Wherein the heroes rescue another youth from the clutches of evil.
Since Stone Man is now working again, Meander is anxious to continue onward. He starts trying to get the group to head onward to either the cauldron or the steam-filled tunnel. The others seem reluctant to follow. Broken insists that he must rest to recharge some magical reserve. While he rests, Red decides to do the same.
Meander can’t seem to sit still and wait any longer. He sets down his axe and turns on his dark sight. Shadows stream from the group behind him, while the dark corners of the room light up, however looking into the tunnel is fruitless. It appears that the steam blocks his dark sight just as effectively as not. He doesn’t want to sneak down the tunnel without the rest of the group, but the incessant clanging is really peeking his interest. He slowly turns his eyes to the pit.
How does one lower oneself into the pit? There is a pulley system hooked up to a cauldron in the center of the pit. Meander starts to get into the cauldron, taking most of the room. It looks like it just might be big enough for Stone Man.
Broken calls out to Meander, directing him to store energy into the club. Intrigued, he gets out of the cauldron, lets his dark sight fade and picks up the discarded axe and the club. “What is this thing?”
Broken replied, “Its a device that stores endurance… you funnel your energy into it and can tap into it at a later point.”
“Really? So how does it work?”
“Well, each type of magic stores energy differently.” Broken looks at Meander and sighs. “You should just try it.”
Meander focuses with all his might at the club, scrunching his face up as he glares at the club. Almost without thought, he starts to feel a pulling sensation from the club, as if it were funneling something away. Meander starts to feel tired and is taken aback. He has to consciously resist the pull to keep the club from siphoning off too much energy.
“Well, I figured out how to get energy into it, how do I get it back out?”
“I think really hard about using that energy, and it just works. Good luck with that, Ox Driver.”
After the short rest, the group talks for a bit and decides to go down the tunnel to investigate the clanging noises. They proceed cautiously into the tunnel. The steam turns quickly to smoke and ash, and visibility shrinks to naught. The passageways twist, fork, and shrink down to a very tight fit for the Stone Man.
The smoke glows brilliant white and the hallway become blisteringly hot as the roar of fire echoes through the hall. Fire surrounds everyone but Meander and Stone Man. Song and Jabs manage to dive clear and avoid the blast. Kit and Vale are engulfed in flames and gasp in shock.
Meander squeezes past the Stone Man to the south and tries to find a passageway that loops around. He follows the passage by feel at times and turns a corner to catch a glimpse of a large dog-like shape through the smoke. As he approaches, he can see the hound is half scaly with matted black fur.
The Stone Man stomps up besides Meander through another passageway. He is wedged tightly in the rough tunnel, but makes an attempts to stab at the hound anyway. The hound easily dodges the blow and lunges at Meander, biting into his stomach. Fire rolls out of its mouth as the beast ravages Meander’s midsection. Meander staggers back in horror, grasping his stomach with vacant eyes.
In the other tunnel, the others begin casting spells. Broken curses as his spell fizzles. Red starts chanting in low tones. In the back, Song grabbed Kitten and pulled her out of the hallway. Broken tries his spell again, this time causing the short sword to leave his hand and fly at the hound. He stands as if he is fighting the hound, and the sword circles around the hound using the same motions. Even through the smoke and ash, the sword reacts to Broken’s empty handed lunge and strikes the beast in the flank with a yelp. Red finishes chanting spell and threw his hands up high, causing the earth to rumble. The hound leaped to the side just as the earth rose up to trap him, narrowly missing it.
Free of the trap, the hell hound whirls around and dodges around the short sword. It lunges at the hilt, snapping at it with his teeth. The hound crunches down on the hilt of the sword and his fiery breath rolls up the sword causing it to break.
Stone Man attempts to stab at the hound again, but is unable to make a good attempt for being pinned. Meander shakes off the charred wound and falls into a defensive stance. He brings out his axe and swings at the hound, missing handily.
Broken makes more fighting gestures in the air, but the broken weapon misses in the gloom. Red scoops up some earth and molds it into a large stone, throwing it at the hound. He strikes the hound in the vitals, stunning it briefly. The hound shakes off the attack and whirls around, charging up to Broken and Red. It opens it mouth, unleashing a fiery cloud that washes over them. Broken stands in shock as the flames curl around him. Seeing the injuries, Song starts singing a bouncy happy song.
Meander pulls out his spear, since the hound has moved beyond the reach of the axe, and steps through the opening in the hallway until he spots the hound. He thrusts the spear deep into the backside of the hell hound. It quivers and falls.
During his singing, Song moved over to Broken. As he touches Broken, the burns and blisters fade and Broken seems to recover from the shock of the inferno. Song leaves Broken and moves to Meander. He grasps Meander’s club for moments while he beings to sing, healing the vicious charred stomach wound, leaving a tender red mark.
The group stops for a moment to recover from the sudden attack, but the constant clanging echoing in the smoke filled tunnels reminded them of their purpose. Meander quickly pads ahead of the Stone Man to scope out any danger. The tunnels are rough and undressed stone, and resemble a mine shaft. The acrid smoke swirls around him and makes it difficult to see beyond a few feet. Shortly ahead, the smoke and ash began to clear as the tunnel forks before a large chamber.
