The World of DaNar

Breathing Room
Sorscha

It’s a tactic that I’ve seen before, but I didn’t expect it to work here, with the Bowmen.

At Exelar’s suggestion, I took Hershel and set up in the treeline at Lochaid the same night that the bargain was struck. The arrival of this leader among the Bowmen has revealed a level of competence that could not previously be discerned. From our hidden vantage point, we could see them gathering materials, striking fires and camps, all for preparation to leave in the morning and all done with efficiency. Had these Bowmen been present from our first encounter with them, things would have gone differently.

Deciding it was worth a night in the open, we held position and I took my reverie perched in a tree. Come the dawn, the Bowmen were on the move and leaving Lochaid, as had been promised. As they left, they split their number to the East and West out of the town. I assume they did so to enforce our new restrictions. However, thinking back on what Exelar said about his conversation with their leader, I can’t help but wonder what the larger issue is that they’re dealing with that makes it so they couldn’t keep losing forces to us.

I sent Hershel back to the Rise to bring them up to speed. His new cloak makes for a useful and speedy messenger. I wanted to make sure that the Bowmen were gone, so as he left, I descended into the town.

I’m not sure what I expected, but they had actually left. I encountered no traps and buildings were not put to the torch as they left. After the last several weeks, it was strange to be walking here openly. It no longer was a place of danger, but merely old and empty.

Remembering our first time through here, and the determined digging of Bowmen on later visits, I hurried to the building that had collapsed from under me. A quick search lead me believe that in the time since, none of them had managed to dig out the body of the Bowman that fell with the tower. I took note for later and headed to the large, main building that sits near the cliff face. Damaged, but sound, it was also now empty of life. Satisfied for the moment, I went back to Temple Rise.

Arriving at the temple, Exelar was in conversation with a new arrival from the night before. A high elf, he arrived late and exhausted from travel, claiming to have reached us by following signs of battle. He walked out as I walked in to find Exelar examining a map of the area that I hadn’t seen before, He told me that he believed it be a type of magic that pointed out threats in the area around the Rise and that he had sent the newcomer to search for one, in particular. He then requested that I follow the elven knight to observe and “not let him die, if possible.”

This new elf was a strange one. Having shown up declaring himself an enemy of “those who would use magic to subject others”, and drow and their ilk, of course, he was now tromping through the forest, hurling boisterous challenges into the trees. He made it very easy to keep track of him while staying hidden. But, strange or not, his methods appeared to work as I suddenly noticed movement in a tree as there was the sound of a bowstring and a feathered shaft sprouted from the elf’s chest.

A fight ensued and, though the sniper was skilled, I managed to disable him fairly quickly. I noted, however, that every time I set the man up where we had advantage, the elf would not avail himself of it. He merely kept bellowing, demanding that the man stand up and face him, while simply standing there and not fighting.

Ultimately, I fought him to the point where he yielded. He said that he was instructed to convey that just as the Watchmen were fair game for the Bowmen if and when operating outside the Rise and Lochaid, so were their forces vulnerable when operating within the domains ceded to the Watchmen. He also said that we should expect that they will want to keep an eye on us, but that if we caught their spies, then they deserved to be caught. The sniper then used a device I’ve seen with the drow before – a mouth-carried capsule or false tooth filled with poison – and promptly died. We searched the body and returned across the bridge.

We arrived back at the same that Nathaniel and his entourage, along with Balk, were returning from Lochaid. Apparently, he had gone down and had Balk dig out the body from the collapsed building that I had noted earlier, As had become something of a custom, we piled our newly found items together to begin a magical analysis of them.

Everything went normally until Nathaniel examined a key. The very air in the temple room changed. It became heavier, almost like it took effort to move through it, and Nathaniel began to scream and then speak in several layered voices, The key burned in his hand with a strange light. Before anyone, even myself, could move, the elven knight moved forward and struck the key from Nathaniel’s hand. At the moment this happened, a wave of force erupted from the key, knocking all in the room prone and Nathaniel collapsed into a heap.

After some recovery time for all, I sought out Nathaniel, intending to inquire as to the nature of what he experienced with the key. As I entered the basement libraries, I saw him communing with a glowing crystal of some type and again, speaking with voices that were not his, nor otherwise present in the room. Calling out, I told him to set the gem down, immediately. When he refused and began trying to explain why he would not, I raced forward and rendered him unconscious with two precise strikes. This would not happen again the same day.

I took an empty pouch, grabbed the gem with it, and strode from the room, headed for Exelar’s chamber. On my way, Nathaniel, roused by one of his men, attempted to stop me through explanations and even physically, but I would not be deterred.

After consulting with Exelar in council, a course of investigations has been determined. Exelar is holding onto the gem to be examined further. And the rest of us are to go down to the Spire to investigate visions that Nathaniel had while under the influence of the key. Something in his descriptions of them reminded of the encounter with the Old One in the goblin caves, and I am not encouraged. It brings to mind a surface saying that I’ve begun to become familiar with about frying pans and their fires.

