The Shackled City

Temple of Fangs

17 Reaping, 592 CY (Continued)

The winding passageway was torchlit as the Silver Phoenixes descended into the temple hidden beneath Shatterhorn. The walls were made of mortared bricks of black volcanic rock covered with painted plaster murals depicting yuan-ti and other serpentine creatures. Most of the murals had faded, and in many areas the plaster had peeled or fallen away, revealing damp black stone underneath. In the dim light of the flickering torches, they saw tiny snakes slithering across the floor, emerging from cracks in the walls, or coiled around sundry objects. A rattling noise echoed through the halls from somewhere in the distance, but they were unsure from which direction.

The spiraling path finally exited into a large, unlit chamber, supported by ten thick pillars. Deep alcoves were recessed into the west and east walls, and a sculpted stone altar rested in the middle of the room, its surfaces stained with dried blood and carved with serpentine motifs. One end of the altar curled up to form the head of a great snake with stony fangs and gems for eyes. Still more snakes slithered across the floor, and the distant rattling noise continued to emanate from the deeper darkness.

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Reconstruction

Over the next three weeks, the Silver Phoenixes set about the various tasks associated with getting Cauldron’s displaced citizenry settled and putting the pieces of the city back together. A couple hundred citizens had been lost to the volcano and/or demodands that slipped through the partially opened Carcerian portal, and the southeast section of the city had collapsed into a deep rift that had swallowed, among other things, the Cathedral of Wee Jas.

Fate saw fit to grant Bransen a resurrection spell the morning after they returned from the Fiery Sanctum, and so he brought Karamus back to life for the second time. The cansin was his usual irritable self, but after some complaining, he agreed to compensate the “sorcerer” for the cost of the spell components. He then took his sister and left for Sasserine, which he said was “better equipped” to handle her needs as her pregnancy came to term. They wished him well.

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Showdown at the Tree
CR 20 My Ass

1 Richfest, 103 CY (Concluded)

The party cast their final preparatory spells and slipped through the secret door and into the narrow passageway beyond. Jarvyk astride Fer Lomarcan burst through the second secret door to reveal, at last, the Tree of Shackled Souls. The massive elliptical chamber glowed with a hellish light from the lava bubbling through shaped channels that formed a familiar pattern on the floor. The rivers of lava flowed along the floor along deep troughs that had been carved in the sign of the Carcerian Eye, and from the eye’s “pupil” grew a horrendous sight.

A large tree of metal erupted from the lava there, and thirteen massive branches sprouted from a central trunk several feet across, twisting menacingly around the chamber to increase the diameter of the area occupied by the tree to nearly sixty feet. The branches were covered in wicked barbs, but each branch tapered to end in a hook. From each hook hung a cage, and within each cage the adventurers could see the slumped form of a humanoid figure. These had to be the Shackleborn – individuals cursed by fate to be the keys to unlocking the gate to Carceri.

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Fiery Sanctum IV
Mopping Up Minions

1 Richfest, 592 CY (Continued)

After they’d all drunk deeply from the multiple potions the haraknin Flamewarders carried to heal the wounds the demon had inflicted upon them, the Silver Phoenixes and Grehlia Cairnis, the Cagewright turncoat, turned their attention to the doors at the back of the chamber. The woman said that they would need a method of flying or at least levitating to cross a section of floor that was missing and had been covered over with an illusion. They exited the chamber and found themselves in another lava tube. None of the adventurers could see through the illusory floor, but since their guide had begun walking on air, they decided to follow her example, levitating, flying, and spider climbing across the alleged gap.

Once across, Grehlia warned them about another group of Flamewarders to the south that were near the tunnel back west that they needed to take. This, she assured them, was the shortest route to Freija Doorgan’s room, where they hoped to uncover the secret of using the length of magical chain that they’d taken from the dragon’s hoard. Unfortunately, not everyone in the group was particularly adept at moving unheard, and the shapeshifting hellhounds came cautiously up the lava tube to bar the intruders’ path. The creatures were horribly outmatched and therefore swiftly dispatched.

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Fiery Sanctum III
In-Subordinate

1 Richfest, 592 CY (Continued)

They entered the hall and approached the door to their right. Opening it revealed a large bunk room filled with long cots in orderly rows. Small, closed footlockers rested at the foot of each bed, and the air smelled strongly of brimstone. The walls bore only a single decoration – a tapestry depicting a field of red with a black silhouette of a bearded face howling in fury and outlined in flames. This chamber was occupied by another couple haraknin, which were quickly dispatched. They looted the bodies, tossed the room for clues, and moved back into the hall, approaching the double doors to the north, which the cansin tossed open.

The walls within the hot chamber beyond were rough and natural, although the floor had been polished smooth. A massive iron bed filled half the wall to the east, and a stream of glowing lava slowly oozed through the center of the chamber to what appeared to be a large sunken pool built into the western wall. A tapestry made of a dark, heavy metal adorned the wall across from the door, displaying the same image as had the one in the bunk room. A large iron bookshelf sat on the floor below it, holding several over-sized books. Next to that and facing the door was a massive iron table cluttered with metal sheets and a dragon’s skull.

