[Game Stories] Make Earth Glorious Again

"The storm has a name..." Discuss both TORG and TORG Eternity here.
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Istrian
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Posts: 45
Joined: Tue Feb 11, 2020 4:57 pm

[Game Stories] Make Earth Glorious Again

Post by Istrian »

This is a continuation of my account of my (hopefully long-runner) campaign. For the early stories check the old Torg Eternity forums here

Sadly I couldn't find a spoiler-tag equivalent, so my apologies for the lack of readability.

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Make Earth Glorious Again (or MEGA for short) is an attempt to have a multi-group Torg campaign following the official timeline as closely as possible (meaning we are going slowly while waiting for all of the Year 1 sourcebooks). Here are their (hopefully readable) stories.

The game started with seven groups (~21 players), each in a different cosm, during Day 2 of the invasion. All of the groups met on Day 40 and shuffled into 5 groups, recently turning 6 with the arrival of new players.

SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU ARE ONE OF MY PLAYERS PLEASE DO NOT READ FURTHER (including about the other PCs).

Player Characters
Active Duty
Aurore. Cyberpapacy. Young software engineering student at Toulouse's EPITECH and avid MMO gamer. During Day One she was rehearsing for her exams near the Garonne river as demons attacked. As the wounded piled up, she grabbed one and started to run away and transcended, becoming a cyberwitch.

Damien Monnet. Core Earth. Teenage rebelious youth also known among the Toulouse gangs as D-Mon. His father was arrested for conspiring criminal organisations, which led him to become the troublesome teenager he is now and to develop his unusual philosophy of private property: it doesn't exist. He's jaded, rebellious, thrill-seeking and also on the lookout for journalists seeking to cover his exploits. His Moment of Crisis came during Day One when he tried to steal a police car and found himself saving the owning policeman from the assault of demons.

Elizabeth Poliakova. Core EarthOrrorsh. An older loud-mouthed woman with gray streaks of hair who used to fervently believe in Jesus and that demons were seeking to corrupt the faithful Orthodox. Now she still believes that while kicking their asses with prayers and shotguns, which was how she transcended when Technodemons invaded Moscow in Day One.

While in Hong-Kong, Elizabeth's infiltration of Dilawar Zaidi's ship and decision to listen to the strange voices inside led to her transforming to a new reality. She has fully embraced her new home cosm, finding a Slayer's Gun goes well with her beliefs.

Alicia Kalachnikova. TharkoldCyberpapacy. A middle-aged woman who retired early from being a helicopter pilot for the Russian Army. After that she scraped enough money to buy a small, old airplane which she used to fly tourists from Moscow to Vladivostok. She helped evacuating civilians from Moscow during Day One, unfortunately the nuclear blast fried her plane's electronics in mid-air and she had to crash-land. Simultaneously she developed cigarette-lighting psionic powers.

Alicia decided to transform to the Cyberpapacy after learning their cyberware was less ugly than occultech, and her psionics turned into magical powers.

Leonid Slovokin. Tharkold. A 40-something veterinarian who struggled with his clinic's bills while treating the puddles of oligarchs around Moscow. As Tharkold invaded he found himself next to a dying soldier with nothing but a few pieces of occultech still attached to their owner. He decided to finish-off the latter to save the former and also kept some leftovers for himself.

During an expedition into the Blasted Land, Leonid met with his old university professor, Mihail Golovsky, who revealed that he was the one who forced him to drop out, because of pressure from the secret service. Since then Leonid is looking for revenge on his former teacher and those pulling his strings.

Chakrawarti Ranganekary. Orrorsh. Born in a wealthy family, he had quickly found himself a talent for business and made a great fortune in mineral extraction industry, founding his own company, Indian Steel Co. Due to idleness he had also discovered himself an obsessional interest in Hindu mythology and collecting artifacts related to that. Now aged 35, he heard about a joint expedition from Jaipur-Oxford and offered to send a few millions their way in exchange for joining the team. He had his Moment of Crisis during Day 1, after an earthquake unearthed the underground temple, he decided to lead a small group around the hill to see if anything else had been unearthed as well. His group was assaulted by bandits and he offered himself as hostage so others could go free.

Samarj Chopade. Core Earth. When a young girl, Samarj was taken in by mysterious people to be experimented upon. This led her to discovering her powers over the minds of other people. She used those to free herself from her captors and hide as a successful historian and archeologist of Jaipur University (mostly by stealing her colleagues' knowledge and publishing in their stead). Samarj lived her Moment of Crisis during the hostage situation, she managed to use her powers to draw away one of the hostage-takers, steal his weapons and save Chakrawarti.

Tobias Lynch. Orrorsh. A 17-year-old genius, finishing his medical studies at Oxford. Avid reader of any mystery novels, he was quickly drawn to resolving as many as he could find. When he heard about the expedition to mysterious India to find a mysterious old place of worship he immediately offered to join as a doctor. The offer was quickly accepted, him being good and cheap. During the first day of the invasion, the Indian guide of the expedition found himself strugglign with a crocodile, who was promptly chased off by Tobias who treated the poor man's wound.

In-soon Heo. Pan-Pacifica. On Cowoon's books as a "product owner in cloud-computing and big data solutions", In-soon is a born bullshitter, or, as they say in the trade, "social engineer" augmented with psionic powers. As he was waiting for news from Nara's infiltration, he witnessed the police repressing some actual protesters (as opposed to Infected). For once he decided to use his considerable skills to perform unpaid work by explaining to the police they were assaulting Cowon employees, the protesters whom he had hired on the spot.

Recently In-soon expanded his "product ownership" into "socially responsible third-world development" when Chakrawarti was forced to part with some of his shares in Indian Steel Co.

Garrick Heinston. Aysle. Fromer thug and mafia hitman who fled his former associated in China when he became bored by the lack of prospects. He began turning a leaf over by joining the Elgol Castle Restoration Project, although he needs constant surveillance to make sure he is not slaking off somewhere. During his stint in China he received a deep scar across the right side of his face. One night as he was walking in Elgol he heard a thug threatening an old lady for her purse, so he cut down the man in passing and walked away quietly. Since then his scar always seems to be bleeding, making him even more frightening than he used to be.

Logan MacCormack. Aysle. One of the labourers on the Elgol Castle Restoration Project. Strong as an ox and very good with an ax. The day before the viking attack a bear wandered into the village and started attacking people for some reason. Logan put him down and since then has discovered his own berzerking tendencies.

Gregor MacConnor. Aysle. Older and experienced labourer working on restoring Castle Elgol. Gregor always has a tip for youngsters about how to do things right, unfortunately his tips tend to last hours prompting people to walk away and leave him alone. He dedicates as much to his job as he dedicates to his faith, as he is a devout Protestant Christian. Recent events made one of his colleagues extremely depressed to the point of trying to jump from the castle's tower. Gregor managed to talk him down and found himself more in touch with his faith.

Muir Gilchrist. Aysle. Promotion-hungry corporate officer specializing in logistics. When his employer decided to donate some money towards Castle Elgol's restoration, Muir immediately asked to be assigned there to help out in order to use this charitable project to boost his own PR and career. The day before the viking attack Muir had a premonition about a wall that was going to fall on one the castle's workers due to a lightning bolt. Muir casually called the worker away, thus saving his life.

Sir Walter Hargreeves, aka "Crimson Gloves". Nile Empire. The 17-year-old heir to the old British Hargreeves family fortune. Like his ancestors Walter displayed a great interest in archaeology and mysteries, both ancient and recent. He dresses in high-class black clothes which he wears with red gloves and sometimes a red mask, hence his hero name. His first act during the first day of the invasion was to calmly walk up to a group of shocktroopers accusing locals of killing the Pharaoh's soldiers. He proceeded to logically demonstrate why the locals could not be responsible for the crimes they were accused of: for clearly, Crimson Gloves was the culprit! A righteous beatdown ensued.

Jonathan Hargreeves, aka "Amethyst Ninja". Nile Empire. 13-years-old younger brother to Cynthia and Walter, Jonathan spent most of his life without parental supervision in the Cairo streets, busy doing mischief. During his wanderings he saw a family of locals being evicted by the Pharaoh's soldiers. He threw some shurikens their way to force them to give chase, and tricked them to fall into the Nile.

Faith "Wendigo" Hunter. Core Earth. A Delta Force operator trained to be an expert at wilderness survival. She has guided countless missions through South American jungles. Some say her callsign comes from her time in training when she met the eponymous creature. Her top secret dossier also indicates she has latent kinetic powers.

Justice "Tooth Fairy" Rogers. Core Earth. Living Land. Cyberpapacy. The strongest man in the Delta Force, and probably the world. Roger's expertise is VIP escort, and some say he has had the privilege of taking a bullet for the President himself. His lack of social graces is properly complemented by his habit of collecting the teeth of defeated enemies, hence his callsign.
Transformed to Living Land while moving through his first Reality Storm.
Transformed to Cyberpapacy due to a Wonder being destroyed with him inside.

Song-Ho Sun. Pan-Pacifica. Younger brother of Ji-Hoon. Despite their resemblance they grew apart when Ji-Hoon decided to work for corporations and Song-Ho for the government. Song-Ho made his way through the National Intelligence Service, working as a field agent. His moment of crisis came when, the day after receiving notification of his brother's death (alongside Ji-Hoon's belongings), the restaurant he went to was attacked by thugs whom he single-handedly defeated while powered by grief.

Kwang Im. Core EarthNile Empire. Corporate mercenary whose only loyalty lies with money, he is nonetheless known to carry out his missions to the end. Between jobs he tends to lean towards bounty-hunting to pay the bills. Only a few know he has a soft spot for children. He transcended during a mission in China: the government decided to get rid of a particular orphanage where certain experiments were about to go public. Kwang abandoned his mission to save the kids.

Embraced his own heroic tendencies and desire to be a stereotypical cow-boy by transforming to the Nile Empire at the first opportunity.

Lucius Hargreeves, aka "Bronze Bullet". Nile Empire. Anyone meeting the 16-year-old tinkerer for the first time would describe him as the permanent sidekick. Lucius embraces the notion by supporting the rest of his family in their endeavors, currently his cousins Walter, Jonathan and Cynthia. His plain clothes involve lots of grease, but when trouble comes-a-calling he dons his homemade jetpack battlesuit and grabs his gizmo kit, solving whatever technical problems come forth while showing others the power of SCIENCE!

Michael Goodenough. Core Earth. Michael is the stereotypical SWAT officer: saving people during the day, practicing voodoo at night. He was in New York during the early stages on the invasion, saving people from T-Rexes and being generally badass.

Hiroto Nogushi. Pan-Pacifica. Before the invasion Hiroto was a simple white collar worker in marketing who made his way to international salesman through grit, skill and elbow. When the Contagion began to spread, he found out his employer, Magnolia Research, was knee-deep in the mess, practicing unethical research on the virus (and innocent people). Hiroto remained at his job but got in touch with the Delphi Council to work out the truth of the situation. He remains on the Magnolia payroll and keeps his affiliations secret.

Lithiel. Aysle. When the Lady of Light called for everyone to take up arms and march against Uthorion, Lithiel was one of the elves who decided to follow. When she arrived to Earth she found herself far from her allies. She found and saved a group of dwarves beset by vikings in the Scandinavian forests, triggering her transformation to a Storm Knight. Eventually she encountered a Delphi Council operative and decided to tag along and help with her mastery of the bow and magic.

Ivy. Living Land. Ivy does not remember much about her former life. In fact she is not even sure that is her real name, but as people tend to call her that (alongside a reference to something poisonous), she has made it her name for the time being. What she does remember is helping people free from Citi Field in New York, then being captured by edeinos. One of them, an optant, taught her the way of Lanala and eventually freed her.

Jack Lantern. Aysle. Irish chemistry teacher who fell on hard times and became a homeless drifter. When Aysle invaded, he found himself in a village attacked by forest creatures. He transcended by protecting the village, but, unfortunately had to set himself on fire to deal with a walking tree and died. Instead of letting him stay dead, something called out to him and brought him back to life. Now he is something of a living torch, able to project fire from his skin, alongside his magical pyromantic powers.

KIA
Nara Taisuke. Core Earth. Officially a project director in an AI software development group working for Cowon in South Korea. Actually a hacker specializing in infiltration and IT asset sabotage, as well as black magic. During Day 1, as he was working undercover in a rival facility, he discovered thugs had taken over an orphanage triggering a hostage situation. Using his formidable skills, and endangering the operation by using corporate resources, he and a few friends hacked into the orphanage's systems and remotely evacuated the hostages, thus Transcending.

Slain by a Yokai in a Taiwanese luxury hotel corridor.

Ji-hoon Sun. Pan-Pacifica. Director of a top-secret armaments and vehicles research team in Cowon who developed the Ion Gaemamusa armor based on ancient Korean cavalry design. Ji-hoon occasionally supports espionnage teams directly as the vehicles and armaments expert he is. On Day 1 he was having lunch with a friend when thugs showed up and killed the latter. Ji-hoon tracked them down and avenged his friend with their blood, triggering his Transcendence.

Slain by a Yokai in a Taiwanese luxury hotel bathroom.

On Special Assignment (i.e. players gone temporarily or permanently or having decided to try another character)
Francisco "El Maligno" Berrocal. Core Earth. Aging Cuban Revolutionary Guard who made his career through application of enhanced interrogation techniques. He has decided to turn a new leaf by switching sides and revealed his powers of telepathy to the United States in order to join one of the top secret units. He is now the Delta Force's resident psychological (and psychic) warfare specialist.

Assigned to special Delta Force operations after the Washington evacuation.

Cynthia Hargreeves, aka "Shielding Sun". Nile Empire. Twin sister to Walter. When she was 8 years old Cynthia's future as a talented child ballet dancer was shortened by a terrible accident. After that she spent many years in a coma in various hospitals, with top prosthetics and robotics scientists working for the Hargreeves family to replace her damaged body. She woke up during Day 1 in the Cairo hospital surrounded by doctors and with her parents. Then she woke up again, hours later, in the same hospital but empty of all staff or bodies, but full of bullet holes in walls. Due to a miracle of weird science she was able to use her body again though she had no memories about what happened prior to her waking up. She also found herself equipped with an unbreakable energy shield and a computational engine able to process the thoughts of people around her.

Sacrificed herself in the skies over Alexandria to eliminate a patrol of scarab warriors and an insect cloud. She miraculously survived the fire and the fall only to be captured by Mobius' goons and imprisoned in his palace in Thebes. She was freed by Snowflake wearing the Black Wing's disguise and rejoined her siblings only moments after and helped them run away from the palace.

Currently she resides in Cairo, where she is busy showing the sights to her love interest, the just-as-socially-awkward Isara.

MIA
None

Major Villains
Andre-Paul Sartan. Cyberpapacy. Aging police inspector who only values three things in life: catching criminals, efficiency, and his career in the Police (in reverse order). Unfortunately the Cyberpapacy's invasion left him in the dying "normal" police with no chances of promotion, making him eager for transfer into the more prestigious Church Police, which he achieved on his terms.

Samandriel. Tharkold. A member of the Race who had been serving technodemons until the hardpoint at the RKK Energiya museum broke her explosive collar. Since then she has violently taken control of her group, and began roaming the Blasted Land seeking to dominate anyone she encounters. Anywhere she goes, blood flows, settlements are ground to dust, and slaves acquired. Her base of operations is a former WW2 "land fortress tank" transformed to Tharkold.

Dilawar Zaidi. Orrorsh. A historian consumed by jealousy primarily directed at his elder brother and sister's success in the field. His attempts at finding an old temple were completely wiped out by the Chopade-Lynch-Ranganekary Expedition's immediate success. His rage crystallized into something much more sinister as he was given the secrets of black magic by something he barely understands... and does not care about.

Goro Saionji. Pan-Pacifica. Very young and talented strike-force leader for a paramilitary firm called Apex Security (a secret Kanawa subsidiary). During his childhood he came to hate the disarmament treaty imposed upon Japan after World War Two, and despite it having run out, holds a grudge against the Western countries that supported it. This has evolved into hatred of any foreign power trying to impose their will on "his" Japan (ironically while unknowingly working for a High Lord).

Sandstorm. Nile Empire. A villain on Mobius' payroll. Hails from Bedouin tribes and intends to bring them to greatness under the Pharaoh's rule. Currently seems concerned with gaining rank and prestige by foiling other villains' plans.

Conrad Heydrich. Nile Empire. A Swiss tourist who likes the Nazi officer movie stereotype. When the Nile invaded he decided to break out his replica Wehrmacht uniform and apply for an army position. He managed to impress the Pharaoh's advisors with his tactics to be given special military assignments from the Pharaoh himself. Unfortunately (for Mobius) Conrad does not care about victory or defeat as long as it is done with style.

Snezana Vedernikova. Tharkold. A cold-hearted Russian psychic with a tendency to turn to boiling anger when using her powers due to the pain caused by experimental drugs used at the Institute. Due to her loyalty to Volkov, the Wolf tends to lend her to various factions within Tharkold both to spy on them and to make them indebted to him.

Vinnie Torrino. Core Earth. A member of the crime families in Cleveland who quickly seized control as the Living Land arrived. Thrown out of his hometown he travels around the world trying to establish his own criminal empire. His first order of business, uniting the remainder of the Cleveland Mafia under his leadership failed when the Living Land invaded the area and the Delta Force foiled his plans. He attempted to set up independent smuggling of occultech in St Petersburg until he ran into the Moscow Survivors and was forced to play by Savlovyeff's rules.

Jin-shil Sip. Pan-Pacifica. Corporate executive obsessed with dark magic, bio-experiments and immortality. Unfortunately she lost her magical powers during the Pan-Pacifican axiom wash, and gained psionics instead. She continues her research through the Infected using her former disciples for the practical sides of ritual magic. Unfortunately her experiments in Taiwan were abandoned when they got out of hand.

Trasskass. Living Land. Young hot-blooded edeino Redjaw warlord who is trying to rise in power and influence in the hopes of founding his own clan one day. In the meantime serves the Saar with unflinching loyalty. While attempting to rally grumbling edeinos in Washington DC, he was bested in a duel by Tooth Fairy.

Yrgol Aelfridsson. Aysle. Youthful viking chieftain who wants to achieve greatness beyond what his heroic mother managed to. Currently his dreams involve of elevating himself to godhood. Unfortunately his first attempt at establishing his own land on the Isle of Skye was blunted, his forces scattered, and one of his eyes pierces by how now sworn enemy: Muir Gilchrist.

Yong-Hwan Pin. Pan-Pacifica. A scatter-brained young Korean woman who takes her corporate management job seriously. Secretly she is a ninja extremely loyal to Kanawa with a mission to ensure the smooth acquisition of Korean assets. Unbeknownst to In-Soon, Song-Ho and Kwang, she was the one to destroy the list of North Korean sleeper agents as it contained too many names on the Kanawa payroll. She became CEO of Integrated Solutions after her superior was blackmailed by North Korea.

Ariane Moreau. Cyberpapacy. Abbess of the Couvent des Jacobins in Toulouse with a nearly-fanatical devotion to her faith tempered only by her high political ambitions. On Magna Verita she used to perform cutting-edge cyberware research designed to rooting out the pagans and heretics, yet now she has to make do with what she has in Toulouse.

Finnegan MacEnraigh. Aysle. A muscular red-headed man in his fifties, often seen in his heraldic plate and kilt. Former mayor of Broadford, now fancies himself King of the Isle of Skye. He is known both to his allies and his enemies as crazy and proud of his heritage, prompting everyone to call him "The Mad Scotsman". He is also called cheater, liar, turncoat, and the bravest warrior of the Isle. The only one who said that in his presence was he himself.

Sir Percival Harlingsey. Orrorsh. Elderly Victorian occultist, ritualist and nobleman. He fancies himself no less than the Gaunt Man's rival, although he is probably the only one to agree with that statement. His knowledge of dark magic, reality meta-physics, and human psychology still make him a fearsome and manipulative opponent. Unsurprisingly, he is also a Horror thanks to Heketon's plotting against the Gaunt Man.

Professor Mikhail Golovsky. Tharkold. Cynical and sadistic doctor who has been working on psionics for the government since the fall of the Soviet Regime. Around the Institute he is known as the best talent hunter, in all meanings of the word. Despite having no powers himself he has developed a large number of countermeasures against psionics. He used to be Leonid's medicine teacher back at university and intended to make him into his assistant until the secret services told him Leonid was not loyal and needed to drop out.

Wangchuk Drupa. Orrorsh. Tibetan shaolin monk who fell to the Gaunt Man's call due to his inability to control his hatred for the Chinese. Now corruption travels through his veins as he himself travels the world in his quest for ultimate power, leaving a trail of blood and destruction in his wake.

Wilhilde the Decrepit. Aysle. Powerfull necromancer with unflinching loyalty to Uthorion brought by one-sided and single-minded love. When she is not executing the Dark One's plans, she keeps busy plotting against any perceived rivals to her love. Currently that rival is Pella Ardinay due to Uthorion's occupation of the Lady of Light's body.

Rebeca Beluci da Cruz. Core Earth. Catholic priest from Brazil specialised in exorcism. She has taken her love of the Lord and his Creation to overzealous levels of devotion. Before the invasion, the Church was able to keep her in check. This has ceased and now she rampages through the world, seeking to cleanse the filth and corruption spread by the invaders.

Talma Ehrenburg. Core Earth. Mossad agent specialized in information control and, since the invasion, world domination. Most of the time she remains an unseen force, acting through dozens of layers of intermediaries. When forced to act she maintains a safe distance, sniping her enemies while letting her mercenary bodyguards deal with getting captured and interrogated... or worse.

Katarina Luca. Cyberpapacy. Originally an inoffensive member of a charismatic guru's personality cult, Katarina found herself able to apply his teachings as soon as the Holy Cyber Conclave took over France. She was quickly captured, tortured and turned into serving Malraux against her will, summoning demons where requested. Now she seeks to break free and replace Malraux, no matter who has to die on the way.

Inola. Living Land. Originally leading an isolationist Cherokee group, Inola found herself infused with great power through one of the Living Land's Wonders, including controlling people through a mix of drugs, hypnotism and prayers. Now she seeks more Wonders and always greater powers in order to find a way to control the Living Land and make it a safe haven for her people... too bad for everyone else.

More will be added as they appear in the stories below.

Reoccuring Characters
Hyo-ri Ton. Strict Human Resources manager at Humax in Seoul. Her job also involves overseeing corporate espionnage activities, including Nara, In-soon and Ji-hoon. She prefers to keep her distance from deniable assets, even when they are direct employees of the company.

Col Catrina Santiago. Commander of the Delta Force in charge of coordinating operators such as Wendigo, Tooth Fairy and El Maligno. She is known for being concise and never wasting time with hypotheticals.

Maksym Savlovyeff. Businessman running an import-export company out of St Petersburg. His influence over the city extends as far as overseeing the sale of all salvage from the Blasted Land. Rumors linking him to the Mafia are completely founded, however his friendly and honest business-like demeanor may throw some doubts on the matter. He has a partnership with Leonid, Alicia and Elizabeth, providing them with supplies and information about good salvage locations in exchange for first dibs on anything found there. He also lent a large amount of money to Alicia in the form of an anti-radiation serum.

Behnam Baz. Leader of the Baz Brothers criminal group in Cairo. The Hargreeves siblings, under their masked identity, helped him uncover a traitor to his organisation. He has also taken a liking to Walter Hargreeves (mask-free version) and wants to help him locate his missing parents.

Vulture Seven. Mysterious radio voice relaying instructions from La Résistance to Aurore and Damien.

Kanti Bagchi. Daughter of the elder of Vijaipura. She travels with Chakrawarti and both fancy each other, however she remains mindful about
the difference in caste between them, ensuring nothing will ever happen.

Isaac Fétique. Former aircraft engineer who decided a change in lifestyle was needed. He was getting tired of doing nothing as things happened around him. The Cyberpapacy's arrival was the last straw and he decided to join the Church Police. During his training he was intercepted by Damien and Aurore and convinced to join their Resistance cell instead.

The Delphi Council Personnel. Too many to list here.
Last edited by Istrian on Mon Mar 09, 2020 1:18 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Istrian
Hobgoblin
Posts: 45
Joined: Tue Feb 11, 2020 4:57 pm

Re: [Game Stories]Make Earth Glorious Again

Post by Istrian »

Bordeaux, France, Cyberpapacy, Day 43
Leonid Slovokin, Aurore, Damien Monnet, Alicia Kalachnikova
The most urgent, and potentially most dangerous, lead was to save the members of the St Emilion cell probably held prisoner at the Grand-Theatre. The Storm Knights headed there. The Church Police had turned the theatre into a branch office and could be seen going in and out at all times. Civilians were also crowding the main entrance above which a holographic banner projected the unambiguous message of the day: “Denounce a heretic today”.

After observing for a while, Leonid and Aurore used their magic to disguise everyone as Church Police members and they headed inside. The ground floor was a simple reception area, prompting the group to head upstairs. They found offices and a training area where the brave crime-fighters were sparring and getting target practice under careful supervision from Hospitaliers. One such Hospitalier took direct interest in Damien, grunting “I haven’t seen you practicing much, brother.”

“And I don’t see you out catching many witches, ‘brother’” retorted Damien.

The hospitalier took offense and demanded his identity, which was provided by Aurore who had faked transfer orders. After examining the orders carefully, the hospitalier finally said “Your piety score is very low. Do you think you can laze around all day around here as well?”, attempted to grab the Storm Knight, and finished on the floor, convinced that Damien might not be as useless as he looked.

The hospitalier got up and decided to make Leonid his next victim. Another hard landing later, the knight decided to let it go without bothering Aurore or Alicia.

Leonid felt his spell would end soon and suggested he and Alicia head for the showers. Aurore followed Alicia to help with a new casting of the spell. Fortunately that ended up being unnecessary, there were enough clean uniforms for everyone.

In the meantime Damien continued heading upstairs. He found the quarters and armory but failed to hack into the latter’s security system and kept heading further up. The penultimate floor was simply a hallway following the building’s outside walls, prompting him to go further up until the hallway was cut by a wall of light. After some testing, Damien found he could just walk through, and so he did. After doing so he realized it must have been a sound dampening field as he could immediately hear the screams of a prisoner being tortured. Being a helpful sort, he headed for the door where the noise was coming from and entered to offer the torturer some help (and knock them out).

Unfortunately the priest doing the torturing took one look at Damien and exclaimed “YOU!” as they recognized each other from their brief encounter at the Resistance cell headquarters. The priest sounded the alarm and began to try to deal with Damien.

At the same time, the rest of the group had finished disguising themselves and was getting close to the field of light. Alicia and Leonid remained behind to deal with reinforcements while Aurore headed towards the torture room to provide support. At first Damien wished for support as his GodMeeter jammed. Resorting to cruder technology, he pulled out his nine-mils and turned the priest into Swiss cheese the old-fashioned way. Together they focused on freeing the prisoners and convincing them they were here to help.

The first couple of waves of Church Police reinforcements were dealt with quickly and efficiently by Alicia’s fireballs and darkness spells. Unfortunately the next one included the hospitalier from earlier, who was still standing after a fireball and a lightning bolt. At the same time, small orbs entered through the windows and manifested two jackpriests. The first one was taken out by Leonid and the other one temporarily deactivated with Aurore’s EMPs.

A yell of pain had everyone turn to Damien falling to the ground, the hospitalier’s blade through his gut. While Damien was struggling to hold on to the minuscule sliver of life, the Church Police officers suddenly exclaimed “All Hail GodNet’s monitors!” as one of them turned into a being with glowing eyes and similarly glowing circuit-patterned skin. Leaving the newcomer to deal with the Storm Knights, the police officers focused on the freed prisoners. Aurore regretted the “infiltration” operation as the monitor began showering everyone with punches, knocking her out.

Alicia decided to try to save the few remaining prisoners by pushing through the enemies and escaping with them, leaving her companions to their fate. Unfortunately she slipped and fell down the stairs. Leonid simply surrendered.

----

Tokyo, Japan, Pan-Pacifica, Night 46
Amethyst Ninja, In-Soon Heo, Chakrawarti Ranganekary, Samarj Chopade
Managing legal entanglements after slaughtering Egyptian tourists in Urayama’s hot springs proved to be more difficult than expected. In-Soon and Jonathan’s testimonies were barely challenged, however Chakrawarti’s bluff that he was called back to Tokyo by his regional manager for urgent business was not corroborated by said manager, who in fact did testify that Chakrawarti called him to ask for an alibi. In the morning a shameful Chakrawarti guiltily admitted to having an affair with his assistant, Samarj. This time the police decided to stop digging further.

The Storm Knights met up after nightfall, in front of the offices of Asset Management Associates. Samarj had investigated the place earlier, the AMA offices barely occupied half a floor in the skyscraper. Most of their employees apparently managed assets from home and the offices were never visited by clients. The group decided on a straight-up infiltration, with Samarj and Amethyst Ninja sneaking inside to steal the identity of the one who had employed them to sabotage relationships between the Hosui and the Shiroma. In-Soon and Chakrawarti remained on the floor landing to offer support if required.

Support became required fairly quickly. Samarj and Amethyst Ninja skillfully avoided security cameras and the occasional Asset Manager going out for a smoke. However Samarj was puzzled as she could sense many more lifeforms than she could see. She wondered if her psychic cloud had similar deficiencies and attempted to physically check one of the areas where she could sense a hidden presence. The hidden presence made itself known as a ninja wearing chameleon clothing.

Chakrawarti blasted the entrance door open just as more ninjas appeared out of the walls and the various Asset Managers, including the CEO, left their offices to join the deadly fight. The Storm Knights quickly discovered the ninjas, while hardly deadly in a straight-up fight, carried poisoned blades requiring careful handling. While Chakrawarti and Samarj blasted ninjas left and right, Amethyst Ninja and In-Soon focused on breaking into the computer room in order to find the original information they were looking for. Unfortunately someone had triggered a data purge and In-Soon had to scrape whatever information was available. At the same time, police sirens were heard in the distance.

Eventually only the AMA CEO was left standing, trying to flee the scene. The infamous lotus poison had been handled by Amethyst Ninja’s opportune finding of a Delphi Council cache of antidotes. Unfortunately In-Soon could not get enough intelligence about the one who had hired AMA, the only thing he could find was that they were hired to prevent the Delphi Council from establishing channels into Japan, confirming their involvement in the situation between the Shiroma and Hosui, as well as the Tian Dao Man and Nishin situations. Before the enemy CEO could flee, Chakrawarti splattered her brains across the wall to prevent her from carrying out further schemes against the Delphi Council. After that, the Storm Knights fled the scene while the police were still deploying.

The next few days were spent settling things between the warring families. The Storm Knights had the displeasure of discovering this meant a literal change of family head in the Urayama family. Sadly the Nishin situation escalated too quickly, with the pro-Delphi Council CEO resigning and the company being absorbed into a larger conglomerate. Their mission finally over, In-Soon led the others to enjoy the local after-work corporate passtime: karaoke booths.

----

London, United Kingdom, Aysle-Core Earth, Day 47
Wendigo, Tooth Fairy
“Where do you want to be dropped?” asked the helicopter pilot. Wendigo and Tooth Fairy surveyed the partially-transformed, partially-destroyed city below.

“How about that big clock tower over there with the big humanoid skeleton lying nearby. Must be a landmark or something.” answered Wendigo.

The helicopter landed near Big Ben and the Storm Knights went to have a chat with the force holding the location, which turned out to be a hardpoint. The local forces were part Royal Army, part Army of Light. “Do you serve Light or Darkness?” was the challenge heard from the battlements.

Wendigo shouted back, unironically “Freedom and the United States of America.”

The answer stirred the defenders somewhat, with a gruff voice claiming they were forces of Darkness, while another, calmer, simply tried to explain the geopolitical situation outside Aysle. Eventually the Storm Knights were invited inside and shared some news and gossip.

The news was good. Since the Battle of London, the Army of Darkness was still retreating from the Army of Light, somewhere far to the north-west. The city was safe enough to wander during the day, but at night the locals seemed to prefer the safety of the many well-guarded buildings in town. In addition, Prince Edward had explained that the city’s reality was going to revert to Aysle soon and most modern military assets had been moved into hardpoints. The officer in charge of Big Ben admitted to not understanding what all of that mumbo-jumbo meant but followed orders to the letter.

Tooth Fairy asked for directions and the Storm Knights departed for their destination. On the way they stopped by various stalls, looking at the goods merchants were selling. One of them caught Wendigo’s attention with his sales pitch “Healing potions, only 700 gold apiece!” Wendigo quickly realized the merchant would not take paper money and instead traded one of her composite bows for a potion.

The operators eventually arrived to Battersea Power Station. The place was in the process of being upgraded and reopened. Fortunately it was also secure and the Storm Knights finally met with Roger Llewellyn, their local coordinator. While the Storm Knights were already aware of their mission and Llewellyn filled in the details.

“The Lady of Light will be arriving tomorrow, most likely by the M40 from Oxford with her escort. She will most likely head straight to the quarters prepared for her at St James Palace. She will meet with Chairman Sebastian in the evening. The next day she will tour various historic locations around London, with a BBC interview in the evening. On the third day she intends to visit hospitals in order to heal the wounded and cure the sick, which should take the whole day. On her final day the only plans we have on our side is a reception at St James’ with various officials and celebrities attending.”

“She will have her own security detail and the Royal Army will be providing an escort as well, so you will not be required to follow her everywhere. However we have been made aware that a number of Stormers are probably operating in the city and may attempt to disrupt her visit. In a deadly manner.”

After inquiring about the various rumors, the Storm Knights decided to start by contacting a powerful local diviner who could be of help. Llewellyn also provided some advice in matters of etiquette when interacting with the followers of Light, and insight into the political situation in the country.

“There’s something important we have to do before that” said Wendigo. “Where’s the closest McDonald’s?”

As it happened, one was still open near the Buck House hardpoint. Both Storm Knights were very disappointed when they found out it had been taken over by one Owen McDonald. His cuisine, however, lifted their spirits, especially the fried calamari rings which he claimed were from a kraken. Tooth Fairy also managed to find out that Owen was familiar with Salford, the diviner they were looking for. They had studied at Oxford together.

Sated, the Storm Knights headed for Salford’s tower, in the middle of a now-abandoned residential district. The place had been abandoned both because of the Battle of London, and because people did not feel entirely safe with a wizard in the neighborhood. Knocking at the door produced no result and the Storm Knights confidently opened it and entered.

They looked confidently at the three fire-eyed black dogs that greeted them in the middle of the tower’s reception area. The room had clearly been ransacked, and the Storm Knights confidently began shooting and stabbing.

Their confidence quickly evaporated as the dogs were barely scratched by their assault and two of them bounced upon Tooth Fairy, nearly biting his arm off. The third one breathed fire upon Wendigo who was saved only by an upturned table nearby. The hounds continued their relentless assault until Wendigo finally managed to land a shot upon one of them: it exploded into a ball of fire that immediately collapsed upon itself. Tooth Fairy stabbed the second one. The third one prepared to pounce upon Wendigo, whose hand stopped on a round blue orb she threw at it. The orb seemed to absorb the fire from the dog until it vanished as well.

Salford was not found in his tower. Every single floor contained signs of fighting, with drops of blood and torn flesh in places. Wendigo found a hidden strange room, hexahedral and lines with mirrors. As she entered a head materialized in the middle. It was an old wizened man with a long white beard.

The head was quickly identified as Salford’s, who had been abducted moments earlier. He had no idea where he was but was elated at finding out his newest magical invention worked so well, even if the communication side-effect was unintended. “Originally I was making this room in order to look into my mind to help with focusing and meditation. I guess now everyone else can also have a look in my mind.”

Salford was unable to provide his location or the identity of his abductors, but he suggested taking some samples of blood to any run-of-the-mill diviner who should be able to scry for his location. In addition he had a magical item stashed in his fountain. The communication was cut off abruptly with Salford’s head vanishing. Dutifully, Tooth Fairy collected some samples of flesh and blood for later, while Wendigo retrieved the item, some kind of magical longbow that shot bolts of lightning.

The two Storm Knights returned to Battersea Power Station to ask for help finding a diviner.

----

London, United Kingdom, Aysle-Core Earth, Night 47
Wendigo, Tooth Fairy, Muir Gilchrist
A diviner was found very quickly. In fact one was waiting in Roger Llewellyn’s office when Wendigo and Tooth Fairy came in. It was Muir Gilchrist, Lord of Elgol Castle. Muir had just arrived through the Land Between alongside Lord Rhys and his other allies on the Isle of Skye in order to take part in the meetings with the Lady of Light.

After a quick round of introductions the Storm Knights returned to Salford’s tower, where Muir believed his scrying had the most chances to succeed. His intuition turned out to be right as Salford’s fountain was, in fact, enchanted to help with divination spells.

Salford’s aggressor and his surroundings quickly appeared on the surface of the water. The place looked somewhat old and very industrial, and the bank of the Thames could be seen through a dusty broken window. Wendigo also noticed an old sign with what turned out to be the name of the factory.

The Storm Knights’ attentions were drawn to an unusual contraption in the middle of the factory, some sort of high-tech construct of wires, steel, polymers and lasers. People were working around it, calibrating it for something. One of the people said it was ready for a new run and ordered another to bring one of the subjects. A woman was brought in and attached to a pole in the middle of the contraption. Some sort of field went up around her as lasers began gathering energy.

A quick burst of light later, the woman was gone. Only a small gem hung in mid-air. Moments later it shattered. The leader of the technicians shouted in anger and hit one of his subordinates, who seemed used to the treatment. Muir willed the image to fade as they began recalibrating the device.

The Storm Knights quickly found the factory. With another spell and using Tooth Fairy’s shadow, Muir located the prisoners held in cages. Only three remained. Wendigo snuck inside the factory, on a walkway above the contraption, and Tooth Fairy flexed his muscles.

Moments later, a group of Tharkoldu thralls was very surprised as an angry power-armored fairy demolished the factory wall and smashed them into another wall. Muir followed through the new entrance and shrunk the prisoners so they could move out through the cage bars. Wendigo began taking pot-shots at the technicians while they activated the contraption on yet another prisoner.

A door opened and a wizard came out, hurling lightning bolts and insults at the Storm Knights, who worked towards deactivating the machine. They prevailed, and after doing so quickly eliminated the wizard and the leader of the thrall technicians. The remaining ones fled.

As the Storm Knights were about to examine the debris, they heard the sound of tires sliding on asphalt and ran out. A black van had arrived outside and people in black suits were trying to grab the prisoners they just saved. Tooth Fairy returned the grab while Wendigo shot out one of the van’s wheels. With an anti-tank rifle. One explosion later, two of the black suits were held against the wall by an unflinching Tooth Fairy. The first to regain consciousness decided to talk after some encouragement.