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The Final Stand
Journal entry of Exelar Vitarri

During my excursion across the North Bridge things got out of hand back home, between Shepard spiking heads and Xar’eth torturing prisoners, and left a black mark on Temple Rise. So with our dwarven allies at our back it was time to try and resolve the situation before things get worse. With Olt and Gruendok accompanying me we left the Spire and headed towards Lochaid

Our approach was quickly noticed and an alarm went out. Not wanting to leave my other companions too far behind I stop at the edge of town, giving Hersheland Sorscha a chance to find a good hidden position on our flanks. After only a few minutes a small contingent approached our position led by a small, lithe figure that appeared to be the “Sam” that Hershel told us about. Appearing to hail from the same region that Hershel himself came from she introduced herself as Meiko Sama. With the movement that reminded me of Sorcha and the cold look you would get from Xar’eth I was on my guard.

She asked about the sneak attack from the previous night, which I said I was unplanned by me and a rogue attack. I apologized for the attack on their emissaries, so I came myself to parlay. She stated turning over the remaining Watchmen would help cease hostilities, which I refused, and countered with them leaving us alone and us not killing them. Seeing that we were at an impasse, I offered the return of Immen Khan’s body to show we can be at odds and still be civilized. After a quick inspection to confirm identity we parted ways.

As we approached the Spire a contingent of forces arrived at Lochaid, the reinforcements we had feared. Another roughly 30 armored men, heavy infantry and archers, led by a man on horseback in a mithril and blue dragonhide armor, and surrounded by a smaller group, also mounted, Gruendok says are referred to as The Dervish. He is apparently the Bowmen third in command, Vladimir Kroenen, and judging by the missing hand, eye and the plentiful scars I believe I know how he acquired his armor. Certain we would be meeting soon I acknowledged him from afar and he responded in kind.

Leaving Sorscha and Hershel behind to watch for their approach I went to prepare for the coming battle. As I sent Shepard and the refugees into the temple, the weather must have sensed what was to come because a massive thunderstorm arrived ushering in nightfall. With everybody on edge, Hershel transforming from bat form was quite unexpected, unlike the news of the enemies approach. Sorscha arrived shortly after and I sent Ferrell to inform Shepard the time had come to lock everybody into the temple. Activating the temples latent defenses and using daylight on the main bridge, which surprisingly also transferred to the north bridge, was the last things done in preparation. As the light washed outward it revealed the enemy commander and “The Dervish” sitting in the road and watching us, how they approached unheard was unsettling. Seeing the line of torches that appeared marching up the road behind them, like a long fire snake, was even more unsettling. torches-dave-donaldson.jpg

The leader approached and I met him on the middle of the bridge. After introductions were made he seemed very business like and spoke in a Vilholman accent. He informed me as a problem solver we were a problem he needed to solve, the amount of men and resources lost has become too large to ignore. His solution is to no longer use any to acquire what is essentially the ruins of two towns they never wanted and the death of the remaining Watchmen. They are leaving Lochaid and taking some of the supplies from the captured refugees. As long as we stay in Lochaid and Temple Rise we will be left alone, travel in and out would be at our own risk and any Watchmen outside of here would be killed on sight.

Before his departure he wanted to repay the gesture I made by returning Immen Khan’s body, stating that Idris Khan was very fond of his “Stiefbrüder”, a Vilholman term that Nathaniel later informed me meant step-brother, but in his native Vilholm could also mean blood-brother, half-brother, or adopted brother. Kroenen had a Dervish bring forth a hooded, gaunt, and hunched over figure and said this made us even. With a motion his men vanished, torches and all, and he departed.

The final shock of the night was when the unmasked man was Cutter, though Hershel didn’t kill him, the poison has devastated him physically. Where we go from here will be interesting indeed…

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Swallowing the plate
Hiroshima Sakai (Hershel)

Prepared to die

I stood outside, staring into the distance as Sorscha posted guards at the cellar door, and hurried North toward the temple. The look on her face told me that she was deeply disturbed, and sorely disappointed. This made me feel ashamed, in a way I had not felt since I was banished from the service of the Golden Lord in Honshu.

I know now that I need to face down Cutter, and to do so alone. The gods will decide whether I succeed or fail. If I die, I do so in penance of the demon within myself which I have unleashed; if I live… I am not sure what to make of that.

I stepped aside into the shadows with the dark elf Xar’eth. Perhaps the demon markings etched onto his face made me feel a sense of sordid kinship. I confided in him, telling him my plan to fly into Lochaid in the night to gather information on the Bowmen, and to kill Cutter, if presented the opportunity. I asked him about the nature of the poisons which we acquired from the drow priestess; he told me that one was a standard drow sleep poison, and the other was the venom of a purple worm. I also asked him to use his magic sense to see whether the arrows I picked up from Bowman Toby were magical; they were. I nodded to the dark one and said “Arigatou gozaimasu, akuma shinja”.

I followed the party of Dwarves carrying supplies up the road, that had apparently accompanied Exalar and the others on their return from the north, and asked one of them if they could spare any rope. I was given a 50-foot length of finely crafted silk. I thanked them, and made my way out of town, creeping behind buildings and fences so that none would see my passing. I crept my way quietly to the South, toward the Spire. When I got there, I climbed to the top level, and hid in a dark corner. There I sat, gathering my strength and calming my mind in preparation for my strike at the heart of Lochaid.

