Chapter V: The Prophecy Ends


Skoraeus
The city of Dal'Krosh

The God's Throne


     
     The party arrives at Skoraeus's Throne, slightly faster than they expected. The children, it seem, are quite eager to make new lives for themselves.
     They arrive at the city gates, which were built into the large skull of an ancient beast, the Terrasque of Stone. Massive walls, made of a bone-like material, surround the city. Two stone giants, clad in plates made of stone, guard the gates.
     "Who asks to enter the city of our God, Skoraeus?"
     Servilus walks forward, and presents the decree of the Judge of Dal'Krosh. "We are on a witch hunt, and require Thalumend's aid. We must get to court with him as soon as possible!"
     One of the stone giants opens a chute on the side of the gate, and commands someone to open the gates. The gates pull open with a loud roar. Immediately upon entering, the players can see several large structures. The ribcage of the massive beast hosts several shopping stalls. To its left and right, several buildings for shops and guilds are present. The capital of Kalrosh has no need for enchanters or blacksmiths. Instead, stone cutters shape stone into forms, and bless the stone with Skoraeus's Blessing. The closest thing to magic this town has its stone cutters, it seems. Several alchemy shops exist, who produce potions and cures using imports of raw ingredients, such as plants and berries. The poor of the city are huddled into small quarters near the gate, while the middle class is housed to the center of the city's inner walls. The upper class of the city, usually guild leaders and trade masters, live in estates near the large fortress of Thalumend's court, which is also connected to the Imperial barracks.
     Servilus takes the party to the court, where they are told to wait for the court to end its proceeedings.
     "But we are on an important mission! We do not have the time to stand here and wait!"
     The stone giants look careless, and do not care at all about this little man's needs. "If you wish for Thalumend's attention, then you must wait an hour. The court closes at sunset, but you should be able to make it in today."
     Servilus scoffs at the guards. "Well guys, it looks like we are waiting. I recommend checking out one of the stone cutters for your weapons and armor. We are going to need more power, and if somehow we do not manage to meet Thalumend today, then we will need to be prepared for whatever horrors the hags have planned."
     The party heads out to the nearest Stone Cutter, and walk into the shop of a Dwarven male with a scruffy black beard with just as scruffy hair. He speaks in a slurred tone, likely from his accent or beard getting caught in his mouth.
     "Greetings and welcome to Sdun'jar's Stone Cuttery. Are any of you interested in my fine cuts?"
     Warsch steps forward, telling the man about their important mission. "Any advice about what kind of augments would be best? Also, how long do these magics typically last?"
     The dwarf breaths in with prestidigation, thinking long and hard. "Well, most hags from what I know have strong flesh, and are very difficult to damage with non-magical weapons. However, if you were equip a Stone of Edging, your blades would be as thin as the eye of a needle. Now, I don't sell good augmentations for cheap, but the best one I have can cut microscopically!" The dwarf pulls out his finest stone, which gleams in the light cast from beyond the door. As light strikes upon the object, beams of color fracture off into the walls.
     Warsch reaches forward to touch the stone, but Jars pulls the object back. "My finest quality. Very expensive and tedious to make. Ten thousand gold."
     Warsch scoffs at the sum of money. "I'm very short of that figure it seems. What have you got for two thousand? Do these sharp augments work for hammers?" Jars's eyes open a bit wider than usual. "Well, for that I would recommend elemental damage. I'm guessing you are a paladin, correct? I couldn't help but notice your holy symbol around you neck."
     "Ah yes, I am. Do you have anything with radiance?"
     "I do not. However, this is something truly remarkable for you. Imagine barely touching your foe. Blasts them away several feet, broken limbs and all!"
     Warsch looks at the man like a hungry lion. "Tell me more!"
     Jars has Warsch right where he wants him. "A Stone of Force! I have several varieties, but for what you can afford, it will blast a limb clear off any hag!"
     Warsch smiles at the offer. "Great! Now let's barter. How much do you want for it?"
     Jars's mouth drops into a frown. "This ain't no haggle, boy. I spent a day's work on this here stone. I had to wait a week to get ten Silver Bell-Roots, and on top of that I had to pay-"
     Jars's expression goes from angry to suddenly still, and Warsch turns around to see a beautiful (or something attractive like that) gnome walking by. The woman's glistens like oak in the midday sun, and her hazelnut skin is smooth like pure stone. Warsch looks back on the dwarf, whose eyes follow the gnome walk down around the corner.
     "You know, a few days ago I was told I know nothing of love. But that look, that's the makings of love right there. Who is she?"
     Jars's words jumble incoherently. "Ah-ahem. Errrgh... she's no one. I don't even know her name."
     Warsch smiles at the man. "Tell you what. Spill your heart out on this letter. I'll deliver it to her. And, if you can knock a discount off that stone, I'll make sure that woman is yours!"
     Jars's lips smack together as he licks them in deep thought. "Alright, paladin. You have a deal. Deliver that letter, and this stone is yours for eighteen hundred. But if I don't get the girl, no deal!"
     Warsch walks out of the man's store into the sunlight, the letter of love in his hands.

The Spider's Prey


     Spider does not join the party as they go to the stone cutter's, but instead heads over to a trader's shop. Upon entering, she is greeted by a human clad in wealthy clothes, an air of pompance to his character. He speaks, his voice sounding nasally and contorted, possibly due to the stone dust in the air from the city. "Hello, and welcome to Kevin's Fine Tradery. What interests you?"
     Spider trades with the man several of the gear that she has acquired. She places in front of him a potion of diminuition, a potion of growth, and places a shortsword on the counter. "Well, those are quite the peculiarities! For the shrinking potion, I'll give you, say 600 gold. Potion of Growth, oh I can't believe you are throwing this away! 1000 gold. And the shortsword... I do not want it. I doubt I could even sell that in this city!"
     Spider thinks carefully, trying to sell the product. "Oh, this isn't something a collector of the arcane would sell. This was actually a pirate captain's shortsword, as you can tell by the pommel, set by the jewel. Ever heard of Captain Puck? No... ofcourse not."
     The man, his belly bulging past him against the counter, makes it difficult for him to lean forward. "No! I have heard! Tell me about this weapon!"
     "Well, you see, this pirate crew sailed the sky in an airship! But, unlike the others, this airship was crafted by the Avains, who found a way to harness the blessings of some sky goddess, unknown to even me. It was said that this sword was the only way to command the ship to set sail, hardly any crew needed! Some say that the one who bears this weapon can command the ship to return to them, like a lover come home."
     The trader is taken back by the truths that are coming from her lips. He immediately throws down whatever platinum he can grab from his register. "Is 24 platinum going to be alright?"
     "24 is just perfect. Have a good day sir!"

