Golden Eagle 33rd, 3127
Like old times. Bad memories. Two months, still no sign of the Alpha Team. No sign of Ingrid or Kenzie. Ascended protect them…wherever they are…
First Hunt 2nd, 3127
Up close the Kal-A-Nar Carrack was a MONSTER. Sixty meters long, twenty meter beam, displacing 500 tonnes, she sported three square rigged masts. For defense, she was armed to the teeth with fourteen ballista, and a crew of dozens. Daunting to say the least.
Facing off against the titan were three Black Armada war caravels. By comparison, they looked like flees harassing a bear. Only eighteen meters long, and five meter beam, even combined they were dwarfed by Carrack. But they were fast, and circling like sharks. Each with four ballista of their own, they had almost the firepower of the Kal warship.
Unfortunately, the rest of the team, minus the command staff, commandeered the slowest dinghy in the fleet. I made a few passes of the Carrack, looking for Novri or his merry band of murders, but saw no sign of the Winghunters on the deck. A few of the ship’s crew took pot shots, but I stayed out of range.
Banking back around the stern of the ship, I caught the flash as the hot shot fired from the port side ballista blew the team’s longboat to smithereens. There was nothing I could do. I sprinted for the wreckage, heart in my throat. To my relief, I could see the bobbing heads of the Rangers splashing toward the Carrack.
Fortunately, with their boat destroyed, the Kal turned their attention back to the circling Caravels. I have to give them credit. The Malakaran certainly knew their work, and were bold. Stone shot shattered against the hull, raking the deck. Solid iron shot slammed into the hull, bouncing off the reinforced timbers. For their part, the anchored Carrack had difficulty targeting the fast moving pirates. For the moment, the battle was a stalemate.
In the water, the Rangers, and surviving allied pirates swam, or in the case of Blackstone and the Explorer, paddled for the ship. The dwarves each bobbed with the swells, tied to empty barrels. Their pace was torturous.
Crossbowmen along the port bulwarks knelt, keeping aim on the Rangers in the water, waiting until they swam into Range. They were bobbing ducks. I knew they would never reach the ship alive without cover. Over the next 10 to 15 minutes, I fired on and dive-bombed the port side of the ship, trying to keep the Kal focused on me and not the team in the water. It worked well enough, but with the high swells and choppy ocean waves, the team made almost no progress. Worse, I see Kenzie and Ingrid far behind the others.
Abandoning my efforts to provide cover, I spring past the lead group and drop lines to Kenzie and Ingrid. I need to get them to the boat fast, before they are riddled with crossbow bolts…or worse. Ingrid grabs on, but Kenzie takes a few tries. A firepot smashed in the water around them, lighting the ropes on fire, but not enough to shake them loose. I take a bolt to my shoulder for my efforts. It hurt, but not enough to impair the wing. Once both women are tied fast, I spring back for the ship.
By this time, the others were in range and the aforementioned crossbowmen had opened fire, peppering the sea. As mentioned, the boat was huge, and the deck loomed over a story above the waterline. With few, if any handholds, and the hull slick with brackish algae, there was little, if anything, to use to climb. But that was their problem. I was rapidly approaching that massive, wooden wall. I had to time it just right. Too soon and Kenzie and Ingrid would miss the deck and be flung over the starboard side. Too late and…splat.
Waiting until the last moment, I dropped to the deck, picking up speed. Cleared the bulwark by a feather. Scared the scat out of two crossbowmen leaning over for a shot at the Rangers in the water. Then I climbed for all I was worth. Pulling both Kenzie and Ingrid out of the water took everything I had, plus I think I got a boost from Zavonis. The sea wind certainly buoyed me at that moment. I blasted into the air faster that I have ever flown in my life, and then felt the sharp, painful jerk of the line as Kenzie and Ingrid were yanked out of the water like trout on a line.
Whether by skill or luck, my plan worked. Both women cleared the bulwark and started swinging over the top deck. I banked hard fore, trying for an arc, rather than just launch them over the other side. Kenzie made the drop, hit the deck and slit hard into the far bulwark. But she made it. Ingrid hung on a bit longer, flinging further across the deck, but she stuck the landing. The weight shift nearly slammed me into the mast, but I managed to recover.
The rest of the crew was still paddling in the water. Some of the pirates were trying to scale the port hull with knives, while the Rangers paddled to the anchor chain. On deck, the pirates swarmed Ingride and Kenzie, who were now alone. I came across for a pass to clear the girls, before banking around the far side and covering the Rangers in the water. Out to sea, the Black Armada ships were closing. With the Ingrid and Kenzie tying up two ballista crews, the outgoing fire dropped, allowing the pirates to close.
And then a new vessel, smaller even than the pirate carracks appeared. I could not tell from the distance friend or foe. But, I had an ill boding. Where was Andak-Gol Ivar ki Novri and his team?! Why had they not appeared. Something wasn’t right.
