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(11/13/03 10:08 am)
Session Twenty-Five (Part 2/3)
The Cook
Kale slumps against the wall, sweating and puffing. “Oy, that was a tough beast. Aramil, what manner of monster is it?”

“A giant,” Aldoroc interjects matter-of-factly.

Aramil pauses from his self-appointed task of eliminating the unconscious defenders whilst stripping them of valuables. “Actually, I’m not sure. It almost seems like a larger than normal hill giant, except for the third arm in the middle of the chest. It smells awfully bad, though, more so than even the kennel.” We’re not leaving any enemy behind us this time, the dragon disciple thinks to himself as he sticks his dagger into the next guard.

After a few minutes of looting and rest and more looting, the heroes cautiously walk down the corridor north of the chimera’s lair. They decide not to tackle the multiheaded beast at the moment and instead look towards possibly finding some information. Shangor leaves the spike stones in place over the bridge entrance.

The room at the eastern end of the passage is large mess hall with a number of long tables, benches, stools, and two large, ornate padded chairs, almost throne-like in appearance. Two closed doors are in the eastern wall. On the center table amidst a handful of mugs and a plateful of cheese is a large map. Upon inspection, the map shows the current complex and immediate surroundings of what the group is calling the Air Temple.

Shangor looks up from healing Verilia’s animal companion, “So where’n be the altar?” The tiger stands up and pads into the mess hall, lying down beneath one of the tables. “Now, that’s a good lass, Summer,…fer a tiger.”

Sylvan ponders the question for a moment. “Perhaps we were mistaken. This doesn’t appear to be a temple area at all. Instead, it seems more like a guard post for the bridge access. A very well defended guard post, but certainly not of the same caliber as the Earth Temple. I see no altar and there is no unhallow spell in effect.”

Aramil walks over to the northernmost door. “Let’s check out what’s behind these doors. The Main Gate layout suggests quarters behind the mess hall, and evidenced on this map here.” He then listens at the door, but hears nothing. Opening the door slowly, the metallic elf looks down the hall at the next door. “Nothing here but another door, just like the maps shows. I’ll go check it out; wait here.”

His casual walk to the next door is rudely interrupted, though, as a number of arrows shoot out from the north wall. One bounces of his thick golden skin and one misses, but another three painfully find their mark. “Yeow! Look out, arrow trap!”

Shangor mutters, “Blast it all, elf.” Corwyn, where ye be?

The second door opens up into a lavish bedchamber. Aldoroc immediately jumps on the satin bed sheets and falls asleep, not even waiting for Aramil and Verilia to finish searching the room. The chest at the foot of the bed is locked, but not trapped, and the same key that opened the door also opens the chest. “How convenient,” Sylvan comments. “I wish all bad guys were like this duergar commander.”

Leaving some of the heroes in the bedchamber to rest up, Kale, Aramil, and Verilia open the southern door from the mess hall. They find a kitchen, complete with a large fireplace, a few preparation tables, a fair amount of supplies, and, most importantly, a cook.

“Er, hello.” A somewhat grubby human wearing an apron stands over a bubbling kettle. Some half-diced vegetables still remain on the cutting table. The man is old, possibly in his late fifties. He has dark, but slightly graying hair and weathered skin. Not stereotypically, he is very thin. “Are you here for lunch? If so, it’s not ready yet.”

Kale looks perplexedly at the cook. Then he looks at Verilia and Aramil. Then he looks back at the cook and responds, “Uh, yeah.”

The cook nods his head, “Okay. How about Oamarthis? Is he having lunch, too?”

Verilia glances at Kale before responding, “No. He’s, uh, gone away for a while.”

“A long while,” adds Aramil with a grin.

The cook looks at them unconcernedly. “Did you kill him then? I hope so. How about Riu Lotaas?”

Kale responds, “Um, yeah, we killed him.” He glances over at the others before continuing. “Who’s Riu Lotaas?”

The cook says, “The big wolf-like creature. He’s also a goblin sometimes, so I don’t know what he is. Right vicious bastard, though. Anyway, the name’s Lenny. Lunch will be ready in a couple hours. I hope you like grilled pheasant and boiled vegetables. Oh, I also have some fresh baked bread from earlier this morning.”

The heroes introduce themselves. In particular, Shangor helps Lenny open up a keg of homebrewed ale. They tell Lenny a little bit about what’s been happening, and he seems rather happy that he is now free, after confirming that the heroes do not intend to keep him as prisoner. “I’ve been kept in the kitchen here for the last three years. They don’t even let me out of the mess hall except to use the latrine at the end of the hall. The warriors bring me the supplies as I need them from another room somewhere. I used to work for Yarew at the Grey Lodge…he’s still there, you say?…but then I was kidnapped and brought here to work for Oamarthis. I don’t know much about the mines except that we’re surrounded by two temples and are occasionally caught in the crossfire. The fights don’t affect me, however, as apparently everyone likes to have a cook around. Can I get you another ale, Lord Shangor?”

While Lenny continues preparing lunch, the heroes do their best to clean up the Northern Bridge Complex from all the blood and bodies. The corpses are heaped into a pile in the kennel and all the clothes are used to wipe up the blood from the floors. The giant’s body is too big to fit into the kennel, so the group leaves it there in the hallway. After lunch is served in the mess hall, even Summer gets a few delicious pieces of meat, the party completes their investigation of the complex. They find the barracks, a well stocked storeroom, an elven game of picture tiles, a nice lounge with comfortable and luxurious chairs, a disturbing room filled with chains and hooks and spattered in blood, and the obvious bedroom of the giant, complete with a large chest and a big handful of gems.

Verilia sits down in one of the chairs. “This certainly is the life.”

Kale nods, “These guys certainly were well taken care of. It’s not often you find nice accommodations like this for guards. Why, back when I was a town guard of Tahmista…”

(11/13/03 10:14 am)
Session Twenty-Five (Part 3/3)
The Gelatinous Hexahedron
The group engages in a heated debate about what to do next. The conclusion is to wait a whole day and continue exploration eastward from the complex in the morning to see what’s up with the Water Temple. The chimera will be left alone. After all, it does make an effective guardian of the complex.

Lenny is told that he should remain in the kitchen area for his own safety until the party is ready to retreat back to Rastor and bring him with them. For his trouble and for cooking them meals, the adventurers give the cook some money and two books from the guardroom. Okay, a lot of money: twenty gold pieces and an agate worth another ninety. The tomes are titled Owning an Inn and Recipes of the South. Lenny plans to make use of a particular recipe when preparing breakfast in the morning. He takes the books back to his pallet in the kitchen and begins reading.

As the group finishes up dessert, Lenny had baked them an apple pie, they hear the chimera roar loudly, hiss sharply like a colossal viper, and then go suddenly quiet. Everyone grabs weapons and hurries down the corridor to see what is happening. As they arrive, they see nothing out of the ordinary until they turn the corner and are able to look into the chimera’s alcove. There, they see the creature held in a type of suspended animation, unmoving and standing precariously on one hind leg and tilted forward. It seems to be struggling futilely against an invisible barrier, or perhaps even inside an invisible barrier. While watching, the chimera suddenly ceases its struggles and remains motionless, as if paralyzed.

Thanks to the Eye of Awareness, Aramil spots the unnatural assailant. “Ugh! What is that thing? It’s huge!”

Aldoroc peers closely at the alcove. “Huh?”

With Aramil’s help, the rest of the party spots the monstrosity squeezing into the small ten foot alcove. Discussion ensues about what course of action the group should take, if any. It appears as if the chimera is having a rough time of it though, as the huge gelatinous cube slowly and silently devours the draconic monster with digestive acid. The ooze does not appear to notice or is otherwise unconcerned about the party’s close proximity.

Kale says, “I think we should kill it before it comes after us. Maybe it can’t do anything else while it consumes the chimera.”

Shangor glances over at Kale, raising his bushy dwarven eyebrows. “Kill it? How do ye propose we kill a blob of jelly, lad?”

“It can’t hurt to try.”

“Surein it can! The jelly could react tae yer attacks and come after us! I dinna think ‘twould be a good idea.”

Kale thinks about it a moment longer. “Well, then, stay out of it. Aldoroc, Aramil, you ready?” Aramil launches an arrow from Cumulonimbus, his magical longbow. The arrow whizzes into the jelly and emits a sparkingly cascade of electricity throughout the monster. The cube reacts as if injured from the attack. Kale then pulls out and fires three arrows in quick succession from his magical darkwood composite longbow, Soulmover. The ooze shudders violently from the impact, obviously injured from the arrows which are now embedded deep within the mass of transparent jelly.

