A couple weeks have gone by and as comfortable as an RV makes traveling on the open roads, it turns out that they don’t go very far without gasoline. They have a brief boon when a mutant cat turned road warrior tries to rob them, only to realize that he’s outnumbered. Thus Neeford Speed and his sedan end up unwittingly joining the team. The party scraps by scrounging trickles of fuel from Ancient ruins but the liquid only goes so far. Soon the group is forced to leave the RV behind and continue on foot with as many empty containers as they can carry, looking for a new source of salvaged fuel. Fortunately, Oscar still has his trusty draft beast – a mutant land octopus named Slurpy – an a wagon.
After a couple of hours of tromping across the scrub and prairie, the party comes across a thin man dressed in rags wandering aimlessly across the road. When they stop him, he barely responds to their words, only repeatedly mumbling, “Iron King…Stupendico…Iron King…Stupendico.” Closer study reveals a pyramid-and-eye tattoo on his upper arm, revealing him to be one of the Archivists, a cryptic alliance that seeks out Ancient technology to worship. Knowing little else to do with him, the party loads him up with up with some extra baggage and tie him to the back of their wagon, dragging him along as a pack mule.
They soon come to a run-down town called Burly-Ten. The town is surrounded by a rough makeshift defensive wall constructed of broken chunks of timber and concrete. They wander into town and look for a place to rest of the night, trading in some of their Ancient Junk found in Krankor’s lair in exchange for comfortable rooms. George trades in his shiatsu foot massager for deluxe accommodations but Neeford is forced to sleep in the stables with Slurpy.
Since she didn’t need to sleep, Nitro explored the town that evening and discovered a large pile of battered and broken robot parts behind the wall to the north of town. Closer inspection revealed the word “StupendiCo” stamped on several of the parts. Searching her databanks, Nitro suddenly remembered that StupendiCo was the name of an Ancient cryptic alliance that created all manner of powerful (and often destruction) technology. The damaged man they had discovered earlier must have been interested in StupendiCo. She shares this information with her comrades the next morning.
Around midday, the party overhears a ruckus caused by dozens of the townfolk gathering on the northern edge of town. Curious, most of the group follows and finds some sort of betting pool going on with an old slate board erected with distances and odds listed. Not knowing what was going on doesn’t stop Oscar and Neeford from going ahead and placing some bets of their own. The reasons soon become clear as a human-sized, poorly constructed robot comes shambling and stumbling from out of the foothills. The betting is apparently on how close the robot will get to the town. As the mechanoid approaches about 100 feet from the town (and close to Oscar’s wager), it suddenly lifts one clanking arm and fires a rocket at the gathered crowd. There is a brief heartbeat of surprise then the townsfolk scatter. The rocket veers wildly and finally impacts with the wall, blowing an ugly six foot hole in the stone and metal. The robot gives a shudder then explodes where it stands. Oscar collects his prizes.
As the town’s panic winds down, the party spreads out to check around town for rumors, especially about the brain-fried Archivist and the strange robots. They learn that a small group of Archivists passed through Burly-Ten a few months back. The visitors asked a lot of questions about robots, whether the townsfolk had seen any active ones or if any ruins with robots had been found in the foothills. Naturally the answers were ‘no’ at the time. These robots had been showing up a month or so after the Archivists’ visit. They always stumble close by but explode or collapse before they reach the town. Entertainment being a luxury, the town turned the robots into a bit of a game. However, today was the first time one of the robots had showed any offensive capability.
The party also finds out that a local group of badders have a fort somewhere nearby. For the last couple years, the badders have made periodic raids on the town, though they rarely did much damage as long as the townsfolk just hunkered down and stayed out of their way. Badders aren’t known for any particular mechanical skills, especially with something as complicated as robots, so none of the townsfolk figure the badders are responsible for the robots.
The party decided to follow the robot’s trail back into the foothills, hoping to discover where they came from and see if the maybe there was some treasure or (preferably) gasoline for their RV. Ricky was able to follow the clumsy trail easily, though after traveling for the remainder of the day, they still had not found anything. They rested for the night and continued in the morning. They were just breaking camp when another robot came stumbling down the path, heading in the direction of the town.
