Campaign of the Month: June 2018

Shaintar Legends Awaken: Rangers of the Greenway Road; Regional Command-Echer'Naught

Grenna House Vosltagg Born
White River 29th, 3127

Late on White River 29th, 3127, Ranna’s first born child, Grenna of House Volstagg, is born in Almahrad in the Ranger HQ as a ward of Captain and Lady Volstagg.

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Campaign Report 130
Exile in Norcan Darr

Lord Mayor, Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander
Commander of the Legio Heroes
Exile, Norcan Dar (Hard Lands)

30th Day of White River, Year 3127 Under the Light

Any reasonable hope of returning home, to seeing my new child, my wife, are gone. All upon my order. We are now truly one people. The Builders’ home was destroyed, and with it our own. Survival now depends on our ability to trust, to work together, to hope.

White River 28th, 3127

Everything happened so quickly. Alpha Team managed to destroy the Builder device dampening the Citadel’s own magic, but it was a temporary reprieve. And at such a staggering cost. Another war…

Alpha Team headed to the barracks to catch their breath, re-equip, rearm, and process their losses. While I continued to debate with the Maker and his council on the best course of action. I saw but one possible path forward. Lure the enemy into the Citadel and then destroy them. We would doubtless only catch a portion of their forces, but we would kill far more than it would cost us, and with the Citadel’s pathways through the mountain gone, the enemy would be forced to take a longer route to follow, buying us that most precious commodity: Time.

It was not lost on me that we would also be destroying our only reasonable means of returning home. In promoting such a plan I was condemning my team. Once again, I was sacrificing the lives of my men for the “greater good.” How much blood will it take to secure victory?!

While the rest of the team prepped, The Explorer joined me briefly. He too listened to the arguments, and seeing their value, challenged the Maker. Our only reasonable course of action was retreat. That, and he laid upon me the sobriquet, one of Shaintar’s “Greatest Military Minds.” I greatly appreciate his confidence, but sincerely wished such accolades were not so blood soaked. Before he left, I asked him to see to upgrading Alpha Team’s arms and armor with what Builder tech they could use. Also, I requested Corporal Blackstone’s presence.

The Explorer left, and Blackstone arrived. Given our current situation, I felt it prudent to continue to maintain proper chain of command. To the end, on Shaintar’s date of White River 29th, 3127 I issued the following field promotions:

Corporal Arimar Blackstone was promoted to Sergeant.

RFC Egon Mansfried was promoted to Corporal.

RFC Gilbur Gill Grimm was promoted to 3rd in command, though he retained his rank of RFC.

After his promotion, I informed him that he would be in full command of the Team. My duties now lied with aiding the Maker in keeping his people alive. Alpha Team would be given near full autonomy. As such, Sergeant Blackstone now served as independent command for the Rangers in Norcan Dar. Further, I informed him that the Explorer was in the process of upgrading the Team’s gear. Furthermore, RFC Grimm was to be excused from camp duties as his full efforts, when on in actual combat, were to be dedicated to producing Protection and Healing potions for the team. So long as it did not endanger the lives of his team, and while still within Norcan Dar, Sergeant Blackstone was to facilitate RFC Grimm in whatever capacity to achieve his needs.

Lastly, a second attack was imminent. Therefore, I ordered Alpha Team to the front gates to aid in the defense. Sergeant Blackstone had full authority to withdraw his team as soon as he felt they could not longer hold their position. The longer they held, the more civilians I could evacuate safely, as soon as the Maker agreed to my plan. I dismissed the Sergeant and observed the debate among the Builders.

Despite their arrogance, technological advancement, and history, the Builders are alike us in many ways. Politics, it seems, is universal. Still, with the Explorer’s endorsement, the Maker conceded to my plan with some grace and we immediately began evacuations.

I learned later that the Alpha Team took an hour or so to gear up, with the Explorer crafting something akin to scale armor via pieces of Arcmancy ceramics in their tightweave cloth. He also equipped much of the team with arcfire weapons, and distributed ammo among those not arcfire trained. When not overseeing that, he aided RFC Grimm in constructing a passable Alchemy kit from the available materials, and broke it down into several pieces to distribute the load.

When all was kitted, they headed up to the main gate. The grand hall was a ruin, the gate blown wide open. Builder arclancers had set up firing positions around the hall, taking cover behind fallen columns. About the time Alpha Team arrived, a Builder patrol arrived with a prisoner captured just outside. One of the forsaken, I noted when I met her that she actually hailed from Caladon, having fallen through a Tempest vortex. Based on the state of her gear, and her apparent acclamation, I gather she has been here for many years. Still, her subsequent fighting all but saved the team.

However, at the point she arrived, she was disarmed and a prisoner of the Builders. She was clearly not with the Kal, or the enemy Builders, but a discussion ensued as to what should be done with her. Sergeant Blackstone and the Explorer approached to find out more, while the rest of the team spread out. RFC Grimm took the initiative to sprint to the breach and set a land mine in order to slow oncoming attackers.

Unfortunately for all concerned, the attack happened while Grimm was finishing and Sergeant Blackstone and the Explorer were mid conversation.

First a smoke bomb rolled into the room, enveloping the breach, along with Grimm. From within the cloud, heavily armed arclancers spread out on either side, taking up firing positions and laying down a torrent of fire. Alpha Team responded, moving into position.

The fire was intense. Each enemy arclancer was protected by a deflection field, rending them difficult to hit. Whereas the allied arclancers had elevation and position, but lacked the extra layer of protection.

Centered at the base of the grand staircase, Ranger Gravelheart took early hits and went down behind a stone pile, wounded but not dead. Grimm ducked into and out of the smoke cloud, too far to make a break for the stairs.On the left, Arwen Que’kasaars went down, she was dragged back by Softpaws.

As the allied arclancers died, the enemy Builders swept up the flanks, moving from cover to cover, pouring fire into the defenders who were pushed back. On the fight, The Explorer and the Forsaken Caladonian, Killian, lay down covering fire, counting several kills apiece.
Corporal Mansfried called a withdrawn from the top of the stairs, before incoming fire forced him down and back. Softpaws continued to drag the wounded back into the hall. Sergeant Blackstone went for Grimm, sinking into the earth and burrowing under to him. Moments before the cloud dropped, the Sergeant reached Grimm and dragged him under and back. However, when they reached allied lines, the smoke cloud dropped revealing a heavy arcprojector emplacement which poured fire into them. Grimm went down, was revived, then the Sergeant.

Meanwhile, The Explorer sighted on Grimm’s bomb and detonated it, blowing its cover apart. Then, Kililan and the Explorer continued to kill gunners as the Rangers pulled back. Over half the team were downed, but none succumbed to their wounds. All the allied arclancers perished, but they sealed the stairway doors.

As they took some time to heal and revive downed comrades, the Explorer mined the door. When they were able to move again, Sergeant Blackstone sent Softpaws back with Grimm to rendezvous with me, while the rest fell back to a defensible position and continued fighting. Over the course of a couple hours, Alpha Team and retreating defenders conducted a fighting retreat. Several were lost, but they bought us time to evacuate nearly all the civilians, and supplies needed to survive the Hard Lands. Better yet, we managed to rig the failing arcgenerators to blow, setting the trap.

It was shortly after the 13th hour when Softpaws and Grimm arrived. I kept them close as we waited. A couple hours later, I informed Softpaws to tell Alpha Team to hunker down. Then, I ordered the generator destroyed. The ensuring explosion imploded the entire mountain, trapping all inside under millions of tons of rock and rubble. Nothing can have survived. Alpha Team apparently took shelter in an abandoned scout outpost. They witness the destruction from close on.

White River 30th, 3127

Half an hour later, they arrived. Shot up, bloody, and exhausted, but victorious. Professionals to the last. I was then introduced to Lady Rahsoona Kilian, of Caladon. For her help, I welcomed her to the team. And then asked if her Forsaken tribe was close enough for our column to reach. She agreed to lead us.

With the hope of food and information, I asked the Explorer to speak with the Maker and convince him that his Builders must throw themselves on the mercy and generosity of the Forsaken and trade for Food, Water, and Guides.

Once again, I am a commander in an army on the march. However, we march through one of the harshest environments imaginable full of demons, childer, and worse. To add to our woes, the recent battle attracted the attention of a childer horde nearly 7000 strong which was no doubt pursuing our pursuers. Add to that, a gargoyle flock already winged overhead.

Ascended have mercy on us.

Your most obedient servant,

Lord Mayor Wolfhaven, Colonel

Norcan Dar

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We went to Hell
Gilbert Grimm's report

I couldn’t tell you how many people have uttered the phrase “Go to Hell” to me in my lifetime. Should they ever see this I believe that they would be pleased to know that that is exactly where I have gone.

I write this in the ever growing heat inside the monstrous depths of a Citadel. I’ve heard of the infamous homes of the builders, but to witness one first hand let alone stay here for days on end is mind boggling. We arrived here a few days prior by what could only be called a Jerry rigged Arc Gate and a hope and a prayer. Wolfhaven met with our team the night before our departure warning us that our destination was a place not meant for our kind, he was never able to disclose the actual destination for fear of prying ears, but I never would have imagined Norcan’ Dar. I was excited for the prospect of strange lands that hold new and priceless components for my alchemical studies, but looking out to the red desolate landscape I cant help but think that nothing but demons and childer could survive here.

Once we arrived and our atoms finished arranging themselves back to their mostly proper positions, we were greeted by a contingent of builders led by what I assume is a Maker. Even more surprising is that these seem to be the Explorer’s kin, I have no doubt his story will be useful in getting us home, I hope at least.

what followed next were days of endless negotiating and discussions on things I still don’t quite know. That gave us plenty of time to explore our surroundings, but most of us were at a loss for how to utilize any of the contraptions in our quarters. Finally my day came to accompany Wolfhaven, Sssalisstah, and the Explorer to one of the Negotiations is what I assume they were. Hours passed of dreary talks in a language I have no idea of, but those times of untended manotany were abruptly put to an end by some sort of explosive device. When I came to I was told that one of the builders had set it off, putting in place a chain of events that we hoped would never happen.

Once we all reconvened we were informed that a machine was cutting power to the entire Citadel, including its protections. Our job was to locate and destroy the machine so that the defensive weapons would return and hopefully stave off the intruders. We traversed through a long disused tunnel and soon arrived at the edge of a long crevasse with a single bridge to cross it with, however the entire ledge on the other side was guarded by Builders and Two Builder Golems. There attacks were fast and brutal making it nigh impossible to cross, but ssalissatah sacrificed herself in show of immense power. While she had their attention Explorer and Blackstone made their way across through Blackstones Earth manipulation, once across they were able to destroy the machine but undenouced to us until moments prior the bridge was wired to explode and once again I fell unconscious.

I awoke not long ago back in the Citadel and learned that sssalissath did not make it. She was a good leader and will be missed. Now we are faced with the knowledge that this Citadel is no longer safe and we must venture into the bad lands hopefully to find a way home. Before we leave though I hope the explorer will show me how to work these damn contraptions as they may be our best way to protect our selves from whatever is lurking in that barren red landscape.

Respectfully,
RFC Gilbert Grimm

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Campaign Report 129
Sacrifice of Sergeant Sssahlissstaah

Lord Mayor, Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander
Commander of the Legio Heroes
Builder Citadel, Norcan Dar (Hard Lands)

28th Day of White River, Year 3127 Under the Light

I prayed never to see these red, blasted lands. Yet here I am. It seems my life must be spent taking on the duties I most dread and despise.

Grey Winds 22nd, 3127

It took a day to bore into the base of the mountain where the Great Arcgate was housed. The small team of Dwarven Stonesingers sang themselves hoarse, but they finished the job. From there, the retired and turned over the device to the builders, tinkers, and tempest.

I was informed by the lead engineer that blending the Maker device with the Great Arcgate would take a considerable amount of time. They could provide no specifics, but I expected weeks, maybe months. Therefore, I gave Alpha Team some time to themselves. I had other duties to attend.

The Kingdom of Camon has already experienced a rash of border skirmishes and retaliatory killings. The Queen retains her throne, but Church power plays threaten to destabilize the fragile peace daily. By Archanon, I do not know who will win if it all goes down in flames.

First through fourth companies of the White Silver Wolves marched north into the Gathers, seeking to reinforce the Guardian Gathers against depredation by the Blood Witch. Despite the fact that more than a few resent our presence. Fifth company continued to secure assets in the desert, struggling to forge a coalition among the various Princes. Xaos continue to muddy the waters. We still don’t know how many Princes are compromised. Fortunately, with the liberation of A’Davar and A’Morgal, the Empire’s relentless march south appears to have stalled.

And then, there are the rumors of wars in the Jungle. Our few Ranger assets report strange forces, and disappearing villages. I do not know what to make of them, but I fear some new threat looms on the horizon.

Echer’Naught continues to prosper, but the attack on High Towne displaced the most powerful people in the city, all clambering for reimbursement. The Crown and Harken place responsibility squarely on the Rangers, straining coffers. Without an infusion of capital, city budgets will be strained for the foreseeable future, increasing the risk of future attacks. Though, the absence of the overwhelming majority of dignitaries does free up funds normally directed to their protection.

And, there are a myriad power players calling for blood. The less militant voices merely seek my dishonorable discharge, perhaps arrest. The more militant have accused me of various crimes, treason, grand theft, pederasty. My unilateral decision to relocate the Maker’s Device has not been well received by the Olaran Crown, the Harken Duchy, or even the Rangers. My sudden vacancy from the city has some leveling charges of desertion. I am unsure of what welcome I might receive upon returning home.

Despite my absence from the city, I still had a job to do. Several in fact. So, I spent my time reading reports, moving pieces across the board, and daily communications with my wife.

White river 17th, 3127

I became aware of a curious report over dinner with Commander Garrus. Border security found the body of a local merchant hidden in a copse of trees with his cart and horse, neck broken. When the guards opened his goods, they found pickle barrels full of the body parts of nearly a dozen human and elven infants. Someone had discovered his treachery and had him eliminated. The guards ruled his death “accidental.” On a hunch, I contacted a friend to look into the crime scene. Interesting, indeed.

White River 25th, 3127

Late in the afternoon, a report reached my office that the work on the gate had been completed. We now possessed the only known precise Great Arcgate in Shaintar. And everyone who would use it for evil knows we have it. Time is of the essence. So, I summoned Alpha Team for a meal, something of a last collegial moment together. We were joined by Commander Garrus, “Val” Que’kassars, his niece Arwen, and the rest of Alpha Team. The Explorer joined us for the first time since entering the mountain. After a brief toast and good food, I asked for a situation report from The Explorer. Our device was prepped, though I could see the doubt in his eyes.

I knew where we were going. I have been there. And, it was one of the most difficult challenges in a fairly challenging life. No sane person should every consider going to the place of demons and Childer, but we had no choice. Or, I had no choice. They did.

So, I gave them a choice. Without knowing where, or why, I asked them to follow me into hell. To a man, they stayed. Even Evoran’s young cousin joined Alpha Team. That was the hardest. So much Que’kassars blood had already been spilled. To cost the family another. But, as arrogant and cold as they often seem, I found found the bloodline to be surprisingly passionate.

We drank. We ate. We talked. I knew it might be our last meal. At the end, I ordered the team to kit up and meet me in the AM, 0500.

White River 26th, 3127

Before dawn, the team assembled, ready for war, though no knowledge of where they were heading. We headed down three levels off the Heroe’s Keep. From there, we passed through the gilded door to the underground staircase into the heart of the mountain. Down through the recovered Builder Citadel, and into the Gate Room. There, the monstrosity that is the Great Arcgate hummed and vibrated with power. I had not imagined that any more power could be passed through the gate without reality tearing itself apart. I was wrong.

