Sunday, 18 April 2010

The last chapters

Artist: Ken Matheson

There are few things more awesome than when the players take control of a situation, and when they know what they are doing. This happened the last session.

The current story-arc has lasted two nights now, and it might have started a bit hard. Then again, sometimes the antagonists have to strike back.

What happened was more or less as follows.

The minions of the Exarch, led by the nefarious Queen of Stars, had orchestrated an attack on Wezell, the realm where the forces of Creation are marshalling. The attack was well planned, and involved a wide range of the assets available to the enemy.

The Black Ship Kraken, under Armand, landed several large crates along the Wezellian coast, where Shaitani-cults took over the cargo. From there they were transported to six different Hallows, located on key positions throughout the realm. When all was ready, Mr Corvin went ashore in the capital, Rederhafen.

Even before the enemy plan could spring into motion, the heroes complicated things for their adversaries; the Miracle of Arkon, where the remnants of the beleaguered Host of Man was brought back from the Dark Continent changed the balance in Wezell considerably -- seventeen thousand veterans from the War of Creation, including Wolf Lords and a few cabals of magicians, from the war on the darkness now stood less than a dozen miles from Rederhafen.

The heroes of the Pius Cabal first became aware that something bad was happening when Mr Drake, the cabal's Spirit and Life magician, encountered a swarm of rats leaving the city. When they looked into it, they found that shit was indeed about to hit the fan.

What happened afterwards is described in
the Last chapter of 28 March 2010.

After having defeated Armand, they returned to business -- this time that of crowning a king (see
G. Galan's Journal).

However, when they came back to Rederhafen they found that even if the fires in the harbour had been put out, all was not yet well. Apart from a nasty plague quarantine in a neighbourhood in the city, the very ground beneath Wezell was sinking.

On the night of the attack, cultists had planted some kind of perverse larvae in six Hallows. These demonic entities had quickly grown into enormous wyrms, and unless they were somehow contained, they would destroy the land; measurements along the coast showed that already the tide had risen an inch. Now, this was taken care of -- Wolf Lords, other magicians and priests from the newly founded Arkonshōv were doing what they could to slow the progress of the foul creatures, and the Syndicate had started the construction of dikes along the seashore.

The problem Onkel Jap van Zaar, the cabal's Wezellian patron, handed over to the heroes was a prisoner; Mr Corvin had been captured after the attack, and since then he had been most cooperative, answering any question put before him. Still, the Board of Onkels was divided. The cabal was asked to go talk to the prisoner.

After having established that Mr Corvin was indeed a foul agent of the Exarch, and after having decided that he should be killed, they signed a waver transferring the prisoner to their custody. The small snag was that he had some sort of ring around his neck. They had tried to ascertain what it was, and what he was, and hadn't really found out much. Still, Prince Aegir went into the dungeon and executed Mr Corvin.

As the sword hit, the ring shattered, and hell broke lose. As it happened, Mr Corvin was not much more than a very smart bomb, or rather, when the ring broke, the horrible demon bound in human flesh were freed. Luckily van Zaar is a Master of Time, and so he undid the fatal last second, stopping the execution.

This is where the chapter ended and the next one picked up.

And this is where I was baffled.

I was half expecting them to build up for a confrontation with the demon. Instead they did a tour-de-force of every major player and faction they knew. Having Masters of Time and Space in the group meant that they were able to cover a lot of ground.

They even found time to lead King Rowar II of Pendrell to Hûron the White, the Lord of the Frostelves. The king, seeing no other solution than to beg the Elven Prince for mercy. It was granted.

After having brought in Hermetic wizards, elves, Svārtsmiths of the North, and five hundred Wolf Lords, and after having found out as much as they could about their particular problem, the Pius Cabal made its move. They took Mr Corvin to a remote location and bound him with right powerful magic deep in a mountain. This was also Drake's Masterpiece, by the way.

About two hundred of the Wolf Lords stayed behind to guard the entrance to the caves where the demon was bound.

And so it happened that a great evil was locked away by a group of heroes. This is the first time I've seen this happen. Normally it works the other way around: For some reason, the heroes find/unearth some great evil that was somehow, and for some reason, locked away in bygone days. As a bonus, the cave in question was the very same that once gave birth to the Book of Worlds.

The really neat thing was that I just sat back while players took the story from the brink of destruction to a quite prosaic conclusion, or at least a solid temporary solution. They may or may not return to make an attempt at dealing with the problem once and for all (I do believe that will be the first thing to be decided next time), but for the time being the world is safe.

The minions of the Exarch, guided by the Queen of Stars, struck hard at the power-base of the heroes, and they were defeated. Armand is dead, partially due to his own hubris -- his number one flaw. Due to the sudden appearance of the Host of Man immediately before the attack, neither plague nor wyrms were allowed to wreak the anticipated destruction. More importantly, Mr Corvin was meant to fall in the heroes's lap, and even if they almost died, they managed to avert the localized End of the World that was planned for them. The evil witch-queen's plot was foiled.

A good group is often clever, but every now and again they are damned ingenious. The guys walked deep into the trap the first night, but got out alive and in style the second. I'm now wondering what the bad guys will come up with next.

Bloody well done, guys!

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