Thursday, April 16, 2015

Into the Tomb of the Lizard King - Part 5: A Lesson in Irony

Previously in our story...

"Sometimes, some moments, you can actually feel the universe shift. Whether it's because you're on the right path, the wrong one, or merely causing history to be written by your steps in the sands." - Cora 


"She is the one who sent you here, we want her dead." the mages said, pointing the demon prince toward KelLyn with condescending smirks of triumph.

Those smirks were short lived, however, as the warriors of the party immediately turned their attention to dealing with them personally. They began moving backwards into the billowing smoke in an attempt to use that as cover against the coming fight, but Shalev and Ishmael both engaged to prevent their escape.

The demon prince took a step forward, and apologized to KelLyn before reaching out to try and remove her heart. KelLyn quipped glibly that she was "90 percent sure she didn't need her heart anyway," and began quickly reading the Protection from Demons spell scroll that we had picked up earlier in the explorations. 

Lan and Osman began a summoning together, and Fife stepped directly between KelLyn and the demon prince, taking his role of bodyguard literally, as he threw a spear toward the mage who had spoken the order for KelLyn's death. I fired an arrow at the other mage, but missed due to the cover of the smoke, and quickly fired a second shot, this time hitting, but doing no damage. Fife's aim was, as it always is, true to mark, and the spear pinned the first mage to the floor. Shalev took the opportunity to grab the pinioned body and throw it off of the spear and away, before drawing his sword and striking the head clean off of the second mage. 

Killing the mages did not release the demon, much to the party's consternation and immediate realization that the demon was not controlled by the two that came through with him, and capricious enough to continue toward the original goal of killing KelLyn.

Near Lan and Osman, a gate began to open as a result of their combined efforts in summoning. The army of fae that it revealed took one look in to see the demon prince, looked at Lan and Osman like the two of them were out of their minds, and promptly closed the gate. Nonplussed, the two of them immediately began summoning again, not to be deterred by the setback, and seemingly oblivious to the refusal of the fae. 

Ishmael, recalling the fight with the dragon, eased his way around to flank the demon prince, and began to climb the 14 foot tall creature. Shalev moved in to attack, aiming for the demon's knees as the demon again tried for KelLyn's heart.

Fife, using the momentum and weight of the demon to his advantage, stabbed the demon's hand with the flamestrike spear. The defense was successful, and the spear actually managed to cause damage to the demon, causing him to recoil in surprise and giving KelLyn the chance to finish reading the protection spell which crumbled into dust upon completion. 

I, realizing that I would probably be more hindrance than help in this fight, moved over to search the bodies of the two mages in hopes that I might find something that would aid in banishing the demon back to it's home plane. I saw that one of the poor fools was still struggling to breathe, and quietly put him out of his misery. Searching the remains lent only a handful of miscellaneous components, however, and nothing else of real value. 

Ishmael continued his stealthy climb, and Lan and Osman finished their latest summoning, this time creating a vortex from which a strange creature emerged. It looked like a skeletal humanoid made purely of dust and rocks. At that moment, Shalev located and began reading the Banish Unholy scroll that we had found in an attempt to return the demon to it's home plane. 

KelLyn began to visibly gather her willpower in preparation of continuing with her formidable defense against the demon; and the demon, seeing that Fife was still standing between them, reached out to swat him aside. Fife made an attempt to dodge out of the way, but wasn't quite fast enough, and was thrown against the far wall and wounded. Lan tried to control the strange skeletal dust elemental that she and Osman had summoned, but failed, and the creature turned to attack them both.

Another fairy portal opened up then, a result of yet another attempt to summon from Lan and Osman. A hand reached through the new portal, handed Osman an ash wand, and then withdrew, once again closing the portal behind it. Osman looked at the wand curiously, but then realized that the dust elemental was attacking him, and turned to focus his attention on dispelling the creature. 

Shalev completed reading the Banish Unholy spell, and the demon prince screamed and turned to run out of the room, throwing Ishmael clear of his back in the process. Shalev then turned and cast a quick dispel undead at the elemental attacking Lan and Osman, causing it to collapse into a pile of filmy dust before it could reach them.

I moved over to check on Fife, who had bounced off of the far wall, and found him injured enough to require healing. I gave him one of the draughts of pure healing which was enough to get him back on his feet. KelLyn tried then to peer through the still-open portal that the mages emerged from earlier, and she saw faint figures moving on the other side. She rolled a copper piece towards the portal to see if it was two-way, but discovered that it would not allow things to pass back through. 

The demon prince peered around the corner of the doorway, said with mocking laughter "I can't believe you fell for that!" and then opened up a gate to the neutral plane in the center of the room. Lan tried to disenchant the portal, in hopes that it would collapse, but failed, and the spell rebounded into Ishmael. He shimmered for a moment, but appeared otherwise unaffected, though I heard him mutter something about feeling physically stronger. Osman also attempted to destroy the gate, but he also was unsuccessful, and he retreated toward the edge of the opposite hallway to get out of the way. 

