the Ranger Corps for bringing the Regional Headquarter’s senior Farspeaker into battle. I know well that I may face charges for doing so without authorization. But I also know that not even Velkalar would suspect I would be so foolhardy, so reckless.

And so, the enemy adept was caught completely off-guard by Lady Moonsilver’s sudden appearance. Worse for her, RFC Daynore had forced her to reveal her position, marking her for Moonsilver. She never had a chance. In her moment of surprise, Daynore broke free from her grip. Our Farspeaker dispatched her with a thought.

Lady Moonsivler instructed RFC Daynore to go and search the body while she dealt with the other two. As for Korash and Dom Diego, they suddenly realized the tide had turned. And so, I stepped back and gave them the opportunity for honorable surrender. If they refused, I promised that Lady Moonsilver would summarily destroy their minds. Korash surrendered immediately, and then asked Fekla out for drinks. She refused, but admitted the fight was good.

Dom Diego considered, but in the end, he too saw reason. Gladly, neither mercenary took a hard look at Lady Moonsilver. Taking a life once before nearly killed her, but she did so to protect Hawksclaw. Today, she had done so again, but this time to save him. She would kill as many as required to see her beloved rescued, but one more might very well cost us her life as well.

Once they mercenaries were secured, I checked on the team. They had weathered their ordeal well. We healed up and prepared to move. We still had the great hall, and Velkalar most surely waited within.

RFC Daynore returned wearing the mask of Ben Toma. It has been in the possession of the woman, not an adept, but a Shayakar Nightmaster. Eris Moonsilver bled from her ears, the stress of taking the Nightmaster’s life, but she nodded that she was still in the fight. RFC Moldova was unharmed by her fall. Maybe I was not seeing things after all.

I looked at them, ragged and wounded and filled up with so much pride I felt my chest would burst. They had trusted without question, and relied upon each other without hesitation. Serys spotted for me, so Fekla could take down the shooter. Daynore held the Nightmaster until Moonsilver could arrive. Volstagg protected me by engaging Dom Diego, knowing he would most likely fall. RFC Moldova was willing to die to protect Fekla so she could take he shot. Newt, RFC Zathlan, and Corporal Amaroth had stood shoulder to shoulder against the Army Slayer, never once giving ground.

Perfect unity. Perfect harmony. Perfect love.

But the battle was not over, and they would need all and more if we were to finish Velkalar. And so, we readied for the final fight.

I can only imagine that we appeared a ragged group gathered at that door. All bleeding, all so fatigued we could barely stand. Duty, and love, alone kept us going. But we had come so far, and sacrificed so much that none wished to be left behind. Only Fekla and Serys did not join that final battle. Fekla was simply too large to enter, and I needed her to keep Korash in line. Seyrs…Seyrs had been far more injured by the last shot that he let the others know.

So, I, Sergeant Volstagg, his bride, RFC Zathlan, Corporal Amaroth, RFCs Daynore and Moldova, Grendel, and Newt stood outside the door to Velkalar’s hall, and steeled ourselves for the end. I looked at them, one to the next, and received a nod in return. I kicked the door open…

…and was blasted back by accurate arcfire blasts. Two golems waited inside and they laid down a withering fire. Sergeant Volstagg charged, followed by the rest of the team. I picked myself up, coughed up blood and tried again. THIS time, I made it through the door.

Volstagg, Aurdice, Newt, and Grendel were already battling the Golems. I joined them. I managed to mortal damage one, but it detonated blasting me back. Corporal Amaroth got caught in the blast and went down. The others managed to avoid the debris. Grendel rocked the second and Sergeant Volstagg stepped in, Von D’s blade crackling through the air. He caught in the generator, frosting spreading up his arm.

Another detonation and Grendel was down.

Volstagg covered his wife and they were blasted to the other side of the room. Nest was up, singed. RFC Daynore took cover nearby, and RFC Moldova was moving, using the shield for protection.

And then I saw him. Reclined in an ancient stone thrown, a large figure mockingly watched as we battled for our lives. Entirely encased in Builder armor, Velkalar looked more machine than man, arrogant, and evil. He rose, lifted a heavily modified boomcaster and opened up on us. The most intense barrage of arcfire shattered columns, splinted the floor and riddle the team.

One blast lifted Newt off the ground and dashed her into a wall, Daynore took a shot that spun him to the ground. Moldova was blasted back, the shield saved her again. Zathlan…went down behind Volstagg.

I could hear Velkalar’s mocking laugh above the roar of arcfire. He had reason to gloat. Between our place cowering behind the stone columns and his throne stood a shimmering red-orange field. An arcfire barrier. Heavily modified and immune to our weapons. RFC Moldova was barely alive. The rest were down and reinforcements would be walking into an ambush assuming I could make the door to summon them.

Either way, this maniac would be gone before we ever got back. This ended here, for I saw what was hidden from Volstagg’s view. A kneeling, naked figure. Emaciated, head hung…but unmistakable. Rah-Sahn Hawksclaw was here…and alive. And that BASTARD was using him to taunt me. Velkalar died here.

I could never make it through the hail of fire, breach that barrier AND reach Velkalar. No one could. But I could clear the way.

I shouted at Volstagg who was just looking back at the figure of his wife bleeding out on the floor. He seemed almost unaware of the arcfire buzzing around him. He looked back.

And then I realized. It was him. All this time. I, Paladin of the Silver Unicorn, and she chose him. Now I knew why. This task was not for me. I alone could take the fire long enough to another to breach the barrier. I was only here, to help him. He who had never met Hawksclaw. He who raged at the ascended. He who had only ever served Lady Celesia because it was necessary, never out of love or respect.

I could have laughed. But, to serve it to have faith and I could see the guilt, the self anger in his eyes. I too had watched my family die, while I could do nothing. I knew that pain, that anger, and that guilt…

If he were ever to move forward, if he were ever to reach his full potential. He HAD to forgive the Ascended for not saving his family. He had to forgive himself.

I said the words, and prayed. He looked back at Nexus, then at me. And nodded. I nodded back.

All great strategies and plans, almost always devolve into such moments. When all the tricks are played, when you have nothing left but to throw yourself into the fray and hope that the man behind you will reach the goal alive. With a silent prayer, and my wife’s name on my lips, I rose from my cover and charged straight into Velkalar’s fire.

Pain. Pain and blackness.

I came too, coughing blood, surprised I survived. Even now, I do not know the full limits of the changes I have endured since my “death.” Rising to my knees and looked toward the throne and froze.

The scene will be forever seared into my memory. Volstagg stood to the left of the throne, just then taking a handcaster from the hands of a barely clothes young woman… SARAH! She was alive. I coughed again and asked if she was still with us.

She said, “Yes, she always was.” My heart soared, then plummeted like a stone.

Lying in a tangled heap at the base of the stairs was the body of Hawksclaw, so starved, so malnourished that I almost mistook him for a ghoul. And smoke coiled from his back where Velkalar, in one last moment of spite, and shot him point blank. Reason fled.

I crawled on hands and knees and pulled the body into my lap. He weight NOTHING. I felt no warmth, his chest was still.

NO NO NO!

Was I screaming? I looked up at Volstagg, desperate.