A bat in a village

Dusk began to fall. I heard the stirring of the bats which made their home in the lower level of the Spire. I opened my eyes, and prepared myself. The stirring became a fluttering as I walked toward the edge of the broken second story of the ancient stone structure. I took the cloak1 behind me in both hands, and jumped, transforming into a bat in mid-air. I rose through the sky to the South, flapping my wings and chittering to find my way in the darkness, along with the dark colony. As I flew over the trees, my altered senses found that the number of Bowmen snipers in the woods had dwindled considerably.

Quietly, I fluttered my way up to the roof of the lookout deck, the floor of which raised about 5 feet up from the main roof of the building. I laid flat before releasing the edges of the cloak and turning back into my natural form. As I did so, the ancient structure groaned a bit under the new weight. I heard the Bowman guard on the landing below me mutter something about “these fucking old buildings falling apart”, and I stayed still as death for another few minutes. After being sure that the guard did not notice my presence, I crept quietly to the edge of the roof causing a few more groans and another mutter from the guard. Thankfully, the night carried a northerly wind, which was enough to account for the sounds.

I looked out upon Lochaid, and saw far fewer bonfires than there had been just two nights earlier, when we made our strike on the North edge of town. As I laid, I listened to the voices of Bowmen talking and laughing together as they drifted up from the second story of the building. The lookout muttered something under his breath about “the way that Cutter treated the sergeant… should have just killed him, rather than string him up to suffer like that.” I dropped down to the main roof as silently as possible, ducked below the view of the guard, and crawled slowly toward the edge of the roof where the sound of Cutters voice drifted up from the balcony. The view from the roof allowed me to estimate the extent of the Bowman defenses. It appeared that they were down to somewhere between 20 and 30 men. I also spotted a man who I recognized as a Bowman sergeant, strung up to a cross out front.

I thought about what this meant for our chances of survival as I laid there and listened to Cutter talking to his men. We had cut down their number significantly, and obviously there was some kind of power struggle happening between the Bowmen and Cutter’s mercenaries. How loud that man was; how certain that he would arise victorious! He talked of “those cowards at Temple Rise,” and how he had “given them a chance to surrender themselves.” He admitted that we had done him a favor by killing Immen Khan. He talked of a man called Al’Basheer, of his aspirations for military governorship over this sector of the Wildlands. For hours, the man talked. “I hope Idris comes himself…” Well that was revealing. Perhaps the strength of these impending reinforcements had been exaggerated. After he had slain the Risers with his words, Cutter reflected that the Vorscha would “disappear into the black heart of the ruin!” I noted this last comment, and resolved to discuss it further with my companions.

It is said that in the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. The Honshujin say of this man that he is ”tori naki sato no koumori”; “a bat in a village without birds.” After hours of listening to Cutter, it was quite clear that he was the one-eyed man; he was the bat. My greatest hope was that removing him from power would leave a country of the blind leading the blind.

The tiger’s cave

Sometime around midnight, Cutter retired to his room with an ally whom I had heard referred to as “Sam”. I waited an hour after I heard them settle into their beds, and I dove off the edge of the roof, transforming into a bat as I did so, and flying down onto the shuttered window. I squeezed my tiny body in between the slats of the shutters, and flew up to hang from the rafters, changing back into human form. As I hung upside down, I drew an arrow and the purple wurm poison from where I had secured them to my belt. I applied the poison to the arrow, and took aim at Cutter’s sleeping form, taking steady breaths, and lining up my shot for a solid minute. I fired, and Cutter grunted as the arrow sunk into his ribs. Sam was up immediately, cursing at me, throwing shuriken which sunk into my shoulder and back. I feared that I hadn’t injured Cutter gravely enough, and so I fired one more shot, this one into his belly, before dropping from the ceiling and turning back into bat form.

I heard Sam yelling out the alarm as I flew out the makeshift wall erected by the balcony, which had been partially blown up during our first encounter with the Bowmen. I flapped away to the north, unsteadily dipping into the treeline with every fifth beat of my wings. When I arrived in Temple Rise, I sought shelter in the hayloft of the barn beside the temple, thinking that I would sleep off my wounds there. As I shifted back into human form, a horrible pain racked my belly, and I fell, groaning to the floor. A moment later, I doubled over and screamed as my vision went dark…


I awoke in the main chamber of the temple, with Exelar standing over me. My consciousness faded in and out for the next few moments, muttering things that I only half comprehended. When I fully came to, the giant hands of the shield guardian were laying over my face, and I had a second of irrational fear that it would crush my skull.

“Cutter is dead. Hopefully that will stop the Bowmen from attacking us.”

“OR it will bring further retribution. By doing this you risked the lives of everyone in Temple Rise. You do not have the right to make those kind of decisions!”

So the conversation went, I offering my positions and the rest of the Risers rebuking me for “selfishness” and “idiocy”. But when discussion turned to going back down to the Spire and scouting out the current standing of the Bowman situation, again I was among the first to volunteer.

