The battle with the demons is won. Aodh has torn off into the darkness ahead rather than stand and fight. Behind, Leonidas notices something strange is afoot with the fireball spells he cast. He and Gage backtrack in order to investigate. A flickering echo of the fireball’s light dances upon the walls, fumes waft in the air. The demoness Hanezal casts her sinuous silhouette from some other realm. Her shadow hints at many arms, naked-breasts, and a serpentine body. She implores the bard to surrender the item she seeks. Fendrys detects a sisterly familiarity in the honeyed voice of Hanezal that reminds him of Małgorzata. Leonidas balks at the request and urges everyone to leave.
Aodh, stumbling in the darkness, crashes through an old wooden balcony and falls into an empty theater. The Starhunters catch up with him there. They find old props, exposed trap doors, and broken pulleys. Aodh tries on a dwarven helm with a rune set inside, but does not uncover any magic properties (that he’s hoping for). A continued exploration of this ‘Shrine’ level of Lost Lokken brings them all to a classroom. There they find a bronze door, protected by a lightning ward. Leonidas investigates the door and convinces Aodh to leave it be. A’Kelah uncovers some curious orange-red ‘Fire Chalk’ (which draws ephemeral strokes of flame) and a silver coffer holding a cherished set of red scales that once belonged to some large creature. Aelish puts her knowledge of Dwarven to use and pours over some old scrolls, learning more about Lost Lokken in the process. She and Fendrys, who are both weary, agree it is time for a breather. The dark halls of Lokken are warm, still, and silent—like a womb. The resting of the Starhunters goes undisturbed.
Adjacent to the classroom which houses their rest, they move next to the Watcher’s ‘contemplation rooms’. These are mostly empty and devoid, though Leonidas finds a bottle of processed oriss flower and Aelish finds a silver raven marked “Hilda”.
The final chamber to explore on the shrine level is found behind enormous, elaborate bronze doors. These stand un-warded, opening with little difficulty—a testament to dwarven craftsmanship. This chamber is a circular, domed room ringed with eight niches; a massive stone crib rests in the center. Most of the niches are empty save for a live oriss plant, a curious water-crystal, and a magnificent clock. As part of their investigation, Aelish sees that her new raven, the oriss plant, the crystal, and the obsidian shield are all suffused with magic energy. The Starhunters puzzle over these curiosities, perplexed at how a flower can grow out of stone in the deep darkness, how water can hold a crystalline shape—and turn a dagger’s blade touched inside it into yet more water. Aodh and A’Kelah, examining the clock, feel a rush of déjà vu. A’Kelah, Aelish, and Gage each drip their blood over the crib—treating it like a Tollstone. Each of their blood drips reform and are translated before their eyes into various creatures: beetles, worms, and a gecko, respectively.
Unsure of how to proceed next, they retreat to the lower ‘stronghold level’ home to the golems. Leonidas’ elven eyes then spy, down in the dark bottom of a cistern, a skeleton. A’Kelah investigates the warm, placid water. She resurfaces with stone gauntlets and some old dwarven coins. Aodh begs to put on the strange stone gloves. A’Kelah refuses to hand them over, but’s Aodh’s nagging wins in the end.
The inquisitive halfling watches in horror as the gauntlets turn his hands into solid stone! He sits down and begins to weep. The Starhunter’s spare little time consoling their companion and instead move on, leaving him to wallow. The sounds of dwarven drinking songs and firelight are found coming from behind a nearby door. A host of ‘dwarves’ made of solid, living bronze with beards of pure flame have been interrupted by Fendrys. Like Aelish, he too speaks the dwarven tongue and does his earnest best to announce a peaceful entrance.
These burning dwarves are having none of it and one of them bellows, “INTRUDER!”. Fendrys thinks quickly and uses his magic to disrupt the ground, making a hasty retreat. The leader of the dwarves suffers as he stomps through the ranger’s hidden trap. He orders his men to remain in the drinking hall rather than suffer the same fate.
Thanks to Fendrys, the Starhunters make a stand against only one bronze dwarf instead of seven. It is however the largest and toughest of their number. This commotion is enough to draw Aodh from his sorrows. Both Aodh and Gage charge at the dwarf, suffering burns each time they come to blows with it. Everyone else stays back, getting spells and arrows in where they can. Aelish suffers a terrible blow to the head but is saved by Leonidas as Fendrys deals the killing stroke. A’Kelah places the solid bronze warhammer—a prize from the fight—into Aodh’s pack.
Wary of the half-dozen angry burning dwarves now alerted to their presence, the Starhunters make haste to explore other chambers in a direction away from the drinking hall. They come to a range of holding cells, arrayed behind the sealed throne room of King Lokken. They find a hole in the floor leading down. They find a stone dragon egg and another unknown egg of smooth, black glass. They find the severed head of Bohogor (now only a massive skull), a fire giant slain by King Lokken. They stop at a chamber door where smoke seeps from the cracks but they do not disturb it.
In this area they find a message written with A’Kelah’s fire-chalk in her own handwriting warning them of another dwarven trap-rune. The veer pulls out their crystal ball and attempts to locate ‘herself’. It does so, creating a cascading view of herself viewing herself down into a diminishing infinity. The Starhunters pause and consider what this writing could mean. An impostor? A fluctuation in time? Or something else unconsidered? While they talk it over, the sound of Aodh’s pitons scratching arrows into the stone is heard. This means whatever these messages mean, they are not isolated to only A’Kelah—for how can Aodh, with fists locked into stone, have scrawled another arrow?
One arrow points to another, forming a trail that leads to the hole down. Aelish stops them here, and consults her goddess with an Augury.
WEAL AND WOE.
Descending down the hole, they come into the silver mine of Lost Lokken. Aodh finds an old leather cap the miners wore to keep their heads safe from falling rocks, He has it put on his head. Nearby, in a chapel dedicated to the Traveler-in-Winds, Aelish finds an iron bottle, still stoppered. Hereafter, the Starhunters choose a fortunate path and are able to escape Lost Lokken. They find themselves halfway into the bowl of the volcano known as Mt. Pyrebreeze. The unrelenting, almost supernatural heat below saps their strength and they stop to consider their options. Aodh can sense the ‘orb’ is high above them in an airship that has stopped over a castle which perches at the lip of the volcano.
The pool of lava down below begins to hiss and rumble…
Everyone earns inspiration for the nail-biting, crazy-dramatic demon-spewing volcano, princess-saving, angel intercession chapter finale that was this session.