Two wraiths emerged from the neutral gate, and Shalev moved to attack them as KelLyn worked to try closing the gate so that nothing else could come through. The demon prince laughed again and opened a second gate to a Lawful plane, and I heard Shalev curse darkly. Fife took a moment to examine the smoky gate that the mages had originally emerged from, but could not go through. 

I was keeping myself well clear of the fray, knowing that it was too tight of a space for me to really be any use. The hidden stairway to the lower levels was still to be found, and so I used my skills to try and locate it. Instead of the stairs, however, I discovered a low frame of mist on the far wall, where 4 translucent gold ravens worked to drag the bodies of the two mages we had killed through the misty portal. I silently crept closer to the misty portal, following the strange ravens, and saw three more mages through the mist, chanting and piecing the bodies of their fallen companions back together again. I carefully tried to reach through the area where I had seen the ravens pass, and discovered that I could do so without harm. There was a thick pedestal or reading stand of some sort on the mage's side of the misty opening, and I used it as cover to stay out of sight in order to give myself time to contemplate what my next actions could be. 

Osman suddenly remembered the magical lock that we had taken from the desk in the captain's quarters earlier. He took it out and tossed it towards the neutral gate, and newly forming lawful gate, and it landed on the floor in the middle of the two.  He then tried to shoot the lock with an arrow, hoping that the impact would cause the lock to explode and destroy the gates, but he missed, and the arrow skittered across the floor harmlessly. 

Ishmael stepped forward then, and with an odd look of concentration on his face, he reached out to try to push the smoky gate closed as if it were simply a door that needed to be shut. He pushed on the gate with an unbelievable strength, and the fabric of the entire universe flexed around him in a visible and nauseatingly physical ripple in reality. Everything stopped for a heartbeat, and we just stared at Ismael in awe. He kept up his attempt for another moment, completely unaware that what he was doing was normally impossible, and intently focused on his task. 

Shalev's attacks on the wraiths were unsuccessful, and he found himself unable to hit them directly with his sword. Osman failed another attempt to hit the lock, and KelLyn still worked frantically to close the gates that were forming around us.  

Two evil knights emerged from the Lawful portal, and Ishmael, seeing that his attempt to close the smoke gate wasn't working, abandoned the effort and moved over to deal with them. The demon prince, seeing that we had still not been defeated, said something uncouth and began opening a third gate, this time to the plane of fire. Lan cast a pacify spell on the wraiths, convincing them to leave Shalev alone, and KelLyn began casting a spell to try once again to destroy the gates. 

I reached again carefully through the strange mist-portal that I had discovered, and felt some papers on the reading stand. Keeping a wary eye on the chanting mages and the strange ravens, I grabbed the paper and pull it back through the portal without being detected. I looked at what I had grabbed and saw a piece of paper with an odd multidimensional writing on it. I thought it looked similar to what I had seen KelLyn working with when she used Fyrewerian, and was able to make out some part of it that said "varanuraman also known as ermaralurazar". I tucked it safely into a pocket, and then ducked out of the way just as Osman was finally able to successfully strike the magical lock with a heavy arrow. 

The lock exploded, as hoped, with an implosion of magical energy that caused the gates to buckle, and the knights and wraiths to disappear. KelLyn's spell completed successfully, and the buckling gates were completely destroyed. As soon as the gates crashed down, I ran over to KelLyn to hand her the scrap of paper that I had filched from the pedestal in the misty room. She glanced at it curiously saying that it looked like the demon's name and that this could be most helpful, and began studying it in more detail.  While she studied, I moved back over to see what else I could find in the misty room, but found that I could no longer reach through the portal when my hand met cold stone. 

The demon prince, hearing the explosion, looked around the door frame again and blinked in surprise to see us all standing there mostly unharmed. He grumbled "well hell" and then withdrew around the corner once again opening another gate across the doorway. Tobias and Ishmael who had charged toward the demon the second he showed his face, instead found themselves amidst six red-robed figures emerging from the new portal. 

Tobias, reacting with a speedy reflex, shifted his attack toward the first of the robed figures, swinging his mace with deadly precision. The impact of the mace caused it to explode, however, sending shrapnel flying and causing minor damage to everyone within range. Ishmael shrugged off the damage from the mace, and reached out to snare one of the other robed figures in a crushing bearhug. 

Lan and Osman moved towards the rear of the room and worked together to begin, once again, summoning something from fae. Fife, seeing new targets in the robed figures, threw a spear at one of them as Ishmael, Shalev, and Tobias engaged with the others. 

