03:06 – 03:09 – What ensues within that chamber is a truly epic battle that pushes each member of the party to their absolute limit. Swarms of Chained Syndicate soldiers come through the portal, each focused on trying to disrupt the paladin before he can fully weaken the angel, and time and again the group, despite the overwhelming number of enemies, hurl them back into death.
Amued finds himself battling toe to toe with the Veteran, though to the warforged's utter shock, the daemonhost proves to be a foe almost his equal. Time and again his deadly axe surges in to hack at an exposed leg or flank, and time and again the mutant's own weapon – a huge khopesh forged of mottled steel – suddenly appears in the way, driving the blade back with supernatural strength. For every wound he lands on Amued, the horror returns a blow, and worse, his unnatural form is seething with black power, which heals his flesh almost as quickly as Veteran can lay it open. As they battle, Amued mocks the warforged in a voice like liquid hate. He calmly tells him how he will savour ripping his machine soul from his body, and will treat it as a rare morsel. He mocks each swing of the construct's axe, despite the fact that slowly but surely, it is starting to win through more than not, adding more and more deep dents and splits to the heavy armour of the daemonhost with each passing second. Tens of genasai fall as they try to engage the Veteran, split open by the constant whirring of his axe, as he focuses on trying to find an angle from which to strike his deadly, powerful foe.
Activating the repulsion field on his armour, Ormid takes up a position close to Zaruel, the magic around him pushing back the waves of fire and lightning wielding genasai who surge to strike with blades of obsidian. Alas, there are others who need not get close to wreak ruin; deformed babbling things that were once water genasai, but who have become corrupted by the madness and vile power of the pit. Wheezing and gagging obscene invocations, they hurl seething balls of corrosive energy at the paladin, and even his incredible angelic armour bubbles and blackens under the assault. Desperately, Ormid works to repair the steel and to stop any of the foul stuff harming the angelic knight, his efforts managing to keep the corrosion at bay....just. He also hurls flasks of healing compounds at his allies, the alchemical powders sealing wounds and banishing weariness that would otherwise see them stumble and fall.
Llewellyn has a horrible time of it.
Initially he seeks to shut down the portals that are allowing the troops to flood into the chamber, reasoning that the more of those he shuts, the easier the battle will become. He is successful with one, but suddenly finds himself unable to think clearly, his mind scattered, as a dark robed genasai with dusky purple, bruised flesh, spits a psychic curse at him. Drunkenly he lunges at the nearest figure, and feels his mace burst the monsters stomach, but he is hit again by another bolt of raw hatred, and is suddenly fighting for his very life. Activating his boots, he teleports to another of the portals across the chamber, the flames that emerge at his point of exit blasting the crowing monsters out of existence. But this only puts him in greater peril, for the portal flares as he arrives, and four genasai – two dressed in shining obsidian armour with razor-sharp scimitars of the same, two bearing massive tesubos, with flesh like granite – step from it, immediately launching a series of deadly attacks. One of these – a sweeping blow from one of the earthen monsters – strikes the vyrleen square in the skull, and he is thrown 20', to lie, unconscious and bleeding to death, close to another of the portals.
Working to keep the numbers thinned down, Seren stands close to Ormid and launches arrow and arrow at the closing hosts. Time and again her arrows find the eyes, throats or hearts of her foes, but for every one she drops, another two emerge. Seeing that her ally is down, and realising that she needs to slow down the constant arrival of new foes, she reaches into the shadows of the chamber, and with a grunt of effort unleashes a huge cloud of flitting, screeching bat like shadows, which engulfs the area around the portal that Llewellyn bleeds next to. These horrible manifestations of her black soul do a fine job of distracting those enemies that step into the chamber there, their aggressive flapping and horrible screams serving to slow down movement towards the battle.
Ardwaine, positioned close to Zaruel, is already bleeding from a dozen wounds. Breathing heavily, a fine red mist visible with each exhalation, she is close to the gates of death. Her hammer rises almost mechanically as she smashes down her foes, and upon seeing the vyrleen's broken form flying across the chamber, she calls upon her most potent spells of healing, dragging him not only back from near death, but closing almost all of his wounds.
