Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Breaking of Team Stormfront

Nothing is eternal.

Agon is a savage continent, but I took solace in the fact that I had solid friends to fall back on. I had believed that the bonds holding our group together were dauntless. I never would have believed that given the right circumstances, Team Stormfront could implode in only thirty minutes. I never would have believed that we'd go from living comfortably in a lightly war torn city, surrounded by a legion of strong fighters, raking in gold and building up our armories... to entirely dissolving without any hope of reconciliation.

One misunderstanding and it all came crumbling down. The slow rot that had gone unnoticed at the heart of our fellowship was finally revealed, and it was too late.

After the massacre that had taken place during the siege, I was not in the best of moods. Dominion had won the day, in the end, but not without a heavy cost. The ordeal had left me weary of battle. It had done the opposite for Blarggy and, to my surprise, Publius as well.

They had been out on the front lines, far from where I was fighting to stay alive. Blarggy had always had a taste for combat, and now Pub had acquired it as well. Others told me that they fought like men possessed. After the siege, they wanted more war. Unfortunately, Dominion was not providing enough of it. Discontent quietly festered inside them.

Piratejim, Blarggy, and Publius continued to fight alongside Dominion whenever they could. Primarily, the war was at sea. Dominion had the finest navy in Agon, and they used it to secure the massive ocean stronghold in the south waters. Piratejim was living out his dream. By day he was blasting cannons at massive sea monsters, and by night he was leaping from ship to ship, slashing at the enemy and helping to secure Dominion naval dominance.

But this was not what Publius and Blarggy wanted. It wasn't the lack of people to fight, but the lack of prestige. Dominion allowed almost anyone willing to hold a sword to join them. Their ranks were full of the young and unbloodied. When they won battles, it was largely attributed to the number, rather than the skill, of their forces. And they didn't often go seeking out conflict.

Blarggy had more ties to the larger politics of Agon than the rest of us did. He remembered other clans, fiercer clans. He knew the names of revered warriors, and had met and fought with and against some of them. After a month with Dominion, that is the world he longed to return to. But when he brought this up to the rest of Team Stormfront, that is not the way he phrased it.

When a few of us were together, Blarggy proposed the idea of going north to join a new alliance. I was against leaving. I felt no need to seek out even more ruthless individuals to associate with, and I didn't feel my battle abilities were strong enough to get me into one of these other alliances. Pangalactic suggested we wait until Piratejim returned from mining, and we could all decide together. The conversation did not remain civil.

Blarggy planted his feet. "Well, I'm leaving today, with or without you guys. Pub's coming too."

Pangalactic started, "Hang on. Don't do anything yet! I don't even get why you want to leave."

But Blarggy's tone and threat to leave with Publius set off some bottled up resentment inside of me. "You always try to make yourself our dictator! We joined Dominion because of you! And now you want to leave? Again? Why should we even bother?"

"Dominion was good for us at the time, but not anymore. All the good fighters are in the north, not in this massive alliance. And you know, I've been around Agon a lot more than you have! Why shouldn't you listen to me?  Either way, I seriously don't care whether or not you're coming. It's not like you'd make much difference anyway." 

I boiled with rage. The idea of him taking Publius with him, one of my most trusted friends, and the insults, and the power grabs that no one else seemed to mind, I couldn't handle it. Even if Blarggy was often correct, the way he always talked down to all of us, talked down to me, couldn't stand. After a few choice curses to Blarggy, I pulled Publius aside.

In an angry whisper, I said, "Are you seriously leaving with Blarggy?"

"Yeah, of course I am! Don't you want to be elite, Signus?" He laughed. I wish I'd known then that he was just being sarcastic. But my mind wasn't in a rational place.

I shouted with Blarggy, trying to convince him, in the least effective way possible, that everything he wanted could be found with Dominion. He didn't need to ride north across Agon. But our bitter attitudes towards each other bubbled to the surface and took over. With each word out of my mouth, the rift between us grew, until finally Blarggy made his final decision.

"I'm leaving, and I'm taking my equipment out of the clan bank!" He stormed off to gather Publius and I stood there panicking. My distrust for Blarggy took over, and in my mind, I saw him emptying out the bank, leaving us with next to nothing, and riding off claiming that he had been the reason we even had any of those items to begin with. I decided to take matters into my own hands.

I sprinted down the streets of Tugri, knocking aside idle Dominion recruits, making a bee line for the bank. I ripped open the clan vault doors and began loading everything I could into cases and bags, tying them to my back. I was going to deposit all the loot into my personal account and keep it safe until Piratejim could return and talk Blarggy and Pub down. It was at that unfortunate moment that Blarggy walked around the corner with Pub.

"Signus!" Pub shouted. "What the shit do you think you're doing?"
Blarggy drew his sword, "he's robbing the clan vault!" The two of them descended on me, slashing with bright blades. I turned my back to the attacks, shoving as much of our wealth into my bank as I could, before slamming the door. I couldn't get all of it in before a broadsword point went through the back of my throat.

Death took me, and the agonizing process of returning to my body felt all the slower, knowing that Blarggy was making off with our hard earned wealth. And now Publius was likely against me too.

When I came back to life, I dashed to the largest building in Tugri, knowing I needed help. I went to the Supreme General of Dominion. "There's been a coup in our clan!" I shouted. "Two of our members have robbed the clan bank and are trying to leave the city with it!"

The supreme general seemed confused. "Wait, who even are you?"
"I'm a general of Team Stormfront, one of the clans in your alliance. I need your help, please!"
He made me slow down and give him more detail, but after a minute or so, I had him and a few Dominion members following me to the clan bank, where we found Publius and Blarggy sifting through my corpse.

