And now for the third time our heroes marched on the Caverns, now strengthened with dogs of war. Nortein the Hunter, recovered from a fever, joined the expedition. Cork the Cleric, a rotund worshipper of the powers of Law, had persuaded him that a third expedition would see the Cult broken. Snorri, who had grown fey and cruel from the power of the Dragon Helm, joined them once again, seeking to slake his thirst for blood. And with them too was a newcomer, a comely hill-woman with an unpronouncable tribal name that translated as ‘Feud-Baby.’ Gal Gadont had departed after her recovery, seeking easier gains. Skeines the Wizard and Isidoro the Knave were locked in bouts of drunken debauchery from which they could not be extracted.
With 6 they set out, the Corporal and his remaining Legionary following, and 4 dogs of war leading the way. The dogs were named Rambo, Ducheman, Pepe and Nobody They ventured into the Shrine and moved north, checking the side-doors for occupants for fear of attacks from behind. In the reliquary, Snorri regarded the blood-stained relics with avid interest, claiming them to be of Dwarven origin. It was only a premonition of immense evil when he laid his hands on them that stayed him, and they left the artifacts behind warily and ventured further north. Two doors to strange rooms were at their flanks. They had the dogs enter first, and when growls, sounds of tearing flesh and the sickening crunch of iron breaking bone.
The 4 priests, granted unlife by the powers of chaos, were locked in battle with the dogs of war. One had already been pulled down and his skull crushed by their powerful jaws, and Nobody lay insensate on the ground, its skull caved in. Leaving Snorri behind to watch the rear, Nortein moved in and together with the dogs, felled the foe. Feud-Baby watched and did little, being unable to get in a shot with her sling. Cork called on the power of the Lords of Law, but this availed him not. They dispatched the risen dead, and with the Healing staff, the worst of their injuries were soon lifted. They took the copper ornaments of the Priest’s living quarters, and gathered all their obscene texts and burned them.
North they moved, and ventured into the accursed Temple of evil chaos. As soon as they entered, flames sprang onto the candelabras of their own accord, bathing the entire room in a sickening red glow. Obscene shapes of green, purple and yellow danced upon the western wall, seemingly carved of a single mirror-smooth block of crimson. All but Cork were entranced by the display, and were compelled to utter the hideous prayers and oaths to Chaos. From their dark prayers, the great iron bell in the hallway rang as if by ghostly hands, and from doorways in the west, one concealed behind drapes, the serried ranks of the walking dead emerged. Clad in scraps of corroded mail, armed with ancient blades, the army of Chaos faced off against them. 20 walking corpses, garbed in mail, and 20 skeletons, the flesh having long since rotted from their bones. From the south issued a voice, raspy and fell.
“Thou hath come here to die. Submit now and they end will be swift, offered up to the Power of Chaos. Resist and thy end will be slow, and thou shalt endure weeks of torture and degredation before.”
Snorri boasted that he had come to replace the Priest, and rule over the place in his stead. “Then perish, mortal fool!,” was the rejoinder. Had the heroes not read the ancient Scroll of Warding against the Undead before they entered the temple, their doom would have come there and then. Instead they backed off to the southwest corner of the massive space, the dead driven back by the warding scroll and the Invoked power of the Lords of Law. Snorri unleashed his warhound, and sent it at the voice, and it soon passed under the drapery, and sounds of combat emerged.
Snorri followed, and faced off against three zombies with his faithful mastiff Rambo, the zombies garbed in plate, and bearing shield. His comrades moved back, slowly filing into the concealed passage, Cork turning the dead, and Feud-Baby holding back the other two War Dogs so they did not break the circle of protection. Rambo mauled one of the dead, biting off his face, a blow from Snorri’s Axe did the rest. From the door to the west emerged the Archpriest, a hairless easterling with eyes like Emralds, garbed in armor marked with symbols of warding, and bearing a Serpent Staff. “Insolent cur! You shall suffer the displeasure of a Lord of Chaos!” he snarled. He swung his serpent staff, and Snorri ducked, and with the Axe Grimmtein, dealt a terrible return blow, shattering the priest’s teeth and cutting his face.
The party filed through the corridor, Nortein holding the rear, the zone of protection hedging out the dead. The Corporal, bearing enchanted blade, took the dogs and joined the melee. Snorri roared triumphantly to deal the final blow, but his axe was held by the enchanted plate. Feud-Baby had crept behind the Priest, and now sought to drive her dagger into his back, but the blade was held by the mail also, and her arm was weak. The priest grabbed a potion on his belt and quaffed it, and turned to vapor. One more of the Zombie guards fell to blade and teeth.