HELP ME! PLEASE?” I begged. I had to save him. I had to…had to…

Volstagg was there, hand on my shoulder, hand on the Hawksclaw’s limp form. And I prayed. I prayed to the Silver Unicorn. I prayed to the Ascended. I prayed, and I begged.

I could feel Volstagg beside me, still vibrating with the silver light of the Unicorn. They answered, him or me, I know know. Nor, do I care.

A vision appeared before me. Three figures stood opposite me. I recognized them instantly. Dour, stalwart Dranak, Lovely, living Landra, and, of course, my lady Celesia, the Silver Unicorn.

She smiled down sadly, but with hope and said something. But I could not hear. Volstagg could, and looked…changed.

And then they faded into light…and Hawksclaw took one ragged breath. Then another.

I stood then, lifting him into my arms. This would be the second time I had carried him like this. The second time I begged the Ascended to intercede on his behalf. I hoped that it would not happen again.

Outside, soldiers and healers flooded the courtyard. I yelled for them to see to my team. Seeing us, Eris rushed over, placing a delicate hand on Hawksclaw’s forehead. I glanced at her, with silently imploring eyes. She paused, hesitantly, and in my mind…he was still in there. He could be saved.

He needed a healer far more skilled than a battle medic. I was moving toward the gate when Sarah caught me. Velkalar had one parting gift. He had minded the keep. We had moments to escape before being claimed by the mountain.

We ran. All. Most reached safety, but not all. Fortunately, Alpha Team was already being evacuated. They survived.

Turning, I watched the keep erupted into flame, before the cliff face above detached, and crashed down, filling the void and burying the site in tons of rock. And then, it was well and truly done.

Velkalar was finished. His operation shattered. Hawksclaw was saved. I only wished, at that moment, that Longtail and Alfred had lived long enough to see this. To have us all together again…

…but life cares little for wishes.

There was nothing to do but return home. Down the mountain. Out the vale. On the road. It was a slow, quiet trip. No one seemed interested in speaking. We were all too…drained.

Lady Moonsilver remained in her armored wagon with Sarah and Hawksclaw. I rode in my customary place at the head of the column, but my mind and heart were with them.

Thunder Hawk 25th, 3126

We made the Stone Tower Gather on the 25th of Thunder Hawk. Here, most of our force departed. Goodbyes were heartfelt. A bond had been forged.

Sir Eckhart survived, though the cost had been high. We departed amicably, but his debt to us was paid. I know many Olarans feel that house’s glory days are long passed, but there is strength yet.

I know that the Kal armored man and the other Volstagg spoke with Sergeant Volstagg, though I know not why. There were other farewells. Too many to recount.

Thunder Hawk 29th, 3126

The column, much reduced, continued on, reaching the south gate of Echer’Naught by morning on the 29th of Thunder Hawk to find our way blocked by a lone man on horseback. Commander Eric Schenkle, Echer’Naught Milia, sat waiting. How long he had been here, and how he knew, I may never know.

I called the column to a halt as he dismounted and approached. He greeted me formally and asked to speak with Sarah. She was already there, walking to meet him. I chose to let nature take its course.

They did not embrace as I expected, nor were many words exchanged. When she had joined him, he simply knelt an asked her hand in marriage. She agreed with a smile. Only then did they embrace. His next words shocked me.

Tomorrow. And, she agreed.

And so, as we entered the city, to no fanfare but for the City Watch assembled for review, already we had a wedding to prepare for. I remained at the gate to ensure that all parties arrived and were billeted adequately per their station. I did not that the Zathlan House had continued to Echer’Naught rather than return home. It was good to see the couple getting on well with the families. That is often of concern.

It was afternoon before my duties allowed me reprieve. I turned Thunder toward home to find my Baroness waiting nearby on her horse surrounded the Wolf Guard. She rode toward me, taking my hand in hers. Weariness finally overtook me and I swayed in my saddle. She caught me, and barked an order.

My guard help me, and we made it back to the Manor without great embarrassment to my person or honor. Lady Elyanna ordered me immediately to the bath, and then bed. She brooked no insubordination. Not that I had energy to argue.

I admit to a pang of guilt as I slid into Sir Regillus’ copper tub. But the feeling of that warm water soaking into my aching bones… I now understand Sir Volstagg’s obsession with these contraptions. I slept the sleep of the dead. Were it not for my lady, I surely would have drown. An ignominious death for certain.

Somehow I wound up in bed, but of that I remember nothing.

Thunder Hawk 30th, 3216

In the morning I woke stiff and numb. My house buzzed around me, making preparations for the coming nuptial, but I could must no feeling. I ate mechanically, then headed upstairs to dress.

As normal, I waved off assistance. In the field, there are no servants or bodymen. I have always counted it a virtue not to become accustomed to such luxuries. Better to remain sharp, prepared for the next call.

It was a toggle on my tunic. A small, metal bar. No matter what I did, how I curse, or raved, it would not clasp. Such a stupid thing. But so often it is the small things.

My wife heard my shouts from somewhere in the house and shooed away the terrified servants at my door. When she entered I was engaged in mortal melee with the thrice damned garment and had very nearly achieved victory when she took my hands in hers, firm, but not harsh. I stopped, realizing the foolishness of my outburst. I opened my mouth to apologize, when she leaned up and placed her forehead against mine and stared into my eyes with hers of shimmering violet.

I lost myself in those pools. It all hit me with a rush. Hawksclaw, Longtail. Alfred. Sarah. Fateweaver…Streetrunner. All my Rangers. All the dead. Everything came out in a rush, and I just sank to the bed, clutching to her for dear life. How long she held me as I cried, I know not. But, there were servants outside anxious that we not be late.

They knew better than to disturb us. Not for fear of me. She runs this house. Not I.

After a time, I felt better. Weak, but better. Without a word, she helped me make myself presentable, selected another tunic, helped me dress, then went out to finalize preparations. Somehow, I cannot imagine any of the staff will dare mention my episode.

Eventually, I felt strong enough to venture out. Everything was already well prepared and waiting. I was offered a coach, but honestly, I feel surer mounted than anyway. So, my lady called for mounts and my House made its way to the Church of Light. Beside my, my Lady looked radiant. She smiled at me and all my fears melted away in her love.

We reached the Church long after most of the others had arrived. It was a packed house. I saw Grimbore, Fekla, and Grek outside. Fekla even bathed. A rare honor. Nearly ever ranger not on duty. I greeted Sir Regillus and Lady Samira at the gate. She was holding a small bundle to her chest. As I approached she pulled back the blanket and there was the most beautiful baby boy. Anaxelum beamed. I kissed Samira on the cheek and asked when.

Apparently, Alexander Rah-Sahn Regillus had been born Thunder Hawk 17th, the same day of our Victory of Velkalar. Also, his birth was accompanied by some bizarre local weather. As she explained: a tornado cluster, severe lighting storm, a flash flood, hail, and a brush fire that torched acres of grasslands north of the city. Samira seemed slightly abashed, but secretly proud. I wished them well, and greeted other guests; Lord and Lady Zathlan, Royal Sheriff Sir Halten, but not his wife, and many others.

