Iron Gods - Mike Korupp

From Torch to the Southern Cave and then the Dominion.

We get attacked by a creature that we can’t identify.

Journal of Shadow Mal part 28

Entry 199, Day 111, Noon

We destroyed the altar, fortunately it had not spawned more chaos beasts and Rim’s chainsaw was maximally effective. Technology may be intimidating and have an air of…sterility to it, but I cannot deny the efficiency of what Harkness has called “industrial applications of knowledge.” Mist and I have been talking more and more about the creation of magic items and ways to exploit technological knowledge with magical power, or at least take lessons from the engineering of technological artifacts.

But this is beside the point, after destroying their shrine, we continued to plumb the foul and slimy Mi-go caves. We discovered a wellspring of the sludge that fills the cavern but no way of stopping the flow. The chamber was guarded by dog-sized insectoid creatures that Mistofelees referred to as, “like zerglings,” a term I have no familiarity with. They were guarding a handful of infectious necromantic talismans which were easily destroyed. Like many of the things from the dark tapestry they were designed to destroy will and warp the target’s body, mind, and soul. There was little time to dwell on this subject however, as we then stumbled upon a pair of mutant girallons.

Or so I first thought, when their heads split open and their limbs twisted and stretched at unnatural angles it became clear these beasts were something else. Later information suggests they are a form of beast from beyond known as a “Gug,” an awful and alien beast that revels in blood and carnage. They were ultimately just brutes, whatever their intelligence, and we dispatched them as quickly as possible.

It was shortly after this we discovered the layer of muck and slime disguises at least one hidden tunnel. Flynn discovered it the hard way, and I found myself diving in after to make sure his new, heavy armor didn’t drown him. I am having difficulty describing the levels of disgust I feel right now. I am contemplating teleporting to the nearest desert just to feel dry and clean again.

This pool-to-tunnel of horror led to a chamber with Mi-go in it, according to Flynn’s recon. We waited to ambush them while they doubtless did the same on their end, and eventually just marked the entrance and left. Hopefully they will remain too paranoid to come up behind us.

Maybe the cleansing power of setting myself on fire, I can make myself resistant…getting off topic.
Moving on, we found another deep room with a blessedly dry rock ledge. On said ledge were the skeletal remains of a technic league agent. She had the mate to a bracelet we had found in the Shub-shrine, a tech-device known as a “force field”. It functions like a cross between a ring of protection and an air bubble spell, providing a layer of protection against damage and (perhaps more importantly) being covered in disgusting slime.

The corpse itself was apparently the second-in-command of the group that the Bounty Hunter Caio is looking for. We collected her gear and identifying parts (her skull) and I said a cursory prayer of peace and rest over her corpse. I would feel bad about separating her remains, but I know if I were her I would be happy that ANY part of my body made it out of this disgusting hole. Moreover I am NOT putting another corpse in my magical storage if I can avoid it.

Mr. Mistofelees also discovered an interesting sample of purple mold which we collected for alchemical study. I would rather never see another slimy fungus again but I cannot fault him for having passion for his craft.

Ugh, back into the muck.

Entry 200, Day 112, evening

The next room contained a gug’s trophy room and the gug itself. One violent confrontation later and the world was a better place, but still horribly slimy. After that we found what seems to have been the leader of the fungus monsters. A Mi-go with an evil magic staff of purple, glowing crystal hurled confusion and radiation at us as his minions attacked us. The battle was fierce but we persevered, and afterward discovered one of the reasons that Mi-go so love collecting brains. We found a vaguely cylinder-shaped device of magic and technology which held a disembodied brain, still in a state not quite alive nor dead. The brain was one Therace Holiyard, an expert on the nature of the Dominion of the Black and, to the Mi-go, a living reference book. He was also the leader of the ill-fated expedition that Hyrsek Caio was looking for.

He was understandably upset, and I suspect bringing him back to himself will take some time, being trapped for decades in brain-case crazy hell is dark stuff, but his knowledge is too valuable for me to give up on without trying to bring him back. His books are likewise valuable, but in this case I believe it better to let others, even enemies such as the League, have them. Every power group that knows more about the Dominion is another group capable of fighting them.

Sadly, we had to leave this lovely dry cavern and slog back through the mud and slime, but that was the end of our foul encounters, with one unfortunate exception.

