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

Campaign Report 83
Tall Drink of Water

Report Filed 20th Falling Ice 3126

Sergeant Minor Amelia Whitestone

15th Falling Ice, 3125

The day after Trainee Grendel arrived, I assembled my team for our morning brief in the back room of the Barracks, only to realize that we could no longer meet inside due to the Ogre. So, we retired to the unsecured courtyard where I addressed the team and introduced out newest recruit, Newt.

Newt is a Brinchie merc who joined the Rangers after action fighting during the recent holding action against Shaya’Nor. On her paperwork, the 14th of Falling Ice, 3126 is her official date of duty, as with Grendel the Ogre.

Once normal introductions were completed, I explained out new mission. As has been noted, the plague referred to as Vainar’s Bane or Vengeance has burned through the elven population, particularly within the city. Over the course of two years, various research projects and the sacrifices of numerous Rangers resulted in a breakthru in which Malcom, our resident scribe, determined that the plague was, in fact, an alchemical construct, a poison as it were.

A the time, he lacked the information on combating such a weapon. But, after further research, and information gleaned during our recent food investigation, it would appear that a ritual has been constructed to create an antidote of sorts.

Most of the ingredients for said ritual have been reported as “standard”, whatever that may mean. However, two items in particular were deemed as critical: “Water of absolute pureness”, and “a sprig of Life-touched Angel’s Trumpet found on the highest peaks, in the darkest jungles, or within a forgotten glade.”

Few, if any, guidelines were offered. As Malcom explained the translations were mostly guesswork and ancient alchemical manuscripts are universally frustrating and poetic. With no further information I put it to the team what they wished to investigate first. After RFC Amaroth flipped a coin, we settled on the water.

A number of plausible ideas were offered, but the most likely was Sergeant Volstagg’s suggestion that such a think MIGHT be found on the isle of Og’M’Drakar. Having never personally visited the isle, though always wondering at the challenge, I approved the mission. There had also been reports of Tempest units spotted or encountered on the island. Regardless, this would prove to be an interesting mission.

I left Sgt Volstagg in charge of acquiring the necessary gear while I arranged “transportation” with Sgt Major Stormhammer and consulted with our library for the most recent maps of the island.

16th Falling Ice, 3126

We met before dawn the following morning. Per arrangements with Sgt Major Stormhammer, my team hiked to a location north of the city where the Sgt Major and his team were setting up an Arcfire Teleportation device. RFC Amaroth questioned the Ranger’s posession and use of such a device. In truth, there are many among the upper echelons who dislike use of arcfire, particularly Col Wolfhaven. However, high monetary cost aside, I have read reports which indicate the utility and accuracy of this device in particular.

So, I assembled my team in the ring of arcfire pylons while the Sgt Major powered up the machine.

Our raiding party consisted of:
Sgt Minor Whitestone
Sgt Volstagg
RFC Amaroth
RFC Moldova
RFC Daynore
Ranger Newt
Trainee Grendel

Sir Stahn has been pulled for active roster, RFC Zathlan is on medical leave.

The device fired, and my team was teleported, rather violently, to a location just south of the southernmost Guaridan Gather, Fylg. We were met by a Defender of the Gather, an Orc who never bothered to give his name. So too, we were “inspected” by a Shaman, female Orc, who seemed to allow our passing.

Once the inspection was completed, we were led through the Gather to a location north and just inside the outermost ring-wall. There, we were told to wait in a small, stone structure, a crude imitation of a human dwelling. I focused on prepping my gear. The others amused themselves, while Grendel waited outisde.

Just after dark on the 16th, we were summoned by the Orc and led out of the Gather to the bank of the Lake. There, we began a short few hour run around the south-west bend of the lake to a location away from the Gather. The hope, as I understand, was to avoid detection by any enemy, see Tempest, forces on the island.

One the spot was chosen four Orcs lowered a wide, flat bottomed boat into the water and my team, Grendel included, boarded. We were ordered to sit silently while the Orcs gingerly rowed us across, making sure to make no noise in the effort. I am impressed with their skill and discipline.

It took hours to reach the far side. We arrived sometime in the 13th hour.

17th Falling Ice, 3126

Beaching the boat on the sandy shore, I sent Newt ahead to scout out landing while the team gathered their gear and prepared to offload on the beach. We never got the chance. Newt had barely reached the berm when about 60 yards insland, arclances opened up on our position.

Most of my team was struck, though not badly. Two the Orcs were killed instantly, a third mortally wounded. I ordered the team to seek cover behind the berm as tracer fire lit the night sky. Then I heard the horn. So much for the Element of Surprise.

Even as we hit threw ourselves down in the sand, Newt flow over head, in flames, headed for the lake. She doused herself in the water, before being plucked from the lake and thrown to safety by Sgt Volstagg.

Pinned as we were on the beach, ever second brought enemy reinforcements closer. Our enemy were sitting in a rough, wooden tower across a fairly clear killing field. Three arclancers.

I sent Newt around the flank to try and scale the tower. I ordered Grendel and the Orc to wait for her distraction before rushing the tower. Volstagg, Amaroth and I would make a zigzag run, cover to cover, to try and draw fire away from Newt. Daynor and Moldover would provide ranged and magical assistance.

On my order, Newt took off and the distraction squad broke cover. We ALL came under immediate and accurate fire. Newt took hits, Volstagg was riddled with arcfire and one crysalite punched straight through Amaroth, armor and all.

My shield was cut to ribbons as I took the center path toward the tower. But, we had numbers and sheer dumb luck. My team survived, if barely, the enemy fire and Newt reached the tower, though she was, again, in flames.

As soon as she reached it, I ordered an all out assault. My plan of her climbing the tower and engaging the arclancers in melee did not work, but, to her credit, rather than put out the flames, she actually used herself as a living torch to light their tower on fire. Hell of the thing.

The rest of us assaulted the wooden supports, hacking furiously at the bindings while Grendel suppressed the arclancers. Daynore managed to drop one of the arclancers with a bolt, and distract a second.

We had almost managed to bring the tower down when one of the arclancers hit a kill swith immolating himself and his comrades in an arcfire cataclysm. Though badly singed, we all survived the blast.

The Orc fell back to the boats to seek reinforcements from the gather. My team took a few moments to quaff healing potions and tend to wounds, Newt being mostly burn tissue before we formed up and struck out inland.

Tempest forces had been alerted to our presence, but they did NOT know our destination. That gave us a chance to reach the sacred spring located on the map I had procured. Whether we would be able to get out again, that was a the question.

We hiked for about 5 hours. The terrain was savage, and wild. I could see the strain the magic of the place put on Daynore and Moldova. Even I could feel the energy of the place, chaotic and oppressive. Just after mid day, we arrived at the location indicated on the map and I could feel the change in the atmosphere. Things here felt, calmer, more…alive…

At the center of a glade was pool of pure, crystal clear water fed by a spring of melted snow… The first thaw of spring, fresh, untouched snow. It could get no more pure.

I stepped forward to fill the whitesilver canteen I had procured from Stormhammer when I felt a heavy hand on my shoulder. Sgt Volstagg nodded to Moldove. “She should do it. She has never taken a life.” I was impressed by the wisdom of the thought.

So, without comment, I passed the canteen to her, and ordered the team to spread out and form a perimeter. She seemed a bit unsettled, but, resolved. I could hear her praying to Archanon, odd, I never knew she had faith. And then, she dipped the canteen in the water, filled it to the bring without actually touching the pool. And it was done.

We were about to form up when Daynore asked whether that damned flower might also be located here. I ordered a five minute search. We found nothing, though our scout Newt alerted us to advancing Tempest troops.

Immediately we turned south and headed for the nearest beach. Speed was of the essence. We travelled another two hours before Newt fell back to warn us that the Tempest forces were setting up a wide search grid. The look on Volstagg’s face confirmed my worst fears. Not knowing where we had gone, they saturated the countryside in small teams working a careful search pattern that eliminated any real means of escape.

We had to punch out. Volstagg agreed. And so began the mad, harrowing run for the beach. We ran for over two hours, encountering Tempest ambushes every few minutes. Arclancer tracer fire light the forest, starting fires and shattering trees. Everyone was hit. Volstagg, to his credit shielded our most vulnerable members.

And, miraculously, we made it to the beach, and ALMOST escaped intact What happened next, I can only report as it was reported to me.

I had just hit the beach when an arclancer caught me from behind. I went down and my world went black. So too, Volstagg went down. I think Moldova as well.

Even as our bodies hit the sands, Orcs rose from the water where they had lurked for…hours? They rushed the Tempest forces closing on our position. Even as the Fylg Defenders engaged the Tempest, more Orcs threw sand blended covers off boats and ushered us onboard, dragging the fallen. As their men died on the beaches, we were rowed to safety.

Once on the far side, late on the 17th, we were again taken to the small, human barracks and our wounds attended to. Here, RFC Amaroth took command and acted ably.

20th Falling Ice, 3126

I and the others remained unconscious until early on the 20th. It has taken some time to recover, but I am well enough to move now, and so file this report. While I was out, Daynore contacted Lady Moonsilver and delivered our report.

I must say, Sgt Volstagg’s suggestions and willingness to protect his team, RFC Amaroth stepping up to command in our absence, RFC Daynore taking care to report with me out of commission, RFC Moldova’s actions during battle and her action at the spring, Newt’s selfless act by using herself to burn out the enemy, even Trainee Grendel following orders and holding position until commanded…I believe they are now ready.

That said, I have received orders to wait until the team is ready, I would say two more days. After which, I must take the team out and head west. A new ally and RFC Zathlan will meet us at our new location.

I will give Tempest one thing, they know how to fight like Olarans. Come to it, I am not sure in an all out war we can win. Not without help. I fear only the Kal Empire might have the military might to stop them. That is a sobering thought.

Sergeant Minor Amelia Whitestone

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Echer'Naught Watcher, 1
Issue 1, Falling Ice 1st, 3126

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Rogue Faction Play Four
Spring 3126
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Campaign Report 82
The Changing of The Guard

Report Filed 14th Falling Ice 3126

Sergeant Minor Amelia Whitestone

2nd Dark Moons, 3125

As mentioned in my previous report, my team, minus RFC Ramshorn, returned through the Ebonway to the basement safehouse of the, as of yet, unidentified criminal empire to rejoin our “allies” the werewolf brother of the new wife of our commander Colonel Wolfhaven, who also happens to be the absentee Lord Mayor of Echer’Naught, the Necromancer hired to transport us, and the smuggler/criminal Trokash who it seems has regular dealings with both the Col and Alpha team during prior missions.

The Werewolf, Necromancer, and Smuggler all survived the mission without injury.

We returned with Sergeant Major Magor Stormhammer who, other than nakedness and some loss of hair, survived the extraction well. He had previously received a mortal wound to his abdomen which he informed me he would get immediately treated.

Again, as mentioned, the Werewolf brother-in-law to Colonel Alexander Wolfhaven murdered the Necromancer in cold blood before leaving our company. Of the Smuggler, I know not. He managed to slip away quietly during the confusion of our return. I have no doubt that he will be a regular contract for out team, based on the Ranger’s current operational standards.

While the rest of my team recovered from their wounds, I exited the criminal safehouse to recon the area. Farspeaker Moonsilver had been in constant contact and had, per agreement, dispatched security and healers to our location as soon as we made the gate. They arrived within minutes, Wolfhaven Free Riders establishing a perimeter and Ranger Healers tending to my wounded.

Sergeant Major Stormhammer refused any onsight healing and, taking Ranger Moldova’s cloak, stomped his way back to the city. After which, I lost all contact until returning over a month later.

Once our immediate medical needs were attended to, I assembled my team, mounted up, and headed north to the Wolfhaven Barony. Considering the recent mission, and the fact that our activities were still “off-books”, my standing orders were to retreat to the Wolfhaven Barony and wait for further orders. As my team required to time heal and process the recent events, I declined to object. However, while Colonel Wolfhaven is in command of the Rangers, but pretends to maintain his Olaran duties as separate, as evidenced by the travesty of a court, it is questionably ethical for him to use his private residence as a retreat for his “favored” Rangers.

It being winter, and the ground still snowed, we made roadside accommodations along the way at a couple of inns that have begun to thrive on increased traffic from Echer’Naught.

4th of Dark Moons, 3125

On the 4th of Dark Moons, 3125 we arrived at the Wolfhaven Barony at just after dark. My team was given quarters according to station, not position within the Rangers. Corporal Ravenwood-Regillus joined her husband in their private suite. Corporal Volstagg and Ranger Nexus was also affored private quarters due to her elevated station. Even Sir Stahn, who had been in charge of securing and transporting our gear to the Manor also received his own accommodations.

Ranger Amaroth, as a Sworn of the House was bunked with the other Sworn in the barracks. Rangers Moldova and Daynore received smaller accommodations. I was offered a private room, but I declined opting for an office with a cot and a fireplace.

A few hours after arrival we were summoned to attend Baroness Wolfhaven. She graciously welcomed us to her home and provided refreshment. After which, my Rangers retired to whatever tasks or relaxation suited their interest and I resumed communication with Farspeaker Moonsilver and received updates on the war and other situations of potential import.

Of note, while making my rounds, I noted that the Wolfhaven Barony has been recently rebuilt using Stonesingers from Stahlheim, no doubt gifts from the Colonels many admirers. Though, I find it odd how little furnished the manorhouse has remained. It seems uncharacteristic of the Baroness to allow such details of fashion to escape her attention. Also of note, the defense of the Manor House has been assigned to Sir Regillus. He is, as of the 4th, only beginning work on the walls and ramparts, using, I might note, Tempest design and techniques with further assistance from Stahlheim.

We remained on “leave” for two more days before I received an emergency assignment from Farspeaker Moonsilver. A “package” was being stored at a nearby farmhouse and required Ranger security until it could be examined and retrieved. I was ordered to assemble my team and proceed east. From there, I would be given more instruction. Also, I was to inform no one outside my team, not even our gracious hosts.

6th of Dark Moons, 3125

I complied. We departed with an hour of receiving orders and proceeded on a days ride cross country until we reached the farmhouse. The trip would have taken half the time were I not forced to stop and wait for more direction at each leg of the journey.

7th of Dark Moons, 3125

Regardless, we reached the farmhouse late on the 7th. I approached as ordered and found RFC Leaora Nazir waiting at the farmhouse. She had no fire, no lights. I ordered Corporal Volstagg to stable the horses, Corporal Ravenwood to scout and I entered to find out what our mission was.

I should have been surprised to discover that the “package” was an overweight Olaran merchant, but I was not. I was, however, surprised that RFC Nazir was equally in the dark. She seemed to know less that I. Standard Ranger Protocol.

My orders were to secure the package, and so I posted Corporal Volstagg and Ranger Amaroth in the room itself with our “guest”, Rangers Moldova and Zathlan took the main room/kitchen. Corporal Ravenwood and Ranger Daynore took the back and front of the house, respectively, outside. I took RFC Nazir with me, not fully trusting her, away from the house. I had strict orders NOT to send or receive Telepathic communication from near the farmhouse. So, we marched out into the night to wait for the scheduled report.

