The Harts Great Council 1100 A.F
Gentle reader, honoured friends and those otherwise interested; herein are my personal recollections of the Grand Council of Albion, held within the territory of the Greenwood this weekend past. For many reasons my account may appear incomplete and even somewhat confused; my apologies for this but I trust that the explanations of events that follow will explain the absence of my usual expositional style.
Day one (the arrival)
The host of the Hiraeth gathered within the environs of the Greenwood in celebration of both our continued liberty and our growing kinship with and trust of, the folk of Albion in all their diverse peoples. Of the exiles of Caer Glas; myself, Lord Owain ap Nudd, Lady Branwen, Ceirwyn ap Nudd, Caradoc Braich Bras, Aisla “cat-claw”, Luin Atar, Aelfric “the damned”, Revelation “the banner-bearer”, Matthias “long-tooth”, and Pellam of Gallow’s Point, were there garbed for peace but armed for war (should war threaten the peace). From Albion herself the Hiraeth were joined by: Jack Tregallen and his wife Isabelle, the Quinodite Intercessor, Selwyn, and a Lady healer named Alyce of Bristol. From further afield our host was strengthened by the wanderers of the Storm Crow clan of Aegyptus, Dane of the striking-axe and Dena of the voice-that-sends. By happy circumstance we were joined in the forest by Poppy “dragon-friend”, whose long sojourn on the Black Isle had but lately ended.
Our arrival was joyous and filled with a defiant pride at the survival of our people against the worst the Dragon Nation could conceive in its hate and spite to damn the sons of daughters of the lost homeland. The new arrivals from Albion were welcomed into our number as brothers and sisters of the blood, absent friends were greeted again as returning heroes and beloved kin of the spirit.
In attitude, the atmosphere of the Harts’ encampment mirrored our own; Bards sang and musicians played, wine flowed freely and spirits were high, this despite a deadly threat that had apparently been laid by the Queen’s enemies in the Greenwood. For our part the Hiraeth looked forward to our announcement at court, the ennoblement of Owain ap Nudd under the terms of the charter of harmonious government, the forging of links and alliances with our neighbours, and the toasting in wine to the memories of our glorious dead. Of more profound moment was the test of Matthias before a board of investigators with the intention of discerning his nature and potential suitability for full citizenship of Albion. Prince Cadarn had decreed that Matthias should stand in abeyance before a neutral team of inquisitors, the better that the rumours and dark murmurings of the Cymrijians be proved or dispelled in the light of reason and enlightened debate.
This at least was the intention, for as the fates appear driven to decree, few things ever proceed entirely according to the contrivance of mortal hopes and artifice. As Matthias and I stood in conversation with Prince Cadarn in this regard I was struck motionless and without conscious volition by a face in the crowd that had but lately haunted my dreams alone. From the darkness I saw my wife Mair, slain before my eyes at the Gathering of Nations, returned by some wonder to stand before me, her face drawn and pale, her eyes burning with emotion. Moments past, Prince Cadarn realised that something was wrong and searched the crowd with his eyes, signalling his guards to close in.
Mair came forward and with a feral snarl grasped my arm and spat an accusation into my face. Her words were long and bitter, she claimed to have been abandoned and imprisoned, tortured and changed, made a slave to a madman’s fancy and warped into a form and nature repulsive to the woman I wed on a bright day in summer, suddenly a lifetime in my past. I think my wits were lost for a time, I could not speak; I dare not admit even to myself how much I wished to have Mair returned from the dead. Now here she stood, raging and angered with a passion born of maltreatment and betrayal – her eyes hungry and her cheeks marked with the flush of love-denied upon skin of ivory, smooth and devoid of colour. I fell to my knees and cried; six-months ago I slew my capacity to love and devoted my life to revenge and protection of a people who were not of my blood. Now my wife, my dreams, my passion, and my vulnerability were back, returning in a flood of sensation and memories I could neither control, still less endure.
Shouts came from all around (I think I had fallen to the ground with Mair crouched above me) – the folk of Albion made counter-spells and warding enchantment, chants of discernment were uttered and Mair’s cloaked body was bathed in the ethereal light of Hunter’s wisdom, Dionysus’ gaze, and manifold ancestral portent. Swords of power were brandished and weapons proof against all the forms of unlife were readied but no blow fell, Cadarn’s voice rang calmly out and a circle opened around the prone bodies of myself, and my lover returned to the flesh.
Matthias now came forward, his voice of ages calm and controlled, the weight of his two hundred years projected in a toneless appeal for my awaking from the grip of madness and return to the affairs and sensibilities of mortal realms. My mind cleared and I arose unsteadily, but as I did so Mair spoke now directly to the “Vampire” servant made master of the Quinodite order. Again she raged and accused Matthias of acquiescence to the whims of the late Abbas, later of keeping her imprisoned and chained, sustained only with a diet of low animals and woodland vermin. Through this Matthias remained calm and continued to speak of prerogatives and practicality, of the needs of state and faith, of the necessity to hide Mair from a world not ready for the deeper revelations of Quinodite practise, and last, of a wish from compassion to shield me from the sight of a wife made into a beast at the bequest of a mad visionary.
The words were not enough; my reason left me and I leapt away from my wife to confront Matthias in full view of the gathered court of Albion. His soothing tones maddened me further and I moved with violent intent to take a stranglegrip about his throat. Matthias made no move to defend his person from my assault and for a time we were locked in a silent tableau of directionless rage and inhumane restraint, until at last, it occurred to some part of my conscious mind that I could feel no pulse and I fell laughing with shuddering mirth to the arms of Selwyn, Benedict Karlennon, and the stalwart Revelation.
Prince Cadarn made available private chambers for the Hiraeth to meet and discuss the events and implications of Mair’s “rebirth” and altered nature. For my part I sat in the presence of my beloved wife and we talked of times gone forever, a lost land and a lost people, a sacrifice spurned and the hideous memory of a child who never was.
In turn Owain ap Nudd and the Lady Branwen came and spoke to my wife, all the while I sat and dreamed. Benedict warned me that Mair could have been changed in ways other than the physical and I believe he ensured that I was never left alone for that evening. Pellam of Gallow’s point provided a discrete guard and affected an air of polite indifference when Mair, with my tears glistening on her milk-white skin, bent to my wrist to take sustenance from my lifeblood with a gentle bite and a breath as a soft as a summers breeze. My eyes closed and I fell asleep in the lap of a woman I had mourned once already and for whom I had dared one to take a nation to the brink of war and beyond into the awful reality of a tyrant’s lust.
