Saturday, September 19, 2009

Temple To Darkness, Part Two

After a fitful night of sleep, the adventurers awoke and made plans to investigate the temple. First, they dealt with the wounded snake by smoking him out of his lair, then killing him when he emerged, so they wouldn’t have to worry about the giant reptile while they were inside. Then, they had to decide what to do with the sleeping ranger Ardu while they investigated inside the temple. It had been noted that none of the beasts of the jungle seemed to want to enter the courtyard, so Ardu would probably be safe from the tiger that had earlier stalked them. Finally figuring that the ranger would be fine in the tent with as many of the giant rats guarding him as possible (courtesy of Kal’s animal friendship) and Endefal’s Sacred Guardian spell cast upon him, they made ready to enter the darkness.
With Cadelaine in the lead, and Nadal in the rear holding the Continual Light torch, the party slowly entered the temple through the jammed open door. Immediately they entered a large entry room covered with bat guano, as hundreds of the mammals laired on the ceiling. Inside the room, there was a staircase to the right leading to a balcony surrounding the room, as well as openings to the east and west, a door to the north, and a spiral staircase filled with rubble in the center. Calling out to the bats, Kal got them to talk about the “dark ones” that laired in the room, and after their eyes got used to the gloom (after putting away the continual light torch so that the elves and half elves could use infravision), they did notice flittering movement out of the corners of their eyes. Finally fully entering to investigate the entry room, four evil shadows rose out of the darkness to attack! They seemed to flutter and moan as they went for the party. Only magic or silver would hurt the creatures, so Kal and Endefal were helpless weapon-wise…both retrieved vials of holy water, and began trying to splash the undead menaces….where it splattered, it effected the shadows like acid! Nadal took out his continual light torch, which caused the shadows to shriek and pause, giving him a chance to furious chop at them with his magical short sword. Meanwhile, Cadelaine used her magical arrows to good effect, and Mongo did the same with his magical sword.
Seeing the distress of the shadows in the flare of the continual light wand, Endefal took the rock with continual light on it from the small box in the Bag of Holding, and used it to force one of the shadows into the corner, while Kal did the same with the torch, allowing Nadal to hack two of them to bits. Mongo finished the other two, and soon the characters stood alone in the room except for the frightened bats. All had been touched by the undead except for Nadal, and where they had been touched a burning coldness enveloped them, causing a weakness and loss of strength that was very slow in returning.
Investigating the room found nothing, so the group trooped up the stairs. Much search brought forth a concealed door, which Cadelaine opened to lead them into what once had been a torture chamber. Inside, various instruments of torture lay scattered across the long abandoned room. In front of a door in the far wall lay the skeletal remains of some ancient guardian. As they searched the room, Endefal stooped to give the dead one a blessing, which caused a spirit form to rise screaming from the corpse! The body was all that remained, but the torturer’s spirit was now a Haunt, cursed by his life and violent death to guard the door. As he spoke ancient Delosian only Mongo could understand him, and in his ravings he spoke of a “great treasure” beyond the door. As Endefal held the spirit at bay with his prayers to Attar and his holy symbol, the others examined the door. It was triple locked and barred stone with iron, a formidable challenge to enter. unless one had a key! Using her still meager skills Cadelaine attempted to pick the locks but was only successful with one. Using brute strength, Mongo, Nadal and Kal were unable to break or bend the locks or bars, even though they were of great age. Resolving to return when they were through searching the ruins, or when they found a set of keys, the group reluctantly left the chamber (the haunt did not follow as he was bound to that area). A giant, 6 foot long centipede tried to attack Mongo on the stairway down, but it was quickly dealt with.
Downstairs again, the group began investigating down the western hall. Disturbing imagery of darkness, death and cannibalism were carved into the ancient stone walls, and a constant murmuring was heard almost below the adventurer’s perception. At the end of the hall was a T-intersection, and as Cadelaine investigated, a shadow slid itself from the rubble and attacked her. Cadelaine and Mongo’s magical swords spelled doom for the undead, and they went back to the hall to examine doors on both the north and south walls. All the locks had been broken a long time ago, so they pushed open the southern doors to find some kind of burial chamber, long collapsed. Bits of bone, armor and glints of coins poked out from the soft earth of the room. The group carefully picked their way through the death chamber, until suddenly the earth at the south end broke open, and two slavering ghouls emerged! One struck Mongo and rendered him paralyzed; however, two strong blows from Kal (who, as an elf, was immune to the paralyzation) brought the stinking undead down. Nadal engaged with the other one, and after striking a few blows, was assisted as Cadelaine backstabbed the menace and put it down. Searching the room only brought forth a handful of gold, silver and copper coins, but nothing else.
The north room proved to be a banquet chamber, with a long 20ft stone table stained with long dried blood. Many hacked up skeletons were in the room, as it had obviously been ransacked and destroyed sometime in the past. As Endefal cautiously entered to examine two doors against the far wall, 8 of the shadow monsters detached themselves from the walls! Attempting to turn them and failing, Endefal ran for the door, which was quickly shut tight behind him…..if 4 shadows in the main room had been a challenge, 8 would have surely finished them off!!!
The group went back down the corridor, then north past rubble and a basin filled with dirty water. Rounded a corner, Cadelaine froze in fear as she saw 40 ft away a large dark hound with glowing red eyes sitting in front of a door! She carefully withdrew and told the rest, who guessed the shadow hound must be some undead or mystical guardian. Rounding the corner to get a better look, the party stared at the dog, and Cadelaine fired two magic arrows (which missed), This did not amuse the hound, who arose growling and ran full speed at them, barking an eerie and ear splitting howl!!

