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A Tale of Nightmares 16c - The Lord of Mirrors

Dirty Secrets and Nightmares is a Dungeons and Dragons (DnD 5e) game set in a Ravenloft Domain of Dread, New Solamnia. Play takes place every Friday night at Dragons Keep Roleplay Club in Chislehurst, South East London. The Dungeon Master is Sam.

Five people previously unknown to each other have found themselves strangely transported to a land none of them are familiar with. They have banded together to investigate what has brought them here - and survive. According to the locals, it is usually a peaceful place. This is not the party's experience, as strange happenings surround them, and monsters stir.

The party consists of:

· Sir Gerigold - A Male Half-Elven Oath of Redemption Paladin of the Morninglord (played by Paul), wielding the sentient maul Earthshatter (also known as Verna)

· Hazard Darkstar - A Male Human Rune Knight Fighter (played by Alexander)

· Greynen Falstaer - A Male Half-Elven Warlock of the Archfey, Pact of the Tome (played by Mark)

· Morgaen Nightbreeze - A Female Half-Elven Bard of the College of Spirits (played by Imogen)

· Ragnar son of Bjorn - A Male Human Tempest Cleric of Thor (played by Alex)

The party have been hired to enter a strange, magical labyrinth which is connected by stairways with changing destinations, searching for Yirina, the missing daughter of the Duke of Esra. The labyrinth belongs to a powerful demon, the Lord of Mirrors - who, the party have discovered, owes five heroic souls to an even more powerful demon. His abduction of Yirina now appears ominously like a trap.

Greynen was targeted by a demon which wrote something on a scroll while looking at him - he pursued it, and became separated from the rest of the party. He has ended up by himself in a strange library, hunting for the scroll which was written about him...

Greynen’s eyes widened, then narrowed. His name was at the top of the scroll. The Worst Fears of Greynen Falstaer. Underneath, was a note – Death of his sister Olaria – but it was crossed out. Beneath was another note – Death of his mother. This was not crossed out. He bit his lip, realising it was true, and that the creature also somehow had known that his worst fear had come to pass.

Then he realised that something had changed. The sound of pages being turned and of books being put on and off shelves had stopped.

He looked up.

Three demons were on the balcony, striding swiftly towards him, and two more had left their desks and were heading towards the spiral stairs. All of them were looking directly towards him, despite the blindfolds.

The closest one put two fingers to its forehead and tilted its head slightly. It made a slight hissing noise.

Greynen again felt something start trying to invade his mind. This time, remembering when the demon had blinded him in the stone chamber, he managed to hold off the attack. But another came almost at once, from a second demon closing in on him. Again, he held off the attack, but this time only barely. He could see the others starting to raise two fingers to their foreheads as well.

Making a swift calculation of his ability to resist a barrage of curses from five demons, he put the scroll back on the shelf, slid down the ladder and raised his hands, showing they were empty.

The demons were still looking towards the scroll. Then they started sniffing and moved slightly, all looking towards him on the balcony. They grinned at him and made a collective sighing noise that made his skin crawl.

But they no longer seemed so hostile. The two on the ground floor started to move back to their desks. Two of the others moved away along the balcony.

One, however, remained standing nearby, head tilted slightly, sniffing in his direction.

Greynen moved back along the balcony, away from the scroll with his name on it.

“Not an open-access library, then,” he muttered to himself. He followed one of the creatures down the spiral staircase and walked along the centre of the library, looking at the desks.

One of the demons, working at the end of the library, seemed to have just finished a task.

“Excuse me,” he said, walking up to it, “I see I inadvertently broke a rule, perhaps you could tell me what they are so that I don’t make any more mistakes?”

The demon merely grunted at him and picked up another book. It opened it, and started making notes again. It had been a strange sound – as if there was something malformed about its mouth. Greynen made a face.