We were gone just over an hour. When we returned, I found the entire situation had gone straight to the Abyss. We had just cleared the treeline when I spotted Ranger Amaroth, covered in wounds and blood, standing over the body of Ranger Daynore. Amoroth seemed out of it, possibly berserk. No sigh of other activity.

I posted Nazir to my right with orders to drop anyone coming at us, and approached Amaroth, sword drawn and ordered him to drop his weapon and surrender. He seemed…dazed, confused. Clearly he was not in his right mind. Due to his most recent mark with Flame, I was forced to assume that he had snapped and gone over completely.

His eyes started to focus and he seemed to regain some awareness, then, in shock, dropped his bloody sword into the snow by Daynore’s cooling body.

At about this time, Corporal Ravenwood turned the corner of the house. Following orders, Nazir hit her with a knife, Ravenwood responded by firing an arrow through Nazir’s arm. If the Corporal were fallen or puppeted, this situation was truly tossed. I gave Corporal Ravenwood a single order to stand down. She complied, to my relief, as did Nazir.

I am glad. My only other option would have been to close the distance fast enough and kill Ravenwood before she could loose one of her arrows.

Ravenwood stood down, but I did not lower my guard. I ordered Nazir to clear the house. Though I could not trust her, I at least knew that she had been with me when the attack happened AND if she were my enemy, she could have more easily attacked me while alone. In fact, I had hoped she would try.

Nazir emerged from the house and confirmed my fears. My team was down, the “package” gone. Though, strangely, though all had suffered head wounds, none were slain. Odd.

Nazir was wounded and, again, the most trustworthy at the moment. I ordered her to secure Amaroth and remain at the house while I tracked our attacker with Corporal Ravenwood. I ordered the Corporal to take point. If she were going to make a move, it would afford me a few precious seconds to reach her before she loosed.

Without error, Corporal Ravenwood tracked the attacker and the “package” to a clearing not far away. There, we came upon the “package” standing alone in the snow, gazing up at the sky, unmoving, not even to shiver. His posture reminded me somewhat of Amaroth’s, but far more…permanent. I approached while Ravenwood covered me. If that were a mistake, it would have been my last.

Coming around the man’s front I could tell he was dead. His lifeless eyes simply stared up. I touched him lightly and he toppled backwards into the snow with a wet thud. Stranger. He had not a mark on him.

In the dark, we could find no more tracks, so I shouldered the corpse and trudged back to the farmhouse with Ravenwood on watch.

Arriving, I dumped the body in the snow nearby and began to collect the other fallen Rangers and lay them in their bedrolls, making sure to cover them well. No sense having them die of exposure or frostbite while unconscious.

We tended to them, RFC Nazir, Corporal Ravenwood, and myself, all maintaining suspicious watch over each other. Ranger Amaroth shivered and remained silent, contemplative. We tended his wounds as best we could.

Over five hours later, Volstagg stirred. His body I had been forced to roll into the cot in the back. He was too heavy to move in his plate. Upon waking he shouted for me. When I entered, he accused me of attacking him and taking the man. At which point, I honestly had nothing to counter other than I knew that I had not.

We convinced him to at least entertain the idea that I was not an assassin and coaxed him out. He informed us that he had been watching the man read, Amaroth alseep in the cot, when I had knocked on the door and asked to speak with him. He let me in, I questioned him about the man, what he was reading and if he had checked for weapons. When I ordered him to search the man, he turned to comply when I struck him in the back of the head and made a move on the man.

Some time later, Ranger Moldova awoke and also accused me of attacking her. She said that I had returned from my trip with Nazir, asked her about her condition, commented on how quickly Ranger Zathlan had slept before knocking her out too. And then, presumably, striking Zathlan who was still out.

Ranger Daynore awoke next and provided the most useful intel. According to him, something posing as me had approached him and demanded a report. He was just informing it, me, that neither he, nor Corporal Ravenwood out back had seen anything when he realized that I had called Ravenwood by her first name, Samira. I am not wont to do so. That tipped him that it might be an imposter.

Sadly, the imposter realized this, “turned into a puddle?”, appeared behind him and struck him down just like the others.

Eventually, Ranger Zathlan also awoke, but she had little to offer. She had been asleep when struck.

As for Ranger Amaroth. He claims to have gone to sleep in the back room to get rest before his watch and then awoke standing in the yard, bloody, wounded with me threatening to run him through. He had no memory of the attack, how he received his wounds, whose blood was on his sword…nothing.

8th of Dark Moons, 3125

Before the excitement, Farspeaker Moonsilver had informed me that we would be receiving special reinforcements. A few hours after dawn, Ravenwood and Nazir alerted us that a stranger was approaching from the woods. I posted in the door, Ravenwood covered from a window.

The Stranger was a human man, dressed in nondescript travelling clothes, gray cloak, wide hat, and staff. I have less suspicious-looking ratzin. As soon as he approached, I gave him orders to halt while I sent RFC Nazir to confirm his identify. I had a feeling she would somehow know. I was proven correct.

However, he seemed equally suspicious of our team. And since we did not know him and he knew nothing of us, and Nazir’s word notwithstanding, he demanded that we submit to an immediate mind scan. And Adept. Unsurprising.

What was surprising is that he permitted Daynore to scan him first as a sign of good will. Once Daynore gave the nod, the Stranger proceeded to scan the team, starting with me and working around. He hung up on both Ravenwood and Amaroth, not unexpected. He also found Daynore of interest, but apparently, none of us were enemy agents. Though, he admitted any of us MIGHT be shades. Lovely.

Once done with the mutual mental under and over, we explained to him the situation, the attack, and the missing package. He immediately demanded to know if any of us had memory loss. I found his question suspiciously on point. We indicated Amaroth. Without asking, he probed more deeply and confirmed what we all suspected, Amaroth’s mind had been wiped.

So, with that news, the Stranger and Nazir went off to track the assassin while my team healed and made preparations to leave. Without a package to secure, our presence was hardly required. Only RFC Nazir returned, about a half our later. She explained our mystery reinforcements was tracking the attacker.

At this point it was fairly obvious that someone was running an operation that we were but disposable parts. In truth, I have little issue sacrificing myself or my team in defense of the Rangers and the Southern Kingdoms. I have zero patience for cloak and dagger missions. As the too neatly ordered farmhouse, conveniently well maintained but suspiciously empty was obviously some form of waystation or safe-house for such operations, I felt it only appropriate that we be compensated for our time. If my team is to be treated as mercenaries, then we may as well behave as such.

Before we rode out that morning on the 8th, we took all the supplies we could carry. I am certain the costs will simply disappear into whatever hole all the other costs for shadow mission fall.

10th of Dark Moons, 3125

We arrived back at the Barony on the 10th, and took up residence. Each day I requested orders and each day I was ordered to hold and wait. So, we waited. more than four weeks. At some point, I learned that Corporal Volstagg and various female members of our unit availed themelves of the “bathes” in the manor for a group drinking session.

It is not my purview to regulate the private lives of my men. And, we have been on leave for some time. The Rangers lax attitude toward fraternization, that said, I find it highly disturbing for members of the team, in particular one bent on attaining command to have such casual relationships with those he ostensibly does and will command. Though, I am in no position to comment or reprimand. It is simply a situation I must contend with and, inevitably, deal with when it presents issues. I much prefer the Olaran system.

13th of Dark Moons, 3125

Three days later, on the 13th of Dark Moons, 3125, Ranger Amaroth entered my office, early, to inform me that his memories had flooded back. He confirmed that my doppelganger had attacked. He awoke to find “her” lowering Volstagg’s unconscious body to the floor, no small feat of strength. Then, when he rose to engage, the “package” fled like a coward.

He and the attacker exchanged blows, but she/it, retreated to chase down the man. Amaroth gave chase, found himself outside nearly stumbling over Daynore’s body. Pausing to confirm if his teammate was alive or dead, he was struck from behind, then all went black. His report merely confirmed what we already knew. Though, still no word on who the “package” was, why RFC Nazir was involved, or who our “special reinforcements” actually was.

I doubt I will ever have clearance to know. Not that I particularly care.

1st of Falling Ice, 3126

We continued to wait, as stated for weeks. At the turn of the new year, 3126, Corporal Volstagg, again, hosted a Ribald. He invited the entire team, myself included. They attended, I did not. I believe Corporal Ravenwood also declined. By all accounts, most everyone had fun, got drunk, and generally made the fool. I am glad they are healing so well.

Both Ranger Amaroth and Corporal Volstagg sought me out to wish me well in the new year. As much as I appreciate the sentiment, I could not care less about the date, or celebrations. A month we have sat on our hands. Rest is one thing, this… We are being sidelined. And command refuses to provide any information.

I also think my Rangers are concerned about my well-being. Again, sentiment is appreciated, but their ministrations are ill-placed. The fact that a commander maintaining military bearing and non-fraternization with the troops is viewed with such pity spells doom for the Corps as a whole. If Corporal Volstagg is to be the measure of inter-unit relations, I fear I have no place here. Odd, I never suspected the Col of such liberties, despite his many other faults. Perhaps I am entirely wrong about him as well.

9th of Falling Ice, 3126

On the 9th of Falling Ice, 3126, Baron Wolfhaven returned from the the front with fanfare appropriate to his station. As per protocol, we attended his arrival. He conducted his greetings with an admirable efficiency. Then, invited all to eat. While dining, he expressed his desire to get on with the reading of RFC Ramshorn’s will as soon as possible. I could not have agreed more.

After a brief respite to change and clean, the Colonel invited us all into his private office. We were also joined by the Ogress Fekla who has been an on-again, off-again member of the team. She crouched outside while we all packed into the room.

I will leave the details for the Will to stand alone. His shield I turned over to the Colonel, per RFC Ramshorn’s wishes. After the reading, we hosted the last call. Baron Wolfhaven opened the floor, explaining his exemplary record. Nearly everyone spoke, even Sir Regillus. I spoke last. Despite my misgiving about his flame-touch, and his criminal record, Ramshorn had ever done his duty and he died as an Olaran. I could ask for no better.

During the evening, the Baron returned the shield to me and instructed me to pass it on to the newest of my team which used shields. And as each new member added, the shield would be passed on, protecting the least experienced of the group. I accepted with honor.

I left about the same time as the Colonel, though in the hall, I noted Corporal Ravenwood also stopping to speak with him. After enough campaigns, you get a sense of which attacks are going to go wrong, and which of your men have seen enough.

Feeling reflective, I went out to sit in the cold, and allow the brisk air to focus my thoughts. After some time, I was joined by Corporal Ravenwood. She informed me of the deal struck with the Colonel. Ravenwood, Lady Regillus, was transferring out, taking a desk job back in Echer’Naught. More important, she was with child. I hope only the best for her. She will be missed.

10th of Falling Ice, 3126

The following morning on the 10th, a small service was held in the Chapel, some of my Rangers failed to make it due to excess the night before. The Baron stayed only long enough before leaving for the front. Just before noon on the 10th, I called the team together.

First, I informed them that, at long last, we were to return to active duty in Echer’Naught. Second, all of those participating in the mission received a promotion.

I was promoted to Sergeant Minor

Corporal Samira Ravenwood Regillus was promoted to Sergeant
Corporal Gunther Volstagg was promoted to Sergeant.
Ranger Nexus Zathlan was promoted to Ranger First Class
Ranger Gracelyn Moldova was promoted to Ranger First Class
Ranger Durlan Daynore was promoted to Ranger First Class
Ranger Audric Amaroth, was promoted to Ranger First Class

Also, we informed the unit that upon our arrival, Sergeant Ravenwood would be leaving our company and that she was with child. The fact that she would retire safely, and with the hope of a family seemed to cheer the group. I do not believe I have ever witnessed a unit more pleased to lose one of their own.

11th of Falling Ice, 3126

We left the following morning before dawn on the 11th and rode hard. Later on the 12th of Falling Ice, we reached the city of Echer’Naught.

12th of Falling Ice, 3126

As we entered the North Gate, we passed a new stature in the courtyard. It would seem that Sergeant Magor Stormhammer carved a likeness of Ramshorn twice his normal height, and placed it just inside the gate, facing inward; a constant guardian and reminder of sacrifice. The inscription our unofficial motto: “There is no heroism without sacrifice.” That and RFC Thorgram Ramshorn, 3125

That statue had a sobering effect on the team. But, we returned immediately to the Regional HQ where I took the liberty of my quasi-official status to deliver a verbal report to the acting Colonel. I informed him of our collaboration with Darkness to recover Stormhammer, and the loss of one of our own. I then informed him of our second off-book mission that might have been a complete failure, though being completely ignorant of the actual mission, I could not say. I did provide a location of the corpse should he wish to have it retrieved. I then explained that I was leaving his office to deliver the report to my true commander, Sir Halten, and that he had, maybe, 3-4 hours to decide how the Rangers wished to spin the events.

With that, I made good on my word, riding to Sir Halten’s estate. There, we were ushered into his office within fifteen minutes of our arrival, a small miracle. I delivered more or less the same report, informing him that I had previously reported to the Rangers. As I was leaving, he asked about the nature of Ramshorn’s death. I explained that he died as an Olaran. His only comment was, “Surprising.” He also congratulated me on a job well done, another shocker.

Exiting his office on my own volition, I dismissed my team and informed them that, until told otherwise, they were still on leave. I then left. I can assume they went off to drink. That seems to be their new norm.

14th of Falling Ice, 3126

Finally, on the eve of the 14th of Falling Ice I received orders to arrive at Sir Haltens. Upon arriving, I noted a Ranger Trainee Ogre in the courtyard. Clearly, this was a new member of my team. I could think of no other reason why Sir Halten would permit him entry to his estate. I met with the Sheriff while my team waited outside.

Grendel, as the Ogre was named, was only the first of my new recruits which would be straggling in over the next few days. We also had a new assignment to begin as soon as my team assembled. Malcom request my presence.

Exiting the office, I introduced the team to Grendel. After ordered them to get him sorted, I left to meet with Malcom secure that they would take care of the Trainee. Though I am non-plussed about our new assignment, anything is better than standing around useless for a month.

Time will tell how the new members fit with the group. With Lady Regillus gone, there is no one left from the original team. Sad to say, I doubt most of us will be here within six months. The Rangers of Echer’Naught are not an occupation for those who care to have long, productive lives.

I will add an addendum here: Let it be noted that Ranger Muriel, Ramshorn’s Donkey also received a promotion to RFC. Moreover, despite a deep depression following his death, reports state that she seems to be eating now and is working on the front lines near Bearheart. I cannot say why I would care about the drunk ass who caused more trouble than half my team, but part of me hopes she also finds a way to survive her service and live out a long, happy life.

Sergeant Minor Amelia Whitestone

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Last Will and Testament of RFC Thorgram Ramshorn
Died Dark Moons 2nd, 3125

The Last Will and Testament of Thorgram Ramshorn

If you are reading this I am dead. In which I hope I did valiantly and for my friends. I’ve done what seems more bad than good in this world, and hopefully my death will settle any debts I owe the living. I don’t have much but what I do I would like to be given thusly.

To Samira, one of my oldest and dearest friends, I wish to give the dagger from VonD’s home. It’s nothing more than a simple dagger, but it’s all I have left of our dark demented comrade, who saved us from many a peril. And I hope to wish you a long happy life with Anaxellum. You two proved to me how love can bring together the greatest foes and make their bonds stronger than any hatred. Farewell my friend and I wish all the happiness to you and your loved ones.

