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The (Solo) Adventures of Solomon Kane

The (Solo) Adventures of Solomon Kane

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Project Blog by applemak Cult of Games Member

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About the Project

Know ye all men of pure hearts that great evil stalks this land. Beware of soft-spoken words that beguile and confound your senses. Darkness prevails if good men seek the comfort of an easy life and fail in their courage to confront the Dark. My name is Solomon Kane and I am a man of pure heart and high Virtue. The Dark is mine enemy, and these tales are my struggle to overcome the evil that stalks this land like a tiger after its prey. Listen, learn, and prepare thyself to fight!

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The Witchfinder General: Conclusion

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Solomon Kane completes his testimony against the Witchfinder General and the mood of the crowd changes tangibly.

“This is a heretic bearing false witness”, splutters Hopkins desperately. “If you believe this liar, you’re doing the Devil’s work!”

“Get ‘I’m”, shouts someone from the crowd, and as one they surge forward. The Witchfnder’s guards are pummeled and kicked, and beat a hasty retreat. Hopkins draws his sword and slashes at a villager lunging for him, but the blow is deflected by Solomon Kane’s blade. the Roundheads and the magistrate’s guards push through the throng and seize Hopkins.

“What shall we do with him?” the magistrate asks Kane.

Kane turns to Thomas, “Well?”

“My Jessica was ducked in the pond by this monster, I say we give him a taste of his own medicine”.

The verdict is popular and a protesting Hopkins is dragged to the pond and ducked below the surface thrice. His sodden, semi-sensate body is hauled from the water and dumped at the county border. Kane moves on to his next adventure, where some weeks later the news reaches him that the Witchfinder General had died from a flux of the lungs, likely brought about by his ducking. Justice has been served.

New adventures await our indomitable Puritan.

Chapter 9

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In the centre of Manningtree, Matthew Hopkins has gathered a crowd to hear him speak. Surrounded by his guards, he proceeds to denounce Solomon Kane and the Roundheads.

“A false Puritan has entered thy midst, friends. Let not this charlatan, this devil in the guise of the faithful sway you from the path of righteousness. This county is rife with witchcraft and the machinations of Lucifer, and at the centre of it all is the accursed Solomon Kane and his Roundhead allies. Be not deceived that these soldiers represent the will of the Parliamentary army. Why, liver Cromwell himself is a good Puritan man, and would regard this scum as rogues and heretics, were he aware of how they abuse there office.

:And here they come now, the Devil’s Troupe, come to cloud they better judgement with their lies. Pray with me good people, pray for courage to stand with me against evil.”

And sure enough, Solomon Kane approaches the square accompanied by Thomas Downes and his Roundheads, the magistrate and such villagers who dare oppose the Witchfinder General.

Well, I may have got this slightly wrong as there is a Talk option with Hopkins, so maximum Compassion (which I have) together with the bonus from the Virtue, Providence, should be enough to get the higher level required which is 12+. We will see.

These two cards will influence the outcome. This is a combination of story and scene in that Kane needs to talk to Hopkins, but will be aided by villagers in the same space. These will move towards him each turn. However, the random variable on the other card might start to remove Light tokens. Not sure how this will goThese two cards will influence the outcome. This is a combination of story and scene in that Kane needs to talk to Hopkins, but will be aided by villagers in the same space. These will move towards him each turn. However, the random variable on the other card might start to remove Light tokens. Not sure how this will go

Kane speaks with the villagers and asks them if they have any reason to think any of these women had anything to do with witchcraft before the accusations.

He feels a doubt rising among those who had seemingly pledged their allegiance to Hopkins. In return, the Witchfinder General begins to look abut him with growing alarms as he sees the crowd being swayed by Kane’s declarations.

The more Kane speaks the more the crowd grow restless and turn their ire against this false Puritan, the man who condemned their friends and created such a fear in the village.

 

Chapter 8

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This is another Story chapter where the objective is to “Light Solomon’s path”. We are fortunate in that due to the major success in the previous chapter we start with two light tokens already. So with luck this should be fairly easy. BUT of course it depends on what Darkness throws at us with the random cards.

 

Solomon Kane finds himself back in the office of Magistrate Lowes, along with Thomas Downes.  It is a stark contrast to the filthy, bloodstained cells that lie below. The magistrate sets his quill in the inkwell and regards the pair expectantly.

“Well, Master Puritan, have you any new proof to challenge the conclusions of the Witchfinder General?”

“Aye, sir, we do,” says Kane confidently. “And the proofs lie herein, in your very office, upon yon bookshelf.”  Kane steps across the room to a shelf and selects a volume, opening it, “See here.”

Kane proceeds to relate the details of his interviews in the cells and how the passages in the books prove the women’s innocence. Downes stands nearby, beaming with admiration at Kane’s sharp intelligence.

