Today on d20 Diaries we’re heading back to Torch, for more of the Iron Gods adventure path!
Iron Gods is a six-part adventure path by Paizo Publishing that fuses technology and fantasy into one awesome Pathfinder campaign. The first volume, Fires of Creation, is written by Neil Spicer, and is intended to bring characters from levels one to four. The Iron Gods Player’s Guide is a free download on Paizo’s website, here. For further information on the Iron Gods campaign, check out my blog post ‘Iron Gods Adventure Path,’ for information on our characters, check out my blog post ‘Iron Gods: Character Focus: Haji and Nix,’ and for information on our first play session, check out my blog post ‘Iron Gods: Part One: Into the Weeping Pond.’ If you’re going to play Iron Gods yourself, I highly recommend picking up the Iron Gods Pawn Collection, which has a ton of unique pawns for use in the campaign.
When we left our eccentric heroes, Nix, Haji and his ugly rat Rothmhar had returned from the tunnels beneath the toxic Weeping Pond to nurse their wounds until Nix’s eyesight returned. The next few hours were touch and go, but in the end they both recovered and spent the night together in Nix’s home. It was a small one-room warehouse crowded with a mess of scrap, cluttered worktables and unfinished projects.
Nix was up early, brewing some new alchemical acid and tinkering with her tiny magical gadgets. She wore massive goggles over her golden eyes, and her tangled orange hair was pulled back in a pony-tail. Despite having only one real arm and one mechanical arm, Nix was confident working with tiny mechanical parts, breakable glassware and volatile chemicals. She smiled brightly while working, a sign (perhaps) that she was not as sane as most women. But then, where was the fun in that?
Nearby, Haji sat on the stone floor, legs crossed. He was large even for a half-orc, with olive green skin, and long black hair and beard weighted down by the stones and gems braided into its length. Like Nix, Haji was not quite whole. One of his eyes was green and alert, but the other was missing entirely, plucked out long ago by his cruel one-time master. In its place was a glittering gem, and surrounding the gaping eye-socket was a massive triangular brand. Before him sat Rothmhar, his hideously ugly, hairless rat. Haji sifted through a bag of stones and gems a pulled out a few choice pieces. One he popped into his own mouth, and swallowed! The other he placed in Rothmhar’s mouth. Rothmhar did the same, swallowing the stone, only to start violently convulsing and frothing at the mouth. The spit and foam-like saliva engulfed the entire rat and then hardened, into a strange sort of cocoon that looked remarkably like the rock he had swallowed. There, on Nix’s oil-stained floor, Haji sat in silent communication with Rothmhar’s spiritual consciousness, connecting with magical powers beyond his understanding.
An hour later, the rocky cocoon cracked and broke open. Rothmhar scurried out, his hairless flesh covered in new spiky, rocky protrusions. As Haji opened his eye, Nix smiled. Her goggles were on the work-bench and her new mechanical gadgets were strapped to belt.
“Ready to kick some ass?” she asked
Haji chuckled. “After breakfast. I’m starving.”
“Oh, yeah! That girl — “
“Val,” Haji corrected Nix.
“Yeah, her! That girl said she’d feed us! Let’s go!”
The duo hurried off to The Foundry, to score some free food off of Val Baine, the daughter of Haji’s friend and mentor, Khonnir, who had gone missing in the tunnels under Torch.
Val was happy to see them ready to set out again, but saddened they had yet to find news of her father.
Nix ate enthusiastically, and Haji stuffed himself to bursting. With most of his life spent only eating rarely, or not at all, Haji had learned to eat as much as he could, whenever he could in order to get by.
“If you keep feeding us, kid, Haji will need new pants,” Nix joked to Val.
After breakfast the duo headed out to the Temple of Brigh, to meet with Joram Kyte. Joram was the high priest of the temple, and a councillor. He had promised to cast protective magics on Haji, Nix and Rothmhar each day that they set out for the tunnels under Torch, in order to allow them to breathe water. He also served as the pair’s main point of contact with Torch’s council. It was Joram who would see the pair were paid for their efforts if they managed to save Khonnir Baine, or reignite the violet flame atop Torch’s Black Hill. While there, Haji asked after the identity of the half-orc woman’s body they had found, and the half-eaten man’s. Although Joram was no help in ascertaining who the half-eaten man was, he did know that the half-orc was a popular brawler by the name of Parda. Many people would miss her and he was certain that having her body recovered would go a long way to helping them grieve. With the promise of further rewards if the pair would return any dead bodies they found to the surface, Haji turned to find Nix gone.
