Getting Ahead, Chapter Two
"The Long and Short of It"
A Flintloque Scenario by Tony Harwood
Adapted from an Image by Pete Barfield
Having captured one of the Star Wraith's headless abominations, the Elven former Commisariat Margahrah sets about uncovering the mystery of exactly how they can exist in this Flintloque scenario set in the frozen Witchlands.
Halloween 2011 saw the publication of a short story and the first of three linked scenarios written by me, collectively titled 'Getting Ahead'. This is the second installment, 'The Long and Short of It.".
You can read the full introductory fiction and the first scenario here.
I also wrote an article on how I created these abominiations for use in your games of Flintloque, it can be read here.
It had been a vicious fight. Taking a headless zombie without blowing or hacking it to bits had had a terrible toll on his men and, he admitted, to himself as well. There was something about them, something making them much worse to face than ordinary Undead. Buon-Partee, when had his mind started categorising the damned infernal abominations from the frozen North as normal. They had travelled for several hours making sure to shake off any possible scouts and after assigning some Elves as pickets Margahrah stepped into his field tent and set about documenting everything he could about the abomination. He had it laid it out as if it were evidence in a case back from before the war began. He withdrew the tools of his old trade, his investigation wallet, and set about the dark task with a deftness of hand and attention to detail that would have led to a different career if he had not been drawn to mysteries like a moth to a flame from an early age.
The creature was inert. He could think of no other way to describe it. It simply did not function any longer. It had not reverted to a standard corpse, this had been shown by the fact it had not frozen during the night. However, it no longer demonstrated that sign of unlife present in all of the resurrected corpses from the Witchlands. In fact, barring its missing head, it had moved like all the other Undead as they had fought back at the ruined abbey. Margahrah wondered why that may be. He stopped his mind following that path. He would come back to it. He continued his evaluation, he needed to know more about these headless abominations.
The uniform was typical of that which the Ferach had faced since the flight from Moskova. Dark blue with red collars and cuffs. Why re-dress them at all. Surely one could send Undead against the enemy in any colours. The answer came as soon as the thought occured. Psychology. A hundred times more effective than muskets. That first sight of a battalion cresting a hill could make inexperienced troops turn and flee. The royal Ferach blue was itself used for that very purpose. He also noted the differences and individuality found across all examined Undead uniforms. Slight differences, matching between members ofthe same unit but differing across those faced across the frozen continent. Perhaps these markings showed some kind of familial allegiance. Yes, he referred to his journal, that would explain the different crests on the buttons that had been retrieved. A caste system perhaps, were the families themselves like the nations of Urop. Again he focused, aware he was drifting away from his current goal.
He finally turned his attention to the ominously absent head. He saw immediately that it had not been severed, that much was obvious. Even Margahrah, hundreds of miles away from the rearguard, had gotten used to the practice of decapitation of not only compatriots but of any corpses discovered along the way and knew the signs. No, here the skin was smooth and slightly blackened. Perhaps a more delicate operation, something involving fire perhaps? He leaned in close and caught a strange sweet smell, a cloying musk. He knew it from somewhere but where. He tentatively probed the skin with his pencil and... He looked up sharply glancing around the tent, surely a candle must have flickered. But the tent flaps were securely fastened. There was no breeze and none of the candles were guttering. He leaned in closer, bringing his face nearer to the grey flesh. There it was again, there was no mistaking it, something had moved under the skin.
He retrieved his art knife from his investigation wallet and returned to the creature afore him. He followed what looked to be a flap of skin up from collarbone to where the head should be and gently lifted it. There, again, something moved. What was that... He lifted the flap an inch more, perhaps two and his eyes opened wide as saw the edge of a small but perfectly formed ashen Elven face looking up him, a glazed look of sorrow and madness in its eyes.
Margahrah composed himself, his mind working furiously. It had somehow been reduced in size but not removed, an old thought, information filed away from a case before the war, attempted to push itself to the front of Margahrah’s mind. As he lifted more of the skin he caught another smell of that pungent musky odour, much stronger than before. It was pipeweed. Pipeweed from the Windy Isles... Halflings. As if unlocking a stone mechanism on an ancient Elven tomb, suddenly many separate workings within his mind clicked and fell into place.
Seconds later Margahrah stormed out of his tent, calling aloud, “They're not headless Petre! Wake the Elves, we have no time to lose!”.
The aged Halfling, Posco Brockhouse thought, not for the first time, how in the name of Ras Gaffer had it come to this. Despair threatened to take his sanity, soon the Vampyre would return.
