Colonel Wolfhaven, Alexander
Commander of the Legio Heroes
Grey Ranger Outpost, Echer’Naught
Eighth Day, Eternal Sun, Year 3123 Under the Light
From departing Holk to Echer’Naught’s massive gates was perhaps the most uneventful period of this rather long saga, though I still worried for my Rangers. I was to find, however, that for my rangers, the period was anything was anything but restful. Even so, upon my return, I found them hale and relatively happy.
There tales, however, were almost too fantastic to believe…
Ranger Trainee Rildrirr
After I leaped into the portal, my stalwart companion immediately set about following my orders. He left the ruins with his two new companions and headed north. This was on the eve of the 15th. That night was the worst storm in the history of Shaintar. From rather terse report, he found shelter in a cave.
In the morning, all was clear. He headed North, reaching the Elven Waystation in 2 days, on the eve of the 18th of Red Wolf. The caravan was still present having lost many of its draft animals. With the help of the mighty Northman, they managed to load much of their goods on two good wagons and pulled those with what animals remained, leaving behind most of their wagons and some less valuable goods.
It was a 3 day trek with the heavy wagons, but the spirit was jubilant as the skies were mercifully clear. Per orders, Rildrirr brought back my horse Thunder, who refused to be hitched like some draft beast. Rildrirr reached the outpost on the eve of the 21st to find the town still drunk in celebration.
Leaving his two companions to conclude their business with the LongArms, he reported to Stormhammer, only to find that none of the other Rangers had returned. He spent the night telling Olgor of his travels and waiting for orders.
Corporal Hawksclaw and Ranger 1st Class Highwall
As I departed West on the 10th of Red Wolf, I ordered Corporal Hawksclaw to take Ranger Highwall with him and search East. Yet knowing what perils they faced, I suggested he speak with the local LongArms office and request additional forces as there were precious few options.
Taking my advice to heart, Hawksclaw visited the LongArms central office on the 10th and met their Commander, a dour human female who prefers heavy armor to finery. At any rate, due to the lack of ANY caravans in the storms, she readily agreed to hire out her men, unusual as they have a strict policy against any mercenary work other than guarding caravans. But, as I expected, without income from regular merchant traffic, she was willing to bend this once if it brought in coin.
However, she had a condition. This was that the Ranger’s would first need to break up a group of toughs who had set up shop in the ‘Barracks’, the Olaran bar frequented by the mercenaries and soldiers in Echer’Naught. Hawksclaw agreed, and with Highwall, headed to the Barracks, stopping by the Watch Station along the way.
There they found Sergeant Vasser, alive, but in fairly rough shape having suffered many wounds in recent days. Hawksclaw requested the presence of the good Sergeant and four of his men to meet him in a quarter hour at the Barracks. With that, Hawksclaw and Highwall departed, heading for a drink.
When they reached the tavern, they easily discovered the source of the ruckes. Four brutes and one Sorcerer sat at a rear table and harassed the serving staff and any unfortunate patrons that happened to attract their attention. Highwall took up post at the end of the bar, setting a crossbow down and ordering and ale. Meanwhile, Hawksclaw found an empty table and sat, waiting.
Soon enough, the Watch entered and went to the bar. Hawksclaw watched and waited, as did the suddenly alert Mercenaries. As the barkeep set the ale glasses on the counter, Hawkclaw announced loudly that he would pay for the round. As he described, the sell-swords began to realize the situation in which they found themselves.
So too did the tavern staff who quickly made themselves scarce.
One tavern wench in particular, an intelligent, if buxom, woman who had aided the Rangers before in their investigation, caught Hawksclaw’s eye. With a quick wit, Hawksclaw nodded to the Mercenaries and managed to convey his plan. With a sigh, she returned to the Mercenaries. As she approached, the leader of the men, attempted to haul her into his lap. Feigning clumsiness, she stumbled and spilled ale all over his lap.
Seething anger, he backhanded her into a column, nearly breaking her neck. At this, Hawksclaw stood slowly to his feet and addressed the mercenaries. From his report and Highwall’s, the moment was tense, but faced with both Rangers and the Town Watch, the leader backed down and left the tavern in bad grace.
