Colonel Wolfhaven, Alexander
Grey Ranger Outpost, Echer’Naught
First Day, First Hunt, Year 3123 Under the Light
Words can simply not express what I feel now. I can only begin at the beginning a pray that I might convey some of the horror and tragedy of the past days.
Following our successful, but costly hunt of the Shadowboar, we entered a busy few weeks of preparations and security for the up and coming Festival Day Echer’Naught Joust and Grande Melee. My Rangers were tasked with the security of the many visiting dignitaries, allied knights and associated staff entering Echer’Naught for the celebrations. In addition, we took our turns at watch along the curtain wall, patrolled the Greenway Road and maintained local security in town.
The night before, Ranger 1st Class Hawksclaw approached and petitioned to have young Alfred raised to full ranger. On condition that Hawksclaw could locate and enlist Celebor’s assistance, per protocol, I approved the promotion. Hawksclaw then left for the Sacred Grove when Ranger Longtail entered my office. Her expression was grim, but somewhat amused.
During the long winter, in an effort to procure better arrangements for our headquarters, the attractive, young Brinchie had inadvertently gained the affection of two of our local craftsmen and sitting counsel members of the Echer’Naught Merchant Council. Regrettably, these two individuals also happened to be involved in a century old feud, which had, less than a decade before erupted into bloody violence. I had previously given Longtail permission and license to negotiate an amicable arrangement between the two Dwarves, so long as it did not adversely affect the Rangers.
Her solution was at once elegant, and risky. Working through a local bard, one Therel Fateweaver who has been a sometime friend, and sometime troublemaker, for this headquarters, she arranged for a competition, a tournament for her handfast. No sooner had she left, then Celebor, alone, entered my officer and we chatted briefly. Hawksclaw returned having missed the Ranger at large and we discussed the boys promotion. Young Alfred presented himself and consented to the mandatory Mind Reading. He and Celebor stepped away to speak in private.
Little else happened the eve before. My Rangers spoke, rested and bonded. I managed to complete the more mundane tasks necessary for maintaining operations, and yet, I could not help feeling a sense of foreboding. Perhaps it was the constant oppressive rains that had plagued our every step, perhaps it was the growing tension in my team, or maybe it was the many unknown faces and elements entering my town which weighed so heavily on my heart. Regardless, my sleep was fitful and my waking early and hardly restful.
Whatever the case, my apprehension was nothing compared to the series of events which very nearly destroyed the town of Echer’Naught.
The morning of the 34th of Falling Ice began well enough. During the dawn meeting, I briefed my team, handed out assignments and informed them that I was to handle personal security for Lord Mayor Von Haber and our greatest dignitary, young Olreck Harken, a second cousin of our lady Duchess Valenia Harken. Not to be forgotten, having passed his session with Celebor and certified as not being under enemy influence, Alfred Ranger took the cloak and joined my men as our newest brother. Ranger 1st class Hawksclaw will continue as his acting training officer.
With that, they were dismissed to see to their duties, and I rode for the Lord Mayor’s manor and my duty. From this point, I may only report what has been presented to me and my own understanding of the events as they unfolded.
Not much happened in the morning hours. The Feast Day Celebration went as planned, with the usual minor complications that never seem to be avoided. My Rangers maintained tight security at each of the events as they occurred, ensuring that nothing untoward happened. At just before noon, Ranger Longtail and Hawksclaw were dismissed for their one break to attend Fateweaver‘s contest of Longtail’s hand.
The combat, as I understand was fierce and drew a huge crowd. So large, that the formal Dressage event happening at the same time had almost no attendance from the townsfolk. As we feared, loyal Grimbore entered the contest to protect the Brinchie, as did Ranger 1st Class Hawksclaw. And apparently, Hawksclaw bowed out, rather than face a friend. Fortunately, a close associate, and ringer, for Fateweaver, another Brinchie named Streetrunner, stole the contest and defeated all comers. Showing surprising tact and diplomacy, Longtaill soothed the ruffled feathers of the feuding Dwarves and in one move prevented all out war between the Dwarf clans and also avoided hurting Grimbore who seems completely infatuated with her.
With that task completed, all of my Rangers converged upon the Lists where the Royal joust was about to begin. And like so many things, it started well, but as I stood behind the Lord Mayor keeping him safe, Ranger Longtail noticed with her keen eyes trouble brewing amid the tents. Acting quickly, she discovered that young Lord Olreck Harken had fallen suddenly ill and who’s breathing had become labored. Gathering up Hawksclaw and Highwall, they quickly secured the boy and sent Longtail to the Chapel of Light for aid.
