A Trip to Nessus with Charon
Jezabel warned them the next wave of demons would be coming soon and that the heroes should be gone before that happens. She explained that the heroes needed to make their way to Nessus, the 9th layer of hell where Asmodeus’ castle resides. There was some debate as to whether the heroes could navigate the 9 layers of hell without Jezabel…even with Charon’s help. They ended up having Jezabel guide them. In for a penny, in for a pound.
Thank the gods for that bit of wisdom. Just making it across Avernus to the river Styx and awaiting Charon’s ferry proved to be…interesting. With a desolate red landscape of broken bodies, war machines, and a seemingly never ending supply of demons and devils, the war continued. Seems this demon invasion into Hell had been going on for a little while now, at least in other worldly time scales. Not that Avernus was ever a nice place to travel – it is the entryway to hell after all. Now just happened to be little worse than normal.
As our heroes traveled, the demons seemed intent on reach them despite the highly effective defense the devils were providing. That got Quinn and Klang talking. It seemed like Asmodeus was going to great lengths to see us in person. That small army of devils had been protecting that portal for some time, like they were waiting for us. Devils don’t things like that out of the goodness of their evil hearts…they want something from us…badly. And that’s usually not a good thing for any one but Asmodeus.
Finally, Charon’s ferry could be seen in the distance, using his pole to move the ferry along. It was an odd thing, that all the gods allowed Charon to carry their dead to them, crossing all the outer planes of existence to usher the dead to their final destinations. As the ferry pulled up on shore, a few souls were released to hell and one looked very familiar to Quinn (Was that Azazal? The eyes of hatred were right, but he was only the size of an imp. No, that could not be, he was just seeing things, he told himself.).
Approaching Charon was not for the faint of heart. Jezabel, steeling herself, strode forward and spoke to Charon. He said nothing in return, but shook his head in disagreement. She spoke some more, then he nodded in agreement. Charon swept his hand towards the souls still on the ferry, shooing them back to make room for the new comers.
Jezabel turned to the heroes and told them to get in line and prepare to offer payment as they board. When each pulled out a gold coin, she said, “This trip to Nessus is not Charon’s normal passage and will require a more substantial payment from each of them – something of significant magical value that Charon must approve.
Fighting down their mixed emotions, they formed a line to board the ferry and each pulled forth a magical item. First was Paelius with a +3 morning star, which Charon accepted and waved him onto the ferry. The process repeated with each, Rolen paying with a pouch of dust of disappearance and Levi with a great sword of warning.
When Quinn offered an item, it seemed Charon made a strange face, and made the motion to board without taking his offering. Quinn, confused, offered an alternate magical item and Charon repeated the process wave to board without taking the item. Jezabel shoved Quinn onto the ferry, saying, “Do not question Charon…he has no words for the living.”
Then it was Klang’s turn, offering a potion. Charon just put his hands on his bony hips and stared the dwarf down with fury in his flaming eyes. Klang sheepishly reached for his long held spider staff that had gotten him out of more sticky situations than he’d care to admit and offered it instead. Charon snapped it out of the Klang’s hands and motioned for him to board. Jezabel, after hissing at the souls who lingered nearby, handed a glowing whip to Charon and she too was allowed to board.
It was a surreal process, but one that became a little more eerie after they left the shore and realized that some of the souls still aboard looked familiar. It didn’t take the heroes long to figure out that these were many of the people they had personally slain during their long years of adventuring. Rolen could have sworn he saw Charon grinning wickedly as the realization was made.
Quinn tried to talk to Charon to ask why he needed no payment, but Jezabel interrupted him and explained, “Charon is closely affiliated with the Raven Queen, to whom you have enslaved yourself. Do you not know this? They both have an interest in seeing the natural process of death followed – souls of the dead are delivered as appropriate.”
