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Battle Report: A Bad Contract

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The first rays of sunrise filter through the slats of the boards across the grimy window. How long have I been in this place? I watch the motes of dust drift by, almost peacefully, as I try to stop the incessant pounding in my head. After a few moments, the throbbing dulls, and my hand rises to my face to rub the sleep from my button eyes.

Wait. Button eyes.

What the hell?

All attention to the pain in my head is gone as I leap to my feet. My wooden peg feet. I hold my hand before my eyes for a moment, then survey the rest of my form. Crude stitches and rusty pins hold my soft body together. I can feel the weight of two weapons at my back. Well, at least THAT part’s right, I think to myself, and turn my attention to figuring out where the hell I am.

I spin in a slow circle to take in my surroundings. I am standing on a table amongst soiled scraps of fabric and piles of moldy stuffing, and a roach that seems just as surprised to see me rise as I am. I watch it scurry away across the limp, lifeless forms of other effigies. The sun has risen just enough to reveal Zoraida’s shack in all its glorious squalor.

Ahhh, Zoraida. You bitch.

And in a rush, it all comes back to me. The message from a stranger with the promise of payment. The contract signed in the shadowy corner of an establishment of ill repute. The Arcanist target Marcus. It should have been an easy enough assignment. The man was half beast as it was. All I had to do was bait him like a starving lion, wait for the reckless charge, and finish the job. And the payment was sweet beyond belief. I should have known.. Then the battle in the woods, just outside town. Marcus was there, as my employer had promised, experimenting on some thing.. some abomination, an unnatural cross between mole and man. My twin and I were circling our prey, when we had heard the cackle of an old woman from the trees above. Then a flash of green. Then dark.

Now here.

By now, it's light enough to see most of the shack. I wonder if Marcus is here somewhere as well. Through the gloom, I can just make out the faraway shape of a workbench not unlike the one I am standing on, and as if in answer to my unasked question, the sound of a half-human, half-bestial roar chills me to the core of my stuffing. Yes, Marcus is definitely here. And he’s angry.

This should be easy.

Beside Marcus, a small fragment of a soulstone begins to glow blue. I turn and see a similar fragment on my own workbench, only this one’s the color of amber. I scramble over to it and tentatively place my hands on the gem. Immediately, a sulfurous vapor trickles through my fingers and hovers above a crude representation of what must be Alyce. It pours into her and I see the figure slowly rise to its feet.

“It’s good to see you, Alyce,” I say, smirking. “Sorry to do this to you.”

I get no answer from the Alyce puppet beyond a cold stare from her screw-eye. It’s for the best, then, that I’ve only animated a representation of her; not yanked her from her real body. I look across at the other workbench and see that Marcus has done the same, raising a representation of one of his moleman aberrations with the soulstone fragment on his own bench. I signal to Alyce with a nod that it’s time, and she leaps to the offensive, hopping deftly off the side of the bench and landing with a soft thump and a large cloud of dust. Immediately she stalks toward Marcus, rusty joints faintly squeaking.

As Alyce makes her way across the floor, the Moleman moves to intervene. I quickly raise a Witchling Stalker puppet and send it after her for reinforcement. It jitters and shakes as it rattles off behind her, leaving behind the faint aroma of espresso. Marcus responds with a Guild Hound followed by what appears to be a crude representation of a Razorspine Rattler. Deadly creatures in the real world, this one looks to be even more so, its tail pulsing with electricity that powers the saw blade on its head. To my right I spot a workbench with a pulsing white crystal on top. I raise a Pig and send it squealing and sprinting to scout out what’s behind the pile of detritus on the way.

Alyce is finally in range to strike. She raises her gun, levels it at the Moleman and fires, hitting it square in the stitches. It makes a dive for the pile of debris to its left, burrowing frantically in an attempt to hide. The Witchling Stalker has caught up, though, and rejuvenates Alyce with a touch. She finds the energy to raise her gun again, and with a lucky shot, finishes off the Moleman effortlessly.

My momentary triumph is cut short though as I hear the squeal of the poor Pig I sent off to scout. Well, at least I know that the right side isn’t safe any longer. I survey the battlefield. There are the scraps of the Moleman, being transported back to Marcus’s bench by faceless little dolls. A similar group approaches me to return the scraps of my ill-fated Pig scout. They drop a small pile of fabric that looks suspiciously like bacon, and leave bowing backwards. Obsequious puppets… Right. Ok. Maybe I can use these later. I turn my attention back to the battlefield. There is the Razorspine Rattler, hissing menacingly at Alyce, with the Witchling Stalker looking about to shudder itself to pieces directly behind her. I catch a glimpse of the Guild Hound heading to my left toward another workbench in the distance.

And then I see it. The workbench to my right, the one that I had sent the Pig to scout. It had a white soulstone on it. Only now, it’s glowing blue, like the crystal on Marcus’s bench. What a clever little weasel he has turned out to be. While my attention was fixed on the battle in the center of the shack, he raised another ally without my noticing. Squinting, I try to catch a glimpse of the puppet that has claimed the workbench, but it looks as empty as ever. If I had teeth to grit, I would be grinding them in frustration right now. Instead, I stomp my peg foot and raise two Ronin to serve as guards. They obediently take up positions to the left and right of my workbench base.

