After the battle beyond Pahvelorn's skull etched door, the adventurers were bruised, cut and generally disheartened. Eariyara the child sorceress had taken her first serious sword wound to the scalp, and both of her servants were dead. Fitzwalter, the stoic mercenary whose loyalty far outweighed his combat ability had been poisoned with an arcane crossbow bolt, but a portion of his soul refused to abandon his duty, and through the strange magic of Pahvelorn had been siphoned into his crossbow, now a twisted and malformed weapon, it's steel bow blackened as if by fire and it's stock warped. Ginny Bo an elderly former cooper who joined the party in Illum-Zugot out of a desire to do great deeds before his death, and actually managed a fair number, was also hacked to pieces by the axe of a brutish bandit lord. The other party members, Tarvis the Crusader, his battle deacon Daroullian, Pron the Beast Child, Sir Beni Profane - self proclaimed rat catcher general, Lau - Taxan the Cunning Man, Karna - Annoited Bishop of Illum Zugot Haxetha, the gladiator Haxatha, and Torgel the Bald, a bandit with sanguinary tastes, all also suffered injury and exhaustion. It was time to leave Pahvelorn and the town perched above it, Zorptah, as the war to the West closed in on it. What was needed was a way to stop the war, and the only option known to the party was a weapon beneath a place of ancient burial and evil far to the East.
|Evil Temples all look the same - Right?|
Before they could undertake the journey to the East, the party needed to recover and in addition to suffering casualties, the party had captured one of the spike armored bandits they met beneath Pahvelorn. Upon questioning the man revealed himself to be a member of the Order of Gavin, a gang of expert tomb looters and mercenaries led by the ax man who slew Ginny Bo, Gavin himself. The party was alarmed to learn that their own sometimes name had been taken by the disreputable gang they had killed, a band that had apparently sacrificed kidnapped townsfolk as a way past a pair of wraiths.
While Beni and Eariyara interrogated the captured delver, Karna prepared to magically raise Ginny Bo. but the old man's body could not stand the mystical forces unleashed upon it, and rather than raising anew, Ginny Bo's soul dissolved from his body in rivulets of molten golden light as the old fighter went to whatever eternal rest the gods of the Empire promised. Eariyara, Beni and Lau-Taxan dragged the body of Ginny Bo, the prisoner and a large quantity of wine to the edge of Pahvelorn's precipice where rites according to the Mater Milla, the rat goddess, were performed. Neither the body or prisoner returned, and all three rat cultists were well soaked in wine the next morning, though Beni has hinted that the prisoner is not dead, though his fate is within the goddess' many paws.
Heading East the band brought a long strign of pack apes and a menagerie consisting of Torgel's wyvern, a smaller wyvern, a blue green horse, Beni's war terrier Treacle. After a long trek across the formerly dragon haunted wastes, the adventurers arrived without incident at an ancient logging town. Built of huge logs, in the long abandoned Imperial style, the town appears almost untouched, with magic wards of protection surrounding it. The town is deserted and it's miraculous condition the result of every bit of wood within being completely petrified into rough brown and grey stone. Camping for the evening in the towns' stone galleries, and most importantly behind its intact wards, the party experiences nothing of note.
Advancing along an ancient path, over jagged cold ridges, guided only by a map stolen from the necromancer of Trollmun's languid masked representative, the party soon comes to a dreary shack with walls covered in animal skins. Thecold wind tore through the hunter's shack, but nothing moved and it appeared no one had been there for many days. A search turned up a note from an adventurer named Audrey dated several weeks earlier, but there was no other sign of inhabitants.
Moving onward across the ridges, jagged with ice and scoured by punishing winds, the adventurers' animals soon begin to panic. There is nothing to be done, as even Tarvis' magical attempts to discuss matters with the wyverns are unsucessful and the party sends three henchmen (Tokel the Bald, Haxatha and Pron's nameless torchbearer) to guard the animals, waiting for the adventurer's return at the bottom of the mountain.