As they traveled the Styx, there was a distinct feeling of downward motion, which was odd because traveling planes doesn’t have an up or down. Yet that’s what their senses kept telling them. The ferry seemed to have difficulty in places, sometimes “natural” as in getting stuck on…shall we say “obstacles” as it was not at all clear what the river Styx was made of nor what might lurk in it.
Other times, they were set upon by demons intent on disrupting Charon’s ferry. It took both Charon and Jezabel to fend them off, which was a serious breach of divine protocol by any being to interfere with the business of Charon. After a few of these episodes, Quinn and Klang looked at each other again – truly something about this “destroy the universe” portal thing has the demon’s and devil’s unfettered attention.
Why were the demon’s trying to stop them from seeing Asmodeus? Or did they want to stop the heroes from opening and entering the portal? Why did Asmodeus want to see them so badly? They could kind of understand why Asmodeus didn’t come to them with demons rampaging across his domain, but what could he possibly need to tell them in person that he could not communicate through his minions?
As with most of their high-level adventures, so many questions and so few answers. In fact, there was a strong temptation to reach out and touch the Styx just out of curiosity despite Quinn’s guidance to not let anything extend outside the ferry. But they remained mindful of the dangers here and heeded Quinn’s guidance – even Rolen with his recently reconstituted soul did not tempt fate here.
The travel seemed to drag on for Klang, witnessing the unholy and unspeakable cruelties meted out on each level of hell…each worse than the last. The terrain changed as they traveled – mountains, swamps, and cities of obsidian, they were all on display for those who watched. He would have nightmares from this, he was sure.
Levi also felt the time slow as they traveled, the suffering and malignant forces at work here were wearing down his psychological defenses. Such debased morality could only be beheld for so long before he just closed his eyes and hummed a hymn to block out the screams and pleas for aid.
At one point, some of the souls start making accusations that they did not deserve their fate. Klang spat back, “Tis ye that resisted the call of good, turn’d yer backs on the light and hope of the living, embrac’in the darkness in ye’s soul! We merely hastened ye t’ yer just reward.” It was when the dragon cultist cooks and other less tainted souls spoke up that Klang went silent and the others looked away, feeling the weight of their mistakes and misdeeds. Again, Rolen could have sworn there was a twinkle in Charon’s glowing eyes.
Yes, Charon had known they would be on his ferry and had held these souls back until now. They all knew it, but Charon’s motives were his own and the heroes wallowed in their shame all the same. They continued to give Charon ample space as none felt particularly comfortable being near the creature.
Continuing on their journey, they started feeling cold. It was such strange sensation here in hell that they all found it very painful as it seeped into their clothes and armor, through their skin and into their very bones.
They could see the souls frozen where they stood, encased in ice, yet still screaming for release. One form was encased in a solid block of ice, floating in a small eddy of the Styx. It was different from the rest as it was frozen so completely solid that the creature within was well preserved. Paelius recognized this robed figure as Levistus, a devil arch duke who betrayed Asmodeus some time ago. He noted down the location with some general reference points so he could perhaps locate the frozen figure in the future.
After a time, the ferry leveled out, halting its descent. All around them was a wasteland of cities. They had different architectures, as if from different cultures throughout history. The temperature remained cold and they remained in an icy hellscape.
As Charon’s ferry started its approach, there was a large contingent of devils up ahead, blocking their way before the last gate. Jezabel explained that even Charon is not permitted to enter Nessus, then flew ahead to negotiate with the devils. As the ferry came to a halt, Jezabel could be heard negotiating in infernal with the other devils. As best they could tell, they seemed to be negotiating in favors that are owed by powerful allies. It seems favors are the currency in hell and the bargaining took some time.
Again, they pondered why it was so important that Asmodeus seem them in person? What could he possibly gain from them? Obviously the death of a few powerful holy men would hold some value, but nothing like this. Would he strike them dead after so much effort to get them to his castle at the bottom of hell? Jezabel had assured them of their relative safety, which isn’t much down here, but better than nothing. They simply did not know and would not know until they spoke with him.
