Sunday, 11 December 2016

Horizon Black III

Welcome back to The Long Game! Last time, Alvyn, Tong, Kalgar and his small fleet had made their way to the ultra-secret base Horizon Black, the likely place of development for Aes' superweapon program. Now, the fun begins... 

Dallas Kasaboski
Kalgar Drakeswynd stood on the bow of his ship, excited for the first time in a long time. He had not been part of a naval battle in years and it felt good to fall back into old habits. This was his playground, and between the seriously frowning face that the dragonborn commodore exhibited, he felt a strong sense of anticipation.

Alvyn Sehanine stood on the port side, as the Shockrosia moved around the western side of the shoal, making their way closer to Horizon Black. He held a spyglass to his eye, affixed with several add-ons and upgrades. He had been fooled before with illusions and psionics and he was not going to sail into a trap...well, at least not into an even bigger trap than he was expecting. His eyes changed colour, the lens of the spyglass changed colour, but no, he could not sense any illusions. It was tough to pierce the fog cloud of cover Kalgar was working up, but he was fairly certain the ships, towers, and shoal were real this time.

Horizon Black, the shoal line, and guard towers
Off to the east, distant cannon fire was heard; hopefully the rest of Kalgar's fleet was keeping their distance. Up ahead, the gunnery towers were lighting fires to help with visibility. The Shockrosia glided along the water, silently, gaining speed.

Tong si Gong placed his hand on Alvyn's shoulder, who nodded. Tong's third eye illuminated and he reached out with his sense of faith. 


A squad of frog men, sailors outfitted with potions of water-breathing, dove into the water and quickly made their way to the nearest guard tower.

Our three adventurers made their way over as well, hoping to quickly wrap up this early stage of the coming battle. Stopping at the base of the tower, Kalgar looked back, noted his frog men were keeping a good pace, all out of the water and ready to fight.

Alvyn jumped onto Tong's back while the human monk realized the illusion that was reality and walked vertically up the tower. Kalgar spread his wings and flew up, hoping to surprise the soldiers there.

Kalgar landed with a heavy thud, while Tong walked around the side of the building. There were 6 soldiers, eating food and playing dice.

"I am Kalgar Drakeswynd, and I bring the fight to you!"

He charged the first soldier, knocking him back. Tong, barely touching the ground, sped around the room dealing viscous blows to 3 guards. Alvyn slipped between the shadows, quickly dispatching 2 more guards as Kalgar grabbed the last one and threw him out of the tower.

It had been a long time since our heroes fought something "normal", something not world-ending or crazy dangerous. They might have hit a little too hard, but the world is dangerous and they weren't fooling around. 

The frog men burst into the room. Kalgar looked at them and said, "You know how to work this?" 

The men nodded, guard towers were easy.

"Good." Kalgar said as he grabbed a hunched-over corpse lying on the tower's controls, and threw him hard against the wall.

From their vantage point, they could see an enemy ship, moving down the shoal line, headed for their own ship. Cloaked in fog as their ship was, it was only a matter of time before they were discovered.

Moving fast, Alvyn, Tong, and Kalgar descended the tower, ran along the shore, and headed for the Interceptor class ship. Tong sprouted wings of energy, flying low over the water and up onto the deck. 

There, he effortlessly and silently moved past a pair of sailors too stunned to shout. Tong moved to the back of ship, to the cannoneers, throwing ankle and fist as fast as possible. One of the sailors was an orc, rare to be found in Aes, but he dropped right away as Tong tossed two warbeads at the first two sailors, knocking them out.

Kalgar landed on the ship, his wings softening the landing. He stomped the deck and roared his head back, unleashing Dragonfear. The eyes of several nearby shipmates widened in panic and, while backing away, tripped over each other and fell over.

Just then, Alvyn leapt off Kalgar's back, moving quickly along the railing of the ship. Distracted by Tong, a sailor near the back of the ship did not see Alvyn coming, and it was too late. Alvyn slipped his hand and arm around her, killing her quickly, and silently. Her lifeless body hung limply over the side of the ship, falling over as Alvyn disappeared overboard, vanishing from sight.

In short time, the ship was theirs! 

Alvyn pulled himself back up onboard, and said, "So, how familiar are you two with the concept of a fire ship?"

Tong replied, "There was a legend in my temple about ships that were set on fire, but that was a teaching allegory."

"That's an interesting point, I was thinking of it as a teaching allegory as well. Teaching people not to get in our way by exploding them with a ship."

"Your ego waxes", Tong responded, "but I am amused."

As they were speaking, their new ship was continuing to drift along its route, getting closer to the base. Suddenly, they heard a whistle off in the distance.

Followed by silence.

Alvyn looked to Kalgar. He shook his head. Whistles were common signs of passage, but each base, each fleet, could and did use different signals. There was no way to guess the response.

