09:07 – 09:10 – A patrol of warforged – some of whom bear the strange symbol of a cog framing a stylized eye with a blank, black pupil – stops the party and asks for their ID. As the Veteran intimidates their leader (who bears no symbol) with a blurt of machine speak that holds his true identify, Llewellyn decides to keep his hand in, and lifts an item from a passing mage. However, he is clearly rusty, for he bollocks it, and is spotted by one of the patrol.
For a moment it looks as if the group will be forced into a battle in the open, almost certainly leading to a deadly confrontation with Unified Order forces – a death sentence. However, the patrol leader, shaken from what he has divined from Veteran's blurt, pulls his soldiers up short before they can attack.
“They are on special business boys. We don't want to mess. Let them pass.”
09:11- 09:12 – The group move a little way further down the road, before Ardwaine grabs Llewellyn by the throat and smashes him against a wall. Fury Is etched onto her face, and her eyes blaze with raw aggression as she begins to squeeze just a bit too hard on his windpipe.
“You fucking moron!” she spits, drool gliding over her bottom lip, “Are you trying to get us fucking killed?”
Llewellyn kicks and thrashes, his face turning blue, and suddenly realising that she is killing him, the dundorin lets him go, spitting on him as he drops, rubbing his neck.
“Keep the fuck away from me you little shit, you hear me?”
Llewellyn just gasps, and gags. The dundorin stalks onwards, the rest of the group staying with Llewellyn, though none offer to help him up.
09:20 – 09:27 - The group arrive at a huge building with a curiously hinged roof; a dome of corrugated metal able to tilt open in order to allow ships inside access to the open skies. Ormid quickly scans the mechanism that powers this movement, and deduces that the system is fully manual, and that the roof is only able to open – or more importantly to close – slowly.
Two more warforged allied to the Veteran Ascended wait by a rear door, and once they have got over their awe at being in the presence of their deity – albeit in a younger, less godly manifestation – they show the group inside.
09:27 – 09:33 – Inside all is a blur of activity. Massive artifice cranes are slowly moving huge collections of sealed crates – each coded to designate where it is from and where it is going – into the holding bays of two massive sky ships, and all around the docks hundreds of individuals run to and fro busily ensuring that everything goes according to the schedule. The warforged lead the party to a small vessel at the back of the hangar; a vessel that is of familiar design to Ormid as its pattern is the same as those used in Lorehaven in his time. This is the Wisdom of the Order; their way to the edifice far above.
09:34 – 09:36 – Three of the warforged climb up the steep sides of the ship and go inside, ready to get it prepped for flight, whilst the last one helps the group up after them. However, as they get onto the deck, from inside the vessel they all hear a dull thump, followed by a booming roar and the sounds of metal striking metal. It is clear that someone or something is inside the ship and has engaged the warforged in combat!
09:36 – 09:40 – The party run towards the aft stairwell which leads to a broad common area; the helm room to the fore of the vessel behind a sturdy door, the steps to the lower decks and engine rooms towards the aft. Smoke fills the air, and the stench of burning meat mixes with the smell of ozone and boiling oil. The three warforged that had come ahead of the party are dead; two lie gutted and bleeding on the floor, their armour effortlessly torn apart by heavy blades, whilst the last shudders and jolts against the far wall, trapped within an artifice net charged with lightning.
“THERE!” Howls a metallic, inhuman voice – the voice of a warforged. “THE DAEMON MANIFESTS IN OUR PRESENCE! DESTROY HIM!”
The screaming comes from the far end of the chamber towards the aft portion of the ship, its source a robed warforged dressed in very heavy vestments of red and silver. In one hand it wields a hammer wreathed in crackling flames, whilst in its other hand it wields a holy symbol – the symbol of Ebon Eye. Between the priest and the group (who are on the steps still, leading down) are several more warforged.
Two are fairly basic soldier types, each plated with reinforced sheets of adamantium and wielding heavy looking falchions, whilst another is a much heavier model. This brute is half as tall again as the others and is bristling with brutal spikes, a massive, barbed double-axe gripped in its spicate fists. Steam pours from its saw-like mouth, spilling over its barrel chest.
