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Kastali's Diary – Winter, 435 Tz

Fort Wyndham
- Winter, Day 1
Last year, Black Powder forces managed to conquer a critical outpost along the river
Vizorr. While the initial fighting brought the once-neutral Xandressan river-traders into
the war, as Duke Skala ordered his cannons to shell the ships before they could bring
their food, supplies, and war-golems to the aid of the beleaguered troops at Fort
Wyndham, since then the Xandressans have been preparing to instigate their own kind of
revenge.
This morning at first light, I observed in my scrying mirror as the Xandressans ferried no
less than four warbands of Atlantean troops to the eastern shore of the Vizorr, just
downstream from the main gates of the Black Powder fortress. While I am unsure of the
outcome of this battle, as the forces seem to be evenly matched, the victor will surely lay
claim to the Grange Valley. If the Revolutionaries manage to hold it against the original
owners, then the battle lines extending from along the southern border of the Amazon,
Northlander and Khamsin territories will hold.
If the warriors at Fort Wyndham fail in their defense, then the Atlanteans will effectively
divide Khamsin from their other allies, and will break trade routes and supply lines as
effectively as a burning branch scatters a column of ants.
Sturnlander Coast - Winter, Day 2
While the forces of the Dark Crusade have successfully invaded nearly every part of the
Wylden forests, the forces of my former masters are scattered thin in places. After
observing a band of Elemental warriors making their way down the western side of the
Wylden plateau with ropes and harnesses, I watched with interest to see how far this
group would get before they intersected with the Crusader patrols.
While their straight and determined path of travel seems to indicate the warband is
heading towards the distant Atlantean citadel of Darthion, the consistent scouting by their
Ranger spies seems to be more in tune with evaluating Crusader troop movements than
providing for their own safety. It is possible the Elementals are going to attempt to create
a kind of 'safe passage' to move supplies or mercenaries from the supposedly neutral
river-city of Darthion, but this attempt will surely meet strong resistance from my former
comrades.
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Imperial Favor - Winter, Day 3
Within the city of Atlantis, the lines of warriors signing up for Emperor Nujarek's new
"Imperial Legion" runs for blocks, with some of the more determined fighters waiting for
more than two days in the cold and rain for the opportunity to get a position in the newest
army of Atlantis. While I have my own doubts about whether this new military force will
ultimately be effective, the amount of morale and Tezla-based fervor that Nujarek has
inspired in the capitol is awe inspiring. Even the lowest citizens in Downtown, in the
industrial city forever cast in the shadow of the floating city of Atlantis, are driven to new
heights of loyalty by this new frenzy of devotion for Tezla, the Empire, and their newly
revered Emperor.
Above Downtown, within the bureaucratic towers of the Atlantean Empire, the mages
and the bureaucrats seem to collectively be sour about Nujarek's crowning. From what I
know from my historical training with the Necropolis, the Atlantean Technomages have
puppeted the Emperor for centuries. Having lost so much power so quickly, the recent
turn of events must be somewhat disappointing to them. However, one of the golem-
factories at the edge of the floating city stands remains industrious, as the mages loyal to
Magus Anunub determinedly work around the clock, without food or sleep, in order to
create new Magestone Golems. One of the new designs they are working on seems to
have the capability to draw energy from the ley-lines on its own accord, as if the golem
were a mage rather than a mindless machine.
First Snow in Khamsin - Winter, Day 4
At the battered walls of the city of Khamsin, the first winter storm to rage out of the
Blasted Lands has covered the ragged walls with more than two inches of snow. While
reconstruction continues at a brisk pace, with Duke Skala, the Red Duchess, and the
members of the Council of Merchants personally overseeing the rebuilding of key
sections of the city, the winter chill is already taking its toll on a beleaguered people
struggling to repair their houses and find food not eaten during the months-long siege.
With the Atlantean army’s retreat to Atlantis, and the crushing defeat of the valorous
High Elves, Khamsin has earned a kind of freedom not seen through the fifteen years of
the Rebellion. Now, with the greatest war behind them, the sense of the new
“Revolution” is beginning to be spoken of by soldiers, merchants and commoners alike.
Said with pride and purpose, this change in ideology seems to reflect a difference in
attitude, as the people of Khamsin no longer seem to see themselves as defending
themselves against the Atlanteans – but able to take the Empire on head-on and give as
well as they get.
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with the Battle of the Wall, the breadth of the tales being told in the local taverns speak of
the recruitment of a number of Revolutionary warriors into a special elite unit formed of
men and women with shady pasts or disreputable backgrounds. This group, formed by
Black Thorn to protect Khamsin and the Revolution as a whole from “unconventional
attacks”, is referred to the 'Bloody Thorns'. Compared to the stoic Northlander veterans
from the cities of Enos Joppa, Nok and Rangraz, the men and women in of the Bloody
Thorns seem to share a common background in thievery, murder and the black market.
What Black Thorn exactly wants with this ragtag crew is uncertain. But I do feel
relatively assured that the legendary half-elven Hero is likely quite comfortable amongst
a band of lowlifes that even the Dark Crusade wouldn’t embrace.
Rim of the Mountains - Winter, Day 5
Even as Khamsin completes its lengthy campaign to destroy the Atlantean threat, the
Northlanders, smug and safe well behind the front lines, continue to build their armies
and forge their weapons for the battles to come. Led unofficially by their beloved
Warlord Blackwyn, the fierce-minded citizens of Nok, Rangraz and Enos-Joppa prepare
their upcoming campaign to liberate even more citizens from Empire control. While the
Northlanders have sympathy for their Khamsin cousins, these hardened peoples earned
their freedom from the Empire far earlier than Khamita's kin, and at a far bloodier cost.
