Wrath of the Righteous

Tane saves the day

Illustrated version

The party continued their strange meeting with the vescavor swarm known as Verbovezzor. The swarm was eager to know how the party had defeated Baphomet. Bendak corrected the swarm, informing it that it was actually Nocticula who had defeated Baphomet. The swarm was no less impressed, however. The swarm listening with unsettling joy at the tale of how Baphomet’s daughter had fallen. The swarm rewarded the party with secrets of its own, chief among them being that Baphomet had not just fled Nocticula’s realm. Nocticula had actually slain Baphomet and forced him to reform in his own realm. It also knew the way to the Ineluctable Prison where Iomedae’s Herald was likely being held.

It told the party that the prison was located in a region called the Breathless Mountains. It also knew of a tunnel shortcut under the mountains. However, that would require going through the Lightless Maze, which was inhabited by the mighty Father of Worms. If the party could make him bleed and somehow store the blood, they’d have an acid capable of burning through even the Ineluctable Prison’s gates. The swarm chuckled at this and thought it impossible, not knowing that Iomedae had given the party her goblet for just that purpose. With no more to discuss, the party said farewell to the thought-eating bug monsters and went on their way.

As the party was carefully on their way out of Blackburgh, they noticed that someone was following them. Poonisher invisibly doubled back to find a pair of coloxus demons stalking them through the streets. Poonisher eavesdropped on them and heard them discussing their master, a local ruler named Orengofta. Poonisher decided to approach the demons and crept up behind them. The demons managed to not die of fright at his sudden appearance and immediately began squeaking that they meant no harm. They merely wanted to bring the party for a visit with their master. Poonisher marched them over to the party. The group agreed and followed the demons. Through alleyway mazes and many turns the demons brought the party to Orengofta’s throne room. The chamber and throne was all ivory, and the ceiling rose high above. The piglike Orengofta himself lounged on the throne while holding an enormous sword. A crowd of coloxus servants gathered around the edges of the room.

The nalfeshnee demon waved at his attendants for silence and spoke.

“Ahh… so you are the Inheritor’s lapdogs. You seem a little out of place in this town. Normally, I wouldn’t bother with the likes of you, but the reason you’re here disturbs me. I do not condone any act that endangers Mother Abyss, and the abduction of a goddess’s favorite pet does just this. You are here to correct this situation, and I would see you do it, for the alternative is not something I wish to contemplate. I do not condone Baphomet’s actions, but neither do I wish to work directly against them. For me, the faster you fnish this quest, the better. I take it the same would be true for you, yes?”

Orengofta went on to detail his idea. He would pretend to have captured the party, and send them into the Ineluctable Prison as captives. Once inside, the party would escape and free the Herald before Iomedae herself felt forced to intervene. After all, "Surely heroes as great as you can’t be held long by mere prison bars?” The party debated the idea amongst themselves for a long while. Mostly they focused on how they would manage to keep their gear while prisoners, occasionally badgering Orengofta for more details.

Finally, Orengofta tired of the discussion and rose from his throne while announcing in a loud voice that “This is no longer a request.” Raising his sword, he unleashed a burst of light that stunned Bendak’s dinosaurs. Wase charged forward and clashed blades with the demon ruler. Orengofta was himself a mythic creature, and proved a worthy opponent. The demon and the paladin circled about, trading blow after blow. All the while, arrows and spells steadily whittled away at Orengofta’s strength. The minor demons rushed about and mostly tried to get in the way. Finally, Orengofta found an opening and downed Wase. However, it had taken all his strength to get that far. Just before Tane cursed his sight, Orengofta saw Bendak revive Wase. Once the blindness had taken hold, Poonisher finished him off.

The party gathered themselves up as the coloxus demons teleported away. Whether or not the offer had been genuine, it was no longer an option. The party decided to rest before they went further. Bendak was preparing to conjure his extradimensional meadow, but Tane took the opportunity to show a new trick he had gained from his Mythic blessing. After some concentration, he summoned a door in the air. On the other side was a resplendent Archmage’s Sanctum.

(Cue awesome Mage-fortress montage)

It was very impressive. Fee flitted off to her own miniature wing. From now on, she could teleport back and forth from the mansion at will. The rest of the party wandered off inside to sleep. The next day, the party set off for the Lightless Maze. On Tane’s suggestion, the party stoneshaped a hidden area in the Abyss. Tane then set up a contingency spell to teleport any who were near death to the little room. With that done, the party made their way to and through the Lightless Maze. There were some monsters on the way, but they weren’t worth missing or were blown past with Wind Walk.

As its name implied, the caverns of the Lightless Maze were utterly dark. The party used various means to see in the dark and were unaffected. Poonisher went ahead, wafting silently through the void on simian wings. Eventually, he spotted the Father of Worms. The centipede-like abomination was clinging to the rock ceiling far above.

It took a moment for the thing to spot Poonisher, so he contacted Arueshalae through their telepathic mark. He then described the creature to her so she could relay the information back to the party. The Father of Worms then noticed Poonisher and began rushing down the wall. Humanoid shadows dislodged from its back as it went. Poonisher flew back to the party as they began preparing spells. The shadows were the first to attack. Their incorporeal hands phased up through the floor and began grabbing ankles. Strength and life died away at their touch. The Father of Worms then arrived.

After a moment of simply watching the battle, it lunged forward and swallowed Tane whole as Wase, Bendak and Hook fought the shadows. Poonisher emerged to unleash his usual torrent of arrows, but the Father of Worms survived to retaliate. Inside the monster and dying from acid, Tane summoned a magic sword. Thankfully, he had been the one to carry Iomedae’s goblet. The sword slashed away at the Father of Worm’s innards and Tane grabbed the freed blood. After getting it, Tane was forced to teleport back to the party’s safe zone just before the acid could dissolve him.

Meanwhile on the outside, Poonisher was downed by the Father’s bite and sting. Poonisher vanished and reappeared still alive in the safe zone. Wase scorched the shadows with channeled energy and his mighty sword, but their strength-draining touch eventually overcame him. Wase fell, and his shadow rose up of its own accord. Thankfully, it was weak and stunted compared to its kin, and flickered out moments after its animation. Wase’s pitborn soul was just not composed of the right material for such a thing. Wase’s spirit was grabbed by Tane just before the sorcerer teleported out, and his lifeless body went to the safe zone. The dinosaurs then killed all the shadows and found themselves one on one with the Father of Worms. Bendak fought mightly, but eventually he too was sent away.

Tane and Fee used wands to revive their wounded and battered allies, before Tane triumphantly unveiled his goblet of captured monster blood. The party now had their way into the Ineluctable Prison.

View
The Inheritor

Illustrated version

The party reappeared in a field outside of Drezen. They smelled the acrid air and saw a sky choked with the usual smoke of the Worldwound. After so long in the Abyss, even a tainted home was still a relief. Entering the city, they saw all around them the tired crusaders and those who had followed them. At the sight of the party returned alive and well from the Abyss, a sense of quiet hope pervaded the crowds. Some were concerned when they noticed Gith’s absence. Others were relieved. Once they got home, Poonisher lead the group down into his newly expanded secret lair. Some bats flew out of the cave as the secret door behind a tapestry opened. Many new rooms had been carved out by Poonisher’s loyal followers as a reward for his help in Punishing criminals in their midst. Poonisher also brought attention to the enhanced warding designed to prevent those in the lair from being discovered by all but the most powerful divinations.