In one corner huddled the Maker’s Device, half melted but humming ominously. Wires, cables, and filaments spider webbed across its surface, snaking across the ground and plunging into the gates dais. Everything was ad hoc and hastily rigged. The dais itself had been cut open, with panels removed and sparking gears, nodes, and exposed cables sparking and smoking. To channel all the raw power, copper wires had been wound around the three gimbals. Arcfire rippled and sparked, the internal mechanism groaned and smoked. All was wired into a trio of copper panels covered with pulsing and flickering runes. One Builder, one Tinker, and one Legionnaire stood behind the panel, nervously manipulating various dials, nobs, and toggles frantically keeping the arcgate from imploding or exploding depending on who you asked.

There was nothing to do. It would work, or it would not. If it worked, we faced a host of new problems. If it did not, it would no longer be our problem. So, in silence, we mounted the dais and waited. Commander Garrus stood in the doorway shaking his head. But, he followed orders and with a nod from me, signaled the operators to trigger the gate.

The three gimbals rings rose from the floor and began to spin around us. Flashes of Arcfire flashed from ring to ring, growing in power and intensity. The sound began as a low moan and quickly rose to a high pitched shrieking which set my teeth on edge. Fast and faster the rings spun until we were encased in an energy arcfire sphere. Through the crackling energy field I could just make out Garrus’ face as he shielded his eyes from the flash.

Flash.

My existence was torn apart by fire, before being reconstituted into a reasonably facsimile.

I found myself in a pyramidal room of a similar black stone/metal I expect from Builder citadels. We stood on a smaller, circular platform with a single curved copper arm that slowed to a stop. Dimmed arcfire wall sconces flickered, but otherwise, we stood alone in the room. Suddenly, the wall in front of us split and slid apart revealing a lit hallway and five Builders. The first was garbed in robes, clearly official. Flanking him were eight Builder arclancers. Around me, the Rangers tensed. Most encounters with the red skinned dwarves had ended badly for us.

However, rather than attack, the lancers stepped back, and faced inward, creating an honor guard. The leader, a Maker I assumed, greeted me, and then the Explorer, who he addressed by name. Rouland Abhenráck. Then, invited our party to follow, turned and led us into the citadel. The air was stale, old.

Over the years, I have spent considerable time in Citadels, though never in any but ruins, save for the one beneath Heroe’s Keep. I have never before entered a Citadel as it would have been during the reign of the Builders. Behind me, the team followed, flanked on all sides by our honor guard. The Maker lead us through a series of identical corridors, until we came to an ancient, and weathered door. I could tell that none had passed this way in centuries.

With great ceremony, the Maker activated a door panel open. A heavy door slides upward to reveal a tableau of red, ocher, and orange. Norcan Dar. The Hard Lands.

Hot, dry, and oppressive air rolled over us. Sand finer than dust, filled my nose, ears, and eyes. All around, I could feel the stench of Flame.

We were allowed to stand there on the small balcony hanging from the side of a mountain for a few minutes. Just long enough that we were certain beyond any doubt that Alpha Team had been transported to Norcan Dar. Inside the Citadel, we could be anywhere. Our location confirmed, we were escorted back into the temperate, stale interior of the Citadel and back down the dizzying network of corridors. A few dozen twists and turns later found our team in a per-arranged living area.

Preliminary negotiations guaranteed that we were to have private quarters, ample meeting and training space. Other than as needed to service and feed the team, we were to be left alone. Though, I had not doubt they would observe us at all times.

True to their word, we were given two large rooms, one for dining and one for training. Each of us had small, private rooms, though as everything was arcfire powered and activated, none of the team could operate anything, lights, showers, nothing.

As I made the rounds to invite everyone to dinner, I found most in a state of confusion. Ranger Gravelheart was found soaked, standing in complete darkness, with no way to open the door. She had used nearly a week’s rations by randomly pressing buttons. As for the rest, they adjusted as well as they could. The Explorer, however, was not housed with our team. He returned to his own quarters, though I imagine he spent the first night being thoroughly debriefed.

That night, we ate what passed for food among the Builders. Everything was flavorless and processed. Again, I offered my spices to flavor the food. I made sure to bring enough to last at least a few months. Though, I have no idea how long negotiations might have lasted.

Over dinner, I finally explained our mission. We had been invited by The Explorer’s Citadel to negotiate a lasting Treaty between the Legio Heroe’s and the Citadel. We would serve as emissaries. I would negotiate on behalf of the Legion. As the point of contact, The Explorer would act as mediator. The rest of the team would alternatively provide security while also recording everything they saw and heard. Sergeant Sssahlissstaah would command the security detail. I would always have two Rangers, one an NCO to lead my detail, while the highest ranked NCO remained in command of the Team in our living area.

White River 27th, 3127

On the first day of negotiations, Corporal Blackstone led my detail along with Ranger Gravelheart. Our lights auto brightened and we were awakened by a horrible sound, presumably the alarm. We enjoyed a breakfast of protein paste over a carbohydrate brick. Then, at a predetermined time the door lights flashed with another obnoxious tone.

I and my detail headed out the rooms and another door. There, we waited for a good 20 minutes. Another chime and the door opened to a small room. Identical door on the opposite side. In the middle, an angular table. One chair at each end. Above to each side, I saw nearly opaque panels above on either side, observation rooms.

Four hours of negotiations, then an hour for lunch. Then, six more hours of negotiations. Finally released for dinner. More flavorless paste, boards, and cubes. Even my spices did little.

I could see the boredom was taking its toll on the team. Each kept busy in their own way. Most trained. RFC Mansfried took notes. After dinner, I went to bed on my bed slab. I never took the Builders for negotiators, but the Maker gave nothing and demanded all.

White River 28th, 3127

Lights. Alarms. Breakfast. Alarm. Head to meeting. This time Sergeant Sssahlissstaah and Grimm assumed my detail while the others drilled in the living quarters.

Four hours of meeting, then break for lunch. Same meat cube paste. Then, a return to the meeting.

However, that is when things went horribly wrong.

While engaged in negotiations, I noticed one of the Builder guards standing behind the Maker draw something out of his robes. I was too late to stop him as he hurled a detonator at the table, but I did manage to throw myself over the Maker, shielding him from most of the blast. Still, an energy pulse from the device nearly killed him anyway. The assassin and the other guard were killed instantly. Grimm went down and the Explorer was blinded.

Worse, moments after the attack, the entire Citadel shut down. Lights, doors, and defenses. We were under attack.

Locked in the room, I was useless. So, after stabilizing those I could, I left the Sergeant in charge and teleported through the door into the hall. Outside, I could already hear arcfire echoing from the living chambers.

As I sprinted around the corner, I saw a pair heavily armored boom troopers firing into my team. Gravelheart was already down. From the living quarters, I saw Sir Mansfried charging toward me holding my sword.

Just as I entered the room, one of the troopers detonated. Mansfried hurled my sword to me and I dropped the second. After stabilizing Gravelheart, my team stacked up and we returned to the meeting room where I ripped through the door and recovered the rest of my team, and the Maker’s body.

The Explorer led us to a more secure area, his former team’s ready room. Their his scout leader, now acting head of the Citadel’s defenses, arrayed his forces. Builder arclancers, boom troopers, and arcmancers prepped weapons before charging off to defense positions.

When we approached, the Scout Leader recognized The Explorer and accepted our help. We had two issues.

First, the enemy forces, Builders, were using a Magic Cancelling device to drain and knock out the Citadel’s arcfire. As long as it it remained, their engineers could not get the power restored. Second, the front gates had been breached and a large force was penetrating deep into the citadel’s defenders.

The Leader believed the dampening device was set up on an unused platform within sight of the gates. He had a location, but he could not spare a team large enough to take down the device. It was in a remote location, and heavily defended. It was an impossible mission. So, I sent my Alphas. The Scout leader gave The Explorer a large detonator to destroy the device. The geared up and moved out.

I joined the Builders at the front gates. By the time I arrived, dozens of enemy troops had all but secured the grand gallery. The Citadel’s defenders barely held a few galleries. Bodies littered the floor. Half a dozen golems poured fire into the positions. The Citadel had fallen.

We needed to buy time for Alpha Team to take out the dampener. With the internal defense active, we had a chance to take back the gate, and at least delay the inevitable. So, I summoned my power and engaged the golems head on. I am unsure exactly what the Explorer told his people, but seeing me in my form seemed to rally them. Oddly though, the enemy Builders were unsurprised, Almost as if they expected it, or were inured to the sight of one of the Bloodline.

The battle was fierce. Even my presences only barely managed to hold the line, though I managed to take out the initial wave of golems. More blasted through the gates. It seemed the enemy had a near endless supply of troops and resources.

It took almost an hour, but the lights suddenly came on. With them, automated defenses, shields, lights, and doors. It was a slaughter. Though, it cost us dearly, we retook the gate, though it was smashed beyond repair.

Citadel defense took over fortifying the position while I returned to command for an update on the team. An hour later, they returned, shot up. Sergeant Sssahlissstaah was not with them. She had died drawing fire so that Corporal Blackstone and the Builder could get close enough to destroy the enemy device.

Alpha Team was forced to assault over a mined causeway. Almost half the team was dropped by arclancers before they reached the bridge. Softpaws downed a potion and managed to get under the bridge, only to discover it rigged to blow. Two golems, two arcfire defense projectors, and nine arclancers created overlapping fields of fire. Anyone stepping on or near the bridge was dead, and even if they managed to survive the arcfire, they would be killed as soon as the bridge was detonated. It was a suicide assault. But the Alpha founds a way.

Sergeant Sssahlissstaah volunteered to cross the bridge, taking all the enemy fire and sacrifice herself so that Blackstone could sing a stone causeway below the mined Builder bridge. The Explorer with the pack crossed with him while Softpaws and Que’kassars dragged the fallen team members away from the blast. Sergeant Sssahlissstaah lived just long enough for her team to cross the chasm before she was killed when the bridge was blown. Alone and behind lines, Blackstone protected The Explorer for the torrent of arcfire while the Builder rigged the device. The two Rangers sank into the earth moments before the arcfire detonator cleaved off the top of the ridgline.

Then, they swung back across and made their way back to the citadel. All to save strangers, Builders even. And after Builders of this same Citadel tried to kill them less than an hour before.

I could not be more proud, or awed by their determination, self sacrifice, and heroism. Sergeant Sssahlissstaah will be remembered. She will have her Last Call. But for now, we must find a way to save the thousands of innocent souls trapped in this mountain tomb. And figure out who is trying to kill us.

Your most obedient servant,

Lord Mayor Wolfhaven, Colonel

Builder Citadel, Norcan Dar

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Campaign Report 128
Maker's Device Reaches Heroes Keep

Lord Mayor, Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander
Commander of the Legio Heroes
Heroe’s Keep, Defiant Lands

21st Day of Gray Winds, Year 3127 Under the Light

White Stagg 17th, 3127

Each member of Alpha Team was encouraged to make final preparations before our mission. I had made clear that we may not return from transporting the Maker device. Most took my warning to heart. I know that RFC Grimm filed a Last Will. As did Corporal Blackstone, who also left his wedding ring behind for his wife who would arrive within a few days. The others meditated as Sergeant Sssahlissstaah, trained as Ranger Softpaws, or enjoyed the hospitality of my House. The Explorer consulted with Legionary members of my House Guard. They confirmed that the Maker device was active, but appeared dormant.

We departed late in the morning, heading east, then turning north toward Kore. Per orders, we left our Ranger Cloaks and Pins behind. It was unusual. I have spent the last five years in the green of the cloak, going without felt exposed, somehow. Yet, being back in the saddle was exhilarating.

The drudgery of command fell away as the miles passed under Thunder’s hooves. Despite the nature of the mission, I felt uplifted. And, to travel with the team I founded felt right. Five years, and again I command the first Ranger Team of Echer’Naught. It seems almost ordained.

We arrived late withing sight of Kore. Rather than enter the city, we turned west, and camped along the road to Rhion. Knowing the device is active lead me to caution. If we camped within a city, and the device activated, or our enemies attacked civilians to get to our column, I could not forgive myself. So many have died upon my orders, but life is precious. Never spent lightly, or without the greatest cause. I could not in good conscience endanger innocents, so we camped alone, away from collateral damage.

That charming thought keeping me occupied, I tried to make the best of our situation, and I must say. Camping that night was pleasant. Alpha Team conducted their business like professional soldiers. We have come so far from the trio of Rangers bounding around Echer’Naught with little clue what we were doing.

I could not be more proud. And, I have lamented so long that I have been unable to form personal bonds with the iterations of the team over the years. On this trip, for such time we have together, I am committed to getting to my Rangers. My Team.

In the FIRST place, I passed along wisdom I inherited from my first Sergeant. Spice is life. Properly seasoned, old boot leather makes a passable meal. Just the act of cooking stew and sharing it with the team was cathartic. I have missed this.

Funny thing. Over the years, I developed certain habits. Years in the saddle taught me to care for your mount first, gear second, and yourself last. Small things like that. I don’t know. It wasn’t until I caught Blackstone staring at my sword that I realized somewhere along the way I got into the habit of sinking the blade into stone rather than lying it down, or sticking the blade in dirt. Its just, when in the field, you have to set it somewhere, right? Most warriors lean their swords against trees, or lie them on bedrolls. Well, after every time you have to clean the blade, and polish.

Somewhere along the way, I must have idly stuck the blade into a stone and it sank in, stuck tight. Magic sword, right? I have no idea when that started. Just one of those habits.

White Stagg 18th, 3127

We take the King’s Road west to Rhion. The trip takes eight days. That being a major highway, traffic was fairly busy, but no one paid us any mind. We could have been any group of travelers.

White Stagg 25th, 3127

Early on the 25th we rumble into Rhion. Despite my attempts at subterfuge, the gate guard identified me instantly, cloak or no. But, he was smart enough to realize my intent, so, to the best of his ability, made little outward signs of recognition. I wonder how Longtail does it? The woman spends her LIFE in anonymity. Perhaps when I return, if I return, I shall schedule some lessons on how NOT to appear as Colonel Wolfhaven.

We were waved through the gates with perfunctory inspection. Rhion bustled with activity as it does. We rolled through, and then turns south, passing beyond the River Wall to the lower docks. there, we rolled out cargo onto a pier, away from the population. Once secure, I asked Sergeant Sssahlissstaah to venture into the river for some fresh fish, while I dispatched Sir Mansfried, and Corporal Blackstone for more command fare. I worked with the delightful Gravelheart setting up camp.

That night we had fresh fish, boiled and spiced rice, and heady Olaran ale. Ah, the life. I tried to enjoy myself, to revel in the company. We must treasure these moments. In the future it is our memories that must sustain us for the trials ahead.

The old habits came back hard. I worked with the Rangers of Alpha Team, teaching the to care for their mounts as a true knight. I hope I was congenial company. It appeared so. Though, I doubt any would have the temerity to say otherwise?

White Stagg 26th, 3127

According to my per-arrangements, a barge arrived just after dawn on the 26th. The Maker’s Device is heavy. Far heavier than its size would dictate. Our best minds feel it has something to do with the device’s power and use. Whatever the case, transporting across water presented a serious impediment. My only thought was a barge.

