Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Aeon Flixx: Ambronnax Arises!

Aeon Flixx’s robes danced crazily around her, alternately clinging tight to her limbs and whipping out in the wind in some crazy rhythm of their own.

The Chronomancer braced herself against the rushing air, pushing herself onwards and forcing herself to focus past the visions that swirled around her.

Her parents, lost and arguing over a holo-map during a not-so-enjoyable vacation; that heady night at the university fresher’s ball; her desperate flight to the time capsule as the lab complex collapsed around her; playing with her favourite dolls in the nursery; that echoing laughter as the demon broke through into her reality…

Gritting her teeth, she turned to her struggling companions and urged them onwards.

“Nearly there!” she yelled, her voice at once the confident shout of a young woman, the rheumatic croak of an old lady and the burbling giggle of a child.

The rushing air funnelled them further into the ruined temple complex, before suddenly abating – almost dropping them at the edge of a courtyard. A crude altar squatted in the middle of the space, seemingly soaking up the chaos and emanating a brooding, oppressive calm.

“Here,” Aeon forced herself to speak. “It happens here… and now…”

With the warbands reunited it was time to play the third and final act in this saga. The table was laid and treasures placed. We had two turns to claim what we could and perhaps even discover the demon’s true name (and thus forge a pact with it) before Ambronnax manifested itself to feed…

Shazzam!’s warband took to one side of the table. They had access to both Amulets of Constancy, which made the wearers immune to the effects that the demon produced.

Aeon’s warband split into three on the edge opposite. The middle section, led by the Chronomancer herself, headed for the ruin in front of them, up which the demon hunter and an archer would climb to cover the courtyard below them. The other two sections began advancing along the flanks.

The illusionist’s warriors marched forwards to defeat one of the two Failing Wretches that guarded the central altar, also grabbing the nearest treasure.

To make sure they didn’t get too comfortable, Aeon cast a wizard’s eye behind them. She would need all the help she could get, as Giles would win the majority of the initiative rolls during the game.

The demon hunter lived up to her calling by blasting away the second Failing Wretch (her pistol counted as a crossbow). Nearby one of Aeon’s thieves fished out a treasure token atop the ruins.

However in this scenario, any Failing Wretch that was destroyed would spawn a fresh one at a random board edge. One such creature duly appeared behind Shazzam’s warband.

It was the end of the second turn. Aeon’s band had arranged their firing line in the centre, while advancing carefully along both flanks. Suddenly the air, and indeed reality itself was sundered open and the great demon Ambronnax crawled into the universe!

The Illusionist’s warriors grabbed the central treasure, containing the demon’s true name, and quickly got out of the way. If Shazzam survived the game he would be able to call upon the thing for favours if he were so minded.

However first he had to contend with the Failing Wretch lurking behind him. Thankfully, with the aid of his archer, he was able to do just that.

Aeon ordered her soldiers forwards to attack the great demon. All thoughts of treasure were lost as she sought to destroy the beast and thus prevent the apocalypse it would unleash in her timeline. However fighting Ambronnax without the protection of the amulets is no easy thing, as the warhound soon discovered.

On the left flank, the illusionist’s apprentice had climbed up to claim more treasure, which one of Aeon’s thieves had had his eye on. He wasn’t going to give it up without a fight, but in the end the apprentice and his bodyguard prevailed.

After being led astray by some fool’s gold, another thug joined in with the attack against Ambronnax. It was tough going, for the demon emanated time decay, thus reducing everyone not wearing an amulet and within 12” to a single action.

Supported by his comrades, Grey Leopard the captain summoned up all his reserves, swung his spectral blade and launched a furious attack, giving him a significant fight bonus. However the Dice Gods frowned upon the action and he failed, falling under the demon’s lashing tentacles.

The demon hunter was wounded, failing despite his skills (ignore the wording on the marker). Next to fall was one of the thugs, leaving his colleague to face the demon unsupported. Would Shazzam’s men join in to help defeat this great evil? No, they were too busy counting their loot.

The demon hunter fell, leaving the thug alone with the beast. Aeon and Brunhilde risked firing off an elemental bolt each. Luckily both shots missed the thug and struck home, weakening, but not killing the creature. The thug muttered one last prayer and swung his axe. I rolled the die…

…and got a 20! I kid you not: the lowly thug critted Ambronnax! The monster had formidable stats, but thanks to the elemental bolts, this strike was enough to defeat it. The thug climbed onto the altar and howled in triumph.

Well, what a game! Playing the narrative, rather than for points, I was determined to destroy the demon at the expense of getting treasure and it played out beautifully, rounding the game off with a heroic critical hit. By gaining the demon’s true name, technically this was a win for Giles – let’s hope that he’s read Frostgrave: Second Thoughts - but the moral victory was mine and tasted much sweeter.
The victorious thug was hoisted upon the survivors shoulders as the warband tumbled back into base. Backs were slapped and wounds were tended to as the warriors vocally composed new sagas for themselves.

Away from the celebrations, Aeon sat in her armchair, drumming her fingers impatiently on the arm rests.

Why hadn’t she returned to her own time? The demon’s defeat would echo far up the timeline – surely it wouldn’t be strong enough to break through anymore? Had she won or not?

“Alas, no…”

The Chronomancer startled as a robed figure appeared before her.

“Mother Synchronous!? This is an honour!”

The figure chuckled. “There is little honour left in your time I think – things that I have no knowledge of: ‘autocars’ and ‘datanets’ have seen to that I’m led to believe.”

“So you’ve seen the future. Have I done it? Are they safe?”

“Always straight to the point – ever since the Sisterhood took you in…” Mother Synchronous sighed. “That is why I have projected myself here. The skryers are… uncertain…”

“Uncertain? Either I’ve stopped the incursion or not!”

“Ah. This ‘incursion’ may have been halted or your actions may have facilitated it. Or perhaps in it’s place, another one will come…”

“So I’ve changed one outcome, only to create another?”

“Indeed.” The figure began to fade. “Alas such is the time traveller’s lot. The skryers believe the best outcome is to face another demon. It goes by the name of Tiszirain…”

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