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The Guardian

The Guardian

Prologue

Ropes cracked against a tent's canvas as the wind whipped through the encampment, torrential rain limiting visibility to a few yards. Orcs were not known for their big cities or large stone buildings like the elves, dwarfs or humans. The orc host had been on the move for some time, so this temporary camp was home as they searched for a new place to settle. Uprooting an entire tribe was not usual; however, frequent clashes with a rival tribe had begun to take its toll, so the decision was made to move on. The rise of the Summoned had unsettled many of the races however perhaps none more so than the orcs. With the Summoned had come the return of the orc witch doctors, and their master, Kruul, was proving to be a divisive force among his people.  Orcs were naturally a potent race, steeped in shamanistic ways and the power that comes with that, however, the division between witch doctors and shamans was slowly eroding their effectiveness as a people. No one liked living under the constant threat of civil war.
 
The hunched-over figure trudging through the mud went mostly unnoticed, hood pulled low, an old gnarled staff providing surety when the ground proved unstable underfoot. Had the weather been better, the sentries may have perceived the cleft hoofs sometimes visible below the figure's cloak, or the distinct imprint they left in the mud. However today they assumed it was an old orc, if not a little large for one of their race. Xyvera paused for a moment, listening until she heard the grunting sound that usually accompanied childbirth. She made her way towards the tent where the birth was taking place until, about 10 yards from the entrance, a piercing, and painful scream cut through the din of the inclement weather. Xyvera quickened her pace slightly as time was short.
 
A lone orc stood at the front of the tent, a worried expression on his face as he looked back nervously at the flap that marked the tent's entryway. He stood straighter and wiped the water from his eyes as Xyvera approached. Saying nothing, he peeled the flap back, which allowed her passage into the tent. Another mid-wife he assumed, here to assist with the child's birth.
 
Xyvera stepped inside without a word, her stooped posture concealing the fact she was a minotaur and more substantial than most orcs. Two orc mid-wives were attending to the mother, both covered in blood, as was the bed. The moaning indicated the mother still lived. However, she sounded weak. Xyvera walked to the foot of the bed before throwing back her hood and revealing herself. The midwives turned, startled, before instinctively grabbing anything that could resemble a weapon to prepare for, what they assumed, was an attack. Minotaurs were not enemies of orcs; however, the two races had very little to do with each other, and a mutual distrust existed.


 
Xyvera leaned her staff against the foot of the bed and held up her hands in a gesture of peace. To further ease the tension, she spoke in a local orc dialect.
 
"The woman is going to die. If you do not let me help, so will the child."
 
"The child…is an abomination. We assumed ettin-kind however, it only has one head. The size…it is like nothing we have ever seen. We do not know what to do.", the older of the two mid-wives replied.
 
"I have foreseen the coming of this child. Up until this morning, I assumed she would be of my ilk, however apparently not. As I said, let me assist, or you will lose both, and the babe is too important to die." Xyvera reply left no room for rebuke, so the two midwives stepped away from the bed.
 
The mother was into her last reserves of strength, any other race and she would have perished already, however, orcs were known for nothing if not their sheer constitution. Xyvera traced her finger across the orc's forehead, leaving a faint green glowing rune, before reciting an incantation. The rune glowed brighter as a yellow tinge spread across the woman's body. She became reinvigorated, jolting forward and grabbing Xyvera's arm with renewed strength.
 
"Push" Xyvera whispered.
 
The orc woman looked into Xyvera's eyes, her eyes bulging, veins protruding from her neck and temples as if she was about to explode. Her body contorted as she pushed. The sound of bones cracking and flesh tearing cut through the sound of the rain pelting against the tent roof. The midwives moved towards the bed. However, Xyvera waved them away with an irritated hand. The orc woman continued to push until the wail of a newborn babe could be heard. Xyvera pried the woman's hand from her arm and pushed her back into the bed. Her life force left her as the yellow tinge covering her body, and the green rune on her forehead also faded into non-existence.
 
Xyvera gestured to the midwives so they could attend to the baby. They cleaned it quickly, wrapped it in a blanket, before attempting to feed it milk they had on hand for whenever such times as the mother did not make it.
 
"Crone, what did you do to her?",  the older midwife asked.
 
"I saved her life.", Xyvera replied nonchalantly.
 
"Not the babe! The mother, you used dark magic!", the mid-wife hissed through clenched teeth before gesturing to the newborn baby. "The babe, she is bigger than any I have seen, and I have been delivering orc children into this world for over 40 cycles, ettins even. I have seen nothing like her. She is a devil-spawn."
 
"Shut up fool, unless you want to join the mother.", Xyera's visage and menacing tone stunned the mid-wife into silence. "The babe is not devil-spawn, quite the opposite. Her coming was foretold, and she may yet be the saviour of your people. If you care for your kind, take her to Haksa, the great shaman. Do you know of him?"
 
The midwife nodded.
 
"Tell him Xyvera sent you, he will know what to do. Leave now, tonight, and do not show the babe to anyone before you reach Haksa. Do you understand?"
 
"Yes, crone, we do." The midwives began gathering provisions, including a wooden cradle that would serve as a makeshift cart for their journey.
 
Xyvera turned from them and began tracing runic lines on the earth floor. Once complete she began to cast a spell which caused the runes to glow before she disappeared, teleporting back to her domicile.

Chapter 1

"Pick up the shield."

"I am tired papa…"

"Pick up the shield."

"Let her rest Haksa, she has been at it for over 4 hours", Korgulg interjected before returning to sharpening his axe on a spinning grindstone.

Haksa sneered as he turned to the orc warrior, "Stay out of it unless you want to be the next to spar with her," and then his smirk turned into a grin. He looked back at Sharn, "One hour girl, rest and drink, you have your lore studies with Ghorza this afternoon." He watched the hulking frame of the girl as she walked from the training arena to grab a skin of water and almost devour it in one go. Twelve cycles old and as big as Haksa already. Stronger too. She was turning into a warrior without peer, except for Zhonyja perhaps, however without the latter's demonic demeanour. Sharn was extraordinary, and Haksa gave thanks every day since Xyvera had sent her his way. The shaman believed the girl was a gift from the old gods, one who would stem the tide and restore the pride of the orc people. The pride that Kruul and his minions had recklessly eroded over the last few decades. His commune with the old gods had informed him she would also become a Summoned, in time. He wondered whether the new gods were aware that the old gods were recruiting their heroes into the Summoned ranks. Their lust for power so blinded them, as did their fear of destruction, he assumed they either didn't know or did not care as long as the Souls continued to flow.



"She grows stronger by the day, and bigger. The girl is going to tower over Bonestorm soon. Have you thought about breeding her? I have heard she is ready to sire." Korgulg had stopped sharpening his blade and looked at Haksa earnestly.

