Chapter 50

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          Navero, male human cleric, 5th level
          Dania, female 1/2-elf MU, 4th level
          Kortul, male human fighter, 5th level
          Kory, male elf bard, 4th level
          Topash, male elf druid, 4th level
          Serga, male half-ogre fighter, 3rd level
          Lao Tsu, male human monk, 3rd level

We tied up and gagged our captured clerics, making sure we got them
all in very securely.  We really didn't want these guys loose and
running around with any of those whips, or any of the no-doubt less
pleasant things they might have about.  Kortul searched around the
kitchen some more, trying to find that missing head priest, but he had
vanished so thoroughly he might as well have used magic.  Kortul even
stabbed up the chimney, and rattled around in the well for a while.

Dania: "Kortul, quit making so much noise!  He's gone."

Kortul: (Is momentarily struck by the irony of Dania telling him to be

Kory: "Dania, Dania, Dania.  Don't you know that just because you
     can't see it doesn't mean it's not there?  Take, for example,
     that priest of Gothard..."

Navero: "You know a priest of Gothard, Kory?  I'd heard terrible
     things about them."

Kory: "Oh, such as?"

Navero: "Their god gives them all power over women, clouding their
     minds and judgment.  Then, by various arcane rites, they subvert
     their will with the promise of the God's abundance.  But the God
     does not have any such power; in old times, Gothard was a nature
     deity, but other Gods are prayed to now, and Gothard's sphere
     includes nothing of importance."

Kory: "Hmmm... nothing of importance, you say?"

Navero: "No, nothing.  I'm not sure why anyone worships Gothard at all
     anymore.  He cannot give richness in the fields, or abundance to
     the household.  His priests wander without flocks, and those they
     favor gain no benefit from their attentions."

Lao Tsu: "Pelhaps, most honolabre one, these pliests of Gothald ale
     not helding sheep, but teaching men, showing them viltuous rives
     by theil exampre."

Navero: "I do not think they are very honorable.  I have been told
     that the eradication of honor, fidelity, and the covenant of
     marriage are their greatest goals."

Kory: "Indeed!  Why, if they keep it up, the whole world will be
     overrun with them.  And  they are good at keeping it up.  Quite
     upstanding citizens, and very religious.  I hear most of them
     practice their rites at least five times a day."

Navero: "Who is the priest you know?"

Kory: "Oh, I don't know him personally.  Only by reputation."

Navero: "Oh.  You seem awfully quiet, Dania."

Dania: "We damn well better be quiet.  We know there's still the high
     priests.  Now, help us get the rest of these guys tied up!"
     (Jerks hard on ropes she's tying battered cleric up with.)

Cleric: "Mmmmphh!"

Topash: "Do you think the high priests will be upstairs yet?  They
     obviously do not dine with their underlings, yet they do not seem
     to have their meals taken to them.  At least, they have not come
     to see why they are so late."

Dania: "So we're lucky.  Maybe they just make their own food."

Kory: "Maybe they ate during the ceremony.  Human sacrifices are good
     for that."

Dania: "Ew."

Lao Tsu: "Ret us hope not."

Topash: (Finishes last cleric.) "Anyway... shall we be going?  These
     boys and girls will be secure, at least for a while.  We have
     important work to do elsewhere."

Kortul: (Still searching around in kitchen.)

Topash: "Have you tried taking the stove out of the wall yet?"

Kortul: "Too heavy."

Dania: "Whatever.  He's gone.  Let's get out of here."

Kory: "Make like a tree?"

Dania: "Shut up."

     Everyone agreed that we ought to make our way upstairs, to see
where the high priests were, so we made our way out to the octagonal
room where the stairs were.  Kory stopped to listen at the door.

Kory: "Whoops, somebody coming!"

(Everyone retreats out of the room back into the corridor.)

Priest 1: (Opens door.) "... ceremony was awful.  He was too concerned
     with impressing him."

Priest 2: "It was a bit down from the usual, I suppose.  But I can see
     why he would try to impress him.  Not that he ever will.  He's so
     far above us all, in the eyes of the Gods."

Priest 1: "No, he's not.  That Thing Onimon calls 'our guest' does not
     serve any God and never will, which makes Onimon look even more
     foolish.  Why do you think he put off the sacrifices, required by
     our Gods, until our guest could go out and round up 'his friends'
     to watch?  As though it were all for his benefit?"

