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 "The State of Things" (DM Only)

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Dungeon Master

Posts : 313
Join date : 2009-08-21
Age : 34
Location : Between Worlds

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Level: 30
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"The State of Things" (DM Only) Left_bar_bleue0/0"The State of Things" (DM Only) Empty_bar_bleue  (0/0)
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"The State of Things" (DM Only) Left_bar_bleue189/189"The State of Things" (DM Only) Empty_bar_bleue  (189/189)

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PostSubject: "The State of Things" (DM Only)   "The State of Things" (DM Only) Icon_minitimeWed May 19, 2010 7:50 pm

The three men looked down at the map.

Outside, the storm picked up in severity, rain and hail striking the top of the commanders’ tent and a savage wind threatening to tear the makeshift structure from the ground in which it was staked. The map―a large, sprawling affair showing the countries of Vilnis and Frontia in their entirety, as well as the southernmost portion of the Elven Realms―was scattered with hundreds of small, colored pins, each representing troop placement for the various forces involved in the War. From the grim expressions of all three men, it was a fair guess that the current war effort was not going well.

“Here is where we stand, gentlemen,” one of the men, a tall, lanky man with long grey hair and a close-cropped grey beard, said, his bright green eyes surrounded by dark circles of weariness. “The enemy is holding a hard line a few miles north and east of what used to be the elven village of Legale Village.” He paused, sighing, before going on. “That village, like all the others, is nothing but a clutch of burnt out buildings now. Anyway,” he continued, regaining his train of thoughts, “they are holding there, pushed south after their destruction of the elven capital three years ago by the combined force of our troops and the elves.”

Another of the men, this one slightly younger than the first, with short blond hair and sporting an impressive set of scars upon his face, scoffed. “You give the elves too much credit, Master Sinclair,” he said, shaking his head. “The numbers of them who have agreed to help us are as nothing compared to the force of the Westenrans―”

“Westenran rebels,” the third man, a tall, muscular, dark-skinned bear of a man with a thick black beard and a patch over his left eye, corrected. “Remember, Stein, that young King Lehris of Westenra has denounced their actions and has ordered a complete withdrawal of all Westenran troops north of Khalm Gorge; any force still north of the gorge right now are those who are disobeying a direct order from their liege.”

The scarred man―Stein―rolled his eyes. “Rebels, then, Elias. Whatever. What I’m saying is that if the elves would send just a few hundred more troops then―”

“That is never going to happen, Stein, and you know it,” Sinclair cut in, his voice heavy with annoyance. “The elves are in chaos, and for good reason: their land has been defiled, their capital destroyed, and their king slain.” He pauses, leaning on the table and brushing away a few drops of rain that had leaked through the roof and fallen onto the map. “They have no clear line of succession. Their king left no direct heirs, and his sword―which is the equivalent of a crown to them, I guess―has gone missing as well. No, gentlemen,” he concludes, shaking his head, “we will get no more help from the elves, I’m afraid.”

A silence fell in the tent, broken only by the roar of the downpour outside, and the distant rumble of thunder. A cough from one of the guards outside reminded Sinclair of the state of their troops: exhausted, weak, and many of them sick from the poor weather and cold this far north in Vilnis. And, he feared, things were only going to get worse before they got better.

“Alright, then, we have a stable front to the north, and the Westenran rebels still don’t dare to cross Kasteel into Vilnis, probably because the Vilnians are the only ones able to put a force out in the field that could rival them.” The other two men nodded in agreement with Sinclair’s words. “Thank the gods that the Westenrans don’t know how thinly spread the Vilnis forces really are, or they’d surely march right on Varencia itself…”

“Forgive me if I sound callous, Master Sinclair,” the bearded man―Elias―said softly, “but how stands our homeland in all of this? We’ve not gotten word from anywhere in Frontia in months. I understand your concern with the state of the war over all, but I fear for our country.”

Sinclair nodded, closing his eyes momentarily and wishing for the opportunity for sleep. “I’m going to be blunt with you, with both of you: I fear that Frontia is lost to us.” Stein and Elias went rigid, their faces paling and their eyes widening with shock at Sinclair’s words. “Think about this logically, if you will. We have, currently, a large, hostile armed force firmly entrenched on our land, with nowhere else to go. The obviously do not want to return south, or they would have done so already; they do not know that they can move into Vilnis almost without opposition, thank the gods once again; they also are being repulsed regularly to the north, in the elven lands…”

“So in Frontia they will stay,” Stein finished, closing his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose as if he had a headache. “And we don’t have a large enough force to push them out, to rout them?”

Elias shook his head. “Not even if we could somehow manage to get all of our scattered troops together in one place, at one time, would we have enough numbers to drive the Westenran rebels away.”

“It’s true,” Sinclair took up the thread of conversation. “Even though we do have several small pockets of insurgents in Frontia, they are not enough to do more than irritate the larger, formerly-Westenran force. And with King Nathaniel executed and the council―ourselves not included of course―disbanded and scattered, there is no real leadership left in our nation.”

