Our expert judges have conferred, and we have our five finalists for the Enter the Dragon’s Lair contest! Today we present the last of five finalist, and you can watch for information on how you can vote for your favorite entry. Our final entry comes from Lucas Elijah Friedman—congratulations!
High atop a lonesome, snowcapped mountain range, a village perches — Bellows Bluff, a town wreathed in perpetual smoke. At its heart sits a furnace that burns as hot as dragonfire, the source of the hamlet’s unlikely prosperity. There are scores of legends surrounding the forge, but all pale in comparison to the truth of its construction.
Half-elf town elder and part-time pyromancer Aelisia Wintrish hides a terrible secret. Many years ago, she captured a wyrmling magma dragon named Fernax, blinded it, and imprisoned the beast beneath her forge and laboratory, binding its fiery essence to runic furnaces. Its burning heart powers Bellows Bluff, channeling flame hot enough to craft masterwork arms and armor (and to power the town’s famous steam baths).
The village’s success naturally comes at a price: the dragon must be fed to keep the forges running. Livestock generally suffices, but the village recently suffered the worst winter in living memory. With foodstuffs depleted and forge-fires dimming, Wintrish is not averse to substituting nosy adventurers or wayward tourists for the usual cow or goat…
FERNAX’S LAIR (CR 9)
Fernax’s “lair” is the heart of the furnace beneath the Forge proper. The building is a squat, smog-choked construction of hewn stone just off the town square. Within the forge are several smaller foundries, Wintrish’s quarters, the main furnace, and the central exhaust vent — the only real entrance to the lair, and the means by which sacrifices (animal and otherwise) are offered to the dragon.
The main furnace is within a spacious room at the center of the building, a sweltering, steam-filled hall that’s practically a maze of copper piping. At the chamber’s center lies the vent – a massive circular iron grate set into the floor that can be lifted via pulley (or DC 25 Strength check) to reveal a chute downwards into the darkness.
The chute, carved directly into the mountainside, slopes gradually down about a hundred feet to the “lair;” falling into it deals only 1d6 damage (Reflex DC 17 half). The walls of the chute are slick with condensed steam, making climbing difficult (DC 30 Climb); this effect lessens if the forge is shut down, reducing the DC to 20.
The “lair” proper, the heart of the furnace, is a sprawling, vaguely octagonal natural cavern some 120 feet across at its widest point, with a 30 foot tall ceiling dripping with condensation. The walls of the cavern are covered with the same rusty piping and machinery as the main forge. Sulfurous steam shoots at intervals all around, though not enough to cause harm until Fernax is enraged (see Fernax’s entry below). The floor is caked with grime, filth, soot, and the scorched, heavily gnawed bones of former sacrifices. Fernax’s “hoard” is little more than an assortment of trinkets scraped together from the pockets of his victims: a masterwork dagger, several (2d20) small gems worth 20 gp each, 501 gp, 147 sp, 23 cp, and a torn mithral shirt, his prized possession. The air is a scorching 100 °F, enough to fall under the “very hot” heat danger category. 
Runes are etched onto the pipes; a DC 20 Knowledge (Arcana) or Spellcraft check reveals that they deal with containing the superheated steam within. If erased or altered with a DC 20 Knowledge (Arcana) or Disable Device check, the steam escapes, dealing 8d6 fire damage to the eraser (half with a DC 17 Reflex save). The pipes are sturdy copper (hardness 5, 10 hp).
None of the pipes or machinery are damaged. Fernax cannot harm them, thanks to his link to the forge.
FERNAX, Slave to the Forge
Pipes laid along the floor converge on the center of the room like spokes on a wheel, with Fernax himself at the hub. He appears as a normal young adult magma dragon, albeit heavily emaciated and with scarred, milk-white eyes.
FERNAX CR 8
CN Large dragon (fire)
Init +5; Senses blindsense 60 ft.; Perception +19
Aura fan the flames (10 ft.)
