Chapter I. Plotting the Insurrection
Tired from the battle with Garkuna and the Statue of Sotek, but elated at recovering many of their magic items, the legionnaires returned to their hideout at the abandoned Videssian observatory to find Captain Gelben Fisk waiting for them.
Gelben explained that he successfully made contact with Lord Caernarvon, the new Nuadan Marshal of Itzapan, using Lieutenant Tirol’s speaking stone. Caernarvon confirmed that Baron Balar Warwick of Kenilworth, Southold’s Governor of Aztaltica, intended to disband the Silver Legion, and had already imprisoned Cordell, Hieronymous and even Drill Sergeant Pelfry in Fort Warwick. Furthermore, Caernarvon was dismayed at Baron Warwick’s poor leadership of the Southron forces in the face of the gathering Saurian threat, and furious at the rough treatment of the natives that was turning allies to enemies. But even though he suspected Inquisitor Thalargos of Tempurian heresy, and by association Warwick, he could not move against the Baron immediately.
Caernarvon claimed that to challenge Warwick, he needed time to muster his political allies in Nuada’s Port, and that the legionnaires must also demonstrate to all the weakness of Warwick’s leadership. Finally, he asked the band to also prepare a fighting force capable of stopping the Saurian threat. To this end, Caernarvon suggested they seek alliances against the Saurians with the remaining native nations, and especially with the mountainous nation of Huatepec, which appeared to be abandoning its traditional policy of neutrality. With that secured, the band could return to the Silver Legion and lead a revolt against General Alfred and the other men that Warwick has installed as leaders.
Misunderstanding Lord Caernarvon’s instructions, Kincade sneaked into the camp to speak with Lieutenant Tirol, who quickly clarified that Caernarvon was not yet ready for the band to lead the Legion in revolt. With that clarified, Dmitry flew off to seek an alliance with the former Zlatan client state of Atlan, and Garrant remained hidden in the Legion to scout out the morale of the men and the allegiances of each unit while the rest of the band set out north across the plains of Zlatan toward the mountain pass into Huatepec, about 100 miles away.
Enroute, they were promptly spotted and tracked by high-flying skink terradon riders. The afternoon of the second day of travel, a combined air and land force of Saurians attacked, led by a viperhand tattooed jaguar knight. As terradon riders swooped on the legionnaires out of the sun, Moe blasted several to earth with a Fireball, and Huitli used her animal persuasion powers to scare away the remaining terradons, their skink riders tugging uselessly at the reins. Meanwhile, Vogon cut to pieces the jaguar knight leader while the rest of the band finished off the rest of the attackers.
Seeking to save time by avoiding future encounters, Terwyn concealed the legionnaires with his Mass Camouflage spell as they headed north in the shadows of eastern mountains. Crossing the border into Huatepec, the adventurers avoided the town of Chalco. As they neared the capital city itself, however, the legionnaires revealed themselves to a large patrol of jaguar and eagle knights. Hostile but not aggressive, the patrol led the party into the capital city and installed them in gated compound at the base of the path to the Royal Gorge.
Chapter II. Back to Huatepec
That evening, the legionnaires were visited by Prince Pacal, disguised as a servant bringing them food and drink. Pacal had many months earlier conspired with the Legion to assassinate his Sotek-leaning brother Haramel, but the act had failed to win Huatepec’s alliance. The prince asked after General Cordell and the Silver Legion, explaining that he had sent a messenger (which the party never met) when his father, Revered Counselor Takamal, sent emissaries to various other powers to seek an alliance. Pacal explained that after the Night of Tears and Zlatan’s destruction his father saw the power of the Saurians, and understood that Huatepec must seek outside alliances to withstand El Saurim. And though the emissaries to Itzapan and Baron Warwick had been rebuffed, a group of merchants from the Old World, Iron Leaguers, had arrived and ingratiated their way into the capital city. Though they had found favour with High Priest Palna of Tezca, and apparently with Counselor Takamal, Prince Pacal distrusted them. He wished the legionnaires successful negotiations, instructing them not to reveal his visit to his father.
