After dealing with Helmut Itlestein, the Company of the Black Lantern turned back to the affairs at hand. Specifically, the reward that Malkeen Balacazar had given them for protecting his nephew: a strange circular metal key. Truth be told, he did not give it to them—it was on one of the would-be assassins—but Malkeen seemed to know ahead of time that it would be there. More importantly, he knew the location of the door that the key fit.

This was a key to Dwarvenhearth, a very old dwarven city that lay under Ptolus—much older than the current human city. No one, the PCs knew, had been to there for centuries. With plunder on their minds, the all-elf Company of the Black Lantern followed Balacazar’s directions and found an old set of catacombs beneath the ruined clock tower in Oldtown. They met with strange resistance: orcs and other creatures with some sort of magical aid. It took many forays to clear a path through the catacombs—forays that ended the lives of Sercian (by a troll covered in magical rune tattoos), Chanticleer, and the opinionated NPC Laethando (both by a red dragon). That dragon was so fierce, the company was forced to make a deal with it in order to escape. They promised it a vast sum of treasure if they could only escape with their fallen friends. They agreed on a date upon which they would bring the money and left a magical sword as collateral.

They then returned to the surface and raised their friends. Unfortunately, they realized the deadline that they’d given themselves was far too pressing to either prepare for battle or gather the needed amount of treasure. But they also believed that, if they could not get past the dragon, they would never get to Dwarvenhearth. So they bought three cows and led them through the city, down into the catacombs, and used them as a bribe to buy themselves more time.

Yes. You read that right.

And it worked. The dragon was happy to have a beefy meal and gave them a bit more time. Meanwhile, the company members converted some of their belongings into cash, Sercian borrowed money from his brother Serai, and the Company of the Black Lantern spent the vast amount of money they would have given to the dragon on weapons and spells to help defeat it. Well-armed and heavily ensorcelled, they returned to the cave where they’d found the dragon (still many days before the appointed meeting). The dragon was not there. They discovered that they cave wasn’t the dragon’s lair at all—they must have just encountered him by chance.

Thus, they reached the huge underground cavern known as the Giant’s Steps prepared for a battle that did not come. This tiered cave led deep underground to an even more vast delving in which they knew they would find the passage to Dwarvenhearth. Balacazar’s directions led the company right into an old dwarven tower currently occupied by an evil wizard named Ressad. (“Coincidentally,” Ressad was a foe of Balacazar’s who had betrayed the crime lord a year or so previous.) This, clearly, was the wizard behind the opposition they had fought beneath the clock tower. Since they were so very prepared for a battle, they assailed the wizard’s home.

One harrowing battle later, the members of the Company of the Black Lantern were the proud owners of a tower in a cavern deep below the earth. They immediately went to the surface to hire mercenaries to help defend it and to buy some supplies for the place. They intended to use the tower as a base of operations as they explored nearby Dwarvenhearth. Once they were settled, they plunged into the large cave to find the passage to Dwarvenhearth. They found an underground river and an ancient dwarven bridge guarded by a single Stonelost dwarf and his pet girallon. Although they attempted diplomacy, the company members’ contempt for dwarves ensured that the encounter ended in a fight. Much to the elves’ dismay, they could not get past the dwarf. Even after they had disarmed him and taken away his urgrosh, each time an elf attempted to get across the bridge, the dwarf grabbed him and threw him into the river. Eventually, they tired of this and retreated back to their new tower.

The next day, they found the tower surrounded by angry dwarves from Kaled Del, a fortress within the cavern. They wanted the bridge guardian’s magical urgrosh back. This time, cooler heads prevailed, and the Company of the Black Lantern not only made peace with the dwarves, but gained them as allies. (The dwarves had had no love for the wizard Ressad and were happy to see him defeated). The PCs even convinced two of the dwarves to join them on their next mission.

And this mission would be a dangerous one, for the elves had not forgotten that there was still a dragon to deal with. On the appointed day, they prepared for battle again and brought no treasure—just sharp swords and many defensive spells (plus two dwarves with big guns). But the dragon was expecting betrayal at this point, so he brought his sister along. The battle was glorious, and in the end two red dragons lay dead—but not before one attempted to escape and reach their older sibling.

That didn’t sound good. Deciding to be pre-emptive, the PCs licked their wounds, rested briefly, and hunted down the last dragon. Hansk, the dwarf that survived the first dragon battle, went with them. They made their way through side passages that led from the Giant’s Steps into a fungi forest. Eventually, they found the lair of the three dragons, now occupied by the oldest sibling. One more dragon to slay, and slay it they did.

Next Time: The Company of the Black Lantern explores more underground caverns, and the other group gets teleported to… well, far, far away.