Monday, 14 March 2011

Chapters: Counter-strike, Bomb Run, and Departure

Storyteller's note: This post will cover three separate sessions, one with the majority of the cabal, the second with Master Bansl, and the third being Yolander's last chapter. For now. The last of these chapters also closes another volume of the Pius Chronicles.

Cast: Aegir of the Eneìdun; Mandan Bansl, Master of Matter; Gryff Galan, Master of Prime and Space; Velimir Tito, Master of Spirit: Yolander van Zaar, Master of Fate and Time; and Toadface, Master of Life. Many NPCs were also involved.

The following takes place on 14 and 15 Decanum, YE 1022.

After the scouts return from the moon, Yolander has become certain that the enemy is about to attack the Black Man's Mill, as well as the Pius Fleet lying at anchor in the port of Petra; all plans are changed, new are hatched -- Velimir refuses to sacrifice his land, and preparations are made to defend the mill -- and a daring assault seems the only way to reach the moon.

In the small hours of the night, Yolander prophesied an imminent Thulist attack on both the Council of War and the Pius Fleet, and so the Council of War came to a hasty end. The question now was how to react. At first, Yolander and Galan advised leaving a token force to defend the Black Man's Mill, while the majority of the force attacked the Tower Helreginn on the moon. As these things tend to go, not all agreed. 

After a somewhat frantic debate, Velimir, the baron of Geistwald, won through with his demand of an effective defensive effort. The plans were drawn up, and preparations were made. A combined force of Hermetics, Wolf Lords, Commonwealth Marines, Wezellian Enforcers, and of course the spirits of Geistwald, were tasked with receiving the enemy. The force was to be commanded by Lord Vargas and Prince Aegir.

In the commotion, Brig. Gen. Bothwell informed the cabal that he had recently been informed that one of Her Majesty's agents were to be expected shortly. Toadface was sent to meet with this new arrival. Agent Nix made his entrance in as dramatic a fashion as can be expected from a man of his profession -- he came flying in, landing in a cloud of thick, oily fog, and presented himself with confident disdain of all who weren't in the Queen's service.

While the defence was laid out, the lunar strategy was amended. As they still lacked the intelligence necessary for a massed strike, and as the altered time-frame had now made several of their assets impossible to deploy, the number of alternatives had become limited. First off, they no longer had the capacity to destroy the Anchor-head that gave the Thulists their near unlimited energy-supply, and so they had to content themselves with bringing down the great dome that laid the Abyssal Aegis over Nattland. Secondly, they needed a way to get in, without becoming bogged down in the OUT bunkers. 

To accomplish this, they turned to Mr. Godfree. This dodgy character, whose face no one can remember, a Warmonger, according to certain sources, has a solid reputation for being less than sanguine. To even the odds, Master Arachnidus played a rather high card. Mr. G has the uncanny ability of always being on top of every situation, therefore him being forcefully summoned, and thereafter being prevented from establishing dominion over the scene, gave the gathered magicians an advantage in the negotiations. It did make him somewhat testy, though. After a long round of haggling, the Warmonger had become the owner of the Black Man's Mill, and eight persons had been promised passage to "the foot of the tower."

These eight were Galan, van Zaar, Tito, Toadface, Brother Augustus, Arachnidus, Octavian, and Agent Nix; Seven Masters and one professional infiltrator. Other preparations were made, and several scenarios were explored, but these we need not trouble us with in this particular tale.

With Geistwald ready for the upcoming battle, the Amalgam of Masters had only to wait for Mr. G to hold up his end of the bargain. Before long, the lanky figure of Reed, the Storyteller form the Dark Continent, came in to the encampment. Without much in the way of chit-chat, he led the strike force down hidden paths, and through realms long forgotten. Eventually he brought them to a narrow crevice, and peering around the corner, the heroes could see into a trench leading up one of the metal doors leading into the Tower Helreginn.

The attack-plan was quickly laid out. Arachnidus, whose task it would be to destroy the nefarious dome, invoked a powerful magical shield to ward the amalgam from the Abyssal Aegis. The other magicians cast their spells on Agent Nix, providing him with Arcane armour, increased speed, and various other edges. The agent then went into action. With pistols, poisonous darts, gas, smoke, and various experimental weaponries, he cleared a path through the great structure. As they came closer to the centre of the tower, the resistance became stiffer, and both Brother Augustus and Toadface had to lend their weight to the advance.

