In the Greening of 624, Wildlings infiltrated Fastheld from beyond the Aegis and launched a surprise attack on the township of Hawk's Aerie and the keep of Aerie Heights...

Lightholder Crossroads (Palace District)

A small village has sprouted on the edge of the Lightholder River where the cobblestone roads from Fastheld's other prominent districts intersect, in the shadow of Caryas Hill and the majestic gray silhouette of Fastheld Keep - the seat of power for the entire realm.
Sutlers, traveling performers and other small-time merchants ply their trades along this main crossroads - competing for space with carriages hauling passengers, couriers rushing important communiques from one district to another, and the soldiers of the Emperor's Blades who regularly patrol the area.
On the northwest corner of the intersection, next to the road that twists north toward Lightholder Bridge and the palace, sits a large tavern and inn where weary travelers can refresh themselves.

From Maddock's saddle, "Easy boy." says Lucius Nepos, the Warmaster of Vozhdya, to his brown horse, Maddock. Lucius' steel armour clinks together occationally, the newly lubricated segments moving together rather silently otherwise. He follows Markus closely, eyes shifting back and forth on the surrounding landscape.

Ghost rides easily alongside Frostproof, galloping quickly in the night as his rider remains ducked low to gain further speed.

Flambert thunders along the thoroughfare, frothing with the exertion of hard riding, Demetrius atop him, with a grim mien of determination settled onto his face. He yanks his reigns to the side to slow the horse abruptly and bring it to a halt by the gathering group of nobles. "Beg pardon," he says, clipping himself short. "I was slowed down."

From the south comes another horse that thunders along at a wild pace thanks to the encouragement of its rider.

From Morningstar's saddle, At the foot of the Lightholder Bridge a man can be discerned standing beside a large, white shire. Jafron slips a steel boot into the stirrups and heaves himself into the saddle, armor and all. A flowing sable cloak is arrayed carefully across pauldrons, draping down to fall across Morningstar's flanks. Reins are taken in hand and the beast is spurred into a trot as additional riders emerge.

From Frostproof's saddle, Markus Kahar glances to the other riders, gesturing them closer with a gauntlet'd hand. "I see we've all made it. From here Hawk's Aerie, I believe, is due northeast." Markus pauses for a moment, "... am I wrong? I have been there a handful of times. We have few soldiers with us - just our own skins - so when we arrive we shall dismount and keep our horses in the woods. From there let us approach near the riverbank - in the foliage - we shall see what lies beyond the gate without being detected. Our numbers are too few to simply bumrush any opposition."

The horse from the south draws nearer and nearer, revealing an armored figure wearing a violet cloak that madly flares and flaps in the wind of the passage. Tomassa Zahir eases her mount to a slower pace when she spies the knot of riders. Glory's powerful sides heave to draw breath as the beast enjoys the respite.

From Maddock's saddle, Lucius Nepos turns his head towards his Duke Markus as the powerful royal speaks, his horse continuing the slow walk that it had been doing for the past small while. "I understand, m'lord. We fight much better on foot, as our horses are not armoured."

From Ghost's saddle, The Captain unslings the longbow from his shoulder, keeping it in his free hand as he handles Ghost's reigns with the other. "Of course, Your Grace. I am ready," speaks the archer aloud, gazing around.

From Morningstar's saddle, Jafron Seamel lays a heavy hand against his mount's neck and frowns. "You'll have to sit this one out," he murmurs softly. Steely eyes dart upward to regard the small troop. "You've my sword, Bladesmaster. Though I am loathe to enter combat afoot, your strategy is wise." The cavalryman dons his stoney gargoyle helm, drawing Morningstar to a halt near to Markus.

From Flambert's saddle, Demetrius says, "As you say, Your Grace." He frowns slightly, Flambert dancing under him in exhausted anticipation of another run. He leans up in his stirrups to glance to the south, noting the approaching horse and its rider. "Hey-ho!" he calls, not recognizing Tomassa in the darkness. "Who comes nigh? Are you with us, to Aerie Heights?"

From Frostproof's saddle, Markus Kahar notices a figure in the distance - that being of the Zahiress, Lady Tomassa - clad in her own armor. Markus calls out, half-mockingly, "The Lady joins us in war! She has the heart of a man," Under the circumstances this could be misconstrued as an insult - however - in these times, it is a form of flattery. With a simple nod, Markus welcomes her to the group with nonverbal acceptance, "... and thank the Light. We need every fighter we can gather. Then let us Ride now without interruption to Aerie Heights. Be ready for battle when we dismount!"

Tomassa Zahir flashes a fierce grin to the party as she catches up to them. "Aye, I go to Aerie Heights," she agrees with a frighteningly gleeful anticipation. Tucking her right hand downward into her horse's saddlebags, she pulls out an obsidian scabbard and throws it, blade and all, toward da Voe. "You might need this," she says before spurring her mount forward again.