He spoke with a recognizable Russian accent and explained they only wanted to ask the prisoners some questions. They were working on unraveling something they called the Tharkoldu Enigma. The explanation was long-winded, Tooth Fairy and Wendigo stopped at “It’s political” while Muir listened with interest.

The MiBs were former FSB agents who had gone rogue after Volkov surrendered to the invaders. The agents were on their own, trying to find anything to use to help the motherland. Locally, they were after a high-ranking thrall named Fhals whom they believed to be in possession of information that could help them understand who is on whose side in Russia. Incidentally they were unhappy at losing most of their team in the van explosion.

Wendigo apologized and offered to introduce them to the Delphi Council, a proposal the agents did not appreciate, believing the Delphi Council to be somewhat in league with the invaders, at the very least through the United Nations and Volkov. In the end the Russians still provided a way to contact them while in London.

----

Tula, Russia, Tharkold, Day 48
Bronze Bullet, Elizabeth Poliakova, Gregor MacConnor, Logan MacCormack
After sorting the fate of Korsakovo Hardpoint, the Storm Knights decided to take a side-road and follow a business opportunity from Savlovyeff. One of his clients, an Estonian philanthropist millionaire, wanted a number of historical samovars from the Samovar Museum in Tula. Apparently the city was a stronghold of resistance against the Russian government, prompting the latter to besiege and bombard the city.

As the freshly-repaired This Is Not A Tank approached the city, the Storm Knights surveyed the situation. The Russian army was nearly literally laying a siege. Hundreds of soldiers supported by heavy artillery and tanks. Fortunately no aerial support was visible. The group decided a direct approach: break through.

Trouble came in a small patrol pf Russian army vehicles, demanding they halt and submit to a search. Elizabeth hit the gas pedal, Gregor prayed for Dunad’s blessing, Logan leaped upon an enemy vehicle and Bronze Bullet engaged his jetpack. At the same time artillery fire rose from the direction of Tula. Fortunately the aim was off and one of the shells fell on an enemy instead. Lucius confused another driver and sent them careening off-road.

The Russians responded in kind, their mounted machine-guns shredding the radiation-proof truck (and Bronze Bullet) like Swiss cheese while trying to push it off the road. Elizabeth did her best to keep things under control at the wheel, but she and Gregor were hard-pressed for a breather. Things became slightly peachier when Gregor realized an artillery shell was heading straight towards them and the truck was nearing its last moments. Praying for the best, he climbed atop the roof and leaped on an intercept course towards the shell, shield held forward. It was only Dunad’s grace and Gregor’s growing mastery over reality that led to him staying alive.

Logan and Bronze Bullet took care of the final matters before the last enemy vehicle was made to surrender. The soldiers on-board were bound and left nearby to be found later.

Once that moment of violence had passed, the Storm Knights realized they were still far from the city and This Is Not A Tank was not far from exploding. The initial plan was reconsidered for a more subtle approach. It involved continuing on foot and a lot of searching.

Eventually Logan found what everyone was looking for: a sewage pipe leading into Tula. Gregor opened the way and, after a half-hour of walking, motioned for everyone to stop. There were strange discs on the walls. Bronze Bullet examined them and determined them to be crawler mines. The nasty kind that latches onto someone’s head before exploding. Fortunately, despite his lack of knowledge in this technology, he managed to disarm them and kept one as a souvenir.

Emerging inside the city, the Storm Knights observed the situation. Combat was still on-going but stayed in the outskirts. The city center, one the other hand, was heavily patrolled by people who looked like former thralls. Deciding to avoid trouble, the group used the side-streets to avoid the patrols. While passing near one of them, Elizabeth realized they spoke very good Russian, going as far as to call each other “Comrade”.

The Samovar Museum looked oddly under siege in a city itself under siege. The “Thrall Comrades” had checkpoints and patrols running around the outside, while the inside was sealed and barricaded. The Storm Knights waited for a gap in the patrols and ziplined into the building. Their entry was far from stealthy and a shabby museum patrol arrived on-scene. Elizabeth’s attempt at diplomacy ended with a gesture towards Logan, who was hiding nearby, to take care of the patrol.

Logan misunderstood completely and attacked. Suddenly one of the civilians in the patrol began floating in mid-air and manifesting flashes of psychic energy while the others dived for cover. A massive shockwave propelled Bronze Bullet through the window, to the “thralls” waiting outside. His attempt to activate his jetpack ended in a disconnection and he had to run circles around the museum while avoiding patrols.

Back inside, the Storm Knights dealt with the strange psychic entity and Elizabeth “persuaded” the patrol leader, a local former police officer, to help them. In the meantime Bronze Bullet had reconnected and was able to jetpack his way back up.

When asked about the situation, the police officer explained that he and a large number of refugees barricaded themselves in the museum when the communist thralls took over the city. The Storm Knights made their way to the valuable exhibit and interrupted someone who was in the middle of pocketing valuable samovars. The thief attempted to flee but was stopped by a shot in the back from Elizabeth. Unfortunately, a lethal one. The Storm Knights still found the man’s keys and passport pointing them to a nearby address.

Evening fell and the Russian army apparently halted the assault. Normal people were out in the streets, looking for something to entertain themselves. The Storm Knights were thus finally able to move around normally. The thief’s apartment was quickly located and searched. Some samovars were inside but clearly not all of the missing ones. Gregor found a picture of the thief with four other men. The writing on the back indicated they were buddies who had been through military training together. Elizabeth listened to a message left on the answering machine which indicated someone named Lyonka was in hospital because of a plan that fell through and that the recipient of the message should bring the packages to the usual address.

The police officer knew which hospital was implied by the message and was easily able to gain entry for the Storm Knights, introducing them as foreign doctors coming to help. A nurse looked dubiously at the bare-chested Logan, wondering if the axes were for quick surgery. They were still allowed to see the young, bandaged man named Lyonka. Gregor displayed his medical proficiency by channeling Dunad, and the young man regained consciousness. He was grateful, although a bit delirious, and gave the Storm Knights his dog tag, telling them to give it to one of his friends in the Tula Kremlin for a reward. The name of the friend matched one of those in the picture.

----

London, United Kingdom, Aysle-Core Earth, Day 48
Wendigo, Tooth Fairy, Muir Gilchrist
The Storm Knights, alongside British soldiers and various nobles awaited on the former M40 motorway for the Lady of Light’s arrival. Wendigo and Tooth Fairy were annoyed to discover the notion of “being on time” in a medieval society meant that they would arrive sometime during the day. Bored and tired, the two Delta Force operatives dragged Muir into going off to intercept them on the road.

A couple of hours later, they were stopped by an Aylish patrol demanding their identities. The three Storm Knights introduced themselves and Wendigo and Tooth Fairy got an immediate taste of Aylish culture when the patrol’s leader asked “Who knighted you?”. Both operatives answered “Obama.” The patrol decided to adopt a careful stance with an unknown foreign leader’s name. Fortunately Muir was a noble and had little trouble vouching for their allegiances.

The patrol was a forward group of scouts from the Lady of Light’s entourage. The Storm Knights rode on and discovered they were worried over nothing. Pella Ardinay traveled with a large enough contingent to deal with most common threats, and possibly many uncommon ones as well. They were introduced to the High Queen and her companions from the three major houses.

By the middle of the afternoon, Ardinay entered London. However, the Storm Knights groaned when she decided to stop in the middle of an avenue to immerse herself in the local culture. It involved shopping for shoes and watches. The Storm Knights remained watchful and their carefulness was rewarded when Wendigo noticed a hand dart out of a pile of clothes and snatched a purse from one of Ardinay’s retainers. Wendigo pursued while Tooth Fairy took up defensive position near the Lady of Light and Muir scanned the ceiling for hidden ninjas.

Wendigo pursued her target down to the metro tunnels and finally managed to grab him. She was very disappointed when he turned out to be a common thief. Disgusted she let him go with the purse and began to backtrack only to realize she had somehow gotten lost in something that definitely did not look like the metro.

Back in the shop, no dangers were forthcoming but the Lady of Light decided to avoid further risks and agreed to her escort’s suggestion to head directly for St James’ Palace. Tooth Fairy radioed Wendigo but was unable to reach her. After a while, he and Muir decided to go look for her and became lost in the Land Between as well.

----

Tula, Russia, Tharkold, Night 48
Bronze Bullet, Elizabeth Poliakova, Gregor MacConnor, Logan MacCormack
The Tula Kremlin was abandoned, probably due to the lack of tourists. The interior was extremely dark as well. As they were progressing through the darkened rooms, looking for Lyonka’s gang, they became targeted by silent gunfire. While Elizabeth tried to explain they were friends of Lyonka, Bronze Bullet turned his flashlight on and quickly confirmed the people attacking them were probably not the right ones. Rather than street thugs, they looked like corporate managers wearing night-vision goggles. In contrast, two bodies looking very much like street thugs lay on the floor.

Deciding that prisoners were overrated, Logan hefted his axe and GLORIOUSLY turned half of the suits into mincemeat. Elizabeth, Gregor and Bronze Bullet managed the other half just as another one entered from a doorway. Assessing the situation, the man pulled out a syringe and injected himself with it. Suddenly he began to mutate until he looked like an undead monster (still wearing a suit). Despite the creature’s frightening appearance, the Storm Knights had little trouble hacking it to pieces, then hacking each piece to pieces again for good measure.

The Storm Knights found a survivor among Lyonka’s people and patched him up as well. He told them the full story. They had been contacted by Korean businessmen to steal a specific samovar from the museum and decided to grab the others for good measure. While they were waiting for the businessmen to arrive to take possession of their new samovar, they were attacked by vikings who fled with the priceless antique. After listening to the story, Elizabeth pulled out five grand and gave them to the thug for hospital fees. Then the Storm Knights left after finding out the Koreans and the vikings had left towards the north. Elizabeth thanked the police officer for his help and told him to go home.

The Storm Knights “obtained” a van to transport their growing samovar collection and drove towards the north. They quickly came upon an interesting sight: a sports car and two motorbikes pursuing a half-dozen horses through the no-man’s land between the city and the Russian army. Elizabeth floored the gas pedal and the chase was on.

The van quickly gained ground on the horses and Gregor grabbed the samovar from the vikings’ saddlebags, noticing the leader was a young, muscular man with an eyepatch who reminded him very much of the one who had led the assault against Elgol Castle in the early days of the invasion. Dissatisfied with the speed of their horses, the vikings leaped on the Korean sports car and the van. One of them began hitting the van’s windshield, sending glass shards into Elizabeth’s face.

Bronze Bullet decided to have a plan, jumped off the van near a destroyed Russian tank, and began tinkering with it. In the meantime, Elizabeth tried to lose the sports car while shooting at the motorbikes, which were quick to explode.

Surprisingly, the Russian army was not keen on shelling the various vehicles. The cause became apparent as the van passed near one of the Russian camps: the soldiers were busy fighting their brothers-in-arms-turned-Infected. A stealth helicopter dropped out of the sky, with a Korean woman leaning out, gesturing towards the van. Suddenly Gregor felt a grip around his neck and the viking chieftain seized the opportunity to try to grab the samovar. Gregor did not let go and a fight began on top of the van for control of the prized relic.

Bronze Bullet finished his tinkering, began shelling the woman in the helicopter with his homemade mortar while trying to catch up with everyone. She was able to keep control of both her life and the helicopter. Fortunately it broke her concentration and Gregor could breathe again. Suddenly Elizabeth yelled “DUCK!” and Gregor dropped to the van’s roof. The viking chieftain brandished his axe to strike the final blow, and then was sent flying off the roof by a passing tunnel. The helicopter gave up the pursuit as Russian air superiority vehicles approached.

The Storm Knights regrouped and returned to This Is Not a Tank, then examined their prize. The samovar’s decorations had nice shades of red and blue and it pulsed with possibility energy. A quick look inside found ashes. Human ones. The Storm Knights decided to withhold this piece from Savlovyeff and give it to the Delphi Council instead. In the end Savlovyeff was still satisfied with the rest of the samovar collection and gave the Storm Knights their share of the proceeds. Bronze Bullet found himself conflicted between the feeling of having a lot of money for his experiments, and the idea of receiving it from someone with very likely ties to the mafia. In the end greed prevailed.

----

Swansea, United Kingdom, Aysle, Night 48
Kwang Im, Song-Ho Sun, Garrick Heinston, Tobias Lynch
Aboard the HMS Richmond, the Storm Knights were getting ready. The original plan to disembarked directly in Swansea had been scuttled as soon as the ship’s captain noticed the city was in enemy hands. The option of going to Bristol, with a longer land journey to the final destination, was unanimously rejected as the Storm Knights opted to disembark in Swansea under cover of darkness.

As soon as the lifeboat docked, Garrick surveyed the damage. Overturned carts and broken weapons lay around the pier, but he did not see as many dead bodies as he had initially expected. The group decided to check one of those. While Tobias was inspecting the body, a man who had clearly died from multiple arrows to the gut, an ambush was sprung! Multiple assailants leaped on the overturned carts and peppered the Storm Knights with arrows while others advanced upon them armed with spears and staves.

In a single draw Song-Ho cut down four opponents on one side while Tobias stunned the archers with his spells. Kwang and Garrick provided firearm support and the initial ambush was quickly routed. More assailants, however, were coming out from further inside the city. Garrick decided to pursue one of the runners while the other Storm Knights were called by a discrete “Psst, over here” from one of the buildings.

As Garrick ran through the streets after his attacker, he realized he would quickly be outnumbered by the opponents coming from everywhere. Abandoning pursuit he darted into a side-street, where someone helpfully offered to hide him in a barrel. Garrick leaped in after disguising himself as a woman. The disguise turned out to be difficult to maintain, as the barrel was overturned and rolled elsewhere, especially when the elsewhere turned out to be steps.

A dizzy Garrick came out of the barrel in a dark basement. The other Storm Knights were there as well, alongside an old woman who was introduced as Swansea’s mayor, Chelsea Stewart. After asking them who they were, she implored the Storm Knights to help save the city. While the willing locals were more than enough to deal with the bandits, the real trouble came from the leaders of the invasion. Two ogres, one of whom was a Stormer. Kwang and Song-Ho quickly agreed. Tobias and Garrick decided to stick around anyway.

The group slunk through through the dark streets back to a crumbling warehouse on the docks, where the two ogres had made their headquarters. One of them was sitting on a throne of bones while chewing on an unfortunate human. The other was watching the sea and horizon, as if lost in thought.

Song-Ho charged the ogre sitting on the throne, supported by Kwang’s colt from afar and Tobias’ and Garrick’s spells from even further. To Song-Ho’s surprise, the ogre still stood, and even proved to be a very dangerous opponent. The second ogre, far from being distracted by the sound of the sea, walked towards Tobias and Garrick at the back and began mauling them. Garrick was propelled backward and smashed into a wall. GLORIOUSLY, he survived, with barely a scratch for his troubles. At the same time, a group of bandits approached the battle from the back and began taking pot-shots at isolated Storm Knights.

Tobias realized he was now alone, facing a reality-rated ogre in close combat. This made him happy, as it had been a while since he had had the opportunity to use his reality-rending ritual. He proceeded to slowly drain the hulking humanoid’s possibility energy while at the same time trying to survive.

Song-Ho was hard-pressed as well. While he was able to deflect most of his ogre’s bone-shattering blows, his own strikes seemed to barely put a dent in the massive beast. Kwang, under arrow fire, decided to change his strategy and began supporting Song-Ho instead of attacking the beast. Together they were able to finally fell the beast with Song-Ho cutting off its head. The other ogre entered a blood rage, swearing to bring death upon his brother’s slayer, and charged at Song-Ho. By then Tobias was done with his work. He was covered in blood, but the ogre’s possibilities were out of this reality. With another strike, this time supported by Garrick, Song-Ho cut off the last ogre’s head. The bandits fled.

The Storm Knights realized they were hearing sounds of battle from everywhere around the city. The local militia was clearly winning and the city quickly freed from the ogre brothers’ tyranny. The Storm Knights received the keys to the city, alongside a sizable reward, a few magic trinkets, and an invitation to a banquet in their honor.

The Storm Knights seized the opportunity to look for a Seeker as part of their mission. They discovered none were available. Most of them were gone, the locals surmised on various missions. The group paid a visit to a local Seeker’s home, one Gerrold, but found his house empty with traces of a struggle.

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Havard
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Re: [Game Stories]Make Earth Glorious Again

Post by Havard »

Very cool! I love reading about games set in the Reality Wars.

If you need the Spoiler Tags, the "Hide" Button can be used :)

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Istrian
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Re: [Game Stories]Make Earth Glorious Again

Post by Istrian »

Havard wrote:
Sat Feb 15, 2020 6:03 pm
If you need the Spoiler Tags, the "Hide" Button can be used :)

-Havard
Thanks. I tried that but it only hides the text. I was hoping for something that creates a "folding" text to make sections easier to read.

Istrian
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Re: [Game Stories] Make Earth Glorious Again

Post by Istrian »

Bordeaux, France, Cyberpapacy, Day 44
Leonid Slovokin, Aurore, Damien Monnet, Alicia Kalachnikova

The heroes were separated by their captors, held in different interrogation rooms and subjected to excruciating pain, both physical and mental. Alicia and Aurore had no trouble abstracting their surroundings and ignoring the demands and questions of their interrogators. Leonid, after annoying his with a now-familiar “Russian Tourist, DA!” impression, managed to free himself from his chains and began fiddling with wires behind a panel. Damien, in between his physical wounds and his lost mojo, had trouble finding good taunts to make his Church Police interrogator give up ground.

Aurore had an unexpected visitor who said “Well well. Aurore. I did believe we had an agreement. You were expected to keep running away until I was the one to arrest you.”

She immediately recognized Inspector Sartan, with whom she had shared information a long time ago, in Toulouse. He still looked like his old self, with the exception of now-upgraded eyes and an apprentice hospitaller in tow. Momentarily speechless, Aurore let the inspector do the talking. He was still as methodical and manipulative as before, but eventually decided to move on.

Damien seemed to be the focus of the interrogators. Now it was the hospitalier’s turn to take a stab at him. The interrogation was cut short by a scream of pain… from the hospitalier. He had received a powerful electrical discharge from the button he used to electrocute Damien. On the other side of the wall, Leonid muttered “Not this wire either.”

Unfortunately the hospitalier was replaced by Sartan. Damien was somewhat relieved that someone still called him a “criminal” rather than “heretic” or “blasphemer”. The inspector paused in the middle of a question and turned towards a wall. In other cells, the Storm Knights’ respective interrogators also stopped.

A hologram appeared, displaying Bordeaux. In the sky above, a giant holo-Malreaux began a speech full of regret, bordering on tears, at having failed to make the Flesh strong enough to go to the Promised Land.

“But if the pilgrim cannot go to the Promised Land, I will bring the Promised Land to the pilgrim.”

With that a giant holographic mountain appeared outside Bordeaux, while the masses in the streets sank to their knees and directed their prayers towards the Cyberpope.

“Therefore today is a Day of Grace. All of you may leave your work and join in the pilgrimage to the Promised Land. All crimes are pardoned, so that everyone can bask in the glory of GodNet.”

The Church Police officers interrogating the Storm Knights fell to their knees as well. The hospitalier wept. Only inspector Sartan was frowning and decided to make a call to one of his superiors who decided that mere “criminals” were worthy of being pardoned.

The Storm Knights were escorted by a large number of armed people to the local chapel. Dozens of benches had been placed outside the chapel, people sat as they arrived and priests placed electrodes upon their temples as the faithful prayed. A few lucky (or unlucky) ones were led inside instead. The Storm Knights were among these and had the leisure to sit upon slightly more comfortable benches. Alicia and Aurore were graced with a cable connection through their data jacks.

The visit to the Promised Land was unlike anything Aurore and Damien had experienced before. They were getting used to the lattice environment with walls of numbers. Now the experience was complete with buildings, streets, and people. Also, the Mountain.

After getting used to the place, and since they were left to their own devices, the Storm Knights decided to pay a visit to the chapel the Sauternes resistance cell used. They found three priests helping some faithful getting oriented. As the group lacked any ideas to use the contact code phrase, Leonid decided to do so with the grace and subtlety of a Tharkoldu truck clearing a roadblock: he went to confess his sins.

Leonid began “Father, forgive me for I have sinned. As I was walking in the street I saw someone had written graffitis all over the divine creation. I scrubbed them off.”

The priest answered “There is nothing to forgive. Keeping God’s creation clean is not a sin.”

“But while I was cleaning I could not keep from reading the blasphemous writings. I cannot get them out of my head. It was written ‘Jean-Jacques Rousseau was here.’ I cannot sleep knowing I let the demons inside me.”

“Do not worry my son, for you are clean of any demons.”

“That is not all, Father. Due to the shock from the event I have started drinking. You cannot imagine the number of bottles of St Emilion I have emptied. I have tried going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, you know, the ones Rue de Paris.”

“That is terrible my son, but you are clearly doing your best, and the Flesh is weak, and you are hereby absolved and pardoned. Now get going, the Promised Land awaits.”

Faced with the lack of progress, the group decided to return later, in the Flesh, and went to explore the Mountain instead. The visit was fruitful, the Storm Knights enjoyed the shops and restaurants (especially those on the third level). Damien even tried to get souvenir t-shirts of Malraux. An infinite amount of them.

Once the fun was over the group decided to return to reality. However something seemed to go wrong and they found themselves floating in front of a giant wall covered with circuitry. Moments later they realized the wall was in fact a giant black cross. It talked to them.

“Greetings, Storm Knights of the Delphi Council. You have now been in the Promised Land. Return to your masters and omit no details of your journey. Go with my blessing and that of my servant, and spread the glory of GodNet.”

After that the group found themselves back inside the chapel, shocked, awed and frightened. And, in Leonid’s case, with a severe case of GodNet withdrawal. As promised, they were allowed to go.

And go they did. In the direction of the Sauternes chapel. Inside, they did not have to wait long. A priest went towards Leonid and asked if he had something to help Emile with his education. Leonid scratched his head and showed his stash of St Emilion vintage wines. Now it was the priest’s turn to look puzzled. Eventually Aurore remembered that “Emile, or On Education” was one of Rousseau’s major publications and tried the code phrase. The priest finally seemed satisfied and somewhat relieved and invited them to the next room to talk.

The conversation was extremely confusing. The priest spoke of the Inquisition, the Church being infaillible, yet at the same time about heretics hiding inside, about some place nearby that was somehow involved in something, and about a book that needed to get into the right hands. At the very least, from the priest’s behaviour it was obvious he was under surveillance. Probably by his own literal right hand.

Outside the chapel, the Storm Knights put their minds together to try to solve the puzzle. Alicia thought that they needed to go to the provided address, find a book, and bring it somewhere. Damien was convinced of the same, plus blowing the place up in the name of the Inquisition. Leonid preferred his own version, go to the place, find some proof of heresy and bring that to the special inquisitor at the Grand Theatre Church Police Headquarters. Aurore had no idea.

All understandings seemed to converge on going to the address, and so they did. It was a narrow alley with a sturdy wooden door. As the Storm Knights looked inside the alley, they saw a man pushing the door open after looking around furtively. The group shrugged and imitated the man.

The inside was some kind of reception area. They were addressed by a good-looking man and woman duo dressed in exquisite clothes who bid them welcome and asked if they wanted to see the catalogue. Also if they preferred being together or split up. Alicia answered “together” and the group was led to a small waiting room and given the catalogue. Damien and Aurore turned red as they realized they were in a brothel.

Damien and Alicia looked around the waiting room for any traces of a book. They found a cyber crucifix forgotten in-between the cushions. Aurore promptly hacked it and displayed the personal log of a lay priest. It became clear that this place was frequently visited by Church officials, and clearly not for business. Communications between the priest and his friends seemed to indicate the Church knew about the brothel and was somehow protecting it. This meant someone fairly high in the hierarchy. Leonid sighed and decided to sacrifice himself to collect information from employees, especially those with nicknames that hinted at a religious connotation perverse priests and nuns might enjoy. He came back an hour later and explained the records were upstairs, poorly guarded. Alcia, Aurore and Damien stood up and asked him for a diversion while they went to infiltrate upstairs. Leonid retorted “Hey, I’m not made of Savlovyeff’s money!” but did his part of the job anyway.

The infiltration operation went smoothly. Before anyone noticed anything was amiss, Aurore had printed out evidence against many members of the clergy and Damien found a dossier on all exchanges with the local district bishop. Apparently the brothel owner was also keeping some evidence on him just in case.

Armed with the truth, the Storm Knights went to the Grand Theatre to meet with the inquisitor, whom they suspected to be Sartan. Luckily he was outside the building when they arrived, showing some Asian suit-and-tie people outside and into a Peugeot Pirouette, which promptly left the scene. Aurore approached and, after some banter, handed him the file on the bishop, thus renewing the weird, somewhat-romantic relationship they shared.

As soon as news of the bishop’s arrest came through, the group returned to the chapel and had another chat with the Sauternes priest, who lamented the lack of faith among some Church members and wondered if that had something to do with the Holy Book, and handed them a copy “to bring back to our friends in Greece.”

Once away from prying ears, Damien wondered who those friends were and how to bring it to them. Aurore sighed and reminded him they worked with the Delphi Council. She also examined the book. It was unlike Malraux’s bible: less violent, less categorical about pagan gods and witches and their non-existence. She lacked the theological knowledge to understand the implications, but it would certainly find its way into the hands of the Delphi Council. In the meantime local news announced the arrest and execution of terrorists whom Leonid and Alicia recognized as being one of the missing Resistance cells they were looking for and scratched them off the list. Only two were left to get in touch with.

----

Land Between, Under London, Aysle, Night 48
Wendigo, Tooth Fairy

Wendigo had to admit she and Tooth Fairy were completely lost. Earlier they even managed to lose Muir to a pitfall trap just as he was warning them to be careful about traps. The two operatives had walked for hours, trying to go up when possible but had to admit they should have already made their way to the surface. Then Wendigo heard a voice. It seemed to be singing but was too distant to piece out the individual words. Lacking anything better to do, the operatives headed in that direction.

They were greeted by a large hall, with a domed ceiling decorated in green and blue gems that seemed to bathe the interior with a soft light. The center of the room had a huge statue of an elf. There was another elf, a normal-sized one, sitting on a bench nearby, singing a song full of sadness and words Tooth Fairy’s auto-translator package was lost on.

As the duo approached the singing elf they saw he was slightly transparent. Wendigo noticed a pool of blood and a dead body on the floor on the other side of the statue and went that way. She found a dead elf looking exactly like the ghostly one, with the exception of an ornate dagger in his chest. In the meantime Tooth Fairy engaged the elf in conversation.

His name was Rassonel, he was here by the grace of Elmiir, whose statue stood in the middle of the room. He and his sworn brother, Miridae, were travelling from Aysle to the new world, following some of their people who came at the behest of the Lady of Light. On the way, they had a disagreement and Miridae struck down Rassonel with one of the twin daggers they exchanged on the day they swore brotherhood. Tooth Fairy asked for the reason of the disagreement and obtained more than he had bargained for: Miridae wanted to kill Pella Ardinay. His desire was born of rancor due to the treatment the elves received from humans during the last century, all according to Ardinay’s will.

“Can we take the dagger?” asked Wendigo raising her head from the dead body and quickly added “So that… err… we can track down your brother.” Rassonel agreed, asking that they avenge him in the name of Elmiir. He also prayed for his god to show the operatives the way back to the surface, which they followed.

----

London, United Kingdom, Aysle-Core Earth, Night 48
Wendigo, Tooth Fairy

They emerged in a basement full of spirits. The kind that goes into a tankard. After filling a couple, they headed upstairs to the sound of music and laughter and found themselves in an inn. A few oddities struck them immediately: a goat-legged horned humanoid providing the music, a group of small winged creatures dancing the tune, and a half-man half-horse creature brooding in a corner. The other patrons, shadowy cloak-and-dagger types, did not attract any attention.

Tooth Fairy decided to have a chat with the centaur and invited himself to the table. His usual wisecracks and off-handed comments were about to end up in a good thrashing, but Wendigo intervened in time, offering the centaur the drink of his choice. He picked the most expensive, something unpronounceable worth 100 gold coins for a glass. Wendigo and Tooth Fairy shrugged and asked for the same, despite the bartender’s warnings not to. “It’s your life, lassie. I’m sure the golem can live through it” he said, nodding towards Tooth Fairy. The latter was indeed nearly killed by chugging the drink straight up. Wendigo took a cautious approach and merely sipped it. It was obviously made for someone with multiple stomachs. The two Americans decided to return the favor by offering a glass of Coke. The centaur nearly spat it out as it was too sweet.

The Storm Knights noticed the sun had already set outside, apparently time passed differently downstairs. They remembered Pella Ardinay was supposed to be meeting with Quinn Sebastian and headed towards Battersea, after stopping by St James’ Palace to brief the security detail on new threats.

They missed Ardinay but Sebastian was still there and had a couple of minutes for a chat. Wendigo shared the words of the ghostly elf about Ardinay’s last century. Sebastian was not surprised, as that had been part of their discussions. In the end, while officially the Delphi Council supported the Lady of Light, Sebastian still wanted someone to keep an eye on her whenever possible. He repeated the initial briefing, “Your mission is just a cover story to have reasons to investigate Ardinay and her entourage. That you’ve actually found people trying to kill her is a great coincidence.”

----

Tokyo, Japan, Pan-Pacifica, Night 48
Amethyst Ninja, In-Soon Heo, Samarj Chopade

In-Soon led Jonathan and Samarj through the time-honored corporate worker tradition of karaoke. Chakrawarti had to leave for the time being to take care of business matters in India. Their mission had been a success and now they needed to let off steam. Samarj groaned when she realized they would be at it for hours and did her best to take as many breaks as possible. Unfortunately, during one such break, she met a drunk corporate drone who nearly managed to land some upgoing liquid dinner on her. She decided to avoid starting a fight and returned to the karaoke booth.

The third hour of singing was interrupted by Jonathan’s voice deciding to sing on its own. The screens flickered and the songs were replaced by text that had nothing to do with the lyrics. It started with “Congratulations Storm Knights” and introduced the author as one “Null Magic Wizard.” NMW went on to remark on Jonathan’s lack of discretion, showing his various attempts at finding information about Dr Takamura, the specialist who had taken care of his sister Cynthia and was the Hargreeves’ siblings only lead to find their missing father.

The screen changed again to display a picture of a 50-year-old Japanese man alongside his biography. Jonathan realized his mistake in seeking him around hospitals and med-tech corporations. The man was a roboticist and had his own lab set up as a corporation in a remote part of Japan. Also, technically, a professor. The biography ended with a mention that he left the country a few weeks before on a plane to Berlin.

In-Soon was slightly suspicious and asked Null Magic Wizard the reason for providing them with the information. The answer was simple: “The Delphi Council wants to help you.” At that moment In-Soon and the others realized NMW was actually an agent of the Delphi Council, something the hacker had failed to mention earlier. As the Storm Knights had no further questions, the screens and sound returned to normal and the group continued their vigorous session of relaxation.

Half an hour later, Samarj was about to head out for another break when she heard, above the music and In-Soon’s massive vocal power, the unmistakable sound of an assault rifle being discharged. She motioned for the others to stop and listen. The noises were very close, probably from one of the other booths, definitely in the same building.

The group deduced they were likely being targeted by hitmen and prepared to ambush them in their booth. Then they heard the discharge again, getting closer. Whoever was looking for them either did not know where they were or was simply eliminating witnesses. In any case, the Storm Knights went on the offensive.

Moving into the corridor they saw armed black ops commandos sweep the booths one by one. Four of those focused on the Storm Knights while the other continued the sweep. The latter regretted this decision when his head smashed through a screen thanks to a gentle push from the Amethyst Ninja. In-Soon and Samarj assaulted the others with pyrotechnics and regular bullets and quickly enough the hit squad was dealt with.

In-Soon evacuated whoever was still alive and Samarj examined the bodies but found nothing to indicate who the black ops were and why they were after them. The only clue Amethyst Ninja recalled was something the strike force leader had said while responding to one of his taunts, they “knew too much.” In any case the Storm Knights had personal issues to resolve and decided to go directly to Berlin.

----

London, United Kingdom, Aysle-Core Earth, Day 49
Wendigo, Tooth Fairy

After a good night of sleep, Wendigo and Tooth Fairy decided to investigate another lead Llewellyn had provided in the briefing: theft of military hardware from a base in the middle of London. The base itself looked more like a temporary set-up in the process of being moved elsewhere with the slowly collapsing temporary hardpoint. The theft was hardly a surprise to the Delta Force operatives.

The officer in charge of the investigation, Captain Masha O’Brian, walked them through the status of the investigation. Two land-to-air missiles had been stolen a couple of nights before. The thieves had cut their way into the storage facility from the sewers below, enlarging the entrance in order for the missiles to fit through. They took a couple of nearby missiles and left through the sewers. O’Brian had been reluctant to send patrols too far through, due to the constant threat of the Land Below. The missiles were equipped with tracking devices, sadly with limited range due to reality working poorly.

The operatives took a quick look around, then descended straight into the sewers after finding a tourist ad for the Imperial War Museum. Wendigo immediately noticed one of the thieves had a bit of cloth torn off their clothes: black silk. She also noticed they must have been incredibly stealthy, her experience was barely enough to keep up. Her focus was so intense she barely managed to avoid getting cut in half by a trap: three rows of blades whirling their way in sync through the sewers. While she was considering disabling the trap with explosives, Tooth Fairy made his way through, removing the need. Eventually they found a large hole above them, where a manhole probably used to be. Now it was just a hole, as large as the one in the military base. A nearby plaque read “Imperial War Museum.”

Tooth Fairy lifted Wendigo so that she could climb her way up. Just as she was getting her bearings, she noticed motion out of a corner of her eye and ducked just in time to avoid a shuriken to the aforementioned eye. She was in a high hall dedicated to the Great War. Old planes were suspended from the ceiling. In-between the wings of the planes Wendigo could see shadows leaping. One of them stopped and struck an impressive pose, arms crossed.

“I was waiting for you!” declared the ninja with a stereotypical Chinese accent “My name is Master Li! Prepare to die!”

A rain of shuriken followed, one of them nearly managing to lodge itself into a weak spot in Tooth Fairy’s power armor. Wendigo had vanished in the shadows, and reappeared with a pack of C-9 in one hand, and her trademark anti-tank rifle in the other. Explosives went up, and a ninja went down. Tooth Fairy cursed: he had trouble climbing his way out of the sewers. The walls were too frail to support his weight.

The ninjas continued their onslaught, forcing Wendigo to focus on survival. When Tooth Fairy climbed out of the hole he realized one of the ninjas stole his spear. He shrugged and smashed three ninjas into the wall with a riot stick. Just as the now-alone Master Li was preparing to unleash a new rain of shuriken on the two Storm Knights, Wendigo’s explosive unexpectedly exploded. Master Li crashed into the ground, then Tooth Fairy crashed into him, knocking him out.

While Wendigo was tying up ninjas and loose ends, Tooth Fairy heard voices and went to have a look. In another museum hall he found a bunch of technicians carefully dismantling a suspended missile while a morbidely obese scientist (as indicated by his wearing of a labcoat) was shouting orders. As they were too busy to notice the Storm Knight, he went to fetch Wendigo and then rushed in shouting “Hands in the air!”

To his amazement, it worked. Except for the scientist who was struggling to get out of his chair, which collapsed under the weight. Interrogation of the scientist revealed that he had already dismantled the first missile and sent the critical components away. Despite Tooth Fairy’s best efforts, he would not divulge whom it was given to. The technicians’ tongues were a lot more loose, they knew it was a cloaked creepy woman covered in strange tattoos. Wendigo identified those as pagan, perhaps celtic in origin. She also found wires running along the walls, one of which ended in a black orb covering a camera. Unfortunately the duo lacked the skills to do anything with it. Instead they called the military to take the prisoners into custody and realized the ninjas had vanished.

Once that was done, the Storm Knights went to chat with Salford to see if he could divine anything from the bits and pieces they carried: the torn black silk, a piece of the missing missile, and Rassonel’s dagger. Salford quickly discarded the first two, but the dagger probably had enough sentimental value and personal history to try a scrying spell.

The scrying revealed an elf in British army uniform in a place made of old stone. The elf was standing near a window, testing his bow. A man, in Royal Army uniform as well, came up the stairs and into view and inquired about “the plan”. The elf indicated to proceed as planned.

This did not give the operatives much to go on, Ardinay’s schedule for the day contained a lot of old places to visit. Or, as they called it here, historical monuments. They left Salford to monitor the situation with his scrying and a radio to keep them informed of any changes, then headed towards the nearest military outpost. After explaining the situation to the ranking officer in charge of Ardinay’s security, the Storm Knights learned that a patrol had gone missing earlier in the day, which explained where the elf got military uniforms. After obtaining a list of high-perched locations occupied by snipers, Wendigo examined the situation from a military perspective.

Amusingly, the first she noted was that Ardinay should be passing near the Imperial War Museum soon. Fortunately that attack was now prevented. While she was unable to work out where among the many possible hideouts the elf could be, she decided that the view from Westminster Abbey should help. The Storm Knights headed there.

They split up as soon as they entered the building in order to take one tower each. They were stopped by British soldiers standing guard. Despite being shown their Delphi Council badges, the soldiers refused entry citing security reasons. At the same time, Ardinay and her escort were moving up Westminster Bridge, towards the abbey.

The soldiers in front of Wendigo exchanged glances then pulled out daggers, and stood there dumbfounded as the stealthy sniper had vanished. Moments later they were pinned to the walls by an arrow each. Those facing Tooth Fairy were luckier: they were used as battering rams against the massive wooden door keeping unwanted visitors off the tower.

The split-up strategy paid off. Just as Ardinay was turning into the avenue leading to the church, Wendigo faced two archers and Tooth Fairy was up against the elf Miridae. Wendigo reacted quickly, taking down one of the archers with her own bow, then sighted her sniper rifle on the elf. Tooth Fairy’s tough metal hide was nearly pierced by the first arrow, but the operative persevered and gave his opponent a good smack over the head. The surviving archer panicked and pressed a button on a remote control. Smoke rose up from the yard in front of the church, much too early to disorient Ardinay’s escort. Miridae realized his plan was a failure and started to run away across the church’s rooftop.

