Friday, January 25, 2013

Expedition to the Silver Mountain-04

The half-sized savages’ morale broke and they fled back into the wilderness. The men-at-arms pursued a pace, mopping up those too slow to escape, and Gar ensured that one remained for me. I’ll not belabor the point; I broke his will and plundered his mind—such as it was—before letting Gar put the thing out of its misery. I sent word back to the garrison commander, and then returned to the door, where I applied what I gleaned from that savage’s mind.

The door, as I expected, had a password that I knew would be possessed by someone close to its exterior; no useful portal has no security, and that security needs to pass through it in order to execute its duty. With this in mind, I had complete confidence that I could readily defeat the security measures, and I did indeed do so. The doors to Silver Mountain, and the ruins of the old demon cult’s stronghold, creaked open before us and the smell of stale air offended my nose as I gazed into the darkness within.

Gar reformed the men-at-arms into a solid, albeit slow-moving, formation and we advanced into the mountain’s depths. At this time, again benefiting from past experiences in such endeavors, I drew forth a wand that I previously prepared. Every so often, I used it to illuminate a spot on the ceiling—out of reach of most beings—and ensure that a continually lit path from the portal to our position existed. I knew it would not last that long, but it would be enough for our purposes in the short-term.

Once we came upon a defensible interior position, at an empty chamber formerly meant as a fallback defensive position, I ordered Gar to have the men-at-arms erect palisades. I sent word to the base camp, and I left Gar to hold our position while I retreated back to camp. I did not dally, concerned that other hostiles would come after us, and when I got back into camp I immediately rushed to my tent and made contact with Lord Eloc.

I reported our progress, and in return Lord Eloc informed me that he could spare more men, as he had prisoners on hand and wished to be rid of them. We struck a hasty bargain, and I used simple applications of basic principles of our sciences to bring these less-than-willing volunteers to my camp. I then put them under the garrison commander, after binding them to ensure their compliance, and told the commander to make use of them- including seconding them to the camp mistress as required. That solved our manpower requirements, and soon we had regular patrols keeping clear the base camp and the advanced position.

With another application of the divination sciences, I eliminated wasted time in explorations of the mountain in favor of plotting the most direct path to our objective. I marked it on the map, and I returned to the advanced party- and we found trouble indeed.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Expedition to the Silver Mountain-03

The men-at-arms continually patrolled the path between the base camp and the entrance into the mountain, moving in five-man groups patrolling in a circuit continuously from end to end. None of us knew this at the time, but this consistent presence proved to be the deterrent necessary to keep the local hostiles inhabiting the land about the mountain away until we could breech the entrance-way and gain access to the mountain.

The last thing I did before breaching that portal was to create a series of illusions that would make observers believe that the patrols persisted in our absence; application of visual and auditory misdirection in service to known psychological phenomenon would provide all of the advanced warning needed for the garrison to respond properly. That proved correct; what I did not count upon was that the hostiles would circumvent those protections, intended for securing the base camp, and instead go after the away team directly.

Breaching the portal into the mountain did not take much in terms of raw power. Instead, it took a great deal of finesse and willpower. The hostiles first attacked us as we assembled at the portal; they were a deformed, degenerate Mannish race of midget-sized savages armed with crude weaponry—spears, clubs and daggers; their blades are of knapped flint—and armored in animal hides that one can barely see as clothing.

Against our steel-tipped spears those hides were nothing, and against our steel chain shirts their flint-knapped spears were as granite; they came in waves against our men-at-arms, who—led by Gar—kept discipline and held their square formation while I worked out the seal on the portal. Long minutes played out as the half-sized savages shattered their spears upon our shields and shirts again and again, only to be speared in turn when they went for their clubs, and many more of their kin shot down by our archers before they could close into melee.

At long last, however, the savages’ master arrived. It was a giant of a thing, easily half-again as tall as a man, and horrific in the degeneracy of his mannish form. While fearsome, that did not strike terror into the hearts of the men; it was a dull iron club, clearly worked by hands that knew some skill, with one end wrapped in leather, nearly as long as a man is tall wielded by a giant wearing a metal helm, breastplate, grieves and vambraces- a giant armed and armored for war. I could feel the shivers shake their spines, and I knew what would come next.