When I awoke, Matthias told us the truth at last. Mair had been struck down during the battle of “Dragons Run” by one of our own, a servant of the Abbas Ioannes Tobus with a knife anointed with a fell poison. Her life was taken to the very edge of the realm of the dead, her breath stilled and heart chained to an infernal state of stasis. After the departure of the peoples of Caer Glas from the land of the Tarantulans, the Quinodites had conspired with the Druids of the Black Isle to remove Mair’s body to the monastery of Ynys Gybi, there to undergo the rites of transformation from mortal flesh to a vessel of the blood of Acerbitus and breath of Peturbatio. While we mourned a beloved daughter of Caer Glas, Mair suffered the horrors of conditioning and transformation – long weeks of starvation and silence, chained in stone, bound by form and fate alike. The Abbas Ioannes was her only companion, his voice and vision a relentless guide as he spoke of the mysteries of the Quinodite faith, the imminent battles of the Endtimes and the expected triumphs of the eighth incarnation. Then came the day when Mair went into labour beneath the stones of Ynys Gybi; her child, our child, twisted in the womb by the Abbas and birthed now to darkness and the swift embrace of the Quinodite agents of the eighth incarnation. Mair screamed out and was left alone, the door to her tomb closing with the finality of divine judgement.
By the time of the Cymrijian mist-madness and the Quiche Commando raid on the Monastery, Mair had spent almost a month in the darkness, screaming until her voice was raw and tearing at the stone walls until her fingers bled with nails nothing more than shattered stumps of raw pain. Her hunger was unbearable and had forced her to feed on low creatures and vermin of the earth. Her mind was broken; her very existence was nothing more than a waking nightmare of endless pangs and immortal misery. As the Quiche worked to spread fire and slaughter amongst the Quinodites of the upper levels, Matthias had entered the monastery by a concealed entrance, and moved quickly to unseal the bounds to Mair’s crypt as the distraction worked to his advantage. Mair was weak and unresisting as he carried her body out of the tomb and back beyond the burning destruction of the Quinodite stronghold.
In the months that followed, Matthias told us, he had fed Mair with creatures of the forests of Cymrijian and Albion, slowly nursing her back towards strength and sanity. The Abbas had never foreseen the need for Mair to exist in the waking world and the transformation worked was rushed and impromptu; as a Quinodite, Mair was confused and fearful, as a noblewoman of Beomarise she had gone very far indeed from her roots and prior experience. In time her senses began to return and she asked with words at last after her lover and her child; Matthias, in return, planned to present Mair privately to the people of the Hiraeth-bond at the Grand Council.
The rest we already knew, Mair had escaped prematurely from Matthias’ presence and had sought me out at the first opportunity. Now we lay together in Prince Cadarn’s chambers, two heart-companions reunited across a gulf of time and circumstance; Mair, now sated with my blood, and I, gazing upon the face of a woman I had thought never to see again beyond the dreams of passionate yearning that had haunted my sleep each night since the Gathering of Nations.
For the remainder of the first evening of the council, the people of the Hiraeth provided military support to the guardsmen of the Greenwood. Attempts were made to breach the defences of the camp by the Queen’s enemies and a high level of combat readiness was required of the Albion host. A number of attacks were made and all were soundly rebuffed by the brave warriors of Albion, some visitors also proved more benign than initially suspected and eventually an air of restful sleep fell upon the encampment.
In the small hours of the morning the Hiraeth paid hospitality to a traveller who had but lately journeyed in Cymrijia and gave us reports of the latest atrocities of the Outremer Morghun regime. Not content with merely subjugating the remaining populace of Caer Glas, the Morghun overlords were now instituting “re-education camps” to develop a reliable impulse of loyalty to Ard Righ Ash’s civil war in Erin, and the Tyrant Eomere’s political agenda back at home.
Day two (The Grand Council)
The day began fresh and bright, the cobwebs of the previous night blown away by glorious morning sunlight. The Hiraeth arose early and went quickly to practise at weapons, the better to work out the aches and pains of the journey. I accompanied Mair, who went heavily hooded and wary of the light, we walked for a time and spoke of our memories. Mair, it seemed, remembered nothing of the events following the day previous to our wedding. To her the fall of Caer Glas and the exile of our people was unreal, she could not understand how we failed to defeat the cowardly armies of Cymrijia, how the Morghuns, so ineffectual and decadent at the Gathering of Nations, led by a weakling waster-king like Eomere, could contrive to overthrow the courage of Caer Glas and the nobility of spirit combined in the formation of the Senate and the Declaration of Political independence. In answer I told of the mist-madness, the curse of Yr Ddreig, how the Morghuns, fearing a military defeat that their people would not bare, chose instead to deploy dark treacherous sorcery to defeat our dreams and the vision of our senate. Our armies had never met their conquerors; Caer Glas fell not to the might of a puissant general, at the last I said to Mair (although the words burned with shame and weakness) “â€¦ it was not through lack of courage that we lost â€¦”
Through all my reply Mair remained silent, and then, when I finished speaking she said nothing more than “â€¦ we must go back, justice will not bare this outrage to stand.” It was then that we noticed Mair’s robe had fallen back from her wrist and her ivory skin burned molten-silver in the sunlight. Long moments past and we caught each others gaze; my tears clear and cold, hers crimson, “â€¦ it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t burn, he said I would be consumed by the dayâ€¦” I had no need to ask who “he” was, instead I just held Mair close and we listened together to the sounds of the Greenwood, content for the moment to enjoy each other’s company and the peace of a golden moment.
At midday the Hiraeth were approached by Tiberias of Caer Pendrinn, who sought aid for a ritual-working he intended to perform to aid the chances of those who would shortly be testing their lives to fate on the quest to close the void-gate to the liche-haunted summerlands, currently active and malign within the environs of Bristol. Tiberias (a renegade member of the Tomorrow Court who had allied his cause with Albion during the recent hostilities) outlined his intention to summon-up the spirit of a long-dead faerie monarch, the Queen of Winter and her mortal lover Beli, in an attempt to create artifacts capable of closing the void-gate from the other side.
Several of the Hiraeth, myself included, offered to aid Tiberias and we spent much of the afternoon practicing and refining the ritual-working until at last we were satisfied that the magic could be wrought with a relative safety and a reasonable chance of success. Our preparations were made slightly more difficult by the apparent instability of the “Elf’s Rest” ritual circle in the Greenwood; several times we were assaulted by demonic creatures of the void known as “Grollacs”, a word unfamiliar to me at least. On one occasion only the prompt action of Caradoc Braich Bras and Dane Storm Crow prevent us from being overrun by a surprise attack.
As members of the Hiraeth practiced with Tiberias, elsewhere some of our people had opted to aid the court of Albion in a quest for a weapon of power of use against the Death Knight Marin, who by reports received from our scouts, intended to strike against the council that very evening. I was later told that Mair had accompanied a separate mission to seek the vessel of a stranded pirate vessel, and had managed even in her somewhat confused state, to negotiate a potential method of passage into the heart of Morghun-occupied Cymrijia should we ever need the option of an alternative route of attack. By evening our main warband under Aisla “cat-claw” had returned successfully from their patrol with many tales of daring conflict and victorious engagements. By all accounts, both the wanderers from Aegyptus and the Cockatrice Freelancers themselves conducted themselves with calm efficiency in battle and aided the quest for “King Steven’s Dagger” immeasurably by their presence.