On the aft castle, the ship’s captain shouted for the crew to get underweigh. One crew put their backs into the anchor winch, while others unfurled the sails. If they didn’t hurry, the Rangers in the water would be left behind. It broke my heart, but I left Kenzie and Ingrid, circling back around for the dwarf and the builder. They were the slowest. I threw them lines, and they both managed to grab on. This time, I just aimed for the anchor, where Aronzo was already scrambling up…
Where in the Abyss did he come from?!
With three Rangers on the chain, Nest clawing up the side, and Kenzie and Ingrid on deck, things seemed to be going our way at last…until I saw the first pirate ship burst into flames. I never saw the shot, just flames rippling over the deck like a living thing. Then Aronzo because Grendel, and the anchor crashed back into the sea, taking the, now, ogre with it. Newt made the deck and engaged the Kal crew. Ingrid lay down a torrent of bolts, ripping through the crew, but Kenzie was hard pressed.
I swept around, clearing space for Newt to break free as Aronzo, as Grendel, launched the brinchie and dwarf onto the deck…right into a group of Kal. Winging back around, I ripped through their ranks, cutting down two, and nearly knocking another off the boat. Kenzie started grappling one of the Kal crew, dangerously close to going overboard and our boatswain, the pirate in charge of the sunken longboat reached the deck. He immediately started to turn one of the ballista.
A second pirate ship exploded off to starboard and the third was tacking in our direction. The Kal Captain ordered the ballista turned in and fired away at the Rangers on the deck, paying no heed to their own crew. The Explorer tried to disable one of the ballista but his waterlogged arclance sputtered. Newt sprinted for the lower decks, while the rest of the Rangers battled to clear the top deck. I was swinging around for another pass when a flurry of bolts slammed into me. I hit the deck hard, nearly blacking out.
Above me, Kal were leaping over railings, swords drawn. Then the entire ship lurched to the side as the last pirate ship, ablaze, rammed us amidships. From the flames floated a familiar figure. My heart sank. Novri’s Flamedancer…
Now I know what happened to the pirates. Of the Winghunter himself, no sign. But she was enough.
Rough hands grabbed me. I saw more Kal tackle Ingrid and Kenzie, struggling to subdue them. Amidships, the Carrack exploded as the Flamedancer brought down a veritable firestorm. Two blasted near the center mast cracked the 200 foot vessel in half. A third blew off part of the bow, obliterating the Blackstone and the Explorer. From that direction, a Horde Champion reared its head, and began to bathe the ship in flames. Only Newt remained. The rest of Alpha Team were missing, captures, or dead…
And the ship was sinking around us. I tried to cut my way free to Kenzie who was nearest, but the ship pitched wildly and I was dashed against the aft castle, which was suddenly below me. I must have hit my head, because by the time I regained consciousness, I was no longer in the sea. I woke in an iron cage. Someone was kind enough to line the floor with straw.
My worst fears were suddenly realized. The Winghunters had captured me…I knew what would happen next. Oddly, all I could think about were the Rangers, in particular Kenzie and Ingrid. Had they survived?
But, it was not the Winghunters… The man who crawled into the small after compartment where my cage hunt was a Malakaran. Smuggler, by the stench. He cooed over my pretty plumage. Though I was certainly pleased to be spared the horror of the Kal, I doubted that this man had much better planned. He ignored my demands to know who had captured me, or where I was. Something seemed off about all of this. How was I found and “rescued” so quickly after the battle?
First Hunt 3rd, 3127
I’m not sure how long I was in the dank cell, though it did not seem like more than a day, when the ship started lurching violently. Then, a hole burst through the hull near me. Water began to pour in. Wonderful. The smugglers were under attack!
I worked feverishly at the bars, but to no avail. Stripped of gear, tired, wounded, and weak from exposure, there was little hope I could break free on my own. Ultimately, I was freed, but not how I would have preferred.
As I struggled, a shot tore through the hull and smashed the cage against the wall. On the bright side, it warped the bars enough for me to escape. On the other hand, my right wing shattered under the impact. Through the blinding pain I swore as I wrenched the door open…water pouring in over my head. I just managed to free myself when the ship exploded.
I was under water, so the shockwave only knocked me out…again…
First Hunt 5th, 3127
When I regained consciousness this time, surprising as it seems, I was popping in the tide along a wide stretch of white sand. My wing ached, clearly broken, my lips were cracked, throat parched. I was in bad shape, but alive. Dragging myself ashore, I looked around through eyes nearly swollen shut for other survivors or debris…but saw nothing. So, I staggered inland, looking for water, food, and shade. After a while, I collapsed near a fresh water stream. There, I faded in and out of consciousness. I’m pretty sure a night passed.
First Hunt 6th. 3127
I woke, sometime on what I now know as the 6th. Local natives, darker skinned Korindians found me and brought me to their village. I don’t understand the language, but they seem kind enough. Their “healer” set and bound my wing, but I won’t be flying for some time. I tried to ask about other survivors, but either they don’t understand, or they have seen no one. As soon as I am able, I will go looking myself.
First Hunt 13th, 3127
Over two weeks and nothing. I have no idea what happened to the rest of Alpha Team, whether they survived the battle on the Carrack, or where they could be. But, every time I think of returning to Echer’Naught, I get this terrible feeling that I must stay. Call it loyalty, call it intuition, but I don’t think the others are dead… No, Kenzie and Ingrid are alive. But where?! I will find them. Whatever it takes.
