On Sunday nights, a group of friends and I gather to play Dungeons & Dragons. This is the chronicle of their tale. (This post contains spoilers to “Curse of Strahd”)
After defeating the amber golem, the group of adventurers begins to head further into the Amber Temple, staying as quiet and aware as they can. They emerge from the hallway onto a balcony at the far end of the temple, and find a forty foot tall granite statue of a robed humanoid figure overlooking the entire temple floor. They speculate briefly if this could be the source of the spells that were thrown their direction when they arrived.
They head through another set of doors on the balcony and find themselves in a short hallway, which is strewn with the broken pieces of a smaller, medium-sized statue, as well as candlesticks that were knocked over at one point. Upon searching the room further with his new wand of secrets, Y’shaarj finds a secret door that opens to several flights of stairs that head downward.
Cairie, Fletcher, and Krossa – the stealthiest party members – volunteer to sneak down ahead of the others to find out where the stairs lead. At the bottom, they find a collapsed hallway that blocks them from going anywhere except for an open set of amber doors. Cairie hears nasty sounds coming from the room, and cautions the others. Krossa steps forward and stealthily peeks into the room, in which he finds several strange creatures he does not recognize crawling among three large blocks of amber.
The three of them decide to leave, and go tell the others what they found, however they alert the creatures to their presence as they go, and must rush back upstairs to close the hidden door and block the things in.
After describing the creatures to the rest of the group, both the wizard apprentice Vilnius and Malis agree that they sound like ghasts, but the fact that they all had blind, third eyes, and were able to climb on the walls and ceiling of the room are inconsistent with the characteristics of ghasts. Still, everyone decides not to open that door again.
Finding no other way out of this room, Krossa returns to the balcony next to the statue overlooking the large temple. He spies another balcony on the other side of the statue, and decides to jump to the statue and climb around on its outstretched arms to reach the other balcony. As he does, he notices that the face under the carved hood of the statue is nothing but an empty, black void.
Successfully across to the other balcony, Krossa discusses options for getting everyone else across with Fletcher. Fletcher has pitons that he could use to hammer a rope into the wall along the back of the temple, behind the statue, that could connect the two balconies. As they try to figure out how Fletcher will do this, Rolen casts spider climb on the rogue, allowing Fletcher to easily traverse the wall and begin hammering in the pitons.
Fletcher makes it nearly the whole way across when the noise finally attracts the attention of something…. A secret door in the back of the base of the statue swings open, and a humanoid, slightly jackal-faced, somewhat vulpine-featured creature in wizard robes steps out to look around. It fails to look up, however, and so sees neither Krossa nor Fletcher above it before it returns to its space within the statue. Fletcher then continues his work, and drops down to the other balcony, which suddenly crumbles under the combined weight of the human and the dwarf.
Fletcher is able to jump back to the wall and stay above, but Krossa falls thirty feet to the floor in a pile of marble rubble. The secret door opens again, and the creature emerges once more. It immediately sees Krossa, and holds its furry, clawed hand out at him. A number of sentences flash through Krossa’s mind in different languages before finally coming through in dwarvish.
The creature asks what Krossa is doing in the Temple. Fletcher tries to quietly position himself on the wall above the creature to try and get the drop on him, but it immediately hears him, and successfully casts hold monster, freezing Fletcher in place. Its attention returns to Krossa, and it demands an answer.
Krossa attempts to be peaceful and diplomatic, but this angers the creature. He uses heat metal on the dwarf’s studded leather armor, causing Krossa to begin ripping it off of him (and, in doing so, embraces some of the features in his new Barbarian multiclass).
This spell, however, frees Fletcher, who tries to position himself again. Just then, a pair of doors on the second floor, where the fallen balcony once stood, fly open! They all hear a startled voice, asking where his floor went! Then, the voice calls down to the jackal-headed figure, shouting at it to shoo! Shoo! The creature hisses at the voice, but the voice casts ray of frost at it! It then runs away, further into the temple.
