Summary: An epic battle finishes as a group of unlikely heroes takes out an emperor who calls himself a god.
An odd cadre of people sat in the bilge of a ship that had, with a good deal of magical knowledge, been converted to an airship. All around them were assorted glowing gems, woven branches left behind by their surprise faery companions and the acrid smell of salt that never seemed to fully leave the ship after they had filled every available living space with it. They were not much to look at.
An elven man, if you could even still call him that with the amount of tentacles that sprouted like wings from his back, stood straight and looked over the room with his double-pupiled eyes. On his shoulder sat a three headed bat who was currently arguing with himself and over his corner stood a man with a large hump on his back and big eyes that looked as if they were about to pop out of his head. In the far right corner stood a man who clearly envisioned himself to be the Grim Reaper, complete with skull headed armor, black shadowy robes, and a giant scythe. Beside him stood a gnome with flaming red hair who looked thoroughly miserable. Next to him was a man who seemed to be his partner with pale skin and glowing demonic wings that sprung out of his bone armor. At a large wooden table lounged a man who was covered from head to toe in various tattoos and had a roguish grin on his face. Beside him was a half elven woman who wore an expression that was a mixture of knowledgeable and thoroughly done with whatever antic were going on around her. A shapeshifter, currently dressed in black leather and wearing the face of a human male, giggled at some joke being made between him and his human male friend whose face was covered in scars. A very pretty Illithid stood next to a hulking orc woman who seemed to be discussing her dating life. At the head of the table was a man in a long red pirate’s coat with glowing purple mushrooms sprouting out of his shoulder and growing slowly across his face and back.
They were not heroes, but they certainly were playing the part well enough.
“So what’s the plan?” asked Drew, his lanky form being supported by the back of the wooden chair he rested his weight on. The mushrooms on his face pulsed.
“Well we have to get the emperor into one place.” Solenar said plainly, his tentacles curled underneath his chin thoughtfully intertwing with his overly long fingers. It would almost be pretty if it just didn’t look so…wrong.
Remy looked around with a grin, “Anyone got the emperor’s true name?” he asked, not truly expecting an answer.
As if it were an actual command Solenar swallowed a handful of gold coins. He prayed to his gods who reached a hand into his brain and delivered a message. “Arioch.” He answered after a while.
Shock crossed Remy’s face halfway sincerely, “Wait, no shit, that’s it?”
Solenar nodded solemnly, “Well I wouldn’t say it otherwise.”
“Great,” He said, “So I will speak his true name in the center of a-”
“You know what we need? A circus tent.” Adama the shape shifter said, interrupting.
The room looked at him confused while Solenar slipped out of the room before Adama volunteered, “For the parley.”
Remy glared at him, “Beat me to it.”
Adama grinned in response, a gesture that was well practiced but seemed just a touch empty. “Great minds think alike. Or at least, okay minds think alike.”
Joespeh, the creature who looked like he was a demonic spawn , spoke up, “I am glad that admist all of this world ending horror we can still have a banter.” he said dryly.
“It’s touching, really.” Elrian, the Grim Reaper looking person said lancingly.
Remy continued forth, trying to ignore them, “So I will invite him to a parlay.”
“That’s a dumb idea,” Solenar said, straight faced, returning with a large circus tent. No one knew where he got it from. No one wanted to know.
“Well, I’m not going to actually invite him to a parlay. I’m just going to buy time to get you guys into position. Then we strike.”
“If we all get the heroes we met two days ago and get them to make pacts with the primal gods,” Anne said, doing some mental calculations, “Then have them stand at the shrines and activate them it should save us from having to run around.”
“Heroes?” Adama asked.
“Yeah we found the party the gods had intended to save the world yesterday.” Elrian said, “They were rather pathetic. We didn’t even fight them. We just gave them a handful of money and sent them on their way after they got the gems for us.”
Mabel, the pretty Illithid nodded, ” I can summon them. Besides, that paladin looked rather charming. He might be a good addition to the collection.”
The group as a whole gave their assent. “It will be a shame to have to hold back because they are there.” Joeseph said ruefully.
