3/8/2021 IRL. October 1921 IG.
- John Stickman. Rugged and tough veteran of the Tellurian War, armed and armored.
- Dorothy Gale. Former prisoner of war, weirded with a metal arm and occasional manifestation of animalistic teeth while under stress. Accompanied by her faithful German shepherd Toto, a well-trained glamour sniffer.
Iazu, Deep Gnome Township
Gale and Stickman traveled a road up through the mountains, following Stickman’s map from Dr. Broddico and Master Vin towards the “Traveler’s Lands” to see if they could find a curse-breaker who would allow them to return to Telluria. A blizzard struck, and Stickman’s reading of the map (aided by its supernatural bond to him) pointed them at an underground route going the right direction, through the caverns of Iazu. They kept to themselves along the way, observing the Tuatha Danaan also on the road, and groups of secretive deep gnomes.
The entry to the vast cavern of Iazu was an overlook where they could see the town’s central pillar, and an opening in the roof that let in a swirling column of glittering snow over the sullen community. They were approached by a Bilvyn, a friendly seeming gnome who assumed they were there to meet with Master Omerund, referred by Master Telgur; he expected them to have a car. They asked who he was expecting, and he name-dropped Mr. Cawley. They gently warned him that Mr. Cawley wasn’t very nice and he should be careful, and the gnome burst into tears.
They relocated to an outdoor eatery as he regained control of his emotions. He explained that his master, Omerund, wanted to use deception to capture as many Tellurians as possible and would want him to bring them to him, but Bilvyn was disarmed by their kindness interacting with his conscience and guilt. Omerund was violating the treaty that ended the war, he was crafting arcanum out of the life energy of Tellurians (like themselves) and animating soul-sealed war machines that looked like caricatures of soldiers.
Iazu came under attack in the war, traumatizing the relatively peaceful settlement. Omerund captured some Tellurians, and experimented to infuse their life force into constructs that could defend the settlement if the Tellurians attacked again. He may have developed a consistent process to mass-produce these constructs, and this very night he was meeting with the town council to get approval and resources to build many shells and capture a lot more Tellurians.
Aghast at the horror of what his master was doing, Bilvyn offered to take them to the workshop to free the surviving Tellurians. If they wanted to do it before Omerund returned, they would have to act now.
Of course the Tellurians were on board with the rescue. Omerund had six soulsealed war machines posted. One guarded each of the two doors, two stood in the workshop, and one was down in the prison. Bilvyn would do what he could to help; he entered the workshop and brought out two long-bladed orichalcum weapons that would be effective against the soulsealed, arming Gale and Stickman (who took a few minutes to look around the area to prepare, as they planned to leave in a hurry). Then Bilvyn returned to the workshop and deceived the guards, breathlessly reporting on nearby Tellurians. His ruse was effective, drawing two of them out to join him on a merry chase.
To improve their odds further, Gale sent Toto at the soulsealed guarding the door. The dog peed on the construct, then retreated, growling and barking to provoke it. The construct waddled after the dog, leaving the door unguarded. Gale and Stickman approached, studying it, noting that while it was not locked or obviously trapped, the “handle” might be a lure for unsuspecting Tellurians, and the disk on the round door’s center was what the locals would use. Gale touched it with her weirded hand, and the door opened without incident.
Remembering the layout described by Bilvyn (who was extremely successful in keeping two of the soulsealed busy), they passed through the workshop quickly. Master Omerund’s other apprentice, Farkas, was nowhere to be seen. (Bilvyn described him as passionately hating Tellurians and goading this horrific plan on.)
Down the stairs, they found a dank stone prison surrounded by a moat of sorts with creatures lazing around in its still waters. The door was guarded by an inward-facing soulsealed war machine. Gale opened the door rapidly and Stickman lunged in, quickly plunging his long surgical blade into the construct and rupturing its animating force.
Together, the Tellurians hauled the ceiling grating of the prison open, and helped out the six surviving prisoners. Inmon had been experimented upon and was badly injured, but extremely strong to survive. Yanela had her ankles twisted, and could not walk on her own. Rescue was the top priority, and the Tellurians helped each other up the stairs towards the exit.
Stickman led the way, and managed to steal over by the door as the construct that chased Toto returned to post. He single-handedly ambushed the soulsealed war machine and put it down quietly enough the guard by the other door was not alerted.
The leader of the prisoners, Boles, rapidly explained that the process of developing a consistent method for creating the soulsealed war machines had a lot of “failures” along the way that created other arcana. He insisted they search the place to locate the documentation of the process, to get it away from the gnomes. Gale was dubious that anything could be done to reverse the distillation inflicted on those turned into arcanum, and prioritized escaping with those who could survive. Boles stayed to search, planning to catch up with them.
The Tellurians got out as the soulsealed distracted by Bilvyn were returning. They loaded the escapees into a goat-drawn cart (Gale used a handful of limp radishes from her magic bag to try and befriend the goat so it would cooperate) and slowly rolled towards the shoreline of the underground lake, where numerous boats were publicly available. They planned to cross the dark waters and escape on the other side, staying ahead of pursuit. Ravenous, the escaped prisoners devoured all Stickman’s rations.
The Far Shore
On the boat ride, the prisoners explained they were former military, recruited by a surveying firm back on Telluria to check out mining opportunities among neutral or somewhat friendly fey communities. They were checking into possible orichalcum deposits when the gnomes drugged and imprisoned them, and half their number became soulsealed. They entered through a curated dimensional crack, and they believed they could reach it and escape back to Telluria. Hardly daring to hope, Gale and Stickman planned to go along with them.
Upon reaching the far shore, they saw trucks and the trailer of Mr. Cawley’s expedition rolling up to the beach. They chose not to warn them, or engage with them at all, moving as fast as they could to stay out of sight. They evaded the opportunists and undertook the difficult trek up to the escape portal.
Bilvyn could not go with them, nor could he return to his master. Gale and Stickman suggested he relocate to Delta Falls, and he agreed that he did know some people there. He was not a deep gnome himself, and he might fit in better there. The Tellurians said goodby, and they passed through the light, hoping to see Earth’s sun once more.