The three warrior types are accompanied by a creature only too familiar to the party; an Iron Defender like Ferrous, though it is rather plain when compared to the fey rune decorated beast that accompanies the group. This creature gives a metallic bark, but holds back a moment at the command of the last creature in the hold – a warforged dressed in braided armour, a heavy belt full of artifice components and tools wrapped around its hips, a shimmering warhammer, covered in wires and empowered gems in its grip.
“DESTROY HIM NOW! LORD EBON EYE DEMANDS HIS SKULL PLATE!”
Llewellyn is the first to react, leaping acrobatically sideways off the steps and striking hard at one of the sword wielding warriors below. His mace draws nothing but sparks off his armour however, and the vyrleen has to pull back rapidly as the warrior tries to sweep his weapon out of his grasp. The soldier strikes back, his blade cutting a hideous, flapping “C” of flesh from Llewellyn's belly, blood and entrails immediately appearing from its ghastly grin, and Llewellyn staggers back, his brain having not yet registered the severity of the wound he has just taken.
Corposant plays over the glittering fangs of the Iron Defender and lightning suddenly erupts around the rest of the party (save Shadevia who has wisely stayed at the top of the steps, where she can strike with her deadly bow), blasting and dazing several members of the group. Things only get worse when the other soldier strides up to the Veteran (who is struggling to move against the lingering bite of the Defender's breath weapon), and with a vicious sweep of his curved blade not only opens a spurting wound in his chest, but sends his axe hurtling 20' away behind the enemies ranks.
Suddenly, before the group have even had chance to get stuck into these unexpected foes, they are on the brink of catastrophe.
And then Shadevia makes a strange gesture, and a chill gloom creeps into the air, charged with subtle motion. Around the warforged front rank the air grows thick with darkness, which suddenly rips apart to become a dense swarm of darting bat-like shadow shards, the tenebrous wings confusing and blinding the group's enemies, exposing them to their attacks. Wounded by a burst of psychic fury unleashed by the chanting robed Ebonite, Ormid energises his healing construct and throws it down amidst the group, whilst Llewellyn cartwheels past the suddenly disoriented warforged, and scoops up Veteran's axe. Barely able to pick it up, the rogue heaves the massive weapon towards the warforged, the warrior grabbing it and swinging it at the massive spiked brute that has just laid his shoulder open to the core in a burst of oily fluids and crackling energy.
Another withering cone of lightning blasts through the party, and yet again several members are unable to gather their wits as the voltage surges through them. Ardwaine, who has managed to avoid both blasts utters a healing prayer, reducing some of the wounds suffered by Veteran and Llewellyn, and Shadevia begins to lay about the enemy with arrows imbued with elemental spirits; frost and lightning empowering each projectile.
For several fraught moments the party struggle to match their foes still. However, as soon as the enemy Iron Defender is smashed, the battle swings, finally, in their favour, and it is at this point that the ship begins to shudder with power, its engines turning over, a subtle roar of unleashed, focused elemental power surging through the entire structure; artifice runes burning with power in the beams and masts of the vessel as it awakens.
“I'll take us up.” crackles the deadpan voice of the fourth allied warforged, “You just take those heretics out.”
The confines of the chamber boil with the shocking horror of combat. Weapons savagely crunch into metal and flesh, and the smoky, stench filled air coils with whining artifice, seething projectiles and mind-blasting waves of psychic turmoil. The noise is deafening and the battle dirty and up close. The ground becomes slick with oily fluids and gore, and small smoky fires burn across the area, adding their hellish light to the thick, smothering air. The enemy artificer uses his powers to drive his allies onwards with psychic prods and words of power, whilst the priest calls upon arcane fire to heal his allies and blast the group.
However, despite their opponents ferocity, the group manage, just, to win, the final soldier being decapitated by the death throes of the spiked horror as Veteran's axe takes its head.
But the group are far from out of danger.