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...

Meanwhile, at the Warren in Vozhdya...

Leaning against a far wall of the Warren, Kysar quietly chats with a few of the other guards, his hand wrapped around the middle of his quarterstaff.

Mirabelle walks around the perimeter of the keep, inspecting the guards. She stops in front of one of the barricades, examining it. "It's weak." she announces, pointing to it, "Find some furniture and build it up some more."

Galloping in upon Sable's sattle the Master of the Warren approaches from Vozhdya. Baron Adaer Vozhd-Kahar frowns as he gets closer. He is accompanied by 25 guards and he yells forth as he comes near, "What has happened to Vozhdya and my keep!?"

Kysar looks up from where he leans, keeing his head down and quiet.

Mirabelle steps away from the barricade, and gestures to the guards guarding the sole entrance between the broken piles of furniture to step back, exclaiming, "It is the Baron... let him through!" She looks up at her brothers horse, and exclaims, "Wildlings, brother, they have attacked Hawk's Aerie, and set Eastwatch and the square afire. Evil has come upon us! The city guards are here with me... our Uncle has given me orders to command the city in his absence. All able-bodied men are to go and fight with His Grace." Her hands are clenched around two metal weapons which gleam under the shadows of her cloak.

His face pinched with anger and confusion Adaer enters into the open Granite walls of the Upper keep. He rides Sable up near enough to Mirabelle to dismount. And as he does his Guards trail into the keep. The Baron then regains composure and says, "Evil? My word.. Well then.." Adaer's face turns into a concerned look, "How do you fare in the Warren. Are you protected and safe? I left only to visit with Father..."

Kysar swings his staff out in front of him, turning back to the small group he chats with quietly.

Mirabelle stands on her toes to kiss her brother's cheek and says, "Evil indeed... the refugees are in the bottom caverns. I've put the peasants in the hall, the citizens in the guest room, the boyers in yours and the nobles in mine. I have a request, brother, which may sound strange."

Adaer Kahar in-turn returns Mirabelle's kiss with a kiss upon her check and nods as he tries to focus on her. He struggles to do this as he begins to look to the left and to the right to inspect the keep. "What is it Bella?" Adaer's eyes then dart to Kysar and some guards and barks, "Alert men?" to keep them on their toes. The Baron then looks back to Mirabelle, "Sorry, what is it?"

Kysar stands up and nods to the noble along with the other men, "Aye sir." and waits for orders.

Mirabelle says, "It sounds silly.... but I am having a hard time climbing around in these skirts... have you a pair of trousers that can be altered to fit me?"

Adaer Kahar squints his eyes as he steps back and folds his arms, "Silly indeed. With all these men around, you come and ask me to make you a pair of trousers?"

The evening has passed slowly - each minute longer than the next. While the nobles in the upper hall hear little of the disruptions below, the masses squirm in the tunnels. The air is hot and thick; smelling of sweat, fear and hunger.

Mirabelle 's grip tightens around on her weapons, and she says, "I am hardly going to ask these men for their pants! I am asking you if you have a spare pair... there are plenty of seamstresses to alter them if need be! But I can go running around barricades in gauzy skirts... I am going to trip injure myself."

Adaer Kahar sighs and nods, "I am here to help now but you can retrieve a pair of trousers from my wardrobe.. Oh wait.." He looks over to a servant and says, "Quick grab me a pair of trousers."

The servant nods and runs off into the keep. The Baron then looks to a the guards he barked at, "Keep alert. G'show men."

Moments later the servant arrives and hands Adaer his trousers and bows. The Baron then hands them to his sister, "Here you go."

Kysar shifts his eyes around the courtyard, noting the conversation continuing among the nobles and walks over to a watchpost, looking past the barricade.

The guards glance towards Adaer Kahar before looking towards Mirabelle, shifting their weight uncomfortably from foot to foot. They seem tense. The younger one asks quietly: "Do yah think we're in any real danger... muh lady?"

