Lands of Astoria

Part 1 – Early days,
Opening a keep whilst on a war footing can yeild both boons and trials. Construction over the past two months has been quite frenetic, I must say, but with the Queen's approval we've moved forward with the mission of refurbishing a disused keep on the Eastern front. We departed the capitol some 8 weeks past, leaving behind [Lachlan's character, sorry Lachlan, can't remember his name right now] to attend to more research, and set out via airship towards our new home for the next several months.

On a personal note, I must say the novelty of having an airship under my command (even if through this adventurers collective) is a decidedly novel experience. It's an object of beauty, and the engines are simply fascinating to watch work. I simply do not understand why so many of my people refuse to travel by airship. Valarum could replicate this technology easily through the
Corp, if the higher ups could just overcome their own damn prejudice against flying.

Whilst journeying to our new location, a message reached us via Ori's connections that the Wolves of Castranovus (of which our members Ori and George counted themselves among their number) had started behaving oddly and making some maneouvres that lead us to suspect the leadership of that organisation might ally with the Ephrians against Tegria. Protected as they
are by the Whisper-Woods, such an alliance would be devestating to Tegria's defenses. George set out immediately to investigate, and if necessary intervene. We've yet to hear from him since then, and I can only hope this is due to the difficulty sending messengers through the woods, and not due to any calamity that's befallen my favourite inebriate.

When we arrived at the ruined keep, we were greeted by Daunton, the engineer sent by Lord Darrington of Keep, to assist with the construction. With him had come a vertible gaggle of masons and laborers, without which the reconstruction work would have progressed much slower than we've had so far. With their assistance, we've managed to reconstruct the keep and
fortify it strongly with an outer wall, and build a fortified tower further to the west connected to the main keep via concealed passage. We've also invested heavily in the foundation of a settlement outside the walls of our keep, establishing a guildhall and trading centre. Now we have only to continue to hire staff, and encourage trade to ensure our new little settlement of can thrive not just during this time of strife, but long after peace is established as well. We've opted to christen the settlement Grovemount, due to the elevated position of the keep and in honour of the Druidic Grove we're planting within the keeps walls. This place has great promise, and is located close to the mountains, so there's a chance we'll be able to found a profitable mine nearby.


Part 2 – Trouble at the Gates
Keeps are expensive. Despite the considerable fund provided to us by the Queen for this effort, the maintenance and necessary services for a defensive structure of this size are considerable.  The numerous trade opportunities we've invested in locally go some way towards offsetting this cost, but with the war effort and our trading post being located so close to the front, we've had difficulty attracting the highest quality of traders. The other day I went into the potion shop, and the damn charlatan was selling vials of coloured water. "Homeopathic Remedies" my arse. I  wanted to run him out of town at gunpoint, but Tayis was adamant that he'd paid the duties to sell his wares, and subsequently had a right to run his business within our settlement. Ridiculous if you ask me, but he knows the the laws of this land better than I, and how far they stretch to protect this lands citizens.

At least we've managed to secure a full complement of staff. Our Major Domo, Tillus, is an exceptional organiser, and without her we'd be hard-pressed to keep our little keep ticking away. But with her help we've secured a labourers and guards, medics, craftsmen, everything we need really to keep this place ticking over. We've even managed to hire a local druid to come in from the forest and tend to our littel Grove that we've started from the Underdark Shroom kits I bought for Ori and Puvin. In George's absence, it's fallen to me to ensure the training of our local guards are up to scratch for the upcoming conflict, and to drill our common folk so they're prepared should our settlement fall under attack. It's hard work, and has left me little time to continue my research on the powerful and fragile underdark enchantments, but progress on that front continues, albeit slowly.


Today our role as defenders of this frontier lands was tested for the first time; the keep of Grovemount is located just a few hours march from the Gate Fortress, which defends the underground passage that is the only safe passage between the two kingdoms. Our location is not a mistake, as our orders are to draw the focus of any invading army that makes it through the Gate, however in all honesty any force large enough to push through that defensive fortress
would likely overwhelm our keep also.

