Lord Mayor, Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander
Commander of the Legio Heroes
Exile, Norcan Dar (Hard Lands)
5th Day of Dancing Clouds, Year 3128 Under the Light
Best laid plans oft go awry. And even when they work with near perfection, in war, there are no perfect solutions. There are precious few good choices. To win, many must die. So much blood. So much death. Please let it not be in vain.
23rd Festival Moons, 3128
With Tempest moving in from the south, and the Builders within range to the northeast, I called up the largest storm I could summon. So close to Tempest, I could feel the madness howling at the edge of consciousness, clawing to overwhelm my mind. Here, without the protections of the Covenants, the urge is almost overwhelming. It took every shred of mental will to just hold myself together. But, it was enough. The storm rose around us, higher and bigger than any I have ever seen. Red dust, rocks, debris, and bodies began to swirl in an angry funnel around us. But, my command post remained an island in the storm.
For how long I held there, I know not. But, at some point, Sergeant Mansfried and Lady Arwen Que’kassars staggered through the wall of red death into the waiting arms of a Builder medic. She was unconscious, but I believe more to fatigue than wounds. He was harried, but hale. The medic plied water, and patched up their minor wounds, before moving on. All of this passed through my mind, almost as if in a dream for I was focused on guiding the massive of wind and death that shielded our small redoubt.
Now, the childer horde joined battle in a threeway death match. Tempest forces attempting to flank our position to the east encountered the lead edge of a Builder push along the same. They clashed just outside my storm with the Tempest giving ground. It seemed that the Builders had the advantage, but I knew all too well what waited for their forces when they were lured into range of the Tempest’s heavy guns south of our position.
To our north, the Builder forces pressed heedless into the storm, while a portion of the childer horde broke off and assault the Builder camp and the large arm charged into the storm. Everywhere lay death and destruction. Childer killed Builder. Builder Tempest. Tempest slew all in an unending orgasm of death. This is what I planned, but even I was shocked by the sheer brutality of the battle. There would be no victors here.
When all were in position, I revealed my plan to my Rangers. There were three targets within the Builder camp that we must destroy to ensure their armies destruction. First, we needed to destroy their means of communication to their citadel. Second, we needed to destroy their teleportation device, thus cutting off resupply and retreat. Lastly, we needed to slay their “Childer Controller.” Once gone, they would lose control of their supply chain and the former beasts of burden would turn on their former masters.
It was a daring, suicidal, plan. I offered Lady Que’kassars the first choice. She chose to hunt down the Controller. Sergeant Mansfried chose to take out the communication device. This left me with the teleporter. I divided my final 30 Builders into three squads of ten. Each group contained arclancers, a heavy weapons team, and medics. Though, it seemed futile.
When all was prepared, I gathered the teams around me and attempted to teleport us through the storm into the Builder camp. However, so much energy was being hurled around that my aim was tragically off. I wound up dropping straight into the advanced skirmish lines of Builders and Childer. I lost two men before we hit the ground to gargoyles. The rest formed up without hesitation and we shot our way free. At least we avoided Tempest.
Once through the brutal hand to hand, we sprinted north toward the Builder encampment. The skirmish took what seemed hours, but was probably no more than half that. Of my other Ranger teams, I saw nothing. However, the battle was growing worse.
Behind the childer lines, a cauldron had opened. As I had seen no Acolyte within the horde, I imagine the massive bloodletting had attracted the attention of waiting infernals. Even as the Builder arclancers carved through the Childer hordes swarming their lines, demons poured out of the cauldron, reinforcing their fleshy counterparts. The western flank was a mess. From the south, in the raging storm Tempest Golems clashed with Arcfire Golems in an earth-shattering display of firepower.
We hit the southernmost defense of the Builder line. Already weakened to support defense to the west, they presented little resistance. We cut through them easily enough, but I was already down half my men and we had just reached the enemy camp. From the east, I spied Sergeant Mansfried’s unit clumped on top of some metal wreck. They were pouring fire into a massive arcfire shield protecting the heart of the Builder camp. From the left, I could sense Arwen’s magic, a tiny blip in the torrent of Flame and Arcfire.