When we got to the Spire, I waited along with the others while Sorscha went down to Locahid to assess the situation. She reported back that the Bowmen seemed to be gathering their defenses. As she talked of observing some sort of in-fighting among, I could not help smiling a bit. It seems that Cutter’s death may already be helping us…

A more capable foe

In the morning, Sorscha and I both went down to the forest at the northwest edge of Lochaid to keep apprised of the Bowman situation. It appeared that the man who had hung on the cross the night before had been cut down, and lay dead, out in the open where the crows could eat at his flesh. A short man clad in red armor, with a belt of shuriken across his chest and two swords strapped across his back, commanded Bowmen and mercenaries alike, his gravelly voice forceful, but quiet. “Sam”; another Honshujin, by the look of it; was clearly a more capable leader than Cutter. This was not a good sign.

We made our way back to the Spire, and began discussing among ourselves what to do about the Bowman situation. My actions the night before seemed to have forced our hand. If we waited too long, the enemy force would grow stronger and more capable. They would possibly add Idris Khan to their numbers, which, according to Shepherd and Grundach, is no small advantage. My view is that we need to strike now, while they are on the defensive and their numbers are reduced. Sorscha seems to, begrudgingly, agree. The new Dwarven force and Exelar are not convinced.

Whatever is done, we must do it soon…


1: Cloak of the Bat ; obtained during the previous adventure as loot from the fallen Bowman force which attacked Temple Rise

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Cling together
Hiroshima Sakai (Hershel)

“Mitgefangen, mitgehangen!” – old Vilholman adage

Aftermath

The Bowman retaliation was swift, and devastating. We lost Lazar Namah, the ranger who accompanied Sorscha and myself on our strike against Lochaid. We also lost Kincaid, Jacob, and two of the refugees that fought their way out of the Bowman stronghold. Ulrick was maimed in the fight, and Al’sharri Nightglow is inches away from death. In a town made up of primarily women, children, and farmers, we lost six of our best warriors. Our only solace is in the number of enemies we have slain… and the capture of Cutter’s man, Jack.

After counting our dead and taking supplies from our fallen foes, we rested for what remained of the night. In the morning, Exelar announced that he, Sorscha, and Nathaniel’s entourage would head up North to see if it presented any way out of our current situation. I volunteered to stay behind and guard the town to the best of my ability, being one of the few left capable of fighting should more Bowmen advance on Temple Rise.

Parley

I started the day by taking up a patrol around the woods and paths to the South of Temple Rise. I was sure that the Bowmen would strike again while greater than half of our fighting forces were away, so I ate little, both because we had little and to keep my senses sharp. I could hear every rustle of wind through the leaves, and even the slightest sounds my feet made as I walked seemed to reverberate through the forest. I spent all day patrolling, yet saw not a single living creature in those woods.

The following morning, Shepherd approached me and asked if I would scout the area near The Scarlet Spire. I made my way south through the trees, and as I approached the spire I saw a party of three Bowmen heading up the road on horseback, bearing a white flag. I took a quick look around, to see if any more of them might be shadowing behind this group. Though I saw no one, I thought it prudent to test my assumption by firing a shot at one of the horses. My arrow took it in the foreleg, and the beast reared up on its hind quarters, screaming as it threw its rider to the ground and ran south, toward Lochaid.

Unfortunately the Bowman was fairly unharmed as he stood, shaken, shouting “P-p-p-parley! We were sent to parley with the masters of Temple Rise!” I stayed still, and watched in silence as the group scanned the woods and the area around the Spire nervously. After a few moments they made their way up the road, glancing uncertainly from side to side as they did.

Approaching the bridge, the Bowmen stopped and began to call out to Shepherd, who was in command of the guard posted at the bridge. I crept closer up behind the group, and took aim with my bow, prepared to kill every one of them at a moments’ notice. The unhorsed one gave a message to Shepherd, the nature of which was essentially “Surrender or die.”

I took that as my cue to send an arrow through the bastard’s throat. Balk, who was apparently on catapult duty, lobbed a giant boulder onto one of the Bowmen riding a horse, crushing beast and rider in one hideous blow. The third Bowman turned to ride back down the road and was pin-cushioned by the time he rode by my position. I fired a couple more into his back for good measure, and he fell to the ground dead as his horse cantered off 50 yards or so to nibble on some grass.

Celebration

The people of the Rise were in good spirits with the smell of horse flesh roasting on the fire. Balk salivated over his singed haunch, and I took a little off the shoulder to calm my rumbling stomach. But my work for the day was not yet finished; the parley group had seen to that when they delivered Cutter’s message. Let the refugees go, surrender yourselves; Khan is coming.

There is a saying in my native tongue: “doku kuwaba sara made”; when poisoned, one might as well swallow the plate. Feeling the poison of that message in my gut, I sought out Xareth in his crypt beneath the old tavern. He introduced me to the prisoner, Jack, and I began pressing the man for information. Information on Cutter, where he sleeps, the layout of the main building at the southern edge of Lochaid. I questioned while Xareth prodded the broken man, making the information pour forth—

A stream of light shot into the dank cellar from the doors out to the garden-courtyard. The light hurt my eyes, and it took a moment for them to adjust as Sorscha stepped into the room. She looked disgusted; pained. I followed her gaze to Bowman Jack, and for the first time truly saw the brutality of the wounds inflicted on him. She spoke, but I could not hear. I stumbled past her and up the stairway into harsh daylight.

