Lord Mayor, Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander
Commander of the Legio Heroes
Ranger Regional Headquarters, Echer’Naught, Olara
As relayed from Echer’Naught Alpha team under command of Lieutenant Gunther Volstagg (via Farspeaker Daynore; Farspeaker Moonsilver)
Third Day of Forest Dance, Year 3126 Under the Light
One would think having ones fears confirmed might, at least, offer vindication. Sadly, I feel only apprehension, and weariness. Despite my recommendations to High Command, at my core I begin to fear the sequence of compromises my forces are increasingly being required to make. Though I understand the necessity, how much is too much? How far must we be willing to go?
Every sacrifice I have asked of my Rangers, they have given freely, and more. Now, my Farspeaker, Corporal Daynore, may be compromised, in more ways than one. My Team commander, Lieutenant Volstagg, is emotionally compromised because his wife is on the same assignment. He personally nearly whipped her to death, due to extraordinary circumstances. But, despite his willingness, I know how much it cost him, and his behavior since… Not to mention his wife, RFC Zathlan, is also compromised since her “healing” by the Emissary, a trusted, but non-Ranger ally.
Everything about this mission, the emerging threat in the desert, feels wrong. Ascended help us. I fear I have just sent them to their death, or worse. I only pray the heavy price is worth what can be achieved.
Dancing Clouds 13th, 3126
The Alpha Team left Almahrad with the Emissary’s guide, the dwarf Stonefoot. They departed before dawn, heading west into the mountains. Due to the roads, Stonefoot took them north along the dwarven roads to the Clanhome of Midril Hall. Hugging the Black Mountains as it does, Mindril Hall has been spared the worst of the desert storms, though is nearly overrun with refugees.
Per my Ranger’s reports, the dwarves of the Black Mountains have shut their doors to any not of the Clanhome, even other dwarves. Mountain routes have kept the dwarves supplied, but the tent city at their gates grows desperate. What happens when food stores run low? Not to mention latest reports suggest that Xaos cultist have been infiltrating even closed societies such as the dwarves. More castles fall to treachery than siege. What happens when these cultists manage to incite the mobs of starving men and women outside to attack…and leave the door unlocked?
We could have a small scale war in the Clanhomes.
Closer to home, sad news has reached our ears. Ranger Katyr was slain while on a mission in a crypt just outside of Kator yesterday, Dancing Clouds 12th, 3126. As an orphan, Katyr has no survivors to receive benefits, and no one to claim his remains. He will, therefore, receive a Ranger’s funeral and internment. I have ordered his name to be logged in the Record of Honor.
Dancing Clouds 15th, 3126
After lengthy negotiations, Madame Lillithien surrendered rights to her son, Dom Athrait Tenebris Von Dietrich, born Golden Eagle 16th, 3215. He is to be raised in my house, as hostage. As Elyanna is of his people, she has agreed to see to his education, and training. It brings no joy to separate a mother from her child, but I could find no other way of securing his future, and hers.
To her credit, Madame Lillithien seemed to understand the situation, and even thanked me for my willingness to hostage the boy. She wished for Dom Athrait Tenebris to learn of his father’s people. I will do my best welcome him into my House and home.
For her part, Madame Lillithien agreed to abjure the realm, leave by sea, and never set foot within the land of the Southern Kingdoms. Her oath was certified by Sergeant Alystar, and myself. Though, something about her willingness to depart our shores left me with a certain suspicion that her feigned resigned acceptance might be a ruse. Some part of me senses that she wished for this outcome all along.
As to why, I cannot hope to guess. Still, the boy seems pleased enough with his new home. He is quiet. Much like his father.
My Archanon and Celesia see him safe and happy.
Dancing Clouds 16th, 3126
Due to the conditions, the Alpha Team pushed on from Mindril Hall to the clanhom Lowhome. Here the conditions were both better and worse. Due to the smaller size of the clanhome, fewer refugees had sought sanctuary there. However, being farther from the main mountain strongholds, Lowhome is isolated and somewhat more vulnerable. I have read reports that the dwarves are struggling to prevent these refugees from raiding their fields. The lush lands around Lowhome being one of the Clanhomes of the Black Mountains primary food sources.
With all the banditry and unrest, the Lt. Volstagg elected to push past Lowhome into the night and camp on the west side, nearer their target of Paradise. Staying close to the clanhome with the throngs of desperates, or farther away and being isolated presented equal difficulties. In the same situation, I would have done the same.
