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, Iron Gods: Part 1: 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 and second play sessions, check out my blog post ‘Iron Gods: Part One: Into the Weeping Pond,’ and ‘Iron Gods: Part Two: Bring Out Your Dead!’ If you’re going to play Iron Gods yourself, I highly recommend picking up the Iron Gods Adventure Path 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 purchase cold iron weapons–perfect for smashing gremlin skulls–and to return a few corpses to Joram Kyte (leader of the local Temple of Brigh) for a reward.
Nix was a small woman, just over five feet tall, but she was strong and fit. She had piercing golden eyes, and long, tangled orange hair that she whore pulled back in a ponytail. A manic smile was permanently set on her lips, and no matter what life threw at her, she never let it get her down. She had only one arm, the other had been torn off by a volatile piece of broken machinery she found in the junkyard. In its place was a mechanical one she had built herself. It was a black marvel of engineering. Her finest creation! And that was saying something! For Nix was an inventor, first and foremost, handy with mechanical and clockwork contraptions, as well as with alchemical substances and magical potions.
In contrast to his girlfriend’s slight frame, Haji was large even for a half-orc. He had a muscular, lean body honed from a lifetime’s worth of hard labour. He had olive green skin, long black hair and a long black 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. On his shoulder sat Rothmhar, his hideously ugly, hairless rat. Rocky plates of stone covered the top of the cunning rat’s head and back, while sharp, spikes of stone grew out of his skin on his shoulders and back legs. It looked painful, but Rothmhar didn’t seem to mind. Haji and Rothmhar were inseparable, for through communion with Rothmhar’s limitless consciousness, Haji was granted access to powerful magic. Rothmhar was his saviour. His friend. His god.
It was a bit of a trek from the Temple of Brigh to the Foundry. Nix and Haji walked past the base of Black Hill, which was completely empty and abandoned where it should be bustling and overflowing with smiths, and labourers. The barren hill was a forlorn sight, but they didn’t stop to linger over it. They continued on, into the square just outside of the town hall. There was a crowd gathered outside, jostling and yelling, while Dolga Freddert stood outside on the front step of the building, waving her arms for calm and quiet. None of the other town councillors stood with her.
The crowd roared at the old dwarf woman, demanding to know what was being done to fix the flame that should be blazing atop Black Hill.
“Now, now,” Dolga replied loudly. “Investigators are looking into that as we speak…”
Nix burst out laughing. “Ha! Poor, old, bird!”
Haji eyed Dolga, then the crowd with his one good eye. Deciding revealing himself would not help matters, he grumbled. “Let’s get out of here.”
Dolga caught sight of them, and her eyes widened slightly. She waved her hand at them surreptitiously, shooing them away with a motion.
Clearly, she agreed.
Haji nodded at her, and turned to leave.
Nix chuckled as they walked away. “Did you hear that? We’re investigators. We should get paid.”
“We are getting paid,” Haji reminded her with a smile.
“We should get paid more.” Nix corrected with a wide grin.
They headed down the road and over a little stone bridge that led across the stream. They passed by ‘Tempting Tonics,’ a healers shop run by a half-elf woman that dealt in medicines and magical healing potions. There was a massive crowd outside, and a line running down the road. Most of the people clutched at their heads, or moaned in pain, while a few rolled around on the ground and wept.
“Damn,” Nix replied. “A lot of people have been getting those headaches lately.”
Haji groaned, remembering the pain of the one he had upon his return to Torch. “Be happy you haven’t had one yet. They hurt like you wouldn’t believe.”
“I guess so!” Nix replied with a chuckle. “Everyone’s whining like babies! Look at them!”
Too wrapped up in their pain, none of the crowd noticed Nix pointing at them rudely with her mechanical arm.
Further down the road they passed by the General Store, which was run by a pretty red-headed woman with a mass of curly hair, and then onto the Foundry. The Foundry was a trio of buildings all owed by Councilman Khonnir Baine, a smith and a good friend of Haji’s. Though all three buildings were termed ‘The Foundry,’ each served a different purpose. One was his personal residence where he lived his his adopted daughter Val, the second was a popular tavern, and the third was a literal foundry, where smiths employed by Khonnir could ply their trade for a steady income. Since Khonnir’s disappearance in the tunnels under Torch, the operations of the Foundry fell to young Val, who decided to close both the tavern and the smithy until her father returned home.
Although the tavern did appear closed for business, as expected, it looked like the Foundry’s workshop was open. There was a clanging sound coming from inside–the familiar ring of a hammer on metal–and smoke billowing out of one of the chimneys. Peering inside, they discovered a woman working at one of the forges. She didn’t notice them, but after watching her for a moment Haji and Nix moved on.