The negotiations went on for some time, but they were permitted to land just past the last gate to Nessus and then Charon was to leave immediately. There was only one gate that would permit any creature to exit from hell and it was found on Nessus. It was strictly controlled by Asmodeus himself, so this was yet another exceptional request made simply to get these adventurers before the highest devil.
Immediately upon passing through the gate, the temperature changed to the opposite extreme – hot, so very hot!
Once they arrived at Nessus, Rolen commented, “That didn’t take long, perhaps a few hours at most.” Klang and Levi looked at him incredulously. Levi commented, “It was far longer than hours my small friend…weeks or months, I lost count of the days.” Paelius and Quinn also had a different sense of how much time had passed, such that the passage of time was individual on Charon’s ferry when traveling the Styx…or at least that was the best they could collectively reason. A similar finding was that Charon and his ferry did not appear the same to all of them – it seems his visage varied from having glowing eyes to having a death mask. The ferry was made of skulls to some and was simple wood to others. Yes, it seems each person’s perceptions varied while in Charon’s presence.
Jezabel didn’t provide them with much time to talk as they were quickly hustled off the ferry and towards a large castle in the distance. They could see the patrols both in the sky and on the ground by powerful devils. Even the ground seemed to wriggle from time to time as something passed beneath their boots. Looking down, they noticed the ground was a mass of dead bodies and bones. It sometimes crunched as they walked.
Glancing back, Levi saw Charon quickly navigate to a nearby portal that was heavily guarded. After passing through it, the portal winked out of existence. Not many have seen Charon hurry his ferry’s pace, yet Levi now counted himself as one of those few.
Peering forward into the hot and smoky distance, they could make out ballista mounted on the castle walls and every devil in sight seemed to be on high alert. The castle itself looked like a giant stalagmite reaching up into the sky, surrounded by smoke and fires.
Moving quickly towards the castle, they had to keep their eyes trained on the ground so they would not trip on the debris. Paelius noticed many of the bodies and skeletons underfoot were of demons. It seems no part of hell was spared from the demonic assault.
Finally passing across the archway into the castle’s main entryway, Jezabel finally allowed them to stop and rest. She suggested they prepare themselves to meet her master. They found themselves being watched closely by the devils on guard duty. The heroes found themselves checking that their weapons were still close at hand. Jezabel assured them that no harm would come to them as she turned and hissed at the nearby guards, muttering something guttural. There were hisses back, but the guards gave the adventurers a little more space.
Casting a heroes feast was much harder than expected. It seemed to take energy from Klang when he cast it rather than pulling exclusively from the divine energy Marthamoor Duin provided. This worried him and he shared his observation with Quinn. Quinn tried a cantrip and found the same. They figured that made sense…all forms of outside (non-infernal) energy would be dampened on the deepest layer of hell. They would need to limit their casting here if at all possible or they could end up exhausted after a single powerful spell casting.
They took a long rest, seemingly testing the devils’ patience. Then they took some precautions, casting death ward on Paelius and an aura of purity from Levi. Testing armor and weapons were still in working order, they announced, “We’re ready!”
A Talk with the Devil
Jezabel was summoned by the devils on guard and she escorted the heroes through the heavily guarded corridors. As they passed through the place, there was clearly a strict pecking order. As they entered what appeared to be the main greeting hall, they were led down the middle towards a figure seated on a throne. There were pillars to either side, presumably columns that held the place up, but who knows how devils’ constructed the place. Maybe Asmodeus just willed the place into existence.
The hall was crowded with many devils in attendance. Fumes and licks of fire from the devils were kept to a minimum. The heroes could tell the order of precedence was even more distinct here with each rank getting bigger, uglier and more lethal as they approached the leader of hell. Quinn was on edge. Never before had he seen so much evil at one time. It was truly a terror walking through that hall. It took all of his willpower not to flee.
