1200, Sar, 14 Jo, 3E1000
The Heroes 4 Hire regrouped in the upper level of the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun for the second time, enjoying a short rest in the post-battle quiet as they watched the approaches for danger. Then, as stealthily as they could, they proceeded down the left hand staircase to the level below, reaching the bottom unnoticed, and marshaled themselves for a coordinated assault. They saw several cultists moving down the wide hallway to the south, and could hear the sounds of normal daily schedules going on around them, a sure indicator that the speed and effectiveness of their attack on the upper level above went unheard.
A plan was hastily crafted and targets assigned, and the ambush was launched. The Cult of the Elder Eye was again caught off-guard, and the Heroes sliced through them quickly. The battle split, with half the team continuing down the main hallway and into the next group of cultists, and the other half turning right and following a side hall that led through the dormitories. The Cult finally roused an alarm and the forces began to come enmasse, and the two-pronged advance slogged to stop until the Heroes finally emerged victorious, standing among the pile of the newly dead. A search was conducted of the bodies and the remaining rooms on the lower level of the Temple, loot was collected, and then the Heroes 4 Hire descended the long stairs to the dungeons.
Reaching the bottom, the team held in the concealment of the stair while Illiya Baham, invisible with the Sword of Lyons, reconnoitered the the rooms in the immediate vicinity. He found several storerooms that had been cleaned up and were well stocked since the last time they were here, as well as two workshops in full production… one an alchemy laboratory and the other dedicated to fine metalworking. Curiously, there was an absence of a forge. Again, the Heroes organized a tactical plan, assigned responsibilities and assaulted the Cultist-Artisans, who fell quickly before the surprise attack. In the search afterwards, they found that Cult was busy remaking the iron thurbiles and iron torches, as well as the spheres and cones made out of the strange, dark material that fueled them. The Heroes meticulously searched and looted the workshops and supply rooms, before preparing to head back upstairs.
But before they could go, Rumblebelly growled a warning of someone approaching from down the corridor he had been set to watch. A familiar corpse came shuffling into view, that of Wongas, the High Priest of the original Temple of Tharizdun, now a revenant eternally tied to the Temple. The team recognized him as the coffin corpse that attempted an ambush deep in the crypts of the dungeon level, but with a bit of luck to thwart the surprise attack and a string of sequential critical hits dropped him as fast as he had jumped from his sarcophagus. Surprisingly, he was still shuffling toward them just as if they had never smote him before. When he got within range, he raised a hand in peace, and spoke.
“I intend you no harm. I have a request of you,” his raspy voice barely more than a whisper.
The Heroes heard him out.
“We have a mutual enemy. This poser you have been hunting has taken my Temple for his own; his blasphemy of our great religion is a stain and I want his infidelity removed from my house! He does not believe in the return of Tharizdun, but lies to the followers to get them to do his bidding.”
The Heroes inquired as to the Dark Priests whereabouts.
“He has descended to the Undercroft and the Cyst. You will not be able to reach him without this…”
He held out his hand, and there on the end of a short chain was another small trinket of a horn, a second Wailer of Tharizdun, the one piece of the puzzle keeping them from descending lower in the Undercroft to this ‘Black Cyst’.
“Remove this charlatan. Leave the Wailer in the antechambers at the top of the brass-runged ladder as you leave. If you do this, I will leave you alone as you exit my Temple and never return.”
With the second Wailer of Tharizdun tightly in hand, the Heroes ascended to the lower Temple level and entered the ‘hidden closet’, pulled the protective cult robes from their Bag of Holding and donned them, then descended the 333 rungs of the ladder back down to the Undercroft and its freezing cold. There they hit the button in the southern most octagonal room, being cautious not to tear any of their robes on the needle-rock, and summoned the purple glow that formed a circle in the middle of the room. Once the aura was fully formed, Dajjal put the horn to his lips and marveled as it grew to the full size of a bugle, took a breath and blew a note. The purple glow on the floor rose into a cylinder in the middle of the room, and an obscuring gray mist swirled within it.
The team loaded the thurbles with the spheres and the torches with the cones made of the mysterious black material, and then lit them all. Lt. Diplo Norixius and Karraway swung the thurbles in the traditional manner in front of them, and the gray mist parted to make a path before them, leading to the middle of the cylinder of purple light. Inside, the path revealed a great stone cylinder with a portal in it had risen from the floor all the way to the ceiling of the chamber, and within the portal was a descending spiral staircase made of same mauve-colored light. Careful not to touch the wall or the central pillar the stairs spiraled around, the Heroes descended into the black.
The descent seemed to take forever, but eventually they spiraled down into a 20’ cylindrical chamber cut from the same needle-rock, and was frighteningly cold. Their robes, fully covering their forms from head to foot, hooded and at length passing their hands, was the only thing keeping the cold at bay… mostly. There was an archway in the southern portion of the cylinder wall, out at the edge of the weak torchlight from the iron torches, which seemed to be barely able to penetrate the oppressive darkness present here. They readied weapons and cautiously moved toward the opening.
