As the adventurers continued their journey into the long abandoned enclave of Craftholme, they found themselves possessed by a sense of both unease and wonder at the marvels of an age long dead. Iseri fished a stone out of her pocket that Elsbeth had blessed with a Light spell from the earlier part of their descent and tossed it beyond the stone doorway throwing a cascade of daylight into what looked to be the town square. The group was amazed to see the city had been almost perfectly preserved in the years since its creators were cast out by the gods. Beautiful golden brown sandstone paved the streets and the doors on buildings were made of fine steel with intricate, geometrically shaped locks. Four mighty pillars held the cave ceiling aloft, looking very organic, as if they had been grown out of the earth to reach up and grasp the vault of the cave. They also had thick veins of silver and gold laced throughout, to add to their visual appeal. Spying what appeared to be a jewelry depository to their immediate left, Iseri took the lead and beckoned the group follow her. Eager for a chance at glory and battle, Sumak’s zeal unfortunately worked against him. In his eagerness to heroically kick in one of the ancient dwellings’ doors left out 2 important factors: 1 being that they were forged of hardened fine dwarvish steel and 2, they opened outward…..
His broken foot soon made him aware of these neglected factors.
Following a bit of successful lock picking, the team found themselves inside of an old gemstone depository and after an encounter with a nasty pressurized acid trap walked out again with a fine array of semi-precious stones as well as a magnificent fire opal and 8 oddly cut stones that bore no relation to any form of gem on the surface, each one cut in a specific shape and colored as blue, red, green and yellow. Journeying to investigate other dwellings proved to be fruitful as well, but came with an increased risk: Whenever Iseri was unable to pick the locks on the doors properly, a mighty alarm would blare and animated statues in the likeness of dwarven warriors would spring to life in pairs to attack the group. Formed of hardened stone, with a grip like a vice, the team found themselves more than once struggling to gain the upper hand against the defenses of the old city, but through teamwork and luck, they were able to pull through… Though not without their fair share of bruises! Further investigation one them yet another fight with security and a fire trap as well as a pair of centipede watchdogs, but also left them a little richer and the old living accommodations provided a safe place for a night’s rest after their long journey.
Resuming their journey in the morning, the group found themselves in an ancient forge filled to the brim with half finished weapons and a few completed ones to boot! This was the mystical forge of Fenn the Fearsome, an ancient dwarf warrior-smith of some great renown, who according to Durkin’s journal entries, had been able to bind fire elementals to his forge to provide both intense heat and steel of unrivaled quality. To their delight, the team was able to procure a completed heavy mace, a fine set of dueling rapiers and a morningstar. Each of which had been crafted by the master himself and bore his personal crest: a shield overlain by an axe and sword. Removing these weapons came with a cost, as the last fire elemental that Fenn had bound to his forge, also served to guard his final works, but by quickly surrounding the beast, the adventurers were able to expel it back to its native plane. Journeying across the way brought the heroes to the Chapel of Gond, the prime site of religious ceremony for the people of Craftholme. This structure was unique in that it seemed to eschew Craftholme’s previous use of modern architecture and magic in favor of more traditional dwarf designs, including prominent homages to the dwarven gods Moradin and his faithful wife Berronar. Through careful investigation, Iseri was able to detect a hollow spot on the main alter and with a little muscle from Sumak, the team recovered an ancient manual explaining the method by which the Elemental Recombinator could be re-powered through use of the stones recovered from the gem depository. Elsbeth and Sumak also gathered some holy water from the baptismal font behind the altar and at last, the group made ready to venture into the Temple of Recombination.