At long last the heroes had defeated the last obstacle between them and the central silo. Both Agent Nix and Brother Augustus were by now severely injured, and there were no time to heal their wounds. With claxons wailing out for the enemy to rally, the magicians surveyed their objective. The Ordo Ultima Thule are masters of the goethic sciences, and the ground before them bore evidence of that fact. The entire chamber was cloaked in an unnatural darkness that even magic could not fully penetrate, its dimensions were just a little bit too long, and just a little bit too wide, the ground was sown with bunkers, mines and barbed wire, every inch was covered by the countless terrible weapons of the enemy, and the red eyes of Hellghasts pierced the gloom. Every aspect of the killing ground before them spoke of nothing but death.

And so, into the breach they charged. Galan only managed to teleport Toadface and Arachnidus, and he brought them as far as he could towards the central, weight-bearing column. Toadface had increased his size so that he could shield the Hermetic from the enemy's massive fire, and it was all he could do to stay alive as they pressed forwards. Velimir Tito had noticed that the bunkers were constructed from a type of matter that contained the bound and mutilated Essences of spirits, and now he stormed into the deadly storm to free on of them. As he was cut down by the hail of Shardakeem, he managed to rip a powerful entity free from its shackles, and the pain-crazed spirit tore through the chamber. 

Galan and van Zaar now teleported in, and as Toadface went down, the two managed to attract enough fire so that Arachnidus could complete the ritual he had prepared. By drawing upon all the Arcane might he possessed he was able to break the main pillar. As the construct started to crumble, both he and Galan fell to the onslaught of the defenders, and even van Zaar seemed to have come to the end of his line. Then Octavian, the one-armed war-mage, came to their rescue, flanked by tall, grey figures, moving lithely through the chaos. As he saw this, van Zaar fainted.

Here this chapter ends.

Storyteller's note: Bans's player was absent from the above session, but we had the opportunity to play out his adventure the day after.

When van Zaar had revealed his premonitions about OUT's inevitable strike against the Black Man's Mill and the Pius Fleet, he had also revealed that the fleet, anchored in the harbour of Petra would be hit by a bomb. The bombs previously used by the Thulists have all been powerful enough to rip the heart out of an Erian city. The fleet, with its six thousand men, were too important to abandon, and so Bansl was sent to stop the bomb from going off.

He did not go alone, was followed by the raven-haired princess of the Rubayan -- or, as van Zaar shouted after him when he left, "and take the gypsy whore with you!" He was also accompanied by Captain Ayrden of the Argonauts. As he left, he was advised to seek out The Purple Man in Ziltra.

Our hero first travelled to Rederhafen, where he sought out the centre of the Great Explosion of 25 Octavum. A large area of the city had been devastated, but now, only a month and a half later, whole neighbourhoods had been reconstructed. The Syndicate, being prudent, had cordoned off the ground zero, in case of radiation or other such dangerous residues. Bansl quickly established that no such danger existed. He also made several other significant discoveries. First off he found that the house closest to the blast had all but been turned into dust. It was like all matter in the area had been destroyed. After further analysing this dust, he gleaned enough information to name the bomb: Atom Crusher.

He could also establish the blast radius of the bomb, ans well as its strength. Further, he discovered that the explosion also had a devastating effect on the Shadowrealm. He was not, however, able to learn anything about the design, size, or even the basic principle of the device. After spending some more time in Rederhafen, looking into the seemingly unlikely survival of the Temple of Justice, and the enormous growth of its congregation, he told the Argonaut to take him to the White Tower of Ziltra.

They reached the City of the Prophet by travelling along ley-lines, and here Master Bansl met with The Purple Man. Exactly who this man is, is not known. He is undoubtedly a prominent member of the Council of Awakened Viziers, and he his also equally undoubtedly a very powerful Fate-magician. His name is not known, but he always wears purple robes. He did not seem surprised that the Pius-mage now approached him with his two companions. As is often the way of great wizards, he spoke mostly in riddles, but he did send an Ahl-i-Batin, Hakeem ben Ali ben Kazeem, to aid in Bansl's quest. This man had recently come from the port-city of Petra, and brought with him a map drawn within the last week.

When the Bomb-master finally came to Petra, the sun was low on the horizon, and our hero, having studied every Arcana known to man, now felt a growing sense of urgency. At first he led his party into the city, and guided by the Batini they crossed the Gauntlet. Here they picked up a rumour about a white flying machine having been seen two nights earlier, East of the city. Following up on this lead, they soon after located tracks indicating that four persons had disembarked and headed into Petra.

Now Bansl was faced with a conundrum. How would he locate four individuals who were hiding in the maze-like streets? After some considering, he decided that his best chances lay in using the enemy's own methods against him. Bansl rigged up the deepcasting-apparatus he last used when he scouted Nattland on the moon, and started scanning the frequencies. To ensure success, he decided that he needed to open his soul to a deeper insight in the Abyss; he became a Deciple of the Abyssal Arcanum. His plan worked, and after having triangulated the signal he picked up, he could pinpoint the location of the transmitter a few hours after sunset.

