Campaign of the Month: June 2018

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

Campaign Report 100
Andak-cros

Filed: White Stagg 16th, 3126

Serys,

Between shoveling rubble in the morning, and nightly gambling, I managed to hear most of the final bouts. Dair-Kron Kirall, the Olaran mercenary-turned war captain announced a week of Blood Sports in honor of his master, Dair-Az Lorask ki Gult’s victory. With Xaos broken, the Great Wolfhaven crushed and sent scurrying back to A’Davar with tail tucked, Lorask ki Gult stood poised to reclaim the Grand Warlord of the South title after over five centuries of Youlin Aradi independence. To hear the Dremarin, what passes in the Empire for “citizens”, ultimate victory in the desert is all but assured.

Of course, not everyone seems to be pleased at the turn of events. Word, hushed though it may be, at the late night tables suggested that Fenrikas ki Arkor, Az-Ri of Kal’Montak is displeased with the upstart Lorask ki Gult’s success. Seems like it was always Fenrikas ki Arkor’s design to take A’Davar and expand his name, claiming the fourth Grand Warlord title, Vas-Dair- Az m’ Surnas, for himself and ascend to the emperors personal court. Worse, with Lorask ki Gult securing his new lands in the south, his will is being exercised by the traitorous ex-Olaran Dair-Kron Kirall. Such a slight would be cause for the upstart to be “removed.” Except, so long as Fenrikas ki Arkor mounts glories in the desert, his sycophant is “untouchable,” despite parading out the city like a High Born lord of the Empire.

He didn’t even request permission from the Az-Ri before declaring the celebratory games…if rumors are true.

It hasn’t taken much bribing to encourage the low lords skulking the back rooms to gleefully speculate on the likely intrigue, violence, and upheaval when the Olaran pushes the Az-Ri too far. Sadly, enmity aside, Az-Ri Fenrikas ki Arkor, or his retainers, are unlikely to assist in any kind of escape. Oh, they want the Olaran dead, but they are possibly more rabid about gaining control of captured prisoners from the war; in particular the Alpha Team. Prestige aside, every faction within the city seem to scheming to benefit from the Empire’s victory, but for wildly varying purposes.

A Vos-Ulin (High Slave) a bit into his cups let slip that his master had provided resources for posting of “elite” Tor Mastak arriving in the city. Which, is worse than it seems, because these particular agents apparently bear no loyalty to any of the city’s many factions. The Az-Junin have the biggest obsession with Corporal Zathlan. Or, more accurately, her unborn child. Seems the freakishly mutilated woman sniffing after Nexus is a Minister of the Undying Fire from the royal court in Kal’Zaketh. She was “gifted” to Lorask ki Gult when he was granted the forces necessary to check the Xaos threat. Known as the Scorched Priestess of Ceynara, rumor has it she is a Flamedancer so devoted to Ceynara, that she was bound to a Reaver demon…

If half the horrors Ive heard about her are true…the Olaran starts sounding better and better. Ascended help Nexus if that creature gets her blood, red talons into her.

Then, of course, you have the Az-Fal and Az-Dren of Kal’Montak’s court, each vying for favor with Az-Ri Fenrikas ki Arkor…

or Kirall…

I despise politics.

As to the team, I’ve not seen any but Nexus, dressed like a Nazatiran whore, but alive. She plays the consort well, always on the arm of the Olaran. Given past missions, I half wonder if she’s “turning” him to her side. Ascended knows she can be highly persuasive. In the end, I imagine she will rescue the others.

I arrived mid week, too late to personally witness most of the bouts, but since the games, and the Kal expansion south, is all anyone is talking about, it was fairly easy to put together the events.

White Stagg 12th, 3126

Alpha Team is carted in with other high profile captives from the battles in the desert. I did not personally witness the event, but local news states there were over 200 wagons laden with the spoils of war, prisoners, bizarre animals, gold, and gear captured from Xaos forces.

Dair-Kron Kirall made certain word of their arrival preceded the caravan. By the time Alpha Team reached the massive coliseum Andak-cros, crowds had gathered to witness the Triumph. The team, stripped and humiliated were loaded onto one of the main elevators and raised to the arena floor as Kirall announced the week of games in celebration.

After which, they were lowered into the bowels of the Blood Pits. Based on news reports, all were presence, Lieutenant Volstagg, Sergeant Amaroth, Corporal Daynore, and RFCs Danica, Grendel, and Ranna. Corporal Zathlan was in the box seats with her new lover, and I…was at that point wearing a dead man’s clothes on my way to the city.

All according to plan?

The games would begin the following day, but the night was not wasted. Dozens of prisoners were sacrificed to Ceynara on their infernal altars. The screams echoed through night, a counterpoint to the revelry and fornication…according to the morning reports. They also selected a few dozen to adorn crosses around the blood pits, their dying screams adding ambiance to the events.

One must hand it to the Empire, they certainly know how to throw a party.

White Stagg 13th, 3126

Early in the morning fighting began. The first bout was, unsurprisingly, Volstagg. Or, should I say the Crimson Knight. Funny, for a man professed to spending his life battling the Kal, he certainly has their sense of fashion.

Anyway, they pitted him against a Minotaur. Nothing too surprising. Volstagg took a few good hits, but, in the end, prevailed. Of course, he called on Celesia, so now he is favored to die. Seems that killing a ranking Ranger is only almost as exciting as watching a Chosen of the Horn die. He couldn’t have a bigger target painted on him were he wearing bright red armor…oh.

Later on the first day, Sergeant Amaroth was pitted in a free-for-all match against a half dozen bandits. He did well. Though, he was hardly the favorite. Apparently a small time hood, Robert Oxley, a Galean of all things, had been arrested by the Kal and sentenced to die in the games. Of all those pitted in the event, he alone lasted to face Audric, both badly wounded.

Audric prevailed, but due to the young warrior’s prowess, and exuberance for life, the crowd’s demanded life. Is it mercy if they just want him alive to die “gloriously” later?

Damn, all this solitude is affecting my calm. I’m talking to myself in my own reports.

Audric won. “Bob” lived and is likely to become a crowd favorite.

I arrived sometime late on the 13th.

White Stagg 14th, 3126

It started raining before the 13th hour, but picked up hard for two days. Pissing rain, cold and brutal. The Kal didn’t seem to mind so much, but the arena turned to soup. And, all their fires, save for the slaves they lit, kept going out. So, they postponed the games.

White Stagg 15th, 3126

More rain. The games may have stopped, but work remained. I think our crew boss, Gurk…or Gorp… That sadist took unique pleasure in our pain. Sadistic SOB, but as a Kal, such things should be expected.

The rain let up late, but cold rolled in. Bad enough I kind of miss the heat of the sands, almost.

White Stagg 16th, 3126

Games resumed. There were some bouts. I heard, though was working so had no entry. At some time late morn, I hear Grendel and Ranna announced. Most of the crew grew excited. Seems the Ogres were given a special treat. Consensus was the Acolytes outdid themselves summing a rare childer like creature, Calydoes. Boar headed ogre-like childer wielding massive battle ax sized cleavers.

There were some human sacrifices and group of group bouts in the mid-afternoon. Something to keep the crowd’s blood up. Late in the afternoon, RFC Danica was introduced. Her game was to keep a pack of ratzin from devouring a group of kids. Word is, she almost saved one. But, the good news is she survived mostly unscathed. Though, probably not terribly happy about the situation.

Word is there will be another day of games on the 17th, and then final ceremony on the 18th. After that, assuming the team is still alive, they will continue to fight in the pits, or be summarily executed. Trouble being, I don’t know which.

As for Corporal Daynore, I have no idea. He WAS there on the first night, but after that…nothing. Not even a rumor. Though, given his status as an Adept, I can only assume the Tor Mastak is cracking his mind like an egg right now for all its hidden secrets. Makes me wary every time Lady Moonsilver contacts me for updates.

One of these mornings, I’ll wake up with Tor Mastak in my bed chamber.

Good news, though, my “reinforcements” are close, if command is to be believed. But, who would be crazy enough, or stupid enough to take this assignment….

Serys

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Centenium Proclamation
Legio Heroes

Lord Mayor, Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander
Commander of the Legio Heroes

A’Davar, Eternal Sands

Twelfth Day of White Stagg, Year 3126 Under the Light

To all people pledged to Light and Life:

For millennia, our forebears have stood valiantly against the forces of Darkness and Flame marshaled against the lands of freedom, Light, and Life. Time and again, we have stood on the brink, bloody and bowed, but never broken. We have never faltered.

Yet, only once in all those centuries have we stood truly united. Only when faced with utter annihilation at the hands of the Dragon Cult and their unstoppable dragon overlords, have we set aside our differences to combat an enemy greater than our might combined. In that singular moment of solidarity we proved that our differences are our greatest strength. We did not know then what we know now.

