Iron Gods: Part Four: The Dead Desert

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 few play sessions, check out my blog posts ‘Iron Gods: Part One: Into the Weeping Pond, Iron Gods: Part Two: Bring Out Your Dead,’ and ‘Iron Gods: Part Three: Gremlins!’ 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.


Pheonix 'Nix'
Art that inspired Nix. Discovered on Pinterest. If you know the artist or the source let me know, so proper credit can be given!

As Nix, Haji and Rothmhar stepped into the metal ruins for the first time, their footsteps echoed down the corridor loudly. The walls, floors and ceiling were made of smooth, dark grey metal–glaucite–while panels of lighter material ran along the ceiling eight feet above. To their left and right, the tunnel was blocked by piles of rubble, but ahead it continued through an open doorway.

Nix stepped forward to sift through the rubble with excitement. She was an impulsive woman. Impatient, and reckless, but she was also brilliant. The bits of wire and metal she might find in the blocked passageways could become something wonderful with a bit of tinkering in her workshop. Like the massive metal arm that she wore. Built from scrap salvaged from the junkyard, it was a fine replacement for her missing one, which had been torn off by a piece of malfunctioning machinery a few years ago.

‘Wait!” Haji hissed. A far more cautious creature than Nix, Haji was often the voice of reason in their relationship.

With a roll of her golden eyes, Nix paused.

Haji peered into the darkness with his one remaining eye. The second eye socket was filled with a glittering gemstone, and surrounded by a strange triangular rune that had been branded into his flesh by his one-time master. The same master who had taken his eye.

Haji spotted a figure down the tunnel… It was still and silent. Unmoving. Looking closer he realized it had three spider-like legs, two metallic arms, and a single red lens in the centre of its head. It was a robot–the same kind they had fought outside Val Baine‘s home (see Iron Gods: Part One: Into the Weeping Pond for more details). This one looked to be in much better condition, though. It’s outer shell was solid, it’s arms looked to be all in joint, and its legs looked even and well-oiled. Recognizing the threat it could pose, Haji approached the robot with his falchion.

Nothing.

Slowly, he poked it.

Nothing.

With a shrug, Nix began to dig around in the debris.

The robot in front of Haji whirred to life. It’s lens lit up, bathing Haji in bright red light.

“It’s awake!” Haji exclaimed, swinging at the robot with his falchion.

Parts of the robot’s chassis split open under the assault, but its didn’t slow. It swung its metal arms at Haji, knocking the breath out of him.

The stones and gems braided into Haji’s hair and beard jingled as he was knocked around by the blow. On his shoulder, Rothmhar hissed at the robot.

Turning to see a robot bludgeoning her boyfriend, Nix stalked forward. With a big downward swing she yelled, “Hey! Leave him alone!”

Her morningstar smashed parts of the robot apart, but a moment later, a strange flickering occurred around the damage, and the metal bits started repairing themselves.

“Well, shit!” Nix swore.

The battle continued, but the robot didn’t stand a chance. Already aware of its weaknesses, Haji and Nix made short work of the metallic monster–though its ability to quickly repair itself did draw out the battle.

As it collapsed to the floor in pieces, Nix leapt upon the robot’s body, pulling parts and pieces out for her own use. Soon it was nothing but scrap, and its repairing capabilities no longer functioned.

Further down the hall they came upon another entry hatch that led into a room filled with a tangle of broken cages.

“Was this a… prison?” Nix asked.

Holding up a few bits of ancient bones, Haji shook his head. “No. Animals were kept in these cages. Or… aberrations, maybe. Creatures not of this world.”

There were two other doors leading out of the ancient menagerie. One was open while the other was sealed shut. Nix tried to break her way into the sealed door using her wide array of tools, but had no luck. In another pile of rubble they discovered a few strange technological objects. Nix was thrilled, but Haji insisted she wait until they were home safely before fiddling with them.

In time they came to a room with a pair of machines protruding from opposite walls. They were covered with coils of metal tubes and nozzles, which were aimed at the room’s interior.

“What’s does this thing do?” Haji asked Nix.

Nix smiled widely and examined the weird machines. “I… I don’t know, but they don’t seem to be working.”

With a shrug they continued on through the room. Past another door, they found themselves in a tunnel of rough stone.

“What?” Nix complained. “That’s it?”

“No…” Haji mused. “I… There’s something strange with this rock. It’s not… Real.”

“The rock’s not real? What are you talking about?”

“It’s… artificial rock, I guess. It was formed this way, into this tunnel.”

