“Ask it how to kill a demilich permanently.”
“That’s enough, Scratchy. We’re not going to believe you.”
“CAN YOU JUST ASK IT?”
The Whisperstone, it turned out, was a tremendous source of information. You touched the crystal to it, focused on a question, and the answer came flooding into your mind – in Thassilonian, which is why Theodora was accessing it now.
“Alright,” she sighed, and focused on Scratchy’s question. Moments later she had the answer. “If you killed a demilich, it’ll reform in a few days. To kill it permanently you have to pour holy water over its remains while in the area of a Hallow spell. Then cast Dispel Evil to finish the job.”
“Well, our new demon – I mean – deva friend can cast those spells, right? Sure he’s in a demon’s body, but his mind’s a deva’s, so he has those powers, right?”
“If we do it will you shut up?” Milacent demanded.
“Yes, yes I will.”
They agreed to Scratchy’s request, then set about to use the other thing they’d learned from the Whisperstone: the ritual for opening the portal to Leng. This too required spells to be cast, namely a Nightmare or a Plane Shift while pouring a handful of abysium powder into the fountain. Then any creature that immersed itself partly or wholly in the water could enter the pit of silver mist and be transported to the other realm.
“I’ll need a day to prepare the spells,” Theodora admonished, “but we can get the powder now. I guess we just scrape some off of the reactor?”
Everyone agreed on the plan, and they gathered around the humming doors of the reactor room. Scratchy found no traps, but everybody stood back just in case as Zelcor cast a spell to open the doors.
They were right to be concerned. As soon as the doors swung open a wave of nausea swept over the entire party. Zelcor bent over and wretched onto the ground, while Scratchy staggered back and nearly fell into the pit. Theodora, managing to hold down her bile, looked into the room and saw a column of blue-green crystal rising out of the floor, nearly reaching the ceiling thirty feet above. Additional crystals protruded from the walls, flickering bolts of lightning arcing back and forth between them and the central crystal. With the doors open, the humming sound was thunderous, but what Theodora noticed most was small piles of blue-green dust scattered about the floor. She used Telekinesis to pull some of it out of the room, and then they rapidly shut the door.
“Everyone keep clear of this,” she said as she placed the dust into the extradimensional space of one of their magical containers, and the rest of the party was more than happy to oblige.
The next day began with the ritual to permanently kill the demilich, carried out while Milacent stood off to the side and rolled her eyes. Next came the activation of the silver gate; once all the spells were cast and the dust tossed into the fountain, everyone stood around, wondering who would be first to jump in. Helanda looked at Milacent, who replied, “To hell with it, let’s all go together.”
They covered themselves in the fountain water and all jumped at once into the pit of silver mist. It was the party plus Togbad and their new friends, Morcruft the Leng Ghoul and Aevaenthial, the deva’s mind trapped in a demon’s body. Helanda, never a great fan of interdimensional travel, leapt a second after the others, and did not enjoy herself. As she fell, she was close enough to the wall to see it fade into nothingness as she descended into the mist. Then suddenly she wasn’t falling – or at least she didn’t feel like it. She seemed to be floating weightlessly, with no idea which way was up or down. She twisted around, trying to find the others, but they were nowhere about. What she did see, in occasional glimpses through the mist, was a great coiling shape, its writhing body stretching out into the distance. Helanda began to feel sick, her old fear of magic rushing back to her, when suddenly she felt gravity again, and she knew which way was down. Beneath her feet was solid ground, but she hadn’t fallen onto it – more like it had just appeared beneath her. Helanda was standing in a circular structure some forty feet across, its domed roof supported by two thick pillars. Most of the party had already stepped outside of it, and when she followed she found they were standing on an ice-encrusted shelf of land clinging to the side of a mountain cliff. Dark storm clouds roiled above and below, and a freezing wind bit into her cheeks.
They were also not alone. Strange lanky humanoids with batlike wings dove at them from above, but they soon learned the folly of their actions. Aevaenthial had just finished crushing one when Helanda stepped outside, and she knocked another one away with her shield. Soon the only one of the creatures left was one that Morcruft had paralyzed with his ghoul touch, and it lay twitching helplessly on the ledge floor. There was an oddly high-pitched scream, and everyone turned to see Zelcor charging towards it, waving a gnome-sized longsword above his head. He came up to the helpless creature, brought down his weapon … and failed to kill it. There was a lot of blood, but still it twitched and breathed beneath him.
“Oh for goodness sake,” said Helanda, and with that she shoved Zelcor aside and plunged her sword through the creature’s neck.
The shelf they were on was over a hundred feet across, and a path flanked by immense stone sphinxes led from the building they had appeared in to a pair of doors in the cliff face. Morcruft ran up to the doors, which opened with a touch, and quickly ushered everyone inside. They were glad to be out of the wind, but the air indoors was nevertheless cold and thin, and everyone knew they’d need heat before too long.
The hallway they were in was twenty feet wide, with the walls, floor, and vaulted ceiling tiled with reflective slabs of polished purple stone, scarred here and there with cracks and discolorations. Side passages led to towering statues of regal-appearing men on either side of the main hall. Theodora sensed there was something religious about the statues and asked Morcruft who they were of.
“The Black Pharoah,” Morcruft answered in hushed tones. Clearly a god of some sort, but which one? Theodora wondered to herself.
Morcruft, meanwhile, was less interested in answering religious questions and more in finding his former comrades. He skittered down the hall and through another set of doors at the end. Scratchy followed and tried to listen through the doors, catching snatches of a heated conversation in a strange dialect of Aklo.
Presently Morcruft emerged from the doors and told the party what his compatriots had decided: if they agreed not to harm any of the Leng Ghouls, they would be allowed to pass through the upcoming chambers unmolested; by ghouls, at least.
The party agreed and moved through the doors into what was apparently the ghouls’ lair. It was, as expected, a charnel house. Forty feet across, it was strewn with all manner of half-gnawed dismembered corpses – some humanoid, some animal, and some were things that no one could identify even if they wanted to, which they didn’t. Had it not been for the cold, the stench would have been overwhelming. And along each side of the room, watching the party as they entered, ghouls crouched in a strange mixture of fear and anticipation.
“Greetings,” began Theodora, with as much charm as she could muster, “We are looking for a dragon. Do you know where it went?”
All the ghouls pointed silently to a set of doors opposite the ones they had entered by.
“Ok, I guess we’re going that way,” Theodora informed the party.
“Yes,” replied Milacent, grimacing as she kicked away a moldy skull, “Let’s get out of this room as soon as possible.”