Mutare swept over the borders of Erathia because the Knights were unprepared to meet the full onslaught of her Dragons. The Erathian battle lines were easily broken by a new addition to her army, the wingless but deadly Crystal Dragon.
The enemy is storming the Erathian border, so to gain a new ally the Elf King sends Tarnum to secure all towns in the area. All Heroes will be limited to level 28, but Tarnum and his two best Captains will transfer to the next scenario.
|Day 1 - Day 1|
|I've received word that an Erathian Knight named Sorsha is trapped at the border. She is willing to combine her army with mine if only I can reach her position.|
Since Nighon invaded Erathia, word hasn't reached these independent border towns that AvLee has come to help. Unfortunately, they see everyone as an enemy now. I have a difficult decision. If I don't take control of these towns, Nighon certainly will, gaining a foothold in Erathia. The Dragon Queen is powerful enough without the addition of these towns.
So, I must conquer them myself and hold them against the Nighon invasion. But in order to do that, I must battle these good Erathians who only want to protect their homes.
|Day 5 - day 5|
|Thankfully, Aspen has left me alone since he was injured in an ambush. He goes about his own business now, sending one of his subordinates to report about what he has learned of the area.|
Today, Aspen's young assistant came with troubling news.
"You can expect to encounter Crystal Dragons along the border. They were used extensively by Mutare during the invasion of Erathia."
"What do we know of these Dragons?" I asked, hoping to learn a strategy for defeating them.
"Well, they aren't true Dragons, although the powerful process Wizards use to create them involves crushed Dragon bones. Hence, Mutare is still able to control them. They are strong beasts with a one-track mind. Thankfully, they neither have wings nor a breath weapon," the Elf said.
"That's good news, at least."
"My master, Aspen, told me to warn you about these creatures. Do not underestimate them for he has learned that, one-on-one, even a Gold Dragon is no match for the Crystal type."
"Point taken," I said.
|Day 9 - day 9|
|As we marched this morning, Captain Valita's horse stumbled and pitched her to the ground. I jumped from my steed and immediately captured her horse by the reins. It seemed to be favoring one of its legs.|
"Are you hurt?" I asked Valita.
The Elven woman stood, brushing off the seat of her trousers.
"Not hurt, but embarrassed," she said, reclaiming the reins. "Serves me right, I guess, for not paying attention."
"Daydreaming?" I asked, crouching to examine the mount's limb. There appeared to be no injuries, so I checked the hoof.
"Thinking about something, sir."
"Here's your problem," I said, pulling a sharp stone from the animal's hoof.
The horse tested the hoof and seemed prepared to continue the journey. Captain Valita patted the beast's muscular neck and said, "Thank you, sir."
"Call me Tarnum," I said.
|Day 12 - day 12|
|I've been watching Captain Valita these past few days. She's been walking the entire time, leading her horse instead of riding it. She's been spending so much time fussing over the animal's twisted leg, you would think the limb had been broken.|
I have seen her drive her sword through the bodies of her enemy, so I find this expression of gentleness confusing. But I am more convinced than ever that Aspen is wrong about Valita.
How could someone with such a soft touch be a traitor?
|Day 18 - day 18|
|Last night, I brought Captain Valita her portion of the evening stew. She is always the last in line for dinner - if she even bothers to eat.|
"No soldier under my command goes hungry as long as I can help it," I said as I approached. I handed her the bowl.
"So, do me a favor and eat so I can eat. I'm starving!"
Valita grinned and sat on the ground to begin her meal. Like many of the Rangers, she kept a spoon tucked into one of her boots.
"Thank you, sir!"
"Now, I told you to call me Tarnum," I insisted. My voice was a little too firm.
Now, it was time for me to be blunt. No more games.
"You're too quiet for your own good, Captain Valita!"
"Is something wrong?"
"Yes! I expect my captains to have the respect and loyalty of those under their command. Yours feel they don't know you, that you're aloof or arrogant as if you think you're better than them."
"What? I've never said that! I fight right beside them because I'm no more important than they are!" Valita snapped.