Pub looked at the Dominion clan members with narrow eyes. "Signus...what is this?"
"I'm not going to let you steal from Team Stromfront. I've alerted Dominion, and they aren't going to let you leave the city."

Blarggy's eyes lit with fire. "You brought another clan into our business? And you think we're the ones robbing the bank?" He was quivering with rage. I stood straight and put a hand on my sword hilt. Then I looked at Pub. In his eyes I could tell that I'd well and truly lost him. By bringing in Dominion I'd broken some kind of trust between us that even theft and murder hadn't managed to dislodge.

"You idiot..." he whispered. "I wasn't going to leave, I was just fucking with you! But I sure as shit am leaving now. And neither you, nor Dominion are going to stop me."

Blarggy smiled triumphantly. "Good! We'll go north to-"
Pub spun. "I didn't say I was going with you! I don't want to be around any of you right now. This whole thing is mental, you're all mental. I don't care about anything in the vault. I'm going to leave, and none of you are going to follow me."

The Supreme General of Dominion talked to Blarggy and heard his side of events, gave me a withering look and stalked off. I heard him say "...waste of time..." to his recruits.

When Pangalactic returned with Piratejim and Llemon, they found a broken clan waiting for him. After some hours arguing, shouts of "vault robber" and other such accusations, I opened my bank and returned the goods back to the clan vault. Blarggy then took his share, and rode off.

The fissure of anger ran too deep for the remaining members of the clan to ignore. Llemon left not long after Blarggy, and then there was nothing left but for me, Omnigord, and Piratejim to go our seperate ways. With numb fury and disbelief in me, I rode west alone. I went to the land where I'd always be welcome.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Siege of Tugri

I'd been taught a harsh lesson I wouldn't soon forget. It was going to take much longer to trust people in the future.

Despite this, my ego began to swell a little. I was on the up, in a formidable clan, and becoming a powerful warrior. But after my first siege defense I was reminded that I still had a long way to go.

Initially, Team Stormfront was excited by the prospect of an enemy invasion. We'd have knowledge of local terrain and a fortified position to fall back to if the fighting became too difficult. We saw the looming threat as a way to test our hard earned skills in a massive conflict, to have our fighting mean something. All day we prepared, scouting the best ambush points, arranging our armor and weapons so that we'd have easy access to them.

But the mood in Tugri was not one of anticipation. As the day wore on I started to notice a legitimate element of fear amongst the busy members of Dominion. Just how big was the attack force that was coming for us?

Restless, and without anything more to do, I got on a horse and circled the city, looking for any sign of the enemy. They were still hours away, but still I scouted. Back in the wilderness, I had a brief pang of nostalgia, remembering when I had no city or allies to fall back on, and remembering how strangely thrilling it was to be on my own, hiding from outlaws and sneaking through monster camps.

Was I really cut out for the life of a professional soldier, when I had survived this long as a ranger? I suppose even as a ranger I had fought for Team Stormfront, and it was true that we were all much richer and safer with Dominion. I forced down my doubts and rode back for Tugri to listen to the defense strategy. It would soon be time to defend my home.

After a short assembly with the Dominion Generals, I looked around for Publius or Pangalactic or anyone from Team Stormfront, but they were nowhere inside the city. Had they gone out to scout like I had? Are they laying in ambush somewhere? Before I could find out the leaders of Dominion began to scream and gather everyone together. The enemy had arrived early. They'd somehow slipped by our scouts and were already charging up the causeway towards the city.

I was swept up in the action. Already wearing my mail, I charged out with Dominion, surrounded by people that were still strangers. There seemed to be some sort of internal organization to the charge that I did not understand. Our army thundered out the door and over the walls hoping to catch the siege force unprepared. We stood above them on the high ground and rained down a hundred spells of lightning, necrotic rot, and lances of flame. The enemies scattered for cover and we all hunkered down as the ranged battle began. It became a conservative war of attrition.

My first death that day came when I saw a couple bodies floating in a pond at the base of the fortress. I swam out and began to pull the rare and powerful armor from their corpses. That's when about five arrows struck me in the back. A group of enemies from the main force had noticed me slinking off and came to hunt me down. I didn't last long, even after diving underwater. My lifeless body floated back up and my spirit was hurled into the raging screaming void, on my way back to the find stone.

As always, death was painful, demoralizing, and disorienting, but my blood was still on fire with battle lust. The inside of Tugri, I noticed, was deserted. The fighting had moved away from the city, and it seems our forces had pushed the enemy back. I stood from the battlements after rearming, and saw that there was no one left to fight. Dominion chased the invaders down towards the beach. And that was right when the real invasion force arrived.

They flew over the city walls dozens at a time, with no one to stand in their way. I ducked into a building hoping to shoot them from the windows but they discovered me immediately, surrounded me, and cut me to pieces until all was black.

I woke again at bind stone, without weapons or armor. Dominion was rushing back to the fortress as fast as they could, but they were scattered and leaderless. The invaders cut them down as they came over the walls and soon the bindstone was crowded with confused and unarmed allies.

I dashed off again, scavenging armor from bodies as I went. Finally I thought I was equip enough to start fighting back. I found an Alfar on his own, who was hurling battlespikes into a building, laughing as the flames started to spread inside.