For the Northlanders, respect must come with blood and price, and the folk of Khamsin
are just beginning to earn their trust.
Speaking of a greater threat to the Northlands than the Atlanteans, the Drakona
insurgence into the Kuttar Depths disrupts two important resources - ore and black
powder. Already, the supplies of black powder out of the northern mountains are
slowing, and the Northlanders are starting to horde their explosive lifeblood. While
swords and spears are the best weapons when in the thick of battle, only black powder
will prevent these peoples from being overrun by the Atlantean mages. Bows and
crossbows aside, the Northlanders will likely be the first to be affected by the black
powder shortage, and are guaranteed to number amongst those who will suffer the wrath
of the Drakona's bloody plans of conquest.
Smoke in the Trees - Winter, Day 6
The Elemental forces of Roanne Valle still stand strong against the Crusader threat,
manning their walls without sign of fear or apprehension. All along the wall, every thirty
feet another Forest Elf armed with a Wylden longbow watches the seething horde of
zombies and vampires, pit-fighters and necromancers. Any zombie that wanders too
close to the walls finds themselves struck and pinned to the earth by a dozen arrows, and
made a bloody example of the Elemental's capability with these primitive weapons.
Within Roanne Valle, the remnants of the Council of Nine continue to argue and bicker
in their chambers. While water and food seem to be in great abundance, and the morale
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shows a different story entirely. Whole sections of the Wylden, thousands of trees, are
blighted with dark magics. The woodland creatures, wolves and Trolls alike, are
slaughtered and reanimated to serve in the Crusader's unstoppable armies. While the
Forest Elves may believe themselves safe within their stone castle, their well-tended
forests die, left behind in their flight to defend themselves and their precious false Tezla
from destruction.
Winter's Chill - Winter, Day 7
Within the fortress of Stonekeep, more than a foot of snow now stands atop the parapets,
and the mountain pass to the east lies closed for the winter. While the High Elven
defenders at Wellkeep seem well-prepared for the raging winter storms to come, it seems
that the supplies of food and firewood within Stonekeep are already being rationed. The
leaders of the Dark Crusade, wisely noting that they need to keep the Host warriors
locked within their keep, continue to send bands of harassing troops into the valley to
ensure the Forest Elves and their allies have a difficult time gathering meat for their
tables or wood for their fires. While the Elemental warriors are giving the Crusaders a
good fight, the Necromantic presence in the valley is causing just enough difficulty to be
troublesome.
Additionally, with the aid of the energies generated from the great Solonavi spell, the
massive bridge linking the eastern and western lengths of the mountain pass a day's travel
from Stonekeep has been repaired. Come spring, the High Elves will be able to march on
the castle again, and I doubt this time that Commander Searle's forces will fare as well
against the Elven Lord's mystical might.
Frostbite - Winter, Day 8
As I moved my scrying sight across the northeastern reaches of the Land, the frozen
waters of the Roa Sanguine provided a spectacular sight this evening. While the river
freezes yearly, temporarily ceasing its trek down to the warmer lands and the sea, the
sight of an uncountable number of zombies shuffling their way across the ice was
breathtaking. For decades, the Necromancers of the Dark Crusade have been busy
reanimating every humanoid corpse they could get their hands on, in the hopes of
creating an unstoppable army. With the aid of a powerful relic unearthed from the holy
lands of the Amazon tribes, Deathspeaker Aeradon now controls an army of the dead that
even Dark Tezla would find impressive.
While it will take time to move this warhorde south through the shattered trees of the
Wylden, and the harsh winter snows slowing travel, it is only a matter of time before the
army reaches the Wylden Plateau, and joins with Kossak Darkbringer and the rest of the
Crusader horde in the destruction of the capitol of the faltering Elemental coalition.
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Cold Comfort - Winter, Day 9
Moving my view in the scrying pool north-east from the Wylden to the lands held and
owned by the human Crusaders. I am still amazed by the hardiness of these rugged,
determined peoples. Having come to the Vurgra Divide to get away from the rest of
humanity's oppressive governments, the Dividers live two-edged lives in a massive
mountain valley that is stands filled with life and abundance in the spring and summer -
but turns into an icy hell haunted by hungry snow foxes in the dark of winter.
The lives of the Dividers are marked by a very proper amount devotion to Dark Tezla,
and their strange ways are not considered blasphemous by even our most hardened
priests. By continuing the long-standing superstitious tradition of worship of their Blood
Goddess deity, they flaunt something primal and haunting within themselves that make
them seem almost as dark as the most twisted of my kin. While the Blood Goddess is
known throughout the Land as the bringer of immortality and dark wishes, here in the
Divide she inspires her people to heights that even the pit-fighters of the Necropolis find
inspiring. In their fervent belief that the sun will only rise again if the altars to the
Bloody Lady are drenched with blood, through the course of the winter the men, women,
boys and girls of the Divide practice their skills at swordplay in preparation of the Dark
Solstice and the gore-stained trials that take place under the lightless sky. Once the
festival begins, the old are slaughtered, the weak are strangled, and unworthy fighters are
sacrificed on the bloody altars to ensure that the sun will come again and the green
northern fields will continue to flourish. Once the unworthy and the weak lie dead, and
the Blood Goddess is paid her due, the riotous celebration often lasts for days, filled with
eating, drinking and non-lethal combat, until every last member of a Divider village lies
exhausted or unconscious on the cold stone floor.
