The Coldfire Beetle
The Tale Unfolds
They came together from all walks of life, from educated noble to simple woodsman, to pool their talent and seek adventure. When word reached them that a besieged nation was seeking mercenary aid, they quickly set out with hopes for glory and treasure.
Baron/Baroness Basil Von Bush – A Bush Leader with a taste for the finer things, a silver tongue, and a steady hand with a scalpel.
The Wasp – A Wasp Mechanic with no trust for giants, a cadre of explosive drone workers, and a brilliant (if fragmented) mind.
Arthur Steed – An Alligator Fighter bearing the legend of his forefathers, and whose strength and flame are only matched by his righteousness.
Cirus – A Fraal Psion seeking safety or escape; powerful and willing to disintegrate any who get in his way.
Gates – A Human Scout with lofty goals and aspirations, sharp senses, and the skills to survive in the wilderness.
Unfortunately, reality was less kind to them. Shortly after setting out to find the Gray Woods, they became lost in a thicker region of the forest. Gates, an accomplished guide, knew the Lantic Ocean was to the east, and the Apple Chain Mountains could, every so often, just barely be seen to the west, but without a road or a reliable map, they had little to go on.
Early morning, on the fourth or fifth uneventful day, the party began to hear gunfire, screams of pain, and other sounds of battle from up ahead. After stealthily approaching when the sounds of violence ended, they reached a break in the trees and saw a tarp covered cart overturned on a small road, a male human in fullplate and a female butterfly arguing quietly, but angrily, over the dead body of another human, and a peculiar small goat straining at a chain leash held by the butterfly. Once they listened to the argument for a few moments, it became obvious that the pair of mutants were bandits, so the party attacked.
The two bandits were surprised, badly outnumbered, and outmatched by the party. Gates and Cirus focused their attacks on the human bandit, quickly killing him and reducing the body to bones and fine ash while Basil swung him/her-self up into the safety of a tree and sprayed half a clip of machine pistol ammo into the goat creature. Seeing her ally taken out, the butterfly loosed the goat to attack Arthur, and attempted to flee. The Wasp, suddenly terrified about the drones rebelling, sent all of his drones after the butterfly, and ordered them to detonate, killing all ten drones and the bandit in a large explosion. The goat, identified as a Scarlet Goat, lunged and jump to bite Arthur, but couldn’t reach his flying height. What seemed like an easy kill to Arthur turned out to be much more challenging, as he suffered one unlucky mishap after another. With redirected pistol fire from Gates though, Arthur was able to finally dispatch the goat, ending the battle.
After looting what remained of the bandits, the Baron noticed the human bandit’s armband for the first time; a red armband with an emblazoned ‘7’ in black. A vague memory of a slaver gang with similar livery surfaced in his/her mind, but details eluded him. Shrugging it off, he/she rifled through the deceased presumed-merchant’s body and took possession of a journal and a map, while his/her allies began to dig into the contents of the cart itself. Passing the map onto Gates, and pulling his/her pipe and lighting up, he/she settled onto Arthur’s back and began to read the journal.
Between Gates, Arthur, and the Wasp, the three managed to approximate their position; they were somewhere east of Dalbin, northwest of Man Guyer Ruins, and northeast of Trent, and about 30 meles east of the Gray Woods. After a short deliberation, the party decided to travel to Dalbin to gather supplies and rest before correcting their course. With Arthur pulling the cart, they set out along the dirt road west.
Upon arriving in Dalbin, a bored looking guard briefly questioned their purpose in the town, but let them pass with little more than a cursory inspection. Dalbin was a fairly small town with a temple, a single tavern/inn, what appeared to be a factory or mill, and a general store. The town was similar to most other small villes the group had seen, except for a few small details… In the center of the town’s plaza was a large statue of a man with odd leather armor that shimmered in the midday’s light, and nearly every citizen they encountered was armed and wore large hats. Deciding tO split up and explore the odd little town, the group left the cart in Arthur’s care and parted ways.
