Week Eleven – The Demon Axaxal

43 Narlos may not ever become a holiday, but it will be remembered among the Dwarves as the day that the mines were wrested from the hands of an ancient evil and returned to their possession. It is the day that their history was restored to them, and the day that the Mahnshadden’s Relics were restored to the hands of men. Altogether a very good day.

The heroes return to the palace entryway, the Elf restored to fine health and everyone having finished their reading, and now sporting silken headbands.

As usual, the mess of a hard day’s fighting has been cleared away. The Dwarves know better than to take a step beyond where the heroes tread each day, but they do go that far and then toil to remove the stain of evil from the place.

Domi swings wide the gates of the palace and you enter in. This magnificent hall is lit from the ceiling, with dozens of grand chandeliers reflecting the light until they sparkle. The walls are lined with rich tapestries and the floors covered with tables, sofas, chairs and other furniture, each looking as if it were made yesterday. Breaking the spell of beauty is the foul stench of a decay that reeks from the left, and the litter of bones and chunks of moldering flesh that stain the thick carpets.

As you advance toward the vomitous pile, you are beset by a strong flock of peryton, grotesque creatures cobbled together by some mad alchemist of long ago and released into the world to breed. The flying creatures maneuver so that their shadow intersects their intended victim, thus marking them.

They begin swooping in, attacking you while in flight, then flapping away. Zef and Grimnar are struck, but another miscalculates and nearly collides with its ally, causing it to crash into the wall. The rest attack Waller and Seles, exacting their toll upon them.

Zef quickly goes invisible. Grimnar, Domi and Ban rush the fallen peryton and slaughter it. Seles casts sanctuary upon himself and then channels Thane’s healing to the party.

They come in again for the attack. This time Waller is ready for them and hits the one attacking him. The two young ones who were hell bent on eating Seles are unable to overcome his protective spell. Zef casts fly upon Waller. Domi takes out his gun but is unable to hit. Ban does the same, with better results. Seles channels healing again.

Grimnar has readied himself to attack and opens a deep wound on the creature focusing on him. Waller flies up to engage one or two. The young ones switch targets to Grimnar and attack, but do little damage. Nonetheless, Zef casts blur upon the Dwarf to protect him. The pack leader of the peryton swoops and hits Grimnar.

Ban shoots one of the adults with his gun, while Seles casts a cure serious wounds spell on Grimnar. The Dwarf awaits his hunter, and rams his great sword into her guts as she flies in. The creature slams into the ground, already dead. Waller catches up to a young one, and kills it with his blades. The two remaining youngsters and the pack leader keep hounding Grim, who takes the brunt of their attacks. Ban shoots another. Seles continues to pour the healing on the barbarian. Zef uses his wand to cast magic weapon on Grim’s great sword.

Waller flies up to one of the remaining adults and cuts her in half. One of the immature perytons breaks off from Grimnar and begins attacking Waller. Grim catches a young one with his sword as she passes, and then Ban fishes her with his gun. Waller finishes the other.

As the pack leader comes at Grimnar, he looses his grip on his sword and desperately attempts to keep it from hitting the floor. Ban starts pumping round after round into the leader, whle Waller cases her around exchanging blows. Finally, a shot from Ban fishes her and the fight is over.

In the pile of carcasses you find the mostly-eaten body of a Dwarf. His head is still somewhat intact, but his ribs jut out as if something reached in and ripped his heart out. In a leather pouch you find a copper looking glass that works, and a blood-soaked note.

Grimnar and Waller puzzle some of it out, but give up in the interest of continuing the fight.

The party turns to the Hall of Legends, a broad hallway lined with twenty alcoves. Each alcover contains a statue of a Dwarven hero of old. As they approach, the statues in the first set of alcoves animate and step out. The lads are able to defeat the two statues without taking too much damage, but the process is brutal on the weapons, which take as much damage as they give. Ban is fully effective with his gun though, and an idea is born.

As the first set crumbled to pebbles, there remains an exquisite heavy flail, much like the stone weapon the statue carried, but no longer stone. The first of the relics is revealed. By the time the statues are destroyed (with relative ease due to the bolt guns), they have dropped seven weapons, an Elvish staff and a shield.

Grimnar takes the heavy flail, which is called Guydan’s Kiss. A matched pair of long swords called Twin Blades are placed in Zef’s bag of holding for safe keeping. A long sword named Ainna’s Wrath is quickly claimed by Ban. A pair of kukris named the Red Butchers go to Waller. Domi claims a morningstar named the Unexpected. Zef chooses the Elven staffed which is called Evening Star. Finally, Seles takes up a shield called Thane’s Peace.

These arms are legendary among the Dwarves, though none living know the truth of them except the party. Each item has its own unique characteristics that seem to mold themselves supernaturally to their wielder. Odd, but nobody give it much thought other than to be gladdened by their new-found wonders.

At the end of the Hall of Legends are two large doors, with evil thick upon them. Spells are cast in preparation, then Domi throws open the doors.

The stairs lead down to a forty foot room with a hard-packed sand floor. The stair is broad and just right for folk to sit on the steps and watch the action below. It is an arena then. Around the walls of the room are a great number of vases, each painted in fanciful and beautiful colors. Two grubby , fat, short, almost naked creatures are chained to the back wall, their necks roped with many strings of jewels. When they see you, they go into a frenzy, causing their chains to snap. A cloud of filty, stinking mist oozes forth from their mouths.

Grimnar and Waller run down the stairs and cut the little demons down. Without warning, a great demon jumps in the sand behind them. Then there are many of them, but obviously due to a mirror image. Seles casts prayer.

Zef wields his bow and eliminates one mirror image. Grimnar, haste upon him, takes out another three. Waller his another, then the actual Demon. The demon taunts the party telepathically as it fights, claiming the name Axaxal. Ban smites the demon twice, causing great damage with his new sword. Axaxal smashes Seles, then blasts everyone with an energy wave.

Seles casts holy smite and manages to work through the demon’s resistance, then heals the party. Zef puts distance between himself and the demon. Grimnar moves in and hits once. Waller hits as well, but his blade does no damage. Ban hits again, staggering the demon who disappears.

A moment later, Axaxal reappears next to seles, tears him up a bit and then blasts another energy wave. Seles drops to the ground, unconscious. Zef does a quick port and then casts displacement on Domi.

Grimnar hits the demon with a monster shot, followed by lightning hits from Waller who then rends the demon. Ban, putting his team before glory, channels healing to bring Seles up. Domi comes up on the demon and uses his morningstar’s special properties to sneak attack. Seles channels healing for himself and others.

Axaxal savagely attacks Grimnar in retaliation for his wounds and then fires off another energy wave. Zef casts slow upon the demon, and miraculously lands it. Grimnar uses renewed vigor upon himself, then moves in and gets all the healing stripped off of him from an attack of opportunity. Waller runs in, taking a hit for his trouble, then gives back as good as he got. Finally, Ban steps up and smites the demon twice with his might long sword, and the spawn of the Abyss gives out a shriek as he is banished back to his own stinking plane after haunting this place for fifteen hundred years.

As the demon dies, an air of darkness lifts from the place–a feeling so profound that the cheers of the Dwarves can be heard in distant rooms. Finally, the mines are free of the evil that has bound them for so many lifetimes.

In the ruins of the pottery in the arena, Zef finds a scroll. It is called the scroll of the pilgrims, and it is a spell that Zef can learn, allowing a small party to teleport within ten miles with no more than a good description and the known name of the place. Beat up and and tired, the heroes gather their things and march back to the sphinx’s lair to prepare for the celebrations that are sure to follow the mines’ liberation.

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