Zaranna repeats her message about how they are mapping the land and the settlers will come after, and asks to know what their lands are in order to preserve appropriate borders.
He furrows his brow and nods, "Well, we have claims to various coastal forts along the coast, along with much of Alyaska to the north. We have heard of the war between America and the Mexica. We have no great love for the remnant forces, as they have contested many of our claims in this region."
Zaranna lays out a map and starts detailing their borders, along with the other boundaries that she had previously laid out.
Well, part of the reason we are doing this is to respect the rights of the people that are already here. The elven tribes in my area have joined with the Americans, and we are working to integrate our diverse societies. I think that is one reason that I was chosen to come on this mission. We want to ensure that all of us are able to coexist, humans or not.
The Mexica that still fight are rebels, disowned by their own government, and they refuse to make peace and accept a place in America, so unfortunately we have to face them so that they don't murder more settlers. I can understand their position in a way. It is hard to let go of the past and hard to understand people who don't live the way that you do. It is hard to be held to borders that were negotiated by someone hundreds of miles away. And yet, if we do not listen to our rulers and make peace with new people, then we are not only at war with the rest of the world, but at war with our own selves, for we will never find peace.
I mean, drakes aren't worthy of peace, but you know...
The man nods and says, ”We know they are rebels, and we know all too well the need to bow to a far-off government. The rebels have attacked us several times, even killed a few of our people. We would wish to see them driven out.”
Zaranna explains about the shellmound and their purpose in this journey. She tells them that they are welcome to join this "final battle" to ensure victory for all of the united peoples if they like.
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The fort commander is quiet for a moment before he says, "Yes, we would join you in this battle. We cannot promise much, but we will help. I have heard of this elf you seek. She lives about a day north."
So, once the agreement is made, Zaranna and her party leave to go find the Elven woman who is willing to sacrifice herself to activate the Shell mound, and they leave this group to prepare for battle (they can travel with them on the way back if they are ready).
After being seen off by the Russians, the party finds themselves travelling along similar coastline. After about a day, as the commander predicted, they see a small wooden hut in the distance, built atop some cliffs overlooking a river.
They ride closer, but do the final approach on foot, trying hard to be respectful of the Elven elder that they believe lives here.
Zaranna goes up and knocks on the door.
Or whatever the proper elven custom is.
A frail elven woman comes to the door, her eyes clouded with blindness. She says in a stern voice, "Who is it? Don't tell me the council has come to take me back? I told them I won't serve them any more."
No, grandmother. We have not come to take you back to the council. We have come to tell you about a need to activate the shellmound, and to see if you have any interest in dedicating your life to aid your people in that way. It is much to ask, and we only ask to be able to explain the need. No one will force you to comply, or even to listen, if you prefer to be left in peace.
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (17) + 9 = 26
Well, it is the Mexica rebels. As a united nation, we have made peace with the Mexica, but these rebels refuse to acknowledge or abide by the treaty, and it doesn't seem that they can be negotiated with. There are many of them, and they seem to be killing indiscriminately. They are endangering everyone in the land, including the elves and the new settlers that are coming. As we have discussed this with the council, we have decided together to goad them into battle and settle the issue permanently. In doing so, we are uncertain of victory unless the shellmound is activated.
It is your choice. I don't think anyone wishes to see you die, and I personally am very uncomfortable with any magic that requires such a sacrifice. To me it seems evil. But I trust the council, and the need is great, so I have come, to ask and to escort you if you choose to accompany us.
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"It also needs to be emphasized that there is NOT an immediate danger of the elves being all slain or anything like that. It is certainly quite possible the the elves will be able to win without the shellmound"
"Although perhaps at a much higher cost"
”Perhaps I shall go with you. I suppose there is nothing I can do for my people so far from them.”
The party heads out along the coast, the old elven woman riding along with Zaranna.
They reach the fort a day later, and a group of heavily armed men stand out front, horses laden with barrels of powder tied up behind them. The fort commander nods and says, Zdrasvutye. I see you’ve gotten the one you were looking for. I cannot go with my men, much as I might like. Igor can speak enough of your English, Sharp-ear, and Haida to do well enough. Make sure that my men fight well, and not in vain.”
The struggle for peace is never in vain. I just wish it could be accomplished in other ways than this.
The party ventures back to the bay, and upon reaching the shellmound, the old elf takes a deep breath and says, "I do what I do for my people."
She is assisted by several shamans onto the apex of the mound, and one of them feeds her an herbal tea meant to induce a sense of euphoria and dull the pain.
With that, she begins to carve ritualistic cuts into her arms, the blood ever so slightly dampening the shining mound of shells. After a time, she breathes her last and...
But then, the shells begins to move slightly, clattering along the ground. The mound begins to move and eventually forms a colossal humanoid form, radiantly shining in the sun.
