The Ulitharid strode purposefully into the chamber, leading two lesser brethren. Distinguished by their extra long tentacles, Ulitharid were almost a race apart, and so rarely did they arise, they inevitably were raised into positions of power.
He looked around the chamber with an expression that could only be called smug satisfaction. The preparations were almost complete. With the cap on the portal in place, the elemental energies entering this world were now being converted into those compatible with Ilithid procreation, and thus domination.
The mind-flayer larvae swam about the portal, miniature tentacles acting like cilia. In a different race, the sight of ones young might elicit a sense of paternal instinct, but the Ulitharid only regarded the creatures as, at best necessary, and at worst, potential rivals. In any case, the larvae seemed to be thriving in the small pool. All was as planned. Behind him, the entry hall stood ready, humming with the arcane power linking it to the Far Realm. Soon, that door would open.
He turned his narrow eyes to regard the chamber guardians. The two hulks were once mindflayers not unlike the two lessers who attended him now. Now their monstrous forms loomed nearly twelve feet tall, their humanoid musculature contorted almost beyond recognition.
He nodded to his assistants, and they raised their arms towards the pool. In unison they began a low keening which quickly grew to an unearthly wail. Eerie green crystals grew around the edge of the membrane covering the portal. As large as a mans forearm, they encircled the portal like a crown.
The Throne of the Elder Brain would soon be complete, and their invasion of this reality would enter a new phase. With the guidance of one of the mysterious Elder Brains, the Ilithid would spread out, conquering the humanoid races like never before.
When the awful sound of disused Ilithid vocal chords began, Baern exchanged glances with Grimnar and Ash. The three of them knew that no good could arise when the telepathic Ilithid gave voice to anything. The time for planning their assault was over. They had to move. They had to move NOW.
Ash slipped down the wall into the Pool. Avoiding the Ilithid Larvae, he dashed across the chamber towards the nearest Thoon Hulk before any of the mind flayers could react.
When he was free of the water, Baern let loose a coruscating lightning field upon the center of the pool, hoping to cook the spawn congregating in the viscous fluid around the portal. The others moved into position to engage the Mind Flayers.
The Ulitharid and the Thoon Hulks engaged the party, while the lesser Ilithids blasted the area with their mental powers.
Grimnar slipped into the water last. While the others kept the enemy occupied, he began the Ritual to sever this Tether.
Baern kept the lightning storm flashing as he divided his attention to the membrane covering the Elemental Portal. A volley of Force Missiles ripped three large holes in the edges of the disk, and a geyser of pure elemental water spurted from each with enough power to reach the ceiling of the chamber. It rained down in a thick mist, covering the area.
Ash took advantage of the Mind Flayers confusion, the mist covering his change in position. He slipped like shadow between them, his great jagged full-blade flashing, opening gashes in the creatures that bled a dark slow black blood into the water.
And the water grew deeper with every passing moment.
Tregan and Belisar charged into the fray from their positions at the side of the pool, being careful to avoid Baerns lightning storm. They divided the room between them, and tried their best to keep the mind flayers pinned down. The enemy were known for their slippery natures, however, and refused to be so easily controlled. Athelia added her own mental prowess in direct opposition, trading mind-blast for mind-blast.
Baern charged into the center of the combat. For what he was about to do, the wizard had to be in the very thick of it. Arcane winds rapidly grew about him, lashing out at each enemy in the room, battering them with pure force. The force plucked them from their positions, and teleported them by his will into the center of the feast of destruction – lightning wreathing each of them. Clustered together in the storm, the enemies tried to regroup, using their own teleportation abilities to escape the battering where they could.
A low thrum echoed through the chamber, setting the arcane wielders teeth on edge. The others did not even feel it.
The Ulithard saw one of his ritualists fall. His best hope was that the portal in the other room would open and the Elder Brain would arrive. With retinue in tow, they would make short work of these intruders. He called out telepathically for reinforcements. Soon the Kaorti and the Chuul would come. His confidence never flagged. He directed the remaining forces to focus on the Wizard. If they could take out the dwarf, the lightning storm would abate, and they could finish off the others at their leisure.
