Game log of a ToEE adventure that somehow turned into an Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. You can find the original google doc here.
Rogues Gallery – The Hommlet Raiders
- The Rogue – Giselle der Gauner the Soulknife due to a mutation granting her telekinetic powers (character #2, previous character was Mirka the Rogue)
- The Monk – Augusta “Tof” Bamberger and her henchmen Elmo the Ranger and pet pug General Puggins.
- The Druid – Lilie the Elf and her henchmen Wolfram and animal companion Fuyuko the white wolf.
- The Knight – Lintelfaden Toshcobble, squire of Rufus the Bold.
- The Fighter – Fencil the G-Noll (Reincarnation) (Character #2, previous character was a cleric) and his (henchmen Zof the Jarhead Wizard – Deceased).
- The Ranger – Bustov Daman and his animal companion The Mou-Mou Bird (bloodthirsty sparrow).
- The Wizard – Boris the Jaws-Dodger.
- The Cleric – Lorenz Brandt (character #2), the scribe.
Session 22 Recap
Augusta closed her notebook filled with small drawings of the party and their findings. It was one of her hobbies and, in any downtime they had, would do a quick doodle or maybe a proper sketch. She had just finished small chibis of the team using different pigments for each member
The pygmy chief presented an elevator overgrown with vines, weeds and moss. Luckily, a light inside still blinked and it was in working condition, it just needed to be cleaned so that the doors could open. It didn’t take them long to clear out the place, make a few amendments, and get the lift up and running. All that was left was to wait for the rest of the party.
“Isn’t Boris still with Kwalish?” Gisella realised.
Fensal dismissively waved his hand. “Don’t worry, he’s a wizard, he can teleport.”
As luck would have it, Boris appeared right before their eyes, seeming to slowly fade in to greet them. “Hello.”
“Wizards and their teleportation,” Lorenz said. “Very handy.”
“I didn’t teleport,” Boris denied. “I was just invisible and snuck down to this level.”
“That’s what all wizards say,” Fensal laughed.
With everything up and running, they entered the elevator and headed down to the next level. Unlike the tube on level 2, this one could easily hold all of them with room to spare, playing a joyous jingle all the way down. Out of everything that was broken and unsalvageable on this station, the elevator music was built to last against time.
Politely warning them to stay clear of the doors as it opened, it revealed a dark corridor, only a single, faint blue light at the far end. Pitch black, they could hardly see the person in front of them the deeper they pushed and the automatic lights would not turn on. Pulling back, they let those who could see better in the dark take the lead, scout out the level, and maybe come back with useful information.
“I can see in the dark,” Aki explained. “I guess because of the new body.”
“You stay here, Autumn, I’ll go,” Bustov planned. “I can use magic to hide myself as well.”
“Um, my name is Aki.”
“Aki?” Bustov scratched his chin, debating between Aki and Autumn for his ‘daughter’. “Let’s go with Aki then.” He clapped his hands and cast the spell, turning faint and transparent. “Now it’s time for an on-the-job training session. Watch carefully.”
She lost sight of him immediately and began to chat with her new party.
Bustov slid his hand across the walls, trying to get a better understanding of where they were. It was empty and dark, barely anything in the hallway leading up to the light. Pieces of broken steel covered in dust, a silver tube, what looked like damaged cyphers; this level was devoid of life entirely. He reached the blue light and realised it hovered above a pedestal like an artifact. He was hesitant to touch it, especially after seeing the four corpses of aliens strewn around the room, one caught in a silver net.
Hesitant to push farther alone after seeing the corpses, he carefully made his way back, still observing the area around him. Desolate and empty yet the corpses hadn’t rotted away yet; something still lurked within these halls either an alien or a machine-
He glanced at his right as he passed by. The silver tube was gone, no trace left of where it once was.
“Encounter anything?” Gisella asked as he neared the party, noticing him even while he was stealthed.
Explaining the pedestal and the corpse, he painted a rough picture out of the darkness as to what they were to expect. The only thing that worried him was the silver tube that vanished but none of the party believed what he was saying. Especially since it was dark, he could have easily mistaken it for something else. He led them to the spot where it once was but, without any traces, his case just got worse.
“There isn’t anything,” Fensal muttered, flicking the dust off his finger. “No indent or… anything really.”
“It was definitely here,” Bustov denied.
