Festival Moons 1st, 3127
I have never known children to be born of Aevakar and any other race, even among the elves. Yet, we are a isolated race, keeping much to ourselves. If such a miracle is possible, Kenzie, Ingrid, and I are certainly striving. As we sit and await our fates, I look upon them and cannot help but wistfully dream of a day where we might live together in peace.
Thunder Hawk 20th, 3127
We were sent to cower in the Stahlheim’s Trading Outpost under the protection and hospitality of the ranking Merchant, an ornery old coot, but a decent soul. I imagine in his youth he was a firebrand, and I have enjoyed many of his fireside stories. Though, I hardly believe his exaggerations, there are no such things as giants. Still, the bed was firm, and just large enough for three…if well stacked.
Thunder Hawk 21st, 3127
Late in the eve, or early morning, honestly I was paying more attention to the captivating beauties talking quietly in the library than when Blackstone and the irascible Stahlheim smith, staggered back in. Turns out the negotiations went well enough. The wedding was still on. No one was to be put to death, and we had the next few weeks off until the actual nuptial. Having no actual orders, and no official duties, Corporal Sssahliissstah completely broke character and afforded the team time off!
The Explorer and the new Alchemist actually received an invitation to reside with the Acting ClanChief. For a Builder, the red devil is certainly mastering the art of politics. It seems to suit his temperament.
Wasting NO time, I invited the fierce and divine goddesses to join me at the local Inn. Not that I disliked the old beard’s hospitality, but there was very little privacy in the cramped guest quarters in the dwarf’s shop. As we can get loud expressing our passion for each other, I preferred more intimate accommodations. Neither Kenzie or Ingrid objected, so early on the 21st, we headed a few blocks over to the MineShaft Tavern and Inn.
That deep in the ClanHome we were the only non-dwarves staying in the Inn. Well, aside from Sergeant Muriel who was not actually staying in the inn, though she spent every day there drinking. Suffice to say, we had the Inn mostly to ourselves. If the dwarf proprietors minded our, um, exultation, they said nothing. Though, I have not heard the anyone shouting the Ascended’s names so loud since the last time I visited a charismatic druid’s sanctification ritual. Though, I’ve NEVER heard “OH LANDRA” shouted with such pure passion, enthusiastic ecstasy or sheer volume. Life indeed.
As a gentleman never kisses and tells, I will summarize our vacation by saying we worked vigorously on team bonding exercises. Repeatedly, and vigorously. Sometimes three times a day. I feel confident in stating that we are more intimately…involved than ever.
Thunder Hawk 30th, 3127
Our morning, er, calisthenics were interrupted by a messenger from the Stahlheim delegation with a wedding invitation. To be honest I was surprised. Our history with the Rockbreaker dwarves was sad at best. We manipulated them into a surface war which cost the lives of most of their dwarves, their loremasters, hundreds of warriors, and their ClanChief. Worse, rather than allowing the old dwarf to die, we petrified him between life and death, mucking up the Clan’s transition of power system. During the resulting political crises, we managed to mortally offend the now active Chief, then publicly opposed his election, only to LOSE said election. After which, our legal representative had the unmitigated gall to persist in demanding the pending wedding.
And, we were STILL invited!? Honestly, I expected banishment, which we WHOLLY deserve, or possibly arrest, which we probably deserve. And, were it not for Ingrid and Kenzie, I might actually submit to such justice. After all, we have been just awful to these dwarves who have done nothing but protect, house, and help us. We are pitiful friends and allies. I understand why the Black Mountain Clans avoid us with such vehemence.
But, invited we were. And, with the marriage, our mission would be complete, despite our best efforts. I’m being too harsh. Corporal Sssahliissstah was not expecting to be in charge. Had Sergeant Grendel not gotten himself killed in the most glorious manner, our whole situation might be different. Then again, maybe not. Who really knows. The situations have been impossible from the outset and everyone is doing the best they can given the circumstances.
Not to say that means anything. We are still swyved.
