We gathered with intent to put an end to our saga. We began only some months earlier at first level and now, all solidly 6th, the center of The City of Golden Death lay only a few bridges ahead. Markessa and her minions had no place to hide. All knew the end was nigh. Urien made stew and rice and we quickly pushed through our meal, lit the table, and moved forward.
Ahead lay the gates to the second ring, and barring the path – a pair of skeletalized giant guardians. The team moved into action and soon the giant skeletons were reduced to mere broken, shattered piles of bones – but precious hit points were drained by their giant halberds and hand-held meat-rending hooks. And there were donuts all around – we instantly killed that dozen donuts. One of the best ever.
Moving ahead, the team cleverly negotiated a fairly obvious trap at the next intersection – a pile of gold and treasure with some sort of molten gold spout – evidently a former Razmiri was not so lucky.
Further on, at the ruins of a once great temple, our heroes walked into a waiting ambush. A lone female voice commanded they drop their weapons and surrender – but that didn’t happen. Instead, the team divided and began to conquer. The fast monks sped down one long side and wiped out three archers before they knew what hit them. There was an invisible figure, hidden high on a pillar that eluded capture – but the rest of the nine Razmiri died right then and there. Still, a few more of the team’s precious hit points were drained away.
The final bridge was guarded by a pair of golden Caryatid Columns. Degroat attempted to sneak past – but they brought their golden falchions to bear and soon, again, the battle was on. And yet again, our heroes emerged triumphant – but with still fewer hit points.
Finally, the gate to the third and innermost ring was visible. Barring the great cavern entrance stood the golden skeleton of a once great dragon, it’s bones now all that remained and all encased in gold. The group made their way forward and began attacking as the creature advanced. The first round of attacks barely scratched the creature and in response, it let lose with its flaming breath attack. Nobody died in that initial blast, but many were badly burned. As the dragon had blown its wad – Ren decided to make a run for it and pass the beast, thus entering the third ring. He exhorted everyone else to follow – but none did.
Instead, Ren found himself on the bridge with the dragon, alone! There was a collective gasp as we all realized Ren’s end had just arrived. In one round the dragon savaged him for about 40 points – but Ren withstood the rending and tearing. But, there was no way he could take another round of that. He decided to run for it and take the attack of opportunity. The dragon’s tail lashed out and hit home once more – but Ren rolled with the damage and continued on into the innermost sanctum – alone. The rest of the team let loose another volley at the beast and rather than follow a solitary intruder into a dead end, the beast decided to use its breath weapon once more and in one flaming inferno, the dragon slew Arok, Kaden, and Grrroowwl. In their fear, the party classically failed to hit the dragon hard. Instead, lots of missile weapons were used but did little serious damage. Gau unleashed a heavy lightning bolt which seemed to damage the beast – but those were scarce. Finally, Degroat, Alazne, Hilgari, and Dal took the beast down. All were badly hurt. From the inner sanctum came running a scorched and smoking Ren – and all decided to retreat to the lair of the beast for some rest.
Fully rested and flush with some new treasures, the group sought entrance to the final inner sanctum. But there was one problem. There was a very locked door that also happened to be very close to the moat of molten gold. Degroat set to work on the latch but slowly began to scorch. First his hair, then his clothing; he got hotter and hotter until finally, success. The team moved hastily onto the threshold of the first large chamber. Below, a large pit separated the room into two landings joined across the middle by a long rope. Just as Alazne leapt across the pit, a lightning bolt shot up from below and knocked him out of the fight. A horrifying Naga attacked the party. Hero after hero leapt down to do battle with the thing and this was the first time Gau used his silence to great effect. The Naga was still a fierce opponent in single combat, but not nearly as fierce without its spells.
The Naga finally slain, our heroes set to work on the next inner door. Inside the next room were three Razmiri priests and one plate mailed foe from long ago – Icar, the blind guardian. Again, Gau’s silence was employed to great effect, and our heroes were much stronger than when they previously faced off against the sightless soldier. Within a few rounds, Icar went down and all but one of the Razmiri priests were slain.
The last door. All our evenings, all our questing, trials, capture, tribulations, and torture; everything came down to this last door. Behind the door was Markessa and her giant guardian. She wore the lightest, finest chain mantle, and her companion, a giant brute, carried a giant hewing cleaver. Markessa seemed almost semi-conscious, as if in a dream-like state. Gau set to work with silence once again and others engaged the beast. Markessa cut loose with a fiery blast from the scepter she held and many in the group were badly scorched. As she was surrounded, she lashed out several times with a pair of finely crafted curved blades. As the cleaver-brute was at last brought down – it dissipated into gaseous form. Nearly simultaneously, Markessa transformed into a giant fire elemental! All were taking horrible heat damage and several members of the group were down. Alazne would have died right there if Rum’Dey hadn’t sacrificed the surviving Razmiri priest and transferred his life force into the his bleeding body.
Just then, the cleaving giant returned and suddenly our heroes were held between his cleaver and the fiery elemental. Ren fell. And then Dal. Gau went down. At long last, down to the final rounds, the Cleaver went gaseous once again and the elemental dissipated – all that was left was the fallen and torn corpse of Markessa – and of course the Jewel of Everlasting Gold!
There was some debate as to whether or not our team could make it out alive. Scorching bridges had to be crossed, and many potential threats faced down before our heroes could make it safely away from the City of Golden Death. There was discussion of rest before departure. In the end, Hilgari’s diadem was shared with Alazne and all made it safely away. The Jewel was left where it lay – along with the Body of the Markessa. All was entombed in molten gold as our heroes made their way up the long ascending hall to the surface, and to the jungles of the Island of Terror.
Our heroes now, likely, have enough gold and treasure to buy back many, if not all, of their loved ones from the slave pits of Marghul Toa. They have successfully destroyed a major faction of the Temple of the Living God – Zaghlool as Markessa named him. But how will our heroes get back? How will they leave this island?
This completes a chapter in the lives of these heroes. I’m sure we’ll return at some point in the not too distant future. Meanwhile, we prepare for Cthulhu Rising and extraterrestrial terrors among the stars!