Our heroes descended into the unknown depths in grim silence. Sora and Hillborne stood shoulder to shoulder, eagerly gripping their weapons. Prior stood at their side, his fingers deftly and deliberately adjusting and calibrating the gadgets and machina about his person. Minerva and Faint sat back to back, each with a leg dangling over the edge of the stone disc. Baz stood behind them, a hand resting firmly on each of their shoulders. Olivyn held a bold pose, one hand on his hip and the outstretched, gripping his staff.
The red glow grew brighter as the stone disc lowered into the center of a large cavern. Lava burned and boiled below in a lake of fire below, surrounded by smoothed obsidian walls broken by three alcoves. In each one was a member of the Cult of Eternal Flame. As the disc slowed to a stop, metal posts rose from the lava forming a treacherous, but traversable, path to the center alcove.
One of the cultists shouted and flung a ball of fire at the group. Prior reached out a hand, guiding a small antennae on his back, and the fireball dissipated into a shower of embers. “Nice Try!” Prior said, as Sora shouted “spread out!”. She blinked away, and appeared behind the cultist guarding one of the side alcoves. She lashed out at him fiercely with Fang.
Faint gripped Minerva’s hand and they teleported behind the armored figure with his spear leveled at HIllborne trying to make his way across the lava. As Faint scurried to safety, Minerva plunged her daggers deeply into the enemies vulnerable back and tore off sheets of his elemental-powered armor. He roared and whirled to attack Minerva, but she had already slipped back into the shadows. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a raging half-orc pounding towards him. He turned just in time to be assailed by fierce blows from Hillborne, and then a flurry of blows from Olivyn. Oliyvn smashed the orb at the cultist’s heart and, as he fell to the ground, his armor exploded in a shower of burning metal. Hillborne and Olivyn leapt out of the way, but took painful wounds from the shrapnel.
Meanwhile, Prior kept the fire priest at bay by turning his own fears against him. The Priest, in a panic from Prior’s eldritch illusions, flung himself into the lava and flailed in a confused panic as his body fought to keep the fire at bay despite his blessing from the Prince of Eternal Flame. Baz, calling upon the blessings of Moridin, bestowed a lightness on the party’s feet that would keep them from sinking into the deadly lava. He strode across the lava, kicking at the priest who grabbed at his boots with fiery hands as he passed. As Baz reached the alcove, he turned and flung his Dwarven Thrower as Prior also launched an eldritch blast at the doomed priest. He perished and sunk into the lava. Prior furtively hopped and skipped across the metal studs, his feet smoking and steaming from the heat until he reached the stone alcove.
The first wave of guards had been dispatched and our heroes had made it to the network of caves and passageways surrounding the lake of lava, but they were not out of danger. Minerva, Olivyn, and Hillborne had attracted the attention of the second line of defense: another razerblast, who was warming himself by a pillar of streaming fire, and a fire giant, reclining on a stone ledge overlooking the passageway. With a roar of fury, Hillborne charged forward and smashed into the razerblast. Olivyn gracefully raced along the side of the wall, onto the ceiling above the enemy, and dropped down atop him with a punishing blow from his staff, and then slipped away. The razerblast, distracted by the onslaught from Hillborne, could barely keep track of Olivyn’s rushing, shadowy form. Then Minerva, sensing an opening, leapt atop Hillborne’s back and launched herself at the razerblast, plunging her daggers in for a killing blow. She rolled out of the way to safety, letting Hillborne take the full blast from its exploding armor.
Sora had emerged from the other passageway to see this fight unfolding, but attracted the attention of the fire giant. The fire giant, clad in formidable and expertly crafted armor, was an imposing figure towering over the room. He grabbed a large stone, infused it with elemental fire, and launched it at Sora, catching her full in the chest. She had to take a knee to steady herself from the blow. As the giant hefted another stone, though, Prior caught its attention with several eldritch blasts that exploded around him. As Hillborne and Sora used this distraction to charge him, Prior took aim and caught the fire giant with a powerful blast, sending even his huge form reeling back. As he fell to the ground and struggled to get back on his feet, Olivyn bounded forward out of the darkness and landed a killing blow to its head with his staff.
As the rush of battle faded, the party gathered and took stock of their condition. Sora and Hillborne were bleeding from multiple wounds and struggling to stay on their feet. Prior, Minerva and Olivyn were also hurt. Baz ministered to the worst wounds, though no one was unscathed. As the party rested, they noticed the low roar from the lava and fire of the caverns, occassaniolly interrupted by a violent tremor or a geyser of exploding fumes. To the east, a passage led to another lake of fire, this one flowing north into other chambers obscured by smoke and waves of heat, with no other obvious way forward. Within arms reach of the ledge was a gong hanging from metal posts in the lava. As Sora eyed the gong, Minerva shouted as she emerged from a small passageway she and Baz had found and explored. There was another chamber beyond, filled with strange light. The party followed her through.