He walked back towards the archway, making up his mind to try the stairs again and see what happened. As he went, something on one of the unoccupied desks caught his eye. Was that – yes, that was a spell scroll, surely. He recognised the arcane notation. It had been left on top of a particularly grisly-looking tome, which appeared to be bound with human, or at least humanoid, skin.

Greynen checked around the library, noting the location of the librarians. None were currently between him and the door, and the door was only thirty feet away.

He grabbed the spell scroll and the book from the desk and dashed for the archway, and the stairs. He thought he heard a strangled sound as he went but then he was through the archway, running down the apparently endless stairs – and as he ran, light shone ahead of him and an archway appeared. He ran through it, whirled round and hoped. He could see several robed figures on the stairs, running downwards, but the silver light was getting brighter and brighter until he could see nothing through the archway. Then it dimmed. The stairs were now going down into nothingness again, and he was alone.

The rest of the party turned as the light dimmed, and saw the stairs to nothingness now going downwards from the room they were in.

There was nothing of interest in the small rectangular room they found themselves in except the mirror. Looking in it, they found a twisting black shape. It seemed to be either dancing or perhaps convulsing in pain – it was hard to tell. Watching carefully, they realised that at times a silhouette of a face seemed to appear. A familiar face. The shadow seemed to belong to Bronner.

Sir Gerigold made a face. “Shall I smash it?” he asked, hefting Verna.

Morgaen advised caution, in case he inadvertently released some kind of undead. She reached out to any spirits that might be present for guidance, particularly reaching towards the mirror – but whatever this was, it did not seem to be a spirit, or any undead. It might not be any kind of creature, she thought – just an object that had trapped something of Bronner’s reflection.

“I might as well smash it,” Sir Gerigold commented, and did so.

Nothing untoward occurred.

There was one door out of the room. It opened onto a long corridor, which seemed to have a door at the far end and another, larger door halfway along.

Morgaen suggested staying where they were for a while, resting, and hoping that Greynen appeared through the arch. She thought that if he was lost, he would probably be looking for them, and if they stayed in one place next to the stairs he might be more likely to find them. The others disagreed, because anything might have happened to him to make him go down the stairs without them – and since the stairs might take him anywhere, he was as likely to find them if they were also looking for him as if they stayed put.

Just in case, Morgaen used the cosmetics from her disguise kit to draw an arrow on the wall and leave their initials under it, so that if Greynen appeared in this room he would know which way they had gone. Then they headed down the corridor, Sir Gerigold in the lead.

Greynen investigated the room he had found himself in. He was in a circular room with one door on the opposite side to the arch. The walls and floor being made of mirrors. The arched stone roof was in multiple parts separated by the vaulting.

In the strange light which seemed to come from nowhere, Greynen could see that each vault of the ceiling was carved with a single red eye. These were reflected multiple times from the walls and floor, so that wherever he looked, many red eyes were looking back at him.

His skin crawled. He turned and set off down the stairs again. When a new archway appeared, he stepped through.

This time, he found himself in a round stone room, with a strange wooden stage in the centre. It had steps up to the stage from each side, and strangely-constructed lanterns. Each lantern-flame was surrounded by a framework holding red paper safely away from it, and the light shining through these had a reddish tint. Strange symbols in yellow were drawn on the lanterns. Greynen could not tell if they were arcane or written language.

In the centre of the stage, small figures seemed to be huddled. They did not appear to be alive. Strings ran from them to the ceiling.

He stepped closer, peering carefully in at them.

The figures shuddered. Controlled by the strings, they started to move, jerkily.

Puppets, Greynen realised. He looked up – the strings vanished into a void in the ceiling. Interested, he started to inspect the puppets themselves further – then he realised what was being shown.

One puppet, with a mask over its face, was being attacked by others – including a puppet with spiky white hair, making spellcasting gestures. He recognised the others, as well – but his eyes were drawn, time and again, to the mutilated puppet with flowing white hair, hanging suspended over the stage. He was watching their fight with Karina play out towards his sister Olaria’s death. He felt sickened, but he couldn’t drag his eyes from the scene – until the puppet with the mask was held down, as if on a table, and the puppet with spiky white hair came back with a knife. Then, at the last moment, he flinched and looked away.