Looking back, we probably should have spent the next few days relaxing, resting up for the wedding. We did not. If anything, knowing our vacation was coming to an end, Kenzi, Ingrid, and I found ever more…creative…means to enjoy each other’s company.
Not that I complain. Far from it…
Thunder Hawk 33rd, 3127
The fateful day arrived. Before dawn, we arrived out the Stahlheim Merchant to find the team, minus Blackstone, feverishly preparing for the days festivities. Though the invitation as entirely voluntary, the entire time elected to attend. For varied reasons, I am sure. My reasons for attending waffled between morbid curiosity and the free ale.
All suited in their finest dress uniforms, minus arms or armor. That was one of the conditions of our attendance. Kenzie and Ingrid looked ravishing. I restrained myself from suggesting we engage in more…team building. But, I knew time was of the essence, so, unsatiated, we headed to the grand temple to Dranak for the ceremony. I might note here, Blackstone, the Explorer, and the new Alchemist were not among our party. They all seemed to have found some acceptance among the dwarves and were afforded greater courtesy.
Perhaps I should take a moment to discuss what the dwarves mean by a wedding. As I understand, dwarves are creatures of steady, unchanging plodding. They are not fast, but tireless. They are not quick to anger, but once roused rage for decades. Everything with these diminutive folk is slow and methodical. Their weddings are no different.
We arrived at the Grande Temple at about 10 AM, though I was forced to rely on their infernal mechanical devices as I had not seen the sun in weeks. Well, technically, I had barely been outside my room at the Inn in weeks, but I digress.
It took two hours for all of the invited dignitaries to file solemnly into the Temple. The actual service began some time around 1 PM and droned on for six more hours. I should note here that, as were were hardly favored guests, we were tucked in the far back corner of the chamber, standing room only. The warm press of bodies, the sonorous droning, and the, er, spirited ravishing of the past weeks finally caught up with my ladies.
Somewhere around hour three, both Ingrid and Kenzie were wrapped snugly in my downy wings, snoring adorably. If looks could kill, Corporal Sssahliissstah would have laid me cold with her withering glare. Though, I saw little reason to rouse them. They needed their sleep. We all played very hard.
So, with my loves wrapped in my embrace, I watched the eternal ceremony, the solemn singing, the dour decrees, the ponderous pronouncements… Actually, dwarven ceremonies remind of some of the more depressing funerals I have attended. EVENTUALLY, the bride was presented, and strode down the long corridor to her new groom. I was surprised at her beauty.
Beautiful is hardly the first attribute one ascribes to dwarves. Stout, surely, but beautiful? Still, Ruby lived up to her name. She fairly shone in her gem-set gown. Nothing gaudy, just the purest display of craftsmanship. Truly a Chieften’s first daughter. Way to go Blackstone. At least he has taste.
I did note that she was given away by her uncle, not her brother. The younger Rockbreaker was demoted to a lesser seat somewhere on the second row. A horrible slight I am certain, but he seemed to accept his fate with the fable stoicism of the dwarves.
Around 8pm the ACTUAL wedding began. It only last about an hour. Then, there was an exchange. Rings, I suppose, though we were so far away, and at such a ridiculous angle, they might have exchanged fresh trout as far as we could see. There was a final intonation, a kiss, and then a pronouncement. Blackstone, sharp in his formal robes, Ruby, radiant in her cream and blue gown, paraded past, followed by the stand in druid and the acting Chief. Keep in mind we ended up getting the former High Druid killed. So, they had to import a substitute from a nearby clanhom.
Following the couple was the procession of honored guests, then the less honored guests, then the guests, then those who were allowed because it might cause a political kerfuffle if they were excluded. We filed out after that last group. I suppose we might be listed as frenemies? Regardless, the recession, procession in reverse, took another hour and a half. It was actually a bit before midnight when our little troop filed into the cavernous grande hall which had been converted into a feasting hall.
