Encounter 33

With the university apparently deserted, Wistark drops his lackadaisical pretences and strides confidently towards the office of Professor Finnagin. He is on his way towards a nearby set of stairs when there is an incredible crash, shaking both the building and the wizard inside it. The ceiling above the staircase crumples inwards and then gives way, raining thrice the amount of rubble required to obliterate the decorated stone. The hairs of the wizard’s great moustache stand alertly on end as he senses a sudden influx of magic, and in response he dashes behind a pillar to escape plain sight. It is fortunate that he does so, for upon the ruin that results there stands a muscular 25ft-tall demon. In one hand it holds Professor Oliver Finnagin.

With not a trace of ceremony, the dark creature puts the professor in its mouth, bites down on his torso, then pulls at his legs and rips him in half. Wistark is witness to this terrible scene and feels a nauseated guilt for suspecting the unfortunate scholar. The demon steps off the rubble created by its entrance and walks slowly forwards in Wistark’s direction, chomping on Oliver’s body without any visible relish. The pyromancer knows that to face such an abomination alone would be suicide, and attempts once again to cloak himself with the correct amount of magic to become invisible. The talent is still beyond him. The demon gets closer, now only a few metres away. It sniffs the air and looms closer still, perhaps sensing the wizard’s magical aura.

Wistark presses rigidly against the pillar, making no attempt to move in fear of the noise it might create. A door flings wide open and Grimlock Skullfucker enters the room. The dragonborn eyes the gigantic fiend without fear and strides confidently in its direction, keenly fingering the handle of his recently retrieved greataxe. The demon turns away from Wistark’s hiding place to confront this bold mortal. An archer appears from the corridor – the elfguard. Euven nocks his bow and waits for orders. Norman and Gravilla walk past him, Norman nodding to the obedient elf his permission to fire. An arrow whips through the air above Grimlock’s head and lightly punctures the demon’s hide. Though lightly stung, the monster’s unchanged expression makes clear that the damage is minimal.

Norman, Grimlock and Gravilla move into close quarters with the foe. There is a magic burst to one side – the Flaming Sphere has joined them. The four lash out with hammer, axe, halberd and fire, and bolstered by the confidence of fighting alongside each other create a barrage of punishment that causes the demon visible pain. The massive beast is smashed to one knee by Gravilla’s hammer, but jumps back to its former position without exposing itself for even a second. It swipes at the group with an outstretched arm, knocking Norman off his feet and booting him across the ground. Euven loosens his bow and retreats back down the corridor, planning to ascend the stairs in the room beyond and kick through the stained glass window for a luxurious eye-level sniping point. Norman gets to his feet and steps back into the fray without hesitation – the demon is not the only one who can shrug off damage.

The party smash away at the demon with their full potential uncharacteristically on show. Gravilla takes a risk, stepping close to the Flaming Sphere to exploit the demon’s exposed armpit. She scores a devastating hit that is well worth the scorching she receives from Wistark’s remotely wielded deathball. Grimlock decides to go one bigger than the goliath, using his great height and strength to leap up high at the demon’s face. With a draconic roar he scores a brutal strike against the enemy with his greataxe, cutting a deep gash in its cheek that seems to cause it ever so slightly more pain than Gravilla’s attack. The demon snarls coldly, reaching forward and grabbing Grimlock easily in one hand. The fierce dragonborn is lifted tens of feet into the air and, not particularly concerned, prepares to bite down on a big red finger. He doesn’t get the chance – the demon rears back and throws him hard, sending him straight through the stained glass window. The muscular reptilian body crashes amongst glass and lies still, shocking Euven on the stairs nearby (who is a bit miffed at not getting to smash the decorated window himself).

Norman is a frenzy of multi-tasking activity – hanging a spectral weapon above the demon to weaken its defences, while bolstering his own with comforting cleric phrases and also lashing out with his halberd more than once, cutting steadily deeper into the flesh below the demon’s bulky left knee. The Flaming Sphere is also relentlessly on the attack, crackling with shockwaves of fire that blast out and scorch the rear end of the giant enemy. Norman decides to leave the demon in the capable hands of his subordinate and the Sphere, and hightails it out of the room to make sure that Grimlock is okay. His goliath subordinate now boldly takes up the demon’s full attention, knocking away its fat fingers as it reaches towards her and mentally preparing for the long duel ahead.