But his certainty was met with a shrug. “For the size you said it was, it should have created some marks or even noise,” Boris pointed out. “It wouldn’t just vanish.” He created a flame to light the way so the rest of the party could follow. “If there are no other enemies let’s push on.”
A lightbulb pinged above Lorenz’s head and his fingertips glowed. “Light? Oh, I can just cast that.”
He proceeded to blind Bustov, making him glow bright gold for the next hour.
After having to wait out the spell, they prepared themselves to investigate the altar after a certain someone had an extremely bruised head. He casted light on Wolfram’s sword and he led the way through the darkness. In their designated marching order, he was positioned at the back with Aki.
“I’ll protect you,” he assured. “Especially since somebody brought you along.”
“On the job training,” Bustov corrected.
“Deep in a space station, yep, what could go wrong?”
Aki slid her finger across her new bow. “I think I can fight but thanks for offering protection.”
As he was about to reply, his foot hit a small object on the floor that everyone else missed. Kneeling down to get a better look, it seemed like a cassette tape, undamaged and rather clean, it was strange why it was left in the middle of a hall. He reached down to pick it up, hoping maybe he could listen to the recording if he ever found a player.
Black tendrils burst from the tape and grappled his arm, crawling swiftly up to his face before sticking to his neck. Four legs of darkness, blurring and creating fading images of itself displaced its real location, even affecting Lorenz. He struggled to tear the thing off but could hardly grab it but in his desperation, the mimic missed a swift jab with one of its legs.
The party pulled out their weapons but were worried they might strike their friend. It was hard to pinpoint its location and a stray arrow or a missed bullet could easily kill him; the mimic was extremely defensive even while fighting aggressively amidst the group.
A lightbulb dropped from the ceiling and dangled momentarily on string before black legs burst out. The light was snuffed out and it plunged for Elmo, landing squarely on hisits helmet but not quite able to enter the skin. It struggled to adhere to him through the armour, aiming for his exposed face, but he was able to throw it off, slamming it against the wall.
“A little help gu-!” Lorenz asked but was silenced as the mimic shoved a tendril down his throat.
It was horrifying watching it try to choke and kill him, forcing the tendril deeper and deeper. His skin began to turn black and it was all going blurry, blinded by the darkness of the mimic. A pseudopod burst out of its back and tried to crush the party members who were interrupting its meal, swinging wildly and almost crushing Aki.
Gisella wasted no time in saving Lorenz, shredding the mimic with her telekineticly controlled the crystal daggers. Her telekinetic powers were precise and, even through the displacement, she could discern its movements and sever the pseudopod. The daggers pierced the back of the mimic, embedded itself, and tore it off. Before it even hit the ground it was cut to pieces and it melted into an ooze.
“Are you alright?” Bustov worried, healing the wound and corruption.
Lorenz’s cursed skin receded and returned to a normal colour. “Yeah, I’m fine,” he coughed, trying not to vomit. “I’m alright.”
Within a few moments, Augusta had crushed the last mimic before it could recover from Elmo’s strike. Twirling the pinion blades between her fingers, she was starting to get the hang of using swords over her fists with a fighting style akin to a dancer. The corpse melted into goop and the battle was over, but now that they knew what might be hiding in plain sight, they had to scrutinise anything and everything.
Fensal knelt low to the ground and tried collecting the goop. “Imagine if I combine myself with this thing… Would I be enshrouded in darkness with weird displacer skills?”
“Or maybe you can mimic things,” Augusta suggested, intrigued by the idea of gene-splicing.
“Or maybe leave the stuff alone,” Lorenz gagged. “I can still taste it…”
Reaching the end of the hall, the party began to inspect the altar, not made of stone but technology; circuitry ran up the sides and still glowed. The corpses were stripped bare of their equipment, no armour, no weapons, and most certainly no tech. Already looted, the party ignored them, more wary of what could have killed them. The one trapped in a silver net still held a grenade in its hand, never to pull the pin.
Lorenz glanced around the room while the others inspected the altars. Nothing out of the ordinary, no light bulbs or cassette tapes lying on the ground either. No mimics it seems-
A silver tube was on its side as if it had just been knocked down.
“So Bustov didn’t imagine it…?” he murmured. He pulled out the stun gun and fired, not taking any chances with another mimic.
