Lord Mayor, Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander
Commander of the Legio Heroes
Exile, Norcan Dar (Hard Lands)
8th Day of Planting Moons, Year 3128 Under the Light
With dawn comes vindication. Bitter, bitter, vindication. The enemy has found us. My suspicions are found correct, and worse, the accuracy of the enemy scryers is far more precise than even I dreamed. Something or someone is expending great resources and life to hunt us down. This is bigger than our alliance with the Builders. It must be. What example could be set by destroying us in this vast wasteland? If an example was to be made, it was to have been before we escaped beyond the known borders of any land. So, why?
My belief is that our utter annihilation is the only acceptable outcome. Whoever pursues us with such reckless abandon must fear that we might return to Shaintar. Why? Do we know something that threatens the powers that be? If so, what is this mystery? Or, do our pursers fear we know that which we have yet discovered?
Perhaps it is simply that we have stood in their way for too long and they seek this opportunity to destroy us in their own land. Whatever the case, my resolve to defy these hunters and ensure this alliance survives to return is stronger than ever. We will do what it takes….
Planting Moons 6th, 3128
At dawn, we looked out over the red, baked sands of this blasted waste and saw upon the horizon a column of dust marking the steady approach of hundreds, or thousands, of feet. I knew our pursuers would locate us, but I had not imagined they were so close behind. I had hoped our reckless crossing of the desert would have at least given them pause. What terrible power compels them? It is madness.
Nevertheless, we had, maybe, two days to prepare to fight or flee. Perhaps, both. I sent the Explorer, Lady Killian, and Lady Que’kassars back to the People of the Mountain to let them know that an enemy was approaching and to beg for scouts that might help us navigate their torturous domain. If we could find, or make, a path THROUGH the mountains, we might yet evade destruction. Normally, such a feat would be impossible, but this mountain is more cave and tunnel than stone. Many are wide enough to drive wagons through. If we could just find the right path!
I sent Sergeant Minor Blackstone to recover RFC Gravelheart and Corporal Grimm. To them, I gave the unenviable task of beginning our defense. Our one advantage over our enemies lay in our knowledge of the local terrain, as cursory as it may be. If the enemy was as determined I feel they remain, we could more easily lure them into the tunnel system, breaking their formations and robbing them of their greatest asset: range. Letting their lead elements pass, we would then ambush troops in the tunnels, sowing confusion and defeating their forward elements in detail.
I am well aware we lack the numbers, or firepower, to stop these Builders. But, we can bloody them here. Each soldier we wound, each crysalite we force them to expend is made more damaging by their extensive supply lines. If we are very fortunate here, we might even bring them to parity in terms of supply, if not numbers. Forcing the enemy Builders to ration would slacken their determination and buy us a fighting chance. If just.
To Sergeant Mansfried and RFC Softpaws, I gave the hardest of the tasks. Our weakest link lies in our forced reliance on a turncoat Builder Controller and his nearly two hundred mind-controlled Calydoes. Not the least of which, any harm that comes to the Builder would result in the sudden loss of most of our suppliers along with releasing a nigh-unstoppable force of massive childer within our ranks. We cannot harm him. We cannot control the Calydoe without his help. We cannot risk killing too many Calydoes or lose our ability to move supplies… And, as soon as the Builder learns of the proximity of his former allies, we might very well be forced to do all of these things. So, to the Olaran knight and the Brinchie, I gave the responsibility to prevent any of these events from happening…somehow.
While my teams prepared, the Maker erected a powerful shield over the entrance that would both mask our presence, and provide protection against indirect artillery fire.
The Explorer’s team disappears back into the mountain and we do not see them for nearly half a day as they negotiated with the elders of the People to supply our forces with adequate scouts. Sergeant Minor Blackstone’s team spent the time mapping tunnels and caves with about a dozen Builder arclancer scouts, while I began organizing our force’s retreat. All the while, the enemy army drew near.
Late into the day, I am contacted by the Explorer’s team. They have discovered something important and request my presence immediately. Leaving further organizing to the Maker, I teleport and sprint to the scouts’ location. There I find the People’s scouts cowering in fear and my own Rangers standing around pensive. I did not detect danger, more tension, and apprehension. The Explorer led me through a large hole in the wall, while Lady Killian covered us from the rim.
