Iron Gods - Mike Korupp

The journal of Shadow Mal 25

Entry 190, Day 106, brunch

Our day begins investigating the nearby barbarian tribe. They live on the cliffside, and are thus in a good position to know about the varying monsters of madness within the Scar while avoiding being tainted by it.

Entry 191, Day 106, Afternoon

Well, I was wrong.

We met a traumatized young man who was (it seems) the last member of his tribe. His chieftan, a powerful warrior named Akina Cragstorm, had slaughtered his family, killing everyone who did not escape. She had been a great leader, but had chosen to leave on some kind of vision-quest; and she returned atop a mechanical horse. Her eyes burned with a yellow tint and robed humanoids marched with her, assisting in her bloody work.

We investigated, I was expecting servants of the Dominion and hooded cultists, but was quickly disabused when the clockwork monsters threw off their cloaks and began to fire. But I am getting ahead of myself. We found the village in ruins, tents ransacked and their ritual ziggurat spattered with blood. We climbed the mound to check for cultish activity (and to attract attention of any would-be watchers) and were soon assaulted by Cragstorm and her forces.

She was a mounted fury, striking hard and fast with her lance and commanding her mechanical servants to pepper us with repeating crossbow-fire; but in the end we brought her low. Amusingly, the Bralani Azata who heeded my magical call in the midst of battle was able to calm and capture the steel horse, which seems for all the world to act just like one of its flesh-and-blood counterparts.

Study of Cragstorm’s body revealed Silvermount Fluid Abuse. Her consumption of the tainted substance had twisted her mind and body so that she would find more in common with machines than her own kind, and would have influence over them as a chieftain to her tribe. Some damaged idea borne of this affliction led her to tear the hearts out of her kith and kin, burning them in the village altar.

We collected all the bodies we could find and gave them proper burial. Such things are important, especially to those in mourning. I convinced the survivor who led us here to stay a while with Paetyr, they could use each others’ help and support, and I’ve no wish to drag them into the thick of things. I get the feeling he will be walking his own path, seeking any survivors of his clan or a new clan to join. I would recruit him for Arim’s little empire, but he has the look of a wanderer who cannot be settled down in such a way.

Our next item on the agenda is investigating a cave said to have tech-using people in it.

Entry 192, Day 106, evening

We met some escapees. Soldiers of the Technic League have come from afar to investigate the troubles here, and their investigations lead to a breakdown of order. It seems these breakaways took issue with the orders that they were receiving from the Kytons in their retinue. They were so very paranoid about Kytons that their first questions when I began to parley with them revolved around contact with outsiders, contact with evil outsiders, and finally contact with Kytons.

Preferring honesty to attempting to lie, I told them the truth. As a result, Flynn was very much distrusted, but we still managed to get over that little social “hiccup” and get information. They were cagey, but very concerned about the Kytons and about the “change” in leadership once the organization got there. I suspect these people are loyalists, chased out by a bunch of chain-devils who switched allegiance to the Dominion. It is known that the void between the stars is where Zon-Kuthon became the thing that he is now.

We also got some information about Binoc, the apparent “master” of the robots near where Isuma was staying. They fought the robots several times, always being overwhelmed and forced to retreat, but always being attacked with non-lethal methods. A curious series of events.

They made nebulous agreements to helping us if we went and fucked up the Kytons, and since we were going to do that anyway, we’ll be kicking in the door there. I do not enjoy helping the League, but in a battle between elemental evils and mere servants of evil, the necessity is clear.

Entry 193, Day 107, noon

We have infiltrated the base and discovered some new information. The refugees we met were deserters, and only turned away from the Kytons because Kytons are nasty monsters. This is a useful development, as it means that the deserters will have difficulty going back to the League, and we may be able to turn some of them. Of the forces that remain, Erin the priestess is slavishly devoted to her new god, Zon-Kuthon and will fight to the death, as will the Kytons attached to each squad. Jessica the alchemist, however, may be willing to abandon the fight if none stand to “force her to keep the faith.” We have already turned a pair of soldiers to the cause of the deserters, and I believe that most of them will in the absence of leadership to the contrary.