To my dear friend Feklah, who once again gave me a gather to call my own, I wish to return the dragon scale. It is buried beneath Evorin’s tree for safe keeping. I hope I have done our gather proud and you also, wherever you may be. You gave me the gift of a gather, and I’m afraid that I will never be able to repay you this debt. Please remember me fondly and continue on the proud tradition of the kilt.

To Danica, I leave what may be more of a burden than a gift, but to her I leave Muriel and King. I heard during my absence you and Muriel had grown quite close, and I’m sorry that I never thanked you properly for looking after her. They seem like nothing more than simple mules, but in every since they were part of my family. I hope they both serve you well as they have me. Farewell my friend and watch after them both.

To Volkstagg I can leave only an apology. I know that those from the crimson wall have seen the horrors of flame and those touched by it, yet you still fought by my side. I am truly sorry for everything I have done because of this curse, the blood on my hands is thick and ever flowing. I hope that you may someday see us as comrades, no matter how different we were. Thank you for helping me protect my friends, for that I can never thank you enough. Farewell my large red comrade.

To Audric I am afraid that I have nothing to give, except my deepest gratitude for all you’ve done in protecting me and my friends. I know the pain of losing one’s family and I am deeply sorry for your loss. I wish you all the luck in finding those responsible and pray for your family to be avenged. Farewell my one-eyed comrade.

To Ryzak and Thomas I wish a swift and just sentence. I understand what it is like to be put in chains and wish you would not have had to endure such a thing. I believe what you did was only that which you felt was right, and I can think of no greater cause for action. I hope you both go on to live long happy lives filled with adventure and friends. Just know that you will always have a friend and brother in me, no matter where we are. Farewell my brothers.

To Dakota I wish her and her child a long happy life. I know you share the same fate as both Ryzak and Thomas, and again I wish for a swift and just sentence. I regret never meeting your child but I found great joy in knowing of another half-orc, and I am sure she will grow up to be as beautiful as her mother and as strong as her father. Take care of yourselves and know how proud I am to have known you and your wonderful daughter. Farewell my friend, may the ascended guard both you and your child.

Finally to the great colonel Wolfhaven, I return the magnificent shield you gave me and axe. I hope I was worthy enough to wield such a treasure, and I hope I was of some use in my time serving the Rangers and such a great man as yourself. Please pass this on to those who will continue to use it in the defense of others. I can never thank you enough for all you have done and sacrificed for me and all of Echer’Naught. Farewell my fearless leader and I hope you and the lady a long and happy life in Echer’ Naught.

I apologize to all those I did not mention by name, but I can never begin to thank all of you who have been part of my journey with the Rangers and within the walls of Echer’ Naught. I hope you all live long happy lives with those you love and cherish. And to my fallen comrades, I hope to see you soon with stories of all the great deeds done by the ones we have left behind. Farewell my friends.

Sincerely,
Ranger 1st Class- Thorgram Ramshorn

P.S. When you find Hawkesclaw, tell him I said hi.

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Campaign Report 81
Shivak Novos Echer'Naught Raid//Death of RFC Thorgram Ramshorn

Report Filed 2nd Dark Moons 3125
Sergeant Amelia Whitestone

2nd White River, 3125
Colonel Alexander Wolfhaven departed the camp, his wedding camp, just after dawn leaving his new bride and her retinue to make their own way back to Echer’Naught. The newly minted Wolf Guard broke down and Baroness’ caravan was gone by early afternoon. Sir Halten accompanied the good lady with his men. The Priest Thaleon and most of the others also departed by eve. Few remained.

My orders were to work with the “merchant” Trokash to begin preparations for our mission. Lady Eris Moonsilver contacted me, via Telepathy, and we arranged for constant contact from the point of the mission start. By necessity, Sir Regillus would also be aware of our operation, so he was instructed to establish a base of operations at the Wolfhaven Manor where the team gear would be secured until after the mission.

3rd White River, 3125
After a long night talking over all of the intelligence gathered by Baroness Wolfhaven, Madame Lillithien, and the Baroness’ brother during their pre-nuptial recon into Shivak Novos. I find her brother, Sir Lothal, to be arrogant and erudite, but factual, focused, and surprisingly easy to work with.

I must reiterate my severe misgivings about working with agents of Darkness, especially with the war on, but Colonel Wolfhaven gave me is personal surety that Sir Lothal, the Werewolf Lord, and brother in law to the Colonel, would cooperate fully. I have accepted this mission under protest.

Gathering the “Alpha” Team, we began to discuss strategy. Our most pressing issue would be to establish a entry point close enough to the city to make our assault possible, but far enough away that we would not attract attention.

Corporal Ravenwood remembered a conversation with her, now, husband during a romantic moment some time ago in which he mentioned that, were he to besiege Echer’Naught, he would select a position just north of the city as his avenue of attack due to the “unique topography” of the land. I would wish to point at that at the time of this conversation, Sir Regillus of House Wolfhaven was an enemy officer of Tempest, in the city without guard, currently in a romantic relationship with a senior Ranger NCO and was taking his personal time to analyze the most effective means of destroying the Ranger’s Regional Headquarters. Again, Sir Regillus’ surety, once again, came via Colonel Wolfhaven’s personal word.

However, the intelligence was accurate. I immediately dispatched Corporal Ravenwood with Rangers Amaroth, Zathlan, and RFC Ramshorn to scout the location and report back, It would be a 2 day ride both ways, with a day of work. I expected their return some time near the 8th.

Per reports of the scouting party: They arrived at Echer’Naught in two days, on the 5th. There, they scouted the ground north of the city and determined that it would provide sufficient, if not ample, coverage. I would also like to mentioned that we have been invaded multiple times via this exact route. I suggest, strongly, that engineers correct this error.

It was also apparent that the smugglers we have been hunting for months have also been using the route as it was close to and nearly directly North of the location they have been using to cross the wall. Something that should have been associated long before.

With this information, it seemed reasonable that the smugglers would also need a location to use as a jumping off point. And so, tracking back, they remembered an abandoned and razed farmhouse that had been an outpost of Red Store before being demolished by Captain Hawksclaw many years prior. Scouting the area, they found the foundations buried in snow.

RFC Ramshorn then discovered a hatch beneath the snow and when dug out, revealed a working cellar door locked with a new, dwarven lock in good repair. So, after over a year of frustrated hunting, we seem to have stumbled upon our elusive criminals, entirely by accident. Ranger Amaroth picked the lock, the scouts stacked up, and, without checking for traps, RFC Thorgram opened the doors which set off the alchemical bomb wounding Corporal Ravenwood and Rangers Amaroth and Zathlan.

The device also detonated secondary incendiaries within the cellar which quickly engulfed all the contraband ensuring that we will never know exactly WHAT is being smuggled. Though, we are certain it included Floaters as RFC Ramshorn elected to inhale the smoke deeply and subsquently suffered ill effects for some time.

Too injured to flee the scene, the Rangers waited for the Response from Echer’Naught via a Sgt of the Guard. He was easily convinced to forget the encounter and, after providing first aid, departed. With nothing else to do but wait, the scouts established camp and waiting for the flames to die. By that evening, they entered the charred cellar to find ashes, and a perfect location to launch our attack of Echer’Naught. It should also be noted that this would ALSO be a perfect location for our enemies to launch an attack against us. I formally recommend that we demolish this structure as soon as we complete our mission.

After this, the scouts left the next morning and rode two days to arrive back at our camp on the 8th.

3rd-8th White River, 3125
Basing our assumption that the north wall would be the best entry point, we began to plan our route through the city. Here, Ranger Moldova was invaluable. Together we mapped a route through the Warhouse District, across the Highway, through Middle Town to a position opposite the Sacred Grove. Corporal Volstagg offered his own house as a staging and rally point.

Due to the hazy nature of the correlation between our realm and Shivak Novos, we guessed at a great deal of the terrain as much might reflect the partially destroyed city from previous attacks. Here we analyzed and evaluated the intelligence provided by Sir Lothal’s “Team” and planned alternate routes should our initial become blocked.

We also spent a great deal of time discussing unique difficulties of Shivak Novos, prepped for dealing with the creatures and foes we would face on the other side. In general, we conducted the extremely meticulous planning that is the hallmark of Olaran battle tactics, rather than the looser, more impromptu Ranger methods.

Trokash also spent the time assessing our material needs and began to acquire our “specialty” items.

8th White River, 3125
Corporal Ravenwood’s scouting party returned, mostly intact. After a quick briefing, I ordered they clean themselves and see to their wounds. Afterwards, we reconvened and began to put the full plan into place. Also, the team made a list of what items they would need to trade in for Black Iron, as to not be detected, and took some time to arrange their Wills and Last Testaments. No one had any illusions that we might not survive this mission. However, our orders were to evacuate or, barring that, eliminate Sergeant Major Magor Stormhammer. Understanding, that if we were reduced to killing him to keep him out of enemy hands, we would also likely be destroying ourselves for the same reason.

8th-25th White River, 3125
It took Trokash over three weeks to acquire and smuggle our gear to our camp. Keeping in mind that he was illegally transporting Black Iron and contraband Arcfire so that we did not alert anyone watching the Ranger supply chain of our operation. I would like to point out here that, though it took him a few weeks, Trokash was able to easily evade all our customs efforts and deliver HIGHLY dangerous illicit goods on demand. I formally request that we review and improved our customs enforcement. If he can do so for us, then our enemies certainly are easily evading our efforts.

He also delivered specially designed arcfire blast belts which I distributed to Corporal Volstagg, recently arcfire trained. He took two, I took two, and two were secured in our gear as a last ditch failsafe. If any, or all, of the team required utter destruction to avoid capture or use by the enemy, these devices would ensure nothing would be left.

25th White River, 3125
Breaking camp, my team departed Evoran’s Sacred Tree for our staging area north of Echer’Naught. Due to last minute complications, Sir Stahn was dispatched with Sir Regilus to secure my team’s “normal” gear at the Wolfhaven Barony. Meanwhile, my team departed geared almost entirely in Black Iron, or other suitable materials. Of their “normal gear” only Thorgram brought his Shield and we had ensured that it would be protected from detection for at least 3 hours. Ranger Daynore also brought his Focus Crystal. Other than that, we took nothing of our own.

1st Dark Moons, 3125
Through waist deep snow we marched by foot to our staging grounds, arriving at night. Setting up camp within the cellar, Trokash departed to collect our final member responsible for “transportation” to and from Shivak Novos. We setting in to keep watch and wait. Sir Lothal declined to remain and “went hunting.” It required the strictest self discipline not to destroy the beast, but I was under direct orders, from Colonel Wolfhaven, to cooperate with this Werewolf. So, I obeyed.

2nd Dark Moons, 3125
Finally, Trokash arrived with a Necromancer who had agreed to operate an Ebonway for our use. Understand, that our lives depended on a “smuggler,” a werewolf Lord, and a Necromancer. My team operated admirably under such difficult conditions.

We gathered in the basement and everyone geared up as the Necromancer went to work opening a portal to the Gray Lands. I cannot put into words here the horror of watching the Necromancer work. I can only say that I was not reassured in the least when Trokash flippantly assured us that the souls used to power this profane spectacle came from no one we knew. Orders alone prevented me from ordering my team to eliminate them all.

But, the ritual was completed, as arranged and wishing to see this entire ill conceived travesty done with quickly, I ordered my team through the Ebonway, myself leaping first. Ebonways are cold, terrifying, and deathly. I am certain that just using one has corrupted my entire command.

Arriving on the other side intact, I was surprised to find that no one was waiting to ambush us. Within moments, the rest of the team arrived, the elves looking worse for wear. I almost considered that things could be turning around when Ranger Amaroth informed me that he was “flame touched.” Apparently the shock of the portal was nearly overwhelming. Only anger and rage gave him the strength to see it done. And that, it would seem, is all it takes to damn his soul.

Nothing to do but complete the mission. I sent Corporal Ravenwood to scout. She cleared the area and we left our hole and headed for the city.

Shivak Novos is dark, dreary, spooky, cold, and ominous. We could barely see a hazy moon in the overcast sky. The ground was blanketed in black snow, and in the distance werewolves howled. The city seemed the same, but twisted and evil.

Quickly, we made our way to the cut and went to ground. From there, Corporal Ravenwood made it to the wall, climbed the tower, incapacitated one of the Shayakar guards, and dropped the ladder for the rest of the team.

One by one I sent my soldiers up. First the knights in their heavier armor, then the lighter troops. Lastly myself. To my surprise, we all made the top without alerting any guards. I dropped the rope down the inside wall and started sending the heavies over the top. It took time, but eventually we all arrived, Corporal Ravenwood bounding down the wall last.

We were in. The next two hours were a harrowing series of near catastrophes narrowly missed. Much of the city was altered, more than we expected, but Ranger Moldova was determined and, with luck, we arrived at Corporal Vosltagg’s house without engaging any patrols. The mission was going far better than I had expected.

Another stroke of luck, Volstagg’s key worked in the lock. Corporal Ravenwood scouted, and found it filled with the refuse of half eaten carcasses of unfortunate souls but otherwise empty. Here, I sent Corporal Ravenwood, and Rangers Daynore and Zathlan to the roof. Being elves, they could not enter the corrupted groves, so they provided overwatch. Also, should everything go wrong, Corporal Ravenwood would be able to report to her husband before she was slaughtered.

The rest of our team, myself, Corporal Volstagg, RFC Ramshorn, Audric, and Moldova stacked up near the south window. With a bit of work, Volstagg and I pried the pane loose, providing ourselves a direct line of assault to the corrupted grove.

My team was going back over our plan when Corporal Ravenwood gave the go signal. With that, my team dashed across the street and into the grove…

…we were immediately engulfed by an impenetrable mist. I could only locate Corporal Volstagg and only because he stood right beside me. In fact, when he grabbed my shoulder I nearly ran him through. I ordered a halt, and one by one the rest of my team stumbled into us. Together again, we staggered through the fog near blind.

Our first obstacle was a dark and twisted tree that suddenly animated and tried to kill us. Breaking free its ensnaring roots, we pushed forward, the tree doggedly pursing. And then, suddenly, we were there.

Before my I saw a ring of Necromancers around two black obelisks. Chained between them was a naked Dwarf who was thrashing and writhing as Vainar’s servants attempted to cleave his soul. Around the dwarf were four black armored knights, and hovering above like putrefied crows, specters. There was also the corrupted tree hunting us like a hound.

RFC Ramshorn engaged the tree while I, Amaroth, and Moldova engaged the knights. Corporal Volstagg broke free, made and end run around the knights and hurled a belt of bombs under Stormhammer. At that instant, I assumed our mission would be complete and we would be down Volstagg, but miraculously, both man and dwarf survived the cataclysm though one of the knights. was less fortunate.

Freed, and angry, Stormhammer blasted the specters into vapor, ordered everyone to pull out and began to make his way back the way we had appeared, with Volstagg providing cover. I and RFC Thorgram eventually “killed” the tree while the others whittled down the knights and the necromancers.

