'I was thinking about taking the 'cremate familiar' feat.'
On the demi-plane between the planes of fire and water, we sense we are nearing the final encounter. We have checked one place where the villain might be and he wasn't there. There is just one more place to check.
'Let's use these scrolls of resist energy before going through these double doors', says Boycey. 'There seems little point in wasting them, and now is probably the best time.'
We agree, and use the scrolls to cast resist energy on each of us, choosing fire as the energy to be resisted. It's not a difficult choice when on this demi-plane, particularly as water isn't an energy type. 'Okay, let's make an entrance.'
'You open the doors, and...'
'We explode! Ha ha!'
'...you kinda do.'
'I was joking! It was a joke!'
'Not a funny one, Aramil.'
A burst of fire envelopes us as the doors open. 'What a great leader we have! Good job on suggesting the scrolls, Boycey', says Boycey, and in his moment of hubris forgets to dodge, failing his reflex saving throw and getting fully engulfed by the fireball.
Before us stands the villain, holding a necklace of fireballs missing its most expensive bead. An extended surprise round continues with him monologuing, an NPC class feature, apparently. His little, self-promotional speech ends with, 'I will let you choose whether to burn or drown!'
'Inside the chest is a staff.'
'Um, just the one.'
'That's a small staff. Maybe he only needs a butler.'
'That's how useless wizards are.'
'No, Wizards of the Coast. They've put the medium outsider Azer miniature on a small base.'
We defeat the wizard, don't get vaporised by the protective wards, and switch the steam back on for the city. It's a simple matter to return to the surface and report back to the Lyceum.
Nearing the end of our debriefing, Aramil admits that 'I never trusted that bloke, he looked shifty from the start'.
'You are clearly more discerning than most', he is told by a grateful steward.
'Never trust a wizard, that's what I say.' Yes, that is what Aramil says, in the heart of the Lyceum, building of the city council, run by wizards, and devoted to teaching magic. Maybe this is why we choose to leave soon after and help our new fire elemental pal to get back to his home plane.
With the help of our rescued companion, and a little fiery fellow, we find the evil wizard who has disabled the heating system for the entire city. Of course, he starts monologuing. Typical.
'Can't we just attack him? He's kinda distracted.'
'I think you need a feat to interrupt quest text.' We learn all about the wizard's scheme, whether we want to or not, until 'the evil wizard finishes his spiel. Can I have initiative rolls, please?'
'We don't even get a chance to reply? We listened to all of his crap. Bah, whatever. The next thing he'll hear is me shouting '21!'.'
'With any luck, my initiative.'
Heading in to the underground tunnels that form the steam system reveals what appear to be lived-in passages, lit by torches. We were led to believe the whole system would normally be filled with steam, so this is not quite what we expect.
'Can I make a knowledge check to see how long these torches have been lit?'
'How about knowledge: engineering?'
'I don't have it. Knowledge: dungeoneering?'
'Why wasn't that your first choice?'
The underground steam system that heats the city has failed. No one really knows why, partly because the system was constructed centuries ago and has never even needed maintenance, so no one alive knows about its workings or topology. This means that it's up to us brave adventurers to investigate.
'Why us? Do we have a reputation?'
'Ah. I did happen to spend all of our first day in the city regaling the students of the Lyceum about our exploits in getting here, perhaps embellishing them somewhat.'
'Great. We've been hoist by our own petard.'
'It's pronounced "retard".'
Despite our best efforts at being completely rubbish detectives, we manage to locate the stolen dragon's egg. We should probably write down what we did so that we can repeat our successful methods next time. Something about talking to people, I think.
We bargain with the thief to sell us the egg, but with no intention of paying for stolen property. He doesn't cotton on, and takes us to view the egg and confirm it's real. It is, and we nick it back, with Aggar's plan working to lock the thief in his own shack of stolen goods.
We turn to leave, to take the egg back to its dragon owner, but 'before we go, I want to find a small hole in the shack and...'
'Dammit, Salvador. How many times? No glory holing'
'...and summon the centipede.'
'What did I just say?'
After returning from a negotiation, we update the sergeant of the fort with our progress, after which he invites us to share a game of Conquest with him. Conquest is a strategy game where players pit their wits as commanders against each other, as well as test out actual strategies in a vague representation of a simulation. Sure, why not.
The board is laid out to represent the nations, the troops positioned as they are currently known to be. There is, after all, a war being waged. The sergeant takes his turn and rolls the dice. He is being opposed by Salvador, who is playing our side not for any tactical advantage but because he is the only person who knows how to roll dice. His first turn rolls him a natural 20.
The sergeant's forces are pushed back a little. He adjusts and makes a new roll. Salvador does the same and, would you believe it, another 20! The sergeant's forces are taking some punishment now, but it's not the end of the encounter. He makes his move, takes his roll. Salvador rolls a third natural 20!
This is starting to look bad. Not for the sergeant, who has pretty much already lost, but for us. We're really not looking forward to Salvador mistaking this fluke for gaming prowess, and his recounting a story of an epic victory to us at any opportunity, in true Arnold Rimmer fashion.