The locked door at the top of the stairs taunts us, we are in the midst of preparing to bash it in when we hear shouts coming from around the corner. We abandon the door in favor of not being stabbed in the back by the newest set of foes coming up upon us.
We form up at the end of the corridor right where it turns and opens up into one twice the width. Four huge monsters come into sight roaring their rage. They spy Snerr among us and shout out loudly that we’ve enslaved him. Cilka creates the most impressive fiery wall, snaking around the beasts that face us circling them in a burning inferno that is quite lovely to look upon, as well as being terrifyingly effective. They are trapped and cannot escape the flames burning inward from the wall, they are sorely hurt and manage to extract themselves before we can even land a blow. The only one that even made an attempt to break through was stopped cold (or hot really) by Snerr-Keth. I didn’t even get to take a swing.
We explore the rooms to either side of the corridor we are currently trapped in while we wait the wall of fire to dissipate. Cilka cannot release this one, so we rest, ready and waiting for the beasts to be able to approach again.
The fire finally fades enough for us to pass, we move up into the larger corridor hugging the wall as we go. We are attempting to move silently, but the corridor is large and our steps echo loudly. Cilka has crossed the hall, tempted by the door that is slightly ajar across the way. Curiosity gets the better of her, she cannot stop herself from peaking. “I found the Chalcadonians!”, Cilka hollers, subtle as ever.
I hear a squeak of surprise from Cilka and the sound of a spell crackling into life, but no yell of pain, so the Chalcedonian Cilka found must not be as talented as our own spellcasters. Alaric has joined her so I am free to move up with Coy and Dom, we approach the door on the left, where we think the beasts we faced earlier have gone to lick their burns.
The door opens wider, showing three of the large beasts we had faced before. A flurry of blows ensues with little impact, then one of them winds up a massive blow and lays Coy flat, Coy is down and the monster roars, shaking the very stones with his fury. Everyone is a bit shaken by his display, we rally and forage on.
Dom lands a solid blow and one of the beasts goes down, Alaric lays glowing hands on Coy and we all rally, pulling reserves of strength not before tapped. We are shaken, but still dangerous.
Cilka’s hands raise up and fire once again shoots from her palms. The two remaining beasts are enshrouded in fire, as the flames fade, they crumple to the ground. We shut the door on their fallen bodies and form up for a quick group heal from Alaric.
We return to the door that had so fascinated Cilka only moments before, we have no wish to leave enemy behind us. We kick open the door and are faced by three moderate and normal sized foes, two of which almost too non-descript to mention, equipped with regular looking armor and flails. The third is fancily attired in glowing plate mail and standing toward the back. He immediately thrusts his hands forward and a huge column of fire pounds down from the ceiling, searing through the four of us right in the doorway. This distracts us from the many headed beast that also faces us through the door.
Dom slips through the doorway, completely un-singed and circles round toward the armored humans, Alaric follows his lead. That leaves the many headed beast for me! I move in a swing, I’ve not faced a foe with this many moving bits, each equipped with sharp fangs, I am a bit unnerved, but it proves easier to hit than I expected, I wound it and am heartened.
Coy moves up beside me, reaching his huge arms around the monster, he grabs it and pulls it into himself, holding the monster prone and ready to be gutted. The monster responds by rearing back one of its free heads and letting loose a stream of fire. In dodging away from the flames, Coy momentarily loses its grip, it staggers back onto its feat.A bloom of light bursts behind me with a loud boom, I stagger beneath the blast, but retain my feet though I do feel like I am now moving through a pool of cold molasses. My arms feel like they are weighted, I can only manage two swings of my blade, but at least both hit good solid blows. Coy follows with a flurry of blows and the beast is down.
Snerr-Keth moves past us to engage the caster that has plagued us. I catch my breath as a spear of sickly green light flashes out from the human, the light pierces Snerr-Keth who wobbles, looks like he might shrug it off, then spasms and falls to the ground.
Alaric and Dom are both at the last two standing humans, one of which has come up behind Alaric and suffered for his audacity as Alaric takes note of his approach and trips him up as he arrives. I run forward taking advantage of his prone position and do my best to keep him down.
The human in the glowing armor tosses his head, as his hood falls his face changes, morphing from a craggy old man into a red leathery dragon face with glowing eyes, wings arch out from behind him and he opens his mouth and a flume of fire blasts forth, searing all in its path. I am unable to step aside, still feeling as if I carry twice my normal weight, and the fire hits me dead on. Searing blackness obliterates my senses and I know no more.
I wake to the gentle radiant touch of healing from Alaric, and regain my feet still wobbly from the effects of the fire and whatever else that was that hit me before. The room is of newer construction, roughly and freshly hewn from the rock of the mountain. The focal point of the room is a large rock altar that retains a menacing air, the whole rooms seems to have absorbed that aura. We speculate that it might have been prepared to receive the threshold in some way.
