Venturing onwards the Flying Circus came to the Hall of Howling Pillars in search of the Bell of Fury’s Calling. The pillars grabbed, bit, spewed acid and force gazed but Mordan danced a path to the altar and stole the bell awakening the demon defenders. The withdrawal was a little more complex but they now had all four items and were ready to penetrate the door to the inner sanctum…
Opening all the doors so they could each stand at a runic circle with an artefact, the gang prepared to place the objects and, unknown to them, raise the guardians of The Proving Grounds. Grim saw the Doom Sphere begin its relentless circuit on the inner track and then fled onto that track in response to the terrifying magical screams of the Roaring Terror Idols. In the pool room Felix was assaulted by the Elemental Vortex but she kept total perspective and comfortably escaped. Durak and Gronek were safe as the Flying Circus had prepared by casting all the bones into the Guardian’s pit and Mordan moved so quickly that the deadly Crossbow Turret traps never got a sight of him. Rounding a corner however, Mordan came face to face with Vargachoth – a young green dragon cursed to guard the proving grounds whenever summoned.
Having avoided three of the runic circle room traps the battle with Vargachoth was easier than it should have been, particularly with poison resistance. The dragon also made the mistake of landing to attack and was then kept on the ground because of being slowed by Felix. The damage was done and although the wyrm took briefly to the air again, Durak brought him down – Durak Dragonslayer!
The risky operation of severing the head then took place…
When the door to the Inner Sanctum eventually opened wide, only Grim and Mordan braved the thick grey mist and came upon Maldrick Scarmaker in the middle of a deadly ritual, supported by a Bonecrusher Minotaur Skeleton, a Bargura and three more Carnage Demons. Two human prisoners and Thoran were in the sacrificial circle and early on, when one of them disintegrated in a shaft of demonic light, Felix realised they had no time to back out. Gronek and Durak were also in the battle by now. Grim had been knocked down by the Bonecrusher and manoeuvring in the cramped entrance was difficult – especially with the Bargura and Bonecrusher having the reach to swat people from well back.
Maldrick used his Infernal Moon Curse to dangle Mordan in the air for a while but then it was Mordan with Blinding Barrage and Bait & Switch together with Felix and her Flaming Sphere who really broke through to the Gnoll Demonic Scourge. However, a second human prisoner had just gone up in infernal fire and Thoran was looking anxious.
Getting through to the chief drew Mordan to the attention of the Barlgura who slammed him unconscious. Being out of surges it looked as though the rogue was out of this one. Then the Carnage Demons fell and a gap opened up. In just one more round they would kill Maldrick and turn the battle around.
Then the unthinkable happened. Maldrick completed the ritual with his dying breath and Grim let out a tortured scream as his twin vanished in hellish arcane fire. Grim had his revenge immediately but with the ritual complete an no Maldrick to control and direct the energies released the place began to tremble and heat up. Grim managed to drag out and loot Maldrick’s body (+2 Elven Cloak and magical silver key) but as the party fled, the earth broke apart down there and volcanic lava flooded the Well of Demons. From the sound of it, whatever the ritual released is encased in molten rock – at least for now.
On the weary, gloomy march back to the Seven Pillared Hall, The Flying Circus were forced into hiding as a platoon of thirty duergar soldiers trooped by, obviously on their way to reclaim the Horned Hold…
Killing blows… (a possibly inaccurate list) Gronek: Carnage Demon Grim: 3 Carnage Demons, Gnoll Demonic Scourge – Maldrick Scarmaker Felix: 2 Carnage Demons Durak: Large Green Dragon Mordan: Carnage Demon, Bonecrusher Minotaur Skeleton