As she arrived, she found Valandrian, the winged Paladin/Priest, in quiet contemplation. Hearing her urgent words, he immediately dispatched brothers of the church and a wagon to fetch the young man to bring him to the Infirmary. Once the boy was securely protected at the Chapel of Light and in good healing hands, the Rangers immediately went about gathering resources and investigating the sudden onset.
However, in the meantime, Olreck Harken was being summoned to the Lists. As he was to be Echer’Naught’s champion and defending the honor of the Harken Duchy, I offered to serve in his stead. Von Haber accepted my offer and over the objections of Baron Eckhart, I took Sir Harken’s place with young Alfred acting as my squire. We also feared that if word of the possible assault on Olreck were to become common knowledge, a panic may ensure.
So I took up the jousting lance for the first time since before the War of Flame and entered the competition while my Rangers conducted their investigation. Using Longtail as a runner, they reached out to the local Potio nmaster, delivering what they could gather from the young lords belongings to examine for hidden needles, laced clothes or any sign of poison. The Eldakar Alchemist agreed to pour his every energy into the task. They then interrogated Olreck’s squire and forced from him that young Olreck had sneaked out of the Lord Mayor’s manse, and spend the morning at the Red Lamp. After which, Longtail headed to the Red Lamp to speak with Madame Lithilien.
The Madame was more than helpful and summoned the young girl who serviced the lord. She admitted that he had been with her shortly in the morning, that he seemed nervous as if she was his first, that he had been mocked by his friends for his lack of experience, but that Olreck had not eaten nor drunk anything. She had noted a foreign knight who seemed to recognize the young lord, but the man had not said nor done anything. All she noted was that he was not from Olara and that he had a scar on his face. With this information, Longtail returned to her companions.
While this was happening, Hawksclaw had summoned Olgor and brought him to the infirmary. During his research, Olgor had uncovered that young Olreck was actually descended from the ancient Camon, before the rise of the Church of Archanon. It appeared that his distant ancestor had died saving his wife, during those dark events. She, destitute and alone arrived in Olara and was taken in by her late husbands friend, a noble of Olara. They fell in love, and she married the man and her descendants eventually married into the Harken line. Longtail even remembered this tale from the book given her by Colonel Wolfhaven.
With this knowledge and now the Lord Mayor’s personal physician, Olgor, the healers of the Infirmary of Light, and the Harken physician’s all working to heal the boy, Hawksclaw took Longtail and Highwall to the Barracks. They entered the tavern and spoke with the bartender who informed him that, yes, Lord Olreck had been in attendance just before the joust, and yes he had sat with his friends, celebrating a recent “conquest.” With his permission, the Rangers spoke with establishments staff.
One serving girl explained that the young lord had been there with his friends and had been rowdy and rude. She was happy to have seen him gone, but that he did meet someone who seemed to be an old friend, a foreign knight, with effeminate features and a scar on his face. With this, they thanked the girl and went to speak with the young groom who explained that yes, the foreign knight had stabled a horse. The horse was of an unfamiliar type, clearly a warhorse, but lighter and sleeker than those favored by Olarans. He could not say if it were Olaran in origin, but he did not believe so. And he confirmed that the stranger had headed south toward CenterPointe.
Hawkclaw and the others were on the verge of leaving when they were found by a runner from Sergeant Vasser of the Town Watch. They were asked to come immediately, as another body had been discovered. Led deep into the warrens of Low Town, my Rangers found the good sergeant standing in the rain beside a mud-soaked corpse in fine clothes, face down in an alley. Hawksclaw examined the scene to find a single stab wound in the man’s side, penetrating the kidney. The weapon was a long, thin blade not unlike the Cavalier Dirk that I and Hawksclaw carry. Turing the body over, Hawksclaw’s worst fears were realized for the dead man was non other than the scarred foreigner and likely, the man who poisoned Lord Olreck Harken.
The body was brought to the infirmary where Hawksclaw found young Olreck on death’s door. Olgor examined the body and discovered something truly remarkable. He believed, with good reason, that the dead man was from Camon, a Prelacy agent. Olreck’s lineage only added credence to the theory. If that were so, given the man’s symptoms of paralytic breathing, reduced temperature, sweating and involuntary convulsions, Olgor postulated that the poison was an extract derived from a plant known to him as Morning Dove, a small wildflower with four ivory petals and a golden center. Unfortunately, it only grew in more northern climes, such as the higher altitudes of Camon and would likely be impossible to find here in the lowlands. Even so, the Rangers sprinted to the PotionMaster.