The band waited a day and a half, with only a brief alarm from a flying invisible spy that Lieutenant Sett astoundingly detected and ambushed on the rooftop. Though the spy flew off unharmed, Sett still heard a rough curse of surprise in a foreign language. He was able to repeat it with enough accuracy to the rest of the band for them to recognise it as Cortalish – a mystery indeed why anybody in Aztaltica would speak Cortalish!
The following morning the legionnaires were led unarmed into the chambers of the frail and elderly Revered Counselor Takamal, though Vogon, Sett, and Terwyn remained in the dressing room with the party’s weapons. The irascible old Takamal was not happy to see the band, explaining that they had caused him grief when they slew Palna’s Tezca beast on a previous visit, and that some of his advisors suspected them of involvement in Prince Haramal’s murder. But he acknowledged the Saurian threat, recognising that his 40-year policy of armed neutrality would not protect the kingdom if all around him succumbed to the lizard creatures. After quizzing the officers extensively about Southron politics and the status of the Silver Legion, Takamal and the Legion negotiated a tentative agreement. The band promised to supply a dozen dozen (144) steel weapons and armour, to teach Huatepec the secret of metalworking, and to assist in building a forge to equip the entire Huatepec army; to assist in seeking iron ore in the Huatepec mountains; and to provide horsebreeding stock and training in rearing the animals. Finally, they also promised the assistance of the Silver Legion in defending Huatepec against Saurian or Southron invaders, though they refused to assign a Legion wizard to Huatepec to teach them arcane magic (despite Takamal’s attempt to purchase Moe from the legionnaires for his weight in gold). In return, Takamal pledged to send an expeditionary army to assist the Legion against Saurians or Southrons, and to allow the passage of the Legion through Huatepec.
As Takamal was concluding, a secret door at the back of his chambers burst open and two of “merchants” stepped out, revealing themselves as Cortals. Meanwhile, a mixed force of Cortalish “caravan guards” and Tezca guards attacked through the front door.
Thinking quickly, Dornar immediately rushed and grappled the unarmed merchant, stopping Fire Wizard Anton Bogdanovich from getting off a spell. Though the plamyasoldati leader, a powerful fighter wielding a magical two handed sword, beat at Dornar repeatedly, he maintained his grip on the fire wizard as Takamal made his slow and arthritic way to the exit (with feather token healing from Kincade keeping Dornar alive). Meanwhile, Vogon and the rogues, assisted by Terwyn and Huitli, bottled up the attackers at the main entrance. Vogon made short work of a dual shortsword wielding Cortal who tumbled in for a sneak attack, while Gilgareth and Sett attacked High Priest Palna of Tezca, and a Cortalish priest of Bane. Back in the throne room, Dornar fiercely intimidated the fire wizard into surrendering, aided by a successful Blindness spell from Gelben. Once released, however, the fire wizard attempted to resume the attack, then escape – but a Web spell from Moe blocked his escape, enabling the legionnaires to capture him alive. As the legionnaires slew the priests at the front entrance, royal guards arrived to finish off the rest of the would-be assassins, and slew the remaining Cortals that remained in the guest quarters.
Takamal and Pacal emerged to thank the legionnaires, surmising that the Cortals were probably behind the assassination of Haramal as well. Dornar and Gelben interrogated the terrified fire wizard, discovering that the Cortals possessed a route through the Hellstorm, and that the fire wizard’s mission was to establish a beachhead in Aztaltica to receive additional shiploads of reinforcements. The Cortalish Empire evidently intended to extend the conflict in Arik to Aztaltica. Having finished the interrogation, Gelben and Dornar turned the fire wizard over to the Huatepec for justice. Meanwhile, Moe traded the location of the meteorite iron deposit in Arsinium (infested by the fierce monsters known only as “Screams” when the band was last there) for the use of the fire wizard spellbooks, which he found frustratingly unable to decipher. However, he did find several spell scrolls amidst the wizard’s papers.