Back where we faced the giants we find a secret passage back to the throne room, it is a small passage with stairs down that comes out a hidden door behind the thrones. We spied the last couple of remaining giants making good their escape through this same passage we just traveled.
Both the giants are richly dressed, they must have ruled here before the Chalcadonians came and took over. Coy catches up to them ahead of us, talking to them trying to get their cooperation. The male giant is having none of that, he casts a pit spell to block our pursuit, the walls of this pit are oddly crafted, being made of something other than smooth stone and earth.
The giants are at least speaking to us, trying to understand what may have descended upon them. They believed the Chalcedonians were fighting the demons, they were demon hunters themselves and were duped by their would be protectors. They speak of a holy place to the west that the Chalcedonians erected, possibly they brought the threshold there.
We are able to return Snerr to them at least, though we are heartsick by the killing we have done here, it was not all that we thought it was. We’ve killed like-minded soles here, and almost made enemies of those with whom we share a common cause.
We call upon the elephants to speed out path and head toward the temple toward the west. We calculate there is around 100 miles or so of travel ahead of us.
This is our second day of travel by elephant, the weather looks to be taking a turn for the worse, with a dust storm on the horizon. We debate, but decide to be cautious and take shelter in the conjured hut. We are delayed only 6 hours or so, the hut is covered by a thick layer of sand, though it does not take long to get clear. Our path is now obscured by all the sand, but we are able to push on. What should have only taken us three days, looks like it will be more like 4 or 5 days.
We are further delayed by a dead end canyon that requires a half day of retracing our steps, followed by another minor dust squall that slows us more. I am starting to miss traveling by boat. Our last day is spent on foot as the elephants can only be called four days in a row.
As we move along the base of a ridge, we hear the crackle of electricity and a screech just past the rise in front of us. We go on the alert, readying weapons and spells. A large winged humanoid creature with a vulture like head lands with a screech on the rise above us. Dom and Coy move quickly around the outcropping, I see Coy rear back with a look of alarm on his face, this can’t be good.
We begin to realize why when three more beasts fly up over the rise to land at on the high ledge above us, and Coy is still looking beyond that behind the rise, this can only mean there are yet more behind the rise still. I rush up to stand by Coy and see there are indeed at least two more, they are atop a small pile of 3 or 4 carcasses of giants, they look to be feeding from their bodies.
Dom and Coy working together take one of the down, screams fill the air from the beasts above. I get close to one of them, approaching cautiously, this thing is huge and quick, and it smells terrible. Feathers fly as I lunge, cutting into it deeply, the fire from my blade seems to have little impact, only making the smell worse.
I step in, maneuvering to be opposite Dom, trying to give him a chance to flank the beast. Two of my three blows land, though the stench much be affecting me as I almost drop my sword on the third swing. Dom finishes it off, taking advantage of the distraction I have provided, and we move off to help our companions with the other feathered smellies.
I turn and rush back the way I came as all the other birdmen have flown to harry my companions. As I arrive Keth’s voice calls out as he completes a spell, tentacles now cover the top of the ridge, spilling down the sides in a grotesque undulating mass. Unfortunately they do little to impede the feathered beasts, who seem to hardly notice their appearance.
There are three on the ridge, two look like they are performing some kind of bizzare ritual, they are bobbing and stomping in a weird dance that would be terrifying if it weren’t being performed by such strange looking creatures. Coy is also at the top of the ridge, he shoves one of the dancers off the ledge interrupting it’s strange ritual and entangling it in the tentacles below, the other continues on unperturbed by its companions fate.
The dancing bird culminates its motions with a piercing screech and crackling electricity arcs down, searing all surrounding the ridge. Shaking my head to clear the sparks from my eyes, I step in and land two good solid blows to the feathered fiend in front of me, knocking it down and out. I didn’t think it was possible, but these things smell even worse when they bleed. We are slowly whittling these things away.
We ring the casting bird who has flown down to get some hand to talon action after trying to fry us with its electricity. I circle round taking advantage of Alaric’s positioning and lunge forward piercing its side. We take turns hacking away at the thing, in the background we hear a screech cut off abruptly then the sound of something wet and heavy landing after a long fall. Coy seems to have dealt with another one on the ridge. Dom finishes off the one we are fighting, and the last one has torn its bedraggled self free of the tentacles and is now on the ground in front of Cilka’s prone form, she looks to have been scorched pretty badly by the electrical burst. Keth finished it off before it has a chance to do Cilka any more harm.
It is going to be a long time before I am rid of the smell of these things.
Off in the distance we see smoke rising into the sky, this must be the volcano the temple is next to, we should be able to get there by mid-day tomorrow if we are able to stay out of the dead end canyons.
Mid-day and we are among the volcanic cones, perched on the very rim of one of them is a dark spikey crystalline structure, we have found the temple.