And so, just as the sun crested the horizon, a massive river barge bumped against the end of our pier. The captain tied off our end, before Sergeant Sssahlissstaah slowly drove the dwarven wagon off the stone dock. Everyone held their breath as the ropes creaked and the barge pitched. But, all held and we managed to secure the wagon in the center. I admit, the deck road nervously low in the water.

With our cargo secure, we then secured the mounts. Blackstone, Gravelheart, and the Explorer all hugged close to the horses and the wagon. I took post at the prow. If we were to be attacked, this would be as good a time as any. All in readiness, we shoved off and began the slow trek cutting across the Shaintar River. Over the course of the day, we drifted miles down the river. By the time our barge crunched against the sands on the far side we were within a few miles of Stahlhiem. Corporal Blackstone seemed of mixed minds on that matter. However, we were turning north, not venturing into the land of his people.

That night, we ate fresh fish again, and I cautioned them to be watchful as we neared the Malakar Dominion. We were not at war with the Dominion, had not been since the end of the War of Flame. However, they are uneasy neighbors at best. Alpha Team took my warnings to heart.

White Stagg 27th, 3127

In the morning, we ate a warm breakfast before packing out and heading north. The trip took five days as we followed the river on our right. Sergeant Sssahlissstaah seemed to enjoy the nearness, while others did not. Midway through the third day (29th), we turned westward, leaving the river behind us. On the fourth day (30th) we crossed the border into the Northern Gathers.

White Stagg 32nd, 3127

We reached the gather of Bralk. Again, we camped within sight, but not within the gather. Up to now I had followed roads for experience. However, we now entered unsecured lands. While the Goblinesh Gathers are not necessarily hostile, they are hardly allied. So, in order to make ourselves less of a target, I chose to follow less traveled roads. And, we swung farther south than reports indicate the Blood Witch’s fores operate. The hope was to pass unmolested. That did not happen, but all considered we did well.

I did take another opportunity to brief the team on appropriate behavior. So often just taking a moment to caution prevents later misunderstandings which can spiral out of control. I also pulled Softpaws as the forward scout, sending Gravelheart. Goblinesh we encounter may misunderstand her unwillingness to speak. I felt it better to keep her close.

White Stagg 33rd, 3127

Early in the morning, we head west again. Gravelheart was, I assume, distracted by thoughts of lunch because we walked right into an ambush. As it happened, Dominion bandits surrounded and attempted to rob our convoy. There was something indescribably funny about the situation. I have been waylaid many times. My Hammerfall unit stumbled into more than one Kal patrol. During my time with the Rangers, I have been ambushed by every imaginable villain. Abyss, I was once killed by assassins while standing in a command tent on the southern border of Shaya’Nor!

But, to have these, arguably, amateurs attempt to roll our unit was too absurd. I have no doubt Alpha Team could have cut through those “highwaymen” with little difficulty. However, I just could not see the value in wholesale slaughter. Yes, killing the bandits would have ended their depredation. Yet, we had no authority, save self preservation, and if I could end the altercation without unnecessary bloodshed, I intended to do so.

As luck would have it, I traveled with some fairly impressive and terrifying companions. Given the opportunity to reevaluate their course of action, their commander, the Red Bandit, saw the error of his ways and chose cooperation over confrontation. So, we agreed that rather than fighting, we would dine and drink together.

I am not a complete idiot, however. I post a watch on the wagon and ask the Explorer to shoot us some large game for dinner. Gravelheart prepares the spit, while Sir Mansfried and I dole out the ale purchased in Rhion. On the sly, I ask RFC Grimm to add a bit of flavor to the ale. Just enough to help our new friends into their cups. I must say, he performed most admirably. When the hunters returned with the Boar, we roasted and feasted. Everyone drank heavily.

Before bedding down, I pinned the wagon to the ground with my sword, erecting a barrier to prevent any of our new friends from allowing their avarice to overcome their good sense. As it happened, I needn’t have bothered. Grimm’s concoction worked to perfection.

Gray Winds 1st, 3127

In the morning, Alpha Team woke to two dozen dozing bandits. Mansfried’s ale, with a bit of help from Grimm, rendered the entire camp unconscious. I sincerely doubt any roused before noon. But, to be safe, we moved out quietly, letting them sleep of the drunk. By noon, we were miles away.

Some of the team commented on my choice of action. I pointed out that my Manor Home’s House Guard is commanded by Gendarre and his men who were formerly Prelacy Soldiers, bandits, and servants of Tempest. My Barony was defended by Sir Regillus and members of his Tempest Explorator legion. I welcomed them into my family. My wife is a Shayakar, and my brother in law a werewolf. Kill an enemy, you have one fewer enemies. Turn an enemy to a friend and you achieve the same, but then have one more ally.

The trek across the Northern Gathers was intense, but uneventful after that small interlude.

Gray Winds 11th, 3127

11 days later, we arrived at the foothills of the Black Mountains. During our turn north, we passed the hallowed ground were Grendel had been buried. I could see the great pall fall over the team at the reminder of his loss. As sad as his passing is, the devotion of him men proves his life was not in vain.

Gray Winds 12th, 3127

On the 12th, we arrived at the Arakk pass. At our best speed we were looking at a five day hike. Winter was setting in and at the best of times the crossing would be difficult. Under the conditions, nearly impossible. Worse, the Arakk pass had become hostile over the years. The Blood Witch’s forces were in the area, that much we knew. There were also Dwergs and Darkness creatures. Tempest. Bandits.

To make the crossing would require coordination, teamwork, and luck. I spread the team out, scouts and tails I took point. At some point, I expected an attack. I was right.

Gray Winds 13th, 3127

In the morning, with bone numbing cold setting in, we began our ascent. It took three days of pushing, pulling, and straining to get to the top of the pass. Given what I was asking my Rangers to achieve, I took it upon myself to push hard, remain on duty for the duration.

Gray Winds 15th, 31127

We reached the top. Damn it was cold. Light snow drifted down. Nothing stuck, but is sapped the strength from your bones. Near the 13th, I felt something approaching. An evil. Darkness.

Alpha Team are good. Top of their game. But the device took priority. So, I ordered Sergeant Sssahlissstaah to hold position while I engaged the enemy forces above us. Alpha Team instantly moved into position.

The horde grew closer. Leaving Thunder I hiked up the cliff on foot. When I reached a rocky plateau above our camp, I found a squad of dwergs and various other spawn of evil. A sizable party. I don’t believe they were hunting us in particular. Or perhaps they had some sense of the powerful magic of the device. Either way, they sensed my presence.

In the flickering shadows of my blade in the night, it was hard to get an exact count. At least a quarter had some form of invisibility. Best guess, some thirty all told.

I closed before they could take the advantage. Battle was brutal, and relatively swift. Unfortunately, I did not pay close enough attention to Alpha Team’s most recent missions or I might have made different choices. At some point, one of their casters hit me with entanglement and enfeeblement. Nasty spell, effective. I managed to throw it off, but the ruckus stirred up some nearby Wyverns. Storm variant.

One of them at least, went for the team on the pass. I could feel them, Blackstone’s channeling, the Explorer’s arcfire I pressed hard, cutting through the last of the arachnaurs, nasty half spider/half shayakar monsters.

From below, I could hear the battle with they wyvern. With a final blow, I dropped the dwerg commander and leaped down to support the team. As it happened, they did not require my assistance. The Explorer had already slain the beast with a single shot through the eye.

Unfortunately, the wyvern was crouched on top the wagon when it died. 15 feet and 1500 pounds of Storm wyvern corpse draped over our wagon and the device. Huh? It was unexpected,.

Fortunately, Softpaws and Blackstone had some idea of how to field dress and butcher the beast. However, when they tried to cut into the body, their blades couldn’t even scratch the surface. Only one blade could.

So, I spent the next five hours carving up a wyvern corpse with my father’s blade…

And, surprisingly, that was one of the most disgusting experiences of my life. Blood, gore and awful everywhere. And the stench. Oh Archanon the stench.

RFC Grimm, however, knelt in the pooling blood crying fat tears of joy. We would have finished an hour sooner had he not insisted on recording and taking samples of EVERYTHING. And I mean, EVERYTHING! Understand, I am also a student of the natural sciences. However, when I’m trying to get my exposed team off a mountain, my concerns are less with scientific curiosity, and more survival.

Gray Winds 16th, 3127

As dawn approached, the last of the wyvern was pushed off the ledge into the chasm below. We were all tired and hot, despite the chill. I was covered in blood and gore. Everyone else was in various states of distress. And then, the Explorer opened the wagon.

By the Ascended.

Every bit of run off that did NOT find its way over my chest and arms, or run off into the slurry of blood and snow, filled the wagon. There was now several hundred pounds of intestine, organ, meat, and offal filling the wagon, completely submerging the device in a red and black swamp of slurry. It was…unpleasant.

With great effort, I called all hands on deck as we bailed the butchering run off, by hand, out of the wagon. That moment will stay with me for many years, for a number of reasons.

Finally, we had reduced the level of filth. Nothing to be done about the stench.

I have seen great acts of heroism in my years of service, and each one left an indelible impression upon me. But, seeing the Explorer climb back into that wagon, sliding across the bloodsoaked boards to his perch guarding the device ranks as one of the more self sacrificing. It was as heartening as it was disturbing.

That done, we formed up and started down the back side of the pass. And there we were presented with yet a new horror. In addition to the stench, and for many of us, congealing blood, added to it was the high pitched, ear shattering shriek of the wagon’s breaks as Sssahlissstaah rode them down the pass for two days. One would think that prolonged exposure to the unpleasant odor and noise would render one immune. But, as it happens, over the course of the ride back down the mountains, the timbre and volume of the squealing breaks changed often enough to render it ever present. The odor, equally, continued to worsened, if such a thing can be comprehended.

There was little conversation those two days. And, as bad as it was for most of us, and it was inhumanly bad, the Explore bore the brunt. His fortitude in the face of such horrors is worthy of respect.

Over the next two days we suffered

Gray Winds 17th, 3127

Late on the 17th, we shrieked into Arakk. the Guardian orcs at the picket post were so overcome by our stench, that one of them was forced to empty his stomach into the nearby bushes. But, we were allowed to pass. Upon arriving at the Gather, the welcome party was equally offended and directed us to a nearby water source to douse ourselves. I relieved the Explorer, giving him first bath. I climbed into his personal hell, and quickly gained even more respect for the Builder.

In teams we bathed, washed the blood from our armor, and changed into fresher clothes. I was one of the last. The goblinesh of the Gather had generously offered lye soap and other means of cleaning. We even scrubbed out the wagon as best we could. When all was done, I met with the Mak Torkash. We were welcomed to the gather, and my Rangers ate well.

Gray Winds 18th, 3127

We broke our fast with our new Goblinesh allies, and rolled out before dawn. When we were clear, I paused for an update and informed the team that we would be skirting the Defiant Lands, a lawless, and dangerous region ruled in many parts by our adversaries. Once they were suitably warned, we followed the mountains north for three days, occasionally encountering ever more primitive orc warbands. But, save for one tense standoff, we passed through unmolested.

Grey Winds 20th. 3127

Late on the 3rd day, the 20th, Softpaws falls back to report riders approaching. Sure enough, 10 heavily armored stormfyre warriors crested the rise. I’m unsure if my relief showed as I rode forward to greet the Legio Heroes escort I had been expecting for the last day.

It was good to be in friendly territory.

Late that night, we arrived at the Legion Keep. We rolled the wagon into the palisaded camp at the base of the cliff. Well, I suppose it counts as a town now, at least a village. How it has grown in the last few months. Warriors from across Shaintar and beyond assembled for the common good. Damn inspiring.

I am still not fool enough to let my guard down, so I set a single rotating guard on the wagon, with the Explorer staying close by on his own volition. The others, I relieve of duty. They earned it. Everyone went to find food, ale, companionship, and baths.

My first stop, after rubbing down Thunder, was to find a washtub large enough for my horse, and sink into that for about a day. Once I was clean, I suited up and went to find the ground commander’s tent.

When I arrived, there was already an assemblage. Builders, Tinkers, Warriors, Legionnaires. They snapped to attention at my approach, but I waved them down, sat, and ate till I as full. Only then did I allow a situation report. As expected, all was in readiness for the following day.

Our best dwarven engineers and Builders had been busy constructing the crane that would haul the device up 300 feet to the Legion Keep above. Legion forces, and allies had assembled to defend the site, while a second force of 200+ Legionnaires were assembled to head off any assault. And we WOULD be attacked. Our enemies would not have missed the arrival of the device. The fact that they failed to catch us on the road I offer up to both good planning and fortune.

All was in readiness. So, I begged my leave and slept.

Grey Winds 21st, 3127

In the morning, I called the Alpha Team together and explained the operation. To Sergeant Sssahlissstaah I gave assignments. She sent the Explorer and Grimm up to the crane. She and Mansfried stayed below. Blackstone followed along, walking through the stone, with Softpaws and Gravelheart patrolling the switchback. Legion soldiers waited at every level, with more above and below. In the air, aevakar patrolled. We were as prepared as we could reasonable be.

With that, we rolled the wagon onto a lift, chained it down. Unhitched the draft horses. I took a post on the wagon. When all reported ready, I have the signal and the massive clockwork and arcfire crane began to laboriously lift the device into the air. As soon as we were clear, I tapped into the sword, my power, and my blood to erect a barrier around the platform. And there I sat for over 8 hours.

At dusk, I saw a flurry of activity below and the Legion column march north. On the horizon I could see a growing cyclone and the greenish glow of the Wild. They were coming. And all I could do was to sit.

At sunset, the Legion platform came into view and with a bone rattling clank, the guide chains hit the stops. Levers were thrown, gears ground, and arcfire generators shrieked. I felt the platform jerk, and then slide in toward the mountain. After another 10 minutes, the platform lowered gently to the ground…we had succeeded.

I dropped the shield as dwarves, tinkers, and Builders swarmed the platform. They dropped the chains, unbound the wagon, then tipped the platform till the wagon rolled onto a set of tracks.

It was the damdest thing. As I stood watching in wonder, they clamped the wagon to some clockwork engine, then fired up an arcfire generator and the wagon started rolling along the track under its own power!!!

What I could do with such if tracks were built between cities!

When the wagon reached the wall, a team of dwarven stonesingers opened a hole in the wall and the wagon rolled into the mountain. Behind them, the wall closed again and that was the end of it. I relieved my teams, and went to speak to Commander Garrus. He was in contact with a Legion farspeaker embedded with the troops. The battle had been intense, and the Legion company was preparing to withdraw, but once the device passed into the mountain, the storm fused Wild attacks lessened. Clearly, they had expected easier prey. Predictable.

Likely they had spies in the camp. It was all but inevitable.

By the 13th hour, the battle was done. We suffered 10 percent casualties, but retreated in good order.

With the device on its way to the Great Arc Gate, my teams off duty, the battle over, and the keep secured. I found my office, my bed.

Now I sleep.

Your most obedient servant,

Lord Mayor Wolfhaven, Colonel

Heroe’s Keep, Defiant Lands

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Possible Last Will and Testament of Gilbert Grimm
I Really Hope I Don't Die

We are currently resided in the Wolfhaven manor and I have to say that the craftsmanship is astonishing. Working with Blackstone I can tell that this entire manor was crafted by stone singers. Needless to say it is a good place to write one’s………. will. We’ve been tasked with escorting a high priority package to an undisclosed location, and with its nature I have no idea of where we are taking it. Wolfhaven and The Explorer seem very on edge and that is unsettling. We all know they are creatures from the fringes of our understandings and their knowledge of “our” world frightens me and when they are uneasy, maybe even afarid, we all should be. That is why I am writing this now because I cant help believe this may be my last time to.

