Training with Taeren continues. During our last session, we practiced weapon summoning techniques, and also, at his request, worked with some weaponry he is not used to wielding, namely bows and axes. There are many different kinds of weapons, melee and otherwise. We will go through them all before we are done.

The man we were chasing finally stopped moving, down in a dark and gross place. Slimy, moving walls, straight out of a nightmare. Shadowchaser and I went there to see him...but all that was left were ashes. He had been totally consumed by some sort of very hot fire. I spoke to Kerowynn about this and she suggested calling in Herman, an expert on strange places. He took some samples and said he would get back to me. I haven't heard much yet. I will have to ask Kerowynn if she has. I also took the ashes, in a sealed urn, back to our lab for study. Nothing forthcoming about those yet, either.

Taeren's training continues, and he is doing well. Kerowynn did some heavy work with him yesterday, which has allowed him to put together more of the pieces of his past. She is doing some work that is difficult for me to do. I have a hard time explaining this sometimes. She is better at it than I.

Last night, I had work elsewhere, tracking down an astral stalker who had targeted Kerowynn for her help in breaking down his conduit wall and sealing it so he could not disrupt the flow again. I am not sure why he did not come after me instead; I had just as much in the work as Kerowynn, possibly more. Maybe it was due to her weak energy state; he thought he had an "in". So Shadowchaser and I did some work tracking him down last night, with the help of the hounds. He's a slippery bastard. Managed to lose 2 of the 3 hounds, but that remaining one is still on his trail. He is fast, and he moves easily through some deep, dark places. As much as I'd like to dig down and go after him myself, my instincts tell me to be cautious, and so I am. He is just a pawn in a larger game. The hound will stay on him, and when he stops moving, we will go in and get some answers. That's the plan for now, anyway. Subject to change, as everything is in this business.

Taeren's retraining began a few days ago, the night of 9/25/11. His soul is old, but his mind is young. He has pieces of memories, like we all do when we are awakened, but he is not able to piece them all together yet, and Kerowynn can only do so much to help with that. We decided, the 3 of us, that training him as a green recruit would be best. So far, our decision seems to have merit. He is learning quickly, as expected. The dragon Saphira is also being trained, by Shadowchaser. She recently awoke from a long slumber as well, and her mind is unhealthy. Her training is progressing more slowly than Taeren's, but that is OK. We cannot afford to be impatient with her. She is making progress, and that is what matters.

Part of Taeren's training is integrating his astral self with his physical self, to keep discordance to a minimum. Discord can cause unpleasant effects, headaches being the most common, but also other aches, and even illness. The integration is going well. He has told me his headaches are lessening in intensity lately. I take that as a good sign.

Another part of his training, and his favorite, is combat training. He is extraordinarily agile, his favorite weapons a pair of long slender swords. We are not training with those. We only did live blades one night, near the beginning, and his arrogance cost him a (later regenerated) finger. It was a lesson that needed to be taught. We started with fighting sticks, and have progressed each night to other things. After the sticks was the quarterstaff, with martial arts integration. Then heavy blunted steel, katana length. That was last night. During that sparring match, Taeren produced a throwing star from somewhere. He is learning about summoned weapons. Also a good sign, but something he will need to be taught to use effectively. It is one of many tools us astral warriors possess. Like any profession, one of the most important things is knowing when to use which tool.

For the first time in a long time, I feel activity in the Astral. My perception of it is vague at best; things are happening but I am having trouble pinpointing specific happenings.

Things have been quiet, lately. Some troops and dragons both are restless...but this time gives us an opportunity to prepare further, so we are not sitting idle. I have found it has been good for me, as a trainer, to give some of our soldiers some one-on-one time. This has been true for other trainers, as well, and as a result we have been able to bolster morale and skills both through some intensive personal training. Though sometimes I long for battle, I am still glad to be out of the thick of it for awhile. The extra time has also given us as a whole the much-needed time to scout further out from our usual borders, and also to make sure all parts of the land within our borders are known and secured. So there is much to do, war or no war. More when there's more to say...

