11:00 – 11:03 – Shihezzu is a Ken-Sun; a 12' tall, blue skinned humanoid spirit, with bestial features and potent magical ability. His head is small and narrow compared to his massive body, and has unnatural, bestial features; glowing white eyes, a wide mouth of blunt teeth set in black gums and a huge blood-red horn growing up from his forehead. Heavily muscled, and surrounded by tearing winds, he exudes elemental power, the tang of ozone constantly pouring from him, carried on cold, powdery currents of air, whilst corposant constantly dances amongst the diamond dust that swirls endlessly around his monstrous form.
He wields a spear of grey stone, upon which are carved runes of storm magic. Like its bearer, this weapon snaps and snarls with curving arcs of lightning, and as the group turn to face him, he points this at the ground, and channels his baleful power through it. Lightning bursts from its tip, and the party, clench, expecting it to strike them. Instead it spears the ground, a glowing ball of energy flickering into existence where it touches, coalescing rapidly into three large, pearlescent scorpions, whose claws and stingers crackle with electrical discharges.
“Ah crap!” Growls Shnecke wearily, feeling the burn in his muscles from the last battle.
“AH CRAP!” Yells Jaeger as the great doors behind them suddenly boom with a staccato of heavy blows as the common oni outside try to force entry.
“Well, this isn't good.” Mutters Grigori, raising his melted blade, his eyes shining in the gloom of the place, “This isn't good at all.”
The place in which the group now stand is a wide corridor of ancient and decaying stone. 60' across and nearly three times as long, it is lined with huge alcoves that once held Foo-Dog statues, but which now hold only their rubble. At the far end, a vast metal and silk doorway bars further entry into the palace, and huge piles of rubble form zones of difficult terrain along the corridor's length. Shihezzu floats some 30' above the ground halfway along it, whilst the scorpions waste no time in scuttling towards the party; claws open, stingers twitching.
“Here they come!”
The first of the scorpions reaches the party, and closes its razor edged, lightning shrouded claws around the genasai. Varracuda winces as he feels the chitinous appendage crushing him, and can feel the hot burn as they wounds he received outside open further under the assault. He screams however when the arachnid hauls him bodily off his feet and begins to channel lightning into him, only his innate resistance to such attacks preventing him from soiling himself.
Another scorpion bounds over the nearest pile of rubble as it charges to attack, its stinger lashing out and embedding in the priest. At once, the wound begins to fester with its venom, and Grigori finds himself unable to move; his muscles twitching madly as if a current runs through them.
Shihezzu bellows in pain and surprise as Jaeger raises his crossbow, and desperately channels shadowy power through it, sending two bolts hurtling out towards him. The Ken-Sun is sure he can dodge the incoming missiles, and is even more sure that the powerful currents of frozen air surrounding him will snatch it away even if he would otherwise be too slow. And so, he is very surprised when both strike him – one in the neck, the other in the groin – a cloud of his vital essence erupting as each bites deeply.
It is only as he regards where his wounds are that he realises the mortal had shrouded the bolts in misdirective magics, warping his perceptions of them, leaving himself vulnerable.
“ARROGANT, SHORT-LIVED FOOLS!” He bellows, before disappearing in a burst of agitated corposant from his lofty position and appearing – in a withering, dazing burst of sparks that strikes Grigori, Shnecke and Lia, burning them and sending them reeling – directly in front of the group.
Towering above them, the Ken-Sun unleashes hell. Firstly, he causes the air behind the party (between them and the gate to the courtyard) to become agitated. Frost creeps over every surface, and the group feel their throats growing raw as the air becomes painfully cold, and infused with the metallic bite of lightning. A deafening, tinny shriek suddenly tears their ears as a wall, 30' long and 15' high, of agitated, shimmering air, heavy with supernatural cold and seeking, biting lightning, manifests, its proximity deadly to them.
