Campaign of the Month: June 2018

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

Campaign Report 203
Marriage Acceptance

Malcolm,

Filed: Falling Ice 33rd, 3131

Continued from the previous report…

Falling Ice 27th, 3131

Deep within the warehouse, the Floater dealers closed in around the Rangers. With Fitz down near the entranceway, Tal’haer Starwind, the team healer, and Rat, the team scout, both rushed across the congested warehouse to reach her before another errant bolt hit her. Unfortunately, the bolts were the least of their concerns.

Just as Starwind reached Sergeant Lilah Harken, a Mad Bomber Grenade rolled across the floor in front of Fitz. The entire room exploded in amber light and noise as the grenade went off. First, a wave of arcfire heat scorched everything turning metal to liquid, wood to charcoal, and flesh to charred meat. Moving at impossible speed, impelled by the power of the Ramshorn shield, Starwind covered Fitz from the heatwave. A split second later, the second wave of compressed, superheated air hurled everyone across the room.

Fitz’s unconscious body hit a near wall with a sickening crunch. Sergeant Harken and Corporal Sylvia Harpy Vex were hurled in nearly the opposite direction, skidding up against nearby stacks of crates. Flaming chunks of flooring splintered into all directions peppering everyone with shrapnel. Worst of all, the ignited wood burst into a rolling fireball which caught everything on fire.

Rat, who was running toward the fire managed to just barely dodge a flaming corpse hurled in his direction by the power of the explosion. The body splatted against the stack of crates behind him and then slid to the floor. Rat reflexively paused to loot the corpse, finding a strange assortment of items in the dead man’s pockets: 4 copper, some small paper packets, coins from local “bawdy houses,” a wooden pickle (?), two rusted knives, and a crudely drawn porno of a fat orc female drawn like a french whore

Starwind, fortunately, landed far enough away to see Tearrag “Twitch” coming through the side door. He shouted to Twitch that Earwig had disappeared downstairs and he might need support just before casting a Gift of Protection over the Brinchie warrior. Twitch nodded and sprinted toward the northeast corner of the warehouse behind stacks of barrels.

As the blaze began to spread in the room, Rat sprinted through the flames to Fitz’s side. He poured a healing potion down her throat, bringing her back from the brink of death moments before the flames reached her body. Sergeant Harken ordered everyone to fall back. The blaze was so intense and spreading so fast, even the Floater deals, presumed Red Store operatives, retreated, only lobbing a few missed parting shots.

Starwind attempted to rejoin his Team, but the fire’s heat pushed him back. Only then did he notice the huge stack of barrels nearby all marked as containing various forms of alcohol, each more flammable and explosive than the last. As soon as the fire would reach the barrels, it would explode in a fireball that would make the Mad Bomber Grenade seem small by comparison.

Shouting a warning, Starwind sprinted for the side door. Sergeant Harken, Corporal Vex, Fitz, and Rat retreated through the large double front door even as the flames reached them. Flames licked the alcohol barrels.

In the basement, Earwig worked his way slowly down stone stairs to a sub-basement full of tunnes of ale, whisky, and wine. Alone, in the dark, Earwig felt his way along the wall staying the glow of a single lantern by the door. In the dark, he reported hearing strange shuffling sounds.

Creeping carefully closer and closer to the edge of the light, Earwig peered into the darkness. Above him, there was a sudden crump and dust rained down. In the dusty dimness disfigured bodies shuffled into view. A lot of bodies. WAY TOO many bodies.

As he later described them, the tortured forms had once, recently, been humans. Their clothes were torn, but not tattered and worn. Their bodies appeared to be caught mid-transformation somewhere between human and childer. Their bloodshot eyes were filled with pain, rage, and blood lust. They also reeked of sweat, urine, and floaters.

Earwig turned and tried to run. The twisted, tortured forms, smelling meat, rushed after. They were too fast. He barely reached the stairs.

Before he was overwhelmed and dragged down to his death, Twitch appeared and snatched him up, throwing the goblin over his shoulder. Fending off the claws and teeth of the Malformed, Twitch sprinted up the stairs…

…and into a raging fire. Even as the brinchie reached the floor, the large kegs started going off. He managed to reach the door just as the room exploded. Twitch and Earwig were blasted across the street, but otherwise unharmed.

The warehouse was a total loss. All the City Watch and Rangers pulled back as the fire grew so intense that it began to threaten the nearby warehouses. Fortunately, the City Fire Brigade, first founded during the tenure of Lord-Mayor Wolfhaven, arrived and began soaking the surrounding warehouses.

While the warehouse burned in the background, the Lieutenant called the unit Priest over to heal the burned and battered Rangers. Even over the flames, Alpha Team could hear the piteous cries of the Malformed burning alive in the fire. Once Alpha Team has a chance to hydrate and heal, the Lieutenant Scene Commander asked the Team for a report.

During the debrief, the Lieutenant asked what intel they could provide as the fire was rapidly destroying any evidence. He asked Twitch and Earwig for further information on the Malformed in the basement. They described tortured humans apparently caught transforming into something akin to childer. The Lieutenant in Command confirmed that similar reports had popped up in the past. In fact, in the past 4-6 months the Rangers had received increasing numbers of reports concerning tampered floaters. Dozens of deaths had been reported, even more, people suffering horrible mutations and illnesses. Priests, Druids, and Alchemists continued to struggle in diagnosing, let alone curing, the rash of Floater-borne poisons.

The Scene Commander asked if anyone else had gathered further information. Rat raised a paw and produced a pocketful of detritus pilfered from the smoldering corpse. The Lieutenant rifled through the items and pulled out the Coins from the “bawdy houses.” If the man frequented those establishments, people there might no him, or better yet, other members of his organization might patronize them as well. The Lieutenant took the coins and returned the rest to Rat.

Earwig sniffed at the “wooden pickle” and smelled feces. Only then did they realize that it wasn’t a pickle…but something the man had placed up his rectum. Rat turned away in disgust. Starwind tried to wrap the “pickle” in a cloth and throw it in the fire. However, Earwig took it as “evidence,” much to the horror of EVERYONE else.

Rat demanded that Sergeant Harken keep Earwig away from him.

The Lieutenant released the Team to rest and recoup but ordered them to report that evening to submit a formal debrief and report. Bloody and smoking, Alpha Team split into pairs and then headed back to their barracks to change, shower, and rest. That evening, the Team rested and occupied themselves with whatever task calmed them.

Falling Ice 28th, 3131

On the following day, Starwind made a point to head to the Sacred Grove. He entered from the east side of the grove. Within the grove he found the Circle’s druids speaking and singing. High Druidess Eldias Treesinger greeted Druid Starwind and welcomed him to the Grove. They discussed the Alpha Team Unit patch, and how it came to bear the sign of the Phoenix Moth.

In the summer of 3124, a Phoenix Moth was discovered in the forest of Landra’ Feya. Unfortunately, the Deniers of Death also learned of the Moth and hoped to turn it into a Death Moth. Alpha Team was requested to protect the cacoon but was unable to stop the deniers in the Forest, so the Team removed the tree harboring the Moth, and protected it all the way to the Sacred Grove of Echer’Naught. There, behind the protective wall, the Moth was born and has blessed the land since that day. Though, 3131 marks the end of the blessing of Life.

She also suggested that he might ask Lady Lilah Harken about the Field of the Fallen near the Crimson Keep. Ask about the warriors of the Crimson Wall who fell during the War of Flame. To ask about the pitched stands where the warriors of the wall were overwhelmed and slaughtered to buy time for women and children to escape. Treesinger suggested that perhaps the Olarans of Wall understood the Ironwood Elves better than anyone else alive.

After speaking, Starwind rested by the sacred pool and refreshed his body, mind, and spirit.

Fitz and Rat headed to the Wayfarer’s Fight School and gladiatorial arena. They met the Orc pugilist attempting to recruit Fitz into the ring. While Rat stuffed his face with fried food, Fitz watched a night of local warriors beating each other unconscious.

Earwig chose to head out in the morning to have the “wooden pickle” examined by an Adept. However, he declined to first mention WHAT the pickle was to the adept before she attempted “Object Reading.” Within moments, the young female adept screamed, hurled the pickle through the nearest window, and punched Earwig off his chair, shattering his nose. She stormed out and headed straight to Colonel Anderson’s office.

Across the quad, Sergeant Lilah Harken and Corporal Vex were getting dressed up to meet Sir John Wyvern and Royal Sheriff Eric Halten to discuss the pending nuptial. Lady Harken elected to wear a dress and cloak trimmed in her house colors. Corporal Vex elected to wear clothes.

As they were leaving the barracks, the morning stillness was shattered as a wooden pickle exploded through an office window and landed on the ground nearby. The window was followed by screaming and a great deal of commotion. Sergeant Harken had barely made it halfway across the courtyard when an out-of-breath Corporal caught up with her and informed her that her presence was requested in Colonel Anderson’s office.

When she arrived, Colonel Anderson, Malcolm, and Earwig were waiting. Earwig had pieces of cloth shoved up her nose. The Colonel informed Sergeant Harken that Earwig was on report for Harassment. A mark had been placed on his permanent record which docked his pay for the year. Should he refrain from further incidents, his pay will return to normal levels in a year and the mark would no longer affect promotions. Further, he must attend mandatory sensitivity training.

After the meeting, Lady Harken rented a carriage to meet with Sir Wyvern at his in-town home before heading to Sherrif Halten’s Estate. The meeting went well. Sir Halten greeted both warmly and asked if Lady Harken had considered the generous marriage proposal. To everyone’s surprise, she accepted. More surprising, she said that she wanted to move up the wedding before they accepted their mission out to Sea.

Delighted, Sir Halten provided Promisary papers and agreed to submit the proper forms and requests to the appropriate families. He assured them that he would arrange all final approvals and would have a formalized Proposal within a few weeks.

Falling Ice 29th-31st, 3131

On the 29th, Alpha Team resumed standard patrols.

Sergeant Harken & assigned Ranger: High Towne Patrol
Corporal Vex & Earwig: Wall Patrol
Starwind & Twitch: Middle Town Patrol
Rat & Fitz: Low Town Patrol

Falling Ice 32nd, 3131

The Team was preparing to leave for morning patrols when they were interrupted by a knock at the door. Colonel Anderson was at the door with his guards. He awkwardly announced that Lady Harken had been invited to attend the Festival Day Celebration at the Wyvern Estate. Her attendance, while not mandatory, was expected. Further, though they were not REQUIRED to accompany her, Alpha Team was being placed on extended leave from that day of the 32nd to the 1st of First Hunt.

Then, he departed. Lady Harken theorized that Sherrif Halten had applied pressure on the Rangers to approve the leave. Clearly, their houses held great power in the city.

Then on leave, Sergeant Harken invited the Team to join her. Everyone agreed. So, she provided the day off to prepare for the trip.

Falling Ice 33rd, 3131

Early on the morning of the 33rd, Alpha Team saddled up their assigned Warhorses and rode out. The trip was cold but uneventful. At dusk, Apha Team arrived at the Wyvern Estate.

As they arrived they found many revelers already in attendance. Several camps clustered outside the walls. Rooms were already filling up. Sir Wyvern came out to greet the team personally. Accompanying the knight was his personal entourage: Tammy, a 5’5 woman, Swiftblade, a massive white tiger, and Thestral, a shayakar aevakar.

Sir Wyvern took pride in showing off his lavish club called the “Rose Compass Club,” a high-end luxury club with all the amenities. The Team was then taken to the restaurant and given a prime table. The food was excellent of Almahradi design, and the service was exceptional. The alcohol list boasted wines, ales, beers, and liquours from across Shaintar.

Unfortunately, Sir Wyvern was called away for a guest at the front gate. The guest was a Malakaran woman and her honor guard. She was dressed as a dancer, wearing a silk veil revealing only her emerald eyes. As John greeted her, she kisses him on each cheek, before stroking his face and heading inside to her room. She whispered something inaudible to his as she passed.

More carriages arrived as the final guests for the event arrived.