Baern saw the three Ilithids bearing down on him. Fortunately, he still had his Shield spell.
Belisar interposed himself, challenging the Ulitharid, even as Ash took down one of the Hulks, and transferred his Raven Mark to the same target. The two of them teamed together in the deadly dance of the Raven Queen, back and forth on the same target.
The Ulitharid felt fear for the first time in it’s existence. Fear, more that the plan would fail, than for it’s own demise. Death would mean a return to the Elder Brain.. to merge with the great consciousness. But if he were to die on this world without the Brain at hand.. without the Pool complete.. his existence would surely end.
He redoubled his efforts, breaking free of the two devotees, interposing his own distractions to separate them. Belisar found himself with his own head in the grip of two separate Ilithids, each of them vying for a piece of his brain. Ash, however, was not so easily pinned down.
The low thrum repeated, and this time, even the non-adepts could feel it in the back of their throats. Behind their eyes, the arcane magic adepts felt a headache begin.
When the Kaorti entered the picture, Grimnar was nearly up to his neck in the pool, still chanting and gesturing frantically. The Water’s Gift meant he had no fear of drowning, and although the torrent of water had him bailed up against the back wall, he struggled through the ritual without pause.
It was just that.. the larva crawling on his shoulder was getting a little too close to his ear canal for comfort.
Baern flicked the creature into the lightning and it shriveled and popped.
Grimnar looked up with relief and gratitude. Baern nodded quickly and leveled his staff in the direction of the Ulitharid, enveloping it and half the Kaorti a Prismatic Sphere. His lightning continued to pulse around the portal, and the great rents in its fabric widened.
A Chuul Juggernaut scuttled into the chamber from the other exit, leading another group of Kaorti. To avoid the climbing waters, the kaorti clambered across the walls and ceiling as if they were part arachnid. From this vantage point, the chitinous kaorti fired Ribbon Daggers down upon the party, wreaking havoc. The daggers, attached by long cords of naked sinew which retracted back into their arms, were then instantly retrieved for the next attack.
Reminiscent of a giant lobsters, the aquatic Chuul must have been how the Ilithids were able to gain access to this chamber in the first place. Athelia knew that if the Juggernaut were to get into position to defend the Mind flayers, the tide of the battle might turn against the heroes. The Juggernaut emitted a low psychic moan almost constantly, and those near it would become more vulnerable to the ilithids mental attacks. She could hear it even from here.
“We can’t have that , now, can we?”
She levied her own psionic power at the mind of the crustacean. Centuries of selective breeding made the Chuul race powerful, but reduced their resistance the the Ilithids mental domination. This worked to the shardminds advantage.
The creature fell back, stunned, leaving it open to an overwhelm from Ash, who knocked it’s long legs from under it.
Just as the Ulitharid was about to bear down on the shifter, the membrane covering the portal finally gave way completely.
What had already been a torrent became an unstoppable force, and purest elemental water rapidly filled the chamber.
The low thrum sounded one final time, and the portal to the Far Realm opened. The Elder Brain was coming!
But where it expected a Throne, it found a flood. Water slammed through the aperture, pushing the stunned Chuul, and the bodies of dead Kaorti, gutted Mind Flayers and shriveled larvae back to the depths of the reality from whence they came. Far too alien are the minds of the Elder Brain, but if such creatures experience surprise, one may hazard that this one did at that moment.
In the chamber of the pool, the Ulitharid managed a hateful glance at Ash, and the other architects of his failure before the waters swallowed him and he vanished from their sight in the maelstrom.
The Heroes battled the currents of the now unblocked portal to the Elemental Chaos, but with their earlier preparations, the magic which sustained their breathing underwater also gave them unparalleled aquatic ability. They returned the way they came, and watched as the lake returned to it’s former state.
Anticlimactically, Grimnar completed the ritual at the lake edge with no further interruption.