Kobolds' Crystal Caper
Kobolds' Crystal Caper is a game-ready dungeon designed for level 1 and including notes on adjusting the dungeon for levels 2-4. It features an underground complex that guards a sealed shard of demonic energy and a tribe of Kobolds that have broken in to loot the place.
The dungeon is built so that its entrance can be easily fit anywhere in your campaign. It could be located behind a secret basement door, down the stairs of a cemetery's mausoleum, or through a corridor from another dungeon.
This dungeon uses content from the Monster Manual, Volo's Guide to Monsters
, and Xanathar's Guide to Everything
A full keyed map and player version are available here
. If you have Dungeondraft, you can also download the original file here
. A PDF version of the adventure is available here
, or on GMBinder
What's Happening Here?
This underground complex was built around a shard of demonic essence that crept into this world from the infinite Abyss. The religious order that constructed the dungeon guarded the world from the corrupting energies of the demonic artifact while studying its power and origins. The order has long since faded into obscurity, leaving the complex abandoned and the abyssal shard locked away. Now, a group of kobolds has broken into the complex, lured by the telepathic murmurings of the demonic spirits within.
Who is Present?
- Hox Grellbait is a gray-brown Kobold Dragonshield with bands of circular scars he got from a near-death scrape with a grell. Hox was able to kill the grell before it killed him, a feat that has earned him great respect among his tribe. Hox still has a crippling fear of being grappled, especially by tentacles. Hox recently obtained a glowing magic weapon, a Moon-Touched Scimitar, which he covets jealously.
- Kashak Topbrain is a spotted red-brown Kobold Inventor who cackles maniacally over his own genius. He lives for the surprise and discomfort caused by his strange improvised weapons. Kashak believes himself to be a genius and loudly proclaims his every invention to be "his greatest creation yet!"
- Sir Venistaro Marnez is a Skeleton with an intelligence of 10 that can speak common. Venistaro was a paladin in life who was dedicated to protecting this dungeon. He was entombed here after his death with his magic weapon, a Moon-Touched Scimitar. Recently, the weapon was stolen by the kobold Hox Grellbait. This desecration awakened Venistaro, who now seeks to hunt down the kobolds and prevent them from further looting of the dungeon.
- The demonic spirits within the abyssal shard are malicious Dretches that long to be free. Their innate telepathy lets them touch the minds of creatures inside the dungeon complex, but only creatures that can speak abyssal can understand their pleadings to be free. To everyone else, they simply feel a strange sense of something calling to them.
- Noisy Mausoleum: In this adventure hook, the dungeon is located beneath an old mausoleum in a local cemetery. The grounds caretaker, Finillus Jacks, has been hearing weird noises coming from the mausoleum (originating from the kobolds). He begs the party to investigate and put a stop to the disturbing noises.
- Family Secrets: In this adventure hook, the young scion Artullo Marnez has discovered old family documents describing the final resting place of his ancestor, Sir Venistaro Marnez. Artullo hires the party to explore this tomb and recover a long-lost family heirloom, the Moon-Touched Scimitar.
- Beckoning Presence: While wandering around town or exploring another adventure site, one of your party's characters begins to sense something calling out to them. This presence is voiceless and vague, but they get the sense it is begging for help. The sensation (which originates from the demonic spirits) guides them to the entrance to the dungeon.
- Plot Hook Delivery System: If you need a place to hide a magic item, McGuffin, or piece of forgotten lore for your party to recover, you can easily place it in the Library (Room 5), inside the Abyssal Shard (Room 11), or in the Kobold's Treasure Hoard (Room 16)
The adventure as written is built for a group of 4 level 1 characters. Here are some ideas for adjusting the difficulty for higher level parties:
- Room 4: Add 3 Kobolds.
- Room 5: Add 1 Kobold and 1 additional Giant Rat.
- Room 11: Add 1 Dretch.
- Room 12: Add 1 Kobold Inventor.
- Room 15: Have Hox arrive after 2 rounds instead of 3.
- Room 4: Replace 2 Kobolds with Kobold Scale Sorcerers.
- Room 5: Add 1 Kobold Sorcerer and 1 additional Giant Rat.