When he looked back, the puppets representing Karina and Olaria had exploded, with small pieces of red paper still drifting down in the places where they had been.

Halfway down the corridor, Sir Gerigold came to a pair of double doors. Carefully, he put his hand on one. Pushing it open, he peered inside.

The tall, circular room beyond was lit with a strange radiance. Two curving staircases climbed each side, each with three dark archways at intervals, winding upwards to a ledge at least thirty feet from the ground where a throne stood on a stone dais.

On the throne was lounging the tall, robed demon with a pair of straight horns sticking out from his long fair hair.

Seeing Sir Gerigold, he clapped his hands and chuckled.

“Please – do come in!”

On the wall behind him, Sir Gerigold could see a mirror. Inside, it did not reflect the demon. Instead, he could see a pale, panicked face. Hands moved as if hammering, silently, on the inside of the mirror, and the face was clearly trying to shout something, but he could hear nothing. It was a face he recognised, however.


He pushed the door the rest of the way open, and walked in. The others followed, cautiously.

“Well met, heroes!” the Lord of Mirrors continued, cheerfully. “Have you come to save the young lady?” He gestured casually to the mirror behind him.

“And you, I take it, are after our souls to pay your debt,” Sir Gerigold said.

“I’m all about a good business proposal,” the demon said.

“I don’t think we’ll be offering our souls,” the paladin said drily.

“Oh, they need not be your souls.” He flicked one hand slightly, and from somewhere a piece of paper appeared in his hand. “You have done well to get this far – I might offer you a contract. If you bring me the souls of five heroic adventurers, I will release the lady without going after your own souls.” Reading the disgusted look on the paladin’s face, he added, “Come, come, we are not even talking good souls, here – I’m sure your party could find five brave, heroic but evil people to kill, if you put your minds to it! I would have my heroic souls, you would have rid the world of five dangerous people! We would all benefit!”

“Or we could just kill you,” the paladin pointed out, coldly. “Since we are here.”

“Well, I think the Lord of Mirror’s proposal is worth talking about, at least,” Morgaen said, hurriedly – considering both Greynen’s absence and how long it had been since the party rested to recover their strength. “Of course, one of our friends has got temporarily misdirected in your mirrors – we should go to find him, and discuss this idea with him –”

“How about this,” Sir Gerigold went on. “Release Yirina at once, and we won’t tell Bargamora and your other enemies where to find you.”

Morgaen kicked him, and hissed, “This is not a good time to start a big fight!” under her breath. The paladin ignored her.

“How about this?” the Lord of Mirrors said, with a cold smile. “If you sign the contract, I won’t cause your worst fears to come true.” He flipped his hand again and another scroll appeared. He opened it with a flourish and read it – then looked mildly irritated. “I must think of some effective way to make it clear to the librarians that they have not been sufficiently diligent,” he remarked, then looked back at them. “If you sign the contract,” he said, with another cold smile, “I won’t go after the other half-elf’s mother.”

“We’ve all got mothers,” Sir Gerigold said, brow slightly furrowed that this was a demon’s best threat.

Hazard made a small movement that might have been a flinch. Ragnar and Morgaen, who would not have chosen to draw the demon’s attention to the fact that their mothers were alive and available as potential targets, were glaring at Sir Gerigold.

“But he would be broken past repair if he lost his mother as well as his sister,” the demon said. “And since he is not here for this discussion, all of you would have caused that by refusing to accept a contract with me. That guilt would destroy you. That would please me.”

“I agree with Morgaen, let’s go find Grey and discuss this with him!” Ragnar said loudly. “Then we can come back and let you know our decision.”

The Lord of Mirrors chuckled again.

