Infinite Planes

Loose Lips, Sinker Ships
Chapter 16

After a raid by the Harmonium on Cornelius’ bar, led by Steelix and Reyes, ended in Umbra’s kidnapping, the party enter the Abyss, chasing after the Doomguard’s missing super-weapon.

The_Abyss.jpgAsking around Broken Reach, they learn that the weapon, a flying ‘Ship of Chaos’ was spotted flying over the village of Raazorforge along the banks of the Lakes of Molten Iron to the north just a few days ago. While gathering supplies in the central bazaar for their journey, the party are caught up in the throng bidding on a slave auction. According to the auctioneer (who seems… inexperienced, at best), the cambions they are selling are all children of the town’s very own ruler, Red Shroud.

The thing that really catches their eye about the auction, however, is the warthog-faced nalfeshnee overseeing things alongside a pair of barlgura. Their suspicions that these are the very demons who attacked the bar are confirmed when Umbra herself is brought onto the auction bloc in chains.

Atrox and Felynnida try pooling their gold to bid on her, but are beat out by a handsome humanoid with dark skin and a toga. Stabbers asks Cornelius if he wants to take revenge on the demons who ransacked his place, but the halfling says he doesn’t need to, as he’s already had “monetary revenge” against the Harmonium in the City Court. Elias points out that antagonizing a demon in their own home is a death sentence at the best of times.

The party follow Umbra’s buyer as he claims the girl and takes her back to his quarters, successfully navigating the chaotic labyrinth that is Broken Reach. Fel knocks on the door and shakes the man’s hand, noticing that he has six fingers on each hand, and that his toga is made of human skin. The priestess tells him that she is interested in his business here, and in the girl that he just bought.

As it turns out, this fiend is the ambassador of the Dark Prince, Graz’zt, who’s realm is accessible through one of the pits near Broken Reach. As such, it behooves his master and the mistress of the gate-town to stay on good terms, and he was planning on handing Umbra, one of Red Shroud’s own daughters, over to Graz’zt to add to his harem of half-fiends.

Neogi.jpgFel wants to take Umbra off of his hands, and, in return, offers to help broker an arrangement between his master and her own. Knowing that Graz’zt has been trying to form an alliance with Lolth for years, he agrees, reasoning that another slave girl is nothing compared to the Spider Queen.

It’s quite clear that Umbra is shell-shocked by her experience, but Fel holds her hand and talks about happier subjects to get the little girl’s mind off of what she’s been through the past few days. The drow suddenly finds that she’s levitating just a few inches off the ground, and realizes that Umbra has manifested another latent power. She grabs Umbra and tosses her into the air a few times before telling her that they’re “leaving this shit hole!”

But first, Stabbers wants to see if they can get an audience with Red Shroud, as there is a Mercykiller bounty for a cambion named Aesgareth, who is currently under the protection of the succubus. The party is turned away at the gate to her mansion however (much to Umbra’s relief, having just been shown her mother’s “love”), as the mistress is “away on business”. Fel asks Umbra if she wants to get back at her mother, and the girl nods. The drow uses stealth and Umbra’s levitation power to fly into an open window of Red Shroud’s mansion, stealing three vials of poison from her personal stores:

  • Viper Tree Venom – poison extracted from the snake-headed trees of Zrintor, the Viper Forest of Azzagrat
  • Burnt Othur Fumes – a melange of crushed herbs that produce a toxic smoke when burned
  • Carrion Crawler Mucus – paralyzing mucus collected from the tentacles of a carrion crawler (for some reason, the bottle is labelled as ‘Pede’)

Outside, a still-levitating Fel decides to use the Wand of Wonder that the party found in the Beastlands on a patch of ground. As she does, she feels the magic within pulse back through her arm, causing it to grow… and grow… and grow, until the priestess finds herself standing twice her normal height at ten feet tall. Cornelius sings a bit of a song about how he always wanted to see somebody “turn into a giant woman”, surprising everyone. Fel decides to use her her newfound verticality to her advantage, looking out across the barren Plain of Infinite Portals, where she spies a dark shape moving across the sky near an iron fortress several miles away, which looks as if it is overgrown with giant toadstools.

Atrox and Umbra tuck themselves snugly in the giant drow’s equally enormous belt, while Elias and Cornelius take positions on her shoulders, and Stabbers climbs up onto the top of her head, grabbing strands of her hair like reins. Using her quarterstaff to leverage herself up and forward, Fel levitates towards the dark shape, over the pit to Azzagrat and a village built onto the skull of a goristro skeleton with its spine dangling over the cliff-side. She notes how unsafe that must be.

As they are passing over the pit, Atrox notices a giant spider scurrying along the belt towards her and Umbra. The tiefling freezes up as the arachnid eyes her and dribbles a glob of green goo onto her face before disappearing into Fel’s bosom. The drow lets out a booming laugh, THAT MEANS SHE LIKES YOU.”

Airship.jpgIt doesn’t take long for them to recognize the dark shape as their target: The Ship of Chaos. It is a grotesque vessel, with a hull bound in giant rib bones, and a bow and stern in the shape of demonic visages, the forward skull looking not unlike the symbol of the Doomguard. As they come up alongside it, Atrox realizes that the material behind the bones is writhing, as if alive, as if the Ship itself were breathing.

Stabbers leaps onto the main deck, and is immediately surrounded by the trio of armanites. He tries negotiating, but can’t understand Abyssal. Meanwhile, Felynnida floats around to the front of the Ship and tries to stop it by grabbing a hold of the bow, but it proves a futile effort. It does succeed in enraging the armanites however. Elias, Atrox, and Umbra hop onto the crown of the forward skull as the demons attack.

Thanks to Stabbers’s ‘Blur’ and ‘Mage Armor’, the bladesinger avoids being… well, stabbed, and gets to stabbing himself. Unfortunately, the armanite’s flesh seems to resist his flaming sword. Atrox produces the Wand of Frost that Fel “won” from Tagon Flamebane, and summons a ‘Wall of Ice’, bisecting the deck and dealing a significant blow to the armanites. One of the demons respond by firing an electrified arrow over the wall at her.

Feeling the effects of Umbra’s magic wearing off, Fel (using the enhanced strength granted by her giant size), grabs onto the side of the deck, acting as a perch for Cornelius, who fires crossbow bolts at the armanite who shot Atrox, killing it. On the other side of the wall, Stabbers advances on his foe, slaying it. Another armanite charges Elias, who is nearly thrown off of the Ship by the attack, but is able to recover and kill the demon with a volley of ‘Magic Missiles’. Its corpse falls over the side of the ship and into the fungal forest below.

Cornelius hops off Fel’s shoulder, allowing the priestess to climb aboard as well. The rogue accompanies Stabbers upstairs, into the maw of a large skull and onto the command deck within. Elias tells them to be careful, as he doubts the armanites were the only demons about.

Chain_Lightning.jpgFel, decides to test out her new Wand of Wonder again, this time conjuring a lightning bolt that cuts the open sky ahead of the Ship. Umbra is amazed, shouting, “Just like me!” The priestess asks what she means, and Umbra blushes, mumbling something about a nymph.

The command deck is dimly lit through the eyes of the skull, but Cornelius and Stabbers are able to see well enough to make out the chamber’s main features: a raised protrusion covered in faintly glowing nodules with ribbed orifices, and a large throne that looks like it was made from human bones. Stabbers investigates the protrusion, and realizes that it is the helm, able to be controlled by massaging the orifices. He turns that honor over to Cornelius, who calls for Atrox. Just then however, they hear a sound, as a gangly figure emerges from the shadows.

Cornelius brandishes his blade as it approaches, asking what it wants. Its eyes flash red as it whispers, “Your souls.” Cornelius is immediately knocked unconscious by the creature’s gaze and drops like a rock. Stabbers grabs the halfling’s body and charges back outside, nearly knocking Atrox down the stairs. The creature follows, but stops just short of the boundary between shadow and light.

Fel recognizes the fiend as a bodak, and Atrox realizes that she’s seen a bodak before—Sir Cleve, the assistant at the Parted Veil bookstore!

The drow priestess uses her giant quarterstaff to knock the bodak into the sunlight, pinning it so that Stabbers can attack. The undead howls in pain, releasing a pulse of necrotic energy that brings Cornelius one step closer to death. Fel shouts to Atrox to bring the halfling to her so that she can stabilize him, but as the sorceress grabs him, something else appears just off the port side.

Elias yells “Beholder!” as the floating, spherical monster moves towards Atrox. Fel tells Stabbers to take care of it while she finishes off the bodak, but as the sun elf leaps to attack, he notices something odd about the monster—the beholder’s ‘eyestalks’ are actually mushrooms, and its central eye some sort of fungal growth. He stabs into it, and gets a faceful of spores.

The distraction gives Atrox just enough time to get Cornelius over to Fel however, as the priestess vaporizes the already weakened bodak with her ‘Sacred Flame’, and casts ‘Spare the Dying’ on the halfling, pulling him back from the brink of death.

Barbazu_Portal.jpgMontague Stabbers and Elias decide to check out the rest of the Ship to make sure that there are no more nasty surprises waiting to jump out. Climbing down rungs built into the spine-like mast, the duo are assaulted by a horrid stench as they enter the cargo hold. Elias covers his nose with his checkered cloak, while Stabbers uses ‘Prestidigitation’ to fill his nostrils with the smell of booze. Below them are hundreds of dretches, writhing beneath the catwalks like mating worms. These demons seem too preoccupied with each other to notice the new arrivals however.

Stabbers asks Elias if the Doomguard said anything about cargo, and the mage tells him that “there wasn’t any when it was at Citadel Exhalus”, back before the Ship disappeared—“these are probably fodder for whatever battle those demons up-top were headed to next.” The bladesinger decides that they should leave the dretches alone, musing that “maybe we’ll get a bonus for bringing back a little extra.”

They tell everyone up above, and Fel pours some water (from her proportionally giant flask) onto the dretches out of curiosity. It doesn’t do much, aside from drawing their attention upwards. “Well, at least we know we can clean them now.”

The drow reverts to her original size as the magic of the Wand of Wonder finally dissipates, and she goes up to the command deck to see if she can use the helm. She massages the orifices, and hears a voice telepathically whisper in response.

“What do you require… master?”

She tells the Ship to go to Broken Reach so that they can bring it back to the Doomguard. It says that it will do so immediately… “but first!” The Ship suddenly plunges into one of the pits, taking the party deeper into the Lower Planes.

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Monkey Business
Chapter 15

Cornelius, who remained in the Beastlands, heads back to the camp of the Vile Hunt in order to use their portal to Carceri to get back to Sigil.

