WORK IN PROGRESS…
Having (literally) unseated the Salamander king, Searzul, from his throne beneath the halls of the ruined Beoll-dur and slain him, the party continued to make their way through the feverishly hot stronghold of the Peerless Legion in search of a way back up to the surface.
Despite their best efforts, the scouts and thieves of the party were unable to find any other access point in the throne room. It was the blue-blooded Vetnik who discovered a secret passageway out of the room though, which opened into a long, spiraling corridor cutting through the subterranean kingdom. (“There’s always a secret exit!”) 60 feet in, Grum and Grunt disarmed an undisclosed trap before continuing down the corridor that ended in a locked, untrapped door. Grum opened the door, revealing a room filled with jewels and treasures piled against the walls at least 10 inches high. Lyssa urged Moira to detect any evil while Grum looks over the storeroom with his Gem of Seeing and revealed that the treasures appeared authentic. As the Moira scanned the room, Thom reached into the pile of treasures and inadvertently set off an unseen trigger. An arcane gate opened and from it emerged three more Salamanders who proceeded to ambush the party. Both Grum and Moira were both slashed by their spears; the second ended up fumbling and injuring itself while engaged with Moira. The infernal presence of the creatures began to quickly warp and char the gold and jewels, and seeing the potential for chromatic ingredients to be damaged, Lyssa rushed to cool the room with an ice storm from her Wand of Frost, coating the room in blinding sleet. Grum fired off a pair of arrows, and Vetnik watched proudly as Moira deftly glided across the icy stone floor to cut into the Salamanders in retaliation. Both Trisoll and Thom chose to buff their companions from the corridor, bestowing blessings and banging out triumphant rhythms on war drums. Just as Abigail rushed into the room, glass longsword drawn, a Salamander lashed out with its tail, crushing her right shoulder with it. Moira shrugged off another of the Salamander’s spear blows while Abigail was left at the mercy of another Salamander, breaking her left leg. Vetnik slid across the sleet-covered floor, missing the first swing against Moira’s attacker, but as he neared Abigail, he drove his blade into the Salamander’s tail. Two of Grunt’s arcane arrows zipped into the room, colliding into the magma-hot skin of Abigail’s attackers. The mage hunter tried her best to summon the strength to swing her sword, but the pain of her injuries seemed too much to bear.
Vetnik ripped his blade from the Salamander’s tail and reached over and drove it into the Salamander Moira was defending herself against, much to her surprise. Grunt continued to fire off Hank and watched as the pale bolts exploded against the Salamander. In retaliation, Vetnik received a spear to the side, but he shrugged the blow off and continued on. Abigail struggled to get back to her feet but as she inched away from the Salamander, she felt the horrid pain of its heavy tail crash down against her left leg once against. Hearing Abigail’s cries of pain, Moira spun around and slashed at the Salamander but her form proved too loose and she missed. Trisoll called out to Moira, “Do you need me to heal you?”
“No! Abigail needs you!”
Trisoll sighed and begrudgingly rushed in to give Abigail one of his patented (albeit reluctant) healing hugs. The hug was half-hearted though, and only afforded Abigail a sliver of her health. Trisoll quickly retched himself from her, but as he turned to walk away, he saw a plaintive look in her eyes, one that silently asked for some kind of mercy. Thom put aside his drums and drew his longsword and cuts through the Salamander menacing Abigail, poking its lifeless body once with the tip of his blade with a shrug. Lyssa sheathed her Wand of Frost and as she approached Thom and Abigail, she opened her hand and let loose a flurry of magic missiles against the remaining Salamander. In retaliation, the Salamander began to intone a gate spell but before it could finish speaking the portal into existence, Grunt fired off two killing Hank-bolts.
The thieves in the party began to dig through the ice-covered treasures, rifling through cracked and damaged jewels to pocket the few pristine remains beneath. Vetnik and Moira sheathed their blades before he gifted her a potion of healing.
“If you’ll excuse me, I have to tend to Abigail,” she said as she carressed Vetnik’s cheek before going. As Moira moved to join Abigail, she watched as Lyssa displayed, sternly, a once-in-a-lifetime show of kindness by gifting her half-sister a potion of healing. Abigail wiped her mouth and the sisters momentarily glared at each other in silence. Lyssa turned around, snapping her cloak as she walked past Moira and joined the thieves in raiding the treasure.
