Players: Missy, Lynn, Mark, Mike
As mentioned previously, the party (Seisha, Mogdar, Isaac, Bobo, Tellar, Daiten, and Shao Tsang) came to a basalt pyramid pyramid with a truncated top. The structure was built into the top of a mountain and apparently had only one entrance, a dark portal across a stone bridge. After deciding that there was no other way to find out what was lurking in the dark, Shao Tsang teleported across the bridge and into the open doorway.
He was greeted by a swarm of arrows from inside. Luckily, his enhanced speed and magical gloves enabled him to snatch most of them from the air before they could hit him. He also barely evaded a tarred net dropped from a hidden alcove. They charged into the door and found themselves in a dark, columned room cluttered with debris. It was also full of knolls and norkers (little hard-shelled goblin things). Tellar berserked and the rest of the party spread out to keep the humanoids from closing in around them. More humanoids poured up a set of ornate stairs in the back. Tellar exhausted his fury and passed out. Three trolls, one of them with an extra head, came up the stairs and Mogdar yelled for everyone to retreat. Once everyone was outside, he fireballed the room. Unfortunately they had forgotten about Tellar, who was still unconscious in the room.
Tellar survived the explosion, but so did the trolls. The fight went on and several groups of reinforcements came up the stairs. Finally, during a lull, the party ran down the stairs and into the temple below. Looking for a place to hide and regroup, they ran past galleries of bizzare ornamentation without taking much notice. They ran into a pair of hill giants who were heading upstairs and fought their way into a large side-room. Here, they noticed obsidian floors and walls made of a strange translucent material which seemed to shift in squirming, nauseating shades of mauve. Bobo's porcupines seemed to mutter, "Tharizdun". Moving farther away from the main hall, they found a dusty anteroom in which Bobo noticed a hidden revolving door. They went into the small, obviously undisturbed room beyond and closed the secret door behind them.
After resting a bit and buying some healing spells from Isaac, they explored the hidden room. Eventually they uncovered a stash of strange black robes, incense cones, thuribles, balls of incense, and an ornate iron horn called "Wailer for Tharizdun". In the back of the room was a square shaft with bronze rungs disappearing down into the darkness. After some waffling, they decided to see where it went. After what seemed like an eternity of climbing, they reached the bottom, where they found a low passage of volcanic stone leading south. Light in this Undertemple passageway was dimmer than it should have been. Even Seisha's flaming sword seemed subdued. After about twenty feet, the walls spread out into a domed space where four tunnels met.
As they entered the space, they heard a strange iron gonging. A strange feeling passed through them as the walls seemed to waver and turn purple. A deep voice bellowed "Look above you to know your fate." The ceiling had become transparent, seemingly infinite purple. Swimming through the eerie violet sky were glowing black runes. After a moment of nausea, they were able to understand them.
Those whom I find unfit I place on my left.
Those who succeed I place on my right.
The chosen may come before Me.
They looked around for a moment, trying to decide what to do. There was some discussion of whose right and left the runes were referring to. While they were talking, a shadowy humanoid form whisked past them from their left, leaving a tail of cold air behind it, and flew down the passage from which they had come. They discovered that the incense provided more light than any other source in this place, and that the hooded robes protected them from the growing cold.
After another seemingly endless descent, the stairs of light gave way to stairs of black stone, and they entered a hemispherical chamber of black rock. The walls and floor were covered with jagged, needle-sharp protrusions. In the center of the room was a stone block, upon which rested a shape wrapped in black haze. Under the haze was something so black that all light was lost to it. Their eyes hurt to look at it. An occasional ripple passed through it as they watched, making it almost seem to be moving.
They poked and prodded the dark shape, stirring ominous ripplings and bringing horrible visions to their minds. Another sounding of the horn opened a secret door, but also shook the place so violently that everyone except Isaac, Tellar, and Bobo tore their robes on the needle-rock. In mortal danger from the supernatural cold, the rest of the party teleported back to the main temple with Shao Tsang. Seisha seemed particularly annoyed at having to leave and ordered the others not to "screw this up".
Hunting through the secret room, they found the legendary 333 Gems of Tharizdun, a strange wand, and a black book in a bag of metallic cloth. It was bound in black, scaly hide. The wand turned out to be capable of conjuring a bluish-white energy blade and forming walls of force. Mogdar was able to read that the book was called Lament for Lost Tharizdun before blacking out to horrible visions of purple tentacles writhing in the darkness.
Packing up their loot, they went back up the black light stairs to the Undertemple.