Alvyn whistled back.

No response.

The ship was running along the main shoal wall. Up ahead, were two taller guard towers, separated by a gap in the wall, large enough for the ship to get through.

Kalgar tilted his head. "There's a chain there."

"What?" Tong said.

"There's likely a chain in the water, can be pulled up to stop ships."

"We have to work quickly," Alvyn said.

Tong moved about the ship finding anything flammable and putting it in neat piles. Alvyn followed behind, tinkering with things from his bag, and placing alchemical objects on the piles.

Kalgar called over his ship, and blew a few short blasts into his new horn. The fog immediately surrounding them disappeared, leaving a hole of visible space around the Interceptor.

As soon as this happened, the first guard tower opened fire! Cannons roared, the nearby fog turned orange in colour, and cannonballs hurled just past the mast into the water.

Kalgar grabbed a sword lying on the deck and jammed it into the helm wheel. Grabbing Alvyn, he and Tong leapt off the ship.

They landed at the base of the guard tower, and made quick work of it. Still, horns had been blown, alarms were raised. 

The Inteceptor crashed into the other tower, and exploded. The tower collapsed, now a smoking ruin.

Kalgar pulled some flares out of his bag and fired them into the sky. In several directions, simultaneously, from the Shockrosia and guard towers alike, cannonfire was heard. Several enemy ships were destroyed.

Then, the guard towers not occupied by Kalgar's men began opening fire.

Our party boarded the Shockrosia. Kalgar shouted orders, Tong moved quickly through the ship, replacing cannons and the like.

Between orders, Kalgar blasted his horn, moving the fog with him.

"Ship!" Alvyn shouted.

Out of the fog, a massive ship moved toward them, Kalgar cranked the wheel hard to starboard. 

Narrowly avoiding collision, Kalgar gave the order to fire!

They broadsided the ship, destroying the mast entirely, its sails falling to cover the deck. The taller ship answered back, knocking out one of the Shockrosia's cannons.

Kalgar turned the wheel hard, bringing the ship to bear. "Haymitch! Bring out BallistApe!"

Raucous was heard even among the cannons and there, appearing on deck, was a giant gorilla, with a mechanical repeating crossbow for an arm. Kalgar looked at him, looked toward the enemy ship, and nodded. BallistApe moved to the side of the ship, laying cover fire at the sailors on the larger ship.

Closing in from off to the northeast, another ship opened fire at the Shockrosia. Cannonballs slammed into the bow and portside of the ship. The vessel shook, the deck split apart. Fire erupted from below while water rushed in. 

"The ship's gonna blow! Abandon ship!"

The entire crew leapt off. Dwarves, BallistApe, Kalgar, Tong, Alvyn, Dwight, Haymitch, everyone.

The bow of the Shockrosia exploded violently, knocking out the port-side cannons of the tall, nearby ship. The rest of the ship tilted, then sank slowly.

The crew had escaped, but barely. The shock of the explosion had pushed the crew, and some supplies, against the nearest ship.

"To me!" Kalgar shouted, as he grabbed his lieutenants, Dwight and Haymitch. His wings unfurled as he hurled himself out of the water and landed hard on the deck.

The blue dice represent proud, Aesian sailors. Woe to them.
"We're being boarded!" the crew shouted, as the captain, seen up front by the helm, drew pistols.

Kalgar acted quickly. He pushed two crewmen out of the way, stomped on the deck and roared! Lightning pierced the sky and thunder boomed!

The ship shook, as the shockwave of thunder blasted out from Kalgar, and all of the crew, save the captain, fell to their knees. The crew was dazed. They could not believe it. They had destroyed their enemy's ship, and yet here Kalgar was, dragon wings and all, terrifying in his reality and proximity.

Alvyn crept over the stern of the ship, and pulled out his rifle. The shot hit the captain in the shoulder, making an opening for Tong, who had just alighted on the ship, whipped a warbead at him.

Before the crew had even stood up, Tong moved over them, drew back his fist and punched hard, tearing through the wall of reality, through the Reverie, through the Idolawn, and back, hitting the captain with the might of his faith.

The captain was tough. He pushed Tong back, raised his guns and said, "Stand firm! Focus on the captain!" He fired his pistols, aiming near Tong and Kalgar's feet. Special ammunition spread out, slammed into the deck, trapping Tong and Kalgar in place.

The crew regained their feet and converged on our party. Kalgar deflected two attacks and laughed at the sailors. He swept his wings, blinding another attacker, but one made it through, stabbing Kalgar in the shoulder. "Yes, good. Press your advantage!" Kalgar shouted, in the midst of battle.

Haymitch gestured toward BallistApe, and nodded at Dwight. Moving like two halves of a whole, Dwight and Haymitch circled around each other, attacking like clockwork. BallistApe leapt past them, knocking a crewman off the ship, firing a blast of crossbow bolts at the next nearest enemies.