The party settled into the strange rhythm of day to day living. Arueshalae was doing well. She had been doing charitable works for the church of Desna and generally trying out her new purified spirit. Bendak’s pterodactyl familiar Swoop had stayed behind with Arueshalae when Queen Galfrey went home. The little creature happily returned to its master. Tane’s own familiar, Fee, was glad to be back to work in Drezen’s forge. She was rather furious to find nobody remembered her. Such is the life of a familiar.

Tane went to work studying Baphomet and his Ivory Labyrinth realm. His expert knowledge on the subject turned out to be quite comprehensive. Baphomet—Lord of the Minotaurs—was created by Lamashtu from the soul of the first minotaur. In those days, he was a powerfully muscled specimen, and the Queen of Demons kept him as a consort until the day Baphomet stole away from her palace in Yanaron, seeking to gain even greater favor by claiming a legendary trophy. Baphomet’s ambition was as great as his folly, and he invaded the deepest layer of Hell, intent on stealing Asmodeus’s ruby rod for his mistress. Needless to say, he was swiftly caught. Lamashtu claimed no allegiance to him, and Asmodeus imprisoned Baphomet in a devious maze the archdevil proclaimed to be unsolvable, even by the first minotaur. The archdevil also carved his own symbol into Baphomet’s brow with the nail of his index finger in an attempt to fully subjugate the minotaur.

But in this attempt, it was Asmodeus who overstepped his bounds. Not only did Baphomet solve the seemingly unsolvable maze after a mere decade, but as he escaped, he also took the world-sized labyrinth with him. Baphomet had changed over that time, becoming almost emaciated in his build, yet growing much wiser. He did not return to Lamashtu’s side, but instead took the archdevil’s infernal maze and made it his own as he claimed a portion of the Abyss as his realm.

This was eons ago, and now Baphomet was a powerful demon lord in his own right. He forgave Lamashtu, and served as her lover now and then, yet was no longer her direct subservient minion. Ever since, he worked to increase the influence of his cult on countless worlds, building his forces so that one day he might again invade Hell and destroy Asmodeus.

The Ivory Labyrinth itself is a layer of the Abyss, a sprawling maze world the true size of which none can determine, for it seems to fold back in on itself, shifting and growing randomly. Navigation of the Ivory Labyrinth is difficult but not impossible. One experienced in trailblazing, navigation, and planar geography can navigate the labyrinth to known locations, provided the traveler does so within the rules of the maze and doesn’t attempt to cheat via flying over the labyrinth’s walls. Teleportation offers the easiest method of travel, provided the teleporter knows the location he wishes to visit.

Entire mountain ranges, vast forests, sprawling underground tangles, swamps, plains of bones, and more terrible expanses exist within the Ivory Labyrinth, including two sprawling cities— Blackburgh and Echostal. Of those two, Blackburgh is the realm’s capital, and at the city’s heart rises Baphomet’s Tower. Anything that would normally find north points here. Blackburgh can be thought of as the “center” of the Ivory Labyrinth, and it is here that one is most likely to learn of current events in the realm. A fraction of Asmodeus’s original prison is said to be hidden deep within the maze realm of the Breathless Fountains. This so-called “Ineluctable Prison” is where Baphomet keeps his favorite prisoners. This prison is shielded from magical observation from beyond its walls, even from the sight of the gods themselves. If Iomedae’s missing herald still lived, he was likely being held there.

Of Iomedae’s herald’s capture, Wase learned that it had happened when a priest of Iomedae summoned him in a pitched battle with the Worldwound’s forces. Baphomet had noticed the moment of vulnerability and personally entered the fray to capture the Herald. The herald was a powerful golden angel named Hand of the Inheritor with a halo of golden blades constantly surrounding him.

After a few days of peace, the party was resting in Poonisher’s cave. At dawn, a wondrous event occurred. The first thing each of the party noticed was the growing light of morning in each of their chambers. Usually this would not be a concern, but is rather unsettling underground. The party gathered in a meeting hall as the light grew ever brighter. Strangely, the party sensed no imminent danger from the light.

Tane was reminded of the sense of satisfaction he got from seeing the many treasures he had created used by his friends in their journeys. Poonisher felt a grim satisfaction at his destruction of evildoers, yet also a wariness that his vicious methods could one day condemn him. For Bendak there was the sense of primal joy a great saurian feels when it downs prey and bellows in triumph. Wase simply knew that his faithful service in the face of his innate demonic nature was about to be rewarded.

Suddenly they all vanished in a flash. Fee, Hook, and Swoop were left behind.

The party found themselves in a cathedral, vast beyond all imagination. A Gothic ceiling was faintly visible behind blue sky dotted with clouds and flocks of doves. Stained glass windows shifted in an endless procession of honored heroic acts. Finally, a female figure appeared, of normal height and too bright to look upon. Most averted their eyes, but Bendak stubbornly drew power from his mask and looked the figure right in the eyes. He got a glimpse of her determined visage just before he was blinded. The light gradually faded for the rest and they saw the goddess of paladins herself, Iomedae. Wase immediately knelt before his liege.

She nodded politely and spoke. “Welcome heroes. I am Iomedae. You are those who have proven most worthy to strike back against the Abyss’s latest injustice: the kidnapping of my own herald. Answer my questions truthfully and be found worthy of the great task I would set before you. Remain silent, and be known as cowards in the face of evil.” She noticed the brief hesitation among the party and added:“Fear not, for I am the true Iomedae. No demonic trickery can stand in the place.” Bendak spoke first. “I apologize for offending you, ma’am.” Iomedae responded by restoring his eyes and speaking again.

“You are bold to look on me and I favor boldness. When facing demonic foes, one must be bold, as I was when I faced one of my most dangerous enemies. Tell me, then, which undead lord did I slay while leading my knights of Ozem into the Three Sorrows?” Unfortunately for Wase, he had not spent enough time on his studies to know this answer. Tane was able to recall the answer from the history books. It was Erum-Hel, the mohrg lord. Iomedae continued. “You have a hero’s bravery. You have proven that you can survive the horrors of the Abyss, and this marks your courageousness as surely as any feat. But also you have learned that not all those in the Abyss are your enemies. Some are creatures whose nature can be used as a tool to defeat greater evils. So tell me, when evil assumes a fair form, and when weak villains beg for their lives, are they due mercy? Or are the wages of their villainy always death and oblivion?” The party mostly agreed that mercy should sometimes be offered. Poonisher kept quiet for that question.

Iomedae then separated the party and asked her final question to each alone. “Honor is my soul and life, justice is the passion that stirs me to war, and yet the cause of the true and the righteous is beset on all sides by evil. Tell me, how does one outwit and defeat a demon lord in his own domain? For let us not pretend, this is what I ask you to do.” Each answered in their own way. Tane would apply his mind and crafts. Poonisher would strike from the shadows. Wase would fight with honor and valor. Bendak would simply relentlessly keep on trying until he succeeded or died.

Satisfied, Iomedae said:“You are worthy to champion me against Baphomet, for mandate prohibits the interaction of the divine in even such matters as personal as the loss of a herald. I charge you as worthy souls to go into the darkness of the Abyss, into the Ivory Labyrinth of my enemy, and seek out my herald. If he be dead or worse, I trust you shall fnish things as befts those of your boldness. Heed the advice I have given you. Go forth on a road of honor, swiftly and with great justice, to defeat Baphomet and return or avenge my herald. In so doing may you fnd the strength to face the true peril that lies ahead. Deskari always watches, and the time shall soon come when the Worldwound must be closed forever lest it consume your world."

