The adventurers had, by this stage, basically cleared the Air, Earth and Water temples. The Air Prophet was dead, and the Earth and Water Prophets were somewhere else – current locations unknown. Not that the players were paying that much attention to the location of the prophets.
Their current location was the Fane of the Eye, the twisting caverns that linked the four temples – and which make little sense when you try to line up the maps of the adventure. (There’s now errata to the overland map scale. It still doesn’t make that much sense). Some of the passages were blocked by a black mist that made the adventurers particularly paranoid. When the DM isn’t telling the players what the mist does, then the players are free to work out the worst possibilities and act as if they were true.
The most significant encounter in this area – at least according to Thumbelina, our dwarven (sorry, giant) barbarian, was the discovery of the dwarven (giant) thrower, a magic item of great power that the spirit of a dwarven hero guarded. This item, in the hands of a high-strength dwarf, is extremely powerful, and Thumbelina loved it.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned Thumbelina before, but it’s been a while since I discussed this campaign, so here’s a reminder: Thumbelina is a dwarf who was raised by giants. She considers herself to be a giant, and she is very, very sensitive about her height. The best way to start a fight with her was to call her short. As I (and everyone else) considered her wonderful, I took care to have her foes call her short at every opportunity. Her standard response was to growl, “Who are you calling short?” and, unless restrained to then go berserk and attack them. Once she got the dwarven thrower, the damage the party was inflicting on the opposition grew substantially. A raging dwarven barbarian with a dwarven thrower? That’s scary!
Magic weapons are important in the later stages of this adventure; fighters without such weapons were having trouble. Thankfully, weapons were being acquired, especially the artefacts held by the prophets. My players finally decided to brave the black mist, and discovered it wasn’t a disintegration field after all! It just felt a little weird and hadn’t turned their food into green slime at all.
What they did find was the centre of the Fane, where Marlos Unrayle, the Earth Prophet, guarded the Temple of the Elder Elemental Eye. Fighting a medusa always gives the possibility of petrification, but Marlos – even with Ironfang – isn’t otherwise that dangerous, and he didn’t have enough other guards with him to properly challenge the party, especially not an enraged giant (dwarf). With his defeat, the party took possession of his magical weapon (although no-one wanted to use it), and then proceeded to ignore the great altar in the cavern. Rescue the prisoner, yes (a poor commoner abducted from Womford), but they didn’t spend any time investigating the altar.
I bring this up because investigating the altar doesn’t get them anywhere. It allows them to see all four elements brought together, but that’s about it. It’s just an unknowable thing. Ultimately, the “Elder Elemental Eye” is mostly irrelevant to the adventure, and its ultimate plans are unrealised – it’s likely the players never find out about it.
One thing the players did do is interrogate the prisoner to discover if he knew anything about the Womford Bat. It was an ongoing point of curiosity in our game. No, he knew nothing.
The next area the adventurers wanted to investigate was the Fire Temple. They first attempted to get to it from below – there’s a platform that magically can raise creatures and objects into the Temple. Unfortunately, it requires a magic command word, and the adventurers didn’t have it. They considered going up to the surface and then trying to find the outpost of Elemental Fire on the surface, before they realised they could just return to the Earth Temple and take the tunnel to the Fire Temple. (The remaining denizens of the Earth Temple just let them go. They weren’t going to get involved!)
One thing about the Fire Temple: the denizens there know fire magic, which the players became extremely aware of, after I fireballed them three times in one combat. Somewhat blackened, the group retreated to lick their wounds, leaving behind the bodies of a couple of dead fire mages.
Their next expedition was more successful, and the group happily made their way through ogre, magmin and cultists as a great battle developed around the forge area. Quite a lot of magic was expended on each side, and the fighters were very happy with how much damage they were dealing.
Then they came upon a fire cultist who didn’t attack them, and, in addition, revealed himself to be a member of the Zhentarim who had infiltrated the cult. He gave them the passwords to use the platform to return to the Fane level, as well as alerting them to the presence of the Nodes beneath the Fane, where the final prophets has gone – to perform some ritual or another. He also offered to take Ironfang from them – and allow the Zhentarim to deal with it. The group were happy to do this, and handed it over.
It’s worth noting that the group as it currently stood was very much lacking healing magic. Player changes (and character changes) had left the group without a dedicated cleric. druid or bard. Jesse decided after the assault on the Fire Temple that he’d switch characters to the bard he’d used in Tyranny of Dragons. For the bulk of this campaign, his character had represented the Zhentarim, and began each negotiation with the words “Hello, we’re the Zhentarim. We’re here to help!” He always managed to get that out before any other player – something that rather frustrated our Harpers, but that everyone found incredibly amusing. His new character was a Harper.
And so, shortly after his new character joined, it was revealed that the “Zhentarim” cultist was in fact lying – and they’d given one of the main artefacts to the leaders of the Fire Cult. Jesse was not amused by this. “Why did you trust the Zhentarim?” he asked. I was greatly amused.