Mission accomplished, Hawksclaw purchased a second round for the Watch and returned to the LongArms main officer. There, he discovered that the Commander had already gathered a small team of two Orc warriors and a Goblin sorcerer. Though it cost nearly every cent he possessed, Hawksclaw managed to hire the team and returned to the outpost.
The following morning the 11th, Ranger’s Hawksclaw and Highwall departed heading East. Well, they began their trip, and were forced to return due to the increasing rain, an issue that Rildrirr and I had both faced on our trek. At any rate, after leaving the horses within the protection of Echer’Naught’s wall, Hawksclaw and Highwall departed on foot and entered the raging storm.
Having experienced the horror of that gale myself, I understand fully the pain and torture they experienced. Yet, to their credit, they soldiered on, fighting their way East, keeping to their orders and their sacred duty.
After five days of tortuous labor, the storm grew too intense even for the stalwart Dwarves and tough Orcs to handle. In the blackness of the torrential rains, with the entire sky roiling above their heads, the Rangers desperately sought the Dwarven Waystation they knew must have been in the area. Sadly, all was lost…
As Hawksclaw scanned the night, seeking any glimmer of hope, his eyes fell on a Raven, winging through the air, untouched by wind or rain. Curious, hopeful, he set his path to follow the Raven who led him Waystation. With relief and some fear, the party threw itself to the back of the structure as far from the storm as possible. With a Caw, the Raven vanished.
In moments, multiple cyclones descended upon the Waystation, collapsing part of the roof and burying the Rangers and their allies. From there neither Hawksclaw nor Highwall remember anything until the following day.
When they awoke, on the 16th of Red Wolf, now known as Jubilation Day, they quickly blasted free of the rubble, with a little help from the Sorcerer. What they found left them reeling.
They stood by the ruined roof of the Dwarven Waystation amid verdant and bountiful fields. High overhead, the skies were blue and nary a drop of rain to be seen. After months of endless, torrential downpour, the rains had stopped and the destruction they had wrought all repaired. Or at least, at first it appeared to be so. After some investigation, the Rangers realized that the Greenway Road was strewn with broken wagons and abandoned carts, not to mention a number of bodies, all dead from exposure.
Though the land had healed, lives were still lost and the destruction on buildings was enormous. Still, confused, but dedicated, the Rangers set to completing the task of hunting the Storm Mage, though in truth, they feared it was now a moot point.
Still, on a bright, sunny summer day, Hawksclaw, Highwall, two Orcs and a Goblin Sorcerer turned north, heading through the lush fields, following the marking on the map. It was half a days journey on a pleasant day when they closed in on the ruins of a farmhouse. Sending his men to flank, Hawksclaw approached the door cautiously and peered inside.
What he found, filled him with dread. Bottles and arcane instruments lay scattered around the room where they had been smashed in what seemed to have been a cyclone. And, squatting in the center of the room, surrounded by utter devastation was a wretched Orc woman, with salt matted hair, ragged soiled clothes. She hunched, holding her head in her hands, rocking back and forth and muttering in Goblinesh.
Fearing the worst, Hawkslcaw approached, sword drawn. When he was almost on her, he called out. The frightened creature started and then bolted to the corner of the room, to cower, shaking. Confused, Hawkclaw attempted to lure her out, putting away his weapons to appear less fearsome.
With the help of the Sorcerer, they managed to get her outside and feed her, but she as still addled. They were discovered by a farmer who seemed in a very jolly mood. He offered food, but Hawksclaw declined, choosing to return to the HQ as quickly as he could. Reaching the Greenway Road on the eve of the 18th, he set out in the morning of the 19th, taking 4 days to reach the town. He arrived on the early afternoon of the 22nd of Red Wolf.
Ranger 1st Class Longtail
From her own report to me, her adventure was, in most ways, more bizarre than my own. On the evening of the 13th of Planting Moons, Ranger 1st Class Longtail left our company with orders to make for Echer’Naught with all her considerable speed and warn the town of the impending attack by the Storm Mage.
