Joshua and Nelya cheered with him upon learning Mel had made it safely to Caori and Joshua told Al’ev he didn’t mind acting as a intermediary, though he was a little suspicious as to why Al’ev wouldn’t just write using his own name.
The following morning, the arcane spell caster they had imprisoned was put to death before the town and though Al’ev winced at their reasoning, he knew a good thing had actually been done that day. Through his actions, Halar had already begun to see justice. Al’ev hid away the man’s belongings, hoping to return to them whenever he had free time away from prying eyes.
After that morning, Al’ev found time moving much quicker now that he was regularly exchanging letters with Mel. They talked about all manner of things, from how much their lives had changed and what they were doing now to any news they had heard that was floating about. But every letter each one sent always ended the same, with reaffirmation of their love for one another. As had been in the months leading up to the attack, he couldn’t get the image of her out of his mind. Most mornings found him waking after having good dreams involving her, the kind that made him hope he didn’t talk in his sleep.
His life was beginning to improve again. The dwarves of Dorn had started to warm up to Joshua, Nelya and Al’ev as they became more familiar with the three. They helped solve multiple disputes without blood shed, which was normally rare as dwarven honor usually required blood be spilled for most offenses.
Their work with the army over the past two years had gained some measure of notice from Captain Ozgrel. The dwarves around the garrison were beginning to talk about the chance that one of the three would be selected as a new squad leader.
The thought of leadership scared Al’ev at first. Up until that point, he had only been responsible for his own life. That’s what he thought initially. But the more he thought about it, the more he realized that wasn’t true. Every day the entire town of Dorn and his fellow soldiers did rely upon him. He was already responsible for many lives. The difference between the way he was now, and the way he would be as a higher ranking officer was only in his mind and official status.
Perhaps I could do this after all. I’ve always had a knack for tactics too. Perhaps I’ll take the chance should the opportunity arise…
He wrote about the possibility of leadership one day in a note to Mel mentioning the rumors that had been floating about the garrison. He wondered what she would think of him were he to get into a leadership position.
He didn’t receive her reply before the biggest threat to face Dorn in quite some time made itself known.
The day started off as normal as ever. Al’ev and the rest of the members of his squad were on patrol duty once again. Al’ev had stopped to chat with a shop keeper whom he had assisted a few weeks previous. He was concerned how his business was doing since someone had gone through his place and ransacked much of it. Had the building not been mostly made of stone, Al’ev doubted the man would have had much to go back to as whoever had committed the crime had also decided to try an set the shop aflame.
Sergeant Fortarg, the two dwarven privates as well as Joshua and Nelya continued on as Al’ev conversed with the man.
“Yes, we’ll be sure to keep an eye out for them.”
“I don’t understand why my shop. I don’t sell anything of enormous value to common thieves. Are things so desperate?”
“I don’t know about desperate. The report mentioned that there was some sort of flammable material found within the building that hadn’t yet caught on flame. We’re hoping that may give us a lead on….”
“WATCH OUT!” Sergent Fortarg yelled. “WEA…”
By the time Al’ev looked over the sergeant was already on the ground with blood flowing from a large wound on his chest. Still standing were Joshua and Nelya as well as the two dwarves and Al’ev watched them block several attacks from some individuals who were too tall to be dwarves. The black and red cloaks they wore could not hide this fact.
To Al’ev, it didn’t matter what they were wearing. He had to get in there and help. He drew his weapon and rushed in.
Over the past two years, the dwarves had helped hone his skills to new levels. His skills were very good to begin with, now he knew he could stand toe to toe with many foes and expect to win as long as he kept his wits about him.
He darted into the tussle and blocked an axe swing that was aimed at one of the dwaves then snap kicked the person responsible for the attack. That man stumbled backward with the momentum and force Al’ev had put into his kick. Al’ev didn’t stay focused on this one and instead chose to help the other dwarf out with his adversary just as his comrade took a hit to the arm, instantly making it useless.
These weapons are ignoring our armor protection. Magic? He dodged an attack then backhanded the aggressor with his offhand which sent him spinning to the ground. The dwarf jumped upon him and started swinging his axe. That enemy was down, but so too was the second dwarf and Sergeant Fortarg still had not moved. A quick glance told Al’ev that the dwarven sergeant was already dead.
Joshua and Nelya appeared to be having little trouble with their foes and only one adversary remained standing. Al’ev rushed in to help his friends and they were able to make short work of the man.