He hit the nail on the head. It burst into darkness and shook off the stun, seemingly unaffected as it revealed its real form. Without hesitation, it charged straight for the nearest target, Augusta, and adhered to her, thrusting the tendril straight down her throat before anyone could react.
As Bustov went to help, the black legs sprouted from the grenade and rushed towards him. But he wasn’t going to let it attach to him that easily, sidestepping as it leaped for his face. It landed lightly on the wall and scurried to the roof, barely avoiding a retaliation shot, and getting struck by another one that followed soon after.
“I hit it…?” Aki muttered, not quite believing it herself. “Oh, I hit it!”
Elmo, afraid to hit his Mistress, reached for the mimic, intending to tear it off. He struggled to grab it but eventually managed to grip one of its legs, holding on tight. He didn’t need to try again as it then adhered to him, greedily connecting to two targets and aimed to kill with another tendril.
“Don’t worry!” Fensal assured, unsheathing a shortsword. “I’ll sever it off.”
His aim with anything except a gun was horrible. Missing completely, he tripped over himself, carried by the momentum of the swing and cut Elmo instead. Luckily there was a mimic in his throat but his glare conveyed everything he couldn’t say with words.
Lorenz spoke the words of healing and Elmo’s wound began to close, the corrupted skin returned to normal. “I’m relying on you guys to deal with them.”
Augusta didn’t aim directly for the mimic but guessed its current location through the enshrouding darkness. she clenched her fists and wind began to be siphoned into her palm. Grabbing it as if it was physical, she crushed the mimic with air, flattening it into ooze and letting its remains pour to the floor. Gisella was quick to stop the final enemy before it had the chance to connect to anyone, shredding it with a whirlwind of daggers; it had ended as quickly as it had begun.
“You and me!” Gisella cheered, raising her hand up to Augusta for a high-five.
But the monk seemed dismayed with the outcome, mumbling quietly and rubbing her eyes. “They were living things… Did they have a family?”
“A family?” Boris questioned. “Hmm… it’s hard to believe that such terrifying creatures could have families.”
“Maybe they did have a pretty wife and three wonderful kids…” Augusta continued.
“Guys, we have a problem!” Lorenz warned.
On the floor behind the pedestal, a cassette tape was conspicuously, if not purposely, placed in the middle of the room. They were all ready to blast it to bits when a realisation struck them, that might be a real cassette tape. Everything the mimics turned into could be real but they wouldn’t know unless they touched it.
“Don’t worry,” Gisella assured. She picked up the tape with telekinesis. “We can test if it’s real or not.”
Lorenz aimed for the tape. “I can stun gun it. It won’t damage the item and if it’s real we could get the advantage.”
“Wait, don’t waste ammo, I’ll test it against the wall.”
Yes, her powers were strong. Yes, she could accurately control and aim daggers to fight from a distance. But no, she could not control the strength very well. It was as if her power was always running full throttle as she ‘lightly’ tapped the cassette tape against the wall, shattering the casing completely and snappin it in half.
Fensal’s jaw dropped when he saw the pieces fall to the floor. “Lightly! You’re not supposed to destroy it!”
“That was lightly!” Gisella picked up the pieces of the shattered tape. “I swear I was doing that lightly!”
“The one time it was the real thing,” Lorenz sighed. “I knew I should’ve stunned it.”
Boris ignored the unfortunate situation and began to tamper with the pedestal. There seemed to be a control panel of some sort on the altar and so, entering random inputs was the best way to test if anything works. Blue button, pink button, red button, and even bigger red button, it didn’t seem to have any effect; maybe the machine was broken?
“Hello?” he asked. “Does it even work or is it completely broken?”
Almost as if it responded to his question, the pedestal opened and a ball of light rose from up, rays orbiting it, attracted like atoms. Colourful and bright, it lit up the room and shed its light even to the darkest corners as it awaited any question.
The voice was female and monotone and the light pulsed as it spoke. “Hello, what can I do for you?”
“Oh, where on this level is the Manufactorum?” Lorenz asked.
“This is the Manufactorum Officinas,” the computer explained.
The light flashed red and began to pulse violently as it malfunctioned. A few pulled away, cautious of the sudden break while others rushed to the pedestal and tried to shut it down, but only Lorenz stared into the light dazed as his mind was flooded with an ominous vision.
