Lord Mayor, Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander
Commander of the Legio Heroes
Exile, Norcan Dar (Hard Lands)
6th Day of Planting Moons, Year 3128 Under the Light
We rescued Gravelheart and found new allies. But, our pursuers have caught up. If we are not careful, we may be responsible for the eradication of a society that may be older than all but our elves.
Golden Eagle 33rd, 3128
We chased retreating Wyverns as far as we could before the heat of the day grew unbearable and we were forced to halt. Several of our column dropped out with heat stroke. If we cannot find better shelter soon, we may lose our army.
However, as soon as we were able, we marched again, heading south and west as straight as we could manage over the crimson dunes. It was still too hot, but we had lost hours in our chase. All logic suggested that RFC Gravelheart was long since gone, but I held out hope.
Planting Moons 1st, 3128
By 9 in the morning, our forward scouts report seeing…something on the horizon. In such a trackless and featureless waste, everything stands out starkly. Yet, the unimaginable emptiness also plays with the mind, distorting the size of things. We traveled for days toward the leaning pyramid and only realized its true size when we were close enough to get some concept of scale.
Here again, we marched toward a distant object ignorant of size and scale. What was this land before the great conflict? Was it always a desert wasteland, or was it once lush, as the Eternal Desert before the great cataclysm?
How much had changed? And where were all those who once dwelt here? Were their ground bones mixed with the blood red sands? But more than that, why had Flame touched so closely here? Perhaps Infernals had joined the war, as had the Faelakar and Dragons before. What destruction had been wrought? So many questions.
Planting Moons 2nd, 3128
We continue our march toward the distant object, a rock formation. How large, we cannot say for certain, but we know it is large. Perhaps, it is even larger than the leaning pyramid?! We halted for the day, hiding under our coverings as the sun rose high, baking down. The heat here is so oppressive, we even stopped sweating. Hotter than the heart of the desert sands of our home. It burned to breathe.
As the sun dipped low, we marched out again, slowly, laboriously toward the distant stone. By evening, we had arrived in its shadow. It was…enormous. Easily as large as the Stoneheart Mountain of Stahlheim, but flat, vaguely mushroom shaped.
The sides were sheer, though I could make out caves high above. It would seem we found the Wyvern’s roost. How to find Gravelheart? It would take months, or more, to search the entire mesa. Assuming we could survive the climb and the local fauna. I called the column to halt in the shade of the walls, hugging close, but not so close as to suffer falling rocks.
Then, I sent my remaining scouts to check the rock’s perimeter. RFCs Softpaws and Killian headed left and right respectively. The Explorer climbed into the control box of our Iron Golem’s Arcfire Projector. RFC Que’kasaars stood guard over Gill who examined the rocks for interesting components. Sergeant Mansfried remained with the column.
A few hours later, the scouts returned. Killian reported that she had found Gravelheart’s gook and rope maybe a quarter mile along the rock. It was lying in the sands. RFC Gravelheart left us a sign, clever dwarf.
Leaving the column in place, the team, the Explorer and I make our way to the grapple hook. There, Gill set down to brew climbing potions. Killian and Softpaws rigged climbing gear and prepared to make the ascent. It took hours.
Planting Moons 3rd, 3128
Eventually, Gill finished and handed out his weather protection and wall walking potions. All told, our climbers were to receive 6 hours of protection. Almost enough to get them to the summit.
Our ascent team started scaling the surface of the rock, Sergeant Minor Blackstone, RFCs Killian and Softpaws. From the ground the rest of the unit waited, watching. After about an hour, we could see Killian slip and drop to the end of her belay. We dodge the rockslide below, but she managed to recover and continue the ascent.
Almost before they were too small to make out against the rock, we saw another slip, Softpaws I believe, but she too recovered. Then, they were gone. And we continued our vigil.
The night was lit by stars, the only time in this desert of any beauty. Before the cold set in, you the sky was so clear you could almost imagine you were swimming through the sky. It was the only part of the Hard Lands I might have considered to have missed.
Late into the night, or early in the morning, we started seeing flashes of flame. The Wyverns had spotted their prey on the walls. It was hard to see, for certain. But later we learned that they reached the summit, only to be attacked by the Wyverns. Killian and Mal took refuge in one of the many ravines, while Sergeant Blackstone scouted the wyvern nest. Unfortunately, the adult wyverns took to scouring the ravine with fire forcing the women to crawl into one of the many wind tunnels bored into the rock. There, Softpaws spotted a bright object seemingly shoved into a hole in the wall. Before Killian could shout a warning, Softpaws ripped it out, triggering a massive rockfall which would have swept Softpaws out the hole into open sky if she had not downed a wall walking potion and clung to the sides.