At last the magistrate sits back and heaves a sigh. 

“Aye sir, ‘twould seem a great injustice has been done here.”

He picks up his quill and a fresh sheet of parchment and quickly pens a pardon for the people held in the cells, then drips wax on the page and impresses it with his seal. 

“Now, what say we pay this Witchfinder General a visit and see what he has to say for himself?”

The chapter process well and I fully complete Solomon’s path, thus giving three stat changes. I increase Strength by 2 and decrease Danger by 1.

Chapter 6

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Solomon Kane and Thomas Downes are shown into the magistrate’s office: a small but well appointed room, with fine oak furniture and a small bookcase containing a variety of reference works. Magistrate Lowes peers up from a scroll he scratches at and sets aside his quill.

“Are you with the Witchfinder?” he asked Kane.

“Nay sir, but ’tis of the same I wish to speak”, Kane says grimly. “For I fear you have let the devil into your midst, disguised as one of the faithful.”

“That is a serious claim, by what authority do you make it, sir?”

“Why, by God’s authority! And by the duty I swear every day to protect the weak and innocent from evil. Your Witchfinder is an evil man, make no mistake. What know you of his methods?”

“Precious little, I admit, but he has the legal right to do as he does. He has a writ.”

“What f I were to say his methods can be used to prove anything he so pleases. Jasmine as proof of witchcraft? Why, anyone can obtain the scent. Ducking? Ropes may be tied so as to trap air in the subject’s clothing, such as they may float to the surface. The Devil’s Mark? Any blemish may be named as such and the bodkin used to prick it may have a retractable needle, so no blood flows forth. All I ask is that I may speak with the accused to make my own mind up regarding their guilt.”

“Very well, Puritan. You make a persuasive case.”

 

The stat board at the end of the chapter. A few lucky Darkness cards and I managed to get all five Lights on Solomon's tracker, thus giving me 3 stat changes. I reduced Danger by 1 and increased Clarity and StrengthThe stat board at the end of the chapter. A few lucky Darkness cards and I managed to get all five Lights on Solomon's tracker, thus giving me 3 stat changes. I reduced Danger by 1 and increased Clarity and Strength

Chapter 5

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There is no Chapter 4 on this occasion as that only applies if you’re allied with the Witchfinder General. So we continue with the next scene with Kane and the Officer deciding how to proceed.

The map of the scene. The text indicates that Villagers can be talked to, which I take as being a good thing to try and do. There is also an encounter when you get to the soldiers, so I guess this will be a decision point for the scenario. The objective is to enter the Magistrate's offices, which are on the board on the far Right.The map of the scene. The text indicates that Villagers can be talked to, which I take as being a good thing to try and do. There is also an encounter when you get to the soldiers, so I guess this will be a decision point for the scenario. The objective is to enter the Magistrate's offices, which are on the board on the far Right.

Thomas Downes dismisses his Roundheads, bidding them take refreshment at the local tavern while he speaks to Solomon Kane. Together they walk the streets of Manningtree.

“Whither are you bound?” asks Downes.

“I travel where destiny and the dawn lead, seeking out the Devil’s work so I may expose it and banish it”, says Kane somberly, a faraway look in his icy grey eyes.

“Then I pray of you, take around these streets and tell me, see you not the Devil at work here?”

Kane does as he is bid by the young fellow and in truth, the villagers seem afflicted with a pall of dread; an oppressive atmosphere of mistrust and fear infects the village.

“Aye sir. The Devil is here right enough and I shall meet him as I have done many a time before.”

“My heart s glad of that”, says Downes, “For the man they call the Witchfinder General is the very devil you seek. Even now my fiancé, Jessica, languishes in gaol awaiting execution thanks to the treachery of Hopkins and his thugs. The wretch makes baseless accusations of witchcraft against innocent women, then finds them guilty by most dubious methods, such as the ducking stool, or pricking with the bodkin. All methods which by sleight of hand can be made to show any result.”

“Then I will aid you, master Downes,” says Kane. “Gather your men and tell me where I an needed.”

“Thank you, Puritan. The gaol is our goal, to speak with the Magistrate and plead for the accused ones’ pardon.”

 

The Discovery card seems to strongly suggest talking to Villagers is a good thing, so that's what I will try to doThe Discovery card seems to strongly suggest talking to Villagers is a good thing, so that's what I will try to do

Kane and Downes made her way through the streets of Manningtree stopping periodically to talk to villages and gain an understanding of the feelings of the village.

Most villagers speak openly about their fears of the Witchfinder General and of their own friends or loved ones found guilty of witchcraft. They re appalled and growing more angry at Matthew Hopkins’ conduct, and offer to assist both Solomon and the Roundheads in getting rid of him.