Chapter III. Winning the Legion Back
Arriving back at the Videssian observatory, the band found a frantic Garrant waiting for them. He relayed that General Alfred intended to announce the disbanding of the Legion on the very next day, so they needed to lead the revolt that very night! He reminded them, however, of the need to minimise Southron bloodshed to retain the moral high ground and to comply with Lord Caernarvon’s orders.
Quickly making a battle plan, the band made their way around the large force of Saurians (about 1,500) arrayed outside Gemnia Pass, and infiltrated the Legion shortly into the second watch. Sett and Kincade disabled two sentries, which Huitli and Gilgareth replaced, while the rest of the legionnaires snuck through the lines and hid amongst the tents. After binding and gagging the unconscious sentries, the band split up to visit key Legion leaders, agreeing to arrange the revolt at the start of the third watch, when the band would reassemble to attack the central tower where Alfred and his key men were holed up.
The legionnaires cleverly co-opted almost all the leadership of the Legion to the revolt. While Garrant made for the baggage train to meet up with Armorer-Captain Gruthenal, Gelben quickly rallied the Silver Legion (amidst hushed whispers of “Saint Gelben is returned”), and Sett rallied the Silver Raiders. Gilgareth and Huitli were welcomed by the dejected Tazumal Recruits (though they still await their new uniforms). They also arranged for the sadistic Captain Guerrerro, leader of the Tazumal Irregulars and one of the few Legion leaders to willingly join General Alfred, to be summoned to the central tower at the start of the third watch. This would prevent the Irregulars from being led against the Legion, and stop the nightmare scenario of Legionnaire fighting Legionnaire in pitched battle. Similarly, Kincade arranged for Captain Arkady, one of Warwick’s men installed to lead the Dunthrane Halberdiers, to be summoned to the tower at a prearranged signal. Finally, Dornar and Terwyn, assisted by Sett, restored Captain Daggrande to command of his dwarven crossbowmen and quietly subdued the replacement Captain Lee in his quarters. (An astounded Daggrande quizzed Dornar for several minutes on his clan, trying to trace the ancestry of the Aztaltican dwarves back to the dwarven clans of Arik.) Moe and Vogon, meanwhile, convinced Captain Romnor to the join the revolt by promising him the Generalship until Cordell could be rescued.
An excited buzz began to spread through the camp, accompanied by the muffled clink of armor being donned, and the whispers of men plotting revolt. Meanwhile, the Special Missions Unit assembled outside the old Videssian tower in the centre of the camp.
First to be attacked as he approached the tower was Captain Guerrerro, who was Held by a spell from Gelben. A Charm Person by Huitli and some fast-talking by a disguised Gelben convinced the door guards to help carry away the “suddenly ill” Guerrerro. Huitli then snuck into the main guard chamber on the ground floor and Enthralled the guards there, telling them an endless tale that prevented them from taking action. When Captain Arkady rounded the side of the tower, an apparently-riderless horse rushed toward him (with Kincade clinging hidden to its side), being chased by the Silver Raider from whom it had “broken free”. As Captain Arkady moved to restrain the horse, Kincade sapped him over the head. Though reeling from the blow, Arkady was still able to raise the alarm. At the sound of battle, Vogon, with Gilgareth clinging to his legs, flew up to the roof, while Moe silently swooped in on a summoned giant owl and Sett scrambled up the side of the tower.
Vogon, Gilgareth and Sett quickly subdued the roof guards and ballista crew, then descended the spiral stairs to a floor with doors from which several guards exited. Sett cleverly disabled a wizard with a single dart, but then was beat down and nearly slain when he attempted to sap what turned out to be General Alfred. Meanwhile, Vogon slew one of Moe’s summoned animals that had attacked him, then subdued one of Warwick’s captains while Moe Lightning Bolted other attackers, inadvertently slaying a priest of Nuada.
