1212 RE-- The Guild Forces Retreat from Petra's Hearth
Date: June 1212
Outcome: Partial retreat to Chamneburg and the Hulder
Parties: The Great Guilds of the Hulder, Clan Nokkvi, The Unbroken Circlet, The Ebon Aspect, Representatives of the Frozen Castle
Strength: 100 Oresunders, 10 Ivory Sun, 50 Guildsmen
Casualties: 11 Oresunders dead before reaching the Hulder, 12 dead from the sea prior to reaching Petra's Hearth, 62 dead from battle in Petra's Hearth.
Following the disastrous expedition to Petra's Hearth, the Cartographer's Guild of the Hulder sought others to invest in a second, more secure expedition, despite the knowledge that they would lose their controlling shares in the expedition. The Cartographers, citing the ancient texts and cultural antiquities found in the area, particularly those of the First Age, attempted to procure additional support not only from the Great Guilds of the Hulder, but the Council of Silver in Tarsikka, given the outcome of the last expedition. Negotiations started well enough with the Council of Silver, who had suffered high losses of their own. Countess Tija, Lord Nimic and Baron Hideg all initially pledged support in both funds and participants. Upon hearing of the Tarsikkan support, Margravine Emily von Chamneburg requested that the commanders of the Skattenmark forces be placed in direct military control of the expedition, including the Tarsikkan forces. The Margravine further requested that silver weapons be provided to her commanders and up to twenty officers as specified by the commanders, and that all ritual and magical objects first be examined and cataloged by Redwood Throne scholars before then being accounted and distributed, with the Principalities able to exercise direct control over an objects deemed dangerous or heretical. In addition, Tarsikkan forces had to be redistributed into units and patrols by the Principalities' soldiers, and all mercenaries must first be approved by the Margravine or another Principalities noble or commander acting with her express permission. The Margravine was also said to demand a reason and apology for the Tarsikkan troops previously seen in the town by the Cartographer's Guild forces. A scribe(1) involved in the recording process said that these demands stemmed from a fear that Tarsikka would use this as an opportunity to establish a military stronghold in the town of Petra's Hearth and then wage a campaign to retake control of the Skattenmark.
The Council of Silver refused the demands and withdrew support from any joint expedition that the Guilds would undertake with the Principalities and the Redwood Throne. Lord Nimic was apparently quite upset at the demands of the Margravine, as Intuneric is the most easily accessed border region in the Skattenmark, and the ruins of Arad-Targa are supposedly full of wizards displaced from the Principalities. Lord Nimic stated that he often patrols over the borders into the Skattenmark, trailing creatures of Shadow so that they could not attack subjects of the Principalities, and that his years of amiable co-existence should garner him more respect than he was given by the Margravine. Baron Hideg stated that he respects the will and domain of the Throne in all things, and that his aid could be lent in the future should a direct request be issued on behalf of the Church. Countess Tija, by contrast, was overheard to say that, "Petra's Hearth will not be gained without Tarsikka. I do not overly concern myself with this most base of insults." Border patrols have been increased along the borders of Intuneric following these events.
After losing the military support of Tarsikka, the Great Guilds looked for others that might aid them in this endeavor, knowing that the Principalities and the Redwood Throne would play major roles. They were pleasantly surprised to find that Clan Nokkvi in Oresund, particularly Alvgeir Stararm, head of the warrior sect of Clan Nokkvi and member of the Unbroken Circlet, wished to join them on the expedition. The town of Audleberg has seen a steady increase of craftsmen and merchants joining the Great Guilds, and Alvgeir Stararm has been among their biggest proponents, wishing to turn the city into a stately, vibrant center of wealth and culture, a true jewel of the North. Alvgeir Stararm pledged the support of one hundred of Oresund's bravest, including those of the Ebon Aspect and volunteers from the Frozen Castle who wished to show their good will. There was no end of volunteers following the information that the sword and journal of Nali dai Saija, a known companion of the Wolf King, were found in the area. This discovery, along with the appearance of the Honored Ancestors who have Returned, has ignited something of a frenzy of interest in the Wolf King and his companions once more. Many hoped to also meet any of the fabled Lomwijars, Rook Sinara, Angelus the Bold, or Bjorn Runasson, famed heroes rumored to have Returned and once again fight against the forces of evil. Several Returned, including esteemed members of the Tundra Guard, Swain, Moribund and Arbiter, pledged themselves to Alvgeir's cause. Alvgeir placed two smiths(3), including a Mazhani Returned called Urza don Crucible, and a Celestial who was learning their trade and had spent some time with the Ebon Aspect in charge of the political aspects of the expedition, working jointly with the Great Guilds. An Ebon Aspect member of the Tundra Guard(4) and a skilled warrior-wizard from Clan Nokkvi(5) took charge of the military arm of Oresund's assistance.