Cadelaine, Mongo and Nadal reacted with fear as the dog bounded at them, dropping their weapons and running full speed to the outer exit. As they reached the sunny outside, the fear (magical in nature) seem to dissipate, and they quickly turned around and began running back inside as they knew Kal and Endefal had no magic weapons and would be helpless vs the menace!
Inside, Kal and Endefal had braced for the attack, but the shadow hound pulled itself up short as it reached the end of the corner and the basin. Endefal opined that the hound was mystically bound to the corridor, and found a symbol on the base of the fountains that seem to indicate the dog could go that far, and no further. There it sat, slavering dark drops of shadow, growling and whining, as the three who had fled in fear returned to the party.
Discussing the situation among themselves, they could find no way past the hound to the doors on it’s other side. A sling bullet fired at the dog at point blank range merely bounced off his skull, seeming to assure that magical weapons were needed to harm it. Swinging at the hound from the safety of the other side of the basin, Mongo missed the mutt but a quick jerk of the hound’s jaws clamped it’s teeth on Mongo’s wrist, hauling him into the zone and dragging him down the corridor!!! Nadal and Endefal rushed down the corridor, fighting off the hound and retrieving Mongo, before running full speed back into the protected area! Mongo’s wrist had nearly been bitten through by the hound, so the party decided to explore elsewhere until they could figure out how to get past the deadly dog. After healing, the party headed back to the main room.

Once back in the main room, the party made the decision to go down the west corridor. The corridor went back 90 ft to a T intersection, much like down the East corridor. They passed a door and checked it out, finding a “dorm room” consisting of bunks chained to the walls, two high. Several skeletons were in here, and Cadelaine found a nice emerald ring that had rolled under a bunk. Placing it with party treasure, they went to the next door, which was already ajar….the room within was filled with webs, which Endefal quickly fired with a torch, causing a spider as big as a cat to jump out of the flames and skitter around the corridor, until Mongo put and end to it with his sword.
Going to the end of the corridor, south they noticed rubble and a wooden door. Inside the door, they found a row of cells on both sides of a corridor…and old prison area. They carefully looked inside each cell, noticing some skeletons, mummified bodies, and in one a dark hole. One by one, they entered the still locked cells by means of a set of keys hanging on a ring beside the door..most contained either human or animal skeletons, some were empty (or appeared empty). There were a few encounters of interest, including a strange dancing snake skeleton that hypnotized and began biting both Mongo and Endefal (who were hauled clear before the door was again locked); a hole leading into the earth and a tunnel system that a ghoul popped out of, only to be cut in half by Mongo; another haunt bound to a cell (a priest of Shadow who wanted to take over a body to leave this place, but was avoided and locked up again); a shadow (which Mongo quickly destroyed), and finally, a mummified human body. As the cell was unlocked, the body rose, it’s eyes pinpoints of gleaming evil intelligence. Turning failed, and the creature was quickly locked back in the cell. However, it had other ideas, and the zombified form smashed it’s way through the cell door. The party, now worried, ran out into the outer corridor, and locked that door behind them. Endefal had distributed some magical stones earlier that did damage to undead, the party threw them to little effect. Suddenly, the zombie smashed his hand through the wooden door, which Mongo promptly hacked off with his sword. Worried about what sort of undead this was, and what it might do if it caught up to them, the party backed down the hallway arguing the entire way what to do….until finally the zombie smashed through that door also and continued towards them, one arm hacked off at the elbow. At this, the party was in full retreat to outside!
As they reached the outer chamber, the party decided to try and ambush the undead. Mongo and Nadal awaited it with swords drawn, while Cadelaine hid in the shadow near the entrance, awaiting a chance to backstab the creature. As it entered, Cadelaine missed her first blow, but then struck from behind and cleaved the creature to the bone! It’s eyes lost all semblance of activity and it collapsed to the ground. Hurt and without any more cures, the party then decided to head for the entrance and come back the next day for further exploration….

That night, as they slept in the courtyard under the stars, another dream…

A large, room, dark everywhere except for a lantern that hangs from the ceiling by a silver chain. It hangs above a large deep crevice, preventing what lies within from leaving. Two bright red eyes, surrounded by shadows, peeks out from the darkness below but cannot leave because of the lantern. The eyes seem to bore inside your own right before you wake with a jolt!

