We pick up with our adventures sitting in the large teleport-receiving room in Grazz'ts fortress in the Abyss. After a tough battle with the guardian Molydeus demons who were waiting for them and some battles before that just getting to the fortress, the party is recovering for a minute or two, resurrecting their dead and licking their wounds. At this point, they are starting to feel the pinch of not resting and are getting somewhat depleted on spells. And by far, their toughest battle yet is still to come.
Enter the Abyssal Palace Guard. These are Grazz'ts personal guard. The party has proven themselves powerful opponents and Grazz't has taken serious notice at this point and has sent his most powerful and trusted servants to personally deal with them. These servants consist of:
- Istharok Legurian, a rank 0 deity mindflayer/half-fiend. Istharok is the captain of the guard and also the head dragonrider of the fortress. He is an extremely capable individual and is probably as much a threat to the party as the rest of the Palace Guard combined. He is somewhat loyal to Grazz't for now, as it suits his own purposes, but would be interested in maybe helping the party if he thought they could kill Grazz't and put Istharok in his place. But of course, he is under Grazz't thumb, and so must follow orders for now. (Istharok: Mindflayer 12 HD + Wizard 10/Mage of the Arcane Order 10. HP 592, AC 64, Attacks 4 tentacles +36 melee and bite +30 melee; or +5 vorpal mercurial longsword +36/31/26/21. Damage Tentacles 1d4+11 + imp. grab / extract brain, bite 1d6+21 + Poison d6/d6 CON loss DC 50, sword 1d10+15. Saves Fort 34, Ref 36, Will 41. Str 24, Dex 34, Con 30, Int 54, Wis 28, Cha 26. SR 32, DR 35/+4, Special: All mindflayer and half-fiend abilities/resistances/immunities. Acid/Cold/Elec/Fire Resistance 20, Ring of Blinking, lots of Wiz spells (4/10/10/9/9/9/9/8/8/8, DC 32+spell level (36+spell level for Evoc, Ench, and Trans)), some psionic innates as well (notably Improved TK @ 12th lvl caster, capable of 48d6 with his specialized lead/crystal boulders + 16d6 shrapnel in 100' radius on impact)
- Istharok's mount is Alegarius, an epic-level Ancient Wyrm Gold Dragon (corrupted long ago). (HD 65d12+975. HP 1400. AC 72. Attacks LOTS, mostly around +60 range + Breath Weapons. Dmg immense in melee. Fire Breath 38d10, Ref DC 49. Saves Fort +38, Ref +26, Will +34. Str 64, Dex 10, Con 41, Int 40, Wis 41, Cha 40. SR 41, DR 40/+5). Alegarius also casts spells as a 27th level sorceror. (6/9/9/9/8/8/8/8/7/5, DC 21+Spell Level). Most of his spells are buffs and enhancements to his combat ability. Some few are offensive or utilitarian (Symbol, Horrid Wilting, Time Stop, Teleport w/o Error, etc), but since Alegarius prefers melee combat to spell-play, his spells tend to be cast before he enters melee.
- Azmarak, a balor who has studied the arts of warfare and personal combat. A fanatical follower of Grazz't who treats his whip as extension of himself (Balor 13 HD + Fighter 4/Lasher 10/Shadowdancer 2/Blackguard 4, HP 627, AC 65, Attacks +5 keen mighty dagger-whip +51/46/41/36 / 14-20 x 2 and +5 keen vorpal greatsword +50/+45 / 17-20x2; or 2 slams +45 melee. Dmg whip 1d6+14+4d6 fire and entangle, sword 2d6+24+4d6 fire. Saves Fort +53, Ref +47, Will +44. Str 48, Dex 34, Con 36, Int 26, Wis 28, Cha 36. SR 28, DR 30/+3, Cloak of Major Displacement, Ring of Fast Healing 5, lots more special abilities/defenses).