On the second floor, Terwyn faced off with a dozen guards who were clambering out of bed. Thinking quickly, he Warded the stairway to prevent the guards from exiting their bedroom. Unfortunately, a lucky hit from one of the guards that resisted the spell ended the effect. Terwyn then used one of his seeker arrows to slay one of the advancing guards with a single shot, promising a similar quick death to the others if they advanced, and thus intimidating them into standing their ground.
Meanwhile, a growing din could be heard outside as the Legion awoke in revolt. Shouts of “Silver Legion” and “General Romnor” began to penetrate the sounds of battle.
In the basement, Dornar discovered Karsin, a disciple of Thalargos’ and the Legion’s new Chaplain. As Dornar and Kincade closed with Chaplain Karsin, he blasted them with a Flamestrike then Held the dwarf. However, Gelben removed the effect just as a pair of guards rushed up to administer a coup de grace, and Dornar knocked them both flat with a single swipe from the flat of his axe. Gelben and Karsin, meanwhile, exchanged accusations of heresy and threats of excommunication, each growing more shrill by the moment.
Back on the third floor, Vogon faced off against General Alfred, now entirely stripped of his magical defenses by a lucky Dispel Magic from Moe. The now-raging Vogon knocked the General unconscious and nearly dead, though a last-second feather token heal from Gilgareth saved the General from death.
As the battle in the tower reached its climax, Romnor called from outside to General Albert and Chaplain Karsin to cease resisting. The entire Legion was formed up in ranks outside the tower, with Romnor and his Wildcats mounted and in gleaming full armour at the head. The disgruntled Nuadan Irregulars, without Guerrerro, had made no attempt to resist the uprising, and the other units were glad to see the Legion restored to proper leadership. As Warwick’s men dejectedly surrendered, Romnor ordered them imprisoned for later fair trial, with their belongings temporarily requisitioned to the Legion. Thanking the Special Missions Unit for their heroic rescue, Romnor stood the Legion down for the rest of the night, but called for a council of war in the morning. Amidst shouts of “Saint Gelben”, Romnor appointed Captain Gelben as Chaplain to the Silver Legion and suggested he search Karsin’s papers for evidence of Tempurian heresy, and Raise the two men who had been accidentally slain in the fighting.
With the night air still ringing from the chants of “General Romnor,” “Silver Legion” and “Saint Gelben”, the Special Missions Unit was welcomed back to the Legion and to their units.
Chapter IV. Celebration and Deliberation
After the successful coup at Gemnia Pass, the legionnaires, confronted with the first good news they had received in weeks, seized upon the occasion to erupt in wild celebration. The new leadership of the Legion – recognizing that this was an opportunity to build morale – permitted the debauchery to proceed and only delegated high-ranking officers to stand sentinel at the wall between the camp and the horde of Saurians outside.
During this night of revelry several members of the Special Missions Unit found themselves together, depleting a tent of its stores of alcohol: KinCade, becoming prodigiously drunk on the human-sized portions of wine; Dmitry, who displayed a fine singing voice as he joined KinCade on a chorus of a bawdy song; Huitlipocoatl, who complained about the poor quality of the alcohol, openly wished for mezcal as a substitute, yet was not backward in her consumption; and Moe, displaying a rare jovial mood that likely owed to the amount of hard liquor in his veins. The four legionnaires debated for some time whether the proper course for the Legion was to remain in Aztaltica or return to Arik to fight the Cortals. The three outlanders agreed the first necessity was to rescue Cordell, Hieronymous, and Pelfrey from their imprisonment at Port Nuada. Huitley indicated her general agreement that ultimately the Legion should leave her land, but objected to the idea that the Legion might leave before taking care of the “mess you created” by releasing the Saurians and otherwise disrupting the Aztaltican balance of power. Moe and KinCade observed that the records they had seen showed that the Saurians took over Aztaltica every thousand years or so, and it was often visitors from Arik who liberated Aztaltica from Saurian rule – as Moe observed, “This time we just got here a few months early.” There was also some general discussion of the plan to impart to the Aztalticans the lore of ironworking and otherwise improve the natives’ lot, but no firm decisions were reached.