From Flambert's saddle, Demetrius catches the scabbard, nodding a brief but solemn thanks at the Contessa befoer hooking the scabbard to his side. "Heya!" he then calls to his horse, and speeds off.

Aerie Heights Keep Approach

Tucked above the main road and river, on a solid bit of rock, sits Aerie Heights Keep, the traditional home of the Baron and Baroness of Hawk's Aerie.
You approach the keep up a steep but wide and well kept path, lined with the Baroness' herb hedges backed by espaliered apple trees against the sun warmed rock face.
Looking up at the keep proper, one sees a small, well kept stone tower and adjoining hall. The walls are relatively bare of ivy and the ground surrounding sports a clipped lawn cleared of brush. Beautiful, but obviously still quite functional as a defensible house.

Two-Blotch is amidst a group of more than twenty Wildlings, gathered near the front door of the Keep, now burning brightly.

Two are blocking the door to the Crafters' Workshop, the windows of which are busted in.

The Baron of Aerie heights flies into the Keep's approach, the great sword Heart's Trust already in his hand and the Helm of the First Horselord on his head. Spotting the Wildlings before the Keep's great door he quickly scans the yard. Spying the two Wildlings at the Workshop door a slim plan forms in his mind. Lowering his head, with sword before him he simply barrels into the two at the Workshop door full tilt, ready to split the first within range.

The two Wildlings turn, hearing the sound of bronze against the path as Warlan charges. They hiss, baring their claws. Warlan manages to hack into one of the Wildling's forearms, and it cries out in pain, drawing back as greenish blood falls like rain from the wound. The other throws both claws towards Warlan, eager on his destruction.

The attacking Wildling manages to turn his claw at just the right angle, pulling up bronze scalemail and sinking through leather and into the flesh just above Warlan's knee. He pulls down and away, hopping back to join the injured Wildling by the door.

Nary a grunt comes from the veteran Horselord as he scans for his next swing...

The guard's 6 steps behind his master puts him too far to join the fray with Warlan, but he swings as soon as the second Wildling pulls his talon out of Warlan's knee...

The injured Wildling is certainly not out of the fight, and shows this by giving a graceful duck to Warlan's swing, moving in to attack with his good arm. The other hops more than two and a half feet in the air to avoid the guard's swipe, and on his downswing, attacks the new player in the fight. Other Wildlings are beginning to take note of this exchange, and two or three of them begin to wander towards the exchange.

The injured Wildling doesn't fare too well with his reintroduction into the fight. Whatever the case, his clawing is deflected by the bronze cuirass. The guard...oh, the guard. Like dual scythes, the scaly arms fall, claws-first. One, two, one two. The deadly nails go snicker-snack. The guard's no more than four or five long shreds. A bloody wail rings out from the man's very core as he turns a grim, grasping pirouette before falling to the ground, dead.

Warlan shifts his weight, letting the claws scrape across this cuirass without purchase, then uses the momentum of his return to level a great swing at the Wildling who has just killed his guard...

From the Aerie Heights Crafters Workshop, Jacib yells, "What's going on out there?"

Warlan yells, "Stay inside and barricade yourselves!"

Finally, a telling blow. Warlan's swing takes off the uninjured Wildling's arm off entirely, and it flails before smacking against the Workshop door. Green blood gushes every which way as the Wildling falls down to a crouch, eyes narrowing, its head bobbing lightly.

Hawk's Aerie (River District)

The sprawling township of Hawk's Aerie is one of the plushest, wealthiest and most politically important settlements in the realm of Fastheld, poised as it is at the fork of River Road and the Imperial Thoroughfare, with control over the economically vital Fastheld Wharfs and the strategically critical access point of the bridge that spans the Fastheld River to Aegis Road.
Founded five centuries ago by Edran Nillu, the bustling riverport town has been a primary source of that noble house's cache with the throne on Caryas Hill and the guilds of the Market District, and has enabled the Nillus to establish themselves as an economic powerhouse.
The streets are kept clean of garbage and filthy peasants as much as possible. The elegant stone and wood buildings are kept in fine repair. It is rumored that the ravens of Hawk's Aerie get their talons polished, morning and night.

From Ghost's saddle, "Here is a good spot to disappear into the foliage, Your Grace!" calls Lotan as he gallops Ghost in quickly from the southwest, nearing the horse and dismounting from him as he plucks an arrow from the quiver upon his back and loads it into the longbow. "The keep is to the west, then up a hill. The forest starts from here, and we can approach with stealth."

From Maddock's saddle, Lucius Nepos bobs up and down as his horse gallops into the general area around Hawk's Aerie, his form pressed down tightly onto the saddle and his hands clasping tightly Maddock's reins. He nods towards Lotan as Maddock slows, and quickly dismounts, holding an iron spear in one hand, and now his shield in another. A second spear rests in a compartment on the inside of the rectangular shield.

