The party set up, just outside of sight of the creature in the crown. From Scratchy’s description, Theodora realized she had met the thing from her first dream in the monastery, the one where it had asked her all the questions. Everyone figured it was a powerful mummy, the leader of the ones they had just defeated. It had just stood here and let its minions be destroyed, a cold-blooded move. On the other hand, you had to respect its confidence.
On a signal, the attack began. Helanda rushed forward, then suddenly stopped as a wave of magical fear swept over her. Theodora cast a spell on Milacent, who grew to giant size and thundered forward, only to be stopped by the same barrier of magical fear. Scratchy, fortunately, was far enough away to be unaffected by the mummy’s fear aura. Moreover, the mummy didn’t see him, and he had a clean shot straight to its head. He aimed carefully, loosed the arrow, and it flew in the most perfect arc he’d ever seen straight into the creature’s eye. It shrieked and fell back, and then the rest of the party poured on the damage. Moments later, the thing was dead.
Milacent lumbered forward and looked at it disappointingly. “Well, I guess I became giant-sized for nothing,” she sighed.
“No, you’ll be that size for several more minutes,” Theodora admonished, “If we keep going you’ll be that size for easily one or two fights more.” And for emphasis she pointed to a set of double doors behind where the mummy had stood, each door sealed by a doomsday lock.
Fortunately, the party had two doomsday keys at the ready. They opened the doors and rushed through before they could close again, and found themselves in another wide corridor, this one turning off to the right. They turned that corner and found themselves face to face with two large stone statues, each carved in the image of the second person Theodora had seen in her dreams, Ardathanatus.
“Golems!” Scratchy cried as the statues began to move, and he started shooting at the nearest one. It drew close to the party and unleashed a magical storm of pebbles and dust around it, temporary slowing Helanda and Koriah, who were closest. Zelcor saw the other one moving, and put up a Wall of Force to keep it out of the fight. With only one golem to battle, the party surrounded it and pounded it into dust, then moved on to its companion. When the golems were defeated, the party moved on to what the golems were guarding: another set of double doors, with another two doomsday locks.
“Should we rest up a bit before we go through?” Zelcor asked.
“No! Go through now! While I’m still enlarged!” Milacent shouted.
It was hard to argue with a giant-sized warrior woman wielding a magical spine as a weapon, and the party opened the doors. As soon as they did, a nauseating pale green light flooded into the corridor. The room beyond was an enormous cathedral, furnished with nothing but a few crumbling pews and four immense pillars. Twisted bodies of strange, not-quite-humanoid forms lay strewn about the far end of the room, and just beyond them, two towering wood-and-metal doors engraved with the symbols of Groetus. The light was emanating from the edges of these doors, and without anyone having to say a word, everyone knew that they had finally arrived at the fabled Doomsday Door beneath Windsong Abbey. There was little time for taking in the sight, however, as the room was far from unoccupied. In front of the door stood Ardathanatus, finally in the flesh, and before him two sinspawn and two more of the gongorinan qlippoths the party had tangled with earlier.
There would be no parley, no threats, no attempts at pre-fight banter: the battle was on. One of the qlippoths waved its claws, and magical energy sparkled around Milacent. Theodora recognized the telltale signs of a Reduce Person spell, but Milacent resisted and remained a giant. Zelcor began the actions needed to cast a Fireball, and halfway through the motions an arrow slammed into his arm, fired by one of the sinspawn. The gnome grit his teeth and finished the spell, regardless of the pain. A beam of light shot into the center of the room, and exploded into flame amongst the enemies therein. Helanda, Koriah, and Milacent began to move forward, then grimaced in pain. Looking down, they saw that the floor had suddenly shaped into thousands of long sharp points, rendering walking slow and painful. Scratchy avoided the spikes by climbing along the walls and ceiling, trusting the shadows to hide him in the event someone decided to look up. Once inside the room, he began making his way to the obvious source of the spikes: the spellcasting Ardathanatus.
Theodora set about healing the injured feet of the fighters, but knew that getting close enough to harm the enemy would be a struggle. She consoled herself with the knowledge that at least the qlippoths wouldn’t be able to get close enough to use their dreaded gaze attack and render half the party confused. Then she looked on with horror as one of the gongorinans came rushing forward, walking on the air a few inches above the spikes as if it were a solid floor. It came quickly to the forefront of the party and revealed its horrible visage. This time, however, the party was ready. Everyone looked away and the creature’s effort was for naught. It started to retreat back to where it had started, but Milacent lashed out with her giant-sized weapon in her giant-sized arms and reached it easily. With her already prodigious strength enhanced by her size, she quickly mashed it into qlippoth paste.
Zelcor, meanwhile, put up a Wall of Force between the sinspawn archers and the party. Not only would it stop arrows from reaching him, but it would block any spells from coming their way as well. Scratchy was crawling over the wall when he heard something shriek, “Master! There’s a wall here!” It appeared he was not the only unseen combatant creeping around the room.
Ardathanatus reacted to learning about the wall by casting a protective spell upon himself. He rightly perceived that extra protections would come in handy when the party got into melee range. Little did he know how soon that would be.
“Everybody grab hold of me!” Zelcor shouted. Helanda, Milacent, and Theodora all did, and an instant later they had teleported into the room, directly in front of Ardathanatus. Koriah, her father, and the hill giant had been too far away at the time of the casting, and now they would have to get past both the spikes in the floor and the Wall of Force to get to the rest of the party. Their part in the fight was over.