Before they finished the last one off, Al’ev decided now was a good time to try and get answers as to what had happened from him.
“Before I kill you, what was this all about?”
“About?” The man replied in a tongue Al’ev recognized as Ignan, a language usually only used by those involved with fire elementals. “This is about the master’s wishes. This town and all within it will burn. In the name of ”/campaign/flames-and-steel-the-chromatic-war/wikis/zorebane" class=“wiki-page-link”> Zorebane!"
The man shot up and nearly stabbed Al’ev in the gut, but Joshua had been behind the man and he was faster, proving this by cutting him in two. He then went to go check on their dwarven allies.
“What did he say?” Nelya asked as Al’ev bent down to inspect his enemy’s corpse.
“Something about the town burning and someone name Zorebane.” Al’ev sighed. He had never much felt a liking or disliking for Fortarg, but a companion was a companion and now two had died on his watch with a third losing his arm and likely forced from active duty as a result. “We need to talk with the Captain.”
“Nelya, could you go back to the garrison and get him here? I don’t know what is going on but from the sound of what he said, this one was either crazy or was a scout of sorts. I need to ask these people,” he indicated the dwarven commoners who were now standing around where the commotion had been and were pointing at the dead “about anything they saw these guys do.”
Al’ev went around questioning the dwarves as Nelya made haste for the garrison. Joshua gathered the dead bodies into one spot then kept watch over them until Nelya returned with Captain Ozgral.
“By the blood of Cailean, what happened here?”
Al’ev saluted the captain. “I’m still trying to piece it together myself Captain.”
“Well, what have ye been able to learn thus far?”
“Several things. First, this attack on us was unprovoked as far as we can tell. From what several of these people told me, these men showed up in Dorn for the first time a few weeks back, though nobody paid them much mind then. They left after a single night’s stay. But they returned again just this morning. The people mentioned that they had seen them looking at several structures located closer to the river and this shop’s owner said they were about to purchase several barrels of lantern fluid. That’s when Sergeant Fortarg showed up asking them to step outside.”
“Seems the Sergeant thought these dogs worthy of suspicion.”
“Yes. Before Private Drovernath cut down the last one, we managed to get a couple things out of him. He said something about burning the town down, which I imagine had to do with the lantern fluid, and something about somebody named Zorebane. Also, he spoke this in the language of Ignan.”
“And ye understand this strange tongue?”
“Yes sir. I learned it while I was a child.”
“Well we have a bit of a mess on our hands.” The Captain looked to be in deep thought and Al’ev said nothing as he stood at attention. “Zorebane…Zorebane….”
“Is the name familiar to you, sir?”
“Yes, but from where…ah! That’s it! The name came up in a report I saw from another border town captain, Captain Grunth, about a month ago. Horith was the town. That town was burned to cinders before the garrison there could react. We lost many good dwarves that night. Zorebane was the name of the leader of the enemy in that report. It seems he has a following of thugs who look to him as a leader because of his abilities. The report mentioned that the man was a Ifrit.”
“One of those pyromancers?”
“So yer familiar with this too? Ye continue to surprise me Private Reldin.”
“Well, given what happened here I think I’ve reached a decision. Private Reldin, in light of yer actions here, I’ve decided to go forward with something I’ve been considering the past few weeks. Effective immediately ye are promoted to Sergent and will take command of this squad.”
“Thank you, sir. I’m honored. I only wish it were under different circumstances.”
“Agreed, Sergeant. But congratulations nevertheless. Sergeant I need ye and yer squad to get to the bottom of this Zorebane business. Dig up the details that haven’t yet come to light. Find out what they were doing here a few weeks back. Sorcerer spit, I don’t like this at all. I’m going to be placing the garrison on full alert until we find and get rid of this Ifrit.”
“Yes sir, we’ll get right on it.”
“I’ll be sending ye three new recruits to round out your squad as soon as I am able. Get to it, sergeant.”
“Yes sir.” Al’ev saluted and when the captain left with several soldiers and the dead bodies in tow, Al’ev finally noticed that Joshua and Nelya remained standing at attention. It took him a long moment to realize that they were waiting on him.
“Oh, uh. At ease. This is going to get weird.” They both grinned. “Well, I may have been put in charge, but I would hear what you have to say about this task. Any thoughts about how we get the information for the captain?”
“What if we were to look into any other sales of lantern fluid over the past few weeks?” Nelya suggested.
“That may be a good thing to look into.” Al’ev admitted.