He saw hundreds, if not thousands, of stasis pods within a titanic room. As if he was an observer, the dream followed a path and allowed him to glimpse the creaturespeople inside; robots with arms of blades. It focused on one such pod as it shattered, white steammist released as cables disengaged, letting loose the terrifying machine. Its arms whirled before locking into position and multiple parts of its body opened to reveal blades lined with poison; a killer of steel armed with crude weapons designed not to cut but to tear.
For your crime, you have been scheduled for termination, it said, the deep metallic voice sounded alien yet he could understand it. Expect your reaper soon.
The vision ended and the computer returned to normal as if nothing ever happened.
“That wasn’t just a dream or a warning,” he muttered after explaining to the party what he had seen. “That really happened, like I could see what was going on in another room; another level.”
Boris was intrigued by the image he was just described. Wondering if the altar of knowledge light could offer any other visions, he pressed on with questions. “Hmm, computer-light, is there a place here that stores materials?”
“People come and use the Manufactorum to create wondrous weapons,” it explained. “We do not store materials, rather you are the ones who would do so.”
“I see… any, uh, blueprints? Perhaps previous weapon models?”
“Blueprints are not needed here. You are the o-o-o-ones who are to br-r-r-i-ng-”
It malfunctioned again and the same pods, same machines, and another same terminator broke out of its stasis pods, warning him of his tresspasses; he should expect his reaper soon.
He pulled out a notebook and documented what he had seen. “Ah, I understand now. Terminator Reapers… It must be a defense mechanism, or a broken one, that we are triggering.”
Bustov waved his hand and turned his attention to the four different passages out of this room. “That’s wonderful, let’s leave the broken talking light and look for the AutoforgeManufactorum. We don’t need any more reapers on our tail.”
“True dat,” Augusta agreed. “Be wary of mimics from now on.”
Bustov opened the door to the next room: a small dusty place that had no other exits. Perhaps a store room of sorts, nothing of interest could be seen at first glance… aside from a cassette tape lying on a desk in the corner. Without a shadow of a doubt, they approached it cautiously, still scanning their surroundings and wary of an ambush. Yes, something did come, but no, they did not see it coming.
The sound of screeching metal was deafening as the machine behind them skidded across the ground, carried by its momentum after high speed. It faced the party and began to hover as it entered combat mode, sharpening its blades against itself. Scanning the entire party, it singled out Boris with a pinpoint light aimed directly for his heart.
“Your reaper has arrived,” it informed, voice like grating steel, ominous and heavy. Electricity pulsed out and began to course through its body, using its own plating as a conductor. “Expect a swift death.”
Bullets and arrows pinged off its armour, hardly causing a scratch, doing nothing to impede its advance. Boris’ fingertips glowed with transparent energy before releasing magic missiles, filled with starlight, weaving between the party in the cramped room. Crashing against the reaper, it stunned it for a moment and recoiled from the hit but it wasn’t even close to enough.
Replacing one of its arms was what seemed like a rifle, decorated with an exalted griffin, that loaded itself. With a deafening bang, three nails were fired simultaneously and struck Boris directly in the shoulder and chest, tearing easily through his magical defenses as if they didn’t exist. His head spun just from the shot but what knocked him out was a sudden spike of pain throughout his body; the boltsnails were drenched in lethal poison.
“Do not interfere,” the reaper commanded and shoved through the party, ignoring them completely for Boris.
Bustov glanced at the cassette tape behind him, which was now much closer and an upside down chair. “Tch, I’ve got to focus the reaper, the mimic can wait.”
“We’re not doing much to it!” Aki panicked, afraid of the approaching death machine.
Their weapons hardly put a dent into it, a cut with an axe, a stab with a shortsword, Bustov’s powerful shots or Wolfram’s greatsword all went unnoticed. The damage that was dealt began to mend itself; the situation was getting worse by the second.
The lightning discharged and covered the entire room, forcing the party back and recharging its systems. With new energy, it scooped up Boris, slung him over his shoulder, and prepared to leave. The party was irrelevant, the trespasser was top priority.
“Aki, stay at the back!” Lorenz commanded. “And you, Boris, get up! You can teleport out, right?!”
After getting healed, the wizard shook his head, trying to focus enough to cast a spell. “I think…? Agh, that hurts, I’ve got to make some distance.”