Grimlock feels himself lifted from the ground, shards of glass dropping away from him, and experiences something between a shiver and a full body punch before opening his eyes to find himself in hell. Chill spirits float alongside his helpless body as it is dragged by one foot through shattered bones. His struggles prove fruitless and his roar is unexpectedly feeble. There is another punch-shiver, and he finds himself back in the university, not far from the shattered remnants of the stained glass window he was thrown through, held by a man-sized, four-armed insect demon. His wrists are gripped by two large, brown pincers and he is too confused to resist when two more uppercut him beneath the jaw, bludgeoning him until he falls unconscious into its cold arms. The pincer demon is charged at by a running dwarf – Norman has arrived to save Grimlock’s ass! The demon drops its scaly burden and climbs up a pillar to the balcony above, then leaps onto the armoured knight from above and pummels him from all sides. Norman’s long weapon is useless at such close quarters, and he takes a severe beating. He is grabbed and teleported into the hell that Grimlock experienced. This must be the spirit realm spoken of in the lore of the knights.

In the next room, the Sphere perches on the demon’s squat backside and delivers a red-hot anal blasting, grinning inanely in the process. The abomination turns its head and stares down at its chargrilled ass. Using this moment of demonic inattention, a figure leaps from the shattered window and stabs the hulking demon in the ear with a longsword. The dark armour reveals that it is Euven, who withdraws his blade in a flash and jams it into a bulky shoulder, then slides down the beast using the weight of his body to rip open its tough flesh. The demon howls sharply then swats angrily at the elfguard, sending him scuttling towards the back of the room. Wistark is close by, directing the Flaming Sphere from afar with his staff and still hiding behind a column. The wizard begins to grow concerned that Grimlock and Norman have not yet returned and, after razing the enemy with a fresh heatwave from the Sphere, sprints out of cover to check up on them. His path takes him into the demon’s direct line of sight, but fortunately it is still busy hunting the elf and he makes it through the double doors unscathed.

Though the room beyond is still, Wistark is perceptive enough to see the motionless bodies of Norman and Grimlock. The dragonborn is bleeding heavily and looks to be in very dire shape indeed, likely only moments away from death. The wizard’s trusty moustache tingles, warning him of the pincer demon that appears a split-second later and attempts to gore him with three of its four claws. Wistark wards off the attack with a shield of magic then charges past the demon to help Grimlock before it is too late. A spinning claw cuffs the wizard as he runs but fails to hinder his progress. Wistark arrives by Grimlock’s side as Euven enters the room. Seeing that Norman has been downed, the elfguard rushes to his side to administer first aid. The insect demon teleports in front of him and strikes out with one of its serrated pincers, failing to grab but cutting Euven across the face. Wistark attempts to heal Skullfucker before it is too late but the great lizard is too grievously injured, his blood now a vast pool on the floor.

The elfguard stands protectively over Norman’s body and duels the pincer demon silently and without fear. After knocking the demon a step back, he lets wide his defences to finish reviving the dwarf beneath him. Seconds before Norman’s eyes flicker open, the brave elf is grabbed by the demon and both vanish immediately from the room. Nearby Grimlock has become deathly pale, and Wistark makes one last effort to heal his steadfast ally, directly channelling magic into the great warrior like one would transfuse blood. Though the attempt is exhausting, Wistark feels Grimlock’s ruptured insides mend significantly and watches as colour returns to the hideous lizard face of his friend. Despite feeling quite spent, he then gets to his feet and moves enough that he can see the Flaming Sphere in the other room through the open corridor. With direct line of sight restored, he is able to resume control of the furious fireball. Grimlock gets slowly off the ground nearby and settles into a comfortable crouch that allows him to access his hidden reserves of strength.

When Shizbitts left the room, Gravilla was left to take on the giant demon by herself. The Flaming Sphere continued to emit a scorching heat but, without wizardly direction, lacked its usual badass vigour. It has been only two or three minutes since, but each second has felt like an eternity to the goliath, fighting defensively to distract the huge monster, constantly aware that giving it any advantage would be a fatal mistake. Her attention is so consumed that she does not notice the dark portal growing on the ruin of the staircase. She hears but refuses to be distracted by the whipcrack sound that precedes the arrival of the elfguard and insect demon, appearing in the room with a bang and flash. Her eyes remain locked on those of her 25ft-tall foe, and its eyes remain on hers as they circle each other, each doing their best to trick the other into lowering their guard. Norman runs into the room to join her as the Flaming Sphere crackles back into its full potency. Gravilla smiles tiredly in relief – the hardest part of this ordeal is now over.

