The skeletons were many and swift. Half a dozen of the creatures sprinted across the starless desert, drawn to the PCs as if they had alerted each other with thought alone. Occasionally, a single skeleton’s eye sockets would become alight with green motes that seemed to scan the heroes as they fought.
Slowly backing into the caves, funneling the skeletons, the heroes managed to avoid a bloodbath. The claws and bones of the skeletons littered the ground as more of them launched themselves at the heroes, eager to bring them down to their level. And while the funneling strategy managed to soften the blow, several of them had to stop to nurse their wounds as the skeletons continued to press them back. With doors sealed behind them, the four heroes fought cornered, bloody but not broken.
At the last, the final skeleton was slain, their bleached bones lying in a heap upon the sands of the caverns leading to the desert. Fearing possible reinforcements, the heroes decided to nurse their wounds through the night, and sealed the doors to the desert in front of them. Breathing deeply, they managed to set camp in this strange square room.
As the night went on, Mattias Styrbjorn was woken by sounds of scraping and clanging against the sealed door. A blade thrust between the doors, and a soft green glow emanated and painted the dark room in an eerie green. Mattias prepared for the worst, but as the intruder tried it could not open the door. The sword slid back to the other side, and Mattias heard the intruder collecting the bones of the skeletons, and carrying them off. The glow subsided, and the heroes went back to sleep, safe for now.
The next morning came and the four pulled themselves up to continue their expedition, wary of the intruder from last night. The desert was still dark and starless, but the trail from the intruder could be followed. They tracked them across the desert to a strange wall that gave off light but had no source. Poking it with his pick, Baqir found the wall was fake, projected from a device on the ceiling of the cave beyond it, and they proceeded.
The caves that followed became square and smooth like others they had found, but the ceilings held rectangles that gave off a strange and empty light that lit the halls in a sterile white. A malfunctioning device began to spin rapidly as the heroes entered the room, but Mattias quickly cut its power and it went silent.
Beyond this room was a collection of doors. Two with brown panels and one with a black panel. Choosing the far door, the heroes found a room holding a large window that looked out over the dark desert. Looking through this window into the desert was an alien, four-armed, creature. It’s eyes glowed green as it turned its attention to the party entering its domain. It seemed to have a similar bone structure as the four-armed skeletons from the night before, but green and taut flesh was still on its bones. It barked at the heroes in a tongue that no one understood. Responding in Common, the heroes asked it questions, to which the creature responded improperly with what must have been insults and threats. Baqir had lost his patience with the creature long before Aysel and Alabasterhad given up on diplomacy, and the creature was happy to oblige their challenge. The creature’s blades and claws moved in a blur. It leaped across the room with ease and engaged the heroes fearlessly in melee. Unfortunately for the heroes, they were unprepared for the undead’s unique defenses and potent offense. The situation began to grow grim when three of the four heroes were bleeding on the ground while Mattias backed towards the door alone. The creature continued to share its insults in its own tongue, while Momig rose out of Aysel’s pack. He extended his legs and arms, unfolding his gliding skins. The creature hesitated, recognizing Momig’s species as something from long ago. It quickly lost any sense of sentiment, just in time for Mattias to receive a command:
Mattias did so cautiously, and just as the undead alien leaped into the air to deliver a killing blow, Momig sprouted large butterfly wings and enveloped the party. A moment later, the alien slammed his weapons against the empty floor, and the heroes were gone.
The heroes found themselves in Val’s tavern a second later. A surprised and confused Val could only inquire what they wanted to drink. Val was happy to supply.
As the heroes bandaged themselves up, they received four invitations, one for each hero. They were all invited by a man named Garmen Ulreth, the proprietor of the local gambling hall of Torch, Silverdisk Hall. The invitations also included a hundred gold pieces in vouchers for gambling at the hall. Raising their eyebrows, but needing a quick break from Black Hill, they took him up on the offer.
The gambling hall was large and crowded, with the sounds of dice and grumbling loss echoing above the strange music coming from a large block of steel in the room. Garmen greeted the party personally with a smile and a handshake. Inviting them to enjoy themselves with card games and games of chance to test their skill and luck. Asuring them that they could not simply take the voucher’s gold value and leave, he traded them 100gp worth of chips, which were in fact silverdisks without power. Garme had the voucher-redeemed disks marked with an X, keeping his establishment safe from handing out money to those who could be playing.