Before climbing back up the bronze ladder to rejoin their companions, they decided to explore the other two passages in the Undertemple. To the right they found a cluster of weird black trees with shiny fruits. After some painful experimentation, they found that the results depended upon the profession of the eater. As a result of eating from Tharizdun's weird garden, Tellar ended up with enhanced strength. Issac, on the other hand, ate the wrong fruit and was incinerated in black and purple flames, leaving only a fine white powder. The other room turned out to contain only junk.
Finally, they went up the shaft to the secret room where Shao Tsang and the others were waiting. Then they took a nap. Sometime during Seisha's watch, Shao Tsang awoke to find Bobo strangled by an unknown assailant, and being devoured by his own porcupines. Someone, presumably the strangler, had forced one of the ranger's own arrows into in his back with a note. The note consisted of a single word written in what appeared to be hobgoblin script. No one could read it.
Seisha was engrossed in the Lament for Lost Tharizdun and expressed only mild surprise at Bobo's horrific end. While the others were looking for clues and debating the merits of interrupting the porcupines' feast, Seisha suddenly developed a pronounced facial tik and said she'd be right back. Continually delayed by prodding from Shao Tsang and Mogdar, Seisha became more frustrated and her tik progressed to strange skin ripples. Finally she cursed and her entire form convulsed, losing its shape and changing into Ezren's.
Ezren explained that Seisha had gone back to Kozakura from Gnome Vale and had her mysterious patons summon Ezren from the warp marble to misdirect the scrying efforts of her enemies. He would do this by using repeated Alter Self spells to pass as her for a few days. Ezren, always pleased to be in on a secret, (and not knowing that Seisha had stolen one of his books of magic and replaced it with a watered-down substitute) agreed.
Once the porcupines finished their repast, they ambled off, muttering "Bobo" in satisfied tones. Mogdar, Ezren, Shao Tsang, Daiten, and Tellar decided to clean out the temple and make sure they finished off the giants' expedition before continuing their search for the Lost Caverns. Among other encouters, they fought the leader's guard dogs and discovered a room with a strange curved basin. In the kitchen, they liberated two large women who claimed to have been captured by the giants and forced to cook for them. These two said that they knew where the leader (Groorg) would go in the event of a rout.
The fat ladies led them to an abandoned chapel in the middle of the temple, to a violet stone wall where a shadowy humanoid form seemed to writhe in the torchlight. Strange whispers seemed to echo around them, sometimes sounding like "Tharizdun".One of the fat ladies reached out to touch the wall. Shao Tsang and Daiten each grabbed an arm to restrain her. The other woman said, "These won't be turned like the giants. They'll have to be destroyed." Steely claws grew out of their hands as they transformed into eight-foot tall blue-skinned hags with wiry muscles and demonic fangs. The one they grabbed ripped into Shao Tsang and Daiten. Once the hags were defeated, the PC's got out of the chapel as quickly as possible.
They soon found their way down to a dungeon level deep in the mountain, but not nearly as far down as the Undertemple. They were greeted by a four-part idol which offered them power in return for doing "that which is bid". When they gave an incorrect response, it struck them with tendrils of light which made them reel with weakness, feeblemindedness, confusion, and fear. It warned them to seek forgiveness through faithful service, "or the doom which brushed you will return tenfold." They moved on and proceeded to clear out the dungeon complex.
Threats encountered here included boggarts, a stunjelly, a guardian daemon which nearly incinerated them, numerous supply closets, a grell, and the shambling corpse of what might once have been a priest of Tharizdun. Finally, they were ready to explore the grand processional leading away from the four-faced statue. Along the way, they encountered a calcified shrine which they found themselves unable to disturb without experiencing the statue's curse again. Proceeding, they passed a pair of giant statues housed in a diamond-shaped column. Finally, the passage opened into a huge natural cavern which stretched away into darkness.
Out of that darkness came a boulder which knocked Daiten back into the passage. Despite this ambush, they were able to rush forward and make short work of Groorg the mountain giant. In addition to the giant's treasure, they found a strange feature in the back of the cavern. What at first appeared to be a stalagmite turned out to be a figure of black stone, glazed with mineral deposits from the dripping ceiling of the cavern. Touching the figure caused the whole place to become instantly, completely dark. No form of illumination had any effect. After a moment of this, they began to see in shades of darkness, rays of black light seeming to wash out over the cavern from the statue. The effect lasted less than a minute, after which everything returned to normal.
There was a small natural passageway winding off from the cavern. This passage led them outside, to a small mountain meadow. And like Gary says...