Maclolm

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Campaign Report 202
Breach and Clear

Malcolm,

Filed: Falling Ice 27th, 3131

After having returned from the month-long mission to the far north, Alpha Team was assigned a lengthy training and evaluation period. Whenever a Team suffers great turnover or has spent long periods of time outside of Standard Operating Procedures it is normal to provide a period of readjustment time for the Team and provide an opportunity for the members to mesh.

Alpha Team had suffered it all: loss, turnover, change of command, and an unfortunately long period outside the strictures of rules of engagement. A training and adjustment period was long overdue.

Falling Ice 23rd, 3131

By the morning of the 23rd, Alpha Team was officially pulled from “active duty,” and assigned training detail. In addition to resuming all standard procedures, Alpha Team was also ordered to begin basic cavalry training. Although something of a holdover, technically, Alpha Team members are required to be proficient at riding as they are still classified as a Rapid Response Team. Granted, this is not always enforced due to circumstances, Echer’Naught Regional Command attempts to maintain such standards whenever feasible.

Each day began and ended with daily horse drills, broken up by other training such as combat, archery, survival, and standard Ranger drills.

Because the regular Ranger stables were all overbooked for active operations, Regional Command had rented space at the local stockyards. There, the training horses were being stabled. Each morning, and repeated each evening, Alpha Team would fetch mounts, lead or ride them to the Muster Grounds, before returning them once that portion of the training was complete.

I imagine training is hardly the excitement Alpha Team was accustomed to, but maintaining proper skills is imperative.

On the first day, newly promoted Sergeant Lilah Harken takes newly cloaked Tal’haer Starwind down to Schenkles Bakery for a much-needed pick me up. Despite the long line at the Bakery, Alpha Team has always enjoyed a special relationship with the bakery. They were served at the back door by Master Baker Schenkle himself. With that, they rode back to the muster grounds where they met their training NCO, Sergeant Harrier.

Sergeant Harrier, a galean horse master, began basic instruction in horsemanship, animal husbandry, cavalry maneuvers, and proper care. He had already started with the rest of the Rangers when the Sergeant arrived. A quick bite and everyone buckled down in the frigid air to master the art of horseback riding.

While they trained with the horses, across the yard Commadner Schenckle drilled a unit of Echer’Naught’s City Militia during their mandatory Muster Drill Day. That was not unusual. What WAS unusual was the uniformed pair of animals engaging in some acrobatic combat training at the south-west corner of the yard. The larger of the pair was a horse or mule or donkey wearing chain barding. It was well maintained, but had been obviously hard used. Then, there was the smaller, spryer of the two, a goat of average stature, but extreme agility. They worked in tandem, the larger beast charging in and out, spinning to kick, or darting in to bite while the goat bounded across its back like some kind of platform, aiming savage kicks at the heads of the staw stuffed pillories.

There were two other goats nearby. One was massive, nearly the size of a small horse. The other, a normal sized goat in every way, save for the fact that it was crunching on the stone cobblestones like they were hay.

[As a note, the Mule is Sergeant Minor Muriel Ramshorn, and the barded goat, Sergeant Tina. Two of the most decorated Rangers of Echer’Naught. Their companions being the giant goat Tiny, and his twin brother Max.]

Falling Ice 25th, 3131

Two days after training began, Alpha Team was woken by a messenger at their barracks door delivering a message for Lilah Harken from Sir John Wyvern. She wrote in response. Then, led her team back down for training.

Everything was normal until Sir Wyvern arrived that evening in a local carriage. Over the past decade, several carriage makers and rental companies had sprung up in Echer’Naught serving the wealthy. His arrival caused something of a stir among the Rangers. With him he brought a keg of Grimm and Grapple’s Enchanted Brew designed to cure fatigue.

Sir Wyvern invited Alpha Team to join him at the Wayfarer’s Rest for celebration. They all agreed with Lady Lilah Harken agreeing to join John in his carriage. High above at the Western gate of High Towne, Royal Sheriff of Echer’Naught, Sir Eric Halten watched this first tenuous meeting with interest. As they rode north toward Center Pointe, across the yard Commander Schenkle was shattering a young militiaman’s shield. It has become quite the topic of gossip in the city over the decorated and dashing young Commander’s rise from baker’s son to senior officer in the entire city militia.

Ivan “the Lighthouse” Sokolov greeted Alpha Team warmly and had his staff clear a prime table for them.

Falling Ice 26th, 3131

The falling morning, training did not go well for all the Rangers. Fitz got so angry with her poor horse that she knocked it unconcious. Earwig spent more time on the ground than in the saddle. Everyone else did well enough.

Before breaking, Rat asked permission to handle some personal business privately. He needed time alone, or to have his fellow Ranger escort hang back a few blocks while he had a private meeting. After a brief discussion with Sergeant Harken, Rat approached the animals training the corner awkwardly. They stopped to listen to him explain his situation, before agreeing to escort. When Rat disappeared into the crowded streets of Low Town, Tina was running along the rooftops like a Shayakar Nightguard, and Muriel had dropped back several blocks. Both animals maintained a near perfect shadowing position.

The rest of the Team ended training and headed to get drinks. Sergeant Harken and Corporal Vex, instead, took their mounts and headed to Sir Wyvern’s Town House. When they approached the house, Sergeant Harken noted the Knight’s heightened security. When Sergeant Harken inquired about the situation, Sir Wyvern explained it seemed every time he came to Echer’Naught something terrible happened. The last time, there was a massive explosion.

Sir Wyvern introduced some of his guards, the large brinchie Swiftblade, and another named Thestral.

Regardless, Sir Wyvern gifted her with a bespoke suit of Albrect Steel Half Plate engraved with the Harken House Crest. Though, even this was insufficient to secure her promise of marriage. Though, she did elect to spend the night at his House, though again they both stay in the Guest Rooms.

That evening, Fitz was approached by another streetfighter, a local orc, who invited her to the Wayfarer’s Fight School. She agreed to stop by when able.

Falling Ice 27th, 3131

Again, in the morning, Alpha Team headed down to the Muster Grounds to resume normal training. Despite a few of the Rangers still struggling, the Team made a decent showing. Fitz decked another horse. Earwig, demoted to barrels, still got bucked.

As the training ended, a Ranger came tearing up in a wagon. He skidded to a halt and called over Sergeant Harken. Apparently, Alpha Team was the nearest geared Heavy Breach Team available for an emergency. Not every Team in the city has the necessary experience, training, and, most importantly, gear to handle larger threats. Alpha Team has been, since its inception, tasked with handling the most dangerous threats.

Alpha Team piled in the wagon and headed across town up to the north side of the Warehouse District. There, a Ranger Lieutenant had established a command post across the street from the target warehouse. Over the past few months, the City Watch and Rangers had tracked an uptick in the volume and lethality of Floaters. The local morgue has been filling with overdose cases.

While not illegal, Floaters are highly addictive and can be dangerous. The recent spate of floaters appeared to be cut with extremely deadly substances. Many victims have suffered horrific mutations and transformations. City Watch, City Milita, and the Rangers have been working in tandem to track the flow of floaters through the city and locate the source.

After weeks of painstaking investigation, the Rangers had tracked the floater distribution to the Warehouse. However, all of the City Watch and Ranger Teams sent in had gone silent, presumably killed. And so, Alpha Team was ultimately brought in to breach the warehouse.

According to plans, the warehouse was a large two story open arrangement, with a potential basement level. Rat headed over first, climbed to the crate hoist, and sneaked in. However, the barn doors creaked too loudly, alerting the defenders who began firing crossbows at the brinchie Rangers. Still, Rat managed to bring back valuable intelligence.

Sergeant Harken, Corporal Vex, and Fitz stacked up on the large front door. Starwind and Earwig stacked up on the side door, and Rat climbed back up to the front hoist. On a signal, All teams kicked in the doors.

At first, nothing happened, but a few meters into the room, gang members leaped out from behind stacks of crates and barrels, descended upon the Rangers from all sides. More assailants fired crossbows from gantries around the room. Starwind hurled magic bolts, Rat dropped crossbowmen with throwing spikes, Corporal Vex fired her handcasters, while Sergeant Harken and Fitz charged up the center.

Fitz takes hard blows and goes down. Rat scrambles from the rafters. Earwig stumbles across stairs leading down to a basement level. Everything closed in around Alpha Team…

Malcolm

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Earwig Report 2
Damnable Training

I have come to associate horses and saddles with pain. I’ve never been one to ride gracefully astride a stoic Stallion or Mare and after this damnable week, I sincerely doubt i ever will. The rest of the team seemed to pick it up relatively well and it was nice to see them all doing so well. They are quite the eclectic bunch but all seem to be very nice and intelligent team members. I must say though that I have rearely seen so many brinchie in one team.

Through my best attempts i was unable to grasp riding through the normal means, but the instructor allowed me to practice with one of the training barrels with a group of children in hopes it would help…… it did not however. The children I must say were a delight to spend time with and I can see much potential in them all to be strong, kind and capable warriors in the future. I do feel terrible for the destruction of the training barrel but it seems my penance is the incessant remove of many splinters from most of my body.

For the most part the training remained uneventful though we were all treated to a nice meal at the Wayfarer’s Rest by who i assume to be Seargent Harkens Betrothed, or some sort of suitor. She seems to be quite the capable young lass and leading a team at her age is quite the achievement so I hope she is happy with this endeavor. So overall my first week or so with Aplha team has been quite the experience which makes me happy as I know I made the right choice for where to spend my last few good years on this world. May Celesia guide our way.

-Ranger Earwig

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Earwig Report 1
Arriving to Echer' Naught and Awaiting Alpha Team

The city is quite a difference to Kythros, in its people, architecture and its Rangers. Kythros can be quite militaristic when it comes to running operations but here in Olara its on a much more rigurous scale. Still the city is a nice change of pace from Kythros and it is making me that much more excited for whats to come. After requesting the transfer I was unsure of what to come but waiting around was not quite what I had in mind when wanting to join the infamous Alpha team of Echer’ Naught. It was a surprise to hear they had been missing for some time, but i’ve been assured that they are set to return to the city any day now.

Its getting to be quite bothersome to wait as the anticipation for what’s to come seems to be eating away at me, but I continue to keep my morning meditations to help quell some of this excitment within me. I have beenm able to assist in some matters with the Rangers so far, primarily screening some of the new recruits, and Colonel Anderson has been quite the gracious leader here so I look forward to what is to come. Celesia knows my time on this world is quickly coming to an end but I look forward to what I will come to see with this exciting new team.

-Ranger Earwig

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Campaign Report 201
The Long Road Home

Malcolm,

Filed: Falling Ice 22nd, 3131

After the months behind enemy lines, no doubt Alpha Team feels relief and anticipation being so close to home. Though the Defiant Lands are hardly friendly territory, they are, nevertheless, not the Kal. I know the palpable sense of relief here at the command just getting Alpha Team out from behind the Red Wall of Imperial power.

Just a few more weeks and they will be home.

Dark Moons 24th, 3130

In the company of Commander Garrus’ Legio Heroes company, Alpha Team and their allies camped just outside the Aralon forces among the Legion’s allies, the Ironwood Elves of Tar’Imas. In the moment of relative calm, each member of the Team took time to address those small things which so impact a soldier on the march.

Corporal Lilah Harken, an Olaran to her core, took time to mend her worn gear and to sleep. Sylvia Harpy Vex, the former pirate Captain, cleaned, meditated on the battle in her mind, and slept. Talh’aer Starwind had arrived home for the first time in years. He took the opportunity to sit with his people and eat in nearly complete silence.

Their newest allies observed everything with a watchful eye. Rat stayed close to the brinchie goddess, Fits, and stayed quiet and unobtrusive. Fitz just tried to remain calm. Tearrag seemed to be a brinchie serious about his mission and spent the entire trip ensuring that none of his charges escaped, or were harmed.

Dark Moons 25th, 3130

In the morning the Legion and Rangers broke camp before dawn. Remounting, they resumed their ride south deeper in the Aralon Forest. By late evening, they arrived at the elven city of Tar’Imas. Few outsiders ever reach so deeply into the forest of the Ironwood Elves. And, the elves of Tar’Imas certainly do not speak of the horrors of the War of Flame.