With that, the cathedral burst into light, and the party was once again in the darkened halls of Poonisher’s fortress. In each of their hands was a holy symbol of Iomedae. A bit of knowledge imparted into their minds told them that they could use these to transport themselves to the Ivory Labyrinth. However, Tane also knew the spell to do that without wasting a divine gift, so they agreed to have him do it instead.

They spent a short while longer in Drezen to prepare and say goodbye to their allies again. Arueshalae again decided to remain behind as an advisor rather than risk corruption. However, the familiars were brought along this time. Bendak purchased enough of the ritual supplies to reincarnate his friends three times. After Tane explained the nature of the Labyrinth to the party, they decided to go first to Blackburgh. There they could search for clues about the location of Baphomet’s prison and the Herald within. With their plan and supplies taken care of, Tane gathered the party and Plane Shifted them to Baphomet’s realm.

Upon arrival, the party found themselves in a large circular area. Walls made of endless contorted bones rose high above them, just above Bendak’s allosaur-height head. The sky was a blank white void, with light provided by an orb suspended in the air. Three fly demons were milling about in the chamber and noticed the party. After a moment of brief surprise, they turned and started to politely greet the party, asking many questions and bowing deeply. The party was extremely suspicious and immediately began waving weapons at the demons and demanding they stay back. A large shadow slid across the floor from behind the party, and spread out with six-weapon laden arms. A voice demanded the party pledge their loyalty to Baphomet. The party turned to see a marilith, a powerful female snake-demon most commonly seen as Abyssal generals and rulers.

Poonisher firmly turned down the offer with a withering barrage of arrows and the fight was on. The marilith rushed at Poonisher and slashed away with her many weapons before snatching and constricting the monkey with her tail. Poonisher would have been reduced to disassociated meat if not for a Stoneskin spell Tane provided. The fly demons ran in and bit several party members and drained out blood. Each teleported away after taking a meal. Bendak unleashed a mighty lightning spell with a howl and the bolts rushed out in all directions in search of enemies. Unfortunately, all these demons were immune to electricity and the spell did nothing. Meanwhile, Wase and Hook provided a distraction by clawing and slashing at the marilith. When the marilith turned her six weapons and eyes against them, Poonisher was able to get out his backup rapier and run it through her heart.

The flies were gone so the party moved on. The endless skeletal walls stretched and curved ever on before them. Tane estimated it could take weeks to reach Blackburgh at their current pace. The solution, then, was to increase their pace. The party stopped and Bendak prepared some spells. First, he cast Wind Walk on everyone. Under this spell, the party could become nearly intangible clouds and fly about at 60 miles an hour. When they did need to rest, Bendak would cast Fairy Ring Retreat, allowing them to relax in an extra-dimensional meadow resembling a jungle clearing. The long necks of brontosaurs were visible over the tree tops, and ghostly dinosaurs attended to any needs. In this manner, the party shot through the maze in luxurious conditions. Occasionally a monster or obstacle would try to stop them, and be promptly ignored and left behind.

Eventually, the party reached Blackburgh. Unlike the Midnight Isles, this city was not meant for temptation. This was a place of death for all outsiders. The party disguised themselves and began carefully scouting the town for clues. Bendak took the form of a small lizard and rode on the raptor’s back with Swoop. Poonisher began spreading renown for his social identity, Francois Bastille. He made himself known as an evil mime. The difference between a normal mime and an evil mime is somewhat unclear. As the party was exploring, their identities somehow became known. Perhaps a passing alignment scanner or mind-reader found them, or a glimpse of a holy sword was what did it. However it happened, they were discovered.

Dark energies swirled down from above, sapping at the life force of the party. A whole pack of undead giants descended from above, emanating the very essence of death.

Nearby minor demons looked on with morbid interest. The giants were nightwalkers, twenty foot tall abominations that lead armies of the dead into battle in crusades to end all life. From their bladed arms to their mighty spells, they had no shortage of methods in their dark quest. Their only amusement was in seeing the despair of their victims. The demons cheered as the nightwalkers charged. Their excitement died away in seconds as the giants were torn apart. They were shot full of arrows, they were cut down like trees, and finally they vanished down the gullets of summoned beasts. For a little while, none were willing to interfere with the party.

Shortly thereafter, the party was approached by a little bug-thing.

Tane recognized it as a single vescavor, one of those swarming chaos-insects they had once fought. In a high voice, it urged the party to follow, because it’s master wanted to relay a message. With a general shrug, the party agreed. After many twists and turns, the party found themselves in a lair of rubble and filth and slime. A swarm of vescavors rose up and formed themselves into a collective body. It spoke.

“Listen, meat things, and hear the voice of ages. If you be not fools, then leave this place. Do not return, for to wander into the Labyrinth is to die. Do not seek the prison. Do not approach the mountains. Worship the Horned Lord. Embrace the greater powers that surround you. For to do otherwise means only that your bones will join those of a million others. And yet… Lord Baphomet cowers in his tower and you openly walk his streets. Very interesting. Very interesting indeed.”

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Nephilim

Illustrated version

Hepzamirah was a nephilim. She stood at a full eleven feet tall and a long pair of horns weighed down her brow. The blood of the demon lord Baphomet flowed through her veins, and her heavy pick bore the subtle notches and bloodstains of countless failed heroes. She had personally seeded her father’s cult on thirty different worlds. She was the daughter of a god, and this is the day she died.

When the end began, she was watching through a hidden crystal lens in her room as the intruders butchered the guards posted at the entrance to the mines. Of course, she recognized the attackers. Some of the enemy had taken to calling them “The Heroes of Kenebraes”. Apparently, when the crusader city of Kenebraes fell, this group had been there. Like an infection in a wound, they had thrived in the carnage and become a rapidly escalating threat to the Worldwound. The righteous gods always seemed to like their heroes born of tragedy. Hepzamirah often wondered to herself what role they had in encouraging such origins.

Looking over the band, it struck her that she had expected them to perhaps look more “heroic” in a way. She saw among them reptillian beasts, a necromancer, and Fulsome, that demon of excrement who previously occupied her father’s mine. There was also a paladin and a sorcerer, but even the paladin was clearly born of the Pit. Most of the heroes she had faced had always had that smug sense that they were truly Good. Shining armor, stern faces, righteous incantations. Her favorite part was always just before the end, when the facade so often fell. Sometimes they would beg, betray their allies, or just scream. It never saved them.

She watched as one of the beasts was allowed to devour the heart from a corpse, the necromancer reanimated the gore-dripping skeleton of her glabrezu minion in front of the paladin, and the others tore the room apart in search of valuables. If they were here, they likely had gained Nocticula’s blessing as well. The intruders seemed to decide that there was no longer anything to kill or steal here, so they began searching door-to-door. Mighty traps were contemptuously dispelled by the paladin as the group stalked through the caverns with deadly precision.

Hepzamirah knew they would soon reach her at that rate, and so thought back to what her own necromancers and surviving minions had learned from their previous battles. Once engaged, the Heroes typically lacked subtlety. The attack would be sudden, brutal, and overwhelming, aiming to annihilate their enemies before they think of retaliation or escape.

It sounded like her kind of fight.