I fired a curse at him and then brought all my strength to bear behind a sword blow aimed at his chest.  He barely flinched as the blow dented his armor. He casually took out his staff and blasted me into the sky with a bolt of fire. As I came down he launched spell after spell into me, wracking my mind with agony and burning my flesh. By the time I landed he only needed one swing of his two handed sword to kill me. I was hurled back into the void.

This process repeated itself again and again and it became clear... I wasn't a match for anyone. Whether it was due to my confused state, from being surrounded, or just outclassed, the truth was that I couldn't kill a single person on my own.

Death followed death, and soon I entirely gave up on fighting. I thought to hurt the enemies the only way I could. I started stealing armor and reagents off the bodies of the fallen, and tucking them into a hiding place. I'd only ever grab a few pieces and safely stash them before dying again, but I managed to build up quite a stock pile. It was a pitiful revenge. The invaders had all come in expendable gear. What did they care if I stole a fraction of a fraction of it.

It wasn't enough. Death. Death. Death. Alfar spells, Ork axes, human broadswords. By the time I lost count of how many times I'd died... I had entirely given up. Dominion had come back in force and the battle was heavy all around me, but I only sat at the bind stone with dull eyes and watched the carnage, without a single care. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Friends and Foes

(Featuring screenshots from our very own Piratejim!)

Team Stromfront moved south along the coast of Mirdain lands to our new home in the city of Tugri.

I had seen cities similar to this one during my travels, but I had never been inside one. It was surrounded with a curtain wall, with massive defensive cannons mounted upon them. It was a fearsome place, that still had an air of beauty to it. The Elven construction was clear, but unlike the capital, this city was built purely for war.

When we arrived before the city gates no one came out to greet us. "Are you sure we're supposed to be here Blarggy?" I asked.

"It's fine, most cities keep their gates shut all the time. Come over here, we can use a spell to get over the wall." Our party went around the cliff face and found a slanted section. Blarggy fired a spell that made the air swirl. He jumped into the cyclone and it pushed him up into the sky, over the walls.

"Well, what's the point of these walls then?" Pangalatic said before following Blarggy into the cyclone.

Once we'd all made it inside the city, our reception remained chilly at best. Dominion didn't seem to care about a handful of novice fighters joining their ranks, and I certainly didn't blame them for it. There were a dozen of other clans already gathered around the Vault, discussing something heatedly.

We all split up to wander round the city, exploring our new home. It was an expansive place, almost as large as the Mirdain capital. In the center there was something I'd not seen before. It was a large chamber with a glowing orb of blue light. One of the friendlier Dominion folks told me that it's part of a network. From this city they could warp to any other city owned by Dominion, using rare items called portal shards. A very useful bit of magic. And yet, I couldn't help but feel that Agon now felt like a much smaller place. Well, I doubted that I'd ever be able to use such a luxury anyway.

We were still exploring when a voice boomed out from the Vault area, calling all members of the alliance to assemble. We had apparently joined the alliance on an exciting day. Some other clan had hired Dominion to capture an enemy hamlet. We were to ride out in force, meet up with our employers, rip the Hamlet from the enemy's control, and return home wealthier than we left. But things did not go quite so well.

We had a force of about sixty warriors from various clans all riding out together. After meeting up with our new allies we set up on a hill overlooking the hamlet. While we waited some clanmen set up massive cannons. One person even brought out a warhulk; a hovering armored cannon platform.

These seemed to mostly be for show however, because they were soon dismantled and put away again. To me it almost felt like a pageant. There were weapons and armor that I'd never seen before. They crackled with arcane light or reflected the unnatural hues of Agon's twin moons.

Team Stormfront was issued weapons and armor, and more battlespikes to use against the Hamlet. I had never been part of such a powerful united force. In my ignorance, I found myself overjoyed to have been so readily accepted by relative strangers. If I was a cog in their war machine I was at least a well cared for cog.

When the time for the siege came, the enemy didn't show up to defend their home, so terrified they must have been of our might and arms. The Hamlet's stone was demolished in short order by hundreds of battlespikes flying through the air, and ownership of the hamlet was passed along to our new allies. There was some celebrating afterwards, exploring of the new place, and socializing between allies. I was having an amazing time of it, still elated to be in such a powerful alliance.

Blarggy tried to bring us back to reality. He pulled the five of us aside and whispered, "Guys, I think it's time to leave here..."

Pangalactic and I assured him that there was no rush. "Why would we leave? It's our hamlet."

Blarggy shook his head, "It's not our hamlet, it belongs to Archon. And they aren't our allies, they only hired us to help them win it. I think we should slip away before they take notice of us."

But the rest of us were hearing none of it. We figured it was best to stay with Dominion and follow them. We didn't want it to look like we weren't pulling our weight. But this was a mistake.

When the time finally came to leave we mounted our horses and decided to take the scenic route home through the woods and mountains. We weren't in a hurry, so we split up a bit, looking at the rivers, the ruins, the mountains, but always staying within sight of someone else. Not long after we left, Pangalactic rode closer to us and said, "I think there's someone following us." I gazed in the direction he pointed but saw nothing.

"Let's get closer together then, just to be safe." We tried to pull everyone back into a pack but we'd lost sight of Publius and Piratejim. That's when our trackers came into view. I recognized the colors. "Oh, they're friendly, just some folks from Archon."

Blarggy shouted, "No! I already told you, they aren't our allies!" The confused looks from the rest of us just made Blarggy angrier. "They bought us to help them capture that hamlet. We did that. Now, we're just like anyone else. They're here to kill us, run!" He spurred his horse into motion, and after one quick glance to Pangalactic, I followed. That's when we heard Piratejim screaming.