Swing together

I know not who Khan is, but I do know one name that I have heard daily, since stumbling into this war with the Bowmen: “Cutter”. And now, it appears, Cutter is in command of Lochaid. If we could take him out, maybe the force at Lochaid would fall apart. Maybe they would stop attacking us, and we could get away from this godforsaken island. But if they don’t…

Having learned various Human languages, I have developed an affinity for sayings in different tongues. There is a common expression: “In for a copper; in for a gold”, that I feel suits our Bowman situation almost perfectly. Its counterpart in Honshugo is that saying which I mentioned earlier, about swallowing the plate. The Vilholman, though; their words always cut to the heart of the matter. In Vilholm it is said “Mitgefangen, mitgehangen!”; Cling together, Swing together!

This I promise: as the Bowmen continue to ally against us, so will they hang.

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The North Bridge
Journal Entry of Exelar Vitarri

Exelar Vitarri

North_Bridge_Temple_Rise.jpg

With the Bowmen seemingly unwilling to leave us in peace in Temple Rise we need to discover more options should we need them.

Along with myself, Sorscha, Nathaniel and his two companions we go the only direction left to us…north across the destroyed bridge to look for help or an escape. Sorscha of course traverses the tree laid across the chasm by our ogre friend Bulk with ease, I follow with ease though not with the same grace. Nathaniel and his friends not so much, after several slips and near falls they make it across to join us. As they try and regain their pride, and everyone that watched regain their composure we set off along what appears to be an old cobblestone path.

The path leads up into the mountains to a high plateau with ruins of what we assume is an old Dwarven town, based on the huge sculptures flanking the road into the town. We fan out and discover what appear to be cairns holding dwarves of some importance nestled against a sheer cliff face, surrounded by a semi-circle of 13 statues similar to the ones that flanked the road as we entered the ruined town. The statues are well worn and damaged, but we clearly make out Moradin, a dwarven god, the others are not so easy. Between us we think one has the the clan insignia of Wyrkadrin, or Soul Anvil. Will have to do more research when we get back to Temple Rise. Nathaniel detects there is still some wards active on them, and after noticing the upkeep around the cairns we know someone is still actively taking care of the place.

While Nathaniel is taking sketches of some runes, Sorscha informs me we have a stalker in the form of a large cat hiding in the trees, and possibly the bird that’s been circling overhead. Not wanting to anger any forest creatures we leave and continue along the path.

About an hour and a half further up the mountain we find a pair of guard posts flanking a large stone bridge. Deciding we couldn’t make it back before dark I start across the bridge followed by my companions. Halfway across we see figures waiting for us on the other side that appear to be dwarven in stature. Not wanting Sorscha to give a bad first impression based on her obvious heritage I stride forward with Nathaniel trailing behind to serve as translator if necessary. After giving a greeting I learned years ago to break the ice we cycled through several languages until we came upon an amalgamation that worked.

Sky_Bridge.jpg

These are the survivors of an old Dwarven citadel that used to trade with Temple Rise during the Thyatian Empire. Apparently some kind of sickness hit the human settlement that caused them to attack and kill each other, which is why no one has been able to settle there.

They destroyed the bridge to protect themselves, and have had no contact with humans other than a druid that is a descendant of the town. Apparently the dwarves had their own problems, a colossal dragon has taken up residence in their main keep, and they have struggled to survive since, residing in a former outpost called Shädenhome, even doing the unthinkable and cohabiting with Duergar to survive.

Wanting to renew the agreement made centuries ago, I as the new Prime agree to help them and they agree to aid us.

The Shädenhome dwarves offer, as part of our renewal of the ancient agreement, to send a group of 15 dwarves, lead by a great grandson of the Chief Gruenchdok, back to Temple Rise with us as reingforcements and also some supplies to relieve our besieged refugees. I believe we may have found our miracle. Blessed be Heironeous.

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Defeat
Sorscha

After falling back to the Rise from the strike on Lochaid, Exelar and the former Watchmen rushed to set up the defenses. Hershel’s new foundlings were sent to the temple for healing while defenses were set up around the front bridge and the broken northern exit. I decided to return to the forest and scout for the Bowmen advance. Hershel followed on the opposite road facing.

My decision proved a foolish one, as we were quickly cut off from the town. A phalanx of Bowmen troops in heavy armor and shields came up the road to the base of the south bridge. I wouldn’t be able to do anything against 15 armored footmen alone, so I let them pass, anticipating an ambush as they engaged our force on the bridge.

Moving up toward them, I noticed unexpected movement in the trees across the road. Running over, Hershel was in an apparent standoff with a figure I’d not seen before. I flanked the figure, anticipating a fight, but Hershel sent him on his way. I don’t know that I’ll come to truly understand humans.

Moving to the bridge, I saw that Nathaniel had been harrying the bowmen. A familiar sight for me, he had webbed the span horizontally, separating the phalanx into two groups. Hearing combat further into the town, I leapt onto the bridge rail and ran across, passing the occupied Bowmen without so much as an attack.

Coming around the bend, I encountered a Bowmen strike team that had been attacking into town. Cutter was with them. Taking in the scene, one of Exelar’s trainines was down, Ulrich was surrounded and seriously wounded, and the half-elf firing one arrow after another while being advanced on.

I tried to draw their attention to me. Having previously ruined the temper on Cutter’s prized blade, it was now dull and brittle. I moved to the ruins of the inn and shouted for his attention. Now in view, I shoved the blade into a fracture of the foundation and focused my strength, shattering the blade sideways.