Hepzamirah grabbed her pick and took a quick look around her room. It was a finely appointed room that served her well as a study, shrine, and bedchamber. The walls were decorated with detailed maps of her father’s maze-realm. Over it all loomed the face of Baphomet. Around the rest of the room was a chest for her possessions and a laboratory for stabilizing Nahyndrian crystals. Her latest crystal sat on a desk, surrounded by all the tools needed for such work. She cast spells to walk on air, to strike even harder, and to become even more enduring as she waited.

The sound of footsteps gathered outside the door. A moment later the door swung open and Hepzamirah swung first. She backhanded the paladin with a deadly magic spell that nevertheless failed to kill him. Her room’s trap struck true and ruined all the protection spells that the sorcerer had distributed. The two beasts leapt upon her. Countless little claws and teeth snatched and scrabbled at her arms and shoulders as Hepzamirah shielded her face. She felt little pain as her unholy powers perserved her flesh. The paladin rushed forward with a glowing sword illuminating his cursed visage. His blade left her a shallow cut across the stomach. Hepzamirah responded by shaking off the dinosaurs and struck the paladin hard in the knee with her pick. Finding purchase, Hepzamirah slammed him against the opposite walls of her chamber and tossed him aside. Hepzamirah was just thinking of the great rewards her victory would earn when the necromancer drew back his bowstring.

Hepzamirah screamed in pain as the deadly arrows tore into her. Even her legendary strength would not last long against such an assault. The situation was rapidly falling apart. The Heroes had begun to magically restore their lost spells and heal their wounds. Their blows were also beginning to hurt her more readily. After a failed attempt to hurl the bow-necromancer back to his own world, Hepzamirah chose to make a tactical retreat. On the way out, she saw an opening in the wounded paladin’s defenses. She took the chance, and her pick ran through the paladin’s chest and out his back. His soul was immediately snatched from the lifeless body and absorbed by the sorcerer. Hepzamirah had little time to ponder this as she fled. The dinosaurs and the glabrezu skeleton attacked her, but failed to stop her escape. Hepzamirah made it to the pitch-black pit in the mine’s entryway. She began running down on empty air to restore her strength and gather her most powerful minions.

Arrows shot past her as the necromancer tried to aim in the magic darkness. Hepzamirah’s eyes worked perfectly in the darkness, and she saw her half-demon minotaurs flying up to aid her. Suddenly, she was stopped as the Heroes’ sorcerer somehow saw through the darkness and bound her with golden chains of light. Hepzamirah struggled uselessly against her bonds as the fight went on without her. She heard the glabrezau skeleton jump down and clattered apart against the distant floor. She felt two demon-minotaurs grab hold of her and drag her toward the safety of the tunnel. She saw the third try to hold off her enemies. One of the beasts shifted into a winged form and pursued with the beat of leathery wings. The sorcerer summoned a massive eagle that swooped down. Hepzamirah raged against her arcane chains and held off the bird with what unholy will she could still muster. The escape tunnel was close. Her guards dragged her as fast as they could. The chains would soon fade.

She heard the flying reptile shout a spell, a column of flames came roaring down from above, and it was over. Hepzamirah felt the flames ripping her apart. She sank to the ground as her minions abandoned her to defend themselves. Staring into the darkness of the tunnel that would forever be just out of reach, she felt the presence of her father in her last moments. He said nothing. She knew that all her service before was not enough to earn anything but scorn at her weakness. It never would have been enough.

As soon as she was dead, Hepzamirah’s body split itself open and collapsed into ash and ichor. Smoke rose from the remains and formed into the image of Baphomet himself. Reddish light filled the pit, revealing his form to the party above. Baphomet roared and his voice echoed in the party’s minds as the demon-minotaurs fell prostrate before him.

“Mortal worms! You have destroyed my daughter. But even in her failure, she proved of use to me, for while you toyed with her, I took from your mewling patron one of her own! Know, fools, that none of those you value are safe from me. Even your goddess Iomedae knows my wrath, for I have claimed her herald as my latest plaything, stolen from her as you whiled your time away in the Midnight Isles. And now, I do the same to you! When I am done with you, your bones shall join those of millions more within the walls of my Ivory Labyrinth!”

At that, Baphomet truly began to force his way into the room. At that intrusion, the shadows seemed to rebel against his infernal light and surrounded him. A horn was shorn away and flesh was torn apart. The demon-minotaurs vanished into the shadows and were never seen again.

The voice of Nocticula rang out in the darkness. “No, lord of slain daughters. This is my realm, and these are my guests. You are the intruder here, and your bones shall decorate my palace walls if you choose to remain!”

Baphomet shrieked once and vanished, retreating to his own world. The party looked down into the pit, now restored to its usual gloom. Nocticula spoke again in the void, now in her usual alluring tone.

“And so you have done it. I must admit, I’m a touch surprised. You have more in you than I suspected. Rest assured, mortals, that your enemies will claim no more of my realm’s blood for themselves. Yet you have made a greater enemy than the children of gods tonight, and I suspect you will be facing Baphomet again. Were that I could be there to watch. I must say, I’m not sure who would prevail in such a clash! No matter-the way to the Midnight Fane and your homes on the Material Plane lies before you. You have but to step into my shadow to be on your way home.”

The party turned down this gift. Wase’s soul still needed to be put back in his body, and there was loot still unclaimed. Also, Tane could take the party home with his own magic. Bendak did interject to request that Nocticula grant him one boon in place of her earlier offers. He asked that Nocticula transport the dinosaurs he had gathered earlier to a specific clearing in his homeland. Nocticula agreed to that, and vanished with a last smirk at something just behind the party. A single arrow stuck itself in the wall, just behind where her throat had been a moment earlier. Poonisher was back.

The flying monkey archer neglected to explain where he had been, but he had cleared out the rest of the dungeon for the group. It involved much shooting of necks and captives. In the process, he had recovered a large contingent of half-mad slaves intended for sacrifice along with the rest of the loot. Tane could not shift back so many, so Gith offered to find them another exit. With his skeleton minion and the slaves, Gith sailed away on the barge down the poison river under a demon-filled sky.

The party healed Wase’s fatal wound and Tane restored his soul. After Bendak provided a recap of the situation, the party joined hands in a circle. Tane cast his spell, and the party finally returned to their own world.

View
Dragonslayers

Illustrated version

After talking to the Fulsome Queen the party headed out with her to the entrance of the Nahyndrian crystal mine. The first opponent they would have to deal with was Melazmera, the umbral dragon that they had seen earlier. Armed with the knowledge of the dragon’s schedule by the Fulsome Queen, the party took positions for an ambush. Tane made several of his allies invisible and handed out other buffs. The other casters did the same. Soon enough, the gargantuan dragon swooped down from over the trees. She dropped the corpse of some fiendish bovine on the ground to eat.

Gith began the battle with a fireball and arrows that cut the dragon well. Tane dispelled some illusionary rubble and revealed hidden treasure. Wase pointed at the dragon and chains of golden light sprung at her limbs. The dragon dodged away as Hook and two summoned T.rexes crashed into her. The dinosaurs clawed and bit to little effect. The dragon shook them off and howled. The party steeled themselves against the dragonfear. The dragon slashed open the cow-like corpse on the ground. Disgusting fumes leaked out and the party with its creatures resisted the urge to gag. The Fulsome Queen summoned a pack of assassin demons to aid the party against the dragon. Wase was not pleased. The dragon glared at the raptor on her ankle and roared a spell of Destruction. The spell nearly annihilated the raptor body and soul, but it thankfully clung to life. After that, Wase charged in with his mighty sword, Gith and Tane unleashed terrible magics, and still more summoned creatures crowded around. The dragon was overwhelmed, and so it fell. The final blow went to Gith.

