Metamorphosis: From Dretch to Demon Lord - Ascension Released!


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SpuneDagr

Explorer
Dude. This one time, I read this story that was totally awesome and stuff. The writer kept adding to it and fleshing out the story... but then he accidentally put a portable hole inside a bag of holding (or was it the other way around? I can never remember which it is... apparently, neither could he :) )and vanished off the face of the earth.

Oh how I miss him. I hope an astral dreadnaught hasn´t made him a snack.
 

skullsmurfer

First Post
I love this story hour! I usually play demons and devils as high price, high damage artillery for my players and my Bad Guys. Big magic, wicked teeth, sharp claws and one dimensional evil. See a demon kill it before it kills you, see a devil make sure you haven't signed anything, then kill it. I like the way you flesh them out in this story hour and the way they are motivated. It won't be to my players' advantage that's for sure. I look forward to the big fight, thank you much.
 

Arador

First Post
11 days since Blackdirge said it was coming. Ah! The agony of waiting, with baited breath.
Keep up the most excellet work Dirge - a wonderfully entertaining and engrossing tale.
 

BLACKDIRGE

Adventurer
At last, here it is. This was hard to write, as I was on the fence as to how it would play out right up to the end. Thanks for being patient, I hope it was worth the wait.

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Part XIV

The Death of a Demon Lord Part III

“Grimclaw is dead, my lord.” Heskara whispered, her mouth close to the grim feathered head of her liege.

Pyrak sat motionless as this news was delivered, but a jolt of regret went through him, a momentary pang of remorse for the loss of such a faithful servant. “Did he injure Hedrenatherax?”

“No, not seriously.” The marilith’s fear was showing in her voice, the frayed edge of desperation leaking through, for if Pyrak died, she would soon follow. “You must prepare yourself, my lord.”

Pyrak had not moved from his throne in hours, the huge gash in his shoulder was a spreading lake of fire that lashed his body with torment at every movement, however minute. But move he must, for any moment Hedrenatherax would come through the doors of his throne room, red with rage and murder, to destroy all that Pyrak had worked for. If his empire were to sink into ruin, he would not meet its end feeble and broken.

“Help me, Heskara.” Pyrak commanded, beckoning the marilith closer. “Bolster my strength with your magic.”

The marilith slithered close to the throne, and her voice rang out in the broken syllables of magical incantation. The demoness’s hand momentarily glowed with greenish fire as she completed her spell, and then the witch flame leapt from her outstretched hands to bathe Pyrak in fiendish radiance. The demon lord seemed to take strength from the flames, drawing them into his body with a single mighty breath. The wound in his shoulder remained unchanged, but the drab lifeless appearance of his steel gray feathers brightened somewhat, and for the first time in many hours, Pyrak found the strength to stand.

“Better?” Heskara asked, a hesitant smile upon her delicate features.

“Yes, how long will this last?” Pyrak responded.

“A few hours at most, it should sustain you until you can defeat Hedrenatherax.” The marilith said, false optimism staining her words.

Pyrak turned to where Fiendbleeder lay propped up against his throne. He knew the sword would add its own peculiar strength to the magical bolstering Heskara had provided, but he doubted even that would be enough.

Perhaps he will kill you quickly. Fiendbleeder offered with mock sympathy. The sword’s ambiguity was infuriating, for it stood to lose as much as Pyrak should he fall to Hedrenatherax.

If he does, I hope that fool of a balor has enough sense to snap you over his knee, before assuming the throne. Pyrak shot back acidly.

Despite his loathing for Fiendbleeder Pyrak picked up the sword and held it almost reverently. It was the key to all he had accumulated and the very center of his consternation and misery.

Pyrak stepped from the dais that supported his throne and stood silently, his back to the seat of power he had occupied for millennia. The demon lord gazed down the length of the grand hall that held his throne, his flat black eyes locked on the looming set of double doors that that would soon admit the harbinger of his destruction. Heskara meanwhile stood close by and continued to use her magic to protect her liege, her light touch upon Pyrak’s body every few moments imparting vast reservoirs of magical strength and arcane protection. When Heskara had finished with Pyrak, she turned her magic on herself, boosting her own, already impressive abilities.