D’kess is away, but Zardol Ironshot says that Cornelius is lucky, as a Mercykiller justiciar has just returned and is preparing to depart through the portal himself. The dwarf introduces the halfling to the sun elf bladesinger, Montague Stabbers, who agrees to help the assassin get back to the big city.

Tribute_to_Malar.jpgWith his last bounty having been a total bust, Stabbers is already in his cups as they head into the Land of the Hunt, though the elf insists that drink will only sharpen his senses.

They almost immediately run across a group of lycanthrope petitioners on the prowl, just as a giant bird with the head of a stag swoops in and carries off their prey. Needing the go-ahead of the Malarites to leave the valley, Cornelius and Stabbers agree to hunt down this “peryton” in order to stop it from stealing their kills.

Following narrow game trails and scaling the cliff-sides of Colothys, the duo finally reach the peryton nest, where they watch as the beast devours the still-beating heart of its human victim, and see the beast’s own humanoid shadow warp to match its actual shape. Cornelius, not one for wonderment, moves in to attack. The beast is no match for the duo however, and they easily slay it. It isn’t long before they reach the Mercykiller stronghold of the Vault and head through a portal from there back to Sigil.

Sigil_Color.jpgMeanwhile, Atrox, who returned to Sigil alone following the party’s disastrous safari with Jeena Ealy, decides to take Umbra under her wing and try to teach the girl how to better control her natural magical abilities. To this end, the sorceress rents out a room at the Parted Veil bookstore from Kesto Brighteyes.

After a few good days (during which Cornelius returns from his side-trip through Carceri), Umbra seems to be getting a real grasp of her powers. The girl shows off by changing the color of an entire shelf of books so that it spells out Atrox’s name, but the old gnome who owns the place is dumbstruck when he comes to check up on them and sees what Umbra’s done. Atrox gives him 20gp on top of the 20gp for renting the room, and says that Kesto can probably restore the books to better condition than they were already in. The gnome’s mood swings back around, and he pats Umbra on the head, noting that, while he was a little shocked by what she did, he’s just happy to see someone so young expanding their horizons without relying on the Powers.

Atrox tells Umbra that she shouldn’t do something like that again, as these things can have consequences. She tells her about a time when she was young and used her magic willy-nilly, and how she ended up regretting what happened as a result. Atrox points out that, because she had to “pay the nice gnome”, she doesn’t have any money to buy Umbra any treats on their way back to the Flying Ostrich. The girl says she understands, and notes that Steelix said the same sort of thing… before he jumped in the river. Atrox reassures her that the genasi is fine.

Neogi.jpgAcross town, in the Market Ward, Fell the Fallen Dabus is giving a sermon to the assembled Signers in the backroom of his tattoo parlor. Among them is Felynnida Kront’tis, a drow priestess of Lolth, and a spy for the Fraternity of Order. Fell tells the group that the return of Aoskar is nigh, and that soon, their efforts will blossom into a new age of prosperity for the City of Doors.

Afterwards, Fel (not to be confused with the dabus) heads to the Flying Ostrich. Having heard of the party’s involvement in various adventures through the cross-trade, the drow has come to frequent the establishment over the past week in hopes of meeting the increasingly infamous gang. She strikes up a conversation with Black Bart, who has taken a shine to the cheery dark elf, telling him that Cornelius actually returned a few days ago and is off on business elsewhere in the city.

Stabbers, who learned that Factol Mallin of the Mercykillers had died while he was away, is drinking just down the bar from the drow. He recalls that this is not the first time that he came back to Sigil to find such a shake-up in the leadership of his faction—when he returned to the city after his long imprisonment by Queen Mab, he found out that Emma Oakwright of the Fated had been displaced by Duke Rowan Darkwood. Finding that the philosophy of the Fated no longer spoke to him, the bladesinger switched his allegiance to the Red Death, and never looked back. He orders a mamajuana from Black Bart and drinks deep.

Just then, Atrox returns. Felynnida jumps up to introduce herself. In her haste, Fel bumps into a drunken dwarf heading towards the bar. He begins to insult her, saying something about how he didn’t leave his home on Arcadia just so he had to share a bar with “some spider-worshipping drow witch!” The priestess casts ‘Hold Person’ on him, and stomps on his family jewels for good measure.

This gets a rise out of his two friends however, who get up and pull out their axes. Elias, who was sitting with them, intervenes and talks the dwarves down, bringing their immobilized companions back over to the booth. He apologizes to the dark elf, who tells him not to worry about it.

Fel enthusiastically tells Atrox all about herself, giving a very thorough list of her achievements. The drow also greets Umbra, and gives the little girl a piggyback ride over to the bar, where she buys her a drink. Atrox is more than a little wary of this stranger however, and watches her closely. As she stands in front of the doorway, a burly man pushes past her and takes a seat in a shadowed corner.

Sharqad, the restaurant’s githyanki waitress, sidles up to Atrox and says she can spit in Felynnida’s food if she’d like her to, but the sorceress tells her not to worry about it. The githyanki then goes over to the drow and offers to do the same, but for the dwarves sitting with Elias. She too refuses the offer.

Qaida.jpgMeanwhile, an aasimar woman in the colors of the Dustmen sits beside the drunk Stabbers. Bobbing in the air beside her is a silvery mimir, which takes in every word they say. She introduces herself as Qaida, and offers him a dead contract, as “you bounty hunter sorts don’t have the longest life expectancy, and some gold wouldn’t hurt towards your next drink”. Stabbers shoots her down however, noting that “I’ve been forced into servitude before, and, even if I’m dead, that still sounds terrible.” He happily offers to hunt down anyone who might be trying to renege on such a contract though. As luck would have it, Qaida is looking to collect on a wood elf innkeeper named Verden, who has lived a suspiciously long time, even for an elf.

Suddenly, the doors of the Flying Ostrich fly open and a squad of Harmonium guards rush inside… led by Steelix.

The genasi asks Bart where Cornelius is at, but the orc isn’t talking. Steelix orders the other soldiers to arrest him, but when they move in, Cornelius’ hired orc bouncers step into their path, brandishing weapons. Tagon Flamebane insists that “there doesn’t need to be any trouble here,” but Black Bart tells him that “there already is”. At that moment, the back wall of the restaurant explodes inward.

Off in the Market Ward, Cornelius finds a buyer for the petitioner kittens he grabbed from the Beastlands, and pays a visit to his fellow alchemist, Wooly Cupgrass. He asks the bariaur if Zardol Ironshot’s story about the fensir trolls being master brewers is true, and the bariaur confirms that there are many similar tales on Ysgard that attest to their natural talent with “potions, poisons, and potables aplenty!” Wooly asks if the halfling brought anything new for him to “taste test”, and while he doesn’t have anything on him, Cornelius says he’ll send the alchemist a bottle of wine for his help on the ‘stone salve’ they made a few weeks back.

Barbazu_Portal.jpgBack at the Flying Ostrich, the bouncers and the Harmonium begin fighting, as two ape-like barlgura demons and a nalfeshnee come through the breach to attack both sides. Atrox sees the burly man from earlier transform before her eyes into another barlgura, engaging the two drunken dwarves with Elias, who seem rearing to fight. Black Bart grabs his maul and challenges Steelix, who leaps up onto the bar itself to fight the orc one-on-one.

Tagon Flamebane tries to grab Umbra, but Atrox hits him with a ‘Thunderwave’, sending the wizard flying through the kitchen doors with a loud crash. The nalfeshnee bellows at the barlgura to “get the girl”.

Meanwhile, Steelix and Bart’s struggle ends up knocking Stabbers’s drink over, causing the bladesinger to strike out at the genasi, who narrowly dodges the elf’s blades, but is caught in the side by Black Bart’s maul. “That one was for my hand!” A moment later however, the genasi is able to spin his glaive aroundm disarming the orc, and burying the steel-toothed edge of the glaive into his neck. Steelix grimaces as the orc topples behind the bar. “Shame… he made some good soup.”

Felynnida vaults over the bar and kneels beside the profusely bleeding Bart. She casts ‘Spare the Dying’ on him, and stands, summoning a giant spider that leaps towards Steelix, forcing him to fall back.

Atrox fires off a volley of ‘Magic Missiles’ at the closing barlgura, and tells Umbra to run for it, pointing towards the giant hole in the back wall. The nalfeshnee tries to grab her as she runs past, but Umbra is too slippery for his clumsy hands. Another barlgura leaps towards Atrox from the side, but is hit with a ‘Firebolt’ from Elias, sending the ape into one of the tables.

Acheron.jpgAs the nalfeshnee tries to pursue Umbra, a ballista bolt strikes him in the shoulder from above, where Reyes has mounted his ballista atop a floating disk. Tagon Flamebane emerges from the kitchen, pulling out his Wand of Frost and yelling “Freeze!” as he casts a ‘Ray of Frost’ that the demon barely seems to notice. Stabbers’s twin blades, engulfed in magical green flame, are not so easily dismissed however, as they tear into the nalfeshnee’s back.

The demon swings around and deals a critical blow to Stabbers, swatting the elf into a table with such force that it is reduced to splinters. While her giant spider holds Steelix at bay, Felynnida suddenly leaps at Tagon, giving the blind wizard a big hug. He is confused for a moment, but then, hundreds of spiders pour from the priestess’s clothing, swarming him. He flails about with his Wand of Frost and raises a ‘Wall of Ice’, cutting him, Fel, Steelix, Umbra, Reyes, the nalfeshnee, and one of the barlgura off from the rest of the restaurant.

Reyes fires a ballista bolt at the drow but misses, while the slowed nalfeshnee and his barlgura servant charge after Umbra as she runs down the alley. Atrox leaps through a window to pursue them, but her magic does little to stop the rampaging demons, who are able to grab the girl. Steelix is able to hold off Fel’s spider, and leaps onto the floating disk with Tagon, who falls unconscious as the drow lands one final attack on him, causing him to drop his Wand of Frost onto the street.

Atrox chases the two demons as quickly as she can, but they leap through a second story window with Umbra in hand and disappear through a portal. Steelix and the rest of the Harmonium troops retreat, leaving the Flying Ostrich in shambles.

Dabus.jpgSoon after that, Cornelius returns. He points out that, while he should be surprised that things went crazy while he was out, he’s not. The magical ice doesn’t take long to melt, revealing Felynnida, Atrox, and the huge hole in the wall. They tell him about what happened. The sorceress says that they have to get Umbra back, but Cornelius shoots that down immediately, telling her that the little girl has been more trouble than she was worth, and that they should’ve handed her over to Shemeshka the Marauder’s man like they were supposed to. Besides, he has more pressing matters to deal with right now.