“What the heck for?”

Haji shrugged. “I don’t know.”

With their weapons drawn they proceeded down the tunnel and came across a large rock formation that looked a bit like petrified coral.

PZO9085_500.jpeg
You can find the ghelarn, a large aberration, in Iron Gods Part One: Fires of Creation.

As they approached, something deep inside the stone formation moved and a mass of long, tentacle like protuberances reached out from the centre of the rock formation and lashed at the duo.

Haji growled and slashed at it with his falchion, slicing some of the rubbery tentacles apart.

The tentacles recoiled, hiding inside the rock formation like it was a shell.

“What the hell?” Nix asked. “Should we kill it?”

Rothmhar hissed and bobbed his head. A moment later, Haji grunted. “Yes.”

The strange beast attacked from within its stone carapace, lashing with its tentacles and spitting a sticky substance. The tentacles tore into Nix’s flesh, causing deep, bleeding wounds. Haji struggled against the goop’s entangling tendrils, but the little rat on his shoulder hissed and began to gnaw right through it. With a growl, Haji strained and struggled, and burst his bonds. He swung his falchion and severed some of the strange creature’s tentacles, while Nix smashed through the stone-like exterior with her morningstar. As stone shattered, revealing a pulsing purple mound, Haji drove his blade right into the centre of the mass. A strange, viscous liquid exploded out of the beast’s wounds, splattering Haji and Nix.

Nix stumbled over to the side of the cave and wiped the goo out of her face. She was heavily wounded during the fight, although Haji came out unharmed. Nix activated one of her gadgets, causing a metallic beetle to scurry over her body and spray a healing foam into her nastiest wounds. As it crumbled to pieces she activated a second one, then scooped the parts back into her backpack.

“Well, that was fun.” Nix groaned sarcastically.

Haji looked her over with worry, while Rothmhar hissed in his ear. With an annoyed look at the rat, Haji grumbled, “Yeah, I’m going.”

Then he looked back at his girlfriend. “You alright?”

“Shiny.” she replied, though she clearly wasn’t. “Come on, then, before that rat bites your ear off.”

Rothmhar hissed at Nix, then tossed its nose up in the air.

With Haji and Rothmhar leading the way, they continued down the tunnel. After a few twists and turns it opened into a large cavern. The floor was red sand, and the cavern walls behind them were steep but smooth. Difficult to climb, they disappeared out of sight in all direction–left, right and up. Nix’s sunrod barely pierced the gloom.

“Can you see the other side?” Nix asked.

Haji shook his head. “No. And not the ceiling or side walls, either. This cavern is… vast.”

Nix let out a short “Huh.”

It was eerily quiet in the cavern, with no sign of the pervasive damp of the previous caverns they had been in, and no distant echoes. The sand at their feet looked natural, but bore no dunes or gentle curves as it would on the surface.  It was flat and still. Unnaturally so.

A shiver ran up Haji’s spine. He couldn’t shake the sudden feeling of unease that overcame him. But Nix hobbled off a few steps into the sand, apparently unconcerned.

“We need to stay together,” Haji warned. “It would be easy to get lost in here…”

“Lost? It’s so quiet in here you could hear my footsteps from a mile away.” She chuckled, but then stopped. “Speaking of footprints… I found some. Looks like a few pairs. What do you think?”

Haji moved over to check them out. Sure enough there were a few sets. “Looks like a group of people traipsed through here, and headed off ahead. One of ’em was wounded. Khonnir’s group, maybe. Some time later another few tracks came through. And it looks like… one pair managed to leave again.”

“Leave?” Nix asked. “Oh! Yeah!” she exclaimed with a clank of her metal fingers–it would have been a snap had she used her good hand. “That guy we found in the cold mold! That naked freak said he had stumbled out of here like a madman.”

Haji nodded absently. “Gerrol Sondor. He was a friend of Khonnir’s. And the woman’s name was Sef. She said nothing of the sort, by the way.”

“Same difference.” Nix replied. “Should we follow them?”

Haji nodded and drew his falchion. “Yes.”

They set off following the tracks through the sand. After a short time they could see none of the cavern walls at all. They were adrift in an endless expanse of motionless sand.

Suddenly, Haji stopped. “Did you hear that?”

“What?” Nix asked.

Rothmhar sniffed at the air.

Suddenly there was a shifting of sand. Footsteps. Then more.

“Who’s there?” Nix called out. “Show yourself!”

