Curtains of fire fanned down flatly from all the four large archways from keystone to floor inside a glittering depository. The room’s walls were laden with metallic terra cotta color; the trim of golden brass filigree. Golden treasure pieces; jewels, colors of every type of metal coin, hand crafted statues, and artisanal fineries blanketed the room in wonderous rishes beyond the likes of the iron vaults of Ketapesh have never seen.
The rifts to exit the paradise of Kakishon to the site of the scroll rent wide again, though this time the complete and correct casting was made properly. As the heroes of Kelmarane believed to be transported to Rayhan’s magical academy, they were spat out from the mouth of the Scroll of Kakishon and into a room of many splendors. No doors barred their path. The treasures meant for a sultan of some sort layed strewn hapless and lackadaisical. From their exit, they landed scattered about the scroll; Faharid landing on a sofa of silks, Zahkmed and Khatovar fell a distance to a corner by a beautiful teak table amid a small battered chest atop. Ce-tan and Zahir separated by opposite length, landed spawled among a hilly heap of gold floating and tossing the coins as if swimming down a lazy river basin. The golems appeared without warning.
Four monstrous guardians towered two stories tall materialized from the corners of the vault. Implacable and intimidating, they – ominous with multiple burning red jeweled eyes and smoking embers choking from their mouths like an artificer’s flame engine; their falchions thickened with flame and size to those accompanying the giants of the world. Their hue like golden burnt brass with horns and spikes jutting from their bodies like those of otherworlds and thick-plated armor of those most defensible warriors from the greatest of wars. They charged forward simultaneously toward their intruders.
Sensing the danger the heroes all reacted with anticipated preparedness. Faharid rose from his laid position with an acrobats handspring into his fighter’s dance upon the sofa and lunged toward the constructed brass thing drawing forth Shaldir’s Sin, the Ancient Legacy bestowed upon him by the Azer Artificer Artel Norin, and slashed deeply into the plated armor and caught the metal to bend as a yew branch to an axe. The brass human-beast stood readied for the attack upon its intruder, but Faharid’s swiftness and the magics of the sword-like legacy bestowed upon him slowed the creation. The slowed reactions of the construct allowed for the quick-footed Faharid to dance the edge of its blade without worry and without fear.
Ce-tan eyes widened as he floated amid the coins and jewels and glittering items; he flew backwards and rose standing by unseen hand and glared at the guardian. With few word and gesture, a translucent wall cohered from the light and air around the walls of vault, entrapping the giant. It’s anger and railing with burning sword made impotent as the impenetrable wall before it stood uncaring and unphased.
The massive weapon of another golem swung down like an executioner’s axe as Khatovar stood unable to get his footing on the coins and debris. An eye for an eye, as the mighty warrior stood withstanding the crushing blow and he, regaining his stance of ancient draconian rite, aimed straight and true to the belly of the beast and unleashed a powerful blow to its center, the impact beyond its substance and shattering to pieces its brass plate. To the Warrior’s surprise, the icy chill that normally followed and flowed through the skyborne metal being Tempest, felt weak and dampened amid the air and ambient crushed plates; the frost that had normally collected to the metal trim evaporated instantaneously.
The crinkling of metals underfoot rang like chimes in a windstorm. Another storied guardian lumbered forward down a hillock of gold and gems in dutiful purpose. A section of its face grew wide an open, revealing a dark lining and puppeted mouth which geysered from its depths a stream of molten brass to those enough unfortunate enough to be in the line of its liquid heat. The subservient djinn Zahir and drunken man of Seranrae Zahkmed were not fast enough to flee the spray and caught the molten metal to their armor and clothes and did feel the blistering heat upon their skin. Khatovar, though caught unaware, sunk his shoulders underneath the stream and rolled his body slightly forward as the heat and molten flow which would have adhered to his skin passed erring by him.
