Creamor spins and lashes out with his tail. Although it catches Dominic across the chest, all it manages to do is knock him up against the wall, but it provides enough of an opening for the man-thing to approach the brazier and drive his hand nonchalantly into hot coals and flickering tongues of flame to grab his whip and pull it out, Fire runs and dances mesmerizingly along its braided length, creating a hellish halo. He sneers in triumph, picturing what will come next.
Yet, as he turns to begin enacting that vision, Dominicís halberd lashes out and again manages to wrench the flaming leather from Creamorís grasp and back into the fire.
ďFuck you, monster!Ē the man spits in his own brief moment of triumph.
Creamorís answer is to surge forward and tear Dominicís throat out all the way to his spine., then disdainfully throw the dying man into the fire where he canít even scream as his head collapses against the glowing coals amidst the great gouts of steam generated by spurting blood becoming super-heated.
The first of Drinís eldritch missiles smashes into Julianís chest, driving his sternum inwards like a sledge hammer and splitting his heart apart. Clutching at his chest, bow clattering to the ground, he collapses awkwardly against the broken winch mechanism of the portcullis, gasps one final time in agony, and then slides by degrees to the ground. Behind him, Leander is spun back around the corner by the impact, his left forearm at entirely the wrong angle and incapable of anymore holding his bow.
For the moment, heís the lucky one. The rest of the fusillade paints the far wall of the gatehouse red as the pure kinetic energy of the remaining missiles pushes through their eye sockets and open mouths, liquefying their brains before the resulting pressure wave blowing out the back of their skulls.
Lars stalks after the lone survivor, his first blow missing as Leander stumbles backwards, finally managing to draw his sword and block the second. The priest of hellís third swing however batters through the manís defences, shattering the shoulder of Leanderís damaged arm and driving the defender to his knees where the armoured toe of Larsí boot crashes into his belly. Doubled over in pain and loss of breath, heís powerless to prevent the mace arcing down and ending his life.
The three mass murderers stand there amidst the carnage and take a moment to catch their breath, enjoying their victory. That moment is eventually spoiled however by the realization that the men theyíve just killed have managed to spite their killers by massively damaging the mechanism that controls the drawbridge and rendering the portcullis completely immovable by mechanical means.
* * *
The team at the keep make for underkeep at a breakneck pace, racing the infernal clock that will soon rob them of half their strength. Desperate to save time, Aiden makes the call to eschew the stairs and instead vault the parapet onto the main bridge. It's a dramatic sight as Grumble jack goes first in order to catch his leader ó albeit with a loud grunt of exertion from the weight of the dastardly armour Aiden now wears ó and set him to the ground. The hell hound bounds into the air, bouncing off the ogre and onto the stonework. The devil nonchantly comes last, by which time the attackers discover their gamble has paid off: the defenders have been too pressed by disaster and violence to have closed the tunnel doors.
There's no immediate sign of any of them -- well, apart from the gory stinking mess of mutilated bodies strewn across the ground so the quartet surge towards the kitchen and its trapdoor as quietly as possible.
* * *
Meanwhile inside the keep, Donnagin!Janus makes shushing motions towards the newcomers when they look like they're about to make more noise. "I fear Tacitus' creature has been seized by the fiends. They've placed it here with the instructions to attack if I move."
"What about the others?" Dale asks.
"Slain," the priest's face is a mask of anger and grief. "They crept into the heart of us and slew everyone before they knew what was happening. Havelyn fought so valiantly, but even the gods must make allowances I fear for superior tactics. I live only because there is some profane ritual planned in which I must play a part."
Waving the others behind him to remain in place, Dale creeps forward. "How many are there? Where are they now?"
"One at least for every layer of the Hells they call their master, moving towards the gatehouse I think." Haunted eyes rest on the guardsman. "Everyone you sent to feint them is dead, and they've must have taken the opportunity to finish their task here thinking there was no one left to stop them. I fear they may be right..."
Dale blanches at that news, then goes even paler once he's peeked around the corner and caught a glimpse of the carnage. "Edith will have reached Aldencross by now," he answers after a moment. "Word will be sent to the other watch towers and we'll stop them!" Seeing that the golem fails to react to his presence, he carefully waves his comrades to follow him.
