Needing money for passage, the party searches their excess equipment that could be quickly sold for silver. They have arranged for passage aboard the Golden Maiden, a merchant caravel, for 100 silverweight (sw) per person from the city of Romonus to the Fire Isles if they could get before she set sail in three days. With little time to spare Hellstrom and Cohen sell all of their extra silverroot to an alchemist in Arezzo for 650 sw and a 100 sw marker from the sailors guild. In addition, Cohen uncovered some information about the Smokemen who ruled the Fire Isles. They seemed a dangerous lot and unlikely to warmly receive strangers.
With enough money in hand they reach Romonus a day early. With little time to spare the group divides up their tasks and agree to meet at the Dirty Passage, a dockside inn of ill repute. Arianna takes most of the coin to a money changer and purchases non-minted silver and raw gemstones for trading. Cohen and Hellstrom go to the docks and purchase passage on the Golden Maiden for the agreed upon price. Tharen and Ridolf take the horses and tack to a stable andpay for two weeks of care. Julianna goes to the market purchasing new weapons and getting existing weapons repaired. The next morning the ship sets sail.
The ship makes port Gottenburr Island, which is as close as anyone comes to the Fire Isles. At Gottenburr they trade a small emerald to a fisherman to take them over to the isles. The Fire Isles consist of three major island and about a dozen small rocky outcroppings. The smallest island is nothing more than three small volcanic vents, the middle island is a single dormant volcano and slight forestation. The largest island is a single cone volcano covered by dense tropical jungle. The west of the island has a large rocky bluff and there is a shallow bay on the north. There are several large mechant ships destroyed on the rocks surrounding the bay, which show that even this tranquil bay is not safe. Given the heavy jungle it seems the best place to look for the rare bloodroot plant they need. The party has the fisherman drop them off at the edge of the bay and they wade ashore.
It was only a few hours before they found a bloodroot tree in bloom and began the process or extracting its sap. Just before they finished with the task they were attacked by native tribemen. They drive the attack off and even manage to take one of the warriors prisoner. Rather than harm him, they tend to his wounds and let him go. At dawn they find that the natives have brought them food and colorful trinkets.
They follow one of the larger rivers towards the volcano and find two more bloodroot trees. Although they are not attacked this time two of the natives come into their camp and warn them of the dangers of them stealing “mother’s milk.” They pantomine to them that if the milk is taken then mother will rain fire and stone upon the land. Heedless, the group travels to the base of the volcano where they find a large stone structure has been carved from the rock.
This structure appears to a be a temple to a fire god given the nature of the figures carved into the columns scattered nearby. There are doorways running along the length of the north wall and beautiful stained glass windows facing east which clearly worship the sun. There are stairs built on the south wall, which end at large bronze doors each carved with the visage of the fire god. Flanking the bottom of the stairs are two statues about a meter tall dressed as warriors. Between them is a dwarf skeleton missing its right arm.
Scaling the wall, the group avoids the trapped statues and finds that the door enters into a room that has been carved from the side of the volcano. There are two wooden chests made from local materials and another one caked in salt clearly made in Irill. There are scattered skeletal remains from two humanoids in the center and some type of quadruped curled up in the southwest corner. Inside the chests the party finds a rock scepter glittered with raw rubies, the rotted remains of some clothes, two broken clay jars, and armor fashioned from bone and rock. Inside the sea chest they find a dwarf-sized steel breastplate with gold filigree, several books damaged beyond readability, and a smith’s hammer.
More importantly there is a watertight tube in the chest that contains a fine selection of maps. Several old dwarven towns, but in addition it has a map of the area that appears to be several hundred years old. It depicts a much larger society that once lived here and the minds they cut into the volcano. The entrances to the mines are not far from here, so the party goes to investigate. The only structure still standing in front of the mines is a wooden cottage. Inside the cottage are human bones piled over 1 meter deep for no apparent reason.
The group makes three forays into the mine before they find that the bloodroot tree can grow even in this environment. In fact, they find a small orchard of these trees inside the mine. It seems impossible for them to grow, but they are in fact prospering. In the center of the orchard is a pit large enough that everyone could not join hands and encircle it. Inside this pit rages a most unholy fire that seems to call to the party for a blood sacrifice. Ignoring the firepit, the party works their way along the orchard looking for trees to tap when they are attacked by dozens of small demonic imps. They fight off the imps, mostly by using the scepter which seems almost drawn towards the creatures. Just on the verge of winning the battle a large demon holding a fiery drake rises from the pit.
It is a titanic battle as Phoenix Force is pressed to the limits of their abilities. Several in the party succumb to the drake’s heat before they finally destroy it. With no chance to win, the demon runs back to the pit.
“My mortal body may die today, but I will destroy your souls!”, shouts the demon just as he leaps into the pit. The fire in the pit explodes upwards and rushes towards the party. They grab up their fallen companions and flee the mines as fast as possible. Once outside Gul opens a earth gate allowing the group to reach the large shallow bay just as the volcano begins to erupt.
As ash rises into the air and fiery rocks fall around them they know the fisherman will not come to the island to take them off. As the lava moves down the sides it is already becoming difficult to breathe. With no other choice the party heads towards the derelict boats to see if there is something that could at least get them to Gottenbur and safety. The first few boats yield nothing as even the wood has rotten so much it cannot hold together, but the fourth looks promising.
Unlike the others this one must be more recent as the wood is in very good condition, there are even a few tattered remains of the sails. While the prow of the ship obviously broke up on the rocks, the aft castle appears mostly intact. With little choice as the air becomes thick with ash they make their way inside. The inside of the boat is decorated with bas-relief black and brown men doing battle. Clearly this was a warship of someone with a great deal of money to have it decorated so well. They break into the captain’s quarters and find a room that appears to have not aged at all.
A skeletal figure in rich clothing is slumped over a desk and a second figure in a woman’s dress on the bed. A sea chest was used to block the door and there are scattered dining ware about the cabin. Without warning the party was possessed by the spirits that still haunted the boat. Re-living the battle between captain and crew and the air around them becomes nearly un-breathable. As in the real battle the captain wins and those possessed by the crew fall over. They are still alive, although the wounds they received from their companions are very real.
With no other option Hellstrom, Cohen, and Ridolf destroy the part of the boat that still holds it to the reef. As the lava reaches the bay they push the aft castle free of the island. It is a very difficult journey as they use magic and muscle to keep the small and broken vessel afloat and heading towards Gottenburr. Finally after 4 days they get close enough that a fishing vessel spots them and helps them to port.
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