Anrak makes it back to the husk of the Foaming Mug by mid-afternoon. He finds Joshua fighting to remain awake; apparently nothing has happened while he was away. He catches Joshua up on all that he has learned and the two begin plotting an attack on the temple. There isn’t much to say. They can’t figure out a stealthy way to get the two of them inside the temple walls after the doors are locked for the night. Anrak decides a frontal assault in the light of day will be their best bet. Though he is not sure about this move Joshua cannot come up with a better plan, besides waiting for nightfall would have the two of them up and going for nearly 48 hours.
The two head up the hill for what they hope will be the final confrontation with the priestess there. Once there, they again wait on the steps of the sanctuary for the priestess to come out. They notice the old gardener is joined by three younger men who bear a striking resemblance to him. They also seem to be suffering under the same malady as they are all holding farm tools and wandering through the beds of dead flowers and bushes.
The beautiful Misha Devi again meets Anrak out on the stoop of the temple. Joshua hangs back a bit trying to keep a path to the gate open, should they need to beat a hasty retreat. He again tries to question her about the goings on in the village but he feels she is giving him the run around again. Joshua realizes that the four gardeners seem to be trying to surround Anrak and himself. Anrak has had about all he can stand at this point and punches Misha in the face. This catches her completely by surprise and knocks her to the ground.
One of the gardeners charges up the stairs toward Anrak while two others race toward Joshua and the fourth closes and bars the gate. The barking of dogs can be heard coming from around the back of the temple. Anrak advances on the fallen priestess but she manages to get off a spell and he becomes as ridged as a statue. She gets to her feet and runs off through a door off to the right of the sanctuary.
Joshua’s battle with the gardeners goes much better than he expected and he realizes they are just gardeners after all. The dogs are a bit more problematic but Anrak is able to move again in short order and they finish off the canines and a fifth gardener who was probably expecting one or two members of his family to still be alive when he rounded the corner.
Joshua goes and reopens the gate and finds the mayor’s two new-elf friends (Dorian and Llywillan) waiting just outside, about to scale the wall. There is some discussion about why the two didn’t wait for nightfall as planned but Anrak quashes the discussion by yelling, “the priestess is getting away.” So, inside they go and through the door on the right.
They enter into small ready room where the priestesses must prepare themselves before services. The room is bare except for three wooden benches and a locked door. Anrak has no patients for subtlety at this time so he bashes the door down. The next room is a bed chamber, which also contains a trunk and a desk. There is also a door to the left which is slightly ajar. Curiously it seems that the priestess must have shed her robes here, because a set that looks like the ones she was wearing are laying sprawled on the floor along with a Ninurtian holy symbol. The desk contains only documents for the day to day running of the church. The trunk has nothing but similar robes inside it but when Joshua moves it he finds a trapdoor beneath.
Anrak notices a set of dirty footprints heading for the door and follows them. Beyond the door he finds a long hallway of alcoves, the first of which he can see into. The alcove is lit by a glowing rock set into the ceiling and its curved back wall is lined with black velvet; a pedestal is set at the alcove’s center and atop it sits what looks like a solid gold carving of a potato. There is some discussion of whether or not the hall is trapped but since none of the four have any experience with traps… what would that matter. Anrak bulrushes the hallway hoping that his speed will carry him past any traps before they spring. He moves with such purpose it is hard to stop before he barrels into the wall at the other end of the hall. Hurm… no traps at all? Strange! He finds at this end that the hall turns left and after a short distance, ends in a set of stairs leading up.
At the top of the stairs the door opened into a large room equipped with several benches and two doors along the right wall. Eight skeletons standing against the left wall jumped to life as Anrak opened the door. The following battle with the skeletons is unspectacular but further slows the pursuit of the dirty footprints that lead through the first door on the right.
That chamber contains nothing but two comfortable chairs and a small table, with an unopened wine bottle and two clean glasses sitting on top it. There is another door along the right wall but there are no longer footprints on the floor to follow. The group fans out to search the room and finds a secret door in the wall opposite their entrance but, there seems to be no way of opening it from this side. Anrak decides to taste the wine before they head onward. He thinks it tastes good, but it is nothing to write home about.
