Wrath of the Righteous


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.


Zanton RonW

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