Into the Metal Heart of the Forest

Walking, more walking, and automatons.

Arborus let out a cry of defeat that echoed through the woods, rousing distant wolves and frightening great birds in the skies overhead. The fog retreated, wiped away as if by a great, unseen hand.

To the northwest, the receding fog reveals a deep ravine, cut into the floor of the forest, running north into the highlands. Faced with a decision—continue following the river as many other adventurers had done, or descend into the ravine in the hopes that it remains unexplored—the party opts to scramble down into the narrow gorge.

The ravine winds northward and upward into the heart of the Great Cloud Forest, carved over aeons by the stream at the bottom. There is enough space to walk next to the river, and so this is what the party does.

They follow the ravine north for two and a half days, and it grows ever deeper and darker. Nights pass uneventfully. Fish are caught and smoked. Lalae makes a tea for Jevel, which he seems to like, until it makes him fall asleep during his watch. And eventually the reach the end of the ravine. The stream that makes the bottom of the gorge flows out from a large cave.

Without a moment’s hesitation, the party lights a torch and enters the dark. The cave winds on for what seems another eternity. And when the party finds a side tunnel branching off of their main route, they veer down it for a quick look. At the end of a short tunnel, an iron automaton stands. It wakes when Jevel throws a rock at it. After a short battle, the automaton is defeated, after Lykourgos ravages the gears in its back. He removes its heart—an egg-shaped stone inlaid with crystal traces—and the crew continues on.

At the end of the second day underground (but who’s counting anyways?) the winding limestone tunnel opens into a vast cavern, lit by glittering crystal. At the heart of it rises a great pyramid, surrounded by an abandoned city. Some buildings are half swallowed by huge stalagmites, others are crumbling from thousands of years of water and mold, but that hardly diminishes the scope and magnificence of the place.

But there’s no time to marvel at it. Another automaton comes lumbering out of the nearest building. Over three meters tall, with wicked swords on its arms, and dart guns at its elbows, walking on four spidery legs, the guardian zeroes in on the party. Lykourgos, Jevel, and Lalae launch an assault on the automaton’s drive mechanism, revealed when Jevel tears off the back plate, while Haleth and Ryros charge the machine’s underbelly. The party emerges victorious—if a little battered—and they turn their attention to the lost city…



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