Pyrak began to swing Fiendbleeder about, using only his left hand to wield the great sword. Even without the use of his right arm the agony this movement awoke within the demon lord’s wound made him sick with pain, but he persisted, hoping in vain to drive the agony from his body with physical exertion. Fiendbleeder was never meant to be wielded with only one hand, and Pyrak’s strokes were clumsy and off balance as he struggled with the cumbersome weight of the weapon. Wearied after only a few moments, Pyrak ceased his exercises with Fiendbleeder, and dropped the heavy point of the sword to the ground. Even with the magic that now flooded his body, Pyrak knew he was at half strength at best. Dreadskewer had done its work far too well, and the devilish spear even now siphoned off his strength in great, grasping draughts.

Pyrak leaned upon Fiendbleeder, his breath laboring from his gaping beak in great wheezing gasps, and wondered; how had it come to this? After all he had done for the abyss, the building of his army and empire, the slaying of an arch-devil, he was left alone to face his fate. Only one of his servants dared stand with him, and she did so only out of desire to protect herself from the doom that would surely follow Hedrenatherax’s ascension.

The demon lord had often pondered his place in the great cycle of the abyss, he had accomplished much, but it would soon be dashed to ruin by the belligerent avarice of one who was far less than he in intellect and vision. The abyss had operated in this way from the beginning of time, a ruthless simplicity of design, the strong ruled the weak, and those unable to hold power soon found themselves bereft of it.

It was the most glaring flaw that existed in his race, any sustained order was impossible, there were too many hungry demons lusting for the power of others. There were too many deceitful servants, and disloyal minions, for a ruler to accomplish anything beyond defeating the machinations of his own household. The fact that he, Pyrak, had accomplished so much was as much a mystery to him as it was to the other rulers in the abyss. Grazzt, Orcus, Yeenoghu, demon lords that had existed long before Pyrak had come to power, each had accomplished only a fraction of what he had done in the last thousand years. But it mattered little; his name would be scoured from the abyss; just another demon lord deposed, another casualty of a plane that knew nothing beyond its own self-destruction.

Your self-pity does not become you, demon. Fiendbleeder whispered suddenly, filling Pyrak’s head with its shadow. Why have you allowed this to happen? You have known for years that Hedrenatherax would seek to depose you. Why did you not slay him?

He had his uses; I did not wish to waste a useful servant. Pyrak answered simply.

Your frugality may be your undoing. Fiendbleeder replied tersely. I suggest you ready yourself. He is here.

Fiendbleeder’s announcement was immediately followed by the fierce pounding of something huge and heavy against the twin mithral doors of the throne room. Pyrak had had them sealed with an iron bar through the ornate handle-rings of each door. The paltry defense would do little to keep his enemies at bay, and Pyrak strode forward to meet his adversary, fighting the urge to scream as each step brought renewed agony in his wounded shoulder.

The iron crossbar holding the throne room doors closed, bent and then snapped with an echoing metallic shriek as Hedrenatherax hurled his body against the last remaining barrier between he and his prize. The doors were flung wide and the balor came charging through, his momentum carrying him a dozen paces into the throne room.

Hedrenatherax halted immediately, glaring down the twenty or so yards that separated he and Pyrak. The balor’s wide fanged mouth split in a triumphant sneer as he saw the state that Pyrak was in. The great demon swaggered forward, his jagged sword dangling casually from his right hand.

Heskara had slithered up beside her lord during Hedrenatherax’s clamorous entrance, and had drawn all six of her slim elegant swords. The marilith’s full red lips were set in a hard line, her eyes clouded with the gathering storm of rage, and the malignancy of the gaze she rested upon Hedrenatherax would certainly have slain a lesser demon.

“Pyrak, my lord. You do not look well at all.” Hedrenatherax said coolly. “In fact, you look like you are about to fall down and die any minute.”

“You have ever been a great lumbering fool, Hedrenatherax.” Pyrak spat in reply. “Spare me your pathetic attempts at mockery and come forward, I would end this charade now.”

Hedrenatherax was undeterred by Pyrak’s reply, and cast a glance over his shoulder to signal the rest of his party to enter. “Please, come in my friends. I want you all to witness what shall happen here today.”

