The Ingaran Adventures
“Rescue of Phaidon, Part IV: Journey to Larbius' Palace”
Lord Issic: Half Human, Half Gold Dragon Warrior
Lady India: A gypsy Bard/Shadow Dancer
Lord Phaidon: A Tamer of the Beasts
Lord Alexander Maximus: The Gauntlet of Athena
Roland: The Chaos Lord of Oard
Phoebe: Sorceress, Initiate of the Temple
Kaletor: Cousin to Lord Phaidon
The two diving spheres bobbed precariously on the Styx outside the Fortress of Larbius Prama. A squad of horrible devils carrying saw-toothed glaives danced and jumped on the shore, waiting for Alexander's allies to emerge, waiting for mortal flesh to taste. Their long, disgusting beards waved back and forth as they danced. Their ears were pointed. Their skin was green, moist and scaly. They whipped their long tails about while gnashing their claws and licking their lips in feverish anticipation.
There was no good way to propel the spheres forward, so Kaletor and Alexander rolled theirs by walking in it, much like a hamster in a wheel. Every time the doors rotated up, the bearded monsters roared and yelled and shook their glaives. After a time, Alexander grew weary at their lack of progress and so flew out of the top of the bell. Issic, the dragon man of much renown, flew out also, his great leathery wings causing ripples upon the water as he beat them together. Alexander and Issic then began to push the two spheres across the water and toward the menacing shore.
"Are we going to attack or try to talk?" said Issic to his companion.
Alexander glanced in the direction of the shore. At that moment, the ten hideous devils leapt forward and ran across the surface of the water. They raised up their glaives and howled ferociously as they drew nearer.
Alexander smiled grimly. "Keep pushing if you can."
Five devils broke off and attacked the Gauntlet of Athena. He tried to defend, but there were too many. Several glaives slashed him and drew blood.
The other five devils swarmed Issic. Their glaives flashed out horribly as they assailed the dragon man and smote him.
Roland, the Chaos Lord of Oard, who had been watching rather helplessly from within the sphere, took action. He summoned forth the power of his mind and mentally dominated seven of the ten devils, rendering them helpless.
India, the dark bard, dominated an eighth.
"Well done, India," Roland missived.
Kaletor rose up through the door and shot a devil with his bow and arrow. The devil howled in hellish fury.
Issic smiled his draconian smile. He raised up his green glowing devil-bane sword, and laid about him with such ferocity that he removed the devil's head and one arm. Blood and ichor spewed out as the devil toppled into the Styx with a splash.
Yet, the battle was not over. There was still one devil not dominated, and he was intent upon Alexander's mortal flesh. Alexander had no such intentions, however. He drew out Athena's Wrath, and with it, charged into the last devil. The devil screeched once, but it was no match for the priest. Alexander sent the beast to a watery grave, then spit onto the waves as the devil sank below him.
Roland raised up his head and directed his attention to the dominated devils. "Take us safely across the channel, good devils," he said.
The devils grabbed onto the spheres and walked them across the water to the shore. When they had arrived safely, Kaletor, India, Phoebe and Roland jumped down to the icy beach and joined Issic and Alexander.
The Chaos Lord strode forward, seeming completely unruffled. "Now, if you will please convey us to your Lord," he said to the devils.
"We have not the key to the palace, mortal," said one devil, his voice gruff and terrible. "Nor do we have the permission of our lord to leave our post."
"Then, who does have the key?"
"Kogdissa Wolgim has the key."
Roland turned to India. "Do you know aught of this?"
"Kogdissa," said India, "Is one of my father's generals."
"Ah," Roland turned back to the devils. "And where might this general be found?"
"Do you wish him here?"
"I wish to have the key. Is there another way to procure it or gain entrance into this citadel?"
"Why not just tell him that we want an audience with his lord?" asked Issic.
"Then, speak it, by all means," said Roland. "What is this other way to gain the key or get in?"
The devil drew a deep breath. "You can climb the walls and break through the ice, creating a tunnel into the inner chambers, you can gain a teleport spell key, you can gain a dimension door spell key, you can bargain for it, you can sacrifice a soul. You can dominate Larbius, you can dominate Kogdissa Wolgim, you can dominate Asmodius, you can dominate the Dark Eight---"
"Very well, stop. Summon your general."