Bored, Nix had moved on from the chapel to gawk at the mechanical wonders on sale at the temple’s storefront.
“Hey, look at this gun!” she exclaimed happily, waving around a technical marvel. “It’s so advanced! I think it shoots fire or something!” Checking the price tag she examined it’s structure, curious how she could make it herself for less coin…
Haji chuckled. “There’s an extra reward for us if we can return the deceased from the tunnels.”
“Yeah?” Nix asked with a smile. She put the gun down and followed Haji through town to the Weeping Pond. “Well, no time like the present!”
The Weeping Pond was dark and placid. It stunk like chemicals and made their throats itch and eyes water, even through Joram’s spell. They entered the slimy water and set off together for the underwater tunnels. Nothing attacked them this time, which was a welcome relief. As they dragged themselves out of the water, weighted down by their wet clothes, they found the tunnels as they had left them. The cut-up remains of the fire beetles were undisturbed, the half-orc’s body was still in the stalagmite carven, the foul frog-beast was dead on the shore, and the half-eaten man’s corpse was where they had left it.
“We can move the bodies later,” Haji announced. Noticing a partly-flooded tunnel leading east from the blindheim’s cavern, Haji entered the water. “Let’s keep exploring. I think this tunnel might lead back to the entrance.” He placed Rothmhar up onto his shoulder and gripped his trusty shovel in his hands.
With a shrug, Nix pulled out her morningstar and followed him.
The water quickly grew shallow, and after only a few turns in the tunnel the pair found themselves in a mold-slick cavern with three large foul-smelling mounds inside.
“It smells rank in here,” Nix complained. “What the heck kind of mold is this?”
“Oh, the mold isn’t the problem,” Haji replied. “The mold is harmless and totally natural. The stink is what it’s growing around. See? It’s growing over some corpses. Halflings, maybe? Kids?”
Nix shrugged. “Bodies are bodies. They’ll be worth coin, won’t they? Think they’ve got anything good on them?”
Nix and Haji approached the bodies only to have them twitch… Their mouths opened and a green sludge came pouring out, pooling on the ground. Then it sloshed it’s way towards them.
“Uhhh…” Haji muttered, holding his shovel out defensively. “That’s not normal.”
“Whoah! Those are the tiniest slime molds I’ve ever SEEN!” Nix exclaimed. “They’re usually… like… WAY bigger!”
As the slime molds (Bestiary 2) slammed their small, mold covered bodies against Nix and Haji, Nix gave one a hit with her morningstar.
“Just whack ’em, Haji!” She called out. “They’ll break like anything else.”
Taking Nix’s word for it, Haji swung his shovel at the green goop around his knees, slashing a line through it’s squishy form.
The battle was surprisingly long, with Haji and Nix suffering through some bad luck. Although Haji came out unscathed, Nix nearly fell unconscious. As the third and final slime mould exploded under Nix’s monrningstar, Haji looked around for any other signs of trouble.
Bloody, and breathing heavily, Nix activated one of her gadgets, causing a clockwork beetle to scurry it’s way from her belt over to her thigh, where it sprayed a magical antiseptic foam across her open wounds. After healing her, the beetle crumbled into tiny pieces. Nix scooped them up and tossed them into her bag.
Finding no other dangers in the cavern, Haji and Nix checked out the corpses.
“Definitely halflings,” Haji remarked. “Were there halfling adventurers sent down here before us?”
“Ha!” Nix laughed. “Like I know!”
“They’ve already been robbed. Except for…” Feeling something in one of their inner vest pockets, Haji rummaged around and pulled out a stone. “This! A lace agate! Wow, it’s beautiful! Polished and everything! Isn’t that nice, Rothmhar?!”
Nix burst out laughing. “You’re adorable, freak. You know that’d be worth good coin if you didn’t eat the damned things. No one wants to buy them after you’ve shit the things back out.”
Haji shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. They’re not up for sale, are they Rothmhar?”
The rock-spiked rat shook its head possessively and bared its teeth at Nix.