"You volunteering?" he responded. "I would gut you before you got anywhere near that girl Korgulg. Anyway, it is a moot point, the girl is not an ettin, however like them, she is not able to conceive. Her purpose is far greater than breeding a band of giant orcs."

Korgulg thought pensively before speaking, "She worries me Haksa, most of the tribe feel the same. She is not natural; nothing about her is natural. We accepted ettins long ago, despite them being an abomination. However, she is different. Are you sure she gets her strength from the old gods? That minotaur witch sent her. Sharn could very well be demon spawn."

"Watch your tongue Korgulg!" Haksa's patience was wearing thin. "Since when did you stop trusting me? I have communed with the old gods themselves, she is from them, and that should be the end of it."

Korgulg looked to change the subject. "So where from here? She will have learned everything I can teach her before the cycle is out, and the rate she is growing, she will probably kill me before then." A smile formed across his face.

"I am going to send her to my brother Shaman, Doenrakkar, for a time. He will complete her training. Sharn will only be with you for a few more months. You have done well, my friend."

Haksa pulled a small vial from the folds of his cloak. "Come, let us relax and enjoy this new herb mix I have put together."

"A new one? What is it this time?" Korgulg asked.

"You won't be disappointed.", the shaman replied before slapping the orc warrior on the shoulder as the two friends walked away from the village centre.

Chapter 2

Sharn's patience started to wear thin as she waited for the return of her companion. Her trust in the rogue had grown over time. However, you always have to keep a certain level of awareness when dealing with someone of his ilk. They were an incredible team really, him a legendary assassin and one of the first to be summoned, and her, a literal giant among her people whose sheer size had set her apart from her kin at birth. Sharn's ascension to Guardian had been a gruelling test of her physical and mental strength over many cycles, and she strove to become the first orc to join that illustrious order for a generation. Every Guardian had to complete a final quest, the last hurdle which would entitle them to claim the Guardian title. For Sharn, the task was to uncover an ancient, dwarf warhammer that, rumour had it, was somewhere deep within these catacombs.



Her mentor, and father figure, Haksa, provided initial guidance on where to locate the hammer. The shaman's ability to commune with the old gods was well known, and it was through this commune that he discovered the name of the hammer, which greatly aided Sharn's quest. "Stormforged" was what the dwarfs used to call it. A mighty warhammer with the ability to produce a thunderous clap that would hurl foes flying through the air in battle. Despite Haksa's best efforts, he was still not able to accurately locate the hammer's whereabouts. For that, they had to speak with Zaron Bogdan, one of the most feared and famous beings on Athien. Zaron was an enigma. However, he had grown into an unlikely ally of the orcs in these troubled times, attributed mainly to his friendship with Krognar, the orc demigod. Rumour has it that Zaron's first commune with Krognar had enabled him to become the beginning of the Summoned and in doing so greatly enhancing Krognar's powers. For his part, Zaron seemed hellbent on becoming a god himself, and there were whispers he had transcended into un-death already.

Sharn was initially apprehensive about meeting the legendary necromancer. However, he seemed eager to assist her and provide directions to the catacombs she was currently exploring. The only request from Zaron, for his aid, was that Rakkir accompanies her. The relationship between Zaron and the orc rogue was a complex one that had, somehow, stood the test of time. Their friendship had elevated both of them to two of the most powerful heroes in the Summoned ranks. As for Rakkir, he was deadly efficient in combat, and coupled with his powerful shadow orbs, was frighteningly tricky to catch. The two of them combined were a formidable foe, and they had dispatched scores of dwarfs, golems and other adversaries that were hellbent on stopping her recovering Stormforged, in the last few days.

Sharn started to think that the rogue had betrayed her, and was not coming back before he suddenly appeared next to her.

Rakkir broke the silence. "I have located the hammer. It looks unguarded however I certainly doubt that is the case. There is a secret passage that will bring us to the side of and slightly behind a dais, floating above that is your hammer."

"It looks unguarded, you say?" Sharn replied.

"I did not see any guards or sentries, although the room looks like a temple of sorts. We should prepare for anything. Also, you say this is a dwarf warhammer, I have never known a dwarf capable of wielding such a weapon, it is huge. Even the mighty Thrommel would struggle to wield it in both hands."

"It was forged in ancient times, for the dwarf titans. They were bigger than the dwarfs we know today, and they disappeared around the time of the Gathering. No one knows why." Sharn was growing tired of the conversation, so close to her prize. She took a deep breath to calm herself. Impatience would not be an ally at this stage.

"Lead on rogue, let's claim Stormforged for our people."

"Heh, your people are not my people girl, I help you claim it for reasons of my own." Rakkir sneered.

Sharn did not know what to make of his last comment. More than once, she silently questioned what Rakkir, and indeed Zaron, were set to gain from her claiming Stormforged. In the end, she decided it meant little. All that mattered was she would wield Stormforged in defence of her people, and Haksa was in favour of it. She trusted him without question and was sure he would deliver the orcs from the clutches of the witchdoctors and the new gods they worshipped.

They set off together, Sharn following behind Rakkir. He realised stealth was useless with an 8-foot behemoth in heavy armour following his footsteps, so he readied himself, dagger in one hand, shadow orb in the other and set a decent pace. The secret passageway was a little cramped for her size so Sharn privately hoped a fight would not break out in such confines. She needn't have worried, as it soon came to a dead end at what looked like the back of a secret door.

Rakkir crouched low with his ear to the stonework trying to discern if anyone was on the other side. After a few minutes, he pulled gently on the door to open it toward them. The rogue slipped through the opening while pulling his cloak over his head becoming almost invisible to Sharn as the cloak shimmered a deep black. The Cloak of Darkness. It was the stuff of legend and a magical artefact of considerable power. Another reminder of the influence of one they called the Blood Shadow.

After a few moments, Sharn opened the door wider so she could fit through. She was grateful to find herself in a large room with a vaulted ceiling, some kind of temple, which from the adornments, looked like a place of worship to a dwarf god. Rakkir had already positioned himself on the other side of the room from where the secret door opened. The temple was dark, except for a glow that emanated from the altar, a few feet above which hung Stormforged. The hammer looked magnificent, and it drew Sharn in.

She could no longer see Rakkir and was not even sure he was still in the room, so she paused for a moment to peer around the temple. It was too dark to see anything really, the glow from the altar made it difficult for her eyes to adjust completely, so after a few moments, she decided to act. First, she slung the large shield from her back and held it in a defensive position. She then took a deep breath before striding confidently towards the platform, stood ere it for a moment, before reaching out to grab Stormforged.

Stormforged

Sharn was not sure what she expected to happen. However, it was notably unremarkable. Stormforged felt terrific in her hands, much lighter than she imagined yet perfectly balanced, even when held in one hand like she did. However, beyond that, nothing. She turned to head back towards the secret passage, stopping one last time to see whether she could spot Rakkir. Just before giving up, she caught a glint of steel in a far corner. Moving towards it, she eventually could make out the profile of the rogue, in a vestibule to the left of the main chamber. He had pried open a stone with his dagger and was carefully pulling out a small jewelled chest from a secret compartment in the wall. He turned to her briefly before carefully placing the chest in a leather container attached to his belt.

