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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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