During the war, the armies of the Kal-A-Nar Empire maid numerous raids into the forest, burning huge swathes of the forest and putting thousands upon thousands of elven lives to the torch and the sword. To this day, the land, city, and the people bear the hideous scars of the war. Nearly every elf born before or during the war bears physical scars and deformities from violence or flames. Throughout the forest, the verdant green is broken by vast swath of blackened lifeless earth where nothing grows, no Life can be felt.

Perhaps no better, or worse, example of the horrors of the war lies with the melted towers of Tar’Imas. Few alive could even imagine the sheer heat required to melt marble…outside of the heart of a volcano, or dragon’s breath. Despite the labor dedicated to rebuilding after the war, large sections of the city still appear as melted candles.

Upon arrival, Alpha Team and their Legion escorts were directed nearby to an open field outside the city walls. Commander Garrus was met by a tall elven warrior. After speaking with the commander, she approached the Team, introducing herself as Unias Thylene Eriadors, commander of Tar’Imas Rangers.

She spoke with Corporal Harken, asking her mission in the Aralon. Corporal Harken explained their recent mission to kill the Ice Lord, spoke of the losses. Unias Eriadors appeared to know of the Wild threat. She mentioned a cousin, Ash’yra, who had battled the previous year in the Drakar forest against the forces of Wild. So great was the threat faced by the Wild, even the Iron elves were forced to fight alongside their most hated foes, the Kal, just to survive.

Seemingly satisfied with their answers, the Iron commander heavily “suggested” that the team might want to take a bath. She indicated that they might in fact smell somewhat. Then surprisingly for an Iron elf, she offered to let them bathe and change out of their stiking skins. She left then, but not before signalling her aides to show them to a bathing pool neraby.

The pool was surprisingly warm, misting in the cool winter air. Fitz, Rat, and Tearrag declined the bath, but the other Rangers dove in with enthusisam. Months of filth streaking off of them. Their elven hotsts also provided cleaning sponges with some form of natural cleanser. I can only imagine how divine it must have felt.

When they were bathed, the elves provided new clothes of elven weave. Their previous skins were, presumably destroyed. Though the clothes were of simple design, the fabric was sikly soft and strong. Further, they were provided cloaks of wool.

Washed, fed, in clean and dry clothes, Alpha Team beded down under the towering trees of the Aralon. Before bedding down, Starwind sought, and was granted permission to speak with Unias Eriadors. She was medding in the Garden of Death, where the Iron Elves had impaled and then sung trees through the defeated Kal warriors that were unable to flee the slaughter.

She greeted him as he approached. After he explained that he was seeking a new sword, and how his was lost battling the Ice Lord, she merely unbuckled her own elven longsword and handed it to him. She made him promise to use the sword to battle as villainous foes as he had done previously. He agreed and then returned to his Team.

Dark Moons 26th, 3130

In late morning, Alpha Team rose and prepared to depart. Commander Garrus’ column rode south again.

Dark Moons 28th, 3130

At mid day, the Legion column and Ranger allies depart the cover of Aralon’s trees and break for a quick meal. Then continued on, camping every evening surrounded by their Legion escorts.

Dark Moons 30th, 3130

The Legion column arrives outside the ruins of Hispan. Once one of the greatest cities in Shaintar, all that is left now are towers toppoled like toyes and rubble in dirty streets. Strangely, no one has ventured to reclaim the city, or done so for long. If the rumors are true, advenurers will find only death in the ruins of Hispan.

But, quite a thriving community has developed in the outskirts just outside Hispan. Less a city, more a ramshackle collection of meagre huts, dirty alehouses, and unregulated merchants. Still, there are worse places in Shaintar.

North of the Hispan slums a larger Legion camp perhched surrounded on all sides by high walls, and armored legionaries. Commander Garrus and his Legion entered the gates before dismouting and leading Alpha Team into the central pavilion.

The Legion’s central tent was enormous, more a circus pavilion than a command tent. Commander Garrus allowed Alpha Team to fall out and find food in the Legion mess while he and Corporal Harken continued through into the interior. Through several layers of security Commander Garrus led Corporal Harken to the central office.

There, she found a large warrior garbed commander of the Legion. He was middle aged, but with a youthful look. His stark white hair was in deep contrats to the gray of his well trimmed beard. Corporal Harken immediately recognized him as Baron Alexander Wolfhaven.

Lord-Commander Wolfhaven greeted her warmly and offered her an ale. Sitting down, they discussed the mission to the north. He congratulated her on her successfully brining her Team home and comisserated about her losses in the field. Wolfhaven went on to suggest that the only people in Shaintar who could understand her experiences are current and former members of Alpha Team.

He even seemed to suggest that the only people Alpha Team members could truly rely upon were themselves…even those few who turned to the other side.

Only then, did Wolfhaven broach the subject which likely brought him out of his keep. He asked to know how his brother, Celebor, died. Painfully, Corporal Harken replayed the events, describing Celebor’s heroism until the end. The two Olarans shared a drink in honor of a fallen hero.

Wolfhaven then requested his brother’s bow and quiver, and kit, but suggested she return the pin and patch to Ranger Command. As for the Hearth Stone, Wolfhaven suggested she keep it with the Team. Though, he was amused but dissapointed to learn that he had never revealed how he came by the stone before he died.

Corporal Harken agreed and laid the bow, quiver, and kit on the desk. That done, Wolfhaven escorted her back to her team and joined them in the mess hall. True to his style, Wolfhaven greeted each member of Alpha Team, and their new allies leaning about them and welcoming each to the the camp. Before returning to his office, he suggested that Corporal Harken consider her new chain of command as the Rangers were almost certinaly going to promote her when she returned.

That night, the Team slept on actual cots within the Legion camp.

Dark Moons 31st, 3130

In the morning, Wolfhaven rode out to see the Team off as they headed East toward the Northern Gathers. Commander Garrus escorted the Team to the border.

Dark Moons 33rd, 3130

On the last day of the year, Garrus’ legion arrived at the border with the Gathers. There, a motely band of goblinesh and a few humans awaited Alpha Team. They were led by an orc named Gorn. Not a conversationlist, but a member of a group called Ranna’s Revengers. At least a few of the Team might have recognized the name as another former member of the Team, Ranna. Now, she stalkes the Gathers with her band of Revengers destroying Blood Witch forces, hunting the beast called Gram Gram.

Falling Ice 1st, 3131

On the morning of the 1st, the first new day of the year, 3131, Alpha Team woke on the border between the Defiant Lands and the Northern Gathers. Here Garrus bid farwell to Alpha Team, turning their escort duties over to Ranna’s Revengers. Gorn said nothing, just waved for Alpha Team to follow and turned East.

Shrugging, the Rangers followed.

Nothing much happened on the 8 day ride across the Gathers. Char, Flyg, Bralk… The Revengers camped outside every Gather, never allowed in, but also left alone. Clearly, the Revengers had a reputation of violence. Still, despite the lack of any conversation, they were not the worst hosts.

Falling Ice 9th, 3131

On the 9th, Alpha Team arrived at the Gather’s side of the Jasara bridges. It was too late to cross, so the Team camped the night, watching the lights of the city shine in the night.

Falling Ice 10th, 3131

In the morning, Gorn pointed to the bridge across to Jasara and told the Rangers to go there, before he turned, along with his Revengers, and walked away without a backwards glance. Shrugging, the Rangers entered the long line to cross the bridge.

They waited in line for an hour and a half before Jasara’s security forces thoroughly examined their papers. Once through, they crossed the city, which took a couple hours, before standing in line again for Jasara security to thoroughly examine their papers. Another hour and a half waiting, another officious guard and they were through.

On the FAR side of the bridge, they arrived at the Olaran checkpoint. The Crimson Wall guard examined Corporal Harken’s papers, but upon realizing her family status, they bowed and welcomed her into Olara. As a member fo the Blood, she was escorted to the nearby security keep and offered a room. She declined and elected to bilet with her men.

So, the Rangers were given beds in the Olaran barracks. It was perfectly adequate though Starwind found the accomodations to be less than desirable. Rat noted that the guards responded differently to Corporal Harken. She explained that hers was a Major Olaran House, which came with certain privledges…and responsibilities.

They end up eating in the Olaran mess. A local bard was butchering some of Ballen’s most popular ballads. Corporal Harken paid him to play anyting else, so he switched to the Olaran classic, “The Ballad of the Stagg and Lion.”

After dinner, the Rangers head to the training yard to relax and unwind. Fitz shows off some of her best Kalinta forms. Vex managed to show off her exquisite physice. She caused quite the stirr among the off-duty Olarans. One of the grooms nearly broke his neck tumbling down a flight of stiars. Her attempts to check on him may have given the poor lad a stroke.

The Team rested well that night.

Falling Ice 11th, 3131

In the morning, the Team rose and headed to Rhion.

Falling Ice 12th, 3131

In the evening, the Team arrived in Rhion, camping at the Ranger outpost. There was a time when members of Alpha Team were jailed in Rhion. Yet another legend in a long line of legends.

Falling Ice 13th, 3131

In the morning, the Team departed Rhion for Kore.

Falling Ice 18th, 3131

Alpha Team arrived in Kore, lodging at the Ranger outpost John Wyvern nearly burned when he was still a member of Alpha Team.

Falling Ice 19th, 3131

In the morning, the Rangers turned due south on their final leg home. They stopped at the old familiar waystation half way to Echer’Naught, and within a few miles of the Wolfhaven Estate.

Falling Ice 20th, 3131

Late in the evening of the 20th, after almost a year since leaving, Alpha Team entered the northern gate of Echer’Naught, turned at Centerpointe, then up the Hill to High Towne. At long last, escorted by a Ranger Corporal, Alpha Team reached the Regional HQ and entered their barracks.

Corporal Harken was immediately struck by all of the empty beds still labelled with the plaques of lost Team Members: Sergeant Enoc “Atlas” Blackheart, Sergeant Finnlea “Rez” Runesplitter, RFC Mirthal Ballen, Kai Corbin, and Gawain Cromwell. Not to mention the death of former Captain Celebor. So much loss.

Corporal Harken assigned Starwind to Cromwell’s bunk and gave the three brinchie the three open bunks. She would deal with the other bunks in the morning.

Falling Ice 21st, 3131

At 6AM sharp, there was a knock at the door. Corporal Harken answered to find a Ranger RFC standing outside to inform her that Colonel Anderson requested her presence as soon as convenient. Corporal Harken dressed quickly and took Vex with her to meet the Regional Commander.

Colonel Anderson has only recently arrived and invited the Rangers in for breakfast. He commented that their reports had surprised many members of the Ranger command, but that he had never lost faith that Alpha Team would complete their mission. Corporal Harken commented that of the original Team to leave, only she and Vex remained.

Colonel Anderson assured them both that accomodations would be put in their files. Further he annouced immeidate promotions for Corporal Harken.

  • On Falling Ice 21st, 3131 Corporal Lilah Harken was promoted to Sergeant.

Sergeant Harken’s first act was to immediately promote Ranger Vex. Though normally such promotions require time to increase rank from Ranger to Corporal, Colonel Anderson authorized an immediate jump from Ranger to Corporal.

  • On Falling Ice 21st, 3131 Ranger Sylvia Harpy Vex was promoted to Corporal.

Corporal Vex was also assigned as second in command.

Colonel Anderson authorized a day to get adjusted and process the personl effects of the retired Rangers. He asked Harken to gauge their newer allies interest in joining the Rangers. Those that wish would be officially inducted the followng day. Before moving foward, Harken requested some leave for her team. Anderson aproved 4 days after the induction ceremony.

The Colonel also reported that Sir John Wyvern, former Alpha Team member, and potential for her arranged marriage had been campaigning the Rangers to bring her home, and inform him of her return. Sir Wyvern had arranged lodging in the cit and had been a very vocal advocate on Sergeant Harken’s behalf.