The contest against evil and villainy is the crucible which forges us. But the blood-lust of the Kal-A-Nar Empire, the cold, dead hunger of Shaya’Nor, the greed and avarice of the Malakar Dominion, or the intolerance of the Church of Archanon, are as child’s squabbling with the grave truth we must face today; We are no longer alone on Shaintar. We are being invaded by foreign powers driven by unknowable evil, heedless of any land nor the people in it, therefore the time for unity and the time for unity is upon us once again. The assault on White Bay by the butcherous Tempest, the heartless warriors of Xaos in the desert lands, the rumors of monsters defying any description known to learned men portend a future of horrors. Should we continue as we are, the scant survivors will rule over nothing but a sad pile of ash and bone.

But this is not a pronouncement of doom, but acceptance of this new time of change. Adversity has always strengthened us. Men and women of Shaintar, you all have a place in this… from brave-hearted nobles to shoemakers children; Bitter rivals and unexpected allies. Simple people and heroes of all the realms. What blows in from the coming storm has no love for any of us. We MUST accept the lessons learned against the Dragons, embodied by the Oaths of the Grayson’s Gray Rangers, and borne out by every victory in the last four years. Only together, all free peoples united, can hope to stand against the unyielding might of these emergent threats. Only together as free people, independent kingdoms, and brothers in arms may we hope to survive!

In this time of crisis, by the authority of the Centenium Council, the Druid’s Council and the First Speaker, the Council of Archanaya and the Heart of Light Istella Nolan, Lord-Commander Lady Valinda Grayson of the Grayson’s Gray Rangers, and the signatories of the Expanded Ranger Charter, I hereby formally establish and mobilize the Legio Heroes, Legion of Heroes, as an independent force under the authority of the Centenium Council to go forth and seek out these threats from beyond the Veil.

To the free peoples of Shaintar, I swear to you, upon my House, my Blood, and my Honor, we WILL stand against the coming storm. To our allies, join us in brotherhood and know the strength of unity. And, to all those who might threaten the peace and prosperity of our lands…

…We will not falter, we will not submit. We, the people of Shaintar, will NOT fail. This is OUR Realm! Come to take it at your peril.

Your most obedient servant,
Lord Mayor Wolfhaven, Colonel
A’Davar, Eternal Sands

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Campaign Report 99
Timeless Sands Conclusion Part Two

Lord Mayor, Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander

Commander of the Legio Heroes

A’Davar, Eternal Sands

Twelfth Day of White Stagg, Year 3126 Under the Light

There is a legend of a great general in the ancient past. It is said that he was the greatest military mind of his generation, that he never lost a single battle. And yet, in the end, his legacy is ultimately a failure. Each victory came at a price so high…that in the end, he left his cities defenseless. Is that the legacy that I will leave when history is written of me? That is how it would seem.

White Stagg 1st, 3126
Victory was ours, how bitter it tasted. We broke Xaos’ forces, and sealed the tear… However, we were abandoned by Tempest, and the Desert Riders and outmaneuvered by the Kal. Lorask ki Gult, Warlord, or some creature wearing his name has nigh managed to achieve what has eluded the Empire for 564 years since the last Grand Warlord of the South, Soman ki Akara, turned on the Empire freeing the Youlin Aradi.

Using the Xaos storms as cover, the pretender to the title, Lorask ki Gult quietly took Birr and Mara. When our Rangers defeated Xaos, the Dair-Az revealed his master stroke, summoning a Maelstrom army from…somewhere. Caught between the Kal army, and Maelstrom reinforcements, Prince Morok ki Anzher, Emir of A’Davar’s army was severely outnumbered. The Prince had no choice but retreat, and I, no choice but to screen his withdrawl as best I could.

By the Ascended, I should have SEEN it! But, the cloak of the storms hung like a Veil, and it took all out energies to suss out Xaos’ designs. And WHERE in the Abyss did Lorask ki Gult hide an ARMY!?

In the early hours of the 1st, all we could do was throw everything we still had in the way of the approaching Maelstrom. The Kal forces were distracted riding down the fleeing Xaos forces, buying us a narrow window. Prince Morok ki Anzher committed his own personal guard. I sent my Wolfhaven Free Company Riders, mounted Rangers, and the few standing members of the Alpha Team (being Cav trained). Only Corporal Daynore, RFC Grendel, Ranger Serys, and Trainee Ranna remained. Lieutenant Volstagg, Sergeant Amaroth, and RFC Danica were all down, being evacuated with the wounded.

And, RFC Zalthan Nexus, of House Wolfhaven…has been taken. At the time, we knew not by whom, but she was last seen fighting Flame. We feared the worst.

While the Rear guard fought a desperate, but futile action against three times their number, A’Davar’s army retreated in good order. We made near 15 miles, impressive for foot in the desert. Not even Olarans could easily match the feat.

That even, Liutenant Volstagg awoke. He was badly burned, wounded, but cared only for his team, his wife. A true Olaran.

I chose honesty, complete. Our situation was dire, and without water, the army would never reach A’Davar, Maelstrom or no. And, his wife was missing. However, we only suspect that she was taken by the Kal. In truth, any of the myriad allies and enemies might have taken her. Though I know this only via reports, I understand that her child is unique, and powerful.

Lieutenant Volstagg took it well. As well as could be expected given the circumstances. However, without knowing where his wife was being held, or by whom, there was little we could do for her at the moment. I had already dispatched scouts to track the movements of the various armies, but I held little hope. Lady Moonsilver already bent her powers to locating Lady Volstagg. I needed Volstagg here, now.

Alpha Team, under Lieutenant Volstagg would take a team of A’Davar’s riders, and Wolfhaven Free Company riders to escort 50 camel water bearers to the nearest oasis, some 20-30 miles east of the column. They would be on of three such water raids, but the largest. However, before such enterprises, there were recognition that were far passed due.

Ranna had been but a Trainee when she departed Echer’Naught Festival Moons 10th, 3126, and during the entire mission, first through Almahrad, into the desert, the paperwork had never been submitted to promote her to full Ranger. Operational oversight, but a regrettable one.

As of White Stagg 1st, 3126:

Ranger Trainee Ranna was promoted to Ranger, and then, immediately to Ranger 1st Class

RFC Lady Nexus Zathlan, House Volstagg was promoted to Corporal

In addition, commendations were placed in the files for:

Lieutenant Gunther Volstagg

Sergeant Audric Amaroth, Sworn of House Wolfahven

Corporal Durlan Daynore, Farspeaker

Corporal Lady Nexus Zathlan, House Volstagg

RFC Danica, Goldne Gryphons

RFC Grendel

RFC Ranna

Alpha Team was given the evening to rest, recoup and resupply. I attended to the dispensation of the army. Mostly, I sat the night astride Thunder on the south flank of the army and observed the Maelstrom army mass. In a pitched battle, they outnumbered our forces three to one. And they were better supplied and rested.

White Stagg 2nd, 3126

Early in the morning, Alpha Team gathered with their allies and the camel caravan to begin the raid for water in the nearby oasis. The team would be gone for days. What transpired only learned when they returned. Lieutenant Volstagg dispatched the A’Davar riders north to screen for Maelstrom. To the south, the Wolfhaven Free Company Riders.

White Stagg 3rd, 3126

After a hard ride, the Alpha Team reached the outskirts of the Oasis by mid-day, but found the locals already under attack by Maelstrom forces. The Oasis was in flames, palm trees burned, houses engulfed. The locals were being slaughtered. Without the other teams, they held the camels in reserve and attempted to secure the Oasis themselves, per orders. To save innocents. And my orders, again, nearly cost them their lives.

The Rangers rode out, charging into the Oasis. They were met by a Minotaur, Ratzin, and Thratchen. Lieutenant Volstagg and Seyrs reached the Minotaur first, but in a single blow, he beheaded the horses, and very nearly slew both Rangers. The rest of the team arrived quickly, but the battle turned badly. Ratzin swarmed them, Thratchen popped in and out, tearing through them.

Against the might of the Childer, the Rangers were over matched, and waging a losing battle. Brutalized, fatigued, and overwhelmed, the Childer stood on the verge of wiping out Alpha Team entirely…

…and then simply faded away in smoke, ash, and fire.

Corporal Daynore was unconscious, so the team caster was unable to determine if a Dispel had been used, but the rest of the team confirmed no Acolyte in the area had been killed. From Lieutenant Volstagg’s report, the timing and circumstances were ominous. However, the Rangers were in a poor position to look a gift horse in the mouth.

With the Childer dispelled, the water bearers moved in and completed drawing water by late that day. The Rangers provided security and rounded up the displaced villagers, rescuing not a few from burning buildings. Once the operation was completed, the team returned. It took two days.

White Stagg 5th, 3126

Alpha Team arrived late, or early depending on how one approaches such things. Of the three teams sent to recover water, only Alpha Team was successful. All the other teams were destroyed. But, they lost over half o the A’Davar and Wolfhaven riders. All reports indicated that the Maelstrom were spreading out, encircling our position, driving us ever north toward A’Davar. We were being herded.

Over the last few days, I had met with the Prince and other commanders to formulate a plan that might provide us the room we needed to reach A’Davar before being encircled and destroyed by the Maelstrom army. A’Davar’s scouts knew of a rocky region about 50 miles south of A’Davar, within three days hard march of our current location.

