Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Endless Deserts: Malign Portents

The Malign Portents event and narrative have taken over the Mortal Realms of late, and the Endless Deserts of Shyish are no exception. Strange signs and omens of ill intent have begun to spring up all across the sands and none are safe from their dread import and today we take a dive into the first of a several short stories as well as some unique rules for Tomb Kings during the Time of Tribulations.

I've had ideas and plans for moving the Endless Deserts storyline forward for quite awhile now. All of the Mortal Realms are being affected by Nagash's plans within Shyish, so it would only make sense that the Endless Deserts and the Tomb Kings would be as well. One of the things that I have really enjoyed about the Malign Portents event and storyline are the little mini stories we're getting up on the official Malign Portents website. There has been some great writing over there, and they really do a lot to set the mood and explore either factions or corners of the realms we haven't seen much of yet, or set up potential future plot threads. This seemed like the perfect way for me to get the story moving in the Endless Deserts, as I do have an endgame in mind for what the new "normal" will be there, though that's a story for the future. 

Long story short, you can expect a new short story like this tied into the Endless Deserts and Malign Portents every few weeks. These will be hosted on the Endless Deserts website in a manner similar to how Malign Portents does it, but I'll be sure to post a reminder up here whenever something new goes up. For the first one though I figured it deserved it's own spotlight on Mengel Miniatures. It wouldn't be a proper Endless Deserts update without some new rules as well, so at the bottom of this post you'll find a new set of unofficial Tomb King themed signs for your harbinger to interpret, as well as rules for using a Liche Priest as your harbinger! So, without further ado: 

The Master's Call

The grey dust swirled around the feet of the two skeletal thralls as they climbed yet another barren dune in obedient silence, their backs, arms, heads, and any other spare surface laden with the possessions of their master. Draped across their boney shoulders were leather satchels of a questionable material stuffed with arcane books alongside the remains of heroes of ages past, and other sinister looking trinkets and baubles. Upon their ribs were hooked rows of pouches filled with dried bloodthorn and stuffed into even their very eye sockets were vials of necromantic fluids, sloshing about with every step. The pair marched on, oblivious of their burdens and uncaring of their destination. Theirs was a single-minded determination, bent to the will of the one they followed. Their master, a hunchbacked figure swaddled in timeworn black robes, hobbled in front of them, his pace the unsteady gait of one wracked by pain. Small huffs of exertion slipped from beneath his frayed hood as he labored through the shifting sands. The colorless grains slipping beneath his feet as he crested the dune, tumbling down past the boney appendages of his thralls.

The trio came to a rest atop the hill, the sudden halt sending the teetering towers of arcana wobbling above their decrepit owner. He paid them no mind for he knew his soulbound servants would never let any harm befall him on their own behalf. Instead, his attention was fixed firmly on what stood before him through the murky half-light of Shyish. Catching his breath, the necromancer let a small smile creep across his face. His paper-thin skin nearly tearing at the unfamiliar gesture.

“We’ve found it,” he croaked. He looked back at his thralls with an expression of uncharacteristic joy, their blank stares their only reply. “After all these months, and they said it couldn’t be done, but look where we are now! Lord Arkhan will be greatly pleased.” A dried Shyishian leechbat that had been inelegantly stuffed into the jaws of one of the skeletons came loose and fell to the ground with an unceremonious plop. “Yes, yes, that fool Albrecht will be pleased as well. I have not forgotten about that pompous, vampiric buffoon. Please Dieter, keep your composure,” he said as he bent down to retrieve the desiccated bat, stuffing it back into the skeleton’s mouth. “Now come, we musn’t tarry any longer. Who knows how much longer we have. The magics of the unmentioned are a fickle thing and are prone to not bend to the laws of Shyish.” The necromancer took off at a quickened pace, clouds of dust thrown up in his wake as he half ran, half fell down the slope of the sand dune. The two skeletal thralls followed suit, their measured gait leaving them trailing behind their master as he nearly tumbled towards his prize.

Even with the weak sun of Shyish, the shadow cast by the monolith was substantial, and it wasn’t long before the trio were swallowed by its inky blackness. Stretching up from the gray sands an stood obelisk, towering over all around it. Seemingly cut from a single slab of stone, it utterly dominated the lifeless landscape. To either side, far off in the distance, more monoliths could be spotted, stretching in an unbroken line, one every few kilometers snaking away across the dunes. Though all color seemed to be drained from the land, it stood apart, a warmer hue seemingly straining to be released from the drabness that engulfed it. The necromancer stood huddled at its base, mumbling to himself as he traced his hands across its surface.