Klang was worse off – sweating, one hand on the now glowing talisman of good and the other clenching his mace, eyes darting from side to side. He had faced many such creatures in the not so distant past and was ready to unleash as much radiance as was at his disposal, even if it ended his life. It would be a glorious end to his career taking out so much evil at once. But his divine instincts were telling him his work was not over just yet.
And so it was that they were instructed to provide their titles to the herald that would announce them. For some reason, none of their titles sounded particularly impressive given the assembled crowd of devils. One of Klang’s titles “bane of Tiamat” seemed to get an appreciative look from Asmodeus, but otherwise there was little acknowledgement of the titles…just a silence mixed with the shuffling of hooves and a random gout of fire here and there.
Asmodeus welcomed them to his castle, acknowledging it as “a little off the beaten path”. That got some cackles from the audience. He thanked them for returning his handmaiden, noting the rare assistance devils receive from those of the prime material plane. This also got chuckles from the assemble crowd.
He then looked at the adventurers, “I can see you are not a trusting bunch. Feel free to cast whatever magics you may have to discern my words are honest and true.” After a few brief words, Levi cast a zone of truth about Asmodeus, who proceeded to tell Levi that Quinn had been lying to him about his father and that Asmodeus is his father. Levi looked to Quinn in shock until he noticed Asmodeus smiling a big toothy grin and realized that Asmodeus was making it clear that nothing they had would detect his lies, should he want to tell them.
It was an unsettling realization by all of them that here in hell, Asmodeus was more powerful than any of them could imagine and that he could squash them like bugs. While it was not a new realization, it still hit home with the heroes. The crowd could sense their fear and began laughing again.
Asmodeus moved on, asking “I suppose you’re all wondering why a brought you here?” He paused for effect looking at their faces for reaction. Some nodded, then he launched into his monologue. “An old friend of mine, Tharizdun, is keen to escape his prison and return to this dimension, which is nearly certain to end this universe. I am under the impression that you have learned of this on your own, so this probably isn’t news to you.”
Waving his hand, a glowing symbol appeared in the air, presumably relevant to what he was about to say next. Or perhaps it was something to help Asmodeus job his memory of the topic. He never did explain.
“You see, it was only through my betrayal of Tharizdun that the other gods were able to lock him away in a separate dimension before he could make a mess of things here. Tharizdun was one of the first gods who created the universe and is indeed capable of ending it. As you might imagine, I would be high on Tharizdun’s list of people he’d like to see and my continued existence is of importance to me. So I have a vested interest in your success.”
Quinn asked, “So if you’re so concerned about Tharizdun, why not deal with him yourself? Why are we a necessary part of your plan to continue your existence?”
“Excellent! Always the insightful sort aren’t you Quinn.” Asmodeus paused for a few moments collecting his thoughts. He waved his hand and a large plate appeared with a collection of imps resting on it at regular intervals. The plate was rotating with a light shining down on it. “The universe is carefully balanced by the outer planes. If someone like me ceased to exist by leaving this universe, it would set in motion a set of events that would destabilize things.”
As he described this, he snatched one of the imps off the spinning plate. The balance of the plate began to gradually tilt one way and then the other until it eventually fell to the floor. The imps spilled to the floor. “You see, I can’t simply go through the portal to the other dimension to deal with this situation myself. No, this must be handled by mortals of the realms.” The unspoken point being that the heroes were expendable and Asmodeus was not.
“There’s also the small matter of identifying those who are less than loyal to me”. Asmodeus was punctuating his words with foot stomps that crushed the imps on the floor, one by one. “You see, some of my less faithful have been duped into helping with Tharizdun’s return. Your assistance in finding and ending their betrayal before it came to fruition was a welcomed development in my otherwise dreary chores of running my kingdom.”
It was about now that Quinn realized one of the imps was, in fact, Azazal. So that was him leaving Charon’s ferry. And now smashed here on his home plane by the heel of his own deity. A well deserved end to that soul. The unemotional yet satisfied look on Asmodeus’ face made it clear he did not tolerate disobedience. There was a colorful set of noises from the audience at this heartless exhibition by their leader.