We followed his cries over the hill to our left and reached its crest just in time to see his horse go down in a storm of arrows. Two men on foot then quickly dispatched Redham while four more on mounts galloped in our direction.

I kicked and pushed my mount to go faster. "I can't believe they'd do this, we helped them!"

"Dominion helped them, we're nobody!" Blarggy shouted from ahead of me. "This is how Agon works!"

We had a decent lead on our attackers, and we just had to maintain it until we found Dominion. But then we heard Publius shout in the distance. We veered to the right and crashed through the trees. When he came into view, his horse was barely alive, and two more enemies were blasting firenalls at it. Pangalactic and Llemon charged in and swiped at the attackers from behind, cutting bloody streaks across their backs.

A wave of magic cascaded out of the enemy staffs, surrounding them, and their wounds knitted shut. Pub yelled to us, "Just go! Leave me to them!" and wheeled his wounded beast around to charge at the two enemies on the ground. The remaining four of us formed up again and tried to get back on track towards Dominion's lands. But, our attackers must have known where we were headed, because the mounted men we'd lost sight of were waiting for us. As soon as we came out of the trees we were smashed by explosions while arrows took us from our mounts. It was over for me in seconds, and the last thing I saw was the sneering faces of the men I'd just helped, before a sword was thrust into my chest.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Winds of Change

The guilt didn't leave me, not as the others promised it would. They'd said it was just how the world works, and that the deed would never get traced back to my name anyway. Yet still I knew that the responsibility was mine alone. It was my choice and I had gone through with it.

Days earlier, I had spotted a human on the outskirts of our city. I observed him for a while to see if he was a threat. He didn't seem particularly dangerous. He wore simple clothes and was surveying the land looking for veins of iron to mine. It seemed he'd been at this for quite a while..and that's when the thought entered my head.

Recently I'd become fixated on gathering massive amounts of iron. My vault was full of hundreds of rock shards, ready to be smelted down and turned into armor for the clan. Whenever Team Stormfront ventured out, I'd bring a mining pick with me, spending more time mining than actually fighting.

I was steadily becoming a skilled craftsman. I'd mastered art of making chain mail and scale mail. With some more iron, I might have been able to improve my skills enough to make plate armor. But metal was hard to find, and often times while I was out on gathering trips I'd get hunted down and robbed by raiding parties. But now...

I wondered just how much iron ore he had in that pack already. If I were to take it from him... In truth I'd been thinking it since I first realized what he was doing. I knew right away this stranger wasn't a real threat, but still I tracked him, letting the thought wrestle its way to the top of my thoughts. When I finally did give voice to the quiet idea of murder, my mind flew into a tumult.

He's defenseless!
Yes exactly, this is a dangerous world, I should teach him to be more careful.
But what if I drive him to become a murderer like so many of the others.
A murderer, like I may be?
Well, what if he's stronger than he seems, and I get myself killed?
Then I should call the others in, make sure he doesn't get away.
There's no honor in that...
There's no honor in Agon.

I waited until the man started digging into a new rock pile, and then quietly rushed back to town to consult Publius. Everything he said just reinforced the conclusions I'd reached on my own. Then he closed the door for discussion. "I'm going to go out there myself and try to confront him with or without you. But.. you're right, he might be dangerous. Come with me just to be sure. You wouldn't want me dying out there." I'm sure Publius would have had no problems hunting the man down on his own. He was just playing against my pride to convince me to go through with killing this man. Sighing, I pulled a longsword off the rack and followed him.

Together we crept back to the glade I'd found him in. He was working on a different pile of rocks now, oblivious to his impending danger. Pub ducked in the trees to the north while I approached from the south. I crouched down and inched forward, slowly...quietly...

The man stopped mining and cocked his ear in my direction. He hadn't seen me yet, but the tension was too much for my shaky nerves. I jumped up and charged, scoring a deep cut across his back. With a cry Publius ran in from the opposite side, slashing as he came. Our victim dropped his pick and fled into the trees to lose us.

I stayed behind him, harrying him forward while Publius ran around to cut him off. The man kept sprinting, now and then turning to look at me with bulging terrified eyes. He never noticed that I'd herded him into a clearing, where Publius waited, staff at the ready.

Publius lit up the forest. The the echoing thunder of the spells and the fire was too much. The man panicked, unsure of where to run next. I raised my hand to finish him, but I hesitated. Pub saw me pause and with a solid swing I caught the man on the back of the head. The human went down in the dirt, bleeding out. Publius stood over him for a moment and then drove the point of his sword straight into his heart. With a final cry, the nameless man perished.

"It's just the way the world works Sig." He clapped me on the shoulder and together we started rifling through the man's pack. His pack had a decent amount of ore, but not as much as we were hoping for. Not enough to make me feel good about my part in the day's events.

And so that was my state, numbly forging armor out of my ill gotten gains, mind not on the task, when Blarggy returned to the city with news.

"Well everyone, I know we've talked it before, but it's finally happening. Team Stormfront has found an alliance willing to take us in. They're called Dominion, and they have a well defended city on the coast with plenty of resources within and without. We'll be able to follow them out on missions and get some real experience in large scale combat!" We were all fairly interested in this, but I had some reservations... until he said "Oh yes, andthey have one of the most powerful navies on Agon. So, what do you all say?" A smile split my face, guilt over the recent murder got pushed down for now. I exchanged glances with Piratejim, whose eyes had gone wide as plates.

"Absolutely. When do we leave?"