It was a joyous, crowded occasion. I DID manage to find Master and Mistress Schenkle in the crowd. The glowed with joy.

Eventually everyone found their seat and Eric Schenkle joined Bishop Vallandrian at the alter. The music began and I was suddenly I thought of Fateweaver. He would have loved this…

My reverie was interrupted by Sarah’s hand on my arm. I looked down and was taken aback. She. Was. Stunning. No longer the young girl who used to cook and clean at the local HQ, Sarah Longtail was a woman grown. Longtail…

I felt tears welling up again. Sarah smiled, knowingly, and nodded toward the waiting crowds.

Reminded of my duty, I escorted Sarah down the isle and to her beloved Eric. My task done, I stepped aside and joined my wife. Music played, Vallandrian prayed, and light shown through the stained glass above the alter, the blue sword of the Church appeared to glow.

All was perfect.

Vallandrian looked at me. “Who gives this woman away?”

I opened my mouth to speak…and another voice spoke from the open door at the back of the church.

Was I dreaming? I knew that voice as certainly as I knew my own. I turned, stunned. So did everyone else.

Two figures stood in the open double door, backlit by the light of a setting sun. I could not see faces, just silhouettes, but it couldn’t be. Together they stepped into the church and the room gasped. Standing side by side, in full Ranger formal dress, were Sergeant Minor Aradove Longtail, and my son, Sergeant Alfred Wolfhaven.

My world spun and my knees when weak. I staggered, pushed myself off a pew and staggered drunkenly into the isle. No one else moved. It was if they were all be spelled by some magic. Mouths open in shock, they simply stared.

My vision swam, blood roared in my ears, but managed to make my way to the figure of my son. He stood there, the boy I remember but older, sterner, harder…a man, a warrior. He smiled, a genuine, but shaded smile. I reached out to hug him, suddenly afraid he was an apparition. But no, he felt solid, he felt real.

How?

Behind me, Sarah Longtail regarded her mother without surprise. She said, “You’re late, mother.” She KNEW?!

Longtail grinned and apologized. Voice started, a confused jumble. Longtail’s kids rushed into her arms. No one seemed sure of what to do.

And then a voice rang out.

“This is it! This is the moment!” Volstagg. And he began to clap. Slowly at first. Then faster, louder. As if an adept puppeting the room, everyone else joined in. What else could they do? And the room erupted. Some people kept clapping, other rushed Longtail or Alfred. I was jostled. I think Zathlan left Sir Volstagg to go join her mother, who I noted in that crazy moment was sitting FAR away from Volstagg. Curious.

Vallandrian’s voice rose above the din, and order was mostly restored. Everyone resumed their seats, Alfred joined me and his mother. Longtail joined Sarah and the ceremony continued. The Bishop chose the better part of valor. He asked each, “Do you?”

Sarah and Eric pledge themselves to each other, and they were wed. Again, everything was a confused jumble..when a deep, bass voice rang out. “Pretty Kitty!” And Grimbore was there, forcing himself into the Church, shoving guests out of the way. He reached the alter and scooped everyone into a hug, Longtail, the kids, and a very confused Eric. Vallandrian had the presence of mind to flap out of the way.

I confess, after that, it was madness. We made our way to my Manor, all a mass of talking, crying and hugging. There was not time to talk, to grasp the situation. Everything within me compelled me to run to Longtail…but something held me back. An unspoken terror. Streetrunner.

Would she forgive me? Could she? I was too late. I couldn’t save him. I couldn’t protect her family…

It is eve now, the crowds are still gathering in my lawn and in my hall. But, I sit in my suddenly, staring at paperwork and a sword. Rangers, friends, family, are leaving us. Will Longtail leave again as well? Hawksclaw if he ever wakes? I touch the sword…

I am afraid. In my wildest dreams I could never hope to have them back…I cannot lose them again…

Celesia help my I cannot…I am not strong enough…

Your most obedient servant,

Lord Mayor Wolfhaven, Colonel

Wolfhaven Manor, Echer’Naught, Olara

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Campaign Report 89 (Second Movement)
Velkalar's Gates (KellyCon 2017)

Lord Mayor, Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander

Commander of the Legio Heroes

Velkalar’s Front Gate, North of Montrel, Wildlands

Fifteenth Day of Thunder Hawk, Year 3126 Under the Light

Tomorrow. Tomorrow it will end.

For Rah-Sah. For Longtail. For Sarah. For Alexander. For Sir Lugard. For Argus. For everyone this monster has taken from us. For everyone he may even think to take.

For Fateweaver.

…for Streetrunner.

I will kill Velkalar. I swear by my Lady. He will die by my hand. Or should I fall. I will open the way. So help me.

Eternal Sun 31st, 3126
It began, as so many things small. While my Rangers rested and mourned, I prepared. Before they ever reached the city gates, I had confirmed from the King’s own Grand Chancellor His Excellency Lord Helmut Van Bach that Fate weaver was, in fact, this Olandoran person. The warrant had been valid. And, had been dead or alive. So, in the eyes of the Olaran Crown, Dom Diego had fulfilled the wishes of the crown and was owed a reward.

My request for information as to the whereabouts or disposition of Fateweaver’s remains was flatly rebuffed. I can only assume he will be burned, then dumped in a criminal’s grace. As treasonous as it may sound, I wish that Longtail were here. I can only speculate her reaction. No, I know for a fact Fateweaver’s remains would already have been liberated and buried in some sacred place, far from the eyes of the Olarans where he might rest in peace. In truth, were that the case, I would commission the memorial marker myself.

My orders? No official service or memorial was to be conducted. The Crown would consider it a great affront. I imagine some Olaran undersecretary was dispatched to Echer’Naught just to monitor our activities to report on any such sacrilege to Olaran honor. I may disagree with the orders, but I will follow them to the letter.

That does not mean that a private gathering would offend any. Why should it? The Crown is no more the master of my private affairs than I. I am, of course, a married man.
So, I invited many old friends, and new ones to gather at my home in the city on the eve of Eternal Sun 31st, 3216 for a dinner and drinks. Many joined. Of note, the Alpha team, Captain Walter Vasser, Lady Treesinger, and many, “ah, performers” from Low Town. There were others, minor nobility, and Rangers who knew Fateweaver well.

I invited all and raised a glass. My words were inadequate. It struck me then, that Fateweaver would know what to say. So, I just said goodbye as any Olaran would, and returned to my wife’s side.
All seemed well enough considering, when Sergeant Major Stormhammer pulled me aside and begged an urgent word. Anxiously, we withdrew to my study where he informed me that “informants” had reached his ears with two pieces of information. First, they believed that the area in, or around, Montrel to be the likely epicenter of Velkalar’s operation, if only locally.
My heart raced. I almost dashed off just then to convene a council of war, when the Sergeant major’s grave face gave me pause. In that moment I realized that the second message far eclipses the first, and I dreaded what, if anything, could be more vital, more critical, more urgent than to finally learn where to find Velkalar…

…but learn I did and my heart froze in dread. Only to be washed away in a tide of white hot anger.

The second piece of information was that “informants” believed Velkalar had learned the location of Aradove Longtail’s family.

I saw white. Where, my only question.

