A few days following their successful taking of Nulb as a beach head for the Veritas Council, the Dragonbusters were gearing up to take on the first leg of their true mission: investigating the remnants of the old temple of Tharizdun to see what might have possibly been recovered from the ruins to aid the newest incarnation of the Cult of the Elder Eye. This short rest gave Gargantuon the Ever-So-Pissed a chance to recover from his earlier revelry during Zephus’ surprise party and with the aid of a few heroic bounds, as well as the indignation from being denied a chance to cleave an enemy in twain, the half-orc rejoined his comrades and was quickly brought up to speed on the situation.
The group soon departed their base, Elminster was only able to wish them well and bade that the adventurers stay on their guard. There was no way of knowing what foul things might lurk in the greater deeps under Tharizdun’s temple and even Elminster’s knowledge has its limits! The team prepared as best they could and were soon off again. Iseri had managed to successfully craft some fine clockwork constructs for additional support and a circlet to enhance her spell casting. Elsbeth’s clerical prowess was brought to greater potency through deep prayer and meditation, granting her access to far more powerful magic. Kiba and Gargantuon had also become exemplars of the warrior arts and were eager to showcase their newly honed prowess as well. A day’s journey brought the busters to the old temple site. Here, the once mighty structure still loomed, cloaked in a thick aura of malice and destruction. Its primary entry had been caved in from the battles fought at the time of the original great defeat and no amount of muscle would allow the team entry. Careful examination of the outer perimiter revealed little. Iseri made note that the roof of the temple had been crowned with a replica of the Orb of Golden Death. This was the Temple’s greatest treasure, fueled by the power of the four elements and the wrath of the demon lady Zuggtmoy, goddess of fungus and poisons who once was a servant to great Lolth. Below, the rest of the group made note of four towering support pillars, each colored in fashion to represent the elements of Earth, Fire, Wind and Water. These pillars also contained motifs of the power of nature at its most destructive: violent storms, earthquakes, wildfires and tidal waves! All manner of terror as brought forth to destroy the realms of the free folk. Seeing no possible way to enter the area from above (thanks to Iseri’s Fly spell) or below, the team decided to investigate a path leading to an area behind the structure, where things would hopefully become more clear.
A short hike north revealed what appeared to be a small guardhouse, used in better days by the temple’s guards. The busters had renewed hope that maybe some information might be found within. Kiba strode along in front, chest out and fearless! Alas for him that his disregard for the perils in these lands allowed the guards now stationed in this place to alert their comrades to the approach of battle and foes! Soon the fearless four were surrounded by ogres and bugbears! Fortunately for the team, they were only surrounded by ogres and bugbears! Iseri’s scorching flames incinerated the guardsmen on the rooftops, while Gargantuon and Kiba put the ogres below to the blade! Elsbeth made some use of more paltry magic, but it wasn’t really necessary for this rabble! Venturing in further revealed further enforcers, including 2 ogre mages. They attempted to even the odds with the power of darkness, but Elsbeth’s sunny will drove it away! Had there been more than 2, perhaps the ogre mages might have made things difficult, as their magical prowess complemented their warrior’s strength. But they reckoned without the need of a Greypeak Barbarian for bloodsport and were soon shuffled loose the mortal coil! Careful examination revealed little in the way of treasures such as the team had become accustomed to. This house was built on practicality, which included well crafted, but standard arms and armor and a well stocked pantry. Kiba set about cooking a hunter’s stew while Elsbeth examined a small office for any clues on the old temple. Iseri checked the roof and found not but half eaten rations from the watch and some dead leaves. Elsbeth was lucky to have recovered an old map that detailed the outer area of the temple and found someone had circled the back pillar that corresponded with the element of Earth. Over a fine supper and a mug of draft, Elbeth shared her new information with her comrades. An earth colored key on one of the ogre mages seemed to only further prove that the Earth pillar was the group’s way in to the fallen fortress.