The expedition started inauspiciously, with the forces of Oresund falling under direct assault by scags and Sea Witches within hours of sailing out of the estuary and into the sea proper. The Oresunder sailors were surprised at this, as they had thrown gold, wine and finely crafted wood carvings (rumored to have been crafted by a Celestial who resides in Marath Suvla) into the sea as an offering to the Mistress of the Seas. Urza don Crucible worked furiously to patch a breach in the hull of the ship following a barrage of enchanted rocks directed by the sea witches, risking a make-shift forge upon the ship in order to quickly shape metal plates meant for armor and weapon repairs into plates for the hull. The other smith(3) opened one of the stores of mystic materials sent with the expedition, applying them to the arrows, thrown weapons and bolts of the crew, calling forth fire and storm, believed to either damage or weaken scags more severely. The Ebon Aspect and Frozen Castle held the prow, with one member(4) killing a Sea Witch with a thrown hammer to the chest, neatly snapping her ribs and crushing the organs beneath. Part way through the battle, a monstrous ice crab from the depths began assaulting the ship as well, in the obvious control of a Sea Witch. The warrior-wizard(5) worked diligently to subdue the crab and turned aside the witch's spells to allow a barrage of arrows to strike her down. Despite the victory by the Oresund forces, eleven lay dead at the end of the assault, and time was spent in the Hulder to rest and recover, pushing back the timing of the expedition even further.
While the Oresunders were recovering, the Great Guilds did their best to make them feel welcome and officially induct many of them into the Guilds. Before long, however, it was time for the expedition to travel the seas once more and investigate Petra's Hearth. A relatively new man(6) from the Alchemist's Guild, a woman from the Smith's Guild(7), and a Returned hero from Endeiras - who gained rapid acceptance within the Physicker's Guild for pioneering new healing and curative techniques - were chosen to spearhead the expedition on behalf of the Great Guilds. In addition to the Guild forces, a group of mercenaries of the Ivory Sun, the Morning Ray, joined the expedition at the behest of the Margravine of Chamneburg. The combined forces numbered around one hundred and fifty strong. The expedition was split between an overland route and a sea route, with the expedition leaders not again trusting in a sole approach by sea after the last fiasco. The Ebon Aspect and Frozen Castle joined the land patrol, as they agreed as a single group that sea life was simply not for them, and they missed the earth beneath their feet. The land patrol left days before the ship, the Monica Agia, was scheduled to set sail. According to later retellings, the land patrol made their way through the Skattenmark without too much issue, which should have been their first clue. While it's true that the land patrol did encounter many shades, and scags appeared near the waterways quite often, this all but faded away when they reached the Skattenmark. Gone were the restless dead that often walk the land, and there was no sign of the Crone or the trolls which she raises from the sea to serve her. There were even no signs of the Shadow- or Storm-touched beasts that an unlucky traveler might encounter in the area. There were no signs of werewolves, though the stories often place such monsters near Petra's Hearth and Tiere-a-Tun. The land patrol met the sea patrol just outside of Petra's Hearth, on the Chamneburg side.
The sea voyage was more eventful than the land passage, though the explorers were scarcely happy with this. The sailors proclaimed it a vengeful sea, with a fierce storm that resulted in a loss of life for five of the crew, and more would have been lost if not for the quick thinking of a sailor(6) who quickly glued many of the broken beams together and used it to anchor the shiphands to the deck so they would not be pitched over the side. While still damaged, it was easily fixed by further brews from a brewer(7) and the care of the Physickers on board. Another alchemist(8) filled a secure box that she had crafted earlier in the day with potent alchemical concoctions and materials from her forge supplies, which she hurled into the maw of a Great Storm Drake assaulted the ship during a particularly fierce squall. The rest of the voyage was largely uneventful, save the last night of the voyage, when shades seemed to stream aboard the ship with the ocean spray, never relenting until the morning light finally kissed the horizon. While the entourage held their ground well, a few casualties occurred, as rumors of more powerful shades with glowing eyes ran rampant across the ship. Through storm and conflict, the ship arrived twelve lighter than when it left. Still, having survived the journey and successfully rendezvoused with the land patrol, the crew was in high spirits before heading into Petra's Hearth.
