Characters: Thrank, lizardfolk druid; Mirk, lizardfolk ranger; Wolf Ctibor, human barbarian.
Events: Thrank, Mirk, and Wolf were hired by a mysterious trader to steal a phoenix-emblazoned vase from a petty crime lord ruling over a small oasis village. They pulled off the theft successfully, but were pursued across the demon-haunted desert of Cinderheim by the crime lord's minions. As the minions closed on them, a sandstorm began blowing in from the east. When all looked lost, they noticed a strange edifice half obscured by a massive dune: the building's front was carved into the semblance of a devil, the entrance its yawning maw.
Inside, they discovered a number of ominous statues--horned, animal-headed, skull-visaged, defaced--and an old stone altar stained with blood. Thrank thought he might have made a grave mistake when he threw a magic stone and shattered one of two-dozen terracotta statues flanking a blasphemous idol, but the rest did not animate and attack as he feared. However, while exploring they were accosted by three goblins who were part of the crime lord's death squad. The goblins were dispatched, and there was talk of stowing their bodies behind a gigantic, demonic statue.
A number of rooms filled with stone sarcophagi were uncovered next. Disturbing a sarcophagus awoke an undead servitor cursed to spend eternity protecting the profane dead--the thing was red of eye and loped toward the party with an unnatural, animal-like gait. The thing charged at Mirk, and cast a curse on him with an outstretched, crooked finger. When the creature swiped at Mirk, it landed a horrifically damaging blow that took him down instantly. Wolf and Thrank managed to kill the thing, then patched up Mirk's wounds, barricaded the doors to the chamber using sarcophagi, and took an hour to recuperate.
A round of further exploration brought them to a chamber that housed a funeral barge. Setting foot on it summoned an unseen specter that spoke with a voice clothed in the desert wind. The spirit told them several interesting things:
- He was the high priest of the Demon Queen to whom this temple was dedicated, but now she slumbered powerless beneath the sands of Cinderheim.
- Three other agents of the crime lord were now within the temple complex, plotting to kill the party and retrieve the vase.
- The specter was ambivalent about how this situation resolved, but was enjoying having something to observe after all these years bound to the temple.
The party hatched a plan to draw the attention of their pursuers and then launch a sarcophagus down the stairs as they came up to investigate. Initially, the plan went well. The beastmaster's two giant lizards were smashed back down the stairs, and one was badly injured. The party descended one set of stairs while the two sharpshooters ascended the another to flush them out. The beastmaster and his pet were dispatched, but the two archers--twins, no less--returned fire from the stairs.
One of the brothers was slain, but then things turned for the party. Thrank fell first, then Wolf, then finally Mirk. The lone brother remained alive; he took possession of the vase--would he return it to his employer, the crime lord, or would he find demonic inspiration within the Temple of Suffering as he waited for the sandstorm to end? In Cinderheim, only the darkness knows the answers to such questions of fate.