by Keith Haney & John L. Campbell

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Journal Text May 6, 2010

Saturday November 24th IC 1428
PictureByson - For most of my living memory lamps and candles have afforded me the light to conduct my business. The moon too has been my companion. Today the shadows have been peeled back thrusting me into the full light of day. My faded campaign tattoo, a token of my service to the empire pricked my subconscious as I donned armor for the first time in years. The oiled leather and metal buckles that held the skin of war to my body fueled an old lust. In battle is where I first found a forum for my conversant skill at killing. Here too is where I learned that praise and reward is foisted on those with an alacrity for killing. Prowess in the theatre of war is not without its punitive measures. In my minds eye vanquished foes and lost friends filed by like ghosts from a previous life. My leather gauntlet creaked as I balled my fist. Metal studs and plates forming the outer layer of the glove gave it the look of dragon skin. Or at least a crude imitation of the beasts skin. I was returning to the battlefield. I knew this day would come, but now with everything forming and solidifying the wait was over.

Around me were gathered men and women of the empire. Some whose deeds are legend, others were nefarious, owing their fame to cruelty and brutality. My own resume walked a line between the two polarities.

The command center was charged with an air of anticipation. Tempers were running hot. My lady stood with the others around a great table. Curled scrolls held flat by stones and daggers revealed the plan slowly to those in attendance. Though many masters of strategy surrounded the table, it was the young ranger from the Black Forest who emerged as the natural coordinator. His knowledge of the capabilities of others, and how to best employ them, made him a natural. I was used to this kind of workmanship from lady Nitewind, but she seemed reserved, drawn inward. Perhaps her mind was on her demonic family and the trials she and those who followed her would face once inside the Forbidden City.

As others finally set aside their own pride they embraced the charismatic young ranger lord’s keen abilities. During the lengthy debate Lady Nitewind and I locked eyes for a moment. She was standing near the young ranger Calais. She gave me a nod and a slow curling smile. I could read her thoughts. Pride swelled in her. She had always prided herself on being able to see the true nature of people. Whenever evidence surfaced to confirm her earlier suspicions she wore the expression now firmly fixed on her face. Calais was truly a gifted man and his talents would lend themselves well to our great enterprise.

When I first met Elsha I was sure she was the most beautiful creature I had ever laid eyes upon. As I grew to know her better my fondness for her only increased. Her power and beauty were inseparable and one made the other all the more appealing. I have been in her power from the beginning; Willingly, hopefully, and without reservation. Now on the eve of her return to power I was troubled and ill at ease. Our time together as coconspirators and rogues was coming to an end. My peasant upbringing would divide us when she accomplished her mission. Surely my part in her return to power would afford me wealth and security, but the one true prize would slip through my fingers. I was consoled by the many years of our close association. Those years would have to nourish my unrequited affection in the years to come. Of course all if this hinges on our success. We may yet fail in our mission yielding all our futures on the hopes of change and triumph.

Evening gave way to night as the debate continued. Many who had been ardent planners at the onset had departed the great table. Only the few who truly understood what was a stake or whose knowledge was critical to the planning remained at the table. I stole a moment and retreated outside the shelter to the cold winter air. My fingers fumbled to roll cut tobacco leaves into a broader whole leaf. In a moment it was rolled into a nice tight tubular package. I lit it with a match stick. Drawing deeply on the fag, my mind cleared and a calming sensation eased my worries of the coming mission. The tent flap separating the war room from the outside elements pushed aside. A bald man in exotic armor emerged followed closely by the Madrigala who associated with him. They were wed in the city of Eldred’s Cross against tradition and custom. Somehow their love for one another and their combined power gave them exception where it had never existed before. Their reputation for death dealing was well known and purchased much respect in any camp. I suspect that it is the combined character of the group that gives them purpose. Having seen the seasoned ranger mix the elements of war with the deftness of a master apothecary, I have no doubt where the success of the group stemmed from.

Returning to the command center I observed that Calais and Elsha were the only ones who remained at the table. Calais held a candle close to the map of the city. The two of them seemed to have reached consensus and now it was down to brass tacks.

The hour was late and most had retired to claim a share of what sleep they could before the early morning raid. I wrapped my cloak around me and leaned up against the earthworks of the fort. The planning was nearly done. Soon it would be played out in steel and blood.