A pleasant smile spreads across Mirabelle's face as she turns to the guard, "Danger? Of course there is danger... but we have the finest in Fastheld to protect us! Are you not well-trained, strong, courageous and valiant? It is not us who have anything to fear, but rather, those who are foolish enough to attack us!" She dips her head towards Adaer to recieve the clothing, and says, "I thank you, my brother."

Adaer Kahar nods reluctantly, "Certainly Bella. Mind you, I don't think you should be wearing such clothes.. It doesn't befit you as a Lady. These times do call for it though. Tell me, what weapons do you have there." Adaer pokes at Mirabelle's lower arm.

Mirabelle points the blades downwards as she thrusts her arms out from beneath her cloak, "I have a... um... these things..." One hand holds a silver katar, the other a bushdragon dagger.

Adaer Kahar nods, "Plan on using those?" The Baron looks arround and mumbles, "Give the township to the youngest Noble in Vozhdya... Great idea Markus. Good thing the baby isn't still in Vozhdya.. You would've placed Marble Grove in his hands. Heh."

Kysar scans the horizon from his post, tightening his grip on his staff slowly. He sighs quietly, relaxing slightly.

Mirabelle's smile slashes across her face like a red streak from a knife and she says, "I do, brother, should it come to that. But I am certain that our guards shall prove valorous, and that I need not concern myself with that..." she leans forward to hiss a whisper into Adaer's ear.

Mirabelle whispers: For the Light's Sake, you fool! Do you wish to discourage the guards? I will thank you not to lower their morale!

Adaer Kahar eyes Mirabelle and shakes his head looking around, "Quite right, sister. I shall lead our defences for now though. I won't allow it to come to you fighting.." Adaer looks around and nods, "I assure you that. Now.. What have we for defences?"

Kysar slumps slightly, his hunger and exhaustion starting to pile on him. He turns from where he stood, taking a few steps to speak with a guard he has befriended earlier. He smoothes out his tunic, hoping it will be enough.

Mirabelle says, her voice carrying across the keep, "Fortunately, we have the City Guard. His Grace left us with them. All other able-bodied men have gone with him, howevrer..."

Adaer Kahar nods, "How many are their numbers? We have my 25 guards." Adaer motions for his guards to head into the keep and yells, "Stable the excess horses and prepare for an attack. Report to me in 14 minutes!"

Mirabelle folds her hands across her chest, and asks, "Are you needed more here, or at Hawk's Aerie? The wildlings are already there... will you be staying with us, or will you be joining them?"

Gleaming green eyes peer through a crack in the barricade blocking the entrance. A soft hiss emanates from a slit mouth. Clawed fingers clickclack.

Adaer Kahar sighs and thinks a moment before repeating himself in annoyance, "How many Mirabelle?! I am not going to leave you here when you need me!"

Kysar eyes widen as he hears the noise, turning to attention and swings his quarterstaff in front of him. His grip tightens slowly.

Mirabelle spins on her heels, her skirts flying out about her. Her loose hair spills over her back in a black cloud and she shrieks, "Fortify the barricade! FORTIFY THE BARRICADE!"

Adaer Kahar's eyes widen as he turns toward the walls of the Warren. His Guards rush out of the keep on cue and spill toward the barricade and begin assisting the City Guard. Adaer begins to yell as he pulls out his sabre, "Attention men! Attention! To your posts!"

Mirabelle screeches, "I will go prepare the others!" She turns and runs to the stairs, taking them two at a time in her haste.

Adaer Kahar runs to command the guards at the barricade, "Hold it! Prepare for the attack!"

Kysar runs forward at the noble's command, tensing up as he pushes against the barricade.

Adaer Kahar puts his hand on the back of one of his guards and raises his sabre into the air, "The Light fights with us men!"

Kysar throws himself against the barrier, trying to hold it against the assualt.

A pair of Wildlings tug at the barricade, hissing in frustration. One of them can be heard: "Where is she? Where is *she*?"

Kysar throws himself against the barrier, trying to hold it against the assualt.

Adaer Kahar steps back and yells to the Guards in front, "Hold steady!"