Using another belt of bombs via a handoff from Volstagg, Stormhammer blasted one of the Necromacers and a knight while we took down or staggered the other knights. Then, with the leader of the ritual unleashing a torrent of black death, Stormhammer ordered us to run for it while he teleported out with Volstagg.

About this time, I took a bolt and lost consciousness.

However, I have since been made aware of what happened next. Miraculously, we the entire team made it out of the grove along with Stormhammer. RFC Thorgram carried me. As the team exited, however, a pack of werewolves waited, but were instantly cut down by Corporal Ravenwood’s team. Then, Stormhammer summoned his Hammer from…somewhere, entered Volstagg’s house like he lived there, and bashed open a drain to reveal access to the sewers. He ordered everyone inside.

Once below the streets, Sergeant Major Stormhammer put Volstagg, badly wounded as he was, and Thorgram up front to clear the way. Amaroth and Zathlan held the rear, while Daynor, Moldova, and Corporal Ravenwood provided cover. Stormahammer carried me and supported as he could.

The fight took over and hour as the team carved its way through sewers rotten with ghouls and zombies, but, just under four hours after arriving in Shivak Novos, the team arrived beneath the north gate.

Corporal Volstagg was badly wounded, Amaroth had taken blows and was shaken by his sudden new bloodlust, I was out, Stormhammer had a corrupted wound that weakened him, and the others were weak, tired and banged up, for the most part. Daynore and Ravenwood making out the best, I think.

Here, I failed…

If there were any chance for us to escape, someone would have to stay behind. I knew this going in. It was obvious. But, I expected, foolishly, that when this moment came I would take the gate. Better to die here..

But I was never given the choice. And so, RFC Ramshorn volunteered to die for us. And, that was it. Sergeant Major Stormhammer strapped his with the rest of the bombs and the team assault the gate from below.

RFC Ramshorn took out one of the guards while Amaroth and Volstagg the other. Corporal Ravenwood, Zathlan, and Moldova lay down covering fire as the team made a break for the portal north of town. Of course, everything went wrong there a the end. Volstagg and Moldova (I think) went down under a hail of fire. Stormhammer, having to make a choice, grabbed Moldova and Teleported away. But, the strain caused him to collapse just out of bow range.

Amaroth got clear. Daynore and Zathlan got Volstagg up and everyone staggered away while, alone, Thorgram faced the oncoming hordes.

He triggered his newfound power and literally grew to fill the gate preventing anyone from pushing past him. And then her fought, killing one werewolf after another as more enemies arrived. I was just being revived, when Thorgram finally succumbed to his wounds. Literally, as werewolves tore him apart, he pressed the button on the arcfire bombs and then vanished in a fireball of orange-white light.

Thorgram took out the wolves, the gate, the towers, the archers, the dwerges, and basically everyone within a few blocks. Eventually, the undead would crawl out of the rubble and come hunting us, but by that time, my team would be long gone.

In fact, we were all, those who could even stand, staggering to our feet from the blast when a meteor whistled out of the air and slammed into snow near me, smoking and hissing. I could scarcely believe my eyes. Thorgram shield, indestructible, returned to us. I hurled away my Black Iron piece of Shite, grabbed Thorgram’s shield and ordered everyone through the portal. We scrambled down into the cellar, and fell through that inky black hole, back into our own.

Most of the team was barely able to stand, and I know those wounds will become infected soon, if they have not already. We all just fell through, most lying where we landed, some crying, some angry, and some strangely calm. It was then that the Necromancer closed the Ebonway and turned to received payment. Sir Lothal thanked him, or her, and then beheaded them in a single blow, before saying to Trokash, “No loose ends.” Then he was gone.

Had I the strength, orders or no, I would have killed him AND Trokash. But, I could barely stand. So, I sat numbly holding Thorgrams, still warm Shield and felt the heat slowly fade. And then it went cold, dead.

Tomorrow morning we will begin our hike to the Wolfhaven Barony. There we will destroy this gear, reclaim our own and process what has happened. The only question now is how many others will we lose over this?

They would not accept my resignation before, but I am unsure whether I will give them a choice this time. Corporal Ravenwood looked sad or angry enough to quit. Volstagg, something happened during the battle and he seems more unsettled than I have seen. There is of course Amaroth’s “condition.” He will certainly ask for a leave, or quit. Moldova seemed…reflective. I know of her personal convictions. Perhaps this has shaken her? Stormhammer’s wound looks beyond infected. So too will all of ours, as I stated.

With the loss of Kura’Kai, and now this, we will be lucky if this team manages to retain three members by 3126. My money is on disbanding the team entirely. In fact, after the first few resignations, I will propose as much, before I tender my own.

I only pray it was worth it. It had better be.

Sergeant Amelia Whitestone

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Campaign Report 80
The Wedding of Baron and Baroness Wolfhaven

Lord Mayor, Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander

Commander of the Legio Heroes

The Sacred Grove of Evoran Que’kassars, Landra’Feya

Second Day of White River, Year 3125 Under the Light

The heart of an Olaran is Duty and Sacrifice. We are born into this, forged, tempered into warriors without peer. But what happens when you have more than one Duty? How much can a man Sacrifice before there is nothing left?

I left my last report on the 26th Day of Gray Winds. In time, I know this information will become public record, so I shall include it here, but delay its filing officially, at least until such time as it becomes necessary. Though, I must say that I utter detest the false pretense and deception necessary given my current situation. I am more troubled by how comfortable I become in its execution.

We know now that Sergeant Major Magor Stormhammer was abducted during the recent raid by forces of Darkness. The where and when of this abduction remains unclear, but I am now convinced that he is, in fact imprisoned in Shivak Novos, the Gray Lands, but that I will get to in due time.

Under the pretext of a “social visit” my wife left Echer’Naught in the company of Madame Lilithien and under the protection of the Alpha Team of Rangers, with Sir Halten’s approval, if not blessing. For security reasons, the Rangers were kept in the dark about the entire operation. They acquitted themselves admirably.

They rode hard and fast and did not stop other than to leave my betrothed and her companion in a tavern on the outskirts of Kore in the company of a man they knew not. And then, they made all haste to return, making a two day trip in a day.

The mysterious stranger was none other than my Lady Elyanna’s brother. A werewolf of some power, and her constant guardian. He and I have an arrangement when it comes to his sister, though I fear her mission stretches the limits of that contract.

In short, if, as we suspect, Stormhammer is in Shivak Novos then it is impossible for our forces to scout him out. Any length of time spent in that dark realm risks corrupting my Rangers. Not to mention, it would be next to impossible for them to blend in sufficiently to gather any valuable intelligence.

That said, my bride to be, madame Lilithien and, of course, her brother could all pass, more or less, without incident. At least, that was the hope. And, over my STRENUOUS objections to the plan, Lady Elyanna convinced me to approve her reckless endeavor. A “Wedding Gift” I believe is how she phrased it? Of course, were it not for Lady Moonsilver’s guarantee that she would remain in constant contact, I would never have conceded.

Yet, I did so. To prevent agents of Vainar from breaking the Sergeant Major and endangering countless lives, I committed my own bride to the cause. Worse, by sending her to Shivak Novos, I risked her losing to her Dark Gifts, forever condemning her soul to Darkness…and any chance we would ever have at being together…

How much sacrifice is too much? Perhaps I will never know.

So, while waiting to hear about the death or fall of the most important person in my dreary little world, I focused on other marginally less depressing efforts, namely the complete collapse of our northern defense and the impending invasion of an unstoppable Dark Horde into Olara. Unsurprisingly, the ArchCardinal had made an offer of Alliance, though I cannot see the Southern Blades agreeing to that. Not after Archanya and Mindoth’s Tower.

I would vote yes, but I have faced hopeless wars. The Blades no nothing but Victory. I pray they never taste the bitterness of defeat. Still, I dispatched correspondence to Camp Wolfhaven and my other allies. If they offer of Parley is refused, I must march immediately north and try to beat Darkness to the northern pass. As always, the Forges may offer shelter from the coming nightmare. If the Blades show unexpected wisdom, then I may consider a more radical maneuver, perhaps flank through Stahlheim to the West, or even a naval attack from the East…

Time will tell. Missives dispatched, I went to speak with Widow Hawksclaw with a request to take the lead in planning the Wedding. My betrothed had apparently made the arrangements prior to her mission. She is imminently prepared.

With the Wedding details arranged, I then focused on security…and other concerns. Here, I turned to Sir Halten. Odd as it might seem, I have come to note that his office seems less…susceptible to infiltration than the Rangers. I think it less that his forces are better and more than since he lost the bid for power, fewer enemies seek to pry into his private affairs. Add to that he is in command of the joint team made him vital to my preparations.

Our meeting was cordial and brief. He agreed to my proposal on the condition that I immediately approved the promotion of RFC Volstagg on the grounds that the team would require solid leadership should the worst befall them…

I agreed and so, he, or his man, drafted the orders specifically to our agreed upon parameters. I have yet to see tighter security around any venture. I only hope that our enemy is satisfied to believe in the false pretense we established.

Using my own wedding as a smokescreen. Duty. It weighs like a mountain.

And so, on the following morning, 27th of Gray Winds, Sir Halten summoned his Rangers and delivered to them my orders, and Sir Volstagg’s promotion. They were given a day to get their affairs in order. A day I also put to good use.

At just after dark, I summoned my new Sworn to my Manor to conduct their official induction into the House Wolfhaven. In other times, it would have been a more elaborate affair, but sadly, I lack either the interest or time to put on such airs. So, I called them in, recited the oath and gave them each the traditional Whitesilver Cavalier Parrying Dirk with the Wolfhaven crest embossed on the guard. I could not help feeling a pang of pain from the memory of presenting similar blades to my first sworn, Aradove and Rah-Sahn. May my Lady the Silver Unicorn keep these men safe and save them from such fates as their predecessors.

Though, my prayers are likely wasted. It seems the blood tax may never be paid in full.

After the Sword departed, I had Sirs Stahn and Olmaran attend. Again, the oath was repeated and to each given a traditional Whitesilver Cavalry saber, crest embossed at the base of the blade. With that, my duty to my House was completed.

And so, I set down to write out invitations and pass-phrases for my impending nuptial, assuming my bride survived the next few days.

The Alpha Team departed Echer’Naught heading North the following morning, on the 28th. Though, I know they were unaware of their final destination, save the Sergeant who was under strict orders NOT to speak of it where she could be scryed.

On the following day I received word that the Heart of Light, Mistress of the Council of Archanaya Istella Nollan herself drafted a letter refusing the ArchCardinal’s offer. And so, orders were dispatched for all available forces to assemble at Camp Wolfhaven and prepare for a winter march north to the pass. I would be arriving within two weeks.

I only needed to get married and petition the King of Olara before assuming command of the armies. Just a few minor errands.

Only upon arriving later did I learn of Flames unexpected attack on Alpha Team’s camp just a day from their destination. The skirmish was fierce and bloody, but none of the team was seriously injured. Ceynara’s Temple must be found and purified…but that is a battle for another day. For now, we must focus on the greater threat of utter annihilation.

Over the next few days, select guests departed for the secret location of my wedding. Sir Halten, of course, and his retinue. A unit of the Wolfhaven Free Riders for added security. A few notable allies and Lords I need to garner favor with to ensure support in the coming battles. And, of course, Fateweaver…

I departed on the 31st, a day after my team was attacked and made good time heading north-west. To be honest, I had not slept since I watched my beloved ride away into the wintry night. I cannot describe the sheer and utter joy I experienced in seeing her again as she joined our column. My heart soared to see her well.

Per our arrangement, Madame Lillithen returned to Echer’Naught and her son. However, Lady Elyanna had picked up a new companion, the familiar, but little understood, Master Trokash who greeted me warmly and offered his sincere congratulations on my impending marriage. Together, with Elyanna’ brother lurking along, we arrived at the site of Evoran’s Tree on the eve of the 33rd of Gray Winds.

My trip occurring without incident.

We arrived to find the encampment just as I had ordered. The Free Riders forming a tight perimeter, my Rangers patrolling the grounds and…Sir Halten already deep in his cups. It was a glorious night, chill and crisp, snow blanketing the ground, save for the green carpet in a near perfect circle around the tree.

Rising from a bed of lush grass and wildflower rose Evoran’s Everwood Tree, branches spreading out like welcoming arms. And around the trunk winding like wire wrapping on a hilt was the thickest vine with the most fragrant flowers and the sharpest thorns I have ever seen.

There was also, per my instructions, a fine tent…with a bit of field repair, waiting under the tree. I learned later that the tent was a gift of Sir Volstagg. Sergeant Whitestone informed me that he acquired it special order. The stitching was added by Ranger Daynore. Apparently the command tent had been the first casualty of their skirmish with Flame. The second being Sir Volstagg himself who received and unexpected and unwelcome ride on a minotaur’s horns.

Seeing so many friends and family about both filled me with a sense of joy, but acute sorrow as well. I had always hoped that Rah-Sahn, or Rouark would stand beside me when I took my vows. Even Celebor…

But as I struggled to choose a man, or woman, of honor to attend my on this most auspicious day it occurred to me that everyone I loved was sooner or later ripped from me. So, to honor their memory, I decided to walk the isle alone and unattended… Just as the empty cup signifies the lost brother during a Last Call, so too was my conspicuous isolation a dedication to every man and woman who has been lost on my orders.

Sadly, that list is soon to grow long indeed.

My bride was attended by Lady Moonsilver and Widow Hawksclaw. Both ladies resplendent in their red gowns…

Lady Elyanna stayed within the circle of protection offered by Evoran’s power, in Volstagg’s tent, while I spoke with my soldiers encamped around.

In the morning, on the 1st of White River, I was preparing myself for the day when a shout went up from our sentries. I stepped out of my tent and shielded my eyes to the East when I saw the fast moving sun streaking toward the encampment.

I was filled with both dread and excitement in that moment. For I alone knew what doom was approaching and part of my idly wondered if Thaleon would kill me or not. Like a Celestial Angel of the First Host, he, quite literally, slammed into camp, startling all. I braced for the onslaught.

Thaleon was madder than even I had suspected, but it was tinged with worry and relief. Apparently he had “stormed the Celestial Halls” seeking my soul after my “death” Something in the back of my mind niggled with that…did I remember hearing that…or…but it was gone as soon as it had come.

Mid tirade, he embraced me like a brother and I could feel his relief at the confirmation that I was, in fact, real. With so may of those I have loved taken, it was good to see such an old and dear friend. Especially on this day.

Only then did I notice the growing ring of armed and very nervous guards standing about. I gave them the all clear and they reluctantly sheathed their weapons and resumed their post. I hadn’t the heart to tell them it would have done them little good against my brother, but…oh well.

Thaleon left to prepare as did I.

At 10, under a clear, blue sky and the bows of Evoran’s tree we gathered. Surrounded by friends and family, standing before my confessor and brother, Thaleon, I waited surprisingly nervously for my bride.

When she appeared at the end of the isle of guest, my heart stopped. Dressed in a cream colored gown, fringed in lace, tooled in flowers she was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. Time seemed to slow as she slowly glided toward me. And, I should know…I have seen time slow…more than once.