- Balazak, Grazz'ts main wizard, is Azmarak's brother (if demons can be said to have such things). He is a wizard of the finest caliber and tends to ignore his formidable melee abilities gained by virtue of his race in favor of his incredible spell-casting abilities. (Balor 13HD + Wizard 10/Mage Arcane Order 10. HP 512. Attacks +5 vorpal greatsword +44/39/34/29 and +4 mighty dagger-whip; or 2 slams +36 melee. Damage sword 2d6+19+d46 fire, whip 1d6+13+4d6 fire and entangle; or slam 1d6+14+4d6 fire and fear (Will DC 31). Saves Fort 33, Ref 31, Will 31. Str 38, Dex 28, Con 32, Int 48, Wis 28, Cha 22. Special: SR 28, DR 30/+3, balor abilities, Ring of Fast Healing 5, Cloak of Major Displacement, more). Balazak has many, many offensive spells and he's quite capable with them. Spells 4/9/9/9/8/8/8/8/7/7, DC 29+spell level (33+spell level for evoc, ench)).
- Rarachk, a troll cleric has long been a worshiper of Grazz't. He has the position of Guard Chaplain. (troll 6HD + Cleric 20. HP 280. AC 40. Attacks Greataxe +34/29/24/19. Damage 1d12+18. Saves Fort +21, Ref 12, Will 18. Str 24, Dex 18, Con 22, Int 10, Wis 24, Cha 12. Special: Regeneration 5, SR 25, DR 10/+5 (stoneskin), lots of buff spells). While weaker in power than the big guns of the Guard, Rarachk nonetheless has a valuable role as an enhancement spell specialist who buffs up the party before combat. He also likes to cast blade barrier, doom, destruction, slay living, and esp. Reach/Harm in combat.
- Duril, the scout is an elf who turned to evil and has served Grazz't for a number of years. Her greed is legendary, and her brilliant blades strike fear into demonic hearts. In straight melee, Duril is nothing spectacular compared to her Guard compatriots, but her ability to hide in plain sight at a moment's notice and be undetectable to just about anything makes her quite feared. (Rogue 5/Assassin 5/Shadowdancer 10. HP 134. AC 38. Attacks +4 brilliant keen rapier +30/25/20 and +3 brilliant keen main-gauche +30/+25. Dmg rapier 1d6+9+6d6 sneak+d6/d6 CON loss poison Fort DC 44, main-gauche 1d4+8+6d6 sneak+d6/d6 STR loss poison Fort DC 44. Saves Fort 18, Ref 28, Will 20. Str 20, Dex 30, Con 18, Int 22, Wis 16, Cha 18. Special: Hide +48, Move Silent +48, Death Attack, SR 25, DR 10/+5 (stoneskin)).
- T'nyablam is a female orc who has dedicated her life to the bow. She serves Grazz't because he has some kind of hold on her or someone she cares about. No one has quite figured out what that hold is. (orc Ftr 6/Blackguard 3/Deepwood Sniper 5/Order of the Bow Initiate 6. HP 284. AC 48. Attacks +5 mighty speed bow w/+5 arrows +62/62/62/57/52/47. Dmg 1d8+33+1d6 shock. Saves Fort 40, Ref 44, Will 40. Str 29, Dex 32, Con 33, Int 27, Wis 30, Cha 37. Special: SR 25, DR 10/+5 (stoneskin), Fire/Cold Resist 30).
- Grondkill is a half-fiend hobgoblin chief of the Darkheart clan. (Fighter 20. HP 380. AC 52. Attacks +6 longsword of speed +46/46/41/36/31 and +6 shortsword of speed +46/46/41/36. Damage longsword 1d8+20+1d6 frost, shortsword 1d6+20+1d6 shock. Saves Fort 28, Ref 20, Will 18. Str 32, Dex 20, Con 26, Int 16, Wis 16, Cha 16. Special: SR 25, DR 30/+3, Acid/Cold/Fire Resist 20, Immune to elec, poison, spell-like abilities)
In the first round of combat, the Guard does very well, being buffed and ready and catching the party somewhat by surprise. They managed to take out one of the sorcerors before he even got a chance to move, and wound others quite badly between a nasty empowered delayed-blast fireball from Balazak, a boulder hit and shrapnel from Istharok, a gout of fire from Alegarius, a blade barrier by Rarachk, and various other melee attacks by the others. In the second round, Azmarak casts Time stop, Imprisons the cleric who is wielding Stormbringer, fails to put the barbarian into temporal stasis (failed against SR), casts mordenkainen's disjunction against half the party, then does an empowered prismatic spray on them before the time stop ends. During this time, the party still has not managed to even take down one of the Guard. It's not looking good for our heroes, as 2 of them are out, and the most of the rest are severely wounded.
