Automata sightings on the lands of Baron Pendrake-Strom have been increasing in number the last few weeks. Men fashioned of metal; sculpted from stone; carven from wood; that have gone from standing still in the woodlands to gathering in some number at points across the county. Where have they come from? What threat do they pose?
And so the Baron sends word to the adventurers of the county to help answer these questions.
The adventurers who met with the Captain of the Pendrake Militia were given an overview of the situation. The automata had been tracked back to a long abandoned valley up in the mountains. The Militia would escort them into the valley’s edge but no further, holding a defensible position in some ruins. The adventurers who answered the call were:
- Ranger Finn and Kestrel of the Scouts Guild;
- Krom Goodfellow of the Physicians Guild;
- Master Mortimer Lowe of the School of Necromancy; Albrecht Crowe of the Mages Guild;
- Dame Ravenna Corvidae, Head of the Knightly Black Order;
- High Father Andre of Rolbor;
They were escorted to the edge of the valley, where they made a few preparations, before entering the valley. As they did so they were attacked by wooden automata that struck quickly from the shadows. Once they were broken the group pushed on into the valley, where they had an interesting reception from the militia on duty. One of them seemed aggrieved with the adventurers, making snide comments until his sergeant shut him up. After getting a situation report as to what they were facing, Ravenna ordered the group into the valley.
They had been told that the militia had been fighting metal automata, but they had not expected to find a dark elf scavenging the metal bits. Unsure what to do with him, Kestrel attempted to speak with it, but it was intent upon hauling the bits of metal. As Finn and Andre examined the lumps of metal and the tracks across the area, the others pinned it to the ground with the scattered bits of metal and disarmed it so that Kestrel could try and get some sense out of it. But it talked jibberish at them and Ravenna watched as it was put out of its misery. To prevent any harm coming to the soul within Ravenna laid it to rest and felt a sense of peace come from her God as the suffering that dark elf had endured was ended at last. The thought was alarming to her and she struggled to voice her concerns to the others.
They crossed back into woodland where they found a pair of automata on a bridge over the river, with more tracks showing figures dragging heavy loads through the mud. They fought undead and met with a fae creature that asked for the party’s aid in seeing into a place it could not see, and manage the strange upwelling of magic across the land around which the automata appeared to congregate.
More undead and another dark elf laid to rest, and an encounter with an unusual form of undead horror that could paralyze at a touch and withstand the touch of a blessed weapon, led the group down towards the river where a rat figure stood with a dead knight of the Griffin Order. In life this knight must have been mighty for he still bore his two handed sword with its keen edge, and Ravenna accepted its challenge to a duel after stating to the party that should she fall they should destroy it. They fought, Ravenna taking many wounds and only through the healing arts of their physician, and the Necromancer’s well timed intervention were they victorious. But the rat creature got away.
More undead as they headed up the valley towards the mountain, encountering undead fighting automata and a stalemate at the bridge. But when another of the Roden mages in command of an undead tried to convince them to aid it, High Father Andre attacked it after its “pet” charged through the party and the party continued on up the hill to a camp at the foot of some old mine workings.
A group of half-orcs and dwarves were gathering metal ore and when one of them left the area the scouts trailed it up the mountain track towards the mine. But they never got there – the dwarf they had followed falling to the ground as its heart gave out from exhaustion. The trail led into an old tunnel, shored up with old dry planks, but they had been told the automata had come from a tunnel, so the party carefully worked their way inside. They all passed through the tunnel safely into the dimly lit interior. Safely, however, until someone kicked a support post by accident and the tunnel collapsed behind them. And out of the darkness came the sound of approaching metal figures. At first the group were able to fight them off, but soon the air became difficult to breath and there was no chance they could dig their way out. As they tried to strike a light flecks of something in the air sparked and the flame around the candle suddenly grew brighter until it was swiftly blown out. The air was filled with combustible dust and with every spark the lives of the company were at risk. Under threat from more automata and the air growing heavy, the only way to go was up, hoping for fresher air and a way out.