Fletcher and Krossa right themselves on the floor, and look up to see an extremely ancient, gaunt, skeletal figure draped in lavish, red robes. It has no eyes, but two pinpoints of orange light within its empty eye sockets. It apologizes to Fletcher and Krossa about the “riff raff” that keep finding their way into the temple, and ask if they need help. It asks the group to meet it over at the doors by the stairs at the other end of the temple and disappears.
The group heads that way. Upon reaching the balcony by the entryway, Vilnius seizes his chance, and runs up the stairs toward the exit of the Amber Temple, disappearing out of sight.
The party gathers at the doors, behind which were the handful of berserkers that Krossa had met, when they hear shouts and commotion beyond the double doors. Before long, the doors open, and the skeletal creature greets them, the berserkers and barbarians gone. Up close, the creature appears to be a lich.
The lich begins to lead them through another set of doors and down a hallway, where a group of flameskulls part aside and obediently remain benign. At this end of the hall, the group notices the charred remains of a recently killed wizard and its staff. It is assumed that this was Jakarion, Vilnius’s master. Fletcher finds the wizard’s staff at his side, and picks it up. Immediately, his demeanor changes somewhat….
The adventurers continue to follow the lich through another set of doors, beyond which is a large, well-lit dining hall, where a great table displays a delicious-smelling feast of meats, breads, sauces and soups, and wine. Fletcher asks how this could exist, and the lich grins knowingly, saying it does not. He points to the table, though, and says, “That’s real, though. Help yourself!”
Krossa finds the object to which the lich was referring – a green copper ewer sitting amongst the illusion of the feast. He leaves it behind, however, as they keep up with the lich, who moves through several secret doors before finally coming to his personal chambers.
Here, the trappings of luxurious comfort sit among the signs of age – dust covers everything, and great cobwebs stretch through the edges of the room. The party looks around the room. Fletcher finds a book entitled “The Incants of Exethanter.” He asks the lich if his name is Exethanter, but the lich cannot remember. He asks if the book is the lich’s spellbook, but – again – he cannot remember. The lich knows that the book is very important to him, for some reason, and urges Fletcher not to read through it.
Instead, the lich offers to take the group to his great library, for surely they are here for the power and ancient knowledge that the Amber Temple offers. They agree, and so the lich takes them through more secret doors and into a huge room lined with black bookcases that are packed with hundreds upon hundreds of very well-preserved books. This, so far, is the one room in the temple that does not show the signs of age like the other areas do.
Immediately, Y’shaarj goes to the bookcases and starts hungrily scanning the titles and looking through anything that catches his interest. Kasimir is overjoyed, in his somber way, thinking that this could be it – the key to reviving his sister. Ezmerelda, Krossa, Cairie, and Malis begin searching for anything they can find regarding lycanthropy.
Fletcher eyes a large, rounded staircase that leads down, and asks what’s down there. The lich responds, saying its the vault. The Amber Sarcophagi that offer the temple’s great, powerful gifts lie down there. The lich says he is free to go and see for himself, which Fletcher does right away.
Downstairs, Fletcher finds three tall, Amber Sarcophagi – great blocks of carved amber stone that stand in alcoves. Upon closer inspection, each contains a small wisp of deep black energy, that gently writhes within the stone. Fletcher touches one of the blocks, and he suddenly feels a connection, and a quiet voice in his head.
“I offer you the gift of everlasting life, and the hunger to feed upon life.”
Fletcher removes his hand, and goes to another sarcophagus, and places his hand upon it. Another voice enters his head.
“I offer you the knowledge and power to escape death forever.”
Fletcher removes his hand once more, then goes to the last sarcophagus. He puts his hand against the amber stone. Once again, a voice whispers in his mind.
“I offer the power to raise any among the dead.”
Fletcher considers this, and says, “Okay?”