The halfling gets his three waiters—Prim, Sharqad, and Smooth-Moves—to start moving the dead bodies into the alleyway out back. As the waiters throw the corpses of two of Elias’s dwarf companions onto the pile, the mage remarks that “I guess I won’t be recruiting them to the Doomguard,” a fact that he’s sure will make Cromlich pissed.One of the dead barlgura liquefies into green goo, while the other bursts with insects that eat every scrap of flesh on its bones before scurrying elsewhere. Stabbers picks up the demon’s skull, with plans to take it to Lothar at the Bones of the Night. It only takes a few minutes until the collectors are all over the rest of the deaders.

Black Bart regains consciousness, and Cornelius cracks open a bottle for everyone (save Elias, who doesn’t drink anymore). Stabbers asks if this sort of thing usually happens, and Cornelius assures him that it’s not. Elias adds that this is still the second Harmonium raid they’ve been caught up in in as many weeks, even if it was in different places. The mage’s remaining dwarf companion is freed from Fel’s ‘Hold Person’ spell, and is finally able to react to the beating she gave his nethers. Elias leaves to escort him home.

The party don’t know what to make of the three-way battle between them, the Harmonium, and the fiendish third party, but, regardless, Cornelius advises Bart that “next time, because I’m sure there will be a next time—don’t start a fight in the bar”. He opened the Flying Ostrich to make money, not so it could be “double-teamed by gorillas.” Felynnida, being a Guvner, offers to help Cornelius bring a suit against the Harmonium before the City Court, a proposition that the halfling gladly accepts.

Bart.jpgJust then, Stabbers notices Black Bart’s new hand tapping on the bar, seemingly of its own accord. Felynnida examines it, but discerns little beyond a faint magical aura. Suddenly, the hand draws Bart to the corpse pile, where one of the fallen dwarves is still barely clinging to life. The hand flexes and seems to abosrb the dwarf’s dying breath, giving his vitality to the orc. The party is amazed.

Fel asks Sharqad to come over, as she wants to test something. Cornelius mentions that he’s heard some complaints about the githyanki offering to spit in people’s food—a claim that Sharqad vehemently denies. The hand does not reproduce the same results on the githyanki however. Stabbers says that he’s always heard that “mummy hands are lucky”; Cornelius corrects him, telling him that he’s thinking of “rabbit feet”, but the sun elf insists that that just sounds silly.

Cornelius asks Smooth-Moves to see if he can rally anyone to help put the Ostrich back together, and the waiter gladly goes to ask around the Great Gymnasium. He tells Prim to take an accounting of everything that needs repairing or replacing, and the waitress gets to it. The two orc bouncers who survived the battle he asks to watch the hole in the wall, and make sure no berks try making off with his property overnight.

The next morning, the halfling is glad to see that the dabus have already begun fixing up the hole. Him and Felynnida head over to the City Court, while Stabbers cases the Fortune’s Wheel, scoping out the wood elf, Verden. Meanwhile, Atrox tries to come to terms with Umbra’s kidnapping, and learn the identity of her demon attackers. When the rest of the party returns, she brings up the Doomguard project that Factol Pentar had said was being worked on in the Abyss once again, and is able to convince everyone that they should check it out. Fel agrees to serve as something of a guide, as she is familiar with the plane due to Lolth’s presence there. They decide to invite Elias to come with them to help him out of any hot water he might be in with the Doomguard high-ups, and the enchanter, while initially wary, agrees to accompany the party.

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Letting the Cat Out of the Bag
Chapter 14

On a safari in the Beastlands with the famous author, Jeena Ealy, the party scope out the den of some the plane’s animal petitioners, looking to augment their profits.

Faunel.jpgFour big cats lounge about the riverside cave, while two cubs play in the water, wrestling and trying to catch passing fish. Reyes and Cornelius take positions in the forest to one side of the area, while Atrox climbs up onto the ledge over the cave entrance. Steelix, being the big guy that he is, charges in, slamming into the side of one of the petitioners.

Before the animals can react, Reyes fires off a few bolts from his crossbow, peppering the surprised cats. Atrox sends a trio of ‘Magic Missiles’ smashing into what looks like the leader when it tries to engage Steelix. The genasi slashes at it with his glaive. Meanwhile, Cornelius pulls out some meat from the cat petitioner they slaughtered earlier, and moves towards the confused kittens, trying to lure them in.

Another one of the cats sees the halfling moving towards the young and leaps towards him, but the rogue is able to move out of the way. Reyes takes advantage of this fact to shoot the cat from his perch in the trees. The lead petitioner tells the rest of the pack to grab the cubs and run while he holds the attackers at bay, roaring that there will be “NO MERCY FOR THE VILE HUNT!”

Steelix stops the lead petitioner from reaching Cornelius as the halfling continues to try and get the cubs. In response, the cat chants something and raises a paw, unleashing a ‘Cone of Cold’ that freezes one of his pack-members solid and chilling Steelix and Atrox to the bone. Reyes is very nearly iced, and drops from his perch to escape, shooting another bolt to pin the leader’s paw down.

With the leader pinned and bleeding, one cat frozen, and one cat with bolts in its back, the unwounded cat makes a run for the trees when suddenly a magical bolt comes flying out of the trees and knocks it unconscious. Three men in leathers slide down to the riverbank and begin tying up the cat’s legs.

Steelix bursts through the frozen cat petitioner in a bloody slush and whacks the leader again. Cornelius finally gets the two kittens in a bag and scurries back to the treeline, pointing out the other hunters to Reyes, who begins to move towards them. He is intercepted by the bolt-back cat, and is slashed by its claws before being able to get out his scimitar and run it through. Atrox, still up on the rise, unleashes more ‘Magic Missiles’, which zing their way into the lead petitioner, causing its wounds to spurt fresh blood. With another strike from the genasi, it collapses.

Collector.jpgThe party quickly convene on the three men as they haul up the hog-tied petitioner, pointing out that they were here first. Steelix talks in his native Dwarven tongue to the dwarf among them, and the hunter explains that they are members of the Vile Hunt. His group had been scouting out the area for a while before the party arrived. When Cornelius points out that they have a claim on the rest of the cats, the hunter nods, saying that he should be thanking them for helping cull “these abominations of man and beast”.

While Atrox goes to get Umbra and Jeena Ealy from the spot where the party left them, Reyes checks out the den proper. Within, there are the bones of some of the pack’s past meals, including a few humanoid-looking ones—he also finds a Wand of Wonder two Potions of Healing among the detritus.

Steelix asks the dwarf if he’d be willing to give an interview to Jeena Ealy. The hunter is amazed to see the famous author out here at her age, but says that he’d be glad to, to spread the message of the Vile Hunt, but that they should get away from this place, before the stench of death brings scavengers, or worse, the Wylders, down on their heads.

Tribute_to_Malar.jpgAfter a few hours of travel, the party reach the encampment of the Vile Hunt, carefully concealed by various wards and illusions. The dwarf hunter introduces them to the Hunt’s leader, D’kess.

While D’kess heads into his tent with Jeena Ealy for an interview, the party mingle with the other hunters. Cornelius convinces a pair of tiefling twins to teach him how to use a net in combat, and, while they don’t have the type of net he’d like, Atrox says she might be able to get him one from the Doomguard’s stores at the Armory. Umbra tries to play with the captured cubs, but Cornelius tells her that they’re “not for playing”.

Reyes approaches the dwarf hunter and learns that his name is Zardol Ironshot. The archer compliments Zardol’s crossbow, and learns that he found it within the Mines of Marsellin on Acheron before it had the chance to turn into stone. Reyes is intrigued by the petrifying nature of the Mines, and asks if Zardol knows of any way to reverse the effect. He says that he once heard about an old prospector who returned from Ysgard with a potion brewed by the fensir trolls there that could supposedly counteract the magic of the Mines. As thanks, Reyes plays a round of cards with the dwarf.

Steelix overhears Jeena’s interview of D’kess while standing guard, which reveals that the Vile Hunt are capturing animals from the Beastlands to send through a portal to the realm of the god Malar on Carceri. The way he figures it, “Whether we kill them here or they kill them there—the abominations die either way.”

The party depart not long after, having been pointed towards Signpost, they make a beeline towards the banks of the Oceanus. Steelix and Reyes carve a canoe to ferry the party across three at a time.

Nereid.jpgIn the middle of the crossing, Atrox feels a warmth run up her arms, coming from the pearl-encrusted bracers that she found in Kawaikari’s remains. Suddenly, she finds herself underwater, where she sees a boat capsizing up above, sending its passengers into the Oceanus. She kicks her legs, which she finds are now a fish-like tail, and grabs them, carrying them to the safety of dry land, where she looks back to see that her reflection is that of a mermaid. The sorceress freaks out as she suddenly snaps back to reality, though Jeena Ealy is able to calm her down, remarking that her experience sounds a lot like one brought on by a sensory stone at the Civic Festhall.

On the far shore, the party find themselves in a vast field of wildflowers, with a hill topped with standing stones offering the only high ground. Reyes notices a dust cloud heading towards them along the river, and the party decide to get moving. They’re not fast enough however, as a pack of forty dogs and at least a dozen falcons falls upon them, led by a masked rider with massive antlers. Jeena Ealy takes Umbra and heads for the hill, while the party stand their ground amid the flowers.

Airship.jpgSteelix, Reyes, and Cornelius are quickly surrounded by hounds, and Atrox’s attempts to get them off her companions with spells are met by reprisal from the falcons. She is able to distract the dogs for a time however, and Reyes is able to fire a few bolts at the rider as they circle the area. Steelix realizes that the rider seems to be directing the birds with their lance, and is able to communicate as much to Cornelius, who uses his small size and expertise to slip away from the dogs. The halfling tosses his new net and entangles the legs of the rider’s mount as it passes, sending them toppling to the ground and causing the lance to go flying.

Cornelius tries to close, but the rider quickly stands and draws a shield and cudgel, beckoning fifteen hounds to break off and join them. Atrox tries to help Steelix and Reyes get away from the main mass with a volley of ‘Magic Missiles’, but the genasi seems unwilling to fall back as he slices at the biting dogs with his glaive. The sorceress retreats towards the hill, and Cornelius follows after a futile knife toss that misses the rider.

The two scramble up the steep-sided hill to join Jeena and Umbra among the standing stones as the rider hops back onto their mount and leads half the pack in their direciton. The other half chase after Steelix and Reyes, who jump headlong into the rushing waters of the Oceanus and are swept downriver to parts unknown.

