Moving with some haste, the adventurers made a quick choice after defeating the Hobgoblins in the guard room, to move after Kalarel, while bypassing what might be a larger complex of Hobgoblin activity. Instead, they moved down the south hallway quickly, which opened into a larger empty chamber with two sets of doors. The doors on the west side of the room were barred from this side, while the doors to the south seemed to have shown some evidence of activity. The choice seemed obvious, ignore the untended parts of the keep’s dungeons and follow the active trail to where Kalarel was presumably close to completing his dark ritual.
Moving into the next room, the sunrod cast light into a large chamber, with a huge statue in the middle of it, a pair of dragon statues to the east, and some smaller ones further to the south in an alcove. The party remained cautious, and justifiably so. Ankh and Aeren determined the room was heavily trapped both mechanically and magically, with several nasty combinations that could be lethal to the party if due caution wasn’t exercised.
Fortunately, they exercised due caution. Positioning themselves outside of the traps reach before they activated, the party was able to render the traps ineffective. They left the dragon statues active, as Ankh completely wrecked the gears of the warrior statue. The final trap was dependent upon four cherub statues holding clay jars. They determined that destroying the statues in this alcove would also render the trap inert. After a few rounds of effort they did so.
The doors unlocked, and the path ahead was clear.
Brindle opened the door only to be greeted by a lurching zombie. Their original plan was to fall back to the dragon statues and play “zombie-pong” —an idea that was quickly dashed when a ghoul came rampaging out of the gloom, rushing past several of the gnawed undead to an apparent meal of fresh meat. Throwing the doors open, the party unleashed on the ghoul and other closing undead. Heskan stepped into the breach, cutting several zombies down with a single sweeping blow. It was at this moment, that Brindle spotted a small flying creature in the back.
Aeren recognized it instantly as a familiar, and he and Marcus made it their task to track down and destroy the Clay Scout before it could reach its master. Dodging past several Zombies as Heskan cleared a path, they discovered that the scout was adept at dodging behind targets and redirecting attacks. Yet in getting close to the scout before it could flee down through another set of doors. Aeren slowed the scout, and Marcus unleashed several blasts to take it down. Ultimately, one final Dimensional Scramble, and bits of clay scout decorated the floor of the Ghoul Warren.
The next set of doors would lead into the heart of darkness… a Cathedral of Shadow, where cultists both living and undead were preparing the blood and life sacrifices to finally and permanently force open the Shadow Rift. Into the floor itself was a carved image of the Demon Prince mouth agape, the mouth itself formed a large pit, where streams of blood were flowing into it from a sacrificial altar at the far end of the room.
Guarding it were two Human cultists: frenzied berserkers with large greataxes. An underpriest of Orcus, a Dark Creeper, and five Vampire Spawn Fleshrippers.
Fortunately this battle proved only slightly tougher than the swamp of undead in the previous chamber. The Vampire Spawn, though deadly, could not break through Heskan’s defenses of his shiny new set of armour and its inherent Necrotic resistance. It allowed him to shrug off their attacks while he and Brindle could focus their attention on the berserkers. Ankh and Aeren moved to engage the Underpriest in the rear, although Aeren’s ultimate goal was to reveal Kalarel’s location. As he feared, the scion of Orcus was not in the Cathedral, but was most likely deep in the pit itself, where the Rift itself would be.
The guardians of the Cathedral put up a fight, but with some good planning and luck, the adventurers came through with only a few nicks and scratches.
Cutting off the supply of blood from above, all that remains was to confront Kalarel before he completes the ritual. Hopefully they would not be too late.