Time Skip: Year Zero

THE HIWAY WAR as penned by Ranger-Steward Raven

Ranger-Steward Raven here. It is fitting, that I make my final report in the burnt wreckage of Station Echo. Surrounded by as many ghosts as I am now, echos are all I hear.

Three weeks ago, Bravo’s citizenry detonated a nuclear device in the middle of their city and ended the conflict with the undead warlord, Hiway Robb.

War is horrible. It grinds us down to stumps and runs roughshod over our souls. It makes husks of men and I remember the brilliant, morbid expressions of my ranger kin when they realized that it was their lives they would sacrifice to preserve the peoples of the Lonestar. And the steely resolve that bastioned them against the terror of oblivion, knowing that their deaths would buy time.

The Braves were the best of us. I do not know how many survived the bomb. What reports I have from wandering itenerents indicate that some seven hundred persons made it out of the blast radius before the explosion. According to our last census this means some four hundred poor souls evaporated when we finally took down Hiway Robb. But this is vagaries, born of supposition and recollection. And I can only hope they saved enough of us.

In the spirit of my station, as steward to what was once the Rangers, I will do my best in the coming hours to convey, over the airways and to the disparate peoples of this commonwealth, the greater state of the landscape. It may not matter to you, but this will be my final report. The Rangers are scattered, dead, or determined not to be found. And I am content to put down my badge - and leave the business of justice to those of us unbroken and unbowed by this conflict.

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Ranger-Steward Raven reporting. On the greater and unaffiliated peoples of the Lonestar. These are the farmers and families, workers and merchants, commonfolk who have lost their land and their belongings and have been made to pick up and move far from the blastland that was our home and into the sanctuaries across the wastes that have enough food, water and work to support them. This is a rough estimate of their numbers and locations. Individual names will not be provided as I do not have them. But you may find your families and friends here.

Temple Station, bastioned by strong walls of concrete and steel, was only damaged in the explosion but not leveled. The lowest basements of the city held hundreds of huddled bodies when the bomb went off. And hundreds more spilled in after the radioactive fog cleared. It is now the most populated location in the blastlands around ground zero. In the three weeks since the bomb, in an act of rare and beautiful comradery, strains of all humanity struggle to rebuild the town quickly. There is word of a leader, a woman with half a face who calls herself warden. She is the one to speak to, if you are seeking shelter or the familiar faces of missing family.

The Stoneoak Caverns in the north are full, but not with the Lascarians that populated that place prior to the War. The Stoneoak people, royal and ancient, were wiped out by the Stampede prior to the bomb’s detonation. Now the people there are new, wandering among the vestiges of a dead culture. It is good they have a place to be, but they will struggle without the knowledge of those caverns and how to live in them.

The Third Eye has closed. There are not enough of this faction left to call them a right and proper entity. I am told the powerful psions of the lineage burned out their own brains holding back the stampede long enough for Bravo to finish their bomb. But their safecamps, scattered across the Lonestar, are populated by refugees. What food and supplies the Third Eye left behind will feed these people for a few weeks. But they will need to scatter soon - and so if you are looking for family among those camps I would move swiftly, friends.

The Antler Tribe have been reported seen across the wastes, but reports indicate they have taken up a permanent residence alongside the remnants of the Cervaxi peoples. Do not attend the Mudergoat Hovel thinking to find them there. They wander, in search of a homeland in a kind of inland flotilla of caravans and livestock - but you can see their banners from across the level blastlands red and proud and unburnt. Their Queen leads them, and hundreds follow in her train.

The Ranger Outposts are leveled. Hollow, burnt-out husks that we destroyed ourselves to keep Robb’s bandits from getting at our supplies. Part of me regrets that now, as I look out over the dozen hungry faces that fled here, thinking the Rangers would save them. We saved many, but we cannot save them all. Echo, Charlie and Delta are finished. In a few days I will take these people and we will make the pilgrimage northwards. Away from the blastlands.

The Darkmoon people, to the best of my knowledge, are dead. Their tunnels below the city of Bravo proper are nonexistent in the wake of nuclear hell. Only the bilgey backwaters far to the south continue to be structural, and these caverns are full. Already there is word of raiders that uncannily resemble the Darkmoon peoples, with crescents on their foreheads and foam on their lips. One case of badbrain untended is all it takes, my friends, to reduce a culture to memory and its people to murderous psychopaths. The backwater folk are calling them Nightstalkers. Be wary if you go searching there.

In comparison, the Redwater Complex to the west is thriving. It is a huge, meandering labyrinth largely unpopulated until now. Refugees balloon their numbers to the hundreds, and their leader - Wisest, has opened the doors to all Braves and disparate peoples. There is word, however, of a mysterious illness that renders the Lascarians of this lineage a sickly greenish color. With pale eyes and vacant expressions. But it is not the luxury of the refugee to turn away food and shelter, and so Redwater has become a bastion in its own right. If you go looking here, be respectful. This clan has been isolationists for many decades, and only in the wake of tragedy and the efforts of their own ambassadors do they welcome refugees now.

The Caine Family Ranch hosts some two dozen refugees. Far away from the blast this homestead fares well and can take more bodies to feed and to work. It’s matriarch boasts the best cooking in the Lonestar and expresses only that anyone who drops by will be fed in exchange for their labor to shore up the walls and tend the growing fields. If your family is here, friends, I think they are safe.