The cube then moves out of the alcove attempting to take the chimera with it. Fortunately for the chimera, it is still chained to the back wall, and the cube’s digestive acid has no effect on the metal. The chimera stays in place and plops out of the cube with a distinct sucking sound. It otherwise remains motionless. The cube moves more quickly than anticipated and manages to run over Aldoroc, Shangor, Kale, and Aramil. Aldoroc has his weapon out and takes an attack on the approaching cube. Both Kale and Aramil get shoved out of the way, but the cube engulfs both Aldoroc and Shangor. Only the human is paralyzed by the jelly’s poison. The opposite side of the cube is frosted, apparently from the breath of the chimera’s white dragon head. It also has some large gashes in it. Aramil sees this and thinks to himself, that chimera is actually nice to have around.

“Oh no, me dwarven plate!” Shangor struggles futilely in the jelly, worried more about his armor than his own skin. He calms down significantly as he realizes the acid only affects his flesh and beard, and not his armor or weapons.

The halfling druid attempts to hurt the cube with her heat metal spell, by casting it on Shangor and Aldoroc, both of whom are wearing metallic armor. Shangor fails to resist the spell, but Aldoroc shrugs it off, resisting the effect on impulse.

Kale continues firing arrows into the monster, while Sylvan shoots a magic missile. Aramil crinkles his nose in disgust when Verilia suggests he bite into it. Sylvan casts levitate and pops Aldoroc out of the top of the cube. The magical arrows have taken their toll, however, and as Tenaris and Verilia cut into the ooze with their longsword and scimitar, the cube becomes…less buoyant and noticeably dead.

A mere minute later the party cuts the dwarf out of the cube, while Aramil shoots a few rays of frost into the cleric in order to counteract the heat metal. Aramil and Kale take another thirty minutes to dig around its base for almost two hundred gold pieces, almost a complete skeleton, and a beautiful longsword. According to the cleric, the skeleton is from a half-orc, but thinner than usual, and missing a leg, the left leg. The longsword is gem-encrusted around the hilt with garnets, amethysts, and rubies. The pommel is sculptured as a hawk in flight. The blade is etched in designs of fire and both orcish and elven symbols.

When the longsword is passed to Sylvan, however, he stops and his eyes stare into space. The sword seems familiar somehow. It’s almost as if he has handled it before, cleaned it, sharpened it, but not with any love or caring. The sword is an object of beauty, but it is not one that makes Sylvan happy. Without a word but with a grimace on his face, he hands it back to Aramil.

(11/13/03 7:28 pm)
Re: Session Twenty-Five (Part 3/3)
He calms down significantly as he realizes the acid only affects his flesh and beard, and not his armor or weapons.

LOL! Ah, what a strange world it must be to live in when it's easier to get your body fixed than your stuff ;)

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(11/13/03 8:52 pm)
Re: Session Twenty-Five (Part 3/3)
Yeah, it's funny. :) The one creature that scares the party the most is Rusty. In fact, they threatened to never go visit Marlgran again, preferring instead to go straight to the Outer Fane. No, not really, but they really didn't like the idea of facing Rusty again. I've since solved that problem, however, as you will find out in a later session log.

I've thought about a random enounter involving an advanced fiendish rust monster. What do you think?

(11/13/03 9:00 pm)
Re: Session Twenty-Five (Part 3/3)
Well, I had my armor ripped from my body by some freakish spider in one of the first encounters in CotSQ and had my weapon stolen and likely crushed by a wussy fleeing Nightwalker in the last session.

Yup. Sounds perfectly fair to me. Someone's got to dish out the turnabout. Give it to them :evil

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Edited by: ZansForCans  at: 11/13/03 9:00 pm
(11/14/03 12:07 am)

Re: Session Twenty-Five (Part 3/3)
The part with the cook was just great, I enjoyed that a lot! Thanks for two more great installments!

Siobharek is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

(11/15/03 8:24 am)
Session Twenty-Six (Part 1/3)
The Massacre at the Outpost
Aldoroc shivers almost uncontrollably in revulsion from the gelatinous cube. “How are we supposed to get rid of that block of goo?”

Shangor pulls bits of jelly out of his beard, fallout from his pummeling the monster with his magical warhammer. He tastes a few pieces, but instead spits the foul smelling gunk to the stone floor. “Dunno, lad. P’raps ye kin haul it on yer back and drop it in the lake.”

Sylvan performs a few calculations in his head, “I’d say that that monstrosity weighs almost fifty thousands pounds. It’s not going anywhere by our efforts. Let’s just eat some dinner, get some rest, and head east towards the Water Temple.”

As usual, the elves maintain the last watch. Lenny wakes the others up with a fresh pot of coffee and some rhubarb muffins. Shangor sits down with a couple of books, desiring to do some research while the others make sure the Water Temple indeed lies to the east like the cook suggested. Aldoroc merely falls back to sleep, tired from the weeks of ordeal he has suffered at the hands of the Temple of All Consumption.

Kale leads the way out of the northeastern door of the Air Bridge Complex with a continual flame coin in his hand. Verilia and her companion Summer, Aramil, and the elven wizard Sylvan follow closely. A little ways down the darkened corridor, they come upon a scene of death. What appears to be a guard outpost is littered with bloodied and broken bodies garbed in regular temple uniforms. Kale points out an untouched keg that should be given to Shangor as Verilia and Aramil loot the fallen. Sylvan notices a large trail of blood leading off to the east and down a side passage to the north.

Verilia leads the way atop Summer only to encounter a couple of large bear-like creatures with feathers and beaks. The closest owlbear claws Verilia and pulls her off the tiger, intending to crush the little halfling in its grip. In return, Sylvan and Aramil shoot it with a couple of magic missiles. The archer Kale draws the ghost touch longsword he took from the undead assassin, Wat, and moves past the grappled druid to attack the other monster. Summer roars loudly and tries to help out her friend, but fails to claw through the feathers.

Unfortunately for the owlbear, it has more than it can handle as the druid wildshapes into a dire lion. Sylvan and Aramil step back from the carnage as the lion, tiger, and Kale rip the owlbears to pieces. Before all the feathers even settle to the ground, Kale searches through the blood soaked room and loots the additional humans.

Hearing the faint sounds of combat, Shangor stuffs a muffin, whole, through a thin opening in his beard. “C’mo, Aldo’ok, lef fee whaf ‘appenin’.” Aldoroc and Tenaris follow the dwarf, drawing weapons and strapping on the last bits of armor. Lenny promises that lunch will be ready when they return. By the time Kale has stripped the half-eaten corpses, the party has regrouped. The archer looks at the dwarf and nudges the keg with his boot. Alas for poor Shangor, the keg only contains water.

(11/15/03 8:25 am)
Session Twenty-Six (Part 2/3)
The Watery Deal
The heroes continue eastward into the darkness, noting the damp and moss-covered walls. The ceiling begins to rise as they enter the western section of a large chamber containing a dark pool. Although their light doesn’t reach very far, some lantern light spills out from across the pool into a passageway. A backlit humanoid figure steps out from the flickering light and gestures to the party. He calls out in common, “Hello, there. The High Priestess Kelashein congratulates you on your victory over the Earth Temple and desires an audience with you. Will you join her?”

After a brief discussion, Sylvan speaks for the group and accepts the invitation. Shangor desires nothing more than to destroy another temple, but a parlay cannot hurt. And, maybe they will gain useful information. Having sated her bloodlust against the filthy troglodytes, Verilia also accepts the invitation. However, getting the large group to the other side of the pool becomes problematic. A number of trips in the rowboats are required, and the guard warns everyone not to look into the water.

Additional human guards watch the party warily as they pass the first chamber. Kale snickers at the target dummy, seeing that most of the arrows have missed the bull’s-eye. Aldoroc glances at the common table, seeing a book titled Combat Tactics, and itches to get his hands on it. He thinks to himself, I’ll get that later when we wipe out the Water Temple.

The first guard leads them down the northern passage to a throne room offset from the passageway. Lit by flickering torches giving off a strange purplish hue, the throne is seemingly made of shells and is shaped into a giant clam. It looks very uncomfortable, if not downright dangerous, covered with sharp protrusions from all the bits of shell. The woman sitting on top of it, however, seems unaffected by the throne, despite the obvious lacerations on her hands and arms and the blood dripping from them. To her right stands a tall and think kuo-toan, wear loose fitting robes of an odd sheen, and having many small pouches along a rope-like belt. He frequently whispers in the High Priestess’s ear and gives the heroes a hard stare. To her left crouches another kuo-toan, who carries no weapons and seems disinterested in the proceedings. Aldoroc’s trained eye knows better, however, and he realizes that the kuo-toan monk is quite alert.

She speaks in a soft, rasping voice, “Welcome, my friends…”

Kale immediately responds, “I’m not sure I’d call us your friends.”

The High Priestess smiles in return, ignoring the rudeness of the interruption. “My name is High Priestess Kelashein. First, I offer congratulations on your victory over the weakest of the Temples. Their eradication, the second within six months, is cause for celebration. Would you care for refreshments?” She motions to a guard, who proffers a platter filled with sea vegetation and shellfish, some still living, and a couple of pitchers filled with wine.