Killian, for her part, scrambled into a side duct and waited the rocks out. When it was over, Killian felt in the hole and discovered a primitive mechanical system. Softpaws found the white object was bone, likely wyvern, carved and sanded smooth. Someone had, or currently, lived in the mesa. Blackstone returned to the woman and they all made their way down through the caves to a larger cavern, big enough to accommodate our troops, if not our Calydoes or Golems.
So, once reported back, via the mask, I sent Sergeant Mansfried to bring our troops to the staging area as we began the process of lifting our army into the rocks. It would be a monumental task, but one the Builders were uniquely adept at solving. Even Olarans would take weeks, or months to construct lifts sufficient to move an army. Builders can achieve the same feat in a matter of hours. Many have theorized that Builders and dwarves are of related stock. Though I am no expert, it does seem they share an affinity for the mechanical, though the Builders are the clear masters.
While I moved the army, I instructed the Alpha Team to secure our new camp. Aside from wyverns, we now knew there might be other, intelligent, beings hiding in the rocks. Though I was loathe to wind up engaged in another battle, these dwellers might mistake our presence for an invasion. It was best we protected ourselves and secured the flanks. So, The Alpha Team began mapping and posting guards along all the tunnels leading to our camp.
It took a couple days to get the people aloft. Blackstone helped by shaping rocks, literally singing us a fortified encampment. He has grown in power throughout this challenge. Though, I fear that his time with us will soon conclude. He has a higher duty to his own.
Planting Moons 5th, 3128
After the ascent and construction, we had the entire army, save for our columns and Calydoes safely in the mountains. Moreover it was cooler here. Adjusting to darkness again was a challenge, but a welcome one.
While I discuss with the Maker about securing our baggage train, the Alpha Team moves deeper into the mountain, setting alarms and expanding our perimeter. Down one deep diving tunnel, Gil, covered by Softpaws, was startled. All the Rangers heard the shout and headed to assist. I was, at the moment, below helping get the restless Calydoes into another cavern.
When they found RFC Grimm, he was surrounded by rag wrapped creatures about four and a half, or five, feet tall. They were entirely covered, with eyes behind slit goggles, much like those used by Caladonians or Northern Barbarians. Normally they would protect against snow blindness, but I imagine they would serve a similar function in the brightness of the desert. They were unarmed and entirely enthralled by RFC Grimm’s skin. Though it was red and parched, it was still shaded lighter, and smoother than most everyone else…
While they appeared to mean no harm, they were nearly smothering him as dozens were crawling up his body to stroke his exposed face. Upon arriving, Blackstone sung a stone platform to lift him into the air. RFC Que’kassars wrapped him in a cocoon of protective eldritch energy. The bright purple sparking and crackling startled the creatures and they vanished almost as if melding into the rock as Blackstone does. And then, the team was alone.
I returned in time to meet the team for a report. Blackstone noted that they had absorbed enough Flame from long term exposure to track magically, but we would need to be close. Though, I was hesitant to start hunting them. In the first place, it might be misconstrued as aggressive. And, they clearly had the advantage. So, we went to plan B. Sergeant Blackstone took Corporal Grimm and RFC Killian further into the caves with food and other lures to attempt to draw them out peacefully. Meanwhile, I returned to the task of securing the Golems and Calydoes. I took RFC Softpaws with me to help control her Golem. Blackstone took the mask.
I later learned it took five hours before the creatures made contact. But, surprisingly the encounter did not turn lethal. There appeared to be some miscommunication, but soon, the advance team was being led by their new “friends.” They managed to call RFC Que’kasaars and the Explorer before they were too deep in the caves.
After a long hike, the team was led into a massive chasm that split the rock deep underground. Here, it seemed the majority of these dwellers had carved out a veritable village into the caves along either side. Strung between them were rope bridges. The team was led across one bridge to what appeared to be a central meeting chamber. There, the creatures had started to gather, drums beat, and an elder sat waiting. They were throwing a feast in honor of their new guests. At least, that is what the team sincerely hoped.
