13:07 – 13:17 – The group carefully search the chamber from top to bottom, and find a cunningly crafted secret door in its northwestern corner. Schnecke manages, with great effort, to haul away the substantial block of stone barring the way forwards, and a dark flight of steps, smeared in dried ordure and flanked by multitudes of alcoves holding filthy animal skulls, is revealed.
13:18 – 13:19 – The group slowly move down the stairs, the stench rising from below being an unspeakable mixture of decaying meat, rotten, musky aromas and stagnant evil. The psychic aether bears an increasingly dull, metallic mental “taste”; a dimly thrumming malevolence beneath the physical reality.
13:20 – 13:22 - As the group climb down, they sense a gathering evil. The air seethes with cold, alien hate, the darkness seeming to gather and shift around the group. As Seren is unwilling to move ahead, Griogri casts his floating lamp into the chamber below, its glow seeming somewhat muted as it unveils horror.
More blood and rust covered hooks hang from thick chains in the ceiling, creating a chiming veil of vicious metal. At the far end of the 40' long, 15' high chamber is an altar, apparently made from smashed grave markers and shattered skeletons, covered in human skulls and encrusted with horrible organic filth. Withered flowers sit in vases filled with blood and semen, and dried gore lies thickly on the floor. Four coffins lie scattered about the chamber, their mummified occupants badly damaged by their use at the hands of the cult, and several bean bags, made from tanned human flesh, are scattered about the place.
As the group enter the chamber, Jaeger moves ahead, plunging his blade into each cadaver to make sure they stay still. However, as they move further in the chamber, an icy breeze suddenly blows from some unknown source, and the chains and hooks sway, chiming eerily in the gloom. A shiver prickles down each adventurer's spine as something unseen but undeniably foul moves through the chamber, charging the atmosphere with choking malevolence, and suddenly, the darkness seems to condense into several ragged, floating, spectral figures, which immediately move to attack...
13:23-13:24 – With the appearance of the four immaterial forms, each adventurer's mind is suddenly filled with thorny, gibbering voices, which make concentration almost impossible, and painfully erode their strength.
The group move to engage the spectral things, and immediately find them to be incredibly hard to hurt. The psychic gibbering causes them to loose focus constantly, and they continually glide away from the group and into the solid walls, lurking there in safety until they are ready to reappear – often in a completely different area of the chamber. Worse, they are incorporeal, and although they can be hurt, all attacks are greatly reduced in effect.
Conversely, the wraiths are more than capable of hurting the party. Several times one particular wraith (the source of the psychic turmoil) reaches into the mind of a party member (Shnecke is a popular choice) and instils them with temporary madness, forcing them to attack a nearby ally. The other wraiths move between draining their targets life force and unleashing horrible screams which tear at the parties physical and mental forms with devastating efficiency, only to flicker away unharmed from any answering attacks.
Despite the elusive nature of their foes, the group move to destroy them. Grigori is forced to throw almost every power at his disposal into keeping his allies going, his body aching as he repeatedly channels surging blasts of healing power into his allies. Seren summons a sphere of brilliant radiant power that pains the shadowy undead, making them vulnerable to her allies attacks, whilst Shnecke, Emmiven (who is initially totally stunned by a psychic attack) and Jaegar do their best (through bouts of brief madness and near paralysis) to strike at their weird foes.
Varracuda distinguishes himself during the fight, using his arcane powers to blast them with fire and lightning, and to shield his allies from harm.
However, within moments things are getting desperate, with every party member only surviving thanks to Grigori's healing.
But things are about to get worse.
13:25 – 13:26 – The priest hears footsteps from the chamber behind them where the Butcher Ghoul was slain and shouts a warning to the rest of the group – too late. A gruff voice spits something in that place, and then the floor of the chamber in which the group fight drops away along hinges set in the walls, tipping the group into a fouler place below (except for Varracuda who is perched on the bottom step of the stairwell, which remains fixed in place).
The evil, which was already suffocating in the chamber above, becomes almost too much to bear. Jaegar and Shnecke manage to keep their feet in the 20' fall, and are the first to be able to take in their dark new surroundings – a large, ancient chamber, clad in blood spattered and dust wreathed onyx, from which lead three wide corridors. They have landed within the carved borders of a foul rune circle, who's inscriptions are painful to behold, and who's malevolence is plain. A single symbol in the middle of the circle commands their attention however; a symbol burned into their psyche – a stylised inhuman eye, wreathed in flame – the symbol of the vanished God Darkold'Sebbathor, as foul a deity as ever tainted this plane.
To make matters worse, cold chuckles and gruff muttering echoes from the darkness of the tunnels leading from the chamber.
Above, Varracuda slips back into the first chamber, and there beholds a short, heavy-set man dressed in filthy clothes. He is bald, unshaven, and holds a heavy cleaver in one hand. His pale eyes fix on Varracuda, and with a yell, he charges and lands a deep, spurting wound in the swordmage's thigh. Varracuda responds with a flurry of fiery attacks, and manages to stumble back towards the stairs, weakly calling for help.
But initially at least, his allies have more pressing matters. The wraiths drift down to continue their assault, whilst the group learn that the runes carved in the floor hunger for their blood, drawing it forcefully from those bearing bleeding wounds. Worse, a ghoul of some kind, surrounded by a flickering aura of foul energy and shimmering with unholy power scuttles forth, whilst three more mundane (to this group at least) ghouls leap from the other corridors, grinding their teeth and drooling along their extended, pointed tongues.
Once again, Grigori is the groups salvation. Almost passing out from his exertions he invokes a powerful spell that further boosts his ability to heal the party, and creates a blazing area of shimmering, restorative power, which literally means the difference between life and undeath to his allies.
Seren brings her fiery orb down to the chamber, and blasts the wraiths, whilst Grigori, wan with effort, unleashes destructive energy dredged from his healing power towards the shadowy monsters. The wraiths are finally banished, but the ghouls charge, immobilizing the barbarian and slashing at the others with their filth encrusted talons.
Jaegar takes this opportunity to slip away from the melee with the ghouls, and clambers up the walls of the pit to join Varracuda. There he helps the swordmage to take out the cleaver wielding mad man – later identified as Grievor Amuth, the owner of the building and Deathloved associate. In the dark chamber below, the first of the ghouls to appear leaps forth, and unleashes from its eyes a wave of foulness, which rots flesh and weakens those it hits. As the power laps at the group, it seems to grow stronger, a dim mantle of bloody light weeping from its flesh like a layer of slime.
The battle turns a moment later however. Seren disintegrates one of the ghouls with twinned screaming blasts of radiant energy and fire, and Jaegar rips another to pieces with a consuming burst of shadows. Emmiven is immobilised by an opportunity attack from one ghoul shortly before Grigori blasts the first ghoul to bits with a radiant invocation.
The ghoul detonates flinging corrosive, necrotic filth over the party, but with its death, the remaining undead loses heart for the fight, and flees.
It is cut down a moment later.
13:27 – With the battle finally over, the group make an instant decision on one thing; they are not staying in this place a moment longer. No one has any interest at this point in exploring these dark tunnels any further, realising that it must be a remnant of the ancient Darkold'Sebbathorim temple complex built beneath the roughs so long ago.
“I'm not fucking with that guy or his minions” mutters Jaegar. The group agree.
A valuable gem is prized from the smoking remains of the Eye Biter Ghoul, and Grievor is found to be wearing a pair of enchanted gloves, which are taken to be analysed and given out in a safer place.