As always, SPOILERS AHEAD!
The group left Winterhaven, escorting Sir Oakley to Gardmore Abbey on his quest to purify the main temple on top of the mountain. He explained that he knew of the existence of a secret stair to take the party up the back side of the mountain and straight to Dragon’s Roost (the mountaintop). After an hour or two of searching, they uncovered the stair and made their way up the long climb.
At the top, they found four buildings still standing. The main temple was the grandest of these, and only partially ruined. The stair came up directly behind a squat, columned building. To the south was a long, ruined structure, and to the north was the relatively intact gate house that guarded the road down to the orc village.
Since they were right next to the squat building, they peeked inside and saw webs all over the ceiling. Recalling their earlier, unpleasant run-in with deathjump spiders, they moved elsewhere.
Our intrepid explorers decided to poke around the long, ruined building to the south next. Peering inside, they saw some broken bunks, a well, and a rubble-covered stairway. This building had evidently been a barracks. After debating for a few minutes whether they should go inside (the well was strangely tempting for our elf hunter, who had enjoyed drinking from the Font of Ioun earlier), I had them roll a stealth check… which they failed.
Suddenly, a big-ass bug popped out of the ground in the middle of their group, spraying rocks and debris all over them. It was a bulette! And so battle ensued.
This was Encounter 19: The Barracks. With a party of five, it would include the bulette and two carrion crawlers. I scaled it down for my three-PC party by removing a carrion crawler. Having Sir Oakley in the party made it a pretty easy encounter.
Running the bulette was fun; I was happy to let him get opportunity attacked if need be in order to dig back into the ground and burst out later, creating zones of difficult terrain all over the place. I had the carrion crawler make stealth checks for the first two rounds to get close to the doorway where the fight was taking place, and the warpriest who chased the bulette into the main barracks had to make a quick decision whether to fight on or retreat when she saw the tentacled monstrosity clinging to the wall inside the door. She fought on, and the day was soon won.
Our elf hunter was disappointed to discover that the well only had water 30 feet down, with no bucket to fetch it. Mature character that he is, he decided to poop down the well in frustration. Okay then. He also searched the ruins and found a skeleton with a small amount of gold and two potion vials. These turned out to be an Elixir of Flying and an Elixir of Accuracy (I’m so loving Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium).
The group asked Sir Oakley about the stairs, which he explained led down to the ancient vaults far beneath Dragon’s Roost, in which there were chambers devoted to all of the gods worshiped at Gardmore Abbey. He said that, while he would one day love to cleanse the entirety of the abbey from evil influence, including the vaults, his main goal for now was to cleanse the temple.
Thus, the party headed for the grand building. Inside, they saw altars devoted to Kord, Pelor, Erathis, Ioun and Moradin, in addition to the grand altar to Bahamut himself. Bahamut’s human knight avatar was also represented in statue form in the middle of the temple.
The temple was not entirely uninhabited, however, as the group soon learned. A disgusting half-woman, half-vulture creature swooped down and invited the group to come and pray for Bahamut, but she wasn’t making a lot of sense. Her sister in the rafters was babbling incoherently. Our dragonborn swordmage recognized the creatures as harpies. Sir Oakley didn’t like this one bit, saying that harpies are not known for their worship of Bahamut, and this harpy’s preaching was nonsensical and sacrilegious. He drew his sword, as did the rest of the party, and the harpies began the fight. They were soon joined by a pair of angels of valor; creatures that normally would defend a temple, but that seemed intent on destroying the intruders, even though Sir Oakley was clearly a paladin of Bahamut. Thus began Encounter 21.
The lead harpy soon enthralled most of the party with her bizarre hymn to Bahamut, pulling them closer to her so that the angels could zap them with lightning. [Side note: I LOVE the descriptions of the harpies from a role-playing perspective on page 7 of book 4. Giving these monsters not only names but also personalities and descriptions of their songs was fantastic!]
Once our hunter had escaped the enthralling song, he decided to pull out the Elixir of Flying and take to the air. As he got close to the altar of Kord, his deity, he felt a pull in that direction and discovered that fighting while near the altar of his god made him more powerful. He took great pleasure in shooting the angels out of the air and sending them crashing to the floor.
Our swordmage, who is firmly unaligned and worships no deity, asked if she could do an on-the-spot conversion to worship Ioun, whose altar was the easiest for her to get to. I absolutely allowed this – and oh, there will be consequences!
Eventually, the swordmage’s ongoing lightning damage felled the final angel, and the group could rest for a moment in the temple. They discovered they harpies’ chamber, where the gaps between the bricks had been stuffed with gold coins. They also discovered a mace hidden under a harpy-dung-covered pile of fabric and furs, which had clearly belonged to an original defender of the temple. This was revealed to be a Mace of Disruption (yay Mordenkainen again!), which I thought was a perfect fit for the temple and a useful weapon for our half-elf warpriest.
Sir Oakley then attempted his ritual to purify the temple, while the PCs assisted (since they now each worshiped a deity represented here). Sadly, the ritual failed because three religious relics were missing from the main altar. Sir Oakley asked the party to find the relics and bring them back to him in the temple, confident that they must be somewhere in the area of Gardmore Abbey.
The group asked Sir Oakley if he would stand guard while they took an extended rest in the temple, and he agreed to do so.
Thus ended session three. I have not yet revealed the treasure hidden in the altar to Bahamut, but I think it will come up soon. I also have yet to remember the Key card from the Deck of Many Things that the party carries, but the players haven’t remembered it yet, either. I’m looking forward to session four next weekend!
Later sessions: Session four