None of us knew that day that this new forged alliance was the death knell for Team Stormfront.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The First Voyages

The first weeks with Team Stormfront went by in a rush. Everything that I struggled to do on my own became so easy. There was a bounty of reagents in our clan bank, we had weapons and armor to spare, we even began to gather enough materials to start crafting our own wares. Piratejim made weapons, I made armor, Pangalactic studied enchanting, but dabbled in just about everything. Publius took to potions, but soon got wrapped up in a secret project.

Each time we ventured out into the world, there was still the fear of death, but the fear of losing all our hard earned loot was blunted by the knowledge that our vault was full of replacement gear. And so, we became bold.

Using our old raft, we took to the sea and explored all the far off islands we couldn't reach before. Some were plentiful with ore, and I marked these places down for future reference. Such out of the way mining spots were hard to come by. Other islands held small villages or hamlets. We saw one island far away to the east with an ancient Nithron fortress built on top of it, patrolled by reanimated guardians. Atop this castle was a glowing purple portal. I marked this island down on my sea chart as well, curious to explore. But the islands we spent our most time on were patrolled by hulking behemoths called golems.

One morning, Redham and I were out sailing when I spotted one close to shore. I shouted for Redham to steer away. He saw the golem and a familiar madness crept into his eyes. "I bet we could bring it down," he said slowly; already anchoring the raft.

I looked at the huge metal beast, shaking the earth with each step. "There's no way, not with just the two of us. And I'm not abandoning the raft!" Piratejim merely shrugged and hopped into the water. "I'll keep the sails up for a quick retreat," I called after him, but he didn't turn; just continued swimming.

Piratejim had a staff, and some bone and leather armor. Nothing more. Before him a giant hulk of a creature paced about the island. It was three times the height of a human, and looked to be made of a solid mass of seamless metal, in a vaguely human shape. From the bushes, the mad pirate fired off a flimsy manna missle. It impacted the monster, and the fight was on.

I watched in amazement as my ally ran circles around the golem, blasting it in the back at every chance. The golem tried to keep up, and even fired some spells back in return now and then, but they hit the trees Piratejim was ducking behind far more often than Piratehim himself. If he did become too hurt he simply ducked out of sight, or went down into the water for a time. He worked at the golem tirelessly and sooner than I would have expected, the monster was down and Piratejim was jogging back over to the raft with a sack full of materials he'd cut off the monster's corpse.

I was in stunned silence as he took the wheel of the raft and set sail back towards our home. I think I remained so until we were well out to ocean. When I finally came to, a torrent of barely coherent words poured from my mouth, "Fool! Fluke! Luck! Lunatic! Divine intervention!" Piratejim smiled and whistled as we sailed home.

The illusions of the world were beginning to crumble as tasks we once thought impossible were opened to us. Team Stormfront began to regularly raid the golem islands, and reap their rewards. All throughout these excursions, we were rarely bothered by others. The sea was vast, and within it breadth, safety and wealth.

We attacked the golems relentlessly, and drove them back from civilized lands.

The next time we were all back at the Mirdain city we called our home, Blarggy took the resources we'd gathered and crafted them into dangerous new weapons called Battlespikes. "Do you know what we could do with these?" he said, waving the small explosive in front of a very nervous looking Publius. "We can attack some of the coastal villages! If we control of those villages then we can get a nice flow of gold from taxes!"

It sounded like a good plan, one that would take all of us to execute. We geared up in our finest, with our packs full of these spiked metal balls of fire and death. We sailed around Agon, waiting for one of the coastal villages to be left unguarded. After a half hour of scouting we found our target. The village of Eltaria.

Team Stormfront crept silently into the city from different directions, searching for any hidden defenders. Pangalactic gave the all clear and we set ourselves up in vantage points overlooking the central stone of the village. I piled my battlespikes before me and took a calming breath. "You just throw them?" I asked. Blarggy nodded and raised his hand in the air, held it there briefly, and brought it down.


The sound was deafening as six battlespikes smashed into the stone before us. The ringing had hardly faded before more explosions ripped through the echoes of the last ones. We continued throwing. Bits and pieces of the stone was breaking off. The magical field protecting the village began to weaken. I threw until my arm burned, trying to quickly grab more battlespikes without stabbing my own hand, or worse, dropping any. We were all tense, knowing that the sounds of our attack would bring any murderers within a mile right down on top of us. But we had chosen our village well, none came.

With a final explosion the rock crumbled and the magic field dissipated. The village belonged to Team Stormfront. "Haha! See, nothing to it!" Blarggy shouted. I ran off to look at some of the houses with Publius while the others packed the remaining battlespikes. Most of the doors were locked but one house was open and inside we found a strange machine. It had a slot for gold coins a wheel with rotating symbols on it. Pub tossed some coins in, the pictures whirled, and when they stopped more coins came out!

"Let me try, move move!" I shoved Publius aside, but wasn't as lucky. The machine ate my newly earned money quickly, returning none of it, and Publius tried to pull me off. I had to keep going, pouring more of our winnings into the machine, until I came out with a profit. It wasn't my greatest idea but I was still elated from our victory and I didn't want the day marred by a run of bad luck. Eventually, I managed to come away with more gold won than lost, but the rest of the clan banned me from using the device ever again, said I had a "problem" or something. I don't think anyone actually minded that day; winnings in hand, we sailed for home.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Forming of Team Stormfront

It took days for me to work my way back to Mercia from the shores of Mirendil. I kept off the roads, more out of habit than the want to be careful. I spent much of the time in a daze, worrying over the Ul Tanneks, trying to puzzle out their motives, their goals; what could they have possibly accomplished with their slaughter? What troubled me even more was the sudden betrayal. It had been so easy for people to turn on each other. It wasn't even just Humans killing Alfar, everyone was in a blind fury, killing anyone they could. They had been working so well together, some were even acting friendly, getting along, drinking. But I guess I should just resign myself to the fact that they were after all, mercenaries, and it shouldn't be unexpected that their motives were ruled by treasure. Agon wasn't a land for being idealistic.