With the alchemy, arcfire, and sorcery available, the plan was to mine the largest defiled. If we could lure the Maelstrom army into the pass and trigger the explosions a the right moment, we could bury the Maelstrom, or at the very least buy enough time and distance.

Unfortunately, we had to survive the next three days. No small feat.

My plan, poor as it was, was to assemble the remainder of our cavalry forces in a mobile regard under command of Lieutenant Volstagg. Their orders were simple. Harass and delay the Maelstrom for three days. On the third, the rear guard was to break and fall back.

False retreats are only useful if the enemy has reason to believe the ruse. Fortunately, there was little fear the Maelstrom would not believe the rear guard collapsed. The true danger was the rear guard actually collapsing.

Alpha Team rested a few hours, but our army marched out by 3 AM on the 5th. Alpha Team and the rearguard sat the morning, watching the main force march north. At dawn, the Maesltrom’s childer attacked, swarming the cav under Volstagg.

Outnumbered more then three to one, the defense nearly collapsed were it not for Ranna holding the line. Barely, Volstagg’s command survived the first day. Barely.

White Stagg 6th, 3126

On the 6th, the enemy struck before dawn, nearly catching the rear guard by surprise. Fighting was intense and Volstagg was forced to fall back many miles, but the rearguard held.

White Stagg 7th, 3126

Day three was the most worst for Volstagg’s forces. More than once they were forced to cut themselves free from the press. Late in the day, unexpected allies arrived. Desert Riders, those who accompanied the team from Paradise to A’Tora. Even with the added might, they were massively outnumbered. Still they held. Despite losses, they held…until dusk. As darkness fell, Volstagg’s rearguard shattered, per orders, and rode hard for our camp miles north.

They arrived late, battered, tired, but alive. Pausing long enough to eat, drink, and resupply, Alpha Team now accompanied Guardian Archmage Val’rethael Que’kasaars and the engineers north a few miles to the rocky pass.

White Stagg 8th, 3126

While the sappers worked, Alpha Team took up watch. The skies were gray in the morning, and they almost missed the Gargoyles circling overhead. Without warning, six of the winged beast dove on the team.

Sergeant Amaroth was hit hard, hurled off the cliff. Corporal Daynore summoned his power and dove after, calling upon his mental powers to catch him. Unfortunately, no sooner had he managed to grab the unconscious Sergeant, he was struck again. Both men plummeted to the sandy floor far below.

RFC Ranna, down to a single bolt, dropped a Gargoyle. Serys a second. One by one, the Rangers dropped five the six Gargoyles. The last gargoyle engaged Lieutenant Volstagg, driving him back.

Here, my only information comes the eye witness who survived the subsequent explosion, Val. According to the Guardian Archmage, the sapper team was just finishing their work as our main column marched through the pass below. Val’rethael Que’kasaars was overseeing the last of the work when Lieutenant Volstagg shouted warning.

When the Guardian Archmage looked up, he saw what had alarmed Vosltagg. Dozens of Thratchen approached from the back side of the ridge, closing rapidly on the sappers. They would be overrun in seconds…and with them any hope to stop the Maelstrom.

If the trap failed, the Maelstrom which had already entered the pass on the heals of our forces would catch and overwhelm our forces. I cannot imagine the choice Sir Volstagg was forced to make. Standing on the bombs, he had to choose whether to trigger the explosion and spring the trap early, taking out his own team, or watch the sappers die and then the army enveloped.

Volstagg made the difficult choice, signalling the Guardian Archmage to trigger detonation. The explosion rocked the ridge and showered massive stone onto both armies below. We lost nearly a hundred men…

Maelstrom, five times that number.

The pass was filled with smoke, dust, sand, and death. We lost the entire sapper team, only Val survived. And, we lost Alpha Team. Despite the main Maelstrom force being shattered, their gargoyles and thratchen were still closing. We had no choice but to use the time purchased at such a high cost to escape.

White Stagg 10th, 3126

Our column arrived in A’Davar late in the day. Over the course of a the 10 day trip, we lost over a hundred lives, but the city was secured. And, the Maelstrom force, now only a day behind was reduced to half its strength.

Unfortunately, when we arrived, scouts from A’Davar warned that a second force, the Kal armies original rear guard were also closing on the city. We had only speculation about their troop strength.

Any hopes of staging a rescue, or even sending scouts to search for survivors were dashed. Our duty was to the people of A’Davar. No matter the cost, A’Davar must hold. We will NOT abandon the Youlin Aradi to domination by the Empire. I will not.

I only pray that Celesia keep my Rangers safe…wherever they may be.

Your most obedient servant,

Lord Mayor Wolfhaven, Colonel

A’Davar, Eternal Sands

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Campaign Report 98
Timeless Sands Conclusion Part One

Lord Mayor, Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander

Commander of the Legio Heroes

Eternal Desert, South of A’Davar

First Day of White Stagg, Year 3126 Under the Light

Fall has been a tumultuous time for the forces of the Southern Kingdoms. I fear that when the hour truly comes, we may be too far stretched to be of any good. Ascended help us.

Raining Leaves 15th, 3126
Red Moons turn Black. All omens point to a growing power in the west…

Raining Leaves 17th, 3126
To the north, on the 17th of Raining Leaves, First Company of the White Silver Wolves successfully broke out at Stonefinger, joining the First Host of the Southern Blades as they marched west on the city of Lanier. After months of siege, the weary warriors deserved a rest. And yet, no sooner had they begun their march, when I was forced, by need to divert forces from First and Second companies south, by river, to join a Fifth Company forming in Eastport for the sole purpose of securing, and protecting, Paradise. Strange times these.

On the same day, I received my first communication from Alpha Team in the desert for weeks. Their temporary truce with Tempest was at an end. Tempari as he requested to be called had abandon them in the depths of an ancient tomb in the heart of the desert. And, despite the fact that Tempest DID help the team defeat a Mummy, Tempari left my team to die, alone, in the dark.

Fortunately, they were saved by a Sir Emris of House Kahnar, Master Knight of the Golden Torch, a man who has lived among the desert peoples for decades. It would appear that he learned of our mission from “friends” in Paradise. This war makes strange bedfellows. First, the Emissary, then the city of Almahrad. Eventually, Shayakar, Patrons from Landra’Feya, and even Tempest Magus. What threat could be so dire as to bring all but the Kal into battle on the same side? Not since the Dragons…

Alpha Team is, at least secure in the Desert Rider stronghold. That is a sentence I never imagined I would write.

Harvest Moons 2nd, 3126
Per orders, elements of First, Second, Third AND Fourth Companies of the White Silver Wolves are recalled south, marching via most direct routes to board River Trade Coalition ships at Tirene. Other recruits have been dispatched to a staging area in Eastport. The city is not pleased with our armed presence, but agreed quickly enough when sufficient incentive was offered.

Harvest Moons 5th, 3126
Word reached my command from Sir Emris. Prince Romar’s host had ridden out, the Alpha Team riding in the Van. I cannot express the relief I felt in having regular communication restored. And yet, from such a distance, my Rangers were still far beyond my ability to greatly aid. Though, I worked tirelessly to position resources within their grasp.

Harvest Moons 10th, 3126
As I continued preparations for my departure to Tar’Imas and received updates on the WSW 5th Company’s progress, Lady Moonsilver intruded upon work to inform me of a curious request for an audience. Eve (Evelyn Dakota) had resurfaced in the Defiant Lands, near where the Alpha Team first encountered her. Also, a new presence, though one undeniably familiar; Guardian Archmage Val’rethael Que’kasaars. Hearing the name Que’kasaars I felt a sharp pang, yet the Que’kasaars Family is large and distinguished.

Via Lady Moonsilver’s Farspeaker network we were able to speak. More, Eldais Val’rethael. Eve asked only for me to bring her candied nuts when I traveled north. Bewildering child. Of the Guardian Archmage, I learned much, but each answer brought more and deeper questions. He claimed to be “recently returned” to the “Realm of Starfall,” as he stated. More vital, however, Eldais Val’rethael claimed to be well familiar with Xoas and Set, the correct spelling and pronunciation of the invading forces. My conversation with the Guardian Archmage confirmed my darkest fears. Xaos joins Tempest as the newest in what may well be an unending series of invaders from beyond the Veil.

I dispatched both Eve and “Val” as he is to be called, to the desert. Eve assured me that there were ample Oasis’ tied to Life. Once again I reached out to Sir Emirs, who spoke with Prince Romar, son of Romar, Lion of the Dunes, Bearer of the Three Moon Pennant and Supreme Amir of the Desert Riders. An agreement was settled. When the Riders reached the vicinity of an oasis of sufficient power, they would contact Eve and prepare her arrival. With her power, the sands might be held at bay. Guardian Archmage “Val” agreed to provide tactical guidance to the Prince and his forces.

It would have been my preference to keep Eve with my forces, but needs outweigh desire. Fortunately, Nell reluctantly agreed to serve as our shield against the storms. She has grown…powerful…of late. I pray that does signal a growing presence of Z’zt. We haven’t the strength to face another powerful assault by Tempest.

