18 Reaping, 592 CY
Having returned to Cauldron via spell to recover from their injuries and refresh their power, the Silver Phoenixes teleported back to Shatterhorn the following morning. They cautiously made their way across the shrine that had formerly contained the profane altar to Merrshaulk, and passed the section of hallway where they’d defeated the medusas. They noted that the bodies of their foes had been removed, and so they redoubled their caution, Bransen and Jarvyk moving ahead while Ashton and Greyjek remained back behind the cover of the pillars.
The vanguard entered a four-way intersection of fifteen-foot-wide passages illuminated by torches in sconces. Like other areas of the dungeon, the walls were adorned with faded murals depicting yuan-ti rituals and great serpents. The passage to the north had collapsed, leaving only two possible paths forward. To their left (west), the wide hallway ended just after a pair of narrower passages opposite one another to the north and south. To their right, the wide corridor extended farther, with more than a couple narrow hallways exiting from it to the north and south. Waving the others forward, Jarvyk began to lead the group west.
The constructs arrived soundlessly and without preamble. A pair of hulking white creatures with vaguely humanoid shapes appeared in the hallway behind the group, threatening Ashton and Greyjek. The erudite recognized them immediately as the animate clumps of ectoplasm called forth by metacreativity: astral constructs. They weren’t very well sculpted, all massive fists and harsh angles, but Greyjek could tell that whoever had created them had chosen function over form. Bursts of raw force exploded outward from each of the constructs, buffeting the adventurers with crushing blows. Then they began to put their giant fists to efficient use, pummeling their quarry without mercy.
Bransen and Jarvyk moved forward to help, but a moment later Greyjek dismissed the ectoplasm, ruining the power that had held it into shape. The hall was silent for a brief moment before another pair of the constructs appeared and repeated the process, severely wounding Ashton, who had gone back toward the entrance a few steps. Then the floor fell out from beneath the magus, and he desperately scrambled to avoid falling into the slashing blades he saw below the floor’s surface. Unfortunately, this left his standing right beside one of the ectoplasmic brutes. He tried to teleport back to the western hallway, where his allies stood, but his unfamiliarity with the temple caused the spell to misfire, and he appeared…somewhere else.
The party brought all their resources to bear on the constructs, while Greyjek decided to seek the true attacker, manifesting touchsight. He immediately noticed a pair of arrow slits near the corner of the four-way intersection: one on the east side of the southern hall, above the middle of the missing section of floor, and one on the south wall of the eastern hall, at a similar distance from the corner. He frowned, took a calculated guess, and stepped through a dimension door. The erudite found himself in a glorified closet containing two levers, a narrow hallway exit to the south, and a very surprised farastu demodand. The berserker whirled on Greyjek and tried to tear him to shreds, but it was defeated by the concealing amorpha that hid his would-be victim’s true location. In response, the erudite dismissively sent the demodand back to his home plane.
Meanwhile, out in the hall, Ashton had returned to the temple. The true attacker came forth, manifesting another pair of astral constructs to flank Bransen, who stood in the center of the intersection. After these had been dispelled, the adventurers saw the man for the first time. Thin and pale, with wide, darting brown eyes, the human man had his head shaved except for a small forelock in the middle of his brow that appeared greasy and flat. He flew up the hallway from the south, and he spoke in a nasal voice, taunting the adventurers.
Jarvyk and Ashton, had retreated to escape the constant blasts of the constructs and heal some of their more serious injuries. The dwarf paladin rounded the corner, finding himself face to face with the man. He took a swing at the psion, drawing a hefty gash across him. Thearynn Louvell cackled loudly and thanked the adventurers for gathering so close together. He flew back just out of Jarvyk’s reach and released an ultrablast, which pummeled the minds of both the dwarf and Bransen. Then the Cagewright leader flew back down the hallway and into the darkness of the Temple of Fangs.
Bransen had moved farther down the eastern hallway, and so he was the first to see the tiefling monk they’d first fought in the Fiery Sanctum running down the hallway toward him. She leaped up and kicked the young man hard, her tattoos writhing with spent energy. She kicked him again, forcing him a step back, and then yelled out for someone to “Pull the lever!” Unfortunately for the woman, the demodand on lever duty had been dispatched already. Ashton conjured a cloud of poisonous vapors that filled most of the eastern hallway, and caused the tiefling to retreat. He and Bransen stood ready to attack should she reemerge from the murk.
Greyjek faced down Thearynn Louvell, dispelling most of his protective powers with a thought and an exertion of will. “So, you’re still playing lapdog for the Council, eh Greyjek?” chided the psion. “I thought you were more ambitious than that. Didn’t you seek greater power for its own sake?” The sentence was followed by a killing blast, as Louvell attempted to shut down Greyjek’s mind. The erudite withstood the assault, and flew forward without responding to the jabs. Cornered, Louvell licked his dry lips and said, “I can offer you the power you seek. Come with me! The Cagewrights have failed, now. I see that I don’t need them. Just come with me, and we will achieve power the likes of which our kind has never even dreamed about!”
Greyjek dispassionately forced Louvell to recall the moment of his death as it would have been had he not crossed a psionic power of the Woosah’s caliber. Louvell blinked once and said, “Oh. The sky would have been clear that day.” Then he slumped to the stones, blood oozing from his eyes and ears.
Back in the eastern hallway, Jarvyk had summoned Fer Lomarcan and the three were proceeding cautiously forward after Ashton had dismissed the cloudkill. Greyjek caught them up, and the Silver Phoenixes moved as one entering what turned out to be a wider room filled with pillars. The four innermost pillars of this chamber bore lit torches in serpentine sconces, and the flickering light cast sinister shadows upon the walls, ceiling, and floor. Some of the pillars were cracked and crumbling, revealing slick black stone beneath the plaster murals. The murals depicted masses of writhing snakes and yuan-ti clad in black robes and golden armor.
They stalked forward, straining their senses to detect the threat they knew to be there somewhere. However, the tiefling continued to elude detection. When they’d almost crossed the entire chamber, a man stepped from behind a pillar on the far east side of the chamber. He had shaggy black hair, blood-red tattoo patterns on his face, and the unholy symbol of Erythnul prominently displayed on his shield. He wore a cloak and gloves that appear to be stitched human skin. Then Alurad Sorizan and the fiendish dire badger Fleshripper both charged Jarvyk. It was to be their final act.
The tiefling monk reappeared after the Erythnulian’s charge and once more attacked Bransen. Unfortunately, the “sorcerer” was backed up by both Ashton and Greyjek this time, and between the three of them the tiefling, Ardeth Webb, did not stand a chance. With their enemies slain, the adventurers looted the corpses, coming up with three more Rings of Thirteen, including Louvell’s. Then they considered their next move.