I believe I can recruit most of these people. The corrupt and evil League sent them here on a fool’s errand, and will likely have them arrested if they return without their devilish “political officer” watchers. This “Jessica” might prefer having access to better support, better technological forges, and more sane leadership. Likewise Paetyr may find value in creating a preserve of nature and magic built off of my Wayshrine. Which will be a comfort to many who find discomfort in the sterile nature of technology.

Thinking on this, I miss Bas.

In any event, we have more battles to fight.

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Attacking a Rogue Technic League camp.

We agree to attack a rogue Technic League camp. Took out the guards of the rogue TL camp. Mal is talking to some jerky fellow. We took down the rogue TL crew. Afterward we questioned one of the guards who saw the way things were going and decided to surrender. Susie and Mal got quite a but of info from him. Hopefully they will let the rest of us know what we do next.

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The Barbarian camp

We wind up fighting the former leader of the Barbarian tribe.

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Letters to Others
What the Frak?

Dear lady DeFlay,

In your next letter i would appreciate it if you would use a language that i might be able to comprehend, common or Draconic, the i might be able to reply to your letters more frequently and with more clearity than this letter might be able to provide.

Will look into your sect problem and see if we are able to “Fix” it, but i will make no promises. And will respond at a later date with our progress.

Sincerely,
Flynn S.

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Journal of Shadow Mal 24

Entry 185, Day 104, noon

It has been a while, I have allowed myself to get distracted from my note-taking, and much has happened.

The battle of Witchlight Vale was informative but inconclusive. We found the invisible beast, and its mother, and its entire secret community with other invisible beasts all made invisible by some nasty techno-ruin and its malign radiation. It appears the menagerie cannot leave its tunnels and warrens for long, and when they die they evaporate into a toxic miasma of poisonous energy.

We pottered about for a while longer, but with the radiation levels threatening our health we withdrew before nightfall and returned to the village that had sheltered us before. We informed the locals of the true nature of the beasts, and that many are intelligent but many are not, and set out the next morning for Torch.

Bas was, sadly, off on assignment, but he left a lovely letter. I responded in kind, but such correspondence is not for this record. Suffice to say he continues to be an enchanting fellow I should like to see more of. In other news, I have been training with Mistofelees, when we work in tandem we are learning to become more adept at dodging the wild swings of combatants as we move. He watches my back, and I get the both of us out of the way.

After a day’s rest and carousing we set forth towards the canyon known as “The Scar of the Spider.” As is so often the case, no one knows why it is called that, I presume it has to do with giant spider-monsters or their robotic facsimiles. I do not recall facing many dangers along the way, perhaps a minor scuffle with some ill-informed giants?

Flynn continues to perilously flirt with the insane torture devil. He stares death in the eye and forced it to cock its head in perplexed confusion. He looks into the abyss and the abyss sort of rolls its eyes and looks elsewhere. For a man so important to so many plots and plans he seems as directed and coherent as a hyper-active kitten. He reminds me of Nicky Sanders, a nice boy, but…difficult.

In less confounding news, when we arrived at the entrance to the canyon we found, in quick succession, a giant robot leaking fluids, gasses, and dying lights; the corpses of several plainsmen, their brains neatly carved out of their skulls; and a madman with severe brain damage and a very suspect garden. It seems he has a way with plants, despite his metal leg, and has been cross-breeding local and alien cultivars with strange results. The glowing apple was all right, but I chose not to try the spiky peppers or the purple roots. One only has so much luck to spend on dining-room diplomacy and “local cuisine roulette.”

Regarding the robot, it is clear from the tracks (enormous and alien as they are) that there were two. Both were damaged by a very powerful explosive device, presumably technic in origin, but only one was destroyed outright. Pete, as the scarred man calls himself, claims to have watched a woman with four arms and technological gear place the mine and how it damaged the machines. Less clear is the state of the humans it was carrying, as the ones we found were missing their brains, but perhaps some were still alive? Sadly, getting straight answers is difficult when the book is missing so many pages.