Unsurprisingly, no one wants to partake of the food, except Kale, though he waits until Kelashein herself tries some. Kelashein snatches a squirming shellfish and sucks out the still living soft insides, licking her lips in delight. On second thought, Kale thinks, maybe not.

“Believe it or not,” she says with a goblet near her lips, “we have the same goal.” She drinks and then lowers the cup. Made out of shells, the cup looks very sharp, and, as the high priestess licks her lips, she sucks up more blood than wine. “We both want the Fire Temple destroyed. You work with me, and we can ensure Tessimon’s demise.”

That puts a new spin on things. Aramil speaks first, “Uh…”

Sylvan says, “We need to discuss this.”

The heroes then walk back towards the pool in order to discuss the proposal in relative privacy. The decision is inevitable, though, as Kelashein foresaw. Shangor has the greatest objection, but it is easily overcome when Verilia points out that using one group of evil against another is not perpetuating evil itself. “Besides, it’s not like we will be working with those filthy troglodyte savages.”

Back in the throne room, the high priestess chuckles amidst a mouthful of oily seaweed. “Excellent decision, my friends.” She points to the kuo-toans to her right and left. “My trusted advisor Nilbool and Urlurg, the Monitor, will be joining you. A few additional warriors will help ferry you across the Stalagos in some rowboats, where you will begin the foray to the Fire Temple. Good luck, I’ll be watching.”

Edited by: Infiniti2000 at: 11/15/03 8:28 am
(11/15/03 8:27 am)
Session Twenty-Six (Part 3/3)
The Foray to the Fire Temple
The party heads back to the Air Bridge Complex in order to rest for the night and eat a delicious dinner courtesy of Lenny and the Northern Bridge Complex stores. The master dire ape never returned after having taken Kale’s packhorse, so the group figures they are relatively secure in the area. The hungry and injured chimera at the bridge entrance also helps.

The next day dawns surprisingly bright and sunny, as the weather begins to show true signs of spring. Sylvan, Verilia, and Shangor prepare appropriate spells, while the others ready their equipment, sharpening weapons, oiling armor, and Aramil preparing a tea of shavings from the bit of dragon’s claw.

The party is led down the southern passage, through a large room colored to resemble an underwater scene, complete with a large stone statue of a kuo-toa riding a water elemental. Three passages lead off this chamber, one rises to the north, one heads south and emanates a pungent, yet sweet-smelling odor, and the third, the one the party takes, heads east to a large water-filled cavern. This cavern turns out to be the Water Temple proper, and the group is directed to get into two rowboats, to be towed by four kuo-toan warriors. Nilbool and Urlurg will follow in the water, as well as a water mephit.

Kelashein stands atop the altar itself, accompanied by the mephit, Nilbool, and Urlurg. They stand in between three colored pools and next to a blue-green altar of a fish and two curved swords. She speaks, this time in a clearer voice, not raspy at all, “I bid you good luck on your mission. May the Princess of Dark Water, Olhydra herself, guide you to success in destroying our mutual hated enemy and the servants of Imix, foul Lord of Fire.”

With that the warriors in the water tow the boats into the Stalagos through a wide opening. They climb over an underwater fence of some sort and, when asked, Nilbool points out that it keeps the monsters in the lake away from the temple. Nilbool and Urlurg then jump into the water and follow. The mephit flies out of the cave and also dives into the Stalagos.

The fish warriors bring the boats to almost the opposite end of the crater, to the only covered bridge. The bridge is open to the air for about fifty feet at either end. One warrior ties the boats up, and then the whole group climbs up to a large pair of doors, apparently locked from within.

Nilbool speaks a low, slurred voice with a heavy accent, “Now is the time for long duration preparation spells.” He then uses a wand of mage armor on himself and waits for the party to finish their spells. Nilbool knocks on the door, and a human pokes his head out. Upon seeing the fish man, he grins and holds out his hand, “The fifty platinum, if you don’t mind.” The kuo-toan wizard hands over a small pouch of coins and the party is allowed access to the Eastern Bridge Complex. They continue past a group of trolls and a mixed group of ogres and gnolls, with both groups getting a similar bribe. Apparently, the Water Temple is taking this mission seriously, after all.

The party and their fishy entourage come across a large, smashed juggernaut. The vehicle was apparently used in a failed assault on the bridge complex some time ago. Nothing useful can be found, but here Nilbool suggests that the party uses shorter term preparatory spells, and then casts invisibility and shield. When the heroes have similarly completed their spells, Urlurg and the warriors lead the way into the next corridor and a large intersection of tunnels.

Two tunnels stretch off to the left and a third turns almost fully around to the left. One continues forward into a smoke-shrouded corridor terminating in a set of large, red-bronzed doors with a bright red lozenge painted across them. To the right is a chamber, the apparent source of the smoke. In the center of the chamber is a large metal bowl inset into the floor. Above the bowl is a smoking brazier swinging slightly in some unfelt breeze. Also in the chamber are two large snakelike beasts, writhing in flame and wielding spears. A black hound the size of a large human crouched on all fours barks at the intrusion and smoke billows from its mouth and nose.

Before the kuo-toans can move to engage the guardians, the hell hound runs towards the bronze doors and begins barking loudly. The fish people then attack the salamanders, but their non-magical weapons are largely ineffective. The heroes fire missile weapons at the hell hound, but fail to kill it quickly.

Nilbool remains invisible throughout the fight, looking to provide support spells and not join combat. The monitor, however, gurgles deep within his throat at the sight of his mortal enemy and tumbles past the lead salamander to get into flanking position. Unfortunately for Urlurg, he tumbles poorly and the fire creature attacks him with his long tail, wrapping it around the fish monk’s neck, and snapping it like kindling. The monitor’s dead body hits the stone floor in a shower of flames and blood.

By the time the fight is over, the guardians are dead, but so are the monitor and one of the warriors. The remaining warriors are healed via potions. Verilia tries to take the magical bracers and ring from Urlurg’s corpse, but Nilbool demands their return. The druid argues, but then gives the items back, with a grin, saying, “I’ll just take them off your dead body later.”

The adventurers, with their newly found aquatic allies, cautiously make their way towards the double red bronze doors.

(11/16/03 8:58 am)
Oh, okay ... akes sense to me now ...
First of all, a very interesting read. I'll never think
of the water temple's priestess' throne in the same way
ever, ever again. Nice !!

Second, you've cleared up a point of personal confusion
(for some time) regarding the water temple proper - the
map looks like it is open to the inner volcanic lake, but
the thick dotted line (on the map) caused me to think
otherwise. Looked for a key or description, none found.
Did I miss something somewhere ?

Anyway, looking forward to the next writeup !

(11/16/03 9:41 am)
Re: Oh, okay ... akes sense to me now ...

No, there's no description. I think Monte intended it as merely identifying the edge of the cave ceiling. I thought it useful to also separate the Water Temple's domain from any creatures in the Stalagos.

(11/16/03 4:01 pm)
Re: Oh, okay ... akes sense to me now ...
IMC, I've treated it as a net that the Water Temple has strung up to keep the nasty's in the Stalagos out of their Temple.

(11/17/03 7:47 am)
Session Twenty-Seven (Part 1/3)
{NOTE: Thanks to ugulu and his player for the post in the Banewarrens forum suggesting this type of format for a log. Also, I shamelessly pulled a couple of lines from there, but there should be plenty more here.}

“Welcome, fight fans! We’re just tuning in as the heroes are about to pound on the door to the powerful Fire Temple. Bob, does something stink in here?”

“Dick, I think you’re referring to the fish people who’ve joined the heroes. Just be glad they aren’t troglodytes. Remember last week? Ugh!”

“Let’s join our field correspondent Stacy who is with the heroes.”

“Thanks, Dick. I’m here with the elven wizard of the party, who still has total amnesia and is the smartest one in the group now that the druid’s animal companion has left for greener pastures. Sylvan, what concerns you the most going into this battle?”

“Do I know you? Anyway, Stace, I’d have to say it’s the amount of time they’ve been given to buff. You know, I’m sick and tired of having all the damn evil clerics in this place buffing up before we …”

Snapping her fingers in front of Sylvan’s face, “Hello? Well, Dick, I guess he’s spacing out.”

The large red bronze doors emanate heat. You shut your eyes in an effort to keep the flames from drying them out too quickly. You know this vision has happened in the past, yet it seems so real. The bright light sears your eyelids. Though you’d rather not, morbid curiosity forces you to open one eye to see what’s happening. You look up to the long floating platform above the fiery pit. The man you have admired your whole life stands dumbly next to the High Priestess, not even capable of seeing your hysterical mother. Why won’t that bitch just shut up? The candles atop the platform appear bright despite the high flames from the pit. You tell yourself that this is just another sacrifice. Nothing personal. The enthusiasm of the High Priestess doesn’t make you feel better, though. The vision fades to the sounds of a frantic woman screaming in elven, “Nooooo!”