Nix smiled, as used to her boyfriend’s quirks (and freaky pets) as he was to hers. “There’s another tunnel here. You coming?”
Haji gave one last happy look at the new stone before putting it in his belt pouch. “That tunnel should take us back to the entrance.”
The pair headed off to discover Haji was correct. Unsurprisingly. As a trained miner he spent a lot of time underground. He was more at home in these caverns than he was in Torch. The group doubled back to the blindheim’s cavern, and turned the other direction, heading off down the only tunnel they had yet to explore.
It was dark, but Nix’s trio of fire beetle glands glowed brightly, lighting the way forward. Suddenly, Haji heard something–an echoing trio of thumps. Footsteps? Bare feet on stone, maybe? He raised his hand for Nix to stop.
“What?” Nix asked loudly.
Haji held up a hand for silence and they continues forward, cautiously…
The tunnel continued ahead, but to the left and right there appeared two side caverns. The one on the right was large, nearly thirty feet deep, while the one on the left was shallow–only ten feet or so. Both were filled with debris, scrap and bits of metal and wires. The large cavern had it strewn across the floor and mounded in the corners, while the small cavern had it heaped nearly up to the top.
“WHOAH!” Nix exclaimed with excitement, clearly forgetting to be quiet. “Look at all this SCRAP!” She dove into the large room, sifting through bits of wire and metal and shoving everything that would fit into her backpack. “There’s even some SILVERDISKS in here!”
“Oh, hey!” She suddenly remarked. “There’s some weird chalk drawings on the wall in here. A three-legged robot like the one we smashed topside, with… I don’t know, some weird spiny plants and scrawny four-armed dudes.”
Suddenly Haji cocked his head, clearly listening to something. Quietly, he said, “I hear… whispers. They’re distant, but coming from… here.” Haji looked at the small cavern blocked by debris. “There’s something past this junk,” he decided.
“Scrap,” Nix corrected. “Up and over?” she whispered. She stowed her morningstar and crept over quietly, making barely a sound.
Haji tried to follow her example, but his weight caused the debris wall to topple, and make a loud crashing noise.
“Smooth,” Nix remarked with a grin.
Haji shrugged. “It’s done.”
The pair drew their weapons and headed down the tunnel that had been hidden by debris. It opened up into a large room, wide enough that Nix’s lights would illuminate it, but so deep that neither her glowing glands, nor Haji’s darkness-piercing eye could see to the far end.
They were on a narrow ledge, just wide enough for them to walk single file comfortably, that was ten feet higher than the rest of the cavern. It wound around the cavern to the left, leading off into another tunnel, and to the south, where it backed up into another tunnel and then descended down to the cavern floor at a steep incline. The ceiling here was quite high–nearly thirty feet high–and free of stalagmites. There were a few heaping mounds of debris, fibrous cords and hides down on the cavern’s floor.
Nix looked around with curiosity, but Haji narrowed his eyes. He leaned over and whispered into Nix’s ear.
“I hear something at the base of the ramp. And also right…” Haji suddenly turned around and lunged at the open space behind him. “HERE!”
His shovel drove into something, causing a weird silver blood to splatter around and a surprised looking hairless humanoid to flicker into sight. It’s flesh was grey, but it was camouflaged to blend in with the stones around it. It wore no clothes, but had a short sword clutched in its hands. (Skulks are from Bestiary 2)
As Haji attacked the strange humanoid Nix drew one of the volatile chemicals she had brewed and lobbed it at the ramp, causing it to burst into flames. For a brief moment a humanoid was outlined in flames, and let out a cry of pain.
“Ha!” Nix exclaimed proudly. “I see ’em!”
With the element of surprise lost, the strange humanoids tried to flee, or fight, (or both!), but stood little chance. Luck was on Haji and Nix’s side (for a change)! Even when reinforcements snuck onto the scene, the gray-skinned sneaks all perished.
“Sneaky buggers!” Nix remarked. “Think this is what killed some of the others?”
Haji nodded. “Parda was stabbed in the back, and so was that half-eaten guy. Their wounds could match with these swords. I didn’t check the halflings for wounds, but I wouldn’t be surprised if these things had a hand in their death, as well.”
