Filed: Forest Dance 11th, 3127
Well, my cousin warned me to stop taking contracts from Rangers. I should have listened. Last time, I swear.
Forest Dance 6th, 3127
Met the grand lady, Ranna, and her pasty companion, Grimm. Good name for the sallow faced Alchemist.
We dined at the Stone Circle Pub, block over from the druid’s circle. Stone Druids, solemn lot. But, they brew good ale. And, the Pub crisps ain’t half bad.
Forest Dance 7th, 3127
On my second day there, while we broke our fast, the rest of the current incarnation of Alpha Team joined us. An odd lot.
The team is now led by a Dregordian Adept, Ssahliissstah. Corporal by the gold cloak pin. Then Ranna of course. I recall not a year ago she was but a shooter on the team. Then she went and got with that other ogre fellow. Sad to hear he died, and team leader at that. I wonder what happened to that ol’ Volstagg fellow? Then you have the trio. Two comely human women, Ingrid and Kenzie with their winged elf beau. He’s a player, no doubt. But, seems pretty smitten. Who’m I to judge? There is the grumpy dwarf Blackstone and his wife, the red eyed Ruby. Odd couple, but then again, it is political. Poor lass. And then, the Olaran tin knight and the cadaverous alchemist. I don’t know what to the say about the red skinned demon dwarf. Builder? That what they call ’em? This specimen has a “look” about him.
I don’t know where the Rangers find these clinkers, but they would do well to mine for more refined ore, if you know what I mean.
So, the Corporal stated her intention to head over the Black Mountains to Temper. A dangerous crossing, but as we are not yet in winter, passable. None of her Rangers seemed too pleased, but to their credit, they accepted her edict with passable aplomb.
I went with Alchemist to procure the necessary supplies for such a treacherous terrain. He is a greedy sot. I gather from the warning issued by his Corporal that he has a habit of purchasing goods not on the approved list. Though he salivated over much, he restrained his darker nature. Sad state the Rangers must be in these days.
He was of some help appeasing the merchant folk thereabout, but his easy way with their daughters bordered on impropriety. Worse, I fear that at least one young lass is under the impression that he intends to enter negotiations for matrimony. Best we leave quickly.
We packed, and then departed by late morn. It was to a short enough high to the foothills. A day if you were complete greenhorn. It took us two. Dranak’s Beard, this newest roster of Alpha Team leaving something to be desired. Still, a job’s a job so they say.
Half way into the hike, the one they call Kenzie, riding a large warhose Buttercup, rode straight into a bog. The massive beast sank up to her belly, and there she remained. The entire column stopped while ropes could be rigged and the poor beast dragged kicking and screaming from the muck.
Pitiful business. I spent the afternoon pleasantly enough sunning on a rock, puffing away at some Almahradi weed. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon, though hardly inspiring for the Ranger’s “Premier” Calvary unit.
The delay cost us a day. We ended up camping not far from the bog to give the Rangers and their mounts a rest.
Forest Dance 8th, 3127
Up before dawn, we reached the base of the Black Mountains early on the 8th, but far too late to begin the climb. So we made camp and waited till dawn. It was a pleasant enough evening. The lands are fertile with herds grazing across open fields. Here and there farms dot the landscape. As bucolic a scene as I have witnessed.
Hardly the typical home of the dwavish people. But, we’ve got to eat as well I suppose. Though, I imagine that few of the ranchers are of dwarf stock. Much easier to hire out scratching in the dirt.
Forest Dance 9th, 3127
We began our ascent early on the 9th. It was cool, but not cold. Though, I smelled a hint of winter on the air. It is going to be a cold one, no doubt.
It shames me to say that the only member of the party to fall on that first leg was the dwarf Blackstone. City dwarves know nothing for the mountain. Shame.
We reached the end of the shallow grade, bout midway up the pass. There we camped. They may have little navigational or mountain climbing skills, but they make a decent camp. We enjoyed hot stew and coffee. Blackstone’s wife huddled by the fire, staring into the flames.