- Room 11: Replace all 3 Dretches with Maw Demons. These Maw Demons have telepathy out to 60 feet.
- Room 12: Kashak has 21 hit points, and add 1 Kobold Dragonshield.
- Room 13a: Remove 1 skeleton, and Sir Venistaro Marnez uses the statblock of a Wight.
- Room 15: Hox has 64 hit points and arrives after 1 round instead of 3. He is joined by add 1 Kobold Scale Sorcerer.
- Room 4: Replace all Kobolds with Kobold Dragonshields.
- Room 5: Add 5 Kobolds and replace the Giant Rat with a Death Dog.
- Room 11: Replace 1 Dretch with a Shadow Demon.
- Room 12: Kashak has 21 hit points, and replace the Giant Rat with two Death Dogs.
- Room 13a: Sir Venistaro Marnez uses the statblock of a Wight.
- Room 15: Add 5 Kobolds and 2 Kobold Scale Sorcerers. Hox has 64 hit points and arrives after 1 round instead of 3.
Exploring the Dungeon
The dungeon's floor is tiled with gray stone. The walls and ceilings are carved from from light gray stone shot through with veins of red garnet. Ceilings in the hallways are 10 feet high, and ceilings in rooms are as high as the narrowest width of the room (minimum 10 feet). Most of the doors are wooden. If doors are locked, they can be unlocked with a DC 12 Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check or forced open with a DC 13 Strength (Athletics) check. Unless otherwise noted, the dungeon is unlit. Holy Symbols:
The holy symbols present in this dungeon depend on the patron deity of the order that built the dungeon. This choice is left to the DM, but here is a list of suggestions for common settings:
- Helm (Forgotten Realms): Staring eye on an upright gauntlet
- Dol Arrah (Eberron): Rising sun
- Bahamut (Points of Light): Dragon's head, in profile, facing left
- Pelor (Greyhawk): The sun
A 10-foot wide staircase leads down to this room. A fountain filled with clean water is in the center of the chamber.
Any characters with a passive Perception of 15 or higher can hear the sounds of a something being dragged in Room 4. Making too much noise here draws the attention of the kobolds in Room 4.
2. Paladin's Quarters
This well-appointed bedroom is covered in dust. There is a moldering bed in the north-western alcove and lines of bookshelves against the northern wall. A table and chair in the south sit next to a small rack of rusting weapons.
This room was once the living quarters for the head paladin that oversaw this dungeon. A creature that examines the weapons sees the old crest of the Marnez family on their hilts. The bookshelves contain religious texts and historic volumes relating to the Marnez family and their formation of a religious order dedicated to guarding the world from demonic incursions. Treasure:
The desk contains a holy symbol in the form of a metal emblem worth 10 gp. The holy symbol can be used to bypass the trap in Room 7.
This plain room contains 7 moldering cots with basic furnishings. The dusty floor is disturbed by numerous small reptilian tracks left by kobolds exploring this room. A small door on the far wall leads into a dusty privy.
This room was once the barracks for guards that patrolled this dungeon. It has been long since abandoned.
4. Meeting Room
This ornate room has a large straight table lined with old and broken wooden chairs. The back wall has been broken inward, creating a rough 3-foot diameter hole leading into a round excavated tunnel. Creatures:
are dragging an ornately carved chair towards the tunnel. They intend to present it as a throne for Hox Grellbait. The kobolds don't initially attack the player characters, instead threatening them with their spears while shouting "Go away! This our territory!"
The kobolds can be calmed with a DC 11 Charisma (Persuasion) check, or by offering them any amount of gold or treasure. If calmed, the kobolds will reveal the following information:
- Their tribe follows Hox Grellbait, a mighty kobold with a glowing sword.
- The tribe came to this dungeon following whispers in their minds.
- Scary skeletons are trying to steal Hox's sword.
- The tribe simply wants to loot this place for all it can offer them.
Regardless of whether they are calmed, the kobolds will not allow the party to explore the dungeon or stay in it. They will persistently demand that the party leave. They will attack if the party refuses. They may look the other way for a bribe of 20 gp or more. Tactics:
The kobolds fight always fight in pairs or as a pack, taking advantage of their Pack Tactics
feature. The kobolds are not particularly brave. If a kobold is damaged, it will attempt to retreat through the tunnel on its next turn, taking the dash action. If only one kobold is left standing, it will also retreat.