Again, I was shocked we were invited. The uninvited throng the streets, cheering and celebrating the union. Well, there were some cheers, more shouts…even a few insults. And one rotten mushroom.
Dwarves eat a lot of mushrooms.
It would be charitable to say that the Clanhome community was divided about the wedding, with the smaller portion in support. Still, our hosts provided ample security, so there was no violence.
We entered the hall and were directed to the right back corner. From my seat, I couldn’t actually see the head table. We were placed right behind a massive stone column. The head table was already through with their meal by the time we sat. And, while it took another half hour or more get meat, the ale flowed freely, so soon, none of us particularly cared. We sat, talked, drank, and tried to enjoy ourselves.
Sometime during the 13th hour, not long after we finally ate, our repast was interrupted by a strange rumbling from somewhere deep in the Clanhome. It sounded almost like thunder…or an earthquake. For a moment, I feared a mine collapse. Others heard the same and you could feel revelry turn to unrest as the dwarves quieted to better hear. Guards began to mill.
Eventually, the acting Clan Chief rose, addressed the assembled and asked that we continue our celebrations while he and his dwarves go to investigate the disturbance. The acting Chief and his nephew departed along with many warriors from the Home. Blackstone remained with his bride. Mansfried, the big Olaran recruit, went off to speak with the guards at the door. Corporal Sssahliissstah grew disquiet. Everyone tensed for the blow.
When it came, we were still unprepared. Cloaked figures emerged from the crowds, removed blasts potions from beneath cloaks, and hurled them into the revelers. At the same instant, minotaurs appeared in the center of the hall and attacked the columns supporting the roof with massive bloodsteel mauls. Flame had arrived.
I was just standing when I felt a presence behind me. In the confusion, I was caught completely off-guard. One moment I was watching Alpha Team spring into action, the next, I was out in the ClanHome in a pool of light from braziers and lamps with flames rippling around me.
Andak-Gol Ivar ki Novri
I could feel his malice, like a hot brand, burning into me. There was little I could do. Ambushed, unarmed, unarmored, and alone. In a straight fight, Novri is at worst my equal. But, teleported from a dinner party, already into my cups, and without so much as a fork to defend myself…my life was over.
Invisible bands of power pinned my wings, arms, and legs as I was lifted up and hoisted over the side of one of the high balconies. Below me, the entire ClanHome stretched out, lit and decorated for the nuptial celebration. It was beautiful in a sad way. Looking into Novri’s rage twisted grimace, I knew that our decades long dance might well be at an end. He gave no speech, there was no exchange of witticisms.
No, with a twisted smile, he raised his hand and blasted me back with a gout of flame. The hear seared through my clothes, blackening skin and feathers. Oh what a twist of irony. By new-grown feathers too young to fly. I was to lose my final battle with Novri by being hurled to my death on the stone streets below. For an Aevakar, there could be more more humiliating end.
Then I heard her voice. The rage. The pain. The love. The POWER.
I felt Kenzie’s anguish like a physical blow. Behind it, surging force of will. Novri felt it too.
As I looked on in horror, everything slowed. Kenzie’s eyes shining with green light, her fists clenched. Novri’s sick smile, as he turned to kill a woman I loved. And me…falling slowly backwards to my death.
It was of the worst moments of my life. I screamed for her to run…and then the balcony rose up and blocked then from view, and I fell.
I know it was but moments, but it felt as if an eternity passed in those seconds. My first flight. My sister’s smile. The Kal raids, and joining the war. Watching Novri tear her wings off as she screamed in agony. Cutting down Novri’s men, their hot blood on my hands. First seeing Kenzie and Ingrid. Their smiles and laughter.
Everything flooded, good memories, nightmares in a stream of ever faster images. My last image was that of Kenzie and Ingrid our last night in the Inn. I clutched onto that memory like a drowning man would a piece of flotsam, holding it in my heart as the ground rushed to meet me…
And then, I felt claws digging hard into my shoulders. Aetos, my guardian Eagle. I had not seen him in weeks since diving underground. Where had he come from? How did he arrive?!
