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A light in the darkness

Stillness, the quiet of the night and the cold of the shadows beyond the edge of the fire light. All these things hung like a layer over everything in the calmness that swirled around them at that exact moment, single specs of dust floating lazily before the eye as the scattering back of light of the murky oil lamps and flickering electric glows of bulbs fell through the darkness until they were eclipsed , only the faintest traces picking out odd details to eyes that looked through the gloom towards the source of the light sitting nestled before them. To the left the shadows seemed to move slightly as individual forms emerged and knelt patiently in the darkness, their distinct features lost to the darkness of shadow as more and more emerged through the rubble and debris of once thriving buildings that now formed the boundary of this land. Crouched at the front of each shadowy collection a single figure perched on the crop of concrete or a rusted out vehicle, a spear held across their lap as they looked on with closed eyes. The same would repeat itself to the right in a single unbroken line of dark figures that had collected at this unspoken position, every figure silent and watching as those that perched crouched in readiness for some unspoken sign as they waited in the surrounding shadows of the ruined buildings. In the midst of this  line an old gatherer knelt amongst her fellows, as silent as the hunter crouched next to her but with the look of vindication and utter determination flaring through her eyes that none could fail to miss and not understand as her gaze fell upon the source of lights before them all.  Sat amongst the ruined transmission towers  surrounded by simple crude barricades the small bustling market town spewed light like a leaky cup does water when filled, from their position people bustled about their daily lives unaware of the shadows watching them. “Arrogance and blasphemy” a voice hissed from besides the young hunter “They know nothing and claim everything that the ancestors hands would touch unto the light”. Glancing over his shoulder an acolyte of the iron tree crouched between himself and the next hunter along from his warband, apparently called Seeker the name seemed apt to  Sorrow. The acolyte had busied himself away since he had joined the quiet step alongside numerous other bands from various tribes and shamans, spreading the truth and will of the ancestors after they had returned from the green place with the words of those who trod there filling their minds and eyes. Sorrow glanced over at his war chief as she sat cross legged on top of what had once been a vehicle of some kind, her eyes closed as she simply listened for the sound all hunters ears knew to well. Quietening his thoughts as he had been taught since he was a child Sorrow let the simple act of controlling his breathing wash over him as he calmed his nerves, feeling his heart slowly begin to return to its normal pace as he kept the anxiety that always crept in at bay as he waited. Some hunters would twitch or fidget whilst others went over weapons and armour, others would quietly talk with friends whilst others sat silently, letting their minds empty as they prepared themselves for what was to come. Raised from an early age to be a hunter like his father and mother before him sorrow was only just coming into his early prime as a new hunter and was the youngest member of his warband, having completed the rites to join as decreed by its war chief. He had the scarring covering his right cheek to prove it as a single black feather hung from the braid of hair he wore over the front of his face marking his junior rank amongst his fellows. He had hunted the mutant kind and scouted the old paths for signs of their old brothers incursions, defended shrine sights from trespassers and watched the passing of the soldier born that lived in the taboo places to the north of the homelands. Never before had he had to kill another human as to date but now the possibility hung over him like a physical weight, he muttered a small prayer he had known as a child to the ancestors to watch over him and let his spear only find those just of deserving its blade. A hand rested on his head for a second as the female huntress to his left patted him gently like an elder sibling with a younger brother or sister. “The ancestors will hear you better through action than word now the time has come little brother” She smiled as her other hand pointed towards the mech-corp owned market town before them, “Do not let fear grasp your heart as we go to do the ancestors work, and so provide life for our families and tribes amongst the homelands”. Sorrow swallowed nervously but nodded, gripping his spear more tightly as he rewound the securing strap around his arm that would let him swing it onto his back at a moments notice.  A small sound caught his attention to his fore as his war chief stood up slowly and quietly began to bang the base of her spear on the roof of the rusted hulk where she had perched, within a few minutes the sound reverberated up and down the line of hunters and gatherers of the Quiet step until it roared into the dark. The few men and women manning the barricades of the mech-corp town pointing out into the darkness as the people’s army rolled forward in a tide of spear tips flashing and glinting in the back light...