Deserting and bringing his unit North had seemed like such a wonderful idea. The dark presence at the edge of his senses had seen to that. Weeks of manipulation and suggestion had led the once proud officer of a unit of Albion H.E.V.C. to abandon everything and march North. Persuading his lads had been easy, they were all young, recently arrived from Jamcakey. Resplendent in their bright red uniforms. Their minds were mostly preoccupied with the girls back home they would regale with stories upon their return. It was easy to convince them they were on a secret mission and only Posco himself knew their orders. They had followed proudly, bright young things, the best the Windy Isles had to offer.
They were all dead now.
The creatures, when they came, had only wanted Posco. His body had not moved no matter how much he had willed it. He had been forced to watch as the three Gargoyles had torn the young Halflings apart, rending them into nothing more than memories and meat.
That had just been the start of things, the creatures had led Posco to an abandoned farm and there, the Vampyre set to work on unlocking his mind. There they uncovered things Posco himself had fought long and hard to forget. Now his memories of those days flowed through his mind, unbidden, unfettered though the workings of the Vampyre.
Long before the war Posco had been a shaman. Times were different then, all sorts of strange creatures had come to the shores of the Windy Isles looking to expand their territories. Everyone had tried taking Posco’s home; Elves, Men, Dwarves to name but a few. Some had tried using words and others tried using force. This was long before the Dark Elves had eventually taken control. Long before Bilbo Nesta Marley brought Rasgafferianism to all enlightened Halflings. They had needed a way to fight the strangers from across the sea, and it had been such a small step to find ways within the history of their Goblin tribal allies of how to cause fear in such creatures. Many Halflings had turned to the darker arts, giving themselves to the rituals that would free their lands. Dark things were learnt and many darker acts performed. One of the more successful of these was shrinking the heads of living captives. Posco did not know how the Vampyre knew any of this. Perhaps she had once visited the Windy Isles, Necromantic ships crewed with Undead had been sighted from time to time. Perhaps she was an Elf that had been given the ‘gift the blood thirst’ as they called it. It didn’t matter how. The Vampyre knew.
Posco coughed and looked around the room. The pipeweed smoke was starting to rise, his memories were blurring. Soon he would be called upon to create more of those damned creatures. His mind was slowly disassociating itself, the old rituals coming back, his body started to pulsate, a rhythm learnt so many years ago at the feet of dark Gods. The Vampyre had returned, she had six terrified Elves with him. Almost as if watching from above Posco saw himself start to dance, entwining the smoke around his arms, the patterns coalescing into languages long forgotten. Each pulse of his his body gaining more and more speed, the smoke, the music, the noise.
Posco could not hold onto his thoughts, he was an instrument of something ancient, something from beyond that was not meant to be.
Slowly the first Elf’s flesh began to tighten and he began to scream...
Note: DITS below refers to 5026 Flintloque: Death in the Snow.
Margahrah’s Elves – Margahrah himself is detailed below. Margahrah is accompanied by the same unit as in Chapter One. The dead should be replaced and experience awarded as per the normal rules (DITS, p.43). Any dead replaced in this way represent stragglers from other units lost in the Witchlands.
Acting Captain Margahrah, formerly of the Commissariat Dept. of Lyonesse
Veteran Ferach Militia
Margahrah carries an Exquisite Quality Sword given to him by none other than the Emperor himself and a pair of hand engraved Ferach Elf Duelling Pistols.
Margahrah saw almost everything as a member of the commissariat back in Lyonesse and as a result is not fazed by most things and benefits from the ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’ trait (DITS, p.53). As a non commissioned officer unknown to most Elves in the Witchlands campaign he still suffers from the ‘Raised from the Ranks’ flaw (DITS, p.52).
The Undead - Generate a section of Undead using the normal creation rules (DITS, p.42) Alternatively use the example section (DITS, p.59). Either way, all of the Fresh Zombies are Headless, see the special rules section below. You must include the female Vampyre detailed below and one Liche, the rest must be Zombies / Skeletons. As the ritual progresses more headless Zombies may enter play, again see the special rules below. The Undead also have two Regular Gargoyles, each with the special skill Envelope and the trait Chalky Blood (DITS, p.60).
Veteran Vampyre Light Troop
Lodemai carries an Exquisite Quality Sword that is ornately detailed and encrusted with dark emeralds.
Lodemai has been around for a considerable amount of time and has acquired a few skills along the way. She has both the Vampyric Lunge and Vampyric Reaction skills. She also has the trait Vampyric Disdain.
Lodemai’s psychological state is Artistic (DITS, p.67)
Lodemai also has Blood Magicke. She has the spells Mesmerism, Mist Form and Phantom of the Skies (DITS, p.79). However the Mesmerism is already in effect on Posco (2 turns remaining - see special rules below), she will also keep Phantom in the Skies and Mist Form as a means of escape.
