Post War Group - 7/4/2010 - The Final Part - The Group Reunited; a Final Battle

Well, against all odds and conventional wisdom, the group have survived their ordeals apart. Now they must face a terrible foe together - exhausted, scared and confused. I did take a little bit of a liberty with he ending - one Dretch outlived the Succubus - but it flows better as written here. Enjoy!

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13:15 – 13:20 – The reunited allies quickly relay to one another the trials they have been through, and discuss what to do next. All realise that it is highly unlikely that they can now simply leave this place of death and foul lusts without further trouble, and they are painfully aware that despite the invigorating power of the holy mausoleum and their healed wounds, the day could still, easily, be lost, for all are weary and numb from the emotional wounds they have received.

13:21 – 13:26 – Beyond the doorway is a tightly coiled flight of stone stairs which lead up. A slight breeze can be felt coming down them, and although the stench of death and evil is still strong, it also carries distant aromas of grass and trees and sunlight.
The party carefully move up the stairs, and note that the walls of this place once held numerous memorial plaques, many of which covered recesses within the wall that held ashes or skeletal remains. Unfortunately, as with the rest of the tombs, these have been violated; covered in lewd and vile graffiti, smashed open and plundered, or simply chiselled until the original details are gone. To further add to the disturbing scene, several more dead celebrants lie broken and bruised at certain points; final victims to their fellow cultists hunger for freedom.

As they move higher, the group become aware of a growing weight in their souls. The air, though fresher carries a foulness not born of the physical plane, and all begin to feel the pressing crush of daemonic evil; recognising its loathsome pressure from their encounter with the plague daemon. Eventually, the swordmage, who is at the front of the group, sees the steps end – a plain opening that leads into a dark space beyond.

The foulness is like a physical presence now, a crawling sensation of crushing wrongness that makes concentrating hard and which makes everyone feel somehow tainted simply by being exposed to it. To make this worse, there is a stillness from above that all recognise as the silent alertness of a crouched predator – who or whatever is up there is more than aware of the parties approach and is waiting, just as the party are able to sense them, and are ready to strike out.

For a pregnant moment the whole party stands still along the tight curve of the stairs, all but Varracuda and Jaeger unable to see anything other than the person in front of them, and then, with a grim sigh, the swordmage leaps into the void above...

13:26 – 13:35 - ...and into a nightmare.

The swordmage finds himself in a small stone chamber filled with rubble, cobwebs, dried and dead leaves and evil – daemonic and mundane evil.

Pale sunlight can be seen through gaps in the chamber roof, and glinting through the edges of a pair of closed and barred stone doors which stand at the end of a short corridor. Numerous alcoves of various depths lead off the main chamber, and Varracuda recognises this place as another crypt – though the sarcophagi that were once here have been removed at some point. However, his attention is focused more on the vile host that surrounds him.

First to catch his attention are eight of the celebrants, who crouch ready to leap at him, naked and smeared in the sickening fluids of their rage and lust. They wield a variety of improvised weapons; chunks of rubble, jaw bones, sharp pieces of snapped femur, or simply use their nails and fists. Around their feet, like a living tide of foul corruption, squat horrific daemons. Each is the size of a human toddler, and appears to be a constantly dissolving, dripping mess of putrid oily flesh and boiling, black vapours. Each monster wails almost constantly, and has flabby, dissolving limbs from which sprout long, filth encrusted claws. Set into their neckless heads are wide mouths filled with long, needle-sharp teeth, which gleam with a sickly radiance in the gloom, and their eyes are little more than faintly luminous blobs of swollen, pus leaking flesh, set loosely into their continually dripping faces. The stench that comes from them is that of rotting flesh and strong alchemical acids, as well as the psychic stink of diseased minds and unholy wickedness.

Varracuda recognises them from the few librams he has studied on the minions of other planes, identifying them as minor daemons known as Dretches. However, his thoughts are suddenly muddled as his eyes come to rest on the chambers final inhabitant.

She is beyond beautiful, and beyond wanton. She at once manages to embody all that is perfect and innocent, and all that is worldly and overpoweringly erotic. She is a human woman, with long dark hair, full breasts and a perfect feminine figure. Her eyes are golden and seem deep and moist enough to drown in.

And she's naked. Totally, distractingly naked.

