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.
Resolve stepped forward to examine the dense blackness contained within the open maw of the giant stone face. As he lifted his foot to step over the razor sharp stone teeth of its lower jaw, a susurration of gigantic wing beats and whistling feathers sounded from the inky black sky above.
The sound grew louder as it approached the Lantern Horde at a great height. As the sound neared, a dark presence shot through the sky above Forlorn, enervating the survivors and leaving them gasping for air. In its wake, a huge feather slowly floated to the ground. Dumbstruck with fear, the survivors looked at each other, none daring to speak.
Resolve stepped back from the edge of the stone jaws, breaking the silence, comforting the others. Once again it fell to him to assure everyone that they would face this new threat together, no matter how terrifying. In an effort to embolden the others, Resolve turned back to the giant stone face and stepped into its open mouth.
Resolve vanished from sight for an instant, stepping gently back out of the mouth in what appeared, to the other survivors, to be a split-second.
Others came forward to ask him why he had come back out so quickly. Resolved waved them back. What had seemed a mere moment to them had lasted far longer for him. He had met a strange masked man, much like the Butcher. The man had strode up to him and touched
his left eyelid, searing out his eye and leaving him with an empty socket.
As his eye burned, Resolve had tasted his own death, sweet upon his lips. He had glimpsed how he would die, and he was both terrified and thrilled by the knowledge.
In seeing his own death, Resolve had glimpsed the life force that coursed through each of their veins. He shared that knowledge with the others, and together they learned how to recognize and tap into this force, which they called their Inner Lantern.
As the survivors set about preparing for the next hunt, Regard and Cheer gave birth to a boy named Burden. As with Warmth, the boy disappeared moments after birth, returning a heartbeat later, fully grown. Unlike Warmth, Burden’s hair was a deep green, and he spoke of protecting the settlement, of being their shield and of keeping them safe at all costs.
While the others gathered around Burden, excitedly speaking of the birth of another savior, Tolerance sneaked off towards the giant stone face. Determined to know his own fate, Tolerance stepped into the mouth, as he’d seen Resolve do.
Before Tolerance managed to step all the way in, the face contorted, the stone jaws slamming shut, smashing him between deadly teeth. The face sank back into the ground, resuming its original shape, leaving no evidence of its transformation other than the blood and viscera of what had, only moments before, been Tolerance.
Feeling as if he’d already failed his duty to protect the others, Burden insisted on joining the next hunt. Warmth also demanded to go, promising to use her inherent martial prowess to swiftly bring down their prey. Resolve agreed that the two saviors should learn to hunt, and he requested that the experienced Calm and Triumph both join them.
Before the hunting party left, the settlement labored to create new weapons and armor from the bounty that the antelope had provided.
Under the watchful eye of Calm and Triumph, the party easily tracked and dispatched a lion. On their journey, they had stumbled across a bubbling cauldron that Calm had eaten from. The strange concoction had gifted him with a mastery for fighting with fist and tooth, and he was able to use that mastery to teach all of the other survivors how to effectively fend for themselves without relying upon weapons.
Despite their swift return, both Burden and Warmth gained an incredible amount of knowledge on the hunt. Both saviors had returned as seasoned veterans and showed signs of rapid aging.
The settlement celebrated the successful hunt by working together to create a shrine to represent their dedication to one another.
Some time later, another Phoenix tore through the sky near the settlement. Equal parts excitement and terror threaded through the survivors as Calm, Surly, Burden, and Warmth set out to hunt the great bird.
Moving across the landscape in the direction the Phoenix had flown, the survivors nearly stumbled into a pool of monstrous saliva. The saliva excreted a sickening miasma of sulfurous, toxic fumes, causing Calm, Burden, and Warmth to become violently sick and vomit uncontrollably.
Surly helped them, one after another, to move out of the sickening stench and continue on. Shortly after, the party was struck with unnatural buffeting winds that seemed to originate from the direction in which they sought the Phoenix. The wind increased with each step the survivors took until they were forced to lock arms with one another to keep from being blown backwards off of their feet.
