After a long, harrowing battle, the party defeated the black orc chieftain as well as reinforcements (three black orc warriors and a black orc wizard) that rushed the party from the foundry south of the throne room. Thanks to [Ji-Geoman]’s precise archery, the wizard, in particular, was made short work of.
The party then investigated the foundry and followed the river flowing through the middle of it eastwards into a natural cavern, all the while following Thygurn’s locate object spell.
The cavern continued east, ending abruptly at a deep chasm. The river they had been following poured off the edge into a large waterfall, plummeting down into the darkness below. On the far side of the chasm, the party could barely make out a distant ledge. Thygurn’s magics told them Holmag was somewhere at the bottom of this chasm. Thinking he must have fallen to his death, and growing weary of this hunt, they then noticed that on the far ledge was a rope and chain ladder dangling off the edge, dropping down into the chasm. This renewed their vigor, as they made their way back to the throne room, intent upon exploring more of the Foundry, hoping to find a path that would bring them to the ladder.
The party made their way through the area north of the throne room – a series of halls and barracks, littered with smashed and burnt furniture, broken weapons and shields, skeletons of dwarves and orcs. This area of the foundry had clearly been the scene of intense fighting all those centuries ago when Ghul’s armies overwhelmed the dwarven defenders here.
The party found few items of value, noticing that it appeared all the bodies and the many rooms had been thoroughly looted. Searching the area, they encountered the spirit of a a dwarven sage or wizard, babbling incoherently about smoke, fire, defending the bastion, etc.It was still reliving the battle. The party ended the spirits thousand year suffering.
They also found a bedroom that had somehow managed not to be looted, but was defended by a magically animated rug, which enveloped and tried to smother Gideon. The party came to his aid, hacking him free. They were rewarded with a small chest of coins and gems hidden under the bed.
Finally, the party made their way through this area, arriving at what appeared to be where the dwarves had made their last stand. A large room with over a dozen orcish skeletons and at least half that many dwarven remains. Etched on one wall, in dwarven runes was a riddle: “I am not alive, but I grow. I don’t have lungs, but I need air. I don’t have a mouth, but water kills me. What am I?”
After a few moments, Maur realized the answer. He said “Taal”, the dwarven word for fire. A hidden door slowly grated open, revealing a passage. Taking this passage, the party emerged on the opposite side of the chasm, where they believe Holmag and his party had climbed down into whatever awaited in the darkness below.
Before going further, the party hid the coins and gems they had found so far among some loose stones in a corner of the ledge. Thygurn used his magics to disguise the treasure, with a stone shape spell.
The ladder descended over 100 feet down, finally ending at another ledge, with a river rushing swiftly to the south. A dwarven bridge led across the river here, but the ledge continued eastwards, where it appeared another dwarven bridge crossed there as well. Scanning about, Maur spotted a crumpled mass huddled at the edge of the far bridge.
Rushing up, the party all realized it was Holmag. Most of his body was burned beyond recognition, One of his legs was little more than charred flesh and bone. He was barely clinging to life. Thygurn knew that he lacked the healing powers to aid Holmag. He was dying.
“Grailwarden,” Holmag looked at Maur and Thygurn with his one remaining eye, while struggling to speak, “finish what we…started.” Every breath was a struggle, but Holmag continued, “We were ambushed…” he groaned in pain, “…dragon! The road to Khaled…Del…blocked!” He reached for Maur, grabbing his shoulder weakly, “Clear the way!”
Maur, cradling Holmag’s head near his chest, said, “We will brother.” He then presented the dwarven cog-key he had found long ago, showing it to Holmag. Holmag looked at it, a tear running down his cheek, “No,” he shook his head feebly, “not worthy. Never…again.”
“You are worthy, my brother,” Maur said, realizing that Holmag was gone. He lowered his head gently to the floor.
As this moment played out, Gideon had made his way to the nearby dwarven bridge, noting that it crossed over to a ledge overlooking an expansive subterranean lake. The stone of the bridge was deeply eroded, as if having been washed in strong acid. The opposite ledge was blackened and burned. The remains of a second dwarf lay nearby, flesh and armor melted into a seemingly indistinguishable mass. Looking at the black waters lapping upon the shore some twenty feet below, he was filled with a profound sense of dread.
At this point, Maur was committed to seeking out this dragon and slaying it immediately. Gideon, however, advised caution, preferring to go back to the city above and coming back better prepared. Maur was on the verge of rage at the death of Holmag and his dwarven party, raising his voice, which echoed through the vast subterranean chamber.
Gideon suddenly had a vision. As Maur was growing angry, Gideon noticed two pale green flickering lights in the distant darkness, slowly drawing closer. The dragon had noticed the flame of Gideon’s torch in this deep darkness and the echoing voices of the party. It was drawing closer. He saw the party spreading out along the ledge when a black dragon, its head almost as big as his whole body, emerged from the black lake. It quickly scanned the party, seeing more dwarves, now with humans to aid them. Without hesitation, it breathed a stream of acid, from nearly sixty feet away, at Gideon. Although it was a vision, he could distinctly feel the searing pain as nearly every nerve in his body erupts in agony.
In the very next instant, he was again standing on the bridge talking with Maur. Maur slammed his hand down on the bridge, angry that Gideon was right – the party should fall back, prepare, re-equip. Perhaps secure some potions to aid them in the coming battle. Gideon had never experienced a vision such as this, or any other vision for that matter. He was momentarily puzzled. What had caused this to happen? It was then he noticed two pale green flickering lights in the distant darkness, slowly growing closer…