The PCs, already down a bit from two battles, ventured into the temple of Dorl Tavyani. There, they fought a twisted dragon-like figure. The stats were those of a chimera, but I had changed the description to suit my campaign better and be more creepy. (I think it worked--the players seemed to definitely get the message that this was bad juju.)
I used Dirt Cheep Dungeons pieces to set up this battle. It wasn't quite a perfect success (in particular, there were sometimes problems of seeing over the sides), but I think it did work fairly well as a graphic presentation of the battlefield. I like this and will try to do it more often.
After slaying the chimera, the PCs found a secret door high up in the wall that led to a secret underground chamber. There they met up with the "god" Dorl Tavyani. I roleplayed this much more than I usually do, including walking around and gesturing. I felt pleased that everyone recognized that he was steadily losing his cool, so they were ready when he decided to "smite them with divine power". (One of the best bits was when Prolix was exhorting Dorl Tavyani to come back to the world and do great things, and Mike said, "Kyle's climbing the rope to get out of there.")
It was a fairly exciting combat, I think--particularly since the party was low on spells. I felt sorry for Liandra's not having any resources with which to attack, since she was out of Flame Blade spells. (I also felt somewhat sorry for Prolix having used his Disrupt Undead on the chimera.) But the party worked together well and only got hit once by the spectre. (The two negative levels from the spectre's hit is pretty darn nasty!)
I quite like Third Edition D&D's rules for energy drain. (Search for 'Energy Drain' at http://www.opengamingfoundation.org/srd/srdspecialabilities.html if you want to read them yourself.) It's very quick to apply the negative levels during combat. And you get to recover spells before the level drain catches in, so the party can work together to mitigate the risk of level drain by trying to bump up his saving throws. This is very cool, because it means that the PC is not powerless in the face of the level drain, and because it makes the level drain a more significant and extended process.
I had felt a bit underprepared, but the game went until 11, without even using the 'meet the elf' roleplay I had developed.
So, yay everybody! Yay game!