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Many Alternate Doors, No Exits in Sight (MADNES) 22: Demon Banishment, A Two Step Process

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

Demon goes down the hoooooole!
Let's hope he doesn't come back . . .

Welcome back. As we left off last week, the group was sleeping off their morning/celebration of the (presumed) death of Loki. {Player's Note: Pretty sure he'll show up at some point all heroic like. Probably riding a Yeager. Then again, it's just as likely he'll show up working for the other side. You never can tell with that shifty shit.}

Later that night, the less inebriated of the group (read: Steve and Nebula) were woken up by loud cries and yelps. Thor barely tossed, muttering something about keeping the noise down. Of course he may just have been talking to Hazel, whose snoring was loud enough to drown the sounds completely out within a five foot radius of where she lay.

The two quickly crept out of the tent to see a massive war party. Dozens of Gnolls were dancing around a fire, along with one elf lieutenant. They were jumping and capering to the beat of drums, letting out the occasional shouts and yips.

Nebula shrugged and returned to her bed. Steve attempted to join in but was met part way by a few Gnolls whose lowered spears made it clear he was not welcome. Deciding that 'invited himself to a party' was not the phrase he wanted plastered on his tombstone, he followed Nebula's lead.

The next morning the group awoke to a fizzy something in cups placed near their beds. Drinking it removed the penalties they'd accrued the night before, though Hazel had required a double shot of the stuff. After drinking it, it was time to pack up and prepare to march.

The group couldn't help but be impressed with industrious way the Gnolls packed everything up, even disposing of the trash of their camp. It was then that Steve observed that all the Gnolls they'd encountered in this camp were groomed and clean, even after their activities of the last night. Whatever else they were, it was clear these Gnolls were about as strange as the monstrous ones they'd met before, if in completely different ways.

As they watched, LN whistled at them from a nearby tree. The group approached only to have him drop off a small wooden cage with a cricket inside. He was gone again before the handoff had even been completed. Thor opened the box asking 'what is this?'. Steve supplied the identification of 'cricket', at which point the Bloodrager shot a glare at him.

Nebula then suggested that it was his conscience, at which point Hazel took the container, muttering something about a top hat and cane. The cricket responded that that was cute, in Zha'luski's voice. Realizing that this was a strange two way communication system, Hazel placed the cricket on her hat.

Then it was time for the biggest Pick Up Group in the history of PUGs to start on the march. The fact that these numerous disparate groups could even embark at the same time was proof to many of divine (One might say DM) intervention, let alone arrive together and in their agreed upon locations.

But they did. And, as they crested that final rise before the town, all of their expectations were turned on their heads. They'd been told to expect a town filled with gremlins backed up by a few gibbering mouthers. Instead they were treated to completely empty streets. No townsfolk. No Gremlins. No Gibbering Mouthers. Just empty streets, and a dull purple stone floating over a fountain near the center.

They weren't fooled for a moment. That, or they were the type that followed a plan to the hilt no matter what. Whichever the reason, the armies all charged down the hill towards the town.

As they came, the expected gremlins began to ooze out of the ground. But, instead of Mouthers, large bone and shadow golems accompanied them. The Gnolls took to the former with a glee matched only by a dog with a brand new bone. (Apparently anything vaguely dog like was the bane of skeletal anythings) The other armies took the latter.

The Cupcakes found themselves in an alley fighting one of the shadow golems, a fight that devolved into a simple tank and spank, with Nebula coming out on top of the damage meters for a change. Once that shadow had been dealt with, they continued towards the church. Nebula took the lead, by dint of being faster than anyone else.

As they closed on the church she diverted down a side street where a group of dwarves led by a human were fighting another shadow golem. They'd passed within earshot of several other battles without stopping to intervene, but there was something different about this one. The PUG army was made up of many races. There were Humans, Elves, Drow, and Gnolls, all participating to take back these towns. But there were few Dwarves, despite the fact that these were Dwarven towns that were being retaken. And none of them were segregated into all Dwarf units. But aside from one taller interloper, these were all dwarves.

So Nebula came up behind the human, who was wielding a gun against the shadow, wisely stating that she was a friendly.

Not that saying such made it necessarily true. A point made quite bluntly as they finished the shadow and the human turned his revolver on her. He demanded to know who they were, what they were doing in the town, and where all the denizens thereof had gone.

Of course, the Cupcakes readied their own weapons in response. And it may have come to blows but for one of the Dwarves that recognized Thor, and vouched for the group. They then informed the Human, who identified himself as Frank Castle, of their goal. He and one other Dwarf came with the group while 2 of the remaining Dwarves watched after the two wounded they'd incurred in their fight against three of the shadow constructs.

As they walked, the Cupcakes filled their nominal allies in on what they knew was going on. They learned from Castle, that the Dwarves had independently launched their own rescue attempt. As Castle's unit had entered the town, three Dwarves in their rear guard had been swallowed up by the shadows of the building. Shadows that stepped into the sunlight as 3 shadow golems.

They'd had it down to one golem by the time Nebula had come up behind them. And that golem had technically been slain by Lt. Herelon. He mentioned that an elf with a bow had shot the thing from the rooftops before warning them to keep their distance from it. She'd disappeared over the houses before he could ask any questions. Shortly afterward, Nebula had rolled up and the thing had exploded in light.

The information exchange had lasted until they'd reached the fountain in the middle of the square. Frank had immediately asked if the crystal floating above it was one of the ones they'd talked about. When they confirmed that, he unlimbered his rifle and began firing at it.

