The Unnamed Saga

Episode 28 - Enter The Church Of Pain

Although Lengara was the last of the adventurer’s to enter the teleportation circle left by the Shar shadow monk in McWand’s dungeon, he was the first to materialize at its terminus – such is magic’s fickle nature, he mused.

The heroes materialized within a swirling circle of concealing, heatless purple flame. They could thinly make out that beyond the swirling purple flame they were in the center of a room with arching exits in the center of each wall and a dozen moldering skeletons chained to the walls. Outside of each exit arch rest a terrible unholy altar displaying the defiled corpse of a sacrifice to the evil deity Shar, the horrible apocalypse goddess of darkness. Energy cracked off of each altar and flowed through a hall outside the central chamber to connect all four together. Not far off two Shar shadow cultists conversed. The first was the bloodied cultist whom had fled from the adventurers – he was kneeling on one knee in submission before the second cultist – a hulking animated skeletal knight wearing scorched black armor.

“We were ambushed, Master Vanrak, only I escaped to warn you. And the criminal McWands was not there!” plead the genuflecting cultist.

“You have your orders – find McWands so he can pay for his interference! Deal with the interlopers, or die in service to Lordess Shar.” spoke the menacing Death Night, his voice a faded hollow breath from absent lungs. The armored Shar champion spun on his heels and stormed out of the room, striding though more distant fortified doors and down a long hall.

Tin glanced around the room then to his teammates, silently communicating a count down until the band sprung upon the single cultist in the room. With luck, they would overpower him before he can raise an alarm. Or so they hoped.

With sudden fury, Tim and Feral charged the cultist while Lengara and Drengy blasted at him from inside the harmless concealing flames of the teleportation area. Though terribly injured, the cultist survived the attacks to yell a warning.

“It’s the interlopers, the one’s you warned us about. They’re attacking the temple!” screamed the Shar Shadow Monk as he was assaulted.

The temple’s energies responded to the warning of its servant, flowing into and animating the skeletons ringing the room. These shambling figures moved forward to skewer the heroes on the rusty hooks and blades each carried. The same unholy force lashed like whips from the profane altars, whips that burned and randomly teleported anyone they hit into the center area of this broad chamber. A Shar Cultist Soldier and two cultist shadow monks also ran into the room to repel the temple’s intruders.

Lengara’s eyes glowed with a dark crimson light, illuminating the pattern of magic of the chamber for his sight alone. “This is a shadow weave portal chamber, and we’re doomed if we can’t stop those energy attacks from the blasphemous altars. Shut them down before we are destroyed!” the eldarin announced before teleporting to the nearest control tablet. The necrotic energy of being near the altar tore at the sorcerer, but it injured him less than it should, as if such energy simply had less interest in harming him than it would others. Fast acting Drengy likewise bolted for a far altar, determined to shut it down as well.

Even in circles where impossible feats of strength, magic, and wit are common, the near instantaneous shutting down of two altars by Lengara and Drengy was a matter of surprise and statistical improbability. Lengara had barely begun to reach the altar when he smirked with complete comprehension and disabled it with a casual incantation. Drengy was the opposite, not understanding any of the magic involved, but reacting through instinct and his familiarity with the flow of life’s natural essence to terminate his chosen altar’s magic with an impossibly well placed and well timed kick. Had the party not been busy fighting skeletons, Shar cultists, and being brutalized by the energy whips coming off the altars, they would have all been stunned.

As the party fought off the Shar temple’s defenders, Klemnon heard it first – the ominous footfalls of the Shar temple champion rushing down the long hall leading to this room. Even from a great distance, Klemnon could sense the grave chill power and threat of this Death Knight. With the adventurers finishing off the cutlists and finally disabling the last altar, they were near exhaustion and were in no shape to fight the Death Knight Vanrak. In a final gamble, Klemnon rushed over to the towering stone doors to the teleportation chamber, closing and locking the same just as the rushing Death Knight reached for him. The doors held as the Knight battered on the other side, particularly when Tin pushed the nearby altar up against the doors to reinforce them. The group had bought themselves some precious time to regroup.

The bruised and battered band quickly debated whether to flee using shadow weave teleportation circle, or fight the Death Knight that was eventually going to batter its way into the room. Lengara noted there would be no time to rest if we set out to reactivate the altars and transit portal, and that it might not work correctly on the first try. Klemnon also offered to cast a ritualized spell to open up a passage into the Shadow Realm through which the party could pass to return to the surface. Wary of Shadow Plane travel considering that so many of Athola and Shar’s forces seem to be denizens of such a realm, that plan was nixed. The band decided to take a short rest, take up strategic positions, and confront the Shar Death Knight head on.