Military Campaign Progress Edit

Fear catches at the very fibre of a being no matter how great or small they may be, it stitches itself across their very existence with a cold grasp that some find hard to ever remove, the merest touch leaving a life long crack in their will and spirit which never recovers. Yet with some still the reverse is true and so much more damning, where once stalwart morals and tradition would dictate the way a civilisation developed and how its people grew day by day the touch of fear seeping in to the heart can erase the boundaries that would guide, to be replaced by a new law were the once unthinkable would become the very contemplation of the mind. Like a cancer fear can eat way at a person or culture until nothing is left but the darkest core with little to show any more beyond its blackened light, but in this a small spark of hope can arise to eclipse the darkness and birth a new way of life that strengths the resolve of a people to such a degree that they fly to heights they would have never before dreamed of reaching. Some would rile against this kind of strength born of evil as they would call it, shamans and priests decrying it as damnation whilst others would point to the burning brightness of hope that the fear brought forth and show that like anything in this universe fear is another tool of survival, where a weak people would die out hiding in the very corners of a land, the fear of the unknown would drive them to glad themselves in the armour of contempt and step forth daring the universe to strike them down. Seers of days gone by would say that the darkness and the light were but two wolves forever chasing one another, which ever one the culture would feed would grow to dominate, but just as the coming of the dark heralds the doom of the light the dawning of hope burns away the fear.

For the various tribes of the Peoples this fear is a constant gnawing in the back of their minds whenever the faintest trace of their old brothers is found, a sea of paranoia and worry over taking those hither too witness to these times. In response their culture is one where the utter domination of the ancestors acts as a guarding bulwark, offering solace and calm in a sea of violent darkness. Any time the old scares are brought forth the united cry of the tribes crushes it under a weight of unified belief in their eventual destiny, the same can be said for when other fears attempt to break into this sanctuary in a very real and seditious fashion. With the lack of any food continuing onwards and beginning to run rampant through the culture with all the damage it brings with it the shamans gathered in a great meeting at the base of the Iron tree, awaiting the return of the two that had taken the path to the green places to face those peoples that trod the lands there. What they returned with was but simple words but the effects were far beyond what would have been expected outside of exceptional times.  Sitting to one side a small gathering of tribes focussed around an elderly gatherer; each watching the proceedings with an unflinching stare as the shamans discussed what had been said,  come the end of day  they would have reasons to stand and turn to this singular figure amongst them as her eyes began to burn with a vindication that would drive them onwards in the months to come. Spreading word to every tribe as fast as their legs would carry them the decision would reach all ears that could and would listen within a few days that would see a subtle change in every tribe as they reacted to the news and were taken up in the grasp of a dark hope of what was to come. When faced with the question of putting their vigilant ways aside in order to gain a singular chance to stop the starvation of thousands of their own through the spoils of others a single answer was given to the words of the shamans, yes.

As the first few days of the new seasonal cycle would pass these words would reach the quiet step accompanied by a flow of shamans and a small force of a couple of hundred gatherers being escorted by close knit hunters bearing the ash mark of the ancestors wrath across their brows.  The army would gather at the core of tis sea of tents and shelters as it listened in silence to the benedictions and words of the shamans as they spoke of the scenes in the green places, the mountains of food carried off by other cultures and the tides of trickery shown to all sides by the beings that inhabited the place. Promises that were kept in face were often broken when turned the shamans told, where once the abilities to know all and see what was around the sanctuary they knew were enough, now the people’s faced a enemy that could not be stopped by simple knowledge, the thrust of blade must meet this foe head on in order for the peoples to survive and as such the way of the scout must be put aside for that of the hunter. The following days would see the army take these words to heart as those war bands that had once taken pride of place leading from far ahead of the main host were re integrated into the main bulk of the various tribal bands, with those that had more experience with stripping an area or protecting gatherers whilst they worked were sought out and drawn together into a new host at the core of the armies lead. The war chiefs of these bands would find places open to them at the meetings of the greater chiefs amongst the quiet step as they took food and broke bread over their plans for the future, their experiences and tales being listened to carefully as they leaders took note of what was said during these early days as the plan for the great raid began to take shape in the minds all of immersed within it. By the end of the second week after the word had been spread the quiet step would finally begin to make its first move from where it has come to lay in the previous months past, gathering up their camp and slowly beginning to head back down the road ways and tunnels they had previous come through the army would shake itself from the ditch it had come to rest in and begin at the very fringes to take a small step towards a spark of hope that though some last few would not see the spoils of their endeavours and pass on in the coming days their sacrifice would see the starvation of their entire civilisation halted for the time being through their own personal loss. This not of noble self sacrifice would spark a fervour through the most spiritual of the quiet step as the influx of shamans took to nightly sermons taking place around small camp fires to gathering entire bands together in faithful worship of the ancestors will in all things.

