Striving to create a symbol of faith against The Dark One and the coming Herald of the Void, the Aspect Agents entered the newly rediscovered lost temple of The Valiant, intent on reclaiming the hallowed location after centuries of abandonment in the lowlands of the Odril Hills. Reported to be in the hands of the Broken Fang tribe, the temple’s liberation would serve both Cosdol’s war effort as well as the Aspects’ divine masters.
The temple itself was found to be intact, though word of the orcish occupation proved to be little more than inaccurate observation; as once inside, the Party’s exploration uncovered things far deadlier than a few humanoids. Cultists devoted to an unknown shadowy evil battled alongside undead spectres deep within the lower levels, preceding the automated might of the six inner sanctum guardians by only a few chambers.
Veshday, Seventh of Siege-hold, 1044 Y.K.
With the six imposing inner sanctum guardians overcome and access to the vault gained, the Party stood poised to venture into the temple’s final corridor. Having been secreted behind a sliding section of wall outside the Paladin barracks, the passage darkened quickly, soon turning onto a large stairwell leading even further downward. The Aspects traversed the steps quickly, coming to an open doorway at the stair’s base.
Rarnok entered first, committed to sparing his allies the ill-effects of any trap that might be present. Immediately inside, a small podium bore strange writing, with a trio of statues at far ends of the open space within. The audible click and slight downward motion of a tripped pressure plate informed the gnome that his suspicion of a trap had been correct. Heavy steel doors swung down to cover both the entrance and the exit, while long spikes began to descend from a network of holes in the ceiling.
Now sealed inside this apparent death trap, the Aspect of Time took refuge at the feet of the nearest statue – that of an elderly woman dressed in common garb. He studied the room attentively, shouting the details of his predicament to the Party outside. Hearing of Rarnok’s plight, the remainder of the Group split into two teams, with Maldus and Alamir attempting to defeat the steel barrier, while Hilg and Stoat sought to discover a way to deactivate the deadly device.
Attacks against the titanic door proved workable enough, but would very clearly take more time than the associated Aspect could spare. The stone structure of the surface surrounding the door gave way easier, but would still not be cleared swiftly enough to free their stranded friend. Meanwhile, Stoat and Hilg divided their resources, pursuing separate strategies to gain access to the mechanisms driving the lethal implements downward.
As the Half-Orc melded his body into the stonework of the wall, Stoat raced back up the stairs, to the higher-elevated Paladin barracks. The Halfling quickly scoured the room anew, scanning for a crevice or latch, something overlooked on his initial survey of the chamber… something that might save Rarnok’s life. That something, it turned out, was located in the room’s back corner, tucked behind a wooden set of bunked beds.
Sliding the furniture aside, the Aspect of Resolve shoved the wall inward, revealing a passage behind. A subsequent ladder placed the Halfling through an opening and atop the massive instrument of death. For his part, Hilg had successfully navigated through the walls with his earthswim, and had come to the location as well. Using his stone shaping abilities the Aspect of Nature disabled two of the six massive gears driving the contraption, slowing its descent.
Back inside the chamber, Rarnok continued his study, soon spotting a detail he had missed before. A small divide at the neck of the elder’s statue – the head could turn! Deciding that the podium wording was a riddle pertaining to the orientation of the three heads, the gnome worked quickly, taking his best guess as to the statues and their meaning. He turned the elder’s head to face the statue across the room, a lordly Paladin with handsome features.
The head of the Paladin he turned to face the third statue, that of a younger man possessing an open wound across his forehead. Located across the room from the Paladin, the younger man stood down-wall from the original elder’s statue. Finally, the trapped Aspect took the head of the younger man, directing it to face the elder woman. A tense moment passed before the eyes of the three statues lit, halting the advance of the ceiling armaments. His guess had been correct!
With the crisis averted, the Group reunited in the statue chamber, the heavy doors having returned to their previous positions. The writing was discovered to be ancient Brandobian and the riddle one pertaining to a well known story of the first Valiant of the Halls of the Valiant – the son of a widowed mother and no earthly father who was murdered by his original clerical master. A lordly man who had grown jealous of the Valiant’s growing power and popularity.
