<u>Session 13: Pharast 1, 4717 AR-Pharast 9, 4717 AR</u>
Before you set off, Sister Sarah gave each of you a medallion of Iomedae that might help you bypass any traps left behind by the earlier worshippers. The journey to the burial halls took 7 days. Though winter weather lingered just a bit, aside from some fog and a couple of days of freezing temperatures, the journey was mostly uneventful. The only encounters you all had were with a Manticore (on Pharast 4) and some spiders on your approach setting up a camp in the forest on Pharast 7. The Manticore battle was slightly amusing, as it managed to grab Gambler, but Drinna, Belflin, and Henri made sure the creature did not snack on their small friend through an aerial barrage of their own. The spiders were more of a nuisance, as Belflin used his flaming arrows to take out their nest, forcing most of the creatures to flee.
As you all were breaking camp to await the arrival of the Vigil forces on the morning of Pharast 8, Atish received a magical message from Sister Sarah. The forces of Orcus had unleashed an assault on Vigil, keeping the main force from joining the party. She urged the party to attack the main Orcus Temple while most of the forces were away. Heeding here advice you all entered the Temple level through the warded door you had encountered earlier in the upper crypts.
Descending to the fourth level, you all found a series of empty rooms with clear signs that the occupants had left to participate in the attack on Vigil. Among the more interesting finds was an empty slave pen (at which Belflin detected the unmistakable musk of Ogres) and an entry to the Darklands that descended through a gaping abyss. Once you were convinced that there were no reinforcements in the outside areas, you all prepared to invade the main temple.
It was to be a two-pronged assault, with Henri, Belflin and Koeter, Atish, and Drebb coming through the front door, while Drinna and Gambler came in through the hidden door that you all had discovered. Like so many plans, however, this one did not survive the first moment of engagement. As the main party opened the front doors, Gambler discovered that the secret door was warded with powerful magic to prevent entry. Drinna rushed back to warn the party and change the plan, but she was too late.
Beyond the heavy brass portals, the temple chamber was split by a large crevasse, which opened onto darkness below. The portion of the temple beyond the crevasse sat some 20 feet above the portion of the room south of the crevasse. The ceiling of the temple was over 50 feet high. The crevasse is spanned by a thick bridge of solid black stone. A row of glowing braziers lined either side of the crevasse, filling the chamber with a hellish glow. Black candles of a most unholy aspect stood in long candleholders along either wall and flickered with a faint and evil light. The portion north of the crevasse was dominated by a gold-plated and jewel-encrusted statue of a seated Orcus, his wand upraised in one hand and the other hand outstretched with an open palm facing upward, on which were set the heart and entrails of many recent sacrifices. Before the statue and on the same raised platform was an altar of black stone, stained even deeper with the crimson blood of hundreds of previous sacrifices. Large bronze braziers, full of burning coals, stood to either side of the statue of the demon prince.
The High Priest of Orcus and 2 senior priests stood on the raised platform by the altar along with an 8-foot tall demon that was a twisted cross between a human and a vulture. Occupying the upper portion of the cavern were five acolytes and 2 lesser priests. All of the clergy were garbed in the black and white robes of Orcus and were equipped with master-crafted chain mail, heavy shields, and spiked heavy maces. Dominating the lower part of the chasm were ten Ogres in masterwork half-plate mail wielding masterwork great axes. As you all watched, the High Priest closed a magical portal through which you could see the last of the temple’s other priests entering Vigil near the Golden Sword. The screeching of the doors announced your entry and the High Priest turned and gave the usual monologue. He blamed your party for forcing an early invasion of Vigil and asked if you were all prepared to die and have your souls consumed by Orcus. Of course, you replied in the negative and the fight was on.
Against the advice of Belflin and Gambler to use the door as a choke point, Drebb charged into the midst of the Ogres. A well-placed Ice Storm spell by Henri slew the acolytes and damaged the rest of the senior clergy on the platform. The demon, which Henri identified as Vrock, flew into the midst of the main party while the remaining clerics buffed themselves with defensive spells and slowly advanced. Atish spent his time buffing the party, while Belflin, Koeter, Drinna, and Gambler engaged the demon. This was tough sledding, as most of your attacks bounced off of the Vrock (no one had weapons infused with the power of Good) and the creature also created a Mirror Image of itself as well as briefly stunned Koeter with its screech. In addition, the Vrock released a cloud of spores that burrowed into the skin of Gambler and Henri, but Henri’s knowledge of the beast paid off as he instructed Atish to Bless the party, which killed the spores. Gradually, Belflin’s arrow attacks, Koeter’s snapping jaws, and Henri’s Magic Missiles took the creature down, but Koeter was severely wounded.