The party looted the treasure. Gith did some psychic readings on the items and saw a woman giving Melazmera a immensely valuable golden scepter that crowned the hoard. There was also an elbarorate golden crown that could shoot a laser beam once a day. Tane wore that. Fulsome Queen praised the party for their feat of dragonslaying, and also suggested that such mighty heroes could perhaps if they should so kindly choose hurry up and clear her home. Before going into the mine, Wase decided to look into a pit that Fulsome Queen said was “creepy”. When he did, an all-too-familiar set of tentacles emerged. This time, the blob-like body and fanged maw of the full creature was attached. Tane recognized it as an Abyssal Harvester.

The Harvester snatched up Wase even as he smited its tentacles. The party swarmed the monster, so it was forced to flee. Its efforts were for naught, as it was struck down by Tane’s laser crown.

The party then left that pit alone and entered the mine. The entrance was a 1000 foot drop straight down. The majority of the group walked down with an Air Walk spell Bendak had provided earlier. The Fulsome Queen had accidentally been excluded from the spell so she slowly slid down the wall, attached to it by the filth that composed her body. Eventually the party reached a cavern, although there was still about 200 feet left to the ground. Gith leaned down from above and peeked into the entrance. Inside he saw a fell cavern, decorated throughout with demonic imagery. Six kalavakus demons stood watch. The demons stood at seven feet tall and they were bedecked with massive horns and claws.

Tane tried twice to take control of a demon’s mind. It resisted his attempts and realized it was under attack. The demons snarled and raised their claws for battle. Tane summoned a pit that trapped three of the demons and Wase flew over to slay them. Gith shot and Tane cast as Bendak jumped a demon in allosaurus form with Hook at his side. The demons fought hard, but were losing handily. At that point, a huge glabrezu with three succubus bodyguards arrived. The glabrezu’s mirror images moved in concert with it as it marched in.

The glabrezu dispelled Wase’s flight and left him stuck in the pit. Radiance shone furiously as the three demons swarmed the paladin. A succubus tried to take control of Tane’s mind, but failed. The party retaliated. Gith wounded the glabrezu with his archery and the dinosaurs killed a succubus. Much dispelling took place. Bendak dispelled the glabrezu’s mirror images and the glabrezu dispelled the pit. Two kalavakuses were already dead, and the remaining ones tried to shove Wase into the main pit. They failed and suffered smiting. Without its images, the glabrezu was torn apart by the dinosaurs as the rest of the party slaughtered the other demons. Only one succubus managed to teleport away in time.

Fulsome Queen finally slimed into the room as the party found a heavy winch that controlled an elevator in the shaft. The party looted as Gith sized up the dead glabrezu. Finding it to his liking, he dug out its eyes with his dagger. Then he charged an onyx gem with psychic energy and placed it into one of the empty sockets. The corpse writhed and split. The skeleton rose up from the wreckage with the flesh sloughing away into a gory heap and dripped from the bones. Gith had a new pet.

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Meeting Nocticula
Also, a barge

As they explored the Vault of Graves, the shadow demons the party had driven off earlier returned for a rematch, bringing along two coloxus fly demons as backup. The demons started by raining down blows on Wase because Tane was still preventing demonic possessions. His armor and shield fended off their assault. The few attacks that got through were negated by Tane’s Stoneskin spell. One particularly careless coloxus took some nasty dinosaur bites for its trouble. Gith opened up with his bow and blew away a shadow while wounding a coloxus. The fly demons were surprisingly tough, but after a tremendous beating they both expired. The shadows didn’t last long without them.

The party then explored more side rooms. They found a shrine to Nocticula and more books. Gith scanned the books for any potential information that he might need if the party eventually had to fight her. The books told of her history of subterfuge and assassination, but no critical weaknesses.

After that was a pair of ominous double doors. The party marched through and found themselves in a large chamber with a balcony above them. Nocticula herself emerged and stood before them. The entire party struggled to keep their minds on their task in the face of her wicked beauty. The party told her, as they had intended, that they were there to convince her to refuse an alliance with Deskari and Baphomet, the leaders of the Worldwound demons. They also told her about the Worldwound’s forces stealing Nahyndrian crystals from her realm. Nocticula seemed a bit apathetic about the situation. Nocticula said she already knew about the crystal thefts. In exchange for the party destroying the mine for her, she would agree to abstain from an alliance with the Worldwound. She also offered gifts, if the party would accept them. They could choose from a single truthful answer to a question, a supercharged version of Arueshalae’s anarchic gift, or a magic item worth up to 15,000 gold.

Gith stepped forward. He wanted to know who killed his parents and how he could defeat them. With a smirk, Nocticula informed him that it was Xanthir Vang and Gith had already slain him. Gith had some trouble recalling who Xanthir was. Bendak reminded him that Xanthir was the Worm that Walks from some time ago. Nocticula apologized for the anticlimax, but she had promised the truth. In hindsight, Xanthir would probably have given this information himself had Poonisher not shot at him immediately.

Nocticula opened a dark portal in a swirling pool of unholy water that occupied the top level of the chamber. This, she said, would lead the party to the island where the Nahyndrian crystal mine was operating. With some reluctance, the party gathered around and ventured forth.

Their first impression of the new location was one of stinging pain and confusion. They had appeared underneath a poisonous waterfall. The portal closed to the sound of Nocticula’s laughter at her prank. The party quickly extricated themselves from the waterfall and looked around. They were on a fetid jungle island. Flocks of vrocks swirled under the massive and perpertual moon of the Midnight Isles as a dark and filthy river crisscrossed through twisted trees and the sound of beasts echoed through it all. A large obelisk with runic inscriptions was nearby. The party approached the obelisk. When they neared it, tentacles emerged to attack them. The dinosaurs were snared. Quick retaliation by the party started to sever tentacles. Whatever monster the appendages were attached to decided the fight was no longer worth the trouble and withdrew the tentacles through small portals in the stone.

Gith touched the stone for a psychic reading. After a moment, he vomited from the revelation. It was a quippoth runestone, a fragment of the ancient Abyss as it was before demons and mortal sin. It was heavily connected to the life of a fallen demon lord slain by Nocticula. Now it served as the demon lord’s tombstone. Gith wanted to take it with the party, but it was too heavy. Instead, Gith inscribed images of his face all around it so he could look at it at will.

Bendak turned into a plesiosaurus and tried swimming in the river, but it was digusting and likely poisonous. He got out before anything bad happened and switched to quetzalcoatlus form. The rest of the party used fly spells and traversed above the water but below the treeline so that the vrock flocks wouldn’t attack.

As the party flew along the river, a headless corpse with tattered wings and a sword swooped down and attacked Wase. The headless creature battered through arrow shots, a summoned T.rex bite and an attempt to knock him out of the air. It grabbed Wase and began dragging the paladin up to be torn apart by vrocks. Just before the creature could get above the trees, Wase slew the creature with a sword through the heart. Wase flew back to the party as the defeated undead fell into the lake. Bendak looked closely as it sank and guessed it was a fallen angel. Tane dredged the remains back up with summoned creatures and Gith confirmed the thing’s celestial origins. Wase said a mournful prayer over his third angelic kill.