Harvest Moons 15th, 3126
Within an Oasis some miles south of the Xaos’ purported ritual site, Eve and “Val” joined members of the Desert Riders in the relative protection provided by the Ascended. By that evening, Prince Romar’s column arrived. It is good that Eve has rejoined the Rangers, and it is also well that Eldais Val’rethael met RFC Danica. She is one of the last to serve any length with Evoran. I know not how closely related Eldais Val’rethael and Evoran may have been, but they were clearly well acquainted. I hope that time, and situation permits “Val” to join us here. Moreover, I hope to invite him to join the Legios Heroes. His knowledge and natural talents would prove invaluable to our cause.

Harvest Moons 18th, 3126
And amidst all else, the Long Recon Rangers return after months of absence bringing with them dire news. After so many years, the time I long feared has come. We are not alone. It falls to us now to stand or fall. May Archanon grant us strength, and Celesia hope for tomorrow. And yet, I cannot hope to grapple that challenge while I also face this emergence in the Desert!!!

Then, on the same day the LRT arrived in Echer’Naught, I departed Echer’Naught for Tar’Imas, companions in tow. At the height of the 13th hour, I gathered with an elite team within Echer’Naught’s Sacred Grove. There, High Druidess Treesinger summoned Landra’s power and whisked us away, across the lands. What would take weeks even upon Thunder was achieved in no more than a heartbeat.

We arrived in Tar’Imas, within the sacred grove deep in the heart of the city. There, I was met by representatives of the elves, and a few notables. Among them, commanders of the Wolfhaven Free Company of Riders, dispatched months ago to assemble and scout the area between Tar’Imas and A’Davar. I was also heartened to find members of the Order of Hammerfall Riders. My old Order answered my summons, relishing the chance to pit their skills against the famed riders of the sands. Included was a small force of fellow Silver Paladins, those who can sit a horse. All told, we counted nor more than 500, but with Archanon’s Strength and Celesia’s Grace may we turn the tide.

We rode before the hour was fully gone, riding hard. My route skirted the foothills of the Black Mountains, and passed south of A’Davar by a few days ride. We cross open territory, avoiding all strongholds, gathers, towns, and villages.

Even as we gathered, the newly formed Fifth Company of the White Silver Wolves departed south by RTC ships for Eastport.

Harvest Moons 21st, 3126
Rangers in A’Davar informed command that Prince Morok ki Anzher, Emir of A’Davar had answered the summons and his forces marched south from the city. Numbering around 500 foot.

Harvest Moons 23rd, 3126
Late in the eve, reports arrive that the RTC transports landed in Eastport where Galaen carracks stood ready to accept the troops, along with gear, supplies, and funds for an extended mission in the desert. Fresh recruits also joined the company increasing the number, with staff and support, to a heavy company of 250. Tirelessly, the troops loaded supplies and prepared for travel.

Harvest Moons 24th, 3126
Sailing with the tide, the Carrack Glory departed Eastport bound for Paradise escorted a the twin War Caravels, Windsward and Callomine. Already, Captain Roberts and the Sea Ranger dock at Paradise providing key information and reports via a Ranger bonded Farspeaker among his crew, hired specifically for this mission. From his reports, the situation in Paradise has grown well beyond dire. I pray the Wolves will have a city left to protect.

Harvest Moons 30th, 3126
The Carrack Glory, and Caravels Windsward and Callmoine arrived safely, but found the harbor choked with traffic. Due to riots and overpopulation on the docks, there is no where to offload troops, stranding the Wolves just off shore. Every effort has been made to mobilize our forces, but at present, the city is far to chaotic to hope for a landing. I have even reached out to Prince Velthana in hopes that his office might sway the Prince of Paradise to make some special accommodation. However, from the ships, reports reach me that even the port city is now engulfed by sandstorms.

Time is running out.

Harvest Moons 33rd, 3126
The Day all things turned.

In the morning, before the dawn, both forces from A’Davar and Prince Romar’s Desert Riders arrived at a location known locally as, the Valley of the Dead. Here, Lieutenant Volstagg, with Sir Emris, Eldais Val’rethael, and Prince Romar spied a battle already long in progress. Around a VAST excavation site, a force of Kal about 1000 strong assault from the west. From the east, another force of Tempest also attacked. Between them, a massive horde of Xaos, mercenary, local desert warriors, and zealots held fortifications around the ritual.

The ritual site was a massive black stone pyramid rising from the sand pit, carefully dug out by thousands of workers. Around the pyramid were four massive obelisks pouring energy into a rift above the capstone of the pyramid. Something massive pushed and strained to step through that tear….

Across the field to the north, A’Davar stood watching. Prince Romar took his column north, around behind Tempest to join his cousins from A’Davar. There, a war council ensued. Both Princes determined to attack the Kal forces while they were distracted, but Lieutenant Volstagg, aided by Sergeant Amaroth and RFC Zathlan convinced the Princes to focus first on Xaos. Once the Kal had spent their strength against the Xaos fortifications, the allies could turn and attack. By the Grace of Celesia, they acquiesced.

Just as they prepared to attack, emissaries from Tempest arrived. The same team that recovered Tempari and abandoned the Alpha Team approached. Their leader, a man intelligence has named only as “Gilmer” offered greetings and informed the allies that Tempest had no quarrel with them this day. They only sought to destroy the interlopers and seal the breach. If the Alpha Team wished to join them on that mission, they were welcome.

With the plan decided, Eldais Val’rethael began the battle by walking into the valley and opening of a magicstorm of energy which ripped holes in Xaos lines. In the gap rode the Desert Riders, and charged the Alpha Team along with their A’Davar allies.

Kal-A-Nar forces (1000), Tempest (500), and our combined forces of Desert Riders and A’Davar warriors (~1000) pressed Xaos from west, north and east, and yet, the invaders outnumbered our combined forces by Three to One. Worse, they continued to draw support from through the breach. The battle raged all day, only the Allies made significant headway, though late into the evening, Tempest joined out assault and finally came close to breaking the enemy lines.

Having ridden over 50 miles under a blazing sun, my column reached the battle just at sundown. We broke into two arms, flanked our allies, and slammed into Xaos lines. With our addition force focused on the weakest point in their northern flank, we finally managed to break their lines. Into that gap, I ordered the Ranges fore.

Lieutenant Volstagg and his Alpha Team, along with other Rangers, and Gilmer’s Tempest strike team, broke through the lines and assaulted the ritual directly.

I only learned of what transpired the following day, but the Rangers were suddenly faced with a choice:

They could scale the pyramid and assault the ritual at the apex, but risked being cut down by Reapers in the surrounding scaffolding.
They could attempt to hunt down and destroy the Xaos mages around the archaeological site, but there were many, possibly 13 or more. And all were well defended. Sergeant Amaroth, who was now in charge as Volstagg had fallen minutes before feared they would run out of time before finding enough mages.
The final option was destroying the four, massive obelisks, but the Rangers lacked sufficient explsoives to get the job done. However, Tempest offered an agreement. If the Rangers would hold Xaos at bay, THEY would bring down the towers.

Seeing the battlefield truce as the best option, the Alpha Team launched their attack on the pillars. They managed to bring down the first, but time ran out and something, a massive creature breached the tear and slammed into the battlefield nearby.

Described as an animal headed godlike being, over 18 feet tall, and armed/geared in Xaos tech, teh avatar of Set attacked.

The battle was swift and brutal. By the end, half the team was down, and the rest, save Ranna, were nearly so. She survived unscathed. Nevertheless, the avatar was defeated and with it, much of the ritual power. At about the same time, Tempest, and Kal, destroyed two of the remaining three obelisks. That ended the ritual.

Xaos scattered.

White Stagg 1st, 3126
There would be no celebration. Even as the towers fell, Tempest turned and quit the field. To the west a warning horn sounded. On the horizon, our rear guard spotted a massive force, 1000+ approaching fast. Maelstrom. Kal had summoned reinforcements. There was not hope in reforming our forces. We could only retreat.

Prince Romar chose discretion and the Desert riders peeled away south, leaving A’Davar, my cav and the Rangers between the Kal and Maelstrom armies.

Our only saving grace, the remnants of the Xaos forces still held Kal in place. I used that distraction to suggest to the Prince that he should quit the field and march for A’Davar. He agreed, and while his troops jostled into column, taking my wounded with them, I sent my cav force to screen our withdrawal.

Even as I pen this report from the saddle, my rear guard clashes with Maelstrom van. The Kal? I surmise they remain to take the spoils of victory.

And I have just learned that RFC Nexus Zathlan, of House Volstagg is missing…

…and I still have nothing but scattered reports that the Wolves have engaged Xaos in Paradise…

Damnation!

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

Your most obedient servant,

Lord Mayor Wolfhaven, Colonel

Eternal Desert, South of A’Davar

View
Campaign Report 97
Mummy King

Ranger Serys

Report Filed: Raining Leaves 17th, 3126

Raining Leaves 12th, 3126

Lieutenant Volstagg was down, feverish and shivering, the ghoul sickness eating him from the inside. Sergeant Amaroth was not better of, only the touch of Flame coursing through his body kept the disease away. Corporal Daynore stood, eyes glazed, issuing a silence scream. RFC Zathlan clutched her belly groaning. RFC Danica glared at her team, ready to strike any of use down in an instant. RFC Grendel retched in the corner. Trainee Ranna stared through the hole in the wall down the darkened path into the underworld.