The city of Hawk's Aerie is a burning, charred shadow of what it once was. It is a human quality to panic: but panic leads to mistakes - things drop - oil spills - stanchions are knocked over. Much of the city smolders while others burn, much of the damage consigned to the residential areas - yet flames lick from the windows of the tavern. There is a smell of death hanging in the air; putrid and cold. Indeed, the only place that still shows signs of life is the city's vaunted Temple - where a single woman, bloody and dirty, herds wounded inside. There are no guards still fresh, and smoke can be seen rising from the great keep on the hill.

Demetrius jumps from Flambert's saddle the moment the horse carries him into the open space central to the town, drawing his rapier free in the same fluid movement.

Markus Kahar approaches, along with the rest of the party, the outskirts of Hawk's Aerie - his horse, along with the rest, having been stabled in the forests. Markus kneels for a moment, drawing his longsword from its scabbard - "Lo - Jafron, what sees you in the city. Whisper; for these woods have many ears."

Jafron Seamel hugs his destrier low, teeth gritted as the group rounds a bend to meet the ruins that was once Hawk's Aerie. As his companions dismount so does he, reining in with the lot of them and sliding gracefully from Morningstar's saddle. The silvery crescent of a bejeweled sabre whispers free of its scabbard as he kneels beside the Duke of Vozhdya. "I see revenge owed to the Shadow Spawn," he answers in a snarling hiss, "By the Light, it had better be buildings alone which burn."

"What say you, Your Grace?" Demetrius asks of the Duke of Vozhdya, squatting closeby. "There is fire rising from the keep, and the city seems clear of wildlings. Should we press on?"

Tomassa Zahir dismounts from her horse and lightly touches the handles of the axes that protrude from the beast's saddle bags. She frowns for a moment as if wishing she had not brought the weaponry, but then eases her horse over to the others. With a swirl of velvet, she removes her cloak to drape it over Glory's back since she has not time to brush the sweat from the animal. The cloth helps to conceal the fact that there are weapons in the saddlebags.

Lucius Nepos's gaze, once fixed upon the now hiding Maddock, now turns to regard the city of Hawk's Aerie. The burning buildings which light the streets are most noticeable, but his eyes drift all over the city rather than just at its lighted landmarks. "Wildlings are no stupid creatures, m'lords. They are most likely waiting for us, in ambush. We must be careful if we are to proceed into the city."

As the remaining Hawk's Aerie healers and their charges flow into the Temple, Aylora has rousted the able bodied to begin a water line, mostly to keep the fire from reaching the Temple itself. Occasionally, she diverts a bucket and hands it to someone inside, evidently to help the others with the wounded. Her short sword leans against the doorframe, while her guards blearily watch the newcomers.

Markus Kahar's eyes catch the subtle movements of the guards. With some chagrin, Markus mutters back to the group, "... No. The Wildlings aren't in the city because... they've already been in the city. That woman; is that...?" Markus pauses, "... that is the Contessa, Aylora Zahir. I trust that the city is abandoned by the Wildlings - they tend to shy away from fire. Let us proceed; I believe us to be safe. Besides - we're spotted."

Markus offers the last remark with some chagrin, rising slowly from the riverbanks and waving his longswords in the air towards the guards; moving towards the city center - he calls out. "What ho', Guardsmen! Zahiress! We rode from Vozhdya at the sounding of the 'bell!"

Jafron Seamel tosses Morningstar's reins around the thick bough of a tree before rising to follow in Markus' wake. Eyes of pale green dart to and fro within their sockets, ever vigilant of the shadows and what they may hide.

"Uh, Sir?" asks Lotan, who seemed fairly set on heading off into the forest to move to the keep. His head is tilted slightly to the man. "I think it might be wise to halt introductions and proceed in our advance to the Keep, Your Grace, if you wish?" asks the Captain as respectfully and quickly as he can manage, jerking his chin off to the smoking building.

Demetrius bares his teeth in a mask of fierce determination, his eyes narrowed as he gazes at the burning houses and the smoke that billows from them up into the blaze-lit night. He rises as the Duke does, but does not follow towards the guards, falling back instead to nod again at the Lioness. "Contessa," he says, the often amused smile on his lips now grim. "It is an honour to find myself fighting alongside you, to be sure."

"Had I known that my sister was present, I might not have come," Tomassa says as she frowns in Aylora's direction. "If we both perish this night, that will leave my son in Zolor's charge." The woman looks sidelong to Demetrius and slowly, dangerously smiles. "All the more reason to fight with everything I have, eh?" she asks. A few steps take her toward Aylora. Tomassa's iron longsword is wielded in her right hand, but the approach to Aylora isn't threatening. "Sister! Do you require anything that I might give before we press onward?"

