To: Investigator Geo Friinok, Gem Choppers
From: Reconnoiterer Okosar
Re: Sixth Report: The Threat Revealed!
I awoke in my bed in Ak’Anon to a thundering sound, louder than the rumbles that had until this point been coming from the mining caves. As I gathered my gear, I came up with a score of questions for Commander Gearswitch. On my way out, I decided to inspect the old defenses inside the city itself. I thought to myself the giant crossbow that had saved the city in the past was looking a little antiquated in light of this new danger.
I patted the clockwork soldiers manning the bow on the back and gave told them to stay sharp. Of course, they were already designed to do that. As I rushed out the final tunnel to the surface, I bid farewell to Emissary Delbin. His demeanor was night and day from that of the clockwork defenders. “The sky! The sky! Is this a sign of our lord’s displeasure? What have we done to alienate ourselves from him? Surely this means dire consequences for the world of Norrath. Without the sun we shall all perish! Repent! Repent! The end is nigh!”
Sensing I had no time to calm him down, I immediately ascended to Steamfont. Though I could not see it at the moment, I gathered by talking to Gnomes on the way out to Commander Gearswitch’s command post that Meldrath had launched a giant fortress into the sky and was periodically bombarding the lands! Everyone was tense: I asked one of the Gnomes watching the entrance to Ak’Anon if he needed anything. Bigilam Wantilans snapped, “This matter is far too advanced for you to handle..come back after you’ve killed a few more large rats.”
I have been adventuring long enough to accumulate every last Veteran Reward the Pantheon of Masters has to offer, and as I considered Bigilam himself, it was very possible I could take him in a fair fight. However, pride is a sin, and these are desperate times. I wished him well and made my way to Commander Gearswitch who confirmed the stories about Meldrath’s fortress. “We appreciate your help with the ground forces lately, but it appears things have only gotten worse. We’ve been attacking his fortress as best we can, but his steamworks keep destroying our catapults. It’s bad enough that we’re running out of materials to keep them operational.”
He stopped in mid-thought. I waited for him to continue, but he kept looking nervously behind him. I finally asked him, “What materials do you need for the catapults?” The Commander snapped out of his daze. “We need more wood to repair our catapults and more ammunition to fire at the fortress. As I said, things are getting worse for us. Are you willing to help us out?” I pledged my help to get those catapults working again. “Excellent. Report back to me once you’ve obtained the supplies and I’ll direct them to where they are most needed.” I nodded, mounted my roboboar, and started out.
On my way out, I stopped at one of the splintered catapults. It was in Engineer Grazzlfot’s care. “If I could only get this blasted thing working. If you’re looking to help, Okosar, you can go talk with Commander Gearswitch.”
I told Grazzlefot that I had already been dispatched for repair parts to the city of Kelethin. If ever there were fine woodworkers in this land, they would have to live in that city of wood up in the trees. I told him to keep his spirits up, that when the tide of this battle turned, it would be on the accuracy of our brave catapult engineers.
I headed out and found something even more troubling. While there were some soldiers patrolling the trails now,
which was good, but there were also some new and improved steamworks. I could probably have won the fight with the “Invading Steamwork” that I discovered in the hills on my way to the Faydark, but I was not prepared for battle, I was packed for travel. This, by far, was the most powerful unit yet, and a victory over it would have provided me a learning experience, to be sure.
However, as I said, I needed to get those catapults up and running, so I continued on my journey, just barely outrunning the steamwork to the darkness of Lesser Faydark. After losing the steamwork there, I continued through the darkness to Greater Faydark, and on to my contact, Carpenter Rockleaf. “Ah, Okosar! Commander Gearswitch sent word to expect you. I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news though.”
Somehow, with the way things were going, I wasn’t surprised. He continued, “We had stockpiled the lumber necessary for the parts the Gnomes need, but during a recent raid, the Orcs made off with most of it. If you could retrieve some of it from them I’m sure I could have the parts the Gnomes need ready shortly after.” I nodded and went off to the Orc camps to the north.
The Orcs had done a spectacular job of spreading out the lumber and hiding it among themselves. It too me far too many precious minutes to gather the needed amount, even though the Orcs fell quickly enough to my magic.
However, I wondered how welcome I would be in Neriak next time I visited. The Indigo Brotherhood, Dark Elf Warriors, did not take kindly to Crushbone Orcs being slayed, even for a good cause. What was usually a fairly hospitable place for Gnomes, particularly so for me, might now be somewhat less so.
Carpenter Rockleaf provided the parts as promised. “With these parts you should be able to return a catapult to operation. Commander Gearswitch will be relieved when you return with them.”
