Special Delivery

The dinner conversation is exquisitely dull. Monks are not known to be chatty folk, and Doc continually has to dodge specific questions about who he is and where he's from. This task is made more difficult by Brother Broderick chiming in excitedly detailing the Jeep ride up here. Doc allows the Brother to go on and on.

The food is even more dull, consisting mainly of oatmeal and turnips. The wine is excellent, however.

"...and it had fat wheels made of some strange black stone, and it roared as it rolled forward as if pulled by a hundred horses!"


"Two hundred horses! And inside, it glowed! There were lights that were words and dancing pictures. It sang to us, too! When he fed it a silver saucer it began to sing while invisible minstrels played strange instruments! I do not know the words of the song, they were in the strange language he speaks sometimes. Dear friend, do tell us what the chariot sang?"

Doc translates:

"Long you live and high you fly
Smiles you'll give and tears you'll cry
All you touch and all you see
Is all your life will ever be."

The monks look at him quizzically, especially Father Nathan.

Mark calls in from upstairs. "She's here."

Doc stands. "Your scroll is arriving," he informs the Abbot.

Father Nathan gets up as the monk he had sent up races down the stairs shouting "Dragon! Dragon!"

"Calm yourself, Brother," Nathan instructs. They all proceed towards the gatehouse.

Doc tells Thunderhorse and the vikings to hold their ground and not make any sudden movements while they proceed, reassuring them that it's almost over. Two monks crank open both portcullises. Mark joins them as the chains clink and the iron gates rise.

The collection of monks, vikings, and time travelers step out onto the cold mountain top. The monks and vikings flinch in unison when Veronica suddenly streaks overhead, leaving a small glowing flare falling gently to the ground.

It's a very precise drop. The wind shifts it only slightly. The bright orange parachuted package lands only about a hundred yards in front of the tower, it's little flare which turns the snow red where it fell.

Doc sends Mark out to retrieve it. He returns with the hard plastic cylinder and hands it to Doc.

They all return indoors to the dining hall, leaving the icy cold behind. There, in the golden light of the fireplace, Doc hands over the cylinder.

Father Nathan runs his fingers over the silky nylon of the parachute. He examines every detail. Doc interrupts him and twists open the top of the cylinder, revealing the paper scroll within. Nathan withdraws it carefully.

He spreads it out on the dining room table. A hushed awe goes through the room. It's nothing special to Doc, just a simple star chart with the constellations of the northern and southern hemispheres and a map of the solar system, showing all the planets and their orbits in a logarithmic scale. It has some finely printed reference information, all in English. Just as he had asked, the thing is printed on low quality recycled paper. Already the ink is smearing a bit, it obviously has not had time to properly set and the paper is just not holding it right.

"Well?" Doc asks. "What do you think?"

Father Nathan says nothing for a while. He remains fixated on the scroll. After a while, he speaks. "Brother Maynard, open the gate to the Sisters' quarters. They're free to go."

"Father?" replies Maynard, "What about us?"

"It is over. This is all that I sought from the Heavens and more. Three lifetimes worth of knowledge. Those of you who wish to stay and assist me are welcome. The rest of you may go with the women."

There is a murmur amongst the crowd. They are divided, but a significant minority express their desire to stay without benefit of women. The rest seem rather upset by the whole business.

Father Nathan rolls up the scroll carefully and returns it to its case. "I am retiring to my study for the evening. It is a dangerous trek down the mountain, even worse in the dark. If you wish to stay the night, you may. Good-night."

From the looks on the viking's faces, and those of some of the now disenfranchised monks, Doc gets the feeling that it will not be a good night.

Quick Reflexes

Father Nathan leads Doc and Brother Broderick to the dining hall two floors down. On the way they pass the scribal workshop, where monks are setting pages, copying text, and inking pictures. There is a harsh smell of chemicals from one of the towerhouse workshops. Father Nathan explains that is where they create the inks and dyes. Another workshop houses racks of parchment being stretched and dried by a fire. The last shop is shared by a tinker and carpenter, who are working together to repair some of the book binding tools.

They reach the ground floor where the dining hall and gatehouse are. Thunderhorse and the vikings are standing against the gate. Thunderhorse snarls at the sight of Nathan descending the stairs.

"Ugh, your servants are a bit uncouth," Father Nathan complains.

"Thunderhorse, please stand down and relax," Doc orders.

Thunderhorse does not back down, but makes no aggressive movements other than fingering the shoulder strap of his assault rifle.

As they get to the bottom of the stairs, Thunderhorse unslings his gun and fires a carefully aimed shot right at Father Nathan's head, blasting his face and brains all over the wall.

"THUNDERHORSE! NO!" Doc shouts an instant before he realizes it was an illusion. His head spins like it did before down in the valley.

Father Nathan turns to stare at him, head still perfectly intact. Thunderhorse looks like he's been caught with his pants down. The Viking backs off into the stables.

"Is everything alright?" Father Nathan asks. "Do you need to have your servant flogged?"

"No, thank you," Doc replies as he gets his head back to normal. "Everything's fine."

Inspection and Insurrection

Father Nathan gestures for Doc, Mark, and Brother Broderick to follow him back down the stairs.

Doc begins an Eye-Type message to Dr. Ritenrong regarding the scroll he promised. While this method of communicating is a bit of a strain at first, it becomes easier with practice and time. Doc's glasses, assisted by their brainwave reader, are learning his patterns and begin to identify whole words rather than single letters.

"I need a star chart," Doc writes.

Dr. Ritenrong responds by voice. "Star chart? What kind?"

"A simple scroll, with times, sizes, and distances."

"What for?"

"Trade for the women. Make it pulp or something fragile. Have Veronica airdrop it."

"Are you sure about this?"

"Just make it so it won't last long."

"Alright. Give me an hour or so. I'll call you when it's ready." Steve adds, "I hope you know what you're doing."

The next floor down from Father Nathan's parlor is a grand chapel, exquisitely ornamated. The large, detailed stained glass window depicts Lucifer's battle for Heaven as the abbot witnessed it. Friezes along the top of the walls illustrate the fall of the Archangel, as well as various stories from Genesis. The rich smoke of incense rolls from censers hanging from the ceiling.

Each flight of stairs ends on the next landing, which is a large circular area each floor of the main tower. The next flight down begins on the other side of the room. Each of these circular landings is decorated with flowers, vases, and religious statuary. The smaller, circular towerhouses are connected from this central area, as is the rectangular main portion of the abbey dug into the mountain side. The chappel is on the fifth floor up and the topmost of these areas dug into the mountain.

The fourth floor contains the monk's dorms. The tops of the towerhouse rooms begin to connect here. On one side of the fourth floor's main foyer, in the taller towerhouse, is a library. Next to it, through an arch that passes beneath the staircases leading to the chapel, is a workshop that smells harshly of horse-glue. A monk is brushing this substance on the edges of a stack of papers, about to bind it to leather. In the middle of the foyer is a pleasant rock garden with green and blue mosses and lichens, ferns, and a few edible mushrooms growing here and there.

The stairs down to the third floor descend along the mountain's side of the tower. The arch between the stairs leads to the nun's dorms. Attached to the foyer, which contains a statue of Mary, are three workshops. Two of them seem concerned with the weaving of cloth and tailoring of clothes, while the third, at the top of the shortest towerhouse, is some kind of apothecary. There is a gate between the central tower and the nun's rooms. It is locked.

Father Nathan calls out into the locked hallway. Women clad in brown robes and habits file out slowly from their rooms into the hallway, heads downturned and hands clasped. Doc is careful to look closely at each of their faces as they approach the gate, although the habit and angle makes it difficult to see clearly.

"Do you see them?" Doc secretly texts Thunderhorse.

"Nml0," he responds. Thunderhorse's Eye-Type interpreter is learning to spell as well as he.

Doc turns to Nathan. "Open the gate," he demands.

"Why should I?" asks Nathan.

"I am a physician. I want to inspect them closely and make sure they're in good health."

Father Nathan delays a moment. "This is agreeable." He finds some keys from within his robe and opens the gate. The nuns make no movement towards them.

Doc steps in. It startles him when the Abbot closes and locks the gate behind him. A swift look back reveals his intentions to be precautionary, not outright agressive.

The nuns line up against either side of the hallway, still staring at the floor. There's about a dozen of them. Doc walks between them, individually turning their chin up with his finger and giving them a good look. They're dirty from a days labour, but relatively hygenic, at least in the context of the time period. Their cheeks are sunken, on the whole slightly malnourished and overworked. He has one say "Ah." Their dental hygine is atrocious, as is to be expected.

One of them has fierce green eyes and dirty blonde hair. She's nearly a foot taller than the rest, and she looks as if she's ready to kill. She snarls as Doc lifts his hand to her head. He backs off. She glares menacingly at him.

"Jazelle!" comes Thunderhorse's voice loudly over Doc's headset.

"Jazelle?" Doc whispers to the nun. She cocks her head inquisitively. "I'm here with Thunderhorse to rescue you."

Her eyes light up. It's hard to say if it's excitement or rage. She nods knowingly, quietly and turns her head back down, glaring at Nathan through the corner of her eye.

Doc continues on down the line. Thunderhorse identifies Skye, a short red-haired beauty, pale and delicate but worn down with toil, and Tempesta, a wide-hipped burnette with giant doe eyes whose cheeks are the least gaunt, as they obviously had plenty of reserve. The rest are unfamiliar to him, and there are a great many missing from his tribe.

Doc returns to the gate. He has to ask Nathan to open it, but the abbot complies.

