Rangers of the Greenway Road
Campaign Report 146
I write this report along the Farwatch Military Road under heavy guard. Overhead the sky storms as the raging tumult in my heart. Was I right to surrender? Should I have just remained at the Legion Keep? In truth, I know not the answer.
However, I could not allow my family to suffer the shame of my abdication of responsibility. Despite all, I am Olaran knight and I refuse to run from my honor. Nor could I allow bloodshed among allies in my name. If my incarceration preserves the tenuous alliances we have forged over the years then, perhaps, all is worth it. Still, I spent but ONE day with my daughter. And now, she may grow up without a father, or one in prison.
What better choice could I have made? Ascended help me.
We arrived back into Shaintar on what we thought was Dancing Clouds 7th, 3128. We had no cause to think different. At first, we were just ecstatic we made it home, even if we were dropped into the northern reaches of the Defiant Lands. What we did not know until much later was that we had lost over a month. I suppose we should count ourselves fortunate. Others have lost years. Some never returned.
Raining Leaves 12th, 3128
On what we thought was the 7th of Dancing Clouds, Alpha Team was spat out into a high snowdrift. None of us was conscious when we hit. When I regained consciousness, what could not have been long after, I could still feel the arcfire burning around us. We quite literally tore a hole in the earth. And, at the same time, sent up as massive magical flare alerting the entire world to our location. Not ideal.
However, I could make out the Everwall far to the north, which meant we were to the furthest northern reaches of the Defiant Lands or in the Empire. Distances were difficult to judge. It was snowing hard, and we landed in waist-deep snowbanks.
Over the next few moments, members of Alpha Team roused and staggered to their feet, taking stock of our situation. After the unbearable heat of Norcan Dar, the sudden cold was biting. Even Lady Killian who hails from an icy land found herself shivering.
Doing a quick headcount, I realized that Sergeant Minor Blackstone was still down. Finding him was not so easy, as he had sunk deep into the snow. But, when we dragged him up, his condition had not worsened…nor had it improved. He needed pure stone to heal.
As I was checking over Blackstone, The Explorer suggested a perimeter, and Sergeant Mansfried deployed the team in a loose ring. At the western edge of our line, Lady Arwen Que’kasaars sent up an alert. With her keen elven eyes, she spotted a lightning storm in the distance, but Softpaws, on a rock, saw the azure blue. Tempest.
Everywhere, Tempest. In every Realm. Tempest… Their influence spreads daily.
We needed to move. I ordered the team to form up for a withdrawal when we felt a pulse of energy from the West; something vile. Then, almost as if released by a massive explosion a thick green fog spread across the snowy forest like a sickly blanket. The corruption crawled over my skin, clawing my nose and throat. The Wild.
The Wild. Tempest infused. These monsters slew Ironblood and nearly sacked the Heroes’ Keep before we finished our defenses. Bloody Abyss…!
Somethin shuffled and moved in the trees. We were not alone. I took stock of our situation. Wild uses undead, not unlike Darkness. And with the Tempest support, we could be facing formidable hordes.
The trees were of little help. We would be surrounded and overwhelmed. The open ground was good for our bowmen and arclancers. To our rear was a rocky rise. Not tall, scrub-covered, but elevation. A decent last stand.
I ordered the Ranger shootists to fall back to the ridge, and take up firing positions. Melee fighters, close ranks and buy them time. Then, the shootists would provide covering fire for our withdrawal to better positions on the hillock.
Sergeant Mansfried closed on my left, Softpaws on my right while the others sprinted for the high ground. Killian dropped back a step and provided close support. But, when the Wild undead broke the treeline I knew were in for a fight. There were…dozens. Horrible things. Their skin had been removed and various organs and muscles were exposed. Their sick and rotting innards were infested with maggots and bugs. The stench alone could kill.
Things went bad almost immediately. After fighting across Hell, the Explorer was suddenly unmanned. He threw down his arclance and fled in terror. My rear guard was simply to small to stem the tide. They undead flowed around us like a wave. A few broke through and clawed at the heels of Lady Que’kasaars and Gravelheart.
The situation was bad.
Our shooters cleared our right flank, giving Softpaws and Killian breathing room to fall back. But already a smaller group from our far right were clawing their way up the ridgeline threatening our shooters. Without support, Sergeant Mansfried and I were immediately surrounded. Over the din of battle, I shouted for an arcfire grenade and without question, he handed me his last. I activated the bomb, dropped it at our feet, and then teleported us both back to the ridge.
