The party arrived back at the crossroads to be met by Trish, Ellisandra, and Walac. “We heard you call for Ellisandra, but with the call echoing through the caverns, we followed the trail of bodies to here, and couldn’t tell which direction you went in. I don’t think we’ll have any pursuit over the bridge. What happened?” said Trish.
Simon said, “We found Mr. Rackham. The Lazuri had been torturing him, and he didn’t make it. I swore an oath to avenge him, though, and I mean to see that carried out.”
Simon headed down the remaining tunnel, and the rest of the group somberly fell into step behind him. The tunnel began to slope down noticeably within moments, and the ambient heat in the area grew with each passing step. Before long, they could hear the sounds of rushing water, along with the odd sound of bubbles of molten rock popping and distant explosions.
Simon stepped from the tunnel into a large, steamy room that had pock marks along the floor, and a stream on one side. Before he had time to do more than wonder what they were, a blast of water and steam blew towards the ceiling from one of them. Simon turned and called back to the rest of the party, “Geysers, watch yourselves”.
While Simon made his way gracefully to the other side of the room, Brine, who had been suffering through the heat more than the others, rushed to the stream, “This water is from the surface! It’s heated, but not bad at all.”
Without a further word, Brine dove towards the water, changing to shark form in the air. There was a loud splash as he hit and then all that could be seen was his dorsal fin cutting an ominous wake through the water. Prospero sent his sentinels forward to create a path between the geysers for the party. The party then went across the room to join Simon on the other side, with Susi flying above it all, followed closely by Maelstrom, who carried Ellisandra in his arms. Walac’s small size was almost his undoing, as a jet of superheated water splashed between one of the sentinel’s legs. Only his agility and a twisting leap to one side kept him from being badly burned.
Simon scouted the new room, which consisted mostly of a lake of lava with small paths and outcroppings of rock. As he looked, he saw that there was a group of men in rags on the far side, inching around on a path that seemed much too small for them. He turned and headed back up the tunnel to the rest of the party. “I think I’ve found the men, but they are on the far side of the magma lake,” said Simon.
Susi, who had landed moments before and was smoothing out his feathers said, “Not a problem, Simon, I can fly there and let them know we are here, and maybe start ferrying them over. Which direction?”
“Straight ahead. Once you’re in the air, you’ll probably see them”, replied Simon.
Without another word, Susi launched himself into the air and saw the men immediately, but as he gained altitude, something caught his eye to his right. An altar to Guha glowed there, with a grinning dog sitting right in the middle of the platform. Susi altered his course and headed straight for the altar, landed on it, bowed in front of the grinning dog, and began to pray.
“What is that bird doing…” started Simon.
All he could see was a platform of rock that Susi had landed on. The ground beneath the rock was beginning to move, and looked familiar, like a… “Dragon!” shouted Simon, “There’s a dragon in the lava to our right!”
Susi was kneeling on the back of the dragon, deep in religious ecstasy. As the dragon moved forward to the stone path from the lava, Simon cast true spear on his javelin and threw it at the dragon. It glanced off one of the dragon’s horns and came flying back to his hand. As soon as it was secure in his hand, Simon took a running jump and landed on the dragon’s head. Ellisandra tried to cast a slumber spell, but couldn’t tell if it missed or if the dragon had resisted it. The dragon’s head rocked back momentarily, then quickly thrust forward, sending a cone of fire out. The fire singed Walac and Grimclaw’s whiskers, but didn’t damage them. The dragon then flapped her wings, knocking the sentinels down. Trish ran forward and started hitting the dragon with her swords, trying to find a weak spot in her armor as Prospero’s bolts of earth and rock exploded harmlessly against the creature’s side. The sentinels stood and began hitting the dragon’s sides, but without doing any damage. Prospero felt a presence in his mind, probing his thoughts, and recognized it as one of the dragon’s tricks. He blocked his mind to the dragon, and soon the presence faded.
