Tempered by Fire

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week had passed since Kraag had last shared his story. He had taken a tour of the region, seeing the sights and meeting people and, where he could, helping those that needed it. It had been good to be moving again but he thought it was a fine time to visit the woodsman and see how the healing was going. Tonight they were in the large man’s cabin, a sturdy three room affair. All around was evidence of care and attention to detail but without those softening effects that betray a woman’s presence. The remains of a brace of wild fowl sat on the solid oak table between them, cups of red wine, far better than what had been on offer at the inn, rested within easy arms reach. Letting out an easy belch Kraag took up his tale from where he had left off before…

So our task in the nest was complete and we headed though the Jungle to where Bentil had said that his ship had crashed. The directions were good and we easily found the Lady Luck. She was an older design of a dwarven longship and had come to rest on a steep angle with her stern on the ground, her bow caught on a massive branch high above.

Even as we arrived we could see her shift slightly in the wind and a hasty discussion followed. It was decided that Azo should enter the ship alone to reduce the chance of tipping her over. This he did and after a gruelling climb into the hold, where he had to carefully restack most of the cargo, he managed to extract the Lady Luck’s fire cask and escape back to the ground without tipping her over.

We then needed to travel east towards the mountains; Bentil had spied a promising fissure just before the crash and hoped that there we could renew the fire casks’ elemental spark. So we descended the ridge which held the Lady Luck and headed across the valley to the jungle shrouded feet of the mountain chain. After a relatively short ascent we came to a great rent in the earth near the foot of the mountain. A large clearing surrounded it and the surface around was covered in yellow sulphur, the stench in the air almost over whelming. The only joy was that the ever present insects for once were gone leaving us to make camp and await morning when we would try to find a way down into the earth.

We slept fitfully but in peace and with dawn we approached the edge of the vent, to our surprise a series of and hewn steps had been hacked down into the face of the vent and we were able to easily descend quite some distance to a ledge below. About fifty meter below the ledge was a stream of lava flowing past us at a decent pace, it’s only impediment a spire of rock connected to our ledge by a narrow, natural bridge. Even as we watched we saw globules of lava being thrown high in the air where it was crashing against the spires base. Realising our best chance to get the lava into the fire cask and thus renew its elemental spark was to catch one of those magma balls Azo and I quickly prepared to cross the bridge.

We tied ourselves together for safety and Azo led the way only to be brought up short as I stumbled, the sweat, caused by the heat of the lava, running into my eyes and blinding me. We retreated back and I took a few minutes to remove my armour. Azo led again but this time as I took the first step my leg became entangled in the rope and Azo had to move quickly to prevent me dragging him into the river, and a short fiery death, below. The third time was the charm, with the rope removed we both easily crossed to the spire and prepared to try and catch a moving ball of lava.

While all this was happening above us shapes had appeared, they were revealed as over a dozen large, black gorillas with large fangs protruding from increasingly angry faces. As Julian, Watcher, Kalieb and Cassandra moved out to positions where they could keep watch the apes began to scream and thump their chests and pound their feet. Julian soon detected a rhythm to the process and a dreadful thought came to him that there may be more to their actions than just simple animal anger. Worried that the beasts may come down Julian made the top steps appear to be flame covered while Cassandra summoned up an incredible bird of fire, it came swimming up out of the fire river and flew to the entry way screaming a challenge to the apes and causing them to scatter back from the rim, it was not long before the pounding began again though.

Back on the spire Azo and I roped ourselves together again and, while I braced myself to secure him, Azo leaned out over the lava below, fire cask held out before him. Globules of molten stone splashed up and around him but with almost supernatural calm Azo manoeuvred the cask under a large ball and caught it all. I hauled him back as he snapped the lid shut and in moments the magic of the cask had been re-energized by the lava into elemental fire once more.

As we began to cross back over the bridge we all could hear the frenzy above reach a crescendo and stop. After a moment of trepidation our fears became justified as a huge form began to move below the surface of the lava flow causing the spire to tremble. Azo easily finished the crossing but as I reached the halfway point the lava elemental began to shove the spire causing it to begin to topple. In spite if this I kept my head and stepped off the bridge as it and the spire fell into the lava. We all then rushed up the steps with the sounds of the behemoth scaling the rock face behind us spurring us on.

Julian dropped his illusion and was the first to the top; he stepped out into the clearing above. The sight that met his eyes would have caused him to run screaming back down if the monstrous visage of the elemental had not crested the ledge below. An almost solid ring of apes waited at the jungles edge, waiting to kill any that survived the force that they had summoned. Instead he turned and charged the apes, his fear driving him forward towards the lesser of the two dangers, casting an illusion as he ran making not just one but multiple copies of his screaming figure charge the startled simians. Beside him Kalieb made himself appear as a large bull headed man and in the face of these startling and strange figures the apes melted out of their way. The rest of us seeing the gap ran behind them and into the jungle putting as much distance between ourselves and the dangers behind us as fast as possible.

We caught our breath and reset ourselves for the journey back to the town. The trip was as uneventful as the jungle ever lets it be and while we travelled we saw signs that larger predators were beginning to return in the absence of the Cree. We finally crested a ridge at the edge of the jungle to find the village before us, black smoke curling into the air above it. As we drew near we found villagers digging a mass grave, almost all that we met were sporting wounds and covered in soot from the still smouldering fires.

We met Garra at the gates and learnt that two nights before slavers had descended on the village in more force than they had for many years. Many were taken, mostly the young and females among them the voluptuous Bellini and the wise woman Chardra’s daughter Chendra. We spent the day helping where we could and healing those most in need.

That night we talked with the village leaders and struck a bargain. We would follow the slavers and their carts to Slavetown and Bentil and some villagers would repair and re-float the Lady Luck and he would come to pick us up. Hopefully we would be able to rescue the captured villagers before they were sold onwards but time was of the essence, if things were desperate we could try climbing the airship docking tower in the middle of the town and hope that Bentil was on time with the ship and could collect us from there…

With a huge yawn Kraag suddenly realised that his audience too was struggling to stay awake “Sleep for us I think laddie, we can continue the tale tomorrow while we work” and with that Kraag moved to the sleeping furs laid out in front of the fire and rapidly drifted off to and untroubled sleep.

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Tempered by Fire

Legends of the Three Pillars Turtle72