For others, however, the fight was just beginning. The other unseen combatant appeared, materializing out of the air as his Invisibility spell ended. It was the mouthless creature that had claimed to be the librarian, the one that had turned to gas and fled when the party had met it previously. It held out its hand, and a vague ghostly shape appeared before Milacent. At least, that’s what everyone else saw. Milacent saw a hundred-tentacled qlippoth floating in the air, swiping at her with razor-sharp tentacles. She felt a sting of pain, then realized: no, this is an illusion. She had fought enough magicians to know the difference between real opponents and illusory ones, and with that realization the imaginary qlippoth disappeared.
An arrow slammed into Zelcor, fired by the sinspawn. The gnome realized that they could not fight both Ardathanatus and his minions, so in the pause while the archers were reloading he put up a second Wall of Force, isolating Ardathanatus and the four party members next to him. The mouthless ‘librarian’ screamed in frustration as it cast another spell, this one striking the wall and dissipating harmlessly. Zelcor felt relieved, then felt a little less relieved when he saw through the wall that the remaining qlippoth had caught sight of Scratchy. It turned its baleful eyes upon the party’s goblin scout, and an instant later there was a squirrel where Scratchy had been.
Helanda, meanwhile, struck at Ardathanatus as he tried to cast a spell. She caught his hand mid-gesture, and magical energies sparked all around them as the spell failed. She struck at him again. He was well-armored and a skilled fighter, but with four of them fighting him alone, things were looking good for the party. Theodora felt good too, good enough that she could take a second to notice the strange sound that permeated the room: it was a breathing sound, apparently emanating from the door. It did not escape her that it was the same sound that she heard whenever she focused on the Shard of Envy.
Scratchy the now-squirrel, for his part, ran around trying to warn the others that they were not entirely isolated behind the Wall of Force. The sinspawn had determined that the wall did not go completely to the ceiling, and were firing arrows wildly over the top, hoping to hit somebody, anybody. The librarian had turned once again to gas, and was floating upwards towards the top. The qlippoth was using its ability to walk on air to ascend over the wall, and as soon as it did it cast its gaze upon Helanda, turning her into a rabbit. Ardathanatus took advantage of the break in being attacked to cast a spell, causing a vertical curtain of whirling blades of force to appear between him and Milacent. Part of the barrier passed through the area where Theodora was standing, and she jumped out of the way only an instant before being filleted.
Zelcor wasn’t paying much attention to the squirrel running around, but he was concerned about all the arrows falling around him. He cast a third Wall of Force above the previous one, this one extending all the way to the room’s forty-foot ceiling. The gas cloud that had been the mouthless creature was blocked off from the party, but the qlippoth had already passed over the wall, and rushed forward to grab at Theodora. She dodged out of the way, and it grasped only air.
All this time Milacent had been striking at Ardathanatus. He was very good at fighting, but no match for her, especially in her giant state. The wall of blades impeded her somewhat, but the strikes still came. It got worse when Zelcor dispelled the enchantment on Helanda, returning her to her normal form. Ardathanatus let out a curse and began exuding dark energy, corroding the life force of everyone around him, but an instant later Milacent removed his head.
The elf’s body collapsed to the ground. Theodora turned to face the qlippoth that was attacking her, but as soon as Ardathanatus fell it drew away. Theodora’s relief was only temporary, however, as the green light coming from the door immediately turned black. The door then flung open, revealing a giant maw surrounded by enormous tentacles. These reached into the room, one coiling around Ardathanatus’ body. The others lashed out at the party members, but whatever magic had opened the door was incomplete and unstable; they seemed to phase in and out of existence, and no party member was grabbed.
Theodora looked down at Ardathanatus’ body and saw that it was being dragged into the portal. “It’s going to take the shard!” she shouted. “We have to stop it!” She saw Helanda hacking at the tentacle, but there was no sign of it doing any good.
“Grab the body and then hold on to me!” Zelcor commanded, “I can teleport us out of here!” Helanda held the body, but she was out of reach of Zelcor. Theodora, however, knew the spell that was about to be cast: Dimension Door. It didn’t require that all the people to be moved be touching the caster, just that they be touching each other; only one had to be actually touching the caster. Theodora reached out her arm, grabbing onto Helanda’s outstretched one. With her other hand, she began reaching toward Zelcor, but the Blade Barrier was between them. She grit her teeth, reached through it, and grabbed on to the gnome. As the blades flayed her arm, she shouted “Now!” and an instant later they were gone.
“Wait! What about me!” Scratchy shouted as the others teleported away. Or he thought that, because he was a squirrel. Tentacles were flailing all about the room, and he could see the maw beginning to open. If this was Yamasoth, qlippoth lord, coming through the door, then he would have a gaze attack much like all other qlippoths, and Scratchy had no desire to experience it firsthand. He ran to a spot out of sight of the portal and covered his eyes. There was an unholy screeching, and when Scratchy opened his eyes again all the creatures left in the room were proceeding into the door. They entered, and it slammed shut behind them.
Scratchy was just working up an appropriate sense of bitterness over being abandoned when Zelcor reappeared in the now-empty room. “Scratchy?” he called out, “Are you around here? Hey little squirrel, do you know where Scratchy is?”
Scratchy bit him.