Torg

Episode Sixteen – At the Twilight’s Last Gleaming
Death of a High Lord!

Act One – Land of the Free

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The Storm Knights are stranded on Tz’Ravok, homeworld of the ravagons. Brought to the crumbling temple-home of Kevessk, they speak to the ancient ravagon and learn much of the Possibility Wars. Kevessk tells them of how the Gaunt Man has masqueraded as a ravagon prophet to win the winged hunters to his cause – a cause that Kevessk and his disciples deny. Kevessk also reveals to them that the Gaunt Man has been trapped in a maelstrom for months due to a vulnerability to Eternity Shards. And he further tells them how to bring Final Death to Manwaring – by stuffing his mouth with holy wafers and beheading him.

This is actually good timing, because Manwaring appears out of the darkness and attacks, accompanied by a more ravagons and a tz’rettak – a gargantuan worm-beast of this world. Kevessk immediately begins crafting a portal back to Core Earth, and the Storm Knights hold the line against Manwaring and his allies to give the ancient ravagon time to complete their route home. A massive lightning storm rolls in over the scene to complicate matters, but the Knights are seasoned warriors, and the ravagons soon succumb to sustained fire from Sokanon and Clyssia. Rick brings down the tz’rettak single-handed, and Cleophee at last brings an end to the vampyre Victor Manwaring, with the aid of holy wafers from Kevessk’s temple and the keen edge of the Nile Sunblade. And there was much rejoicing.

Hurling themselves through Kevessk’s portal, our heroes arrive in Hoo-Stun (Kevessk sends them here because he has detected an increase in ravagon activity in the area) and are almost immediately intercepted by Delphi Council operatives. With unearthly storms brewing overhead, the Knights are happy to accompany them (and the operatives are happy to not get murdered) and before long, our heroes are in conference at the Delphi Council safehouse with their old friend Ellen Connors. As you might expect, the meeting gets slightly out of hand. The Storm Knights introduce Speaker Vrakoth. He offers to assist Core Earth. Connors reveals that the Delphi Council has Thratchen in a holding cell after he surrendered himself to them. All the Storm Knights think this is a terrible idea. Someone mentions the comaghaz virus. Connors tries to quarantine everyone at gunpoint. Clyssia fills the entire room with magic glue which Knotty claims comes from his butthole. You know. The usual.

After everyone has finished shouting and waving their guns around, things settle down a bit. Connors says that President Quartermain is en route to meet with Thratchen and the Knights insist on talking to the President first. Connors reluctantly agrees and the group head upstairs to meet the leader of the free world. After initial pleasantries are exchanged, Speaker Vrakoth is overcome by the comaghaz hive mind and immediately tries to kill Quartermain. Sokanon helpfully blows his brains out (Vrakoth’s, not Quartermain’s). At the same time, however, the Yamanashi Lacewing reveals that a stela is coming online somewhere in the building. Also, a maelstrom bridge starts to form in the skies above the city, disgorging several advanced fighter craft – Tharkold is attempting another invasion of Earth. Oh, and the Robosphinx Mk II emerges from the sea, launching several Paket fighters and Super Ra Warrior Rocket Force X. The final battle begins.

As Quartermain bravely runs away, our heroes launch into action. Cleophee summons Kuranath and takes to the skies, dogfighting with the Tharkoldu attack craft. Sokanon races to the shore and faces off against the Robosphinx – which is piloted by none other than the Insidious Wu Han, who fires missiles at the safehouse and cackles wildly over his intercom. Clyssia confronts Super Ra Warrior Rocket Force X when they attack the safehouse directly. And Rick rushes into the basement where he discovers the stela. It’s Thratchen himself – somehow the techno-demon has hardwired a stela into his cybernetic circuitry. After only a few moments of hesitation to gather his courage, Admiral Rogers engages the Regent of Orrorsh in a reality storm!

Cleophee and her dragon are a solid match for the Tharkoldu jets. As the United States Airforce mobilises to lend aid, the elf leads the aerial battle. Seeing her wife standing alone against the Robosphinx with her rifle, Cleophee tricks two fighter craft into pursuing her – then pulls Kuranath up at the last minute. The two fighters plough into the Robosphinx, immobilising it. Sokanon scales its exterior and leaps into the cockpit to engage Wu Han in hand-to-hand combat. Clyssia unleashes all manner of magical whup-ass against the Ra Warriors, and Rick finds himself stretched to his uttermost limits in his reality battle against Thratchen. He begins to realise that he may have met his match.

Then the second maelstrom bridge arrives.

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To the north of Houston, a monstrous column of vines and creepers, swarming with reptilian beasts, descends from the stormclouds. Takta Ker has come. An edeinos army swarms down the bridge, with a huge lizard man atop a mighty carnol at its head. Kaah is here.

Cleophee turns Kuranath around and races north to meet the new arrivals. Down below, Core Earth troops struggle to form a defensive line to hold the edeinos at bay while a panicked evacuation of Houston gets underway. But with Living Land axioms washing over the northern half of the city, Houston’s defenders are a disorganised rabble. Alone, Cleophee and her dragon face the might of Baruk Kaah’s army and the rage of the Saar and his Darkness Device.

Clyssia is holding her own against Super Ra Warrior Rocket Force X – for now – but Sokanon is finding Wu Han a trickier opponent than she anticipated. The wily overgovernor uses deceit, feints, and a handful of poisonous powder to incapacitate her. Naturally, he ties her up and begins to gloat. Sokanon, however, is no damsel in distress. She slips her bonds and shoots Wu Han point blank with Bianca. He screams, staggers backwards, falls out of the Robosphinx’s eye-socket, and plummets into the waters of the bay below. Determined not to let him escape, Sokanon races after him and turns his body over… to see that his moustache has come loose from his face. It wasn’t Wu Han at all, but some kind of body double. Curses!

Rick is running out of Possibility Energy and, although Thratchen is similarly depleted, his reserves seem deeper than those of the Rocket Ranger. Growing desperate, Rick empties the Pearl of Atabey – the group’s first Eternity Shard – in his attempt to defeat the techno-demon. But even that is not enough. And so Rick decides that there is only one way to end this struggle. He kicks his suit’s thrusters into overdrive and, grappling Thratchen, sends them both hurtling skyward. Their reality storm collapses around them and Rick climbs as far and as fast as he can. Before Thratchen can recover his senses and retaliate, Rick slams them both into the growing steel superstructure of the Tharkoldu maelstrom bridge high overhead. The impact kills Thratchen in a titanic blast of Possibility energy, shattering the nascent bridge, and the Rocket Ranger, his life spent in one last heroic sacrifice, falls to his end on the good Earth below.

Almost.

Sowing death and fire among the edeinos ranks from Kuranath’s back, Cleophee spots his body falling. She banks hard and sends Kuranath speeding across the embattled city. Just in time, the dragon snatches the comatose Admiral from the air. Cleophee drags him into her saddle and revives him. Rick Rogers lives to fight another day. Of course, he’s getting used to it by now.

Back on the beach, Sokanon emerges from the water to see a small speedboat reach the shore. It’s manned by her old partner Jake and former president Douglas Kent, who have come to help deal with Kaah’s bridge. Knowing that the Saar was going to attack Houston, Kent has produced a large amount of his badass weedkiller. If they can retrieve the captured Cyberpapacy missile from Episode Three, Kent is sure they can use it to deploy the weedkiller against the Living Land maelstrom bridge. Quin Sebastian is waiting not far away with a plane, ready to go. Sokanon agrees, and together they head back to the safehouse to regroup with the others.

Once there, Sokanon helps Clyssia deal with the last of Super Ra Warrior Rocket Force X. Cleophee realises that she cannot burn all of Kaah’s army alone – Kent’s plan will deal a more lasting blow. Below her, the edeinos are cutting a deadly swathe through Core Earth’s shambolic lines. But they only need to hold out a while longer. She sweeps in on Kuranath to rejoin her wife and daughter. And behind her, Rick descends, retro-thrusters firing.

There they assemble, Avengers-fashion – Earth’s finest Storm Knights. Clyssia, crackling with spell energy. Sokanon, her rifle slung over her shoulder. Cleophee astride her dragon. Rick Rogers in his battle-scarred rocket suit. Knotty, scratching his butt. The time has come to end this.

Retrieving the Cyberpapal warhead, our heroes are soon at a nearby airfield, where Quin Sebastian awaits. Core Earth’s defences are crumbling – Baruk Kaah has now carved a path deep into their ranks, threatening the ragged lines of fleeing evacuees – and so the Knights waste no time in loading Kent’s badass weedkiller into the missile. Then they are aloft, Sokanon and Clyssia in the plane, with Rick and Cleophee providing close air support. As one, they streak towards the towering mass of the Living Land maelstrom bridge.

Kaah sees them and repeatedly hurls a great black spear – his Darkness Device, Rec Pakken, in weapon-form – at the speeding aircraft. The plane is badly damaged but Quin manages to keep it airborne. The Knights fight off swarms of lakten that try to slow their progress and finally come within striking distance of the bridge. It falls to Rick Rogers (under strict orders not to try to sacrifice himself) to deliver the missile. He flies deep into the mass of vines at the heart of the bridge, deposits the warhead, then hurtles to safety. The plane banks away. The missile detonates.

In a combination of nuclear fire and presidential defoliant, the maelstrom bridge is torn apart. And a Core Earth axiom wash thunders into Takta Ker. As the portal to the savage world collapses, our heroes catch a brief glimpse of it wreaking devastation on the primitive reality in a monstrous surge of Possibility Energy, testament to the innate strength of Earth’s reality.

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This is not the only consequence, of course. Their axioms restored, Core Earths troops rally and begin a lethal series of counterattacks against the edeinos army. Now modern weapons tear the edeinos lines apart, and heavy artillery pounds the reptilian invaders from all sides. Baruk Kaah roars for his men to stand their ground, but his roars turn to a scream of disbelief. At his side, the black spear vanishes, and Kaah is reminded that Rec Pakken does not serve him. He serves Rec Pakken. And when that service is finally deemed a failure, the Darkness Device discards him, leaving him to his fate.

Which is to receive a high-grade ass-kicking from the Storm Knights. In a flurry of lead, plasma, lightning, steel, and dragonfire, they descend upon the Saar of the edeinos. Kaah is a powerful foe, and gives his best against them, but without his Darkness Device he is no match for Earth’s finest. They subject him to a thorough beat-down, literally driving him to his knees before them. It is there that he begs for mercy, there that he asks them to spare him. And it is there – on his knees – that Baruk Kaah perishes, as Sokanon puts a bullet through his brain for all the horror he has wrought upon her world.

Around them, the sounds of battle echo through the smoke of the burning maelstrom bridge. The edeinos are routing, Core Earth’s troops driving them back from the city. And then, through the murk, a figure appears. A tall, emaciated man in a battered coat and wide-brimmed hat. A dragon-headed cane is in his hand. Bowing formally, the Gaunt Man congratulates the Storm Knights on thinning the ranks of his High Lords, removing the weak so that the strong may prosper. He tells them that that can be proud of their accomplishments. And he looks forward to meeting them formally soon…

Our heroes are politely grateful, but have nothing more to say to the mastermind behind the invasion of Earth. Sometimes it’s better to leave things as they are. And as the Gaunt Man leaves the Storm Knights, so do we – surrounded by smoke and devastation, the body of a High Lord at their feet. Victorious to the last.

In the days that follow, there is a brief respite. Cleophee is knighted by Ardinay and given command of Aysle’s armies under Tolwyn Tancred. Clyssia and Knotty enjoy some simple downtime watching Netflix in their motel (a documentary series on the heroes of the wars begins with a feature-length episode about Jaidyn Scott). Admiral Rogers leads the Rocket Rangers against a weird science facility (a figure who looks an awful lot like Wu Han flees for cover as their assault begins). Skye reads a letter that Sokanon gave to Uncle Joe in the event of her death, but feels only gratitude and pride in the hero she has for a daughter. And in Houston, Tyler addresses the latest Spartan recruits, telling them to never forget who they are, what they stand for. Before all else, they are Storm Knights.

The Possibility Wars continue…

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Episode Fifteen: Signs and Wonders
Back in the USSR!

Act One – Starfall

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Word comes from the Delphi Council that a suspected Akashan scout ship has been shot down by Russian missiles somewhere in the Blasted Land – possibly an advance guard from the Space Gods themselves – so our heroes are rapidly inbound aboard one of their very own transport planes. Naturally, it is attacked as soon as it enters Tharkoldu airspace by a pair of techno-demons and a swarm of drones. Almost immediately the pilots are killed, the cockpit wrecked, the plane fatally compromised, and a crash is imminent. Just another Tuesday in the Near Now.