Also of note; Susie says that the power source of the robot is still active and salvageable, but that she lacks the skill necessary to retrieve it safely. Further, it is unstable and will explode. Lacking a better option, we are simply leaving it be and withdrawing to a great distance. A shame, but such is life. I should also mention I think that these robots are the titular “spiders” of this place. It is hard to tell when the thing is in such a condition. It may have been more of a scorpion.

We also got some garbled information about the surrounding area, the canyon walls are fairly riddled with caves and troublesome things within those caves. For now we are taking care of the “evil things” that live right across from Pete’s shack and garden. I expect mutant kobolds.

Entry 186, Day 104, afternoon

It was mutants, but they were not kobolds. 3 enormous ogre-spiders, made even uglier by their mutations, assaulted us upon entry. After the battle we found some treasures but much toxic radiation, and beat a hasty retreat. Aside from the random leavings of other adventurers there was the half-eaten corpse of a member of some kind of anti-technology cult. While I freely admit that the strange not-magic of these devices are a bit creepy with their dead, unthaumic effects I find that technology is little different than all other forms of power or influence. It simply is, and good or evil can be wrought from it.

We still have a few hours of light, and will be pressing on towards the cavern Pete is so afraid of. Four arms may mean the same race as the city councilor we met in Hajoth Hakados, or it might be more related to the poor cursed dead we met in the dungeon underneath Torch.

Entry 187, Day 104, evening.

An excursion of mixed success. Upon entering the cave of “four-armed untrustworthy women” we found massive amounts of broken scrap and pools of dank, fetid water. We went left, which proved to be a mistake, behind surprisingly tough torture-bots and intimidating taxidermied aberrations were 4 supremely skilled and armed gynoids with powerful guns. They shot us up rather badly, though strangely all of the weapons and threats were intent on taking prisoners rather than killing. It is ironic that for all their attempts to not kill, they lack the capacity to stop attacking if someone attempts to surrender or parlay. When I laid down arms and spoke of conditional surrender, they “accepted” while continuing their attempts to subdue me.

After retreating from the 4 robot women we spotted Isuma; the alien, 4-armed woman Pete had mentioned. After some challenges we managed to communicate with her. She was a fellow to the undead we found in the artificial desert underneath Torch, and had more to their story. She and her people were known as Kasathas, from the planet Kasatha, a desert world akin to the terrarium we found her fellows in. She and her fellows had been invited to join, teach, and learn about her world and others by the Androffens and were treated as equals until the Dominion came upon them.

When the Dominion of the Black infested the Divinity, its mad cultists captured many of the “ambassadors” and trapped them. Trapped them in the same place that WE found them 9000 years later. Truly a sad story.

In any event, she has adapted well to this world and stands against the Dominion forces. Her Aurumvorax-hide armor and laser rifle can attest to that, though I cannot help but think I should try and get her something better if the opportunity arises. Hide armor is still just hide armor.

In any event, she gave us more information about the features and factions here in the Scar, there is a Dominion ship, another cave full of kill-bots, and several other items of interest here. For now we shall return to Pete, I believe I can help him, and we all need rest.

We also faced some awful tree-like monsters from another planet. They were camping around the corpse of a lost witch of some sort, though I do not know if they killed her or something else. The beasts drained will, and had a very powerful opening strike, but after their psychic blast they were simply bruisers. STRONG bruisers, to be sure, but when the fight finally turned against them the survivor fled, to another planet apparently. Spell-like abilities are always so incongruous, power to rend a dimension, but only in ONE way and only once in a period.

Entry 188, Day 105, Noon.

Last night we were visited by a messenger. A foul-looking orb of armor, flesh, and tentacles spat up a kidney (likely humanoid) on Flynn before flying away at great speed. Inside was a message to our resident fool. Ms. DeFlay wrote him a message in infernal demanding submission and evil and all that business. He doesn’t KNOW infernal so I had to look into it before even realizing it was the twisted torture-fetishist’s version of a love letter. He still thinks he can “convert her”. So many fools, such faith in the magic powers of their “cleansing rods” or whatever…Draline wonders why I don’t “dress up more.” Ah well, this isn’t the place of a rant about gender politics.