Gar called for me to attend, and wisely I did so. Many times I faced such situations, and experience showed me that great brutes often lacked the will that true warriors with such might had. I knew of a great technique that directly exploited such a flaw, and kept it on hand embedded in a scroll; I drew forth that scroll, and I cast that spell. He died, and we won.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Expedition to the Silver Mountain-02

My expedition consisted of 25 men-at-arms, drilled to act as a unit, led by Eloc’s protégé—Gar, son of Dar, descendent of the First Immortal—and their families I took on as useful servants. Gar put those otherwise-worthless wretches into a useful camp organization, and he appointed one of the more sensible women to take charge of them. Someone needed to mind the significant baggage train, so why not the more capable women and children?

Fortunately, I knew exactly what path to follow by the time we departed. That meant one less unknown interfering with my progress, which meant that I could focus on ensuring that the expedition met its requirements and stayed on schedule. With Gar on hand to enforce discipline, and a clear chain of command, I am pleased to boast that even this lot of expendables did not fail to meet expectations. Just 30 days later, on the 45th day of Spring, we arrived at the place where I planned to build my base camp.

Reaching this point did require the daily employment of divinations and transmutations to augment the speed of the daily marches, allowing us to pass through the wilderness faster than any ordinary party could and keep our progress on track. This is not the only reason for why I used what I knew of the sciences in this manner. It also served to keep firmly fixed in the minds of the company that I was no one to be trifled with; the rumor-mongering, which I encouraged, kept discipline problems well below what could be reasonably expected from the low quality of characters I employed for this matter.

The base camp got built with speed, again in part due to my use of appropriate techniques to augment their toils, and once we had a defensible perimeter I had Gar take the men-at-arms to clear the path to the point of entry into the underground that you my Lords provided for me. I established a firm border, keeping out unwanted unnatural attention to compliment the physical perimeter, and then had my personal pavilion fortified to act as my sanctum. Gar completed the task put to him, and in a time I believe only some of you, my Lords, can match I was ready to begin the primary mission put to me.

Gar and I conferred as to how to organize the camp to operate while we were inside seeking the object. We agreed that the woman we appointed as the head of the camp followers would not be good enough to handle this responsibility herself. After reviewing our options, I took Gar’s suggestion to take one of the older youth currently training with the men-at-arms and appoint him to that role. I ensured the youth’s loyalty through an elementary technique of applied mental science, and then implanted into his mind the directives that I wanted him to follow. I ensured that the camp mistress and my new garrison commander got along. Then, to work.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Expedition to the Silver Mountain-01

Midsummer’s Day, Year 50 of the New Era.

To My Lords of the White Tower,

At the beginning of this Spring I received from My Lords an urgent call to return to the Tower. I obeyed without delay, and upon arrival I immediately went into a closed session with the Council. There I received a briefing from the Council that a divination penetrated the stronghold of a defeated enemy from generations past, and within that place my brother diviners at last found the location of a great and powerful artifact long known to be of value to the People of the White Tower. It could not pass into the hands of the Enemy.

I knew, at that moment, why the Council summoned me. The diviners could not use their powers to bring forth this old artifact, as they could not gain a firm connection to the object to bring it forth. Due to the distance from the White Tower, and the importance it holds, haste became required and that meant trusting the matter to a brother ready and able to into the field and operate on his own initiative towards the goals given to him. It could not be put to anyone other than I—Colleb, Brother of the Loremaster College—and I humbly accepted The Archmage’s command to seek and recover the old artifact for the White Tower.

The war we fought with the old demon cult in the years following the Coming of the Azure Flames meant that our post-war expansion, and the ways we created to move around our lands, did not go there. It did mean that we kept a series of garrisons there for a time, and since then more of our people settled around the old dominion of the cult. It seemed natural to use the citadel nearest to the objective as my base of operations, so I immediately took the way to Citadel Argent and established an office there.

Citadel Lord Eloc understood without unnecessary explanation as to why I was there, or what I required. He and I had worked together previously, and came to a mutually-beneficial understanding in those years prior, so gaining his assistance took only some reciprocation on my part. (I will specify what that became below.) Unfortunately, Lord Eloc could not come along, as his duties at that time required the whole of his attention—you, My Lords, will recall the Enemy’s incursions elsewhere in that region—but he did detach his protégé to serve me as he often did.

I shall not waste time on the details of my organizing of the expedition. Following old practice, I conscripted all of the idle and excess men in the area and put them through a round of drill and training while I got the logistics organized and planned my approach to the old cult lair. Once armed, armored, equipped and satisfied with preparations we left the citadel and struck out for the cult’s lair by 15 days into the Spring.