While I personally follow the wisdom of Dark Tezla and the teachings of his voice, the
Dark Prophet Soma, I have never fully understood the ways of the Dividers. The priests
of the Blood Goddess cults, out of their loyalty to the Deathspeakers they serve and the
goddess they worship, do their best work in corrupting the weak and greedy to our cause
in the western cities of the Land. But in the Divide, the worship of the Bloody Lady
within the fire-lit stone temples seems to have evolved into a different kind of religion
over the past few decades, but still carries a common meaning that any Crusader can
recognize a a pillar of the Truths of Tezla - only the strong survive.
The Atlantean named Captain Jolum has continued his adventures in the Red Fen with
the Shyft and Mage Spawn. His latest chronicles have been added to my bookshelf, titled
"The River of Flames".
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Nest of Scorpions - Winter, Day 10
Having seen enough in the eastern territories to convince me that the Dark Crusade's plan
of conquest is running smoothly, I switched my focus over to another influential Crusader
warlord, Darq the Corrupt. Having executed his marvelous plan of trickery and conquest,
Darq's vampire army has scattered the capable Galeshi warriors to the four winds. After
taking control over the Galeshi heartland - a series of seven oases within a day's ride of
each other - Darq even now trains his newly-formed army of vampires to hunt down and
destroy the scattered Galeshi survivors without mercy or pity.
While this is inspiring to me, after what I have witnessed today, I believe that Darq may
have more of a fight on his hands than he realizes. After following a lone Galeshi
Dervish through the desert, I have now seen a hidden encampment of Galeshi warriors
and refugees. While the Galeshi are by no means happy about their situation, sent fleeing
from their cities without food or supplies, I expected them to have a greater sense of
defeat and hopelessness. Instead, they go about the process of surviving amidst the
dunes, while their sun priests whip the survivors into a fury. Deep in the hills beyond the
scattered camps, the Galeshi's robed sorcerers - suddenly blessed with more magical
power than they know what to do with - are starting the process of learning to wield the
forces of the desert against their foes. While I believe that Darq will prevail in the end,
the belief that the Galeshi are a scattered, broken people is little more than a desert
mirage. While the Galeshi's cities are burned and their leaders lie dead, new warriors are
rising to the task of driving out the invaders and slaughtering Darq the Corrupt in a fit of
bloody vengeance.
The Floating Tower - Winter, Day 11
At the request of my Solonavi masters, I spent the day searching for a certain floating
tower belonging to the renegade warlord, Raydan Marz. While Marz spent the last
couple of years near the Crusader-held Serpine Mountains, making allies with the folk of
the Free Armies and constructing his flying fortress - rumors, tales tell of his love for his
native homeland of Prieska, and his hatred for the Atlantean tyrant Emperor Nujarek.
With the Orc Shadow Khan warriors filling the western forests with their green-skinned
warriors, if Marz truly wants to liberate Prieska, he will need to likely gut every Orc
south of the Fist in order to achieve his goal.
His flying castle, a single five-story battle tower mounted atop a short column of rock,
provides close quarters for his warriors and followers. Compared to the massive
Atlantean Sky-Castles that patrol the interior of the Empire, his keep can field only a
dozen captured Dragonfly hover-machines, and maybe carry at most forty or fifty
warriors loyal to his cause. While I wished to make a closer inspection of the tower
before it entered into the Blasted Lands, specifically into an area where the Magestone
deposits make my scrying difficult, I sensed a powerful mage residing within the tower's
walls. After my experience with the red-skinned mage in Fairhaven, I did not wish to
reveal my presence, but I will watch from a distance for as long as I can, in the hopes of
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parapet of the floating tower.
Dark Powers - Winter, Day 12
Raydan Marz and his floating tower are beyond my sight now, lost within the magestone-
infested wastes of the Blasted Lands. But to the northwest of Khamsin, at the end of a
finger of low sandy mountains, the menacing shape of the Black Pyramid stands boldly
against the morning light. While the Wolfwitch, a low-grade Necromancer that once
thought herself my equal, successful led her army to the edge of the Pyramid, the
Elementals pursuing her managed to destroy her warband. While the Dark Prophet
believes that she entered into the temple complex and managed to penetrate its depths,
there has been little word of her for over a year.
But now, from that spiring pyramid amidst the wastes, I can sense a growing, forbidding
power from within. While the Elemental Troll and his brave army have guarded the
temple for a year without fail, and kept many Heroes from losing their lives within the
maze of stone and death, the energies emenating from within the structure will surely be
Boneknitter's undoing. While I am not unhappy with my fate or my assignment at the
hands of the Solonavi, I've longingly wished more than once to have won the right to
investigate the mystery of the Black Pyramid, and to see what ancient secrets were buried
so long ago beneath the sands of the western deserts.
Cave Orcs - Winter, Day 13
The black grasses of the northern Fist are beautiful, swept by the mountains wind into a
thrashing sea of bending, undulating pod-stalks. For the hardy Orcs that live this far
north, game is plentiful for those cunning enough to hunt it within the whispering grasses.
Scanning my view across the grasslands, this far north there are few true Orc villages, as
many of the mountain tribes prefer a nomadic existance. Moving from one hunting
ground to the next, the dwellers of the Fist walk a precarious maze of allegiences and
loyalties nine months out of the year, where a mile's length off the accepted track can
lead to the bloody massacre of an entire tribe.
Much like their cousins in the northern Fist, the Cave Orcs that live far to the west of the
Fist grasslands have long been reviled by the Broken Fist tribes who originally drove
them out of the Orc homeland more than a hundred years ago. But the Cave Orc's recent
allegience to the Black Grasses clans has given them some measure of protection, and the
trade of goods, metal and lizard-mounts makes them invaluable allies. As far as my
master's records show, up until two years ago the underground dwellers were the only
pariahs of Orc culture. Now, with the break-away of the Shadow Khans from the Orc
nation, the Cave Orcs may have a new puzzle to work out, as the Shadow Khans of
Prieska are now far more hated - and have far more resources to offer - than any Orc tribe
has had beforehand.