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Fiery Sanctum II
Threats On All Sides

1 Richfest, 592 CY (Continued)

After the acidic mist of the kelubar’s spell dissipated, the party regrouped and looked down the two branches of the eastern hallway. The south branch curved off to the left after several yards, beyond a double door on its western wall. They could see another door on the south wall at the far end of the eastern branch. They decided to investigate this first, with Greyjek linking his mind with that of most of the rest of the party, hoping to facilitate silent communication. Karamus, invisible, led the way.

Listening at the door, he could hear what sounded like organ music being played by someone who was not very adept with the instrument. He slid the door open as quietly as he could and revealed a small bedchamber with a lone occupant. The first object that drew his eye was the massive pipe organ in the southwest corner of the room. Black iron pipes ran up from the large instrument and along the contours of the natural ceiling. The keys were made of what appeared to be the finger bones of various humanoid creatures, and the organ bench was the skeleton of a dwarf, bent into a squatting position with hands raised to support the musician. A gilded bed sat against the opposite wall next to a carved stone wardrobe that looked to be part of the rock wall of the room. A small shrine sat against the south wall, and the scent of burning incense fills the air.

The musician stood and turned as the door opened, seeking the cause. He stood about 5 feet tall, and had a thick, barrel-shaped body and arms and legs like the trunks of healthy trees. His eyes protruded from beneath a coarse brow and his bulbous nose was shot through with burst blood vessels. His shaggy black hair was chopped short, and he wore a scraggly black beard. He was decked out in full plate and lifted up a wicked-looking spiked chain as he sought the cause of the open door. Though the cansin lurked invisibly there, Bransen moved forward and into the man’s line of sight. A maniacal grin washed over his face and he uttered a pair of quick prayers before he bore down on the “sorcerer.”

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Fiery Sanctum
Power Tripping

1 Richfest, 592 CY

Jarvyk summoned Fer Lomaracan to his side, assuming he would need the celestial bearhound’s strength for the coming trials. Greyjek manifested a power that would lend him some of the strength of the walking dead. An unforeseen consequence of this power – the sapping of his ability to withstand injury – resulted in his having to activate another to shield himself from any wounds he might receive. Though artificial and temporary, he still felt bolstered by his powers.

Meanwhile, Karamus approached the adamantine gates, and began searching for traps at the base of the steps. He grimaced as he noticed a magical alarm trap that he had set off already, but he was gratified to notice another, nastier magical trap still awaiting him on the steps above. He focused on his training related to undoing the effects of trap-runes, and although the first few moments were dicey, he was finally able to succeed at rendering the vicious arcane snare inert. Wiping sweat from his forehead that had little to do with the volcanic heat, he approached the gate and set about the task of unlocking it.

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Finding the Cagewrights
Inflammable

28 Wealsun, 593 CY

The party awoke and began to manage the daily operations of a refugee camp. After they’d set that in motion, they sat down to breakfast themselves and began to discuss their next steps. Clearly, they needed to find the Cagewright lair beneath Cauldron, but they’d known that for some time and had no real idea of how to accomplish it. Before they got too far into the conversation, however, they were interrupted by screams coming from the north side of the camp. There, they saw a huge red dragon in flight and apparently bearing down on the citizens of Cauldron.

. . .

Hookface swooped low over the road leading from Cauldron, scanning this way and that, and finally spotted a large group of people. They were of no immediate interest to the mature red, because he had one purpose for coming out of his five decade slumber. The volcano had stirred, waking him in the first place. He could anticipate the chaos it would cause, and he knew that the opportunity to acquire more magical items for his hoard would present itself. His gaze swept over a small group of armed and armored humanoids that radiated a great deal of magic. The dragon smirked wickedly and swooped down to pillage.

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The Evacuation
Mere Anarchy is Loosed on the World

27 Wealsun, 592 CY

The Striders of Fharlanghn came across and asked Ashton for his help. Once the magus was assured that the Silver Phoenixes could manage without him, he flew off to join them. Having secured the waterfront, the remaining adventurers flew away from Crater Lake to discover who else they might help escape from the disaster.

They watched helplessly as a narrow residential street was filled with rubble by a collapsing house, crushing a number of Cauldronites beneath the stones. As the rock dust began to settle, they saw a young man stagger into the wider thoroughfare and collapse to the cobbled stones. They rapidly approached and Bransen immediately saw to the young man’s injuries while the others considered the shifting debris, hoping to hear evidence of survivors.

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The Mountain Awakens
The Centre Cannot Hold

27 Wealsun, 592 CY

Having returned to the Silver Phoenix house after helping the others out with the derro assassins, Ashton assured Karissa and the few Archers that were there that everything had been taken care of. He sat back down to the books he’d borrowed from the Bluecrater Academy, continuing to research Vhalantru, the Cagewrights, and ancient passages beneath the city. So far his efforts to find anything that might prove helpful had failed, and he was growing frustrated.

Then the floor of the house shook.

He blinked as dust from above fell down across his books. He looked around, where he spied one of the Archer children – Sara, he thought her name was – looking frightfully around. “Is that normal?” he asked the girl. She shook her head, her eyes welling up with tears before one of her siblings, an older boy called Walt, came in from another room to ask if they were okay. Standing, Ashton said, “I think we’ll be alrigh-” he started to say before he was thrown to the floor along with them as an even stronger tremor rocked the entire house.

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