In the morning I cured Pete, and he was very unhappy. As a devout servant of Gozreh, his metal peg-leg is a rather grievous sin, but with time and effort (and the removal of his offending appendage) he believes he can return to the good graces of his god. Why his god is such a jerk, and why he serves the god of seas and storms and nature’s fury in a landlocked country is a mystery I choose not to pursue.

After some further investigation we learned about the anti-technology cult and a marsh that is inexplicably dying. We stowed and hid our technological gear and asked Isuma to keep an eye on things elsewhere, and set out to speak with the cult. I had hoped to recruit them and their useful zealotry in fighting the strange technological horrors, or at the very least return the amulet of their fallen friend to them. The former was clearly impossible when we saw their forces, though the latter was easily done. They wanted to search us, but I convinced them otherwise, and conversation was cordial if not particularly fruitful. They are mostly androids and intend self-destruction upon completion of their little crusade, they are too small a force to actually DO much, and they are a bit paranoid.

As an aside, I have found that the offer of really, really bad booze is a useful rhetorical tool. Their reaction to an offering of rotgut measures their character and intent, their taste in alcohol, the quality of their supply chain, and their own skill with diplomacy.

In any event, we convinced the cultists to head for Chesed, where they will hopefully make trouble for the League. Such an awful town…

After this, we are going to check out another cave which holds rumors of strange things worth poking.

Entry 189, Day 105, Evening.

The cave contained some treasure, a corpse, and a revenant. It seems some adventurer from decades past had a grudge that outlived both him and his enemies. In the end he was still trying to fight someone that is doubtless already dead and met us instead. He fired on us with his guns, but ultimately fell. After that we began the slog into the blasted heath. I was levitating above the mess, but had to drop into the muck when we were assaulted by 3 strangely-blanched stone giants. They moved with the purpose of an unbound undead and had a color that is hard to describe, both brightly vivid and dully banal, and vaguely luminescent in a way that defies comprehension.

In short, ugly and alien.

The giants fought, and with spell and weapon we put them down. Upon their deaths they exploded like a gas spore into foul-smelling gasses and fine powdery dust. I cast cure disease on anyone touched by it as a precaution, but I suspect it was not contagious. The fight was still quite difficult, and after all of that we decided to head back to camp.

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Scar of the Spider

Going to talk to some Pilgrims that do not tolerate technology. Convinced them to take their quest to Chessed.

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Letters Home 20
Letter 20(Killing children)

Dear mom and dad,

We made our way to East Bumblefuck and the druids in the town informed us about creatures that haven’t been able to identify. So being the adventure loving group that we are, we sought to identify said monsters and if it came to it, kill them.

We prepared ourselves with potions that allowed us to see creatures that are invisible. and some potions and then set off into the woods. It took some time but we were able to come across the monsters about 3-4 hours in but at last we found our objective.

We fought our first target with fresh vigor and were able to quell it with some effort. However, right before it died it gave a cry out. One of our party members later informed us that it was calling out for its mother. Sad.

Going off of that, we called out for its mother and were able to summon it before our potions wore off completely. THAT battle was much more difficult to fight. I don’t know if it was the experience over the years or just its’ maternal instincts but we were much closer to death that time

Going and retracing the path that the second monster took we found an entire habitat for radiated monsters. We decided to inform the local townsfolk and to pull back to Torch for the time being.

Hoping to see you guys soon.
Flynn S.

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Letter's Home 19
Letter 19 (Slave resue)

Dear mom and dad,

I’ll keep this message short.

Went to an orc trading post and rescued some farmers an other civilians. There are alot of dead dead orcs and we can’t show back up at that place for a while.