The portal opened up into a huge spherical chamber more than 50’ in diameter, and through the obfuscating darkness they discovered, at the edge of their torchlight, an area in the middle of the chamber also lit by similar torches set in five-pronged holders. The holders were arranged around a massive stone slab, 12’ long, 5’ wide and again as tall, atop which was an infinite darkness in the shape of a mummified corpse, a swirling blackness that seemed to vacuum all light from the chamber. Afar of the slab, the Heroes saw five Cultist High Priests, and the Dark Priest himself, Lord Daemonne.
And the fight was on! Illyia and Alton Beeblebrox charged into the bigger chamber to engage the clergy at close range, while Diplo, Naïlo Thia and Smedley “Deadly” Hampton posted up at the opening between the two chambers to rain shots into group. Dajjal manned the rear of the formation, stationed partly up the staircase as to cast spells over the heads of his compatriots. The Cult Priests launched into an onslaught of spells… Spirit Guardians, Spiritual Weapons, Silences and the like flew one way, as Counterspells, Dispel Magics and a Fireball flew the other, accompanied by arrows, swords, staves, fists and feet. A brutal melee developed immediately around the stone slab, and spells and arrows flew in and around it.
The Dark Priest continued his preparations of the stone slab altar amidst the battle, until the Fireball landed. Then he responded by casting a Wall of Fire and caught all of the Heroes 4 Hire except Beeblebrox in the inferno… Alton’s exceptional dexterity and speed keeping just out of the flames. Their protective robes now ablaze, Illyia and Karraway dropped immediately into unconsciousness and began fighting for their lives, and the rest began to attempt to stop, drop and roll. Smedley immediately pulled out his Alchemy Jug and summoned salt water as fast as it would produce it. He began frantically dousing himself and his teammates until the flames were out. Beeblebrox force-fed Karraway a Potion of Healing and then return to battle as Karrway worked on reviving Illyia. And without the protection of their now significantly burned robes, the Heroes began to take constant damage due to the ever-present cold.
Two of the Cult Priests fell one after the other, and the rangers and warlock focused fire on Lord Daemonne himself. A volley of arrows dropped the Dark Priest while two of his Cult Priests were engaged with Beeblebrox, and the third engaging the Heroes posted up at the portal between the chambers. One of the priests broke off the fight with Beeblebrox and Karraway in an attempt to Revivify Lord Daemonne, but a timely Counterspell cast by Dajjal dissipated the priest’s spell. Six seconds later, however, the same priest reattempted the same Revivify, and being all Counterspell-ed out, the Heroes could little about it. The Cultist revived the Dark Priest, and once back on his feet, Lord Daemonne grabbed his resuscitator and teleported away with a Word of Recall.
The remaining two priests fell quickly after their leader’s retreat; one dying and the other being knocked unconscious and taken prisoner. After a rapid search and looting in the crippling cold, the Heroes hauled their captive back out of the Black Cyst and out of the Undercroft, all the way back to the ‘hidden closet’ and warmth. There they interrogated the prisoner, learning that the Dark Priest had teleported to the Ruins of Sorrow in his escape, and that the captive truly believed his leader’s preparations were all to release the Chained God from his prison dimension of Pandemonium. Dajjal then slit his throat.
With the Temple again firmly in their control, the Heroes 4 Hire discussed potential options, deciding to hold there until the passing of the Great Conjunction and entrenching for the Dark Priest’s almost-certain return. The next day, Smedley and Thia left their beast-friends at the Temple with the rest of the party, and flew with Diplo aback his Giant Eagle steed for the nearest township to seek training masters and their next level of achievement. Meanwhile, the remainder of the Heroes began their preparations for the coming fight, scavenging everything they could find in the Temple to use in makeshift barricades, traps and defensive fighting positions.
Sul, 15 Jo, 3E1000
Diplo, Smedley and Thia flew for over a week before finding the town of Fayburn on the coast of the country of Jacari, a town in which Smedley was historically familiar. He stopped the trip just before arriving, where he made several feeble excuses while donning a disguise. Once there Thia and Smedley wasted no time finding the appropriate trainers and began, while Diplo spent his time buying supplies from a shopping list provided by his peers, and scouring the town for anyone who knew how to make the elusive cuisine known only as Yugkadish.
Diplo found an older lady who owned a local tavern with her husband who knew what he was talking about, and he immediately tried everything in his power to pry the recipe from her… persuasion, sweet talk, even flat-out bribery… nothing worked. And the harder he tried, the more hostile she became. He finally enlisted the help of his two teammates, who simply when in and purchased a large amount of the delicacy, and Diplo went to work reverse-engineering its ingredients and preparation. By the time his two companions were complete in their training and new levels, he not only had divined the correct recipe, he had modified it and made his own signature variation, sure to impress.
And with that, the three mounted the Giant Eagle and flew the week-long return trip to the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, to await the coming assault with their compatriots.
Far, 20 Hili, 3E1000
How will Lord Daemonne complete his ritual with the Heroes in control of the Temple? What forces will he bring to bear? What other dangers with the Heroes face in the days and months to come?
Find out next week, on “TGC: Heroes 4 Hire!!”