Love Finds A Way


     Warsch heads out to the shopping stalls, where he finds the gnome running a cutting shop. "Hello there, good sir! For one thousand gold, did you know that this rock will make your hammer swing with the powers of The Force?"
     Warsch, thinking about the deal with Jars, decides against it. However, upon further inspection, discovers the stone to be crafted finer than the one offered by Jars."
     "Why is the price so low? The other guy is selling stones like this for two thousand gold."
     "Well that is because he is a cheapskate, and selling honest goods interest him none."
     "Does this stone, for five hundred gold, blast the limbs clean off a hag?"
     "Well, hags are pretty tough. I can't say I've ever had to use or heard of these being used on a hag, however I can guarantee one thing: Do not tap important objects with weapons augmented by these! Or people... this is the third city I've been forced to."
     "Hm. That sounds like quite a good deal. Tell you what: I've got this letter here for you, if you can augment my hammer with that Stone of Force, could you do me a favor? I need to avoid a negative response from that letter. I'll pay you eleven hundred instead of one thousand."
     The gnome grabs the leader, reading it. Two minutes pass, but the gnome can barely contain her laughter. "Ooohhh hahaha! He-he-hell no! Oh my! Oh... I can't do that for one hundred gold! No matter how hungry I get! Read this! 'My love for you is like a Basilisk in the presence of a Medusa!' Ha!! Oh, and this! 'The sheep of my flock long to be grace the valley of your affections.' Pffft! No! Sorry, sir. One thousand gold."
     Warsch places the gold upon the counter, A thousand gold isn't easy to count, but the gnome manages to count thoroughly and quickly. Warsch places his hammer for the gnome to augment. With a precise grip, the gnome presses the stone into the side of the hammer's head. Warsch cannot believe he has never heard of this magic; as the ghome presses the stone into the hammer, an audible sizzling sound can be heard. Before he realizes it, the stone has melded into the stone. The gray of the hammer's steel surrounds a tan circle with the pearl runes of force etched into their sides. Warsch is handed his hammer back, and runs his hand over the surface, which feels very much so like a stone.
     The gnome looks at him with a peculiar eye. "I take it you've never seen that before?"
     Warsch nods his empty head, and walks out of the store. As he walks out, his thoughts returning to him, he spots Tharyn sitting at a cafe, ordering food. Across from her sits Stormdrake, who is devouring some form of bagel.
     "So how do you feel,huh? What is it like when you are petrified?"
     Tharyn sets down her donut. "Honestly, I don't even feel anything. It tickles as I turn, and then I awaken. It's like I just shut off."
     Stormdrake looks very sad. "I am sorry this is happening to you. We will find another way to cure you, I promise. Perhaps this leader hag, Bleurhelga, can remove the curse. After all, she must be powerful to bend the hag's to her commands, it it is as unlikely as it sounds. How can multiple hags be working with each other?"
     Crow Lord kaws several times, writing down his thoughts. "How can it be that a hag fell in love with a warlock? Their magics don't mix well: one's magic comes from a greater power, and the other's power is earned through sinister rituals and theft."
     Tharyn reads this for him, and responds. "Obviously, something isn't right here. The hags are too well organized to be working on their own. Something magical and powerful, greater than this Bleurhelga, is at play here."
     Warsh walks up and sits down, placing his improved hammer upon the table lightly. However, a small shockwave sends the plates off the table.
     Tharyn, covered in pastry, speaks through her teeth at Warsch. "Congrats on the hammer!"
     "Thank you! I had to break a man's heart to get it. Speaking of which, I really must get going. I have a letter to run. Love, it seems, does not always find a way."
     Immediately upon saying that, they see a man run past them. Several seconds later, at an even faster pace, a woman clad in a spider-webbed cloak runs by, chasing after him.
     "Do I even want to know what Spider is up to?" says Stormdrake.
     The party chases after Spider, who has trapped the man in an alley. "I finally caught up to you, pickpocket! You've done quite well at blending in with society, but your luck has run out!" She launches a blob of Web at the man, who gets caught in it. Spider pulls the webbing from the surroundings, and wraps it around the man.
     "Finally got you, Zack the One Handed!"
     "It's not my fault! I had a rough childhood! The system kicks the poor into the gutter! I was just trying to live, dammit!"
     "Well, now you get to live in a cell."
     The party catches up to Spider, who has the man over her shoulder, walking towards a guard house.
     "Spider, what are you doing?" Asks Warsch.
     "Collecting a bounty that I found. This man, despite only having one hand, is quite the bastard. Pickpocket, you see. Got caught once as a child, but never was caught again. Until now."
     Spider turns in the man at the city jail, where she is paid 300 gold.
     As she exits along with the party, Servilus catches up to them.
     "There you are! I have good news: We have time for an audience with Thalumend. I already spoke to him, and he has agreed to meet all of you. We must hurry!"
     The party enters the large courtroom, where a massive throne sits against the far wall. On it sits a larger than average stone giant, with large muscles pressing through his stone-like skin. He has a large stone slab in one hand, and a chisel that gleams like gold in his other hand. He greets the players.
     "I am King Thalumend, the Chosen of Skoraeus. To speak to me is to speak to God. Kneel."
     Everyone kneels, except for Tharyn, who remains standing. Warsch hits the back of her knee, causing her to fall.
     "I have read the decree from Dal'Krosh, and I have heard what happened at Onatar's Gate. As we speak, I am sending two of my great legionaires there to maintain watch over its ruins. As for you five, I would offer thee a title. However, first you must quell all hags and the rumors of Hags. Travel to Skoraeus's Table, and defeat whatever ill trap awaits thee. Slay their leader, and report back to me. To aid you in your mission, I would offer each of you access to my stone armory. We have plenty of sizes, and all will fit. I am sure of it. Take it, and wear the tunics of your current title. I offer you all this advice: Embrace your roles in all of this. The paths you have all walked up until this point has been your trial. Now, you must accept what you have become. Whether that is evil or good, it matters not. Your fates are intertwined, and duty beckons."
     The party exits to the armory, where they are met by the court assistant, a human boy in his teens. Brown hair, green eyes, and freckles dot his young face. He helps each of them don their new armor; Warsch equips Splint armor made of stone; Stormdrake equips the half plate. Crow Lord touches a stone breastplate, trying to detect if it's bindings will hinder his magics. It does not, and Crow Lord immediately chooses to have the armor thrown on.
     Tharyn chooses not to wear armor, and requires no weapons or shields either. Spider, on the other hand, slaps on a pair of stone knuckles. As the fists wrap around her knuckles, Spider focuses her breathing and channels Ki. The stones, contrary to what steel can manage, actually serve as decent conductors for Ki, unhindering her ability to channel it in combat.
     The party take off their tunics, and wear the green garbs of Thalumend's soldiers. A silver stalactite is sewn onto the front of the garb.
     They party heads out of town with Servilus, who still wears his armaments. As they exit, Servilus pulls out a scroll.
     "What is that for?" Asks Spider.
     "This is for our ship. Perhaps you noticed the airships near the main gate? Despite Zeus being the largest airfield, Skoraeus's Throne still has it's own supply of ships. That's where we are going, actually. I believe a good captain is-"
     "AYE! Heroes or whatever!" A strong nordic man stands high up on top of his ship, a bottle of rum in his hand. His hair is brown with a hint of red, but despite his drunken swagger, there is honesty in his eyes.
     "Well don't just stand there on ceremony! Hand me the payment, and let's set off!"
     Servilus walks up the planks to the man's ship. "Everyone, this is captain Connor McHagay, who is contracted to us for the remainder of our journey. He's going to take us to the Forks."
     McHagay takes sip of his rum. "Well, somewhat near it that is. I'm hearing superstition of that place, and want nothing to do with that spook." Warsch and the party walk up the plank, where they all shake hands with the Captain, who sets off immediately.
     The ship's engines roar with lightning and thunder, and everyone feels the cling of static course through their hair. With a loud roar and a sudden blast, the ship takes off, faster than any flying creature the lands could throw their way. The heroes descend down into the cabins of the ship, making themselves home in a large room fit for ten people.