At the edge of Haji’s vision he saw a figure. Skeletal and tall with a massively elongated cranium and four arms, the creature stalked through the sands. And there, to his left! Another. And another from behind.

“We’re surrounded…” Haji told Nix.

“Shit! I can’t see them. Where are they?”

“They’ll be in your light soon. Looks like they’re slow, though. And stupid.”

Suddenly, the eyes of one of the skeletons glowed red. That skeleton cocked its head, looked right at Haji and met his eyes. Then it charged him, bounding across the sand in an instant.

“BAH!” Haji exclaimed in surprise.

The skeleton tore into him with a clawed hand, ripping flesh with its ancient bones.

“Slow, my ass!” Nix exclaimed.

Rothmhar hissed at the skeleton while Nix hurried over to Haji. She swung her morningstar at the skeleton and smashed a gaping hole in its skull. The skeleton turned on her, it’s red, baleful eyes focusing on her with hate.

“I thought you said it was stupid!” Nix exclaimed.

The skeleton launched itself at her and tore gaping wounds in her arms and neck with its claws. Suddenly, the light in its eyes faded. The other skeletons traipsed mindlessly closer, when suddenly another’s eye-sockets lit up in a red light. It looked right at Nix, and charged at her, zipping past Haji in order to swing a claw at her back.

Haji roared in anger. He raised his sword and brought it down on the skeleton that had so heavily hurt Nix. As his blade struck bone it sent a jarring vibration up his arms, but  he powered through, tearing through the skeletons ribcage and spinal column with his oversized sword. The skeleton fell to pieces, but around them, others moved closer.

Nix quickly swung her morningstar, taking the red-eyed skeleton out at the knees, and sending it toppling to the ground. But, even as it fell, the red light transferred to another skeleton, and in the distance, they heard more footsteps. And more… And more…

The red light was moving faster now, jumping from skeleton to skeleton and imbuing each with intelligence before moving on. As the skeletons all surged forward, swinging their claws at Nix, and trying to tear her weapon from her hand, Haji roared.

“Run!” He bellowed. “RUN!”

Heavily wounded, Nix took off after the trail of footprints, dripping blood across the sand. Haji took another swipe at the skeletons before following her. As the ran they could hear more skeletons shuffling out there in the distance. Nix quickly activated another of her gadgets, causing a clockwork beetle to scurry it’s way from her belt over to the bleeding wounds across her chest. It sprayed a magical antiseptic foam across her open wounds, causing them to heal–partly. After healing her, the beetle crumbled into tiny pieces. This time she didn’t spare the time to retrieve them.

As she hobbled across the desert, pouring blood, Nix hissed at Haji, “I’m out of healing.”

Haji raced after her. “I’ve got some left, but it’ll only slow us down.”

Quickly, he shoved his hand into one of his belt pouches and let out a quick prayer to Rothmhar. His words were strange and unintelligible, but they had a dark and foul sound. As he muttered the brand around his eye surged with power, Rothmhar let out a fierce hiss, and the trio of rocks inside the pouch began to magically glow. Haji pulled out one of the rocks, which struck one of the skeletons in the chest and caused its ribcage to explode. It stumbled on for a few steps before tumbling to the ground in pieces.

The path led Nix to a rock formation that jutted up out of the sand like a miniature mountain. As they raced along it’s edge Haji threw his other two stones, both of which smashed into skeletons. As the bones fell lifeless to the dirt, Haji let out a whoop.

Atop the rocks to Nix’s left, there was a sudden pair of glowing red lights–another skeleton. It eyed Nix, but let her run right past. Instead, it focused on Haji and his magical stones. It leapt off the crags and landed upon Haji, knocking him over into the sand.

Haji let out a growl of pain and lashed out at the skeleton. He managed to get to his feet, but the skeleton gave a deep gash across his arm for the trouble. He gripped his falchion in his hands and faced off against the red eyed skeleton, just as the other skeletons caught up to him. Surrounded, he let out a growl. From the sand beside his foot, little Rothmhar hissed menacingly.

“Don’t stop!” Haji yelled to Nix. “Get out of here!”

At his words, Nix spared a glance behind her. Seeing Haji surrounded, she growled. “Like hell!”

Haji swung his falchion at the most damaged of the skeletons around him and forced his blade through the bones, causing it to shatter to pieces. “Come and get me, you freaks!”

The red eyed skeleton attacked with all four arms, tear and scratching at Haji’s exposed skin.

Haji grunted in pain and spat a glob of blood on the ground. “That all you got?”

