Sunday, 15 June 2014

Doggerland Session 5:34 (The Temple IV)

Going Underground (11th June 2014)

The Adventurers
Bow – Ranger
Cormac – Fighter
Gull – Thief (NPC)
Johan – Cleric
Vox – Magic User

Map of the Temple above ground (copyright TSR/WotC)
Exploring the Temple Ruins - Freyasday 19th Hextember (Day 80) – mid-morning

The dark stairwell beckoned Bow like the maw of Leviathan. He cautiously advanced down the worn stone steps with his lantern held aloft in his left hand and his trusty sword at the ready in his right. He descended steadily into the Stygian gloom; the light from his lantern only just relieved the blackness beyond the reach of his arms.

After a few moments his feet hit level ground and he stopped to adjust the hood on his lantern. The corridor he found himself in stretched away beyond the strength of his lamp’s feeble rays, but on the edge of the umbra he could just discern what might be a side corridor that led beneath the rest of the Temple.

He cautiously retraced his steps back up the stairwell and passed this knowledge onto his companions. After a brief discussion they decided to check out the rest of the Temple ruins before they descended into the depths and possible danger.

The party readied their weapons and spells and advanced cautiously in a clockwise direction around the upper level of the Temple.

The first door they came to opened at a touch to reveal a small vestry. Pieces of broken glass, charred wood and cloth lay strewn around the floor. A brief poke around the remains revealed only a pile of desecrated black robes. However, a swift look above their heads revealed a good quality black robe lined with light blue satin that must have been missed by the Temple destroyers. Vox stowed it away in his pack for possible later use.

The pinkish marble pillars of the vestibule gave way to white marble pillars shot through with the same ugly red veins of the nave. However, the large stone altar that was present before a deep wide well was made of the same material as the vestibule pillars.

The roughly humanoid shape scalloped out from the creepy looking rock sent shivers down everyone’s spines, especially when Bow recognised that the brown stains contained within was more dried blood. This was obviously some kind of sacrificial altar dedicated to the demoness herself.

The party passed by the altar with a collective shudder and investigated the wide, deep hole. It was as dark as pitch inside so Cormac lit an old Temple cloak and dropped it down. The light it cast did not really reveal much but it stopped falling after roughly eighty or ninety feet and then the flames sputtered out before they could reveal anything.

As nothing else of interest could be gathered from the altar and its attendant well, the compatriots moved on towards the rood screen that separated the nave from the high altar beyond. They passed the wide stairwell with the broad, deep steps that led down to the dungeon below and advanced past the rood screen on either side towards the dais and throne.

The way to the dais at the far end of the Temple was via a huge bronze cauldron. The edges and lip of the eight foot vessel were dented from the results of many hard blows. Its six legs held it about a foot above the flagstones and its contents remained intact; old charcoal, bits of blackened bone and pieces of unidentifiable matter lay at the bottom of the bowl. One chain was left attached to its ring on the lip of the cauldron but the rest had been destroyed and removed.

Beyond the massive cauldron the party ascended four steps up on to a round dais that contained an enormous throne of purple basalt. This offset the polished, black granite that made up the dais itself. Above the throne, emblazoned in easily read runes was the phrase:

“The power of Death brings mortals low but raises the Nameless One high”

This did not mean much to any of the party so they did not take much notice of it thinking it was merely a Temple chant rather than some mystical cypher. Vox strolled up to the throne and climbed up on it. The rest of the party drew their collective breaths as he sat down but nothing happened to the mage. The throne was most likely built for someone at least twice his size he surmised.

After the anti-climax of finding out that nothing seemed to be of interest in the upper part of the Temple, the party decided to get a move on exploring the final two rooms so that they could then descend into the catacombs below.

With the two scouts leading the way, the adventurers quickly made their way to the door to the east of the large cauldron. Without caution the door was burst open to reveal a large room beyond. This chamber was most likely the vestry of the head priest. The exquisitely detailed but sickeningly portrayed carvings were obviously created by a master craftsman and would have been expensive to make. The ruined furniture within would have been of greatest quality before it was burnt, smashed or slashed. Amongst the ruined furniture and slashed carpets and rugs lay several skeletons; one was wearing a black Temple robe. The party searched the room in case it contained any treasure that had not already been taken. Vox pushed aside a pile of faggots that had been set fire too but failed to take completely although the wall was scorched, and he spotted a small unopened door. He pulled it open and spotted two more of the elaborate robes found earlier contained within. He picked them both up and stuffed them into his back pack.

