Report Filed: Forest Dance 23rd, 3126
Forest Dance 3rd, 3126
Alpha Team, plus one Tempari found ourselves “Guests” of Desert Riders. Though not ill treated, we were clearly prisoners. After waiting a few hours, we were approached by the camps Shiek, one Badieh Basheh and his galean, girl slave translator. Though, I imagine the Shiek spoke Galean perfectly well.
Classic show of power/test enemy ruse. Pathetic.
Their “camp” was hidden in a twisting, wind cave worn like wormtunnels through the pale sandstone. The Desert Riders had turned the caverns and tunnels into rooms and halls. From our vantage point close to the “east entrance,” I could only mark two other access points: open roof (3 yards by 17 yards), and a second smaller entrance south and east. I assume there are many others, deeper in the network.
Every entrance is covered by no fewer than four bowmen, and two spears. The bows are smaller, and shorter range than elven, but better suited to firing in the narrow spaces. The riders wear leather, and scale armor, but little more. No helms. They also use scimitars. Good on horseback, and fair in close confines, but less effective than straight blades for dueling.
Of the 218 people I counted in the camp, only 43 were true warriors, though every man was armed. All showed the telltale walk of a cavalry, so I believe the entire camp are riders, but there could not be enough space within the caverns to house 218 horses, or 43. I imagine no more than a two or three dozen. Meaning, that the camp is vulnerable to cav attack, assuming one could survive the storms. The caves are also a tomb.
Also, fire. They have enough straw and dried goods to fuel a decent fire. Once hot enough, body fat would keep the blaze hot enough to burn or smoke out the desert people.
The Sheik showed “honor” to Lt. Volstagg and the Tempari. They spoke about our mission. Lt. Vosltagg was forthcoming. I suppose we had little to gain from lying. Honesty is the best policy? Hardly, but it worked this time.
The Sheik offered supplies, a guide, and horses. That last being the most important “gift.” He then pulled Volstagg aside. Something about not trusting Tempest. I wasn’t supposed to hear, though.
We left that night, after the rest of the team napped. Out by eve on the 3rd, and north on horseback. Making good time riding hard at night on Desert horses. Managed two night, before the storms hit again in earnest. He huddled for two days under the Ogres.
Forest Dance 5th, 3126
Never been a big fan of Ogres. Too slow and stupid to be of more use than beasts of burden, or when you need to smash through a wall. But, Grendel and Ranna have proven useful during this trip. Though, the smell…
Forest Dance 7th, 3216
We were out, late in the eve. But, the Desert Rider, called “Rider” led us to within sight of the Black Sand Wall. The ride took 2 days.
Forest Dance 9th, 3126
Stretching across the horizon and high enough into the sky to blot out stars, the Wall was intimidating. We slept the 9th, and made our move the following night.
Forest Dance 10th, 3126
Approaching the Black Sand Wall on horseback, we released the horses to return to their stables. Here, the Tempari used a Tempest cyclone to counter the power of Xaos massive Sandstorm. Meanwhile, with out protection gone, the Team suddenly faced the full fury of the storms. We almost did not survive.
About a minute into summoning the Cyclone, a 2 min ritual, the Tempari was ambushed by a pair of massive, ogre+ sized black scorpions. Alpha Team engaged to draw attention from the Tempari.
The Xaos Scorpions are large, armored and immune to blunt and non-magical edge weapons. They are susceptible to arrows, and appeared to take damage from Whitesilver. They are also armed with a potent venom. I imagine were we not magically protected, it would be quickly lethal. They do not appear to be able to recover from stunning attacks well. Eventually, both were slain, and the Cyclone breached the wall.
Charging through, we found the city of A’Tora, the Oasis Lake, and the lands surrounding untouched by storm. The Black Sand Wall serves as a magical fortification which cuts off A’Tora, but leaves the city and its countryside untouched with pleasant weather.
Unfortunately, the Tempest magic alerted the Xaos within and we were met with 20 desert riders, not unlike our “allies.” By Lt. Volstagg’s order, we sprinted for the lake and the surrounding palm forest and villages.
We reached the trees just as the riders closed. By luck, more than tactics or skill, we lost them in the trees and reached a village house. Breaking through the door, we surprised a family (father, mother, child). The Tempari smashed them against a wall, stunning them.