Regrettably, he too had no help to offer, but he headed to the boy’s side with his apparatus in hopes that the Rangers could find the poison and deliver it to him to concoct an antidote. With time running short and the day fading fast, the Rangers immediately set out into the camps of visiting knights and nobles, speaking with any who would answer, searching for a group of foreign knights that did not seem to fit. They were able to narrow their search to just a few groups under suspicion. Just before the Grande Melee under tortured skies, my Rangers took the field to join me.
In a mud soaked field north of the city walls, spectated by nearly every living soul in the town, two armies of men at arms stood facing each other under a raging sky. I had been assigned to fill young Olrecks role at the head of the Blue forces. To avoid accidental injury, normal weapons had been banned and the forces were armed with blunted swords and axes. Still, in my duties as the guardian of the remaining Harken representatives, I was allowed to keep my blade. As we stood, waiting for the signal bell, my Rangers sloshed across the muddy ground to report all that I have written.
I split my men, sending the faster Alfred atop his horse and Longtail on her fleet legs to begin searching the far army. I directed Hawksclaw and Highwall to investigate my forces. We had little time for the melee was about to begin and we had to find the assassins before that happened. With the rain and wind, the task was nigh impossible, but Gate Highwall’s keep eyes spotted a foreign knight in thick, lustrous robes standing about with two companions. Tied to his belt, under his cloak and wrapped tightly to disguise its features was a knife matching the description. Though it may seem incredulous to assume one knife could be identified among an army of armed men, one most only consider that it was seen by a Dwarf of keen crafting skill, and a Cavalier Dirk is a weapon not easily mistaken.
Once spotted, Hawksclaw sent the Dwarf to flank, as he approached the men. No sooner had he met them in the field, than the leader drew a sword that has been described as a blade encased in metal cables, and glowing with an orange energy which hummed with power and slashed deeply into the Hawksclaws chest. Hawksclaw returned with a penetrating blow, which found a chink in the man’s armor, biting deep enough to draw a well of blood. And so battle was joined.
Fighting through the driving rain and shrieking winds, Highwall charged and brought his ax down, only to have it bounce away. Cloak shorn away, the armor beneath bore marking similar to the sword, metal cables coiling, glowing orange crystals and other strange nobs and devices. Almost instantly, the man’s companions threw back their cloaks, one drawing a strange rod bearing the alien devices and protuberances and the other an enchanted sword.
As those knights and men arms around woke to the danger in their midst, my Rangers entered a desperate battle with foes wielding weapons of awesome and alien power. From the far field, Longtail spotted the strange orange flashes lighting the sky. Without hesitation, she sprinted in that direction, breaking the ranks of stunned men and surging into the no-man’s land between the two mock armies. Sadly, her progress was arrested by a trio of men stepping free of the crowd of awed spectators. They leveled strange half spear/half crossbows at the armies and unleashed a barrage of orange, arcane fire.
Seeing the new threat, Longtail adjusted course, and prayed that her companions would hold their own. At this moment, seeing Longtail, the strange magic lances and hearing the growing din behind me, turned and pushed myself through crowed, drawing my two handed sword.
By this point, the storm above had reached a climax and with the sudden appearance of true enemies in our midst, many of the more seasoned warriors broke for the weapons caches off the field to recover their true weapons. Civilians began to recede from the stands and flee to the safety of Echer’Naughts walls, but there was but a single postern gate and many thousands of panicked people to evacuate.
By the time I reached Hawksclaw and Highwall, my Elven Ranger was already bound in mystical bonds and the Dwarf was being knocked around by the swirling winds. I raised my sword to fell the Prelacy Crusaders when a gasp drew my attention to the sky.
Above our heads, an immense black cloud, like a mountain of Black Steel in the sky, and twice as menacing, began to slowly rotate. Faster and faster it spun, gaining momentum as the winds on the ground rose to a torrent. So fierce was strength of the gale, that my footing began to slip in the mud. As we watched in horror, friend and foe alike, a tendril of black cloud, like an angry god’s finger pressing to the earth stabbed down, slamming into the field between the two armies.
During the war, I had seen such events, cyclones that would form in raging storms upon the vast open plains of Western Olara, but nothing compared to this. The Storm had a menacing purpose as it immediately began to churn the mud heading straight for Echer’Naught and the crowd of now terrified men and woman trampling each other to escape the path of the approaching horror.