The dragon reared back on her hind legs and quickly slammed herself down, breathing out another cone of fire. This one caught the sentinels and melted them down, while narrowly missing Walac and Ellisandra. Brine, in his shark form travelled down the stream that ran into the lava, and bit furiously at the dragon’s leg, but wasn’t able to penetrate her armor. Bolts of lighting and earth exploded harmlessly against the dragon’s hide, causing her to roar her displeasure. Simon, still riding on the dragon’s head and unable to get through her armor with his weapons, put his weapons away, and pulled a flask from his pouches. Moving quickly, he rolled off the dragon’s head and slammed a tanglefoot potion into the dragon’s right eye before dropping nimbly to the ground. Trish stunned the dragon with the force of one of her strikes, causing the creature to shudder. Susi came out of his reverie, and saw what was going on for the first time. He looked to his left, and saw another, smaller dragon, moving slowly out of a cave behind the dragon he was riding. Behind that dragon was the glint of a pile of treasure. He looked to his right and saw a nest full of dragon’s eggs. “Tasty, tasty morsels,” said Susi and launched himself into the air towards the nest.
The dragon ducked her head into the lava to burn off the tanglefoot covering her eye. Walac could feel the dragon inside his mind probing his memories, but was able to block her out, this time. As the dragon lifted her head free of the lava, the first thing she saw was Simon threatening her eye with his javelin. When she reacted to protect her eye, Simon leapt and rolled over her sinuous neck and landed on the other side to attack her.
As the others continued to battle with the mother dragon, Susi had landed in the nest and began to look at the eggs with avarice. Suddenly, a blast of fire rocked him, and scorched him but didn’t hurt him as much as surprise him. He spun in time to catch one of the smaller dragon’s claws across his midsection, wounding him. He swung with his axe, but the swipe only glanced off the dragon. He cast a panic spell, but it had no noticeable effect on the angry dragon.
On the other side of the room, the rest of the party continued their attacks, without doing much damage to the mother dragon at all, and at best only briefly stunning her. Lightning bolts and shards of earth and rock exploded against her sides, sparks flew where swords glanced from her armor, and a small amount of blood polluted the water where Brine continued to savage her legs. Simon tensed and threw the javelin again, this time he scored a hit, and the spear went through the mother dragon, wounding her and causing her to roar in pain, then it glanced off the smaller dragon’s armor before returning to his hand. The mother dragon breathed fire again, and wounded Simon with a swipe from one of her claws. Grimclaw had worked one of the dragon’s scales free, and raked the soft skin beneath with his claws.
Having had enough, the dragon disengaged from the fight. She couldn’t remember how long it had been since someone had fought ferociously enough to wound her in battle, and now she had been wounded twice. As she spun and leapt into the air, Walac caught her under a scale with his rapier, and the dragon roared once again. Moments later, she and her hatchling were gathering the eggs from the nest. Having secured her brood, they flew into the air, lazily riding the thermals up the shaft of the volcano to a higher ledge. Susi flew back to the shrine that was floating above the lava, and drifted into prayer again. Finally finished with his devotions, he flew to the people who had retreated along the small ledge during the fight, and along with Maelstrom began to ferry them across the lava to where the party had set up camp in a cooler portion of the area.
Once the officers had been moved to the party, Susi flew back to the dragon’s nest. A quick search revealed that there was nothing of importance there. He glanced up, and could see both of the dragons watching him very carefully. He then took to the air, and began to fly towards the pile of treasure he had noticed earlier. As he drifted closer, he could see the dragons becoming more and more tense, ready to spring. “I’ve only got one shot at this, because the moment I go there, they are surely going to come after me,” thought Susi. He used his superior vision, normally reserved for hunting to scan the horde. Selecting his target, he dove as hard and fast as he could towards the trove, his talons grabbing his prize as he flapped furiously to gain altitude. With a roar, the dragons came off their perch, but Susi’s speed and head start made him impossible to catch. The dragons quit their pursuit, and moments later, Susi was on the ground admiring his new bow and quiver while Ellisandra treated his wounds.