“You mean no leadership other than that imposed by the invaders,” Stein spat.

Sinclair inclined his head in agreement.

“We all seem to be forgetting a key player in this whole drama, though,” Elias said suddenly, unrolling a second map on the large table. He stabbed his index finger down in the center of Westenra. “What, pray tell, is our young King Lehris doing to aid us?”

“Nothing, and for damn good reason,” Sinclair answered immediately, his voice heated. “You’ve all heard the rumors. If they’re true, if the Draconic Horde has resurfaced and is now present in Port Pence, then King Lehris needs to have his full attention―as well as his full armed force, though it isn’t much―focused there.” Stein appeared on the verge of interrupting, but Sinclair cut him off by pounding his hand on the table, scattering some of the colored pins about. “We cannot run the risk of war with the Draconic Horde gentlemen, at least not until we’ve finished the war we’re in right now!”

Voices raised in inquiry outside the tent caught the attention of all three men, each instinctively lowering their hands to rest upon the hilts of their weapons. Finally, a guard in the uniform of a Vilnian soldier opened the tent flap and stepped in, a second man entering just behind him. The second, younger man wore no uniform, his clothing instead appearing to be have at one point been finery befitting a nobleman, though now it was ragged and dirty, and dripping wet from the tumultuous rain storm. He was of average height, standing a few inches shorter than Master Sinclair, and he was rangy to the point of gauntness. A mop of soaking wet, white-blonde hair hung loosely about his shoulders, matted in places and badly in need of a washing. A pair of pale blue eyes, sunken and shadowed, stared out from a pale, lean face, locking onto Sinclair.

“Bastien, thank the gods!” the old blademaster exclaimed, rushing forward to embrace the young man, ignoring the mud and rain that clung to his tattered grey cloak.

“Hello, Father,” Bastien responded softly, wearily, returning the embrace of the man who had raised him and taught him everything he knew about politics and blade work.

Sinclair released him, his hands resting upon the young man’s shoulders as he held him out at arms’ length, as if to get a better look at him. Bastien had lost weight in the months that he’d been gone, which wasn’t terribly surprising considering the rationing of food due to the war, and the strenuous nature of the blond-haired youth’s missions. Still, to see his adopted-son in such a bedraggled and exhausted state hurt Sinclair, for he had never intended for Bastien to become so involved in the war effort.

“Come, sit,” Elias said, gesturing toward one of the stools that surrounded the table with the maps. “Guard, get him some wine, and something to eat.” The Vilnian soldier nodded once, leaving the four men along in the tent.

As Bastien sat, Sinclair asked him worriedly, “What happened? We expected a report from you weeks ago, Bastien. In fact, we’ve heard little from you at all since you left for the south…”

Bastien sighed and shrugged. “Forgive me, but I find that when the opportunity for sleep arises these days, the need for it is overwhelming.” One of the things that made Bastien such an asset as an agent was if Gift of Dreamspeech, the ability to communicate with someone while both parties were asleep. It didn’t require any excess energy or work, really, but if the sender or the receiver were in a particularly deep sleep, then no messages could get through, as had been the case with Bastien.

Stein nodded. “Understandable. Now, if you don’t mind my asking, what the hell happened to you? You look like you’ve been fighting off the Westenrans―” he paused, noting the disapproving look from Elias “―the Westenran rebels,” he amended, “single-handedly. To be perfectly blunt, Bastien, yours was a particularly simple mission this time.”

“For a change,” Elias put in sympathetically.

“Yes, for a change,” Stein agreed.

Bastien was silent for a moment, composing his words in his mind before actually speaking them, as he did often when relaying important information. When he finally spoke, his voice was subdued, and carried a hint of fear.

“The situation to the south is dire, gentlemen, and I’m not speaking only of the rumors of the Draconic Horde which,” he paused, looking each of them in the eye, “are entirely true, by the way.” Gasps from Elias and Stein, and a sad, shaking of the head from Sinclair greeted these words. Bastien went on. “My team and I arrived in Westenra according to schedule, and our meeting with King Lehris and High Priestess Celia of Indra went off without a hitch. It turns out that the Horde is firmly entrenched at Port Pence, and they have a sphere of influence which extends out nearly twenty miles around the city.” He stood and looked down at the map, pointing out the area he had mentioned. “They seem content to simply stay put, consolidating their power and massing their troops as if in preparation for an assault, but one that apparently never comes.”

“Forgive me for interrupting, young Bastien,” Elias spoke up, his single eye glimmering with curiosity, “but you say that they are massing troops? Where are these soldiers coming from?”

“They bring in supplies and troops by sea,” Bastien explained. “The Indrans claim that three large, black warships sail past their island each week, laden with the necessities of war, it seems. The Indran navy launches and attacks these vessels as often as possible, but these strikes are wearing heavily on them: they have, by their reports, already lost a third of their fleets.” Murmurs of disbelief filled the tent as Bastien continued. “For each of these supply ships that comes in, there are five fast, maneuverable craft protecting them. Their hit-and-run tactics have proven effective against the Indran navy’s own strategies.”

