|The Structure - Pretty Carcosa or "Needs More Purple?"|
With her were two of the Rathouse's other denizen's: Abel Killejoy (Thaumaturge of Rainbow magic), Mr. Early (Thistledown's future Sheriff) and a mercenary traveler by the name of Vesper. The tunnel's walls beaded with oily moisture and the floor was carpeted with dessicated husks of thumb sized insects. The adventurers followed the trail of dead insects not sure where it led, or if it was of any importance, but confident in the advice of Zelena Dire, Witch for Hire who had told them that their companion was trapped beyond the curtain in a lost and strange world.
Soon the tunnel curved sharply beyond a hazy reddish sunlight illuminated the dark shale, and the mottled insect corpses scattered along it. Beyond the tunnel mouth, little more than a fissure, lay a broken landscape of tortured ridges, cracked, lifeless earth and eddies of oranges dust under a fading bruise colored sun. The badlands stretched into the distance as did the sky, roiling with hazy yellow and red clouds.
With the only landmark the steadily thickening path of insect husks the rescuers move on, when they hear the sound of approaching feet over the ridge. Soon a strange pair appear and are quickly surrounded. The first local is a tall female warrior in leather wrappings decorated with feathers and beads, her skin is the color of sickly magic, unnatural and disconcerting, the strange hue of jale, but her and her companion seem friendly enough. The companion is better equipped, but stranger. He is armed in black iron armor, with a horned helmet and pitted black ax of a brutal design and considerable size. More strangely, the warrior's flesh is translucent, and his bones can be seen beneath the clear shimmering layer of his muscles. After a short talk, the visitors learn that the locals are searching as well, for "ancient technology", apparently similar to the guns of the Wampus County natives.
The two groups join and follow the trial of husks through the sticky heat of the day. They pass the carcass of a huge orange and black lizard, stinking in the sun, and identified by the bone man as a "T-rex", apparently a dangerous predator. After only a mile of broken ridges and crumbling ground a strange sight appears beyond the last ridge. The insect trail, now containing some live insects hopping and feebly flapping, ends at the front of a long building made of pale green and brown stone. The trail seems to lead into a small cave at the building's front while long twisted tubes emerge from the structure's curved sides. Between the building and the party is a trio of floating red spheres, winking with evil light, and beyond the glint of a large metal object.
Deciding to avoid the spheres the party skirts the building and approaches the metal object beyond it. It appears to be a covered metal wagon with a cannon protruding from the front. The cannon is pointed at the side of the greenish structure, where a huge scorch mark mars it. Miss Cobweb moves forward cautiously with Vesper a little behind, and as they attempt to open blueish metal hatch of the strange wagon, something pink and vile leaps over the top of the machine and smashes the young woman to the ground. Her own shotgun blast misses as the thing lands nearby leaving her bruised and almost out of breath. The rest of the adventurers also fail to harm the hideous worm like humanoid, bullets ricocheting off the tank and charging attacks coming up short. As the party closes with the worm man, another emerges around the side of the machine and begins to chant at Abel who snaps his whip but fails to harm the monster.
The battle goes on, with Cbweb savaged by the creatures and several other party members injured. In response the adventurers are able to hit the worm men, cutting and shooting them, but not damaging them lethally. Abel decides magic is required but manages to catch most of the party in a cone of numbing, blinding rainbows. As the battle rages on, the adventurers slowly returning to consciousness and vision the creatures are finally dispatched, one ripped open by Cobweb's saber as she ripostes kneeling after another brutal blow that almost shatters her skull. The other worm man dies choking from Abel's whip and blasted by Mr. Early's pistol from point blank range. In death the two monsters look almost like men, somehow changed into fleshy pink worm creatures covered with tufts of unwholesome black hair.
With no more enemies appearing the band enters the strange machine and finds the inside filled with softly glowing lights. Two strange corpses sit on command couches within, and Vesper takes on of their side arms, a silvery pistol that proves to fire bursts of blue rays. The band searches inside of the tank and Cobweb discovers a sack of strange blue crystal bars as well as a box of foil wrapped wafers that no one is willing to eat. Abel plays with the vehicle's controls, which confound everyone else in the party, and with some fiddling manages to get it working. The adventurers cram inside, except for the locals who crouch on the back, and Abel skillfully maneuvers the huge machine so that it targets the burnt section on the long segmented building. The cannon of the tank rocks as a silent flash of yellow light and a thick saffron beam arc towards the strange insectile structure. Rather than blasting a huge hole the beam glances off reflected by the structure. Rather than risk getting caught in their own beam, the adventurers drive the tank until it faces the front of the structure obliquely and proceed to bombard the entry aperture until it cracks, and crumbles into a mass of bubbling stone-like fragments.
Having blown a wide hole into the strange structure and fearing additional worm men the adventurers decide simply to drive the ancient tank into the building's gaping maw. After only about forty feet the headlights of the tank reveal a figure rooted to the floor. The figure proves to be the object of Cobweb, Abel and Mr. Early's search, the wayward wizard Chauncy. A quick examination reveals Chauncy is unconscious with three glass tubes rooted to his body: one going into the base of his skull, one into his neck and another in his mouth. The tubes are filled with insects suspended in an amber liquid and slowly being pumped into the limp wizard. The tubes can't be removed easily, and Vesper suggests following them deeper into the structure. Leaving the wounded Cobweb, and frail illusionist to guard the tank and use its cannon on any attackers, the rest of the party ventures up a narrow ladder following the tube embedded in Chauncy's throat.
A fleshy iris door blocks progress, but it shivers open when touched with Vesper's saber. Beyond the door is a long room with six fly like creatures operating strange machines. Vesper shouts and burns one down with his new laser pistol, while Early and the rest of the party account for two more fly men. The fly creatures are massacred, but in the resulting melee the Jale amazon has her heart ripped out by the jagged proboscis of one of the creatures, even as her Bone Man companion's axe severs the fly's spine. On one of the corpses the adventurers discover a triangle medallion that proves to fit into an indentation on one of the machine boxes in the room. When Vesper applies the medallion to the box, the tube full of bugs rapidly reverses and retracts into the box.
Realizing the way to free Chauncy the adventurers return to the tank and the whole party follows the next tube deep into the strange structure. The tube runs through a room packed with strange four foot tall insect like arms growing from the floor. Most of the arms loom over autopsied bodies of various humanoids. Not wanting to follow the tube through the room, Cobweb shoots one of the insect limbs with a pistol and it expires thrashing and stretching to its full 20' length. The room is cleared with a barrage of flaming oil. When the inferno dies down the adventurers proceed to the box at the end of the room and the fly man's medallion again allows them to retract the two remaining tubes from Chauncy.
Chauncy is loaded onto the tank and returned to Wampus. The wizard has a mad gleam in his eyes, suffers from permanent weakness, has somehow grown a twitching chitinous tail, and has had his blood replaced by insects. Yet he's ready to adventure again and serve the citizens of Thistledown as resident warlock.
I want to thank everyone who rescued Chauncy - and especially to Brendan of Untimeately for running this rescue. It was great fun and now Wampus and I have a crazy third level wizard with insect blood...