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Elminster Speaks - Part 10
By Ed Greenwood
The Dark God Reformed
The dark spire of this black stone temple of Cyric is by the far the tallest structure in Voonlar, and it towers over the populace in more ways than one. Reached by lanes converging from both the Northride and Runstals Ride, the temple stands northeast of the meeting of those two roads, within its own walled grounds.
Those grounds are oval, and enclosed by two concentric stone walls topped with irregularly-tilted black metal spikes (to discourage climbing) and spaced only about six feet apart; the space between is prowled by four hungry war-dogs, each kept to its own arc of the wall by internal doors of close-spaced metal bars that can be raised (via levers, from inside the walls) to allow all the dogs into one section if intruders are detected. Tales abound in Voonlar of so-and-so who was devoured by one of these dogs while trying to play a prank involving entering or leaving the temple--and of folk who just disappeared, and are widely believed to have been fed to the "Mad Black Hounds."
Two gates pierce the walls: a sally-port opening north onto the Blackrukth, a long and narrow southeast-northwest-aligned field tilled by temple servants and the larger, grander main gate (made of black basalt, shaped into the likeness of a gigantic fanged mouth that one must pass through, and customarily blocked by black metal gates that bristle with spikes and cross-chains, and that have spear-ports to allow defenders within to slide open small metal plates and thrust out spears at peddlers, warriors of rival faiths, and other unwanted visitors) that faces to the southwest, opening into the temple lane.
The holy temple ground within the walls is cobbled, with nary a bush, weed, or blade of grass to be seen--disgraced priests or lay temple staff are kept busy on their knees, or even crawling on their stomachs, plucking out anything that dares to grow--and is almost entirely filled with the temple itself.
The Dark God Reformed is a large, poorly-built building whose leaning and bulging walls have had to be reinforced by many buttresses (angled stone props) to prevent their collapse. It takes the shape of a stoutly-built entry tower, which rises straight up for three levels like a keep turret and only then begins to narrow (for another eighty feet) to the needle-sharp, oft-lightning-struck spire. This opens into the Hallowed Hall, a drafty, echoing, always cold central hall of worship, which has a leaky ceiling some seventy feet up (spouts of rain fall here and there within it, during storms), a tilting and uneven flagstone floor more appropriate to a ruin than to an occupied structure, and balcony galleries down both sides that bristle with doors opening into priests rooms, shared robing rooms, retirements (bathing and privy chambers), guest apartments, stairs down to storage cellars and dungeons beneath, waiting and audience chambers, side-chapels for visiting faithful, and offices.
Supplicants entering the Hallowed Hall will see rows of plain benches flanking a wide central aisle that leads up between support pillars (added after the roof twice collapsed under heavy snows, and graven with prayers to Cyric) to a raised rear sanctum dominated by an altar and a carved Dark Sun hanging rather precariously over it by means of several massive chains depending from a roof-beam.
Mad Black Hounds
Hit Dice: 2d8+4
Initiative: +2 (Dex)
Speed: 40 ft.
AC: 16 (+2 Dex, +4 natural)
Attacks: Bite +3 melee
Damage: Bite 1d8+3
Face/ Reach: 5 ft. by 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Qualities: Scent
Saves: Fort +5, Ref +5, Will +1
Abilities: Str 15, Dex 15, Con 15, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 6
Skills: Listen +5, Spot +5, Swim +5
Alignment: Always neutral
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