The woke up to the sound of hellish screeching and the porters shouting about strange shadows - as if of men flapping their arms - passing over the campsite. Sean, Sloth, and Vlad ran out of the tent, as did Ricin Dexter and his Temple armsmen, Meniscus and Beaker. The three PCs drew their bows and sling, Ricin readied a throwing scalpel, and the armsmen pulled out long rifles.
The weird creatures soared low, silhouetted by the rising sun. As they approached, they resolved into huge winged creatures, half stag and half griffon with many sharp-tipped antlers. The humans got two volleys off, with a few arrows and bullets inflicting minor wounds on the perytons. As they approached, Beaker ran off and hid behind a tree. Then the beasts tried to gore Meniscus and Ricin upon landing, but one missed entirely and the other only slightly punctured Meniscus' side. Ricin fought with poisoned scalpels, but the poison didn't seem to affect the creatures.
The PCs moved to defilade positions so they could shoot the perytons without risking much friendly fire. They did this pretty effectively, getting a few good ranged hits in before all charging in to surround the perytons and chop them to death. Meniscus was scuffed up, and Ricin took a wicked slash into his shoulder.
Sloth knew that Peryton gall bladders could be used to make a potion that allowed a human to run faster, and had Sloth attempt a harvest. He successfully extracted one, but also removed their hearts and roasted them off the open fire. Sloth and Vlad ate them, and Sloth experienced temporary chills and ghostly visions afterwards. Vlad also plucked some of their feathers and claws.
Buoyed by this victory over huge magical creatures, the group decided to head back into the dungeon, undaunted by the reports of metallic screeching that emanated from the tunnels the previous night. They opened the "Barracks" door and found themselves in a 30' room with two southern and one northern door. Inspecting it closely, they found many footprints and a large dust-free area surrounding the northern door, which they decided was a trap. Vlad inspected it closely and found that the lever door handle indeed had a strange sort of resistance to being opened. After some discussion, they tied a rope to the handle and pulled the door open. On cue, a large black metal pipe swung down and through the door. A broken piece of metal wire hung down from the ceiling.
Beyond was a 30' hallway ending in another door, with two more on the west wall and one more on the east. The group decided to ignore this hall and try the southeastern door. They found that it opened into some kind of bathroom - they recognized the fixtures as toilets and showers, but of a far fancier and technologically advanced kind than they'd ever seen. There was another door in the west wall of this room, and they opened it to see a group of eight more automatons.
Unlike the others, however, they hadn't incorporated human bones into their frames, and were friendly. They looked at the party in surprise:
"We're uh a janitorial crew."
"There hasn't been any janitors here for hundreds of cycles! Many things need to be cleaned. For instance, the bathrooms you are in are very dangerous."
"Well we'd be happy to clean, but there are other robots we met, that had human bones in them, and they tried to kill us."
"Degenerates! They are despicable fallen creatures. We only use automaton parts to repair, due to our superior moral circuits."
"Could you come help us as we... cleaned?"
"Yes, we will send four with you, and the rest of us will defend our base of operations."
Looking around, it didn't seem like much of a base - lots of broken shards of furniture, and a pile of human bones in the southern end of the room. Nevertheless, four robots stepped forth, and marched north into the large room.
As they did so, the dust at their feet swirled and congealed, lit from within by static sparks.
The robots exclaimed, "Dust ghosts!" and began to attack. The party swarmed from behind, and found their swords and sling bullets effectively dispersed the ghosts. Only 1 automaton was pushed over during the battle, suffering a few dents.
Sloth asked what dust ghosts are, and the automatons said they were the lingering wills of their ancestors. "Robots building other robots? Sounds good to me," said Sean.
The group headed north and the four automatons grabbed the hanging pipe and started lifting it back towards the ceiling and extruding thin steel wire. The party told them to wait, however, in case they had to pass that way again and the automatons obliged.
