Friday, March 23, 2007

Expedition to Bhal Hamatugn, pt 3

In the entryway to Bhal Hamatugn, standing among the shards of eggshell scattered by Kuo-Toan priests, the party analyzed their options. Ahead lay great stone doors, decorated in zig-zag patterns reminiscent of waves. The walls bore frescoes of Kuo-Toan warriors marching to battle, alongside a squat humanoid figure with a black orb for a head. To the left was the barracks from which many of the guards had erupted, and according to Via's scouting was a dead end. To the right was a rusty portcullis, through which several cells could be seen. A cry for help erupted from this side, and the group decided to investigate, but not before Tlaloc opened the central stone doors and triggered a sonic magical trap.

The portcullis rose into the ceiling to the screeching of hidden gears, alerting anyone nearby who hadn't heard the sounds of battle. Within the room were four cells, of which only two were occupied. A greasy, lanky human was in the north cell, while a dirty, ragged halfling occupied the far southern cell. Both shouted directly oppositional tales of how the other is a liar and a "frog lover." Both claimed that they alone held information regarding the traps ahead, and if they were freed they could guide the party through the hazards. Barring that, they would flee the temple and never return. A consensus could not be reached in regards to which was lying, and so both were left in the cells, for their own "safety."

A passage in this room led down to a lower level, through a watery passage, into a partially submerged torture chamber. It was within this room that the party was ambushed by the preserved corpse of a deceased Kuo-Toan, rising from the water. It grappled and tried to drown one of the party members, before being smacked down hard by brutal melee attacks. The passage continued and curved around before terminating in a blank wall, which was discovered to be a secret passage. The door was opened and the party was met with an interesting sight.

They were beneath a platform, which was fifteen feet above the ground. This platform surrounded a thirty foot tall statue of a humanoid woman with lobster claws and a lobster head. The knowledgeable amongst the group identified it as a statue of the Kuo-Toan deity Blibdoolploolp. The room itself was sixty some feet tall, and a little over that in length and width. At twenty feet above the ground, a walkway wrapped three-quarters of the way around the room, with stairs leading up to the third level forty feet above their heads. On the middle level there were great stone doors marked with the same wavy pattern observed before, while on the top level a second set was unreachable due to retracted bridges.

The party split up immediately, drawing the ire of several Kuo-Toan priests. They channeled lightning bolts via the statue at the interlopers, doing little harm. Kuo-Toan snipers from the third level attracted much of the attention, drawing the party into several different groups. When the battle ended, half the party was at the third floor balcony, while the other half was on the walkway around the statue, where two doors had been discovered.

Tai and Via found themselves listening at the doors near the statue, and made plans to burst in when they heard croaking chants of Kuo-Toan spellcasting. Tlaloc led the upper group, finding passages and empty rooms. Both groups hit nastiness at the same time.

Tai and Via burst in on a duergar slave helping his Kuo-Toan master finish donning his plate armor. The cleric, who had all appearances of being the high priest of this sect, had finished casting all of his impressive clerical magics. The melee was brutal, with Tai being beaten nearly senseless by the creatures pincer staff. Via was caught in the tines of its staff, and choked nearly unconscious.

Meanwhile, the group upstairs had blundered their way in to the holiest of holies, housing the maniacal dwarven prophet Zenith Splintershield. He mouthed insane prophecies while violently swinging his dwarven waraxe at the intruders. It was at this time that the prophet's protector finally showed himself, dropping down from his ceiling perch onto Casorati. His vicious assassin strike failed to kill Casorati, and with the concerted effort of Arvaston and Casorati, the monk was felled. Zenith managed to deliver a powerful blow to Yeshua, dropping the shaman into unconsciousness. Seeing the raging, enlarged barbarian Tlaloc would soon smack him into little dwarf bits, Zenith retreated through a teleport circle carved onto the floor of his throne room. Tlaloc and Casorati followed soon after, while Arvaston wandered back to the balcony looking over the statue room. Yeshua remained, unconscious, in the anteroom to Zenith's throneroom.

Meanwhile, a terrible scream echoed through the statue room, the cry of an erinyes intent on vengeance. She was summoned to protect this shrine according to old bargains by the temple's founders.

As Zenith appeared before the statue, the high priest was retreating out of his meditation chamber onto the platform. Tai followed, and at that moment Tlaloc appeared next to Zenith. Zenith was ready for him, and unleashed a devastating series of blows. At the same time, the erinyes Aushanna fired a barrage of arrows into Tlaloc. Tlaloc was reduced to a disabled state, in which any strenuous action would cause him to bleed out. As the high priest was brought down by Tai, the battle seemed in doubt. Zenith was still up, and dangerous, while above a winged woman launched fiery arrows at the much weakened party. It was at this critical moment that Arvaston made his choice.

With a running leap, he jumped onto the erinyes, grappling her strongly and bringing them both crashing to the ground sixty feet below. This act saved both Tlaloc and Tai from eating two fiery arrows apiece, but gifted Arvaston with a considerable amount of damage. The erinyes was furious, grabbing Arvaston by the shoulders and smashing him bodily to the ground repeatedly. Arvaston's elven blood spattered into her auburn hair, and her smile was terrible to behold.

While this was occuring, Tlaloc weighed his options. If he fell back to drink a potion, Zenith would assuredly finish him with further heinous blows. If he attacked Zenith, there was a very real possibility he would also suffer the same heinous blows. He took a gamble, swinging his heavy falchion down in one last hit. This blow battered past Zenith's shield and knocked the dwarf to the ground unconscious. Tlaloc fell as well, barely alive due to his amazing capacity for damage.

Via was frustrated, knowing she could not take out the erinyes on her own. She utilized her wall-climbing abilities, staying out of the erinyes line of sight to wait for her chance. Tai stepped over the corpse of the high priest, surveying the situation and maneuvering for a charge on currently ground-bound erinyes. Casorati flung fiery energy missiles at the devil, but the fire sloughed off without a singe to her raven-feathered wings.

She flew up into the air, shooting a fiery missile of her own with her composite longbow. It pierced Casorati through the heart, dropping his smoldering corpse to the ground. She soon had Tai lined up for a coup de grace, and called out to him that his only chance at survival was to make obeisance before the Sea Mother, and to beg for forgiveness.

Tai's response was insincere, claiming self-defense as an excuse for the brutal murder of all who had been within Bhal Hamatugn. Aushanna sneered, and unleashed a series of flaming arrows into his kneeling form. Miraculously, he survived this barrage, and this gave Via time to unleash her hidden weapon. Aushanna had strayed too near the ground, and a web spell from Via's cloak of arachnida caught her wings and prevented her movement. The devil's strength was mammoth, however, and she slowly but surely began moving out of the web, calling out the numerous punishments she would mete out on them.

Tai realized he had little hope of killing the devil, and decided to run for it. He grabbed the unconscious Tlaloc and fled, with Via in close pursuit. The first expedition to Bhal Hamatugn was over.

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