Posco Brockhouse - Posco is a Veteran Halfling Light Troop. Statistics for Halflings can be found in the Flintloque Racial Table which is available as a free download from the Flintloque 3rd Edition Files section of the Notables Yahoo group. See the special rules for Posco below.
Margahrah - Having made the connection between the Halflings (mentioned in the first chapter) and the horror of the ‘Headless’ Undead, has been able to use the reports of their last known location along with other incongruities in the reports to track down the location of the ritual. Margahrah has a certain amount of discretion afforded him by his previous experience serving the Emperor. He must stop the menace of the Headless Undead, whether he does this by capturing or killing the Halfling shaman is up to the Elven player, role-playing is encouraged.
The Undead must prevent the Elves from achieving their goal. If Posco is killed or escapes off the board Lodemai will attempt to flee using Phantom in the Skies as a distraction then Mist Form to sink into the ground and escape. If Posco is captured or controlled by the Elven player she will do everything in her power to end the Halfling’s life. Posco is her plaything, not anyone else’s. again, as with the Elves, role-playing is encouraged.
Map and Set Up
This scenario should be setup on a 2’ by 4’ skirmish table. Place two medium sized buildings (ideally ones with internal detail, otherwise use floorplans for them) on the centre of each 2’ by 2’ area. Use any other terrain you have to make a more realistic playing area with several items of cover i.e. wood piles, trees, fences etc
Mahgahrah and his Elves can be placed on any table edge.
The Undead can start anywhere on the table. Any Undead that start in the buildings are noted down and not declared until discovered by the Elves. The Undead player can, within the normal activation rules, activate a previously hidden Undead during his turn. It then remains in play.
A room in one of the buildings should be secretly chosen and written down. This is where the dark ritual is taking place. See the special rules below.
The Ritual: The room in which the ritual is taking place is full of pipeweed smoke and as such visibility is limited. If you have access to Grapeshotte the room is considered to be in Low Light. Every turn one of the six Elves Lodemai brought to Posco becomes a fully controlled Freash ‘Headless’ Zombie. The transformation occurs at the start of every turn from turn one. Note that if the Undead player is using the subterfuge rules above and not declaring locations these Zombies are considered to be static in the room of the ritual.
Posco: For the first four turns of the game Posco is under the influence of Lodemai’s Mesmerism and all the standard rules apply. After this however there is an increasing chance he will shake off the effects of the smoke. Roll 1D10 each turn with a modifier of +1 for each turn (so +1 in turn 4, +2 in turn 5 etc). If the roll is 10 or more then control of Posco passes to the Elven player. What the Elven player does with this control is up to them.
Headless Zombies: Margahrah, his detailed investigation now complete, is no longer affected by the sight of the Headless Zombies. His Elves however are a much more superstitious lot. Because of this, as in chapter one, the first time each Elf comes within 15cm of a Headless Zombie they must roll D5 and add that many Shaken tokens to their figure modified by the numbers below.
Within 5cm of Section Leader -2
Within 15cm of Section Leader -1
In this scenario figures may have more than one Shaken Token, they only remove one when instructed to do so in the rules (see Morale Check, DITS, p.71). This may mean they still have more left affecting them the following turn.
If you have access to the Grapeshotte rulebook the following two optional rules can be used:
Foul Weather (Grapeshotte, p.21): Roll 1D10 before play begins, on a 1-5 there is no adverse weather. On a roll of 6-8 it is Windy for the scenario, on a roll of 9 it is Snowing and on a roll of 10 there is a Blizzard. All characters in play are counted as having a Wrapped Lock.
Night Fighting (Grapeshotte, p.21): Margahrah and his detachment of Elves have arrived at the abandoned farm just before dawn. Knowing that waiting could unleash Buon-Partee only knows how many ‘Headless’ Undead upon the world, he leads his Elves in without delay. As a result this scenario should be played using the ‘Night Fighting’ rules.
The whole concept for the ‘Getting Ahead’ mini-campaign came out of an idea of mine for a short story – a White Liar tale actually, which just grew and grew.
I initially saw this second scenario as a simple battle where Margahrah had to capture or kill the Halfling but I wanted to tie in elements from elsewhere in the Flintloque background and touch upon Cthulhu mythos. Craig Andrews, the Editor of this website and owner of Orcs in the Webbe helped flesh it out into the story and subsequent scenario you see above.
I’d like to thank Danny O’Hara for originally coming up with the Windy Idles in his Dreadloque campaign setting which you can read in full over on Orcs in the Webbe here.
Getting Ahead - Chapter Three: “The Hunt”
Did Lodemai escape? What happened to the third Gargoyle? What is the significance of the strange symbol on the Headless Undead’s buttons?
This article was originally published on Alternative Armies' content portal, Barking Irons, and is reproduced here with permission.