This sizable library is filled with numerous old tomes. Many of the books have been pulled off the shelves and left haphazardly on the floor. The dust in the room has been disturbed by many kobold feet.
This room contained the collected lore of the religious order that built this dungeon. Much secret knowledge may be hidden inside at the DM's discretion. Creatures:
are in this room, loading books into a small roughly-made cart. The cart is harnessed to a Giant Rat
. The kobolds attack on sight. Tactics:
On the first round of combat, one kobold uses its action to unhook the giant rat's harness. The rat is well trained and fights as an ally of the kobolds. If injured, the kobolds retreat towards the tunnel in Room 4. The giant rat fights to the death. Treasure:
If the party spends an hour exploring this library and makes a DC 12 Intelligence (Investigation) check, they find three volumes with ornate metal covers studded with small gems. The books are worth 50 GP each to the right collector. The other volumes in this library might be worth quite a lot all together, but it would be extremely difficult to find a buyer.
6. Storage Room
This room is filled with old wooden crates and chests of drawers. Many of the crates have been levered open, revealing ancient decaying supplies of rations. Treasure:
Inside the chests of drawers are ten sets of valueless religious robes. Each robe also has a metal holy symbol worth 5 gp. The holy symbols can be used to bypass the trap in Room 7.
There are also 5 empty glass vials in a drawer that could be filled with holy water from Room 8.
7. Statue Trap
This intersection of four corridors is illuminated by four torches lit by the Continual Flame
spell. A larger-than-life stone statue of a paladin stands in the center of the intersection. It carries a stone scimitar in one hand and holds a real metal holy symbol in the other. A phrase is carved around the base of the statue: "Show your devotion or face judgement." Trap:
If any creature approaches within 10 feet of the statue that is not carrying or otherwise displaying a holy symbol from this dungeon, they trigger a trap. The statue momentarily animates and attacks the creature with its stone longsword (+4 to hit, 5 (1d6+2) slashing damage). This trap can trigger only once per round.
If a creature approaches within 10 feet of the statue while carrying one of the holy symbols, both their holy symbol and the holy symbol in the hand of the statue glow briefly, and the trap does not trigger. Development:
The first time the party reaches this intersection, the dretches in Room 11 try to make telepathic contact. If a character can speak abyssal, they hear a voice begging "Help. Free. Release. Power given. Help."
Otherwise, it sounds like desperate but unintelligible whispers.
8. Holy Water Fountain
This room contains a basin of water that is continually filled by a jet of water emerging from the carved head of a dragon. The water gives off a faint white light. The overflowing water falls to the floor, where is drains away in the pattern of an arcane glyph.
The water in the fountain has been blessed to be holy water. The rules for holy water can be found in the Player's Hand Book
, chapter 5, page 151.
9. Crystal Observation Room
The doors leading into this room are locked. This study contains a desk and chair and a chest of drawers. A wooden table is set directly in front of a window reinforced by iron bars that looks into Room 11. There is a small metal lever embedded in the wall next to the window. The room is dimly illuminated by red light shining in from the massive red crystal visible through the window.
The lever in the wall can be pulled to raise the portcullis connecting Rooms 10 and 11. One minute after being pulled, the lever automatically resets and the portcullis falls.
This room was used to study and observe the abyssal shard in Room 11. There is a journal resting on the desk that contains many of their findings:
- The crystal is a shard of the infinite abyss, the chaotic evil home plane of demons.
- The helm inside the crystal was once a powerful magical item that has weakened with time.
- Three demonic spirits are trapped inside the crystal, dragged with it from the abyss.
- The shard could be destroyed with Holy Water, but doing so would release the demonic spirits.
There is a horned demon skull resting on the desk that is worth 60 gp to the right collector. The chest of drawers contains two Potions of Healing
, as well as three empty glass vials, intended to be filled with holy water from Room 8. Developments:
When the party enters this room, the dretches in Room 11 try to make telepathic contact. If a character can speak abyssal, they hear a voice begging "Lever, open. Crystal, break. Power, promised."