"Satisfied?" asks the old man.

"They're malnourished," Doc replies.

"Our stock is low right now and will dwindle until harvest season, so we must reserve our food for those whose tasks are most important. They get what they need to live and work, though. None of them have died."

"There are only three from Hilton where there should be many more. Where are they?"

"Ah, the Goeths? They have been most difficult. Many of them simply did not accept our way of life, and were punished. Several of them banded together in an attempt to flee, and killed one of my men. They were put to death, of course." He turns to point out a pair of skeletons, carefully wrapped in gold-leaf and hanging on the wall above the stairs behind them, their ribs broken and spread out like eagles' wings. "There have been no further incidents."

Doc can hear Thunderhorse breathing heavily over the headset.

Father Nathan continues. "Now what of this scroll?"

"I do not have it with me, but I have called for it. It should be delivered within the hour. Have one of your men watch for the black dragon. She will be dropping it off."

"You are in league with the dragon, then?"

Broderick cannot contain himself. "Oh, Father, forgive me! For I said a backwards prayer and called it up straight from Hell!"

"Relax, Brother." Doc interupts. "I summoned her, and she is not from hell. Remember our guardian angel? She's been keeping us safe from those evil agents that chased us from Nidaros."

"Oh. Yes." Brother Broderick looks confused, but easily accepts the reality presented to him, especially since the last couple days have made him question everything, anyway.

"I will assign one of my men to the task." With a snap of his finger, one of the Monks eavesdropping below runs up the stairs. Nathan gives him instructions, and the man hurries up to the top floor.

"Mark, you go with him," Doc says. "If you don't mind, Abbot?"


Mark nods in acknowledgement and follows the monk up the stairs, no doubt stopping at the wine carafe.

"Now, let us dine while we wait. You can tell me of your home and your journeys."

A Fair Trade

"Brother Broderick!" Doc snaps. "I will thank you to remain quiet!"

The monk hushes up and sits back down without question.

Doc turns back to the Abbot. "Now, Father Nathan, calm yourself. You are not the first man to lay with a woman and you won't be the last. Your vows are not an issue here. Resolving our problem is."

Father Nathan seems to agree and comply. Doc sits back down on the sofa and Father Nathan returns to his chair.

Mark helps himself to more wine from the etched silver carafe.

"Father Nathan, I want to help you. You have come to this inhospitable place and spent your life studying the Heavens in search of the unknown. What if I could give you a scroll that would teach you more about the Heavens than you could learn in three life times? Then there would be no more need to stay here at the roof of the world and you could take your knowledge to the Church and the world. Tales of your past transgressions need not be known, and who would care if you had a dalliance? Most of the Cardinals have some little minx tucked away in the city of Rome. You would be an enlightened spark in Christendom and remembered as a great man. That would be a fine legacy to leave. Let me help you Father Nathan."

Father Nathan thinks about this. "So, what you propose is a trade three lifetime's worth of knowledge of the Heavens in return for the women from the valley?"

"Yes," Doc replies.

"Let me see this scroll."

"Let me see the women."

"How do I know this scroll is all you say it is?"

"You've seen my mind. How can you say it isn't?"

Nathan returns to his feet. "Alright. I will show you the women, and you will see they are not harmed. But I will not release them until this scroll is in my hands and I am satisfied of its veracity."

Well, He is French...

Doc regains control of his limbs and stands. The room around him swirls as if he's looking at it from within a water tornado inside two pop bottles. The only thing that can be made out clearly is Nathan's face on the other side of the bottle.

Doc summons his mental strength. He focuses his thoughts and feelings towards a sense of perfect calm. "I am NOT a devil or interested in anyone's soul, NOR am I an angel here to pass judgment. I am here to bring about a good thing for all Christendom, and if you have sinned before, don't compound it now by turning me away."

Father Nathan's mind races through a tumult of emotions. His fear turns to shame, his anger intensifies his guilt, which overflows into sorrow and desire for repentance. Father Nathan breaks the psychic bond and is overrun with tears.

"Oh, Lord, why did I stray!" He yells to the sky. "Why have you sent this... this... man to torture me?" He turns back to Doc. "But it is not you do not torture me, you expose me to myself and it is unbearable!"

"Where is Jazelle and the women of Hilton? Tell me what you've done," Doc demands.

"There are not nuns here, but concubines. It is the one desire, the singular corruption I carried with me from Avignon. They are slaves here, they cook and clean and wash up. They carry water and harvest grain in the valley. The monks of this abbey are their masters, and I am theirs. If you come to free them from their servitude, my men will resist you."

Brother Broderick is taken aback. "Why, Father? Why have you done this?"

"Come now, not even one as devoted as you would join me on this mountain. My work is of dire importance, but I could not stay on this mountain alone. I have important work to do, and I cannot waste my time with the trivalties of existance. These monks were men of the valley, the only men I could recruit into my service. Those women are the only reason they stay on this wretched peak. Without them, I have no one to keep this place."

Broderick is still upset. "And what about yourself?! Did you partake of these women? Have you broken your vows?!"

The brother's tone is upsetting the delicate balance of Nathan's emotions, edging him back towards fearful reprisal. "You insolent little pup. You've not seen the world, and you understand none of it. When you are as old as I, you will be counting the vows you have broken on blades of grass. I have more virtue than any of my peers, for I alone volunteered to take on this duty at the top of the Earth. How dare you question your better!"

Angels and Demons

Father Nathan's penetrating gaze leaves Doc with a feeling that all his thoughts are echoing off every wall of the circular chamber.

After a moment, he stands and paces towards the fireplace, his back turned to the group.

"Thirty-six years ago, I was still a young scholar in Avignon. This was before the Pope sided with the king of France, before the schism between east and west. But I was not interested in the greed and corruption of politics. I was, and still am, a student of the heavens."

He grabs a wooden box off the mantle. Inside are two spy glasses with pearl handles.

"A learned man and glassmaker gave me these. If you hold these two lenses at the right distance apart, distant things become large. What better way to examine the eternal dance of the angels.

"On a dark day, those thirty-six years ago, my colleagues and I witnessed an evil omen. The Morning Star, the Arch-angel himself, returned to the kingdom of heaven. There he waged war with the angels, and did battle with the Son of God outside the Kingdom of Heaven. His shadow marred the Sun, but he was defeated. He fell from heaven once again.

"It was a great omen, a sign that Satan was gaining in power and would soon be able to make war on Heaven. Eight years after, he tried again. We watched in horror as stood his ground outside the Gates, and was again rejected. It was then that we realized, if he could not stand at the Gates of Eternity, his war would be made here on Earth. And that time is now.

"For these past three decades I have watched the heavens carefully. I have seen things no mortal can imagine. Firey arrows shooting across the sky. Great beasts of fire lumbering towards the sun, only to disappear forever. I have seen the beginning skirmishes of the great war, the war to end all wars. But now I fear it has truly begun.

"Three nights ago, another star appeared. It was so bright, it could be seen in the day, through my larger lenses, of course. It moved swiftly across the sky, faster than any I've seen yet. It stayed its steady course, disappearing over the horizon only to return from the east in a few hours. Until yesterday. Another star appeared, moving swiftly towards the first. It was smaller and dimmer, but faster. As they approached, great flashes of light burst between them. After but a few minutes, the smaller one disappeared in a brilliant flash, and the first remained.

"Then today, some of the monks began seeing a dragon roaming the skies. I thought them mad at first, but only briefly. Then the flash. The same flash of light that had destroyed the small star had happened in the sky just above us, this time accompanied by a sound so loud it shattered nearly every window on the east side of the tower. The light was so hot it melted the snow off the rooftops and flooded our troughs. We saw Bridgeton burning. We saw the dragon lighting the fire and circling our mountains.

"Then you arrive. You, whose thoughts and speech are so... different, whose clothing and dress are not of our world, and whose identity and purpose must remain secret. And now you ask me-"

He stops and turns around. He's flooded with emotions, fear mostly, but shame, too. Greed and lust and the shame of it, and the fear of biblical reprisal. The world as he knows it is already destroyed, and he is deeply frightened by it, though his cold exterior reveals nothing. "You ask me to reveal my singular sin," he says, his eyes burning cold.

Doc alone is not taken by surprise. He could see it coming, if only moments away. Father Nathan continues. "I know that you come from the sky, and I know your purpose."

Doc smells ozone as Nathan's gaze locks into his. The world swirls. Doc's fingers go limp, dropping the chalice. Nathan's mind enters his, and speaks in all the languages the two men know. "Be you a Devil, you shall not have my soul. Be you an Angel, you shall not make your judgment upon me!"

A Cup Of Wine

"Thank you Father Nathan," Doc says to the offered cup of wine, "this should chase the chill away very nicely." He has a sip.

As the wine settles over his tongue and begins to warm a small spot in his belly, Doc looks around the room. Mark, to his left, sniffs the wine once and then takes a large swallow, smiles, and smacks his lips. Brother Broderick, on Doc's right, sits very upright on the bench and tries to disguise his shivers as he he holds his cup of wine in both hands and keeps taking small but steady sips. The room is decorated with elaborate tapestries and bookshelves crammed with scrolls, and even though the fire glows brightly in the fireplace, the frost is still edging it's way to the center of the window panes.

"There is no Duke of Bologna," Father Nathan insists, "Now, tell me," he demands, "who are you really?"

"As far as the Duke of Bologna goes, that is neither here nor there," Doc says casually.


"The Duke is neither here nor there. He isn't in Bologna and he isn't here either. That was a deception to throw off those who would do us harm."