The weeks after this would see the army move back through the battle grounds and skirmish places they had crossed before, the grave markings of those few who they couldn’t return to the home lands catching the sight of all those who passed it. Some would stop to pay their respects as others held small impromptu ceremonies invoking the souls of those that had perished to look over them with kindness in what was to come. By the end of the first month the quiet step would be once encamped amongst the towering ruins of the habitation towers they had passed through previously, yet now small close knit camps of gatherers would welcome them with what little they had to offer, tired limbs being bathed in cold water as the army rested itself and those who the passing hunger had been too much were added to the growing list of names spoken at the dawn prayers before their remains were carried back to their kin. One poignant moment comes amongst these growing burials as a elderly hunter passes into the embrace of the ancestors,  when asked of whose tribe he had been kin to no voice would speak, only when the shamans convened did they learn the truth of the hunters origin. Born to a small tribe that he had out lived the blood line that had flowed through them had been born before the fall, the hunter had carried the stories and tales from each generation stretching back to the very birth of their culture and now that line had finally after 300 years died out having survived war and death in the darkness to fall for lack of simple food.

The dawn of the second month would pass with little notice as the army drew within more and more as it began to plan in earnest how it would carry out the plan to save them all. Those of a more spiritual nature would pass the word of the passing of the final of a blood line in hushed tones as some took ill omen whilst others took heart that now above would the word pass amongst the ancestors of their intentions and with this the eyes of all those that had walked the quiet step would be upon them for all time in this endeavour.  The war chiefs are all summoned during the course of the second week to gather before the assembled greater chiefs that led the army, upon arriving they find as they gather in more and more numbers that each chief is met by a shaman who sits with them and discusses quietly the part they have deemed to play in the coming weeks as the leaders  finally reveal what they have been planning in private until now. As they emerge from their tent they split into 3 parts and beckon for the shamans and other chiefs to rise from their places of rest, with but a few words the assembled leadership of the quiet step is quickly broken into 3 distinct groups as two large groups of hunter war bands are formed whilst another consisting of mainly gatherers accompanied by She-Who-Sits and her ilk is grouped together. In the raid to come these two large war parties of hunters will create a shield and spear for the gatherers to carry out their work, pushing any defenders out of their positions and sending them fleeing whilst the gatherers strip the position of anything of use and crucially of any food they can lay their hands on before withdrawing back into the ruins. Dubbed the ‘Horns’ and ‘Head’ the army as a whole would be required to hit hard and fast to avoid being drawn into a protracted fight with any defending mech-corp warriors in the area who would no likely react with extreme prejudice as their kind was known to do if given enough time to rally themselves. The next few days sees each chief assembling their war band and running through their part in the plan before in turn returning to meet with other chiefs of their overall position in the raid and practicing their every action, taking time for their hunters and gatherers to get to know one another as such that should one become separated they may still continue their role effectively with another close band until they may reunite with their fellows. By the close of the final days of the second month though the number of those lost to starvation continues to rise amongst the various bands the quiet step stands ready to enact the will as the plan becomes known, after this for each season that passes they will step forwards into the dark and take what must be taken in order to ensure that the people live another day until they can stand to face and rival those that would control their futures, be it mutant filth, treacherous brothers or heathen outsiders.

The coming of the third month grips every member of the peoples present as the chiefs assemble the army once last time before the raid is to commence, past months had allowed gatherers and hunters that tred these lands to spy on the comings and goings of the mech-corp in the next lands onwards. What signs of defence that they have a minimal at best, designed to simply keep people or small bands of mutants out rather that sustain an organised attack by an outside force. The same can be said of the local garrison of perhaps a few dozen local militia and a few private fighters who pick through the ruins surrounding the ancient power station and the small market town. The surrounding area showed no signs of any major movement that would normally accompany the signs for the mech-corp’s army to be in the immediate area, with this a ripple of amusement spread through out the assembled quiet step;  once marshalled the mech-corp’s warriors favoured long range fighting via massed numbers and were hard for the people’s style of warfare to deal with effectively, especially when the mech-corp were on the defensive, however it took time to marshal them into position and were like a clumsy hammer, painful when swung but otherwise slow and lacking any form of subtlety. Two days later the army would find itself pushing through the connecting tunnels towards the unsuspecting market town, marching through various tunnels and passing through the shadows of long silent transmission towers the army spread out into a wide crescent with the two horns pushing forward at the two further most tips. They would lye in wait for another day before the signal was given, a single arrow loosed into the air during the dusk trailing a simple red flare as the war chief of each band lead their kin forward in a great tide of determined faces masked by war paint and all aiming for the same point nestled before them.  The first warning the town got of something being horrifically wrong was a deluge of arrows coursing through the air around them, the first screams of wounded going up in the chill dusk air as the barricades surrounding the town were overrun, a few militia garrison troops managing to get off a few shots before going down themselves from a spear to the gut or neck, blood splattering down to pool around them as their corpses collapsed. Soon the streets were running a muck with civilians fleeing in every direction with fires beginning to spread as oil lamps were knocked over and smashed, spreading their contents over the ground with blazes soon following.