And then, I could see the shift behind Sergeant Major Stormhammer’s eyes when he claimed that finding that information might be difficult.

Looking back, I think very much had he not answered my question then and there, I would have cut him down then and there. Of course, not having my sword at hand, I most likely would have brained him with one of Olgor’s heaviest tomes, appreciating the irony there.

I think Sergeant Major Stormhammer saw my look and realized his situation. I drove it home by raging at him that he would tell me or else…

The or else I left implied. Strangely, he seem almost unable to resist speaking. And he did tell me. By the five Ascended he told me. I was gone.

Out the door, I shouted that any who could ride to meet me at the south gate in moments or be left behind. And then I bolted for my armory to done my gear. Outside, I heard the mad scramble, but I cared little.

They found them. They found them. They found them!

It was a horrifying mantra that I could not seem to shake. Every second stretched into an eternity. Every movement felt slow and laborious. I had to move faster, run harder, ride swifter.

Thunder, ascended bless my horse, was saddled and waiting. He seemed to sense my urgency.

My Lady Elyanna said nothing to stop me. She threw readied saddlebag across Thunder’s rump as I strapped my weapons to their mounts. She squeezed my arm once, and then stepped clear. One nudge and Thunder surged beneath me.

We reached that gate in…moments. Already a few had gathered. Some without armor, some without weapons. Most without saddles. I waited five minutes. It felt like a lifetime. Thunder danced beneath me, feeling my anxiety and impatience.

And they arrived, in ones and twos. The Alpha Team among them, better geared than most, but without provision or kit.

I addressed the assembled. We would ride. Hard. No stopping, no resting. Remounts at the Goblinesh Waystation. Fall behind, get left behind. Just like in the war. And then I spurred Thunder and the ground rushed beneath us.

I never looked back. I held Thunder to a pace they could at least match, more or less. Only on horseback did I feel that I was moving at speed. The sky split with lighting and the rains began to spatter down. I never even noticed. Eris was in my mind.

Colonels were literally rolled from their beds, every tavern in Echer’Naught was emptied of Rangers. I would save Longtail’s family.
And then I was coming for Hawksclaw.

We rode hard. Day and night. I could hear them falling away, horses screaming as they snapped their legs in unseen holes. But I pressed on.

Eternal Sun 32nd, 3126
We reached the Goblinesh Waystation by morning on the 32nd. It is a hard two day ride from Echer’Naught to the station. We made in one.

I paused long enough for those that remained with me to drop from their saddles and remount. Waiting for me, horses saddled and ready, Corporal Rildrirr. Seeing him…emotions hit me like a wave. He just nodded, never one for long speeches.

And we were off again. Thunder had run hard for a day, and he took off as if fresh. East now, and hard…

We ate the distance like men deranged. Flashed past the Stone Tower Gather. They were a hive of activity as we rode by.

Grimbore stood at the gates, his face a mask of rage. He knew. Eris told him. He owed Velkalar more than we. Many of his had died at the hands of Velakalar’s men.

All night we rode. Dawn came bright and with it the heat. I felt nothing, just numbness and urgency.

With the dawn came a smudge of smoke on the horizon. My heart fell and a sickness spread through my gut. I picked up the pace, a bit. The few with me, Sergeant Vosltagg at the head began to fall back, unable to match Thunders murderous pace.

Ascended please do not let it be…

…burning Brinchie wagons.

I spurred Thunder and he surged. Two days of punishing pace and he never once flagged. Thunder filled my ears. Pumping blood and the sounds of his hooves tearing holes in the earth.

As we closed, I could see the bodies scattered everywhere. Dozens of brinchie, dead, the wagons in flames. The road turned, wagons blocked my view. I put Thunders head into them and I could feel him bunching beneath me, then her leaped. We cleared the roof of the six foot wagon with feet to spare. Then down again, I slammed into the saddle, kit clattering.

Only then could I see. Half a dozen yards, in an open field. at least size brinchie warriors lay dead, all trying to delay the inevitable. Only one remained, Streetrunner. He was badly wounded, and staggering, but he still fought on, his three kids behind him in the grass, crying.

Then, his attacker turned.

Diego.

I charged, lowering my father’s sword. Diego’s eyes widened and he hit a device on his belt, disappearing in an arcfire flash. I let him go. He was a sword, a weapon. I knew who guided his hands. Soon enough, Velakalar would feel my wrath.

Without slowing, I sprang from the saddle and hit the ground. My knees very nearly gave. I am no longer as young as I once was. Or at least, my body is not.

By the time I reached him, Streetrunner was on his knees, using his lo-sska as a crutch to keep himself upright. Closer now, I could see his wounds were mortal. It was a wonder he had lived this long. Love. Love for his children drove far passed the point of physical endurance.

I reached to heal him and he hissed, snapping at my fingers, his fangs barred.

Confused I started to ask, but then I felt it. Like heat rippling off his body, Flame. His fur smoldered and he was surrounded in a crackling heat shimmer. And like that, years slipped away. I was running into an ally to see him lying beside Longtail, both apparently dead. It was the first time she had “died”; stabbing herself in her heart to save Sarah’s. He, then sold himself to someone to save her’s. They have each other’s eye now, literally, one green, one amber.

And his deal was due. If I healed him, he would only fall that much faster. He confirmed as much. And then asked me to do the unthinkable. Longtail’s husband asked me to kill him. She was gone, and he called upon my love of his wife to take his life…if only to save his soul.

Hot tears rolled down my face as I lifted the sword. Faces swam in my fuzzy vision. All young, all full of life.

He thanked me as I cut him down. I poured every ounce of Faith I had into that blow. I called upon the Silver Unicorn, Archanon, the Ascended…

The sword suddenly became too heavy to life, so I plunged it into the ground, lifted my face to the heavens and screamed out all my rage, my sorrow, and my loss.

I screamed until my voice cracked, and then I dropped to my knees and wept. I could hear Sergeant Volstagg approaching from behind. I gave myself only one more moment of self pity, and then I picked myself up, holstered my sword and approached the kids.

They had stopped screaming. They looked up at me with those wide, feline eyes, fur matted with tears. I was so afraid they would recoil from me. I had just killed their father. But instead, they swarmed my in a furry mob, burying their faces in my neck and clutching me with their tiny claws. Tears poured again, but the time for mourning would come. Now, their safety was paramount.

So, I instructed Sergeant Volstagg to bring the body, with all honors, and I returned to Thunder who waited, breathing steadily, but not hard. My foundation, the last gift my father ever gave. And he had never failed me, not once in all these long, brutal, bloody years.

For the umpteenth time, I hauled myself into the worn, familiar saddle and turned his nose west, toward the Stone Tower Gather. There were others around. A few from Alpha Team had managed to hang in. Free Riders. Others. I cannot recall. My mind was miles away, and my heart was bleeding.

Thunder Hawk 1st, 3126
We made the Gather that night, or maybe the next day. I know not. The hours and miles began to blur into one another. My world had been reduced to the rythm of Thunders gait, and the three small, warm bodies wrapped in my thick, woolen cloak, heedless of heat or rain, snuggled against my chest. I could feel the slight vibration of their sleepy purring even through my armor. It reminded me suddenly of their mother.