Meanwhile, the rider circles the hill with their pack of dogs and then halts, deftly climbing the rocks to stand right outside the circle of stones. He introduces himself as ‘The Warden’, and tells them to remember the teeth of his dogs and talons of his birds the next time they think about hunting in the Beastlands. The Warden tosses a pebble with a painted paw print to Atrox, and tells the remaining party that the archway behind them will take them “back to the big city, where you belong.”

The party head through, and spill out onto the grass of Bloodgem Park from between the boughs of a tree. Atrox spies Jeena Ealy and Umbra nearby, but Cornelius is nowhere in sight. The author, who’s feelings about the entire safari are… mixed, to say the least, doesn’t know what to say to the tiefling, but invites her back to the mansion, so that she can collect her pay and hopefully sort things out in her head.

Tired, beaten, and all but companionless, Atrox nods and takes Umbra’s hand.

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Dingo Ate My Baby
Chapter 13

Laying low in the wake of their attack on the compound of Harmonium Mover Durkayle, the party settle into the property that Cornelius bought from Root of All Evil.

Shemeshka.jpgCivil unrest has swept through the Lower Ward following the attack, only further worsened by news of a possible famine looming over Sigil due to the Harmonium’s occupation of Tradegate. Cornelius and Black Bart head to the Fortune’s Wheel gambling hall to check back in with Shemeshka the Marauder, who first asked them to break Umbra, Durkayle’s daughter and possible chosen one of the dead god Aoskar, out of the Mover’s tower.

The yugoloth is in good spirits, as the Harmonium is struggling to maintain order in the district, allowing her cross-traders to go about their work with relative impunity. In fact, she’s actually glad they didn’t hand the girl over to Inimigle, as it serves her purpose all the better. She shares a bottle of Arborean wine with Cornelius before dismissing the halfling so that she can get ready for a social engagement. She tells him that she will be sure to call on him in the future. Her man-servant, Colcook, shows them the way out. Black Bart gives him a knowing nod as they leave, seeming to say “Yeah, I kill people for a living too, pal.”

Dabus.jpgThey head to the newly-bought tavern, centrally located between the Shattered Temple, Great Foundry, Mortuary, and Gatehouse. Outside, a few dabus trim back the razorvine blanketing the structure.

Inside, the tavern is as dusty and ill-kept as could be expected. There are signs that squatters used it at some point, though the only residents now appear to be a few cranium rats. Black Bart kills the creatures, and Cornelius tells the orc that he can keep the bounty for the tails. With a slash of his knife, the mutilated rat bodies fall to the floor.

A moment later, Steelix, Atrox, and Reyes arrive with Umbra.

Steelix asks for soup, and Black Bart points to the rat carcasses on the floor. The orc cooks them up and, to everyone’s surprise, it is some of the best soup they’ve ever had. He shrugs, pointing out that life on the battlefields of Acheron teaches a body to make the best out of what they can get—besides, cranium rat is like Arborean gourmet compared to army rations.

Discussing what to do next, Atrox suggests that they check out the Doomguard project in the Abyss that Pentar brought up. Reyes says they should try and find Jiermo, who’s supposedly been sent to Acheron by the Mercykillers. Cornelius shoots down both of those ideas though, since the Lower Planes aren’t exactly the best thing for people who want to keep living. Steelix points out an ad by the famous Sensate author, Jeena Ealy, looking for “planewalking bloods” to escort her into the Beastlands.

Atrox and Steelix head to Jeena Ealy’s mansion in the Clerk’s Ward to learn what exactly she’s looking for, and she agrees to hire them for 30 gold pieces per day. Meanwhile, Reyes heads out to find a portal to the Beastlands with the help of Ramander the Wise, a well-known portal-sage in the Fated. He learns that one exists at the Twelve Factols, a popular restaurant for high-ups in The Lady’s Ward. More specifically, one exists in a toilet in the women’s privy. The key? “The sound that an owlbear makes.”

Sigil_Color.jpgNot knowing what sound an owlbear makes, Reyes meets back up with Atrox and Steelix. While his two companions go to the Market Ward to see if Adamok Ebon or anyone else has heard anything about an owlbear for sale in Sigil, Reyes looks up Fence-It Felix, hoping the old rogue will have heard a thing or two on the razorvine.

Felix notes that it’s a rather odd request, but, as luck would have it, he might have something. A few nights back, at a place called ‘The Styx Oarsman’, they had a comedian who did a killer impression of Duke Rowan Darkwood (“Not that I’ve met ’im, or anything”). Felix figures this guy might know a thing or two about animal noises.

While his companions are out, Cornelius decides to advance his business pursuits. After some brief interviews, the halfling hires a few waiters and waitresses, with Black Bart rounding out the staff as a cook. Knowing that the orc will make sure things are under control while he’s away, Cornelius puts him in charge of Sigil’s newest eatery, “The Flying Ostrich”. Bart pulls out a flier he got from Tillyfoot’s school and notes that, “I’ve always wanted to express my creative side… I mean, besides killing berks in cool ways.”

At the Styx Oarsman, Reyes finds out that the impressionist he’s looking for is Laughing Lavaritas, a demon with a bowtie. While Lavaritas performs up on stage, the fighter sits at the bar, where dozens of people are asking for the advice of a happy-looking githzerai named Rule-of-Three. Giving him a gift of three different coins, Reyes asks the sage what he should know before going to the Beastlands, and is advised to arrive, survive, and thrive.

Lavaritas finishes up his set and Reyes approaches him with a proposition for a “big gig” in The Lady’s Ward. The comedian is surprised and thrilled, accepting in a heartbeat.

Reassembling, the party head to the Twelve Factols. Jeena Ealy’s presence gets them past the aasimar maitre d’. Lavaritas looks around and asks where he’ll be performing at, and Steelix points to the bathroom door. Within, Reyes introduces him to the ‘crowd’ for “A special ladies’ night in the ladies’ room in The Lady’s Ward!” With that, the demon leans over the toilet bowl and makes the hoot-roar of an owlbear. A shining light appears in response.

Portal_Jump.jpgThe party hop in one-by-one. Jeena Ealy, despite all the experiences she’s had in her long life, says she’s never been flushed down a toilet; while Umbra points out that “This toilet’s much cooler than my dad’s!”

They emerge from a watering hole on the edge of the gate-town of Faunel. Animals of every variety watch them curiously as they make their way into the “city” proper, if such a thing can be said of this overgrown collection of toppled stones, where they quickly get themselves lost.

Atrox sees a pair of glowing eyes staring out from beneath a nearby ruin, and suggests that they look for someone who can help them. Reyes climbs a nearby tree and brings down some bananas after a brief spat with a monkey. Stumbling upon what looks like an old theatre, with several animals talking to one another, as well as people in masks adorned with feathers, horns, and other accoutrements, Steelix brings out the bananas, offering them to anyone who’s willing to point them in the right direction.

Faunel.jpgA gopher comes forward and agrees to help, telling them about a number of groups in the area, including the Sign of One (who Steelix recalls is the faction that Fell the Fallen Dabus belongs to), the Verdant Guild (the masked humanoids), and the Vile Hunt, a group of unrepentant hunters who terrorize the Beastlands. His chattering voice grates on Steelix’s otherwise steel nerves, and the genasi warrior thinks to himself, “Oh my god, I want to kill him so much.”

Following the banks of the River Oceanus into the wilderness of Krigala, the party decide that the first place they should check out is a waterfall where a nymph is said to dwell.

A few “days” pass, but the party notice that the sun never seems to set along the way. Reyes asks whether or not this will affect their pay, but Jeena Ealy puts his fears to rest by pointing out that she’s calculating it by how many days pass in Sigil. They decide to use large leaves to cover the sides of their tents in order to help block the sunlight, as well as hide themselves from the native wildlife, though this plan doesn’t work out so well when they stumble out of a deciduous forest into an abutting patch of desert, and learn that biomes in the Beastlands don’t always make logical sense.

Nereid.jpgThree days later, they reach the waterfall.

It is at this point that they realize that they have no idea how to communicate with or summon the nympht. After a day of failed attempts, Reyes fires a few rounds off in frustration. A moment later, a beautiful, elven-looking woman topples out of the waterfall, a crossbow bolt protruding from her chest. The archer instantly falls in love.

Having fallen victim to her natural charm, Reyes cradles the nymph’s body and sobs. Cornelius tries to staunch the wound, while commenting on the alchemical uses of nymph body parts, and Reyes ventures into the surrounding forest with Umbra in tow to find medicinal herbs. Jeena Ealy is horrified, and Steelix tells her to go back into her tent and try to relax while they take care of the situation.

Reyes, overcome with his love for the nymph, makes a ruckus during his search, and attracts the attention of a pair of petitioners in the shape of big cats, who pounce on Umbra and the archer, and try to carry the little girl away. Reyes negotiates their release in exchange for showing the petitioners back to their camp and luring his companions into their waiting claws.

The pair arrive back at the camp empty-handed. Reyes, bleeding from a neck wound left by one of the cats, motions with his eyes towards the forest and imitates eating. Steelix guesses that, “You ate some rocks and cut yourself?” Reyes replies that they were “very SHARP rocks, over in the forest, ready to cut all of us.” Steelix, understanding his fellow fighter’s meaning, charges into the forest. The petitioners leap towards the genasi, and he is able to slice one open from stem to stern with his glaive. The other leaps on his back and bites into his neck. Reyes fires a bolt into the cat, allowing Steelix to throw it over his head and into a tree. They drag the living petitioner back to camp and “convince” it to tell them where its lair is before killing and skinning it.

Chain_Lightning.jpgThe nymph’s condition worsens over the next few hours, and, bereft of options, Steelix suggests Umbra try to heal the fey. He is interested in seeing the full extent of the girl’s powers, given her latent ability to teleport. Umbra says she’ll try, places her hands on the nymph’s breasts, concentrates, and… inadvertently uses ‘Chain Lightning’.

A smoking corpse with a crossbow bolt through its sternum and hand-print burn marks over its nipples is all that remains of the nymph. Jeena Ealy pokes her head out of the tent due to the commotion, and Steelix tells her that there’s nothing to see here, they’re “just cooking”. Behind him, however, she spies Cornelius, who’s already busy chopping off the nymph’s head for later use. She runs into the forest and vomits, yelling, “WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!”

Umbra sheepishly apologizes for the mess, and Reyes tells her that she shouldn’t feel bad, as her “heart was in the right place”. Steelix suggests that Atrox try and teach Umbra to get a better grasp of her powers, an idea that the sorceress is unsure of.