Dancing Clouds 17th, 3126
Nevertheless, at some point after the 13th hour, bandits attacked the Ranger camp. Using archers and alchemical blasts, the bandits scored early success in the ambush. Only the watch was awake and the first blast thrown struck all the sleeping Rangers still in their bedrolls.
Even so, once the Rangers awoke, the tide quickly turned. Lieutenant Volstagg covered his wife, RFC Nexus Zathlan Volstagg admirably, though his protectiveness of her, however justified, may ultimately result in disaster for the team. Still, were I in his position, I cannot say I would do differently.
RFC Grendel and Trainee Ranna performed admirably as a team. Corporal Daynore, separated early in the combat managed to acquit himself with distinction. I see promotion in his future. Both resident warriors, Sergeant Amaroth and RFC Danica did what they do best, claiming bandits each.
Of Ranger Seryrs, I am growing concerned with his increasingly cavalier regard with life. His reputation was well known to the Rangers prior to taking the cloak. And, while working within the Southern Kingdoms his more violent nature seemed contained. But now, outside normal Ranger authority, he seems to be “adapting” to his environment. I will have a note relayed to Lieutenant Volstagg to monitor his conduct.
Still, on a whole, the team performed above expectations. Though, the Emissary’s guide, Stonefoot, did little more than shout encouragement. I wonder how jovial he would have been had my Rangers failed, and he left to the mercy of the bandits? Still, his was only to serve as a guide for the Rangers, so I cannot accuse him of dereliction or cowardice.
Their sleep already disturbed, Lieutenant Volstagg ordered the team onward. Idly, I wonder how many hours of sleep has been collectively lost by Rangers over the last century because they just decided to get up after an attack rather than try to go back to sleep? At any rate, the Rangers made good time.
Dancing Clouds 20th, 3126
Early on the 20th, the Greenway Road Rangers Alpha Team arrived at Paradise. From across the Lifegiver estuary, the team observed the massive tent city hugging the walls of the city, and choking the banks of the Lifegiver. From descriptions by the team, and other points of intelligence, the Rangers are confident that there are at least as many refugees camped outside the walls, as people huddling within.
Violence and depredation is common, made worse by the constant incitement by Xaos cultists. If such reports are to be believed, there is some evidence to suggest that Red Store agents have been working WITH local Prince authorities to track and eradicate the cultist infestation, in particular in the city. Still, hunger, fear, and desperation are fertile ground for saviors, and these cultists prey on the worst of human misery to breed zealots willing to serve any master that would lift them from their current situation. And so, out of the crisis brought by the sandstorms, a new threat is born.
I fear an attack on Paradise by the hordes of dispossessed, armed and incited by these cultist is imminent. And, if on Paradise, why not A’Davar, or the western Clanhomes? I will sent requests for our allies to begin marshaling resources in the event of such a crisis.
Nevertheless, his job done, Stonefoot departed company of the Rangers, taking their mounts, Muriel as well, back to Almahrad and the Emissary who will look after the animals until such time as they can be shipped back here, or returned to the team. Whichever eventuality comes first.
Lieutenant Volstagg’s Alpha Team proceeded into the throngs of refugees crowding the east gate of Paradise. We are aware that several large grain shipments are languishing in the harbor due to safety concerns bringing the food into the docks. Several such shipments have already been ambushed, raided or sunk, by desperate and starving people trying to survive. If I could spare a Company of White Silver Wolves, perhaps I could negotiate with Prince Esteban amin
Firenzo, Lord of Paradise to accept the Wolves as additional security…
Placing the more vulnerable members of the team in the center, Alpha Team managed to push their way through mobs and approach the guards. Here, the Emissary’s plan proved superior. Though initially turned away, Lieutenant Volstagg produced the Letter of Favor from Prince Velthana of Almahrad. As representatives of the Prince, not any associate with the Rangers, Alpha Team was permitted entry to the city.
There, they found conditions little better than outside. Even with sea trade, there are simply too many people without coin or trade to feed. The city is starving.
Alpha Team was taken to the Palace, but not to meet the Prince. He was busy. They did meet his representative who demanded, though not discourteously, their intentions in the city. Choosing honesty, Lieutenant Volstagg informed the Prince’s man that Alpha Team was on a mission into the desert to locate and eliminate whatever force was generating the life choking sandstorms.
