Upon the arrival of the St. Gustav Squad of the Order of the Dawn and a pair of the Knights of the Golden Cross, the party made final preparations to enter the abandoned temple.
With everyone on guard, Ian searched the secret door for traps. After disarming a spring-loaded mechanism that was designed to slam a small spiked grating of rusty iron into the head and chest of an intruder, the party finally felt confident to make their way forward. The passage beyond the secret door was dark and musty, as if having been abandoned for many decades. Many torches were lit, as the party slowly and carefully advanced.
A number of rooms beyond showed evidence of having been burned by a great fire, leaving their contents charred beyond recognition. Beyond a particularly heavily burned door, the party found themselves in a room where the ceiling had collapsed, revealing a room above. Upon their entry, a large group of [Ghouls] dropped down in their midst. Their initial attack paralyzed Maur and Brynnan, before Uetha was able to make her way forward, brandishing her holy symbol of the Elder Gods. The ghouls were surrounded by a warm holy light, destroying them.
Almost immediately, a second wave dropped down. This one much larger than the first, which included a pair of ghasts, as well. The stench of the creatures was near overpowering, but after a great battle, the many creatures finally succumbed to the power of the party’s many swords and arrows.
Pressing onward, the party came upon a room where the roof and floor had collapsed down into a deep cellar, some thirty feet below. A heavy rafter had jammed across the collapsed section of floor, making like a narrow wooden plank bridge across the deep, yawning opening to the dark cellar way below. After taking suitable precautions, the party safely crossed over to the opposite side of the room, making for the only visible exit.
The party soon found themselves in a chamber that smelled strongly of honey. A pile of rags, swarming with flies lay in one corner. The floor was coated in a thick, sticky, glue-like substance. Taking nothing at face value, Gideon tossed several rocks at the mound of rags, causing six vine-like tentacles to emerge. A large, carnivorous plant rose up from the rags, lashing at the party. Brynnan charged the plant, swinging with his massive great axe, while Gideon and Maur chopped and prodded the plant, seeking to kill it at it’s root.
The plant proved a small challenge, but in the process of killing it, most members of the group were covered with the sickening sweet, honey like sap, which was quickly hardening into a tar like consistency. Remembering seeing a number of old barrels of wine a short distance back, Gideon quickly washed off the sap with the spoiled, vinegar-like wine. The rest of the party quickly followed suit. Maur tasted the sap, realizing it was a weak poison. With this news, those members of the group with blades and arrows coated their weapons with the honeydew sap. It was a small benefit, but would serve to aid them immensely in the battle to come.
The door leading out from the room guarded by the plant was locked. Ian made short work of picking the lock, granting the party access to continue forward. Beyond the door, the air was much fresher with the passageways lit by regular torches. It was clear to all that they had moved from the abandoned areas, guarded by undead and mostly forgotten, to a much more frequented area of the temple compound.
At a fork in the passage, the party took a guarded stance, as Ian checked a nearby door. Light was streaming from beneath the door, but it was unlocked and appeared to be untrapped as well. The party charged in, finding a stables guarded by six half-orcs. Surprising their foes, the party quickly slew many of them, but at the far end of the room, one of the guards raised a horn to his mouth, ready to sound the alarm. Brynnan rushed in at the last moment, throwing his massive axe at the guard. End of end, it spun, slamming into the guards chest. While the initial blow barreled the half-orc over, it struggled to blow the horn with it’s final breath. Suddenly, the honeydew poison coating the axe blade entered the orcs bloodstream causing a sudden convulsion. The half-orc fell lifeless. The horn, slipping from his grasp.
Searching the area, Ian pilfered the pockets of the guards finding many coins. Lastly, he climbed a ladder to inspect the hay loft above.
In the loft, Ian spotted movement. Gideon climbed up to offer assistance, fearing a half-orc assassin may be creeping about in the shadows. Instead they found a human hiding among the hay. He was dressed in shabby rags and, after some assurances, explained his name was Ashton Garner and that he had escaped the slave pits beneath the temple. He gave the party directions on how to get to the slave pits, explaining that there were a number of human and half-orcs guards, but that there were orcs as well. He said the slave pits were located beneath the temple, in an abandoned section of the city sewer, but that there were large areas of tunnels and chambers that had been dug into the earth. In these areas, he explained there were strange insect-like creatures that stood on two legs, but wielded many weapons and shields with their four arms. According to Ashton, the insect men were working alongside the slavers, but he didn’t really understand why.
At Gideon’s questioning, Ashton revealed that he had seen a red-haired teenage girl in the cages below, when he made his escape. Could this be Yara?
Lastly, Ashton was offered to be escorted out of the temple, but upon seeing the dead guards, asked to be given weapons and armor so that he could join the party to not only guide them through the dungeon, but to help rescue the other slaves, as well.
With the party now numbering ten, Ashton led the party to the stairway down into the dungeons beneath the temple. As predicted, the group immediately found themselves in a series of narrow earthen tunnels. The party spread out to cover their flanks and make sure nothing snuck up from behind.
With Ian, Feruch and Ronas covering one tunnel, the main group (consisting of Gideon, Maur, Brynnan, Stavislav and Uetha) advanced down another. Bel and Ashton remained at the bottom of the stairway, ready to lend their aid to either group.
The main group came upon a large cavernous chamber, occupied by a pair of the large insect-like creatures. The insectmen appeared to be sharpening their swords. A number of large ants, the size of medium dogs were scurrying about as well. After some brief planning, Maur and Gideon charged forward, faintly catching the scent of honeydew sap as the rushed in. Maur’s ankle caught on a tripwire, dropping a heavy fishing net, dripping with sticky honeydew sap. While the dwarf was able to rush past the falling net, it fell squarely atop Gideon, trapping him in the sticky netting. The insect men, clearly aware of the advancing party the whole time, immediately fell back, issuing commands to the ant through a series of swift clicking sounds. Maur was immediately swarmed by giant ants, as other erupted from the walls, drawn to Gideon by the sweet sap now coating his body. The two insect men, quickly joined by two more, stabbed at the dwarf with a flurry of blades, while the ants nipped at his legs.
Thanks to Ronas and Ian explored the tunnel near them, hoping it would allow them to circle around and flank the insect men attacking Maur and Ian. Instead, they soon found themselves fighting against a number of giant ants, as well.
If not for Maur’s thick plate armor, he certainly would not have been able to survive the barrage of attacks, while Brynnan aided Gideon in getting out from under the netting. Gideon successfully fought off several ants, before rushing up to aid Maur.
Maur successfully managed to knock one of the insect men unconscious with a well timed punch to the head, while dazing a second by slamming into it with his shoulder. Together, he and Gideon quickly killed half the Insect Men as Brynnan and Stavislav came forward, chopping at the ants with axes and firing arrows into the mass of insects.
As the battle winded down, Ronas, and Ian fought their way through a number of ants, arriving in time to slay the last of the insect men and ants.
As the party was being healed by Uetha, Bel arrived with the grim news that in the chaos of the battle, he had lost sight of Ashton and couldn’t find him. He suspected that when the battle commenced on both sides, he reconsidered and chose to flee up the stairs, making good his escape.
The party regrouped, preparing to press forward, wondering if Ashton was a spy who had intentionally led them into an ambush, or just a cowardly peasant who had fled at the first sign of battle.