The Harts Yuletide 1099
Queen Elspeth requests that friends and family join her, at Eaton on the 30th January 1099, to remember her son Crown Prince Elias Karlennon who died at the Gathering of 1098. She does not wish the occasion to be sombre; but a festival of remembrance. All who have left us will be remembered with joy and love.
Apollo, the Shining One
A report on the events of the 30th January 1099
It was with a gentle lifting of the spirits that Martaine and I approached Eaton on yesterday evening. He recently enjoyed a dream-free night’s sleep in a grove sacred to the Mother in her aspect of the White Hart. Early signs of spring show us once again that the cycle always turns. He still cannot speak of Elias without a shadow crossing his face as his mind takes him back to Chapel Perilous. Perhaps tomorrow’s celebration of Yule will give him some release.
I was awoken by Tarn bawling loudly barely a handspan from my face. Apparently I had five minutes to gather my equipment and be ready for a critical mission. Grabbing a small amount of supplies I quickly got myself battle-ready. Outside Eaton Manor I found Tarn already heading off with a handful of people. This certainly was urgent. After a mad rush Martaine and I found ourselves being transported with Tarn and eleven others to Cornwall. As soon as we arrived Tarn was off again at a fast pace, quickly appointing Var and Taliesin as Scouts and Tiamat as his military second. I buddied up with Katith’raa and Darkmire of the Host, they being heavily armoured shieldsmen, one left-handed one right-handed, and myself a heavy spearsman. Hunter Stryker and Logain acting as fast moving flanks with Mai Ling, Anselyn, Martaine, Chen and Glycel forming the Centre and Tiamat vocally urging us on from behind.
After efficiently dispatching some Orcs we rescued a Seer called Ylander from assault. During our first respite from Tarn’s relentless pace he explained the The Hunter was in grave danger and in a battle with some creature and we were going to rescue Him. Some people recognised the area we were in as a place they had battled against a despoiler called Roygen who seeks to destroy the Veil of Gaia. Ylander shows us the results of a vision she recently had concerning The Dark Prince, Marin.
After setting off again we were very nearly all killed by a group of Half-Orc Dark Incantors who used great magics to hurl our people out of the way when we tried to form a wall of shields and befuddled our minds so as not to be able to tell true friends from those who were enemies. With no way to stop this terrible assault many people fell and would have died had it not been for the bravery of Taliesin and Martaine who risked all to save us. Unfortunately Ylander was taken captive by the Greenskins and when we caught up with them they demanded 12 gold for her safe return. Tarn acted most diplomatically and had gained some measure of trust from their leader when one of them started beating Ylander mercilessly. At this Tarn charged headlong into their ranks with no thought for personal safety to rescue her. And rescue her he did, hewing and chopping his way through a forest of sinewy Orc limbs. Var appeared from nowhere and slew a Giant Troll that had crushed my legs to a bloody pulp. Quick thinking from the support group stopped the Troll from regenerating and continuing on its slaughterous rampage. How Martaine managed to get me back on my feet and walking I will never know. But in his healing of me I came close to his Pain and somewhere in that fiery passion he gave me the will and the means to carry on. I think he carries Hurt Valley within him.
Ylander and Tarn then blessed our weapons (which took some time with Taliesin) in the name of The Hunter and we passed through a portal to a dismal, bleak swamp infested with corruption and unlife. The fetid stench proved heavy on our lungs and we were glad to have brought our own food as very little of sustance grew there.
We came across a group of dripping corpses that lumbered towards us and tried to embrace us in their cold and clammy hands. The merest touch caused you to lose control of your body and , we found out later to our cost, infected you with disease. I was overcome with such fear that I was frozen, helpless amongst a large throng of them were I had hastily rushed to destroy the Corruption. Darkmire and Katith’raa valiantly pushed them back as they started to shear the flesh from my bones and held them off until other could come to destroy them. Mai Ling then used the blessings of Bacchus to patch up my battered body.
Soon we came to bridge that Tarn, Taliesin and Tiamat led the way across. No sooner had Tiamat stepped over the threshold when the three disappeared. For over a quarter of an hour Var, Logain and Chen fought against undefeatable Unliving foe until the three returned claiming victory over a Demon Warrior-Lord whose realm we were apparently travelling through. Anselyn wisely checked them with metal blades to make sure they were not fey dopplegangers sent to fool us.