Here, is where team mission reports begin to take a strange turn. Leaving the rest of the team to rest from their recent battle, and travel, Lieutenant Volstagg was escorted to meet a guest of Prince Eseban, a Tempest Mage. The Magus greeted Lieutenant Volstagg without hostility, though he was curious about the reason the Olaran was in Paradise.
Again, Lieutenant Volstagg opted for honesty and explained that he was on a mission to stop the Sandstorms. Here, the Tempest Mage, who called himself only Tempari, a rank of some kind, imparted vital intelligence. He claimed that the Sandstorms were NOT the work of the Tempest. Though I am loathe to believe the word of an active enemy, both secondary intel sources, and my commander’s instincts lead me to believe that Tempari can be believed, at least in regards to this.
Whatever threat is emergent in the desert is not the work of Tempest.
And, like that, the Tempari offered a temporary ceasefire of sorts. If the Rangers would provide “physical security,” he would use his Tempest powers to protect Alpha Team from the worse of the Sandstorm’s effects. In these moments, I try again to put myself in the shoes of my men. Isolated, in a foreign city practically besieged, with orders to enter the desert, and the world riding on my shoulders…would I make the deal?
I have no doubt I would.
For the official record, I, Lord-Colonel Alexander Wolfhaven, fully approve and authorize the decision of Lieutenant Gunther Volstagg to utilize the skills of the Tempest Magus, Tempari, to enter the desert and complete my assignment of Alpha Team. I also accept full responsibility for this action, and resulting actions.
Deal struck, Lieutenant Volstagg, and his new Ally, rejoined Alpha Team and proceed together to the Zayid Library to further research information about sites of significance to the ancient Empire of the Golden Sun. Lieutenant Volstagg believes, and I concur, that whatever threat is emerging int he desert is connected to the Empire of the Golden Sun, specifically cults of Raz-Dash which have existed since before the dawn of civilization, or at least our civilization. And, if our supposition is correct, then this new cult of Xaos is either involved, co-opting, or replacing the more ancient cults. Either way, these sites may still have great religious, or cosmological significance.
The team arrived by mid-afternoon and were greeted by the Head Librarian. He seemed aware of their arrival, and perhaps the mission. As the Tempari spoke with the Librarian, clearly he was known to the Library, a message arrived for Lieutenant Volstagg. An asset wished to meet with him. Curious, the Team, plus the Tempari, were escorted by the Head Librarian to meet with a mysterious elf introduced as a head researcher for the Library.
While the Lieutenant sat with the Tempair to discuss with the Elf, who never offered a name, the team established a perimeter of sorts. Their analysis of the elf are chilling. Both Corporal Daynore and RFC Zathlan confirmed that he was of immense magical potential, though neither could identify his power. And, RFCs Zathlan and Danica confirmed that he was, in point of fact, a Shayakar of some ancient age.
Meanwhile, the Shayakar informed Lieutenant Volstagg that he was speaking on behalf of the “Patron” and offered to answer question pertaining to the Empire of the Golden Sun. Volstagg asked of locations of importance and the Shayakar confirmed that many existed, but since the Lifegiver’s course had moved over the centuries his “memory might not be wholly accurate.” However, he was willing to import location information to the team, but required the Adept, being Farspeaker Daynore.
Again faced with an impossible decision, Lieutenant Volstagg agreed to allow Farspeaker Daynore to receive the information the team needed to navigate the vast deserts and locate potential sites for investigation. The Shayakar and Corporal Daynore departed, however, after a short time, Sergeant Amaroth and RFC Danica heard screaming they claimed was the Corporal and went in search of both men.
After a couple hours, now into the evening, the Shayakar returned with Corporal Daynore. The Farspeaker had no memory of what transpired during their encounter, but soon felt that his powers had been “tampered” with. Sergeant Amaroth and RFC Danica were recovered and the team returned to the Tempari’s suite at the palace.
Here, another fascinating piece of intelligence was gathered. The Tempair excused himself to meet with the Prince. Within the hour, a Tempest Storm, not Cyclone, formed above the city offering pure, clean rain. It would appear that part of the price for hosting the Tempari was regular fresh water for the city of Paradise. Though, this begged the question as to why would the Prince allow the Tempari leave with the Rangers? Clearly stopping the storms was worth the risk of losing the constant supply of water.
That night, a few things occurred. First, Corporal Daynore began to suffer from nightmares pertaining to the desert, though, based on descriptions, the nightmares featured landscapes and sites that do not, at least presently, exist. I believe, and experts corroborate, that this MIGHT be a side effect of whatever transfer of knowledge occurred. Second, the Farspeaker believed he was compromised and refused to relay any further confidential information. All future communications would be relayed directly to the Lieutenant.