     Everyone waited, tense and jittery, in the hallway just outside
the octagonal room.  The two priests paused in the room, consumed in
conversation, walking about animatedly by the sound of their voices.
If they opened our door, they'd sound the alarm and we'd all be dead,
though we could be pretty sure we'd take them with us, at least...

Priest 2: "That was scandalous.  And he completely ignored all of our
     objections.  Even the neophytes were appalled, but he wouldn't
     hear anyone."

Priest 1: "You know what he's doing?  He's trying to twist the ways of
     our God around that thing's ambition."

Priest 2: "Yes."

Priest 1: "The disapproval of our deity could not have been more clear
     today.  Did you see that the ravens had all flown away?"

Priest 2: "They did?  They're gone, you mean?"

Priest 1: "Gone.  Their blessings are no longer with us."

Priest 2: "Oh.  I'd always liked having the ravens around.  They're
     such intelligent birds, always making little tricks."

Priest 1: "Damn the tricks!  The carrion-eaters have fled, a sure sign
     of disapproval.  He no longer works the will of the God, and it
     has been noticed."

Priest 2: "There was one with a red spot on one wing.  Could snatch an
     eyeball out with one peck, and did funny things with them too.  I
     saw him drop one down Frithrik's collar once.  I'm sure it was
     deliberate, Frithrik was always throwing rocks at them."

Priest 1: "Will you forget about your silly birds?  There are serious
     implications to this!"

(Kortul shifts a bit to relieve a leg cramp, and makes a noise.)

Priest 2: "What was that?"

Priest 1: "It's probably Red-spot dropping an eyeball down Frithrik's
     backside.  But have you even thought of the implications of our
     Ravens deciding to leave us?  It's unprecedented, in all my time,
     and can only foretell dire disaster."

Priest 2: "No, it sounded like metal."

Priest 1: (Long pause.) "Omens are just things that happen to other
     people for you, aren't they?  Have you ever stopped to think that
     the neophytes are eating back there, and doubtless will make some

Priest 2: "Not half as much as my stomach."

Priest 1: "We don't eat until the sacrifices, which of course have
     been put off until a time more convenient for his Putrescence."

Priest 2: "I love a good sacrifice.  Think this one will go well?"

Priest 1: (Long pause.  Sigh.) "Sometimes I don't know how I've gone
     this long without sacrificing you."

Priest 2: (Pause.) "Are you serious?"

Priest 1: "Never mind.  No, I'm not.  Let's get that stupid tapestry
     out of your room and present the awful thing."

Priest 2: (Voice and footsteps receding.) "I don't think I'd make a
     very good sacrifice anyway.  I'm much too much of a coward.  Tell
     me, have you ever thought about being a sacrifice?"

Priest 1: "No."

     When the room was quiet, everyone started breathing again.

Topash: "Well, that was close."

Dania: "Yeah.  What do we do?"

Kory: "Well, methinks that 'guest' they were talking about was your
     friend and mine, Mr. Tall-Dark-and-Ugly.  If so, he was here,
     hanging out for their little ceremony, and now, he is gone to
     round up his friends for the sacrifice."

Navero: "What are they sacrificing?"

Dania: "Probably us."

Kory: "In new and entertaining ways, too.  But, now we know he's not

Topash: "Which is good."

Kory: "And we know he's coming back here, once he's collected his
     little friends."

Topash: "Which is bad."

Kory: "Not if we're not here when he gets back."

Kortul: "Get upstairs now."

Dania: "Hey, yeah.  Those priests are away getting something.  My old
     master is gone.  We can get out now!"

Topash: "I think they call this a window of opportunity."

Serga: (From back of party.) "Does that mean we can get out without
     having to fight any more priests?"

Navero: "Yes."

Serga: "Oh, good."

Kory: (Goes through room and opens door priests came in.) "There seems
     to be a distinct lack of anyone.  Shall we abscond?"

Navero: "They mentioned others, though.  Where will they be?"

Dania: "Wherever they are, there'll be less of them.  Let's move!"

     With as much haste as we could muster without making too much
noise, we dashed across the room and through the door.  The corridor
beyond was deserted, so we ran down to the door we'd heard all the
chanting behind earlier.  It stood ajar, and no sound could be heard
on the other side.  Kortul opened it and looked; there was a long
staircase going up to a landing, and we could faintly see what looked
like daylight up above.  We all started clambering up.