Turning into mist, he slipped out of the reaper’s iron grip and flew out of the room towards the altarpedestal. As his body returned, he was already casting another barrage of missiles to cover his escape. The only attack that had yet to do damage proved effective, stunning it again and hindering its charge.
“Elmo!” Augusta called. “Teamwork!”
“Again?!” Elmo snapped. “We’re in a tiny room!”
“It’ll work! Trust me!”
Not as seamlessly as she would have hoped, but not a total failure, she actually managed to kick off his shield and flip into the air, spinning the pinion blades between her fingers. Landing on the reaper, the magic blades were the first to pierce its defense and sliced through armour and circuitry, piercing its core.
“Gisella!” she called.
Already on top of it, the crystal daggers swarmed the reaper and pierced through the joints and crushed its one eye. It began to spark and stagger but the relentless attacks stopped it from recovering to hunt down Boris.
Aki closed her eyes and released another arrow, shielding herself from the terrifying machine. As luck would have it, the others had done enough damage to tear off its plating and expose its vulnerable circuitry and core. It was shot straight through and the reaper shut down, overloaded with electricity, and exploded.
“I got it…?” she muttered. Then, realising her shot, she clapped her hands excitedly. “Oh, I got it!”
Bustov gave her a high-five, cheering her on and bolstering her confidence. “See, Lorenz? On the job training!”
“Well, if it’s working what can I say?” Lorenz chuckled. “Just stay at the back to avoid-”
A shiver ran up their spines as they were scanned again. Outside, standing right beside Boris, was another reaper, but this one locked onto Lorenz.
“Your reaper has arrived,” it said, identical to the one they had just defeated. “Expect a swift death.”
But this time they were prepared and abused its programming. Lorenz hid behind everyone and they formed a ‘wall’ to halt its advance. As expected it rushed straight for them and forced its way through, and this one lacked the griffin rifle like the other reaper, replacing it with a claw lined with needles. As if to aggravate it, Lorenz shot a laser, curving it above the party before slamming it into its head. Making full use of his photon control, he was able to shoot into the fray and avoid them all.
Same strategy, Augusta dealt the opening blow while Gisella’s daggers swiftly followed. The other members waited for this dual strike before aiming for where it would then be most vulnerable. It discharged electricity to force them back but it was weak, released before sufficiently charged and could not stop them from ganging up. Even better, Boris continued to fire missiles from behind after being ignored.
“Interference is not tolerated,” it informed, glancing at Fensal.
It was too fast to even realise what had happened. Blink and it was over, the reaper grinded its crude blade across the ground before running Fensal straight through. Lifting the halfling right off the ground, the poison flowed into the mortal wound and traveled throughout his system, sapping his energy to even fight back. As if it wasn’t enough, it slammed him against the wall, piercing the skymetal before unsheathing the blade out of Fensal’s stomach.
“Interference is not tolerated,” it repeated.
“Shut it down,” Lorenz begged. “UNITY, I ask that you aid me now and shut down the robots that have turned against you.”
His prayer was answered in their time of need. Golden light flooded the reaper and its power system was depleted. The electricity died away and its eye turned off as it collapsed to the ground, motionless, powerless, depleted for the time being. Lorenz pulled the trigger and the thermal heat-blade activated. He carved a hole in its chest and melted its core, breaking it instantly and ending further conflict. After the first reaper they got too confident, all it took was a single strike…
“What do you mean you can’t heal him?!” Augusta snapped.
“I can’t,” Bustov explained, controlling his emotions. “It’s not healing anymore, it’s resurrection.”
“Resurrec-?! Wait, that means he…”
Out of everyone, Augusta was the one that started to cry the most, even the face on her magic belt turned sad. In their mourning, a cassette tape hopped onto Fensal, trying to move onto his face. It didn’t take them a second to destroy the mimic instantly before it could even transform; this wasn’t the time.
“Um, can you resurrect, Lorenz?” Gisella asked.
He shook his head. “No, I haven’t been gifted that power.”
Bustov picked up Fensal and began to head for the elevator. “We’ll do what we did with Aki; pay someone to resurrect. Kwalish in particular.”