I pondered these things until reached my current home, Hildershall. To take my mind off the trouble in the East I asked around for work, but no one was offering any jobs. Frustrated, I geared up and went out on my own to hone my sword skill against some of the local scum.

I cut my way through the kobolds on the beaches, chasing them into the tall grass. Some of their smaller fighters would duck in the reeds while their allies blindly fired in, but it wasn't enough. In an hours time, the camp was empty of kobolds, and I began working northward through the wilderness, eventually reaching a river. It was running swiftly, the current powerful, I recognized it as the one that fed into Chillborne. I decided to stop by the city to drop off some loot. Fortunately, there was a merchant in the area looking for a fighter. He offered me some armor if I'd go out past the cemetery and kill some of the local undead, some trolls, and other undesirables. I just absently nodded and accepted the work.

I knew the graveyard area well, having been killed there several times by Ork raiding parties. I'm sure I wasn't the only one. A lot of the raw recruits around Sandbrook and Monkfield had whispered about it, calling it the new Britain Cemetery, whatever that meant. Even knowing this, I did not try to hide. I cut through the zombies and skeletons with old swords I'd collected from outlaws, then fought to the troll camp. The silence was weighing heavy on my mind. He'd seen no one, and other than the merchants in the towns, and talked to no one, in a very long time.

The trolls proved to be a challenge. Their spell casting and mob mentality was frustrating. As they swarmed me all at once I began to hack at them in a rage, wishing they'd just stand still, to no avail. I tried fighting back with my own meager spell capabilities but that didn't help the situation at all. Occasionally I managed to pin one by itself and cut it down, but there were long rests after each kill, because as I killed one, the others would stab for the weak places in my armor. Before long my potions and food were running out. It was during one of these rests that I encountered someone entirely unexpected.

I saw him first, a fighter dressed in bone armor. With a zeal that hadn't been there moments before I pulled myself out my apathetic stupor and charged him with my sword high. He spun around, arcane energy already swirling around him and then stopped. "Signus? Wait!"

I checked my swing when I got a look at him. Behind the bone mask, was the face of Publius. "Pub, what are you doing here?"

He let his spell dissipate and scolded me. "Is this a thing you do now, attack random people trying to get through swamps? You've fallen to pieces without me."

"I..wasn't thinking clearly. But really, where have you been?"

We caught up as he joined me in my task against the trolls, who were now entirely outmatched.

He'd been wandering Ork lands and as far north as the Dwarven shore, not sure what to do after the clan fell apart. After a while he traveled south, trying to track down Redham or anyone else.

"Well, did you hear from him?"

"Yes, actually. He's trying to pull us all back together. I think he sent a message for you, probably to Sandbrook, but he never heard back. He has a plan, but he wants us all to meet in Mirdain territory."

"Ugh, I just came from there, did he give a reason?"

"It's the land of milk and honey! Lots of scum to kill, lots of treasure to collect, and very few murderers to worry about. But that's only part of the plan, you'll have to come there with me for the rest."

Two days later, we were on our way west to meet with Redham and whoever else he'd gathered to him.

Charybdis, the Mirdain capital city. While I had just passed through this territory recently, I never stopped to look around. It was a beautiful land, seemingly untouched by the war that ravaged the rest of Agon. The trees were massive, beyond anything I'd seen in Mercia. Vines wound around the buildings, which themselves seemed to grow out of the landscape. They were crafted with a sinuous grace that blended them into the surrounding flora. But the strangest thing was how old everything felt. The leaves were green, the branches supple, the buildings gleaming, yet it all seemed ancient, preserved perhaps. It was here that I found Piratejim again, sitting on the banks of the great river that ran through the city. Sitting with him, were three others. I recognized them as those who went on the trip to Yssam before the group fell apart. The raft crew.

The closest figure was the dwarf who called himself Llemon; he was polishing the two longknives that he usually fought with. Beside him was Pangalactic, the burgeoning fire wizard. And getting to his feet, was the recruit who joined up with the clan on Yssam before vanished into the forest to join Necessary Evil, Blarggy. He was different now, he looked much stronger, and his eyes sparked with energy, reflecting hard work with arcane powers. The change was large, and startling.

Piratejim had gotten to his feet too, though it wasn't him that spoke. Blarggy led things off. "Well we're all finally here, we can get down to the business at hand. I've been talking to Redham, and we've decided that the six of us should form an organized clan. If we pool our resources and all work together, we could become a force to be reckoned with. And, I've learned a few things with Necessary Evil that I'll be able to pass along. There it is short and sweet, so what do you say?"

Pub took the suddenness of the speech in stride and threw in his lot with the plan right away. I had to admit to myself, the idea made a lot of sense. I knew these folks, some of them quite well. I could depend on most of them. But still, I dug in my heels. I felt my decision had already been made for me, which rankled, so I tried to hash out a few more details before we sealed the deal.

A half hour later, all that was left to decide was the name. Pangalactic offered a solution "Well, the goal is, by the end of this, to be like a terrible force of nature, right? Why not use those old names we joked around with back when we were new to Agon? Team Stormfront, wind, thunder, lightning?" Llemon looked confused but Pub and I quietly laughing to ourselves, remembering the old joke.