Paelius leaned over to Levi and whispered, “A reminder of the pitfalls of following a leader.” Levi just gave him a stern glance to be quiet here.
Asmodeus continued, “If Tharizdun manages to make it back, we gods won’t be able to send him back and, even if we could, none know how to seal the dimension off again. That’s why you, champions of the realms, need to complete the portal and pass through it and deal with what you find on the other side. You must enter the portal to prevent Tharizdun’s return.”
As he spoke, he was magically removing the large red ruby (the shard of evil) from his ruby staff and then extracted a rod from within it. Then, re-affixing the ruby to the staff, stood with a small rod in one hand and his rod in the other. “You’ll need to travel to the center of the universe by completing the portal with this rod and step through it.” He magically floated the rod to Rolen.
Inspecting it briefly, Rolen confirmed it looked just like the other two immovable rods they had already placed.
“Oh, and one more detail – you will need all the allies you can summon. The demons, and I do mean all of demon kind, are searching for you and are now attempting to force their way into your iron fortress. So you should hurry mortals.”
Klang asked, “Does Tharizdun have any weakness we might exploit?”. Asmodeus simply shrugged, “I know not what resides outside this multi-verse.”
Levi, knowing the deals that devils rely on, asked, “What do you want in return for your assistance?”
Asmodeus replied, “Oh, you are a wise one young Levi. I ask only that you remember me.” There was a quiet gasp amongst the crowd. At this, Levi realized just how odd this truly had become – the devil himself asking so little in return for a favor.
Then, with a wave of his arm, Asmodeus opened the only exit from hell back to the Iron Fortress on the cube in Acheron. He commanded those in attendance to go forth and blaze a trail through the demons to stop their assault on the fortress.
Jezabel led those in attendance to flying through the portal. Once they had all passed, he returned his stare to the companions and said, “Jezabel will assist in contacting and gathering your allies. Be swift.” And with that, they stepped through the portal, finally exiting hell.
Never had Klang thought that stepping back onto the hard iron surface of that cube in Acheron would feel so welcome. They all sensed it – this felt like heaven compared to where they had just come from. The temperate environment, the lack of oppressive screaming souls, no stench, death and decay…everything came back in to vivid color of the living.
But there was still screams, the screams of battles all around them as devils fought demons. Between Paelius and Jezabel, they all sent word to their stoutest and strongest allies. Reavers and Goblin Stompers were summoned first. Then it was the clergy of the two clerics and brothers of Levi’s faith. All were summoned to this death filled cube in this miserable plane.
Never before had Quinn or Klang seen such powerful demons arrayed in such force. Even with the devils fighting for them, this battle would not be one of victory. It was to get them to the Iron Fortress and the gate therein.
Quinn’s guardians of faith had ravens swirling among his foes. April was there fighting. Ceasare Corvis was making his presence felt with a Slaadi army and eventually broke his staff just before the demons were about to take him down, destroy himself and all the nearby creatures in a burst of magic.
The battle was pitched back and forth, but they were making steady progress to part the sea of demons before them. O’Dell was rampaging through them on his basilisk. But one by one, they saw their allies fall. Some were returned to health only to be beat down again. Blood and gore were the only constant. After some hours, the way had been cleared and was only being held by a tenuous thread. Into the fortress the sped, wading through the demons that managed to get ahead of them. The last they saw outside the fortress was Jezabel’s position being overrun. It was almost certain the demons would break through the lines of devils and follow them in mere minutes.
The five heroes arrived at portal room with immovable rod in hand. Slapping it into place, Rolen stepped back as the dark room began to pulse with strange weaves of magic. They had all seen portals before, large and small, intricate and barren, but nothing compared to this. It was as if someone had ripped open a hole in reality as they could feel time and space bending around them.
