Authors: Michael J. Ward
Tags: #Sci Fi & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Fiction & Literature
As the loser gets up and re-joins his companions, you slip into the
now vacant seat. Your eyes settle immediately on the small black book hooked to a chain around his neck – a holy book, its cover inscribed in white-glowing script.
‘Would you care to play?’ you ask, returning the stones to the bag.
The monk scratches his shaven head, stifling a belch. ‘You got gold?’ he grunts, struggling to focus his bleary eyes. ‘Twenty gold on the table, then we play.’
‘I want to raise the stakes,’ you reply, nodding to his book. ‘I want to play for that.’
The monk puts his hands to his book protectively. ‘This is precious,’ he slurs, rocking in his chair.
‘You’ve had a lucky night.’ You glance down at the monk’s winnings – a sizeable hoard of gold. ‘I’m sure your luck will hold.’
The monk shrugs his big shoulders. ‘Fifty gold to play,’ he snorts. ‘And my bet is the book.’
You reach up, pulling away the mouldy fronds to get at the soldier’s body. As you do so, the growth suddenly expands outwards, forming long root-like tentacles that lock around your arms. Anise screams as you are lifted towards a widening set of jaws that have appeared through the guard’s ruptured armour. To break free, you will need to pass a
challenge (using whichever attribute is highest):
‘Not the trustin’ sort either,’ the man grins, seeming impressed. ‘If you’d followed that blood, it would have taken you to the remains of a creature. Ran into a whole darn pack of ’em, chased me out of the deeper caves. Weird-looking things they were, with tentacles and teeth. I’ll admit, I don’t fright easy, but those critters . . .’ He shakes his head, blowing out a sigh. ‘Thought I’d try and lose ’em, but one clearly wasn’t giving up the fight. So had to rely on my knife. Dirty work it was.’
‘Impressive,’ you nod, noting he has no wounds of his own.
‘Yeah, well,’ he shrugs. ‘My bravery ain’t the point. It’s what I saw in the cave. Bodies. Maybe half a dozen. All frozen tight, covered in ice.’
‘The explorers!’ Your eyes widen. ‘I was sent here to find them.’
‘You and me both.’ The man sighs heavily. ‘But for the ice to take them like that, those explorers must have been there a very long time. Months, I’ll wager. Maybe even longer.’
‘Months?’ You baulk, glancing back at the blood trail. ‘But Reah . . . Diggory, they . . .’
‘This place isn’t right.’ He looks around, his face twitching nervously. ‘I should have turned back when I had the chance. Maybe we both should have.’ Turn to
After another lacklustre meal of raw meat and dried moss, Skoll and Anise settle down to sleep. You keep watch as you always do, no longer needing food or sleep. Exhaustion quickly takes them both into fitful dreams. They toss and turn, murmuring inaudibly. You find yourself thinking back to the miners’ bodies. Nine men, armed and strong, left for dead in these caves.
You lay a fur blanket across an ice-coated rock, then sit to watch over the others. It gives you a sense of pride that you can perform this small task – allowing them to recharge their energies for the next day’s march.
The cold of the Norr creeps into you, beckoning you to leave your body and draw yourself away. You resist, shaking your head.
No, Nanuk. I have a duty.
The pull becomes stronger, like hands closing around your mind, pressing it tight. You struggle against it, sensing that it isn’t Nanuk. Some other presence has a hold of you. Before you have a chance to defend yourself, you feel your mind sliding away.
No! I must watch . . . I must protect the others
. . .
Your eyes flash open.
Cold air rushes into your lungs. Your heart thumps against your chest as your body awakens to its shadow of a life. Quickly, you leap to your feet, kicking up a flurry of fine black sand. All around you the haunted landscape of the Norr shimmers into view, lit by the bright flashes from the broiling clouds above.
A roar of warning.
You turn, to see Nanuk bounding towards you. The bear is wounded, one of his back legs oozing magic from several deep cuts. He twists round, looking back the way he came. There, gliding over the black sand, you see three wraith-like spectres clad in tattered robes. They give a piercing shriek, their clawed hands distended towards you.
Nanuk answers with a deep-throated roar, his own claws raking the sand in readiness. You draw your weapons, relishing the chance to fight side-by-side once again. It is time to fight:
| ||Special abilities|
: If you take health damage from a night terror’s damage score, you must lower your
by 2 for the next combat round only.
: At the end of every combat round, you must take 1 damage from each surviving night terror, ignoring
: Nanuk adds 2 to your damage score for the duration of this combat.
If you manage to defeat this terrible trio, turn to
The tunnel bores up into the trunk of the tree. It is difficult to discern what fashioned the passageway – some parts look like they were gouged out of the wood by claws and teeth while other sections are perfectly smooth, suggesting some form of magic may have been used in its crafting.
The tunnel becomes steeper, until you are forced to use a dangling trail of roots to help you climb an almost vertical wall. You find yourself scrabbling out of a hole into a wide chamber. The ceiling and walls are covered in thick knotted roots, some the size of cathedral columns. They look like they have woven themselves together, criss-crossing each other as they wind down to the floor.