Nix shrugged as she examined their corpses. “Guess they don’t have many places to hide treasure, hey?” She laughed headed over to the scrap mounds while Haji collected their swords.
“These things are made with junk–not much even I could find use for,” Nix admitted. “I think they were being lived in. Like, huts or something. But it’s a sign there’s more around here, right? I mean, there’s got to be!”
Haji grunted noncommittally. They headed deeper into the cavern, listening warily for signs of further skulks. They found a massive pit so deep they couldn’t see to the bottom, two more tunnels, and a massive wall of pitted metal.
“WHOAH!” Nix exclaimed loudly. “DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS IS?!”
Haji nodded. “Numerian steel?”
Nix nodded her head rapidly in turn and ran her hands over the metal. “Glaucite! An iron and adamantine alloy that’s a pain in the ass to make, work with, AND break down. Steel’s better for nearly EVERYTHING, and it’s not really worth the effort to try to extract the adamantine from it, BUT, artifacts and ruins from the Rain of Stars are often made of this stuff! Behind this wall is probably, like… SOMETHING AWESOME! And COOL! And OLD!”
Haji raised an eyebrow. He had heard tales of the metal ruins hidden underground throughout Numeria. Ruins that had supposedly fallen from the stars, but he had never seen one before. Never confirmed their existence. And he had spent a LOT of time underground. He had little interest in the ruins themselves, but the metal? That might have interesting effects on Rothmhar… And Nix? She would love whatever they found inside.
“There’s an opening in the glaucite further down,” he pointed out, gesturing to a circular opening nearly five feet off the ground.
Nix hurried over and stood on her tip toes, peeking her eyes inside. “Oh, we HAVE to go in there!”
“We haven’t found Khonnir, yet.” Haji reminded her. “Or finished exploring these caverns. Let’s make sure it’s safe out here before heading into THAT deathtrap.”
Nix scrunched up her nose in distaste. “Why do you have to be so practical?” she asked. “FINE! Lead the way, party-pooper!”
Haji smiled, surprised that leading Nix away from the metal corridor had been so easy. She must still be hurt from the battle.
They backtracked a bit, heading up the ledge and down one of the tunnels.
“I think this will take us back to that other tunnel that led out of the debris room.” Haji remarked.
As they walked it got colder, and colder. Their breath made little clouds in the air and a rime of white frost coated the floors and walls.
“Why’s it so cold down?” Nix asked.
Haji shrugged. “I… I don’t know.”
The tunnel opened up into a larger one, shaped like a wedge, with a single other tunnel leading exiting it to the north, back to the debris room. The floor in the cold room was covered with a fine layer of brown dust, and a body slumped against the far wall.
“Oh!” Nix exclaimed. “I recognize this! It’s brown mold! It’s… like… mold that drains the heat from everything around it, making it cold and… stuff! Fire only makes it grow, even though I always thought that was bonkers! And…” she wracks her brain, trying to remember anything else useful. “I don’t think it can actually kill you, but it can take you pretty close.”
“That guy looks pretty dead to me,” Haji remarked.
“I see your point.”
Haji got out a rope and grappling hook from his backpack, tied them together and tossed them into the room. He snagged the body on the first try, and hauled it back out into the tunnel.
“Recognize him?” Nix asked as she poked at the cold corpse.
“Yes, actually.” Haji remarked with surprise. “He was a friend of Khonnir’s! I don’t know his name or anything but… Yes. I’m certain it’s him.”
“Well, this guy hasn’t been robbed yet,” Nix replied. “And he wasn’t poor either! His tools are way nicer than mine! There’s some empty vials on him, so he probably could afford to pay for potions, and look at his armour? Chain shirts like this cost a fortune!”
Haji nodded and began removing the armour. “I call dibs.”
Nix smirked. “Fine, but his tools and crossbow are mine.” Holding up the tiny crossbow in one hand she aimed it around. “This thing is bitching!”
After looting the body, Haji inspected it.
“I think you’re right. I don’t think the cold killed this guy. Look, he’s got stab wounds here and here…”
“From those grey sneaks?”
Haji nodded. “These ones are, yes. But these other two puncture wounds, they’re from a spear, and they’ve got a strange mold growing inside them.”
“MORE mold?” Nix asked. She rolled her eyes. “So he fled in here and, what? Bled to death?”
