Scene 1 – Awakening
Mneme, Darkling Antiquarian: Having spent the last years in the lower reaches of her Keeper’s mansion being used as a walking repository for memories and thoughts stolen from other captives, Mneme finally stumbled upon an oddity – a book that she was unable to read or decipher. Finally sounding out a brief phrase in her halting voice, she was absorbed by the book into a rune-encrusted maze that soon blazed with a searing blue witchfire. Fleeing for her life and escaping into a crevice in the masonry, Mneme found herself sliding rapidly down a vertical passage, clawing desperately at the walls to slow her descent.
Evie, Beast Swimmerskin: Delivering yet another load of ore from the submarine tunnels she mined, Evie’s world was wracked by tremors and the caves began to collapse. Frantically trying to escape the crushing stone, she struggled to the surface and emerged onto a dry, arid beach, and tried to explore past the thick dune grass. A bevy of predatory crabs chased her into a crack in the sea-cliffs, where she lost her footing and tumbled down a slope into the caverns below.
Grim, Elemental Fireheart: As a metalworker near the mining shafts of his Keeper, Grim was startled out of his daily torturous drudgery by a flash flood that burst upon him. After being washed out into a wasteland of icy thorned thickets, he tried to descend the mountain slopes, only to be battered by an avalanche that deposited him into a glacial crevasse. Struggling to his feet, he pushed deeper into the caves nearby, only to have first one, then two other Changelings fall from the upper levels in front of him. All three continued into the underground maze of
Scene 2 – The Slag Pits
Sharp metallic odors assaulted their noses and dull orange light limned the jagged edges of a subterranean passage way. Coming to a split in the tunnel, they could hear mechanized clanking, the hiss of pressurized vapor, and radiant heat from either direction. Moving on, Grim found a broken clockwork object that somewhat resembles a mechanical mole. Evie unsuccessfully tried to repair it, finally allowing Grim to bring his expertise to bear. Whirring back to life, the mole led them to a metal cabinet holding a rusted horseshoe magnet on a chain.
The passages soon led to a series of rooms where ore was being shoveled into a large set of smelters, causing the orange glow from the fires and the molten ore that flows out. The smelters were manned by a number of steampunk mechanical laborers wielding shovels in their hands but with large brass blunderbusses slung over a shoulder. As the characters stealthily approached, helped significantly by Mneme’s Contract of Darkness, there was a rumbling and a huge metallic centipede crashed through the wall of the chamber, mandibles chattering wildly as it scooped up unprocessed ore and began consuming it.
The mechanicals unloaded a fusillade of fire into the giant creature and shoveled it unceremoniously into the smelter, where its chittering reached a nearly-unbearable pitch before stopping. The characters move past the smelters by stealth and found a sequence of automated carts which they boarded after a few unsuccessful attempts. Channels of molten metal, blind tunnels and cul-de-sacs eventually led to a staging area with a trapdoor, opening it with the previously discovered magnet. After Grim salvaged a makeshift weapon from parts of his damaged mine cart, Mneme began to ascend the ladder behind the door, leading up a marble-lined shaft.
Scene 3 – The SteamworksSpinning gears, cycling belts, and the clash and clang of metal and manufacturing resounded through the area where they emerged. Opening the door to investigate, Mneme found copper and brass fittings give the space a dull sheen under the flaring lights. While less of a maze than the tunnels below, the sheer quantity of moving objects made the factory floor extremely hazardous. The air was filled with debris and byproduct, which Grim and Evie weathered but that gave Mneme difficulty.
Fortunately, the first room they reached was a locker room with a few masks and goggles on pegboards. The room seemed abandoned, being extremely grimy and faded with a thick layer of dust. Using a few of Mneme’s hairpins to assist in some basic larceny allowed them to access the lockers, yielding some Hedgespun garb for Evie and an old .44 Colt “Thunderbore” revolver for Grim.
Further exploration revealed that this was obviously not a normal processing plant, however. The bathroom doors opened into an impassable tangle of thorns. The cafeteria was abandoned, and any food storage was packed with dried leaves, beverage containers were filled with low-grade kerosene, and the oven simply displayed a pile of glowing embers in a coal scuttle. A door labeled “Break Room” opened onto a massive stack of twisted and broken apparatus.
The machinery was producing hundreds of metal ingots with a jigsaw-like appearance, as though meant to be connected and assembled – into what, who could say? A metal cabinet with a yellowing card reading “Keys” produced another token – the Cuckoo Key. The path of the glowing ingots led toward the narrow loading belts, where the materials were shot through exit chutes. A large set of firmly chained double doors led outside. Using a nearby control box , Grim was able to direct a stream of high-velocity ingots toward the doors and, after Mneme accelerated the machinery, smashed them wide open.
Scene 4 – The Spillways
The ingots were being shot over a wide stone terrace into receiving bins below, from which goblin dockworkers loaded them into sturdy barges that floated away under a waterfall to cool the cargo before drifting downstream. As the only one willing to exit the factory, Grim saw the goblins unlocking the barges and poling them away downstream into the spillway network, where the barges were sent spiraling away down the rushing river. A whisper from overhead revealed a half-finished gargoyle, eager to trade information. First he asked for Grim’s true name; which the changeling was understandably loathe to part with. Joining the conversation, Mneme found a fallen hammer and chisel, whereupon the gargoyle asked to be carved free. In return, the gargoyle explained that a goblin recently fell from the terrace and the vines below covered his body, which should still have contain a key to release one of the barges. Before flying away, the gargoyle cryptically remarked that “the waters of Arcadia always run dark.”
Climbing down the vines, Grim found the corpse at the foot and, after a quick search, produced the key. Determined to steal a barge, Mneme dashed back to the cafeteria and gathered materials for a few Molotov cocktails, planning to use the flames to distract the goblin workers. Despite some initial difficulties in hitting her intended targets, she was able to set part of the surround Hedge ablaze, distracting the workers long enough for the two girls to descend the vines and get to the barge, grim close behind. Once aboard, however, the goblin crew realized the ruse and sent two boats in pursuit, leading to a ragged chase down the perilous rapids of the river, fending off hazardous rocks and vengeful goblins.
After smashing up the pursuing craft and pulling Evie back into the boat, the three Changelings spotted a shrouded side channel leading off into the Hedge, its water brighter and clearer than the raging black torrent bearing the characters downriver. Recalling the gargoyle’s words, they altered course and investigated the new waterway, optimistic but uneasy about the confining channel that soon narrowed significantly.
Taking the tributary quickly led into a maze of marshland, where the insects were aggressive and predatory and the plant life was keen-edged and lethal. The weeds and sedges were tall and sharp, looming far overhead and frequently enclosing the channel into a grass-roofed tunnel. A single open pool sent the three drifting under a woven mass of plant life bearing a few healing Soothesap fruits as the water grew brighter and clearer. Finally, with a rushing wind that injured Grim with the lashing plants, the barge shot out into open water under a nighttime sky. Blinking in the sudden darkness, they feel the barge thump gently into a solid object as the lights revealed the Baltimore skyline. Drifting to a stop, they heard someone nearby pump a round into a shotgun as a rough voice called out, “Well now, what have we got here?”