On the far side, I found myself in a MASSIVE underground chamber carved from the rock by water erosion over thousands of years. Judging by the fact that there has been no water in Norcan Darr such as this for over 10,000 years, it meant that this rock cathedral was more ancient than the founding of Shaintar itself by Shanais and Targon so many centuries ago. We were standing in a sacred chamber that had once been the dwelling of godlings, or dragons. This I knew at a glance. Time seemed to weigh heavy in the air.
My heart told me all these things. But my tactician’s mind saw a perfect ambush. If we could draw the enemy forces into the chamber, funnel them here where they would commit mass forces, we could turn this chamber into their tomb by mining the massive stone columns holding up the structure. By destroying this ancient place, we might save our people, and our future.
Even as my heart broke, I ordered the Explorer to gather Builder demolitions to being to prepare the trap. To Blackstone, I hand him the Explorer’s map and order him to begin stonesining our route through the mountain. It would take some creative maneuvering, but we can bring our main force through the massive cavern, and continue retreating while a rear-guard remains to harry the enemy, luring them into the Killzone. When maximum forces are committed, we blow the whole thing to the Abyss and slip away in the confusion.
I can see the pain in Blackstone’s eyes. It mirrors my own. But, I will protect my people. And, if I must destroy this monument to do so, I will without hesitation. I will do more when it comes.
Once all is in readiness, I return to our camp and being the army moving through the tunnels mapped by our scouts. To survive, I must move an army through an unfamiliar mountain in less than 24 hours. It is impossible, but we have little choice.
Planting Moons 7th, 3128
We wake to the enemy army in clear view. Our best scouts count their number at several thousand, but their lines are irregular…for Builders. Something has changed in our enemy’s disposition. Curious.
The Explorer and his teams work feverishly to prepare our trap. Sergeant Minor Blackstone and his team continue to map and tunnel through the mountains. Already, our army has begun moving out. By mid-day, our former camp is all-but abandoned.
With the relative cool of the evening, the enemy resumes its march. We will be under attack by morning.
Planting Moons 8th, 3128
My Rangers had been working, nearly nonstop, for almost 48 hours. Taking only brief breaks to eat and rest. I know all too well what we face. So, I order each, other than Sergeant Mansfried and RFC Softpaws, to turn over their duties to designated subordinates and assemble in the Stone Cathedral. There, I have had prepared a hot meal, and bedrolls. Success or failure in the coming battle will depend much on these warriors, so I order them to sleep. With only minor objection, they are all soon sound asleep. How many will be lost by this time tomorrow? Only time will tell.
Leaving my Rangers, I returned to the camp, now utterly empty, and walked the routes the enemy would be led. Here and there, I made adjustments. At a couple hours before dawn, I ventured down into the Calydoes’ pen. There, I spied Softpaws on her golem, sitting in the entrance watching the approaching army. Mansfried was waking. With that, I returned Stone Cathedral to wake my Rangers for the coming battle.
Corporal Grimm is sent with RFC’s Killian, Que’kassars, Gravelheart, and The Explorer to their prepared ambush points. I sent Sergeant Minor Blackstone to open the door for the Calydoes and begin evacuation of our supply train along an alternate route that would intersect with our main body past the ambush point.
I now had three groups crawling through the mountain. Corporal Grimm and the Builder Arclancers spread out along the invasion route carefully prepared to funnel the enemy into the Stone Cathedral kill box. The Maker led a long, strung-out column of our main force, led by allied scouts steadily away to the south side of the mountain. And now, Sergeant Minor Blackstone, Sergeant Mansfried, and RFC Softpaws would be leading the Calydoe supply train along a different route to link up with the Maker’s forces, screened by Grimm and the arclancers…
All was in motion. There was little left but to wait.
