Excerpts from the Military Journal of General Arrik Xavier
18 Meloramonth, 1252
We have been deployed, and marched across Dornath into Tarna. The Tarnacs have sent ten thousand troops to serve under my command, many of whom I faced in battle not ten years ago. But now we face a common enemy in the Karatanians, and war makes strange bedfellows.
Between the Dornathians, Tarnacs, and Fardwahs, my force is more than one hundred thousand strong. General Wilhelm commands a force of equal size, and marches to the south. We will encircle the Karatanians and crush them like a Colrani Pincer Maneuver on a massive scale. The tactics we have devised are sound. Once we engage the enemy, I will have a better estimate of their prowess, but I see no less than an 82% chance of complete success for our Allied forces.
22 Bloodmonth, 1253
We faced another contingent of Karatanians today. Their cavalry tactics are damnably impressive, and they rode circles around our own cavalry. Informed Sgt. Colins to double the horse training. Same story as the last two months. The K’s pushed forward with a predictable Ziegfeld Offensive, but succeeded in moving our front back several miles. We dug in, drove them back with a Willow Branch Maneuver. This dance grows old, particularly as the weather grows colder. The wind is bitter on these plains.
6 Horningmonth, 1254
Another goblin attack in the night. I don’t know how the Karatanians have gained their allegiance, but the greenskins are wearing us down. Three times this week, they have slipped through our watch, and attacked within the camp in dead of night. The men are fatigued from battles with the K’s during the day, now doubly so for lack of sound sleep at night.
One spot of levity in an otherwise dismal day. I have grown close to several of the men from Elsir Vale, as we talk about places we all have known. Eofram Troyas, Amery Vraath, Teleus Restan, old Sertanian, and I were sharing a drink and talk of home when the greenskin attack unfolded. The Elsir men jumped into action first, and led the charge to drive the greenskins back. When they returned to camp, Troyas tossed the head of an ogre to the ground and told me, “See sir, even in blackest night, we men of the Vale will be your bright spears.” And they are.
6 Fallowmonth, 1257
Yesterday a scout returned word of a strange cave. He sought shelter from the sun, and found a door, carved into the rock within the cave, with an enormous keyhole and strange carvings. My curiosity was piqued. I would ordinarily send my trusted Bright Spears to investigate, but they are leading an attack on a Karatanian camp. And so, after months staring at maps in camp like an old man, I longed to stretch my legs and my eyes, and went myself, along with Colonel Pelken and our bodyguards, as well as Lieutenant Astrel, a young man with great prowess and interest in things arcane.
(Here a square scrap of paper has been torn from the page.)
The locals call it the Cave of Fenris, and believe that it is the home of a great 5-headed wolf, called the Fenris, which slumbers until the end of days. The exterior of the cave was wondrous to behold, with carvings of great antiquity, and I longed to see within the door. Something about it held my attention, and insisted that I open it.
As we investigated further, in the nearby town we met a family that claims to have been the keepers of the Fenris Cave for one hundred generations. The patriarch, an elderly man with a gaze of steel, summoned us, and sat with me in silence for several minutes. He then told me through our translator that his god (whom he referred to as “Vanathor”) had told him that I was the the one prophecied to bring change to the world, and that I was destined to open the Fenris Door. He opened a carved box, and withdrew a key, placing it in my hand. Dumbfounded, I humbly thanked him and have now returned with my men to the cave. I know not what to make of this day.
8 Fallowmonth, 1257
Where to begin? We opened the cave door, and it was more wondrous, and more deadly, than I could have imagined. The complex behind the door was protected by guardians of stone and metal, fire and ice. My men and I used stealth and might of arm to make our way through the complex, the details of which I must be forced to recount at a future time. Of more than 20 men who entered the cave, only myself, Pelken, and Astrel survived. But I believe that the gains we made may have been worth the sacrifice of good men.
Two facts only will I document at this time. First, the artwork within the complex revealed many appearances of the creature the locals call Fenris. Many were of a five-headed wolf, but others showed a snake, tiger, or shark, each with five heads. Most prominent, however, were depictions of a five-headed dragon, which looked to my eye very much like the portraits of Tiamat I have seen within blasphemous temples. Astrel concurs, that these may be many aspects of the god we call Tiamat.
