Facing an adversary both too strong and too many, The Boy's party was outgunned and simply ran out of luck. A few dice rolls in their favor might have turned things around, but as I've noted before the dice are trying to kill the kid.
Today it finally happened with a dungeon full of spell-casting lunatic elf-spider villains, the retreat I was advising went ignored and the final ingredient was a standby that's been killing D&D characters since the 70's - a fireball spell in a confined space.
We're playing a very "old-school" version called "Labyrinth Lord", but I've been mixing in some elements from a much more modern version called "Dungeon World" that adds quite a bit of plot-driven and -driving elements. One of these is the so-called "Last Breath", in which a dying character makes a final roll of 2d6. He rolled a 9, so Death itself appeared as he died, to make an offer for a return to the mortal realm.
Death's offer was four-fold. The Boy could pass on to the heaven of his dwarven people, or:
1. He could essentially work for Death, sending at least one soul to Death every month for the rest of his (300+ year) life.
2. Again, he could work on Death's behalf, becoming a saint in Death's service and cleansing the world of undead abominations.
3. He could retain his independence (relatively) by building a temple to Death in the place where he had himself died. The temple would serve as a lighthouse for lost souls in that deep dark place, helping them find the way to Death's domain. Death's plan for the temple would cost 100,000 gp.
The Boy chose the latter. His character is back in the land of the living, albeit with some surprising scars, and a new quest.