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are like, and get a flavor of their strange and enigmatic culture.
Additionally, as I have received reports from my masters about a number of warlords
fighting throughout the Land, I have included these reports within my collection for
further review.
Black Labyrinth - Winter, Day 14
The ragged cliffs ringing the western, northern and eastern edges of the Cave Orc
homeland shield the interior from the worst of the deadly magestone storms. As most of
the thunderwakes that frequent this part of the Land are born within the oceans west of
Scythria, the northern-most recess of the Cave Orc's valley makes for a surprisingly
hospitable oasis amongst the desert wastes. While finding the right area to explore was
somewhat difficult, I knew that I was on the right track by the numbers of Cave Orc
scouts watching over the landscape. Even in the first hour, the numbers of Cave Orc
warriors standing watch with bows and horns easily outnumbered the scouts put out by
ten whole tribes on the Fist. A cautious people, but their skill and resourcefulness has
allowed them to carve a niche for themselves in one of the deadliest regions in the Land.
Past the guards and into the shadowy darkness of the interior caves, I found myself in an
environment that reminded me of the deep passages beneath the Necropolis, where the
failed experiments of the Necromancers skulk and feed. Here, amidst a maze of
passages, I found my way to a series of apartments belonging to what I can only loosely
call a 'family'. With ample water supplies available from dripping crevices, and food and
furs supplied by the slaughter of Mage Spawn both from the surface and the tunnels, the
Cave Orcs live in relative comfort - no worse off than the lesser tribes enslaved by the
warriors of the Broken Tusk.
What shocked me the most is the sporadic light sources available through this labyrinth.
Magestone in large quantities can be found throughout the upper caverns. While chipped
or harvested Magestone emits a dangerous radiation, Magestone in its natural, untouched
state is largely harmless - and the awesome white luminescence glowing from the oddly
pulsing crystal has a very otherworldly quality. The Cave Orcs seem to stay away from
the substance, save for a few crazy Shamans who insist on chipping off pieces and
chewing the crystals in order to gain more magical power. Chewing crystal is not
something I'd recommend, even to my worst enemies, as many of these strange witch-
doctors seem to be completely mad, capering and growling as they tussle with make-
believe spirit-beasts and dark ancestors that my scrying pool cannot detect in the
slightest.
Twisting Caves - Winter, Day 15
Within the caverns and underground halls of the Cave Orc homeland, bands of fearless
lizard-riders ensure that the ravening subterranean Mage Spawn do not disrupt their way
of life. Armed with spears, pikes, and flexible bone bows, the Cave Orcs ride their jebta
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ledges that I can barely see. As these Orcs tend to live only for a few decades, they breed
quickly and their young grow into adulthood within the space of only a handful of years.
As result, through the course of the last century, the Cave Orcs have adapted to this
deadly underground setting, and I suspect that newborn Cave Orc children quickly learn
to rely on their senses of smell and hearing in their daily struggle to stay alive.
One thing I find extremely interesting is the lack of typical divisive Orc behavior within
this underground society. In the Fist, as well as in Prieska this winter, Orcs undergo
elaborate tests and rituals to determine which tribe gets the best share of the spoils. The
Cave Orcs, while I would not call them peaceful or pacifistic by any means, seem to
recognize that the future of their families depends on sheer numbers rather than the skill
of any one specific champion warrior. In my first days of watching these odd Orcs, I
witnessed at least a dozen fights over a dozen different things - but most of these battles
were to first blood or broken bone rather than to the death per the way of the Broken
Tusk and the Shadow Khans. At the same time, when a scout is devoured by a
marauding Mage Spawn, there is little remorse or sadness amongst the surviving warriors
- as death is a constant fact of life for these hardened people. The scouts merely take
their fallen comrade's weapons and some token personal item to prove his death, and
leave his remains to the spiders and vermin without a second thought.
While the Cave Orcs overall situation reminds me of my own Necropolis training,
especially in the fierce subterranean stalking and blind fighting they need to master to
survive, I wonder how well my own compatriots would last in these harsh conditions.
While the Sect Elves are excellent fighters, and could likely wipe out the Cave Orcs in
battle or arena fighting, I'm not sure how well my kin would fare away from the
structured city-environment of the Necropolis and the demands of their ever-insistent
masters.
The State of the Empire - Winter, Day 16
At Emperor Nujarek's command, General Volkare stood from his seat, and approached
the podium at the front of the gold-flecked white marble-floored chamber. With his red
cape flowing dramatically behind him, the Atlantean officer strode up the short flight of
stairs, his gold armor reflecting glints from the dozen glow-lights hovering around the
heights of the high-ceilinged chamber's interior. All around the circular chamber stood
white marble busts of Tezla through the many phases of his supernaturally long life, from
apprentice to master, from governor to emperor, and from a wizard to the Grand-Magus
of the Atlantean peoples. As Emperor Nujarek sat on his velvet-covered throne, the
commander of the Imperial Legion took the podium in front of the assembled crowd of
attentive officers, muttering bureaucrats and stalwart Technomages.
"At the request of our Emperor," Volkare spoke, "in the name of Tezla, I was tasked with
evaluating the current state of the Empire, both from a military and from an economic
point of view. With the losses at Khamsin, the Orc invasion of Prieska, and the fall of
Luxor and Rokos to the Solonavi, many outsiders view the Empire as weak. In some
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past, our greatest resource - the millions of brave citizens of the Empire - now stand
ready to fight for the cause. With tens of thousands of soldiers signing up for terms of
service with the Imperial Legion, workers by the thousands volunteering for the golem
factories, and hundreds of candidates being tested daily for mage capability, in this
moment of darkness the Empire's time of destiny has finally arrived."