Additinally, Colonel Anderson informs Sergeant Harken that there is a Ranger at the HQ who put in a personal request to join Alpha Team. He slid a file across to her. After a brief glance, she nodded her assent to meet the new recruit. Colonel Anderson sent me to fetch him: Earwig.

The goblin had served the Rangers for many years as an Adept scanning recruits. At some point he had decided working in the office was no longer sufficient and had requested transfer to active duty. Moreover, he specifically requested transfer to Alpha Team. Despite his advanced years, he passed his testing.

Earwig entered the room and introduced himself to Sergeant Harken. The meeting went well and she welcomed him to the Team. I provided the paperwork, and both signed.

  • On Falling Ice 21st, 3131 Ranger Earwig officially transfered to Alpha Team from Kythros Command.

After signing the paperwork, Colonel Anderson asked for a moment to speak with Corporal Vex privately. Sergeant Harken and Earwig headed across the courtyard to meet introduce Earwig to the Team and get him a cot. Sergeant Harken began the process of boxing all of the former Rangers personal effects and preparing them for shipping to next of kin or storage.

With the others gone, Colonel Anderson congratualted Corporal Vex on her recent marrage to Captain Roberts. Further, he informed her that as part of a “service” provided to the Rangers, he had requested leave for Coporal Vex, and the rest of Alpha Team, to assist in operations at sea. Surprisingly, the Rangers agreed. Even knowing that beyond the borders of the continent, the Rangers would have no authority.

Corporal Vex agreed, and also agreed to speak with Sergeant Harken about whether Alpha Team would volunteer to join the mission. With that, she returned to the barracks. When she arrived Rat was recieving his paperwork to officially transfer to Alpha Team.

Once all of the former Team members effects were boxed and carried out by Regional HQ staff, Sergeant Harken approached Starwind, Fitz, and Tearrag about joining the Team. All three agree so Earwig scans each, following the same protocal he had used for years.

While Earwig is scanning the new recruits, Corporal Vex pulls Sergeant Harken asside to discuss the “pecuiliar arrangement” with Captain Roberts. After hearing her plans, Sergeant Harken agrees to support the mission. In a few months time, when the snows have melted, Alpha Team will be heading to the coast and out to open sea.

Falling Ice 22nd, 3131

At 11 am on the 22nd, Alpha Team enjoys another swearing in ceremony.

  • On Falling Ice 22nd, 3131 Tal’haer Starwind joins the Rangers and Alpha Team
  • On Falling Ice 22nd, 3131 Fitz joins the Rangers and Alpha Team
  • On Falling Ice 22nd, 3131 Tearrag joins the Rangers and Alpha Team.

That evening, everyone joins at the Wayfarere’s Rest to celebrate the newest members of the Team and toast those fallen and lost.

Malcolm

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Campaign Report 200
Return from the North (8 year anniversary)

Malcolm Report

Filed: Dark Moons 24th, 3130

The response to discovering Alpha Team had, in fact, survival after months of silence, and that they can complete their mission against all odds was shadowed by the news of former Captain Celebor’s death. All things perish, eventually. Even the immortal Elves find ways to die.

However, the loss of heroes such as Celebor are always a bitter pill to swallow. He had his differences of opinion with the Rangers. In his final years, he felt forced to self-exile rather than be drawn again into the internecine political squabbles of the Southern Kingdoms. Yet despite any lingering conflicts, he was, always, a Ranger, a hero, and a friend to Light and Life.

Dancing Clouds 19th, 3130

We now know, having had Farspeaker contact with the Team more details than previously known. I have attempted to update this and previous reports to reflect that information. So far as Alpha Team was aware, former Sergeant Finnlea “Rez” Runsplitter had remained back at the failing Sacred Grove watching the Team’s struggles via her own brand of divination. And, from Ranger Priests, we gather have been informed that Celebor’s spirit seems to have missed the appointed date in the Eternal Forest. Based upon Runesplitter’s prior actions, we strongly believe that the fallen archer now follows former Sergeant Runesplitter. What we don’t know is whether he is her ally…or whether he is a curse, a constant reminder of the cost for leaving the Team before their final battle.

Whatever the case, she vanished into the Northern snows. No one has been able to contact her or locate her. We do not believe she is dead, though there is no proof either way. Some, such as former Sergeant Enoc “Atlas” Blackheart, believe that she will return in time. Officially, the Rangers are concerned for her fate, but as she retired in the field, have no plans, or ability to commit resources to her retrieval. I, for one, hope she is well and pray to the Ascended for her safe return.

Unofficially, there are those who suspect that she knew her fate. That was, after all, her signature ability. If true, did she trade Celebor’s life for her own? It is terrible to believe any Ranger would make such a bargain, but those rumors persist.

Whatever the former Sergeant’s fate, after months of silence, Adepts were suddenly able to contact Corporal Liliah Harken. It was as she appeared from a well of nothing. One moment she was entirely absent, and then she flared into presence.

As soon as contact was made, Colonel Anderson was summoned. Ever since their disappearance, Colonel Anderson had required hourly attempts to contact the Team. After several months, most of Ranger command felt the expenditure of Farspeaker resources to be excessive, however, the Colonel was adamant that Alpha Team would return and triumphantly. And so, for weeks on end, every hour a Farspeaker reached out to the Team in sequence.

The Colonel was at dinner when contact was restored. It should be noted that in his rush to reach the office he never bothered to remove the napkin tucked into his shirt.

While overjoyed to hear the Team again, Colonel Anderson was heartbroken to hear the report. Sergeant Runesplitter gone, retired. former Captain Celebor dead, and Corporal Harken the last member of the Team standing. At least the rest of Alpha Team were not dead…yet…

Corporal Harken had not yet completed her report before Colonel Anderson was writing reports for dispatches. I was given a singular standing order.

Bring them home.

Later, when pressed, Colonel Anderson authorized me to use whatever resources, contacts, and channels needed to bring Alpha Team home alive and as well as they could realistically be.

It was then that I was again reminded of the enduring legacy of Alpha Team’s contributions not just to the Rangers, but all of Shaintar. When the call went out for help bringing them home, the response was overwhelming and swift.

We knew only they were in Kal territory, literally within the Everwall. I knew that former Alpha member Silverwing (then Steelwing) had been a member of the Gray Talons and might have contacts in the Region.

I do not know the particulars, though I gathered from the intensity of his response that whatever resources he was about to contact were never supposed to exist. I have no proof, nor details, but I fear he broke serious protocol and risked his own people to send out support for the Team.

To his credit, within hours, Aevakar were winging their way up and down the Everwall, risking death and capture in the hope of spotting Alpha Teams camp.

Meanwhile, the Gray Talons might be able to locate and secure Alpha Team, but they would not be able to escort the Team out of the Kal-A-Nar Empire safely. So, I reached out to Kythros command requesting contact with Unchained assets in the Empire. Such individuals are closely guarded secrets for obvious reasons.

Tor Mastak has spies even in the Ranks of the Rangers. Unmasking and locating Unchained agents within the Empire’s borders would be a huge victory for the Empire and a blow to the Rangers. Not only would we be denied a critical source of information, but trust in the Rangers would be shaken, making future such contacts more difficult.

Understandably, command was initially hesitant to expose a critical ally in such a blatant way. Colonel Anderson, however, made the necessity clear and arranged for the rather sizable payment of arms and gold to be authorized by Ranger command. Luckily, the Rangers were in contact with an Unchained camp not terribly far from where the Gray Talons eventually located the Rangers.

Safe harbor, or as safe as could be reasonably expected in the Kal, achieved, then came the hardest part…exfiltration.

Even as well trained as Alpha Team might be, they were already known to the Kal. Their entry into the Empire had not been quiet, and Tor Mastak was no doubt bending every resource to locate them. As such, without serious cover, and proper papers, there was simply no way for Alpha Team to make it across the Empire, let alone their borders.

Here, I reached out to a more controversial resource. In the past years, Delta Team had earned a reputation for “coloring outside the lines.” So much so that their Sergeant, Nichts, had retired after the successful liberation of A’Davar. Along with her, she took several members of the Team and their vast network of contacts developed during their operation in the west.

It has been rumored that she, and her people, were involved with, or behind several criminals, or quasi-legal, outfits now operating beyond Ranger purview. Whether or not this might be true, Captain Cromwell was known to have “unusual” resources at his disposal.

After contacting him directly, and explaining the situation, he put me on to local assets, who in turn, directed me to a local shipping business, who then, through channels, put me in touch with a representative of an organization that declined to share more information than their existence. After explaining our problem, and negotiating a staggering price, this organization agreed to retrieve Alpha Team from the Kal under the guise of buying them as slaves, also conveniently providing cover for transferring the pre-arranged payoff to the Unchained.

These, “associates” would “walk” Alpha Team across the border. At that point, I needed to secure passage across the defiant lands into “friendly” territory. In point of fact, I was contacted by the Legio Heroes from Legion Keep. They had become aware of Alpha Team’s situation and offered their services in whatever way necessary. Once learning the details, Captain Garrus, the post commander, took charge and ordered a sizable force of Legionnaires to mobilize and establish camp just south of the Kal border, near Barrinor.

Once Alpha Team was exfiltrated across the border, the Legio Heroes would escort them safely home.

All the arrangements were organized rapidly. Colonel Anderson, to his word, authorized every expenditure and gave me full latitude to make the necessary agreements. Whenever clout was required, he stepped in and supported the plan without reservation. In my experience, this ranked as one of the largest and most complex rescue operations in the Reginal Headquarters history.

Though lost, alone, and seemingly abandoned, I cannot imagine what Alpha Team’s impression was of their situation or the mission.

White Stagg 25th, 3130

During the conversation with Corporal Harken, she asked the date. When we informed her that it was the 25th of White Stagg, she was stunned and defeated. Our last contact with Alpha Team had been in the summer, Red Wolf 17th, 3130, when they had escaped the Kal-A-Nar Empire’s attempted encirclement, and been led north by Celebor.

Presumably, when they reached the Everwall’s failing Sacred Grove, communication was severed. Despite our daily, and later hourly, attempts to reach them, all failed. Eight months had passed. Nearly half a year of no contact, no word on whether they had survived.

According to Corporal Harken, no more than a month had passed for them as they healed in the grove and then began their assault. In fact, she claimed that only a couple of weeks had gone by. Apparently ending the Ice Lord’s Tempest ritual had pierced the time bubble bringing the Team back into ours. Or, perhaps, it was when they emerged from the Everwall. We may never know.

Suffice to say, Corporal Harken was shaken by the revelation but resolved to get her team out of the Kal safely. Colonel Anderson ordered her to retreat from the Everwall and find a secure location where they were still hidden from Kal eyes, but could, potentially, be rescued. She agreed and regular contact was re-established.

From that point, Corporal Harken revived Talhaer Starwind, before she found Celebor’s Hearth Rock and activated the hour of warmth for her team. Then, she set about dragging them into the heat of the campfire while Starwind moved from Ranger to Ranger, bringing them back from the brink of death.

It was cold, lonely work, but eventually, everyone was revived. Food and drink were passed around and the exhausted Rangers took stock of their situation. With the storm gone, the way back was still blocked by snow, but they could relatively easily dig through. The enemy’s final cavern was safe enough, but there was no food, and rescue could not find them there. While the others rested, Corporal Harken gathered frozen branches and warmed the kindling with the fire’s magic.

So, when the campfire’s magic ended, and cold flooded in, the weary Rangers rose to their feet. Forcing stiff muscles and joints to work, they dug through the loose snow, between the Ice Lord’s cavern to the Tempest Golem crevasses. Before leaving, they gathered Celebor’s Ranger Kit, his bow, arrows, weapons, and focus crystal. Then, Alpha Team turned and departed, through the Golem’s cavern out into the entrance to the caves and the field of dead. Starwind carried the unconscious Sylvia Harpy Vex, taking her bastard sword to replace his shattered blade.

All of the undead were stiff now, buried in ice and snow. But here and their, ghastly hands thrust out of the snow, their fingers curled in claws of frozen rigor.