They began opening the doors in this hallway in clockwise order, finding a large single bathroom, with a working toilet and shower, but no sink - just like the communal bathroom they visited previously. Next was an empty 20' square room with plastic hooks mounted on the walls. After that, however, was a 20' square room with a huge floor to ceiling mirror built into the eastern wall, and a hole with multicolored wires poking out of it in the north wall. They found that the mirror couldn't be pulled off the wall, and seemed to conceal a hollow space. Sean and Vlad searched every surface of the room but found nothing new, other than that the mirror didn't seem to have any hinges - clearly the wires were some kind of control mechanism. They consulted the automatons, but the metal men said they didn't even know of such a space. They also didn't seem concerned about the party breaking the mirror, so Sloth wound up his sling and took a crack at it. The bullet ricocheted off, and nearly hit him in the face. He decided they needed more power.
Next, Vlad and Sean examined the wires, and asked the automatons, which said that there used to be a kind of personal lamp there, but they had no idea when it had been detached.
The group tried the final door in the hallway and found it to be nearly empty, except for an unlocked black metal box. Vlad inspected it and found it to be trap free, but had Sean unlatch it. He found two gold pins with some kind of eagle and star insignia. They concluded they were rank pins. Sean picked up the box and found it to be about 10 pounds, but didn't have the room to carry it with him.
Returning to the surface, they asked if Ricin wanted to take a look at a few things, and the scientist obliged, ordering his armsmen to keep a sharp eye out while he was gone. Vlad pinned the insignia on him and the automatons straightened up and shouted, "Lieutenant!" and asked him what the status of the Company was. "Uh... good. It's like, good," he said. The party cajoled Ricin into lightly interrogating the automatons, and found that they were charged with protecting the Gatehouse, "where we are now," and preventing anything from leaving the Environment "entry is to the southeast," which was "accident free for hundreds of cycles." The environment was closed, however, and had been when the company left - "standard operating procedure." When asked if anything was dangerous, they said that there was some kind of creature - worse than the "degenerates" - in the northeastern section of the Gatehouse, but that the Environment was "filled with danger and opportunity!" The automatons once again tried to get the party to clean the bathrooms but were ignored. Meanwhile, footsteps echoed from the hallway, coming from deeper within the facility, before fading again.
Ricin was then brought to the wires, which he said looked like mostly power cables, and a couple that weren't power cables. Vlad decided to try brushing some of them together but was unable to trigger anything. They sent Ricin back to the surface and went back down part of the "Subsurface Research Facility" stairs, inspecting the door they had ignored last section. Upon opening, they found another 20' square room, a lever, and a 5' wide black disk in the floor. Nothing they tried could budge the lever even an inch, and Sloth said it probably needed power. Sean grabbed the black metal box and set it on top of the disk, finding that it appeared to be of the same metal.
Vlad and Sean opened the drawers and found them to be filled with ancient papers, written in Common but still basically incomprehensible. Vlad also noticed that the dust at his feet was pooling and running in rivulets towards the west side of the room... dust ghosts! The three PC's and four automatons were able to overcome the 7 creatures, Vlad finding that his arrows were much less effective than the heftier blows from Sloth's sling or his sword, but three of the automatons were heavily corroded and one of the dust ghosts pulled down Sean, shoving an abrasive, dusty arm down his throat and into his lungs. Even with Sloth's healing spells, it would take the elf nearly five whole weeks to recover.
Vlad inspected the automatons and decided to return to the last session's battle site, but found only small handfuls of debris - the 15 destroyed bots were nowhere to be found, and there were two 10' scratch marks along the walls. When Vlad and Sloth delivered the parts to the automatons and described what they had seen, the bots shuddered in fear, and said it was probably the abomination. They thanked Vlad and decided they must retreat to their base in order to repair and assess the situation.
The party decided they would do the same, and took the papers to Ricin, who was visibly excited by the sight of them, and brought Sean back to camp.