That would have been sufficient to unman even the greatest warrior, but a moment later, creatures poured from the storm, figures of lightning and horsemen of roiling storm dropped from the sky and began to wreak havoc among the stunned knights.
Seeing the storm, the Prelacy Mage grabbed his Captain and disappeared from the field, no doubt some form of teleportation. Left behind was the single Crusader Knight who defended himself admirably, but fell to a blow from my sword. His body collapsed to the muck, un-moving.
Suddenly, Longtail appeared shouting that SALT could harm the beasts. Thinking quickly, I ordered Longtail to fetch salt from within the town, Hawksclaw suggested the meat processing area of the stockyard. I ordered Hawksclaw and Highwall to stem the tide of creatures pouring from the sky. And with that, my Rangers leaped into action.
With Hawksclaw and Highwall beside me, we charged the storm creatures, while Longtail covered ground with the speed of rushing wind. I threw myself at one of the Lighting creatures, feeling its energy sparking off my armor. We discovered quickly that White Silver affected the beast and two fell to my blade. Together, Highwall and Hawksclaw slew a Storm rider and an Electric beast before a creature of true power descended from the sky and attacked me with sparking tendrils of pure energy.
Above our heads, High Priest Valandrian wages a holy war against the creatures while around us, Olara, Galean and allied knights rallied to their standards and hurled themselves into the fray. Atop the wall of Echer’Naught, the High Druidess Treesinger stood along agains the fury of the cyclone, calling upon the power of Life to slow its advance and safeguard the lives of the many. In the field, the battle raged with the flower of our armies falling like wheat before the scythe.
With each creature we slew, the Cyclone’s power waned just a little bit more. And as it closed upon the mob of screaming civilians, our fight grew desperate. In the mass, mighty Grimbore gamely tried to reach the field of battle, but was intercepted by Longtail who ordered him to open the gate as wide as possible, while she sprinted OVER the crowd and dove into the town. Alfred stood upon his horse, helping the panicked people to safety.
Once inside, Longtail desperately scanned for the warehouses that would hold the salt, but her eyes fell upon a young girl, standing amid the chaos, and with a stampede of panicked cattle bearing down upon her. Without thought of her own life, Longtail closed the distance to the girl in a heartbeat and threw her body over the child to shield her from the stampede.
Outside, the massive electric creature poured lighting into me, cooking my flesh beneath my armor. The pain was intense and I could feel my life ebbing away. At this moment, as I knelt before the foe, Hawkclaw leaped from my form and slashed the creature with his Rapier. At the same moment, Highwall smashed the beast with his White Silver shield shattering its form.
With a croaking voice, I ordered Hawksclaw to recover the poison from the fallen Prelacy Crusader as I tried to struggle to my feet. Within the down, the stampede thundered passed Longtail who rose, surprised to be alive. Turning, she suddenly understood why. Realizing her danger, the loyal Grimbore had thrown himself over her and the child, taking the savaging from the cattle’s hooves. With the last of his strength, he stroked her cheek call her his “pretty kitty.” And then, the mighty warrior sank to earth and fell still.
With tears pouring from her eyes, Longtail sprinted to the infirmary and demanded someone help Grimbore. Two brother dispatched immediately. Shortly after, Hawkclaw arrived and thrust the poison vial into the waiting hands of the PotionMaster. And with that, the battle for Echer’Naught ended.
Dozens of civilians were killed, hundreds wounded. Nearly thirty knights sacrificed their lives defending the town and everything recently built north of town was obliterated. My own forces have been decimated. Grimbore lives, but has yet to remain consciousness. We do not know if he will survive. Hawksclaw and Highwall were wounded, I grievously so.
Though we manage to recover the poison, we may still have been too late. In addition, we still do not know the Prelacy’s plans and the agents were all killed during the fighting, though we managed to recover three of their strange energy lances.
As to the Storm, we know almost nothing.
As horrible as the physical devastation has been, the mental and spiritual costs my be worse. Longtail still holds the child as if she fears to let her go. Highwall seems…distant, distracted. I fear his extracurricular activities may be dulling his edge. But, I fear most for Hawksclaw. The anger I see forming in my chief subordinate mirror the rage I carried throughout the war and long after… If that anger cannot be settled, I fear for the cost to the man.
The pain of my wounds begins to dull my wits. I leave this here, a record of these events and a warning to Rangers all. The Storms are coming and I fear this is only the beginning.
Your obediant servant,
A. Wolfhaven, Colonel