While the plane spirals out of control, hurtling groundward, the Storm Knights free themselves from their seats and face off against their assailants. The techno-demons and their drones are tough foes – Cleophee is gravely injured almost immediately but rallies herself and repeatedly ejects the techno-demons from the stricken aircraft while her companions hold the drones at bay long enough for her and Sokanon to grab parachutes and get clear. Clyssia destroys the planes with lightning blasts as Rick flies her to safety, and Sokanon and Cleophee are locked in battle with the techno-demons as they descend. Thanks to more of Clyssia’s lightning, airborne precision fire from Bianca, and the wonders of real elven rope, the demons perish and our heroes touch down in the Blasted Land.

They soon make the acquaintance of some locals – a band of scavengers called Anton, Gretchen, Rambo and Tinkerbell – who agree to ferry the group to the downed scout ship in their badass truck Ahab. They’re not the only ones looking for the vessel, however, and soon a pair of other badass trucks carrying road warriors hungry for blood are on our heroes’ tail. To make matters worse, one of the Blasted Land’s unpredictable reality storms rolls in and engulfs the combatants. Although the Knights can withstand the storm, Anton is transformed to Tharkoldu reality, his body filling with strange implants, and Sokanon is forced to take control of Ahab.

No sooner is she behind the wheel than a Tharkoldu monster – a giant reptilian known as a calinosaur – lumbers out of the storm and joins the fray. Sokanon has driven out of a collapsing Channel Tunnel in the past, though, so battling a space dinosaur and a pair of monster trucks in the middle of a reality storm is not really a big deal for her. While her companions harry their pursuers with magic and gunfire, Sokanon tricks one of the enemy trucks into ramming the calinosaur. While the beast tears the road warriors and their trucks to pieces, Sokanon steers Ahab to safety, leaving the storm behind.

They arrive at the scout ship’s crash site – an abandoned mining town – before nightfall and see that the vessel is still largely intact, albeit embedded in several tonnes of rubble. But that’s not the only problem. While reconnoitring the area, Rick spots more road warriors inbound from the east, and a quartet of techno-demons and their thralls approaching from the south. The crashed Akashan vessel has drawn the attention of quite a few locals. Hearing movement inside the scout ship, Rick hurries to drag rubble away from one of its airlocks and is able to free a trio of strange insect-like aliens. Their translator device identifies them as lorbaat, advance scouts for an Akashan mothership soon to land at Machu Picchu, and they are extremely glad to have been rescued.

Their joy is short-lived, however, as the approaching techno-demons launch a pair of missiles at the scout ship and Ahab, seeking to eradicate all opposition before they arrive. The impact kills Tinkerbell and rips the cargo door off the scout ship, allowing a swarm of freaky psychic space zombies to emerge. They promptly slaughter one of the lorbaat. His companions apologise and take this opportunity to mention that the Akashans are struggling with a minor zombie infection problem that they may have accidentally brought to Earth with them. Rick orders them to take cover, then is airborne once more, and manages to lure the road warriors into the path of the Tharkoldu. While the road warriors and the Tharkoldu thralls attack one another, the techno-demons (an alpha male and its three servitors) swoop toward our heroes.

The Storm Knights launch into action. Cleophee single-handedly slays the space zombies with the Sun Blade, Rick joins in aerial combat with the Tharkoldu alpha, Sokanon reaches high ground and goes toe-to-toe with one of the servitor demons while the other two descend on Ahab and try to murder the survivors. Clyssia tricks them into accidentally shooting each other, prompting a furious brawl between them, then helps Anton, Gretchen, and Rambo crawl free from the ruined truck. As Rick kills the alpha, he spots an even larger inbound Tharkoldu force. The time has come to flee.

Cleophee rushes to Sokanon’s aid and helps her wife fell the techno-demon she’s battling, then they gather Anton, Gretchen, Rambo and the lorbaat and race for a Tharkoldu hovercraft (emptied by the thralls who are currently murdering the crap out of the road warriors). With the alpha demon dead, the other two demons turn fully on each other in a fight for dominance. The Knights commandeer of the hovercraft and Anton takes the driver’s seat, his implants coming to life as he interfaces with its controls. With a Tharkoldu demon lord and his servitor packs closing in, our heroes race away from the crash site. Machu Picchu beckons.

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Act Two – Bride of Ungrosh

Fleeing from masses of Tharkoldu troops, our heroes decide to lay low in a nearby cavern system until the excitement dies down, then make a break for the border. Rick kindly creates a diversion by transmitting his location to anyone within a mile radius, disconnecting, and plummeting from the sky. The distraction works and, after rescuing the stricken Rocket Ranger, the hovercraft Ishmael speeds to the safety of the caverns. There, investigation reveals a sinkhole leading to a strange, sunlit subterranean realm. Our heroes decide to explore further, accompanied by the two Lorbaat (now named Paul and Ringo).

It turns out that there’s an entire realm down there – a world of jungles, ruins, and savage beasts illuminated by a blazing sun. The Storm Knights rescue a hapless Nile Empire explorer called Pinkerton from a band of Leopard Warriors and learn that he came here in an airship. If they can rescue his companion Captain Drake from someone called Ungrosh, she might be able to find an exit from this Land Below that leads to the Andes in Peru. Pausing only to brutally murder some Darooni Wasp Riders (Cleophee steals one of their mounts in the process), the group sets out.

Ungrosh, of course, isn’t a person at all – a fact that Pinkerton completely fails to make clear. He’s a giant ape, and he’s very upset at the attempt to rescue his prize. Until he sets eyes on Sokanon, that is. Perhaps it’s her courageous demeanour, perhaps it’s her fantastic hair, or perhaps it’s the fact that she’s lit up like a Christmas tree with one of Clyssia’s armour spells – whatever the case, Ungrosh takes an immediate shine to her, snatches her up, and runs off down the mountainside with her. The other Knights give chase.

Ungrosh’s departure is somewhat curtailed by the appearance of a pair of monstrous tyrannosaurs which seem intent on eating him and Sokanon – the giant ape protects her while going toe-to-toe with the reptilian beasts. Incensed at the abduction of her adoptive mother, Clyssia goes nuclear and hurls a series of devastating lightning bolts at the combatants. Ungrosh uses the tyrannosaurs as shields (killing one in the process) and Sokanon is able to slip free in the confusion. Cleophee swoops in on her wasp, grabs Sokanon, and flies to safety. Leaving Ungrosh to tackle the remaining tyrannosaur, the Knights beat a hasty retreat.

Grateful for the rescue, Captain Drake offers the group passage aboard her airship, the Excelsior and agrees to take them to an exit that leads to the vicinity of Machu Picchu. Much to Pinkerton’s annoyance, she seems quite taken with Admiral Rogers, but the Rocket Ranger is true to his sorceress and resists Drake’s advances. He does help her with some weird science repairs to the Excelsior, however, and soon the Knights are airborne and streaking across the vast and wondrous terrain of the Land Below.

The exit into the Andes is in the Darooni Gorge, home to the Wasp Riders, and the Excelsior is soon running a gauntlet of angry, buzzing, javelin-throwing little bastards as they hurtle down the canyon looking for the way out of the Land Below. Ungrosh, scarred but still smitten, chooses this moment to reappear and reclaim his girlfriend. Although he’s able to snatch her again, Cleophee makes it very clear that Sokanon is spoken for and, with the aid of her wasp, once more rescues her wife from the ape’s grasp. While Rick blasts wave after wave of Wasp Riders to pieces with his plasma gun, Clyssia navigates a safe route down the canyon and through the exit caves from the Excelsior’s crow’s nest, then collapses the cave behind her with a final lightning blast.

Our heroes burst into true sunlight, high in the Andean air. Machu Picchu lies ahead of them. They race towards the ruined city, unaware of a final cut-scene that reveals that Thratchen has sent the vampire Victor Manwaring and a trio of ravagons to intercept them. As the Excelsior nears its destination, the hunters follow in its wake.

Act Three – False Gods

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The Excelsior cruises between the peaks of the Andes. Below, they can see that a considerable armed force has gathered at the base of Machu Picchu, holding back pilgrims who strain at the barricades for a chance to witness what has alighted atop the mountain. From the airship, the Storm Knights can see what it is. A spaceship. A really big spaceship. An Akashan mothership has landed here, embedding itself in the mountainside. A fair few Peruvians have managed to slip through the army’s blockade and are either climbing the mountain’s slopes or are already enjoying the hospitality of the so-called Space Gods.

As the airship draws near, a missile streaks from the army lines, cutting a path across their bow. Although Captain Drake offers to strafe the army positions from the air and teach the bally natives a lesson, our heroes suggest that this would be a poor choice for heroes, so Drake agrees to set them down by the army lines and then take the Excelsior to a safe distance. On the ground, the Knights are soon brought before Colonel Navarro, the officer in charge of the blockade. Although he’s a cautious man and initially unwilling, the presence of Paul and Ringo and the Knights’ insistence that they’re the best people to speak to the Akashans soon convinces him that he should let them through the barricades. Governmental Cultural Liaison Officer Melinda Reyes objects, but Navarro overrules her and she’s secretly a spy for the Cyberpapacy anyway, so ignoring her is a good call all round.

Atop Machu Picchu, our heroes are taken to meet the Akashan leadership in a weird bio-tent that looks like a giant space bladder. The Akashans are bit suspicious because they’ve already captured a trio of Cyberpapacy infiltrators (surprise – it’s DeVris and some flunkies) but the Storm Knights are able to convince the newcomers of their good intentions – particularly when the Akashans realise that these are the same people who lit the Signal Fire. There’s an awkward moment when the Akashans admit that they’d love to help the people of Earth but are dealing with the comaghaz – a psychic hive-mind space zombie infection – but the Knights think that the advanced technology and magical powers of many of the invading realms could be enough to tackle this plague. In return, the Akashans tell the group about their reality trees, which allow the creation of mixed reality zones, thereby offering a way to remove stelae without inducing a destructive axiom wash.

Things are going well – Sokanon even manages to convince the Akashans to release De Vris – when Manwaring and his ravagons choose this moment to attack. The vampyre engulfs the conference tent in darkness and the ravagons move in for the kill. The attack takes the Akashans completely by surprise and they are slow to respond. It’s up to the Storm Knights to hold the attackers at bay. Which they do. Clyssia initially tries to hide, but is soon carried aloft by one of the ravagons – whom she promptly intimidates and tricks into dropping her and opening himself to brutal counterattack from Rick and Sokanon. They are already under heavy fire from the second ravagon, but manage to hold their ground. Clyssia invents a spell on the way down, ensuring a soft landing, while her companions pound the ravagons with bullet and plasma fire.

Manwaring and the third ravagon concentrate their attention on the Akashan leadership. DeVris is locked in combat with his former flunkies, who were apparently prepared for this assault, and is felled early in the battle. Slowly, the Akashan troops recover and move to neutralise the Cyberpapal infiltrators. Cleophee, however, is the only one to realise that it’s all a feint to allow Manwaring to capture one of the senior Akashans – Speaker Vrakoth. Her suspicions are confirmed when the third ravagon summons a dimthread to carry himself, Manwaring, and their captive away. She hurls herself after them, determined to thwart the vampyre, and is swept along the dimthread to wherever it leads. Her companions, having dealt with the other two ravagons, respond in the only way they can. They leap into the dimthread too, just before it closes, and hurtle to an unknown destination.

The dimthread deposits them on nothing less than Tz’Ravok, homeworld of the ravagons. It has extra moons and everything. Manwaring is not particularly happy that the Storm Knights have followed him here, but they promptly kill him (again) along with the surviving ravagon and declare Speaker Vrakoth rescued. There’s just the small issue of being on the wrong planet. In the wrong cosm. With too many moons. And Speaker Vrakoth may also slightly be infected with the comghaz virus. The appearance of renegade ravagons who oppose the Gaunt Man offer a hope of a return home, however. So our heroes accompany them in search of the ancient ravagon Kevessk, who will be able to return them to Earth and the Possiblity Wars.

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Episode Fourteen: High Lord of Earth
The battle for Core Earth's reality!

Act One – City of Fear

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In Padang – or New London, as it is now known – our heroes are on the trail of Malcolm Kane. Rick and Katrina come fresh from cremating Admiral Rogers in the ruins of the Forever City, and Sokanon and Cleophee are now newly-wed and in the process of adopting Clyssia. But, acting on clues from an absent Emily that Kane is seeking Core Earth’s Darkness Device, they put personal concerns to one side in order to track down their sometime enemy, sometime ally. Cradled in the embrace of the Sumatran jungles, New London welcomes them hungrily.

Emily had heard from her Delphi mole Tiresias that Kane was involved in sightings of rolang – walking dead of local legend, so the Knights seek out Charlie Borren, a local journalist who had been reporting on the phenomenon. He’s nowhere to be found, however, and his apparent replacement – a charming fellow by the name of Cavendish – insists that Borren has taken a drink-induced leave of absence. Rick is certain that Cavendish is actually an agent of the occupying Victorian military and covering something up, so the group decide to talk to the local police to learn more.