The door opens into a large room which seems to have been converted into a torture chamber (because normally temples of the goddess Ninurte never include such things). There is a stretching rack, a table with heavy straps attached to it and an iron maiden dominating most of the room. These devices of torture have fresh blood on them. Llywillan exclaims, “what is going on with these priestesses?”
As if in answer the room is charged by nine goblin who appear out of several secret doors. Battle is joined again but the outcome was never in doubt. The goblins are dispatched and the party passes through the doors to search the room they came from. There isn’t much there. Some smelly beds, a table for eating and a few silvers per goblin; is the tally of the haul.
One door remained unopened in the torture chamber and that is where the party goes next. As they open the door a small set of bells attached to its inner side start to tinkle. It seems surprise is out of the question. The room is more like a long hallway with no features other than an opening on the left wall. After Anrak and Dorian enter the room, the Misha pops out from around the corner. The beautiful priestess’ face is bloodied and she is no longer adorned in her robes. Instead she is wearing chainmail armor, a different holy symbol and wielding a scimitar. She quickly casts a spell and Anrak and Dorian are again held fast. Llywillan and Joshua press into the room as a small pebble is thrown in from around the corner. Suddenly there is no sound and the room has gone black.
Misha must have fled in the confusion as she cannot be found by the party as they grope through the darkness. Once they round the corner they find themselves in another corridor that runs back in the direction they came from and again ends at an opening on the left. There are strange markings on these walls that seem to have been scribbled with pitch but try as they might none of the party can make heads or tail of them, they seem like gibberish. Around the next corner they are confronted by another corridor of the same type but at its end there is a door on the left. In front of the door is a group of four men standing in front of a towering woman. The men are bare-chested and wearing only cord tied pants and slippers. The woman (who is quite attractive as well, though not of the caliber of Misha) is dressed for battle, wearing chain armor and carrying a scimitar and shield.
Without so much as a word, the men rush the party. While unarmed they seem to be accomplished at fisticuffs. They begin battering each member of the party barehanded. The woman looks at Joshua and orders him to run away. He feels compelled to do so and flees back into the darkness while his friends continue to battle with the unarmed men. The woman advances and begins healing her minions as they continue to pummel the party members. Joshua no longer feels the need to follow the woman’s order but he is again stuck in the darkness, so he begins to grope his way back the other way. She shouts again and a spiritual hammer flies from her outstretched hands and hits Anrak hard in the chest, even as he continues to battle with his boxer. As Joshua exits the darkness again, the fist-fighters begin to fall. The woman casts another spell and the entire party is filled with such fear that they all flee from her presence back into the darkness as she and the remaining bare-knuckled brawlers advance on them.
The fear is short lived and the party resumes their battle. As the bare-chested men continue to fall, the priestess wades into the fray swinging wildly with her scimitar. Things look grim for the party and they are all badly wounded when they finally put her and the last of her minions down. A quick search of her body finds that she is only carrying two items in addition to her armor and weapons; a set of keys and an odd holy symbol. Even with his knowledge of world religions, Anrak cannot identify the holy symbol, which looks like a giant lizard devouring a human or demi-human shaped body.
Passed the door is a room decorated in bizarre fashion. There is a dirty stroke palette on the floor. 2 soft and expensive looking arm-chairs near a low table. A green robe hanging from a hook on the wall above a battered chest and the floor is strewn with rags. A wooden desk sits near the northwest corner of the room. At various points around the walls, small iron hooks for hanging tapestries have been set into the stone, all of which are empty except for one on the wall opposite the door.
After a quick search of the room the party finds there is nothing of interest here. The chest contains nothing but Ninurtain robes. The rags seem to be the shredded remains of tapestries. The desk while exquisitely crafted contains nothing more than temple documents. The robe though not Ninurtain, seems unspectacular. The only thing of interest in the whole place is the tapestry. It formerly depicted a quiet pastoral scene but has been defaced. Written across it in thick pitch are the words “Snake Mother,” and behind it is a concealed door which one of the keys they found unlocks.
Past that door is a large room. Shards of rock lay around 4 crude granite statues that stand about the room in haphazard locations. In the southeast corner, a polished jade figure of the snake with a female human head is set apart from the other statues by its obviously superior crafting and material. Near it, a small iron barred cage holds the listless figure of a handsome young man clothed in tattered rags. 2 brass bound chests sit next to the wall.