Eventually the growing crowd reach the Magistrates officers and confront the Guards at his door.  Seeing the crowd and the determination on their faces, the guards stand aside, one muttering, “you may pass.”

Solomon Kane and Thomas enter the magistrate’s offices.

Chapter 3

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A quick word on Fight tests. Fight cards are selected according to the scenario. Most have two sides and after a test the card is flipped so alternative effects are revealed. The test score is based on a random number selected by a card, a start value which is indicated with the stats for the character (or in Kane's case through the Action selected by the Virtue) plus/minus any additional factors such as Strength level, or if in the aura of the Virtue. Brightness tokens on the Virtue board can increase additional scores by up to 3 points. The final test score is read off the Fight card and the Effect cards drawn as appropriate A quick word on Fight tests. Fight cards are selected according to the scenario. Most have two sides and after a test the card is flipped so alternative effects are revealed. The test score is based on a random number selected by a card, a start value which is indicated with the stats for the character (or in Kane's case through the Action selected by the Virtue) plus/minus any additional factors such as Strength level, or if in the aura of the Virtue. Brightness tokens on the Virtue board can increase additional scores by up to 3 points. The final test score is read off the Fight card and the Effect cards drawn as appropriate
Stat board after concluding Chapter 3. Full Stat board after concluding Chapter 3. Full "Solomon's Path" (ie filling all the spaces on the page with Light tokens) allows you to increase stats by 3 pints. These can be used to increase a stat or reduce Darkness.

Chapter 2 continued

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After this second Talk action, things are resolving. Notice the After this second Talk action, things are resolving. Notice the "Shadow" close to Kane, this reduces his test score by -1 (cumulative if more are present). However he still passes fully and draws a second Roundhead card. Everything now changes. Villages are removed and Kane's objective is to defeat the Puritan, Hopkins.

Kane talks to the villagers and it is clear that the Puritan Hopkins is not a God fearing man, but a charlatan using his authority, it is is real, to pursue a strange dislike of females, with wild accusations of witchcraft. His purpose is clear. This man must be defeated else more innocent women are killed by this wild and evil person. The fight continues anew with a determined ambition to bring God’s truth to bear on this unholy man who disgraces the Puritan spirit.

Oh Dear! When a Shadow enters the same space as Kane it is removed from the board BUT it instigates an Event. In this case it's a bad one. A Oh Dear! When a Shadow enters the same space as Kane it is removed from the board BUT it instigates an Event. In this case it's a bad one. A "sin" is revealed which remains permanently for the Chapter UNLESS it can be subdued with a "Light token. So this will mean using one Virtue turn to negate the impact of the Sin. On the plus side a "Blessing" was also revealed, which in this case allows a Virtue to be placed on the board without the dice, so that's a good thing

Hopkins rushes through the throng to attack Kane with a fever in his eye and a wild swing of his rapier. 

Resolving Fights used specific Fight cards. These are drawn as identified by the Discovery card. As with other random tests, they use the numbers on an Event card. There are three types of character who use one of the three test scores.

Heroes (e.g. Kane and “Nemesis” characters) use the Right hand score, which is the highest with an average score of 4. In this case, Hopkins is classified as a Nemesis (an anti-Hero) and scores 5, this is the lowest result on his fight card and two effect cards are drawn. In this case Virtues remove a saved die (our choice) but receive a die in return.

Perhaps I should mention the dice at this point. There are 5 possible results. Two are the same, a cross which can be used as a “wild” dice result, although no more that one Wild die can be used for a single action. There are one of each other result. Bravery vs Fear; and Determination vs Pain.

So in conclusion, this first fight had little effect on anyone.

Kane flies into the battle on the side of the young Roundhead officer. He wishes to see off this false Puritan, the one they call the Witchfinder General and his thugs before any lives are lost. Kane clashes steel with the guards and his presence turns the tide of battle effectively.

Kane pushes through to face the Puritan himself, the so called Witchfinder General.  He is proficient enough, but Kane parries the wild swing of Hopkins blade and drives his own rapier in a quick repost, striking the man with a slash across his arm. Moving quickly aside he sees an opportunity to strike at one of Hopkins’ allies and delivers a blow to a thug close at hand. The man grunts as Kane strikes his leg, slowing the man down.

But Hopkins is not out of the game and closes in once more to drive Kane back. He attacks without thought or skill and Kane easily parries and block his unthinking attacks.

Driving forward with the advantage, Kane pushes Hopkin back and strikes another fierce blow against this immoral Puritan.  As he stumbles back, Kane knocks the fight out of him with a strike of the basket grip of his rapier and the man falls to the ground, defeated, albeit still alive.

