“Uh, so what do we do with it?” Amaya asks, referring to the ark adorned with a broken tip of the Obelisk.
“I’m in favor of leaving it here for now, unless you’re concerned that someone will come along and disturb it,” Nasti says.
“As long as we are here, it might as well stay where it is,” Nova concedes.
“For what it’s worth, there are two more things needed to make the gate work: ‘pages, used to foretell the stars,’ and ‘the missing sigil, restored to its rightful place.’”
“Anything else your new buddies tell you that we should know?”
“I think that about covers it.”
Amaya sits down with the magic box they found in the workshop below. Holding the box closed and envisioning the dungeon around her, she turns the box clockwise three times then gives it three slow shakes. When she opens the box, the sand inside has arranged itself to replicate, in miniature, the stone terrain around them. Unfortunately, it shows her little more than they have already explored. “Oh, more stairs down,” she says, pointing to the feature in the box and then the illusory demon arch on the east wall of the ark chamber.
They cross the miasma threshold and descend to the landing below. A little north of that, they find another fiery arch that reacts to one of the medallions they’ve collected from Armory denizens. It proves to be the bottom of an elevator shaft, likely the one in the northwest of Rock’s broken statue chamber. Amaya leads her cousins past the arch and down another short flight of steps. Near the bottom of these, they hear loud clanking and a sound like the rhythmic and rapid breathing of some huge beast. They proceed cautiously, if not particularly stealthily.
A broad-chested giant with green skin and two heads stands in front of four copper doors at the west end of a wide hallway. She has a pair of heavy clubs in her clawed hands, which she lifts as she catches sight of Amaya at the foot of the steps. The rhythmic, clanking, and breathing sounds come from beyond the doors.
“Hello, would you care to surrender?” Amaya says, stepping into the hall. Then the half-elf sighs as the giant says something angry and likely rude in a language none of the cousins know and advances. It brings its left-hand club down to crush Amaya with a bruising impact.
Nova’s attempt to summon the void is rudely interrupted by the giant’s club smashing into her, as well.
Then, the right-hand club goes to work, and two more heavy blows rain down on Amaya. The half-elf grimaces, stepping forward and striking the giant twice. Nasti recognizes the giant as a mutant troll, complete with the regenerative powers of such creatures. With a nod, the witch casts fireball, and though the troll avoids a direct hit, it still burns quite well.
In response, the troll drops its clubs, advances past Amaya, and brings its wicked left-hand claws to bear against Nasti. Nova takes a cautious step up the stairs and heals Amaya, while the troll roars and brings its right-hand claws against the tiefling with brutal efficiency. The tiefling falls bleeding on the stairs, and Amaya’s blade carves deep into the troll’s belly. Her defensive stance allows her to narrowly avoid getting disemboweled by the troll’s next onslaught. Nova steps back again and as her magic revives Nasti, she advises the tiefling to stay down.
Amaya and the troll exchange slicing blows again, and Nasti draws the giant’s attention when she tries to cast produce flame. A claw comes down and disrupts the witch’s spell, and she staggers to her feet with a grimace. Unfortunately, Nasti’s consciousness is short-lived as the left head’s claws put her back down. Worse, without the flames, its wounds begin to heal quite rapidly.
Nova revives the tiefling a second time and reiterates, “Nasti… Stay down this time.”
“We’re ALL going to be staying down if we can’t kill this bitch!” the witch retorts, gaining her feet and bleeding for it, but continuing up the stairs after. The troll pursues Nasti, but she evades its claws for a critical moment. Then Amaya moves to interpose herself between her cousins and the troll, standing firm in the middle of the stairs.
Nova backs up and heals Nasti again. “Get behind me," she advises from the top of the steps. The witch complies and strikes the troll with produced flame. With Amaya blocking the stairs, the giant’s left-hand claws carve into her. Nova returns her attention keeping Amaya on her feet with magical healing. When the right-hand claws strike Amaya a second time in as many moments, the left head chomps down on her shoulder. The half-elf strikes back but focuses more of her attention on defense.
Nasti produces flame again, setting the troll on fire! The giant recoils but growls and tries to tear apart the obstacle between it and the firestarter. Fortunately, Amaya withstands the furious troll’s murderous appendages for another critical moment. Nova heals Amaya, while the troll spits on its hand and slaps at the fire eating its flesh. It douses the flames and claws the half-elf with a spittle-covered claw one last time. Amaya, staggering from blood loss, manages to decapitate both of the troll’s heads in a single brutal swipe. The corpse falls and slides down a few steps.
“I fucking HATE trolls,” Nasti says.
“They don’t like you very much either,” Nova says. “I was sure I lost you that second time.”
“Me too. Thanks for that. Wait, who’s talking?”
The cousins focus their attention on the copper doors and are just able to make out high, squeaky voices coming from beyond.
“Sounds like she didn’t win!” one says.
“Damn! I guess I owe you ten gold!” another responds.
“I’m just about of spells for the day. My heals will be weak, and only a couple left at all,” Nova says. Her cousins nod and start quaffing pilfered healing potions.
“Should we go see who that is?” Nasti asks.
“If you think you can dodge them when they try to take your head off,” Nova says.
“I feel like they would be in here already doing that if that were their intention.”
“I agree with Nasti,” Amaya says.
“Whaaaat?” Canter says.
“Okay,” Nova says.
“Anyone alive out there?” a shrill voice calls through the doors. Giggling follows.
“Maybe I don’t owe you gold after all!” a second voice crows.