Hedrenatherax’s two nycoloth mercenaries strode into the throne room, followed by the huge ponderous form of Gemnez. The paeliryon devil’s face was a mix of anxiousness and worry, and he stood well back from Hedrenatherax and the nycoloths.

The sight of Gemnez brought a hiss of disgust from Pyrak. “Oh Gemnez, please do not tell me you have cast your lot with this brainless cur.”

Gemnez shuffled forward, his eyes down cast, as if he was ashamed to meet Pyrak’s baleful glare. “My lord, I owe you much. You have offered me sanctuary these many years, and for that I am grateful. But I cannot stem the tide of change, and I must persevere, even if you cannot.” The baatezu’s words were heavy with regret, and a grudging acceptance of an obviously distasteful state of affairs.

“You see, Pyrak, even the wisest of your servants has deemed you unfit.” Hedrenatherax said, still grinning. “Now if you will kneel before me, and show me your neck, I will make this as quick and painless as possible.” This brought a chuckle from the nycoloths, and Hedrenatherax grinned all the wider to see that his audience was well pleased.

“I see you have not the courage to face me alone.” Pyrak said, gesturing to the two yugoloths. “Shall you attack me en masse, or will they simply wait until I’ve cut you to pieces to intervene?”

“No, no, nothing like that. They are merely a witness to the grand event about to transpire, in addition to being faithful servants.”

“Faithful!?” Pyrak boomed. “Do you really think any Yugoloth, especially ones as conniving as nycoloths, are faithful? Does your stupidity know no limits, Hedrenatherax?”

Ignoring Pyrak’s biting words, Hedrenatherax took notice of Heskara for the first time, smiling broadly at the demoness. “Ahh, Heskara. Standing with your master until the end, how noble, how… devilish of you.”

Heskara’s eyes smoldered crimson at the insult, and her body tensed with the desire to surge forward and cut the mocking grin from Hedrenatherax’s face. Instead she utilized a far more potent weapon. “Such a fool, Hedrenatherax.” She said softly, almost whispering. “Do you know, that no matter what happens here today, whether you slay Pyrak or not, you will ever be seen as inferior?”

“I think not…”

“No!” Heskara cut the balor off, her shrill voice stinging the air with its vehemence. “No, listen to me you mindless dretch! You have come here, in our lord’s weakest hour, to challenge him for the throne. All the abyss knows that you would not even entertain such a notion, were it otherwise.”

The smile evaporated from Hedrenatherax’s face, and the bravado in his posture faded. “Close your mouth, bitch, lest I close it for you.” The balor rumbled.

The marilith ignored the threat, her body quivering with wrath. “It is true, you will always be a pretender no matter what may occur here today.” She continued, her voice soft but dripping with venom. “You may rule for a day, a year, even a hundred years, before another demon, smarter and more powerful than yourself, snatches the throne from you clumsy grasping fingers. But in you time as ruler you will never be seen as Pyrak’s equal. His enemies shall revel in their relief that a mindless buffoon now holds sway in place of their greatest adversary. You are, and have ever been a joke, and the laughter shall resound through out the abyss the moment you take this throne.”

Pyrak glanced down at the marilith, finding himself surprisingly pleased at the demoness’s outburst. Perhaps she understood more than he had suspected. A pity he would not live to see that seed of free thought germinate, and allow Heskara to utilize her full potential.

Hedrenatherax’s anger and animosity could no longer be contained by his thin charade of whimsical ambiguity. Heskara’s words had stung the balor deeply; he knew that all she hah said was true, and that he could never create the kind of devotion in others that Pyrak had. But still the great demon hungered for power, so achingly close now, and he would take it no matter what the consequences.

“Yagur! Neggek! I will give a hundred larva to the one who brings me that bitch’s head!” Hedrenatherax spat at his two nycoloths, pointing his sword at Heskara. The two yugoloths rumbled approval and brought their weapons, a massive axe and round shield, to bear. The two fiends then advanced slowly, feral jaws agape, towards Heskara. The balor himself began to move purposefully towards Pyrak, his lips pulled back to reveal rows of sword-like teeth.