How many time had I gone to sleep in the field, wrapped in my cloak, a dying fire warming my face. Somewhere a lump of beard and iron, Highwall. Across from me, the rakish face of Hawksclaw, peaceful in slumber. And above us, like some ferocious avenging spirit, Longtail, purring softly where she perched on a branch. One of use always alert while the others slept soundly, knowing that so long as we were together, we were safe.

I dozed, in and out of consciousness. In and out of time. Past. Present. Future. On that long, dark ride, I was as lost and timeless as I was in death.

But, dawn came. And in the growing light, the wooden palisade of the gather. Already tents sprang up around the walls like mushrooms. Those that had fallen away were gathering, per my orders. More soon to come. We met Grimbore at the door. Mak Torkash he may be. But, when those three children sprang from my arms to his, he was just a doting uncle. Massive, and ungainly, they crawled over him with practiced familiarity. And they were safe.

I would make sure of it.

When Sergeant Volstagg carried the wrapped body through the gate, the entire Gather stopped and began to keen and wail. The sound was haunting, matching the sound within my own heart. They mourned all night. And, in the morning, they began preparations for Streetrunner. He was never really Brinchie. That was always Longtails aspiration. Nor was he Olaran, like his friend, mentor, and brother, Fateweaver. Streetrunner had no real home, only his friends, and family.

So, the goblinesh of the Stone Tower honored him as they would their greatest warriors. Longtail would approve. Fateweaver would have found it absolutely amusing. Streetrunner. He would not have cared, so long as his children were safe. We never like each other much. But he had my respect. I believe I, his. At any rate, I left that to our hosts. For me, there was work to be done.

Breakfast, hot. A change of clothes, cool. And a moment with my wife, courtesy of Eris. That was all I could allow.

My Rangers sagged to the ground, hungry and exhausted. But they had stayed with me. On that ride thru hell. I wished it were over. I wished…but life cares little for wishes. It was just beginning. And, in a few days, weeks, even those that lived through what was to come would look back on this moment and a lifetime would seem to have passed.

How many such moments had I experienced? Too many. And more to come.

I called them to me. Alpha Team. My orders. Call in every favor, beseech every friend, every ally. Promise whatever it took, but bring me an army with which I could destroy Velkalar. They had until the 8th of Thunder Hawk and then I needed them back there. To that place. For, on the 8th, the War began.

And with that, they rode. Husband and wife, Volstagg and…Volstagg. Sergeant Volstagg took RFC Zathlan north to find Sir Hevain and others. Before she left, RFC Zathlan contacted her family, both in Galea and…elsewhere.

Corporal Amaroth, RFC Moldova, and RFC Leaora returned to Echer’Naught. Moldova summoned Captain Vasser and the Watch, Corporal Amaroth mercs from Low Town, and Leaora…she brought friends.

Serys just left. Alone? Perhaps. I never asked.

Grendel remained to help the Stone Tower Gather gird for war. Grimbore mustered every blade, club, staff, and shaman this small Gather could muster. But I would take one of his over a hundred trained swords most any day. How long had Grimbore stood at our door? How many times had that simple, giant saved us? How many times, after he was cast out, exiled, had he returned to stand beside us. Eckhart keep. Velkalar’s outpost.

I have never asked when Grimbore has not come willingly, ready to protect his friends and honor his “pretty kitty.”

From the 1st to the 8th I planned, prepared and gathered the army.

Thunder Hawk 8th, 3126
They returned, as ordered. Sergeant Volstagg and RFC Zathlan were so tired and saddlesore, they looked half dead. But they returned, mission accomplished. Even Serys returned, his clothes in tatters, boots near worn through, but he simply nodded. His men would come and they brought death with them. It cut me deeply, pushing them. But, I had little choice if we had any hope of victory. And so, I let them a few hours to rest, wash, and eat.

Then, I revealed to them the information I hard harbored, protected like a precious gem. The whereabouts of Velakar’s operation and our target. Montrel.

A city in the Wildlands, cradled by the Northern Hills. Sprawling and unruly, Montrel was one of hundreds of ideal location for Velkalar’s base. But, we need more accurate information if we had any hope of attack. So, I once again I tapped my Alpha Team. Thunder. Grimbore. My Alpha Team.

Though their members had changed over the years. The spirit never so. When the moment came that I victory demanded absolute trust, unrelenting excellent, I called my team. MY Alpha Team.

I ordered them to A) Travel to Montrel, B) Scout the area for actionable intelligence on Velkalar’s whereabouts, " C) Set scout camp and prepare for my arrival.

After loading up on the finest equipment and gear provided for the Artisans Guild of Malakar, courtesy of RFC Daynore and my White Silver Wolves, they rode, that very day.

Thunder Hawk 14th, 3126
They arrived in six days, by the 13th of Thunder Hawk along with a dozen Woflhaven Free Company riders, and four specialists. Sergeant Vosltagg sent the riders in pairs to scout the lands outside the city, while his team posed as members of the White Silver wolves looking to spend some coin.

Finding lodging was easy, though all members report feeling as if they were being watched at all times. They waited till evening on the 14th before heading to the tavern to carouse for information. By all accounts, RFC’s Nazir and Zathlan make an alluring pair. They were actively recruited to serve as entertainment for a large operation north of the city. Grendel watched RFC Moldova drink a dwarf under the table, before passing out herself. Though, not before the dwarf admitted to working as a caravan guard making the “north run” 3 times weekly.

Sergeant Volstagg, Corporal Amaroth, and RFC Daynore drank with mercenaries who willingly told them of the lucrative contracts in the city. Someone was paying top coin to assemble an army of mercs, and then pay them to sit around and drink. He claimed to have been living high for six months and happily provided the Rangers with the name of a local recruiter.

Serys watched the horses while the Rangers got a well deserved rest.

Thunder Hawk 15th, 3126
Mid-morn, Sergeant Volstagg, Corporal Amaroth, and RFC Daynore headed out the “sign up.” They found a man lazing outside a dive tavern who gladly signed the men and even offered them free drinks at the establishment. As they were entering, he recognized Amaroth from his merc days and offered to get drinks later that night. Realizing this man might have information on the traitor who killed his lord, Corproal Amaroth requested the team stay long enough for him to meet the man.

However, RFC Daynore contacted Eris through an ingenious method of sending the missive via the Farspeaker network, but flag it low so it would not be intercepted. The response was swift and without room for interpretation. Track the leads, find Velkalar’s camp.

So, the team mounted up and headed north. It was getting on toward evening when they spied a caravan of wagons on the horizon, heading toward the mountains. With Seyrs tracking the wagons, they followed the road north, until the wagons suddenly veered east, off the road and headed straight into the mountains. Soon, they came to a narrow cleft in the rock face where the wagons squeezed through. After some debate, they decided their orders required that they enter, and so Serys once again led the team in.

What seemed a tunnel, turned out to be a short, but narrow cut through the mountains leading to a wide, and fertile vale hidden in the foothills of the Northern Hills. Very hard to find, very defensible. Now, they were faced with a bowl shaped forest about 1/4 mile wide and almost 1/2 long. So, they were breaking into a skirmish line, when the Wolfhaven Free Riders thundered up demanding to know why they had been left behind.