Things almost immediately went badly. First, the enemy surprised the scouts by flooding the tunnels with small, arcfire devices. They looked like angular, flying wedges covered in wires, gears, and glowing protrusions. Their “noses” were fitted with powerful arclances that immediately began hunting down and killing our ambushers in their blinds. While the plan to lure the enemy into the Stone Cathedral was working, our plans to ambush the lead elements of the enemy was quickly scrapped as our ambushers were, themselves, ambushed. Following the “scouts” were small golems that drove in my pickets.
If that were not bad, I discovered that the turncoat Builder Controller had, in fact, seen the approaching army and enacted his own plan escape. Using his devices, he erected an illusion of him sleeping, then used his devices to render himself ghostly so that he could literally slip into the stone “floor” of the cavern. From there, he commanded his Calydoes to attack Sergeant Mansfried and his half a dozen arclancer guards. The first act of the Calydoes was to rush Softpaws’ golem and shove it out the open doorway, where it tumbled to the ground hundreds of feet below. We believe it survived because she sensed it battling a powerful creature of flame a short time later.
We do not now know if it is alive, or dead.
By the time Blackstone arrived, the battle was joined. He was unable to sing open the “backdoor” quickly enough and abandoned the Rangers inside to hunt down the Controller in hopes of bringing him back into line. Trapped and surrounded, Sergeant Mansfried ordered his men to defend him while he constructed an arcfire detonator of some kind. Several Builders were ripped about by Calydoes before he was able to trigger the device, but the resulting pulse short circuted about half the Caldyoes. Now free of the Bulder Controller’s power, they immediately turned on their enslaved fellows. The cavern devolved into a charnel house.
With the Caldyoes at least distracted, Sergeant Mansfried grabbed all the detonators from the fallen Builders and cut his way to the back wall. From the ceiling, Softpaws carried her own detonators.
Sunk into the stone floor, Sergeant Minor Blackstone reached out with his senses to find the elusive Builder Controller.
In the tunnels, The Explorer, Lady Que’kassars, RFC Gravelheart, Lady Killian, and Corporal Grimm were being overwhelmed. RFC Gravelheart claimed three golems before she was gun down and dragged to Grimm’s staging point by The Explorer. Lady Que’kassars was chased by one of the arcfire drones back to Grimm. The combined fire of Grimm, Killian, and Que’kassars destroyed it out of the main tunnel, preventing a greater collapse. But, they were wounded with two down. The recall order was sounded, and Corporal Grimm collapsed leading tunnels before falling back to the Stone Cathedral.
Blackstone managed to locate the Builder Controller and slammed him with a quake spell. Electrocuted by Mansfried’s device, and nearly crushed by Blackstone’s power, the Builder finally capitulated and managed to bring the Caldyoes under control, but not before we lost nearly half of those which remained bringing our total numbers to less than 100. We do not know how much in the way of supplies were lost. I fear that even should we prevail in our current conflict, we will not have sufficient supplies to complete my initial plan. If that is the case, we may have to sacrifice more lives for the sake of a few reaching Shaintar.
At nearly the moment Blackstone recaptured the Builder Controller, Sergeant Mansfried blew the back wall, opening the way for the supply train to evacuate. Unfortunately, enemy scout drones descended and starting firing into Mansfried’s men. The battle was intense, but a lucky shot detonated the drones, collapsing the tunnels between the supply line and the enemy.
With our supply more or less secured, I ordered Sergeant Minor Blackstone to turn over the Builder Controller to the remaining Builder arclancers, and return with the rest of his Ranger team to the Stone Cathedral. Already, the enemy had penetrated deep into the mountain. The Maker’s shield had long since been destroyed. Drones, golems, and arcfire controlled childer flooded the tunnels.
Before nightfall, the battle would be decided, for well or ill…
This may be the end. If so, I can give no higher recommendation and commendation for the Rangers and allies under my command. They have performed incredibly in the most hellish of circumstances. To a man and women, each has stepped up and taken upon themselves the burden of survival for the group. It has been my great honor to serve with these unique and incredible individuals.
Should I not survive what is to come, and any of my Rangers return to Shaintar, it is my dying wish that they be granted the heroes welcome which they so sorely deserve.
Your most obedient servant,
Lord Mayor Wolfhaven, Colonel