"Which brings me back to who are you? Who are these people who want to harm you?"

"If I am vague with you, it is because I must. Trust me when I say the less I tell you, the safer you will be. You perhaps noticed the commotion in the village below today?"

"Yes, several of the brothers were shocked when this loud blast was heard from the valley below. Smoke and fire rolled for half the day!"

"It was even more frightening to behold from the valley!" volunteers Brother Broderick as he cringes and crosses himself at the thought. He quickly returns to his wine.

"There are dark forces in the land and they seek nothing but the rampant destruction of all things and they will stop at nothing to achieve that."

I have seen these dark agents of the Devil," Brother Broderick offers, his eyes wide with wine. "They travel in a black carriage with no horses and spit fire and lightening. Their vengeance shakes the ground. They are truly to be feared," he concludes and tries to shake the frightening thought from his mind before he returns to his wine and staring at the floor.

"They are terrible fierce," Mark suggests as he looks from Father Nathan to his now empty wine cup.

"So what is it you want from me?" Father Nathan says with more than a little exasperation. He quits leaning on his desk and brings himself to his full seven feet height and squares his shoulders.

Doc reads his body language and sees that Father Nathan is more than a little irked at being imposed upon and also that his questions seem to remain unanswered.

"What I need from you is a little information. I'm looking for a woman by the name of Jezelle. She is said to be a nun here and joined your order with several others from a local village at about the same time. If I can find this woman and her fellow villagers, I can steer these dark forces away from you and your abbey."

Father Nathan gives Doc a long, hard penetrating look trying to fathom the amount of truth there.

"I know I am asking a lot of you Father Nathan and I am not volunteering much in return, but I need to find these women quickly before more foul deeds are committed in this land, or even worse, on your doorstep. Help me find these people and we will leave with all haste and you will never see us again, of that I promise." Doc hopes that his words have found their mark and Father Nathan will be inclined to help. He waits for the good Father's reply.


Following Doc's previous instructions, the Vikings stay back with the horses, out of sight but not unwary.

Doc summons Mark and Brother Broderick forward. Brother Broderick takes off the goat skull and holds it somewhat behind his robe. He dons his wooden crucifix.

Doc turns his attention to the Abbot. "Ah, Father Nathan! It is a strange omen that brings me to your door."

There is a brief moment of intensity between the two. The old man stares him down, hard. For a moment, the outside world disintegrates and the universe is between the two mens' eyes. The old Abbot tries to tear Doc down emotionally with the force of the wisdom of his years, but Doc's not so easily overcome. He knows full well that wisdom does not come with age, but age with wisdom.

The old man seems frustrated that his silent attempt to dominate the young stranger has failed. Doc grasps that hole in his psychic wall and turns the tables right around. The man is old, his health is failing, he knows it, and perhaps his wits and strength is not what it once was. The events of today have shaken his understanding of the universe. There it is, Doc thinks. That shining beacon that lies behind every psyche, a pure human weakness; the fear of the unknown.

Doc grasps on to this key. He can start by building trust via familiarity. He turns to the monk behind him "Brother Broderick, I'm sure you know, has guided us here."

"Yes, I remember this young lad," replies the Abbot.

Doc turns to Mark. "This is Sir Mark, Captain of the Duke's own guard. If we could just have a private word with you for a few moments, I'm certain I can explain everything."

Doc can tell immediately that he's not buying that one.

The abbot looks them over. "What Duke?"

"The Duke of Bologna." Doc pushes it.

The old man looks them up and down. He looks at Mark carefully. "What are those things you carry? Weapons? Leave them behind."

Doc turns to Mark and nods. He unslings the rocket launcher and assault rifle from his back and places them gently on the ground.

"And your sword," Father Nathan insists.

Mark complies. He's still got a side arm stashed, as does Doc.

Father Nathan turns to the monk with the hoe and instructs him to open the gate. The monk goes to one of a set of cranks and begins the laborious process of rotating the lever. The portcullis rises.

"Your slaves will stay behind, for now. Follow me."

The Abbot leads Doc, Mark, and Broderick into the foyer and up the stairs. The portcullis cranks down behind them.

Doc opens a video link to Thunderhorse. Doc's sunglasses send what he sees to Thunderhorse's glasses. Doc sends him an eye-typed text message. "Tell me if you see the girls."

"Yerdsw, I wiklmj," replies Thunderhorse via eye-typed text, much later.

The Abbot takes them up several flights of stairs to his personal parlor. The "armed" monks escort them, but stay behind as they climb the final flight, past the beautiful stained glass window which depicts the sun and what is presumably Venus amongst a battle of angels and demons.

The parlor is very ornately decorated with golden trinkets and precious gems. The Abbot is a wealthy man.

He asks them to sit at the wooden bench, and he pours them all a glass of wine.

"There is no Duke of Bologna," he says to Doc as he hands him the goblet. "Now, tell me," he demands, "who are you really?"

Powers Revisited

Doc's recent level advancement has inspired me to think more carefully about how the Powers system works. We haven't really got into this part of the game system too deeply, and I think it's about time.

1. Power Variables
Effect: The description of the effect is having a words that explain it does.
Requirements: Any Training, Ability, Level, or Power Chain requirements.
Cost: The Chi, Hp, Ability, or Level cost of the power.
Damage: Any HP, Chi, Ability, or Level damage the power inflicts.
Range: The effective distance of the power.
Area: The radius of the power's effect, either from the caster or the target at range.
Target: A number of effected targets within the area of effect, or the caster himself. If no range or area is specified, then Targets are assumed to be within Line of Sight (including psychic sight)
Duration: The length of time the power remains in effect.
Save: The Saving throw required, if applicable, and whether success negates or reduces the effects.
Ability: The Ability Bonus used during a psychic attack
Max Level: The maximum power level that can be used with this power

Some Power variables are interchangeable, like number of targets versus duration of effect, or area versus range.

2. Psychic Attacks
A Psychic Attack is a Will save by the target versus DC 10 plus the Ability Bonus specified by the Power (default is Wisdom), Plus the Power Level, Plus the Caster's Level. The Target can apply any Psychic Defense bonuses.

Target Will Save + Psychic Defense vs. DC10 + Ability Bonus + Power Level + Caster Level

3. Power Levels
Power Levels are Multipliers a caster can apply to the Powers he/she commands. They are no longer purchased separately with Skill points. Increased Power Levels multiply the Cost of the power, and also increase ONE Power Variable unless otherwise specified. Some Powers have level caps, otherwise the limit is the amount of Chi a caster has to spend.

For example, using Doc's stats:
Read Emotions 1 Costs 1 chi, effects 1 target for 1 hour. Save to Negate is DC10+3 wis+1 power level+4 caster level= DC18
Read Emotions 2 Costs 2 chi, effects either 1 target for 2 hours or 2 targets for 1 hour, DC 19
Read Emotions 3 costs 3 chi, effects 3 targets for 1 hour, 2 targets for 2 hours, or 1 target for 3 hours, DC 20.
Note the +4 Cha bonus against the target(s) does not increase with Power Level.

Suggest Emotions 1 Costs 2 chi, effects 1 target for 1d6 rounds or 1d6 targets for 1 round. DC10+4 Cha+1 Pl + 4 Cl = DC19
Suggest Emotions 2 costs 4 chi, effects 2 targets for 1d6 rounds or 2d6 targets for 1 round, DC20
Suggest Emotions 5 costs 10 chi, Effects 5 targets for 1d6 rounds, 4 for 2d6, 3 for 3d6, 2 for 4d6, or 1 for 5d6, DC23.

Precognition is limited to 1 Power level.

4. Power chains
Some powers require other powers to be active in order for them to be used. Other powers can make it easier to use successive powers on a target.

Example 1: Read Emotions grants a +4 cha bonus against a target. Suggest Emotions is a Cha based power, so it's DC is raised by 4 when Read emotions is in effect.

Example 2: Going Out of Body will allow a caster to do remote sensing, astral projections, and even take possession of a target.

Example 3: Establishing a Mind Link with a target will allow for the transfer of Chi, Powers, or information, or perform special attacks or deep probing.

5. Concentration
Most powers require concentration to manifest. Manifestation time is 1 standard action unless otherwise specified and provokes an attack of opportunity. Concentration can be threatened if the caster is attacked, has to move suddenly, or if there are environmental concerns ( weather, explosions, etc). Some powers require constant concentration to maintain them. If interrupted, the caster must make a Concentration check to keep the power going.

Concentration check is a D20 + Con bonus vs. DC 10 + modifiers (i.e. damage taken)

A List of Powers (To Be Amended)

Read Emotions
Read the emotions of a target to gain a conversational advantage. +4 to Charisma checks and Sense Motive versus that target.
Cost: 1 chi. Targets: 1. Duration: 1 hour. Ability: Wis. Save: Negate

Suggest Emotion
Induce an emotion into a target; Fear, Confusion, Happiness, etc. Difference in save affects level of emotional change.
Cost: 2 chi. Targets: 1. Duration 1d6 rounds. Interchangeable. Ability: Cha. Save: Negate.

Predict the immediate future to gain a +2 bonus to a single roll. Effect is automatic unless the player specifies otherwise. Auto-fudge, essentially
Cost: 1 chi. Save: N/a. Max Level: 1

Mind and Body, Limited
Transfer Chi to HP & vice-versa, 2:1 ratio. Unlimited uses.