“So will all of my people. Thank you.” I said as I rode off to Butcherblock.
I found Alchemist Irontooth near the old crossroads. “Okosar! You’re here! Haha, you won’t believe what I’ve cooked up! I’ve developed the best catapult ammunition ever! There’s just one catch….”
Not again. I sighed. He continued, “Testing the ammunition used up the last of my grave dust supplies to actually make them. If you can retrieve several samples of the dust for me I can have the ammunition created as soon as you return.” That didn’t sound too bad.
“Where can I retrieve the dust samples?” I asked. Alchemist Irontooth thought for a moment. “I’ve had the best luck finding grave dust on the undead around the Estate of Unrest. You’d be best off starting your search there.” I journeyed through Dagnor’s Cauldron and to the Estate of Unrest. The dust was much easier to come by than the lumber. I was also able to put to rest some unfortunate tortured souls. A win-win situation for both of us.
Then, near the end of my collecting, I found something rather unsettling. As I was releasing a tortured soul, it suddenly transformed, and shrieked in terror. I had unmasked a changeling! It was something I’ve never seen before, though I’ve heard stories. He had on him an augmentation stone of great value.
My trip back to Alchemist Irontooth went without incident, and upon presenting him with the grave dust, he whipped up the incendiary bombs he promised. “These bombs should be the perfect ammunition for use against Meldrath. Commander Gearswitch will be relieved when you return with them.”
I thanked him on behalf of our people and made my way for the front lines. I observed many varieties of new steamworks roaming free through the mountains. Passing the windmills, Watchman Mylz called to me, “Greetings! You may rest inside one of the windmills. I will be on guard. No need for you to worry.” I realized at this point I must have been looking a little ragged. I called back as I continued on, “Thank you, sir, but I must complete this mission!”
At the command tent, Commander Gearswitch immediately greeted me. “You’re back! And with the parts and ammunition no less. This is perfect timing! Once you take those to one of our engineers they should have the catapult working again in no time!” I asked if there was a particular engineer I should deliver my supplies to. Commander Gearswitch replied, “There are several of them nearby. You should be able to find them stationed by the catapults they are working on. You’ll want to gather some friends before delivering those parts though. The steamworks and minotaurs seem to focus attacks on any of the catapults that are under repair.”
I pleaded with him to send a small squad of escort if that were indeed the case. He ignored me. There was no time. I steeled myself for battle as I made my way to Engineer Grazzlfot. Everything was about to go bad. Very bad.
I gave him the parts to repair the catapult, but then steamworks I had never seen before converged upon him. Steamworks of such great power, for a moment, I stood frozen, wondering what my tombstone would say. The polished steamworks were the worst. They kept chanting, “Click.. Whirr.. Warning. Enemy.. Attack. Destroy. Kill.” And they really meant it, too. Engineer Grazzlfot screamed, “Help! I can’t repair this while these things are attacking me!” I could offer him little help. I blasted a couple of them to get them to follow me. They were difficult to draw off the scent of Grazzlfot, though.
In desperation, I threw up a gravity flux, sending the lot of them into the air, including the catapult, which took even more damage. Then a few came after me. I led them to the line of defenders guarding the valley, who started cutting them down. Then, doubling back, I did my best to draw the attention of the rest. Doing so was my sacrifice to the defense of Ak’Anon.
As a veteran adventurer, I was not permanently dead, as you know. I was able to resurrect myself and I proceeded to lick my wounds. I was in over my head. Bigilam Wantilans was right. I needed to hunt more large rats. Many more.
I needed to talk with someone about my complete failure. Everything I’ve always thought about myself and the world had been derailed. I sought out my old mentor, my confidant. Perhaps the wisest living Gnome.
Juline always had a way of explaining things so I could understand, even though she did not use a single word. My mind centered, and I understood that some aspects of this threat are above my current ability. There is no shame in that. I must think outside of the small wooden box. Use what’s around me. Defenders, soldiers. There is a way, I just need to come up with it.
I left her in an entirely different state of mind than when I came. No, I’ve been adventuring so long, my friends are mostly retired, guilds I proudly belonged to have dissolved. I am an enchanter, though. Perhaps I can frighten some off. Mesmerize them singly (not as a group as my panicked Gravity Flux probably did as much harm as good). Peel them off and take them to the troops. Perhaps draw some troops up there, if I can anger the Minotaurs and steamworks enough. Rage and emotions are their undoing. Fear was mine, but I will draw up some more plans. I am outmatched and outgunned.
But it takes only a pebble in the gears to grind a clockwork to a stop.
There are still things a spunky Gnome can do….