With the last of the Zombies surrounded by three dogs, and Nortein and the Legionary raining arrows down into the massed undead horde, Cork, Snorri and Feud-baby followed the vapor into the personal chambers of the Archpriest. Ignoring the wealth and finery, they saw the cloud slip behind a screen, and through a concealed panel in the wardrobe. They were swift, and followed after, finding the concealed doorway in the wardrobe, and ignoring the gold and gemstones spilling onto the ground.
Now misfortune struck. The last zombie guard dispatched, they could have held the dead at bay behind their ward, had not the dogs of war, untethered, rushed forward into the melee, and disrupted the protection. Nortein promptly ordered a retreat, taking the legionary and the corporal with him.
With one part of the group tracking the slow moving vapor into the hallway, the other under Feud-baby spent some time gathering up all the gold and gemstones and left, leaving the Dogs to fight a brave rearguard action. Bones cracked under their jaws, and with the three they held up the entire host long enough for our heroes to exit. Ducheman and Pepe had already fallen. Only Rambo remained, grinding on, his jaws crunching bone and ripping flesh. Nortein whistled, but the good dog did not hear. They left him behind, and he held out for a time against the risen dead, doing what good dogs do.
They persued the vapor far south, until it sipled through a passage walled off by rock. What lay on the other side, they dared not guess. Nortein favored retreating to the keep, Cork was undecided, and Feud-baby decided the issue. They retreated, vowing they would return and take the Archpriest’s head. The Keep rejoiced at their return, and the Castellan was best pleased at their victory, for they had driven the priest screaming from his own temple, and dealt a fearsome blow to the forces of chaos. Though he did mention that, while the Archpriest lived, he could return and rebuild his strength.
As for their next action, well, we would see.
[R] Cork the Cleric (Clr 2, hp 11)
[S] Feud-Baby (Thf 1, hp 6)
[P] Snorri (Dwr 1, 9 hp)
[N] Nortein (Ftr 2, 10 hp)
18 skeletons (turned and destroyed)
The Arch priest (driven screaming from his temple)
[A] Otso (MU 1, 3 hp) – Slain by Treachery
[B] Hardroc Sansaxe (Dwr 1, 4 hp) – Died on his feet against the Goblin Foe
[C] Buddy (Ftr 1, 6 hp) – Died in the rearguard against Kobold treachery
[D] Valen (Thf 1, 2 hp) – Felled by Kobold arrow in the Battle of the Warrens
[C] Brother Buddy (Clr 1, 3 hp) – Felled by a bandit’s spearthrust
[E] Quinton RumbleBreeches (Hal 1, 6 hp) – Felled by a bandit’s arrow
[B] Sazar Thistleborne (Thf 1, 4 hp) – Ripped apart by a Mountain Lion in the Perilous forest
[C] Brother Buddy Jr. (Clr 1, 4 hp) – Drained of life by monstrous Stirges
[F] Hardy the Dwarf (Dwr 1, 6 hp) – Clubbed to death by Ogre
[B] Zed Fauxgivvin (Hal 1, 4 hp) – Fell to a hobgoblin sword, but he did not go alone
[G] Colemeier Stonesaw (Dwr 1, 8 hp) – Fell to hobgoblin sowrds
[E] Father Kane (Clr 1, 6 hp) – Fell to Hobgoblin swords
[H] Ludwig Andros (MU 1, 4 hp) – Charmed and eaten by Harpies
[I] Derek de Chitsville (Ftr 1, 8 hp) – Charmed and eaten by Harpies
[J] Vinnie Jones (Ftr 1, 10 hp) – Charmed and eaten by Harpies
[K] Johhny Longfingers (Thf 1, 4 hp) – Charmed and eaten by Harpies
[L] Vitus the Southron (Ftr 1, 9 hp) – Eaten by Harpies
[I] Father Theodore (Clr 1, 6 hp) – Struck down by skeletons
[J] Box the Fighter (Ftr 1, 9 hp) – Struck down by Valgard, breaker-of-horses-and-men
[A] Diggory Class (MU 1, 4 hp) – Slain by Poisoned treasure
[M] Pajeje (Ftr 1, 9 hp) – Slain by poisoned treasure
[B] Chinning Poofter (Mu 2, hp 6) – Rent asunder by furious Griffon
[N] Grog (Ftr 1, 10 hp) – Drowned in armor in the bay of the Flooded Temple
[Retainer] Father Bell the Octogenarian (Clr 2, hp 12) – Devoured by the Basilisk
[M] Father Paisisco the Blessed (Clr 2, 6 hp) – Turned to stone by the Basilisk’s Gaze
[P] Roger (Dwr 1, 8 hp) – Rent asunder by the Chimera
[P] Bali (Dwr 1, 8 hp) – Incinerated by the Chimera
[R] Brandt (Dwr 1, 9 hp) – Ripped apart by Troll
[S] Lucifur the Cleric (Clr 1, hp 5) – Devoured by Werewolves