"You are probably right Nedrick. One of these passages could take us out, but it keeps cooling as we get into this cave. I do wonder what we might face or find here, but we have a mission we have left behind. TT, if you could try to find some creature to ask if any of these passages will lead us out, we can do that. Otherwise it is probably best we leave the way we came and get back on the road."
TT prepares her ritual and performs it. After the ritual she walks around the room looking for animals. Near the waterfall she finds a peculiar creature sitting in a little pool of water next to the base of the falls.
TT asks it about the surrounding tunnels and the creature jumps in TT's hand saying "My water... my home... is gone..." The creature looks at where the tree used to be and the hole that is now causing the water to drain out. "It is hot here now." TT asks the creature again about where the passages lead. The creature tells TT "There are large stones below with beings like you with pointy ears! They like it hot though so I hide here." The creature still seemingly looking sad at the missing pool says to TT "Will you protect me?"
The group heads towards the entrance of the cave, walking over the dead bodies of those they massacred. As they enter the room where they were ambushed by the kobolds, a group of lava beetles scurry away from eating their bodies, back down an unknown passageway. The group exits the cave, back to the heat of the outside. Sweat is already beginning to pour down their faces. In the distance they see the volcano, bellowing smoke and the road that heads in the direction. With a bit of reluctance they head to the road and continue their journey up the road to towards the mountain, in search of a dragon.
The group advances up the road for about 5 hours. Trekking over hills and boulders, that now litter the road they travel on. The closer they get to the summit, the more ash that begins to cover the sky.
The party is getting much closer to the top of the volcano. As they continue to follow the road, they crest a hill to see what appears to be a castle in the distance about 300 yards out. The walls are blackened, but the gate appears to be open. The road continues towards the castle.
Following TT's point, the group continues on towards the blackened castle in the distance. As they get closer, they can see the peaks of the castle from over the 50 foot walls with plumes of smoke rising all around, however, they are unable to see the entrance. There is a trench about 30 feet deep and 20 feet across that is surrounding the outside of the walls. Spanning the trench, is a weird assortment of metal pieces that have been forged together to make a bridge about 10 feet wide that spans it. This leads to an archway that goes inside the walls, about 30 feet wide and 30 feet tall. Looking inside the open archway they notice that inside are a few buildings that have been burnt down and only their stone remains, covered heavily with black soot and ash.
As the group gets to the trench and before they cross the bridge, they hear the sounds of a bell ringing. Running can be heard inside the wall and at the gate, a line off 7 dwarves appear blocking the entrance.They are wearing brass colored armor and kilts that matches their brass-colored skin. Their hair and beards are comprised of flames! The party can almost feel the intense heat from where they are standing.
The one in the center takes a step forward and yells across the trench "Outsiders! What brings you to this place?"
Nedrick gulps and composed himself as he has never seen such a sight. He places his rapier away holding it his arms to show he unarmed.
”Well met, Great Protector! We are strangers who are lost in a strange land simply seeking to find a way to survive and find our way back to our home on another plane.”
Nedrick motions to the party.
”My name is Nedrick Larkin and these are my companions. One of our warriors had his precious daughter stolen by a wicked necromancer. During our rescue attempt the necromancer used a evil spell to transport us here.”
”We were told a King lived in these lands who may be able to help us get home. A necromancer with that much power is not just a threat to our realm but a threat to all realms. Might you grant us a non hostile audience? I am sure you have those among you with daughters who know the pain of losing one you hold so dear.”
The one in the center looks back at the destroyed buildings behind him and says "A king? Lad, a king hasn't lived here for over 50 years now. We too have traveled from another plane, but we have done it on purpose not by an act of an evil necromancer." The dwarf lets out a bellowing laugh. "If you have no intention of interfering with our forges, we have no desire to get hostile with you. If wish an audience, surrender over your weapons and we can take you to Forgemaster Grommouc. He is in charge of this outpost now."
Mort studies the body language of the dwarf from across the bridge. He is stern and muscular. As he speaks, Mort does hear any noticeable falter in his voice or his stance. As far as Mort can tell, the dwarf is telling the truth. The other dwarves have not made any move towards their weapons to back up his initial insight.