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.
The Hooded Knight returned to the settlement, equal parts concern and relief playing across his face as the survivors told him of their victory over the King’s Man. As before, he carried an elongated wrapped bundle, but, as before, he seemed disappointed after spending time with each survivor. His offer to train the settlement went unaccepted and he left, vowing to return again.
The settlement was gifted the birth of another green savior to Warmth and Burden. They named him Grace and encouraged him to join Calm, Surly, and Triumph in their upcoming hunt of another of the great phoenixes.
All four returned from the hunt, yet they had been changed. A thick green mist obscured Forlorn as the hunters arrived safely back at the settlement.
As others had before her, Surly tasted her eventual death while on the hunt. The thought of how she would die filled her with rage, and she refused to speak of the details to anyone.
Before finding their prey, Triumph had fallen behind the others, stumbling across a ruined settlement containing an alter to the phoenix. Upon the alter sat a lustrous feather, and Triumph could not resist taking hold of it. The moment she laid hands on the feather she unraveled a pocket of pure time, erasing the sum of her life, wiping away all traces of age and experience. She returned as fresh faced and youthful as she had from her very first hunt.
Once found, the phoenix had taken special notice of Grace, and had actually spoken, or, rather, un-spoken, his name. He realized that the name had been given in error, never belonging to him. Asking Warmth and Burden permission to choose his own name this time, he chose to be known as Persevere.
Calm had remained unaffected until his skin came in contact with the clinging mist surrounding the settlement. His apathy seemed to melt away. He doused himself in urine and ran through the settlement, shouting at the top of his lungs that he had learned the story of the ageless man from the white woman. No other survivor had seen her, and despite his insistence and his constant re-telling of the story, no other survivor seemed to possess the level of understanding needed to make sense of it.
As the mist began to fade, a figure approached from the darkness, following the same path that the King’s Men had walked. Fearing another King’s Man had come, the survivors began to gear up for battle.
The regal figure strode directly to the lantern halberd that had been left by the King’s Men on their first visit to the settlement. One by one, the survivors fell to their knees, each struck dumb by the glorious presence of this new visitor.
He studied the light from the lantern halberd for what might have been moments, yet felt like an eternity to the rapt survivors. Impossibly graceful, he turned to the survivors and bid them stand. Asking to borrow a shield, he demonstrated utter mastery in its use. His movements were so fluid, so perfect, his demonstration left a lasting impression on all of the survivors, granting them skill with their shields that would be nearly impossible to replicate without his tutelage.
As the man turned to go, Calm walked over and plucked the lantern halberd from the ground, striding up to the man and offering it to him. Incredible disappointment flowed from the man, who slowly shook his head before turning on his heel, swiftly striding from the settlement.
Confused, yet unconcerned with the interaction, Calm took Surly’s hand, intent on further celebrating his victory over the apathy that had plagued him for so long. Shortly after, Surly gave birth to twins Favor and Struggle.
The other survivors banded together to build a barber surgeon and to craft new gear for upcoming hunts.
Testing out the new bow, Surly caught sight of a white lion on the horizon. Quickly gathering their gear, she, Calm, Persevere, and Triumph raced out to slay the beast.
None of the hunters sustained as much as a scratch in their confrontation with the lion. As they made their way back to the settlement, the four began to tease one another, coming up with nicknames for each other. Jovially, they approached Resolve, asking their Father of Words to speak each nickname in celebration of their hunt. Resolve warned them away, knowing that power resided in words, but the hunters would not be denied and, finally, Resolve acquiesced.
As Resolve spoke the words, the names changed from simple nickname to solid truth.
Persevere, Wise Savior of the Lion.
Triumph, Foolish Sneak of the Lantern.
Surly, Dingle Savior of the Lantern.
Calm, Shining Coward of the Lantern.
The words fused with the core of their being, becoming as much a part of them as their name, their flesh and their blood.
With the realization that something as simple as a nickname could have such a profound effect came the knowledge that the entire settlement could benefit from adding their voice, their weight, to a common purpose. Under Resolve’s guidance, Tragedy led the settlement in a pledge to believe in the beauty, decency, and ingenuity of each other.
They would stick to this conviction, treasuring the mystery of this Kingdom Death, using the adversity, the trials and tribulations of this world to bring them closer together. This would be the beginning of their legend, and, having spoken the words that bound them together, Tragedy became their Legendcaller. Tragedy sensed the gravitas of their conviction spread into the reaches far beyond the light of the lantern horde, and he sensed something, far out in the darkness. Something of equal weight. Something he was drawn to seek out.
Tragedy insisted on joining Calm, Surly, and Persevere on their next hunt, and the four set out on the trail of another phoenix.
As they stalked their prey, Calm stopped to chisel away at an iron deposit, breaking his pick-axe in the process. The din of bone striking metal alerted the great bird, who flew overhead, plastering Calm with droppings before flying back to land in the branches of a twisted nightmare tree. The fight was upon them before Tragedy could find the presence that he sought in the darkness.
As the hunters approached the tree, time seemed to ripple. The pulse and flicker of their lanterns stopped momentarily as time froze in place.
Surly dropped to the ground, frenzied as Persevere’s mind struggled to come to terms with the sensation. He began to froth at the mouth, suffering a danger seizure.
The phoenix headed straight for Calm, who was still smeared in the filth the bird shat on him. The monster slashed him across his head and arms before narrowly missing him with a gust of razor wind from its wings.
Surly let fly her arrows, striking true with her claw headed arrow before lodging another in the beast’s inner face.
Surging forward, Calm quickly guzzled his frenzy drink, finding his feet again almost instantly thanks to encouraging words from Tragedy.
Calm cut across the phoenix’ back. Before he could deal a more grievous wound, the monster slipped through a crack in time, displacing itself away from him.
Tragedy rushed to attack yet was caught in the wake of the time disturbance the phoenix had used to escape from Calm.
Tragedy was slashed across his legs and body before being blasted away from the bird, caught in a gust of razor wind.
Persevere slammed his zanbato into the monster’s breast, knocking it prone. As he prepared to surge and attack again, something prevented him. The seizure he’d suffered had awakened something inside of him. Some part of him was sickened at the thought of attacking a downed foe. As the honorable thing to do, he let the monster regain its feet.
Tragedy leaped back to his feet as the bird took advantage of the mercy Persevere had shown, lunging to smash its gigantic beak down upon Persevere.
No longer feeling honor bound not to attack, Persevere surged, slashing across the beast’s eyes. In the moment before his weapon struck, he locked eyes with the phoenix. It stared into his future, killing his unborn children, exploding his testicles.
Persevere stumbled, surprised and horrified.
The bird’s beak slammed down onto him, smashing and warping his pelvis and tearing a gushing rent in his arm before raking its claws across his head and body.
Out of range of the monster, Calm and Surly moved in to cover behind the tree, searching among the branches and roots, locating a broken lantern and a strange, biting ant.
The phoenix flew back to the tree, emitting a hissing moan. The sound caused Tragedy and Persevere to age rapidly, as if time itself was swiftly passing them by. The sound also caused Surly to burst out in maniacal laughter.
Still laughing hysterically, Surly fired an arrow, severing one of the claws from the monster’s wing.
Swinging with all of his might, Calm cut the beast’s inner face before smashing his zanbato to pieces as he slammed it down on the bird’s hard beak.
Persevere dashed into the fray, cutting their foe under the wing before slicing completely through one of its feet, toppling it to the ground and killing it.
Persevere had just enough time to raise his hand in farewell before his skin wrinkled and sagged, his hair went shock white, and his heart gave out. He collapsed to the ground, dead, before the others could react.