The next morning, Early the warblade, Vatex the elven tempest, Emeris the half-dragon shadowcaster, and Dziga the rogue meet with Zophas the aasimar paladin to once to renew their attack on the Temple of Deep Chaos. Zophas reminds them of their urgency, as ratmen forces can be easily replenished and are considered completely expendable in the eyes of the cults.
Dziga reveals to his friends that he had a disturbing dream last night. He says in this dream a hideous hag called KEZIAH rode around on his back as he wandered around the city of Elan for many hours. There were accompanied by Keziah’s human-faced fiendish dire rat familiar called JENKINS. She whispered in his ear about things he did not understand, mostly what sounded like advanced mathematics. At one point she said she worked for “the Black Man,” and that if Dziga played his cards right, he might one day meet “the Black Man.” Vatex suggests that it could refer to one of two different independent criminals he knows of who go by that name, REDGER and ZIGUTH.
The men-at-arms from the Pale Tower report no cultists have attempted to re-enter the apartment house. So the group descends through the hole in the back and down into the sewers, returning to the door to the temple. They find it has been relocked and the alarm mechanism reactivated. Dziga picks the lock and tries to disarm the alarm so they can enter quietly, but he makes a stupid mistake and trips it. They can hear a bell ringing somewhere beyond inside the entry hall. Emeris rushes into the darkness and sees that a couple of ratlings with dragon rifles are looking around apprehensively. Him and Dziga cut them down, then three more ratlings arrive with a ratbrute and start firing. Emeris takes a hit while Early walks confidently forward to face the ratbrute, knowing that with his new skills it will no longer represent a formidable adversary for him. The ratbrute charges and swings its wicked, massive rusty axe – a blow that would have cut through the defenses of a lesser fighter and decapitated him. But Early skilfully turns the blade aside, then strikes back, leaping up and cleaving Cryssaegrym into its torso. Dziga finishes the wounded brute with a fatal backstab. The others finish off the ratlings and explore the northwest passage. It ends in a messy room that apparently serves as the ratmen quarters. It is now empty, but by rummaging through feces and garbage Vatex finds a valuable silver statue of the Rat God.
The group returns to where they killed Zlith, Theral, and Vocaetun, and ventures down the stairs to the level below. They find what appears to be an excavated portion of the OLD city of Elan, built in the early days following the Ghul War by buried in the intervening millennia. They are in a cavern with some very crude and old portions of masonry, where a tower has been partially excavated. It is built into a stone wall which cuts off the far part of the cavern. They decide to move towards the tower, of which two storeys are visible. As they advance towards it, a fiendish hawk is conjured up above them, and it swoops down on Vatex with its talons reaching for his eyes. The elf’s blades spin and the hawk disappears in a cloud of blood and features, then suddenly a fiendish monstrous spider appears beside them. It latches on to Dziga’s leg and it bites him, leaving a numbing poison burning around the injury. Emeris impales the spider and flings its broken body off against the wall. Looking up, they can see a spider-like creature (which they later learn was an aranea) called IBULLI casting spells from a perch in the tower’s upper floor window. Vatex and Early fire their guns, Zophas his crossbow, and Dziga hurls a dagger at the aranea, forcing it to retreat back into the tower.
Emeris, Vatex, and Early rush into the tower while fiendish hawks and vipers are conjured up around Zophas and Dziga. There is clearly another spellcaster, but where they do not know. Inside the tower, they find what appears to be a woman’s living quarters, and a weird ceramic statue of a bloated, tentacled, humanoid thing on which is carved, “And on the Night of Dissolution, we shall awaken and break free.” A door is ajar across the room, but they hurry up the stairs, and find a room where the floor is covered covered in bones and grisly detritus, and the upper half is shrouded in webs. moving along its webs, the aranea sees Early charge up the stairs and hurls a bundle of sticky webbing at him, which slows him down long enough to start preparing another spell as Emeris and Vatex rush up. Vatex sinks a round of his rifle into Ibulli’s bulbous abdomen and Emeris surrounds it with freezing black fire. Ibulli retaliates and a bolt of lightning bursts from its hand-like apprendages. Early manages to pull free of the webbing quickly enough and leap aside, avoid the brunt of the blast. Emeris is not so quick, and is smote with electricity.
