I have another one for you... slightly altered to make for better reading...
Joan was the first to enter the chamber, her heavy spear at the ready. The Ranger sucked in her breath at the sight of it. It was huge, at least 15 paces across and three times as deep. Massive stone columns carved in the shapes of Amazonian Legionnaires at strict attention, in two rows of five, reached up from the floor, their stone torsos disappearing into the darkness that shrouded the ceiling. Great metal braziers were affixed to the walls, and on stands near the caryatids, casting flickering, dancing light around the room.
Sir Hugh was close behind her, and for a moment, he, too, marveled at the chamber in which the party found themselves. But they were there for a reason, and he was there to see it through to the end. He pointed with his broad sword, directing everyone's attention to the dais at the far end of the room. Upon it was a massive throne, simple and solid looking in design, free from adornments or fine detail. To the left of the throne was a maiden in a rich gown of blue velvet, with gold brocade at the neck and hem. Her arms were held behind her, and a leather pad was held in her mouth by a thick strap that circled her head, and bound down her flowing red hair. A collar was locked around her neck, secured by a silver chain to the arm of the throne. She seemed pale, even considering her fair complexion; hope and fear mingled in sparkling green eyes.
"The Princess," Mercynwyn whispered. The elf stepped to the side, and drew his long bow.
"Good," growled Ranulf, tightening his grip on his halberd as the group of adventurers pressed forward, closing the distance to the throne. The scale-clad Dwarf soldier was spoiling for yet another fight, and was almost quivering in anticipation of taking King Elmesh's daughter back to him, exchanging her for enough gold to keep him in beer until he could get back Undermountain, and wipe the silly smirk of Grimbold's face once and for all.
Four creatures moved into the center of the room at the foot of the dais, to block the path. Each had the head of a ram with curling black horns, the torso of a muscular man, and the tail of a great serpent. From head to tail, they were covered in scarlet scales, two fingers across. All were armed with either double-bitted great axes or long handled war axes, and they fell into fighting positions.
But it was the creature seated on the throne that everyone was most concerned with. They watched as it stood and stepped towards them. Its skin was a sickly purplish-green in color, an unnatural shade that threatened to turn the stomach. The bald head was bloated and smooth, with sinister, pupil-less eyes. Where its mouth should have been were a quartet of thick tentacles, each as long as a man's forearm and hand together.
"My magic can deal with this," Rector Marcus stated. "It's simply a-"
There was a rustling sound, and broad, dragonlike wings unfurled from behind the creature's back, stretching the height of a man to either side, and obscuring the maiden from view.
"Avatar of the Elder Gods!" Glycon shrieked. The magician's voice was tinged with hysteria. His staff clattered to the floor as he turned and bolted from the room, faster than any of his companions could ever recall seeing him move before.
Molly had nearly jumped out of her skin at Glycon's sudden outburst, and for a moment, the blonde half elf was uncertain of what to do. But by the time Glycon reached the first corner, the young burglar was hot on his heels, not about to tangle with anything that frightened a man who could set a dozen men ablaze with three words and a dismissive wave of his hand.
In their mad dash for safety the pair nearly collided head-on with Regina, who was last in the line. The startled sorceress had stepped aside just soon enough to avoid being trampled. Then she too looked to the creature on the Dias; recognition and horror dawned on her, both at once. In an instant, her face went from a desert tan to ashen. "Dialo fanlalae!" she shouted, and before her voice finished echoing through the room, the spot where she'd stood was empty, with no trace that anyone had ever been there.
Hugh and Joan looked at each other in utter confusion. What on Emerald was happening?
"Let me go!" Rector Marcus had Mercynwyn by the arm, even as the elf struggled to free himself.
"Stand your ground!" the priest shouted back at him. "Avatar or none, the favor of Aeo will-"
Suddenly free, Mercynwyn fell back, off-balance, as Marcus coughed. A gout of blood gushed from his mouth, spilling over his vestments as he fell heavily to his knees. As he flopped onto his chest, three identical war axes could be seen in his back, having pierced mail and man alike. Ranulf looked back towards the throne, and realized that one of the serpent-rams was looking at the priest's body, eyes glazed and expressionless, his arms still forward from the cast. The dwarf roared in anger, and prepared to charge into the fray when suddenly he drew up short.
Voices were growing louder. They sounded like women, chanting a mantra over and over again. Every second that passed, the voices grew more strident, a blasphemous and obscene hymn echoing from the walls of the chamber. Hugh looked up. He though that he could just make out in the shadows above him the movements of the caryatids, as they sang the Death of Ages. He tore his gaze away from the chanting columns. Joan was on the floor, hands pressed as tightly to her ears as she could manage, writhing and kicking in agony. Her mouth worked to scream, but no sound came out. Her eyes were wide in pain and terror.
Mercynwyn was gone.
Not knowing what else to do, Ranulf resumed his charge.
"No!" Hugh shouted. He realized that he'd be unlikely to be heard over the all-encompassing noise that was the chanting of the columns. He couldn't even make out the individual words anymore. "Come back!"
The four serpent-rams met the onrushing dwarf, fury with fury. As Hugh stared, they hewed at each other. Ranulf was a good fighter. He was an excellent fighter. But no matter which of the serpent-rams he struck at, it would slide sinuously away from, or fluidly set aside, the halberd blow. Then the others darted in to deliver axe blows of their own. It seemed to be only the work of seconds for the scarlet creatures to open a dozen wounds on the raging dwarf, who staggered and sank to the floor.
Joan had stopped writhing. Her eyes were still open. There was no sign of life from her.
Cognizant of nothing other than his dead friends and the chanting of the statues, Hugh raised his sword in a salute to the fallen. Abruptly, there was a rush of wings, and he found himself struggling in the grasp of the creature that had been on the throne. It was stronger than he would have thought. It wrapped its tentacles around his head.
There was no pain. Just darkness.
Silence. No chanting, no screaming, no footfalls.
The maiden made a strangled noise. She writhed trying to free her wrists from the shackles that held them. After a few moments, they fell away. She brought her hands up, and unbuckled the gag and spit it out.
The creature dropped Hugh's body. Blood matted in his hair. There was neat hole in the skull. When his head hit the floor, the sound was hollow.
The maiden fought to keep her composure. But she soon gave up the unequal fight, and allowed herself to dissolve into peals of laughter.
"Avatar of the Elder Gods!" she mocked, holding her sides.
The wings lowered, and in a twinkling, they reverted to their normal form of a midnight black cloak. The mind flayer smiled. Or whatever passed for a smile among its kind. It used to bother him that the succubus found this so amusing, but he'd learned to be in on the joke.
"Rachiir's teeth," the succubus gasped. She was now lying on the dais next to the throne, her face wet with tears. "I can't breathe..."
The flayer allowed itself a slight chuckle. She was right. This joke had never gotten old. Great Cthulu, indeed. If he ever met the thing (if it were even real), he'd have to thank it for all the easy meals.
The serpent-rams milled about, their eyes glazed.
RZ-007lc. Side of Republic.