“Hold back?” Elrian said, callously, “Please. They are so weak they are expendable. Fire away.”
Once more the group as whole gave their assent. Anne and the gnome staning by Elrian, Rucks, gave a glare but knew they were outnumbered. These men and women were not heroes.
The pretty Illthid grinned, her tentacled forming little hearts around her head, “I’ve got them!” One by one their names were spoken and life was breathed into the words. Magic glowed in sickening shades of green runes upon the wood.
The sorceror tiefling Fallion Thunderclaw, the handsome human paladin Frank Archon, the gnome cleric of Pelor Rowan Jingles Steppenwolfe, the dwarven barbarian Murphy the Sea Wolf, and the pretty red-headed human fighter Melissara Redrick once more found themselves. A hero should have had something snappy to say, but alas they were fresh out.
“I thought we were done with you guys,” said the cleric of Pelor, clutching her symbol tighter to her chest. The noble paladin stuck his delightfully square chin forward and his gaze challenged them all to try to fight them.
Peals of laughter greeted the heroes, greatly deflating their bravado. The two skeletal figures almost had to hold onto each other just to keep from falling to the ground in mirthless laughter. Rucks looked at them with pity, as did the middle head of the bat. Poor creatures. They were in over their depth.
“Yeah, but we’re not done with you.” Remy said, once the laughter had died down, wiping a tear away from his eye with one tattooed hand, “We’re on the same side. We both want to kill the emperor and we’re going to need your help.”
“Why do we need your help?”the red-headed human fighter asked.
“Well you have two options,” Elrian said, talking to them as if they were children, “You either help us or we kill you and feed you to Qui. We’ll tell him it’s elf.” he said, referencing their nihilistic insectoid pilot who ate elves for fun and profit.
The heroes were quiet. They remembered the grisly fate that their own had suffered at this horrific party’s hands a few days ago. They did not wish to suffer the same fate. For a moment the paladin and cleric were wracked with manufactured angst at having to pay homage to more than one god.
“Their entrails would be a lovely garland,” Solenar said to motivate them, motioning with his overly flexible fingers to the walls. Everyone could notice some bones woven into the faery’s decorations.
“No need,” Frank the Paladin said quickly getting over his theological misgivings, “We’ll help.”
In a glorious training montage the party revisited the temples of the primal gods. The layers flame temple in Nari lent them audience with Pheonix and the priesthood was happy to see them again. The cleric of Pelor swore herself to Pheonix. The red-headed fighter woman was tossed down into the pit made of living wood in Dragon’s temple whereupon she fought her own sentient wooden triceratops to earn her green tattoos. Tiger was visited in the ruins underneath Miyoko as they ran past the bums and addicts that lived in the old city to earn metallic tattoos for the paladin. The temple to Scorpion under the desert was visited and the constructs of sand stepped aside to let Remy, who had already earned his tattoos, and his party aside to earn the sorceror a black scorpion upon his back. Lastly, but not leastly, the bararian dove into the ice lake behind the waterfall and sledded down the twisting ice pathway to find Serpent’s altar and earn snakes winding up his legs. All of it was very touching and character growing, though the original party felt rather bored with all of the heros triumphs.
At last the tending to the weak heroes was done. They prepared for the final fight. Drew piloted the ship to the ruins of a temple in the middle of a thick, pine forest. The lot of them disembarked upon the soft ground, with Drew staying up to pilot the ship. It was for the best. They were not sure how much of his mind was his own since he had become a symbiote.
Small stone shrines with pagoda roofs were unearthed and each hero was placed next to each altar and summarily abandoned for the moment. With the power of teamwork the assorted, surprisingly well-behaved villains erected a circus tent, a thick wooden table with chairs, and some throw pillows for ambiance.
The moment was finally upon them. Remy spoke his true name and one by one the aspects of the emperor appeared. A fae woman dressed in long green robes appeared first. Remy gave her a wink and a nod of his head, “Lady Shibiki. Hey.” She looked amused, remembering how they had met the last time. It had been worth getting thrown into prison to be able to bed her.
