See Touch and Go for how we discovered the temple.
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…”
“We’d previously scouted the exterior of the temple but deemed it a ‘Future Problem’. As they do, tomorrow’s problems become today’s adventures. From the Swollentooth we traveled three days north along the plains between the mountains and the Whispering Woods. The temple is hidden in the foothills just north of that deadly forest.”
The bard marks an “X” on a map for you.
“Along the way we learned that the Talos dwarves have a third entrance to their mountain citadel. If you recall, the first we discovered was the front entrance and is heavily guarded. The next entrance we found was underground and we keep it secretly marked. This third door supposedly only opens to the command of a Talos wizard and lies East of the front entrance.
Cindermint, our gnomish ally in the area, is leading a small resistance against the Talos slaving parties. She assesses that they’re preparing for something big as evidenced by fewer patrols. The main entrance is now more heavily fortified and has manned siege weaponry.
She also reports a… uh… giant crab with an entire town on its back. Sounds like a ‘Future Problem’ if I’ve ever heard one.”
He takes a drink before continuing on:
“Anyway, the temple entrance isn’t too complex. We found some scrolls which hinted at what awaited us. On the floors were runes preventing magic from being cast. A set of levers corresponds to a series of doors. We searched left and found a key. We searched right and found a keyhole. Karash put two and two together and we were able to venture into the temple proper.
Keeping up the left-hand search pattern, we soon encountered a devotee of some sort. Nearby was another floor-rune. This one however warped our spells into unintended effects. As some of us attempted to subdue the acolyte, the others worked against the rune. I’m told that Dust and Vahn hacked away with picks while Chemist attempted to keep ethereal guards at bay.
Here I failed as a leader. I should have been aware of both objectives. Instead I let myself get too involved in a struggle that Oogway and Karash could have handled on their own. I probably hindered their efforts instead of helping. For my transgressions, the gods (or just those damned runes) saw it fit to revert me to a boyish form. I’m marked by my ignorance.”
Eddings takes another pull from his tankard followed by a thoughtful pause. You notice he looks about a decade younger
“Regret is a funny thing.
We dove deeper. This was a fine chilled wine and we’d barely taken a sip. The spectral guards harried our flanks and we all but ignored them. The warning signs were literally springing up before us but we pressed on.
The halls twisted every which way and we sprinted down them. The running stretched our lines thin. It wasn’t long before our lead member was neck deep in trouble. I can barely describe what he found. It was monstrous.”
The somber bard summons a small illusion.
“Here I failed again. While you shouldn’t ‘lead from the front’, it also cannot be from the rear… and that’s where I found myself. I was too busy keeping to my left-handed pattern, too selfishly pursuing my own interests…
I was barely within earshot when Vahn fell. The monstrosity’s whip tore him limb from limb. I could have prevented this, or at least tried to. Instead I was running through the halls like a foolish child.
Justifiably, the party waivered.
Karash and Oogway were both severely injured. Flame licked through the halls and drank the very air from our lungs. The demon was launching attacks against our minds and our morale.
It is said that history is written by the victors. You could easily say the same about survivors. Unfortunately, being a survivor makes you fall prey to a special bias. Whatever you did worked so it must have been the correct action. This is a hard trap to avoid. Keep this in mind when I say that I rallied my party.
Forte Fortuna Juvat. Fortune favors the brave.
We pressed the attack. The same monk I’d followed countless times into danger walked directly into this beast’s waiting arms. The same whip that had dismembered Vahn, found little purchase against Oogway’s monastic defenses. I’ve never had more respect for a human.
Karash, who had stood against an army of Talos dwarves, sought the demon’s vulnerable flank… Or maybe it was vengeance. It was if he considered Vahn’s death to be a debt owed and demanded payment from our enemy’s hide. An eye for an eye.
Dust, as usual, did the mental math necessary to extract the greatest return from every shot. She stalked this abomination through the halls, an unseen assassin. Those same specters from before attempted to interfere but didn’t stand a chance. Pressed on all sides, and from afar, our foe had nowhere to run.
Our Kenku wizard struck the killing blow. He had lost a few friends of his own here and wanted to do more than settle the score. Chemist wanted the creature to fear him. Black tentacles rose from the ground and sought to pull the Kenku’s target into their depths.
At the perfect moment the wizard stuck.
A summoned blade of ichor preceded Chemist from the shadows in a way that would make Dust jealous. He buried it to the hilt, over and over again, following the horror to the ground… relentless. It may not have been capable of feeling fear before, but I believe Chemist cured that.”