No one is seriously wounded and none lie dead, thanks be to God, muttered Kane looking around at the chaos this pointless fight had created. 

“I name you traitor!” screams Hopkins, rising slowly from the ground where he lay. “Heretic! You shame our Puritan brethren” he shouts as he is led away.

Kane turns to the young officer who greets him. 

“My gratitude, sir, especially since you are also of the Puritan faith, but clearly a man of honour, unlike that cur Hopkins. I am Thomas Downes, at your service”.

Witchfinder General: Chapter 2

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The scene is laid out. Our Virtue is on the board, so her extra abilities can be used whenever Kane is in her immediate surroundings. The Virtue and the Shadows are etherial beings, which can react with each other, but can not be seen by mortals. Shadows have a weakening effect on Kane's actions, while the Virtue has a positive one.The scene is laid out. Our Virtue is on the board, so her extra abilities can be used whenever Kane is in her immediate surroundings. The Virtue and the Shadows are etherial beings, which can react with each other, but can not be seen by mortals. Shadows have a weakening effect on Kane's actions, while the Virtue has a positive one.
Following a successful first Chapter, the stats have increased slightly. Compassion is important with Talking, and in many stories the initial Chapters involve interactions with other people. In this case talking with Villagers is given as a possible Action. It is usually a good thing to follow that advise!Following a successful first Chapter, the stats have increased slightly. Compassion is important with Talking, and in many stories the initial Chapters involve interactions with other people. In this case talking with Villagers is given as a possible Action. It is usually a good thing to follow that advise!

Solomon Kane makes his judgement on which side he must support, a visceral decision.  He pushes his way through the crowd and as he does so, overhears remarks from the gathered villagers in support of one side or the other.

Kane overhears fewer opinions that support his choice of whom to side with than are for it, and he finally bursts forth from the crowd, sword and pistol in hand, just as the men on both sides of the conflict draw arms and go at each other. With the crowd behind him, Kane knows he has made the right decision.

 

The timing of each Chapter in the game depends on the number of “Darkness” cards available at the beginning of the scene. Different Actions by the Virtue can increase or reduce this time. Note that each Darkness card has a negative impact on Kane’s ability to complete the objective but equally more time is often needed to succeed. Getting that balance right can be the difference between winning or losing.

In this case there are 12 darkness cards, which suggests that this will be a long slog to complete the objective. Luck (or Providence) will be one factor, and decision making the prime other!

As the scenario gives an option to Talk to the villages, this is probably a good thing to do. But of course when you take any Action, the result might not always be a good one.

Discovery Cards influence what can happen in a scene. There are usually a new card for each chapter of the story. In this case, there is another action to take at the end of the Virtue turnDiscovery Cards influence what can happen in a scene. There are usually a new card for each chapter of the story. In this case, there is another action to take at the end of the Virtue turn
The Virtue board after a couple of dice rolls. The The Virtue board after a couple of dice rolls. The "Light" token on the board affects what the Virtue can do ONLY when it is on the board and in proximity to Kane. The additional die roll is obviously useful. Note that a single die can be re-rolled or flipped to the alternative symbol. Usually 3 dice are rolled, but with the additional "Light" token 4 dice are rolled when Virtue is close to Kane.
Now that Kane is close to a Villager he can talk to them. For the test he gains +2 for being close to the Virtue and +1 for high Compassion. The random value is drawn from a card, which in this case was a 6. So totaling 9. The target value was 6+, so another Discovery card is drawn.Now that Kane is close to a Villager he can talk to them. For the test he gains +2 for being close to the Virtue and +1 for high Compassion. The random value is drawn from a card, which in this case was a 6. So totaling 9. The target value was 6+, so another Discovery card is drawn.

So, a successful talk leads to drawing two more random cards which show an increase in Strength of +1 (might be useful in a later fight). If a further Puritan or Roundhead card is drawn, this may have positive or negative impact! Scary!

Witchfinder General: Chapter 1

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Solomon Kane rides along a well-travelled road in the county of Essex in South East England.  It is a warm July morn, the countryside is flat and verdant, populated with many towns, villages, and farming communities.

Though the scene is peaceful and pleasant, the land is racked by civil war and the threat of bloodshed and terror is never far away. By mid-morn, the Puritan rides into a small village, Mannigtree, where he intends to water his horse and pick up some supplies.

In the centre of the village a small crowd has gathered and the atmosphere is charged with aggression and menace. The villagers form a ring around two distinct groups facing off against one another. The first group are rough, dangerous looking militia types, incongruously led by a Puritan who is dressed in similar garb to Kane. The other group are Parliamentarian soldiers, also a dangerous looking bunch, led by a dashing young officer. Though he is too far away to hear what is being said, Kane can see the two groups are on the verge of attacking one another. Fury reddens visages as hands steal to to sword hilts and pistol grips.