Second, upon reaching the heart of the temple complex, we found a great hall, with magical sigils covering the floor. Within this great hall were arrayed five enormous, scaly eggs, each nearly the size of a barrel. What Astrel could comprehend of the inscriptions indicated that these are the true children of Tiamat, which will someday hatch and bring about the end of the world. Beset by enemies, and not knowing what else to do, I directed Pelken to help me lift one of the massive eggs, and we ran from the temple, the guardians fierce on our trail. We slammed the door behind us and locked it, hearing the guardians howling with rage within.
We shall take the egg in secret with us back to camp, so that Astrel may study it. If these eggs are truly the children of Tiamat, the possible military implications are enormous, and should be further explored.
The precise location of the cave is below, encryption CARDINAL
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28 Fallowmonth, 1257
Eight days ago, in the hills of Fardwahn, we faced down a regiment of Karatanians, in as fierce a battle frenzy as I have ever seen. Fully one half of their army was made up of creatures of nightmare- demons, walking corpses, writhing masses of black ichor, flying beasts with razored claws. The Karatanians are savage warriors, but they are still men. These were monsters, to whom the notion of fear is alien. The demons laughed as they ripped apart my men, and ate their steaming organs like candied sweetbreads.
This battle raged for nearly a week, and strained my ability to command, but, against all odds, we drove the enemy back. Our left column feinted, counting on the bloodlust of the enemy to draw it forward. The 3rd cavalry squadron rode from hiding, while the mages rained down fire in a Montreauche Strategem. I followed this with a Jomini Passant and a Boar’s Head from the ground troops to press the advantage. We killed thousands of their troops, but nearly as many of our own died in the process. At last, the enemy broke, but has taken refuge in the twisting valleys among the hills.
I have read the communiques from the other generals. I know that the demons that have aligned themselves with Karatania have become more numerous in the past three months. Somewhere in the Karatanian ranks, the demons pour through a gateway from a realm where their numbers are limitless. For each one we kill, five stand ready to take its place.
We are losing this war.
29 Fallowmonth, 1257
Another communique arrived from the southern front. Wilhelm’s army is broken. There is nothing to stop the Karatanians from marching across Deistricht and into Dornath. Sevenoaks will fall.
Haymonth 1, 1257
This shall be my last entry. I do not know if any will ever read my thoughts here, or the things that I have foreseen and written in my personal journal. A large part of me hopes that they will not. But, I shall confess my great sin here, in the hopes that the gods will know of my contrition and anguish, and see fit to grant me mercy upon judgment.
When this war began, I saw our victory in eight out of every ten paths. With each passing month, the paths of fate have converged, and our chances have become slimmer. I now see no course of action that will find Dornath victorious. No future in which our land is not a blighted haven for evil. No hope, save one. There is one path for which I cannot see the outcome, although I know that I will not live to walk upon it.
Lt. Astrel has continued to study the Egg that we removed from the Fenris Cave. He has learned that it is unlike a normal egg, in that there is no creature gestating within the egg. Rather, each egg contains a conduit to a realm of pure energy. It is from this realm, and by these conduits, that the children of Tiamat shall emerge at some time in the future. Astrel believes that the forces within the Fenris Eggs are held tenuously. Although the Eggs are harder than steel, given sufficient force to shatter one, the energy would pour forth.
We are losing our battles against the northern Karatanian forces, but we keep them engaged and unable to bypass us. By my reckoning, in one week’s time, the southern Karatanian forces will pass at their closest to us on their march to Sevenoaks. At that time, Astrel, Pelken, and I will carry the Egg to the highest hill in Fardwahn. There we shall use our combined might to shatter the Egg. Whether this will be enough, I know not. But there is no other path to follow.
I am about to sacrifice tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of the men under my command, in a desperate attempt to stop the Karatanians. My heart aches for each of them, their families, their wives and children. They are doomed, and I am the hand that wields the sword to strike them down.
I have permitted myself one selfish act. Yesterday I ordered my Bright Spears into a canyon in pursuit of a Karatanian patrol. I knew it was an ambush. I could read it as plainly as the book in my hands now, and yet my soldiers suspected nothing. I counted to one hundred, then sent reinforcements. The men fought back the demons, and recovered the broken bodies of the Bright Spears, as I knew they would. Eofram, Amery, Sertanian, and Teleus all survived, but barely. I have ordered them transported back to Dornath immediately for medical care. They are grievously wounded and may still die, but that is better than the certainty of death that awaits them if they stay. With them I will send these writings and some of my effects, in which I have secreted the key to the Fenris Cave.
Whatever evil I am about to unleash, I do so to avoid a greater evil to the land I love. May Pelor have mercy on my soul.