I awoke to a stirring of activity. Climbing to my feet, still wrapped in the fog of dreams, I scanned to command center for familiar faces. Several solders of note were gearing up, but none of the primaries were anywhere to be seen. I scrambled out of the bunker into the predawn light. Calais was calling out orders from a parchment he held in his hands, his breath pluming in the cold air. Beside him, the white haired half-elf stood, proud and regal. His long time companion, she too was a jewel of surpassing beauty and value.

As the groups formed I moved closer listening for my name to be called from the list. As order took hold and we were huddled in our groups I noticed we had been divided into two groups of thirteen. Balanced in strength, stealth and wizardry. The Imperial Ranger Taenglewood would guide the team that was to disable the fortress spire three miles distant from Kurst. Our duty was to destroy the central spire once the city guards had been called out to deal with the attack on the neighboring fort.

The briefing was delivered by each of the commanding rangers. Once all questions had been answered regarding assignments and responsibilities we were ready to depart. Calais floated the question of an official send off. Lord Aiden was no where to be seen. Perhaps he too was deeply mired in planning. His mission depended on our success. If we failed in our attempt, he and his grand siege would fail.

Unceremoniously we gathered in circles. Each holding the hand of the next forming an unbroken chain. As we gazed at each other a low chanting served to call the magic that would transport us hundreds of miles to the goblin home city.

We arrived on the windswept planes north of the city. Snow covered the rolling hills. It was deepest in the valleys and nearly absent at the crests of the hills. We separated into two groups and moved south. To the west a range of jagged hills divided this valley from the next. The fortress spire was located atop those hills. Our objective lay in the concentric rings of the goblin city. A great blue water river divided the city in half. I had expected to see a city of loose buildings and forts like those of the outlying cities of the goblin empire. What I saw gave me pause. Great structures rivaling those of the human empire rose above the city defenses. The wintering city was alive with activity even at this early hour. at the center of the maze was our objective. a great spire was visible even at this distance. I wished I had a better idea of the plan. How were we going to fight our way into that rat’s nest?

My answer came as swiftly as the thought. The wizards were going to grant us the substance of the wind for our journey. We would enter the city as ghosts. Manifesting at a time of our choosing to haunt the halls of the Forbidden City.

We waited at the edge of the city awaiting the signal that the battle had been engaged at the fortress spire. We didn't have to wait long. A flair broke the still morning air, rising from the hills near the fort. Before long the guard from the city responded to the distress call. Soon we would make our move. After a few minutes that felt like an eternity, Calais gave the signal.

Out incursion was seamless. The guards that were on the streets seemed oblivious to our passage. We flew over districts within the city populated and teaming with commerce. What industry beyond that of war could possible fuel this city?

We arrived at the northern gate to the Forbidden City. All but one of us had arrive in zephyr form. Enzo Vittorio was the exception. Though he was invisible, he could not pass through the wooden doors as we did. The two goblin guards outside the door paid us no mind as we slipped passed them. By the time they knew we were there, their fates had been sealed. Enzo and others of our cadre purchased them swift passage to the afterlife.

I became material in the barbican between the doors and a courtyard beyond. Clay statuary formed to resemble the goblin guards outside lined the hall and the courtyard. I heard the thrum of bowstrings and turned to face the courtyard fully. Before we had time to settle in fully and access our surroundings the effigies of the guards animated with a swiftness of purpose that caught us all off guard. The malleable clay crackled with magical malice, striking those nearest to them. I set my teeth tightly together, inhaling though them deeply as I brought my weapon to bear. This wasn't my first tour of duty.

 


 
June 3rd we will attempt to complete the most epic campaign of all time! Be at my house as close to 6 PM as possible. - Keith

Calais Hellebore
Ranger/Fighter 16/2
Exp:
Current: 1,568,300 Next Level 1,700,000
Pics: 1
Enzo Vittorio
Dragon Shaman 19
Exp:
Current: 1,967,300 Next Level 2,400,000
Pics: 1, 2
Corman Mastiff
Cleric 18
Exp:
Current: 1,258,000 Next Level: 1,700,000
Pics: 1
Celeste Vittorio
Paladin/Fighter 15/ 4
Exp:
Current: 2,302,300 Next Level: 2,400,000
Pics 1, 2, 3, 4
Silverhawk
Ranger 18
Exp:
Current: 1,568,300 Next Level: 1,700,00
Pics: 1 , 2 , 3 , 4, 5

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