Alpha Team crunched over the mound of corpses to find a little shelter in the evergreens south of the cavern. There, they took the kindling Corporal Harken had prepared and started an actual fire, using the heat to dry yet more wood.

Night set in and true winter snow fell. Despite their situation, and the corpse pile beneath them slowly thawing in the heat of their fire, the camp was peaceful there in the shadow of the Everwall. Corporal Harken set watches, and the exhausted Rangers threw down to rest and eat.

Gawain Cromwell, just now discovering his newfound powers of Life, cast Beast Friend to speak with an Arctive Fox who managed to return with a brace of coneys. Corbin Kai broke the bones to make broth in melted snow. Everyone waited as the stew boiled on the fire.

As spare as the far was, it tasted better than a homecooked meal to the starving Team. In the middle of dinner, Vex sat up from her unconsciousness, breathing heavily as if she had been running from a chase. The startled Rangers all glanced over to see which of her personas had emerged.

It was Vex, though she seemed troubled. After taking a moment to collect herself, she described a dream…or nightmare…of being chased. In a twisted and shadowed forest, she had been stalked by a tower of fire, and a dark shadow blotting the sky. The Rangers surmised it was the Darkness and Flame spirits within her.

Starwind cautioned that should she remove the collar again, there was a very real possibility that she would be consumed by one or the other…and perish for good.

And there they were, cold, isolated, sitting on a frozen pile of corpses, at the far reaches of the Empire, under the shadow of the Everwall, waiting for someone, anyone, to come to rescue them.

White Stagg 27th, 3130

For two days they slowly thawed the corpses and ate whatever small game the fox brought. Each morning, Ranger command contacted Alpha Team checking their status and confirming help had yet to arrive.

While Cromwell and Starwind are on watch in the early morning on the 27th, they spot a creature flying overhead. At first, they feared it was a gargoyle, or worse. But, as they scanned the sky, a 6’6" aevakar with brown wings and hair landed nearly in the snow with barely a whisper.

The aevakar, who declined to provide a name, informed Starwind that he and his flight had been sent to help Alpha Team. In truth, and I had not considered until just then, sending aevakar was brilliant because any other intruder might have been treated with suspicion and even fired upon, but no aevakar would EVER serve the Empire.

Despite the arrival of help, the situation was not without its challenges. The aevakar agreed to help escort the Rangers to safety, but he would NOT work with, or aid, Tempest. If they wanted help, and really they had no choice, Kai Corbin would have to be left behind.

As unfortunate as the proclamation was, it was understandable. Every peoples had suffered atrocities committed by Tempest. However, with their connection to Zavonis, wind, and lightning, Tempest had taken a particular perverse delight in torturing and turning the already rare aevakar. So, as much as the Rangers might hate their demand…it was understandable.

Starwind woke Corporal Harken with the news. Help had arrived, but to get it, she would be forced to abandon Kai. The Olaran flatly refused. Which is a very Olaran standpoint. Kai, however, understood that the Rangers would be dead without the aevakar’s help. And, as much as he had issues with the Rangers and the Team, he was still at least somewhat loyal to Corporal Harken.

So, the former Legionnaire made the choice easy. There, at the end of the world, Kai Corbin turned over his Ranger pin, leaving the Grayson’s Gray Rangers for good. She had already lost Sergeant Runesplitter, and now Kai. Losses mounted, but she was in command and needed to focus on saving the rest of her team.

Their goodby was brief. Kai gathered his things, turned over Celebor’s bow and quiver, and then disappeared into the trees. Angrily, Corporal Harken rouses her team for travel and sets out following the aevakar scout.

Surprisingly, the aevakar turned west not south, running almost parallel to the Everwall, angling only slightly south. The Rangers trudged through the snow while the winged elves floated above, keeping a keen watch. These aevakar scouts were careful never to reveal their true number, but the Rangers counted maybe a dozen.

White Stagg 30th, 3130

They traveled for three days over broken, frozen terrain. Each morning, command confirmed their status and assured Corporal Harken that they were on schedule. Late on the morning of the 30th, the lead aevakar landed nearby and climbed a snowy ridge. Corporal Harken climbed up to join him and was shown a distant Kal keep and mean village hugging a frozen stream.

The aevakar told Corporal Harken to take her team to the village. She would find help there. Then, he took to the sky and the aevakar winged away.

Cautiously, but with resignation, Corporal Harken lead her weary, threadbare Team down the valley and over to the village. They arrived before noon, obvious dark spots against the snowfield. From within the village, a figure appeared, garbed in thick skins and furs.

She, as it turns out, a woman of mid-20s or 30s, raiseed a hand in harsh greeting. Trying first Kal, then switched to a broken Olaran. Corporal Harken responded in kind.

The woman introduced herself as Misha. She indicated a man who had come to join her as her brother Mika. Alpha Team was expected, but Vex and Starwind must wear the shackle cuffs of slavery, though they would not be chained. Begrudgingly, the Rangers agreed and Misha escorted them to a low hall of wood, skin, and bone.

Inside it stank of smoke, blood, offal, piss, sex, and ale. But, it was warm. She informed the Rangers that they were in mid-winter and the roads were nearly impassable. They must remain for many months until the roads could be traveled.

Misha sent Mika to fetch clothes. He returned with a pile of reeking skins and fur. Misha instructed the Rangers to rifle through the pile and find clothes that fit. The clothes were all oiled skins and soiled fur. They stank worse than the hut, but they were warm and durable.

Once the Rangers were dressed, MIsha explained that to live among the Kal, the Rangers must pull their weight and work just like everyone else. No one ate who did not work. The work is hard, and the life harsher, but no one singled the Rangers out, though, no one but Misha deigned to speak with them.

Corporal Harken worked a forge. Cromwell helped care for the animals. The rest of the Rangers mended and repaired baskets or darned clothes. Starwind and Vex, as “slaves” are forced to butcher and dress animals for food. Despite his revulsion, Starwind carried out his task with the efficiency expected of Ironwood elves.

Gray Winds 16th, 3130

We learned from later reports that on the 16th of Gray Winds, three new Rangers arrived near the city of Barrinor in the Defiant Lands; Rat, Fitz, and Tearrag. Orders sent them to a merchant encampment north of the city. There, they were escorted by a massive brinchie warrior in blood steel armor through a large camp, into a massive pavilion filled with rich merchants from the Kal, the Defiant Lands, Dregordia, and the Eternal Desert. Though the gaggle of thickly robed merchants, their guide passed through into a back room guarded by hard-eyed warriors.

The room was sparsely adorned, stark in comparison to the lavish finery just outside. Here, a woman in heavy Olaran plate colored the black of midnight. She wore a white mummers mask completely concealing her features. She introduced herself as Lady White and informed them that the Rangers had made arrangements for her to extract people from the Empire.

Further, it was their responsibility to bring these individuals back to Barrinor alive, whether they wished to leave or not. The three brinchie were given leave to use whatever violence necessary to achieve the mission, short of killing any of those to be retrieved. If successful they would be richly rewarded, Failure earned them nothing.

A caravan was preparing to enter the Kal from the very camp. They were to act as guards and laborers with the caravan. She warned the brinchie not to fail her. Then, they were dismissed to meet the caravan master.

Outside the tent they found, as Lady White said, a caravan taking on last provisions. The Caravan master, one Ki Abim welcomeed them to his caravan and regreted that they must wear the shackles of slavery while in the Kal. None of the brinchie objected.

Within the hour, Ki Abim’s caravan was rumbling north. By the end of the day, they reached the southern border of the Empire. Ki Abim’s papers, and bribes, are accepted and the caravan rumbled into the brutal lands of the Kal-A-Nar Empire.

White River 15th, 3130

Almost two months after arriving, Alpha Team was alerted to the arrival of a caravan at their village hideout by a child running through the village to find Misha. Misha immediately ordered Alpha Team to take cover in the hut while she greeted the new guest. Through the door flap, Alpha Team watched Misha greeted a bejeweled and heavily robed Aradi merchant. They seemed to know or, at least, expected to meet each other.

After a few brief words, Misha summoned Alpha Team and introduceed Ki Abim. He would act as their escort out of the Kal. The Ranger command arranged for Ki Abim to “buy” the members of Alpha Team for sale in the Oasis of Flesh in the desert. Ki Abim will get them over the border into the Defiant Lands where they will be free to return to the Southern Kingdoms.

However, before leaving, Ki Abim had to visit the keep and at least keep up appearances, lest someone grow suspicious. Rat, Fitz, and Tearrag are ordered to protect the supplies and unload the 3rd wagon. Misha orders the vodka broken out and the village celebrates the arrival of stories and goods from “outside.” The attitude was celebratory.

White River 18th, 3130

Three days later, Ki Abim had finally arrived to prepare for departure having made good coin at the Keep. Misha, into her cups, explained to Corporal Harken that the village were actually members of the Unchained. They settled in the area and had a decent arrangement with the Lord of the Keep. His father had been a brute, but strong. When his father died, neighboring Lords had begun to attack, testing the Lord’s defenses. He was unprepared, too weak. So, Misha had promised to have her men defend the Lord’s lands, in return, he allowed them to live and operate without intervention or investigation.

The arrangement worked. Misha’s “cell” of Unchained was successful, relatively safe, and well located. For his part, the Lord’s lands were well defended against his rivals and at little expense. If he ever betrayed her, Misha knew that he would end up on the same Altar as she, given the Kal offered no forgiveness for any Lord working with the Unchained. That fear kept the deal alive.

Everyone was enjoying the last night of the caravan when the foul stench of sulfur swept through the village. Suddenly, a massive minotaur burst into the firelight, charging the three brinchie guarding the wagons. More Kal raiders stalked through the trees near the road. It was a RAID!

Rat, Fritz, and Tearagg were nearest the point of attack and faced the minotaur as it charged. Together Fritz and Tearagg stopped its charge and began a furious counter-attack. Rat sprinted for the cover a hut, hurling daggers and trying to gain position.

Near the main hut, Misha and Corporal Harken were sharing a drink while talking with the Rangers around a campfire. At the sound of the attack, Misha chugged her bottle, before smashing it against the wall. She bellowed for Mika to get the children out as she drew weapons and staggered in the direction of the battle.

Corporal Harken sighed, finished her drink, and mentally prepared for another slaughter. Cromwell and Vex, the last surviving Rangers, rose to their feet and drew weapons. Starwind asked for a sword as his had been shattered fighting the Ice Lord, and he had returned Vex’s bastard sword months earlier. Corporal Harken tosses him one before staggering toward battle.

Starwind and Misha cut right around the large hut, moving to support Fitz and Tearrag who were still battling the minotaur. Rat reached cover and started to scramble up onto the roof. Corporal Harken, Cromwell, and Vex flank left attempting to intercept the Kal raiders attempting to encircle the town’s defenders.

More Kal raiders poured out of the treeline.

Vex reached the Kal on the left flank first, blazing away with her handcaster. Misha moved up to support Rat who by then had been overwhelmed by several Kal Raiders. Fitz and Tearagg, still battling the minotaur were flanked by a couple Kal raiders who attempted to take them from the side and rear.

Starwind fired spells at the Minotaur trying to bring it down quickly. Everywhere buildings burst into flames under assault from fire arrows launched from men in the trees.

Finally, the minotaur burst into ash under the constant assault of Fitz, Tearrag, and Starwind. Misha and Rat put down a couple of Raiders. As did Corporal Harken, Cromwell, and Vex. Unfortunately, at this point in the battle, the enemy commander AND Acolyte made his appearance.

He first popped in, cutting Misha deeply before teleporting to face Starwind. Starwind saw him coming and drew on the power of Life, wrapping himself in protection. Unfortunately, the warlord was too fast, getting past his guard. Then, the Kal teleported away to confront Corporal Harken and Cromwell.

Misha and Rat FINALLY finished off their attackers with Vex’s help, as did Fitz and Tearrag. All turned to converge on the leader. With blinding speed, he wounded Cromwell and Corporal Harken before teleporting back toward Starwind who had just blasted him with Life energy.