Solomon Kane quickly dismounts. It is too late to stop the violence, so he must pitch in n one side or the other to finish it.

So the first question before starting the scenario is, Which side should Kane decide to ally with? The Puritan or the Officer.

Kane strode through the crowd and looked at the two groups, there was no time for deep reflection. Ordinarily his instinct would be to support a fellow Puritan, but the rag-tag mob with the man Kane found disconcerting. There was no time for debate, and he sides with the young Roundhead officer.

 

These are the 8 variable cards the Virtue has to play with. Two are placed on the Active board, 2 kept in hand and the 4 others form a reserve deck. When an Active card is used it is discarded and replaced from hand, which is then replenished from the deck. These are the 8 variable cards the Virtue has to play with. Two are placed on the Active board, 2 kept in hand and the 4 others form a reserve deck. When an Active card is used it is discarded and replaced from hand, which is then replenished from the deck.

Witchfinder General: the Set Up

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The set upThe set up

This is how I lay out the table for play. From right to left. The figures that will be used in the scenario, the different card decks, the game book, the Virtue game board, various counters, the various dice and the stat board.

The stat board shows the initial levels of three stats for Solomon Kane; these are Strength for use in fights; Clarity used for searching/exploring; and Compassion used when talking to others. These can add positives or negatives to the test depending on the level on the track. If at any time a stat level falls to 0, you lose. the final track is for Danger, this represents how the Darkness is closing in around Kane. If the level rises to10+ you lose. These stat levels can be effected by game play, and also by the drawing of positive or negative card results.

One other thing for people unfamiliar with the game, the green dice are “Luck” and can be used to discard a poor score, the white dice are “Mercy” and can be used to replay a normal die, and the stack of cards are “Blessing” which are generally very good things to have. When you possess any of these items they any on the “Cloud” and can be used during a Virtue turn.

The Virtue card has three permeant Activities on the card itself, and two additional Activity cards which are placed left and right. If these are used as Actions, they are removed and replaced by another Action card from your hand (two cards are help in hand during the game). A Virtue only had 8 cards to play with, two on the board, two in hand and four in a deck. When an Action card is removed, you replace it from your hand and draw cards from the deck to get back up to two. The discard deck is reshuffled if you run out.

Witchfinder General: Introduction

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Before commencing with the “narrative”, I decided to add a bit more about game play with each Chapter in the story. For people unfamiliar with Solomon Kane, the board game can be played in a number of different ways, Solo play being one of them. Cooperative play (up to 4 players) and Confrontation where one player takes the role of the “Good” side and one for the “Evil” side.

Play is based on dice to add a variable, elements of resource management with cards that enable players to make Actions, cards for the “evil” side which usually means a bad thing happening, and player pieces being manipulated by the respective Virtues (the GOOD side) or Darkness (the BAD side).

It sounds complex to begin with (and I made lots of mistakes initially!) but once the mechanics are understood, the game flows quite quickly.

Each story (or Act) usually has 10 Chapters or play steps. The story can end early if poor decisions, or fate (i.e. bad dice rolls or unlucky card effects) causes a premature disaster!

Final comment on the game is that all these elements mean that it is possible to replay the game with no guaranteed outcome, even if you know what you SHOULD do.

So, with that said, let’s see how Kane deals with the Witchfinder General.

The Rattle of Bones: Conclusion

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This was a fun run through of the game.  I may have missed a couple of small things occasionally, but I don’t think anything would have made a difference.  I didn’t take many photos, but I plan to continue the adventures of Solomon Kane, and probably other stories would benefit from more illustrations of game play, although this wasn’t intended to be an actual “how to play”.  I wanted to use the game as a means of telling a tale.

Hope you enjoyed it.  More to come

The Rattle of Bones. Chapter 10: The sorcerer vanquished

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“Great Gods”, he muttered as cold sweat formed on his body. “It is beyond all reason, and yet with mine own eyes I see it.  It is just as Gaston the Butcher said. Here lies a will that even from beyond the grave will rise up to wreak vengeance upon its murderer, or any who would rob it of that prize.  Yet God’s will is stronger still than black sorcery that gave unholy life to yon fleshless monster.”

Picking up a sturdy femur, Kane retires to his now empty chamber and used the bone to bar the door, while he dreamed the dreams of the righteous.

The final stat lines. Danger too high for comfort, but Strength won out in the endThe final stat lines. Danger too high for comfort, but Strength won out in the end

The Rattle of Bones. Chapter 9: Vengeance Interrupted

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Kane dashed forward to the secret room, from whence the screams grew weaker. The inn keeper lies face down on the floor and on his back rides the shrieking skeleton of the sorcerer, its bones imbued with supernatural animation by a dread curse uttered even as its skull was cloven by the man it now enacts vengeance upon. Its bony fingers dig into the host’s neck, drawing blood as a short final squeal escapes his lips before he succumbs to the horror’s vengeance.