Sincerly your,

FLynn

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Journal of Shadow Mal 23

Entry 181, Day 120, Morning

Adventuring information first. After several conversations with a dead demigoddess I have come to the conclusion technology is bizarre and dangerous. Apparently the process of dying broke Casandalee’s spirit (and presumably her soul) into pieces. To truly bring her back from the beyond “mere” resurrection magic is not enough, and we must find the scattered pieces of herself. She hid a device containing a piece of herself (or perhaps a copy? I do not truly understand) in a place named “the scar of the spider,” and without it her body shall remain dead.

In matters of dragons, devils and demons, little progress has been made. We know of plots and plans, a few hunts and haunts. Flynn’s pride and folly are going to get someone killed, but with his luck it may be his enemies. If I were wise I would stand clear of this madness, but I suppose I cannot. The price on his and Susie’s heads are high, but both are wanted alive. It is strange, being a lower-priority target than those I travel with. I think I like it though, perhaps I should join bands of insane fugitives more often.

The local dragon boss is named Paarthurnax Flazenero, “Ambitious and cruel overlord of Fire and Wing” if I recall the northern dialect and naming schema correctly. Anybody willing to have THAT pompous of a title and survive is quite dangerous, but he may have people even he answers to. I also suspect there are politics at work, as the heads I interrogated knew nothing of Phiqaac or his children. Draconic politics and intelligence are always games withing games, and who knows what the Tal Shiar or the Obsidian Order will be doing to or hiding from one another, or if they even exist beyond the rumors.

Then there are the Drow. Not normally a concern for most folk on the surface, but it seems a raiding/rebel/something party has grown powerful, dangerous, and dangerously close to Harkness’ man-cave. I am researching the best means of sealing off his workshop’s back door, but the most useful magic for such things remains out of my grasp. She is a rebel, so it is possible we could contact her, but it is also possible she would murder us for anything we had or enslave us for labor.

But enough of that, I want to write about Basashi. He’s quite the charming gentleman, and while I have been many places, he has been many more. Planar travel is difficult and dangerous, and Zex made few forays into such dangerous territory, let alone when he was raising me. After we returned to Torch, he and I interrogated and interred the prisoner, and then we shared a lovely dinner at the Copper Coin and discussed more cheerful things. He regaled me with tales of tropical realms, and worlds where trees could talk. I told him of my travels to Tian Xia, and the many times I wore a merchant’s mask in the mithral forest or the land of heroes. He seemed especially interested in the story of the divine emperor’s statue, and suggested the humans’ great toil there might not be completely hopeless. Faith is a powerful thing, after all, and stranger things have happened.

After the server kicked us out, we the long way back to his rental, and I promised to start on better accommodations for him, the shrine should have VIP rooms anyway, in case of visiting dignitaries or specialists such as him. All in all, a wonderful evening, even during the part where Mistofelees decided to “chaperone” and eat all my dinner.

In other news, Torch’s new growth is suffering a lack of skilled labor. It seems the public works projects Arim has thrown into action have yielded fruit, but most of that fruit is unskilled laborers in need of trainers. We may have a solution to that problem as well as others, however, there is a rumor that an Orc trading/raiding post called “Kuratown” has been successful lately, and orcs are known for stealing people as well as shiny things. We will investigate possibilities of trading goods or people. While I would never condone slavery, I have found it is quite easy to convince a man who just lost everything, including his freedom, to take new employment opportunities. It is especially easy if you just freed him from a cruel and monstrous master.

Entry 182, day 129, Evening

A successful reverse slave raid. Kuratown was too populous to knock over completely, but too fractious to form a united front when we beat down a slaver’s hold and took all his slaves. Mostly farmers and travelers, there were also 9 apprentices, all of whom were interested in resettling in Torch and gainful employment in the new academy. We also found a few magical toys, and Arim did some asking around about other sources of interest or profit to build up Torch and Hacklemore’s defenses. We really need that dimensional pathway, expensive as it will be to obtain. Mistofelees was disappointed that we didn’t burn more of the town, but he has…issues with the orc race. Something about “dreamscapes that smell like taco farts” and “thoughts that reverberate like Goblin Rock.” I know what a goblin rock is, but it sounds terrible.

