From The Black Logs, Sixth Electoral Wars vol. 1, of The Iron Lightnings
It is surprising to me to have started the Black Log for this war so early. Yet when the Old Man came out of the tent when he debriefed the team that he sent to Bluetspur, he immediately sent me in and told me to start the Black Log, and it wasn’t anything so informal as a request. I’ve run with the Old Man for a long time, and I cannot easily recall seeing him so deeply troubled as I did that day.
We were moving towards Amarnaia, intending to reinforce Viscount Casatade at the fortress city of Caspietir against a possible invasion out of Panorcum. We had established a supply depot in Bluetspur months earlier, a barter arrangement which was mutually beneficial. The town gained a very motivated and well trained guard force while the company gained a safe place to store enough arms and supplies to keep the entire outfit fed for weeks and armed a couple of times over. It would have been safely in the rear and would have made a perfect location to recruit, train, and build up from. Kelemvor had hired Rincmar ha’Cavrm, an old friend of his from the Deep Kingdoms, to serve as head engineer to harden the depot and lay the groundwork for a training barracks. He sent Salty, Quicksilver, Rumpot, Rache, and Vermin (now called Ghoul) to accompany Rincmar and maybe get a little experience on detached duty.
I know there has been speculation, and likely will be speculation for as long as the principals involved are alive, about what happened to knock out that bridge. As near as anybody can tell, it was an act of the Divines, or just dumb luck. Whatever the circumstances, the band needed to detour through a copse held by wildren. It was probably the roughest five miles they ever had to ride, and from what they told me, it was hardest on Rumpot, being dragged almost half a mile while Quicksilver hauled him up without getting him trampled by his horse or hers. The way they told it to me, they seemed to cross some boundary that the wildren had established as a point of no return for them. Whether the spot was simply taboo or if there was a genuine reason they avoided the area, none but the wildren can say. Whatever the reason, it likely saved the lives of the band in more ways than one.
As I write this, a platoon of troops is already at the site of the mound, making a detailed copy of the fresco that sat along the south wall, as well as sketches of the mound’s interior, rubbings of the ins. A temporary bridge was erected to expedite movement without risking fresh exposure to the wildren, and once they return, the temporary bridge and the old bridge will be torn down. There’s nothing left to go to that can’t be reached by other directions if so desired. Here at camp, the company antiquarians are working to translate the scroll recovered from the mound and making detailed sketches of the bow, on the premise that Quicksilver will retain possession of the weapon. Divines know she’s earned it.
I know as I’m avoiding the recording of the events in Bluetspur, based upon my notes from the debriefings and my own journey to the site, if only because the horror is still enough to shake my composure. Seeing that doomed town, hearing the stories, it’s enough to give even the strongest of souls nightmares.
Once the band had recovered the black bow, they resumed their journey to Bluetspur, the detour delaying them a few hours. As they rode towards the town, they saw smoke rising up. The smoke was months of logistical preparation set aflame, the entire depot put to the torch. I distinctly recall Ghoul telling me how unnerving it was coming into town, how disturbingly quiet. They walked into the aftermath of a slaughter. None of them were strangers to blood or bodies, but it was the totality of it, the unchecked carnage that spoke not to the crush of battle but the deliberate mass murder of civilian and soldier alike, that was what disturbed them so deeply. More worryingly was the fact that there seemed to be no sign of the attackers, no bodies bearing any strange uniforms, no obvious tracks, not even arrows to go with the bodies of those who’d clearly been shot through. Though the number of troops involved was pitifully small, even compared to battles such as Skadoline Bridge, it appeared to be the single bloodiest defeat the Iron Lightnings had ever suffered. There apparently wasn’t a single living creature to be found in the entire town.
Appearances, however, can be deceiving. As it turned out, somebody had sent out a patrol some days earlier, a patrol who’d already been on their way back when they saw the smoke rising into the sky. Quicksilver met them outside the livery at the southern edge of town and verified their bona fides, then escorted them back into town, letting them see the carnage they had blessedly avoided. Meanwhile, Rache and Rincmar discovered the only two survivors, a teenaged girl and her grandfather, hiding in a simple temple dedicated to The Moon. Salty and Rumpot, meanwhile, had been examining the town hall, seeing if perhaps the invaders had managed to enter the town through tunnels or burrows. While they found the town’s records stored in a natural cavern under the hall, they found no evidence of subterranean attack routes.
Quicksilver described the bulk of what happened next. There was screaming from the temple, sounds of terror, sounds of men dying. She was the first to reach the temple. The patrol leader, Tambalyn, was crumpled in the corner, bleeding badly. The girl, Sahren, was shrieking as one of the riders was being crushed in the grip of . . .
How to describe the enemy? It wasn’t human, clearly, and likely wasn’t anything born of nature in this world. From head to toe, it stood about eight feet in height. It had two legs, but four arms, and in each one it carried some sort of weapon, though as Quicksilver described it, one of those hands was busy crushing a man’s neck to the point where the head popped off. The creature seemed reptilian in some regards, insect-like in others. The head, particularly, held lower mandibles that seemed to split and spread out, chitinous but connected with some sort of scaly skin. The body seemed to covered in plates of chitin growing out of skin, knobbed and spiky, a living breastplate almost. The hands were clearly clawed, much like a reptile, but the feet seemed to be that strange combination of insect and reptile, shell and scale.
Quicksilver proved just how much of a credit to the Lightnings she is when she took the black bow and opened fire with it. With a normal arrow or quarrel, I would have expected only expertly placed shots to penetrate the creature’s hide, but the black bow was clearly made to combat this monstrosity. Salty had been hot on Quicksilver’s heels running to the temple, but his usual skill with the polearm seemed to have deserted him for the moment. Quicksilver managed to get another shot off, but it was Rache that landed the killing blow.
The elation of defeating the abomination was short lived. Whatever it was, it had clearly brought friends . . .