Cirus and Gates headed straight towards the tavern; the Wagon Wheel Tavern, to gather information. Cirus directly and gruffly asked the bartender, a male armadillo named Billiam Childs about OldTech vaults, ruins, or vehicles in the area after ordering his drink. Billiam was somewhat surprised, and hesitatingly answered that the local mine foreman, an ant named Fiver was searching for something like that in the nearby mines, but that he was insane and shouldn’t be taken seriously. Cirus chugged his ale, and immediately proceeded to the mill just south of town.
Gates, on the other hand, tried a more tactful approach with the bartender; asking questions about the area, potential work, and other small talk. When the subject of potential work came up, Billiam directed Gates to see the town mayor and sheriff, Sleef, and to speak with the head priest, Padre Harol Silver about the hats and local religion. The two parted amicably and Gates walked towards the town hall to talk with the mayor.
Basil and the Wasp wandered the town square for a short while before entering the Childs General Store. There, they met the store owner, a female armadillo named Prell Childs, who’s name Basil recognized from the unnamed merchant’s journal. At Prell’s suggestion, they each bought a hat and one extra for Arthur, as it was considered disrespectful to be seen not wearing one in public. When they inquired about the strange custom, the shopkeeper waved the questions off, and simply explained that it was a tenant of the local faith; followers of the Way’Nee wore hats, and that’s all there was too it. The two adventurers then bought a few other supplies, and left to rejoin the group.
While all of this was going on, Arthur was attempting to entertain a crowd of children with a harrowing tale of heroism from his ragged book, but the youth seemed to have more fun trying to pull his scales off and ignored the story. The children scattered laughing when a somber looking human man in well maintained armor strode up and demanded to know what Arthur was doing. The fighter explained that he was only trying to entertain the youths and spread the legends of his people, and asked what the problem was. The human introduced himself as Sroe White, the local guard captain, and demanded that Arthur cease evangelizing outside the temple and, oddly enough, to put on a hat. Sroe then stomped off, leaving the somewhat bewildered alligator. Shortly there after, Basil and the Wasp rejoined Arthur and gave him a hat.
Cirus entered the bustling mill and demanded to speak with the foreman as soon as he caught the attention of a nearby worker carrying heavy equipment. The worker merely jerked his head towards a door along the back wall and resumed working. Throwing open the door, Cirus marched directly up to the desk and demanded that the ant sitting behind the desk answer his questions about the OldTech vault. Fiver practically exploded in anger back at the fraal, screaming about how it was all true, demanding to know who put him up to this joke, and who he was. It took a few minutes for them both to calm down, and once Fiver was finally convinced that Cirus was honestly interested, he explained that no one had been able to find evidence, but that the ant was absolutely certain that there was some sort of vault, facility, or something OldTech deep in the mines. Heartened that Cirus seemed genuinely interested, Fiver invited him to buy blaststicks and join him in the mine at midnight to search for the facility.
Meanwhile, Gates had located and entered the darkened town hall to find a woman napping in a web hammock. The woman stirred when Gates addressed her, and they both introduced themselves. The woman was named Sleef, and she functioned as the city mayor. Initially terse and irritated at being woken up by the outsider, she gradually became friendlier and the two talked about local events and possible work. Sleef suggested that Gates try the bounty board outside the Wagon Wheel Tavern or talk with the padre to see if he needed anything done, and then pulled her hat over her eyes and went back to sleep. Leaving the town hall, Gates walked back to the tavern and wrote down the bounty information he found posted.
Shortly afterward, the party reconvened, compared notes, then headed off to the temple to meet the priest. When they arrived, an old raptor introduced himself as Harol Silver, and invited them in to share a meal. Arthur asked the priest questions about the Way’Nee, which Silver seemed delighted to answer. The rest of the group discussed what they had learned in the town, and asked Harol if there were any tasks he needed completed. The old priest hesitated, but explained that he noticed that none of the usual worshipers from a neighboring village, Leestown, had been to services for the past couple of weeks. He was growing concerned, and offered to bless the group, provide them with a room for the night, and give them a bottle of fine brandy if they’d go check on the village for him. The group agreed, and settled in for the night to discuss their next action…