Sinclair nodded. “So, they can continue to build up their resources, until such a time as they see fit to strike. What else?”

“They have dragons, Father, real dragons. My team and I encountered one during a scouting mission. We had snuck past the Horde’s outer pickets, and we were planning on pushing as deep into their territory as we could, in hopes of learning something of their plans.” Bastien stopped his narrative, for the guard had returned with a plate of hot food and a wineskin. Before the exhausted young man began to eat, he told the Vilnian soldier, “See to it that my team is fed and given a place to bed down for the night, please. They are all just as exhausted as I am, perhaps more so.”

“Please, continue,” Stein prodded gently, once the guard had left.

Bastien nodded, swallowing a mouthful of steamed vegetables before going on. “Their forces are what you’d expect, from what we could see: chromatic dragonborn, kobolds, a handful of renegade men and orcs, and even some dwarves. Well anyway, there we were, skulking about in the darkness, when out of nowhere a massive, blue dragon drops down from the night sky. From his back sprang a dozen or so kobolds, and the fight was on.” He stopped, taking a long draught from the wineskin and wiping his mouth on the back of his and. “The fighting was rough, and had Dragonar not been with us, I’m certain that we would have perished, but that is another tale. I’m not here to tell stories, but to give you a report of our mission.

“Injured to a man, we managed to retreat back to our own lines―there are several squads of Westenran and Indran soldiers positioned strategically around the territory claimed by the Horde―and from there we made a hasty journey back to Physelia, and King Lehris.” He paused yet again, and it looked as if he was overcome by exhaustion at last. Just as Sinclair was about to recommend that he give his full report in the morning, Bastien continued. “It took us the better part of three weeks to reach the capital, and once there, King Lehris recommended that we continue on immediately to Vilnis, to request more troops. He fears that the Horde is finally ready to make their push, and if so his scant forces will be swept aside in a matter of hours.”

Sinclair closed his eyes and shook his head. “We have no one to send, I’m afraid. It is in the gods’ hands now.”

Bastien shrugged. “That’s pretty much what I told the little brat. He insisted we continue on anyway, and that, I’m afraid, is where things get really ugly. We made our way north, and over Khalm gorge via the ancient bridge. We’d been journeying for weeks at this point, maybe even more than a month, I’ve lost track.” He took another bite of the rapidly-cooling food, washing it down and sighing contentedly. “After another couple of weeks’ worth of travel, we finally saw civilization ahead: Karin Village. Only one problem, though: the village seemed to be under attack. We wasted no time, rushing to aid the townsfolk, and finding to our horror a sizeable force of Westenran rebels, across the Vilnian border, and raiding one of Vilnis’ villages in the broad daylight!”

“To have pushed so far in from the border,” Stein said, a distant look in his eyes.

“Yes, it means they must know, now, how thinly spread our troops are,” Sinclair finished.

Bastien nodded agreement. “That’s pretty much what I said, at the time. The bastards were strong, and plentiful, and they gave us a run for our money. Eventually we managed to kill most of them, and we chased those who retreated back across the river, another couple of weeks journey, of course.”

“Do you think they’ll attempt to make a push there again?” Elias asked.

“Almost certainly,” Bastien answered without hesitation. “I ordered the garrisons from the nearby villages to send as many extra swords as possible to help plug the gap in our defense, but they were loath to do so, what with me not technically being a part of the official chain of command. That’s why I’m here, looking like I’ve been dragged from one end of this blasted continent to the other, which I pretty much have.” He sighed. “You need to get a trustworthy commander down there, gentlemen, one who will be obeyed without question, or else we’ll soon find ourselves fighting on another front…”

“Of course,” Stein agreed, moving to the tent entrance. “I will see to it personally. Guard!” he called out into the storm. “Have my mount readied, as well as a dozen men to journey south with me, immediately!” Stein turned back to the others. “I will do what I can to stabilize things along the southeast border, but for the love of all things holy, if we do not deal with these Westenran invaders soon, I fear we will have precious little to bother protecting.” Without another word, the scar-faced man plunged out into the storm, barking orders all the way.

“Bastien,” Sinclair started, averting his eyes from his adopted son’s.

“You have another mission for us, already?” Bastien guessed with a weary sigh.

“I’m sorry, I wish there was someone else to send, but you’re all we have, you and your team,” Elias added, his head lowered, as if he were ashamed.

“Very well, but let me at least rest this night without dwelling on yet another problem.” Bastien stood, embracing Master Sinclair once again and shaking hands with Elias. “I’ll return at dawn, and we can discuss this mission of yours then.”

As Bastien left the tent, Sinclair sat down heavily upon one of the stools.

“I wish with all my heart that there was someone else, Elias, but the truth of the matter is, his team is our best chance of finishing this war, now, before we lose anymore ground.” Sinclair paused, shaking his head. “What have we become, sending our children out to do such bloody work?”

Elias remained silent, for it seemed that there were no words to soothe his friend’s bruised conscience.
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