One of the Wildlings hisses to its companion: "She's not here. Cannot feel." And then both creatures drop from the barricade and scamper off into the night.

Kysar breathes heavily, still leaning against the barricade. "Are they gone?" he yels out.

Guards call down from the tower, "The two Wildlings have fled Your Lordship!" The Baron steps back and nods as he lowers his sabre, "At ease men!"

Adaer steps up toward the barricade and listens for a moment before looking to a guard, "Open the gate and.. *you* - *you* - and *you* go scout the area."

Adaer's three guards armed with waraxes step up to the barricade and push it open. They step out and look around as Adaer walks to the opening, "Alright men! Head out 100 yards and return." The Baron then points to three other guards, including Kysar, "You fan out with them."

Kysar nods, following the men out of the barricade, weapon at the ready.

The other five guards move out with Kysar and begin fanning out as ordered, moving through the night's shadows. It doesn't take long from sinuous forms to emerge from the solemn darkness to pounce at the scouts.

The shadowy creatures leaping upon their quarry are fairly efficient about it. Kysar is caught by surprise and dragged to the ground, poison-tipped claws digging into his flesh as the creature hisses: "Where is *she*?" Two of the other guards are taken down like lowland bison by a rock wolf, and their hideous fate - throats ripped out, guts disemboweled - is enough to give the other guards warning so they can dodge further attacks.

Kysar slams into the ground painfully, grunting as the creature hits him unseen. He yelps in pain, "To.... arms..."

The living guards swing their axes at the wildlings fending them off as one yells, "AMBUSH!" They run to the downed Kysar as two of them swing their axes once more toward the wildling upon his back.

The Baron tightens his grip on his sabre as he yells out, "Quick! Retreat!" Adaer then yells back to the guards ready and waiting for orders, "Out there! You 4! Go! Help them!" The four guards run out toward Kysar weapons ready.

The two guards moving to help Kysar are successful in whacking the Wildling in two, splashing the fallen man with green ichor as the beast is torn apart. The remaining five Wildlings start closing on the four guards and Kysar. The guards given the most recent order are still trying to get through the barricade. They won't make it in time to stop further bloodshed, it seems.

Kysar groans as the poison sets in, his muscles giving out on him. He lays motionless on the ground as the wildling's remains splash on him.

Three of the guards defending Kysar do so with deft and surehanded combat skill, keeping cool heads in spite of the three hissing beasts bearing down on them. They dodge and duck and sidestep, avoiding the attacks. The fourth guard, unfortunately, has drawn the attention of *two* Wildlings. This is one of the men who helped cut the other Wildling in two. Both Wildlings leap on him with threshing abandon, tearing into his throat and belly, clawing and chewing vigorously into him as they fall into a pile atop the paralyzed Kysar.

Bloodshed and gore fill the small area only 40 yards from the Keep as the guards fight furiously. They prove all and all victorious fending off the Wildlings that outnumber them. While doing so they lose one in death. Something they aren't given time to mourn over as they turn to rip the Wildlings from his body.

Pushing out of the Barricade the 4 other guards begin to run toward the action their waraxes high in the air. They reach the 4 living guards and begin to throw their attacks toward the wildlings left undead.

Kysar grunts as the weight falls upon him, the muscles of his arms and chest built by long years working in the mines failing his will. His gaze goes vacant, his fingers uncurling from the Shardwood staff, the rest of his body limp.

Mirabelle walks up the stairs, followed by a skinny girl in a green dress, and a plump brunette in a revealing bodice. All three women bear silver trays, heavily laden with food. The skinny one blanches at the sound of the fighting, nearly dropping her tray. The plump one hums a tune, but it is not nearly loud enough to cover up the rough sounds. Mirabelle gestures with her shoulder towards a low bench, and says with a forced cheerfulness, "Put them over there... our boys need sustenance to keep their strength up."

The three guards fall in ax-chopping fury on the Wildlings that took down the guard atop Kysar, killing them both. But this leaves those three in close proximity an opening to attack *them* while they're distracted and the four reinforcements are still a distance away.

