ADVENTURE 13: TRIUMPH OF EVIL: The characters then completed their rest, finding it hard to sleep because of distant chanting echoing throughout the area. Now they explored the rest of level four. In the ogre cave they discovered a stairway descending deep down, perhaps to another floor. South they found a huge garbage dump, in which lived a monstrous creature, who at first grabbed and threatened Valrilon, but eventually parleyed with the PCs, and managed to get a deal with them: they would bring it bodies and other trash, and in exchange it would help them. After they gave the friendly Otyugh some ogre corpses, it brought them a treasure from within its trash heap; a small shield. In a nearby area they also found the other end of the level 2 slide, and Sithdar climbed up to check it out.
Afterwards, they returned to the main corridor, and headed the other direction. In a dead-end chamber, several rats were chewing on something, and as the PCs got closer, the rats attacked. It was a short battle, the characters making quick work of the vermin. What they were feasting on was a bodyeither a halfling or a young child, it was too mauled to tell, though some cut marks on the body suggested its death was not at the hands of rats. Clearly the evil cult was near. In the corner of the room was a secret door, leading to a water-filled hallway, which connected to the caverns, and also lead onward to a partially hidden, magically locked door. After a bit of trouble with the water (the druid was afraid of the sharks in it: for he had fumbled his Knowledge: Nature roll.), the characters opened the door, using a dispel magic and then a tap from the rust monster shield. Immediately, Ashrem could hear a distant alarm going off to the south. Still, this did not deter them, as they went further on, and the distant chanting grew louder.
Beyond the secret door was a corridor set with evil runes, aglow with hatred. Beyond that was a ritual torture room, bodies of all types strewn about and horribly mutilated, and beyond that room was a sleeping chamber; with six beds and six chests. For some time, the characters tried opening the chests, and in one of them they discovered a blasphemous textthe Book of Vile Darkness, along with a ring, which Sithdar took, which seemed to enhance his willpower. All the chests were trapped, however, and the characters made a great deal of noise opening some of them. The doors to the final chamber were covered with perverse symbols and hateful artwork, signifying that a great evil waited beyond. Sithdar untrapped and opened them anyway. Putting a black robe on, the assassin went forward, and found himself in a vast temple, a great central platform elevated over of a pool of lava, a gigantic statue of orcus on the far end. Up above, he could hear the beating of large wings. A group of nearly twenty clerics were here, a veritable cult of Orcusites. The leadera man with skull-helm, who wore a mask of human fleshstepped forth and spoke with Sithdar, who claimed that he wanted to join the cult of Orcus. The high-priest invited the rogue to come forth, as long as he dropped his stolen robes and all his clothing and possessions. Sithdar declined, and took some steps back, claiming that he wanted to first battle the cult initiates and see if Orcus was a worthy god. Instead of the initiates, however, another being flew down to attack the groupa powerful, bird faced demon, with clawed hands and a wicked form. Another similar creature was then summoned by it. Clearly, the priests had not believed Sithdars words, as they attacked!
The battle was a brutal one indeed. Joseph and Ashrem took the front lines, while the others waited behind them in the clerics room. The characters used two fireballs, burning out the druids magical necklace, as well as a sound blast from Tyro. This slew many of the lesser acolytes, though the greater ones managed to paralyze both the warriors, making them easy targets, and soon, the High Priest had animated many of the acolytes as zombies, and surrounded himself with a wind wall to prevent any archers. The first to go down was Ashrem, as he was paralyzed and fell to a volley of blows from the hateful bird-demons. The next was Valrilon, dying to a similar attack as the demons broke through the defenses. Joseph was killed when the High-Priest teleported him right into the lava. Karl was then held and was beaten badly by the acolytes and their maces, and finally finished by a Death Touch, his soul ripped from his body. All the while, Tyro could do nothing, as the clerics had cast Silence spells all across the little room. He too was slain by a bird-demon, who ripped him to shreds as he tried to run. Graham had ran off early in the battle, not having any desire to face this threat (and controlled by a player who probably wasnt going to play very often, and wasnt present). Only Sithdar and the dragon Snaggletooth escaped, and Sithdars escape was narrow indeed.
Sithdar was able to survive by using his final limited wish to Banish a bird-demon back to its hellish home. The other, horribly, remained. He dodged its attacks, and ran back out of the room, trying to get away, as clerics and demon chased him down. Finally, he arrived at the flooded passage, but was shocked to see the bird demon had flown ahead of him with its supernatural speed. He decided on a desperate move, and dived under the water, attempting to hide. Yet as he crawled up towards the entrance to the rat tunnels, the demon saw him. At the same time, the priests, who had not yet seen him, came into the room. Then the demon attacked. It never got a singe hit, as it smacked its own head accidentally against the cavern wall, and was knocked out, in an amazing stroke of luck! Sithdar sneaked into the rat tunnel, making away with his own life in hand. Then he traveled slowly back to the surface, shaking every moment, until finally, he arrived without incident back at the entrance, eventually coming out to the blessed rays of the sun. Back in town, all he could do was sit at the tavern and drink with Jabbo, the local halfling who had also lost a party to Rappan Athuk. He drank until he could drink no more, throwing up all over the tavern lawn and finally passing out in his room, dreaming unholy dreams of murder and despair.
DM’S COMMENTS: They finally found the Upper Temple, to their own ultimate dismay! Obviously, the PCs weren’t ready for this fight. They had fought priests of orcus before, and before they had been pushovers. Not this time. The hidden doors, the alarm and all the demonic warnings had been there, but alas, were not heeded. At first, they thought they might win, but as soon as the ranger went down, the PCs knew they were in trouble. Tyro almost got away, but failed when the Vrock got a critical hit on his attack of opportunity, and Karl was planning on using his antimagic scroll, but was paralyzed before he could. I was very lucky to get a succesful roll on the Vrock’s summoning, and the players were very unlucky. The only thing that prevented a TPK was me, getting a fumble on the Vrock’s attack on Sithdar. I rolled the fumble die, and I got the knocked unconscous result. The player was ecstatic, and the only one to live (aside from a one-shot character of my friend who lives out of town. And Snaggletooth the fairy dragon.) At this point, the party is in no position to take the dungeon on again. My plan is to start Tomb of Abysthor with a new party, and work those guys up to the point where they can assault RA again, with all the undead versions of the dead PCs as rulers of the repopulated levels 1-3. You can probably find logs of my future sessions in the ToA boards, until they get back to this killer dungeon.