Mind and Body
Transfer Chi to HP & vice-versa, 1:1 Ratio, Wis bonus uses per day. Requires: M&B, Limited

Mind and Body, Advanced
Transfer Chi to HP & vice-versa, 1:2 ratio, 1 use per day. Requires: M&B

Read Thoughts
You can hear the surface thoughts of a target or targets, which you can use to gather information.
Cost: 2 chi. Targets: 1. Duration: 1d6 rounds. Interchangeable. Ability: Wis. Save: Negate

Predict Reactions
Predict the reflexive actions of a target and effectively negate their Dex bonus to initiative, attack, defense, and reflex saves against your area-effect attacks (i.e. rockets, grenades, auto-fire weapons, painguns, etc)
Cost: 2 chi. Targets: 1. Duration: 1d6 rounds. Interchangable. Range 20'. Save: Negate. Ability: Wis

Negate a target's Intelligence bonus when dealing with the caster
Cost: 2 chi, Targets: 1. Duration 1d6 rounds. Interchangeable. Range 20'. Save: Negate. Ability: Int

Hypnotic Stare
Negate a target's Wisdom bonus to will saves or psychic attacks versus the caster
Cost: 2 chi, Targets: 1. Duration 1d6 rounds. Interchangeable. Range 20'. Save: Negate. Ability: Cha

Dominate Ego
Negate a target's Charisma bonus when dealing with the Caster
Cost: 2 chi, Targets: 1. Duration 1d6 rounds. Interchangeable. Range 20'. Save: Negate. Ability: Cha

[Ability] Focus
Boost an ability bonus by 1d4 for 1 roll. Must buy this power for each individual ability.
Cost: 1 chi. Max. Level: 2

Out of Body
The caster can project his or her consciousness beyond the confines of his or her material form. The incorporal form can fly and pass through walls. Power Level increases as distance from the body increases. The body is considered unconscious while in this state.
Cost: 2 chi to start, 1 chi / round upkeep. Range: 100'. Full round manifestation, constant concentration.

Mind Link
Establish a telepathic link between the caster and a target. Link can be voluntary or forced. The target and caster can share thoughts regardless of language. Save DC is lowered by differences in language & culture. Target creature must have an Int between 6 and Caster's Int +10.
Cost: 2 chi to establish, 1 chi / round upkeep, Targets: 1, Range: 30'. Full round manifestation, constant concentration.

Send a one-way psychic message to someone across long distances. Target must be known to the caster. As distance increases, difficulty increases. The Distance Category is the nearest power of 2 in miles. Dist 1 = 2 miles, D2=4m, D3=8m, D4=16m, D5=32m, etc. A previously established Mind Link or close physical relationship grants a bonus to success. True love knows no distance.
Cost: 1 chi. Successful sending is D20+Wis+Caster Level + Power Level vs. 15 + Distance Category (2^x miles) - Relationship bonus.
Example: Doc uses Telepathy 3 to contact a relative across Ohio. Cost 3 chi, Roll 7 + 3 wis + 4 CL + 3 PL = 17 vs. 15+8 disance category (~256 miles) - 5 relationship =18, failed. Telepathy 4 would've connected, while Telepathy 8 would've negated the distance altogether, making the final DC10.

The Tower of Venis

Doc yanks repeatedly on the door bell. "Open up in the name of His Holiness, Pope Alexander II! We want sanctuary!"

As the sun disappears the wind picks up bitterly, throwing snow mercilessly in their faces. Doc continues wanging on the bell.

He's about ready to pull out the megaphone when he finally gets a response from deep within the hall.

"Who goes there?" a male voice calls.

"DaVinci, an emmasary of the Pope, and my escorts. Let us in before we freeze to death!"

There is a delay. A hushed and muffled argument takes place beyond the walls. Footsteps run towards the door. Someone lifts the wooden brace off the doors and sets it aside. The footsteps run back away. Finally the portcullis lifts. Thunderhorse and Skullfucker push the heavy wooden doors aside.

The gatehouse is pleasantly warm, despite the cold draft penetrating the curtained arrow slits. There is a sweet smell of incense piercing through the stench of hay and horse shit. It is a room about thirty feet wide and fifty feet long, with a vaulted wooden ceiling twenty feet at the highest. There are horse stalls filled with fresh hay along the left and right walls, some occupied.

The portcullis closes down again behind them. Thunderhorse and Skullfucker close the wooden doors again to keep out the bitter cold, but they neglect to brace the door again. The adventurers park their horses in the open stalls.

There is a second portcullis at the other end of the gatehouse leading into the main foyer, golden with the light of a warm fire. It is also down. Two brown robed monks stand out of reach on the other side of the gate. One has a bow and arrow, not nocked but not drawn, pointing down. The other has a hoe, which he tries to hold threateningly.

Doc approaches them slowly, arms apart and palms upturned.

"Brace the door again, if you please," says the man with the bow, nervously.

Doc turns to Thunderhorse and gives him a silent order. Thunderhorse obeys, enlisting Skullfucker's help.

"We've come to see Abbot Nathan," Doc tells them.

"He's been summoned," replies the monk with the bow. "He'll decide what we do with you."

"Of course," Doc replies.

Beyond the foyer is a large, square room with two staircases that curve around the back edge of the central tower. Between them is an arched doorway into a brightly lit dining hall set into the rock its self. A few nuns and monks sneak a peek at the visitors around the edges of that doorway.

The clopping of sandals can be heard accompanying a grumpy grumbling. An ornate white and gold robe sweeps down from the top of the curved stairs. The sandles carry an older man of at least 65 if not 70, fit for his age but wrinkled and grey with a thin whisp of a beard on his chin.

He approaches them swiftly. He's quite tall, nearly seven feet, so his stride is long and deliberate.

"You are not from Rome," he booms as he approaches. He speaks Norse with a strange accent. "Who are you? What omens do you bring on this dark day?"


The adventurers make their way through the empty town of Bridgeton under the careful eyes of cowering villagers. Doc feels confident and alert, proud of his leadership skills and floats on a feeling of having a new level of awareness. He congratulates his team on a job well done.

"Minimal casualties is what I like to see. Good work, everyone," he says.

His words echo in his own mind. His ears are still ringing from the nuclear explosion and rocket fire a moment ago. His eyes must be still effected too, because he's seeing two of his hands and a blurring tracer between them. He brings them up to rub his eyes. His fingers meet his eyelids before he feels it.

He becomes dizzy for a moment and stops.

"You alr- You -ight, alr- Doc? -ight, Doc?" Mark asks. His question echoes before he speaks.

Doc covers his eyes with his hands. His brain spins, and for a moment he loses all sense of scale. The feeling that he's the size of a gnat inverts to the feeling that he's the size of the Earth, then pulses back repeatedly.

"Doc? Doc? DoDoc?c? DDoocc? Doc!"

Doc opens his eyes. The party is stopped and looking at him. The pulsing is gone. Everything is normal, or so it seems.

"Somethin' wrong?" Mark asks. "You okay?"

Doc thinks about it. He's feeling okay, now, aside from a bit of a headache. "Fine. I'm fine. Just a quick headache, probably from all the excitement."

Thunderhorse calls out to them. "Over here! There are horses!"

There are five horses stabled oustide the great hall. Thunderhorse and Skullfucker begin saddling them up. Fairhairson and Aerikson go into the Great Hall in search of lunch. They return a moment later with a loaf of bread, a pitcher of mead, and a string of smoked fish jerky.

The party chows down quickly and takes to the horses. Thunderhorse and Skullfucker lead the way, followed by Fairhairson and Aerikson sharing a horse. Mark takes Brother Broderick on his horse alongside Doc, who has enough trouble controling the horse on his own.

The trek towards the moutain gets steeper and more difficult. They travel through a valley carved by ancienct glaciers, still wet with runnoff and growing whiter and more difficult as the snow builds up. As they approach the slopes, however, the snow gives way to trees and ground cover.

In three hours they've gone ten miles up the mountainside. They stop at a glacial lake and let their horses drink. The vikings begin to break into their whiskey reserves, except for Thunderhorse, who was not beginning but rather continuing.

"[Do you see?]" Brother Broderick asks quietly. "[There is a flat space between these peaks. The path to the tower traverses up the right slope to the top, and crosses the glacier to the left. The tower sits nestled among those sinister peaks.]"

"Can we get horses up there?" Doc asks.

"[Yes. There are paths by which bread, fish, and wine are brought up from Bridgeton by horse.]"

"What about the tower's defenses? Gates? Turrets? Are the paths patrolled? "

"[No turrets or walls, but there is a gatehouse. There are no soliders posted there, the mountain top is enough of a barrier to discourage intruders. The monks who live there are hardened people, though, and can defend themselves. With today's violence I'm sure they've locked the gate, and may be ready at the windows with slings and arrows.]"

"Do they have weapons?"

"[Not as you might expect. They have bows and slings for hunting, and other tools for farming and gathering water which they have learned to wield as weapons.]"

"So, what, it's like a Eurpean Shaolin temple or something?"


"Nothing. Nevermind."

The air gets thinner and colder the higher they travel. The afternoon has seen the sun leap gently into the sky and it now decends for a soft evening landing.

The trek becomes more and more difficult as they climb the ever rising trail. They pass the treeline. Rocky ground turns to ice. The sun fades begins to fall behind them as they approach the high, icy plain. The wind picks up and chills them all. Through the drifting snow, they can see the outline of the tower built into the mountainside.
None of them are properly dressed for this. Doc and Mark have it best, Doc in a leather marine jacket and Mark with his wool coat. Skullfucker is the worst off, as his chain mail which was heavy and warm below is now freezing and sticking to his skin. Brother Broderick's robes are also woefully insufficient for this mountaintop weather. He huddles closer to Mark than he's comefortable with. Several flasks of whiskey are passed around to keep the blood warm. Even Aerikson partakes.

