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Now we begin the adventure.

The town of Torch has long enjoyed the prosperity from its namesake, the violet bonfire of flames that constantly spewed forth from the top of Black Hill. The rare metals that the smiths were able to work with its intense heat were enough to keep the town afloat despite the taxes and tariffs imposed upon it by the Technic League.

Eight days ago, the brilliant flame went out for the first time in hundreds of years. With the flame going out, a seeping pit of rubble and bubbling fluids sits. Illyana sits in the waiting room of the town hall as more strangers filter in for council woman Dolga Freddert’s address. Illyana sits with an impatient anxiety. Her mentor has been gone for two days and hasn’t returned. That’s why Dolga has called everyone here. Illyana is wearing some of the traditional fur lined clothing from her Kellid heritage. Something her mentor’s adopted daughter Val made for her. She was also a kellid girl that Khonir Baine found in his travels and adopted.

The first one to arrive was a half-orc with one of those ridiculous wizard’s caps; the pointed kind. He had a longsword and a whip on his belt, odd choices for a wizard. He sat down without a word and pulled out a tome and began reading.

Next to arrive, around 2 minutes later was a young woman. Humanoid? It was hard to tell through all of the loose clothes that covered her from the neck down. There were some strange crystals embedded in her skin that might be an interesting conversation piece at some point. She approaches, somewhat timid. She sat down and seemed to just keep an eye around the room.

She was followed shortly by a human knight of some kind. He was in a suit of fullplate and had a shield strapped across his back. His armor had a rose motif and there was a morningstar hanging from his belt. He carried himself with the air of a priest, and seemed to have many pouches strapped across his armor. He gave each of them a symbol of blessing, then sat down and waited with them.

The last two arrived almost together. A giant of a man with a hammer almost as tall as he was squeezed his way into the town hall with a smile on his cold face. Wearing little more than some furs and a few mismatched pieces of armor made from what looked like scrapped machines, he was the first to speak to the group. I hear you might be having a robot problem?” he asks excitedly. Everyone looked at him with a somber expression, as if to say ‘not really the right tone for this situation.’ He was followed in by a strange man with a nervous tick. He smelled like he hadn’t washed in a day or two and was wearing some patched leather armor and carrying a quarterstaff. Illyana had seen this last one around town casting some minor healing magic.

The group sat around for another 5 minutes before the steward came and ushered them into the main hall. Sitting in one of the high chairs was the old dwarf Dolga Freddert, with her adamantine warhammer by her side. There are 4 empty chairs with her.

“Thank you for joining me. Councilmen Otterbie and Kyte are busy coordinating waste disposal now that we have lost the Torch, and Socceal is nursing a headache so bad that he’s useless. The final empty chair here is why I’ve put out the call for help that you were so kind to answer. As some of you may know, this last chair belongs to Khonnir Baine.” She opens looking at Illyana for a moment with just a hint of sorrow in her stern gaze. “He has gone missing and we would like you to be the next excursion to search for him. The reward for finding him is 1000gp a person. If you are able to return him alive, you will also get to split a scroll of resurrection. There is a separate reward of 1000gp a person to the group that is able to reignite the torch atop Black Hill.”

The old woman takes a breath before continuing. “After the torch went out eight days ago, Councilman Baine found some tracks leading into one of the small lakes nearby. A group of halfings went in the next day, though we haven’t seen them since. They were followed by a band of local thugs, who also disappeared. Good riddance that lot. On the third day, Khonnir took a group into the caves and killed some humanoids called Skulks. His group forced open a door made of glaucite and brought back a damaged robot of some kind. The following day, a group of clerics of Brigh made their way into the caves and haven’t come out yet. They were clerics though, so who knows how long they can stay down there. Two days after that Khonnir led another group into the caves. That was two days ago and they should have been back by now. That’s the situation, if you have any questions I’d be happy to answer them for you now.”

The barbarian was the first to respond. “They brought back a robot? Can I see it?”

Freddert looks at the man nearly twice her size and says in a serious tone, “He did, and that’s not my call. It is currently being kept by Val, his daughter.” She glances towards Illyana as if to say ‘keep an eye on that one.’

“What do we know about the wall?” Beak inquires, a quill and sheet ready.

“It’s some alloy of adamantine. Baine intended to explore further past it in his second expedition.”

After waiting a moment, Illyana spoke up. “Is there any other help you can offer us?” she asks.

“Once you’re on the job, I’ll give you each a writ that you can show to any of the merchants in the town for a flat 20% discount on any gear you need to purchase. I wish I could offer a greater discount than that, but that’s the best I can do. Further, Val has closed down the Foundry, Baine’s tavern, for the time being. She has told me that any group heading in to look for him can stay for free, and use it as a base of operations between forays. Finally, Joram Kyte has agreed to cast Water Breathing on any group going into the caves, free of charge. You can find him in the temple of Brigh.”

