This adventure was Friday January 22, 2016. E.G., K.D., T.F., and A.T. were present. M.H. sat in. C.H. observed; he does not intend to start a new character.
It is late afternoon when the coalition returns to Riddley’s Crown, after their first day of questing at the corrupted church of Pelor. While there was solid progress made in exploring the temple and defeating many of its Undead inhabitants, the adventurers have lost a third of their members. Outside the walls of the enclave, pyres burn high for the six Corinthians, the fallen Suicide Blonde Molly, cleric Alain, and the half-Orc fighter Vola.
Clerics Jere Collado and Joseph McMickelson, Thri-Kreen warrior H’ai-ch Q’a, and Wizard Aziz al-Azhar bring the lifeless body of their friend Xorn to eccentric old Sister Janus. The kindly priestess performs the invocation to Raise Dead on the Barbarian-Ranger, but her attempt fails. The spell located Xorn’s soul, but for some unknown reason the half-Orc declined to return to life. He is gone forever. His crestfallen friends accept an alchemical oil from Sister Janus, and immolate Xorn’s remains out by the grave site of their late Paladin friend Raygar.
Cleric Reedna, leader of Valiant Light and de facto commander of the coalition, calls a brief assembly of its members. She speaks highly of their accomplishments so far. Today’s effort was brave, and its misfortunes regrettable. The main floor and the catacombs of the temple are cleared, though at the cost of many noble adventurers. She feels their goal is in sight – whatever greater evil infects these lands is sure to be found and defeated in the tunnels below the catacombs.
There is the matter of treasure and equipment. All of the Corinthians were slain, so their magic spears, short swords, Corinthian Leather armor, light wooden shields, and various Rings of Protection, are left to the coalition’s treasury.
The Corinthians’ 20% share of treasure is also redistributed. The Suicide Blondes and Collado’s party now claim 25% each; Valiant Light, 35%; and the Loners will divide 15% of the total haul.
Those able to perform Arcane magic cast as many Identify spells as possible in the remainder of the day. Each takes about an hour. Prioritizing items recovered from the temple, the coalition identifies such magic items as a +1 Ghost-Touch longsword, a Sacred Scabbard, a Spool of Endless Rope, a Medal of Gallantry, a +1 Buckler of Fire Resistance, +1 Silent Moves full-plate armor, some Cloaks of Resistance +1, several +1 Rings of Protection, Gloves of Dexterity +4, a Ring of Improved Swimming, a Ring of Wizardry (I), a +3 Ring of Protection, an Ioun Stone of +2 Constitution, a Cloak of Resistance +3, a Quaal’s Feather Token (whip), a Type III Bag of Holding, a Circlet of Blasting (minor), and some +1 magic armor. As needed, some coalition members adopt items on loan to improve their combat readiness.
H’ai-ch Q’a does not want the Barbarian-Ranger’s adamantine short-sword to leave the party, so he takes it as his own. There is a tingling sensation as the Thri-Kreen touches it, but no other ill effect. Un-noticed by most, Elf Fighter Sy Green goes to trader Dredburn and purchases the Type I Bag of Holding and the Portable Hole offered at the meeting the other night.
Injured, attribute- and level-drained adventurers are treated by Sister Janus and by those members of Valiant Light will spells still available. Tired from the day and with no Undead outside the walls, the coalition members take dinner and retire early to bed.
* * *
The next morning, all adventurers are present and accounted for when the coalition musters to hike back to the temple. Their mood is different. Anticipation and excitement have become anxiety and uncertainty. A light rain falls from a heavily-clouded sky, further burdening their spirits.
Passing the ruined cabins of one small farmstead, H’ai-ch Q’a alone Spots a humanoid sitting on the edge of a rooftop. It is a female Thri-Kreen, a purplish hue on its chitinous exoskeleton, and wearing purple leather armor. It hops down off the roof and falls in beside H’ai-ch Q’a. The Fighter regards her with wordless puzzlement. No-one else of the coalition has taken notice of her, focused instead on avoiding mud holes and keeping rain off their heads.