The crimson billowing image jetted toward the ceiling of the room, silks unfurling from an ethereal breeze, each draping and unfurling and stirring the layer before it in a visage of golden-red beautiful violent. The Efreeti-blooded man’s skin went to amber then of burning pitch. His gaze malevolent and final with reddened-pitch eyes, his once aery guise made steel countenance. Twice the stories above the heads of the brass atificed beasts he wrapped his fingers upon the rod of Ebon Flame, his gift from the Azer Artificer to combat the Ifrit Jhavul and his menace. Thrice he drew forth the fire-emblem of his searing hot magics which beaded death blossomed around foe after foe, and thrice did the emblem grow into black – it’s glyph altering the course of the very fabric of nature – and did create an antithesis to the natural element. The color of black fire, drew particles and aweful fury from his body. The elements of water and frost knew not to touch this and the air and earth went sickly upon it’s use. The rod exhumed the remnants of heat and born anew another antimaterial bred for Fire’s destruction. Ce-tan felt the overwhelming and the overpowering nova as a ball of flame turned twisted, and it pointed toward the sturdy steward and uttered the final words. The black line enveloped the eyes and strained the mind as if it followed the path of the Maelstrom in an orderly fashion.
The bead soft and supple; the effect conclusive. The blossom of fire erupted with disastrous magnificence as the brass golem found itself amid an instantaneous hell of another dimension or another world. The metals snapped sonorous as a brittle forged heated metal broke and burst apart like a birch to lightning. It’s thickened burnt brass armored plates cracked and jammed and explosion removed an arm and leg, whilst its chest cragged and sputtered out a primordial liquid and sound akin to a drunkard in an alley. The ebon flame, contrary to fire’s own core ripped from it an existence unlike the world has ever known; a desolation and terrible fate away from the Plane of Fire. Ce-tans eyes watched as the brass thing still remained standing. With a nod, Zahir understood his master’s wishes and jammed his own spear into the molten metal pouring out from the holes and cracks and fissures. In doing so, the golem still vaporizing in black ash at points of the dark fire, fell to the golden treasures below spilling the inanimate life it once had and ceased to be. Reddened eyes cast elsewhere as the brass beings continued without recoil.
Zhakmed crashed forward against a pillared leg, shield readied, and warded himself painfully through the severity of the solid metal wonders’ clout. The heroes bolstered their attack as the salted man stood brushed with sweat and dry air calling out to the Everlight to fight on with perseverance.
The enchanted ashed sands burst through an orbit from the swordsman scabbard to the hilt of the shifting blade; it’s grains interlocking to the wearer’s command and unfurling in vicious offense. Faharid danced resplendent rigor red. His quickness grew in an instant. One, ten, twenty strikes. Lightning coursed through the sands and coalesced into the brandished scimitar Shaldir’s Sin. Thirty, sixty, one hundred! The dark and dragon bone grated and entered through as each strike cut harder and deeper into the metal armor without complaint. The thick plates parted for gruesome scar after each strike, slowing the construct and oozing the orange-ember glowing light of molten metal from within them. And through the hurricane of slashing steel, Faharid noticed the beleaguered sight leagues behind him.
Khatovar remained standing as blow after blow hammered down like starfall upon a plain, the impact and brutality felt visually and heard so far away; the giant brass golem with heavy hearty falchion wailed consistently and in constant rhythm, unstopping and unfailing in its original duties as the coins and gems and jewels scattered up and outward like dust from a old blanket from the weight of the swings. His world slowed; breast and heartbeat quickened. The blood in his veins ran hot with the legerity of covenant of an ancient sect, the rite of the legion against the overwhelming horde. His blade flew as swift as it gathered upon itself in the air; it’s only real weight the hilt, it’s only true master the wielder. Faharid dashed for the opening brought forth by Zahir and lunged forward sweeping his leg underneath the giant and started his slice from the bottom. The blade buried between and beneath the plated pieces and armored thing, carving upward in a single fluid motion. His palm twacked the hilt, his other leg spun and pressed upon the guardian engine. With all to much ease, Faharid jettisoned headlong and penetrating as a bolt, gained instant momentum as his vertical foothold fell backward in defeat as he charged fleet of foot and unimpeded by the hilled treasure trappings of the unstable coin.
The huge falchion came down cometary with dutiful resolve as the swift swordsman stepped in for a blow. The weight, grave; imminent death, rebounded. As the massive shaped slab of metal shot forward, Faharid with deft momentum and honed agility ran toward the blade and caressed the blade with his own, sidestepping the quaking weight and power by a mere fraction of a hair-length. The hilt tilted and turned and twisted around in his fingers with ease; the bone ashen sands orbiting and shimmering a matte unbridled fury. What little the animate and unknowning thing did comprehend was its destruction was inevitable. As he dodged the first strike, Faharid advanced his charge forward using the momentum of the falchion many times greater, and his own, as Shaldir’s Sin ran across the heavy metal falchion from the tip down to tang and the hilted hand of the the brass giant, cutting deep and easily as a heated knife through paper. The scar dragged and lobbed the fingers of the guardian. Faharid, with fluid motion, continued the swing and spun. His arms flew in one single deep and yawning strike and the sands drew wide breadth and wound and wildly emerged from the scabbard into a thousand cuts loosed like arrows, a stream of starburst rushed into the air and crashed hard and heavy as the linen and cloak softly stilled from its billowed surge. The color-changing gash filled the giant as black turned to red turned to orange turned yellow. Its molten light poured from its sword-bearing arm and the center of thighs to its chest. The thing fell forward with disregard and beared an afterglow of reflected torch light.