“Well, you can certainly try to find him… don’t expect to be any more successful in navigating my mirrors than most people! It was a great stroke of luck that brought you here to me so swiftly! But do go and take as long as you need to both find your friend and find your way back here. In the meantime, I will have my fun with the girl.”

Standing, he reached behind him and stuck a claw into the mirror.

The mirror rippled – and the claw stabbed into Yirina’s shoulder. She convulsed. She was clearly screaming, now, and her head arched backwards in pain.

Sir Gerigold raised a hand and invoked the power of the Morninglord to strengthen him for battle.

The Lord of Mirrors chuckled again.

“Oh, dear,” he said, and withdrew his claw from the mirror. Yirina collapsed, silently sobbing in agony.

Hazard had grabbed Sir Gerigold’s arm and shoulder as he started to heft Verna.

“Gerigold, the job isn’t worth our lives!” he argued. “We’re not rested and this bastard could easily be too much for us without Grey!”

“He shouldn’t go sticking his fingers in defenceless women’s shoulders! Right in front of us! I tell you, Hazard, it may be said we have heroic souls, but not if we walk away from this!” the paladin thundered. “I will not run from a vile demon and leave him to torment the innocent!”

Hazard let go.

“Dammit, why do you have to be right!” he shouted, furiously, and dashed for the stairs.

Moving swiftly, the Lord of Mirrors started to stride down the stairs towards him – then stepped sideways into the highest archway on that staircase, just as Hazard reached the lowest. There was a shimmer for a moment, then suddenly the demon was stepping out of the lowest mirror, right in front of Hazard.

Sir Gerigold’s eyes widened.

“Watch out – the archways are mirrors! He has power over them!” he shouted.

It was too late for Hazard. The Lord of Mirror’s claws had found a weak spot in the fighter’s armour, and the others saw a ghastly rictus spread over Hazard’s face. He went stiff, and started to topple over – but the demon grabbed him, and drew its claws across his throat. Sir Gerigold shouted a curse in the name of the Morninglord, and the demon flinched back, divine light shining on it for a moment. It stepped back into the mirror, and reappeared near the top of the stairs.

Hazard had fallen to the floor, limp. His body rolled down a few steps before coming to a stop.

Greynen had stood for a moment in front of the puppet theatre, clenching his fists and trying to master himself. Now their macabre play was over, the puppets were merely standing, heads bowed, in their last positions.

He came to a decision. Taking up the nearest red lantern, he flung it at the puppets. As first they and then the stage started burning, he turned and walked away, heading down the stairs.

Morgaen ran forward, guitar in her hands. She strummed a march tune - Ragnar and Sir Gerigold felt suddenly stronger and Hazard’s eyes blinked open. Then Morgaen was running up the stairs, bending over Hazard and pushing a potion bottle into his hands.

Sir Gerigold was running up the second flight of stairs. He dashed for the first archway, hurling himself into it.

The mirror smashed as he hit it – beyond, there was only the dark void.

The paladin just managed to catch himself on the door frame and pull himself back before he fell. Righteous fury kept him going. Without stopping to think about his narrow escape, he powered on up the stairs. He heard the sound of a horn blowing from far away – Ragnar was trying a spell – but it seemed to have no effect.

“Ah,” the Lord of Mirrors commented. “We certainly have a brave soul here.” He strode down, uncannily fast, towards Sir Gerigold and started slashing with his claws. Again, he found a weakness, getting a viciously-clawed hand through a crack in the paladin’s armour. A sick feeling started to spread through Sir Gerigold’s body, and he could feel his muscles start to stiffen – but he cried out “Morninglord, protect me!” before his mouth seized up, hearing Verna’s voice in his head encouraging him to keep fighting – You’ve got this, laddie, you’ve got this!

“I think not!” the Lord of Mirrors commented and slashed again. He had ripped a piece of armour partially off last time, and now he did even more damage. Sir Gerigold shuddered, then suddenly felt the paralysis leave him – but the demon had stepped into the nearest mirror and reappeared near the throne, out of Sir Gerigold’s range. Standing over all of them, he laughed.

