After retreating from near death by black pudding, Jarrus, Othmar and Dardac returned to camp where Janziduur was able to apply some healing. Jarrus inspected his armor and weapon and saw the damage the pudding had wrought to the metal. It was still functional, but some of the magic had been worn away, making it less effective than it once was. Perhaps there is a way to restore its luster, but for now, he would have to make due. After discussing what to do next, the party decided to rest overnight and then delve in again, hoping to find the source of the evil that still taints the land and whatever was creating these monstrous undead.
Before venturing back into the temple, Janziduur cast Negative Plane Protection and Protection from Evil on each of the three party members. They then went exploring. Whatever was left of the black pudding was gone. Exploration of the remaining, accessible portions of the third level of the temple seemed clear, though there were plenty of track marks around to indicate zombie bugbears have been roaming around. The upper levels were completely collapsed, as were portions of the third level, so, after exploring as much as they could, the party took the steps down to the fourth level.
"This is where we fought Hedrack and came face to face with Iuz," Jarrus told a skeptical Othmar. The air down at this level was very cold, though not quite freezing. Luckily Othmar was able to find some clothing and an extra cloak in a storage room on the level above, after the pudding burned away what he had been wearing before. Six more bugbear zombies were found on this level, and they were as tough as ever. They were slow and didn't hit very often, but they sure packed a punch, as Jarrus lost more than half of his hit points in a tough fight. But the group eventually prevailed and were able to move on.
Further up the hall, as they approached the altar where Iuz had been summoned, a crack appeared in the middle of the floor and widened as it went down the hall. The party had to choose to be on one side or the other and chose the left side. On either side of the altar, the statues of Iuz and Zuggtmoy still stood, looking as menacing as ever. The four hallways that led to the demi-planes were completely collapsed and inaccessible. The crack in the floor, now a wide fissure, continued past the altar into the room beyond, where the treasure chests were located (which had previously triggered demons to be summoned). There were still four chests in the room. One was open and empty (having been previously looted by the party the first time through), one was broken across the floor with its contents spilled out, just as the party left it when they ran away to escape the demons. One was still closed and another was now open, showing the 25,000 or so platinum pieces ready for the taking. Othmar was about to start filling his pockets when Jarrus shouted for him to stop. "Messing around with these chests is what got us in trouble last time," he said. "Don't touch anything." As if they needed more warning, there were two new, sinister additions to the room. On opposing walls, two human bodies were nailed, their skin peeled away and tacked to the wall in a gruesome display. Their cloaks were intact, black druid cloaks, similar to ones worn by mysterious men the party had seen before. Their blood was dry, but otherwise these bodies were reasonably fresh.
The party moved forward, now entering an area never explored before. A round room and a dias that previously held a throne. Both were ripped apart by the fissure that ran through the middle of the floor. Here, the air was even colder, coming up from the hole now in the floor, where a strange purple glow could be seen. The fissure exposed a staircase below the temple, though this appeared to be the work of someone or something entirely different. Dardac noticed that there were human footprints here, going down, and the party decided to follow into the depth far below the Temple of Elemental Evil.
The stairs went down more than 100 ft. into the cold darkness. Only a very faint purple glow illuminated anything, and the continual light the party had been using seemed only to brighten an area of 5 feet around them. At the bottom of the stairs, they came to a hall leading south to an octagonal room with four exits (north, south, east and west) including the way they came in. Inside that room, laying against the wall on the east side, were two dead bodies. These bodies also seemed somewhat fresh, and were dressed in the black druid cloaks that have become familiar. As the party began to look around, a voice boomed out of nowhere saying "LOOK ABOVE YOU TO KNOW YOUR FATE."
Jarrus looked up and the domed ceiling became translucent, revealing an infinite violet hue through which floated glowing black runes. Jarrus was immediately able to understand the runes, which said:
"Those whom I find unfit, I place on my left"
"Those who succeed, I place on my right"
"The chosen may come before ME!"
The ceiling then faded to black and became opaque again.
(DM's Note: Clearly there is a dungeon on top of which the Temple of Elemental Evil was built. Which dungeon this is might seem obvious to some, but I'd like it to remain a mystery for my players, so no discussing it in the comments, please.)