After a short climb up the tunnel, they emerged into a chamber with walls lined by skulls. Each skull was filled with a colored flame, pulsing and glowing. But the adventurers barely had time to take it all in before they began wheezing and coughing. The room was filled with a noxious gas. A few party members coughed up blood and struggled to maintain consciousness. They fled in a panic down another tunnel, but quickly realized this lead to a roaring wall of flame. They seemed trapped between the malodorous danger of the chamber of skulls behind them and the burning death of enchanted glame in front of them. But Baz and Sora kept a cool head, and peered into the flame to notice that it was a thin veil of flame, though they were burned and singed as they did so. Within they noticed bound figures, and faintly heard them calling for help. They leapt through the sheet of flame, leaving their companions anxious and concerned.
Within the prison of flame, Sora and Baz found several members of the Dwarven peace delegation from Mirabar, imprisoned by the elemental cultists. They urged our heroes to stop Vannifer, the Prophet of Eternal Flame, from summoning Imiz to this plane of existence. “We hope it’s not too late. We must get out of here and warn Waterdeep and Neverwinter! They must send help immediately!”.
Prior came up with a clever way of getting the prisoners out of their fire prison unscathed: he used his eldritch powers to heave a pile of dirt from the floor onto the fire barrier, banking a section of the flames for a few critical seconds. Baz and Sora shoved and tossed the delegates through the opening and then immediately followed them as the flames roared back into place behind them.
While they were freeing the delegates, Olivyn and Minerva uses their intense focus and training to block their longs and investigate a way to clear the chamber of the noxious gasses. They found a lever behind one of the skulls that opened a valve, and with a rush of air the noxious fumes were cleared out and the room became merely oppressively hot. But not all of the skulls along the wall were completely inanimate: as Olivyn tried to remove his hand from the skull, it crushed his hand with its jaw bone and spat magical flame at him, and then flew around the room cackling. Two other skulls shook and then took flight, cackling and shooting jets of flame over the heads of our adventurers. With some eldritch blasts and swings of their weapons the skulls were turned to bone shards and powder, but not before leaving several nasty blisters and burns amongst our heroes. Baz administered more aid to his comrades, and they looked at him with silent gratitude, their faces covered with soot and sweat.
Faint grabbed the delegates by the hand and said “I will lead you out of here! Friends…continue on without me!”. Faint disappeared through the tunnels back the way they came from, hopefully to reach the safety of the surface without trouble. Minerva silently waved goodbye and turned away, ears drooping.
The remaining adventurers pressed onwards through another passageway, where they found a narrow metal catwalk swaying across a pit of lava. It passed through a column of stone in the center of the pit with a hole hewn into it before leading to another system of caves. Fire snakes seethed and spat at each other in the roiling lave below. As the heroes passed over them, the creatures half-heartedly launched wads of liquid fire at the catwalk and hissed in what might have been mean spirited laughter.
Once across the lava pit, Prior sent Flere ahead to scout the next chamber. It found a sumptuously decorated chamber with an altar to Imix on the far side. A group of powerful cultists knelt before the altar. Hoping to destroy and defeat them quickly, Prior developed a plan for an ambush. Hillborne swigged a potion of invisibilty and loped off to cut off the exist at the far side of the chamber, while Olivyn and Minerva crept around the edges of the chamber, hiding behind pillars supporting the vaulted cavern ceiling. Prior stepped into the room boldly and penetrated the minds of their enemies with an unspeakable fear. They fled in abject terror as the party descended on them in their vulnerable state. Olivyn stunned one of the feeling cultists and so he was paralyzed but still trembling with fear and a desire to flee. When the other feeling cultists reached Hillborne, he cut them down mercilessly. The chamber quickly grew silent as Minerva ended the last cultists with her twin knives.
The party barely had a moment to take in the luxurious surroundings and erotic art in what must have been Vannifer’s chambers before Sora began to smash everything in sight. Within a minute, the entire chamber was ransacked, but luckily other members were able to snatch some helpful magical items and potions before Sora destroyed them. The party gathered themselves and nodded before pressing onwards.
The emerged from Vannifer’s chambers into a titanic cavern filled with gently undulating magma. A rough causeway of natural rock led into the center of the chamber where, obscured by distance and the shimmer waves of heat, a figure stood, arms upraised, before a great altar of obsidian. Two crooked pillars of the same stone leaned towards the altar from either side. Beyond the altar, emerging from the lake of molten fire, was a gargantuan stone colossus towering over the chamber. It’s head was thrown back, as if in agnoy, and tears of fire streamed down its face and lava poured out of its gaping mouth. Hovering above the head of the collossues was a great orb of fire and light, roaring like the mouth of a furnace, muted by the distance.