So I’ll keep it short and sweet: Everything goes to my Mother and Sister.

Respectively,
RFC Gilbert Grimm

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RFC Ingrid Snow Personal Report
Familar Wolves

Lord Mayor, Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander
Commander of the Legio Heroes
Wolfhaven Barony, Olara

7th Day of White Stagg, Year 3127 Under the Light

White Stagg 7th, 3127

A request arrived on my desk. RFC Ingrid Snow, recently on Maternity Leave requested to speak with me concerning personal matter. Regional Headquarters informed me that Ingrid Snow, McKenzie Shan, AND Steelwing departed Echer’Naught on the 7th, heading north.

White Stagg 9th, 3127

Late on the 9th, my border watch signaled that the Rangers had arrived. Within the hour, they rode up into the courtyard. I was busy in the office, but my Baroness and the staff greeted the Rangers. We invited them to dine with us that evening.

We all dine the family dining hall. Echer’Naught’s recent misfortune, nearly all of our extended family had been relocated to the Barony. Only the Regillus’ and the Longtail’s remained in the city.

After dinner, we retired to a sitting room to discuss. I was aware that both Mrs. Snow and Mrs. Shan had been walking the paths, both had an affinity for animals. She sought my permission to select a Wolfhaven wolf as her familiar.

She is not the first who has come to our lands to seek out the wolves, but few are chosen. A few, over the years, have paid with their lives. Before she attempted her task, I felt it important to speak to her of the Legend of Wolfhaven. Every Great and Minor House have their own origin Legends and tales. And my own is little different.

Long before the founding of Olaran, the ancestors of the Wolfhaven House were scattered, loosely allied horse people, known as the ritter, or riders. They alternatively warred and traded with the elves of Landra’Feya, whose forest was many times larger.

However, when they reached the lands now known as the Wolfhaven lands, the ritter came into conflict with the large, intelligent wolves who preyed upon the horse herds of the ritter. For generations, wolves and man warred for the land. Centuries before the founding of Olara, one hunter, Chief among the Ritter, slew the largest and most dangerous pack of wolves, all but the Alpha male and female.

For days, the great hunter tracked the wolves deep into the forges to the north until he managed to wound the male. Yet, the wolves managed to escape. The hunter continued to track and realized that he was closing on the wolves. However, the female did not leave her wounded mate’s side.

Eventually, the great hunter cornered the wolves in a box canyon. When he reach them, he found the male near death, and the female standing over her mate. When the Ritter raised his spear, he looked into her eyes and saw a deep sadness, but intelligence, and wisdom.

The Ritter realized his terrible mistake and laid down his weapons. He retreated from the valley and returned to his people to tell them of his hunt, and the wolves. Soon, other Ritter lay down their weapons in order to live in peace with the wolves. And yes, some of their herds were taken, but only the sickest and weakest. By allows the wolves to cull the weak, the Ritter herds grew stronger, and better than any other clan.

One by one, the other horselords fell under the Ritter banner. When the Bear asked the riders of the west to join his battle against the Kal, the descendants of the great Ritter joined him. They fought, and won their independence. In recognition, they were granted the lands of their birth. So they would never forget, the Ritter named themselves Wolfhaven. It has been so ever since.

To this day, killing a wolf in my lands is a capital offense. And, there are legends that none who share my blood have ever been harmed by wolves. There are even older tales that suggest the wolves protect the lost children of my House, though I have never seen such.

It growing late, I note to Mrs. Snow that the white wolf on our banner is the one of legend. That she is rumored to still live, these many generations later. And, I told Mrs. Snow that if she desired to seek out the wolves, that she had my permission, but if she were attacked, killing a wolf in self defense would be no excuse. The penalty is death.

I retired with my great lady. Though, I gathered that Mrs. Snow was set on her task. She and the other rode out, to the west, where I had told her the larger packs hunt.

The rest, I learned the following day, after she and her family had returned.

Mrs. Shan, Mrs, Snow and their husband, Steelwing, rode out that evening shortly after I retired. They rode several hours to the west into the rolling grasslands where our great herds roam. At the 13th hour, they begin to hear the how of wolves, many of the packs calling in the night. Soon, they begin to see eyes glowing in the night.

A larger pack of about two dozen approached them, but staying far enough back to run. My House may not hunt them, but that does not mean they face no dangers. Mrs. Snow senses the two Alphas. Not Soulbright, but powerful in Life.

Wisely, she dismounted and lowered herself before the wolves. I instructed her to treat them as she would kings, and in doing, she likely preserved her own life and that of her wife and husband. The Alpha female approached to smell her.

Mrs. Snow, being a Druid, was able to speak with, and understand, the wolves. The Alpha idenfitied Ingrid as Grasslands who smell of storm, and Kenzie Bitter Flames. They would not approach Steelwing, which was just as good for him it seems.

Though the Alpha had no hunters to spare, she knew of one wolf that might help Ingrid. The pack moved off, but the Alpha led Ingrid, and only Ingrid north. A short distance away, the Alpha female stops to indicate a smaller grey wolf eating the carcass of a fresh kill. Here, the Alpha leaves.

Approaching as before, Ingrid introduces herself to the wolf, and asks the wolf to join her pack, to hunt. The grey was able to identify much of her team by the smells left on her clothes and gear. She even picked out my scent, which is known to the wolves. In truth, anyone of my bloodline.

The wolf calls herself Hunts Alone, and agreed to join Ingrid’s pack. Ingrid nicknamed her grey. They sleep together by the kill.

White Stagg 10th, 3127

In the morning, they return to Mrs. Shan and Steelwing. After which, they return to the manor in time to break their fast at my table. Sasha, nearly twice Grey’s size, was none too please by the interloper, but no blood was shed. Sasha is NOT from my lands, rather far to the north.

The three Rangers ate and spoke of their adventures. I congratulated her on her success, and welcome grey to the Rangers. It was only proper.

I invited the Rangers to stay, but Mrs. Shan and Steelwing were still on duty and need to return. After a brief repast, they all mounted, and returned to the city.

White Stagg 12th, 3127
My daily report included a note that the trio had returned safely, in the company of a grey wolf. I was pleased. Then to other duties.

Your most obedient servant,

Lord Mayor Wolfhaven, Colonel

Wofhaven Barony, Olara

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Campaign Report 127
Moving the Maker's Machine

Lord Mayor, Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander
Commander of the Legio Heroes
Wolfhaven Barony, Olara

17th Day of White Stagg, Year 3127 Under the Light

Much happened in my absence from the city. I find that I am away far too often, but duty calls. What follows details the events within Echer’Naught leading to my assuming command of Alpha Team, and our preparations to depart on a long ranging mission to secure the Maker device.

White Stagg 1st, 3127

3AM

Once operations were under control, I climbed out of the mines and joined Major Hawksclaw. We gathered my personal guard, and with, Ma’avi Fr’eki in our company, headed north and west to a campsite used by Ma’avi when he ventured to Echer’Naught prior to our meeting. Apparently the demon had tracked him there. As ONLY Ma’avi could have any recollection of the remote camp, it would prove to the demon that he was in fact facing the right man.

Why such a being cared for such things, I cannot say. But we left, riding hard, to rescue Eris Moonsilver.

Even as I was riding out of the West “Elven” Gate, Alpha Team was just being relieved from duty. Though it may not have occurred to the Rangers, as exhausted as they were, Alpha Team had been on active call since well before dawn on the 33rd. In fact, they were approaching 24 hrs of near constant duty.

As soon as the peril passed, fatigue overcame them. Each staggered to whatever rest suited them. Sergeant Sssahlissstaah managed the Sacred Grove before collapsing. She was joined in the grove by Rangers First Class McKenzie Shan and Ingrid Snow. Though, not I understand together. The sister-wives were checking on RFC McKenzie’s bear companion, Volstagg.

Corporal Arimar Blackstone retired to the dwarven run Forgehome Inn. With many of the paying guests evacuating during the attack, the Inn was mostly empty. Forced from their Embassy, the dwarves of Stahlheim rented the entire Inn as their new, temporary facilities. There, Blackstone’s wife, Ruby, had been sent. He retired to be with her.

The Explorer returned immediately to the temporary Regional command tents, namely those of the Builders and Siegemaster Whit. I am told the Explorer found a cot not far from the Arcmancer table and slept in armor, fearing straying to far from the events unfolding.

RFCs Egon Mansfried and Gilbur Gil Grimm retired to the Yomenie Curu Academy. Apparently, Grimm is now a visiting professor of Alchemy in Ash’s grand Magic school. Sir Mansfried was there merely to continue his assignment of keeping tabs on Grimm.

RFC Ranna retired to Murvoth’s Chapel of the Silver Unicorn. From what I heard, she staggered in, collapsed in the garden and fell asleep. Not knowing proper protocal, the Silver Paladins posted a guard and waited for her to wait.

It is strange. This iteration of Alpha Team is not so dissimilar from the past. After hard fought battles, we would also retire to our own endeavors. There is something oddly comforting about that. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

1PM

Having slept many hours, the team began to trickle back into command. More or less. All members naturally returned after an extended period of no communication from command. RFCs Shan and Snow rather went in search of Shan’s rat friend, “Chuckles.” I do not believe they ever found him.

In my absence, clearing the mines and securing the device fell to Colonel Anderson. With Alpha Team’s return, he scheduled a meeting in a house on the north side of Main Street which had been rented to provide secure locations. Since none could located RFCs Shan and Snow, Colonel Anderson tasked one of the Ranger Adepts to make contact.

Eris Moonsilver’s abduction and absence greatly hindered any operations. We have grown so accustomed to her ready access that sustaining operations with our out of commission has revealed a glaring weakness in our battle readiness. Every available telepathic Adept and Farspeaker were secured to establish lines of communication.

The wayward Rangers were located somewhere on the south east part of the city and commanded to return to the temporary HQ. Once there, Colonel Anderson was able to brief them on the situation.

He informed the Alpha Team that Lt. Eris Moonsilver was unavailable for the duration. Though, per orders, any further information was gagged. On top of our numerous issues, the last thing we wanted was to invite attack from enemies preying on our weakness in Moonsilver’s absence.

Colonel Anderson also explained some of what happened in the mines. We cannot say where the menagerie of creatures originated, but, again, the prevailing theory is that they were translocated due to unforeseen side effect of the Maker’s mass teleportation. This is merely a theory, and one of many. Nevertheless, despite our victory over the Builders, and the Maker, we still faced a large infestation beneath the city. Conservative estimates calculate 3-4 months before the mines are safe for any meaningful exploration.

As for the Maker’s device. I ordered that it be secured and tasked my own guard to see to it. I know all too well that the vultures will soon circle, not to mention our enemies. The sooner we relocated and secure the device the better. Unfortunately, some effect of the aborted spell cause the device to drastically increase in weight, almost as if it were anchoring itself in place?

Plans were already in the works to remove the device from the mines, but the would take time. And then, it would have to be moved quickly and secured against possible capture by enemy forces. All amidst the chaos of the city’s collapse and the monsters still roaming the mines.

Alpha Team, however, had earned some rest. So, they were put on light duty until such time as the device could be moved. At which point, they would be assigned to the device’s security detail.

Oh, and they were notified that the rich crysarium mines were owned my Sir Calaban Rabenklau. I can only imagine how well that was received. Of the city regulars encountered by the Rangers, only Sir Halten was more disliked than Sir Rabenklau. I only hope the Rangers can learn to overcome their prejudice because we will be working far more closely with both Sir Halten and Sir Rabenklau here on in.

In addition to owning rights to the mines, Sir Rabenklau has also contracted many of the Stormguard in the city to provide additional security. That decision was NOT well received by High Command, but there is little we can do. His mines are private property and the Stormguard have a working understanding of crysarium. Also, as he pointed out, it is better to employ them gainfully than to battle them in the streets.

Still, I feel there is something else at work.

Alpha Team was dismissed to make personal arrangements.

White Stagg 2nd, 3127

The day after, the assembled commanders met to dissect the battle and to develop strategies to counter another potential assault. Colonel Anderson, Captain Vasser, Commander Schenkle, Sir Halten, and many other were in attendance. Due to his command of the Rangers after my sudden, and involuntary, departure, Sir Mansfried was also invited to contribute his thoughts on the battle.

As I understand, RFC Grimm joined him and was required to sit on a bench the rest of the day while Sir Mansfried conferenced with the commanders. I only regret that I was not at the meeting, but my son, Alfred, was and he made sure to memorize all necessary detail. With the mines open, we now have an entirely new front in the city to defend.

To his credit, Sir Mansfried acquitted himself admirably. All attending spoke well of his contributions. I know that Sir Halten has taken an interest in the young Ranger. It is no secret that Sir Halten would prefer to exclude entry into Echer’Naught Rangers all but Humans and dwarves. The latter he only accepts due to Royal policy. In fact, I am certain Sir Halten would exclude women as well.

It was also on the 2nd that RFC Ranna requested honorable discharge from the Rangers. Her experiences have changed her. First, losing Grendel. Then gaining the Blood Witch’s corruption. Then finding herself pregnant with his child. Now, her near death, or death, experience has altered her in ways we cannot fully understand.

And so, she spend the day filing the necessary paperwork to officially leave the Rangers on the 6th of White Stagg. She joined Alpha Team Festival Moons 8th, 3126. She has served the Rangers for 1 year and five months. During that time, she served under Captain Volstagg, Sergeant Grendel, and Sergeant Sssahlissstaah. Ranna battled across the desert, defeated a Xaos god, fought her way out of Kal’Montak’s Blood Pits, escaped the Kal, battled Tempest and the Blood Witch, saved A’Morgal, and most recently Echer’Naught itself. She found love, lost her mate, and gained a child. So much has happened. I can understand her need to leave and chart her own course. I only hope she knows that wherever she goes, she is, and will always be, a member of Alpha Team.

White Stagg, 4th, 3127

Reports from the west gate inform me that early on the 4th, they were surprised by RFCs Shan and Snow arriving on battlements, looking expectantly into the west. Their Life Bond with Steelwing alerted them both to his impending arrival. Moments later, the aevakar arrived himself, though much changed.

It seems that during his encounter with Novri in Almahrad, the Emissary saved him from death, but not without drastically altering him physically, and perhaps more. His wings are now a shiny white silver, his eyes as well. Though he appears to have the same attitude as before, Ranger Adepts were tasked to examine him for…other…changes. None were found, though I am not entirely sure we would be able to tell.

At least his wives were happy for his return. Or I assume. I know how little Lady Wolfhaven enjoys my extended absences. So, I can imagine their relief at seeing him alive warred with their frustration at his rash actions.

At Steelwing’s return, Sergeant Sssahlissstaah assembled the Alpha’s for another meeting in the prepared rooms near the temporary HQ. There, Steelwing explained his actions on the mountain and informed the team that Novri had fallen in battle against Captain Volstagg. But, Novri was not killed by Volstagg. Rather, Aronzo the werewolf with Blood Witch allies took custody of Novri, payment for his attack on Gram Gram’s warband. This was all negotiated by the Emissary who took possession of Aronzo’s cloak in exchange.

Hearing of Novri’s defeat is all to the good, but I am unsure about dealing with the Blood Witch’s forces. Nevertheless, the Emissary has discretion in Almahrad and routinely acts in interests contrary to those of the East. However, with threats looming from outside our Realm, it is imperative that we gain cooperation from many of the independent factions within Shaintar. And so, the Emissary continues forging relations.