The card games drew party members who had confidence in their ability to read others, while the games of chance (with their higher payouts) drew their attention on occasion. Fortunes climbed and dropped, the voucher disks slowly being replaced with unmarked disks that could be redeemed for money.
To most everyone’s surprise, even his own, Baqir’s luck and skill quadrupled his betting money, and he was asked to “leave some luck for the rest of us.”
Before he left, Baqir and Alabaster had a moment to speak with Garmen himself about the recent happenings around town. They inquired about the Torch goning out, and asked him if he had heard anything about a woman with purple hair. Garmen denied ever knowing her, but Alabaster and Baqir remained suspicious. Garmen promised them that if he did know her, he knew that crossing her may be a bad mistake.
Mattias and Aysel sought out another who could aid the heroes in their expeditions; a traveling merchant named Sanvil Trett. Sanvil was known to travel a circuit about Numeria , but paid special attention to Torch, staying for months at a time to share his wares and his alleged knowledge of Numerian technological treasures. Mattias had collected several parts of the techno-beasts they had encountered and shared them with Sanvil. Sanvil was happy to sell his own wares to the pair, paying extra compliments to Aysel. He offered his expertise in identifying anything that the heroes might dig up from Black Hill, with a trademark smile and wink.
The heroes, with their resources replenished and their courage restored, returned to Black Hill’s caverns. Instead of going for the undead alien’s chambers, they took a detour into another room, and discovered a blinking golden panel. Touching the panel caused the room to light up with activity. A large table displayed the desert in a transparent blue projection. The heroes found that they had reactivated something. A pair of red suns shone through grey clouds in the previously dark skies. The air had become breezy, dry, and hot like a real desert. The desert had suddenly sprung to life.
Pressing on from this room, the undead alien’s chambers were now washed in red from the window’s view of the now red desert. He seemed somewhat torn, but still did not hesitate to attack the heroes. More prepared for the encounter, the heroes eventually overpowered the alien. With his last moments, he looked to the red sky outside the window, and seemed at peace.
Taking a black access card from the room, Alabaster came across writings on the wall. Written in the alien’s language, he cast a spell that made them known to his eyes. The writings referenced Zyphus, and seemed to paint him as one who was respected and hated. Zyphus may have been the cause of the undead here in the underground desert, but now they were free…
Beyond the door with the black panel they found a hall leading to another wing of the caves. The walls continued to be smooth, covered in a layer of dust and cobwebs, quiet and sterile light still illuminating their passage. The rooms seemed to be slowly progressing to more of what the heroes had hoped to find among Numerian ruins.
Carcasses of mechanical men lay in heaps in the halls next to splatters of blood and gore. Evidence of a struggle from mere days ago, the heroes quickened their pace. Following the blood stains into a room filled with rock and dirt samples held in displays while collections of data remained on monitors long abandoned, the blood trail stopped abruptly. It had been cleaned.
In this same room, the heroes found a small plant-like creature that they could feel was poking their very thoughts for clues. It bombarded them with endless questions about the world. It asked them about the things they thought. It asked them about colors and smells, about the sky and the earth. The questions became strange as it explained that creatures who were “like you” and metal things who were “not like you” had passed through here, leaving red food on the floor. The conversation became violent as it asked if they would give it more red food.
After the fungus had been dealt with, Mattias and Alabaster pieced together that the rocks, dirt, and data were compiled records of the geology of a far-off world of deserts called “Kasath”. This crashed ship had been there, and those skeletons likely came from that world.
Following where the bloodstains should have gone, the heroes found a strange room with large tables that could hold an adult human comfortably. Whirring mechanical claws, cutters, blades, and beams of light spun and clanged about these tables with no seeming purpose. These tables were not alone in the room; a guardian made of white steel with one blue eye and a tank of blue chemicals assured the heroes in its alien language that the doctor would be with them soon.
Destroying the guardian, and the tables, the heroes found no clues in the room and pressed on. The very next room held many answers at a glance, as well as many mechanical guardians. Another medical drone, and a floating clawed robot stood guard around a cylindrical pod awash with blue light. The pod contained an older human man, what was left of Khonnir Baine…