The devil stopped, seeming somewhat offended by the Chaos Lord's interruption. With a frown of irritation, he motioned to one of the other devils.
"Prepare yourselves," said the Chaos Lord.
The second bearded devil hit the door with his glaive. The door rang out like a gong.
Alexander Maximus closed his eyes and gave a silent prayer. Moments later, his wounds disappeared.
Immediately after, a tall bipedal insect appeared. His hands and feet were clawed. His mouth was covered by two powerful mandibles that snapped continuously. A long thick tail covered in razor-sharp spikes flicked above his head. Behind him strode five skeletal, wretched creatures with scorpion tails.
"Greetings," said Roland, giving a token bow. "You are Kogdissa Wolgim?"
"I am Kogdissa Wolgim! Speak, if you dare!"
Roland attempted to hide his disgust at seeing the giant cockroach devil using human speech. "We seek an audience with your Lord, if he will hear us."
"Very well, then, Mortal," said Kogdissa, and as he spoke, his bony devils spread out between the party. "Each of you take the arm of one of the devils, we will take you there." He, too, extended his claw for someone to take.
Roland did not like the situation, but he knew of no other way in. He would have to trust the devils. He accepted a bone devil's skeletal hand. "Lead the way."
Following the Chaos Lord's lead, the others took the hands of devils themselves. Then, one by one, they vanished...
Alexander appeared in an icy chamber. The bone devil stood beside him. There was no one else in the cave. Alexander glanced about instantly, sensing treachery. "So devil," he said. "Care to tell me what the meaning of this is?"
The devil motioned with his hands, making some sort of spell. Alexander did not wait for an explanation, but drew his pilum and attacked.
The devil jumped back in alarm as the mighty priest's pilum splintered its arm. It stumbled backward and mumbled some hideous incantation. Moments later, another devil sprang into being.
Alexander, favored of Athena, was not daunted, but leapt to the attack; ferocious was his demeanor, and where his pilum found purchase, devils howled in sorrow.
Meanwhile, the Lord of Oard had problems of his own...
Roland appeared in an icy cave, alone save for the bone devil. He turned to the devil. "Why have you separated us?"
"Our Lord does not speak to groups."
"You said that you would take us to him."
The devil laughed. "He will come to you."
"We had a deal. I thought you devils were good on your word?"
"We are. To a point. Words are more like guidelines than actual rules, you know."
"I see. Well, I have no intention of speaking to your Lord alone until I have been given a chance to confer with the others."
"Very well," it said, then vanished.
Roland glanced about the cave, nonplussed, then focused his thoughts upon Alexander. Using the talents of his mind, he spoke do the priest. "Where are you and are you speaking to Larbius?"
"No," came the answer. "I am dealing with a couple of bone devils right now, should be done in a minute."
"You are fighting them?"
"I am defending myself."
"It tried to dim anchor me, I did not give it a chance to cast another spell."
Roland said no more, but turned and looked about him. What was in store for them all, he wondered? It was a pretty mess, and there was no mistaking that.
Issic appeared in an icy cave, alone except for the devil beside him.
"So where is your boss?" he asked, keeping a tight grip on the devil. "Where are my companions?"
"They are dead," the devil sneered, pointing to the wall.
Issic looked to the wall where the head of his friend, Phaidon, hung in gruesome aspect. The dragon suppressed a shudder. "So, do you intend on imprisoning me or gaining me an audience?"
The devil smiled. "I intend to challenge you."
Issic drew his sword. "What sort of challenge?"
The devil leapt to the attack, giving Issic his answer. The devil struck Issic a formidable blow, rocking him backward, but the dragon man was not bested. He brought his sword about and delivered a powerful stroke to the devil's side, smashing ribs and breaking cartilage. The devil howled then pursued the dragon man in a frenzy. A great flurry of blows was exchanged. Issic was hard pressed. Blood ran from many grievous wounds. Then, Issic seized his chance. He feinted, then slashed the devil through the neck. The devil's head arced upwards and struck the cavern wall with a hollow thud.
Issic grimaced, then stumbled to the ground. His adversary was dead, but he was not well. He would not survive another such attack...