Meeting with Detective Musa, Sokanon is able to convince him that the group is here on important business and he shows them one of the “walking dead” in the police morgue. It’s a horrifying experience – some of Clyssia’s hair turns bone-white from shock – and Musa is certain that Orrorshan necromancy is involved. Clyssia’s recognises the signs of Mesoamerican sacrifice and Musa confirms that certain Mayan artifacts were stolen from the museum recently. Armed with solid descriptions, the Knights head back to their hotel to see if Katrina can glean anything through divination.

Before they can reach her, Katrina cries for help with a burst of telepathic magic, and our heroes race to her aid. Rick arrives first and she says that four thugs have threatened her, trying to warn the Knights off. Rick tracks them down in a nearby backstreet and (after disconnecting and crashing into a nearby building) leads the group in a ferocious counterattack. They kill all but one of the thugs and capture and interrogate the survivor. Under some deeply grotesque threats involving severed fingers and goblin anuses, the captive spills the beans. Kane and an Orroshan warlock have been abducting locals and turning them into undead, with the assistance of the local Victorian military under the command of a Colonel Montague, and are hiding out at the White Rose tavern. Katrina confirms this with her divination so our heroes send their captive on his way and head out to investigate further.

The White Rose is clearly under Victorian occupation so our heroes slip in through the rear entrance (distracting the guards by use of the tried-and-tested “there’s werewolves in the jungle” ploy). Within, they find clear evidence of necromancy and locate some of the stolen Mayan artifacts. Which they destroy because fuck museums. The Knights head into the tavern’s basement, where they locate the remaining stolen artifacts – a trio of enormous tula statues. Naturally, the statues animate with horrid magic and lumber forward to crush the Storm Knights.

Although the statues are hardy foes, they are slow and stupid and our heroes are soon able to trick them into deactivating in the belief that a small group of heavily armed cross-cosm intruders poses no significant threat. During the brief struggle, Cleophee and Clyssia hear the sounds of chanting coming from some hidden sub-basement, so Cleophee uses her stone tunnel spell to drill a hole through to the lower floor, also dropping a statue on whoever is underneath. Sokanon throws grenades through the hole to further announce their arrival, and Rick hurtles through the breach to investigate.

He finds several dead Victorian soldiers, their still-living colleagues and commander (the dashing Colonel Montague), and the Orrorshan sorcerer Kibos in the middle of performing a human sacrifice. Although Rick is able to disrupt the sacrifice, Kibos unleashes a wave of rolang into the basement and, before the Rocket Ranger can react to the new threat, Montague stabs him clean through his rocket suit, dealing Rick a mortal wound. Sokanon and Cleophee drop through the hole in unison and unleash hell. Cleophee sets about the rolang with the Sunblade, pausing only to stanch Rick’s wound, and Sokanon turns Bianca on the soldiers, felling all but Montague in a hail of lead. Clyssia fills the chamber with magical glue, but Kibos realises that it is illusory. Activating a secret door, he and Montague flee.

Clyssia and Sokanon pursue them into a cavern, where both are racing for the surface, under the cover of a Gatling gun emplacement. As Kibos hurls lightning at Sokanon, Clyssia tricks the gunner into shooting Montague – he collapses from his wounds – and then convinces Kibos that surrender is his only option. Back in the basement, Cleophee single-handedly finishes off the remaining rolang and resuscitates Rick, while Sokanon kills the soldier manning the machine gun and puts a bullet through Montague’s head for good measure. Kibos wisely rats out Kane, revealing that the former Spartan has headed to Guatemala in search of the Darkness Device in the ruins of Tikal. Handing the sorcerer over to Detective Musa, our heroes are soon bound for Central America.

Act Two – A Long Day’s Journey into Hell

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According to Kibos, Kane intended to stop at Flores in order to retrieve the Palenque Vase, which he believed would act as a passkey to secrets hidden in Tikal. The Knights arrive in Tikal, hot on his trail, and check into a local boarding house. Rick manfully resists the siren-like lure of its landlady but, while he is settling into his room, finds a note slid under his door stating that Kane is already two steps ahead of them. It’s signed “Tiresias”, Emily’s Delphi contact, so Rick alerts the others and they hurry to the local museum where the Palenque Vase was on display.

Sokanon reassures the museum’s curator, Señor Perez, that she and her companions can be trusted, so Perez reveals that (unsurprisingly) the vase has been stolen and a security guard killed in the process. During the conversation, Sokanon and Cleophee both spot someone observing them from across the plaza. Cleophee stealthily makes her way around the plaza to confront their observer, who foolishly tries to flee. Cleophee easily intercepts him, uncovering an overly ornate tramp-stamp bearing the legend ANAL-IST. Although she has no idea who this is, Sokanon is soon on the scene and identifies Cleophee’s captive (despite his absurd beard). It is, of course, Tyler.

Tyler reveals that he is Tiresias (gasp!) and has been feeding Emily information for months after going on the run in the wake of Loretta Lamar’s assassination. He insists that he had nothing to do with the murder and that Ellen Connors, head of the Delphi Council, struck a deal with the Cyberpapacy in order to kill President Wells and place Quartermain in power. Loretta was killed because she uncovered this conspiracy. Tyler warns the group that the Delphi Council know what Kane is seeking and want nothing more than to seize the Darkness Device for themselves. Our heroes summon Kuranath and are soon airborne and heading north over the jungles towards Tikal.

There’s a special welcome waiting for them in the form of a monstrous feathered serpent – nothing less than an avatar of the god Quetzalcoatl given mortal form. It rises out of the jungle to meet the Storm Knights in thunderous combat. And it isn’t alone. Racing low and fast over the treetops, a trio of Delphi Council Apache helicopters join the fray, intent on felling the serpent and our heroes alike. The three-way battle ranges back and forth across the jungle canopy, illuminated only by moonlight, muzzle-flash, and dragonfire. And the occasional lightning bolt from Knotty’s wand.

The Knights have dealt with Delphi choppers before and know how to exploit their vulnerabilities. But the Quetzalcoatl is a true beast, all but impervious to their weapons, agile and ferocious, and wickedly cunning. One by one, the Knights down the helicopters (with Rick plucking their pilots free and depositing them safely on the jungle floor – ever the hero) but the great serpent proves a tougher foe. Our heroes are able to trick it into crashing into the trees, convince it to turn on the helicopters, and even use Kuranath’s own fury to cow it into submission. In the end, however, it is Marshall Rick Rogers who brings the battle to its conclusion.

With the Quetzalcoatl cowering before Kuranath’s might, the Rocket Ranger streaks towards it, down its gullet, then detonates his suit’s EMP generator in a titanic blast. The Quetzalcoatl is beheaded by the detonation, chunks of seared meat hurtling throughout the surrounding jungle. And so the Rogers line ends in heroism, allowing the survivors to reach Tikal in safety.

At the ruined city they do not find Kane. Instead they are greeted by the ghost of Pacal, famed king of the Mayans, who tells them that Kane has been and gone. The Darkness Device was here once, centuries ago, but now lies elsewhere. Pacal seems unwilling to entrust our heroes with his knowledge, however, claiming that he has already been deceived once by Kane. Why should he trust them now? Sokanon explains that one of their number gave his life to the jungle to ensure they could reach Tikal. Surely that sacrifice is worth something. Pacal understands sacrifice all too well, and so agrees to grant the Storm Knights the truths they seek.

The Darkness Device is not of Core Earth at all, but hails from an alien cosm where the conquest of the Americas never took place, and a Mesoamerican empire still reigns. It came to Earth centuries ago and was worshipped as a god, first by the Mayans, then by the Aztecs. Its presence also seems to have been partly responsible for the departure of the Akashans from Earth. Now, it lies in “the place where a man becomes a god” – the ruins of Teotihuacan in Mexico. There, our heroes will find Kane. And there, they will find the Darkness Device he seeks – the war-god Huitzilopochtli.

Act Three – The Mark of Kane

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Sokanon, Cleophee, and Clyssia arrive in Mexico City, with Kuranath hiding in the hills on its outskirts. A meeting with Tyler reveals that Delphi forces are in town – and are amenable to a meeting. And so in the bar of a local Holiday Inn, they are reunited with Matthew “Brick” Gordon – one of the surviving members of Spartan Team 1, and now its commander. Abandoned by Kane in New York City, Gordon’s time at the New York Metropolitan Protectorate has convinced him that there are nobler ways to fight the Possibility Wars. He has rejoined the Delphi Council, but his true loyalty is to the Cassandra Faction that Tyler also follows. Through them, he hopes to reform the Council from within.

After Gordon vets our heroes, he takes them to a further meeting with Samantha Tansen and Ellen Connors herself. Connors offers the group amnesty if they agree to bring Kane to justice and capture the Darkness Device for the Delphi Council. Her attempts to threaten and pull rank on the Knights go badly wrong – these are not the naïve fledglings she deceived in Houston so many months ago – and when she casts aspersions on Jaidyn’s honour, Clyssia wins a sincere apology from the Delphi director. Softening her approach, Connors agrees to wipe the slate clean, so long as the group deals with Kane and does all it can to deliver the Darkness Device to her. Then she departs, briefly wondering why her car smells of goblin puke.

Accompanied by Captain Gordon and Spartan Team 1, the Knights head for Teotihuacan. A monstrous storm hangs over the ruins – clearly a reality conflict is imminent. And, within the ruins themselves, transformation has already started to take hold. The pyramids and temples seem newly-made, and locals have taken on the appearance of ancient Aztecs. The nexus of the storm hangs above the Pyramid of the Sun – there, clad in the finery of an ancient Aztec priest, our heroes find Malcolm Kane, hurrying to sanctify the last of the stelae needed to cement Huitzilopochtli’s rule on Earth. Gordon climbs the steps of the pyramid to speak with Kane. Perhaps he can convince his old commander of the madness of what he is doing. But Kane is clearly beyond reason. He demands that the Knights serve him or die. Well, there’s only one response to that kind of ultimatum.

Kane does not stand alone, however. He has sacrificed several locals and, through their deaths, incarnated the avatars of Aztec gods. At his bidding, these earthbound deities hurl themselves against our heroes, and a furious battle breaks out on the slopes of the Pyramid of the Sun. At first, it is all the Knights can do to keep these foes at bay, while Kane taunts them from the pyramid’s summit. But, gradually, they find their pace and begin to take the fight to Kane and his divine servants. Clyssia repeatedly tricks the avatars into turning on their master, Cleophee and Sokanon slay those deities that resist Clyssia’s will, and Gordon and his Spartans confront their old commander. As his allies perish, Kane realises that this battle will not end well for him. Clyssia finally brings him to his senses. Tears pouring down her cheeks, she begs him to set aside his mad plans, and remember the man he once was.

Hearing the voice of his best friend’s daughter, Kane stares about himself in horror, as it finally dawns on him how far he has fallen. Seeing no other way out, he hugs a pair of grenades to his chest, and detonates them. The blast kills the one remaining avatar at his side, kills Captain Gordon, and kills Malcolm Kane himself, the would-be High Lord of Earth.

As the dust settles, a voice comes over the groups’ in-ear radios. A familiar voice. There, descending from the heavens, rocket-boots afire, comes Marshal Rick Rogers of the Rocket Rangers. Against all hope, he survived the death of Quetzalcoatl and returns to his companions in their hour of need. Our heroes waste no time celebrating – they know the true foe still awaits them. Before his death, Gordon sent his Spartans away from the battle to find a way into the pyramid and hopefully locate the Darkness Device. In the former they have been successful (thanks to an amount of high explosive that would have made Jaidyn proud). And they are certain that the Device lies within the pyramid, but dare not explore it any further. As they enter the ancient edifice, the Knights soon discover why. Huitzilopochtli knows they are coming and fills their minds with hallucinations, tempting them to take Kane’s place and serve as High Lord. Promising them power to defeat the Possibility Raiders, or undo the horrors of Earth’s own history, or simply reunite Clyssia with her father, Huitzilopochtli tries every emotional trick it can think of. But our heroes stand fast and hold true to their beliefs. The hallucinations lift and they find themselves face to face with the Darkness Device at the heart of the pyramid.