“Dick, I’m now with the burly human fighter, who was killed only last week in the Earth Temple. Aldoroc, before you tear down that door, we realize you had a real rough time a week ago with that skeletal howler animated by Snearak. Some say you have not fully recovered from that ordeal—comments?”

“Regret is synonymous with not getting that camera out of my face.”

“Gotcha! I can sense a lot of nervousness here, Dick, despite the additional Water Temple forces. Speaking of which, let’s see what the kuo-toan cleric/wizard Nilbool has to say, if I can find him. Er, Nilbool? How do you propose to handle the loss of your trusted monk?”

“Over here, Stacy. Urlurg was pretty stupid for attempting to tumble past that salamander, so hopefully the Elder Elemental Eye will punish him severely for it. His loss is inconsequential in this fight, however, because…well, you’ll see. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.”

“Okay. That’s all I have for now. Back to you, Dick.”

“Thanks, Stacy. Bob, the way Shangor is getting pumped up for the impending battle you’d think he was a barbarian. It seems like he is taking ‘buffing up’ literally.”

“That’s right, Dick. They say there’s a little barbarian in every dwarf.”

“Well, Aldoroc has finally hacked apart the door, so we’re about to get underway. It’s fortunate for the Fire Temple that Tessimon had time to get on the platform and make in into the ceiling.”

“Righto, Dick. Six seconds less and Aramil would have seen the moving platform for sure. There’s not much that escapes his notice, except…well, I guess he’ll just have to find that out later, the hard way.”

“Looks like the first move goes to the bad guys, Bob, as the gullible heroes fall for the oldest trick in the book, ghost sound—the ole Twenty-Warriors-Getting-Ready-To-Kick-Your-Ass trick.”

“Yeah, Dick, it surprises me that Aldoroc would let Firre get him with that. He must still be suffering effects from getting raised. The delay is just gonna bottle the heroes up at the door, setting ‘em up for a flamestrike. Too bad the heroes don’t know about Tessimon yet.”

“We have our first real move from the heroes as Verilia wildshapes into a dire lion and attacks the group of burning skeletons.”

“Dick, it’s a good thing skeletons don’t have a digestive tract, otherwise they’d be emptied after seeing that enraged dire lion. And burning skeleton crap is one thing I don’t care to smell.”

“Me neither, Bob. Following Verilia, Kale and Tenaris move in to engage Firre and the human warrior mooks. Kale seems nonplussed about the gnome’s fangs. What do you make of that, Bob?”

“Well, Dick, Kale still thinks of himself as invulnerable, and he’s gonna just have to learn that lesson for himself. It seems like he spotted Firre’s ruse as using the Fangs of the Vampire King spell. Either that, or Sylvan pointed it out.”

“The kuo-toans rush in to help the druid against the skeletons and Zert, the dual flaming short sword wielding sicko. The skeletons seem rather unaffected by the water mephit’s breath weapon.”

“Dick, that’s rather a…ouch! That mephit wasn’t expecting that blast of flame from Zert’s sword! It had no time to react.”

“As the cinder mephit drops to the ground, Verilia gets surrounded. You don’t have to have wild empathy to realize she’s in trouble, do you, Bob?”

“Dick, no you don’t. She’s gotten out of worse spots than that though. There goes Sylvan spacing out again.”

Agrinth finishes polishing his bejeweled, gleaming longsword and looks up at you. He grins wickedly with that half-orcish toothy smile and grunts in satisfaction. Today is the day the High Priestess takes him to be tested. You direct the shame you feel at your father’s failure towards your brother. As many times as he has forced you to clean his equipment, you do not wish him luck in the Infernal Machine. Later, you wonder why you have no more tears to shed, as his broken body, missing the left leg, is thrown into the pit. Your eyes close reflexively as you dig out the charred bones and carry them to the crater lake. That won’t be me. You throw his longsword into the lake after the bones. A present from the High Priestess is not something you want to keep. To say she’ll be angry about losing such an expensive item is an understatement.

(11/17/03 7:52 am)
Session Twenty-Seven (Part 2/3)
“This is Stacy, in the back of the pack about 60 feet outside the north Fire Temple door. I talked with the elven dragon disciple Aramil and he seems to think Sylvan is having flashbacks of some sort. Perhaps his amnesia is being resolved at this very moment, and his past life might have something to do with the Fire Temple. Let’s see if the gold dragon wannabe will comment on camera. Aramil, if Sylvan turns out to work for the Fire Temple, will you and the other heroes kill him?

“Stacy, I’m not even going to dignify that with a response. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to dispel the darkness around that platform that’s descending.”

“Good luck. Back to you, Dick.”

“Thanks, Stacy. Tessimon finally makes her entrance into the fight and it’s a whopper. She doesn’t seem to care who gets hit by the flamestrike, does she, Bob?”

“Wooboy, no, she doesn’t, Dick. I guess the heroes are finding out the hard way that a flamestrike is half divine damage. No amount of fire protection will negate that. Zert doesn’t look too happy about it, either, waving his flaming sword up at the platform like that. Wow, you don’t need audio to understand what he’s saying here, do you Dick?”

“No, you don’t, Bob. Fortunately, we can censor that gesture out. Aramil dispels the darkness on the platform and Sylvan tries dispelling the magic around Tessimon. Shangor moves in beside Verilia to help with the skeletons, but Zert moves around to get a bead on Tenaris and out of eyesight from Aramil who peppers the Fire Temple fighter with magic missiles.”

“That’s really a pathetic dispelling from Sylvan. You’d think he would have practiced that after failing so miserably three times in a row against that summoned fiendish girallon back in Vranthis’s lair. Also, it’s lucky for the heroes to remove that darkness, they have no idea what that spell really does. Some would say it’s a good thing Shangor decided against preparing a daylight spell today.”

“Stacy, can you get a word from Zert?”

“Sure thing, Dick. Excuse me, Shangor. Zert!”

“Call me Sir Zert.”

“Sir Zert, it seemed like you were about to bite the bullet in the first round. What helped you stay alive?”

“I suppose the appearance of Tessimon on the platform distracted them somewhat, but primarily it was my superior combat tactics. Excuse me for a moment while I kill this elven wench.”

“No problem…That looks like it hurt. Any chance that the heroes will succeed in their quest to destroy the Fire Temple?”

“There’s always a chance, but as long as Tessimon stops dropping flamestrikes on…Ow! You stupid [censored] [censored] motherless [censored] of a [censored]!”


“Ahem. Bob, I guess Stacy and the cameraman were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Tenaris didn’t fare well, either. Hey, there goes Sylvan again.”

Despite her shaking, your mother feels awfully composed. Where your father and half-brother failed, does she really hope to succeed? Maybe the High Priestess wants to do the whole family in? She grips your shoulder atop the floating platform and speaks in elven, “Soon, Azzalin, it will be your turn.” Calmly, you pry her fingers off your shoulder and step off the platform to head back to your laboratory. Surely, that idiotic little brother of yours has finished the potion by now. You ignore the pathetic cry from behind you, “Wish me luck?” This time, you have little problem keeping your eyes open, and somewhat relish the heat across your face and enjoy the pain it brings. The odd little-man shape atop the corpse’s back doesn’t even disturb you. You even let the filthy little gnome cut off the abnormality before you kick the body into the pit.

“Dick, those burning skeletons are awfully resilient. They absorb a lot of punishment and largely ignore most attacks. The human cannon fodder on the other hand are nearly gone, thanks in large part to the High Priestess.”

“It sure is nice for the humans to have numbers on their backs, too, as number 2 puts a real hurting on the druid and the dire lion drops to the stone floor bleeding from her wounds. It’s a good thing Shangor is nearby otherwise she would not make it. Right, Bob?”

“Agreed, Dick. Now, her legs are withered by Firre Oranac. She’s none too happy about it, either.”

“Verilia wildshapes into a dire bat this time and flies to the burning skeletons’ alcove to recuperate. Hovering there, she starts using up her healing spells. Number 2 backs away from the fight and draws out his longbow, shooting at any target he can find, including the dire bat. I’m not sure he’s the brightest lamp in the drawer, but he sure is persistent.”

“Dick, number 2 merely provided room for Kale and Aldoroc to finish up Zert and the other warriors.”

“Good point, Bob. Our infrared camera has picked up movement from Nilbool. The fish wizard attempts to disintegrate the platform, but the spell almost backfires! Looks like he should have given the scroll to Sylvan, a more competent wizard.”

“Dick, the last of the kuo-toan warriors died in that second flamestrike, so Nilbool is all alone here. It’s a good thing we put that anti-magic spell on the microphone and camera because they survived the blast.”

“The dwarf is reaching down for the microphone. Shangor, can you give us a status report?”

“Aye, lad. The wee elf lass dinna last too long. I knew we shoulda’ left ‘er at the kitchen. We got the upper hand, now, ‘owever. By Moradin’s beard, we just need to tackle that priestess on the platform. Och, there goes Sylvan again.”

