By this point all 8 players had played one game. Rather than launch straight into the next round of games without really giving things much shape, I had something particular in mind for James, our Undead player who had suffered so badly in the first round. His next game represented an opportunity to get his campaign back on track (albeit a slightly different track) and would be against an NPC army controlled by Peter Spiller in a cameo appearance.
Game 5: Hail to the King
Norbert gasped and wheezed as he stumbled through the seemingly endless swamps. He had been fleeing for hours, and could no longer hear the sounds of the Chaos worshippers’ pursuit. His old and frail body would have long since failed him however, half-dead as it was, he had been able to make some use of his necromantic magic to keep himself moving. This was unsustainable, though; the more he pressed on using his deathly powers, the more he could feel his remaining life essence wavering. Eventually he sagged to a halt against a rotten tree trunk, his legs half-submerged in the foetid water around him. Surely he was safe enough now.
“Well that was humiliating.” The voice seemed to come out of nowhere, shattering the relative quiet of the fens. Norbert scrambled about in the mud to discover that he was not nearly as alone as he had imagined. Sitting nearby on a old tree stump was a figure wrapped from head to toe in dark, ragged robes. He held a crude wooden staff in a twisted, taloned hand that was a sickly grey colour. Norbert could make out nothing of his face within the darkness of his hood.
The new arrival didn't bother waiting for him to respond, “I had thought you mistress to be a useful ally, but it seems I was mistaken. No doubt I am wasting my time with you also.” He leaned forward slightly as he spoke, the tattered fringes of his cowl swaying as his words dripped with contempt.
“Who are you?” Norbert managed to gasp. He considered reaching for his concealed dagger, but something told him that such a move would be of little use and only incur greater mockery from this new tormentor.
“It doesn't matter who I am. All that matters is who I represent, and you have not proven yourself worthy of that much information,” sneered the hooded creature. “I was sent to invite your mistress to this island, but the minute she arrived, she got herself killed!” He shook his head reprovingly. “Clearly my master overestimated her. I thought Vampires were made of sterner stuff.”
Norbert considered his options. He was currently lost, alone on an island he knew next to nothing about. He needed allies – ones who knew more about Albion than he did. He had no intention of serving anyone, but perhaps this condescending stranger had something useful to offer. “Perhaps I might be of some assistance,” he offered, rising slowly to his feet and ignoring the way his ancient body protested and the mud and swamp water streamed from his own tattered robes. “I am not a Vampire, but I have resources of my own.”
The stranger laughed briefly – a shrill bark of a laugh that immediately brought to mind some of the mad hermits Norbert had encountered during his travels. “You mean your petty magicks?” the mockery had not changed a jot, “What use would my master have for a necromancer? And one with no army of the dead at his back?”
Norbert ignored the stranger’s tone. “A true master of the necromantic arts has no need to travel with an army,” he explained with exaggerated patience. “He can find a willing army wherever he goes.”
Skeletal hands burst forth from the brackish water around the strangers feet, seizing his ankles and clawing at his robes. All around him the swamps were suddenly shifting and heaving as long-dead corpses dragged themselves from the muck. This stranger was a fool if he thought Norbert would have collapsed in a place where he could not defend himself. He could feel the weight of the dead underfoot. This place had seen its share of death and misery.
The stranger gave a quick shriek that may have been either alarm or his crazed laughter as he swept his staff about in front of his feet. Dark fire blazed in its path, and the skeletons that had looked to drag him down were shattered in a splinter of bone. Another sweep of the staff sent out a wave of fire in all directions, tearing through the undead that had started to emerge from the waters and blasting them back down from whence they came.
Norbert raised a hand to shrug aside the fire as it swept toward him, and continued his own spell to summon more of the long-dead warriors that slumbered fit fully beneath the fens.
“Enough!” shouted the stranger suddenly. The tone was a dismissive command, but there was something of a threat underneath it, and it gave Norbert some pause. He was, after all, only try to get this dark emissary’s attention. He needed his assistance for now, and needed to show that he might have something to offer in return. The undead all around halted their advance and waited silently upon the will of their master.
The hooded stranger leaned upon his staff and looked straight at Norbert, ignoring the enemies all about him. “Your feeble dead things are no real threat to my master’s enemies, but perhaps you might be of some use, if your skills are up to the challenge. Not too distant from here lie the burial grounds of a once mighty army. An entire legion of Wights rest there, waiting for one with the will to claim them. Take control of these, and you will have a force worthy of my master’s attention.”
Norbert smiled slightly. This was precisely the sort of local knowledge that he lacked. An army of Wights should not prove too difficult for him to control, and once he had them he would indeed be a force to be reckoned with. Then he could deal with the stranger’s insolence in an appropriate fashion.
He could not see the stranger’s wicked smirk, hidden in the shadows of his cowl.