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 previous part of Diary of Death can be found here.
Despair made his way slowly back to Forlorn, the acid rain his ever present companion. He’d been exposed to the stinging rain for so long that it had begun to eat away at his equipment. He made it into the shelter and safety of Forlorn just as his knees gave out, and he collapsed into Calm’s arms.
He told them all of the disastrous hunt, and how the lion with the glittering eyes had killed Truimph, Tragedy, and Sorrow. The loss was devastating, but the survivors came together in their grief, forming bonds as thick as blood, as thick as family.
Calm and Surly, ever fertile, gave birth to a girl that they named Steadfast. After her birth, they decided to cement their familial bond with a shared name. To honor their fallen, they took the last name Grieve. Steadfast took this name as well, as would all of their descendants from that point forward.
The survivors spent time repairing the acid and lion damaged equipment, returning their armory to full strength. They also forged a dagger from the elder cat teeth that Despair had returned with. It would serve as a memento to the three that had fallen to the monster.
Before they could set out on another hunt, another King’s Man came to call. A barely audible hum emanated from the armored figure, more felt than heard.
Burden, knowing it would be his last battle, prepared to face the man. He knew that only he would be able to counter the strange atmospheric pressure that surrounded the man. Calm, Resolve, and Surly joined him, determined to ensure that his sacrifice would not be in vain.
Throughout the fight, the King’s Man hummed a Strange Hymn, draining the strength from their legs, making them feel as though the very air was fighting against their efforts to maneuver around the battlefield.
As he struck the final blow against their foe, Burden raised his hand in a final farewell before rapidly aging, as he knew he would. He died with a smile on his face, knowing that he had fulfilled his purpose, saving lives via his sacrifice.
Resolve, Calm, Surly, and the few other Elders of the settlement held council, reminiscing over their lives, trials, scars, and triumphs. During their discourse, Surly began to hum a melancholy melody. The others joined, lending their voices, together creating a Song of the Brave that told the story of their settlement.
The two remaining saviors, Warmth and Despair, blessed the settlement with twins named Woe and Quiet. They followed Calm and Surly’s lead, binding their family together by taking the shared name of Hopeful.
The time to hunt came, and Despair, Comfort, Boon, and Steadfast headed out into the dark to find a phoenix. Their prey found them instead, ambushing them while they searched. The four hunters managed to best the beast, but it left its mark on each of them.
The nightmare bird had un-spoken Boon’s name, Comfort could no longer stand the sight of blood, and Steadfast had developed a nervous shake, making noise even when standing completely still.
Comfort returned with a haunted look in her eye. As time passed she became more and more convinced that a powerful presence resided nearby. In tears, she created a small memento to the phoenix they had just hunted. She spirited the trinket away, never telling anyone else nor showing them her creation.
As life in Forlorn began to return to normal, the Hooded Knight returned yet again. The survivors, led by Resolve, met him on the edge of the settlement, blocking his path and refusing him entry.
Unlike his previous visits, the man did not study each survivor in turn. This time he immediately strode up to Despair, forcing a wrapped, oblong bundle into his hands before turning and quickly moving back into the terrifying darkness beyond the edge of the light of the lantern horde.
As the wrapping fell away, Despair revealed the bundle to be a great, two handed sword. The sword was a perfect match to the one that the Knight carried, the sword that he had used to cut down two of their number the last time he had come to Forlorn. Despair was repulsed by the sword, the very fabric of his being rejected it. He gathered his strength and threw the blade after the Hooded Knight. The Twilight Sword made a strange, sharp whistling sound as it flew out of sight, shattering as it hit the ground.
The sight of the sword had given Calm an idea. He wanted to forge a blade of his own, but would need an unmarred phoenix beak to accomplish what he had in mind. Together he, Resolve, Steadfast and Comfort headed out to hunt another of the dread birds.
As they pursued their quarry they came across a swinging, black iron gibbet. Inside the cage stood a man who called out to them as they came closer. He gave them his name and pleaded with them to free him so that he might join their settlement. He gave his name as Vincent, a strange word that felt odd on their tongues. He had come face to face with the Butcher out in the darkness. He had shown no fear, but had been unable to overcome the masked man. Vincent awoke after the fight, locked in the iron cage, just as the light of the flesh covered lanterns on the Butcher’s back were fading into the distance.
Resolve let the cage down, and, with the help of the others, broke the locks that held the man captive. They pointed him in the direction of Forlorn and resumed their hunt, finding and slaying the phoenix. Unfortunately, the beak had been damaged in the fight, leaving Calm without the resources that he sought to forge his blade.
The four met a strange man as they returned home. He carried an enormous pack on his back that was filled with various odds and ends that clanked and clattered as he walked. The Dark Trader offered to sell them various trinkets that he had come across out in the darkness. After browsing his wares, Resolve bartered with the man, finally agreeing on the price for a Founding Stone that reminded him of the first weapon he had used to fight back against the terrors of this world.
Vincent had found his way back to the settlement. The others had welcomed him with open arms, and wasted no time finding him a place among them. It didn’t take long, though, before the Butcher came for him.
Vincent, Comfort, Favor and Steadfast faced the terrifying masked man. He moved with blinding speed, and the battle was bloody and brutal. When the dust had settled, three bodies lay lifeless on the ground.
Vincent and Comfort had bled to death from the devastating wounds that the masked man had dealt them. Beside them, the Butcher himself lay dead. Steadfast tore the mask from the Butcher’s lifeless head, carrying it gingerly back toward the light of the settlement.