"If all you do is fight beside them, then you might as well be a soldier, but you're an officer, Valita! You must lead them! What's worse, you haven't always been this way. Some of the men who've fought with you in past can't be more loyal to you if they tried! So, I must know what's wrong?"
But Valita didn't have an answer. She promised to do better, to take my words to heart, but I wonder if she only said those things to keep me from poking further into her past.
|Day 24 - day 24|
|I've developed a habit I like better than letting Aspen beat me at chess every night. At least once a week, I join the work crews working under my Master of Supplies, Kurbon. The Dwarf is a harsh boss, but he's good to his men. As long as they work hard, they get the best food and ale. Now, I finally understand why experienced soldiers would give up the battlefield for these mundane jobs.|
Last night, after all the work was done, I shared some ale with Kurbon.
"Don't you go kicking Valita out!" he said after we had downed several mugs.
"I don't plan to," I said.
"You're an idiot for kickin' her out!"
"I didn't say I was!"
"What kinda stupid leader kicks out his best Ranger?"
"I'm not kicking her out!" I shouted.
Kurbon tipped back his mug again, then slurred, "Glad I could change your mind."
|Day 26 - day 26|
|The moment I called an end to the march last night, I grabbed Kurbon and pulled him to the side.|
"What was that all about a couple nights ago?" I said.
Kurbon shifted uncomfortably, as if he had made a mistake.
"I wasn't supposed to mention anything, but I felt like punching you out! I couldn't hold it in," Kurbon said.
"What made you think I was going to dismiss Valita?"
"She told me. Something about her not leading her men right," Kurbon said.
"I'm just trying to understand her, that's all! You're right, she's one of my best fighters, but her leadership skills have dwindled lately."
"She'll get better, you'll see," Kurbon said. If I didn't know the Dwarf better, I would swear he was begging.
"I hope so," I said.
|Day 33 - day 33|
|This morning as I stepped outside my tent, I found an arrow buried in the ground just outside. Tied to the arrow was a piece of paper. I opened it and read:|
This is my resignation. I regret leaving you and the others to battle the Dragon Queen alone, but you are right - I am no longer capable of leading well. Know this, I have not completely abandoned you. I will hunt Mutare's men when and wherever I can. My only hope is that I can kill many of them before I die.
I crushed the letter in my hand. I hadn't realized my words had hurt the woman so much.
Or, perhaps she felt the pressure of Aspen's search for the spy?
No! I refuse to believe that is true, and now I have lost a good captain.
|Day 36 - day 36|
|Kurbon scowls whenever our eyes meet, so I have not joined his laborers this week. I think he blames me for Valita's departure.|
Perhaps I am at fault, but I do not regret confronting Valita about her failures. I have a responsibility to everyone under my command. It would've been far worse if her men had hesitated in battle because they did not trust her orders.
But I feel guilty as well. What could be bothering Valita so much that she would refuse to tell me? If only she had confided in me...
|Day 41 - day 41|
|I found Aspen playing chess with a Centaur Captain, winning of course, and waited until the game was complete.|
I pulled up a stool across the board from my Elven advisor.
"Good luck," said the Centaur Captain, "he's a crafty one!"
"I know," I said as I replaced the pieces on the board.
"Good day, Tarnum," Aspen said.
"I'll play you one game, but it's information I want," I said as I made the first move.
"What information would that be?"
"Knowing you, you've been looking for Captain Valita. Have you found her yet?"
"No, not yet." At least Aspen didn't try to lie.
"When you do, I want to know. And I mean this more than anything I have ever said to you, Aspen - I want to be the first person to talk to her. You hear?" I said, nearly crushing the chess piece in my hand as I spoke.
Aspen smiled, nodded, and made his next move. An hour later, I lost the game.
|Day 48 - day 48|
|We were riding, looking for a good place to stop for a mid-day meal, when Aspen came to my side.|
"Do you still believe our fair Captain Valita isn't the spy?" Aspen asked.
"Yes," I said.
"This loyalty you feel, couldn't be something more like an infatuation, could it?"
I glared at the Elf, perhaps too sharply. Aspen must've realized that I was about to order him out of my presence because he spoke first.
"I have found her."
"She's been ambushing Mutare's troops in a forest grove a short distance to the south."