They give the nymph an impromptu funeral, floating her burnt-up, headless body down the river, and head out for the den of the cat petitioners.

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Bottle Royale
Chapter 12

Looking to avoid the Harmonium at the Bottle and Jug tavern in the Hive, Cornelius and Umbra find seats while the rest of the party prepare themselves for the fight of their lives.

The barkeep and announcer for the night’s entertainments takes his place and introduces the contestants as they take their places inside the tavern’s razorvine cage:

  • Vermione is a local elf witch, only her face visible beneath a smelly, mud-caked robe
  • Baron Glorp is a gelatinous cube with a dwarf skeleton in it, ooze blurbling with excitement
  • Reyes is introduced as ‘The Shadowknave’, the vigilante who’s been making his own brand of justice around Sigil
  • Castillo is a steam construct with multiple voices communicating over its speaker system
  • Glassback is a lizardman covered in scales of razor-sharp glass and glowing with some inner fire
  • Drik-tha-cht is a thri-kreen wielding a deadly-looking gythka and claws that could rip an elf in two
  • Steelix simply enters the arena, having asked for complete silence from the announcer
  • Atrox is introduced as an inescapable champion of destruction; Umbra loudly cheers for her
  • Grease Slickmeat is a greased-up wrestler from the slopes of Mount Olympus with an ego bigger than his muscles

With that, the battle begins!

Barbazu_Portal.jpgGrease makes the first move, tearing off his toga and charging Baron Glorp, attempting to grapple the acidic slime. Reyes pulls out his Ouroborope and attaches it to the top of the razorvine cage, pulling himself up into the air. Glassback rips a glass scale off his body and tosses it like a shuriken up at the archer, missing him.

Atrox sends three ‘Magic Missiles’ sailing into the lizardman’s side, cracking his glassy hide. In response, Drik-tha-cht charges the sorceress, slashing at her with its gythka and sending poison coursing into her wound as the weapon reacts with her body heat. Castillo aims its forearm-mounted crossbow at Reyes and also attempts to hit him, but misses as well; frustrated cursing is heard over the construct’s speakers. Meanwhile, Vermione begins muttering something under her breath. Steelix, who has been watching the battle unfold, comes up from behind the thri-kreen, getting his barbazu glaive in between two of the insectoid creature’s thoracic plates and sending green blood spilling onto the arena floor.

Grease pulls himself free of Baron Glorp, but is badly burned by the cube, and now in danger of its pseudopods, which lash out with weapons as it blurglurgles with glee. Reyes takes aim at Glassback but misses, and the lizardman tosses another glass scale up at him in retaliation, which also misses. Atrox is able to slip away from Drik-tha-cht as the thri-kreen struggles to free itself from Steelix’s glaive, and sends a ‘Fireball’ careening into Baron Glorp. Covered in Grease’s grease, the ooze ignites. Unfortunately, it also ignites Grease himself.

Castillo quickly extricates itself from the now-flaming part of the arena and tries to shoot down the rope holding Reyes up, but only succeeds at nicking it, forcing the archer to grab hold of the rope to stop himself from falling, but little else. A moment later, Vermione finishes her incantations and releases a ‘Stinking Cloud’ directly underneath him however, engulfing Steelix, Drik-tha-cht, and Atrox in nauseating gas as it begins expanding upwards towards Reyes.

Reyes gets his rope swinging and detaches it from the cage in order to send himself flying directly into the witch. He crashes into her and knocks her down, but the archer feels something… scurrying beneath her robe. In the meantime, Grease rolls on the arena floor in an attempt to douse himself, while Baron Glorp moves to escape the fire. Atrox and Steelix both begin tearing up and retching as the ‘Stinking Cloud’ takes affect. Drik-tha-cht shares a similar fate, while Glassback blindly tosses a scale into the cloud and misses, the scale lodging itself in the mug of an onlooker in the crowd outside. Castillo enters the gas unimpeded.

Suddenly, dozens of cranium rats rip their way out from under Vermione’s cloak, revealing that the witch was actually just a stack of the creatures holding up an elf head. They bite and scratch at Reyes, telepathically assaulting him for good measure, but the archer rips off his own cloak and tosses it into the nearby fire, taking many of the rats with it. Cornelius tells the announcer that THAT must be against the rules, but the other man tells him that “If it makes things interesting, there are no rules!” Remembering his own interference in such a match after seeing a picture of Piebald on the tavern’s ‘Wall o’ Champions’, the assassin shrugs and concedes the point.

Collector.jpgBaron Glorp takes this opportunity to strike out at Reyes with pseudopods, but the archer is able to dodge out of the way, landing on Grease Slickmeat’s as the wrestler struggles to get back to his feet. Meanwhile, Atrox overcomes the effects of the noxious gas and uses a ‘Thunderwave’ to push it away. Drik-tha-cht is killed by the blast, while Steelix is sent rolling into Castillo’s legs, tripping the construct. Glassback falls upon the genasi in moments, elbow-dropping him like a club covered in broken glass.

Badly wounded from Drik-tha-cht’s poison and her previous run-in with Mover Durkayle’s gorgon earlier in the night, Atrox forfeits from the match and is allowed out. Cornelius starts patching her up, while a fascinated Umbra looks on, loudly slurping her juice. They take no notice of some kind of commotion at the front door.

Back in the arena, Reyes begins ripping off the rest of the cranium rats, weathering their telepathic insults as best he can. Baron Glorp takes another swing at him and catches the archer in the side this time. Steelix shoves Glassback off of him, and knocks the lizardman in the face with the butt of his glaive.

Suddenly, Harmonium guards bust into the tavern and tell everyone to freeze. Absolute chaos erupts!

The cranium rats that made-up Vermione scurry up the razorvine and disappear into the ceiling, while Castillo produces an arm-mounted blade and slices its way out of the cage, nearly stabbing Cornelius in the face. Glassback makes for the door, but a Harmonium officer grabs him as he’s heading out. Reyes aims his crossbow at Glassback, but accidentally shoots the Harmonium guy in the face. The lizardman hisses and disappears into the crowd, while Reyes shouts “Did you see that?! Glassback just killed that dude!” Only Baron Glorp is around to hear him however.

Cornelius hides Umbra under his cloak and is able to duck between the legs of the crowd and slip out a back door with the girl. Atrox isn’t so lucky and is caught up in the panicked mass. Steelix puts on his Harmonium badge and blends in, pushing Castillo over and grabbing the fleeing announcer by the collar. Meanwhile, Reyes collapses to the ground in the arena, but hears a voice behind him say, “Don’t worry, I’ve got you.” before being teleported out of the building.

Reyes pulls himself away as they materialize, and sees that his savior is none other than Elias, the guttermage-turned-Doomguard that they helped out a month or so ago. The wizard takes the wounded archer to the Armory to recuperate.

Sarin.jpgBack at the Bottle and Jug, Atrox is finally able to push her way through the crowd, just in time to bump right into Mover Durkayle as he walks in the front door, Scamang on one side and Lady Mal on the other. Durkayle recognizes her as the courier and gets suspicious, but Lady Mal steps in, telling the Mover that they are “dear sisters”, mirroring Atrox’s words when she tried to magically charm the woman. She takes the tiefling’s arm in hers and escorts her outside.

Lady Mal takes Atrox into the alley behind the bar, the same place where the party previously found one of the Shadowknave’s victims. Her imp, Collaborok, climbs onto Atrox’s shoulders and pushes its barbed tail into the sorceress’s throat as Mal smiles, thanking Atrox for another “contribution to the cause” by taking Umbra. Atrox asks what she wants, but Mal simply tells the tiefling that she wants her to remember, “Remember that it was I, Malmoribus, viscount and erinyes of the Iron Duke, Dispater, who let you live this day.” The woman orders Collaborok to release Atrox, and the imp grumbles that he will be promoted again one day and see her “thrown into the Maggot Pit” before obeying. With that, Lady Mal says goodbye and flies off on jet black wings.

Inside, Steelix hands over the barkeep to Durkayle’s men, and tells the Mover that he came here looking for the Shadowknave but lost him in the chaos. One of the other guardsmen shows Durkayle the burnt cloak that Reyes left behind, and Durkayle grits his teeth. He tells Scamang to get everyone they arrested to the Prison“If any of these cross-traders know anything about the berk who took my daughter, the tender administrations of the Mercykillers will get it out of them.”

Steelix runs into Atrox coming out of an alleyway a moment later, and the two of them decide to head to the Gatehouse to get some medical treatment before continuing on to the Armory. Atrox keeps her run-in with Lady Mal to herself.

Lothar.jpgCornelius decides to head to the Bones of the Night, knowing that the area around the Shattered Temple tends to be quiet. He contemplates going to hand Umbra over to Inimigle, but quickly dismisses the notion. He heads inside and hears Lothar talking with someone through the door. The halfling walks in anyway, and finds that the guest is none other than Black Bart.

The first thing he notices about the orc is that in place of the hand that he lost is another hand. It is wrinkled and a bit too small for his forearm, but seems to function all the same. Lothar is surprised that the two of them know each other. Cornelius hands over Grezla’s skull to the old man as promised, as well as the head of the petrified intern from the Museum of Oblivion. Lothar thanks the assassin and bids Black Bart farewell.

Cornelius asks the orc what happened to him back in Bytopia, and Bart tells him that when the flood hit, he took off with the horse and cart and stumbled through a portal after fighting off a couple of kappa. Next thing he knew, they were standing in a cave somewhere and had to find their way back to Sigil. The halfling asks about his new hand, and the orc tells him that he went to sleep one night and woke up to find it there the next day. Bart admits he’s just glad it hasn’t tried to strangle him in his sleep yet.

They reunite with the horse (or, as Cornelius calls it, “The Thing”), and head to the Hall of Records.

Cambion.jpgAt the Armory, Reyes talks to Elias about procuring a trebuchet. The wizard suggests a ballista instead, telling the archer that he once used one on a white dragon to great effect back in his adventuring days. Reyes takes a much needed nap in Elias’s bed while the wizard goes back downstairs, where he runs into Atrox and Steelix and tells them that he brought Reyes here. Before they can say anything however, Cromlich appears, yelling at Steelix (still sporting his Harmonium badge) to get out, and grabbing Atrox (after hearing her name) and taking the tiefling with him.

The Doomlord leads Atrox through a portal, and the tiefling has to quickly catch her breath in the new, thin atmosphere beyond. They find themselves standing at the foot of a tower of greasy black stone, floating in the void over some kind of black hole, bristling around the edges with the dying vestiges of light.

