Khonnir’s captors included another white construct, the canister on its back sloshing with thick blue liquids, and a new robot. It floated above the ground with quieting and rhythmic whooshing sounds, and its long arms ended in thick, four-fingered claws. The two robots turned to the heroes and abandoned their current project to deal with new “patients”. The white medical robot droned in Androffan, urging the heroes that the doctor would be with them shortly, while the flying robot, in a deep monotone, muttered about collecting new specimens for experimentation.
Considering Khonnir’s entrapment nearby, the heroes could only imagine what either of these robots might do to them.
Springing to action, the heroes found Baqir’s blessings quite useful in smashing the flying robot apart, with it’s thick armor plating deflecting most blows. Both robots were dismantled before the heroes pried Khonnir’s pod open. Several needles had been inserted into his skull and both his legs were crippled from the “experimentation” of the robots. Pulling out Baqir’s shield like a stretcher, the Mattias and Alabaster carefully removed the needles and lowered him to the shield.
Khonnir was barely sane, able to string words to a sentence, but to Mattias’ long history in Torch and relation to Khonnir, he was a broken man. They knew he needed medical attention, so they hoisted him up and prepared to retrace their steps through the skymetal corridors.
Their plan was cut short when they heard a scream.
The scream was not from an enraged construct, nor did it come from anything made of metal or plant, but from a young woman. Baqir and Alabaster let down Khonnir while Aysel rushed ahead to investigate. Opening the door to the geology lab, she found Sanvil Trett standing over Val Baine, who was rubbing her face as if she had been struck. Sanvil looked up and sighed, knowing his cover had been blown but shrugged and flashed a grin.
Alabaster, Mattias, and Baqir rushed to the scene. Sanvil hinted that he may know more than he originally let on. At that moment he produced a small gray box-shaped device with a large black dial. He turned the dial slowly, and the heroes’ gazes were turned to Val on the floor who began to glow. Her skin began to form blue and white veins in strangely geometrical shapes, and her eyes began to turn a glossy purple. Sanvil turned the dial the other direction and Val’s symptoms disappeared as quickly as they came. She flattened on the floor, exhausted, and Sanvil pocketed the device and turned to the heroes, grinning at their worried faces.
The heroes demanded what he had done, and Sanvil promised he had done nothing. He knew who did, and he also knew that if he killed the heroes and brought this place to “their” attention, the Technic League would be immensely impressed with him. He would finally be part of their formal ranks.
That was all the heroes needed to hear.
Aysel had her sword drawn quick, and was joined by Baqir. Sanvil held them off with sword and spell in deadly combinations. Aysel, possessing particular hatred for the Techni League, scored a mighty blow that nearly knocked the magus to the floor. Sanvil responded with increasing amounts of lethal force, and he nearly slew Baqir and Aysel. The Technic League member nearly proved too much for the heroes. As Baqir and Aysel clutched their wounds, Sanvil moved towards the less fortified Alabaster and Mattias, and was repelled by an extra volley of magic from the injured Khonnir Baine, who had found his wand of magic missile. When Sanvil saw the battle turning against him he attempted to escape, but the locked door between him and freedom was all the time Mattias’ bombs needed.
Sanvil was captured and Val was examined. Nothing seemed to be wrong with her. Val immediately ran to her father, showers of tears forming at her father’s crippled body. The heroes assured her that he would be fine, but asked her not to follow them around anymore. Val confessed her concern for her father moved her to follow them, but this adventure through strange hallways covered in blood and steel had been more than enough to keep her from making this a habit.
After resting for a night, the heroes brought a snarking Sanvil, a quiet Val, and an injured Khonnir back to Torch to great celebrations from Dolga. As promised, she rewarded them with four-thousand gold pieces and a scroll of resurrection. She prodded Joram Kyte to provide the healing Khonnir needed, and his legs and mind were mended after a day. Dolga was unsure of what to do with Sanvil, knowing he was a member of the Technic League. She was seemed satisfied with Sanvil’s ready renouncing of his League associations, complaining that he was being ignored by them anyway. He “generously” offered his expertise on the Technic League and any knowledge of technology in exchange for his life. Dolga placed him in the dungeon as a precaution.
Khonnir, while eternally grateful, still seemed to suffer from an affliction. Splitting headaches and sparkling blood drops from the wounds on his head told the heroes his troubles were not over. Something was still attacking him. Begrudgingly, they asked Sanvil for his expertise. Sanvil claimed that Khonnir’s affliction was not a disease so much as an intelligent attack. He suffered from a nanite infestation that was attacking his brain. Joram Kyte’s attempts with magic met little success, so Sanvil reminded them “kindly” that technology is best fought with technology in many cases. One of the injections that Sanvil planned on selling to Torch residents managed to do the trick, expelling the nanites from Khonnir’s brain.
With Khonnir back on his feet, he was happy to lend his expertise to the heroes for the rest of their expedition into Black Hill. While the councilman was saved, the torch was still out. Without the torch, much of Torch’s income would be missing, and they still couldn’t pay the tithes to the Technic League. The first questions they had for Khonnir, however, were about his adopted daughter, Val. They explained to him what had happened in the corridors and Khonnir knew that secrets would be shared.
Khonnir explained that he was a former member of the Technic League, himself. He had spent much of his life in Starfall but fled with Val when their cruelty had become too much for him. He had tried to fake his death in a fiery explosion in one of their labs, along with attempting to kill one of the other members, an alchemist named Ghartone. Him and Val lived on the run for some time, before finally finding Torch as a home.
The heroes and Khonnir agreed, if the heroes did not share his past with the League, Khonnir would not speak of the strange gauntlets on the heroes’ left hands.
The heroes then made their fourth expedition into Black Hill’s caves. Passing the skulk’s caves, the desert, and reaching the steel halls again, they further explored the floor, finding a tribe of vegepygmys who had sprung from the corpses of one of the earlier expeditions. The tribe’s leader parlayed with the heroes when it became obvious the heroes could wipe out the tribe single-handedly. They cautiously escorted the speaking vegepygmy chief and his remaining subjects to the hole the skulks had left behind, where they climbed down to find a new home. The chief gave Mattias the Brigh hammer he had found as a gift for sparing them.
A dark room with a glowing panel on the wall hinted that other floors might exist under Black Hill. The machinery was damaged, but not beyond repair. A small metal coupling was collected to be fixed back in Torch.
Unable to move forward just yet, the heroes retired once again to Torch.