Tempari was gone, eaten by ghouls or worse. We had no food or water. No healing or succor potions to save us. Trapped in a tomb, Xaos sandstorm above, and undead horror below.

Let us hope that this moment is a low point for the team.

Eyes blazing, Sergeant Amaroth took charge, and demanded I see to the Lieutenant. Then barked orders at the others.I stripped the armor, but there was little I could do against the ghoul’s touch.

And then, Volstagg started glowing White Silver. He is really getting into this whole Chosen of the Unicorn shtick. In a moment, he was up, ripping off his shirt to impress Nexus, who was too busy doubled over in pain. Perhaps taking a pregnant woman into a combat zone was inadvisable?

With the Lieutenant back on his feet we regrouped and assessed the situation. Not much better than before. Without any good idea of Tempari’s location, we had a choice of retreat back into the ghoul infested tunnels, stay in the room as slowly die of dehydration and starvation, or venture down, into the Nether?

Lieutenant Volstagg chose death below. So, we stacked up, Volstagg nobly taking point and descended into the bowels of the tomb complex.

At the base of the switchback ramp cut through solid onyx stone, we arrived in a much larger chamber. Our small lanterns provided little light in the gloom, but it was clear the room was HUGE. Larger than any previously discovered.

Sergeant Amaroth now took point and descended a wide set of stone stairs aiming for an alcove to the left. Volstagg, or Danica had spotted gold glinting in the shadows. Creeping forward, Amaroth called back he found an ornate box or case covered in gold filigree and jewels. The thing also had an ornate face.

Corporal Daynore opined that we were in a burial chamber of something called a Pharaoh, some ancient desert King. These were fancy coffins for the Pharaoh and his top people. Judging by the intense feeling of dread and evil oozing from the walls, the chance that one, or all, of these bodies were undead…

Too high.

We proceeded further. Grendel sniffed another of the fancy coffins, then tried to bash it apart with his club. Lieutenant Vosltagg stopped him. Someone suggested stabbing it with White Silver. I was of the mind to leave the things alone, but kept quiet. No need making myself a target. With luck, when these things inevitably broke out of their little boxes and tried to kill us, they would home in on noisy team members first.

I noted with some dismay that the deeper into this chamber we moved, the worse Nexus’ pain seemed to get. Still, we passed another near dozen of those fancy boxes in half as many alcoves. At the far end of the LONG chamber, we found another set of stone stairs, wider than the entrance. Atop this dais was a massive version of those fancy coffins, this on twice the size.

Corporal Daynore informed us that this would be the tomb of the Pharaoh himself. About this time RFC Zathlan doubled over in pain, and the room was filled with a low guttural roar. That, and the sand began to move across the floor, gathering at our feet…

…before it exploded into a swirling cloud filling the room.

That’s when we hear heard the dull thuds echoing across the room as the undead, mummies, because that is what have now, broke free from their fancy boxes and lumbered toward us in the gloom of the dark room and the sand.

Only three of us had lamps, Volstagg, Daynore, and Zathlan, I think. They swarmed us as we huddled at the base of the stairs.

The mummies were tall, lanky undead, like zombies wrapped in rotting cloth strips, stained with gore and sand. They clawed and moaned as they staggered into our ranks. Everywhere they touched, unnatural rot seemed to spread. Worse, it turns out that in the ancient tomb, they regenerated like Trolls.

The undead Pharaoh, Mummy King, was also a Necromancer. And he flew.

Lieutenant Volstagg and Sergeant Amaroth made a run at the Mummy King, but his twin guards intercepted. The rest of us huddled together and tried to fight off the mummies, but every time we dropped on, it would crawl to its feet moments later.

Grendel stomped one, but it kept squirming. If we couldn’t find a way to put them down permanently this would be our last stand. And the Pharaoh kept hitting us with black magic. Things looked grim.

And then, Nexus spotted “blue lanterns” in the stairs and started firing back the other way. Here we were, overrun by mummies, and she starts firing off into the distance. Soon, half the team ignored the mummies litterally clawing our faces off. Sergeant Volstagg broke free and started making his way back to the stairs. Daynore followed, and Nexus sprinted for the exit.

She made it halfway before being blasted back by a massive gust of wind, nearly toppling me.

On the dais, Danica retreated before the onslaught of the necromancer Pharaoh and Lieutenant Volstagg battled the Mummy King’s guards.

About then, in desperation, Volstagg hit one of his mummies with a “Troll buster” from the WolfPack. Little more than an alchemically sparked fire bombs, nevertheless, the improvised incendiary did its work. The mummy died screaming.

These can be used with the Throw skill and have a range of 3/6/12 and do 2d10 damage to anyone in a Medium Burst Template. On a roll of 4-6 on 1d6, those hit also catch on fire. A miss means the bottle didn’t break, the alchemical primer failed. If the hero rolls a 1 on both his Throwing die and Wild Die, he drops the bottle, causing the burst template—and damage—to center on him instead. Each round after, for 3 rounds, anyone within or entering the MBT takes 1d10 damage, on a roll of 6 on 1d6 catches fire.

Fire.

Pretty quickly, everyone is torching the mummies. Until Danica takes a hit and drops her “Troll buster” on herself. Sergeant Amaroth finds one of the oil braziers and lights it, filling the area with light. I use the rags of one of the burning mummies to light another.

About this time, we hear Tempari’s voice ring out and the chamber is flooded with arcfire, ripping the mummies to ribbons, and lighting them on fire. Tempari himself unleashes a torrent azure blue lighting into the Mummy King. When the necromancy was down, Tempari dispelled the sand, clearing the air. And like that, the arrival of Tempest meant an end to the mummies, but also put us in an awkward position.

Also, Tempari had found reinforcements. There were five Tempest soldiers with him. Two elite guards, two scouts and one…one looked like a killer, but not a commander. They had cover, the high grounds, and honestly, we were pretty much dead anyway.

Lieutenant Volstagg, unaware of the Tempest’s arrival, he had eyes only for his wife. During the fight, Danica, Ranna, AND Nexus had both taken hits and gone down. The rest of us were in little better condition. Sergeant Amaroth faced the Tempest. For a moment, it looked like they were going to finish what the mummies had started, but, in a moment of uncharacteristic charity, Tempari waved his men off…and disappeared into the tunnel.

Lit by the warm glow of burning mummy corpses we took stock of our situation, and I worked on reviving our fallen members. The simple fact that I am now our team medic should be far more disturbing that it is. With work, I managed to get Nexus, Ranna, and Danica on their feet. Though, I am also concerned about the sheer glee Grendel took in removing Ranna’s armor. I believe we need another meeting on appropriate touching. First to attend should be Lieutenant Volstagg.

With everyone more or less on their feet, we stacked up again and started making our way back out the way we came in, following Tempest. I was scouting ahead when I heard the snuffle and growl of ghouls in the chamber above us. I counted five.

By the time I returned to report, Ranna had noted a new draft in the Mummy room that had not been present when we arrived. Fanning out, we searched the room and eventually found ourselves BACK at the King Mummy’s coffin. High on the wall, roughly where Tempari had slammed the necromancer into the wall, one of the stone panels was cracked…and air whistled through.

This deep meant that hole reached all the way up to the surface. So, Ranna climbed up, held by a giddy Grendel. The ogress lifted Sergeant Amaroth up to the cracked stone and he went to work with Nexus’ hammer. In a few minutes, he broke away the rest of the cap.

As it turns out, the stone was a cap over one of the air shafts covered, presumably, just before the Pharaoh was mummified. When the necromancer slammed into the thinner stone, it cracked. Hence, draft.

Unfortunately, the air shaft was narrow, far too narrow for anything but a child, or a skinny elf. Nexus was the first choice, but being pregnant, Corporal Daynore was volunteered.

But first, he stripped and Grendel helped smear him with grease. Yet, another concerning element of this team, our frequency with getting naked and greasy. Now slippery as a…well…greased pig, Grendel helped the nude, greasy, hammer wielding elf up to the shaft’s entrance.

It took…a while for him to crawl out. Below, the oil and mummy corpses died down…and went out, plunging us into cave darkness. Volstagg took the opportunity to goose Nexus, hardly the appropriate time…but…at least they would die amused.

We waited in the dark, hoping for a miracle when Lieutenant Volstagg shouted for us to move away from the wall. We scattered, sort of, falling over each other as the room began to shake. Then, the air shaft sudden grew larger, into a tunnel and weak, sandy light filtered into the room. A figure also appeared, smallish, swaddled in desert garb from head to toe…

Moments later, a knotted rope rolled out of the new tunnel into the chamber. We needed no more encouragement. Quickly, we all scrambled up the tunnel into the sandstorm above. I found it curious that when I first entered the desert, seeing a sandstorm approaching was somewhat unmanning. At this point, however, the sand was, quite literally, the least of our worries.