Assembly of Warriors - Winter, Day 17
Within the Arena of Atlantis, General Volkare strode amongst the ranks of newly-joined
Atlantean warriors, personally overseeing the newest members of the Empire's greatest
army.
"General Volkare," asked a young recruit, "some of the veterans in my old regiment
talked frequently about the Fall of Rokos, and how we could do nothing to stop the
Solonavi from conquering the city. With the Empire facing so many potential threats
from so many different armies, how do you plan to retake the city when we are already
facing so many enemies just outside our borders?"
"A good question, recruit," said the General. "Externally, the launch of the Dark Crusade
against the warriors of the Wylden drains the strength of two powerful rival factions, both
of which would independantly have been strong enough to give the Empire a hearty fight
if they chosen to attack during these last few years. But now the pendulum swings in our
favor. The Revolutionaries to the north have lost a key ally with the Crusade's crushing
of the Galeshi, and the Orcs have divided their strength equally amongst two rival Khans.
Add to that the growing rumors that the Revolution is suffering major setbacks in the
Drakona-held Kuttar Depths, and you can see why the time is ripe for our armies to take
back what we have lost during these last fifteen years of bloodshed."
"Our largest puzzle lies with the Solonavi to the west. As our brave troops were able to
hold the Prieskan capitol of Alrisar against the Orc onslaught, it means that we still have
a seaport with which to transport goods and soldiers from Delphana and Xandressa.
While the region is largely destabilized due to the Shyft's presence in the Red Fen, and
the Dwarves questing for their mountain holts in the Scythrian Mountains, it is to our
advantage that no one force controls the region - and in this chaos we have our
advantage. Without fear of facing an organized enemy, our forces in Alrisar provide us a
valuable base of operations from which to battle the spirit conquerors of Rokos. With the
recent surge in magic and the availability of so much magical power from the ley-lines,
many of Tezla's golem and Technomantic weapon designs that once were of fantastic
origins are now quite practical, and will serve us well in conquering back both our
rightful territory, and the rest of the Land when the time is right."
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Crystal Spikes - Winter, Day 18
"It has been said before that Magestone is the Empire, in that our way of life and the
destiny of humanity depends upon the crystal. In order for the Empire to rebuild from
our past defeats, we will need to harvest more Magestone crystal than we ever have
before. While the ongoing Crusader assault of the Wylden and the appearance of the
Drakona in the Revolutionary homeland should prevent any major Elemental or
Revolutionary raids into Atlantean territory, we need two things desperately - more
crystal, and able-bodied slaves to mine it. As of this morning, as part of an ongoing
series of training exercises for the new Technomages in my command, I have authorized
sending units to raid into Revolutionary territory. Their primary purpose is simple -
capture as many Dwarves as possible for use in the Magestone mines."
Reaching into a pocket of his golden cloak, Magus Anunub took out a carefully carved
spike of glowing Magestone crystal, and held it aloft for everyone in the room to see.
"While maintaining control over the Dwarves in the past was notoriously difficult, I have
a solution that will make the harvesting of Magestone much easier in the future.
Following a page from Tezla's own concepts and designs, these new Magestone crystals
will be surgically implanted into every Dwarven slave's ribcage. While the Dwarves'
natural immunities to magic prevent any subtle magical manipulation of the crystal, with
a large enough energy charge these 'pain-crystals' are guaranteed to explode and shatter,
killing the slave outright by pulping their internal organs. While our experimentation
with implanting these pain-crystals in human subjects has been very promising, the
invention of Magestone pain-staves will allow even a non-Technomancer to inflict pain -
or final death - upon those slaves that disobey our orders. These devices guarantee that a
jailor can cause enough negative stimulation to keep even the most unruly prisoner
mining his weight in crystal for weeks on end. Even in the dangerous magical zones
surrounding an active Magestone mine, these pain-staves have a guaranteed range of
twenty paces, ensuring that a jailor can put an end to nearly any prisoner riot virtually as
it starts."
The Sacred Garden - Winter, Day 19
As I continued viewing the new Atlantean Empire, I found Magus Anunub talking to his
commend staff. During the discussion, Anunub raised this interesting point:
"Economically, if we can claim enough Magestone and slaves in the coming months, we
can guarantee that our golems will be top notch - and I'm not just talking about the
military models. As the amount of magical power emitted by Magestone crystals and the
ley-lines is now double what it was from just a few months ago, we are going to be able
to create all manner of vehicles, devices and sentries to distribute throughout the Empire.
Much the same way that the wise Delphana have kept their island homeland a paradise of
peace and productivity, we believe that the interior of the Empire will become a sacred
garden its own time - as with the research by the wise mages of the Golemkore these past
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also causes Magestone to grow at a faster rate, which means we may be able to double or
triple our Magestone production if we are wise in our planning and our foresight."
Prophet-Magus Osiras - Winter, Day 20
During a public address, Prophet-Magus Osiras made an interesting declaration.
"I bring word of new orders from Tezla, spoken before the Emperor this morning. In
his wisdom, Tezla's Avatar has declared that any citizen of the Empire remaining in the
vicinity of Rokos or found offering aid or assistance to the Solonavi should be captured
and brought to the Spire of Atlantis. While these individuals may have flawed souls,
their bodies will serve well for our golem-engineers to practice upon as our Technomages
continue to strive for new bio-mechanical augmentations. Tezla founded his college
upon experimentation and substantiating his intellectual principles; we are to follow his
example and make excellent use of these traitors by transforming them into weapons of
the Empire. In time, as our skill and purpose grows from concept to reality, we can use
these men and women as the first weapons to fight the Solonavi, and can sacrifice them
just as readily as the Crusaders send their own zombies to shred the doomed Elementals
to the east."
