|The Temple of Elemental Evil|
As they got closer, the party could see that the vegetation was dead, the air was foul, and sky seemed to be permanently cloud-covered. Sunlight must not have penetrated this area in a very long time. As they approached the temple walls, they could see the eeries faces of gargoyles and demonic statues everywhere. Despite the lack of sunlight, shadows seemed to move against the walls, further adding to the creepy vibe. The group remembered what Otis said about the ravens roosting in the tower, and decided to go around the outside and approach from the rear so Athan can sneak up and determine if they were still there.
The party made their way around back and could see the tower from a distance. Athan approached carefully and climbed to the top. The upper levels of the tower were collapsed to rubble and some kind of illusion was in place to make everything look
The soldiers inside had setup a line of footmen with shields to block the entryway, while men with bows and crossbows, as well as a spellcaster, worked from further inside the tower. It would have been a TPK (Total Party Kill) if Athan wasn't ready with his sleep spell to drop all of the footmen, while Pontus lept over the now sleeping phalanx to cut down the magic user, and Gareth worked on the remaining melee fighters. Sarril jumped in with some spellcasting of his own and soon the bowmen were brought down as well. The soldier who appeared to be the leader had tried to spring a trap over the front entryway, but didn't get to it before everyone was clear. Recognizing he was in a losing situation, he tried to escape into one of the tower rooms, but Sarril cast Hold Person to stop him in his tracks. The party tried briefly to question the leader, but when he proved uncooperative, they killed him for good measure.
The party realized two things. First, that this tower is fairly secure, with two rooms, food, water and other supplies, as well as comfortable beds, so they could stay here for some time, and second, that dead bodies on the grounds of an evil temple are never a good idea. So, turning the dining room tables into a makeshift sled, Pontus, Luapan and Gareth went about gathering the bodies and hauling them miles away to be buried. This took them well into the evening. While they did this, Athan and Sarril explored the temple grounds, including the front door, to make sure it was still sealed. As Athan approached the front door, he felt a strong sense of aversion. He couldn't bear to look at the door, or even to be near it, and ran back to the tower for safety. Sarril was able to overcome the aversion and inspect what there. The door appeared to be solid and all of the magical runes were intact. If anyone was still inside the temple, they weren't coming in or out this way.
After re-securing the tower and spending the night, the next morning the party searched the rooms of the tower thoroughly, finding several blank pieces of parchment, as well as some minor treasure and items of interest. They also found a secret trapdoor that led to a tunnel below. At the bottom of the ladder leading down to the tunnel was a bag on a hook with some rations, potions and a money - an escape package for the leader of the tower which he never managed to get to. The party decided to explore and see how far the tunnel went. It seemed to go on for a long time, but eventually branched northward up a slope. Athan found a secret door leading south, however, and the party decided to follow that route, where they eventually entered a room where oil in a tract along the ceiling suddenly lit into flame - clearly an alert to the party's presence. Just beyond, the party ran into a basilisk. Though the basilisk turned out to be illusory, it held the party's attention long enough for an assassin in an adjoining room to sneak out and attempt to assassinate Pontus. Perhaps due to his unique back protection, or just a bad roll of the dice, the assassination attempt failed, and the assassin was exposed, leading the party to turn on her. While engaged with the assassin, a magic user came out of the opposite adjoining room and began to attack the party with spells. Sarril tried to silence the magic user, but the spell could not penetrate the Minor Globe of Invulnerability he had up. This magic user was clearly pretty advanced, and he responded by casting Hold Person. Everyone targeted made their save, except Luapan and Gareth, who were now effectively taken out of the fight. The rest of party turned on the mage and pressed an attack. He defensively cast Mirror Image on himself to buy time enough to cast more devastating offense spells. As Sarril pressed into him, the mage unleashed lightning bolt, which Sarril was able to avoid most of, but the damage was still very severe. As Pontus and Athan popped the remaining mirror images.
The mage's familiar, a quasit, joined the fight when things got desperate, and the party managed to kill it, severely crippling the mage, which Sarril finished off using a Staff of the Serpent he had picked up from one of the clerics they had killed previously. After killing the mage, the party was free to search all of the rooms, and found quite the store of wondrous magic items and supplies. Though they set off a trap, ruining some of the find, the best stuff was still intact behind another secret door. The mage, whose name they discovered was Falrinth, had a full laboratory / library full of spell components, scrolls, books, and the like. But the most exciting discoveries are what turned out to be a Mirror of Mental Prowess, an artifact of Boccob that Sarril treasured greatly, a Crystal Ball, and, inside an iron box, a Golden Skull that radiated the most extreme evil that Luapan could not bear to look at it. Athan quickly pocketed the skull for safe keeping while the party looted the rest of the room. The party then headed back up the tower to rest and heal, and spend the next few days identifying the items they had found, and reading through notes and ledgers to find clues about the operations of the temple.