"What are you doing?" she asked more harshly than intended.

"That is not your concern, Guardian," he replied.

The realisation he had just called her "Guardian" caused her to pause for a moment.

"We need to get out of here Rakkir, I am not comfortable in this place," Sharn said.

They walked back into the main temple and quickened their pace towards where the secret passageway was. Neither Rakkir or Shan noticed the absence of glowing light above the altar that appeared earlier. Rakkir stopped at the stone wall and began searching for the secret door. Sharn instinctively turned to stand guard, pavise shield and Stormforged at the ready.

"Something is wrong. The door, it is no longer here." Rakkir stated with a hint of peril in his voice.

Sharn looked over her shoulder to where the rogue was frantically searching for the opening. Sharn knew that a rogue of his skill would not struggle to find a secret door that he knew was already there.

"It must be a defensive mechanism for the hammer. The dwarf custodians are forcing us to go out the main entrance." Sharn offered.

Rakkir turned sharply, drew his dagger and shadow orb, and moved towards the front of the temple, gesturing for Sharn to follow. Without the glowing altar, their eyes were able to adjust better to the darkness. After a short time, they could see the front wall, in the middle of which stood two huge ornate doors, with large brass rings for handles. On either side of the doors stood giant stone statues of dwarfs, one a warrior and the other a priestess. The statues were a full foot taller than Sharn.

Rakkir slowed his pace a touch as they neared the doors. Sharn stopped and once again stood guard as Rakkir got to work on the doors. He expertly searched for traps or magical glyphs that may trigger if they were opened incorrectly. Suddenly, a sixth sense clicked in, and Rakkir tumbled away from the door, just as an enormous stone axe crashed into the cobblestone floor. The sound reverberated around the temple startling Sharn into action. She swung around to see the priest statue about to crush Rakkir's skull with her mace. Instinctively Sharn recited an incantation and motioned Rakkir toward her. He immediately moved toward her quickly as if pushed by a magical hand, evading the strikes of both axe and mace.

Sharn stepped forward between the dwarfs and rogue, setting her shield in place to deflect a crushing blow from the warrior's axe. The statues fought ferociously, causing her to inch back all the while protecting Rakkir as he regained his composure. Sure enough, a moment later he was back on his feet dropping a shadow orb and disappearing from view. It was only then that Sharn noticed a low thrum emanating from Stormforged which was also emitting a soft glow. Sharn instinctively swung it in an upward arc unerringly striking the dwarf warrior in the chest. With a loud crack, lightning clapped in a bright flash before Sharn felt the power surge through her arm. The warrior launched into the air, flung back several yards before crashing into the doors which shuddered under the impact.

Sharn

The surprise barely left Sharn before a cracking sound was followed by the crashing down of a massive column of flame, engulfing her. Sharn reared away from the priest that had produced the flame column, runes glowing on its stone robes. Despite her heavy armour, the pain was intense, and she could still feel herself burning. Suddenly the priest arched its back as the tip of Rakkir's dagger protruded from its chest. The priest whirled around swinging its mace widely, however, its weapon carved through the air since the rogue had already disappeared, only to reappear several yards away. Sharn moved quickly to close in on the priestess, hoping these things could actually be killed. She started to swing Stormforged like before; however, before she could complete her swing, her pavise shield shuddered from the impact of the warrior's axe. The force was so great that Sharn felt a sharp pain shoot up her arm and shoulder. This was starting to look grim, she thought to herself.

"Sharn! Distract them both. Give me time." Rakkir yelled from the shadows. The sound distracted both dwarfs for a moment allowing Sharn to charge into the priest, this time using her shield as a weapon. The impact slammed the priest yards away before crashing into a stone pillar. The collision sent her crashing to the ground and prone on her back. To Sharn's dismay, the damage on the priestess still seemed trivial.

The warrior reared back to Sharn, swinging its mighty axe in a vast arc.

"Hurry up rogue!" Sharn roared.

The Guardian began manoeuvring herself to where Rakkir kneeled holding something in front of him. It was the small chest he discovered earlier. The rogue worked methodically in an attempt to open it. Rakkir knew Zaron would not be pleased that he was opening the chest. However, they were in a nasty predicament here. He would worry about Zaron's wrath later. For now, he was in survival mode. Rakkir was sure he could escape through stealth; however, he did not want to leave the Guardian to inevitable doom.

Sharn was starting to tire, numerous cuts and bruises taking their toll. She was firmly in defence mode now, using all her strength to keep both dwarf statues at bay. She had managed to manoeuvre herself adjacent to Rakkir as she dug deep into her training to keep her pavise shield off the ground. Minutes passed, and still, Rakkir worked feverishly away on the device. A glass globe with a bright, magical glow within it. Sharn was not sure how much longer she could stand, blood seeping through the gaps in her armour as the blows reigned down on her shield. Just as darkness began to overcome her, Sharn heard the sharp crack of magical energy and a sudden explosion of light.

"Sharn! To me!" Rakkir screamed.

Summoning the final reserves of strength, Sharn shoved the dwarf warrior with her shield and blasted the priest once again with Stormforged. She was acting entirely on instinct at this point. Momentarily freed from her adversaries, Sharn turned to Rakkir. He held the magical globe in one hand and had his other outstretched beckoning her. She took a giant stride and reached out a massive paw, grasping his hand. The light travelled from Rakkir's right hand, across his body and through Sharn's outstretched arm until it eventually engulfed them both. Sharn started to lose consciousness. Her last memory a feeling of being pulled towards the globe and then a falling sensation.

Epilogue

Sharn opened her eyes. She was lying prone, and her body ached all over; however, it seemed, from the silence, that she was no longer in battle. She turned to her side and saw the familiar silhouette of Rakkir hunched over, peering across a rocky ledge. He looked to her, with a hint of compassion before asking "You ok Guardian?".

"I have been better", she replied.

She lifted herself off the uneven earth floor and crawled over to where Rakkir was. It wasn't until now that she noticed the intense heat spilling over the rocky ledge they were on. Rakkir motioned for her to look over the natural rock wall before him. Sharn inhaled sharply as she took in the scene before her. Pools of molten rock dotted a sprawling valley floor. Lava geysers spewed 25 yards into the air with poisonous vapours floating low above the ground.

"Rakkir, where are we?" she asked.

"I have travelled all over Athien and Between, but I have never before seen this place," he replied.

"The magical device?" Sharn enquired.

"It was destroyed in the process of transporting us here. We cannot use it to get back. Rest up Guardian, we are going to need your strength to get out of this."