The spell is broken as the first celebrants launch forwards, giving voice to their madness and anger, and suddenly Varracuda is having to parry the hail of blows coming his way. Leaping from the stairwell and towards the woman, he is quickly surrounded by Dretches and cultists and discovers that the Dretches emit a field of daemonic magic, which draws blood whenever he is forced to stop concentrating on holding it at bay. Varracuda unleashes a wide burst of killing blows, decapitating one cultist and slashing the throat of the other so deeply that his death screams are merely a wet cough. His blade also rips across one of the daemon's bloated bellies, leaving a flapping, oozing wound that vomits thick, custard like filth, though the repugnant spirit seems to hardly notice. Varracuda screams a note of warning at the woman as the assassin uses his dark powers to apport into the chamber behind one of the Dretches and into one of the deeper alcoves. From there he extends shadowy tendrils of dark power into the soul of the woman, tearing at her spirit and leaving a dark wound in her essence that he can exploit at a later time to further wound her.

As this magical ability strikes her, the woman's form changes in a heartbeat. She remains a voluptuous, stunningly beautiful humanoid female, but any fa├žade of humanity is gone, for she now bears short back curved horns on her forehead, has slender black bat-wings sprouting from her shoulder, and a long, needle tipped tail.

She's a Succubus; a daemon of lust made flesh. A corrupter. A tainted soul. A natural leader for this perverse group of necrophiles and perverts.

She screams, her fury exploding in a painful corona from her.

Dretches are suddenly everywhere, biting, slashing and screaming with their phlegmy, high pitched voices. The rest of the party suddenly find themselves blocked in on the stairwell as three of the foetid daemons pile down towards them, the warlord suddenly engaging in a wrestling match with the nearest as he fights to get by. Varracuda is torn and slashed by them, whilst Jaeger manages to avoid their talons, though their vicious aura works its painful magic.

Then the Succubus attacks. She moves round the throng of horrors surrounding the swordmage, and suddenly reaches for him, grabbing him, and pulling him towards her. As she does this, she opens her mouth, revealing a forked tongue, and to the genasai's horror, she tries to give him a deep kiss! Fighting down his conflicting hunger for her and repulsion of her, the Genasai manages to pull free before she can complete her move, and she screams with fury once more.

And so things move on. The Succubus' second attempts to kiss Varracuda succeed, and as her tongue wraps around his, she pours magic into him, and suddenly all Varracuda knows is that he loves her, and that he must keep her safe. In a state of dissonance, he knows he won't harm his allies, but simultaneously he knows that he must stop any of his allies harming her.

Things only get worse when she manages to totally dominate him a short while later, and gets him to give her his blade. Jaeger, now being pounded by rocks and bones thrown by the cultists, and having taken several firm blows, begins to yell to his companions, unable to see what is going on from the recess in which he fights, and knowing only that he is apparently alone against a hoard of daemons and lunatics, whilst the adventurers trapped on the stairs fight to get past and / or destroy the daemons blocking their access to the chambers above.

Lightning lashes the chamber at one point as Seren reveals her familiar – cat sized Dracani – and uses it as a focus for her magic, though the poor thing is quickly dispatched by the minor daemons killing presences, and the warlord and barbarian manage to eventually break into the chamber, though Schnecke suffers serious wounds in the process, the healing magic of the priest being the only thing preventing his sudden and gory death.

Schnecke is next to feel the dominating power of the succubus, and he is persuaded to throw his dundorin axe away, before the Succubus is forced to pay full attention to the swordmage and warlord as they move to flank her, and set about her with blade and magic.

Seren and Grigori work to clear the room of the cultists and lesser daemons, whilst the assassin flickers like a deadly spectre; opening throats and splitting skulls, and sending the Dretches howling into dissolving clouds of putrid, poisonous gas.

With her minions suddenly slain and her own physical form in this plane seriously damaged, the Succubus (who the group hear being called Maelazieria by one of the cultists), tries to move towards the exit to the tomb. However, she doesn't make it. As the last Dretch is sent gibbering back to its own filthy dimension, the air rank with its noxious fumes, the full fury of the party falls upon her.

She lasts less than a few seconds.

With her screams dissolving on the air like the filthy flesh-slime of the Dretches, the group, now utterly spent; shaking with exhaustion, mental stress and the curdling after effects of too much adrenaline being present in them for far too long, slump to the ground, and allow themselves a moment to acknowledge their pain, to deal with all the horrors they have seen, and to let themselves accept that at long last – for now – the nightmare is over.

They hope.