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As the ringing in his ears began to abate, Aendir realized they had a very serious problem. He’d been able to detect an area off to the east that radiated the oily black sensations that emanate from unhallowed ground, and he could now sense that something there was stirring. He didn’t know if it was due to Thorzin’s gunfire or his own holy aura, but he had the very strong impression that this was NOT something they were ready to face.
The delvers moved north, further into the Crypts. The region was aptly named, for all around them were dead bodies lying in their crypts in the walls. Some were lying on slabs along the sides of the corridor, while others had only their heads (or their feet) poking out from a deep, narrow hole where they lay in repose. A few of these began to move, slowly getting up to give chase to the quickening heroes.
Continuing north, they came to another four-way intersection. A couple of bodies stood in repose, leaning in their upright crypts. Suspicious, Nethwen took the head off one of them. The undead creature screeched and hissed as it died. Yona took a swing at the other corpse, but that one just turned out to be a dead dude. But during the pause to deal with these two, everyone could hear the roused undead behind them getting closer. They started to hurry faster.
But then an undead creature stepped forward from the darkness ahead. From beneath its dark cowl they could see a long, thick, gray beard… But then the “beard” started to writhe and reach toward them as the undead continued its approach.
The horrible creature was also a spellcaster, but Mos was able to avoid the sole spell it released. The blades and spells of the heroes tore through the awful undead, and Mos finished it off with a blaze of flames.
They didn’t stop to search, and headed north again in a hurry. The came to a T intersection, and Chesh excitedly called for them to turn right, then left at the next branch.
They were in a curved corridor lined with crypt alcoves, and everyone grew quiet as they came to a halt just outside an ornate door.
They’d arrived at the Deep Temple.
It wasn’t unguarded though, and an empty suit of armor in the centermost alcove suddenly came to life. A misty, ghostlike undead face could be seen inside its faceplate, but when Mos whipped out his Ebon Hand unholy symbol it backed off and exited the armor. (It actually seemed disappointed that it couldn’t attack.)
The heroes looked at each other, took a deep breath, and charged into the Deep Temple.
The temple was filled with a cacophony of roaring, as there were six Children of the Hand chained down to stone slab altars/work tables on the raised platforms. Three robed figures were also there, attending their creations. There were two with strangely mutated legs – one with muscular, goatlike legs, and the other with what appeared to be giant grasshopper legs! The third robed figure – who was apparently the head honcho – had horrible scarring and disfiguring on half of his face. These were pretty obviously the Ebon Hand priests we were looking for.
Near the center of the room, a massive ogre with a bizarre third arm sprouting from the center of its chest spotted the intruders and shouted a warning.
The Battle of the Deep Temple had begun.
The two underpriests immediately released the chains holding down the Children of the Hand closest to themselves, then literally sprang away towards the nearest other platform to unleash more Children! Their boss also released one of the children, but then began throwing heavy-duty spells towards the interlopers. Mos was able to shake off the first one – an insidious confusion spell.
The heroes leapt into action. Aendir and the ogre charged toward each other and began trading heavy blows (though the paladin gave far more hits than he received). Nethwen, Yona, and Chesh focused their fire on the goat-legged priest, while Thorzin took on the first of the Children of the Hand and the Company of the Iron Fist attacked the grasshopper priest.
The goat-legged priest was quickly taken down by spells and missile fire, and Mos perfectly placed a hypnotic pattern that mesmerized three of the four free-ranging Children of the Hand. The fourth was quickly dispatched by Thorzin with a bit of archery support from behind.
As the delvers turned their attentions to the high priest (they dubbed him Scarface), he cast another spell – this one took him instantly across the huge chamber to a sheltered place next to the fallen goat-legged priest, where he hunkered down behind cover to hide from further further missile fire.
Nethwen and Yona tried to maneuver to get clear shots at him, but that slippery high priest laid a hand on his fallen underling and cast a final spell that took him all the way across the wide chamber to the farthest door. The delvers made a valiant effort to stop him, but he hustled through that door and barred it on his way out.
The armor-deficient Company of the Iron Fist were able to dispatch one of the Children of the Hand, but Arnissa Thrawon fell doing so. Aendir slapped her with a lay-on-hands as he hurried past, and he and the dwarf broke down that barred door as quickly as they could while everyone else dispatched the remaining Children of the Hand.
Unfortunately, it was too late. They never did catch those priests, though they chased them across three maps and eventually all the way back to the surface!
Nethwen did all the tracking as they chased down the evil cultists. She noticed that the high priest must have given the fallen guy some healing, because before they left that first room there were two sets of footprints.
The tracks led them past a clockwork automaton horror – apparently a guardian – that took swipes at the heroes but didn’t pursue them down the tunnel to the secret door they’d unknowingly walked right past earlier.
Following the cultists’ trail, they headed back north and west to a chamber where another clockwork guardian took a few swings as they ran past. This one also didn’t follow, thankfully, and they kept on the trail past many crypts and tombs.
At one point they heard voices and grew hopeful, but the voices sounded like two women having a mundane conversation, complaining about someone they didn’t like. The heroes chose not to investigate, and continued on.
As they continued west, they realized they were hopelessly lost and unlikely to catch the cultists. Chesh heard the distinct sound of an armor-clad person ahead. With little hope of finding the priests, they moved ahead cautiously into a guard room with six armored ghouls!
The undead looked puzzled and asked “Are you with those other guys?” as they pointed to the west exit. Mos whipped out his cultist unholy symbol and almost bluffed his way past, until the ghouls noticed Aendir’s prominent Lothanite symbols on his shield and chest. Then the fight was on.
Chesh called upon the divine light of Teun to drive away the foul undead, but was only able to affect half of them. The other three leapt to the attack, and they turned out to be pretty tough foes. But after two of the three fell in combat, the last one turned tail and ran away.
The heroes pushed on west and found a spiral staircase leading up. They started to climb.
Eight hundred and eighty-eight steps later, they finally reached the top of the Demon Stairs. Chesh and Mos were draped over the back of poor Kemnebi, and everyone was exhausted after the tortuously long climb.
The stairs opened out into a large natural cavern dotted with doors and structures, all of which most resembled residences. A few far-off locals could be seen, and when Aendir shouted “Where did they go?” they merely pointed west.
Off we went again.
No one knew exactly where they were, but they passed through an area that resembled a currently-closed marketplace with booths and tables on their way to one more set of stairs up. Exiting these, they found themselves in the city’s Necropolis!
The bad news: The cultists were nowhere in sight, and they were standing less than a bowshot away from the Dark Reliquary.
The good news: It was about an hour before sunset, and they had plenty of time to get the heck away from there before sundown.
End of session.
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