Sharn sat with her back to the rock wall, breathing deeply as she began the road to recovery. She absentmindedly placed her hand on Stormforged. Tingles of energy running through her thick fingers, as she sat there wondering what tomorrow would bring.

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Judgement Patch Notes #6

Judgement Patch Notes #6

Herein lies the sixth clarification and errata document for Judgement. From the very beginning we socialised the fact Judgement would be a regularly "patched" game, in keeping with its MOBA origins and to ensure the game's rules are kept in an optimal state. Our patch schedule is quarterly, with the changes becoming official on the 1st day of the start of the next quarter. Therefore the official date for this patch is the 1st of April 2019.

Remember that all hero, monster, magical artefact and rules can be downloaded from the Print & Play section of this website. Both our Android and iOS apps will also be updated to reflect changes from this patch.

If you want to discuss the patch notes, or anything at all about Judgement, please join our Discord channel!

Clarifications

Clarifications are provided for rules that are normally played a certain way, however the rules as written do not necessarily support that. Clarifications can also be  quality of life changes that do not necessarily change rules. 

New Monster Cards Icon

Monster Icon

This is a general quality of life change. Up to this point, the monsters and hybrid class heroes have shared the same icon on their cards, the paw print. We have created a new icon for Monsters, and therefore updated all their cards to include the icon.

  • Updated the icon on all monster cards

Soul Spawn Pits (p28)

With maps that have multiple Soul spawning pits, it was not clear where the 1st Soul spawns.

  • The "Step 4: Spawn Soul and Monsters Rule" step of the Communion Phase has been updated to state that on maps with multiple Soul pits, you randomly determine where the 1st Soul spawns in the game.

Combat Manoeuvres (p16)

General clarifications for the two generic combat manoeuvres.

  • Push combat manoeuvre changed to say "up to 1 inch".
  • Knocked Down combat manoeuvre clarified so that the hero that suffers knocked down as part of the triple J combat manoeuvre also suffers a critical hit.

Active Abilities (p18)

As the interactions between an increasing number of heroes becomes more complicated, unforeseen issues may arise that require clarification. This is one of those times.

  • Following text added: "Active abilities can only be executed during the owning hero’s activation."

Aiming Bonus (p17)

The aiming bonus can become complicated with various timings of events. This is an attempt to make it clearer.

  • Following text added: "A model must declare they are claiming the aiming bonus at the start of their activation."

Soul Harvesting (p24)

Another few clarifications that cropped up due to the increasing permutations of interactions between our heroes.

  • Clarified that regardless of the method used to Harvest a Soul, the hero gains a level and has the Soul bound to them.
  • Clarified that "gains Soul" is different to "harvests Soul", the former not affording the hero a level.
  • Specified that a hero must be alive to successfully harvest or gain a Soul.

Attack Process (p16)

We often see players calculating their attack dice pools in various orders, however the sequence to generate the attack dice pool can make a significant difference to the final number of dice you roll. Therefore, we have added a few more clarifications to assist in this area.

  • Add all dice from abilities that affect the attacking model in a positive way. E.g. Bastian’s Heroic Ballad.
  • Subtract all dice from abilities that affect the attacking model in a negative way.
  • Apply effects that specify “after all other modifiers”. If multiple effects, of this type, are present, the active player gets to choose their order of application.
  • For magic (MAG) and ranged (RNG) attacks we added a clarification so the attacking model does not deduct a dice from its own attack pool when it is engaging a model it is shooting.

Shrines (p23)

  • Added the point that they are non-hero models.

Summoned Models (p31)

There have been questions around what happens when a summoned model kills an enemy hero or monster.

  • The following paragraph was added: "If a summoned model inflicts the killing blow on an enemy hero the summoner harvests the enemy hero’s Soul. Similarly, if a summoned model inflicts the killing blow on a monster the summoner will gain a level and is eligible to collect the monster’s bounty assuming the summoned model, or the summoner, are within 2” of the monster when it is slain."

Frequently Asked Questions (p34)

We have added a Frequently Asked Questions section at the end of the rulebook.

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Errata

Errata are changes to the rules that we believe improve the player experience, close loop holes or are simply just kick-ass changes that make Judgement even better.

Purchase a Magical Artefact (p14)

We love magical artefacts and what they bring to the game. Being able to change up the way your Warband plays, mid-game, is a unique element of Judgement and something that stands it apart from a lot of other table-top miniature games. We often look for ways to promote magical artefact use and make them more accessible to players, so in this patch we have introduced a number of changes to the way magical artefacts work, including a significant change where you are allowed to sell items back for the Fate you spent to buy them originally.

  • Title changed to "Buy/Sell/Trade Magical Artefacts".
  • Heroes can now purchase more than 1 artefact during their activation and it still costs only 1 action.
  • Clarified rules around trading in magical artefacts.
  • Added rule where heroes can sell magical artefacts back for their original fate cost (fate gets added to their Warband's pool).

Monster Bounty (p21)

  • Added clarification that heroes can buy/trade/sell magical artefacts when collecting a monster's bounty, just like they were in base-to-base with their Effigy.

Magical Artefacts (p26)

  • Added "Selling Magical Artefacts" section.
  • Clarified the entire section to reflect the fact heroes can now purchase/trade/sell/pass on more than one artefact at a time.
  • Added the "One Use Only" section. Artefacts that have the  "One Use Only" keyword phrase are removed from play once they are used.
  • Added the "Active Component" section (p27) which specifies they must be used within the activation of the hero that possesses them.

Fate (p25)

This is something that has been discussed among the design team for about 6 months. A player getting an early advantage and then snowballing the game to victory, with little counter play from their opponent. Similarly, artificially boosting the fortunes of a player losing a game is also not great. However, we do feel that having a single turn where one player is shut out of generating Fate is a difficult thing to comeback from. Therefore, after much deliberation, we have decided to make the following option available for players that find themselves in that position.

  • If a Warband has zero Fate in its Fate pool, after the completion of the “Step 3: Generate Fate” step of the Communion Phase, one hero, that is alive and not suffering the curse condition, can be dealt 1/3 (rounded up) of its maximum health or 5 health (whichever is greater), in True Damage, to add one Fate to the Fate pool. Any temporary health will count towards the “maximum health” when working out how much health to be dealt. If both Warbands have zero Fate, the player who is going 1st this turn will decide whether to take advantage of this rule followed by the player who is going 2nd.

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Hero Updates

As the game continues to grow, the adding of heroes, different maps, magical artefacts and monsters creates many options for players. We continually revisit various elements to ensure they are balanced and players are faced with legitimate and interesting challenges while designing their Warbands. All the changes are carefully measured and, as is always the case, we will continue to monitor things over the next three months  as we march towards the next patch.

Al'garath

There has been some concern about the lack of counter-play for Taunt. In isolation, Taunt is in a decent place, however the way that Viktor is able to get to it, at level 1, via Al'garath, meant we feel it can lead to poor player experiences. We like Taunt, and what it brings to a battle, however we wanted to balance the risk/reward journey that Viktor goes through when summoning his favourite demon.