Kaletor, cousin to Phaidon, brave and fierce, readied himself to take the hand of the devil, but before he did, the eight devils previously dominated by Roland broke free of their mental bonds and attacked him. Kaletor hastened backward and knocked an arrow. As he retreated, he shot again and again, hitting his mark. But it was not enough, the devils were quickly upon him. They rushed him and, with their weight, drove him toward the cursed waters of the river Styx.
Phaidon's panthers, Antaeus and Axylus, attempted to save their new master. They pounced upon the devils in a fury, slashing with their claws and biting with their savage fangs. Antaeus grabbed one with his paws and threw it to the ground.
Kaletor moved deftly away from the devils, making a narrow escape. He ran as far from them as he could, but no sooner had he reached the icy cliff walls than the devils flashed around him in a magical eye blink.
Kaletor faced his enemies with the grim determination of a cornered lion. Then, he brought his sword to bear, and with three precise slashes, handed one devil a quick and hellish demise
The other devils advanced, hacking at Kaletor with their wicked swords. The panthers waded into the fray, also, and soon there was a great and savage fight. Three devils fell dead in the space of seconds, but the others only closed the gap and continued to menace the brave Kaletor. One grappled the warrior and prepared to rend him defenseless. Kaletor was no weakling, however. He simply pushed the devil back and roared with manly gaiety as his muscles strained and sweat beaded upon his brow.
The panthers continued to rake their foes, sending another to the ground, dead. Soon, only one devil remained. The bearded fiend slashed at Kaletor, wounding him badly. Kaletor was nearly finished, yet somehow found the strength to drive his sword into the beast's heart before he collapsed. He fell to the ground even as the devil expired beside him. "Antaeus, Axylus," he called. "Here to me!"
But before the beleaguered panthers could reach him, a winged Sharyss appeared. She grabbed up the panthers and took them away. Kaletor searched about him in vain, hoping to find some ally. Before long, however, the Sharyss returned. She grabbed up the helpless Kaletor and flew away with him.
And the Lord of Oard waited... and grave was to be his test...
Roland, Chaos Lord of Oard, Master of the Clock of Time and sole Master of the Psionic Gates, waited. The others had all been separated. Of this he was certain. They were being taken out one by one. There was little to do, he knew. Teleportation was dangerous in Hell, and there were no doors. Despite his situation, the Chaos Lord stood with an unruffled air. Many things had he seen in his life, many terrible and disconcerting things. He had seen things man was not meant to see, learned things man was not meant to know, and the impression of these countless terrors and vile depravities lurked always behind his eyes, seeming to desire to overthrow him. Little did he know what new test was about to be thrust upon him, for even as he stood in silence, Larbius Prama himself, Hell spawn, Tempter of Mortals, appeared behind him.
Soon enough, Roland turned and saw the devil. Larbius laughed, then dove forward.
Roland split his mind into two equally operating halves, then threw his mind blade. The blade spun forth, charged with psionic energy, then imbedded itself in Larbius's chest. Psionic energy rippled about the devil, but did not slow him. In an instant the great Lord of Hell assaulted the Chaos Lord, beating him and ripping at him with his claws. Roland fell backward, nearly undone. His head spun. Blood trailed from countless wounds. He touched the Psi Gate Key, healing himself instantly, then prepared himself for Larbius's next assault.
The great devil had no need of strategy or cunning. He simply rushed forward and pummeled the Chaos Lord, rocking him utterly.
Roland knew he had but one chance. His life was nearly finished. He retreated as well as he could, then took a rod from his cloak and aimed it at the devil. Psionic energy rippled forth and closed upon Larbius, seeking to dominate him to the Chaos Lord's will. For a split second, the devil seemed nearly to capitulate, but his resistance was too strong. He laughed at the Chaos Lord, then struck him with a hammer-fist.
Alexander Maximus still burned in the heat of battle. He laid about him, killing the summoned devil, then advanced on the first. "Take me back to the others or suffer the same fate!" he demanded.
The devil struck him with a bony fist.
Alexander, not a man to be opposed, brought up his pilum and smashed the devil's head in.