Instead of pursuing, Wendigo aimed carefully with her anti-tank rifle. Tooth Fairy did likewise with his arm-mounted laser beam. The shots hit Miridae and sent him plummeting to the ground below, where his dying body was quickly surrounded by soldiers. The other archer tried to flee but was caught by security as well. Wendigo and Tooth Fairy arrived at Miridae’s location in time to hear his dying words and recover the other dagger.

“I may have failed today. Others in the Triumvirate will succeed.”

This worried the operatives and they quickly linked the idea of three people being in charge with Ardinay’s three advisors they were introduced to earlier. Going for a straightforward approach, they decided to have a chat with Ardinay. It quickly turned out that a private audience was a very complicated matter as they went through one of the aforementioned advisors, Lady Bailey Gerrick, who explained that this was simply against protocol. There would always be advisors and guards in attendance.

“Can we just have a chat with her right now? She’s right over there. Why don’t you ask her directly?” asked Tooth Fairy impatiently.

The audience was granted, and Wendigo insisted again on speaking to Ardinay in private. The High Queen patiently and gracefully explained that granting a private audience here and now would imply she has no trust in her advisors. At Wendigo’s insistence she relented and agreed, but only on the condition that if the matter was not secret enough to be whispered into her ear, the Storm Knights would be shamed and disgraced by being escorted out of her presence. Both operatives agreed and Tooth Fairy explained the situation. Once he was done, Ardinay calmly asked the guards to remove them from the premises.

While they were being removed, a diplomat from the Delphi Council also thanked them for sabotaging many weeks of patient negotiations.

“Wow. That was tough.” said Wendigo’s radio. The Storm Knights, embarrassed, realized Salford had been scrying on them since they had taken Miridae’s dagger.

Wendigo had a sudden thought “Can you magic something out of the dead body? Like bring him back so we can ask questions?”

“Yes, sure. I mean, I can’t but I, uh, have a… friend… colleague… who can.” answered Salford.

Tooth Fairy looked at the soldiers around and said “Don’t worry, we’re not crazy, we’re just talking to the sky.”

“It’s alright, sir, we’re used to that now.” answered a soldier.

The body was taken to Salford’s tower, where his creepy, pale-green-skinned friend with a hissing voice was waiting. The price he asked for the service was outside the mission budget. After some bargaining the Storm Knights gave him the two jeweled elven daggers.

Moments later, after Tooth Fairy had provided a couple of pints of blood to the necromancer to help with the ritual, Miridae’s ghost stood in front of the group.

The necromancer whispered “You have five minutes. Oh, and don’t expect him to be cooperative.”

Wendigo put on her recently-enchanted sunglasses and said “Don’t worry, that’s my job. Also my hobby.”

Miridae’s ghost sang like a songbird to Wendigo’s GLORIOUS interrogation techniques (which, for some reason, involved a bolt of magical energy spontaneously hitting her and the necromancer). He was one member of the Triumvirate, three people who had met with the express purpose of assassinating Pella Ardinay, each for their own reasons. He did not know why the others wanted it done and only knew a Tharkoldu thrall named Fhals. The other member was a tattooed woman with a foreign accent. Miridae was given the opportunity to strike first. He also knew one of the members had contacted some foreign mercenaries.

The operatives noticed that evening was well on its way and headed towards the BBC studios to keep an eye on Ardinay’s safety during the interview. When they arrived a busy-looking woman with a notepad asked for their names. They introduced themselves.

She answered “Tooth Fairy and Wendigo… ah I see, the children’s show. Starts in an hour, Studio One.”

The Storm Knights’ protest fell on deaf ears, the woman was much too busy to care. They relented when they found out only one studio was actually usable and Ardinay was being interviewed there, which gave them an excuse to wait there.

Once settled in a dark corner (after being told repeatedly by the woman to stay there and disturb no-one), an assistant brought them coffee and apologized for the producer’s behaviour. “It’s a lot of stress with what’s going on at the moment.”

The interview went as well as expected, half of it was dedicated to Pella Ardinay’s relationship to Uthorion, and the other half to Earth fashion. No ninjas came out of the walls and no explosions damaged anything important.

Late in the evening, the Storm Knights returned to Battersea to talk with Llewellyn about the best way to present excuses to the advisors they had offended earlier. Llewellyn promised to look for a way, though it would probably have to involve some quests for the various Houses..

----

Tokyo, Japan, Pan-Pacifica, Day 49
Amethyst Ninja, In-Soon Heo, Samarj Chopade

Samarj looked through the plane’s window while waiting for take-off. She observed the airport technicians performing their final checks on the engines, idly wondering if the Delphi Council would also help her with her own objective to dismantle the organisation that had done experiments on her many years ago. The group of technicians was done and was moving away, except for one who was still checking something. He took out a small device and stuck it near the engine.

Curious and paranoid, Samarj read the technician’s mind, discovering the device was actually an explosive. She motioned for the stewardess while continuing to probe her target. He was some sort of independent corporate mercenary on a mission to “eliminate a group of people aboard the plane to Berlin.” Apparently he had taken the easy way to do so.

The stewardess was easily persuaded to look into the issue and soon enough the “technician” was arrested by airport security and the device removed. After a meticulous security sweep, the plane was allowed to leave. In the meantime In-Soon checked with his contacts about what had transpired. He only managed to learn that a few of the people who had survived the karaoke had died in accidents.

----

Douarnenez, France, Core Earth, Day 50
Lithiel, Michael Goodenough, Ivy, Hiroto Nogushi

The Storm Knights arrived in Douarnenez. A few days before they were briefed by Omar Bednarczyk in his antiquities shop in Vienna. One of his “friends”, a French relics collector, was offering to give an Eternity Shard to the Delphi Council in exchange for a small favor. Omar wanted the knights to perform that service, provided the Eternity Shard he had was a real one. Eric Trelliau, the collector, was not known for his honesty.

The group arrived in front of his manor that happened to be barely a couple of kilometres away from the reality storm marking the boundaries of the Cyberpapacy. Many French and American soldiers were hanging around the region, waiting either for orders or for an evacuation.

Hiroto knocked on the door and a rotund man in his sixties answered. Introductions were made and Eric explained that he wanted his precious collection evacuated (along with himself) to some safe place, for example in South America. Since his collection was so valuable, a military transport would not do. At the very least he wanted a yacht. Hiroto agreed in principle, but not before taking a look at the Eternity Shard Eric was providing in exchange.

After some negotiation, Eric agreed and showed the Storm Knights a highly-secure room with a reinforced door and lasers scanning for movement. In the middle of the room was a pedestal. On the pedestal, under a glass case, sat a strange mask, half of which was blue, the other half was red. Eric insisted that the examination was done without removing the casing. Hiroto’s examination revealed that the artifact was very old, probably from before the Roman annexation of the area. At the same time the craftsmanship was remarkable, much more so than local civilizations could do at the time. Ivy, on the other hand, noticed the bits of red and blue paint cracking up and discreetly pointed it out to the others. Michael, while trying to come to his own conclusions, inadvertently triggered a trap and was hit by a tranquiliser dart. Despite his natural toughness, he collapsed immediately. Eric apologized for forgetting to disable the trap and reassured the rest of the group the poison was not lethal, but would have been had French laws been less strict.

Hiroto, still the group’s spokesman, indicated that he would give the Delphi Council a call and see what they could do. Eric insisted that it would be nice if an answer would come quickly as there was a cyberpriest in town who was also interested in the collection. His offer of residency in southern France was tempting.

The Storm Knights decided to try to meet the cyberpriest to dissuade him from acquiring the artifact. After stopping by the local chapel and finding out the local priest was not yet converted. The man redirected the group towards the city’s hotels. The third hotel they visited near the docks proved to be the right one, as Lithiel pointed out a knight standing guard in the corridor next to a room. A quick chat with the hotel manager confirmed it was indeed the right room, and the owner would not mind seeing the priest go “one way or another.”

After some convincing, the Storm Knights were able to meet the cyberpriest, Father Daunet, and elderly man who looked more machine than Flesh. The conversation was fruitful, as the priest was not particularly interested in the mask, his objective was to destroy the collection as a whole as it was “heretical and dangerous to the world.” Confusing the group for ordinary Stormers, Daunet tried to recruit them to do the job. Hiroto indicated they would take the matter under consideration and the group left after getting a blessing from the cyberpriest.

The Storm Knights decided to return to Eric in order to negotiate a more favorable deal. However as they were walking up the road leading to the manor, they witnessed an explosion at the back. As the dust settled, they saw the collector stumble out of the manor imploring anyone to help him. The soldiers milling nearby did not seem particularly interested in getting involved, so the group rushed in.

Inside the manor’s entrance hall, the group was quickly swarmed by enemies who could best be described as desert Bedouins armed with rifles and falchions. They had the upper ground, and the Storm Knights found themselves hard-pressed for any advantage. Ivy tried to climb the stairs leading to the balconies but the explosions apparently weakened the ground enough for her to fall through. Michael, still giddy from the tranquiliser, was unable to land a single shot with his automatic shotgun. In fact during the fight he realized he must have dropped his ammunition packs somewhere when he was unconscious. Only Lithiel was able to pin down enemies with her bow, three at a time, while pelting them with stunning spells. The leader of the Bedouins was occupied with Pterry, Ivy’s pet pterodactyl.

Despite the poor beginning, the Storm Knights managed to get the upper hand and the two remaining Bedouins tried to flee. One was pinned to a wall by Lithiel’s arrow, while the leader was caught by Ivy’s whip as he tried to leap out of the window.

Once the battle was over, the Storm Knights decided to examine the crime scene and interrogate their prisoners. Lithiel, Ivy and Hiroto were tired from the battle and couldn’t understand what happened, except the back wall of the manor was now gone, and so was a large part of the collection. Michael’s interrogation proved to be more fruitful and the leader confirmed he and his warriors were after the mask. While he would not reveal the name of their master, he hinted that they had failed in their mission.

Michael asked “Wait, you mean you didn’t blow up the back wall?”

The leader answered “No, we were too late.”

“Then who stole the collection?”

“Pirates!”

“What pirates?”

“THOSE pirates!” answered the Bedouin leader while pointing towards the docks, where a wooden frigate was quickly leaving, supported by the heavy winds from the storm front.

----

Karlsruhe, Germany, Core Earth, Day 51
Amethyst Ninja, In-Soon Heo, Samarj Chopade

Berlin turned out to be a brief stop. An agent of the Delphi Council had been waiting at the airport with further information about Professor Takamura. He had been observed contacting “transportation specialists” to get into the Cyberpapacy. Thus, the Storm Knights took a train to Karlsruhe to try to cross.

The city was under martial law and many people had already fled. The group had little trouble: the army was cooperative with Delphi Council agents. Soon enough they were meeting with the local DC representative, a Spartan Division liaison named Jensen. In-Soon quickly identified the bald, suited man who looked like a professional killer to be a harmless bureaucrat of the useful kind.

Jensen was unaware of the group’s activities but assumed they were important and provided all the help he could. At that time, it included some equipment to help survive contact with the Cyberpapacy and advice about how to not get caught there. He also directed them to head to Paris and try to contact the Resistance as they were more likely to have information about the professor’s whereabouts.

He also showed them a Japanese newspaper, pointed to a small article on the 16th page and asked “Since you are just back from there, do you know anything about this?” In-Soon translated it for the others. Apparently a Kanawa chief accountant had been shot right in front of the Kanawa offices in Kyoto. The Storm Knights wondered if that had anything to do with the karaoke incident, but couldn’t think of any direct link. The conversation turned back to local matters.

While they were discussing the situation at the border, they were interrupted by one of Jensen’s subordinates. The German army was on the move against the Cyberpapacy. Jensen shook his head and commented “And another ten thousand lives wasted. We told them not to even try, but do they ever listen? In any case, if you want to try crossing now you should head out with them. Otherwise you can opt to wait for a couple of weeks until the enemy reduces their border defences to normal levels.”

The Storm Knights decided to wade in as soon as possible.

----

Istrian
Hobgoblin
Posts: 45
Joined: Tue Feb 11, 2020 4:57 pm

Re: [Game Stories] Make Earth Glorious Again

Post by Istrian »

Bordeaux, France, Cyberpapacy, Day 45
Leonid Slovokin, Aurore, Damien Monnet, Alicia Kalachnikova

A new day dawned and the Storm Knights decided to go after the Haut-Medoc resistance cell. They did not have much information about them except that they were all workers at one of the St Hammon guild factories, distrusted the St Emilion cell because of their association with the Delphi Council, and had a secret project underway.

The factory was easy to locate and full of workers. After giving it some consideration, Leonid and Alicia decided to join the workers. After telling one of the local monks they had just moved in from Alsace, they were let in (and given a nice Piety Score boost). Leonid had little trouble adapting to the manufacturing process but Alicia had to get a lot of coaching from a monk, especially the prayers. At the same time Aurore and Damien finished studying the building and entered through a side-window straight into a monk’s cell. Fortunately empty.

After working for a while, Leonid noticed two of the workers left their benches and went somewhere. He followed and found the break room. Attempting to fit in did not work well, the locals were distrustful of the newcomer. When Alicia finally managed to get rid of her monk, she took a quick look at the other workers and immediately noticed something wrong. Three of them had to scratch the back of their necks quite often, apparently in order to open hidden compartments there to hide some bits and pieces.

The monks’ cells being empty at this time of the day, Aurore and Damien took their time hacking into their crucifixes and offloading some data. Aurore quickly hit the jackpot. One of the monks had noticed some bits and pieces going missing, especially those related to energy storage and distribution. The monk had also begun an investigation by GodNet-tagging some of the equipment but was only able to trace the missing kit going outside the city. Finally, he had written a message to the Inquisition.

Aurore cast a spell on Damien and shifted her clothes to a monk’s. Thus prepared, they went to the main entrance. Disguised Inquisitor Damien angrily demanded to meet the monk in question, Brother Marc. While the two retired to the prayer room to have a face-to-face discussion, the inquisitor's assistant, Aurore, walked through the rows of workbenches. When the inquisitor appeared, Leonid took a look at the other workers and noticed two of them exchanging worried looks.

Aurore picked up the leads from Alicia and Leonid. Alicia had also tried to contact one of the itchy-necked workers during her break. Her subtlety had matched that of Leonid when she mentioned liking St Emilion wine and having friends in Greece. The worker remained oblivious and returned to work.

Making her rounds, Aurore noticed something extremely distressing. One of the worried workers had a high-explosive device and a twitchy finger. She quickly walked away. In the meantime, in the prayer room, Damien examined the evidence, or lack thereof, and mentioned that getting so much equipment out of the factory required the assistance from one of the monks. Brother Marc was quick on the uptake and pointed the finger at the superior monk, piling some clearly made-up evidence mentioning the brother superior also spent a lot of time coaching one of the prettier female factory workers. As well as having some liturgical texts way above his Piety Score.

Eventually Damien understood the monk did not have much and left with only a list of factory workers and their places of residence. As he entered the main factory area he quickly ducked back into the corridor: a real inquisitor was waiting at the factory entrance. A bell rang and some of the workers began filing out, clearly breaking for lunch. Aurore left with them. Damien went out through the window. Leonid and Alicia remained behind to wait for the man with the explosive to leave. Sadly he seemed to be hard at work. Eventually the two decided to leave when they realized the three neck-scratching workers were among the first to go.

A fervent yell was followed by an explosion that shook the building just as the two were leaving. Outside, Aurore and Damien, now back to their normal selves, saw fire blasting a wall away next to them. Leonid looked back at the factory and realized a quarter of it was engulfed in flames and the inquisitor was nowhere to be seen… until he walked out of the fire, angry and wounded. The second man, with whom the suicide-bomber had exchanged glances, leaped at the inquisitor with a knife but barely managed to scratch his target. Sirens were heard going off in the city and the Storm Knights decided they were needed elsewhere.

Aurore took a look at Damien’s list and noticed the three workers were actually neighbors and lived on the skyscraper’s ground floor. When the group arrived at the addresses, they saw one of the workers getting into a van and driving away quickly. Without hesitation, Damien hijacked one of the local cars and shadowed the vehicle as it left the city.

----

Near Bordeaux, France, Cyberpapacy, Day 45
Leonid Slovokin, Aurore, Damien Monnet, Alicia Kalachnikova

Following the thieves, the heroes came to a large fenced compound in a forest a fair distance away from Bordeaux. The drive would have been shorter had the workers taken the direct road rather than various detours. The entrance to the compound was guarded by two Church Police officers. The workers’ vehicle was not in sight, indicating they had probably gone inside. Leonid examined the location with binoculars. The compound consisted of an office building and a high-security building. No movement could be seen. Looking closer, Leonid noticed the gate guards did not have the usual standard-issue weapons of the Church Police, and their helmets looked more like cheap plastic than high-tech HUDs.

Damien and Alicia went for the direct approach and spoke to the guards, pointing out how they failed at being convincing. He went on to offer his help, being a famous and successful Resistance member. The guards, initially apprehensive, decided to let them in at the very least to avoid drawing more attention by talking outside. Aurore and Leonid were invited as well.

The group was directed to the high-security building. According to posters in its hallways, it hosted the Laser Mégajoule. Going from what the Storm Knights could see, the arrival of the Cyberpapacy had increased its power by quite a few orders of magnitude. Workers were busy tweaking it under the direction of a lab-coat-wearing scientist.

A woman intercepted the Storm Knights as soon as they entered the facility. Negotiations were tense, but as soon as Aurore had shown her scientific knowledge, she was sent to help Alphonse, the lone scientist spearheading the project. The others, lacking any useful skills, were told to stay put and to enjoy the beer. Damien and Alicia, while unenthused by the Resistance leader’s lack of trust, found the beer cold and the other less useful workers clustered around it, more chatty.

The chat confirmed that this cell had little trust in the now-destroyed St Emilion coordinating cell, and even less in the Delphi Council. Moreover they had a deep distrust of wizards and heretics. Alicia carefully avoided the subject. Leonid, on the other hand, was not in the discussion and went to chat with the cell leader, Marilène, revealing his sorcerous abilities and showing his Delphi Council badge. This led him and Alicia to a storeroom, now used as a confinement area. Aurore was too useful to the project to suffer the same fate, and Damien, who was not a wizard and had managed to make some friends among the cell, was left to his own devices. He went to set up some explosives on the road and took up a sniping position on the roof.

In the meantime Aurore managed to learn a lot from Alphonse. The scientist had been here from before the invasion and had continued working normally, despite his colleagues becoming more erratic and turning to faith rather than the scientific method. Some time ago he met Marilène and her Resistance cell and together they worked on a plan to fire the laser at Avignon using the atmosphere’s reflective properties. After studying the plan, Aurore was dubious about its feasibility. Alphonse seemed to be holding something from her, so she decided to help anyway.

Evening arrived quickly. Alphonse announced that the weapon was nearly ready to fire and would need only some minor adjustments. Marilène gathered everyone, including Leonid and Alicia, for some champagne to celebrate the upcoming end of the Cyberpapacy. Damien remained on the roof, expecting something to go wrong.

Marilène’s speech was interrupted by Alphonse who said “Just one thing if you don’t mind. Our ally does not agree with these… Storm Knights.”

Suddenly doors opened and Nile shocktroopers poured into the room, pointing their guns at the aforementioned people.

Leonid exclaimed: “What does this mean?”

A thickly-accented voice rose from the shadows behind the shocktroopers “Allow me to Hexblain, mein Ruzian friend. Arh ! Vizout mein Pharaoh's zubort of zis little facility, tonight vould not haffe peen bozible.”

The voice belonged to a blond-haired blue-eyed officer in a black uniform, wearing an Iron Cross and an armband displaying a swatsikankh.

Alicia shouted “What do you mean? Your leader is supposed to be allied with Malraux!”

“As it habens mein master is Hexbecding to pe petrayed zooner or later py zis sealot. Arh ! As zuch getding rid of him is ein great Hobortunity. Put forgiffe mein lack of manners, I forkot to Hintroduce myzelf. Cabdain Conrad Heydrich, at your zerffice. Now, take zem avay!”

Then he looked at Alicia “Excebt vu mein dear, vould vu like to haffe dinner?” he said motioning towards a table set in the laser control room. Alicia accepted.

As soon as Leonid and Aurore were back in the storeroom, Leonid began fiddling with the door’s control panel. Just as he was getting close to getting out, the door opened on its own and a group of Resistants was led inside by shocktroopers. They explained that they did not agree with the latest change of plans. Aurore sent a radio message to Damien, who was still on the roof, explaining the situation.

In the meantime Alicia was enjoying some wine and listening to Heydrich’s explanations while shocktroopers rounded up any Resistance members who did not agree with the new plan. Now that the captain was in charge of the facility, he was going to go with the original plan: “Ein endire fleet of Hairschibs in high orpit. Arh ! Each schip vith ein giant Heternium-Hinfuzed mirror to retirect zee peam tovards its final target: Mecca! Und zen berhaps Affignon.”

The conversation was interrupted by Damien shooting Heydrich through the reinforced outside window. Heydrich managed to block the shot with a St Emilion wine bottle and pressed the “Fire” button. The laser began powering up. Alicia did not like the odds in the control room and cast an area of darkness. On the storeroom side, Leonid finally got the door to open. Aurore rushed past the two guards standing outside, back to the laser room, and began to look for a way to disable the monstrosity.

Two shocktroopers arrived above Damien’s precarious position: he was hanging in mid-air, kept alive by only a rope. One of the shocktroopers began trying to cut it while the other slipped and fell. Damien climbed back up and threw the other one back down. More were coming from a roof-side hatch.

Leonid grabbed one of the shocktroopers guarding the door, and shot the other with the first guard’s weapon. The two struggled for a while until the shocktrooper realized reinforcements were not, in fact, coming, and surrendered. In the meantime Aurore was hard-pressed, dodging bullets and blows from all sides. Fortunately the remaining Resistance people were not keen on shooting the Storm Knights and remained neutral. Time was ticking and Alicia temporarily disabled the superweapon with a well-placed EMP spell. Alphonse, somewhere inside the machinery, cursed and began working on bringing the shielding back up.

Damien finally managed to deal with the incoming roof-side reinforcements and dropped down the hatch, straight on top of the laser. Aurore yelled at him to pull out the red power conduit. Damien gathered his strength and did so. The laser’s power conduits began to overload and everyone ran out of the building, which promptly exploded.

The Storm Knights surveyed the damage. Fortunately a large number of Resistance members made it out. Sirens from the city were incoming, and everyone ran away.

----

London, United Kingdom, Aysle-Core Earth, Day 50
Wendigo, Tooth Fairy, Jack Lantern

In the morning, Wendigo and Tooth Fairy dropped by Battersea Power Station for news. The receptionist had a mysterious message for Wendigo: “Meet me on London Bridge at 2pm.” The receptionist did not see anyone leaving the message and simply surmised it was a Storm Knight thing.

Roger Llewellyn’s office, once again, had an additional person inside. The newcomer was introduced as Jack Lantern, who was requested to give a hand due to the Storm Knights uncovering a much larger conspiracy than was initially expected. Lacking tangible leads, Wendigo called Ratchenko, the former FSB agent whom they had met earlier while looking for Salford. A meeting was arranged on a bench at St James’ Park.

The bench had a nice view on St James’ Palace, where Ardinay’s escort was getting ready for the day’s visits: hospitals and orphanages. The High Queen wanted to go around healing the wounded and curing the sick. After some convincing, the agent was willing to swap intelligence. He had received news from contacts in Russia that a large shipment of explosives had arrived the day before for Fhals’ operation. Enough to blow up a large building. The ship was still anchored on the Thames. Wendigo also inquired about the large amount of cameras they had found everywhere something was going on. Ratchenko offered his technical expertise in hacking said cameras on the next site. In exchange he wanted help to get Fhals.

The Storm Knights went to look for the Russian ship and found it after some inquiries. Wendigo infiltrated it using a loading crane. While she could not understand any Russian, she found the captain and his first mate working on some maps, probably getting ready to leave. She also noticed a small jewelry box that was completely out of place in the cabin. She radioed Tooth Fairy for a diversion.

Tooth Fairy went for a subtler approach than usual and simply tried to attract the sailors’ attention to get them to come ashore. His actions had an unexpected outcome. The sailors warned the captain, and the ship began to leave. Fortunately the captain was no longer in his cabin and Wendigo was free to take the jewelry box. As soon as she lifted it, an alarm rang throughout the ship. Wendigo GLORIOUSLY hid in the cabin as the sound of rushing feet approached.

Jack summoned a charyb and leapt on its back, followed by Tooth Fairy, in order to get to the ship. The sailors interpreted it as a hostile action. While two of them rushed towards the captain’s cabin, the others opened fire on the incoming Storm Knights. Wendigo also noticed two “heavy-duty” sailors come up, carrying plasma cannons. Fortunately they proved to be incredibly bad shots with them and Jack, his charyb, and Tooth Fairy cleaned half the upper deck fairly quickly. As Wendigo was setting an explosive to sink the ship, the captain, seeing the situation going badly, offered to talk in a polite and civilised manner. Tooth Fairy agreed, though the captain insisted that they kindly remove the C-4 first. Wendigo still kept the jewelry box.

The captain did not have much information to offer. His Tharkoldu overlord had simply given him the order to bring a few crates of explosives to a thrall named Fhals in London. He knew nothing of the larger plan and had never met Fhals before. Fortunately his crew had overheard Fhals’ underlings talking about an orphanage operation.

The Storm Knights disembarked and Wendigo looked inside the jewelry box. It was full of jewels. She and Tooth Fairy recognized them as the kind the Tharkoldu thralls had been trying to turn wizards into. Jack sensed strong magic coming from them.

Looking at the day’s schedule, the group went towards the first orphanage on Ardinay’s list. It turned out to be the right one: something was already going on. A British officer informed them that someone had taken children hostage and were demanding Ardinay come alone to a designated place in front of the orphanage. The doors were also trapped with explosives. And unfortunately the Lady of Light was already inside, making their demands completely pointless.

Jack nodded and summoned a ghillie, commanding it to disguise Tooth Fairy into the Lady of Light. Tooth Fairy went to the designated location, ready to die and draw attention, while Wendigo and Jack headed for the back, ready to open a way for the hostages. Tooth Fairy found himself targeted by an ungodly amount of Thav and plasma fire, rising a cloud of dust around him. Fortunately his shield and power armor protected him without issues. At the back of the building, Wendigo disarmed the explosives on the door, then GLORIOUSLY rushed through the building, opening locks, clearing a path through, and calming hostages as she found them. The Lady of Light and the children were quickly evacuated, with Tooth Fairy, his disguise now faded, joining his colleagues.

Unfortunately they found themselves trapped. On one side was an army of thralls led by the one named Fhals. Their retreat was cut by a dimthread dropping in a winged creature of nightmares which hissed “Sso… where are the would-be heroes that need to be hunted?”

The situation turned grimmer when Fhals joined forces with the newcomer. The Storm Knights were forced on the defensive, under heavy fire from Fhals’ numerous followers who made up their lack of skill with sheer numbers. At the same time, an explosive trap sprung next to Wendigo and nearly killed her. She barely survived, but was heavily wounded. The creature clawed at the Storm Knights as well, inflicting wounds upon Jack as well. For the first time in a while, Tooth Fairy was hard-pressed as well, for the first time his backup systems had to activate to prevent him passing out from simple bruises and pain.

An opportunity to flee presented itself, however the Storm Knights decided to persevere. Wendigo managed to heal herself while Jack summoned a massive baghest that began to spit fire at the enemies with accuracy matching that of a Nile shocktrooper. Fortunately it was enough to draw fire away from the Storm Knights for a short while. Once she was back up on her feet, Wendigo armed her C-9 and began throwing it at the winged one. Jack’s fireballs did a better job than the barghest and thralls began to fall as well. Multiple plasma bolts hit Tooth Fairy, who barely managed to soak. Jack, on the other hand, found himself bleeding profusely from every wound.

Wendigo’s last C-9 finally blew up the creature and at least a dozen thralls were dead. Fhals decided to operate a retreat and yelled at his troops to hold them back while he went to look for reinforcements. Wendigo could not see the fleeing leader, but her anti-tank rifle did not need to. The bullet flew straight through walls as if they were paper, and made a large hole in the thrall.

The remaining thralls began to surrender, when suddenly reinforcements arrived. One of them was yelling “Fhals is dead! Now I am the boss! Kill them!” Then he realized the bodyguards surrounding him were killed by one of Jack’s fireballs, and he found himself staring at the business end of Tooth Fairy’s energy spear, stuck in his own chest. This time the remaining thralls surrendered for real.

----

Waterford, Ireland, Aysle, Day 51
Lithiel, Michael Goodenough, Ivy, Hiroto Nogushi

Entering Waterford proved to be easy, despite the locals’ apparent hostility towards elves. While looking for the pirates during the previous night, Lithiel encountered her former lover, a disreputable scoundrel himself, who pointed them towards the black market as well as the only pirate ship recently arrived in town.

At dawn the Storm Knights went towards the pirate ship and the house in front of it they had occupied. The ship was mostly empty, except for two sentries. Since they were here for business, Hiroto simply knocked at the front door. After some insistence, it opened slightly.

“What?” asked a low voice.

Hiroto began his business speech, offering to purchase some of the items they were planning to sell.

The door closed in the middle of his speech with a “The master is not interested” answer. This looked somewhat strange as the pirates were clearly in Waterford to sell their ill-gotten loot. The house’s windows were unfortunately too dirty to see anything inside.

Instead, Lithiel and Ivy, who had not been seen or heard by the doorman, went around the house and knocked at the back door. “The master sends us.” she said, and was allowed to go inside. Hiroto kept watching the front while Michael was also at the back, getting ready for action.

Lithiel and Ivy were greeted in the kitchen by someone wearing a hooded robe who asked them to come further. A lot of dead bodies, all pirates, were strewn across the main hall’s floor. The hooded man said “There is a lot to process here. I’ll work on these and you take that pile.” Then he began some sort of ritual on a dead body.

The man was so busy with his ritual he did not notice Lithiel carefully taking aim at him, and he did not live long enough to notice the arrow stuck in his head. However his death seemed to have some effect on a nearby room, where massive groans were heard. The door leading to that room blew open and zombies rushed towards the two Storm Knights. Michael tried to break open the back door and enter, but the door proved too tough. Hiroto, on the other hand, just crashed through the window and peppered the zombies with bullets. Ivy’s pet pterodactyl, Pterry, GLORIOUSLY bit off the head of a zombie.

The zombies were quickly dispatched and the Storm Knights searched the house. The pirates were all dead. The cultist, initially surmised to be in Uthorion’s service, proved to be of Indian origin and had an old-fashioned pistol. He also had a scroll with a map and a message telling him to “finish cleaning up in Waterford and join me here with the mask.”

The most disturbing discovery was found in one of the rooms. One of the pirates was lying in a bed, the mask on his face. The pirate was dead, but unlike the others had no wounds and instead his face expressed ultimate ecstasy. Michael picked up the mask.

A less grim finding on Lithiel’s side was a magic pickaxe in the basement among the pirate booty.

Ivy eventually noticed the pirate captain and was taken with strong feelings towards the woman. She prayed to Lanala to bring her back to life. Something divine that was likely not Lanala answered the prayer. The pirate captain came back to life, albeit with a paler skin than before. The captain introduced herself as Síofra Dunleavy, and, charmed by Ivy, offered her ship to help with their mission.

----

Near Strasbourg, France, Cyberpapacy, Day 51
Amethyst Ninja, In-Soon Heo, Samarj Chopade

Crossing the storm front while being pelted with oddly-colored lightning bolts was a novel experience for In-Soon, one he was not looking forward to reattempt. Being showered by missiles and laser fire on the other side was a novel experience for everyone and the Storm Knights quickly abandoned their vehicle to run through the hilly and forested countryside, hoping to lose their pursuers. They had done their best to encourage the German soldiers around them to turn back, but eventually gave up when they realized so many of them were transforming into perfect followers of the Cyberpope.

Amethyst Ninja was starting to regret his decision to taunt one of them. True, it had saved lives at the time, but now the power-armored knight he had targeted had joined the hunt alongside many Church Policemen and a priest. In-Soon was shooting pyrokinetics at the latter while receiving fiery divine punishment in return. Samarj focused on guiding the group. Ninja was also missing his homeland, the Nile, commenting “at least back there when I hit someone they went down. Why can’t they make enemies as incompetent around here!”

Fortunately the local authorities turned out to be fairly bad at wilderness navigation, and the wilderness was a lot wilder than it used to be. The group eventually managed to lose them and infiltrate Strasbourg unhindered.

----

Saint-Denis, France, Cyberpapacy, Day 52
Amethyst Ninja, In-Soon Heo, Samarj Chopade

The mag-lev journey from Strasbourg to Paris was mostly uneventful. Jonathan had encoutered an old friend of his, a kid named Jean-François whom he had met in the streets of Cairo some years before. He had moved with his family to France and his family was being moved from Strasbourg to a city with more accomodation. Sadly, Jean-François had adapted to the local reality and had great admiration for Père Jean. He also proved to be a good source of information on life in the new reality. Thanks to his advice the Storm Knights did not head directly towards Paris but stopped at Saint-Denis instead. Paris was known to be a den of the infamous Resistance, and therefore anyone traveling there was likely to be scrutinized.

Once at Saint-Denis, In-Soon accidentally crossed paths with a member of the Resistance, a wheelchair-bound elderly man who suggested following the sewers to the Paris catacombs, and then to the Eiffel Tower where the Resistance was more active. When asked about a friendly computer specialist, the man told In-Soon to contact someone named Chloe.

The Storm Knights did as suggested and quickly had both information and a cyberdecker to help them with their mission, Chloe Beech. After a quick GodNet search, she told them Takamura had contacted a particular member of the Resistance in order to find a safe place to study cyberware. Solene Londugard, the member in question, was unfortunately not available. She and her cell were infiltrating a local factory in order to hack some weapons directly at the source, and then steal them for the Resistance. Her operation should have ended the day before.

The Storm Knights went straight to the aforementioned guild factory. On the way, Samarj and Chloe agreed on dinner once the mission was over. Infiltrating the guild factory proved to be easy, especially for a GLORIOUSLY experienced ninja like the Amethyst one. He quickly located Solene and snuck under her workbench to have a chat. Her operation was delayed due to the appearance of an inquisitor on-site. She and her people were unable to take away the weapons they had reprogrammed until the inquisitor went away. They couldn’t disappear either as that would draw his attention.

The group considered the possibility of dealing with the inquisitor using the violent method. He was protected by only one hospitaller, but In-soon still remembered their last encounter with one. It would be a difficult fight. Instead they spread rumors about a den of heretics in a nearby forest to lure him out and have a chat. Samarj had a tense conversation with the inquisitor as she pretended to have orders straight from Avignon to head after another cabal. Chloe had crashed the local node, so the inquisitor could not verify the information. With a few more lies and some creative rewriting of his memory, Samarj managed to send him away.

Solene was grateful for the help and forthcoming with information. She had indeed helped Professor Takamura with his study of cyberpapal technology by putting him in contact with some friends in Le Havre. Unfortunately, the latest news she had from the group was that they had all been arrested and were likely to be interrogated.

----

Celtic Sea, Ireland, Aysle, Day 52
Lithiel, Michael Goodenough, Ivy, Hiroto Nogushi

Now with a ship, the Storm Knights decided to tackle the threat of the kraken to the British Navy. They obtained the creature’s location from a savvy ancient ship captain and helped Síofra hire a crew with promises of gold in the creature’s lair.

As they approached the lair, they saw the creature leaving and began pursuit. The creature dived underwater. Moments later, tentacles surged from the depths and seized the ship. The kraken’s head followed. Hiroto was wrapped in a tentacle and moved slowly towards the creature’s mouth. Another tentacle’s slap sent Pterry rocketing towards the horizon. Lithiel had more luck with her, as she entangled one of the tentacles between two masts with Ivy’s help.

Hiroto managed to free himself while Michael performed shotgun surgery on a tentacle. The ship shook and Lithiel found herself thrown off ship as she attempted to shoot at the beast. Hiroto quickly joined her as they went underwater.

Michael did not like the situation and instead summoned the ancient magics of Aysle to duel the kraken in a contest of riddles. Despite not being the smartest of the group, he won. The kraken was forced to stop attacking ships and left to another place.

As soon as Lithiel and Hiroto were back on-board, Michael declared that there was plenty of treasure in the kraken’s lair and sent the whole crew to look for it. Then he looked at the captain and said “How about we leave now before they notice there isn’t any?”

Síofra laughed and said that she was done deciphering the Orrorshan cultist’s map. It pointed to the coast near a village in Brittany, now claimed by the Cyberpapacy.

----

Llanllawddog, United Kingdom, Aysle, Day 52
Kwang Im, Song-Ho Sun, Garrick Heinston, Tobias Lynch

After traveling from Swansea, the group finally reached their mission destination, the tiny hamlet of Llanllawddog in Wales. According to Delphi Council intelligence, a dungeon entrance had been discovered there. The adventurers who had found it were forced to flee when a large number of vikings amassed there.

The group surveyed the situation. The original hamlet apparently consisted of two big houses. There were multiple camps set up around one of the houses, which was probably the dungeon entrance. The heroes also espied a cage holding a dozen prisoners near the house. When Kwang noticed one of the vikings taking a stroll away from the camps, he remembered a bit of information he overheard during their journey.

He went casually to the viking and said “I recognize you, Ulfrid. A knight defeated you in combat in the Battle of Bideford but allowed you to go on the condition you redeem your debt to the Forces of Light. I have come to claim this debt.”

The viking groaned at being reminded of the events but agreed to the terms. He told them that they were led by a strong viking chieftain who wanted to sack some distant, well-defended, city that could easily be infiltrated through the Land Between. They had a cage full of Seekers to guide small groups of raiders. He also provided the Storm Knights with some cloaks and markings to make them look like skalds.

Under the cover of night, the group entered the camp and began to free the imprisoned seekers. The vikings barely had time to realize what was going on. The heroes freed the seekers and entered the house, collapsing it after them to break any attempt at pursuit.

After asking around, the heroes found the seeker named Gerrold from Swansea and hired him to guide them to the location where the vikings were going.

----

East Coast, USA, Living Land, Day 52
Bronze Bullet, Elizabeth Poliakova, Gregor MacConnor
Spoilers for Just Plane Dangerous (Delphi Missions: Rising Storm)

The Storm Knights looked miserable but felt full of energy. The Living Land was a new experience for them. Bronze Bullet’s rocket battlesuit was so rusty it was impossible to keep wearing it without getting cramps. Gregor’s suit had also rusted away and Elizabeth’s slayer gun had followed suit. They had also lost all track of time due to a weird white mist where they had been attacked by carnivorous plants and gospog. Only Logan was fine, and only because he had been too drunk to follow them on this urgent mission. The Scottish barbarian was still somewhere on the USS Roosevelt, probably still drunk.