But then, Istharok goes to cast a spell, shudders, and instead waves his hand. Miraculously, the ashed-sorceror is resurrected, the imprisoned mage is freed, and all the party's wounds are healed. Istharok then disappears. Grazz't's scream of rage can almost be heard from deep in fortress's heart. Little does he know that Istharok was made into a vessel for some divine aid to the party totally against his will.
This seems to be the break the party needs. Quickly, the cleric moves forward and manages to get a Harm in on Balazak, which activates his contingency and Balazak blips off to his safe haven with 3HP left. The party's other cleric/wielder of Stormbringer wades in and manages to get some extremely good damage in on Alegarius and draining him of 12 levels. The archer also manages to hit the dragon a number of times with his Brilliant Dragonbane arrows. After the beating the dragon took the first round as well, the dragon finally falls. Meanwhile, the fighter is still trapped in Azmarak's whip and being beat on severely by both Azmarak and Grondkill. Unfortunately for our fighter, he's also not able to hit the Balor very well at all with his extremely high AC. However, in the party's back lines, Duril erupts with a flurry of surprise attacks against the archer, wounding him badly, but also becoming visible for a while and thus becoming a target for the monk who beats him quickly into bloody paste.
The third round begins with the monk sprinting (at his amazing 200 move) to the enemy back lines and pounding on T'nyablam, quickly taking her out, and starting in on Rarachk as well. Meanwhile the two clerics, the fighter, and the archer are all concentrating their attacks on Azmarak, who is turning out to be an extremely tough opponent. Between them, they do manage to take him down to a third of his hit points, thus activating his teleport contingency. But as this happens, Stormbringer gets a good hit and manages to vorpalize Azmarak, and his head drops to the ground sans teleported body.
Rarachk, seeing that he is the last one standing, figures out quickly that he cannot outrun the party and so decides to die gloriously. But before he can cast harm on the monk beating on him, the archer fills him full of holes.
So much for Grazz't's fearsome Palace Guard.
The party then rests and loots the bodies of the fallen. They wave at the flurry of scrying sensors that are everywhere around them and lazily pop off a few hits on the hordes of regular demons who sometimes get too close. The demons are literally in awe of the party, though, and stay well away from them, though they do keep a watch on them. They cast some divinations to find out where The Quiet One is, but all seem to be blocked. A scry on Istharok manages to get through though and they see him back on the Prime Material surrounded by hordes of undead. Istharok quickly notices the scry sensor though and pops off a false vision spell, giving the party the bird. Frustrated, the monk exasperatedly asks The Oracle (who is actually an avatar of The One) where the hell The Quiet One is. The Oracle merely smiles and points at one of the arches. "He's about a thousand yards that way".
Stunned, the party asks how The Oracle knows that, but gets no useful response. Nonetheless, they follow The Oracle's direction and end up going through a large section of the fortress, wandering seemingly aimlessly and in random directions through twisty passageways made of reddish flesh that at various times drip tremendous amounts of acid, burst into firestorm-like flames, opens up into spehere-of-annihilation pit traps, or forms large mouths that chew on them as they walk through. Eventually, though, the party manages to find The Quiet One. They are exhausted, low on spells, low on healing, and generally frustrated.
The toughest battle, including the showdown with Grazz't himself is coming in the next adventure. Stay tuned.