Lorenz wished he had the power to bring people back from the dead, that such a permanent thing could be made so temporary was amazing. A wizard with the power to breath life back into those departed was worth any amount of gold needed, it was-
“Wait, don’t we need a cleric?” Boris pointed out. “Hommlet has the cleric that brought back Aki, wizards cannot cast divine spells.”
“Pencil is a special guy,” Bustov chuckled. “So he needs a special ‘resurrection’, it’s only fair.”
The others left as Lorenz desperately scrambled to collect machine parts, throwing in anything he could into his new bag of holding of the reapers. Especially grabbing their crude blades and griffin rifle, he sprinted to catch up to the party and made it just in time before the elevator closed on him.
Without a hitch, the party easily made it through the gardens, RO-Z’s cleaning level, and towards the second garden where they first met the veggiepygmys. From there it was back to where they found Lorenz in his lonesome in one of the many living quarters. Paying a quick visit to his own room, the story always was that he was found inside a locked locker, though denying it never made a difference. The path was familiar to them, coming through here every time they visited Kwalish and his lab on level 0.
“Look what the cat brought in,” Kwalish said as they entered his lab, not bothering to turn around. “It isn’t that hard to get to level 6, is it?”
“We had a slight mishap with a reaper,” Gisella explained.
“Uh huh.” It was clear he was wholly focused on… whatever was inside one of his test tubes.
“Had a bit of an encounter…”
“And we need you to reincarnate Fensal,” Bustov finished.
“Uh huh…” He whirled around on his spinning chair, using more as a stool than a chair given his short stature. “Wait…” It just clicked what the party asked for. “Huh? You want me to reincarnate the halfling?”
“Exactly,” Bustov agreed. He gently laid down Fensal in front of the wizard. “We’ve got the coin for it.”
“You know this is reincarnate, not resurrect?”
“It’s more exciting and 100 gold cheaper!” He pointed at Aki. “Who knows, Pencil might turn out like that!”
Kwalish pulled out a scroll from his back pocket and let it roll, reaching almost the entire length of his lab. It was appropriately labeled ‘Big Favours For Needy Adventurers’. “I’m never short on work, you might as well do something for me. Now, where’s the coin.”
The gold turned to dust in his hand as he began to cast the spell. For the next hour, the party could do nothing but wait, trying to entertain themselves but strictly prohibited from touching anything in the lab; even the floor should be off limits but an exception was made. Bustov and Lorenz entertained themselves by rolling dice, betting on what Fensal would turn out while Augusta secretly pulled out a notebook and began to sketch. Boris was content trying to unravel more arcane secrets while Gisella did tricks with her knives. All content until a flash blinded the whole room and the ritual was finished.
In the middle of the room, reincarnated and made anew, was a big… hairy… gnoll.
Kwalish stifled a laugh and glanced at Aki. “You could turn out like her. Or… you could turn out like this.” He hopped back on his chair and spun around, spinning happily back to his imprisoned creatures. “Waste of money if you ask me, I could have easily transplanted his brain into an android’s body.”
“What… happened…?” Fensal muttered, looking down at his new body. “I’m tall…?”
“That’s the least of the differences,” Gisella chuckled. “I’m not sure where to start.”
“New look, Pencil, much more handsome than when you were a halfling!” Lorenz teased.
Bustov could hardly get the words out. “Pencil-?! Hahaha, you definitely got the short end of the stick!”
It took a while to properly explain that he was killed and reincarnated by Kwalish. They kept all his weapons and items but it seemed his armour was going to have to get a lot bigger. Due to the change, it was clear he had gotten a lot stronger than when he was a halfling, only gaining physical traits such as speed and dexterity, more nimble on his feet… But he also lost a little bit as well. He was dumber and there wasn’t a better way to put it.
“Shake!” Bustov ordered, reaching out his hand.
Before he even knew it, Fensal shook like a good boy before snapping out of it. “Huh? Wait, no, I’m not shaking!”
“You already did.”
“Can you still do basic math?” Lorenz wondered. He held up two fingers in each hand. “How many fingers am I-”
“Five clearly,” Fensal interrupted, getting frustrated with the insults. Until it dawned on him that he wasn’t quite right. “Wait! No, four!”
“Hahaha, you’re great!” Bustov declared. “Better than you were before!” He sifted through Boris’ bag. “Don’t you have a chess set in here?”
“I do,” Boris assured. “Somewhere in there, I can’t remember when I last played.”