Next, without losing a beat, Shihezzu works another spell; a terrible torus of raw elemental lightning erupting from him in a burst, whipping over the party. Their agonised screams are lost as this strikes; filling their bodies with numb shock as it arcs through them, heating metal, fracturing bones, burning hair and flesh, and causing muscles to contract with such violence that they are thrown off their feet and to the ground. Within seconds most of the party are groaning and smoking on the ground, the massive monster and his pets looming above them.
The party scrabble to try and gather their wits. The third scorpion joins the fray, and blows are exchanged between it and the barbarian. Lia is knocked unconscious, her body twitching as residual power from the last spell arcs through her, and as the storm wall shocks her with searing, crackling lines of energy. Shnecke howls with fury as he swings his axe at the nearest scorpion from the ground, his blade bouncing without effect from its tough armoured exoskeleton, whilst Thatari calls again upon his foul magics to undo the deadly daemon before them.
This at least is partially effective. Shihezzu senses a connection between this plane and another darker realm being forged, and turns to glare a the warlock. When the portal opens, and a foul, cloudy mass of dark black and red smoke begins to pour through, its depths filled with chattering, fanged mouths, he is ready, and shunts his reality away from it, avoiding the main strike. However, Thatari is prepared for this, and with a grin, whispers something to the thing he has called. At once, it coils around the Ken-Sun, latching onto him, and several more wounds appear in his pale flesh as they bite hard. At the same time Grigori, his eyesight fading as his wounds begin to overwhelm him, calls upon his logic prayers to send a wave of power surging through his body. For a moment time seems to freeze. Then a shockwave of power erupts from him, blasting into the Ken-Sun and his scorpion, whilst surrounding his allies in a hardened sphere of protective logic. He then enacts another potent spell, and Lia, slipping closer and closer to death, is suddenly dragged back, her whole body wracked with agony as consciousness pounces upon her. Eyes crusted shut by blood snap open, and as awareness and pain flood her body, so another wave of power sweeps out – this time the prickling energy of Lia's mind as it gives a silent reflexive scream of psychic power – the burst of vital psi crystallising as deadly, unstable energy upon the weapons of her allies.
Shihezzu bellows with frustration, unable to understand how these fleshy mortal things have managed to stand against him for so long. Then, he takes a deep, terrible breath, the air growing colder still as it fumes and boils into his suddenly distended mouth. Everyone gasps as their lungs ache in the sudden cold, and the ice that has spread from the wall behind them thickens with audible crackle. Shihezzu gives an inward smile as he feels the air within him grow colder still, the water within freezing into a million razor-edged shards. Then, with a roar like a wounded Dracani, he blasts the air back out; now a deadly fuming burst of freezing vapour and slashing shards. It hits the party like a skyship; shredding and freezing flesh. Blood blasts outwards, freezing mid flight into hard red marbles. Wounds are torn open, only to smoke briefly and freeze solid a moment later. Eyes are blinded, lips rupture, and the force of the blast picks up several members of the party and dashes them to the floor, dazing them. Varracuda snarls in fury, having avoided the blast, and rips his blade, wreathed in emerald flame, deep into the elemental mage's side, opening another wound, filled with flickering, effulgent power, in his side. At the same time, Jaeger calls upon his most powerful shadow spell, and summons four shapeless masses of darkness around the elemental mage. Each is a siphon that reaches from this universe to a plane that hungers for life force, and a very different chill charges the air as they reach for the monsters vital essences.
Agonised and recognising the deadly conjurations for what they are, the elemental mage unleashes another withering blast of lightning, and teleports to the ceiling of the vault, 40' away from and above the group. The party are scattered and disorganised; Shnecke, Grigori and Lia all prone, dazed and close to death, the warlock relatively unhurt, the assassin and the swordmage both wounded but focused. Shihezzu is also seriously wounded, his body opened in several places, the ragged wounds flapping like torn flags in a gale, a flickering stormlight shining through them.
“Be....wary...” Gasps Grigori through frozen lips, “he is filled with....elemental power.....when slain he will...” the priest coughs, slushy droplets of blood spattering the ground before him, “....explode.”