Meanwhile, seeing that their attacks were not substantially damaging the demon, Drinna and Gambler dashed into the room to help Drebb take on the Ogres. They were helped out when Henri softened up the giants with a well-placed Fireball and a Flaming Sphere. Gambler and Drebb managed to overcome several foul enchantments cast at them by the advancing evil clerics, several times calling on heroic reserves of inner power.
As the Vrock died and the Ogres continued to fall before the axe of Drebb, the blades of Gambler, and the fists of Drinna, the High Priest unfurled the wings of his cloak and transformed into another Vrock. Gambler and Drinna finished the Ogres, while a severely wounded Drebb engaged the High Priest and lopped his head off. Belflin, Drinna, and Gambler then proceeded to mop up the last few priests.
After Atish healed those who were hurt, he determined that the gold and gems on the idol were cursed and that it was beyond his power to cleanse this place. He did receive another message from Sister Sarah that the Golden Sword forces had defeated the invasion. You all retreated and rested for the evening, hauling up the loot (mostly magical armor) from the dead bodies. After much discussion, you all decided to go ahead and continue trying to find the Fountain of Earth’s Blood, the Tomb of Abysthor, and the Black Monolith.
You all went back over your maps and decided to start exploring several ways down that you had found earlier on Level 2. You went to the southwest exit near the Shadow lair and descended stairs that brought you out into a gigantic cavern that was more 130 feet across at its widest and over 100 feet high. There were very few stalactites or stalagmites in this room, but there were spots of bat droppings on the floor in more than the usual concentrations that Belflin determined came from magical beasts and not regular bats.
At the rear of the cave, near the only visible exit heading south was a statue of a human male in chain mail holding a lantern and long sword, with a startled look on his face, facing the exit. Drebb determined that this was not a naturally manufactured statue, and you all suspected that it was a petrified adventurer, which was confirmed by Henri. As you examined the statue, 9 bats with fifteen foot wingspans, oversized ears, and squat, upturned snouts filled with rows of needle-like teeth, swept into the room from the exit to attack. Henri identified them as Mobats, predatory magical beasts that stunned their prey into submission with loud shrieks. Atish nullified this potential tactic with a well-placed Silence spell, Belflin, Drebb, and Drinna downed one with missile fire, and Henri destroyed them with a Fireball before they could engage the party.
Continuing your explorations, you all came upon two caverns where the floor was disturbed by the tell-tale burrowing patterns of Bulettes. You all quickly exited these chambers before you attracted any of the land sharks and came upon a long corridor where you spotted 5 burrows at 20’ heights along the walls. Henri identified these as the lairs of subterranean vermin known as Cave Fishers, which would wait and drop sticky filaments to entrap those who passed by, who would then be reeled in and consumed by the beasts. Henri then summoned a Flaming Sphere and sent it into the burrows to burn the vermin out. Gambler then climbed the walls and used stealth to finish off the severely wounded creatures.
At the end of the long hall, you all came out into a small cavern. Set into the northern worked face of this cavern were two large brass portals, flanked by two large white marble obelisks. The brass doors were worked with celestial figures and the images of Aroden and Iomedae. The obelisks were inlaid with gold and silver runes and glyphs holy to Aroden and Iomedae. The portals and the obelisks had not been defiled. The obelisks and doors radiated strong abjuration magic, and Atish determined that they were enchanted with a Forbiddance spell that only allowed Lawful Good characters bearing holy symbols of either Aroden and Iomedae to pass without suffering damage. The doors themselves have no handle, lock or hinges. Atish took his medallion of Iomedae and placed it upon the doors and asked Iomedae’s blessing to open the doors.
Beyond, on a stone slab at the north end of a man-made room lay the body of Flail the Great, a famous priest of Aroden, who was killed on a holy quest. On either side of the corpse was a small altar covered with a square of pure silk on top of which is an everburning candle. The three other caskets in the room held his followers. Two tapestries depicted Flail teaching another great warrior named Bannor to be a Paladin, and Flail and Bannor together battling hordes of demons.
Beyond this room was another chamber filled with fourteen stone sarcophagi containing the corpses of valiant warriors who had fallen in the service of Aroden and Iomedae. Henri and Atish recognizes the names of these as lesser knights of legend, the most notable being Eric the Bold. Each corpse wore a suit of masterwork chain mail and bore a masterwork heavy steel shield and a master-crafted long sword sharpened to a keen edge. Each also wore a circlet of silver worth 50 Gp. The sarcophagus containing Eric the Bold also held his magical lance. A small rat tunnel, dug by dire rats, opened into this room from the cavern to the south. Atish suggested that you all plug the rat holes, which the party did, and he also admonished Gambler to take nothing. You all agreed with Atish to reseal this room and leave it for the clergy of the Golden Sword in Vigil to dispose of as they saw fit. This was also a good resting spot, so you all camped here for the evening before continuing your exploration of the complex.