Welcome back to Diary of Death. This series takes thematic approach to narrating a campaign of the board game Kingdom Death: Monster. If you’d like to know more about the game, you can watch our interview with the game’s creator, Adam Poots, and if you’d like to see how the monster showdowns play out, you can check out our gameplay demo from GenCon 2015. The first part of Diary of Death can be found here.
Four had departed, but only three returned.
Surly helped Pain hobble under shelter as Calm walked beside them, dragging the remains of both a lion and of Mercy, his vision clouded, troubled. The air was acrid, each breath labored, as they stumbled back into camp. They made it to shelter just as, somewhere in the impenetrable darkness overhead, drops of acid began to fall from the sky.
While the acid rain pounded the landscape, they shared the tale of their hunt—their fight and their loss—with Resolve and the other survivors. They had managed to pick up the trail of a lion in heat who had marked its territory while in pursuit of another animal. Vivid, nightmarish dreams had assaulted them each night of the hunt, which in turn led them to stumbling across another camp of survivors.
This other camp was not like Forlorn. The miserable wretches who gathered there were missing noses, fingers, toes. None of those in the camp could seem to feel any pain and, despite desperate shouts to keep back, to go away, Calm had ignored the warnings and, in approaching, he had contracted the strange disease afflicting those in the camp. In spite of their fear of contracting leprosy themselves, the other survivors rallied to Calm’s side and assured him that they would not turn him out, especially after seeing that, clawed and bitten in the conflict with the lion, he had suffered no lasting harm.
Pain had not been so lucky. He limped badly on a broken hip, unable to move with the same speed that he had before. The lion had also left him with a gaping chest wound that would nag at him for the rest of his life. Mercy had not even been that fortunate. The lion severed an artery in her leg, causing her to bleed
out as the others looked on, helpless to save her.
In the midst of their homecoming, as the survivors were trying to wrap their heads around what they’d been told, a piercing, seemingly endless scream assaulted them from the darkness—the first voice in a cacophony of horrors plunging the settlement into chaos and terror. Having just borne the brunt of a brutal fight with a lion, the returning hunters’ sanity begin to slip as the sound continued, unabated. Resolve stood and, as a veritable Orator of Death, slowly began to speak to the others of life, death, struggle, and opportunity. These creatures, screaming in the darkness, however nightmarish, would become their prey just as the lion had.
As the acid rain slowly began to dissipate, Calm stood and pointed to Mercy’s body. He turned to the remaining survivors and implored them to help
bury her body in the ground. As others began to move to help , Resolve commanded them to stop.
Resolve argued that the land had given them nothing and, therefore, they would give the land nothing in return. They would Cannibalize the body of Mercy, and any others that fell, and use their bodies just as they used the bodies of the lions that they killed. They would use the bodies for food, for shelter, for armor, and for weaponry.
Most of the survivors gathered together the resources from the lion, from Mercy, and from the acid scoured landscape and began to work on creating new gear in order to better improve their odds when fighting on future hunts.
As the others worked, Surly and Pain began to spend more time together, sharing a bond that eventually blossomed into an Intimacy that the other survivors did not share.
Their intimacy led to Surly giving birth to twins, a girl named Triumph and a boy named Tragedy. The settlement embraced the children with open arms; these two new lives filled every survivor with purpose. No longer would they struggle to simply survive. They would protect the young at all costs,As they grew, Triumph and Tragedy were showered with affection, hope and wisdom, gaining a level of understanding that no other survivor had yet to accomplish.
From the wellspring of creativity, affection, and caring, Calm began to draw symbols on the ground. Initially he drew these designs to entertain Triumph and Tragedy, but, over time, the others began to follow his example. The survivors began to paint symbols, shapes and designs, first on the ground and flat surfaces and then on themselves and each other, unknowingly suffusing the paint with their vital essence, which would actually sharpen their combat reflexes.
Two of the lanterns in the hoard had sputtered and died since they had claimed Forlorn as their home, and a third was weakening, its light glowing dimmer with each passing moment. The time to organize another hunt was upon them. Gathering the gear and supplies they had crafted, Resolve, Pain, Surly, and Calm headed out of the settlement to find another lion to kill.
The hunters picked up the trail easily as they quickly located territory that had been clearly marked by the lion. Following the beast’s tracks took them into a jagged valley lined with razor sharp rocks. Determined to persevere, the survivors struggled mightily to navigate through the ominous landscape, emerging on the other side of the valley exhausted and diminished.
Once free of the valley, the survivors quickly located the scratching grounds where the lion had obviously spent much time. Resolve paused to investigate, hoping to find a clue or useful resource to aid them in their fight with the beast. Unfortunately, while sifting through a pile of rubble left by the lion, Resolve had his hand crushed beneath falling debris, damaging it.
As the others helped Resolve dig his hand free, a heckling cackle sounded. A Trollbird approached them, tilting its head to one side, cackling in an eerily human way. Pain, still mentally unstable from the chorus of screams that the settlement had endured, greeted the bird as an old friend and tossed it a Dried Acanthus. Chortling in delight, the bird hopped off into the darkness as the other survivors gaped in disbelief at Pain’s wanton waste.
In their confusion, the survivors had nearly neglected to be watchful for the lion. A quick and bloody battle was upon them. As the lion approached, Resolve suddenly began to have images pierce his mind from the center of his forehead, seeming to spring fully formed into his skull where the disembodied Cat’s Eye in his circlet was pressed against his skin.
The lion lunged for Calm who, standing in tall grass, was able to slide past the beast’s claws.
Concentrating on the images swirling in his mind, Resolve saw glimpses of the near future unfold. He could see Calm striking the lion’s temple, he could see Pain’s axe as it raked across the great beast’s back and he shouted to the others that Surly’s arrow would drive the beast forward.
The lion turned to face him, somehow sensing the power flowing into Resolve’s mind, attempting to intimidate him. Resolve, undisturbed by the lion’s regard and emboldened by his newfound abilities, stood steadfast.
Taking advantage of the lion’s focus on Resolve, Calm smashed the lion in its side, shattering ribs. Too slow to avoid Calm’s attack, the lion turned to Pain, chomping its terrible jaws down on his skull.
Wounded but standing, Pain responded in kind, chopping his axe directly into the lion’s teeth, severing the nightmare cat’s lower jaw from its face.
As the bloody jaw hit the ground, an arrow from Surly’s bow took the beast in the leg. Dancing past Calm’s wild swing, the lion leveled its fury at Surly, clawing her across the head and knocking her to the ground.
Calm and Pain continued to attack the monster, attempting to draw its attention away from Surly. In a fit of rage, the beast lunged at Calm’s head, just as it had targeted Pain’s head mere moments before. Instead of a screaming roar and gnashing teeth, only a gurgling moan would escape the lion’s devastated face as it vomited blood all over itself.
Seeing the beast’s death close at hand, Resolve investigated a scurrying movement near his feet, watching in his mind’s eye as Surly’s next arrow would finish it off.
Awash in relief, the survivors immediately fell to work, dressing and preparing the lion’s corpse for transport back to Forlorn.
Determined to avoid the jagged valley that had given them so much trouble while tracking the lion, the survivors took a less direct route back towards the settlement. The journey would prove uneventful, until the hunting party was very nearly awash in the light of the Lantern Horde.
As the settlement came in to view, a low reverberation began to rise from the ground, growing louder and louder with each step towards safety, escalating into a thunderous roar as the ground around them began to shake, shudder, and split …