"How do we know that the other towers haven't been attacked as this one has?" Donnagin!Janus asks dejectedly, 'his' demeanor striking at the hearts of the survivors. "Their loyal defenders winnowed away before a brutal attack from within? What seemed mere illness must have been some terrible poison unleashed by a creature only too happy to see humans as livestock to be culled. How... How many survive?"
"Enough to deal with that monster!" one of the men behind Dale -- Kendryek -- answers, emboldened by the living ice failing to react to a sword being waved in its direction.
"Yeah. That wizard was a fool for bringing it in," another -- Ramon -- agrees.
"Tacitus was so proud of all the work he put into it," Donnagin!Janus sighs. "He thought it would make all the difference. You should all leave. Save yourselves."
"Not without you, Father," Dale insists. "Jan, when I give the word you grab his arm and yank the Father out of th--"
A panicked, angry shout from below interrupts him. "They're here!" It draws everyone's attention
"For what you do, I name you all beloved of Mitra."
"Yes, thank you Fa--urk" Dale says as he starts to turn back before again being interrupted, this time by the golem's gigantic hand closing over his face. He tries to scream, but the breath literally freezes in his throat. Someone -- Jan maybe -- has time to shout out a desperate No! before a simple jerk shatters Dale's head into countless tinkling pieces.
Kendryek shouts again and drives his halberd hard into the golem's chest, the blade sinking up to the haft. He tries to push forward to halt the effigy's momentum, but there's just too much mass to work against. He tries instead to yank it out for a second attack, but the blade is stuck fast. If he'd just let go he might have avoided the hoarfrost that races down the length of the weapon and spills over his hands. Instead he struggles for a few moments longer until jerking backwards severs both his wrists with a clean crisp SNAP.
Jan manages a truly apologetic "Sorry Father!" before he and Ramon break and run for the hall's main doors. The golem lumbers after them until it reaches the end of its 'leash' at which point it exhales mightily and completely futilely a freezing gust. They're too far away too fast to notice any of it so instead it turns back around to finish off the last man standing. At first he's to lost in his maiming to notice, but some presentment of imminent danger cause him to look up in time. Screaming, he runs for the trapdoor and dives as the golem exhales again.
* * *
It turns out quietly isn't really possible at all. With the hellhoud taking point, Aiden's assault squad make it a little past the doorway of the corridor leading to the captains' rooms when one of the remaining guardsmen emerges from the barracks and immediately catches sight of them.
Yelling a warning, he raises his crossbow and fires at the Knot's leader. By the grace of Asmodeus, the quarrel that would have skewered Aiden's throat instead lodges in the neck guard of his armour, the point of it a fraction of an inch away from touching his skin. As Aiden contemplates having almost died a second time, the archer drops his weapon and draws a sword just in time to fend off the lunging attack of the hellhound.
Grumblejack and the devil charge forward determined to use the large open space of the tunnel to best advantage. The hound wrenches the sword from the man's grasp and their axes sweep down upon him in unison, making wet meaty noises.
Enraged, Aiden charges down the tunnel, drawing level with the kitchen doorway in time to see two things. The first is something hurtle through the trapdoor in the kitchen roof, strike the ground and disappear in a red crystaline explosion. The second is the look of frustrated horror on the face of the man that attacks him only to shatter his sword against the holy symbol of Aiden's infernal master. Grabbing the man by the throat, Aiden barges into the kitchen using him as a shield against the two remaining guardsmen. In stead of attacking, they retreat fearfully into the mess hall.
"You lot, get in here!" he yells.
"I don't like chances, old chap," the devil says conversationally. "Why don't you pass him out."
"There are at least two more in there."
"Hesperus, go play."
The hound runs past Aiden and into the mess. There are shouts, the sounds of fighting, a scream and a truncated howl. Then silence.
"He's gone," Grumblejack announces.
Aiden curses, tossing the now sobbing man he'd been holding out into the corridor and moves forward.
"Please, no! I don't want to die!"
"Don't always get what we want," the ogre says. There's a brutal THUNK. "Though I just did."
Cautiously, Aiden enters the room, booting the door hard so that it slams against the wall. A moment's search turns up a single occupant, unarmoured and sprawled on the floor clutching a ragged belly wound. There's the stench of brimstone; at a guess, the hound managed to take the other one with it when it was yanked back home by the end of the spell.
"Where's your friend?"
"Go to hell you bastard!"
"You first," Aiden grunts and buries his mace in the man's brain.
And with that, Castle Ballentyne has effectively fallen to the Knot.