Noises of pursuit informed them they were finally on-site for their mission. For once they were not the ones being pursued. The edeino warriors pursuit a young human boy were quickly dispatched. Bronze Bullet GLORIOUSLY convinced the boy, Earl, to share his information about Blankenship.

The dinner and evening at the village was uneventful as the heroes familiarised themselves with local life and customs and obtained the information needed to proceed with their mission.

----

Istrian
Hobgoblin
Posts: 45
Joined: Tue Feb 11, 2020 4:57 pm

Re: [Game Stories] Make Earth Glorious Again

Post by Istrian »

Bordeaux, France, Cyberpapacy, Day 46
Leonid Slovokin, Aurore, Damien Monnet, Alicia Kalachnikova
One Resistance cell was left: Fronsac. The only lead the Storm Knights had was that they were somehow related to a hotel, the Saint-Hospice. Before heading there, Leonid checked the news and discovered that the place was sealed by the Church Police as of this morning. As no other reliable news had made it to the GodNet, the heroes were left with no choice but to head there.

The hotel was a mess. Windows stood broken and nobo locals dared approach, especially with two Church Police vans parked outside. Officers were already examining the scene. Leonid snuck close to a window at the back of the building and overheard a conversation between two investigators implying they had an address to check and were also considering putting out a notice to look for the hotel managers. In the meantime Aurore hacked the district’s surveillance systems and managed to pull some recordings out. Two days before, a sports car stopped outside the hotel, four suited Asian individuals entered the hotel. Bullets flew out. A group of people ran away, the two elderly owners snuck out during the firefight, and three of the suits walked back to the car, dragging a prisoner. Damien remarked that the car was not the kind commonly seen in the Cyberpapacy.

Deciding that the owners were the most likely to shed some light on the situation, Aurore tracked their movements to a neighborhood that looked suspiciously like its cameras had been hacked to show recorded footage loops. Heading there, the heroes found a slum full of people living away from society and prying ears.

Damien took the lead and used his street-savviness to avoid some nasty encounters with a bunch of self-appointed protectors. When he began inquiring about two elderly people who had fled a hotel shootout, he was redirected to talk to the “leader” of the neighborhood, someone called “Bruce”.

Bruce, or Brusseaud from his real name, lived in a simple shack and wanted to have a simple life, which involved not drawing attention from the authorities and letting harmless people benefit from the same opportunities. Unfortunately Damien tried to pose as someone harmless, and therefore was unable to get any information out of the man. Instead he looked for the elderly couple and Leonid was sent to talk to them.

“... and so I would like you to help me keep the peace around here by telling me about the Asians and the Resistance. I will make sure neither will reach you.” he finished his business proposal.

The elderly couple was so scared out of their minds, they told him everything they knew. Which unfortunately only amounted to potentially obsolete information. Back when the Resistance cell had set up their operations in the hotel, they had smuggled in a lot of crates from the shipyard area. The Asians had come into the picture recently, when they arrived at the hotel and began a shootout demanding the goods that had been stolen from them. Leonid thanked the elders and left.

The docks were dead with inactivity. Only a small area was still operating. However it was the unused area that drew the heroes’ attention. The Church Police had cordoned-off most of the old shipyards and warehouses and was checking them out, building by building. Inspector Sartan was leading the search.

The Storm Knights tried to sneak past the cordon, but Leonid and Alicia were spotted and pursued by officers while being covered by Damien and Aurore. The chase proved to be extremely dangerous, old buildings crumbled, bridges fell and a dog joined the pursuit after Leonid accidentally trod on its tail. In the end Leonid and Alicia, both exhausted, managed to lose their pursuers and found the old BETASOM naval facility still in use, judging by the noise of hammering metal inside.

From the information they had, Leonid worked out that the place was most likely Fronsac’s old hideout taken over by the Asians and the hammering was probably their prisoner being interrogated. Damien snuck inside and informed Leonid he was completely wrong. It was the Fronsac cell busy repairing a submarine. When the heroes introduced themselves as Storm Knights, they were greeted with open arms, for once, and agreed to help the Fronsac survivors with the submarine.

Unfortunately, as they began their repairs and Alicia and Damien prepared to go out to lure the Church Police elsewhere, the aforementioned officers broke into the facility and began to shoot. Leonid redoubled his efforts to repair the submarine’s electronics. The first two waves of Church Police officers already proved troublesome for the Storm Knights to deal with, but when Sartan entered the fray things turned to worse. His mind games caused Alicia to doubt herself and forget her offensive spells one after another, and Damien was pushed into the water and began to drown, after losing both his guns. The only saving grace was that the Church Police was trying to arrest them instead of killing them outright. Alicia decided she had clearly found her nemesis, but still managed to pull through by taking command of the submarine when the repairs were over. A Resistance member threw Damien an old pistol, which he used to shoot the exit gate’s controls, and the submarine quickly dived underwater before Sartan had had the opportunity to order a military strike.

With three of five Resistance cells saved, the Storm Knights returned home victorious, though grievously injured.

----

Le Havre, France, Cyberpapacy, Day 53
Amethyst Ninja, In-Soon Heo, Samarj Chopade

A quick street-level investigation yielded a potential location for Pr Takamura: Fort Le Havre. Since the early days of the Holy Cyber Enclave dissidents and malcontents have been shipped off to the old fortress-turned-prison. While Amethyst Ninja “obtained” wall-scaling equipment, Samarj went around off-duty guards’ minds in order to find intelligence about patrols and schedules. In-soon retrieved a paper copy of the fort’s floorplan from the disused city archives. Together they worked out a high-security area in the middle of the Fort where sensitive prisoners were the most likely to be held.

At nightfall the infiltration began, Chloe managed the automated security systems and Amethyst Ninja GLORIOUSLY led the way inside. Virtually no time passed between the beginning and the end, when the heroes ran into the cybergoyle guarding the entrance to the high-security area. One quick EMP grenade later, it was lying disabled on the ground.

Disappointment awaited inside: the high-security area was completely empty. Fortunately In-soon was able to find a communications terminal with a message awaiting reception. A holographic inquisitor appeared and informed the warden that “GodNet was ready to receive the evildoers’ souls for interrogation.”

With a new lead, the Storm Knights left the prison and found a quiet place for their first tour inside GodNet, with Chloe as their guide. The assault on the Mountain went as well as that of Fort Le Havre, except with more running and dodging guards and priests and soon-enough the group entered the key prisoner’s interrogation room.

“Vu must be deluded if vu pelieff schoving me zee face of mein nemezis vould make me talk.” was the greeting they heard from the only prisoner. Amethyst Ninja immediately recognized the reference to himself.

“Heydrich?” he said incredulously “What are you doing here? Where’s Professor Takamura?”

“Torture me all vu vant vu do not haffe vays to make me talk”

“You know this… walking stereotype?” asked Samarj, barely suppressing a smile.

“His name’s Conrad Heydrich, he’s a captain in the Pharaoh's army. Last time we met he was plummeting into the Nile after we sank his ship. Back then he was wearing a uniform, not this black trench coat.”

Amethyst Ninja turned to his nemesis and offered to get him out of there. Heydrich refused, convinced that this was another ploy to get him to talk. In the meantime Samarj scanned his thoughts and found a memory of him at Fort Le Havre getting arrested by Cyberchurch authorities.

“He was also looking for Takamura” she said discreetly to the others.

Eventually Amethyst Ninja was able to convince Heydrich to share his information in exchange for his freedom.

“Fery vell. Arh ! Takamura vas taken py one Cartinal Zapin. Zey are blanning to take ein train to Affignon.”

Despite the thick accent, Samarj took an interest to Sabin’s name, remembering one of his agents she had met in Orrorsh.

----

Land Between, Aysle, Day 53
Kwang Im, Song-Ho Sun, Garrick Heinston, Tobias Lynch

The heroes followed Gerrold through the underground tunnels. With the exception of Garrick who was getting used to these treks, they marveled at the procession of cut-stone corridors and cathedral caves.

While passing through a huge cubic room with a bottom filled with water, Garrick GLORIOUSLY threw a torch to check the size of the room. Unfortunately he hit a charyb that angrily attacked. The creature proved to be a tough opponent as both Garrick and Song-ho nearly drowned. At the same time, Kwang’s revolver somehow became enchanted and turned the tide of the battle.

After they had resumed their journey, Gerrold stopped and indicated he could feel the presence of great treasure nearby. He agreed to guide the heroes there provided he gets his share.

Behind a secret passage in the middle of a featureless corridor, the heroes found a small cave. Bones and skulls were scattered everywhere, as well as a few mining pickaxes. Tobias checked the back of the room, where marks of picks could be seen. Song-ho carefully worked towards digging out whatever was there. While they were doing so, Tobias and Garrick checked the bones and found twelve skulls, each with a name written on it. Kwang also searched through the scattered bones and GLORIOUSLY found a large number of stone cubes, each with a letter on one side.

Eventually the back of the cave was cleared revealing a stone wall with three lions. Each lion was engraved with the words “York”, “Lancaster” and “Anjou” which Tobias recognized as referring to noble houses rather than locations. There was also a space for putting in the blocks Garrick found earlier. Combining their knowledge of English history with an astute mind, the heroes finally managed to spell the name “Plantagenet”, prompting a side of the wall to vanish entirely.

In the chamber beyond they found chests full of gold beyond their dreams, as well as the body of a knight laid out. Before they could reach for anything, torches spontaneously lit up and the ghost of the knight appeared.

“Hail, knights! I am Sir Theod'r, loyal followeth'r of Richard the Lionheart'd. Thee has't shown thy astuteness by resolving the riddle of the seal'd gate. Shalt one of thee visage the test of bravery to showeth thy right to bear mine own enchant’d arms?”

Kwang immediately came forward and answered “I, Sir Kwang Im, will face your challenge. Do you mind if I use my gun?”

“Thy weapon is unusual but I shalt not deprive a brave knight of his mark”

The duel was short but intense, as the knight wore a coat of arms red in color, which prevented Kwang from using his pulp powers. After suffering heavy wounds, Kwang surrendered. During the duel Garrick and Tobias tried to grab some gold but realized a powerful force was preventing them from doing so.

The knight bowed and the room vanished.

The Storm Knights found themselves in another place. A chest of gold stood in front of them and Kwang received an enchanted suit of plate armor. “While thy prowess of arms may beest lacking, thy cunning and bravery art worthy of reward” echoed a distant voice. After sharing the treasure and Kwang deciding to sell the armor at the next opportunity, the group resumed their journey.

----

East Coast, USA, Living Land, Day 53
Bronze Bullet, Elizabeth Poliakova, Gregor MacConnor
Spoilers for Just Plane Dangerous (Delphi Missions: Rising Storm)

The Storm Knights left the village early and went directly to the plane crash location. Once they arrived on-site, they decided to avoid the edeinos as long as possible and headed for the burning inside of the wreck. When they were inevitably noticed, Elizabeth and Bronze Bullet took care of the enemies while Gregor worked on blacksmithing the flight recorder out of its case. The Storm Knights left with only some minor burns and the wreck exploded right behind them.

An elongated cylinder landed next to Bronze Bullet. It was a leather case that had miraculously survived the explosion. Inside Bronze Bullet found a lost treasure: an old Navy sabre from the 19th century. As it was mostly decorative, he decided to keep it for later and out of curiosity began checking the flight records. His discoveries were extremely unexpected and quite contrary to the Delphi Council intelligence he had been provided for the mission.

The plane did crash when the Living Land had expanded to the area, however the plane began losing altitude mere moments before the event, after losing an engine to a mid-air impact. Puzzled, Bronze Bullet inspected the remains of the wreckage and found bits and pieces belonging to a ground-to-air missile. With more questions than answers, the Storm Knights continued their mission.

After a short journey they arrived at the location described by the villagers, the waterfall. As soon as a fight against the locals erupted, Bronze Bullet pulled out his weird science tools and plugged the eternium core of his rusty battlesuit into a nearby tree, animating it into a huge vehicular tree. With his new weapon, the threat of the T-Rex was quickly countered. Skullcap Gotak went down just as quickly, especially after Elizabeth forced God’s will upon him.

The Storm Knights decided to spare their exhausted enemies and focused on retrieving Professor Blankenship from his cage. Unfortunately, the professor had disconnected during the fight due to a freak surge. Fortunately the heroes managed to get him back to civilisation before he had to transform.


----

Between Le Havre and Avignon, France, Cyberpapacy, Day 53
Amethyst Ninja, In-Soon Heo, Samarj Chopade

The heroes barely had time to board the train to Avignon where Cardinal Sabin was transporting Pr Takamura. They had quickly said goodbye to Chloe, who was not too keen on going into Malreaux’ personal space.

The Pilgrim Express was partially aptly named: it contained pilgrims on their way to Avignon. The Express part did not apply too well, since it had a lot of planned stops on the way. The Storm Knights avoided the prayer wagons and went straight to the dining car. The next car, containing higher-ranking members of the priesthood, was well-guarded. The heroes ordered some food while considering a strategy.

As they were doing so, Jonathan noticed the bartender had a tattoo which reminded him of one he had seen in Paris, on the arms of certain Resistance members. His attempt to have a chat with the bartender did not go as expected. Two priests were sitting nearby, preventing any kind of overt conversation. The bartender did suggest asking for a personal audience with the cardinal as a way to meet him.

In-Soon went to the two priests drinking at the bar and told them he needed to see the cardinal due to having noticed a heretic in the train and wanting to denounce him. One of the priests left while the other seemed to have a chat with someone in his head. The priest leaving presented an opportunity for Samarj and Jonathan, who followed, sabotaging the security scanner on the way to the next car.

Samarj mentally scanned the car for signs of intelligent life. Only one was available, most likely to be the priest they had followed. Fortunately the empty compartments showed the names of those who were supposed to occupy them.

In the meantime In-Soon was joined at his table by the hologram of a cardinal, who introduced himself as Sabin and asked In-Soon’s name and number. In-Soon, unsure about the Delphi Council’s quality of fake identity craftsmanship, tried to wiggle out with his usual marketing spiel. Sabin asked the same question, again. After considering his options, In-Soon introduced himself as a corporate consultant Stormer interested in establishing long-term partnerships with the top (and only) French company: the Cyberchurch.

Amethyst Ninja and Samarj found Sabin’s compartment empty and unused. Fortunately they were able to quickly locate a transmission node and, after ascertaining none of them knew how to hack it, clumsily worked it out of the wall for later use. On their way back to the dining car, they overheard strange noises coming from the compartment occupied by the priest from earlier. They were able to make out the words “in”, “nomine” and “satanis”.

After some consideration, Sabin tentatively agreed on further considering the partnership offer provided In-Soon and his company could help him with a minor issue. A holographic symbol appeared. Sabin explained that it belongs to a group of demon-worshippers living somewhere in Russian Tharkold. He wanted them all dead.

Samarj opened the door to the compartment where a demon-summoning ritual was underway and threw a grenade inside. The explosion did not take out the now obviously fake priest. The Hospitaller guarding the car rushed to the sound of the explosion. In the meantime Amethyst Ninja was suffering through a bout of Nile reality surge and, caught between the summoner and his demons and the Hospitaller, persuaded the obvious heretic to join them. In-Soon arrived soon after.

The demon summoner considered the situation and decided that since his plan was already compromised, saving his newfound allies was the better option. He leaped out of the train after blasting through a wall with a fireball. The Storm Knights followed suit.

The group got back to their feet in the middle of a prairie, cows grazing peacefully all around them.

Samarj turned to the heretic and asked “What was the point of summoning a demon in the middle of that train?”

“I thought I was toast when some guy tried to denounce a heretic to the priest next to me… Hey that was you, wasn’t it?” he said turning towards In-Soon.

In-Soon looked amused but apologized about the mistake “That was just a bluff to see Sabin.”

Samarj handed the transmission node to In-Soon for hacking and analysis while Amethyst Ninja chatted with the summoner. His original plan had been to meet up with other Forsworn, as they called themselves, in Avignon and conjure up some demons during next Mass.

In-Soon quickly got into the computer and discovered some messages between Sabin and the Russian army. More specifically one Colonel Anton Krilov. One message in particular provided Sabin with information about Takamura and asked him to capture the scientist and hand it over to them. The exchange had already taken place. Fortunately the colonel’s hometown was provided: Kaluga.

----

Near Plougasnou, France, Cyberpapacy, Night 53
Lithiel, Michael Goodenough, Ivy, Hiroto Nogushi

The dark forests of the Cyberpapacy were unfamiliar to Lithiel. Despite being an experienced tracker, she was hopelessly lost. Furthermore, the group was surrounded by a pack of howling dogs with glowing red eyes. Fortunately Ivy’s miracles tied up the pack leader in vines while the other hellhounds were tricked by Hiroto into jumping off a cliff. Despite being tied up, the pack leader was not keen on going down. Instead it put on a demonic human voice and taunted the heroes into approaching. Pterry did and was pinned to the ground, with severe wounds. As soon as the hellhound broke free, it leaped upon Hiroto and Lithiel extracting unholy revenge until it was finally sent back into the abyss it came from.

While Michael took care of everyone’s wounds, Lithiel took a quick look around and said “Friends, we are not lost. Here is our destination.”

The Storm Knights approached two pillars on top of a cliff. The pillars were of ancient iron age style with Celtic designs, though apparently also upgraded with glowing cybernetic circuitry. Michael, following his intuition, held the mask in front of him and approached carefully. The ancient technology activated and a portal appeared, showing a grand boulevard as part of an ancient city, also full of circuitry. The heroes stepped through.

A voice greeted them “Oh. I didn’t see you coming. Welcome to the sunken city of Ys.”

Istrian
Hobgoblin
Posts: 45
Joined: Tue Feb 11, 2020 4:57 pm

Re: [Game Stories] Make Earth Glorious Again

Post by Istrian »

London, United Kingdom, Aysle-Core Earth, Day 50
Wendigo, Tooth Fairy, Jack Lantern

After catching their breaths and patching up their wounds, the Storm Knights began to examine the aftermath of the battle. Tooth Fairy extracted Fhals’ remains and put them in a bag for take-out while Wendigo called the former FSB agents and set up a meeting at Battersea to interrogate the Tharkoldu. Jack took a quick look around the building and located many black half-spheres, cameras, still linked to the network. Sadly, no-one had the skills to hack into the network and soon after, the cameras exploded anyway. The group dodged the journalists gathered outside and headed to Battersea.

Ratchenko, the former FSB agent, was waiting for them outside the power station. He became angry as soon as he understood the state Fhals was in. “I can’t extract the truth out of ghosts!” He exclaimed before leaving for good. He was right, as the Storm Knights soon learned, Fhals’ ghost was dispassionate and did not care much about helping.

“Trust me, we can give you a fate worse than death” said Wendigo

“I’ve already been to Tharkold, pull the other one” answered the ghost.

Eventually the ghost left and the group headed towards London Bridge, where Wendigo had a mysterious meeting with an unknown person.

That person turned out to be Lottie Sharp, one of the wizards the group had rescued from Fhals’ minions a couple of days before. She had information to sell about the on-going events. Wendigo managed to halve the price, probably not realizing Lottie would have settled for a tenth of the sum.

“There was some weird shit going on at a certain inn in town. Half a dozen stiffs found in a bloodbath. They say it was a sacrifice of some kind. The owners described the lot as foreigners. There was one very tattooed woman missing from the bodies. Also, I managed to find this.”

Lottie gave Wendigo a bloody piece of cloth. It was from a nurse’s uniform with “St Bartholomew” written on the side. Lottie provided the hospital’s location.

“Oh yeah, and someone really hates your guts. They say it’s the Dark Lord himself. He’s offering a nice bit of gold for your heads. I’ve heard some of his agents have arrived in town less than an hour ago. If the price goes up I might consider cashing in.”

With that Lottie vanished again and the group went towards St Bartholomew Hospital.

The hospital was eerily silent, which combined with traditional London fog for full effect. Heading inside through the front gate, the Storm Knights saw the courtyard full of vehicles, including those of Ardinay’s escort. Not a single living being was in sight. While Jack examined the coaches, Wendigo heard a noise from one of the hospital buildings.

Heading inside the Storm Knights were set upon by people. Some wore the clothes of patients, others had noble house livery on them, a few had military fatigues. All of them had some sort of miasma surrounding them and moved sluggishly. Tooth Fairy felt sick after being touched by one of them but swung his spear around and dispatched half of them. The other half was GLORIOUSLY dealt with by Jack’s fireball.

Suddenly two threads of dim light dropped in the hospital courtyard and two giants appeared, demanding to know who was defying Uthorion. Wendigo answered their call with an anti-tank bullet in the head. It barely scratched the creature. One of the giants hurled threats at the heroes, while the other smashed through the building with his giant maul. The hit should have killed Jack and Wendigo, but the latter was saved by Tooth Fairy stepping in, and the former’s luck prevented a grim fate.

Wendigo decided their chances were extremely bad and summoned the magic of the ancient riddles. She managed to outwit the giants, and in exchange they let the group flee. The giants nevertheless reduced the hospital to rubble as a message to anyone who would oppose the Dark Lord, and then vanished just as the army’s combat helicopters were getting close.

The Storm Knights returned to help emergency services rescue any survivors. Miraculously Ardinay had survived thanks to Roger Llewellyn’s noble sacrifice. She had been separated from her escort during the hospital visit and a tattooed woman trapped her with some sort of artifact. Llewellyn managed to rescue her and lead her to safety before being crushed by a crumbling wall.

Feeling guilty, the group went to have a drink at the half-folk tavern. Four hours of drinking later, a cat leaped on their table.

“Hey, drunks. The Archmage wants to see you.” said the cat before leaving.

After wondering how drunk they were, the heroes decided to head to St James’ for that meeting. A slight delay later (caused by guards not taking kindly to Wendigo not using Archmage Wyrwind’s full title), they met with the old man.

The reason for the summons was quickly forgotten as the Archmage inquired about Jack’s state and ancestry. Jack was curious himself and agreed to donate some blood for a ritual asking how long it would take to get a result. His question was answered by Wyrwind immediately starting a magical incantation.

“Well. You’re about as human as a centaur. Except in your case it’s more like nine-tenths human and one-tenth something weird. It’s not Aylish for sure, probably one of your local beasties.”

At Wendigo’s prodding, the Archmage moved on to the reason for the meeting and informed the heroes the creature they had fought earlier at the orphanage was called a ravagon. He went on to recount the few Aylish legends that spoke of such creatures. Through various questions the conversation ended with Wendigo offering Wyrwind a pint of Coke and some chicken-based recipes to go with it. Eventually it was time for the heroes to leave but Wyrwind asked Jack to stay a moment more, to ask philosophical questions about Light and Darkness and how to destroy them.

Once they were out, the heroes discussed their next steps. Due to the lack of leads they retired for the night. Being tired, drunk, and Storm Knights they bullied some footmen to get rooms at Buckingham Palace next door to St James’ to avoid a long walk back to the inn.

----

Boston, USA, Core Earth, Night 50
Damien Monnet, Alicia Kalachnikova, Leonid Slovokin

Damien examined the swimming pool. This was a definite improvement over the lodgings in Bordeaux. He still kept his reflexes up by sweeping the whole penthouse for listening devices. Instead he found a hidden cache of weapons. As expected for a Delphi Council safehouse. Leonid, back in tourist mode, tried to get the most out of the waterbed. Alicia kept her eyes on the objective and examined the letter and package left for them.

The letter was from another Storm Knight, a former Boston Police officer whose colleague had just found a strange grimoire after a shootout in a local nightclub. As the Storm Knight’s team had an urgent mission in the Living Land, they had to leave the investigation to someone else.

The package contained, as expected, an ancient-looking grimoire full of writings and diagrams. Leonid and Alicia put their heads together to try to understand its contents while Damien filled his bag with firearms. The grimoire seemed to be written in multiple alphabets and the words did not make sense. Alicia found some scribbles that looked like summoning circles for something unintelligible. Leonid was certain a part of the writings contained medical knowledge but couldn’t make sense out of it. He tried to take a few pictures for reference but his phone had apparently been hit by something nasty back in the Cyberpapacy and caught fire. Damien did likewise, with more success.

After that they called the police detective who had found the grimoire and arranged a meeting for the evening.

Damien, always over-cautious, headed there first. On the way he was intercepted by a police patrol who asked to check his luggage and papers. The Delphi Council had done a rush job and forgotten to stamp his passport, and Damien forgot he had a licence to carry weapons. Pursuit ensued when Damien grabbed his weapons and fled the scene.

Alicia and Leonid went to the meeting at a diner that was, as it turned out, right in front of the main police headquarters and therefore filled with on-and-off-duty officers. This turned out to not be an ambush and the two had a pleasant chat with Detective Mittermeier. Originally the grimoire itself had been enough to convince him this was a matter for the Delphi Council. Since then additional events conspired to make it even less his problem.

A member from one of the two gangs that fought at the nightclub had since been hospitalized and in a coma. According to police investigation, the neighbors heard shouts demanding where the “Great Tome” was. In addition the evidence locker where everything regarding the nightclub shootout was held had been ransacked. According to camera footage, the perpetrator was someone who could make himself near-invisible and pass through locked doors using magical portals.

“Perhaps unrelated, but earlier today my colleagues tried to arrest an illegal French man carrying a large amount of weapons. They said his abilities were certainly beyond anything normal. Here’s a photograph from the passport he left with my colleagues.”

Alicia and Leonid groaned just as Damien entered the diner and sat at a table while trying to order a steak. Half the officers in the dinner surrounded him and tried to arrest him on the spot. Fortunately both Leonid and Alicia had their Delphi Council badges and were able to explain the situation.

After dinner, the Storm Knights decided to continue their investigation in the Blackout, the nightclub where the shootout had happened a couple of weeks before. They entered as ordinary customers and began to look around for evidence. Looking carefully, Leonid found traces of the weapons used by the gang-members. Damien tried to get a drink but was asked for his ID and had to settle for soda.

The bartender was rather chatty and recalled the incident when asked. A group of students from MIT and a group of bikers had a falling out regarding a woman. Things escalated quickly for some reason and bikers shot at the students, who responded by throwing acid and various chemicals at the bikers. One of the bikers even got stabbed by a syringe. Fortunately only a few bystanders suffered minor injuries. Likewise no biker or student had died, as far as the bartender knew.

Leonid looked around and spotted a group of students sitting on a half-circle sofa. He nodded at Damien and the two headed there and sat at the edges for a “friendly” chat. The students’ fear was apparent on their faces. They were quick to point the finger towards some of the radical elements at MIT who apparently liked to meet at Kresge Auditorium.

While they were talking, Alicia noticed four ordinary-looking people entering the club with faces that said “we’re here to make trouble for someone”. From their looks, they decided the students were the right people.

The leader of the four opened with the stereotypical “That’s our table. Scram.”

The students stood up to leave, and so did Leonid and Damien. Once the students left, the two Storm Knights sat down again, putting their feet firmly on the table.

As expected, a fight erupted. Luckily one of the bouncers was nearby and was able to knock out one of the assailants. Alicia also entered the fight with a chair, which was promptly seized by one of the troublemakers and used against her with great effect. The Storm Knights had the upper hand until the troublemakers pulled something out of their pockets and put it in their mouths. Suddenly they became stronger, faster, and, incidentally, dumber. The bouncer was knocked out in a single punch but Leonid was quick to capitalize on their lack of intelligence and one was choking on a cocktail olive.

Damien and Alicia eventually realized they were also oblivious to pain and had to resort to means similar to Leonid’s.

Once the scuffle was over, Leonid hurried to the troublemaker who had been knocked out first and found an octogonal red pill in his pocket. Then he went to interrogate him in a back-room while waiting for the police. Sadly he didn’t know anything useful. The initial suspicion that he had been told to cause trouble for the Storm Knights turned out to be unfounded. He was just there with his friends to cause trouble on their own. They had nothing against the students either. The drugs came from someone or some place called “2nd Street”. Leonid doubted it referred to the actual Boston’s 2nd Street.

In the meantime Damien and Alicia tried to hack into the troublemakers’ phones but couldn’t get anywhere. Instead they contacted the Delphi Council for the service.

Then they returned to the penthouse and went to sleep.

----

London, United Kingdom, Aysle-Core Earth, Day 51
Wendigo, Tooth Fairy, Jack Lantern

The morning did not bring any answers. Ardinay was still alive and the tattooed woman still at large. In addition the heroes learned that assassins were looking for them throughout the city. All things considered it would be probably more productive to stay around Ardinay, especially since today she had no official activities planned, and wait for another attempt against her life. On the plus side, it would let the heroes proceed with their actual mission: digging up secrets in Ardinay’s court.

While getting ready for the day, the heroes were asked to meet with Prince Edward. Far from angry at the breach of protocol, the prince looked tired in his fatigues covered in mud. He was back from a reconnaissance near London where suspicious movements from the Army of Darkness indicated a potential incoming assault. The Storm Knights updated him about recent events he had missed, including Llewellyn’s death.

After thinking for a moment, the prince assumed temporary command of the Delphi Council activities in town and ordered the Storm Knights to get evening attire from the royal tailors. The Storm Knights did so. Wendigo was unhappy to learn her rifles would not be allowed at the reception, even with some bells and whistles. Jack settled for some Victorian-style attire alongside a rapier. Wendigo went for a medieval robe. Tooth Fairy just asked for a US Army ceremonial uniform befitting his rank.

Once that hurdle out of the way, the heroes headed for St James’ Palace to rub shoulders with the nobility. Throughout the day they met with various nobles as well as elven and dwarven representatives. Their initial inquiries about people being at the same time both of Light and Darkness led nowhere, except to a deeper understanding of the nature of the struggle. Tooth Fairy also got some history footing, especially regarding Ardinay, Tolwyn and the Carredon. Wendigo espied the prince having a more than friendly discussion with one of Ardinay’s officers. Jack found a new vocation as a theomagician.

Eventually evening came…

Boston, USA, Core Earth, Day 51
Damien Monnet, Alicia Kalachnikova, Leonid Slovokin

Phone hacking results came in and the Storm Knights quickly found the contact information of a prime suspect for selling the drugs. However they were unsure as of yet if it was any of their business as there was no apparent link to the grimoire.

Leonid bought a new phone and this time managed to take pictures of the grimoire. He frowned as he noticed discrepancies between the original and the photograph. Another set of pictures later it was apparent the grimoire had some protection against photography.

The Storm Knights decided to head to MIT. They quickly found Kresge Auditorium and noticed a large number of students assembling in the hall while no event was scheduled. Damien had no trouble passing as a student but Leonid and Alicia had to hang back. The meeting lacked ambiguity: a girl named Lexi led this group who called themselves the Auditors. She detailed a battle plan against a biker gang called the Meridianers. Apparently the students were planning to set fire to various shops in the street where the bikers assembled.

Once the meeting was over, the Storm Knights decided to head to the hospital. On the way there, they noticed they were under surveillance. Black-suited men and women occasionally took an interest into them as they passed by various cafés and shops. Suspecting them to be the CIA, the heroes decided to let them be for the time being.

The Delphi Council badge also opened doors at the hospital and Leonid was able to examine the unconscious gang-member who had been interrogated about the “Great Tome”. Judging by the age, he was one of the Auditors. Leonid determined he had been tortured methodically. The techniques could be typical of one of the Boston mafias. A quick adrenaline shot to the heart later, the Auditor was able to talk. His testimony pointed to two people with Asian features who wanted to know about someone called Great Tom. The student had not been among those in the Blackout incident and had no idea why he had been targeted. Damien began asking questions about any unusual events but accidentally stepped on the IV and the Auditor returned to his comatose state.

Meridian Street was the next stop as that was the target of the Auditors and, as the Storm Knights quickly confirmed, a gathering place for bikers. Damien determined there to be multiple leaders and headed towards one of them to ask innocent questions. Leonid and Alicia took a backseat to keep an eye on the conversation. The biker leader was quick to spot Damien’s attitude was at odds with his insistent questions about problems they might have. He humored the youngster explaining he and his friends were here to protect as much as they could from the dinosaurs if they ever came, then told him to go away. Damien’st last quip as he was leaving was not taken kindly, and a staredown contest began between the biker who wanted excuses from an impolite youngster and Damien who never backed down from a fight. Fortunately it ended without bloodshed with the biker backing away.

----

Ys, France, Cyberpapacy, Night 53
Lithiel, Michael Goodenough, Ivy, Hiroto Nogushi

The heroes admired the location’s architecture. Ancient stone houses and large boulevards lined with stone pillars were imprinted with the glowing lights of circuitry. Various places around the city emitted vertical pillars of light that merged into a large dome that protected the city from an insane amount of water. The Storm Knights had arrived through a portal in a large plaza. A boulevard led from the plaza to the other end of the city where a palace-like building stood. The city was devoid of life until a man walked into view from a street. He was too absorbed into checking his notebook to notice the heroes until Michael cleared his throat.

“Oh, good evening. I didn’t see you coming. Welcome to the sunken city of Ys. I am Professor Zaidi from the University of Jaipur. Who might you be?”

The heroes hesitated for a moment before giving their names. The Professor seemed to be too friendly for the circumstances, and they had reasons to distrust anyone who came from Orrorsh due to their recent encounter in Waterford. Nevertheless they accepted his invitation to spend the night at the location he and his students had secured nearby.

His explanation for being here was fairly simple. He had found a lead to this place in the old records in the university library and then arrived here using potions to breathe underwater. Michael attempted to get confirmation from his students, but only a few of them had a good-enough understanding of English. Oddly enough, they kept referring to Zaidi as “the Master”.

Ivy inquired about the dangers of this place.

“When we arrived, there were none,” began Zaidi “At the time we had set up camp at the palace. We were studying that place’s engravings when suddenly dinosaurs came out of nowhere and drove us off. Fortunately they stay around the palace and don’t bother us here.”

The Storm Knights stayed the night with Zaidi and his students.

----

Oxford, United Kingdom, Core Earth Hardpoint, Day 54
Kwang Im, Song-Ho Sun, Garrick Heinston, Tobias Lynch

As soon as they were out of the Land Between, Tobias recognized the place. They were in the basement of one of the Oxford University’s libraries. Gerrold bode farewell to the others and headed for the nearest pub.

While the heroes were walking through the library aisles, Tobias noticed something and hid behind a bookshelf: Sir Percival Harlingsey, the villain he had fought in Orrorsh was there. Tobias was convinced the old man’s presence was a sign that a dastardly scheme to corrupt the university was underway. Kwang, on the other hand, after asking Tobias for more details about their last encounter, thought it would be more useful to ask Sir Percival directly. Garrick and Song-Ho didn’t care at all, the supposed villain was just reading a book on British history.

While Tobias debated the merits of an ambush, Kwang had a chat with Sir Percival. As expected, the man had a good explanation for every atrocity he had committed in India: he was just helping people gain freedom from an oppressive caste system, and helping them survive the local horrors.

Gunfire erupted nearby and the Storm Knights drew their weapons as the main doors to the library opened and a heavily-injured military officer ran in. He was followed by a group of armed vikings ready to sack the library. Garrick was not sure if it was any of his business, and, as Kwang and Song-Ho dispatched the invaders with ease, decided he was right. In the scuffle Sir Percival had vanished.

With his dying breath, the army officer explained that vikings had seized the gates leading into the city and had deployed artillery somewhere within. The Storm Knights found a radio and contacted Major Hathaway, leading the forces outside. To add insult to injury, a large contingent of the armies of Darkness was approaching the city and threatened to crush the defenders stuck outside.

The group decided to retake one of the gates and let the army rush through the artillery barrage. The vikings did not yet have full control over the city and the group went unchallenged. Once they arrived, Garrick immediately recognized the viking leader by his accent: it was Finnegan MacEnraigh. The Mad Scotsman greeted the Storm Knights with a volley of taunts and lead from his assault rifle.

Song-Ho rushed through the defenders and began to open the gate. Tobias calmly walked towards the self-proclaimed King of Scots and slowly but surely rent his possibilities. Garrick did his best to hold off the incoming reinforcements. The battle was short-lived as Tobias forced his opponent to disconnect and flee. In the meantime Song-Ho opened the gate and the British army forced its way through and retook the city.

----

Ys, France, Cyberpapacy, Day 54
Lithiel, Michael Goodenough, Ivy, Hiroto Nogushi

A new day dawned. Or at least the Storm Knights assumed it did as Ys was too deep underwater to see any difference. The eerie light provided by the city’s embedded circuitry was strong enough to confuse senses.

The heroes headed for the palace to take a look at the dinosaurs. Just getting closer was enough to realize there were a lot of them. Michael and Hiroto kept their distance while Lithiel and Ivy snuck forward. The palace was indeed surrounded by dinosaurs, ranging from small velociraptors to one huge t-rex. Incredibly, there were also sabre-toothed cats. None of them were trying to eat one another. Lithiel pointed out a shadow inside the palace, a human who seemed to be unbothered by the dinosaurs.

Michael and Hiroto felt surrounded. People stepped out of the alleys around them. They bore the hallmark plasma weaponry and disgusting implants identifying them as originating from Tharkold.

“Who’re you?” asked one of them.

Thinking quickly, Hiroto answered “Stormers. We just wandered in by accident.”

The speaker nodded “Our leader will want to talk to you. Follow.”

“First we wait for our comrades.” interjected Michael glaring intensely at the Tharkoldu “Then we will think about following you.”

The heroes regrouped away from prying ears and decided to split up again to meet with the local stakeholders.

Ivy and Lithiel returned to the dinosaurs, where Ivy called upon Lanala to communicate with one of the carnivorous kitties. The animal explained that he had been brought here by someone and asked not to eat any other animal. So far it hadn’t been difficult, there were a few humans prowling around the place when they had arrived. Ivy tried to convince the big cat to go and eat Zaidi and his students but quickly understood she’d need to talk to all of the animals to get anything done. Instead she requested to speak to the person who brought them here. The cat went to relay the message.

Soon enough the shadow in the palace made its way to Lithiel and Ivy. It was a young woman dressed in Native American clothes. The conversation was brief. The woman was convinced she had everything under control and needed no help to seize control of the city’s soul. Lithiel inquired about how she intended to do so and wondered if she did not need a special key or something. The woman cryptically answered that she only needed “blood to flow freely through the stones when the sun is at its zenith” and left.

In the meantime Michael and Hiroto were escorted to the edge of the dome where a hollow tentacle extended to a large high-tech submarine. Inside, they were led to the bridge where a woman with actual metal spikes on her head awaited. Hiroto began to use his old corporate charm to pump her for information but was sharply interrupted.