Otherwise, it sounds like desperate but unintelligible whispers that grow more excited when the party approaches or touches the lever.
10. Cleansing Shower
This round room has four metal spouts sprouting from the wall a foot above head height. A lever on the wall causes clean water to spray from the spouts in a cleansing shower. A grate on the floor drains the water away.
This room was used to decontaminate scholars that examined the abyssal shard in Room 11. The door leading to that room is locked.
11. The Abyssal Shard
The only way into this chamber is from Room 10 and past an iron portcullis that can be opened by the lever inside Room 9. It the portcullis is down, it can be lifted by creatures working together with a collective Strength score of 20 or higher.
This round chamber has a domed ceiling that begins 10 feet high and rises to 30 feet high over the room's center. The whole chamber is dimly illuminated by a crimson light that shines from a 5-foot wide, 10-foot high jagged red crystal in the room's center. A terrifying black helmet is visible suspended inside the center of the translucent crystal. Three shapes of darkness like wisps of smoke swirl inside the crystal.
This is the abyssal shard, a physical remnant of demonic energy. It has an AC of 14, Hardness of 5, 50 Hit Points, and immunity to psychic and poison damage. Reducing it to 45 or fewer hit points causes it to crack, immediately releasing the three demonic spirits trapped inside. Reducing the abyssal shard to 0 hit points causes it to shatter, permanently destroying it and causing the helmet to drop to the floor. A single splash of holy water instantly destroys the abyssal shard, releasing the demonic spirits inside. Creatures:
The three demonic spirits inside the crystal are Dretches
. The dretches may have promised power to any creature that releases them, but this was a lie. They are cruel creatures that immediately attack any non-demon they encounter.
While the abyssal shard remains with more than 0 hit points, each dretch regains 3 hit points at the start of each of its turns. If a dretch is reduced to 0 hit points, it immediately turns to invulnerable black smoke and flows back inside the crystal. One hour later, the dretch re-emerges with all its hit points restored. If the crystal is destroyed, any dretches inside of it that had previously been reduced to 0 hit points are released with 1 hit point. After the abyssal shard is destroyed, the dretches die if reduced to 0 hit points. Treasure:
The helmet inside the crystal is a Dread Helm
, a common magic item from Xanathar's Guide to Everything. It once contained more power. At the DM's discretion, there may be a way to restore it to its original power, turning it into a Helm of Telepathy
. Perhaps Sir Venistaro Marnez is capable of restoring it, or perhaps the party will need to go on a whole new adventure.
This room looks like it was once a simple blacksmith's workshop. It contains a small pit of coals, an anvil, a work table, and several racks of blacksmithing tools.
This room was used to maintain and repair the equipment the guards of this dungeon used. Creatures:
The Kobold Inventor
Kashak Topbrain is in this room, along with his pet Giant Rat
and a Kobold Inventor
assistant. Kashak calls the giant rat Clang due to a suit of metal armor that Kashak made for it. The armor gives the giant rat an AC of 14.
Kashak cackles at the party's arrival, excited by the prospect of testing his weaponry. He demands that the party surrender and hand over their "shinys" or they will discover why he is known as "the greatest and most deadly inventor of this age." If the party surrenders, they are looted of their material wealth and escorted out of the dungeon.
If the party refuses, Kashak and his team attacks. Clang the rat and Kashak fight to the death; Kashak's inventor assistant surrenders if reduced to 5 or fewer hit points. Treasure:
The racks on the walls contain a complete set of Smiths' Tools worth 20 gp. The work table also contains an ornate silver shield emblazoned with a holy symbol worth 35 gp.
13. Chapel of the Fallen
This chapel is the resting place for the guards and paladins that fell in battle securing the abyssal shard. The double doors leading into this room are locked.
13a. Chapel's Main Hall
This 50-foot long chamber is lined by two rows of columns supporting the 20-foot high ceiling. One of the columns at the eastern end has fallen to the ground, creating a small barrier that can be hidden behind to provide half cover.
