Rallying together in the ruined mining shack the exhausted, staggering form of Lionheart heaved the stout iron bound door against the frame. A warm blue glow continued to emanate from the Shield of Scion and Lionheart slammed his back against the door as the first ominous thuds began on the other side. A slight smile appeared on the golden bearded man’s face as he closed his eyes and began softly murmuring a prayer. As the words flowed the glow of the shield faded, the angry red lines left from the shambling undead’s clawing fading as well. But he looked better, more alive not so stumbling at death’s door.
Guido the Knee Breaker rushed about the ruined, trashed remains of the cabin discovering a dwarven tract tacked on the wall above the small shrine to Sol the Iron Hammer/Forger Aspect. As the pounding and chilling moans grew louder and more frequent at the door, Guido read “Speak the name of the Holy Forger that Hammers Our Souls to His Will!” Guido with his incredibly expansive wisdom shouted out “KALA!” in dwarvish. A trapdoor suddenly revealed itself beneath the dwarf’s feet.
Meanwhile Valaheire was rapidly chopping an access hole through the roof as the numbers of the zombie horde grew and grew. With the roars of what must be the first great dragon he had ever seen resounding in his ears. He finally had a hole large enough to drop down into the chamber with the bloodied, injured duo of Lionheart and Guido. Could it truly be he had only met them face to face some twelve hours ago ?
Finally, Lionheart could hold the door against the surging, flesh devouring, rotting mass of corpses no longer and the door gave way. A few of the horrors managed to push their way in followed by what appeared to be dozens. Valaheire expertly plunged down into the awaiting darkness of the opened trapdoor followed by Lionheart and finally Guido slamming the glowing portal shut. The sounds of shuffling grew in intensity above their heads as the trio was plunged into total darkness. The last they saw was that the ladder down was covered with blood.
No stranger to the dark places of the World of Bealarium; Guido quickly pointed out the storage room they appeared to be in while the faint remaining glow of the Shield of Scion allowed Lionheart and Valaheire to see only a short distance. As they quickly scanned the room of crates and barrels Lionheart sensed an ominous dark, presence in the cellar emanating from the barrels themselves. Then Valaheire became aware of a clawing, scuffling emanating from behind a stack of tall crates. A rotted, bloated dwarf woman was trying to claw her way into the cellar. Valaheire drew his bow and his nearly empty quiver and sunk several arrows into the writhing thing, finally a single shot pierced the creatures eye and it fell revealing a dark, forbidding mine shaft beyond; distant chanting and moans echoed up through the inky blackness. The trio’s stomachs rumbled and the exhaustion of the last day fell upon them as eyes drooped and weapons slumped to the floor. Their mouths were cracked and parched from lack of water. The crates revealed to be a storehouse of dried fruits and meats, apparently the emergency larder for the camp. Choking down some hard tack and dry rations the three took a moment to catch their breath and rally. While moans and dragon roars filled the world above. Lightning and arcing electricity crackled through the ceiling emanating even across into the very walls; great dragon indeed!
Meanwhile…Arakasi in the nearby mining shack sought the source of the soft weeping and found it to be a dirty, disheveled albeit still lovely elven woman.
After some careful, charming persuasion Arakasi calmed the near hysterical woman enough to discover that her name was Xandra Quarteraisam a slave, albeit a favored one here at the Brimstone Camp. As the horde quickly pushed through Arakasi’s meager blockade, Xandra revealed that there was a trapdoor in this shack as well but she appeared very reluctant to go down, saying only that her husband always forbid it. After a further laying on of that Arakasi charm she agreed to descend into the darkness. Arakasi illuminated the darkened chamber with a few soft words revealing…
The room had several Al Haladin dwarf corpses spread about the room their hearts cut out from their chests. A book sat atop the pedestal, before the writing faded into obscure and esoteric unintelligible symbols Arakasi read the following journal entry:
The terrified Xandra apparently had no idea that her husband had been committing such horrors beneath her very feet. She revealed that her husband Elgrab and her had been captured by slavers a year ago after stumbling out of a massive ruined city several weeks to the south. She said that Elgrab had emerged a changed elf, renouncing his faith to Sol of the Fiery Sun Aspect and begin spending all his time pouring over an ancient tome he had found. The book Arakasi found in the Sacrificial Shrine was apparently not that tome but some sort of increasingly indecipherable journal. Xandra said that Elgrab had gotten the Mine Boss, an Al Haladin Dwarf named Corvis to treat them much kinder than all the other elven and human slaves. He provided him with the mining shack and a great deal of time to “research” whatever it was he was involved. There was an accident months ago somewhere in the mines and dozens of dwarves were killed along with hundreds of slaves. About three days ago strange lights appeared to the south and the sickness appeared, many more dwarves and slaves died. Then many came back as flesh devouring horrors and she went into hiding, she had not seen Elgrab for more than three days.
