Smelling something like cooked game mixed with the putrid stench of swamp grass, the troll collapses into a smoking heap and skitters a bit down the stairs. Balamox scrapes the edge of his axe along the wall of the passage and kneels down, drawing his survival knife. As the party watches on, he cuts a sliver of flesh from the inert troll corpse and stares at it, considering it.
He wonders to himself if he could turn it into an endless supply of food. It turns out, however, that the flesh does not continue to regenerate after the death of its host, so he discards it.
From the depths below, and a far distance, the party hears a wailing cry of pain. It is cut off rather abruptly. Suddenly the stairs below the party vibrate and the passage shakes with a quick jolt, then stills.
The light of the torches reveals little more than a continuing set of stone steps leading them deeper below ground. After another 30 feet or so, the party discovers that the passage is partially collapsed from above. Fenrir notes there is a small gap between the cave-in and the left wall of the stairway that the party can fit past, and also spies the limb of an ogre sticking out from beneath the rubble.
The victim of this cave-in has been dead for no longer than a few hours. Cautiously, Balamox is the first to circumvent the fallen stone. The stairway on the other side tells a gruesome tale of close-in fighting. Several ogre corpses are accompanied by a few corpses of Belal Keepers, disciples in chain mail wearing black cloaks and howling demon clasps. Balamox’s darkvision reveals that after another 40 feet the stairway ends at a passageway of hewn granite leading ahead.
The remainder of the party joins Balamox and they descend the staircase into the passage. Fenrir takes the lead and discovers a small chamber that is mostly bare, but for a partitioned wall to the left and a stone altar on the far end of the room. There is a stone door opposite the party on the far wall that is slightly ajar—some faint light emanates from behind it. Fenrir searches for traps or hidden doors and finds nothing.
Behind the partitioned wall is the rest of the chamber. Nothing is here except for iron stakes driven into the wall just above head level, and a dark blood stain in the far corner. The stone altar bears the symbol of the Fisher and is also bare but for a rectangular outline on its top surface that is the only part of the altar that is not covered in dust.
Balamox takes the initiative and passes through the open door. He discovers a continuation of the hewn tunnel, but notes that the granite is giving way to a limestone bedrock. Several feet ahead the corridor opens up into what appears to be a very large room, supported by pillars, and carved out of the same limestone.
It is at this point that Jasko gasps and falls to his knees, head down. His body is shaking and he is crying out. The party watches as his already new shock of red hair begins to grow, descending below his heaving shoulders. Two lumps directly behind his shoulder blades are bulging beneath his clothing and he shrieks with pain. Drake and Fenrir quickly help him out of his armor as two protrusions of bone and tissue tear through the back of his shirt. They are covered in what appear to be brilliant white feathers, wings which extend outwards, flexing toward the ceiling. Jasko looks up, tears clouding his eyes, and the party discovers another transformation. He no longer has pupils.
The party also tries to communicate with Jasko, but to no avail. It seems he is speaking some strange language, lilting and alien. After a time, the party decides to continue onwards.
They make their way into the passage ahead. It is at this point that Fenrir, with his keen eyes, noticing something awry on the floor of the chamber ahead. He quickly averts his gaze and informs the rest of his companions that it would be a bad idea to focus on that portion of the chamber.
After some discussion, including a confusing exchange with Jasko, the party decides to move on, avoiding look at the particular section of floor Fenrir indicated could be hazardous. As they near closer to where the passageway opens into the room ahead, many of the party spot a large, beastly leg poking out from behind one of the central pillars of the chamber. It is not moving, so they remain wary and continue into the room.
The chamber is very large, at least 100 feet wide by 60 feet long. There are six large pillars, equidistant from each other, adorned with the symbols of Benevar’s incarnations. This room also appears to have been carved into shape, hewn by axes. There is light illuminating the entire chamber, with each light source emanating from either side of the room. On the far left chamber wall is an archway leading into another passage. It also appears that there once existed a portal on the far side of the room and also on the right but they have only been partially excavated from the rock.
The party cautiously hugs the near wall on their left as they head for the adjoining passage. Passing one of the pillars, they notice a heap of bodies, some ogres and one troll, all clustered near the pillar farthest from them. Balamox takes a lit torch and heaves it onto the corpse of the troll, who explodes into flame and burns down into ash.
Drake takes this opportunity to determine what magical effects are present in the room and casts a detect magic spell. She discovers moderate magical aura of enchantment that creates the light cast into the chamber. She also detects a 20-foot diameter evocation pervading the area centered on the mogrin corpses. In addition, in the area that Fenrir detected something wrong, Drake detects a strong necromantic aura.
It is at this point that sounds come from the passage to the party’s left. They hear hoarse cries and see a column of Belal Keepers charging down the corridor towards the chamber. Another Keeper, this one adorned in blackened leather armor with a large, howling unholy symbol hanging from his neck steps from behind the pillar near the ogre bodies and casts an evil spell. The bodies begin to shift and move, and rise to their feet, animated as zombies.
The party enters battle. Balamox charges the corridor ahead, barring the passageway, raising his axe to assault the keepers. Diggerdown and Vinch both use their innate deep gnome abilities and blur their shapes, fanning out to assault the ogre zombies. Fenrir pulls his bow and trains it on the ogres, and Drake begins to weave a spell.
Jasko grabs hold of his holy symbol, invoking the holy power of Benevar and raises his hand, directing the power of his faith at the ogre zombies. They all shrink back as the righteous might of Benevar wars with the Keeper’s control of his zombies. Two of them turn and flee toward the back wall.
Meanwhile, Balamox has engaged the Belal Keeper footsoldiers in the corridor. He swings his dwarven waraxe with alacrity, cleaving straight through the collarbone and upper chest of his first opponent, who goes down with a pathetic cry. The remaining followers of the evil god slow their advance and approach the dwarf more warily.
Diggerdown and Vinch move ahead to engage the remaining ogre zombie, taking advantage of their diminutive size to avoid blows from the monstrous creature as they slash and hack away at its flesh.
Finally finished drawing arcane power, Drake unleashes a sorcerous bolt of lightning directly at the priest of Belal, who twists away, but not quickly enough, and gets blasted and singed by the directed energy.
Jasko’s wings spread outwards and he takes to the air—so, apparently, he can fly. He wings for the remaining ogre zombie and pulls out his quarterstaff. Fenrir, meanwhile, has trained his arrows on the ogre and lets them fly, striking the undead mogrin twice, burying shafts deep in its body.
Balamox, still occupied with the soldiers in the corridor, decides to remedy that situation. With two wide swings he delivers a sucking chest wound to one and nearly decapitates the next, but he is not finished. He takes one more step and crushes the final soldier against the wall, burying his axe deeply into the unfortunate warrior’s hip.
The Belal priest, rocked by his loss of control over most of the zombies, and also at a disadvantage because he just got electrocuted, attempts to regain his composure, but meets the gaze of Drake once again, who has already readied another devastating bolt of energy. The lightning lances out, catching the priest full-on. He explodes into flames and his charred carcass falls to the floor, dead.
The party makes short work of the remaining undead ogres and stands over their fallen enemies, wondering exactly what is in store for them, and what might be the significance of so many mogrin accompanying the invading Keepers, seemingly as foes. They divide up the spoils and prepare to resume their journey deeper into the lost shrine of Benevar in the City of Nectar and Blood.