- Dexx: Young thief, trying to leave behind his former life in the street gangs of the Boneyard to make a living scavenging out in the wasteland;
- Rhiannon: Vault 21 outcast, skilled engineer and adventurous spirit adjusting to life on the outside, with a mission to find her lost mother and retake her vault;
- Craig: Pacifist Super Mutant, seeking peace in a life of spirituality out in the desolate wastes; formidable hunter and medicinal healer;
Rhiannon found herself in a most unenviable situation. Dexx had just inexplicably collapsed to the ground, impossible to wake up from his deep slumber, and she alone remained to face the ever-growing throng of villagers that poured into the building. Quickly she grabbed Dexx’ pistol that had fallen at her feet and cautioned the approaching men, each of them brandishing a spear, to stay back. She was caught with her back against the wall: the only possible way out was the trapdoor in the corner of the wattle and daub building, though this could equally be a dead end. Asarum, the robed man who seemed to be the leader of the Keepers, checked the other villagers and promised Rhiannon that no harm would befall her and explained that they had not poisoned her friends, but merely sedated them as a precaution. He assured her that her friends would have the highest honor visited upon them: the blessing of the one they call the Resplendent One. Rhiannon put little stock in Asarum’s words, but was in no position to bargain. She demanded to keep her gun and never have her friends leave her sight while they were in the village. The hooded man agreed to these conditions, and two of the villagers started to drag the unconscious Dexx out of the building. As Rhiannon followed them out, one of the men clad in a long, brown robe suddenly stepped in front of her and barred the doorway, while four of the villagers came at her from all sides. Struggling to break free from their grip, Rhiannon was hit on the back of the head, and everything went black before her eyes…
Drifting in and out of consciousness for what seemed like days to their clouded minds, Dexx and Craig found themselves lying belly-down, bound hand and foot, in the center of the village. At one moment two of the Keepers came and searched them for any possession, taking everything they found, though they missed one of the knives Dexx had cleverly hidden away in one of the many pockets of his outfit. Dexx could hear the Keepers talking amongst themselves and learned they were to be taken up the mountain, to the temple, before a deep, dreamless sleep took hold of him again. Some time later, Craig briefly woke up as one of the robed men came to feed them a white paste he scooped up from a small wooden bowl, forcing it down both their throats. Too weak to resist, Craig too succumbed to sleep again.
The next morning they were rudely awakened by two of the robed men, striking them with the butt of their spears, ordering them to get up and start walking up the mountain. Three of the villagers stood ready to accompany them as well. The Keepers left the ties on Dexx and Craig, making it impossible for them to go any faster than a slow trot. The villagers took them by the arms and, half dragging them along, began to escort their captives up the mountain path, toward their temple, the large, pre-War structure shining in the early sunlight.
Meanwhile Rhiannon awoke in total darkness on a hard, rocky floor. Slowly she started to feel her way around the place, using the light from her PipBoy, and discovered she was in a small, natural cave. Along the walls of the cave she found a storage space containing baskets of dried fruits, some bags which held a sizeable amount of money and various knickknacks. More importantly however she came across some sturdy wooden crates branded with the Far Go Traders logo. The crates contained various mechanical parts and equipment, which might prove useful. Trying to come up with a plan, she explored the rest of the cave, now armed with a spanner. In the far corner she made quite an unappetizing discovery. A few heaps of moldy organic mass were spread across the cave floor. Prodding one of them with the spanner it immediately crumbled. Worryingly the thought came to her that the piles seemed to be vaguely humanoid in shape. At the other end of the cave she found some rough-hewn steps leading up, with a trapdoor at the top. By now a plan had fully formed, and she set to work creating a contraption from a small pneumatic pump and some power cells, in the hopes of blasting the trapdoor of its hinges.
