Roster (Party Level 7th)
Berend - Dwarven Fighter
Elumai - Eladrin Wizard
Finial - Half-elf Paladin
Jonas - Human Rogue/Ranger
The fight gradually begins to center around Murkelmoor as one-by-one he is stripped of his defenders. The Barlgura falls to a combination of attacks from Xavier, Finial, and Elumai, allowing them to turn their attention to its master, but Berend falls foul of Murkelmoor's magic and is lifted bodily into the roiling clouds above, suffering at the claws of whatever creatures lurk inside.
Across the room, the mages desperately attempt to conjure a means to halt Matorna-Reevash in her tracks, and although they are briefly successful, the Kingsblade's compulsion is simply too strong for them, and she is able to activate the second urn. Like the first, it births a Necrotech-infused worm which screams up into the blackness above and disappears, leaving the urn cracked and lifeless. Murkelmoor screams up to the heavens in triumph: "Namotath! Your children awake!", while Matorna-Reevash, collapsing in pain from the feedback, struggles painfully to her feet. Even turned to the affairs of her enemies, her will is strong, and she begins staggering across the room to the third and final urn.
The remaining Evistro have converged on Jonas and Finial, while Murkelmoor is barely managing to keep the party at bay by unleashing curses which cause them great pain if they take even a step towards him. Spotting an opportunity, Elumai attempts to extinguish the third urn by deploying a Dispel Magic, a tactic which seems to work, causing the urn to sputter out. The cloud above immediately starts to thin, giving Berend valuable breathing room and allowing him to break the magical choke hold and drop back to the ground.
With Azurami successfully holding the injured Matorna-Reevash at bay with Thunderwave, and the remaining demons dropping beneath the combined onslaught of Xavier and Jonas, the question becomes not one of victory, but whether Murkelmoor will be able to kill any of the party before he is dispatched. The fight is long and bitter, but in the end, the warlock falls alone.
Matorna-Reevash is immediately released from the his control. As she regains her strength, pain gives way to anger. She raises one quivering hand to her face, touching the crisped and blackened flesh there, and screams to no-one and everyone, "What did that bastard do to me?!"
She turns desperately to Finial, grabbing his hand. "They won't allow me back into the service after this! Look at me, paladin-- impure! Don't let them bury me in some god-forsaken dungeon! I have to atone, free myself of this stain! Whatever God you serve, you have to help me!" Finial takes her aside and spends a few moments settling her into calm. He assures her he won't allow any harm to come to her while Bahamut watches over them.
Meanwhile, the spoils of their victory must be claimed. Murkelmoor has a whole selection of necklaces around his neck, many of them extremely valuable, and one of them, an Amulet of Protection +2, even more so. In addition a vial of residuum-like dust catches Elumai's eye, but after study, she finds it to be something more than a simple stock of reagent. Although she doesn't know it by name, she has found the Dust of Worm's Jaunt, a powerful concoction that allows the user to inscribe a portal to some other, fixed location, and teleport there using the pocket dimension of Tumerex, the Plane of Worms, as a medium.
Although Elumai surmises that even combined with Azurami's expertise, they might not yet have the inner strength of will needed to build a tunnel through such a hideous place, they have no choice but to try. After a tense preparation, the portal is inscribed on the stone floor of the sanctum. The stone ripples like water, and a clutch of small, maggoty worms is disgorged onto the floor... but the ritual appears to have worked, for through the portal, they can see the unmistakable architecture of the Seven-Pillared Hall.
The party steps through. The transition is grotesque and smothering, like drowning in worms, and they all share the same feeling that something has watched them pass, a vast and cool intellect which now knows all of their names, but nevertheless, they emerge onto the pedestal at the heart of the Hall unscathed. However, the place is not how they left it.
It lies in ruins. Two huge tunnels have opened up into the cavern, one where the waterfall in the south wall used to be, and another to the east near the Dragon Door. The tunnels are rippled and glistening, much like the even larger tunnel that they first used to find Saruun Khel, and whatever emerged has done untold damage to almost every corner of the Hall, reducing familiar buildings like the Halfmoon into so much dust and rubble, before apparently retreating the way it had come. Much of the Hall now lies submerged under a foot of water, the frigid waters of the underground river which feeds the cisterns crashing untethered to the cavern floor.
Picking amongst the devastation, stunned survivors recount how two massive worms exploded from the rock and did all of this damage in just a couple of minutes, before being ordered by Paldemar, who had appeared at the portal plinth, to retreat. It's clear that there is no longer any love lost between the people and their arcane overseers, who they now see as the purveyors of the latest doom to be brought upon them.
While Jonas examines the remains of the teleporter and its guardian statuary, the rest of the party are attracted by a furtive Orontor, hiding inside a nearby pile of rubble. He beckons them over and begs them to help him escape... but the party is more interested in the information he posesses about Paldamar.
He tells them much of what they already know or have surmised. Paldemar has discovered that the strange mineral they know as flurock is actually the petrified flesh of one of the ancient Rockworms of Kworm, mythical creatures that are said to roam the inner core of the World. When all of his other efforts to revitalise the substance into life failed, he partnered with a group of Necrotech cultists in order to raise... not an army of worms, but one worm, the very beast which was worshipped by the minotaurs of Saruun Khel and whose flesh is petrified into the walls of the catacomb.
He doesn't know the fate of the other mages. He's convinced that Emerjis and Passeract were in on the scheme, but suspects that the others -- some of whom he had actually come to like! -- have been sacrified or killed. When asked why he alone escaped, he insists that he was sent away on a spurious diplomatic mission to the drow, but that his intuition told him not to leave the Hall.
"A final indignity! I wasn't even worth killing!"
-- Orontor to the party in the remains of the Seven-Pillared Hall
The adventurers are suspicious of this story, but he appears to be telling the truth. Before they can interrogate him further, however, they realise that their conversation has drawn a bit of a crowd... and they don't look happy.
Flanked by more than a dozen other people, a man named Bernold steps forward. He is slick with sweat, and his arm rests in a bloodied sling. "My son of two years is dead now! One life in exchange for another, I demand it!" His rhetoric soon turns the other battered civilians into a furious mob, with Orontor cowering behind the adventurers as his life hangs in the balance. However, there are few emotions that cannot be calmed by Finial's silver tongue, and with the help of his friends he gently talks the commoners away from thoughts of revenge and more towards the prospect of rebuilding their home, free from the influence of the mages and with all the treasures of the underdark theirs for the taking.
Orontor, however, remains unconvinced that the minute the party turns their back, he won't be strung from the nearest rafter. After providing the last morsel of information they need to assault Paldemar's recluse -- the portal password, Arrasnia -- he buries himself back in rubble to await their return.
Karma, it seems, has other plans than to let the adventurers leave just yet, for as the party moves to the portal, Berend catches sight of none other than Brugg, pushing a few battered civilians around and stealing from them what few morsels of food they have found in the shattered remains of the Halfmoon Inn. It's all the excuse Berend needs...