Our cast of characters…
Dracon, human initiate of Obad Hai & Beastmaster of the Wegwier;
Kalik, halfling initiate of Avoreen;
Kendradell, female half-elf bard & initiate of Lydia;
Marcus, half-elf initiate of Heironeous;
Milik, halfling sorcerer;
Murray, human wizard;
Naazi, chenxa (centaur) warrior of Tenh;
Nikolai, Suloise human initiate of Lendor;
Tarqualan, high elf mystic (Vesve Forest).
After a short (very short) breather and pep talk from Kalik regarding teamwork, the group set out to explore the ancient temple. As the first half of the party entered the main entrance, a large net dropped from the ceiling, ensnaring Marcus, Tarqualan, and Naazi. As this happened, several hobgoblins stepped out from behind some thick pillars located deeper inside the temple, as a force of gnolls stepped into the entryway.
Marcus fell backwards, holding his large hoplite shield over his body as he drew a dagger to cut away at the net, while Tarqualan struggled to cast a spell to free himself. Naazi, meanwhile, pitted his strength against the bonds of the net while both groups of humanoids unleashed arrows in his general direction. Kalik, who had managed not to get caught beneath the net, engaged one of the gnolls in melee while Milik (who had jumped the other way) rejoined the rest of the party and began unleashing spells against their enemies.
While the melee progressed, both Dracon and Murray attempted to hurl spells against the hobgoblins located deeper within the upper structure of the temple, but some force protected those ’noids from their spells. After the lead members of the party struggled and/or were cut free of the net, they quickly finished off the gnolls, and began to venture deeper into the temple to engage the hobgoblin archers.
After rushing forward to engage the archers, Marcus was the first to learn that whatever force shielded them from magic also delivered a chilling bolt of pain when his ax-arm strayed across the invisible line. As it did so, a deep, subsonic sound like a massive gong could be heard, even by those still outside the temple. With the sound of the first gong, those with keen eyes could detect a gathering darkness welling up at the top of the nearest pillar, causing shades (darkness elementals) to slither down from the shadowed vault above to attack.
Kalik was the first to be held in the icy grip of one of the shades, but Marcus was engulfed and knocked unconscious by one of the pair that engaged him. Naazi was partially engulfed by two of the shades, but neither possessed sufficient volume to completely surround him. While vulnerable to normal weapons, the shades provided poor protection for those they engulfed, so many of the sword and arrow strikes that helped to free those so stricken wound up injuring them in the process.
Though the party eventually finished off all of their obvious foes, the problem of the magical force field they’d hidden behind remained. Dracon was the first to recall that most temples made use of a warding spell to both dissuade intruders and sound an alarm when such were detected; it was beyond a doubt that those in the lower temple were well aware of their arrival…
After attempting to find and remove the wards that guarded what was obviously the only way down, the party soon realized that the wards were likely well buried either in the floor or the pillars, and that the temple below was unlikely to give them time to destroy them. So each member of the party crossed the line, endured the chilling shock of damage, and began to cautiously venture downwards…
On the first landing of the stairs, Milik located a secret door to a forgotten storeroom containing a variety of mauve robes, but the general consensus was that the robes were some sort of trap, meant to instantly identify any intruders as such. Another thing they noticed was that on the stairs beneath the landing, a copious variety of wispy shapes could be seen floating in midair; They seemed drawn to open wounds, as Naazi soon discovered… the wisps would enter a wound and vanish, but thereafter the wound so “infested” could not be closed, even by magic. Fortunately, his wounds were minor, but it did not bode well for the coming combat below, if such spirits were as common below as they were on the stairs…
A dark, empty corridor greeted them at the foot of the stairs, and a nearby chamber proved to be the lair of an enormous troll; most of the magic the group had placed on their weapons in the fight above was still active, so it fell quickly before their onslaught. While Naazi searched the ‘nest’ of the troll for treasure, he located several silver torch holders that seemed to be burning with an invisible flame, but little else.
As Marcus and several other members of the group kept watch on the disturbingly empty hall in which they stood, two things occurred in rapid succession. First, Marcus watched in horror as his prized hoplite shield began folding in upon itself from the comers inwards, and Kendradell noticed something odd about the shadows along one wall, and cast a light spell that revealed a half dozen hobgoblins who were almost upon the party, using some magic to completely cloak themselves in the cover of darkness. Marcus quickly dispelled whatever spell was destroying his shield, and then waded into battle against the now revealed hobgoblins.
As the supply of obvious hobgoblins dwindled, Marcus heard a familiar voice speaking in an unfamiliar language – he quickly recognized it as the voice of his hated brother, Flavius. His moment of glory was cut short, however, when a blinding pain seized his right leg, and as he lay writhing on the ground in agony, he watched his leg transform itself into a slimy, suckered tentacle!
Even through his pain and terror, Marcus remembered the charge Heironeous had laid upon him to end his brother’s life. Using the spirit in his ax, he called upon Heironeous (Divine Intervention) to deliver his brother for a face to face confrontation, and Heironeous answered the call by bringing Flavius out of the shadows at the end of the corridor to right before the group.
Quickly realizing that spells had little effect on Flavius, and ignoring Nikolai’s call to take him alive, Kalik leapt forward with the Sword of Nogre, which still shone with the sun’s own light from the battle above. The light of the blade made short work of the creature of darkness Flavius had become, and he soon lay dead before them. Marcus, fulfilling his vow to Heironeous, beheaded his brother, and dropped to his knees to thank his Lord for his assistance. What none noticed was that one of the shadows cast by Flavius’ fallen form had attached itself to Kalik….
It was Marcus, actually, who saw Kalik drop his flaming sword, mutter a spell and step backwards to vanish into the shadows; without a thought for himself, he called upon Heironeous yet again to free his friend, and was heard for the second time in one day. In the enhanced vision Heironeous granted him for an instant, Marcus saw the spirit that had possessed his friend depart his body, then drift back down the hall to enter a closed room where a strange, blue skinned man dressed in the black robes of a sorcerer leaned over a scrying bowl – in an instant, the spirit possessed the man, whose eyes went from gray to solid black in the instant of possession.
The rest of the party, who had noticed only that Kalik was suddenly missing, decided to vacate the temple with all haste, as the darkness around them seemed to grow more and more oppressive by the moment. Recovering their horses, they rode hard for the rest of the afternoon, seeking shelter in a cave for the night, and renewing the invisibility rituals Murray had performed on them earlier to pass unmolested through the valley the orcs controlled.
Once out of the mountains they rode south into Furyondy, where most of them could locate temples at least friendly to their own. Marcus, whose leg was still malformed into a tentacle, was sent to the priestesses of Beory, who cut the unclean appendage away and then regenerated a fresh, human leg in it’s place. While Marcus rested after this ordeal, Nikolai sequestered himself in a temple of Lendor and underwent intensive training, with an eye towards promotion. The rest of the party engaged in similar exploits, as they had almost 2 months to kill.
As we ended the evening, Kalik was visiting a temple dedicated to Pelor, explaining the fate of Lucien to his superiors, and making them aware of his plans to rescue the young knight….