Entry 183, Day 130, Morning

Breakfast with Bas, and a briefing by Draline. There is a place to the north called the Witchlight grove. Some sort of technological mythallar was activated a long (even by my standards) time ago, killed pretty much everyone, and left an invisible, monstrous presence in the area. Its territory is well-marked, but someone or something occasionally moves the markers, and reports of what it is vary rather widely. I am not sure if this is poor intel or shapeshifting, but since no one has slain the beast no one has found whatever treasures might remain in the area nor any gear left by previous generations of adventurer.

Sounds incredibly ill-advised and dangerous, should be fun.

Entry 184, Day 134, Afternoon

We stopped by the nearest town and got some more information from survivors of failed expeditions to the vale. Word is that glitterdust and invisibility purge do not work. But as such see invisibility is both available and affordable. Also the creature is an ambush predator, often being first noticed when someone is lifted into the air, rendered invisible, and either swallowed whole or torn to pieces

Also Fluffy has turned into some kind of celestial fairy woman. She(?) keeps insisting she is or isn’t Fluffy, and is therefore owed a favor or not an established cheater. She has also gotten better at cheating cards, much to Mr. Mistofelees’ chagrin. I don’t know how that silly hat stays on his head, but he still has another 4 days before he is allowed to take it off.

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Letters Home 18
Letter 18 (Are bar fights normal?)

Dear mom and dad,

We arrived in Torch to find that the town was running at peak condition. I promise you that you wouldn’t recognize this place from a year ago (seeing as i have been here a couple of months and i still wouldn’t recognize it.)

We found the town in good spirits. Unfortunately one of our long time members, Vidon, decided that his time with us had run its course. He will be missed by us as we continue on more journeys. The only good thing that came from this is before he left he had asked one of his cousin(‘s?) to fill his place with us. And although I wish for us to be good friends, I can’t deny that it stings a little when i turn to call out to one of my friends, i have to remember that it is his cousin there, and not actually him.

On a brighter note we found a new adventure for us to explore while we gather resources to help build for our* Bigger Quest*_. Turns out that for some reason Dimensional Dragons need our help to stamp out some rouge defectors? Truthfully I think that most of the party is doing this to hopefully find a Dragon’s Horde, but meh…These guys seem to need the help and slaying a dragon looks good on any Adventuring resume.

Before we left i received one of your letters and i am glad that your’ meeting some of my more interesting people. But there is a confession i must make regarding the woman you have met. You see it is true that we have met on the battle field, even stood shoulder to shoulder for a time. But my manners always escaped me, for i do not even know this woman’s name. However i know that you are in the presence of an impressive tactical mind that i have no doubt will astonish you both. And the truth is we never hammered and/or ironed out the details for our engagement. But as time goes on and i am left to think about your last letter and more specifically settling down, I find my heart always coming back to Torch. And maybe it is skepticism but until the Technich-league is out of the capital, I cannot see that environment being suitable for anyone, Her family or ours.

On that note, please try and show her around Hajoth Hakkidos, the simple pleasures that tha town has to offer. Show her a good time, for i am afraid that this dragon matter may take up more time than i would like. But i promise i will try and visit if there is an extended window of time for myself and the Party.

SO we get to the midpoint between Torch and some spider and we found the first hide out in the form of an inn in the middle of nowhere. And after talking to the bar keep for a short time i found out i have a bounty on my head. Apparently I am making some enemies in the world, but that is life, Also I’m gonna need to send them a photo/drawing or something because they are using dads and that will no doubt cause some confusion.

And things only got worse from there, first we got into a fight with the bartender and his thugs. Then we fought some lizard men shourtly afterwards. THEN we fought a dragon(Juvinile?) After that was done, we searched the place for any leads on where the main base for these guys might be but it looks like we are gonna need to hit up some of their other outposts.

We are currently heading back to Torch. And should be there within 3-4 days.

With All my love,
Flynn

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