  • Reduced Taunt range to 4".
  • Al'garath must be in taunted model's LoS at the start of their next activation or Taunt is ignored.
  • Increased Eldritch Discharge damage to d3+1 from d3.
  • Eldritch Discharge changed so that if it kills Viktor, his soul is harvested.

Gendris

We feel Gendris is in a decent place and she has a very interesting, and diverse, kit of abilities. We just felt she could do with a slight buff, to keep her on par with other heroes that fill a similar role. This change increases her viability and also provides greater incentive to get her to level 2.

  • Added Steady to her Root ability.

Piper

Piper inherits the same change to Taunt, although being a level 3 ability, it is seen less and it not so much a problem. Piper is simply collateral damage.

  • Reduced Taunt range to 4".
  • Piper must be in taunted model's LoS at the start of their next activation or Taunt is ignored.

 Skye

Skye has been a difficult hero to balance from the start, as his version number attests. We feel that currently he is under the power curve and a little too niche to get the best use out of. With the changes, we have given him a significant boost at level 1 and also introduced a cool power at level 2, which we believe will see Skye compared much more favourably with other defenders.

  • Heroic Stand updated so it cannot be used on himself. Note that you can Heroic Stand friendly defender models.
  • Diversion updated so that damage can be redistributed between any friend models within 2" of Skye. It used to be 2" of the target of the original attack.
  • Spirit Strike moved to level 1 and changed from 2S to 1J.
  • Added the Dimension Warp innate ability at level 2.

Svetlana

Svetlana has been on our radar for a little while, and we feel she is in a good place. One of the core tenets of Judgement is ensuring heroes are viable, and balanced, in both forms of the game, and we feel Svetlana needs a little tempering for the 3v3 version of the game.

  • Beast Command range reduced from 6" to 5".

 Thrommel

Thrommel is in a great place, and we feel his kit suits a dwarf warrior perfectly. In saying that, Thrommel can be one dimensional and, as a quality of life improvement, it would be nice if he had something to do with his spare action from time to time. The new ability, Fierce Challenge, also fits his character perfectly.

  • Added Fierce Challenge ability at level 1.

Zaffen

Similar to Skye, we feel that Zaffen is below the curve slightly, and struggles to find air time in an increasingly crowded role. As with all these changes, our main priority is to keep the flavour of the hero in tact and try to enhance his abilities within the context of how he/she currently plays. We feel we have managed to do that with this version of Zaffen.

  • Increased Giant Crossbow range from 9" to 10".
  • Changed Momentous Shot from 2J to 1S+1J.
  • Removed Stun description from his 4th card (left over from previous incarnation).

Zaron

We felt a need to just temper the power of Explode, for both Zaron and his skeletons, slightly. We also are conscious of the number of damage in the game that ignores RES.

  • Explode no longer does True Damage.
  • Shadow Rift terminology changed to the new "0A" notation instead of "N/A".

Quality of Life Changes for Hero Cards

The following hero cards have been updated with minor corrections and clean ups.

Nephenee

  • She had an old definition of Dual Wield. This has been updated.

Brok

  • Spelling mistake on 4th card describing Back Swing.

Rakkir

  • Shadow Rift terminology changed to the new "0A" notation instead of "N/A".

Xyvera

  • Unholy Harvest terminology changed to the new "0A" notation instead of "N/A".

Magical Artefacts

Astral Stasis

We always look for opportunities to introduce meaningful magical artefacts that provide new tactical options and cool interactions with our heroes. The Astral Stasis Potion is just that. Can't wait to see what you all do with it at your disposal!

Ogre Strength

The original intention was that Ogre Strength would not work against the Effigy and monsters, however making it hero models only meant it inadvertently meant it did not work against Summoned models either. We have added Summoned models into the wording.

The following Magical Artefacts were re-worded to be consistent with the new "One use only" definition. Their functions have remained the same.

  • Healing Surge
  • Ring of Invisibility
  • Tome of Experience 

 

 

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Viktor Sculpt Reveal

Viktor Sculpt Reveal

Hot on the heels of Svetlana Oaklost, Stan Kolev has produced another masterpiece with the Viktor sculpt. Few things can stir up interest more than a halfling warlock, particularly one that summons a lesser demon of the abyss, so we are super excited to be able to reveal Viktor.

The sculpt conveys incredible emotion, a brooding character with evil intent and a heathy hunger for power. Warlock's traditionally make pacts with powerful beings of the lower planes to augment their skills on their home plane, and Viktor is no different. After learning the name of Al'garath, a lesser demon of the abyss, Viktor is able to summon him at will on the shadow plane of Between.

Like every model in our range, Viktor ships with a thematic base and his would have to be up there with the best. Despite being just 40mm, as opposed to the standard 50mm, the base is packed with numerous warlock and tinkerer themed elements, and a sleeping cat familiar!

Viktor is the 1st model in our range mounted on a 40mm base with every other hero and monster on a 50mm, and he is also the 1st halfling hero. Another cool aspect of Viktor is his ability to summon Al'garath, a lesser demon of the abyss. Viktor is without doubt one of the highest skill cap heroes in the game and it is going to be interesting to see the impact he has on the meta once wave 2 ships and all 28 heroes are available for selection.

Viktor illustration by Helge C Balzer

Viktor's in-game statistics card

Al'garath's in-game statistics card

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Judgement Patch Notes #2

Judgement Patch Notes #2

Herein lies the very second clarification and errata document for Judgement. From the very beginning we socialised the fact Judgement would be a regularly "patched" game, in keeping with its MOBA origins and to ensure the game's rules are kept in an optimal state. Our patch schedule is quarterly, with the changes becoming official on the 1st day of the start of the next quarter. Therefore the official date for this patch is the 1st of April 2018.

Clarifications

Fate: Try Again

Using Fate to re-roll dices one of its most common uses, however it was not clear what to do when multiple re-rolls are triggered on the one dice pool. We have named the Fate re-roll as "Try Again" to help with distinguishing it from other re-rolls.

When used for Try Again, the model spends 1 Fate point to re-roll the entire pool of dice they just rolled. Any dice roll in the game can be re-rolled using Fate (except monster attacks). However, dice can only be re-rolled once, regardless of the re-roll source.

In some circumstances dice can be re-rolled by other means, for example by magical artefacts or hero abilities. In those situations, a player can use Fate to only re-roll the remaining dice that have not been re-rolled. For example, Kogan uses his Battle Cry ability to re-roll two dice from his attack pool of 5 dice. The active player has the opportunity to use a Fate to re-roll the remaining 3 dice that were not re-rolled via Battle Cry.

Forests and Line of Sight

We felt we needed to clarify how forests work due to confusion with how they work in other games.