Raining Leaves 13th, 3126 (Early Morning)

Topside, we found a curious sight. First, Daynore was still in his birthday suit, now looking something like a living, anatomically correct, sand golem, as a thick layer of sands had stuck to the grease. Someone had mercifully given him a cloak, which likely helped keep him from being flayed by the swirling sands, but also made him look that much more miserable. the only part I recognized was those small, burning eyes set into a ball of sand slightly resembling his head.

Second, we were not alone. In addition to the swaddled goblin that bore a hole through meters of sandstone, there were other swaddled figures, camels, and a curious human man, nearly as large as Volstagg with a white beard, blue eyes and a Galean accent. Emris. He was in charge.

Once we were all above, and being excoriated by sand, the big man suggested we all mount the camels and vacate the premises. Behind us, that little caster who bore the hole, used magic to cause an explosion which sealed the breach, then let the sand fill back in. That hole would never be found.

I climbed onto the back of the surly beast, and waited. As soon as the others were mounted, my camel started walking on its own accord. Only then did I note there were no reins. Apparently, I was no longer in command of my own destiny. Though, I have not been for some time.

We traveled for hours, though cocooned in the sand storm, wrapped in cloaks, and feeling the gentle sway of the camel beneath me, I drifted in and out of consciousness. Sometime just as the sky lightened, so I assume dawnish on the 13th, we arrived a large rocky ridge. Not quite a mountain, not quite a dune…just a long, large stone outcrop from the relentless deserts.

We were led under cover of the rocks and the wind mercifully was cut off. There, we found more Desert Riders, and mounts. We dismounted, and were ordered to drop our gear, all of it.

Normally, I would have protested. But, all they had to do was wait half a day and we would all be dead or out from dehydration. So, I stripped, and dropped everything I owned in a pile with the rest. I was given a surprisingly soft linen pair of pants, a tunic, and water. The rest followed suit.

Once we were all unarmed, unarmored, and completely helpless, we were led through the twisting, ancient tunnels to a sort of information where we were all bade lie down. Every instinct screamed to remain alert, ready, but after so many months of exposure and pain, the soft palliasse, linen sheets, cool breeze humming through the tunnels…I slept the sleep of the dead.

Over the next few days, we were treated well enough, fed, watered, and our wounds treated, but not magic. The food was all dried or dehydrated fruit, nuts, and some unleavened bread. Nothing has ever tasted so fine.

Raining Leaves 16th, 3126

On the eve of the Emris returned. He asked us all to follow and, doing so, led us up to the upper levels of the tunnel complex. There, he showed us an ominous sight. All three moons hung in the sky, each glowing an angry red. As the height of the 13th hour approached, the three come together, growing darker until all disappeared into a single black hole.

Here, under that sky, Emris repeated what the crazed Xaos assassin had repeated before being summarily executed by Lieutenant Volstagg,

_“Red sands stained,

Lord of Xaos and war,

We stand before the storm,

Preparing your arrival.”_

He then introduced himself. In his younger years, he was an adventuring academic in the desert researching the mysteries which consume all who come to this desolate place. Thirty years ago, his caravan was raided by Desert Riders. Most of the others were killed, but he was taken hostage.

It was difficult at first, but the Desert people knew more of the history of the sands than any of the “civilized” cities. And so, after a decade of living among the Desert Riders, Emris was taken into the tribe, not as a raider, but as a scholar. Despite knowing more than any other of his order, he elected to stay with his new “family.”

He also introduced himself as Sir Emris of House Kahnar, Master Knight of the Golden Torch. More bloody nobility. It would seem they lurk everywhere…

Still, nice to have someone from back east here.

Afterwards, he led us to a larger room and answered what questions he could. Once our curiosity was satisfied, he told Lieutenant Volstagg that we would be meeting his lord, the Supreme Amir of the Desert Riders in the morning. With that, he left us to discuss out fates.

Volstagg said things. It boils down to what it always does. Keep quite, follow his lead, and try not to get us all killed.

We rested, but I for one was plagued with thoughts about the situation, and how we came to this place. Emris had said that we had, “Powerful Allies,” and suggested that the message of our location had been passed all the way back east to Colonel Wolfhaven. He also suggested that forces normally inimical were working together on this?

Perhaps this is less unbelievable as the map Corporal Daynore has been following in his head was planted there by an ancient Shayakar. And, up until “departing company,” we had traveled with a Tempest Magus for the last few months. And now we were to meet with the true master of the Desert Riders, one of the most infamous bandits in Shaintar. The others seem to just accept all and move one, but I must be wary. For all our sakes.

Raining Leaves 17th, 3126

In the morning, Emris fetched us personally. He escorted us for what seemed like miles through the twisting tunnels of this rocky, ridge camp until we came to a large, natural cavern. The riders had taken the natural pillars and carved them into the semblance of ornate colonnades. At the far end under a silk pavilion, and reclining on pillows, the Supreme Amir of the Desert People.

We approached, bowed and formalities were offered. The leader of these people was introduced as:

Prince Romar, son of Romar, Lion of the Dunes, Bearer of the Three Moon Pennant and Supreme Amir of the Desert Riders.

Volstagg had his own word soup.

We were offered fruit, wine, water, and hospitality. Which is good as they are less likely to kill us out of hand if they offer water first. Less likely.

We sat, ate, watched. Lieutenant Volstagg offered up four items he had collected over our journey: Prince Velthana of Almahrad’s scroll, the Emissary’s Language medallion, the ancient Golden Sun gold coin, and the carved sandstone baton given him by the Desert Rider named rider we last saw on the banks of the Oasis Lake back in A’Tora.

Prince Romar seemed to puzzle over these things. Ultimately, he demanded to know who had given Volstagg the baton. Volstagg told the truth, and the Prince seemed content. After a bit more bull, we were bade to remain with his people. We would be given some free rein. He would feed, cloth, and provide for us. And, when the time was right, he would call us back to discuss next steps.

Then we were dismissed, and Emris escorted us to our “new rooms.” I have a feeling we are going to be here for a while. Still, good a time as any to learn more about the Desert Riders. I imagine few have gained this much access to their stronghold and manage to live long enough to report back…

Serys

View
Campaign Report 96
Dark Pyramids

Ranger Serys

Report Filed: Raining Leaves 12th, 3126

Raining Leaves 11th, 3126

The Alpha Team woke in the ruins of the ancient village starving, barely hydrated. We had a source of wet sand, meaning water. But, extracting water from sand is a difficult process and we could only collect enough for a days worth of quarter rations every nearly 8 hours. Hard work for little payoff. And without food…

Lieutenant Volstagg ordered the team to spend the first 16 hours of the day working in shifts to pull as much was as we could. We pulled enough for two days at quarter rations. Evening was just falling, and rather than stay pulling water till we died of starvation or exposure, the Lt. ordered the team to “grab our shit”, and get moving…

…And that’s when the Xaos fire ripped through Volstagg’s body and turned the sand to glass.

A second shot ripped through the growing dark, punching through the other side of Volstagg’s chest. The towering Olaran went to one knee. Before the team could react, figures formed from the sand and surrounding us, drawing scimitar shaped weapons from the very sand. I have heard of the fabled Sand Warriors of the desert, though never faced them before. While the sand warriors pinned us down, the assassins crouching in the ruins launched crossbow bolts, and worse, that Xaos gun into our ranks.

Lt. Volstagg ordered a line, and Sgt Volstagg ordered cover. I dropped the two Sand Warriors around me, only to have more rise out of the sand and stagger toward me swinging their sand-glass scimitars. As the second rank of Sand Warriors rose around us, two robed and masks assassins sprinted around our flank on my end of our line, and I could hear another warrior assaulting Sgt Amaroth on the far end of the line.

Ranks of easily summoned and disposable troops held us in place, while their heavier forces flanked us. All this under the constant assault from their range assault. These Xaos cultists were acting far too tactical for a group of religious zealots. To my right, Grendel took an assassin’s blade to the knee. From his grimace, I could tell the blades were poisoned. More arrows hit Volstagg and winged toward Zathlan. Sgt Audric cleaved the commander on his flank, but the caster hit our line with spells to sap our strength while pressing hard with the sand warriors.

In the midst of battle,Tempari summoned his Tempest powers, firing off lightning bolts at the Xaos sniper who respond by snapping off shots which crackled against the Tempest Legion armor. Tempari’s return fire blew most of the ruined wall apart, the Xaos sniper with it. Their heaviest hitter down, Ranna sniped the second crossbowman.

Ignoring orders to maintain cover, I scrambled over the ruins, ducking blows from the Sand Warriors. Grendel dropped one of the assassins, and Ranna winged the Xaos commander. The rest continue to struggle against the Sand Warriors.

I cleared the first ruin, and closed on the enemy caster’s position. Half a dozen yards away, a staff appeared over the ruins of the wall we had taken shelter in the night previous, and the Xaos wizards unleashed a torrent of angry reddish gold fire. I manged to roll past most of the shot, but one clipped my shoulder staggering me. From behind, RFC Grendel roared and RFC Danica appeared, staggering toward the same target. Moments before she arrived, there was a flash of arcfire-like energy.

