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I doubt that very much. - Needle on the likelihood of Scott's capture



Date Uncertain

    The revolution must continue. Having even this record is something of a risk, should these coded notes fall into the Wolf-Queen's hands, but I have determined to continue them; if we fail in our course, they may prove useful to those who will come after us. For there will be others.
    Gretchen St. John, Daemon-Queen, Wolf-Queen, ruler of the world, or at least those parts that matter, her domain stretching from the foreboding western wood to the icy plains of the north, the mysterious Sunrise Sea to the coastal republics of the south. Each of these others have their own rulers and powers, but none can stand against her, and she constantly seeks to expand her empire. There are those who say that she has an angel bound in her tower, the angel created by Da'an Sun-God and Sutha Lord of the Dead to seek her downfall.
    We know this to be true.
    For a year now we four have operated within her lands, her city, at times even in the shadow of her ancient tower, whose name in an old tongue means caution and foresight. We are four: myself, one of the ten daughters of the storm; Scott, a golem of quicksilver created by artifice beyond most imaginations; Phoenix Talon, monk of Da'an, once in Gretchen's power, and failed guardian of the bound angel; and the sorcerer called Thunderbolt.
    Our harrying has finally had the desired effect; she has drawn some of her forces back to her capital, buying time for the beleaguered cities of the south. Leaving Phoenix Talon's oath-sworn comrades to continue the work there, led by a trio of aged thieves and warriors, we have slipped past her spies and are on our way to the Sign of the Black Whip, there to meet with an agent of the Minotaur, most powerful of those governors she has displaced from the Western Woods. It is our hope that we can enlist him and the others in an assault on her weakened armies, but we must strike soon and in concert if we are to have any hope of success.
    It was raining heavily that night in the late autumn as we approached the Black Whip in Ithica, and we were glad to reach the place. Thunderbolt was away to the south, keeping our allies in Harborview apprised of events and leaving the three of us to make our rendezvous with the Minotaur's mysterious agent. Phoenix Talon was brooding on his failure as usual, but we were used to his silence.
    The inn was quite large, a converted manor house it seems, under the shadow of the citadel of wizards on the hill--they bow with great care to Gretchen, of course. We entered and shook off some of the wet, looked around. In one corner, as arranged, was an old man wearing the shabby robes of a member of the college and carrying a staff.
    "Ah, weary travelers! What can we get for you? Would you care for something to drink, good sir?" the keeper asked Scott, coming forward.
    "No thank you. Just a seat by the fire," the golem replied, careful to keep his face in shadow.
    "Right over here," he bowed. "And you sir, ma'am?"
    "Ale please."
    "I would like a plain cider, please," Talon requested softly.
    "Ah, worried about making it up to your room later tonight, eh? Must have been a wearying day on the road. So tell me, where are you from?" he asked, showing us to a table.
    "We are from the south, " Talon told him.
    "Good farm country down there." He seemed oblivious to the veiled threat in Talon's tone.
    "Quite. Very pretty territory."
    The keeper eventually left us alone, and we relaxed a bit and looked around as the conversation around us picked up again. We gathered that people were surprised by Gretchen's recent withdrawal of her forces; some of those around us were off-duty troops. None of her elite guard, of course, those are all wolf-men (gnolls). Her secret police are lycanthropes, so of course we wouldn't know if any of them were present.
    Scott left the hood of his cloak up--he stands out a bit, even in his most human form. So did I, as there are not many elves in this part of the land, outside of the college of wizardry, and that was not a connection I wanted anyone assuming. Phoenix Talon left his up because he thought it would be odd if he was the only one who didn't.
    The friendly keeper came by with our drinks. "Have some wonderful squabs roasting, would you care for some? Specially after a long day on the road, riding up from the south."
    "Is there any porridge or beans?" Talon asked. "Bread, perhaps?"
    "Beans, eh?" The keeper laughed. "We can do some beans."
    "Squab sounds delightful," I said. "Thank you."
    Scott, of course, did not order anything.
    "Excellent." He went off and came back in a short while with our food. "All the way from the capital city, the best!" he added in reference to the beans. Outside thunder rolled, and the wind picked up.
    Scott ventured over toward what we hoped was our contact.
    The man was smoking a pipe, and there was a mug of ale before him. "And who are you, stranger?" he asked softly.
    "Mind if I pull up a chair?"
    "You do not look as if you are the type of person who has ridden from the south."
    "I don't look like someone who's ridden much of anywhere, really," Scott replied honestly; there is no natural-born animal that could have supported his weight.
    "If you are not one who has ridden anywhere, perhaps I could check your palm to see what your future holds, 'less it has already been crossed with silver?"
    That would do for a sign, Scott supposed and held out a hand, showing the metallic "skin" between glove and sleeve.
    "It is as I suspected. Good," the old man said. "How many of your forces come with you?"
    "Two others."
    "Do you have a proposal?"
    "Now that she has drawn back to her city, it is time to strike."
    The old man nodded. "The Minotaur had expected as much. I have a... request from him, and if you can fulfill it, he will have troops ready."
    "What does he require?"
