Iron Gods - Mike Korupp

Journal of Shadow Mal part 30

Entry 204, Day 193, noon

Scrapwall remains much as we left it, though some vestiges of civilization have crept in. The Steel Hawks and Redtooth’s Raiders maintain a shaky peace and a relatively protected barter zone has been kludged together. I spoke with Sevroth of the Steel Hawks and Redtooth of the Raiders and they pointed us in the direction of our quarry.

I also conjured up a stone wall near the Swap Shop which they think will improve security.

We are pausing for lunch, while the local cultists are weak and are unlikely to pose a threat, they are probably going to be quite a hassle to track down. Many places to hide in a junk sea.

Entry 205, Day 193, evening

I feel a bit foolish.

The cultists were weak, but they didn’t run, because their masters used the same trick I used with Abbot Costello. We burst into their den and one of them unleashed the power of a Gate scroll. He was lucky the backlash did not kill him, but his lack of experience with such magics still led to a side-effect. Along with the Hamatula and Faceless Devil that suddenly joined the party a Dracotaur and a flaming goblin…thing fell into the world and crashed through the ceiling. They immediately began (continued?) fighting each other while we engaged the devils.

Melee was confused and chaotic, the devils were killed, the cultists were killed (and partially eaten, in the case of the ones felled by the goblin) and then, strangely, the goblin joined us. He acted as though I was familiar, and chose to finish off the faceless devil with his flaming teeth.

Cautiously, I approached him and tried to find out what was about. He gave a long, dtailed, and completely meaningless explanation of his adventures (goblin communication is terrible) before saying, “I dunno, I’m YOUR problem now!” and then opening every container in the room looking for food.

After getting him drunk on what remained of my White Lightning (to keep him for destroying the paperwork we found) I cast Legend Lore on his unconscious body. I have transcribed what I saw to the best of my ability as follows.

_It begins with a vision.

The mists part, and I see a young goblin, sleeping in a glass tank in some mad wizard’s workshop. The evil wizard is occluded, I cannot see his identity, but it matters little. The goblins entire tribe was abducted from some magically-blighted land. They are being turned into weapons by the wizard, and reiterating their hatred for magic.

The vision moves forward in time, but is quickly covered with a sign saying, “scene redacted for your sanity,” in flowing, cursive draconic. Truly my god is kind.

Chompers successfully chews through the bars, he is free for the first time in his life. He stumbles around the workshop, nothing smells tasty. Chompers sees a bird outside the window and leaps out to chase it. I hear the sound of a fall, a thud, a groan, and then the scampering of goblin feet.

Again with the sign, again I am grateful.

Time moves on, a band of hearty adventurers bursts into the wizard’s workshop, Chompers covered in chains and manacles that weigh twice what he does. The evil wizard throws open the cages and all of Chomper’s unfinished (yet still dangerous) brethren charge the heroes. Chompers is dropped in the ensuing chaos, struggling to get at the evil wizard’s half-finished dinner.

At the climax of the battle, the dark priest (heroes’ side) of Nerull calls forth a magical vortex which begins sucking the goblin-beasts out of this world and into the negative material plane, along with the evil wizard’s laboratory. Chompers sinks his teeth into a wall but is eventually torn free. Time seems to slow down.

The priest is struggling to maintain his spell, the wizard is throwing a spell of destruction at the priest, Chompers is about to strike the event horizon of the vortex, the barbarian is trying to find his bitten-off hand, Chompers is crying because the chicken wing he was trying to eat just disintegrated, and the shadowdancer is swinging his sickle from behind to remove the evil wizard’s head.

Suddenly I am outside the tower, watching it explode. I sense there are a few survivors.

Now I am in the desert, the Abbess of The Dawnflower raises her hands to greet the morning sun. She smiles, today is full of hope and promise, here in Katapesh. There is a sound from far away, as of a screaming goblin…

Chompers crashes into the sand, headfirst, somehow surviving. His chains and manacles are shattered, broken things. She sees this wretched creature before her…

She takes him in, tries to teach him. He learns some sense of civilization, but in katapesh there is always someone who needs their face eaten off. A rapid flurry of scenes of attempted teaching, wandering the countryside of Katapesh, helping people, terrifying people, getting attacked by people, eating people, and several scenes redacted for my sanity.

The Abbess is now exhausted, frustrated, and being chased by Pactmaster mercenaries seeking revenge on Chompers. She prays to her goddess for guidance and deliverance. The runic circle of summoning magic appears at Chompers’ feet…

I cannot see them clearly, I would be struck blind. I see instead charicatures, images implying their identities. I am seeing the gods.