     Servilus pulls out the gift for Tharyn, from Arceus. "Tharyn, we collected these from Arceus, but forgot to give them to you when you awoke."
     Tharyn tears apart the paper, reading Arceus's saddened words, and crumples up the note and tosses it out one of the ship's windows.
     "Hehehe... the poor man. Although I have no sorrow in his passing, I am glad to see that he still had a human side. I'll be honest, this is a nice gift: The Hag's Arcanum. I've already read this book at his place, but it's good knowledge on hags that many of you should know. For example, our own Bleurhelga."
     Crow Lord sits forward in eagerness, waiting to hear what Tharyn has to say. Servilus speaks up. "She seduces children, using her iron tokens to communicate with them to perform horrendous acts. The children kill their own families, and then wander into the woods to die."
     Tharyn smiles. "Yes, and that gives it away: An Annis Hag. These are probably the strongest and most difficult hags to hunt, as they are pretty much made of iron. So when we approach her, unless you got some kind of special Yoga-mojo technique, I think you should keep your distance Spider."
     Spider sits, remaining motionless. She looks up at Tharyn, feeling a bitter resentment at her words. "I will fight just as the rest of you will. That Hag must die... for the children."
     Warsch nods. "Yes... for the children. Onatar's Gate must be avenged!"
     Tharyn shakes her head. "This isn't about vengeance! That Hag is someting else entirely, well beyond what any Annis hag could be. Her iron flesh could be stronger, and her master is something far worse than what our training could prepare us for. If we battle her, it may well be a fight to the death. But, we should come up with a plan of action. It says here that her flesh is weak like paper, but her limbs are made of iron and strong enough to tear a man in half. So, obviously enough, Warsh charges her, blazing angel stuff as usual, and relies on his animated shield to block her strikes. I doubt she can break through magic barriers, but on the off chance that she can, keep that stone shield on you at all times. Stormdrake should drop lightning on her, although I'm not sure how much damage it will do to her iron frame. If you can, after you try the lightning, rain on her with sacred flame. Crow Lord, We need you to try to bury her. If you can open up a hole into the earth, we might be able to pull her under and kill her in one swift move. Servilus and I will blast her with fire and ice spells, to weaken her iron limbs. Spider, try to stay ranged this entire fight. Everytime you fight a hag, you either get knocked unconscious, have your arms sliced open, or beat them to death. Wait until Servilus and I blast him, then move in behind Warsch and strike. Sounds like a good plan?"
     Warsch's brow tightens against his forehead. "I can't help but feel like I'm being used as fodder against the Hag. Am I the only one who feels this way?"
     Stormdrake grasps Warsch's shoulder. "Ah, don't worry about it! I'll be there right beside you! However, I believe I'd be better off attacking the Hag with my spear. It is magically enchanted, remember? It might take some work, but the swordspear should cut right through her like a twig! Anyways, I need to go top side. I'm going to pray to Talos and ask for a lightning blessing on the spear."
     Tharyn tilts her head. "A blessing? Isn't it already blessed?"
     Stormdrake shakes his head. "Normally, it's just really sharp and the lightning can be called upon for one burst. But for what we are going against, we will need more power. I'm going to try to imbue the spear with a permanent lightning enchantment. Talos is my deity, and as his last disciple, I feel his aid will be unwavering."
     Stormdrake heads topside, leaving the others below deck. Spider heads off angrily towards her cabin. Unknown to the others, Spider keeps an ancient tome hidden deep within her satchel. She thinks to herself, always wondering why she ran off with it. As the drow monastary was sacked by Witch Hunters, Spider stole inside and grabbed the text from the High Priestess's quarters. Despite her proficiency in Drow Jitsu, Servilus is right. The group is too weak. More power is needed, and with a grudge against the people who killed her family, Spider opens up the text.
     Tharyn opens up Arceus's spell book, reading up on all of his pyromancy. After a few minutes pass, Crow Lord begins taking an interest in the book. Together, they both devour the pages, reading up on new spells and discovering just far into the rabbit hole Arceus went. As it turns out, Arceus was indeed a servant of Juiblex, however things weren't always that way. For some time, he spent his time as a wizard, learning the art of flame, and even mastered dual-flame blades. Crow Lord tries to reproduce this effect, but so far he can only muster one blade at a time. Tharyn offers his some advice.
     "What you are trying to do, Crow Lord, is concentrate on two seperate casts of the same spell. Instead, keep your hands close together and produce a flame close to your chest. As the spell is produced, concentrate on seperating it and reforming it as your hands part."
     Crow Lord does just that. Tying his druidic focus to a robe and placing it around his neck, Crow Lord summons a great flame between his two hands. With both hands in the fire, he forms the ball into a blade, and then tries to seperate it. With great difficulty, Crow Lord rips apart the handles of the blade, but the blades burst apart and smoke scatters throughout the room.
     "Kaw..." Crow Lord sighs.
     Warsch pats him on the shoulder, and then walks out of the cabin, smoke following him.
     "Aye! What is that smoke doing inside MY ship!?" McHagay screams.
     "Warsch smiles at him, waving his arms to disperse the smoke. "Oh! It's nothing! Just a spell to summon a smoke screen that the two are working on!"
     "Well tell them to keep magic topside! If the engines blow up, we fall and die!"
     Tharyn and Crow Lord walk outside, receiving a violent glare from the angry captain.
     Stormdrake places one knee on the floor of the ship, his holy symbol pressed tightly against his forehead. As he chants a prayer for several minutes, he raises his swordspear to the sky, expecting a blessing to rain down from the heavens. Alas, nothing happens, and he just looks at the spear in confusion. Warsch walks up to him, offering him a slice of bread.
     "Perhaps he is busy? Deity's are finicky, ya know, and don't always have time to answer prayers."
     Stormdrake chomps down on the bread. "Yes, but this is life or death. We need him."
     Warsch takes a seat on the bench, the air from the ship's speed blowing his hair sideways. "Yes, but you must understand that the god's do not need us. If not for us, they would have nothing. Some are content with that, simply offering us a place to call heaven. Others are restricted in their interceptions upon the mortal plane, only making appearances every hundred years. Perhaps, for Talos, your spear was all that could muster in this century?"
     Stormdrake blows steam out his nostrils. "Tell me of your faith, Warsch. You say your mother was a preistess, so you've most likely spent your whole life in prayer. Is it worth it?"
     Warsch is shocked by the question. "Is it- Well of course it is! If not for the guidance of The Silver Flame, I would be nothing. Perhaps I would've died down in those Duergar mines, the dwarves beating and flaying my flesh for all eternity. If not for her way of guidance and protection, I never would have become a Paladin. In truth, I seek to avenge my mother. After that, I can only dream of what and where my path will take me. Protection and doing good has been my life so far, and that is a life worth living. What of your faith? What have you lived your so far? Until you got that weapon, that is."
     Stormdrake lays the spear across the ground. "In truth, not a whole lot. Our monastary offered protection to those who came by, and those that did commonly joined up as priests. We spent our lives guarding the lighthouse, which guided ships at night. However, that is not all that we did. As we followed in the practices of Talos's wisdom, we spent most of our time practicing magic."
     Warsch's brow raises. "Really? I thought magic outside of faith was... herectical?"
     Stormdrake laughs lightly. "It was faith. We all sought to become Priests of the Tempest, who wielded lightning like a fighter picks up a sword. Few managed to call upon the clouds, and I was one of the lucky few. However, that still didn't save us from Prag'tar's bandits."
     Warsch nods his head. "So, when this apocalyptic nonsense is done, we will continue our chase?"
     Stormdrake nods his head in response. "I'd be glad to. Maybe, it shouldn't be about revenge. Like you said... doing the right thing for once. Maybe that is why Talos ignores me."
     Warsch stands up, placing a firm hand on Stormdrake's shoulder. "Talos is not ignoring you. Perhaps faith isn't enough. Prayer and devotion only go so far. Sacrifice? Duty? He must be waiting for something."
     The two part ways, with Stormdrake standing at the nose of the ship, looking down upon the lands, which stretch far and wide.