Such an event had seemed to occur this morning, as we were approached by a small force of soldiers wearing Tegrian colours. Some of their members seemed injured, and they claimed to be members of the garrison force at Gate Fortress, which was, according to their account, currently under attack and desperately needing reinforcement. We made preparations for our keep to defend itself should the fort fall and an Ephrian army come through, and sent word to Keep and the Capitol of this news, then prepared to set off to the Gate Fortress to reinforce. During our preparations, we noticed that the messengers were not as injured as they had made themselves appear, and their leader, though a good orator, was disguising an Ephrian accent
whilst speaking Tegrian.

Suspicions aroused, we followed the "Gate troops" back towards gate, accompanied by a compliment of our own guards. Sure enough, within a few miles the "Tegrian" troops turned to attack us, and were joined by a larger compliment to do battle with us at a bridge at a nearby river.Though not actually surprised by this turn of events, we were still greatly outnumbered by troops armed with heavy crossbows and separated from us by the river. Our guards valiantly sought to draw fire, while Tayis and I took to the air to try and take what advantage we could from that direction. Our druid Puven drew down lightning from the heavens itself to break apart the enemy formations, but it was little Ori who proved the most advantageous ally of the day.

The Ephrian leader, seeing a small and weaker spellcaster seemingly unprotected, rushed our little friend and fired upon her at point blank range with a pistol. The inferior Ephrian weapon backfired though, fouling its mechanism and not damaging Ori as much as intended. Ori used the distraction of the Sergeant to draw upon her fey magics, teleporting across the river and levelling a lightning bolt from her wand at the crossbowmen still across the river, felling a full
third of the enemy compliment in a single shot.

After that we managed to subdue the remaining enemies, except for one which managed to escape even from our fleet-footed Tayis. Their leader was killed, but many of the remaining soldiers surrendered. After tending to our wounded guards and taking account of our losses, one of our young guards, a lad named Jimmy, was killed in the combat. We opted to
instruct our remaining guards to assemble a litter for Jimmy, and sent them to take Jimmy's body and our prisoners back to Grovemount, whilst we pressed onward to confirm Gate's fate.

When we arrived at Gate Fortress, (a mighty fortress set into the immense mouth of an enormous natural cavern through the mountains), we found the outer wall staffed by soldiers in Tegrian uniforms. When we approached the wall and announced our presence, they immediately opened fire upon us. Ori was able to veil Tayis and myself, but Puven was forced to take the form of a fleet-footed horse and hoof it whilst under fire. It proved to be a good trick, getting him almost out of the range of the walls defenders, but he was  peppered with bolts and fell back to his dwarven form. He was able to create an outcrop of rock to hide behind, but the invisible members of our party were unsure how we would rescue him from his predicament. He surprised us all by shapeshifting again, into a small snake, and slithering through the tall grass until he was well out of their range.

Having confirmed that Gate Fortess was indeed in the hands of Ephrian loyal troops, we returned to Grovemount to determine our next move. When we arrived at our home, the forces of Lord Darrington of Keep had arrived to reinforce us, and I end this log to go now to the war-room and prepare our next strategy. God's favour us.

Part 3 – Denying the Ephrians Entry
I am writing this now in the late evening, despite my weariness from multiple battles today, to try and keep the events fresh in my mind to record them. After my last log entry, we as a group joined Lord Darrington and Sir Hughbert [yes?] in our war room to determine our strategy for taking back the Gate Fortress. We received word from the Capitol that Tegrian spies on the Ephrian side of the border were reporting a large force of Ephrian troops moving through the
Eastern Gate Fortress, and if we could not retake the fort we'd soon have the entire Ephrian army moving into Tegria.