Curious as any cat, Neeford raced over to the robot and ran circles around it, trying to see what it would do. He spotted the word “StupendiCo” stamped on the robot’s exterior and made the mistake of reaching out to touch it. The robot gave a violent convulse and exploded, sending the hapless cat-man flying and burning him badly. After patching up Neeford, the party unanimously decided that they would leave any further robots alone.
After a few more hours while traveling through some seriously rocky terrain, the party began to approach a stone tower. The tower looked like it had once been a pre-Mistake convenience store or some sort, but recently wood and stone reinforcement had been added and a new second story was in construction. A pair of large metal doors served as the front gate and close by was a wide pit that glowed with a sickly green light.
The party slowed and approached cautiously – then they were challenged by a pair of badders armed with crossbows, who emerged from hiding atop a pair of large boulders. The badders warned the mutants away, claiming that the tower was the stronghold of the Iron King and that invaders would be dealt with violently. Remembering what the Archivist had been babbling, the party knew they were on the right track so they tried to convince the badders that they were explorers and traders with Ancient artifacts to share with the Iron King. But when they tried to show off some of their salvage, the badders decided that they would just kill the lot of them and take the stuff. The battle was joined!
Porkers emerged from the cover of the rocks to close with the party, though they were repulsed by Woodrow’s mental fear attacks and George horny headbutt. Neeford blazed ahead, trying to close with the badders but got too close to the pit and discovered a painful radioactive aura that tore into him as he went by. Ricky uses his speedy mutations to decimate a porker while Oscar and Nitro finished off another.
The group slowly began to advance on the badders and other porkers. One of the badders went down under a fusillade of gunfire and crossbow bolts from Ricky and Oscar. The other found Neeford pouncing into his face but he put his own crossbow bolt into the wounded cat and killed him! However, to everyone’s amazement, the corpse of the first badder suddenly sat up and regenerated, turning into a fresh and unwounded new Neeford! The cat-man waved the situation off as using one of his lives. The party was then able to finish off the last of the badders and porkers.
The next obstacle was the big door. It was simple construction, barred from the inside, and thus without locks to break through. Oscar tried to force the door but it wouldn’t budge. Finally, he started hacking at it with his plasma sword while Woodrow began cutting at it with his torch. Then George noticed that the ceiling of the tower was unfinished, leaving it open on the top. Thinking he could open the door from the inside, he activated his jet boots and leaped over the two story wall and into the tower.
He discovered a quintet of armed badders waiting for him as he landed. Each crossbow-wielding creature was hunkered down behind a wooden shield on elevated platforms. They peppered poor George with crossbow bolts as he stood in stunned surprise and dismay. And as if things couldn’t get worse, from a rough aerie near the back of room rose a giant lionine beast with wide wings. The yexil swooped down onto George, knocking him back with its wings and biting a large chunk of flesh out of his hide.
Spurring by George’s screams, the goat’s companions hurried to his aid. Neeford figured out the jump jets in his powered armor and vaulted to the top of the wall. Nitro pulled out her grappling hook and rope and hauled herself and Ricky up over the wall. Crash realized that he could just teleport through and arrived between the yexil and George. Yelping in surprise, he battered the beast with his plastic fists and teleported away again. George used the distraction to crawl to the gate and push the bar free, letting Oscar and Woodrow into the fray as well.
While Neeford and Ricky made short work of one flank of badders, the rest of the team piled on the yexil. At one point, Crash narrowly avoids death by the yexil’s laser eyebeams by teleporting away and leaving a hapless badder in his place. George unlimbered his Ancient flamethrower and Oscar utilized his deadly discthrower to grievously wound the yexil and drive it back. When the last of the badders were dead, the party concentrated fire on the yexil to finally bring it down.
After taking some time to salvage supplies and some treasures from the badders (George himself found a .45 Colt handgun with a pearl handle in the yexil’s nest), the party decided to rest of a bit before delving deeper into the Steading of the Iron King.