Gathering just beyond the sight and hearing of the Orcish army encampment, the heroes looked out and whispered about what they should do. As they did motion near the entrance of the cave caught Al’ev’s eyes. He pointed it out to a few others who were able to get little more detail on what it was they had seen sneaking around the rocks behind the encampment.
Before Al’ev could point it out to anyone else, Sindri must have decided he was tired of listening to everyone talking. He stood up and made familiar motions that Al’ev recognized very well. The handsome Halfling then pointed his finger into the thickest clustered part of the enemies and a bead of light shot forward. When it reached its destination there was a violent destination. Fire shot forward ripping into the unprepared enemy. Deciding to capitalize on this, Al’ev followed Sindri’s fireball with a highly potent version of his own.
The enemy knew they were there now, and though many had been burned to cinders, many more were readying their weapons.
Then the shadows attacked.
But the shadows were more than just an absence of light for they cackled with maddeningly familiar voices.
One of the adventurer’s laughed with recognition as Al’ev shot forward on his horse, charging a suddenly confused line of enemies.
The orcs were being assaulted by a gigantic host of goblins. Goblins lead by Emperor-god-king Grobble, wise ambassador of his people, ruler of all goblins everywhere and slaughterer of many shiny bugs.
Al’ev had to admit, the goblin’s timing was flawless and they had achieved complete surprise, perhaps further aided by the massive balls of fire that had ravaged the enemy’s ranks.
Deciding to take advantage of the opening, the heroes scrambled through the battle and into the home of the red dragon flight.
A dark cave hall is all that greeted them immediately within and Al’ev cast his dancing lights spell giving them all a chance to examine their surroundings a bit more.
The rock,Harry and Al’ev noted, were consistent with those found within and near volcanoes. This fit with what both knew of Red Dragons and their appreciation for geothermal warmth created by such landmarks. This tunnel they found themselves in was probably once carved out by lava, a lava tube as the books referred to it, and could lead just about anywhere within the mountain.
They continued forward soon finding they had two options on how to proceed. A few voices from down the tunnel speaking in Red Draconic soon gave them the answer.
Al’ev listened close and was unsurprised to hear Red Draconic. These individuals were complaining about being left behind to do menial tasks while everything was happening outside and elsewhere within the lair. The voices drifted off in the direction that Harry had earlier indicated contained a fowl smell. The stench was strong enough now that they could all smell the rotting meat that surely lay in that direction.
Deciding they would rather not be snuck up on from behind, they tailed the two voices until they found themselves at the entrance of what could only be a hatchery. Hundreds of eggs lay within. And Al’ev noted, unfortunately out loud, that they were nearly completely unguarded. Only a few kobolds were within, tending to the eggs that would someday produce more red dragons.
It was all Harry needed to hear. He rushed in, yelling a war cry that, Al’ev thought, was sure to alert the entire mountain. Duke charged in behind Harry and several others as well. They finished the Kobolds so quickly that they were unable to react.
Then the egg smashing began and Al’ev forced himself to leave the carnage within, heading back to the split in the hallway.
The others eventually rejoined him and then following a very messy Harry, continued on in the other direction.
When they reached the opening to the next large room they were surprised to see someone waiting for them. Someone who had been preparing for them.
Someone who turned out to be Sindri’s father, Izats.
The reunion was short as was the time before the ritual would end. Izats provided the heroes with a simple map of the red dragon’s home, informing them that he had prepared several magically distorted spaces that could act as rest points. There was an entire army of red dragons above their heads within the caves., including the red dragon queen, a pair of ancient guardians and more. The guardians in particular presented quite the dilemma for the heroes. Guarding the final doors into the ritual chamber where they were ultimately headed, these guardians would sound an alarm of sorts that would alert all inhabitants of the mountain to the adventurer’s presence. This would cause them to have to fight not only the guardians, but anything else they did not deal with beforehand. They had no choice but to face everything within this mountain or be overwhelmed at the end.
So these spaces were designed to stretch minutes into hours so that the heroes had a place to catch their breath without losing too much precious time in the process.
Izats made to leave, but Sindri made him promise to speak after their respective tasks were complete. He agreed and then left for the battlefield.
The heroes left for their own battlefield and soon stumbled upon a massive gathering of kobolds. Looking at one another, Sindri and Al’ev started lobbing fireballs into the densely populated caverns within.
Hundreds of kobolds fried within moments as those closest to the heroes reacted only to find a wall of blades and armor in the form of Neo, Harry and Duke. The room soon contained only one enemy, the kobold who had been speaking to the others. This one turned out to be quite the crafty opponent. He nearly caused T’lemya to kill herself through a strange curse that was seemingly impossible to counter.