The building was a mighty, towering structure, built in the shape of an anvil. It’s outer walls an doors were covered in artistry depicting the dwarves of the city as great heroes subduing the forces of nature, which were represented as fearsome monsters. Inside the central antechamber, the group found the great machine itself, a formidable looking rectangular shape with a metallic base and a stone top covered in holes with crystal jutting out from the sides. Flanking each side of the machine was a pillar as in the main square, but these each held a perfectly smooth, clear crystal sphere. Using the recombination manual, the team fanned out and used the strange stones to give new life to the Recombinator. Unfortunately, this too came with consequences. As torrents of elemental power swirled and forked in the air above them, the long sealed spirit of Bargast the Black was unleashed from his prison inside the device. Hurling accusations and threatening a gruesome death to all interlopers, the heroes readied their weapons and prepared for the fallen leader’s assault. Sumak called upon Lathander to bless his mace with heavenly fury and attempted to smite the apparition while Elsbeth unleashed a wave of blessed energy to stun him. The others tried to use their weapons to some effect, but found that without any form of enchantment, even the finest steel couldn’t harm Bargast’s immortal spiritual substance. Set’s sword, even with its draconic slaying ability proved to do less damage than was desired. Iseri and Nero meanwhile held back, Iseri using her wand of magic missle to contribute what she could and Nero merely providing room for the heavily armored fighters to work properly.
The grim specter’s necromantic touch nearly brought the party to their knees and it was only through a steady stream of healing magic that Elsbeth was able to keep everyone standing. At last Sumak spied an opportune moment and with a powerful swing of his now blessed mace, nearly pulled Bargast apart as his weapon phased through his substance, but holy power seared him from the inside out!!! The ghost gave a terrible wail and then fled even deeper into the earth, but rest was not to come yet. The elders of the ancient city appeared to them in that moment and begged the valiant heroes to help them expel Bargast permanently from their homeland as well as free their own spirits so they might finally be allowed to join their families in the afterlife. The group agreed and the elders led them into the catacombs hidden underneath the great seal of Gond the covered the central walkway of the city. There, the team journeyed down and past the sarcophagi of the honored dead where they at last laid eyes on the Soul of Craftholme. A mountainous crystalline structure that sat upon a small island and was bathing the entire room in an eerie blue glow. Sumak, Set, Nero and Iseri (Set struggling to stay afloat) each crossed to investigate while Elsbeth remained behind as back up. The dressed bodies of two ancient dwarves lay prostrate before the crystals one of which was dressed exactly as Bargast had been when he appeared before them. The ancient spirits entreated the heroes via telepathic link to free them from their bondage, but noted that their release could only be delivered by the hands of a healer. As the team pondered the meaning behind this riddle, a fearsome roar could be heard from behind them. As the rest of the group and crossed to the island, it seemed they had left Elsbeth to a fate worse than death: a Balor, the most mighty and ferocious scion of demon-kind materialized in the hallway behind her. Snapping its many tongued lashes of flame and brandishing its razor sharp lightning blade, the foe advanced, pure malevolence burning in its black, soulless eyes. Fortunately Sumak proved able to devise the meaning behind the spirit’s request and lay his hands upon the crystal, sending a pulse of energy through it. The Balor shrieked, clutching its chest and withered away to the small, sickly looking shape of Bargast. A river of rainbow light and souls then rushed through the room like a flood and carried away the howling ghost onward to his final fate in the other world.
Their mission accomplished the group set their sights towards home and ran into Zephus on the way, who had grown concerned for their safety and journeyed out to meet them. The townsfolk and Durkin received them with joy, and over a week’s rest the group relayed what they had found to Durkin and his team, while they busily sent out letters to distant kin inviting them to join in the rebuilding of the city. As a token of great esteem and friendship betwixt his race and the surface, Durkin used the magic of the Recombinator to bless Fenn’s final weapons with elemental magic to make them more useful for adventurers heading into dangerous places. And as a more pragmatic trade, he granted Set a beautiful composite longbow known as the Oathbow. Crafted with the skill and precision of elven folk, this bow would become thrice as lethal against a target of the owner’s choosing as well as being a fine bow in its own right. For this, Set was asked to relinquish his Dragon Bane sword, but found the gift of the bow made separation easier. With final words of gratitude and thanks, the new friends parted ways and the heroes awaited the time for when their skills would again be tested…