Cromlich takes her to the stairs and tells her to climb, and they eventually arrive at a suite on top of the tower, where a woman with wild black hair is busy slicing apart a practice dummy with two swords. She turns, and Atrox immediately recognizes her as the factol of the Doomguard, Pentar.

Pentar.jpgPentar takes a seat and invites Atrox to do the same. The factol says that she’s wanted to speak with her ever since she heard about the tiefling’s trip to Bytopia. Cromlich growls from behind her, noting that it was a “failed trip” if anything, as Narthel Excelwell disappeared not long after, leaving his projects unfinished, including several for the Doomguard. Pentar turns and pats the Doomlord on the arm, telling him that, as cute as he may be when he’s grumpy, he really should be nice to their guest. He blushes, and then, clearing his throat, excuses himself, mumbling something about heading back to the Armory.

The factol smiles and asks Atrox if she’s ever had a tanar’ri lover, and the sorceress doesn’t know how to respond to that question, simply noting that she’s never had a ‘boyfriend’. Pentar is surprised, as she’d expect someone with the fire to go out and slay a naga and wreck a whole museum’s worth of ancient artifacts not to be afraid to break a few hearts as well. Atrox plays this all off, noting that she didn’t do any of that alone, but Pentar reassures her, “Come now! I’ve started riots that have burned down half the city—there’s no need to be modest with me!”

Meanwhile, Cornelius, Bart, and Umbra arrive at the Hall of Records and settle in for the night. Umbra makes note of the fact that this is the place Cornelius previously said wouldn’t be very exciting, and he reiterates that statement, unless she likes tax records and birth certificates. He also notices that the girl has been avoiding Black Bart however, and she tells him that the orc makes her feel uncomfortable. The assassin chuckles, and asks if she’s racist against orcs, to which Umbra replies that she’s “never been in a race before.”

Back at Citadel Exhalus, Pentar asks Atrox why she first joined the Doomguard. The tiefling tells the factol that she always had… issues with her temper, and met someone who showed her that she could turn those impulses towards something greater than herself. Pentar tells her own tale, of how she stood in the shadow of the Sleeping Sisters on Arborea as they woke from their centuries of slumber, and witnessed the raw destructive power of nature for the first time. She asks Atrox about being a sorceress, having the ability to wield such power, and tells her that the Doomguard has been working on something in the Abyss that can do that and more.

In fact, Pentar claims it could turn the tide of the entire Blood War.

Rowan_Darkwood.jpgThe next morning, Cornelius is woken up by an astral streaker carrying a message from Root of All Evil. Evidently, the modron is in town selling off items he received after the incident at the Museum of Oblivion.

Heading out with Umbra, the duo see that the Hall of Records is already abuzz at this early hour. It doesn’t take long to find out why: someone has challenged Duke Rowan for leadership of the Fated. Amused by the idea, Cornelius decides to check the battle out, and arrives just in time to watch the factol easily slice the would-be challenger in half with a stroke of his bastard sword. The grizzled warrior tells his dwarf attendant to clean up the mess, as “there’s children watching”, and then heads back to his office, shouting at the assembled crowd to get back to work!

A few minutes later, they reach the Fine Print, a tavern just down the street from the Hall of Records, where Root of All Evil has rented a room to sell off various pieces of merchandise. Root has three properties for sale, and hoped that the halfling might be interested in acquiring one, being the enterprising fellow that he is. Following negotiations over breakfast, Cornelius purchases a property in the Lower Ward.

Acheron.jpgOver in the Lady’s Ward, the rest of the party go to the Prison to look up Jiermo, the planeo-archaeologist who they got arrested a few weeks back. They see Glassback, Baron Glorp, and a very-badly burned Grease Slickmeat in jail, causing Reyes to wonder about the logistics of incarcerating an ooze, especially one with a noble title. To their surprise, Jiermo is nowhere to be found on the prisoner rosters, and they are met with a wall of silence from the Mercykillers when they ask about it.

Reyes contacts Fence-It Felix to see if he might know what happened to the archaeologist, and finds out that there are rumors that the Mercykillers have been leasing prisoners out as slave labor, and Jiermo might well be on his way to the endless battlefields of Acheron!

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Night on the Town
Chapter 11

Having freed the ‘Chosen’ of Aoskar, a girl named Umbra, from her father’s fortress, the party decide to teach her about life on the outside with a whirlwind tour of Sigil.

Fire.JPGThe party head out of the Lower Ward towards the Hive. Along the way, they pass the Mortuary, and Reyes tells Umbra about their jaunt to the Elemental Plane of Fire, and their confrontation there with the Revolutionary League. He is anything but coy about telling the girl how they tortured Toranna before he shot her with a crossbow bolt. Cornelius points out that, “Pain is something that every creature understands.” Steelix is quick to interject, adding that, “The important thing is knowing when to use it.”

They continue on to the Gatehouse, and Ariani happily welcomes them back. The bariaur notices Umbra, and Reyes quickly cooks up a story that she is his daughter. Ariani gives the girl an Arborean fireseed from her apron, freaking out Steelix as the kernel ignites in her mouth. They get a few bowls of soup, and when Umbra says that it looks gross, Steelix reassures her that it is the “Best soup in the city!” The twin Bleakniks, Morvun and Phineas, put on an impromptu performance in the hall, sending many of the poor folks scurrying for cover.

Heading outside, the party decide to take a look around the Night Market, which is in full swing. While Reyes chats with Felix, Steelix teaches Umbra about brothels and prostitution (after a run-in with a couple of jinkskirts leaves the girl in an inquisitive mood), which Umbra is surprised to hear is a way to earn money. The genasi explains that once she’s older and starts making money of her own, she can buy all the Arborean fireseeds she wants. Umbra smiles at that.

Continuing towards the Clerk’s Ward, the party run into a gang of Xaositects who are more of a barber shop quartet than anything. As they pass the Hall of Records, Cornelius points out to Umbra that it’s not the sort of place that an 8-year old would find very exciting, but is important none-the-less.

Shemeshka.jpgThe Civic Festhall is their next stop. Revelers fill the streets surrounding the building, and the party even spot Shemeshka the Marauder, who first put them onto this ‘Chosen of Aoskar’ job, making her way through the crowd on a palanquin carried by her tiefling retainers.

Umbra gravitates towards a street performer who looks like a golden statue however. She tries to get him to move but fails. Cornelius tells her that if she wants to see him react, she should grab his collection hat, which she does. The man instantly unfreezes, cursing at the top of his lungs before snatching the hat from the girl and sending coins skittering across the cobblestones. Atrox grabs a single silver coin, while Umbra stuffs a few more into her pockets as the man storms away, the crowd laughing and clapping as he goes.

A half hour later, the party find themselves caught up in the crowds of the Great Bazaar in the Market Ward.

As they’re making their way through the sea of stalls, Reyes spots a Harmonium patrol, led by a bearded devil, making their way through the crowd towards them. Cornelius easily slips through the throng, but his taller companions aren’t so fortunate. Atrox gets caught up in the tide of people, but just as the patrol is about to come upon them, Fell the Fallen Dabus beckons them into his tattoo shop. Steelix picks Umbra up and carries her inside. The bearded devil sniffs at Atrox suspiciously and spits at her hooves, muttering something about “demon-blood scum” before continuing on and allowing the sorceress through.

Dabus.jpgFell welcomes them in his race’s rebus-speak, and pays special attention to Umbra. He bows to her as the symbol of Aoskar appears over his head. Atrox suspiciously asks how he knows the girl, and the dabus reveals that he was the one who originally made the prophecy of her coming centuries ago—like so many of the images he conjures, this one too seems to have come true. Reyes suddenly realizes that Fell must be the dabus that joined Aoskar’s priesthood and brought the Lady of Pain’s wrath down upon them.

Sadness and regret circle Fell’s head at this reminiscence, but these are quickly replaced by symbols of hope as he turns back to Umbra, noting that the girl can finally bring about his god’s return. Reyes is sympathetic to Fell’s stated goal of “unlocking Sigil’s portals” and, in so doing, “the boundaries of the mind”, but admits that he is less familiar with the workings of the Planes than his companions and defers to them in deciding what to do. Steelix is more skeptical, and when Fell isn’t specific about how he plans to “unlock Umbra’s potential” and revive Aoskar, the genasi takes Umbra outside to “find somewhere more fun”.

The Fallen Dabus is saddened by this, afraid that the Lady of Pain will slay the girl if She should learn her nature. He asks Reyes and Atrox to keep her safe until “the time is right”.

Heading into a tailor’s shop to find something to better hide Umbra’s identity, the party is greeted by a plump man with argyle-patterned skin, who is happy to show them his wares. Steelix is interested to see what the girl will choose when presented with a choice, and she picks a fine, fur-lined purple cloak. The tailor turns to the adults and tells them that it will be 50 gp, at which point Umbra suddenly dimension doors out of the building. The tailor is dumbstruck and Reyes quickly yells WHAT DID YOU DO?!” Everyone else follows suite, feigning anger as the tailor says that he had no idea that a Displacer Beast-hide cloak would still be so magical. He begs Steelix not to write him up after Reyes points out that the genasi is with the Harmonium.

They find the little girl outside, buying a skewer of cooked cranium rats with the money she took from the street performer. Cornelius is disgusted by the thought of eating rats, but Umbra tells him that he hasn’t even tried them yet. Atrox asks if she can try a bit of the seasoned rat, and Umbra takes the whole thing (still steaming from being cooked) off the skewer with her bare hands and gives it to the sorceress. Atrox thanks her as they dig in.

Not wanting to enter the heavily-patrolled streets of The Lady’s Ward, the party loop back around, passing up on a chance for a ‘free bath’ at a spa across the street from the Great Gymnasium before continuing on towards the Hall of Speakers.

Cirily.jpgOutside the Hall itself, in a public forum in the shadow of the Trianym, the party spots a Planarist rally, led by the eladrin firebrand Cirily. Reyes gets handed a pamphlet all about the “poisoned gifts” of the Prime, with Sarin of the Harmonium and Duke Rowan Darkwood of the Fated serving as the poster-children for this warning. For everything they give, there is a hidden price. Steelix doesn’t understand the complaint being made, rationalizing that, “of course there would be a debt of some sort for services rendered”.

Reyes recognizes the ‘H.H.’ printed in the corner of the pamphlet from other ads around town, and asks the squat tiefling who gave him it who the author of these “political truths” is. The tiefling says it’s THE FAMOUS HARYS HATCHIS, OF COURSE!!” He points Reyes to the office of the man’s ad-agency in the Market Ward.