Kenzie fussed over Ingrid, while Steelwing watched the back trail like he expected a demon to leap right out of the shadows. Come to it, the Rangers seemed jumpy since leaving Mindril Hall. Well, more so than usual. I find the greencloaks to be a generally high struck lot.
Started raining about dark and pissed down for hours. The first stars broke through by 3 am, leaving a thick coating of hoarfrost over the tents and flyers.
Forest Dance 10th, 3127
Breaking out of our bedrolls, we headed up the slope into the steeper grade. Here, we ran a belay. The chance of one of these Rangers taking a tumble off the mountain seemed a surety. Moreover, I would have bet my hat that we would lose at least one of their animals on the climb. The goat seemed in his element, and the dwarf ponies are sure of foot. But the destriers? And a Mule?
We made decent time. Late afternoon, we paused to rest before the final climb. With a few hours of good climbing left, we started up the steepest grade. Early in, Gil and Ingrid take a tumble. Mansfried tried to brace, but he too went over. Only Kenzie and Blackstone saved the entire team from plummeting to their deaths.
Good thing I had the presence of mind to tie them together. Once we reeled them in like wide mouth bass, we continued on. An hour later, Blackstone took the dive. Kenzie and Mansfried caught him, and reeled him back in.
The Rangers were looking blue by the time we reached the summit. I’d kitted them with good fur lined, oiled winter coats, but this high the wind seems to cut through to the core. Even the dwarves were begin to flag.
We were almost to the summit camp when the darkening sky was lit by a ball of fire arcing lazily over our heads. I stood bewildered as I watched the falling star passing overhead. In moments, it slammed into the rock wall, exploding into a shower of fire and stone.
Then I heard the distinct rumble, felt vibrations coming up through the soles of my boots.
I screamed for the idiots to run, before taking my own advice and sprinting for the dubious safety of the summit camps rocky overhang. By some miracle, we all made it before the shower of stones rolled over us, mashing through the pass and down into the wide valley below.
It lasted moments, but some of the most terrible of my travels. When all was said and done, the following silence rang in my ears. My mind was only just processing that we had been attacked when the mountain offered up a new horror.
The silence was shattered by a screeching roar from high above us. A shiver ran through my body at the sound. I’d only heard it once before, but I’ll never forget the sound.
The blast and rockslide must have roused them from their nest in the mountains. Now they were angry, and hungry by the sound. I shouted for the Rangers to take cover.
Most took my advice, but the human girl, Ingrid froze. In that moment, an Ice Wyvern swooped and snatched her off the ledge. Ranna, the big girl, raised her massive crossbow to bring down the Wyvern before it could get out of range.
That’s when a second beasty unleashed a blast of icy breath, freezing the ogress where she stood. The devil had sneaked up while we were distracted, crawling down the cliff nearly on top of us.
With one wyvern winging away with Ingrid, the other was about to pounce on us from above. And then the thrice damned Builder quaffs a damn potion, then has Ranna toss him onto the Wyvern stalking us from behind.
The beast was as confused as I was. Damn thing took off before any of us could stop them. And then there were two winging away.
Most of the other Rangers just stood around shocked by the sudden turn of events. Kenzie had the presence of mind to summon up a wind spirit to send after the Wyvern carrying off her…wife, I think.
As for the builder, the Corporal ordered Steelwing to help him. And so, we stood on the cliffside watching the drama unfold in the air over the valley. Kenzie’s sprite took down the Wyvern and carried Ingrid back to us. On the other side, the Builder started shooting the beast out from under him. Steelwing reached him, and they killed the beast.
Then, the aevakar tried to carry the builder back to the cliff. To be honest, I didn’t think they’d make it. The last few feet were touch and go. Kinda funny to see the little one scrabbling his feet to get purchase as the winged elf started to give out.
But, after a few moments of sheer terror, all were safely back on solid stone. Which was all well and good, but that did NOT explain who was trying to kill us and why the Rangers had neglected to mention that little fact before hiring me to guide them through the mountains.