Starwind saw him coming as the man materialized out of the air above him. Wreathed in green energy, Starwind stabbed up at his unprotected flank. But it was a feint, and the Kal’s flaming blade slapped Starwind’s aside before cutting through his armor, spell, and chest.

Starwind fell smoking to the snow.

Everyone closed, but as injured as they were, and as powerful as this being obviously was, victory was unlikely. At that moment, the sound of wings filled the air, and immediately after a shower of arrows punched through the Acolyte, taking him in both eyes his throat, heart, and groin. He went down in a steaming pool of his own blood.

Dark wings then flashed and vanished into the foggy night.

The battle was over. Only then did Ki Abim appear, dagger in hand, brandished as if he had any intention of risking his own life. The wounded were mended, the dead prepared for burial, and the enemy skinned and their skulls prepared for cups.

It was a brutal, disgusting display and the Rangers were overjoyed with Ki Abim declaring that they would depart in the morning. No one slept well.

White River 19th, 3130

Corporal Harken said farewell to Misha, and the caravan rumbled away.

Dark Moons 22nd, 3130

After an uneventful, but cold month, Alpha Team rumbled across the border near Barrinor. Once across, they were met by members of the Legio Heroes, led by Commander Garrus himself. Coin changed hands, and Ki Abim continued on his way south.

Commander Garrus led 30 riders with horses enough for Alpha Team. Unfortunately, here, Gawain Cromwell informed Corporal Harken that he, too, was leaving. Turning in his pin, he took one of the Legion’s horses and rode due east, on his way back to the Barbarian tribes to find his friend and mount, Gaston.

And then, there were three. Corporal Harken, Starwind, and Vex, all that remained of Alpha Team. Former Sergeant Runesplitter had left her Team before the final battle, RFC Ballen had been taken through a cauldron by a Minotaur warmaster, Kai had been abandoned in the north, and now Cromwell rode away, likely never to be seen again. Not to mention, they had lost one of the heroes of the War of Flame, Celebor.

The losses settled on Corporal Harken like a millstone. But, her mission was incomplete and she still had Rangers to get home. She shouldered her responsibility and ordered Alpha Team to mount for travel.

Dark Moons 24th, 3130

Two days later, the Legio Heroes column arrives at the Aralon Forest, the ancient home of the Iron Elves. Starwind rides forward as Iron Elf Rangers block their way. Commander Garrus hands over papers ensuring safe passage, but the elves are clearly unhappy about these new visitors. Nevertheless, the column sets up camp at the edge of the forest, prepared to continue south in the morning.

Malcolm

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Campaign Report 199
Ice, Fire, and Death (Celebor Falls)

Malcolm Report

Filed: Dancing Clouds 19th, 3130?

Accurate dating is difficult. So far as the Team reports, bare days had passed since entering the storm at this point. For the rest of us, months. As best as we can estimate, about a week passed here for each day there. This could have something to do with the presence of Tempest/Wild in such powerful concentrations, or it could have to do with proximity to the Everwall, or something inherent to the magic of the storm. In fact, it could be something else entirely.

Whatever the case, I will date future reports from the point of regaining contact with the Team. But here, I report the best we guess based on the experiences of the participating members of Alpha Team.

We continue from the battle with the Tempest Golem…

Dancing Clouds 18th, 3130

Surrounded by massive Tempest creatures, with more than half the team down, and no help coming, each member of Alpha Team was forced to face the possibility of utter annihilation.

On the ground, his body still jerking from the electrified hammerfist blows, Talhaer Starwind reported having fallen into some floating expanse of sea and sky. We understand that the “controversial” actions at the Kal village had left the Alpha Team emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually damaged. Each suffered in their own way.

For Starwind, his brutality had permanently damaged his connection with Life and Landra’s power. In that moment, with horrific death mere moments away, Starwind was forced to face a lifetime of hatred and animosity to the people of the Kal-A-Nar Empire who butchered his people, murdered his family, and devoured the flesh and spirit of those he loved.

Hate, vengeance, and rage are of Flame. And, he began to recognize that the heat of Flame soaked into every rock, every blade of grass, every creature within the Empire. Just as former Sergeant Finnlea Rez Runesplitter had learned to her detriment. Like Starwind, she too had reached out for power in a moment of weakness and desperation and had been answered by Ceynara, also damaging her connection to her ancestors…perhaps beyond redemption.

With all this unfolding in his mind, Starwind attempted to release the decade of anger and hate, to put the carnage behind him. To no one, and everything, Starwind accepted his failures, and vowed that from henceforth, he would take no innocent life, nor allow such to be taken. He would fully dedicate himself to protecting Life…all life, even his hated enemy, so long as they were not then taking Life.

He described a sense of warmth flooding through her, falling into a comforting and protecting embrace…

…and then his eyes snapped open.

At the same moments, Corbin Kai, faced with the same annihilation, finally opened himself up to the power he had dedicated the last few years in escaping. Tempest. Though he never spoke often of his experiences as part of the Legion, others of the same have reported being consumed with a sort of madness, hyperfocus on conquest. It was not that they were unaware of their terrible actions, only they were driven by an irresistible force to achieve victory. Only on Jubilation Day, when Wolfhaven had closed the Tempest first penetration into Shaintar, had Kai and his fellow Legionaries been able to throw off Tempest madness.

And now…after fighting so hard to remain free, Kai opened himself fully to the power, and madness, of Tempest. Pure, raw energy ripped through him, as azure blue lighting struck from the heavens. Kai burst into waves of arcing lighting, his eyes flashing blue. He was not a creature of Tempest…and nothing stands before the fury of the Storm.

Even then, ANOTHER Ranger stood almost along against a Tempest Golem. The massive over 20’ tall construct of lighting and roiling storm raised its hammer-shaped fists for another blow. Reaching up to clutch the warm wooden bear totem on the leather string around her neck, Corporal Lilah Harken called out a silent prayer for help. For the second time in her life, she felt the power of Life blossom within her, spreading through her body. With the sudden surge of power came the now familiar roar of Olaran voices shouting a war cry, and the answering roar of a full-grown Olaran Russett bear.

Coarse black, brown, and reddish hair sprouted from her skin as her arms, legs, and face began to elongate. She felt her skin stretch and grow, large fangs filling her mouth, and her finger and toenails elongating and sharpening into savage claws. In moments, Corporal Harken’s transformation was complete. Where a moment before the small Olaran warrior had been, now a massive Olaran Russet Bear stood. Corporal Harken could still think, still act, but there was a primal instinct driving her now. Fear fled, the concerns of orders, reservations of human considerations fell away, replaced by a singular, unstoppable impulse…shred her enemies to ribbons.

It was an incredible display. Ranger Corbin summoning azure lighting from the storm. Corporal Harken grew in size until she morphed into a bear. Starwind rose from the ground, green Life energy swirling around him, and through him. To the rear of the formation, Sylvia Harpy Vex in seductive Vampire form snarled at the nearest Tempest Golem, white fangs barred against blood-red lips.

Drawing upon Vainar’s dark energy, Vampire Vex dropped the bone golem, and shifted her focus on summoning a shield Darkness energy to wrap the Alpha Team in necromantic armor. Never mind the discomfort such evil energy caused her allies. Second, she opened an ebonway and a new necromantic ally stepped into the world.

The creature was larger than a man, undead torso and black iron armor, but it had no legs. The body ended in an insubstantial lower body, more a tail like wispy gray smoke… Clutched in the hands of the dark spirit was a weighted chain. Vex again snarled viciously.

Unfortunately for Alpha Team, the Tempest Golems either did not really notice the theatrics or simply did not care. They pressed hard, one slamming Corporal Harken/bear with powerful blows. A second firing lighting at Kai. A third staggered through a storm illusion that RFC Mirthal Ballen had concealed himself within. Finding no target, it resorted to slamming its fists into the ground like a toddler throwing a tantrum. However, with each blow, this toddler sent chain lighting in all directions.

Despite the protections, RFC Ballen was hit, as were Starwind AND the unconscious Gawain Cromwell. Starwind, filled by the power of Life, began to knit wounds. Celebor still reeling from the last battle nevertheless drew power through his focus crystal, and touched Kai’s shoulder, passing knowledge and experience directly into the Tempest warrior’s mind.

Together, they focused on one of the four Tempest Golems, Celebor firing his bow, Kai using the last of his precious arcfire crysalites. Under the barrage, the beast went down in a swirl of angry azure and indigo clouds. The expenditure cost Celebor greatly, but he pressed on.

For a few glorious moments, the tide shifted in the favor of Alpha Team. Starwind and Cromwell regained their feet, launching at the Tempest golem still floundering to find RFC Ballen. From the rear, Kai and Celebor maintain their withering fire. It was a brief but glorious rally.

The Tempest Golems did not care just as the storm does not care. To the storm, you are nothing, just another bit of detritus to be swept aside by wind and lightning. Wind and lightning the Golems had in abundance. From three directions, they unleashed torrents of rippling lightning arcing over everyone. Under the onslaught, few could stand. Again Starwind and Gawain went down, twitching as their bodies jerked convulsively.

Corporal Harken gamely fought on, but she too was scorched by lightning. Vex held on, as did Kai and Celebor, but the enemy ring tightened. Vex’s creature lashed out with its black iron chain, wrapping it around the nearest Golem and pinning it in place. Empowered by Tempest and Celebor’s knowledge Kai continued firing, alternating between the arclance and innate Tempest lightning.

After another withering exchange, another Golem exploded. Vex summons another creature and it too swings the chain around the golem’s neck, snaring it. The two dark spirits haul back with unnatural strength, holding the enormous golem in place. The other still rampaged and spat lightning at RFC Ballen and Corporal Harken. Fire from Kai, raking claws from Harken, and the encouraging shouts of RFC Ballen drove another Golem back into the Tempest realm.

But before going down…he and the second raked the area with lightning, dropping Corporal Harken, RFC Ballen, and Vex. All that remained standing were Kair Corbin, Celebor still supporting him with magic, and the final Tempest Golem, now released from Vex’s creatures. This time when the M’adukar pirate went down, she stayed down.

It was a brutal battle. Tempest vs Tempest. Kai vs the Golem. Lightning vs lightning. Perhaps the only force that can stand against the storm is the storm itself?

At any rate, the final Tempest Golem was dispatched and relative silence fell across the chasm. Snow still drifted down, but the swirl and scream of cyclone wind died away. Celebor rose with a groan and started shoving reviving poppers into the mouths of the downed Rangers while Kai began dragging them into a kind of a pile.

Once everyone was more or less stable, Celebor drew a stone out of his kit, spoke a few quiet words in elvish which set it glowing bright red, and tossed it into the snow, where it melted straight to the ground. From the ether, a glowing campfire sprang full form. Warmth and light filled the cold air creating a quaint campsite out of thin air.

Warmth flowed into frozen limbs and the energizing poppers revived everyone to consciousness. Wounded, sore, and weary, the Rangers managed to rise to a sitting position, staring blankly into the fire’s flames. Celebor produced some food, Corporal Harken, back in human form, produced ale. A few spoke quietly, but none had the energy for conversation.

Celebor did mention that the spell lasted an hour. After that, he was going on. There was no telling whether they could even go back if they wanted. That end of the chasm was blocked by ice anyway. Again, he would not demand, and could not order, anyone to follow him. But, they were there, and this may be the last chance anyone would have to take out the threat. At least before it destroyed a lot more innocent lives.

As he said, in an hour, the fire flickered and then died. With it, the warmth and golden glow faded into darkness and cold. Saying no more, Celebor stood and headed toward the end of the chasm and the final chamber. Without speaking, the others gathered their own things, tightened the straps on armor and weapons, and followed him.

At the far end of the chasm was a deep, dark crack in the rocks. Celebor ducks through, heading down a narrow frozen tunnel before exiting into another enormous cavern deep in the rocks. Unlike the previous caves, the stillness here was oppressive. Nothing moved. Snow hung motionless as if caught in an invisible web.