Powder Train - Winter, Day 21
The female green Draconum lays upon a thin ledge more than a hundred feet above the
ravine, watching the slow progress made by the Revolutionaries below. With her wings
laid flat and the tip of her tail anchored around a rock outcropping behind her, the winter
wind barely even touches her supine form. Her sword, gripped loosely in her hand, seems
to indicate readiness rather than a plan of attack. Her name is Caldera; I know her from
my books.
As the Revolutionaries tried to navigate around a series of house-sized boulders, using
their brawn and their mountain-bred mules to pull the heavy loads of black powder
deeper into the Kuttar Depths, the Draconum seems to be sizing them up. While I am
guessing that the wagons below hold black powder mined from beneath the Amazon's
mountain homeland, I can only imagine what Caldera sees and smells with her keen
Draconum senses.
Seemingly satisfied, she lithely stands on the ledge, unwinds her tail from the rock, and
then lets the wind catch her like a kite. Like a fleeeting shadow she flits inbetween the
towering columns of rock, vanishing into the mountain maze within seconds. None of the
Revolutionaries were watching when she vanished from sight; not even the pair of rifle-
soldiers watching for ambush saw her leave. With the main roads through the Kuttar
Depths watched by bands of vicious Drakona, these secondary routes must be torturous to
travel upon. With any luck, the Revolutionaries will avoid Drakona patrols, and make
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deep in the Kuttar.
It looks like snow - a deadly commodity in the Depths.
Snowy Vale - Winter, Day 22
The wagon-train is forced into the open, and is faced with trudging a half-mile through
blinding snow to the far side of the valley. The warriors are worried, and stand ready for
any enemy. I haven't seen Caldera all morning; she could be anywhere in this howling
storm.
Wolves. Travelling along the sides of one of the steep, ice-caked face of the open vale, a
pack of white-furred winter wolves are parallelling the wagon-train's progress. Howling
forlornly to one another in the rising storm, these beasts are far more at home in the
blowing sleet than under an open sky. Bonding my scrying sight to the lithe form of one
of the beasts, I watch as it stalks a shivering human sentry following closely behind the
wagons. Completely invisible in the howling maelstrom, the leap and the kill is quick.
Two gutteral screams is all the guardsman can utter before his throat is torn out. When a
young Khamsin soldier raises a gun to shoot the wolf, a Dwarf - possibly the commander
of this expedition - slaps the barrel down with a gloved hand.
One shot, the Dwarf insists, will bring the Drakona down upon them. Better the wolves
have their meal, then to risk all their deaths by Drakona attack. The white wolf stands
over his prey, teeth bared, challenging the warriors to take his meal from him. But
without another word, the people move on, leaving their comrade behind, with swords
and axes close at hand.
Narrow Pass - Winter, Day 23
After winding through a narrow pass filled with shattered stones and sharp jags of ice, the
caravan reached the northern edge of the Kuttar Depths at noon today, and took a few
moments to make camp and to distribute food. With the storm abating early this
morning, having dumped at least six inches of snow on the ground, the bright sun
overhead now brings the danger of snowblindness. The Dwarves are prepared for this,
and hand out special goggles with tinted glass as protection from the glare. Even through
the muted waters of my scrying bowl, the entire room of my chamber is lit by the intense
northern sunlight, casting brilliant spears of warm, sun-hued radiance through a place that
I thought would be always touched by shadow and cold.
To my surprise, Caldera reappeared, flying out of the cold blue sky and landing a few
dozen paces in front of the wagon train. Even with the Dwarf's earlier warnings about the
sound of rifleshots, many of the warriors level their black powder weapons at the warrior.
Standing without fear, the green-skinned Draconum makes her statement in the human
tongue - and vehemently insists that the Drakona already know that the Revolutionaries
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services as a scout and a warrior to keep the caravan safe from harm.
Astonished at his luck, the Dwarf agrees, and seals the bond with a handshake and a word
of promise in the Dwarven tongue. Even more astonishing is the Draconum answering
back the bonding word in broken Dwarvish, promising her loyalty to his holt.
Frozen Lake - Winter, Day 24
While the caravan's travel across the frozen lake had been swift, with the Dwarves
replacing studded wheels with runners of sharpened steel, their speed was not enough to
avoid the Drakona hunters. Diving out of the foggy sky like stooping hawks, the three
dragon-men screamed challenge as they flew down onto the wagon-train. Clad in ancient
spiked armor, and their wings shining with sparkling aerial frost, the triad looked like
creatures of legend come to do battle with the champions of the Land. While a few pre-
emptive shots were fired by the younger Revolutionaries, with their bullets going far and
wide, the battle truly began when the Caldera manifested out of the clouds above the
Drakona and dove down upon the leader of the trad from behind. With a vicious war cry
she shredded his wing, and rode him mercilessly down into the ice.
Caldera stood from the crash. The ripped and ice-torn corpse did not.
Hissing his displeasure, the second Drakona confronted her, his tail lashing from side to
side with anger, and his sword - crackling with lightning energy - arced and popped in his
hand. Caldera held up a short metal rod in one hand, and readied her peculiar sword in
the other. After bowing, she met his challenge, and the two warriors exploded into a
battle of claws, fangs, and blades.