Sarenrae says, “Alright, somebody ELSE gets to take this ball of teeth and trouble for a while.”

“Not it!” says Cayden Cailean, followed quickly by Desna, Iomedae, and Torag from their poker game.

“You must be joking,” says Abadar without looking up from his book, while Asmodeus tugs at his collar and says, “While my great and unfathomable plans will certainly use the beast, er, now is not the right time. Yes, just not the right time.” He mutters “just as planned” under his breath, but no one is fooled.

Eyes turn to Venkelvore, who is stuffing his face with cheetos. He looks up to say, “Screw you guys, I don’t even know why he’s worshipping me, hell no. I renounce all claim to him.”

Norgorber tries to hide behind a curtain, but Sarenrae drags him out. “You, you still owe me for that bullshit in Tijuana. You take him.” He looks around, terrified, and his eyes land on Apsu, who acts like he wasn’t paying attention.

“Hey, Apsu, um, I promise I’ll help you with that thing, come on bro, help me out here.”

Apsu sighs, thinks for a moment, and rolls his eyes. “All right,” he says, “I think I have a place I can stick him that won’t break too much.”

Appollyos the Devastator, the strongest dracotaur bloodrager to ever ply the mercenary city of Arcadia was playing a dangerous game. If he won, he would have the greatest sorceror alive as his slave and plaything. If he lost, they would cut off his arms. He tried to cheat, but was caught. Instead of losing, they cast him out into the maestrom of the planar boundaries. He tumbled through the storm of non-being, until he saw a small green thing flying at him while screaming, ‘hungreeeeee!!!!!!’

I see the battle, I see the death, I see the goblin look at me and speak. His grinning words echo with a strange gravity:

“I’m YOUR problem now.”

I open my eyes, I am lying on the trash-pile of a floor with a pounding headache. The spell is cast, the information is perturbing. The words haunts me.

Well, such is life._

He’s dangerous, he’s psychotic, he’s just a short confused stumble from acts of horrific and monstrous evil…He’s like the rest of my band of hearty heroes, I suppose, which is probably why he’s here. His name is Chompers, and he’s apparently my problem now.

Mr. Mistofelees finished off the last of the cultists in town with magic missiles, I believe we shall check in on the monastery across the river. I would like to investigate that ghost, and I think Casandalee is curious to see a ghost up close and personal. It should be educational for us both.

Journal of Shadow Mal part 29

Entry 203, Day 192, Evening

It has been a while.

I fell out of the habit of writing things down, first from being too busy, then from having to burn my old journal (it picked up some kind of pink mold) and recopy it. But I suppose I should recap the last month and a half.

I spoke to Binox again, and it would seem he no longer recalls our previous conversations. Some further investigation proved he has what Mist referred to as a “memory leak.” He loses most of his memories, including all knowledge of our previous conversation. He knew he controlled the power source we had gathered for him but believed he had always controlled it. In spite of this communication barrier, I believe I managed to impress upon him the need to set up a regular “burn patrol” to go out each day and cook/kill anything in the alien-befouled caves.

Some other members of his “court” are self-aware constructs as well. As beings of function, doing something about (or even noticing) their mechanical king’s growing madness is difficult, but not impossible. We discussed some courses of action, but they will take such measures in their own time. I wished them luck.

After that business, we went in search of a deadly ghost said to be poisoning the land. We found a ghost, (if I recall my studies in “101 undead horrors” it was actually a Bhuta, but that is a petty distinction) and put it down. We wandered further, did battle with a giant froghemoth that had been blighted, and finally stumbled upon the beast causing all this death and decay.

Honestly, I would have preferred if it had been a ghost, at least ghosts make sense. This beast was a living, incorporeal ooze monster, a creature of indescribable yet awful colour from the outer realms which rendered most of my anti-ghost tactics useless.

Most, but not all. Force spells and judicious violence still won the day, but Mr. Mistofelees spent several hours taking notes on the beast afterwards. It flew with maddening speed, disintegrated with a touch, and tried to decay and devour people (body and soul) simply by looking at them (though with no eyes, its “look” was an alien concept).

The next day was spent repairing the damage that this blob of ruinous energy had done to people.

The day after that I was eaten by a giant mutant crocodile before walking around inside a horrid rotting corpse. The Dominion forces came to this world in a “drop ship.” So named, presumably, because it drops from the sky and crashes. The ship, a living thing, dies from this impact but its crew survive to colonize and conquer. The rotting carcass of the beast causes mutations and madness nearby (hence the aforementioned crocodile) which I only survived when Susie was kind enough to transform me into an air elemental.

