The sound of Great Mznuua's imminent eruption echoed around the forest which covered its lower slopes, interrupted occasionally by the sharp crack of gunfire. Two crews had converged on the cave where the footsteps led, and were now fighting for the privilege of investigating further.
The Guardian cursed under her breath. This girl's blood did not activate the door either. So clearly the humans in this part of the world did not descend from Bank Gamma. For now though, there were bigger problems. Her crash landing had finally drawn attention. She now had just one course of action. If she couldn't access it herself, she must defend the door, and prevent the interlopers from accessing it. The mountain was about to blow, but their secrets were too valuable to risk discovery. She must only leave once she was certain that anyone entering the cave would be killed by the ensuing eruption.
She drew her sidearm, and took cover behind a boulder in the cave mouth.
"Run and you die" She shouted at the princess, but she seemed not to understand. Had language changed that much?! No matter. She had done her part. The other one- the Sorrian, lay unconscious. Mercy was foolish. It was time to deal with them both.
Just then, her Chrono-Key chirruped, and a holo-text message flashed up. "Mercenary aid will cover your escape".
(Wayfarers: round 4 winner).
The messenger Dact flitted away, as Wishbone uncurled the paper message it had delivered. His brow concertina'd in confusion. It read "our recent employer is at the cave mouth. Protect at all costs".
They didn't have time to contemplate the strangeness of the message. They had a job to do. First priority had been to secure any loot from the crash, and deliver it to an unknown employer. Now, that same employer was here, and needed their help!
"Bluewing, Grayze, secure that bridge point, and hold it. Kalhana, cover them. Aronax, you're with me. We're going to double behind the Bondsmen and distract them while our employer makes their escape. At all costs, draw fire away from anyone defending that cave.
Lone guns, one and all, Wishbone was proud of how well his crew worked as a team. The one exception? Lliana, but she had already scouted ahead, which was... a problem! He needed to get her the message that their priorities had changed, lest she attack the Guardian!
There was nothing to say. A colossal rumble of discontent was punctuated with a peal of black smoke, rolling upwards from the crest of Great Mznuua. The ground shook, and Limossk simply pointed, two fingered, at Fancagne, Jorra and Alaya to follow him in to the choking jungle, towards the bridge. Gersla and Ravanna knew what to do. They would scout to the left, flanking ahead of the main party, and hitting any force they encountered from the rear.
It didn't take long to discover why the jungle was shrouded in a blackened paul of smoke. Cutting through its centre, and separating their approach from the cave where the footsteps seemed to lead, was a river of flame belching lava. They hacked east, eventually finding a rickety portion of collapsed concrete - perhaps a comms tower of some kind, propped against a ruined observatory. It spanned the lava river like a bridge. As they approached, a volley of blue energy fire erupted from the cave mouth, hitting Alaya in the shoulder, and bouncing of Fancange's armour, leaving a smoking crater where it struck. Limossk ducked for cover, seeing a well muscled woman wearing strange garb, and standing at least 2 metres tall. He couldn't help but notice she was using a Builders weapon, but just like the crashed vehicle, it did not have the signs of hundreds of years of age...
Then, behind them, a crossbow bolt whizzed through the air, just as a flying attacker leaped out of the undergrowth, cracking Limossk clean across the jaw with a quarterstaff, before darting off in to the jungle... There was no time to contemplate the strange story of this adventure. The fight was on!
Trees rattled violently, and the ground began to crack, clouds of oil dark smoke pouring up from them. Standing water began to boil, and the mountain top finally exploded with a catastrophic force. The guardian smiled to herself. She had done enough. Nobody would be able to access the bank and escape with its secrets now. She tapped a series of controls on her Chrono-Key, just as a purple, feline creature loomed out of the smoke and raised her weapon. With a flash of light the Guardian disappeared, re-appearing in a portion of the crashed vessel which had miraculously survived well enough that the teleportation device still worked. She began to sprint down the mountain-side. It was still uncertain as to whether she would make it out alive, but that did not matter. Their mission was all that was important.
(Bondsmen: Overall Campaign Winners)
She could barely believe it... As she converged on her quarry--a frighteningly tall woman who had been firing on her crew from the cave mouth-- a Wayfarer had leaped from the cover of smoke to attack. The woman had completely disappeared, in a flash of light! What strange Builder Magic could achieve such a thing?!
She hurled her axe at the hapless Wayfarer, darting in to the cave, where she found an unconscious figure: A human woman, looking very much like the princess they were seeking! Ravanna grinned evilly. So, that part of their mission was, at least, complete. It was only then that she noticed how uncommonly hot the cave seemed. At the far end was a collection of strange looking Builders Relics, and an ancient door, now glowing red hot... It was time to leave.
Suddenly, she was knocked sideways, feeling a sharp pain in her side. She turned to face an angry Sorrian woman, dressed in local tribal garb, brandishing a flint blade, covered in her blood. She gritted her teeth and sprang at the Sorrian, ignoring the pain in her side, lashing out with her fists. As she connected she saw the supposedly unconscious figure sprint for the cave mouth. Curses! The mountain shook again, and an avalanche of rubble and dust fell from the ceiling. The Sorrian woman staggered backwards, struck by a falling rock, and Ravanna quickly finished the job, plucking up a boulder and bringing it down hard on her enemy.
Through the dust and smoke of the cave Ravanna could see three light sources. One- the daylight of the cave mouth. Two, the glowing red door- seemingly holding back a flow of lava, as it melted. Thirdly though, a blue light emanated from the pile of Relics. She darted forward, grabbing for the blue light, before sprinting for the cave mouth, and emerging in to an apocalyptic scene of flaming jungle, falling chunks of rock, and lava flows.
As she began to run, she glanced at the object- a blue glowing cylinder, displaying a holographic image of a double helix - even she knew what that was, even if she had no idea what the object itself could be. Some form of medical data device, perhaps.
And thusly, the Winter Campaign, The Great Mznuua Fireball, concludes. Some questions are answered: the Fireball was, indeed, a crashing vehicle. Each faction did return with treasures from the wreckage- some more valuable than others.
- The Artefacters completed their mission to research a herbal curative.
- The Wayfarers completed their mysterious objectives, and discovered that The Guardian, or those who command her, were their client.
- The Firm found the Glittering Cave, and returned with several artefacts.
- The Militia discovered that there was no Arbor conspiracy to attack the Five Lakes District through Mznuua Valley.
- The Bondsmen failed in their objective to re-capture the Princess, but returned with the most valuable artefact of all. A strange, medical data device.
But the campaign opened more questions than it answered!
- Who was the Guardian, and what was her mission?
- Why did she have Builder style technology, that had no signs of age?
- What was behind the mysterious door she was so eager to protect?
The Great Mznuua eruption destroyed all the physical evidence which might help answer these questions. Perhaps the Princess may have some answers, from the time she spent with The Guardian; But id she escape alive? Who knows...