Part 1 Part 2 (Sorry I posted out of order)
Aludra didn’t have time for any of this demon shit. She and Thom had landed so that the griffins could get some kind of rest after they had searched all over for Bucky and they had already been attacked 3 times by different groups of demons. There had been fire demons, ice demons, and demons that had mostly looked confused about why this angry beardless dwarf couldn’t seem to hit them with her hammer, and now a fourth group launched themselves from behind a rock. They frothed at the mouth and grew weird tentacles from every orifice. Ew.
She glanced over at Thom, but he looked enthused to say the least. He was already swinging about with Blood Drinker and yelling phrases like “Come on, I’m not even close to bloodied yet! Let me slap you with my sword and hear you beg for more.” Sometimes she really wondered why she travelled with him. He continued to slice and chop, the bloody sword carving through the demons with unabated strokes. She was glad she hadn’t said that out loud and allowed him to make a joke about unabated strokes. At length she finally scored a hit or two with her hammer and Thom chopped up the rest. As he stood over the last corpse, she could have sworn that the dragonborn’s eyes were glowing with a deep red light. When he looked at her, she worried for a moment that he might come after her next. But then the moment ended and there was no glow in Thom’s eyes. Perhaps she had imagined it.
Just as she was getting ready to get back on her Griffin a voice from nearby called out to her in an uncertain tone. “Aludra is that you?” She whipped her head around and the speaker’s face nearly stopped her heart.
“Balder Oakback?” she said. She nearly fell on her face in her rush to get off her griffin.
“Aludra,” said Balder. “It’s so wonderful to see you again, everyone was sure you were dead.” The dwarf man clasped her hand and smiled with an exuberant expression. He wore nice clothes that had long since been somewhat sullied by the road, but he made no hesitation before pulling her into a hug. “I was leading a trading party on the way to Caer when all this mess started and I’m the only one left, and oh…” he was beginning to blubber a bit now, “it’s just so good to see you.”
“Who is this guy?” asked Thom.
“My fiancé,” said Aludra shakily. They shared a shocked glance for a moment before Thom got back to being Thom.
“Does he know anything about the gnolls?” he said, that same expression on his face that he always wore when he discussed the hound-like creatures.
“I doubt it Thom,” said Aludra, “Just-”
But Balder cut her off. “I do actually know about the gnolls though. I had to go the long way around at one point in order to avoid their moving city.”
Thom’s look became positively dripping with bloodlust. “Tell me more,” he said.
Lex was guarding the Dog Park, making sure no one went inside as usual and having a relaxing day in the Demon Apocalypse. It was a little nippy today though and she didn’t like the look of those clouds… was that a vision she was getting right now? A flash of that nice dragonborn Thom in danger from something she couldn’t see and something about gnolls. Maybe it was the weather though? She thought about it for bit and then decided to go talk to her besty. She danced down the road humming a tune to herself and contemplating the beauty of the universe.
The Necromancer looked at Jaela with a curious expression. “You’re not eating my dear,” he said sounding slightly disappointed. Jaela was nice though, not stupid.
“That’s because its poisoned,” she pointed out in a friendly tone. The necromancer laughed in a grandfatherly kind of way.
“So it is, so it is,” he said sounding not at all abashed to be discovered attempting to poison his guest. The big shadowy tower was cozier than expected and there was a merry fire playing in the hearth. Jaela tried not to get too comfortable in her armchair since there was a fairly good chance her generous host, sweet looking old man though he might appear to be, would try to kill her again.
“How can I help you though?” asked Rickert, contemplating his own poison-less meal and taking a bite of the meat pie.
“I’d like to borrow the Hammer of Sundering if possible,” said Jaela, keeping the conversation friendly for now. There was no reason to try intimidating the necromancer, and she had a feeling that if she tried, she wouldn’t have much success against him in this house.
“Oh, the Hammer of Sundering,” said the necromancer looking interested, “you know you’re the second person to ask me about that. I do hope you’ll be willing to pay me unlike that Consultant fellow.”