She finally arrived smelling of flowers. He violent eyes shone bright as we clasped hands and turned to face Thaleon. In true Olaran fashion, even if his is a winged elf, Thaleon was brief in his address, though his words were warm and kind. I also felt his power surge as he asked for our oaths…

I had not seen him since achieving a state of Archon. Truly he is blessed of Archanon, as am I of my Lady Celesia.

With a love I can scarcely describe, I pledge my life, my honor, and my love to my Bride and she to me. Then with a kiss, it was done. I was a married man. It was…surprisingly easy. Strange, everything else in my life has been such a struggle to simply say a few words and have it done…

Odd…

Yet, that was it. Thaleon presented us as Baron and Baroness Wolfhaven to the crowd and we left the circle of Evoran’s protection for the reception. Fateweaver serenaded us with song as guests drank, danced, a few brawled, but all appeared to enjoy their time. I noted that Anaxelum and Samira seemed to enjoy seeing each other.

It pains me to know that they too will be separated by this war. Like so many. Though, I hope she is at least pleased somewhat to learn of his recent posting. Despite my best intentions, my most recent demise stalled repairs on the Wolfhaven Barony leaving the entire operation in dire straights. With a potential invasion enroute it seemed appropriate to assign a capable military commander to the post Bailiff. Someone to not only oversee continued renovations, but to fortifiy the land in the event that our lines are breached. I could think of no man better.

So while I head north to war, and Samira prepares for the most difficult mission of her life, he sets out to assume command of our Ancestral home. My wife, of course…so strange to say that…she returns to Echer’Naught to continue operations there.

As I walked through the small group of guests, listing to the music and watching snow stain Baroness Elyanna’s hair white, I could not help but see families faces in the flurries and eddies of snow, catch snippets of well known voices, hear the cadence of familiar laughter. Even as I honored my wife and our union, I was beset by ghosts of the past, everyone I had known, loved, and lost during a lifetime of war and death. My beloved could sense my melancholy, though she was gracious enough to put on a brave face. I know not whether it is a byproduct of my experiences beyond, or simply a factor of my new age but I cannot seem to escape the ghosts of my past, the haunting memories of all I have failed.

Or, perhaps it is because I know what is to come. I cannot speak against the orders given in my absence. I will not divide the Rangers, but by the Ascended! Could they not hold back their rage for a time, just a little while?! Was revenge so necessary that they would allow themselves to be swallowed by Darkness to get at those who slighted them?

While my guests dined and drank, danced and sang, others were preparing a tent high on the nearby ridge. Adepts, Sorcerers, Priests, and Druids all placed protections shielding the meeting place from prying eyes. Were the invited guests different, we would have held this gathering within Evoran’s protection. But no. Alas, for this battle, we needed allies of a more dangerous nature.

At the 13th hour I retired with my new bride to the tent on the hill where I was unsurprising to find a gathering already in place. Elyanna’s Brother lurked withing, as did Trokash, our earstwhile friend. Lady Moonsilver as well, looking radiant. After a time, the Alpha Team was summoned and I revealed to them the truth of Elyanna’s mission, the choice for the site of the wedding, all of our subterfuge.

I ordered my most loyal Rangers to attack Echer’Naught.

Their reactions were as expected. What Elayanna’s team had discovered was that Sergeant Major Magor Stormhammer WAS in Shivak Novos, but not far, cosmological speaking. It seemed that the vestiges of the army we turned back so many weeks ago were encamped in our own city, or its dark mirror. They used that knowledge to plan and execute their attacks with a precision we ill understood until now.

Worse, Stormhammer was the subject of some profane rite in the their twisted mockery of the sacred grove which threatened to corrupt him mind, body, and soul. We knew all too well, given Von Dietrich, what the price would be if the ritual was completed. And so, with a heavy heart I ordered my Rangers to enter the Gray Lands, infiltrate their own city, and rescure or kill Stormhammer.

But, before they pledge themselves to the task, I warned them that should this mission fail, or even in its success, there would hardliners within the Rangers, already angry at my actions in freeing Anaxelum, that would take our working with Darkness as a sign of betrayal, corruption and another investigation into my command could be launched. If that were to happen, I could not protect them from what was to come…

Corporal Volstagg asked about legal ramifications, and would this fall under Ranger or Olaran justice. I informed him this matter was exclusive to the Rangers. He then nodded and requested an extended leave of absence from the Rangers, as did the others. Granting them this, they laid their sacred cloaks upon the map table between us and prepared to die alone and friendless at my command…

With that, I informed them that from that point forward, they were to have no direct contact with Ranger command until the mission were completed. Our enemies are too well entrenched. We cannot risk Stormahmmer being moved. In addition, I assigned Trokash as their procurement specialist. Anything they might need would, by necessity go through him. Sergeant Whitestone informed that it would be done.

As I rose to leave, Corporal Volstagg handed my a drinking horn crafted from one of the two on the head of the minotaur he had just tangled. He bade me take it, seeing as he would not need it where he was going. I took it, but with a silent promise to return it to him soon.

With nothing left to say, I bade them farewell, and good luck and I retired with my wife to our tent beneath the tree. What happened there is between a man and his wife. But, in the morning, I rose, kissed her goodbye, tears staining her perfect cheeks, and donned my kit. Outside, Thunder pawed at the earth and somewhere Sasha howled in the distance. Looking once more into her loving eyes, I turned and left.

My Rangers sent to their doom, my wife again abandoned and an impossible war waiting for me at the end of a cold, dark ride…

…my we all do our duty as Rangers, as Brothers, as…as Family. May our sacrifice be enough. Ascended please let it be enough.

Your most obedient servant,

Lord Mayor Wolfhaven, Colonel

The Sacred Grove of Evoran Que’kassars, Landra’Feya

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Campaign Report 79
A House Re-forged

Lord Mayor, Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander

Commander of the Legio Heroes

Regional Command at Echer’Naught, Olara

Twenty Sixth Day of Grey Winds, Year 3125 Under the Light

The day post my, return, passed in the most confusing blur. I cannot accurately put into words the most surreal experience it has been to resume my work at the big wooden desk in the office shared with so many over the years.

To think, when I arrived, it was the renegade Von Haber who sat there for so many years. Then, after his betrayal, members of the Harken Duchy. After which, I, for a time, and then Captain Celebor during my absence. Now here I sit again. The vagaries of time are strange.

The 25th of White Stagg, 3125, will go down as one of the most bizarre days of my life. But, there was also a rightness to things. Battle, coordination, these I have been trained well how to accomplish. What came after, however….

Odd, though I had not slept in over a day, I felt little fatigue. Perhaps being “dead” for months left me plenty of rest. I was sore, bone weary, if not tired, and ravenous. More important than all that, I had a task which should have been done so long ago.

Excusing myself early on the 26th, I mounted Thunder and made my way through the early morning snow to my home. I can only assume I was announced, for as I dismounted, I could feel her presence behind me. Turning, I was struck again by Lady Elyanna’s beauty. Obsidian hair, fierce violet eyes…

Her expression was bewildering, and left me feeling anxious. Would she be angry? Sad? Had word of my death reach her and she, in time, been able to grieve my passing and move on? I confess many of these thoughts had been swirling in my mind since my return. Nevertheless, I straightened my shoulders and faced what was to come as any battle, with honor. Whatever her choice, I would accept.

I started my way toward her, only to catch my breath when her face broke into one of those rare beatific smiles. So poised, so reserved, she threw all caution to the wind, plowed through the snow like a school girl and buried herself against my chest. Relief, joy, I can scarcely express my feelings at that moment.

Nevertheless, I swore that the first moment I had, I would offer my hand to her, so long patient with an old soldiers such as myself. Kneeling, I produced my mother’s ring, long kept, though quietly. It was…recovered…from the ashes of my home so many years ago.

Whitesilver, and plain. It was nonetheless, the most treasured heriloom of the Baronesses of my House. Dwarf forged from Stahlheim Whitesilver in the forges of Anvil, it represented more than love. It stood as a testimate of unbroken fealty, honor, and duty from the wife of the first Baron, to now, Lady Elyanna. For a moment, her face was a mask again, inscrutable. And then, with a tenderness I can scarcely describe, accepted my proposal.

The next few moments are a blur of joyous laughter, the scent of flowers and her hair. I know that Corporal Ravenwood stood by, congratulating. I also remember Sir Volstagg and Ranger Amaroth in the road. But, to be honest, I remember little more than that. Only then it occurred to me how rank I must smell, after days fighting and sitting. Excusing myself, I retired to my chambers and enjoyed the luxury of a real, hot bath.

Most men have decades to grow accustomed to the ache of bones and muscles. I but a few hours. In those steaming waters I felt blessed relief as the pains for weariness seeped from my body. What followed was the need for sleep that had eluded me for some time.

Still, I dressed and prepared to present myself to break fast with the ladies now living under my roof. As I exited my private chambers I was delighted to see both Lady Moonsilver, Ferradin in her arms. She seemed overjoyed at my return, but I knew from Malcom’s excellent reviews that she was not untouched by the events during my absence.

Seeing her well, and Ferradin was a balm to the soul, but I could sense her sadness. How her situation mirrored my Lady’s, but she had lost her love so long ago and I had yet to find him, as I swore. After she left, I sought out Lady Elyanna to inquire if there were anything we could do to aid Lady Moonsilver in her troubles. After a brief conference, my beloved suggested a rather ingenious solution to the Farspeaker Guild issue.

So, after which, I went down to breakfast to join Lady Elyanna, Lady Moonsilver, Mrs. Hawksclaw with her daughter. It struck me then, these great ladies all have sacrificed so much, given up their heartsblood and yet they find the strength to carry on. Rah-Sahn, Anaxelum…Alfred. How many more losses must they endure.

It seems that my house is to be a refuge for the lost, the grieving, and those who sacrifice all in the name of honor and freedom.

After an excellent meal (am I the only one now who eats meat?), I presented Lady Moonsilver with a purse of coin, and a letter to send to her Guild asking their forgiveness for the lateness of payment in regards to the service of establishing the Mind Link between Corporal Ravenwood and Anaxelum Regillus on behalf of the Wolfhaven Barony. I also inquired if they would allow Lady Moonsilver to act as their agent here in Echer’Naught with regards to negotiations to establish a Guild House within the city. Of course, we included an appropriate addition that would more than cover any penalties due to tardiness of payment.

Lady Moonsilver seemed overjoyed and grateful. With fortune and the Grace of Archanon and my good Lady Celesia, the Guild will drop its “investigation” into Lady Moonsilver. More to the point, should the Rangers seek to make the Mind Link a sticking point in future “conversations” regarding Anaxelum, this will put to rest the legitimacy of the link. The onus of that will be upon me, and not on the happy couple.

That done, I promised Corporal Ravenwood that I would work to see her beloved released, though I knew not how, and then retired for much needed rest. Apparently, with age comes the deceptiveness of sleep. I believed that I had the stamina of youth. I was sorely mistaken, and sore. I slept through that day and all night. Though, I managed to rouse myself by dawn the following morn to begin a long overdue review of my command.

My first task, with Malcom’s help, was to establish a schedule of meetings with personnel, commanders,and important members of the government. Odd, one of my greatest peeves in any organization is the random mandatory meetings which so often achieve nothing. How often have I stood at attention while some Officer pontificated upon his own greatness. I have always sought to meet with my men and women on their terms. It always struck me as more genuine, to share their burden, their tribulations, their hardships rather than imperiously summon them on high.

And so, with great reluctance, I began issues the very same summons. Rank has its privileged, certainly, but no small number of equally tiresome responsibilities. Still, my Rangers reported in good grace. For that, I am eternally grateful.

On the 28th of White Stagg, I spoke with a number of new Rangers, one, in particular, Ranger Audric Amaroth, the brash young warrior who pledge his sword to my service upon our first meeting. He reminds me so of the boys I fought with when I first entered the war of Flame. So full of promise, prepared to earn honor and glory in equal measure. But he, unlike they, has also gained the wisdom of bitter experience.

We spoke primarily of his wish to join the Wolfhaven House. I knew of his former House Henrik. Honorable warriors, though I never fought beside them, their reputation was stalwart. I confess I was unaware of their fate until I investigated Ranger Amaroth. I know the pain of losing one’s House, keenly so. Perhaps it was this that compelled me to accept the young man into service. My only caveat was that he would spend his free time, and the resources provided by House Wolfhaven to seek out the bastard who betrayed his Lord so that justice could be done, and honor served. I will never find those responsible for my own losses, too many battlefields, too many servants of Flame… So, I may then seek justice vicariously. It will still be Justice.

After our talk, he officially joined the ranks of House Wolfhaven. Taking his new tabard, he exited to join Sir Volstagg on routine patrol.

The rest of the day was spent meeting with other Rangers, and the new Investigator Lt. Barand. He kindly offered me a strong tea he ships in directly from a small town in the Eternal Desert. I declined, but was impressed, overall, with his upbeat professionalism. Strange, though, my experiences with Ranger Inspectors has not been a pleasant one. I hope that nothing quite so disquieting happens with the new team. He also introduced me to the rest of his team and I was able to spend a brief moment welcoming each one. Overall, I am impressed.

The following day, on the 29th of White Stagg, I first met with RFC Sir Volstagg. I must confess, I was most looking forward to finally meeting the man I had seen, but yet to meet. He was as interesting as I had imagined, a Volstagg of the Crimson Wall. Could there be are more dichotomous warrior? Still, he was gracious, deferential, but I could feel he might dislike the pomp and circumstance almost as much as I. In another life, this man could be a close friend, confident. But, as a member of the Rangers, I have a duty to remain impartial.

He and I spoke briefly, mainly pertaining to his work with Sir Halten, the Royal Sheriff and recently come King’s Warden. I had to admit, to him and myself, that bridging the rather deep divide between the Sheriff’s office and the Rangers was a duty that I had spectacularly failed to do. War I know. Politics and love, I am woefully lacking. But, I am learning.

Still, I thank and congratulated him on his work with the Sheriff’s office and pledged my support for further efforts to bring us closer together. I also, hesitantly, broached the subject of the recent loss and incarceration of his teammates. I know, from reports, that he was close to the conspiracy, but chose, due to faith in his comrades, not to step forward with unconfirmed rumors. To then have so much death happen, I could only imagine how he might have felt. I know how i have felt each and every time I was betrayed by those I trusted. It never gets easier.

But, I encouraged him to have faith in himself, the Rangers, and my office. I hope that, in time, he will realize that he made the best choice given the situation. Believing in your comrades is not a failing, even if it results in failure.

Over the next few days, I had a few memorable meetings. I did meet with our new Public Mediator, Colonel Anderson. He seems a rather cheerful and amiable man. I wonder though, as I have not before been privy to his service within the Rangers. Perhaps, due to Echer’Naught Ranger’s rather tumultuous relationship with the citizenry and Olara in general High Command saw fit to provide this new resource? Curiouser and curiouser. Still, his credentials and professionalism speak for themselves. I look forward to his council.

The most critical task, however, was the disturbing absence of Sergeant Major Magor Stormhammer. I have spoken with every member of his staff and every guard posted anywhere the Sergeant Major might have been during the battle. Not only can we not locate Stormhammer, I can find no one who even saw him at any point during the battle! It is as if he simply vanished. Teams have scoured the sewers, and we have conducted street by street sweeps, but no Ranger, citizen, guard, or noble has any information regarding his whereabouts.