I have received a report that the surviving Scadians, formerly of their home Ansteorra, have broken ground on their first permanent dwelling since they became refugees during the Mustang War. The war truck used to breach the blockades finally gave its last and broke down on the last hilltop before the Dune Sea, where it was mostly disassembled for materials. Though its unofficial, some are calling their new home Cannon's Crown. Their time spent aiding Bravo has softened their, once notable, violent xenophobia, and have opened their new home as a way station for those who travel to and from the Dune Sea, and to all who once called themselves Rangers

Far to the East lies the Clutch. A city-state in the Concrete Isles, these watery taverns and fishhouses are alight with lanterns and the hungry faces of a hundred refugees. The inky waters here, rendered brackish with oil, ring a half-dozen islands dotted with newly-erected tents and homesteads. The Saltwise, who have previously only partied to trade, are taking notice. In a bizzare happenstance of war, this port has become an authority in the short weeks since the bomb. Few other port towns survived the stampede, and so the Clutch holds the purse strings for the foreseeable future.

The Lands Aggie are flat, featureless. Save for a few leaning towers and crazily oriented domiciles. The refugees that fled there are unaccounted for. And I would not suggest pilgrimaging after them into the radioactive hellscape. There is word of Darwinist Monks, who seek knowledge in the phantasmagoric fog that raises tumors and boils on the skin of the uninitiated. If you are seeking family here, misguided as I think you are, speak to them before venturing in yourself.

To the far west lies the Dune Sea. An uncharted land of heat and sand and sun. But because refugees are by definition running away from something worse, reports indicate that a large number of itenerents left Bravo in the direction of those hills. I wish these people the best, but recall in my youth the leviathans that lurk under the loose sand, and the yawning mouths of the monsters there that swallow people like you or I might an unpleasant pill. Good luck, Braves.

One notable exception to the dangers of the Dune Sea seems to be the Diesel Jock clan known as The Road Royals. After escaping the destruction of Bravo using the Lascarian clans as a distraction, the Royals have taken their fleet to the west. One sure way to avoid the leviathans below is to keep moving, and the DJs seem to have that down. Last report was that there was discontent in the clan based on how they helped the “townies” escape and the friction is threatening to split the clan along faction lines. Regardless of the outcome, the Dune Sea is both safer AND more dangerous due to these explosive-loving maniacs on wheels.

Falken Castle, a locale I did not know existed until their guardship opened the gates to the hungry and desperate, lies just outside of the blast radius. When searching for this place know that the walls are pale and stonework, and that you need only express you are friend to House Ramguard to enter. Already a tent city is erecting itself beneath their high walls, and the hollow halls of this place echo with the sound of civilization it has not seen since before the Fall.

Gun City, to the north, a prosperous cowtown that until now has kept to itself, has opened its gates to the same. A tradehub, largely run by Rovers, this locale can offer as much as any other in terms of food and shelter. Hundreds pass through this station, and posters of missing persons festoon the streets and alleys like so many pious flags in the wind.

The Killscout Caravans roam by definition. With a population of nearly a thousand, and many of them psionic in nature, this inland flotilla can be seen ambling across the blastlands with all the speed and momentum of brahman at march. They spread out across the wastes in a fan, and pick up refugees like a trawlingbarge scoops up cretaceous life from the silt below the Clutch. You will know where they have gone by the gore-marks in the dirt and the footprints that follow after. Luckily, you need only a brisk walk to catch up, given time.

Far, far to the north. At the edges of Star City, the Wasteland Witches have opened their compound doors to a choice few. Otherwise known as Devree Kapl, these psionists have a seedy past rooted in their affliction. But in times of war we make our choices, and these people have agreed to buoy Braves and lend us aid. We can only hope they stay friendly.

The Palace Godmoney, egregiously named for what it is, is the mudflats that once could have been called the Washborne plantation. A few broken hovels have sprung up here, just on the inside ring of the blastlands. Rife with crime and violence, if your kinship has fled to the Palace willingly, let them stay there and wish them the best.

The Litur Efni people, a rover caravan from far to the East, has left the Lonestar and taken refugees with them. They deal in spices, pigments, rare stones and beautiful things. Know them by their opulence and their kindness, friends. But seek them warily, and use the name “Vaan” when you do.

More centrally located, the McBride Ranch hosts some four dozen refugees. A visual callback to the plantations the bomb evaporated, this staging location has ample food and room for many more bodies. If you are looking for family or a place to stay, the point of contact is one Stacy McBride, the matriarch and steward of this ancestral home. A good pureblood, in a bad time.

And the Bishop Compound, an industrial homestead of impressive size, looms to the east as close as Temple Station does the north. An extended family of rovers and mericans maintain this waystation and you will know you are close by the tire marks in the road and the smell of refined peppermint. In a lawless land where we are all travelers, their brew will make them barons.

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Ranger-Steward Raven Reporting. I have, to the best of my abilities and my intelligence, conveyed all the public refugee silos in the Lonestar proper. The peoples are scattered but they are converging at these locations. This is not an exhaustive list of peoples, locales, or efforts by the citizens of this commonwealth to make right in the wake of thermonuclear war. This is a rough state of the region that hopefully gives shape and comfort to the war-blinded and wandering. There are places for you to go, safety in numbers. The Rangers are gone but there are good people in the wastes. Find them, find shelter, rebuild.

Ranger-Steward Raven Out.

Stay Brave out there.