The group stands around for another minute before they decide they have no more questions and get their writs on the way out of the council chamber. As they are approaching the Foundry, a young girl’s shout of fear and surprise is heard. The group rushes into the house and finds the young girl hiding under a table while the robot seems to have come back to life. The robot is shambling towards the young girl and Illyana runs to position herself between it and Val. “ROBOT! DIG SMASH!” Dig calls out as he runs up and punches the robot in the face, causing the metal to twist worse than it already was. Bogfard follows up with a lightning bolt that seems to put the robot out of commission again. Dig continues to rip the robot to pieces to be sure.

With the threat gone, Val climbs out from under the table and thanks Illyana with a hug. Beak approaches the ruined robot and identifies it as a repair drone. “I’ve read about these but never seen one before. If there is one down there, there will probably be more. They can repair each other. Damn, this discovery will probably draw the Technic League here when they hear about it.” Beak concludes.

“We can’t have that” Sky says as he gathers the parts and puts them in a nearby crate.

Val and Illyana talk for a few minutes, with Illyana making sure that the young girl is keeping out of trouble (and out of the alchemy lab) before sending her back to the inn to await their return.

“You say there more robots under lake?” Dig asks looking towards Beak. “Then what are we waiting for? Time for swimming!”

This is when Kalli spoke up for the first time. “The lake is too deep to just swim. We need to see the local cleric for a water breathing spell first,” she says matter-of-factly before turning towards the temple and leading the way.

When they reached the church, Sky took the lead and greeted the Brigh worshipers appropriately. “We are the next group to head into the caves to search for Councilman Baine.” The priest responds warmly and requests that they let him know if they need anything else (within reason, of course) in their efforts to recover the councilman. He blesses each of them with a 6 hour water breathing spell.

“Okay Dig, now we can go swimming.” Kalli says. The party makes their way over to the foul smelling water, and each of them takes a reflexive deep breath before climbing in. After swimming down to the bottom, they are eventually able to find the entrance among the murky water, though the tunnel is dark. Bogfard takes point as he can see in the total darkness of the tunnel, followed by Dig, Illyana, and Kalli. Beak brings up the rear as he is also able to see. When Bogfard notices the exit of the tunnel, by a soft glow ahead, he tries to tell the party, but all that comes out is some bubbles.

When the group emerges, they find 3 cat sized beetles that emit a bioluminescent glow from their abdomen. “Let’s capture them” Sky whispers. “Then we can use them as lanterns.”

Dig grins at the idea and rushes into the gathered beetles and dives on one. Fortunately the carapace was strong enough to support the weight of the big man, and he barely avoided squishing it. Illyana is not far behind him and leaps into the air to grab a second one as it tries to take off. Beak fires a small glob of acid at the third, and it starts to flee. Kalli shoots a ray of dark energy but stumbles as she walks towards the shore and misses the beetle. Bogfard and Sky both get rope out of their bags and tie up the beetles as best they can.

“I like you Sky. You have fun plans.” Dig comments, handing the holy knight the tied up beetle.

“Uh… thanks Dig.” Sky offers back.

Kalli digs a small stone out of her boot. “Damn stones” she says as she regroups with the others. “Mind if I carry the second one?”

No one objects, and Beak walks up to each ally standing on the shore and performs a small arcane gesture, making each of them clean and dry. Looking around the small opening they are in, they notice a path leading back through a tight collection of stalactites, stalagmites, and columns that the beetle fled through, or they can follow the now knee deep river that they emerged from. Dig, deciding he doesn’t particularly want to squeeze between the rocks, starts heading along the river and everyone else scrambles to keep up with him.

They round a corner and suddenly Dig draws his massive hammer. Everyone else gets ready for a fight as the half giant charges ahead through the shallow water. Soon, the party realizes what he’s seen and spring into action. Dig is still the first to engage the small lumps of goo that are quivering around the shore, and brings his hammer down hard on the mindless creature. The goo spray coats the grinning barbarian as the rest of them rush to engage the other oozes. Kalli manages to land a ray of dark energy on one, allowing Illyana to run up and finish it. Bogfard unleashes some lightning again, damaging a third that Beak finishes off with a ray of frost. Sky sloshes slowly to the shore and wounds the last ooze. Sky blocks the feeble attack the ooze could muster, and Dig runs over and finishes the creature with another gooey hammer smash.

“Really? Did you have to cover my armor completely?” Sky asked Dig as he started trying to rub some of the goo off.

“Gotta make the most of smashing time” Dig said with his big grin firmly on his face.

“Anyone know what these were?” Illyana asks.

“They look like young slime molds to me,” Kalli says, “fairly common in caverns. We should look through the mounds they were growing in.” She gestures to 4 piles slumped on the small shore.

“The fungus is safe in small quantities, just cover your mouth and don’t inhale it” Bogfard instructs the group.

The party starts going through the piles of fungus and discover that they are the remains of the halfling group that came through a few days ago.

“Anyone find anything useful?” Illyana asks.

Beak calls back, “I found an agate. We’ll have to see what it’s worth when we get back above ground.”

“Well where to now?” Sky asks, looking down the river that continued on into the darkness, and then back to where they had come from.

Join us next month to find out where they go, and what else they find in the caves!

 

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