At last it was time for Tiberias to perform the ritual we had practiced. With an honour-guard drawn from many peoples of Albion, the ritual-team entered the circle at “Elf’s Rest” and evoked the power of the Queen of Winter. Tiberias proved most competent and conducted the proceedings with great flair and a careful eye for detail. The major contributors for the ritual were: Leri Penhaligon of Caer Pendrinn, Martaine of the Hunters, and Benedict of house Karlennon. They were aided in the ceremony by: Poppy Mayhem, Jack and Isabelle Tregallen, Dena Storm Crow, Luin Atar, Revelation and myself, together with others of Albion whose names unfortunately escape me. The ritual worked almost entirely as expected; at the last the spirit of the Queen of Winter agreed to the request of Tiberias with but one condition, that the ritualist should suffer his own vulnerability to the element of fire for a year and a day in exchange for the “Tears of the Winter Queen”.
With the close of the ritual Tiberias congratulated everyone for an almost flawless working of magic and spoke in glowing terms for the potential of future alliance between the peoples of Caer Pendrinn and the Hiraeth.
Now it was time for the Grand Council itself, and the folk of Albion gathered close to hear the words of Queen Elspeth, her court, and the various petitioners who had registered their desire to be heard to Sir Ranulf, the master of ceremonies. In the main the meeting was conducted in an air of unity and resolve amongst the citizens of Albion, proud in adversity of the justice and freedoms allowed by their country and chosen form of government. Queen Elspeth herself was no tyrant; her words were always tempered by a commitment to her people’s wellbeing and the welfare of the country before her own power. The council ranged far over issues as diverse as the decentralisation of army command, the bylaws of Londinium, various matter of public record and indeed, a formal complaint against the somewhat over-enthusiastic policing methods of certain camp guards. Several times I had to suppress a wry smile when after a full and frank open debate, someone from the audience would quip, “â€¦ we are not a democracy”, perhaps not, but in Albion the principles of free and open government are much in safe hands.
Perhaps the most ironic issue debated from our point of view was the decision of the Healers guild of Erdreja to consider the admittance of unliving guildsmen. Albion, herself a signatory to the council of the Gathering Treaty, registered her strong disapproval over this move. Then one Nevyn Brock, the Harts ambassador to the Dragon Nation rose to speak, claiming that Eomere Geffrin Morghun, the tyrant-king of Cymrijia, also supported Albion’s decision to oppose the Healer’s guild proposal. This was almost too much to stomach; Eomere, the man who demanded that all Dragons be prepared to give their lives to defend the “un-lives” of certain of his Tarantulan allies last summer (1099AF), now roundly opposed the prospect of allow those same allies the opportunity to practise healing with the sanction of a lawful authority. The clear implication remaining that Eomere was happy to allow the Tarantulan unliving to kill for him when expedience demanded, but that he drew the line against allowing those same entities to practice more merciful arts. While Nevyn continued to speak, a voice from the crowd asked why Eomere of the Dragons even had a right to express an opinion on the issue at the council of the Gathering Treaty, when his nation still refused to sign the treaty in its present form? Nevyn to his credit did not even try to defend the stance of the rogue nation he was cursed to represent.
When the most pressing matters of policy were resolved, Queen Elspeth performed a formal ceremony of introduction for the people of the Hiraeth. She spoke of our tragic past and of our exile and offered the sanctuary and friendship of Albion to all our people. Invited to speak in return, Owain ap Nudd thanked the Queen for her words and made clear our loyalty to the people of Albion, both out of thanks for the solace we had received in our time of need, but also from recognition that in Albion burned yet the finest appreciation of justice and equality that could be found anywhere in the Heartlands of Erdreja. Owain spoke also of our feud with the Morghuns of Cymrijian, naming them villains deserving of a villain’s end he spoke of our unwillingness to draw Albion into the dispute, but of the nonetheless pressing need for us to punish the Dragons for the crimes they had committed upon the civilian population of Caer Glas.
At the close of his speech Owain looked to me to add some words of my own, but in truth he had already said everything that was in my heart, so I merely thanked the people of Albion with a smile and a bow. To the general appreciation of all Benedict remarked that the gathered crowd had perhaps witnessed a miracle, a speechless Scipio with a waiting forum. Good-natured laughter rang out and then Queen Elspeth called upon her people to welcome us formally, leading the applause with a smile. Somewhat abashed by the approval of our new peers the people of the Hiraeth returned the gesture, we had come a long way from Caer Glas into exile, but here perhaps, we could recover our strength for the tests and trials ahead.
The privy council of Albion then retired for a private discussion of sensitive issues; elsewhere the camp fell to feasting and a series of toasts to health and hearth and home. Our people mingled freely with the folk of Albion and we felt profoundly at ease in this new land, so strange of sight and sensation, but so familiar in dream and aspiration. Nowhere here were the guarded glances and bitter rivalry of the Morghun court, no dark dragon necromancers strode like lords amongst swine, no harsh words of station and privilege were deployed, as far as we could see there was nothing but a people united in freedom, mutual respect and quiet confidence in the courage of their (and now our) shared convictions.
After a time the feasting was ended and we were asked to provide warriors for a patrol circuit around the encampment, with enthusiasm we agreed (for in truth many of us had a need to walk off the debilitating effects of overgenerous eating and one toast too many). While the Hiraeth patrolled the Greenwood we talked of our future and our present, of what we sought from life and of the dreams we shared. It transpired that we had much in common with the folk of Albion indeed, and as voiced by Jack and Isabelle Tregallen, the virtues the Hiraeth revered were no strange goals to the native people of Cymbrogija.
As night fell on the forest the Hiraeth patrol returned to the camp of Albion to find violent uproar had replaced the peaceful revelry that had earlier reigned. Undead creatures at the direction of Marin were attacking the encampment in remorseless waves, and from everywhere came the cries for healers, physicians and battle-surgeons. Without hesitation we fell on the attackers from the flank and for a time everything was chaos and confusion. Elsewhere in the engagement I spotted Aisla “cat-claw” wielding the wound-axe “tornade” with furious effect, carving senseless arms and heads from her foeman until she disappeared under a press of putrefying flesh. From towards the camp I saw Selwyn of the Quinodites sending arrow after arrow above the heads of the more-mundane foeman to streak unerringly towards the throats and groin regions of capering ghouls, howling with expectation of the coming feast on delicate living blood and marrow. At one point I found myself standing back to back with Caradoc and Ceirwyn, as we found ourselves cut-off from the main Albion lines – from the side a creature with a poisoned blade leapt towards me and I barely managed to parry the blow before the fiend was battered down and pulped by one of the Queen’s bodyguards.
At last the organisation and courage of Albion paid-off and the attackers were beaten back towards the woods and the ritual circle. Then, even as we were regrouping and tending to the wounded and fallen, a cry went out, the Queen and her privy council had been seized by sorcery deployed while the bulk of our forces had been occupied. The circumstances of this disaster were somewhat confused in the retelling, but the response was fast and resolves; Lord Cai Iolar proposed an immediate rescue mission, which would comprise of a mixed warband of scouts and heavy-troops with magical support, to follow the traces of the Queen’s heritage that could be discerned magically by use of impromptu ritual analysis. Although we of the Hiraeth understood little of the rational behind Lord Cai’s methods, we volunteered without hesitation for the mission – whatever fate had claimed the Queen, the involved of the death knight Marin in the diversionary attack was sure to signal a whole host of unpleasant consequences.