By the time we reached the Xaos wizards blind, he was gone. Teleporter. Instead, I snipped the last crossbowman. Seconds later, the Xaos caster dropped his spell, and the sand warriors disintegrated, falling back into the sand from which they sprang. Only one assassin remained. Someone had claimed the Xaos commander.

The assassin, stabbed Grendel and tried to run, but the ogre chased him down and knocked him out with a blow to the head. When I returned to the others after sweeping the ruins for straggling enemy forces, I found Corporal Daynore on his knees frantically digging into the sand around what appeared to be an obelisk. Sometime in the fight, the Xaos commander had lobbed a blast potion. Apparently, it had revealed the top of some black obelisk that now Daynore was insanely trying to dig out.

Others help while the rest of us took stock of the enemy provisions. We had food for the party. We hadn’t eaten in some time, so the food provided would last us…a couple days. Water, we had for maybe 3. I heard the others talking about this location being a supply or staging point. But, why? The only “water” source is wet sand 20 feet under the dunes. There is precious little cover, and no sign of any activity for…maybe years. No, my money bets that our departure from A’Tora did not go unnoticed. This group has been tracking us since we crossed the Black Sand Wall.

Just as we were wrapping up, Daynore suddenly snapped up, started saying something in a bizarre language, then he stood up, grabbed his kit and started walking into the desert. I’ve seen sleepwalking and this was similar. Lt. Volstagg went to stop him, but ended up choosing to let the mad adept lead us out into the night. Fortunately, though storms surrounded us, none struck that night. We walked until about 10PM before Daynore, stopped, and started pantomiming like he was drawing water.

Digging into the sand, Grendel found the remains of what might once have been a well, several thousands years ago. Then, Daynore lay down and went to sleep… Nothing doing, we made camp.

While we had a moment, I managed to patch myself up, then stitch up Lieutenant Volstagg’s chest. Alpha team are surprisingly competent warriors. When it comes to basic survival skills, they could use training. Once those of us still bleeding out were sutured, our attention to turned to the prisoner who had been unconscious a dangerously long time. I suppose that is to be expected after getting brained by an ogre with a club?

It took some doing, but I managed to bring the assassin back to consciousnesses. He looked around confused for a moment, before his eyes glazed over and he began to chant something in an older form of Aradish. Volstagg translated via the medallion lent him by the Emmisary.

“Red sands stained,
Lord of Xaos and war,
We stand before the storm,
Preparing your arrival.”

In older Aradish, he kept repeating the same phrase. Until, Volstagg to his head with a swift slice. I don’t blame him. Last time we let some crazed lunatic chant, he blew nearly killing Volstagg and Zathlan. Efficient and expedient.

That done, we slept in shifts. Though the storms raged all around, we were not hit that night.

Raining Leaves 12th, 3126

Off again in the early AM. Corporal Daynore, now completely sunstruck gathered his kit and just started walking, like he was following some ancient road. Lieutenant Vosltagg made the call not to stop him, so we all trudged into the growing light, and heat of the day. Apparently, at night, and while under cover, Tempari could shield us, but in the full force of the day, he could only shield most. Two Alpha Team members had to volunteer to enter the desert unprotected by Tempest magic…

Naturally, Lieutenant Volstagg sacrificed himself. And, Grendel. So, we trudged. By mid day, both Volstagg and Grendel were suffering bad heatstroke. By late the in day, Corporal Daynore veered off north and then entered a cluster of small and large dunes. He dropped his stuff, and began to pantomime…shopping? If what we all suspect is true, whatever was done to him back in Paradise had cursed him with visions of the Eternal Sands as they were during the Age of the Empire of the Golden Sun. Whatever this place once was, obviously there was community here.

So, with Corporal Daynore dreamwalking, the rest of us started searching the area. It didn’t take long to realize that the odd shaped dunes were covering something deep in the sands. So, we broke into teams and started digging… That is when Tempari warned us another storm was coming. I was working with Grendel and Sergeant Amaroth, frantically scrapping sand, when there was a loud crunch sound. Then, a hole opened in the sand, sucking the three of us down. We landed hard, half a dozen yards below. Fortunately, the sand provided limited cushion. Mostly.

However, with the storm approaching “above sand,” we had nowhere to go but deeper in. Tempari scooped up the others and deposited them down the hole. Moments later, the air was thick with swirling sand and the dying light from dusk was snuffed out like a life. About the time the lights went out, Corporal Daynore, “woke.” Whatever spell he was under broke. While it was good he was not longer a dazed liability, I still worried what power led him here. I fear the Adept is far more compromised than we know…

We broke out small lamps from our Ranger Kits and starting making our way deeper into this underground maze. The walls were rough cut sandstone, and the air was dry, slightly musty…like old sand. Hard to describe. I took point, and when we came to a junction, Lieutenant Volstagg ordered me to go left. The passage was narrow. Sergeant Amaroth posted at the entrance while I crept inside, their lights at my back.

The next chamber was larger…and smelled of old, dry rot. That’s when I heard to snuffling and crunching… Ghouls.

They were on me almost before I could react. I managed to reach the party down the narrow corridor, the snarling ghouls on my heels. Amaroth took the brunt with Volstagg and the archers, me, Ranna, and the support cast. The fight was intense, both Lieutenant Volstagg and Sergeant Amaroth got clawed badly, but everyone made it through alright…or so we thought.

With the ghouls down, we proceeded into the next chamber. Again, I was ordered left, so I proceeded left, then right. The chambers were connected by small corridors. The further in we went, the older, and mustier the place smelled. I was on point, Lieutenant Volstagg, Sergeant Amaroth, and RFC Zathlan with me when shouts and sounds of battle echoed from our rear. I stopped to wait for orders, when skeletons clattered out a side tunnel and attacked. Fortunately, RFC Zathlan snatched me back, but she almost went down.

Her husband shielded her. With Sergeant Volstagg and Daynore backing them up, the quartet had this battle covered. I fell back to support RFCs Danica, Grendel, and Ranger Ranna… But, I’m not entirely sure what they were doing. When I approached, I found Grendel on his knees groping into one of the smaller passages. Ranna was right behind him…in support? Danica stood just to their left, face in her palms. And, from within the darkness, I could hear the sounds of what APPEARED to be a skeleton…dancing???

Now thinking on it, I think dehydration and heat stroke had begun to take their toll. Even so, I knelt behind Ranna and fired arrows between the ogres’ legs. Moments later, Sergeant Amaroth arrived on the “scene.”

It took some doing. The skeletons were tough, but we managed to defeat them. After which, the team closed ranks and we continued deeper into the complex. Everything was empty, though I could tell most of the chambers had once been sealed, eons ago. Tomb Robbers had long since picked this place clean.

Finally, we came to the final burial chamber. The room was larger than the others. The walls appeared to have once been covered in stone panels, likely frescoes, but they had long since been removed. In the center, was a massive stone pyramid. It was a burial chamber. We were in an ancient Desert Tomb. But, oddly, no one had managed to break through to the sarcophagus inside. Curious?

This appeared to be a dead end. The team broke up and began to search. Grendel, Sergeant Amaroth, and Lieutenant Volstagg all seemed woozy. The rest of us were exhausted. After a careful search, the only the we found was a gold coin buried in the sand in one corner of the room. It was of the same ilk Volstagg had spent in the last town… So, we were right. The coins were looted from a tomb, or tombs.

The tomb ecology was simple. Travelers, looters, adventurers and the unfortunate had managed to find this place, before the recent storms so thoroughly covered it. That explained the Ghouls, and the skeletons, being the older dead. And, even I could feel the Darkness seeping from the pyramid in the room.

But, I was left with questions. Why had no one, over the centuries, managed to break into the pyramid here? Also, come to that, if this place had been covered for the last year by Xaos storms…who, or what, had the ghouls been eating when I stumbled on them? A fresh kill meant recent visitors…

And why did I sense a concentration of darkness in one corner of the room? Examining closer, I noted the cement around the seams of the stone blocks was…different…

There was more to the maze. I suggested to Lieutenant Volstagg that he should have the Ogres break through that wall. He complied without question, though, his eyes were wide, and he seemed…feverish…

Grendel and Ranna went to work, their clubs and hammers ringing dully on the stone. For a moment, I feared I had erred, but in minutes, Grendel smashed his club through the wall.

Their was a sudden rush of wind as the sealed tomb air, fetid with rot, filled out chamber. It was foul. Grendel, taking it in the face, doubled over and started dry heaving. The Darkness oozing from the hole was palpatable.

Ranna leaned into hole, holding up a lamp, reported that there was a ramp, and smooth black walls. From atop the pyramid where I crouched to cover the Ogres, I suddenly realized we were in grave danger.

Blame it on the heat, the dehydration, starvation, exposure, or exhaustion, but, I should have seen it before.

Even as Ranna leaned in to the hole, Sir Volstagg’s eyes rolled up into this skull, and he collapsed, unconscious. Burning with fever. I slid down the pyramid to his side and started stripping plate. The stench of rotting flesh made me gag. Ghoul infection. Our commander was infected, and close to death. I looked up and could sense the heat roiling off the Sergeant. His eyes also looked glassy. Already, putrefaction was wafting up from his Ghoul scratches. He was moments from falling to Flame…or Darkness. Damn!

