Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"The Sacred Fane of Adhinatta", Chapter 23 of the Xanthus River Campaign

This week, the party defeats the diabolical high priests of the Temple of Adhinatta, are decimated by a mysterious mummy, and disrupt a murderous plot!

Our party this week consists of:
Player Characters
  • Ser Valerius, Defender of Justica (Level 4 Human Paladin)
  • Absolom, Curate of Justica (Level 4 Human Cleric)
  • Jalani, Curate of Amun-Tor (Level 4 Human Cleric)
  • Biscuit, Footpad/Minor Trickster (Level 2 Gnome Thief/Illusionist)
  • Thaddeus, Stider of Swallow (Level 2 Human Ranger)
Henchmen
  • Babu the Conjurer (Level 3 Human Magic User)
  • Knott the Axeman (Level 3 Human Fighter)
  • Brown Tom the Warrior (Level 2 Human Fighter, Squire of Valerius)
Hirelings
  • Clench (Human Mercenary Heavy Infantryman)
  • Squat (Human Mercenary Heavy Infantryman)
  • Push (Human Mercenary Heavy Infantryman)
  • "War Dog" (Valerius' War Dog)
When we left our party, they had just defeated the warrior defenders of the sacred fane of Adhinatta. After taking stock of their surroundings and lowering the twenty acolytes suspended from the ceiling by hooks, the party continued to wend left, exploring side passages and chambers of the priests and acolytes, finding nothing but rooms filled with empty beds and books of profane writings, which were burned and destroyed.

The Sanctum of the High Priest
Eventually, they took a far passage that led to the holy shrine of the high priest himself. Within they found a large round room supported by four pillars, each carved with arcane runes and adorned with carved faces in twisted agony. A plinth supported a gruesome sacrificial altar adorned with manacles and spiked chains and stained with fresh blood. Meat hooks dangled from spiked chains attached to the ceiling, gibbets of human flesh hung in tatters. 
The Sacred Fane of Adhinatta

The altar stood before a great raised pillar surmounted by a massive stone throne. On the throne sat a naked woman with violet skin and curving rams horns. Great leathery wings stretched from her lavender shoulders. In one hand she bore a curved blade with a hilt and pommel made of a child's spine and skull. In the other hand she held a coiled black scourge. The pillar was flanked by two mechanical torture devices.
The Altar and the Throne

The high priest glared defiantly from behind the altar, his lips stained by the juice of Leggach which rendered men impervious to ordinary weapons. Two attendants waited at his side. As the party entered, he ordered them to attack. They bared their daggers and rushed forth to battle!

The two attendants blocked the entrance to the sanctum, bottling the party in the corridor. The attendants rendered Valerius incoherent with pain with the utterance of a profane word. The rest of the party unleashed a hail of missiles against the high priest and his infernal mistress, none of which seemed to have any effect.

Knott was able to cut down one of the attendants and soon made it into the room, bearing down on the high priest. Jilani lent a hand by paralyzing the high priest with her own holy mystery. War Dog was soon tearing at the flesh of the other attendant. 

The Amaranthine Devil
The amaranthine devil stood up and flashed her malevolent gaze at the party. Her evil aura caused half the party to lose the will to fight and they fled in terror. Those that remained continued to do battle. The devil flew down to engage the party, entangling Babu, Jilani, Absolom, and Valerius in her magical scourge. After Knott cut down the immobilized high priest, he turned his attention to the horned she-warrior. Knott was able to land a lucky blow which cleaved the she-devil from shoulder to pelvis. She burst into violaceous magical flame, leaving nothing but burning cinders.
Knott cleaves the Violacean Devil

At the end of the battle, Clench, Squat, Push, Brown Tom, and Biscuit were lost somewhere in the dungeon, having fled in panic from the otherworldly horror. Unbeknownst to the rest of the party, all but Biscuit had run blindly into the spiked pit trap. Clench, Squat, and Push had fallen to their doom. 

The Serpent's Kiss
The party took stock and explored the sanctum of the high priest. They burned the massive texts of Adhinatta. In the high priest's chambers they found an alchemical laboratory and two books on a work table. One book was ancient, the holy writings of the monks of Leggach who once dwelled in this place. Within the book were formulae written in arcane script. The other book was a journal, written in Kalmathi, kept by the high priest. Babu, a Kalmathi himself, read the journal. It detailed the trials and tribulations of the cult as they were persecuted and forced to flee their homeland. They made their way across the Great Wall in search of the ancient Citadel of Leggach, an ancient prison and monastery, home to monks that worshiped Adhinatta and inflicted vile tortures on their prisoners.

Also within the book was a listing of those that accompanied the high priest on this pilgrimage: 
Two attendants, three holy warriors, three priests, a monk, three holy assassins, twenty crossbowmen, thirty men-at-arms, and thirty acolytes.

They also took the high priest's dagger, a wickedly curved blade with the name "Serpent's Kiss" engraved in Kalmathi on the blade. In the high priest's chamber was a chest filled with coins, the accumulated wealth of the acolytes and converts.

