Common Year 579

22. A nice, quiet suburb of hell

From 12 to 13 Wealsun, 579 CY

The party continued to search the desecrated temple for any sign of the Slave Lords, but they found nothing except empty, unused rooms. The only clue for how to proceed was a carving in the main doors of the temple, depicting a robed, hooded figure with horns and an outstretched palm. The party attempted to clasp the hand and pry open the doors, but not even Hessa’s frost-giant strength would budge the stone.

Then the party remembered the token of the yellow eye that they had taken from an orc. They placed the token in the palm of the carving, and immediately their surroundings changed. Although they remained in the courtyard of the temple, the sky above them turned to red, and they found themselves surrounded by orcs. After killing these enemies and their reinforcements, Father Dominco told his companions about what he suspected: that they were all in hell, or the outskirts of hell; that the Slave Lords are so well hidden from the world because their lairs do not exist in the world, or exist there only in part, as empty and abandoned places, through which they and their servants can pass.

The party fought their way through many horrors into a ritual chamber with a statue of Gruumsh. There they killed a priestess with brilliant yellow eyes, but they were unable to rescue a number of slaves who were also present. A half-orc assassin murdered the slaves while the battle raged on and afterwards attempted to murder the party. The party killed the assassin and burned the bodies of the slaves, although Dominco despaired for their souls, because they died in hell.

A trap door beneath the legs of the Gruumsh led to a network of underground tunnels, as if made by giant ants. While a number of giant ants were encountered, the party soon met the true builders of the tunnels: aspises, or human-sized insects that walk on two legs and wield multiple weapons with the rest of their limbs. A queen aspis was discovered and killed, which caused a swarming response in all the aspises and giant ants in the colony. These creatures chased the party frantically through the tunnels, until the party managed to double back to the chamber of the queen. Zarra remembered that the ceiling of the chamber was held up by wooden supports, so, acting on her idea, Devil Pancake blasted the supports with magic missiles and caused the ceiling to cave in. The party was safe in an adjacent tunnel, but the aspises and giant ants were crushed to death, and any treasure in the queen’s chamber was lost forever.

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