I ordered my forces to stop for a long break, and I rode on alone.
|Day 48 - day 48-2|
|Valita found me first. Perched in the top of a tree, she called down to me as I rode beneath her. Looking up, I found myself staring at her drawn bow.|
For a moment, I thought she would release the arrow. I've seen Valita shoot. At this range, she couldn't possibly miss. Then Valita slowly lowered the bow.
"What are you doing here, sir?" she said.
"I've come to collect one of my captains," I said. "She's been as big a fool as I have, and I hope to rectify both our mistakes."
"But I'm not the leader I used to be," Valita said.
"We'll talk about that," I said. "Fighting Mutare is what's important now - and I need every sword and bow I can get."
Valita hesitated there in the top of the tree, reluctant to step down and face whatever was bothering her. Finally, she nodded and slung her bow over her shoulder.
"I'll be right down, sir," she said.
"Of course, I'm going to have to punish you for disobeying orders. I've told you before to call me Tarnum!"
Surprisingly, the Elf woman smiled.
|Day 53 - day 53|
|I summoned Valita to my tent last night. We sat at a table together, and I poured her a glass of wine.|
"I must apologize for my bluntness, Valita, but I must know what keeps you so somber and remote. You're welcome to throw that wine in my face and walk out of here, but if you talk to me maybe I can help. I've experienced quite a lot in my lifetime," I said.
It took some time for her to reply. Valita drank her wine in silence. Several times, she opened her mouth to speak but couldn't find the words. I kept my mouth closed and watched, waited.
"Shame," she said. "That's what is always on my mind."
"Yes, I am a traitor!"
And tears fell on Valita's pale cheeks. My stomach tensed, because I thought she was going to confess that she was Aspen's spy. I realized that she was still armed, and my own sword was all the way on the other side of the tent. Then Valita explained in a flood of bottled emotions.
"When the Devils had me in their dungeon, I betrayed everything and everyone I have ever loved! Under those hot spikes and thrashing whips, I snapped. I told them everything! Men died! MY men!"
I sat back in my chair, and I noticed that Valita was looking at me now, trying to determine my reaction to her confession. She saw something in my eyes that surprised her. Perhaps she had expected my hatred.
Instead, I said, "You were in prison for more than three months! No one can expect to stand up to torture for that long - especially in the skilled hands of the Demons and Devils."
"No! I know something of shame, Valita. I live with it every day. Perhaps I'll tell you sometime, but first you must understand that you'll never be free from those cursed Devils until you forgive yourself!" I said.
|Day 56 - day 56|
|I can only hope that Valita realizes that she isn't responsible for the deaths of her men. Meanwhile, I have removed her from a command position and placed her in an advisory role. I can't have her making decisions that effect lives until her head is clear.|
I am, however, more convinced than ever that Valita is not Aspen's spy. Unfortunately, Aspen is not. Even though I told him what the Elf woman confessed to me, Aspen only believes it is further proof that she is the one who has been slipping information to my enemy.
"She may have been loyal once, but those Devils have ways of changing people!" Aspen told me. "You've seen it already - and she as good as admitted it."
"But where's the proof, Aspen?" I demanded.
The Elf shook his head, knowing that he wasn't going to convince me.
For now, I needed to concentrate on defeating Mutare.
|28, 68, 0||AMBUSH FOR COMPUTER - DO NOT TRANSLATE|
|43, 43, 0||A Knight holding a white flag slowly approaches your army. When he gets a closer look at you, he lowers the flag and smiles.|
"I see you are our allies from AvLee. This is great news! Sorsha awaits you on the Holy Ground beyond yonder tower, but they'll only let Tarnum himself pass."
|43, 47, 0||Resources for computer - NO NEED TO TRANSLATE|
|44, 69, 0||Resources for computer - NO NEED TO TRANSLATE|
|61, 4, 0||The mounds of upturned earth beside the road drew your suspicion the moment you saw them. Are they huge graves? Why would someone dig a pair of massive holes if not for a purpose?|
As a precaution, you call for a volunteer to ride between the small hills. Meanwhile, your army stands back at the ready. You send your fastest scout ahead, but the moment he reaches the mounds, dirt explodes skyward as a Crystal Dragon bursts from its hiding place beneath the ground.