A kukri slashed down on Kalgar, but he caught the wrist of his assailant. Looking up at the sky, he said, "I hope you're seeing this, Kord! This is a battle for the scribes!"

Thunder boomed and lightning struck, turning 8 men into a pile of bones. Kalgar looked up at the remaining crewmen.

They dropped their swords.

Kalgar, Tong, and Alvyn looked at the captain. He snarled defensively.

Alvyn poked him in the back with his rifle. "You really want to do this? I mean, the whole "strength in battle" thing, I get it, but do you really want to do this?"

The captain moved to spin around and attack-BOOM! Alvyn's rifle put a hole in the captain's back the size of a skull.

The ship continued forward, unable to turn, damaged in the attack, soon to meet the ship which destroyed the Shockrosia.

With a defiant roar, the two ships edged past each other, too close, wood and metal screeching, as the former crew of the Shockrosia collapsed on the new ship like ants. Alvyn gained a vantage point high on the remaining mast and, using explosive bolts from his rifle, thinned any resistance Kalgar and Tong came across. Dwight and Haymitch moved as one, taking out foes, a sudden cry of bestial fear was heard as BallistApe crushed two human skulls with a single, giant fist.

Alvyn joined the frey, moving like smoke as Tong's fists and elbows struck mercilessly. Kalgar didn't run. He didn't fly. He stood tall, and walked calmly across the ship. He didn't swerve, he didn't block or parry, he didn't have to. His friends and allies cleared a path for him, a path leading to the captain.

Standing at 8 feet tall, the dragonborn captain sneered, drew an incredibly long broadsword, and looked at Kalgar. 

"I am Kalgar Drakeswynd, Commodore, the Eye of the Storm, the bearer of Bad News, I challenge you! What is your name so I may tell your god?"

"You don't need my name, only my blade!" the captain said as he charged.

The two clashed, strength vs. strength, broadsword vs. katana-bastard-sword. The captain was good. He used his strength and hit hard. Kalgar's sword was dainty in comparison, small and meant for precision, though Kalgar wielded it more like a club.

Kalgar admired the man. His cause was lost, his ship was lost, but he fought on. This was the backbone of Aes, not cowardly superweapons. When he won the war, men like this would be on his side.

The captain swung, Kalgar rocked his head back to avoid the blow. When the captain surged forward, Kalgar stood his ground, running the sword straight through, upwards, and out the back of the captain. Hugging the captain close, Kalgar said, "You fought well. You died with honour."

Kalgar withdrew his blade, and let the captain's corpse fall to the deck. He looked around. The only men left were his own.

He looked off the ship. The Shockrosia was destroyed, half of it already sunk into the bay. But, there he and his crew stood on the 200 foot Aesian battleship, which Kalgar noted as named, Draxos' Honour.

The ship they came from was abandoned, empty, but still serviceable. Kalgar decided to leave it, for now. Time to expand his fleet later.

Alvyn pointed off ahead, they were nearing another guard tower. Before Kalgar could give the order, Dwight and Tong were marshaling the crew to the long guns, and Haymitch was calming BallistApe.

The tower was easily destroyed.

Just then, off in the distance, there was a high-pitched whine. It was hard to localize, and it was getting louder.

They brought the ship to dock, and Alvyn, Kalgar, and Tong quickly leapt off. The crew's orders were as normal, survey the scene, avoid danger, be ready for pickup.

Suddenly, the whine turned to a shriek as a yellow beam of energy ripped out from a nearby hill, clearing fog in a long column along the way. Off in the distance, our party could see that the beam missed its target. Clearly aiming for one of Kalgar's fleet ships, skirmishing on the border of the shoal, the beam instead hit a guard tower, obliterating it.

"Our ships cannot handle fire of that magnitude!" Alvyn said.

Kalgar took a few flares from his bag and signaled a retreat.

Alvyn, Tong, and Kalgar looked up the hill. The walls of the base were high, formidable, and lined with archers and guard towers. Directly ahead of them, the source of the yellow energy beam, was a bunker made into the side of a hill.

A service road, meeting near them and splitting around the base, also ran toward a gate near the bunker, and that gate was closing.

"Bunker or gate?" Tong shouted, as the whine built up.

"Both?" Kalgar said.

"Gate. Let's get inside." Alvyn decided.

With great haste, our party slid through the gate, as it slammed shut behind them. Just then, they heard another blast as the energy beam fired off once again. 

Did it hit this time? Had their choice come at the price of a ship and its crew? Inside the high, stone walls, they could not tell. They were standing in a large courtyard, ready for the real fight to begin.
And that's where we'll leave it this week. Thank you so very much for reading. If you have any comments, or questions, be sure to leave them below. We hope you've enjoyed the tale thus far, be sure to return for more of The Long Game, coming soon!

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