The next morning, again leaving Ardu alone in the tent (except for the many rats that had taken to sleeping in the nooks and crannies of his body), the party cooked up a hearty meal of giant snake (from the constrictor’s body they had killed the day before), healed themselves, then made way into the darkness for further exploration. Immediately, they realized the cold and darkness inside, which they had been subject to all day, again fell upon them like a blanket and their mood immediately changed to wariness.
Making their way back again to the cells, they investigated a door at the end of the corridor that lead to another short corridor with three rooms off it. One room led to a sort of dissection/experimental chamber, which had been thoroughly destroyed; another had a charnel pit 30 ft deep, the last ten feet full of skeletons, and another a room of sand where a creature composed of the substance came to life and struck Cadelaine, after which the party ran out and locked the door behind them.
In the charnel pit, a gleam of something shiny could be seen, but the party was reluctant to go downward. A cell door was removed, and thrown down the pit to disturb anything that might be hiding here….soon a ghoul appeared at a heretofore unseen passage leading into the charnel pit from below, but he withdrew before he could be attacked.
There was now much discussion about where the party should go next. Finally after much haggling, they decided to go into the tunnel in the cell to discover where the ghouls were coming from….perhaps a ghoul warren would have much treasure! Single file, they entered the tunnel and immediately pulled out their continual light torch as they headed west. Traversing the stench ridden, slimy, earthen tunnels, they soon came upon the bottom of the charnel pit. Within, Mongo looked among the bones and came upon the shining object, a small diamond worth about 500 gp, which was put with the party treasure. Heading further NW, they soon quietly came upon the main ghoul warren in a basement area under the main chamber above (they could see the blocked spiral staircase in the center) and saw a half dozen ghouls and a larger, more evil looking leader type (a ghast) eating some giant rats. There appeared to be loose kinds and various items that looked like treasure all over the room. Quickly forming a plan of action, Endefal cast the Protection From Enemies ’10 radius from a scroll on himself, forming an impassable barrier around the party.
The party entered, and the evil creatures surrounded the party as close as the circle of protection would allow, but they could not enter. Hissing and gibbering, the undead creatures patrolled the outskirts of the circle as Mongo fell to the ground retching at the stench exuded by the ghast. Soon, the party carefully made their way around the room, gathering treasure in the form of coins, a scroll tube, a book, a ruby pendant and a stone hanging from a thong necklace. After this, they began to slowly retreat, and came back out the way they had come in, followed by ghouls the entire time. Slowly down the corridors and into the main room, where 10 ghouls and the head ghast followed, growling and screaming as the party was about to make it’s escape. Before the circle went down, the party exited the temple and breathed in the outside air and bathed in the sun, safe at last and with a bag of treasure. From inside they could hear the incoherent evil shrieks of the undead, deprived of their meal. The return to exploring the temple the next day would definitely by complicated by the presence of the enraged group of ghouls awaiting them right beyond the door!

After checking on Ardu (who was now occasionally opening his eyes and murmuring, his fever broken) and the campsite (nothing had disturbed the area still), after another dinner of snake steaks the party members watched the dusk come and the bats leave the temple. They heard some murmurs and shrieks from the ghouls, but like everything else undead within they did not seem able or willing to leave the confines of the dark structure. Still, the door was watched carefully in the gloom, with the continual light stone sitting outside on the ground to blind or deter anything that might think of leaving. They divided up the treasure with Cadelaine taking the book (which turned out to be an old traveling spellbook of some mage), Endefal a priest scroll, and Mongo the stone hanging on the thong, with the ancient Delosian word for “Quiet” inscribed on it’s back (he did not want to speak the word to activate it, in case the item had charges and each use would use it up).

Again a fitful sleep, and again a disturbing dream…..

The food had been prepared for the feast, and was delicious. Pygmy stuffed with shallots, herbs and fruit, and their tender and delicious children for desert. Even better than the heart of ape stew the night before. A special blood wine had been prepared for the priests of Shadow as they sat in their banquet room, talking gloomily of the ominous signs in the jungle that might foreshadow trouble with the local native tribes. The temple, who once ruled as far west as any of the Shadow servants, was slowly losing worshippers and power, despite the presence of Sathlos.
Suddenly, faint screams, cries and howls could be heard, and the priests looked frightened as they stood up and began placing on their armor and getting their spells ready. The natives had finally gotten the nerve to attack the temple! Suddenly, a servant stumbled through the door, with a spear transfixed through his body and blood on his lips. “They are here! They have overrun the gates and fences! We are doomed…” and as he slid to the ground, the door burst fully open. The priests screamed as a light as they had never seen burst through the darkness, from a lantern wielded by an old shaman, caused them to cringe and cover their decayed eyes. No less dangerous was the light flickering from the spear of a native warrior, who began stabbing his flaming weapon again and again through the hearts of the cowering priests as more native warriors burst in, hacking the rest to pieces in a frenzy. Only one priest survived to slip out through a back door, and then through a secret door, to the chamber where dwelt their demonic servant…
“Sathlos, hear me! We are doomed without you! Sathlos, help us!”
The howling of the shadow hounds reverberated through the complex, and from one double door leading into the chamber an explosion was heard. The demon’s words slid into the priest’s brain…”Help yourself, human..” As the doors flew open, the priest barely had time to start his spell before his body was filled with arrows fired from the screaming native warriors….His last sight was of Sathlos, rising up out of the pit to face the now frightened warriors….

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