The Hall of Speakers itself is buzzing with activity, even at this hour of the night. Cornelius learns that an emergency session of the Council of Factols has been called, and that the faction high-ups have convened within. Steelix takes Umbra and finds somewhere quiet, safe from the eyes of the Harmonium guards keeping order around the Hall, while Atrox, Cornelius, and Reyes decide to head inside and check things out.

They find seats in the public gallery of the Hall’s central council chamber as Factol Darius of the Sign of One calls the gathering to order. The next piece of business: The drastic drop in food shipments coming from Tradegate in recent weeks.

The representative of the Free League says that the Harmonium’s “subjugation” of the gate-town has been “stifling trade around the Ring” due to the “Baatorian policies” of the Hardheads. Ambar Vergrove of the Believers of the Source tells the Free Leaguer that this is but another test that the people of Tradegate must overcome in order to reach their full potential, a sentiment that Terrance of the Athar echoes, hoping that it will teach the Bytopians not to rely so much on the gods to protect them.

Sarin.jpgSarin interjects, telling the assembled body that the Free League’s claims are baseless, and that the Harmonium is doing their best to “promote unity” in Tradegate. Despite their best efforts, he admits that food shipments from the plane will be drastically reduced until trade routes between Sigil and Bytopia can be reliably reestablished. Hashkar of the Fraternity of Order rather dryly points out that such a delay would violate at least a dozen agreements between the Sigilian government and Bytopian suppliers. In stark contrast to Hashkar’s legalism, Erin ‘Darkflame’ Montgomery of the Society of Sensation gives an impassioned speech about the potentially tragic loss of life that a famine might incur. The representative of the Dustmen points out that there’s nothing tragic about a few sods being released from this pale imitation of life.

Rowan_Darkwood.jpgDuke Rowan Darkwood points out that his “esteemed colleagues” forget the impact this incident could have on the actual running of Sigil, as there might be food riots or worse if things get bad enough. He reveals that, as luck would have it, he is more than ready to put a plan in place that would bring food in from various worlds on the Prime Material Plane. With a “slight tax increase”, this plan would only take a few weeks to put into motion, and they would be able to feed the city until trade routes with Bytopia could be reestablished.

Pentar.jpgThe representative of the Free League quickly backs Duke Darkwood’s plan, but Pentar of the Doomguard cuts in, claiming that nonsense like that would only be delaying the inevitable. She says that her fellow Factols should just accept what’s coming and “revel in a little destruction for a change”. This declaration sparks a heated argument that quickly draws in most of the other Factols, especially Sarin of the Harmonium, who blames Pentar for the reports he’s gotten that Mover Durkayle’s compound in the Lower Ward was attacked earlier in the night.

Cornelius isn’t surprised at the levels of dysfunction, and neither is Atrox, though she takes a less cynical view than the halfling. Reyes, however, decides to do something about it, and asks Atrox for a bit of magical help. After some preparation, the chamber is suddenly silenced as a magical ‘Darkness’ engulfs the public gallery and a hooded figure emerges from within, urging the other factols to accept Duke Darkwood’s proposal.

Portal_Jump.jpgOutside, Steelix teaches Umbra how to play dice, and tells her that this is another way of making money. An angel flutters into the air to avoid tripping over them as the genasi gives Umbra a speech about how to live well.

Back in the Hall, Darius allows Reyes to speak (Hashkar grumbles something about this being “highly irregulr”), but asks him who he is. Reyes tells her that he is just their “friendly neighborhood Shadowknave”.

Factol Sarin says that ‘The Shadowknave’ rings a bell, and asks Reyes who he is. Alisohn Nilesia, representative of the Mercykillers, points out that he is the vigilante who’s been meting out justice on the streets around the Hall of Records, which quickly outrages the Harmonium factol, who flexes his faction’s monopoly on law-keeping in the city. Nilesia reminds him that “the law is not justice” however.

Before another argument can break out, a vote is called, and Duke Darkwood’s proposal is passed with relative ease. The party decide to slip out and meet back up with Steelix and Umbra before they draw anymore attention to themselves.

Being late, they decide to find somewhere to bunk down and relax for the night. Cornelius suggests that they find somewhere in the Hive, as the Harmonium usually avoids the slums. They head to the Bottle and Jug, and learn there’s a fighting competition being held tonight. The party sign up and get ready to fight.

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Set the World on Fire
Chapter 10

Two weeks pass following the party’s adventures in Bytopia, and they return to the hum-drum day-to-day of Sigilian living—if such a thing can be said about the City of Doors.

Steelix keeps his ears open for any “extracurricular bounties” while out on patrol. One day, he is called into Mover Tonat Shar’s office at the City Barracks. He learns that Lemgwaith Aristan, who the party helped in Tradegate, has been promoted to the First Movement of the Harmonium. Steelix is glad to hear it, but Shar tells him that he’s not done—the Mover intends to recommend Steelix to Factol Sarin for officer training, if he is interested. The genasi accepts.

Reyes spends his downtime at the Hall of Records, where he spies a group of Xaositects trying to tag the building with graffiti in the middle of the night. He dresses as “The Shadowknave” and plays vigilante, tying them up until a Harmonium patrol arrives.

Atrox heads to the Parted Veil bookstore, and does some more research into night hags, specifically, the heartstone that they took from Grezla. During her reading, a noseless elf with messy hair and crystals flying erratically around his head asks if she knows where the law books are. She points him in a random direction and runs off, finding herself the most secluded section of the shop she can find.

Cornelius looks into treating the basilisk eyes and stomachs that he picked up from the Museum of Oblivion, knowing that they have alchemical uses thanks to his training as a mixologist. He seeks out the help of Wooly Cupgrass, a Sensate bariaur alchemist who does his damnedest to hide his goat bits, and has a propensity for “tasting” every potion and reagent that comes to him. Together, they work on brewing a batch of ‘stone salve’.

Shemeshka.jpgEventually, all of them receive a visit from a man clad in full plate armor who’s every movement rings with the sound of jingle-bells. He gives each a simple message:

“Madame Shemeshka must have a word with you.”

So, they make their way to Fortune’s Wheel, to meet with the King of the Cross-Trade once again. Colcook brings them all wine (though Steelix asks for some soup instead), which Cornelius recognizes as razorvine wine from Curst, Shemeshka is amazed that the rogue recognizes such a rare vintage. She goes on to tell them that she has heard that their baku hunt was a success thanks to Adamok Ebon’s help, and that she wants a job done in exchange for the help she lended. Shemeshka calls in a man with wings for ears and mix-matched arms named Inimigle, who she introduces as a nightwatchman at the Shattered Temple. Inimigle gets straight to business, asking if they know about the dead god, Aoskar. Atrox is the only one who even recognizes the name, having seen a few references here and there in her studies.

Inimigle explains that, eight hundred years ago, before the Factions took over Sigil during the Great Upheaval, the city was practically crawling with gods. None of these gods was more popular than Aoskar, who claimed dominion over the portals for which the City of Doors is known. In fact, he got so popular that one of the Lady of Pain’s dabus joined his priesthood. In response, the Lady brought Aoskar’s whole temple crashing down, flayed the skin off his clerics, and left the big guy himself floating through the Astral Plane as just another divine husk.

Steelix asks what some dead god has to do with them. Inimigle says that not long ago, a girl was born with a birthmark on her hand shaped A LOT like Aoskar’s symbol. He notes that his work at the Shattered Temple has left him familiar with a prophecy that points to such an event prefacing Aoskar’s return. Shemeshka points out that this “poor innocent child” was scragged by Durkayle, an ambitious and brutal Mover Four in charge of the Harmonium in the Lower Ward. They want the party to get the girl out of her current predicament.

Steelix believes that he can spin this to his superiors if there is truth in Shemeshka’s suggestion that Durkayle is a crooked cop. Cornelius is unsure about playing a role in bringing back Aoskar, not wanting to risk the wrath of the Lady of Pain. In the end, the party agrees however. Shemeshka applauds their enthusiasm, saying, “You really are lovely, darlings~! I didn’t even have to threaten your friends and family.”

To get them into Durkayle’s compound, the party are told to deliver a portal-key to Zaraga, mistress of the Screaming Tower, who will help them in exchange for the talisman. Inimigle also provides them with a rhyme that they must recite in order to get into the tower. He says he’ll meet them at the Shattered Temple after they have the girl.

Sigil_Color.jpgThe party head into the Lower Ward towards the Screaming Tower, a haphazard structure that moans with wind. A pair of statues shaped like serpents coil around its base, rearing up on either side of the front door, where a pile of still-smoldering remains lies. Atrox recites the rhyme and they head inside.

A staircase wraps around the alcove-pocked wall, overlooking a yawning void on the ground floor. Steelix kicks a stone off the stairs, but doesn’t hear it hit any sort of bottom. A few minutes of climbing later, the breeze blowing up from the void rises to a hurricane wind, lifting Atrox and Reyes off the stairs. Gargoyles, lurking in the alcoves, leap from their shelters and glide on this wind, and Cornelius sees one catch something. Atrox grabs a hold of something and Reyes tosses her his rope, pulling himself back to the stairs as the wind dies down once again.

Cornelius approaches the gargoyle he saw and asks what he caught. The gargoyle shows the halfling a tiny winged creature that he recognizes as a sprite. It yells for help before being silenced as its captor shoves it into a pile of trash in an alcove. Occasionally, the creatures are sucked into the tower through the portal to the Pandemonium, and the gargoyles turn them over to Zaraga in lieu of rent, as well as a little ‘fairy dust’, which the gargoyle claims will get a person “real high”.

They continue up to find Zaraga pulling a sprite out of a birdcage beside her table and stuffing the little creature into her mouth. Cornelius chuckles as she smacks the cage to silence the fairy’s horrified comrades. The hag turns on them, angered by this intrusion until they show her the portal-key. She greedily snatches it, and shoos them away, telling them that the gargoyles below will gladly take them to the compound.

Atrox is a little nervous to fly with a gargoyle, and Steelix asks them if they are sober. The gargoyle reassures the genasi that “I never fly while U.T.I!” before grabbing him and taking off for the edge of the Lady’s Ward.