The team hunkered down in the home, which also proved to be a basket weaving shop. Lt. Volstagg ordered the family treated for wounds, then bound. Again, more by luck, we were undiscovered, but the guards quickly secured the area and began more thorough sweep.
Our Desert Rider, bandit, ally left to go find his kin who could help us, while we waited and tried to remain silent. I took position on the roof and kept watch as the guards expertly secured the village and went door to door. The rest of the team barricaded the room, and scrounged for clothes and provisions.
Just after dark, the Guards reached out door. The Tempari silenced them with magic, I killed each with an arrow to the eye, and Volstagg pulled the bodies through the door. Unfortunately, the constant damage of the sands storms hand altered the fletching of my arrows. On at least one target, I hit the wrong eye.
Forest Dance 11th, 3126
It was only a matter of time before they came looking for the missing guards. It happened the following morning. More guards, this time with backup too near to ambush, arrived and demanded to search the house. We were more prepared.
RFC Zathlan, wearing Lt. Volstagg’s medallion of language, gift from the Emissary, managed to convince the guards that she was alone, that she had seen no strangers, and that the house had leprosy. Convinced, they went on their way.
Shortly after, our bandit ally arrived and took the disguised Zathlan to the location of his kin. Sending her back, he posted a watch. Zathlan returned, gathered the group, and attempted to lead us all to safety, Lt. Vosltagg in the lead.
Unfortunately for Volstagg, he ran into a patrol just before reaching the “safe house.” Rather than have everyone caught, Volstagg took off running to lead the guards away. The rest of the team reached the safety of the house without issue.
Inside, we found three more bandit Desert Riders, and a familiar assassin, named “Our Friend,” in most past reports. This assassin is known to me and he, without much issue, agreed to go help Volstagg. Meanwhile, the bandits provided fresh food and water, the first we had eaten since Paradise.
Volstagg saved and returned, we questioned the bandit Desert Riders and the assassin on the situation in the city. They confirmed that Xaos controlled the city, though they were unsure whether Prince Hesham amin Jomil, Emir of A’Tora was working willingly with Xaos forces, or under duress. They also confirmed that the Black Sand Wall circled the city, preventing easy escape. Worse, they claimed that whatever power was creating the sandstorms was NOT located in A’Tora. The city was merely a stating ground for a Xaos army.
The Seh’t Cult were based deeper in the desert, north and east of our position. Armed with this information, Lt. Volstagg decided we needed to leave the city quickly and head into the sands. Unfortunately, without proper gear, we would be obvious outsiders and quickly captured.
With the assassin’s help, we developed a plan. Corporal Daynore and I could wear the traditional desert garb of the bandits. The Olarans actually could pass as mercenaries. The Emir had built himself quite an army, it seemed, complete with mercenaries from as far as Olara. Also, the Emir used a cadre of Ogre bodyguards who wore complete sets of golden armor. RFC Zathlan already had appropriate garb. That meant we just needed some Xaos clothes for the Tempari and we could move freely through the countryside.
The city would be dangerous, as we would not have papers, but so long as we avoided checkpoints, none of the desert villagers would dare approach us.
At some great cost, the Assassin agreed to help infiltrate Zathlan into the Palace while I provided cover. With little other option, Lt. Volstagg agreed. Corporal Daynore created the mind link. Dressed as a Desert Rider, I tracked the Assassin and Zathlan out of the safehouse.
The assassin took her into the city. There, he “sold” her to a man who clearly made his business int he flesh trade. The assassin left.
Forest Dance 12th, 3126
The next day, Zathlan was taken with four other women to the Palace. I lost sight for a few hours, but eventually spied Zathlan scrubbing floors on one of the upper tier porticoes.
Security at the Palace was unusually tight. While the interior sections reminded me of Almahrad with their wide halls, and column lined courtyards, this Palace was subdivided by large, thick walls topped with crenelations, guard towers, and guards. Every section of the wall was heavily patrolled by archers and spearmen. The grounds were patrolled day and night by six man squads of guards on rotation. There were also a pair of guards inside and outside every entrance. Large gates had four in and four out.
From what the Assassin had said, we also knew that any woman within the walls could be a “Consort,” trained killing. None of this included the Xaos presence. While they were not on guard, there were strangely dressed Xaos everywhere. Bronzed armor with strange geometric patterns of fire (similar to arcfire), white, flowing cloth. Their weapons narrow and oddly curved, with right angles and hooks.