Something is stirring in the astral. From what I have heard, it is caused by something that happened away from here, across the Atlantic. I see a point of impact, and a spreading shockwave. It speaks of storms and change. The storms have come; we are being hammered with rain now, and I heard word of sleet and freezing rain as well in the surrounding areas. The change? We will need to see about that. I have reached out to friends and comrades near and far, warning and asking for preparedness to weather this storm. It will involve more than earthly precipitation before it is done.

Early this morning, we were advised a contingent of armed enemy troops had crossed into our territory. Their destination was not known, but it was known that they had with them a secret. It was a large, long object, kept at the center of their group, covered with a dark cloth and bound in chains. The cloth kept all prying eyes from the thing under it, even magical ones. This was a cause for concern, and brought forth several questions. What was such a small group doing in our territory? There were only about 50 troops total, and they would know they would be no match for the force we could bring against them. What was under the cloth? There were several ideas: 1) it was a secret they hoped to sneak by us, with their small numbers; 2) it was a weapon, and they hoped we would bring forces against them, so they could unleash it, destroying any of us present, even at the cost of their own lives. It was certainly a mystery, and something we decided must be investigated. We sent scouts out first, to confirm their numbers (the initial view was taken by a remote probe, useful but sometimes unreliable in showing the whole picture). The enemy had scouts of their own, and ours came under attack. This was not unexpected, but we found the enemy possessed personal weapons of great power; enough to drive even the dragon scouts back to us with holes in their wings. We decided on a new approach, then: we would come at them again, planning again to get a better view of the situation before launching any full attack. This time, we would come as shadows, unlike our usual tactic, but necessary in this case, to get a better view and try to determine what tactic would be best in the situation.

Myself, Trick, and two of our wingmen took off soon thereafter, assumed shadowform, linked our minds, and flew like the wind towards the mystery. Four dragons, four riders; plenty enough to scout out and return with information, so we may better plan how to handle the situation.

En route, we received a message from our home base: a larger force of dragons and riders had already left the castle, before we had taken flight. Their destination was the enemy force, but their orders were unknown. I suspected their orders: annihilation. When a smaller force (our scouts) had not succeeded, someone decided the only answer was to send a larger force. Keep using brute force until it works. If you send enough dragons, some will come back alive. As a young commander, I may have found this an agreeable tactic; now, I prefer to find alternatives that won't result in needless death of our comrades.

We urged our dragons to fly faster, if possible, but they were already moving as fast as they could fly. We could have used other methods of transportation, but we did not want to overshoot our target, and in either case we would have had to shift back out of shadowform, which would have defeated our purpose (though we thought it may have been defeated already, by others). All we could do was push on, and so we did. In time, we saw the other wing of dragons ahead of us: 8 dragons and riders, that we could see. There may have been more. By the time we reached them, it was too late to talk any sense to them, or even ask their mission. The enemy was dead, slain to the last one, none even left alive to interrogate. The broken body of one of our dragons lay on the ground, burned through with the weapons of the enemy. His rider was nowhere to be seen.

We left our shadowform, and Shadowchaser brought me to the ground. I dismounted with tears in my eyes, but bit them back as I strode forth to speak with the commander of the other force. He was one I recognized, of course; we had flown together, fought together in past battles. My rage died when I looked at his face; he was as devastated as me. He was one to follow orders, always, and to the letter. This experience would not change that, but this man was not the one to blame for what happened here. I realized as I looked around that the cloth lay on the ground, but the chains and the object the cloth had covered were not to be seen anywhere. Also, only four dragons and riders were here, counting the fallen one; that left at least four that had gone somewhere else, presumably with the captured thing, whatever it was. I could see scorch marks on the cloth, and I have my ideas on what the thing is, but I will not speak them here, not yet. It must be confirmed, first.

I couldn't speak, and I saw he didn't expect it, nor was he able to. We stood, not looking at each other, while his wingmen picked through the enemy bodies and gear, salvaging what they could, and mine soared through the darkened skies above. After a time, I returned to Shadowchaser, and we took to the air. I gathered my wingmen, and we returned home, hoping to find some answers, saying prayers for our comrades.