Unable to find victory tonight the three Guards fight with their heart and soul and all their strength as the ambush continues. Caught off guard by the out-numberment they are slain quickly and topple atop Kysar just as those four reinforments arrive swinging their axes and diving in for an attack, hopefully doing as the Wildlings did to their comrads, and catching them off-guard.

Meanwhile, the Baron holds out his sabre and looks out into the night. He yells to the tower, "Report as you see men!"

The Guards atop the tower yell back, "We have lost 3.. no 4.. no.. We are losing men as the Wildlings continue their ambush!"

Mirabelle stands still in the keep, frozen at the sounds of the calls between the Baron and the guards. Her fingers tighten over the hilt of her katar. She turns towards the plump woman, and says, "Go down to the populace and bring forth any of those who say they have healing skill... gather them in the servants quarters... any skill at all, if need be, down to the mother who soothed the forehead of her babe."

The three remaining Wildlings are quickly hacked to pieces by the reinforcements. The four guards then pull the bits of dead monsters and their fallen comrades off the unconscious Kysar, and two of them start dragging Kysar back to the keep while the other two defend the rear.

Kysar's eyes roll up into his head, going unconscious as he is dragged out.

Blood, gore, the ichor of dead Wildlings litter the shadowy grounds outside the keep. It appears that Adaer's scouting expedition has confirmed that there were in fact Wildlings out there, with hostile intent. It is unknown how many remain beyond the fringes of the grounds. But, for now, a blood-soaked peace descends upon the Warren.

The plump woman hurries down the stairs, off into the keep. Mirabelle reaches up a hand to her heart, staring steadily at the entrance to the keep... waiting

The guards arrive safely at the Barricade as the guards from the tower yell, "Five survivors! One is injured! Open the gate Your Lordship!" The Baron quickly orders the cracking of the doors as he shoves himself back, "Make room men!"

At that a few guards nonchalantly walk up to the Baron pushing past a few other guards and say, "Baron. Let us out. We've been ordered back to Vozhdya by the Lady Nessa Kahar."

As if this were a complete insult personally Adaer yells back, "I will /NOT/ let anyone out! I don't care who ordered it! Five men just died out there!" As the Baron yells Kysar is dragged in by Adaer's guards. The Master of the Warren yells to his sister he now notices after looking the man over, "A healer, Bella! We need one now!" Then the Baron walks over to Kysar and begins to help carry him in deep toward the Warren after handing his sabre to another guard.

Mirabelle calls out, "I have sent for one... but am not sure any can be found! Bring him to the servant's quarters... those will be our hospital."

Kysar remains passed out as Adaer's guards drag him into the keep, leaving his quarterstaff on the battlefield while his hands drag lifelessly across the ground.

Adaer Kahar and his guards carry Kysar right up to the Keep's stairs. The Baron looks to another Guard and says, "Here take his feet. You go now and take him into the Servant's Quarters!" Adaer hands the man over and runs back to the Barricade, "Close it up! Prepare for another attack! Look-outs!: Be watchful!" The Baron then walks up to his sister and puts his sabre into his scabbard after a guard hands it back to him, "Dear Light.. We have proven sucessful in warding off the first ambush. Pray there are none to follow."

Mirabelle dips her head, murmuring, "I think, perhaps, it would be best to keep the guards inside from now on... we have lost too many. We cannot afford to continue like this..."

Adaer Kahar nods, "My dear, you speak what I think." The Baron scans the guards and notes their vigor and concentration and yells, "Men! You are doing a fine job! As were those lost! Let us pray for them for they have given their lives for Vozhdya! For Fastheld!" The men all bow their heads silently in prayer for about 40-120 seconds.

Mirabelle turns towards the stair, "We must hie to the servant's quarters and see what sort of relief can be provided for him."

The eyes of the Baron trail after his sister, "You go and tend to him. I will stay and keep watch with our men. Alright?"

Mirabelle nods, "There is food for you, brother." She heads down the stairs.

Some time later...