I even dispatched Wolfhaven Free Riders into the countryside around the city seeking any clue, or information. After days of fruitless search, I am growing more convinced by the hour that Stormhammer was an intended victim of the forces of Darkness. To what end, I know not. If he has been taken, which I fear is the case, it is more than likely that he has been taken to Shivak Novos, beyond our immediate reach. But how to located him?

On the 33rd of White Stagg, I met with one of the few members of alpha team I remember from before my fall, RFC Thorgram Ramshorn. I must admit a great sense of relief to know the stalwart warrior has survived the many calamities which has befallen the team over the last months. My first, and foremost, question was to learn about his incarceration. As it happens, he spent nearly the entire time I was laid low imprisoned in an Olaran work camp on the far norther border. I was also aware that during his time in prison, he spent the majority in the medical ward as frequent fights with one particular Orc resulted in his death. That Orc was executed for his temerity.

As it happens, RFC Ramshorn put a rather different spin on the story. It appears that the Orc was, in point of fact, teaching him how to control the Rage inside him. Through his own sacrifice, Thorgram was able to master the beast within. A steep price, but, the unnamed Orc, and myself, see the potential in RFC Ramshorn even if he is slow realize it himself.

I was also, under the authority as a Baron, able to replace his broken Targe with an Unbreakble shield. It lack the sentimental nature of his previous shield, borne through so many battles, but this new Targe is sure never to break even under the greatest duress. I was also able to confirm that Muriel, his ass, had managed, somehow, to achieve Ranger status. Time will tell if that was a wise decision. Nevetheless, I am encouraged to know that our brave defender stands yet to protect the Rangers.

Time permitting, I was able to meet with the newer members of Alpha team. On the 3rd of Gray Winds, I called Durlan Daynore and Sir Stahn to meet.

My Lady Elyanna had previously informed me of the arrival and sit down with a distant cousin from Galea turned Ranger. I was anxious and curious to meet this man who shared, if distantly, the Wolfhaven blood. He arrived with Ranger Daynore and I found him pleasant, a fine example of a Galean Knight. He seemed in earnest to continue his plan to leave his House in Galea to join the Wolfhaven House as a Knight. After a brief conversation, I heartily agreed to endorse his request for citizenship in Olara and will gladly accept his fealty upon the acceptance of his petition. It does my heart well to know that, at least somewhere, the blood of Wolfhaven runs through the heart of such warriors. Perhaps I have other far flung family that will someday return home. Nevertheless, a House stands by its Knights and I am pleased to have another sword and shield to add to its defense.

Ranger Daynore is an interesting one. Skilled in language and magically adept, he is polite and well spoken. He is, also, a Malakaran. Strange, yet the Ranger Corps is founded upon the principle that all men and women are capable of heroism. I will not pre-judge him based on where he might have been born, and I hope he will afford me the same.

Two days later, on the 5th of Gray Winds, I spoke with Lady Nexus Zathlan of Galean, and Gracelyn Moldova. The good lady is of House Lyonn in Galea. A strong House of warriors. One of the few which might be considered a match to Olaran warrior traditions. She, thought happens to also be an elf fair. I was surprised at her discomfiture in my presence. I come to understand she is, generally speaking, ill at east among other nobility. Odd, but not in any way detracting from her service. I know well that she handled herself valiantly in the most recent battles.

As for Ranger Moldova, she is an Olaran, and a citizen of this fair city. Other than the former Ranger Zulcrum, she is one of only a handful of Echer’Naught’s citizens to adopt the cloak. I pray that her unique insight into the lives and struggles of the citizens will be well represented.

Meetings continued, along with some fairly intense legal research. Stormhammer’s plight notwithstanding, I had pressing legal issues to address. Namely, how to secure release for Anaxelum Regillus from Ranger, well, Olaran custody. To be honest, the question plagued me for days until, with Malcom’s help, I stumbled upon an ancient legal precedent. It would require courage and some risk, but should it be successful, I was certain I could free Anaxelum. It depended, however, greatly on Sir Halten’s cooperation.

I have no illusions that were it not for the work of RFC Volstagg and Nazir, I would likely never have arranged Sir Halten’s participation. As it was, he agreed to act as impartial mediator between my challenge to the Ranger’s legal authority to arrest and hold Anaxelum. I put in my request and was granted a hearing on the 8th of Gray Winds.

While I prepared for that, I had a meeting with Therel Fateweaver, Steward of Echer’Naught. He acquiesced to arranging a public address at the Muster Grounds after the Hearing, though he guessed there was more to the address than just announcing my return. Wisely, he kept his own counsel, but set about seeing to my requests.

On the morning of the 8th of Gray Winds, I gathered with Lady Elyanna, Malcom, and members of Gendarre’s men. We made our way to the partially completed Town Hall Building at Centerpointe. Across from me were representatives for the Rangers, a Colonel, Major, and Lieutenant. I know of them, but we have yet to speak in person. I fear that their first impression will be less than stellar. Regardless, honor must be served.

After a suitable delay, the newly minted King’s Warden, Sheriff Halten arrived and assumed his seat at the center of the room. Today, per my request, he stood in as impartial mediator between myself and the Ranger Corps. I could feel the discomfort of my fellow Rangers. The Royal Sheriff’s disdain for the Rangers is well documented and I know that most of my brothers in that room must have thought me mad to place my fate, any of our fates, in his hands. However, today of all days, I required an arbiter with no love for the Rangers. In fact, it was crucial.

After the proper obsequiousness to his office, we sat and the Hearing, not trial began. I, as plainly as possible, explained the simple truth. Over a year prior, during a battle against forces under the command of Anaxelum Regillus, he and I were cast into Norcan Dar by the vagaries of a Tempest portal. While surviving in that horrid place, he and I settled upon an agreement; namely, we would work together, he under my command, to escape Norcan Dar either to the Tempest Realm or Shaintar, whichever proved possible. If I were to land in his realm, he would place me under his protection and I, in turn, would raise no hand against him or those he served until such time as I could return to my own realm. He agreed to the same.

As fate happened, we managed to return to Shaintar during Flames disastrous attack on Echer’Naught. After which, he pledged himself to my service and did far more than merely stay his hand. In fact, he acted bravely in defense of his new sanctuary, even going so far as to fall in love and marry one of my own Rangers. When departed the city in search of the Tempest forces he was only completing his agreement with me that he and his men would be allowed to return to the Tempest Realm. More to the point, his plan was to persuade that unit to retreat through their portal and depart our realm. In truth, he was sacrificing himself for us…and he was rewarded by attempted murder, arrest, and to be incarcerated without trial.

My plea done, the Rangers presented their case. Simply that, my agreement with Citizen Regillus was a personal contract, not signed, endorsed or approved by the Rangers, or the civic government of Echer’Naught. As such, so far as the Rangers were concerned, it had no legal standing within their jurisdiction. And sadly, he was accurate. So, with that, the Lieutenant apologetically rested his case.

It was expected. And, for the briefest of moments I felt a sincere pity for the young Ranger. He was merely following orders and did not deserve what came next. However, my honor was at stake. More than that, my Rangers.

And so, with great solemnity, I un-clipped my cloak and laid it on the table before me. It was at this moment that I noted a distinct patina of sweat on the brow of the young advocate for the Rangers. All now rested on how deep Sir Halten’s hatred for the Rangers truly ran, and did he despise me more personally, or the cloak.

Seeing that I had not “standing” in Ranger court, I then challenged the Ranger’s right to hold Citizen Regillus based upon my standing as a Baron of Olara. By arresting him for holding true to his oath to me, they, in turn, broke my word to him thereby dishonored me, my House, my city, and worse the King. So, by ancient rite, I challenged the advocate to Trial by Combat. Extreme though it was, I found myself few options.

He, understandably was stunned. After a brief, and frantic counsel with his superiors, he pleaded with the court to cease this, I think he said nonsense. Here was the pivot point. In any battle, there are moments one which everything hangs…one charge, one retreat, one word from the Sheriff could have condemned Anaxelum and me along with him. But, disdain for the Rangers triumphed and Sir Halten followed the same tortuous logic I had hammered out with Malcom.

To whit: A member of the Blood cannot challenge a citizen of Olara or even a sworn (save for extreme circumstances), and certainly not a foreign citizen. In addition to being gauche, it is highly dishonorable and, it being so, automatically names the challenger the loser of honor. BUT, and here is the master stroke, a member of the Blood MAY challenge any standing member of a Military Order, as the orders treat all members equally in training and responsibility. Though only the Blood may command, any member of the Hammerfall Riders is as equally equipped and trained to stand for the honor of the Order, so in essence, all are at risk of challenge. It is atypical, but still considered legal.

Now, the Rangers are not an Olaran military order, save for the caveat that when the Charter was signed by the Crown, the status, with all right and privileges, was extended to the Ranger Corps as a Greater Military Order. It is upon this foundation from which the Rangers derive ALL authority in Olara. So, in essence, the Grayson’s Gray Rangers are a De Facto Greater Military Order of Olara. And, as such, can be challenged…IF, and only if, the challenge is valid. Considering the grievous and tortuous political considerations, no one has actually attempted to do so…

…until now.

My standing in this matter was specious at best, but “technically” valid. And, to my utter relief, Sir Halten ALSO parsed my intention and, I think, was rather impressed by my adept navigation of Olaran legal systems. This is considering my track record in such endeavors is, arguably, abysmal. Still, he ruled the Challenge valid under Olaran law and ordered the Rangers to Fight or release Anaxelum.

I do not envy their position. And understandably, the young advocate balk about crossing swords with me. Here, however, is where I may have irreparably damaged my position in the Rangers, but in doing, proved a point and, I hope, defeated any future attempts on the part of the Corps to take up this matter again. As he, the Lt. was reluctant to fight, and none of the brass behind him had any intention, I turned to my own Rangers and asked was any there willing to stand and fight for the honor of the corps. For a moment, I feared none would, but Ranger Moldova stood, as did Ranger Amaroth, then others… Soon, most of the stands behind him, from newly minted Rangers, to the most senior members of my command stood…

…and then a voice rang across the court and stopped me short. Citizen Regillus HIMSELF stepped forward to challenge my right for the honor the Rangers. I was, understandably, concerned that the Rangers might actually accept his offer! Of anyone in that room, only the Sheriff and Anaxelum were of much concern… But, that he would fight, and if victorious condemn himself, but fight for the love of his wife and the honor of HER corps…

I was moved to tears. The Ranger brass was flustered. Olaran justice can be…jarring. The Lt. Advocate made a final attempt extricate himself by suggesting a recess. A prudent move, unfortunately, such a challenge cannot be delayed until terms are met…which required SOMEONE to fight me. I think the good Sheriff got a bit into character when he threatened to kill any Ranger who attempted to remove Anaxelum before the challenge was settled.

At long last, faced with a lose lose proposition, the Ranger command relented and Anaxelum was freed…Thank the Light and my Lady Celesia. From the baleful glares cast toward me from the retreating Col. Major, and Lt., I can only imagine what condemnation will fall upon me soon. However, Honor was settled, Anaxelum freed, and my promise to Samira honored. I will face whatever punishment I have due.

With that, I sank to my seat and allowed the tension and nervousness to subside before I even attempted to walk. The courtroom erupted around me, but I heard nothing, just my own heart pounding and Malcom’s quiet mumblings as he shuffled and stacked papers. For the mastermind behind the maneuver, he seemed somewhat miffed by the entire affair. There are times when I wonder if he is truly ally, or not, but he had Evoran’s complete trust, and so he shall have mine.

At any rate, I eventually mastered myself, rose and prepared to leave. I was stopped by a jubilant Sir Halten who seemed both impressed and intrigued by my behavior. I fear I have earned his respect by being devious. Not an aspiration I have ever sought. But there it is. I offered that if he were impressed by my performance in the court, then he might care to join me for my next…event.

Intrigued, he followed, as did most of those present, save the Ranger command who beat a hasty retreat. All proceeded as I had planned.

We made our way out of Centerpointe and south to the Muster Grounds where the Grand Stands had been spruced and hung with Black, Red, and White trim…damned if Fateweaver had not guessed at my game. He is a clever one by half, and no deceit.

I arrived riding beside my lady who looked RADIANT in her fur trimmed coat of black and crimson. We stopped short of the growing crowd and dismounted. Hand in hand, we ascend the platform and I allowed Therel Fateweaver to announce me. I have heard better performances, but he seemed as pleased with the proceedings as Malcom, who also began to set up a station off to the side of the platform.

And so without further ado, I addressed the crowd. So much of my family has been lost in service to the Crown that I have despaired the Wolfhaven House even surviving. And yet, through the sacrifice and good works of my closest friends, and family, we have survived and even reclaimed our lands and title…

And yet, my son is dead, my Sword, Rah-Sahn and Aradove dead or missing, I have no wife yet, and only a sworn and a future knight to my House. Should I fall again, there may be nothing left. To that end, I called once again upon ancient tradition and repeated (paraphrased) the words of my distant ancestor, Chief Ingolf des Reiter, the first Wolfhaven Baron. All Olaran men and women, in good standing with the law, being free from oath or obligation to House or Order may petition to join the Wolfhaven House as free men and women. My invitation was met with an expected moment of stunned silence.

And again, Citizen Anaxelum Regillus both impressed and surprised by stepping forward again and kneeling. He pledge his life to my cause, though he no long her lands or titles to offer. Strange, how closely my own life mirrored his but two years ago.

Then, Gendarre with his usual flair said “fuk it” and stepped forward, his men following suit. Then, one by one, men and women of Olara approached and knelt. In total, thirty two pledged themselves to House Wolfhaven, a fair number of Free Riders and a few City Guard. All told, however, few Rangers, I had expected as much. There are sadly very few Olaran citizens in the Corps, even here in Echer’Naught. Still, I was overwhelmed by the support, and eagerly greeted each new member of my House.

After which, they all stepped to Maclom and a paid Adept for the requisite paperwork and scan. Once complete, each received a blessing from a Priest of Light before donning the Wolfhaven colors and accepting their assignment (dependent on their quality and training). In truly noble fashion, I left the actual work to Malcom and a small staff while I retired to my Manor with my future bride. I am ever torn between being a soldier and desperately wanting to “do the work” and being a commander, noble and being expected to delegate to others. Of course, I’m sure that is not how any of it appeared to the citizens in attendance. One is truly damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

All of this, all of it, happened by mid afternoon on the 8th of Grey Winds. A busy day to say the least. I was heartened to note that Sergeant Whitestone and the rest of Alpha Team took the opportunity to dine at the Wayfarer’s Rest that even. I have seen a change in them, a casual closeness. This is good. I, however, made preparations and had conversations with my betrothed.

She has a plan, not a good plan, nor one I approve…but, she may be the only one who can save us all, and those taken by Darkness.

Over the next week, I made preparations and tried to talk Lady Elyanna out of her scheme. The former was successful. By the 14th, I invited my friends and close associations to a dinner at my Manor. Lady Zathlan looked quite regal. In fact, all the Rangers looked hale and healthy. Of course, Ranger Amaroth and Anaxelum sported their new colors. In deference to his position, I extended him the courtesy of honoring his rank and station among the Tempest.