As suddenly as it began, the wind ceased. Directly in their path stood a barefoot waif whose presence had cut off the assault from the buffeting winds. Warmth and Burden both recognized her as another savior and called out to her with warm greetings. The savior smiled and waved to them, shouting encouragement, filling them with hope and motivating them to continue on before she herself moved away from their path, out into the darkness beyond.
Nearing their destination, the survivors took a moment to stop and harvest a few acanthus plants they noticed in the gloom. As they bent to their task, a reverberating static filled the air. The axe that Calm had been carrying wavered and reverted to the raw materials it had been made from. The dried acanthus Warmth was carrying unfurled, the leaves turning from brown, back into a deep, lush green, as if she’d just picked it from the ground.
Standing mere feet away, Burden’s mace appeared to grow more keen, as did Surly’s claw headed arrow. Both now looked as if they had been honed across many combats and both looked more deadly than they had before.
Sensing the presence of their quarry, the hunting party crested a small hill and looked down to see the Phoenix perched atop a twisted, nightmarish tree, its branches festooned with numerous broken lanterns.
The Phoenix looked at them with disdain in its eyes before swooping down from the tree and attacking Calm, knocking him back and tearing a bleeding gash in his side.
Calm rebounded to his feet, slashing wildly at the monstrous bird, but his blade merely cut through feathers.
Surly hastily shot her claw arrow and missed before taking closer aim with her bow and sinking an arrow into one of the Phoenix’s wing fingers.
Warmth and Burden moved in to strike at the monster. Warmth cut the bird across its gut.
Burden, clumsily, managed to hit himself in the head with his unwieldy whistling mace, before regaining his composure and striking the beast.
The Phoenix turned towards Burden, a terrible hunger flashing across its inner face. Burden raised his shield, blocking and dodging as the great winged terror attempted to make a meal of him.
Determined to weaken Burden, the Phoenix slashed its clawed, all too human hands across Burden’s waist and chest before violently flapping its wings, sending a razor sharp wind gusting directly for him. Burden dodged the cutting wind at the last possible moment.
Calm moved to attack, but the Phoenix swept its powerful wings back, knocking Surly and Burden away with the gusting wind created by the motion.
Calm and Warmth managed to avoid the wind by ducking in close to the Phoenix’s body.
The Phoenix turned its attention to Warmth, who now stood dangerously close to the mighty bird. Warmth anticipated the attack and dodged, blocked, and dove out of the path of the attacks and another gust of razor wind.
Unable to adjust to the speed at which their fiendish enemy was moving, both Calm and Surly missed their attacks.
Warmth slashed at the bird, severing one of the tiny, parasitic hands from the Phoenix’s wing before raking her axe across the eyes of its inner face.
Burden moved to take advantage of the reeling monster. A loud popping snap shot out from the Phoenix as its feathers all stood straight out from its body.
In a moment between moments, the Phoenix clawed Burden across the waist and blasted him with the razor wind of its enormous wings, sending him flying and opening a bleeding gash on his torso.
Stunned, Calm could not react before the beast began to turn towards him.
Adrenaline lanced through Surly. She saw the future split before her eyes. Down one path lay Calm’s death, down the other lay the death of the Phoenix. As she opened her mouth to scream a warning she saw Warmth draw upon the strength of her Inner Lantern.
Surging forward, moving blindingly fast, Warmth smashed her axe into the Phoenix’s inner face, carving through bone in a spray of grey matter. The droplets of blood and brain tissue shattered the meager lantern light into a brilliant rainbow in which each survivor saw a small glimpse of their own future.
With a choked off, gurgling hiss, and a last flap of its wings, the Phoenix slumped to the ground at Calm’s feet.
The four survivors bent to the task of dressing the Phoenix’s carcass for transport back to Forlorn.
They walked in silence, each alone with their own thoughts until they neared their home and could see the others waiting to greet them. As they approached, a voice called out from the settlement.
While the voice was familiar, the words were incomprehensible. A chorus of babble started as more and more of the survivors began to speak, shout, and then scream nonsense at one another.
Calm turned to ask Surly if she understood what might be happening. She opened her mouth to answer, but only gibberish came out when she began to speak …