Here, Ranna delivered her own news, informing Alpha Team that she would be leaving the Rangers by the end of the week, on the 6th. She was not the only departure. Ingrid Snow requested maternity leave until delivery of her child. And, with her, McKenzie Shan and Steelwing requested transfers to the Echer’Naught garrison so that they might remain with their wife. Steelwing also intimated that he had a higher calling to protect Ingrid’s child, given the intervention of the Emissary in facilitating the unprecedented union of a human and an aevakar.

With so many departures, the Rangers elected to host a general going away party at the Wayfarer’s rest after duty on the 6th. I regret that I could not attend. However, I was occupied elsewhere.

With new Rangers to be added to the team, Sergeant Sssahlissstaah wisely requested that Sir Mansfried speak with Sir Halten on the team’s behalf and arrange training for the upcoming mission.

White Stagg 6th, 3127

After duty hours, the Alpha Team retired to the Wayfarer’s Rest for a well deserved celebration. There, in one of the restaurants back rooms, the team joined for a proper send off for Ranna, Shan, McKenzie, and Steelwing. However, the surprises were not done.

In a particular display of generosity, the Explorer gifted Ranna with an arcfire gauntlet weapon. I’ve since been briefed on the schematics. Powered by a backpack generator, the gauntlet fires beams or blasts of arcfire. It is truly a masterpiece, and bespoke for Ranna. He calls it the “Deus Ex Mogina” in homage to her Great Crossbow Mog. I know that she has dedicated herself to ridding the land of Gram Gram and her warband. And NOW she has the tools to do so.

Afterwards, the team drank and laughed long into the night. It truly is the simple things.

Before departing that eve, Blackstone presents one final gift, a heartstone from the recently discovered bedrock beneath the city. To always remind her of home.

White Stagg 7th, 3127

In the morning, I am aware that the Alpha Team command staff, Sergeant Sssahlissstaah, Corporal Blackstone, and RFC Mansfried had a meeting with Sir Halten. He informed them of the training scheduled, and that they would be receiving new team members to replace their recent losses.

I find Sir Halten more accommodating when there is a human, Olaran knight within the command staff for the team. But, to his credit, he tasked his own men to set up a training camp north of the city at the Festival Grounds.

When the Rangers arrived, they found the Olarans already in place and waiting. Meanwhile, at the local Ranger HQ, replacements were already being routed. Two had arrived in Echer’Naught.

The first, Cairn Gravelheart, dwarf, was but a trainee, but showed great promise. The other, Malerie Softpaws is well known to the Ranges. She previously served on Beta team under my son, Lieutenant Alfred Wolfhaven. She survived Beta Teams “destruction.” Since then she has floated. Now, she has returned to the city, taken the oaths, and been transferred as a scout to Alpha Team.

Alfred personally walked Softpaws to the team’s training site. At a bit before noon, Alpha Team began their training. I must say I am impressed with Halten’s attention to training, though I suspect he rather enjoyed beating up on the team.

To help the Rangers, the Olarans had set up a wagon on one end of the jousting arena. They were instructed to set up their perimeter, and try and cross the grounds. The Olarans would try to stop them. Simple.

On the first day, the Olarans threw at them nine foot tall Animated suits of armor which allied Stone Singers and druids repaired in battle.

White Stagg 8th, 3127

On day two, the Olarans used their stone druids to open the earth and swallow the cart along with the Rangers.

White Stagg 9th, 3127

On day three, they unveiled wagon mounted Hammerfall Heavy crossbows and unleashed a fusillade of fire.

White Stagg 10th, 3127

On day four, the Olarans requested assistance from my Order, the Hammerfall Riders. Before reaching the halfway mark, a dozen riders tore through them, disabling the wagon.

White Stagg 11th, 3127

On the fifth day of training, the Olarans changed tactics entirely. The Halten Sergeant at Arms used an invisibility spell to approach the wagon, then detonated the team with an arcfire bomb. That effectively ended training.

White Stagg 12th, 3127

The 6th day was given to rest, and preparation, as Ranger engineers were almost ready to move the Maker machine.

White Stagg 13th, 3127

In the morning, Colonel Anderson and Sir Halten met with the Rangers, informing the team that they would be moving the engine by that night. To increase security, Alpha Team was joining Beta, and members of Epsilon (engineers), and Gamma (guards) to cordon off the recovery site.

Lt. Wolfhaven had situation command, deploying the teams as needed for overlapping coverage. High Towne by this point had been entirely evacuated. All teams were divided into pairs and assigned alternating patrol routes. Ash and other mages provided spells of protection and concealment. Every effort was made to deter and thwart prying eyes.

9PM

At 9PM, Nell provided a thick fog, enhanced by High Magic concealment spells from Ash and other mages.

10PM

Within an hour, visibility within High Towne was effectively eliminated. During this window, the Maker’s machine was carefully winched out of the hole via a trio of Stahlheim cranes formerly used to repair the breach in the walls. Capable of moving several tonnes apiece, they, along with magical assistance, managed to raise the machine out of the mines onto a waiting dwarven wagon.

11PM

By 11, all was set. The fog was lifted, and team moved to their escort positions.

12:30Pm

It took time, but the route out of the city was cleared and secured. The Explorer was assigned to personally monitor the machine as it rolled north.

13th hour

At the outset of the 13th hour, the wagon was rolling out of the city north, on toward its final destination. Alpha Team provide close support, while Wolfhaven Free Riders ranged out, screening the column. Though, it was very slow going.

They camped a distance from the city in a pre-fortified camp. Every night after, the wagon was secured in camps fortified prior to their arrival.

White Stagg 16th, 3127

Late on the 3rd day of travel, the wagon and escorts arrived at the Wolfhaven Barony north of the city. Here, the Maker Machine was secured within the walls, and the Alpha Team and other escorts were relieved of duty. All but the Explorer, who I do not believe would have willingly left his post.

I was on hand to greet the team, having arrived a few days prior after my mission to rescue Eris Moonsilver. That evening, I hosted the alpha Team. Dining with them and explaining more about their mission.

The Maker device was too valuable to store even at the Barony. Not only that, but it made my home a target. And so, it was to be moved, in secret, to another location. The Alpha Team would be tasked with escorting the device to its new home. The mission would be long, and there was no guarantee of return.

However, I would not send the team on such a mission lightly. And so, to ensure the device arrived safely, I would accompany the team on the assignment. If my Rangers do not return, nor will I. After delivering this dire news, I dismissed them and went to my wife.

Having just returned, she was not pleased that I would be leaving again, and this time for an indeterminate time, but she is an Olaran, by adoption if not birth. She accepted my resolve with equanimity. We were able to offer Corporal Blackstone some piece of mind. We understood the tense political situation involving his wife. The recent attack on Echer’Naught and her relocation had not helped matters.

And so, my wife extended an invitation to spend the intervening time here at the Barony. We offered the services of the House Farspeaker. Ruby Blackstone agreed immediately. I expect her to arrive no later that the 18th.

However, we will be long gone by that time.

In fact, we leave before dawn tomorrow. So, I enjoyed one last evening with my wife. What pains me most is to know that I will very likely not return in time to see the birth of my child. The Baroness is certain that she will be due either late this winter, or very early spring.

It is only at such times I consider the possibility of retiring. But what if I should? What if the next great invasion is not stopped? How could I live with knowing I abandoned a thousand mothers and children to death for the sake of my own happiness?

No, though my heart breaks, in the morning I will kiss my wife goodbye, perhaps for the last time, and leave my unborn child. If I am unwilling to sacrifice, how can I ask others to do so?

Archanon, Lord of Light, and Celesia, Silver Unicorn, please bless this venture. Success could turn these wars in our favor. I cannot contemplate failure.

White Stagg 17th, 3127

I woke this morning, without having slept. My Rangers break their fast. I order them to leave behind cloaks and pins. On this journey, our green will offer no protections.

Before we leave, I allow each time to attend to personal matters. For me, I return to say goodbye to Elyanna, and to kiss little Will.

It is time.

Your most obedient servant,

Lord Mayor Wolfhaven, Colonel

Wofhaven Barony, Olara

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Campaign Report 126 (Addendum)
Saving Eris Moonsilver

Lord Mayor, Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander
Commander of the Legio Heroes
Wolfhaven Barony, Olara

4th Day of White Stagg, Year 3127 Under the Light

I have returned from rescuing Lady Eris Moonsilver. She is safe, though not unscathed. Nor is Hawksclaw. The primrose path is paved with the best of intentions. And, I am to blame. Always to blame.

White Stagg 1st, 3127
With the ground still shaking, I abandoned my city to save my family. the choices we make. They define us, and haunt us.

We rode hard, north west. I, Major Hawksclaw, and Ma’avi Fr’ek. May personal guard rode behind, but I hoped not to put them in danger. Despite their desire otherwise.

No, this was my burden. I agreed to shelter Ma’avi. It was, I thought, the kind choice. The right choice. Fate has a way of turning such intention to ash.

So, we rode. Two days. Stopping only to rest the horses. Hawksclaw said little. I could fee his anger. It mirrored my own. He was angry with me, and Ma’avi. I only raged at myself.

White Stagg 3rd, 3127
We arrived at the burned down husk of a manor home hugging the Elven forests. Presumably Ma’avi had camped here before. I never asked.

I knew this family. They had many daughters. None survived when the Kal attacked Echer’Naught. So many dead. And there, once again, Flame invaded this place.

The demon, in the guise a man, perched atop a lone outbuilding. Flanking both sides, Reaver demons. In the distance, hidden among the rubble, I could feel others, and Eris. She was unconscious. Otherwise, they would all be gone.

Leaving my guard behind, I, with Ma’avi and Hawksclaw proceeded on foot. It galled me, still burns, to have made any deal with a demon, even if unwittingly. But, I am a man of my word, and despite the fact that a demon’s word means nothing, my honor does. So, I delivered Ma’avi as he had promised.

My goal. My ONLY goal was to see Eris safe. So, I addressed the beast, and told him that I would be taking Eris. If he stepped aside, I would not involve myself in his spat with Ma’avi. But one it was concluded, I would wipe his filth from my lands. So he had best flee.

Surprinsgly, he offered her up, with the understanding that I would not prevent his arranged meeting with Ma’avi. I would never have considered, but Ma’avi, for better or worse, seemed content to honor his end. And so, I teleported to where I could feel Eris. She was trapped in bonds of Thaumaturgy, surrounded by Childer and a pair of powerful Acolytes. But, they did as ordered, and stood aside.

Behind me, I could hear the sounds of battle. Though I felt Hawksclaw’s power, he seemed to be holding back. I focused on reviving Eris. Which may, more may NOT, have been wise.

The Childer and Acolytes still hovered, I could feel their desire to kill like a heat against my back, but I ignored them. Eris was all that mattered. Tapping into my strength, I poured healing energies into her.

Somewhere in the distance, Ma’avi cried in pain, and the Demon laughed in triumph.

…and then Eris’ eyes snapped open, glowing bright blue.

I woke, sometime later. The echo of Life and The Way washing over me. Eris was alive, somewhere, and Hawksclaw with her. I THINK they teleported, but I was too dazed to focus on what I was sensing.

All around me, I could smell blood. Climbing to my feet, I surveyed a field of utter carnage. Every Childer and Acolyte was dead. Their eyes burst from their skulls, bleeding from torn sockets, ears, mouth, and nose.

Eris.

My ears rang, my vision swam, and my head felt like it was being crushed in a vice. I staggered back to the battlefield. Ma’avi was unconscious, but not apparently wounded. The demon was gone, and the reavers blood splatters on the walls.

I revived Ma’avir, and explained that his deal with, and loss against, the demon meant that the entire Abyss would be hunting him. I could not bring that upon the people of my city, or my house. But, that I would help him as I could. If Ceynara’s minions caught him, his soul was forfeit.

There was another way. An out. I could send him beyond even Ceynara’s reach. The same offer I made to Von D, and to Streetrunner. Ma’avi declined, though I wonder if he will regret doing so when his sins finally overtake him.

We camped that night with my personal guard. I provided him what I could, but suggested he avoid the city.

White Stagg 4th, 3127

I learned via channels, that Hawksclaw and Eris appeared in the sacred grove that same day. Eris was alive and unharmed, physically. Hawksclaw, I am unsure. I departed with my personal guard, leaving Ma’avi to walk his own path. By nightfall, we reached the Wolfhaven Barony. Baroness Elyanna waited.

It is good to be home, but I fear my path only grows more difficult.

Your most obedient servant,

Lord Mayor Wolfhaven, Colonel

Wofhaven Barony, Olara

View
Campaign Report 126
Attack on High Town; Part Two (Five Year Anniversary Game)

Lord Mayor, Colonel Baron Wolfhaven, Alexander
Commander of the Legio Heroes
Temporary Regional Command at Echer’Naught, Olara

Filed: White Stagg 1st, 3127

Bittersweet. There is no other word. We held the line against the Builders coming to destroy our home. We defeated the monsters in the darkness. Even our fallen comrades came to join us in our final hour. And yet, our victory was not without cost. Much of High Towne suffered severe damage, and the mines beneath present a constant threat of further collapse. Worse, the mines are still teeming with creatures beyond horror. But worst of all, due to my blind willingness to aide an ally, Eris Moonsilver was taken captive by a demon bent on revenge against a guest of House Wolfhaven.

Thunder Hawk 16th, 3127
Weeks before we even knew of the attack on Echer’Naught, I received a personal request from Major Hawksclaw to join him on an outing. For two years, Hawksclaw suffered at the hands of Velkalar while his Alpha Team battled on, under the command of Sergeant Evoran Que’kasaars. I too was gone, beyond this life, after being struck down by darkness, but for less than a year.

Hawksclaw rotted in a hole while his friends died. By the time we found and rescued him, nearly everyone he knew was dead or gone. And no matter how many reports he read, there was always a question, a hole in his heart where Evoran had been. I have the same wound, many times over.

So, at my friend’s request, I cleared a few days off my schedule, much to my staff’s dismay, and I rode out at dawn, passing through North Gate as it opened. Idly I wondered if any of the guards, City or Ranger, saw me through my rather thin disguise. Though, I find that outside of my armor, and without my retinue, I am seldom recognized. People see the power and position, rarely the man.

Stopping on the rise just north of the city, I paused in the morning mist to watched the flow of traffic into the city while waiting for Hawksclaw. I did not have long to wait. He rode out, similarly disguised, a short time later and joined me.

Still within sight of the walls, we kept quite, riding in mostly silence. In an emergency, I could have reached Evoran’s Sacred Grove within the day. But, we were in no hurry. And so, we made our way slowly along the North Barony Road. At night, we pulled off the road and made camp. Just we two.

Memories flooded back. Missions, patrols, drinks at the HQ. For a bit, it was like old time.

Thunder Hawk 17th, 3127
We rose before dawn, cleared our camp, and left barely a trace. Rain pattered down. It was damp and gray. Perfect.

Now clear of the public road, Hawksclaw and I were free to talk, though it was mostly just banter. At some point, he decided to challenge me to a race. It was a friendly competition, and I quite enjoyed the exercise. Thunder won, but it was hardly a fair contest. Hawksclaw rode an elvish pony, and I a Harken Masterbreed Warhorse.

I cannot recall the last time I have simply rode for the joy of riding. That thought makes me sad.

By dusk, we arrived at the east ridge overlooking the grove’s valley. I’ve been there before, but I was not at the battle. I had to rely on the Rangers still living a the time to tell me what happened.