As she has reported to me, she managed to make it to within sight of the town when her path was cut off by no fewer than four cyclones. While attempting to avoid those, she was caught up into a fifth, with sucked her up. She managed to hold fast to a tree top for a time, but as her gear, and some clothing, ripped away she eventually allowed herself to be pulled up as well.
Reaching the top of the cyclone, she hit a dark, black portal like swirl, something with which I am regrettably familiar. But here, the similarities of our journeys end. For Longtail was not transported across Shaintar, or to some composite alien realm, but to a land of white mist, where mundane things, like weapons, clothes and armor seemed insubstantial, almost gray. Yet, things of white silver glowed dully, and arcane artifacts glowed bright.
There she landed in the sea of white mist, so thick she could not see her paw before her face. Groping around, she found a wall, dull and translucent, then a road obscured from sight. Following the road, she stumbled, quite blind, into an opening, a doorway.
Though the opening she found herself, still shrouded in mist, standing in a room lit by sconces burning bright with Orange flame. The more she describes the flame, the more I see Arcfire technology. However, using the lamps at regular intervals, she guessed the room was small, 30×40 meters, if that. More intriguing, she found dozens of other devices and implements scattered in the mist filled room. Some appeared to be lying on a table, but the table was so insubstantial as to be part of the mist.
As she watched, one of those implements floated off the table, as if being carried by an individual, yet she saw no one in the room. Leaving quickly, she returned to the road, only to see a bright, orange flash farther down the road. Heading in the direction, she came to a gap between one structure and the next, of about 2 meters. It felt to her touch like some kind of alley, but since all she could see was the white mist, it was impossible to tell.
But that is when she turned and began to see shapes moving along the road, shades, or ghosts. Longtail could feel them, but only barely see them. As she watched, stunned, what looked like a ghostly cart rolled by going up the road back the way she had come. It was filled with the bluish/white glow of Crysarium ore. Of anything in the alien place, she KNEW what she was seeing because she had seen much the same not, to her, days ago. But, according to her own words, the amount of ore in that place was at least four times the amount in all of Echer’Naught.
Were it any but a Ranger, I would doubt their word, but Longtail would not deceive. Not about this at any rate.
Following the shade drawn wagon out of the dense structures and ghosts, she continued for a short way, stealthily tracking through the mist, coming around the far side of the wagon only to spy what she claimed was a Builder. Dwarfish in height, red skin and no hair. More unusual, he was perfectly clearly visible…Ever other soul she had met had been nigh on substance-less wraiths, but this Builder, and again, she has met Samael, was solid.
To make matters more pecuiliar, as she was observing the Builder, another figure approached on horseback, flanked by two MORE Builders. But this figure was no builder, and no formless wraith. As she described, the figure was large, humanoid, astride a massive horse covered in brightly glowing barding, but all lights paled in comparison to the rider.
As Longtail said, “he glowed like a star.” Everyone around him, Builder and Wraiths immediately threw themselves prostrate before this god-like being. And, to her chagrin, so did Longtail. I can only imagine the sheer magnitude of Force required to force her to her knees. Yet, she was overwhelmed by his mere presence.
After a moment, he passed, flanked by his Builder escort and followed by perfect rows of glowing arms and armor…containing more of the wraiths? Who can say.
Wisely, she chose to follow the god-ling back toward what she was now seeing as a village of some form, but one in which the walls were made of something other than wood or stone and even the meanest structure had actual glass-like windows. This she all gleaned from touch as even the walls were so weak and faded that they seemed merely shadows in the mist. Only living beings and items of magic seemed to appear solid.
Following, she descended further into the “town” the ground sloping into what she described as a large, natural depression about the size of an amphitheater. Formless things pressed around her, as if she were standing in a crowd, but only the Builders, solid as normal and the glowing being were truly visible.
She also noted that around this area were countless, what looked like, machines glowing with orange energy…but they appeared to be consuming…and perhaps processing the blue/white Crysarium ore? From her description these devices were large than houses, some larger than our Ranger outpost in Echer’Naught. All around her, she could hear the tick, tick, tick of perhpas gears, strange whistles, and clanking sounds…all entirely alien to her knowledge.