On the opposite side of the chamber, Ferrous, wreathed in his fae magics of misdirection, is having a better time of it. His corrosive oily breath has not only sent several of the foes to their deaths, but has created a treacherous zone around one of the portals – a zone that sees more than a few enemies tumbling as soon as they enter the chamber. Charging across the room to stand by his master, the Iron Defender keeps enemies from the Veteran's back; withering charging foes with his lightning breath, taking off a leg at the shin here, a hand at the wrist there, as well as more than a few throats. Time and again an enemy swings at him, only to find that their weapon or spell passes harmlessly through an illusory duplicate of the homunculus, and of all the group, it is only Ferrous who emerges from this insane melee barely scathed.
Around the chamber, death is dealt by the party over and over, whilst Zaruel continues his chant. As the moments stretch painfully by, a blinding column of pure white radiance begins to thicken around the perimeter of the binding circle, becoming opaque, hiding the screaming, railing angel within. Zaruel himself becomes surrounded by swirling currents of luminous energies, angelic sigils forming delicately within it, only to fade moments later, and over the din of battle, and the strident chants of the paladin, Mishazael's beautiful, horrific voice chimes out like a bell of purest crystal.
“NOOO! STOP! I COMMAND YOU, STOP! YOU CANNOT DO THIS! I AM A SOLDIER OF HEAVEN! YOU DO A GREAT WRONG HERE....HELP ME YOU BASTARD SYNDICATE FOOLS, SMITE THIS ARROGANT MITE, AND GIVE ME REIGN TO SERVE WITH YOU AND TO ERADICATE THESE WORMS!”
Finally, one of the Veteran's blows cleaves through the daemonhost's infernal armour, and carves a smoking line into his flesh. At once, a blast of raw abyssal hatred boils from him; a crushing wave of absolute, blackest horror, that steals sanity in almost all the party, sending them blindly running away, driven by their deepest animal fears to get as far from the source of their dread as possible. This gives the daemonhost the opening he needs, and with a roar of triumph, he vaults across the chamber and rushes Zaruel. Eyes burning in his deformed head with hells own light, he swings, two-handed, at the paladin, a bestial howl of triumph torn in bloody scraps from his alien throat...
...and misses, his blade deflected by the prayers and heavenly metallurgy within his glowing plate armour. Amued has only a split second to consider his failure before he is thrown sideways by the quarter ton bulk of the Veteran slamming into him, full tilt, an unfortunate flame genasai getting mangled in the resultant tumbling of potent, armoured forms.
Ardwaine finally succumbs to her wounds, only to be brought round by one of the artificer's potions, whilst Llewellyn fights to stay alive as his ongoing efforts at closing the portals is hampered by the piling attacks of the genasai. Shadevia launches arrow after arrow, dropping more and more of the enemy, and shifts slowly back to stand by the artificer after her brief, headlong flight.
And then a mage mantled in distorted magics and bearing a warped staff of bone and unnatural metals steps from the portal nearest to the vyrleen. Speaking a curse, he hexes the rogue, placing a spell on him that will turn his despair whenever he misses with an attack into a self-destructive psychic fire within him. He then begins a guttural incantation, the air close to Ormid warping with unnatural distortions. A high-pitched whining cuts the air, and suddenly a shimmering sphere of collapsed reality manifests, a powerful wind stirring around it as the plane's fabric is folded over and over again to give it substance. Laughing like a drowned man, the warp caster turns to regard the struggling rogue near him. Almost at once, the planar warp sends tendrils of mangled energy out towards each of the heroes, striking Shadevia and Zaruel; dragging them bodily towards it. Zaruel returns to the side of the angel without missing a beat, and Shadevia simply uses her new position to end several more of the corrosion lobbing mages who had just stepped through one of the portals.
In the end there are two turning points in the battle. The first comes when Amued finally begins to succumb to the warforged's might. Despite all his strengths, unnatural healing and dark magic, the simple, direct attacks begin to wear him down, and eventually he makes a fatal mistake. Stumbling back, he leaves his midsection open for a deadly split second, and the warforged steps up, using his massive strength and momentum to drive his axe deep into the daemonhost's belly, and on through it until it severs his spine. At once a terrible scream – two voices wailing together; one human, the other daemonic – rings out. The unholy warrior stumbles back, his body shimmering with heat, before suddenly collapsing inwards to some unseen singularity, his body and equipment turning to ash which is sucked into it.
In the split second that he is destroyed, a nightmare form is seen, writhing in torment above – a vast clawed humanoid with a dog-like head and menacing pincers. A daemon known by many as Glabrezu.