Heading back to the temple, Kiba was able to use his keen Ranger’s sight to make out a slight indentation on the carving of a landslide which was revealed as a keyhole! Using their ogre mage’s key proved just the thing and the rocks on the pillar rolled away, magically revealing a hidden entrance/exit to the temple. Stepping inside, the group found the place to be black as pitch and long unused. Elsbeth called on Lathander to bring his light into the hall and reveal any nasty surprises hoping to use the dark to their advantage. The group then spread out to investigate. Kiba tried his hand at lock picking, having developed a fascination with it after observing Iseri at work. Sadly his hand was less than deft and it took the power of Gargantuon’s foot to boot open many a door! Elsbeth was able to locate the chief quarters of the former high priest. Herein were many documents from the elder days of the temple, detailing their activities both small and great. Of most interest was a small leather bound tome, which seemed to contain steps for some form of sacred rite. Iseri meanwhile, had come to 2 different rooms constructed of perfectly clean, smooth sandstone and barren of anything else. The busters pondered mightily at this and tried many tricks to reveal any form of hidden mechanism or door, but nothing seemed to stir in spite of their efforts. Making a mental note, the busters approached a single pillar in the northernmost part of the hall, surrounded again by the colors of the four elements. Using the high priest’s ritual book, the group was able to determine that the pillars had to be activated in order of Wind, Fire, Water and Earth. What was more, each pillar required a magically based form of the element to be provided in order to be activated. Gargantuon was able to use a Roc’s feather to power the Wind pillar, though he nearly blew Kiba clean into the high priest’s quarters by way of a small hurricane. Elsbeth was able to heat the Fire pillar and Iseri used a pillar of stone to waken the pillar of Earth. Elsbeth finished the ritual with the activation of the water pillar, using a nearby turning device set some hidden mechanism into motion and soon the team was rewarded with the appearance of a set of well hidden steps, the led further down inside the temple.
Below, the team came to a wide stone cross way, which passed over a chasm of indeterminate depth. More elemental colored pillars were contained here as well standing apart from the main bridge way. Sensing some new devilry, Iseri wisely sent one of her new constructs ahead to see what should happen and sure enough, trouble followed! A sinister, hissing voice entered the heads of the explorers. It stated that since they bore no sign of loyalty or favor from the Elder Elemental Eye, that they must be tested before accessing the lower deeps! Shortly after, Iseri’s poor construct was surrounded by four hulking masses that towered menacingly even in this chamber. They were Greater Elementals, of a kind not seen since the elder days of Faerun, though these were possessed of some bitter malice or evil and a terrible strength that absorbed most forms of magical damage, likely a product of the nature of Tharizdun. The team was hard put to the test against such foes, even though they had wisely avoided the snare of the central pass. The avatar of wind created great gales which obscured vision and the fury of the water elemental left its mark on even Gargantuon’s battle toughened hide! The Dragonbusters were not without their own might however! A powerful prayer from Elsbeth granted Gargantuon temporary status as a Paladin of Lathander, which served him well as he hewed down the aquatic obstruction of the watery guardian! Elsbeth used this opportunity to move alone to the eastern arm of the pass, where she drew away the wind guardian. A powerful spell of repulsion managed to bar off this area and prevented the Cleric from further harm whilst her allies hammered away and she delivered the final blow with a Flame Strike spell! Fire came next and it was thanks to Gargantuon’s new abilities that he was able to damage the beast and repair dome of his hurts, long enough for Kiba’s magical arrows to find their mark and snuff out the beast’s life force! Iseri played the most dangerous game here, for she alone teleported out to lure away the attention of the earth guardian, ever baiting and taunting him. Distracting his attention and allowing her comrades time to dispatch his allies. The elf achieved her final satisfaction when she used her ray spells to break the power of the earth guardian and allowed the group to complete their trial! The group reconvened and Iseri was able to gather the remnants of her poor construct. Deciding a rest was in order before moving forward, the Dragonbusters retired to the guardhouse to plan their next move.
There, Elminster and some knights of the Veritas Council greeted them. Elminster was able to determine that the empty rooms were actually magically concealed depositories that required a Knock spell to access. The Elementals were indeed unusual, being bound with the chaotic evil essence of demons to grant them greater power than similar beings of their kind. The busters were now truly beginning to see the magnitude of evil they were contesting with, all they could do now was hope that their own prowess and fortunes would hold them against it!