Wiping the sweat from his brow, Alexander attempted to reach Roland with a mental message, but the Lord of Oard gave no answer. Alexander felt certain that Roland and the others had met with similar fates. He would have to escape, somehow. He had to help them. He glanced about the cave, looking for some weak spot. Finding none, he summoned forth a formian worker to help him dig. The worker set to the digging. He opened up a hole, and with Alexander, fell into it. To their dismay, they found themselves within another chamber of ice.
Alexander did not give up, but ordered the formian to continue digging. Moments later, they fell through another hole into a gigantic, crystal and ice hall. Standing up, Alexander saw Larbius sitting upon his glass-like throne, laughing in contempt.
"You are the last one left, Alexander. The last one. You see, although I cannot hurt you, per the agreement, I can hurt some of your friends."
"Your tongue speaks lies, Larbius. I am but the first one."
"You came here for Phaidon, I presume?"
"Yes, that, and to collect."
"To collect?" said Larbius.
"Yes, to collect."
Larbius motioned with his finger. Four bone devils and ten bearded devils appeared within the chamber. One of the devils held Phaidon's body. One carried his head.
Alexander Maximus could not keep the grief from his visage as he saw the body of his friend displayed before him like some bauble of the hellish tempter of mortals. Despite this, he smoothed over his countenance and stared Larbius Prama in his devilish eyes.
"You may have Phaidon," gestured Larbius, seeming amused. "But what, pray tell, are you collecting?"
"You swore the unbreakable oath of the river Styx that you would never take the soul of a true worshipper of Athena. You have not only Phaidon but also his soul, not to mention the bodies and attached souls of several other of her worshippers."
"I did not take his soul," the devil countered. "Although I do possess it. And none of the others are dead.
"I did not come to debate semantics," said Alexander. "I came to collect Phaidon."
"As for the others, you needn't worry. They are not dead, but are simply captured."
"Then you have both their bodies and their souls which are attached to them," said Alexander. "You have broken your oath."
"Now you are discussing semantics. They came here of their own free will."
"They did not attack until they were attacked and you can consider their return to me and safe passage out of hell as repayment for wasting my time!"
The bone devils laid Phaidon's body and head on the ground at Alexander' feet.
"And where is his soul?" he asked.
Larbius laughed. "His soul is at the bottom of the Styx somewhere. I gave his soul to some ferryman to bring to you, but, darn the luck, the ferryman was attacked by one of my rivals and was sunk."
"Your tongue no sooner wags before lies come out of your mouth. And even if he did return, those that traveled with me here and their souls and Phaidon's soul is what I demand since you broke your oath."
"I broke nothing. You may take Phaidon's body and leave here, unmolested if you leave in peace."
"If you keep insisting that you have done nothing, then I will have to demand you take the party's involved to Neutral Ground where I will summon Athena and then she and you can discuss the details of your oath. You would be better off doing what I ask now. I am sure if Athena has to deal with this herself she will demand much more then I am."
"How could you force me to neutral ground?"
"I don't think I would have to force you. Is that not how deities and powers such as you selves deal with disagreements?"
"She hasn't summoned me," he said, a touch of concern in his voice.
Alexander noticed the devil's momentary fear and decided to press him. If he could anger the devil, he might make him slip or misstep. "Of course she hasn't! While she knows you are evil she believes you to be a devil of your word! She did not think I would have this many problems getting you to follow an oath! I am starting to think you may really be a Tanar'ri!"
Larbius rose up from his throne, bristling with anger. "Take Phaidon and leave," he growled.
"Okay, then, to neutral ground we go."
"No. I have no dispute. I kept the forms and the letter of my word. Begone."
"I now demand that you take Phaidon, his soul, and all parties who came here, and their souls to neutral ground so that I may summon Athena to discuss this issue with you directly."
"I refuse. However, I can take you to Nessus and have the Lord of Hell arbitrate for us."
"This and what ever else Athena decides will be what you must do to repay us for breaking your oath! Or do I have to go to your masters and demand that you keep your word?"
"No. I have no dispute. I kept the forms and the letter of my word. Begone. Take Phaidon and leave. If you do not go now, my general will dip them each into the Styx, and I will wait to return them after their bath."
"No good! An Arbitrator must be impartial and your masters would not be impartial in this matter. The only reason I will go to your lord is to inform him he is needed to keep a closer watch on his henchmen."