First Hunt 15th, 3127
They found me!
I could smell the smoke from the shore. A black column blotting out the morning sky. The village was burning, villagers slaughtered. All because they gave me shelter. Damn the Kal.
I was fishing with some of the villagers, tossing nets from small boats when Novri’s band struck. I tried, Zavonis knows but I tried to get back. It was too late. And, the dying villagers were just the bait, to draw me out. Damn but it almost worked.
I couldn’t save them, but I did not allow their death to be in vain. My wing doesn’t work well, but I can glide. And I’ve been here now for almost a month. I know the land, the terrain. The locals showed me what to eat, how to fish. The Kal must burn their way through, but I can move faster. Stay ahead.
Danton. I think that’s a large town, or a city. Maybe the only on the Island. Maybe there I can find help.
First Hunt 17th, 3127
Killed two Kal today. But they got too close. Damn the Flamedancer. She’s taken one of the locals. Using him as a guide…must keep moving.
First Hunt 20th, 3127
Reached Danton. Large naval town. Not much different from any other. But not big enough to hide me. Stay on the island, keep dodging the Winghunters, or try a ship?! Dammit.
The Kal are already here. Their ship is off the coast. A small Pinnace. That was the ship I saw near Granite Port. Small, fast. They are watching the docks while their hunters close in from the jungles…
If I can’t slip passed, I’m a dead duck.
First Hunt 18th, 3127
Stowed away on a cargo hauler. Glided from the docks and slipped in past their sentries. At least the Kal won’t know. Hopefully they won’t find me for a few days…
First Hunt 19th, 3127
They found me. Have to fly…
Zavonis be praised, found another ship. Galean warship on escort to Nazatir. Captain Gillead welcomed me aboard, once I proved I was a Ranger. Looks like I’m going to Nazatir. At least the wing works.
First Hunt 23rd, 3127
Lookout spotted a sail on the horizon. Captain Gillead thinks we are being followed. Novri. Even he isn’t fool enough to attack a fully armed Galleon even with his precious Flamedancer. But, what happens when I get to Nazatir?
First Hunt 27th, 3127
I asked Captain Gillead to let me off at the South Landing of the Jewels. Less civilized, with a cluster of island close together. I can keep ahead of the Kal for months if need be. The good captain obliged and I arrived at the landing late on the 27th. By the 13th hour, I watched from a high perch as Novri’s crimson rigged Pinnace sailed into view, dropping anchor just off shore. The hunt resumes.
Golden Eagle 30th, 3127
Sleeping briefly, moving islands every few days. I think the Winghunters are getting frustrated. They’ve torched half a dozen communities, but I’m careful to avoid the locals. No reason to involved them in this. Still, the local population do not appreciate the Kal presence… Already Nazatiran privateers have arrived. I haven’t seen the Kal Pinnace in a week or two… Maybe I can leave now. Leave Novri trapped here…
Golden Eagle 31st, 3127
Hitched a ride with one of the Nazatiran privateers. Promised payment when we reached Nazatir. I know we don’t have an outpost, but I know the Rangers have a presence.
Golden Eagle 32nd, 3127
Ascended be praised. None other than Captain Roberts was docked in Nazatir. He happily paid my passage, and for the first time in months I am clean, fed, and armed. But, his news could not be more dire…
Alpha Team is missing! Corporal Newt reported in week after the battle. She washed up east of Granite Port. Took her weeks to fish wreckage out of the sea, but most of the smuggler’s cargo was recovered, along with much of Alpha Teams gear, neatly packaged and ready to sell on the Black Market. That was around the 17th of First Hunt. Then, around the 30th of the First Hunt, Muriel arrived in Echer’Naught along with Tina, Tiny, Max, King, and Diego. All accounted for and healthy. They even managed to bring along Grendel’s club and Ranna’s Great Crossbow which they, apparently, recovered from the street in Granite Port.
I was presumed dead, along with the rest of the team. For some reason, even Lady Moonsilver could not contact me. Though, she was able to communicate with Newt. By the 32nd of Golden Eagle, when I ran into Roberts, all the Team’s gear and mounts were back in Echer’Naught and there was a discussion whether to declare them Killed in Action. Again, the inestimable Captain Roberts paid for the services of a Farspeaker to let me contact Regional Command and inform them of my situation.
Command was surprisingly happy to hear that I had survived, but were concerned that I had no more information to provide. Situations were progressing back home. The War in Camon was over, more or less. Apparently a Coronation was set for next month. I explained that the Winghunters were still tracking my movements. The Rangers ordered me to remain in the region, authorizing Captain Roberts to provide transport and protection.
The search for the team continues.
Golden Eagle 33rd, 3127
The Sea Ranger and two escort ships left port in Prastul, heading back to Granite Port. Corporal Newt has been keeping an ear out for information about possible sightings. We should be there in a few weeks…
Ascended save that they are alive…somewhere…