“The captain mentioned another town had been burned down, Horith was it?” Joshua asked.
Al’ev nodded in response.
“How do you burn down a town made of stone? And what was he hoping to get at with these men here?” Joshua said.
“Well, it is possible to melt stone if the fire is intense enough. Perhaps he has a way of making flame stronger?” Nelya suggested.
“Magic. Ifrits have the natural ability to bend fire to their will using magic.” Al’ev was in deep thought.
Just for being a magic user alone, this man is dangerous. But to be the leader of thugs like these and to have already burned down an entire village…
“But why would this Zorebane want to destroy Dorn?”
“Honestly, I don’t think he has a reason. Ifrits love to burn things. It’s what they do best.”
“Sounds like a lovely bunch.” Joshua said sarcastically.
“Not exactly how I would describe them.” Nelya said dryly.
“Okay, let’s look into those barrel sales.”
Al’ev, Joshua and Nelya set off gathering information and by the end of the day they had found out that a large number of barrels had recently been sold. But the sales themselves had been spread out over the past few weeks and this was why it had gone by unnoticed. The shop keepers they had spoken too had all said that several men and women dressed in the strange red and black robes which were similar to those of the men they had fought earlier, had been seen as the ones purchasing the barrels.
They took this information back to the garrison where they waited to see Captain Ozgrel. The three were admitted into his room and the man stood behind his desk. Three more beings that Al’ev didn’t recognize all sat off to the side. The strange thing was that only one was a dwarf. Until this point, Al’ev had yet to see other non-dwarves in the Grand Army.
Al’ev’s group saluted as they stepped up to his desk.
“At ease. What have ye found out?”“There has been an abnormally high amount of lantern fluid sold over the past few weeks, sir.” Al’ev started.
“Each shop keeper we spoke with indicated that men and women dressed similarly to those we fought earlier today had been the ones purchasing the fluid.” Nelya added.
“We think there is a good chance that Zorebane is targeting this town. Given the volume of the fluid, and what Ifrits are known to do…well, it isn’t hard to figure out that Dorn may share the fate of Horith, sir.” Al’ev concluded.
Nodding, the captain spoke. “I was afraid the was the case. We’ll start sending out scouts to look for these Disciples of Zorebane on the morrow. For now, I’d like to introduce ye to yer new squad members.” The captain signaled the three to stand. “These are privates Iceblood, Dagarn and Ventin,” he said indicating a tall muscular Half-Orc, the dark bearded dwarf and the surprisingly well-built halfling. “They are recruits who joined up right after the assault on Horith. They were looking for a way to avenge their village much like you lot are looking to avenge Halar. I figured ye should be able to work well together so I’m putting them under yer command, Reldin.”
“I need you all to get some rest so yer ready to scout out the area to the North for any signs of Zorebane or his Disciples. Dismissed.”
All six of them saluted and left the captain’s quarters.
Al’ev was about to stop the new recruits and try to get to know them, but they left in such a hurry that they didn’t even hear him when he asked them to stop.
Well, hopefully they hear me tomorrow morning or this is going to get real interesting.The following morning the six of them gathered their gear for the long patrol that had been given to them. Captain Ozgrel had tasked his group with watching the road that lead into the Northern part of the town. Their task was to check travelers as they passed by, looking for anything suspicious. Al’ev tried to get the new members to speak up, but they all remained silent, and hardly seemed to much care for the himself or Nelya and Joshua. They left the garrison’s walls behind in the early morning and by midday had reached the location where they had been told to set up their checkpoint.
Their orders were to have two people manning the checkpoint at all times and two our on patrol while two rested. They would alternate positions three times each day on eight hour shifts. It would be tough work, but it would allow Al’ev the ability to have his friends and himself in one on one situations with the newcomers who had all remained closed off up until this point.
“Okay. Per the captain’s orders, I’m to split us into three teams. Team one will consist of myself and Private Dagarn. Team two will consist of Drovernath and Iceblood. Team three will be Vanvir and Ventin.”
They all indicated their understanding.
“Team one will head out on patrol immediately and we will return within the next several hours. Team two, you are to man this check point. Inspect anyone for any of that missing lantern fluid. Team three, you’re to back up team two should there be any trouble, otherwise, you’re on break until it is time to switch up. Any questions?”
“What does this Zorebane look like?” Nelya asked.
“I saw him.” Her partner private Ventin chimed in.
“Can you describe him for the benefit of the rest of us, Private?”