Pyrak lifted Fiendbleeder from the ground wincing at the pain it brought to his shoulder. “Go, Heskara! Take them!” The demon lord pointed, motioning for the Marilith to engage the nycoloths, while he dealt with Hedrenatherax.

Heskara surged forward, her powerful serpentine body propelling her across the slick marbled stone of the throne room. The two Nycoloths rushed to meet her, slowing their advance as she drew near and began weaving her six blades about her body in a flowing mesh of razored steel.

Gemnez, sensing that the events he had come to witness were about to unfold, slowly eased his great flabby body away from the action, actually managing to hide most of his bulk behind one of the opulently carved pillars that lined either side of the great hall. He watched as Pyrak purposefully circled left, away from Heskara and the two nycoloths, coaxing Hedrenatherax to do the same. The demon lord held Fiendbleeder in his left hand, balancing the oversized weapon with great difficulty, and moved slowly but with great precision and economy of motion. Hedrenatherax, who had shifted to meet Pyrak’s movement, broke into a dead charge when he reached the last ten yards separating himself and Pyrak.

Hedrenatherax emitted no howl or war cry as he thundered down the hall towards his quarry, only the fierce pounding of his tread, and the sibilant whisper of his sword cutting the air as he slashed it about, could be heard. In contrast, Pyrak awaited his adversary calmly, Fiendbleeder held before him, his eyes quiet with a great and staggering acceptance of this treacherous finality.

Hedrenatherax reached Pyrak in a blur of red scales and striking steel. The balor’s great blade flashed out, a vicious overhand blow that Pyrak halted with a clumsy high parry. The force of Hedrenatherax’s strike slammed the flat of Pyrak’s weapon into the demon lord’s face, momentarily stunning him and causing him to stumble back a few paces. Hedrenatherax did not allow his quarry any respite, and began to hammer away at Pyrak, his jagged sword scraping sparks off Fiendbleeder as the demon lord frantically intercepted each mammoth cut.

A minute crawled by and Pyrak had yet to take the offensive, his awkward one-handed grip on Fiendbleeder barely sufficient to deflect Hedrenatherax’s attacks. The balor however was growing more confident, each blow landed with more force but with less finesse, as Hedrenatherax sought to end the battle as quickly as possible. This had always been the great demon’s folly, and his surprise as Pyrak suddenly pivoted away from a heavy tailing slash and reposted with stunning accuracy, was near complete. Hedrenatherax watched Fiendbleeder sail in under his own weapon, the great blade arcing upward, to remove his right forearm at the elbow. The clatter of his weapon, still gripped by his orphaned right hand, as it struck the marble floor of the throne room placed a distant second to the tremendous crash of his ambitions, as they collided with the unyielding surface of reality.

Stunned, Hedrenatherax could do little but raise the ragged stump of his arm in paltry defense, as Pyrak stepped inside his guard and caught him about the throat with one dagger-taloned hand. The demon lord hefted Hedrenatherax from the ground, and then flung him up and over his shoulder to crash head long into the base of the throne, some forty feet away.

Pyrak had used his right arm to hurl Hedrenatherax, and although the pain in his wound was tremendous, the glorious sight of the balor lying crumpled and defeated at the foot of his throne was well worth the agony. Hope surged to life within the demon lord, perhaps his destiny was not as grim as he had imagined. Pyrak took Fiendbleeder in both hands; ignoring the pain it caused him, and moved forward to finish his adversary.

Heskara, meanwhile had displayed her fearful skill at arms, and in the space of time it had taken Hedrenatherax to charge across the room, have his arm removed, and end his ignoble flight at the foot of Pyrak’s throne, she had felled one of the nycoloths, his body rent by nearly a dozen deep, gaping slashes. The remaining nycoloth, wary of the demoness’s obvious prowess pulled back, out of the range of Heskara’s sextuplet of gleaming blades.

Although a fearsome warrior, the marilith was most renowned for her skill as a sorcerer, and as the nycoloth disengaged she put this skill to devastating effect. In a flash, the three swords on Heskara’s right side disappeared into their sheathes, and the three vacated hands began to weave an intricate arcane pattern. Realizing what his foe was planning, the nycoloth rushed forward to press his opponent, before her spell could reach fruition, but there was no time. A single word, an ancient and terrible word, spewed forth from Heskara’s mouth amid the crackling hell of powerful magic. The word, like a hammer direct from heaven, smote the Nycoloth as he surged forward, reducing his body to fine gray ash, and then dissipating it in a blast of hellish wind.

