Iron Gods

A mage misplaced

 

In the land of Numeria there was once a dusty old town called Torch. It was built on a mesa that surrounded a mountain. The mountain itself had shot a tower of purple flame into the sky for as long as anyone could remember. This was a strange sight, but Numeria was a strange land. Eons ago, a great silver ship had fallen from the sky and broken apart across the primitive nation. In its ruin, it left a legacy of both wondrous mystery and grave peril. Poisoned air and metal creatures spitting beams of light guarded unheard-of devices and the precious skymetals. Skymetal was Torch's trade, for only the unique purple fire was both hot enough to work the metal, but safe enough to let the smiths work without being incinerated. It was thus a great concern for the town on the day the fire finally went out.

Nobody knew why the fire had died. A beloved local wizard named Khonnir Baine was the first to go into the caves under Torch to try and find the answer. He claimed to have found signs of strange activity and even brought a dead robot with him. On his second trip underground however, Baine did not return. With the loss of both the popular figure and their community's source of income, his fellow Town Council members became desperate.

 
They resorted to adventurers.

 

Adventurers. Thieves and murderers. Mercenaries, lunatics, and the doomed. Heroes. The council sent out word that they were willing to pay well for a solution to their problems and adventurers came, like sharks to the smell of blood. Most did not survive the first week. As the body count rose, fewer and fewer were willing to try their hand. At the end of the week, a small band allied together to better stand against the dangers of their task. They are named here in no particular order.

There was the dwarven barbarian called Morgrym. Morgrym held no respect for the amazing science and magic of Numeria, honoring only the strength of one's own might and skill. Even then, he only cared for these virtues in his fellow dwarves. His vocabulary of slurs for those of other races was impressive, in a twisted way. Morgrym's family was a tradition of skymetal smiths and Morgrym was no exception. It had been his first day at the forge when Torch's fire died. He had only managed to create a single shining ring before it was gone. He now bore it proudly on his finger and sought to restore the center of his family's trade.

There was the Halfing zealot Burn Mossgleam. Burn was a religious crusader in service to a halfing army. His faith viewed the robots of Numeria as abominations. When Baine had uncovered a robot under Torch, Burn had come to hunt the machines and purge them of their false life. He had brought with him the tools his faith prescribed, but perhaps not the most practical ones. In one hand he carried an unwieldy 7-foot hammer and a shield in the other.

There was the moon oracle Luna, and her white tiger also called Luna. Luna lived her life as if in a dream and never really seemed to be fully meant for the harsh world around her. Perhaps she was not. Luna was in fact not entirely human. She was an Aasimar, a descendant of both angel and man. As an oracle, the gods had both gifted her with powers related to the primal mysteries of the Moon, but also cursed her with the responsibilities of her role. Despite her peaceful nature, she carried a sharp spear and possessed a surprising strength. Her tiger was also a force to be reckoned with when the time came for battle.

 

Together, these three went in search of a wizard. Their first stop was the city council. There they spoke to a dwarf councilwoman, who told them that they should first search in a set of tunnels accessible through a flooded tunnel. The local priests could provide Water Breathing spells for this purpose, and the town had a scroll of Resurrection prepared in the event Baine was found dead. The party met another ally on their way to the caves. Loping quickly back and forth through the streets with a quietly nervous laugh was the gnoll gunslinger Ghartok.

Gnolls were hyena-men with a poor reputation. They were said to attack travelers and poorly defended settlements, devouring those  they did not enslave. This was largely true. However, Ghartok had been exiled from his tribe. Born a runt, he had only begun to earn his meals when he found a musket in the spoils of a raid. This weapon was too complex for most gnolls to bother with, and so Ghartok took it for his own. With great effort, Ghartok learned to unlock its power and was finally able to hunt alongside his fellows. Soon, Ghartok came to believe that gnolls reliance on others to do their work was a weakness and decided to free his tribe's slaves. He failed. Beaten and scarred as a traitor, Ghartok was banished, for to gnolls a life without a pack is worse than death.

Luna decided to stop and find out how a monster had come to reside in a human settlement. Ghartok quickly related his story. He had nearly given himself up for dead after being exiled, but had then encountered Baine. Baine had taken him in and offered employment, instantly winning the gnoll's loyalty. After finding out the group was out to search for his master, Ghartok joined them. He offered to bring them to Baine's home and show them the dead robot. The group agreed and went with him.

Upon approaching Baine's home, a child's scream pierced the air. The party rushed to the windows and discovered that the robot had not been as dead as it previously appeared. Activated and lumbering with its four legs and two arms, it now menaced Baine's adopted daughter Val.

