Before the companions can move to engage the fire elemental, a cloud of hideous spoors rains down from above. A flying demon, appearing to be kin to both vulture and human, circles ominously. Lando recognizes the creature as a vrock demon. Besides a wailing shriek that threatens to stun the group, the spoors of the demon are likely to sprout thick green vines that will need to be addressed at some point, although for the time being are not dangerous.
Skin tingling from the spoors, Maydrane charges the fire elemental to provide her companions some time to regroup. Sensing her vulnerability, the vrock descends for a vicious attack. Lando creates an illusion of a linnorm diving from above to rake at the vrock’s exposed flank. The feint allows Romica and Magus the opportunity to engage the flying creature opportunistically, while Freight calls upon Besmara to summon an ally. With the additional support, the fire elemental and vrock are bested, although both managed to inflict significant damage to the group.
After taking a few minutes to recover from the battle, the companions continue their journey. Following a large avenue originating from the intersection, the companions track the arc of the wall until interrupted by a second canal. Fortunately, a second covered bridge is located, which is also guarded by a golem. Learning from their first encounter, the companions quickly dispatch of the guardian.
Gaining the other side of the canal, a gate can be seen in the distance. The companions along the avenue which leads in that general direction, until sounds of combat can be heard. Approaching with stealth, the group observes a group of cultists attacking several hulking skeletons, while their colleagues use the diversion to travel through the gate. Not wishing to risk the wrath of the skeletal champions, Lando cloaks the group in an invisibility sphere and they bypass the melee to continue their pursuit of the lead cultist party.
The gateway opens into a separate district, one that feels different in terms of both look and feel. Whereas the prior area had the appearance of a warzone, the ancient buildings in this district are largely intact, with the exception of two citadels that abut the walls. The keeps were likely the home of the resident army, as the walls are adorned with the bones of many long dead soldiers. Of note, many of the stone structures in this area represent multi-storied buildings, with the upper floors free and clear of gold plating.
After a minor mishap with a trapped mound of treasure, the companions push on in the general direction of the central keep. The avenue they follow opens into a central plaza bordered by several buildings. A commanding voice halts their progress upon entering the square. “Halt! You are surrounded, lay down your weapons and your lives will be spared.” Lando casts invisibility on Maydrane, and they follow the voice into an adjoining building as Freight and Magus attempt to delay the inevitable through clever conversation with the ambushers.
Given sufficient time, Maydrane and Lando are able to sneak up and gain advantage on one group of cultists, while Magus and Freight hightail into a separate building to engage a second group. The surgical strike proves successful, allowing the companions the time needed to withdraw while the cultists regroup. On the run, the companions easily follow the cultist’s tracks to the next gate that leads to the inner district.
Although not apparent to this point, the companions learn that the floor of the cavern has sloped slightly upward for some time – as they exit the gateway to the interior segment of the city, they note that it resides about 40 feet above the prior section. Ahead, a small tabernacle sits on a stone island surrounded by a moat of molten gold. The isle is accessible only by a stone bridge that spans the canal. The structure appears hazy given the heat rising from the free flowing golden lava. The distant temple sports a gold tiled roof. A massive skeletal dragon sits motionless at the crown of the peaked parapet.
Despite the burgeoning heat, the bridge is easily traversed, providing entry to the small island. The door to the holy building is slightly ajar, hinting of the cultists recent entry. Inside, the structure opens into a vaulted room. A small platform looks across at a separate platform above a pit filled with gold coins. A single rope spans the distance, daring the group to cross. A ladder leads down to the gold coins below
Seeking other alternatives, Lando magically imbues Maydrane with elite climbing skills. The centaur saunters up the adjacent wall like a spider, traversing to the roof. Freight takes a hold of a rope dropped by Maydrane and attempts to swing across the pit. As she gains the centre of the room, a magical web impedes her swing. Understanding a wizard threatens their advancement, Magus Mike tosses a magical hook across the gap, pulling himself across to the adjacent ledge where he comes face to face with a cultist caster. Before he can engage, however, the mage is able to use a wand to send a fireball into the room. The ensuing explosion sends Magus, Romica, and Freight into the pit of gold coins. As this occurs, a giant worm with the a snake body, human face, and large fins rises from the trench to arch over the fallen companions. The companions steel themselves for battle.