As the sun finally falls into the valley below, they approach the gates. No one is visible and no lights shine through the windows. The stone walls are warm to the touch, however, and black smoke rolls out of the chimneys, shrowding the upper portion in thin gray smoke. There are three tower houses of varying height surrounding the central tower which is mostly built into the central of three peaks of the mountain. The top of the tall, central tower stands above the entire mountain. An ornate stained glass window glints with the fading sunlight, but it's details cannot be made out from where the adventurers stand.

The gatehouse projects forward of the middle towerhouse. It's portcullis is down and the great wooden doors behind it are shut.

There is a rope hanging outside the door. Doc pulls on it. A bell rings inside the door.

They wait.

Nothing happens.

Assault on Bridgeton

The villagers of Bridgeton stare in awe at the blackening fire in the sky. From the tower come four men, two pikemen, an archer, and their Captain, to watch the violence unfold.

They are caught in total surprise when the watch tower explodes. The two archers standing on it disappear in the fireball and smoke. The wooden tower splinters, topples over, and catches fire.

Thunderhorse leads the charge towards the bridge, with Skullfucker and Fairhairson close behind him. The two bridge guards don't see them coming. They're too busy staring at the apparent spontaneous combustion of their tower.

Thunderhorse brings the nearest one to his knees as he pounds him with his axe. Skullfucker follows up, running him through and leaving him bleeding. The other guard turns to run, but is caught in the back by an arrow from Fairhairson's bow.

The rest of the party catches up, and everyone begins crossing the bridge. Doc has his megaphone out and begins shouting and screaming, whooping and hollering as he runs. The villagers scatter. Some of them run to the nearest hut, others take to the woods. One fisherman runs a ridiculous, indecisive circle around a hut then heads up river.

The Captain of the town guard, identifiable by his ornate tunic and shield, turns to see the party approaching. He orders his men to the bridge. The guards run towards it and take up defensive positions at it's edge. The archer flees for his life into one of the huts.

The guards block the edge of the bridge. Fairhairson runs towards them, readying a shot, followed by Mark who swaps the rocket launcher for his assault rifle. Skullfucker bursts forth from behind them and jumps off the apex of the bridge, sword first into the face of a guard.

Doc stands at the top of the bridge with his megaphone. "SURRENDER TO THE WRATH OF GOD!" he yells. "THE END IS NIGH, YOU WILL ALL PERISH IF YOU STAND YOUR GROUND! "

Thunderhorse comes running from behind Doc and swings his axe into the Captain's chain mail, badly bruising his shoulder. His surprise at this attack leaves him soaking with adrenaline, enough to dodge Fairhairson's arrow.

Mark takes a warning shot at them, deliberately aiming between their heads.

Thunderhorse swings again, but the Captain blocks with his shield. This allows Skullfucker to thrust his sword past his defenses and catch him well in the upper right arm.

Doc continues to yell at them. "RUN FOR YOUR LIVES OR HELL WILL COME UPON YOU!"

The remaining guard is broken. He drops his halberd and runs for it. Thunderhorse leaps and catches him across the back of the skull, dropping him to the ground. The Captain is done, too. He turns to flee. Skullfucker swings his sword after him but misses. Thunderhorse catches him in the chest as he swings his axe back from striking the pikeman.

The Captain spins and drops to his knees. He's breathing heavily and unable to defend himself. Before Doc can call him off, Fairhairson slits the Captain's throat with his dagger.

The Vikings roar in bloodlust. They look ready to tear the village apart and burn it to the ground.

Doc yells at them with the megaphone. "That's enough!"

They halt and stand down, panting.

And that's it. The village is empty, save for the lives cowering in their homes, waiting for them to pass. The wooden tower burns away, fighting back the return of the cold air. The rings of condensation formed by the blast above them turn to ice and gently snows back to the ground.

They pass an archer who got caught in the blast. He looks like a stewed tomato full of toothpicks.

"Damnit," mutters Mark.

"He would've shot at us," Doc consoles him. "Besides, you were following orders, right?"

"Right." It helps some, but he's still upset.

Aerkikson takes the helmet, sword, and shield from the guard captain. Fairhairson calls for him to catch up. He takes the heavy sword from the boy, but lets him keep the shield.

"That was a bloody brilliant fight! I've never seen anything like it!" He's obviously excited.

Doc continues hollering on his megaphone as they pass through town. "STAY HIDDEN OR GOD WILL STRIKE YOU DOWN." He yells at them in Norse and Latin. "YOU HAVE SEEN THE END OF THE WORD, FOR TOMORROW IT BEGINS ANEW, IN PEACE!"

Wrath of Doc

Doc feels like he's caught between the axe and the grinder. He knows he's got to take control of the situation or they'll all be killed or worse.

He decides a motivating speech is in order. "Gentlemen, let's look at this a minute. I can get us across the bridge and through town with a minimum of fuss, or we can raise unholy hell and perhaps kill some of them and most or all of us. I understand that your thirst for revenge is strong, and I am all about justice, but we six men and a boy are not about to fight and overcome every man, woman, and child in that village and live to tell the tale. We are not to die today. Sure, we have mighty weapons and great skill but that won't carry the day. Let us use our minds AND our warrior skills to overcome this."

Skullfucker looks about to protest, but shuts up quickly. When the speech ends, he asks, "So what do you have in mind?"

"First of all, any adult male who opposes us is fair game. Anyone else isn't. Remember what we are after: the remains of your people and your culture, not the wretches who were so cruel to you. We have come for rescue, not for retribution."

"Can't we do both?" asks Skullfucker.

"Not right now. We've got a mountain to climb, remember?"

"Oh, yeah." The vikings nod in agreement.

"Doc," starts Mark.

Doc takes him and Broderick aside. "No one will be hurt. We're going to put the fear of the Lord into them, but no one will be hurt. Mark, get that rocket launcher ready. Aim at the tower and wait for my signal. Broderick, I need you to play your role as druid."

"[But, I don't...]"

"Just start chanting gibberish at the sky. That's all you have to do."

Brother Broderick nods, nervous as always.

Doc turns to the rest. "Alright. Fair warning, we're going to raise some serious hell. There will be fire and noise and fearful things the likes of which you've never seen or will ever see again, but remember: it's on our side. Just get ready to run across the bridge when I say go, got it?"

"Got it," agrees the party.

"Good. Thunderhorse, Skullfucker, Fairhairson, you lead the way. Mark and I will provide cover fire. Aerikson, you and the druid stay behind us, got it? Everybody ready?"

"Aye!" call the Vikings in unison.

Doc turns to Broderick. "Druid, begin your spell," he says aloud.

Brother Broderick starts humming a low drone, interrupted occasionally with words spoken in backwards latin. "Lord, please don't let me die," is the gist of it.

Doc calls Veronica. "You still up there?"

"Affirmative. No sign of modern tech on the radar. Everything alright on the ground?"

"Yes, but I need some fireworks. Can you help me out?"


"Fire, brimstone, wrath of God kinda stuff. Got any?"

"I think I've got what you need. What location?"

"See the village across the river from us? Within sight, but no casualties, okay?"

"Understood. Cover your ears and close your eyes. Bochkariva out."

Doc returns to the group. He motions for everyone to stay down.

The Maria Bochkariva appears silently and swiftly from the eastern horizon, flying low. The roar of her powerful engines catches up with her as she stops to hover directly over the village. The sleeping guards awaken, the fishermen drop their nets, people start shouting and crying. Some run out of their homes, some run in.

Broderick is crying, too, but he continues chanting. The vikings are impressed.

"By Odin's all seeing eye!" Fairhairson cries. "You've summoned a dragon!"

Veronica revs her forward maneuvering jets, blowing small bursts of fire from the "nostrils" of the monster, her engines roaring.

Two archers appear on the tower and start flinging arrows at the starship. They glance easily off the armored hull. The Bochkariva suddenly turns upward and rockets into the sky. As she dissapears into the upper atmosphere, she leaves a small flare behind.

Veronica calls in. "Cover in ten seconds, nine, eight, seven..."

Doc yells at everyone to look away.

"...five, four, three, two, one."

The flare bursts with an eye scorching light. For an instant, Doc can see the bones of his hands through his eyelids and the sunglasses. The air turns hot, like he just walked into a dry sauna. The ground around them turns from white to brown as the light snow cover melts instantly away. Nothing catches fire.

They look up. A giant fireball glows high in the sky. Clouds form, rippling along the edge of the shockwave growing away from the new sun. The clouds expand closer and closer.

Doc yells at everyone to cover their ears.

Even muffled through their hands, the shockwave is the loudest thing anyone but Doc has ever heard.

Thatch blows off the rooves of the huts. Fires are extinguished. The trees shake loose the all the melted ice they held. Older villagers, at least those who haven't already fainted, are blown off their feet. The cross falls off the church across the town. The stone houses still stand.

Doc's had to go through this drill before. This bomb wasn't anywhere near as large the one he sat under in training. This one was only 20 kilotons or so, and was extremely well placed. Those who looked should be temporarily blinded, those who heard it will be temporarily deafened, and everyone will be scared shitless. No one will suffer any permanent damage, apart from some hearing loss roughly equivalent to a youth spent at metal concerts.

Doc signals Mark to fire.