From the stones, from the air, from within their minds, Huitzilopochtli speaks. It is immediately clear that this entity is insane, damaged in some ancient conflict (most likely with Heketon, the Darkness Device of Orrorsh). In a final plea, it begs one of the Knights to join with it and serve as its High Lord. If they will plant its final stela, it promises to build a maelstrom bridge back to its home reality and return there to marshal an army with which to overthrow Earth’s invaders. At first, the Knights reject its demands, but Rick suggests an alternate approach. If they plant the stela and Huitzilopochtli returns to its own cosm, there will be brief window during which the group can then destroy the stela they have just planted – unmaking the maelstrom bridge and trapping Huitzilopochtli in its own reality. It’s a long shot, but…

With a Glorious display of innocent deceitfulness that only a child could muster, Clyssia convinces Huitzilopochtli that they agree to its demands. They will take the stela and plant it. Huitzilopochtli is convinced by the ruse and so our heroes depart, leaving Cleophee to watch over the Darkness Device, and swiftly bury the stela in the earth at the chosen spot, a mile to the west. Huitzilopochtli raises a maelstrom bridge to its home cosm, and the reality of the Aztec Empire sweeps across a swathe of Mexico. With no time to lose, and with transformation threatening the city, the Knights unearth the stela immediately and unleash a group reality assault against it. Storm Knights, Spartans, and even Kuranath, pitch the might of their souls against the stela. The result? Glory!

The stela crumbles. The maelstrom bridge shatters. The portal to Huitzilopochtli’s cosm closes. The Darkness Device’s screams echo across the city, then are cut off. Sokanon and Kuranath rescue Cleophee from the devastation engulfing Teotihuacan as the bridge collapses, and Mexico City is restored to Core Earth reality. Kane’s madness is brought to an end at last. There is considerable clean-up to take care of, and two more stelae to locate and destroy, but Earth has been saved from the predation of another reality by its finest heroes. The future might not be much brighter. But it’s no darker than it was yesterday. In the Near Now, that counts as a victory…

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Episode Thirteen: The Forever City
Herald the news of Earth!

Act One – London Calling

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The Knights are in London for Jaidyn’s funeral service (apart from Emily, who is doing something unspeakable with Kane and his moustache). It’s raining. Sad music is playing. Tolwyn tries to say a few words. And cybermonks attack, try to steal the Possibility Chalice and abduct Katrina Babbidge, sorceress. Pretty much a normal day in the Near Now, really. Even though our heroes are largely unarmed and unarmoured, they treat the monks to a ferocious beatdown, aided by the magic of Jaidyn’s daughter Clyssia and her unimaginary goblin Knotty. They’re able to capture one of the monks and take him to a secure interrogation room at New Scotland Yard for questioning.

Under interrogation by Rosa and Rick, the monk reveals that he was tasked by a certain Cardinal Le Rouchefoucald to retrieve the Chalice (or, failing that, the sorceress) and bring it to the Orient Express in Brussels. There it would be united with the Signal Fire – allegedly an artifact recovered from Corsica – and taken to its final destination (which the Knights are sure is back in the Himalayas). Rick is certain that this isn’t the entire truth, however, and successfully intimidates the captive into revealing more. Although not before one of the police guards turns out to be another Cyberpapacy agent and tries to silence the monk. Rosa and Uncle Joe’s knife put paid to this little distraction and the monk gladly spills the beans.

He and his brethren were indeed to attempt to retrieve the Chalice and bring it to Brussels, but he has no idea if the Signal Fire is actually aboard the train. The Cardinal, however, is aboard, and capturing him would be a major intelligence coup for Britain and Aysle alike. The monk reveals the codeword for contacting the Cardinal (who will apparently be in disguise in the bar car) and the Knights resolve to head to Brussels to learn more. Cleophee warns that the entire thing smells like a trap but this doesn’t appear to discourage anyone. To the contrary – there’s even some pretty enthusiastic talk about just using Kuranath to carry the bar carriage off in its entirety. Which, let’s face it, wouldn’t be the weirdest thing to happen so far.

Deciding to bring Babbidge and Clyssia with them because “it would be safer that way”, the Knights clamber aboard Kuranath and head out over the Channel. The worst reality storm they’ve ever seen is waiting for them. And so is a Draconis Teutonica – Aysle’s mightiest breed of wyrm. A brutal combat ensues, with our heroes pushed to their limits to merely escape, never mind defeat the dragon. With Cleophee knocked unconscious after a somewhat reckless attempt to distract the Teutonica from its back, and Rick suffering an airborne disconnection, matters worsen when the reality storm warps the combatants into a fragment of the GodNet. The Teutonica becomes a Draconis Cybernetica and the Knights do digital battle as virtual versions of themselves. In the end, it is Clyssia’s magic that grants Kuranath unearthly speed, allowing them to leave the battle and storm behind, and safely reach the coast of Belgium. The mysteries of the Orient Express await.

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Act Two – A Moveable Feast

Our heroes arrive in Brussels, rendezvousing with Emily there, and book passage aboard the Orient Express. A little persuasion and a fair bit of bribery allow them board the train fully armed (and armoured, in Rick’s case) and, after a minor altercation with a somewhat inept jewel thief called Horace Blessed, they are underway. The Knights settle in their suites and plan how to approach the situation. A slap-up meal in the dining car, followed by drinks in the bar car seems to be the most tactically sound method, so they dedicate themselves to these tasks with commendable gusto.

The bar car is teeming with roleplaying opportunities. In addition to a very drunk Horace Blessed, there’s the besotted honeymooners Jim and Jenny Johnson, the sharp nonagenarian Mrs Gleason and her embarrassed nephew Algernon, Gina Ferrari (a vain and predatory catwalk model), and a gaggle of Japanese tourists (of whom at least one is obviously a Kanawa agent). And don’t forget the Russian priest and nun, who are actually Nicolai Ondarev and Katrina Tovarish from the campaign’s prologue in disguise, or Victor Manwaring, the absurdly blatant vampire. And, of course, Sid and Iris Mendelbaum. Our heroes navigate these varied encounters with guile, wit, or uncomfortable stoicism, depending on their particular idiom. Or just play the piano like some kind of freakish mini-Mozart.

Eventually, the Knights piece together a picture of what is going on. Horace Blessed has been telling everyone he can about a gem aboard the train called the Signal Fire, and his plans to steal it from its hiding place in the train’s freezer at the rear of the service car. Suspecting that the gem might be an Eternity Shard, Nicolai has gone to investigate and hasn’t been seen in almost an hour. Rick and Emily go in search of Nicola in find him unconscious, felled by a trap. Rick unleashes a tight-burst EMP on the freezer, hoping to disable any further countermeasures. Of course, this draws the attention of a surprisingly large amount of Cyberpapacy operatives, who swarm the service car and proceed to try to murder our heroes. Because that’s what cyber-Jesus would do.

Sokanon, Cleophee, and Clyssia hurry to join them (really hurry, in Sokanon’s case) and, before long, the Knights are doing all manner of terrible things to their Cyberpapal foes. An impressive proportion are thrown bodily from the train – initially by Cleophee, but her companions soon join in the fun – while others are variously shot, stabbed, lasered in the face, or beaten to death with their colleague’s cyber-arm. In a combat that rages throughout the service car and up onto its roof, the Knights demolish the opposition. Until Cardinal Le Rouchefoucald joins the fray. The cardinal almost kills Rick before Clyssia manages to disable him and take him prisoner to learn what he knows. By which I mean blow him up with lightning bolts.

Sokanon activates the emergency brakes, stopping the train, and resuscitates Rick, Cleophee breaks into the freezer and acquires the Signal Fire, Emily purloins cybergear and the cardinal’s cyberdeck, and Clyssia uses more lightning bolts to slay the last, terrified Cyberpapal combatant. With unidentified helicopters now closing in, our heroes decide against waiting around to find out who they are, and summon Kuranath to carry them rapidly away from the Orient Express. They soon discover that the “Signal Fire” is a fake – a bauble designed as bait for the Possibility Chalice – and so set their sights on the Himalayas, determined to now follow the Destiny Map to its final destination…

Act Three – The Roof of the World

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High above the Himalayas, on dragonback, the Storm Knights search for the location marked on the Destiny Map. They’re pretty sure they’ve found it – the mist-shrouded peak of Makan-la – but someone else has found it to. Namely, the Queen of Cairo, an armoured war zeppelin from the Empire of the Nile. Naturally, it launches half a dozen Paket fighters and opens up on our heroes with some seriously heavy firepower. Desperate to bring the battle to a swift conclusion, half the group board the zeppelin, while the others engage the fighters and try to avoid the airship’s guns.

The Knights are hard pressed, but the appearance of Admiral James Rogers – who has been tracking Nile activity and comes to lend his aid – is a welcome addition to the fight. Until he disconnects, that is, and is captured by an avatar of Anubis aboard the airship. With an avatar of Neith also on the scene, Rick is forced to down weapons and matters look bad until Emily and Sokanon race to his aid, Clyssia unleashes potent magic against the Nile forces, and Cleophee leads Kuranath on a devastating strafing run among the fighter planes. Before long, the Nile forces surrender, both avatars are slain, and the Knights are in possession of a rather nice zeppelin.

Leaving the Admiral and Katrina Babbidge, sorceress, in charge of the zeppelin, the rest of the group alight on the slopes of Makan-la and set off for its mist-cloaked peak, certain that the unmoving fogs there conceal their destination. Although the trek is a hard one, our heroes forge onwards together, spending the night in a secluded ice cave. There, on the roof of the world, and after a courtship that has grown deep in recent months, Sokanon proposes to Cleophee, gifting her with Uncle Joe’s knife and the tale of its taking. Cleophee accepts. Whatever the morning brings, the night before the Storm Knights reach the Forever City is filled with love and hope for the future.

The last leg of the journey brings our heroes finally to their destination. There may also have been a yeti or two. And Victor Manwaring, the absurdly blatant vampyre, is waiting for them, accompanied by Orrorshan gospog. When the Knights refuse his demand to hand over the Possibility Chalice, he orders the gospog to attack. While the group struggles against the plant zombies, Manwaring subjects them to psychological taunts and tests of will, mocking their inability to defeat him. For a while, it seems as if his boasts are not in vain, but the Knights’ determination slowly swings the tide of the battle in their favour. They fell the gospog and unleash a combination of attacks on the vampyre – with GodBeam, gunfire, Nile Sunblade, and lightning blasts, they are finally able to destroy his physical form – for now. The vampyre’s essence flees and our heroes savour their victory – then set off into the ruins of the Forever City, in search of the Signal Fire.

Act Four – Winner Takes Nothing

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While Thratchen and Pharaoh Mobius send reinforcements in a cut-scene (the former in the shape of a trio of ravagons and the latter via Super Ra Warrior Rocket Force X!), our heroes explore the city. In the ruins they find a variety of strange biotech gear and realise that they are in a hardpoint of a highly advanced reality. Rick, his senses awakened to psychic alertness by the axioms of the place, warns the group that ravagons are hunting them – so they set a cunning trap using some kind of weird jellyfish hoversled thing. Two of the ravagons respond, but sense the Possibility energy within our heroes, evade the trap, and attack.

Rick engages the first of the ravagons in a reality storm – and is immediately caught in a maelstrom with the creature, while his companions leap for cover from the ensuing lightning blasts. Clyssia tricks the other ravagon into crashing and sets a horde of summoned goblins onto it. The rest of the Knights capitalise on its weakness, focusing their fire to keep it pinned, including some incredible shooting by Sokanon, until the goblins tear it limb from limb. Rick is almost outmatched by his opponent at the heart of the maelstrom, but manages to achieve victory. The ravagons falls and suffers the same fate as its companion. Our heroes leave the grisly remains behind and head deeper into the ruins.

Exploring a temple to a lost nature goddess, a crumbling library, and a cavernous palace, they find more ancient technology – and the bodies of its former possessors. Slowly, the group pieces together something of the history of this place. The city was clearly built by an advanced progenitor race who likely hailed from another world, or another cosm, but abandoned the Earth, leaving a handful behind who ended their days locked in strife with primitive humanity. Cleophee says that the elves have tales of these ancient people – tales that suggest they may not be entirely benign. Still unsure of where the Signal Fire might be, Rick contacts Babbidge, who uses her divination magic to locate it atop a stepped hanging garden at the far end of the plateau. The Knights head for that location, their quest nearing its end.

Manwaring is waiting for them, accompanied by the surviving ravagon. He attempts a menacing monologue, but is met with immense amounts of eye-rolling, shouting, rude remarks, and an icy diatribe from Emily. The sudden arrival of Super Ra Warrior Rocket Force X sows further confusion, particularly as Clyssia tricks them into attacking the vampyre in the belief that he has the Possibility Chalice. Combat erupts. And when Manwaring accidentally activates one of six fountains in the garden, Rick realises the significance of carvings they have seen here – waters from the red and blue fountain must be carried in the Chalice to anoint a brazier at the far end of the garden. A brazier that is the Signal Fire itself.

Rick’s companions unleash stupendous amounts of firepower against Manwaring, the ravagons, and the Ra Warriors, and are aided by Admiral James Rogers, who streaks from the sky to support his son. Rick, meanwhile, takes the Chalice from Sokanon, and performs a truly glorious demonstration of rocket flight, filling the Chalice with red and blue water and carrying it to the Signal Fire. Using his Possibility energy to survive the brazier’s wards, he is about to pour the water into it when the Ra Warriors disable his father and hold James at gunpoint, demanding Rick cease. The Admiral, however, urges his son not to hesitate. And Rick does not. He pours the mingled waters. A gun barks. An Admiral dies. The Signal Fire ignites.

