As the party took the opportunity to rest from the ordeals of the day, Gervin approached Terrafina and offered to instruct her in some of the principles of magic, and to teach her new alchemical techniques. Terrafina was amazed at Gervin’s breadth of knowledge in magic, religion, healing, and nature, as he drew from multiple disciplines to build on her existing training. “There is power in magic, power in the divine, and power in the natural world. The greatest power comes from mastering them all,” Gervin told her.
The alchemists curtained off an alcove and provided her with equipment and ingredients with which she made a pair of tanglefoot bags. They also gave her a flask of alchemist’s acid and three glass arrowheads filled with acid for Pieter to use. As she departed to sleep, Gervin complimented Terrafina on her potential, and assured her that he had more to teach her when she had time, and that there was a place for her in his order, if she were willing.
The next morning, watchful alchemists led the refreshed party down to the dormitory level, where the main mess-hall had been curtained off and turned into a great alchemy lab. The air was choked with chemicals and burned the eyes. The alchemists explained that they had originally used the workshops in the main shaft where the master forge was located, but that they had moved up because of a shortage of space, as well as due to tensions with their brothers in the forge below. They also ominously mentioned ‘things’ that entered the forge from one of the adjoining silos.
Leaving the alchemists behind, the party descended a freestanding iron spiral staircase onto a landing at the top of a one hundred eighty foot shaft that was two hundred feet across. Two one hundred fifty foot tall statues of imposing dwarven crafters dominated the room, along with the immense chimney of the master forge. The room was dim, hot, and stuffy, and molten iron smoldered in the pit below, while the chamber rang with the clang of hammers intermixed with the rush of bellows. Around the shaft, stairs descended to various workshops, while cranes and rails were in place to move heavy loads of materials around. As the party took in this imposing sight, they heard footsteps approaching on the stairway that led over one of the statues.
As they readied themselves for negotiation and the possibility of battle, two surly looking dwarves armed with crossbows and holding the leashes of scaly, two-legged guard drakes came into view. “Intruders! Lay down your weapons!” one shouted as they readied their crossbows. A tense parley followed. Most of the party refused to comply, but Pieter laid down his swords and approached as a gesture of good faith. At the mention of interest in purchasing services from ‘the Forgemaster,’ the dwarves became intrigued, but were adamant that the party must disarm themselves to proceed. Kiri insisted that she be allowed to keep her shield, and finally, Terrafina displayed the gilded hammer from the grotto above. It flared up with an inner light, and the dwarves drew back in fear. It was finally agreed that Terrafina and Kiri would proceed, with ‘the Hammer of the Forgemaster,’ hastily wrapped, and Kiri was allowed to keep her shield. The others would remain with one guard.
Terrafina and Kiri were led past or through multiple workshops, including one with a curious subject object- an unfinished golem like construct of stone, wood, and iron. Its cranium and chest were empty, and a small glass bauble of enchanted fluid and gears lay on a pedestal next to it. Its chestplate was embossed with the word “Odom,” the dwarven word for “first.” Continuing on, they noted a great vault-like door that hung ajar and seemed to lead out of the shaft.
Reaching the bottom of the steps, one hundred forty feet below, they found the great forge with its matching anvil on a raised dais. Below it was an open pit where molten iron flowed into channels to be cooled into pig iron girders. Around the room were lesser forges, flickering with odd shades of green and purple. On weapon and armor racks, midnight blue steel armaments flickered with green, red, blue, and purple enchantments. Five dwarves, including the ruddy-skinned, bare armed Forgemaster were at work.
The Forgemaster was surly, and unimpressed by Terrafina’s claims of kinship with the Cinderbeards. He told them that he served the Eternal Flame, and that the great forge needed life to fuel its magics. Once there were more dwarves among his number, but those whose work was unworthy fed the fires. He told them that he would produce armaments for the baron, but that the baron would have to provide sacrifices. Terrafina was disturbed to realize that the dwarves here had forsaken Moradin, and dedicated themselves to the worship of beings from the Elemental Chaos, despite the dwarven race’s long enslavement by the giants and titans of that plane.
