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Lone Rider

Lone Rider

Tomas shifted in his chair, the soft leather moulding itself to his body as he made himself comfortable. The warm glow of the hearth reflected the heat from a large fire burning within the room’s impressive fireplace. Tomas had fashioned the room, and the rest of his fortress, on Between, in the image of the castle he had owned when he lived as a mortal upon Athien. Despite it being over 300 cycles since ascending to demigod status, Tomas continued to live much as he had done in his former life. Demigods could choose their form at will, and alter Between as they saw fit; theoretically, he could be living in whichever castle, tower or fortress he fancied. Despite this, he usually chose the form that mirrored his mortal body the day he travelled to Between shortly after The Gathering. To his immortal mind, it seemed like yesterday; mere seconds in the grand scheme of things. 

Much like his contemporaries, Tomas continued to build up his power by harvesting Souls, utilising the ever growing band of mortal heroes who willingly transported to the Shadow plane to partake in the demigods' private war. There would come a time when Tomas would feel powerful enough to roam Between himself, however he knew the power of the old gods, and at the moment, the risk to extend himself was still too great. He stopped his train of thought, and brought his mind back to the present, because today had thrown up something unexpected, a rare occurrence in the life of a demigod. Some thirty minutes ago, one of the most powerful natural inhabitants of Between had crossed the boundary into Tomas’ domain. A score of the demigod's minions had died trying to stop the advance of the individual before Tomas sent word to let him pass. Despite having more powerful minions available that could probably kill him, Tomas had decided to meet and find out why one of the most powerful undead creatures on Between sought an audience with him.

Tomas

Lord Fazeal commanded an army of undead soldiers and, similar to the demigods, had carved out a domain on Between that he undisputedly owned. Tomas did not doubt for a second that he could kill Fazeal if he chose, however it would not be a trivial exercise and did pose risks. Unlike the demigods, Fazeal was free to roam Between as he wished, since he was not a target of the old gods and had many allies on the Shadow plane. Today, Fazeal looked to flaunt the fact that he was free to roam, because as far as Tomas could tell, he travelled without an entourage; just the undead lord astride his mighty nightmare Acheron. Tomas closed his eyes so he could see the vision of Fazeal in an attempt to glean what he could before their meeting, however he doubted that the undead lord would give anything away.

The undead were a wicked twist on the natural order of things, being “born” whenever a powerful Athien hero managed to hold onto enough fragments of their soul once they died. While alive, there were rituals that a mortal could perform to increase their chances of maintaining un-death once their souls passed to Between, however the rituals themselves were fraught with danger and frowned upon by most civil societies. A mortal transforming to undead was extremely rare, however since undead never died of natural causes, over the centuries there had been a steady build up of literally thousands of them roaming the planes of Between. Thankfully, like the mortal races of Athien, the undead often waged war on each other, usually whenever two powerful undead rose to prominence and wanted to extend their domains and influence. This had, at least, kept their number to a manageable level. 

Like the other demigods, Tomas had always considered the undead to be natural denizens of Between, and only learned how they came about while studying the soul phenomenon in their quest for immortality. The fact that the undead always kept to themselves in the growing conflict between the gods, meant that Tomas had not given them too much thought, until now. The only interaction Tomas could recall was that one of the summoned, the powerful necromancer Zaron, was able to summon the weakest of undead, skeletons, during his battles on Between. 

Tomas was not sure what to make of the sudden appearance of Lord Fazeal in his domain. He stood from his leather chair, closed his eyes and through the power of his mind, transported himself to the gates of his fortress. It was time to find out what Fazeal wanted.

Staff

Fazeal kept his head down, his hood pulled low to obscure his face. Locks of silvery white hair dangled past his jaw-line to flutter on his chest as a gentle breeze blew across him. Acheron’s hooves padded softly on the damp earth, each step emitting a hissing sound as the flames on his hooves met with moisture. Like most powerful undead, Fazeal was able to spare enough life force to keep Archeron in a permanent state of un-death, the nightmare proving to be a powerful steed and companion. For 200 cycles, Fazeal had watched the god war from afar, quietly extending his domain and building up his army of undead to the point where, outside the demigods, he was one of the most powerful beings on Between. It was through his studies of the god war that he discovered the source of their power, mortal souls, which naturally led him to learn more and find out whether such a thing could enhance his own powers.

Fazeal was driven by one thing, and one thing alone: to return to Athien with an army of undead behind him, to conquer, and subjugate, the entire plane. No undead had ever been able to walk the mortal planes, being forever restricted to the plane of shadow. He would be the first. He understood that if he could restore his soul enough, he would be able to take physical form on Athien. Never enough to be truly alive, however a creature of un-death with one foot on the material plane and another on Between. Once on Athien, he could summon an army of undead from the battlefields scattered all over the plane. 

His original intention was simply to capture souls himself, much like the demigods were doing. However, there was something in the makeup of the undead that made it impossible, regardless of how much he tried. Eventually, Fazeal came to realise that by offering his services to the demigods, and partaking in their game, he would be able to siphon fragments of a soul’s power every time he killed one of the summoned. This would take a lot longer than harvesting the souls directly, but he was undead. Time had no meaning or consequence for him. 

The challenge was to get the demigods to accept his offer. Fazeal knew how ambitious the demigods were, and none of them would want to have the undead as an enemy. He was sure they would acquiesce to his request.

Lord Fazeal and Acheron

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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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