The death of Amued, coupled with the dwindling number of troops willing to sacrifice themselves, sees the few remaining Syndicate warriors seeking an escape suddenly – the second turning point in the battle. Several make it, leaping in a panic through the portals and running away. However, more than a few foolishly let their guards down for a moment in their fear, and pay the deadly price.
03:10 – 03:12 – In the middle of the chamber, the light becomes too bright to tolerate, and with a song that sings of certain death, eternal hatred and ineffable beauty, the ritual is completed by Zaruel, and the wards surrounding Mishazael shatter, and he is set free. At once Shadevia moves her shadowy zone to engulf the fabulous being, who, weakened to the point where he is but a ghost of his former self, he finds ievery bit as tormenting and restrictive as the Syndicate soldiers did.
“He is fully weakened.” Pants Zaruel, drawing his weapons, “Strike now. Cold Iron will burn him, whilst fire and radiance will barely touch his immortal form.”
Mishazael glares at the paladin, and a sword of silver flame manifests in his hand.
“TREACHEROUS VAPOUR! EVEN IN THIS DEGRADED STATE, I SHALL....ooof!”
Everyone leaps to attack. Ormid quickly activates several deadly enchantments on the warforged's axe, its edge suddenly dancing with killing magics, and sees it put to perfect use as Veteran almost decapitates the angel with three perfectly placed, swift strikes. As this happens, a glowing halo of divine fury erupts from him, striking every adventurer; burning their souls, blinding and deafening them, and hurling them like broken toys to the far corners of the chamber.
“YOUR ACTIONS DOOM YOURSELVES BODY AND SOUL!”
Sweeping upwards with his shining wings, Mishazael is clearly shocked and disoriented, his mercury like blood flowing like glowing rain from the ragged wounds in his neck. Pain etches itself on his fabulous face, and everyone has to give themselves a mental slap not to rush to his aid, so deeply does his agony affect them on some primal, illogical level. Blinking the glare from his eyes, Llewellyn lobs several daggers at the luminous being, but finds them deflected by his wings, whilst the same happens to the shadeling's arrows. In retaliation, Mishazael speaks a perfect word of undoing, and without so much as a sigh, the vyrleen falls over, close to death, much of his life-force unravelled by the divine spell.
Zaruel speaks a word of holy power, and at once grows a pair of shimmering feathered wings. Bringing his own mace of cold iron to bear, he soars into the air to battle the angel, and is roundly blasted back by a sweep of his glowing sword. Lightning chews the air from the Dundorin's hammer, only to slither like quicksilver harmlessly off his divine mantle, and from the ground, the warforged reluctantly brings forth Dracusvir, and takes aim – not to strike the angel directly, but to unleash a blast of acid from which he cannot escape unscathed. The projectile jets upwards trailing black mists and erupts into a cloud of burning fluids. Mishazael shrieks as the mordant stuff withers his feathers, sending them tumbling like rotten leaves from above. His perfect, luminous skin blisters, and his eyes begin to weep glittering tears that fall like stars.
Despite this, his fury remains untarnished.
“DESPAIR AND DIE YOU INSIGNIFICANT VERMIN”
A column of heavenly fire suddenly falls from the air, but distracted as a drop of magical acid drips into his eyes, the angel misplaces it, and it roars harmlessly several feet away from his intended targets – the stricken vyrleen and dundorin. A hot pressure wave blasts back from it, and the angel howls his anger at his foes continued survival.
“Enough!” Screams Zaruel, sweeping towards the angel with his own wings, “This ends NOW!”
Mishazael, still giddy from the loss of blood and the pain in his eyes is slow to react. As the paladin comes within reach, his mace sweeps out, and Mishazael fails to stop its deadly arc, the head of the weapon tearing and blasting its way through his armour and biting venomously into the body beneath. For a split second, time seems to freeze. The look of shocked horror on the angel's face is burned into the minds of everyone in the chamber, and then, as Zaruel falls to the ground with a bone crunching crash( his attack preventing him from concentrating enough to keep his wings active), the traitor angel dissolves into a formless mass of blinding silvery energy – energy which is drawn inexorably down in shining tendrils towards the chiming blade of the angelic paladin. A sudden storm of planar turbulence sweeps like a dust devil of shimmering warps throughout the chamber, as with a soundless blast, the angel is drawn and imprisoned within the sword.
Impossibly, the toughest battle they have ever faced is finally over!