As Khatovar stood, bloodied and bruised, the last of the metal giants continued its onslaught against the prison Ce-tan had created unable to break from its confines. Behind it, as the heroes gathered amid the treasure horde, a lone and familiar painting stood behind the railing giant. The shifting painting once hung in the walls of the magical academy of Rayhan in Ketapesh which demonstrated the Elemental Planes and their overlapping nature within their ether. By its plodding feet, a masterfully made hookah engraved with beautiful veiled maidens laid lazily under some coin. Through the muffled sounds of the massive sword colliding with an impenetrable wall, the realization that the scroll and Ketapesh may be long away from an expected destination.
With the immediate danger passed, the warriors of Kelmarane drew in deep breaths and took in their surroundings in full. Ancient Ignan runes were drawn upon the high domed and vaulted ceilings. The runes burned and pulsed quizzical encircling a stylized symbol of a Lizard. As those who could read the old dialect knew the riddle to be “Half or triple plus one” and to the archway inscribed runes carved the numbers One, Two, Three, and Four to their corresponding egress.
The huge falchion collided with the wall without sound.
A shuttering cool filled Khatovar’s mind as Tempest and the remnants of the one of the Five Winds thrummed warning and wanting. It spoke to the sturdy warrior, “Khatovar, I have felt this heat before… you have brought us to the Capital.” On the Courts of Stone and Flame, a book once written to explain the history and culture of genie-kind came to the forefront of the Follower of the Master of Masters. He spoke his deep baritone to his companions, “We are in the City of Brass, on the Plane of Fire, in the Capital.” For the first time Ce-tan in disbelief turned to his friend, “You mean to tell me we are in the elemental Plane of Fire, in the City of Brass no less?!” Even Faharid stood shocked and noticing the treasure strew about believed it to be true. With his old merchant tradesman eyes, he was discerning and noticed the treasure horde was that of hierarchies of poor to half wealthy merchant coin and affordability. The couches and silks, jewelry and gemstones, ruby of Lings and statues; all would have been found a poor-to-well-off merchants house.
The huge falchion collided with the wall without sound.
Fahrid remarked with signature rasp, “It would indeed seem so.” Faharid understood the ways of mercantile and the laws and trades of the City of Brass and its people. The treasury was simply a tithe to the Fire Elementals and more-so conjecture of Javul’s work for those, in the time away from Ketapesh, bargained and traded for their lives or safety; worse, plunder from a massacre.
The hillock floors glittered and sparkled greed. Pulling the bottle holding the dreaming ship and wispen feluca, Ce-tan uncorked the ethereal creation and watched in horror and odd fascination as the bottle was a mere bottle without smoke. Quickly, he hurried to the bag of endless storage and found a simple empty sack. The magics stalled and baffling Ce-tan swept his fingers through his coal black hair and felt the security measures of this vault tumble into place; coins increased in weight exponentially when held, extra-dimensional pockets and things ceased to function. This all so none may steal from a sultan. As it was, the Plane of Molten Skies was a demi-plane the Sultan controlled. The City of Brass was a constant 110 degrees. It remained stiflingly hot but bearable to those who may brave the element for its trading prowess with all planes. Divided into different quarters such as the Common Quarters for slaves and the Industrial Quarters for Ifrit factories, laws prevail draconian. Especially water, the society banned and restricted the creation, importation, and usage of the Planes complement. Thinking about the trade laws and granted passage into the capital itself Ce-tan revealed that everyone may be worse off without a passport for the Plane.
The skyborne metal essence infusion Vardishal-Tempest thrummed into life again, “A feint entanglement is close by and there is something about it that is familiar but its too far here. Perhaps elsewhere I could…”
The huge falchion collided passed the wall to the treasure strewn floor with a halting sound.