The man is no more than a teenage boy. He says his name is Cirillo and that he is the son of the village shopkeeper. He has been kept prisoner here for weeks and has been the object of Abrama’s (the big priestess) twisted desire. He says he will tell the party everything he knows in exchange for releasing him. When the party checks the chests they find that they are empty and the boy tells them they were emptied just two days ago.
Cirillo tells this story; he and his family were abducted from their home in the middle of the night about three months ago, by the priestesses, the owner of the Golden Gain inn, several other farmers and a few troglodytes. They were brought here to the temple and held in an underground cell for a week before they were dragged out in the middle of the night and moved to somewhere out in the woods. The journey took two days, after which they were brought into some underground facility and again put into cells. Eventually he was brought before a huge snake-like being with a woman’s head (he indicates the jade statue as almost a perfect replica of the beast). It coiled around him and he was forced to stare into its eyes for nearly an hour. Other than the revulsion he felt at being coiled by this massive slimy snake it had no other effect on him, but the same cannot be said for his family. He spent a few days back in the cell with a few other townsfolk who were similarly unaffected. He saw his family members return but they were under some type of spell because they only kept droning on about the holy work they must do to be a part of the resurrection of the reptile god, or some such. Most of the unaffected people were taken away and never returned but for some reason Abrama must have been attracted to him because when she and his family returned to the village, she took him back to the temple and has kept him in the room ever since. Sometime during the telling of this story the temple bell begins to toll.
He was visibly upset when he found out the party had killed Abama and he did not get to kill her himself. Though he realizes he already owes the party his life he asks them to bring him to safety outside the temple. When they offer to return him to his family, he says he does not want to go back there because he knows they will betray him if he returns before the enchantment is lifted. While all this is going on, Dorian finds a trapdoor in the floor behind the jade statue. The door leads back down to the bed chamber of the first floor.
Back down on the main floor, the party remembers the other trap door below the chest. Still in search of their friends Oswin and Dalhar. Armed with the knowledge that there is a subterranean area with a holding cell, they figure this might be the way there. Down a short ladder to a staircase there is a long room ahead of them, though it looks completely empty but for a door in the left wall. Cirillo is instructed to hide under the stairs and not to come out unless they return for him or one day passes. The party goes through the door. They seem to have entered some sort of labyrinth and before they can get very far they are set upon by a massive Ogre. The ogre’s titanic club does quite a bit of damage to the party but ultimately he falls to their attacks. The remainder of the maze is small but much more daunting and it takes nearly an hour for the party to find their way through.
At the end of the maze there is a hole broken through the foundation of the temple and just beyond it is an entrance to what seems like a natural cavern. As Anrak steps into the cave a large mushroom lets out an ear piercing shriek. There is no damage from the sound but it is sure that anyone below knows someone is coming. There are two tunnels to follow and the party picks the one on the right. As they head down the tunnel they see what looks like an iron door set into a roughly cut doorway. They look and just inside the door are Oswin and Dalhar, as well as Vilma and the half-elf gladiator. As they go to open the door they are jumped by four troglodytes who have been camouflaged against a wall nearby. One of the trogs releases his stink but after much retching and claw raking the party is victorious and the prisoners are free.
Oswin and Dalhar are really in no shape for travel. It seems after their escape attempt the priestesses came down and used hold spells on them. They were then transported to the torture chamber and were pumped for information about their friends. While Oswin gave up nothing, Dalhar folded to his tormentors and told them everything they wanted to know. Regardless the information the priestesses got from the torture was not enough to save them from the remainder of the party but… the torture left Oswin and Dalhar in extremely weakened states. The remainder of the party let their friends lean on them. The party at it full membership exits the temple an hour later, with the addition of Vilma and Cirillo.
After their ordeal in the temple the party in serious need of bed rest. They return to the Inn of the Slumbering Serpent to find that it has been turned into the defacto headquarters of the mayor, his family and bodyguards (in addition to anyone else in town that could prove they have not been enchanted into the cult. Even with Anrak’s magic, it takes a full two days rest for the party to feel confident that they are at their best.