Gemnez watched these startling events from behind his pillar, scarcely able to believe what he was seeing. This day had ever loomed upon the rogue baatezu’s horizon, the day that Pyrak was cast down and all he had accomplished dashed to ruin. All Gemnez himself had accomplished would be in jeopardy should this nefarious event come to pass, but he could not intervene. A hundred times he could have crushed Hedrenatherax, he was far more powerful than the balor or even Pyrak himself suspected, but he was not here to rule. To remain neutral, to watch and encourage the growth of something monumental, that was his duty.

In his fortress, locked away in a long forgotten cell, Gemnez held the faithless petitioner that had undoubtedly set the events that were transpiring now into motion. A creature of unimaginable power and rarity, this former human, this faithless anomaly, was the culmination of all the baatezu had hoped for. Pyrak had set the stage, guided by Fiendbleeder of course, for a new regime to rise, a new power in the abyss that he Gemnez, would shape to his whim. If Pyrak died, then Hedrenatherax would assume power, and although both knew of the faithless petitioner, Pyrak’s knowledge would become moot upon his death, and Hedrenatherax would care for little beyond spreading his influence once he had the throne. Gemnez would hold this faithless one, who had once been known as Hazergal close, keep him safe, until he was ready to bring forth a transformation that would shake the planes with its immensity.

Things, were not however, transpiring as Gemnez had thought. No, things were far better. Hedrenatherax was seconds away from having his body slashed open by Pyrak, his attempt at usurping the demon lord’s power utterly thwarted. With Pyrak in place for another few centuries, Gemnez would be able to accomplish his aims with ease. Relief, hope and even joy filled the heart of the rogue baatezu, until he saw the gleam at the foot of the throne, and realized that Hedrenatherax was lying upon Dreadskewer, the very weapon that had brought Pyrak low enough for him to strike at. Sick fear uncoiled within Gemnez, and he watched Pyrak’s doom unfold.

Stunned and bleeding, Hedrenatherax was brought back to awareness by a burning agony across his back. The balor rolled away from the source of this pain, to reveal the long elegant length of Dreadskewer. The great spear gleamed foully in the bright light of Pyrak’s throne room, and it whispered like a murderous viper, a strong sibilant urging to be grasped, held, used.

Hedrenatherax heard Pyrak approaching, heard the breath catch in the demon lord’s throat as he realized the folly of his errant throw. The pounding thud of Pyrak charging across the short space between he and Hedrenatherax was all the urging the balor needed, and he snatched up Dreadskewer with his left hand, howling in agony as the demon bane spear burnt his flesh.

Heskara watched Hedrenatherax rise from the ground in a single fluid motion, his left arm arcing back, black smoke rising from the balor’s clenched fist as Dreadskewer angrily ate away at the flesh there. The marilith opened her mouth to call out to her liege, as Pyrak, great sword raised over his head to expose his feathered breast, raced forward to cut Hedrenatherax down.

The balor made his cast with fifteen feet separating he and Pyrak, Dreadskewer leaving his hand in a flash of silver. The throw, guided by fate, or destiny, or even Dreadskewer’s own malicious will, was true, and it slammed into Pyrak’s breast with the force of a thunderbolt.

Dreadskewer plowed through Pyrak’s flesh unabated by skin, muscle or bone, a full three feet of the fearsome weapon bursting from his back. The demon lord stood, transfixed by the weapon of his enemy, the enemy before him, and the legions of devils that had poured their will and power into Dreadskewer itself. His eyes flashed crimson for a moment, and his great beak opened. “Fool…” He whispered, the slightest trace of mirth evident in the single wheezing utterance. Then his knees buckled, and he sagged to the floor, Fiendbleeder sliding from his grasp, clattering uselessly as it struck the ground.

Death claimed Pyrak there before his throne, at the feet of an unworthy enemy, amid the quiet clangor of unstoppable, unfathomable change.
 
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