The eastern 15 feet of the room is raised 5 feet and supports an ornate marble coffin. The coffin's lid is carved to resemble a priest; the lid is slightly ajar. Behind the coffin the wall has been broken inward, creating a rough 3-foot diameter hole leading into a round excavated tunnel. Creatures:
have emerged from Room 13b and are battering at the door to Room 13c. A third Skeleton
sitting on top of the partially ajar coffin is Sir Venistaro Marnez, an undead with an intelligence of 10 that can speak Common.
When the party arrives, Sir Venistaro holds up a hand in a warding gesture and speaks to the characters: "You who travel these vaults: have you come to despoil this sacred ground, or do you come to aid me in ridding it from its invaders? Speak and be judged.
" If the player characters ask for further clarification, the skeleton imparts the following:
- His name is Sir Venistaro Marnez, the first paladin in charge of guarding this complex.
- A group of kobolds has despoiled the vaults and awoken Sir Venistaro and the other undead.
- Sir Venistaro will allow the party to explore the dungeon if they vow to remove the kobolds and not damage the abyssal shard in Room 11.
If the party agrees to aid the skeleton in removing the kobolds, the skeleton points to the tunnel behind him and tells them to travel that way and seek the kobold with the glowing sword; that sword was originally Venistaro's, and must be returned to him. Returning the sword to him causes Sir Venistaro and the other skeletons to become inert corpses once more.
If the party refuses or indicates they have come to loot the dungeon, Sir Venistaro's eye-sockets flash red and he commands his two fellow Skeletons to attack. Tactics:
Sir Venistaro does not have a sword and must use his shortbow. He remains at the back of the room, fighting at range, while the other two skeletons move into melee range. The skeletons all fight to the death.
13b. Northern Alcove
This room contains two stone coffins and an iron brazier. The coffins' lids have been pushed ajar, revealing their contents to be empty. The skeletons that resided inside are now in Room 13a.
13c. Southern Alcove.
The door to this room is locked. This room contains two stone coffins and an iron brazier. The coffins' lids have been weighed down with heavy rocks. Thumping comes from inside. Creatures:
A terrified Kobold
named Sniv huddles in this room. Two Skeletons
inside the coffins are trying to break out and attack it. Meanwhile, the skeletons in Room 13a are trying to break down the door. Sniv is beyond relieved to be rescued and throws itself at the feet of anyone that offers to let it out, begging for help. Sniv is a surprisingly honest kobold and will help his benifactors in any way they ask save for actually attacking his tribe.
14. Giant Rat Pen
This large excavated space has a 10-foot high ceiling. A wooden fence surrounds a circular pen filled with straw. Two wooden gates into the pen are held shut with knots of twine. Creatures:
Four Giant Rats
are kept in this pen. A creature with hands can use its action to open one of the gates, letting the rats run free. The giant rats are well trained and fight as allies of kobolds, attacking any non-kobold on sight. The rats fight to the death.
15. Kobold Camp
This wide cave has been roughly excavated from the natural rock. Small sleeping rolls for just over a dozen small creatures are scattered randomly across the uneven floor. The chamber is illuminated by a campfire whose smoke is cleverly whisked away through small ventilation tunnels. Creatures:
are in this room, cooking rats on sticks over the camp fire. The kobolds are alarmed at the intrusion of the party; four immediately attack, while the final kobold runs towards Room 14, planning to release the giant rats. The kobolds fight to the death to protect their home. Development:
Three rounds after combat starts, the Kobold Dragonshield
Hox Grellbait arrives from room 16 having heard the commotion. Hox wields a Moon-Touched Scimitar
(+4 to hit, dealing 5 (1d6+2) damage) that glows with a supernatural blue light. Hox took this weapon from the corpse of Sir Venistaro Marnez in room 13a.
Hox is furious at the intrusion of the party, but wary of taking them on directly. He starts by merely threatening the party: "I am Hox Grellbait, the mightiest kobold to ever live! My scars show my strength, and my magic blade can smite you down with a single blow! You cannot win; surrender and we will talk, else I shall slay you where you stand!
If the party surrenders, they are looted of their material wealth and escorted out of the dungeon. If the party attacks, Hox fights to knock out a single weak-looking character and then hold them hostage, again demanding the party surrender. If they refuse, Hox will not attack the unconscious character, instead deciding to run away rather than fight these heartless lunatics.