We arrived a heartbeat after the explosion blasted four or five of the fiends where we had been standing. But, now the whole horde surged forward toward our last redoubt. But, they had to cross open ground, perfect fodder for our ranged experts.
Lady Que’kassars let loose jet after jet of purplish eldritch fury felling three, four, or five in a blast. But with each felled, they exploded into a noxious green cloud, stinging our eyes and throats, causing us to cough and tear up.
From our left, The Explorer let loose a terrifying stream of Childer curses and cut loose at four undead charging him. There was a madness in his eyes, a rage as he cut them down with his handcaster. Ceynara’s hold on him grows.
We thinned their ranks, but many still scrabbled up to our position. Softpaws moved among them, cutting them down. One, grabbed Sergeant Minor’s body and tried to drag him down into a feeding frenzy, but the team picked them off long enough for Gravelheart to hook him with a crossbow fired grappling hook and haul him to saftey.
Shot by shot. Hack by hack. We winnowed them down until, at last, there was naught but silence and death. In that void, Corporal Gill Grimm shouted that we had Tempest incoming from the west.
We had to move.
I picked up Sergeant Minor Blackstone, and tasked Sergeant Mansfried, now Alpha Team commander with deploying our forces for a fast run south.
For four days, we slogged through the snow with Tempest ever at our back. It was a harrowing forced march. But, on the fourth day, we saw the northern treeling of the Aralon Forest. The Iron Elves. Serys’ people. Hardly allies, they are at least not our enemies.
Raining Leaves 16th, 3128
Again, on what we mistook for the 11th day of Dancing Clouds, we arrived at the northern edge of the Aralon Forest. Before we even reached the woods, Alakar rangers appeared, bow in hand. Fortunately, I am known to them. The Legion works with their Rangers and scouts to patrol the region around the Aralon Forest.
In their language, I asked for asylum and to speak to a Stone Druid. They informed us one would be in Tar’Imas, but there was a stone circle nearer by. They allowed us to enter, but we remained under watchful guard our entire time in their forest.
It was that eve that we learned from the elves that the date was NOT Dancing Clouds 11th, but actually Raining Leaves 16th. We lost nearly two months.
When that being destroyed the Grand Arcgate mid teleport, it must have thrown us off. We are lucky we were not instantly vaporized. Losing a couple of months, as disconcerting as it may be, is actually a far better outcome than could have been hoped. I’ve had teams lose far more time. Some have never returned.
Still, that meant that those we had sent through may have arrived months ago. Likely the Legion feared our death. Once we reached camp, I used the mask to reach out to the Legion and inform them of our location and status.
That evening, the Iron Elves escorted me to a Stone Druid Circle. Mostly a stone henge in a glade. There I set his body on the heartstone and allowed his connection with Dranak to knit his wounds. I had no idea of how long the process would take. So, I remained there, secure that my team would finally have the rest and recuperation they had so long deserved.
Raining Leaves 22nd, 3128
Six days later, Blackstone awoke. Though, I could feel his diminished aura. I too had suffered such a wound and had my lifespan cut tragically short. Though, none compared to my daughter in law Eve whose immortal life was not burned down to a handful of decades. So much sacrificed on the altar of Light and Life. And more would be asked soon.
Before returning to our team, I briefed the Sergeant. He was clearly in pain and mourning for the sacred armor. More sacrifice.
At the 13th hour, we returned to our camp. My Rangers looked…well, cadaverous and still weak, but better than I have seen in months. They are in the best shape since the fall of the Citadel.
At that moment, I was struck by the incredible members of the team. Blackstone, his life literally ended, his sacred duty rent, rose from weeks in a coma and simply soldiered on. No self-recrimination. Pure focus and duty. Like the mountain, he weathered the storm and endured.
Mansfried? He lost his arm, but never stopped fighting. Many in his situation would bemoan the unfairness of life, but not the stalwart Olaran.
And Grimm? When he joined us he was a selfish, avaricious wheelder. But, during our time in the Hard Lands he gave up everything he had, and more for the team. He never begrudged the sacrifice. And his animosity with other elves, he never allowed it to get in the way of his duty.
Gravelheart. My dear Gravelheart. Misfortune followed her, but she never let it break her spirit. And, in the end, to her Blackstone owes his life. She took a hellish experience and intends to make a future based on her experiences. I am awed by her optimism.
Softpaws is a killer. I knew that when I allowed her on the team. Her reputation is well deserved. And yet, she remained in check, following orders without fail. She took on the mask, knowing the cost, the vulnerability it presented. She never failed us. Not once.