Forests do not block line of sight to, or from, models that are within the forest, regardless of how big the forest is.

Healing an Effigy

Clarified that the health reduction on Effigies, by opponent's capturing Souls, cannot be healed.

Heroes can use certain active abilities to heal their Effigy during a game, since it is a friendly model to their warband. However only direct damage can be healed this way, damage reduction from captured Souls cannot be healed by heroes. Similarly, heroes are unable to provide temporary health to their Effigy, by any means.

Killing Heroes

Clarified the order of things when a hero dies.

The death of heroes is an integral part of Judgement. There are two stages that trigger when a hero dies.

Stage 1 “Zero Health”: Trigger any ability, or effect, that relies on a hero reaching zero health.

Stage 2 “Death”: Trigger any ability, or effect, that relies on a hero dying.

If multiple abilities, or effects, trigger on either stage, the active player decides the order the abilities, or effects, are triggered.

Dead heroes will always re-spawn at their Effigy next turn; there are no permanent effects incurred as a result of dying (see step 5 of the Communion Phase).

New Game Definition: Damage

There was some confusion around what a hero getting damaged actually means.

A model is considered to have suffered damage when the model has its health reduced by 1 or more.

Soul Harvesting

The intention was always that a Soul must be targeted to be harvested, however the word target, up until now, had been omitted from the rule book.

Souls that are not bound to a hero are unbound. A hero can harvest a target unbound Soul by successfully rolling a Soul harvest skill check while within 2” of it.

There were instances where players were including a +1 bonus for heroes that other heroes were Soul harvesting through, such as via Xyvera's  Unholy Harvest.

The following modifiers apply to a Soul harvest skill check:

  • Add the hero’s Soul harvest ability.
  • +1 for each friendly hero within 2” of the Soul other than the hero attempting the Soul harvest, or a model the hero is attempting the Soul harvest through.
  • -1 for each enemy hero and/or monster within 2” of the Soul.

 

Order of Application

As we increase the number of heroes in the game there has been a greater need to have a clear order of application blanket rule to resolve the timing on various triggers.

There are times where the interaction of rules and abilities results in tricky situations. The following section provides rules on how to deal with those situations. If a particular situation is not covered by these rules, we suggest you roll a dice to determine the order of execution.

Effects & Conditions

In a game, models can be affected by multiple effects and conditions. When this occurs, the effects are applied in the order in which they were placed on the model chronologically.

Re-rolling Dice

When two or more rules allow the re-rolling of dice, apply the following to determine the order.

The active player is given 1st option to re-roll any dice they are able to. This could include multiple re-rolls, such as using Augury (Saiyin’s ability) and then a Fate for the remaining dice. 

The non-active player is then given the option to force the active player to re-roll any dice that have not already been re-rolled. Even if the non-active player has the ability to force the active player to re-roll their entire dice pool (such as through the Gift of the Gods artefact), only dice that have not been already re-rolled can be re-rolled at this point.

Finally, if a monster has the ability to force a re-roll, its ability will execute last.

Errata

Aiming Bonus

Add a few more restrictions to what a model can, and cannot, do when claiming the aiming bonus.

Aiming Bonus: +1 dice if the attacker does not perform an advance action (aiming bonus), for all ranged attack actions this activation. Once a model claims the aiming bonus, they are unable to perform an advance action, attack action (using a melee weapon), or Effigy recall later in this activation. However they can use symbols to push themselves via the combat manoeuvre mechanic.

Heroes - Wave 1

Bastian Oriel

Bastian's nerfs from the previous patch placed him in a decent place, we just wanted to ease him back slightly with an increase to his staff's critical damage.

Bastian Oriel, Lore Keeper

  • Clarified Time Bender to explain what happens when the model dies with conditions on it
  • Staff critical damage increased to 4

Istariel

Istariel has always occupied a decent level, however with the introduction of a few RNG based heroes we felt she needed a bit more of an edge. Her kit as a fire mage is pretty much perfect, however a little more damage for her Conflagration ability will keep her in the mind's of the demi-gods.

Ista

  • Conflagration damage increased to D3+2

Skoll Bonestorm

Skoll was arguably the player's choice for most powerful hero when wave 1 was released. This was understandable as he was able to pretty much excel at all facets of the game. Skoll was nerfed fairly heavily in the last patch, and while we felt he was still a strong choice, the fact he had been nerfed saw his use drop a fair bit. We don't want to swing back and forth with hero changes, however we did feel there were a few areas where he could be improved. The most notable is the fact, unlike all other defenders in the game, Skoll was not really able to "defend" his allies until he reached level 2 and gained access to Bulwark. We believe this was one of the main reasons other defenders were chosen instead. Besides that change we brought his Soul harvest ability in line with most other defenders.

Skoll Bonestorm

  • Soul harvest increased from 3 to 4
  • Bulwark swapped with Combo Strike, so is available at level 1
  • Bulwark can only be cast on hero models

Zaron Bogdan

Simple wording update to reflect the changes to the Leech ability.

Zaron Bogdan

  • Leech can only be triggered once per attack action.

 Heroes - Wave 2

This patch signifies the official release of the wave 2 hero rules. Wave 2 heroes are now officially part of the game, and will be treated exactly like wave 1.

We took the opportunity to errata a few of the heroes before they were locked in for 3 months, so we listed them first, along with the changes.

Allandir

With no RNG heroes making the cut from wave 1, it had been a long time since the RNG heroes had been heavily play tested. Once they were thrown in to the mix we felt that 10" range on their weapons was pretty strong, particularly in light of the fact that 3v3 is now a legitimate long term game mode.

Allandir

  • Range of Bow dropped from 10" to 9"

Skye

Skye has been an interesting addition to the defender ranks, being a AGI based defender. We just wanted to tweak his kit slightly.

Skye

  • Heroic Stand cost changed from 1F to 1A+1F
  • Heroic Stand can only be cast on hero models

Styx

Simple change to his Cyber Repair ability to reflect the global change to Leech.

Styx

  • Leech can only be triggered once per attack action

Xyvera

Removed a loop hole for her Soul Link.

Xyvera

  •  Soul Link cannot be cast on Effigies. Just hero models only.

Zaffen Ironhelm

With no RNG heroes making the cut from wave 1, it had been a long time since the RNG heroes had been heavily play tested. Once they were thrown in to the mix we felt that 10" range on their weapons was pretty strong, particularly in light of the fact that 3v3 is now a legitimate long term game mode.

Zaffen Ironhelm

  • Range of Bow dropped from 10" to 9"

Magical Artefacts

One area of the game we have always been keen on expanding is Magical Artefacts. However before we look to introduce new artefacts we wanted to make sure the initial artefact deck was balanced and all were viable options in the game. In light of that we decided to buff two rarely used items.