The Forks of Skoraeus


     The flight takes them about a half a day to land, but on the way they see a large vestibule of light pour down from the sky over Skoraeus's Table, near where the Forks should be. The light is brilliant, opening up into the sky, pouring up through the blue sky over Kalrosh and opening a hole into the stars. The party sees a single star fall down through the hole, which closes abruptly. As the party is within a mile of the Forks, McHagay lands abrubtly.
     "Alright, heroes! This is as far as I go, in order to avoid the spooky and our chances of success failing. You'll have to walk from here on out." They begin walking for quite some time, and then up the large rock structure, which elopes upwards to form a tall and large slab of rock. There is a large, winding slope going up the side of the mountain. As they struggle to climb up the trail, Warsch and Crow Lord sprout their wings and fly. Spider leaps onto Crow Lord, Tharyn hops on her broom, and Stormdrake uses his boots of Levitation to carry himself upwards, holding onto Tharyn who pulls him along. Servilus, using his cloak of knives, begins to float upwards, lifted up by the knives.
     The moment they land, the party finds the large stone slabs called the Forks of Skoraeus. Each one glows a different color: Red, Blue, Black, and Gold. Golden Chains are wrapped around the black Fork, with a helpless Deva trapped to one of them. She is motionless, with blood trails dripping from her mouth all the down her torso. Warsch covers his mouth, horrored at the sight of a dead angel. Before anyone can say anything, a series of icicles fly from the fourth fork into every member of their party. Luckily, no vitals are hit, however each member is severely wounded. The spikes jutting out from the fourth pillar begin to pull everyone in, except for Warsch. Immediately upon licking his flesh, the ice breaks in pieces. Warsch looks at his allies, thinking that he can turn the tides of the battle and free. Before he can even pull his hammer out, a mystical chain pierces through Warsch's abdomen, wrapping around his body and dragging him painfully to the golden Fork.
     As Warsch is secured to the Fork, sickening laughter pierces the cold air. Oddly, the temperature continues to drop as the laughter grows louder.
     A hag, clad in blue robes with pale blue skin, appears out of gathering dust. The air turns chilling, freezing down to everyone's core. She lets out a cruel smile, her long piercing teeth pushing their way out of her mouth. Her long thin arms are only matched by the long nails that extend off each finger.
     Servilus lets out an exaperated squeel. "Are... you... Bleurhelga?"
     The hag speaks, her words stabbing the air in a painful manner similar to the ice spikes. Her voice sounds like a nail across a chalkboard. For the first time in their journey, the fear of death takes the heroes by the throats.
     At the hag's side approaches another hag, with gray skin and bones that stick out. However, these bones are not natural, and appear like some kind of metal.
     Warsch spits out blood, coughing up words. "Bleur...helga..."
     Bleurhelga speaks, her voice dryer and more haggard than previously witness. Just hearing her voice is enough to make one nauseous. "Hello, children! And oh! my dear old boy, Servilus. Ever wonder why they call him the Iron Mage? Well, it's mostly my fault, you see. Just a young boy, not even aware of his innate magical abilities. *Bluerhelga walks over to Servilus* I gave him a token of my mine, and we spoke for hours on end! Granny Helga, he used to call me! Oh... you should have been there! It was admiring, his raw talent. The way he *Bleurhelga thrusts her right hand into Servilus's left arm* TORE into his folks. At first, he seemed possesed! The way the metal knives in the room flew around him! But as the years passed and poor Servilus studied, the more he realized what I did for him!"
     Servilus, in great agony, grunts in pain. "Urrg... You bitch! You killed my family!"
     Bleurhelga rips off Servilus's arm. As he screams in pain, blood spraying everywhere. Bleurhelga throws the thing around like a toy. "Oh hehehe! Give the boy a HAND! Hahaha!"
     Bleurhelga throws the arm far away. She turns to the Bheur hag and nods. The chilling hag approaches towards the spire that Warsch is attached to. As she nears Warsch, the paladin struggles against the chains. Then, the hag pulls down the deceased angel, and removes her angelic mace. The hag then pulls out an odd knife, with a black onyx blade with red runes etched into the sides. The hag stabs into the deceased angel's chest, right where the heart would be on a human, and begins whispering in a primordial language.
     Bleurhelga laughs herself to tears. "That knife is an ancient relic! My master told me of it's location, buried deep within the Table of Skoraeus! It's truly wicked! Look!"
     As the Bheur hag removes the blade, a golden wisp is stuck to the tip of the dagger. Warsch grunts in both anger and pain, spitting blood in the process. "No... you... removed her grace! But how?"
     Bluerhelga walks over and grabs Warsch by the jaw. "It's a Primordial Extractor! From what my master told me, it was used to cut the wings off angels! He never said anything about demons and the ilk, but I have no need to go after them! Imagine, paladin! The Forks, pulling the angels from the heavens! Tearing their wings off like little wittle butterflies! I wonder... what will happen if we were to use the knife on you..."
     As the ice cold hag removes the grace into a stone bowl, Bleurhelga walks over and tries to grab the knife from her. The two hags fight over the knife for awhile, but neither resort to violence. Eventually, Bleurhelga gives up on the dagger.
     "Fine! Perform the ritual, Ferelga! Make me my damn key!"
     The hag, Ferelga, mixes a volatile mix of black liquids in with the grace. A sick, goopy slime is produced, unlike anything the heroes have ever seen before. Ferelga speaks in some more primordial language, and then dips the mace into the bowl. As soon as the golden weapon touches the black liquid, it immediately looses its golden texture, turning black like a sun going out. Bleurhelga whistles, and then shouts "Fergus! Get out here, my good boy!" A little ways down lies a small shack. The door of the shack bursts open, and a large flesh golem walks out. The party sees that the creature consists of several different body parts from different races: The arms of an orc and a dwarf, the torso of a goliath, the head of a human, and so on. At the center of the golem lies a red blowing rock, with purple veins jutting out from its center into the rest of the creature. The closer it gets, the more the party realizes that this creature has become a conduit for all the malice in the world, with it's red beady eyes darting around, analyzing and thinking. Whatever this golem has... become, it certainly is not good for the party.
     Bleurhelga points at the blackened and tarnished mace. "Go on, my sweet child! Pick it up!"
     Fergus walks over to the Bheur Hag Ferelga, who keeps her eyes peeled to the ground, refusing to make eye contact with the monstrosity. The moment the golem touches the mace, the same purple veins that dart around from it's core pulse through into it's hand, touching the mace. It slowly pulls it out of the mixture, and swings it, charging it with some weird kind of dark electricity as it travels through the air.
     Bleurhelga laughs delightfully. "Now, it is time my good boy! Fly with me towards your new destiny!"
     Bleurhelga steps onto her broom and shouts at Ferelga. "My good sister! Take excellent care of our guests! Murder them! Eat them! Do as you plea-he-he-ease!"
     Fergus looks at the party members, his brow shifting into pity. Then, his feet raise off the ground, and he soars after Bleurhelga with incredible super-human speed.
     Ferelga throws the bowl across the plateau. She makes her way over to the dead angel, feasting on its corpse with a voracious appetite. Many of the party members struggle with no hope against their icy shackles. Despite being a small and stick-thin creature, Ferelga actually manages to eat a majority of the angel's carcass. As she slurps up several feet of the angel's intenstines, she looks up at Tharyn. The hag smears blood off her face, and begins walking over to Tharyn.
     Tharyn struggles with great fear. "No, please... don't! Stay away!"
     The Bheur hag breaks Tharyn's arm out of the ice splinters, sniffing it with great curiousity. She looks up, smiling at the former witch, and then bites down into Tharyn's arm, tearing down through her bones and ripping off a good chuck. As she screams in pure agony, everyone can't help but to look away. Unable to process, Everyone just listens for what seems like hours as the hag tortures Tharyn, tearing off pieces of her delicate frame. As Tharyn's screaming slowly dies off, Stormdrake looks over at his friend's desecrated body. The hag chewed off a good portion of Tharyn, tearing one of the bones in her forearm completely out of her body. The Hag smiles delightfully, rubbing her stomach with delight. However, The hag still hungers and walks over to Tharyn. Again. As the hag prepares to bite through Tharyn's neck, the last of the day's light fades away, and Tharyn turns to stone. The hag screams out like some kind of beast, and tries to punch Tharyn's stone shell open, but to no avail. Despite hag's and their incredible strength, whatever stasis Tharyn is trapped it makes her completely invulnerable.
     The hag makes her way over to Spider, ready to feast again. Stormdrake screams at the top of his lungs with desperation and anger. "TALOS!"
     From out of nowhere, in the dark of the night, a piercing storm brews overhead. As the light of the lightning from within the cloud lights up the area, a great bolt of pure energy stikes down towards to the Hag, who barely dodges the blow and is sent away from the partmembers. As the hag prepares to stand up, another bolt strikes down, this time it focuses downwards and hits only Stormdrake, shattering all of the ice that encased him to the Fork. He pulls out his swordspear, lightning coursing through his entire being. His eyes glow with blue energy, which surrounds his body and pulls him up from the ground.
     The hag hisses at Stormdrake, launching several shards of icicles at him, but bolts of lightning ripple from Stormdrake and shatter the ice mid-air. With a ferocious grunt, he raises his spear and lauches himself across the yard at the Hag. The quick-thinking hag raises up a small wall of ice in front of her and dodges to the left, barely dodging Stormdrake's mighty pierce. As he flies past the hag, Stormdrake raises his spear up towards the cloud. Many bolts quickly descend up the point of the spear, the combined energy storing into a massive electrified orb. He slams down with the spear onto the hag, cracking the earth beneath them and sending ripples throughought the area.
     The hag is blasted away, a large blood trail following her ragged body. She stands up, calling over he broom and jumping onto it, trying to get away from the mighty storm god. Before she can fly twenty feet away, Stormdrake appears infront of her in a flash, uppercutting the hag with the end of his spear.
     The blow quickly sends the hag flying upwards off her broom. As the hag soars through the night sky, she looks up at the storming cloud. Before she realizes it, she is struck by a bolt into the earth. A terrible pain erupts from her abdomen, and when she looks down she sees that the lower half of her body had been cut off, a white-hot swordspear planted firmly in her thin frame. She pulls herself away from the wound, a large amount of blood explodes from her. She turns to flee, but comes face to face with Stormdrake's boots. As she looks up at the snarling dragonborn, she sees in his eyes pure wrath, brewing like a hurricane. She raises her arms over her head, trying to protect herself from his blows. In a last flash of anger, Stormdrake holds his left hand above him, calling forth several thunderstrikes into his palm.
     As the energy stores up in his hand, his palm is burned and several of his scales are blasted off. When he reaches his limit, Stormdrake brings down his hand and incinerates the ice-hag, leaving nothing behind but tatters of her blue robe.
     The storm cloud overhead launches four divine bolts of lightning into each pillar, causing the glowing stones to power down and lose color. The chains holding Warsch break apart, as does the ice holding his friends hostage. The energy leaves Stormdrake, and he rushes over to his allies and begins chanting a prayer to heal all wounds. Warsch, Spider, and Crow Lord get up with no difficulties, but Servilus remains on the ground, his breath weakening.
     Stormdrake runs over to the Iron Mage, holding him in his arms. "No! You cannot die, your revenge-"
     Servilus places his cold hand over Stormdrake's. He speaks very weakly "I have you to carry on my will. Save your strength and save Tharyn. I've lost too much blood to be saved. My wound has closed, but my life is leaving me *cough* I need you to... to go to Rogue's Port. Find my grandma, a woman who... runs a potion shop. Tell her of my fate, and make sure she gets to Dal'Krosh safely."
     Stormdrake's eyes form a single tear, which flows down his lightning-scarred face. Bits of his scales are cracked apart, the water of the tear flowing between the cracks. "I will carry on your will. I will find your family!"
     Servilus pulls out his tome and hands it to Stormdrake. "There's... some spells for you. Wizard spells... the power of thunder..." His hand falls limp off of Stormdrakes, his eyes remaining open. As more tears fall from his eyes, Stormdrake closes Servilus's eyelids, laying the wizard down and crossing his arms over his chest.
     Warsch and Crow Lord grab onto Tharyn and begin flying over McHagay's ship. Spider places a weak hand over Stormdrake's shoulder, and proceeds over to the hag's hut.
     Inside, Spider finds several items laying around, such as the Graystaff of the Bheur Hag. As he hand closes around it, Spider feels a chill run up her arm. "This is something for wizards to handle," She says to herself. On a hangar lies a blue cloak, similar the hag's but silver runes are etched onto it's sleeves. A similar chill runs up her arms. With some minor frostbite, Spider puts both the staff and the cloak into her satchel. She kicks open a large chest near the hag's cot, finding a few saphires and blue crystals etched with white runes. Before she leaves, she grabs a journal and returns to Stormdrake, who is carrying Servilus's body back. Everyone returns to a ship, with a very disraught McHagay. "I was wondering what took so long. Eh, ah yeah. I'm sorry about your friends. I'm sure your statue friend will be just-"
     Stormdrake bellows at him. "She's been cursed for awhile. She'll break out of it. Anyways, we need to travel to Onatar's Gate. Does our contract still hold?"
     McHagay nods. "Until this whole apocalypse journey ends, that is. It'll take us about a third of the day to get there. I got plenty of rest, but once we land... I'll be out for a good six or eight hours."
     Warsch nods at the man. "Get us there as quickly as possible."
     Everyone moves below deck, checking out the wounds that Statue Tharyn sustained. Warsch grunts with anger, her wounds quite serious.
     "Her Ulna was completely removed. I can close the wound, but Tharyn is going to be missing a large chunk of her arm for several weeks."
     Stormdrake sits down, his shoulders heavy with grief. "Crow Lord and I can heal her too. Will that help?"
     Warsch shakes his head. "Until we are for sure out of combat, restoring a portion of her bone might cause more harm than good. If she gets hit, the bone would just tear out and we'd have to start the process all over again. And given the severity of her wounds... It'll take everything I have just to keep her alive."
     Crow Lord kaws in despair. He grabs a wooden bowl from a shelf nearby, and holds his hand over the bowl. With his other hand, he grasps his focus around his neck, and fills the bowl up with several berries. After he takes off his masks and chomps down on one, he passes the bowl around. Warsch, Stormdrake, and Spider each take a bite, however the bitter taste of the berries overwhelm them, and they spit the fruit all over the floor.
     Crow Lord wags his finger at them, and shows them a page in his journal about goodberries. Spider reads it aloud: "Goodberries! Very good and good for you! My mentor showed me this interesting spell, which produces several berries packed full of nutrients and sustenance. Eating one berry is enough to keep an Orc's belly full, he said. However, I couldn't even manage to get past the awful taste. Why does Nature's best have to taste worse than my brother's cooking?"
     The bowl is passed around again, this time everyone manages to choke down the terrible tasting berries. After everyone is done choking, Spider pulls out the hag's journal and begins reading from it.
     "I found this journal in the hag's hut.
     Entry 210,

