Rangers at Large
AWA 2019 Gaming Event
White Stagg 6th, 3128
While it beggars the imagination, even in a world as mystical as ours, a freshly minted team of Rangers may have stumbled upon a ghost tale of legend.
On their maiden patrol, five Rangers left their outpost in the hinterlands east of Five Points on what was to be a routine patrol. They consisted of your usual compliment, an Alakar Ranger, a human Paladin, an Orc Priest, an Olaran crossbowman, and an Eldakar sorcerer. A party like any other, but their adventure would be far from ordinary…
They departed north along a narrow road on the morning of Harvest Moons 33rd, 3128. All seemed well until they stopped to camp that night. Under the glow of three moons, the Rangers were just about to start a fire when a thick, white fog rolled toward them from the north. Within moments, they were blanketed in white, so thick they could see nothing! And from this miasm, a child cried out for help.
With obvious trepidation, the Rangers ventured deeper into the fog, weapons at the ready. What they expected, we may never know, but I am fairly certain it was not a small, human child alone and crying in the fog. At the sight of the heavily armed Rangers she started to flee, but with calm words, and placating gestures, they assuaged her fear enough to hear her sad tale.
She was named Ann and had been playing near her village to the north when something had attacked her in the woods. She fled in fear, running for her life when the fog appeared. Since then, she has wandered, lost, alone, and terrified. She begged the Rangers to escort her home. The Eldakar, wise in her ways, confirmed that there should, in fact, be a village where the young child spake, and that it was conceivable that her story was true. Despite some grave misgivings from the Priest of Light and his brother Paladin.
Duty warred with common sense, but in the end, the Rangers did as Rangers do. They steeled themselves against the dark and ventured north in the company of the strange waif. Now, I have spoken with these brave heroes and they speak of sensing an ancient dread, something evil lurking beneath and within the mist. But as to what, no one truly knows.
It took hours to stumble across the eerie landscape, but the unerring guidance of their Alakar scout steered them well. By midnight, they spotted bright spots of light in the fog indicating a great number of fires. In the diffuse glow, the Rangers spied an entire village out in their square dancing and singing amidst the bonfire and fog. It was…a disturbing site, honestly. Here, their courage quailed, but the Olaran and Priest pointed out that, in point of fact, it was the end of Harvest Season and such festivals were…not unheard of. Again, the Paladin offered a dire warning, but what were the Rangers to do.
As they discussed, the villagers noted the presence at the edge of town and began to move in their direction. Ann broke from their grasp and threw herself into the arms of a pair of villagers that, would be discovered later, was her parents. Such as they were. Even at the point of retreating, the village headman approached and welcomed them all with eloquence and sincerity. He thanked them for returning their child and begged them to join the festivities. The Alakar scout, reading the situation well, chose to flank the town in hopes of seeing through the ruse. The Paladin refused and was joined by the Sorceress. Only the Priest and Olaran ventured into the village to partake of their humble hospitality.
But, as unusual as their feast might have been, no harm came to the Rangers. Quite conversely, they were welcomed, given seats of honor at the head table, and fed well. All seemed true, save for the odd fare, being coarse and unrefined, and their rustic manner of dress. Still, the Rangers were careful not to insult their hosts, or break the protocols of hospitality.
In the end, some time into the 13th hour, the festival ended, the head man gave the Rangers food for their kinsmen outside of town, and all within the town headed to their respective hovels to sleep. With all due respect, the Rangers retreated back to their camp, well established by the Paladin. They were joined by the Scout who was as confused as they. Surely such ominous portents bode ill, but as of yet, there was little to report but the fog which would not lift. In fact, it grew thicker even as they spoke.
And then, the night’s still was shattered by the scream of none other than young Ann. Drawing steel, the Rangers dashed into the courtyard, their backs to the dying bonfire. Had it been a trick of the night? No, the keen ears of the Rangers heard a scuffle nearby. The Paladin certain of ill this night, kicked open the door and entered a simple dwelling. From the rear room, he heard whimpering!
Backed by his brother in light, the Priest, our heroic Paladin stepped to the doorway leading to the rear room and spied a pair of wraiths brandishing long, curved knives on the verge of stabbing young Ann who cowered in the corner. Behind them, the Alakar scout, the Olaran crossbowman, and the Eldakar sorceress covered their brethren from around the room. Sensing pure evil, the Priest called upon the Light of Archanon to embolden his brother Paladin who lay into the vile wraiths, smiting them in the name of the Lord of Light.
But, even as the drama in their bedroom unfolded, a new threat appeared! The keen-eared Olaran heard a dry creaking outside the broken door. Stepped into line, he spied a horde of undead lumbering toward them!!! The Rangers were trapped within the hut, evil spirits behind, and undead crowding the door.
In an instant they leaped into action, firing bow, crossbow, and eldritch bolt as the scout, crossbowman, and sorceress tried to hold the line and keep the undead from flanking their Holy allies. It was hard-fought. The Paladin took a nasty slash from an enscorled blade. Were it not for the healing balm of Archanon’s mercy administered by his brother Priest, this tale might have had a far sadder end. But, in the end, the cunning, the ferocity, and the skill of the Rangers won the day. Though, not without issue.
Sometime in the confusion of battle, young Ann was pushed to her limits. She fled the building in terror, away from the security and protection of the Rangers. Sad child.
No sooner had the last zombie fallen, did the Rangers here her cry once again. This time, the Paladin through all caution to the wind and charged toward the sound, Archanon’s power surging through his noble heart. There, upon the hill just out of town nine black-robed figured had stretched the girl over a sacrificial block and were prepared to sacrifice her in some profane ritual. Not that day!
As one, the Rangers attacked. The Sorceress, her essence reserves nigh exhausted fired her last energy into the lead cultists. Both the Olaran and Alakar fired as one, cutting down two more. Into the breach the Priest and Paladin marched, shouting Archanon’s name in defiance as the cultists rushed to meet them…
…and at that moment, the suns first light rose above the distant horizon and, in the moment between one heartbeat to the next, the fog was burned off, and with it, the cultists, chains, and lastly, Ann whose terrified screams hung on the air for one last heartbeat before it too was banished by morning’s light.
Well, you may imagine how confused our brave Rangers were left, standing weapons out among a tumble of weathered and vine-covered gravestones. Though, the keener eyed among them noted an unusual number of children laid to rest there. The Alakar knelt by a small, simple slab of rock with the name Ann Smith carved hastily into the face, though weathered by years. 109 and nine years to be exact.
What had happened? Was it all a dream? No, the quickly decaying remains of the undead corpses proved that their encounter had been real, or real enough.
It was into this confused silence that a cheery voice rang out. A local farmer, shepherding his flock down a near rode bade them a good morn and asked if they were alright. When they questioned the good man about the graveyard, he told them, if briefly, of the fate of the town that had once stood on the spot a century before. For reasons still unknown, the entire town, and all her people had burned in a fire on Harvest Moons 33rd, after their annual harvest festival. Most believed sparks from the fires lit the thatch and that was all.
But, there were always rumors of foul play…and the ghost stories. He smiled and continued on his way. With a deep sense of unease, the Rangers continued their patrol, encountering nothing worse than early snow flurries. It took them six days on foot, returning to their outpost by the 6th of White Stagg. Of course, their tale was reported, but given little credence.
As to what truly transpired that night? Who can say? Perhaps, we must wait until next year to know the truth?