While taking a breather in Torch, the heroes caught onto a lead from Sanvil Trett, who hinted that Garmen Ulreth may have had more to do with Torch’s troubles than he hoped to let on. The heroes had already had their suspicions, but this was the tip they needed. Sanvil pointed to a warehouse on the north side of town that Garmen owned and occasionally visited; apparently, Ropefist thugs would come and go from the warehouse at odd intervals. The heroes quickly found themselves heading in the direction of the warehouse.
The warehouse looked abandoned. The doors and windows all appeared boarded shut from the outside, and the building was in poor repair with grimy windows, a slightly sagging roof, and no tracks coming or going from the main doors on the floor. After a brief search, the heroes found that the doors leading to a catwalk inside the warehouse had boards placed over the door to create the illusion of the door being barred.
The interior of the warehouse echoed with a powerful but nearly silent thrum and buzz that shook the heroes to their teeth. A number of Ropefist thugs attempted to turn the heroes away, many meeting their end in the inevitable scuffle. Garmen himself was present at the warehouse during the engagement, and while he put up a good and clever fight, he was eventually subdued.
The warehouse continued to hum after the encounter ended, giving Baqir headaches that were similar to the headaches people about Torch had been complaining about. The source turned out to be a large and curious artifact of technological origin. A large box with several bright panels and displays of color and sound amazed and confused Baqir and Aysel, but Alabaster and Mattias, with their backgrounds in tech-study, discerned that this item was taking an energy source and directing it somewhere else. They copied the panel’s map before shutting off the device. The humming stopped, as did Baqir’s headache, and the room felt lighter.
Upon further investigation of Garmen’s activities, his extortion of local businesses and possible involvement in a plot to sabotage Crowfather Palace (a facility built by Khonnir Baine that purified the water of Crowfather Lake) were exposed. He and his Ropefist thugs were placed behind bars.
The heroes brought the strange device back to Khonnir for study. Khonnir shared his maps and expertise, and they managed to deduce that some kind of energy was being taken from below Black Hill and being sent to somewhere a hundred miles from Torch. Comparing maps, they pinpointed the closest location as Scrapwall to the northwest. Whatever was being taken from Black Hill, the Torch itself, or something else, was being sent to Scrapwall by this odd device.
Unable to worry about Scrapwall and the cause of these troubles beyond Torch, the heroes decided to deal with the current problem of the Torch being out. They descended below Black Hill once again.
With the reforged coupling, they were able to fix a large cylindrical room that lifted them to another floor of the complex. This floor seemed to be heavily damaged, with lights flickering, panels torn from the walls, and colorful wires hanging out of the walls and floors like limp vines. A handful of guard animals were found first, followed by groups of fanatical orcs and ratfolk who repeated the name “Hellion” as some kind of deific being. The heroes, dismissing this worship as blasphemy, subdued the fanatics.
The fanatics all bore a strange symbol on their armor: an image of a claw reaching to the sky.
This claw was then found in the form of a statue nearby, with several offerings to this “Hellion” heaped next to it, which seemed to include a large stone statue of Hellion. This statue turned out to be fanatical too, as it was a gargoyle dedicated to Hellion’s worship as well, and attacked the heroes.
A robot production facility and a strange machine that seemed to fabricate tools of varying complexity were found, and their robot guardians were defeated. A white access card was found behind a now-beaten gearsman that could be used to access the final room.
The room was opened to reveal a strange sight: an enormous machine of wide cylinders, consoles, and switches. Standing nearby was a woman with purple hair, who stroked the machine like a close friend or lover. They demanded she answer for her crimes.
She called herself Meyanda, and she claimed the position of cleric of Hellion. When the heroes scoffed at her fictional god’s name, she demonstrated that Hellion did in fact grant her power. She could cast divine spells, and received his protection and power. He was a real deity, and perhaps a new deity.
Meyanda was steadfast in her belief in Hellion’s cause, but the heroes could tell that something did bother her. Before raising their weapons, they spoke to her, pleaded with her to stop this from hurting more people. If Hellion was truly a good thing for her and Golarion, he wouldn’t be causing some much suffering and danger for those around him. There were other ways, other people to serve, even serving yourself was a choice one could make.
Even though Meyanda raised her strange pistol-like weapon to the heroes, she seemed shaken in her faith.
Meyanda was beaten after a dangerous encounter, her powers proving terribly real and great. As she fell out of consciousness, the large machine behind her began to give off warnings and blare sirens. Mattias and Baqir leapt to the foreign controls and did what they could as pipes broke and the room filled with a strange presence of destruction and sickness.