A loud crackling sound fills the room. A massive forge takes up the entire far wall, flames roaring inside. A faint whimpering sound is almost lost from the roar of the infernal forge. A hairless dwarf hammers at a large anvil, which fills the center of the room. The dwarf is covered in links of chain and smoke pours from its mouth as it works to forge a new link for the chain. The boy huddles at its feet, face wracked in terror.
Meander sneaks carefully back to the group and tells them what he saw in the room. They all prepare to rush into the room to save the boy. Broken tells Stone Man to get ready to charge. Meander grits his teeth, stifling a scream he speeds up his movements. Red begins chanting a spell. Broken prepares to animate one of his weapons. Even Song starts singing some lively song.
The group stands posed, waiting for Stone man to finish scraping along sideways through the narrow hallway. Once past, Stone Man charges into the room, right up to the demonic smith. Meander follows not a heartbeat behind, passing him in route, moving with blinding speed. He strikes the Smith in the chest with his axe as he rushes by, continuing past and circling back around to stop by the boy hiding behind the anvil.
The Smith seems unfazed by Meander’s attack. The Smith is covered in layer upon layer of thick links of chain, providing it massive amounts of armor. The bearlike creature has been dead a long time and twisted over the years by evil magics.
Broken moves up to the edge of the room to get a good view of the smith in order to fight with his animated weapons, while Red finishes casting his spell and is encased by rock flowing up from the passage floor to form solid armor.
The Smith opens his smoking mouth wide as thick black clouds of ember filled smoke pours forth. It billows out, quickly obscuring the Smith and fills a large section of the room, including Meander and Stone Man. Meander is blinded and burned by the hot smoke. The Stone Man is blind as well, but swings wildly into the smoke, managing to cleave deep into the chained Smith’s stomach with its massive stone sword.
Rubbing his eyes, Meander can see briefly for a moment. He takes the opportunity to scoop up the boy and carry him out of the thick smoke, near the entrance to the tunnels. Then he turns and skirts the edge of the smoky cloud.
Broken tosses a dagger into the air and then begins to make stabbing motions with a pretend weapon. The dagger follows his motions into the cloud stabbing at the Smith.
The smoke continues to pour from the demon Smith’s mouth, engulfing the Stone Man in hot ember filled black smoke. The demon and the Stone Man trade a few swipes but miss in the obscuring gloom.
Red moves around Song and begins to walk into the room. Song follows behind him, stopping at the smokes edge. Tough Bark follows them both through the tunnels to stop at the edge of the room.
Meander charges back into the smoke, attempting to attack the Smith again. He is immediately blinded by the burning smoke. He rushes around to where he thought the Smith should be, but his axe passes through the smoke without contact. He keeps rushes around, circling back close to where he started, and out of the smoke. He waits to see what happens.
Broken makes more attacks at the air, and his dagger bounces off the Smith’s chains. Red steps into the thick of the smoke, and is burned and blinded. He uses his innate sense of hearing to move his way unerringly to the chained Smith. He strikes at the chain demon, landing a solid blow against its thigh, but the attack bounces off the links of chain.
The smoke begins to clear. The Smith can be seen to be swinging a war hammer, two handed, at Stone Man.
Tough Bark, now being able to see the target, nocks and shoots. The arrow bounces off the chains to skitter across the room.
Stone Man, now able to see, swings his massive sword into the Smith’s chest, knocking it to the ground. The Smith does not get up.
Broken walks over to the fallen Smith and begins to take a length of chain and wrap it around the golem’s waist. The chain begins to uncoil from the dead body and wrap itself around the golem.
Red and Broken examine the chain. Red says the chain is definitely magical. It will provide additional armor and can act as a weapon, striking out like a fiery spiked chain. Broken adds that the chain is animated. The animating force is strongly connected to the creature we defeated. The chain shares the creature’s malevolence. The chain will act on its own. They both agree that the magic is likely necromantic in nature.
Meander pulls the chains off the golem. He walks over determined to throw the chains in the fire. Broken yells for him to stop. He wants to experiment with the chain, as it is animated and similar to his magic. He gathers up the chains.
Red picks up the war hammer, turning it to inspect it. It appears to be a well crafted Dwarven war hammer. It is heavy and short hafted, but not small.
Meander picks up the corpse of the Smith and tosses it into the burning forge. The forge is impressive, there are giant bellows to the sides, but the fire in the forge does not look like it will go out.
When the gag is taken off of Junior, he immediately starts jabbering, “You better not hurt me. When my father hears about this, he will send 50 armed men to hunt you down.” When he spots Kit and the others, he starts to cry, “Oh thank you for coming to save me.”
The children point to a crack in the floor in the corner of the room. They say they came up through the crack as they were fleeing from the Kobolds. In the same corner is raw material for the forge, unsmelted ore and bits of raw metal strewn haphazardly.
After looks around the room, Vale speaks up. “I think I know what this was. I’ve heard about this in my Dad’s books. The dwarves worshipped a dark demon. As a punishment, he would curse the dwarves and force them to forge for eternity. They would forge a chain, and each link would contain a soul. So, I think it kept Junior alive so that it could put him into the chain.”
Meander answered, “Where did the hellish dog come from?”
“These undead smiths, called forge spurned, are sometimes given fiendish creatures to do their evil bidding.”