By now Dexx and Craig were halfway up the mountain, the summit steadily approaching. Desperately trying to think of a plan, their minds were still too hazy to think straight, and they felt very feeble from the substance the Keepers had made them eat. Craig briefly considered jumping over the edge and taking two of their captors with them, but thought better of it. Deliverance came about rather unexpectedly, as suddenly they heard the reports of rifles firing from far above, up the side of the mountain, and one of the robed men holding Craig dropped to the ground, bleeding profusely. Craig took advantage of the confusion that followed to hit the deck, taking the villager holding him from the other side down with him. Dexx hunched over and threw himself to the side, where the path met the mountain wall. More shots were fired and the second Keeper took a hit as well and, dropping his spear and stumbling back, tumbled down over the edge. At the same time Craig had rolled over, using his weight to keep one of the remaining villagers pinned down. One of the other villagers, a young, rather dirty and ugly looking woman had followed Dexx’ example and hugged the cliffs, cowering as another barrage was unleashed and the third villager was shot down. The last of the men still alive managed to extricate himself from under Craig and made use of a lull in the firing to start running down the path, back toward the village. A final salvo followed, but missed the fleeing villager. When the shooting came to a halt, Craig and Dexx made use of the spears dropped by the Keepers to cut their bounds. The young woman meanwhile had remained in her hiding place, not daring to move a muscle, and begun to cry. Dexx used some of the rope to tie her up in turn. The woman, Iris, begged them to let her go, but they would have none of it and planned to drag her along up to the temple, as going back down to the village didn’t seem an option to them and they hoped to find Rhiannon there. Turning their attention to their mysterious saviors perched up high on the mountain side near the summit, they now recognized the shooters as their guides Al and Frank, who had stayed behind when the three of them had gone up to the village. The two young lads shouted down for the others to meet up with them at the end of the mountain path, near the spot where it came closest to the Keepers’ temple.
Having finished her jury-rigged device, Rhiannon decided to try and break out of the cave. She placed the contraption right underneath the trapdoor, quickly ran down the steps again in case the whole thing went terribly awry. But sure enough, the improvised pneumatic hammer blew the trapdoor wide open, sending it flying of its hinges. Her spanner at the ready, Rhiannon waited a few moments in case any guards came running down, but only one of the local women came, saw what had happened and ran off, shouting for help. Time being of the essence, Rhiannon ran up the steps and through the house, upon exiting which she noticed the woman had already caught the attention of a few of the village men. Rhiannon decided to make a run for it, across the open space of the center of the village, toward the wooden gate where the path leading up the mountain began. Quickly she dashed across, while three villagers ran to intercept her. Intimidating she pointed her PipBoy at them, warning them to back off or get shot by her laser. Her bluff worked masterfully on the technologically unadept men, causing to stop dead in their tracks. This bought Rhiannon enough time to make for the gate, while the villagers started following her again after some angry upbraiding from their leader. Rhiannon ran as fast as her legs could carry her up the path, but slowly the hardy villagers caught up with her. She decided her only option was to make a stand, even though she was only armed with a spanner; it would prove more than sufficient. The first of the men to catch up with her made a wild swing, missed and left Rhiannon the perfect opportunity to retaliate. Bringing the spanner down with all her might she shattered the villager’s collar bone and sent him staggering back, right into the gaping chasm next to the path. By now the second villager was harassing her, throwing a few good punches but unable to get her to lower her defense long enough to get a punishing blow in. Dodging his blows she was alert enough to notice the third villager approaching, stepping out of the way of his running tackle in the nick of time. With an underhand swing she swung the spanner in the villager’s unmentionables, making him drop to his knees gasping in pain. Trying to keep the third one of her, he managed to recover his senses and tried attacking Rhiannon in the back, but she swung around and cracked the man’s skull with a sickening crunch. Seeing both his friends fallen, the last villager tried to overcome her in his rage, but his wild, sloppy attacks only hastened the inevitable. Having dispatched the last of them, Rhiannon quickly continued her way up, hearing more villagers approaching in the distance.