16. Hox's Treasure Hoard.
This small cave contains a miniature living space. A single bedroll is unrolled next to a camp fire. The flame's light illuminates this room and dances off a small pile of glittering coins and assorted treasures. Creatures:
Hox Grellbait the Kobold Dragonshield
lives alone in this room, obsessing over his hoard of treasure. Treasure:
This room contains 1800 cp, 1400 sp, and 100 gp in a loose pile. A treasure chest contains two potions of healing
. There is also a golden goblet worth 120 gp, and two pieces of garnet worth 25 gp each.
My Previous Drop-Anywhere Dungeons Tabernacle of the Nascent God Demiplane of Pompolius the Powerful Apostle of Ice and Hate The Fish, The Idol, and the Hag
] TELKAN-2 One Week After the Battle for Hesstla
Brentili'ik looked at the document and sighed. Private Kelvak, in defiance of personal danger and extensive physical injury, used his physical therapy frame and, with the help of two green mantid engineers, held the Precursor autonomous war machines at the south gate at Striker Base Boop to enable the medical evacuation of over two hundred military and civilian wounded. Despite grave injuries, Private Kelvak fought, often alone with the exception of the Mantids 222 and 640, for nearly two hours. At the end, according to records recovered on site, Private Kelvak, with the remainder of his ad-hoc fire team, defended the landing pad against overwhelming odds. Once the last patient was evacuated Private Kelvak and his team of wounded human compatriots, despite mortal injury, continued to draw enemy fire until finally he was struck by a 52mm high velocity burst and killed. For his valor in the face of overwhelming personal danger as well as his persistence despite mortal injury, the Telkan Marine Corps has determined that Private Kelvak's actions upheld the highest traditions and expectations of the Telkan Marine Corps, the Confederate Military Services, and the Telkan People. It is with solemn regret that I record this. --Signed: Admiral NGwark, Space Force, Task Force Commander, Hesstla
Another one. Hesstla had been a disaster as far as she was concerned. Out of fifteen thousand troops nearly two thousand had been killed.
She had to admit, not as dramatic and heroically as this one, many of them killed during deployment when the Task Force dropped into an ambush, but still, too many for her liking.
The fact that nearly 1/3 of the deaths were listed as "Temporal Warfare Casualty" and some of them had apparently served aboard Space Force vessels for over sixty years before expiring of old age, just made the entire thing stranger.
Brentili'ik had spoken to Colonel Harvey, who had told her that the casualties were severe, but not unexpected for an unblooded unit facing their first deployment under fire in a surprise ambush.
She looked at the list of next of kin for Private Kelvak and nearly cried.
Two broodcarriers and four podlings nearly two years old. He had a step-mother and a step-father, as well as step siblings, but according to the records his mother, father, and siblings had all been killed during the First Telkan War.
He had been old enough to join the first class of Telkan Marines by exactly forty-two minutes when he had taken the oath.
Added was a recorded message for his next of kin.
Brentili'ik didn't want to, but she listened to it. "When mom and dad died, when my siblings died, you made me feel like someone still loved me. I love all of you, and I'm sorry I can't come home. Podlings, take care of your broodmommies, and I love you."
played at the end.
Brentili'ik dried her tears and authorized the recording for release. Poor kid,
Brentili'ik thought. Not even a body to recover.
She tabbed the file to be printed and sent out and moved on to the next one. Citizenship is a heavy duty
, she thought to herself.
----------------------------- Hesstla System Time/Date Error In Progress
Specialist Grade-Four Thom Dunmet had been Graves Registration for several decades. The promotion point score was a tough one, but there was a high enough turnover that a being could gain rank somewhat frequently. He'd made Sergeant several times, but sooner or later he'd get drunk and get in a fight and find himself in the back of a military police car about to lose some rank.
Still, he was Graves Registration, and allowances were made.
He had to admit, this had been a rough deployment. Nagging headaches were least of it.
It was all the locals, the civvies, coming in missing the tops of their heads and their brains, that had really made it tough. The most common cause of death was 'cerebral extraction' among the civilians.
Then top it off with everyone's SUDS going on the fritz, he'd found himself checking off 'clinically deceased' less and less and 'permanently deceased' instead.