The Ranger’s original Olaran allies died there, below the ridge. RFC Benjamin Toma died alone, laid out below the far rock ridge. Hundreds of men and women spilled their life’s blood across the field before the battle was ended by Evoran’s ultimate sacrifice. So much loss for an empty field of flowers. It’s always that way.

In the center of the field, half way between the ridge and the rocks, Evoran’s Sacred Grove. We camped the night there, overlooking the grove. The mood was solemn. Little was said. Hawksclaw seemed deep in thought. I certainly was.

Thunder Hawk 18th, 3127
In the morning, we ventured into the valley on foot. By the time we reached the trees, an Eldakar druid stood waiting. He ignored me, instead bowing to Hawksclaw, welcoming a fellow follower of Landra. Only the, after Hawksclaw vouched for me, did the elf acknowledge my presence, if barely.

It was rather refreshing, actually.

Entering the grove was…unique. Not like Echer’Naught’s Sacred Grove. But, beautiful. In a bit less than a year, the druids had grown hundreds of massive 200+ foot tall Everwood trees from the burned sapling of Evoran’s tree.

And then, we were there. In the center of the grove, the largest tree. An everwood 300+ feet tall, wrapped in massive rose vine. The thorns alone are 3 feet long and sharp enough to carve Olaran plate.

I waited as Hawksclaw approached the tree. From my distance, I could not hear what he said to Evoran, but the trees rustled, almost as if whispering, and then an acorn the size of a man’s head nearly caved in Hawksclaw’s head as it fell. I did hear a bit of Hawksclaw’s snap at Evoran’s tree, but I’ll refrain from recording here. I could tell the Druids were getting edgy. I take it they don’t get much company, so I stepped up to say my piece.

Sergeant Que’kasaars gave his life to save his team, and hundreds of women and men. There is no greater sacrifice. I have long felt he deserved recognition for his act of bravery. Though his own pin was immolated in his death, I had the Ranger smiths forge a Range Cloak clasp that would stand the test of time. Placing it against the rough bark, I offered silent thanks to a fallen friend, and hero. I felt power flow through hand, warming my palm. When I withdrew my hand, the metal was seared into the bark, a permanent reminder of Evoran’s service. One a member of Alpha Team, always a member.

Our mission accomplished, Hawksclaw and I headed back to our camp, packed, and rode away. The vacation had been pleasant, but duty called. We made good time headed back. By the time we stopped on the 18th, we were almost in sight of the walls.

Thunder Hawk 19th, 3127
At mid-day, Major Hawksclaw and I arrived at Echer’Naught. We made it almost to Center Pointe before we were spotted by an panicked adjutant who “flustered” over. Until that moment, I was not aware that word was a verb. Our cover blown, we shook hands and parted ways. He south to the City HQ, and I north to the Regional.

Raining Leaves 12th, 3127
A man came to me from the west. We have mutual acquaintances. Ma’avi Fr’eki requested to enter my House’s service. There was a small catch. While serving behind lines in the Empire, Fr’eki crossed swords with a demon. Numerous times, I believe. During the last encounter, instead of killing, or being killed, by the demon, he arranged to meet the demon in a year. And, it appeared that the appointed day would be Raining Leaves 18th, 3127. Though I disagreed with making a deal with the demon, I have sworn to protect Light and Life. And so, I invited Fr’eki into my House as a guard. Watch was posted about the city for the demon. Preparations were made to confine and defeat the demon when it appeared.

In the meantime, Ma’avi agreed to remain within the protected grounds of the Wolfhaven Manor. We could not allow his confrontation with the demon to cost collateral casualties. I never imagined how poorly my good intentions would go.

Raining Leaves 18th, 3127
We suspect the Revenge demon arrived in the city, on the 18th, or somewhat before. We HOPED to lure it into the open where he could be isolated. I did not trust it, regardless of its “assurances” to Ma’avi. But, it was clever, too clever. My watchers never spied it, and we could not initiate a more thorough search without tipping our hands, and potentially endangering others. In hindsight, we should have expected something. In this, I failed. And Eris, Samira and their families paid the price.

Harvest Moons 16th, 3127
On the 16th, I invited the Alpha Team, family, and friends to a Harvest meal at the Manor House. My wife was in her element, checking and rechecking preparations. I’ve said it before, but she commands our domestic staff better than any field commander in the heat of battle. She is a marvel. Mostly, I tried to stay our of her way, and work through the daily mounds of paperwork.

That eve we were joined by every active duty member of Alpha Team, and their spouses, most former members who were nearby, and their spouses, and friends of the team over the years. Commander Schenkle attended with Sara on his arm. Sergeant Ravenwood-Regillus attended with Sir Regillus. Lieutenant Alfred Wolfhaven joined us with is fiance, Evelyn Afliem. It was the first time really seeing her as her work is now mostly at the Legion Keep. Others attended, too many to name. But, the house was filled with laughter and light.

Before the meal, I had a surprise announcement. Neither Alfred nor his bride are interested in fame or the glare of public life. So, they chose to affirm their union in private, without great fanfare, at a private dinner with those they love and respect. To no one’s surprise, apparantly, I announced their wedding. The simple ceremony was conducted their in the feast hall, officiated by an elven druid I have never met, but known to Eve. With a few words, their hands were bound in the elvish way.

When the silken rope, wound their wrists, I felt a pulse of power that made my head dizzy. Their aura’s flared, glowed, and then merged. I am no expert at such things, but I believe they Life Bonded in that moment. Alfred never spoke to me of this, but he is his own man. He understands the risks. So often, we are caught between our personal love and our duty. Should Hawksclaw have bound to Eris? His absence nearly destroyed her. And yet, who am I to deny my Rangers a life? Do I have that authority?

After the wedding, we feasted and toasted the new couple. Evelyn was radiant. Alfred seemed happier than I have seen him in…years. I wished them all the happiness they could find, knowing all too well how fleeting such moments may be. And then, the crowds went home and I remained to drink quietly with my son. I was struck by a pang of regret that my own father did not live long enough to experience my own wedding, to see my joy. Until this moment, I had not realized how much he had been robbed.

My feelings were mixed that night as I lay to sleep. Though, rest eluded me for some time. We ask too much of our Rangers. They sacrifice everything, and deserve so much more. They deserve happiness. I only wish it were in my power to grant it.

Harvest Moons 25th, 3127
I discovered only afterwards that RFC Steelwing arrived in Almahrad almost at dusk on the 25th. He managed to toss a letter into Volstagg’s Ranger compound. I have not read the contents, nor will I likely ever do so, but essentially, RFC Steelwing knew that the Winghunter Novri was close. Steelwing was too wounded to survive a fight, and Novri would never engage if he sensed a trap. So, Steelwing asked for Captain Volstagg to come alone, though have backup nearby in case of the worst.

To his credit, Captain Volstagg came to the aid of a fellow Ranger, but he had the wisdom to notify the Rangers, the Prince, and the Emissary. When he arrived, I am told, Steelwing was near death. One wing severed at the joint. But, he was alive. Volstagg went to help him, when Novri, seeing the Captain alone, attempted to assassinate him quickly, before finishing Steelwing. I cannot fathom his reasons as Sir Volstagg is one of the better known duelist produced by the Rangers.

Nevertheless, the two men battled furiously, each grievously wounding the other. A chance blow by Novri nearly skewered the Captain, but Steelwing dove between in a final act, trading his own life to give Volstagg an opening. The Crimson Knight did not fail, running Novri through with his sword. This SHOULD have ended things. But, it was very much the beginning.

Before Captain Volstagg can apprehend or finish Novri, he was stopped by agents of the Blood Witch. Led a by a Morden Vampire, the group consisted of several werewolves, Nightguard, and former Ranger, Aronzo. Or, more appropriately, the werewolf abomination that Aronzo became. They demanded Novri for interrogation and execution. I am aware that during the events surrounding Sergeant Grendel and RFC Ranna’s capture by the Blood Ogress, Gram Gram, and their escape, Novri, who had also been imprisoned by the Blood Witch’s brood, launched a devastating fire attack on the Blood Witch camp. For that, they had dispatched their new ally, the werewolf Aronzo to hunt down and capture Novri.

At this same time, another group materialized. This, the Emissary, Corporal Leora Nazir, and RFC Newt. Though I am unsurprised by the Emissary’s arrival, I am concerned about her actions. She offered Novri to the Morden Vampire in exchange for Aronzo’s corrupted High Magic arcfire cloak. The loss of that item after Aronzo’s corruption and fall concerned me greatly, though I do not know if I would have given up Novri in exchange. Nevertheless, the Morden Vampire conceded, despite vastly superior numbers and turned over the cloak in exchange for Novri. They promised an excruciating death for the Winghunter, though I wonder if it will come to that?

The Emissary then healed Captain Volstagg’s wounds, and, apparently, returned Steelwing from the dead. However, in doing so, altered him forever. Captain Volstagg reported that Steelwing’s wings are now whitesilver. I imagine there are other, less obvious alterations as well. Though he wears a Ranger Cloak, Steelwing is now the Emissary’s agent. I find that happening all too frequently for comfort. We are allied, but I wonder at the Emissary’s motives. The again, the same has been said of me…but those closest.

Rather than taking Aronzo’s cloak for herself, the Emissary and Captain Volstagg turned it over to the Prince to add to his growing collection of ancient arcfire oddities. Willingly turning over such a powerful item seems an odd play for the Emissary, but I have come to expect such maneuvers.

Harvest Moons 33rd, 3127

10:30 PM

With the near death of Corporal Blackstone and RFC Mansfried, I immediately ordered the Rangers to cordon of the sink hole and brought up reinforcements. At that moment, I had no way of knowing if we were facing an invasion from beneath. However, I could not leave the city unprotected, so I mobilized the City Watch under Captain Vasser, and the City Militia under Commander Schenkle. They were under orders to coordinate lock down of the city gates, and active patrols through every street. All current and former members were called up, creating of force of nearly 2000 men to cover the Stockyards, Middle Town, Low Town, the Warhouse District, the four city gates, and Main Street.

I ordered Major Hawksclaw to coordinate with Sir Halten and evacuate High Towne. We established a triage and temporary city at the Fair Grounds north of the city. Any Nobility that could not evacuate to their estates out of the city, would be provided accommodation and protection there.

My Rangers, and all those still in the city after the activation of the Fort Halten Sanitation Works, I called up to assist in evacuations and securing the perimeter of High Towne. Major Hawksclaw’s office managed the entire city and evacuation, save for High Towne. Colonel Anderson coordinated with Kythros and any of the Blood who refused to flee the city.

Leaving me to contend with whatever was emerging from beneath the Beacon Hill. Using every contact and favor, I summoned mages, druids, priests, adepts, paladins, alchemists, and builders from every faction within the city. Even Ash arrived with his senior academics to apply their unique understanding of blended magics.

At the heart, Siegemaster Whit, with his wife and family, worked with the Explorer from Alpha Team to analyze ever piece of information that the growing network of casters could provide. We blanketed the hill with magic, probing though every conceivable means. Confused reports began to trickle in. Large quantities of Crysarium were detected beneath the city, but the readings were obscured. And, the danger seemed to spread throughout the hill, though none of the casters could confirm precisely how or where. Ash’s analysis was the most detailed, but something was disrupting even his Mind’s Eye.

While Hawksclaw evacuated the civilians, and Colonel Anderson the Rangers, Sergeant Major Stormhammer’s team began to pull out vital resources. If we were to lose the Regional Headquarters, we would not lose everything. Unsurprisingly, Malcom refused to leave the Library until all the records were secured. In the end, we were forced to provide him with his own security detail under orders to teleport him away should it come to that.

11:50 PM

Close to midnight a void opened beneath the Echer’Naught prison. Major Hawksclaw was close by, along with members of the Alpha Team, Sergeant Sssahlissstaah and RFC Grimm. They arrived to find the south west corner collapsed and the ground floor all but gone, sucked into the earth. Along with it, the prisoners, mostly Stormguard captured during the attack on the day’s festivities. While the Rangers secured the perimeter, Major Hawksclaw ventured as far down as he dared, but it was clear that many prisoners had survived and were now escaping into the growing chaos beneath the city.

Our researchers and casters were still plumbing the depths beneath the city attempting to divine magically what we faced, while Siegemaster Whit, his family, and the Explorer analyzed the information to theorize a strategy for attack. We were only just gaining an understanding of the sheer size of the voids beneath the city when I was approached by Sir Calaban Rabenklau. As I grappled with saving our city, the merchant lord had the temerity to demand I send in Rangers to seize and secure the emerging tunnels under the city. Apparently word of large quantities of Crysarium had reached his ears.

We still did not know if these caverns or tunnels or voids were even large enough and stable enough to enter, let alone interconnected in any way. However, my objections were overruled by Sir Eric Halten who, in my absence, gained official command of Alpha Team as a political compromise. Though the Royal Sheriff had the good grace to appear chagrined, he nevertheless ordered Alpha Team below High Towne, bad damned the risks. I could have objected, but with both Sir Rabenklau, and Sir Halten’s weight behind the order, ultimately I would have lost and…time was of the essence. At least, they game me some time to assemble other teams in support.

So, with bad grace I sent a message through Eris Moonsilver to summon Alpha Team to my temporary HQ just across Main Street from the first sink hole. The day’s celebration had drawn huge crowds, filling High Towne to a capacity never before seen in the city. As bad as that was, it ALSO drew large numbers of Rangers. We had near 1500 greencloaks in or around the city. A staggering number. I called up every last one. I sent orders along every command line splitting the Rangers into groups of ten and assigning them a senior NCO or officer to command. Each team was dispatched to a known access to the voids below, or assigned a magical team to establish teleporation.

I also summoned up Beta and Gamma. Epsilon were already working with the City Engineer, Master Kester Highwall. Abyss, even Masters Tarok Kilnfire and Garok Mason had put aside their decades long feud and were helping clear rubble. While waiting for Alpha Team to assemble, I called my command staff together for a situation report. Sergeant Minor Longtail provided insight and a working knowledge of some of the former sewers. I know she was close with the former City Seneschal Therel Fateweaver, who in a former life was the King of Low Town and the de facto head of the city’s Thieves Guild.

Her working knowledge of those tunnels, however many remained, proved tactically invaluable. She was also one of my most experienced Rangers and NCOs. So, when Alpha assembled, I thanked Sergeant Sssahlissstaah for her handling of the team, but for this mission, Sergeant Minor Longtail’s seniority and familiarity with the environment dictated that Longtail assume command of Alpha Team. It bears noting that Longtail LONG resisted command of any form. I had to promise not to promote her to Sergeant Major, a rank for which she certainly qualifies, before she agreed to assume her post within my personal staff.

Nevertheless, Sergeant Minor Longtail assumed her new role with almost no complaint. Which, more than anything should indicate the dire circumstances. Alpha Team was ordered to take three days rations, but two weeks of water, plus a double load of all ammunition. Showing unusual generosity, RFC Gilbur Gil Grimm handed out a plethora of protection potions to the team. He did not even comment on reimbursement at the time, though not doubt the Rangers will receive a bill. All appeared to comprehend the sheer gravity of the situation and acted professionally accordingly. In addition, Longtail ordered the team to arm themselves with White Silver arrows and stabbing weapons, and other specific, though unusual equipment. Clearly, the Sergeant intended to be prepared for any eventuality.

12:30 PM

Once the team we kitted, I led them personally to a newer sink hole near the corner of the Lamplighter’s Guildhall. Some of the oldest, but most recently renovated, sewers ran beneath and initial probes by the growing army of casters suggested the void underneath to be likely stable. And so, with a caution that we might lost contact, and that we would likely be unable to pull them out should they encounter too stiff resistance, I allowed Alpha Team to step into the ritual teleportation circle. With a last look, I gave the command and sent my team into the darkness below.