After fully exploring the sanctum of the high priest, the party sought out and recovered their lost members. They climbed the stairs the surface but found the entrance capped by a heavy stone lid. They traversed the natural cavern and descended the ladder to the hallway outside the temple, where they found their comrades, both living and dead.

Reunited, but exhausted from their battles, their way up blocked and concerned about unknown dangers that might await them in the caves below, the party decided to retire to the chambers of the holy warriors and rest. There they barricaded themselves behind three locked doors and set a watch. Nothing was able to disturb their sleep.

After a rest, the party rose and prepared fresh. Prayers of healing were offered for the wounded. Refreshed, the party returned to the dead-end stairway. With fresh eyes to examine the passage, the party soon found a secret door that led to a hidden passageway with two bronze doors carved in bas relief. The passageway was covered in dust and had been obviously unused for many centuries.

Disintegrated!
Opening the door on the left, they met an ancient skeletal mummy sitting in a lotus position atop a wide pillar of stone. Before they could act, the mummy began to move, lifting a withered hand to point at the party. The mummy's mouth opened and issued a sound that no human mind could conceive, and suddenly Thaddeus, Brown Tom, Biscuit, War Dog, Absolom, and Knott winked out of existence. They were disintegrated!

Valerius immediately rushed in and laid waste to the hideous creature. Afterwards, the party searched the empty room. They were able to move the pillar, revealing a hidden cache. Within the cache was a shield bearing the symbol of Adhinatta in relief, a blank book, and a tincture in a phial. 

The remaining party, now decimated, decided to ignore the other door and retreat upstairs. There they met Absolom and Knott! The two had not been disintegrated! Instead, they were teleported to an empty stairway. They knew not where the others had been sent. 

Assassins Among Us!
The party made its way back down to their boat in order to leave the ancient catacombs. On the way, they came across two dozen acolytes loitering in the storage room near the underground river entrance! The acolytes were distraught! They thanked the party for saving them and were ready to renounce Adhinatta. They asked for the party's help in escaping. Unfortunately, they were trapped, the exit was barred by a portcullis. 

Babu did some quick math and noticed there were four more acolytes than before. He also noted that there were still three holy assassins and a monk as yet unaccounted. Valerius prayed for Justica to show him guidance. Valerius was able to detect the presence of evil and soon identified twelve among them that meant to do him harm. Sensing their charade had come to an end, the twelve evil acolytes unsheathed their blades. one among them threw off his cloak revealing the bald head, bare chest, and spiked gloves of a monk of Adhinatta. The neutral acolytes moved away, fearing battle. 

Thinking quickly, Babu cast a magical sleep spell into the mass of evil cultists. Several of them fell immediately to sleep. Two of them did not, revealing them to be sterner opponents. Babu followed up with another spell, encasing the monk and the two tougher opponents in sticky webbing. The rest of the party dealt with the remaining cultists. Soon, only the third assassin remained, and he too was eventually dispatched. The monk and two remaining assassins were soon executed by a hail of arrows.

Sweep and Clear
Afterwards, the party led the remaining acolytes out of the catacombs, skipping the barred route and instead re-tracing their steps the way they came in. They made it to the cave with the underwater river only to find their boat set upon by three large spiders. Babu promptly put them to sleep with another spell and the party boarded their boat in safety.

The boat was able to ferry all twelve remaining acolytes across the river to Swallow. Ensuring the acolytes were secure, the party re-crossed the river to join the city guard. The battle on the surface was long over. The guards were working to remove the stone slab that capped the entrance to the catacombs.

The party also reunited with Thaddeus and Jilani, who had been teleported into the forest outside the catacombs and had helped the city guard in their efforts.

Eventually, the slab was removed and Thaddeus led the city guard on a sweep-and-clear of the catacombs.

Later, Thaddeus led Jilani, Knott, and Biscuit back down to the remaining brass door. Biscuit was able to open the lock on the door and the party cautiously entered. Within was an ossuary supported by two columns. Each column was carved to resemble a bound human writhing in agony. The walls were lined by shelves piled high with loose human bones.

As Biscuit and Thaddeus entered the room, the bones came to life, reaching out from the walls, grasping and clawing. Biscuit was grabbed by the throat and knocked unconscious. At the same moment, the statues came to life, moving to attack Thaddeus.

Knott came running in as Thaddeus grabbed Biscuit and withdrew from the room. Knott covered the retreat as they exited the unhallowed crypt and resealed the door.

The party then left the catacombs.

The next ten days were spent consulting sages and ancient tomes of history and lore, seeking insight into the origins and abilities of the various magical relics they had recovered.

TO BE CONTINUED!

Next week: the party heads up-river to Flinch, which had recently come under siege by the Red Orcs. From there, they must pass over the Great Wall through the Defile of Castagon, which is beset by ogres and hill giants, in order to escort Princess Murti to the city of Horek on the edge of the Great Waste.