The Ban Sidhe – early afternoon

The final side room to be investigated lay within the confines of the east wing opposite the west altar and its accompanying door down into the depths below the Temple. The party would have completed their circuit of the upper Temple once this final section was explored. Bow bypassed the destroyed altar and the large circular pool of black liquid and made his way straight to the door beyond. He swiftly pulled it open, passed through it, and strode across the vestry with its damaged furniture and ruined cloaks. He again held his lantern aloft and cautiously made his way down the stairs. A similar set up greeted him as that which was beneath the east vestry; but a mirror image. He nodded to himself and went back upstairs to tell his companions what he had discovered.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party had been looking over the altar and pool for clues to any riches. They were just about to give up but Cormac’s curiosity got the better of him. He tore a strip from one of the discarded cloaks that lay about and dipped it into the pool. Other than a stale, brackish smell that emanated from the pool as he disturbed it he could not tell what the liquid was.

Just as he was about to let go of the rag the limpid surface was broken by a ghostly apparition. The spirit of a woman broke the surface without rippling it and rose to its full height. The party stepped back in awe and fright at the hateful look on her visage. The party drew their weapons not knowing how they would attack a non-corporeal being but trusted to their magical powers and weapons to aid them.

The scream that erupted from the spirit shook the dust from the rafters above and caused a cloud of winged beasts to dive down from the ceiling. The party, except for Johan, took to their heels in terror at the sound the ghostly woman made, and dropped whatever they had in their hands at the time in their effort to get away as quickly as possible.

Johan took a firm grasp of his holy symbol of Balder and commanded the spirit to be gone, but his efforts failed. The now groaning spirit advanced upon him so he readied his trusty mace and shield for the fight of his life.

Whilst Johan fought with the ghostly apparition the rest of the adventures flew headlong towards the door, the stirges from above dogged their flight every step of the way. In their fear they could not stand and fight the little vampiric parasites so they were attacked by the flying horrors almost at will. However, they were able to grab hold of a few that had attached their proboscis and crushed them in their rush of blind terror.

Eventually, the adventurers regained their senses and were then able to quickly destroy the menace that hovered about them. Only two of the stirges got back to their nests, their thirst for blood satiated.

As the party returned to the spot where Johan was struggling with the spirit they roared their support and charged into the melee again, not knowing whether their weapons could damage something obviously not from this plane of existence.

However, they need not have worried because the first blow from Bow’s back-up magical sword slew the creature and returned it to whatever abyssal plane it had come from. Johan was a little upset that the ranger took the credit for slaying the spirit as he thought he would have bested her within the next few minutes.

The Sundered Doors

The stirges had taken their toll upon the fear-stricken adventurers so Johan dispensed with much magical Healing. Once they had refreshed themselves and seen to their wounds they headed back towards the main central staircase.

The double-width stairs were steep; as if they were carved for beings much larger than humans. They ended at a large pile of door rubble similar to that found at the main entrance to the Temple. Under the insistence of Bow, the party searched through the chunks of bronze, iron and hard wood to see if they could find anything of value or interest.

Cormac and Bow both spotted a shape similar to the amulet that was stolen from Johan many weeks back in the inn although this was made of a strange black metal rather than gold. Bow recognised it immediately for what it was as he already had the one from upstairs in his pocket safely hidden away unbeknown to the others, but Cormac only thought it was an interesting bauble until Vox and Johan took a look. They realised from its markings and its exact same size as the other amulet that it was one of the items that they were looking for to send the demoness back to her realm in the Abyss. Vox inspected it closer and noticed the runes were written slightly differently; on this black amulet the third rune was smaller whereas on the other amulet the last rune was the smallest when read from left to right. He also noticed that at the heart of the rune that represented the Eye of Zuggtmoy there was a small square shape as opposed to a triangle at the heart of the gold amulet’s Eye.

Bow pocketed the amulet with the one he already had secreted away and the party continued their onward march. It was dark in the corridor and each of the adventurers held either a lantern or a torch, however, when they passed through the portal they noticed that there was a faint glow that emanated from ahead.

