Episode Fifteen: Signs and Wonders

Back in the USSR!

Act One – Starfall


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.


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


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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