Session 45: The Amber Temple
Getting to his feet, the gladiator said he was called Helva and that his name was synonymous with might and legend. The party interrogated him about the Amber Temple and the best way in. He told of a secret way into the temple and reluctantly agreed to show them. “It won’t be easy,” he said. “We will probably all die. But it will be a glorious and noble death.”
“Oh good,” said Gimble Timbers, “as long as it’s noble.”
Last night was session 45 in our ongoing, online Curse of Strahd D&D campaign and we finally got to begin exploring the Amber Temple. It’s been at least five sessions since we set off for the temple, so we had really built up the expectations of the dungeon, and it didn’t disappoint. Within five minutes of us entering we were all burnt, bruised, bleeding, and paranoid.
Last session we tried to enter the temple, but were waylaid by a group of berserkers led by a gladiator. We bested the berserkers and gave Helva the gladiator one chance for survival. Help us enter the Amber Temple safely.
Engong and Her Associates are:
Engong – Half-Orc Monk, pyromaniac, leader, not a “people person”;
Gimble Timbers – Gnome Fighter, has a pet dog called Kevon;
Baräsh – Dragonborn Paladin, Oath of Vengeance;
Kosef – Human Rogue / Wizard, impatient, played by me;
Brundle Swash – Gnome Druid, disheveled, turns into a bear;
Victor – Human (Teenage) Wizard-in-Training, has issues, NPC.
The room was clearly an antechamber of sorts. A lobby that led deeper in the temple. There was an open door on one side, through which dancing shards of green light flitted. Behind a pile of rubble and bricks on the other side of the room was another door. Helva was clearly scared to go through, but began shifting the debris aside. The door cleared, the gladiator stepped forward. Baräsh put a hand, at once reassuring and intimidating, on his shoulder, then stepped away. The door swung open. Immediately three beams of intense heat and light seared through the doorway. With a scream, the gladiator fell to the ground. The body became dust. A smouldering pile of hot ash was all that remained of Helva. “Shut the door! Shut the door!”
The Amber Temple
An interesting start; I guess this was what Helva meant when he talked about going out in a blaze of glory. Our DM had warned us that the Amber Temple would be a dangerous location, and now we definitely got the message.
We quickly decided not to go through that particular door and chose the open door at the far end of the room instead. This led to a long dark chamber that was only barely illuminated by a series of green glowing arrow slots along the wall.
We walked along a balcony that overlooked a large, cavernous room 20 feet below us. We figured this was the main chamber of the Amber Temple. Those with darkvision could see an immense hooded statue at the far end of the chamber. The statue, the walls, and the floor of this vast place were all covered in amber, and glowed slightly as the green light filtered in.
Arrow slots and an amber statue
At the end of the balcony was a stair that led down in the main chamber. When we reached the stairs, we were close enough to see the statue more clearly. Shrouded in shadow, lost in darkness, it depicted a robed humanoid figure, hands clasped together in benediction.
For a while we debated whether we should descend the stairs or find another way around. For some reason this room made us all very worried. The ever-present green glow from the arrow slots just inches above our heads didn’t help.
Gimble Timbers, Engong, and Baräsh decided to go down, leaving Brundle, Victor, Ireena, and myself watching from above. At the bottom of the steps the three of them could investigate the large chamber. It had numerous doors and corridors leading who-knew-where, and of course that ever-present amber statue.
Baräsh couldn’t resist investigating and moved close. Immediately, four burning beams of green flame shot down from the arrow slots on the balcony. Baräsh was able to dodge some but got hit square in the chest by one which dealt a fair bit of damage. He dived backwards, just as a mote of red fire came crashing down at him, seemingly from the statue itself.
Luckily for Baräsh, he rolled high initiative and went first. He looked around, but could see no immediate threat. The shifting green glow continued to trickle in from the arrow slots as he cast Aid on his companions, giving Engong, Kosef, and Gimble Timbers an additional five hit points. He ran to the far side of the chamber and drew Jessica, his mighty Warhammer, from her sheath.
Next was Engong. She tossed her torch as high into the air as she could, testing to see if it attracted any fire rays; it didn’t. Then Gimble Timbers called out to Kosef, “Firebolt the statue’s face!” and he hid in the shadows under the balcony. Kosef did as requested and sent a Firebolt straight at the statue. It had no effect other than briefly illuminating its ghastly features. Brundle then cast a Fog Cloud spell above us, obscuring the arrow slots, in the hope that this would stop any future green-flame rays.
No more beams came from the arrow slots, but a Firebolt did strike Kosef from the statue, which dealt nine points of damage. It was a good job Baräsh had cast Aid just moments before. Reacting to the clear danger, we called for Ireena and Victor to run back to the first room, which we knew was safe. Ireena turned and ran. Victor made himself Invisible.
