The other two cells on the eastern wall of the corridor also contained shambling undead. After the heroes and their recently acquired men-at-arms made short work of them, Wonillon addressed the orcs. “You gentleman are stalwart indeed. Would you mind accompanying me to the surface? Young master Furnok advises me that they left a pair of cultists bound in a tower on the surface.”
“That seems like a good idea,” Besilana said.
“Vengeance is vengeance,” said Ernie. “And zombies don’t squelch as good, anyway.” Bert grinned, nodding in agreement. The odd trio said their goodbyes and made their way toward the dungeon exit.
“Interesting fellow. Hope those orcs don’t turn on him,” said Furnok.
“He’s clever enough to know how to talk to them,” said Besilana. “I think.”
The north end of the cell-lined hallway turned east, with a door on the south opposite a stairway heading down. The steps descended a short distance before coming to a landing. Additional stairs continued down to the west from that point.
To the east was a north-south corridor sheathed in polished brown marble, veined with black. Inlaid in the floor were triangular pieces of polished yellow marble, forming a definite path leading around the corner to the north. The brown of the marble shaded toward beige as it proceeded northwards, but deepened to a dark chocolate hue southward. Large bronze cressets were staggered at ten-foot intervals on either side of the hall; someone or something obviously kept them fueled and burning brightly.
“Shall we try that door?” Besilana asked. Her companions agreed, and she opened the door.
A plain room beyond contained little of interest. A peg shoved between the blocks of stone on the west wall held a robe of dull black cloth adorned with a pale brown pattern, a pair of triangles one atop the other. In the southeast corner of the room stood an old battered table with two chairs, a stool, and a bench clustered around it. A cask sat on the table, along with some earthenware mugs and bits and pieces of food. Three torches burned in wall sconces, and eight fresh ones lay on the floor. An open cupboard in the northeast corner displayed old plates, several mugs, lumpy sacks, and a string of small dried sausages. A large water barrel stood near the southwest corner, opposite the door.
“Huh,” said Furnok. “Pantry”? He and Besilana took a few moments to search for anything of interest. The rogue poked at a lumpy sack, pulling out a hard biscuit.
“Awww, gross…” said Felicity. They abandoned the pantry, and headed into the north-south hallway to the east.
The twenty-foot-wide passage was sheathed in marble, veined with black. Its hue darkened as they proceeded to the south. Unlike the northern section of the hallway, the regularly-spaced cressets along the corridor’s length were unlit. Fifty or so feet to the south, the passage turned southeast. At the angle turn, the walls were decorated with painted scenes showing captives of all sorts suffering death by water, wind, and fire. The pictures seemed to emit a fiery glow when watched.
They continued along the corridor, finding broad steps descending at the southernmost point. They led down to another pair of huge bronze doors with cracks sealed with soft iron and held fast by huge iron chains. The doors were marked by the same glowing silvery runes you saw on the entrance of the Temple.
“Nope,” said Furnok. He moved behind Besilana, took her by the shoulders, and gently but firmly placed her between him and the door.
“Agreed,” said the half-elf. “Let’s leave it for now, for sure.” She continued around the corner to the northeast.
When they came to another angle, where the corridor once more headed due north, Furnok paused with a frown. “Hang on a tick.” He moved over to the east wall, cocked his head to the side and placed his hand on a subtle nub. “I think this is a secret door.” He glanced over his shoulder at the others. “Should I?”
“Oh! Yes!” exclaimed Felicity. “Mystery!”
The stone door opened quietly on a very narrow hall that turned south almost immediately. Besilana moved in to investigate. Two hanging lamps illuminated a compact area around the corner. Quite a bit of furniture had been arranged in the small space. A pillow-strewn bed was tucked in a nook, as well as a small desk and padded chair, a brass stand with several staves in it, a low table, two stools, and a wardrobe. A fountain in the southeast corner trickled a stream of clean water into a wall basin. The walls and floors were draped and carpeted.
“Who the hell are you?” asked an armored fellow seated at the table. He looked disconcerted to see anyone, let alone someone he doesn’t know, entering the secret passage.
“An agent of Ehlonna, bringing light to this dark place,” said the paladin. She readied Starsong as she steps forward, but the man was faster.
“Hartsch!” he shouted as he stood. “To me! Alarum!” He dashed toward the tapestry in the southwest corner, muttering a prayer and gesturing at Besilana on his way. The half-elf felt her limbs lock up as his hold person spell overcame her mind. Then he pushed through the tapestry and disappeared into the room it had concealed to the south. A moment later, another man pushed the tapestry aside, saw the frozen paladin, and cast sacred flame with a vicious grin. Besilana’s flesh burned before he disappeared back behind the tapestry.
Furnok squeezed past his companions, casting about for an enemy. Not seeing one, he kept his blades ready. Felicity cast resistance on the half-elf, laying her hands on her and encouraging her strength. A couple of seconds later, the Besilana sucked in a ragged breath and spent it thanking the cleric. Taliesin shifted back to elf form to get into the room, a spell on his lips.
The heroes heard muted footsteps moving away to the south and additional shouts. Another armed figure tore the tapestry aside, revealing the room to the south. Furnok took a stab at the man as he surveyed the scene, his blade drawing blood. As such, the man counterattacked. After the first longsword blow struck Furnok, the second blow deflected off the rogue’s hastily cast shield spell. The short sword thrust was parried down harmlessly.
From the back of the room the underpriest casts another sacred flame, burning the rogue with unholy radiant energy. Furnok moved aside, making room for Besilana, then readied a strike for when the swordsman was distracted by the paladin. Taliesin tried to spray poison at the lieutenant, but the warrior resisted the spell.