A power surges through Fletcher, and he suddenly knows that he is able to resurrect any creature, no matter how long they have been deceased, as long as he touches them. Fletcher also fails a very important saving throw.
Fletcher calls out to Kasimir, saying he thinks he found what Kasimir was looking for. Fletcher heads up, as Kasimir starts down the stairs – and the elf stops, going for his weapon. He does not recognize Fletcher as first…because Fletcher now has the appearance of a living corpse.
Fletcher explains what happened with the sarcophagi and the new power he has, and looks himself over. He now understands that there is a cost to these gifts. He and Kasimir return to the rest of the group, who all reel at the new sight of Fletcher.
The lich seems thrilled, though, that someone has accepted a gift from the Amber Temple, and commends Fletcher on his new appearance. He says that they now look alike, and that “these good looks only come with age.” The lich offers to take them through the rest of the temple to the many other Amber Sarcophagi that lie within it. Fletcher says to hold on, and runs back downstairs.
He tries to accept the gift of escaping death, but his hand is suddenly burned and he pulls it away from the block as it whispers, “No…” to him. Instead, Fletcher goes to the third block and accepts the gift of everlasting life and the hunger for life. He now becomes aware of a set of instructions that he must complete in order to fully receive this gift. With that, Fletcher returns upstairs and accepts the lich’s offer of the tour. Concerned, Rolen decides to go with them.
Together, the three of them leave down a secret staircase that exits the library, while the others decide to stay behind and continue searching the books for the answers they seek. They eventually do find a book on lycanthropy, which seems to be a complete guide. Y’shaarj, however, is unsatisfied…he continues to search through the titles as if in a fever.
The lich takes Fletcher and Rolen around the bottom floor of the temple, and the lich introduces Fletcher to the various rooms with the Amber Sarcophagi. Fletcher goes to each… and readily, happily accepts each and every dark gift, and the physical and mental consequences that come with them.
Rolen watches, horrified, as Fletcher’s form changes with each embrace of the sarcophagi. His eyes melt out. He sprouts great, skeletal wings from his back. He suddenly reeks of filth. His voice changes to that of a low, menacing whisper, and his smile turns evil and cruel. Oily black fur sprouts on his face and hands.
Finally, after so many gifts, Fletcher resembles nothing of his former self, rather a monster dressed in Fletcher’s gear. He cruelly pushes past Rolen, who continues to object to what he’s doing, and laughs as he walks toward the next room of sarcophagi with the lich. But Rolen has seen enough. He casts fireball at Fletcher.
Woo! I apologize for my recent absence! I have been BUSY with a bunch of really cool stuff. I’m excited to share more on that another time, though.
This session was insane. Poor Seth, my player who plays Fletcher. This is the second time that a character’s curiosity has gotten the better of them. First Sly, who exploded a wagon and died, and now Fletcher… and all he did was pick up a staff, and he was doomed.
See, Jakarion’s wizard staff gives the wielder a new flaw of “I crave power above all else, and will do anything to obtain more of it.” There’s no saving throw, it just happens. So, when Fletcher picked that up, he gained that flaw. Then, when he heard about the power offered by the sarcophagi, he felt compelled to check it out, and begin accepting the gifts.
But there’s something else. Each time a character accepts a dark vestige from the sarcophagi, they must make a Charisma saving throw. Fletcher failed his, and thus his alignment shifted to Evil.
So, with that, Seth was absolutely willing to play this out and see where this led. He went on a tour through the temple with the lich and accepted all of the dark gifts he could, which granted him immense power, and a handful of new physical and character flaws. It was hilarious and awful at the same time.
I’m very excited to see how this plays out, and how his newly changed character reacts to Rolen attempting to stop him from gaining more power – not to mention the lich. Will the rest of the party fall prey to these two powerful beings as well? What is Y’shaarj searching for? Will they all escape the Amber Temple?
Find out next time – “All About Posturing.”
Until then – Well Met!