This adventure was Friday January 15, 2016. C.H., B.P., E.G., K.D., and A.T. were present. M.H. sat in.
Before the coalition are stairs down to darkness. Amber Renn, Cleric of Valiant Light, predicts they lead to catacombs, typically situated below temples of Pelor. None of the group are eager to confirm this.
Xorn takes the opportunity to berate the Corinthians for charging into the Plague Blight ambush, after they had been warned about it on the way here. Remarkably, Flexor and his men endure the diatribe in silence. The rest of the coalition glares on in agreement.
The Corinthians are assigned the unpleasant task of dragging the Plague Blight remains out into the morning sun. Cleric leader Reedna asks strength of her deity Kord, and leads a detail lugging the piled church pews to the walls and clearing an open space in the middle of the room. The Suicide Blondes and Cleric Seamus MacTavish rest the two dead Corinthians and half-Orc fighter Vola near the temple’s broken stone altar.
Hidden behind the altar were valuables: a magic sword, a magic mace, a Tome of Leadership +1, gold, an ivory figurine, a gold idol, and a silver chalice. Renn does not object when these items are added to coalition sacks, nor when Thri-Kreen Fighter H’ai-ch Q’a takes the unknown-magic mace on loan.
Time to address the passage down into shadows. Hesitation holds sway until Wizard Aziz al-Azhar volunteers his group to go down first. Half-Orc Barbarian-Ranger Xorn will lead; Clerics Joseph McMickelson and Jacob Light-Bringer next, then al-Azhar, then the clerics of Valiant Light and the rest. The Thri-Kreen and Cleric Jere Collado will stay here and guard the bodies.
The stone stairwell spirals twice on the way down. Dirt on the stairs suggests there has been considerable foot traffic coming from below, but Listen checks don’t indicate anything on its way up. The air grows dry and cold as they descend.
At the bottom, the coalition edges into the dark space outside the stairwell. A permanent Unhallow spell, bound with a Bane spell, becomes apparent. Several clerics cast Light. This exposes their position as an intersection of two low, wide tunnels; one straight ahead, the other leading right. Both fade into oppressive, silent darkness. The rough stone walls are cut with indents – slab shelves where generations of locals have been interred. All these are now empty.
Aziz wants more light. He casts that spell on some stones from his pocket, and flings them down both tunnels. The additional illumination suggests the catacombs are a rectangular figure-8 layout, and the staircase has brought them down to one corner of it.
Eager for spoils and apparently unmoved by Xorn’s browbeating, Flexor Retinaculum commands his Corinthians boldly to the right. Either this advance, or the alluring draw of al-Azhar’s brilliant pebbles, has attracted attention. Two separate gangs of Wights rush out of the shadows !
The coalition faces a fight on two fronts. The Corinthians engage the five Undead on the right, backed by half of Valiant Light and the three Loners. The Suicide Blondes and the rest of Valiant Light charge straight ahead to stop the other five wights in their tracks.
Most of Xorn’s party hangs back, uncertain to where they should help. Xorn’s apparition, Solace, is gleeful at the prospect of wights to kill. She urges her Barbarian-Ranger to hurry up into the fight.
Then, H’ai-ch Q’a arrives downstairs, totally not having snacked on the livers of dead Corinthians upstairs while Jere Collado was elsewhere. The decisive, four-armed Thri-Kreen warrior pulls several weapons and sprints straight ahead into the fray.
Xorn follows, taking to the walls to gain a height advantage over the combat line between living and unliving. Joseph McMickelson and Jacob Light-Bringer move up to a rearguard post and start casting offensive spells. Wizard Aziz al-Azhar occupies a pivot point at tunnels’ intersection, where he can monitor both fights simultaneously.
With superior hand-to-hand, and spells, the coalition gains advantage by dropping most of the level-draining wights. But then each pack of wights is reinforced by a very tough Slaughter Wight. These hideous overlords tear into the coalition’s ranks, laying low several fighters and clerics alike.
Valiant Light, Light-Bringer and McMickelson, and al-Azhar expend even more spells, and kill off these two interlopers just in time for an even worse threat to arrive – a Blaspheme. This loathsome creature deals Strength damage with its bite, tearing into Joseph McMickelson’s party and killing Barbarian-Ranger Xorn before the tattered remains of the coalition manage to destroy it.
The fight is ended, and at terrible cost. Besides half-Orc and good friend Xorn, the coalition recovers the dead bodies of Molly, of the Suicide Blondes; Valiant Light’s Cleric of St Cuthbert, Alain; and all of the Corinthians. To the last man, Flexor and his men fought to hold the line.
Very cautiously, the survivors sweep the rest of the catacombs. There are no more Undead lurking. In the far corner is a wide hole, dug up from below. It is a tunnel that slopes deeper underground. Amber Renn is puzzled – a church like this should have nothing below the catacomb level. Tracks in the dirt suggest many zombies and other minions have come up this way.
The coalition is in no shape to descend further. At least, not today. In the annex between main corridors, the group finds a treasure trove. Magic weapons, magic armor, magic items, piles of gold and silver and platinum and gems. There is no time to count it and no spells by which to Identify any of it – the exhausted adventurers just shovel it all into sacks and Bags of Holding, checking over their shoulders as they plunder.
Reedna says what everyone wants to hear – they will return to the enclave, immediately, and come back here tomorrow once everyone has recovered. They do not disarm their dead companions, instead easing their casualties into Bags of Holding for easy transport back to Riddley’s Crown.
The sunlight is bright and but not entirely comforting as they abandon the church and make best speed for their adopted home. The first day saw twenty-eight adventurers come here; their coalition leaves behind the souls of ten good people.
It is now early afternoon on the 5th day of April, by the local calendar.
(end of Part 33)