The coward did not face me himself, but sent his fodder after me and ran. They were not a challenge and fell quickly. Looking around, it was not only Cutter, but the remains of the Bowmen force were all in retreat. Ulrich had lost an arm, his life only saved through healing magic. The half-elf lay unconscious on the edge of death. I don’t know who else survived or perished. We need to regroup and take stock.

We underestimated the threat that the Bowmen presented and we have paid for doing so. We had survived, but we were beaten. I have tried restraint with these waste before. I had set aside the ways in which I was raised and this was the result. No more. Let the Bowmen beware for I will not suffer any to live while I do.

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Temple Rise attacked!
Journal Entry of Exelar Vitarri

After arriving back at Temple Rise following the successful attack on the Bowmen we quickly make introductions with the new refugees. I send Shepard with them to the temple while I hurriedly try and set up some defenses for what we expect to be a retaliatory assualt.

With most of the forces marshaling at the main gate, Xar’eth and Capt. Kincaid are watching the old north bridge. Sorscha and Hershel are scouting across the river and we have a few others patrolling the island. I head to the temple to check on the newcomers and see if they can be of any help in the upcoming battle.

Most are badly wounded and will be of little help, they have a cleric of Pelor with them but all my healing can do at this point is to ease his pain. The de facto leader of the escapees, a gray elf by the name of Sep, tells me his half-orc companion could be of assistance. The weapons and armor they stole from their captors are ill suited, so I have Shepard equip them with some of our reserves.

As I head out to check on our defenses, I barely make it to the north bridge when the attack starts. Several Bowmen have crossed the river and made their way to the temple before an alarm was sounded, before I can react arrows rain down on Xar’eth and Kincaid. Hoping they can fend them off from, I race towards the temple where the most vulnerable people are located.

I mentally call for the temple guardian as i run, from my vantage the attackers seem to be focusing on Shepard. Our newcomers are trying to help as is the blacksmith. Still not close enough to be help with my sword, a call is sent forth to Heironious to aid me. I watch as their leader is suddenly frozen in place, which the temple guardian uses to his advantage and decapitates him.

Sep has fallen and miraculously recovers, the half-orc dies, and the blacksmith loses an arm before we finish off the intruders. After getting all the refugees into the temple and having Shepard lock the door, I head out to survey how the others fared…

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Strike & Retreat
Sorscha:

Forward
The raid was planned. Two teams would strike at two fires on the edge of town closest to the Spire. One drow in each team, to smother the fire’s light and confuse the unsuspecting guards.

Myself, Hershel, and the woodsman, Lazar, were to strike the further camp. Separated from the path of retreat and exposed for longer to the enemy, ours was the greater risk. However, we were also adept at remaining hidden, so it made sense for the risk to be ours.

Exelar and Xeroth took to the posting that lay on the main road coming down from the Rise. That more direct path favored a larger man in heavy armor. And, despite being a more drow than myself, Xeroth is a fahliell, and so is more adept at overt displays of power than going unnoticed.

As we set out to stalk our target, familiar feelings came to me. Here, at night, the skies blocked by plants and smoke, stalking around structures to hit the enemy, I could be back in the har’oloth. Calling on my drow blood, I covered the fire, along with the troops near it, in twisting shadow. With the signal made, we advanced. Lazar was more effective than I suspected and killed the sniper in a shot. Cries echoed from one of the Bowmen as they blindly stumbled into their own fire. Hershel laid low one and engaged another. Seeing an opening, I dodged around his melee and another fell, broken.

We were competent, and the attack ended quickly as it began, with only the burning man still breathing. I could hear clashes in the distance. Exelar must have taken his cue from our attack and begun his own. Turning to leave, I was confronted with the sight of my human companions both standing and staring further into town. What were they doing? The plan was progressing perfectly and it was time to go. If they kept standing like rothe, we would all be dead!

“Hershel, it’s time to go!” Nothing. The hunter had begun to move, but he still stood as if dumbstruck. One more time, then.

“We need to go. Our job is done. If you stay, you do so alone. I will not risk the others!”

Apparently, that was enough. His head snapped toward me and I began our retreat back to the North road. I could hear him following.

Emerging from the treeline onto the road, I could still hear combat from the other team’s position. A shadowy sphere still blotted the firelight. I sent my companions on to the Spire and ran back to the others. As i approached, I could see Exelar being pressed by a bowman opponent. Several bodies were strewn around, and he seemed to be flagging from a few significant wounds.

I could hear a bowman commander shouting orders and the march of heavy-armored feet coming in our direction. Lacking the time for subtlety, I charged with all speed. Leaping over Exelar’s flagging guard, I drove all my weight through my fist and into the face of the bowmen. Bone shattered as he went limp and fell. Handing my mentor a healing draught, we made pace for the Spire.

Back
Regrouping at the Spire, I had a feeling that the bowmen were not going to let things end here. We’d rattled the bat nest and they weren’t going back to sleep soon. I had Hershel scout West as I went East, looking for others like ourselves that would be hunting us down.