Into the gloom of a moonless night the rescue mission proceeded, with Hunter captaining the scout detachment, Lord Cai commanding the heavy infantry, and the majority of magical support formed on the recognisable glow of Chi Nyan, the now familiar “spawn of light”. The conditions were difficult in the Greenwood as the light was extremely faint, the ground was somewhat treacherous, and in the confusion of our urgency it was occasionally difficult to tell friend from potential foe. The warband adopted as system of “pairing-off” to ensure that no-one was lost in the darkness; I partnered Branwen and prepared to defend her healing talents with my life, Caradoc partnered Mair with some trepidation, Jack partnered Isabelle, Aelfric partnered Revelation but of the others, I cannot recall the organisation.
We didn’t have long to wait before the first blows were struck – from the darkness came a wave of unliving ghasts, leaping and gibbering with long faces ashen in the gloom, their filthy talons carrying paralysing venom and wasting rot as they tore into our column. For a time all was panic and chaos – it proved impossible to form a group of Incantors to effectively dispel the magic animating these foes, and once they were amongst us the most impressive greatswords of our allies were as much a hazard to friend as foe. Desperate hand-to-hand fighting is my only memory of the first attack but at last we drove them back and to our surprise discovered a member of the privy- council amongst the fallen fiends.
The High Incantor Elmwood was unconscious and apparently senseless and by the accounts of some, had actually aided the undead during the fight. Around his head was a circlet marked with runes apparently denoting servitude and obedience; once this was removed and he was revived, Elmwood told us a tale as confused as the circumstances of his rescue – apparently the councils had been taken as one by the magic of Marin, unexpected side-benefits of the death-knight’s plot to contaminate the soul of Elspeth’s unborn child. At these words I caught Mair’s eye and we both felt a rush of pain and loss for our own lost infant – but here was a fight we could win, right here and right now, Elspeth had our gratitude for the sanctuary granted to our people and nothing would prevent our striving to deliver her from the danger that threatened.
As we made progress towards the Queen we were continually assaulted by groups of unliving troops; ghasts and ghouls, wraiths and revenants, sad spirits of the otherworld pressed into the service of the ambitions of a creature once a man but now something very different indeed. At last (and having rescued the majority of the council) we found ourselves confronting a pack of shades surrounding the figure of Marin himself, gloating over the prone body of Albion’s Queen. With a mocking voice the undead figure declared our failure to prevent his ritual, “â€¦ even now my soul moves to embrace the body of the unborn child”.
From the shadows behind Marin, Revelation appeared and brandished his spear, “We shall see about that!” he shouted and jumped forward to the attack. As brave as these words and the gesture could be, Revelation never connected with the body of the Death Knight as a pair of wraiths intervened and reached out with claws formed of the stuff of nightmares to render him senseless and dying. For a moment we watched the wraiths circling about our fallen comrade then as one the Albion host surged forwards. The battle was brief; it appeared Marin’s armour rendered him immune to most if not all of the blows we could strike. In seconds the majority of our warband was struck down through a combination of dark magic and wicked envenomed strokes. I found myself continually stepping back and circling around the fallen men and women of the Hiraeth, I was unwilling to give ground when so many needed medical attention but I was unable to force the wraith-guardians of Marin to back away.
Once I noticed a gleaming sword clutched in the hands of a man of Albion and I stooped to brandish it at an approaching wraith. Filled with increased confidence I advanced and struck a blow and was rewarded with a sibilant hiss of pain from the creature of shade. Pressing my advantage I jumped forward and stumbled over the body of Caradoc Braich Bras, losing my balance and weapon both, as I fell head over heels in the gloom – very fortunately, it turned out, as from my side Marin himself struck me a blow which would have taken my head but due the unexpected reversal of posture, merely crippled my leg. For me the fighting was over, from then onwards I concentrated on dragging wounded men at the edge of the skirmish away from the wraiths towards the healers taking cover in the tree line.
After a time I noticed Aisla still armed with “tornade”, menacing the wraiths but then dropping as if dead when they approached, then rising again as they passed to strike at them from behind, a brave and clever tactic but surely one that would soon fail disastrously. Then, as quickly as the fighting had begun, the engagement was ended – the death knight and its attendant wraiths vanished, leaving Elspeth and our people wounded but alone in the night. Not caring to question the motivations of our unliving foe we took the opportunity to dress the injuries of the walking wounded and press on backwards towards the encampment.
On our return to the Harts encampment we discovered that those who had remained to guard the camp had been under almost constant attack themselves and that nerves and tempers had frayed somewhat under the pressure. Throughout, the singers and minstrels of the Bards guild had continued to play rousing songs, and it may well be that their aid alone was the only thing that prevented the Albion camp from being overrun with despair.
The Queen and her ministers were swiftly taken into the guardianship of the waiting healers and we of the Hiraeth gratefully took the opportunity to rest our legs and to take refreshment and sustenance during the apparent respite in hostilities. In reflection now I curse my selfishness; for while I took water and wine and broke bread with the heroes of Albion, Mair suffered greatly from a terrible hunger, for the act of working magic had tired and drained her reserves of strength and forbearance both. I later learned that in my absence my wife had attacked Branwen ferch Owein and then in shame at her weakness, had fled into the forest at night to place her appetites away from the close proximity of friend and ally alike. Branwen was largely unharmed, although shaken and deeply concerned for her onetime rival; together we spoke for a time and then resolved to seek Mair in the darkness of the Greenwood.
Ceirwyn ap Nudd was the first to bring us word of Mair’s location, although he warned that she would allow none to approach. Thanking our kinsman for his aid, Branwen and I went deeper into the forest. We found Mair weeping, her arms clasped around the trunk of a narrow tree, a knife clutched tight, her body trembling and her face stained with scarlet tears. For a time we talked of life and love, of the people of Caer Glas, how the Morghun curse had slain so many of our kinsmen, how even now we were a race apart, and I spoke alone of how I had dreamed and begged the fates to return my beautiful wife to the sunlit world I knew. At last I reached out for the blade she held and our eyes met, hers burdened with a terrible sorrow and I knew in that moment that I risked losing my love for a second time. Long moments past, I knew not what to do, then from beside me Branwen made a quiet sound of warning and I turned to see a terrifying sight.
Before us, the trail was filled with some two-dozen shambling undead figures, a veritable mob of corrupted flesh and unholy bondage to the will of Marin alone. Astonishing as it might sound, I was more angry than scared, and I took a step towards this group of fiends with a satirical remark rising quickly to my lips. In response the mob raised weapons and talons and howled in derisive glee at the prospect of ripping my flesh from bones suddenly chilled with the reality of my circumstance. As the undead party stumbled into motion I leapt back and called to Mair and Branwen to start running! I will always thank the fates I think for their intervention here; for at the approach of this new threat Mair the warrior-maid I loved came back to me, and together with Branwen, skirt-swirling in the gloom, we three ran as swift as the wind away from death and back towards the light of the encampment.