Lucius Nepos grips the oak handle of his iron spear ever more tightly, his shield resting on the ground now next to him, leaning on the Warmaster's armoured leg. And even so, he peers at Aylora not recognizing her one bit. He may have never heard her name before, but it hardly arouses suspicion in a man who's blood is as common as the green grass. He grunts approval of Lotan's idea, however.

Aylora hurries forward at the call of her sister. "No, the town is emptied," she replies. "Only the wounded remain. My men and the city guard killed a few 'lings that set the fires but then the beasts turned toward the burning Keep. Hurry! I fear for the Baron and Baroness!" She sets a hand on her sister's arm. "Light Keep, Tomassa." She swallows and steps back, green eyes ringed with gold.

Markus Kahar's eyes go-alight, "WHAT?! The royal family is still inside the Keep? Why did they not fl*..." Markus bites his tongue, "... they attacked when we left the wall. They knew about the ball... how..." The Blademaster nods his thanks to Aylora, a brief flash of the eyes, before he looks to the group. "So be it - we cannot hope to kill every Wildling among our numbers here - from the depth of destruction I fear there to be many more still coming. Our only hope - our only goal - is to retrieve everyone from the castlet and escape back to the forests. From there, we must seek shelter - but for now - the Keep."

Markus speaks quickly, urgency in his voice: "This Keep is Nillu built, meaning that it's a fool's errand to try and find a secret entrance. We must approach as would the Wildlings - which means they'll be expecting us. We will split in two - our Bladesmen, our fighters with the most skill will try and distract the 'lings with an attack, while the other group flees into the castle. That group will find the family and get out. Don't fight - just run. Only fight if you have to. That place... it's a cage. You'll be trapped - and they move in the shadows. We will try and assist you every way we can. Bladesmen, with me. Tomossa - lead the others inside. Do you understand?"

Demetrius glances along Tomassa's line of sight as the Lioness mentions her sister. His gaze narrows on Aylora, his smile losing some of its grimness for a heartbeat before he turns away from that and to Markus. "With all due respect, your Grace!" he calls, "We have to expect the spawns have found their way into the keep by now, and once in, we would have them before /and/ behind us."

The corners of Jafron's eyes tighten, his lips forming a a grim frown as he shifts his gaze from Kahar to Zahir. "Where would you have me, Bladesmaster? I am a cavalryman, and by rights a Bladesman, but would my absence leave our companions numbered too few?"

The Captain merely stands in anxious wait as he gazes quickly upon the still idling party of travellers. He can take no more, it seems, as he gazes to the west. "Then into the maw of the beast we go, quickly!" calls the archer, keeping his bow at the ready as he heads off in a stealthy dash off to the west.

Tomassa Zahir turns to regard the Duke of Vozhdya with a quirked eyebrow. "Forty-five of my castle guard follow me and will be here as soon as they can arrive," she announces. "Aylora can point them after us, though I am sure they will know where we have headed." She deftly turns the iron longsword in her hand, twirling it with the ease of someone who is long familiar with its weight. "Let us go. I am eager to spill blood in retaliation. I will not flinch from entering Aerie Heights to aid my friends."

Finally, some indication of emotion appears on Lucius' face as his lips break into an eager grin. "We will fight valiently, but time is not to be wasted. Aye, let us go forth with haste." Says the Warmaster, shifting slightly.

Aylora grabs a bucket as it swings near her. "To the Heights My Sister!" she calls. "Noblemen, warriors all! I will watch for the Bramblestone men and send them hence should we remain clear of 'lings!" She hands the bucket to another, and grabs at a second as it swings by. "Quickly!"

River Road (River District)

The main road linking the town of Hawk's Aerie to the economically vital wharfs and the strategically important Fastheld Bridge has been cobbled with kilned redstones and meticulously maintained by order of the Emperor - a decree most happily welcomed by the mason's guild in the Market District.
This thoroughfare's prominence also earns it regularly assigned patrols by the Emperor's Blades, as well as the security forces employed both by freelanders, merchants and nobles alike.
Along this route, perhaps one of the most secure in the realm, it is quite unlikely for a traveler to come to harm at the hands of brigands.
The wharves can be smelled before they are seen around the bend to the northwest. River Road continues east toward the town of Hawk's Aerie.
To the south, atop a bluff, one can see the Hawk's Aerie Garrison of the Emperor's Blades.

The Captain of the Archers moves swiftly with the group, long legs easily carrying the man up the hill. His longbow is drawn and at the ready, loaded with a single oaken missile as he flanks Lucius at the rear.

Lucius Nepos follows along quickly, iron spear gripped tightly with two fingers in the throwing strap. Strapped to his other arm is a large shield, ready for the parry.

Return to Season 1 (2003)

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