We found, in a darkened alcove, a single corpse of a Mi-go long dead. Near its body were notes detailing a weapon used by the Dominion of the Black called the “darkness plague.” It is a disease which infects people and makes the area around them darker and darker until they cannot see while also eating away at their sanity and eventually killing them. It seems the Dominion uses this as a terror weapon against humanoid populations. The Mi-go itself was infected, and chose to spend its final days studying the effects of the plague, presumably hoping that someone would eventually retrieve its notes without succumbing.

Unfortunately, standing near the corpse and studying the papers exposed us to the disease, and both myself and Susie were infected. Fortunately we were prepared for such troubles, and after curing ourselves destroyed the disease at its source.

There is little else to say, except that Hyrsek was willing to give us information and some potions in exchange for the books and proof of demise of his targets. He says that whatever presence is currently killing the marsh to the southwest is reported to look like a ghost. I shall have to meditate and consider the best means of dealing with incorporeal enemies.

In any event, we will return to Torch tomorrow, to bring Therace back to his humanity, to tool up our equipment, and to soak in a hot bath for at least 6 hours straight.

Hopefully Bas will be visiting soon, I need some dinner, dancing, and downtime.

Entry 201, Day 119, evening

Settling into a comfortable routine; crafting in the morning, counseling Therace in the afternoon, help Mist with his alchemy in the evening.

Entry 202, Day 120, evening

Date night with Bas! <3> training and side projects all done it is time for us to return to the Scar of the Spider. All that remains now is the mysterious ghost cave/dying swamp and the Dominion holdings.

Speaking of holdings and projects, Abbot Costello has been busying himself with some upgrades. I finished the security walls and helped him install gates, but the upgraded lodgings are all his doing. I am glad, should I leave this place (and I have no doubt I will someday) I have faith in his capable management of the shrine.

Note to self; see if Binox is up for cooking the slime caves. He has energy and laser weapons, he has minions with inexorable patience, and considering the enemies were mostly fungus monsters I fear they may reproduce if the place is not sterilized.

Journal of Shadow Mal part 27

Entry 197, Day 109, Evening

Negotiations with Binox (it seems I misheard his name) were a type 4 encounter. Tin-pot dictator (moreso than normal I suppose) puffed up with arrogance, self-importance, and ambition as he gave himself bombastic titles and made overly dramatic speeches. I played along, a bit surprised at how human this machine intelligence was in his egotism, and things went relatively smoothly. His primary need seems to be energy, he has great big power collectors of the same sort as the one we found in the League’s base, generating for unknown purposes. He talks big about conquering and “optimizing” but I have yet to see any evidence of him projecting force or doing anything besides hiding in his hole from the scary things outside.

Of course I said none of this, it would be undiplomatic. Instead I cut a deal, we would lead one of his minions to the abandoned tech base across the vale where he could find more power and more raw materials. In exchange he gave what information he had regarding the other powers in the region (though it was little information to go on) and that vague sense of “I’m okay, you’re okay” from having completed a deal without backstabbing one another. I asked if he would help us deal with the Dominion forces, but he made some excuse, I don’t even remember the wording, just some roundabout way of saying, “I can’t admit it, but I am afraid I would lose.”

Ah well, at the very least we may be able to recruit him when it comes time for clean-up. At least one of the evils residing here is fungoid in nature, and may take long-term effort to completely eradicate.

After that exercise in chest-beating and ego-stroking we decided to investigate the old tower on top of the cliff. Calling it a tower is perhaps overly-charitable, but it proved more dangerous than it looked.

After air-walking up to the top of the canyon wall, we decided to check the side-building first, an old barn of indeterminate usage, and were set upon by an entire cult of demons, monsters, and evil spellcasters. A fully-fledged succubus threw around a great deal of mind-control magic as I dashed back and forth reinforcing the mental defenses of my compatriots. The evil witch who was leading the group struck Susie and Flynn with a blood-rage curse of a particularly pernicious sort and the Succubus managed to steal some life force before she was sent back to the abyss. In the end we were triumphant, and discovered the purpose of this conspiracy was literally “for the evil.” The dark mistress of the little club was summoning in demons and sending them on their way, hoping to ultimately create a new worldwound in the name of the Mother of Monsters. I have doubts such a plot would ever be successful, as it takes greater magics than a few scrolls of planar binding, but that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t wreak great evil before all was said and done.

Fixing the damage done is going to take a bit of time, the dark rites performed in combat have left a taint infecting the souls of two of my companions. Having your soul chewed on by a succubus is likewise problematic, but I have confidence all will be well.