Blood Sucker

  • Leech increased from 1 to 2
  • Includes text about the global change to Leech only triggering once per attack action

Minotaur Essence

  • Regeneration increased from 1 to 2
  • No longer stacks with other Regeneration
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Styx Sculpt Revealed

Styx Sculpt Revealed

Styx is an enigma, partly because he has been alive for almost 1000 years, and partly due to his utter devotion to his master, Zaron Bogdan. Styx originally served as a mortician in Zaron's morgue, and it was during this time he uncovered Zaron's obsession with necromancy. Before long, Styx was assisting Zaron with his experiments on the dead, and later saved his master from certain death when an angry mob of local villagers stormed their manor seeking retribution for their loved ones. Styx's "reward" for his loyalty was to be slowly, and agonisingly, transformed into a cyborg, which was the only way he could delay his mortality, and continue to serve Zaron following his transformation into the ranks of undead. 

Styx was a rules and sculpting challenge for the design team. We have said it before that creating heroes devoid of straight up damage are normally more difficult to get right, both in terms of balance and being interesting to play. Similarly, we continually push ourselves to come up with unique characters and with Styx, being a mortician cyborg, we had a wonderful idea palette to work from.

James W Cain was commissioned to sculpt Styx with a directive to maintain clean lines to reflect his cyborg elements, however we also wanted to pay tribute to his time, earlier in life,  as a finely dressed mortician. For the scenic base we opted for a simplistic industrial theme, which once again suited his background.

Once again, a wonderful job by James, and he held true to the equally impressive illustration by Helge C. Balzer.

Styx will be available in our wave 2 Kickstarter which goes live in just under 2 weeks, and we have continued our drive towards raising the bar across our range. 

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Lich Dance - Part 2

Lich Dance - Part 2

Continuation of Lich Dance - Part 1

“Hmph”, grunted Styx. “We both survived. Interesting”, he thought, filing away the memory in his data-bank for retrieval once he had returned to his master. But for now it would have to wait. First, to battle.

Styx entered the fray swinging his chain scythe in a wide arc, the keen blades whistling as they cut through the dull air of the shadow plane. His cyber-mind scanned through data stored from previous battles, formulating plans that would optimise the synergy between his allies and his own considerable powers. There was no data on the hooded minotaur and any attempts to read its mind were being met with considerable resistance. “Curious”, mumbled Styx. It seemed that today was full of the unexpected. Pushing the distractions from his mind, Styx sprinted like a madman towards the centre of the enemy’s battle lines in what appeared to be a suicide mission. His target was the orc, Rakkir. He knew full well how dangerous an adversary the rogue could be if left unchecked. Nephenee, who was still finding her bearings and trying to work out exactly where she was, watched incredulously as the cyborg ran off into the gloom. 

 

Rakkir readied his blade, dripping wth toxin, as he saw the half-man, half machine, hurtle towards him. A snarl formed at the corner of his mouth. “What was this idiot doing..?”  Rakkir’s blade began its descent, aiming for a deadly blow to the base of the cyborg's neck. Moments before the blade hit home, Rakkir heard Styx utter an incantation before the cyborg began phasing in and out of the orc's vision. Then, with a faint blue pulse of light, the half-man disappeared completely, before a giant werewolf appeared exactly where he was a moment before. “Ashtooth!”, Rakkir exclaimed, in an attempt to rally his allies around him. The orc had fought the beast numerous times before, however it was normally on his terms. The blood shadow admonished himself for underestimating his foe, before hastily dropping a shadow orb to escape the predicament the cyborg had placed him in.

 

Styx braced himself as the enemy’s effigy exploded, hurtling the heroes bound to it back to the prime material plane. It was a hard fought victory, secured when the she-elf, Nephenee, launched herself over the enemy defensive line and sunk her twin laser blades deep into the effigy itself. She had fought well, and Styx managed to glean much about her abilities through the course of the battle. Invaluable information for his master Zaron, no doubt.

The minutes after a battle were always surreal, Styx mused. First, each of the victorious heroes was momentarily connected with the demigod that had summoned them, a mind link that allowed the briefest of dialogue. This was followed by a permanent transfer of a fraction of the demigod's powers to the summoned mortals. The five were then left alone on the plane for a time, until the power of their effigy faded, at which point they were transported back to their bodies on Athien. Some of the heroes used the time to explore Between, although there were limits to how far the ethereal chord connecting them to the effigy would allow them to wander. Most of the time, they would just sit together and go over the battle they had just fought. They would compare strategies and tactics on how best they could work together the next time they were summoned. Because, while they could just as likely be enemies next time, the reward of power gained whenever they were victorious meant that the vast majority of the summoned considered the others their allies, and would work with them to secure victory whenever they could.

It was so odd, thought Styx, that these heroes had become his friends of a sort. Back on Athien, most of them did not really know each other. This was especially true for him, who through his master’s work was actually summoned from another timeline. Despite this, all of the summoned shared a common bond, one that set them apart from all of their kind back home. None of them knew where this would lead, but all of them considered it a tremendous gift and they all enjoyed the power it bestowed. 

“I don’t know what this place is, or what just happened to me, however I will find out once we return to our homeland”, Nephenee said quietly as she sat down beside Styx. He had forgotten all about her. He turned to her: “Truth be told, I hoped it would kill you. However, now that you have survived and joined the ranks of the summoned, you will learn that I have bestowed upon you a priceless gift, she-elf.”

Nephenee found herself getting angry without really knowing why. “Don’t try to twist this, beast”, she spat out in frustration. Not being in control of things irritated her no end. “I will continue to hunt your master down. And after this treachery, I am certain you will be added to the list of wanted.”

Styx smiled wryly. He stared at her, his mechanical eye boring into her soul, making Nephenee uncomfortable. “Don’t be a fool. We are the only two summoned from our time. We should work together; we are brother and sister now”, he said, before turning back to gaze at the hooded minotaur who busied herself idly carving glowing runes into the earth. If Styx's cyber computer was correct, she was Xyvera, however if true, it was certainly a significant turn of events. What would master Zaron say...

Nephenee followed the cyborg's gaze towards the hooded minotaur. The crone adjusted her hood until she was able to match the elf's stare. Nephenee immediately lowered her gaze. She then turned to ask Styx about the crone,  however she was interrupted by the tug of her ethereal chord as the effigy that bound them all to the plan of shadow became dull, its last energy fading.

Moments later, Nephenee found herself floating, moving ever faster through the ethereal plane before she broke into the atmosphere of Athien. She could see her prone body lying where she had left it on the floor of the decrepit building. Seeing herself from this vantage point highlighted how slight and small she was. For the first time in a long time, Nephenee felt vulnerable, even afraid. She knew the last few hours would change her life forever, for good or ill, she did not know.