Dear reader, let me catch you up. It seemed that the Aevakar Steelwing had some sort of blood feud with a Kal Winghunter named Novri. They spent the last two decades knocking of each other’s families till only the two remained.
Now, Steelwing was also married to Ingrid and Kenzie, and Ingrid was with child. Who makes a mountain pass while pregnant?! Anyway, Novri was trying to kill them all, in particular Steelwing and his wives. And the Rangers have been running from this hunter for months.
Of course they never mentioned any of this before. So, I refused to assist any further until they paid me double. Somewhat chagrined, Corporal Ssahliisssta agrees. That settled, Steelwing suggests that they had better prepare for a fight.
I tended to agree. So, they spend the better part of the evening fortifying our little mountain camp. What they lacked in any other usable skills, these Rangers made up in digging in. Even I was impressed.
By the second watch, everyone was snuggled into foxholes waiting for the inevitable. We were not disappointed. Late in the third watch, Corporal Ssahliissstah gives a shout.
Half a dozen hellhouds charged into our wall and abattoirs on the western fortifications. Moments later, a trio of thratchen appeared in our midst, gibbering and slashing. For the moment, they seemed focused on the Rangers, so I drew my axes and found a good place out of the scuffle.
Corporal Ssahliissstah battled the hellhouds on the west flank, while Grimm and Mansfried battled the thratchen. Ingrid fired bolts. I couldn’t see from my vantage, but I gather something happened to the Builder.
Before Ranna could really join battle, a boar headed childer, what the Rangers called a Calydoe, smashed through our western defense and attacked Ranna. Despite the clear threat, she instead took a small, white and blue mask from her belt and shoved it on the Builder’s face?
Then, Kenzie summoned a spirit of earth to battle the boar headed childer. Someone drpped one of the thratchen, and half of the hellhouds exploded into ashen motes. The Rangers seemed to be turning the tide when flames exploded out of the ground and twisted around us all like serpents. They seared the skin and blackened flesh.
From our midst, a figure shimmered into view. Novri. His eyes glowed a faint blue, but his hands were wreathed in flames. The Winghunter had arrived.
In a taunting voice, Novri offered to allow Steelwing to choose one of his wives to save. The other, Novri would take I have few doubts how that would ended for the poor girl. I shudder at the thought.
It seemed our fates were sealed. And then, Steelwing exploded out of the bindings. I do not know how, or where he found the strength. But, he was on Novri in a flash. Novri was faster.
The Winghunters blades punched through Steelwing’s chest, while Steelwing’s wingblades impaled the Kal. In the blood embrace, Steelwing hurled them both over the cliff and out of sight. Ingrid and Kenzie stood stunned.
In that moment, all but the Calydoe vanished. The Builder opens fire, peppering it with his arclance. I believe Ingrid finished if off. And then, the battle was over as quickly as it begun.
The unity that had saved the team in combat evaporated as they suddenly fell to bickering about what to do. Kenzie demanded to go after Steelwing. She even threatened to disobey orders, and hunt him herself. Ingrid, with child, seemed more sane. But, Blackstone, who you might have though would have first loyalty to his wife, rather offered to go with Kenzie. The Builder and Gill both voted strongly to leave the Aevakar. I think Mansfried voiced a similar sentiment.
Kenzie and Ingrid claimed to be able to sense him. Elf magic? I honestly understand little of this.
They argued until Corporal Ssahliissstah took the strange white/blue mask and contacted Volstagg. So he lived! I’m not sure what exactly transpired, but when she exited her telepathic trance, she informed the team that a dwarven rescue team would come for Steelwing within a couple days. But, they had a mission to finish.
We each found a warmish place to bed down for what remained of the night. Each wondering what fresh horrors the dawn might bring. All I know, once I get these Rangers to Temper, I’m taking a long vacation far from anyone who has heard of Grayson’s Gray Rangers.