With the instigation of the duel, the last Drakona approached the caravan, watching with
glee as the human warriors stammered and scattered at his dire approach. Armed with a
double-edged broadsword, he prepared to make quick work of the trespassers, preparing
to slaughter them as a cat amongst mice. But then, the Dwarven commander of the
caravan rolled out from beneath one of the tarps with a heavy rocket launcher in hand.
Puzzled, the Drakona didn't know what to make of the dragon-headed instrument - until
the black powder propelled bomb fired from the tube exploded against his breastplate,
blasting the unsuspecting Drakona into a dozen pieces. The mules, already frightened by
the combat, nearly leap out of their harnesses at the explosion, and one of the wagons
smashed its precious cargo of black powder onto the frozen ice.
In the duel, Caldera was barely holding her own, suffering wound after wound from the
lightning blade - until she managed to bring her short rod around in a circle, connecting
the metal bar with the enemy's sword. In connecting with the spellbreaker, the sword
abruptly shot off a shower of sparks and went out, depriving the Drakona of advantage.
Deprived of his main advantage, and still facing a very angry Caldera, the Drakona
growled a promise of revenge, then leapt powerfully into the sky, leaving his two dead
companions for the wolves.
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Glacier Falls - Winter, Day 25
After another day and a half of travel, the wagon-train has reached the far side of the
frozen lake, and prepares to enter into a cave-mouth beneath the yawning lip of a massive
glacier. Standing with his back to a thunder frost-blue glacial waterfall, the Dwarven
caravan leader tells Caldera that their travels together stop here, for only those loyal to
the Revolution may travel beyond this point. Caldera tells him that she has some
loyalties to the Revolution, but she follows her own path, and she has no reason to
follow. The Draconum states that she merely wants her reward, and she will leave them
alone to their secrecy. The Dwarf agrees, and rustles out a keg of black powder from one
of the sled carts.
Hefting the heavy cask under one arm, the Draconum offers that if they meet again, he
has her alliance. He says his name is Stoneheart, and that he will keep an eye out for her
in the future. He says that the Revolution will need all the help they can get to ferry
black powder and weapons through the region, as the awakening of the Drakona has
endangered the supply of weapons that the Revolutionaries will need to drive Atlantis to
its knees. She acknowledges with a single, unreadable nod. Shrugging, he bids her
goodbye, and leads the wagon-train into the ice caves beneath the mountain-side.
Caldera sits and watches until the sound of the caravan is finally gone. Then, she grasps
the cask between her feet, and flaps into the air, heading south, back towards the Kuttar
Depths, until she is nothing more than a speck in the sky.
As Magestone emenations in the area are intense, my first attempts to follow the Dwarves
into the labyrinth of caves shows is all but denied by the presence of so much raw crystal
embedded amongst the rock and ice. To a Dwarf, travel into these deadly caves may be
an inconvenience. But to any other being, they would be insane to follow the path, for
they would be dead - or transformed - within hours by the crystal within. There must be
some trick that allows the humans in the Revolutionary party to travel down these
underground roads, but I don't yet know what that is. As result, I am disappointed that I
will not have the opportunity to follow the caravan to their final lair.
This time.
The Banks of the Kuttar River - Winter, Day 26
The Kuttar River thundered along the narrow gorge, threading its way between sets of
plunging waterfalls and stands of mist-shrouded boulder-strewn rapids . Racing along in
its quest for the lowlands only a few miles to the southwest, the flood-wash from the
recent mountain storms frothed and hissed in the Kuttar's banks with increasing ferocity.
As the Kuttar River runs from the ore-rich mines of the Kuttar Depths down to the
Revolutionary city of Enos Joppa, by summer the river is known as a placid, predictable
ally of mining parties and adventurers. But in the depth of winter, the Kuttar becomes a
raging beast driven only by the unsatiable urge to kill and destroy.
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winding mining road that leads up to the Kuttar Depths. Amongst the noise, mist and
river's tumult, the dragonman known as Drakor stands concealed some fifty feet above
the path. Sword in hand, he watches through slitted eyelids as the Dwarven wagon train
steadily makes their way up the road.
Fifteen wagons strong, with a dozen armed fuser rifleers riding guard in every wagon, the
party seemed a formidable group for Drakor to take on alone. But when the lead wagon
just crossed beneath his perch, the Draconum stepped out into thin air and dropped like a
stone towards his prey. Spreading his wings at the last moment, Drakor caught the
ragged edge of the mountain wind just before he collided with the cart. Grabbing the
lead Dwarf under one arm, he glided out over the foaming river with his screaming prey
before the Revolutionaries could even fire a shot. With great glee, ignoring the shouts of
fear and outrage from the riflemen, and the death threats from the struggling captain,
Drakor dashes the Dwarf's body against a sharpened rock the way a gull smashes a clam
from a height. Before the Dwarf had even been swept off the rock into the turbulent gray
waters, Drakor was already downriver and out of range, laughing at his enemy's cries of
fear and dismay.
An new tale has appeared on my bookshelf, detailing the journey of an Elemental
Freeholders group as they flee from the Dark Crusaders. "Everything Dies" is an
interesting tale, and I can't wait to see how it ends!
Drakor's Meeting - Winter, Day 27
While Drakor's initial escape through the mountains was erratic, as if he somehow
suspected someone was following him, I ultimately scryed the young Draconum as he
came a tangle of peaks south of the Dragon City, where the fury of the earth long ago
created a maze of tunnels, bridges, and ice ledges amongst a stand of knife-sharp
mountains. There, sitting on the edge of a five thousand foot drop into blackness, Drakor
sharpened his sword and waited, seemingly unconcerned about his act against the
Revolutionaries - much in the same way that a hawk doesn't regret the feelings of a
freshly caught rabbit.