Outside of her home stood Val Baine, beating the dust out of a rug with all the strength her little arms could muster. The house looked whole, clearly the damage caused by the rampaging robot the other day had been properly repaired. Haji nodded with satisfaction.
At the sight of Haji, Val smiled brightly. “Haji, you’re back!” She dropped her switch and hurried over to the big half-orc, giving him a hug. “Any news?”
Haji pulled away from Val and smiled gently, shaking his head. The gems and stones braided into his hair and beard jingled at the movement. “We haven’t found Khonnir among the dead. There’s signs that he made it through the caverns and into the metal ruins where he first found the robot. We’ll know more soon.”
Val nods. “I see… Well, there’s still hope, right?”
Haji smiled kindly, but Nix smirked. “Yeah, sure kid,” she replied without conviction, clearly humouring the child.
The distinction was lost on Val, who smiled brightly. “I’ll fetch your dinner! We’re having aurochs stew!”
As little Val scampered off into her kitchen to fill some bowls up with food, Haji and Nix headed into the Foundry Tavern to have a drink. Nix ate with enthusiasm, while Haji gorged himself on food and liquor. He had gone most of his life without steady meals, and had the habit of eating all he could whenever he could, just in case.
Stuffed to bursting they thanked Val and assured her they would return tomorrow after their next foray under Torch. Then they stumbled out of the Foundry and headed off down the road, to the dingy old warehouse that served as Nix’s workshop and home. Haji and Nix settled down to bed together, with Rothmhar nearby.
Morning broke with Nix growling in pain.
“OW!” Clutching at her head she rolled around for while. “OW! OW! DAMNIT! It DOES hurt like crazy!”
Despite her headache she rolled out of bed and got dressed, then headed to her workbench. She brewed herself a concoction that she hoped would cure her headache. Although it failed to do so, it did lessen the pain. Then she tossed on her work goggles and got to work crafting her gadgets for the day.
Haji watch her for a while then stretched and pulled out his bag of rocks. Rothmhar scurried up to his side, although the rocky formations that had pierced his skin yesterday were gone, leaving him hairless and sickly looking. Haji sifted through a bag of stones and gems a pulled out the agate they had discovered yesterday, along with an older agate he had found a few weeks ago. 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 dirty bedroll, 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 that featured swirling lines in yellow, red, and grey. As Haji opened his eye, Nix growled in pain. Her goggles were on the work-bench and her new mechanical gadgets were strapped to her belt. She cradled her head in her hands.
“Can we go now?” she hissed.
The streets were empty this morning. They should be busy with smiths on their way to Black Hill, and labourers hauling carts and tools. As they hurried through the streets to the Temple of Brigh, they saw a group of people already lined up outside ‘Tempting Tonics,’ clutching their heads in pain. Further down the road they came across a trio of townsfolk–apprentice smiths, by the look of them–who stood around gossiping and complaining about Torch’s recent troubles.
The woman among them crossed her arms. “The Technic League is behind the problems in town!” she spat. “One of their agents put out the Torch so we’ll all go broke and they can take this place over for free once we starve!”
A pale man with foreign features nodded. “You may be right. There is at least one Technic spy in town. Mark my words…”
A tired looking man among them shook his head angrily. “And the damned council ain’t doing a thing about it!”
Deciding they didn’t want to have anything to do with that conversation, Haji and Nix walked right passed.
“What do you think?” Nix asked Haji with a distracted grimace.
Haji shrugged. “I don’t know.” He never had cared much for gossip and politics.
Nix hissed in pain, then grunted. “It’s kind of heavy handed for the Technic League, ain’t it? I mean, the Torch is all they want from this town. Why take over the town if the only thing they wanted was broken? It’s like… dumb.”
Haji considers this, then nods. “I suppose.”
“I bet they’ve got spies in town, though.” Nix adds.
“Really?” Haji asks in surprise. He’d never thought about it before. The Technic League wasn’t really his concern. He didn’t care about gadgets and the metal ruins that the Technic League horded. Not like Nix did.
“Of course!” She exclaimed. “I mean, why not?”
“Well with an argument like that…” Haji joked.
Nix hissed in pain and clutched at her head. “Shut up,” she groaned. After a moment she added, “I feel like my brain got kicked by a horse.”
Haji chuckled, then suddenly fell silent. They was a small group of people outside the Chapel of the Wanderer–a tiny chapel run by an elf who took care of all the funerals in Torch. They people stood whispering and wondering over who had died while the elven gravedigger, Mylan Radli, dug graves not far away. There were six of them. One for each of the bodies Haji and Nix had hauled up from the tunnels.