     Bleurhelga came to me today, but something was awful about her. She spoke to me, in a whisper, telling me about the true power of the demons, and how we can obtain unlimited power. All we have to do is open Onatar's gate by corrupting an angelic relic. The dark weapon, called the Tonitrus, must be wielded by a flesh golem, with the heart of a Nighthag's heartstone, with the Soul of Evil, stitched together with the limbs of those who make pacts with green hags. Once the golem is drained of it's blood and filled with the blood of a slithering tracker, the flesh golem will wield the Tonitrus, and open the gates of Onatar to the abyss.
     Entry 228,

     The flesh golem is risen! His form was the most vile thing I have every laid my eyes upon, but it is beautiful. He asks for a name, the poor thing. It spits demonic words, and its head lies empty, waiting for commands, yet it wants a name! Hah! Bleurhelga complied, naming him Fergus. He smiled, and even as a Bheur Hag I have never felt so cold in my life.
     Entry 231,

     It took some time, but after Bleurhelga and I reached the Forks, we started trying to activate them. Each one requires a specific component, but Bleurhelga says we will need only two of the Forks active: The dark spire of the angels, and the blood spire of humanity. The blood spire was easily activated: a human sacrifice and the stone turned red, pulsing with dark energies. I still had to say an hour long ritual, but easiest thing I've done in my whole life! As for the Angel spire... well that took some effort. The blood of a demon... In Kalrosh. So, first we had to perform a demon summoning ritual with sulfur and a human heart (which we had plenty of). Finding an angel to use it on... not so easy as summoning a demon! But we had a decent plan! Purify a woman to the point where her blood flowed like a virgin, and then threaten to sacrifice her under the heavens! Pop! Angel flew down, and the Fork did the rest! And then our feast began..."
     Spider closes the journal, placing it back into her satchel. Warsch and Stormdrake each look at eachother in disgust. Crow Lord takes off his mask once again, his green eyes dark with unholiness towards these hags. The party decides to get some rest, sleeping in chairs next to Tharyn. As the hours pass, Tharyn breaks out of her stone prison, blood splattering all over the bed and room. Warsch, Stormdrake, and Crow Lord immediately go to work, using their unique magics to close Tharyn's wounds and ease her suffering. Spider removes her stone knuckles and begins chanelling Ki into Tharyn, trying to control the woman's panic and reduce the pain of her broken and missing bones. About an hour passes, and Tharyn's grunting and agony stops. For safe measures, Spider offers Tharyn a potion of healing, which Tharyn chugs in a few seconds.
     Tharyn bolts upwards, looking at Warsch first, and then at the rest of the party. "Wh-what... how am I still alive? My arm? Oh dear... my arm!"
     Warsch places his palm over her forehead, forcing her down onto the bed and shutting her eyes. As she slowly calms down, Warsch begins explaining everything, about the torture and how the hag removed one of Tharyn's bones. Tharyn's jaw clenches in anger, but eventually she calms down.
     "Can someone go and grab my satchel, please?" Crow Lord rushes out the door, looking for Tharyn's satchel.
     Warsch tilts his head at her. "Tharyn... what are you-"
     Tharyn interrupts Warsch. "I don't just collect bones for the fun of it, Warsch. I'm a necromancer; the strength of my spells require bones. I don't have a lot, but I definitely have enough to transmute an entire forearm."
     Warsch shakes his head. "Perhaps we should wait another day. With all of us combined, we could-"
     Tharyn laughs at him. "Warsch, we are going to war. I can't affor to be short a limb, even it is just half of my arm."
     Crow Lord walks back in with a rattling bag in his hands. He sets it on Tharyn's lap, who opens it up and pulls out about fourteen bones.
     "There we go! Now, everyone out! This is forbidden magics, and no offense, but some of you are altar boys. Holy men. A man in a bird mask. Maybe Spider will be okay. But for you three, this magic goes against your natural laws."
     The three men nod their heads, and head topside to see McHagay. The man doesn't have much to say, so they all talk about what happened with Stormdrake.
     Warsch: "So, I have to say. That was an impressive show you put on. I guess Talos finally answered your prayers, huh?"
     Stormdrake smiles. "He did. Now I know what he requires from me, and I have you to thank for it, Warsch: Protecting others. I know that sounds corny to you, Warsch, but I think that's the path I'm supposed to lead. For others."
     Warsch nods his head. "So, all that power. Is there any left in the spear still?"
     Stormdrake grabs onto his spear. "I don't think so. I feel a slight vibration in the spear, more so than usual, but I don't feel like I can summon a storm and pull the lightning from the sky like before."
     Crow Lord frowns, writing down on a piece of paper. "That's a shame. However, I think I can help you with that. Perhaps, when we have a moment, we can practice? I'll summon a thunderstorm, and you'll draw power from it."
     Stormdrake's maw opens in amazement and gratitude. "I would be eager to explore this power, so long as I have friends like you by my side."
     McHagay drops the ship down suddenly, preparing to land. "I know this sounds like a bad time, but we are almost there!"
     Spider and Tharyn come up from below deck, with Tharyn having changed into the blue robe found in the Bheur Hag's hut. The party comes to a quick landing, dropping with a loud thud before the town's road. As they all leap off the ship, ready for battle, they see the terrible hag working some kind of spell on the gate.
     Bleurhelga hears them approach, and turns around to greet them. Her form is grotesque, like all hags, but her bones are made out some kind of ancient metal. Her skin is missing in many areas, and she looks very robotic. Half of her face is missing, but her skin is gray and stretches over what it can. Most of her body is covered in a brown robe, the rest is sprouting iron twigs and wire. "Ahhh... you came exactly on time! Now, Fergus! Charge the Tonitrus!"
     Fergus places the Tonitrus into an opening at the base of the great gate. The runes on the large arc turn red, and a bolts of lightning begin flying off, striking several of the damaged or collapsed buildings. Several of the bolts strike the golem, but the energy bounces off him at no distraction. A red pool of energy fills the gate, and a small hole of pure darkness is opened up.
     At first nothing happens, but then red smoke begins to fly out of the gate, flying off in different directions. The dark hole in the center of the gate opens up even further, and continues to increase as black and red smoke pour out.
     The golem slowly rises after placing the corrupted mace, turning towards the group. His red eyes scour the group, peeling them over. He smiles, his grisly yellow teeth pulling his lips apart. Bleurhelga begins laughing with insanity again, pointing at the players.
     "Hehehe!! You are too late! Now, you get to die! Fergus! Obey mommy! Kill those-"
     As the hag gloats and commands, a great arrow, flung from a ballistae, flies through the sky and impales the hag through the abdomen. She looks at it with shock, her lips twisting in pain, but her laughter continues as she tears apart the massive arrow and pulls herself through.
     Everyone looks over to see the source of the arrow, and as they look over they witness the grand army of King Thalumend. Several large green banners flow in the wind, set with the Silver Stalactite representing the Chosen of Skoraeus. Completely surrounded, Bleurhelga's insanity continues, her insidious laughs filling the air. The Golem's ears begin to twitch, and he raises his right arm just in time to block a blow from a Stone Giant, who is followed by another of his kind. The Golem's eyes turn into massive red orbs, the whites of his eyes not visible anymore. As the party is distracted by the fight between the three titans, Bleurhelga pulls out a skin-bound book from her satchel and opens the book. Before anyone can stop her, the Annis Hag casts Hunger of Hadar on the party, but Tharyn casts Counterspell. Bleurhelga just stand there with her palm facing outwards towards the players, pure anger on her face. She calls out "Grazz't will have your heads. I swear upon it!" At the mention of Grazz't, the black hole on the gate spreads to it's maximum size. Instantly, several hundred more whisps of smoke bellow out from the great gate, flying towards Thalumend's Legion.
     Bleurhelga watches overhead as the one's she has brought to this world fly through the sky, darkening the light of the sun with their evil. As the billows of smoke crash upon the battlefield, strange disfigured monsters rise. The giants of Thalumend's great army begin fighting the massive beasts, leaving the smaller legionaires to deal with the imps and smaller evils that spawn.
     Spider moves forward with great speed, catching Bleurhelga offguard. She moves to the hag's right side, and delivers a spinning kick straight to her face, which connects with her iron skull, doing nothing at first. "He hehe heee, child. You cannot break me like the others! I have seen, and adapted!" As the sick hag touches her metal skull, several splinters of steel stab out from her face, piercing through her eye and spattering blood towards Spider. Spider backs up away from the bloody mess, shouting to the party: "I need you guys to buy me a few seconds! Distract her!"
     Crow Lord transforms into a mighty Giant Crow, and flies at Bleurhelga, swiping with his talons but missing. He brings down his beak towards her, but the hag grabs his beak and flips him over on the ground, sending him away several feet.
     Bleurhelga, after just throwing down Crow Lord, places her palm over his bird head, and blasts him with a very powerful Eldritch Blast, blasting off his bird form's head. The flesh of the crow disintegrates, and Crow Lord is left laying on the ground, but clings to life and begins to move, ready to stand up.
     Stormdrake graps his talisman as lightning roars around him. His spear ignites several large sparks, and carries him forwards many feet into the hag's chest, the spear stabbing into the enriched metal of the hag's body. However, despite the magics of his weapon, the spear cannot slice through the hag's bones.