All over the city, Ranger teams stood by, waiting for Alpha Teams initial reports. I waited near their point of entry, prepared to use my own power to dig them out should it come to that. What followed, I only learned later.

Alpha Team materialized in total darkness. Only RFC Ranna could see, and only just. So, Longtail ordered torches lit, and sent Ranna forward to scout ahead. The ogress turned one corner and came under immediate arcfire. Multiple arclances opened up, filling the tunnels with fire. Moments later, two Mad Bombs bounced into the corridor, catching half the team in an explosion. While they manged to dive out of the way of most of the blast, RFC Ranna was blow clear through the floor into a lower level of the maze of tunnels. Worse, the way to the arclancers was blocked by the cave in caused by the explosions.

Sergeant Minor Longtail elected to go the other way in hopes of finding access to the lower tunnels. This time, she took point, having Corporal Blackstone backing her up. Within a few dozen yards, she entered a cavern where a bloody battle was already in progress. Stormguard, escaped prisoners, were being slaughtered by something nearly invisible. Longtail later described it as a copper man with some form of invisibility field. One hand was an arclance, the other spinning blades it was using to chop up the Stormguard.

Though cloaked in her own shroud, the arcfire man-thing seemed to sense her presence and blasted her into a wall with arcfire. And then, it appeared to vanish. The Stormguard, faced with Alpha Team, offered no resistance. They were scared.

Once Longtail assured them that the Rangers were not hunting escaped prisoners, the Stormguard were all to happy to talk. They explained that after the initial tremors and Ranger alarms, a sinkhole opened beneath their prison. Many died, but almost thirty found themselves in tunnels below the city. They tried to find a way out, but quickly encountered Builders who were setting up shields. When the Builders saw the Stormguard, they opened fire, killing many, and then collapsed the tunnel between them, cutting off access to their forces.

Having no alternative, the remaining Stormguard took other tunnels running into all manner of horror. They spoke of undead which exploded into green clouds which killed and corrupted, no doubt the Wild. They were stalked by ghoulish creatures that kept to mist and fog banks in the mines. What these might be, I had no idea. Not to mention the Builders and the copper man-thing. It seemed that all of our worst enemies were gathered in one place, all trapped in the tunnels.

Was this by design, or some horrible accident? Having been transported through a collapsing Tempest vortex, I can well imagine who a large enough rift in the Veil my suck through. Perhaps the Maker behind this horrible tragedy simply tore through half a dozen Realms trying to punch through Shaintar and the city’s defenses? Or, perhaps there is another explanation to the veritable moster invasion beneath our feet? I cannot provide answers.

While Alpha Team interrogated the Storm Guard, RFC Ranna was involved in a fight for her own life. Separated, she found herself in a cave so dark and chill, that even her ogre thermal vision provided little sight. But, she was not alone. Whether by sheer happenstance, or some strange providence, Ranna found herself trapped by another monster lurking in the dark, a Morden Vampire.

We have known since Grendel’s capture by Gram Gram that Ranna, once on her path to being a Silver Paladin, was corrupted by the power of the Blood Witch. This taint has granted her power, but also made her susceptible to influence of the Blood Witch’s minions. And of these, none are more powerful than the Morden Vampires. Strangely, from Ranna’s reports it seems the Vampire was relieved to find her there, sensing the Blood within her. The Morden took it as fact that Ranna served the same master, and so ordered Ranna to accompany her through the tunnels. The Vampire even admitted that she had recently fed on Rangers caught in the initial collapse.

I gather than Ranna considered complying, playing along to bide time. But, the risk was too great. Any concession to the Blood Witches power would leave her more vulnerable in the future. And so, alone, with no hope of rescue, Ranna turned on the Vampire and attacked. Her shot went wide, and the Vampire struck her mortally. Ranna went down, alive, but bleeding. And then, the Vampire punched into her chest and ripped out Ranna’s heart.

Here I should say that Ranna died in those tunnels. And, in a way she did. But, by tearing out Ranna’s Life’s Blood, the witch also inadvertently removed much of the taint. Then free, with her last breath, Ranna committed herself wholly to Celesia, the Silver Unicorn. And in that moment, she was remade into a living embodiment of the Silver Unicorn. Pure White Silver purged the remaining taint from her body and spirit. Born anew, Ranna smashed the Vampire into the wall, before crushing her with Grendel’s white silver club.

Moreover, Ranna’s transformation released a tremendous pulse of power, running along the tunnels like a divining wave, lighting them up against the background. Above, the teams of casters suddenly gained a vision of the entire tunnel network through into high relief. From that afterimage, the Builders created a map of the entire tunnel system

RFC Ranna’s blow ALSO collapsed part of her tunnels, opening a path between the first and second levels, granting the rest of Alpha Team a shortcut below. In the tunnels, Sergeant Minor Longtail planned Alpha’s descent deeper into the mines, and dispatched Corporal Blackstone to return to their entry point. His orders, report on their progress directly because all communications had been severed.

At the same time that Alpha sought a way to reach RFC Ranna, and Ranna battled for her life, a potentially greater crisis arose above ground. Not long after Alpha vanished into the tunnels, the entire Ranger battle network died at the same moment as another large tremor ran through the city. Worse, Major Hawksclaw loses mental contact with Eris Moonsilver.

From the day they wed, Eris and Rah-sahn share a mind. They can sense each other’s thoughts, and when they focus, can read each others minds. Over the years, it has become like breathing. Fortunately for Eris, her discipline allows her to compartmentalize sensitive information away from Hawksclaw’s awareness. Even so, having the Ranger Commander of Echer’Naught tapped directly into our most powerful Farspeaker has proven a boon.

But when Hawksclaw appeared in my camp, I could tell by the stricken expression on his face that Eris was in trouble, or worse…

Most of my top Rangers were already on mission, many below the city, others too far way to arrive quickly enough to save Eris, if she could be saved. I had Hawksclaw…and Sergeant Samira Ravenwood-Regillus. Despite being one of the most lethal Rangers to ever serve on Alpha Team, and no senior NCO of Echer’Naught’s Gray Lanterns, Samira was ALSO pregnant. A fact which made sending her into danger abhorrent. Still, with her range, I hoped that any danger would be at extreme range, where she could provide support for Hawksclaw without unnecessarily endangering herself.

So, I sent them together to recover Eris.

It should be noted that after the attacks of the Flame Ranger and undead Von Dietrich that Regional Command made the decision to offer more protection to our highest value personnel. To that end, a network of corridors was constructed under High Towne, and elsewhere, connecting the most vital locations. These tunnels were heavily warded, cloaked in the most powerful concealment spells, and guarded by a team selected from the best of Gamma Team, with a few Gray Lanterns, and Beta Team as well. The full network, and schedule of personnel rotation were known to a few. Eris being one.

While Major Hawksclaw was aware that his wife’s security has been increased, he did NOT know of the tunnels. Being a ranking NCO in the Gray Lanterns, Samira knew OF the tunnels, but no more specifics. They were constructed in the safest location in the city, under the strictest secrecy…and even that was insufficient!

So, I ordered Samira to lead Hawkslcaw to the Gray Lantern “ready room” beneath the Regional HQ, there, she was to enter through the Blue Door. Various doors were scattered around the city, all invisible to those who did not know their location, trapped, and locked with the most sophisticated system our best minds could devise. But, with the voids breaking seals and wards across the city, many of our entrances had been compromised. Gamma Team members had been dispatched the moment of the initial attack to secure these doors to prevent further incursions.

Again, I learned of this only AFTER they returned, but Major Rah-sahn Hawksclaw and Sergeant Samira Ravenwood-Regillus entered the nearly abandoned Regional Headquarters, headed into the cellar system and she unlocked the secured door to the Gray Lantern’s ready room. There, she found the Blue Door, one of several connecting this room. With the wards down, the door was visible and unshielded. I had provided her a key which granted access. But, when they opened the door, a cloud of smoke and dust roiled out. As I feared, Eris’ tunnel had suffered a catastrophic collapse.

A short way down the narrow hall, they found where a sinkhole had opened and nearly swallowed the entire tunnel. However, Hawksclaw could see, and sense Flame below. So, he drew his rapier and squeezed through the rockfall into an open cave below. There, he was greeted with a sight which stopped him cold. Eris’ entire security detail was dead. Half had been crushed or smothered during the initial collapse. But about half had been dissected into pieces. Worse, at the far rough wall, Eris Moonsilver floated unconscious, ensnared in a web of Flame ropes.

Standing in the room with them, was a man in non-descript clothes, apparently waiting for someone to arrive. Upon seeing Hawksclaw, he seemed to vaguley recognize him, and then demanded to see Ma’avi Fr’eki. The Revenge Demon! It had not occurred that the demon, unable to reach Ma’avi, would target another member of our household as ransom. It was an error in judgement, and may prove to be our undoing.

Hawksclaw, of course, knew nothing. He was utterly confused when the demon attacked. But, the Major gave as good as he received. Moments later, hearing battle, Samira slid into the room and started firing on the demon. I believe, had the battle continued, that they would have slain the demon. I imagine the demon realized this as well, because he acted so cowardly as to stab the pregnant Samira in the stomach, before using vile thaumaturgy to ensnare Hawksclaw and Samira.

I believe the demon did not kill them because he wanted to ensure that we followed, though why he did not kill one and leave the other to speak, I know not. Still, he gave Hawksclaw 48 hours to produce Ma’avi or Eris would die…horribly. He said to meet him at a camp to the west. Supposedly Ma’avi would know. And then, with a snap, he vanished along with Eris.

No sooner had he vanished, then the Flame bindings dissipated. Taking a moment to check on Samira, Hawksclaw got them both out of the hole and came for me. I could feel his rage radiating. It has been many years since I felt this…not since the battle with Sir Lugard. He demanded to know who took his wife, so I told him as much as I could then. But, the situation on the city had worsened. Our casters had used Ranna’s pulse to map the entire system of tunnels and found a central point where they believed the enemy was building something massive. Already, the energy buildup was bleeding out and indicated power on a scale almost unimagined. Further, there were four other points at the cardinal directions where smaller sites had been constructed. Seeing the map, it reminded me of the Tempest attack so many years ago… Though his was smaller, the setup was almost the same.

Hawksclaw told me we have 48 hours to save Eris. I asked him to wait. To help me save the city, and then we would both bring her home. I promised him. He agreed, but I fear he may never forgive me. Archanone and Celesia I pray I can keep that promise.

Hawksclaw stormed off to do his duty, and I sent Samira to the healers. Apparently, she and the baby are well, but the child is weak. It will take regular healing to keep it hale. As a druid, she has this capacity, though I fear this pregnancy may be more difficult than before.

13:10
Even as I contemplated this new horror, I sensed Blackstone trying to break through the seals of the tunnels. Before he could be lost or injured, I pulled him free. He offered his report. Sergeant Minor Longtail and the Explorer confirmed that the tunnels were not a Builder citadel, in the traditional sense, but rather they represented a massive Crysarium mine beneath High Towne. Worse, Longtail confirmed that this mine was the SAME mine she had seen so many years ago when Tempest attempted to breach the veil above this VERY spot. The Explorer noted that the tunnels were carved using advanced techniques, and supported, not by conventional means, but rather by use of specialized Barrier runes and wards etched into the walls, floor, and ceiling of the mine tunnels. These same magic etchings prevented teleporting into the tunnels, and obscured our ability to see within. However, the Explorer suggested the “defensive” capabilities of the runes was a byproduct of their true function as arcane supports, rather than an intended function. The mines were not a fortress. Only the front entrance appeared to be “guarded.”

That did not explain why when the mine phased into our world portions started immediately collapsing. The Explorer here offered explanation. Many section of the mine appeared to have damaged clearly caused by arcfire weapons. He suggested that there was an attack on the mines BEFORE Raven’s Cloak fell over Shaintar. Which might explain why the front gate was so heavily guarded. If this mine were in operation toward the of The War which led to the fall of the Starfather, then it is possible it suffered attacks. But, whose side was the mine on? And who was now attacking? Was this attack merely the continuation of an earlier conflict? Were these Builders trapped outside of time? Or, had someone known the mine would return, and seized this opportunity to attack????

My head spun with implications. But, I had a city to save.

After completing his report in quick, concise words, Blackstone told me he had a message for Stormhammer. The dwarf was all the way outside the city, coordinating the temporary camp at the Fair Grounds. So, I ordered Blackstone to pass the message through me. Longtail told Stormhammer, “It’s true. They are free.” I’m sure I will someday learn what my adjutants have been discussing, but at the moment I had far more pressing concerns.

I handed Blackstone a crude map just given me by our cartographers based on the caster’s reading of Ranna’s energy pulse. It outlined the three levels of tunnels. I pointed out the central ritual site and ordered Alpha Team to get close enough to provide a report. Then, I sent him back and returned to my temporary HQ where the leaders of dozens of Ranger Teams, Sir Halten, Commander Schenkle, Captain Vasser, the head of the Silver Paladin order, Bishop Vallandrian, Sophia Longarm, and dozens more familiar and unfamiliar faces stood waiting. Even Blythe, the new King of Low Town lurked in the shadows. Five years of memories flooded through me.

Alpha Team was marching to their deaths against impossible odds. Samira was hurt. Hawksclaw raging. Dozens of battles, thousands of foes, and each man and women here etched in the history of this city. The hour had come.

With four tertiary ritual sites, and the central ritual beneath the center of the hill, I divided my forces.

Commander Schenkle and the City Militia were ordered to strike the East Ritual, entering through a sinkhole near Sir Halten’s estate.
Sir Halten and and the Knights of a dozen houses, including my own House Guard, with Silver Paladins would strike the West Ritual, entering through the prison sinkhole.
Captain Vasser, Sophia Longarm, and druids from the Sacred Grove would strike the Northern Ritual, entering through the same sinkhole Alpha Team had used.
Major Hawksclaw and half our Ranger forces not securing the city, would hit the Southern Ritual, entering a sinkhole just west of the gate.

I would assemble the remaining Rangers, along with Lieutenant Alfred Wolfahven, his new bride, Eve, and my Ranger escort to strike at the heart of the ritual. We would teleport through, homing in on Ranna’s new signature. Samira appeared, and though I worried, she demanded to go. So, I consented knowing that I very well may lose both my most trusted men Hawkclaw and Anaxelum by putting their wives in danger.

Even members of the Thieves Guild arrived. They offered to scout and cover our flanks. Under normal circumstances, I would have refused, but something about Blythe’s intensity led me to believe they could be relied upon, at least in this.Though, I suspect their offer was less about generosity and more personal gain.

And so the teams went in, with my own standing just outside the Harken Estate, waiting for the signal to attack.

13:25

Hundreds of feet below, Alpha Team entered the second level of the tunnels to the sounds of rushing water, and mist roiling through the shadows. Immediately they were attack from either side. To the rear, Xaos Scorpions struck and stung. To their fore, ghoulish creatures moved through the mist, biting and snatching, trying to drag the Rangers away. With Alpha were five of the Stormguard they had saved before. Two died almost the instant they entered the second level.

Creatures of mist and darkness unlike any that I have encountered. With so many new evils appearing in our Realm on a nigh daily basis it is nearly impossible just to keep pace with the daily threat meetings. But something about the description of these creatures reminded me of scout reports near Shaya’Nor. Apparantly, allied forces have encountered new forms of Darkness that appear to access our Realm via Ebonways. They think these creatures are spilling in through Shivak Novos. If that is correct, does that mean that Vainar’s shadow land has been overrun? The very thought is too horrifying to contemplate.