There was little chance Mansfried’s weapons could penetrate the Builder shields, so I signaled him off the attack. They ceased fire and took cover.
By then, Builder reinforcements arrived in the form of Golems from the north. At the same, Lady Que’kassars hand managed to punch through the Builder western flank opening a gap for the childer and demon hordes. They hit our flank catching my team in an ugly crossfire. It was a hard-pressed fight. Two more men went down as we cut our way clear. Worse, something massive was breaching from the cauldron to the west. I had to get the shield down before Flame summoned demonic reinforcements.
So, I broke the cardinal rule of combat and hurled my father’s sword, my sole weapon, at the shield. It struck with a thunderclap, shattering the shield. At that moment, Mansfried’s men opened fire raining death upon the Builder command. Their fire was as accurate as it was deadly. In an instant, both the communication device and teleportation device, along with their generators, were destroyed in a cataclysmic explosion that nearly knocked me off my feet. Two down, all depended on Arwen. However, the Builders were ready for the attack and obliterated Mansfried’s position with Arcfire. He and his men disappeared in a flash of arcfire.
From far to the north, a commotion rippled through what remained of the Builder lines. Calydoes ransacked everywhere. Arwen had done her job well.
I sprinted for my sword, stuck in the ground near the end of the former energy field when a shadow fell upon the camp. Looking up, I saw a Demon Lord, in full power, reaching down and scoop me and my entire team in a single clawed hand. Lifted high, crushed by its immense strength, there was little I could do. Holding us up like sacrifices, I was bathed in hellfire. I lost consciousness, knowing I was dead.
Only to find myself lying on the ground, looking up at a one-armed Mansfried. My father’s sword lying at his feet and the Demon Lord nowhere to be seen. Oh no…
The true horror dawned upon me. To save me, Mansfried had wielded the sword, sacrificing his arm. Damn. Damn damn damn. I tried to rise, but found I could not move. My armor had been melted to slag and then cooled around me. My strength was fading fast, but I managed to summon enough power to teleport out of my armor. Mansfried looked wrecked and Arwen stood nearby panting. Her eyes flitted from one Horde Champion to the next. All around us, childer and demons closed. All of our men were dead.
We were alone. I was bereft of armor, standing in my chared gambeson. Mansfried was reduced to one arm. Arwen fought the urge to flee in terror from the demons. And then I felt them. Tempest cyclones. Four of them were nearby. And something else…something…hungry.
While the Childer, demons, and Builders murdered each other, Tempest had encircled our forces and summoned their terrifying cyclones. Already I felt the energy tearing at my soul. If we did not escape at that moment, we never would. So, I summoned all my remaining power and teleported us away. Anywhere…
I don’t know how long I lay passed out on the black sands, but when I woke, I found Mansfried and Arwen looking down on me with concern. Rising, every fibre of my body screamed in pain and I barely had the energy to stand. But, stand I did. Ascended I hate being old.
Taking stock of my surroundings, I suddenly felt a sense of sheer dread. I believed I knew where we had landed, but I asked Lady Arwen Que’kassars to confirm. Sadly, she too felt the mass of pure vile, evil bearing down on us. Black Sands, a wall of evil. Desert of Souls.
I had never had the unfortunate displeasure of traveling through these lands, but I read the Long Recon Report about this place, and have spoken often enough with Val’rethael Que’kasaars to recognize. The Soulstorm raged across the sands and if we were not swift, we would be reduced to so much dust. A rather ignominious end after surviving so long in Norcan Darr.
With little time and less energy, I asked Mansfried to construct a shield of some sort, while Arwen powered up a jet of energy. If I used an energy manipulation technique from the Tempest, I figured her energy could jumpstart me a bit. It was a risk, but at that moment, I had little choice.