Kory: "It will feel so good to be out of this place."

Topash: (whispers) "I agree, but it isn't over yet."

Dania: (whispers) "Look, we find priests, we deal with them.  But we
     can't stick around down here." (They reach the landing.) "Hey, I
     smell something."

Topash: (whispers) "Unless I'm mistaken, that's fresh air and

Serga: (whispers) "I wouldn't think these guys would like flowers."

Navero: (whispers) "Maybe they like picking them."

Serga: (whispers) "Oh."

Kory: (Kortul suddenly stops, so Kory runs into his back.) "Hey, move
     along, I'm late for my appointment with destiny..."

Kortul: (Is standing at the top of the stairs, nose to nose with the
     high priest of the temple.)

High Priest: (Blinks.)

Kortul: (Blinks.)

Priest 3: (Blinks.)

Priest 4: (Blinks.)

Priest 5: (Blinks.)

Priest 6: (Blinks.)

Kortul: "Hahhhhh!" (Stabs high priest in gut.  Sword bounces off.)

Kory: "Aw, shit..."

Topash: "Well, there they are."

Navero: (Hears stone grating behind him.  Looks back, sees a secret
     door opening in the wall beside the landing, and two priests look
     out.) "Serga, you better turn around."

Serga: "Help?" (Tries to turn around to face the priests, but it's a
     narrow corridor and he's rather large.)

Lao Tsu: "What is best way to avoid being saclificed by these peopre?"

Dania: "Charge into 'em!  Get the fight out in the open!" (Grips her

High Priest: (Snarls, and a whip snakes out, striking Kortul.  Kortul
     drops like a rock, convulsing and screaming in agony.)

Priest 3: (Draws whip.)

Priest 4: (Chants something and touches Kory.  Kory suddenly goes

Priest 5: (Points at Lao.) "Sleep!" (Lao feels sleepy.)

Priest 6: (Draws whip.)

Priest 7: (Charges at Serga's back with a mace.)

Priest 8: (Hangs back.)

Kortul: (Rolls around helplessly.)

Kory: "Oh fuck!  I can't SEE!  Dammit!"

Dania: "BOLT!!" (Shoots lighting bolt upstairs from staff.)

Topash: "AIIEEEE!"


Lao Tsu: "AAAHHHHH!" (Starts swearing in some other language.)

Navero: "Dania, I think you just killed half the party." (Gets out

Serga: "It sounded like it." (Gets turned around, holds his shield
     between himself and the charging priest.)

Dania: "What the fuck would YOU suggest I do?!?  Get up there and help
     them!  Do something about those whips or something!"

Navero: "Um..." (Looks at whips, and what they did to Kortul.)

High Priest: "Ahh!" (Gets knocked on his ass by lightning bolt.)

Priest 3 & 4: (Rush to aid their leader.)

Priest 5: (Casts spell, and the whole corridor around Dania goes

Dania: (Mouths "shit".)

Priest 6: (Readies his whip.)

Priest 7: (Beats on Serga's shield with his mace.)

Priest 8: (Points at Serga and tries to say something, but he's
     silenced.  Looks pissed.)

Kortul: (Shakes head and wobbles to his feet, still trembling.)

Topash: " !" (Charges upstairs.)

Lao Tsu: " ." (Turns around and punches Dania's lights out.  Then
     charges upstairs.)

Kory: " ?" (Charges into wall.)

Dania: (Goes thud into wall, winds up draped over Kory.)

Navero: (Goes to help Dania.)

Serga: (Hits priest, bashes him into next week.  He crumples.)

High Priest: (Recovers his wits, gets up.  Looks displeased.)

Priest 3: (Hits Kortul with whip.  Kortul screams but does not fall
     this time.)

Priest 4: (Starts chanting.)

Priest 5: (Points at Topash and chants.  Topash feels world slowing

Priest 6: (Hits Kortul with whip.  He still doesn't drop.)

Priest 7: (Thud.)

Priest 8: (Takes the better part of valor and runs downstairs.)

Kortul: (Spins around, apparently not thinking very clearly right now.
     Winds up charging towards High Priest and Priests 3 & 4.)

Topash: (Shakes effects of Hold Person off, attacks Priest 6, making a
     called shot to his whip with his new scimitar.  He hits, and cuts
     the thing off near the base.)