On the way up they stumbled upon gas pockets, an ancient trap that dropped a stone on the tunnel and the air becoming sweeter and cleaner the higher they climbed. Eventually they came upon a crystal carved room with a sealed metal door at the end. With no way out, and the room reverberating with every voice and jingle. After attempting to gain purchase on the door with a heated silver dagger attached to Ravenna’s sidhean trinket, they were able to open it through the jingling of Ravenna’s armour and a tune on Finn’s whistle. Pushing through the unlocked door Ravenna found herself in a small room, with fresh air blowing up into the chamber through a narrow grate. At the sight of this grate, Ravenna’s heart dropped at the sight of it and she scowled. Sending Finn first, followed by the physician, the rest of the company followed with Ravenna taking up the rear. She stuck, shuffling down the tunnel pushing her warped shield and worming her way through the darkness every painful inch. She eventually worked her way out of the tunnel to be greeted by the raised weapons of her party, who were glad she was not another automata.
They were somewhere above the mine, climbing down back towards the river and crossed it to head back towards the mountains having found no source of the automata that they could recognize. Out of the woodland came wooden automata that cut through the party. As Albrecht ran off chased by one of these creations, Ravenna chased after the pair leaving the others behind to try and save the company. She struck the wooden automata, healed Albrecht up and dragged him to his feet, calling him to help her save those who had been wounded. Once the party were back on their feet, Ravenna asked for an update on condition. Most were wounded, limping and wearing out their armour, so Ravenna urged them to press on to their goal. Then there came the sound of a hunting horn, far off but thrumming through the air.
On the path they encountered a dwarf and a half-orc collecting scrap that, when he realised he could be free of his captors told them of his woe – the foreman of Ember caught in the night in the tunnels by metal men who had put him to work carrying scraps of metal back to the tunnel. Armed with a few choice pieces of scrap the company sought to bypass a magical barrier, then found the tunnel, once again the horn sounding. The tunnel was trapped with lines and poison. The scouts were able to clear a path to one side of the tunnel entrance by means of accident and chance, having dragged members of the company back after they inhaled the triggered gas and were poisoned. Once the party were at the other side of the tunnel they crept forward. They found a trio of Auklish Militia “guarding” a “locked” room containing a clerk of the courts terrified out of his wits and writing legal documents with a gap in the text, and after a scuffle, and a number of threats Ravenna sent the third on his way with a warning. The other two were trapped in the room to be collected on the way back. The documents he was writing were confiscated to be reviewed in the safety and better light upon their return.
Continuing on they came upon a set of automata sorting through the scrap, which Ravenna bid the others to leave alone for they were causing them no obvious harm. Climbing up a slope, to further sound of the horn, they found a line of automata before a great metal wall that shimmered with magic. Attempting to break the line and get closer to the fortifications the adventurers charged. Amongst the line of the automata was one marked with glowing runes that could cast magic and as Ravenna drew her honour sword and swung at it she found her sword was no longer in her hand. In horror she watched it used against her party, cutting through them like a hot knife through butter. She was wounded and when she awoke her sword was no longer at her side, and she would not leave it behind. They fought against the spellcaster, High Father Andre and Ravenna beating it down to take up her sword and beat the retreat as the whole tunnel vibrated with the clear blast of the hunting horn, and automata drew out of the fortifications in a great wave.
Back down the tunnel they went, beating a drawn out retreat looking for a way out. They had hoped to escape the way the Auklish Militia came in, but followed by automata and hard pressed Ravenna leant on her shield and looked at the others around her. Finn reported the chimney was a tight squeeze which settled their route out for Ravenna would not fit easily and she had had her fill of tight spaces. They would leave the way they came in as best they could, taking the clerk with them. But the door to the room had been unlocked, the two Auklish men gone. It did not surprise them, so they turned and began to make their way back down the tunnel.
But it was a long hard fight – with their armour rent and torn they were unable to stand against the unflinching carven figures. Ravenna and others tried to hold the line, and the others tried to keep them on their feet but it became a desperate fight and at times it seemed all hope was lost. And yet, they were delivered. Through their teamwork they were able to win the day, though with some losses. As they escaped back through the tunnel, Ravenna bringing up the rear she saw the fallen bodies of the scout Kestrel and the physician Krom, with Mortimer Lowe standing over them with apologies on his tongue. They had been caught in the trap and inhaled the gas, the clerk also, and had succumbed to the poison. As she stood gazing at them, Ravenna heard a whisper in her ear that decreed it was not their time, and hoping for a chance she tried to purge the poison from them. But, rendered in a sleep like death, nothing could aid them. Mortimer was dragged around the corner by others in their anger at his neglect, and the bodies of their comrades and the clerk were carried back to Pendrake to seek the care of physicians and the Vleyborian Church.