Previously, the heroes had made their way into the sunken vault at the centre of Wyrmblood Lake and made it into the heart where they had found Xamael the Defiler and had confronted him and the enslaved Kalauranthalasis with the help of Azsharastrasza. With great difficulty they managed to defeat both the wyrm as well as the dark priest, only for the priest to transform into its true identity; Xamael the Dreadlord, a devil in the service of the Dark Queen.
Third Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262
(Silvermoon in low sanction. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waxing.)
When Xamael had transformed fully into the dreadlord he stood twelve foot tall, on powerful, hairy legs ending in cloven hooves. His torso was covered in decorative plates of infernal armour and two large, bat-like, leathery wings sprouted from his shoulders. Two curved horns had burst from his head, his mouth had filled with razor sharp teeth and his hands had grown claws. The whip he had carried had lengthened and arcs of lightening were crawling all over it.
Quentin was the first to engage the devil and attempted to use Róisín to summon tangling vines beneath the dreadlord in an attempt to keep him rooted in place, but Róisín, who had been resonating with her flowery side, refused to obey Quentin.
As the fight started, Xamael penetrated everyone’s mind to deliver a warning and a threat:
You poor fools. You are meddling in the plans of the Dark Queen. Your insignificance will be punished.
Azsharastrasza was still trapped in place, but Luca had a plan. He attempted to banish the dreadlord to another plane. It would be temporary, but it might give them enough time to escape the dreadlord, or at the least regroup. He knew he was powerful enough to attempt it both on the dreadlord as well as on the dragon. While he did not want to banish the dragon in order to get away from her, he hoped that it might break the spell that she was under. The result was a mixed blessing; Xamael proved too powerful and refused to be sent away, but Azsharastrasza was too wounded and too weak to resist. Almost immediately after she vanished, she reappeared, as Luca stopped concentrating on the spell. It had worked as he had intended it to; she was no longer incapacitated by Xamael’s magical trap and was free to rejoin the fight.
My life is endless. My death will be but a moment before I return.
Unfortunately, the onslaught of the newly invigorated Xamael, now in his true form, was too much for the heroes, aided by Azsharastrasza to handle. The dreadlord lashed out with his whip over and over, mostly targeting the dragon, who eventually fell under the onslaught, having already been bloodied in her fight against Kalauranthalasis.
Astrid, despite having only just recovered from the stifling influence of the good sisters, had been fighting on the front lines together with Quentin, furiously hacking away with her sword. She had already lost consciousness several times during the fight, always recovering just enough to spring back into battle. But unfortunately, she too fell under the weight of the pressure that Xamael put on the heroes, and this time, she did not get back up.
The heroes were routed and scattered in different directions in order to save themselves, and at the same time the dreadlord vanished from sight. He began to speak to each of the heroes; infiltrating their minds and offering a truce and a chance to work together in collaboration rather than in opposition. He promised he could revive the sick queen, if only the heroes would parley. Whether out of principle or out of fear, the heroes refused to negotiate but instead used the time to regroup.
Cease your attack and let us bargain. You can have your queen and I can help you stop the largest invasion of orcs this pitiful queendom has ever seen.
During this lull in the conflict, Emrys had found a severely wounded assassin in the chamber on the southern end of the complex as he was desperately looking for anything that would help the heroes tip the scales of the battle in their favour. This was likely the assassin whom they had encountered as they descended into the ziggurat. The man was slumped against the wall, clutching his side. There was blood all around him and he could scarcely register that Emrys was approaching. Displaying an unusually brutal attitude of grim determination, Emrys took out Toruviel or slowly sank it into the wounded man, ending his life. Emrys took a small crossbow, some bolts and another jewelled dagger and regrouped with the others.
Eventually Luca reached out to Xamael and said that the heroes agreed to parlay if he would show himself again. It was a ruse in order to put themselves in a position to pounce on the dreadlord, which they did. The dreadlord fought back viciously, even taking the opportunity to reanimate the corpse of Astrid into a mockery of her former self; a zombie automaton whose only goal was to pursue and clumsily attack Emrys, who had to defend himself against someone he had once called a friend.
Eventually Quentin fell, Emrys fell and James had run out of arrows. Luca was on his last legs and while Xamael was clearly wounded, it would take more effort to bring him down than the heroes still had in them. In a moment of desperation, Luca called out to Aurion, his patron, and beseeched him for aid. And for the briefest moment, there was an answer, as the tall, alien figure of Aurion shimmered into existence high above the battle, carried by wings made of pure light. His light descended down like little droplets and reinvigorated and revitalised the heroes. Quentin and Emrys opened their eyes again, and Luca and James felt less tired and more able.
As fast as Aurion appeared, he receded, and for all the aid he bestowed, only James and Luca were there to witness the strange occurrence. Xamael’s response was one of outrage, screaming; “Not again! You will not deny me, brother!”
The fight was resumed and by the skin of their teeth, aided by Aurion’s energy, the heroes managed to vanquish Xamael. With the fatal blow, the body of the dreadlord jerked and spasmed and the leathery wings beat uncontrollably, lifting him up in the air. His body wracked and twisted as wisps of darkness escaped his body like rats fleeing a sinking ship, and eventually collapsed in on itself, seemingly deflating and withering away. His armour crumbled and disintegrated, and eventually all that was left behind were several curious items.
Quentin found Astrid’s broken body with a small glimmer of hope that he could do something for his long-time companion, but saw that the life had long since left her. He took one of the leather bracers she wore as a keepsake and bound it to his left wrist where once he had worn something else, something important. Though he couldn’t quite remember what, or what its significance was.