Reunited, the forces joined to spread out through the woods, cavalry leading, and sweep the forested vale front to back. With the light dying behind the mountains, their lead scouts found the end of the vale, AND the entrance to Velakar’s hidden keep. It appeared to be an ancient wall, and wide door which nestled in the rock’s natural formation. Beyond it, one could just make out the beginning of a narrow switchback which lead deeper and higher into the Hills.

With this, the Rangers set up camp and alerted Wolfhaven who informed them that he was already on his way and would arrive in a day or two. They were left with nothing to to but watch and wait.

During the 13th hours between the 15th and 16th of Thunder Hawk, Corporal Amaroth, RFC Zathlan, and one of the Free Riders were on watch when a strange thing occurred. From their vantage point just in the treeline, it seemed as if a small door had opened in the wall and release a naked man who began to stagger across the 300+ yard killing fields to their location.

As they watched in bewilderment, the man continued to approach. Sergeant Volstagg was fetched and he too stood watching, puzzled. Eventually, the man was close enough to make out distinguishing marks. He appeared starved, beaten and, again, stark naked. As he stumbled into the trees, Sergeant Volstagg stole up behind him and, clapping a hand over his mouth, dragged him deeper under cover.

After securing a promise the man would not scream, Vosltagg released him and ordered water and food be brought. The man gratefully gulped water and then seemed to really notice Vosltagg. At which point he asked if Sergeant Volstagg was indeed Volstagg. No sooner did the Sergeant confirm, then the man said that he has a message and started spouting gibberish. Everyone took a step back, when zigzag lines of arcfire began to glow beneath the man’s skin.

Everyone turned to run when the man detonated. Sir Volstagg shielded RFC Zathlan and was hurled into the trees. The Free Riders was killed instantly. Corporal Amaroth was hurled several feet before bouncing off a tree. He was, however, more singed that hurt. Due to the bravery of her husband, RFC Zathlan was spared much more than small scorching. The forest, however, was ablaze.

Worse, the rest of the Rangers, awakened by the commotion, woke to find the army of mercs from Montrel had sneaked up behind them. At the moment of detonation, they fell upon the Rangers and began to push the surprised and disorganized Rangers toward the killing field.

From here, the battle degenerated into insanity, with dozens of small, but intense skirmishes raging through the vale. The Rangers performed without question admirably, but they were vastly outnumbered, trapped and were forced to slowly give ground. RFC’s Zathlan and Daynore fought hard, Serys claimed many lives.

Of note, RFC Zathlan immediately went in search of her husband. She found him, bend over, unconscious, and wedged in a half rotten log. She lacked the strength to free him, so she shouted for Grendel who was busy fighting. He barreled his way through and the two grasped Sergeant Vosltagg by hands and feet. Yet, even they were unable to free him. Ultimately, RFC Daynore arrived, and had the presence of mind to use the salted grease from the WolfPack to slather Sergeant Vosltagg, making him just slick enough for the three of them to wrench him free.

Meanwhile, in the blast zone, Corporal Amaroth was quickly set upon. During the fighting, he faced off against the recruiter who he was to have had a drink with that very night. They battled, but ultimately, Corporal Amaroth proved the victor. With his dying breath, the man revealed that he knew secrets of Corporal Amaroth’s former house, but before he could be made to talk, an arrow took his life. In a rage, Corporal Amaroth ruined the body and then waded into the enemy with alarming ferocity. Yet, even this was not enough to turn the tide.

My force was at least two days away, but I assembled an advanced force and with the help of magic and good mounts, we managed two days in one night, arriving a few hours before dawn. We easily overran the mercenary rear guard who was spending more time drinking. After all, their had trapped a small force of rangers in a barrel and then overwhelmed them. It never occurred to them to be on the look out for our arrival.

Their mistake.

Then, we rode into them. Fekla, Grek, Tina, Tiny. I seem to recall one moment where I spied a white silver man-sized doll riding through battle atop Tiny. This I chalk up to fatigue and stress.

For their part, the mercenaries fought well. Trapped now in their own trap, they turned and fought with a vengeance. But now, the tables had turned and they were ridden down and slaughtered. We captured a few for questioning. But, for the most part, the opening skirmish of the war was ours.

I sit and write this with a few hours of darkness left. Tomorrow, the assault truly begins.

Hawksclaw. I am coming.

Your most obedient servant,

Lord Mayor Wolfhaven, Colonel

Velkalar’s Front Gate, North of Montrel, Wildlands

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Missives from Drenmar
Ravens

The Raven Feather
The Raven Feather was a gift.
I told you to look at this feather
whenever you’re longing for me.

I couldn’t stay.
The master was calling.
Haunted me in my dreams.
Commanded me to return.

So I turned around.
Raven feathers sprouted out of me.
And I flew into the dawn.

I still haven’t forgot you..
I’m just waiting
for the opportunity
to run away
to defeat the master
to break the curse
to fly over borders into life.

Until then
Remember me.
I shall return!
Remember me.
When you hold the Raven Feather in your hand

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Campaign Report 89 (First Movement)
Crimson Wedding (KellyCon 2017)

Lord Mayor, Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander

Commander of the Legio Heroes

Ranger Regional Headquarters, Echer’Naught, Olara

Thirtieth Day of Eternal Sun, Year 3126 Under the Light

By the Lord of Light, and my lady, Celesia, the Silver Unicorn, I have failed. And in my failing, a man has lost his life. Nearly two.

I care not what past sins might have been committed by Therel Fateweaver, or Davos Olandoran as the Royal Warrant stated. He saved this city, he saved my Rangers more times that I could count. Admittedly, I never well trusted him, but I trusted Sergeant Minor Longtail, and she trusted Fateweaver. After she was gone, after I lost Hawksclaw to that damnable villain Velkalar…I must say, Fateweaver’s advice was invaluable. He has served as the finest Seneschal that this city has ever seen.

And now he is gone.

Because I miscalculated.

Red Wolf 27th, 3126

At mid-morn, I attended Sir Volstagg, Sergeant at his hospital bed within the Hospital, formerly the Red Lamp brothel. He seemed well and the doctor’s assured me that he was to be released that day. Though, it would take days, or weeks to recover. I should know for I have also been there.

Nevertheless, we spoke about personal matters. Sir Volstagg had requested before departing Elgen Keep, and the ambush which landed him in the hospital, that I intercede upon his behalf in a matter of honor. Moving forward, he felt that he could best server the people of Olara, and of all the Southern Kingdom’s by extending his service with the Ranger indefinitely.

To that end, I sent requests to the Crimson Wall, Lord Otto Reinhart, and to Kytrhos, Lord Commander Norwood. The Rangers answered almost immediately in the affirmative. The response from the Crimson Wall was somewhat slower, but they too acquiesced. It would seem that the most recent…political turmoil made it more palatable that Sergant Volstagg be associated with the Rangers.

I felt we had gained greatly by the transfer.

With that approved, I requested that he permit me to allow my personal armorer to re-enamel his armor in any scheme that he might wish. Designs were sent and within a day, the armor was completed. A Baron title has its perks.

