This session began with the party, bruised and battered, in the depths of the Temple of the Stone.
In attendance were:
Leandro Rebes, Fighter 5, a Mercenary from the Bargainer’s League with a powerful grudge. (Matthew)
Marit, Explorer 5, a skilled Monster Hunter from the violent hills of Estiria. (Catherine)
Nantechildis, Witch 4, a Dark Oracle plagued by monstrous visions and dreams, from the haunted sunlit hills of Sallorn. (Asha)
Killim Tordil Mechanika, Machinist 3. a War Machinist of remarkable skill from the Khalzad Vault . (Delwyn)
The adventurers continued their exploration of the dark underground complex. After a short argument about mapping, they headed through the far door towards the location the traitor’s map had indicated as being the “Ogre Caves” and quickly found themselves in a chamber adjoining more natural caverns. An ongoing.commotion could be heard from one of the caverns, so they took the opportunity to prepare an ambush for the well-occupied group of 3 Ogres; unfortunately for them, the smallest of the three was not directly involved in their wrestling match and spotted the party’s approach. Still, the Ogres proved short work with only a few injuries dealt with swiftly by the party’s Witch.
After cleaning out the Ogre Caves and discovering a small bag of gold hidden in stinking rags, the adventurers discussed where to head next. Confirming that the gnolls had not lied and the passage to the southwest was a dead end, they decided to see if the remaining southern door (which had been locked) would be a passageway through to the main temple area they sought; yet they discovered it unlocked. Suspecting an ambush, they instead headed back into the cave with the lake of blood and to their relief, everyone succeeded in carefully edging along the side of the passageway south, emerging into a very strange chamber in which a “tree” made of twisted flesh rose to meet the roof, sending pulsating hideous tendrils through the stone.
Deciding to get away from it as soon as possible, and noticing strong torchlight coming from the west, the adventurers crept up on a small group of figures in robes performing some form of ceremony around an altar inlaid with gold and silver, launching an ambush. The fight was short and mostly one-sided, with the lesser dark clerics rapidly slain by a thrown flask of military oil, while their leader Ur-Namu attempted to cast a spell but was interrupted by burning. Attempting to recover his weapon and shield, he was rapidly overcome by Leandro and slain.
The heroes realised that they had located the heart of the complex, and began head toward the Inner Fane. A pair of doors held closed by magic blocked the way, and an Abomination waited between; its stingers threatened paralysis, but it was overwhelmed by the heroes’ press of numbers and use of tactics.
Breaking through the second warded door, the party found themselves on the edge of the Inner Fane of the Stone. The room featured a symbol of a snake eating its own tail surrounding an altar of bone, upon which sat the Stone itself; a reddish gem perhaps 2ft across, pulsing with dreadful power. The Lady Below – a strikingly beautiful woman with dark hair and eyes and fine features – waited inside with a swarm of undead minions, and they began to attack the party as they entered.
But the heroes had formed a plan, and the rescued Elf Zaira began to cast her Protection From Evil spell. The abomination and undead were kept from attacking, with the exception of 6 skeletons, which were swiftly dispatched by a hefty cleaving blow from Witchbane. From the back of the press, the Lady Below began to cast spells at the group, but was frequently interrupted by accurate bowfire from Marit; at one point she succeeded in casting a spell on Leandro, but he shrugged off the malign influence. Realising she was outnumbered and likely to lose, especially as Chil took control of her skeleton archers, she first attempted to remove the stone (receiving an arrow in the shoulder for her troubles), then used the stone’s power to summon all the remaining Abominations before fleeing the chamber. Twisted, shifting monsters began to pour in, and as Chil also took control of the zombies she sent the undead (which were immune to the Abominations’ paralysing stings) to fight the horrors while the party moved forward to at last destroy the Sinister Stone of Sakkara.
First the beserker Quintus attempted to smash the Stone, but did not succeed; finally Leandro swung Witch Bane and the stone shattered apart. A blast of baleful energy filled the room, with Leandro barely surviving the backlash and several of the party suffering terrible mutations; but none were killed or transformed into Abominations.
Seeking to pursue the Lady Below, the party found empty (if twisted) caverns and a number of dead ends, and with no sign of secret doors, they concluded that she had escaped their reach for now. The party began to grab what treasure they could (including removing the Lady’s treasure chest in its entirety), before hearing a loud roar and the sound of collapsing stone from up above – Idimmu had fled in rage from the Temple! Realising that sticking around could easily be their end, the party fled up and out, returned to their camp, and began heading back to Aligar Castle.
The Lady is defeated (if not dead) and the Stone destroyed! But what to do now? And where will the future take our heroes?
(Post session GM note – I was rather tired and not myself this evening. While most of the encounter went OK, endless fight between d4-damage-and-useless-Paralysis Abominations and hapless Zombies and unarmed Skeletons notwithstanding, the nature of Pacted in this campaign is such that the Lady should not have been capable of fleeing. In all honesty, a high level Ruinguard in close combat could potentially have caused the party much more difficulty than they faced; I was trying to represent her as being canny and making a tactical retreat, but she should not have been capable of such. Something to remember for next time.