He joined my House as Sir Regillus, and his lady, the noble Ravenwood looked beautiful upon his arm.

I, of course, was outshone by my own love, who outdid herself in making all feel welcomed. We sat and ate, then, over the course of the evening, most guests retired leaving only my house and a handful or Rangers.

Fortuitous that. At, I say a quarter past 11 on the 14th, there was a great commotion outside. Every Ranger, nay, my entire House save for my beloved, drew weapons. How swiftly we went from a homely scene of children playing on the carpet before a roaring fire surrounded by family to an armed warband…

Nevertheless, My personal Wolf Guard, composed of Gendarre, his men, and a handful of Wolfhaven Riders, escorted a wild and dishelved Malcom into my home.

He was wearing a thin night shift, and one of those pointed tasseled caps. His feet were bare and already blistering from running through the snow. He looked like a madman, wild eyed and shouting nonsense while showering us all in loose leafed parchment…

It was…bizarre. After a few moments, he stopped shouting, “Its not a disease!” long enough for us to get some semblance of rational explanation for his behavior.

He explained, in a loud and rambling fashion that Vainar’s Bane, the new Plague wasn’t a plague but a weapon, akin to Ognash’s Call. In fact, he proposed that Vainar’s forces intentionally spread the rumor that is WAS the plague reborn to hamper our efforts to diagnose.

He also explained that based on Von Dietrich tomes (all encoded), past reports, and Evoran’s research in Rhion that he had conclusive evidence that agents of Shaya’Nor had been intentionally poisoning our supplies, food and water, for a year. That explained the lack of a patient 0. Moreover, he believed that the earlier, weaker outbreaks in Greenvale were actually a kind of weapon’s test…

Armed with this, we asked how to defeat the weapon. He had not plan for that, but he said that all our food and water sources need to be thoroughly examined for contamination. Immediately. He would return and attempt to ascertain more about possible cures.

We had our mission. I ordered the Rangers to gear up and assemble at my Home in a half turn of the glass, also to alert the Rangers in the HQ to rouse the reserve. I and Sir Volstagg headed to Sir Halten’s estate to beg approval to task his unit, at least his Rangers, to this new task.

To say that he was annoyed at being awoken at such an hour was an understatement. However, he agreed readily and so, I returned to find Rangers arriving, ready for action. We divided into teams and rode to the warehouses where, with the help of the Longhauls and City Watch, we began to systematically deconstruct every crate, every barrel.

The Warehouse investigation began around 1 in the morning on the 15th of Grey Winds and lasted thru to the 20th, working nearly round the clock in shifts. Reports indicate that SOMETHING was discovered, but even our city’s chief Potionmaster was at a loss. Still, there is hope.

On the eve of the 20th, my betrothed petitioned Sir Halten to release the Alpha Team to escort her and Lady Lillithien on a personal trip to the city of Kore to meet an old acquaintance. The Royal Sheriff, so occupied by his own new responsibilities, again acquiesced without much effort. Somehow, I find it odd he and I, fitting into our new roles, almost…I know not. At least Sir Volstagg’s relationship seems to be a good foundation for cooperation. That is heartening.

That very eve, on the 20th, they departed the North Gate under Darkness and secrecy. I am unsure how the cloak and dagger sits with my Rangers, but considering all the threats facing us, I could not risk my enemies, OUR enemies, learning of her departure. Were I forced to choose between my love of Elyanna…and my oaths…I pray I would have the strength to choose rightly…whatever that might be.

Still, watching her ride away was one of the most difficult moments I have faced. I can never become accustomed to watching others head into danger. I am a soldier, it is my duty to fight, and die, not to watch those I adore do so on my behalf. my the Light and the Silver Unicorn keep her safe.

As I returned to my desk, and waited impatiently for the return of the Rangers and news of her safe arrival in Kore, I am left with a sense of hope, but deep melancholy. Even as I sit here, I find myself turning to ask Olgor, or Evoran to hand me a book, or parchment. Watching Lady Elyanna ride away, I was suddenly struck by a scene so many years before watching Rah-Sahn Hawksclaw lead his army south, likely never to return…

And yet, I look around and see determined men and women bearing the colors of House Wolfhaven once again, knowing the risks and likelihood of a worse fate, yet willing nonetheless. And I am overawed by their willingness and their devotion.

My House, my father’s House, once destitute and all but ended, stands stronger than it has since the War of Flame…but it is much changed.

The Wolfhaven House is no more of pure line, and Olaran blood. We now count elves, and Brinchie in our ranks. My right hand once swore an oath to end my life, now married to a Ranger I would consider a daughter… My sword are former bandits, mauraders, mercenaries, and sellswords who have scarified everything in my honor, even before taking my House as theirs… And my closest blood, a Galean knight so far removed he did not even know of our existence until news of my demise reached far shores. Yet here he is, forsaking his own to adopt a House he barely knows.

And what of my future bride? It is not lost on me the uproar our marriage will cause. A Baron, a Lord Mayor willingly wedding a Shayakar, unshadowed as she may be. Lady Elyanna may never be accepted. Our children, should we be so blessed, will find it harder…

But if I have learned one thing from my service to the Rangers it is that our differences, if we can learn to overcome them, strengthen us. We become stronger for instead of all sharing the same faults, and growing predicable and brittle because of… rather, we have strengths where our brothers and sisters are weak, and they, in turn, strength us.

House Wolfhaven may be called a mutt by some within the Blood, but they will hear our Howl, see our teeth, and know that we may be wild, but we are more deadly for it. Which is good, for the fight to come may be our bitterest yet…

Your most obedient servant,

Lord Mayor Wolfhaven, Colonel

Regional Command at Echer’Naught, Olara

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Campaign Report 78
Black Snow

Lord Mayor, Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander
Commander of the Legio Heroes
Regional Command at Echer’Naught, Olara
Twenty Fifth Day of White Stagg, Year 3125 Under the Light

By the grace of Archanon, the lord of Light, and the agape of my lady, Celesia, the Silver Unicorn, I am renewed. Thank the Light.

Such time has passed in my absence I scarcely know where to begin. I suppose, as the great poets say, one must begin at the beginning. So for me, that beginning, is the end…

My last waking thoughts were far to the north in the White Silver Wolves encampment just north of Stonefinger Dwarven Clanhome. I was recently arrived, my column reaching the finely fortified encampment just seven days prior. Already we had engaged in a handful of skirmishes with the forces of Darkness as we scouted Shaya’Nor’s positions not far to the north.

Odd, I took little note of him at the time, as he was but one knight amid hundreds, but twelve months later I would find this same knight of the Crimson Wall among the Rangers of Echer’Naught’s Alpha Team. Fate is a curious thing. I think, at the time, I nodded to Sir Volstagg on some bloody field. I must remember to inquire what, if any, he remembers of me during those brief moments of violence.

At any rate, I was tired and saddle sore by the 33rd and lay down for some rest before that evening late night meeting. Rest, however, eluded me. I recall being beset by the most vivid and horrifying nightmare. Thought the details elude me, I do recollect a nightmarish scenario in which creatures more powerful than Tempest had all but conquered the lands, and most of the greatest heroes had long since fallen in a desperate war.

I vaguely remember that I was to lead a team, not of allies and heroes, but the greatest villains known to me, though I now could not tell you who. Somewhere, in the deepest recesses of my consciousness, a worry niggles…as if the dream were something more? Whatever the case, the events of the next few hours, and indeed months, have all but washed away any truth to be gleaned from one night’s lack of sleep.

I awoke, prepared, and joined my staff in the command tent to lay out plans for the defense of the Southern Kingdoms. New arrived, dwarves arrived, and an aevakar? I apologize, much of what happened next is but shadow and smoke.

A threat was made upon my life. Hardly new. But this news came with much urgency, and the deaths of at least two Rangers in the attempt to warn me. My Rangers took no chances and warded me well enough to stop the most determined assault upon my person.

Sadly, even that was insufficient. I must inquire as to whether we have yet determined WHAT manner the enemy used to fell me that night. I certainly have not even a shadow of an idea. All I know is that one moment, my men fussed about me, rushing to secure my personage, and the next…
…pain.

But not just of the physical form, though, there was such in abundance. Something so deep and so cold, it seared my very soul. My my screamed and I felt the chill hand of death clutching about my heart, my mind…I was not just dying, I was…falling into Darkness. Not falling, being pulled by some inexorable force…

And then a flash of light, so hot, sure pure… Not warm like the Light of Archanon, which feels almost like the kiss of a warm summer’s sun on your face. No, this was…harder, sharper, more…sidereal.

Then, there was nothing. But…not nothing…

I existed, and I was not alone. But I was not me, or not only myself. I was part of a chorus of voices, but more thought, emotion, all swirling. Like melting into a pond. At once me, and also everyone.

Time lost all meaning, as did space. There was no concern, for if there is no time, if you have all time, and none, what matter is to worry? No care, or pain. No, without feeling, nor feeling of bliss…just, an enduring contentment. A knowing.

Knowing. To know all, but to retain none. Imagine the entire flood of history sifting through your mind, like a sorcerer’s illusion. Seeing everything and everyone. All moment happening at once, but also, not.

Words fail. Some experiences go beyond the realm of language. Something must be, well, experience to be understood.

But there were voices, among the throng, that seemed louder, or stronger. Familiar voices, like those of my father and mother. Speaking kind words, loving words, proud words, I so long to remember… Sadly, that, along with almost everything else is gone now, faded even as I settle again into this…heavy form.

Still, there are things I do know. I know that Vainar has returned and that he is growing in strength. There are pieces of his designs that, even now, I can almost fathom. Just, what is endgame?

I know that my Rangers have suffered long in my service. I could feel their pain even there. Wherever there is. So much loss, so many fallen.

And yet, there was one voice conspicuously absent from that chorus. My friend, my brother in arms, sworn to my House, Rah-Sahn Hawksclaw was not among the dead. Of that, I am certain. Now, more than ever, I am determined to find him and bring him home.

But, those concerns were so far away that I was all but lost to wordly concerns when a voice, sweet and tender, whispered to me. Not a voice I knew, not the clarion sound of the Silver Unicorn, or the quite whisper of the Raven. No…this was something different, and older.

Druidess.

And then another voice, one from FAR distant…so faint, I almost missed it for the crowd, but this voice I knew. It trembled in fear, but not of self, of love…for…a child.

Ranger Afliem? But she was not of the dead.

And then I heard more screams, Rangers dying, explosions, the raucous and jarring clash of arms. In that final moment, between the here and there, that soft voice spoke again, “Go. Your task is yet done. Go Wolf and protect them.”

The next moment, pain, almost as searing as my death. My strength drained from my body. I felt suddenly weak, feeble, and oh so heavy. Meat, bone, sinew…such clumsy constructs. It felt almost like being squeezed into an overstuffed sausage.

And then the pain receded to a dull ache, in my bones, my knees, my back…

Light pieced my eyes as they opened, bursting with the light of a thousands suns…and yet, it was but a candle. I blinked away tears of pain, loss, and joy. I was alive, so. painfully. alive.

And then another voice, whispering from the shadows at the corners of my vision. “He is awake, tell the others.”

My mind swam. Others? Who awakes? Groggily, as the cobwebs of my mind cleared after months of ill use, I struggled to rise.

“Where…am…I?” I managed to croak through parched lips, raspy dry throat.

A figure appeared beside me, kneeling. “My Lord! You live?!”

Things began to align within my mind. I had been killed. I died. But, not?

In the the light of the candle I looked down to see my armored body, just where I expected it to be, no obvious wounds, no blood leaking from the seams of my armor.

“Where am I?” I demanded.

“Echer’Naught, my Lord, within the Temple of the Silver Unicorn. You have been..unresponsive for many months.”

Time finally began to speed up. “How long have I been…dead?”

More footsteps now, whispered voices. A doorway, a slightly less darker patch of shadows off to the side of the…was I lying on a stone slab. Then I understood, I was in a mausoleum.

Charming.

The Paladin kneeling before me considered. “Twelve months.”

I clutched my chest. Twelve MONTHS! How could that be possible…my family, my Rangers…the WAR?! I very nearly swooned, then I saw my hands…

Strong but aged. Thick veins, splotchy. The hands of an old man. “What happened…?”

The room shook. Dust most drifted to the floor. “We are under attack.” It was not a question.

Before, the kneeling Paladin nodded. “Yes sir, but you must re…”

“My Sword,” I ordered.

With a pained look, he nodded to the slab beside where I had lain. I could clearly see an outline of my body in the dust. And, right where my right arm had laid, my father’s sword.

“My Lord,” the Paladin protested, but I ignored him, staggering to my feet, I reached out and grasped the sword.

Power, thoughts, energy flooded through my body. Like a lightning bolt. Fatigue and pain washed away in an explosion of Light.

Like scales being ripped from my eyes, I could see the battle before me. Hordes of Darkness surrounding the walls of the Church…and elsewhere. And then, a familiar presence…once an ally…now a mortal foe who I personally abandoned to Darkness.

Through the flood of Light, I felt a gentle nudge against my knee. Looking down, I peered into the too blue eyes of Sasha, the Northern Wolf I had “acquired” during our march through the gathers to reach the White Silver Wolves encampment. I nodded.

Go, find the trees. Help the Druids. I don’t know how, but she seemed to comprehend and bounded out of the room, nearly toppling a handful of warriors clustered in the doorway.

“My horse…”

The Paladin rose. “Preparing now. We…”

Voices screamed in the night chill. Whispers in the Darkness. That voice, “You must go…”

I gripped my sword and strode for the doorway, not looking back. “Protect the Church, you must not let the enemy enter this Holy ground. I must stop the Lich.”

Behind me, I heard protests, but I had no time for discussions. Though a series of White Silver doors, up a set of stone steps, and ducking under a tapestry, I found myself in the deceptively small Chapel of the Silver Unicorn.

Outside, towering Trolls battered at the walls as a handful of defenders tried to push them away with flaming polearms. Where are were all the Paladins of Light?! Behind me, Silver Paladins appeared and rushed to the wall’s defense. I strode out and whistled for Thunder.

Barded and saddled, he skidded to a halt beside me. Mounting, I spurred him on and we surged forward, bounding up a stack of stone and leaping the wall. On the far side, we crushed a handful of undead as Thunder muscled his way through the enemy ranks and sprinted for High Town.

Cutting through Center Port, I noted a lone Ranger standing somewhat befuddled, wreathed in magical energy. He watched me as a I rode passed. Onward, I passed another group of Rangers battling a Troll outside a half destroyed Barracks.

Bloodied but unbowed, Thorgram Ramshorn stood before the beast, shield broken. I could see the rage in his eyes, but felt no hint of Flame. It would seem he, at least, has learned to tame the beast within. Another Ranger battle near him, though her face was a blur as I rode past.

My heart ached to stop, but my true foes stood before me and so long as they remained…

So on I rode, powering up the hill into High Towne, whose gates stood open. Guards battled a died. A line of Rangers struggled to cut through a group of Hobgoblins. Thunder bunched and leaped, clearing the heads of the Rangers and Troglanesh by a foot. My loyal mount. Even after all this time.