Dancing Clouds 21st, 3126
The team departed the city early, via one of the northern gates. Here they found nearly as large a tent city as on the east side. However, the camp ended long before reaching close to the beginning of the sands, as the people rightly feared the storms. Within a short time, the Alpha Team was the sole moving group in the desert. And the true horror of the storms became quickly apparent.
The team attempted to follow the Lifegiver, but was quickly overtaken by a large sandstorm that swept in too fast to even pull in Serys from scouting. Though it came upon them fast, the storm lingered for three days, stretching their resources to the brink and nearly overwhelming the Tempari who appeared to struggle to protect them. Clearly, he was being honest with his previous statements about the Tempest involvement in the calamity in the desert.
Dancing Clouds 24th, 3126
The team dug themselves out of the sand and rushed to reclaim Serys who was unconscious. While working to rescue the scout, they gathered water from the nearby river. However, another storm struck and they were buried for two days.
Dancing Clouds 26th, 3126
Having made less that 20 miles progress in nearly a week, Alpha Team once again emerged from the sands and quickly filled water skins before making their way again north. They managed another 5 miles before another storm struck. This one lasting a day.
Dancing Clouds 27th, 3126
The team emerged, collected water and hiked north across the dunes by night. By morning of the 28th they were hit again. Just before going under, Grendel spotted strange man made shapes in the dunes, but they were unable to reach them before the wall of sand hit. This time, three day passed.
Dancing Clouds 31st, 3126
Emerging again, the Alpha Team quickly gathered water from the increasingly difficult to find, sand clogged river, and made for the shapes seen before. Arriving at the structures, they realized that these were the flat roofs of buried buildings, most likely a village.
Working together, the ogres and Tempari blasting holes, and Serys scouting, they managed to break into the first. Inside, the find the dried and desiccated corpses of a family of three, father, mother, and child. They also find dried grains in some baskets. Clearly, the family ran out of water before food. Hitting up on the idea, the team quickly foraged in the rest of the structures and managed to collect about a weeks worth of food for the team, if they reduced to half rations.
By that night, a storm hits, pinning the team another two days.
Dancing Clouds 33rd, 3126
Alpha Team emerges from the buildings and starts making their way north, after eating through almost half rations. They make three days moving at night, though covering less than 10 miles per “day.”
Forest Dance 3rd, 3126
However, with dawn approaching on the 3rd, the Tempari suddenly alerts them to a massive wall of black sand sweeping down from the north… They frantically search for cover when they spot a figure standing on a dune far to the west. Robed in white, the figure appears to be observing them for a moment, when suddenly dozens of white robed rides crest the dune and gallop toward them even as the wall of death and sand bears down.
The riders skid to a halt and challenge them. Lieutenant Volstagg shouts that they are allies seeking to stop the storms. The desert rider identified the Tempest mage, but summons mounts for the Rangers even so. All mount and turn, heading back west, the wall of black death closing rapidly.
Over the dune, the desert riders spur to a rocky ridge. With the Tempari carrying the unmounted ogres within a cyclone of air, and the Alpha Team riding hell bent for leather, desert riders, Alpha Ranger Team, and tempest mage make the desert caves just as the biggest sand storm yet smashes into them.
Once inside, the Rangers are surrounded and forced to drop their weapons. Now captives of the desert riders, they are taken to what appears to be a desert refugee camp, fed and watered by the riders. here, the Rangers are allowed to rest. The leader of the camp offers them the traditional gift and exchange of water. With that, they are left, more or less, along, though under heavy guard.
This is the last report I have received, though Farspeaker Moonsilver cautions that the deeper into the desert the team moves, the harder it is for her to reach them. It appears that the magical nature of the storms, or whatever has summoned them is powerful enough to interfere with telepathy and other means of magical scrying….
Much deeper, and we may lose contact entirely with Alpha Team. They will be, completely, on their own.
High Command is not entirely pleased with the latitude I have taken in making “compromising arrangements” with enemy factions, and agents of questionable character. However, they continue to support my decisions given the extreme circumstances we now find ourselves.
Archanon and my Lady Celesia granted their faith in me is warranted.
Your most obedient servant,
Lord Mayor Wolfhaven, Colonel
Ranger Regional Headquarters, Echer’Naught, Olara