Struggling against my weight, he fought for altitude. I added my own frantic flaps to his, slowing my fall, then…ever so slowly rising. My only though, to reach Kenzie in time. For tortorous, agonzing seconds, we stuggled to rise, until, we reached the balcony rail and crested the rise.
Novri stood, hand outstretched, roasting Kenzie in flames. But, his power was for naught. She stood defiantly, her body radiating power.
I was…overawed. Her spirit, her power…her beauty. In that moment, I glimpsed her truest self. Undaunted, and fearless. I fell in love all over again.
Novri felt me hovering behind. He turned his head just as I fully cleared the railing. His look of surprise and twisted rage gratified me. Aetos released his grip and I dropped to the deck, shouting, “Ca-CAW! Motherfucker!” as I landed. Kenzie summoned her own power.
We were both unarmed, wounded, and smoldering, facing off against the nastiest Winghunter I have ever known. And he ran…
Novri disappeared with a sulfurous pop, leaving Kenzie and I staring at each other. Overwhelmed by emotion, I rushed her and embraced her. She saved me.
Only then did I notice the roof of the Grande Hall sagging, and the strange stone growths jutting out at odd angles. Both crying, from the smoke, Kenzie led me back inside to a scene of utter insanity.
The hall was…shattered. Stone columns lay scattered like broken toys. Bodies, dwarf and human, littered the stone floor in pools of crimson. The hall was almost empty. Strangely, in place of the columns were rough formed stone pillars, resembling half melted candles. Everywhere signs of battle. The Rangers stood, most just yanking arrows. Across the hall, Blackstone stood with his bride Ruby. Nearby the Alchemist sampled drinks as the head table, and the Explorer herded finely dressed dwarves around the room.
About this time, the acting Clan Chief arrived, with his nephew and surveyed the destruction. It was only a matter of time before he discovered the cause of the attack. Once the Rockbreakers learn that this new injury was inflicted due to Novri’s personal vendetta against me, and the team, our lives would be short indeed. Without much else, the acting Chief ordered the Rangers back to the Stahlheim Merchant to remain sequestered until he and his dwarves could assess the situation.
We all filed back in relative silence. Ingrid seemed a bit miffed with Kenzie, over what I’m not sure. One back, Corporal Sssahliissstah contacted Colonel Anderson in Echer’Naught via our recently added Farspeaker. Our orders, comply with all dwarven requests, up and until the lives of Alpha Team are threatened. Then, we are ordered to retreat without harming any of the Rockbreakers. The Rangers still hope the situation can be salvaged. Foolishly optimistic.
Festival Moons 1st, 3127
Early in the morning, we were all summoned to the main area to speak with the acting Chief. He looked angry and tired. Hardly a good combination. With him, was Ruby. It was only then that I realized Blackstone had spent his wedding night sequestered away from his new bride. Hardly how I would wish to spend my first night.
The uncle addressed us calmly, but the rage was clear. Novri’s attack on his people would not go unanswered. He knew we brought the Kal to his home, and we would be dealt with in time. But he had bigger issues to deal with. To that end, we were required to remain, sequestered, until his Clan finished their business. Then, we would be appropriately dealt with.
For “our safety” we would be confined to the Stahlhiem merchant’s offices. His men would “secure us.” Ruby Blackstone actually was instructed to remain with her new husband. Blackstone was ordered to remain with us Rangers and ensure that we obeyed his orders.
And with that, he left us to our imprisonment. We may not have been in chains, but prisoners we were by any estimation. I hardly blame them.
Only then did we hear the drum and horns of war. Clan Rockbreaker was marching to war. I only hope their rage does not turn on the Rangers. So, we await our fates, and pray this ClanHome does not become our tomb.
If we survive this, I will ask Kenzie and Ingrid to join me in Essania, the Life Bond. I cannot imagine my life without their love, and would gladly follow them into death.