Searing light streaks into the heavens. Vampyre, ravagon, and Ra Warriors flee, but the Knights are drawn into a vision of the Earth, a vision that takes them to Rocky Boy’s Reservation, where a powerful ravagon has felled Uncle Joe and now urges a young boy to end his life and transcend as a dark-hearted Stormer. Using the Herald power of the Chalice, our heroes reach out to the boy and Sokanon reminds him of all the good that Uncle Joe has done for him. The boy hears her and does transcend – but as a Storm Knight. He flees and the ravagon plunges its claws into Uncle Joe’s chest before pursuing. The vision ends and the Knights are back at the Signal Fire. They see that their message of hope, empowered by the Chalice and the Fire, have kindled something in Earth herself – a wave of transcendences that sweep across the globe, sparking countless Storm Knights into being. Earth’s defenders multiply!

As the vision of the Earth fades, a portal appears in its place – leading to the reservation, where the ravagon hunts children. Our heroes leap through it, find the creature, and provide it with a demonstration of why Thou Shalt Not Fuck With Storm Knights. Aided by Uncle Joe’s fierce determination to cling to life, and a massed Cree war chant led by Sokanon’s mother, they ruin the ravagon’s day in a big way. Clyssia glues it to the earth, and the others encircle their target and unload volley after volley into it. Despite aid from Orrorsh’s Darkness Device, the ravagon cannot endure this sustained assault. In the end, Cleophee takes its head with her engagement knife. It is finally over. Rick departs to bury his father, Sokanon, Cleophee, and Clyssia prepare to enjoy a spell of family life on the reservation, and Emily receives a worrying phonecall from Kane, regarding the possibility that Earth has its own Darkness Device…

All that remains is a final cut-scene. As the saying goes, there are those who believe that life here began out there, far across the universe, with tribes of humans who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians, or the Toltecs, or the Mayans. And now, alerted by the lighting of the Signal Fire, they begin their return. The Akashans are coming back to Earth…

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Episode Twelve: Home Ground
Stela hunt!

Act One – Storm Chasers

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With Marshall Rogers spending quality time with Katrina Babbidge, sorceress, and Rosa seeing her family on the reservation, Cleophee, Emily, and Jaidyn return to Mount Sterling for a rendezvous with McKinley Forrest and Cody. McKinley claims that the southernmost stela of the Eastern Land is ripe for removal – and their old friend Tal Tu has tracked a band of edeinos who might be able to help locate it. The Knights head out immediately, pausing only to rescue McKinley from some Delphi Council operatives who are rather annoyed at his unpatriotic YouTube activities. Despite the obvious mortal peril, McKinley doesn’t seem to be taking it very seriously, instead concentrating on filming the battle while narrating events to camera on his phone. Our heroes dutifully save him (again), leaving the Delphi goons and their Spartan guards dead, dying, or fleeing by helicopter, their black SUVs burning freely in the streets, and hightail it out of town.

Reunited with Tal Tu (and Oscar!), the Storm Knights learn that a restan is in the area – a band of edeinos planning on planting a fresh stela in Core Earth. If our heroes can capture the restan, they might be able to learn where other stelae are located with more precision. Tal Tu insists on getting slushies first, though. With this vital detour taken care of, the Knights locate the restan hiding in woodland near Richmond Road Quarry, and gently persuade them with missiles and grenades to reveal all they know. Which turns out to be nothing at all. The sole surviving member of the restan – now our heroes’ prisoner – explains that planting a stela kills those who plant it. So although the restan was carrying a stela to bury in Core Earth, they have no idea how to pinpoint stelae that are already in place. Baruk Kaah’s servants preserve their secrets with their lives.

Whether this is true or not, the Knights are at a dead end. Horrified at the blasphemy of his fellow edeinos, Tal Tu kills the prisoner and then weeps in sorrow at what his people have become. While the group is pondering how to proceed, a pair of sleek vans appears out of the darkness, disgorging a young woman in an expensive coat (and her bodyguards). Identifying herself as Jennifer Matsumoto, she says she brings an offer from the Epimetheus Foundation. Emily recalls the organisation as the same one that found a stela in a Siberian mine at the start of the war – and was instrumental in ripping it up and thwarting the Tharkoldu invasion of Russia. This fact is enough for our heroes to hear Jennifer’s offer.

Jennifer says that Epimetheus contacts in Japan have solid intelligence on an Eternity Shard with the power to locate stelae. Currently in the hands of the Yamaguchi-gumi yakuza crime family, it would be exactly what the Knights need in their battle against the High Lords. Convinced (for now) that the Epimetheus Foundation wants the same thing as they do – to oust Earth’s invaders – the Knights accept her offer. With Cody and McKinley spirited away to safety, Jaidyn, Cleophee, and Emily are driven to Coal Field Airport, where a very high-end jet waits for them on the runway. Next stop – Japan.

Act Two – The Enemy of My Enemy

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Emily is abruptly stricken by a bout of explosive diarrhoea and remains in the USA, but Rosa and Rick rejoin the group for their journey to Japan. Aboard the Epimetheus jet, Jennifer briefs the Knights on the location of the Yamaguchi-gumi safehouse – a colonial-era mansion known as Berrick Hall, situated atop Yokohama’s bluff. Sensitive to the fact that guns and swords are highly illegal in Japan, our heroes come up with a far subtler plan to abduct a security guard and obtain his access papers, using them to infiltrate the yakuza’s secure basement situated beneath Berrick Hall. The plan goes off without a hitch. Apart from the zombies.

After identifying their hapless target via drone surveillance, the Knights abduct the poor fellow from the street near Berrick Hall. At the same time, however, protests are breaking out over an industrial spill by Toranaga Chemicals earlier that day that resulted in several casualties. Our heroes are caught in the furore as the protest gets completely out of hand and escalates into the firebombing of a Toranaga building nearby. The resulting explosions spread toxic fumes across the neighbourhood, and several protestors succumb, becoming filled with murderous rage. They fall on one another with mindless savagery. And worse, Rosa seems to be affected by the toxins as well, black tears seeping from her eyes.

Meanwhile, a Kanawa security patrol sweeps into the area and starts gunning down the protestors. Cleophee improvises a spell to clear the air of the toxic fumes, then disarms the patrol, but the Knights are soon attacked by several slavering protestors. Cleophee is injured before Rick carves the infected mob to pieces with his Godbeam, and she feels a strange dizziness sweep through her. Wasting no more time, the group slips over the rear wall of Berrick Hall and soon locates the secure basement housing the Yakuza stronghold. With the aid of their captive security guard, they’re granted access. Jaidyn also steals a helicopter, but we shall not dwell on that.

Once in the safehouse, our heroes are soon granted an audience with local Yakuza boss, Yageshita. In a tense discussion, he strips away the Knights’ subterfuge and reveals that he already knows a great deal about them. Cleophee’s condition worsens and she collapses, resuscitated through swift action by Rick. The unexpected appearance of Shunsuke – the former Kanawa technician liberated from the oil rig in Thailand – only makes matters worse. Shunsuke, who has taken sanctuary with the Yakuza to escape Kanawa vengeance, accuses the Knights of dishonesty and a propensity for needless violence, and urges Yageshita not to trust them. The group is nevertheless able to forge a deal with Yageshita, who accepts their assurances of good intentions and offers to sell them the Yamate Lacewing… for a quarter of a million dollars.

When the Knights are escorted to the safe to retrieve it, however, matters grow even more complicated. They discover a Yakuza serving girl trying to crack the safe, who turns out to be an undercover Yokohama cop who has infiltrated the gang to learn its true allegiance. In the ensuing confrontation, one of Jaidyn’s stray bullets accidentally shatters a medical containment unit holding one of the victims of the chemical spill, releasing the mutated gangster within. Yageshita accuses the Knights of working for Kanawa, revealing that the Epimetheus Foundation is an arm of the shadowy megacorporation. Their cover blown, the Foundation sends a truckload of samurai gospog to attack the safehouse, and our heroes are soon fighting alongside the Yakuza and the undercover cop against these shared foes.

Through spells, grenades, and a slightly excessive drone-strike, the Storm Knights are victorious. Yageshita grants them the Yamate Lacewing, grants the undercover cop her freedom (for another quarter of a million), and promises the group that, as long as they fight the High Lords, they may call on the Yamaguchi-gumi for aid. Although Rick is slightly bemused by the shifting allegiances and shades of grey, the Knights know a victory when they see one, and begin their journey back to the USA, for their date with one of Baruk Kaah’s stelae…

Act Three – Calling the Thunder

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After spending time with friends and loved ones (or just wantonly using Kane for personal gratification), the Storm Knights reconvene for their assault on the southernmost stela of the Eastern Land. Accepting an offer of help from the Delphi Council to stage a distraction in the Lexington area, the Knights use the Yamate Lacewing to zero in on the stela’s location in the hills surrounding King’s Creek, North Carolina. Tal Tu confirms Delphi reconnaissance data, stating that Baruk Kaah has moved a considerable force into the area to defend the stela, alerted to the Knights’ intentions by any number of avenues (though most likely some combination of treachery by the Epimetheus Foundation, and McKinley Forrest’s giant flappy mouth.) Leaving Kuranath close by, the group breach the reality storms on the border of the Living Land and make for the stela.

Adopting a stealthy approach, they proceed through flooded and storm-wracked terrain, drawing ever closer to their goal – until Emily stumbles across concealed edeinos sentries (quite literally). A frantic combat erupts as the Knights attempt to silence the edeinos before they can raise the alarm. They’re successful, but airborne stalenger scouts spot them and begin unleashing miracles on our heroes. Rosa is able to down one with an incredible shot and unexpected help comes from Kane, who has followed the group to lend aid against the Saar. The stalengers are slain, but now the edeinos know the Knights are coming. The Storm Knights abandon stealth and race for the stela.

From his perch atop a borr aka – one of the Living Land’s mightiest of beasts – the edeinos shaman Yessek Kaal summons magma from within the earth to cut the Knights off. Emily and Rosa manage to outrun the molten rock and are soon in close combat with edeinos warriors, while Rick deposits Cleophee and Jaidyn atop the hill containing the stela. As Cleophee unearths it with her stone tunnel spell, Jaidyn and Rick defend her from elite edeinos troops and a carnol. With a combination of swordplay and grenade work, Emily and Rosa carve a path through their foes to join the other Knights – just as even more aid arrives on the scene. Not to be left out of the most furious battle the group has seen so far, Picnic and a dozen Hells Angels come riding through the storm to lend their strength to our heroes. The battle is truly on.

Emily, Rosa, Kane, and Picnic and the Angels hurl themselves against further waves of edeinos troops and two more carnols. Jaidyn sends his drone to destroy the straps holding Yessek Kaal’s howdah in place atop the borr aka, toppling it into the jungle. And Cleophee scrambles up the borr aka’s neck, rips the benthe out of its ear, and proceeds to calm the beast before it can lumber up the hillside and squish everyone to a pulp. It is left to Marshall Rogers to deal with the stela. With another superhero landing, he drops from the sky and engages in a reality struggle with the artifact. His first attempt severs two of the stela’s three connections to its brethren, and his next severs the third. The stela’s link to Baruk Kaah’s Darkness Device dies, Living Land reality collapses, and Core Earth axioms sweep in, a monstrous reality storm following in their wake.

The edeinos and the carnols scatter, are disconnected, or killed outright by the storm. The lava flow subsides. The borr aka is felled, barely able to breathe in Core Earth reality. And our heroes have only moments to savour their victory before the Yamate Lacewing signals that another stela is within range. At first they think it’s a backup Living Land stela, but the Lacewing soon reveals that it’s actually a Pan-Pacifica stela in the process of being activated. Realising that Pan-Pacifica are planning their own invasion of the USA on the back of the Saar’s defeat, the Knights send Kuranath to slow them down and while they race to prevent the stela from coming online.

Jennifer Matsumoto and her team are waiting for them. Even as the Knights attack the Pan-Pacifica stela, Jennifer threatens to have snipers shoot their loved ones unless they back down. Rosa, however, calls her bluff, causing Jennifer to disconnect. It’s all the distraction the Storm Knights need. Rick blasts Jennifer, severing her communication with her snipers – and Jaidyn sacrifices himself by detonating his entire stash of C-4 explosive, destroying the stela completely. When the dust settles, the Knights have been victorious against two invading realms, but at a terrible cost. As refugees from the collapsed Living Land zone stumble back into Core Earth reality, and the Delphi Council clean-up begins, they can only look to the future. Jaidyn’s memory will stay with them – as will his legacy, in the form of his newly-Transcended daughter…

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Episode Eleven: The Possibility Chalice
"X" never marks the spot...