"And who would arbitrate between Athena and I?"
"If your actions before had not broken your oath this would definitely do so. If you keep this up Larbius I will end up with your soul!"
"I have no soul, Alexander. And who would arbitrate between Athena and I?"
"I was trying to lighten the mood, Larbius, but since you have no time for that, cut your losses. Do as I demand, and we will be out of your hair."
"I have no hair, either, Alexander," said Larbius, sensing that the priest was bluffing. "Take Phaidon and leave."
"I don't know that would be between the two of you, but I am telling you: You are better off doing as I demand." Alexander smiled, hoping that he had gotten the better of the devil. "I would guess either Hades or Apollo would arbitrate or maybe a tribunal made up of them and Zeus. From what I understand this is how the Ingaran gods settle matters between each other."
"No. I will not harm your friends. But nothing prevents me from keeping them on ice."
"This is why I think we are at an impasse and you are just going to have to take this up with Athena herself. I am trying to help you out here Larbius. You don't want to bother her or she will demand twice as much as I am."
Larbius looked displeased. He sneered at Alexander, then said, "I will go and think on this. Wait here."
"Remember, you have tried to get out of this before but she held you to it then. Your chances don't look any better now."
Larbius Prama turned to his minions, "Harm this one not, unless he starts a fight. If he wishes to leave, you may take him to his ship."
"Could you see to it that everyone is brought to this chamber while I wait? I want to check to see how they are, to make sure they are unharmed."
"I will think on it, Alexander." Then, the devil vanished.
Alexander blinked. Finding nothing else to do, he checked on the condition of Phaidon's body. He flinched with remorse as he touched the dead face of his friend. "Dearest Phaidon---"
Soft footsteps came from behind him. He turned about and discovered an auburn haired succubus.
"I am Kara Sharyss," she said. "Can I get you a drink or something to eat while you wait?"
"No thank you, you can bring the others that traveled with me here to the chamber, though." Alexander laid out his bed roll and sat down.
"I don't know where they are," she answered him.
"Then you are of no help to me."
She sat down next to him. "Would you like some company?"
"Yes, I would... I would like the company of the people that traveled here with me and you cannot help me with that so you don't really need to hang around do you?"
The frustrated priest pulled out the Dark Athena and began to pray.
At this, the succubus and every other devil in the room fled. The Dark Athena, an ebony statue of the goddess, seemed delighted.
Alexander Maximus looked up and laughed to himself. "So, Athena holds some sway here still. I can feel her presence again. This is good."
Alexander closed his eyes, and mighty devotee that he was, opened up his mind to the goddess whom he served. Soon, her light shone itself to him and, as if in a dream, he spoke to her.
"Are you pleased with how I am handling Larbius?" he asked.
"So, I should keep forcing the issue?"
Before he could speak with the goddess further, however, Larbius returned and interrupted him. Alexander Maximus rose up and saw that Larbius was visibly shaken.
"Oh Great Athena," called Alexander, suddenly invigorated. "What should I demand now that Larbius is trying to go out of his oath?"
"You may have my daughter, Issic, and Phaidon's soul," said the devil. "However, Kaletor, Roland, and Phoebe are not worshippers of Athena. They invaded my home. I keep them."
"No deal. One, they did not invade your home. They were attacked while they were helping me find you. Two, you must do something for us since you broke your oath in the first place. This is what we want. If you would like us to make another demand, then we can... something like you and your lackeys are never able to set foot on Inzeladun again?"
Larbius went and sat on his throne. "If I had let the mind flayers keep Phaidon, he'd be a monster now. I deserve a reward for this. I get to keep Kaletor and Roland. You may have Phoebe."
"Do you know what Roland would do to me if I let you keep her? NO DEAL!"
"You have it backwards. I will keep Roland and Kaletor. You can have Phoebe."
"Do you know what Phoebe would do to me if I let you keep Roland? It is the same problem. And I will not let you have Kaletor. He, out of everyone, really didn't know what he was getting himself into. I have to protect him above all the others."
"Not my problem. I rescued Phaidon from the mind flayers. I helped. I get something. Let me keep my daughter."