Corporal Daynore stood in the corner, looking…faintly off. Being here was having a BAD effect on him. He could not lead.

RFC Zathlan was in the corner. Holding up, but already…the fatigue of all of this was wearing on her. And…something about her was… Bringing her unborn here was a terrible mistake.

Ranna blinked into the dark hole, Grendel retched…

Danica stood seething. He eyes hard, as always. She was a Golden Gryphon and nearly her entire command was now tainted by Flame, Darkness, or Tempest…

TEMPEST!

I looked around…Tempari was gone. Thinking back, I realize the last time we saw him was…entered the hole. The Ghoul attack. From then on…I do not recall even hearing his voice…

Damn.

We are in trouble.

Serys

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Campaign Report 95
Desert

Ranger Serys

Report Filed: Raining Leaves 10th, 3126

Forest Dance 23rd, 3126
We boarded one of those long, low desert ships. Odd thought that. The captain seemed trustworthy enough. Before shoving off, the desert rider slipped something to Lt. Volstagg. That, and the assassin declined to continue with the team. Not surprising. I would not have.

The trip was just under four hours. Beautiful, almost cloudless day on a cool boat ride across a placid lake. If were were not hundreds of miles behind enemy lines, cut off, alone, and being hunted…actually, I had a decent trip. The others…

RFC Zathlan/Volstagg spend her trip obsessed with fish. I think the pregnancy is affecting her mental state. Or, maybe not. Which is worse, come to think.

Danica prowled the ship like a caged animal. So, no change.

The Ogres, sat.

Sgt Amaroth was unusually quiet, though he did glower with his good eye. Again, no change.

Daynore bears monitoring. An adept and Farspeaking having their mind violated? One cannot compare such things, but I fear only Nexus has any clue of how he is feeling. Neither seem to be taking their…assaults well. But, she has more courage than most. He…will adapt.

The Lt did the rounds. I think it is a Ranger thing. Or, maybe an Echer’Naught thing. What do I know. The others probably need to ataboy. Considering the circumstances, Volstagg has held up fairly well. I just wonder what happens when he realizes that he can’t get us out of this alive?

Then we test his Olaran blood.

At just around noon we arrived in a large fishing village on the north-east shore of Oasis Lake. I took the skipper at his word and kept my hands inside the boat. Last way I want to die is swallowed whole by a 30+ foot croc.

At the docks we were met by local loaders. Good news, the disguises worked. As soon as we set foot, or more appropriately Tempari stepped foot, on the dock every linen wrapped worker dropped to their knees. Bad news, we would attract attention wherever we went. As long as we were not required to know the day’s passphrase…

The workers let us a pass, but a local Salar and is Paighan stopped us. With the necklace of translation that the Emissary lent Lt. Volstagg, we were able to convince the local guards to let us pass, but something gave me the impression that was not the last we would see of them. I noted, that they conformed to the patterns I observed in A’Tora. Each Salar officer led 4-5 guards. These were local, not Xaos; chain armor, helms, oval shields, and scimitars.

Once through the first security checkpoint, we found a community well. The locals cleared out as soon as we entered the area. Security was accommodating, but again, the high profile made me nervous. We filled our skins and moved on to a nearby outdoor bazaar.

Again, Lt. Volstagg took point, acting on behalf of the “Xaos Wizard” Tempari. He spent the Gold coin from the Empire of the Golden Sun. The merchant accepted it greedily, though, I fear that coin will continue to cause us nothing by pain. Still, it paid for our resupply, even with a camel. Entire process took no more than an hour. We were watched from corner streets and rooftops guards, but none intervened. Still, every officer and guard in the city was alerted to our presence. There would be NO way to slip away unnoticed.

After gathering supplies, food, water, medicine, and travel gear for two weeks of travel, we headed out of the town north and east. It was large, but we reached desert quickly after leaving the main residential areas. Just outside the town, we ran into another patrol. This, like the other consisted of the officer, and four men. All armed and garbed in local kit. However, this man was sharper than the others. He offered an escort for our party, but Lt. Volstagg declined on behalf of Tempari. That was a mistake.

The Salar did not challenge us, but it was clear he suspected out motives. And, because of that, the patrol continued to track us. We reached the Black Sand Wall at the north east corner of the clear zone around the Oasis Lake, but the cavalry patrol was a short, but respectful distance behind us. Our options were to try and ambush the mounted patrol, but we would have to eliminate every one in a single hit, or face a much larger force. Or, go ahead and start the Tempest Cyclone. At least that way, any fight would put everyone at a disadvantage.

Lt. Volstagg ordered Tempari to begin the spell, while we formed up around the Tempest mage.

In reality, the spell takes 2 minutes. But it seems like an eternity. As expected, as soon as the giant swirl of wind kicked up sand, the Raiders attacked. Five dismounted, crouched behind a high dune and opened fire with bows. The other ten in two groups of five, each lead by a Salar, flanked from the south and rode down out group in wedge formation.

You have to give the desert riders credit. Under normal conditions the attack would have been overwhelming and devastating. However, standing as we were in a literal hurricane of a sandstorm…much of the battle fell to lucky blows. Their numerical advantage disappeared as fast as the light in the midst of the storm, as the sun was blotted out by the sands. I was on the north side of our formation, so was spared the initial assault. In the blackness and roar that as the sandstorm I could make out shapes moving, and hear some screams and clash of arms, but mostly, I just fired at shadows in a black swirling cloud of death.

As the rider formation enveloped our team, the last four mounted warriors swung around, two attacking me, the last two managing to flank our position and make a run at the Tempari. All the while, from the dune, the archers loosed arrows into the storm. Most of their shots were blown wide off course, but enough stuck flesh to winnow our forces. A few found Tempari, but Corporal Daynore batted them aside with the large Targe he carries like a totem.

My of fight was fast and brutal, but I managed to put arrows into the attackers as our formation shifted ever north to cover Tempari from the flanking riders. Ever second I was alternately slammed into the ground, blasted by sand, or felt my very soul shearing from my body. But…after two harrowing minutes, Tempari released the cyclone into the Black Sand Wall, with predictable results…

A hole, however brief, appeared in the impenetrable wall of Black Sand. Around us, the bodies of the riders littered the bloody sand, their mounts running, shrieking in the storm. However, the bowmen continued to pour arrows into us. Lt. Vosltagg ordered retreat, so we ran. All but Volstagg and Ranna, who was just picking herself off the ground. At some point in the fight, she had been dropped, then the winds had picker up her massive body and hurled it into Volstagg and, I think, RFC Danica…

I sprinted with the others through the gap, and found ourselves on the far side, standing in an endless desert, baking in the noon sun. Joy…

Moments later, Lt. Volstagg and Ranna charged through, arrows whistling around them. The curtain wall behind us closed and were were alone, for the moment. However, intelligence reported that the Xaos warriors could navigate their own storms, so we had only minutes before the REAL threat showed up.

So, exhausted, we staggered deeper into the hellish landscape of the deep desert. And, the camel was dead with most of our supplies. We traveled well enough till nightfall, but the roving sand storms caught us.

Forest Dance 24th, 3126
As we were packing out gear to move out, the howling wind outside rose sharply. A sandstorm was upon us. Were it not for the arcing azure blue lightning protecting us, our flesh would have been stripped from our flesh as we huddled in our makeshift hole.

Four days, that storm tried to alternately choke us, smother us, grind us down, and toss us like ragdolls.

Forest Dance 28th, 3126
We dug out and moved that night for 8 hours until the morning of the 29th. And, we were hit again. This hell only lasted a day.

Forest Dance 29th, 3126
Dug out again, moved that night. We made good time, despite being low on food and water. No one complained. Not even RFC Zathlan. Respect. We bedded down early on the 30th, and waited. The storm was on us almost immediately.

This time, we were under for three days. No on saw stars until the 33rd.

Forest Dance 33rd, 3126
And again, we dug out. Without food and little water, we were in rough shape, but we could only move forward. We continued moving north and east overnight till the Raining Leaves 1st, 3126. Hit again before setting camp. Three days this time.

Raining Leaves 4th, 3126
Dug out and moved. By now, dehydration was getting to the team. We were on quarter water rations…If we didn’t find water soon… Hiked four days… Four days. Danica, Audric, and I gave up most of our water for the others… but it wouldn’t matter…

Raining Leaves 8th, 3126
Last leg. We don’t find water soon, mission is blown. Somebody spots structures in the dunes. We stagger for it. Location, estimate 30+ miles north and east of the north east coast of the Oasis Lake. All that we found left were some half tumbled walls, bits and pieces of adobe roofs. But, more cover than we had seen in weeks.

We hunkered down. Storm hit in the morning, the 9th. No chance to search for supplied. Lasted one day.

Raining Leaves 10th, 3126
Most of us were down, or as good as. Grendel and Ranna sussed out a well under the sand in a central square. They dug hard until they hit desiccated wood, and a well. We only brought up wet sand…but the best sight in the world.

No food. Barely any water. No support. Farspeaker still out of contact. This may be our last report.

Serys

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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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