Lao Tsu: (Comes screeching upstairs, and leaps at Priest 5.)

Kory: (Is effectively blind and deaf.  But he feels someone lying on
     top of him.  He turns over and tries to stab this person with his

Navero: " !" (Blocks Kory and pins his arm down.)

Dania: " ... " (Rubs head, starts getting up again.)

Serga: (Stomps on Priest 7 for good measure.)

High Priest: (Glances at Kortul, with ill-will.  Kortul takes 11
     points of damage.)

Priest 3: "This one just doesn't know when to quit." (Snags Kortul
     around legs with whip, pulling him off his feet and filling him
     with magical agony to boot.)

Priest 4: (Finishes Prayer.  The sun darkens, and the whole temple is
     filled with a miasmic aura, spelling doom for our heroes.) "Most
     fools don't.  Who else would attack us right in the middle of our
     own temple?"

High Priest: "These were to be the sacrifices for tonight.  Try to
     keep at least one alive, to appease the Gods."

Priest 4: "These people, your deathliness?  How could they get out of
     the slime pits?"

High Priest: "We'll ask one of them later, shall we?"

Priest 5: (Draws mace, prepares to block Lao's charge.)

Priest 6: "AIEEE!" (Cut whip bursts with escaping magical energy,
     burning his hand.)

Priest 7: (Goes squish.)

Kortul: (Struggles, slashes at whip, misses.)

Topash: "Oh no, you're not running away yet..." (Slashes Priest 6.)

Lao Tsu: "Hee-youh!  Hwahh!  Knang-sukk!" (Bops Priest 5 on the noodle
     with a critical strike.)

Kory: (Struggles with Navero.)

Dania: (Starts running upstairs.)

Navero: (Struggles with Kory.)

Serga: (Starts getting turned around again.)

High Priest: (Looks at Lao Tsu, and makes a gesture.  Lao Tsu is
     suddenly in intense pain, and feels very sick.)

Priest 3: (Tries to pull Kortul aside with whip.)

Priest 4: (Beats on Kortul with his whip too.)

High Priest: "You fool!  This is a battle, not for fun!  Strike where
     our need is greatest!"

Priest 4: (Looks properly chastened, charges towards Topash.)

Priest 5: (Falls down, holding his head.)

Priest 6: (Tries to get his scourge with his off hand.)

Kortul: "RRAAAAHHHHHHH!!!" (Slashes maniacally, almost cutting off his
     own foot, but chops through the whip.  The burst of magical
     energy burns his leg.)

Topash: "Oh dear, they've made him mad.  I hope it will matter."
     (Stabs Priest 6, notes he's looking a little wobbly.)

Lao Tsu: (Finishes Priest 5 with a boot to the head, spinning very
     stylishly to face the High Priest and his cronies.  He is also
     very grateful that he has not yet needed to throw up.)

Kory: (Keeps trying to kill Navero.)

Navero: (Very regretfully, he stomps on Kory's gonads.)

Dania: (Gets to the top of the stairs, notes that she can suddenly
     hear things again.)

Serga: (Gets turned around, starts trying to get past Kory and

High Priest: (Flicks whip, strikes Lao Tsu.)

Priest 3: "You great oaf!" (The whip burned out far from his hand,
     with Kortul taking most of the damage, so he's merely pissed.  He
     draws his scourge.)

Priest 4: (Flicks whip at Topash, misses.)

Priest 5: (Finally gets scourge out, takes a swing at Topash. Misses.)

Priest 6: (Thud.)

Kortul: (Gets up, frothing and snarling.  Swings at Priest 3 and

Topash: "Uh..." (Looks at his two opponents.) "Where's the rest of our
     party?" (Swings at Priest 5, misses.)

Dania: "STORM!!!" (Staff trembles, spits out a small spark, and dies.)

Lao Tsu: (Runs across the room towards the high priest.)

Kory: (Suddenly feels great pain.  He sensibly rolls up into a ball
     and decides to sit this one out.)

Navero: (Pats Kory's head, and starts running upstairs.)

Serga: (Runs upstairs.)

High Priest: (Glances from Dania to Lao, then chants something and
     points at Lao.  The world slows down around Lao and he freezes in

Priest 3: (Sneers at Kortul and retreats, getting out his scourge.)

