Broken free from her stunned stupor by Ismene’s cries for help, Tammy roared with hate and spiritual pain and lunged at the white-clad demon that had tricked her into striking down one of her own. Ismene fell heavily to the mist-covered ground as the kopesh sliced through skin and bone, severing Tyenx’s hand.

Writhing shadows oozed from his wrist, reforming the immaculate, taloned hand as he flexed it in the ruddy light. “Nowhere near good enough, little lion,” he teased.

Tommy held up the mystic bottle he had received from Frank Benjamin, earthly host of a major demon, etched runes glowing from within. Yelling Tyenx’s true name into the air, he unstoppered the bottle, hoping to summon the beast into its confines. “Tyenx, first demon of hell, lord of the swarm, chaser of the flag, tormenter of the disloyal, and consumer of the forgotten, I bind you!”

Straining against Tommy’s powerful name-magic, Tyenx seemed to break free from his invisible confinement. “I’ve taken precautions against your petty tricks,” he chuckled darkly, grinning with a shark’s maw of teeth. Jabbing a finger toward him, a ray of palpable force raced from Tyenx to Tommy, striking him solidly in the forehead. “Now you will do as I command,” he mocked, pitting his will against the spiritual human who dared presume to stop him.

Clenching his teeth, Tommy stepped backward with the force of the blast, but did not wholly give in to Tyenx’s psychic demands.

Seth took opportunity during the back-and-forth contest of wills to focus his own energies, gathering as much entropic resonance he could draw from the hellish landscape around them. Focusing his concentration on a single point in space between his hands which began to glow with a sickly yellow light, he hurled the pea-sized filament at Tyenx, watching it explode into a choking, concealing mist of pure decay. Tommy gasped and breathed heavily, the assault on his faculties broken by Seth’s attack against the powerful demon.

Rising out of the dissipating cloud, Tyenx’s clothes and once-immaculate hair were tattered and singed, evidence of the strength of Seth’s attempt at distraction. “Enough,” he sneered, as large wings unfolded from his back, letting him hover and blow away the last of the mist, even as he appeared to grow larger and larger. The huge shadow beasts hulking in the undulating background haze took an offensive position, staring down the mortal investigators, readying a charge. Roger stepped forward and braced himself for assault. “Focus on the principal, I’ve got these” came his tinny, speaker-voice, confident and committed

One of the robed ritualists pulled back his hood, looking to the team with fear and confusion. Doctor Long, Tommy’s one-time mentor and ally, plead for help. Another hood fell, revealing the helpful scientist from above, whose auburn tresses were matted with sweat. The third ritualist stood slowly, pulling back her own hood — Kate, the helpful and insightful werewolf the party had bonded with days before. Tammy kept vigil over the dead lioness, slain by her own hands, tears of shock and directionless anger streaming down her face.

Nearly three times normal size, Tyenx sprouted a number of wings, particularly those of beetles and insects. With a vicious cackling, he taunted the group. “Attack me and lose everything you’ve ever cared about,” he mocked. “You have no power here.”

“It’s a lie!” screamed Ismene, assuming that a powerful demon would have full command of illusions. “These aren’t our friends — they’re the scientists being forced to do this; don’t let him play with your heads!” She desperately hoped her hunch was right.

Taking Ismene at her word, Tammy channeled her pain and hate into a savage charge at the demon, swinging her flaming kopesh in a finesse-less, powerful overhead strike. The blade bit deep into the demon’s torso, but spines and spikes erupted from his flesh in response, savaging her tender flesh. More hellwasps poured from Tyenx’s mouth as he roared, growing even larger. “You can’t conceive of what I’ve done! I am immortal!”

Roger was losing ground slowly against the formless shades lunging at him from the mists, his combat armour protecting him from the worst of their slashes and bites. He hoped he was giving his team the time they needed to finish off the demon that was the object of their search — he wouldn’t be able to hold out forever.

Tammy ignored the savage stings and stabs she received as she struck again and again at any part of Tyenx she could reach. Tommy knelt behind the etched bottle, trying to summon more mystical energy into his ritual — he shouldn’t have been surprised that a simple spell couldn’t confine a demon lord, but reasoned that some truly big magic would do the trick. As he began to murmur and chant, ancient words of power falling from his lips and into the unstoppered jar, Ismene sprinted toward the helpless and unwilling ritualists standing in the pulsing circle, Seth right on her heels.

Ismene tried to grab the person who wore Javier’s face and drag him bodily from the circle, but he screamed in agony, reached to the back of his neck, and collapsed in a convulsing mess. The other robed figures stiffened, looking wide-eyed at the fallen body. They would not be as willing to move as he had been.

“They don’t matter,” Seth exclaimed, understanding Ismene’s explanation that they weren’t actually the people they appeared to be. “Tyenx isn’t bothered that the ritualists are dying or that we’re trying to save them — they have to be a distraction!”

Continuing to battle the enraged Tammy, Tyenx truly hadn’t paid much, if any, attention to the group’s effort to rescue the ritualists, true to Seth’s observation.

“Of course they matter, Seth — people matter!” Ismene snapped, scowling. She was unwilling to leave honest, innocent people to suffer at the dmon’s hands, whether they were close confidants or random strangers.

Tommy began to realize that his ritual wasn’t able to sink hooks into Tyenx like he hoped — even putting all of his concentration and Tyenx’s true name into the spell, the bindings seemed to slide off the enormous demon, unable to catch purchase. “It’s like his name isn’t complete,” he mused, frowning. His eyes snapping open, he came to a terrible decision, begining to cast a very different spell. Jolene, his lone friend from the Black Lantern Society, stood back, in awe and terror of the scene before her.


Header picture taken by a player of No Man’s Sky, found on Reddit