As they trundled across the wastleland in Numeria’s eastern Sellen Hills, Hudson called out a warning. Something was approaching the Titanis, and it was moving fast, stirring up a massive dust cloud in its wake. Orin, still waiting down below, quickly ascended to the rig’s rooftop, his body forming into solid ice from an ice body spell. The party made their preparations, expecting the worse.
They were not wrong to prepare themselves. Out of the dust, four riders emerged, Technic League gearsmen armed with rifles, and following not far behind them was a massive machine, its back heavy with death in the form of rockets. The party fell into action. The Beasts of Hellion fell onto the interceptors, immediately slaughtering one of the rider’s horses and dismounting its owner. Hudson opened fire with the Star Cannon and, when they came in range, Alexander’s Guns, drawing black, thick blood from the riders’ metallic bodies. But the League’s soldiers returned fire as well, damaging the side of the Titanis’ hull.
Orin responded with the summoning of a phantom chariot, magical hippographys pulling the vehicle aboard the Titanis. Astrid and Orin clambered aboard, flanked by Rok the Wary, and set off to board the large, rocket-firing machine. Orin led the charge with powerful lightning, setting the clouds above aflame with thunder. From this thunder, Rhodin himself summoned forth a huge lightning elemental, which moved to join the fray. All the while, Hibok pushed the Titanis ever forward, as Hellion’s repair drones worked to undo the damage to the hull.
As they passed over the rocket machine, Astrid and Rok leapt off. The bugbear missed his quarry, but Astrid did not. She planted herself on the machine’s back, and set about dismantling its rocket launchers. And the fight elsewhere raged on, as the mounted soldiers traded fire with Hudson. But the gunslinger was not moved by his enemies’ violence, and his father’s revolvers fired seemingly without end, dropping one of the riflemen and severely damaging the rest.
Under heavy assault by the warrior on its back, the rocket machine fired one last ordinance at the Titanis. The missile landed square on its roof, immediately destroying half of its solar panels, and severely damaging the rest. But as soon as it did so, Astrid hacked off the last of its weapons, leaving it in the dust, and Titanis’ wake. Defenseless, the machine tore away through the desert, leaving Astrid in its own dust. Orin, the Beasts of Hellion, and Rhodin’s lightning elemental made short work of the remaining gearsmen.
In the wake of the battle, the repair drones conducted repairs on the rig, with some help from Rhodin’s artificing. Down below, the party convened to discuss their next plan of action. Hibok bemoaned they had been found already, not even half a day out from Scrapwall, and Amber expressed her concerns that the party could safely make it to Sunder Horn at all. Perusing the map, and their options, the party decided to try a different strategy. Orin, Thorgur and Astrid boarded his phantom chariot and flew back, towards Chesed, from which the Technic League rode, to see what they were up against. Rhodin stayed behind with Hudson and the others, as the Titanis drove to the banks of the Awzera River, whose crossing might give the Titanis a sizable escape in the Awzera Fens.
As they rode, Rhodin was visited by Hibok. The two dwarves exchanged greetings, commiserating for their lost homeland – though Hibok reeled at the knowledge of Rhodin’s time-traveleing adventures, and despaired at the seeming ineffectiveness of Malam’s missions, given the apocalyptic landscape they now faced.
“The greater the darkness, the greater Torag’s light shines,” Rhodin told the gunsmith.
“You must have some faith, if you can see this world and still believe,” Hibok replied.
The two parted amicably, with Rhodin leaving Hibok with one final revelation: his family name, Skyking.
An hour into their scouting, Orin, Astrid and Thorgur spotted the Technic League’s war party on the move – miles away, but much closer to the Titanis than they would have liked, as Amber had feared. They mused over their options some more, and Orin attempted a gamble. He attempted to call out to a spine dragon in the nearby hills, a noted enemy of the League. Yet the shredded magic of this world failed him, and he did no more than yell loudly in his companions’ ears. But, whether because of this or something else, the trio found themselves catching the attentiion of the war party below. Flares of fire spouted into the distant air, and the trio watched as something detached itself from the long caravan of machines – and began to fly right towards them.