|Large Fire Elemental by Julie Guthrie|
We resumed our elemental gallivanting with all players in tow. We picked up after the eerie green wind ghost was put to rest but before the player's could catch their breath another green glow lit the room. Fortunately this time it was their longtime companion Drake Phoenixbreath back from the dead. His flames had become corrupted through his cycling demise at the hands of his former partner Nigel in the Fire Temples Alter. His self-sacrifice on the Salamander altar pushed him over the edge and now his phoenix flames burned an eerie green (the player opted for a Low Essence of Hi/Lo fame which alters his personal element and Origin of Fire.). Reunited once more the players decided what to do, princess Tilahi after hearing of her beloved Prince last seen on level 3 of this elemental hell-hole was dedicated to pressing onward rather than escaping. With poem in hand the players thought it best they start rounding up elemental gems (in the original module the gems are all stored in nodes but throughout this campaign they have already been reclaimed or found). They headed towards the fire temple who they knew were in possession of the fire gem and as an added bonus Nigel would be there and in possession of the Water gem which he had used to devastating effect on the party earlier. In addition, Romaag High Priest of the Earth Temple sent them on a mission to kill two high ranking fire cultists who were stealing his followers; after he found out about the Salamander incident he instructed them to kill the High Priest of Fire Alvarnon as well.
Before venturing off the trio and royals in tow decided to explore a bit more. Their barbaric dwarf companion broke down the other wall and they continued wandering the northern maze. Unfortunately the sound of their destruction combined with the lack of ghostly wailing brought back the temple denizens. Undeterred the Elven spy donned a ghostly sheet and his newly ghostly green blade and walked out; attempting to shock and awe the onlookers. A few were startled, some even scared but thanks to an impressive morale check one jerk in the back uttered out "HEY! It's just a guy in a sheet, get him!" and the arrows let fly. Maximilian attempted to use the remaining Wind mana in the area from the Green Spectre to use his sword to cut the arrows aside with a gust of wind. Unfortunately his roll was terrible, in that case, things got worse. The gust instead blasted directly at him knocking a few brigand archers down but sending the arrows hurtling at shocking speed. His stony dwarven companion made a freakishly impressive Reflexes save using his readied action to leap in the way of the incoming missiles and succeeded with an astonishing roll. The ground shuddered when the dwarven statue landed. "Flee before I call upon the earth and the wind to obliterate you vermin!" shouted Max, ever the haughty. The remainder fled immediately and the one astute bandit dropped his bow and left "I have had it with this damn place, the pay is not worth these shenanigans or these buffoons."
The group then had free reign of the northern maze, the bandits were all holed up in their lair terrified to come out and we decided now would be a good time to start a new scene and let them refresh their HP [Expect a future post!] They began their journey southward towards the fire temple, when they emerged into the long central hallway connecting to fire, wind and water they spotted the trio of Ogres that Bronan had previously managed to enrage before luring them into a bandit ambush. This led to the first near TPK.
This was the parties first encounter with ranged weapons in a while. They had been enjoying the perks of them so far but now that they were being used against them, and hurled by ill-tempered ogres no less. All of a sudden their impressions of free damage were less than favorable. The Barbarian took quite a number of hits to his stony frame while our cowardly treasure-hunter tried to stay out of the thick of things. Both of them had a chance to test out their elemental powers as well as be on the receiving end of things. The Ogre shaman made use of his earth abilities to stone shape the Barbaric Dwarven Statue, rendering his fingers twisted and unusable. His axe quickly clattered to the ground, at which point Bronan was forced to fight unarmed. Drake was mesmerized by the flickering flames of the nearby torchlight and with the available mana he channeled he stepped into one and appeared in another. His sudden vanishing act allowed him a surprise attack on the Ogre Shaman, attempting to garrote him and halt his further stone shaping. Maximilian the Spy surprised them all where he effortlessly fought off two of the Ogres while the rest of the group poorly fought the shaman. Finding his mangled hands ineffective Bronan then channeled a significant amount of earth mana unleashing a level 2 elemental fury, Petrifog. His body began emanating a green fog that turned everything it touched into stone. Drake who had been thrown like a rag-doll by the Ogre shaman after some mild garroting scurried out of the way while the shaman was turned to a statue. At the end of its effects Bronan was returned back to mortal flesh and his wounds were able to heal, now that he had discovered such a power he could transform to and from his stony form. The battered party pressed on and entered the fire temple.