Then I informed him that a new mission was coming, one which required travel and time spent away from home. Once released, he was to speak with his Rangers and inform them that they would have leave to see to their affairs.

Sergeant Volstagg’s next words both surprised and delighted me. RFC Lady Nexus Zathlan had agreed to his hand in marriage! Knowing the path ahead, I encouraged Sergeant Vosltagg to make preparations swiftly. I had waited for my own marriage, and it nearly cost me all.

Volstagg agreed, but wished to keep the entire affair quiet for the time. I agreed and offered my assistance in making the necessary preparations and negotiations. He agreed and we parted in good spirits.

My next stop was to swing by the Local E’N HQ and speak with RFC Leaora Nazir. She had withdrawn from the Alpha Team to oversee the Elven/Oaran Rebuilding Coalition. After the attack by Shaya’Nor’s forces, much of the Elven District and Low Town was damaged or destroyed. Elven/Olaran relations degenerated to the point that during the battle, the elves killed a number of Olarans while trying to defend their district in the city

RFC Nazir had brokered an agreement between Sir Eric Halten, the Royal Sheriff and Warden, and High Druidess Lady Treesinger to put together crews from both groups and work toward rebuilding the city together. Their success went far beyond any reasonable assumptions and, for her diligence, RFC Nazir had been put in charge. Now, however, most of the actual building had been completed. The Coalition had recently agreed to remain, but focus more on mutual corporation and civic projects.

RFC Nazir could, in likelihood, remain at the post and manage the project for years, even gaining political influence and rank. However, she agreed to my request to return to the Alpha Team for the upcoming mission. He language and bardic skills would be key. I learned later that she and Treesinger had agreed to select a leadership candidate from both groups, rather than place the organization under one leader from either side.

From there, I had more preparation for the upcoming mission and the day to day drudgery of command. My Great Lady, Elyanna surprised my at the office, bringing food cooked by her own hand. She shooed everyone out of my office permitting me a few moments of delightful conversation with my beloved.

I learned later that Sergeant Volstagg was, in fact, released later that day and headed to his residence to recuperate.

Red Wolf 28th, 3216

Sir Volstagg’s new armor, detailed and tooled in White, Red, and Black was delivered. I suspect he was pleased.

Red Wolf 30th, 3126

In the morning, I called the Alpha Team together for a number of reasons. The first was to get them back into routine as they had been on light duty for the past couple of weeks. I also wanted a chance to debrief them about the recent missions. In the past, repeated stressful missions had sometimes elicited negative responses. I feel strongly that I, and the Rangers, have no done enough to ensure the mental and emotional health of our Rangers.

So, I took some time to address a few concerns. Grendel had suffered some comments on his height. Sad, considering he is of above average height for his kind. Unfortunately, many of the Ogres serving in the Rangers tend to be considerably large. It must have something to do with the lifestyle that draws “behemoth” oges to our ranks. Whatever the case, I felt it important to reassure him.

I spoke with RFC Durlan Daynore about his heritage. Malakarans have a reputation, worse within Olara. They are often seen as dishonest and sneaky, I explained that, regardless of how he is treated outside the Corps, he had my complete faith.

I spoke with RFC Lady Nexus Zathlan about how she has come so far. When she first arrived, she seemed unsure and doubting. But, over her relatively brief time, she had blossomed in a confident woman and warrior.

RFC Gracelyn Moldova was absent. She has been working with our local Rangers in searching for an increasing number of missing City Watch, merchants, and even known criminals.

To Corporal Audric Amaroth I posed only the question I posed to Ramshorn before him, “are you in control.” He affirmed that he was still in control, his sergeant confirmed. Sergeant Volstagg and I had already spoken privately. And to Serys, I simply ordered him not to “accidentally shoot” any fellow members of the Rangers. He agreed, though I am somewhat suspect given his nature.

We were also graced by RFC Leaora Nazir who, as mentioned, had agreed to assist the team on the upcoming operation. She seemed surprisingly eager to escape the small confines of her office.

The team assembled, I informed them that they would be called soon for an official mission requiring long travel. So, I allowed them a couple weeks to get their local affairs in order. Then, they were dismissed.

I retained Sir Volstagg and Lady Zathlan a moment. Once private, I expressed my joy at the news and offered to speak on her behalf as she had no-one in the city to speak as advocate. Malcolm agreed to negotiate on behalf of Sir Volstagg and Lady Moonsilver would serve to facilitate negotiations. That completed, I dismissed them and began drafting letters.

Red Wolf 33rd, 3126

By the 33rd, a bride price had been agreed, House Zathlan prepared to recieve guests and the wedding was on. I arranged funding, put together a proper entourage for a knight and lady of their standing and arranged for a column of Wolfhaven Company of Free Riders to accompany the couple and team on the road. Recent events were never far from my mind.

Eternal Sun 1st, 3126

Gathered outside the Wolfhaven Manor, everyone was in high spirits, though Alpha Team were still unaware of the purpose of this trip, they were happy enough to receive such a lavish “free” vacation.

As a list minute change, and to my eternal regret, I requested that Sir Volstagg permit senschel Therel Fateweaver to accompany the party as a represtantive of the city. In truth, Fateweaver was a known target for assassination, more of Velkalar’s doing, so I sent him away without any warning or announcement. My hope was that he would be safer outside the city, surrounded by some of the finest Ranger, Olaran, and Galean warriors.

I was wrong.

Still, the convoy rumbled out of the city by the Dwarven/East gate and began the 12 day trek through Harken, Hale, across the Howling River, and then north to House Zathlan lands. By all accounts, the trip was both enjoyable and uneventful

Eternal Sun 12th, 3126

The caravan arrived at the edge of House Zathlan lands and were greeted by the Lord and Lady Zathlan themselves. Sir Volstagg approached. Kind words were spoken and Lord Zathlan welcome the knight and his betrothed into Zathlan lands, but would not allow the Rangers entrance unless their produced a legal warrant, or agreed not to attempt to usurp Zathlan authority while guests in their lands.

Sir Volstagg readily agreed and the entire caravan was permitted to reach the keep. As they passed through the nearby vill, I hear that crowds thronged the street, showing the party with garlands, carpeting the hard packed road in petals. I can only surmise the rest of the team grew quite suspicious as they reached the keep. There, the Rangers were feted and provided for with the most generous hospitality. They sparred with Zathlan warriors, took constitutionals by a nearby lake, and even participated in a Stag hunt.

I was surprised to hear that Grendel managed to the killing blow on the feast stag. In fact, he has earned a new title, Grendel “Stag Killer.” He seems more confused than pleased.

Though hastily arranged, House Zathlan provided the most wondrous accommodations and arrangements. Within three days of arriving, they managed to put on a wedding of perfection.

Eternal Sun. 16th 3126

From pre-dawn, all parties hurriedly prepared and by late afternoon all was in readiness. With sundown just approaching, family and friends of House Zathlan gathered in the sacred grove to witness the union between Lady Nexus Zathlan, House Lyonn of Galea to Sir Gunther Volstagg, Order of the Crimson Wall, House Vosltagg of Olara.