After working her first day, she and the other slaves were escorted under heavy guard to a compound outside the palace walls, more a prison than housing. There, they were allowed to sleep in communal rooms and fed little. From my count, there ware four dozen slaves or more, all housed together.
The routines were the same. Every morning, they were wakened before dawn, given a little food and water, then escorted back the palace to perform menial labor. By moving vantage points, and mapping patrol routes, I was able to keep Zathlan in bow range most of the time, except when she cleaned interior rooms, or worked the kitchens. Still, the routine was easy enough that I could follow where she worked in the Palace usually without issue.
If I did lose her for too long, I just contact her through Daynore.
Everything seemed well enough until six days in.
Forest Dance 18th, 3126
While working, Zathlan had been making contact with other slaves and servants. It didn’t seem as if many would talk, but I would see her huddled with the others between tasks. However, late on the 19th, she was grabbed by one of the guards sent to watch the slaves and hauled into the Palace. Via contact, she told me to stand down.
She was questioned, and failed to produce the answered they wanted to hear. So, she was thrown in a cell on the Palace grounds awaiting an interrogator. Read, adept, torturer, or both.
Forest Dance 19th, 3126
The next morning, Zathlan was hauled out of her cell and appeared on an upper, covered balcony. It was a far shot, but within range. The balcony was colonnaded and standing at every column was one of the Emir’s guards. She was thrown down in the center, and a well dressed man questioned her. After a while, though, he paused and sent for another.
After about an hour, a woman in diaphanous silks appeared. Dark eyed, makeup, clearly a member of the Emirs harem. I took aim and waited, but…then the woman took Zathlan to a small reclined lounge nearer my side of the balcony. They both disrobed, and…the woman “tested?” Zathlan. That went on for an impressive length of time.
Obviously, Zathlan was pleasing, because the woman rose, dressed, nodded to the man and took Zathlan into a part of the Palace I could not see. I lost contact for a couple of days. But, from reports via Daynore, she was cleaned, shaved, dressed, fed and introduced to other Palace courtesans.
She stayed, under heavy guard, with the harem girls until the 21st.
Forest Dance 21st, 3126
It took some time, but I managed to get on the roof of the Palace and make may way over the course of the two days to a vantage point, beneath on onion shaped tower peak, where I could observe the harem.
The girls were kept in a series of inner courtyards. One large room housed hot baths. One, a series of piles of pillows and couches, and the last had benches, tables, and other furniture. Every room was heavily guarded day and night by a dozen guards. No way in or out.
Late on the 21st, Zathlan and two other girls were selected and escorted to a private room. I managed to stalk them, close enough to see them given over to one of the men I had tagged as a Guard Captain. Zathlan and the girls “entertained” the man for about 5 minutes before he fell asleep. They lay with him till morning. But, she relayed through Daynore that she had the intel and needed extraction.
The palace was too well guarded, and they were meticulous about tracking wh
Knowing the Assassin’s reputation, I relayed to the the Team that I needed “Death’s Embrace” or “Death’s Kiss,” a poison that can mimic death. It is a risk. Many people never wake, but from what I know of this land, political poisoning are common.
Again, a price was met and the Assassin not only found me, but manage to infiltrate the Palace, in a few hours what took me 2 days, AND got the drop on me. His reputation is well deserved. With the poison, I manage to poison all Zathlan and the two girls.
I couldn’t risk only poisoning Zathlan as that might arouse suspicion. If all three were poisoned, then it would look like a failed attempt on the Guard Captain. Once done, I had to clear the Palace as the search would surely find me.
Everything went as planned. When the guards came to escort the girls back to the harem, they found all three poisoned. The alarm was sounded and every inch of the Palace was searched. Roof included. They used mages, adepts, and their own scouts.
Forest Dance 22nd, 3126
The three bodies were removed and taken to a cellar used to keep corpses cool till disposal. All standard procedure. I’m just glad they didn’t cut on the bodies to determine cause of death.
Once the room was clear, I reached Zathlan and the others in time to administer the antidote. Zathlan awoke. The other two I could not waken. They died before the antidote could work.
Nevertheless, I provided Zathlan a change of clothes. We moved to a position nearby until the search ended. I dressed another young corpse in her clothes and left that behind.
Forest Dance 23rd, 3126
Pre-dawn on the 23rd, we made our way back to the safehouse. Lt. Volstagg and Zathlan went to talk. I took a moment to eat, as I had had little over the past 10 days. After they discussed what happened, we had a group meeting. Turns out, the Golden Ogres had a watering hole they frequented. As did the Xaos. All within close proximity to the Palace, but on opposite sides.