Beyond a last ridge, a broken spine of huge ice covered boulders, the tower and a large graveyard loomed. The gravestones, like the abandoned town, were carved of petrified wood, while petrified trees twisted from the snow in bizarre shapes. A disturbing hum coming from one of the trees, and the graveyard's general air of evil convinced the party to skirt it's edge and approach the tower without walking among the graves. In their path the party discovered a snow covered body, which was revealed to be that of a red haired woman, the mildly famous adventuress Audrey, frozen solid. The woman appeared to have died of magic or exposure, and wore no shoes, with her tracks still visible leading back to the rear entrance of the tower.
The tower itself was four squat stories and covered over entirely with tiny inscriptions to the glory of Orcus. The entire scenario, from Karna's terrible dream, to the inscribed tower have set the party on edge. Approaching the tower with incredible caution, with Beni testing every step for traps and Karna calling on his gods to reveal dangers and finding nothing. Perhaps the caution is unwarranted as the party entered and explored the tower without incident, discovering a satchel of purple powder (quite similar to past discoveries of dangerous Purple Lotus powder), a creepy book filled with thousands of names - the last of which was Audrey's, a giant painting showing the party in a sinister temple with Earyara finding a door and Tarvis drinking from a skull shaped chalice, and Audrey's equipment in a recently used bedroom.
The party's most mysterious discovery in the name scribbled tower was a harpsichord that played antique chamber music when the room it rested in was empty, but was silent when the room was occupied. Eariyara tried to play, but beyond playing chopsticks her skills were insufficient to the task. The strangeness of the tower was only accentuated by it's basement, a simple enough kitchen and storage area, except for the massive chained trapdoor. Beni picked the lock easily enough, and the party headed into the trapdoor, having discovered nothing above that remotely resembled a weapon strong enough to stop a demon army.
Beneath the trapdoor was a carved stone chamber, of simple workmanship, except for a large bronze door on one wall with a huge key in its lock. Beni turned and then stowed the key in in his pack, and the party peered into the room beyond. A ghastly door covered by sculpted screaming faces greeted the party, who decided with night was fast approaching and the adventuress Audrey's efforts to sleep in the tower ending so poorly it was time to retreat to the petrified logging town, collecting their animals and retainers on the way.
A second expedition for the mysterious weapon started off the next morning, leaving Tarvis and his henchmen behind to guard the animals. The band quickly traversed the graveyard and tower, following their previous steps carefully and discovering nothing had changed above ground. The trapdoor to the strange chambers below the tower remained unlocked, and the door with the large key open. The screaming face door was pushed open gently to reveal another chamber, filled with skeletal left hands and another huge door. Ignoring the hands and focusing on the door, the adventurers discovered that it could be opened easily enough, but also that it is inscribed with a nauseating sigil. Quickly dashing past the cursed door the room beyond is revealed to be some kind of giant chapel. Sinster murals, a carved skull apse, a ceiling covered with toothless skulls and fonts of evil black water confirm the death cult of Orcus as the likely builders of the underground shrine. Cautiously advancing atop the carved marble pews the adventurers touch nothing as Eariyara and Karna's magics reveals that the mold covered organ and fonts are dangerous, while a bejeweled dagger and necklace on the altar are cursed and sacred to "the young god". Two doors exit the huge underground temple one magically locked near the black water fonts and another on the Northeastern wall apparently opened by a pair of wheels set into its frame.
Ignoring this obvious, but cursed, treasure for now the adventurers turn to a door on the Northeastern wall and open it by slipping ropes around the strange cog wheels on either side of the door. Beyond the door is a musty hallway (though suspiciously free of cobwebs) with several simple doors leading off and a door carved with skulls at the end. While searching a barracks behind the second door in the dusty hall, the first having led to a long unused garderobe, the distant sound of pounding footsteps rings out, but now used to the temple's strange noises the party ignores them.
The footsteps do signify something however, and for once caution proves warranted, as the door bursts open, revealing a huge figure of bronze and sutured grey flesh. Standing eight feet tall, with an oversized bronze goat head bolted to its shoulders the creature stops to beat its massive chest like a gorilla before plunging towards the adventurers. The dramatic pause and the monster's hunched efforts to navigate the door give the party enough time to react, with a rain of crossbow bolt. Beni sinks an arrow to its fletching in the creature's check, and Pron's sword cuts across its arm, but the dead grey flesh doesn't react and the sword wound doesn't penetrate more then an inch despite the giant blooded child's enormous strength. Karna calls on his dieties - but the power of the place, or perhaps the creature's nature and ferocity prevent it from hearing his commands to cower. Only Eariyara's attack, a bolt from the possessed crossbow 'Echo of Fitzwalter' seems to stagger the abomination. Lau Taxan successfully calls on the rat goddess, but a swarm of spectral rats cannot confuse the monster, as it has no mind to torment.
