By Christopher Perkins, Shawn Merwin, and Matt Sernett
If all has gone according to plan, the Red Wizards of Thay have three elemental keys in their custody and are close to obtaining the fourth. By now, the adventurers are well aware of the Red Wizard threat, as well as the location of the fourth and final key, which is trapped inside an altar dedicated to Imix, the Prince of Evil Elemental Fire.
“The Fall of Illefarn” is designed for four to six 6th or 7th-level characters, and the adventuring party should reach at least 8th level by its conclusion. There’s a time gap between this adventure and the next one, so even if the characters do not reach 8th or 9th level by the end of this adventure, you can assume that enough time passes for them to achieve the desired level through training or by completing personal quests (which you may develop as you see fit).
Setting the Stage
For centuries, the Ironeater clan of shield dwarves occupied their tunnels beneath Mount Illefarn and mined the nearby quarry in the Laughing Hollow. Around 1257 DR, King Derval Ironeater declared that due to diminishing numbers, the Ironeater clan could no longer hold the tunnels. He ordered the clan to disperse into the wider world. Most of the dwarves went to Secomber and Waterdeep, while Derval and his brother Korin landed in Daggerford. The king’s youngest brother, Derwin, decided to travel abroad.
Korin was never satisfied with his brother’s decision to abandon the enclave under Mount Illefarn, and after a century of argument, decided to reoccupy Mount Illefarn despite Derval’s edict. By then, younger brother Derwin had returned with a massive anvil-shaped altar in tow. (Derwin believed it was an altar of Moradin, when in fact it was dedicated to Imix, the Prince of Evil Elemental Fire.) The elemental cult had hidden the altar, but Derwin found it and brought it home. Korin took it as a sign that Moradin wanted the brothers to reclaim Mount Illefarn.
Korin recalled other shield dwarves who agreed with his point of view and marched back to Mount Illefarn to reclaim it, only to find their crumbling enclave infested with orcs. It took Korin’s dwarves three years to send the orcs packing. During that time, Derval refused to send aid. Eventually, help arrived from Daggerford in the form of some adventurers, who also helped Korin deal with a group of bandits led by a necromancer named Kelthas, who was polluting the River Delimbiyr.
After reclaiming Mount Illefarn, Korin declared himself King Korin Ironaxe of the newly minted Ironaxe clan. He also gave his subterranean home a new name: Ironaxe Halls. The dwarves of the Ironeater clan do not speak of Korin and his ilk; they are beldarakin, a Dwarvish word meaning “treacherous creatures.”
Life under Mount Illefarn has been a constant struggle for the Ironaxe clan. Kelthas, the evil necromancer, returned as an undead menace, and although he was defeated yet again, some dwarves fear that the necromancer’s evil spirit haunts them still, while a few believe the spirit has taken refuge in their age-addled king. The gnomes all died or left, the original Ironaxe clan members are ancient or dead, and the dwarves’ numbers are in steady decline.
Two decades ago, the Clotskull orc tribe was nearly wiped out by elves. The survivors came to Mount Illefarn seeking refuge, and the Ironaxe dwarves were in no condition to properly defend themselves. The orcs moved in, enslaved the dwarves, and used them as breeding stock to replenish their decimated tribe. The past two decades have borne witness to an unprecedented development: a dwarf clan and an orc tribe both on the verge of extinction, inexorably bound together and given new life by their half-orc offspring.
While time has not been good to the dwarves of Mount Illefarn, it has been especially unkind to their home. Whole sections of the enclave have begun to collapse, and even the slightest earthquake is cause for panic. Just as the dwarves and orcs were preparing to abandon Ironaxe Halls, the Red Wizards arrived.
A Red Wizard named Arvik Zaltos, along with four of his apprentices, came to Ironaxe Halls seeking the anvil-shaped altar brought to Mount Illefarn. In exchange for a key hidden within the altar, Zaltos promised to stabilize Ironaxe Halls by inscribing circles of elemental magic on floors throughout the complex. The dwarves and orcs agreed, and the Red Wizards got busy. As more and more circles were inscribed, the collapses grew less and less frequent.
The Red Wizards have so far been unable to “coax” the Fire Key out of the altar, and the dwarves (who consider the altar a sacred relic of Moradin) aren’t willing to let the wizards relocate it. The altar has proven both impervious and defiant, and the Red Wizards are rapidly running out of time and patience.
The Party’s Goal
By now, the characters should realize that the Red Wizards of Thay are after four elemental keys, and that the Fire Key is hidden somewhere below Mount Illefarn. The characters might have a strong desire to retrieve the other keys as well, two of which (the Water Key and the Earth Key) narrowly escaped their grasp.
The characters have a real shot at keeping the Fire Key out of the Red Wizards’ clutches. However, this adventure is, first and foremost, intended to be a memorable dungeon crawl with lots of fun roleplaying opportunities. The party’s true goal is to meddle in the Red Wizards’ affairs and deliver a message to Szass Tam: Daggerford is ready and able to defend itself against the Red Wizards’ evil plots and incursions. This adventure is also an opportunity for characters to solidify their local reputations and strengthen their ties to various non-evil NPCs, Sir Isteval in particular.