With a start, Nephenee took a big gasp of air as she entered her body, then sat up trying to take it all in. After a minute or so, she rose to her feet, adjusted her armour and jet pack, and climbed the stairs to the parapet so she could look towards her home city. How she loved that place. To her right, a bright glare caught her attention, the sun's rays reflected off the metal plates of the cyborg. For several minutes Nephenee watched him walk off in the distance, pondering what the cyborg had told her on the shadow plane. “Until we next meet…brother.”

-- by Andrew "Guns" Galea --

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Lich Dance - Part 1

Lich Dance - Part 1

A short story featuring Nephenee & Styx

Nephenee eased the thruster of her jet pack and landed softly on the cobble stones, moving seamlessly into a crouch position behind one of the parapets. She absentmindedly reached behind her lower back, flicking the switch to shut the jet rotors down; even when idle they emitted a low hum. All was quiet except for the call of an owl, and the wind whirling through the gaps in the stonework of the old bell tower she had landed on. The structure was several hundred cycles old, and it was over a hundred cycles since it had been used as a bell tower. Today it was dilapidated and abandoned; a sentinel watching over the rubble of the town it once serviced, a remnant of a period of Athien largely forgotten.

Nephenee glanced at her watch irritably, then lifted her gaze to see the sun descending behind the mountains in the distance. For a moment, she lost herself as she caught sight of the tall spires and delicate towers of her home city, reflecting the golden rays of the setting sun on this balmy evening. 

Her thoughts were broken by a movement off to her right, a lone figure walking solemnly towards the tower. Nephenee had been tracking this one for some time now, slowly unlocking his secrets. A complex web shrouded the man in mystery. He was a cyborg; one of the first apparently, a product of his master’s experiments long before the process had become humane. If the cyborg held any animosity towards his master, there was no evidence of it. The devotion had lasted almost five hundred cycles. It had evolved into adoration once his master, Zhim'gigrak had completed the journey to become a lich. Five of the state run Special Investigation Units, or SIU as they were known, had been assigned to investigate the lich. Nephenee was one of them, which is what had brought her to the tower today.

The fact that she had been assigned to follow the lich’s disciple, rather than the beast himself, irritated her no-end. It was a slight, to be sure, however she was determined to complete the task to the best of her ability regardless. Nephenee was certain that this tower was a key piece in the puzzle. The cyborg would regularly travel to the tower and lock himself inside for days at a time. She had entered the tower several times after his visits and searched every corner of the structure, yet uncovered nothing. It made no sense. Today, she was determined to unlock the mystery.

The cyborg felt a tingle from the v-unit implanted in the back of his head, a precursor to the optical display attached to his right eye presenting a new message. The tiniest movement in the very corner of his lips, was the only sign of emotion he showed from the message contents. The she-elf was near, as his master had predicted. Her impatience had made her rash, and today she would get far more than she bargained for. 

These days his master was known as Zhim'gigrak, although some called him Shadow-Walker and others even spoke of him as if he were death itself. However, to the cyborg, he would always be Master Zaron. The cyborg had begun serving him almost five hundred cycles ago, when Zaron was still a mere mortal. He had assisted him on his first journey to the Shadow Plane, helping him build the Shadow Orbs, and finally complete his ascent to a lich. The reward, from his master, was eternal life as a cyborg. A merging of machine and man into a form superior to both. Cyborgs were more common these days and all were gifted with an increased lifespan, however none came close to the five hundred years that he had lived. Another gift from his master. Even after all this time, the cyborg preferred to go by his mortal name, Styx. It grounded him and kept him in contact with his inner being, lest the machine take over completely.

Styx pondered his master’s plans for the elf, running the role he would play through the mortal part of his brain. It was slower and more prone to mistakes than the cybernetic portion. However, Styx had learned that at times, relying on his old human instincts could serve him well in crucial situations. Once again, Zaron was attempting something that had never been done before. He planned to tether a second person, the elf, to a single astral chord; the one intended for Styx alone. Neither of them was sure what would happen if a sixth hero answered the call of an Effigy’s summons. The assumption was that the elf would be caught in limbo, the astral plane that connects the shadow plane to Athien, or that she would simply die. Another theory was that the Effigy would explode, hurtling the summoned heroes back to their mortal bodies. The cybernetic portion of Styx’s brain interrupted with the thought that he was just as likely to die as the elf, before kicking off a thread to research how to survive in the astral plane.

Styx pushed through the decrepit door, swinging on the rusted hinges that barely kept it attached to the door jam. His optic display told him that the she-elf was on the move. “Come, bitch…”

Nephenee peered over the parapet, to see the cyborg entering the building below. Without a sound, she leapt over the edge and used her achilles-boosters to lower herself silently to the ground. She waited a few moments before carefully pushing open the door just enough to squeeze her lithe torso through the gap. Once inside, her elf vision kicked in, allowing her to see more clearly in what was almost total darkness. The outline of her prey’s heat aura was visible to her a little to the right. He was lying down. She began to edge closer, but paused. A strange wispy column of light was visible, seemingly emanating from the cyborg’s chest. It could not be. Nephenee knew stories of the summoned; mighty heroes who were transported to the plane of shadow at the behest of demi-gods. But none had been seen or heard of for hundreds of years. They had almost passed into legend. Could the cyborg be a summoned?

Nephenee turned on her heel. She would have to report this discovery to her superiors immediately. This explained so much, and unlocked some of the mystery surrounding this half-man. Her mission was complete. Two strides from the door, she felt a soft, feathery sensation on her back foot. She whirled around to find a tendril of the wispy light wrapped around her ankle. Before she had time to think, her foot was pulled out from underneath her and she landed hard on her back. She frantically tried to regain her footing, however she was powerless against the unknown force and found herself being dragged by her ankle across the floor towards the cyborg's still form. Nephenee began to lose consciousness, and a powerful feeling of deep sleep overcame her. She felt weightless. Serene. Peaceful. Like slowly sinking to the ocean floor. 

All sense of time was lost. At some point, a week, a day, a few seconds later perhaps, Nephenee felt consciousness return to her, although not entirely. She was standing before a towering edifice, a weird union of stone and organic materials. She could see a pulsing heart within the structure, and glowing runes provided a sharp contrast to the gloom all around her. Nephenee had never been here before, however she immediately knew this to be the plane of shadow. A thin, smoke-like chord connected her to the structure. She looked to her right to see a similar chord connecting a minotaur, hunched over with a large hood concealing its face. Next to the minotaur was a crazed-looking orc shaman, eyes wide and focussed straight ahead. Beyond him, a two-headed half giant bellowed a deafening war cry, and finally she saw the cyborg. He too was looking into the distance, and did not appear to notice her. Five of them connected to the stone edifice, including her, and a 6th strand hanging loose with no one attached to the end. "What was this place?", she thought, trying to calm her senses in preparation for what came next.

“Hmph”, grunted Styx. “We both survived. Interesting”, he thought, filing away the memory in his data-bank for retrieval once he had returned to his master. But for now it would have to wait. First, to battle.

-- by Andrew "Guns" Galea --

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