Lady Que’kasaars isn’t even an official Ranger. This was supposed to be a training exercise, a chance to gain first-hand knowledge. She, an untrained Eldakar sorcerer in a land where her kind CANNOT survive. And yet, there she sat, quietly watching the others talk. I know hardened warriors with a fraction of her grit. She is as tough as her kin. A worthy successor to the name.
And what of our two guests? Lady Killian left the only tribe she had to follow us on our mad quest. Fought harder than any member of my team. Accepted orders of Rangers even though she never gave the oaths. And here she remains, keeping her oaths. I’ve heard it said that Caladonians and Olarans share much in common, but Lady Killian could teach my kin of honor.
The Explorer, well, of all of us, he ever seemed the happy one. If I did not know better, I would swear he actually enjoyed the war. So much will fall to him soon. But, Ceynara has her hooks in him. I can sense it radiating off him like heat. In the end, he may have sacrificed more than all the rest.
We rejoined the camp, and Sergeant Minor Blackstone resumed command. We rested that night before taking up our long trek south.
Raining Leaves 23rd, 3128
That night, we camped outside of Tar’Imas. As I sat with my team around me quietly chatting and laughing with comfortable ease, I wondered that in all this time, I had never actually entered Tar’Imas. Funny.
We enjoyed the companionable comfort, sitting around the fire. Warm, well-fed with our “protectors” shadows in the trees. In a weird way, I almost regretted our adventure coming to end.
No, I did not want to return to Norcan Dar. I counted my every blessing I was back in Shaintar. And, I ached to see my family. But, for so long it was just this team among an army of strangers, in a foreign land. We depended upon each other for our very survival. And soon, we would each go our separate ways. Many of us would never see each other again.
So it is with every war. Comrades long gone. The bittersweet melancholy of an ending campaign. This worse for I know well what awaits me upon my return. The situation had deteriorated worse than I had foreseen. Then again, I’ve been gone far longer than intended.
I am going to miss this team. I miss every iteration of Alpha Team. Comrades long gone. But never forgotten.
Raining Leaves, 24th, 3128
We resumed our march in the morning. By that afternoon we emerged from the southern edge of the forest along the Hispan road. A full 200 mounted Legionnaires waited in formation. At once my heart soared to be among the Legion, but I knew that my epoch with Alpha Team was truly ending. In a couple of days we would reach the keep. After that…everything would change.
That night we camped outside the forest. Each Ranger was given their own tent and cot. We were provided with new clothes, given grooming tools… For the first time in nearly a year, I washed, put on a fresh, clean uniform, and shaved. The luxuries of life.
Raining Leaves 25th, 3128
In the morning we broke camp and rode out in a column. My Rangers were given a position of honor at the head of the column behind me. That night, I gathered my team for a final meal together just by ourselves. We set up a fire, ate, drank, and laughed. I don’t think they saw my tears. I will miss them. Heartily.
To mark the occasion, Blackstone sang us signet rings. They were stone with the Phoenix Moth of Alpha Team wreathed by the Legion Laurels. I will treasure it for all time. When I went to my large command tend that night, I sat alone on my cot and just…wept. Waves of sorrow, joy, pain, and loss washed over me. It was done. I got them home. And now, I would return to my home…but, sadly, there was no place for me anymore.
This camp, tonight with my Rangers, maybe the last time in a LONG time that I truly belong somewhere. They will never know how much their camaraderie meant to me. They will never know how much I am going to miss them all.
All I can do now is give them the BEST chance at a future. A future I will not share.
Raining Leaves 26th, 3128
We reach the Legion Keep, well the growing town at the base of the cliff. The commander assembles the troops and I am granted a grande parade and inspection. After so long in the Hard Lands, just living with my men, the pomp and circumstance is a bit jarring. But, I do my best.
Late, my Rangers are given accommodation. We are just settingling down when Malorie announces that she is leaving. She returns the mask and asks us to inform any who ask that she died in Norcan Dar. Before she leaves, she promises to join the Last Call for Sssahlissstaah. And with that, she was gone. The first, but not the last. And so it began.
That night, Gravelheart and Grimm discuss going into a brewing business. So, I suggest they seek out another former Alpha, John Wyvern, who has set up a tavern between Echer’Naught and Harken. I also offer other contacts to help with distribution. I’ll pen a letter to my wife for her input. I sincerely hope they are successful.
Blackstone sings a gem Mort and Pestal for Grimm. Everyone is already saying goodbye.