The reactor was placed into a venting state, and the strange energies that would have burst from the machine in all directions, destroying the heroes and Black Hill together, instead were blasted straight upwards, out of Black Hill, and into the heavens, more brilliant and bright than ever before.
The people of Torch let out a cheer. Dolga looked out from the council’s hall nodded with a smile. Sanvil Trett saw the light leaking in through his barred windows and grinned. Khonnir and Val watched the hill erupt from their tavern, holding each other closer. Joram looked up from his work and let out a cheer. Garmen shrugged and scoffed when he heard the news, preferring to go back to sleep. Garrit Burwaddle fell from his perch atop a pile of garbage and rolled down before finding his junkyard washed in purple light from the Black Hill.
Torch was saved.
The heroes revived Meyanda and promised not to hurt her if she did them or anyone else no harm. Almost eerily silent, Meyanda complied as they gave her a helmet to protect her identity, guided her from the water-choked caverns, and out into Torch. Khonnir found them first and offered congratulations and thanks for their grand deeds. Torch would be on its feet again soon, and they had the heroes to thank.
Khonnir guided the heroes back to the council’s hall, through waves of crowds cheering and thanking the heroes for saving their town and the livelihood of most inhabitants. They then heard their new name: the Torch Bearers.
This name would soon be heard across Numeria as a beacon of hope.
The council thanked the heroes again for their help, but felt that whoever presented this threat to Torch likely would not stop simply because the Power Relay was shut off, and the devices beneath were returned to their original state. They humbly requested the heroes help a second time, offering them a greater reward of 8,000 gold pieces if they could perform this task for them. The Torch Bearers heartily agreed with this.
Sanvil promised, in exchange for his life, that he could provide the heroes with information on contacts he knows while they traveled, along with information directly about the Technic League. He assured them that they would be no match for the League if they simply assaulted them; they would need greater weapons and tools than they had. Sanvil’s life was spared for now.
Meyanda was kept behind a broken helmet the heroes had found, and her identity was not confirmed by others around Torch. Her secret kept safe, she eventually decided that she would accompany the Torch Bearers to Scrapwall. She confessed that she had some questions for Hellion. Her exposure to the heroes seemed to be leaving a good impression on her.
She conversed with them that night as they collected their things and purchases from town for the journey. They conversed about “family”, and what exactly it meant. She knew what the word meant, but her understanding seemed to be changing as the days went on. She originally hoped to consider Hellion family, but now she was beginning to see the Torch Bearers as family. The word “knuckleheads” blurted from her mouth. She wholeheartedly denied saying it.
Preparations for the journey complete, the Torch Bearers collapsed on their beds after a long week.
Their gauntlets began to blink as they slept.
Baqir, Aysel, Mattias, and Alabaster all shared a strange dream. They found themselves in a florescent white room filled with steel lockers. Their forms had changed too: all but Alabaster had strange, multicolored hair and irisis, while Alabaster’s hair and eyes were a soft but uniform brown. Even their skin colors slightly matched their hair and eyes, with their skins changing color slightly every few seconds.
Aysel was a human woman with slightly different proportions and significantly shorter hair. Baqir was a towering human with a tumor on the back of his neck. Mattias was a human with an artificial arm and eyeball. Alabaster was now a full-blooded human.
Not only did they look different, they found themselves experiencing feelings that weren’t theirs. Aysel found a small moving painting made of plastic in her locker. The painting depicted another human-like being that she seemed to miss for some reason. Baqir found a collection of injections in his locker that seemed to fill him a with a bit of exasperation. Mattias listened to the “countdown to simulation” that occasionally boomed from the room, feeling ready to show the world who the real freaks were. Finally, Alabaster seemed to feel that his color was a point of pride and controversy.
Their lockers each contained a matching pistol and rifle of technological origin and excellent repair, and their own bodies were wrapped in suits of comfortable and lightly plated armor that seemed to change color as their eyes moved about the suit.
As if the scene couldn’t get stranger, Meyanda herself walked into the room, sporting an uncharacteristic smile on her face and a concerned but snarky personality. Her consolations to her comrades (the people who’s bodies the PCs happened to be in) did little to calm the Torch Bearers as the countdown that boomed throughout the room continued to reach zero.
Meyanda guided the worried heroes to their lift and waved them off as the lift carried them up. They grabbed their weapons and held them tight, but as they finally stepped out onto what appeared to be an arena, they were all washed over by a feeling that their time and talents were being wasted.