Priest 4: (Misses Topash again.)

Priest 5: (Hits Topash, raking the barbed scourge over his arm.)

Kortul: (Chases Priest 3, then suddenly turns and charges behind the
     High Priest.)

Topash: "Ow!" (Slashes at Priest 5, he falls over.)

Lao Tsu: (Sees Kortul's sudden shift in direction, bounds to the High
     Priests' other side.

Dania: (Shakes staff.) "Goddamn it I just had this stupid piece of
     shit recharged!  STORM!!" (Points it again, and this time it
     works.  Lightning arches out and strikes the High Priest, and
     everyone near him.)

Topash: (Oh, no... not again.)

Navero: (Gets upstairs beside Dania.) "Dania, move so Serga can get

Serga: (Is charging slowly upstairs.  But his forward momentum is

High Priest: (Screams and falls on his ass again.)

Priest 3: "Your deathliness!"

Priest 4: "AIIEEE!" (Fails save, is stunned.)

Kortul: (Gets critical hit on save, walks through the lightning storm
     with no further damage!  All the armor he habitually wears
     conducted the charge around his body and into the ground.  Very,
     very lucky...)

Lao Tsu: (Makes save, takes half damage.)

Priest 5: (Falls down.)

Dania: "YEAH!  GOT HIM!"

Topash: "DANIA!  When you damage your own party more than you damage
     the opposition, that is a bad thing!"

Serga: (Gets to the top of the stairs, looks over the damage.) "Where
     are Lao Tsu and that smelly guy with the sword?"

Navero: "I think Dania killed them."

Dania: "I did the fuck not!  Now get in there and kill that priest!"

Lao Tsu: (Gets to his feet.) "How in the seven framing heavens was I
     to be expected to avoid that?  Whele is the medium?"

Kortul: (Looks where High Priest was, finds nothing.) "Priest gone!"

Navero: "Where is he?"

Dania: "Is he dead?"

Topash: "No, he's gone!  Catch that last one over there!"

Priest 3: (Ulp.  Starts running away.)

Kory: (Suddenly regains his sight, and looks around.  Charges very
     carefully upstairs.)

Kortul: (Turns to charge after priest.)

Dania: (Aims staff.)

Topash: "Oh no you don't!" (Knocks staff up.)

Navero: (Charges after priest.)

Serga: (Charges after priest.)

Dania: "Hey, I'm not going to hit anybody!"

Topash: "Can't you just cast a nice Web spell or something?"

Dania: "I haven't got that memorized."

Priest 3: (Runs up to altar.) "You will all pay for this!" (Disappears
     in a puff of greenish miasma.)

Topash: (Sighs with relief.)

Dania: "Shit.  He'll be back."

Kortul: (Stares homicidally at the altar, then limps up and kicks it
     over with a choked roar.  He also pauses to urinate on it.)

Lao Tsu: "Medium.  Prease, this one is confused.  Twice you have made
     rightning spling from your staff, and each time I have been youl
     appalent talget.  Exprain?"

Dania: "Sorry about that.  I had to get those guys out of the head of
     the corridor, or they'd have cut us to pieces down there.  It was
     better than letting us all get killed."

Kory: "Lao, forget it.  She's been frying other party members for a
     long time.  Just try to work up an immunity to lightning bolts
     and fireballs."

Lao Tsu: "You have done so youlserf?"

Kory: "I get LOTS of practice."

Dania: "I didn't hear anybody else coming up with any hot ideas!"

Topash: "How about this: remember those priests who went downstairs?"

Navero: "Won't they be back too?"

Topash: "Yes.  I don't want to fight them.  Do you want to fight

Kory: "I'm not gonna fight 'em.  Let's get Mikey!"

Dania: "Shut up.  There's the entrance, let's get out of here.  We
     need some rest."

     The temple filled the entire floor of the complex.  We could see
where old walls had been knocked out to make the huge expanse, but we
didn't stop to look at them.  The entrance was up a flight of broad
stairs, and opened out onto the outside world.  It was the same old
temple as before; we even saw what looked like our horses, wandering
free in the fields to the east.  Topash volunteered to try to get
them, though he was very tired and very hurt, as the rest of us walked
or crawled back to the barn outside the complex and collapsed.

Daniel Parsons              "That sucked.  Honestly and truly sucked."         "Be quiet.  Listening makes my ears hurt."

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