Companions' Log as recorded by Zorsa Godmarked
We had come together on the road to Torch, each of us drawn there for our own reasons, but all of us united in our goal to help the town. There was the gnome sorceress Besh, whose wry of humor and joviality belied the immense elemental energies she could harness and channel; Takeda Shinzen, a traveler from the distant Jade Empires whose nimbleness and agility allowed him to meld with the shadows; and my fellow android, Styx, whose motives and origins remain a mystery but who marksmanship and skill with firearms is unquestionable. After meeting, we decided that it would be best if we combined our efforts considering ours was not the first group to try and come to Torch's aid. This is how the Companions came to be.
The purple flame in the Town of Torch that gives it its name had gone out, and word had spread that the town council was offering a hefty reward of 4000 gp to remedy the situation. Additionally, one of the town council, Khonnir Baine, had gone beneath the Black Hill Torch is built on to try and discover what had extinguished the flame. Initially he had discovered odd tracks leading into the Weeping Pond, and after swimming beneath the pond found tunnels and a strange automaton within. He returned to the surface, and then mounted another expedition into the tunnels of Black Hill; he has not returned, and there was an additional reward of 4000 gp and a scroll of resurrection for Khonnir's safe recovery.
In addition, I had received word through a Kellid merchant that there was a Technic League spy active in Torch, and I was determined to root them out if they were here; they were surely a threat to the people of Torch.
When we first got into town, we got directions from the gate guard to the town hall, a cobination community center, garrison and watch tower. We met with a dwarf woman, Dolga Freders, who was one of the town councilors. She was relieved to see adventurers and quickly gave us more information about the situation. Never in her more than 100 years of living here in Torch (since its founding) had she seen anything like this.
Four other groups of adventurers had already disappeared beneath Black Hill in the 8 days since the flame had gone out. Khonnir had informed them that the caves were inhabited with strange creatures that dwelt in the shadows. Dolga said that the town had been plagued by mischievious gremlins for quite some time, and both her and Khonnir thought that these caves might be where they were coming from. Khonnir had also reporter that there were caves made of glaucite (an iron-adamantine alloy considered one fo the starmetals). This meant that it would be incredibly difficult to expand or collapse the tunnels as glaucite is notoriously hard to manipulate.It was in these starmetal tunnels that Khonnir had found the automaton. He had discovered a locked door and another that was unlocked; it was through this second door that Khonnir had intended to lead his second expedition, and where he presumably disappeared.
Dolga directed us to Khonnir Baine's business and residence, the Foundry, where we would find his adopted daughter Val Baine. She was looking after the workshop during her father's absence, and it was in his workshop that the mysterious automaton, and perhaps some clues to Khonnir's disappearance, was kept. Apparently Val had also offered to put up any adventurers looking for her father for free.
Finally, Dolga told us we would want to speak another member of the council, Joram Kyte, who also was the head priest of the temple of Brigh in Torch. He would be able to cast the spell waterbreathing on the Companions when we were ready to swim beneath the Weeping Pond.
First, we made our way to the Foundry to meet with Val Baine and to examine this damaged automaton form beneath Black Hill. As we rounded a bend to approach the establishment we heard a piercing scream. Following the noise, we approached what looked to be a storeroom in Khonnir Baine's house where the screaming and commotion was coming from. Some of our party leapt through he window, where inside they found the damaged automaton moving and threatening a young girl who could only be Val. We dispatched it quickly and examined the strange machine. Luckily, I have quite a bit of knowledge about the technology that is strewn across Numeria and I was able to quickly identify it as a robot, some kind of repair drone most likely.
It stood about 5 feet tall while functional and appeared to be made of a gray and white metal-like polymer. It had three spider-like legs that would allow it navigate difficult terrain with ease. Its torso, arms and head were vaguely humanoid, with one blazing "eye" in the center of its head and a four-fingered hand on each of its arms. Bits and pieces of its chassis appeared to be missing before we had damaged it, exposing delicate circuitry woven throughout its insides, and its movements made loud, tortured grinding noises until we ceased the robots functioning.
Val thanked us profusely for saving her, and after quick introductions she excitedly told us all she knew about her father's disappearance, which was about the same as what Dolga had told us. She was more than happy to allow us to stay at her fathers tavern while we searched for him and explored the caves. In our brief time meeting her it became clear that this young Kellid woman was bold and brilliant, and this motivated us all the more to find her adoptive father so that he could continue to raise Val and help her reach her full potential.
Next we traveled to the Temple of Brigh to meet with Joram Kyte. Not only was he a council member and cleric of Brigh, he was also a metallurgist of some skill and ran a small shop out of his temple that had some mundane and magical gear we might need. He had apparently been expecting us, and so we promptly headed to the Weeping Pond with him. Once there, he used a rod of metamagic to cast waterbreathing on us all, extending the duration so we would be blessed by the magic for 6 hours.
The Weeping Pond is fed by some underground spring, but the water that comes up is tainted. There was no vegetation around the pond, and it reeked of sulfur and other chemicals. Holding our noses, we dove in, quickly spotting and swimming through the underground cavern entrance that Khonnir had discovered. The water, while foul, was placid, so the swim was easy. As we all emerged on a small beach within the underground caverns, there was an explosion of sand as three fire beetles burst forth from their burrows. The light from the beetle's glowing thorax glands danced across the surface of the water and the stalactites of the cave as quickly dispatched them.