“It’s warm to the touch,” he remarked with mild surprise, turning once again to his thralls as if expecting conversation. Quickly he returned to his half-muttered ramblings as he studied the structure once more. Peering around one side, and then the other a look of confusion settled on his face. “This should be it, yet it is not as I had expected.” The skeletons stood motionless as their master circled around the obelisk, a task that took several minutes, such was its size. Returning to where he started the wizened figure rubbed his chin thoughtfully as he eyed the enigma before him. “Klaus, retrieve the scroll for me, the one from Dread Marshall Albrecht.” With that, the skeleton carefully set one of its packs down, an action that caused several trinkets to fall from its frame. Skeletal fingers unclasped the leather satchel and began to paw through its contents. After a few moments as the necromancer looked on with growing impatience the skeleton stood upright bearing a rolled length of parchment in its hand. Snatching the proffered scroll from his thrall he unrolled it and began to mutter to himself once more. “Ah yes, this is correct,” he said, holding the scroll up before him so he could compare it to the markings carved into the stone. “Yes, exactly as it should be. See!” he exclaimed as he jammed a bony finger at the drawing on the parchment and then once again at the obelisk. The same arcane carving adorned both, surrounded by strange markings that were nonsense to any not schooled in their meaning. “Turn back now… king of land and sky… domains of those who defy… mmmhm, mmmhm, yes, just as I thought. It all checks out.”

With a speed fueled by exuberance, the necromancer turned back to his thralls and began to messily sort through his belongings. Tossing priceless heirlooms and irreplaceable artifacts aside he dove through the various pouches slung across their frames. “I know it’s here somewhere, unless you got greedy Klaus,” he said with a wry smile as he looked up at the grinning skull of his servant. When no reply was forthcoming he frowned and went back to his work. “Here it is! Just as I left it.” With an exaggerated care he pulled a cloth swaddled object from a pouch hooked onto the skeleton’s cheekbone. Carefully unwrapping it he unveiled a trinket of such artifice, that even the wan light of Shyish reflected off its golden curves. Hobbling back towards the base of the monolith, the necromancer held the artifact out before him, reciting a mantra in a long dead tongue as he did so. The skeletons dutifully retrieved his possessions from amongst the grey sands as their master continued his ritual for several hours. Finally, he fell silent, lowering the artifact in hands shaking from the strain of holding it aloft for so long. Once again, he peered around the edge of the obelisk, but when the same sight of unending grey sands and a drab sky greeted him his mouth fell agape.

“It should have worked. I, I don’t understand.” In a frustrated rage he began pacing around yelling to himself, the golden artifact gripped firmly in his hands and his thralls in tow. As he stepped around the obelisk towards the distant horizon it was as if a wave of color and light hit him all at once. In the blink of an eye the drab landscape was awash with color. The sands shone with a golden light, stretching off into a clear blue horizon and a sun that beamed with an almost unbearable heat that glowered above them. The obelisk beside him, that had moments before been a dull grey, was now made of a pale stone, its peak capped with a polished golden point. In the distance he could make out the tops of what must be truly gargantuan structures, gigantic pyramids that could be seen over even the unending kilometers of rolling dunes. As he turned around in bewilderment he found that behind him now stretched a featureless salt plain, the former grey sand dunes and ruins of Shyish gone entirely. A smile split his face, “Well, no turning back now.” Holding up the golden, skull embossed scarab brooch he exclaimed in pure joy. “Klaus, Dieter, come now, we still have much ground to cover and a swiftly diminishing amount of time if we’re to meet the Dread Marshall’s schedule,” he said as he stuffed the scarab back into one of the pouches on his thralls. “Albrecht says we are to be expected, and we wouldn’t want to leave our esteemed hosts amongst the unmentioned waiting.” With that the trio set off again, their footprints quickly disappearing in the shifting sands as they began their trek through the dunes of the Endless Deserts.

From atop the obelisk a carrion bird cawed, its head twitching as it watched the strange group disappear, gold trinkets from its headdress rattling against its exposed skull. Leaping from its perch it took flight, its desiccated wings somehow keeping it aloft as it made its way towards the distant tomb city and the one it called master.

Malign Portents Rules

That story is just the start of it as well. Today I also have the Unofficial Signs from the Ancients for your Tomb Kings in games of Malign Portents. Want to add a little desert flavor into your games, well then, this is the perfect solution. Remember, these are unofficial though, so you must get your opponent's permission to use them beforehand.

Keep an eye out here and at the Endless Deserts website for more and happy gaming within the domains of the Tomb Kings during these Times of Tribulations!

Until next time,

Tyler M.

No comments:

Post a Comment