It was established by the council that we must immediately mount a mission to the fort, with 3 priorities;
either: 1 – Take back the fortress, and garrison it with troops loyal to Ephria. Sir Hughbert assured us
that the Gate defenses on the Ephrian side are sufficient to stop almost any army.
2 – If that proved impossible, or if the Fortress of Gate had been sabotaged to allow entry from the Ephrian side,
we were to attempt to rig a bomb using our available airship fuel, to attempt to bring down the cavern passageway,
and block entry from Ephria entirely.
3 – if all such options failed, we were to take our airship and fly it into the cavern mouth, and detonate the engines.
It was anticipated that this blast would be sufficient to cause a large enough collapse to block the cavern.

With these priorities in place, a strategy was developed to deploy the members of the alliance of convenience, along with a compliment of lord Darrington's knights lead by Sir Hughbert himself. We were to take our available airship, and all our remaining fuel, and circle around the fortress from the north. Approaching from the Eastern side, we could repel down the mountain to the cave mouth, and gain access to the top of the wall and breach it.

Lord Darrington was to approach with the bulk of his and our groundforces on foot, in the hopes that we could capture the fort and reinforce it from the Tegrian side, and to besiege the fortress if we failed. Our ship was left above, with instructions to come on a suicide run if we failed.

The rest of this account of the mission is what I've determined from debriefing as many of my colleagues as I could after the mission was completed. We took the airship on a wide arc to the north of Gate and moved into position up the cliff face, high above the wall of the Gate. We then made our way down the cliff-face via rappel, until the knights and our party were in position just outside the cavern entrance. Tayis opted to go ahead and scout the lay of the land
and managed to sneak over the top of the waiting guards and mark their locations, as well as finding an extra cache of enemy combatants standing guard over the Gate's gate-controls. All seemed to be going well for him, until he attempted to set some simple traps for the guards (to increase the odds for our party). It was at this point he was discovered by
a lookout, and the rest of our  cohort was forced into action.

Rappelling and flying down to the wall, we engaged a larger force of enemy forces, which turned out to be made up both of common soldiers and spellcasters prepared to counter our own spells. Both Ori and Puven found their efforts rapidly thwarted, and it looked like we were in trouble, until Sir Hughbert and his knights rappelled into the fray. Hughberts knights were as practical and efficient in their combat as their unadorned armour led us to believe, but Hughbert…

A word here to any potential researcher who may get the "opportunity" to meet  Sir Hughbert in melee combat: Don't.

Hughbert mowed through the defending soldiers, each swing of his massive hammer driving another enemy back. Each blow sent another of our enemies flying from the high walls of Gate, to fall to their death or permanent disability. He is a devestatingly efficient soldier, and thoroughly enjoys battle (from the amount he was laughing during combat, that's all i can assume).

My own efforts were less spectacular, I performed at my usual combat capacity, but was unfortunately rendered unconcious during combat by one of the spellcasters.

Tayis, I've heard, acquitted himself with his usual grace and lethality, but was also overcome eventually by the superior numbers of the defenders. But between the combined efforts of ourselves and the knights, we overcame the defending forces and retook the Gate, in time for Lord Darrington to bring through his groundtroops and re-fortify the eastern side of the
fortress.

I've yet to get the details of the encounter when the Ephrian forces made it to the Gate Fortresses eastern defenses, but from what I've been told the Ephrians suffered a massive and decisive defeat when they approached the heavily defended fortress that they assumed was being held by their allies.

According to Lord Darringtons officers, when they perused the logs of the enlistment logs of the Gate garrison, in the months prior to their defection, lords Thorn and Fitzwilliam managed to pad out the garrison with soldiers loyal to themselves (and now therefore Ephria), in order to facilitate the Ephrian forces entrance into Tegria. With this plot foiled, we may gain a reprieve from the threat of invasion, as the Ephrian's lick their wounds and try to come up with
alternative plans.

Now, I'm to bed and rest, the coming weeks will likely be busy with continued preparations, as I'm certain that these events will only slow the Ephrians advance, not halt it. I need sleep.

 

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Tom_Murray Proletarinat

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