    "There is a tower. It used to be one controlled by the governors of the Western Wood. It is now within her territory, and so well defended it is that it cannot be attacked from the west. There is no way that we could get forces sufficient to it in order to take it, and it is the linchpin of her strategic forces on this border. It is so important that she monitors it once a day, every twenty-four hours she turns her will to it to see what's there, and ensure that everything is as it should be. If that tower could be taken, and better still taken in a fashion that she did not know that it was no longer hers, then we would be able to coordinate the time of our strike whenever you needed."
    "Where is this tower?"
    "Buried in the middle of the wood. It is a living tree, seven hundred feet high, the chambers within it were burrowed out within the wood. A small group approaching from the east, should be able, if the group is powerful and dedicated enough, to surprise those of her elite guard who are in charge of it, take it over, eliminate those who are within. However, there is only a day's worth of time."
    "Does she always turn her attention to it at the same time?"
    "We have an agent within the tower, someone who allowed themselves to get captured, with the ability to sense when magical energies are drawn upon an area. She has let us know, by way of means arcane, that it is every day, at sunset. Sometimes fifteen minutes in one direction or another, but never more than a quarter hour difference. You would have twenty-three and a half hours."
    "Very well. Get us what other information on it you can."
    The man nodded. "When I leave, I will leave my bag behind. Contained inside it are maps telling you its rough location and what information we have been able to determine about the contingent that's there. The contingent has been stripped down somewhat with the recent pullback, but not very much. And of course the woods themselves are full of her foul beasts, things that would have been destroyed long ago were we still in control."
    "And how are we to keep her from discovering it?"
    "If you can make the change fast enough, we will have a unit nearby, within four hours march, the furthest distance available where we can still reasonably hide them. Send a message to us, we will have people come in who will be mimicking the place. She cannot read thoughts through the mirrors that she possesses, she can merely see, and if everything looks correct.... her attention is never on it for more than a few minutes at a time. If we can keep the disguise intact, her defenses will fall when the Minotaur's forces move through."
    "Very well," Scott agreed.
    The agent finished his ale. "Well, it is time for me to head to bed."
    "Good night."
    "Yes, of course, I'm leaving now," he said more loudly. "You may have my table."
    "Thank you."
    The old man stood up and left the inn, and Talon and I joined him at the new table, feeling the wind shaking the building. We kept a careful eye out to see if anyone was paying us any attention, or had perhaps been seen earlier in our travels, but we recognized no one. We took a room for the night and carried the magician's bag up with us when we retired. There were several scrolls, including a rough map to the tower including known patrol routes; for obvious reasons, information on those became sketchier closer to the tower. Report said that the entire garrison was composed of her elite forces, with no human guards but a rather large community of slaves. There were no maps on the tower interior, as it had been in Gretchen's hands for thirty years and there was no way of knowing what she'd done with the place. As of the last contact, two of the Minotaur's agents were still alive, one a sorceress who had been using her magic to send out messages. She did not know how she got where she was, only that she was chained up in a long corridor.
    "It's only seven hundred feet tall," I sighed, and said a quick prayer for those brave souls who had allowed themselves to be captured thus. We had a mission and a map; all we needed was a good night's sleep and some breakfast, which we secured in the usual order. The town was near the border of the Western Wood, where the trees grew tall and thick, and once within its shelter we paused and made plans. We would want to attack just after sundown, to give ourselves the maximum possible time to deal with her forces before Gretchen turned her attention that way again. We would have half a moon, and the sky had cleared after the storm.
    Time being of the essence, the assistance of the goddess was in order; the three of us became translucent vapor and were caught up by a wind, traveling just below the riot of color that was the treetops in this warm late autumn. Those tops reached up to two hundred feet, and we moved carefully so as not to be seen by either aerial or ground patrols. In a matter of hours we could see the tree looming in the distance. The first branches emerged at the level where the rest of the trees had reached the limits of their growth, and the uppermost twigs scraped the sky many hundred feet above that.
    From this distance, we could see no openings in the trunk, though we knew of several ground entrances. A roc flew overhead, reminding us keenly of whose lands we were in.
    It was but early afternoon. Still vaporous, Phoenix Talon and Scott reconnoitered the tree. Talon found the lower entrances, and some sort of sludge pits near the base of the tree; a row of chained figures were led by gnolls between the pits and the tree, carrying buckets of stuff inside, while another row came out with buckets of something (presumably something else) and put that into the pits. He saw places where the ground wear suggested there were other entrances as well, but they were so well hidden when closed as to be invisible. Just beyond the area with the doors was a ramp leading up into a concavity hollowed into one of the massive roots. In another area about fifty feet up, a dozen small holes had been punched, looking rather like woodpecker holes; they would suffice to allow Scott entrance in the event. On the far side of the tree there seemed to be no ways in at all.



Game date: 1/24/03. And no, you're not reading the wrong story; this segment of the Revolution uses the 3e D&D mechanic. Much fun.

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© 2003 Rebecca J. Stevenson