ADVENTURE 23: Heroics in the Temple
Telok: Elf cleric of Obad-hai, divine disciple, level 11 CG
Jerry Springwater: Human Fighter-Paladin-Justicar, Level 11 LG
Jestyn: High Elf Wizard, Level 11 NG
Verrof: Earth Genasi Ranger-Foe Hunter, Level 9 LG, ECL 10
ADVENTURE 23: Heroics in the Temple: It was now that they decided that the temple of Orcus must fall, and the stone and chalice had to recovered. They spent a good deal of time in town preparing, memorizing the right spells, going through strategies and planning their victory. Jerry went to the temple and spoke with Karsyla, hoping to get his scar removed, but he did not have the necessary funds. He asked her to dinner later, though she declined, being quite busy. Wandering about the forest near town, Jerry then had an interesting encounter with a white stag, a deer who seemed particularly intelligent, even being so brave as to eat from his hand. The two spellcasters spent time in the library and temple, preparing, while Verrof lounged around at the bar. As the day wound to a close, Jerry walked back to the temple. In the poor district three muggers attacked him. Two he killed instantly, the third he took and dragged off to the guards, who tossed the thug into jail. Jerry returned to the temple. Here, Jestyn paid Sartorious five thousand gold to resurrect Cathy, the girl he had murdered those many months ago. She still could not forgive him for killing her, though she took the money he and Jerry offered to restart her life. Very scared of her murderer, she left the temple, hoping never to see him again. Soon everyone was ready.
They all gathered together and teleported back to Rappan Athuk. From level three they headed south, down a corridor where a single trap greeted thema coin on the ground, which would have triggered a trap had not Jeb disarmed it. Through a one way door they went, also rigged by the dwarf to not lock behind them. Then through an empty tomb chamber and down a set of stairs they went, into the Temple of Orcus.
Here all the walls were black and bloodstained, covered in brutal images of demons raping and murdering people in unimaginable ways, along with a constant stream of unholy runes. Everything had a hellish red glow to it, and in the distance, a constant chanting could be heard. On the guidance of the dragon Snaggletooth (now the sole survivor who had actually seen the temple) they headed west then south into a seemingly empty room. Jeb found a secret door here, and they headed into it, through a corridor where their lights reflected eerily off of a bubbling coat of water that covered the ground. At the end of this hall was another secret door, able to be opened by magic alone. Telok failed to dispel the alarm spell on it, and so the players knew that they had been found out. They cast their best defensive and buffing spells, Jestyn Knocked the door open, and they ran south. Here, they briefly passed through a torture chamber, where the mutilated bodies of victims lay in pools of blood, some still squirming. This fueling their rage, the heroes went further south and through a chamber where the priests of Orcus probably slept, ignoring the treasure chests there. Now before them stood double doors, engraved with hateful carvings of sin and depravity. Two traps were disarmed here by the dwarf, and the characters rushed in, knowing that the priests were here and intending to show their enemies no mercy. Andy and Snaggletooth waited back, in case of total disaster.
The room contained a dozen lesser priests, six greater ones, and a single leadera deviant man who wore a mask of human skin. It was a titanic chamber, shaped like a six pointed star, the center a bubbling pool of lava, and a raised platform above it. At the other end of the room stood a jewel-eyed statue of bloated Orcus, the stone of Tircople in one hand, the Chalice of Elenir in the other. Battle ensued, and immediately, Jestyn put a wall of force down the middle of the temple, to prevent the greater clerics from attacking the party. The lesser acolytes attacked fanatically, seeming to be able to channel an evil magic in this place which could dispel the characters enchantments at but a touch. Also here, the characters noticed several other people: A shadowy archer (Karl), a sword-wielding ghoul (Ashrem), and a large skeleton in plate armor who held only a shield (Josef: all were former PCs, killed at this very temple). The wall of force blocked off all but Karl. Suddenly, from out of the inky ceiling flew a Vrocka huge winged demon with the head of a bird. It immediately summoned another like it, and the two teleported through Jestyns wall to attack the party. Telok tried banishing them, though his first attempt failed. Jestyn summoned two monsters of his own: a fire elemental and a lammassu, though the lammassu was soon touched by an acolyte and banished. The demons brutalized the party, tearing into the wizard and warriors all with their sharp claws, injecting their unholy spores into all around. The shadow-archer fired volleys of his arrowssome causing darkness to spring up where they hit, others draining the strength of their targets. His darkness basically crippled Jerry and Verrof, until they were able to pull out the arrows, the same with Telok. Jestyn was nearly killed by this archer. Soon after this battle was begun, the evil high priest pointed a finger at Verrof and used a ring of teleport to transport him directly into the lava pit. Verrof burned to death quickly, soon melting in the heat of the lava. The others heroically fought on, though the battle was tough. Eventually Jerry sent up a signal, a magical symbol that would alert other paladins to their plight. Sadly the battle was too short for any to arrive, and the backward Isles of Norrek contained few paladins. Suddenly another combatant entered the battlefield. This one was, like Zelkor, an incorporeal specter. He phased through the floor and under Jestyns wall, attacking the party with a confusion spell. Only the wizard failed his save, and he was left a drooling, gibbering fool for almost a minute. Meanwhile, Jerry tried taking down the shadow archer, though due to his poor luck, he failed miserably. As the paladin swung at the shadow, he missed and stabbed himself with his sword. He then fell to the ground and was knocked out. (As he actually Double fumbled!) As Jestyn got out of his dazed state, he tried summoning a lammassu to aid his friend, although this did not stop the fanatical shadow from using a coup-de grace one Jerry, instantly killing him. The lammassu too was touched and banished instantly. At the same time, Telok was faced with the two demons, who were both sent back to hell with dismissals and banishments.