Dexx and Craig had reunited with Al and Frank at the top of the mountain, along with their unwilling hostage Iris. The woman adamantly insisted they meant the outsiders no harm and that the Keepers were a peaceful community. After what had happened down in the village her words sounded hollow to them and Dexx, putting a knife to her throat, forced her to show them the way into the temple, as both of them now desired to have a few words with this Resplendent One. Al and Frank, the only ones with firearms, would remain outside, covering the approach to the summit from their advantageous vantage point. Iris led Dexx and Craig past rows of solar panels, some of which had been lowered and decorated as altars with bright paint and wreaths of flowers, toward the well-maintained greenhouse, in which they could now see a verdant jungle, almost reaching up to the roof of the enormous glass structure. She led them around the building and through two sets of double doors, and they emerged into a small clearing. The inside of the temple felt unbearably hot and humid and the air was alive with the sounds of untold insects and creatures. Past the small clearing the foliage became extremely thick, making the jungle nearly impossible to cross without the proper equipment. In the distance they could spy a giant tree close by, a hill and a cliff with a waterfall further down. Toward the edge of the jungle stood a defunct Mr. Handy, colorfully decorated like much of the place by the Keepers, which treated the Metal Wardens, as they called the robots, with a certain degree of reverence. Dexx decided it would be wise to check if there were any other entrances into the greenhouse first. Exiting the building, they were greeted to some good news as Al and Frank had spotted Rhiannon coming up the mountain, but their good cheer was quickly tempered as further down they could see a small group of villagers moving up the path as well. Dexx quickly ran around the temple, to his contentment finding no obvious alternate entrances. Rhiannon had meanwhile made her way up and met up with this rest of the group. They decided to wait there until the villagers had almost reached the summit, at which time Dexx shouted a warning to them to stay put or they would open fire. The small group of villagers, led by the Keeper Asarum, obeyed readily. The Keeper in return admonished them, forbidding them to enter the temple without having received the proper blessing first, and urged them to lay down their arms. Our heroes had little interest in Asarum’s words, and threatened to bring down the temple if the Keepers tried interfering or coming up the mountain. Grudgingly Asarum saw Dexx, Craig and Rhiannon leave, as the guides stayed behind to cover the approach.
As Craig and Dexx both felt the fatigue of their drug-induced unconsciousness and a gnawing hunger catching up with them, they made Iris show them the way toward the orchard where the Keepers got their food from. Rhiannon meanwhile, having given the disabled Mr. Handy unit a quick inspection, decided she could most likely get it going again with a little work and stayed behind to make the necessary repairs. Iris, seeing no alternative to obliging them, turned into one of the existing narrow paths leading through the trees, followed by Dexx and Craig. The trees and plants here occasionally blocked out the sunlight coming from above entirely, and Dexx and Craig had the unpleasant sensation that something or some one was moving in the trees around them. The fact that the Super Mutant discerned recent footsteps on the path did little to put their minds at ease. Iris deftly led them, and after following the twisting path for a while they reached a small grove, where a great many fruit trees grew at the edge of the forest. Craig picked up one of the baskets lying and started gathering the juicy green fruit, which Dexx first made Iris taste one of, just to be sure. As the sound of rushing water got stronger the farther they had gone into the jungle, they decided to continue down the path and draw some water from the river as well. By now they’d understood that the Keepers were entirely dependent on the temple for their basic needs, and as long as they kept them at bay, they could easily outlast them. So Iris guided them deeper into the jungle, down paths even she had not been allowed to travel by the initiated Keepers. On their way to the river they passed through another small clearing nestled between the trees, where some of the most succulent fruit they’d ever seen was growing on the branches. Dexx experienced an almost overpowering urge to grab some of it, but a wary Craig put a stop to it and dragged him along. The Super Mutant was ill at ease: despite being knowledgeable of most species of plants and wildlife in the wastes, everything he observed here was foreign to him, exotic marvels the likes of which he had never seen. What was more, the constant feeling of being watched by things in the trees only got worse. His suspicion turned out to be warranted, as while they were making their way through the dense jungle, all of a sudden a small group of giant mantises swooped down out of the trees. Dexx was caught off guard by the attack, as one of the mantises came out of the foliage on his left, and the creature mauled him fiercely as it jumped down on top of him. Craig was ready for them however, dodging out of the way as they leapt on the path and with one fell sweeping blow crushed three of them. A fourth went for Iris, by the woman stood her ground as Craig rushed over to gore that one as well. The fight ended as suddenly as it had started, but Dexx had been gravely injured by the giant insects. As his pouch of healing herbs had been taken from him, Craig could do little more than bandage up the wounds as well as he could. Abandoning their quest for fresh water, they turned back to get Dexx out of the temple.