At the heart of the cave was a dome of snow, ice, and pale light. It might have been a swirling storm, frozen like the snow and ice. Cautiously, the members of Alpha Team spread out, taking cover behind frozen rocks and trees. The casters quickly summoned powers to protect and enhance themselves, as the warriors slowly approached the ice barrier.

At Celebors nod, Cromwell and Starwind approach the barrier. Protected by Starwind’s magic, Cromwell reached out a hand and touched the icy dome. Suddenly, as if the spell had been suddenly interrupted, the dome of ice collapsed into flurries and wind. Both warriors stepped back, preparing for what comes next.

Nothing immediately leaps out.

However, as the snow settled, a figure emerged. It was tall and gaunt, undead flesh pulled tight over its face. The lips pulled back in a rigorous grimace. The ting was undead, clearly, standing as still as a corpse. Only the onyx black eyes showed any life, even if only unlife. Floating beside the black armored figure was a tall spear crafted from black ice, glittering in the pale illumination of the cave.

The creature’s dead eyes watch the Rangers as the Rangers glance questioningly at each other. Then, without warning, the undead thing flicks its finger, and that black ice spear spun through the air with unnatural speed. It caught Cromwell flat-footed before he could throw up the shield. He did manage to put himself in the weapon’s path before it could do the same to Starwind. That selfless was his last act, as he went down, taking the spear’s haft right between his legs.

Undaunted, Starwind snatches up the shield and charges. He swung his sword at the undead Icd Lord. The creature never moved, never flinched. It simply flicked a finger and intercepted the blow with the spear. When the metal sword struck the shield it instantly frosted over before shattering, throwing flash frozen shards of metal shards in all directions.

Before Starwind could recover from his stunned disbelief, the spear spun around his head and attacked him from the rear. He caught it in his face as he turned to react…and went down again.

Two Rangers down, the creature finally strides forward. There was no hurry to its movement, no concern whatsoever. It flicked its finger again sending a massive bolt of black, undulating ice toward Celebor who was crouched behind a rock taking aim. When that black, frozen slush hit him, it exploded into meter-long shards which punched through Celebor literally ripping him apart. One minute he was there…and the next…nothing.

Still steaming from the heat of his body, Celebor’s infamous Everwood bow spun through the air, sticking into the ground not far from Kai’s position. Within a few moments, this creature had downed two Rangers and slaughtered a storied warrior with a bare flick of his fingers. Another flick and Vex too went down before she could even fire.

In desperation, Kai teleported from cover to Vex and popped her collar. Nothing happened. After so many battles, so many times that collar was nearly the death of the Team…no when he needed it most…it failed him. Kai fires, but the Ice Lord simply bats it away and drops him with a blast of dark energy.

Corporal Harken remained but was powerless in the face of this creature. The rest of the Team lay bleeding or dying in the snow. RFC Ballen knew it was the end. There was only one card left to play. He wasn’t dying here, in this cold, dark place.

In desperation and fear, Ballen opened himself to power, any power that could save him. Not the Team, they were already dead men. But, Ballen asked for the power to save himself…

…and he was answered.

In the center of the cave, the sky caught fire and a burning hole opened in the air. From the far side of the cauldron hot, dry air blew in steaming as his vaporized snow and ice. From the steaming ring of fire stepped the largest minotaur ANY of the Rangers have ever seen. Standing more than 14 feet tall and encased in spiked blood steel plate, the childer Warmaster stepped through the cauldron, his flaming hooves smoking in the snow.

The creature sensed the sudden power of Flame and began to turn, almost languidly. It was a fatal mistake. The minotaur wasted no time, raising a massive blood steel battle ax over his head and bringing it down on the Ice Lord. Fire met Ice in an explosion of power and steel. The Ice Lord vanished in flying chips of bone, ice, and steel shards.

While Corporal Harken looked on in stunned horror, the minotuar stepped over the Ice Lord’s desiccated remains, snatched RFC Ballen in one power, and vanished back into Norcan Dar. As the Ice Lord died, so too the storm. Even Corporal Harken could feel it.

Alone now, with her shattered Team lying around her, Corporal Harken slumped to the ground, utterly spent as soft, fat flakes of snow drifted down around her. They had won…but at what cost?

And, what now?

Malcolm

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Campaign Report 198
Storm and Snow

Malcolm Report

Filed: Dancing Clouds 18th, 3130
Placing the events of the mission proved difficult as time seemed to flow differently close to the Everwall. Whether due to the mystical barrier of the wall, the effects of the storm, or a power case by whatever dark entity threatened our world…we could only guess at the true dates of events.

However, to the Alpha Team cutting their way through the undead ice warriors, bare hours seemed to pass. Outside the storm? Days? Weeks? It is hard to tell.

Continued…

Dancing Clouds 18th, 3130?

The narrow strip of snowy ground between the wall of snow and ice behind them, and the stone wall before was filled with the thrashing bodies of undead warriors. Their cold, black eyes glittered with malice and hunger. Each emaciated, skeletal warrior wore rusted and frozen chain. In their knobby hands they clutched ax or sword, equally red with rust and so cold they burned as they cut. The few whose hair remained spouted from their graying skulls in wispy strands. Their yellow and black teeth showed behind lips held tight in rigormotis.

These frozen warriors were undead, and yet unlike any Alpha Team had encountered. They were not rotting, but desiccated and frozen. And they did not move with the exaggerated sluggishness of the typical undead, but quickly with erratic and jerky motions.

They were, something else. The Wild, most likely. Similiar sightings have been reported from the Legion, and other Rangers. Whatever the case, the narrow strip of land before the cave’s mouth was blanketed by the spastic flailing of undead.

The Rangers closed ranks as best they could, tried to push their shield wall and melee fighters up front, but the press of dead flesh pinned them in place. Unable to retreat, unable to advance, Alpha Team turned back to back and resolved to sell their lives dearly.

Former Captain Celebor, a bit in advance, leaped into a tree, taking up a high position and laying down a withering fire. Quickly enough, the Rangers learned that unless they struck the head, these undead would simply climb to their feet and renew their assault.

On the one hand, calling head shots put the creatures down permanently. On the other, such accuracy in the fog of battle just meant more blows failed to land. And, it seemed with each undead destroyed, two more sprinted in to replace them.

But, by sheer willpower, the Rangers threw off the first wave. Their relief was brief as a second wave scampered through the trees. This group was materially different.

They bore rusted chain and weapons, but these undead moved with more coordination. Many wore helms, and some bits of plate. And, their attacks were better timed, their movement almost coordinated.

These were a higher order of undead. But, like their weaker kind, they too went down with a well placed headshot.

Corporal Lillah Harken and Sylvia Harpy Vex got separated on the right flank, and nearly overun. After repeated assaults, Corporal Harken went down under the press of dead flesh. The rest of the Rangers suffered blow after blow, quickly weakening under the onslaught. Facing annihilation, something woke in Gawain Cromwell. He summoned the power of life and empowered his weapons with smite. It was a reprieve.

At the height of battle, a tremor shook the grown sending a dusting of snow to fall from swaying trees. From right and left MASSIVE undead creatures the size of giants came lumbering forward. The one of the right flank closed on the tree harboring Celebor. With a single wide sweep of its fist, Celebor ejected from the tree, sailing through the air, and hitting the ground with a sickening crunch. He lay still.

Pressed from all sides, Kai Corbin triggered his cloak and teleported away from the press to gain distance and breathing room. His crossbow fired, dropping undead, but there was simply no room to move. No sooner had he fired then more undead closed around him, while above and to his right the undead giants pummeled him with fists and stones.

He teleported again, but AGAIN the writhing mass of undead swarmed him.

The tide had turned. Alpha Team faced utter annihilation. And then…the Bard Mirthal Ballen shattered his drum and began to sing.

Where he drew such power, only the Ascended know. Bizzare strains backed by a ghost chorus rose above the din of battle. Strange magic flowed over the Rangers easing strains, knitting wounds, and invogorating spirits.

Fallen Rangers rose like the undead, but filled not with Darkness, rather righteous fury. Kay racked another shot and put one into the head of an undead giant. The Team pressed forward, carving a path through the undead.

Restored vigor surged through the Rangers, compelling them to sweep the undead from the field. From the ridge ahead, a lone undead giant hurled stones, shattering into and around the Rangers. Celebor, restported rolled asside and put and arrow through its head. On the right, the Rangers cut down the last undead and stood panting, breath misting, in the sudden silence.

Bloody and bruised, Alpha Team looked around noting the conspicious absence of their power healer, Sergeant Finnlea Rez Runesplitter. Regardless, in for a copper, in for pound.

Corporal Harken and Kai scavenged for bolts, while the rest of the Rangers bound wounds, took drinks or food, and prepared for the next push. Once ready, Celebor led the over the ridge to the next cave entrance.

The openning led to a icy tunnel into a more open space, around a frozen lake. Suspcious of the open water, frozen or not, the Rangers swept left along the frozen forest. They slipped through the ice scupltures of evergreen trees, testing each step before moving.

Suddenly, above them, within the cave, a lightning storm appeared…azure blue lighting crackled and struck. Kai felt the sudden presence of Tempest. Ice locked trees exploded as lightning struck them sending frozen shards hurlting in all direcftion. Alpha Team dove for cover.

In the burnt holes rose cyclones of wind, ice, and lighting. Kai shouted a warning over the roar of wind, thundering, and lightning. From those cyclones stepped enormous Tempest golems.

They charged.

Again, the Rangers were pressed. It was hard to see in the conflagation, but several Rangers dissapred in the snow. Cromwell tries to shield Tal’haer Starwind but they both are battered by Tempest Hammer Fists. The Iron Elf slipping into unconciousness. Vex too fell.

In that moment, Kai teleported to Vex and released her collar. Moments later, she rose, eyes black with Darkness, summoning a Bone Golem to face the Tempest spirits…yet as large as the golem was, it was dwarfed by the enemy…

And still, nothing from Sergeant Runesplitter. It seemed she had truly left her Team.

Face with impossbile odds, Alpha Team had to consider that this might be the end of the entire team… For the first time in history they might all be lost.

Malcom

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Gawain's Personal Journal.
A New Path

I have just begun to understand that I’ve been wandering for most of my life with no destination. When I was younger I obviously joined my family in their job of caretakers for the horses of the Cavalry in Vale, which I enjoyed and still long to go back to but i was really just following my parents path. Then came Gaston who showed me what a true friend was, yes obviously he is not a normal friend but he did help me to better interact with others more like me. Still I had no true goal.

When I heard of Wolfhaven and his amazing feats as a mounted Knight, I was captivated by such feats and wished whole heartedly to be under the command of one like him. Hearing of the Alpha Team, supposedly a mounted group, that had been under the command of Wolfhaven and often had interactions with him I hoped this was my path. Now I know things weren’t exactly what I was expecting, but even through the hardships I have faced I grew and feel I have learned alot. Still after all this time I hadn’t found my path in life.

But after experiencing what I have and pledging to something greater than myself, I feel like I maybe have found something. Floating in that place, surrounded by nature and life I felt a connection to something I have never experienced before. It was like I was finally looking to the horizon of my life instead staring at what was just in front of my eyes. I’m still not sure what happened but after talking for some time with Starwind and some meditation I feel something within me that seems to be connected to something greater and it feels both overwhelming and comforting at the same time.

I’ve decided to give myself to the Ascended and be an agent of good, so maybe now I can finally take the first step on My path. Tommorow we’re going somewhere bad with something horrific there. I’m scared and I would bet most of us are but now I don’t feel so alone inside. So whatever happens I will hold true to my promise and pray that the Ascended guide me until Landra comes to guide my soul. Still I hope I will get to see Gaston again and I pray he is alright.

-Gawain

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Campaign Report 197
Sacred Everwall Grove

Malcolm Report

Filed: Dancing Clouds 18th, 3130

The former commanders of the Regional Headquarters at Echer’Naught are men and women of storied history and legend. They stand among their peers as paragons of valor and honor. Most of them.