The party continued. They spotted a river barge stranded on a bank. At a distance, the crew could be seen milling about on deck. Wase flew up to speak to them and attempt to bargain for passage. When he drew nearer, Wase saw that the crew was actually a pack of undead bodaks,

The bodaks had a deadly gaze and a fallen paladin to lead them. What they did not have was long-distance weapons. Gith picked them all off with his bow as they shrieked helplessly. The party took over and looted the barge. They saw that the barge had once been pulled by a captive water orm,

At some point, a river creature had killed it, so now the remains just hung uselessly from the side of the barge. After some discussion, Gith reanimated the orm skeleton to tow the barge and similarly skeletonized the crew to pilot the ship. With that taken care of, the party rested below deck.

Later on, they were briefly disturbed when a massive and shadowy dragon flew over the river. It didn’t attack this time, thankfully.

Another disruption occurred when the barge had to pass through a gate and was challenged by the guards. Thankfully, Gith quickly thought to puppet the skeleton captain’s mouth and Bendak reminded him that the fallen paladin’s futile dying curses had been in Common. The party narrowly made it through the gate without incident.

At the end of the river was a waterfall. A telepathic voice reached out to Wase and requested aid with much flattery. The voice said she was in a cave at the top of the waterfall. It seemed like an obvious trap, but the party still wanted to know what was going on. Tane cast Protection from Evil on everyone and then they flew up to the cave. Inside was a demon resembling a succubus made of raw sewage.

She called herself the Fulsome Queen and said that she needed brave and glorious heroes (especially Wase, glorious knight, wielder of Radiance itself, incorruptible in soul) to kill the miners who had forced her out of the caves in which she used to dwell. (Perhaps their bones would be of some small use to you, Gith, commander of dead legions, you who even the gods cannot judge?) She went on to say that the party would need to kill Melazmera, that umbral dragon they had seen earlier. (But that would be no trouble to the great archmage Tane, to whom reality is but a plaything.) She could help by sharing her observation of the dragon’s movements and powers. Gith touched the Fulsome Queen’s amorphous body to scan her to see if she was dangerous, and saw her sitting by the river watching filth flow by for eons. (Perhaps Bendak could understand, he who is one with ancient might?) The party was already planning on clearing the mines, so they agreed.

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Notorious

Notorious

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Alushinyrra

Different writer for this one, now in PDF format.

Alushinyraa

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A whole new world

As Yaniel recovered from her long imprisonment, the ash giant introduced himself. However, the name Ashley somehow stuck instead of whatever he said. Ashley told the group that the one who charmed him was a snake lady. Tane was furious about the theft of the Quicken rod. Since Minagho was gone, he cast True Seeing and lead the party to go hunt down the cambion (A variant of demon-mortal hybrid) alchemist. When the party reentered the main entrance, the Deskari golem attacked. It was unable to accomplish much, and was dispatched by Wase with assistance from Ashley and the party. Next, the party found a large room with disgusting furnishings. Ashley said that it was where he and his friends stayed. When questioned further, Ashley confirmed that two more charmed giants were present. The party agreed to try and free them.

The party then went to the main chamber of the temple. The two other giants were there, working at a device. It was a massive grinder that looked almost alive as its mechanical limbs twirled. A 60ft rift to the Abyss took up an entire wall. Seeing through it was impossible. Evil whispers crawled through the air. The giants attacked. With his True Seeing, Tane spotted the alchemist using an invisibility spell to hide. Bendak summoned a T. rex to attack the alchemist based on Tane’s directions. It sniffed out its target, but the alchemist flew out of the way in time and its jaws still snapped shut on empty air. Wase used a spell to free the giants from their enchantment. Gith blasted the alchemist with a fireball, forcing the dinosaur to jump out of the way. The alchemist then retaliated with an unsuccessful attack on Tane’s mind followed by a bomb that released a cloud of poisonous gas. The dinosaurs were hurt, but the rest of the party was fine. Bendak was almost affected, but his mask warded off the fumes. Tane then blasted through the alchemist’s spell resistance and magically destroyed his mind. The alchemist then floated off near the ceiling and just babbled for a while.

Meanwhile, Ashley and Wase were trying to convince the two other giants not to fight. The evil whispers caused one to just cower in the corner, while the other giant decided to attack anyway. It tried and failed to shove Wase into the grinder as Ashley failed to stop him. Bendak sent the T.rex to try and subdue him. The giant and the T. rex began a back and forth wrestling match, neither gaining the advantage.

At that point, the “snake lady” Ashley had mentioned appeared behind the party’s lines. She was a lamia matriarch. Lamias are half-women, half-monster creatures who are the result of an ancient curse.

She had used an invisibility spell to get close, and then assaulted the Queen. The party wheeled to attack her and Bendak surrounded her with ankylosaurs, so she flew out of reach and cast a lightning bolt down at them. Tane then dispelled her flight spell, so she floated back to the ground. Wase then tore into her and left her near death. A ankylosaurus club then finished the job before any questions of mercy could be raised.

Now that he had his vengance, Ashley decided it was time for his partnership with the heroes to end. Ashley struck down Yaniel with his hook and ran out the door of the temple. Queen Galfrey immediately began healing her old friend as the party chased after Ashley. Wase and Hook quickly outran him with their mythic powers and natural speed, dealing a bit of damage. Bendak then launched him into the air with a geyser and Gith tore him apart with a volley of arrows. The tyrannosaur and the giant continued to wrestle until the ankylosaurs wandered over and subdued the giant with their clubs.

After the battle, the giants were restrained and Gith disabled the grinder. In the process, he got a psychic reading of the giants throwing innocent prisoners into the device for fun. Despite that they had done this of their own free will, the party decided to show them mercy anyway. Somewhere, Poonisher was gravely disappointed. The party looted and healed Yaniel after her near death at the hands of Ashley. Gith telekinetically retrieved a ring of Force Shield from the inner workings of the grinder. It had been serving as a sort of battery. Now it could serve as a magical shield, if the party chose to use it that way.

Tane then turned his anger on the drooling alchemist. Tane cursed his mind even further, placed an impossible to remove tracking ring on his finger that burned with a harmless fire, covered him in tattoos that said “Coward” and “Thief” in a variety of demonic languages, and cast a permanent Magic Mouth spell on him that constantly played the message “I am a fool and a coward. I had no business going over there.” whenever he was near small groups of anyone or anything that could listen. Tane then sent his victim away. Whatever it was he had done to earn the sorcerer’s ire, he surely wouldn’t do again.

After Tane’s oddly targeted yet severe vengance, the time came to do what the party had come for. The party telepathically asked Arueshalae how to use the Abyss portal. She replied that you just walk through, but the good at heart would find the experience painful. One by one, the party began to go through. Wase was first, and vanished beyond the shimmering crimson wall. Next was Gith. His pain as he crossed proved he was still a good person, despite his necromancy. Then Tane crossed. Bendak was last, as he stopped to request that the Queen take care of his pterodactyl while he was in the Abyss. She agreed. Swoop was reluctant to leave, but Bendak felt that the Abyss was too dangerous for it. Having the familiar on the Material side of the portal would also allow for the party to see outside when need be by scrying. Tane took his own Lyrakien familiar with him. Fee was very proud of his trust in her.

As party members arrived on the other side, they were greeted by chaos and fury. A powerful and porcine greed demon called a nalfeshnee was lying in wait on the other side and attacked Wase as soon as he came through.

The Abyss itself was hostile to the good souls that had entered it. The party found various tasks seemed more difficult, while magic that drew on specifically Good powers was weakened while Evil magic was enhanced. The nalfeshnee’s tough hide resisted dinosaur teeth and Gith’s arrows while its spell resistance shrugged off Tane’s spells. Wase was nearly slain at the demon’s hands. However, as powerful as the demon was, it was still alone. Eventually, its resistances were not enough, and Wase’s holy blade met the demon’s heart.