AC 26, touch 10, flat-footed 25 (+1 Dex, +16 natural, -1 size)
hp 136 (13d12+52)
Fort +14, Ref +9, Will +13
DR 5/magic; Immune fire, paralysis, sleep; SR 22
Weaknesses vulnerable to cold
Speed 40 ft., fly 200 ft. (poor)
Melee bite +19 (2d6+10/19-20 plus 5 fire), 2 claws +19 (1d8+7/19-20), tail slap +14 (1d8+10), 2 wings +14 (1d6+3)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft. (10 ft. with bite)
Special Attacks breath weapon (40-ft. cone, DC 20, 10d6 fire)
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 13th; concentration +15)
At will—burning hands (DC 13), scorching ray
Sorcerer Spells Known (CL 5th; concentration +7)
2nd (5/day)—dust of twilight, scorching ray
1st (7/day)—flare burst (DC 13), grease (DC 13), shield, true strike
0 (at will)—bleed (DC 12), detect magic, open/close, read magic, spark,touch of fatigue
Str 25, Dex 12, Con 19, Int 16, Wis 16, Cha 15
Base Atk +13; CMB +21; CMD 32 (36 vs. trip)
Feats Great Fortitude, Improved Critical (bite, claws), Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Power Attack, Vital Strike
Skills Acrobatics +14 (+17 jump), Climb +23, Escape Artist +14, Fly +11,Intimidate +18, Perception +19, Sense Motive +19, Stealth +13, Swim +23
Languages Common, Draconic, Dwarven, Ignan
Fan the Flames (Ex)
Creatures within 10 feet of Fernax while he is within the forge suffer the consequences of any environmental heat effect every round (i.e. extreme heat deals its automatic d6 of fire damage every round, not every minute).
Fernax spent his adolescent years in imprisonment, and the runic manacles that bind him to the floor at the center of the chamber are now too small and have dug deep into his flesh. His chains are 60 ft. long (DC 26 Strength to break, hardness 20, 20 hp, immune to fire damage), enough to let him reach the walls but not to climb the chute. Maddened by decades of agony and isolation, he assumes any humanoids intruding into his lair are Wintrish and attacks.
Negotiation is understandably difficult, but not impossible: if offered a chance at freedom (or a large enough gift of food), Fernax will calm with a sufficiently high Diplomacy or Bluff check (DC 30). He is childlike and capricious, but fascinated by tales of the outside world, of which he knows nothing. His main topics of discussion are hunger and escape. Any mention of Wintrish requires another attempt at negotiation to prevent him from spiraling into a rage.
Link to the Furnace
As Fernax’s essence powers the forge, the furnace grows even hotter when he is enraged. When first damaged in combat, or upon the first failed negotiation attempt, the temperature in the room increases to severe heat.  When reduced to half health, or upon the second failed negotiation attempt, the heat becomes extreme.  When heat reaches extreme levels, the forge starts to collapse; creatures adjacent to walls take 8d6 fire damage (DC 17 Reflex halves) as jets of superheated steam spew from broken pipes.
Because the forge is powered by his essence, Fernax cannot attack it without hurting himself. If damage is dealt to any part of the forge, he receives equivalent fire damage that bypasses his immunity (DC 20 Will halves).
Shutting Down the Forge
The forge can either be shut down by severing the link to Fernax or by killing him. The former can be accomplished with a feat of great magical or technical skill; it first requires a DC 25 Knowledge (Arcana) check to identify the principal runes binding Fernax, followed by a DC 25 Spellcraft or Disable Device check to remove them safely. If the second check is a failure, Fernax suffers 3d10 damage and another steam explosion is triggered (see “Link to the Furnace”).
When the forge is deactivated, the room’s heat decreases to normal levels and Fernax’s chains lose their magic potency (becoming hardness 10 with 5 hp, no fire immunity); his breath can then easily melt them.
Once Fernax is freed (or killed), however, any meddling adventurers must contend with the disenfranchised townsfolk – not to mention Wintrish herself…
DC 15 Fortitude save or 1d4 points of nonlethal damage; -4 penalty to saves if wearing armor/heavy clothing. The save must be remade each hour, with a cumulative +1 DC each time.
Fortitudesave once every 10 minutes (DC 15, +1 for each previous check) or 1d4 points nonlethal; -4 penalty to saves if wearing armor/heavy clothing.
1d6 points of fire damage/minute (no save) plus Fortitude saves every 5 minutes (DC 15, +1 per previous check) or 1d4 points nonlethal; -4 penalty to saves if wearing armor/heavy clothing