Hillborne immediately strode towards Vannifer, followed quickly by the entire party. But before they had taken a dozen strides, they heard the beating of huge wings and a low rumble. A shadow rushed over them; a red dragon landed and towered in front of the party. “Where do you think you’re going, tasty little treats?”
Without missing a beat, Prior strode forward and boldly confronted the dragon, who was polite, but firm, in his intention to devour each and every one of the adventurers. Ever the diplomat, Olivyn shushed Prior and graciously introduced himself and the party to the dragon, but his disinterest was obvious, as he licked his teeth with his steaming tongue. Olivyn pulled out his lute and played a mournful sound about the damage that being alone can have on one’s soul. The dragon listened patiently and then said, “That was a lovely tune. I’ve never enjoyed such a talented snack.”
As the dragon reared and spread its wings, Prior took action. His mechanical turrets extended from his back and pulsed with energy as they launched multiple eldritch blasts at the dragon. He was launched back, roaring with anger, and he flew off, concealed in the smoke and shadows of the massive chamber.
Prior remained behind to keep an eye out for the return of the dragon, while the rest of our heroes charged forward. Vannifer lowered her arms and turned at the sudden interruption. As she screamed in anger, Olivyn whispered a spell that stilled the air around her, silencing her cries. But they didn’t stop her elemental defender from coming to her aid. Out of the lava emerged an elemental myrmidon, magma dripping from its red-hot armor. Hillborne fearlessly charged straight at it, and they began to exchange a series of furious blows, blocking and dodging, and sparks occasionally flying as Hillborne scored hits. The half-orc grunted and roared as he was seared by glancing blows from the myrmidon’s dual swords, his tough skin smoking and sizzling. Vannifer turned back to the altar, weaving intricate symbols in the air with a trail of sparks and embers.
As Olivyn, Baz, and Minerva rushed forward to aid Hillborne, they looked up to catch sight of the silhooute of the dragon against the weeping colossus, wings spread wide and snout aimed directly at them. It dove and opened its maw and spewed out its flaming breath upon our heroes. They knelt down and tried to shield themselves as best they could, Olivyn and Minerva cowering behind the sturdier forms of Hillborne and Baz. They were dowsed in the dragon’s breath as it flew low over their heads. Baz, with his well-crafted armor and enchanted protection from fire, bore the brunt of the attack. The dragon banked and turned in a tight spiral to make another approach at our heroes, this time from the side.
While the rest of the party dealt with the dragon and Vannifer’s elemental bodyguard, Sora remained focused on Vannifer herself, recalling that the last portal to the elemental plane that they encountered was closed only with the prophet’s own weapon. She stepped between worlds to appear on the altar in front of Vannifer and buried Fang deep in her side. She screamed silently before disappearing. She too could walk between planes, and she suddenly appeared perched on a small outcropping of rocks in the lava about 20 strides away. Sora followed on foot, striding over the lava with the gods-given ability provided by Baz.
Sore reached the outcropping and climbed upwards towards Vannifer, who turned and unleashed a wave of fire from her hands. Sora managed to duck out of the way, grabbing Vannifer’s hand with her own and directing the flames into the air. With her other hand, Sora struck her again with Fang, digging it deep into her chest as they grappled nearly nose to nose amongst the boiling lava. As Vannifer breathed her last, she erupted into a pile of ash and cinders, which swirled around Sora before being blown away. In the pile of clothes left smoldering in a cleft of rocks sat a cruel looking dagger, Tinderstrike, Vannifer’s weapon. As Sora hefted it, she could tell that it held a spark of elemental power similar to Fang. She looked up at the brilliant orb of fire and light hanging over the colossus and wondered how she would get the dagger through the portal to close it.As Sora had fought Vannifer, Hillborne held off the myrmidon through strength and sheer determination. Minerva managed to slip in carefully and deal several damaging blows, and Prior’s eldrictch blasts weakened its armor until finally a blow from Hillborne’s axe shattered it and the creature collapsed in a fountain of flame.
Olivyn, meanwhile, kept his eyes on the circling dragon, and cast a cloud of darkness about its head. Roaring in surprise and frustration, the dragon dove again, shouting “I can’t see you, crispy morsels, but I can still smell you…”. He flew by and tore into Olivyn as he passed. “…and I will taste you soon!”. It turned again for another pass flying low with its claws reaching out from the darkness as it came towards Hillborne and Minerva. Baz flung his hammer at it, but the dragon didn’t slow. As it flew low, Minerva clambered up Hilborne’s back, with her dragon-slaying sword drawgn and ready. With perfect timing, and assisted by Hillborne taking a knee and lunging up, she flew into the dragon’s path. She plunged the sword deep into its chest and, as it flew by, left a huge gash in its scaly underbelly. As Minerva landed and rolled to her feet, the dragon’s claws tore at the adventurers, leaving bloody wounds in its wake. But as it passed over their heads, Hillborne kept a careful eye on its path as he hefted a javelin. As the dragon banked to turn, Hillborne let fly. The javlin flew into the cloud of darkness, and a stream of dragon blood flew out on the other side. The dragon roared but it was a ragged, choking sound as it plunged down into the lava below. With a splash it landed hard into the magma, sending ripples of liquid fire in all directions. Its body smoked and sizzled as it slowly sunk into the lava.