As the red light left the skeleton’s eye sockets and entered another’s, Haji knew he was done for. The second skeleton attacked him with its many sharp claws, then the third… He howled in pain and fell to his knees. He tried to swing his sword, but it was too heavy… His hands weren’t working right…. And his vision… Why was everything so blurry? Soaked with blood, and moments from death, Haji lost his grip on his sword, and toppled over, bleeding in the red sand.

Rothmhar hissed and nipped at the skeleton who had taken down his friend, but his teeth did nothing to the monster’s ancient bones.

One of the skeletons raised its claws in the air, ready to drive them down into Haji’s chest. There was a shuffling of sand and an explosion of bone, as Nix smashed her morningstar through its skull. She let out a strangled cry–half sob and half scream–and stood over Haji’s body.

Waving her morningstar menacingly at the last two skeletons, she smiled like a mad woman. “Over my dead body, bitches.”

The skeletons turned their attention to Nix, tearing and cutting her flesh with their bony, clawed hands. She screamed in pain, and fought back. Howling in rage and frustration.

She wouldn’t let Haji die here. Not alone.

Bloody and near death herself, Nix fought.

Meanwhile, Rothmhar had buried himself into Haji’s belt pouch. He grabbed a vial in his mouth and scurried back out of the sack. He dragged it across Haji’s chest and perched his hideous body right up beside Haji’s open mouth. He worked at the vial’s cork, gnawing it out with his teeth until the vial opened with a pop. Then he nudged the vial over, into Haji’s gaping mouth. Slowly, the healing potion trickled into Haji’s throat.

Above them, Nix had smashed one of the skeletons, but her wounds were great. The last wounded skeleton dugs his four hands into her chest and tore, yanking great hunks of skin off and sending her tumbling to the ground. She landed with a dull thump, tangled in a heap just inches from Haji.

Haji opened his eye just in time to see Nix fall beside him like a lifeless doll. Blood covered her and she was missing massive hunks of flesh. As her head smashed into the sand she caught sight of him just for a moment, before her eyes looked past him–dull and unfocused.

Haji let out a howl of anger and launched himself at the skeleton, pounding it with his fists… his head… a nearby rock. Anything he could grab hold of. He vented his anger and pain on the creature, slowly smashing in its skull with blind rage. Finally, the red light left its eyes.

With bloodied hands, and broken knuckles, Haji heaved in gulps of air, panting with exertion and anger. He screamed, then crawled across the sand to Nix’s side.

She didn’t look good. She was pale and bloody, bruised and broken. She looked dead.

He pressed his hand against her, and prayed loudly to Rothmhar. The rat hissed at him in anger, clearly thinking Nix wasn’t worth it. But, Haji didn’t let up. He snarled his prayers over and over. Beneath his hands, Nix didn’t draw breath. Her heart didn’t beat.

Haji glared at Rothmhar and continued to chant in the foul tongue, forcing his prayers upon the hideously ugly rat. Rothmhar let out a rather human sigh. Finally, the brand around Haji’s eye burned with power, and a surge of healing energy poured from Haji’s hands and down into Nix’s chest. Some of her wounds healed, and he felt a single beat of her heart under his palms. Haji continued to chant, funnelling more and more of Rothmhar’s magic into his dying girlfriend. Eventually she drew in a shuddering, weak gasp of breath. Her eyes refocused. She blinked, and groaned.

“You’re not dead,” she rasped. Her bloody lips turned up into a smile.

A wide grin broke out across Haji’s face. “Neither are you.”

Nix chuckled, but then hissed in pain.

“Don’t move,” Haji ordered her. “You’re too wounded, and I’ve got no healing spells left.”

She groaned and dug a few vials out of her pockets. “Drink,” she told him, “You look like shit.”

But instead of drinking them himself, Haji fed them to Nix.

Bloody and wounded, but alive, they both struggled to their feet.

“Ugh, this place sucks.” Nix groaned.

Haji nodded. He put an arm over Nix’s shoulders and pulled her close. “Let’s go home.”

Rothmhar chittered angrily up at the duo, clearly displeased that despite saving their lives he was given so little attention.

Together, they limped their way back to through the metal ruins, on their way back home.


Thanks for checking out d20 Diaries today! Haji and Nix’s adventures playing Iron Gods Book 1: Fires of Creation, will continue soon, in their fifth instalment: High Times in Torch! We hope you’ll join us again!

Jessica

 

Author: d20diaries

Author of d20 Diaries.

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