And then, the largest Builder she had yet seen, approached. Behind him, two more red-skinned Builders dragged one of those wraithlike creatures. As she watched, a brief conversation ensued, on in which the voices of the Builders sounded as distorted whispers, as if from far away. Of the Wraith, nothing. However, she could easily hear the voice of the glowing man, for she and everyone present was immediately enraptured.
How long he spoke, she knew not. But at his conclusion, the god-ling raised his left arm, pointed at the grappled wraith-thing and as she watched in horror, orange fire, in intricuate, angular patterns traced lines up his arm before exploding outward, tearing the wraith body and soul.
Ranger Longtail describes her ability to actually see his essence being torn asunder and feel his agony wash over her like a wave. In shock, fear and pain she cried out…
And the glowing man reacted.
He appeared almost to turn, as if he has sensed or heard something. Panicking, Longtail began to look for a way out. That is when she heard it…the sound of a horse.
Turning, as she describes, she saw the most beautiful creature, glowing bright silver, even brighter than the glowing man, was the Silver Unicorn. I know of this. I know her words to be true.
It is the Horn. It calls.
Pawing at the air, then at the ground, the Silver Unicorn sprinted away. Longtail wasted no time and sprinted after. Down the Unicorn went, racing for the base of a huge hill that seemed to be made almost entirely of Crysarium. Something ticked at the back of Longtail’s mind.
Then, the Unicorn reached the base, where a dark tunnel entrance seemed to loom. The moment Lontail reached it, she was jerked again, split apart and remade. This experience I can attest to as I too have been transported by portals generated by the Storm.
Her next words chilled me. For, up to then, I had assumed her experiences stemmed from a fevered dream. Perhaps a glimpse with the mind’s eye to something the Silver Unicorn wished her to see…but how then could she have seen me?
For a moment, the thick, white mists parted and Longtail looked down on a patchwork world, like a quilt with difference pieces sewn together. I am all too familiar with what she described. From a great height, she said she looked down and saw a raging battle…and then hear my voice ringing out over the field.
She was there. Longtail HAD to have been present at the last battle. I am certain of it. But then, does that mean the rest of her story was more than a dream? A vision? I…I know not.
However, the brief flash was gone almost before it arrived and she was hurtled back, to where, she knew not for all sense was dashed from her.
When she awoke, she was being licked in the face by a deer. Sitting up startled, she found herself in a grassy spot under a cloudless blue sky with no recollection of how she had arrived. This is yet another experience we share.
From here, her story take a decidedly more normal tack. Judging by the terrain, she guess she had been deposited somewhere in the plains about Echer’Naught. Striking north, she quickly spied a man sleeping under a copse of trees. Drawing close, she identified a fellow Brinchie.
It was not until she was right upon the figure when she noted the dried blood and his lack of movement. When she touched him, he slumped over, revealing a gaping wound long since crusted over. He was dead, but it was clear what had stolen his life. A crysalite shard was buried deep in his chest, right in the center of a large burned hole.
Her next discovery confirmed her suspicion. On his person, she found an elaborate messenger’s pouch. Within, she found a parchment roll, sealed with a Ranger’s wax seal. Slicing the seal with a swipe of a claw, she read a report about a Prelacy Captain that had escaped the Korg Humps, prior to our arrive there. With him, he had about five fellow Crusaders.
The message had been carried by riders and runners to all the Ranger Outposts north of the Korg. This messenger happened to be heading toward Echer’Naught when he ran afoul of the Prelacy, likely the very men he was sent to warn about.
Taking the pouch and the shard, she began her long run to Echer’Naught. She would arrive in the afternoon on the 22nd of Red Wolf.
Finally together again, the team healed their wounds, repaired their gear and began to attempt to explain the insanity that had befallen each during the previous weeks. After much confusion, and much celebration by the citizens of Echer’Naught, Stormhammer ordered the Rangers to bath, heal and prepare, giving them time to sort themselves out. He, with Sarah and Alfred’s help prepared quite a meal for the unit.
As I understand, Sarah was quite upset at the state in which Longtail returned. She took it upon herself to draw a bath and then fetch clothes for the senior Ranger. Grimbore was so pleased to have his “pretty kitty” returned to him, that he very nearly would not release her.