Felicity summoned holy fire on the Lieutenant, singeing him, and Besilana charged forward and through the lieutenant, shoving him aside as she advanced upon the underpriest, her curse-insistent target. Then, a plate-armored warrior with a greatsword emerged, barking tactical orders to the men around him before engaging with the paladin. His first slash struck true, but she got her shield in front of the follow-up.
The original priest, in the south end of the third room in the chain of chambers glanced back at the melee, and cast hold person again. He cursed when Besilana weathered the spell then headed through the southern door, shouting more alarm. The lieutenant pivoted to block Besilana’s escape and attacked. Despite his best efforts, her rage-fueled movements kept her safe from his blade. Hartsch the underpriest uttered a command to Besilana: “Drop.” Her will proved too strong for this latest mind attack, and he cursed as he fled, taking a cut across the shoulders as he went.
Furnok entered the room to help Besilana out, and his rapier stabbed deep into the lieutenant’s leg. Felicity ran up to the curtain and called upon Ehlonna’s blade to fight by Besilana’s side. In her second breath, she summoned holy fire on the lieutenant again. The sword hits him, but he evades the sacred flame. Taliesin cast heat metal on the commander and his plate mail turned a little red. He screamed in pain as his flesh burned under the heated plate. “Make a hole and I’ll join the fray!” cried the druid.
Crossbow bolts fired wildly from the south as four boltmen joined the fray. None of their quarrels found its target, due to the tight quarters and the close melee. Seeing that her quarry was out of reach, Besilana cleared her head and attacked the swordsman blocking her path to the north. Then she swung about and defended against the burning commander. The earth priest’s sacred flame caught her in the arm, adding to her injuries.
Four more swordsman came from the south to swarm the paladin, standing on furniture to get to her. Seeing the paladin occupied, the lieutenant whirled on Furnok, but the rogue’s magic shield once more intercepted the blow. Hartsch moved up behind the line of guards and burned Besilana with more sacred flame. Furnok’s rapier took the lieutenant through the gut, and the rogue’s dagger plunged into the man’s neck, finishing him off.
Felicity turned her spiritual weapon to attack the commander, then she rushed in and lay curing hands on Besilana. Taliesin continued the spell barrage against the commander, burning him and poisoning him both. The crossbowen advanced a bit and tried to porcupine the paladin again. Two bolts stuck hard. The paladin lost her senses to Starsong’s curse again, and she shoved her way toward the offender. She was slashed by one of the men she moved away from in pursuit of her quarry.
The commander, in desperation, went after the druid. The earth priest moved up and poured more sacred flame on Besilana, and she stumbled and fell. “Finish the others!” he shouted. “For the glory of the Earth Temple! And for me, Romag!” The guards cheered and advanced on the halfling. She acquitted herself well, taking only a single strike. Then she was blasted by Hartsch’s sacred flame.
Furnok tried to kill the nearest enemy, but the cultist defends. Felicity prayed hard, sending a wave of healing to her paladin, bringing Besilana back from Death’s Door. Taliesin continued to focus on the heated metal, then moved farther into the chamber and transformed into a dire wolf. The crossbowmen shot the halfling, and Besilana regained her feet and brought down the nearest guard.
The commander sliced into the wolf, and gasped in relief as the heat of his armor is doused. Seeing Besilana rise, Romag said, “Fine. I’ll kill your healer first.” His guiding bolt struck the halfling with burning light and made her an easier target. Following the priest’s lead, the guards’ next assault took Felicity down.
Hartsch stepped up and reached out for Besilana, his hand crackling with negative energy. When his hand hit only shield, his eyes widened in fear. Furnok stepped protectively over Felicity, stabbing the guard between him and the paladin. He ran the man through, then stabbed another with his dagger.
Taliesin and the commander continued their duel in the northernmost chamber, while Furnok deflected the next volley of crossbow bolts with his last shield. With some breathing room, Besilana kneeled beside Felicity and lay healing hands upon the halfling.
“Silence!” screamed Romag. And the room was struck deaf as his prayer landed. The combat took on a surreal quality, devoid of sound as blades struck, blood flowed, and silenced cries of pain went unheard bye the combatants. Felicity was forced to draw a dagger from her boot as she regained her feet and staggered north. Seeing Taliesin bleeding freely, she thought to add her blade to the fight against the commander. She struck only armor, but the druid took the opportunity to capitalize on the distraction and finished off the commander with a vicious bite.
Furnok bled freely after a flurry of swords and crossbow bolts. Besilana took a savage swing at Hartsch, and no one heard his death cry as he fell. This done, the paladin turned toward Romag. The earth priest scowled, and his mace lit up with magic. He advanced, but rather than aiming for Besilana, he targeted the more heavily wounded rogue. Furnok dodged the first blow. He did not evade the second. The magic-imbued mace crackled with silent energy as it impacted, and the rogue fell senseless to the floor.
Felicity returned from the north, pulling smelling salts and salves from her healer’s kit on the move. She worked rapidly on Furnok, and the rogue’s eyes fluttered open. He mouthed a “Thank you,” and she returned a battered, bloodied, and strained smile.
Taliesin moves south and took a deep bite out of Romag. The front crossbowmen exchanged their weapons for longswords to attack Besilana. The paladin, barely standing after the latest sword opened a new wound in her side, expended her last smite on the earth priest. His death cry was shockingly loud as sound crashed back into the area.
Bereft of leadership, the other cultists exchanged a glance then throw down their weapons. “Are you from the Fire Temple?”