Kane leaps forward and strikes the brute off the host’s body with his rapier. The skeleton clatters against the wall and lands in a dry, rattling heap, a length of chain still attached to its ankle by a rusty shackle.  It rises and turns to face Kane and the icy fires of hell blaze in its empty sockets.

The fight begins in earnest. In the room the two combatants face each other. Kane draws on his last vestiges of faith and awaits the oncoming challenges with a stout heart.

Extending a skeletal finger, the remains of the sorcerer summons an orb of darkness.  For a moment it pulses with energy, before infusing the entire place with despair.

Armed with more than mere steel, Solomon’s faith saw his attack strike pure and true, and for a moment Kane swore he could here a bell ring.  The blow struck cleanly and the animated monstrosity stumbled momentarily, before regaining its footing. “One blow, with faith, the first of many”, thought Kane.

The demonic skeleton draws itself up and lunges at Kane without effect. Kane immediately reposts and with the last of his strength slices off the monstrosity’s head.

The final slash of his rapier passes true and level, an inch above the skeleton’s collar bone. With a hollow clatter, its cleft skull rolls back into the chamber whence it came and the rest of the bones tumble around Kane’s boots like a pile of macabre kindling. Kane checks on the landlord and finds him slumped against the wall of the secret room in a dark puddle of his own draining lifeblood, his face a terrible ashen blue.

The final killing blow, almost max strength and the top The final killing blow, almost max strength and the top "fight" card.

The Rattle of Bones. Chapter 8: Mine Host Vanishes

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The maniac stands partly in the doorway of the secret room, his weapon menacing Kane. Suddenly, he topples backwards and vanishes in the darkness; and at the same instant a vagrant gust of wind sweeps down the outer corridor and slams the door shut behind him.  The candle on the wall flickers and dies.  Kane’s groping hands sweep over the floor, finding his pistol and sword.  He straightens, facing the door where the maniac vanished.

He stands in utter darkness, his blood freezing, while a hideous muffled screaming emanates from the secret room, intermingled with the dry, grisly rattle of fleshless bones.  Dare the Puritan intervene or leave this maddened wretch to what was an undoubtedly just fate?

Straightening his shoulders, Kane fumbles with flint and tinder to relight the candle. In all conscience, the Puritan can not let the mad innkeeper die in such an unnatural and evil manner, no matter his crimes.

Sparks are struck and the wick flares, throwing chaotic shadows around the ramshackled room as the candle flickers frantically.

Ready as Kane will ever be for the final battleReady as Kane will ever be for the final battle

The Rattle of Bones. Chapter 7:The Landlord's Tale

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Kane confronts the LandlordKane confronts the Landlord

Kane rises, hands held out before him in surrender and lets the landlord babble his insane tale while he searches for an opening.

“Why should I spare any man?  Who lifted a hand to my aid when I lay in the village dungeons of Karlsruhe – and for a deed never proven?”

Kane made no answer. He knew of the worst excesses of those prisons far away.

“But I escaped!” the scream rose triumphantly, “and here I make war on all men … What has that?”

Did Kane see a flash of fear in those hideous eyes?

“Something happened to my brain, then.  I became as a wolf – a brother to these of the Black Forest to which I fled when I escaped.  They have feasted, my brothers, on all who lay in my tavern – all except this one who now clashes his bones, this magician from Russia.  Lest he come stalking back through the black shadows when night is over the world, and slay me – for who may slay the dead?”

“Who is this magician of whom you speak?” asked Kane quietly, hoping to encourage the landlord to continue his tale while the Englishman looked for a way to escape this trap.

“A sorcerer, unlucky enough to underestimate me. Dying he swore his very bones would weave a net of death for me. I shackled his corpse to the floor and now, deep in the night, I hear his bare skeleton clash and rattle as he seeks to be free, and I laugh! Ho ho! How he yeans to rise and stalk like old King Death alone these dark corridors when I sleep, to slay me in my bed!”

Kane’s mind thinks back to the secret room and the strong blow that L’Armon struck to shatter the chains binding the skeleton down.  What has he unsuspectingly released, he pondered.

Once again the landlord speaks up, “You were in that secret room, you and this dead fool!  Did he talk to you?” he asked while he kicks Solomon brutally to the side.

Kane stumbles backwards and slightly away from the landlord. He can feel the darkness closing in, but digs deep into his psyche to steel himself for the next few moments.  Everything could depend on keeping the man talking until some lucky opportunity arises.