In short order, I found a group of a dozen or so lightly-armored bowmen working their way toward the Spire through the trees. i wouldn’t be able to eliminate so many on my own. Again calling on my drow nature, I summoned wisp lights formed as torches to imitate a hunting party and sent them on a path to flank the bowman advance. Hopefully this would provide a delay.

As I emerged, Hershel was there with another group I’d not seen before. A story for later, then. I discussed with the others the oncoming forces and it was decided that we’d not be able to hold the Spire. Balk dropped rubble onto the basement entrance, The fire log trap was lit and kicked onto the road, and anything burnable was set alight on the rubble pile to conceal it and prevent further use. Anything else of use we picked up and carried back to the Rise, where we now prepare for the enemy arrival…

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A Thousand Cuts
Hiroshima Sakai (Hershel)

I have heard that Tetsu no Daimyo , the Iron Lord who rules over the Yamatai region of Honshu, has an especially brutal punishment for crimes such as treason or patricide. When the criminal is caught, they are strapped to a post in the center of town. Then, in front of the eyes of all the townfolk, their flesh is removed in small strips over a number of days, until they die. This is leng chi, the Death by a Thousand Cuts, and it is the punishment that I intend for the Bowmen.

Hit-and-run

The night raid went nearly according to plan. Sorscha, myself, and Lazar went East, behind the ruined buildings on Lochaid’s North face. As the Drow spell dropped on the Bowman watch-fire, I moved up into the inky darkness to strike at the enemy as they shouted out in confusion, fumbling for their weapons. A swift whisper of disturbance in the air above my head followed by a loud groan and a muted thud some distance to the Southeast told me that Lazar had hit his mark in taking out the sniper in the treeline.

Off to my right, faintly visible in the darkness, a Bowman who had failed to find his way around the bonfire rolled in the grass, screaming as his body burned. The smoke stung my eyes, and filled my nose with the smell of charred flesh and burnt hair. The former made my stomach grumble; a disturbing reminder of the shortage of food back at Temple Rise. My body was jarred to the side as I caught a Bowman arrow in the shoulder, and I resolved to discipline myself later for becoming distracted.

A cloud of blackness a shade darker than the Drow spell passed in front of my vision as Sorscha sidled by the chaos to fight the Bowmen on the West side of the watch-fire. I tumbled by my adversary to position him with his back against the wall, and struck once more, sending him bleeding to the ground. More arrows flew, and more screams ensued.

As we danced around the fire, a call went up from somewhere inside Lochaid, rallying the Bowmen to deal with the unseen threat at the edge of town. Almost simultaneously, shouts of confusion and sounds of battle erupted from a large building on the South side; possibly indication some other force attacking the Bowman encampment. I looked around; the enemy lay dead, burning, or bleeding around the fire. We had accomplished our goal.

I hesitated, as I thought about the possibility of running the length of Lochaid to assist in whatever battle had been met there. Maybe we could strike at the heart of the Bowmen encampment here. Maybe I could take out Cutter, or some of his men. With help from this extra fighting force, we could turn the hit-and-run into a victory. Or maybe I could use my Ninja training and take advantage of the confusion to secret myself away in the main building, and hide there until the immediate threat of danger had passed and the Bowmen became complacent…

Sorscha’s voice broke me out of my dreams of what could be: “Hershel, it is time to go!”
I paused for another second and looked Southward, measuring my odds.

“I see no reason to stay when we have completed our task. Stay if you want; you will do so alone.”

I sighed as I turned from my dreams of conquering the Bowman force. Sorscha and Lazar disappeared, zig-zagging Northwest through the night toward the rendezvous point at the Spire. The Bowman I had fought earlier lay on the ground, bleeding but still breathing. I took another moment to open his throat with my dagger, then I followed my allies.

Retreat

We ran toward the Spire, with 30 or more Bowmen in pursuit. As we crested the top of the hill, I took a moment to ask Exelar Vitarri for healing, as Sorscha gave me instructions to split off into the woods to watch for any forces attempting to flank us.

I headed downhill through the woods to the West, and spotted a group of about a dozen, the foremost dressed in Bowman armor. I positioned myself with my bow, and went invisible until they were in close enough range that I could strike their vitals. They moved up, and I hit the Half-orc first, knocking him to the forest floor.

At that moment, the party stopped and looked around, panic-stricken and weary. As I became visible, I talked with the leader of the group. He told me that they had been prisoners in the Bowman camp. I went to the half-orc and gave him a potion, and told the group to follow me and help fight the forces advancing on the Spire.

We returned to the Spire, and Sorscha emerged from the woods to the East, informing us that there was a group of about 10, moving around to flank us. She managed to distract them, buying us just enough time to flee. Balk ignited the log trap that we had set up outside the walls and kicked it down the hill. Grundach went around and activated devices he had put in place to destroy anything around the Spire that could prove useful to the Bowmen, and to conceal the basement, which held supplies that could be useful if we were ever able to get back to recover them.

999 more

Retreating toward Temple Rise, I looked around at our party. This night, we had struck a blow to the Bowmen forces in Lochaid. We had done so without any losses, and we had gained a dozen more potential fighters against the enemies pursuing us. That could bode well for the 999 cuts yet to be dealt…

The scent of charred flesh and burnt hair still filled my fukumen, and I removed the mask as we came into town. I halted on the bridge, my stomach rumbling as the party of nigh on a score passed me by and headed toward the temple at town’s center.