“Yes, and it’s not the troll,” Nasti says at the same time Amaya says, “No one but us trolls.”
Raucous laughter follows and one of the voices shouts, “Comedians!”
“On the bleeding edge of their art, no doubt!”
“Did you just say ‘hiss’?”
“Uh, How are you?” Amaya interrupts the banter.
“All of our blood is on the inside. How are you?” More giggling follows.
“Mostly the same,” the half-elf says.
More giggling is followed by. “Of course, of course. Liar!” Another peal of laughter explodes.
“Who’s there, anyway?”
“Who’s out THERE?” a voice retorts. “You’re the intruders, after all. Manners!” More giggling.
“I was just being polite. You don’t HAVE to end up like she did.”
Breathless gasps after this latest round of laughter. Wheezing, “Stop. Stop. You’re killing us.”
Amaya walks towards one of the copper doors and says, “Can you let us in?”
“Oh, no. That wouldn’t be good. For you. We are nothing if not gracious hosts.” Cackling.
Amaya shrugs, lifts a booted foot, and kicks forward with all her prodigious strength. The wooden bar blocking the copper door in front of the half-elf breaks, and the door creaks open. A squeak of surprise is followed by the sounds of footsteps scurrying backward until they vanish beneath the loud noises beyond.
“Wait, don’t go.” Amaya deadpans. “I have so many questions.”
A huge foundry squats beyond the copper doors, lit by the orange glow of the molten material that must be contained in two rail-lined pits centered along the northern and southern walls. To either side of the doors are immense furnaces with attached bellows that slowly compress, then spring upward with great force. On the far end of the room are two drum-shaped crucibles. Above, a crane slowly dips an attached bucket into the northern pit. A massive anvil in the center of the room appears to have a stone atop it. Three blue dwarflike creatures lurk at the far end of the large chamber, each aiming a crossbow at the open doorway.
“You’re still not invited in!” cries one of the creatures. The other two giggle.
“Why not?” Amaya asks.
“Grim demise, etc.”
They leer in response.
“What are you doing here?” Amaya says.
“We don’t want to talk to you a-boot anything more.”
“Rude door breaker.”
Amaya recalls having read about such creatures and whispers, “There are three deros on the other side of the door.”
The dero open fire, but the hand crossbow bolts fly wide of their intended target. Amaya surges forward and attacks the nearest dero, which futilely tries to defend itself with a strange-looking hook-spear. Nasti strides in and throws an electric arc at two of the dero, sizzling their flesh with the cantrip. Nova finishes off Amaya’s melee dance partner with a ray of frost that freezes it in place.
Overhead, the crane drops lava into the north crucible. The final dero misses the half-elf with its crossbow, then disappears in a flash of magic dust. The visible dero retreats near the south crucible and casts sound burst on Amaya, who shrugs most of it off. The half-elf stalks forward and kills the offender, and as it falls the room trembles.
“What’s going on?” Nova asks. Nasti shrugs and sends a glob of flame streaking past where she thinks the invisible dero is standing.
Then the bellows stop compressing, and the crane halts. With a blast of flame, a huge being of living fire emerges from the northern magma pit. It resembles a dragon with burning wings and a long, sinuous tail. It bellows in a crackling hiss, “Kar ka chaan! Thru hau kar ka chaan!” Then it breathes a cone of flame that burns Nasti and Nova.
“Doom-y doom doom!” the dero cries, reappearing when it shoots Amaya with a poisoned bolt.
“Pull back to the hall!” Nova cries, following her own advice and dousing the flames that the flame creature’s breath had set on her clothes.
Amaya advances on the firewyrm, her flesh burning as she draws near the elemental. She strikes it once with her blade before retreating a few steps toward the copper doors. Nasti tries a ray of frost, but the spell flies wide, so she retreats into the hall near Nova, extinguishing her own clothes.
The dero’s next bolt misses Amaya, but the firewyrm’s reaching tail does not, and she is likewise set aflame. Nova gets an angle on the elemental, and her ray of frost pierces the heat haze to strike its chest dead-center. Amaya weathers the heat of the firewyrm’s proximity and makes another solid strike on it with her magic sword.
Nasti sends another ray of frost at the elemental, and Amaya shrugs off another poisoned bolt from the dero. Then the firewyrm breathes flame into the half-elf’s face and follows that indignity up with another tail strike. Nova resumes her healing role and bolsters Amaya’s flagging strength.
The half-elf’s next strike destroys the elemental, which explodes and renders her unconscious on the floor. Nasti runs into the room and administers battle medicine to revive her cousin. Then she steps between Amaya and the dero. The half-mad deep dwarf misses Nasti with a pair of bolts then tosses the crossbow into the nearest lava pit with a cackle. Nova reenters the room to heal Amaya, and Nasti’s next spell finishes off the last dero, the icy lance piercing its throat. This interrupts its dying laughter.
“I need to take a breather,” Amaya says as she regains her feet.
“To say the least,” Nasti says.
“In that sauna, tho?” Canter asks from outside the foundry.
“No, thanks,” Amaya says.
“Let’s get out of here first,” Nova says. “Who knows if there is another in the other pit.”
Amaya swiftly searches the bodies, finding another pinch of magical dust on the last dero’s belt. Nasti scoops up the enchanted blue-green glassy gem from atop the anvil and the cousins depart. “Sparkly!” Canter says.
With their magical resources depleted, the cousins decide to retreat to the surface. Between them, they manage to manhandle the ark awkwardly down the stairs, up the elevator, and eventually out of the Armory into the Luminous Order camp.