Nevertheless, the meal was served and going around the table, each Ranger related their tales, each more bizarre than the last. All of which I have related above. However, the matter of Longtail’s recovered message quickly became the center of attention. For while they were all confused, weary and footsore, they were Rangers. My Rangers and they knew their duty.
Storhammer and Hawksclaw agreed that the matter needed to be investigated that eve. So, taking command, Hawksclaw sent Rildrirr into the streets of revelers, Highwall with Alfred to the Stock Yards, and he and Longtail to Low Town, after stopping by the Watch Station.
Finishing their meal, each team headed into the night. After two hours, they returned, only to have discovered the same information. That there were too many new faces, too many foreigners and too many in the streets to be able to find one small group of Camonese.
As a note, I have listened to Ranger 1st Class Longtail and I understand she fear for the many orphans of Echer’Naught. In fact, the one she rescued on the day of the first Cyclone had been claimed by her aunt and uncle, her parents having perished during that awful fight. That was a matter Sergeant Vasser had been trying to relay to her when she disappeared. I believe my young Ranger hopes to begin an orphanage. If this is her wish, she has my complete support.
As the hour grew late, the team despaired, but Hawksclaw had a plan. Taking the Rangers, he headed to the Chapel of Light, where he spoke with Vallandrian about an individual only he had met. After a moment, Vallandrain returned with a young Paladin of Light, without arms, who spoke with a thick Camonese accent and appeared to be of Camon origin.
He greeted the party, noting Hawksclaw and thanking him for healing him before while he laid on his death bed. Knowing more of this tale that the others, I can only imagine Hawksclaw’s emotions when the man he had attempted to murder thanked him. I pray that my Corporal and this young man may find a way to reconcile in a true way.
Nevertheless, for his own reasons, the young man agreed to help. He called himself Sir Michael Lugard. With his help, the team returned now to Low Town and spend most of the night spreading coin and asking questions. Finally, in some desperation, Longtail left the party and entered an establishment of a particular repute. There she spent an hour “negotiating” with the patrons.
Upon her return, she informed the team that:
A) A group of Camonese speaking foreigners had arrived, but only 3.
B) They had negotiated with a group of smugglers to help them leave the city by the East gate in the morning.
C) The deal included horses.
Sir Lugard explained that Camonese Crusaders were excellent horsemen and should they manage to get a lead on the Rangers, their escape would be nigh inevitable.
Thinking quickly, Hawksclaw sent all but Longtail back to the HQ for much needed rest and quickly made his way to the Town Watch Station. There, a watchman informed him that the Sergeant was home abed. Getting directions, the Rangers found Sergeant Vasser’s home and woke him in the AM.
From what they have said, the Sergeant was confused, but helpful as he has always been. Hawksclaw laid out his plan in which, the Watch would man the gates as normal, but he and his Rangers would lie in wait outside the walls while Sir Lugard and Longtail, dressed as Watch, would look for the Prelacy agents. When Lugard gave the signal, the Watch would close the gates, forcing the Crusaders to flee, sending them right into Hawksclaw’s trap.
Vasser readily agreed, but request the Rangers allow the Prelacy forces to clear the morning crowds before beginning their attack. My Rangers agreed and returned to the HQ for a few hours rest.
On the morning of the 23rd of Red Wolf, after weeks of trials, my Rangers set up their ambush just outside the Dwarven gate and waited. For two hours they stood by, when Lugard gave the signal. On cue, the Watch slammed the doors shut, but that is when everything went awry.
Rather than being caught unawares, the Prelacy agents expected the trap and with a signal to their smuggler allies, burst into motion. At the same moment, the smugglers revealed crossbows and began firing into the crowds, the guard and the rangers.
Rildrirr, Alred, Hawkclaw and Lontail (on foot) sprinted after the fleeing Camonese, while Lugard and Highwall remained at the gate.
No sooner had he spurred his horse into action, did the lead Prelacy Captain turn and blast poor Lugard in the chest nearly killing him. The chase was on.
Longtail managed to drag one man from the saddle before he had cleared 30 meters, the other fell to Rildrirr’s blade, but the Captain galloped away.