"Ok, yes, that's perfect. If we ever build a name for ourselves I'll laugh every time our enemies use it, and no one else will get it."

"I don't get it" Llemon chimed it. "Doesn't really sound funny at all, actually."

Pub started chuckling again, "One of those 'you had to be there' things Llemon. I think the name sounds great. So, it's official then? Team Stormfront?"

I like to believe that we didn't all jump into the air and cheer. But that's a lie.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ul Tannek (Part 2)

The tension was palpable as I left. No one was bold enough to draw steel within the city, but as defenders and attackers declared their sides, tempers began to flare. I slipped out quietly an hour early hoping to escape the worst of the inevitable conflict.

I picked a random road and started to head East, knowing I should at least make towards Rubaiyat. I was lightly armed, hoping to avoid any fights on the way. But mere minutes of travel convinced me that that wasn't going to be possible. The countryside looked like a kicked anthill. Small groups of warriors were swarming in every direction. Some waved at one another, others clashed. There were people in robes, riding horses, riding bears, drakes; there were Mahirim, Alfar, Dwarves, every type of person imaginable. And none of them knew exactly where to go.

I left the road and took the wooded paths towards the beach. The few people that spotted me were too busy trying to figure out what to do to bother with me. Eventually I reached the coast, where I paused to wonder how I'd get across the water. Perhaps there'd be a raft to nab a ride from? Before I could make any decision, another human trotted out of the woods and onto the beach. Seeing me, he gave a smile and wandered closer.

"Glad to see another human all the way out here. What are you doing standing out on the beach by yourself? Not very safe." There was no threat in his tone.

I shrugged and said, "I have nothing worth taking. I was here to enlist for the caravan, but.. I'm not sure how to find it."

The man gave me a strange look. "Well half the folks around here are convinced it's leaving from the Great Pyramid across the sea." He paused, considering me. "But of course, they're headed to the wrong place."

I perked up. "You know where to find the caravan? How?"

The man smiled. "There are rumors going around everywhere. A clan called Dune currently holds position on top of the Pyramid. They're fighting off hundreds of other soldiers, all of them hell bent on looting the caravan when it emerges. Someone let slip that a powerful artifact from the Knights of Malregard is on board. Even more armies are marching home, believing the false tale that Dune has already destroyed and looted the caravan." He touched his nose and winked. "But I have a man named Ninogan on the with the caravan even now, sending me updates on its location. The Ul Tannek's are clever, probably planted a few rumors themselves. They sneaked by the carnage and are already on a ship bound for this very coast. Care to join us?"

I quickly agreed, this was my best shot to get close to the Ul Tanneks and figure out what they were up to. The man provided me with a drake and told me to follow close. We galloped off north along the course, racing to meet the caravan as it docked and continued on its way. It was tough going, and there were some dodgy parts where we ran into local beasts, but we made it to the beach just as the ship docked and the caravan was disembarking with its defenders.

The Ul Tanneks themselves waved as we joined the group. They were dressed differently from anyone else I'd seen on Agon, they wore dark bronze armor and had striped cloth draped over their heads, worn in the style of the old Pharaohs. I had expected a wooden wagon train, but instead the caravan was in the form of a massive steel hovering battle platform, a warhulk. This particular one was called The Battle Ark.

The Family announced that they'd be traveling northeast, towards the center of Agon. They'd be meeting some wealthy Ork merchants there, and the warriors that made sure they got there safely would get a grand reward. "An eternal reward", one of the Ul Tanneks sniggered.

The traveling was not quick going, the Ark was slow and ponderous, getting stuck on fences and rocks from time to time. The craft was loaded with defenders and more trailed behind on mounts. The surroundings remained quiet as we marched through the forests, but we were all alert and waiting for the first sign of attack. We had outriders scouting the perimeter, but so far there was nothing to find.

Our first skirmishes were small scale, local wildlife and that ilk. They fell swiftly to our numbers. The victories served to dull our paranoia, and boost our confidence.

Before long, many of the defenders had become relaxed. They openly chatted with the Family as if on a pleasant ride through the gardens. The Ul Tanneks were friendly enough, but something appeared to be bothering them. Now and again they'd stare out at the hills and then frown at one another. I tried to keep in mind why I was here, tried to remind myself that the Ul Tanneks were in league with an evil cult. The longer I stayed defending the caravan though, the more I lost sight of that.

Before long we received a report that the conflict at the Pyramid had concluded. Dune had realized the caravan was gone, and they were not pleased with the deception. They were making their way towards us with fury. This put everybody's hackles back up, and we tried to hurry the caravan along. But instead, the Ark seemed to slow down, weaving around and crashing into trees. I rode closer to the warhulk and saw that the driver was getting drunk with a few dwarves! I was about to dismount and storm into the Ark when the first enemies appeared.

Our outriders had warned us about some enemies spotted to the east. Most of our force charged off immediately in that direction, leaving the caravan exposed. The defenders were lost with blood lust. I couldn't even see the enemy supposedly attacking us, but there must have been someone. The man who recruited me back on the beach rode by and gave me some bone covered armor. "Here, wear this. You're going to get yourself killed if you stay in that chain. Be careful and stay sharp!" He rode off towards the hills where all the fireballs and spells were flying.

When he rode back there was some blood on him and he proudly declared the threat was dealt with.

