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, and part two can be found here.
The ground beneath Resolve’s feat began to buck and heave wildly. Barely able to keep his footing, he shouted at the others to run for the light of the lantern horde, which appeared unaffected by the rumbling tremors. Half stumbling, the survivors sprinted towards Forlorn, leaping over cracks and gaps that appeared in their path as if to intentionally block their way.
Calm and Surly entered the lantern light just ahead of Resolve. Behind—over the thundering of the tearing, shaking ground—Resolve heard a bellow, half fury, half terror, and he turned to see Pain, encumbered by his broken hip, leap out over a yawning fissure in a desperate attempt to make it to safety. Their eyes locked momentarily, the realization that he had not jumped far enough written clearly across Pain’s face as he disappeared into the open maw beneath him.
Just as quickly as it began, the rumbling ceased. The fissures, so violent in tearing asunder the landscape, closed silently. Resolve, Surly, and Calm stood in mute shock, staring into the darkness. As Resolve and Surly turned to head in to the settlement, Calm stood motionless, disbelief and guilt tearing at him. He could not believe that he had argued for burying their dead. The thought of voluntarily feeding their dead to this nightmare land made him feel sick.
The survivors rallied to each other in their grief over the loss of Pain, counting on their intimacy to help temper their mourning. Resolve and Surly gave birth to a boy named Regard, while Calm and Triumph blessed the colony with twins, a boy named Broken and a girl named Comfort.
Even then, in the reverie and celebration of new life, the darkness took its toll. Two of the others, Sorrow and Hale, that had followed Resolve after awakening to this world, attempted to have a child. Inexplicably, something went wrong during the birth, and Hale and the baby were both lost. Coupling the loss of Pain with the loss of Hale and their child, Sorrow’s mind snapped. Driven insane by grief, Sorrow’s quixotic nature pushed to the forefront of his personality, and he vowed to take the weight of the settlement’s problems onto his shoulders, and his shoulders alone.
A dark stain formed on the landscape where Pain had disappeared, as a pungent, bilious substance seeped up from the ground where he had fallen. The other survivors would make use of Pain’s final gift to them. Gathering the substance, the survivors realized that they could make use of it to create medicines, and use it to strengthen their armor.
Inspired by the discovery of Ammonia, Calm experimented with various resources, desperate to find a cure for his leprosy that would allow him to feel again. Stymied in his efforts, he nevertheless crafted some useful gear, including a drink that would send the imbiber into a fit of fury, enhancing their combat abilities.
Triumph became restless, imploring the other survivors to join her in striking back, in lashing out, in seeking vengeance against this world that had taken her father from her. Calm, Surly, and Resolve agreed to join her, determined to keep her safe in her first foray into the darkness beyond Forlorn. Even though their larders were still full, the four headed out from the settlement to enact their revenge.
Almost immediately, the party stumbled upon a white lion cub. Feeling only loathing and rage, and without a moment’s hesitation, the survivors brutally slaughtered it. In their impetuousness, the survivors neglected to stay vigilant. Enraged, the cub’s mother was on them in an instant.
Even in a fit of rage, the lion proved no match for the party, who emerged from the fight essentially unscathed. While she managed to kill the lion by sinking Pain’s axe into its heart, Triumph’s lust for revenge was not satiated, and the party headed back to the settlement with the resources taken from both the mother lion and her cub.
As the survivors made their way back towards the settlement, a blaze of multicolored lights swirled and streaked across the sky, illuminating their path back to Forlorn. Enraptured by the invigorating spectacle, the survivors took heart, believing it to be a sign that their quest for vengeance was justified.
Motivated by the brilliant display, the survivors worked together to create a weapon smith and a leather worker, sinking their new motivation into creating ever more efficient tools of war.
Both Resolve and Calm sought to divine knowledge from the lights, from their experiences, and from their grief and rage. Both managed to stumble upon epiphanies, yet these epiphanies had far different effects on the two men. While they would come to the realization that encouraging other survivors to greater intimacy would give the settlement a better chance at new children, they would use the surge of insight to focus on far different things.
Resolve’s focus grew keener and he found he was able to notice small details more easily, making him more accurate with weapons. Calm, growing frustrated in his failure to find a cure for his leprosy, began to rely more and more upon brute force and strength. Calm lent his voice to Triumph’s, as she continued to speak of vengeance.
A quivering tension hung in the air, nearly palpable, as more and more of the survivors rallied behind Calm and Triumph. All talk was of their decimation of the lions and their plans for lashing out against the darkness. They would repay, in kind, every hurt that they felt, every ounce of heartache and pain. They became so wrapped up in their posturing that they paid no mind to the stranger who approached from the darkness, until he was almost upon them.
As the stranger’s form slowly came in to view and his features became clear, Resolve’s heart dropped into his stomach. He knew then why the man had come. He realized that all of their talk, all of their anger, all of their need for vengeance, was merely a mask to hide their fear behind. This man had sensed their fear, and it had drawn him straight to them.