Still, Longtail set up a line and Alpha Teams warriors cut through the creatures. Blackstone was almost dragged away, but the very stone responded to his singing, giving him purchase and allowing other members of the team to reach him. Almost as quickly as it begun it was over. RFC Grimm making the final kill. He also used his Alchemy to etch away some of the protective runes allowing the Builder to blow a hole into the third level of tunnels.

With the breach, Alpha Team reached the deepest part of the tunnels, and the heart of the ritual. There, thy found a massive arcfire shield, like a bubble, more powerful than any they have encountered. Within the bubble, Builders worked, while Arclancers, Boom Troopers, and Arcfire juggernaughts set up defensive positions waiting for assault. And, at the center, a secondary shield, smaller. This one contained an arcfire device six feet across and pulsating with rippling amber energy. Manipulating the controls, a single Builder, though so encased in armor, it was impossible to make out any features.

However, the Builders were not alone. Wild infused corpses prowled the tunnels outside the energy field. They immediately reacted to the arrival of Alpha Team, shuffling into their rear ranks. In a surprising turn, the three remaining Storm Guard offered to hold the flank while Alpha Team destroyed the Builder ritual. They asked only for swords. Without hesitation, Alpha armed the criminals, before leaving them to their fates.

Their flank secured for the moment, Alpha Team approached the gate, but the Explorer quickly identified the arcing energy field would require High Magic to penetrate. Sergeant Minor Longtail was just contemplating sending a runner back to establish communication, when Ash and his cohorts signaled that Ranna had reached the Ritual. Even and a dozen other Sorcerers and Druids triggered a massive teleportation ritual, centered on the ogress.

13:50

I appeared in the tunnels near Alpha Team. They looked tired, but hale. Better than I expected honestly. Without pause, Longtail delivered her report. I sent Rangers around to support the Stormguard, while maneuvering my own forces in the narrow confines. We had no room to maneuver, the natural rock formations narrowed our approach to a choke point. Opposing us would be entrenched Builders with pre-set heavy weapons. There was no means to flank, and our movements were as visible to our enemies as theirs were to us.

There comes a moment in most battles when fancy tactics must be abandoned for the final charge. The moment when you have nothing but your courage and the man beside you. So, I stacked my Rangers in a wedge, with myself forming the tip of the spear, and my Alpha at my back. We drew our blades and with a mighty shout, I drove my Father’s Sword through the shield summoning my power and pushing it THROUGH. I felt heat wash over my arms and face as the silver-blue blade sparked against the amber shield. Azure blue lightning hissed and sparked against burned orange as the Builder’s engines pushed back. It felt like trying to push through a solid steel wall with the heat of molten metal, but I gritted my teeth and leaned hard into the sword.

For a heartbeat I feared I lacked the strength to overpower the shield, but then a tiny ripple appeared where the tip of my sword bit into the energy field. Tiny at first, it began to widen. From behind the barrier, I could hear the high pitched whine of the Builder generators notch of several octaves. They started to scream in unison. So I pushed, and shoved, pitting my will against that of the infernal engines. Heartbeats stretched into eons and then with a final shriek a section of the barrier collapsed, shattering into crackling sparks.

Behind me my Rangers roared and I shouted, “For Echer’Naught…”
…before something slammed into my chest, knocking the wind from my breath.

There was a bright flash, and a massive pulse of arcfire and I found myself standing seemingly alone in an open field of frosty grass. They TELEPORTED ME! They…swept me aside like so much garbage!!!

I confess that in that moment a well of rage exploded through my being. My anger felt like a burning sun to scorch the earth and bake into clay. I was FURIOUS! So Furious that I wasted precious time screaming inarticulately at the sky, slashing at the ground, and venting my frustration in a petulant and embarrassing manner. It was only when I felt eyes upon me that I wrestled my faculties. On a hill, some distance away, a sheepherd stood staring at me, mouth agape. His flock looked on equally stunned, their expression identically comical.

The sheer absurdity of my situation overcame my frustration, refocusing me on the task at hand…saving Echer’Naught. My own master once again, I took a moment to get my bearings. The teleportation landed me somewhere north of the city, not far enough to take me out of the fight for long, but far enough to delay me. Perhaps, just enough to kill my Rangers and destroy my city.

Praying to Archanon, and summoning the power of the Silver Unicorn, I tapped into the blood flowing through my veins. During times of crisis in the past, I have tapped into the core of power burning in the center of my being, but only in extremis. Never have I consciously, intentionally, unleashed my full power. Fear always held me back. Fear of losing control of the unfathomable coursing through ever fibre of my being. Fear of harming those around me.

But my fear of losing my family, my city, my Rangers overwhelmed any other considerations. And so, I let go. I allowed the power to consume me, change me.

It was like being reborn in the heart of a star. Everything came into clear focus. Everything. And I could feel them. The Builders. Like a fire burning in my mind. I could see the pattern of their ritual, hear reality warp and scream.

I flew.

Blasting into the sky on wings of starlight and power, I rocketed toward Echer’Naught. Trees bent and shattered at by passing. A small pond evaporated into steam. Windows in the city shattered as I passed. How long I was gone, I know not, but the battle still raged when I slammed through the courtyard of my manor home. Down through the chamber, and into the Vault.

Rents spiderwebbed the arcane reinforced metal. I could feel the fractious roil of conflicting energies as the artifacts sparked and repulsed on another. So much like their mortal bearers. Even at the best of times, Alpha Team have been split by internecine bickering and conflicts. We fight amongst ourselves, pursue individual goals that, occasionally, conflict with the unit. Even in love, there is strife. But, we are still the best this Realm has to offer. At our very worst, criminals, tainted, even given over to dark powers, I would put all my faith in my Alphas when all is on the line. To their own destruction, the Greenway Road Rangers have never failed, never faltered at the line.

I could feel them, dying. Each wound, each burn, every injury inflicted was like a dagger through my soul. But I could feel their determination.

Kenzie and Ingrid, their hearts aching at the absence of the third of their triangle of love. Still, when Ingrid’s power drew fire and her body was riddled with arcfire, Kenzie took up the stands of her magic, holding the line and that fire turned on her. Ranna, tall and bright, fired and fired, Mog taking a toll on the Builders. Her armor stripped away like ablating metal in a forge, but she never slowed her inexorable steps. I could FEEL the Builder’s fear as she closed on their lines. Beneath their feet, the living rock rose to answer Blackstone. The Mountain roared, crushing all who dared to stand before him. But it was not just Arimar, but generations of dwarves before him, each linked in an unbroken chain going back farther than even he knows. I glimpsed his TRUE strength and was awed. Unnoticed, but undaunted, Grimm hurled bottle after bottle, pouring our his greatest resource, his precious potions. But, there was no fear, no hesitation. Builder after Builder fell as his concoctions turned their world to pain. And Sir Mansfried, the newly minted Ranger commanded them all. I well recall my first battle with the Rangers. Tempest Towers looming over us, Shayline stretched in strands of power and time. I was unprepared for the responsibility of the fate of the Realm, but I did my duty. As did Mansfried. And in that moment, I saw him, not as he is, but as he could be, leading armies against the tide of invaders…

And deep in the shadows, unnoticed by any, but my senses, Longtail. Shadows cloaked her like a second skin. Her power, quiet and deadly felt like a knife prick to my throat. And with her, The Explorer…his mind spinning like the Builder machines. What was he thinking…

…ah, clever, clever.

I felt Longtail call upon Celesia, for the first, and she answered. I felt them vanish from my sight, and then reappear. A poisoned dagger at the heart of the enemy. Longtail appeared above them, slashing with a violence I have not seen from her since her first days with the Rangers. Then she was among them, cutting, driving them back. Shielding the Explorer who attacked the enemy barrier generator.

Twelve seconds…

The Vault door crumpled at my touch.

Ten…

I rose into the sky above the city, filling the night sky with light. Below me, Echer’Naught stretched. Lights filled the streets as the Citzens stood in the gently falling rain, eyes turned to the hill. Every street, every avenue was filled with the light of lamps and torches. They waited, for victory or the end.

There was no fear, just eagerness. In each hand, they gripped a weapon. If the enemy had come to take their city, they would fight. Though my Rangers were deep in the dark, they were not along. Thousands of prayers, carried by whispered voices, rose to the sky, and delved to the deepest earth. The Ascended awakened to their call.

Seven…

Gathering my power around me, the faint rattle of wood and metal around me, I dove. Slamming through through the streets, through the first and second levels. Then the third. I hit the Maker’s barrier with all my power and felt the matrix strain.

Below me, tinted orange by the refraction, I could see the Maker, his hand outstretched to the Explorer. Though I could not hear the words, I knew the offer all to well. Power.

Fate stopped. The worlds seemed to cease spinning as the Explorer chose, and in choosing, sealed the fates of thousands.

“No.”

The Maker’s disappointment radiated as brightly as the generator at the heart of the ritual. He stepped back, and then I felt the barrier give way. I was through.

White Stagg 1st, 3127

1:17 AM

The barrier winked out, as I crashed the ground. Panicked, the Maker teleported away, but his forces recovered quickly. In slow motion, I watched them turn their lances on us again.

But there was more, a power I have not felt since my time in death. A rent hovered behind me. I know not whether I opened the rift when I bored through the barrier, or whether shattering the Maker’s power triggered a shattering of the Veil. I know only that when I looked through, I could hear the waves from the Boundless Sea, hear the whisper of the Eternal Forest, feel the breeze from the Endless Sky…

…a doorway to the lands of the Ascended.

Standing in the doorway, a crowd of faces as familiar as my own. Friends, family, and Rangers long passed. For briefest moment, I feared that I was burning way, that the power ripping through me was devouring my form, killing me. Then, one of the Honored Dead stepped through the doorway, as real any.

Grendel, in his full raiment strode across the room, and knelt to take his great club from Ranna’s stunned hand. And then Serys, his face a familiar scowl, beside him a beautiful elven girl. His sister? There Kura’Kai, big as life, leaping through ready for battle. Ben Toma, the slight Adept also approached Ranna, asking for his mask. Danica stood, as she had in life, her cloak of green, the Golden Gryphons emblazoned her her tabard. So too Von D stepped through, though from where I could not see. He reached down, picking up his family sword and his entire spirit flickered. He said nothing, merely gazed coldly at the Builders. Thorgram Ramshorn stepped through and retook his shield, looking pained to see it damaged. And there was Evoran, resplendent in his robes, staff held in one hand, book the other. There were others, Rangers who died on other teams, and even Streetrunner snuck out when no one was looking. The last, Griznahk Olgor and Captain Manning. Both looked hale and happy, if ghostly.

Tears blurred my eyes. Alpha Team, living and gone, formed shoulder to shoulder and gazed at me waiting…

Their faith, their dedication flowed through me, and I raised my blade. “For Echer’Naught!” I cried and hurled myself into battle. Around me, the Rangers attacked. Arrows flew, spells exploded into Builder Ranks. Warriors carved a path through enemy ranks. We were an unstoppable tide of green. The Builders broke before us, some trying to flee, most throwing down their arms and surrendering. It was over as quickly as it bad begun.

But, the Maker’s machine continued to spin, gathering speed and power. The battle was won, but the city was lost. I could see it writ on every face, living and dead. To save Echer’Naught, some would have to sacrifice to contain the blast.

We had seconds. I nodded to the Honored Dead and ordered the living to fall back. With the moments they had, lovers embraced, old friends hugged, and comrades said the words they were denied in life. Finally, Olgor clicked his way slowly across the floor, looked at the Rangers, young and old, and smiled. “You have done well,” he said, before turning and taking my hand.

As the flesh and blood Rangers pulled back, the Spirits joined hands around the Maker’s engine, forming a ring with their own essence. I joined with their, passing my power to them, and they to me in turn. Together, we surrounded the device in a web of energy and love. I closed my eyes and reveled in the power. Even beyond death, we are one whole. And, together, we are stronger than the entire Contiuum. Their surety flowed into me, filling me with pride so much I feared I would explode.

And then the device triggered, sending a pulse of energy out, but meeting our strength and reverberating back in on itself. So much power overloaded the machine, blowing every crystal and rendering it inert. It slammed into the ground with a dull thunk.

I walked out of the smoke and crysalized particulates to where my Rangers stood waiting. We had won. More, we stood together as one, a family. Each member had sacrificed so much, and when the hour came, they put aside everything to stand united.

Five years. Five years since I rode into the town of Echer’Naught to assume command of the Rangers here. Five years of war, sacrifice, and loss. Five years of love, fellowship, and family.

Five years.

Looking at the men and women standing before me, I knew, know. So long as we fight together, there is no foe that we cannot defeat. We are the green line, bastion against oblivion. I could not be more proud.

But, such things must wait. Many are wounded and require attention, and I have a pressing mission. So, I tasked our mages to begin teleporting teams to the surface where they could debrief, rest, and heal. Sergeant Ravenwood-Regillus was sent directly to the Echer’Naught Hospital (formerly the Red Lamp). A special recovery team, Tinkers all, arrived to secure and catalogue the Maker tech. Fresh teams were rotated out, and the clean up operation of the mines began in earnest.

I stayed just long enough to ensure smooth operation, before returning to the surface where Hawksclaw waited. We pulls supplies, issued orders, and by early on the 1st, rode west toward Landra’ Feay to save his wife, Eris Moonsilver.

Epilogue
It came to my attention that due to the confusion of the events, I neglected perhaps the most important piece of information gleaned during the attack. At first, it was the Explorer who identified that the tunnels were a Mine, not a Builder Citadel as first suspected. And, he rightly assumed that the front was heavily guarded to ward of attack, but the rest of the mine was less so.

But it was Ash and Whit who realized the full extent of the Maker’s plan. We assumed they were attempting to destroy the mine and High Towne, but, in fact, the entire attack was a heist, albeit a profoundly complex one. The central device was a High Magic teleportation engine, not unlike the engine kept by Echer’Naught Regional Command. However, this device was magnitudes larger and more powerful.

The four smaller devices were refraction points, designed to create a matrix of sorts. They were placed on varied levels, creating a three dimensional geometric shape. Using the Crysarium of the mine to partially fuel the ritual, the Maker was attempting to teleport a large portion of the mine, and its Crysarium, away from the city. In essence, a smash and grab.

We do not know what would have happened, or if it would have worked. Our BEST minds suspect that all the space, soil, and Crysarium within the bounds of the energy web WOULD have been instantly carved out and transported to a prepared site far distance. The sudden void would have collapsed Beacon Hill and all of High Towne with it. However, the energy would have likely set off the remaining veins of Crysarium, igniting them like a fuse. They would have alternatively burned out, or detonated depending on conditions.

The result would have, at minimum, completely destroyed High Towne, and most likely much of the surrounding city. The terrain change would have caused tremors that would have likely flattened much of the rest of the city, followed by mass flooding. Loss of the life would have been catastrophic.

As it was, the ritual was disrupted, and the energies dispersed. Moreover, the main engine was captured mostly intact. Our Builders are already at work reverse engineering the Maker’s work in hopes of salvaging, or unlocking the construction of, the teleportation device. Capture of this technology is a HUGE advantage to our force. Integrated into the Great Arcgate might provide us with more accurate and reliable transportation.

Your most obedient servant,

Lord Mayor Wolfhaven, Colonel

Echer’Naught Ranger Temproary Regional Command, Olara

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