Again and again, my Rangers tried to slow him, stop him, but he brushed aside their attacks with superior horsemanship and an arcfire handcaster. Twice did he strike Rildrirr with arcfire, but twice did the Northman shrug off the terrible blasts.
Then, when all seemed lost and his escape assured, Rildrirr, riding his massive beast burst through a copse of trees and caught the Captain in the back with his bastard sword, sending the Captain flying into a tree and smashing into the ground unconscious.
Reigning in, my Rangers recovered the Prelacy Captain, his weapons and his horse, and returned to the town only to find a scene of chaos. Four Town Watch lay dead, seven smugglers shared their fate. Dozens of civilians had been injured, 3 killed and two children had been caught when one of the smuggler’s wagons, stocked with alchemical fire, exploded.
A cursory investigation revealed what all feared. Red Store. Again they plague Echer’Naught.
Horrified at the price of their victory, the Rangers approached Sergeant Vasser who, for the first time, seem truly angry with the Rangers, though from their report, he showed proper courtesy. With these four, the cost in life to the Watch had reached 12 men in three months. Nearly a quarter of their forces.
Understanding that ill will could poison the town against the Rangers, Hawksclaw turned over the captured Prelacy Paladin to the Town Watch, while taking the injured Prelacy Captain to the Chapel of Light for healing. Longtail also remained, as she had been injured in the fight…and she wished to be with the burned children.
Sadly, Hawksclaw returned with the rest of the Rangers to the outpost and began the long, arudous task of repairing the damage done, both physical and spiritual, but also to the Ranger’s public image. Still, I would have done no different and have expressed as such to Corporal Hawksclaw. He and all my Rangers acted with bravery, dedication and professionalism. I am proud to have men and women such as these under my command.
It took the Prelacy Captain a week to regain consciousness. From there, he was transferred to the cell Sir Lugard had previous occupied, ready for transport. The 23rd of Red Wolf came to a sad, but successful close.
17 days later. 17 days of clearing roads, re-establishing relationships, recording deeds and getting the outpost back to fighting order…
On the morning of Eternal Sun 7th, I returned to Echer’Naught, the conquering hero. Apparently word of our deeds, the Legios Heroes had reached the town before I. As I entered, riding Tiny, the massive Goat, flanked by 14 foot Grek and his towering Axe and Ivan, nearly that height and followed by Luc Gendarre and his, well equipped, Camonese soldiers, crowds quickly began to gather.
The further I pressed, trying to reach my outpost, the more thronged about us, shouting, laughing, some throwing flowers. Never before have I received such a welcome. One part of me, the Wolfhaven was proud to have brought honor to my family, my corps and my men. But, for myself, I was mortified. I confess I would rather have entered under cover of night.
Still, as I approached the outpost, Grek clearing a path with his booming voice and intimidating gaze, I heard the clear, crisp voice of Hawksclaw rising above the din.
“Rangers! Form UP!”
Tears welled in my eyes. Until that moment, I had not fully realized how badly I had missed this place, these Rangers. As the crowds parted and Grek spied the line of heavily armed men and women blocking the road, I could feel his and Ivan’s stance change. Oh, to have such friends…all. Giving him the all clear, I approached my men.
Corporal Hawksclaw, standing at perfect attention. Doughty Highwall at his right. LONGTAIL! SHE LIVED! Stormhammer, his grin ever presence and towering behind Rildrirr my trusted companion.
I tried to stand and salute, but emotion overwhelmed me. Holding back tears, I embraced my men.
Thinking back now, I might have given poor Hawksclaw a fright. But at that moment, was simply too overjoyed at seeing them home, safe. My Rangers. My Friends. My family.
Stepping back, I asked for a report. Smiling, Hawksclaw clasped my shoulder and began…
For long years I have questioned the fate of our world. With so many threats, how can we possibly stand?
But I know now. We will stand because we have men and women, warriors and friends.
Warriors like Grek, Ivan, Rildrirr, Ovgol and Highwall
We have men, leaders like Hawksclaw…
Women like Maeve and Liarra…Shayline…
Friends like Olgor and Stormhammer.
So long as heroes like these live, I fear not for our future.
Your most obedient servant,
A. Wolfhaven, Colonel
Grey Ranger Outpost, Echer’Naught