Arlainth chuckles. Who was his father anyway? How many different species did my whore mother sleep with? The half-elf proffers the completed potion with an expectant look. You must be tired, even though elves don’t really get tired. You fail to remember the basic rule of thumb, trust no one. You quaff the potion of levitation, and suddenly feel drowsy. This must be a powerful potion indeed. Where did he learn such magic? I didn’t teach it to him. You curse loudly, or so you think, and grasp feebly at your treacherous half-brother’s robe. The next thing you do is wake up to an excruciatingly loud clanking noise. You look around at the vicious Infernal Machine. “This is it.” You look up at the High Priestess’s face, past the demonic right arm clutching the front of your robe and holding you over six inches off the ground. “Your punishment should you fail. Don’t disappoint me like the rest of your miserable family.”

(11/17/03 8:00 am)
Session Twenty-Seven (Part 3/3)
“Shangor, can you get a word from the others?”

“Surein I can, Dick. Verilia, ‘ave ye anything to say to the announcer lads?”


“Aye, lass, keep yer healin’ goin’. Lass, there goes that number 2. P’raps ye kin get ‘im wit’ yer called lightning?


“Aye! That’s a good lass. Me friend, Kale, are ye ready ta make a comment?”

“Sure thing, Shangor, anything for my adoring public. We have the Fire Temple basically on the ropes. I’m fairly impervious with my chain shirt of invulnerability, much like you are in your dwarven plate, what with the revision and all, so I don’t have to worry about these skeletons or warriors.”


“Holy Mother of Heironeous, where’d that fireball come from?”

“I dunno, lad, but I think it was that mage now visible floatin’ above the pit. Let me hold up the mic.”

“Well, Azzalin, we meet again for the first time for the last time for the first time. I don’t know how you escaped, but you will not do it this time.”

“The name’s Sylvan, you stupid <censored>. Let’s see how well you survive the fire pit as I dispel your levitation.”

“Aaaaah!” THUD!

“Well done, lad! Back to ye, Dick. Now, where’s me mug o’ ale?”

“Thank you, Shangor. Well, Bob, the heroes didn’t know about Arlainth, but Sylvan sure took care of him, quickly.”

“Don’t count him out too quickly, Dick. In fact, I hear him calling from the pit.”

“Help me, Spock. Er, help me, Azzalin.”

“The fight continues as Tessimon lowers the platform into the fire. The remaining skeletons beat futilely upon the armored Shangor. Fireballs repeatedly erupt around Kale, who apparently has no fire protection and amazingly remains in the same location. Sylvan looks around in apparent confusion.”

The ritual is long and arduous, or so you heard. No one has passed the test for the Champion of Evil yet. The doomdreamers have not even found out who it might be, though there is a rumor of a powerful oracle living in the Outer Fane. You don’t care anymore, however. You’ve come to the realization that serving the Temple of All Consumption, if that’s even its true name, is not for you. I still have one Ace up my sleeve. Fate is on my side. Indeed, you have little chance of success. No one has ever escaped the Fire Temple, let alone the Temple of All Consumption. The doomdreamers, or their minions in the Outer Fane, have quite the reputation for hunting down escapees and torturing them. Thinking about your plan, you follow the High Priestess into the Greater Temple. This no longer even seems to be an issue with whether you live or die. The ethics and morality of the Temple just seem…unnatural, unbalanced. There must be an alternative. I will find it, and I will fight them.

“The betrayal of the Water Temple finally occurs as the now visible and badly burned Nilbool successfully recites a scroll of word of recall and takes the body of the monitor with him.”
“Dick, Aramil sure looks infuriated by that and takes it out on the now reappearing Tessimon on the platform. His dispel magic is surprisingly effective and, did he do it? Yes! Her spell resistance is gone! She’s going to be hurt badly by that.”

“Bob, next to Tessimon is the wizard Arlainth who grins at his half-brother. He casts magic missile, but that only makes Sylvan happy as it finally justifies the brooch of shielding. It’s amazing how many bad guys seemingly realize you have one of those things on, isn’t?”

“That’s right, Dick. Not a few adventurers have complained about the bad guys metagaming in that regard.”

“Aldoroc finally kills Zert and he and Aramil gather near Sylvan…only to watch him space out for the last time.”

Father, half-brother, and mother have all stood here. They failed. I will not wait around. Calmly, you lean down to pull at your boot. Amazingly, the High Priestess does not stop you. Perhaps she did not foresee this event, as she has so many others. You pull out the scroll you have paid dearly for. Hopefully, that fat priest of the Air Temple will find the information useful. Gripping it in one hand, you look into her face. Tessimon. Seeing what you are doing, she looks alarmed and swings her tentacle rod at you. “Lord Hedrack, he has a scroll!” The pain from the tentacles stings your flesh. The evilness of the greater temple suddenly hits you, perhaps amplified a thousand fold by the tentacle rod. All the information you have gathered over the years forms one thought, and the realization of the true nature of the temple sinks in. There is no such thing as the Elder Elemental Eye! Numbly, you miraculously cast the teleport spell from the scroll. The magical energies, perhaps shunted from the Greater Temple, wrack your mind. Where am I? Who am I?

“Aramil, could you pick up the microphone and give us a comment?”

“I don’t see why not, Dick. Oops, sorry about that. I don’t know the strength of my claws yet. Anyway, our next objective is to take the fight directly to Tessimon. Hopefully, I’ve dispelled most of her protective spells, and Aldoroc can give her the <censored, in draconic> she deserves.”

“Well, Aramil, you had better look up as she’s summoning something from that drum.”

“Thanks for the heads up, Dick. Let’s see if a grease spell can’t cure her from beating the drum with those mallets.”

“Excellent work, Aramil!”

“Thanks, Sylvan. We’ve got some work to do, Dick, if you’ll excuse us.”

“Sure thing, Aramil. Bob, what do you make of Verilia?”

“That dire bat form has been very effective for her. I don’t think the high priestess takes a dire bat too seriously and she hasn’t noticed the bat casting spells over there in that alcove.”


“But, hey, she sure is noticing those lightning strikes!”

“Good point, Bob. Sylvan casts dimension door and takes Aldoroc and Aramil to the platform. Aldoroc cuts Arlainth to ribbons, but is hit three times by the tentacle rod. Ouch!”

“Dick, it’s a good thing Shangor gave him that freedom of movement, otherwise Aldoroc would be tied up in the rod. Instead, the tentacles can’t grab a hold of him.”

“Tessimon then moves the platform into the flames and hits the drum with her tentacle rod. I guess any mallet will do. Since the candles are already lit from the fire pit itself, the altar on the platform summons the Dark Eye. Amazingly, Kale and Shangor fail to shrug off its effects as Kale becomes less wise and Shangor goes insane.”

“Tough break, there, Dick. I wonder how the heroes will react to the newly summoned salamanders and the ever looming Dark Eye.”

“Well, Bob, that’s already apparent as the heroes look frightened. They realize a Bad Thing™ is about to happen and are planning to skedaddle. Aldoroc catches up to Tessimon and kills her, but Sylvan finally drops unconscious due to the fire. His protection from fire spell finally gave out under the impressive onslaught from Tessimon and Arlainth.”

“Dick, not all is lost, however, as Verilia flies in and picks up Sylvan’s body.”

“Aramil levitates out and Aldoroc gets a ride on Verilia, holding the body of Arlainth. The salamanders finally appear, but keep the platform in the fire. Sylvan is brought round via a healing potion and orders a general retreat, only to get smacked down again from the insane and confused dwarf. Verilia makes an attempt to take Tessimon’s corpse, but takes a bad beating from the salamanders instead. Aramil and Sylvan drag the other unnumbered bodies outside the temple.”

“Boy, Dick, those numbers sure make it easy to tell who has the good treasure.”

“True, Bob. Kale illustrates his new wisdom and tries to knock out Shangor, but doesn’t hurt him. In return, the insane cleric kills the archer in one blow. Oops. Aldoroc, however, is another story and knocks out the dwarf easily and drags him outside with Kale’s body.”

“Dick, that was one heck of a fight. It’s already five o’clock in the morning, but all we have left is the wrap-up.”

“Bob, the Fire Temple gave a good fight and, in the end, only lost three key people: Tessimon, Zert, and Firre Oranac. The heroes, on the other hand, lost Kale and Shangor.”

“Dick, let’s hope the heroes can recover from this.”

“Let’s hope so, Bob. Tune in next week to find out! Good fight, good night!”

(11/19/03 10:40 am)
Re: Session Twenty-Seven (Part 3/3)
I hope you guys enjoyed that. It was a lot of fun to write. It certainly provides a break from the normal style. The dream sequences were things I put in game to give Sylvan some background (remember that his character had amnesia). This was a particularly memorable and fun session, until the point when Kale was killed.