The demon, hearing that we were not dying in agony as he had hoped, reached through the purple portal and began moving his arm in an obvious incantation to open yet another gate. Seeing the rest of the party otherwise occupied, I snatched up the flamestrike spear and ran over to stab the demon in the hand, hoping to disrupt his concentration. My strike was true, and the spear caused enough damage to the demon to cause him to jerk his hand upward just as he finished the incantation before withdrawing his hand with a cry of surprised pain. The portal which he had been trying to open on the floor underneath us instead opened up to a gaping, starless void in the ceiling. 

Expecting another attempt from the demon, I waited there by the new portal, poised to strike him again when he reached back through. Instead of another attack, however, the party heard the demon begin cursing vehemently against something on that side of the portal.

The demon's cry of pain, and the now cavernous hole where the ceiling once was, was enough to cause all of the other robed figures in the room to stop and stare, giving the party members the opportunity to attack them. Fife's spear hit one of the robed figures, and the spear exploded much like the mace did, sending shards everywhere, and causing enough damage to knock me unconscious. 

Tobias continued to grapple with the robed figures, moving them away from where I lay on the ground, and Shalev stepped in with a furious cry to strike all of the robed men with a flurry of attacks. Shalev's attacks were lethally accurate, and with each strike against the strange foes, he gained a little more precision and a little more of the deadly calm that he shows when he is focused so. His brooch of Ma'at began to glow visibly with gathered energy, and his strikes were the only things that were obviously doing damage to the creatures they fought. He told me later that during the attacks he felt a power stir within his sword, and felt that he would be able to access it, if he could figure out how to do so. 

Lan and Osman's summoning spell completed successfully, and again, a gate to fairy lands opened up to reveal that army of fae waiting beyond. A voice cried out that "they had already provided help, and what more could they do!" before tossing a hawthorne bush out into the room and pulling the gate shut behind them.

Shalev continued his attacks on the robed figures, his brooch glowing brighter with each successful strike, when suddenly he paused and took a step backward. His eyes narrowed in concentration, and he tilted his head to one side as he observed something only he could see. He continued this appraisal for a moment, and then grinned - much like I have seen Amit look right before he pounces - and stepped in to renew his attacks, seeming now to somehow know exactly where to hit them and how to do the most damage. 

Tobias, seeing that I was still down, ran over to pick me up and carry me out into the hallway where Lan and Osman were waiting and attempting, yet again, to summon something together. Fife ran to retrieve the flamestrike spear, and he also retreated out into the hallway. Ishmael, seeing the robed figure that he had trapped in a bearhug was no longer moving, dropped the body and grabbed for the next nearest enemy with the intent of tossing them up into the vast emptiness above us. The rest of the robed figures began to converge on Ishmael, and Shalev moved in to protect him and renew his attacks against them. 

KelLyn decided then that reading the strange scrap of paper was getting her absolutely nowhere. Throwing both her caution and her reading to the wind, she tucked the scrap into her robes and grabbed the dragon scale she had imbued with power shouting "I have had enough!" to where the demon hid behind the portal. 

There was a tremendous crashing noise, followed by what sounded like some sort of explosion behind the portal. A brass censer, incandescent with magical energy, tumbled through the portal, billowing incense smoke around the already hazy room. A huge gust of wind followed the smoking brazier, and we could hear the demon shouting in an odd language. We caught a glimpse through the faltering portal to see the demon prince engaged in a violent argument with a djinn. KelLyn's spell completed at that moment, and a beam of energy shot from her hand through the portal to strike the demon square in the chest right as the djinn also punched him in the face. 

Ishmael, who was still grappling with the robed figures, picked one of them up over his head and threw it into the void above him. As soon as the robed figure vanished through the void portal, the remaining figures shrank inward and disappeared. Shalev, now freed from his defense of Ishmael, looked into the room where the demon and the djinn fought. He moved over to the wall next to the doorway, and closed his eyes in concentration once again as he focused his will on determining the best ways to defeat the demon prince.  

Lan and Osman's summoning spell completed then, but there was no effect, the fairies evidently deciding that they had done quite enough. A clam did appear in front of Lan, though, and she took a moment to enjoy the delicacy humming softly and happily to herself before moving over to check on me. I was still unconscious, and so she performed a basic first aid which was enough to wake me up again. Osman shrugged and looked at the hawthorn bush tossed into the room earlier. On a whim, he picked up the bush and threw it at the portal across the doorway. KelLyn cast a dispel to also attempt to close the portal, and her spell caused the portal to begin to buckle so that when the hawthorn bush struck, both portal and bush disintegrated completely, clearing the doorway into the room beyond.