The smell of smoke and burning wood assail your nostrils as you approach the hill that slopes up toward Aerie Heights Keep. In the distance, up that hill, you can hear the clanging of swords and the shouts of people locked in combat - and the shrieking hisses of Wildlings fighting back. You can see the exuberant glow of burning buildings, and the dark haze of smoke drifting downhill, creating a gauzy fog across the road and the surrounding woodlands.

Ashlynn reluctantly slows her mount to a trot from its full out gallop, trying to preserve its wind rather than riding it into the ground now that the essential message has been delivered, resettling her seat with a sigh and a rub of a hand over her face. But at the clear signs of fighting and destruction in the heights, she halts the horse altogether, grimacing as she stares at the sight. "Light's faith...what do you think you can do," she mutters beneath her breath.

"You could scream," says a voice from the smoky fog in the fringe of the woods. A man's voice, all harsh and whisky-scrubbed. A rough-looking man with a large meat hook in his right hand emerges from the woods. He's followed by a couple of thuggish friends. "But," the leader says, "looks like those what might help ya are a bit primexposed, as they say."

Ashlynn sucks in a sharp breath, the Rivertrotter skittering back with a snort of protest as her hands reflexively tighten on the reins. "Primexposed?" she echoes with a snort, maintaining a calm facade as she turns her horse to keep them in sight. "If they fail to keep the Wildlings occupied up at the keep, you'll have more to worry about than just a penniless courier. I suggest you start running."

"Oh, no, lass," the leader grunts. "We been keepin' good track o' them Shadowspawn critters. They're all busy up on yon hill. We been waitin' for a chance like this. Ain't had good pickin's outside the Shadow District in a fine long while, y'see. But these critters, they bought us a ripe sweet chance I ain't 'bout to pass up. So, what say ya just hand over any money ya got, any goods and shinies, oh, and yer horse. And we might let ya walk away."

Ashlynn's lip curls as she checks on their numbers, keeping tabs on their movements. "'re worse than them. At least they're honest in their hate," and even as the last word leaves her lips, she wheels her horse around in an attempt to escape their approach, spurring Random into a gallop.

It should come as little surprise that Ashlynn finds herself galloping toward five Wildlings that are loping toward Aerie Heights from town. It certainly surprises the three thugs who start chasing after her, smoke swirling around them. One of the Wildlings takes a flying leap at Random, trying to get at Ashylynn. The other four clickclack their claws and flash fangs as they move to intercept the suddenly stumbling thugs.

Ashlynn's eyes grow wide at the abrupt appearance of the creatures, instinct wrenching the Rivertrotter's head around even as the horse whinnies in fear. "'Been keeping a good track of them', he says," she gasps in disgust beneath her breath, pointing Random in the exact opposite direction from the Wildlings and hoping that whatever bandits happen to be in her way are too preoccupied to try and stop her.

As Ashlynn turns the horse, the Wildling trying to leap on is trampled under Random's hooves, hissing and shrieking as it flails and twitches in pain. The thugs see her coming back around, and the leader says, "Sorry 'bout the missedreunderstandin', lass! Give us a lift, eh?" Another thug doesn't bother asking permission. He sees those Wildlings coming and just tries to grab onto the saddle and hang on for dear life.

Random grunts and stumbles at the sudden, unexpected weight. Ashley bares a thin, mirthless smile as she unhooks a foot from the stirrup, attempting to kick the man off. "Sorry, but I think my price runs too high for you..."

The thug leader - meathook man - stares in disbelief as his cohort is kicked off and knocked away, sprawling, and Random gallops away with Ashlynn. He throws his hands in the air, meathook gleaming in the gauzy moonlit smog. "That's it then, is it?!" he shouts. "Just off an' abandon yer fellow man to these -" He doesn't get to finish the sentence. Well, he does, if you consider agonized gurgling punctuation. The glinting claws of a Wildling are poking out of his impaled throat from behind. Down he goes, hook clattering on the cobblestones. The other Wildlings quickly take down the other two thugs. For now, they seem not to care about the retreating courier.