Celebor never wanted command. And, to be fair, Celebor never wanted to be involved with the Rangers in the first place, but the War of Flame changed much and thrust the young elf into the greater world. To his credit, he fought with distinction and won renown among the Greencloaks for his actions during the war, no more so than after meeting the dashing young cavalryman, Alexander Wolfhaven.

But, the strictures of command, even as lax as within the Grayson’s Gray Rangers chafed. Celebor was never suited for the uniform. Once his tour was done, he should have quit. Yet, some nagging loyalties kept him in the cloak and soon he was caught up in the inevitable political games that plague all such endeavors.

Celebor does not do politics. Never did, and never will. And so, no sooner had he an out, he ran. All the way to the Everwall, but not far enough it would appear. For once again, he stands between the world and evil. For all his bluster, and complaining, he is as much a Ranger as any of us.

Red Wolf 17th, 3130

Narrowly escaping their encountering with Flame, Alpha Team trudged further north through a white out blizzard which left them lost, frozen, and at the mercy of their new “ally.” The whiteout was so complete that no Ranger could see more than a pace away, and only the vaguest dark spot in the white to indicate the Ranger just ahead in line. Like this, blind and helpless to the bitter mercy of the storm, Alpha Team trudge not know where they were going, who they were following, or what to expect when the arrived.

Though, if polled, I imagine none would have guessed what did happen. Some hours into the march, though having covered relatively little ground in the storm, their “guide” stopped, and pointed ahead. Shouting over the roar of the wind, he told the person next in line to follow and do what he did before taking one step and being swallowed by the storm.

Several of the team in line sensed that something was out of place, but only RFC Mirthal Ballen put a name to it. Life magic, here, deep within the Kal-A-Nar Empire, they sensed Life magic. For Sergeant Finnlea Rez Runesplitter the revelation was bitter sweet. She could feel the power of Life around her, but it was distant, veiled, and between them…anger. Worse, her spirit companions, once ever present, were silent and absent.

But the time for recrimination was over. Sergeant Rez followed the rest of her team as the seemed to step through the snow and vanish. On the far side, The Rangers fouund themselves in a sudden calm, and eerie eye of the storm over what appeared to be a frozen lake. But, on closer inspection, the water was icy blue, but somehow NOT frozen, despite everything else being so, including the Rangers.

Without hesitation, their guide dove into the water and slipped beneath the surface. Shrugging, each Ranger followed suit. The experience was described as “brisk,” but no unpleasant. Once below the water, all saw a soft light which seemed to beckon them. So, following the other toward the light, Alpha Team swam down into the hidden pool beneath the Kal blizzard.

To their surprise, the light led them up into a hidden grotto, or grove. Trees blossomed under a canopy of woven vines and branches which created a sort of dome. Snow had pilled up so high on the outside, that nothing could be seen, yet the grove glowed from internal light, moss, licken, the pool…many faint sources of light gifted the grove a warm glow…and yet, at the same, it was empty.

No animals scampered through the trees, no faeries flitted about. Save for their masked guide and the Team, the Life grove was vacant. Their masked savior quickly addressed the most seriously wounded, tending to them quickly and efficiently. Stepping to Callista, he pulls a battered Ranger kit from his haversack and goes to work. Once done, he turned to Tal’Haer. Now certain than none would slip away immediately, he stepped back and removed his mask and hood…

…revealing a weathered, but attractive face. If you are into elves and such. Wearily he sat and demanded to know what they were doing so far north. When Sergeant Runesplitter announces that they are from Alpha Team, he looks unsurprised, but not particularly happy. At this revelation, he reveals that his, in fact, former Captain of the Ranger, Celebor.

Seeming to recover himself somewhat, Celebor explains that there is a threat that, if left unchecked, could threatent everyone. Though, he does not claim to know exactly the nature of the source. The undead encouuntered were from the Realm of Caladon. And, he feels this new threat is likely linked to the Wild of that Realm, but whatever this evil is, it does not act as native Darkness, nor the Wild as he understand it. Unfortunately, he was unable to deal with the threat himself. Hence, the arrival of Alpha Team.

Celebor went on to say that the blizzard overhead had been blowing since the beginning of the year, and despite it being deep in summer, remained. Not even this far north did such storms last through the summer months. Since last winter, it had grown large enough that even the Empire had taken notice. Yet, they have failed to thwart it, or slow it down. If they cannot find and eliminate the source, it could continue to grow unchecked, brining darkness and cold upon all.

But, as bad as that might be, the Sacred Grove appeared to be safe from the storm, if only for the short term. Despite lying well within the Kal-A-Nar Empire, it seemed to have survived for centuries. He did not know its name, for it was abandoned long before he arrived. But, from the runs, and the feel, he suspects that it may have remained hidden from the Empire since their founding. Once Alpha Team was sufficiently rested and healed, they would discuss a plan of action. Until then, he invited them into his home, but cautioned to keep any and all fire within the sacred harth.

Celebor could not say for certain what might happen if they created fire elsewhere in the grove, but given the grove was their sole protection from both storm and enemy sentries, he suggested they not try to find out.

Sacred Grove of The Everwall

Most of the Rangers just wanted to bathe after months running across the land punctuated by terrible battles. After bathing, rest. Corbin Kai reported to Celebor that they had been tracked by a large group of civilians who probably were aware they slipped away into the storm. Celebor thanked him for the information, but did not appear overly concerned.

Red Wolf 18th, 3130 (or so they believed)

After some time, they woke and hunger drove them to forage for food. Most are successfully and find berry, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and tubers around the grove. Starwind, unfortunately does not, so Celebor comes to jhim and offers him food from his own stores. Once sufficiently provisioned, the Team sat to eat, near each other, but studiously avoiding any comraderie. Celebor quickly read the grove and realized that Alpha Team, was once again, suffering from interpersonal conflict.

RFC Ballen broke the silence and asked how long they slept. Celebor responds that they may have been asleepa few days, maybe 3 or 4. Time, apparantely worked differently in the grove. Or, more likely, those within lost perception of time making it feel shorter, when, in fact, they remained hours, days, or weeks. This also explained the spotty communication between Celebor and the Rangers. Whether within the ice storm, or in the grove, he would have been unable to communicate, often going silent for weeks, or months at a time.

Now that the Rangers were slightly better rest, Celebor informed them that the cave at the heart of the storm was north of them, just shy of the Everwall. He had yet to make it deep into the cave. That is why he required assistance. Their objective was most likely the summoner of the storm and hidden deeper within the cave. He suspects some combination of Wild, Tempest, and Darkness, though he cannot know for certain.

After this brief conversation, the Rangers fell silent, so Celebor asked them, pointedly, what their deal was? The Rangers seemed uncomfortable and put out.

Eventually, though, Kai admitted during the meal that he wasn’t angry, more disappointed. For a time he felt part of the group, but he was willing to to whatever was needed to survive, even compromising himself, he would do to make the “big play.” However, Corporal Lilah Harken, as an Olaran, would never sacrifice her personal honor, even if it cost her the fight. And Sergeant Runsplitter had her own demons, literally then it would seem. She could compromise no longer. Even Starwind, who had gone along with the attack on the village was feeling his power wane as he had violated Life.

In the end, their differences were just too that, different. Kai as Tempest would do whatever was necessary to survive. Sergerant Runesplitter and Corporal Harken, as Rangers, would not. They have principles they must hold to…Kai says honor means nothing to the dead.

Still, just getting it out in the open, like lancing a boil, seemed to make people feel better. After dinner, Sergeant Runesplitter spoke solemnly. She said she didnt blame anyone at all for their choices. She ordered them to follow their own minds and whatever they chose was on her. Moreover, after this mission, she was done. She blamed the Rangers for sending them out here and destroying who she was. She can’t even see the spirits anymnore.

Starwind suggested she remain in the Grove and try to reclaim who she was.

Rested and bathed, the Team was still wounded and healing would take time. So, in the limited space available, each Ranger sought out their own solitude and device.

Starwind spent time healing and communing with the Life around him. This place was clearly sacred to the Druids, despite having been abandoned. Still, it was peaceful and provided a place in which he could slow down and meditate. Better to address the disquiet in his soul. The violence of the village stained him and he could feel his power in Life ebb in response to his trasgression, however justified.

Gawain Crowell, on the other hand, tried to befriend a tree. It was odd enough to attract the attention of Celebor who came over to see what the human was doing. Cromwell explained that he felt called to become a druid and so was trying to mediate and feel the flow of Life…without much success. Celebor suggested he could try drowning himself in the sacred pool. Or, talk to the Iron Elf druid, but Celebor warned not to get to caught up his honor and emo bullshit. Taking the second half of the advice, Cromwell asked Starwind who suggested the first step would be to simply ask Landra how to find the path.

Kai, overhearing this, has an entirely different reaction, immediately offering to drown the other Ranger. After some deliberation, Cromwell eventually decides he wants to find Landra regardless the cost, and so asks Kai to hold him under water. Celebor gave him a stone, a sprig, and a puff of air before helping him into the water. Looking at Sergeant Runesplitter for comment, she gave none, Kai and Starwind enter the sacred pond beside Cromwell and push him under…

…only to have him sucked from their hands and dissappear in waist deep water. Even Celebor seems surprised, but nothing doing, Kai elects to cook hash browns. Having never heard of hash browns, Celebor joins in, as do most of the Rangers and breakfast is soon sizzling on the hearth.

Starwind remains by the pool waiting for the return of Cromwell.

Breakfast is passed around and everyone eats. As they are finishing up their meal, Cromwell suddenly emerges from the roiling water, dry as a bone. He mentions something about an endless sea and boundless sky, a rock, and something else, but the memory faded even as he spoke.

By this time, everyone was healed. A process which should have taken weeks felt to have passed in hours. Which, as it happens, was more like months. But, only Celebor suspected as much. But, now that they were healed, Celebor called them together and explained that in the “morning,” he would be leaving to venture into the cave. Any who would follow was welcome, any who would not should feel no shame or disquiet.

After that, he began a final prep on his gear. Everyone else did so as well. Kai made the rounds, before joining Celebor. Appreciating a fellow shootist, Celebor gifted Kai one of his face coverings and a bag of 10 white silver bodkin bolt tips for he and Harken to split.

Kai seemed the most pleased when Celebor quipped that he somewhat resembled a large bat in his cloak, hood, and new face covering. Whatever the case, Kai joined Harken and the pair began quickly removing the old rusted iron tips and replacing with the new white silver ones.

Elsewhere in the grove, Starwind, joined by Cromwell, performed Druidic rituals to honor the Sacred Grove of The Everwall. It was unlikely any would see it again.

Dancing Clouds 18th, 3130 (?)

In the morning, Celebor stood at the edge of the pool, true to his word. One last time he invited any to join him before diving into the water and vanishing beneath the surface. One by one, every Ranger followed…save Calista and Sergeant Runesplitter. Calista wanted to petition the Rangers for a boat, as she only joined this long because she had no choice. Rez…had achieved her objectives and now had a higher calling.

Starwind suggested she wait ten sleep cycles and then try to make her way home if they had not returned by then.

The instant the Rangers crawled from the water they nearly instantly froze, though, they were not soaked. Much as Cromwell had been when he emerged before. Still, the wind was biting and the snow fell heavier that before.

Waiting just long enough to see if the Rangers were following, Celebor covered his face and started making his way north. The Rangers followed.

Not far ahead, Celebor stopped again and readied weapons, motioned for the others to do the same. Then, he stepped forward through a wall of wind into unnatural and eerie silence.

It felt as if they had been transported to a lonely island at the foot of the enormous Everwall. Everything seemed sharper…and louder in the sudden silence. They were not alone.

Immediately upon entering, they began to hear things rustling in the trees. Nearby some forest creature yipped. And then, the nearby branches exploded into snow and needles as undead charged from all sides. Celebor reacted first, dropping several, but his shots were only enough to slow them down.

More poured in from ahead and the Rangers were instantly in a fight for their lives. Amidst the shadows, moaning, and horror, Kai caught one square in the head and it went down for good. It was a fight they could win…if they were lucky.

To be Continued…

Malcom

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