“You should have taken my deal! Now you will all die and I will have your souls!”

Greynen reappeared in the room with the mirrored floor and the vaulted ceiling with many red eyes. He was about to turn and try again – then shrugged, and decided to see what was through the opposite door this time.

Pushing it open, he saw a stone corridor. Some way ahead, light spilled into the corridor from a doorway to the side – and he could hear the tail end of a gloating laugh, and someone saying something about a deal.

That sounded like trouble, which sounded like his friends.

He started running.

Ahead of him, at the door, Ragnar heard footsteps and turned from the fight, running into the corridor to meet the new threat coming at them from behind.

“Grey!” he said delightedly. “Where’ve you been?”

“Looking around,” the warlock said shortly.

“Well, I’m glad you’re here, we’re fighting a demon in a robe! It keeps coming in and out of the mirrors on the stairs and it’s trapped Yirina in a mirror behind the throne –“

“You lost me at demon in a robe, let’s go!” Grey cut in, taking Ragnar’s arm and dragging the cleric back towards the open door.

Morgaen shouted words of healing and magic gleamed around Sir Gerigold as he kept running up towards the throne. She drew something from her pouch and threw it to the floor, shouting another word of power. The silver raven she had found in the Valkyr Mausoleum bounced – and took to the air as a real raven, glossy black wings spread wide.

“Mark him – aid our attacks!” she ordered it, pointing at the demon. “We will die at your hands? Unlikely! What kind of demon lord sits around and waits for random adventurers to turn up? We’ve met the imp, you’re hiding here hoping we’d come because your debt’s overdue and you didn’t have the courage to go out and try to get five heroic souls yourself!”

Flying up, the raven started to flap around the Lord of Mirror’s head, cawing.

Hazard clambered to his feet, pushed past her and started running up the stairs, braced to dodge another attack.

“We’ll come at him from both sides!” he shouted to Sir Gerigold on the other staircase.

Behind the demon, Sir Gerigold was nearly at the top of the stairs, invoking protective magic to shield himself.

“Hit the mirrors!” he shouted to the others, swinging Verna at the highest mirror on those stairs. It shattered, and the Lord of Mirrors screamed with rage. Pushing on, the paladin reached the mirror behind the throne – the one holding Yirina – and swung at that.

A crack ran over it – and Yirina screamed again. A jagged wound appeared, running all over one side from leg to shoulder.

“Don’t hit this mirror!” the paladin shouted again, aghast. “I’m sorry!”

Hazard was powering towards the highest mirror on the other stairs – but the Lord of Mirrors got there first. He stepped into the mirror again – and reappeared right next to Morgaen. His face a vicious snarl, he clawed her. Once – and her face took on a paralysed rictus of pain – twice – and a slash across her belly dropped her to the stairs, guts spilling out. Her eyes were wide and unseeing.

Hazard yelled in fury and turned on the stairs, starting to run back down.

The Lord of Mirrors stepped back, his face relaxing again.

“Excellent,” he commented, his voice echoing around the chamber. “What was that about not being able to get five heroic souls myself?”

Turning, he strode up the stairs, and swung at Hazard again. The fighter just managed to dodge – and the demon vanished into the mirror again, reappearing on the other side of the hall.

A blast of power shone past him, and the mirror he had just left smashed into pieces. A slender, white-haired figure was standing on the floor of the hall. Greynen had heard Sir Gerigold shout about the mirrors, had seen the demon move through them, and was getting into the fight by attacking the Lord of Mirrors’ escape routes as Ragnar started to charge up the stairs, the cleric shouting words of healing at the badly-wounded Hazard. Sir Gerigold was following his own advice by hurling javelins at the mirrors – less successfully than Greynen’s blasts of power.