Ashlynn sneaks a peek under her arm as she crouches low over the Rivertrotter's neck, grimacing as she spies the unlucky men's fates. "How much you have left in you?" she murmurs to Random, pacing the horse carefully. "Can't be good, having those roaming about...but I bet any available guardsmen left have been pulled for the keep's defense..." Nevertheless, she turns her mount onto the road to the nearest guardstation.

Hawk's Aerie Garrison

Perched atop a bluff on the outskirts of the Hawk's Aerie township, overlooking the jade serpentine flow of the Fastheld River and the wharves of the harbor, this compound of oak-walled buildings is surrounded by a wall of brown and white stones culled from Nillu quarries around the Forest District township of Nillu's Lode.
The garrison, constructed in the year 674 under the oversight of Duke Astian Nillu, was built in tribute to Emperor Talus Kahar XIV. It has the capacity to house nearly two thousand soldiers, with a large grassy central field for training in a variety of martial skills.
A trail winds north toward River Road.

Chaos. What few Bladesmen remain here are busy slapping together fortifications, collecting weapons, assembling piles of arrows for the archers. A watchman near the front gate eyes the approaching courier and holds up a hand. "Halt! Identify yourself!"

A resigned curse slips from Ashlynn as she pulls Random to a skidding halt before the guard, the horse turning restlessly and blowing hard after the run. "Ashlynn, courier," she informs shortly, glancing over the makeshift defenses before looking over her shoulder back up the road. "Five Wildlings loose, up the road. One went down beneath my horse's hooves, but the others might not be occupied long with the bodies of the three bandits that had been attempting to waylay me."

"If they come up here," the watchman grumbles, "I suppose we'll see to them. But we ain't leaving. No way. Orders are orders, and we're depleted as is." He scratches his chin. "But you're a courier? You can run a message down to Hartnek Lomasa at Fastheld Keep. Tell him we need more soldiers, quick as he can send them."

Ashlynn's brows draw down in a thin-lipped frown, but she does not bother wasting breath on a protest. Instead, she simply asks, "Do you have a fresh mount I may borrow?"

The watchman just stares blankly at Ashlynn for a moment, and then breaks out laughing. "Yes, ma'am, our stables are stock full! We're overloaded with supplies and material up here! No problems at all!" And then he scowls. "Off you go."

Ashlynn rolls her eyes, wearily gathering up the reins again and tucking in her heels. "I try to ask a simple, honest question, and I happen to get the funny one...good luck," she retorts with false cheer before she is turning Random back onto the road, pushing the Rivertrotter immediately into a canter.

The watchman nods, then goes back about his work.

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 four Wildlings are done killing the thugs. Isn't that convenient? Well, sort of. Now Ashlynn only has the Wildlings to worry about. And they're between her and Hawk's Aerie.

"Of course," Ashlynn breaths in disgust as the creatures - no longer quite so occupied - come into view. Her gaze flicks briefly to the side, toward the temptingly clear road that would eventually take her to the same destination, though perhaps too late. But then she sighs, grits her teeth, and urges Random on even faster, aiming for the most inattentive-looking Wildling possible, or at least the portion where they are thinnest in ranks. Even as she prepares the Rivertrotter for a leap, she reaches for the hilt of her long knife, ready to draw it in case a distraction is needed.

The four Wildlings crouch, then start running, leaping in unison and arcing with claws flashing toward Random and the rider.

Random manages - despite weariness - to bear Ashlynn in a graceful leap above the hissing, shrieking monstrosities - and gallops off to the east with the rider safe in the saddle.

Ashlynn releases an involuntarily held breath in a huff of relief as they land solidly. As soon as she ascertains that Random's footing is secure, she releases her grip on the knife to help ease the Rivertrotter's burden as much as possible, maintaining the mad gallop until the Wildlings are well behind them.

The Wildlings hiss in anger. One of them growls shrilly: "Where is *she*?!" And then they lope off toward Aerie Heights Keep.

Return to Season 1 (2003)

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