The heroes continued exploring the ancient halls of the buried city. It seemed that Sunwyn sunk deeper and deeper into the wet jungle earth over the centuries, creating a series of caverns and chasms in its wake. It was in one of these vast caverns that the companions now stood. Large sections of the cavern floor were covered by magma.
“Didn’t that riddle say something about fools leaping over pools of fire?” Bell asked.
“Well, I guess that means we’re on the right track,” Eldarion replied. “Though I’m not sure leaping will be enough to get us across this mess.”
“And we’re not alone,” whispered Galendan, gesturing to a swarm of fire bats clinging to the cavern’s cieling. At the moment the giant bats seemed unconcerned with group below.
“Anyone fancy a swim?” asked Petrin, grinning from ear to ear.
“Not all of us are on such friendly terms with fire,” replied Galendan.
“The lava pools are shallow in some places,” Bell said, examining the cavern floor. “If we dropped a few well place large rocks in the right places, we could create a series of stepping stones.”
“Just tell me where Bell,” replied Kitten holding an impressive boulder in his hands.
[Room w/ magma, firebats, to be cont.]
The adventurers stopped short as before them stood the tiefling Ahjhan, flanked by drakes and shrouded in mist. His eyes swept across the group, noting each person. “Half-elf, cleric, revenant: I’m glad you all made it this far,” he said. “I’m going to enjoy killing you. The hunter has given me power; power far greater than any of you. You’re about to see what a real revenant can do.”
Ahjhan held his palm in front of him, and grinned as a ball of fire formed above it. “You first,” he said as he hurled the flames towards Eldarion. The fire hit Eldarion square in the chest, but quickly faded. “You’ll have to do better,” said Eldarion. “Oh, I will,” the tiefling replied. Eldarion charged, but Ahjhan easily evaded his attack, and said “you’ll have to do better.”
[Rest of fight with Ahjhan]
Kitten charged towards the mist after Ahjhan, but Voren stopped him with a shouted warning. “Stop! Unless you plan to be trapped there forever.” He walked to the edge of the mist and put his hand on the paladin’s shoulder. That mist leads to the fringe—a pocket of the Shadowfell, warped and twisted by the mind of whatever fallen soul brought it into being." From deep within the mist he could hear voices—cries?—and footsteps, leading away, perhaps the escaped Tiefling. He could hear echoes of those voices even as he watched the mist begin to dissipate, but paid them no heed; their murmurs commingled with the droning rumble that was ever-present in the back of his mind, that he had learned to ignore.
“Anyone pulled into the fringe will be at the mercy of its creator, and unable to leave.” The Vistani elder Voren had met with the caravan long ago had claimed that the fringe could be escaped, with guidance; better not to mention this to the others. Kitten, at least, seemed ready to chase after Ajhan even after Voren’s warning. “We should move on.”
The others stood one by one, with groans and curses and dirty looks at the remnants of the mist. No one was happy about the Tiefling getting away, but all Voren could think about was how conveniently the cloud had appeared. As though Ajhan had planned for it, or even called it into being…was Ajhan the power behind this pocket of the fringe? I thought such things could only be wrought by beings much more powerful. If Ajhan created it, perhaps… the others had already continued down the passage. Voren ran to catch up, still pondering the conception of the fringe, and an inscription found long ago in a cave he preferred not to think about.
They came to sparse, cavernous chamber furnished only by a large spherical structure in the middle of the room, built of what looked like iron, and covered with thousands if tiny spikes. The walls of the chamber and the orb itself were carved with strange, flowing patterns, craftsmanship far surpassing the stonework Voren had found in any other ruins of this age. The carvings appeared almost to flow across the surface of the rock, some seeming even to radiate heat; until he touched the wall, and found it cold, and slightly damp with the lime-rich subterranean humidity. Flowing…water? Fire? What are these supposed to represent?
“Fire and ice,” Petrin murmured, almost in answer. Voren hadn’t seen him approach. Now the orb held both their attention, the needle-like protrusions seeming more ominous.
Valez and Galendan had already approached the orb, and were inspecting it closely. Galendan touched one of the needles gently, careful not to cut himself; his fingers came away stained red. “Blood,” he said.
Voren moved to the center of the room, joining them next to the bizarre structure. Now the sense of radiating heat had become stronger, centered on the barbed globe—yet goosebumps appeared on his skin, and he shivered, as though cold. Fire and ice, indeed, he thought to himself. I wonder what would happen if I…
Petrin marched forward and placed his hand, with confidence, fully on the orb. Voren winced as he watched the spikes pierce Petrin’s hand, but the dragonborn didn’t even seem to feel it. The floor rumbled and began to vibrate as some hidden machinery kicked into motion; as Petrin pulled his hand back, blood dripping, the orb began to sink into its pedestal, and the entire structure slid back towards the far wall along a groove that Voren hadn’t noticed before, revealing a deep pit underneath.
Voren leaned forward over the pit, peering down into the darkness. A ladder was carved into one side; from below came a wave of moist, putrid air, filled with the scent of mud—and something else, something immeasurably old.