Lord of Shadow & Flame

17/3/11 – The Herald Released

As the party decided which way to go a group of six ghostly, robed monks wandered out into the octagonal chamber and past the group before fading out of existence. The party chose to head down the western corridor next. Cyrien (with the help of the elfshadow Shaeveril) found a young fairy girl named Tyra hiding beneath a bed in the ancient sleeping quarters. The fairy had wandered far from home and become lost. Cyrien guided the young pixie back to the entrance. The rest of the western wing here was cold and empty, everything was covered in a layer of grey dust.

The eastern wing was similarly empty, except for an angry spirit who wandered a large dining hall, shouting in rage. The group approached and managed to speak with the half-mad spirit. He claimed to be the Abbot Tharic, a travelling monk of the Draysuss Order that had once inhabited the ancient temple. Tharic believed he was murdered and sought vengeance. He also claimed he and the temple stood on the planet of Oerth on the Prime Material Plane and accused the group of being mad when they spoke of the Plane of Shadow.

The party moved on after saying they would inform Tharic if they discovered any clues which might reveal who had slain him. Moving southwards, deeper into the temple the party entered The Atrium of Shadows itself. The darkness here was unnaturally deep and the air was unsettlingly cold. The roof of the chamber was domed and the floor was covered in a magnificently detailed mosaic. At the centre of the round chamber was a large iron seal on the floor, resembling a disc covered in indecipherable, arcane alien symbols. A round dial lay at the very middle of the seal. The iron disc was rusted and covered in a layer of hoar frost, further obscuring the symbols. Corridors led east, west and south. A wall of what looked like liquid shadow blocked the southern corridor.

The party spent several minutes investigating the seal and deciding what to do next. However, the group couldn’t make sense of the symbols, not even with spells to aid them. As the adventurers prepared to move out, westwards, a small imp appeared, introducing itself as “Riddler”. Riddler explained that he was the keeper of the path ahead and to pass beyond the wall of shadow and into the Inner Sanctum of the Atrium, they must speak three secret command words. They could discover each word by answering riddles. Riddler gave the first riddle – “I come in many sizes and shapes. My mouth is full of wood. Often I am struck. What am I?” After some thought and a few guesses, it was Cyrien who spoke the answer. The answer was of course a door.

Having solved the first riddle the party headed down the west corridor, there Nuzool called a halt, having spotted a deadly magical trap. With some fiddling, the ratkin disabled the trap and the group arrived at a large hall some one hundred feet long, lined with more gothic windows. Looking up, the adventurers spotted a gargantuan, amorphous black blob hanging from the ceiling. The group easily destroyed the bizarre creature using fire from Flaming Spheres and Gaz-Borg’s Necklace of Fireballs. In the wake of the fight and human-like face appeared in some of the black goo, speaking the second riddle – “Light of sun do I hate. Darkness be my friend. I am a thief’s greatest ally. What am I?”

The group took several guesses before Cyrien answered correctly again – stealth, hidden, unseen.

Returning through the Atrium again, the group discovered another large hall to the eastern side of the temple. At the far end lounged a large serpentine creature with the head of a woman. In the rafters above fluttered six small winged creatures, covered in ice. Several of the adventurers identified the serpentine creature as a Naga. The lady invited the adventurers into her luxurious boudoir, offering them crystal glasses of dark wine and challenging the most cunning of the group to a game of chess. Cyrien was the first to meet the Naga’s challenge of wits, but was soundly beaten. Hawke faired better, narrowly winning and gaining the third and final riddle – “A golden treasure to hold. I have teeth but no bite. Turn me once and you may go where you please, turn me again and you stay where you stand. What am I?” Hawke answered almost right away – a key.

Now with all three command words, the party returned to the Atrium where the elfshadow Shaeveril reported to Cyrien that several incorporeal creatures lurked within the walls. Endeavouring to keep the elfshadow a secret from the party still, he said he sensed evil within the walls and told his companions to be on the look-out.

The group pondered the iron seal on the floor, trying to figure out a way to open it in the hopes of gaining Gothyl’s phylactery. With little forethought or warning, Nuzool spoke the three command words, thinking they might open the portal – the words didn’t. Instead the wall of liquid shadow withdrew, revealing a massive, exceedingly dark hall beyond.

Thorgrimm tried turning the central dial, then bashing it with his hammer, both to no effect. The dwarf remarked that in Obsidian’s dream it had been the symbol of Torm (Obsidian’s god) that had smashed the seal and urn within. With this in mind, Obsidian reached out and tried the dial. At his very touch the circular dial spun along with several other round symbols on the iron surface, making a mechanical clanking sound as they spun. A sudden hiss of air signalled the seal was released! Instantly an acrid black smoke boiled up out of the gaps in the seal and into the air. The iron disc split in two, sliding aside and revealing a dark hole below. A deep, exultant roar sounded below followed by the cry of “FREEDOM!!!” as a shadowy figure shot up out of the darkness. The Herald was free.

The creature hovered in the air before the party, surrounded by an aura of dread and thanked Obsidian for his release. Its lower body was composed completely of misty shadow-stuff, its upper torso and head was deathly pale, its body covered in thousands of tattoos of intricate symbols. Its fingers tapered to foot long black talons, in its pale skull burnt glowing eyes and a jewelled crown rested on his brow. The creature spoke “I have waited a millennia for my freedom. I have much to do…” When asked if Gothyl’s phylactery might lay within, it replied “I’m afraid not… it seems you have been deceived.” before shooting up through the roof and departing.

A mocking laughter could be heard from the darkness – it was Gothyl. “Ha, ha, haaa! Tricked again? Honestly adventurers, this is becoming truly embarrassing! Once again you dance to my tune!” the group had been duped into opening the seal. But to what end? The group had little time to ponder as they responded to their indignation by throwing insults back at their old enemy. Gothyl responded in kind “Fools. You’re in my home uninvited and unfortunately I have no more use for you. Time to DIE!” with that, the Atrium suddenly became supernaturally dark around them. Shadow Demons emerged from the walls to attack, briefly mentally assaulting several adventurers in an attempt to possess their bodies but only succeeding in possessing Nuzool briefly.

The fight was desperate, but as a little light slowly crept back into the Atrium, the Shadow Demons were destroyed, Vindicator and Shaeveril doing a particularly good job of destroying the monsters. The group was victorious but no closer to finding Gothyl’s phylactery and destroying her.

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Tanyel

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