Raining Leaves, 27th, 3128
In the morning we trek up the switchbacks to the Keep. There, I officially resume command. My Rangers are assigned their own quarters and return to duty, piles of paperwork on my desk. Over the course of the evening, I speak with my team about where they all want to go.
Arimar Blackstone requested to resign from the Rangers so that he may assume his role as the Mountain in Stahlheim. He needed to see to the armor. I presented discharge papers and invited him to accompany me to my barony where his wife, and his child, waited. From there, they could depart for home.
The Explorer eagerly joined the Legion as an arcmancer. After we depart, he will step through the Grand Arcgate to the True Legion Keep where he will join the other Builders who have been waiting for two months.
Arwen Que’kasaars declined the cloak. She chose to return to school. Val agreed to escort her home.
Lady Killian elected to join the Legion as well, until such time as we could reliably return her to her own time and place. She would liaise with the other Caladonians serving in the Legion.
Corporal Grimm also retired from the Ranger Corps. He chose to return with us to Echer’Naught where he would take up a professorship at Ash’s Yomenie Curu Magic Academy.
Gravelheart also chose to retire. She wanted to get into the brewing business with Grimm. She would start in Echer’Naught, before returning home.
And that left only Sergeant Mansfried. As expected, he elected to remain in the Rangers. This, by default, made him commander, and the sole remaining member of Alpha Team. They…they were all gone. Upon assuming the command, I present him with Sssahlisstaah’s notes on all the foes we had faced, per her Last Will. To this others added their own notes, and I several tomes on tactics. By the end, Mansfried had a trunk of vital tactical knowledge about every enemy the Rangers have ever faced, their strengths, their weaknesses. I see a comprehensive book on strategy in the future. One, I hope very much to be able to read.
And then, we all gathered for a private Last Cal for Sssahlisstaah. It was LONG overdue. Even Softpaws joined. That night we ate, drank, and remembered. Her proceeds were dispensed according to her wishes. And then, we said goodbye to Norcan Dar and looked to the future.
Raining Leaves 28th, 3128
In the morning, we gathered to leave. All said goodbye to Killian and the Explorer. Then we headed back down the switchback and they to the Grand Arcgate. Softpaws had long since vanished. Likely for good.
That evening, we camped again at the base. Our company now down by three.
Raining Leaves 29th, 3128
In the morning, I mount Thunder and we begin our long trip home.
Raining Leaves 30th, 3128
Late on the 30th, we arrive outside Hispan with our escort.
Raining Leaves 33rd, 3128
We arrived outside Ordoth.
Harvest Moons 2nd, 3128
Late on the 2nd, we arrived outside Fylg. The entire Gather was prepared for war. Rumors suggest a silver warrior is hunting the Blood Witch. I wonder if…?
Harvest Moons 5th, 3128
We arrived at Bralk. Nothing much happens to a force our size
Harvest Moons 7th, 3128
Under Legion colors, we enter and enter Jasara with little issue. We stay in an Inn frequented by Legionnaires on trips.
Harvest Moons 8th, 3128
Again, under the Legion, we enter Olara without incident. I truly feared I might be apprehended here, but my escort handled the guards at the bridge and we were not harassed.
That night, we camp outside Rhion.
Harvest Moons 12th, 3128
Again, we camp outside Kore. I dread being identified by one of the King’s Wardens. Not until I see my wife and children at the very least.
Harvest Moons 13th, 3128
The 13th was agonizing as we began to travel through familiar fields. When I saw the first marker for the edge of the Wolfhaven Lands, I could almost not resist breaking into a gallop. Somehow I dredged up the strength. As evening fell, and soft snow drifted down, we arrived at the main gate. And there, along the road, I saw them. The Wolf’s Guard around two women in long cloaks. Around them, women held squirming infants. My heart burst.
I leaped from Thunder’s saddle and hurled myself into Elyanna’s arms. Tears rolled down my cheeks as she kissed me. I was home. I was home. I was home…
One of her maids approached and placed a soft bundle in my arms. For the first time, I looked in the angelic face of my daughter, Ellamira. My knees grew weak and I nearly sank to the muddy road as I wept silent tears of joy. Nearby, Arimar and Ruby embraced, holding their son. I knew the pride Blackstone felt, as it mirrored my own.
After our embrace, we all returned to the house. Everyone was about, grooms, cooks, guards. It was a festival air. We were feasted and toasted.