Springing into motion, he coordinated the assault with Hakeem and Ayrden. The Batini dealt with one of the Hellghasts who lay in a sniper-position on the roof of the building, and the Argonaut went after the Hellghast inside the house. Bansl, now having perfected the art of flight, approached through the air. When above the Cyclops manning the the bomb's detonation-switch, he relinquished his spell, and as he fell towards the roof the warmage manipulated the matter of the structure, allowing him to pass straight through. His knee hit the Thulist in the neck, breaking it cleanly, and killing him instantly. Ayrden missed his cue by a fraction of a second, giving the Hellghast time to fire his weapon. With the Argonaut out of the game, Bansl now had to deal with the terrifying super-soldier. In the struggle that followed, Bansl was severely wounded, but he prevailed.

With the detonation-switch secure, the Bomb-master had only one more problem to deal with. Four foot-prints led from the landing site, and only three enemies had been accounted for. Bansl now called out to Illandra -- having left his side earlier that afternoon, she was somewhere in one of the labyrinthine bazars of Petra -- in hope that the Rubayan Princess could help him stop the Pius Fleet from being blown to dust. Shortly thereafter, Adeptus Rupertus Ludenius could report from the docks that a Hellghast had been found dead in an alley; a short, well-made, hollow-tipped crossbow bolt sat lodged deep in his neck. Bansl examined this weapon, but he could only determine the exceptional workmanship behind it, and the fact that its maker had hammered away all Arcane connections leading back to him.

Later that night, the bomb was recovered from the bottom of the harbour, and placed securely below decks on the Pius.

Here this chapter ends.

Storyteller's note: This chapter was Håvard's last for a while. It was also somewhat amputated because a few of the guys had to leave early to go to a Motorpsycho-concert, one had a job-interview the following day, another had a paper due, and finally, one poor guy hit a brick wall at the end of the evening. For these reasons, we spent the lion's share of the night reminiscing and just hanging out. Anywhos, here goes.

The Amalgam of Masters had been pulled out of the killing grounds of Helreginn by mysterious figures. These figures proved to be Westron Elves, and the wounded were placed in plant-like pods, and once the elven warship set them off in the hills outside Petra they were all but healed. The flying ship then vanished into the night sky.

The magicians then retreated to the Pius, and here they hooked up with Bansl, and then they got Aegir's report from the Battle of the Black Man's Mill. To cut through the chase, Geistwald was still in the hands of the Nortern Allinace, and the OUT had been driven back. The cost had been high, with close to 70% killed and wounded amongst the defenders. At this time though, reinforcements had arrived, and the situation was under control.

Now the discussion turned to the next move. While successful, the attack on the moon-base had not neutralised the enemy, and both the targets on Argos had been saved. It was clear that the Thulists had two options, either strike hard and fast, with all they've got, or fall back, fortify, and work towards some unknown end-game. Many ideas were pitched, up to and including announcing the death of the Pius Cabal. As no one could point towards the concrete advantage of such a play, Arachnidus's advice to not was taken in to account.

In the end, Bansl, Galan, Toadface and Aegir went back to Eria to strengthen the alliance, and the defences of Geistwald. Van Zaar and Tito headed South, across the Straits of Ahriman, in search of The Blackstaff. Blackstaff, the Second Witness, once named William, according to some bearing the name Gudmund, son of Arkon, had not been seen since he brought Toadface to the Pius. Last time the cabal had wind of him, they followed his trail deep into the Void, and to the dead home-world of the Thulsts. Van Zaar had long meant that The Blackstaff held the key to the survival of Argos.

The two crossed the Straits in a smuggler's craft, and made landfall on the Dark Continent. Here they travelled through the Underworld, through empty catacombs now stalked by demons and other dark entities. When they came to the Citrus Grove, van Zaar led them down the Path to Concordia. Here Tito had to turn around, and van Zaar vanished into the deep of the Umbra.

Storyteller's note: That, my friends, concludes another volume of the Pius Chronicles. To be honest, I have quite lost count of how many there are by now, but tonight we open a new one. The player who have been a part of this world the longest will no longer be a regular, and the dynamics of the group will be different. How this plays out you have to wait to find out.

Håvard, you will be missed around the table, and I hope to have you derail the plot again before we close the book. Godspeed, my friend.

Your comments. Bring them.

[Picture source: 1 unknown (WH 40K); 2 unknown; 3 Neue Operative Radikale Kunst]

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