A rather freeing sensation, really, I should try that again sometime. But I digress.

The inside of the ship was the inside of a rotting carcass, albeit one with tissue as hard as steel. It was horrid, smelly contained “traps” in the form of bursting pustules and “treasures” in the form of the vile organic tools and weapons that the Dominion uses. Some of the “crew” remained, still doing maintenance and repair work and defending their ship despite it being dead, pointless, and a waste. They looked like flying horseshoe crabs, with dangling tentacles below the main body and threw lightning to little effect. I have taken to always dosing everyone with lightning resistance before a major delve, as it simplifies matters when I have an opportunity to use a breath weapon.

We met the ship’s brain, which was depressed and angry about being left to die, it asked us to get revenge for it (we agreed, since the Dominion presence must be destroyed) then it tried to kill us to “make sure we were strong enough.” I suppose being half-dead and blinded by the pain of a slowly-rotting body makes logical thought difficult.

The dominion cave was strange. We fought cybernetic spiders, found intellect devourers, were confused and disturbed by scaly, slimy, living wallpaper. We met a mutated Black Dragon named Maukui with a taste for self-augmentation and a fascination with technology, I managed to talk our way out of a fight and even get some helpful information out of him. He told us of the Dweller in the Dark who leads the Dominion forces and of The Surgeon, a Kyton who is apparently more “mellow” than the two factions we have been having trouble with.

Part of the way through fighting more cyber-spiders Flynn spontaneously attacked the Surgeon, despite the fact that a great big scary dragon thought she was “dangerous”, and apparently because he thought it would please the Kyton he is currently “trying to convert to good.”

So after he was rendered helpless and bleeding on the floor I managed to talk Ms. Paajgat out of killing or “improving” him. It was not easy, but we worked out a peaceable settlement and I eventually put the boy back on his feet. His Magoo-like luck has its limits, it would seem.

I do not recall particularly interesting details beyond that, teleport circles, strange techno-organic constructs, a hideous alien and its hideous alien minions throwing spellwork and claws and tentacles at us.

Part of the deal with Maukui was to give him back a technological device he had been studying. He only described what it looked like, a tripod with wires and things on it. We told him we were looking for a mind. Sadly it seems the two were linked, and we simply did not understand what the other wanted. Rather than kill a dangerous black dragon while tired and battle damaged we elected to follow the letter of the agreement, removing Casandalee from her tortuous prison but leaving the prison for Maukui to find.

I am sure he is enraged by this “betrayal” but frankly, I had and still have higher priorities than fighting a mutant black dragon. We teleported back to Pete’s place. I took an hour to meet with Binox (for the first time, again) and convince him and his minions to burn whatever might still be alive in the other alien caverns.

After that we went home to Torch, where demons had attacked.

They were not particularly powerful demons, but they were enough to overpower the guards and torture poor Mr. Costello for several hours. He is still shaken up and I spent several days working with him. I have also given him a sort of “plan B” should something like this happen again. A scroll of Holy Word is expensive but will deal with most lower-order monsters. Anything tough enough to handle that is too tough for ANY measures I have the resources to set up, and likely so powerful that their mere arrival would kill anyone tring to stand up to them.

We did some crafting, we rebuilt what was damaged, and we got a body for Casandalee.

Sandy is…odd. Even by the standards of spirits who used to be androids who were tortured for several decades and are demigod-like tech-spirit AIs. Well actually maybe she is perfectly normal by those standards, I would not know. She shows signs of trauma but also other things. Her powers are strange and magical, yet also NOT magical, and do not make a lot of sense. Her psychology remains people-ish, yet also decidedly alien. Bas and I have had several conversations with her, separately and together, as she becomes re-acquainted with both having a body and relating to beings that are not evil torturers.

Flynn went home to visit his parents, and ended up getting an engagement ring made of barbed wire from his girlfriend. I have repeatedly counseled against this, but I suspect I need to take more active steps. I do not like fighting former allies, but that appears to be the course we are on.

Mist is talking about “if only we had a cranial bomb, this would all be easy.” For my own part I am thinking marks of justice.

On the bright side, she did give him useful information. The Kytons currently trying to mass-convert people to their “cause” have been named and we have leads on them. We went to Chesed and dispatched one in his sewer-borne home. We rescued several tabloid journalists in the process and filled them in on what is really going on with the abductions, the League, and the Kytons.

