We started off the game with:
"A few hours ago, taking a zeppelin ride over Tir na Nogth from Amber to Argent seemed like a good idea...", though that was more than a bit tongue in cheek.
Backing up a bit, we find out that Corwin has extended an invitation to 'my nieces and nephews' for the next big party in Argent. About a week's time -- more than enough to make preparations. Everyone's interested in this, I Cly, and since by far and away the easiest way to get to Argent is via the semi-regular, semi-reliable zeppelin trips over the Tir, they opt to travel that way, since none of them have ever been.
We then cut to the flight itself -- nighttime, over the Tir. I sketch out the blimp on a battlemat (which MIGHT have been a clue if I hadn't told everyone I wanted to work through the combat mechanics) and all the zones. I did a LOT of zones -- twelve or so for the blimp and maybe fifteen for the air around the blimp... the 'around the blimp' ones didn't matter as much.
People talk about where they'd be and what they'd like to be doing. As (effectively) brevet commanders and kinda-royalty, they can pretty much go where they like, so...
Conversations proceed where appropriate, and I'm also describing the Tir to Nikolai, who's looking down on it from the prow of the ship.
The camera is on Xia as she lounges on a catwalk when an alarm sounds. Now, this isn't a particularly alarming alarm -- it's more of a 'everyone to battle stations, but keep it orderly' kind of thing. A couple non-combatant crewmen are heading by Xia at about that point, and explains that the lookouts have probably spotted Moonriders -- they have a habit of attacking zeppelin flights, but are usually driven off after a few shots are exchanged on either side between the riders and the zeppelin's escort craft. The 'riders don't attack the zeppelin directly, since their goal seems to be capturing it.
We jump around from character to character, with different NP Cs telling everyone essentially the same thing, from their point of view.
The engine crew informs Miriam and Rose that this is business as usual, and if they listen closely, they'll be able to hear the escort planes take off from the hanger (they do), and they climb through several floors of 'engine room' near the tail assembly of the craft to get up to the rear observation deck. Xia is climbing the catwalks to the walkway that runs the length of the zeppelin along the dorsal spine, on the outside (she was torn between that and running for her own scout-ornithopter in the hanger). Rose gets the same spiel from the XO of the craft, who encourages her to vacate the bridge. She ignore that and moves to a better vantage point along the windows. Nikolai is actually standing next to one of the lookouts, who points out a trio of large, tentacle-mouthed manta rays flying ponderously toward from the southeast. Just then, the two amber fliers zoom by, heading out on an intercept.
Everything is very business-as-usual. The people in the passenger cabin actually get up and all move to the windows, as though it's an airshow.
The fliers converge on one another, the moonriders closing quickly -- their slow movements conceal a great deal of speed in the air. Each of the beasts seems to have three passengers -- one steering the creature and two armed with long rifles -- all of them are clothed like a mummy crossed with a Bedouin: head to foot in cloth, in a way not dissimilar to the Tusken raiders in Star Wars.
Shots are exchanged about 300 yards from the zeppelin as the two forces meet and pass each other. The Amber planes begin a turn while the beasts drive straight for the zeppelin, the riflemen continuing to fire on the planes.
Elsewhere, Rose frowns, looking around her for the source of the odd tingling in the back of her head ... the way such things sometimes did. Some kind of magic.
The lookout frowns. "That's odd, they don't usually --"
A bolt of energy lances out of the sky, tearing a flaming chunk out of the wing of one of the Amber planes.
Heads turn, and we see a glowing, clockwork disc hovering in midair about fifty yards off the starboard side of the zeppelin. A lone figure stands in the center of that disc.
Right. I tell folks that the Aspects on the Scene are "Moonlit Night," and "Windy Updrafts," and that the first tag on either of those Aspects is free, and it's time for initiative.
Here, we opt to actually roll for initiative, so that people can use Aspects if they like. This is also where we start to see a pretty grand disparity between the Haves and Have-nots in terms of Alertness. Throughout the fight, Xia and Nikolai come in pretty far in front of the rest, followed (usually) by the bad guys, then Rose, then Miriam and Roxie in the "negative 1 and negative 2" range.
The first round breaks down basically like this:
Meaning that, as soon as someone got in close to the riders, they 'zoomed in' to be subset of Moonriders that was also a group of three minions. It was a bit wacky, but no one seemed to notice, except me.
Right. That round took a long bloody time to do, since none of us have really played Sot C before, but we got through it, and there was a lot of good stuff going on.
Next Round, which was full of awesome:
Hmm. That sounds a bit dry. Here's how it looked: as Ghostwheel begins to fade out, Xia's eyes take everything in: the long drop to the Tir, the swirling aerial battle close at hand and below her, to the east, and the vanishing platform and target. She take two steps and hurls herself, backwards, in the general direction of the aerial battle and shoots at Merlin with both pistols (who ducks in no small surprise at the speed of her actions -- takes Stress, despite the penalty on her shots). She turns halfway 'round in midair and shouts: "NIKOLAAAAI!"
In short: awesome.
I apologized at this point for the fight going so long. Xia's player, who is really NOT a dicey, tactical, Dn D?-loving player says "Yeah, it's taking a long time, but this round was WAY faster than the last one, and in either case, I'm having FUN."
Yay. Next round.
She turns and sees Merlin, sans Ghostwheel.
"Nice shot, cousin," he comments.
Last round, which pretty much everyone but Miriam, Merlin, and Roxy are out of. Some amusing wordplay with Roxy and Merlin ensues. The bit I remember:
Merlin: "So you lot are off to visit my Father at one of his ridiculous parties in Argent?"
Roxy deadpans, "Oh... you weren't invited?"
Merlin is not amused. He is wearing a weird kind of clockwork exoskeleton over his right arm, all the way up to his shoulder, and seems to be sort of typing with those fingers in mid-air while he talks with Roxy. Roxy does an apposed Engineering test, augmented with Science, to determine that this contraption is some kind of remote control device for Ghostwheel, which must be off 'doing something.'
Merlin glances to the stairs leading up into the zeppelin balloon, smirks, and walks up to Roxy, saying "Tell Miriam he's late again..." Then he somehow trumps away, thanks to a series of complex movements with the exoskeleton-controls.
Miriam runs in, breathing hard and not at his best, a few moments later.
Rose was following Miriam in his run, but stopped in the engine room, frowing (made a Mysteries sixth sense check around the mechno-magical thing).
Her, to engineer: "It is supposed to be running that fast?"
He frowns, sees what she's saying, but can't figure out what's going on. After some digging, she's able to determine that, somewhere in the engineworks, something is leaving a very distinct, very traceable, magical trail behind the zeppelin... and that it wasn't do that before the fight.
Damage? Sabotage? WE JUST. DON'T. KNOW.
Tune in next time to find out!