Vetnik was hesitant to load up any more treasure as the Bag of Holding was already weighted with the party’s earlier stash of treasures as well as the metal armor they were forced to conceal upon entering Kellagha. Grum scouted ahead and found another door, acid-trapped and locked, but managed to disarm and even salvage the bladder of acid for his own use. He opened the door to find a room identical to the previous, teeming with jewels and treasures. Vetnik advised the party to anticipate another ambush, and proposed that they trigger the gate by disturbing the treasure. They agree and while Grum scouts the corridor ahead with help of his Ring of Invisibility, Vetnik tossed a broken gem into the pile of treasure. Just as he suspected, as soon as the treasure was disturbed, a portal opened. Three Salamanders emptied into the room to find the archers of the party with their arrows notched, with Lyssa standing in the middle. She opened her palm and released a wave of wild magic that collided against the three demons. Two of the Salamanders watched as wild magic overcame their companion, paralyzing it in place. As the wild magic dissipated, the party watched the energy swirling around the room return to Lyssa, causing her to levitate off the ground against her will. The two Salamanders mobilized against the party, attempting to strike out at Grunt but both missed. Grunt in turn kept them at bay with the help of Hank. Abigail attempted to take up her blade once more but as she swung her blade, the pain of her shoulder proved too persistent. Thom took aim with his longbow and fired off a pair of arrows, both of which found purchase. Vetnik revealed to the party a talent for javelin throwing as he chucked a Javelin of Lightning into the room. As the javelin zipped into the room, its exterior was consumed by crackling energy before becoming a bolt of pure electricity, shooting through one of the Salamanders before disappearing and consuming a second.
Uncontrollably levitating, Lyssa opened her hands and released four magic missiles into the body of the paralyzed Salamander as Thom rushed into the room with his longsword drawn, stabbing into the still-smoking body of one of the Salamanders, felling it. Her eyes blood-shot with frustration, Abigail took up her sword once more and rushed in after and finished the paralyzed Salamander off with two killing slashes, cleaving it from neck to belly, spitting on its bifurcated torso. Lyssa pressed her hands against the roof of the room and directed the others below on which gems to pull for herself, but Thom reminded her that the hoard was a party find and would be split in due time. Once finished pillaging, Grum called out to the party, alerting them of the safety of the rest of the passage. They followed the sound of his boot steps down the still-winding corridor until coming upon an open and very large room. Inside rested a long table in the center surrounded by 13 chairs with large seats, presumably made to fit the legless Salamanders. Grum and Thom scouted the room for any hidden exits; Thom found a door and could hear the sound of slithering behind it. Upon opening it, they were greeted by a pair of Salamanders angered by the assassination of their king. The archers of the party released a flurry of arrows into the demons, attempting to draw them out into the more open room. After firing his first set of arrows, Grum tripped as he attempted to notch back two more arrows. Still fitful, Abigail limped in with blade unsheathed and managed to slay one of the Salamanders. The last Salamander managed to dodge both Thom and Grunt’s second round of arrows. Vetnik and Moira rushed in and together cut into the last Salamander. In return, the Salamander attempted to gate in reinforcements but failed. Grunt gave Hank a rest and jumped into melee using his broadsword, but it was Moira who slayed the last Salamander. The room itself was a large and rectangular decorated with intricate stone reliefs depicting crude Salamander conquests over man, the procession of which lead to an elaborate and large bed.
Taking the exit from the sleeping chamber, they followed the scouts down another corridor. As they progressed, they could feel the warmth inside intensify to the point of oppression. Those clad in armor struggled but pushed ahead. Not accustom to such heat, even the stoic Vetnik seemed shaky in the heat. The corridor lead to the single door, thicker than the others they had encountered. Thom could hear behind it the sound of steam and slow dripping, but could not bear to keep his ear to the door for long, as the thick stone was hot to the touch. They quickly opened it and found inside a room with walls coated in flowing lava that seemed to drip from the walls and coalesce into a large portal in the center of the room. The planar gash swirled with orange radiance, and the air around it seemed to shimmer like the hot air floating off of searing hot iron. Moira sensed no evil from it though, but the magic was potent. Drawn to the power, Lyssa approached and slid through the portal without warning. The twins shrugged and leaped in after, only to find Lyssa crouching on a solitary island of molten rock floating in a plane of endless glowing magma, and soon, all three immediately began to buckle under the weight of the incredible heat radiating from the pool beneath them. They quickly backed out of the portal, emptying into the room they were once in, which now by comparison seemed brisk and tepid. The rest of the party tended to them, their bodies flush and drenched in sweat, as if traversing the deserts for days without water.
“That wasn’t a great idea. Let’s keep moving,” quipped Lyssa, her throat yearning for water. Moira passed around the waterskin as they made their way out of the portal room and backtracked their way out of the dungeon. As they traveled back, small blobs of lava began to pool through the cracks in the stone floor, forming into small impish beings composed wholly of molten rock. The beings turned and hissed at the party, and with steaming breath, emptied out streams of lava from their eyes. Abigail screeched in pain as the lava burned her flesh and coated her wooden armor. As she crumbled to the ground, Trisoll reached out and cast control temperature over the area, cooling the hall down considerably. Through glowing pale eyes, Trisoll watched as the flesh of four of the creatures cooled and blackened before shattering.