The statue room exited onto a second staircase, descending into a chamber blanketed in an unnatural darkness. Placing a hand upon the wall nearest the door, Rarnok moved through the pitch black, counting on his Aspect abilities to warn him of sudden danger and attempting to ascertain the size of this new space. The others stepped forward, ready to face whatever was ahead.
Echoing through the darkness came a large, and wicked voice, a being claiming allegiance with The Dark One and offering to show the Aspects the “generosity” of stalling their suffering until after the Time of the Void had arrived. The unseen enemy insisted that the Group drew close to having seen too much but could still yet turn away. Their refusal seemed to amuse the creature, and were one to judge on voice alone, this foe had little to fear from the Aspect Agents.
The dimmed light of the Party’s immediate surroundings soon revealed shapes emerging from the black, shadowy elementals like the beast they had faced in Cunvden. Though smaller than that first monstrosity, these tendrily creatures were more numerous, and attacked the Aspects without hesitation. Alamir stood at the point position, wielding “The Civilizer” to potent effect. Hilg, Stoat and Maldus took to the fight as well, while Cosdrelita and Guardian Strond fell victim to a powerful confusion spell from the elementals’ obscured master.
Elsewhere in the black, Rarnok continued his circumnavigation of the chamber, soon coming to a familiar hovering sphere in a far corner of the space. Calling out its approximate position, he stepped inside, crossing into the shadowy realm. As his eyes adjusted to the deeper darkness of the alternate plane, a light caught his notice, dimmed by the nature of the realm, but still visible from a distance. Surely such a light could only come from a source of absolute brilliance, or power.
Pressing onward toward the beacon of light in the realm’s dark, the gnome shortly discovered the source of the light, a massive Phoenix trapped within a cage of utter blackness. The prisoner’s guardian revealed itself next, a large dread wraith which had been concealed on the far side of the cage. The undead watchman moved forward silently, striking the Aspect and draining his constitution. Weakened, but not defeated, Rarnok engaged the creature, intent on freeing its prisoner.
Back on the material plane, the fight against the elementals was well in hand. The shadowy menaces proved incapable of curtailing the power of Maldus and his survival ensured the well-being of his allies. As Stoat and Alamir held the beasts at bay, Hilg diverted from the fight, summoning a huge fire elemental to light his way toward the orb identified by Rarnok. The Aspect druid crossed the threshold of the planes, and quickly joined his fellow in combat on the other side.
The wraith reacted quickly however, surging forward and striking the druid with its crippling touch, draining deeply into his reserves of constitution. Being already wounded from the shadow elemental fight, Hilg neared death from the assault, and was forced to retreat. Leaving his fire elemental to fight in his stead, the druid withdrew as Rarnok and the summon battled on.
Claiming victory over the elementals on the material plane, the remaining Group members pressed forth, seeking out the voice from before. Their advance met resistance, as a second confusion spell addled the mind of Maldus, leaving the team with no healing. It was then that Dokari, possessing darkvision, announced the position of their chief adversary. The heroes unaffected by the confusion raced forth, closing the gap and meeting their enemy – A NIGHTWALKER – head on.
Their footfalls landed in the soupy muck of the nightwalker’s foul unholy blight, burning at their senses while the huge creature smashed at them with massive hands. Elsewhere, on the shadowy plane, Rarnok and the conjured elemental had finally bested the dread wraith, and worked to free the powerful Phoenix. Adding such a creature to their number would help to secure victory, and answer questions once the battle had been won.
Whilst the Aspect and fire elemental struggled to free the huge creature in the darkness of the shadow realm, the heroes on the material plane toiled against a huge creature of their own in the form of the nightwalker. Heavily resistant to both physical damage and magical spells, the powerful damned stood toe to toe with those Party members present. Even the re-addition of Maldus, Cosdrelita and Guardian Strond only leveled the battlefield.
The struggle remained constant and evenly matched until the arrival of Aspects Hilg and Rarnok, joined by the liberated Phoenix. With reinforcements bearing down on its position, the nightwalker cursed the Party, slipping away with its plane shift ability. Despite the escape of the enemy leader, the Group had won the fight, reclaiming the lost temple and driving the forces of evil away. Perhaps now they could receive answers from the magical beast they had freed…