On the stairs, there was a sudden golden gleam at Morgaen’s wrist – which became a glow of moving, golden light, like sand flowing in an hourglass. The light hid her body for a moment. When it cleared, the bard was climbing to her feet, face grim. Blood and guts were lying on the stairs, but her armour was back over her body, undamaged. She glanced down – the hourglass on her wrist had filled by about a third, like Ragnar’s. Cursing, she drew Mindsplinter and smashed at the mirror next to her with the pommel. As it shattered, she looked around at her comrades, judged how injured they were and shouted words of healing towards Hazard.

The magic raven had cut across the room when it saw the Lord of Mirrors emerge there, and was flapping around the demon’s head again. He made an exasperated noise, raising an arm to block the creature’s beating wings – and just at that moment, Ragnar arrived. With a cry of “Thunderbreaker!”, he struck at the demon, knocking him back. With a shout of defiance, he followed up. On the other side of the room, Hazard was busy smashing every mirror he could reach.

Hearing the falling glass, the demon snarled. He gathered himself and sprung at Ragnar. Once – and lightning burst from the cleric’s holy symbol at him, but did not stop him – and twice, both times ripping through Ragnar’s chainmail. Thor’s cleric went down, hard. The demon’s eyes settled on Morgaen and Greynen, standing together near the bottom of the other set of stairs, and narrowed. He started towards them, picking up speed as he came.

The pair gathered themselves – then from nowhere, a stinking arm appeared, extending rapidly towards them. Morgaen and Greynen dived apart – glancing up, they could see one of the slime monsters, sliding down the wall towards them. As it landed next to him, Greynen shouted a spell – radiance burned around the creature, which gurgled in pain and recoiled, missing its chance to attack as the warlock ran up the stairs. Morgaen shifted position, settled her guitar and released a blast of thunderous force, catching both the slime monster and the rapidly-advancing Lord of Mirrors. The blast threw the demon back – and Morgaen took her chance to follow Greynen up the stairs, as fast as she could. On the other side of the room, Sir Gerigold was charging down the stairs, towards the demon – it changed direction and doubled back, either heading towards Sir Gerigold or towards the last intact mirror on the stairs.

Hazard was approaching the throne at the top of the stairs. Out of nowhere, he heard demonic laughter echoing in his head.

Am I supposed to be upset by this? he thought viciously at the laughter. I’ve got demons in my head already! Ignoring the peals of vicious mirth, he examined the throne and the mirror behind. Yirina seemed to be pleading with him, but he couldn’t make out what she was trying to say. One thing he was sure of – there seemed to be no easy way of getting her out of the mirror, certainly not by breaking it. Any damage to the mirror right now would be damage to her.

Sir Gerigold and the Lord of Mirrors met just in front of the last mirror, over Ragnar’s unconscious body. The Lord of Mirrors stepped on Ragnar to launch himself at the paladin – striking again through the patch he had opened up in Sir Gerigold’s armour, the poison from his claws spread rapidly through Sir Gerigold’s veins this time, and his body seized up.

The demon gave a sigh of satisfaction.

“Time to butcher this one!” he announced to the others – and as they looked over in horror, he struck out again at the paralyzed Sir Gerigold.

His claws struck something in mid-air – golden light shone in an aura around the knight, protecting him from harm.

Sir Gerigold’s mouth was slightly open. He let out a titter, then a more appropriate, “Thank you, Morninglord!”

On the other stairs, Greynen and Morgaen dodged another attack by the slime monster, then Greynen unleashed his magic again. One of Greynen’s eldritch blasts smashed the final mirror – but the second, aimed at the Lord of Mirrors himself, suddenly bent sideways and hit the wall.

“Hmm,” Greynen remarked to Morgaen. “That shouldn’t have happened.”

As the Lord of Mirrors shouted in fury, his final potential escape route smashed before his eyes, Morgaen called out another healing incantation – and behind the demon, Ragnar’s eyes opened. The raven still flapped about his head, the demon batting at it furiously. As he did so the pale and bloody cleric climbed to his feet, and Sir Gerigold shook all over – then threw off the paralysis again and re-settled his grip on Verna. The demon was flanked, without an escape route.