Attempting to stall, Kiri said she would take the Forgemaster’s offer to the baron, but he refused to allow both of them to leave. Terrafina offered to remain, and Kiri reluctantly returned to the stairs with the guard. As they passed one of the workshops halfway up the shaft, however, nearly a dozen skeletal warriors poured out and attacked. Cursing, the guard unleashed his drake and fired into the mob, while the weaponless Kiri, cut off from the rest of the party, sounded the alarm and ran back down the steps. The annoyed Forgemaster called for his followers to retreat to the forge, and Terrafina seized her chance while he was distracted. The true Hammer of the Forgemaster blazed with light that set all the dwarves cringing as she brandished it and charged the false Forgemaster.
As the lone guard remaining with the party moved to engage the skeletons, Pieter, Delba, and Devon leapt into action. Delba and Devon jumped into the basket of the crane that was above one of the two statues and Pieter pulled the lever and dropped them at dizzying speed to bottom of the shaft. When they were safely down, Pieter readied his bow and began picking off targets. Desperate for a weapon, Kiri pulled an enchanted blue longsword off of the weapons rack and moved to aid Terrafina. A dwarven smith piled into the rapidly expanding melee as Delba led the attack against the Forgemaster. On the other side of the pit, Devon grabbed a glowing green halberd and used its reach to attack a dwarven bolter who was targeting Terrafina from below.
The heroes were dismayed to learn that their opponents were warped by their time in the forge, and sprayed burning blood when injured. Devon beheaded the bolter and defended himself against a smith, while Pieter shot down another. The skeletons overwhelmed one guard and his drake, and moved on to the other. Aided by Pieter’s arrows, Delba, Terrafina, and Kiri badly injured the Forgemaster. Kiri dazed him with radiant light, but the dwarf staggered away and rushed toward the open maw of the master forge, shouting “feed the flames” as he evaded his foes and threw himself into the fire. The forge blazed in a great inferno, driving back and scorching Terrafina.
As the surviving dwarves wavered, Terrafina, Delba, and Kiri pressed the attack. The magic of Terrafina’s hammer proved to be a bane against the chaos touched dwarves, and Kiri finally plunged her sword into a smith’s heart and froze his burning blood. No sooner had he fallen than the Forgemaster returned in a monstrous form of fire, stone, and magma. The heroes reeled under his smashing fists and hurled magma. Meanwhile, Devon watched in dismay as his opponent threw himself into the ominous green fires of one of the lesser forges.
The heroes rallied once again. Terrafina drank the protective fire-beetle potion given to her by the friendly kobalds of the Island Refuge and rushed back into the flames. Kiri fought the Forgemaster head on, warding off his attacks with her shield, while Delba bombarded him with dwarven-forged javelins. With a last, mighty thrust of her icy blade, Kiri brought down the monster, who went cold and crumbled.
It was merely a matter of mopping up to deal with the amorphous cloud of corrosive gas that attacked Devon, but it did provide a distraction for the last surviving guard and his drake to escape through the vault door. With the battle over, a thorough search revealed records of the dwarve’s descent into madness. Terrafina determined that the dwarves had channeled the raw power of the elemental chaos to fuel their magical forges. The runes of binding had weakened over time, allowing a malevolent extra-planar influence to warp the minds of the smiths.
After planning to investigate a way to strengthen the runes of binding, so that the forge could be put back into use, the heroes helped themselves to the enchanted, elemental weapons and armor the dwarves had crafted. Carven tablets around the forge revealed the lost secrets of forging steel, ensuring the success of the party’s mission. Also, Kiri and Terrafina found a magical, fist-sized gemstone in the debris left by the Forgemaster. It carried a spark of life, but to what purpose, Terrafina could not tell. Pieter discovered a kennel for the handful of guard drakes, and considered the possibility of training one as a pet. With the dwarves defeated, the party made preparations to search the remaining nooks and crannies of the forge’s silo.