The stranger’s face was hidden behind a mask of his own, and his armor was covered in numerous faces that had been peeled off of other men’s heads. Each disembodied face was frozen in a rictus of fear.
Resolve, Calm, Triumph, and Surly dove into cover behind a giant stone face, while the rest of the survivors scurried into hiding.
The Butcher stood nearly motionless. Turning his head towards the stone face, he let out a menacing shout, the sound a mix of churning gravel and metal scraping on glass.
Unable to tolerate the sound, Surly desperately attempted to cover her ears, doubling over and falling to the ground as the nightmare noise drilled into her brain.
Unsure of how to proceed, the survivors attempted to formulate a plan of attack, but before any true plan of action could be decided upon, the light around the man winked and lowered to an ominous glow. The Butcher sprang into action, moving blindingly fast. Holding his arms to the side, as if to invite a counter attack, the Butcher leaped over the stone face and leveled a vicious kick at Triumph, followed by a hew of his enormous cleaver.
Having lived her whole life in this unforgiving world had prepared Triumph for a moment such as this. She dashed out of the range of the kick, spinning and dodging beneath the deadly cleaver.
In an attempt to distract the madman, Resolve struck a chord across his whisker harp, amazed as the light surrounding the masked enemy seemed to return to normal as the notes from the harp washed over him.
Calm moved behind the Butcher, striking with his newly forged zanbato.
Still facing their foe, Triumph held her shield up in anticipation. The Butcher swung a wild carve at Triumph, cutting her despite her best efforts to avoid contact. The razor thin edge of the cleaver cut her cleanly, causing her to bleed. Continuing his backswing, the Butcher cut Calm as well, surprising him.
A second kick from the Butcher found its mark, sending Triumph hurtling backwards into a toppled pillar, smashing it to dust. The other survivors attempted to move to help, but the Butcher disappeared in a flash of light, reappearing next to Triumph and slashing her twice.
Resolve strummed his harp a second time, shouting encouragement at Triumph, and again the notes of music seemed to have an effect on the Butcher. His posture changed, and he no longer appeared so eager to embrace pain.
Desperate to take the maniac’s focus from Triumph, Calm struck at his back again. As the zanbato blade connected, the Butcher spun violently, smashing his enormous shoulder spaulder into both Calm and Triumph, knocking them to the ground.
Surly pushed forward, shouting encouragement to Triumph, and sent an arrow at the Butcher’s head. The arrow struck his mask, staggering him.
Renewing his focus, the light surrounding the Butcher dimmed once more, and he leveled his gaze on Triumph yet again. He threw a wild carve at her but she managed to dash out of the range of his deadly cleaver. Furious and frustrated, the Butcher let out an ear, and sanity, piercing roar.
Grasping for any possible weakness in this seemingly unstoppable foe, Resolve channeled his focus into his circlet, seeking glimpses of the future that might gain them the upper hand. Before he could warn her, Triumph dashed towards the Butcher, wounding him with her axe. As happened in his mind’s eye mere moments before, the madman roared his pain, this time overcoming Triumph’s will, sending her sprawling.
Hoping to take another potshot, Surly leveled her bow at the enemy. Not one to be taken by surprise a second time, the Butcher took one arrow to the greaves, charging towards Surly and knocking her other arrow out of the air with a deft swipe of his cleaver, chilling Surly to her core.
Calm rushed the Butcher and sliced across his back, catching a close glimpse of the faces stretched across the lanterns hanging from his cape. Unable to comprehend the horror of the acts that this monster must have committed to gather these grisly trophies, Calm let go all conscious thought and allowed his inner rage to whip him into a frenzy.
In a blur, the Butcher launched a kick at Surly, knocking her back, following through with a cleaver strike to her head.
Triumph darted in from behind, swinging wildly, but again, with incredible speed, her enemy glanced one blow off of his greaves while turning the other aside with a lightning quick flick of his cleaver.
Completely given over to his rage, Calm smashed his zanbato into the crown of the Butcher’s head. Momentarily dazed, the madman lashed out wildly at Calm, Surly, and Triumph, knocking all three to the ground.
He moved towards Resolve, for a moment seeming to forget about the survivors he had just toppled.
In the last moment, before reaching Resolve, he turned and lunged back towards Surly. His feint had taken him too far though, and both of his cleavers missed their mark.
A primal scream rent the air.
Calm had regained his feet and, in his fury, weapon forgotten, struck out at the Butcher with his bare fists. The power of the blow staggered the Butcher, who stumbled backwards, doubled over and gasped for air.
Just as it seemed the maniac would succumb to the mighty blow, a blinding flash of light exploded from the lanterns hung on his cloak and armor, and the Butcher was gone. The only proof of the fight that had just taken place was the blood, bruises, and pain the survivors still bore.