It took us four rounds of running in circles around this chamber, dodging (or not) the Firebolts from the statue, before we were all safely in one of the corridors that led away. Just as we thought we were in the clear, a fireball landed in the middle of us, only to then surprisingly fizzle out. At that moment Victor’s invisibility wore off; casting Counterspell on the Fireball ended his invisibility. But if he was here with us, who was looking after Ireena? That would be a problem for “future us” to deal with. Now we had to get out of this fiery corridor.
Nothics and offers
We ran into a room that had four or five exits. This area was peppered with sconces in the walls that housed flawless alabaster animal statues. Four of the exits to room seemed to be magically locked, so we chose the one that we could open.
Gimble Timbers peeked inside and saw four strange figures, hunched over a broken sarcophagus. They each had one large green eye that glowed in the center of their misshapen heads. Their backs were covered in spines. Like some grotesque porcupines foraging in the dark, they stared up at the gnome as he stood in the door. He felt them telepathically reach out to him asking dark, devious questions. These creatures were nothics. The remnants of cursed wizards who delved too deep, they scavenge in arcane places like rats. Gimble Timbers retreated out of the room.
As he did, the nothics ran to the door. We poised ourselves ready to fight, but they barged past us, leaving us alone in the room with the broken amber tomb and two others that were not broken.
We investigated the room. Kosef was the first to approach one of the pristine sarcophagi and reached out to touch it. Immediately I was struck by a cold, icy sensation. Then a deep voice called out. “Kosef, I am Delban, the Star of Ice. I have a gift for you.”
The others stood watching Kosef, frozen by the tomb. The voice continued, “I have a gift; it will aid you.”
It didn’t take long to realize that this was a bad idea. Kosef retracted his hand and backed up as the others stared on.
Dinner for one
Whilst everyone else was focused on Kosef, Victor ran forwards and touched the other sarcophagi. “It has given me secrets,” he said in a whisper, as a wide, manic grin took over his entire face. He explained that a voice in the tomb had offered him the power of divination, which he accepted. And to show off his new power, Victor attempted to cast the Scry spell. On Strahd. Somehow he succeeded, and he received an unexpected glimpse into Strahd’s home life. Our DM then explained what Victor saw:
Strahd is alone. He is sat at a long, ominous table. He calls out and after a silent moment a thin, pale, pin-striped man approaches with a jug of thick red liquid. The man pours Strahd a glass and retreats into the shadows. Slowly and purposefully Strahd sips from his pewter goblet. The crimson juice hangs on his upper lip. He looks up to the center of the table. There, naked, gagged, and bound, lie two human males, motionless. Strahd stands, picking up his knife and fork, and walks towards his meal.
Well, that was a dark and interesting turn of events. Although I can’t help but think it would have been fun to witness Strahd doing the dishes, cleaning cobwebs, or taking the bins out.
Ultimately it made sense for Victor to be seduced by the offer of new powerful magic here in the Amber Temple, and after the session ended our DM explained that the dark gift he had received would allow him to cast the Scry spell three times, but it also caused him to speak in barely audible whispers through a wide manic grin.
A pact is entered
It took us a couple of minutes to work out exactly what we had just seen. Was this the power to defeat Strahd that we had been looking for? What was the cost of entering such a dark pact?
Baräsh used his divine senses on Victor to see if this bargain had any effect on his alignment. He sensed no evil in him. So Engong, taking on her leaderly duties, stepped forward to touch the tomb and enter a pact.
A deep voice that only Engong could hear emanated from the sarcophagi. “I am Khirad, the Star of Secrets. Accept this gift offered unto you. Accept the power of foresight. See what your enemy plans. Know their secrets.” For a second Engong paused. She turned to Victor to ask, “Are you sure there are no side-effects?” But no sound came out. “This gift is freely given,” the deep voice rang in her ears. She nodded and a broad smile, cruel and evil, spread across her face. END
This was a great session, with some awesome roleplay opportunities. Our DM was clearly relishing the chance to mess with Victor, our teenage wizard NPC, and he was very happy when Engong also chose to take the dark gift of Khirad. How this will play out in the long run remains to be seen, but I have a feeling this isn’t the last time our party will be offered an evil pact while we’re in the Amber Temple.
What did we learn?
DM Tip: Be prepared to improvise. A lot. And don’t worry if your players ask questions that you haven’t prepared for; no one expects you to have planned dialogue or text for every eventuality. But, if there are three tombs in a room, two of which have detailed descriptions, it might be a good idea to have thought about who was in the third one as well. Otherwise you might end up with a dark power being called Clive, the Star of Towels.
Player Tip: Keep track of your pets and NPCs by completing regular rollcalls. We haven’t been doing this. Which is why, as we entered the main chamber of the temple, we suddenly discovered that Kevon, our gnome fighter’s pet dog, was missing. It turns out we haven’t seen him since the commotion with the Roc on the bridge three session ago. So there’s a slight chance that he might have plummeted 200 feet down a wintery ravine. Our gnome is not happy.
Next week we continue our exploration of the Amber Temple. I wonder if we will ever find the means to destroy Strahd? Or will we just be too distracted by the temptations of evil, dark powers?