Thor got into the act, hurling his hammer at the thing. At first it began to crack, but under the repeated pounding the cracks widened, and small bits began floating down to ground level. Eventually the massive crystal cracked in two.

Hazel quickly realized that the pieces were working to reform and threw her cloak over the crystals. She and Thor quickly tied ropes to it and began attempting to pull the two halves apart. Frank noted that all they succeeded in doing was dragging both halves around and they abandoned that approach. Frank and Thor then grabbed some of the chunks. Thor stuffed his in his newly inherited handy haversack. Frank handed his to the Dwarf accompanying him for an appraisal.

But it turns out that its a fairly racist attitude to assume that all Dwarves would have points in that particular skill; all the Dwarf could tell was that it was magic, and unlike anything he'd ever seen before. But he offered to take it to someone who had a better chance of figuring its mysteries out and set off back the way they'd come. Trusting that, if the cloak now stuck between the two halves didn't impede the crystal's function, the two pieces that had been removed would, they continued on.

The church was right around the corner from the well. As they rounded the bend, it became obvious why the Gnolls had reported simply that it was 'different'. Whereas the rest of the town was in near pristine condition, the church appeared dilapidated in the extreme. It was as if the entire city had been built around a church that had been abandoned for hundreds of years.

This observation was confirmed as Castle pushed open one half of the double doors leading inside. The door only swung a few degrees before collapsing inside. They filed in minus Nebula, who decided to take up a rear lookout position on the steps.

The inside of the church looked even worse than the outside. The pews were broken. The glass missing. The floors were cracked and spongy looking. There was rotted and rusted debris lying everywhere. And right at the back of the church stood a massive bubbling cauldron. But, unlike other cauldrons, this one seemed to be drawing a mist inside of it, instead of spilling one out.

Thor and Hazel decided to investigate the pot via broom flight. They were half way across the church when Thor got the strangest sensation that the small fire under the cauldron was staring at him. He responded by giving it the stink eye (as Christian put it).

A moment later Thor heard a deep voice in his mind, saying 'I don't much like you either!'. Then a huge fire demon began to crawl out of the cauldron. First its arms towered outside of it, bracing on two pedestals. Then came its massive head. That was as much as the group was able to see before the entire room was cloaked in Deeper Darkness.

A deep voice boomed that 'No one leaves alive'. In response, Hazel pulled her ball of darkness out. It immediately began to suck the darkness inside, but at a very slow rate.

{Player's Note: Alex glared at Beth, having completely forgotten about that little item. Fortunately for him, her UMD check was lousy.}

"Where did you get that?!" the Demon demanded, a question Hazel ignored. There might have been more, but Thor hurled his hammer at the Demon, missing both attempts. Frank took a couple of pot shots at it with similar results, and moved to open the other door, hoping a little more light might help the problem.

Steve moved cautiously forward as Nebula came crashing through the other door, having surmised from the darkness that things were not alright.

There was a streak of fire that moved towards Hazel and Thor, angling to the left, that brightened the room for an instant. In that instant, Frank noted a set of what looked like fireflies 30ft up on the right. As he called this information out, Hazel replied that it was probably Zha'luski. But the cricket warned her that the half Drow was not there.

Thor took a wand of Daylight out of his handy haversack, and cast the spell on his hammer, suddenly brightening the room. Such was his check that the sudden flash actually blinded all those in the building for at least one round.

{Player's Note: The DM growled at that; he'd completely forgotten that Loki had found that wand.}

On Castle's turn he adjusted tactics. Seeing as he couldn't hit the huge creature while blind he aimed for where he knew the cauldron to be. And crit the cauldron for a total of 86 damage. {Player's Note: Technically one cannot crit objects, but this was not realized until much later. Instead Alex simply suggested that the hit had expanded an existing crack in the pot.}

The demon bellowed 'NO!' as the cauldron cracked in half and sucked it inside. Then it seemed to collapse into a barely perceptible black speck, before disappearing with a puff of smoke.

{Player's Note: Alex's glare was quite palpable at that. He'd expected us to ignore the cauldron. He certainly hadn't expected for the only thing keeping the Demon in this plane to be one shot, one killed. I suspect that damage that didn't destroy the cauldron completely would not have affected anything at all, really. Instead, his entire encounter (with a 580 hp Demon) had been short circuited.}

As the pot disappeared it released a wave of energy. As it intersected the church, the entire structure was returned to its original state. A large cracking sound echoed from the fountain. Thor pulled his piece of the crystal out to find it made of the same dust Loki's piece had turned into when they'd made it back to the material plain.

The group stepped out of the church in the middle of a cheering throng made of 5 different armies. Thor, being the most natural in such situations, raised his hammer in triumph. Then he pointed at Frank, exclaiming loudly that the Trench Fighter had one shot, one killed the Demon.

Frank found himself immediately set upon by congratulatory Gnolls. Fortunately he was able to keep from actually drawing his weapon. But, the first moment possible, he slipped away to go and report to his commanders.

He found the head of his contingent talking to the Gnoll Shaman, a conversation held in perfect Dwarven. He stood at attention a respectful distance away until they were done. Once the Gnoll had left he reported with a salute.

The Dwarf leader then informed him that the Gnolls wanted him for their army. Apparently his deeds had already preceded him. The Dwarf told him that their own army had taken a pounding in this, partly because they attacked from one side alone, partly because they'd been the smallest group to begin with. He told Castle that they'd agreed to secure this area as a rear post for the other armies. But he wanted Castle to be their representative, to ensure these other armies kept their interests at heart. Castle agreed.

Next came the post battle festivities.

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