The Soulstorm appeared like a black cloud on the horizon, the many damned souls as faces in the wall of the enormous sandstorm. On my command, Mansfried fired up the shield just as the storm overtook us. On my command, Arwen blasted me in the chest with Eldritch energy and I pulled from all three to teleport us away. Again, with so much energy, I could not be certain where we would land. As fortune would have it, we arrived once again back in Norcan Darr, some miles away from where we had left. I immediately contacted Sergeant Minor Blackstone.
5th Dancing Clouds 3128
However, even though it appeared that only hours passed for us, Alpha Team had slogged across the blazing desert for days without food or water. They had managed to contact us once before the Tempest portals were dispelled. After which, they contacted the Maker and homed in on their position. Had it not been for RFC Softpaw’s Golem friend, they might all have perished from exposure.
By the time we reappeared, they had been recovered by allied Builder forces for several days. Which meant almost two weeks had passed in Norcan Dar while we attempted to escape the Soul Sands. Nevertheless, Alpha Team was safe and on the mend. Reports indicate that the Builder army was destroyed by Tempest who were not in pursuit. That and the Maker was in position with allied Forsaken in sight of the enemy Citadel.
Finally, after playing the most dangerous game of cat and mouse, all the pieces were in place. I never allowed myself to truly believe any of this would work. When we were forced to evacuate the Builder citadel and cast out into Norcan Dar with no means of returning home, I despaired that I had led my entire team to a lingering fate worse than death? But, when RFC Gravelheart learned from Lady Killian’s Forsaken that there might be a Tempest force in the south, I began to have the beginnings of a notion. However, not unil we captured the Bulder Controller during the Battle of the Chasm did a true plan form. From him, we learned the identity AND location of the enemy Citadel.
It was far to the southeast, but maybe… In addition, through our interrogation, we learned that the enemy Citadel was in communication, and even transport, with forces in Shaintar. That meant they had to have an Arcgate powerful enough to reach home. But how could we hope to attack a fully defended Citadel with a band of refugees?
So, I worked to find suitable accommodations for our most critical civilians away from the coming war. Then I led the Builders south into the Red Death, far from any supply lines forcing them to expend vast resources to maintain operational even as I led them closer and closer to Tempest. Using maps gleaned from the captured Builder and our own Maker, along with rumors from the Forsaken, I plotted a crude path straight into the heart of Tempest.
My fleeting hope was that the enemy Builders would be driven enough to follow. During the battle of the Stone Temple, despite nearly losing my head, I brought their numbers closer to parity and proved they would follow me straight into the Abyss. Once I was able to sense Tempest, it was time to bait the trap. Using the cover of a storm, I dispatched the larger body of my army west toward the enemy Citadel which was, by now, nearly undefended as most of their available war material had been consumed chasing us across the desert.
With my small force, I continued to lead the Builders south. At the same time, my use of Tempest powers alerted Tempest to our presence and lured them north, as I knew they would be compelled to do. Timing was the key, and with Celesia’s guidance, we managed to bring all three armies to a head in the ruins within striking distance of the enemy Citadel. I wonder if they ever suspected my plan, or were simply happy to be heading the relative direction of “home?” Whatever the case, with the Builder army utterly destroyed in the field along with all their war material, their Citadel is now sorely underdefended.
And, with my trained and tested army, along with a bit of subterfuge, the Maker has a plan to trick the enemy into opening their gates. Upon when my Rangers, Builder allies, and any Forsaken who want to escape this wretched place will storm the Citadel, capture the gate, and return to our homes. Even if I never make it through, by the Ascended I WILL see my people home. I have already lost Sergeant Ssahliissstah. The Explorer was forever touched by Flame. Mansfried had lost his arm. They have all suffered so much. I owe them this, at least.
The Maker prepares to mimick a signal from the enemy army pretending to be survivors from the recent battle. Wearing the enemy uniforms, they will try to breach the Citadel gate and hold it long enough to bring in our small army. From there, we cut our way through. Sergeant Mansfried, Lady Arwen Que’kassars and I will make our best time to join them. This whole horrible affair is almost over.
Though I fear the enemy has one more trump card to play…the most devastating of all…
May the Lord of Light and Celesia watch over us.
Your most obedient servant,
Lord Mayor Wolfhaven, Colonel