They found that the stands of this stadium were packed with human-like people and androids. The androids clustered together away from the human-like species, but the humans were clustered together in a peculiar fashion: by color. People with brown hair, eyes, and skin sat in the far back, followed by people colored black, white, gray, green, red, blue, and orange,with orange sitting closest to the arena. A few box seats right next to the action seated several people with multicolored hair, skin, and eyes. The style of dress and apparent cleanlieness seemed to correspond to their colors, with browns being dirtier and wearing simpler clothing to the spotless and affluent appearances of the prismatic spectators. They all clapped and shouted as a female human with long green hair and slightly suggestive clothing was lowered by a platform of metal from the ceiling to the center of the ring.
This green speaker announced into a small device that amplified her voice for all to hear, claiming that this would be the 182nd weekly Prism Strikers’ Exhibition Match. The heroes found themselves grunting involuntarily, just in time to hear words of encouragement from Meyanda while she waved from the android seats.
A poll had been placed to the people of the stadium, and their votes for the type of foe the Prism Strikers would face had been counted by a disembodied voice called “Unity”, who displayed the results on an incomprehensibly large monitor. The announcer made special note that this would be the first match to include a lethal option for the entertainment of the crowds. Wasting no time, the images on the flat monitor began to animate, counting the votes for the week’s target options.
Surprising no one, the lethal option won by a landslide, and a collection of armored gearsman with spears marched from the opposite side of the arena. Their grip electrified the spears, and their eyes glowed a menacing red.
The heroes gripped their pistols and rifles tightly, and as the buzzer demanded the action that thousands had gathered to see, the Torch Bearers woke up.
Meyanda commented that “you knuckleheads” were clearly delirious.
The following morning, before they could leave for Scrapwall, the heroes were intercepted by Joram Kyte and Khonnir Baine. The Torch Bearers quietly put their long night behind them and inquired their business. Khonnir insisted that Joram give his request first, and the madman explained cheerfully about a harsh past experience when he was adventuring in Numeria. He and a few comrades, namely a comrade named Dinvaya, once adventured in the villages, cities, and hinterlands of Numeria, until one day they ran afoul of the Technic League while trying to plunder an undiscovered ship for tech treasures. A bloody battle ensued, which ended with someone puncturing a large tank filled with strange fluids that washed over the League members and Joram and Dinvaya. Joram and Dinvaya were the only ones to escape the encounter with the League. While Joram had gotten over it and directed his wonderful madness to creation and building, Dinvaya held onto a mad hate for the League and actively worked against them for a time. She was forced to run and hide several times as the League struck back, and Joram had come to the conclusion that she was holed up in Scrapwall.
Joram’s request was simple: to find out if Dinvaya was alive and, if she was, to tell her that the League’s interest in her had passed, and that there was a place for her in Torch if she desired to move on.
As the cackling Joram exited, Khonnir confided in the Torch Bearers that last night Val Baine glowed in her sleep, quietly murmuring to herself some strange set of instructions that Khonnir couldn’t make out. He resolved to keep an eye on her while the heroes left for Scrapwall, but wanted them to know. The heroes suggested investigating the device that Sanvil used to manipulate her condition to see if it would provide clues.
As the heroes were finally leaving Torch, Khonnir suggested that they stop at Aldronard’s Grave, a small fortress across the river from Scrapwall that was usually manned by Sarenrae. While the fort would have few comforts, it was definitely safer than Scrapwall, and at the least they could speak to the Sarenites about the current situation in Scrapwall.
When the heroes found the fort after three days of travel, they found thick, black, smoke billowing from the fort. Soldiers with helmets and strange speech asked the heroes to kindly move on to avoid the “plague” that was going around the fort. The Torch Bearers insisted that they could help, and the soldiers eventually gave in and allowed them entry.
It was just as much of a trap as the PCs suspected. The portcullis fell between the heroes, blocking their entrance and cutting Baqir and Alabaster off from Aysel and Mattias. The “soldiers” took off their helmets to reveal several men with their lips and cheeks cut away to reveal their teeth, their scar tissue drawing a wicked and disturbing grin on their faces that mimicked a fresh wound. They pulled out pistols and daggers before calling their allies to attack, including one mutilated man with a hatchet attached to a stump of an arm.
The disturbing men were subdued, and though they found no survivors immediately, the Torch Bearers did find their remains; they were butchered for meat and being smoked over a fire. The remaining Sarenites and their paladin captain were discovered tied up in a watchtower and were given their clothes and hope back quickly.
The leader of the scarred men, who claimed to be part of a gang called the Smilers, was from Scrapwall, and he had come to take Aldronard’s Grave as a gift for the Lords of Rust.
The Sarenites explained that a new gang in town, called the Lords of Rust, had risen to the highest power in Scrapwall and had managed to bring the Smilers, the Steel Hawks, and Redtooth’s Raiders to heel. They stood at the top of Scrapwall, lead by several powerful figures and a mysterious god-like persona called Hellion.