Both Quinn and Klang could hear the divine speaking to them for the last time, imbuing them with a special blessing before they were pulled thorough the portal and all contact was lost. Levi and Paelius felt a similar sensation, but it was less acute.
Then all was quiet. Eerily quiet. Their destination was a strawberry field. How odd? All this way only to land in field of strawberries. Perhaps strawberry fields do stretch on forever? Then the portal winked out of existence behind them.
In looking about and taking in the scenery, the only oddity was the sun – it was bigger and black, and shown with black light. (Yup, they were not in Kansas anymore Toto.) It was also comfortably warm.
Levi picked out the tops of some buildings in the distance, suggesting there was a town or city in that direction. With nothing else to go on, they started the long walk towards civilization in this strange place.
Rolen commented, “For heroes of the realms, we sure do travel on foot a lot.” He then took flight on his winged boots, while the others shook their exhausted heads at the halfling. Klang signaled his displeasure in Rolen’s general direction as he started to walk.
The trip to the city was uneventful. The sun continued to shine it’s black light. The world had not vanished from beneath their feet. It was just like normal, except for that sun. The travel didn’t seem to work the same though as they reached the city more quickly than the distance seemed to imply.
Then they started to encounter the local people, mostly human and very gaunt…emaciated. They spoke in common, but their words made no sense to the heroes. Quinn checked his ears to make sure nothing had obstructed them.
There was no army or authority figures about. Nothing but these malnourished citizens talking nonsense. The only thing they could make out from the citizens was the city’s name – Orion. Roaming about the city, they found that stopping to rest brought no feeling of rejuvenation. It was as if resting had no benefit here. So they knew they needed to figure out what was going on here and fast.
After a few circuits around and through the small city, the only notable feature was at the very center of the city – a large burning candle. The locals just kept adding to the candle so it would never burn out. That seemed to be their sole purpose was to keep the candle burning as it’s spent wax stretched out for several feet in all directions.
Sitting there staring at this candle, the only item of interest in this miserable city, got the tired adventurers frustrated. Surely snuffing out this candle would anger these people, but they could see no other object of interest here. Quinn and Klang continued to discuss the moral and ethical implications of extinguishing the candle while Rolen wandered into the wash room and returned with a bucket of water.
Looking down at him, they watched as he flew up over the candle and doused it with water. The candle went out and their world changed again, only this time they recognized the “comfortable” feel of teleportation at work, not that mind bending dimensional portal.
Meeting the Elemental Princes
Landing on their feet, the found they were standing on a beach with the water stretching off to one side and some large boulders off to the other. About a hundred feet ahead was an old man sitting on a log next to a roaring fire. Glancing around, there wasn’t much else to see, other than that large black sun over their heads.
As before, travel didn’t work normally. Distance and time were out of sync. It could take a week to travel what appears to be a few hundred feet, while traveling a many miles might take only a few minutes. Or at least that’s what it felt like – very disorienting.
By the time they traveled that few hundred feet, the sun was directly overhead. The old man was keeping himself busy while waiting for the heroes approach. Still wondering if the black sun was having some affect on their perceptions, they approached and hailed the man.
But before they could utter more than a greeting, the man simply said in common, “Just leave. Go back.” The heroes just stopped, looked at each other, and then shook their heads. There was no going back. The world they had left behind was collapsing in on itself. Tharizdun needed to be dealt with and they were here to do that.
When the man turned to them, he morphed into a creature of evil, elemental evil. In this case, it was Yan-Ci-Bin, the Prince of Evil Air. No further words were came from the creature. He just launched into attack mode.
The large body of water started spinning, taking the shape of a strange tentacled creature. It was huge and once it had emerged, it was clearly Olhydra, the Princess of Evil Water. You know, the scary creature of drowning nightmares.