Ragnar struck first. “Thor, aid me to do your work and smite him!” he yelled, and did so mightily – then prudently dropped to one knee, hit the stair with his fist and gathered the silver mists around himself, reappearing in the centre of the hall safely away from the demon and reaching for a healing potion to strengthen himself. Sir Gerigold raised his maul for the next strike.

At that moment, there was a strange chiming sound – and all of the mirrors suddenly reformed.

As Sir Gerigold’s maul whistled down, the demon stepped sideways into the mirror with what the paladin thought might have been a sigh of relief – and reappeared on the other stairs, right between Greynen and Morgaen. His claws slashed down, once, then twice – Greynen dropped to the floor, unconscious. Turning, he made another slash at Morgaen. But he had turned too quickly, his claws catching slightly on the wall, giving the bard the chance to duck out of the way. She tried to smash the mirror he had emerged from, but it was still fluctuating strangely from his emergence – instead, she called out and summoned the silver mists, vanishing from the demon’s side and reappearing next to Ragnar in the centre of the hall. Hazard was charging down the stairs towards the demon and the unconscious Greynen – on the other side of the room, Sir Gerigold was also running, drinking a healing potion as he went, but again the demon’s passage through the mirrors had left him on the far side of the room to his companions under threat.

Hazard attacked, roaring his name – “Hazard!” – and struck at the demon before it could attack the unconscious Greynen again. As his greatsword bit home, he invoked a rune, and fiery shackles appeared around the Lord of Mirrors’ wrists – momentarily. The Lord of Mirrors snarled, shook his arms, and the shackles dissipated – then, with a malicious grin and a remark of “You made me bleed my own blood! Let’s see yours!” he struck back at Hazard. The paralysing poison from his claws spread through the fighter’s veins again, and his body stiffened. Sir Gerigold was only halfway across the room, at the bottom of the stairs – still too far away to help.

Ragnar had been shouting words of healing – and Greynen woke up. He was prone on the stairs, seriously injured, with the demon standing over him facing a paralysed Hazard. Before the Lord of Mirrors could realise that he was conscious again, he reached in his pouch for the Bell of Summoning they had been given by the tiefling mage Iskoval. He rang it, crying out “Velanka!”

The Bell cracked, breaking in half as it sounded – and as it did so, there was a ripple in the fabric of reality. Between one moment and the next a hulking, ogre-sized blue figure with a horned forehead was standing over Greynen, wielding an immense staff. The Lord of Mirrors whirled to face Iskoval’s mother, Velanka the oni.

“For your help to my son, I have come to your aid!” she cried out.

“Kill that bastard demon! Please!” Greynen shouted, diving through her legs.

“With great pleasure!” the oni declared, and went on the attack.

The stairs were now blocked – Sir Gerigold skidded to a stop on the hall’s floor, and looked for another route. There was nothing – he had no way to reach the demon. Reaching for his javelins, he started breaking mirrors again.

The Lord of Mirrors and Velanka were battling in a storm of staff and claws. As they fought, the slime monster came slipping down the wall again. It reached out – and grabbed the still-paralysed Hazard, crushing him and starting to haul him up the stairs. Morgaen shouted healing magic to keep him conscious, despite the damage he was taking. Then she started shouting insults at the Lord of Mirrors again, putting magic into her words, trying to put him off his attacks on Velanka. But something went wrong – her words twisted in her mouth, and she found herself viciously mocking herself. Narrowly, she managed to hold off being damaged by her own magic.

“No, no, Morgaen, it’s not that bad!” Ragnar shouted at her encouragingly.

“The spell was reflected back from the demon, idiot!” Morgaen snapped back at him. “The same way Grey’s blast didn’t hit! Magic targeted directly at him isn’t going to work!”