Jarrus decided this meant they should go right (west), and off they went down a short hallway into a hexagon shaped room. Within this room were five strange formations, resembling small trees. An opalescent black tree, a deep green tree, a metallic crimson tree, and indigo blue tree and a smoky purple tree. Each tree had fruit-like growths on it. Jarrus picked one of the fruits and it crumbled to dust in his hand, and he took some form of damage. Othmar tried to do the same and the fruit again crumbled, but Othmar didn't take damage and instead seemed, somehow, changed for the better. Jarrus tried again and took damage again, and decided it was best to stop messing around with the trees and brought everyone back to camp for healing and rest. Othmar, now curious, decided they should return and start picking multiple fruits to experiment with and, so, the next morning they returned to experiment. Othmar's experimentation did not go so well, as, after picking one particular fruit, a blackness started to crawl up his arm, disintegrating him as it went. Jarrus, acting quickly, cut-off Othmar's arm before the mage was entirely disintegrated. Othmar was now one-armed, unconscious and barely hanging on to life. But this didn't stop Jarrus and Dardac, both of whom picked fruits of their own without taking damage and felt much better about themselves for it. NOW, they were done with this place, and decided it was time to abandon this dungeon and go to Furyondy.
And so they carried Othmar's unconscious body to the surface where Janziduur healed him (though she couldn't fix his arm) and they took their boat back to Verbobonc. In Verbobonc, Jarrus put up money with the Temple of Trithereon to advertise for adventurers to come down to the area around the temple and help clear it out of monstrous infestations (though no words about the temple itself). After that, they took the boat up to Stalmaer in the Gold County of Furyondy.
Part 2 - Off to Furyondy
It has been known to the party for a while that Jarrus' mother is Countess Kyaren Rhavelle of the Gold County in Furyondy. She left her adventuring partner and lover, Jarrus' father, Correal Sunleaf, when Jarrus was still pretty young. The Countess' older brother had died, leaving no heir, and so she left her family behind in order to take her place in the political landscape and protect her family's legacy. Jarrus stayed with his father, who was now a cavalier without a lord, being trained in the ways of warfare and chivalry. With his father dead, Jarrus was now returning to the only family he has.
The first stop was the town of Stalmaer, along the Att River (a tributary to the great Velverdyva). Jarrus tried asking around there about the whereabouts of the countess, which only drew suspicions from the local militia. They then decided to travel up to Libernen, the seat of government for the Gold County. There, they approached the palace gates and, after some discussion with the guards regarding who Jarrus was, were let in to meet with the chamberlain/butler, a tall man in colorful garb named Jorgen. Jorgen informed Jarrus that the countess was not in the palace, but was currently at her country estate. A carriage was summoned, along with servants for the trip and four knights to escort the party (not that they needed an escort, but protocol for VIPs was being employed).
After a few days, the party arrived by coach to the Ravelle estate, nestled in the beautiful countryside of the Gold County. Upon pulling up to the estate, they were greeted once again by Jorgen (who must have used some form of magical teleportation to beat them here) and they were led inside to the great hall. Inside were several people who looked like nobles or other people of importance, drinking wine eating food. Soon, Countess Ravelle came down the stairs, eager to great her long lost son. Jarrus bowed to her formally, rather than embrace her as she wished. Nonetheless, the countess was pleased to see her son and began introducing him to the others in the room with great pride. Some of the folks in the room were:
- Baron Jemian of Littleburg
- Gellain, Ambassador from Veluna
- Rafendyl, "Gildentongue" - Half-elf bard from Highfolk
- Schyzer - a human mage who seemed uninterested in socializing
- Jelleneth - a young human woman who serves Trithereon and appears to be a fighter of some repute
- Sir Kiprien Rahlden - Knight of the Hart from Castle Hart
- Tobian Rushkane - A flamboyant Backluni man
There were several other petty nobles and merchants in the room, but Jarrus was not introduced to them all.
DMs Note: It is now the 10th Day of Patchwall, CY 580. Jarrus and his group will move to an online game as they do a lot of social interaction with the countess and her guests. These interactions will likely not make it into the blog, so we will pick-up with this group again when and if they get back into a tabletop-worthy adventure.