“I don’t deal with underlings” said the woman and turned to Michael instead. “You are clearly the leader. My battle-slaves told me you’re Stormers. You up for a job?”

Michael grunted an affirmation and negotiated a deal. In exchange for a joint attack on the dinosaurs they would be getting some weapons and high-value supplies.

The Storm Knights joined up again and established a counter-plan. They would feign joining the Tharkoldus’ assault against the dinosaurs but break through instead and go straight to the palace where Pterry had noticed a statue at the back that was missing its face. A face that was about the size of the mask Michael had been carrying around.

The agreed-upon time for the attack arrived, and the Storm Knights began their fight through the dinosaurs. They quickly realized the Tharkoldus were at the other end of the city, fighting Zaidi and his students. The plan was quickly changed. Michael, Lithiel and Hiroto went on the defensive, to protect Ivy while she negotiated a deal with the dinosaurs and animals. The Native American woman posed little threat, as she was too busy hitting her head against the pillars outside the palace, apparently by accident. When the dinosaurs left, she decided to run away towards the edge of the dome, and leapt inside the mouth of a giant whale.

The Storm Knights hurried to the palace, however the Tharkoldu proved faster, apparently having waited in hiding nearby. Their leader, Samandriel, gave the Storm Knights the agreed-upon items and headed inside. Before anyone could react, the back of the palace exploded and an army of bedouins poured out of a diving bell, one of them yelling “I, Consul Sandstorm, seize this city in the name of my people.” and summoning a literal sand storm.

The Tharkoldus did not hesitate and a fierce battle erupted as soon as Samandriel shouted “This city shall become MY haven!”. The Storm Knights shrugged and hid outside, waiting for one of the sides to lose. While waiting they realized another Tharkoldu group was slowly coming up the central boulevard, probably after taking out Zaidi. They were not alone, being followed by a large amount of blood flowing towards the palace.

Just as the reinforcements were coming up, the sandstorm inside the palace subsided. Samandriel was left standing while Sandstorm and her diving bell was on its way to the surface. The Tharkoldu reinforcement caught up but left the heroes to their own devices as long as they did not try to enter the palace. Other thralls began pulling apart the bases of the statues and plugged computer-like devices. They were trying to hack the city.

The blinking lights of the city indicated there was little time left and the Storm Knights charged into the room. Samadriel’s troops, exhausted after two battles, quickly fell. Their leader, seeing the situation as lost, was allowed to leave. She vowed to have her revenge.

The Storm Knights were finally left alone in the palace. Michael decided to take a direct approach and put the mask on a faceless statue of a man sitting on a throne. Suddenly the palace lit up and a holographic globe of the Earth appeared in the middle of the hall. Various writings shimmered in the air. Examining the globe closely, Hiroto noticed some of the areas on the planet were darkened, coincidentally corresponding to the invaded areas. Michael attempted to touch one of the dark areas, which only led to the text above the globe changing. Unfortunately it was not a language anyone knew.

Lithiel yelled in alarm. Outside the energy dome was beginning to crack up and droplets of water were coming through. Lacking any better plan, Michael grabbed the mask and everyone ran for the portal plaza at the other end. Surprisingly, they did not have to run fast as the dome stabilized while the group was half-way through the city.

In the end, the Storm Knights decided to leave the investigation of the place to the Delphi Council experts, for their own abilities were better used elsewhere.

----

Istrian
Hobgoblin
Posts: 45
Joined: Tue Feb 11, 2020 4:57 pm

Re: [Game Stories] Make Earth Glorious Again

Post by Istrian »

Boston, USA, Core Earth, Night 51
Damien Monnet, Alicia Kalachnikova, Leonid Slovokin

Leonid and Alicia were getting tired of being constantly watched and decided to handle the issue the same way they did in Hong-Kong. After noticing a man sitting at a café and occasionally looking at them, they sat at the same table and asked to talk to whoever was in charge. The man feigned innocence and simply insisted they looked outlandish. The method having failed, Damien found another person keeping an eye on them and stole their phone. As it turned out, the people watching them were not from the secret services. They were random people who were reporting the heroes’ movements in a shared chatroom, Trinity Watch, in exchange for a small amount of money. Leonid took a selfie and asked to meet the leaders. The chatroom emptied very quickly after that.

A quick search through the phone owner’s bank records revealed the money was coming from Trinity Loans, a charity group specializing in interest-free student loans. As it did not seem immediately relevant to their own business, they decided to return to chat with another biker group around Meridian Street. Before that they stopped by a library to buy an old book that looked like the grimoire, and made sure to let it be seen by anyone looking at them.

This time Leonid did the talking and started by providing information about the Auditors’ planned attack the same night.

“I’m curious though, what’s the issue with those students?” asked Leonid.

“What’s the issue? WHAT’S THE ISSUE? Those punks come around here and sell drugs to the kids. That’s our problem.” the biker spat out “Turns out being educated doesn’t mean being honest.”

“Was that the reason for the scuffle at the Blackout a couple of weeks ago?” continued Leonid, having found a way to worm his actual line of inquiry into the conversation.

“Yeah, they were trying to feed that crap to a girl. Had to put them in their place, you know. Why’re you interested in that?”

“I’m not actually interested in the fight. We just happened by the earlier information while touring MIT. Back to the Blackout, did you notice anything unusual that night? Anyone who carried this book? We’re trying to return it to whoever lost it.” asked Leonid showing the fake grimoire.

“Now that you’re asking, yeah. I mean, I didn’t see this book but I remember there was this old guy who didn’t really belong. Old, short, had a trenchcoat and hat. I remember because I saw some people looking at him strangely, like they were going to hit him. I was going to give them a couple of kicks but the student punks were more urgent.”

The octogonal red pills seemed to be popping up too often and the heroes decided to try calling the dealer they got earlier from the nightclub scuffle. Leonid indicated he had an urgent need, and a meeting was set up near Fenway Park. Upon arriving there, the group split up. Alicia and Damien went to look for the dealer, while Leonid set himself up at a vantage point to observe from afar. He was surprised by a man greeting him and asking how many he wanted.

After getting the red pills, Leonid followed the dealer to the bus stop. As soon as he was inside, he sent a message to the others informing them of the situation. Leonid managed to follow the dealer as far as South Boston before losing the trail. While the others were making their way, he began to wonder about the link between the drug, the grimoire, and the mysterious ingredients the police could not identify, and tried some divination tricks.

Unexpectedly, he felt something. While the pill was not magical in nature but he felt a presence inside. Something that could be said to be closer to the divine than the profane. Sadly, he lacked the knowledge to find out what it really was.

The others arrived and were brought up to speed. Leonid wondered how the dealer had found him and meticulously checked his smartphone. He GLORIOUSLY noticed traces of hacking, managed to trace it back to the hacker and take control of their computer’s camera. The video displayed two people playing video games, one of whom was the dealer from earlier. At some point they began discussing their business. It became quickly apparent they were not the ones making the drug. One of them was posing as a member of a weird cult that gave them out for free. Sadly they did not mention which cult it was.

While the Storm Knights were discussing a plan to order a lot of pills to force the dealers to seek out the cult again, they noticed a group of people hiding nearby. Alicia shouted “Come on out. We just want to talk to your bosses.”

Four people came out, but as they approached they pulled out guns and began firing at the heroes. Alicia ducked behind a car and fired back. With a fireball. The enemy’s apparent leader, a person dressed in a fashion that wouldn’t go unnoticed anywhere, responded with a fireball of his own. A lightning bolt from Alicia calmed him down (permanently) while Leonid and Damien captured the last underling.

Police sirens were approaching, but the heroes wanted to avoid being seen underneath the hacker’s apartment. Alicia quickly searched the dead enemies’ pockets and found the dead wizard to be too cold for the season. He also had a calligraphed note and a pouch full of lizard’s tails and other occult implements. Damien and Leonid picked up their prisoner, moved a few blocks away and began to interrogate him.

He was not very cooperative, talking about “the Master” and a group with “novices” and “initiates”, and that he would be initiated if he brought back the grimoire the master wanted. The dead wizard, as it turned out, was not the master but a foreign mercenary the master had called to speed up the search. He was not a member of the cult that spread the mysterious red pills, but knew them to have wave-patterned tattoos all over their foreheads.

“Where can we find your master?” asked Leonid

“That’s not for you to know.” retorted the man

“Look, I’m getting tired of all of this.” said Damien. “I’m going to flip a coin. Heads, I shoot you in the leg. Tails, I shoot the grimoire.”

“Do your worst” said the man, not believing Damien to have the guts to do it.

Damien flipped the coin and shot the grimoire.

“Don’t bother, I have the address.” said Alicia, arriving late into the conversation with the calligraphed note she found earlier.

The man’s silence told the Storm Knights everything they needed to know. The hour was late, closing to midnight. The perfect time to have a chat with wizards.

The note led to a large estate in the northern outskirts of Boston. The owner seemed to have guests, as well as a large number of guards. Damien nonetheless snuck inside, opening the way for his colleagues. Once inside they knocked out three waiters who were unlucky enough to be wearing the right size of clothes. The heroes joined the party.

Damien kept his ears open and heard that the Masters were in fact plural, and were currently locked up in a secret meeting. Guests seemed to be of the older rich type, all having pawns looking for the grimoire in order to get initiated into the secrets of magic. The group decided to head upstairs to the office and found a guard patrolling the area. Damien tried to knock him out quickly but did not punch hard enough. Alicia tried to distract him but shouted a little bit too loud and attracted the attention of another guard. At the same time, a nearby voice shouted “Damn, we’ve been spotted. Abort infiltration, launch assault!”

All hells broke loose as the estate was assaulted by people with big guns. The heroes decided to abort their attempt at getting into the offices and headed straight for the Masters’ meeting hall, pursued by the two guards. They were found in a room with 8 high-backed chairs, alongside their wizard mercenaries.

“Who are you?” shouted one of the elderly masters

“We’re not hostile. We’ve got the grimoire you’re looking for.” shouted back Leonid

“Looks like we will have to move our plan forward” said one of the mercenaries. Suddenly a black light enveloped the masters, paralyzing them in place.

Damien and Leonid shot at the mercenaries, clearly Aylish from their appearance. They were led by a woman with rotting skin. In the meantime Alicia looked for ways to free the masters and found a scroll detailing magical defenses set into the chairs. Activating them turned out to be easier than expected, the enemy leader disconnecting every time she tried to use spells. At the same time one of the people attacking the manor broke through. It was a man of Asian descent covered in gang tattoos. He opened fire on the wizards from behind.

As soon as the magic affecting the masters was broken, the Aylish wizards attempted to flee but were stopped by a quick fireball from Alicia.

“You may have the advantage here. I shall be waiting for you to enter my lands.” said the leader as her body was consumed by fire.

Leonid quickly explained the situation to the Masters, who decided to abandon the estate for the time being and left through a tunnel, alongside the Storm Knights. They were grateful for the help and had indeed been looking for the grimoire as soon as they had sensed it entering the city. However they had no idea what it was and with their manor and acolytes gone, had very little interest in it but invited the heroes to return a few years later to discuss price. They also provided the heroes with the name of the mercenary leader they had hired: Wilhilde the Decrepit.

The Storm Knights were disappointed at not having found the owners of the grimoire, but now had additional leads towards the mafia. For the time being they decided to return to the penthouse to rest and recuperate. However as they were about to leave Alicia received a phone call.

“Inspector Mittermeier here. We’ve got a bit of a situation with two gangs going at each other.”

“Yes, we know, the Auditors and the Meridianers.” said Alicia “It’s none of our business though.”

“Actually, we’ve sighted Stormers on both sides. We’ve managed to corner them in a mall but we’d appreciate your help if you can spare some time.”

----

Kaluga, Russia, Tharkold, Day 55
Amethyst Ninja, In-Soon Heo, Samarj Chopade

As soon as they reached Kaluga, the Storm Knights split up to look for information, most of it unrelated to their objective. Samarj, still wanting to find anything about the society that had experimented on her, asked around for anyone named Golovsky. Surprisingly, she managed to find an old drunk in a bar who knew the man.

“Let me tell you, you don’t want to mess with him. I know, I used to work with him back in ‘97. As a guinea pig. I think I was one of the lucky ones, never developed any weird powers, never went crazy. Retired from the army when the government ran out of money. By then that kid was nearly running the show. Best hunter in the job.”

“What did he hunt?” asked Samarj

“People. The kind that has mental powers. Back then it was all hush-hush stuff. Not like today when even cats can set your hair on fire. Anyway, he has a ton of nasty tricks made to weaken and catch any psionicists.”

In the meantime, at the city square, In-soon was making good progress as well. While he was unsure if he wanted to perform a certain service for Cardinal Sabin, he still looked for information about the emblem he was shown. A scavenger from the Blasted Land happened to have had a friend who had a cousin who had encountered a large raider group that was tattooed with that symbol. They used to be a large independent band until recently when they were absorbed by an even larger band, led by someone named Samandriel who had a gigantic land-fortress tank.

Personal reasons led Jonathan to focus on the main objective. He surmised it was unlikely anyone had seen Pr Takamura, leading his focus towards Colonel Krilov instead. The man was in charge of the city’s military base, however locals, when pressed for information, admitted he spent very little time at the base itself. Instead he was in a drab building of grey concrete next to the nearby hydroelectric dam. It was one of the city’s most poorly-guarded secrets that the facility was run by the army.

Once they had regrouped around the building, Samarj began probing it with her mind. The building was half-full of psions, but no more than the rest of Tharkold. She could also feel a group of minds underground, half-way between the building and the dam, moving towards the building.

Checking out the dam, the heroes found a guard booth with knocked-out guards, and the entrance of a tunnel. The Storm Knights carefully moved towards the group and caught Heydrich leading a group of Nike shocktroopers by surprise. The fight was short, thanks to the advantage of surprise, with Amethyst Ninja stealing yet another Lüger from the captain. The battle was extended by smokescreen and black ops commandos, probably cloaked by psionic power, appearing all around and asking the heroes to follow them. The request was rejected , but the commandos proved both tougher and more numerous than the Nile soldiers, and eventually the heroes agreed. They were led directly to Colonel Anton Krilov.

“Would you care to explain what Delphi Council agents are doing sneaking around a top-secret compound of their allies?”

“We are looking for Professor Takamura. We know you have him.” answered Amethyst Ninja, who was not surprised the colonel knew them to be from the Delphi Council.

“You could have just knocked and asked. Why do you people always do things the hard way? Now I have a bit of a… complicated situation. Your presence here makes things politically difficult with my Tharkoldu superiors. But if you were to accept a small request as an official Delphi Council mission, I am sure meeting with the professor would be no trouble. That would give me the excuse I need to explain you being here.”

----

Chennai, India, Orrorsh, Night 55
Bronze Bullet, Elizabeth Poliakova, Gregor MacConnor, Logan MacCormack

The Delphi Council finally found a lead regarding Wangchuk Drupa, the Tibetan monk Bronze Bullet wanted to have a rematch with after their first meeting in Thebes. The Storm Knights arrived in Chennai where an informant codenamed “Burgundy Cross” would have further information. Unfortunately not even the Delphi Council knew the identity of the informant, only that they were a socialite and had an arranged passphrase to get in touch.

A quick search through the elite circles of the city determined that only one reception would be held tonight at Lord Krishnar’s estate. Gregor and Logan were able to get invited using their religious and military titles respectively. Bronze Bullet simply arrived at the front door and using charm and wit convinced the doorman he was on the list. Elizabeth, on the other hand, went through the kitchens as one of the old ladies who cooked for the reception, then found a lady who wore roughly the same-sized clothes, and replaced her.

Just as the reception was in full swing, the heroes began dropping the initial code phrase by discussing left and right everyone’s favorite places.

...

“Definitely Tanganyika” said a government official to Gregor.

...

“Where else but Tanganyika” answered a nobleman to Bronze Bullet.



“Tanganyika” said a priest to Logan’s question.

“Oh, have you been there as well? I was going to say the same thing” added an officer.



“It is a difficult question of course for someone such as myself. But, all things considered, I like the sights and smells of Tangier.” said a nobleman to Elizabeth.

The heroes regrouped to inform each other that they had found the right informant, except Elizabeth who had found someone nice to talk to instead. Reflecting on the situation, the heroes found it logical that the Burgundy Cross might not be a single person but a group working together. They decided to start with the government official and found that he had stepped out into the hedge maze in the estate gardens.

The Storm Knights found the official in a darkened corner of the maze, alongside the other three would-be Burgundy Crosses. They were all pointing guns, blades and crucifixes at each other.

“You are an impostor, I am the real Burgundy Cross.”

“That would not be so, I am.”

“You are all lying, I am the real one.”

Logan sighed and charged, thinking it best to knock everyone out and sort things later. Unfortunately he was too slow and one of the Burgundy Crosses collapsed to a pistol shot by another. A third one began to turn into a furry monster and tried to rip Bronze Bullet’s throat out. Gregor’s Aurel blade glowed with holy fury, and so did its wielder. Another Burgundy Cross threw a stick of dynamite at the heroes and used the resulting dust to vanish while Gregor brought the furred monster down. Logan, disoriented by the dust and explosion, charged through the hedges at the last Burgundy Cross, only to realize too late it was the wrong one.

“How dare you scream at me young man?” said an indignant voice belonging to an older major of the Victorian army. “You shall answer for this insult with your blood, sir. I expect you to come at dawn with your witnesses, and your last breakfast.”

As only one non-hostile Burgundy Cross was left, mostly due to being shot first, Gregor provided healing and brought the lady back to her senses.

“My apologies for the mess” she answered, extending her hand “Lady Ada Wyndel, hunter of monsters that stalk the night and Burgundy Cross. I believe you were looking for me.”

The Storm Knights quickly explained what they were after and she told them what she knew. Wangchuk Drupa did indeed pass through Chennai a few weeks before. He met with various smugglers to look for passage to Aysle. She also provided the heroes with information about the different smugglers that competed within the city. Fortunately there were only three large enough to have resources to ship someone to Aysle.

The night was still young, and the heroes decided to start with the Sishangwenites, a group of Nigerian pirates who occasionally smuggled cargo and people, including prisoners reduced to slavery. “In the worst case, I believe we could simply get rid of them and free their prisoners” said Gregor whose holy vows did not sit well with the smugglers.

In any case, Bronze Bullet quickly found them around the docks, in an old cargo ship that was clearly not Orrorshan-styled. Elizabeth negotiated with the guards, introducing herself as an agent of a powerful trading consortium led by Mr Savlovyeff from St Petersburg, and requested to meet with their leader for a deal. They were led inside the ship and told to wait. While waiting, the heroes jumped as a roar was heard coming from the hold. Everyone rushed in that direction but found no danger. Instead it was simply the ship’s hull making strange noises amplified by bad acoustics.

The heroes met with Sishangwe, the pirate leader, an old but strong-looking man with a cabin full of mystical curios, and explained their business. Sishangwe indicated one of his captains did indeed take the man somewhere. After a quick round of negotiation and money changing hands, the pirate leader said

“It was Kgalefa, my subordinate, who took him somewhere. I didn’t ask where. Unfortunately I don’t think Kgalefa survived his most recent trip, or so the voices tell me. His ship pushed onto some reefs somewhere north of the city. No-one survived but the answer you seek may be in his logs.”

Gregor took a GLORIOUS look around the cabin and noticed an empty space on a shelf full of curios and inquired about the missing contents.

“You have good eyes. It was a hand-crafted statuette made to protect against evil, or so the Tibetan claimed. I just liked how it looked, and it was worth enough to pay for the monk’s trip. Kgalefa took it with him on his last journey.”

Satisfied with the information, the Storm Knights left. After a short rest, they met with the Victorian officer for Logan’s duel to the death. Logan chose to fight with axes. The old officer turned out to be a poor opponent, but Logan’s axe was of poor quality as well, its handle breaking upon first swing. Instead the massive Scotsman knocked out the old man and left him alive. The witnesses agreed it was a very gentlemanly move from the barbarian.

----

Karungali, India, Orrorsh, Night 56
Bronze Bullet, Elizabeth Poliakova, Gregor MacConnor, Logan MacCormack

The Heroic Demon-Hunters, as the group called themselves since their tour of duty in Tharkold, made their way through the jungle north of Chennai and arrived at Karungali, a small coastal village that was still somehow standing despite the apparent lack of defences. The villagers were very welcoming and helpful, making the heroes immediately suspicious. As night was well on its way, they decided to stay in the village’s hotel anyway. It was surprisingly luxurious, the main suite cheap and huge, and the food succulent.

During dinner they talked with the village elder and inquired about any ships that might have had an accident nearby recently. The elder was reluctant to speak about piracy, but Bronze Bullet GLORIOUSLY persuaded him to open up. He did in fact see a vessel drifting towards Pulicat Lake, which, unfortunately, was now a swamp and a gospog field. After dinner the heroes went straight to sleep. As a precaution they took turns standing watch anyway.

It was past midnight and Logan was pouring himself a drink from the liquor cupboard when something big crashed through the windows leading to the terrace. He turned around to discover it was a giant bat, and it looked very hungry. At the same time he heard a clamor from around the hotel. The heroes sprang into action, confusing the beast in order for Elizabeth to line up her best shot with some silver bullets she had taken the precaution of “acquiring” in Chennai after their encounter with shapeshifters at the reception.

The bat died and turned back, revealing it was the elder all along. At the same time, outside, the villagers stopped clamoring and began weeping, lamenting the loss of their guardian and protector against the horrors that stalked the jungle. Most of the villagers looked resigned and desperate, but a few intended to carry out justice. Elizabeth sprang forward and began teaching them about a new guardian for the village: Jesus Christ. It worked well-enough as the people were willing to try anything and by morning rows of crucifixes had been erected along the village borders.

The heroes continued their journey towards Pulicat Lake.

----

Blasted Land, Russia, Tharkold-Core Earth, Day 57
Amethyst Ninja, In-Soon Heo, Samarj Chopade

A plane spewed a thick trail of black smoke as it plummeted towards the ground. Surprisingly, none of the heroes were on board at the time. In fact it was the opposite: the plane was heading towards them. Samarj quickly steered their vehicle to the side while the plane passed by. Reacting quickly, the heroes headed towards the plane to help any survivors get out before it exploded. As they opened the escape hatches, two vehicles arrived on the scene, battle thralls poured out and began shooting at the heroes in an attempt to get them to surrender. This proved to be a tactical mistake and moments later the heroes had two additional rides available.

The pilot explained that they were a passenger plane en route from Tripoli to Riga when they were suddenly hit by a ground-to-air missile. He had no idea how they ended up in the middle of the Blasted Land. In-Soon concluded that their navigation system had probably been the subject of interference. The heroes decided that whoever did this needed to be stopped before any more people got hurt.

In-Soon was wounded, however, and needed some time for psionic recovery. The heroes thought they had ample time, but were proved wrong when an hour later a trail of smoke erupted from behind a nearby hill: another missile.

“At least now we know where to look,” said Samarj as the group drove towards the location.

The launch site was a satellite array surrounded by junker trucks as well as a mobile missile launch platform parked nearby. A virtual battalion of thralls guarded the location. The vehicles were marked with a symbol In-Soon recognized as being the one Cardinal Sabin had been interested in eradicating. Samarj put the pedal to the metal and broke through the blockade. The three heroes climbed on the nearest vehicle and leaped inside the station’s control room through the windows. In-Soon was busy hacking the missile’s control system when he heard a shriek of pain behind him. Samarj fell to the ground, a bullet in her gut. “Keep fighting!” she yelled as she passed out.

One of the thralls, smitten by her impressive battle spirit, grabbed Samarj and fled. While Amethyst Ninja kept the enemies occupied, In-Soon hesitated. He could have the missile explode in the air, or he could reprogram it to hit the satellite relay instead, though that would destroy the junkers the passengers could use to return to civilization. In the end he decided to do the practical thing and shouted “INCOMING MISSILE!”

He and Ninja ran away. They had misunderstood the Samarj situation completely and pursued the thrall who had captured her. They found them both nearby, as he was trying to treat her wounds. He introduced himself as Kordran. When Samarj had regained consciousness, In-Soon began to ask questions about the group he was part of.

“Formerly part of” corrected Kordran. “Now I’m in your clan, whoever you are.”

His former clan had been like any other band in the Blasted Land. They followed the Tharkoldu during the invasion, suddenly found themselves free, and were trying to make a living through scavenging and banditry. That was until they got hit by a larger group led by another band led by Samandriel and forced to join her.

“Do you have any idea why a cardinal of the Cyberpapacy would want you dead?” asked In-Soon

“Dunno, maybe because we were forced to work for Tharkoldus.”

“On another topic” said Amethyst Ninja taking over “Have you heard of someone named Elena Rahmanova?”

“Some bits here and there. I heard she’s getting herself a personal cut of the Land somewhere north of here. She’s not one of Samandriel’s, though. She’s more like you, local.”

This bit of information was new to the heroes, but not particularly useful. They had already received Rahmanova’s approximate location from their briefing with the colonel. They still had to find her exact location, and prevent her from gaining even more power.

----

Pulicat Lake, India, Orrorsh, Day 57
Bronze Bullet, Elizabeth Poliakova, Gregor MacConnor, Logan MacCormack

Despite having been a lycanthrope, the elder had not lied. Pulicat Lake did indeed turn into a swamp, and gospog could be seen wandering here and there. The ship was there as well, having run aground. Worryingly enough, the gospog did not wander close to the ship. The heroes began to make their way through the field, only for more gospog to emerge underneath them. Not wanting to be surrounded by an army, they ran. Except Bronze Bullet who flew instead. Logan and Elizabeth took care of the rising gospog in order to avoid being… swamped.

Half-way through, the unexpected happened. The gospog’s rudimentary intelligence was enough for them to throw rocks at Bronze Bullet. His suit’s exhaust pipes did not appreciate the treatment and he fell to the ground and had to run. At the same time, the dam that had been holding the lake in began to crack. Apparently being transformed to ancient technology did not improve its resilience. Gregor picked up his blacksmithing tools and, while running away from the gospog, performed some minor repairs. Logan picked Bronze Bullet up, and soon enough they were near the ship. The gospog stopped their pursuit. Bronze Bullet threw a petrol bomb at them for good measure. Unfortunately the swamp proved to be highly flammable, but that was not urgent.

After repairing Bronze Bullet’s suit and patching up everyone’s wounds, the heroes climbed on board the ship through a hole in the lower hull. The hold was full of crates. Curious about what the smugglers smuggled, Gregor opened a crate. It contained sealed dusty glass jars. After some cleaning, he could see something inside. The something opened, revealing an eye, and stared at him. He felt some dark force gripping his heart and soul.

Gregor found the strength to put down the jar quickly. He was unsure if breaking the jar would free the eye or destroy it. Fortunately Elizabeth offered to perform the exorcisms she had learned from the priest in St Petersburg. She began. At the same time, from the other side of the hold, people came down from above and began shooting at the heroes while uttering dark curses. Bronze Bullet tried to fire back but the lack of light in the hold prevented him from hitting. Gregor and Logan slowly made their way across the hold and eventually reached the enemies. Most of them were quickly cut down except one who tried to flee and was captured. Elizabeth finished the exorcism and the eye dissolved in the jar.

Elizabeth and Logan stayed with the cultist to interrogate him, while Elizabeth and Bronze Bullet went to the next deck. It was full of ghosts, wailing and muttering something in a foreign language, but not immediately dangerous. As they passed by one of the cabins, they noticed a ghost who was not behaving like the others. He simply sat cross-legged as if in meditation. Bronze Bullet examined the ghost’s body lying nearby while Elizabeth attempted to communicate. The ghost opened its eyes and tried to talk, but the sounds that came out of his mouth were too hard to understand. The ghost resorted to mimicking something at his throat, then looking at the window.

“Is it water? You need a drink right?” exclaimed Elizabeth. The ghost looked dismayed.

In the meantime Bronze Bullet checked the body’s neck and found an amulet with Buddhist designs. The ghost pointed at the amulet. Bronze Bullet attempted to remove it but it turned out to be unbelievably heavy for its size.

Logan burst into the cabin. “We got the cultist to talk. He was a cultist. There’s a seal up there around the captain’s room and they’re trying to break it. We need to get going.”

Bronze Bullet finally managed to lift the amulet. Elizabeth examined it and said it was probably cursed. In the meantime the dead sailor’s ghost was mimicking putting the amulet on.

“Well, you only die once,” said Bronze Bullet, putting the amulet around his own neck. Suddenly the amulet became much lighter. The ghost looked relieved and he and the other ghosts began to vanish. Bronze Bullet attempted to remove the amulet from around his neck but couldn’t. Faced with more pressing matters, the heroes hurried on to the captain’s cabin.

They found a cultist standing in front of it, chanting something. Strange glyphs were swirling on the door. Logan rushed towards the cultist and hit her. Surprisingly, she was immediately knocked out by the blow.

“WAIT-” yelled Gregor who was coming up behind. “Too late.”

“Why? What’s the problem?” asked Logan.

The glyphs vanished.

“Actually I think the cultist was implying they were putting up a barrier, not trying to break it. I wish I had studied Indian back in the day.”

The fearless Elizabeth opened the door.

The captain’s quarters were dark. In a corner the heroes found a cage with a human inside.

“Are you a demon?” asked Elizabeth.

“What? No. Me servant. Servant” said the human, who looked like a wiry old man. His accent made it clear he was Indian, and probably from one of the lowest castes.

While Elizabeth was chatting with the old man, Bronze Bullet found the captain’s log and began looking for entries about his target, Wangchuk Drupa. The Tibetan monk had inquired about passage to Belfast, but the captain could only carry him as far as Newport due to dangerous conditions (i.e. Aysle).

“And then woman come after everyone dead” said the old servant who was still in his cage “She have clothes like this” he pantomimed something like strands falling from her sleeves “And feather in hair. She break captain soul jar then leave.”

Elizabeth looked in the direction the servant was pointing. There were indeed the remains of an ancient jar, now broken, lying on the floor.

“Prepare for demons!” shouted Gregor as his Aurel blade began to glow.

Leaves swirled around the room and coalesced into the shape of an Indian woman with glowing eyes and a huge bow. “Humans. Defilers. You shall be my first servants. Kneel.”

“I only serve Dunad!” yelled Gregor, charging at the woman. Between the combined might of Gregor and Logan she went down quickly.



Minutes later the heroes, alongside the servant, were running away from the ship. A huge tiger emerged from it and gave chase through the gospog swamp. The creature was fast and tough, prompting Bronze Bullet to come with an alternative escape plan. He grabbed one of ship’s lifeboats, added some wheels, a couple of the ship's cannons at the back for propulsion, and a tiny bit of eternium for good measure. Elizabeth drove the impromptu vehicle while Gregor and Logan kept the giant tiger and the gospog at bay. The fire from earlier still burned, but at least the heroes rolled through quickly enough to avoid nasty burns.

The thick jungle forced them to abandon their vehicle. Logan managed to land a hit that killed the tiger, though by now the heroes knew how futile the attempt was. As they looked for a path through the trees, the tiger’s carcass turned into dust, and the dust turned into the woman from the ship. “You shall not escape” she promised while chanting spells.

“Tell me your name, creature of darkness!” shouted Gregor.

“I am your queen and goddess, Boddhi Pallien.”

----

Karungali, India, Orrorsh, Night 57
Bronze Bullet, Elizabeth Poliakova, Gregor MacConnor, Logan MacCormack

Just as the sun was setting, the heroes emerged in Karungali. The stench of death overtook them, as well as the sight of red tunics and many rifles.

“DOWN!” yelled a voice. The heroes ducked and a volley of bullets killed the gospog pursuing them.

The Storm Knights got back to their feet and looked around. The village had been massacred. Dead bodies of villagers lay strewn around.

“Who are you? What did you do to these poor people?” asked Elizabeth angrily.

“Captain Hewitt Brenton, ma’am. 117th company.” answered the commanding officer. “I would advise you choose your words better though, these people apparently worshipped some false god and were killed by the gospog for their choice.”

“Jesus is the son of God, he protected them!” she responded, prompting the company chaplain to come forward and begin debating the finer points of the life of the Failed Saviour.

The captain sighed and went off to organize defences for the night. Logan, Gregor and Bronze Bullet followed as well, not interested in theological differences between the Sacellar and Orthodox faith. On the way they confirmed that none of the villagers had been killed by bullets, which gave some credence to the captain’s claim. Together they helped finish fortifying the former hotel before sharing a strong drink.

When things calmed down and gospog began attacking the hotel, the heroes put their heads together to take a look at the situation. On the one hand they had found a lead towards Wangchuk, the man who had nearly killed Bronze Bullet’s aunt and cousin. On the other hand, a Native American woman had freed a dangerous demon and probably had some nefarious plans as well. She recalled pleasantly the one time she had encountered a similar woman in Hong Kong. Chances they were the same person were very high.

“I don’t mind putting my personal vengeance aside for the time being.” said Bronze Bullet.

Gregor answered “I am worried, though, that the Tibetan monk is also planning on doing something twisted.”

“Besides Belfast is not far from our domain on the Isle of Skye.” added Logan “Anyway, as long as I get to crack heads and drink booze I’m up for anything.”

“Let’s keep going on the same trail.” finished Elizabeth.

The heroes were dreading another trudge through the jungle towards Chennai, fortunately Logan found a Delphi Council cache containing a rowboat right next to the hotel. The heroes embarked towards the next leg on their journey after promising Brenton to pass a message to his superiors requesting evacuation.

Istrian
Hobgoblin
Posts: 45
Joined: Tue Feb 11, 2020 4:57 pm

Re: [Game Stories] Make Earth Glorious Again

Post by Istrian »

Boston, USA, Core Earth, Night 51
Damien Monnet, Alicia Kalachnikova, Leonid Slovokin

The police car stopped in front of the airport. Inspector Mittermeier greeted the Storm Knights as they arrived and explained the situation. A major moving fight had erupted between a biker gang and a student gang near Meridian Street. The police managed to lead the fighters away from civilians and into an airport maintenance hangar, however Mittermeier was hesitant to order an assault because, apparently, some witnesses and policemen had described at least one of the fighters as being “able to survive mortal wounds”, which put it into Stormer category.

Damien wasn’t too keen on helping the police and Alicia wanted to avoid being used as reality-rated cannon fodder until there was confirmation of Stormer sightings. Leonid suggested sneaking in to take a look, and to be in position to help the SWAT team should they encounter Stormers. The other two agreed.

Alicia followed the SWAT team entering through underground maintenance tunnels while Leonid and Damien stealthily ziplined to the roof. The latter entered first through the offices, made contact with three employees who were hiding inside, and directed them to a safe corner of the roof. Then they took a look inside the hangar. They could clearly see the two groups. The bikers were led by a massive man dressed as a butcher with a pair of cleavers in his hands. On the other side of the hangar Damien recognized Lexi, the girl he had heard back in the MIT auditorium explaining the attack plan against the Meridianers. Both groups were busy exchanging insults and taunts in order to get the other to leave their safe ground.

Leonid decided to try the diplomatic approach and, after Damien had switched the power off, began to explain why they should surrender by outlining what he did to stop both of them. Unfortunately the Auditors took this as a sign he was on the Meridianers’ side and began the attack. Lexi and some of her followers rushed towards the heroes and threw flasks of acid and toxic gas at them. Damien and Leonid tried to keep the death rate as low as possible by not using lethal force. In the meantime Alicia came in with the SWAT and found herself facing the butcher, though only after he had had time to cut up some of the Auditors. He told her to stay out of it menacingly. She responded with a lightning bolt, followed by a fireball. The two spells barely scratched the man, though she did not feel him use possibility energy. She was expecting to die there, however the butcher took a quick look at the area where Leonid, Damien were still fighting Lexi and threw his cleavers on the ground.

“I’ve done what I had to. At least our kids are safe from those drug-dealers.”

On the other side of the hangar things were going well in a weird sense. Damien had been hit by a stray pulley on a chain then accidentally pushed Leonid off the walkway where they were standing. Leonid fell on a student. Lexi and the other students attempted to seize the opportunity to flee, however the girl slipped on the stairs and fell on Leonid. One of the students followed suit.

That was where things turned south. Two explosions were heard in quick succession and a part of the ceiling collapsed. Four commandos rappelled into the hangar, spreading smoke and bullets. One of them grabbed Lexi and quickly fled the scene while the others guarded the rear. Leonid, Damien and Alicia felt the fleeing assailant use possibility energy. Damien gave everything into pursuing the fleeing Stormer GLORIOUSLY. With Alicia’s help he grabbed one of the remaining soldiers’ rope and followed to the roof where he found three gliders waiting and one already fleeing. He grabbed one of the gliders, collided with the Stormer, recovered Lexi, and fell into the bay.

On the way back he asked Lexi if the commandos had been friends of hers. She had no idea who they were or what they wanted. Instead of handing her to the police, Damien let her run away, though they agreed to keep in contact. Mutual attraction was in the air.

The Storm Knights avoided the journalists and were driven back home by Mittermeier. On the way they discussed the events. Damien was convinced that someone else was pulling the string behind the scenes, having the Auditors and Meridianers fight each other, though the goal was unclear. He also believed the commandos were people who were experimenting on Stormers, probably trying to transfer their powers to others, like the research he had heard about in the Cyberpapacy.

----

Boston, USA, Core Earth, Day 52
Damien Monnet, Alicia Kalachnikova, Leonid Slovokin

The heroes woke up late and put a new plan in motion. Alicia called the drug dealer from the day before and asked for an impossibly high amount of red pills. The dealer offered to supply as much as he could by the end of the afternoon. The dealer left his home and got on the bus. Damien and Alicia sat behind him while Leonid kept his distance. The dealer led them to a quiet residential neighborhood where he headed for an apartment building. In front of it, robed people were handing out pamphlets. Damien went around the building, found an entrance to the basement and picked the lock.

The basement was far from the expected cramped damp and dirty place. It was quite luxurious, including oak panels. The heroes found a vestiary where robes were kept and infiltrated the cult in disguise. Three areas in particular drew their attention. The main hall where members of the cult were gathering and waiting for something, a door guarded by two people who would not let simple novices through, and a drinks area. Leonid headed for that one while Alicia and Damien waited in the meeting hall.

Leonid had a chat with another cultist, who turned out to be an ordinary man who was looking for the excitement of such social gatherings and secret societies. He was drinking the local fruit punch, and Leonid followed suit. In the gathering hall, Alicia and Damien saw the drug dealer talking to one of the initiates of the cult, unsubtly asking for a few hundred pills “I’m planning to gather some people to share into the teachings of the Master.” Alicia took a look at the cult’s pamphlets. They were calling themselves the Cult of Jormungandr, which Alicia noticed was horribly misspelled. Their beliefs revolved around getting the Great Snake’s help to defend the true believers against dinosaurs.

