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.
Another spectacular display of lights shone from the sky above as they made their somber way back to Forlorn.
The survivors suspected the life of the saviors could end as rapidly as it began, but the shock of seeing Persevere fall had left them all stunned. The brilliant colors painted across the landscape by the sudden reappearance of the sky-lights stood in stark contrast to the pain they felt.
Nearing Forlorn, a solitary figure stood out against the cascading lights and colors, her arms raised to the sky, a wailing ululation bursting forth from her lips. Naked but for an adornment of rattling bones, the Bone Witch's presence called out to the three returning hunters, compelling them to approach.
Calm was the first to approach.
Seeing the pain in Calm's eyes at the loss of Persevere, the Bone Witch leaned close to him, gently whispering into his ear, sharing knowledge and guidance.
Next, she turned to Surly and Tragedy, telling them a story of the allure of the darkness, stirring something deep inside them, offering to teach them how to expand their senses while fighting at the cost of a mere handful of the monster bones they carried.
Satisfied with the patience and deference of her audience, the Bone Witch moved off into the distance. Calm, Surly, and Tragedy watched her go until she faded from view on the horizon.
Inspired by her teachings, Tragedy led the settlement in the development of a Nightmare Training routine, in hopes of better preparing all future hunters for the dangers and horrors that they would inevitably face.
Calm and Surly spent time together, hoping to birth another child to help fill the void left by Persevere. Whether by strength of will or incredible luck, their efforts bore fruit, and another green savior was born. They named him Despair.
As the settlement began to recover, and spirits began to rise, another figure approached from the distance, dragging the carcass of a dead monster behind him. This figure was familiar to them, and as he came closer and closer, the settlement began to buzz with anticipation. On his last visit, The Hand had given them a masterful demonstration in shieldwork, and the settlement had greatly benefited from his demonstration.
Rather than enter Forlorn, as he had the last time, he stopped on the outskirts of the settlement, climbed on top of a small mound, and simply stood with his hands on his hips.
As four of the youngest survivors prepared to rush out to meet him, excited at what he had come to teach them, Resolve held his lone arm out, preventing them from departing. He could tell there was something different about this visit.
Resolve called out to Calm, who stepped forward slowly. Calm's eyes met The Hand's, and he knew that The Hand had come back for him. Flashbacks of the moment he'd plucked the Lantern Halberd from the ground came roaring into his mind.
Calm dressed himself in Persevere's armor, determined to face The Hand alone, to pay the price, whatever it may be, for his blunder with the halberd.
Resolve, Surly, and Sorrow moved to stand next to him, unwilling to let him face this trial alone. Calm would not be dissuaded though, and made the others promise to let him fight alone. He would not move until they all agreed, and, once they had, he stepped forward to meet The Hand face to face.
Resolve spoke, warning the others of consequence, death, struggle and life, steeling their minds against the fear they each felt.
Breaking her promise, Surly stepped out from behind the pillar she'd stood behind and loosed an arrow at The Hand, fearing he'd come to take the life of the man she'd shared so many intimate moments with.
Her arrow struck The Hand in the back. He didn't so much as flinch. As the arrow struck, one of the three eyes on his half-crown shot open, its bright red iris seemed to peer directly into Surly's soul.
Calm panicked, swinging his fists as hard as he could, hoping to keep The Hand's attention on him. His left fist careened off of the rib plate of his target's armor, while his right hand shattered the lantern hanging from his foe's belt. The force of the blow caused the red eye to snap shut, freeing Surly from its terrifying gaze.
The Hand merely chuckled, the soft sound more terrifying than the loudest monster's roar.
Resolve fell to his knees while the others turned to flee, their only desire to be as far away from this man as possible.
Ducking back into his hiding space, Sorrow concentrated on trying to determine what The Hand's next step might be.
He shouted to Calm, warning of the devastating punch that would be thrown at him once The Hand finally decided to go on the offensive.
Hearing Sorrow's shout, Surly regained enough courage to stop her flight, focusing her attention into her cat eye circlet, desperate to find a weakness in their enemy.
Calm rushed back towards the man, slamming both fists into the sturdy plates of armor, dealing no damage whatsoever.