He also briefly took control of Duke in an attempt to stop the heroes from destroying the skull which contained his essence. But the seemingly Kobold enemy ultimately failed and the heroes healed their wounds then headed for their first rest point that had been set up by Izats.
The distorted space worked perfectly and the heroes found themselves revitalized and ready to continue deeper into the enemy’s home.
They soon found the Red Dragon Queen who was suspended upon a strange contraption manned by a total of forty kobolds. T’lemya was elected to go in and scout it out. She returned to inform them of what they faced.
Conscious of the fact that if they left this room’s inhabitant’s alone, they would face them again when the ancient guardians sounded the alarm, Al’ev outlined a plan to get the Queen facing the opposite direction from the entrance.
Together with Neo and Harry, he would fly into the room while invisible to a point nearly opposite of the entrance. From there they would attack her, forcing her to turn to face them. They executed this plan nearly flawlessly.
The dragon queen, nearly helpless in her birthing harness was barely into position before the heroes finished her off. On the ground the kobolds were quickly swiftly silenced and Harry went about destroying the recently hatched eggs once more. And once more Al’ev was forced to leave before his blood got the better of him.
Continuing on, the heroes soon found themselves outside an enormous cave.
Again T’lemya snuck into the cavern and acquired all the information she could without being detected. This turned out to be quite a bit of information as not one enemy had the slightest hint there was a Tiefling among them.
She returned to the heroes with quite the animated dance chanting “They didn’t see me. They didn’t see me“ to make her presence known. Clearly pleased with her prowess, she inform the group in great detail that there were three entrances into the cave. Two were being used by dragons flying in and out of the mountain. The final entrance was the one they stood outside of now. The two being used by flying dragons were nearly opposite of one another. One sat at the other end of the cave from the ground entrance, nearly 1000 feet from the entrance. The other sat almost 200 feet from the ground entrance. The cave had hundreds of wounded dragons and healers within. Perhaps most important, Azar was also within the cave.
Al’ev was sure he was not the only one who wanted to storm into the room and destroy all between them and Azar so that they could have their revenge on Crim’s behalf. But reason won out when he realized they would never make it back out of that room alive…even if they did succeed in killing the demented dragon.
Instead Sindri volunteered his staff’s power to create earthquakes in localized areas on these openings. This would cause a collapse of the cave in those areas and hopefully block them from being used for a while. Nodding in agreement with this plan, Al’ev said he would collapse the ground entrance after Sindri accomplished this.
The Halfling ducked into the cave and, standing just outside the ground entrance, used the staff on the far cave entrance. It worked like a charm and caused the dragons within the room to turn in that direction.
Quickly, before they had much time to consider what was happening, Sindri used the staff a second time on the closer flying dragon entrance. This too collapsed with little trouble. But now they had the dragons moving for the last remaining entrance into the room. As soon as the Halfling passed him, Al’ev shot several lightning bolts into the ceiling by the cave’s entrance. This caused the desired affect and collapsed the entrance.
Hundreds were out of the fight now and they had also managed to help their side win the larger battle outside by removing this makeshift hospital from the enemy’s resources.
Pleased with another well executed plan, the group continued on until they found yet another branch off which slanted down a short ways.
Again T’lemya scouted it out and again she returned with many details. The room beyond this branch contained a portal, a few individuals and the rest could only be described as some sort of research room.
Realizing that time was continuing to tick away, the group elected to return to the main tunnel and collapse this branch off from the rest of the mountain the same way they had the last entrance to the hospital cave.
It took a bit of effort, but Al’ev was again able to collapse the ceiling and watched as boulders rumbled down the branch and settled near the base, blocking off the room as they had desired.
The heroes decided to take this chance to use another of the rest points that Izats had established for them for they knew that the Guardians were now the only things standing in their way of stopping the ritual beyond whoever was involved there.
As with the previous rest point, only minutes passed before the heroes emerged fully rested and ready to go.
They followed the winding tunnel until they emerged into another room where large double doors were bordered by enormous statues that nearly scraped the ceiling on either side.
The heroes knew these statues would activate the second they came within line of site of the statue’s eyes and the mountain would then be alerted to their presence. Deciding to charge in, the heroes arranged themselves for a fight and rushed in.
As expected, the statues reacted. A burst of air shot slammed into the heroes, momentarily knocking them off balance as it passed them on its way down the hall and deeper into the mountain.
Then the enormous statues began moving and the fight began in earnest. Al’ev and Neo attempted to keep each statue’s attention from the others, but their blows were connecting even against their heavily defensive abilities.