The Pyramid

The adventurers passed into a huge square chamber with rough-hewn walls and a dark earthen floor. The centre of the room was taken up by a large pyramid with a flattened top that held four tall pillars. The phosphorescent glow came from lichen or mould on the walls, and it was just strong enough, when their eyes adjusted, to see the two sets of drapes on the far side of the chamber. As they looked about them upon entering the chamber they noticed two doors on the walls behind them. However, their full attention was on the flat-topped pyramid and its four pillars that they could now see held sundered chains upon iron rings maybe seven or eight feet up. It was obvious that these pillars were there to hold sacrificial victims helpless with their arms chained above their heads. What manner of despicable ritual would have been held there did not bear thinking about.

When they reached the bottom step of the pyramid they then noticed that there was a bronze box at the base of one of the pillars. Bow’s curiosity got the better of him and he ascended the steps. Just as he did so, the earth in each corner of the room erupted and a roughly man-shaped being began to take shape and stand up.

Earth Elementals

Bow just had time to get to the top of the pyramid and grab the box before the earthen men took up their final positions. The party then ran off in all directions, Vox towards the left hand curtain on the far side of the chamber, Gull and Cormac headed to the door on the right when they came in, and John to the door on the left. As Bow left the pyramid the earth elementals, as that was what Johan identified them as, began to advance upon him.

Vox stole a glance over his shoulder before he thrust his head through the curtain. The corridor beyond was very dark but the glow from the mould in the pyramid room illuminated just enough of the space beyond the gap in the curtain that he could make out some large yellow stone triangle shapes on the floor.

Johan opened the door to the room that he had made it to but as he had no light source he could not see much more than that the room was small and appeared to have no other exit. He left the entrance to the small chamber and moved back to the main entranceway.

Meanwhile, the fighter and the thief opened the door to the room they had run towards but all they could see with the aid of their lanterns was a big pile of stones that took up the middle of the room and several large barrels and kegs that filled the far wall. As they saw nothing of real value Cormac returned to the main entrance to guard the party’s exit where Johan began to cast a Glyph of Warding, and Gull made his way to the other curtain at the far end of the room.

The ranger picked up the bronze box and stowed it in his pack. He then made his way down the side of the pyramid after he had watched to see what the elementals would do. After an initial few moments of standing still, they seemed to patrol in a set pattern. Vox remained alone at the far end of the room.

From the apparent safety of the pyramid stairs, Bow took a look inside the box and saw that it contained a bronze maul, knife, bowl and ewer. He was disappointed as he thought that it might contain the Golden Orb Skull that they were looking for. He thrust the pieces back into the bronze box and climbed the pyramid steps again to replace the item from where it came in the hope that it would dispel the elementals. After Bow had replaced the box, the party noticed that the earthen guardians had halted again. Gull had not reached the second curtain but noticed that the rest of the party were now returning to the main entrance, so he retraced his steps past the guardians.

Vox, after he realised that he was on his own, cast a Protection spell upon himself that he hoped would get him past the earthen guardians. Bow descended the pyramid steps again and watched the pyramid guardians so that he could time his run to the main entranceway; they had begun their patrol again, but the pattern meant he had to be careful to time his run correctly.

Johan left the safety of the entrance and ran back to the pyramid past the guardians to grab the contents of the box as he thought that they would be important. He then made his way down the pyramid side nearest to Vox to give him support whilst Bow made his run back towards the main entranceway.

Vox however was able to pick his way through the earth elementals whilst Johan was at the top of the pyramid, but Bow took a mighty blow from one of them as he tried to avoid contact. Unfortunately, he did not know that Johan had cast the Glyph and thus triggered it when he passed over it in the entranceway without speaking the pass phrase. The elementals continued to dog the ranger, so Bow and Cormac sprinted up the stairs to escape their attention.

The Death of Gull

The guardian’s pace had picked up and this panicked the rest of the party. Unfortunately Gull was not fast enough in his return from his solo mission to the second curtain and he was caught in the stampede for the entrance. He was thrust to the floor by one of the guardians and the following one stomped on him in its haste to chase the ranger. Johan was too far away to aid his companion before the light dimmed from his eyes and he cursed himself for thinking about the sacrificial items rather than his companions.

Johan now realised that he was in the room alone whilst the thief had been pounded into the dark earth and the rest of his companions had fled the chamber.

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