Kane counts his blessings as he succeeds in keeping the irate tavern-keeper talking, as the bone rattling coming from the dark room intensifies.

The host’s insane eyes flame dangerously as he suspects Kane of some imagined treachery.  The Englishman continues to circle the room staying out of reach of the clever or knife while attempting to maintain some kind of conversation with this irrational man.

All is darkness in the secret room and Kane realises his end may be close. One desperate leap at the man seems to be the final choice, one leap of faith.

“Move not, Englishman!” screams the Landlord, “Your bones I shall leave in this secret room besides this one, to …”

The landlord is taken by ??????The landlord is taken by ??????

The Rattle of Bones. Chapter 6: Mine Host

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Not the best starting stat line in the world!Not the best starting stat line in the world!

Breathing heavily, Mane slides the blade of his dirk from Gaston’s body and wipes it on the corpse’s lacy collar.  The bandit was a hard opponent to be sure, fast and treacherous.  On hands and knees, he looks up before standing, only to be confronted by the bulk of the landlord, looming in the doorway.

“Ho, Ho!” the landlord roars.  “What do we have here? Half my work done for me. Back!”

A bloody cleaver is thrust into Kane’s very face.  In his other hand, the landlord clutches a heavy, vicious looking knife.

“Back!” he repeated with a tigerish roar, causing Kane to retreat from the menacing weapon and the insanity in his red eyes.

The Englishman rises and stands silent before his captor, his flesh crawling as he senses a deeper and more hideous threat than the Frenchman could ever pose.  There is something inhuman about this man, who now sways to and fro like some great forest beast, while his mirthless laugher booms out again.

“I must calm this man before he acts”’ Kane thought, “He seems to be unstable and likely to act to sudden movement or missteped speech”.

The landlord speaks slowly, his voice breaking as he recounts his torments.  Kane makes no answer, though his compassion for this man fills his eyes.  He was not the first, nor will be the last whose brain was shattered by the deprivations of the continental prisons.  But compassion does not stop a madman’s blade, so the act continues as Kane encourages the man to talk, rather than act.

Compassion in crisis. Hope it holds up for the next chapterCompassion in crisis. Hope it holds up for the next chapter

The Rattle of Bones. Chapter 5: Confronting Gaston

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Kane gathered himself like a giant wolf about to launch himself in a death leap, but Gaston’s hand was like a rock and his pistol never trembles.

“We will have no death plunges after the shot, M’sieur” the Frenchman muttered.

Kane raged inwardly as Gaston removed his sword and pistols and cast them on the floor.

“So much better, m’sieur”, said Gaston stepping back. “Mayhap we will talk a while until you pass from this mortal world to the hereafter?” he gloated.

Kand bent a grim eye on the dapper fellow who now stood bear-headed, hat in one hand as the other levelled his long pistol.

A heavy silence descended between the adversaries and in the quiet a scratching noise broke the gloom. “What was that?” exclaimed Gaston.

“Rats, I expect, exploring yon skeleton”, said Kane watching the Frenchman like a hawk, looking for an opening or slip to which he could act with purpose.  He watched for any sing of wavering in the black hole of the pistol’s muzzle. “The sound of the rattle of bones.”

“Like enough”, said the other man, “And now M’sieur Kane, I know you carry a considerable amount of money on your person. I had thought to wait until the mid of the night while you slept and then slay you, but this opportunity has presented itself, and who am I to deny fate its helping hand.  You trick too easily”

“I had little thought that I should fear a man with whom I had broken bread”, said Kane a deep timbre of slow fury sounding in his voice.

Battle commencesBattle commences

Kane looked around the room.  There was nothing obvious to distract L’Armon, but mayhaps as he continued to talk and gloat, some chance would arise.

“You are a simple mark”, laughed Gaston.  “It is so easy for you to trust people, is it not?  You meet someone that shares your same path with you and you immediately place him by your side. So foolish … so foolish”.  As he mocks Kane, Gaston slowly walks backwards towards their original sleeping chamber, beckoning Kane to follow. His pistol emphasising the point!

Kane feels the ebb and flow of the mysterious other world settle in the room. He has an uneasy feeling in his soul.

“What was that?” exclaimed Gaston.

“Just more rats”, answered the Puritan, keeping his eyes closely on the Frenchman as he moved further back towards their chamber.

Kane feels a dark shadow cross his path, then dissipate as though swept aside by an unseen hand. He recovers his strength of mind and follow L’Armon into the outer chamber of the secret room.

But at this point Gaston steadies his hand and points the pistol directly at Kane’s head.  “Any last wishes, m’sieur? I do not say this lightly, it will all be over for you soon.  Then mine host will have another skeleton for his secret niche.  That is, if I do not kill him myself.”