The adventurers were in trouble until they managed to recognize why their own attacks were doing no damage to these behemoths. The pair shared a unique shielding mechanism that seemed to jump between each one so fast that nothing could get through…even simultaneous attacks. Then the second bit of the puzzle came to them. Mundane attacks seemed more affective against one and magic based attacks seemed more effective against the other.
With this in mind, the group was ordered to disperse to opposite sides of the room, Al’ev and Neo drawing the attention of the proper targets. Those with the ability to only wield weapons and do damage stuck around Neo while the remaining members grouped up with Al’ev. When the behemoths were separated each group unleashed their wrath upon the statues and with little more than a whimper, both crumbled to the ground.
With several of the heroes now heavily wounded, they elected to use the final rest spot that Izats had created for them. As with the previous two times, they emerged fully healed and ready to go with only minutes having passed.
Finding themselves back before the giant doors, they pushed it open and entered the ritual room.
There, arranged in a magical pentagram formation, were five individuals with beams of light being directed at the figure directly opposite of them. The two nearest to the heroes were a dwarf and a human. Beyond them were an Elven Illundra mage and a tiefling. At the convergence of the beams was the one Al’ev had waited twenty eight years to face.
Taking his eyes from his father, he looked at the rest of the room. First thing of note was that it was open to the sky and the floor was surrounded by an uninviting looking pool of lava. Mirrors of some sort sat on the floor in some sort of pattern Al’ev did not recognize, but it was clear these mirrors were somehow focusing the powers being used in the ritual. The entire room reeked of wrongness and at its center was a large, dark, crystal-like object floating above the middle of the room. Eyes that could only be described as demonic looked at the adventurers from within this floating gem.
Brelzic finally acknowledged their presence when he stated what an inconvenience they had all proven to be. He went on to state it was nice they had seen the ritual that would bring Asmodeus into the world then his voice became mockingly sad when he ordered the other for that formed the pentagram to kill the adventurers.
This did not work out quite so well as the heroes made short work of all four adversaries and Brelzic was not too happy about this.
Al’ev stepped forward to face his father, but before he could get too close Brelzic did something he did not expect.
A quick gesture and the entire mountain began to shake with magical energies and before any of the heroes could react, Brelzic, still in his humanoid form, hovered up to the middle of the room and was quickly absorbed into the crystal.
The heroes soon found themselves looking into the crystal to see Brelzic with a self assured grin looking out towards him. They tried to attack the gem, but nothing seemed capable of getting through the debris swirling around him and the magical barrier beyond that.
The evil dragon let out a mighty shout from within the crystal and a mighty burst of energy knocked all the heroes back, causing small cuts caused from smaller pieces of debris to appear on each of them.
Recovering quickly, and noting that the energy from the blast that connected with the mirrors had been redirected, he shouted to everyone to grab a one of the five mirrors and position them around his father pointing at them at him so that the next blast would be redirected and possibly amplified at himself.
The plan worked and the swirling energy shattered the magic barrier, and crystal that shielded his father.
Obviously they had only ticked his father off by this point for that is when he chose to take his dragon form.
Brelzic was the most enormous dragon they had seen so far. Clearly very old and very powerful, even being within fifteen feet of his true formed proved painfully hot.
But Brelzic was not the only one to undergo a change. Harry too had suddenly changed. Actually, if Al’ev had not seen the transformation happen, he was not sure he would have believed that the ice demon beside him was once an angry dwarf.
He wondered what had happened when it clicked in his mind. This was what Harry had bargained for before leaving. He had traded his soul for the power to fight Brelzic.
Anything for revenge….
The fight began anew and Al’ev soon found that nothing he could do was harming his father. Only T’lemya, her shadow, Neo, Blasphemy and Duke seemed to be doing damage. While frustrating that he had spent his whole life up to this point preparing for this moment, his allies seemed to be capable of ending this fight on their own.
It wasn’t until Caramel was caught full on by a breath attack from his father that he finally found something helpful to do. Seeing her fall unconscious, Al’ev removed her from immediate danger and gave her one of the potions he had purchased in Varalon.
She woke just in time for both to watch as the adventurers defeated Brelzic.
Knocked down to the ground and forced back into a humanoid form, his father laid on the ground chuckling weakly to himself.
As Al’ev drew near, he heard his father’s dying words and saw him form some sort of viewing portal with magic.
Brelzic stated that they had only delayed the inevitable. And Al’ev realized that he was seeing entire boats full of tieflings armed with really strange looking devices. These boats were clearly in transit. And, combined with everything that was learned on the library island and all the events of this day, it was obvious that their intent was to take this continent over.
His father was right, this war was not over at all. The first major battle had gone the adventurers’ way, true. But only time would tell when the tides of war would change again, bringing the armies of Asmodeus to their shores with it…