In the darkened depths beneath Black Hill, a misfit band of bastards (a common if somewhat derogatory term for the half human children of human-elf or human-orc pairings) knelt and crouched among the junk and refuse collected by a nest of gremlins. Their gnomish companion Alnite was the only one to stand comfortably in the low and narrow tunnels. As the jeering and shrieking swarm of gremlins surged into their light, he plucked a vial of unstable fluid from his pocket and shook it vigorously, it rapidly grew bright and much too hot as he flung the bomb into their midst. So began a frantic and furious skirmish in the dark as flashes of light from gunshots, bombs and fire spells briefly exposed the rear ranks of gremlins and their advancing chieftain. When the smoke and cordite cleared, many gremlins lay still among their collected trash.
The band returned to the leader of the underfolk, Sef and demanded their passage through the camp. Sef, surprisingly, was true to her word and even gifted them a bag filled with shiny steel hexagons with geometric patterns cut into them (silverdisks, used as currency and often found in the metal ruins that fell from the sky) and a single square of metal that seemed to shimmer with a brownish tinge wherever it was touched. These cards were often linked to the metal ruins in some fashion. Holding one near a door caused it to sometimes open, or display strange sigils , make odd noises, or any number of other effects. Sometimes they did nothing at all.
Past the camp, the band came to a large curved wall of steel with a hair thin seam running in a perfect circle on it’s face. The seam encircled a man-sized portion of the wall for no discernible reason. Touching the wall caused strange lights to form within the steel itself, lights in the shapes of sigils. The group pooled their knowledge of the sigils and Dalanlara, the mage of the group and well-versed in both the ancient sigils and esoteric topics from the Rain of Stars, realized that they were some sort of control mechanism. They, perhaps foolishly, began experimenting with the lights, causing a thin probe of metal to extend with a light glowing on its tip. Touching it caused the probe to swiftly retract and an angry buzzer sounded, but there was no other reaction. By holding the metal card near it, caused the panel and the card to shimmer brown in unison and the door (for that is what it was) seemed to spiral open.
Within, they discovered a metal ruin, and battled an automaton similar to the one that was dragged to the surface. Near it, they discovered an odd device that look not unlike the haft of a hammer, minus the hammer head. Nestled where the head should be were a tightly packed collection of minute needles, diminutive probes and improbably thin wedges and other implements of confusing utility. They discovered that touching a stud of metal near it’s base would cause it to cast a blue light and a number of implements would extend, seemingly based in some way on what it was pointed at. A few minutes of playing with it caused it to suddenly cease functioning, save for a blinking amber light, and a slot opened in its base and the thing spat out a silverdisk, now bereft of the disks odd shimmer. On a hunch, Gilphy inserted one of his disks and the device resumed functioning. The disks, it seemed, were power sources.
They also made their way through the ruin and through odd doors that needed to be lifted out of the way through brute force. They emerged in a rocky cave, composed of a reddish sandstone that did not match the dark basalt of Black Hill. The cave gave way to a red sand-filled tunnel which opened to a vast and unlit desert.
If there was a ceiling, they could not see it with their light and the odd rock walls went left and right further than they could see. They did see tracks, deep ones, in the sand that ran out into the blackness. As they ventured into the darkened desert, they suddenly came under assault by the walking dead, skeletons animated by some evil force. Yet these were not the bones of anything they had ever encountered or heard of. They were four armed bipeds with elongated skulls and a lower jaw that split into mandibles. They kept coming and nearly overwhelmed the bastards before the tide of battle broke and turned. A well placed bullet from the barrel of Caldarel’s gun obliterated the upper skull of the last skeleton and it slid down a dune as the flat crack of the shot echoed and died. Healing magic closed their wounds and they pressed on.
The tracks led to another rock wall too tall to reveal the top with their light. In it’s face a jagged scar seemed to swallow the sand and tracks. They ventured in and discovered that the tracks gradually faded in the sand. It was much too disturbed to have kept the imprints. The cave floor exploded in a shower of sand and some vile gloop as tentacles sprang up to grasp at them. The slimy appendages fed into a rocky carapace riddled with knobby holes from which bizarre winds whistled. They slashed at the thing and tried to pierce it’s carapace but even Khorek’s faith-sharpened blade managed only to wound it. It seemed to suddenly inhale a great deal of sand and descend into the depths, exhaling the sand into the tunnel it formed. After a moment, it was gone and did not return.
The cave was a dead end, but the tracks led no where else, so they began to search. Khorek inadvertently discovered that a section of the wall was immaterial, his hand passing through it as easily as air. Beyond was a small alcove and another steel wall with a circular door cut into it. They waved their card and it responded, spiralling open and nearly blinding them with bright light. The chamber beyond was lit by flat panels set into the steel walls. A metal arch riddled with nozzles, protuberances and a frightening array of needles neatly bisected the room into two halves. At the far end stood another door. They deliberated for a moment before Khorek stepp through, causing the arch to suddenly shriek gibberish and display maroon sigils (Dalanlara recognized them as symbols of contamination or poison). Lightning infused mist filled the space between the arch, burning them.
They rushed past the arch and into a bright hallway. It wound deeper into the ruin with a single squared door of steel midway down it’s length. Their card had no effect, but merely touching the door caused it to open. Inside was a bewildering array of desks with glowing panels of light set into them, a large cylynder of glass or crystal dominated the room while floor to ceiling panels of raised dull steel were set onto the wall like a triptych someone had forgotten to paint. All of the glowing showed the same sigil (negation, or perhaps the reverse of truth) save one which glowed with a single golden image: a serene sigil taht Dalanlara recognized as the rebirth of truth, or something akin to restoration or reversal. After a moment’s deliberation, they touched the panel which caused everything to suddenly begin to flicker on and off. The light show lasted only a moment before everything shut off and only their own light illuminated the hall. With a grinding shudder that can be felt in the steel floor, all of the desk panels were restored to light and began to display sigils scrolling too fast to read. The central cylinder filled with an image of a vaguely transparent dome with small protuberances beneath it and behind it, riddled with tunnels, tubes and thoroughly unhelpful writing pointing at seemingly random points along it’s length. The triptych filled with light as a vessel fills with liquid and began to display images of a strange red desert with a thin blue sky and a pair of distant suns. It took a moment for the group to see the tracks running down the center of it and the site of their recent battle.
The group was still reeling from the light show when the door opened and the stench of rotting flesh nearly overwhelmed them. In the door stood a rotting corpse, it’s elongated head wrapped in a red cloak and hood, it’s four seemingly exsanguinated arms clutching sharpened blades of serrated bone. A melee broke out in the room, as the thing, far faster and stronger than it’s rotted form would suggest, proceeded to tear its way through their ranks. Magefire, sharpened steel and hot lead drove the thing back nearly to the door, but it stood its ground and wove it’s dance of blades and blood among them. Surrounding it, the group finally succeeded in cutting it down through sheer butchery.
As it fell, the bastards took a collective breath and turned their gaze back to the image of the vessel inside the crystal cylinder.