Entry 198, Day 110, Evening

I admit I had been hoping for a hot bath, but under better circumstances than this. But I am getting ahead of myself.

I removed what curses and damage I could from my companions, but a sort of…darkness remains in Flynn and Susie. Fluffy continues to insist it is merely their natural evil and associations with evil outsiders, but I have my doubts. I have some theories on the correct methods of removal but we are still deep in hostile territory.

We made for the cave of “flying fungus that chitters” (as Binox described it) and were set upon by Shambling Mounds. The mud and muck and grasping, decaying vegetation were awful but we persevered and destroyed the guard dogs. Entering the cave system we found grisly chandeliers of dismembered people and a constant layer of disgusting (though thankfully non-toxic) slime. We also found a crawlspace too small to squeeze through while wearing bulky plate. Rim flatly refused to leave himself unprotected and unarmored, but was willing to hold the entrance while everyone else crawled through if I would dimension-shift him to the other side of the obstacles.

The stinking, winding tunnels and ankle-deep muck were a constant reminder why adventuring is best left to crazy people, and it was almost a relief to be attacked and distracted by the alien plant-monsters that ambushed us. They seem to have a fixation on brains, collecting, removing, eating, studying…I cannot help but think they were the creatures behind the giant robots and the empty-skulled corpses we met at the mouth of this canyon. At the suggestion of Mr. Mistofelees I assisted the dissection of one, and determined some of its weaknesses as well as their many immunities and resistances. Acid is the only sure energy type, and they are most assuredly alien.

Further in we faced another group which was in the process of dissecting an animal corpse, and eventually we stumbled upon the fungoids’ center of worship and faith. The pray to an obscure, alien goddess known as Shub-niggurath, and their living altar to this “black goat in the woods” began spawning chaos beasts. This is where things “went to Shenmen” as Susie and Rim were afflicted with corporeal instability. The pure essence of chaos forcing them to use great force of will to merely maintain their own natural shape. We destroyed the beasts and fled, teleporting back to Torch and getting help.

Isuma is fascinated and intimidated by the press of people, having been alone a long time. I am helping her adjust, having already found the best places to walk when you need some space from the crowds. Additionally, we have both gotten a chance to luxuriate in the wonders of indoor plumbing and dry flooring. If we had more time Draline and I would take her shopping. We both will need new shoes when this is all over.

Khonnir, Mistofelees and I conferred about the plant-things we have been facing and believe they are called “Mi-Go.” I do not know if they work for the Dominion, but their penchant for horror, evil, and weirdness marks them as a clear and present danger.

Tomorrow I will try to clear up the rest of the bloodrage curse, and we shall return to the disgusting caves. I am bringing dry socks.

Letter 24
Letter 24 (The end of a FUN-GI time)

Dear mom and dad,

From the last time i was able to write i now have some time to iron out a proper letter. Well for starters, we were able to finish the algi dungeon. There was a LOT of mud, leaches and monsters that the sooner i forget about the better. Were able to do some salvaging of this one tech-niq-league guy that had a nice item on his corpse.

Also, on a graver note, it turns out that there was a disease/plague experiment being created in the dungeon. And it revolved around people CARRYING darkness with them without end. Crazy as that seems, we were able to nip it in the bud before it became exposed to the world. The sick experiments that only crazy people could think you…

To my knowledge there are 2-3 more places that need some exploration before we get out of this cesspool and back to society, hopefully sooner than later.

Anyway, I hope you guys are doing well and aren’t being overly worried by my adventures. Just remember you raised a good son, and i will try and do right by you both no matter what.

Yours truly,

The journal of Shadow Mal 26

Entry 194, Day 107, Evening

Erin was pretty much as evil as they come, but that’s to be expected with a Z-K dog. Her repertoire was varied and awful. She had dark channeling that would inflict damage upon anything not corrupted by the occult and heal the blasphemously evil. She had a Cacodaemon servant, a beast integral to the trading and stealing of souls. She even worked some dark ritual that trapped the souls of her minions, forcing them to fight and die for her hateful baggage of a god twice.

We brought her low, crushed the skull of her kyton comrade, and destroyed her evil shrine. The world is a better place without her.

Jessica’s recruitment was much easier and quite surprisingly successful. They knew we were coming, but were still surprised when an earth elemental rose up out of the ground. After removing the Kyton from existence swiftly and brutally we offered parley and it was accepted. Jessica knows a thing or two about mechanika but her true passion seems to be poisons. She dropped some nasty ones on us before the dust was settled, but no one important died. Evil chain devils don’t count.