The ceremony was presided over by the Zathlan family druid, three strips of silk, red, white, and blue (house Lyonn colors) were wrapped around their clasps hands as prayers were offered to the ascended. Then, each dipped an everwood gift in a bowl of purified water, dedicated to the Silver Unicorn. When Sir Vosltagg touched the water, it glowed white silver.

She gave to him an everwood ring with a lions head, its main in white silver, detailed in white silver. To her was also given a ring of everwood, scrolled and adorned with elven filigree in white silver. Both rings were personally crafted by the hands of Durlan Daynore, his gift to his friends.

With a final song, they were wed, leading a procession out of the grove to the main hall where the feast and celebration awaited. All joined them, as the happy couple sat at the head table beside Lord and Lady Zathlan. There were dances and gifts. Most precious was that offered by Therel Fateweaver and Leaora Nazir.

As she played her harp, he sang. I would offer all my worldly possessions to have heard that song. The last ballad of one of the greatest bards to ever live. He sang of two houses, Zathlan and Volstagg, their founding, their victories and defeats, and he sand of love. I have spoken with several people in attendance and all speak of a trancelike state, of hearing and seeing, of feeling ever sweeping moment of centuries of honor, history, loss, and love.

When it was over, no one moved, or spoke. Only when a dish, forgotten by a servant tumbled to shatter against the stone floor from paralyzed fingers was everyone shocked into motion. Then, with a bow, Therel Fateweaver resumed his seat.

After that, Lord Zathlan called his Lady, his daughter, and his Son-in-Law to the main floor. He toasted them, and introduced the couple, embracing Sir Volstagg as his own family…

…when the doors to the hall exploded open and a man stormed in, dodging the guards. In his hand, he held an ancient and weathered piece of Vellum as if to ward away spirits.

Lord Zathlan stepped forward and demanded to know who would think to intrude upon such an occasion. The man, dressed in a tight fitted vest, silken shirt with voluminous sleeves ruffled at the cuffs, tight pants, high blacked boots and a large, wide hat sporting a veritable flock of ostrich feathers. Bowing low, the man introduced himself as Dom Alphonz Domingo Ferrara Diego Castellano. He professed to be presence on the King’s business.

When challeneged, he admitted that he was not here on King Argorn, King of East, but the Crown of Olara. He went on to claim that he had a Royal Warrant for the arrest of one Davos Olandoran, or, better known as, Therel Fateweaver. Lord Zathlan read the warrant, then, turned to Fateweaver. He was, after all, an official representative of Echer’Naught which was now a RANGER city, not Olaran. And they were in Galea. The legalities of the situation required serious consideration.

However, to prevent any bloodshed Therel Fateweaver, or Davos Olandoran simply stood, graciously apologized to his host and confirmed that the warrant was valid. He further regretted any difficulties his presence had caused and turned himself over to Dom Diego without resistance or complaint.

Seeing no alternative, Lord Zalthan allows Dom Diego to leave with his captive, but warns that should morning light find the man within his lands, Warrant or know, he will lose his head. Dom Diego bows, thanks them all for their forbearance and appears to turn to leave with Fateweaver.

Before anyone can stop him, he pulls out a strange burnt-orange crystal wrapped in copper and white silver wires and slams against Therel Fateweavers forehead. What happened next is difficult to describe. The crystal flashed arcfire and Fateweaver started to scream, but then his scream elongated into something worse, a metallic sound.

And then her collapsed, his eyes smoking. The backlash from whatever was just done reverberated around the room stunning everyone. Victims describe hearing a high pitched keening and feeling suddenly disoriented. Many simply passed out from pain.

Having his mercy spat upon, his people attack, and a man under his protection slaughtered like some animal, Lord Zathlan drew his sword and rushed Dom Diego with predictable results. Almost lazily, the duelist drew his rapier and stabbed at the charging Zathlan…

…only to bury his blade into Sir Volstagg’s neck.

Seeing the danger, and knowing the reports, Sir Volstagg acted before anyone else had time to think. He grabbed the Lord by the scruff and hauled him bodily out of the way, but in doing, received the blow intended for his father-in-law. Sir Volstagg drops, mortally wounded.

Not done, Dom Diego takes one sadistic moments of finish Sir Vosltagg with a slash across this throat, the arterial blood sprawing into the air staining Lady (Zathlan) Volstagg’s pure white dress crimson in her husband’s life’s blood. Now satisfied, Dom Diego turns and begins to walk out.

Enraged beyond reason, Corporal Amaroth charges, snarling, only to be caught from behind by Grendel who was repeated stabbed by the blood-mad olaran for his troubles. The other Rangers stood still. They were armed with only small weapons, knifes and short swords, no armor, and they had given their word that they would NOT interfere in Zathlan business without expressed consent.

So, following orders, they watched their Sergeant bleed out on the floor beside one of their city’s greatest heroes while the assassin, sword still stained with blood, strolled out of the room.

Zathlan House Guards were not so restrained. Thirty charged to the duelist intent on answered for the slight upon their house’s honor. To a man, they died. Dom Diego barely seemed to breathe heavily. He exited and disappeared into the night.

I have no reports of that evening. Sir Volstagg was rushed to the healers, Lady Zathlan, still robed in her blood-stained wedding gown, by his side. Lord Zathlan and his retainers rode out, scouring the countryside for Dom Diego but he was never found.

Eternal Sun 17th, 3126

By some miracle, thank the Silver Unicorn, Sir Volstagg awoke. He lived, but his voice was forever ruined by the slashing of his throat. Still, the healer knew his art and Sir Volstagg was on his feet that morning. He was met soon by Lord Zathlan who offered Sir Volstagg indefinite hospitality. But, he asked for him to send the Rangers and other guests away.

They were being hunted and Lord Zathlan had a duty to protect his House. Sir Volstagg agreed and, within the day, the Rangers rode out of the keep heading home. With them, in a place of honor, the body of Therel Fateweaver lay wrapped, ready for cremation.

Eternal Sun 20th, 3126

Three days into their trip, the party crosses the Howling River to find two groups waiting for their arrival. The first, Rangers dispatched by Wolfhaven. The very instant Dom Diego appeared, RFC Daynore contacted Eris and Wolfhaven immediately dispatched reinforcements.

The second group were Olarans, Royal Wardens specifically under command of Lord Garran Olar, Captain of the Royal Guard, and the King’s personal protector. He demanded the body of the traitor. Over RFC Nazir’s protest, Sergeant Volstagg turned over the body of Fateweaver to the Olarans. They rode away without so much as a thank you.

The ramifications of Ranger interference at Erlgen Keep continues to haunt us.

Eternal Sun 28th, 3126

I greeted the Rangers at the Dwarven/East gate. They were haggard, a shadow of the merry band I had seen riding out three weeks before. Sergeant Volstagg was sent to the hospital, again, for evaluation. The rest, were debriefed. It took a few days, but I arranged for preparations to have a private service on the the 31st of Eternal Sun.

I can only pray that no more lives will be lost before this villain can be brought to justice. May my lady hear by prayer, I cannot afford any more blood on my hands. I must be flawless for there is no more room for error.

They all look to me.

Your most obedient servant,

Lord Mayor Wolfhaven, Colonel

Ranger Regional Headquarters, Echer’Naught, Olara

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