The party could now close the portal. The ritual took a minute. The portal shrieked and fought the end, sending forth many blasts of lightning. Bendak was almost deafened by the final thunder as the portal closed, but resisted because the party’s Mythic powers had grown just as the portal died.

Our heroes were now in the demon’s realm without a way home.

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Dealing with the devils

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After slaying Xanthir, the party got a bit of downtime. It was the last they were likely to see for some time. Arueshalae decided to undertake the final two penances to secure her redemption. First, she went to the temple of Desna for an atonement spell. This would have done the job for a mortal, but as a demon it merely helped her. Next, Bendak decided to help with the final penace. Bringing Tane along to cast the teleport spells required, Bendak took her to his homeland.

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Once there he had her spend the day in nature. She helped first ensure that the demons of the Worldwound hadn’t brought ruin to the saurian jungle. Once that was accomplished, she aided in all the small and humble works required of a druid. Trees were replanted, wounded animals were tended to, and lost travelers nudged toward home. Once the work was done, Bendak lead Arueshalae and Tane to one more stop before returning to Drezen.

This time they entered the walled town of Tolguth and went to a home attached to a shop. Bendak removed his mask and set it down on the ground before knocking. It sprouted bone tendrils and crawled over to his other creatures. After a moment, Bendak’s parents answered the door. There was a moment of shock at his unexpected return before the greetings and the questions began. One of the first was from his mother, who quietly asked who the girl was. Bendak dismissed any hopes of his settling down and not living in the woods with dangerous animals anymore by stating that she was probably more interested in one of his cooworkers and also was a succubus.

At dinner, Bendak’s parents were rightfully wary that he had brought a demon home. After some tension, his father admitted that she wasn’t the worst girl he had brought in. Arueshalae wondered who the worst was, and Bendak’s mother launched into a story about a “Jessika” as Bendak groaned. After that, the dinner was a much more cheerful affair. The jungle trip, the light of the hearth, and the sound of the laughter was good for Arueshalae. As they said goodbye and Tane teleported them home, Arueshalae left her past behind in Tolguth.

When the expedition returned to Tolguth, they were greeted by Wase and Gith. Wase had returned from duty on the front lines against the demons. The experience had left him more powerful, but also more internally scarred by the horrors of battle and too many fallen comrades. Poonisher had suddenly left the city, muttering something about needing to help a flying vigilante in a metropolis. The paladin seemed romantically interested in the demon. For her part, she seemed a bit interested, more so than she had been in Tane. However, they had little time to get to know each other, as Queen Galfrey called them for a meeting.

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Galfrey met the heroes in the castle. The creatures and the demon waited elsewhere. The queen’s top councilor, an aasimar named Opaline, carried in a pair of metal plates in a case. The Queen explained the plates were from a rare and dangerous tome called the Lexicon of Paradox—the same book of forbidden rituals and incantations used over a hundred years ago to open the Worldwound and destroy Sarkoris. Areelu Vorlesh later tore the book in half and destroyed the portion containing the information about how she opened the Worldwound so that no one could reverse-engineer the process.

Fortunately for the crusaders, the actions of a small group of mercenaries led by Venture-Captain Varian Jeggare, his tiefling accomplice Radovan, and the half-elven paladin Oparal resulted in the book’s rediscovery and restoration, and the complete text was now in crusader hands.

Currently, the Lexicon was in a secure vault in Lastwall, being studied by skilled scholars under careful observation by the Knights of Ozem, but she did bring the pair of thin copper plates she had removed from the artifact concerning a ritual that can, in theory, be used to shut down a small rift between the Material Plane and the Abyss.

Galfrey allowed the party to examine the two plates. They were densely inscribed with runes, incantations, and equations, switching from Thassilonian to Abyssal to Hallit to Aklo, and even to Druidic in places. Between their various magics and languages, the party could confirm that the pages seem to describe a ritual for closing rifts between planes, but also that the ritual was incomplete.

The magic infusing these two plates, combined with a significant source of magical power such as that now wielded by the PCs, should be enough to shut down a smaller rift. And if that worked, then Galfrey could report the success to Lastwall and greatly accelerate the process of deciphering the remainder of the book. She believed that just as the rituals in the Lexicon of Paradox were used to open the Worldwound over a century ago, a powerful group could use the tome to do the reverse: close the Worldwound forever.

At this point, Galfrey asked the party for an update on what they’ve learned. She is particularly intrigued by the revelations from intelligence gathered at the Ivory Sanctum that the potent Nahyndrian crystals are being refined into elixirs of mythic power, and she is concerned by the discovery that the cults of Deskari and Baphomet are seeking to draw Nocticula into their plots. She was a bit more skeptical about the idea of redeemed demons, but willing to tolerate the concept. The rampant use of undead and ear collecting by some party members was probably not important enough to mention to her.

The task the Queen set before the party was complex and dangerous; not only did their growing powers make them the best suited to accomplishing the mission—they might be the only ones capable of doing so. Galfrey goes through the list of tasks she’d like the party to accomplish as a prelude to the eventual mission of closing the Worldwound forever.

1. Destroy the Nahyndrian Refinery: The party must travel to the Midnight Fane where Nahyndrian crystals are refined, search the fane for the methods by which the demons and their allies are creating these elixirs, then destroy their tools, resources, and inventors.

2. Close the Midnight Fane Rift: Next, they must use the Lexicon of Paradox to close the small but permanent rift within the fane that connects this world to the Abyss.

3. Prevent the Midnight Alliance: They must travel beyond the rift into the Midnight Isles to sabotage the Worldwound’s attempt to secure an alliance with Nocticula. This may require a face-to-face encounter with the demon lord, who seems to have her own reasons to not want to enter this alliance. The best place to go to secure an audience with Nocticula is her capital city of Alushinyrra, and the best way to get her attention would be to seek methods of becoming notorious in the city.

4. Find the Crystals’ Source and Cut Off Their Flow: Finally, they must discover where in the Midnight Isles the Nahyndrian crystals are coming from, then put a stop to that operation.

As the meeting ended, Queen Galfrey gave each party member a talisman of true faith. Since this mission required them to delve deeply into the Abyss and to interact with some of its most dangerous and manipulative denizens, these items would warn their bearers when they might unwittingly act in ways that could endanger their souls.

The Queen also said that she herself would fight alongside the party on this mission until they had to enter the Abyss. Then she would have to remain on the material side of the portal to complete half the ritual. The Queen was not blessed with mythic powers, but she was an expert combatant in her own right. Arueshalae would not be coming on this mission. She feared that she could be corrupted again in the realm of the succubus queen. However, she could give her anarchic gift to party members. Normally, this ability is used by succubi to tempt mortals with the offer of power. In her redeemed state, Arushalae could give it freely. Those who had the gift would be a bit more powerful and be able to communicate with her telepathically, but would have to trust her not to hurt them through the mental link. Everyone accepted the offer.

The party and the Queen headed out to the rift. It was located in a place called the Locust Shrine. An imposing door marked the entrance. Wase approached and knocked. Nobody answered, so the party let themselves in. A statue of the demon lord Deskari activated when they entered. It began reciting a speech, something about how interlopers would die a thousand screaming deaths or the like. Four incubi entered the room. Rather than starting a fight, they bowed low and announced that their leader had been expecting the party. Not knowing what to do in this situation, they agreed to meet their leader. They were unused to situations such as this, since usually the demons all got shot in the throat before they could finish speaking.