Hooves sparked as we hit the ground. Ahead of my I saw a desperate fight. One lone knight stood within a ring of zombies as he fought to protect something at his feet…

…and then I saw her. Ranger Ravenwod. Samira. Did she live? Duty compelled me to ride past…for my true target stood there.

Clad in full Black Iron Plate, cloak billowing in the wintry wind, black snow swirling about him as he strode through the blood and death…Mugin Von Dietrich.

I felt his power, radiating in cold waves, like the chill of an icy grave. He turned as I rode… But, there was a shimmer, behind him. Unseen, but felt. Clever. Von D was always the cleverest of us.

Flashing past, I brought my sword down in the space behind Von D, and steel met flesh as I cleaved the Necromancer Warlock in half. Kill the caster, Kills the spell.

I felt Von D’s defenses drop as the Warlock’s spells faltered with his dying breath. Even so, Von D had far surpassed himself in power since last we met. I wheeled and struck, a glancing blow which staggered, but did not fell the Undead Champion.

Spinning Thunder, I threw myself at Von D. His sword was quicker, raking me across the ribs. Pain exploded, but I pushed on, bringing my sword down hard, punching through his armor. This blow staggered him. Lighting, from the Tempest curse ripped through him.

Leaping free, I raised my blade. “I release you, my friend.” I slashed and severed undead Von D’s head from his body. Then, reversing, I stabbed downward, piercing his body. Channeling all the newfound power through the blade, I summoned the power of the Silver Unicorn to smite and banish the corrupted abomination before me.

The corpse exploded.

I could feel him fading, being consumed by the same Darkness which sought to claim me. With every fiber I reached out, grasping…and felt him…the true Von Dietrich…my friend. I felt his soul burn bright, then ascend. In my mind, my soul I heard his voice, free of Darkness… “Protect the child.” And then, he was gone, passing into the next life.

Releasing the power, feeling like a blast of energy, I turned to see a battle in chaos. Black snow drifted down, Rangers battle everywhere. Darkness threatened to consume all.

Reaching out with my mind, I called upon Eris Moonsilver, hoping that she could feel me, connect…but I heard nothing but silence…

A strange power, like static in the air, seemed to cloud my thoughts, like a faint but persistent buzzing. Powerful, too powerful to be accidental.

No Battle Net. The enemy came prepared. Curse Vainar!

Turning, I raised my voice so that all Rangers could hear me and take heart. “Follow me, my Rangers.” I said, hoping that my return my offer some small encouragement.

First, the battle at hand. Leaping again upon Thunder, we rode down the zombies threatening to devouring Corporal Ravenwood and this young knight. Thank Archanon and the Silver Unicorn, she was alive, and fighting. She felled 2 or 3. I know the knight, Galean by heraldry, Ranger by cloak, handled himself well.

That handled, Thunder and I rode down the last of the Troglanesh holding back reinforcements. I was at this point that I saw Sir Volstagg standing with the Rangers, his chest plate cracked, his cloak in tatters, a Ranger nonetheless.

There was Thorgram, looking somewhat stunned. Likely at my arrival. At least, that was the assumption. Arrows rang off my armor. The fight was far from over.

Forces of Darkness were overrunning the Sacred Grove, where I had sent Sasha, the militia and townsfolk were fighting losing holding actions at the Muster Grounds and the new housing blocks in Low Town. The Regional and Local Headquarters were under assault. Adepts were blocking Eris from establishing any semblance of communication…

…and worst of all, Von D’s older brother, the Lich of OUR making, stood atop the tower weaving the Darkest of spells. I ordered Corporal Ravenwood to take her team to support the Town, picking up what support she could on the way.

Thorgam began protesting, then speaking nonesense, then hugged me. I embraced him back. My stalwart defender. He will never know the sense of relief I felt knowing that he still stood in defense of my Rangers.

Then, I wheeled Thunder and galloped for the Regional HQ. Behind me, I could hear Thorgram protesting, but his voice was lost in the howl of the wind, the rasp of my own breath in my helm, and thunder of Thunder’s hooves.

We had all but reached the HQ, when I pulled up short to see Sir Halten leading a wedge of Olaran knights as they cleared the streets. I saluted, though I might of cause him to misstep and almost take a fatal blow. Still, it heartened me to know that he was on had to secure High Towne.

Werewolves scrabbled up the walls, Trolls battered at the gates while Shayakar on rooftops laid down a deadly fire on the Ranger defenders. Coming from behind, and unawares, I charged the forces at the gate, scattering them, then summoned the Power of the Unicorn I teleported to the far side MUCH to the shock of the Ranger defenders.

One young trainee actually shot me. Fortunately, his arrow had little effect. The two MOST shocked at my sudden arrival were Celebor, Captain? there’s a story, and Sergeant Alystar. Both nearly died from shock. More, they nearly died because they stopped to stare.

With no time, I shouted to Celebor that Adepts were targeting Eris and they needed to be dealt with. Also, that Alpha Team was headed into Middle Town to reinforce defenders there. He shouted something particularly unflattering back, but duty compelled me to ride on.

Through the scramble of Ranger defenders, through the hail of arrows I rode for the Beacon Tower. Dismounting, I kicked open the door and started to ascend. Whatever power was sustaining me began to flag as I charged up the tower.

Rangers at the lower floors moved aside at my passing, but by the fifth platform, all I found were the dead and undead. Fighting through, I forced myself to the peak.

What defenders had been on post when Darkness attacked, now were slain. Most had been turned into mindless Zombies, a few had been used to fuel the profane ritual now being cast by the elder Von D.

Hovering above the beacon, he hung there, snow swirling around him, black robes flapping. Laughing, he ignored my presences as if I were but an insect while he continued to chant and gesture. Overhead the black clouds swirled with malice.

He was protected by the same spells that Von D had used, but the Lich required no other to fuel his magic. With me was but my sword, long though it may be, the Lich was far to high to reach. I considered, for a moment, going back down in search of a bow, but what good would it do?

Celebor perhaps, Samira certainly could make that shot. But I am but a cavalryman and poor archer. Casting about desperately, I was very nearly despair when I noted the Beacon. Beside it, a young man, face pale in death, lay, his hands still clutching the ever burning torch that would light the signal fire.

Even in death, the Lamplighters continue to defend their city. The first defenders and the very last line. Ignored by the Lich, I snatched the torch and hurled it onto the pitch soaked beacon. From one heartbeat the next, the fire roared to life, blasting high into the sky with a searing heat, and catching that flying fiend in a column of pure, white fire.

He screamed. It would seem I now had his attention. Concentration momentarily shattered, he slammed to the earth…well within range of my blade.

I charged hoping to catch him stunned, but he merely raised a hand and blasted me clear across the tower. I skidded across icy stone, by armor sparking as I crashed into the far ramparts.

Wreathed in hellish smoke, eyes burning green with hate, the Lich rose to its feet and glided toward me. Pale, clammy skin stretched taut in a rictus smile, the creature raised it hands and unleashed an onslaugh of black bolts of energy so cold it burned.

On the night air I could hear his hoarse mirthless laughter. Rising to a knee, I fought with all my strength against the sheer power of his attack. It felt as if I were battling to lift the entire tower…

…but somehow I gritted my teeth and staggered to my feet. Inch my inch I closed to distance between us even as my tabard, cloak and skin where savaged to ribbons.

Almost…

…finally, I was just in reach. Surging forward I swung hard. My blade slammed into his side, hard, but rather than soft flesh the blade rebounded as if I had just tried to bisect an anvil. Black smoke coiled and wreathed his body.

He rasped another laugh at my expense…then clenched his fist. Pain exploded in my chest and I was driven to my knees. He twisted his hand and I felt my heart being ripped from my chest.

In short order I experienced the THIRD most excruciating pain of my life. In that moment, I pondered if there were, in fact, some profound truth in the sum total of my most recent, to me, experiences being of pain and suffering.

I tasted copper and coughed, splattering the icy stones with bright red blood. Over the sound of my own heartbeat racing, I could hear his voice, dripping with scorn. “You will make a find servant.” And then he jerk his hand up, and I was lifted off the ground my chest collapsed within my armor…

My vision dimmed as I felt the life being, literally, crushed from me. Focusing on the two green, glowing points swimming in front of me, I summoned the last of my strength, called upon the Unicorn and stepped…

The sound of ripping was…sickening. I may never really know, but at that moment I was CONVINCED that he had just ripped out my heart. Nevertheless, I appeared behind him and had just enough life left to make the swing.

Archanon and the Silver Unicorn were with me. My blade caught him from behind, piecing his armor as lighting from a sudden storm blasted him where he stood. My vision swam and, I fear, I blacked out.

How long I was out, I cannot say. Minutes, days, hours? Truth be told, since my return, what, a hour before, my sense of date and time was still fuddled.

All I know is that I jerked awake, rain pelting my face. I could smell Tempest on the winds. Samira… So another has learned to use their powers. My Rangers have certainly come far in this last year.

The pain in my chest quickly subsided, so I grabbed my sword and started to rise again. From across the top of the tower, I heard the rustle of cloth and the clink of masonry shifting. Quickly, I sprinted over, slipping on the wet, and icy stones.

Rounding the quickly dying beacon, I skidded to a stop just in time to avoid being blasted off the tower by another volley of black bolts. It would appear Lich’s are as notoriously difficult to slay as reported. Like my own, his wounds appeared to be healing quickly, though, I could feel his power waning.

Ravenwood’s Storm, with all the energy spent on the ritual…and my small contributions had sapped much of the foul creatures power. He was growing fatigued. I, however, was not.

I launched at him, pressing the attack. He surprised me. I would not expect a caster of any kind to be so well versed in combat, but he handled his Black Iron staff as well as any warrior I have faced. Back and forth we battled, but his strength comes from Darkness and vile magics.

Mine, comes from Light, the Silver Unicorn, and the strength of my brothers and sisters. Blow for blow, bolt of bolt, his attacks grew weaker by increments, while I drew deeper and deeper upon the power within.

Again, I know not how long the contest lasted, but with a final blow I dashed him to the floor. It lay there a moment, glaring up at me. Then, with but a whisper summoned a portal, an Ebonway, like a pool of infinite blackness directly behind him.

I struck a heartbeat too late. He was gone, but striking the Ebonway had a gratifying effect as it exploded into smoke and with that, his power was broken, his profane ritual disrupted. Suddenly weary, I crossed to the east battlement and looked out over my city.

Battles yet raged, but I could see Rangers, knights, guards and citizens all banding together, pushing back Darkness step by step, inch by inch. Stepping up on the wall, I raised my father’s sword high into the air, letting its light shine like a beacon and shouted the one word that would stir my city, and strike a blow to the very heart of the enemy.

VICTORY!

Better than I could have hoped, enemy forces began and immediate, but rather coordinated retreat. Apparently Von D had planned for all contingencies. Had he even predicted my return? Who knows what other secrets he revealed to the enemy during his time as their slave.

I fear it may be quite some time before we truly realize the full extend of this attack. For I fear, that rather than a random raid, this coordinated battle had much more tangible purposes. What those may, or may not be, I hope time will tell.

Nevertheless, with their Lich and Champion vanquished, the lead elements of Darkness retreated leaving behind hordes of undead to secure their withdrawal. I retraced my steps back down the tower, as quickly as I could, though admittedly, slower than my ascent. Reaching the ground floor, I joined the Rangers in securing the Regional HQ.

Celebor, as ordered, had gone hunting the Adepts and Alystar was focused on defending the most critical guests of the manor. It took some time, but High Towne was cleared. I left Sir Halten in charge, after a few brief words exchanged.

Commander Schenkle had the middle of the city well buttoned, so I rode into Low Town to offer my assistance there. Most of the rest of the night was spent in fierce street to street fighting with Undead and a few Shayakar Nightguard left behind to achieve some vital missions.

By an hour before dawn, I found myself at the Local Headquaters, that small warehouse which now had grown in size and number of Rangers. Most of the command staff was in the field, so I lent my expertise organizing relief efforts and triage for the wounded.

They tore through our potions and elixirs before I even arrived. Most of the Priests and Druids were far too exhausted to do much more than offer words of comfort, so we switched more more mundane methods of treatment.

I do not know if this is comforting or not, but being there, on the ground, organizing my force had a strange sense of rightness. There was no confusion or panic, even amid the chaos. One battle is more or less like another.

An hour or so after dawn, who should drift into the the HQ, but Corporal Ravenwood and the rest of Alpha Team. They looked tired, bloodied, but triumphant. Seeing me, again, was something of a shock.

I feared the might be running on courage alone, so bade them sit and drink. Hawkclaw’s young sister had arrived once most of the fighting had died to help. She proffered drink for the team, and I took a brief moment to rest with them.

So many questions, so many expressions and emotions at once. I greeted Volstagg like an old friend. For the rest, I tried to explain what had happened, but we were all tired. In time, I will put their minds at east to the best of my limited ability.

Beside Volstagg was a man, an Olaran who seemed to be struggling to place me. When he did, however, he immediately pledge himself to my service. I accepted his oath on the spot. However, I will need to make that legal as soon as I am able. Whenever my status in the city is determined. After all, I did, in fact, perish.

But, there was one piece of information that, even as the knowledge of my experiences beyond faded, I held, clutching with all the strength within.

“Hawksclaw is alive,” I said, “I don’t know where. I don’t know when. But we will find him and bring him home.”

Those that understood looked understandably stunned. As for the rest, they will learn. However, I also explained that things would likely be confusing for a while considering my status within the Rangers, in fact, my status as a legal citizen was in question considering my recent circumstances.

No sooner had I made the statement then the door behind me burst open and a very bloody and very pissed Celebor appeared as if summoned. He stormed up to me, shouted me down and called me some rather inappropriate things, then threatened to quit if I did not immediately assume command of Echer’Naught and relieve him of command.

Stunned, and concerned he might ACTUALLY quit, I relieved Captain Celebor of Command. This being on the 25th of White Stagg, 3125, the day after I returned from the grave.

Then, he shouted something about tracking down a lost goat on the Everwall, said he would see us again in 10-15 years and stormed out. I actually believe he is serious?!

Well, now officially in charge, I had a duty to assume command as someone would need to organize the unmitigated chaos that follow any such battle. Corporal Ravenwood bade me rest, but, truth told, I felt fine…other than being a 50+ year old man… ascended my knees!

I was about to leave, when the young sworn, Amaroth, pointed out that I required an escort as the rules, I had written, stipulated that no Rangers were to travel alone. Good man. He will be a fine addition to the Wolfhaven House.

Thanking him profusely, I invited a nearby Trainee to escort me. I do believe the young man may have wet himself. But, he tagged along.

I was…almost out when Corporal caught me. In a quite voice she explained the situation with her husband. My heart warms to know that she has found a life and partner. Despite his former allegiance, Anaxelum is a good man. Still, it is criminal how he has been treated. That, I must ruminate upon.

But first, I must report to duty. Put to rights my command. And then…I have a Lady to see…

Light but I have missed her. Even in death, hers was my own regret…

My heart would have me abandon all other pursuits and ride to her side, but honor compels me otherwise.

So much to do…and then, Vainar.

Always Vainar.

Your most obedient servant,

Lord Mayor Wolfhaven, Colonel

Regional Command at Echer’Naught, Olara

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Rogue Faction Play Three
Winter 3126
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