At that moment, Greynen was trying a different cantrip – which also reflected back from the demon somehow. Hazard was moving again, thrashing in the slime monster’s grip as it dragged him up the stairs, but he was struggling to get his sword clear enough to attack. Ragnar, Morgaen and Sir Gerigold were stuck down on the floor, with no effective way to get into the fight since both spells and ranged weapons were not working well against the Lord of Mirrors – and then the floor for a moment seemed to disappear, in an area surrounding Ragnar. He jumped for the closest edge, wheeling his arms, and somehow did not fall through until the floor reformed again.

The Lord of Mirrors laughed, somewhat breathlessly.

“You finally realise what you are dealing with! Many of you are badly wounded – now you know your spells will do nothing to me! Smash my mirrors and I will reform them again, and still appear to target the weakest of you, until I have my souls! But you have fought well! I will still offer you the deal you could have had at the start – bring me five other souls, and I will leave you yours and release the girl into the bargain! But you!” he added, glaring at Velanka. “You are a nuisance!”

He went on the offensive again, and finally got the strike he had been looking for. The others could see the formidable oni’s body stiffen, as she too fell victim to the poison of the demon’s claws.

Morgaen saw one possibility. She ran over to the stairs, just below and to the side of where the Lord of Mirrors was still slashing away at the paralysed oni, bracing herself against the wall, making a stirrup with her hands and calling out to Sir Gerigold.

“Come on! We need to get you up there!”

The paladin looked dubiously at her size and glanced down at his heavy armour. But her stance looked strong and he could not think of any other option to try right now, so he started running towards her. Stepping up into Morgaen’s hands for a boost, Sir Gerigold got one foot up on her shoulder and pushed off, without checking his speed. He felt the bard start to collapse below him as he did so – but her stance had lasted long enough. Above them, the raven wheeled in and beat about the Lord of Mirror’s head again, and Velanka’s body was shuddering all over as she shook off her paralysis. He was distracted for a critical moment, as Sir Gerigold’s head and shoulders appeared above the edge of the stairs. A second’s mad scramble later, and the paladin was standing two steps above the demon lord, swinging Verna down mightily as the demon started to turn towards him – but only succeeded in leaving himself even more open.

“NO SOULS TODAY!” Sir Gerigold thundered, radiant white light gleaming around Verna as he swung the maul down, with dwarf battle-cries sounding in his head.

The crunch as the maul hit home was audible to all of them – hitting the Lord of Mirrors on the shoulder, they could see one of his clawed arms start to go limp. But, amazingly, he was still standing.

So Sir Gerigold swung again. He connected with the demon’s head - hard.

The demon’s body lifted with the impact, and he was hurled from the stairs. As it hit the floor, it shattered into a thousand shards of glass.

The slime monster still grappling Hazard dropped him, and fled.

The surface of the mirror holding Yirina rippled – she fell through the glass somehow, to collapse sobbing to the floor behind the throne.

Sir Gerigold bowed to the seriously injured Velanka with a hurried word of thanks, and hurried up the stairs to attend to the injured girl and tried to calm her.

The oni breathed out heavily, with what appeared to be relief.

“Well, you lot got into some serious trouble, didn’t you?” she commented to Greynen, eyeing her injuries. “That very nearly went badly, that fight. I’m glad that bell was a one-time deal, I don’t want to see what you get up to next!”

This was part 16 B of 'Dirty Secrets & Nightmares', featuring Sam as Dungeon Master.

With a cast of Mark, Alex, Paul, Imogen and Alexander.

Written by Imogen Solly

Photographs sourced from Pexels unless otherwise stated. Many thanks to the artists for making these available. From the top, by: Thuanny Gantuss, Ivo Rainha, Drigo Diniz, Audrey Mari, Thuanny Gantuss, Cottonbro, Pixabay, Adrien Olichon, Ksenia Kopna, Elia, Cottonbro, Cottonbro, Vlad Bagacian.

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