We then found a group of long dead Greenskin corpses who rose from their long slumber and attacked us. I found a small medallion in the shape of a winged dagger and had just put this on when my head and lungs burned with a consuming heat and I passed out.
The next I knew I was being tended to by the Wellspring healers and hearing of the deaths of my comrades.
This is my account of the day’s Happenings. They were Heroes, every one. No fault or blame would be apportioned to anyone in my eyes. I shall write of the evening’s events shortly; for now I would just sit and remember my friends for a while.
Apollo, The Shining One
Hunter of the Hawkshead Archers
A report on the events of the 30th January 1099
My arrival at the Winchester Ritual Circle in the early hours of that Saturday coincided with Lord General Tarn’s assembling a group of loyal Harts to help The Hunter. It was, in some respects at least, lucky that I had travelled straight from a night patrol and was armed and armoured still as he requested my aid, along with all others he could find at short notice.
He transported us first to the Wellspring then to what turned out to be a permanent transport circle in Cornwall. We were acting on very little information, other than Tarn’s knowledge that The Hunter needed our help. We quickly formed up into a loose unit and followed Tarn as he set a quick pace from the circle. Within minutes we encountered a rag tag group of greenskins who sent a representative to speak to Tarn. Moments later we were fighting the Greenskins and were just as quickly victorious. Fortunately there were no injuries on our side as we had only one healer with us. True, it was Martaine, but other than two incantors – Mai Ling and The Host’s Ritualist, he was all we had for healing.
We continued after Tarn as he pressed ahead and spied a group of travellers warring with what seemed to be a mixed group of Greenskins and others. I am unsure as to how Tarn decided which side to back as I had agreed to keep an eye on Mai Ling and scout at the flank of the group. The fight was won with minimal injury to us, even though they had an archer who tried to get to our rear. We found Ylander of the Wolverines was amongst the wounded and she had news of the threat to The Hunter. A portal existed near by that could take us to his realm.
We followed her directions towards the portal only to encounter a large group of greenskins who again tried talking first. Very polite of them, but what they had to say started another fight. I was watching the flank as a number of their warrior tried getting behind us. We fought, but I was struck down in the skirmish. When I awoke, I found that many of our number had been wounded or subdued by magics. Few indeed had survived unhurt. The incantors and Martaine got us back to our feet before it was realized that Ylander was missing. The tracks were easy to follow and we went after the band of greenskins, only to try negotiation once more, through Tiamat this time. Yet once again, violence was the result and we struck them down, though their numbers included what appeared to be ogres and trolls.
Tiamat had used the fight to cover his rescue of Ylander, so we once again had a means of reaching the Hunter. The first attempt to open the portal failed. It seemed that our weapons needed to be blessed first. Ylander performed the necessary rite to accomplish this as Tarn called upon the strength of the Hunter to aid us in reaching him. We set off once more and passed through the portal into a dismal land, one that stank of corruption. Martaine commented about an upcoming storm, a feeling he had from time to time. I begin to understand what he is talking about having seen the foulness of that land.
We traveled for a time until we encountered a group of unliving. I could easily identify the ghouls amongst their numbers, though one seemed to be rotting, like a zombie. We engaged them and one critter almost shredded my arm in the first rush. The ghouls set about paralyzing some of our number, though I did catch one by surprise and struck it down without being struck in return. That was when the rotting Ghoul barrelled into me and left my frozen. The others managed to clear up the remaining unliving and waited for the paralyzed to recover. When we had recovered from the assault, we continued on our way.
We came across a bridge. A number of our scouts, Tarn in the lead as usual, stepped onto the bridge, a wall of red flame arose and barred the others of our group from following. At the same time, two strange looking figures appeared to our left and stood there, watching. When approached, they claimed to be playing a game and indicated that the others were in danger. The two seemed to be demonic in nature and we found they wished to ‘play’. In other words, they wanted to fight. They were struck down thrice each before they vanished and did not re-appear. Moments later, Tarn and the others became visible on the bridge once more, placed as if they had not moved since the flame first appeared.