As they sized up their foes, there was a moment where they all thought, “Well this was shaping up to be quite the battle and the odds are still in our favor.” Then the noticed the fire started swirling, with great gouts of flaming shooting out here and there. For a moment, Rolen hoped the fire would consume Yan-Ci-Bin, but that did not happen.
That was a pretty grim set of foes, but they all knew there was one missing. It is common knowledge that there are four elements and one was late to the party. Then they felt it…the earth started to shake as the nearby boulders started to move along with the sand all around them. The slow to appear Ogrémoch began to take on it’s frightening shape as Prince of the Evil Earth.
In Quinn’s mind, this day was going from bad to worse. First a trip through hell, then a talk with Asmodeus, a devastating battle with demons, only to meet the four princes of elemental evil. Come on Raven Queen, show a little mercy here!
And so it was that the battle began in earnest. Klang was caught in quicksand from Ogrémoch and quickly sank out of sight. Rolen got a blast of fire from Imix. Paelius got a sunburst off, catching Imix, Olhydra and Yan-Ci-Bin off guard.
Klang managed to escape the quicksand and quickly brought up a spiritual weapon, hoping it might serve as a distraction. Levi got off an ice storm, pelting the evil princes enough to make Imix flinch.
Rolen got in a sneak attack on Ogrémoch, but Ogrémoch pulled out some crystal light and recovered. In an alternate life, Paelius had encountered Ogrémoch and he knew it was not time to hold back with that behemoth – it was time for a meteor swarm. The normally quiet wizard shouted, “Let the rocks fall from the sky and lay low my foes!”
Imix reacted with a fire burst. Ogrémoch let loose a sand storm, but the heroes weathered it well. However, it was Imix full-on fire attack that drove Paelius back and into the clutches of Olhydra.
Levi and Quinn were fending off Yan-Ci-Bin. The air attacks didn’t seem nearly as bad as the others were taking, but they weren’t a lot of fun either.
Klang managed to deflect a critical hit by Ogrémoch. Maybe that spiritual weapon was doing something beneficial after all.
Paelius, now grappled by Olhydra, was turning unusual shades of purple. While wizards were an odd lot, that wasn’t normal even by their standards. With four attacks per turn, Levi could see Olhydra was going to take out the old wizard, so at first he had Quinn cast some healing on Paelius and while he extracted himself from Yan-Ci-Bin’s attacks.
Klang took a hit from Ogrémoch with a loud crunching sound. Who knew dwarves were crunchy? Klang wanted to strike back, but knew Paelius was in need of his aid and struck Olhydra and Yan-Ci-Bin with a fire strike.
Finally, Yan-Ci-Bin was distracted and Levi had enough time to get off a spell, compelling Olhydra to duel him, delivering 90 points of damage to her. That got her attention.
Klang got stomped by Ogrémoch and was now prone. Rolen was doing his best to deliver damage to the rock like creature, sneaking in and stabbing for all he was worth. But the damned thing was so tough it was like trying to kill a rock wrapped in sand with a stick.
With two casters down, Quinn could tell it was time to pull out the heavy healing – mass heal – and everyone was back to full health. Klang tried to use his talisman of pure good, but was unable to bring it to bear from his prone position.
Levi again pulled from his spell reservoir, launching elder champion and bardic inspiration. Rolen got in another sneak attack and did what he considered a killing blow, but the earth beast just kept on going.
Then things got ugly. Yan-Ci-Bin had had enough of Quinn’s healing and ripped the air from his lungs. Sweeping the gasping Quinn into the air, he brought him down smashing into the ground. Everyone saw it happen and couldn’t believe their eyes – Quinn went from full health to dead in one round of attacks. Shit was getting serious now!
Others were taking serious blow from Imix, Olhydra and Ogrémoch, but nothing like Yan-Ci-Bin delivered to Quinn. Klang tried to revive Quinn by returning the mass heal, but he did not revive. Uh oh. Klang started mentally kicking himself for not concentrating their attacks…a rookie adventuring mistake.