We then sniffed around and found one of the cults dedicated towards bringing back The Terror Within. He is a devil-lord, and apparently he dies a lot. His intent is to devour Susie’s soul and be reborn, and his cult is promised earthly rewards for making it happen via slow-but-steady sacrifice and ritual. Most of the cult worked a fishing corporation and performed their sacraments in a nearby graveyard. It was a fairly simple matter to study them, follow one home, and capture/interrogate him.

After he gave us everything he knew, I stuffed him in a portable hole, summoned a Hound Archon and asked it to take the cultist somewhere out of the way, like the capital city of Brevoy, and do something that would keep him from returning to his wicked ways. I don’t know if this resulted in bloody judgement or attempted rehabilitation, but the archon returned my magic item and it no longer had a cultist in it. It also didn’t have my rope, but such is life.

The cult was based in a somewhat run-down mansion. They all met because of the disappearance and apparent kidnapping of their friend. We slipped in as quietly as possible, (teleportation magic is so useful) and proceeded to subdue and store the household staff while the cultists met and muttered in their basement shrine.

The battle was short but fierce, and we were lucky enough to have their leader survive. After interrogation we have leads on two other cells. One is in Scrapwall, where life is cheap and organization is nonexistent and the other is in Starfall, where we will not be going just yet.

I dislike judging the wicked, but that’s what the blessings of summoning spells are for. I summoned a whole pack of Hound Archons, including (surprisingly) the one who came last time. I quickly told the five of them the situation (powerful servant and worshipper of a devil lord, gave useful information, needs a summary judgement). They walked over as one, each laying a hand upon him, and the they were gone, along with my other coil of rope. (note to self, buy more rope).

I do not know what happened to him, but I have my suspicions. An archon’s teleportation ability can only bring 50 pounds of material with it. One of my books concerning planar beings had a somewhat apocryphal theory that a group of outsiders who were truly “in synch” could sort of “pool” their carrying capacity and bring larger objects with them, possibly even doing more than simply teleporting or teleporting to a place where plane-shifting was easier.

The theory also stated that such a sensation would be akin to being ripped apart at the seams and then forced back together, incredibly painfully.

Ah well, judgement. We will be heading to Scrapwall tomorrow, tonight I will be purchasing more rope and more soap.

Back to Chessed.

We went through the city sewer to deal with some robots and release some journalists.

Mal and Susie are spending time trying to find the locations of some Devil Cultists. They want to wait til the suspected cultist go toward a graveyard to perform a ritual. We go to a mansion to find the cultists and go to the basement. We took out the group of cultists.

The last rooms of the ship.

We went back to get cured. Then went back to the ship. We found several organic doors that fell to the chainsaw. Mal spots a Black Dragon through one door. Mal is talking to a Black Dragon. We agree to get a piece of tech from a creature called the Dweller in Dark Places.

Letters Home,

Dear mom and dad,

So we found the Dominion of the Black’s ship and killed everything inside of it. In short, we did a service, that will mostly go unnoticed or thanked, and are returning to Torch soon. So after a quick stopover there, I will be heading to Hakados to tell you guys all about this.

See ya soon,

P.S. Please tell Madam DeFlay that i cannot read the messages that she is sending me, and would appreciate it if she used common next time.

Out with the Dominion.
We get some help.

We finally finished off the critters from the Dominion ship and cave. We found the “brain” we were looking for. It was on something called a tripod in a portable painting that moves. We are heading back to Torch to recuperate, and prepare for the next phase of this adventure. I sure didn’t know what I was getting into when I agreed to take over from Vidon. But it’s okay now. Still am not sure what to make of Flynn. Between Susie and Mal they have managed to keep me alive and helped out with enhancements on armor and weapons.

In Dominion's Cave

After talking to the Dr we enter a room that has green walls and yellow pustules. We find a couple of pits that are plasma generators.

We made it to the final room and got hit with fire and Azuma got hit with some kind of black ray that seemed to hurt her badly. Flynn dies. Susie raises him and we head to the last room.

In the Dominion ship
A living ship?

We find some insect-like creatures that used brains on their backs to power their abilities. Azuma stole all three of my kills. We went back to talk to the brain of the ship and it decides to attack . Azuma did some damage but my ball and chain did not. So I changed to the chainsaw and stole the kill from Azuma.

We got some sponges that will hide our real intentions from the leader of the Dominion. We see a very large mechanical scorpion.

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.


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