Again, Surly searched for an opening in The Hand's defenses, while Calm, trusting Sorrow's instincts, prepared to block the blow with his shield.
Moving impossibly fast, The Hand seemed to step through Calm, firing a monstrous punch directly at him.
Calm raised his shield just in time, turning the force of the blow enough to move his body out of the way of the impact.
Sorrow again attempted to glean what the man would do next, but, somehow, The Hand managed to defeat his efforts. Sorrow could see the maneuver that was coming, and knew there was no way to avoid it.
Boldly, Calm attacked again. One punch seemed to slip past The Hand's outer defenses, only to be turned away at the last moment as he raised the sheath of his sword to intercept Calm's fist. The man easily parried his second punch with the back of his hand, redirecting the punch back into Calm's own chest, sending him smashing into the mound at his back, knocking him to the ground.
Resolve shouted encouragement to Calm, who regained his feet. As he stood, Surly finally glimpsed a potential weak spot in their nigh invincible foe. She shouted for Calm to strike out with everything he had, and to aim at the man's codpiece.
Knowing his foe would strike first, Calm raised his shield just as The Hand stepped through him and threw a series of lightning quick jabs.
Calm backed away from the first, blocked the second and dodged the third. The Hand pressed the attack, striking Calm in the arm and torso before the combination of punches ran its course.
Sensing an opening, Calm reached into his belt, grasping the colony's final Founding Stone. He threw the stone with all of his might.
It struck true, doubling The Hand over, sending him sprawling to the ground. As he fell, another eye opened on his half-crown, this one jade green.
Aiming for the open eye, Surly let fly her Hollow Point Arrow, striking the Crown. As the red eye shot open again, she could tell The Hand hadn't expected this. He actually looked impressed.
Drawing on his inner lantern, Calm swung his fist down at the man, knowing only a perfectly placed punch could land. His fist struck The Hand at the base of the throat.
As the punch landed, The Hand seemed to vanish, instantly reappearing on his feet directly in front of Calm.
Before anyone could react, The Hand drew his sword.
Moving so fast the very air caught fire, the master combatant sliced perfectly across Calm's stomach.
Knowing his death was at hand, Calm closed his eyes and opened his mouth to utter his final words, thankful that the leprosy that had plagued him for so long would protect him from the pain of death.
He heard the sword slide back into its sheath a heartbeat before he heard Surly's gasp.
He opened his eyes and looked down at his torso. The Hand's sword had sliced neatly through the packet of dried acanthus leaves that he had tucked into his belt before stepping out to face this battle. His body was hale and whole.
Obviously impressed, and equally aggravated, The Hand grabbed Calm behind the neck and pulled him close. All three eyes on his crown snapped open, piercing into Calm's mind, imprinting a promise onto his soul.
The Hand turned to leave. Sorrow came out from hiding and began to taunt the man, intent on sending him on his way with insults and jibes.
Spinning in place, The Hand dropped the broken lantern from his belt, kicking it in one fluid motion. The shattered lantern sped towards Sorrow, striking him in the head. Sorrow dropped to the ground, an intracranial hemorrhage his reward for his taunts.
As he turned away a second time, The Hand gestured disgustedly, and the clinging mist that had once before obscured Forlorn began to seep up from the ground.
The mist set in so quickly that the four survivors became disoriented. As they led Sorrow back in the direction that should have taken them home, they were met with ever thicker clouds of mist.
As more time passed, it became clear to Resolve that they would never find Forlorn while the mist persisted.
At one point, Surly recommended they all lie down to sleep, convinced they would find Forlorn if they slept until the mist dissipated.
Something inside Resolve told him that they must continue on if they were ever to locate their home again. The others knew to trust his judgment and followed him on, ever into thicker clouds of green mist.
They stumbled across a familiar fountain shaped like a lion and decided to stop to drink. As the others drank their fill, the White Speaker stepped out of the mist, pulling Resolve aside and telling him The Story of the Savior. She explained to him that he was Peerless, and that the survival of his companions and all of the survivors back at Forlorn rested on his shoulders.
As she turned to leave, she pointed one finger in the direction that they must take.