The party was lead through a wide hall to a back room of the temple. A huge alchemical lab made mostly of glass took up most of the room. Three more incubi joined the procession, along with a floating tumor demon called a gibrileth. At the chamber, the eyeless demon woman named Minagho extended a greeting to the party.

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A beaten and manacled paladin crouched by her side. Minagho had been involved in the early plot to destroy Kenebraes. She was eager for vengance, while some of the party were vaguely aware of her existence. The Queen recognized the paladin as Yaniel. Her current weak and broken appearance seemed a mockery of the warrior she once was.

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Yaniel was the famous hero who had once owned Wase’s sword and was thought to be dead for nearly the past 20 years. Minagho offered for the party to take Yaniel and go. The Queen strongly desired to rescue Yaniel, and Tane read Yaniel’s mind for treason and advocated taking the offer. The talismans didn’t see anything alignment-threatening about it. The party agreed-for now- and began taking Yaniel away. Then the trap was sprung.

Tane turned out to be under mind control and cast Haste on the demons. An unseen assailant tossed a bomb emitting noxious gas into the room. Thankfully, the gas mostly worked against the demons. Gith was the first of the party to respond, blasting Minagho and several of her minions with a fireball. An ash giant stomped in and nearly slashed Hook with a hook.

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Bendak nearly managed to summon a whole pack of T.rexes, but he just wasn’t strong enough yet. Someday. For the moment, he summoned one T.rex, which devoured an incubus. Wase struck down two more. The gibrileth unsuccessfully tried to summon additional demons as the giant struggled to push over the T.rex. At this point “Yaniel” revealed demonic limbs and began tearing into the Queen. A cambion alchemist became visible and hurled bombs at the Queen. The Queen took an opening to cast a spell that freed Tane from the fiend’s control. Tane immediately cursed a large number of the demons with blindness. As they blinked, Gith launched another fireball into the alchemy lab. The equipment reacted and exploded as well. The gibrileth, several incubi, and Minagho were incinerated. The alchemist cursed and screamed in fury at the destruction of his life’s work. Gith used a Quicken rod that Tane had spent about 2 1/2 weeks to cast a bunch of spells during the fight, but had to drop on it on the floor when it was emptied. Galfrey was badly hurt, but her paladin abilities quickly got her back to normal.

The party began to focus their attacks on “Yaniel” as the last two incubi teleported away. “Yaniel” revealed she was actually Minagho in disguise. The other one was a disguised incubus. Minagho knew the fight was turning against her, so she telekinetically stole the Quicken rod off the floor and teleported away with a laugh.

The giant stopped fighting. He had actually been magically manipulated into fighting for the demons and had been freed by the Queen’s earlier spell she cast for Tane. He was evil, but temporarily joined the party to get revenge. All that was left to deal with was the alchemist. Bendak summoned another T.rex to attack him, and Gith fireballed both the alchemist and the dinosaur. Both survived. The alchemist used an invisibility potion and escaped the temple. Bendak tried sealing the door to the alchemy room with himself and his creatures inside, but the alchemist was already gone.

Tane was furious after being forcibly turned against his friends and wanted his Anarchic Gift removed. Arueshalae apologized, but was unable to take the gift away without wounding his mind. Galfrey, however, was prepared for this situation and cast Dispel Chaos to rid him of the gift.

The party began searching the area and Gith did some psychic readings. Tane guessed that Yaniel was actually most likely still alive and Minagho had been using her as a backup source of life force. The party found Yaniel as a dried husk shut away in a closet, still bearing a spark of life. The Queen broke her curse and Yaniel returned to full life. The party gave her clothing and water. Yaniel recognized her sword, Radiance, in Wase’s hand. She felt that it suited Wase more in her present state, but she did ask to hold it once more. Wase handed it over. When Yaniel took hold of it, Radiance revived like its old master, revealing it was a mighty Holy Avenger, a weapon capable of breaking spells and butchering demons in great and equal measures.

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The Worm that Walks
We have a T. Rex.

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After driving off Jerribeth, Gith stayed behind in her office to read through her various notes. The others continued on to a new chamber. On the way, Arueshalae apologized for sometimes freezing up in combat. Poonisher found a concealed door on the wall across from a large carving of a goat-headed demon. The lock was cunning, but Poonisher worked at it. A bit of mythic power casually channeled from Gith allowed him to finish the job. It was then that a pair of derakni scorpion demons spotted him. One immediately teleported away and the other tried to attack. Poonisher stared the demon in the eyes. It blinked, and he shot it in the throat. Bendak decided to test his powers a bit. With a new incantation, a T.rex stomped its way into battle, glowing with infused power from the stars.

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The T. rex missed a bite as the dinosaurs jumped the demon. Poonisher then finished it off. As the demon thumped to the ground, its partner came back with three other demons like itself. These were harder to fight, but they all soon died. The T.rex was able to chomp the demons a few times before Arueshalae and Poonisher killed them. The demons did manage to poison Hook briefly, but Bendak took care of that.

The next room the party came to was also the heart of the temple. The room was the private chambers of Xanthir Vang, the Worm that Walks foreshadowed several times in the past. A runic circle took up much of the center floor. Candles, books, and other arcane devices took the rest. Xanthir himself reclined in a chair and extended a casual greeting to the party. He tried to make conversation but then Poonisher shot him twice in the chest. Xanthir uttered a slithering sigh and turned invisible. The fight was on. Hook charged and crashed against a bookshelf as her claws sliced through where Xanthir had been. Bendak then turned into an Allosaurus and summoned a rather small and cramped Brachiosaurus.

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It tried to smash Xanthir, but missed. A change then came over Tane. Before, his mind had been elsewhere, but now he was ready to fight. Tane promptly dispelled Xanthir’s invisibility. Arueshalae was shaken at the sight of him. He reminded her of her own evil past. Revealed, Xanthir called in aid. A massive construct made of the essence of the Abyss entered. It was called a retriever and looked like a black spider the size of an elephant.

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Xanthir injured Poonisher with a green ray and then took flight through a short flight of stairs into a small cave connected to his chambers. The Brachiosaurus swatted at him on the way. The retriever scorched Tane with rays of fire from its eyes and grabbed him with its talons. Before it could kill Tane, Bendak summoned another T. rex to chomp it and hold it down while Poonisher finished it off. Gith ran in with his undead vrock to join the battle. Bendak and Hook struggled to hit Xanthir as he dodged around them. Xanthir tried to gas the whole room with a Cloudkill spell, but Tane blocked it. Xanthir then took a bit of a beating as the party zeroed in on him. The Worm that Walks was a mighty opponent, but even he was not invincible. Xanthir then chose to teleport away. He would escape to some tomb of horrors, the party would track him to the ends of the earth and beyond, and it would all end in a climatic duel in which shocking truths would be revealed. At least, that all probably would have happened if Poonisher hadn’t shot him in his analogue of a throat and finished him off before he could cast any such spells.

The party was victorious. They found their next lead in Xanthir’s journals. The demon’s Nahyndrian crystals were being mined in the Midnight Isles, the realm of Nocticula, demon lord of succubi. Other surprises included that the crystals were made from the blood of assassinated demon lords and Nocticula had not given permission for the project. The journals mentioned that the forces of the Worldwound were trying to secure an alliance.

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