That evening, everyone enjoyed a luxurious hot bath. Mansfired headed to a study to begin penning letters and reading his material. Blackstone retired with his family. Grimm went searching from components, I assume. Gravelheart, got a bit souced, and begin exploring. Thank the Ascended she did…
Long after the staff were abed, I walked with my beloved wife in the snow, touring the gardens, chapel…just enjoying each other’s company. She could not understand why I was determined to return to Echer’Naught. She begged me to return to the Legion and leave the Olarans and Rangers to their own schemes. But, there was not heart in it. She knew it was a matter of honor, and she accepted it, as an Olaran, but hated it as a wife.
As we made our way back to the house, something moved in the shadows. I stepped away from her for a moment to investigate when men stepped out of the shadows. I sensed Xaos magic. And in that instant, a cloaked man held a sword to my wife’s throat. Others surrounded me.
Their leader approached, the snow melting as it fell around him. Heat roiled off of him…off of the sword in his hands. Soul Reaver. The Butcher’s cursed blade. But how…? The Rangers had secured it, for all time.
Of all the foul weapons I have faced, that, I know, could truly harm me. They gave me a choice. My family for my life. I calculated the situation, but there was no way. Even if I teleported, I knew they were prepared for any trick. So, I did the one thing I could, prayed to Celesia and knelt down, hoping for a miracle…
…which came in the form of a drunk dwarf.
From an upper window, a grappling hook clanked into the Butcher’s Blade as the assassin raised it in the air to take my head. He was yanked backward. In that instant of confusion, I moved, striking the man holding my wife.
Rage flooded through me.
I found a sword in my hand and I started killing. I killed until there was nothing left to kill. Then, men and women flooded the courtyard. Guards, staff, Rangers… Anaxelum appeared and his rage seeing the bodies equaled my own. If I had not stopped him, he might have taken his own life in shame right there.
Thinking quickly, I ordered that no one near the sword. It’s power to rend souls was too great a danger. It would be dealt with. But, the presence of the assassins troubled me greatly.
The Sword SHOULD have been locked in the Ranger’s deepest vault. The fact that it was here meant the Rangers either lost the blade, or someone within the Corps was complicit. And, the Xaos magic meant Xaos had infiltrated our ranks, there was an unholy alliance, or they were using the magic to throw me off the scent. Still, it would take some powerful magic to allow ANY man to wield that sword.
This was not good.
That night, no one slept. The house was on lockdown as the bodies were thoroughly examined and the sword was secured.
Harvest Moons 15th, 3128
At my insistence, the Blackstone returned to Stahlheim where they would be safe. There was a conflict coming and it was vital that they be among their own. I, with the last three members of my team, turned south to Echer’Naught. My Baroness ALMOST did not allow me to go. The assassins had shaken her badly. But, as long as I remained, they were a target.
I knew what I had to face, and it was my responsibility to accept to consequences of my actions, whether right or wrong. If I failed in my honor, how could I ask anyone to follow me? Everything I had built would mean nothing. So, I rode to my own execution.
Harvest Moons 17th, 3128
We approached the walls of Echer’Naught at dusk. The North Gate road was cleared. A knot of mounted men waited. My jailers. Rangers, City Guard, all led by a very uncomfortable looking Colonel Anderson.
Every man had a hand on his sword, but I could smell the fear, and see it in their eyes. None of them wanted to be there. Behind him, I could feel my Rangers and escort loosening their own blades. At a word, we could cut through them, charge into the city and take it by force. I have no doubt hundreds would rally to my banner. The Olarans and Rangers would have little hope.
But then what?
I’ve dedicated the past six years to building alliances. An envoy from the west is on its way to forge treaties that may bring unity to dozens of kingdoms across Shaintar…
And with a single word, I could jeopardize EVERYTHING.
So, instead, I removed my sword, wrapped it in my cloak and asked Sir Mansfried to see it returned to my House. I would NOT allow the Rangers to take it. And, they would not DARE take it from an Olaran knight. Nor would he allow it. That would be too far, even for these.
After this, I surrendered without incident.
Before I was led away, I thanked my friends for their service, and their friendship these hard months. I encouraged them to move on. Seek their own fulfillment. And then, I was led into my city, a prisoner.
Colonel Anderson remained behind to talk with the Rangers. But, I never saw the result. My “escort” rode quickly through the city, stopping only briefly at the City Watch Station before riding straight through and out the South Gate. We rode hard, putting miles between us and the city before stopping and camping well away from the road.
By the time we stopped, my escort had grown to 50. I would be flattered if I were not so incensed. Still, despite all, I have been afforded every courtesy. There is that.
Was it all worth it? We shall see.
May the Lord of Light and Celesia watch over me.
Your most obedient servant,