In time, two Drakona sailed down on the winds from the north, landing with clawed toes
on the cold and pitted stone. The differences between the ancient Drakona and this
young Draconum are very evident, in the cruel jutting outline of the Drakona's jaws and
teeth, to the way that the their eyes are set further back into their skulls to give them more
of a bestial appearance. Everything about the Drakona speaks of combat and adapatation.
The three dragonmen talked for a time, relaying information about the increasing
numbers of humans and Dwarves heading into the mountains to defend the Revolution's
mining resources. As the Kuttar Depths were once the sovereign territory of the Drakona
in millennia past, the Drakona joke that they will continue to defend their homeland with
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boring the effort becomes.
On an interesting note, one of the Drakona mentioned to Drakor that a young green
female Draconum had been sighted on the northern-eastern edge of the Depths,
apparently defending a Revolutionary caravan. While the Drakona say that they have had
great success in eliminating virtually every black powder caravan or adventurer they can
catch, the female's victory on the ice lake represents their first loss or casualty in this
mountain war. Drakor thanked them for their aid, and launched himself in that direction
with renewed fury and determination.
Caldera's Trail - Winter, Day 28
Drakor stands before the glacier that Stoneheart's caravan stopped by only a few days
ago, and gazes warily at the hole leading down into the pockmarked maze of stone and
ice. Twice Drakor attempted entry into the Magestone ridden labyrinth, and twice he
stumbled out of the opening back into the open air, overcome by the power of the deadly
radiation emenating from below.
Earlier today, the young Draconum scouted the snow-littered site of Caldera's earlier
battle with the Drakona. Moving from one place to another, he carefully analyzed the
sled tracks, the residue and frozen Drakona body chunks left by the Dwarven cannoneer's
explosive round, and the shredded corpse of the ice-smashed squad leader. Following the
tracks north, he discovered the shadowy cave leading beneath the glacier easily - and
even checked behind icy spray of the thundering glacial waterfall to ensure there were no
other secret passages through the ice.
But now, this young hunter has his first lead. Off to the east, amongst the jagged peaks
leading towards the heights of the Amazon's mountain homeland, a thunderous report
sounds from the peaks, like a distant explosion or landslide. Curious, Drakor soon lifts
himself from the ground and heads to investigate, sword held at the ready.
The second part of Everything Dies has become available. The ending of Kolt's
adventure warmed my heart indeed.
Drakor's Discovery - Winter, Day 29
It took almost a day for Drakor to find his prey. While the new snowstorm grows in
intensity, and great, fluffy flakes of snow block visibility throughout the region, the
young Draconum soon took great interest in a whole section of gray granite peak stripped
of snow. A powerful avalanche recently swept the face of the small peak clear up the
side of the northern face. Upon closer inspection, a series of stairs and balconies can be
seen carved into the face of the mountainside, leading up from the snow-clotted canyon
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knowledge, the place must be a long-abandoned holt - a city of the Dwarves - but how
long ago it was abandoned I cannot tell. This place is older and darker than many of the
southland holts I've seen. The place bears no small amounts of grim foretiding of a
people long lost to the ice and snow of this frozen north.
A small shape moves in one of the lower doorways, more than a thousand feet below
where Drakor is gliding. It is likely Caldera, exploring an entryway revealed by her
explosive, artificial avalanche. (The use for her keg of black powder she bartered from
Stoneheart is now obviously apparent.) While Drakor's hackles raise and the animalistic
desire for combat seems surely upon him, this high up in the sky, buffeted by the constant
and uncertain winds that surrounded this haunted place, he seems hesistant to drop into a
hawk's dive. Instead he slowly spirals his way down to the ledge, trying to keep out of
sight of Caldera's balcony. When he reaches the ledge, the snow tracked with Draconum
prints, he confidently enters into the abandoned Dwarven holt, ready to defeat and
capture his elusive prey.
Caldera and Drakor - Winter, Day 30
I'd venture that the stone of the Dwarven Holt has not seen warmth in a thousand years.
Carved amongst the roots of a massive peak, the tunnels, chambers and storerooms of this
Dwarven city lie long plundered and empty, bearing not even skeletons or Mage Spawn
to warn away intruders. This place may explain the Dark Dwarves found some miles to
the west in Dragon's Gate. Everything of worth seems to have been taken from this place
long ago, and moldering meals lay half-eaten on plates of burnished silver.
Drakor, like the finest pit-fighter, stalks from one pillared hall to the next, following
Caldera's scent through the stony maze, moving from one room to the next. After an
hour of cat and mouse, he discovers Caldera in the heart of a large throne room, through
the center of which runs an ice-clogged trench that once served as some kind of moat or
ornamentation. So intent is she upon investigating a set of three Dwarven thrones at the
back of the room, she doesn't even seem to notice his entry. Only when Drakor's feet
whisper down onto the icy stone behind her, his sword raised for the strike, does she turn
and attack.with a vicious cry.
Drakor is brilliant in combat, combining a dizzying array of sword and martial-claw
strikes together into a tornado of Draconum fury. While elements of his training as a
Draconum warrior are evident, the savagery and brutality of his Drakona masters are
obvious in every wicked strike, and in his careful attempts to incapacitate her - and not
kill her. While Caldera holds her own, she seems as if she is better suited for fighting
with others, as Drakor keeps gaining advantage over her by circling to one side or the
other and attacking unexpectedly against the backs of her legs and her exposed wings.
After a harsh parry that sends the entire throne room echoing with the sound of ringing
steel, Drakor stepped up into Caldera's guard and bit her shoulder with his foreteeth,
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Source: http://mk.strats-welt.at/download/KastaliDiary%2004%20-%20Winter435.pdf

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