After a sales pitch about how working for non-kytons is delightful and some reminders that they were sent on an awful mission by their previous employer, Jessica and her band agreed to at least visit Torch and consider better employment. At the very least I convinced them that going home was not a viable option.

In terms of useful material or loot, the technological lanterns are damaged (to make the place more defensible somehow) and there is a power source which uses natural vents of hot gas from beneath the earth. Or so Mistofelees tells me, it’s all still confusing gobbledegook to me.

After healing up some, we left the flickering cavern to speak with a bounty hunter who has been haunting the area. A man of dubious morals but reliable ethics, Mr. Hyrsek Caio hales from Gralton originally. From what I know of that country it is no surprise he is far away from home, and is currently hunting for the presumed-dead (but in need of confirmation) members of ANOTHER Technic League force that was sent here some years ago. We showed him the bodies and adventurers we had found in the past, got a little bit of information in return regarding the robot caves, and went our separate ways. Another tiefling letting his blood drag him down…sad, but people must make their own choices.

Tomorrow I’m going to have to assist Paetyr as he saws his own leg off. I’m not looking forward to it, but some things simply must be. In the interim I can cleanse what remains of the poison Flynn was so afflicted with, maybe discuss what he’s learned about Kytons and why they are not something you can really “fix”.

Entry 195, Day 108, Evening

Work on Paetyr was messy and long-running, but he is now on the road to recovering himself fully. We also had further discussions with both the ex-Leaguers and a protracted conversation with Arim. One of these days I should look into that old story I remember about magical speaking mirrors. Or perhaps a technological method of long-distance communication.

Paetyr is not a very attuned man, but his faith is very strong. An interesting point to ponder, what is the measure of a god-vessel? The strength of their convictions or the power of their connection to the divine? And which part brought a servant of Gozreh all the way here? Something to meditate on, into the night.

Entry 196, Day 109, Morning

We are preparing to go to the lair of the machines. My intention is to try talking, or yelling at first. Hard to talk face-to-face when the other party is shooting at you after all.

Letter home
Letter 23

Dear mom and dad,

As i am sure your probably trying to sort through all the pent up mail that has been unloaded on you. I wanted to take this time and write down the rest of the my adventure so i don’t leave you in suspense of the outcome.

Before i was able to get these letters out to you guys my party and i were in a foliage dungeon where it looked as though demons had taken over the plants. And off world monsters. Until i have time again…


Letter home
letter 22 New armor

Dear mom and dad,

Today my companions and i are exploring more of the scar of the spider but something wonderful happened. I was able to salvage new armor from one of our enemies and use it to help myself in the future. we are now entering an area know as Binox’s Lair which has a swampy atmosphere. Hopefully we can solve the mystery of this place and make it so that it may now be able to harm the locals. Will write if there is any changes.

FLynn S.

The Swamp Monster
It stinks.

We are in the hallway and some icky things come out of the wall to attack. Fought some plants that looked like Formians. We find four more that are dissecting an animal.

We find a talking tree that raises three stubbies that attack. Susie and I got slimed. We went back to Torch to get a curse removed.

Binox's Lair

We go back to the room where Susie got shot. Mal goes in and asks to speak with Binox. We wait in the entrance tunnel. We are attacked by a three armed giant in a Ghilie suit. Susie puts him asleep. Then Flynn moves to flanking position as I prepare to Coup’ De Gras the giant.

We airwalk to the house on the top of the cliff. We get in a barn and are attacked from the loft. Flynn and I charge while Susie blinds two of them. I spot some Gremlins who then attack me. We wind up fighting some guards, a Succubus, a Cleric. Flynn and Susie were cursed and it took some time to get them back.

We decided to go check out a cave that was said to have weird sounds coming out of it. I think Binox had said it was inhabited by a quadropedic fungus. We found a tunnel that was 8 foot wide but only 2 foot tall. I could crawl through it if I took my armor off. I refused, and Mal teleported us too the other end while the others crawled through. That way there was someone at the exit standing guard.

Letter to home
Letter 21 (Poison)

Dear mom and dad,

Tried to get some people in a cult to turn over a new leaf. It worked but not before some newly acquired allies poison the S#*T out of me. Afterwards we sent them along with some of their other friend off to Torch where they can be safe for a time. Talked with a hunter afterwards but it seemed neither he or us had anything to offer eachother. Looking forward to writing something with more meat next time I send a letter out.

Sincerely your,
Flynn S.


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