With all enemies vanquished, Baz whispered a blessing to Moridin and the party felt his healing touch. Blood hardened, gaping wounds were sealed, and blistering burns were salved, but the party was weak and nearing exhaustion. Suddenly Prior shouted and they looked to see where he was pointing. A glowing ember was rising from the corpse of the elemental myrmidon and floating in a steady, straight path towards the flaming portal. As it grew level with the face of the weeping colossus, a streaking bolt of fire lanced out of the portal and joined the ember. It grew, and grew, and grew into a massive ball of living fire. The party shielded their faces from the intense heat, and squinted through the nearly blinding brightness. Limbs emerged, and a humanoid form took shape, its head rising slowly. Our heroes realized that they were witnessing Imix, the Prince of Eternal Flame, emerging into their plane of existence.
Sora heard Prior’s voice in her head, “Bring me the dagger, quickly!”. Sora looked over to see Prior running full speed towards her along the stone path. Sora leapt from the rock outcropping and sprinted towards the gnome, the dagger outstretched in her hand like the baton in a game of sport. As she reached Prior, he grabbed the knife and then disappeared. The adventurers looked up and saw his diminutive form clambering on top of the head of the weeping colossus. But they lost track of his progress as Imix roared, a terrifying wave of heat and fury, and then rained down bolts of fire on them. They leapt out of the way and began to retreat towards the chamber entrance, clothes aflame and sweat pouring down their brows.
On top of the colossus, Prior looked up at the portal, which was still a good 30 feet above his head. With a shrug he hefted the knife and threw it straight up with all his meager strength at the flaming portal. The knife flew upwards, but is it neared the portal it slowed, and came to a stop, its tip just inches away from the portal’s surface. But just as it began to descend back towards Prior, Flere flew up and bumped the pommel of the dagger, pushing it through the portal. The massive form of Imix was pulled, tugged, and then sucked through the rapidly collapsing portal. With a rush of sudden silence the brilliant flames winked out as the passage into the plane of elemental fire was closed. The chamber grew dim.
The heroes stood and stared up anxiously towards the colossus. The chamber slowly began to tremble and a low rumble grew into a shattering explosion as the head of the weeping colossus erupted in a shower of stone and magma. The adventurers stared in awe and sadness as they colossus collapsed into a massive avalanche tumbling into the lava below. For a terrible second they were sure that Prior had perished, when suddenly they heard a shrill scream, and what Hillborne would later swear was manic laughter. Prior came flying through the air, propelled by a jet of smoke and green sparks spewing out of small nozzles emerging from the bottom of his robes. His gadgets had come through for him again. He flew over the heads of his smiling and relieved companions, tumbling to the ground in a confusion of robes and limbs, both gnomish and mechanical. The remains of the colossus splashed into the lava and sent a chest high wave of magma rushing towards the party. Hillborne grabbed Prior by the belt and hauled him to his feet as our heroes fled the collapsing chamber.
As they reached safety, they stopped to catch their breath. They weren’t sure who started laughing first, but they didn’t stop until they were all wiping tears from their eyes. Little was spoken after that as they slowly made their way back to the surface.
It was dark when the party emerged into the Sumber Hills. As day broke, a rider from the Feathergale Knights spotted them and landed to find the entire party asleep. He wisely waited until they had awoken, started a fire, and had breakfast, and Baz a beer, before giving them a report. Thanks to their efforts in exposing and opposing the elemental cults, the forces of Waterdeep and Neverwinter had finally understood the true nature of the unrest in the Dessarin Valley. A joint force of veteran knights and battle magi was on the march to root out the remnants of the elemental cults. Our heroes had stopped the threat of the apocalyptic elemental cults. They had closed the open portals to the elemental planes, and destroyed the focus of the elder elemental eye’s power on this one. They had saved the lives of countless thousands. They deserved a rest. The realm was safe…for now.
Would others take up the millenarian cause of the elemental cults? Would the elder elemental eye find a new focus, a new way to twist the minds and souls on this plane? Would evil ever stop lapping at the shores of mortal hearts? Likely not. The only assurance the world could offer was that there would always be those who would not falter in the face of evil and chaos. Those that would be ready to lasso their fears, misty schlep into the roll zone, start juicing and hexing, and prepare to blast ‘em.