During the conversation the four Special Missions Unit members had grabbed flasks or bottles of whatever beverage they preferred (or could stomach) and gone walking among the rows of tents. KinCade noted a shadow slip furtively from outside the camp perimeter in to hide behind a wagon, and he casually steered the group around to get a better look. Notwithstanding the perimeter torches, it was difficult to make out the form of the intruder, but it proved to be a medium-sized dog, one of the native species they had on rare occasions spied during marches through the Aztaltican jungles. None had as yet showed up near the Gemnia Pass encampment and the legionnaires thought the appearance of the creature there to be odd. They followed the beast as it again left the campsite and, evidently aware of their pursuit, climbed the side of the pass – pausing now and again to mark their approach. Dmitry questioned pursuing the dog, but KinCade said he thought it might be an emissary from Arkane. He was proved right in his guess as they caught up to the dog on a ledge shielded from the sight of the camp and found the dog wore a collar with a badge bearing a stylized “A” in a Southron script. KinCade began to search for evidence of a message carried by the dog, when abruptly it reared up, placed its forepaws against his shoulders, and began to speak:
“Hi there! My name is Ranger. I have just met you and I love you. He who gave me the ability to speak bade me provide you with information and advice as token of the fondness he bears for you. You know him as Arkane.”
There ensued a lengthy conversation between the legionnaires and Ranger, who proved to be anxious to please, somewhat easily distracted, and constantly interested in anything the legionnaires had to eat. In response to the legionnaires’ questions, he told them that Cordell, Hieronymous, and Pelfrey were still imprisoned at Nuada’s Port; that Arkane congratulated them on their accomplishment of the near-bloodless coup; that Ontor and Ria were with Arkane, and sent their greetings; that many of the works of the Southrons were being reclaimed by nature at a supernatural speed, due to the encouragement of Arkane and the druids; that a squad of Huatepec were now moving toward Arsinum (Dmitry wondered if Moe had warned the Huatepec about the Screams, and Moe confirmed that he had); that more Cortalish ships had been spotted skirting the west coast of Aztaltica, but their destination was unknown; that many of the Saurians spread over Aztaltica had disappeared, possibly killed but more likely having retreated to “hideholes” to await their next initiative; and that the way to Nuada’s Port from Gemnia Pass “looked clear.” He was unable to tell them where Arkane was, as he had not seen Arkane for many months and was supposed to deliver confirmation of accomplishment of his mission by relating it to the birds of the air. When their palaver finished, the dog melted off into the darkness after begging a few more treats. The legionnaires took to their beds.
The next day Dmitry finally outlined the results of his mission some days earlier to Atlan. He had met with the Revered Counselor of the Atlan, one Cuithahuoc, who proved a shortsighted and somewhat xenophobic leader. Cuithahuoc refused to be swayed by Dmitry’s eloquent encouragement to join the other peoples of Aztaltica in common resistance against the Saurians. Instead, he insisted that the problems of the other tribes were not Atlan’s problems, and he had enough to contend with in his own land. (Giving some truth to his words, a rival warlord named Tizoc was apparently approaching the capital of Atlan even then to lay siege to it.) Dmitry laid out in compelling fashion the wisdom of Atlan joining in the general defense, but stumbled badly when he tried to impress the Revered Counselor by shooting a fireball out through an opening in the Atlan hall’s roof. Cuithahuoc masked his fear of the strong magic with indignation, ordering Dmitry to return to the quarters arranged for him and to stay there until it was time to leave.
Dmitry then described how, that night, he was covertly visited by a delegation of priests of Qotal led by one Mecatl, who proved far more reasonable than Cuithahuoc. They pledged to aid the common cause against the Saurians and instructed Dmitry that messages might be addressed to them in packages bound in white linen and tied with blue ribbon – which by solemn tradition could be delivered to and opened by only the priesthood of Qotal. Dmitry thus left the next morning with a sense of having accomplished some good in Atlan.