"No deal. Your daughter is not something to keep or to give. If you understood this maybe you would have a better relationship with her." The priest thought for a moment. The devil was not bending. He realized that he might have to deal. "But you want something," he said, leading up to it. "I understand that. I will make you a deal Larbius..."
"And what will you concede to me, Alexander?"
"I am a brother to a dragon and a companion to owls, I have sprung out of Blood that has flown from the shoulder of Pallas Athena and I demand you keep your oath and return all those that traveled with me safely home. And in return I will give you back... your teeth!"
Alexander Maximus, who had once, and long ago, knocked out the devil's teeth, held them now in a bag and offered them to Larbius Prama. "You don't know what I have been offered for these."
"Ah, those trinkets," said Larbius. "I do not care to have them back. Not a fair trade. How about this? I give you back everyone, but in return, I am hereby exempt from my oath as a reward for rescuing Phaidon from the mind flayers."
"You might have saved Phaidon and you could have returned him to Inzeladun. Rather you kept him and broke your oath. Athena can demand whatever she wants because you are the one who broke your oath. Getting out of your oath because you broke it would not be fair. How about this? I will let you try and convince your daughter to stay. I cannot make any promises as to what she will say but you can have a chance to convince her."
"Very well," said Larbius, shape changing into Phaidon's form. "Bring forth my daughter. And see that she is stripped!"
Several devils departed the room. "You cannot interfere, Alexander. Remember this."
"I want to see them before you get your chance. And you cannot lie to her."
"No," snapped the devil.
Instantly, Alexander was transported to the deck of the Demonwing. His companions were there, also, they were naked and freezing.
"Larbius!" Alexander roared. "This was not part of the deal! You were to return us unharmed and as we were when we arrived!"
A voice answered in his head. "That was not part of the bargain. You got them back, and India has agreed to stay. As Phaidon, I will indeed corrupt her."
"Robbing us is harming us; I expect our belongings back or I will come back down there and take up this regress with you!"
"I did not rob you. I have no idea where your things are."
"Well you need to find them, don't you?"
"No. I don't care where your things are."
"Fine you have our belongings then. That is what you get and you don't get your time with India."
"She is here, and has agreed to stay."
Alexander, using the powers of his mind, reached out to India and said, "Phaidon is with us, reject the devil!"
"She thinks I am Phaidon, and that she is back in Alisander," Larbius laughed cruelly. "Her mind was quite willing to accept the illusion. And do not try to reach her as you just did. She is protected against that sort of thing, Alexander. She is mine. Care to invade my home again? The diving spheres are down here."
"You are lying to her, Larbius, and that is harming her soul. You have violated your oath again. I demand that you return her."
"Come and get her then."
"No, return her. You broke your word again and I will not spend any more time redressing your broken oaths when all you have to do is wave your hand and return her. Our belongings are in Hell. If you take the time to find them, then you may keep them, but you will return India!"
"Come and get her then."
"Meet me on shore by the boat."
Alexander flew off the deck of the ship and summoned a Solar to his aid. The mighty angel appeared beside him, radiant with light.
"My friend is held by Larbius," said Alexander. "Go and bring her back!"
"As you command."
Moments later, the Solar returned with India in his arms. He landed on the deck of the ship and laid her there. "I have done as you commanded," he said, slumping to his knees. "And this---" A bag slipped from his fingers and fell to the ship's deck. "It is all I can do---" Then, quite suddenly, the Solar vanished.
Alexander Maximus flew back to the deck of the Demonwing and checked the contents of the bag. He was pleased to find that the party's belongings were safe within. "Thank you for your help," he whispered to the departed Solar. "And may you always be blessed with the glory of Athena"
Alexander bent down and touched India's cheek. She was unconscious, but well. The others donned their clothes and their items and gathered around the Gauntlet of Athena.
"Well done," said Roland.
Kaletor, who now held his cousin in his arms, saluted Alexander.
Phoebe took Roland's arm and smiled at the priest, her demeanor speaking more than any words could.
Issic grinned his toothy grin, proud to be in the great cleric's presence.
And so it was that the might of Oard joined once more with the might of Ingara to vanquish the machinations of evil. Strong had the alliance become. And stronger still would it grow...