In synchronicity, Ce-tan let the wall dissolve in impatience. The golem let fly the slabbed sword and did little. The combatants drew down with fervor and without a prospect of retort, the brass golem laid amid the treasure horde like its brothers before him. Though three of the four golems were drawing life back into their bodies, Ce-tan was cruel and quick destroying them with sorcery and satisfaction.
The curtains of fire continued to fan down lapping waves from all the large archways. To test the heat, a solid iron candlestick was placed through the curtain and melted easily as animal fat would atop a heated pan. Coins thrown through would land upon the other side. Magic failed as if the creations were well out of reach. As discussions of the riddle continued upon how to leave the vault, Khatovar stepped through the archway marked two and its curtain of fire. The warrior instinctively knew the patterns of the wall and found himself slipping through the tiniest of intervals as the fire spread across its plane.
The archway held a keystone gem that gated him to a sparser room with a stylized symbol of a Dragon. In it, few items and coins of worth a meager value lined the room in small piles, save for a single standing lead lamp. It did not shine, nor did it look like anything of worth. Its immense size bred curiosity as the only thing of worth was a wax sealed ruby stopping its contents from flowing out. Khatovar stepped cautiously around the bare vault and while looking around found hearty arrows, slung them upon his shoulder and stared into his golden reflection upon the shadowy brass wall lit by lamp light. Momentarily he was caught off guard. His visage shifted. Gone were his muscled physique, his pelt, his pauldrons, and age. Before him stood another man’s face mumbling incoherently. The two pairs of eyes met. Khatovar uttered a single word from his lips and the voice exclaimed bedlam, running off toward the shadows cast and was gone; replacing the visage to the original reflection of the hale hero.
Khatovar stepped through the gateway again unscathed by fire back to his companions and continuing to the opposite forth gateway. Unscathed by fire, he resided now in a larger intermediary room barren with a singular door on the other side. He stepped back into the vault and explained to his companions his findings and the inkling of Tempest and the essence of the North Wind Saint Vardishal had revealed unto him; it’s familiarity to the Plane and the locked knowledge entrapped by greater things. Khatovar stepped through the second gateway unknowing yet intuitive into the Dragon vault and felt the burning fire course over his body, retrieved the lamp that was corked by immense jewel and returned to his friends.
Confounded by the riddle, the companions split and began looking for the way out of the gateway maze. Khatovar and Faharid walked cautiously and solemnly in the sparse new room with but few dusty useless furniture pieces and a stylized Snake engraved on the ceiling. The rest attuned themselves to the nature of fire, dampening its heat and allowing it to pass over their bodies.
Inside the Dragon vault, Ce-tan and the rest found themselves staring into the small treasure amassed with nothing else to note therein. As Khatovar had done before, the others found themselves staring at a reflection not their own, this time of different personage and staring alarmed back at them. The words clear as an orator’s, “They seem to be in the Dragon room…” Hurriedly they hustled back and through into the Snake gateway and sparse room with Faharid and Khatovar. The fire burned and was too much, overcoming Ce-tan’s protections and had begun melting the flesh and clothes. The back and forth through gateways found them all worse and worn. Unphased by what had transpired, as similar as what happened in the Pool of Reflection in Kakishon, Khatovar hefted the huge Lamp upon his burly shoulder and walked back through the gateway unscathed by fire and led them them once more through the fire and flame from the maze and ever shifting demi-plane vaults. And through the last gateway, the intermediary room with the lone door. Catching their breath and healing their grievous burns, the door opened into a large hollowed chamber, to that the similar size of the volcanic chamber in the Brazen Peaks as once was found during the fall of the Carrion King.
The precipice jutted over the volcanic churned and molten lava, bubbling and roiling upon itself like twisted souls amid the Boneyard, and flowed through to a domed catacomb. The deadly river continued out of sight and bereft of boat or boatman. A single marbled plinth stood at the doorway, bare and sturdy. The reflection of a disheveled man grew in the light and walls, staring intently at the heroes of Kelmarane. As the reflection’s babbling and muttering continued to itself, when noticed and acknowledged, it screamed “They can see me!” and ran panicked into the shadows once more.
The brass walls gleamed in volcanic light; the entrance to the vault stood glittering brassen-gold filigree. With a curl of his lips and a teasing smile, Ce-tan looked back at all his unarcane companions, “The riddle is solved.”