A bell rang and the cultists gathered in the meeting hall, which was split in half by a curtain. Incense smoke poured into the room. Leonid felt something tugging at his mind but shrugged it off. The curtain opened revealing a giant snake’s head sculpted into the back wall. Two initiates were chanting something. The snake’s mouth opened and a small bona fide lizardman crawled out. The Storm Knights had never seen edeinos before but this one matched the description fairly well. Leonid noticed the two initiates at the front and the third one in the room also had scaly hands.

The edeino “high priest” began a sermon, chanting for the great snake’s protection. The people around seemed unfazed and chanted along. Then the edeino began talking about the great snake demanding a sacrifice. A thing called a book, an ancient grimoire that was dormant in the city. The creature went on to describe with great precision the heroes’ current address.

“I got it here” interrupted Leonid.

“What?” asked the high priest, his speech momentarily broken.

Leonid brandished the fake grimoire they still had from earlier and threw it at the priest. The edeino looked at him incredulously, then yelled “A traitor has infiltrated our cult. Seize him.”

With the cult all around them, the heroes decided they needed to stop the brainwashing somehow. Leonid studied the situation and realized there was no way to do anything. Damien and Alicia focused their fire on the priest as they were unaware about the other edeinos. Damien missed and Alicia disconnected while casting a lightning bolt. She was immediately seized by the human cultists.

The priest chanted something in his language and bones began growing out of the other edeinos. They leapt at the Storm Knights and Damien barely managed to avoid being slashed in half. The situation turned from bad to worse as Alicia struggled to reconnect, finding her spells and weapons unusable. Leonid was focused on staying alive. Damien was captured by one of the edeinos and in the process of being dragged towards the priest who was brandishing a bone dagger. Another edeino appeared next to the priest. Alicia reconnected and freed herself from the grasp of the surrounding cultists but hesitated for a moment.

“Do it!” yelled Damien.

Alicia shot a lightning bolt at the edeino holding Damien and a fireball at the priest and his guard. The guard was fried instantly while the priest managed to survive the hit, though was barely able to stand afterward. The edeino holding Damien, on the other hand, was fine. Damien was not, having been hit by an extremely powerful lightning bolt. He was heavily wounded as a result.

The diminutive edeino priest fled through the snake’s head, and prompted his warriors to kill the humans. Before they could do serious harm to anyone, though, the edeinos collapsed, in part due to sudden fatigue, and in part because of the bones growing out of their bodies.

The remaining human cultists were a minor problem, though a time-consuming one. By the time they were disabled and the heroes able to search around the premises, the edeino high priest was gone. In the back room, though, they found a human surrounded with primitive chemistry equipment. He surrendered without a fight and explained he was a pharmacist who had been caught by the edeinos and forced to produce the pills based on the plants at the back. Leonid checked the strange bright red flowers and found them to be imbued with divine essence as well.

Mittermeier and the police arrived on-scene soon after and took over the human cultists who seemed to have no recollection of the event. The Storm Knights interrogated the edeino prisoners, though their answers were too straightforward to make sense. At least they managed to get some names, such as the high priest’s, Dakar’ss, and his superior, Rek Stalek.

With the drug threat dealt with, the heroes returned home. They found the penthouse ransacked and the grimoire gone. After checking for the lack of any leftover listening devices, Leonid hacked the building’s surveillance system. The cameras had been tampered with, however he managed to find a backup recording which showed two cars driving into the alley outside, then out. A quick call to Mittermeier gave the heroes two names and addresses.



Jack was busy making milkshakes in his apartment’s kitchen while his girlfriend was taking a shower. He was quite happy with his lot in life. Dinosaurs were invading the US but Boston seemed to be safe, and he had some contacts to get him out if he needed to. Usually he was the one moving people left and right, a well-paid job with little risk as he was not involved in anything himself. He picked up the milkshake and headed for the living room.

Jack stared down the barrel of a shotgun, an assault rifle and a grenade launcher. The shotgun was held by a burly man wearing a dirty doctor’s coat. The assault rifle belonged to an ordinary-looking woman. Jack worried most about the grenade launcher as it was in the hands of a teenager who looked very much like the good-for-nothings who stuck around the building’s entrance looking for easy marks.

Leonid pointed his shotgun towards an empty chair. “Where’s the grimoire?” he asked.

“The what?” asked Jack, reconsidering his life choices.

“The big book you picked up at our place.” said Damien.

“I got no idea what you’re talking about. I’m just a driver. I move people, I don’t get involved in their mess.” said Jack restlessly.

“How about you tell us everything from this afternoon.” prompted Alicia.

Jack sang like a bird. He didn’t have much choice anyway. Soon enough the heroes had the address where the grimoire was taken.

“Let’s go back a bit. You mentioned one of the people today was not the usual kind of guy. Tell me more.” asked Leonid.

“Eh, well, he didn’t have any gang tattoos like the usual people. He was more suit and tie, like Al Capone.”

----

Cairo, Egypt, Nile Empire, Night 59
Kwang “Lightning” Im, Garrick Heinston, Tobias Lynch
Spoilers for Lost in the Fog (Delphi Missions: Rising Storm)

“Will you be having a newspaper with your drink?” asked the stewardess on the flight from Delphi to Cairo.

“No thank you, I was going to sleep” answered Kwang.

“Are you sure? I hear the Cairo Clairon has a very interesting article about night markets.”

“Thank you but I am too tired.”

“Just read the damn newspaper.”

Finally understanding the subtlety of Nile operations, Kwang read the newspaper. One of the smaller articles caught his attention: “Sabella Requests Help.” The article contained enough information to start looking for the informant in question, but not enough to identify them outright.

The plane landed without issue and the Storm Knights got their first impressions of Cairo. Garrick was especially interested in the Pharaoh’s statues. Tobias, on the other hand, had finally succeeded in convincing the target of his affections, Pr Arya Munshi, to follow him on grand adventures. Both were delighted in touring the city. Kwang embraced his new identity as “Lightning”, the Korean cow-boy who shoots lightning from his fingers, and purchased a fitting mask and Sherif star (spelling is correct, Kwang’s English was not).

Once night fell, the heroes headed for the Narsuq. In order to divert attention and get everyone’s cooperation in locating Sabella, he used his magic to take on the Pharaoh’s appearance. As he expected, the crowd fled in panic, although not for the reasons he thought. On the other hand two police officers approached him.

“Sir. You’re under arrest for impersonating our great leader.” one of them said.

“What makes you think I am not the Pharaoh?” he asked.

“You’re obviously not him. That’s just not how he dresses.”

“Tell me more.” he insisted, GLORIOUSLY tricking them.

While the police officers debated the Pharaoh’s fashion sense, Kwang, Tobias and Arya were also harrassed by the police. Tobias accidentally ended in the Nile but managed to get out before a large crocodile had his lunch.

Eventually the heroes managed to contact Sabella and were led to her warehouse. The Fog attacked and was quickly repelled by Tobias’ possibility-rending spells. While they were about to interrogate the unsuccessful villain, the Iron Crocodile appeared and speared The Fog to a wall. The heroes decided to join forces with the aforementioned Fog and arrested the Iron Crocodile.

With Sabella saved, the heroes finally managed to get their actual mission briefing. It involved archaeologists looking for help deep in the Sudanese desert.

Before turning in for the night, Garrick and Lightning decided to have a drink in a speakeasy, the address of which Garrick had managed to obtain earlier from some passersby in the Narsuq. Sadly the evening was disturbed by Lightning being mistaken for a patron with a large tab. That night Lightning learned to avoid starting a fight in a mafia-controlled establishment.

----

Alexandria, Egypt, Nile Empire, Day 60
Lithiel, Michael Goodenough, Ivy, Hiroto Nogushi

Lithiel and Ivy examined the contraption. It was a cage of glass and metal located at the end of an alley. Inside was a device with a numbered wheel connected to a horn-like protrusion with a wire. Michael entered the phone booth and dialed the number they had been given. Shutters went up, hiding him from his companions’ view. When the shutters went down again, Michael was nowhere in sight. Lacking any other options, the heroes entered one by one, with Ivy and her pet pterodactyl coming up last.

The ground opened beneath her and swallowed her. She landed in something comfy: a leather armchair. The other Storm Knights were likewise seated in a reception area. The mandatory blonde secretary was busy filing her nails in a corner of the room.

“What’s it for?” she asked in a stereotypical Kansas accent.

The Storm Knights introduced themselves and asked to meet the branch director for a briefing. The secretary pushed a button on her phone.

“Mr McPherson. Two gentlemen, one lady and one…” she took a long look at Ivy “... being of questionable fashion taste and public morals to see you. All Storm Knights.”

A wooden panel slid open and the heroes met with the local branch director, Peter McPherson, a older gentleman with a balding head wearing a beige suit. He indicated a crate in a corner and began to explain their mission with a practiced radio host voice.

“This crate, Storm Knights, contains dozens of weird science gadgets. However, we have no idea why we received them. Your job is to find that out and sort any issues that come with it.”

Hiroto and Michael examined the crate and its contents while Lithiel and Ivy asked questions about how it got there. The latter was a very simple explanation, the mailman delivered it as usual. Michael took a look at the contents and decided to borrow a couple of gadgets with the director’s blessing.

“Be careful. We have not yet had them examined. They may malfunction any time!”

Hiroto found the shipping label and the name of the deliveryman. The crate was from Cairo, was shipped by train through the Smouha warehouse in Alexandria, then delivered by Abdelrahman Sabbagh from Imperial Mail.

----

Novostroyka, Blasted Land, Tharkold-Core Earth, Day 60
Amethyst Ninja, In-Soon Heo, Samarj Chopade

The Storm Knights, now traveling with Kordran the former scavenger, entered the region the ex-army-Major-turned-warlord Elena Rahmanova was trying to take over. Their orders from the Russians, approved by the Delphi Council, were to stop her. Permanently.

The heroes stopped in the first settlement they saw, a tiny sad hamlet now heavily fortified. The people inside were at first cold, but warmed up as soon as Samarj began telling tales of their great deeds in the Blasted Lands. The villagers had heard of an organized group of deserters attacking settlements. In fact their neighbors had just been attacked. The heroes were redirected towards the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, the largest one around.

While they were talking, the ground suddenly caved in and ghûls began attacking from below. The surprise attack posed few threats to the seasoned Storm Knights, although Amethyst Ninja and Samarj were at some point wondering if the locals were not trying to set them up. Fortunately everything ended well with no casualties on the civilian side.

----

Manorhamilton, Ireland, Aysle, Day 60
Bronze Bullet, Elizabeth Poliakova, Gregor MacConnor, Logan MacCormack

A Delphi Council ship dropped the heroes as close as they could to Belfast: on the other side of Ireland, in a small coastal town that was still part of the few isolated Core Earth territories. From there they entered Aysle and began a slow trek to the east. On the way they were intercepted by a mounted patrol of mixed Core Earthers and Aylish people who identified themselves as part of the remains of the Irish army. They had been cut off from HQ for weeks and resorted to patrolling the area. Regarding the roads to Belfast, the ranking officer had only this to say.

“You’re out of luck I’m afraid. We’ve tried to get to Belfast as well to get new orders. The fastest road is through Manorhamilton but… currently it’s unusable. There’s some kind of black ash blocking the way. We tried to ride through but found ourselves back at the entrance. Your group is smaller than ours, though, so you might be able to find a usable trail elsewhere given enough time.”

The Storm Knights thanked them for the directions and decided to try to go through Manorhamilton first as they had no idea how far behind Wangchuk Drupa they were. As the officer had described, they found a road between two hills. Clouds of ash blocked their way, but they still went on. Soon enough their throats and lungs began to burn, and at the same time, they felt something tugging at their mind. Elizabeth managed to shake it off and lead the other forward.

They left the fog and found themselves facing the small town of Manorhamilton, safely nested between many hills. From afar it seemed to be peaceful and prosperous, with a low wooden wall surrounding it. As they approached however, things turned grimmer. Wooden pikes were set in the ground next to the southern gate. Small humanoid winged creatures were impaled on them, dead. Guards were watching the approaching travelers from above the gate.

“Hey, are you humans or monsters?” called out one of the guards.

“We’re humans. We’re just travelers looking for a road to Belfast.” answered Elizabeth.

“You sure look human enough. Hey wait, what’s under that mask? Show your face!” said the guard to Bronze Bullet.

“I’m a human, I assure you.” answered the masked vigilante.

“Then show your face or go away.”

No amount of negotiation would make the guards relent and the heroes decided to continue their road. It happened to follow the palissade. They found a similar committee at the eastern gate, except this time the impaled body was that of a centaur. While they were talking, suddenly the ground opened nearby and roaming nibikrids emerged. The creatures proved to be unchallenging foes on their own, in fact the heroes had more trouble with the archers on the walls who decided to rain volleys upon volleys of arrows on the battle and did not care about collateral damage.

When the monsters retreated into their underground lair, Bronze Bullet decided to demand an explanation and activated his jetpack to get to the guards’ eye level.

“We’re being attacked!” yelled one of the guards just as the hero began to rise in the air “Kill’em before they breach our defences!”

Bronze Bullet suddenly found himself facing the business end of multiple bows. One of the guards ran away to raise the alarm. Elizabeth threatened one of the guards with divine retribution unless he opened the gate. Surprisingly, he was so scared that he did so. Logan pursued and stopped the retreating guard. Gregor ran up to the guards and dispatched them quickly. Elizabeth caught the falling Bronze Bullet who had disconnected in mid-air while shooting at the guards.

The heroes decided to avoid sticking around for another welcome committee and hid in a dark alley to patch up their wounds. While they did so, an alarm was indeed raised and armed militiamen began patrolling the streets, going door to door and asking people if they had seen anyone suspicious. Soon enough a bell rang and townsfolk began to head towards the town square. The heroes followed.

The burgmeister was giving a speech. As far as speeches went, Gregor judged it to be the right tone, but the wrong content. The leader of this community was succeeding in uniting the people, albeit against a non-enemy: non-humans. The heroes were quickly fed up with the discourse and decided to spring to action.

Elizabeth and Bronze Bullet spoke out against the burgmeister, breaking his arguments one by one, and trying to get the townsfolk to stop assaulting them. Logan began breaking the town militia, one by one. Gregor walked out and shouted “Face me, and face the justice of Dunad!” to the burgmeister.

Militiamen converged on the heroes, supported by the townsfolk who, while not a direct threat, were still a big hindrance. The burgmeister revealed a few tricks of his own by enlarging his bodyguard and hopping on his shoulder to go and face Gregor as requested. The giant militiaman carefully waded through the crowd until he was tripped by Bronze Bullet and Elizabeth. The burgmeister fell to his death while Elizabeth, still the usual angry elderly lady, finished recriminating the crowd about their misdeeds.

After taking down the burgmeister the heroes found themselves facing a new problem. He may have had questionable ethics, but he still did a fine job leading and protecting the community that was still cut off from the outside. This last problem was resolved by Logan who, during the search of the town hall, noticed an enchanted contraption that was emitting ash and smashed it to pieces. The resulting magical surge, unfortunately, destroyed his favorite enchanted helmet.

Now that Manorhamilton was back on the map, the heroes sent for the army officer they encountered earlier to assume temporary leadership of the town. And there was much rejoicing.

----

Cairo, Egypt, Nile Empire, Day 60
Lithiel, Michael Goodenough, Ivy, Hiroto Nogushi

A quatuor of thugs lay on the floor with broken ribs. Ivy and Hiroto began interrogating them about the crate that was sent out of the house where they now were. Unfortunately, the thugs did not know much. They had been hired to guard the place and keep anyone away from the basement where their boss usually worked. They thought the heroes were there to ask questions about that and tried to scare them away with violence. Present circumstances proved that plan was faulty.

Lithiel and Michael examined the door leading to the basement. As it was locked, Michael began to pick the lock only to realize it had unexpected components in the shape of a mathematical puzzle on top of the usual tumbler mechanism. Fortunately Michael managed to disable it before it shot a laser beam through his eye.

Downstairs the heroes found a weird science workshop full of unfinished gadgets with no traces of the aforementioned gadgeteer. The thugs indicated that the boss had left a few days before to look for their missing apprentice, and also, apparently, a client who failed to pay for a delivery.

Their inquiries in Cairo being done, the heroes took the train back to Alexandria. As they were discussing the case, the doors on both sides of the carriage opened and a masked Nile officer accompanied by shocktroopers assaulted the group while demanding they return his missing package. Moments later shocktroopers were flying left and right and out of the windows. Michael tried to protect himself with an ankh he had borrowed from the crate, but it crumbled to dust and the gods themselves punished him with a lightning bolt.

During the fight Hiroto managed to get the officer to talk about his nefarious reasons for being there. The officer, Lieutenant Semut, brandished a small package and threw it at the heroes demanding they return the weird science gadgets they had stolen. He also requested reinforcements, which leaped in through the windows. Looking outside, Lithiel immediately noticed the zeppelin floating above the train.

----

Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Blasted Land, Core Earth Hardpoint, Day 60
Amethyst Ninja, In-Soon Heo, Samarj Chopade

The heroes arrived at the largest hardpoint in the area, and, after introducing themselves to the guards, began to look for information about Rhamanova’s operations.

Samarj’s mind-scanning of the locals turned up that they were very much aware of the threat but factual and useful information was hard to come by. Until recently Rahmanova’s army had stayed on the eastern side of the Dvina river, with only occasional incursions on this side. Western raids, however, were becoming more frequent by the week, going as far as the nearby Savinsky. In-Soon confirmed with the locals that they were thinking about moving away when things became desperate, any time now they were expecting news about the fall of one of the two major settlements on the Dvina: Bereznik to the south, and Archangelsk (or, as the locals jokingly referred to it, Archtharkolduelsk) to the north.

Amethyst Ninja got the jackpot when he learned that they were not the only ones actually investigating Rahmanova. In the canteen he found a very average-looking man who was studying maps of the local areas.

“Karl.” he introduced himself “Nice to meet you. Your clothes tell me you’re not from around here. Delphi Council or independent?”

“Delphi Council at the moment” answered Amethyst Ninja, calling the others for a chat with Karl.

Karl introduced himself as a problem-solver. His clients, further to the west, had been attacked by some of Rahmanova’s troops and now he was trying to end the threat. He agreed to work with the Storm Knights and shared a few tidbits about the situation. Rahmanova’s troops were not like the usual roaming gang. As former soldiers, they were highly trained and organized and had in fact begun conquering cities right and left. So far he only found two strongholds: Kholmogory, their weapons and ammunition factory, and Siya, a farming community. He was pretty sure neither of them housed Rahmanova’s headquarters but still wanted to visit either to snoop for more information, and now that he had more numbers, perhaps interrogate an officer or two.

----

Alexandria, Egypt, Nile Empire, Day 60
Lithiel, Michael Goodenough, Ivy, Hiroto Nogushi

The next stop was Smouha Warehouse through which the crate had passed before ending up in DCHQ. As soon as they had knocked at the door, the warehouse manager mistook Hiroto for an auditor and began laying thick compliments and bribes. The other Storm Knights were left to “audit” the shipping books.

The mail around the warehouse was handled by two major companies, both national. One handled maritime transport and the other railways. Michael discovered that both had had shipments mislabeled and misdelivered, all of that starting a couple of weeks before.

“I was wondering, who is going to replace Mr Nazari? I am one as high-ranking as you must know.” asked the warehouse manager.

Hiroto was stumped, having never heard the name before. “Do you have someone in mind?” he asked.

“Well.” said the manager puffing his chest “I am sure you will find everything in this warehouse has been managed properly, despite Mr Nazari’s death. One would be proud to serve our great Pharaoh, may his life be eternal, even further.”

The conversation was interrupted by an employee whispering something into the manager’s ear. The manager paled and muttered. “I… err… am terribly… uhm… sorry. Ah, thing is, uhm. There’s a bomb. I am terribly sorry, sir. That has nothing to do with me.”

Hiroto took over the conversation and the employee handed him a letter. It explained in detail how a bomb was hidden in the warehouse and was going to explode should anyone try to leave the premises. The author wanted a large sum of money from the manager.

The heroes sprang into action and began looking for the bomb. The first thing they noticed were six people snooping around. These immediately opened fire. Ivy tried to get close to them quickly for a big whipping but slipped and fell from the walkway into a crate full of live scarabs. Lithiel, who remained near the office area, heard a noise coming from the archives. Inside, a mysterious man wearing a suit and old trench coat rummaged through the papers.

As soon as he was noticed he opened fire as well, shouting “This is my town. Get out.”

As soon as the first group understood they were outgunned they began to flee. At the same the bomb was found and Michael set to defusing it. Suddenly the doors opened and a squad of shocktroopers poured in, demanding surrender from just about everyone involved and opened fire. The trench coat-wearing man switched from shooting Lithiel to shooting shocktroopers. An earthquake shook the warehouse but Michael managed to keep a steady hand and disarm the bomb.

The warehouse manager emerged from his hiding place and explained to the soldiers that Hiroto was an imperial auditor and had saved the warehouse with the help of his associates. The trench coat-wearing man was nowhere to be found.

Hiroto looked further into the name mentioned by the warehouse manager and easily found that Hossam Nazari had been a high-ranking official in charge of transport infrastructure across the North African region. He died two weeks before in a tragic crocodile-related accident in Thebes. The most likely people to succeed him were his two direct subordinates: Mahmoud Harb, in charge of maritime transport, and Yasmine Kanaan who directed railway transit. Overgovernor Mayhew had not yet announced his decision.

The heroes put together the information they had and decided to question the mailman who had delivered the gadget crate. He was out making deliveries, but his description was unique enough for them to go look for him directly. He was supposed to be a tall man with a scarred eye and crocodile teeth marks on his left cheek.

They found him quickly, suspended by his feet from the Great Lighthouse. People in striped suits led by someone in a giant cockroach costume were shaking him. Ivy sent Pterry to free the man. Sadly it meant he was now in freefall. The mafiosi also noticed the heroes below and filled the air with lead.

Ivy managed to catch the falling mailman while the others ran up the lighthouse stairs. The suited woman announced herself as the Grand Cicada and began harassing them. Pterry was heavily wounded and had to retreat. Michael decided to wear a fearsome mask he had borrowed from the weird gadget crate to see what it did. Some of the mafiosi immediately fled in fear. The others were quickly dealt with and the Grand Cicada fled as well, but not before Michael had asked for her number and arranged for dinner.

The scared (and scarred) mailman turned out to have a personality different from what his appearance otherwise suggested.

“What do you all want with me? I just deliver the mail. I don’t know anything about missing birds.”

The man’s interrogation only confirmed that the address switch must have happened inside the warehouse. The heroes left him to his own devices and headed for their next meeting, Michael’s romantic interrogation of a Grand Cicada.

----

Kholmogory, Blasted Land, Tharkold-Core Earth, Night 60
Amethyst Ninja, In-Soon Heo, Samarj Chopade

After examining the situation with Karl, the heroes decided to focus on Kholmogory. It was at the same time the closest to their location and the best stage for a huge explosion with the enemy ammunition factory there. Karl had performed some preliminary reconnaissance before meeting the Storm Knights and was able to work out their troop positions. Some details left In-Soon puzzled. Factories needed resources, however his search did not turn up any transport going in or out, not any active mines in the region. As the enemy still used some customized Russian Army uniforms, Samarj acquired a few of them.

“I think I’ll go in on my own if you don’t mind.” said Karl when offered a uniform “When you Delphi Council people go in, it always ends in trouble. I’d rather use you as a diversion if you don’t mind.”

When night fell, In-Soon and Samarj, uniformed, approached one of Kholmogory’s checkpoints and introduced themselves as scouts from another city with critical information about raider movements, “Commander’s eyes only, I’m sure you understand.”

They were let through, though Amethyst Ninja, who preferred to use stealth rather than guile, overheard one of the guards commenting to another:

“Didn’t know we had people from that far. That guy” he said referring to In-Soon “looks like he comes from even further east than Siberia.”

The heroes were escorted to the city’s monastery, which had been converted into the local headquarters, and met with the base commander.

“My men said it was important.” was his only greeting. “Speak up.”

Thinking quickly, In-Soon spoke first “We have found that a raider chief named Samandriel is planning a move against our eastern outposts. General Rahmanova is planning a pincer maneuver to take them out. You must send out half of your garrison there in support of the operation.”

The commander sighed, nodded and told the messengers to get some rest at the barracks.

While they were going that way, soldiers emerged on both sides and pointed their guns at the heroes, demanding their surrender. Fortunately Amethyst Ninja was nearby, having noticed the soldiers moving into position. Unfortunately it was not very helpful. While the first wave was quickly dealt with, there were always more soldiers coming out of the woodwork, including some of the heavy power-armored ones. Samarj and In-Soon were heavily wounded and one of the soldiers pulled the Heart of Osiris away from Amethyst Ninja. Angry and powerless, the 12-year-old Ninja tore the jar away from his attacker, opened a way for the others to follow and blew up the munitions factory in the process. This was the opening Samarj and In-Soon needed: they quickly found and abducted one of the key administrators working for the city commander. They also found a boat and Karl and left by way of the river.

The administrator’s mind was an open book to Samarj, though it quickly became a painful one for both of them. She quickly learned that most members working close to the top were fitted with occultech to discourage mind scans. That included deserters. Still, she managed to find out three important things. First, Rahmanova’s headquarters were in fact in a Tharkoldu submarine. Second, they were on the way to attack and conquer Bereznik, the second largest remaining settlement on the river after Arkhangelsk. Third, Rahmanova had some paperwork in an Asian language Samarj did not recognize. That hinted at foreign support, which was worrying in itself.

For now the emergency was Bereznik, the heroes headed that way.

Istrian
Hobgoblin
Posts: 45
Joined: Tue Feb 11, 2020 4:57 pm

Re: [Game Stories] Make Earth Glorious Again

Post by Istrian »

Alexandria, Egypt, Nile Empire, Night 60
Lithiel, Michael Goodenough, Ivy, Hiroto Nogushi

Dinner at the Alminah Restaurant turned out to be an unusual endeavour. The Grand Cicada was masked, and Michael was bugged. More specifically the Storm Knights had found a use for the misdelivered listening equipment the Delphi Council no longer needed. It was taped to Michael, hidden underneath his clothes. Lithiel, Ivy and Hiroto sat at another table listening in to the conversation and chaotically suggesting topics for conversation.

After some small talk, and actually introducing themselves as mercenaries to one another, Michael began to probe for information. Cicada attempted to recruit Michael into her group instead, which already gave Michael some information : she was working for someone else, an Alexandrian crime boss named Tyrus Lamb. He was looking for a misdelivered package as well.

A waiter delivered a note from Hiroto, which also contained a sizable amount of money, and Michael began to negotiate in earnest. He managed to purchase some potential leads, including a promising one regarding a shipping company Cicada was investigating: Price Mail Services. It was a private company competing locally with the big Imperial names. A likely candidate to sabotage the other companies’ efforts.

The rest of the dinner passed without issues and Michael and Cicada agreed to perhaps meet again some other day.

The Storm Knights headed for the PMS headquarters. Even this late into the night the building still had people working. The heroes infiltrated the place through the backdoor leading into the warehouse, then headed for the archives. As soon as they entered the archive room, a bright light shone into their faces.

“Well now, whom do we have here?” said a gruff voice.

The voice belonged to a man wearing a trench coat and a fedora hat. He was holding a flashlight in one hand and a gun in the other. Both were pointing at the heroes.

“Fancy meeting you here. Are you looking for something in particular?”

“And you?” asked Michael.

“In case you haven’t noticed, I’m the one holding a gun. I’ll be asking the questions.”

“There’s four of us and only one of you-” began Lithiel before being cut short by the stranger.

“Sure there are. The way I see it, you’re here to look at records, and you didn’t get in through the front door if you follow my drift. So all I have to do is fire once and then run away.” The stranger tucked his flashlight under his shoulder and took out a lighter “I could also set the archives on fire. Now, who are you and what do you want?”

“Storm Knights” said Ivy “We’re looking into delivery problems in town.”

“Delphi Council then? I heard about you people. Running around and setting things on fire all the time. Well, let me tell you, this is my city and I’m not letting you burn it down. I got bigger fish to fry at the moment though.”

“How about we help you fry your fish then?” offered Hiroto.

It quickly turned out the Storm Knights did not have any information that would be of value to the man, though the exchange ended on a more positive note than it began: the stranger left his card. It said “Greg Stone, Private Eye.”

The Storm Knights searched the archives for anything about unfair competition. In the end, there was not much. Business was indeed booming, especially since the delivery incidents began happening. Nothing, however, pointed to sabotage. Lithiel found an interesting side-note about Overgovernor Mayhew personally approving Price Mail Services’ existence while having no apparent ties with the company.

“It doesn’t prove Ellen Price is not guilty” observed Hiroto “but it does make it less likely.”

“That leaves us with Yasmine Kanaan and Hossam Nazari” said Michael, ticking a name off his list. “How about we pay them a visit tomorrow?”

----

Bereznik, Blasted Land, Tharkold-Core Earth, Night 60
Amethyst Ninja, In-Soon Heo, Samarj Chopade

The heroes had a couple of options. Infiltrating Rahmanova’s submarine would be very easy while her special forces were focused on preparing the conquest of Bereznik, however that would doom the city. That option did not sit well with Ninja, though Samarj was in favor of it as Rahmanova’s forces had already nearly succeeded in killing them once tonight. In-Soon was once again left with making the final decision. Karl said he’d head straight for the submarine.

Defending the city turned out to be much easier than expected. The enemy special forces were quickly heavily wounded and forced to retreat while the heroes warned the city’s population and set up some tricks to make the city look much stronger than it really was, turning the main force from Kholmogory back on its tracks. On the way, Amethyst Ninja saved a child soldier about his age and instantly fell in love with her. Unfortunately he was in a hurry but promised to come back quickly. The heroes shadowed the fleeing special strike force and managed to enter the submarine.

The inside was much roomier than expected, looking more like a starship from popular sci-fi shows than the usual cramped Core Earth submarines. It seemed their entrance was stealthy enough to give them some breathing space and In-Soon asked for a pause while he meditated to take care of his wounds.

Unfortunately during that time the situation changed. An alarm rang. Samarj scanned the area and found that they were probably not the cause. Security on-board was hurrying elsewhere, which was probably the “Section 7” mentioned in the alarm. She detected there were still people on the bridge though.

“Where do you think Rahmanova is?” asked Samarj

“With her troops probably.” suggested Ninja “A leader is always at the front, right?”

“Perhaps not.” said In-Soon. “She wasn’t in Bereznik. She might be the kind to lead from the back.”

The minds on the bridge seemed to be less numerous, prompting the heroes to start back there. In the meantime Samarj could feel the minds in Section 7 vanish slowly, one at a time. Probably Karl’s handiwork.

The heroes arrived on the bridge. Like In-Soon had surmised, Rahmanova was in the command chair, debriefing her black ops unit for their failure. They did not have an opportunity to redeem themselves for the failure as Samarj gunned them down moments later. The bridge crew joined the fight, though Rahmanova seemed to be uninterested in calling for reinforcements. Instead she looked straight at Amethyst Ninja, who suddenly switched sides. His quick reflexes were everything that was necessary to turn the fight.

Samarj and In-Soon managed to get rid of the crew only by the time Amethyst Ninja managed to snap out of Rahmanova’s mind control. Then Samarj went down due to a shot from Rahmanova. One blast later and it was In-Soon’s turn. Amethyst Ninja was mentally free, but now he was standing alone, his teammates bleeding on the floor. To top things off, a squad of submarine security troopers arrived.

The 12-year-old ninja was panicked, unsure what to do.

“So, are you done here- oh wait what?” said a voice. It belonged to Karl who had just stepped out of a portal with a grimoire in hand. His face paled when he looked at the dying heroes. “How about I help you get out of here? It’s the least after this helpful diversion of yours.”

“Take Samarj and In-Soon and go. I’ll take care of things here.” shouted Ninja, who was feeling his favorite Nila Empire freak reality surge.

Karl shrugged and did as was told, dragging the two heroes through another portal. “Good luck. I won’t wait for you.”

Ninja was alone against four opponents, giving him a numeric advantage according to Nile mathematics. Moving quickly, he tripped the reinforcements, though they still kept on coming. Then he grabbed Rahmanova’s rifle from her hands and tried to shoot her. This did not go well as she had special protections against energy weapons. The only saving grace was that the submarine was so much out of control that it had drifted too close to a minefield and the rumbling and shaking was more a hindrance to his enemies than to him.

He managed to avoid attacks from Rahmanova and looked inside his bag for anything useful.

“Well, this is awkward, but it’s all I have left,” he said, taking one of the Lüger pistols he had stolen from his arch-nemesis. His disgust turned into irony when Rahmanova fell after his next shot. “Heydrich, I really hate you,” he muttered to the pistol.

The submarine was sinking due to the mines and the lack of leadership. Amethyst Ninja quickly ran to the escape pods, though not without stopping by the offices to grab some interesting-looking papers. Upon surfacing, he found Karl and the others on the shore. In-Soon and Samarj were still barely conscious.

Karl sighed in relief when he saw the young ninja. “Glad you made it out. Now at least I don’t have to lug these two to safety. Guess my job is done, good luck” he said, then muttered to himself “And now I only got to give this book to Zaidi.”

Samarj half-consciously muttered something that could have been “Bastard” when she heard Zaidi’s name.

Amethyst Ninja managed to revive the other two and together they examined the situation. According to the papers and other elements aboard the submarine, Rahmanova had received gold bars with the Bank of Korea’s stamps. This pointed to some operation that was likely still going. In addition, Amethyst Ninja had noticed some half-burned Catholic priests’ bodies in the submarine, who likely had been studying the grimoire before Karl happened upon them. According to the paperwork, they were part of a deal between Rahmanova and a certain Brazilian female priest looking for holy relics. Amethyst Ninja recalled his meeting with the person, when she and her mercenaries had slaughtered a Nile village, taken their now-friend hostage, and tried to destroy the Heart of Osiris Ninja now carried with him.

Samarj explained her own history with Dilawar Zaidi, a rival archaeologist who had called a demon upon a city in Orrorsh and who was likely to have knowledge about a secret society she was looking for.

After some debate, the Storm Knights decided to pursue Karl. Considering Zaidi’s past misdeeds, letting him proceed with whatever his plan was would probably end up with too many dead.

----

Alexandria, Egypt, Nile Empire, Day 61
Lithiel, Michael Goodenough, Ivy, Hiroto Nogushi

The day began with a visit to Mahmoud Harb. Despite being Alexandria’s harbormaster and therefore in charge of nearly all maritime traffic through the Mediterranean, the Storm Knights quickly understood he was almost never in his office. They found him at his manor, a lavish estate built in typical Abbasid Islamic architecture. Hiroto introduced the group as Stormer mercenaries looking for work.

The heroes waited for their turn in a side-room where an officer seemed to be sleeping. He quickly woke up and offered to play a game of poker, which Michael promptly accepted and won. The officer introduced himself as Lieutenant Lewis.

“So, are you waiting for a meeting as well?” asked Hiroto

“Meeting? No, I’m just here to sleep and play poker. Harb doesn’t care much about doing his work, so I’m following my boss’ example. If you’re here to meet him I’d give up if I were you. Or I’d come back later.”

At that moment a servant invited the heroes to meet with the boss.

Mahmoud Harb was the stereotypical example of a corrupt bureaucrat: fat, short, with excessively gaudy clothes and jeweled golden rings on each finger. He might have been a pirate in a past life.

Hiroto attempted to discreetly question him about the situation with misdelivered packages, but it yielded a different result than expected.

“That? Good. My butler told me you’re Stormers and mercenaries.” said Harb, sliding a note across the table. “Go and set fire to the house at this address. I have more than enough money to cover your fees.”

Hiroto picked up the note and asked “Will this solve the recent mail issues?”

“Ah, you’re really worried about that aren’t you? Let’s say that once it’s out of the way, there will be no more issues. I could even put you in charge of that sector. And now the meeting’s over.”

The heroes left and went on to meet Yasmine Kanaan, the other bureaucrat whose name popped up multiple times during the investigation. As luck would have it, she resided at the address provided by Harb, which provided more than enough context about the request. Kanaan’s residence seemed less grand than Harb’s, following classic Victorian London style. Moments later the heroes reconsidered their opinion as they learned Kanaan’s “house” actually included the whole block.

Inside, while walking to Kanaan’s office, Hiroto collided with someone carrying a huge stack of books. After a round of apologies, the heroes introduced themselves to Sira, the estate’s young archivist. Hiroto was particularly interested in snooping arou- helping her organize the archives. She insisted she did not require much help but stayed to chat for a while anyway.

“How come someone as young as yourself is in charge of such an important task?” asked Hiroto

“Well, it was more a matter of opportunity. Actually it was Mr Amenhenheb who had the title originally, but he decided to retire. The local climate did not suit him.”

“Too hot?” inquired Michael

“Ah, no” answered Sira with some embarrassment “Too full of crocodiles. So he went back to his world, Terra I think it was called, and left me in charge.”

Eventually the heroes headed for their appointment. Yasmine Kanaan was in many ways Harb’s opposite. She dressed conservatively in a drab grey dress, with little jewelry or decorations except for a hairpin of ancient Egyptian design holding her hair up. Her only common trait with Harb was that her home office had nothing to do with her job, railway administration. Instead it was full of curios, statuettes, clay tablets, maps and other artifacts related to ancient Egyptian history.

Hiroto went for the mercenary Stormer routine again, though this time he said that Harb offered to pay them to get rid of her, and claimed it would solve the Alexandrian mail issues.

“He would claim that, wouldn’t he? How about this instead: I will pay you double whatever he promised if you get rid of him instead. Plus I’ll throw in future employment regarding… archaeology. And I can guarantee if you do that the mail problems will sort themselves very quickly.”

“Do you want us to set fire to his house too?” asked Michael.

Kanaan looked thoughtful for a moment then shook her head “I admit his tastes are poor, but that’s no reason for arson. Just get rid of him. Kill him, threaten him, brainwash him, throw him into a crate for Kuala Lumpur, I don’t care.”

The heroes excused themselves and went to consider the situation.

To Hiroto it seemed obvious the two were sabotaging each other’s packages in order to get promoted to their deceased superior’s office. Michael had an alternative theory regarding someone else sabotaging their packages while fostering this little war. All Storm Knights agreed that the situation needed a kick in the hornet’s nest to get things moving. Lithiel suggested getting rid of Harb’s first, claiming payment from Kanaan, then getting rid of her as well. It was unanimously accepted.