The rotting remains of a creature lie scattered nearby. It is almost skeletal, the flesh having been picked away to leave bare bones threaded with sinew. As you pull yourself out of the hole, you hear a creaking and groaning from above. Looking up, you give a horrified gasp – a set of roots are uncoiling themselves from the ceiling. Slowly, they lower themselves towards the rotted creature, curling around the bones and the sinewy threads that hold it together.
With a rattling crack the roots lift themselves into the air, the creature’s body rising up with them. You watch in astonishment as the roots shift and re-arrange themselves, causing the monster’s rotted limbs to twitch like a marionette. A root snaps around its head, lifting it forward, while another tugs open its mouth, revealing sharp glistening fangs. Then the rest of the roots buck and jump, sending the arms and legs dancing madly as the grisly puppet pirouettes towards you. It is time to fight:
|Danse macabre (*)||–||–||4||100|
| ||Special abilities|
|Danse till you drop!|
: (*) In this combat you roll against the roots’
. If you win a combat round, the roots will drop Danse Macabre, allowing you to strike against the skeleton for
combat rounds (hits are automatic; there is no need to roll for speed). After two rounds, the roots lift the skeleton up once again, meaning you must win another combat round before you can strike twice against the skeleton.
: At the end of each combat round you must take 2 damage, ignoring
, from the flailing roots and bones.
|Body of bone|
: Danse Macabre is immune to all passive effects.
If you manage to defeat this body-popping horror, turn to
‘Well right now, all eyes are on the sled races. Money to be won there if you have the bottle. Otherwise, trading furs if you can get ’em. Although . . .’ He glances furtively at the nearby patrons, then leans forward against the bar. ‘Bet you noticed the big wigs flaunting it around Ryker’s. Not all those stuck-up oafs are here for the races – there’s some serious business going down. I hear talk of diamonds, mining operations, contracts and all that.’ The barman nods his head, eyes gleaming. ‘Ryker’s might be the pimple on Valeron’s ass, but it’s gonna get mighty popular soon. Mark my words.’
|Will you:|| |
|Ask what he knows about Ryker?||692|
|Ask what he has for sale?||709|
|Take a seat in one of the alcoves?||634|
|Listen to the conversation at the bar?||534|
For defeating the troll, you may now help yourself to one of the following rewards:
|Discord||Grit sting||Flint sparks|
|(main hand: hammer)||(gloves)||(feet)|
|+1 speed +2 brawn||+1 brawn +1 armour||+1 speed +1 brawn|
|Ability: after shock|
|Ability: counter||Ability: lightning|
When you have updated your hero sheet, turn to 141.
There are four racers ahead of you. Three are speeding towards an immense glacier breaking up out of the ice. A jagged fissure at its base provides a narrow opening, which you assume must offer a safe means through this daunting obstacle. The other racer has opted to take the longer route, avoiding the glacier altogether by going around it.
|Will you:|| |
|Enter the glacier?||764|
|Go around it?||695|
You slide the shaft of the quill between the ghostly fingers. To your surprise, the hand grips the implement with a tight pressure and starts to scratch words into the rotted wood. You lean over the ghost’s shoulder to read what he is writing. As soon as he is finished, the hand passes back to the start, tracing the same letters again, each movement cutting a little deeper into the wood. Eventually you can make out four words:
You glance at Anise, wondering if they mean anything to her. The kitchen girl shakes her head, looking equally confused. Whatever message the ghost is trying to communicate, its meaning is lost to you. (Record the keyword
on your hero sheet.)
With nothing else of interest in the room, you grab the unlit lamp (make a note of the word
on your hero sheet) and then continue into the next passageway. Turn to
The wooden guardian has been defeated. You may now help yourself to one of the following special rewards:
|Nettle touch||Quill cover||Blood bloom|
|(gloves)||(head)||(main hand: wand)|
|+1 speed +1 magic||+1 speed +1 magic||+1 speed +2 magic|
|Ability: barbs||Ability: splinters||Ability: regrowth|
With little else of interest in the room, you decide to continue onwards. Turn to
The cave is large and dome-shaped, its walls glittering with veins of green rock. Caul immediately runs over to a canvas pack and a collection of weapons that have been discarded on the ground. He takes up a spear, eyeing it almost reverently.
‘Together again at last,’ he grins. ‘And here’s me seven sisters.’ The trapper crouches next to his pack, pulling a strap of knives from underneath it. He puts an arm through the leather thong, pulling it down across his chest. He pats the knives, grinning like a child at Yuletide. ‘Take what you want.’ Caul nudges the pack with his boot. ‘All yours.’
You look at him, confused. ‘But these are yours . . .’
Caul shrugs his shoulders. ‘In this place, I’d rather stay light. If you want to burden yourself, then go ahead.’
You step around the pack to the examine the trapper’s equipment. As well as a selection of skinned hides there is also a second spear, a pair of paddle-shaped snowshoes and a set of gloves. If you wish, you may now help yourself to one of the following:
|(main hand: spear)||(feet)||(gloves)|
|+1 speed +2 brawn||+1 speed +1 armour||+1 speed +1 brawn|
|Ability: sideswipe||Ability: cunning|