Zophas and Dziga kill a few fiendish critters and rush to assist the others. Up the stairs Dziga is assailed by another conjured fiendish viper. A dwarven chaos cheric called WORERON enters the tower behind him, where he came from they don’t know. He mutters to himself madly, then shouts to Ibulli that they must kill the intruders. The aranea sorcerer seems to distance himself from the cultist, saying this should not be his fight. Upstairs, Emeris clenches his teeth against his injuries and downs a healing potion. Ibulli hits Early with another lightning bolt. Early recovers quickly and leaps into the air, waving his torch and lighting up the webs around the aranea. It squeals in pain, casts another spell on itself, then takes to the air with magic flight out the window. Emeris dashes across the chamber, his wings bursting through the back of his jacket and spreading as he picks up speed, and leaps out the window, flying in pursuit.
Ibulli screams in derision about humanoids as Emeris closes in behind him. The shadowcaster blasts his breath of shadowy cold over the aranea. Ibulli tumbles through the air before restabilizing. The aranea turns around and hits Emeris with another lightning bolt, but Emeris keeps coming, slamming into the aranea and pushing his hands against its body. Life-fading energy jolts the spider, who pulls away from Emeris and hurls webbing at him. Entangled, Emeris is forced to land.
Dziga, Vatex, Zophas, and Early converge on Woreron who fights fiercely with his battle axe, but is outmatched. His full plate armor repels numerous attacks, but when he raises his arms to swing his axe at Dziga, Vatex plunge the tip of his short sword into the exposed armpit, a fatal wound. They rejoin Emeris outside the tower and find that the aranea swooping down to bite Emeris. The shadowcaster’s knees buckle when the poison hits his system, but he fights breaks free of the webs and fights back with his sword. Early rushes in and thrusts Cryssaegrym through their enemy, and the battle is over.
On the dead Ibulli they are surprised to find it wearing a Quaan bone ring. They also find an unfinished note in Sylvan. Fortunately, Vatex can read it. It says: “Brothers of the Quaan, the chaos cultists prepare something big. They talk of a huge machine in the caves beyond, and something called the Final Ritual, which will be performed beneath a temple.”
They pass through the tower and find another excavated area between it and another ruined structure to the east. To the north, the entrance to another passage is flanked by life-size statues carved to look like humans in billowing robes. However, instead of normal heads, they have translucent, smoky grey glass spheres about ten inches in diameter atop their shoulders. On the roof of the structure to the east, two venom-shaped thralls stand ready for battle, equipped with javelins and chaositech bombs. The thralls hurl their grenades. One goes off harmlessly wide, exploding disgusting webs ever twenty feet in every direction. The other’s aim is true, exploding with a shower of hundreds of tiny needles that catch Dziga and Emeris. Early runs forth and bounds high enough to catch the edge of the roof. The thrall readies an attack with its stinger as Early pulls himself up, but a burst of black fire conjured by Emeris distracts it enough to Early to rise safely. Zophas and Dziga rush the structure to climb up and help their friend, and find themselves attacked by two ratlords who were hiding in the building.
Screaming from the freezing black fire on its chitinous legs, one thrall steps back and hurls a javelin at Early, who knocks the weapon aside with a sweep of his sword. He channels his spirit through the Vajra and performs a Soaring Raptor Strike, leaping high into the air and coming down with a devastating slash that goes right through the thrall’s upper torso, killing it instantly.
Back at ground level, a female tiefling rogue with tiny horns and a tail becomes visible between the two statues to the north as she looses an arrow at Emeris exposed flank. Angered and wounded, he limps towards her with his sword drawn but she flees down the passage with unnatural speed. The last thing they need now is to be harried by stealthy sniper!
Next time: Can the characters defeat their enemies and make it out of the Temple of Deep Chaos alive?
Random Elanian Factoid: In the aftermath of the Ghul War, the humans of Vigoor and the dwarves of Stonelost and Dwarvenhomme formed an alliance. This led to the construction of Dalengard and the “old” City of Elan (which is now buried under the “new” City of Elan). The Vigoor leader, Dalian Von Tessel, dominated this alliance, which eventually went on to become the Empire of Vigoor, with Tessel its first emperor. In the early days, only Vigoor humans and Stonelost and Dwarvenhomme dwarves could be citizens of the Empire, with the legal privileges that entails.