Even the mud can't cover the beautiful red crystal that was used in its construction. It's beautiful - like a piece of art, yet you see an empty malevolence in its face that urges you to shout, "Attack!"
|5, 44, 0||Castle|
|11, 10, 0||Rampart|
|18, 5, 0||Rampart|
|31, 60, 0||Inferno|
|43, 26, 0||Castle|
|66, 42, 0||Inferno|
|66, 67, 0||Dungeon|
|67, 5, 0||Castle|
|3, 40, 0||Red Dragon||A few Red Dragons are known to live in these abandoned Crystal Caves. As you approach, you spot them outside tearing savagely at a cow they stole from a nearby farm.|
Before you can claim the Crystal Cave for your own (and search the inside for hidden treasure) you must defeat these brutal creatures.
|13, 14, 0||Black Dragon||You carefully approach four Black Dragons who have torn apart an old well. Now, they're clawing at the ground, slowly digging the hole. Thinking that they might have chased someone down the well, you attack.|
|25, 22, 0||Green Dragon||Several adolescent Green Dragons sit outside the Dragon Cliffs challenging all who come near them. At this age, Dragons sometimes become too aggressive for their own good. Your attempts to reason with them are met with insults and challenges. Unfortunately, the only way you're going to get by them is to attack.|
|27, 18, 0||Crystal Dragon||They stand like crystal statues, the sun passing through their bodies casts beams of shimmering red light on the ground. You wonder if someone erected these massive likenesses of wingless Dragons to honor real creature, then one of the heads shifts in your direction.|
No! These are Crystal Dragons, created by powerful magic and released into the world. Although not a real Dragon, they are just as deadly, if not more so.
|55, 11, 0||Marksman||You approach the Gem Pond to put it back in production, but stumble upon lots of frightened Erathian Crossbowmen hiding in the woods. Before you can convince them you're not the enemy, however, they attack.|
|57, 2, 0||Battle Dwarf||You spot a band of Battle Dwarves coming down the road. They appear battered and solemn, but their faces light up the moment they see you at the head of the army.|
"You are the Elf King's man, Tarnum, are you not?" says their leader.
"Yes," you reply.
"Then let us join you, please! Our own force was wiped out by some Black Dragons - we are all that lives. We ask you to let us join, and we bring you a warning as well. The land in these parts is quiet, as if something evil lurks in the shadows. Watch where you step!"
|13, 5, 0||Your most powerful hero from the Dragons of Rust scenario.|
|18, 7, 0||Tarnum the Ranger|
|28, 10, 0||Your most powerful hero from the Dragons of Rust scenario.|
|39, 43, 0||Sorsha the Knight|
|66, 68, 0||Deemer the Warlock|
|13, 13, 0||Crown of Dragontooth||You lower a rope into the hole that used to be a well and carefully climb down looking for what attracted the Black Dragons to this spot.|
At the bottom, standing in icy water to your waist, you explore the darkness with outstretched hands until something sharp pokes your palm. It feels like a crown, but, strangely, even though the artifact has been in the cold water it is still warm to the touch. You carry it with you back into the sunlight, chuckling that you now have the Crown of Dragontooth instead of the Dragon Queen, Mutare.
|16, 8, 0||Speculum||An Elven spy who has been watching the Erathian border arranged to meet you here in this field. You wait, alone, for more than an hour before the spy steps out of the shadows of some nearby trees and approaches.|
"Greetings, Tarnum," the spy says. "I've heard about your mission and thought something of mine might be of assistance."
The Elf pulls a Speculum from his backpack.
"With this, I have watched the movements of the Erathians for decades. You may borrow it, if you wish."
Will you accept the Speculum?
|22, 8, 0||Boots of Speed||Out of the trees steps a member of the Forest Guard, one of the Elf King's soldiers. He opens the pack over his shoulders and pulled out a pair of boots.|
"For you," he says, "a gift from the Elf King. He thanks you for your service thus far, and for the daunting task you now embark upon."