     Tharyn shouts for all to hear. "You idiots! You forgot the plan!!" Tharyn pulls out both her wand and the Graystaff of the Bheur hag. With the graystaff, Tharyn holds it high in the air. At first, everyone feels the temperature drop dramatically. A few swear they can see bits of snow, and before they can properly adjust, a ferocious blizzard envelopes half the town, the Gate included.
     As Bluerhelga pulls the swordspear from her chest, several needles of ice fall down from the sky and stab into the hag's humped-over back. Several spikes puncture through, but the hag laughs at the pain. As her larger hand gets a strong grip on his spear, Bleurhelga's smaller arm conjures forth a black ball into her hand. Stormdrake doesn't know to expect, as he is unfamiliar to this kind of spell, but before he can react three tendrills of black slime billow out and knock him away, sending him through the door of a somewhat burned building. As he comes to a hault, a small pile of rubble collapses on top of him.
     Warsch runs up along Bleurhelga's left side, hoping to catch her offguard similar to Spider, but the hag quickly turns towards him. As her sinister gray eyes peer into his soul, Warsch swings at her, hoping to knock off one of her arms. As he swings from his shoulder, the hag lashes out with her large iron arm, punching the hammer head on. A great explosion of force fills the area, shattering all the ice surrounding the hag and clearing the blizzard momentarily.
     Warsch looks at the hag, her arm still intact. Confused, he looks down at his hammer, which has shattered into fragments and tiny pieces.
     Bleurhelga presses her hands onto her chest, pulling out a slimey red and yellow substance from within. After the slime forms into a ball, the hag raises the ball into the sky, which flies upwards into Tharyn's blizzard and counteracts the blizzard, turning every bit of ice summoned by it into water. The town, once covered in a thin sheet of snow and sleet, is now drenched.
     Spider channels her ki, focusing her breathing. She crouches into a low stance behind the hag, moving with unseen and unheard grace. Before Bleurhelga can even feel the first punch, Spider releases several kicks and punches from her low stance. Even with a trained eye, many would perceive Spider growing several limbs and striking several times from each. Bleurhelga spews blood all over the ground in front of her, wondering what in the world could have caused this damage to her.
     As she turns around at the eight-limbed monk, Bleurhelga sneers. "You fool! You try so hard to wound me, but the eldritch powers of a devil combined with the Ritual of Iron Twigs makes me immortal!"
     Spider places the palms of her two main arms together, causing her extra limbs to vanish in a blur. "That's where you're wrong. You're already dead."
     Bleurhelga raises up her massive iron arm, ready to crush Spider. However, as her arm rises abover her head, a sickening sound cracks from the hag's neck.
     "My spine is broken..." She whispers. Then, before she can call upon an eldritch incantation, The hump on the hag's back explodes, sending blood all over Warsch and Crow Lord. "Well then... nice to know that Spider WAS able to fight the hag. Anything you want to tell us, Spider?"
     Spider smiles underneath her cowl. "Drow-Jitsu. I swore to never rely upon it ever again. Success requires desperation, which breeds regret."
     Crow Lord gets up from his defeat at the hag's spell, and turns his attention towards the great gate. "Kaw Kaw!" He shouts indicating that the gate's energy is still building up.
     As everyone looks at the red runes of the gates, they see that the battle is far from over, as the runes begin turning purple. As the party shifts their attention to the two giants and the golem, they see that things are not turning as well as they could possibly hope.
     Each of the clubs that the giants wieled into combat have been broken, similar to Warsch's hammer, except that nothing functional is left. The golem moves with incredible speed and precision, striking out with his fists and blocking the giant's unarmed strikes. As the battle of fists looks like a draw, the golem courses with the same purple energy that pulses from the gate. His red eyes turn purple, and the battle ends in the blink of an eye.
     As one of the giants slams down with his foot, the golem sidesteps with insane speed. Before the giant can react, the golem punches his knee cap out of place, causing him to lean forward as his weight carries him down. As his body comes to a hault on the town's dirt road, the golem grabs the giant by the head and tears his head, spine included, off and out.
     The last remaining giant roars out with rage, and charges at the golem. He thrashes about with his fists, trying to land a single punch on the empowered golem, but his fists fly through the creature. Before the giant can react, the golem grabs onto both of the giant's wrists, his fetid fingers digging deep through the giant's stone exterior into his rock hard bones. In agony, the giant tries to spit from the golem, but he is held in place. The golem begins to levitate upwards, the giant still in his grasp. As the giant becomes nothing more than a tiny dot in the sky, Crow Lord transforms into a large crow. With his keen bird eyes, Crow Lord glances at the giant, who seems to be getting closer as they speak. With hardlyl a fraction of a second to react, Crow Lord spreads his wings and covers Warsch, Spider, and Tharyn from the impact of the giant's collision with the earth.
     The ground quakes and stone shards stab into Crow Lord's back. His left wing, broken by a small boulder, manages to protect Tharyn from certain death. As the forces of nature return to his borken body, healing his wounds, Stormdrake climbs out of the rubble, wondering what the hell just happened. Before he can asks his question, the golem returns to the earth, his purple glare piercing through Crow Lord.
     As Crow Lord turns around to address the new threat, he feels a strong grip on his unbroken wing, the grip becoming stronger and the pain increasing. He turns his head, coming face to face with the golem, whose lips spread open, revealing a bloodied mouth. Before he peck, Crow Lord's wing is torn off. Despite being in animal shape, Crow Lord still has nerve endings in his animal form, and the pain of having his arm torn off is quite intense. He kaws with intense pain, despite bleeding of the wound stopping quickly. Before anyone can react, Crow Lord is kicked away into a pile of rubble, the flesh of the mighty crow melting away, revealing an unconscious Crow Lord.
     With nothing left but his javelins, Warsch pulls one out and chucks it at the golem. The spear flies forward, piercing into the golem's right shoulder. However, before he can an act upon his minor accomplishment, the javelin splits in half, the metal tip falling off the golem's shoulder, revealing a small pinprick to the golem's flesh.
     "We're gonna need a lot of stone gia-" Before Warsch can finish his sentence, the golem flies over into Warsch's face. A gust of wind following the golem pushes his hair straight back. As he swings out with his fist instinctively, Warsch is grabbed by the golem flung across the yard towards the gate.
     The rest of the party, trying to hold their own against the ultra-powerful golem, whose skin is stronger Bleurhelga's iron bones.
     With the golem in the center of the party, Stormdrake charges forward to stab the golem through the chest. Before the tip comes even close to the golem, a strong hand grabs the spear right out of Stormdrake's hands. As he blunders forward, weaponless, Stormdrake looks behind him at the golem. The purple glowing monstrosity is holding the spear with both hands, trying to snap it in half. However, no matter how much power the golem puts into his arms, the spear will not break. Agravated, the golem stabs Stormdrake through the stomach with the spear, impaling him upon the ground.
     Spider returns to the Focus of Eight Limbs, and launches all of her lightning-quick punches. However, the golem's left arms moves even faster, blocking all of her punches. With widened eyes, Spider is slammed down on each shoulder by the golem's invulnerable arms, dislocating each of her arms. As she falls to her knees, Spider feels herself begin to float. She looks down, seeing the golem underneath her, holding her up above his head. Spider quickly processes why he is carrying her, but cannot struggle against his grasp. The golem brings her down upon his knee, severing her spine in two.
     Tharyn pulls out her soul gem, sending out a tether into the golem. Despite his invulnerability, Tharyn deduced through observation that the golem's power must come from the Soul of Evil imbued into his being. She tries, with all her magical prowess, to remove his soul, but the golem abruptly glows orange and dismisses the spell, shattering each chain like ceramic. Tharyn looks down at her gem, which has failed for the first time in her entire life, to latch onto a soul. Before she can register a counter, The golem appears before her and slaps her across the ground, over to Bleurhelga. Tharyn lies motionless as the golem walks with average speed over to the necromancer, preparring to finish her off once and for all. As he stands over her, The body of Bleurhelga rises from the ground and punches the golem, much to his surprise. As he staggers back from the surprise strike, he gazes upon his former mother and witness dark magics animating her bloody and hardly functional body. Tharyn rolls over, smircking at the golem.
     "Can you fight your dear mommy, Fergus?!"
     The cadaver rushes at the golem to deal a smashing blow, but before it can strike, the golem intercepts both of it's arms. A discolored foot kicks through the hag's body, which spatters Tharyn in blood driplets. As she clears her eyes of the vile blood, she witnesses the hag being torn in two, her top half being discarded and thrown far across the town towards the grand battle.
     Tharyn backs away from the quickly approaching golem. She trips backwards over a brick, falling upon her back. The golem stands over her, his foot raised over her face. As she prepares for death, Tharyn thinks of her parents. For the first time in her many years, the death of her parents sinks in to her. She misses them, but hopes to see them on the other side.