Alyce raises her pistol again, taking aim at the Razorspine Rattler. Before she can squeeze the trigger, it whips its tail around and hits her with an electric shock so strong, I can feel my threads buzzing with the residual energy in the air. She’s down, but the creepy little clean-up crew doesn’t move in. Just incapacitated then. Good. However, Alyce’s fall has left the Witchling Stalker open for attack. Not so good. His way blocked by her unconscious body, he decides instead to move to the left and around the pile of debris. It’s too late when I realize the Guild Hound is already there. I yell out a warning, but events have already been set in motion.

One bite tears off one of the Witchling Stalker’s legs. The next tears the mask off his face, spilling coffee beans across the wooden floor. The clean-up crew does move in this time. Marcus’s savage laugh cuts deep. I send one of my Ronin forward as I see him hop off the bench, full of confidence, landing deftly as a cat on the splintered floorboards.

Well, so much for that plan.

My other Ronin guard rushes forward to meet Marcus, but she stops almost immediately. And then I see it. The slimy, lizard-like form of a Silurid, perfectly rendered in puppet form. THAT’S who activated the workbench. The Silurid lashes out, striking at the Ronin. She deftly maneuvers out of the way, buying precious time for my first Ronin to slide a step around the two. I feel a resonant hum between myself and the two Ronin. I take a step forward, off the workbench, landing on the floor. I concentrate, feel our forms melding, my consciousness mingling with hers, and then snapping free. I’ve switched places with the Ronin stalking towards Marcus. With a low chuckle, I draw my swords.

This is going to be so easy.

The next few moments unfold in a blur. My two Ronin team up to keep the Silurid busy. The Guild Hound makes a move toward me. I dispatch it easily. Alyce manages to shake off the paralysis and take a few steps back, but the Rattler follows her. Alyce, exhausted, raises her claw with the last of her energy. I watch as the Razorspine Rattler is disassembled, but I can see from all the way across the room that she’s popped some stitches. The effort has left her spent.

It won’t go to waste.

Marcus moves forward. A blast of fire flows outward around him. I see Alyce drop to the floor as her skirt catches, trying desperately to put out the flames. Marcus lets out an inhuman roar and I see the Silurid roar almost in unison – pins and needles spraying from his soggy stuffing. One of the Ronin falls in a lifeless heap, leaving the other to occupy the Silurid alone. I can see that Marcus is pleased with the damage he’s managed to cause, but what he doesn’t realize is that he’s right where I want him.

It’s time.

I sprint forward, feeling the power of fate rushing into me. I raise my swords, watching them pulse with a faint red glow. Marcus raises his staff, putting up a stalwart defense, but my first strike breaks it cleanly in half. The second strike just barely misses. In a panic, Marcus staggers backwards, but I muster the strength to raise my pistol. The shot rings true, bursting his stitches and sending stuffing flying in every direction. But the exertion has cost me dearly. I watch as the puppets that Marcus animated fall to the floor, once again lifeless. I sit, propping myself against a pile of debris, and take a moment to relax and regain my strength.

I wake to tuneless humming and the sound of halting footsteps. I can see the glow of embers in the fireplace. On the hearth, I see the effigy of Marcus. Whole. I feel the claws of the hag close around me. She lifts me from the floor, and with a needle, deftly stitches up my wounds with her craggy hands and shining needle.

“There, there, dearie. Fate has other plans for you, my sweet,” she says with a cackle. I can feel my strength returning as she sets me back on the workbench. “ Play nice this time.”

It is night outside, but as she opens the door to leave the shack, moonlight spills through the doorway. In that moment, I spot a puppet of Seamus on the other workbench. As the door closes, the soulstone fragment on the other bench begins to glow green.

Ahhh, Zoraida. You bitch.

Edited by LaFemmeGeekita
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Wow... original and well executed =]

Unfortunately, I'm confident you won't win due to a blatent disregard for the rules - the Beastmaster never loses - please post your fiction in the Writing Room :D

On a serious note though I love what you did with the Masters and the context of the battle, wouldn't blame Wyrd for adopting it as canon.

Good luck anyways =]

Edited by ThePandaDirector
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Best battle report I've ever read. Great job LFG! Reminds me of how Pokey Vic beat my Marcus at GenCon. I would really like to make it to Adepticon, but my son's friend is getting married that weekend so I don't think I will make it this year. I would like to do another con beside GenCon this year.

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That was in my final game at GenCon. I ended up 2-1 that tournament. I got the stuffing beat out of me by a very good player who ended up 2-0-1. I used Marcus most of the time and won my share of games. I also a Rattler in one three-player game to shut down Vic with Tazed! Six activates before a seven. :)

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Thanks guys! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

And Panda, must just be our Marcus that's defective then. We're going to trade him in for a new one :happypuppet1

"defective" indeed! As soon as i get this leg sewn back on, and my staff glued back together and put out this fire, I'll show you!

(mutter, mutter) getting all cocky because I haven't actually beaten her in a game yet... (mutter mutter)

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