Act One – The Forbidden Sea

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Following the Destiny Map, the Storm Knights arrive on the shores of the Gulf of Thailand, seeking the Possibility Chalice – and discover that the Kanawa Corporation is already there, in the form of a large oil-rig. And they’re not drilling for oil. After sampling banana pancakes and five-star hospitality at the Ban Chiang Happy House, our heroes decide some investigation is in order. From the locals, they learn that the oil rig appeared about a month ago, and sees only intermittent activity. The one fact that everyone in the village knows is that it’s dangerous to approach closer than half a mile because of some kind of automated defence system. Do the Storm Knights ignore these warnings? Does the Cyberpope have a shiny chin?

They convince one of the monks at a local temple to ferry them out to the rig after nightfall (seeing murals that couldn’t be more stuffed with clues for Act Two if they tried) and score some completely safe sets of scuba gear from the local shop. There, they also have a close encounter with the village bigwig, an oily character by the name of Lajang, who seems completely trustworthy and wholly unlikely to be in the pay of a large Japanese conglomerate of some type. After some final preparations, Jaidyn uses Emily’s satellite phone to hack and disable the oil rig’s comm’s system, and the Knights are soon heading out to sea.

With the help of airborne reconnaissance from Rick and Jaidyn, they’re able to spot and evade waterborne sentry robots, and board the oil rig (or land majestically on its helipad, in Kuranath’s case. The rig seems deserted at first glance, but closer inspection of its command centre confirms that there is a skeleton crew of two technicians aboard. It also appears that the rig is stationed above a legendary temple on the sea bed, and is in the process of pumping it dry. Leaving Kuranath to stand guard on the upper deck, the Knights head below in search of the oil rig’s crew.

They find one technician in an observation centre on the second deck, and another sleeping in his quarters. Although the latter is a company man through and through, seemingly willing to face death with stoic courage, the former is far more pliable. Under subtle psychological pressure, he reveals a considerable amount about the oil rig and its true purpose and, when our heroes offer him a chance to slip the grasp of the Kanawa Corporation, he agrees. Over the strident protests of his colleague, he leads the Storm Knights to the rig’s submarine dock. There, our heroes kit themselves out with an array of stolen Kanawa gear and prepare to descend into the depths of the sea, to investigate the sunken temple below.

Act Two – Temple of the Storm

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The submarine reaches the pressurised dome, some twenty metres below the surface – a hardpoint under the axioms of Pan-Pacifica The Storm Knights dock and are exploring the dome when they discover that the aquatic sentry robots have been reactivated during a cut-scene in the oilrig. The robots start shooting phased laser blasts at the Knights through the high-tech plas-steel viewports, so the Knights hurry into the sunken temple that lies partially exposed on the sea-bed.

Most of the temple is underwater, so our heroes make good use of their captured scuba gear and explore its murky confines. The first thing they encounter is the legendary Beast of Kra – a huge squid-like monstrosity that proceeds to pummel them mercilessly. After several rounds of painful and largely fruitless combat against the Beast (Jaidyn’s idea to fire grenades into the monster’s mouth using his speargun would totally have worked, though), Rick supercharges his rocket boosters and smashes the creature through the temple wall, dealing it a mortal injury. Exploration of the rest of the temple proceeds forthwith.

The ruin contains many strange relics of Kra Buddhism, including a gauzy mask that renders the wearer completely blind, which Cleophee is able to retrieve by recalling the steps of the Dance of Kra from Act One. Passing through a small reality storm back into Core Earth axioms, our heroes find ancient statues that cast Kra purification rituals on them, and a well filled with magical fire that imbue those who gaze into the flames with serene perception and a sense of oneness with all existence. Which is nice.

The Storm Knights eventually locate a secret door leading into the heart of the temple and Cleophee uses the mask to find a path through a darkened chamber (”only when you are blind can you truly see,” as Rick helpfully points out) and find the Possibility Chalice! Or, rather, the chamber where it used to be before an Ayslish sorceress called Katrina Babbidge removed it and took it back to Aysle, leaving a magical holographic invitation to visit her there in its place.

Emily, who has been keeping watch on the dome outside the temple, is the first to notice the new arrivals – several squads of Kanawa troops who enter through the airlocks. They have captured our heroes’ monk ally and hold him at gunpoint, demanding that the Knights surrender. As if. Instead, Rick destroys the hardpoint, causing the dome’s portholes to collapse under Core Earth axioms, and the waters of the Gulf of Thailand rapidly flood the dome. A heroic escape ensues, with the Knights rescuing the monk, as well as the less-treacherous of the Kanawa technicians, and fleeing to the surface in the submarine while the dome collapses behind them. A last-minute appearance by Pierre deVris probably helps too, although it’s hard to tell exactly how.

Returning the monk to the mainland (he departs to seek his fortunes in Bangkok) and offering the technician redemption and employment, the Storm Knights reunite with Kuranath. The dragon apologises for not raising the alarm, but insists that keeping himself safe from a Kanawa attack helicopter was in everyone’s best interests. There’s no arguing with that, so our heroes prepare for the next leg of their quest – a return to Aysle and a rendezvous with Katrina Babbidge, sorceress.

Act Three – The Missing Mage

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Arriving in Aysle – specifically, Aylesbury – the Storm Knights discover that Katrina Babbidge, sorceress, is missing from her narrowboat (The Puddleduck) and Ayslish Home Guard are in the process of investigating her apparent abduction, under the supervision of a mildly irritated Tolwyn. Although several goblin bodies litter the boat, Tolwyn is unconvinced that the goblins would have been capable of kidnapping a mage of Ardinay’s court. She asks the Knights to look into the matter, dismayed by the local Home Guard contingent’s lack of basic investigative competence. The Knights agree and are soon aboard Kuranath and heading for the hamlet of Piss Hill, where goblins are known to frequent the local pub.

A picturesque town in the Chiltern Hills, Piss Hill (or Pishil, as it used to be known) has accepted Ayslish axioms with few protestations. The villagers are thrilled, awed, and terrified in varying combinations by Kuranath alighting in the field opposite The Crown pub, but our heroes mollify their apprehension (helped by buying some cows for the dragon to devour at his leisure). In the pub they find a band of goblins who turn out to be the survivors of the raid on The Puddleduck. Gentle intimidation (and a handy supply of napkins) confirms that the goblins were only sent in to trigger The Puddleduck’s magical wards. Someone else went in after them to actually abduct the sorceress, and one of the goblins is fairly certain who it was – agents from House Gallios. Emily contacts her superiors and learns that House Gallios was a Core Earth crime family that took up banditry and extortion in the wake of the Possibility Wars. With a Queenswrath issued for their capture or downfall, House Gallios is known to make its home in one of the darkest corners of Aysle – the storm-blasted wasteland of Slough.

It transpires that the Knights aren’t the only ones interested in House Gallios. Once in Slough, they encounter elves of the Lekmenarion – mercenaries loyal to the famous elven warrior Lekmon. Once a servant of Uthorion, Lekmon now fights for Ardinay (until a better offer comes along). After a meeting with the beguiling Cleophee, he agrees to join forces with our heroes in a raid on House Gallios. Which actually means that the Storm Knights do all the hard work and the Lekmenarion get to saunter off with the prisoners and claim the Queenswrath reward. So that’s pretty much what happens.

Rick kicks off the proceedings by freeing House Gallios’ captive gryphons, which immediately turn on their former captors (helped by Emily, who helpfully ushers Gallios guards into harm’s way). Cleophee wreaks acrobatic havoc throughout Gallios ranks, Jaidyn rearranges the local architecture with his gauss gun, and Rosa lays down devastating fire with Bianca. Oh, and the elves shoot a few guards from the back. The Storm Knights move like lightning through the Gallios forces, unstoppable, accurate, and blindingly fast. It’s all over in less than a minute, Francis Gallios pinned to a wall by Marshall Rogers, his gryphons and men dead or surrendering about him. Before Lekmon drags him away in chains, Gallios confirms that he did indeed abduct Katrina Babbidge, sorceress. But he handed her immediately over to another spellcaster – a dark wizard in the service of Uthorion known only as Amethyst. Along with the Possibility Chalice, Amethyst has taken the missing sorceress into the north, into the lands of darkness. Into Yorkshire.

Act Four – Dark Rescue

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Rosa, Jaidyn, and Rick head north on horseback while Emily undergoes an overdue debrief with her superiors and Cleophee busies herself with “elf stuff” (insinuations that’s she’s off cavorting with Lekmon are vicious rumours of the worst kind). The terrain grows darker and more ominous as they pass into lands firmly under the control of forces loyal to Uthorion. Aysle is truly a land divided. They finally reach their destination – a former UK military base on the North Yorkshire moors, now home to the dark wizard Amethyst. Aerial investigation by drone and rocket ranger reveals that it is home to a force of considerable size, so our heroes elect to infiltrate the base using stealth. In a shocking turn of events, they’re really rather successful.

Jaidyn uses his drone to remove the alarm bell in a glorious display of flying skill, and the Knights sneak into an underground complex beneath the base’s main buildings. They avoid open conflict through a combination of appalling cruelty to animals and hilarious booby traps and manage to locate Katrina Babbidge, sorceress, who is in the process of being tortured by one of Amethyst’s apprentices – a pouty little fellow by the name of Polyphebo. After intimidating him into releasing the sorceress and revealing that Amethyst fears a prophecy that a “child of the storm” will be his undoing (he’s a dark wizard – of course there’s a prophecy), Rick kindly electrocutes Polyphebo into unconsciousness. With Babbidge sorely wounded, the group are deciding how to proceed when the survivors of their booby traps find the dog parts and raise the alarm.

Rick, who has taken quite a shine to the sorceress, risks life and limb to fly her through the massing defenders and out of the base to safety, while Jaidyn gloriously tricks the troops into trying to rescue Polyphebo from entirely fictional assailants. He and Rosa use this brief diversion to hunt for Amethyst – they find him escaping up a secret tunnel to the surface, but pursuit is prevented by a squad of enchanted Viking warriors. And two angry trolls. And a Lance tactical ballistic nuclear missile that has been transformed into a golem. The ensuing battle in the tunnels beneath the base is a bloody affair – sorely outnumbered, our heroes realise that flying rapidly away while clinging to Rick’s armour is the better part of valour. So they do.

Act Five – Children of the Storm

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Rosa recalls mention of Robin Hood’s Bay, a few miles to the east, and correctly guesses that Amethyst will be making for there, intent on delivering the Possibility Chalice to his lord Uthorion in Norway. The Storm Knights arrive at the village just in time to see a Viking longship speeding away from the shore under the power of a magical wind. Rosa suggests that the group look for help among the locals and Jaidyn discovers that an old Royal Navy buddy of his called Drexel is in the area – and has the only working powerboat on the bay. Before long, the group is aboard Drexel’s boat and speeding across the dark waters in pursuit of the longship.

Amethyst is not one to allow such threats to go unanswered, however. He unleashes fell magic and summons a beast of the deeps – a Draconis Aquatica – to slay the Knights. The sea dragon vomits a blast of scalding steam against our heroes’ boat, dealing them painful wounds, then moves in for the kill. But the group is not without a defender. It transpires that Cleophee has sent Kuranath north to watch over her companions, and now the Draconis Aysle sweeps down from the clouds to do battle with the Aquatica. Jaidyn takes the helm from Drexel and, in a truly incredible display of naval prowess, pilots the boat away from the battle, closing the distance to Amethyst’s ship, and leaving the dragons to battle in the darkness behind them.

Before long, they catch up with the longship. Rick streaks past its crow’s nest, drawing the attention of the crew. Jaidyn and Rosa take advantage of this distraction to get the powerboat as close as they can – then they kill the engine, leap into the sea, and swim the rest of the distance. They’re able to grab ropes and start climbing aboard just as Amethyst shrieks at the oarsmen to carry on rowing or die. His shrieking reaches a whole new level when Rick drops out of the sky and does a superhero landing on the deck of the ship right in front of the dark wizard… and then unleashes a reality storm against him.

The tempest engulfs them both, but Rick has been preparing for this moment for months. His command of the storm is absolute. Within seconds, he strips Amethyst of his Possibilities and then his reality, transforming the dark wizard to the axioms of the Nile Empire. Amethyst’s spells crumble about him, and he collapses on the deck in a quivering heap. At this point Jaidyn and Rosa appear – at a snarled command from Jaidyn, Amethyst’s Viking warriors throw themselves into the sea rather than face the Storm Knights. Rosa promptly locates Amethyst’s cabin, where she finds the object of this long and meandering quest – the Possibility Chalice. With the eternity shard in their possession and Amethyst their prisoner, the Knights head for shore. The Signal Fire awaits…

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Episode Ten: The Destiny Map (Part II)
Welcome to the jungle!