It was all set up, two chairs, two competitors, one winner. Bustov set up the game and the others convinced Fensal to play, even if it was just to see him fail. Really, it was just a ‘scientific test’ on how smart a gnoll was. Seated and ready, the game began, neither side really taking it seriously, all knowing who was going to win… Not quite.
“Checkmate,” Fensal declared.
Bustov’s jaw dropped seeing his king completely trapped in the corner, defeated in 7 moves. “Wait, hold on, hold on, hold on… What?”
Somehow, Fensal clicked out a pair of shades, put them on, and left the table. “Well, you’ve never beaten me before, now won’t be the first time.”
It was surprising how fast Fensal went from being the brunt of the joke to Bustov.
“Nah, best of three! We don’t one and done here!”
He lost again in 12 moves this time.
Fensal put on yet another pair of shades over the first one. “That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.”
Augusta patted Bustov’s back. “You’re a great guy and all but…” She laughed and smacked his head. “You just lost to a gnoll!”
“Entertain yourselves elsewhere!” Kwalish complained and kicked them out of his lab.
Picked up and thrown out by magic hands, they pulled themselves off the ground and flicked the dust off their clothes. After something as tragic as death, it was very welcome, being able to laugh it off and enjoy the moment as if nothing ever happened. It was much needed after the increasing dangers the deeper they pushed on.
“Are you going to take the glasses off?” Bustov asked.
Fensal tilted his head and pulled one of them down the bridge of his nose, though he just had another one underneath. “These aren’t glasses, they’re shades.”
As they began to descend back down, they only made it to level 2 before they heard a sound in the distance. It didn’t distract them at first, many things would rustle through the bushes as it hid from them, but this sound was getting closer. When it started to follow them, they became cautious; a strange unidentifiable sound they had never heard was coming. Behind! They whirled around, brandishing their weapons, to see a veggiepygmy riding a horse-shaped-cactus the size of a dog.
But this was not any normal veggiepygmy, oh no, he was on another level, another league, a different plane of existence compared to the others they had met; he was treated with the respect he commanded. A flawless, chiseled, masculine jawline, shirtless to reveal his body carved from marble, glowing eyes that made women faint at the slightest glance, such a commanding stature of power yet he was graceful, riding his faithful steed. His lustrous hair was flowing in the wind, the sun seeming to gleam across his stunning locks; many have strived to reach perfection, but nobody reached the world this pygmy was on.
“Halt, I require an offering from your kind!” the pygmy commanded. “I am known as Chad here in these lands far and wide and I am simply an average enjoyer of technology!”
“How in the world is his hair still flowing?” Bustov muttered, not really believing everything he was seeing. “He’s not even moving yet it’s still… flowing…”
Augusta tapped his shoulder and pointed at an iron grate in the wall. “He’s standing strategically next to an air vent.”
“Oh, he’s trying to become a chief,” Aki realised. “He’s on his right of passage and is collecting technology to adorn himself, just like my father did.”
Lorenz handed Chad the attractor. “We can give you this?”
“Ah, how wonderful!” Chad exclaimed, fully content with the gift. “I must hurry now, if you’ll excuse me, but thank you for the brilliant artifact. Yip! Yip!”
He whipped the cactus horse with the reins and it began to settle into a steady trot. Onwards he journeyed into the darkness, taking on a dangerous mission to become chief, yet fear was foreign to him. Retreat? Cowardice? Such notions were expunged from his mind, nay, his very soul for the sake of his people; what was there to fear when you were a chad?
“There he goes,” Gisella giggled. “I didn’t expect that.”
Bustov shook his head in disbelief. “His hair is still flowing.”
Back to the sixth level, they knew what to expect and would not get jumped by anymore mimics nor would they ask The Lightthe light questions again. The reapers hunt their targets after they breach security and trespass; as long as they were careful about security it should be completely fine.
When they got back to the pedestal, the bodies were gone and another group of four members were exploring the room. The non-hostile aliens introduced themselves as Orangoilion, tall and buglike xenos, green carapace as natural armour. Despite their appearance, they were extremely intelligent intelllectual, easily understanding technology inside and out at the slightest glance. Explaining they had come from the lowest depths and across the hundreds of miles wide space station, they had been here for hundreds of years searching the place from edge to edge.