The fight continues, with Norman, Gravilla and the Sphere combating the giant demon while Euven duels the four-clawed insect by himself, remaining grim and focused despite being teleported in and out of the spirit realm several times more. The larger of the two demons begins to weaken, so Gravilla allows Norman and the Sphere to take some of the pressure off, stepping back to wait for her moment. It comes and she does not hesitate. The giant behemoth swipes at Norman, knocking the dwarf off his feet, and its hand is carried into range. Gravilla hammers its fingers against the floor and then jumps towards its stomach as it recoils. She dropkicks the belly of the beast, doubling it over in pain despite its monstrous size. Its descending face is greeted by a hammer uppercut that knocks it senseless, dropping it to the ground long enough for Gravilla to wheel her arching hammer blow around and smite it through an eye socket. She strikes it again in the same place, crushing it against the ground with the force of her attack. The third hammerfall is the demon’s death knell. It convulses violently and then lies still, dead.

A great victory, but the battle is far from over. The pincer demon remains at near full strength, and as the party turn to face it they see another creature squeeze through the portal at the other end of the room, perhaps foolishly ignored. A great, demonic spider enters the battlefield, fresh enough from the portal that eerie vapours float from its hairy abdomen. Wistark directs the Flaming Sphere to this new target, and is glad to see the portal closing shut after delivering this new opponent. The spider rears up on its four hind legs and shakes itself free of dimensional slime. It then scuttles across the room, moving away from the Sphere towards those of flesh and blood. It encounters a large dragonborn, looking the very definition of the word ‘bloodied’ as he charges headlong into Demon Battle Attempt 2. Grimlock seems remarkably energetic after his foray into death (which he no doubt spent kicking and swinging at those trying to invite him into the light), and smashes the spider hard enough with his axe that it starts to regret entering the mortal realm.

Euven appears somewhere nearby with the pincer demon, still going strong despite yet another unwilling teleportation. Though the great insect meant to frighten and confuse the elf it has succeeded only in tiring itself. It slashes out with all four claws, but the mysterious guard simply rolls away from the blow then cuts off an arm with a lightning-fast stroke of his sword. The demon disappears once again, but this time does not bring Euven along for the ride. It reappears 20 feet away and the elfguard gives chase, the duel now noticeably going his way. Meanwhile, the spider has proven a very agile target, dancing away from Wistark’s Sphere and from the sharp weapons of the party. It lobs a poisonous grenade at Grimlock and Norman that explodes against their skin, leaving them itchy and burnt. Grimlock leaps forward and makes a wide slash against the spider, successfully utilising his impressive reach to cut off three of its legs. It screeches in agony and Grimlock steps forward to finish it off. A large hammer descends onto the demon’s face and murders it. Grimlock is not happy.

Gravilla turns and walks smugly towards the pincer demon (fully knowing what she did). Grimlock walks in the same direction then jumps onto her with arms outstretched to deal out some pain to the shameless kill-stealer. She knew it was coming and hops nimbly out of the way. Grimlock lands on the floor and tries again, but this time she smacks him away with one hand. He growls quietly, but unfortunately they are now near enough to Euven, the wizard’s fire sphere and the pincer demon that petty squabbles must be put to one side. An idea forms in the dragonborn’s flame-resistant mind and he rushes ahead of Gravilla to put it into action. He reaches striking range but does not raise his weapon, instead choosing to put it completely away.

Watching from a distance, Wistark is gobsmacked to see Grimlock lift the flaming sphere with his bare hands and smash it onto the head of the pincer demon. The demon flails its arms, maddened by the pain of the blazing ball covering its face. When it opens its cavernous mouth to scream, Gravilla smashes the Sphere with her hammer, forcing it straight down the demon’s throat. It teleports to the other side of the room, taking the consumed spell with it. Its entire torso glows oddly as the enraged pyro continues attacking from the inside. Grimlock walks proudly to the pincer demon’s new position and smites it a fatal last blow. The cleaving strike cuts deeply enough that the Sphere is also destroyed, exploding dramatically alongside its dead host. Pieces of the ghastly insect rain all over the room. With silent pride, Grimlock catches one item in his right hand – its fractured skull.

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Encounter 33

The Whisperer in Darkness Wistark