During this time Rhiannon had finished her repairs on the Mr. Handy unit, bypassing melted circuit plates with the expertise she had accumulated in her vault-dwelling days. Unfortunately the fuel tank had turned out to be empty, making its flamethrower unusable until they could find a source of fuel. She reprogrammed the robot, rechristened Mr. Floaty, to follow her along as she hurried to catch up with the others. On her own, she tried her best to make her way through the jungle, but along the path she took a wrong turn, leading her away from the direction the others had gone. Eventually she emerged on the southern edge of the greenhouse, where an array of power converters stood, connected to the rows of solar panels on the outside. She made a mental note of it as she made her way back and, as luck would have it, ran into the others as they were moving back to the entrance.
Dexx sat down to rest with Al and Frank, who remained vigilant at their post. While the others had been inside the temple, they had observed some of the villagers going down toward the village again, so now only three of them remained waiting on the mountain path. Concerned for the wellbeing of his friend, Craig decided they’d better try to find some clean water and if possible, some herbs or plants with medicinal use. With Iris as his guide and Rhiannon and her robot in tow, they entered the temple again and headed in the direction of a small creek Iris knew the location of. Again making their way through the tropical forest they passed along a great baobab tree, towering majestically above the other trees in the vicinity. Craig made sure to check if any of the villagers were near this Father Tree, as Iris called it, but to his satisfaction the surrounding area was empty.
As they continued eastward they passed a small patch of land where various strange, colorful plants and beautiful flowers were being cultivated in neat little rows, but none of them had healing properties according to Iris. Craig grabbed a bucket lying around and they carried on toward the water side. As they approached the mangrove swamp, they could see big flies the size of a man’s head lazily buzzing around, though the creatures seemed to have little interest in the travelers. The group reached the edge of the water without difficulty, where great gnarled mangrove trees stretched out their roots above the water, a quiet offshoot of the river that they could hear further ahead. Craig filled up the bucket and they returned to the second clearing, when the Super Mutant asked Iris to show them where the plants grow that the villagers use for their healing draughts. She said she only knew the general direction, but the woman took them down yet another path cleared through the jungle. After many more twists and turns the path rounded a small slope, covered in thick vegetation. From out of the brush there suddenly flew a couple of viciously sharp seed spikes the size of a hand. Craig, alert as ever, noticed the danger in time and dodged the spikes flung in his direction. To his surprise they came from a couple of tall plants that seemed to move entirely on their own, though rooted to the ground. He ran up the slope and with his mighty strength managed to break one of the plants’ stalk, causing the thing to stop twisting. Rhiannon followed his example and began wailing at another one of the strange plants with her spanner, while Mr. Floaty used his chainsaw arm to great effect on a third. The plant snapped under the barrage of blows from Rhiannon, but not before it wrapped two great leaves, both of which ended in long, nasty looking needles around her arm, injecting some irritating poison.
They continued along the path, passing by a small trail which according to Iris led to the abode of the "Old Ones", the temple's original inhabitants, before they reached a small vale at the foot of the hill they had spied from the entrance. Here some very large, squat red plants grew, the succulent leaves covered with a film of greenish moist. Craig cut off a handful of it, in hopes of using it to emulate the villagers draughts.