We arrived not a minute too soon, and immediately the camp was forced to defend itself from a fresh attack of deadly intent and remorseless waves of senseless foemen. The battle raged backwards and forwards and towards the end (when in truth the skirmish was already won) a single ghoul was able to penetrate the defensive lines and Mair and I were both struck down. From my position on the cold ground I saw and unwary inhabitant of the Greenwood go to aid Mair where she had fallen. Bright magic flashed and the wounds dealt were erased; Mair however was no almost mindless with hunger and leapt immediately to attack the unfortunate healer! I do not know it was who released me from the paralysis, but immediately I stumbled towards Mair and held her away from her own rescuer. Maddened now by her cursed nature my wife well upon my wrist with ravenous need, drinking deeply of my lifeblood and causing me to lose consciousness as a dark wave of weariness rose to embrace my senses.
I later learned that Branwen and Poppy worked hard to save my life and moved my body back to our own pavilion. Mair stood guard over me, ashamed and terrified of her own urges, nearby Matthias and Owain ap Nudd watched the proceedings with concern while Caradoc Braich Bras watched with barely-disguised horror.
At last I regained my senses and was told quickly what had occurred by Branwen, Poppy, and Aisla (who had witnessed the initial attack). Mair was distraught, and in truth I decided then that we did not as a people have the experience and resources to resolve this problem alone. Asking Owain and Mair to support me, I told them to seek out the court of Prince Cadarn, for it was his aid we must seek if this matter was to have a satisfactory outcome.
My faith proved well placed; Prince Cadarn used High Magic to restore my strength a little, Leri Penhaligon spoke at length with Mair and considered her nature from many perspectives, Benedict Karlennon considered the matter of the Quinodite religion and proposed a wider enquiry into the prophesies of the late Abbas where they pertained to the physical state of the Sanguisita, while other worthies of the court offered sage advice and practical suggestions as to how my wife could best control her urges with dignity and self-respect. In truth I was stunned at the pragmatism displayed at the highest court of Albion; nowhere here the ignorance of the Danuites, no word at all raised in fearful superstition, merely practical advice and interim contingencies. I was touched and deeply affected, as was Mair, I saw then in her face the first slight glimmerings of hope and I rejoiced that the winds of fate that had brought our scattered people to rest in Albion.
Taking our leave of the court with thanks, Mair and I left Owain ap Nudd to debate matters of state with Cadarn. We returned to our pavilion and spoke at length with the people of Hiraeth, our new spirit of hopefulness proving an infectious emotion indeed. All at once a cry went up from Hugo the Warleader of Albion; another wave of assailants had been spotted and all able-bodied soldiers were called to defend the camp. Perhaps foolishly, given my weakened condition, I strapped on my sword once more and leading the Hiraeth towards the gates we met the guardsmen of Prince Cadarn and offered to fight together in the coming fray.
This time we had a plan; Jack and Isabelle Tregallen suggested weaving enchantments of blade-sanctuary over the wielders of “tornade” and the other weapons of power amongst our squad, the better to defeat our adversaries. We explained this tactic to Cadarn and he quickly agreed. Leaving the threatened safety of the encampment we ran into trouble almost immediately and here the best intentions of our planning proved utterly fruitless. Here I must say something of the complexities of the enchantment Isabelle wrought: for the blade sanctuary to be effective, it must be summoned by words of power then passed by touch to a recipient, it is vital that the touch be maintained, else the magic will run-off into the ether without further effect.
When we met the first unliving foemen this is what happened: I carried “tornade” into battle alongside Cadarn and we rushed into the flanks of an enemy scouting force. At first things went well, we both rained down powerful enchanted blows upon our enemy, then, a flaw in our plan became apparent. I accept much of the blame myself; in Isabelle’s own words, my fighting style “involves an awful lot of jumping backwards and forwards erratically”, and it proves almost impossible in the confusion of battle to maintain a mystic connection by touch alone. One such leap carried me too far, and the protection of the “blade-sanctuary” chant evaporated like morning mist. I was struck several times in quick succession and recoiled at the touch of a terrible tightening of my chest and shortness of breath. Behind me, the Lady Isabelle was struck to the ground, and when I retreated I tripped backwards over her to land atop my wife Mair (who had fallen to an icy blade from the darkness). Close by, Cadarn faired no better and he was knocked senseless by a mighty buffet from a Death-Knight fully able to cause wounds to open by the expression of his will alone.
The irony was painful; Mair and I lay entwined and dying within reach of each other’s lips but unable to move. We both had every reason to live again and now, suddenly, our lives could be measured only in heartbeats. Around us the battle raged and at times the Albion healers attempted to reach the fallen to no avail. The stars were dim beneath the veil of cloud and grew dimmer yet as our lives drained away. Then, as from the distant camp the sounds of music came again, the Lady Isabelle Tregallen and Chi Nyan appeared above us. My wounds were tended first and I rose to cover my rescuers; after a time Lady Isabelle turned to me in despair for she could do nothing for Mair, fortunately Chi Nyan was, and as we watched he banished the grasp of a dread enchanted disease from my wife’s body.
The rest of the night is fragmentary; we fought desperately and at times all appeared lost. I saw some terrible sights and some great acts of heroism; Leri Penhaligon and Earl Hunter were everywhere searching for the wounded and dying, Aisla ranged far and wide amongst a field of foeman she could not harm, bandaging the wounded and dragging the fallen back to camp. I heard later that a healer named Xantalia had been slain tending to the wounded in the night, and although I cannot remember speaking with her, my thoughts and best regards go with her shade to whatever Afterworld is owned by those who die courageous deaths aiding their comrades. I was wounded several times more and at last was brought to consciousness within the field surgery where once more Chi Nyan revived me. By now the battle proper had ended and even the most optimistic opinions of events could paint the results as little better than an “inconclusive engagement” with high casualties. All that now remained was the containing practise of scouring the darkness for allies who had fallen out of sight; a task best left to the capable skills of Albion scouts, for the rest of us the morning would see a reckoning.
We awoke early and Hugo of Albion called a muster to explain the developments of the previous evening. The Queen had suffered greatly from the attentions of the Death Knight Marin; her unborn child had been tainted in the womb by a ritual of dark magic completed before we had been able to enact a rescue. Some part of Marin’s immortal soul even now lay within the Queen and warred for supremacy within the mind and body of the child within her body. Hugo’s plan (as always) was direct and to the point, the warband of Albion was to travel through the transport circle to Winchester; there to enact a powerful ritual designed to drive the invading soul from the unborn child. It was fully expected that Marin would send forces to disrupt the ritual, so it was vital that the full force of Albion be deployed to defend the ritualist, contributors, and associated coterie of bards and musicians who were intending to enhance the power of the ritual with song and music.