Even the necromantic bolt of Eariyara's weapon doesn't stop the bull like charge of the goat headed monster and it grabs the cowering form of Pron's servant, lifting him above its horned, helmet liek head and tearing the screaming man in two. Realizing thier deadly peril the party attacks again. Torkel the bald, having wrestled all manner of beasts in the arenas of his youth, leaps onto the creature and begins to tear at it's helmet. He is joined by Lau Taxan, and soon most of the party is trying to tear the head off of the creature as it smashes at all before it with its huge fists. Beni flings his elf saber to Pron, and the strange metal of the weapon glows as it slashes into the giant. Holy water is cast, without effect, Lau Taxan, Torkel and even Eariyara's ten year old orphan apprentice twist and pull at the bronze mask of the creature - popping dried tendons and grinding ancient bones together. Fianlly after titanic struggle, Tokel pops free several of the bolts, revealing a tangled mass of tendons, wizard stones, carved bone glyphs and glass vials that Eariyara presses her enchanted crossbow against and fires a bolt into. The bolt ricochets around, and suddenly the bronze goat head explodes, flinging Lau Taxan, Torkil, Beni and Pron across the room.
When the battle ends bruised adventurers are scattered about the ancient barracks and the creature's bronze mask is split, it's huge body starting to rot at an alarming rate. The party moves on quickly in case the goat headed automaton had any companions and finds that there are only a few long abandoned but lived in rooms along the hall. Most disconcerting is a large prison and torture chamber at the end of the wall, perhaps also intended as a surgical theater for the construction of creatures such as the goat headed abomination. Luckily the prison and the other areas hold no more threats, but Unfortunately they hold no valuables or clues either - except to provide confirmation that the Cult of Orcus was a cruel and corrupt one.
Returning to the temple chambers, the adventurers investigate the great door next to the altar, and discover that it cannot be opened as it is barred by magic beyond even Eariyara's grasp. Inscriptions however indicate that sacrifices into the black basins will open it, and when Beni dredges the foul water with an arrow he scrapes up a handful of human teeth. Knowing that they need a tooth (or teeth) to pass the door, Pron grabs the body of his former servant and while the rest of the party argues about propriety, smashes the dead man's jaw. Dropping a tooth into the dark waters causes the doors to swing open, and the party proceeds, with only Lau Taxan concerned about the poor servant's immortal soul.
Beyond the tooth sacrifice doors is another hallway, with several doors, all metal and carved with more or less complicated geometric designs. The party opens a door at random, again with the pair of wheels to it's sides, and discovers a laboratory, for the crafting of abominations. A huge book rests on a podium, but nothing else of interest is to be found amongst the rusted surgical tools and rotten detritus of ancient necromancy. Eariyara takes the book for later study, as it is written in a strange and unnatural language she is unfamiliar with. Walking back to the end of the hall, the adventurers find a nook beyond filled with books atop pedestals, all in the same unnatural language. Also in the room are a font, with a carvings of eyes above it, and a loupe, resting on a brittle velvet pillow.
Eariyara takes the lens and discovers that it allows her to read the strange texts, all titled "Histories of the Great Sorceress Orcus", as well as the book discovered previously - a manual for the construction of necromantic golems. Beni meanwhile dredges the font with and arrow, worried he will find magically preserved eyes, but instead scrapes out a silver piece of ancient make. Tossing a gold coin from his own pouch into the font, reveals no doorways, but does suddenly shock Beni's dulled mind - making the ignorant rat catcher somewhat more intelligent. Subsequent attempts to reap the boons of the font by other party members result in failures and debilitating curses of stupidity, clumsiness and a loss of spiritual acumen.
With night again coming on, the adventures retreat once more to the petrified town and debate about a trip to Trollmum to discuss what they've discovered with the Necromancer there.