“Probably. And whoever stabbed him didn’t follow him in here to fetch his corpse.”
Nix nodded. “It’s not that brown mold in the wound, is it? Or the slime mold?” Nix peeked into the wounds then frowned.
Haji shook his head. “Worse. It’s russet mold. It’s sore of like… a fungal infection that gets inside you, and kills you from the inside out as it grows.” Pointing at the body he continued, “You see here, and here, there’s mold veining beneath the surface? That’s the infection. Once it kills you a plant guy bursts out of your body.”
“A plant guy?” Nix asked with doubt.
“Seriously!” Haji remarked. “It’s a vegepygmy. You know, a little plant man? They venerate the bodies they grow from as birth-corpses.” (Bestiary)
“That’s weird. So, what, this guy’s going to explode and out pops a plant dude?”
Haji nodded. “I think the cold halted the infection’s progress. But, once it warms up again? Yeah, probably. Not right away. It’ll take a half day or so, I think. Maybe longer.”
Nix grabbed the body. “So toss him back in!”
Together, Haji and Nix hoisted up the dead body and tossed it into the cold cavern.
“We can fetch him later and bring him to Joram. He should know a cleric who can cleanse the body.”
Form there they returned to the large cavern and took a trip down another tunnel, ending up on a ledge seven feet above the floor in a small cavern. Bits of scrap, wires and technological objects littered the floor here, and in the corner stood another large scrap mound. They looked around, but saw no sign of enemies. As they approached the ledge, a woman suddenly flicked into view, her perfect camouflage deactivating, and revealing her grey skin. The woman wore a ton of blades and knives strapped onto her body, and bore a sneer on her face. (Sef, leader of the skulks)
“I am Sef, leader of the skulks who claim caverns! YOU are in my territory. You killed my people! Not all…” the woman announced angrily in broken common. “I be kind and make you offer.”
Nix raised an eyebrow, but Haji nodded. “What’s the offer?”
“Safe passage through my caves–now and in future–if you do two things for me. Kill no further skulks. And go that way,” she pointed off into the distant tunnel. “Enter gremlin caves and kill them all. They are pests. Do this and I give you a strange treasure I have found in metal room.”
“We came here looking for the other people–“
“Other people are dead,” Sef cut in. “You not be if you do this for me.”
Haji frowned. “Gremlins? What can you tell us about them?”
“They are pests,” the woman repeated. “Cause trouble. Break things. Gone when try to catch them. Not gone like skulks. Actually gone.”
Haji nods. Clearly the woman didn’t have the vocabulary to articulate much further. “We can do this, but we need to leave and gets supplies first. Gremlins can be hard to harm. You will allow us back in without trouble?”
“I am Haji, and this is Nix. Remember us. SAFE PASSAGE.”
Sef scowled, but nodded. “Safe. Yes. Go now. Come back when you kill the gremlins.”
Haji nodded and led Nix back out of the chamber.
“Did you just get us a job as exterminators?”
Haji shrugs. “We’ll need cold iron weapons,” he points out, well aware of the nature of gremlins.
Nix nods. “Or explosives!”
“Come on. Lets get the bodies back to the surface and turn them in to Joram. We can stop by the marketplace afterwards.”
“Fine. But I want to dig through the junk room, first!”
Retreating back through the caverns, Haji and Rothmhar collected the various dead bodies while Nix rifled through the cavern full of scrap. Once finished they set out to bring the bodies back to Torch, tying themselves to the corpses one at a time and floating them back up to the surface through the Weeping Pond. By the time they were done the duo was exhausted. They lashed the bodies together and floated them downstream nearly all the way to the temple, then hired a cart for a copper to haul them the rest of the way through Torch.
Joram met them with great sorrow, but hurried off into the temple with the bodies the moment Haji mentioned that one of them was about to spawn a vegepygmy. With the promise of receiving their reward tomorrow, Haji and Nix headed out to the market to pawn a few bits of gear, purchase some cold iron weapons, and then head of to the Foundry for some hard-earned food.
They had made progress today, but tomorrow, there would be gremlins to deal with! Trouble was on the horizon!
I hope you enjoyed our second experience with the Iron Gods Adventure Path! Tune in next time when we continue our foray below Torch with more from book one, Fires of Creation