He would eject the SUDS memory cartridge and pack it up, although more and more as time went on the cartridge had error telltales blinking.
It was late, he'd switched shifts to handle night casualties after working day shift for quite some time. The morgue was dim and cool, not to mention quiet like he liked it.
The Clankers and their masters had been pushed back, giving the Terrans time to breathe and regroup. Which meant the casualties had come in thick and heavy for the last two days, leaving the morgue full of bodies.
SP4 Dunmet had finished the last autopsy, wheeling the corpse into the refrigeration unit, and had moved over to start on the paperwork. He moved over to his desk and started downloading his notes from his datapad to his console, making sure the files were loaded onto the correct casualties.
The lights flickered and Dunmet looked up, switching to a different screen.
The door slid open and black mist rolled in, pouring out of the doorway.
Dunmet moved his thumb over the icon that would summon base security.
Robed figures moved in and Dunmet heaved a sigh of relief. Religious personnel, probably from the Chaplain's Office,
he thought to himself. He went back to his paperwork, keeping one eye on the six robed figures.
They were all obviously Telkan under the robes, shuffling forward. They had black robes that seemed to shine in the dim light, matte black masks over their faces rather than the normal Telkan tan and brown, and moved slowly in a single rank of four with one to each side slowly swinging a thurible that left trails of incense smoke.
They moved up to one of the drawer doors, the lead one opening it. They pulled out the drawer, revealing a covered corpse that was only half the normal length of a Telkan. When they pulled back the sheet they revealed the ravaged body of a young male Telkan, missing below the bottom of the rib cage. The Telkan male's jaw was missing teeth, a cyber-eye was crudely jammed into an empty socket, wired led from the back of his skull, cut free a few inches from the exposed spinal column.
Dunmet watched as they stood around the dead Telkan, one holding a heavy tome marked "The Book of Telkan" close to his chest with black gloved hands.
"This is the one we want," one of them said, his voice low and serious.
They all nodded.
Dunmet was looking up when it happened.
The three that were not carrying items touched the dead Telkan.
There was an eruption of purplish black smoke that then sucked back in on itself.
The Telkans, including the corpse, were gone.
Dunmet hit the security icon.
The scribe was blind, had been blind since a Precursor machine had torn out his eyes and tongue to broadcast his agony over GalNet. His delicate fingers, sensitive beyond reason after the Precursors had torn out his vestigal claws, traced over the long strip of bronze/warsteel alloy. His tools were delicate but precise as he began slowly carving another rune, a rune that burned with white fire in his mind's eye. Each tap of the hammer against the engraver made his soul sing, each curl of dark bronze metal brought the joy of vengeance to his heart.
The strip was nearly two feet long, a handspan wide, with a single column of runes engraved down the face of the inch thick metal strip.
As he finished the strip it was passed to the worker next to him, who would inlay the graven runes with molten metals that would never cool.
Around them the faint whispering could be heard. soft podling warm podling brave podling strong one and one is two two and two is four red shape is square blue shape is round soft podling smart podling clever podling warm
None of the workers could hear the song as it was sung, they had been made deaf by the cold steel claws of the Precursors.
But they heard it in the depths of their souls.
Each of the robed figures had learned their lessons. Taken by those who understood the secrets of dark forbidden science to a place where they had all the time they needed to understand the nature of life and death and the dark science in between.
All of them looked as if they were wearing close fitting armor that was somehow biological yet mechanical at the same time. A light drinking black material that pulsed with a life of its own. All of them had the burning eagle in molten warsteel on their chests. There eyes were burning chrome that leaked smoke as violet as the skies they had stared out for eternal moments.
Shuffling silent workers brought forth heavy pieces of equipment. Each piece of equipment was put in its proper place and slowly a form took shape.
Heavy footpads with four claw-like toes evenly spread. Heavily armored legs, the thick armor concealing pistons, gears, drive-belts, and struts. Articulated hips to allow the legs to move and provide stability to the torso portion. The torso was large, blocky, heavily armored. Gaps were in the armor, the weapons that would normally be mounted there missing. The arms were missing below the elbow, the implanted weaponry being built to the side by technicians who had devoted lifetimes into studying exactly how to put the custom built jewel mechanism machinery together.