Lia fights to remains conscious, and slashes out with her blade, pouring her fading mental power into the crystal. The sword chimes with resonant power, and becomes lighter than air, sweeping out in a blur, striking the nearest scorpion in its belly, crackling up through its exoskeleton and ripping into its entrails. As she does this, the ardent feels her psychic power being returned, and feels strength and peace flooding back with it. The strange bio-feedback jolts her natural healing processes into brief overdrive, and several of her more serious wounds immediately close. Breathing easier, Lia feels her well being being reflected from her like sunlight from a mirror, and feels joy as she sees all of her allies sharing her strength, their own wounds growing more shallow, their colour returning a little.
Bellowing, Shnecke and Varracuda focus on the scorpions whilst the rest seek to destroy the flying daemon. Shihezzu is attacked both physically and metaphysically, his mind and body assaulted by the group's insidious powers. He fights every inch of the way however, hurling howling bolts of slicing hail and lightning at them, sending them scattering and inflicting more wounds upon them, before, recognising the approach of his end, sweeping in close to his tormentors so that his death throes will also spell their ends. However, his final plan fails as the party use their skills to keep away from him, and as his life is torn from him by a wave of shadowy bolts launched by the assassin, his deadly, final attack – a burst of scything, icy energy that shatters rubble and shocks the group with its cold – strikes none of the group, only harming one of his scorpions (swept on dimensional currents to the monster's side by one of Varracuda's arcane powers).
With Shihezzu gone, the wall by the first gate crumbles, and at once it begins to heave inwards under the assault of the monsters outside. Grigori also hears another sound over the din of banging and roaring, that raises the hairs on his neck – somewhere outside the building, something huge and winged is flying about.
“They're breaking through!” Yells the Ulnyrr, hefting his axe.
The group quickly dispatch the remaining scorpions, though the resilient animals manage to land several more blows before going down, and riding only on their adrenaline and the giddy realisation that they have somehow survived a battle that should have killed them, they turn to face the latest threat as the door suddenly vanishes in a burst of sickly yellow-green flame – taken out by one of the cannons on the outer walls.
Oni charge in through the smoke, flames and heat haze; more of the tetsubo wielding common oni, accompanied by hulking two-headed, eye-studded horrors like those encountered back in the physical, the previous night. The monsters burst through the smoke and flames with a terrifying roar, and charge towards the group. Almost hysterical with battle lust and fatigue, the party give no consideration to tactics, and with a scream of pained rage, simply charge the fiends, both groups slamming together in a terrible, mauling impact.
It is a massacre.
All in all, the advancing monsters are sliced and torn apart in mere seconds, their weapons clanking to the ground, the air foul with their smoky essence, though they party suffer a number of wounds in the fierce, unreal battle. Stood at the threshold of the courtyard and the corridor, the party can see hundreds more of the fiends trying to organise some kind of assault outside, whilst on the outer walls the cannons begin to shine with growing power. At the far end of the corridor in which they stand, far behind them, the huge double-doors leading further into the palace ignite with power as a crackling rune of protection activates on their surface.
Outside and above the place, still unseen, something huge roars and flaps.
“So, do we take all of them on, or try to get into the inner palace”?” Asks Jaeger wearily.
Blood spots the ground beneath the party, as their wounds continue to bleed, their strength and resolve ebbing with each moment.
“We...we have a job to do.” Growls Varracuda, “And fighting all of them might be one battle too many.”
Lia laughs, a little too shrilly, and Shnecke, with a savage grin replies. “The way we are, I reckon any battle could be one too many for us now.”
A few of the adventurers look in shock at the panting, bleeding Ulnyrr, surprised to hear such pessimistic words from him. Seeing this, the grin only widens on Shnecke's face. “I didn't say we shouldn't fight! Fuck that! If I'm gonna' die anywhere it might as well be in the middle of an enemy fortress in another world, surrounded by my closest battle brothers and drenched in the blood of my foes!”
The savage grin spreads to the others, the pain in their wounds seeming to recede as battle lust once more begins to envelop them in its anaesthetising heat.
“Let's do this!”