----

Wadi Halfa, Sudan, Nile Empire, Day 61
Kwang “Lightning” Im, Garrick Heinston, Tobias Lynch

The heroes’ short journey up the Nile paused in Wadi Halfa, still quite far from their final destination: Dongola. The passenger they were traveling on ship was stopped by Nile shocktroopers. Lightning and Garrick got into position to intercept them. To their surprise, the soldiers only exchanged a few words with the captain, then left without searching for hidden heroes. The captain then announced to all passengers that the journey would stop here for the time being and invited anyone in a hurry to find another ship.

Garrick used his magic to disguise himself as one of the soldiers and followed them to the barracks, conveniently located inside the city governor’s palace. Tobias had a chat with one of the disembarking travelers, who turned out to be a merchant with some answers regarding the situation.

“Someone in the palace just wants a bribe.” said the merchant “I’ll just go up there, buy myself a travel permit, then go one. It’s a common process around here.”

Lightning and Tobias went up to the governor’s palace but were stopped at the gate by the guards.

“No-one is allowed to enter.” said the guards.

“We want to obtain a travel permit from the governor,” said Tobias.

“Why should we care about your problems? Also, who’s that masked guy?” asked the guard pointing at Lightning.

“I am personally sent by our Pharaoh to meet with the governor, and this Stormer is with me” stated Tobias forcefully.

The guards let them pass.

Inside the heroes rejoined Garrick, who had returned to his usual appearance, and met with the merchant again. He had obtained his permit and was now leaving. Tobias asked about how to get the permit.

“Well, I don’t want to be rude but it did cost me a pretty penny…” said the merchant.

Lightning handed him some money and obtained directions to the official in charge of travel permits.

“One last thing, you’ll have to put a hundred dollars in the mouth of the lion statue guarding his office.”

The rest of the journey went in a similar fashion. Guards were bribed, officials’ hands were greased, and the life-sized lion statue that for some reason moved as the heroes tried to get past it, ended up being a rich(er) cat.

Their travel permits in hand, Lightning and Garrick were about to leave. Tobias, though, unused to suffering such treatment, went straight up to the governor’s office to complain. After that, as they were making their way through the courtyard, the heroes heard the governor shout for guards to arrest them.

The guards were quickly dispatched by Lightning and Garrick who dragged Tobias away as he tried to complain even more.

----

Alexandria, Egypt, Nile Empire, Night 61
Lithiel, Michael Goodenough, Ivy, Hiroto Nogushi

A truck was speeding through the streets of Alexandria. Hiroto was at the wheel, dodging bullets and the four cars full of armed goons pursuing them. Some of the goons had already made it to the back of the truck where they were fighting the other heroes while trying to throw drums of gas away.

“Floor it or we won’t have enough left to blow the manor up!” yelled Michael while fending off yet another attack from the Masked Mafioso leading this raid. Lithiel was sniping enemy drivers right and left, sending their cars barreling down other streets. Ivy was busy struggling with mob goons to see who would fall down first. As soon as she managed to get rid of her enemies, she began working her charms on the Masked Mafioso, who was not immune to those.

Hiroto finally turned into the avenue that led straight to the manor, and immediately regretted it. He was already full of holes, but on a balcony he recognized Lieutenant Lewis behind a machine-gun ready to receive them. “You shall not foil my plans!” he yelled while shooting.

The first volley took Michael square in the chest and he fell off the truck alongside one of the diesel barrels, which immediately exploded. The Masked Mafioso was thrown off the truck as well, but Ivy offered him a hand up. Problems were not over. Lewis’ bullets had heavily damaged the truck and it threatened to explode. Hiroto began to speed up but a stray shot from a mafia car took him square in the chest, killing him. The truck exploded, propelling Lithiel and Ivy off.

To their surprise, instead of finishing them off, Lewis ordered the mafia goons, who were apparently working for him, to capture the heroes.

Some time later in the same night, Lithiel and Ivy woke up. Their hands were bound together and they were held up above an empty metallic room. The Masked Mafioso was apparently suffering the same fate for betraying his employer.

The aforementioned employer, Lt Lewis, was standing on a walkway next to the heroines.

“You thought you could stop my plans, did you?” he said “You had no chance, for I knew your every move. You see, I was not only Lewis, Harb’s right-hand man. I was also…”

Suddenly he pulled his face off “... Sira, the archivist and closest confidant of Yasmine Kanaan. You might think I had my eyes set on you from the moment we met…”

Sira pulled her face off again “... in that warehouse I was the manager of. Thank you for saving me from that unexpected bomb by the way. But you would be wrong, I knew of your activities from much earlier when…”

The warehouse manager pulled his face off again “... you dropped into the Delphi Council secret office where I was busy filing my nails.”

“So, you were McPherson’s secretary all along!” said Lithiel.

“Wrong again! I am the all-knowing villain with no face, The Chameleon! And now, prepare to suffer a slow death as your lungs fill with water.” said the Chameleon, still with McPherson’s secretary’s face and voice while pulling a lever.

A hole opened in the ceiling and the room began to fill with water. The Chameleon and his guards left.

“Do you still have that spell to breathe underwater?” asked Ivy

“Sorry, I left my cantrips in my home cosm.” answered Lithiel.

Despite their predicament, the heroines managed to free themselves and the Masked Mafioso and began looking for a way out while water was rising. Suddenly one of the Chameleon’s henchmen came to watch over the process. Ivy grabbed the rope that had held them and pulled the man into the water while Lithiel and the Masked Mafioso dove deep to activate the emergency drainage outflow. After a moment of uncertainty, the water drained and the heroines made it to the gate.

It opened suddenly revealing Michael, Hiroto and Greg Stone, the private eye.

“How did you survive!” began Lithiel.

“No time for that now.” Stone cut her off. “Oh, and I see you also have that guy with you.” he said looking at the Masked Mafioso with disgust. “Well, no time to sort out allies and enemies now. We need to stop the Chameleon.”

The heroes were aboard the Chameleon’s ship. Stone and the Masked Mafioso went to the engine room to overload it into a massive explosion while the Storm Knights went directly for the Chameleon. The villain still had the appearance of McPherson’s secretary. He also had some guards with him. Michael found himself pinned down by gunfire and Hiroto and Lithiel faced two muscular goons. The Chameleon proved to be an extremely tricky opponent as well, making the Storm Knights hesitate about wanting to stop his plan, whatever it was.

Ivy was the first to spring into action as she ran up to the Chameleon and began whipping her, though to little effect. Michael took another volley to the chest and his dead body went overboard. Hiroto managed to recover and shot down some of his opponents. Meanwhile Lithiel was struggling to stay alive after her bow had snapped. The Chameleon, not appreciating Ivy’s proximity, pulled a rope and a cage holding Pterry dropped out of the ceiling.

“Now watch as your pet dies in front of your eyes” she said, twisting Pterry’s neck.

Ivy’s anger was only tempered by a disconnection, followed by transformation that led her to believe vines were not a good evening gown. Heavily wounded and unsure about her own identity, she began to flee.

Hiroto and Lithiel were the only two left.

“Let’s give it one last shot!” said Hiroto courageously.

Lithiel picked up one of the fallen foes’ Tommy gun and both heroes focused their fire on the Chameleon. Fortunately, the villain was also on his last resources and he fell. Pterry and his cage immediately vanished, leading the two to believe it might have been an illusion.

Explosions were beginning to be heard across the ship and the heroes high-tailed it.

Returning to shore, they found Michael, half-dead half-drowned and 100% tired.

“Mission accomplished?” asked Hiroto.

“Yeah” answered Michael “That was way too much dying for a single night. I want to see Tharkold next.”

----

St Petersburg, Blasted Land, Core Earth Hardpoint, Day 62
Amethyst Ninja, In-Soon Heo, Samarj Chopade

Karl’s trail led the heroes straight to St Petersburg. After a chat with the local militia, the group was redirected to the local Delphi Council representative, Dr Prostor. The man talked to the Storm Knights despite being busy making jewelled sceptres. After getting an overview of the situation, he said:

“Considering who your target is, I have no doubts he was noticed by the ruling factions. Nobody can easily move around while being a Stormer, unless they were taking precautions but that doesn’t sound like it would worry the man you’re looking for.”

“Can you get faction representatives to talk to us?” asked In-Soon

“No need. You can just go up to their leaders and introduce yourselves as Storm Knights. I bet they’ll have some dirty work for you in exchange though. Oh, and don’t get close to the train stations or the railway tracks. The Russian army set up minefields and snipers around.”

“What are they doing?” inquired Samarj

“Killing anyone who gets close. That’s all anyone knows. They got trains running from time to time and a city governor here. At least he’s got the title but he doesn’t do anything.”

Prostor then explained the uneasy balance between the five factions sharing St Petersburg and sent the heroes on their way. The Storm Knights decided to start with the city’s protectors, the Streltsy, and asked to meet their leader, the Imperator, who resided in the Hermitage palace. The Imperator received them in private in his office. He did, in fact, have something he needed help with. A group of bandits uniting around a charismatic Stormer leader and threatening St Petersburg.

“We require you to identify the leader and eliminate him. As far as we know they are hiding in one of the abandoned factories outside the hardpoint.”

“What prevents you from dealing with them yourselves?” asked In-Soon perceptively.

“They are outside the hardpoint for now, preventing us from sending our brave soldiers. Moreover our prerogatives do not allow us to send our forces outside.” he added hinting at inter-faction politics.

The heroes left and decided to take a look at the bandits before deciding on a course of action. As foretold, they found them in an abandoned auto plant. Amethyst Ninja infiltrated the location and found nearly all accesses blocked and booby-trapped. The only one left was a fallen metal beam linking the factory roof with the neighboring building. Once inside, Ninja found the bandits relaxing in the former plant manager’s office. They were few but well-armed and the charismatic leader was not hard to find.

Ninja decided to take care of it there and then, drew his (well, Heydrich’s) pistol and tried to shoot the leader. It worked, though as expected the leader was a Stormer. The second phase of his plan involved running away and luring the enemies onto the beam where they could be picked off by Samarj and In-Soon, hidden nearby. It did not work. The enemies proved to be smart enough to realize what was going on and instead shot at Ninja while he was running along the beam.

Samarj and In-Soon still managed to take down most of the enemies, prompting the leader to flee. He was too slow for Ninja though, who caught up with him and dropped a car chassis from above, trapping the man underneath.

“Do we kill him now?” asked Amethyst Ninja.

“Not yet. I’d like to hear his version of the story.” said In-Soon looking at the man.

“What’s there to tell?” said the man sarcastically “I tried to get what I was owed and he sent you to kill me. Who’d think he’d have people like you working for him.”

“Let us not get ahead of ourselves. Are you talking about the Imperator?” asked In-Soon

“Yeah, that’s what he calls himself now.”

“Why did he want you dead?”

“Well, no point in hiding it now. I tried to blackmail him. He was the director of a Siberian prison before all of this shit happened. Now he’s got powers, lives in a palace, and commands everyone in town. Obviously I’d want a slice of the pie.”

“Do you have any proof of what you’re saying?” asked Samarj.

“Proof? I’m the friggin proof. I was his second-in-command. The bastard was lucky enough to be on vacation here when all Tharkold broke loose. If you ever get access to government archives you can look up Tolinin. That’s his real name. Bet he doesn’t want anyone to know.”

After some debating the heroes allowed the former officer to leave on the condition he wouldn’t try his trick again. After that they returned to the Imperator and obtained the intel they were interested in. Karl, last name Thilaus, had indeed passed through St Petersburg. He had booked a ship to take him to a certain location on the Finnish coast, in Aysle.

Samarj and Amethyst Ninja were still curious about the Russians and the railways and tried to get close to another faction, the Commissioners, a strange cult in charge of maintaining the city’s crumbling infrastructure. Their leader, a strange person with a robotic female voice was more than willing to accept their help, though she admitted to having no idea about what the Russians were doing and therefore could not compensate them adequately.

A plan to infiltrate a moving train while being shot at by snipers and turrets was proposed, and then shot down by In-Soon who didn’t see the usefulness of the action.

While looking for a ship to take them to Finland, Samarj met up with an old acquaintance. One of the smugglers they had helped back in Japan was in town and had a ship. He was more than willing to accomodate the heroes.

----

Istrian
Hobgoblin
Posts: 45
Joined: Tue Feb 11, 2020 4:57 pm

Re: [Game Stories] Make Earth Glorious Again

Post by Istrian »

London, United Kingdom, Aysle-Core Earth, Night 51
Wendigo, Tooth Fairy, Jack Lantern

The reception at St James’ Palace was in full swing. Once the mandatory introductions were over, everyone scattered and began chatting in small groups. Jack looked for a scholar to chat about magic and found Wyrwind had returned from whatever quarry he had been busy with during the day. The old coot was stuffing himself full of Earth’s delicacies in the company of Tooth Fairy, and, surprisingly, a Russian ambassador.

As it turned out the ambassador wanted to learn more about the Army of Light and discuss potential agreements, but had received the cold shoulder from anyone except the Archmagus.

“That’s ‘cause you smell like Darkness.” said Wyrwind with tact and diplomacy.

“And here I thought it was my jokes.” said the ambassador with good humour.

Jack and Tooth Fairy talked to the ambassador about the philosophy of Light and Darkness, or at least the bits they understood from their week’s experiences. Filtered by their own brain and not an insignificant amount of alcohol.

“So let me get this straight.” said the ambassador “From what you are telling me, the people of Light are all about obedience and loyalty and sacrifice, while Darkness is all about freedom and individualism? Sounds like the Cold War to me!”

A servant came to fetch Wyrwind for some urgent business.

On the other side of the ballroom, Wendigo, who had decided to wear an Ayslish-style gown, was approached by a well-dressed gentleman who had been introduced as a member of some shady group.

“Forgive me, my Lady, I was wondering if you could tell me a bit more about the arts and crafts of your people.”

“You mean Hollywood and Silicon Valley?” answered Wendigo.

“You have those in your world too?” asked the man incredulously.

Moments later the misunderstanding was cleared up and the man introduced himself properly.

“Morgan Powell. I am the chairman of the Future England Industrial Committee. We are a private group of industrial investors trying to rebuild some semblance of an economy in the country. Hence my interest in Aylish… craftsmanship? My apologies, I mistook you for someone from there.”

Wendigo nonetheless did her best and introduced Powell to the Sharnhand, whom she thought to be the best dwarven engineer around. “I’m sure you’ll get along fine.”

The conversation between Tooth Fairy, Jack and the Russian ambassador shifted to internal Russian politics and talks of raiders and demons. The ambassador insisted that the latter be called Tharkoldu and admitted that things were far from ideal. The conversation was interrupted by a servant informing Jack that Wyrwind wanted a private word with him.

Tooth Fairy excused himself and went to take a quick for anything out of place. For a moment he wondered about a Countess who came from “Queen Victoria’s government” and wondered who that queen was. His patrol led him to a corner of the park where he noticed broken branches and clear signs of someone passing through. Tooth Fairy radio’ed Wendigo for her expertise.

The two followed the tracks to a side-door, and then through the palace and to the basement. A silhouette was in front of them, pressed against a wall. It was a woman dressed like a nun and holding a laser pistol. Tooth Fairy rushed towards her to restrain her.

As the hulking man approached, she muttered to herself “Lord, give me the strength to bear these fools a few moments more.”

Suddenly the wall behind her exploded. She and Tooth Fairy were thrown to the floor. Zombies shambled into the basement and Wendigo could see behind them an undead wizard standing near some kind of device.

At the same time, Jack entered the waiting room where he was invited and saw the Lady of Light lying on a couch. A dark aura seemed to be trying to go into her, but was being kept at bay by Wyrwind. The old man barely gave Jack a glance as he shouted “Find the one behind the ritual! They must be nearby!”

Jack ran through the palace, checking every nook and cranny, until he finally found a suspicious attic. The dark aura emanated from a strangely-shaped item floating in mid-air. Next to it a heavily-tattooed woman was performing a dark ritual. Four large bloated humanoids surrounded her and watched Jack’s every move.

In the basement, Tooth Fairy and Wendigo were mopping up zombies left and right when they received Jack’s message.

“I’m coming in to help you.” began Wendigo.

“No need. This one is mine.” said the nun over the now-hacked group comms before rushing off.

“Fools!” gloated the undead wizard at the back “You will not make it out of here alive. Once I activate this machine I will gain so much power I will crush you like the miserable insects you are. The Dark Lord will reward me well for destroying the hope you have started to create here.”

The wizard pressed a button and a counter appeared. It was counting down.

“I think you’ll have to manage without us” said Wendigo to Jack and the nun over the radio “We have a situation here too. Also, why is it always a bomb?”

Tooth Fairy opened a way for Wendigo to the bomb and she began trying to disarm it.

In the meantime Jack began nibbling another chicken leg. The “daemons” upstairs were right indeed, it would be a shame to waste time with the ritual when there was such a good buffet available. He wandered back towards the attic, a platter of food in hand, to see the nun had reached the room as well. Her usefulness was somewhat diminished, however, due to the fact the daemons were busy tossing her around like a beach ball. Being in the air did not prevent her from trying to take pot-shots at the tattooed woman performing the ritual.

Jack began to try to work out the nature of the ritual when he accidentally triggered a magical safeguard and the heretic and her daemons vanished from the room.

“Whoops. I think that may have been a short-range teleportation spell” he mumbled to himself and started to look around again for where they had relocated.

“Go give them a hand, I can manage the bomb!” yelled Wendigo at Tooth Fairy while trying to work out where magical crystals fit into the class “red wire, green wire” scenario. Tooth Fairy gave a final kick to the lyche’s undead body, then left for the dressing room to get some real weapons. He cursed those who had invented etiquette, therefore preventing useful people from having useful weapons when they were most needed.

Jack found the new ritual room right next to the old one and summoned a barghest while studying the magical energies swirling around the room. The elemental destroyed one of the daemons, then, for some reason, yawned and went to sleep.

“That was unexpected.” he commented “Then again, I don’t think I could have controlled it.”

Wendigo realized the magic crystals’ only purpose was to increase the size of the explosion and had no ties whatsoever to the control mechanism or the rest of the bomb. Then she cut the red wire. The timer stopped and palace security staff, warned by Tooth Fairy, began to arrive to stem the tide of zombies.

Upstairs, Tooth Fairy and Jack once again agreed with the daemons that a certain cheesecake was to die for. “By the way” said Jack over the radio “I think that ritual is nearly concluded so might as well enjoy the last of the food.”

Wendigo groaned and rushed upstairs while uttering unkind insults to her teammates. Arriving at the attic, she called upon every favor she was owed from her patron deity and shattered the strange artifact. The tattooed woman was angry, but moments later she was restrained on the floor, with Tooth Fairy taking out the last of the daemons.

“Now accept the justice of our Lord-” began the nun, slowly taking aim at the tattooed woman’s head, before being abruptly stopped by Tooth Fairy.

“First we’d like to interrogate her.” said Jack

“There is no need. Her tongue belongs to the daemons she calls forth, twisted lies will break your mind and will. Death is the only release for her sins.”

Wendigo explained that they still needed to know if there was more to come, and reluctantly the cyber-nun agreed to let them talk to her. She would still keep her pistol pointed at her head in case she tried anything.

While the tattooed heretic turned out to be the last of the Triad, she hinted that there was another hand behind these events. The artifact she was using was going to take away Ardinay’s soul in order to power the summoning of even more demons to destroy Malraux and his minions.

“Heretic. Blasphemer.” said the cyber-nun “God will not allow evil upon the Holy Cyber Enclave. Your fall and that of your coven is proof enough of that.”

“So… you’re an enemy of Malraux you say?” asked Wendigo faux-casually, drawing a glare from the nun. “Is there any reason we should allow you to leave?”

The woman began to offer promises of power and revenge against the Cyberpope, thought he Storm Knights felt she was highly unlikely to hold her end of any bargain.

“She’s yours” said Tooth Fairy to the cybernun and, after a short monologue, the heretic died to a laser shot in the head.

“So… you’re from Magna Verita?” asked Wendigo once the deed was done.

“No, I am from Nantes.” answered the nun.

“Nantes? Is that even a place?” asked Tooth Fairy, the geography master.

“Lord, why did you create the Americans?”

“So that he could have a nation under him” answered Wendigo putting on her sunglasses.

The nun’s wrist began to blink and a holographic screen appeared.

“Our angels are telling me we were being watched. They will guide us to the source. It is nearby but moving.”

The heroes borrowed a vehicle from the army and drove according to the nun’s instructions. They led to the bank of the Thames, where water was bubbling over a large area.

“Looks like the night is not yet over” said Jack, still in pain from his earlier wounds. Wendigo took aim with her anti-tank rifle.

Suddenly the waters parted and something round and growing quickly rose from beneath the waters. Wendigo’s shot pierced the bulging thing, but only knocked down some ropes. As it rose it became a huge oval-shaped balloon with something metallic stuck underneath it.

“I was wondering when the Nile would come in.” said Jack.

Wendigo’s shot had loosened some ropes and the heroes began climbing into the zeppelin as it rose up. The nun bid them farewell as that was none of her business. Jack slipped off the rope and fell into the water below.

The Delta Force operators forced their way into the submersible zeppelin and found no resistance until they reached the bridge, where the crew was preparing for the flight ahead.

“Well well, it seems you have managed to find me, heroes!” said a woman sitting in the command chair.

“You!” shouted Wendigo. “You are that annoying BBC producer, Donya Westingworth, aren’t you.”

“That is right! And I was the one who arranged for these three to meet! I was the one who funded their endeavors! I was the one who kept an eye on them as they worked towards their plans!”

“And now you’re going to try to kill Ardinay too? Is that what your Pharaoh wants?” asked Tooth Fairy, who was getting tired.

“Kill Ardinay? Do I look like some sort of second-rate villain to you? My plans are much grander! Who cares about Ardinay, or Sutenhotep, or Malraux. Their schemes are all beneath me! No! What I want is the ultimate achievement. I want the Best Movie award at the next International Cairo Festival!” shouted Westingworth while laughing with glee. “And now I only have to remove you before-”

“Wait” interrupted Wendigo, then she turned to Tooth Fairy “Do we really care?”

“Dunno.” answered the burly man “Hey, are you going to try to kill Ardinay?”

“Of course not. As I said-” began Westingworth ready to explain her plan all over again.

“Then we’ll just go home” interrupted Wendigo again.

“So, you are not going to try to stop me?”

“No reason to.” said Tooth Fairy “Though, could we get invitations to the Festival?”

“Alright. I guess you might get some Supporting Actors award after all. And I can’t really get the main actors to come now that they are dead. Until we next meet then, heroes!” she said pushing a button.

A trapdoor opened underneath the heroes and they dropped into the Thames.

----

Boston, USA, Core Earth, Night 52
Leonid Slovokin, Alicia Kalachnikova, Damien Monnet

The trail of the stolen grimoire led to a small island near Boston, linked to the mainland by a bridge. According to official records, the island was the private property of local millionaire Ezekiel Sampson. This time the heroes decided to go for the impolite approach. Leonid requisitioned a rocket launcher from the army. Damien stole a car and rushed along the bridge, ready to crash into the guardpost at the other end. He slowed down when he realized the guardpost was not as manned as it looked, the guard had left his vest and hat on the chair and was probably enjoying a break elsewhere.

Damien drove towards the manorial estate in the middle of the forested island, adopting a “I have all the reasons in the world to be here.” It did not work and as they were getting close to the manor, two guards took notice and threatened to shoot at them. Damien floored the accelerator and crashed into the guards, and then into a parked car.

Alarms blazed and the heroes had a running fight through the manor until they reached Sampson’s office, which conveniently overlooked the parking lot.

“Who are you? What do you want? Get out of my house right now!” demanded and angry older man, who was likely to be Sampson. He was clutching the grimoire.

“Now, now, no need to get your blood pressure too high, Mr Sampson” said a voice from someone sitting in front of him. “Leave me to deal with them. I have an old grudge to settle.”

As Sampson made his exit, the owner of the voice stood up. A young man wearing a striped suit and matching hat, with a slight hint of an inherited Italian accent.

“Fancy meeting you here,” he said tilting his head towards Leonid and Alicia “I was kind of hoping to see the two of you again after you spoiled my operation. This time the tables are in my favor it seems. This is my turf and you’re going to learn it the hard way.”

Alicia and Leonid exchanged glances “You! Who are you again?”

“What do you mean who am I? You’re the ones who came after me in St Petersburg asking for your share of my business. Can’t believe how expensive Savlovyeff was!”

“Sorry, doesn’t ring a bell.” apologized Leonid.

“You even crashed my helicopter! Do you know how expensive that was?”

“Right, I remember now!” said Alicia, fondly recalling the incident she had authored “What was your name again?”

“That does it!” yelled the man “MAAAAX, get yourself in here!”

Doors opened revealing reinforcements led by a tall muscular man with a crew cut wearing a green tank top with jeans. He was accompanied by two more traditional mafiosi with shotguns. At the same time, a couple of manor guards found their way to the office, flanking the heroes from behind.

“Torrino! Stop talking and take care of them quickly!” yelled Sampson from the other room.

The heroes opened fire first, focusing everything on Torrino who had to draw upon nearly all of his power to remain alive. At the same time, the car the heroes crashed into exploded, blinding Max and the two mafiosi. They tried to shoot anyway and mostly hit expensive vases.

“Aim better you bloody fools! Don’t you know how expensive those vases are!” shouted Sampson.

Despite being blinded, the man named Max nearly knocked Leonid out with a single flying kick, then continued with a relentless onslaught on all three heroes.

“So?” said Max hopping from foot to foot “Not feeling so high and mighty now, ‘Storm Schmucks’? How does it feel to have your asses kicked by the so-called ‘ordinary’?”

The heroes recovered but had to admit the street fighter packed some decent abs, especially when the man was barely scratched by Alicia’s lightning bolt. Torrino, on the other hand, was hard-pressed to find an opening in the rain of bullets and fireballs headed his way. He turned especially grim when one of the estate guards came in and shouted.

“Mr Sampson, sorry but consorting with criminals and stealing stuff is not what I signed up for.” while he opened fire on Torrino.

With many wounds and few prospects for victory, Torrino decided to call it a day and break off whatever deal he had with Sampson. He fled into the night. The turncoat guards managed to subdue Max, though not without significant losses. They did not want to have much to do with the heroes, especially after Leonid showed his Delphi Council badge.

Damien pulled the grimoire out of Sampson’s hands saying “That one’s ours.”

“Yours? Yours?” said the millionaire angrily “How dare you? I have paid Torrino a fortune to get it. And now you come here destroying my property and stealing my books!”

“Books?” asked Alicia, taking a glance at the other room, which turned out to be full of expensive-looking ancient books. After a quick check, none of the other books turned out to be magical. The millionaire’s indignant protests prompted the heroes to leave with a couple of precious vases and a few extra books. As well as the man’s limousine.

----

Boston, USA, Core Earth, Day 53
Leonid Slovokin, Alicia Kalachnikova, Damien Monnet

Damien was wide awake when someone knocked at the door. It was still relatively early morning, especially after the previous night. He went to open anyway. In the hallway was a short elderly man with a pleasant expression and a large doctor’s bag.

“My apologies for disturbing you, young man, but I believe you may have something I was supposed to receive.”

“What do you mean?”

“It is a very old book. About this size, bound with leather. I think I lost it in a… nocturnal truncheon?”

Damien took a moment to process the end of the sentence “A nightclub, you mean? Maybe. How do I know you’re the real owner?”

“Well, it was destined to come to me you see. And now I’m here to get it properly. May I come in to discuss the matter?”

Damien let him inside and Leonid and Alicia joined them in the living room.

“Ernest Hamilton. A pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

The heroes introduced themselves and got to the meat of the matter, asking questions about the grimoire. Unfortunately Hamilton was unwilling to offer any answers.

“You see, I cannot take proper ownership of it if I don’t give you something of equal value. If I tell you what it is, its value will be higher and I will have trouble matching the right price.”

“So, basically you’re shafting us?” said Damien.

“No no no. Not at all. I am in fact the one losing here. I could simply wait until fate puts it back in my hands.”

“If you’re going to get it later, we might as well keep it now” said Alicia

“You could of course, you could. Thing is, you are not supposed to have it, therefore it will only bring trouble to you. I am sure it already did, in a mild way.”

Leonid shifted the discussion towards the events at the nightclub. Hamilton explained he had hired a book detective to find it. He was about to receive the book from the man while at the club when the fight erupted.

“Since then I am afraid I was in hospital and therefore could not get it back. Now let’s see what I can offer you.”

Hamilton rummaged in his bag and pulled out an amulet.

“Not interested.” said Damien immediately.

“But I haven’t even told you what it does. It can help you remain yourself anywhere you go!”

“Yeah, and then you can’t pull it away from your neck and it makes you speak Spanish. Been there done that.”

“Alright then, how about this?” This time Hamilton showed an engraved revolver. Damien noticed that it was an unusual seven-shot model. “This helps you combat things from elsewhere.”

The heroes were still unconvinced. Next Hamilton showed an empty book chained to a monocle. He then demonstrated its use by looking at Alicia. The book’s pages filled with definitions for words such as “Stormer”, “Fireball” and “Hexxer Mk 1”

The heroes liked it a lot more, however they still had some doubts about Hamilton himself.

“What if you work for the High Lords?” asked Alicia

“I assure you I do not. In fact I think I am closer to being an enemy. Of sorts.”

“Why don’t you join the Delphi Council then?”

“That would be unwise. I prefer to keep a low profile. To avoid direct confrontation with High Lords, as a matter of fact.”

Eventually the heroes agreed to exchange a book for a book, though only if Hamilton told them what the grimoire does afterwards.

“Well, I have not had the time to study it yet. But I think it contains recipes for things like those I showed you.”

Hamilton was about to leave when he looked up, as if he had noticed something.

“Oh, I think I should tell you this. You may not like to hear it but it feels like it should be right. Soon you will have to choose how many people will die.”

----

New Delhi, India, Orrorsh, Day 56
Tooth Fairy, Jack Lantern, Igor Slavarot

The Storm Knights’ first contact with Orrorsh was somewhat unusual: Jack, due to his burning hair and scorched head, attracted many eyes aboard the train to New Delhi. A few of these eyes were priests of various religions trying to exorcise him. Wendigo had to split up from the group, on account of being needed for a special lone wolf-type mission in the Living Land. Tooth Fairy was learning to get used to Igor, the amnesiac Tharkoldu part-cyborg who had joined the group as a replacement for his long-time squadmate.

Once they arrived in New Delhi, the group decided to start by asking the government remnant for information about their mission. Going to the seat of government they asked to meet Dharya Zaidi, clearly a tired and busy man who had to deal with too many depressing events.

“We’ve been sent to help. What can you tell us about Uttarakhand?” asked Tooth Fairy, cutting straight to the heart of the matter.

“Not much I’m afraid”, said Dharya quickly finding a report buried under a pile of papers. “In fact that was the reason we asked the Delphi Council for help. We don’t know anything. No refugees, no messages, and no running trains. The railways repair crew never came back either. I am worried whatever is going on up there is even worse than elsewhere. Moreover Uttarakhand is right next to here.”

Satisfied, the Storm Knights left.

Tooth Fairy commented “First time I meet a politician I don’t want to strangle. I might like this place.”

His thoughts changed drastically when the heroes went to the Victorian garrison and asked to meet Huxley. A couple of threats to the gate guard from Igor later, an officer came to lead them to the Victorian commander-in-chief.

“By the way” said the officer while they walked “I believe you lacked basic manners when talking with my subordinate.”

“We’re in a hurry,” barked Igor.

“It is precisely in those circumstances one should always keep one’s tact. I request a duel with the sword. You may pick the time.”

Igor wasn’t in the mood but agreed to the duel after the meeting with Huxley. On the way they had to stop by the chapel where the local chaplain exorcised Jack for the umpteenth time that day. When they came into Huxley’s office, Jack began reciting an exorcism on himself.

“There is no need for such,” said Huxley, greeting the Storm Knights.

Unfortunately the conversation was not as positive as the one with Zaidi. The general seemed to have information but was unwilling to share it, invoking military secrets.

“How about my colleagues leave and I get to hear it” said Tooth Fairy “I’m trained to resist torture.”

“Torture? I am afraid our enemy is not so barbaric as to resort to such a thing. They will find ways to make you provide that information voluntarily. So much that in the end you might think you have obtained more from the bargain than you have given up. Such are their ways.”

Huxley was inflexible, the only intelligence he provided was that a Victorian company was sent there, just like into every region in Orrorsh. None of them had come back.

Once they were done, Igor headed for the duel in the barracks’ courtyard. At first his opponent looked weak and Igor was certain of his eventual victory, though he was less certain if there would be a difference between “first blood” and “quite dead” by the time he was done. Things went downhill when a sudden explosion and fire shook a corner of the yard and an eclipse completely blotted out the sun.

A creature could be sensed, more than seen, somewhere in the darkness. Jack began casting his spells but disconnected. At the same time, his weird rituals, added to his strange appearance, made the Victorian soldiers believe that he was the source of the disturbance and they began shooting at him instead. Yells of pain could be heard in the darkness as Victorians were shredded to pieces.

Igor finished his duel, as expected, by nearly cutting his opponent in half. Tooth Fairy protected Jack as best as he could, then engaged the beast in the darkness as soon as his colleague had reconnected. Jack summoned a charyb, prompting the Victorians to load a cannon. The Storm Knights came close to defeat more than once, mostly because of the Victorians, their artillery and their dynamite. In the end after dealing with the monster, they fled into the city and hoped the Delphi Council could handle the fallout.

----

Uttarakhand Region, India, Orrorsh, Day 57
Tooth Fairy, Jack Lantern, Igor Slavarot

The train line ran as far as Moradabad. There, the heroes slept through the night, then requisitioned a coach and decided to follow the unfinished railway. By mid-morning they reached the broken bridge the missing railway builders were supposed to be fixing. It was fixed but no builders were nearby. It looked as if they had left.

The builders’ tracks were found further along the line. They had set up their tents next to rail damaged by a landslide. An armored train, sent to find the missing builders according to rumours heard in Moradabad, awaited in the middle of the camp. Neither the builders nor the rescue party were in sight, the whole area looking abandoned and eerie.

The heroes started by looking into the largest tent and found it must have belonged to the supervisor. They found a map of the area indicating a nearby village. Next they inspected the armored train: it was a simple one with only a locomotive and a guard compartment. The guard compartment was closed and Tooth Fairy opened it. The heroes quickly ducked under the train as a horde of gospog swarmed outside and began shambling through the abandoned camp.

“That was a close one.” said Igor “Do we get rid of them?”

“Maybe not yet.” said Jack “Let’s take a look around the train first, while they haven’t caught our scent.”

Inside they found numerous mangled bodies and clear indications (written in blood) that the compartment was locked from the outside. Tooth Fairy fished out a bloodstained diary belonging to the driver, fortunately an English-writing Victorian, and read passages out of it aloud for the others.

“The railway company director has requested us to find the missing builders. I am not entirely certain how I feel about this, considering how poorly we have been treated. It feels like the locals prefer to have us away. The Captain has given us orders, though, therefore we will go forth and seek the lost ones.”

“We have found the bridge the builders were supposed to be repairing. It seems to be fixed and sturdy enough to drive through. Randall and Creedy have found traces of the builders’ camp. The tracks are weeks’ old though. Why did they move on instead of turning back to report?”

“The line has been cut by a landslide. Fortunately the workers’ tents are here as well. The Captain thinks they were trying to repair the line here, however I may not agree. There are no building materials around and local jungle wood is not strong enough to support tracks.”

“The workers have been found. A small group of them wandered into the camp while we were patrolling around. They say everyone goes to the village to sleep at night, for comfort. That sounds strange but I am not sure why … The Captain took half of our detachment and headed there to bring the other workers to safety. We are to hold the fort here and return in case anything happens. Night is going to fall soon.“

“That last entry is a couple of weeks’ old.” said Tooth Fairy, closing the diary “I guess we should head to the village for now.”

“And the gospog?” asked Igor

“Let’s try to drive past. There’s no fun in killing dead stuff.”

Jack took the reins and masterfully maneuvered through the landslide, leaving the gospog behind.

By the end of the afternoon the group arrived at the village mentioned on the map and in the diary. It looked traditional, with wooden buildings and full of working people. Two buildings were made of stone and the heroes quickly found the village elder, who spoke a little bit of English.

“The workers? Yes, I remember. They came here. They stayed with us for a bit. Then they went to the capital.”

“The capital?” asked Jack “New Delhi?”

“No.” corrected the elder “The provincial capital.”

“And have you seen the Victorians? The soldiers with rifles.”

“Yes. Yes. They stopped by too. They asked about the workers and I told them to go to the capital too.”

“How long ago was that?” asked Igor.

“This long” answered the elder holding his hands apart.

The heroes were puzzled. Jack tried to work out a precise time by asking about the initial arrival of Orrorsh.

“Ah, yes. I remember the attacks every night. It was this long ago.” answered the elder holding his hands closer apart than before. “It is a good thing the attacks stopped.”

“The attacks stopped?” asked Igor “How long ago was that?”

The elder held his hands further apart than ever before.

Tooth Fairy worked out that there was no point in wasting time trying to work out a schedule and headed towards the other stone building, a hotel for travelers. Igor and Jack followed soon after.

----

Village in Uttarakhand, India, Orrorsh, Night 57
Tooth Fairy, Jack Lantern, Igor Slavarot

Despite the villagers’ relative friendliness, which took Jack by surprise considering how he had been treated in Orrorsh so far, the heroes decided to take turns standing watch during the night. Igor took the middle watch.

It was past midnight when he noticed movement outside. In the darkness villagers were slowly gathering around the inn. Igor quickly woke up the other two. The villagers’ actions did not seem threatening though. They simply assembled around the inn and watched the heroes’ windows intently. Fed up, Tooth Fairy called out to them. The villagers did not react and simply kept staring in complete silence.

After a few further attempts to communicate, the heroes went back to sleep but decided to investigate the strange behaviour the following day.

----

Village in Uttarakhand, India, Orrorsh, Day 58
Tooth Fairy, Jack Lantern, Igor Slavarot

The Storm Knights met with the elder as soon as they woke up and asked about the strange events. The elder was adamant about having slept the entire night. While talking, Igor glanced out of the window and noticed a large pure white shape on a house’s roof close to the village outskirts. The shape disappeared behind the house. Igor called the others and they went to check on location.