When asked what to do with the Smilers, the half-elf paladin wasted no time running the hatchet-handed Smiler through with his scimitar and slicing open the necks of the remaining live Smilers. He had to be restrained and calmed down.
During the heroes’ search, they came across the dusty chapel to Sarenrae. They could tell that an unquiet spirit wept in the chapel. The Sarenites confirmed that it was the spirit of Aldronard, a long-dead paladin of Sarenrae who committed suicide after coming home from the crusades in the north only to find that his love had died while he was gone, and that her father had blamed him. The Sarenites knew that, on some nights, they could see the ghostly visage of a broken knight wandering the grounds or hiding and weeping in the chapel. They suspected that he sought forgiveness from his lost love Justina or her father Eredian, but with the events that caused his death happening decades ago, Eredian was likely long-dead, as well.
That’s when it hit the captain that Aysel resembled Justina somewhat; she could pass as Justina with the appropriate disguise. Finding this a bit too deceptive, they found a middle ground wherein Aysel would impersonate a descendant of Justina, and convince Aldronard that he was never blamed by her. Alabaster, Baqir, and Mattias scrounged together materials and colors for an Andoran dress and they brought Aysel to the chapel.
Holding their weapons around the corner, Baqir, Mattias, and Alabaster waited in case the worst happened, and Aysel entered the chapel as the moon rose. The broken form of a man descended from the sundered Sarenrae idol, his shattered arms and legs still rubbing ghostly bones against each other as he wandered for eternity, ghostly tears streaming from his eyes.
He called out to Aysel, believing she was Justina, but she denied the name. Before the man’s tears became rage, she explained that Justina never blamed him, and he slowly stopped his tears. He listened closely, waiting on every word, and Aysel told him that he was forgiven long ago, and that his love awaited him in the afterlife. The tears became tears of joy, and Aldronard raised his hands to the sky, asking for forgiveness from Sarenrae, who he had wrongly blamed for what had happened.
As it turned out, Sarenrae forgave him too. A streak of sunlight arced across from the horizon where the sun had just set and found a hole in the ceiling, bathing the fallen paladin ghost in sunlight and carrying him off to his judgment in the Boneyard. Mattias made a point to fix the sundered Sarenrae idol.
Sarenrae thanked the Torch Bearers for not only saving one of her servants but fixing her temple as well, and she granted them a blessing to ensure their safety in the future. The Sarenites called them blessed by the sun itself and offered the fort as a place to rest outside of Scrapwall.
The next morning, the Sarenite paladin captain took them across the Sellen River to the opposite bank, where they could reach the 3-mile long junkyard turned settlement. The impressive junk-walls made of broken crates, hulls, girders, and other support beams climbed precariously into the sky as a make-shift wall that surrounded filthy dirt and garbage streets. A large metal dish with a long antenna stood slightly lopsided, reaching even above the walls of garbage and refuse. The only way to safely enter Scrapwall was a break in the junk wall, filled in by a large gate of bolted and lashed metal sheets.
Keeping Meyanda under disguise, the Torch Bearers approached the gate.
Guarding the wall was a collection of members of the Steel Hawks. They drilled the Torch Bearers on their business in Scrapwall until a woman named Sevroth Slaid approached them. After a few more questions, she suddenly allowed them in, asking if they would hear out a “singular opportunity to benefit us all”. They agreed tenuously and followed her into the guardhouse common room. She got to the point as soon as they sat down; she wanted someone dead. After the Lords of Rust had taken over, they assigned a Smiler who had turned from the Steel Hawks once before to become the new gang leader when the Lord of Rust Kulgara messily murdered their original leader at the Junkmaster’s Arena, the supposed headquarters of the Lords of Rust. They appointed this man, who called himself “Birdfood”, to be master over the Steel Hawks. Sevroth chafed under his leadership, and promised the Torch Bearers that if they did this, she would be able to get them information on the other gang leaders, including the Lords of Rust.
Seeing no problem with ridding the world of more Smilers, the heroes marched through Scrapwall to the north end of Steel Hawk territory, handing a goo tube or two out to starving children or beggars in the garbage-laden streets. They found Hawk Palace, the seat of Steel Hawk strength, and casually walked past a very distressed orc guard. The poor guard watched in shock as the Torch Bearers gassed his orc allies at rest inside. The orcs put up little fight, but when Aysel found Birdfood waiting for them, she was struck down by several well-placed arrows.
Birdfood was quickly cornered and overwhelmed by the rest of the Torch Bearers, and he was executed along with his three hawk companions.
Aysel lay on the floor, arrows in her body and her blood on the floor, the rest of her allies resolute they would bring her back.