Quickly discovering that the two shacks were in fact connected by a dark, creaking mine tunnel Arakasi was reunited with the other three heroes. Attacked by a wraith they again were attacked by wraiths Guido became severely drained of health, looking older drawn, grey. Valaheire also succomed to the touch of the wraiths that as they were vanquished revealed themselves to be the spirits of the suicidal elves.
The party cleared a way out of the storage room, extremely thirsty they found a fountain and drank from it while sensing evil from the pooling water in the well. Finally beat up and tired they made their way into the mines which became a natural cavern writhing in sickly steam, sulfurous mist and swirling purple fire. There at last they saw a pool of bubbling magma encircled by raw elemental air and water. Four great rotting red skinned hulking figures stood watch chanting with an arrayed undead horde. In the center of the pool of fire there was a massive sarcophagus. A cloaked figure stood before it chanting and holding out a book.
Waves of power and force swirled about him his eyes lit red by the fire and a terrible building power within the figure lit by the gathering arcane fires. Bridges were forming out of the earth past the air, water, and pool of burning magma. In the distance buried within encrusted stalactites and stalagmites was a great black metallic figure clutching an axe. Rust lay heavily in various places obviously it had been in this cavern for a very, very long time.
Arakasi stood upon the edge of strangely scintillating cavern eager to release his new found power on the gathered forces of darkness. But first he let the gathered heroes know the words on the wall:
The Dread Priest Walks the Worlds Below
He has Spoken with He Who Sleeps
The Dreams Cannot Be Denied.
It Is For the Lost She Weeps
But Deep Within the Temple of Earthen Power
Rests the Iron Giant Doom
By Stoneheart Hand Alone
Shall It Awaken In the Gloom
The group then decided to send the ever stealthy Valaheire past the great horde of rotting death and investigate the encrusted iron giant. Covered in the runes of its dwarven craftsmen the back of the towering figure had a single hand impression surrounded by several concentric circles. A severed hand from one of the sacrificed dwarves did nothing. Four bridges were continuing to inch closer to the hovering golden sacrophagus over the Pool of Fire. Valaheire also noticed a gateway had opened above the pool of burning elemental flame and it was slowly descending.
Arakasi could wait no longer and unleased the fury of the sands upon the cloaked figure and his minions. Whirling clouds of dust and debris stripped flesh from bone of the great hulkiing undead. But Elgrab stood nearly unaffected by the blasting sands. Continuing to chant and wave his staff the sarcophagus itself begin to be drawn towards the lowering gateway. The remaining three heroes began to desperately run through the gathered reeking, worm infested clawing nightmares. Lionheart reaching the vast caverns far side and the watchful, elven blade clutching rogue Valaheire still perched high atop the shoulders of the great iron giant.His hand also did nothing when it contacted the worn impression…which was just too small for the big mans paw. Arakasi and Guido brought up the rear and Guido’s slow methodical trot brought his wounded, desperate body quickly into contact with many shambling corpses. Arakasi strangely rejuvenated by these rocky, sparkling ruins dropped back and stepped in the way for Guido protecting the dwarfs final advance towards the great iron statue. But, as the panting, sweating, axe wielding priest drew within twenty feet of Valaheire and Lionheart a particularly vile and bony clawed Al Haladin rotter slashed at Guido’s back ripping his worn, ill fitting chainmail and tearing great rotten gouges into his back and neck. The blood splashed across the cavern floor as the badly mauled dwarf fell. The moaning, gnashing horrors began to surround the doomed stout holy figure and it looked like the end…did his unconscious form softly whisper “Sol…” ? At that moment a great bellowing roar echoed across the dark, shimmering cave. And a soft blue glow appeared to grow brighter and brighter. As the light of the Shield of Scion grew and grew the resounding “Hee Hee Hee Haw Haw !!” made the evil shufflers pause a moment with uncertainty. What light had been brought into this place of darkness and twisted power ? The pounding steps of the huge paladin could be heard as he charged to the rescue of his fellow, fallen brother of Sol. Scooping up the bleeding, dying dwarf and throwing him on his shoulders Lionheart was beset from many sides by clawing fiends but he managed to run back to the awaiting hulk of