After going back to the mistress’ hut and finding it mysteriously empty, we decided to rest for the night in the nearby clearing. When we awoke the next morning, it was to the sounds of grunts and groans. Chunks had clearly fallen back into his withdrawals, with sweat running down his face as he rolled around in agony. The rest of us decided that the best we could do was give him the few medicines we could find among the surrounding trees and make our way to defeat ‘Karl’ without him.
We descended once more into the Keep. We reached a room that was empty but for a few statues, once of which, a gigantic stone golem, dominated the eastern end of the room directly in front of us. Two smaller dragon statues were nestled in the corners over in the western end of the room, and across from us behind the golem we could see a large alcove. Four cherubic figures made of clay of some kind stood in the corners of the alcove, vases in their hands. Just behind them we could glimpse the other door. Tirah pointed out a small control panel mounted on the dais that the golem stood upon, and I suggested that a couple of us could go and disable it. Tirah decided to accompany me, and Splug followed along happily to guard my back. As soon as we began to attempt to disable the golem, it raised its arms toward the roof and brought them down with an almighty crash. Tirah, Splug and I were knocked to our backs, dazed. We managed to get to our feet and work together to disable the statue. The others carefully made their way to meet us and we moved toward the alcove. After a short discussion, we decided that it was obviously a trap of some kind, and that we should try pouring some water into the vases closest to us. Tirah did so, and the water soaked into the bottom of the vases somehow. Tirah then stepped through to attempt the same with the two rear vases, and I felt magical walls clang into place between her and us and over the door opposite. At the same time the vases tilted and began pouring water into the small alcove, rapidly filling it. Staring around hurriedly, Tirah took hold of one of the vases and gave a massive tug, tearing it free of the cherub that was holding it. Water immediately stopped pouring from that vase. I took a step back, summoned an orb of pure energy and hurled it at the invisible barrier. It flickered under the force of the blow, visibly weakening for a second or two, before settling once more. Tirah, meanwhile, was attempting to destroy one of the other cherubs, only managing to crack the body while the vase remained intact. By this time, the water had begun to move, forming a whirlpool in the small enclosure and throwing Tirah against the wall. Finally, Loralen stepped up and played a note of power on her lute. Each of the cherubs trembled, then shattered. The invisible walls of power disappeared and the waist high water flooded into the main room. We took stock, before proceeding through the door.
As we proceeded into the next room, a low groaning reached through the gloom. We also heard a constant rasping sound, and a pack of zombies appeared in our circle of light. I held the others back, waiting for the zombies to pack in closer before unleashing a few explosions in their midst. When the smoke cleared there were still a couple of less rotten zombies moving towards us. A ghoul peeked around a corner at us scenting the air. A small homunculus was half-flying half-hopping towards the stairs leading down, presumably to warn its master of our presence. After we killed the remaining monsters, we explored the room and found a bag of holding which I immediately called dibs on.
We made our descent into the bowels of the keep, and found ourselves looking across a gaping hole in the floor to a priest on a raised area. On the wall behind him was a visage of Orcus, and thanks to the sacrificial rites the priest had been performing a trail of blood led from the dais around the room to finally pour down the pit in a crimson rain. Suddenly, the two berserkers flanking the priest roared, and charged at us with their huge two-handed swords raised. A small kiss of vampires appeared to support the charging humans, and I could see a dark creeper skulking in the shadows, also making his way swiftly towards us. Our goblin companions counter-charged, and we closed for the fight. As we dispatched our foes, I spied the priest striding toward us, an evil rage flickering in his eyes. Eventually, after fierce fighting and both of our goblins almost dying, we stood panting amidst the bodies of our enemies. Once we’d thoroughly checked the room we decided that the only way forward was down, and grabbed hold of the chains descending into the darkness.
As we climbed had over hand down the slippery chains, I felt myself beginning to slide, and realised that I was going to fall. I let go, and tried very hard not to think of what might await me at the bottom of my fall. Thankfully, compared to the alternatives, I landed in a pool of blood. Although shallow, it was deep enough to sufficiently cushion my fall, and I came to my feet spluttering. As the others joined me I looked around the room and realised that ‘Karl’ had been expecting us.
Arrayed around the room were a dozen skeletons, with greatswords across their shoulders and longbows pointed unerringly at our party, and a grave wight floated in their midst, it’s clothing rippling in a non-existent wind. I glanced around and saw many statues of Orcus, some man-sized, some massive. They were all impressive in their detail. One wall was taken up by a massive portal, a swirling vortex of nether energy; the more I focused on it, the more clearly I could hear whispering voices imploring me, offering me endless power if I were to make but a small sacrifice. I shook my head to clear it.
Standing directly in front of us was a robed and hooded man, the small homunculus from earlier bouncing around in glee next to him. The robe did little to hide the broad shoulders, and he held a short mace mounted with a ram’s skull in one hand. With the other, he threw back the hood and grinned at us. “Welcome!” I’m so glad that you could be here to witness the beginning!” He began to incant under his breath as he raised his hand. We tried to convince him that we too were worshippers of Orcus, but he would have none of it, and the fight was on. As arrows began flying at us I felt a presence, almost a consciousness reach out from the portal and drag me towards it, separating me from the others. I struggled and was dropped unceremoniously just yards from the yawning abyss. The fight continued as I got to my feet and moved away from the portal, only to be dragged once more toward the hungry presence. As I got to my feet again I was struck with the certainty that if any of us were sucked into the black that we would inadvertently finish the spell that Karl had started and Orcus would have the means to manifest on this plane. My thought pattern was shattered as a ghostly hand reached from the portal and swiped across my body, causing pain to roar through me. I managed to get to my knees and drag myself towards the opposite side of the room and my party, getting my feet under me and running when I could. When I was among my companions I turned my attention to the fight going on around me, and saw that we were suffering at the hands of Karl, who was flinging dark energies around, and the wight, who was preventing us from truly destroying the skeletons around it. I decided that it was about time for me to turn the tide, and I focused all my energies on the wight, attempting to gain us a respite from the constant stream of reanimating foes. Soon we were able to destroy the spirit and mop up the other undead, allowing us to turn and throw our combined power at Karl. He staggered under the force of our assault and glanced at the portal. Moments later he appeared in the circle of power at its base and raised his voice, attempting to finish the summons. We continued our attack, and within minutes the chant faltered and died in his throat as he collapsed in his knees. We looked to each other, relieved, but the cleric and I both looked to the portal when we felt that it was still growing in power rather than diminishing like we had hoped. Viator fell to his knees and began to pray to Bahamut, begging for guidance and the power to reverse the evil spewing from the gate. I moved up beside him and threw positive power, for lack of a better description, into the barrier that separated that plane from ours. The others followed suit, and with a sigh of relief I felt the power begin to lessen. Finally it shimmered, and then winked soundlessly out of existence. I fell onto my back and started giggling uncontrollably. We had done it.