“Consultant?” asked Jaela.
“Oh yes,” said the necromance as he happily applied ketchup on scrambled eggs, “He was an odd fellow, blew right through all my challenges and snuck past every spell I had in place to detect visitors. Odd fellow he was, willing to put up with my challenges but not pay the fee.”
“How much?” asked Jaela. She pushed the poisoned food away from her to fight the temptations of her rumbling belly.
“15,000 gold,” he said, and her stomach sunk into her socks. Erathis had only given her 100 gold and that had felt generous.
Worry not Jaela. Said the voice of Erathis in her mind. I can assist you here once again.
My lady? Thought Jaela back, shocked that Erathis would be giving her financial assistance of all things. Then again, the goddess had given her gold to start her journey so why not now?
Look in your bag of holding Jaela. Said Erathis. You will find what you need inside.
Jaela thrust her hand into her bag of holding as instructed and it emerged with a bulging coin bag so heavy even she had trouble lifting it. Thank you so much my lady. Her personal connection with Erathis honored Jaela more than she could ever possibly communicate. It was strange that her first permanent companion on her quest was her god, but she could hardly complain about that.
There was no reply from Erathis, but she felt a sense of benevolent charity wash over her from the goddess and Jaela couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear.
“Oh,” said Rickert, “that looks like enough, thank you very much.” He stopped for a moment looking contemplative. “I usually make people travel through the challenge rooms before I make a sale but… that Consultant fellow was by here only a few months ago and I suppose that’s enough entertainment for now.” He produced a great hammer from out of a safe in the wall and held it out to her. The huge hammer had a feeling of ominous austerity about it. This was a primordial, unornamented device meant to break things. The steel felt cool in her hands and she quickly moved it into her bag of holding.
“One more thing my dear,” said the little old necromancer as he scrambled back towards his meal. “that Hammer will break when used, and it will destroy the soul of whoever wields it, so do be careful.” He shoved mashed potatoes onto his fork and into his mouth.
Jaela quailed for a moment but then remembered her responsibilities and the solemn presence of Erathis in her mind. “I’m prepared,” she said.
Aludra, Thom, and Balder stood shoulder to elbow to shoulder on top of the hill and watched the crawling city of Yeenoghu make its way across the empty valley in silence. Even Thom had nothing to say as they watched hundreds of thousands of gnolls carry a city inch by agonizing inch. They were far enough away that they couldn’t make out the finer detail, but even at this distance Aludra could sense the suffering and pain in the multitude of cries rising out from the pack of monsters. In fact, the adventurers could only see the outer edge of the gnolls under the city but that was enough. The sheer scale of the city lying on the backs of the gnoll slaves and the scent of dead blood on the air was enough for them all to recognize they truly saw: a moving sacrifice to the Demon Lord Yeenoghu.
She turned her head to the west looking towards where the city of Caer used to be. Being near this horrific city wasn’t the only thing making her uncomfortable. They were a little too close to the abyss for her liking. Thom had been mentioning going after Harper again for one thing, apart from the obvious danger of being near a tear in reality into the most dangerous and chaotic plane in existence. The fields east of Caer had been more densely populated with demons immediately after the apocalypse began and Aludra and Thom had spent weeks slashing their way through the vile children of the abyss on their trek towards Deephome. Now it seemed the demons had spread out much more and weren’t streaming into the Prime Material plane quite so quickly, so they weren’t under constant assault from the forces of evil.
Aludra looked over at Thom and wondered if maybe she had been worrying too much lately. She had traveled with Thom for a long time now and violent and repulsive though he could be, she couldn’t help but remember the time he had locked himself in his cabin when Tum had died and refused to see anyone for hours. He might hate gnolls with excessive passion and enjoy using Blood Drinker a bit too much, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t on her side.
The moment ended however, and his face was once again transfixed with battle lust. He might have her back, but he was still too eager to kill the gnolls. This was a lot though even for him… was he concerned for Bucky? Was that why he was so on edge? Hard to tell with him.