For a time the details of the impromptu ritual were debated; I decided that my own talents would be better employed this day in the fighting that was sure to come, than in ritual contribution, and thus resolved I dressed myself in armour and warlike garb. Jack, Isabelle, Poppy and Luin Atar chose to aid the ritual, making themselves known to chief ritualist of Albion and enacting whatever mystic preparations they thought best. Elsewhere Lady Alyce of Bristol made plans to best deploy the power of defensive incarnations, Mair offered her aid to defence of the bards, while the remainder of the Hiraeth warband arrayed ourselves for conflict and made plans to make the enemy pay a heavy toll for daring to injure our Queen.
When the time came Lord Hugo asked the Hiraeth to provide a vanguard for the Albion host, and by the power of Luin Atar as ritualist, we opened a gateway to Winchester and secured the immediate territory in preparation for the arrival of the main force. Selwyn, Jack, Dane, Dena, and Ceirwyn and Caradoc ranged deep into the surrounding forest and returned with the all-clear signal, close by the ritual circle the heavy fighters and non-combatants of the Hiraeth chose their ground with care and awaited the arrival of our countrymen and the host of Albion.
The full deployment was made quickly with calm direction; many times the ritual circle glowed with power as the Queen’s warband arrayed itself for battle. At last we were prepared; in the centre the ritualist, Glycel of the Host, and a supporting team of contributors from most of the assembled provinces and units of Albion, close beyond the circle, the gathering of bards and their protectors, then guarding the outside of the circle, the heavy-fighters and most puissant magicians of the land awaited the coming of the enemy with stern resolve an a palpable lack of the wellspring of compassion for the expected foe. At the verges of the host Earl Hunter awaited with his scouts, while on another flank Lord Cai Iolair led a crack band of warriors (including Aisla) fully equipped with enchanted weapons and an irrepressible urge to work violent slaughter. I awaited the enemy amongst the remaining Hiraeth; standing side by side with Owain ap Nudd, Aelfric, Caradoc, Dane, and Ceirwyn.
Behind us the ritual began in earnest and in unison the bards began to sing a song of childish lullaby, a simple lay with a powerful refrain and a chorus that had many a grown man humming despite initial self-conscious doubts. On went the ritual and the song, the host of Albion uniting to will the invading soul gone from the Queen’s body and the unborn babe to be cleansed of the taint of possession. Suddenly a thought occurred to me, and quietly I worked a small enchantment of my own to bless the bows of the archers standing guard around the circle – lest any foeman should think to snap bows from a distance with a cantrip of distant warping. Satisfied now that little was left undone I returned to our lines and there I stood when the first attack came.
“Beware Demons!” was the shout, and suddenly from our very midst came rushing forms of leathery skin and unchancy gait. Swords clashed and teeth ground; the demons rushed our lines and were rudely rebuffed, as one we took a momentary hesitation from our unnatural foemen as a sign to charge, and then with a great cry and much quenching of violent passions, we decimated their number with rapid dispatch. This was only the first such attack; six times did the demons appear from the air itself and six times were they defeated. In the course of the battle I discovered a little more of their nature; some wielded poisoned weapons (as I noticed from the bubbling ruin one blow left of my jerkin) some were able to inflict wounds with words from a distance, some could freeze flesh to the bone, and some were able to hurl fully armoured men through the air like half-packed bales of hay during the autumn harvest. Fortuna though smiled on us, for whatever evil sorcery provided their power it was not proof against the application of cold steel wielded by stout arm and firm resolve.
As the ritual wound to a climax the demons were able to finally breech the boundaries of the circle itself with a series of rapid strike and fade attacks, as utilising their considerable natural benefits of appearance from thin air, the otherworldly assailants proved quite able at confusing and befuddling our defensive planning. They reckoned without the ferocity of the Royal Sergeant Major s’Kalion of the Beastmen however, who moving in a whirl dispatched the interloping demons which such celerity that soon they occupied a ragged heap in the centre of the circle.
Seeing the damage of the open flank, Owain and I led the Hiraeth to close the gap and quickly came to face several of Marin’s lieutenants in close proximity. Luck departed for the moment as my limbs were frozen by a sudden thrust of a foeman’s stave, which slipped under my guard and rendered me shivering and paralysed while the demon leered and slipped past me to menace Owain’s back. Seconds past and I raged at my inability to move, but then I felt the familiar hands of Leri Penhaligon upon my chest and the spell was removed. Shouting a warning to Owain I jumped forwards and pummelled the leering fiend with a series of cuts and bludgeons with a sabre in my right hand and a cudgel in my left; the demon had no appropriate answer to this approach and seemed content to expire for my pleasure.
Taking a moment to assess the battle, Owain and I saw that in the main the fight was won; our ritual team had finished the working, our bards were still singing, the royal party was taking stock in similar fashion, while the Hiraeth line stood intact. I scanned the host for the familiar faces of our people and noted the absence of Poppy and Dena. I asked Owain to regroup our forces and moved into the woods to search. Fortunately it didn’t take long, Dena was still conscious although immobile with wounded legs and she was able to point out the bloodstained form of Poppy who had been seriously injured by a routed demon. I was helped by another healer of Albion to stabilise Dena and Poppy and together we all headed back to the Albion lines.
Cries then rang out suggesting that everyone would be best advised to retreat from the ritual circle. I took my prompt from running forms of Hugo and Cadarn and half-dragging Poppy did my best to beat a hasty retreat also. Behind us the circle erupted with a flash of light and rumble that shook the forest and silenced the birds around us. The battle, it seemed, was over.
Later that day Sir Ranulf and Prince Cadarn explained much of what had occurred; it seemed that Marin himself had appeared at one point with the ritual circle when it was obvious that the Queen’s child was being delivered from the dark influence, and that events had taken their own turn when the combined energies being tossed back and forth had worked to destabilise the circle as a reliable adjunct for extra planar manipulation. We had achieved our intentions, the Queen’s unborn child was saved, Marin has been certainly defeated and possibly even obliterated in the explosion, and thanks to luck, courage, and circumstance, the entire host had survived to tell the tale.
As for the Hiraeth, we had learned much of Albion, her ways and her people. Politically, we had gained acceptance and alliance. Militarily, we learned some important truths of warfare amongst the harts. Mair and Matthias had gained acceptance as citizens of Albion and earned the protection of the crown, Owain ap Nudd had been recognised as Earl amongst our people and earned a place at court, while within Cornovii itself, we had negotiated an important alliance with the ritualist Tiberias of Caer Pendrinn. At the last, as we prepared to strike camp and return to Caer Llwydd and Cymbrogija, I was approached by Poppy with one last welcome piece of news, she told me that she intended to stay with the Hiraeth as our Druid for the convocation, in the continuing absence of Eburos it was blatantly obvious we needed one.
And that, gentle reader, is my account of the Grand Council of Albion, 1100AF. Told in my own words as best as I am able to remember the sequence of events that transpired.
Scipio Leonidas Albus
Letter addressed to Baron Fortune of Tolkory, The Northern Mercenary Elves. Liege Lord to Twig Leaf.
It is the tenth day. In the month of April. 1100.