When the Death Knight finally bashed the doors open, he saw Feral and Klemnon waiting for him a few feet way, and Lengara and Drengy a safe distance behind pour ranged attacks down on the undead monstrosity. Concealed under a nearby altar tapestry, Tin’s location was concealed for the time being.

As the Death Knight leaped forward to attack Feral, Lengara dropped an illusionary chasm behind the knight to prevent his escape and disrupt any reinforcements that might come from the rest of the Shar temple, Drengy began shooting the hulking Death Knight, and Klemnon recited an empowering blessing to bolster his allies reflexes and stamina.

Feral muttered something about having been “saving this to deal with vampires but this will do” before the antlers on his ancestral stag head weapon transformed into formed radiant sunlight – energy particularly damaging to undead foes. In an exhausting attack Feral erupted in a frenzy attack on the Death Knight badly slashing and scorching the enemy. The Death Knight returned the attack, assaulting Feral with a Fearful Power Word – a killing word sourced from a forbidden magical language. Grievous wound instantly manifest on Feral as half of his life force vanished with the sound that can not be written.

Realizing the killing field he had strode into, Death Knight Vanrak dashed into a side corridor where with a short prayer to his accursed goddess he animated the skeletons lining the wall – more monsters to attack those intruding in the temple. Feral and Tin gave chase, attacking the Death Knight and trying to corner him so he could not flee to more chambers (which would allow him to animate an overwhelming number of skeletal soldiers). And to make matters worse, Vanrak was reactivating altars to bring back up the killing energies that attacked and teleported the heroes.

The party carried on, focusing on the Death Knight to end its blasphemous existence. Though Feral exhausted all of the enduring energies his Warden’s Font of Life delivers and was on the edge of unconsciousness, the party pushed, pulled, and teleported Vanrack to keep him from advancing into adjacent chambers, and with a perfectly placed bow shot from Drengy the undead terror was finally brought to an end.

The immediate danger had passed, but the adventurers were no closer to finding McWands or unraveling the Shar cultists involvement in the threats to their lives. Klemnon began preparations for the Speak With The Dead ritual to wrest some answers out of the fallen knight. Believing he too had a part to play in the performance of such a ritual, Feral took out Gartock’s Two-Handed Hammer and begun swinging it back and forth like an over-eager slugger in the batter’s box.

Klemnon righted the Death Knight’s body against the wall and cast the spell. Unlike other occasions of using the necromancy, this time a ghostly image of Vanrak the once-living man appeared over the hollow skull of the death knight and Vanrack’s returned spirit seemed confused and disoriented at being pulled back to answer questions of the living.

Klemnon asked why was the Shar cult after McWands, to which Vanrak’s spirit answered, “He lives. He disrupts Shar’s plans with his actions. He has the Infernal Mechanism of the Archdevil Tasnia, and the Goddess has ordered us to retrieve it.”

Klemnon twitched at the mention of the word Tasnia. It was a name he had heard once before when confronting the imprisoned wizard Calavakos, a wizard who had been possessed by a strange green flame entity now believed to be associated with Athola (or the forces of Athola). Possessed Calavakos seemed revolted with Klemnon, telling the Pelor priest that he had the stink of Tasnia on him. That Tasnia was the name of an archdevel was a new development, and not a welcome one.

Klemnon pressed on and asked what was the Infernal Mechanism of Tasnia, to which Vanrak’s spirit answered, “Shar has ordered us to get it, it would give her power to counteract Athola’s actions. More I was never told.”

With the two questions Klemnon’s spell allowed having been asked and answered the Speak With Dead spell began to fade, but not before Feral stepped up the the fallen Death Knight to ask his own question of whether ‘this rings any bells’ and smash Death Knights skull into tiny shards with his massive hammer – an act which Feral (inaccurately) had come to believe was required to end the spell.

While the rest of the party worked in the sacrificial transit chamber, Tin and Lengara snuck deeper into the Shar temple. They could tell from its architecture that they were somewhere deep in the Undermountain dungeon – a byzantine labyrinth of danger that rests below the great city of Waterdeep. Lengara noted that there were no obvious exits from the temple, although from what he knew of the Undermountain he suspected that hidden somewhere was some secret passage to connect up with the expansive Undermountain dungeon. Tin meanwhile discovered a cache of temple valuables – secretly stealing away some to keep for himself, and sharing with the party prayer books dedicated to he Apocalypse goddess Shar, three scrolls of protection from angels, and three level scrolls of protection from elementals. The party also claimed from the Death Knight corpse an enchanted Soul Drinker Sword and a Mighty Drawven Throwing Hammer.

Once the party was reunited in the Shar transit room, Legara reactivated the profane alters to re-open the transit portal, and the band teleported back to McWands’ Mansion in the city of Waterdeep.

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