Talking to them, it appeared that they had fought a demon in an arena. They had been victorious, but more healing had been used, leaving us slightly short on recuperative powers. As we crossed the bridge, we could see bodies amongst the trees. It stank of a trap. There were unliving in the area so it had to be a trap. It was. The bodies animated and we fought, though Taliesin and I were repelled from the fray by foul magics. By the time we recovered and returned, there were but four of our numbers still moving and four of theirs, on a ghoul. We set about dispatching them and sorting out the fallen and paralyzed of our comrades. It was about this time that I collapsed and remember no more until I awoke in the Wellspring’s ritual Circle some hours later. The rest is what I have since heard :
Apollo, Chen of the Host and myself had been inflicted with a disease that laid us out. There was insufficient healing left to get us back to our feet, though the disease had been purged from our systems. Tarn had left one of the walking wounded to guard us and taken the rest to continue to The Hunter’s side. They encountered Snaka, the renegade spirit that had once worked for The Hunter. Tarn, Taliesin and two of the Host, Katith’raa and Darkmire, took the fight to Snaka and its minions, but fell and their bodies not retrieved. I understand that their bodies were thrown into a mire to be lost forever.
Tiamat I do not believe stood idle, nor the other warriors who were left, but what part they played has not been spoken of. All I know is that they were recovered to Albion by Var, Martaine, one of the Host whose name eludes me who is also a ritualist, and Mai Ling.
In reflection, I can see where we may have improved our chances, where we made our mistakes. It is not that we did not our all, nor that we were weak, but that we were not as cohesive as was needed. Tarn lead from the front and had set a gruelling pace for us, a pace that tired and slowed those of us in heavier armour. Tiamat brought up the rear and pushed for us to keep closer together. We simply had not the time to grow accustomed to each other and our individual styles. This failure to mesh is what let us down.
We lost four good warriors that day and, to my shame, I was unable to stand by their side at that last battle. They will not be forgotten. They will be avenged.
The Yuletide Party
Of that evening, I shall also speak for there was much we had been preparing for.
The dark prince was to appear and receive his answer to his proposal of marriage to our Queen. Even then, I knew she would refuse him for his proposal was also a threat, an attempt to force the union. We were also expecting an assault by the Tomorrow Court, but that did not materialize to my knowledge. Tarn’s call to arms was not widely known about, and the survivors were dispersed due to individual needs – some for healing, some to record facts and visions, some to prepare for a return. It fell to those of us who arrived first to report on what had happened to Sir Hugo, Lord Benedict and Lord Ranulf. Then it was that some of the horror of what had happened came to light.
Elbrath was requested to try and contact The Hunter, but he failed to get any response. We later learned that The Hunter had secluded himself away to avoid Snaka’s attacks. I was asked by Kelvin to assist in finding the portal once again. This we did, but the portal was held closed from the other side. Upon my return, I was called upon to deal with a more personal matter, then to advise on the value of information that had come to light and was for sale. It was a busy night as announcements were made over the losses from Tarn’s expedition. Also, there was announcements over visions received by Ylander. Then the Dark Prince appeared and his proposal was rejected. He responded with violence and several of his followers were struck down before he vanished.
The night progressed and I learned that Lord Magician Arcane had issued a proclamation that, as the Dragons were a Fey faction, the Tomorrow Court would be welcomed with open arms on their lands. He seemed to have ignored the atrocities they had committed and the violence perpetrated against other lands. Perhaps the rumour that he is under the influence of Katherine is not so unlikely after all.
Albion stands on the brink of Martial Law. We face enemies on many sides, yet I perceive that we face but one Enemy that has many faces.
Marin, the Dark prince, is in league with Snaka. It is believed that Royjen, the mercenary, is one of Snaka’s servants. Royjen is known to be linked to the Tomorrow Court, and Marin appeared at first where Royjen and Katherine’s forces were first found active. That the Dark Prince claimed to be able to control the Wraiths suggests that his claim to be able to deal with the Tomorrow Court may be due to an alliance.
Why does all this seem to tie together? What reason is there for such complexity of the plan? Simple. Snaka wishes to replace The Hunter and to do that he needs to remove the support The Hunter gets from Albion. With Marin on the throne, this would be relatively easy. But here I would ask a few simple questions of those who doubt my belief ; where are Katherine’s forces gaining their funds and supplies? Why does the Dark Prince seem so sure of his abilities to bring peace to Albion? Why are we besieged by so many different forces, all apparently after the same things, yet who are all refusing to face each other as well as facing the Harts? And finally, where do those Vampires fit into all of this?
Sir Hunter Stryker,
Knight of Albion
Leader of the Hawkeshead Archers
Scouts guild delegate to the Harts and Harts delegate to the Scouts guild