A man in black plate mail with a blue cloak appeared next, “Master Hirohito.” Remy said, motioning to a chair. Next appeared a monk with a long white fu manchu wearing long yellow robes, “Honored Kang. Please take a seat.” A man wearing long black robes and a red turban came next, “Kilik, glad you could make it.” Finally the man himself Shiro, the main face of the emperor, appeared with Infernal tattoos upon his body wearing black leather. At last they were all here.
Remy silently motioned him to a seat, flexing every muscle of his psionic charmisma as he spoke, “So I suppose you are wondering why I brought you all here.” he began with a flourish.
“Get to the point.” Shiro said.
“We know about your deal. We know that it is coming to an end and Asmodeus is coming to collect his debts.” Remy said, laying it all out on the proverbial table.
“He will not come for us,” hissed Shibiki, “We have paid our debts.”
Hirohito grinned, “Let him try.”
“Come on. How long can this last?” Remy said, trying to regain control of the situation.
“Shiro, please,” began Kang, “Listen to reason. We cannot go on like this.”
“I knew he was weak!” spat Kilik, “You took pity on him because he was your brother, but now he shows his worthless colors.”
With an angry shout Shiro flexed his hands and his Infernal tattoos glowed bright red. The other aspect’s personalities faded away as a glow rose up in their eyes and they moved as one with Shiro. “Will you all just shut up and give me some space to think!” he yelled, his voice echoing off the canvas walls.
Mentally Remy signalled the others, You guys better be ready. I don’t know how much longer I can hold him. but gave no sign outwards that he was concerned. Lying was Remy’s super power.
The emperor began to circle the table like a predator sizing up his prey. “Did you really think I would make a deal with a servant of my enemies?”
“Who says I’m an enemy?” Remy said, feeling like he had missed a detail somewhere along the way.
Shiro laughed cruelly, “Do you think those tattoos are decorative?” Crap. There it was: the other shoe. You couldn’t deny these distinctive tattoos as being symbols of the primal gods. The emperor continued forth, “I am surprised that they found someone to use yet again. What a shame that you won’t live to regret your decisions.”
In the blink of an eye Joeseph ran forward and grabbed Remy from the tent. “Now!” screamed Adama across the minds of all their strategically placed pawns. Flames in yellow, black, green, red, and blue sprung forth in the shrines and a thick net of something magical landed across them.
What followed next was an exercise in chaos. The pretty Illithid sent a wave of her mental energy forward, stunning Shibiki and Kilik. A mass of undead tore into Kilik, tearing him into bit sized pieces.
Then from the skies came a great roaring as two twin girls with jet black hair rode with an army upon giant bats. Behind them rode an army of cannibals, the very same army that they had run across about a year ago and burned down most of the village. Apparently they had missed a few, hiding in the jungles. Sorcerors wearing draconic armor rained down ice and lightning upon their enemies.
Not to be outdone Solenar opened up a gate. Out marched Qui, his eyes dead but his kukri dancing in the light, and the chaos gnome Thorne who had in the time he had been unmonitored carved Infernal symbols to Moloch all over his skin. A gargantuan fiendish spider named Phillip marched forth with the orc army that they had freed from the slave camps marching behind it. The twisted form of Rose ran forward eagerly with plague filled hands, though her boyfriend was barred from entering by the magical field put out by the shrines. The elven assassin, Themadrell, and Yuri, the orc shaman, followed behind apparently not wanting to leave these fine upstanding gents that they had escaped prison with to have all of the fun. It would almost have been a reunion were it not for the bloody circumstances. The undead army of drow and elves lead by the very much alive drow Fumiko brought up the rear and she raged upon seeing her ex-husband Hirohito that had murdered her once upon another lifetime ago.
“Leel, go take care of the bats,” Solenar said, watching with a muted glee as the chaos unfolded. . The hunchback shed their human skin and out popped a red insectoid with gnashing pincers. The savagery that followed as Leel laid eggs inside of the bats and they summarily exploded with new Xill children rained gore down upon everything.
Armies fought against one another in these rivers of blood. Decay and rot fought against tooth, nail and spell. Limbs flew and the whole of everything smelled of burning flesh and iron.
