What a nice close to the Fableverse’s Christmas celebration. A mischievous Frost with a sweet tooth, a generous Marksman helping a vigilante Santa, a free-spirited Gingerbread Man, and a gathering of heroes reveling in the past year’s triumphs and dreaming of next year’s adventures. Now, however, we travel back to Franklin to catch up on our heroes’ current predicament. The heroes are returning to Franklin after seemingly vanquishing the Witch Doctor and the Enchantress by dropping a mountain on top of their heads. Unfortunately, the victory came at a high cost, with the Wizard and the Inventor left behind, falling into a hole that opened up in the mountain. As the heroes sail home, they come across a group of sailors claiming that Franklin was suffering from enslavement and destruction at the hand of a wicked Enchantress and evil Witch Doctor.
Captain Crimson guides the Mystic Wave silently down the coast, using the morning fog to mask the ship’s presence. The only sound is the Mystic Wave’s water wheel gently churning propelling the ship quickly along the shore. The Gunslinger sits in the crow’s nest, staring intently into the distance trying to get a glimpse of Franklin. The scent of burning wood wafts into the Gunslinger’s nose, informing him that they are getting closer. A small light grows larger as the town comes slowly into view through the fog. Captain Crimson halts the water wheel and the Mystic Wave slips silently down the shoreline, carried on by momentum. The Scribe gasps.
Franklin was, indeed, ablaze. Several buildings in the town are engulfed in green flames, as well as a few ships being burnt in the harbor. The Gunslinger sees several marching formations. The smaller formations (20-30 members in the formation) are made up of the reanimated corpses from the military cemetery. Most of the zombies wore aged armor, carrying rusty/tarnished weapons from varying eras. These soldiers spent their lives in service to the Realms, but in death, their physical forms have been corrupted to serve the maniacal biddings of the Witch Doctor. However, to the Gunslinger’s great dismay, some of the uniforms and weapons look rather new, minus the burn marks that dapple the breastplates. It seems that the garrison in Franklin was no match for the Witch Doctor and the Enchantress. The larger formations (60-70 members in the formation) are made up of these zombies leading townspeople through the streets. The townspeople are chained together, being moved towards the town’s square.
Down a main stretch of road walks the imposing Witch Doctor, his hand full of flames. His bellows carry clearly across the water, “Take them to the townssquare for processing. Once they have been given their tasks, get them to work!” A pair of zombies escort a bent and limping townsperson before the Witch Doctor. The fellow had, at one point, been very well-dressed, but the hostile takeover had taken a toll. His dress jacket and breeches are dirty and ragged, his hair and beard are unkempt. The man has obviously been severely abused before being brought into the presence of the Witch Doctor. The Gunslinger could not hear what the poor fellow said, but the Witch Doctor’s response resounds clearly, “You have failed once already Banker, I find it incredibly unfortunate, if not too coincidental, that the King’s banking service moved the majority of funds held in the bank to the central bank just days before we came. Now you tell me that it would be impossible to get shipments of gold to come back into the bank because of our ‘occupation?’” The Witch Doctor suddenly summons a bright green fireball and throws it at a residential building. The building bursts into flames and the Banker sinks to the ground, lying prostrate in grief before the Witch Doctor. The Witch Doctor puts his big toe on the broken man and growls, “You think that I care what the King thinks? You think that Franklin is the endgame of our conquest? Franklin is just the beginning of a greater conquest. It is just the first of many to fall under the heel of the Witch Doctor…”
The Witch Doctor grimaces for a second, his hand moves to grasp the side of his head. His eyes flare with a green fog, before clearing, as he continues, “the Enchantress and the Witch Doctor’s heels. Soon all the gold in this land will be ours. All the land of the Realms will be ours. All the power in this land will be ours. We will not stop until even the great castle of the King is under our boot.”
Captain Crimson steers the ship away from the harbor, dropping the sails and navigating the Mystic Wave away from Franklin. The Gunslinger slides down the sail tack, landing on the poop deck next to Crimson. The Hero, Dr. Wolf, the Barkeep, the Distiller, the Scribe, and the Marksman all follow to the poop deck.
“What are you doing?” asks the Hero increduously, “We have to help them.”
“They’ll burn the town down before too long,” voices the Scribe in support of the Hero’s outburst.
“Boys, I don’t know if you’ve noticed but we’re a bit short-handed,” begins Captain Crimson, “Runnin’ straight in and takin’ on the Enchantress, Witch Doctor, and a horde of undead warriors didn’t work out so well the last time.”
The mood becomes more somber as the heroes see the Captain’s logic and the recent sting of loss comes to mind again.
“A straight-assault would be fool-hearty,” reasons the Marksman, “but a series of coordinated hit-and-run and surprise attacks may be able to spread their forces thin enough to where we can focus on the real threats here.”
“The Enchantress and the Witch Doctor,” agrees the Gunslinger, his mind turning with possibilities, inspired by the Marksman’s idea. “The horde is mindless. If we spread them out and confuse the Witch Doctor, they’ll lose their advantage of simply overwhelming us. They cannot respond quickly, especially if we attack multiple parts of the city at once. Then we take the big two down.”
“I think I have an idea to drop the big one,” says the Distiller slowly.
The Marksman looks around and thinks for a second and then drags a wide-topped barrel over to the group, “Okay men, here’s what we’re going to do…”
Narrated by Brandon Warner