So, we split into two groups.
Sergeant Amaroth took Grendel, Rana, and Danica north of the Palace to ambush the Ogres.
Lt. Volstagg took the Tempari, Corporal Daynore, RFC Zathlan, and I to ambush the Xaos mage.
The Xaos forces had constructed their own private club just outside the shadow of the Palace walls, but within extreme bowshot in, what appeared to be, the ruins of a Golden Sun temple. We made our way the same night, 23rd, under cover of Darkness.
I scouted and found only a single blind turn from the club to the Palace. We would have on shot, and it would be close. So, we waited. Shortly before the 13th hour, a single Xaos mage, two “Templars”, and four Palace guards made their way back to the Palace from drinking.
We hit them fast. I dropped the Mage with a single shot to the back of the head. Daynore unleashed on one Templar. The Tempari silenced the field as Lt. Volstagg broke cover and drew fire. His first shot felled one Templar, but the others rushed him.
Before anyone could really act, Volstagg fired a second shot point blank at the surviving Templar, but the handcaster ruptured and blew. Volstagg was mortally wounded, the Palace guards incinerated, but the Templar staggered back, only to be cut down by the Tempari.
We rushed in, sound resuming its normal behavior. Zathlan treated Volstagg, Corporal Daynore looted bodies and the Tempari stripped the Mage. I covered them all.
We managed to reach the rally point late in the 13th hour. The Ogre team were also successful, beating us there. Grendel and Ranna looked good in gold. Our Friend, the Assassin, congratulated our success, and then told us there was a ship and captain at the shore of the lake waiting to take us across to the east side.
I scouted ahead while the others followed.
Lieutenant Sir Gunther Volstagg
It is idiocy to have a marriage couple on the same team. Worse when one is in a position of command. Even worse to have the wife pregnant. Elves do this all the time. I know the Sergeant is worried about Volstagg not being able to be objective about Zathlan. Me, I think the bastard is going to get himself killed trying to prove he’s NOT compromised. At least he is staying on mission. For now.
Sergeant Audric Amaroth, Sword of House Wolfhaven
Before this mission is over, I am going to have to kill the Sergeant. He spends more time nipping at the Lt’s heals than worrying about the fact that he is one bad call away from going bloody mad. On a team where the Commander nearly whipped his pregnant wife to death, and she then seduced another man to get intel. Where our Farspeaker had his mind flayed by a Shayakar on the orders of the Commander. On this team, the Sergeant is the most compromised and dangerous variable in the group.
Corporal Durlan Daynore, Farspeaker
Daynore is compromised. That Shayakar put memories in his head, but took something as well. I know he’s hesitant to use his powers, and THAT will get us all killed. Hesitation is worse than a choice one way or another. He needs to either sort himself, or leave.
RFC Lady Nexuz Zathlan Volstagg
Impressive work. Of course, she’s pregnant which means that her effectiveness will soon cease. That, and from what I’ve been able to observe, the Emissary healing her child after Lt. Volstagg whipped her nigh to death altered the kid. No doubt she can now be tracked, and is a target for every enemy we face. So, soon to be ineffective, a target, and can be tracked. My call, cut her loose. But the Lt. will never sacrifice his wife and child.
RFC Danica, Golden Gryhpons
If Danica doesn’t step up and do more than twirl her sabers, then we need a replacement. Other than glare at Amaroth, and grumble about everyone we meet, so far she has offered little advice on any foe. I’ve killed Gryphons before. They are supposed to be Evil slayers. So far, she has not impressed.
So far, compenant. More so than expected. The armor, however pretty, is going to get us killed when we need to evade at some point in the near future. That, and they could use a personality.
I do not know if I can continue to protect this team and maintain the Ranger high standard of ethics and morality. What my team does not realize is, out here, their rules A) don’t matter, and B) will get us killed. The others are learning, but while they will do what is needed, they spend too much time afterwards whining about it. The hesitation will get us all killed. Still, when we return, I will be court marshaled over those prostitutes. It does not matter that they would have betrayed us all. It does not matter that they had the same chance as Zathlan. Only, my actions will be considered too extreme, even given the high price of our failure had I not. Still, maybe it is best I do what my team cannot and deal with consequences later. I’m not likely to return from this mission anyway.