Levi, now thoroughly pissed off, issued a double smite and a destructive wave to the elemental princes. Paelius, now free of Olhydra and taking a page from Levi’s book, turned loose an ice storm on Yan-Ci-Bin and Olhydra.
Now it was Klang’s turn to have the air removed from his lungs and be subject to 3 lair actions. Klang still had the words of a fire storm caught in his throat when he closed his eyes for the last time.
Levi saw the writing on the wall now and took down Olhydra with a massive swing of his hammer, then turned and issued a destructive wave on Imix and Yan-Ci-Bin. Paelius put up a wall of ice, hoping to slow the remaining elemental princes and put some distance between them.
When Yan-Ci-Bin tried that air from the lung trick on Paelius, he was out of range. Levi felled Yan-Ci-Bin and ended the most dangerous threat. But that didn’t stop the kill of his fellow adventurers as Rolen was finally crushed by the evil prince of earth, his body pulverized into the ground.
Imix got a hold of Paelius while Levi was busy with Ogrémoch and turned him to ash after accepting the necrotic fireball launched at him.
Levi realized that Rolen and Klang had greatly weakened Ogrémoch and, after taking a heavy blow from the creature, found that a single blow ended the brute. Then Imix set upon Levi, exposing him to temperature that had his armor glowing red hot. But Levi had some fight left in him and Imix had suffered greatly during the battle as well, so it became a fight of wills.
When his shield got to hot to hold onto, he fell back and cast it aside, throwing his hammer. Imix literally went up in smoke. Dropping to his knees, Levi pitched forward onto all fours. His skin was bubbling from the heat, his magic was spent, and he knew he would succumb to his wounds soon.
Then he started unwillingly floating up, first slowly and then more rapidly towards that dark sun.
As before, distances didn’t work the same here and he was quickly inside the black sun. It was a sphere that looked out across the universe. In the sphere with him was a wounded human-like creature in battle armor that was suffering from grievous wounds and, like Levi, would soon die.
Then he noticed the lights in the universe around him start winking out, almost like candles being blowing out. Something was wrong, very wrong. Even in this alternate dimension with its strange black sun and weird distances, he could sense the wrongness of what was happening.
Then the human-like creature attacked him, despite barely being able to lift its weapon. Out of habit, he blocked the worst of the blow and drove his sword home without thinking. The creature fell to the sphere’s bottom, dead.
Levi, being spent, fell atop the creature. Barely able to push himself off, he settled for just rolling off onto his back, staring at the lights of the universe around him. Knowing death was upon him, he closed his eyes and breathed his last breath. His soul tried to leave his body, but it was refused. It seems he could not die here.
Then he started to dream. He remembered Asmodeus, almost as if a spell has been cast upon him that he could not forget the devil. Ah yes, the devil and his deals were not so easily broken.
His dream led him past Asmodeus now and he remembered his companions. Quinn would now be the god of death. Rolen, the god of duality and thieves. Paeilus, god and master of the elements, creating worlds in his wake. Klang, god of justice and frugality.
He realized that Tharizdun was kept here to power the universe and that even with the sphere’s magical power to prevent death, it could not last forever. So Tharizdun started to threaten the universe with his return, knowing heroes would eventually rise to occasion. But he only needed one. And so he set his elemental princes to guard against having more than one enter the sphere and to ensure his successor would be the strongest of them.
Only the demons understood what was happening and they wanted the universe to end, dissolving into utter chaos. Oh, the horrific beauty they saw in that. But they too only played into Tharizdun’s plan, ensuring that only the strongest of heroes would make it through the dimensional gate.
And now Levilen Bolmgotten knew his role…to replace Tharizdun in this black sphere just outside the multi-verse that keeps it turning, hanging by a thread from death and not able to die. The lights in the universe started reappearing, but not as they were before. No, this time would be different thought Levi. There would be no crystal light for Ogrémoch.
But Asmodeus would be the same, that sneaky bastard. Seems there will always be a devil.