The hallway was lined in fire but the keen treasure hunting sense of Drake noticed a section of the flame wall that was unreal. Stepping through they found the hidden lair of the Troll King Oolghrist. They sought to parlay and the troll guests allowed them entrance. When they reached the throne room they were sickened to find gruesomely scarred troops impaled on a spike wall facing the throne. Oolghrist paid no mind to the disturbing sight and welcomed them. After their initial muttering irritated the troll king the scarred trolls pulled themselves of the wall, apparently they were the royal guard. With a quick about face, not wanting to fight a dozen regenerating foes they struck up a bargain that if they eliminated the fire temple Oolghrist would aid them in overthrowing the current leadership which especially coincided with Max's goals as a double-agent intending on taking over the Temple after he had usurped Romaag.
Off they went to the fire temple. From their last encounter the room was empty, the decapitated cultists, archons, blood and salamanders were missing. They followed to where Nigel and the high priest fled and found a two pronged brass corridor. The left side was locked with a ruby symbol, the other passage was doorless but had a flame shaped keyhole. Drake quickly puzzled out the only way to open the right passage was to heat it. He had to channel heat while his two companions leaped through the portal. Given their brass-clad surroundings they had to do it quickly less they seared themselves. After they entered Drake was startled to hear Nigel's voice. The portal closed and the team was separated.
Max and Bronan faced off against the two senior fire cultists they were originally sent to kill for converting earth temple warriors. Theirs foes lashed out at them with a whip of flames and fiery claws, though the battle was treacherous they eventually prevailed. Meanwhile Drake and Nigel had a heart-to-heart. It seems Nigel was under the Fire Priests control, it suited his needs early on as he had acquired both the wind and water staff but he was chafing under the control. He asked Drake to kill the fire priest and gave him both elemental staves. If he did then Nigel would walk away scott free. Drake agreed, he took the red ring and opened the Fire priests chambers. Without turning his back the priest began bellowing orders to Nigel to place the fire gem on the glyph. Without missing a beat Drake pocketed the gem, whirled the priest around and hurled him into the circle. Affixing the gem atop the newly gained fire staff he immolate the high priest, his corrupted essence turned the flames green bypassing the priests defenses, unfortunately his flames corrupted the circle and spread throughout the lab. (The DM wasn't expecting this but is always one to take things to their logical worst extreme) Soon everything was engulfed in green flames, even worse the high priest spirit arose from the magical mishap and Drake booked it out of there. The passage way they entered had a portcullis that blocked them in, Nigel was nowhere to be found nor was Princess Tilahi or Sir Juffers. "Nigel I'm sure", muttered Drake, his companions spilled out the other portal right as the green flamed nightmare strode forth.
The plan worked well, the duo managed to avoid being burnt to a crisp while dealing some severe damage to this corrupted hell beast. However, as it drew near the entire brass passage overheated and they had to make a quick escape. Before Drake could raise the portcullis the hell beast split into 5 different apparitions. 2 slipped through the gate and hounded Drake while the remaining three dealt with his trapped companions. Drake survived the Blaze and use his gem of fire to summon the fire archons that had previously perpetuated his death cycle. One rent a hole in the portcullis big enough for Max to squeeze through, while Bronan finished off one of the three on his side. Alas one of them fuzed with the archon and suddenly they had bigger trouble on their hands. Max and Drake intercepted the remaining two apparitions while he directed the remaining archon to clash with the possessed archon. At this point Bronan brought the house down, unleashing the final level of earthen fury causing quakes and chasms and ceiling came crashing down. Dispatching all the apparitions but one, luck was not however on their side as their archon slipped into the cracks. The remaining spirit and corrupted archon decimated the party. Max was nearly eviscerated and Drake was reduced to a pile of ash. Bronan in full berserker fury finished off the corrupted archon but the remaining spirit dispatched him. Things were looking grim for the party.
In fact: Things got worse
Drake resurrected, he could feel the blood of the phoenix that preserved him was reaching its limit. He staggered over to Max to find him enjoying the slow painful death of a gut wound. Helping him up they went over to the crumbled statue that was the Dwarven Barbarian Geomancer. They found his skull intact and amazingly he still lived, but unfortunately should he revert to human form he would die. The three walking dead stumbled into the lab. It would appear the remaining apparition, was trying to reforge the laboratory to return to human form and end its cursed torment. The party set their final plan into motion. Max would create a distraction, unable to use his bow he instead threw Bronan, Bronan's petrifog would temporarily bind the creature and then Drake darted through the flickering flames to dispense the final blow. With that the party defeated the fire temple, fulfilling their pact with Oohlgrist King of the Trolls and Romaag High Priest of the Earth Temple. With one cult out of the picture there were bound to be some power plays. The question is, could the players, inches away from death as they were, live to see the sweeping change and chaos they had wrought?