The two great horns of the quiet step smashed through what little resistance the unaware garrison force could offer in but a few hours as what troops could respond found themselves swamped with panicking and fleeing citizens carrying wounded and dying with them as the hunters pushed further and further out and through the other side of the town as the mech-corp settlers ran in every possible direction into the darkened ruins in an attempt to escape the sudden onslaught. A number of off duty militiamen alongside a couple of law enforcers managed to barricade themselves into the local bar and attempted to hold off the circling hunters of two bands but apart from this the market town was swiftly taken, with the ‘head’ of the force know coming in and beginning to search and strip the town of any and all food they could find. The following day saw great cart full of food being stacked up and taken back out through the burnt out western gates of the town, back towards people’s territory and the home lands to feed those so desperately starving. Some hunters in all of this stop to examine a strange building found in the town filled with all pieces of strange technology, calling for their shaman the building was soon marked with the wards of taboo, a heathen shrine to be avoided the shamans said as they shooed the hunters back to their task. Come the weeks end what had once been a small but prosperous mech-corp town was reduced to smouldering ruins as the quiet step begin to withdraw from the territory back through the paths and tunnels to more familiar ground. With them came enough food when rationed out to feed the army and send back to the home lands to stave off the worst effects of the starvation for a season or two, the overall price from the march and the raid itself has been surprisingly low thanks to the lack of any major defences of garrison troops, 100 hunters and gatherers would never see the home lands again as they passed into the care of the ancestors but the blood price had ensure that 4 times that number would not pass from starvation in the months to come. The only question that some asked as they settled around their fires with the stomachs satisfied for the first time in months was whilst they were now fed, what would the mech-corp do in response and how soon…

Summary:

The Quiet Step has successfully pulled of the great raid on the bordering mech-corp territory. Through a combination of starvation which has been mitigated thanks to the success and some minor combat casualties only 100 hunters and gatherers were lost from the army as a whole, bringing it down to a total fighting strength of 2750. However for the next two seasons the army will not suffer any attrition from starvation, after which point if no food source has been secured the army will begin to be affected once more. On top of this due to the nature of the decision taken the army quality of the Quiet Step has been updated from “Cautious” to “Raiders”, this will allow the army to utilise the ‘PILLAGE’ special order once every 3 downtimes.

A blood reaped Toll & A promise not forgotten Edit

With the success of the great raid the various tribes of the peoples have staved off the worse of the starvation currently affecting them and this has led to a cry of celebration that has given hope to the peoples as a whole that they may yet see the light at the end of the tunnel of darkness they find themselves in. With this the gatherers of the home lands have already begun to distribute the new food captured from the mech-corp to those most in need of immediate supply across their lands, whilst the Shamans of the Iron tree sing praise to the ancestors for their guiding hand. The Shaman that had walked to the green place leads a sermon in private with the tribe of the peoples walking the paths of the green place as a benediction of thanks whilst his acolyte follows the armies progress. One thing comes up amongst a meeting of tribal elders though that yet may put a fly in the ointment as were, the response of the mech-corp and the deal with the far off raven privateers. The first causes some great worry that should the need to raid again become a necessity would the response of the mech-corp be so great that the peoples would need to go to out right war to defend themselves if the cogmen were to respond in the aggressive manner as they had become accustomed to. Debate rages for some time over this matter before the shaman scribe puts forth the second thought on the deal with the privateers of the raven far to the north. According to the information passed along a deal for food had been made with them but said promised food after 3 months had yet to materialise at all, at this all seated in the meeting look grim at the under lying tone. If they hadn’t raided for food their situation would be far far worse than before, and now a new potential threat looms of a new culture they have very little information on or experience dealing with seemingly thinking they can take advantage of the peoples. Should the promise prove to have been nought but folly then the implications are drastic, the peoples are viewed as beneath those present in the green places and any deals can not be expected to be honoured.

Summary:

1) After an assembly of the tribal elders the various tribes of the people are concerned about the potential mech-corp response, as such they ask those people’s present to do what they can to either gather information on the mech-corp or to attempt to foster some form of distraction to keep them from enacting reprisals for the raid.

2) With the promised food from the Raven Privateers having not materialised the Peoples have taken an extremely dim view of them being tricked as it would appear. They send shamans to speak to those Peoples present before they intend to make their case to the sentinels of the Green place, the ghost men of the Arbiters...

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