The Great Harts council has passed and it is with great joy that I write this letter now. The short journey home from Elf’s Rest was uneventful and a welcome relief from the mornings fighting. Greenwood is a pleasant land but I am happy to once again be near my native Darkwood. I have as requested written this report from excerpts from my diary of the event. As part of my standing orders to keep you abreast of the human lands should you ever return.
We arrived shortly after nightfall. Already the camp had been set and the sounds of music and laughter filled Elf’s Rest. We approached the camp and passed by the guards with little problems. A problem that struck home later. We made our greetings to the Queen and met up with our friends the Watchers, they had made the short trek earlier in the day. As more of the Harts arrived it became clear that it would be a great meeting of the people of Hart lands. The Beastmen and Host had arrived in force as had the Bacchus Bastards. As expected, for a meeting within the Greenwood, the Hunters and Watchers were there in sufficient force. Our neighbours the Blackwood rangers made the journey from their mountain pass stronghold.
A few groups of new arrivals caught our interest. A group from the Dragons. Refugees. It seems the Dragons have internal problems of their own.
Problems started shortly after the changing of the guard. We had roving patrols of scouts around the camp to keep and eye on both perimeter and the neighbouring ritual circle. As well as the customary ‘eyes’. Men at locations around the camp covering all entry points.
I first heard of trouble at the last few hours of the day. reports came in that scouts were not reporting in. Myself under the leader of one of the Host set out to search for missing men. We came upon brigands. Charging us with 20 gold for the release of hostages. They dared us not to approach or they would kill him. We were eight in number they were four or five. Away from the camp and in the thick forest even my sight had trouble discerning number and nature of the enemy. Our leader realised, as I had that we could rush them and get the wounded back to a healer before they died. So we charged. Magic flew at us from three of the foe. Sleep and strike downs for the most part. One struck me before I could raise my magic in defence. I attacked one of the creatures, A strange white hairless beast with a large sword. The Host fire spawn duelled with him before we could get to him. He seemed to hold off as his comrades retreated into the forest. But he himself was cut down. The hostage was unharmed and was one of the scouts we had lost. He had been jumped and subdued in the dark. It seems the Brigands were hired to test our defences. At the time we knew not for what purpose and so we decided to return to camp. We were not equipped in number to go into the Forest and I had orders to hold off pursuit. During the fight my clothing had been damaged. Human tailors can not make good cloth and I was exposed. So I was grateful to be ordered back to camp.
The night passed peacefully. Extra patrols were raised and forces mustered along the main gate. This seemed to hold off further attack. Although the fact they were outside the camp and watching us meant we were all a little nervous. I retired quite late after the call of the Queens retiring for the night. It seemed extra defence worked and we all partied through to the small hours.
The day arrived bright and Early, A nice clear morning, a gentle breeze and little cloud. I was put to defence of the camp and plans were under way for the Council meeting. It seemed during the night the Admiral had made his way from the Fleets to join us. Only one of the Generals had failed to appear. The army commander of the Western Marches, My General for the lands. Malik. At the time of writing this I have had no news of his whereabouts.
A ritual was started to return King Stephen’s Dagger to the Harts. It seems it can correct pattern Damage. And with the amount of undead rising, it would be a valuable asset. Rumours started among the common soldiers and guards about Marin. A powerful magic user I was unaware of. But one powerful enough to worry the Queen herself. The ritual passed and with a few problems we managed to find the dagger. It was in the hands of Void pirates. They arrived and reported that they would hand over the dagger in return for the help of the Harts in dealing with their ship. It seems their void ships are powered by great demons. Like the Elven ships of home, but controlled by a demon. We helped them ‘talk’ to their ship. Not an easy task and we nearly lost three men to a swamp surrounding the vessel. It seems that the Captain was an evil man that treated the Demon badly. A mutiny ensued and the ship lifted off. Leaving the Captain within our lands. The Admiral sent him to Southampton to see about joining one of our naval vessels.
Then the time of the council. The refugees were named and introduced. A mix of people from the Dragons who were exiled and given home near Southampton. Their name eludes me as I misheard it. [“Hiraeth” – Ed.] They were of considerable number and power.
The armies and navies were mentioned. Eight armies and two navies. We were put into the Western Marches army as we knew.
The Healers guild is thinking that they should pull back and leave the guild, making a Harts guild. It seems the healers guild are considering allowing the unliving to join……HOW, it seems humans are indeed strange. They would allow the walking dead to join a guild set up to heal the wounds and keep Albion forces living. To battle the undead. The Queen has allowed the idea to continue. We would take back the lands from the healers guild that live within the Albion nation and set up a Harts healing guild. Attacks on the Healers guild libraries have continued. It seems the disease section is always targeted and demons are seen at the location shortly before the attack. This is grave news.
Apparently plague demons attacked from the ritual circle earlier this morning. The main theme of the council was battling this Marin person. little is being told to the open council. But it has links to the Queens unborn child. She has started plans for a ritual, I have not been included in the plans. But it does not bode well for us this coming night. The council ended and We were put to guard as the closed council started. Wattaro was captain again and we set up the ‘eyes’. I became a roving guard to check the positions and hold the line should people need to rest and so forth.
Soon after nightfall alarms sounded from within the council tent. It seems the leading council was possessed and teleported away. Immediately the Queen’s guards rallied a significant force and charged into the night to teleport through the circle. They vanished from sight and we set about defence. All healers and incantors were put into the command tent and the fighters were put to guard. I counted the defenders and we numbered 9. Myself and the two Sake Bastards. A fire Spawn and the Blackwood Rangers with a Watcher. The rest were huddled inside.
Soon they came upon us. The first wave were wraith’s five in total, I charged one but was cut down. My blade had no effect and they were doing cold damage the passed through my armour. My leg was hit and chest and I fell to the floor. I died for the first time. I learnt later that we were successful in defending them. The Spawn and Wattaro battled them. Along with incantor magic. Once again the fires burned and the music from the Command tent could be heard through the trees. We made up plans for defence. Hold and fall back until all non combatants were in the tent then fall back in a collapsing square until we held the front of the command tent. This was a good plan given the numbers we had.
The second attack came shortly afterwards. We had the ‘eyes’ call out and we were able to throw forces to the correct side and defend. They never got within the fire light. Skeletons and zombies this time. I took a few hits but my chain held. Roving patrols were scrapped and the defenders were pressed into the defence of the base. The Blackwood Rangers were dispatched with ritualists to hold the circle. Not a good task at the best of times but a good tactic. We could not rally a force to help them and it could well have turned into a suicide mission if the undead came though the portal.
The Defence held. Some of the incantors from inside the tent helped to hold the numbers up. A count of weapons showed we had one silver, two enchanted weapons and three that could fire mage bolts to defend the whole camp. We were not heartened by this fact. As we readied positions the call went up from the Ritual circle. Undead could be seen moving up past the circle. It had been sealed and so they were safe for the moment. I moved up to look at the upcoming forces and they came at us from three sides. Undead braving fire as they charged, I cut down two as I fell back. Using my shield to protect a mage as they ran for the tent. I was clubbed to the floor and woke later to find myself in the command tent. It seems I was pulled free from the undead after they had been fought off.