Act One – Raising Indiana

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Our heroes reconvene at Rocky Boy’s Reservation in northern Montana, Rosa’s home patch, to plan their next moves. It’s an uncomfortable reunion – Kuranath’s presence in the area has riled the local law enforcement and some of Rosa’s people are alarmed at the increased attention. Jaidyn goading Cleophee into using her superior elven senses to fleece the casino out of five thousand dollars probably doesn’t help much either. Before relations deteriorate any further, the Knights agree to depart forthwith. With their sights set on Wu Han’s dig near Muncie, Indiana, they bid farewell to the reservation, determined to locate the tiles that apparently point the way to the Possibility Chalice.

Muncie is well within the Living Land and they manage to get a couple of hours into the realm before Uncle Joe’s pickup truck finally succumbs to the Deep Mist. Proceeding on foot, our heroes have a hard time of it. They lose their way several times and it’s nightfall before they are back on track again. With their equipment literally falling to pieces in the Living Land’s primitive reality, they also make the acquaintance of a torada when fording a torrential river. The beast soon succumbs to blades and gunfire, however, and Jaidyn is able to scout out the precise location of Wu Han’s excavation before he disconnects and crashes his drone into a tree.

The archaeological dig is an artificial Nile hardpoint, created by Wu Han’s Axiom Transmogrification Inducer (which basically looks like a giant steampunk generator), manned by dozens of shocktroopers, with edeinos and savage humans slaving away in search of the tiles. Wu Han himself is present and struggling to keep the shocktroopers in line. He has recovered three of the tiles and thinks there is only one more to find, apparently unaware of the journal that reveals that five were buried here. Our heroes settle on something resembling a plan and – for once – everything goes off without a hitch. Mostly.

Cleophee uses the Gloves of The Vanisher! to teleport into the truck holding the three recovered tiles and stows them in her backpack. A human slave discovers the fourth and Wu Han orders it loaded onto the truck – but, at the same time, Emily (who has disguised herself as a slave and infiltrated the dig) is on hand when an edeinos uncovers the fifth tile. Emily intimidates the edeinos into handing it over before anyone else notices and Rosa provides a distraction by shooting the shocktrooper taking the fourth tile to the truck. When Cleophee is discovered, she immediately teleports away, and Jaidyn throws the dig into chaos by destroying the Axiom Transmogrification Inducer with a LAW rocket. The Deep Mist rolls in over the site and our heroes flee.

The Nile troops don’t immediately pursue – with the reality of the Living Land restored, the edeinos and savage human slaves stage an immediate uprising and fall upon their former captors with primal savagery. But racing through the jungle, the Storm Knights realise they have other problems. The Kanawa Corporation has dispatched power-armoured samurai mercenaries on three hover sleds to retrieve the tiles, and the Knights are soon locked in a pitched battle with them over the waters of the torada-infested river. While Cleophee and Emily leap from nearby trees to board and commandeer two of the hover sleds, Rosa deploys brutally precise sniper fire and Jaidyn hacks the control systems to send the third plunging into the roiling waters. Before long, the samurai mercenaries are bested, and the Knights are in possession of two hover sleds and a handful of very interesting advanced weaponry.

They also have all five tiles of the Destiny Map. Poring over the tiles at a motel back in Core Earth while awaiting extraction back to the UK, they manage to decipher the clues contained in the map. Rosa realises that the map gives directions to a location in northern India, somewhere in the region of Tezpur. Emily’s dismay is plain. Despite the area not being under the control of any invaders, she describes it as “just like the Living Land before adding all the scaly beasties” – jungle-swathed terrain overshadowed by the vastness of the Himalayas. The Storm Knights prepare for a passage to India.

Act Two – Temple of the Destiny Map

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After a stopover in the UK, where Emily is given access to MI6’s global network of operatives, and someone thinks it’s a sensible idea to make Jaidyn the CEO of a multi-million dollar corporation, the Storm Knights head to Tezpur. There, they receive directions to a temple in the foothills of the Himalayas that corresponds to the location on their map. Agents of the Nile Empire are also in town, and Jaidyn catches one eavesdropping on the group. Naturally, he pursues the spy into an alleyway and shoots the man in the back as he tries to flee. Because he’s heroic like that.

Trekking north into the jungle, the Knights make their way towards the temple. Suspicions about Nile forces are confirmed when they spot an airship high overhead, and a hieroglyph-adorned fighter plane attempts to ambush them en route. It ends badly for the attacker, whose plane is riddled with bullet holes from pretty much every weapon the Storm Knights are carrying, sending him crashing into a ravine. The group presses onwards and, before long, arrives at the fabled temple.

An ancient ruin at the centre of a flooded clearing, it seems unoccupied – although Rosa soon detects signs that someone else has beaten them here. While she, Cleophee, and Emily investigate the entrance to the temple, Jaidyn sets a variety of unpleasant traps around the clearing, certain that the group will soon have company. He isn’t wrong – before long, the airship drifts into view and disgorges dozens of shocktroopers by parachute. Our heroes race for the cover of the temple as the Nile troops reach the ground and open fire. Although the temple door – an aged construction on time-worn rollers – is jammed in place, the Storm Knights put their collective skills to work to move it. In a Glorious demonstration of skill, coordination, and Ayslish magic, our heroes help Cleophee heave the temple door shut – just as a hail of bullets slams into the temple exterior.

Once inside, the Storm Knights soon find who got here first – their old enemy and ally Pierre DeVris. Who is totally not a hologram. Well, OK, maybe he is. DeVris maintains his holographic cover until the Knights restore the map tiles to the temple wall. This reveals the location of the Possibility Chalice through some awesome 90s sfx, and translates the writing on the four remaining tiles, describing the location of something called the Signal Fire, plus a bunch of other clues for the next adventure. At this point, DeVris cancels his hologram, breaks cover and tries to run away – only to be stopped by the immense stone temple door. Our heroes catch him and somewhat forcefully persuade him to cooperate with them against the Nile forces. Left with little choice, the cyberknight agrees.

Wu Han has arrived while the group has been inside the temple and he now attempts to persuade them to surrender, insisting that they are surrounded. Our heroes make some similar suggestions, and each side trades offers, counter-offers, insults, bullets, nail-bombs, some grenades, a claymore, Kuranath, and a thoroughly terrifying Cree war-chant, while Cleophee casts a stone tunnel spell to create a subterranean escape route. Once it’s complete, Jaidyn put a gauss slug into Wu Han, leaving him for dead, and the group hightails it down the tunnel and away from the temple. They emerge in the jungle near the ravine, Jaidyn collapsing the tunnel behind them with more grenades.

The Knights are busy crossing the ravine when more Nile fighter planes show up. Hurrying across the rickety rope bridge, Rosa slips and finds herself dangling over the gorge. Emily drags her to safety and the group hunker down in the trees and return fire against the planes. While Rosa’s armour malfunctions, she and Cleophee engage in a tag-team bout of saving each other, and Emily and Jaidyn give the planes something to think about. Like bullets. Kuranath finally catches up with the group and the tide turns. Under relentless gun and dragonfire, the Nile planes go down in flames. Emily cuts the rope bridge, leaving Nile troops to glare impotently at them from the far side of the ravine as our heroes make their escape. The Possibility Chalice beckons…

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Episode Nine: The Death Chambers of Wu Han!
ROBOSPHINX!!!

Act One – To Save a Hero

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Rosa and Jaidyn head over to the Empire of the Nile to help Marshall Rick Rogers locate his missing father, veteran rocket ranger Admiral James Rogers. Rick has already made contact with Professor Marlen and his helpful daughter Hildy and discovered that the Admiral is being held in the Death Chambers of Wu Han – a prison deep beneath the Overgovernor’s palace in Cairo. As the only way into the prison is to be captured, Rick and the Professor have devised a plan to do exactly that. The Professor shrinks our heroes’ gear and stores it in his Incredible Miniaturisation Capsule (which Rosa tucks into a hair-braid) and Hildy takes them down to the Narsuq street market, where they hope they will soon be taken prisoner.

Although the Knights successfully start a fight with a local rug merchant and attract the attention of a Shocktrooper patrol, actually getting captured proves harder than it sounds. Not only are the Shocktroopers keen to avoid any real conflict, as soon as matters turn serious, unexpected help arrives on the scene – in the form of the Dark Shadow and his Shadeling minions. No longer a servant of Pharaoh Mobius, the Dark Shadow does his best to save our heroes from being arrested, much to their annoyance. The situation soon gets out of control, and the Dark Shadow ends up heavily wounding Rosa with his Umbra Gun. Jaidyn manages to convince him to leave them alone by claiming the group is trying to get captured on purpose in order to rescue Cleophee from the Death Chambers. The Dark Shadow departs, allowing our heroes to surrender to Mobius’ Shocktroopers. Hildy is helpfully taken into custody with them.

Inside the prison, the Knights discover that they are not alone. Commander Calibri (formerly The Vanisher!) and Captain Lucian are here as well, imprisoned by Wu Han for their failures in New York. While our heroes are deciding how to proceed, guards take Hildy deeper into the prison – her screams soon galvanise the Knights to action. They slip their bonds and Jaidyn sneaks after Hildy to discover her hooked up to some machine in a weird science lab. Freeing her, he meets Wu Han’s vizier, who is running the prison in his master’s absence – the undead Rama-Hotep. Battle is soon joined, with Rama-Hotep summoning a tide of sand to bury our heroes alive before fleeing deeper into the Death Chambers. Our heroes slay the Shocktrooper guards, blast their way to safety using Jaidyn’s explosives, kill the treacherous Commander Calibri (although Captain Lucian escapes), and pursue Rama-Hotep.

They find themselves in a temple (laden with various traps, of course) and discover Admiral Rogers here as well, also hooked up to a strange weird science device. Rick frees his father, only to discover that the Admiral has been brainwashed and now serves the Pharaoh – and also has a fancy new black rocket ranger suit. Rama-Hotep unleashes a swarm of scorpions into the temple and retreats even deeper into the prison. Rosa and Jaidyn deal with the scorpions while Rick neutralises his father’s suit with an EMP burst, then our heroes decide the time has come to depart. They leave Rama-Hotep to whatever nefarious deeds he is engaged in and race back to the exit. Rosa commandeers a truck and the group is about to make a dash for safety when they discover where Rama-Hotep went… when the ancient vizier reappears, along with Captain Lucian, at the controls of the Robosphinx!

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Avoiding the Robosphinx’s electro-beams and reality missiles, Jaidyn kills Lucian with his gauss gun and Rosa discovers a hatchway into the belly of the steel beast. Rick, meanwhile, finds himself locked in an airborne battle with his father when the Admiral’s suit comes back online. Rosa works her way up into the Robosphinx’s head and hurls grenades into the cockpit, harrying Rama-Hotep. The undead vizier responds by detaching the sphinx’s head from its body – it races skyward with Rosa trapped inside! Down below, Jaidyn disables the sphinx’s body (and kills its Shocktrooper crew) with more grenades, then kills Rama-Hotep with some truly inspired sniper fire. Rick rescues Rosa from the plummeting head and they chase after Admiral Rogers, who has wisely chosen to flee. Catching up with his father, Rick manages to break through Wu Han’s brainwashing and restore James to his senses. Admiral Rogers surrenders, dishonoured and broken, but filled with pride at the man his son has become. As a Halloween moon rises over Cairo, father and son are reconciled, and together swear to take vengeance on the Pharaoh and his servant, the Insidious Wu Han…

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Episode Eight: The Destiny Map (Part I)
The search for the Possibility Chalice begins!

Act One – Dead Man’s History

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While Jaidyn cuts deals to get a bigger gun, Rick tracks down leads on his father, and Ragnar pursues potentially mythical barmaids, Emily, Rosa, and Cleophee take a dragonride across the Atlantic to chase a hot tip on a cyberknight. They locate their target – Pierre DeVris – in Atlanta, thanks to information leaked to Emily from a mole within the Delphi Council. In a tense standoff (tense for DeVris, that is), they learn that the cyberknight is in town to track down Al-Mu’in – a Nile agent rumoured to be seeking a mysterious artifact for the Insidious Wu Han known as the Possibility Chalice. DeVris also claims that he killed Loretta Lamar on the orders of Samantha Tansen (Delphi’s internal security director) to prevent Loretta from revealing who was truly behind Wells’ assassination, and that our heroes were meant to kill him in order to keep this a secret. Realising that each holds part of a larger puzzle, our heroes agree to team up with DeVris to locate Al-Mu’in and learn what is so special about the Chalice. Rumours that some kind of weird love triangle develops between DeVris, Rosa, and Cleophee are wholly unfounded, not to mention inappropriate, and have no place in a serious account such as this.