“Tall, very muscular. I’d say he was about your height. His hair appeared to be aflame and his skin was a strange tone of dark red.” Ventin replied.
“That’s quite a bit of detail.” Al’ev said.
“I’ll never forget that devil. He killed all those I cared about.”
Al’ev winced as the dagger in his heart that were his memories of Halar had suddenly returned.
“We’ll get him, Private. If we can work together, we can stop him.”
“Right.” Joshua said.
“Of course.” Nelya said.
The other three remained silent. Al’ev considered pushing the issue, but decided against it. Perhaps he’d get the chance later.
The groups split off and Al’ev took the lead as they headed for the tree line to the Northwest of the checkpoint. After some time of traveling in silence, Al’ev decided to try and speak with the dwarf.
“Private Dagarn. How long have you lived in Doul.”
“Born and raised.”
“Its a very pretty country.”
“Your friends don’t seem to much care for me, Dagarn.”
“They be thinking yer too young to lead.”
“Ah, so that’s it.”
“What do you think?”
“Ye’ve not done anything for me to judge by. I be keeping an open mind.”
Al’ev nodded. “I appreciate open minds. Feel free to chime in if you have any suggestions. Just because I’m in charge doesn’t mean I ignore the ideas of others. It just means the final decisions lie with me.”
“Aye. I’ll be keeping that in mind.”
Their patrol was mostly uneventful. They came across some wildlife but nothing that was out of the ordinary. They returned to the checkpoint and Al’ev asked for reports from everyone. The only people they had stopped had been travelers with very little in the way of cargo. Nelya noted that several were people who had passed through the town before.
“Nothing out of the ordinary then. Alright, let’s switch up roles for the next few hours. Ventin, Vanvir, you’re on patrol duty. Drovernath and Iceblood, you’re to rest for a bit. Dagarn and I will take over here on the road. Move out.”
This shift proved to be fruitless as well. Al’ev didn’t expect they’d find much of anything on the first day. As long as that held true for the other posts that Ozgral had set up around the Dorn area, that meant the town remained safe. Al’ev felt a little better knowing that no fewer than twenty-six fellow soldiers remained behind ready to help out anyone that needed it. They changed watch again and Dagarn fell asleep right away.
The second day went much the same and Al’ev was able to learn a little more from Dagarn while they were on patrol and while they manned the check point. Al’ev found out later that Joshua and Nelya hadn’t made much progress with either Ventin or Iceblood. He realized that he would have to take one of the other two new recruits out on patrol with him tomorrow and leave Dagarn with either Joshua or Nelya.
He laid in the grass in his tent in the dead of night of the second day. His shift had ended a few hours previous and he had been unable to fall asleep. Something felt different in the air and he had long since learned to pay attention to gut instinct. It usually meant something was going on. So he reacted instantly when someone rapidly approached his tent in the middle of the night. He emerged from his tent before Ventin was within sight.
“What is it private?”
“Private Vanvir and I found some suspicious cargo. I think you should come look sir.”
“Alright. Wake Dagarn and then head to the road. I’ll go backup private Vanvir.”
Al’ev walked quickly through the high grass of the dwarven planes to the road. His steps became more hurried when he saw a ball of fire shoot up into the air from where the road was.
When he arrived he saw Nelya in a frantic battle with two men, both of whom were dressed in the robs of the Disciples of Zorebane. Behind them were the remains of a smoking cart and ashen corpse of a horse.
Al’ev didn’t hesitate any more before he drew his blade and rushed in. Between Nelya and himself they had little trouble in vanquishing their foes just as Ventin and Dagarn came running out of the grass.
“By the nectar of the Gods, you got a few! That one there was one who cut down me brother!” He spit on the man who Al’ev had cut down.
Nelya was breathing too hard to respond.
“Let’s take a look at the cart and see if we can figure out anything. You two inspect the corpses. Same deal.”
Al’ev and Nelya looked over the cart and noted the remains of several barrels as well as a scent that they recognized as burning lantern fluid. Al’ev was about to comment on this when Dagarn shouted.
“Sergeant. It’s Drovernath and Iceblood!”
Al’ev nodded. They were just making it to the checkpoint when he noted the night sky begin to take on a glow that could only be associated with a massive amount of flames.
“Get ready to move out.” Al’ev ordered.
“Sergeant?” Nelya said.His only answer was to point out the glow ss Joshua’s patrol group grew near.
“We must warn Captain Ozgrel.”