Another call to check the ritual circle and the reply was heard. We got back into shape. Even Red Fern joined the defence. Having never fought in major conflicts. They came again. Early warning from the circle meant we were able to hold them this time. I was cut down defending the command tent from undead. they were closing in from the rear and I was pressed into defending that side. I cut one down but they were armed with pole arms and I held them long enough for help to charge them. I was healed soon after. Once more the call to the Ritual circle, once more the reply. I received reports of movement and lights off to the rear of the camp. Without early warning we would not get through to them in time and so I moved off to check. Red Fern and I moved out into the night, nothing was found, although we tested our own defences on the way back and we had been noticed approaching from some distance. This was good news.
The next attack took longer to hold off. They were moving in tactics and under the control of a greater intelligence. They attacked from all sides at once. Even advance warning meant we were hard pressed. The attack was pushed back and I had my legs hacked. They were armed with pole arms and although normal weapons could hurt them we were just simply outnumbered. I was healed during the fighting battled the skeletons. They could not be hurt by sharp so I was merely a roving blockage. I was then equipped with a frying pan from a healer. A blunt, natural and iron weapon. With this I charged into the fray at the next attack. Striking three skeletons down and pulling back until I was cut down by a magical creature, Wraith I believe. As I lost consciousness I heard Corina scream from the front ranks. Mage bolt. The defenders could not harm it and she came out from the tent to battle the demon. She duelled the demon before striking it down and returning to heal the wounded. The amount of Magic unleashed in the attack rallied out forces and thoughts of victory were at the forefront of conversations. I was healed and pressed back into defence. Once more the call to the Ritual circle and once more the reply.
The last attacks arrived in quick succession. I heard the call from the ritual circle and armed now with a proper wooden weapon I squared off at the front gate. Eight were against me as I pulled back allowing time to get back to the command tent. I let loose a battle cry and attacked. Taking one down and retreating. I reached the fire pit before they came from other sides. Battle had been joined from the rear and I was quickly set upon by the front ranks. I fought them off and was joined by others. I took another two or three before I was brought down, again with pole arm. I took him down as I fell. Later I was brought round in the command tent. The next two waves followed soon after and I held the line as best I could.
The final attack saw them reach the tent. I was cut down from behind as we were circled near the tent. I woke in the healing tent. Healers were running out of magic and I was surrounded by the dead and wounded. I learnt that the undead had made it to the tent and started to burn it to the ground as the fighter dropped. Spawn and one of the Sake Bastards held the line. Beer was put to use to dowse the flames. I had been left among the dead and dragged in as the undead pulled back or were finally defeated.
Once healed we assessed the damage and set posts. With little magic left and healing I thought we were doomed. Once more the call to the Ritual circle and once more the reply. As we were resting from the fight the ritual circle called out, We mustered forces and headed down to rescue them. The circle held but was broken as the Queen appeared. Her forces following soon after. We headed back to camp and the guards were doubled. Only one more attack came that night. A Large number of powerful undead. I held the left flank from the forces, Watchers around me and the Spawn whose power was diminishing stood alone at one point holding them off. He obviously was expending more power as his horns were slowly vanishing. Maybe his summoning would not last, He is a strange creature and I would not dare to guess his true nature. I was cut down and lost consciousness as Hugo shouted for order. He rallied forces and was successful. I retired that night, too much healing and hours of fighting took it’s toll and I slept. The following day the outcome of our valiant defence was noticed. Spawn had expended two much power and had left this plane, Or had left the camp for other places. I hope this does not bode ill. Hugo commended my actions and that of Wattaro. We had defended in the spirit of Albion and had been noticed. We have lost a powerful healer. It seems in the fighting she was not retrieved in time and we had lost her for good. A sad day indeed, but good that we were around to mourn. Then they told us of the results of the ritual they had held and the possession. It seems Marin had possessed the unborn child. This causes lots of problems. As such we had to quickly perform a ritual to correct the patterns and destroy the possession. Marin had some link to the Queen, family maybe, I do not know.
Guards were set up and the group teleported to Gloucester, Ranulf’s home. They set up the ritual hastily and before long the chanting and singing of a faction was heard from the closed circle. I was pressed to guard Ranulf. The owner of the circle and only he could open it for any reason. The plan was to keep them in the circle and the faction outside. Ranulf opens it and then we kill the invaders. As planned they attacked. The ritual neared its climax and Marin with a host of demons appeared. Ranulf unlocked the circle and we charged in. The demons were cut down but we were assaulted from behind. A brutal fight ensued. The admiral lost his shield and sword to magic before I could mend them. I helped defend as best I could as more demons teleported amongst us. Keeping us off balance and singling out leaders for death.
We held as the Queen’s guards quickly teleported her and a few of her forces within the circle away to Exeter including myself. We ‘landed’ and killed those demons we brought with us. It seems the ritual had worked and the possession had stopped. Ranulf appeared and checked us all to see if it had worked. He brought us back into the fray, demons were overrunning us. We teleported amongst them and killed many before we broke through to our forces. I killed around two, maybe three of them before being killed. I was outsmarted by a demon armed with a dagger. I dropped to one knee and raised my shield. He came over me and stabbed my back. Cutting me down. I was healed and we were able to get into a form of defence. More demons came though and around us. It seems that we could not stop them and my magic was depleted simply negating magic. They were freezing people and causing horrible wounds.
I had been equipped with a silver weapon. ‘Curule’ Its silver mace head shone brightly through the brown, green and red gore. The Demons were more powerful each time but less organised and we fought to a standstill. The Admiral was cut down as was s’Kalion of the beast men. A demon causing over a dozen wounds to him before we could kill it. They had to retire from Battle. Hugo and the Hunters fought like men possessed until we could link up and drive a wedge through the two groups of demons. Blackwood bowmen with magic arrows helped take down larger foes but in the confusion I lost track of all those I knew.
Eventually we were ordered to pull back and flee. Pulses of energy made the circle unsafe and we fled. The queen came through and ran. We covered her retreat and survived the explosion of the circle. It seemed the pattern correction of the unborn child caused problems and Marin’s power overloaded the circle. It will take many days of work to repair before the ritual to re-power it can take place. We formed up and checked for undead, possession and wounds before the huntsmen called and we charged into the woods to hunt.
Later in the day we packed up and broke camp. Aiming to be home by sundown. With Ranulf’s circle gone and many of our people lost to us we feel weakened. However we were successful in slaying Marin.
Needless to say I survived and I am now resting. My armour could do with some attention and I aim to improve my fighting technique… A dagger,… A dagger of all thingsâ€¦.an insult to Elven kind All is quiet around Darkwood now. And soon there will be another call for the moots. The Elven Alliance has called and we are bid to join them. Who knows. That is for another time.
And there is always the Drow… Hugo forbid me to war with them in the name of the Harts. We would all be executed. So we must bide our time and hold them at bay with strikes and skirmishes until the Harts, gain a backbone and realise we must strike now. Then we will be in the front. I will write more as time permits.
Ever your humble servant.
- Allandra Thalastri,
- Twig Leaf Captain,
- First Elven Tolkorian Guard