Fife, noticing that the brazier was still smoking on the floor, picked it up and began gently swinging it, watching the incense billow out of it with a somewhat dazed look on his face. We looked into the now visible chamber beyond to see the demon and the djinn locked in a massive battle of wills, gusts of wind still blasting through the doorway. Ishmael, seeing the demon so occupied, charged in to attack the demon, in an attempt to break it's concentration. His first hit did not have any visible effect, though it looked like he struck with the force of a mountain, so he swung again. 

Tobias moved in as well, swinging at the demon with his mace, and Shalev continued to concentrate on finding weaknesses in their defenses. KelLyn walked over near the demon and began tracing circles in the floor, drawing power in with each concentric ring she created. 

Still wounded, I remained by Amit, but when I moved to go back into the room with the void-ceiling, Amit rigidly remained behind, staring up into the void with clear concern. I still needed to find the hidden stairs, though, so I ventured carefully into the room to see what I could find. The further in I moved, the further away Amit creeped, edging backwards until he was against the wall on the northern end of the hallway. This was odd behavior for him, and seeing that he had backed himself into a wall, I returned to his side and tried to ease his obvious worry. 

Shalev straightened up then, and suddenly turned to Fife with a shout that should he stop swinging that censer, the djinn would kill him. Fife, wide eyed, nodded his understanding, and kept swinging the brazier in a high arc. Each complete swing of the censer made the djinn visibly more resolute, as if Fife were adding his willpower to the ongoing battle between the demon and the djinn. Ishmael continued to hit the demon prince again and again and again, but though the hits fell like hammers, they had very little visible effect. Shalev stepped forward and swung his holy avenger down towards the demon with a cry, hitting the demon's arm at the wrist and shearing off it's hand with a crackle of energy. Ishmael, seeing the new wound on the demon, began striking the stump of the arm instead. 

The demon's hand fell into the center of the circles that KelLyn was creating, and she looked at it with a smirk saying "Yep. That will do." She reached down and picked up the hand of the demon, and began drawing power the same way she had when she leached the essence of the dragon down into a single scale. Sparks began to radiate off of the circle around her from the sheer amount of power she was calling up. 

I was still over with Amit, checking the wall behind where he crouched. and I noticed that when he shifted position, the wall behind him seemed to warp. Osman created some goat parts with a spell in order to try to get Amit away from the wall, and he was successful in distracting the great cat. While Amit kept Osman busy creating food for him, I checked the wall again more carefully to reveal, at last, the hidden stairway to the lower levels. I opened the door to see a spiral staircase made of stone leading down into the darkness. I lit a torch to see what I could observe - if anything - about the stairs themselves, but could not make out much in the way of details. 

Back in the main chamber, KelLyn continued to pull power with a shower of sparks, drawing the essence of the demon down into it's severed hand.  Ishmael continued his hammering attacks on the demon's arm, and Shalev swung his holy avenger once again in an attempt to sever the demon's other hand. 

The demon and the djinn were still locked in a massive battle of wills, but the pain of it's wounds plus the added benefits to the djinn were finally enough to overpower the demon. The djinn laughed in wicked triumph and with a wave of his hand banished the demon back to it's home plane. The djinn then reached down, plucked the hand out of KelLyn's grasp, and squeezed, distilling the remaining essence of the demon down into one single scarlet gemstone which he handed back to a wide-eyed KelLyn with a "congratulations. This is what remains." 

He then turned his attentions to Fife, who was still swinging the censer. He pointed at Fife and said sternly that he would not serve him. Fife shook his head quickly, still swinging the incense, and replied that he didn't want him to. The djinn then demanded that Fife order him to go and Fife hastily agreed that he was free to go. The djinn nodded once, and then vanished, and Fife dropped the brazier - now extinguished - with a sigh of relief. KelLyn agreed to identify the brazier, and an argument broke out among the party members as to whether or not it should be left here or taken with the party. Shalev and KelLyn actually agreed with one another that the thing should be left alone, thinking that Fife or Osman might not be able to control anything that could be summoned, and that was enough to make the others pause and consider; but Lan eventually won the party over agreeing to be responsible for the relic. 

I called the party's attention to the now revealed passageway down to the lower levels, and we all agreed that we should rest here and recuperate before venturing further below. 

The demon prince is vanquished. Ironically now imprisoned within a stone that he himself gave KelLyn the power to create. KelLyn is happy, Ishmael is reveling in his newfound strength for however long it may last, and the rest of us are tired. Shalev immediately went into a meditative prayer, sitting with his sword gently placed across his knees. I know not what his goddess revealed to him during that fight, but it was profound. I can see a change in his demeanor, his confidence, and his power. He is much changed from the wayward wanderer that I encountered so long ago. I am happy to see that he is growing and learning well. 

As for what lay below us? We know that Sacatha still awaits, but beyond that, it still remains to be see what we may face. I only hope that we can continue to work together as we have, to make it out of this place alive. 

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