The team took only a few moments to explore the 2nd-floor landing and hall, discovering a few more rooms of mild interest, a great deal more fecal matter, and a library with some nasty foes inside. Squeezing into the small room and up against the stacks, the heroes made quick work of the scum there, and then found another chamber, a large scrying room full of animated corpses.
Sturn, incensed by the wanton desecration of his deity’s temple, rushed head-long in, shouting at every move, doing his best to inspire the others to follow him into battle. The team, now well-accustomed to each other, worked smoothly and dispatched the undead there before heading up to the third floor in search of the wardstone.
At the top of the stairs they found another small chamber, hemming in their ability to move and fight from all directions…and a large mutant minotaur beastie that bum-rushed them, preventing easy access into and maneuvering throughout the room. Braving the inevitable attacks, Gnarl brushed past the great beast, absorbing punishing blows as he cleared space for the others to attack. Jaroo dropped his dinosaur guise in favor of his actual form, and pressed the attack, while the others used sword and spell – and maybe a hammer or two – to beat the massive creature to the ground, splitting its skull against the hardwood floor. One door led from this chamber, and on the other side Sturn detected great evil – the wardstone was close at hand!
Through the door the team rushed, bracing for what they believed would be their final, and likely most deadly, fight. The room on the other side presented the wardstone, locked in an iron cage, and a demon-woman-caster-somebody working through the twisted syllables of what could only be a foul ritual or spell. Wasting no time for a monologue, the five heroes ran forward: the dwarfs and Jaroo toward the woman, while Atiasi stayed back to cast a spell, and Sturn, drawing the Rod of Cancellation, made directly for the wardstone.
The demon-kind’s spell was interrupted as the melee ensued, and yet it was Sturn striking at the wardstone that turned the tide, with the stone exploding in a brilliant, celestial light, blasting to foul little pieces the woman, and stopping time around the team for a split-second as the force of heavenly power enveloped and penetrated them, imbuing them with a unearthly vitality.
Moments later – really, they could not tell how much time had passed – a shimmering image of another demon-woman appeared before them, but her spells and lame monologue had no effect on them, leaving her irritated when she was unable to incinerate them. Instead, she summoned several babau demons to do her work for her. They, in turn, took a look at the five fine examples of badassity in the room, and the cat, and summoned some more of their friends just to be sure.
Despite their brutal, well-coordinated attacks and the massive amounts of damage they doled out, they were unable to gain the initiative in the fight…even after severing Gnarl’s spine, cutting off his hand, and gouging one of his eyes out….even after ganging up on Sturn (clearly, recognizing the real threat in the room). One by one, then in groups, they were defeated and destroyed.
Standing in the ruined chamber, its stone walls blasted almost smooth from the massive release of divine energies – fell and good – the five heroes and Toonces were greeted by a manifestation of the goddess Iomedae herself, who addressed them personally and by name, thanking them for their great deeds and courage, and exhorting them to continue their fight to contain and eventually roll back the hordes of demons from the Worldwound.
The vision of Sturn’s youth was fulfilled in this moment as his divine patron confirmed him as one of her champions, and accepted his service as worthy. As she faded from sight she gazed directly at him, as if to take full stock of him as her knight…and winked. She winked at him!
Silence was all that was left after she was gone, and the five knew there was nothing they could add to what had happened, what they’d been asked to do, what they did, and what it all meant. And yet, seized by the moment, Sturn looked at his friends – the men alongside whom he knew he would face Hell’s fury – and had a thought.
“Who’s ready to accept Iomedae and her wisdom?” he asked. Suddenly getting their wits about themselves the dwarven brothers scoffed, each muttering something about how “…a woman without a beard was no woman at all…”, while Atiasi busied himself with brushing ashes off his robes and awkwardly whistling to himself. Jaroo, on the other hand, being a relatively transparent and practical fellow, nodded.
“I’m in…that’s all the proof I needed.”