It says in a strange voice, a combination of the old elven woman and a deeper, incredibly inhuman one, "With blood the pact is sealed. The spirits of sea and sky come to your aid."
Cool. Before we had talked about luring them into a giant battle here, but whatever you want to do... we can ride out and wipe them out, or whatever. The idea was to get everyone rounded up and get it over with rather than having to fight little pockets forever.
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The most senior elven warriors assemble in one of the large lodges. They cut a regal presence, the experience of centuries giving weight to their words. Strategies are discussed, and the assembly finally decides, with input from the party, on meeting the Mexica in a narrow pass, luring them with the shell guardian before ambushing them with the elven warriors and Russian forces.
A day of hectic preparation follows, with the other clans sending bands of warriors. There are the tree-striders of the northern forest who strike from the trees with deadly war clubs. Bola-slingers come from the south, and a few of the spear-wielding sky strikers come from the distant mountains. There are even human tribespeople from the surrounding areas, eager to drive the Mexica out of their lands
Before long, the assembled army is ready to meet the Mexica. Shortly before they leave, the shell guardian lumbers to the water and plunges it's hands into the waves, creating a great club out of churning seawater.
The pass the group decides on, though narrow, provides ample room for warriors to wait in ready on the sides and for the few warriors who will take the Mexica head on to take positions around the guardian. Outriders are dispatched to lure the Mexica from their war camps, and after a day of tense waiting, the Mexica are sighted in the distance.
They are lead by the fearsome Hand of Huitzilopochtli, a man with hands seemingly drenched in blood wielding the largest macuahuitl any of you have seen. He is accompanied by a priestess of Huitzilopochtli, her obsidian sacrificial knife ready to offer hearts to the sun. He is also followed by a great shadowy giant, which Teiuc recognizes as one of the Quinametzin, a race of giants that were once common in the lands of the Mexica. A large army is at their back, and the air is filled with war drums and battle hymns.
The guardian steps forward, uproots a tree, and hurls it at the army. With that, the enemies surge forward. Just as they enter the pass, volleys of arrows fly from the hilltops and elven warriors rush out of the trees. A volley of Russian shot hits the back lines of the Mexica, decimating their reserves. The shell guardian rampages through their front lines, its giant water club leaving great pools in its bloody wake. Zaranna looses arrow after arrow, John Thomas hits like a truck with his enchanted shillelagh on the front lines, and Guujaw works his magic to wreak havoc among the enemies.
The enemies, however, are mighty as well. The Hand of Huitzilopochtli rips through elves and men alike, holding their hearts aloft in an offering to his god. The priestess conjures up fell magic, necromancy, hemomancy, and ever more indescribable powers. The giant carves through the allies as well, his twin obsidian blades flashing with uncanny agility.
The battle is long and hard, staining the soil of the pass red with blood. The day, however, is won by the allied forces. The Mexica are routed, and the Hand and his generals lie dead, riddled with arrows after a desperate last stand.
In the aftermath of the battle, Zaranna makes sure that the enemy forces are well and properly looted, and then buried. Treasures are distributed to the allies equally, and she makes sure that they draw up formal papers about boundaries and alliances so that the coming settlers don't think they can take the lands of these new Americans who have fought and died for them.
Guujaaw will fully participate in honouring the fallen, making sure that they are given appropriate rites and treated honourably.
Days later, he will take his leave of his companions
"The time for us to part has come. I am close to my own people and it is time for me to return to the Haida.
I will take word to them of America, of the Elves, of all that I have seen. I'm sure that sometime, probably soon, America will come to our land. Hopefully I will then be able to act as an intermediary between our people, ensuring that they too can join this America peacefully.
Thank you all. It was a great honour fighting at your side.
Perhaps our paths will again cross. I hope that is so"
I'm presuming this is intended as the end. Thanks a lot, lots of fun
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The year is 1855, and the state of Five Branches has just been admitted into the Union, the newest star on the flag.
Relations between the largely human settlers and elven natives were, initially, rocky. But due to the efforts of the Second Corps of Exploration, the future seems bright. Zaranna worked, and still works, tirelessly to create a stable partnership between the elves and the humans. Guujaw went north to the Haida for a time before returning the the Western states and territories. There was still much to learn, and he intended to learn as much as he could. John Thomas was content to settle down on the land that was promised to him.
There were also those that did not finish the journey. Kuruk departed the group, returning to the Apache. Angus founded a messenger company, bringing mail across the wild expanses of the West and satisfying his wanderlust.
To the south, the Mexica Federation consolidates their power. Though still understandably bitter about their large loss of territory, the hottest tempers have cooled and the defeat of the rebel forces has helped greatly.
The scattered tribes of the southwest begin trading with the Union, and talks of statehood are beginning. The small Russian population of Fort Ross decide to stay behind, even with American expansion into their territory.
The future, though uncertain, is bright.
This long tale is over, at least for now.