Meanwhile, up ahead, after conferring with Urgall, Ratchet, Mirage and Shai reach the mountain’s slopes. It is almost mid-day now. They begin climbing painfully up, gaining ground steadily. They catch a glimpse of the Cat-Tamaran on the Azure’s tributary, far-off. Presently, Urgal leads them to a cliff overhanging a clearing, up on the mountain’s slopes. Below them is a narrow cave-like entrance leading down into the Mines.
ML’s notes: Astute readers will recognize this as the side entrance the characters used to gain entry to the Mines in Episode Two.
A complex arrangement of ropes and pulleys leads down into the narrow opening. Around it stands guard a squad of six Ratmen armed to the teeth. Mirage has Mental Phantasm built into him. He projects an illusion of a Panther warrior looking downward, alerting one of the Rat sentries. He raises the alarm and the Rats make ready to meet an expected attack. In the meantime, the group spikes the end of a coil of rope and lowers it down to the Rats. They look down once more and only three Rat guards remains. Then, Ratchet sends out another illusion – of Panther warriors fleeing in dismay. Urgall then climbs downward. So sudden was his descent that he lands forcefully upon two of the guards, effectively knocking them out. Shai follows close behind.
At this moment, a muffled crump like thunder fills the air and explosions begin to shake the mountainside. The guns of the Cat-Tamaran are blasting away at the Rats’ defenses. It now appears that Krat has decided to move up his attack without waiting for the promised diversion. The Rats weapon emplacements now begin to fire back.
Meanwhile, back at the main group, the rest of the party hears the exchange of fire which only means that Krat’s main offensive is on.
Back at the mountain, Urgall confronts the remaining Rat sentry near the cave entrance. Shai raises his crossbow but neatly and decisively brings it down on Urgall’s skull, effectively knocking him unconscious. He then speaks calmly to the surprised Rat and hands it his crossbow.
“We surrender if you like. We were forced by the cats to fight for them, yet we bear them no loyalty. We hate them as you hate them. We halted the surprise attack of the panthers you witnessed a while ago. We wish to join you and take revenge on the Cats. No one has a right to treat humans this way. We’ll speak to your leader if you wish.”
ML’s note: Not for nothing was Justin made the group’s de facto diplomat. This got me by surprise too but it seemed that Henry and Justin were planning to have the group switch allegiances and bite the cats back. Or was this a ploy to play both sides against each other? I have yet to find out…
By now, the fight is on and from their vantage point, Shai, Ratchet and Mirage could see Krat’s floating fortress sailing implacably closer with guns blazing. Soon, the assault boats will be launched and the storming will begin. Harried Rats are hurrying to and fro- and suspicious glances are being thrown at the characters. Presently, the approaching Rats start whispering something that sounds like a name of sorts.
“Ratsputin. Ratsputin's coming up!”
Before them comes a curious Rat. He is squat, small for a mutant of his kind but his eyes shine ferally with cunning and intelligence. He wears soft maroon-chased robes with arcane symbols, some of which come from the Mikih, Grandfather of Rats. Above his flaring cup-like ears is a headband of arcane, unsmeltable metal studded with equally strange lights and crystals. He sports a tool belt upon which hangs tools, weapons and other devices.
ML’s note: You may have guessed it but Ratsputin is no other than Brutorz Bill’s NPC here created for this game. Ratsputin now walks and talks in the wastelands of the World Under A Blood Red Sky.
Ratsputin confers with the sentry, whiskers twitching while he thoughtfully chews his tail. He eyes the characters curiously and questions Shai who replies just as swiftly and earnestly. He notices that Ratchet is eyeing his toolbelt with frank curiosity.
Ratsputin speaks swiftly after seeming to consider the matter for a moment.
“Yes, we need your services. Come, you shall fight alongside and share in the loot we shall win. Make haste and call out the rest of your band – we need every swinging tail in the fight that’s coming. I shall send two of my Rats to escort you, but return soon!”
Then, he swiftly disappears into the chaos of the Rat’s encampment, calling out orders and barking instructions. Even the biggest, most feral of the mutants appear to jump to do his bidding.
Accompanied by Ratsputin’s troopers, Ratchet, Mirage and Shai rush back to the rest of the party who are, at that moment, following in their footsteps and heading straight to the Rats’ lair. They link up eventually and bring everyone back up to spec on what the situation is. As of now, they prefer the Rats to be their official allies. Not far away, the thunder of the guns rings loud in the afternoon stillness.
All this does not stop Kyoshi from using the words of power on Link Seyz to check their efficacy. He then draws on his previous knowledge of tech arcane and is delighted to see his synthetic companion struggle to gain control of his movements and resisting various override protocols. River joins in once more arousing the already unstable Android to fury.
He yells “Witch!” at the top of his lungs and lands a fist blow at her, knocking her unconscious. The words of power invoked by Matt’s mutant and Plissken appear to be not as efficacious this time around.
All of a sudden, there is a deep throbbing sound in the air and a shadow passes above the group. As they look up, they behold a large ovoid form that appears to be of smooth angles and windows amidst shimmering metal. Some recognize it as a mate to the ancient powered contrivances of the Chief Resident of Sanly Bowitts, save that this one appears to be a type of sky-boat. Their Rat guides appear unsurprised as the sky-boat slowly circles and lands in the grass.
A small hatch appears on the side from which Ratsputin leans out, calling to them urgently.
“Change of p-plan,” he squeaks, whiskers a-twitch. “I was out surveying our defenses. It seems we really need you all to hold back the C-cats. They’re advancing faster than we expected possible.”
With that, the party reluctantly boards the sky-boat. They are astounded to see how well-kept it looks from the inside, with its arcane machinery and controls.
“Hang on!” mutters Ratsputin, as the sky-boat rises swiftly from the ground.
From one of the portholes, Putanesca sees the mountain looming close. Down at the river, the Cat-Tamaran has moved into position to be able to block off the entrance to the Mine. Assault boats have begun to hit the riverbanks. A firefight of intense ferocity has broken out before the Mine. The Panthers’ assault is in full swing. Sounds of combat are heard above the humming of the boat’s drive.
The sky-boat rises to the top of the mountain. Where they expected the peaks to be turns out to be a vast circular hollow in the rock, much like the top of an extinct volcano. Without delay, the sky-boat begins to descend into the darkness.
ML’s afterword: I really wonder what the future has in store for our game. I can’t help but laugh when I heard Matt evilly whisper to Nikos that they’ll be trying to “restore” the Androids to their “factory settings". Maybe they just spent too much time mucking around with their Nokia cell phones.
Traveller – Julia Ecklar
12 hours ago