More messages arrived, Dune was catching up. The caravan moved slower and slower. My worry grew. "Well never even make it out of this damn forest at this rate, much less make it across Agon!" one man shouted. Others grumbled and agreed. Other riders were putting their heads together trying to figure out which clans were in Dune and who to watch out for. It was difficult keeping track of who was a defender and attacker when most of us were just clustered together from various other clans. Suddenly, fire erupted from within the Ark. Someone screamed. "They're assassinating the Ul Tanneks!"

Healing spells were being poured into the driver's area of the Ark, fires were being put out, steel sang from within. In seconds, a name came out. "ANG tried to kill the driver!"

No one waited to see if the words were true. Every ANG member was culled immediately. It was a manhunt. Some tried to flee on mounts only to have them peppered with arrows and blasted out from under them. It was over in seconds, no living member of ANG remained with the caravan. The driver shakily thanked us for saving him, the other Ul Tanneks shared a worried look. Back then I assumed they were worried about possible traitors in the ranks, but I realize now what that shared look meant.

This process repeated a second time. Attackers in the hills were devastated by hundreds of spells almost as soon as they were spotted, and another assassination attempt was put down. This time members of Black Company screamed "They BEGGED us to stab them!" as they were being cut down. Dune got closer. The Ark got caught on another tree. People were shouting now "let me drive, come on!". More nervous looks between the Ul Tanneks.

Finally the driver stopped and the Family shouted for everyone to leave the Ark. They evacuated all the defenders and then stepped out themselves.

"Defenders, gather around me." The Ul Tannek family leader stood tall, surrounded by hundreds of warriors. "I think it's past time that you all find out what you've been guarding." He held up a sheathed greatsword, and slowly, unveiled it.

I was shocked, the sword they held was Lightbringer! This must have been the artifact stolen from the Knights of Malregard, their ancestral treasure. Someone was going to pay dearly for taking this. There was no other blade of its kind in all of Agon, and here it was, mere feet away from me.

OOC:Lightbringer behind held by a dwarf

I lost myself in fantasies of prising the sword from a lifeless hand, using it to cut my way to freedom, winning glory with that blade..the booming voice of the Ul Tannek patriarch cut my daydream short.

"You defended us well friends, too well I fear! The God, the Red Pharaoh demanded BLOOD! You prevented battle at every turn! But no more, our god will be appeased! And now, for your prize. THE REWARD IS ON OUR BODIES! WE WILL SACRIFICE OUR LIVES TO THE PHARAO! THE STRONGEST MAY GET THEM! ATTACK!"

The world went mad. The cluster of soldiers surrounding the Family erupted into fire and chaos. Bodies, whole and in pieces, flew through the air as walls of fire erupted from the Ul Tanneks. The Family was screaming and laughing as men and women crisped and burned before their eyes. The shaky alliance of the defenders was shattered, blades and staves came out. Horses and drakes sprinted in different directions, swords cut into backs, spells sapped life energy, everywhere people died. I booted my drake and tore off for the woods.

It made sense now. All the stalling, all the worried glances, the "assassinations". The Ul Tanneks never wanted to reach the Orks. Chaos was everywhere, and I needed to escape, to warn someone about the Ul Tanneks as soon as I could. An arrow caught my mount behind the head and it went down in a heap. I kept sprinting and hopped onto a riderless horse, getting a bit closer to the woods. I chopped awkwardly down on an Ork as I rode by, clearing a path for myself. I didn't make it far, a barrage of fireballs made my mount rear, sending me tumbling down to the earth. I rolled and came down next to a body. I paused to grab the expensive looking sword from the dead mahirim, spinning to defend myself. I turned only in time to see an axe come down on my face.

Darkness took me.

OOC: This has been, to date, my favorite Darkfall event. The week long buildup, with the vague in character posts by liaisons, the in game quests and GMs playing as NPCs and roleplaying with the players really pulled me into the fun. I kept up with the rumors flying around the forums all week. Some players made in character posts about their interactions with the GMs, and the quests that they were sent out on (one of which was the theft of Lightbringer from the Knights of Malregard). What's more, these quests were reflected in the game world, albeit in a small way. The theft of the sword is referenced in a few quest texts in specific cities for various factions in Darkfall even to this day.

The day of the event though, was endless drama, which is good, and bad. Not everyone shared my enthusiasm for the dynamic event. It was unpredictable and vague, and largely changed based on what the players did, as a dynamic event should. The devs thought that the caravan would die within minutes, but the defenders, shockingly managed to fight off the small attack groups, while the main attack group was left wandering confused in Rubaiyat, having fallen for one of the false rumors. Some people never found the event, others complained that all the gear they lost wasn't worth the PvP. (those particular people who are more concerned with min maxing than having fun, I just do not understand.)

There was roleplaying around the Ark, people getting along without slaughtering one another for once, cooperation between enemy clans, some decent PvP, and a fantastic FFA bloodbath with high stakes loot. I loved the lore, the mystery, and the GM interaction. AV has, sadly, largely dropped the Ul Tannek plot line. Whether they're waiting for 2.0 to continue it, or if the "end of the world" event they hinted at will tie into it, I don't know. I just wish we'd get more events like this. It's far too easy to make a quick little "Meet here at x for a chance to win y". That's not memorable. While that's certainly not bad, I hope they continue with some of the more elaborate dynamic events, like this one. It's fine if not everyone knows what's going on, it's part of the fun!

For anyone interested in reading more about the first Darkfall event, there's the following links:

The forum thread that people posted in while the event happened. The Dune propagated rumor that the caravan was already down starts on page 18ish. Link

Here is a fan video from Ninogan depicting the adventure.(finally, a video set to good music too) Link

And lastly, the official Aventurine video for the event. And here