     The golem is tackled by a blazing orange Warsch, golden tendrils of energy sprouting from his back like wings. In his hands is the black tonitrus, charged with the infinite powers of the abyss. Warsch swings the weapon into the golem's chest, cracking open the vile heartstone that powers his body. Gray energy lightly spills from the golem's chest, causing him to fall back with agony. As Warsch delivers a series of blows to the golem's face, cutting deep into his skin, a sudden fear fills the air. Even the golem, devoid of all fear, looks with horror at the Abyss Gate, peering deep into the infinite darkness.
     Seven sions of pure malice step forth from the gate. Of the seven, a tall man with obsidian skin looks up at the great gate. He points at the top of the gate with a six-fingered hand, causing an instant exposion of dark energy to shatter the arch. Without the arch to sustain it, the gate collapses and explodes, covering a several mile-radius in black dust.
     The man, clad in a fine black and gold robe, adjusts his golden crown of horns upon his gray hair. He smiles at Tharyn, his yellow teeth glimmering like vile daggers. From his left, a woman with black eyes, silver hair, and marble skin runs toward Spider. She cradles her like a child pulling off her hood and caressing her cheek. Silver threads spill from her fingertips onto Spider, which melt into her skin. Spider's eyes open weakely, and then burst open in fear and anger. "You bitch! I'll kill you!"
     Before she can even raise a fist against the woman, Spider is sent into a dream by some spell of the woman. Warsch turns towards the woman, confused by her hospitality. "Who are you, and how do you know Spider?"
     The woman, looking up with disgust at the paladin, spits words out. "I am her mother, the one who birthed her new life and gave her this power. Drow-Jitsu! Hah! only a fraction of her true power..."
     Standing with the main group of invaders are the man with obsidian skin, a blob with red eyes swirling around in the form of a man's torso, a massive black minotaur with red eyes and a bloodstained mouth, an analgamation of animal parts that somehow functions with two bamboon heads, a man with the legs of a goat and red eyes that peer from a ram's head, and finally a large scarred Gnoll with a large amount of black spines.
     Warsch, still in his angelic state, pulls Stormdrakes spear out of his body and converts the rest of his angelic energy into healing Stormdrake. Crow Lord and Spider are still out of the picture, but perhaps-
     The being with the obsidian skin speaks. "Golem, come hither and speak thy name before your kings - and queen." The woman drops Spider, and places her hand on the golem's shoulder as the two walk over to the 'Kings and Queen.'
     "I... am... Fergus!" He mutters, his dry lungs and parched throat grasping speech.
     The obsidian man laughs. "Hehehe... Fergus! That is no longer thy name! From this day forth, you shall be known as the Knight of Seven. Now, rise! Let me touch your heart."
     The golem, his eyes flickering with energy still, rises and does as his lord commands him to. The obsidian man touches the heartstone, and pieces the broken thing back together. After the process is complete, he turns towards Warsch and begins clapping his hands.
     "Hail, Angel. I am Graz'zt! I would like to reward you for killing that damned hag, Bleurhelga! Before I tell you our story, please tell me your name." Warsch rises from Stormdrake, dropping his blood-soaked spear into his arms. "I don't owe you any answers, fiend! You and your spawn killed our friend, and demand jus-"
     "Yeah yeah, shutty." The demon lord lifts his hand towards Warsch, and pinches his fingers together. As Warsch tries to speak, his lips will not part and his voice is silenced. "I am the demon lord Graz'zt. I care not about your disposition towards us; it is misplaced. We, us seven dark lords, are here on vacation. We wish peace, and would to meet with whatever king or monarchy this land has to offer. They will be known to us, and warned. But first, a reward! I give unto thee The Tonitrus!" Warsch begins grunting against his closed mouth, shaking his head at the demon lord. "What was that? I'm sorry, could you repeat that? I'm rewarding you by giving you something you already have? Well that's bullocks! I'm sparing you and your friends, letting you keep the key to our prison, and you are being ungrateful? How... ungrateful!" The demon lord whispers among his cohorts. The analgamation of slime and red eyes waves a tenticle at the demon army, scattering them like wind. Immediately, the army charges forward, with King Thalumend charging forward.
     As his large form clears into town, he leaps over the party and stands between them and the demon lords.
     Graz'zt clasps his hands together. "Aha! A true monarch! Annnd you are...?"
     King Thalumend sheethes his weapon, a large twin blade forged of solid saphire, etching with numerous augmentations. "I am King Thalumend, the chosen of Skoraeus. These are my lands you invade, and I ask that you return to your fetid corners of Hell."
     Graz'zt laughs. "HA! Ah... this guy! Hell... Bub, we come from the abyss. Anyways, as much as we'd like to, we cannot. We would like to vacation here for a decade or several, and-"
     Thalumend crosses his arms. "You are not welcome."
     Graz'zt crosses his arms, speaking in a voice that mocks Thalumend. "You are not- listen to the words I am saying. We. Cannot. Return! Kicked out. A new demon lord, greater than all of our powers combined, has conquered the Abyss. For now, or several centuries at least, you are safe. We will age and die, cut off from our thrones, but what after?"
     Thalumend looks down upon the lords of demons. "Tell the complete story."
     Graz'zt goes on to mention a demonic war, which has waged foolishly for centuries (no thanks to Orcus!). As the war waged, and the demons lords charged into battle, an unknown evil stole into their domains and captured the source of their power. Many of the lesser demon princes were slain, but those that survived flocked to the few gates into the realm of mortal beings. Few tried to ask the angels for help, but never returned. So Graz'zt commanded his warlocks to perform a ritual, involving a being of pure evil to wield a relic of the angels, corrupted with darker powers. The gate would open, and the demon lords used this to escape from the evil and plot their escape, trapping the evil forever inside the Abyss (which sucks to be honest! The lack of color!) Anyways, The seal between this world and the Abyss has always been improper, with several small cracks or breaches that allow the lesser demon to be conjured into the realm of men. With the powers of the abyss at his command, the new evil guy has enough power to widen the cracks, so to speak, and cause a rapture!
     Everyone that is conscious pays full attention to his tale. Thalumend stands there, his face unmoved, and with beady eyes focused on the princes, speaks.
     "The King of Kalrosh will never consort with demons. Keep your business away from mine and stay out of my cities. He turns to walk away, but the demon lord Baphomet appears before him, his minotaur form just as large as the king of stone. In a snarled voice, the dark minotaur speaks.
     "It is foolish to turn us away. I would wish nothing more than to see your kingdoms fall and crumble to dust; your people revert to their savage ways and your crown ground to dust. But you must let us plead with you! Listen to us!"
     Thalumend punches the demon prince in the jaw. At first, it appears that Thalumend has dealt the demon a massive blow, but as the demon steps back, a glare of pure joy leaps into the demon's eyes. The arm that Thalumend used to punch the demon blasts off: bits of tiny giant flesh spatter all over Warsch, Tharyn, and Stomdrake. Bits of Thalumend's bone and tendons in his arm hang out, blood oozing slowly out of his wounds. Thalumend drops down to one knee, clutching his damaged apendage.
     Before the Army of Skoraeus can launch a counter attack on the beast, the seven demon lords vanish from complete sight. Mages clammer forth, trying to heal their king from his greivous wound. Warsch calls for some spare mages to help out Crow Lord and Spider, but they are all too focused to lend a hand.
     The remaining heroes limp with their unconscious allies back towards McHagay's ship, ready to get some sleep before heading out. As all five heroes stand aboard the ships hull, King Thalumend approaches the ship.
     "You have all acted upon my expectations and delivered. Although the gate was ordered, the demons released and their lords wander free, you have earned your titles as Harbingers of Kalrosh. I hereby declare all roads open to you, as well as access to my stone armory. As a reward for your help today, I would like to reward you with several trophies I collected during battle: Bracers of Demonic Strength. Normally, these golden bracers of worn on the smaller pair of arms of Glabrezu, who use such trinkets to strengthen their weaker arms. May it's forboding powers aid you in your newfound journey."
     Tharyn looks up at the mighty king. "And what is our newfound journey?"
     Thalumend closes his eyes for a second, his mind heavy and clouded. "To aid the demon lords in their venture against the Abyss. I didn't want my subjects to suspect their king dealing with demon lords. In truth, they are not to be trusted. However, if what the obsidian one said, then we must stop whatever trouble is brewing."
     Warsch and Stormdrake throw on the demonic bracers. Instantly, a newfound strength courses through their muscles. For several seconds, their bodies twitch uncontrollably with power, then subside back to normal. To show off his newfound strength, Warsch and Stormdrake each pick up a greatsword with one hand. Normally, such weapons would be unwieldly, however the strength of demons gives them the power to forget about their frailty.
     Tharyn exits from the ship, a few hours before sun set. None of her comrades, who still sleep, know of her escape. As she scours the town, finding every chunk the iron boned hag, Tharyn tears what iron bones she can out of the hag's grisly remains. Her plot is unknown, but whatever research she is curious of can have no good purpose. She finds the final half of the hag, removing the last of the bones and pulling off her spell book. However, this spell book is not of hag-origins: It is bound with the strong leather of a succubus's wings, blackened from age. Curious, Tharyn pours through the book, figuring out the origins of the spells: The Abyss! She pulls apart more of the hag, discovering a map of the hag's secret lair, as well several of the hag's journals and ritual lists.
     Tharyn returns to the ship, just in time before her nightly prison takes her.