When Dmitry finished relating the story of his mission, he, Huitley, and KinCade went to observe Moe deliver an address to the other arcane casters of the Silver Legion. Before an impromptu stage with a makeshift dais had assembled the other wizards and sorcerors of the Legion, which was to say about twenty men and three women who had calluses from wielding swords. Moe appeared from a nearby tent, picking his dour way to the stage with a staff for a walking-stick. The arcane casters of the Legion watched quietly as he took his place before the rough podium; it could as easily have been morbid curiosity as respect. Moe cast a frowning eye across his audience and began:
“You are the Legion’s soldiers arcana. When first we reached the shores of Aztaltica, we were the sole wielders of arcane magic in this land: high mages and sorcerors supreme.
“Some say we have lost hold of our glory, but they are wrong.
“They point to the loss of Lady Ailea and say we have lost our greatest mage. But they are wrong. I reach even now with the hands of my intellect for the power Lady Ailea held, and I will have it. And I will be the Legion’s greatest mage.
“They talk of the Legion trapped in a narrow pass with enemies beyond that wall. But they are wrong. We are not the Saurians’ prisoners; they are our prey. We will reach forth with hands of flame and force to sweep them from our path. And we will roam the lands of Aztaltica unfettered.
“They say others have come fromt he shores of Arik, taking our place as the strongest arcane casters here. But they are wrong. We will seize them with hands of skill and power and throw them from our throne. And we WILL. Be the PREEMINENT ARCANE CASTERS. In AZTALTICA!
“I will make of you wizards and sorcerors who shall have no rivals. When the legends of Aztaltica are told to children, they will shiver to hear of the dreaded battle mages of the Silver Legion!
” Moe paused then, and his voice pitched lower. “I will instruct you in the ways of higher magic. You will become nostalgic for the carefree, easy days of basic training. I will test you in ways that you will think unfair, demeaning...and even illegal. And much of the time you’ll be right.
Moe gathered the notes of his speech and began to walk from the stage, but he turned to fire some last sardonic words to his new apprentices. “Your lessons begin tomorrow, half an hour after sunrise,” he said with acid humor.
“Wear a cup.”
The halt half-elf descended from the stage and disappeared within the folds of his tent. In his wake, KinCade observed that Moe had gone somewhat “off the rails,” prompting puzzlement from his companions, since railroads were still many centuries from being invented.
Later that day Huitley took time aside to speak with an Itzapani who had been liberated from the Saurians’ dungeons, an elderly woman named Kutucahecla. The woman proved unable to provide any information concerning the fate of Huitley’s village, but spoke of the unrest that had been created among the Itzapani youth as a result of the coming of the Southrons. It seemed this development had polarized the young Itzapani, with some defying their elders and embracing the ways of the new and powerful arrivals, while others took a reactionary turn, insisting there be no deviation from Itzapani traditions and secretly endorsing the expulsion of the outlanders. Kutucahecla observed, however, that as long as they were trapped in the Pass, the presence of the Saurians afforded a common enemy which tended to ameliorate the tensions between the two camps. Huitley pressed Kutucahecla for the best way to improve the conditions of the Aztalticans in the Gemnia Pass campsite, but Kutucahecla drily observed that the eradication of the besieging Saurians was the first priority for all. Having to be satisfied with that, Huitley joined Kutucahecla to savor some of the Legion’s “fire water” which she had derided only the night before.
And so units were reorganized in the campsite, and an advance unit of Huatepec arrived and came into a modicum of tension with the Itzapani already there, and provisions were mustered and arranged, and Romnor was accepted as general with the unspoken understanding that he would enjoy support for so long as the plan was to rescue Cordell. Beyond the wall, scales and claws and fangs mingled in a seething mass, waiting to wash forward in a wave and fill the pass with blood and pain.
Go to next section of the Log, Book VI: Insurrection!