We pushed deeper into the caves, discovering a number of dangerous hazards including slimes, deadly molds, and even a strange creature that Besh identified as a blindheim that emerged from the water and attacked us. The weird, frog like creature had large glowing red eyes, and wore the ragged remains of some kind of leather hood. After we killed the beast, we discovered a brand on its flank in Undercommon that read "Pet"; clearly there were more threats in these caves than just molds and mindless monsters.
We discovered two members of of other expeditions in those caves as well, both dead. One was a half-orc woman who came into the tunnels with a gang of local thugs and rowdy's that had made an expedition into the tunnels. Takeda recognized her as Parda, a local brawler of some popularity who was well-liked in town; he had heard that she was part of one of the lost expeditions, and that her many friends in Torch would want her remains recovered if possible. I was able to determine that she had been killed by dagger wounds, yet another warning that we needed to watch the shadows while down there. We decided to remove her body from the caves right away, and when we emerged the guards that the council had apparently posted there to watch for our return took her body from us, promising to make the proper arrangements, while we returned into the caves of Black Hill.
The other body we found belonged to Gerrol Sonder, a member of Khonnir's expedition. He had been slain by a deadly brown mold infestation within the cave chamber his body laid in. We decided to recover his body when we exited the caves again, wanting to press deeper before we were forced to leave by our expiring waterbreathing spell.
We came across a small alcove with chalk-like drawings or paintings on the walls. Most were of odd looking four-armed humanoids, and one was of a three-legged robot with one red eye, almost certainly the same type, if not the same one, that we had found at Khonnir's Foundry. As to who the artists were, that was a mystery, at least then.
Eventually, we entered a large cave chamber that seemed to match one that Khonnir had described housing the metal doors he had discovered. Also in the room, much to our surprise, were a number of shadowy humanoid creatures who had us surrounded. They stood about six feet tall and were smooth skinned and hairless, wearing a bare minimum of clothing. They had piercing eyes, and their skin, which appeared grey at first, would shift and change color and even develop patterns to match their surroundings like some kind of chameleon. Beyond them we could just make out the shapes of a handful of ramshackle huts built from strips of metal, hides, and plant fibers, most likely making this chamber their home.
One of them, a woman, approached us speaking in Undercommon, informing us that their leader wished to meet with two of our number. The other two were to stay behind under guard, but we were promised that all would remain unharmed so long as we heard them out. Myself and Takeda went with the woman, while Besh and Styx remained behind. We were lead into some caves behind the huts into a smaller chamber with another ramshackle dwelling, this one surrounded by piles of junk. Waiting for us was the leader of these people (who we learned are an underdark race known as Skulks), a woman of their kind who was decked out from head to toe in daggers named Sef.
She had a proposition for us: safe passage through the caverns if we could rid her tribe of the gremlins plaguing the caves nearby. As an added reward, she was willing to give us a small box of silverdisks and polymer cards she had found in the junk of the caves. We agreed to her proposition, and she also agreed to tell us of the other groups that had been down here.
First had been a group led by a purple haired woman, an android decked out in chain armor and technological weapons. Her group must have been the one that left the tracks that Khonnir found. They had apparently gone through the locked metal door that Khonnir had found, sealing it behind them. That was the last Sef and her people had sen of them.
We were told that all the other expeditions had gone through the other set of metal doors, beyond which was a place that Sef and her people feared to go. Through there was a strange alien desert where it was always night and where vicious four-armed skeletons roamed he wastes seeking to slay the living. Sef's tribe believe that the area is cursed, and thought we and the other expeditions were foolish for wanting to go in there.
We returned to Styx and Besh and let them know what had transpired and about the agreement. The four of us then ventured into the caves that the skulks had told us gremlins laired in. We discovered one of the creatures, but it managed outwit the party and teleported away after we had taken significant wounds. We decided to exit the caves so that we could rest and recover, planning to return the next day to honor our bargain with the skulks and try to find Khonnir.
On our way out we recovered Gerrol Sonder's body. After we emerged from the Weeping Pond, we took his remains to Councilwoman Dolga, who was alarmed when she saw that not only was Gerrol dead, but his body had been infested by a russet mold. As a former adventurer, she was familiar with and recognized the hazard, and told us that if it wasn't stopped it would spawn some kind of malevolent plant monstrosity. She told us that applying acid to the infection would kill the mold, so we took Gerrol to the Foundry where Val quickly fetched us an organic acid which used to kill the infection.
Then came the sad task of returning Gerrol to his fiance, Emelia Otterbie, the daughter of one of the prominent weaponsmiths in Torch. She was devastated by his loss, but manged to give us tearful thanks for bringing her loves body back to her so that she could give him a proper funeral and farewell. While we expected and asked for no reward, she insisted that we allow her father to forge a mastercrafted weapon for each of us, not only a thanks but also to allow us to better help and defend the people of Torch. While they wouldn't be ready for some time, those weapons will still be of great use for us once we have them.
It was after that that we finally returned to the Foundry to recuperate and rest. Val has been happily cooking a meal for all of us while I have been recording all of this, going out of her way to chat up each of our group and pick our brains for anything tidbit of info she can about the caves and technology we encountered. She's hopeful that we'll find her father, despite the dangers we've already encountered. For his sake, and ours, I hope she's right, because otherwise we'll be the latest lost expedition of Black Hill.