It was a narrow alley between two houses. The only indication that anything had been around were four paw prints in the dirt. Tooth Fairy recognized them to be from a large feline.

“Odd” said Jack “Where did it go from here? I don’t see any tracks leading away.”

“Shapeshifting maybe?” offered Igor.

“I don’t see any human tracks either” said Tooth Fairy. “Let’s ask around.”

Asking around led to nowhere as the locals did not speak English. Tooth Fairy attempted to use his translation cyberware, but the locals had not seen any big cats or anything else.

The heroes decided to stay a little bit more to study the villagers, trying to blend into the local life. Tooth Fairy and Igor spent their day wandering around, trying to work out their schedules and sometimes playing games with them. Jack stopped them in the middle of a street and said:

“Wait. I haven’t seen any of them eating. Or farming. Or any livestock.”

----

Irish Wilderness, Ireland, Aysle, Day 63
Bronze Bullet, Elizabeth Poliakova, Gregor MacConnor, Logan MacCormack

The Heroic Demon-Hunters chanced upon a clearing in the middle of the thick forest they were traveling through. The clearing was full of scattered pieces of dead bodies and armaments. A close examination told Gregor most of the dead were likely to be gospog due to the amount of bones, vegetation and evil energy. Tracks led away from the clearing and the heroes decided to follow them. Soon enough, they heard the sounds of battle and rushed towards the location.

Logan stopped before falling down. The group had reached the top of an outcropping of rock. Beneath them a group of gospog led by an armored champion was encircling two heavily-wounded elves. Thinking fast, Gregor slid down the slope and healed one of the elves. Logan followed and engaged the gospog in battle. Elizabeth and Bronze Bullet provided support from above.

Soon the gospog were disposed of and the heroes thanked for their help. They were invited to follow the elves to their secret camp nearby.

“We had to split off of the main group,” said one of the elves “otherwise these creatures would have followed us to one of the sacred trees. Too many have already fallen to darkness and corruption.”

At Bronze Bullet’s behest, the elf explained that they felt another nearby tree’s song slowly turn to madness.

“Did that happen, say, a couple of weeks ago?” asked Bronze Bullet.

“It may have been close to that time indeed.” answered the elf.

“Did you notice a bald man in yellow and orange robes pass by at the time?” inquired Gregor, understanding Bronze Bullet’s question.

“I do not recall.” answered the elf “There are not many of us left due to both the journey from Aysle and the attacks of these accursed gospog.”

In the meantime, Elizabeth was getting to know the other elf, whose name was Thivayl.

“Hey, at my age you gotta appreciate the company of a long-lived man whom you won’t have to bury” she said later when Logan inquired.

After walking for a couple of hours, the heroes emerged in a part of the forest more sparse with vegetation yet much more thick with elves. It seemed the fair folk were busy building a village of their own, around a majestic tree surrounded by floating glowing lights.

The heroes took this opportunity to rest, resupply and get to know elven culture more closely. Bronze Bullet was particularly interested in their alchemy, though the way it worked seemed to contrast too much with his favorite field of science: the Weird one. Gregor focused more on Elmiir’s worship and his place in the struggle between Light and Darkness. Elizabeth found herself learning a lot about elven history, especially the time before Uthorion. Logan found the wine to his taste, though not strong enough.

Eventually time came to move on, though Thivayl, after learning that the heroes were pursuing a being from Orrorsh, decided to come with them. It was obvious there was a deeper reason for this decision, though Thivayl preferred not to share this burden at the time.

----

Desert near Dongola, Sudan, Nile Empire, Day 63
Lightning, Garrick Heinston, Tobias Lynch

The heroes awoke to the sound of battle. They were being attacked by desert tribesmen. Tobias, Garrick and Arya had slept in the car and were glad for the bullet cover, especially when asps surged from the ground and began to attack Lightning, who had slept outside.

The three in the car came to regret their choice when a Beduin blew it up with a bazooka. While the initial onslaught took the heroes by surprise, the desert warriors were forced to flee as soon as Lightning got close enough to shoot back with his revolver. Fortunately the attackers had left many of their camels behind and the heroes were able to resume their journey.

By the afternoon the heroes reached their destination. A dry canyon running through a rocky area of the desert. Following the directions they had, they quickly found the right cave entrance amongst many similar ones. Inside they found the camp they had expected to see outside and an older man came to greet them.

“Victor Hemsworth” said the man, extending his hand “I am one of the leaders of this expedition. My colleague, Miriam, is deeper inside supervising the diggers. I assume you must be here to help us with our predicament?”

“Precisely” answered Tobias “I have some experience with archaeological digs going bad. How many demons do you need exorcised out of your tomb?”

“We haven’t actually found the tomb. Yet. But we are sure it is in this cave. Our issue is, unfortunately, more of a martial nature. You see, there is a rival team working for the Pharaoh nearby, looking for the same site. It would be nice if you could get us rid of them.”

“Not so fast, Victor” said a woman coming up from one of the deeper galleries. “You know as well as I do killing them will not be of any use. In less than two weeks we will have an entire army to deal with!”

“Who’re you?” asked Garrick.

“Miriam Benazzir.” said the woman introducing herself. “Victor and I are working on this together.”

An argument quickly erupted between the two archaeologists. Hemsworth did not believe there would be a need to remain more than two weeks. After all, all they had to do was find the tomb, take the main relics inside, and go home to examine them. Benazzir, on the other hand, insisted they had to behave as the professional archaeologists they were and study every nook and cranny of the tomb in-situ. As such keeping the Nile team somehow diverted could work better.

After some debate, the heroes settled on the violent solution : the diggers had an excess of dynamite just waiting to be used.

----

Near Vaasa, Finland, Aysle, Day 64
Amethyst Ninja, In-Soon Heo, Samarj Chopade

The heroes were dropped off in a small cove corresponding to the coordinates the Imperator had provided. It was in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately there were still tracks leading to a nearby cliff, which the heroes ascended with difficulty. The tracks did not restart at the top of the cliff, however searching around did not yield any secret passages. There was, however, a wisp of smoke coming up from the nearby forest.

Heading there, the heroes found an old hut in a clearing, with a small vegetable garden next to it. Samarj feared it was a cultist ambush, but In-Soon went up to the door and knocked anyway. An old lady opened. Chatting around a cup of tea, the heroes learned that this area is somewhat dangerous, with vikings and other creatures sometimes passing through. They should be safe as long as they avoided cities and other large settlements though. She also mentioned noticing a couple of days a flying wizard pass above her hut, coming from the cove’s direction and heading north-east. The heroes thanked her and were about to leave when she suddenly uttered the most dreadful of curses.

“But young strong people like wouldn’t leave an old lady without some firewood, would you?”

After half a day of chopping wood and helping around the house, the heroes resumed their journey.

By the middle of the afternoon, as they were walking through the deep forests of the area, Amethyst Ninja realized they were surrounded. A person in military fatigues came out from behind a tree and said something in Finnish. Noticing no response, he repeated in English.

“Identify yourselves!”

“Delphi Council” said In-Soon “Storm Knights. My badge is in my pocket.”

After checking the heroes’ identities the soldiers lowered their weapons and explained their situation. They were recon soldiers who got separated from their unit during their various battles against vikings. It was their first time hearing about the Delphi Council, but since the badge clearly said UN, they were willing to trust at least a little bit.

“Currently we are monitoring a brigade of vikings building some sort of totem. We’d blow it up with some explosives, if only our damn explosives would work.”

The heroes discussed the situation and decided to try to help, though Samarj insisted that they don’t waste too much time as Karl’s trail could get cold.

----

Istrian
Hobgoblin
Posts: 45
Joined: Tue Feb 11, 2020 4:57 pm

Re: [Game Stories] Make Earth Glorious Again

Post by Istrian »

Brest, Belarus, Core Earth, Day 55
Leonid Slovokin, Alicia Kalachnikova, Damien Monnet

Alicia landed the private jet in the nearby airport and the heroes found a rental car waiting for them with their destination’s coordinates. Overall the trip had been fairly free of useful information. Tenushath had troubled their sleep in Boston, given them detailed instructions to reach every next step of the journey, and yet they had little idea of what they were supposed to do with the mission. Apparently Delphi Council information may or may not have been stolen from the city’s datacenter, and this somehow qualified as an emergency.

The datacenter was cordoned-off by the police. Leonid showed his badge and a suit-and-tie agent came to greet them. He introduced himself as Special Agent Andus Slokovak, in charge of investigating the break-in. He walked the group through the case’s various elements.

“Three perpetrators entered through this door at 2am. One of them headed towards the security station while the other two went for the servers. Of these two one was noticed by one of the center’s system administrators, Danyl Rahosja. He was knocked out but managed to sound the alarm. The perpetrators grabbed whatever data they managed to copy on an external device and left.”

“They used high-tech equipment to bypass security and store data, more advanced than what we have here on Earth. In addition I think at least one of them was a Stormer.” continued Slokovak, handing the heroes a personnel file. “Adrian Pozlovski. He was hired as a system administrator during the week after the invasion when his predecessor, Hriharey Karski, suddenly resigned and recommended Pozlovski as replacement.”

“That didn’t strike you as odd at the time?” asked Leonid.

“Normally it would have, but circumstances were exceptional. There was widespread panic at the news of the invasion and many people left their jobs to go hide in the countryside. Karski was one of many, we did not have the resources to keep track of everything.”

“If the alarm was rung, are they still caught somewhere in the datacenter?” asked Damien.

“No, they managed to get out but the whole city is under lockdown as a result. They may be able to flee but it will take them some time and probably a lot of countryside trekking. Either that or they are hidden somewhere in town until the storm passes.”

Leonid decided to pay a visit to Rahosja. He was upstairs, still unconscious. The local doctor was puzzled at the reason. Leonid performed a thorough medical examination and found traces of a hypodermic syringe. A quick analysis later, he looked straight into the doctor’s eyes.

“This man must be put in isolation and kept alive at all costs. He has been infected by something similar to the Contagion in Asia.”

Leonid wondered if the man was supposed to be a time-bomb to delay pursuers.

In the meantime, Damien had a chat with the datacenter’s employees. He quickly discovered most of them lived on-premises since the invasion, as they felt the place was safer than anywhere else in town. His initial line of inquiry, regarding any strange or unusual contracts the center had been handling recently, led nowhere. He did discover that Pozlovski had been going out with one of the security people, Nina Maserova, for at least a month. In addition one of his colleagues remembered him talking with a strange woman at a bar during a team outing.

“Well, he didn’t actually talk to her. But when she left he went after her pretending she had forgotten her wallet. He was gone for five full minutes.”

Alicia checked the servers for anything suspicious but found nothing.

The heroes attempted to meet with Maserova but found out she was not on-premise despite the hour being close to noon. After obtaining her address from the employee records, they split the work with Slokovak. The agent would go to Karski’s address in the meantime. Before leaving, Leonid checked the footage from outside cameras and found they had been tampered with. After some fiddling he managed to restore the original footage and found the three thieves had a Chinese driver waiting for them in a blue Lada outside.

Alicia and Leonid felt they were back in Russia. Maserova’s apartment was in a building block that looked straight out of the Soviet regime, cockroaches included. They had to knock for a while on the door until it was opened by a 30-something woman with dishevelled hair wearing a dressing gown. They introduced themselves as Delphi Council agents investigating a data theft and were allowed inside.

Alicia was initially suspicious of the woman, especially since she had no reason for being late to work other than oversleeping. Leonid, on the other hand, found a glass of wine with a suspicious smell reminiscent of narcotics.

“Let’s skip to the heart of the matter” said Alicia “The data was stolen by your boyfriend, and you have no alibi for tonight-”

“Wait a minute!” interrupted Maserova as if suddenly hit by a bucket of cold water “Two things. One, he was not my boyfriend, our relationship was purely physical. Second, I have nothing to do with that.”

“Did you notice him meeting with any suspicious people?” asked Leonid.

Maserova recalled an earlier event, when the two of them were out together. They were picked up by a taxi and she found the driver suspicious in the way he avoided talking with Adrian at the time. She recalled him looking Chinese. Leonid showed her the picture of the getaway driver and she nodded.

Their discussion was interrupted by a phone call.

“Slokovak here. A blue Lada was spotted parked in front of the Tryšynskija Cemetery. I also found that Karski has a 200-kg shipment waiting for him in the harbor. How do you want to do this? I go after the shipment and you head for the car?”

Alicia was curious about the shipment and Damien about the car. Leonid answered “We’ll take both. Can you check for any news at the datacenter?”

Just as they were about to leave, Maserova noticed her security pass was missing. “Now we know why he got close to you” commented Alicia.

At the harbor Alicia quickly located the large container. According to the labels, it was from Tel Aviv, sent by one Hriharey Karski. As she opened the container, she was assaulted by the stench of sweat and urine. Inside were dozens of empty biscuit boxes and water bottles, as well as an unconscious man. Alicia called an ambulance.

Near the cemetery, Damien and Leonid approached the car cautiously. Damien cut the alarm, picked the lock and waited for Leonid to perform a thorough search. While he was checking out the trunk, Leonid was thrown inside as the car suddenly began to move. Leonid pushed the rear seats aside and took a look. Damien was at the wheel, chasing a car.

“Isn’t that our car?” asked Leonid, rhetorically.

Alicia was on the bridge near the pier, done dealing with the ambulance and about to call the others when their rental car passed next to her at full speed. A blue Lada seemed to be chasing after it. Damien was doing well, keeping up with the other driver and attempted a full-speed drift to let Leonid grab Alicia. Instead he hit a streetlight, slowing down enough for Alicia to get in on her own. Fortunately her darkness spells slowed down the other driver enough to keep in pursuit.

When the car restarted and returned to the chase, Leonid was still in the trunk when he noticed a police car behind them, demanding they turn over the stolen Lada. Leonid swore and tried to show his Delphi Council badge, but it slipped in-between his fingers and straight into the river. Then he ducked as one of the policemen was preparing to shoot with a shotgun.

Damien was angry. The other driver kept giving him the middle finger, making him lose focus and nearly lose control of the car. Fortunately he did manage to shoot out one of the car’s tires and Alicia was doing well in-between blinding the other driver and zapping the other car with lightning bolts. At one of the bridges, the police car lost control and dove straight into the river. Eventually Damien caught up and after a gentle tap on the rear wheel, the chase was over. The driver was none other than Adrian Pozlovski.

Fifteen minutes later they were at the police station with agent Slokovak telling them to go ahead with the interrogation. Pozlovski, despite numerous bruises and scratches, kept taunting the Storm Knights. He pretended to be a victim, though the tone of his voice made it clear he was mocking the interrogators. Damien pulled out his gun and threatened him with grievous bodily harm.

“Alright, alright, let’s not get overexcited” said Pozlovski looking at his watch “How about a plea bargain? I tell you how to get to the other three and you drop the case?”

“No deal” said Damien and shot Pozlovski in the shoulder.

After some cursing, Pozlovski refused to talk and threatened to sue the Delphi Council.

“I don’t care.” said Damien “Unlike the other two, I’m not in it.”

“Are you here just to stall?” asked Leonid

“Yeah. And the longer you torture me, the less you’ll get out of the deal I’m offering.”

Eventually the heroes relented and Slokovak obtained a pardon for the industrial espionage charge.

“The other three are Edvin Hopp, Carina Bertelli and Yuhan Quan. They work for the Morning Watch Company in Dezhou.”

“How do you know that?” asked Alicia “And why should we trust you?”

“We have a deal. I don’t want any legal trouble so I got no reason to lie. As for the first question, I also used to work for MWC. Up until about 10 minutes ago.”

“You seriously don’t care about betraying your comrades?” asked Damien.

“It’s not betrayal. It’s just business.”

As the heroes were about to leave, Leonid stopped by Slokovak and said “You should know we found traces of an unidentified drug in Maserova’s wine glass. It could be that she was an unwilling partner of this guy. But how would I know that? I haven’t run an analysis on the drug after all. And the plea bargain doesn’t cover that crime, does it?”

Slokovak smiled “I like how you think. Let’s do this your way but it’s probably not going to stick long. Still, feels better that way.”

----

Dezhou, China, Pan-Pacifica, Night 55
Leonid Slovokin, Alicia Kalachnikova, Damien Monnet

Alicia landed the stealth jet near Dezhou and the heroes prepared for the operation. After contacting Tenushath they had stopped by Dephi in order to switch planes to avoid official inquiries as to their presence in Pan-Pacifica. The Marathon director was confident that it was not too late yet, the data being encrypted and the perpetrators being only a couple hours ahead. Even with Pan-Pacifica’s advanced technology it would take days to decrypt all of the stolen files. Leonid noticed Alicia developed a strange cough since they crossed the cosm border and attributed it to the earlier encounter with Danyl Rahosja.

The Storm Knights wore suits and ties as they approached the building where the Morning Watch Company was located. It was a tall skyscraper shared between multiple small corporations. MWC was one of them, having only four employees on its payroll and specializing, according to their website, in “business intelligence regarding Western investment opportunities”.

Alicia knocked at their door while Damien and Leonid ducked into the restrooms. A Chinese man opened.

“Good evening.” said Alicia “I am looking for spies to acquire intelligence from the Cyberpapacy.”

The Chinese man was surprised at the straightforwardness and at the late hour.

“Usually we perform initial negotiations by phone… but if you are in a hurry I believe we may discuss it directly now. I am Yuhan Quan.”

Alicia was led inside and distracted Quan while Leonid scrambled the cameras and Damien picked the lock. The two went straight to the employees-only area and found four offices and a server room with two people working in it, a man and a woman. The direct approach was taken.

Leonid cut the lights while Damien threatened the man with his pistol. Despite the advantage of surprise, Damien found himself facing a skilled martial artist who somehow was able to counter-attack every move. Leonid shot the terminal next to the woman first and regretted it as soon as she charged at him with a hidden blade dripping poison. At the negotiating table, Alicia offered payment in the form of a lightning bolt. Unluckily it was dissipated by the table and Quan was unhurt. The heroes realized they were facing three Stormers.

Fortunately Quan became desperate first when he too realized Alicia was reality-rated. “What the blazes do you want?” he asked.

“Information. And tell your friends to stand down.” answered Alicia.

“Can you assure me you will not attempt to hurt us while we negotiate?”

Alicia nodded and Quan told his associates to stop and the six people sat around the table.

“We want three things. Destroy the data you stole from the Brest datacenter. Tell us if there’s anything in it you’ve already sold. Tell us who you sold that to.”

“The first two are agreeable,” said Quan. “The last one we cannot comply with.”

“Deal” said Leonid.

Quan quickly printed contracts with enough fine print and NDAs to hide a small war and after a round of signing, revealed the requested information. They only had time to decrypt and sell four full files. One was a personnel file regarding one Oleg Bron. Another concerned a top secret Delphi Council refugee camp in Finland. The third one was a list of psychics in Core Earth, Tharkold and Pan-Pacifica whom the Delphi Council was either protecting or trying to recruit. Finally the last one covered an operation in preparation against an area of the GodNet that was somehow “off the grid” in the Abbaye de Lérins.

The heroes returned to the plane and called Tenushath to discuss their findings and ask questions about the different files.

“I know Oleg,” said Damien “He’s the guy who got Aurore and me in touch with the Delphi Council. He’s an important guy who knows a lot about Resistance operations. I’m not abandoning him.”

“I’m curious about the Abbaye” said Alicia “But I think the refugee camp is more important. There are thousands of lives at stake. The Resistance can probably take care of itself. Refugees definitely can’t.”

“This reminds me of something.” said Leonid “Do you remember what Ernest said back in Boston? That we’ll have to choose who dies. I think that may be what he meant.” Then he turned to Tenushath’s picture on the screen “Can you dispatch other Storm Knights to deal with this?”

“I’m afraid that’s not likely to work.” said Tenushath flatly “We do not have enough Storm Knights, and I am told other teams also have their priorities. We will dispatch Ords to do as much as we can. I do not expect them to succeed, only to provide us data on what will have transpired.”

“Then I’m in favor of helping the refugee camp as well.” said Leonid “Too many lives at stake. By the way, Tenushath, the person behind the psychic files is probably Golovsky, my old… mentor I guess. He’s working with the Russian secret services or perhaps the Tharkoldu.”

“Sorry,” said Damien “But that’s where I’m leaving. I’m not letting Oleg die.”

----

Northern Urals, Russia, Blasted Land, Day 64
Lithiel, Michael Goodenough, Ivy “Crimson Rose”, Hiroto Nogushi

The Storm Knights followed the directions given by Colonel Krilov during their new mission briefing and quickly found the right set of caves. Their earlier encounter with road raiders was hardly worth mentioning, even though it had nearly cost them their vehicle. Next to a cave entrance on the side of a mountain, a silhouette was waiting for them: heavily-cloaked with a mechanical mask over the face.

“Hello.” said Hiroto “We are from the Delphi Council. Are you the refugees who need to be relocated?”

“I speak in their name” answered the individual.

“Could you give us a run-down of the situation and what you are looking for?” asked Michael.

The cloaked figure explained they were former slaves of the Tharkoldu who had found freedom in this world. They hid in the cave network in the Ural mountain range for the time being, but a massive force of raiders led by a former thrall named Samandriel was assembling to the north of their position.

“We request a safe place, but we have an additional need. It must be a place with high levels of radiation. Our knowledge of this world is insufficient to guide us to such a place. We cannot afford to wander either, as that could spell our doom.”

“Excuse me?” said Hiroto “Did you say radiation? Why?”

“Our bodies have been changed to require such an environment. As mentioned, we know the location of an Eternity Shard we are willing to trade for your help.”

The Storm Knights nodded and pooled together their knowledge of nearby areas likely to have a low profile and high radiation… or that could be made to have it. Four candidates were found: a radioactive waste dump, a city hit by a falling piece of the Malestrom bridge, a nuclear fuel enrichment plant, and an abandoned experimental nuclear reactor.

As the enrichment plant was in a remote area the group decided to drive there first.

----

Yugyd Va National Park, Russia, Blasted Land, Day 64
Lithiel, Michael Goodenough, Ivy “Crimson Rose”, Hiroto Nogushi

Lithiel was astonished to see an area of rich deep woods untouched by the devastation of the Blasted Land. A dirt road closely hugged a railway line, both leading to the enrichment plant. The heroes were surprised the plant was still staffed. The guard manning the booth at the entrance was just as surprised to see them. He stared at them with a wide-eyed expression and an open mouth.

“Let me handle this” said Hiroto, getting out of the vehicle and heading straight for the guard, his hand held forward for a handshake.

“Greetings. My friends and I are a bit lost. Could you tell us what this place is?”

“Huh?” said the guard, looking at Hiroto’s hand, smiling face and junker truck with the other Storm Knights and menagerie. “You… you’re real, right?”

Hiroto’s subsequent attempts at getting answers were lost on the guard, who looked like he had seen five ghosts, a panther, three ferrets and a homunculus… in a truck. Michael suggested leaving. Once the heroes were out of eyesight and earshot they discussed the situation.

It was obvious the plant was still operating, making it an unlikely location to hide refugees. Michael and Hiroto were, however, intrigued by the fact it was still operating and wanted to find out more. Lithiel found the guard’s reaction strange as well and insisted they stay for a short while to investigate.

When they returned to the entrance, they found the guard talking with an older gentleman wearing a suit and tie.

“Yeah, I think I must have been dreaming, boss.” said the guard, then when he noticed the truck coming back he added “And I still am.”

The suited man seemed just as surprised as the guard first was when he saw an elf, a businessman, a cabaret singer, three bodyguards, one panther and three ferrets get out of the truck. He recovered much more quickly though, and three strides later was shaking hands and exchanging business cards with Hiroto.

“Victor Lani. How do you do?” he said with a thick Italian accent “I am the director of this facility. You must be explorers or refugees?”

Hiroto decided on the usual tactic and introduced the group as Stormer mercenaries looking for opportunities. Lani was more than happy to provide them with a few as he was always looking for additional guards, especially with Samandriel’s army nearby. He was also very forthcoming with information. The facility’s employees were all from Zultan Holdings Ltd, an Italian corporation that had won the Russian government’s bid to operate the plant and provide reactor-grade uranium.

Lani was also very quick to invite them to stay for the night. “There is nowhere else nearby. Here you will be safe. And you’ll get to meet everyone. We have a vacant apartment, you will feel right at home. Tomorrow we can talk about employment. Dinner will be in about an hour.”

----

Near Vaasa, Finland, Aysle, Night 64
Amethyst Ninja, In-Soon Heo, Samarj Chopade

In-Soon snuck into position near the viking camp and waited. He knew Amethyst Ninja would be in position on the other side of the camp soon enough and Samarj was probably already hidden nearby, her rifle pointing towards the camp. The Finnish recon soldiers were also hidden somewhere, ready to provide cover if required. The camp was a fairly simple thing of tents and campfires and a big totem stood in the middle. It was still incomplete.

As soon as he estimated the others had had enough time, In-Soon set fire to the totem with pyrokinesis and ran for his life. Amethyst Ninja also revealed himself to create a diversion for In-Soon. The viking wizards pelted the heroes with stunning spells, though it was not enough to stop them. Samarj shot a few enemies until the others were far enough and also ran away. She cursed as she noticed the scouts had been found and were dealing with a viking patrol.

At the same time, the burning totem revealed some of its dying power and turned the surrounding forest into a labyrinth of greenery. Amethyst Ninja considered the situation desperate enough to turn his prayers towards Osiris.

A huge ostrich of light appeared in the sky above the heroes and wrapped them and the scouts in its wings. Everyone was carried away.

Minutes later, the heroes and the scouts were back on the ground, a bit disoriented.

“We don’t even know where we are anymore” said Samarj “And how exactly are we supposed to find Karl’s trail now?”

In-Soon pointed towards a lone tower at the top of the hill they had landed on. “How about we try there?”

The scouts bid their farewells and thanked the heroes for their help.

The heroes approached the tower and knocked on the door. The door’s wood twisted into the shape of a mouth and spoke.

“What is your business with the powerful wizard Karl Thilaus?” asked the mouth in Karl’s voice.

“We are here to talk business.” answered Samarj

The mouth asked again and In-Soon remarked that it was just a magical answering machine. After some insistence, they did get Karl’s attention.

“Oh, so it’s you. Forgive me for not allowing you inside, I don’t know your intentions and I do know you can be quite formidable. Especially when it comes to probing people’s thoughts. Now, what do you want? And by the way, my tower’s defences are formidable in case you decide on a violent approach.”

“We just want to talk about stuff that happened in the Blasted Land.” said Amethyst Ninja.

“Well, then talk. No need to waste my time.”

“Where’s Zaidi and what’s your business with him?” asked Samarj.

“Interesting question. I do not know where exactly he is but I know where he was supposed to be. As for the second question, my contract with him has been completed, therefore I am under no obligation to keep it a secret. How do you intend to pay? Gold? Artifacts?”

The group realized they had neither.

“Do you need anything done?” asked Amethyst Ninja.

“You do realize that usually I am the one doing things for others? If you are short on either you can just wander around until you find a dark cave or abandoned castle. As a matter of fact there is one about three days to the north from here.”

“Don’t you have anything closer? We’re in a bit of a hurry.” asked Samarj.

“My dear, I have already taken care of everything closer.”

The heroes decided to avoid violence for the time being and went to look for a dungeon to loot.

----

Yugyd Va National Park, Russia, Blasted Land, Night 64
Lithiel, Michael Goodenough, Ivy “Crimson Rose”, Hiroto Nogushi

Close to dinnertime, as plant workers returned to the residential area, Lithiel and Michael snuck out to take a look at the offices and production area respectively. Hiroto and Ivy headed for the dining area. Hiroto sat at the executives’ table to get the official spiel, while Ivy aimed for the technicians instead, to have a better idea of what was actually happening. The latter proved to be a poor idea as the men (and a few women) were too busy trying to impress Ivy with the technical details of their work to provide anything useful.

Lithiel and Michael’s search did not turn out anything useful. Financial accounts were fairly run-of-the-mill and human resources only had a few stress-related resignations. The enrichment plant building itself had no secret weapons of mass destruction or anything suspicious at all, except for the schematics of a potato launcher.

Hiroto’s talk with the executives, especially Victor Lani, was turning out to be commonly boring. Until he GLORIOUSLY explained he was someone who could be trusted to not judge too quickly. Coincidentally, at that moment, the last light disappeared beyond the horizon, and, for some reason, employees began closing windows and lowering shutters. An atmosphere of tension permeated the room.

“No-one here is crazy of course, Nagato.” said Lani using the fake name Hiroto had introduced himself with earlier “But there is something here that… makes people uncomfortable. It was not like that at first. Obviously people would be stressed at being this remote and in a place that could be called a warzone. Now people keep complaining about nightmares… and then they vanish. I’m not even sure what’s going on but if you can do some exorcism with your Stormer powers I’m sure everyone would feel better.”

“I am not a priest but Michael can probably do something.” said Hiroto.

In the meantime Michael was returning to the residential building. He noticed Lithiel walking extremely fast in the same direction, oblivious to her surroundings. Then his attention was caught by something else. A dark shape in tattered clothing was hanging outside a window. As soon as Michael tried to get a better look, it ducked in. There was also a guard at the gate booth, which was surprising considering the general lack of anyone outside.

Michael approached the guard and saw him calmly reading a book in French.

“Anything unusual going on?” asked Michael.

The guard raised a bored eye and simply said “No.”

Michael returned to the apartment where the others, having finished dinner, were waiting.

“Exorcism?” asked Michael “Sorry, I’m more into having loa possess someone than the other way around.”

With that out of the way, once the employees were asleep, the heroes snuck out and went to pick the lock of the apartment Michael had seen the shadow enter. The interior was empty, though it looked like the bed had had someone sleep in. Ivy looked at a photograph and realized something.

“Isn’t that the weirdo we met before going to dinner?”

Hiroto looked at the picture and indeed recalled meeting an unkempt man in a lab coat while walking to dinner. The man had mumbled something incoherent and gone his way.

“I found something else under the pillow,” said Michael. He held up an egg shell. In the middle of it was a simple wooden ring.

“Interesting,” said Lithiel “I read one of your world’s books a short while ago. The egg, the wooden ring, and this area are all linked to one of the legends around Koschei the Immortal.”

----

Yugyd Va National Park, Russia, Blasted Land, Day 65
Lithiel, Michael Goodenough, Ivy “Crimson Rose”, Hiroto Nogushi

The heroes began the morning by confirming there were indeed other employees missing (or “away without leave” as human resources put it) and examined their rooms. The search produced multiple elements, all related to Koschei’s legends. Lithiel, having felt something strange from the surrounding forest during the night, began by checking around. She found boot prints that led to a small outcropping of rock overlooking the plant. There were weeks-old traces of people stopping there to watch the facility.

The tracks then led through the forest and to a large prefab house. It was of recent construction but abandoned. Hiroto recognized cooking appliances that were clearly from Pan-Pacifica. There were also papers and recordings indicating a team of operatives from something called the Society of the Lonely Idol searched the region for something, eventually found it and left. A castle of blood was also mentioned in the notes as having appeared after the operatives found their target.

When the Storm Knights found it, hidden by deep fog, the castle of blood looked ancient, gothic, and indeed had blood flowing out of its windows. It also had many technological gizmos sticking out, consistent with Tharkold. Despite his companions’ misgivings, Michael knocked at the main door. It opened with a creaky sound.

Beyond was a long corridor with closed doors to either side and an open door at the other end. The heroes decided to start with one of the side-doors. While Michael was picking the lock he realized the inside was full of organs. He still managed to unlock it. It had another corridor leading to a bedroom decorated in colors and styles fit for a fairy-tale princess.

Lithiel looked under the bed and found no floor. Instead of the floor was the tunnel of an intestine that ended with a field of flames. She had her homunculus break through the room’s floor, to confirm more intestines. Eventually the heroes were satisfied - and disgusted - enough to move back to the main hallway and go straight to the room at the other end.

They were expected. An elderly man sat on a throne at the other end of a long ancient wooden table.

“Greetings, heroes” said the old man “You have entered the domain of Koschei, the Immortal. Shall we have some food for thought, or shall I have you for food?”

“Let’s start with food for thought for now” answered Lithiel.

Koschei let out a hollow laugh “Then let us have some of my favorite riddles. Get them right and I will not eat you.”

The heroes were not all expert at riddles, therefore the riddle contest devolved into a staredown between the Koschei on one side, and the Storm Knights, Hiroto’s bodyguard, Lithiel’s homunculus and Ivy’s panther on the other. In the meantime Ivy’s ferrets toyed with the decoration. The riddles turned out to be easy once Koschei was distracted enough to nearly provide the answers himself, and, when Michael GLORIOUSLY answered the last of his riddles, he began pouting.

“Very well, worthy heroes. You may ask one thing of Koschei and one thing only.”

Without hesitation the heroes demanded he lift his curse from the land.

“So be it.” was the answer. Koschei’s shape began shifting and morphing until it became a towering techno-demon. “The next time we meet I will hold back on the stupid local legends.”

With that the techno-demon flew away and the castle began melting in blood. The heroes left. They were about to return to the plant when they noticed not every part of the castle had melted. What was left was a small wooden hut. The heroes entered and found it full of bones, all probably human.

“Well well well. What have we here?” said a disembodied voice that sounded like an old man.

“Who are you?” asked Ivy “Reveal yourself!”

“You already know who I am, unless you do not know the difference between a fraud and the real one. What are you going to steal today?”

“Something was stolen from you?” asked Michael, police training taking over.

“Take a look around my hut. Don’t you see anything missing?”

“The fireplace could use a fire.” said Hiroto.

“Close but incorrect. What use is a fire without anything to heat? For it is my cauldron that is missing.”

Michael took Koschei’s ghost’s testimony. Three people in suits came into the hut and stole his cauldron. Their faces looked like “the savage tribes to the east” and they mentioned going to a mysterious place named “Seoul” next.

Once they had ascertained nothing further could be done, the heroes returned to the plant to bring news of success to Victor Lani. He was ecstatic and offered a large monetary reward, which the heroes turned down.

“You could do us a favor though” said Hiroto “We have some friends who need a very radioactive place to stay at. Could you put them up for a while?”

Victor hesitated for a moment then had a revelation. “Of course I can. They are more than welcome. We’re a bit low on manpower with those who have disappeared. I’m sure the main office will be happy to know we have a cheaper workforce that is more than happy to work here of all places.”

----

Glasslough, Ireland, Aysle, Day 65
Bronze Bullet, Elizabeth Poliakova, Gregor MacConnor, Logan MacCormack

By the end of yet another afternoon of travel though the Irish countryside, the Storm Knights reached the small hamlet of Glasslough and decided to stop at the inn for the night. Dinner was the most disappointing one they had since entering the country: thin vegetable soup, coarse bread and water. The innkeeper apologized profusely at being unable to offer more to such esteemed heroes.

Gregor took a look at the faces at the inn, noticing how gaunt they were, and asked. “Is there anything wrong going on here?”

“It is the wind, my lords” said the innkeeper. “It destroys everything.”

“Wind?” asked Bronze Bullet. “I can’t hear any wind.”

“In a moment my lords. It rises during the day and the night and stops during dusk and dawn.”

As if on cue, the wind rose. Shutters and doors rattled, despite being closed, latched and secure.

“You see?” said the innkeeper “It’s been like that for two weeks now. It has destroyed all of our harvest and blown away our cattle. Soon we will all have to abandon our homeland and wander like refugees.”

The heroes asked further questions about the events two weeks before, particularly insisting on any Tibetan-looking monks that could have gone through the area. The innkeeper did remember one such person, who had just stayed the night then left. Coincidentally, observed Bronze Bullet, the wind started soon after.

“Let’s go take a look right now!” said Logan “I can’t sleep without a keg of beer or two anyway.”

The heroes left the inn and realized just how strong the wind was when they were nearly blown away. Elizabeth suggested going against the wind to find its source. About an hour later Bronze Bullet stopped the group with an astute observation.

“You know. This is the first time I witness wind blowing in a circular pattern, without an actual tornado nearby.”

Quickly enough the heroes worked out that the wind blew around a hill near the village and the group, despite being tired from the strong wind’s ordeal, headed that way.

While they were walking through the forest to the top of the hill, Bronze Bullet realized something was circling around them. Dark wisps of smoke formed at their back, blocking their retreat. The wisps seemed to be unaffected by the strong air currents. As the creatures did not seem immediately hostile, the heroes trudged on.

They chanced upon a clearing with a huge mass of black fog in the middle. It swirled and turned, impenetrable to eyesight. The wind was weaker there and the heroes carefully approached. The mist swirled and a human face made of fog emerged. It seemed to pantomime something, then slid across the surface of the fog and disappeared. The heroes were puzzled.

The face reappeared again, this time with smaller faces circling around it. All of the faces were smiling. Then the large face slid away again, and the small faces looked sad. The pattern repeated itself many times over.

“I’m not getting it. Is it magic? Is it trying to communicate?” asked Gregor.

“Is it time to go in and look at what’s in the middle?” suggested Logan brandishing a rope and tying everyone to everyone else.

As the heroes attempted to get inside the black fog an extremely strong wind began blowing. Elizabeth and Bronze Bullet were immediately raised into the air and dangled at the ends of the rope tied to Logan and Gregor. At the same time, the strange swirls of smoke attacked.

“I think I got it!” shouted Bronze Bullet once Logan had made his way into the smoke, hauling everyone else with him. “See those mushrooms? That’s a fairy ring! Let’s try to appease the little devils fiiiiiirst!”

Gregor and Logan nodded and pulled Elizabeth and Bronze Bullet back to the ground. The latter quickly established a diplomatic protocol and promised to do anything the fairies needed. “I think my legalese should be enough to avoid too many entanglements.”

The wind stopped, the black fog vanished and fairies appeared to complain. They were simply trying to attract the villagers’ attention because their friend, a human boy from the village, stopped coming to play with them. Returning to the village, the heroes tried to convince the villagers to go visit the fairies once in a while, but everyone believed the hill was cursed, and that fairies were bad news. After some convincing, the villagers agreed to have a festival once in a while instead.

Further investigation uncovered that the boy had vanished around the same time as Wangchuk had visited the village. Nobody had worried too much because he tended to be a bit of a loner, and a bit of a tricky wizard who enjoyed pranking everyone.

“Have you noticed?” said Gregor “Every place visited by Wangchuk Drupa has met with misfortune. There was that shipwreck in India, the elven tree from a while ago, now this. I wonder if Waterford wasn’t his doing as well.”

“Unlikely,” answered Bronze Bullet “Their burgmeister was in power much before he could have met with Wangchuk. As for the rest… that seems pretty accurate. I wonder what’s coming next.”

----

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