As they hike, the Thri-Kreen female comments on her unusual new form, and how strange it is inside H’ai-ch Q’a mind. In among her ramblings of self-discovery, the female introduces herself as Solace. H’ai-ch Q’a knows she is not real – Thri-Kreen are attuned to psionics and altered states of mind, so this apparition or hallucination is just a mild curiosity to him. And she is attractive by Thri-Kreen standards, so that’s a bonus. Solace doesn’t mind that H’ai-ch Q’a is not big on conversation. Eventually she disappears back into his subconscious when his attention is distracted.
The coalition has reached the corrupted temple of Pelor. The dry shelter it provides against the cold, armor-soaking drizzle is an ironic comfort. Aside from the persistent Unhallow, the main floor and catacombs are empty and free of Undead. The group sparks torches and Light spells, and heads straight for the tunnel leading further below the crypts.
The hole in the catacomb floor is dark and silent. Cleric Amber Renn’s knowledge of layout ends here; whatever they find down there will be a surprise to everyone. Collado’s party goes first down the straight, hard-packed dirt ramp.
The incline ends in a wide, earthen tunnel. Jere and Joseph stand ready to Turn anything that emerges from the shadows. They move aside so H’ai-ch Q’a and an inquisitive Aziz al-Azhar can creep forward and examine the surroundings.
The tunnel leads about forty yards ahead and then turns to the right. A pervasive feeling of evil chills the air, almost nauseating any of Good alignment, empowering any of Evil alignment. It is not a spell effect – something else generates it.
At odd intervals along the left-hand side of the tunnel are what look like alcoves. Thri-Kreen Solace is already at one of these, peering into it. Excited, she motions H’ai-ch Q’a to come and see.
Weapons in every claw, H’ai-ch Q’a cautiously approaches the nearest opening. It is actually a narrow corridor, at a right-angle to the main tunnel. The Thri-Kreen fighter recoils when he finds it is lined with zombies. The rank stench of rot hits him an instant later. As far as he can see down this side tunnel, there are dozens of these Undead humanoids. But they are motionless and do not react. H’ai-ch Q’a motions for his allies to join him.
All of the main tunnel’s alcoves are side-tunnels. Clerics of Valiant Light, Suicide Blondes, and others of Collado’s party check them and find the same thing. Dozens, maybe hundreds of zombies, more even, as far as anyone can see into the perfect underground blackness. All of the Undead are asleep or in stasis, as if stored here.
Cleric of Wee Jas Seamus MacTavish does a Turn, destroying every zombie to the limit of the Turn’s effective range. Undead beyond this effect do not wake up or otherwise react. MacTavish is fascinated by this. So is Aziz al-Azhar; the Wizard elbows to the front of the group, a silk kerchief over his nose to block the smell, to get a closer look.
Around the corner, the main tunnel bends again to the right, and there is an intersection. The tunnel continues on ahead. A new tunnel cuts to the left. There are sounds coming from both directions; and indistinct but constant sound from ahead, an intermittent series of noises from the left. The group goes straight ahead.
The tunnel ahead leads thirty yards then turns left and opens into a wide chamber. Here the coalition is startled to find a hideous Undead creature, guarded by animated Skeletons ! One of the Clerics of Valiant Light knows the creature – it is a Wheep, a gruesome entity that wails a constant, mind-affecting dirge of sorrow and misery, while crying tears of a poisonous, toxic black resin.
Ten armed and armored Skeletons rush the coalition to protect their charge. A furious fight ensues. The Skeletons carry high-quality magic weapons and armor, posing a dangerous challenge to the front-line fighters. The Wheep does not shirk from combat, actively engaging and attacking the intruders. Collado’s party, the Loners, and the Suicide Blondes rush forward, while Reedna’s Valiant Light generate a torrent of helpful Divine spells.
The Wheep’s innate poisons and the Skeletons’ fighting skills are deadly but not overwhelming; the coalition manages to defeat them all. But there were terrible losses – Suicide Blonde Phoebe; Cleric of Obad-Hai, Coralyne; and Cleric of Fharlanghan, CJ Newcastle. Many others are badly wounded but still alive.
There are no other enemies in this sizable chamber. The survivors guard the only entrance to the room as they heal up and take stock of their situation and surroundings.
It is now early afternoon on the 6th day of April, by the local calendar.
(end of Part 34)