The party threw open the door and rushed to the child's defense. Val crumpled to the floor from a metal fist's blow as they reached the room. Morgrym brought  his trusty pick to bear and sliced deep into the machine's waist. The machine crawled about in a crippled state for a moment before Bern was able to manage to lift his oversized hammer and smash it. Luna reached the fallen child and revived her with a Cure spell. After recovering, Val tried to be welcoming to the party. She did have a bit of a dispute with Burn, who was trying to take parts from her father's robot. She allowed him the parts eventually, though with the promise that if her father needed them they would be returned. Val also allowed the party drinks from her father's tavern, which she was keeping open as lodgings for those who were going in search of her father.

Soon after that, the party entered the watery tunnels. Their first obstacle upon emerging from the waters was a ledge. Despite some missteps, they were able to get over the surprisingly difficult climb. Those who reached the top were immediately attacked by fire beetles.

Morgrym's pick downed one, the tiger Luna mauled another, and Bern somehow managed to catch the last one with a lucky blow from a wild swing. The tiger's teeth were stained and glowing for four days by the fire beetles' bioluminescent ichor. The party pushed deeper into the tunnels, finding the broken bodies of those who went before them. Some of their supplies were still usable, and so were taken. At one point, a strange creature resembling a mutant dog attacked them. The party subdued it with tiger claws, battering weapons, and earsplitting gunshots, but did not finish it off.

As Bern and Morgrym traded racial insults, Ghartok recognized one of the dead adventurers. It was Parta, a usually friendly woman known for her skill in brawling. She had fallen in with a bad crowd, which had apparently lead to her death. Ghartok's rudimentary knowledge of healing identified her death as the result of knife wounds.

The party entered a section of the cave dotted with ancient cave paintings of robots and creatures with four arms. A large pit with scrap metal at the bottom was also there. Some of the party soon noticed a humanoid figure darting about in the shadows. The party called out the figure and readied weapons. The figure emerged with his hands up in a gesture of goodwill, though he carried numerous daggers.

The figure introduced himself as a skulk named Lupel. He seemed friendly enough and offered to take two of the party to meet his leader. Luna gently explained to Lupel that he needed to leave one of his own people with the group to be fair. Lupel agreed and the party debated who should go with him. Bern was the only one actually skilled in diplomacy, so it fell to him to decide who to take with him. Morgrym's racism obviously disqualified him. Ultimately, Bern chose to take Ghartok after much pondering over if the gnoll or the oracle was more likely to unintentionally ruin things.

The leader of the skulks was named Sef. She met the party in a wide chamber. Notably, one entire wall was smooth skymetal with a closed door. Bern spoke with her for information as Ghartok mostly stayed quiet. Sef talked about the recent intrusions to their caves, and in a roundabout way confirmed that her people killed Parta. Ghartok was angered by this, but chose not to try avenging her. Sef also mentioned a purple-haired woman with odd tattoos who had come through recently on her own business. In the end, Sef had a simple offer for the party. If they would kill a band of jinkin gremlins that regularly tormented her people, she would pay them with a bag of recovered technological treasures. Bern agreed, but requested one of her knives for the job. Ghartok accidentally ruined whatever Bern had intended by promptly offering his own dagger. Thankfully, this was not interpreted as an threat.

The halfling and the gnoll returned to their companions. The skulk hostage was relieved to be allowed to leave, both from Luna's rambling conversation and Morgrym's glaring.

Moving on past the skulk camp, the party went gremlin hunting.

It didn't take long. The party found the gremlins in a chamber much like the one before, with a continuation of the skymetal wall. The little creatures teleported about with abandon, leaving shallow cuts with their tiny swords. Luna's tiger tried to run in when it saw a gremlin jab the dwarf, but was intercepted by a spike trap and left bleeding on the rock floor until Luna could revive her. One gremlin laughed a bit too loud and long and was caught off guard by a fatal blow from Morgrym. An obvious leader in a fancy headdress teleported in. Ghartok aimed his musket, but the gun fizzled and jammed. Thankfully, Luna and Luna jumped the boss as he danced through Burn's awkward swings. The last remaining gremlin sauntered up as Ghartok hurriedly fiddled with his gun. It jabbed Ghartok and looked curiously down the barrel with a scoff. It was then that the gun began working again. The gremlin's head exploded in a shower of blood and fragments, and the battle was over.

The party returned to the skulk leader. Sef offered them 47 silverdisks and five strange cards. Silverdisks were small coin-sized disks covered in circuitry and often traded a bit like gems, but the cards were a mystery. Sef only knew that the purple-haired woman had been looking for them. The skulks had found these after she left, and assumed they were probably valuable.

The party asked what lay behind the skymetal doors. Sef related tales of a great haunted desert inhabited by four-armed skeletons. Also inside was Khonnir Baine.

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RonW

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