Viking Swordsman
Level 2 XP: 1556 Next: 3000 Skill: 0
Str: 15 (+2) HP: 16/16
Dex: 13 (+1) Chi: 2/2
Con: 12 (+1) Ref: 1(2) Fort: 1(2) Will: 0(-1)
Int: 07 (-2) Atk: 3 Melee: 5(7 swords) Ranged: 4
Wis: 09 (-1) Def: 11 Dodge: +1 Armor: +5
Cha: 08 (-1) Init: 1 (+2/0) Move: 5

Blades, Sword Proficiency (+2)
Light Armor Proficiency (Def+2)
Combat Reflexes
Power Attack

Leather bound chain mail & wolf helm Def+3
Longsword 1d8
Dagger (1d4)

Viking Archer
Level 2 XP: 1556 Next: 3000 Skill: 0
Str: 11 (+0) HP: 16/16
Dex: 17 (+3) Chi: 2/2
Con: 12 (+1) Ref: 0(3) Fort: 0(1) Will: 0(-1)
Int: 08 (-1) Atk: 3 Melee: 3 Ranged: 6 (8 bows, 9 Father's Bow)
Wis: 09 (-1) Def: 10 Dodge: +3 Armor: +1
Cha: 10 (0) Init: 2 (+5/2) Move: 5

Bows, Longbow Proficiency (+2)
Light Armor
Long Shot (RI+ 15)
Dead Aim
Precise Shot

Fur Armor (Def +1)
Father's Bow (Mastercraft, 1d6+1, +1 atk, RI 30' + Long Shot= 45')
28 barbed arrows (criticals x3)
10 flight arrows (RI +10' = 55')
5 fire arrows (+1d4 fire damage)
Flint & Steel
Dagger 1d4
Longsword 1d8

Viking Child
Level 0 XP: 0 Next: 0 Skill: 0
Str: 10 (+0) HP: 4/4
Dex: 12 (+1) Chi: 1/1
Con: 11 (+0) Ref: 0(0) Fort: 0(0) Will: 0(0)
Int: 09 (-1) Atk: 0 Melee: 0(0) Ranged: 1
Wis: 06 (-2) Def: 10 Dodge: +1 Armor: +2 (untrained, Dodge -1)
Cha: 12 (+1) Init: 0 (1/1) Move: 5

Sneak 2 (+3)

Short Sword 1d6

Crossing the River

It's an uncomfortable night's sleep on hard wood tables in the mountains of northern Norway with only a dying fire and rotten whiskey for warmth, but Doc manages to get some rest. He wakes up with the sun as it begins its slow roll across the horizon.

The vikings, including Thunderhorse, are all passed out. They had stayed up late drinking and catching up. Mark is up, digging around the hall.

"Don't they have any coffee in this fuckin' shack?" He complains. He's obviously feeling the effects of the less than pure liquor.

"You're kidding, right?" Doc asks. He has to admit, he's not feeling tip-top either. "Come on, there's some in the Jeep."

They find Brother Broderick huddled and shivering in the stables.

"What are you doing out here?" Doc asks.

"[I couldn't stay in there. I was afraid they would kill me while I slept.]" He cries. He's obviously not gotten any rest.

"Come on, we've got something to warm you up," Doc tells him.

With Mark's help in unburying the back of the Jeep, Doc retrieves the backpacks, camping gear and water can. They return to the great hall where the vikings still snooze away.

The smell of coffee brewing wakes them up. Doc pours everyone a cup. The vikings are impressed. Broderick is restored by it, and grateful. Thunderhorse takes the opportunity to ramble about the exciting things he's drank on his adventures.

A quick breakfast of burnt bacon, coffee, and hair-of-the-dog gets the crew ready.

"Before we can climb the mountain, we must cross the river," Thunderhorse explains to Doc and Mark. "It is ice cold and flows swiftly. The only way across is at Bridgeton."

Skullfucker is strapping bone-and-leather jacket over a chain mail hauberk. He wears a wolf's head over his thick, muddy hair. "The soldiers at Bridgeton are fat and lazy. We've raided their town many times now, and they've yet to catch us." His dirty smile is punctuated by his cold green eyes. He ties a sword around his waist.

Fairhairson's armor is all leather and fur, with bear claws as pauldrons. He wears no helmet over his golden locks. He slings a suprisingly ornate bow and quiver over his shoulder. "They will attack us on sight, though. We usually enter the village by stealth, but sometimes we ride through on horseback. Someone stole our horses, though. It was probably Leif, the troll-fucker. Where's Lightning, anyway?"

"Turned invisible by the sun," Thunderhorse tries to explain, although he doesn't quite grasp the nature of it.

"I'm coming, too!" Aerikson demands. He's got no armor but does have a small, dirty shortsword.

"You're to stay here to cook and clean, whelp," Skullfucker yells at him.

"Fuck you, shit-for-brains. I came to learn to be a raider, not your nursemaid. Who's there to cook and clean for anyway? The rats?"

Fairhairson has apparently taken on the role of father figure to the boy, opposing Skullfucker's older-brother stance. "He'd best come with us. He does need to learn how to fight, and there is nothing here for him. We will be gone a while, and there will be no one to look after him. He is just a boy, after all."

"I'm a man and I can look after myself!" Aerikson sneers. "But I'm coming with you all the same."


The hike to Bridgeton is not long. It's only about a seven mile hike. It is difficult, though, by the cold weather, rocky terrain, and heavy backpacks. Doc is carrying all the camping gear, plus his own satchel. Mark has the SMAW slung over his back along side his assault rifle, and Thunderhorse is carrying the spare backpack filled with rockets and ammunition. Doc decided to leave the Browning back with the Jeep. It is just too much to carry, and there's really nothing they can't kill with the armament they already have.

It's only an hour and a half walk, but it is a bit tiring. They stop in the woods on a hill overlooking the town, out of sight. It's small, one road and a bridge surrounded by stone huts on the opposite side of the river. A handful of men stand sparsely on the banks of the river hauling fishnets out of it, emptying them, and throwing them back in.

The orange tunics and shining chain mail of two soldiers is clearly visible on the bridge. They sit at their posts at this side of the river. They look like they're about to fall asleep.

"See?" says Skullfucker. "Lazy bastards. I say we just go kill them, and the rest as they rush out."

"Their barracks is on the far side of the river, just past the bridge. See the wooden fortifications?" Fairhairson points out the small tower. It is just tall enough to overlook the town. "When the alarm goes up, they'll put archers on that tower. They can reach across the river from there, but they're not very good shots. Not at that distance, anyway. But it's dangerous to get close to them. They'll be fresh this time of day. I say we sneak in. If we wait long enough, the guards will be asleep."

"Fuck that," says Skullfucker. "Thunderhorse has brought us weapons from the sky. I say we burn the place to the ground once and for all."

"I agree," says Thunderhorse. "We have been at the mercy of their soldiers for too long. It is time we destroy them all forever. But perhaps we should at least take them by surprise."

Brother Broderick leans in and whispers to Doc. "[This town is the only source of food and trade for the abbey. If it is destroyed, they will starve. There are good Christian people down there!]"

Mark hears the last part of that. "I'm not havin' any part of that slaughter on my conscience."

Thunderhorse catches that and turns to Doc. "This place is the staging ground for every attack on our village. These soldiers have killed, raped, and enslaved my people all in the name of their bloodthirsty god. Now begins our vengance. We will go with or without you."


Doc, Mark, and Thunderhorse bury the Jeep beneath a saddle blanket, some timbers, and straw.

"Now remember," Doc says, "we didn't come looking for trouble, so let's try and be a little subtle about this. We don't want to arouse too much suspicion because we are going to have to leave the Jeep here and I don't want anything to happen to our only ride. We'll get some grub and a long nights rest so we can climb the fucking Matterhorn in the morning. Brother Broderick, do you know these people? Can you make our introductions?"

"[No, I do not. Our supply caravans never stopped here. In fact, we were told to make all haste across the bridge, for the locals are savage brutes who do not yet accept Christ as their savior. We were told they would kill any man of the cloth. I do not think we should stay here.]"

"We probably shouldn't tell them about our holy mission, then. The Duke here speaks their language, maybe he can introduce us."

"[But what of his madness?]"

"In this place, it can only help."

"[But what about me?]" Brother Broderick is very nervous and genuinely frightened. "[They'll kill me if they find me out!]"

"He is right," Thunderhorse says. "They will kill him. I would."

He does stand out as a stereotypical monk. There's no getting around it.

"Thunderhorse, give him your helmet," Doc orders.

Thunderhorse is reluctant to hand it over, but does. Doc grabs the spare axe from the back of the Jeep. He gives them to Broderick.

The brother equips them, pulling the goatskull helmet over his face. Now he looks a bit like the grim reaper. For an added touch, Doc smears some black grease from under the Jeep on his robes in a vaguely intimidating manner.

"That'll do, I think," Doc looks him over, admiring his own handywork. "If anyone asks, you are a druid."

"[What is a druid?]"

"A pagan forest spirit. A defender of nature."

"[What do I say?]"

Doc thinks about this. "Y'know what? Nothing. You've taken a vow of silence. You're here to lead us up the mountain and protect us from the mountain spirits, got it?"

"[...I think so.]"

"Good. Let's chow."

Thunderhorse leads the way through the village. The place is barren and falling apart. Gardens are overrun with weeds. Fish rot over cold fires. Stones stand where houses once did, encircling their ashen remains like a giant fire ring. There's a dead cow swarmed with black birds in the middle of the street.

"It is like I was just here yesterday," Thunderhorse says nostalgically.