Al-Mu’in was in Atlanta to meet a local genealogist and historian called Barker, but the local news is full of accounts that Barker and his family have all been murdered, and that the body of a Nile citizen was also found at the scene. While DeVris and Cleophee have a deeply awkward conversation in the car outside, Rosa and Emily head to the home of Detective Carlson, senior officer in the case, and pretty much threaten him into sharing all he knows. Carlson confirms that the dead Nile citizen was Al-Mu’in, but has no idea who the murderers were because local Delphi agent Florio has forced Carlson to shut down any further investigation until the Delphi Council sends its own team to look into matters. Carlson does reveal that the murders were carried out with some ultra-precise laser weapon – not a Cyberpapacy blaster, and not one of those kooky Nile ray guns either. The Knights leave the deeply shaken detective and head over to the murder site – the Barker family home – to investigate further.

Avoiding the police stationed outside (for now), they find Barker’s office in serious disarray. His computer hard drive has been ripped out, his CD-ROMs are missing, and someone has taken all the physical files from the “P” section of his filing cabinet. Guessing that the murderers were looking for information on the Possibility Chalice as well, Rosa also finds a shuriken embedded in the wall behind the cabinet. Examination shows that it’s one of the taser-shuriken used by the ninjas who attacked The Worst Conference Ever, confirming the involvement of agents from the Pan-Pacific Alliance. During the investigation, one of the cops stationed outside comes into the house to carry out a routine check. Naturally, things rapidly get out of hand, and end up with Cleophee acrobatically fleeing into the night, the cops in pursuit, while the others use this distraction to hotwire the police car and drive away at an unseemly velocity. They wisely abandon the car a few blocks away – but not before thoroughly looting it for useful gear and stealing serious firepower from the weapons cache in the trunk.

With the Atlanta PD now properly on high alert, our heroes decide it’s time to pay a visit to agent Florio at the local Delphi Council offices in town. DeVris uses a cool radio-triangulation trick to locate the offices and, before long, the group is back to business as usual, hurling grenades about the place, decapitating Delphi security guards, blowing holes in computer technicians, and reducing most of the survivors to gibbering, terrified wrecks. Florio, by some miracle, is not among the dead. He confirms the involvement of Pan-Pacifica agents – they found a slain one earlier that evening, surmised to be the fool who left his taser-shuriken at the murder scene – but has no idea what they are doing in town. Florio has been ordered to keep the local cops from digging too deeply, before the Delphi Council can send its special investigation team from Houston. With sirens sounding in the distance, the Knights beat a hasty retreat to consider their next moves.

They’re outside DeVris’ apartment when the ninjas attack. Keen to recover the missing taser-shuriken, the assassins take the best possible approach – engage in a senseless fight to the death with a group of heavily armed and trigger-happy Storm Knights. Needless to say, the ninjas do not fare particularly well. Not only do they lose the battle, they also lose more of the taser-shuriken, and their leader loses his fancy taser-ninjato. And his head. And also a security keycard. And a piece of paper inscribed with a mysterious series of numbers. It’s a veritable clue bonanza, I swear. Our heroes are unable to figure out what the numbers mean, but they do deduce that the security card is linked to the nearby Magnolia Station Research Park, recently bought out by an unknown company that uses a large letter “K” as its symbol. Whoever could that be? The Knights hole up in a run-down motel overnight to lick their wounds and prepare to find out…

Act Two – Kanawa Calling

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Jaidyn rejoins his companions, carrying a ridiculously large gun, and DeVris is recalled by the Council of Bishops who are somewhat irritated at his cooperation with the same individuals who caused such a ruckus in Calais. After some preliminary research, the group proceeds to Magnolia Station under cover of darkness. They infiltrate the research park’s main building and hack the computers to learn that is currently under the control of the Kanawa Corporation, a shadowy conglomerate that has its fingers in numerous pies all across the Far East. They’re discovered by Frank, a lone security guard, and subject him to a number of personal outrages, including clubbing him in the head with a night-stick and making it look like he fell over a rubbish bin and shot himself in the foot with his own taser. Leaving Frank unconscious, and with severely hampered career prospects, our heroes proceed towards the park’s Anderson building, where every indication suggests it is the centre of Kanawa operations here.

These suspicions are confirmed when they spot a pair of ninjas on the roof of the Anderson building, scoping the park for intruders. Cleophee uses the Gloves of The Vanisher! to teleport to the rooftop and engages the ninjas in personal combat. She successfully fells one, but the other escapes and races indoors to alert his companions. All hopes of a stealthy infiltration are now abandoned. Jaidyn and Rosa proceed to shatter the building’s windows with long-range sniper fire – they’re aided by the fact that the windows are booby-trapped with explosives – and Emily races around to the back of the building to fight ninjas single-handed. Cleophee, meanwhile, swings in through one of the shattered windows and discovers a nerve centre with a ninja fiddling with a large computer. “What does System Deletion at two per cent mean?” she asks, and the Knights realise that they now have a race against time on their hands.

Emily manages to evade certain death at the hands of ninjas on the ground floor, and she, Jaidyn, and Rosa hurry to join Cleophee. Scrambling up into the nerve centre, they deal with even more ninjas defending the room, and Jaidyn manages to hack into the advanced computer and shut down the system deletion program so he can retrieve whatever data the ninjas were trying to hide. Unfortunately, this also triggers the giant security robots hidden in the walls, which burst forth and unleash absurd amounts of firepower on our heroes. As if that weren’t bad enough, it also transpires that the entire building is rigged to explode in less than three minutes. Cleophee erects an earth shield around Jaidyn and assists Emily and Rosa in a battle for their lives against the robots. Only with luck, determination, skill (and some nifty card-play) do they succeed. Jaidyn manages to retrieve the data and the Knights flee the building, just as local police arrive on the scene to investigate all the gunfire and explosions.

Realising that the police are about to enter a building rigged to blow, Jaidyn taps into their radios and warns them off – making sure that they know who their saviour was. Returning to their car, our heroes discover the hapless Frank has been left to guard it. Utterly dejected, he offers no resistance at all and the Knights suggest that he might be able to find fresh employment at the local Delphi Council offices – it would seem that they lost a few security guards in a recent grenade-related work accident. Leaving Frank to consider his career options, they depart and analyse the captured data. It points to fragments of a map that may well lead to the location of the Possibility Chalice. All they need to do is recover the map pieces from an archaeological dig in Indiana, overseen by none other than the Insidious Wu Han!

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Episode Seven: Wizard's Shame
Don't kill the pets!

Act One – Fathers and Daughters

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Enjoying a peaceful picnic in Hyde Park, the Storm Knights are approached by Tolwyn of House Tancred, who is need of some assistance. Aysle’s Home Guard has intercepted an assassin from the Cyberpapacy who was sent to slay a wizard loyal to Pella Ardinay by the name of Duncan. Tolwyn asks the group to look in on Duncan to make sure that no ill has befallen him (and definitely not to kill his pets if things unexpectedly get out of hand). The group agrees and prepares for the journey by going shopping and having tea at the Ritz. Or just waiting for hours and hours in the truck, in Marshall Roger’s case.

Arriving at Duncan’s cottage near Dover, our heroes find it deserted and, in the course of their investigations, accidentally trigger a magical defence system that shrinks them all to only a few inches in height. Duncan’s pets – a snake, three clever rats, and a parrot transformed into a dragonet – are now something of a problem. Things unexpectedly get out of hand, and so the Storm Knights kill the snake and the dragonet. Although they feel bad about doing so. Maybe. After the fires have gone out, further investigation reveals that Duncan’s daughter Victoria appears to have been kidnapped by a certain Dr. Randall of the Orrorsh School of Medicine in Calais. Randall is very politely coercing Duncan into murdering Bishop Bernard of Calais in return for Victoria’s freedom.

Our heroes guess that shenanigans are afoot – Randall was also responsible for alerting the Cyberpapacy to Duncan’s intentions to murder the bishop, which is why the Cyberpapacy sent an assassin to stop him. Guessing that Orrorsh might be trying to force Aysle into open conflict with the Cyberpapacy, the group decides to follow Duncan to France. They learn that Duncan has used the Channel Tunnel to avoid the reality storms that wrack the border between the two realms, and follow suit. With Kuranath’s aid, they pass through the Ayslish end of the tunnel and brave the subterranean reality storm that bars their way. Crossing into the French half of the tunnel, the Knights discover that it has been fortified by Cyberpapal forces, including gospog of multiple plantings, a cygoyle, and a transformed cybertroll. Naturally, they fight.

Act Two – Victoriana

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Battle rages beneath the Channel! Rosa pins Gralor the cybertroll under the bumper of the truck while Ragnar pummels him into unconsciousness and tries to pull his head off. Emily dispatches gospogs with precision grenade fire (a term you don’t hear that often, actually) while Rick engages the cygoyle in airborne combat. Jaidyn, meanwhile, hacks a pair of Cyberpapacy gun turrets, turning them against their foes. The battle draws the attention of both the Resistance and the Cyberpapal authorities – the former provide handy escape transport when the latter bring down the tunnel roof with unwise shellfire from a hover tank. As the North Sea floods in through the breach, Rosa drives the group to safety through a heaving tide of freezing water and masonry.

Emerging in Cyberpapal France, our heroes hole up with their new Resistance friends, Rico, Lisette, and Christophe. While Christophe deals with spyware in the group’s captured Cyberpapacy gear, Lisette discovers that Duncan has been captured and is set to be burned alive at a special midnight mass at the local cathedral. The Knights decide to rescue Victoria from Dr. Randall before saving her father, so Rico arranges for disguises and transport to allow them to infiltrate the Orrorsh School of Medicine. While Rick and Jaidyn take up position on the school’s roof, the others work their way to its secure wing in search of Victoria. They manage to get as far as Randall’s lab before their ruse is finally discovered – by none other than the good doctor himself.

Randall is every bit the Victorian gentleman doctor – meaning that he is secretly a werewolf, unleashes a Frankenstein-like monster against our heroes, grabs the hapless Victoria, and drags her to the school’s rooftops to do battle in the pouring rain. The Storm Knights slay his monster, pursue him, and proceed to pound him mercilessly. Even when a ravagon comes to Randall’s aid, the doctor is unable to resist their furious onslaught and naturally falls from the rooftop to lie battered and broken on the rain-soaked earth below. Ragnar helpfully breaks both of his arms. With the ravagon likewise dispatched and Victorian soldiers closing in, our heroes flee as rapidly as they can – taking both the liberated Victoria and the captured Randall with them. They head directly to the cathedral for a reckoning with Bishop Bernard and the wizard Duncan…

Act Three – Midnight Murder

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Approaching the cathedral, the Storm Knights see several Church Police checkpoints set up around the square. Some quick talking by Rosa gets them through without further scrutiny, and they convince a deeply unnerved Randall to admit that he has manipulated the bishop and the wizard. If Randall admits this to the bishop, perhaps Duncan will be spared. Emily slips into the cathedral for a meeting with Bernard and arranges a handover. Even as the Knights enter the cathedral under Church Police escort, Marshall Rogers – circling high above – notices APCs establishing a perimeter around the building. He alerts the others. It is clear that Bishop Bernard cannot be trusted.

Within the cathedral, as hundreds gather to see Duncan burned alive, the group begins tense negotiations with the bishop. Initially, Bernard is unwilling to surrender Duncan – as a heretic, the wizard must burn. But our heroes convince him that Randall is the true prize. Not only is the good doctor a monster in human form, but he has been experimenting on the citizens of Calais and is breeding gospog in the School of Medicine for some unknown purpose. Randall tries to lie his way out of the predicament but, under extreme duress, confesses. He admits that he was ordered to foment conflict between the Cyberpapacy and Aysle on the orders of the current regent of Orrorsh – a techno-demon from Tharkold known as Thratchen.

Bishop Bernard briefly considers betraying the Storm Knights and burning both Duncan and Randall, but his loyal underling François reminds him of the importance of keeping his word, and the bishop relents, ordering the Church Police to free the wizard. Unfortunately, this proves to be an unwise move. The GodNet is watching the proceedings and manifests a Host – a vengeful holographic angel – which excommunicates Bernard on the spot for cutting a deal with heretics and attacks the Storm Knights. Only the arrival of Kuranath gives our heroes an avenue of escape and they are soon clambering atop the dragon for a frantic race back to Ayslish reality.

The Storm Knights hurtle through the streets of Calais on dragonback, with the Host, Church Police APCs, and a quartet of cygoyles in pursuit. The battle wreaks havoc throughout old Calais, but our heroes manage to evade or destroy their pursuers and, thanks to Cleophee’s superior riding skills, are soon streaking out over the Channel towards Aysle. But even the journey home is not without mishap. Their loyal ally Rico disconnects in the reality storm, perishing as his cyberheart fatally malfunctions. Back in Aysle, Tolwyn thanks the Knights for their aid, but brings sore news of defeat at the hands of Uthorion’s forces. Despite honour, sacrifice, and heroism, still the forces of the Dark grow ever more powerful. Earth’s battle is far from over…

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