With two characters now down and all of the other priests waiting behind the wall of force, the characters made a decision. Telok turned ethereal and left the battle, flying up through to the upper levels of the dungeon. Jestyn was unwilling to leave, knowing the only hope of freeing Anna Marie lay in recovering the stone and chalice, which were still before him. He cast expeditious retreat on himself, raising his speed greatly. He then cancelled his wall of force and ran ahead, through the ranks of priests and undead, protected by stoneskin and mirror images. He ran to the altar of Orcus, climbing up the statue and succeeding in knocking the chalice off its resting place and onto the ground. Now, acolytes rushed the wizard, surrounding the statue and threatening to overrun him, pulling him down as he tried to climb up its sides. The high priest Zehn came towards Jestyn, ready to slay him. As some of the other priests dispelled Jestyns protections, Zehn went in for a death touch. Miraculously, he missed. The priests then launched a barrage of spells at Jestyn. Luckily for him, they didnt take his rod of absorption into account, as it sucked up all of their spells and converted them into magical power for Jestyn to use. A final slay living spell from Zehn was enough to give Jestyn his fuel for escape, as it too was absorbed and allowed him to teleport out, back to Nenkal.
Meanwhile, Telok was running upward, through rocks and stones, until he reached the great cavern of level three. He decided to spend a few hours in Scramges old room, to recover a vital spell. Here he could hear footsteps to the south, likely the priests of Orcus hunting him down. He was able to recover a single spell; which let him turn ethereal and escape the entire dungeon. He got back to Port Grinetos as quickly as possible, catching a boat back to Nenkal a day later.
Jestyn, however, wasnt going to give up. At the temple of Muir and Thyr, he explained his dire situation to Sartorious, who agreed to aid him in recovering the churchs holy relics. He healed Jestyn, and the wizard teleported them back outside the temple of Orcus. Then, the old cleric turned both of them ethereal, and they ran to the top of the Orcus statue. One took the chalice, the other took the stone. As they turned material again, a final teleport (powered by the rod) was cast, taking them back home, successful. Grinding up a piece of the stone, Sartorious placed it in the chalice and mixed it with the some wine. The concoction was used to revive the comatose Anna Marie, who arose from her nightmare slumber, screaming of the terrors she had seen. She was happy and flattered the Jestyn had risked his life to rescue her. Seeming to forgive his previous sins, she glad to hear that he was quite fond of her now. They kissed and embraced briefly, before all went off to rest. Sartorious agreed to resurrect Jerry and Verrof, and soon the two warriors were back to life, minus all of their equipment. After this event, Jestyn went back to the Golden Hen and paid the innkeeper five thousand gold for the room he had wrecked with fire.
Verrof now made a pilgrimage back to the old burial halls and the pool of earth blood that was hidden there. He felt that he needed to test himself after hid recent defeat. He would leap into the pool, and the earth would either reward him or take him back. He cared little now, having died once already. At the restored twin shrines, he was greeted by Jimwise Welby, who agreed to help him and open the mithril plug for him. The two went down into the halls, and eventually made it back to the hidden cave of living rock. Opening the plug, Verrof climbed down the great pit and briefly spoke with the stone guardian before arriving once more at the chamber of earths blood. He removed his clothing and dived in, feeling his body transformed and warped as his genes were twisted. He came out alive, and with an innate resistance to magic. He had been spared by the earth, and now found new confidence to continue his quest.
Telok arrived back at Nenkal without incident. The heroes met again, still alive but feeling new humility. They knew that the temple of Orcus had to fall eventually, but for now they were pleased with their minor victory.
DM’S COMMENTS: Now this was a truly hardcore battle! Even with a wall of force blocking much of the bad guys, the PCs almost had a TPK! The temple of Orcus is a very tough fight. I managed to roll a 32 on my summon roll for the Vrock, thus guaranteeing another combatant, and with the addition of the undead PCs from my former campaign, the battle was lethal. Verrof’s death was due to a very low saving throw roll, and humorously enough it was the second character of his killed in that manner (he had played Josef also). Jerry’s death was even more humiliating, based on even worse rolls. His first attack roll was a one. On our system of fumbles, I made him roll again. Another one. Possibly a double fumble (meaning he has to roll the fumble die twice!) His final confirmation was a failure, and he rolled ‘Hit Self’, and ‘Knocked Out’. Then coup-de-grace. Nasty. As you see, Jestyn’s heroic actions at the end were well planned out yet at the same time potentiall deadly for him. Be assured that he got some good bonus experience for it and the role-playing afterward. Now all the PCs are alive again and in bad need of supplies. Telok has vollunteered his money to resupply the two warriors, who have nothing. Next I think they may want to tackle the holy sword quest, starting with recovering the insane hermit’s mushroom of youth.