Having scavenged what wealth was left undamaged in the room, the party once again readied themselves to move. A short discussion determines that though Searazul lies slain, the pillar containing the soul of the dwarven cleric Duinor still lays undiscovered. Abigail steels herself despite her recent misfortunes and loses herself in thought for a moment while Grum and Grunt resume their position at the front of the party as they begin to retrace their steps. Heading south through Searazul’s throne room, the party is struck by the fact that the King’s corpse is nowhere to be found. Moira, tapping into her knowledge of demonology, explains that even a minor power like Searazul cannot be forever destroyed on the Prime Material Plane and that his essence had no doubt retreated to the Abyss to reconstitute itself. Grum decides to head west at the juncture beyond the demon’s chambers, he and his rapidly improving pupil, Grunt checking for traps and secret doors along the way. A door to the north at the end of the corridor opens to a second such passageway, extending in either direction. The warrior thief spies a door on the opposite wall just twenty feet from their point of egress and heads to it. After Tom places an ear to the door and the lock mechanism is inspected by the rogue of little words, the passage is opened. A short hallway reveals two doors. The closest door is checked first and the bard indicates that he hears a sound reminiscent of liquid. Once entered, the room is revealed to contain a long pool of boiling oil. Across from the pool lays a narrow platform on which a pair of iron golems silently guard an ornate door on the east wall. A rock is tossed into the pool and a number of tentacles snake out of the blistering pool and thrash about, looking in vain for a foe to drag into the scalding pit. After some deliberation Tom assumes gaseous form and floats across the perilous basin. As he reaches the gilded door, the golems spring to life but are unable to stop the bard from passing through a small crack in the door. Behind it he finds a temple to the dwarven god, Moradin. Deciding not to defile the holy shrine, Tom returns to the group with his revelation. The party decides to move on.
The door to the north, though locked and trapped, proves no match for Grum’s fine manipulation of his thieves’ tools and is soon splayed open. Behind it lay a room lined with bookcases, with 3 free standing cases in the center. Upon first gaze, Lyssa darts into the room and begins searching the moldy tomes for anything useful. A number of codexes do indeed prove to be salvageable and imbued with magical power. The bard searches his memory for tales and clues that might prove to identify these enscorcelled pages and is able to piece together the names of several before the party picks up and moves back out into the larger corridor.
Carefully heading west, the party spies a door on the north wall sixty feet down the passage. Making their way to it, they find that the other side of the aperture emits a low hum of some sort while a violet glow creeps out from under the space at the foot of the door. Cautiously, Vetnik opens the door, Moira and Abigail flanking him. The entryway leads to a room that houses a sixty foot high, ten foot diameter crystal that glows with a magical luminescence. A voice issues from the pillar asking if the task is done, if the Salamander King lies dead. The party affirms that it is so and the voice introduces itself as the former dwarven priest, Duinor. Duinor first expresses surprise that both man and elf would endeavor to aid the dwarves before commending their bravery and tenacity. The party members are then told to approach the pillar one by one as the spirit of the crystal bestows gifts upon them. Once the grants are given, Duinor informs the party that Emperor Durgoth must be told of Beoll-Dur’s liberation. He tells them that the tunnels to Bar’doth Kek-Taur will be impassable to them without his help and in that moment, Trisoll clutches at his head in discomfort for a moment before he seems to recover. When the priest of Tritheron speaks next it is not his voice that issues forth. Duinor explains that he has possessed the free spirited cleric until the palace of the great undermountain city is reached. Duinor intones the words of ancient dwarven magic and the party sinks into and becomes one with the stone beneath their feet. After descending a short distance, the party finds itself in a large cavernous chamber. “It is here our journey begins”, explains the spirit wearing the flesh of the party’s dear friend. As the party rests and prepares themselves, Moira asks Duinor about his shock at the idea that man and elf might help the cause of the dwarves and he explains the story of “The Great Betrayal”. It seems that a hundred years ago, the orcish clans allied with the united tribes of giants to extinguish the light of dwarvenkind from Kellagha. The dwarves looked to their allies, mankind and the elves to assist them in repelling this dangerous coalition of foes, and man and elf, jealous of the wealth of their friends under the mountain, turned their backs on the Gore’denach hoping that they would be weakened or destroyed. The dwarven forces suffered devastating losses but prevailed despite their numbers. In the aftermath of that narrow victory, it was decided that all dwarves would return to the mountain, living above ground nevermore. Additionally, Emperor Durgoth ordered that all trade of metals with the surface be immediately and indefinitely suspended. This, Duinor says, is the reason that the party must be taken to an audience with the king. No man or elf has done deed one for the kingdom of the undermountain since this dark time. Moira’s thoughts drift to the Cortoxian acolytes on the surface, watched over by the Geldan exile Abraxos, and how she will communicate their destination to them…