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Avoiding the fire...
Hiroshima Sakai (Hershel)

Avoiding the fire…

There is a saying in my language: “Hi wo sakete mizu ni ochiru”. Literally translated into Trade Common, it means “Avoiding the fire, one falls into the water.” In Vilholman, it is said “vom Regen in die Traufe kommen”, or “Out of the frying pan, into the fire”. I feel that the Vilholmans have it right, in this instance. For if one is burning, even the swiftest river must surely seem a respite.

We made it back to Temple Rise alive, despite the efforts of a dragon, an aboleth, a Bowman, several mercenaries, and possibly an old gypsy woman (I am still not convinced that she is entirely friendly). On our way, we discovered that the Ruins of Lochaid are now overrun with Bowmen; and they have captives.

At Temple Rise we sat and broke bread with Exelar Vitarri and the gathered townspeople. As we ate, we told him of our near-fatal trip to the goblin cavern and the horrors which lie in wait there, of the scouting group that we defeated at Three Cedars, and of the rapidly amassing threat gathered in Lochaid. He sat quietly and listened as we spoke, and then he told us of similar reports Grundach had recently delivered to him. The party discussed the matter, and decided that more information about the Bowmen forces would be needed to plan any sort of attack. Naturally, Sorscha and I volunteered to scout out Lochaid that very night.

Under cover of darkness

Sneaking into Lochaid under cover of night, we found the North road barricaded, with five seasoned bowmen standing sentinel around a bonfire. All seemed alert; focused on the task of keeping watch over the entrance. Sorscha and I decided to scout separate sides of the perimeter so that we could cover more territory, faster. She went East; I, West.

As I walked through the cover of the forest, I looked up and noticed a blind had been set up in the trees above, with a single Bowman acting as lookout. They had rigged up a zipline for quick descent from the blind to the forest floor, some dozens of yards away. I moved deeper into the woods to give the blind a wide berth, and circled back around, inward toward the Blackstone building. On my way I noticed more blinds, spread every 60 feet or so. They seemed to be in a perimeter close to the town.

Walking up close enough to get a look at the large, dark stone building, overgrown with vines and brush, I heard a loud whistling sound. My shoulder jumped slightly as I was hit with an arrow, and I looked out across the forest at a Bowman in another blind which I had failed to spot, more than 100 feet away. As the alarm went up through Lochaid, and Bowmen descended on my position from every direction, I went invisible and moved slowly, quietly, further into the woods.

Sneaking a bit further South, I was able to spot the location of two more blinds, a barricade on the West road, and a few more bonfires. I did not see the captives from earlier that night. I did, however, see a number of supply crates near the Eastern edge of town. Feeling that I had gathered enough information, and not wanting to alert the Bowman to our presence further, I skirted back around the Western woods to meet up with Sorscha near the North road. As I crept from the edge of the woods, a hand gripped my shoulder, and I jumped half out of my skin. I turned to see Sorscha smirking, as she scolded me for alerting the enemy. Damned dark-elf is always getting the better of me!

… one falls into the frying pan

After making it back to Temple Rise and giving Exelar a run-down of the Bowman forces, their positions, their numbers, and their patrol pattern, we slept for what remained of the night. In the morning, I brought the whistling arrow (I had recovered it from my shoulder and put it into my bag the night before) to the blacksmith, Ulrich, and asked him if he could make more like them. He said that he would try, but it may take a couple of days. After that, I asked him for his assistance in convincing Balk to join me in preparing our defenses at the Spire.

Working through the day, Balk, Grundach, and I fortified the Spire as much as possible. Balk found several large, sturdy, relatively dry logs in the woods, and stacked them up such that he could kick them down the hill and into the road. If our enemy pursues us tonight, they will regret making it as far as the Spire. To make the logs a bit more lethal, we doused them with a keg of oil from Temple Rise, so that they can be set alight. Grundach gathered some boulders into cover behind the ruined walls of the Spire. I kept watch, helping the other two as needed.

Our plan is to strike in the dark of night. As the Bowmen stand watch at their bonfires, Sorscha, Lazar Namaa (the Ranger), and myself will sneak to the East side of Lochaid. Sorscha will encompass the bonfire there in a globe of darkness using her dark-elf wizardry. Lazar and I are tasked with taking out the sniper in the nearby blind. I will likely also assist in dispatching the Bowmen around the fire.

As the alert goes up on the East side of Lochaid, Xareth will douse the North bonfire in darkness, and I imagine that he and Hiraishin-sama will make quick work of the Bowmen there. After this, we plan to head back to Temple Rise. If any Bowmen are foolish enough to follow, we have a contingent of fighters at the ready in and around the Spire. Once we are clear of the road, Balk will set the logs on fire and kick them down the hill into the oncoming Bowmen. If any remain after that, they will have us to answer to, plus Grundach, the lady Ranger, and, if they manage to make it further up toward Temple Rise, Nathaniel and his growing posse of bodyguards, to contend with.

Yes, if all goes as planned, we will strike a solid blow to the Bowmen forces. By striking preemptively, we may very well be avoiding a very big fire. Let us just hope that doing so does not land us directly in the frying pan…

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