“Uh… not far from the end then,” Gisella informed. “Only five more levels then that’s it.”
Luckily, they were understanding aliens and were willing to help explain they’re travels to the party. They had seen high-level machines, full to the brim with deadly weapons, covered entirely with unbreakable steel. Some were massive robots that crushed all in their way while others were human sized, steel people who could serve to be more dangerous than others of their kind; these were the androids that Kwalish wanted. They explained grenades the party had found, the exagryph Lorenz had salvaged, and the reapers triggered by the orb of light at the altars of knowledge. .
“As you might have guessed, you ask the pedestal a question and it answers,” one explained. “But they have malfunctioned, seeing any question at anytime as a security breach and calling a reaper. Dangerous things…”
“We already ran into a few,” Fensal chuckled.
“And it wasn’t pretty, it seems. Hmm, but if you find one in working condition then it could prove to be extremely valuable.”
Lorenz glanced at the four doors leading out to this room. “Where did you come from?”
They were kind enough to explain the rooms they went through, pointing at one of the doors, and what they had found. Of course, it was all very intriguing and the party listened intently, but what really caught their attention was when they explained they had passed an Android Crèche a Manufactorum but filled with androids.
“That’s what Kwalish wants us to find!” Augusta exclaimed. “At least we know where that is, it saves a lot of trouble searching every room.”
Bustov pointed up and at the other levels. “On the top floor there is a gnome wizard. Don’t mess with him, he’ll kill you guys really quick if you make him mad.”
“Gnome… A wizard like us…” the Orangoilion noted. “A trade for information, very nice indeed.”
Aki panicked, realising they were heading up. “Don’t attack the veggiepygmys!” She pointed to her red and golden hair. “Their leaves are this colour! They’re really nice.”
“We usually kill on sight,” another Orangoilion explained. “Are these ones friendly?”
“If they have green leaves, you can kill them,” Bustov clarified. “Red and gold, though, leave them alone.”
There was one thing that was left to explain, the disappearance of the bodies. According to the Orangoilion, there were none when they arrived, but after explanation of what they looked like, two and two were pieced together. The xenoforms were known as the Surk, sometimes hostile, sometimes neutral. It was rare that they cooperated with anyone but when they did, they proved to be a truepowerful ally.
“The ones we met were colored tattooed in red,” the xeno explained. “Though the ones you describe are coloredtattooed in blue. Perhaps they will be able to help you if you meet again.”
Bustov tapped Fensal’s shoulder. “Color coded, nice and easy for you to remember.”
“You know you lost to me twice at chess?” Fensal reminded him.
They went their separate ways and, following the directions the xeno’s gave them, they searched for the android factory. Three bodies were needed, two for the brains, and one for Fensal to escape his new gnoll look. Almost as important as the Manufactorum, it was a good place to start in what seemed like a big level.
Augusta ran past a door, opening automatically as she neared it. Inside was another pedestal with an orb of swirling light; a knowledge altar, now the question was had it malfunctioned yet?
“Hey, guys!” she called. “I found another one!”
“Don’t ask it any questions yet,” Gisella warned. “Just inspect the altar.” She turned to Boris and Lorenz. “Can you two see if it’s malfunctioned?”
They nodded in unison and went to work, examining the base, inspecting the circuitry, and carefully pulling out the protective plating to get a better look. Unfortunately, yes, something was wrong and a few things were broken; it was most likely broken and would set off security. On the bright side, they were confident they could shut it down and extract useful tech from the parts. Getting to work, it took no time at all to fully turn off the altar and the pulsing light faded away in time with the glow of the circuitry.
“Phew, that’s that,” Lorenz sighed in relief. He rubbed his hands together and began to break apart the altar. “Now… let’s see what else I can find in here…”
Despite being disconnected, the altar flashed red and the same vision flooded his mind. The pods, the mist, the reaper sharpening its blades against its armour; it shouldn’t have been possible but the alarms were triggered again.
For your crime, you have been scheduled for termination. Expect your reaper soon.
“Ahh… great,” Lorenz muttered, shivering after the vision. “There’s another one on our tail.”
Fensal shook his head and left the room. “I’m not going to get killed by another.”
“Do you want to head back up to my forest for now?” Aki suggested.
Lorenz clapped his hands, shot up, and turned to leave. “A capital idea! I don’t want to deal with another one!”