iron. Valaheire leapt down from the shoulders of the iron giant to cover the retreat of a once again exhausted and wounded, the shaggy bearded paladin’s muscled arms sagged, laden with the weight of the heavy, bulky dwarf priest. Battling more clawing dwarves and shadowy, chill touched dark silhouettes that seemed to suck some of the very life force out of Valaheire as his slashing, shimmering blade cut them down. Shoving the bloody dwarf’s hand into the impression, Lionheart and Valaheire stood watch while Guido was slowly drawn into the metal monstrosity. A warm red glow began to appear across the entire suit of armor as runes and arcane figures lit brightly and steam began to pour out of the various armored joints. Gone from the sight of the two; Guido was floating in a warm silky fluid his wounds closing, his spirit gathering strength as the great iron giant fully awoke. Arakasi having drawn many of the biting, tearing nightmares to him was being ripped and torn at by the ever increasing horde. Finally as he stood dumbfounded and amazed as the “Iron Giant” prophecy became reality a gurgling walking dead Al Haladin rushed up behind him and sunk filth encrusted claws into the right side of his face ripping long gouges into his cheek and ear. Blood pouring down his neck and sickly purple worms crawling across his dirtied, earthen muddied face the young sorcerer nearly fell but staggered forward to the protection of Valaheire’s blindingly fast sword strokes and Lionheart’s skull crushing hammer.
As a millenium of encrusted stalactites and stalagmites shattered and were blasted away from the now moving twelve foot tall colossus the golden sarcophagus began to disappear into the shimmering circle of fire, the reflected roaring flames made the twisted malevolent face carved into its surface to almost appear to writhe and move about. The eyes certainly were alight with a forbidding sense of expectation…
The cloaked figure of Elgrab clutched his great tome and could be heard to cackle maniacally as he gazed with insane adoration at the ever rising form, his great hulking zombies gathered around him. As he prepared to do a final ritual he stepped to the center of the bridges and began to arise into the air himself. Xandra after several pitiful moments of pleading and begging with her crazed husband finally gathered her remaining courage as she leaped onto his back crying “Please Elgrab! Do not do this thing! Come back to me, for I love you with all my soul!” But, upon contact with the exultant Elgrab she cried out in pain and anguish as her beautiful form instantly started to become broken, aged and rotting.
Guido now commanding the great iron giant began to charge at the Circles of Elements and the Pool of Fire. Booming steps cracked stone and shook the floor beneath the heroes feet as he raised a great metal axe twice the size of his own dwarven form. Elgrab appeared to notice at the last moment as Guido swung the massive weapon down slamming the now shocked and probably terrified Elgrab back across the bridge; his staff and the great book sent spinning from his hands. The oozing, maggot laden red skinned hulks now “dwarfed” (heh…heh…) by the steaming axe swinging tower of death that Guido had become were hacked and slashed in halves and quarters; rotten guts and black blood splattering the ground. Surely the next razor sharp crushing attack would do the same to Elgrab.
But, as the golden sarcophagus finally disappeared into the fiery ring a great suction of air, debris, and even sound was rapidly drawn into the roaring flame encircled portal drawing the staggering nearly dead conjurer up into its rapidly dwindling glow. Xandra lifted her head, now wrinkled skin and cracked teeth falling out, white hair falling away her sunken eyes gazing upward with a terrible sorrowful expression, lifting one nearly skin and bone hand towards Elgrab. Then the once beautiful, loving elf collapsed; falling into the rolling, burning magma beneath the bridge and was gone.
Guido quickly crushed, slammed, chopped, slashed, stomped, pulverized and generally squished his way through the remaining undead Al Haladin as his companions headed back to the surface and the gathering light of the coming dawn. As the booming steps and hissing steam reverberated across the cavern the dwarf priest let out a cry of “SOL!!!” which caused the entire place to shake and dust pour from the ceiling probably blasting out for a miles into the world above. Then as he made the giant axe wielding colossus bring its thundering steps after his companions the suit suddenly stopped and went dark its weapon slowly lowering to the floor and Guido was roughly expelled from the iron giants back covered head to toe in a warm pinkish slime…grinning from ear to ear.