It had no head. No reason to provide a small target.
The torso was open, the main hatch opened to reveal the armor was a foot thick of warsteel laminate armor. Inside the torso were complex mechanisms with a dark and terrible purpose, created and imagined by dark minds unfettered by something as simple as morality.
Finally, the mechanisms were prepared, the massive machine trembling slightly, not with the power of the reactor that drove its mighty heart, but with terrible purpose.
The rent and damaged body of the Telkan was brought forth. The wound below the ribcage, where the rest of his body had been obliterated, was sealed with thick biomechanical tissue. The missing arm was sealed at the stump. Covering his face was a heavy mask, more akin to a skull than a living creature. It was bolted to the Telkan, the heavy warsteel bolts sunk into the bone structure.
The chest rose and fell slowly as the mask inflated and contracted.
On the bare flesh of the chest implanted metal gleamed and shined. Cybernetics, something largely unheard of for the Telkan people, invaded the body, giving purpose to the surrounding tissue.
The body was lifted, kneeling Telkan reciting prayers from the Book of Telkan, and placed in the opened torso of the massive machine.
Technicians dark and terrible moved in, connecting the quasi-corpse to the machine. Heavy probes went into the skull, the drill bit biting deep into the bone to bring forth a gush of blackish blood. The probes were sunk deep into the neural tissue, microscopic filaments squirming out of the probes to link up with neural tissue.
The one remaining eye opened at one point, the pupil contracting, and the quasi-corpse writhed for a half second before going limp.
The technicians secured the damaged body into the massive machine, sometimes cruelly with heavy warsteel bolts, other times with gentle webs of cloth woven from the shed down of podlings, other times without emotion using plasteel straps.
The body was protected from kinetic shock, radiation, sound, biological hazards. One by one each threat of the modern battlefield was negated as best as the silent technicians could create it. Once it was done the empty internal spaces were packed with specially woven cloth inscribed with runes, prayers, and symbols of faith and devotion.
The inner lining was closed. Parchments inscribed with prayers were pasted to the metal alloy. More shock dampening was added.
The outside of the hull was closed. Two black armored foot tall mantids were lifted up and placed gently in the twin housings on the upper rear of the torso, covered with padding, and the shells closed.
Computers, nearly covered with strips of paper inscribed with prayers, whirred to life. Ancient style storage platters spun up with a scraping whine. Nanorelays and cyberware linkages clattered to life, clicking to themselves.
The gathered Telkan, one of which still reading from the Book of Telkan, watched as the great machine shuddered and shivered.
The blackish-bronze alloy square in the middle of the chest, just above the burning eagle, suddenly lit up with a gold light.
A rune slowly inscribed itself on the alloy square. KAPPA
"Arise, Kappa, and serve!" the Telkan with the book cried out.
There was silence for a long moment.
"Beyond death, I still serve, buoyed by the laughter of podlings," the massive machine intoned.
In the wreckage of a city on a small planet a puff of purple smoke erupted, billowing out to cover a large area before suddenly vanishing, sucking back into itself and disappearing with a purple flash.
Standing in the wreckage was a massive war machine. One arm terminating in a powerful four fingered clamp with a plasma napalm ejector at the palm. The other arm a heavy tri-barrel autocannon capable of tearing through the heaviest armor. Its chest contained mortars to provide indirect fire support, battlescreen projectors better fit to ships of the line, and was covered in runes.
It stood still for a moment, the only sound the wind making mournful noises as it moved over the heavy armor.
Finally it raised a thick antenna and broadcast a simple message.
"Warbound Kappa. Online and awaiting instruction. Even beyond death, I still serve."
AKLTAK SOARING WORLDS
I don't know about that. Are you sure you should do that?
TELKAN FORGE WORLDS
What's wrong with it?
TNVARU GRIPPING HANDS
Where did you learn to do that kind of thing?
TELKAN FORGE WORLDS
The Imperium of Wrath guys that Daxin leads.
TNVARU GRIPPING HANDS
AKLTAK SOARING WORLDS
I still don't know about this.
I wish TerraSol and the others were here to talk about this.
TNVARU NEW WORLDS
So do I.
TELKAN FORGE WORLDS
Yeah. It really feels lonely without them.