(11/19/03 10:52 am)
Session Twenty-Eight (Part 1/3)
The Fiery Deal
The adventurers retreat outside the northern doors, dragging bodies of both friend and foe. The betrayal by Nilbool stings, but not nearly so much as the deaths of Kale and Tenaris or even the insanity imposed upon Shangor. Aldoroc, Sylvan, Aramil, and Verilia drag the unconscious dwarf and the dead bodies of Kale, Tenaris Glimmerdawn, Arlainth the sorcerer, Zert the dual flaming shortsword fighter, and Firre Oranac the gnome cleric. The attempt at retrieving the body of the High Priestess of the Fire Temple, Tessimon, was aborted due to the high heat of the flames from the pit and the appearance of more salamanders.

While the bodies are looted, additional temple forces arrive around the fire pit. However, they do not attack and merely gather on the other side of the pit. As the platform rises out of the fire, the heroes see another salamander enter the temple and step onto it. This one wears heavy half-plate armor, painted in red enamel, and wields a wicked-looking barbed greatsword. Clearly, he is the new commander of the Fire Temple.

The adventurers furiously finish stripping the dead as a female elven warrior cautiously approaches, weapon sheathed and arms outstretched in a gesture of parlay. She is quite beautiful, even as elves view such things, despite draping herself in a sooty chain shirt. “Hello, brave warriors. My name is Virith,” she says, introducing herself. She grimaces in disgust and points over her shoulder with her thumb at the big salamander, “Lord Skassik wishes to parlay.”

Sylvan looks around at his comrades. Parlay? Parlay with the filthy demon-loving Fire Temple worshippers who destroyed my family? I would like nothing more than to destroy every last creature that follows this temple, but, as always, I must look towards my own safety first. And…to the safety of my companions. There is little chance we can get out of this one alive, particularly without Shangor and Kale. To the north are the now unpaid Earth Bridge forces and here is a group as strong as the one we just fought. “Sure, we’ll hear what the flaming snakeman has to say.”

“Well, his offer is fairly simple, and two-fold. First, a truce and an exchange of valuables. You have two things that rightfully belong to you, having been taken in honorable combat, but Lord Skassik would like them returned to the Fire Temple. These are, of course, the two flaming shortswords you took from the warrior Zert. You may keep the remaining treasures you took from him, Firre Oranac, and Arlainth, however.” She says this, pointing at each of the fallen in turn. A disgusted look creases her otherwise perfect face as she looks at the filthy gnome.

Aramil, still tensed for battle, speaks abruptly, “And what does your boss plan to offer in return for those items?”

“Lord Skassik offers a scroll of heal and raise dead. He has little need of them given the fact that you killed the last cleric in the Fire Temple, but you might need them to bring two of your friends around.”

Sylvan responds, “And what is the second part?”

Virith grins mischievously, “His Flameness wants to retaliate against the Water Temple. You have proven yourselves capable and strong, and with our combined strength, that fish-loving bitch Kelashein can be brought low. Unlike that coward Nilbool, we will not flee from the fight.”

Aldoroc asks, “And you would be joining us?”

“Indeed I would. I will lead a force of three other warrior elves, two salamanders, and two mephits.”

Sylvan says, “We will have to think about this offer. Can you give us an hour?”

Virith nods and turns back into the temple to report to Skassik. Verilia wipes sweat from her brow with her magic cloak of resistance. The sweat beads up and rolls of the fabric. Despite being outside the temple, the heat from the fire pit is still quite high. Those big bronze doors must have blocked more than just unwanted guests. She comments, “I think we should take the offer, both of them actually, though I’d rather reincarnate Kale than have him unnaturally raised.”

Aramil points at the body of Tenaris, “What about her?”

The halfling druid sighs. “Well, she said she did not want to be brought back. I feel bad that she fell to the Temple of All Consumption, in particular to that brute Zert, but she’s probably in a happier place now, in the leafy hands of Obad-Hai.”

Aldoroc grunts, “Hmmph. You mean in the strong arms of Heironeous.” Then, in a rare emotional moment, Aldoroc kneels down beside the elven warrior, touching his left hand to his silver holy symbol and his right hand to her forehead. A tear slides down his unwashed face. “You fought bravely and well, Tenaris Glimmerdawn. Valor like that will be rewarded well in the afterlife. May the hand of Heironeous, holding the holy power of Justicebringer, guide you on your journey into the celestial Hall of Justice.”

Sylvan coughs politely and then asks Verilia, “Can you use those scrolls?”

Verilia says, “I can use the scroll of heal on Shangor, though it is not a sure thing, and then Shangor can use the raise dead on Kale, but I’d still prefer to wait until we can get the components for a reincarnate.”

Aramil, probably due to his third eye of awareness, notices a small rat clinging to a nearby wall, with a tiny scroll tied to its back. The dragon disciple cautiously approaches the rodent to remove the piece of paper, but the rodent seems oblivious. As soon as the paper is removed, however, the rat shakes, twitches its nose in gratitude, and scurries off to the northwest. Aramil opens up the paper, but cannot decipher the script. He passes it off to Sylvan, who also cannot identify the writing, despite knowing many languages. Finally, Aramil hands it to the druid, suspecting she might be able to help, “What do you make of it, Verilia?”

Verilia grabs the paper and comments on the appearance of the animal, “The rat seems to be the subject of an animal messenger spell. It must be a message from another druid or possibly a ranger, though how someone would know that we are here is beyond me, assuming they mean well.” The halfling first reads the note privately and then out loud to the rest of the group, translating to the common tongue from druidic.

Come south to the other side of the Fire Temple. I have the components for reincarnation and some potions and information you might find useful. Do not trust Skassik! Your Friend, Tarren.

“I say we get the ingredients from him and not use that unnatural scroll of raise dead.”

Sylvan reasons, “But then we have to somehow get through the Fire Temple. How do you propose that? Despite the outward appearances, I doubt that Skassik is easily reasoned with. No, it would be better to bring Shangor and Kale around now. Also, you never know. Virith’s help against the Water Temple could be valuable.”

Aramil thinks it over and adds, “I agree. Rejecting his offer might be an affront in their culture. I remember reading a passage on this back in Sol Fazoul. I found a page from an old…never mind. Anyway, if he feels offended, we quite possibly could end up fighting the other half of the Fire Temple, or fleeing through more hostile territory to the north. Like it or not, we’re caught between a rock and a hard place here, and this is the best way out.”

Aldoroc suggests, fingering his holy symbol, “It’s almost provident, wouldn’t you say?”

Verilia shrugs, and not without a little anger, “Very well, but I’m not happy about it, and I’m gonna tell Kale that next time he dies, he gets reincarnated!” With that, she boots the body in the ribs, not lightly.

Sylvan calls Virith over and the deal is made. She hands over two scrolls as Aldoroc hands over the two shortswords. Aldoroc remarks that only one of the shortswords has the Fire Temple symbol on it, a blood red lozenge on the pommel, with flames comprising the crossguard and engraved down the length of the blade. Virith sheathes the normal flaming shortsword at her side and presents the other to Lord Skassik.

Verilia yanks the scroll of heal out of Sylvan’s hands and promptly casts it on Shangor, barely taking the time to understand the spell. Immediately, a light flashes around the dwarf and his wounds close. The bags around his eyes disappear and even the whiskers in his beard straighten. He gasps aloud and then opens his eyes, “Me warhammer!”

Aldoroc and Verilia manage to calm him down before he starts another battle, and explain the situation. Shangor is less happy about the arrangement than Verilia, but cannot argue it since the deal was made without him. He therefore takes the other scroll from Sylvan and prepares to cast it on Kale.

Time almost seems to stop as the power of the spell takes effect on the archer’s corpse. Similarly to the heal, a light glows around Kale’s body, almost imperceptibly in the shape of Moradin’s warhammer. “Aye, lad, come back out o’ the light. Moradin an’ Heironeous ‘ave more work fer yer to do.” With that, Kale opens his eyes and breathes for the first time in an hour. Unlike Shangor, however, he is still in a world of pain and has burn scars all over his body from Arlainth’s fireballs.

The heroes then follow Virith to the barracks area, where Arlainth and the human warriors slept. On the way, Skassik gets a closer look at Sylvan. Indeed, as he talks, most of those present recognize the resemblance between Sylvan and Arlainth.

“You, elf. Do I know you?”

“Perhaps. You tell me.”

“Hmm, the resemblance to Arlainth is striking. Ah, yes, Azzalin. Older half-brother to Arlainth. Have you decided then to rejoin us? As you might be aware, I have an open position for Temple Wizard.” Skassik grins, showing rows of very white and very sharp teeth.

Sylvan appears somewhat shocked at his recognition, though with everything that’s happened in the past couple of hours, it should be totally surprising. “I’ll think about it.”

“Do so. There’ll be a…ceremony…later. Should you decide to rejoin us, you are invited. Virith will come get you.”