Not far past the graveyard they reached the Temple of Brigh. Haji took Nix by the arm. “We’re here. Come on.”
The main chapel was quiet. Joram sat nearby, with his hands clasped in prayer. At the sound of their footsteps echoing in the chapel, he held up a hand for them to wait. At the end of his prayers he sighed in relief.
“There!” he remarked happily. “Cursed headaches! Praise Brigh for her aid.” Turning to the group he smiled. “Sorry, how can I– OH! Hello Haji, Nix.” Joram nodded at them.
“Yeah, yeah,” Nix remarked. “Can you make my headache go away like that?”
Joram smiled kindly. “Of course, my dear. Brigh can make many of our ills a thing of the past–for a tithe, of course.”
Haji quickly covered Nix’s insults with the sound of his jingling coin purse. He gave Joram some coins and the old man prayed over Nix. After a moment, she sighed happily.
“Oh, yeah, that’s the stuff.”
“Money well spent,” Haji assured Joram as the old priest slipped the coin into an elaborate clockwork tithe box.
“Of course,” Joram replied. “Now, come. Sit.” He gestured at the nearby pews.
As Haji and Nix took a seat, Joram continued. “You did good yesterday. We managed to identify the dead and that matters. Some of these folks have people who care.” He nodded solemnly. “The halflings you found were the first group to go into those tunnels. They were brothers. Their Mamm’s none too pleased, but is happy to get to bury her boys.”
“The half-eaten man was one of them thugs from the second expedition. The group that Parda, the half-orc you found, went into the tunnels with. The man had a foul faith, but Parda was well-liked. She was a local brawler who fought for coin on occasion. Folks will be sad to see her go.” Joram nodded sagely. “The cold man–Gerrol Sondor was his name–he went with Khonnir on the final expedition. He was a popular fellow. Recently got engaged to Emelie Otterbie. You know the Otterbie’s, don’t you?”
Haji and Nix returned his gaze blankly.
“No?” Haji eventually replied.
“They run Torch’s Guildhouse,” Joram explained. “Which means those fancy new weapons on your hip,” he gestured at their cold iron weapons, “Probably came from one of their smithy’s. Anyway, poor Emilie’s distraught. Very grateful to you, of course, but… Devastated. And rightly so, of course. When you get a chance, stop by the Guildhouse and see her father–Arceus Otterbie. He wants to make you each a masterwork weapon as a reward. You’ll need to let him know what you want.”
Nix smiled widely, but Haji nodded respectfully.
Turning to Haji, Joram remarked, “Good eye on the infection, my boy! You saved us all a world of hurt!”
Haji laughed. “I guess so!”
Joram handed over a coffer to Haji. “This is from the Council to you, for returning the dead to us. Fifty gold per body.”
Haji accepted the coffer, but Nix yanked it out of his hands and began to count the coins.
Joram nodded at Haji and offered him a handshake. “Be well. Careful you don’t make yourself one of the dead, yeah?”
“Yeah,” he replied grimly.
“You off now?” Joram asked.
“Yeah,” Haji replied again.
Joram nodded and stood, then used his magical rod to augment his magic, as he cast a spell upon Haji, Nix and Rothmhar.
With a nod and a thanks, Haji stood and left the Temple, with Nix and Rothmhar at his side.
“The old man was right,” Nix pointed out. “Fifty gold per body!” She let out a whistle. “Momma’s going to brew some explosives tonight!”
As short while later they arrived at the Weeping Pond. It was dark and placid like always. Clearly toxic. 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. At least until they reached the skulk caverns. There, in place of one of the rubble mounds, was a rack filled with drying meat. Skulk meat. Clearly, Sef had no qualms about eating her dead. As they passed by the meat, a voice spoke to them. (Skulks can be found in Pathfinder: Bestiary 2).
“You came back.” Sef remarked, appearing nearby.
“We have returned,” Haji announced loudly. His voice echoed around the cavern ominously. Holding up his cold iron falchion, he smiled. “This is Cutter! He’ll take care of the gremlins for you.”
Nix’s jaw dropped. “What?!? You named your sword? Damnit! I want to name my weapon!” With a smile she stroked her chin in thought. “Damn… Now, I’m on the spot! My morningstar is called… Gremlin Crusher! For now. I reserve the right to change it later!”
Haji grinned, then sheathed his sword.
Sef raised an eyebrow. After a moment of silence she pointed down another tunnel. “There. You go. Kill gremlins.”