When you accept the boots, the Elf bows briefly, then leaves without another word.
|24, 2, 0||Badge of Courage||You entered this glade seeking the friendship of the Centaurs who dwell here, but first you must earn their respect. They ask you to stand blindfolded in the middle of an open field. Then you hear the charging hooves of dozens of Centaurs pounding the ground.|
They bear down on you like thunder rolling through a valley. Then you feel the ground shake beneath your feet. Just when you're about to reach up and tear away the blindfold, you feel the stinging slap of a branch across your face.
And that is all.
The Centaurs laugh and pat you on the back as they remove the blindfold. One of them hands you the Badge of Courage, saying, "Not many can stand still before the charge of the Centaurs."
|36, 25, 0||Eversmoking Ring of Sulfur||The grass in this area is dead and a horrible stench clings to the air. But right in the middle of several mounds of Sulfur, seemingly enjoying their surroundings, are a few Rust Dragons.|
Producing all the Sulfur is the Eversmoking Ring of Sulfur, which sits on rock between the Dragons. Do you attack them for this artifact?
|70, 0, 0||Everpouring Vial of Mercury||A swarm of Familiars have infested this area. They dance around, tossing the Everpouring Vial of Mercury around in a sick game of 'keep away'. Do you want to attack them before they break this valuable object?|
|Seer's Hut (10, 18, 0)|
|You stop and have lunch with a hermit, explaining your quest as you eat.|
"We can help each other, I think," says the old man.
He goes on to tell you that he's going to take one final journey home to a distant land, and he needs good mounts that can also protect him.
"War Unicorns will do nicely," he says.
If you bring the hermit 25 War Unicorns, he'll give you a letter that will gain you the aid of a pack of Gold Dragons.
|You find the hermit packing books in large sacks, preparing for his move to his homeland. When he sees you, he shakes his head and says, "I really am going to need those War Unicorns. You won't believe how much junk you collect during a lifetime, and I can't bring myself to throw any of it away. Come back when you have 25 War Unicorns."|
|"You're just in time," the hermit says. He's prepared to leave, if the sacks and crates piled around his home are any indication.|
"Would you like to trade the letter for the War Unicorns?"
|Seer's Hut (13, 46, 0)|
|You find a young man hiding in this Hut. As you approach, he brandishes his spear and says, "Go away! I'm not afraid to use this. What I have is for my master, the brave Knight Sorsha!"|
|The young squire opens the door before you reach it and shouts, "You are not Sorsha! Leave me be, or I'll be forced the run you through with my spear!"|
|"It's really you, master! Sorsha, I've been holding your Breastplate of Brimstone as you commanded. I protected it with my life. Shall I help you put it on?" the squire says.|
|Seer's Hut (54, 30, 0)|
|Seer's Hut (60, 15, 0)|
|The chemical smell that lingers around this small Hut warns you that this is a laboratory of some type. You find an old Wizard sitting out front writing notes in his journal and shaking his head.|
"Is something wrong?" you ask.
"Oh, yes, something is wrong," the Wizard says. "I just wish I knew what! No matter - my most urgent need is Crystal. If you can bring me 40 Crystal, I'll give you two Crystal Dragons - my own creations."
It sounds like a good deal, and it would be nice to have two of those powerful creatures on your side for a change.
|Oh my, that's simply not enough. I need 40 Crystal. I'll never complete it with what you have.|
|"Finally! Here, give the 40 Crystal to me, and I'll give you this in return," says the Seer.|
|Quest Guard (38, 44, 0)|
|The tower ahead is abandoned and Tarnum has the only key.|
|You try the gate, but since Tarnum has the only key you're wasting your time.|
|You step up to the gate, place the key in the lock, and - click - it opens. Do you want to pass through now?|
|Quest Guard (42, 43, 0)|
|The guard waves down at you and says, "I've been instructed to only allow Tarnum to pass."|
|"Only the AvLee commander, Tarnum, is allowed to pass and you look nothing like him!" shouts the guard.|
|"At last," shouts the guard, "it is you! We were getting nervous with so much enemy movement about. Some of us had placed bets that you'd been killed. Do you want to pass now?"|