(11/19/03 10:54 am)
Session Twenty-Eight (Part 2/3)
The Return of Nilbool
Kelashein kneels at the altar on the platform in the Great Temple Room. She mutters quietly, “Olhydra, Mistress of Water, drown my enemies and quench my thirst for revenge against the Fire Temple!”

The high priestess picks up the piece of coral by the ceremonial knife and cruelly scrapes it across her tongue. She lets the blood flow freely, watching with strange fascination and wincing from the pain. The blood drips onto one of the fish-shaped brass horns, only to be soaked up, as if it were a sponge. The horn gives a small humming sound, but only momentarily.

Suddenly, Nilbool materializes on the platform near one of the pools, the clear one. Badly injured and burned, he drops the dead monitor on the platform. He glares at the human with obvious disdain and a sneer curls his fish lips. “I’ve returned, oh great mistress.”

“Excellent, Nilbool.” Kelashein replies in the same fluid tongue, not turning around, still fascinated with her own blood. She is also unhindered by the injury to her tongue. “Tell me about your success.”

“The disintegrate scroll must have been flawed. It failed to function. Urlurg was killed in the initial attack before we even entered the northern doors.” Nilbool kicks the monitor with his foot, knocking its hand into the acid. “Imbecile.”

“I see. And the Fire Temple? And the fools who helped you attack them?”

“There is little chance that the adventurers will defeat the Fire Temple, much less Tessimon. She is too powerful.”

Kelashein casts cure minor wounds to stop the bleeding. Standing up, she turns around to face Nilbool. Without warning, the high priestess slaps him across the face, coral shell still in hand. The sharp coral cuts a deep gash in Nilbool’s face as the kuo-toan wizard falls to the platform in pain. “You underestimate them, like you underestimate all your adversaries. Chances are that Tessimon already lies dead and the adventurers are now out for your blood. Should I give you to them?”

The kuo-toa glares angrily up at the human. Nilbool would like nothing more than to pull her entrails out with his bare hands and feed them to the skum. However, he is not stupid. She is still powerful and particularly with his current injuries, he could not hope to defeat her. Hopefully, that oaf Oomkaan will come out his drug induced reverie at some point and eliminate all of the dryskins from the Water Temple.

Instead, he swallows his pride. “No, great mistress.”

Kelashein heals some of Nilbool’s wounds. “Very good. Prepare our troops for a counterattack. My divinations have told me that we should expect trouble in the next two days.”

“Should I recall Kadiss from his mission with Urolax?”

“No, that is too important. Besides, we still have your wizardly skills. First, however, let’s do something with Urlurg. I have read pages of the Dark Eye and it speaks of a particularly vile rite that would…”

(11/19/03 10:58 am)
Session Twenty-Eight (Part 3/3)
The Fungus Grove
Before the party settles down for the night, Virith approaches. She first talks to Aramil, “Do you know the spell knock? We have reason to believe you do. Lord Skassik could use your services and would be willing to pay you handsomely for your help in a small matter.”

Aramil appears momentarily confused by the request. How could they know I can cast knock? Did I let something slip? No matter… “I do not have any spells ready right now, see me in the morning.”

“Very well.” Virith adjusts her chain shirt and calls over to the other elf in the group. “Sylvan, the ceremony is about to commence. His unholy Snakeness requests your attendance.”

The wizard replies, “I don’t think I will attend the ceremony, but thank Skassik for the invitation. I have more pressing matters at the moment, but I will yet contemplate his generous offer.” You will be one of the first to die, you stupid fire-loving whore.

Virith merely shrugs and heads off back towards the temple. Guards take up positions around the barracks, one down each of the three passages. Ostensibly, they are for the party’s protection, but the heroes think differently.

In the middle of the night, those not on watch are woken up by screaming coming from the fire temple. Shangor curses under his breath, but no one takes action or thinks to interrupt the ceremony. The heroes reason that they are in no condition to save anyone, particularly if the victim does not deserve to be saved. The screaming continues for at least fifteen minutes and then abruptly ends, to be followed by a loud cheer. The agony in Shangor’s heart lasts all night. ‘Lord’ Skassik will pay for whosever soul was lost.

In the morning, the heroes prepare for the journey around the crater. They are met by Virith, three other elven warriors, two fire mephits, and two salamanders. After getting some useful information from Virith, the heroes outline a brief plan, to travel around the crater ridge mines, clockwise, until they reach the Northern Bridge Complex, where they can rest the night and prepare for the battle the following day. Going around the way, they would run into the Water Temple before getting back to Lenny and Summer. Virith points out that first they must pass through a mad druid’s fungus grove, then through some hazardous areas to reach the Air Temple and Water Bridge. From there, they might be able to pay off the Air Temple to let them out the South Gate and then they can walk around the outside the mines to reach the Main Gate and get to the Air Bridge.

Virith leads them through the rest of the Fire Temple complex without even saying goodbye to Skassik. The only interesting point comes when they must pass through a foggy room. She tells them to hold their breath, close their eyes, and stick to the northern wall. Once past the foggy room, she tells them not to touch the large symbol at the southern boundary of the Fire Temple domain as it will summon fire elementals.

Immediately outside the last room, the heroes encounter some giant ants, but they prove no match for the powerful adventurers. The surviving two ants climb down a hole and escape the brutal slaughter at the hands of Aldoroc, Shangor, Kale, and even Virith. Unlike the Water Temple forces, the Fire Temple forces stay in front of the party and engage their foes with fervor.

As the large group approaches the fungus grove, however, Verilia steps up to the front, suggesting that perhaps combat is not necessary when they meet with Tarren. Indeed, she uses her torc of animal speech to communicate with the large brown bear guardian, Kiibo, who is heard growling from down the passageway. Tarren and Verilia talk for a good half hour. The halfling tries to enlist Tarren’s help in the fight against the Temple of All Consumption, but the aging human declines to participate in direct confrontation. Instead, he’d be happy to sell his fungus concoctions to the heroes and even some special herbs and components that may be used in a reincarnation ceremony. He has three concoctions each of puffball wafers that enhance strength, mushroom elixirs that heal, and gray moss brews that allow one to see in the dark. The party buys all of it, and Verilia promises to come back from time to time to see how he fares.

In return, Verilia obtains much needed information about the enemy; although Tarren requires payment for each piece. The leaders of the Temple are called Doomdreamers and reside within the black tower in the center of the crater. The leaders of the Doomdreamers are the Triad. The four elemental temples in the mines struggle against each other for dominance, but are ultimately ruled by those in the Outer Fane. In fact, there is a Greater Temple located within the Outer Fane, dedicated to something far worse than any of the four elements. This last part, when Verilia relays it to the party (outside Virith’s hearing, of course), strikes a cord within Sylvan. To get to the Outer Fane, the heroes need to obtain two lesser keys of a particular element. Fusing them together forms a greater key, which can be used to open the corresponding elemental door.

The group continues forward with Aldoroc and Virith in the front, followed closely by Kale, Shangor, and the other three elves. Verilia, Sylvan, and Aramil go next and the fire mephits and salamanders bring up the rear. The corridor after the fungus grove leads to a nearly spherical chamber. It extends down, bowl-like, and even has a domed ceiling. A wide ledge is on the far side from the corridor. Another passage exits to the right heading west.

Aldoroc and Virith make their way into the room and to the exit passage. Shangor is not as lucky. The dwarf stumbles down the slope and ends up in a heap at the center of the bowl. Kale waits while the other three elves climb down beside Shangor, unsuccessfully hiding their mirth.

At that moment, a large creature emerges from behind some cover on the ledge. It is quite amazing that it remained hidden for so long, considering that it takes up most of the ledge. The creature resembles a large velociraptor, but has no eyes, and a more rounded mouth without the large teeth. Its first action is to open its mouth and emit a high-pitched cone of sound, blasting everyone in the bowl and knocking the elves unconscious.

Kale pulls out Soulmover, his magical darkwood composite longbow and launches a volley of arrows into the destrachan. Virith also pulls out her bow and fires a shot. Aldoroc and Shangor try unsuccessfully to climb up the ledge. The creature then targets another cone, but to lesser effect. Shangor eschews climbing and pulls out his wand of silence, ending the creature’s threat and apparently blinding it. It is simple work after that for Aldoroc and Kale to climb up into the ledge and kill the monster.

Shangor checks on the unconscious Fire Temple warriors. “Och, the elves are only unconscious, but they will be that way fer a long while. Do ye think I should use me healin’ powers on ‘em?”

Sylvan replies, “No, we may need those spells for ourselves. The elves are pretty much useless if they cannot take a few hits.”

Virith steps up, drawing her flaming shortsword, “I agree. They will prove more of a hindrance.”

Shangor holds up his gauntleted hand and stops her, however, “Nay! We canna just murder ‘em, lass!”

Bewildered at his stance, Virith says, “Why not? Would you rather leave enemies at your back?”