The Great Hall is still standing, a large circle of stones with a thick wooden roof. Its exterior is choked with ivy and surrounded by weeds. Thunderhorse pounds on the iron-reinforced wooden door.

There is no answer.

He pounds again.


He kicks it open. It's not locked. The heavy wooden door swings open. There is warmth here, and the dim light of a small fire in the large hearth at the center of the room. Long tables and benches made of split logs line a path to the back, where a throne of wood and stag horn overlooks everything.

On the tables sleep two men and a twelve-year-old boy. A half eaten roast boar lies among them. The place reaks of grain alchohol and urine.

Thunderhorse goes up to one of the men and kicks him off the table. The man wakes up as he hits the bench before falling to the ground.

"WHAT?! Fucking son of a troll! Who the... Thunderhorse?!"

"Yes, Skullfucker."

Skullfucker climbs to his feet. "Where have you been? You've been gone a week! Just disappeared!" He kicks the other man awake. "Hey! Fairhairson! Thunderhorse has returned!"

The man awakes with a start. The boy wakes up suddenly as well, and promply pukes.

"Aye, Thunderhorse!" yawns Fairhairson. "What happened to you? "

"It is a long story, difficult to tell."

"We thought a wizard had banished you to the pit of their fire demons," explains Skullfucker.

Fairharson continues. "We burned down the tavern to kill him, but he had vanished as well."

"No, he is not a wizard, but a dwarf. He has constructed a boat that sails the skies and travels time."

"[He truly is mad!]" Brother Broderick whispers to Doc.

"I have been to the sky," Thunderhorse continues. "I have ridden the Sleipnirs and sailed beyond the stars. I fought great steel fortresses that float above the ground and spit fire and metal. I have wielded weapons that kill with thunder and lightning. And now I return with these weapons and powers, so that we may destroy Venis, kill the Pickled, and save our women!"

The two men and boy look at each other. They break out laughing, a deep, roaring harmony of guffaw.

"That's quite a tale, Thunderhorse! Did you fuck a valkerie as well?" Skullfucker laughs.

"He probably ate some bad rye and spent the last week wandering the woods in a stupor!" Fairhairson replies.

Thunderhorse is pissed off. He swings his assault rifle around and blasts the wooden throne. The blue bolt flashes instantanously across the room. The chair disintegrates into a million burning splinters. A small part of the stone wall behind it is blown out.

The vikings shut up quickly. Brother Broderick clasps his chest.

"Thor's balls!" the kid says. "You weren't bullshitting!"

Thunderhorse stows his weapon again. "This is Doc. He is a medicine man, and a fellow time traveller. None has more guile and wit." He turns to Mark. "This is Daniels. He is the bastard son of a troll and a dog's asshole, but he weilds these weapons like none other."

Fairhairson points out the boy. "This is Aerikson. We found him four days ago."

"Found him where?" Doc asks.

"The river," Skullfucker explains. "Near death on a raft."

"I've run off," says Aerikson.

"Why's that?" Doc asks.

"My father, step-father I mean, is a cooper and he wants me to be a cooper. I want to be a Viking, like me real father. He died fighting the Saxons. Like a real man."

"He's lucky he floated up this way." Fairharison says. "We're glad to show him how to fight. Plus he knows how to cook and clean. Come and share some of this boar, if you're hungry."

The party sits down for dinner. Aerikson fetches them all cups of the nastiest whiskey Doc has ever choked down, but it's the only way to stomach the gamey, dry, half-burned boar meat. Brother Broderick takes his share and eats it at a distance.

"Are you the last in town?" Thunderhorse asks.

"Seems so," says Skullfucker.

"What happened to Groth the Blacksmith?"

"He's gone to Bridgeton. He took all the armor we sold him and went off to sell it back to the fuckers. Haven't heard from him since," replies Fairhairson.


"He ran off when we burnt down his tavern. Took Helga with him."

"What about Leif?"

"Followed Dogmeat. The tavern was the only reason he was staying here, anyway."

"We thought about going too," says Skullfucker. "But then we arrested a caravan hauling this whiskey up to Bridgeton." He gestures towards the barrels in the back. "So we thought we'd stay a while longer."

"Yeh, Leif'd right pissed if he found out what we got!" Fairhairson laughs.

Dinner wraps up, thankfully. Thunderhorse continues to chew on some fat. Mark helps himself to more whiskey.

"So how did you come by the name Skullfucker?" Doc asks.

Fairhairson answers. "It was on our first raid, when we came of age. We sailed across the sea to the land of the Scotts to a village by a river. We were stripped to our bare asses, and given bear skins and woad."

"I had set fire to a hut," Skullfucker continues, "and this woman came running out with her plow, yelling and screaming. I didn't understand her. It was a warm spring day, and the woad was crawling beneath my skin. I was prepared to ravage her, but she would not shut up and continued swinging at me with her plow. So I took her head off and mounted her mouth upon my groin. That shut her up."

"He ran around like that for the rest of the battle. It was hilarious," Thunderhorse finishes.

Brother Broderick almost pukes.

"Who is that, anyway?" Fairhairson asks suspiciously.

"He is a Druid." Doc replies. "He's our guide up the mountain."

"Oy, where are you from?" asks Skullfucker.

"The isles to the west," Doc replies. "He's a guardian of mountains."

"Why don't he answer?" Skullfucker asks.

"He is a druid. He's got to keep quiet to be able to hear the nature spirits."

Skullfucker stares hard at him. "Hmp," he snorts. "He looks a bit odd to me. But so do the rest of you. Fuck it. Lets get some sleep. We've got a mountain to climb tomorrow."

On the Road Again

Mark and Thunderhorse examine the wreckage of the Cadillac and the corpses of its crew.

Doc calls home. "Steve? Veronica? Are you there?"

"I'm still here," Steve replies.

"Affirmative," Veronica replies. "Gunship destroyed. I'm 200 kilometers over Lake Huron. ETA your location is 10 minutes. "

"It's okay, we've taken care of the threat." Doc replies. "The Escalade is destroyed and the Exkoreans are all dead. One died when they wrecked, Thunderhorse caught another with his axe, and the last one blew himself up trying to kill us."


"Thunderhorse took a hit but he's okay. The Jeep took some minor damage, but it's still running."

"Acknowledged," Veronica replies. "Do you need me on the ground?"

"Uh, negative," Doc says. "I think it would be better if you're in the air. That way we can call in an air-strike if we need it."

"Acknowledged," Veronica replies. She's all business in the cockpit.

Steve calls in. "The com-probe satellite I launched has swept the area. I don't see any more signs of Exkoreans."

Veronica responds. "I'll fly over for a closer look."

"Something isn't right. Why would they only send one old Escalade, not a hover version or even an armored one?"

Veronica answers, having the most experience with them. "It's stupid. They always send in a force that has only a minor advantage over the situation. It's what they calculate as an 'optimum statistical probability of victory.' They do it because traditionally, they have to conserve resources. With some planning or dirty tactics, it works for them, but a lot of times they end up spending more in resources slowly upping the ante and getting wasted than they would if they just used overwhelming force to begin with. They also have a culture of no surrender. Victory or death. Which is why the one blew himself up at you. It's cheaper to send someone on a one-way mission than it is to bring them home."

"So they will be upping the ante next time?" Doc replies.


Steve calls. "Doc, I just thought of something. Turn off that temporal tracking device I gave you. It's probably how they found us."

Doc reaches into his pocket. The little black disk has it's red light blinking away. Doc finds the switch on the side and slides it to the off position. "Done." He thinks a moment. "What's to stop them sending more? They know we're here now, anyway."

"Nothing," Steve says. "I'll keep scanning. Veronica, stay close to them. We'll let you know the instant we see something. You better get moving, too. The faster we can complete this mission the sooner we can leave."

"Got it." Doc replies. He turns his attention to Mark and Thunderhorse.

"Lookee what we found!" Mark says. He's got two more pulse ion pistols and two spare power packs. Thunderhorse is carrying two RGAR assault rifle magazines. "They got blown clear of their boat. Found their rifles, too, but they're all fucked up."

"Good work," Doc says. "Now let's get going before more show up."

The three get back in the Jeep. Brother Broderick still has his head between his knees.

"It's okay now, Brother. It's all over, for now anyway."

"[I heard the most awful things! Thunder and lightning bursting from the ground! Forgive me but I looked up. I saw fire and brimstone rising into the air! It was terrible! Is it Armageddon? Who were those men in the black chariot?]"

"Agents of an enemy nation," Doc replies without missing a beat. "They want to see the Duke fail."

"[And they too have harnessed the power of angels to draw their carriage? How is that possible if they are enemies of God?]"

"Theirs was drawn by demons. That's why the fire and brimstone when we destroyed it."

"[I see.]"

Doc checks Thunderhorse's wounds before they go. His new T-shirt has a hole in it. His body armor is blackened but not damaged. Beneath that spot, he's got a second degree burn about the size of a saucer right below his sternum. It's starting to blister. Doc slaps a burn patch and some ointment on, and gives him some pain killers.

Doc puts the Jeep into drive. They continue on their way towards the mountains.

The road is long and grows harsher as they get higher into the mountains. The steering wheel is rattling a bit. Doc thinks the tie rods got a little bent up when they landed on the rocks in the creek. It doesn't seem to effect the thing's performance, though.

They pass village after village. Some flee at their approach, but most of them just stand by and stare. One little girl waves at them as they go by. Occasionally they see what looks like a black bird moving impossibly fast across the sky. It's the Maria Bochkareva. Veronica radios in regularly to let them know she's there and nothing else is.

