When we last left our heroes, they were wandering around the Dregs of Drogue-also known as the Delta Sector-amidst the great piles of rot and refuse that are the waste products of the thriving city. Terra and Paeael were feeling destitute (in spite of having received large amounts of cash money and spiffy items from their conquest of the mind flayer). So they spent some time mucking about the city, looking for work. Frank told them that there were ample employment opportunities available in the Alpha Sector as medical research subjects, or that he could hook them up with plum positions as Sanitation Engineers or else as Compost Technology Technicians in the Agricultural Sector, but our heroes declined. So they treaded on up to the residence of the drow ambassador to Drogue, Mistress Ambassador Ak’lith Denvirr, thinking (rightly) that she might have some uses for them. They stopped outside of the gates of her manor, where the air itself was thick and acrid with latent magic, but then they lost their nerve and bravely ran away liked scared little girls. Ultimately, they wandered back to the Delta Sector and asked the captain of the guard if there was any kind of work to be had more suited to those of an adventuring ilk. Sure enough, the captain of the guard was strapped for manpower and had no desire to leave his newly-ventilated office and go tromping about in one of those sweaty rebreather suits, so he tasked our heroes with neutralizing some malfunctioning machines. The Delta Sector’s goblinoid inhabitants had been complaining about these machines-apparently they had caused a death or two or forty-compelling the city guard to take action. Or, at least, to pay somebody else to deal with it.
So Terra and Paeael made their way through the Delta Sector to the area where the machines had last been spotted. Peter, their mechanical guide, being a clockwork automaton fashioned to resemble a gnome, seemed quite eager to assist and not at all dismayed that he was helping humanoids to ruthlessly butcher his fellow constructs. Nope, not at all. Peter was the very picture of courtesy and gratitude, even when they stuffed him inside of a bag (ostensibly for his own protection). Along they way, they hooked back up with Sergei. While the living members of the party had been off traipsing around the city, he had remained in the dumps, boiling scrap metal over a trash fire and molding bullets from the molten lead. Thusly reinforced, the party set out to take down the rogue machines.
When they arrived at the designated area, Terra felt it would be a good idea to draw the machines out by banging on the scrap heaps with her sword. Soon enough, she managed to upset a nest of rust monsters in this manner. The party dispatched the dangerous vermin whose very touch is enough to reduce the most beautiful necklace, the most elegant sword, or the sturdiest suit of plate armor to rusted slag, but not before Terra’s sword was destroyed. Again.
They then proceeded onward, further bolstered by the presence of Atu-Sinda, who just happened to appear out of thin air, quite conveniently after the fight with the rust monsters had concluded. Their proximity to the dangerous machines became apparent when a goblin came arcing through the air to land with a sickening splatter near their feet. Sure enough, the next pile of twisted scrap metal proved to be quite animate and quite aggressive. It resolved into a roughly humanoid shape and proceeded to advance upon our heroes, but Sergei shot the thing dead before it could even blink-not that it had eyes. So, since that encounter proved to be rather lackluster-three more gigantic agglomerations of stabby machine parts appeared! Our heroes fought valiantly, and while Atu-Sinda was nearly frappeed to death by the whirling blades of one of the rogue machines, the party triumphed in the end and then went back to collect its reward.
After that, the heroes were determined to set out from Drogue to investigate the Mountain of Forbidden Knowledge, where they had been told that they might learn how to overcome the dread threat of the Mordent. They were wondering how it was that they might get to the Mountain of Forbidden Knowledge when Frank told them, in a frank and matter-of-fact manner, that there was a railway running out to the Mountain from Drogue. So the heroes boarded the train and set out for parts unknown to the accompaniment of steel wheels clacking over the tracks, and with the strong scent of coal smoke in their nostrils. They passed through many miles of monotonous flatland covered over in an unbroken pall of white snow, and passed by many houses where gnomish families had worked and lived and loved, and that were now nothing more than hollow shells. At some point in their journey, the heroes realized that the steel crate in the cargo car of the train hid their undead ally, who had smuggled himself onto the train as cargo.
The train screeched to a stop several days and several hundred miles out of Drogue, and Frank ushered the heroes off. They found themselves standing before a massive train wreck, the cars twisted and strewn over the landscape like the corpse of some impossible snake. The cars themselves had been gutted, and there were no bodies to be found. Under several feet of snow, however, there were the faint, lingering imprints of Mordent boots, leading off to the north. Calling upon their old pal and war profiteer, Arronax, the party bought a war sled and a team of dire reindeer and went off in pursuit of the Mordent. However, nobody in the party was particularly skilled at tracking, and after a day of hauling over mile after mile of indistinct snowbanks, the party lost the trail and turned around in the direction of the Mountain of Forbidden Knowledge, which rose alone and isolated over the surrounding plains.
Once they had reached the town at the base of the mountain, they found it to be completely deserted. Houses and shops stood empty and unused, as if they were curious artifacts in some sort of surreal museum. They entered into the first hotel that they saw and found it empty, save for the frozen corpse of a dwarf who had died still clutching a hand of Three Dragon Ante cards. A pile of gold coins, their faces white with frost, lay on the table next to him. The dwarf seemed to be quite dead, but when Terra attempted to remove a coin from the pile, the dwarf’s limbs surged with a kind of crude, puppet-like motion, and the dwarf’s frozen fingers locked around Terra’s wrist. A hollow voice, like a cold wind that blows over jagged rocks, intoned from deep within the corpse: “No cheating.”
Leaving the anomalous and eerie dwarfsicle behind, the party searched the inn for signs of life, and found that the storeroom had been recently disturbed. They followed the footprints through the snow to a small cottage located off of the main street through town. The cottage appeared empty enough-at least, when the party exploded the door off of its hinges and ransacked the upper rooms, the adventurers found no sign of life. Paeael, though, had gone around back to find a locked door leading down into a cellar. Atu-Sinda called out to the frightened occupants of the cellar, offering them food and promising that no harm would come to them if they were to come out. After much coaxing, a starving and terrified man clambered out of the cellar, clutching a Mordent firearm in his trembling hands. He told the heroes that a cloud of lethal gas had descended upon the town, leaving everyone and everything dead, and that had been followed by the freezing night that had lasted now for many weeks. He said that the only thing he had seen in weeks of scavenging around town was some strange figure that chanted and shouted and could be heard from blocks away, and as soon as he heard it he always ran in the other direction. After snatching up the offered food, he retreated back into the cellar, and demanded that the heroes leave before they drew the Mordent down upon his house and his family.