A speech was made while Alpha Team waited impatiently. Behind them, Arwen and the Explorer made their way in the wake of the team, following Blackstone’s directions. However, when they too reached the chasm, almost an hour later, they lacked guides. Halfway across, Arwen made a bad step and plummeted from sight. There was nothing the Explorer could do, so he continued on to report. Yet, when he arrived, their hosts were still speaking, so he waited respectfully.
At this point, RFC Gravelheart was still missing, possibly dead. RFC Softpaws was with me and the Golem. Sergeant Mansfried was with the camp. RFC Que’kassars was lost, possibly dead. The rest of the team were trapped in a banquet hall, honored guests of the creatures of the mountain. Terribly inconvenient.
Eventually, food was brought and the team dug in, not to be rude. Here, Corporal Grimm drew a picture of Gravelheart and tried to communicate with the locals. He hoped that someone had seen her. An urchin took the picture and vanished into the crowd. So, he worked to create another picture, this one of Gravelheart holding hands with Blackstone. Here, Sergeant Blackstone assumed diplomat and tried to demand the creatures to bring Gravelheart to them immediately. They seemed apologetic, holding up a finger. He presumed to indicate that they wait.
By now, I was on my way after the Sergeant Minor contacted me. Then, he tried Gravelheart, to no avail, and then Arwen. This was more successful, but RFC Que’kassars was in her pickle. After falling several stories and severely injuring herself, she found herself far below and lost. With nothing better to do, she set off to find a way up. During her search, she stumbled across the kitchens… There, she arrived just in time to stop the villages hulking butcher from butchering an unconscious and naked Gravelheart. They were, it was revealed, cannibals.
Arwen shattered the butcher’s knife with a blast of energy but was nearly ripped in half when the brute hurled Graveheart’s limp form through her. Showing amazing fortitude, Arwen managed to drag them both to a hole despite her injuries while the brute shuffled and sniffed somewhere above them. There they waited for rescue.
I arrived at the banquet with Softpaws at almost this moment. Of course, while Blackstone communed with Arwen, I witnessed Corporal Grimm throwing small paper projectiles at the Explorer’s face like some schoolyard brat. Blackstone returned from his reverie, gave me the nod and slipped beneath the stones to the shock of all creatures nearby. I took the opportunity to assume his seat. It was all rather smooth.
Only then did we manage to break through the language barrier. After trying a few languages, the Explorer hit upon Childer. At least one of their number was familiar with the tongue of the beastmen. What I found interesting was his accent was…perfect, guttural and demonic. I suppose it was something of a native language?
It was then that we learned they were trying to apologize to Sergeant Minor Blackstone. When Corporal Grimm had first requested Gravelheart prepared as a special meal, they immediately sent word for her to be butchered. However, they regretted to inform us that our meal had…escaped. But, they were making every effort to recapture and kill her. Moreover, they were also sorry that they did not have two dwarves for our meal, only the one. With some difficulty, as childer have no word for friend, the Explorer managed to intimate that we did not, in fact, wish to devour the female dwarf, but to be reunited. The creatures seemed amenable.
And then, we continued to enjoy the hospitality, staying away from meat from then on. Though, I suspect a few of our number enjoyed their steaks before realizing the origin. It took time, but Blackstone found Arwen and Gravelheart and reported they were heading back to the camp. At this point, we excused ourselves and invited our friends to send representatives to our camp for further talks. There was a bit more drumming and a short speech before we were allowed to leave.
Planting Moons 6th, 3128
Blackstone’s party reached the camp first. So, he was the first to receive the bad news. I arrived a short time later. Scouts along the outer perimeter had spotted a large dusk cloud approaching. Using Builder devices, they identified a large army approaching from the north, but they could not yet tell if it were the Builders or the horde. Neither was a pleasant proposition. And we were trapped.
We needed a back way through the mountains and out the other side. It would take them time to circle the mountain. If we could move through more swiftly me might manage to escape. Moreover, we had to ensure that our “captive” Builder did not turn the Calydoes against us. His cooperation was predicated on having no alternative. If he realized that his people were close, he could destroy us, or our supplies. And there were our new “allies.” We needed their help to guide us through the mountain.
We had maybe two days.
At least I have been vindicated. I do not believe the Maker can further argue that we are still being pursued. Hollow victory as that may be.
Your most obedient servant,
Lord Mayor Wolfhaven, Colonel