“Why don’t we give them to Tarren instead? I’m sure he’ll be able to…take care of them for us.” Verilia suggests, climbing nimbly down into the bowl and putting away her scimitar.

Kale puts away his longbow and nods. “I suppose remanding them into Tarren’s custody would be better than just killing them, unconscious. May Heironeous guide their souls to the Light of Justice.”

Virith shrugs, still rather unconcerned about her former comrades’ fates. “Well, at least we should take their valuables. It’s not likely they’ll need them again. Anyone else want a potion of cure light wounds?” She loots the unconscious bodies, and then orders the salamanders to throw them down the hall. Before anyway can comment otherwise, the salamanders grab the elves by the neck and toss them fifteen towards the fungus grove. Their necks still slightly smoldering, Verilia quickly calls out to Tarren that gifts are offered.

The next chamber contains an odd statue of a rearing serpent, seemingly crafted out of a natural rock formation in the center of the room. A closer inspection by Aramil reveals it to actually be a red dragon sculpture, and an excellent one at that, considering the materials. A growl rises unbidden in the gold dragon disciple’s throat, but he resists the urge to destroy the statue.

A thorough search of the area uncovers only some old beaten pots, possibly from an old camp. The passage to the northwest leads to a rocky ledge overlooking the Stalagos, about thirty feet above the level of the stagnant water. A fall from this height would be somewhat dangerous, but the way down to the water seems climbable.

Each of the heroes steps out onto the ledge and takes a deep breath of fresh air, particularly Verilia. She contemplates wildshaping into an eagle and flying around the crater, but thoughts of the lightning bolts curb her desire.

The corridor takes a sharp turn to the south. Around the bend to the left, a large intersection leads off in three directions. To the right and west lies a thick wooden door with an inset lock. To the left and east lie another room and a continuing passage. That room contains ripples on the walls and floor as if it were a pond frozen in motion. Straight ahead to the south is a manmade room with worked stone and lots of tables and tools, a vast forge. Shangor gets excited about the prospects of investigating the ancient dwarven room, so they forge ahead.

Aldoroc and Virith once again enter the room together and start towards the door in the western wall. Shangor, Aramil, and even Verilia walk around the room and examine all of the tools and finished weapons. Shangor immediately notices that the weapons appear to be masterwork and have the anvil holy symbol of Moradin engraved on them. The mephits and Salamanders guard the entrance.

Before Sylvan can open up his bag of holding so that the masterwork items can be taken, six of the weapons rise into the air, unbidden, and begin striking the intruders! As Aldoroc turns around to see what hit him in the back, a ghostly head floats out of and above the nearest table, just out of reach. The head seems to be heavily bearded, almost dwarven. The ghost image is eerily silent, but the cutting battleaxe, smashing warhammer, and slashing longsword are not. Kale draws his ghost touch longsword, the one he took from Wat so long ago, but before he can move into striking distance, the blade spirit attempts to dominate Aldoroc’s weapon.

The struggle is evident on Aldoroc’s face and fortunately he fights off the domination. The human fighter grits his teeth in anger and lashes out at the spirit, cutting through the image but failing to injure it, despite the magic of his weapon. Aramil and Sylvan cast magic missiles at the undead while Shangor summons a spiritual warhammer, made of the force of Moradin and imbued with His holy power.

In the end, the outcome is inevitable. The blade spirit tries to dominate Aldoroc’s battleaxe again, but he resists. Verilia casts flame blade and hits the undead while more magic missiles and the spiritual weapon destroy it. The masterwork weapons are gathered while the group discusses the blade spirit. They do not understand its origin, but hope that it doesn’t return, like most ghosts do.

The door is heavy, reinforced, and locked tight. Aldoroc wields his battleaxe and rips the door apart in a single strike.

Behind the door is an armory, relatively empty but with a large hammer and anvil image carved into the middle of the floor, and then a wide and long passage heading southwest. It leads past a small room that once served as an apothecary’s shop. It is obviously unused, possibly since the Saltheart clan was removed from the mines. The passage continues to a large room with one exit on the opposite side and another exit that leads back to the northeast. The exit on the opposite side has strange stalactites, resembling almost the inside of a giant mouth. As the adventurers cautiously move into the room, they are struck by a loud moaning. Half the party, including Aldoroc, goes into a stupor while the others fight off a strange winged monster.

The creature has a very large wingspan and resembles a stingray. Kale immediately draws his bow and fires an arrow at a second form barely visible on the ceiling, shouting “Everyone concentrate on the moaning cloaker!”

The others follow his advice. Virith moves into the room and launches an arrow at the cloaker before she too goes into a stupor. Aramil launches fireball after fireball, doing his best to target both monsters. Unfortunately, one of the cloakers attacks Aldoroc and wraps him up.

The cloaker on the ceiling is quickly killed under the concentrated onslaught of the adventurers, however, which allows them to similarly attack the other and save Aldoroc. Fortunately for the human, he is far tougher than the monster and a few healing spells by the dwarven cleric of Moradin make him feel as good as usual, meaning only slightly injured.

(11/22/03 8:04 am)
Session Twenty-Nine (Part 1/3)
Lord Skassik,

May the Elder Elemental Eye see you in his favor.

Your initial estimation of the adventurers was accurate. They are indeed powerful. My report here includes some minor details about our trip through the areas southwest of the Fire Temple and our entry into the Northern Bridge Complex. When you receive this report, I will not have had time to write anything further. Know then that we will have just started the attack on the Water Temple and that fish-loving whore Kelashein will be near her end. I hope that traitor Kadiss will be in the watery grave with her.

The scout that recently returned should have told you about our journey so far, including the contact with Tarren, may Imix broil his intestines inside his body, and the fights with the destrachan and the blade spirit. We encountered the cloakers, like you suspected. I did not tell anyone that they might be there, however, instead desiring to test the capabilities of the adventurers. In that regard, here I outline their strengths and weaknesses for future reference.

Kale – Kale is an archer. He uses his magical bow, named Soulmover, most of the time, to deadly effect. I recommend that you target his bow as early as possible as it can decimate even the most powerful foes very quickly. Also, he wears a chain mail shirt that renders him somewhat invulnerable to non-magical attacks. Don’t underestimate his hand-to-hand combat capabilities, either, as he is quite good with the longsword, targeting vital spots more readily than others would be able to do.

Aramil – The elf-turned-gold dragon disciple enjoys using fireball and magic missile. He also never enters hand-to-hand combat, preferring spells or his magical bow Cumulonimbus, so I’d guess he is very weak in that regard. The best thing to do about that is engage him quickly to keep him from casting his spells.

Shangor Steele – This disgusting dwarf, let’s face it all dwarves are disgusting, takes the cake. The goody two shoes is nonetheless quite capable with his warhammer, and is incredibly useful with his spells. In fact, we were able to bring the salamanders across the Stalagos only due to his water walking spell. Shangor is the biggest threat of the group, as you expected. His dwarven armor is his prize possession, though, so if you can somehow neutralize it, the fight would be quicker.

Verilia – The halfling druid is incredibly useful with her wildshaping ability. She does not share the same fervor of defeating the Temple of All Consumption like the others do, so it is possible that she can be turned to our side and a valuable and powerful ally can be obtained. She primarily uses call lightning, but can summon powerful animals as well. If you see her casting, I’d highly recommend interrupting her. She has an animal companion that was not brought to the Fire Temple. From the snippets of conversation I overheard, I believe it is a tiger and she uses it like a mount. Tigers like water, but they don’t like fire. In any case, she formed a friendship of sorts with Tarren. I think that connection is one that may be exploited.

Aldoroc – This human is a hardnosed, battleaxe-in-your-face brawler. He possesses no ranged weapons at all and is extremely good in hand-to-hand combat. I have not seen his equal. Indeed, my former commander and trainer, Kellial Unm, is no match. He is particularly formidable when given protective spells by Shangor and the others. The best tactic here is to target Aldoroc with a dispel magic, if available, and then kill him from a distance. A big distance.

Azzalin – The elf still wants to be called Sylvan. He seems to be in denial about his true name. Nevertheless, he is quite a bit more powerful than when he was with the Temple. In particular, he favors a spell that conjures black tentacles that grapple foes and pummel them to death. They seem to be quite deadly and I think the best tactic is to have some form of spell resistance. He also likes to use dimension door, and this helps bring the fighter Aldoroc closer to his enemies. Keep this in mind. Azzalin does not share the same moral code of Shangor, but he nevertheless harbors a deep hatred, or resentment, for the Temple. It is not likely he can be converted and seems to desire bringing the Fire Temple low.

This completes my preliminary assessment of the adventurers. Overall, I don’t think you can parlay with them again. After the Water Temple, it’s my belief that they will eventually get back to eradicating the Fire Temple as well and therefore should be eliminated. It may not be a bad idea to share this information with Eeridik, Fachish, and D’Gran.

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