Brother Broderick sees her, too. On the third flyby, he asks "[What is that? I've seen it circling us for hours now.]"

"It's our guardian angel," Doc replies.


Nine hours after they left Nidaros they are approaching a small village at the foot of the mountain Oksskolten, which translates as Bull's Head. The village is in a river valley northwest of the mountain. Doc's map calls the place Korgen.

"Hilton!" Thunderhorse cries as he sees it. "At last!"

Doc is nearly exhausted from struggling with the terrain. The road has been less than a worn path for quite a few miles now. The area is littered with streams and creeks running down the sides of moutains. The ground is rocky and difficult. It has been getting steadily worse for the last three hours.

Brother Broderick seems to grasp the nature and capabilities of the Jeep's handling, and has been invaluable in guiding them through the worst of it. He had made this trip several times by horse cart when the Abbey of the Morning Star was being built. His job was to bless the journey and essentially be a good luck charm. He's worked out well for the Time operatives, so far.

The mountain before them is huge. It rises almost twenty thousand feet above the village, with four distinct peaks. Several smaller mountains surround it. There's no getting the Jeep up there. The Jeep is getting low on gas, anyway. The warning light turns on just as Doc parks behind the stables.

"[I can't believe we made it here so fast!]" Brother Broderick says. "[I heard tell of one man making the journey in six days, but in less than one? Unbelievable. Praise the Lord!]"

The party gets out and stretches their legs. They're all very hungry. Brother Broderick had shared his wine, bread, and cheese with them, but it had long since worn off.

"Come," says Thunderhorse. "We will visit the Great Hall and feast. We must find Skullfucker and Fairhairson. It will be a long trek up the mountain tomorrow."

Up in Smoke

Doc stops the Jeep a hundred feet from the burning wreck of the Escalade.

Doc undoes his seatbelt. "Brother Broderick, I know this must be strange and confusing but I need you to stay in the car and keep your head down between your knees. Stay as low as you can get."

Brother Broderick looks at him, deeply concerned. "[What is happening?]"

"I'll explain later. Right now, you need to stay down."

Broderick nods and puts his head down.

Doc leads Mark and Thunderhorse out of the Jeep. They open the rear hatch and grab their weapons.

Meanwhile, the Exkoreans scramble out of their burning vehicle. They're shook up, but they draw their guns as they retreat from the Cadillac.

The creek is lined with small clumps of trees. Doc leads his troops towards them for cover. Mark breaks off to the right in an attempt to flank them.

"Stop where you are! Put down your weapons!" Doc shouts at the Exkoreans.

Neither of them obey. The driver runs wildly from the car, disregarding them altogether. The other scrambles up the bank of the creek towards them and takes cover in the trees. He fires his Pulse ion pistol.

The violet beam leaps from the device and scores a direct hit on Thunderhorse, who hasn't yet made it to cover. The beam splatters against the magnetic field of his body armor. A miniature aurora flares around his head, and for a moment it looks like he's wearing a crown of fire.

Mark moves into the trees and opens fire on the fleeing driver, but misses. The Exkorean flees deeper into the trees. His passenger steps around the tree he's taken cover behind and fires again at Thunderhorse before ducking back. This time he concentrates the blast. It overwhelms the magnetic field and burns a giant hole in his Manowar shirt, scorches his body armor and burns the skin underneath.

Instead of crying in pain, Thunderhorse screams in rage and charges his assailant, battle axe drawn. He swings it laterally as he goes around the tree. The axe implants its self in the wood. The Exkorean falls to the ground. His head follows shortly.

Doc moves towards Mark's position. He calls at the Exkorean driver again. "STOP OR YOU'RE DEAD!"

The Exkorean turns to look. He sees what's become of his partner. He sees Mark aiming at him, and he sees his car on fire. He realizes there's no where for him to go. He puts his hands in the air.

Doc, Mark, and Thunderhorse begin to approach him, weapons pointed. The driver gets down on his knees.

"Put down the gun!" Doc shouts. The driver tosses it to the ground in front of him.

Doc sees the man thumb a button before tossing the weapon. And now a red light on the weapon is blinking.

Doc yells. "Shit! Overload! Run!"

Just in time, too. The team ducks into the banks of the creek as the Pulse Ion pistol's power pack detonates with an intense flash of light followed by an incredible shockwave. Seconds later, the Escalade explodes behind them. The second blast is not as powerful, but is almost as loud.

Thunderhorse is out of the blast range of the power pack, but not the SUV. Distracted by the first explosion, he doesn't react in time to avoid the second. He gets pelted by the remains of the Cadillac's windshield. Fortunately it's not serious.

A small mushroom cloud billows into the sky. Two trees are on fire, and a sixty foot circle of ground is scorched. The wreckage of the Cadillac burns away in the creek, blowing thick black smoke to chase the mushroom cloud.

The gunner lays on the rocky banks, his back bent backwards. The passenger is in the woods bleeding while his head has rolled into the trickling water. There's no sign of the driver save for the floating bits of burning ash.

"Hoooo-weee," Mark says as the smoke clears. "What a mornin'."

Road to Venis, Pt 3

Doc briefly entertains the idea that the black Cadillac behind them is simply out for a morning drive through pre-renaissance Europe and that they weren't following him after all. This fleeting hope disappears when Doc throttles up and their pursuers follow suit.

"Them dumb mother fucker are comin' after us!" Mark says. "Here I though I wasn't gonna have any fun today."

The Exkoreans are about a half a mile back, well out of effective weapons range. Doc starts looking for outcroppings in the rock or someplace they can make an ambush, but there's nothing good within sight.

"[What's going on?]" asks Brother Broderick.

"Just keep your head down and your seatbelt tight," Doc replies.

Doc pounds on the gas. The tires spin in place, rooster-tailing mud behind them. Doc tries again. The Jeep continues forward, but begins slipping sideways. With a burst of adrenaline, Doc wrestles with the wheel and applies the right amount of brake to save the jeep from spinning out.

Damnit! Doc thinks. He checks behind him. By the rooster tail they're throwing, the Exkoreans are not having much luck accelerating rapidly either. But they're not spinning out. They've yet to cross the creek, so hopefully that will slow them down some.

It does. For a moment it looks as if they're going to try to jump the gap, but instead it slows down and makes its way carefully across. Doc meanwhile gets the Jeep back up to speed. The road bends slightly as it passes between a small lake and a minor foothill, heading downward. He eases forward on the gas, just on the threshold of spinning the tires, pushing the Jeep past eighty. The hill is just enough to put the other vehicle out of direct line of sight, but there's nowhere to hide. If he stops now, the Exkoreans will see him long before the Time Operatives can make an ambush.

Now that there's more distance between them, Doc has time to think ahead. The dirt road heads downhill towards the fjord, eventually hugging close and squeezing between it and a larger ridge. Another small creek awaits them at the bottom of the hill they are going down.

Doc still hasn't seen them coming around the hill, but that doesn't slow him down. He pushes past 100 going down the slope. At last the black car appears around the bend, just less than a mile behind. It soon begins gaining ground.

The creek is approaching swiftly. It's a 12' wide mess of mud and rock. With the way the ground has behaved so far, Doc doesn't want to risk jumping and not making it. He can use his vehicles superior ability to handle the terrain to gain the advantage. He slows down.

The Jeep slides almost to a hault as it approaches the creek. Doc gently navigates across the muddy banks and powers up the other side. The Exkoreans continue barrelling down the hill as fast as they can go. Doc tries to power it a little too hard on the far bank, and the wheels slip slightly. He has trouble picking up speed rapidly as he starts up another hill. The Exkoreans gain an alarming amount of ground as they race down the slope.

At last Doc gets the Jeep back up to eighty. The Exkoreans are showing no signs of slowing down. They have no choice but to try to jump the creek. It doesn't look good for them; their brick of an SUV was not built for this kind of thing. It races towards the gap in excess of a hundred miles an hour. It leaves the edge and sails through the air... pounding the ground on the other side. It bottoms out hard but continues on like nothing happened. It's a landing the Duke boys would be awestruck by.

"Holy shit!" Doc yells. "Sorry, padre." Mark's got him doing it now.

The race continues. The Exkoreans slowly gain ground. There's yet another creek ahead. This one is bigger and uglier. Doc is determined to gain the advantage here. The bastards got lucky on the last one, but can they do it again?

Doc slows down as much as he can. The wheels slip in the mud as they approach the creek. Doc maintains control over the Jeep and keeps it in a straight line, but the vehicle slides off the shallow edge and bottoms out hard on the rocks of the creek bed, comming to a violent stop.

"SHIT SHIT SHIT!" Doc yells.

The Exkoreans continue racing towards them at top speed. They're just outside of 500 feet away when a man in a black suit and dark sunglasses pops up from the roof of the Escalade with a mounted M60. He opens fire. The spray goes everywhere but near them.

The Escalade starts to slow down for the creek and the Jeep stuck within it. The gunman smiles as they bear down on them. But they are going too fast. The black SUV can't stop in time and loses control. It spins 180 degrees and launching off the edge of the creek backwards at highway speeds. It flies across the gap and slams tail first into the rocks on the other side.

The gunner is thrown from the vehicle like a ragdoll, his spine turned instantly to jelly. He's not getting up. There is a large amount of smoke pouring from the underside of the vehicle, and the smell of gasoline permeates through the canvas roof of the Jeep. The driver and his passenger sit, dazed.

Doc rams the Jeep up the other side of the creek bank. It roars loudly as it leaves its muffler behind.