“Thom,” she said tentatively, “I was thinking that I should do some scouting on my own before we both head out to rescue Bucky.”
Thom looked at her with one scaly eyebrow raised. His tail wagged impatiently behind him, a sure sign of agitation. “But you’re the clumsiest person I know so why are you doing the scouting?” A very astute question for someone who usually never thought further than his next kill or his dick.
Aludra tried hard to think quickly and not make that scrunchy face that everyone knew meant she was doing some quick thinking. “Maybe, but I’m much smaller than you and they would for sure notice Blood Drinker splattering blood everywhere. You wouldn’t want to leave Blood Drinker behind would you?” That was the right way to handle it, and he nodded.
“Fine then,” was all he said.
Aludra breathed out what she hoped was a subtle sigh of relief and took Balder aside. “Can you stay here and make sure he doesn’t get into any trouble?” He looked a little worried at that.
“Are you sure about that?” said Balder, “I’ve been thinking about those devices in your heads and wondering if I might not be able to find a cleric who can help you remove it or at least deactivate it. I’ve heard there might be a wizard in a tower somewhere around here who can help.” She had barely even met Balder before she had set out from Deephome for a life of exploration and adventuring, so it had come as quite the surprise when she had found him so accommodating. Most dwarves she had known would have insisted she go home rather than searching for her adopted githyanki son but Balder had volunteered to help rescue little Bucky.
“No Balder,” she said, “Thank you so much but it’s actually much safer here with Thom.” She glanced over at Thom who was now breathing lightning out of his nostrils in little fizzing bursts. “Hard as that may be to believe.” Balder nodded, reluctantly.
Jaela had been very confused and a little bit frustrated all throughout her trip through Eveningshire. She had remembered being told in Pelor’s Hope that there was a coven of witches that she might call upon for aid near here, and it was clear that the people of Eveningshire knew about them too. However, getting a straight answer out of these strange people was like trying to control lesser demons. Not that she didn’t like them. She actually found this town both charming and untouched by the demon apocalypse. Besides, Erathis had told her it was a good idea to come here. Eventually she’d found a (frankly good looking) man who had told her that Lex and at least one other member of the coven had left to go and do something about a dragonborn and some gnolls. It had been really unclear. With a sigh, Jaela went off in the indicated direction and tried to track down two possibly insane witches.
No, no. Said the voice of Blood Drinker in Thom’s head. No blood is better than any other type of blood.
But just think about the gnolls. Thought Thom in reply. Those fuzzy little fuckers just need to die. Hey why don’t we ask Uthgar, bet he could settle this.
Thom looked up towards the heavens and prayed a little bit to Uthgar. “Sup my dude? So Blood Drinker and I were wondering-” but before he could finish his totally rad question he caught a distinctive stench on the air. It was like wet dog mixed with pure evil. The scent of gnolls. Had he mentioned lately that he hated gnolls?
Thom glanced over towards the dwarf who had been following him and Aludra the last few days. “Hey Boulder.”
“Balder,” corrected the dwarf without a tinge of resentment.
“Whatever,” said Thom, “grab the griffins and get behind cover. We’re about to have some company.” Balder hastened to follow this advice, turning his head left and right to detect danger as he jogged to get away from their hillside camp. Thom laughed to himself a little bit, which made Balder look concerned for some reason but Blood Drinker approved.
Give me blood! Thought the sword.
And Thom would.
“That’s where we’ll find Thom,” said Wren pointing towards the sounds of calamity on top of a nearby hill. She banked her broomstick a little to the west and Lex followed her. She and Lex and had been bouncing around this area for days now so it was gratifying to finally find what they were looking for.
“How do you know?” asked Lex beaming with enthusiasm to be out in the world and helping people.
“I’ve got one question for you gnolls,” screamed a voice, “Do you feel bloody? Well do ya punks?”
“Just a feeling.”