Where the Butcher had last stood, a strange, man-sized spot of darkness lingered. Their lanterns flickering and dimming as they approached, both Steadfast and Favor warily moved closer to investigate the anomaly.
Favor reached out, his hand barely brushing against the edge of the blackness. The darkness came alive, engulfing him. Less than a heartbeat later, the inky black spot shattered, leaving Favor standing just as before, yet fundamentally changed. Favor had been a man when the strange spot had swallowed him, and had emerged a woman. A shining golden belt now encircled Favor’s waist. Try as she might she could not remove it.
The two returned to the settlement to seek the guidance of Resolve and the others. As the survivors studied Favor’s transformation, and the belt that seemed to be responsible for it, Surly called out in surprise.
Strange dark spots swirled across the face of the Lantern Horde. As they watched, a nervous hush fell over the settlement. The spots twisted and moved, slowly coalescing together, extinguishing the light of dozens of lanterns at the base of the horde. The darkened lanterns didn’t simply fade from view, they faded out of existence. In the empty space where those lanterns had been stood the mouth of a vast chamber, its edges extending out under the ground, past the borders of the settlement.
Resolve was the first to investigate. Inside, slumbering in the middle of the vast chamber rested an unfamiliar being. Somehow he knew that this sleeping entity presented the greatest danger that they would ever face. In spite of the danger, Resolve erupted into an unhealthy, crazed laughter. The sight was terrible to behold, and his mind could not come to terms with the weight of the terror. Instead of fear, Resolve only felt invincible, he felt immortal.
He returned to the surface, telling the others of what he had seen. His confidence was contagious, and he easily convinced the others that they needed to awaken and confront this menace. Their cheers grew to a sustained roar, shaking the very ground with their frenzied bluster.
The tumult worked as intended. The sleeping Watcher stirred, awakening fully as the chamber in which it slept reverberated with the noise from the survivors. Slowly, it emerged. It appeared to be a near ephemeral collection of rags and strangely glowing lanterns.
Resolve, Calm, Surly, and Warmth took up their weapons as the rest of the survivors gathered near. Every member of the settlement prepared themselves to assist the four fighters, ready to give up their lives to protect the settlement from this new danger.
The four experienced hunters surrounded the strange apparition as Surly sought glimpses of the future through her cat eye circlet.
Warmth called out to a retinue of survivors, directing them toward her unknown foe. Together, she and the group of survivors dashed toward her target. She smashed her zanbato into the Watcher, its form much more solid than she had anticipated.
The Watcher’s cloak pulsed with an intense luminescence as her blade struck, filling her head with a searing pain, causing a trickle of blood to flow from her left ear.
Surging forward, Warmth swung her zanbato into the nightmare creature again. Her blade caught momentarily inside the void of the Watcher’s being. As she pulled her weapon back, the Watcher followed, slamming her backwards, knocking her off her feet.
Resolve called out encouragement to Warmth, motivating her to regain her feet.
Surly called out to another group of survivors, directing them closer to the Watcher as she combed the pathways of the near future with her circlet.
Calm, leading a third retinue of survivors, dashed toward the floating horror, striking the creature’s hood with a devastating swing of his weapon.
Resolve shouted to the others, reminding them of their purpose, their hope and their tenuous hold on life. The others took heart from his words, steeling their minds against the fears they felt.
A swirling vortex of light and energy blasted out from the Watcher in every direction, buffeting Calm and knocking Surly to the ground.
The Watcher turned its seemingly empty hood to face Warmth. Before the creature could make a move toward her, Calm slammed his zanbato into the strange being again. A warm, luminescent ooze gushed from the wound. The cloth of the Watcher’s form seemed to form around the blade of Calm’s weapon before the monster shrank back and away from him. As it retreated out of Calm’s reach, it passed over four members of the retinue that Calm had called forward.
Panicked cries turned into muffled whispers as the Watcher’s form closed over the survivors. The four disappeared into the void of nothingness between the shadows cast by the lanterns hanging from its body.
The Watcher turned its attention back to Warmth, slamming her in the head, all but shattering her helm and knocking her onto her back. The force of the blow sent her sliding across the ground.
The nightmarish figure turned to Resolve, the impossible blackness inside its hood seemed to take hold of his mind. In that moment, Resolve understood untold horrors; the strength of the images assaulting his mind drove him to his knees.
Calm rushed forward, driving his zanbato through the middle of the Watcher, severing the void tendrils at the center of its form. The Watcher seemed to collapse in on itself, its once solid form fizzling, falling into a pile of grimy rags and shattered lanterns.
The instant the rags that had held the Watcher’s form hit the ground, every light in the Lantern Horde winked out.
The survivors stood in stunned silence. Strange shadows danced across the grounds and buildings of their home. What once had been bright, vibrant, and alive suddenly felt cold and lonely. The small pools of light given off by the few lanterns they carried felt dim and meaningless against the never ending blackness of the world beyond the edge of the meager lantern light.
Resolve stepped forward to rally the other survivors’ spirits. This would be just another setback that they would deal with together. He opened his mouth to speak, but, before he could begin, an ear shattering roar pierced the darkness. He turned toward the sound.
Just beyond the edge of the feeble lamplight, a pair of giant glittering, golden eyes glowed from the darkness. Despair’s gasp was drowned out as, out in the near distance, now covered completely in inky blackness, a cacophony of roars, screams and shrieks grew louder and louder as the terrors of the dark, held back by the light of the Lantern Horde for so long, began to descend upon Forlorn.
True to his name, Resolve raised his weapon in his lone arm, determined to stand his ground. One by one, the others joined him. They would stand shoulder to shoulder as they always had, and together they would face the coming darkness of this Kingdom Death.