The next room they entered contained peculiar statues that would magically appear in random places every few seconds. Also in this room were two Blemeyes; headless giants with eyes on their shoulders and a huge gapping mouth in the center of their chest.
The heroes navigated the room mechanics as well as the monsters within it, then they thought about the Chort Devil they still had with them. Time was running out, they estimated they had less than 30 minutes of control over the Scourge. The debate went on and finally they decided to attempt to re-bottle the devil back into the Iron Flask now, rather than have him turn on the group in the middle of a fight.
By the will of Ao, the heroes managed to capture the Scourge back into the Iron Flask. The heroes took a short rest before continuing.
The hallway contained a giant boulder tumbling down it right at the heroes. Someone saw a secret door appear before them and tried to lead everyone through it. The door was an illusion and the boulder hit everyone.
Next, the group encounter two large scorpions hunting some invisible creatures. As the heroes attack them, the invisible Domovoi’s appeared and also attacked them. Quinvalur got grabbed by one of the pinchers and was then blinded by its tail attack.
The heroes succeeded and moved upstairs to the next level where they witnessed a corrupted ogre chieftain fight two humanoid crocodiles called Subeks. They heroes waited until just one subek was left and they quickly disposed of it.
The following room contained a stone golem, which was a formidable opponent, but even Quinvalur (still blind) was able to deal some damage.
Surely at this point the heroes would have given some consideration towards what was happing. They were traversing through a pyramid, fighting strange and out-of-their-element creatures in every single room. Why was this? Is this the work of the Arch Mage?
The inhabitants of the next room were waiting for the heroes. Two large and evil fey Guardians stood before them with pikes drawn. Immediately they dropped to the ground revealing a third creature behind them. A Mind Flayer who almost seemed to smile when he saw them. He attacked them with Mind Blast, and managed to stun Wil the Bloody. Next the Illithid hit them with Lightning Bolt and since they had been unable to get out of the hallway yet, it hit everyone and dropped Wil the Bloody and Quinvalur.
Ravenclaw saved the day when he his the Mind Flayer with a natural 20, killing it instantly. Bruised, battered, and bloody, the heroes prepared for the Guardians to attack, but they didn’t. They calmly walked over and stood beside their master, eyes down and weapons lowered. When the heroes would pass through this room again later, they guardians remained, but the body of the Mind Flayer was gone.
The next room, of course, contained more creatures, but these didn’t attack immediately. Two githyanki, one on guard, the other trying to decipher the hieroglyphics on the wall, readied weapons as the heroes entered.
Communication was difficult, but it seemed like the Githyanki were trapped in this temple, specifically to this room, and they can’t get out. The gith accused the heroes of being behind this whole thing, but they noticed the cuts and scars from recent fights that might indicate the heroes were also trapped.
The heroes circled back around and went upstairs from the room where they killed the Illithid. Here they encountered the Arch Mage.
You are a persistence bunch, or fool-hardy. Eagerly you walked into my trap in the Cave of the Ancient and find yourselves in Aqium. With no friends, no help, and your limited spells. Barely clinging to life as you stand before the Arch-Mage, and a handful of Scourge-inspired savages. You will die here. A long way from home.
Logically, the heroes focused their fire on the Arch Mage. He did have a Globe of Invulnerability up, but he didn’t seem to mind the physical attacks that much for some reason.
The battle raged on until, suddenly, the Arch Mage was replaced by a minotaur. the heroes quickly mopped up him and the two demon-orcs before Wil the Bloody was able to explain what he saw.
The Arch Mage cast Time Stop and calmly walked over to the heroes and looked each one in the eye. Then he snapped his fingers and the minotaur appeared out of thin air, carrying the Snow Queen. The two spoke for a moment and they only word he heard was Obelisk. The minotaur set the body on the ground and readied his weapon. The Arch Mage levitated the body of the Snow Queen off the ground and the two of them disappeared.
A trapdoor in the center was the pyramid ceiling was found and when the top was opened, the heroes got a good look at where they were. Central Aqium.
They were able to see a handful of landmarks throughout the region, as well as a large Obelisk at the far end of their vision. The group carefully climbed down the edge of the pyramid known as the Temple of Apshai and headed for the town of Matasiris. Along the way, Quinvalur was able to pick up bits of a message from The Arisen:
…must help…dwarves…long forgotten…and the elves…very oppressive…only hope…
They spent the night, bought some more healing potions and learned a handful of rumors throughout the evening:
- A Mad hermit live in the Fang Hills
- Brigands are holed up in the mountains to the north
- Spire of the Rose is abandoned, people avoid it, bad thing things happen
- The One Tree? Someone used to live there, long abandoned now, the tree looks bleaker and bleaker each year, might fall over before too long.
- Constant storm over the stronghold? Who did they piss off? It’s not natural, no reason to go there, just a dismal place
- The old temple in the southeast? No one knows who that belonged to, the Wizards cleared it out decades ago. It seems so far away
- The Obelisk of Seta-Re? I heard that is the tower of the Arch Mage himself. There is not a single door on it, but you can tell when someone is home, a blue beam of light shoots straight to the stars when he is there.
- Mysterious lights over the Nashir Ruins, some say the undead haunt the ground there. Some say ever worse!
Feeling that the Arch Mage was not in the Obelosk of Seta-Re, since the light wasn’t on, the heroes decided to look for the hermit in the Fang Hills. The found him living at a set of Stone Hedge-like ruins in the hills
The Mad Hermit lived up to his name but he did mention that brigands, known as the Clan of the Wicked, have holed up in the Bronzeshield Caves to the north, and that they were a menace to the countryside and also the King wanted them out. The group had assumed that Aqium was ruled by the Arch Mage so when they asked the Mad Hermit about the King he produced a mouse out of his pocket. Aye, the King here wants them gone too!
The group shrugged their shoulders and went off to the cave to deal with the brigands, since both the Mad Hermit and the King were promising a reward. The cave was easy to find because of the partial dwarven statue that stood around the entrance.
Inside they saw orcs, humans, and an ogre sitting around hundred of crates and boxes of stolen goods. Quinvalur and Jaffe decided to start this encounter of with both barrels of the fireball shotgun. This nearly wiped them out. The rest of the heroes entered to clean up and found a few more brigands who came forward from the back.
It didn’t take long for them to clean up the rest, and poke around at the good they acquired. In the back of the room was a strange metal door. It wouldn’t budge, but with everyone working together, they finally got it unstuck and learned that it was propped shut from the other side.
The heroes moved in and discovered a long-lost dwarven fortress here inside the mountains. Deeper still they found the Bronzeshield Dwarves. and met Magni Thelgrimm, leader of the dwarves.
The Magni was able to fill the heroes in on what happened. The Bronzeshield Dwarves had shut themselves off from Aqium hundreds of years ago (2nd Era) when the Aqium Wizards first started to take control. The memory of the dwarves faded from memory until no one knew they ever existed.
The Magni asked a lot of questions about the outside world and mentioned that there has been a growing sentiment from his community to venture back into Aqium. The heroes agreed to keep their existence a secret for now and wished them well. They returned to the Mad Hermit.
Both the King and the Mad Hermit were pleased with the news that the Clan of the Wicked was taken care of. He searched his shack of a house for a suitable reward, and after conferring with the King, he presented the heroes with a single coin.
At least it was a magical coin.
The story continues in Fortress of the Ur Mage.