Haji and Nix nodded at the skulk woman and headed off down the tunnel. With the aptly named Cutter and Gremlin Crusher in their hands, they entered the lair of the gremlins. The tunnels narrowed, then the ceiling lowered. Soon, they were travelling through tunnels only three feet wide and four feet tall. Nix had to crouch to pass through, but Haji was nearly doubled over completely. Despite the discomfort, it was oddly familiar. Haji had spent most of his life toiling underground in cramped tunnels. This was no different. Although, admittedly, he was bigger now than he had been under his Master’s firm hand.
They came to a small ledge, and then the tunnel began to branch, winding off in different directions into a maze of gremlin warrens. The floor in each tunnel was clear, but in each cavern it was cluttered with debris, knick-knacks, scrap and random household objects, clearly stolen from the city of Torch above.
“Guess these are the same gremlins that terrorize the town,” Haji remarked.
“Delightful,” Nix replied with a grin.
Suddenly, they heard a clattering from a nearby cavern. Following the noise as best as they could, they came upon a little gremlin. The lean, bat-eared horror muttered as it rifled through a collection of mismatched cutlery.
They tried to sneak up on it, but after only a step into the room they had made such a clatter that the gremlin turned on them and let out a loud shriek displaying a mouth full of needle-like teeth and glowing, orange eyes. From further down the cramped tunnels, other voices called back.
“Well, crap!” Nix remarked. She stomped into the cavern and swung her morningstar at the noisy little thing. The gremlin nimbly dodged out of the way and yammered at her some more. It pulled out a little sword and stabbed at her, piercing her in the leg.
“Ow!” Nix growled at it. “That hurt! Kind of…” With a shrug she called out to Haji, “I mean, it’s not life threatening or anything… But it could be if the damned thing hit me enough!”
Haji shook his head at his girlfriend as he stomped into the room. Stooped over he swung his falchion at the gremlin, striking only air, and then wall. His sword shuddered in his hands.
Suddenly, Nix’s morningstar crushed the little gremlin’s head, causing it to fall to the ground, dead.
“Ha!” she exclaimed happily. “Take THAT!” Looking at her morningstar she told it, “I named you well!”
Haji turned to the entrance to the cavern. “Well, Cutter’s going to have plenty of time to do his job. There’s more coming…”
As he finished speaking, a trio of gremlins burst into the cave, screaming loudly and waving their little swords at the group. One of them loaded bolts into a tiny crossbow.
The battle was a long one, with more and more reinforcements appearing in waves. Soon the commotion drew a particularly well-armed (and armoured!) gremlin into the fray, who wielded a small sized warhammer that proved painful, indeed! Nix suffered a lot of tiny wounds from the little gremlins, but as the infuriatingly hard to hit gremlin-boss fell, she let out a whoop of pride. Victory was close!
Or she thought it was, anyway.
And then the last little gremlin disappeared.
“Seriously!?” She exclaimed.
“Come on!” Haji ordered. “They can’t teleport far! We can find him!”
Haji tore off down the tunnels, digging quickly through each cave in the hopes of finding the last cowardly gremlin. Unfortunately, half the caverns were filled with traps, which proved…painful. As another rack of sharpened blades cut into Haji’s back, Nix tried to squish past him.
“Maybe I should go first,” she remarked. With their pace slowed by Nix’s trapfinding, the duo eventually discovered the last gremlin, still wounded from battle, hiding in a tiny crevice. The battle was quick this time. The gremlin had nowhere left to run.
After catching their breath, and a minor celebration, Haji frowned. “This place is a maze. We’ll have to go through it carefully to make sure we got them all.”
Nix nodded. “True enough. But, who knows? Maybe they’ll have some good stuff in all this junk.” She gestured at the stolen knick-knacks and scrap littering the cavern floors.
Haji considered this. “Maybe…”
They spent the next few hours sifting through junk, and crawling their way through cramped tunnels and caverns. Happily, they did find some ‘good stuff.’ They shoved armour and weapons of various sizes and qualities into their backpacks greedily. Nix pocketed an alchemical concoction she had never brewed before–liquid ice–as well as a smokestick and a sunrod. There were a few silverdisks among the junk, which gleamed beautifully in the light from Nix’s fire beetle glands. And a pair of scrolls that Nix slipped into her pockets.
They also found their first technological object… A strange pen-like device that had no discernible purpose.
“WOW! LOOK AT THIS!” Nix cried happily as she examined the odd little rod.
“What’s it do?” Haji asked.