Awaken and Refreshed


     The party members each awake, their bodies bruised and beaten from the battle against the Knight of Seven. Everyone meets above deck to discuss their next course of action. Tharyn slaps down the hag's map in the center of the table. Everyone looks at her with a curious glance, especially Warsch.
     "How did you get this, Tharyn?" asks Warsch. Tharyn smiles delicately.
     "I went out before dark and nabbed some of Helga's iron bones. I even found several spell books on her person: One book on hag rituals, and another of Abyssal magics."
     Warsch leans forward in anger, his hands slamming down upon the table. "You just GRABBED it!? Tharyn, you must be careful grabbing these kinds of dark magics! Necromancer or not, no one is safe from the tempetations that this book could offer. With just one glance, you could become a warlock, enslaved to some demon lord's whim!
     Tharyn scoffs at Warsch. "Says the guy who picked up a corrupted mace, disregarding the effects such a weapon could have on him! Anyways, the book belonged to a Warlock before Bleurhelga got her hands on it. I think that is how she became entwined with the demon princes. I think we should find her hideout, see what we can dig up on her past. The more we know about her, the closer we'll be to finding the Demon Princes."
     Stormdrake groans. "I think working with them is a bad idea. These are demons, Tharyn. Their machinations are unknown to us, and who knows what they are up to right now?"
     Tharyn tries her hand at persuasion. "If you help me with these demons, I'll lend you unstinting aid against Prag'tar, the ogre chieftain!"
     Stormdrake rubs his hand over his temple, closing his eyes. "Ugh... Fine! But if this whole thing blows up on us, or we all die because of that golem again, I swear to haunt you in the afterlife!"
     Tharyn smiles. Then she looks at Warsch, giving her best effort at making puppy eyes. Warsch's face is set like stone.
     "The only reason I'd ever go around with you is to prevent more chaos."
     Crow Lord kaws, ready to adventure again. Spider stretches, her back feeling stiff after the golem's attack on her. "I'll go, but I think we must remember the promise we made to Servilus: finding his family and letting them know. I think we should head there first, and then onwards to this cave."
     Tharyn smiles the idea. "Actually, based on the location of the hag's hideout, we will be going towards Rogue's Port anyways."
     Captain McHagay interrupts the party. "Now hold up one bit, lads. Our contract is over. Unless I get some compensation, there will be no fast travel for the likes of you!"
     Warsch picks up on the man's regret. "You seem to be against us going to Rogue's Port. Why is that, good captain?"
     McHagay blushes. "I-I... I have no reasons! Just... I grew up there, and I'm afraid of seeing my exes, and let's be honest here: The place is run down and lacking of good people. Robbers, bullies, the like. You won't fit in, and major attention will be drawn to the lot of ye."
     Stormdrake hands the captain 50 gold. His eyes, lowering to the good, glimmer with greed. "Well... that's quite generous of ye... But one condition! We make a stop at Skoraeus's Throne! I need to replenish the power of my engines! I only got about 10 crystals left, which may last us two days, perhaps three. Agreed?"
     Everyone nods at the anxious captain, ready to set sail.

The First Stop


     The party flies quickly to the Throne, landing several hours before sunset. McHagay tells the party "It'll be good to spend the night here. I'll be on the ship, as I don't like flying at night. I made that exception once, but ye gods that was a terrible idea! Take an inn or comeback, I don't mind. Just be here as the sunrises!"
     The party each makes their way inside the capital, however most of the shops are closing for the day. With only taverns and inns left open, the party heads over to a place near the center of town called The Gilded Goose. The party enters, baffled by the name, finding no indication of gilded goose. As they walk to the bar, a man shouts from a table.
     "Hammers of Skoraeus! What a title for heroes!" At the table of the shouting man sits an oddly familiar fellow, joined with two beautiful women who are enchantingly beautiful.
     "Please join us at this fine *hiccup* table!" The two women are beckoned away.
     At the table sits the man, however the heroes begin to recognize his traits: ebon skin and pointed ears, Graz'zt! However, he looks more human now, looking quite similar to a Drow but he is built with cords of muscles that make him look more human that anything. His golden crown sits on his head, still made of horns, but wrap around his ears and his hair is slicked back more delicately, making him look like a true gentleman. His teeth are no longer fangs, but are white molars without a chip or stain. His red eyes are still friendly, but the whites show humanity. He has six fingers on each hand, which is very weird, but his form is reduced to barely over 6 feet tall.
     Warsch sits down, not very happy. "Graz'zt, right? What happened to the rest of your posse?"
     Graz'zt chugs the last of his mug, slamming it down with delight. He looks into the somewhat empty much, reaching in with his six-fingered hand and pulls out a fly. "That's not right... *he flicks the dead insect away* Oh! My siblings and rivals! They took off! Had things to do, unlike me!" Graz'zt waves for the attention of the bar-boy, who refills his mug with ale.
     Stormdrake speaks. "Why are you here, Graz'zt?"
     "Well, I heard that this tavern was famous for its women and ale, despite being in a poor area. So I came, and beheld two of my sucuubi! Then you guys came." Warsch and Stormdrake looks at the succubi, who are each walking a man upstairs.
     Graz'zt smiles at them. "Oh, relax! Warsch, they are only here for coin, no *hiccup* soul sucking life stealing business! That's too risky, in this large town. Now, if you follow them out of the city, bad plan!"
     "No, I mean why are you HERE on this plane? And don't tell me that you are 'on vacation.'"
     "Okay, honesty: You know of the Abysmal King, yes? I told you about? Eh, well anyways We got pushed out. Which works out for most of us demons. Some are sick of the prison of the Abyss. So, the only way a demon can be brought to this world is by summoning, unless a breach is opened. However, demons cannot communicate outside unless chosen by a summoner. However, I can. As a lord, I made a warlock who served me faithfully until that freak, Bleubebeblah killed him. Sadly, the only gate I knew of- that was near her- was Onatar's Gate. You know the rest."
     Warsch looks at the demon lord and speaks: "How long do you intend to stay? When are you going to take action?"
     "A few days. Maybe a couple months. Or, like Lolth, I might just stay here for all eternity, stuck in a hole with a den of whores and fine drink."
     "And in that time, what are your intentions? If you are here to torture and prey on the weak-"
     "No, I will not be doing any of that. I am here to see the sights, maybe settle down and make a family. Teach them how to fish! Grow some wheat. The real life experience. That demon crap is behind me! I am going to enjoy my life!"
     Warsch leans forward, trying to intimidate the demon. "I swear, if you are lying, we will find a way to stop you!"
     "You know, I really don't appreciate your talk towards me. And here I was, ready to cure Tharyn of her curse. Tsk Tsk Tsk!"
     Tharyn bolts up. "Wait, you can break it? But it's hag magic, and their magic runs opposite to the magic of Gods."
     "True, but it is a simple curse. Petrification? Pffft. My curses are far more volatile and cruel. But I do not do nice things. Remember, I spared your lives from the Knight of Seven. You all owe me, not the other way around. I'm going to be leaving, travelling. However, I'll make you a deal, Tharyn. You find someone, a youngster, around 17 or so, and get them to be my Warlock. I will cure you in exchange for their service."
     Warsch gleams at Tharyn. "You cannot accept that! Damning a child is the worst thing imaginable! They will never get to live their life the way they want, blinded and chained to a demon lord!"
     "Oh, come on, Warsch. Being a Warlock isn't terrible. Great power, and they only have to fulfill my requests every so often. Most warlocks aren't even evil people! And I am not certainly evil. Gate-Crasher Graz'zt. Hero!"
     Tharyn smiles, happily to accept his offer. "I accept. But where do I start?"
     "I honestly have no clue. There are a lot of kids out there who dream of becoming knights or power mages. Give them this amulet, along with that black book you got from Bl-bleur-blahzebus! Clasp their hands around it, and I will show up, in my true form. I will be a kind, good lord! I promise."
     Warsch is practically red in the face by this point. Tharyn looks at the table, not proud of what she has walked herself into, but ready to get on with her life. Graz'zt walks out the door, melting into the crowd of people in the streets and vanishing.
     Crow Lord orders drinks for the party. Five wooden mugs are brought over by by the boy, carrying all five mugs at once. A hero! Crow Lord takes a sip, choking down the awful ale. Even on a steady diet of Goodberries, the drink is still rough and bitter. Everyone notices his reaction, and pushes the drinks away from them.
     Crow Lord writes down on a piece of paper, and gives it to Tharyn. "Don't you know some kind of taste spell? A prestidigitation, perhaps?"
     Tharyn pulls out her wand, holding it over the mugs. A pink mist descends from the tip of her wand into each drink. Crow Lord pulls a mug closer, and drinks from it. His face, covered in pure bliss, smiles with extreme delight as the mug is set down. Warsh and Stormdrake have never known the taste of alcholol, and perhaps they never will. Being religious, they leave their mugs in the center of the table, however Crow Lord and Tharyn are more than happy to take their share.
     The party, with a very drunk Tharyn, walk back to the airship. As Tharyn makes her up top, she falls upon the deck and falls into a mesmerized state. Before Warsch can carry her to her cabin, she turns to stone. Warsch groans at the concept of having to carry a stone woman, but oddly enough, the statue is much lighter than he remembered. As he carries the statue of the cursed woman inside, he can't help but feel some regret towards her life choices. Will she really sacrifice a child for the sake of a cure?
     The night rolls over the land quickly, and Tharyn is cast out of her curse, still drunk. As the captain sets sail towards Rogue's Port, She falls of the bed, puking all over the captain's polished and recently cleaned floor.

END OF BOOK I



Check out the Stories section for Book II: The End of Times