“You had best not miss, Frenchman”, Kane taunts. “I’ve dealt with men more vicious than you and half as worthy. If you lower your pistol, I might let you leave with your life and your … honour intact”.

Gaston took a step back, his eyes darting nervously and Kane steps with him.  While Gaston is diverted by the rattling sounds, Kane makes his move. Drawing a knife from his boot, he leaps forward, knocking Gaston off-balance.  The pistol falls from his grasp and discharges with a deafening crash.

L’Armon violently swings the candle he is holding in Kane’s face and draws his knife. With knives drawn the pair grapple. There will only be two outcomes, death or life.

Kane presses his advantage and parrying a wild swing by the Frenchman, strikes a blow to his arm which draws blood. L’Armon shrieks in pain, but remains upright, grappling with Kane and pulling him around as though to somehow shake the dagger from his hand.

Pushing Kane back, Gaston rolls away from the Englishman trying to gather his strength. Kane slowly approaches the Frenchman with a determined stride.  Grasping the man by his lace shirt, Kane dispatches him to the nether kingdom. Stumbling to the floor, Kane slows his breathing to regain his composure.

Mort de Gaston L'ArmonMort de Gaston L'Armon

The Rattle of Bones. Chapter 4: The Betrayal

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“Is yonder not a bar fixed to the wall?” spake Kane

“Aye, but ‘tis made fast,” said the Frenchman, tugging at it. “The …”

As he pulled at the bar a section of the wall swung back to reveal a small secret room and the two men bend over the grisly thing laying upon the floor.

“The skeleton of a man!” exclaimed Gaston. “And behold how his bony leg is shackled to the floor! He was imprisoned here to die!”

“Nay”, said Kane, “the skull is cleft – methinks mine host has a grim reason for the name of this hellish tavern.”

At this Gaston drew his sword and with an exhibition of remarkable strength cut the chain adjoining the ring on the leg to a ring set deep in the log floor.

“Why would he shackle a skeleton to the floor?” mused the Frenchman. “Monbleu! ‘Tis a waste of good chain. And now M’sieur”, he ironically addressed the white heap of bones, “I have freed you and you may go where you wish.”

“Have done!” Kane’s voice was deep and fierce. “No good will come of mocking the dead.”

“The dead should defend themselves”’ laughed L’Armon. “Somehow I will slay the man who kills me, though my corpse climb up forty fathoms of ocean to do it!”

Kane turned to the outer door, closing the door to the secret room behind him. He turned to face L’Armon as he exits the room, just as the Frenchman levels a pistol at his face.

“Move not a jot, M’sieur!” His voice sort and menacing, “Move not or I will scatter your few brains over the room”.

“Gaston the Butcher!” said the Englishman soberly. “Fool that I was to trust you!  You range far, murderer! I remember you now with that cursed great hat off – I saw you in Calais some years agone.”

“Aye – and now you will see me never again”, Gaston replied.

Kane held himself steady, his only hope was for the Frenchman to mis-step or be distracted by something. “One chance is all I need”, thought Kane, “one chance and I’ll damn you to hell”.

After recovering from the surprise, Kane prepares to do battle with GastonAfter recovering from the surprise, Kane prepares to do battle with Gaston

Kane observed his foe, what was the man going to do?  Would he make a slip and allow Kane a single opportunity to turn the tables? His mind ebbed and flowed with ideas, swinging wildly from positive to negative, from dark to the light. Whatever happens a decision needs must be made in a few seconds.

With a slowly rising feeling of confidence, Kane faced the Frenchman full on, no fear in his eyes.  “What now, M’sieur”, he said ironically, echoing his adversary’s own silky speech.

The Rattle of Bones. Chapter 3: What Happened Here?

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The search for a bar beginsThe search for a bar begins

They made an odd couple. Kane was dressed in blacks and greys as austere as any Puritan would choose to be. Gaston was of a different type entirely, bedecked with lace and plumes, although his finery was somewhat stained from travel. He was handsome in a bold way and his restless eyes shifted from side to side, never still for an instant as they entered an adjacent room seeking some form of object for use as a bar.

The room they were in had a darkly stained floor, the walls and the one bunk hacked to pieces. “Men have died in here”, muttered Kane somberly, “let us make haste in finding what we need and retire to our room.”

They begin their search, Kane keeping one eye on L’Armon as his distrust of the fellow increases with each step they take.  Kane quickly uncovers something which could resolve their dilemma, but after careful thought rejects the item as too weak for the purpose.  The search continues.

Kane then exclaims, “I have it!” spotting a door bar affixed to the wall, “Let us return to our chamber and secure ourselves for the night.”

The quest seems to have been resolved. But has it?The quest seems to have been resolved. But has it?

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