The circular stone portal stood before them, the sundered remains of Iron Golems lay scattered about their feet. Alluvian and Ragnork studied the door, discovering a pair of deep holes with a series of ridges along the inside. After some consultation with the rest of the group, they tried inserting the hands of the iron golems into the holes, the fists slid in, and with a few twists, locked into place. With some effort, they were able to raise the large stone up and out of the way.
Thick smoke, flashes of light, and unearthly noises streamed out of the portal from the passageway beyond. They all caught the heavy scent of incense, the thick, heavy kind commonly used in the temples of the Church of the Benevolents. But there was another scent in the air, one that the incense could not quite cover up, the sickly sweet smell of rot and decay. The sound was of voices raised in song, beautiful angelic voices, but there was something very wrong with the song itself. The light was from something far down the passage, flickering brightly through the heavy incense smoke.
Ved’rail examined the portal’s heavy door and took steps to jam the portal open, not sure how they would be able to manage opening it from the inside. The passageway went about a hundred feet into the rock of the cliff face. Oddly the surfaces of the passage resembled finely wrought stonework involving several different shades of hard stone arranged in a highly stylized manner. There was a short staircase at the far side of the passage and at the top of the staircase stood a figure. The figure stood still with its hands raised, a faint nimbus of light illuminated its hands and forearms. The bright flickering light was behind the figure, hiding all details in shadow.
Gretel noted that the singing was in the language of the higher planes, but the actual words they used were abyssal invocations put to song. The singers were invoking the lower planer powers in the language of the high planes, Gretel had never heard such blasphemy.
Samnymian used Detect Magic to sense the magics within the passage and the room beyond. He noted multiple spells to his companions, spells designed to shape and preserve the very passage itself, spells to strip away one’s willpower, as well as protective spells to those devoted to the lower planes. The magics were to strong to dispell, so he focused on counter magics, enhancing resistances and improvement spells to counteract the draining ones.
Resolved, they entered the passageway, fortunately their magical defenses held, allowing them to progress. As they moved in, they each heard a disturbing voice penetrate their minds, every word in punched there causing them pain.
“FOOLISH CHILDREN, YOUR INTERFERENCE WILL AVAIL YOU NOTHING. COME FORTH AND FACE THE PUNISHMENT FOR YOUR ARROGANT TRANSGRESSIONS.”
The willpower behind the words nearly crushed the fight from the party as they moved in, but they steeled themselves and pressed onward. They closed distance with the figure, whom they discovered was another Iron Priestess of the Church of the Benevolents. She was dispatched quickly, allowing them a clear look into the chamber beyond.
At first glance, they beheld a holy place. An expansive hall, several hundred feet long, a high vaulted ceiling with intricate carvings along the rib like spans of archways, several transepts on either side of the hall, and tall columns. All the surfaces were carved with intricate designs and figures of the deities held in worship by the Church. The stone itself was almost white, with trim and finer details highlighted with gold leaf.
Along the outer walls of the transepts were close to a hundred of the Acolytes of the Church, their voices raised in blasphemous song. Along the center isles were clusters of Soldiers of the Church, some in the heavy armor of Knights of the Church and others in the robes of Church Clerics. The congregation was led by a High Priest of the Church who miraculously floated ten feet in the air before his flock.
His voice could be heard above the drone of the acolytes’ song, “Even now, my children, the foul spawn of Legion enter this, our sacred cathedral in the heart of his vile realm. Raise your voices, let our blessed soldier of light feel your devotion to The Benevolents. Our Angel will defend the Way, and the Tree of Corruption shall wither and die, freeing our world from Legion, Forever!”
Even as the High Priest spoke, the companions could see that the source of the shimmering light they noticed when they first came in, came from a large figure floating behind him. At eighteen feet tall, the feminine figure appeared be clad in plates of alabaster armor, trimmed in brilliant gold. Every plate was intricately designed and interlocked perfectly. Her face was difficult to see, but appeared to be of the same material as her armor, but it was her eyes that were the source of the light. Her eyes shown so bright it was difficult to look at her face directly. It was framed by a mane of golden hair, that whipped about as if caught in a strong wind.
She held a huge two handed sword, point down before her. The blade was of the same alabaster and gold as the rest of her. Above her head was a halo of golden light with fine points along the circumference, that was rotating slowly clockwise. Behind her head was an even larger halo that formed an arch from one shoulder to another, rotating in the opposite direction, at the same slow pace. From her back, translucent strands of luminescent smoke formed tendrils that stretched forward into the rest of the chamber, the light appeared to gather around the singing Acolytes, drawing something forth from them.
Several of members of the party noticed that the incense smoke gathered in an odd swirling pattern behind the giantess.
As the High Priest’s benediction ended, the gathered Soldiers of the Church cheered and turned to repel the intruders…
to be continued…