Camping for the night, the combined forces cautiously made their way into Petra's Hearth the next morning. They found it not only strangely deserted, but immaculate as well. There was no sign of the debris of digging that should have been evident. The huts dotting the area were not only still standing, but many were decorated strangely and with seeming care given to the furnishings. The field was dotted with rocks covered with strange symbols, that seemed to be unable to be moved by any means, despite their relative small size. The rocks themselves were in no pattern known to any wizard or historian present. Discovering no conflict, the forces began to reinforce the area. The Ebon Aspect hung fetishes throughout the area, the Ivory Sun began to patrol, and the Guilds started to set up their various workshops and creation areas. Most of the Oresunders refused to enter the huts, stating that it just didn't feel right to them. Everything seemed to proceed well, until darkness fell.
It began with the strange lights that seemed to hover, whir and spin just in the wood line. A patrol of four Ivory Sun lancers and three Oresunders happened upon one first, cautiously approaching it. It slowly led them into the woods, but still in sight of the encampment, wherein it floated to the ground to illuminate a small mound of earth that seemed out of place. When the patrol dug into it, they found a bag containing gems and coins, apparently buried and left during the last expedition. After returning to tell their tale, the other men and women eagerly kept an eye out for lights in the woods, abandoning their posts. It was not long after this that the screams started. Shades poured into the encampment, seemingly commanded by a man and a woman who bore the markings of a Celestial, but with identical signs upon their faces. One of the Ebon Aspect(4) wounded the male with a well-thrown hammer to the arm, causing him to lose focus, granting time for the forces of the expedition to join together. It was at this time that chimes were heard ringing loudly around the town. Within moments, the very ground and buildings came to life, as strange, stony beings emerged to assault the joint forces. Their great, rending stone claws tore through metal and flesh, attacking not only the explorers, but any shade that came too close as well. Some went from building to building, seeking to kill any inside, while others directly pressed those upon the field. Some of the figures stooped to pick up the rocks which were previously immovable, hurling them with great accuracy and even greater force. The rocks, now glowing with runes, were hurled back by those strong enough to do so, inflicting great damage upon the very beasts launching them. The joint Guild forces were still holding, even with their mounting losses, but the decisive moment came when a force of scags, leading young storm drakes and a Sea Witch, came out of the water's edge and hit the forces from the side. The trolls focused only upon those who had made a journey upon the sea, while the drakes feasted indiscriminately.
If it was not for the quick thinking of the warrior-wizard(5), who focused on slowing and hindering the creatures rather than attempting to kill them, the casualties might have been much worse. The Ebon Aspect and Frozen Castle joined in with the wizards to enact a fighting retreat from the town. The Ivory Sun and Oresunder Shieldeaters slaughtered and pressed the forces mercilessly, seeking only to allow their allies to escape. As the dawn broke, the forces pulled back to their previously-established rendezvous point outside of the town and assessed their losses. The force had been diminished by over half, with only 70 or so making it out alive, and though many, many creatures had been slaughtered, they could not survive another assault like that. The forces agreed to retreat to both Chamneburg and the Hulder to put out the call for more assistance, as the cost of leaving Petra's Hearth unsecured was now too high. The Guilds planned to seek audience with Margravine von Chamneburg to discuss concessions that could be made to the Council of Silver and Tarsikka as a whole, in order to have them assist in the endeavor. With such an outpouring of evil so close to their borders, the Council of Silver would be willing to set aside past differences in order to contain the threat of Petra's Hearth.
A new expedition has not yet been launched, but rumors of one being prepared in August of 1212 are circulating strongly as many Tarsikkan-born craftsmen, including Master Smith Kovac, are beseeching the Council of Silver on behalf of the Great Guilds. The Redwood Throne has begun to show interest more strongly in this region as well, and emissaries have been exchanged with Baron Hideg in Tarsikka, one of the most loyal to the Throne in that nation. Interest in Petra's Hearth and the Wolf King remains high as the legend, danger, and mystery of the place grows.