“I HAVE NO IDEA!” Nix replied, practically yelling with excitement.
Haji shook his head and chuckled at Nix’s enthusiasm. “Alright, alright.” He replied after a moment. “Let’s go see Sef. She promised us a reward.”
Nix nodded absently, too busy trying to figure out what the device did to pay much attention to her surroundings.
When they found Sef she cocked her head at them
“Kill gremlins?” she asked.
Haji nodded. “Yes. They’re all dead.”
Sef faltered for a moment, then smiled. “Dead? Good.”
Haji narrowed his eyes. Clearly Sef had been hoping they would be a little worse for wear after their encounters with the gremlins. The skulk probably wanted to take advantage of their wounds and kill them. Not now, of course. Now she looked… scared of them. Wary.
Haji grinned. Good.
“You promised us safe passage,” Haji reminded her. “And information.”
“Yes, yes. And a treasure.” Sef crossed her arms defensively and nodded. “You will get it. She paused only for a moment, then sighed. “You look for others? Yes?”
Haji nodded. “Yes.”
“Many others came. We kill lots. But not all. But no our fault. We…” Sef paused, clearly trying to find the right words. “Job? Paid! We paid to kill.”
Haji look surprised. “What? You were paid to kill?” He frowned. Who would do that?
Sef nodded. “Yes. My people not live here long. Lived… lower. Deeper caves. It was good, but our leader brought us closer to the bright. To these tunnels. She was… magic. Used magic to get us here, from the hole that leads below.”
Sef gestured at the deep hole in the cavern with no visible bottom. “We battled the gremlins. Did well for a time. And then the woman came. With… purple? Yes, purple hair. She came with orcs and rat-men. They killed our leader, and many skulks. More than you.” Sef spits bitterly. “I became leader, then. Spoke with woman. She paid us to kill all others who came here. All others. Then she left with her people. Went into the metal tunnels. The danger ones.”
Sef gestured at the metal wall with the circular hole in it. “Not those ones. The others. In the gremlin caves.
Haji nodded. He and Nix had discovered another metal wall in the gremlin caves, but it was sealed shut. They hadn’t found a way inside.
“And the other people?” Haji asked. “Did you spare any?”
Sef nodded. “We try kill all. But sometimes skulks die. Hid from some people, and fled from others. Your people took our payment. A few passed through my territory, into metal tunnels there.”
This time she gestured at the nearby metal wall with the circular entrance.
“Then screams.” she continued. “Lots screams. Metal tunnels are dangerous. Kill those we did not.”
“All of them? You know for sure everyone died?” Haji demanded.
Sef shook her head ‘no.’ “You leave?”
Haji shook his head in return. “No. We’re heading into the metal tunnels. We need to find someone.”
Sef shrugged. “Then you die. Angry dead live inside. And metal men do worse than dead.”
Nix scoffed. “Like that would keep me away. Now what about this treasure?”
Sef nodded and handed Nix a bag of silverdisks.
Nix’s eyes widened and she smiled brightly. “Well, hellooooooo, beautiful!”
“There this also,” Sef said, handing over five strange cards of flexible, smooth material. They were white, with a long brown stripe on the bottom end. A few of them had faded images of faces on them, long since worn to a suggestion of features. “Junk. But the purple haired woman asked for such junk. Means… not junk. Has purpose.”
Nix took the strange striped cards with even more excitement than the silverdisks. “What are these MADE OF?”
Haji resisted the urge to chuckle at his absurd girlfriend, and instead gave Sef a stern look. “Thank you.” He told her. “And remember. Safe passage.”
Cowed by Haji’s strength–for the moment–Sef nodded deferentially. “Safe passage.”
“Yeah, thanks,” Nix muttered absently. Grabbing Haji’s hand she urged him, “Come on, let’s go!”
Haji let Nix guide him away to the massive metal wall. A circular opening pierced the wall about five feet off the ground. Haji peered through the opening, into the metal halls.
“Ready?” He asked Nix.
Nix laughed. “Oh, honey, I was made for this.” She smiled brightly, golden eyes glittering with excitement.
Haji chuckled. But as he gazed into the dark, metal ruins, he turned grim.
Had Khonnir survived? Was he alive in there?
Would they survive?
“No time like the present!” Nix remarked. She nimbly climbed up the wall and rolled up into the opening in the metal wall.
With a grunt, Haji followed.
Together they took their first steps into the ancient metal ruins below Torch…
I hope you enjoyed our third experience with the Iron Gods Adventure Path! Tune in next time when we continue our foray below Torch with more Iron Gods: Part 1: Fires of Creation!