Super Dungeon: The Time Train
This theme reveal was written by Alice L., Theme Master of Super Dungeon 2022.
“Another load of steel for Bay 5!”
“Keep those fires hot, lad! We’re a forge, not a bakery!”
“Look out below!!!”
That last statement was followed by the scraping of chains. Artificers and engineers, blacksmiths and alchemists, and even a lone reporter scrambled out of the way as the top of a rocket clanged onto its other half. Immediately, goblins in soldering gear scrambled all over the structure, and sparks began to fly haphazardly. It was rare to see the large scale construction space of the tinker’s guild of New Keteratonik so abuzz – usually, activity (and the occasional explosion) were confined to the network of smaller workshops.
Floating above the fray, Tor Avitpaxu and Progrix observed at the hectic, bubbling hive of activity underneath them. They were invisible, of course. A giant floating tortle and a furry mythical beast would cause too much of a commotion. But they were hardly here on vacation. The rift yawned above them, and it was the very cause of this current fervor.
As he watched yet the goblins assemble yet another cockpit, Tor Avitpaxu frowned, the creases on his gnarled face deepening into valleys. He had seen the first capsule pass through the rift – and how it had nearly shaken apart before making it through. These mortal-made constructs were too unshielded from the raw power of the rift and were only good for one way journeys, if anything. And even though most adventurers were willing to take risks, they still had people they cared about and would not like the idea of being stranded forever in a foreign time.
What a waste of perfectly fine metal, he thought. Still, Tor Avitpaxu supposed the capsules had not been entirely sacrificed. They could now tell that the rift was really a portal that led to some point in the distant past of Ritenus. Now more and more adventurers were being sent through, in hopes that they’d find out more. But they couldn’t go hurling thousands of gold pieces worth of material into the rift anytime a group needed to go through! At this rate, the mortals would bankrupt themselves long before any disaster arrived.
No, what the mortals really needed was a dependable and reusable way to traverse the rift. Tor Avitpaxu contemplated his companion, who currently had his thick furry tail wrapped around his front claws and was staring quite intently at the sparks flying below. Something like Progrix would work nicely – being a divine beast, Progrix could enter (though not pass through) the rift with no repercussions. He was dependable. He was cheap to power.
The only problem was the Progrix was not a very good large class vehicle. Sure, he could shapeshift to be much bigger, but that didn’t mean he was safe. Adventurers or their equipment falling from a high height above New Estanos certainly seemed like a bad situation for everyone involved…
Progrix, sensing his master’s thoughts, pondered over them. His ears flicked absentmindedly as he scanned the chaos below, trying to find something that could help.
Suddenly, Progrix spotted a spurt of steam from the corner of his eye. He maneuvered his invisible bulk around stacks of materials and over walls until he found it’s source: a train! Laden with steel and coal and all the other things the workers needed, it was big and shiny and powerful. People filed on and off the train in neat, tidy columns. Watching the scene, Progrix felt a shiver pass from the tops of his horns to the tips of his claws – it was perfect! Not sparing a single moment, Progrix jumped up and pranced proudly back over to Tor Avitpaxu, tail waving. The Tortle god was now floating upside down, apparently trying to look at things from a new angle. Progrix nudged the Tortle god with his nose insistently, and he turned to look at the divine beast questioningly. “What’s the matter? Did you find something?”
Progrix nodded, then pointed with one claw in the direction of the train. When the god didn’t move fast enough for his taste, he grabbed the Tor Avitpaxu’s staff in his mouth and began to drag him over to the train. There was no time to waste! Adventurers were probably being shot through the rift this very second!
“Hey!” With no small amount of struggle, Tor Avitpaxu extracted his staff from Progrix’s mouth. “How rude, Progrix. Now what’s the rush?” He looked around. Progrix had dragged him to a different part of the workyard, which was just as busy as the rest. The only thing of note here was the large train that had just pulled in. A train…Tor Avitpaxu frowned contemplatively, then brightened.
A train would be perfect! Large, with ample storage space, maneuverable with the use of tracks, and easily powerable by Progrix! But he could hardly build it alone. He didn’t have the slightest idea how trains worked, and even divine magic could only make up for so much. He’d need the help of Charchaeon, for sure, and Vicnaritas, and possibly even Wilehelion. Hmm…
Looking back at the workshops, Tor Avitpaxu swung himself up onto Progrix’s back. He gave the divine beast a pat on the head, eliciting a happy rumble. “Let’s go, old friend. We have a lot to do.”
Weeks later, the people of New Estanos gaped as a train made out of an unidentifiable brownish metal spiraled out of the sky. It formed its own tracks as it chugged its way down and down and down, finally stopping just outside of the Adventurer’s Guild.
As the crowd gaped, Tor Avitpaxu stepped out of the front, complete with a conductor’s hat. Ignoring the gathering, he slowly made his way to one of the carriages and rapped on the door. “We’re here!” He called.
For a moment, nothing happened. Then, there was the sound of a small scuffle and the door slid open. An extremely tired looking Kenku emerged first, clutching a backpack to his chest and mumbling about how ‘this was out of his paygrade’. He was soon followed by a battered looking warforged, two Tabaxi, a Tortle, and two halflings, most of whom were slightly singed and rather dazed.
As the adventurers began to regain their bearings, Tor Avitpaxu turned to address his growing audience. “Hello, fine citizens of New Estanos! As I’m sure many of you already know, I am Tor Avitpaxu, one of the Pantheon. This fine contraption next to me is Time Train.” He patted the dull yet distinctive vehicle beside him fondly. “We are now the official transportation for all adventurers through the rift. You can acquire tickets from the Adventurer’s Guild…” As he continued to explain the intricacies of using the Time Train, the onlookers finally seemed to shake out of their collective stupor. Whispers grew into confused and contemplative murmurs. From the back of the crowd, a blue scaled Kobold in a fedora and an oversized trench coat began to push her way forward with urgency. Though she elbowed animalfolk out of the way rather aggressively, her small stature made progress difficult.
Finally, Tor Avitpaxu stopped talking. He seemed to think for a second, tapping his chin with one long claw in contemplation before continuing. “Well, I think that’s all I have to say. I hope to see some of you on board soon!”
With that, he climbed back onto the Time Train. The machine came to life all around him, and he chugged his way back into the sky before vanishing , leaving behind a disappointed reporter, bedraggled adventurers, and a very confused New Estanos.