Kang rushed forward, raining blows down upon Remy before the psion pinned him against a tree. “I’m truly sorry about this,” Remy said, before launching a powerful ray of fire through Kang’s chest, sending him flying fifty feet away.
Joseph fought sword to sword with Hirohito. It was an even match, both landing glancing blows off the armor til finally Hirohito swung too wide. Not wanted to lose any momentum, Joeseph slammed his sword into the man’s left pectoral and through his lungs. He fell to the ground, sputtering up thick mouthfuls of blood. Harnessing the power of this lost life, Joeseph sent massive waves of energy to the undead to fuel them and strengthen them.
Elrian circled the battlefield like a vulture. All around him his undead waged war. He barked command at them and rained harmful, toxic energy in great grey and black globs. Around his shoulders his purple dragon purred with joy at all of the death. As fast as the enemies fell, they then rose up in his name nigh immediately after. Their armies only grew with time rather than weakening.
Mabel spent all of her mental energies locking down the fae woman Shibiki. Their minds battled against one another, struggling for dominance. At her back the orc woman swung her axe at cannibals, glad to be alive in this great fight. From the side came an ettin, digging into the fae queen’s body like it was tissue paper. With a wink the ettin’s face switched to that of Adama, who winked at Mabel, before rejoining the undead hoardes.
The undead now swarmed upon Shiro, flames licking their body. He took out many and it looked as if he would win. However, all of a sudden, his tattoos light sputtered out as a force came from the shrines, wrapping him in flames and drowning out his power. The undead quickly over took him. Elrian looked exultant. The dead aspects of the emperor rose once more, all save for Shiro now served him. Finally, an army that suited him.
Remy could see one of the twin girls making their way towards Shiro’s body. He moved in her way, “I know you have to kill your father.” he paused and shook his head for effect, “But not today.” he said, before letting a tornado spring out of his hand and blow her away. It would not be enough to kill her, but it would be enough to fling her far away.
On the ground Shiro’s body groaned. “But I was a god.” he weakly muttered.
Solenar took the sphere of his soul gem out of a pouch in his throat. With one motion he vomited it into the emperor’s mouth. The soul melded with his flesh and he screamed, letting go of every regret and bit of pain that he had not felt for one hundred and ninety-nine years. Elrian approached, but before he could act Remy disintegrated the body of Shiro.
Slowly the armies stopped fighting as the emperor’s forces were slaughtered. The two twin girls bodies were nowhere to be found. The pawns at the shrines stared ahead, shell-shocked and covered in gore. They were not used to the horrors of actual war. It was much different than the story books.
Finally he was dead, the man that had tormented the countryside and tossed them all into prison. The world was far from saved. They had still unleashed Demogorgon upon this plane and had an army of tsochar who were still quite irate with them. A negative energy dragon still had a nest upon this world and they carried around one of its children. They were still the monsters that loved to raise undead, bang everything that moved, and study that which should never be studied that they always were.
All the same they did good today.
Aspects of the five primal deities: Tiger, Pheonix, Dragon, Serpent, and Scorpion all manifested in the temple.
“You are not the heroes we expected.” Pheonix said, speaking for them all.
“We are not the heroes you deserved,” Remy said blithely.
“Yet you have done us a service and we will not forget that.” Pheonix continued.
The five primal deities each erected a wall to reconstuct the temple. Their power coursed into the land before they were gone in the blink of an eye once more.
“Well that’s a cool trick, “Joseph muttered, staring at the walls in envy. They positively radiated power.
Kegs were dragged out, heedless of the amount of blood on the ground. Solenar gave Leel a cigar, which she promptly and happily chewed on. Elrian took stock of his new undead. Joeseph tended to his bloodthirsty horse. Remy began to hit on the drow who had been brought back to life. Mabel eyed up the paladin Frank who was too exhausted to even be frightened. And somewhere, someone was Adama but no one could keep track of it after that sort of battle. Tonight they could relax a little and appreciate the fact that their crimes had been pardoned by many gods and that they had slew a god that was powered by the King of Devils. Served him right for turning against them, really. Consequences and more plans would come tomorrow.