Sigil darkens to night during their flight, and the lights of the city shimmer far below them as they approach the imposing silhouette of Durkayle’s compound, a structure shaped like a spiked gauntlet wrapped in a tangle of razorvine. The gargoyles fly them around the tower, asking where they’d like to land. Beyond the five barred, second floor windows going counter-clockwise around the tower, the party spies:

  • an office where a squat humanoid with an elongated head scribbles at its desk
  • a hallway with a door on both of the adjoining walls
  • a bathroom
  • an unknown room with its interior shutters closed
  • a woman staring into a fireplace, a hooded baby carriage beside her

Atrox decides to have the gargoyles land her there, so she can attempt to cast ‘Charm Person’ on the woman and grab the child before anyone notices. Meanwhile, Steelix and Cornelius will approach from the front gate, with the genasi using his badge to get inside on “official business”. Reyes asks to be dropped on the stables down below while the wall guards are busy focusing on the front gate, hoping to slip inside and cause a distraction of his own.

Barbazu_Portal.jpgSteelix and Cornelius get in without a hitch by telling the guards that they’ve come to brief Mover Durkayle on an “imminent security threat”. They learn that the Mover himself is away, but that his second-in-command, a wizard named Tagon Flamebane, is in. The pair are brought to the foyer to wait while a notary goes to see if Tagon can meet with them. A pair of bearded devil guardians keep them company; one says something to the other in Infernal and they both laugh.

Reyes makes it into the stables and hides in the hayloft. He sees four stalls below him, though only one is occupied: a bull with metallic plates snuffling within.

Atrox casts ‘Charm Person’ on the woman through the window, and the woman turns towards her, revealing a face hidden behind an iron mask. The masked woman opens the window and asks what she’s “doing out there on the windowsill at this hour.” Atrox tells her that she’s come because the woman’s child is in grave danger. The masked woman grabs a hold of the iron bars on the outside of the window and pulls them apart, allowing the tiefling inside. Atrox slips in, amazed that such a sinuous woman could be so strong, as the masked woman closes the bars behind her. Wanting to get the child to “somewhere safe”, Atrox hurries over to the perambulator, draws back the hood, and is attacked by the nest of venomous snakes within. The masked woman sits back down behind her and says, “But, my dear, I don’t have any children.” A stuffed owlbear in the corner of the room rumbles with laughter as the woman tells Atrox to sit.

Back in the foyer, Steelix grips his glaive, following the bearded devils warily. One of the creatures asks him how he got the weapon, and the genasi simply says that he “took it off a dead guy”. The bearded devil chuckles, “Yes, that could be the only way.” A moment later, the notary returns to lead them to the office of Tagon Flamebane.

Upstairs, the masked woman introduces herself as Lady Mal and explains that she is not the mother of the child that the party seeks, but her nanny. She offers to introduce Atrox to the girl. Before the tiefling can respond however, an imp pokes its head out of the stuffed owlbear’s mouth, and points accusatorily at her, yelling “I REMEMBER YOU! YOU WERE WITH THE ONES WHO STOLE MY GLAIVE!”

Sarin.jpgSteelix and Cornelius are taken to Tagon Flamebane’s office, where Steelix tells the wizard that they were sent by Tonat Shar to make sure the compound is secure. Tagon remarks that he was sent here by Mover Shar himself, in order to advise Durkayle, but has been turned into little more than a glorified babysitter for his daughter, Umbra. Cornelius asks for more information on the girl. They learn that, not long ago, Durkayle had a trist with a succubus and Umbra was conceived. The Harmonium frowned on such a union, of course. Shar wanted Durkayle to forget the child, but Factol Sarin stepped in and reminded him that “nothing is more important than family”, giving the to retrieve his daughter from her mother’s clutches in the Abyss. Tagon then agrees to give them a complete tour of the building, “including the bathroom.”

Lady Mal tells Atrox not to worry herself about Collaborok the imp, as “he’s been quite an idiot since his demotion.” The masked woman threatens to hand the imp over to Umbra if he doesn’t watch his tongue, sending the creature back into the owlbear. Atrox is led to Umbra’s playroom by Lady Mal, but instead of following her inside, the sorceress slams the door behind her, and runs upstairs. She finds herself in a room where a glowing red orb gives off an aura that makes the chaotic tiefling VERY uncomfortable. She turns around and bolts past the second floor to the ground floor, right smack into a Harmonium trooper.

Back in the stables, Reyes hears the front gates open and three horsemen ride inside. He hunkers down as they enter. The leader is pissed about something, and tells his subordinates that he’s going off to speak with someone named Greptaug immediately. Reyes is nearly heard, but the Harmonium men seemed too angry to notice. It doesn’t take long for the horses to begin to make a ruckus however.

Nereid.jpgMeanwhile, Steelix and Cornelius are led upstairs via a secret passageway connecting Tagon’s office to his room. Cornelius complains that every room in this compound is poorly lit. The first stop on their tour is the bathroom, where Tagon demonstrates the toilet, which is powered by a portal to the Elemental Plane of Water. They continue on to Umbra’s room, which Tagon unlocks with a flick of his wrist. Inside, they find an imp up on the wardrobe about to ‘Fire Bolt’ a little girl standing at its foot, but the creature flutters off as they enter. Umbra isn’t happy that they scared him off, sure that she was about to catch him. Tagon turns to Lady Mal, sitting in the corner with her perambulator full of snakes, and yells at her for leaving knives on Umbra’s floor again. The woman seems more interested in Steelix however, eyeing the genasi as she slips down the hallway and back to her room. Steelix gives Umbra a high-five, but doesn’t see Aoskar’s symbol on her left hand. Cornelius wonders why the girl’s room is so heavily warded, and why her bed is inside a cage, and Tagon tells the halfling that her powers have begun to manifest—the last time that she got out, she actually stole his Wand of Frost, and… well, they were forced to hire a new magma mephit for the kitchens after that little incident.

A goblin with wolfish features enter the stables to investigate the animals. Reyes is able to calm the horses from up in the hayloft however, and the goblin ends up leaving, mumbling something under his breath about “Fucking horses…” The fighter decides to unlock the stalls of the three horses using his lassoing skills. A few minutes later, a pair of notaries burst in in the throes of passion, and begin to undress. Reyes uses his rope to unlock the bull’s stall next, and the creature charges out, sending the lovers scurrying back from whence they came.

Atrox is led up to Greptaug’s office, and finds the long-headed creature speaking with Durkayle, who is not happy at this interruption. She tells the commander that she came to deliver a message. The Mover tells her that he has no time for “one of ”/characters/autochon-the-bellringer" class=“wiki-content-link”>that damn jingle bell’s couriers", and tells her escort, Josbert Plum, to take her to Tagon’s office. They head downstairs, knock, but get no reply. Plum decides to take her up to Tagon’s quarters. They run into Steelix, Cornelius, and Tagon as they are leaving Umbra’s room. Plum tells Tagon that Durkayle asked him to take this woman to her, but Tagon, having learned that Durkayle has arrived, takes Steelix and Cornelius to meet with him in Greptaug’s office instead, telling Plum to take the message from Atrox himself. None of the party acknowledge that they know one another. Atrox tells Plum that she forgot the message she was meant to deliver. As she is led out into the rain-soaked courtyard towards the front gate, a metal-plated bull comes smashing out of the stables and right into her side, knocking her into the mud like a ragdoll.

Mover Durkayle is doubly pissed as Steelix and Cornelius interrupt his talk with Greptaug. His attitude changes when Steelix tells him that there is an imminent threat to his daughter however. Greptaug more-or-less says ‘I told you so’ to Durkayle, pointing out that it was inevitable for demons to come and try to reclaim the child. Durkayle ponders this, concluding that the disastrous mission to the town of Bedlam that he just returned from was a distraction. Cornelius points out that the Mover shouldn’t be surprised, given that the place’s called “Bedlam”—“it’s like going to Shitholeberg and being surprised it smells like shit.” Steelix suggests moving Umbra to a safer location.

Fire.JPGReyes, deciding its time for action, leaps from his hiding place, throws up his hood and places the mimir underneath (on top of his head), then precedes to burst through the door after the lovers. He finds them busy redressing in the kitchen, where three magma mephits play in the firepit (one is pointing and laughing at the half-naked soldiers, one is clapping, and one is running on a piece of charred meat). Reyes sends the meat and its fiery rider tumbling to the floor with a crossbow bolt before kicking his way into the main hallway and yelling that he is “The Shadowknave” and that he’s come for their children!

Suddenly, everyone upstairs hears “The Shadowknave” downstairs. Steelix yells, “That was who we came to warn you about!” Durkayle grabs Greptaug’s bearded devil bodyguard and heads downstairs with Tagon, Steelix, and Cornelius at his heels.

Reyes is nearly spotted by Harmonium troops coming from the dining hall to investigate the commotion, but ducks behind a corner and takes off his cloak before they spot him. Behind him, someone shouts that there’s a “fire in the kitchen!” The goblin he saw in the stables earlier goes wide-eyed and pressed himself against the wall farthest from the flames. Reyes runs into Durkayle, Tagon, Steelix, Cornelius, and the bearded devil at the bottom of the stairs and turns to the genasi, saying, “My lord, it is I, your humble squire! The Shadowknave, he is attacking!”

Tagon pulls out his Wand of Frost to deal with the fire while Josbert Plum rushes in to tell them that “the animals are loose, sir!” Harmonium troops run every which way as Durkayle splits his forces to try and contain the chaos. In the mean time, Atrox is able to pull herself back to her feet as the bull gores one of the gate guards out in the courtyard. She hobbles back into the foyer and joins back up with the rest of the party as they draw up their plan of attack.

Night_Hag.jpgAtrox hands Grezla’s heartstone over to Cornelius, who tries to use its ‘Etherealness’ ability to get into Umbra’s room unnoticed. Tagon’s wards prevent him from doing so however. The party decide to try and lure Tagon upstairs to get the key from him. To this end, Atrox sets fire to the razorvine outside the bathroom window while Reyes runs to get the wizard. The sorceress collapses from blood-loss and the snake venom still coursing through her a moment after starting the blaze however, and Cornelius locks himself in the bathroom with her in order to treat her wounds.

Tagon Flamebane, Josbert Plum, and another guard come upstairs. Tagon gives his Wand of Frost to Plum while he unlocks Umbra’s room for Steelix, forgetting to redo his magical wards again as he rushes off to check on Greptaug and Lady Mal.

Reyes pounds on the bathroom door to let Cornelius and Atrox know what’s up, but gets no reply. Plum prepares to force the door, but Reyes suggests he try the window down the hall to see if he can get another angle on the fire.

Steelix finds Umbra on her bed, locked within her cage. He tells her that she is in danger, and asks if she wants to get out of this prison. She doesn’t understand Steelix’s explanation of the Shadowknave, asking him all sorts of questions:

“Who is the Shadowknave?”
“A weirdo who hates meat.”
“Why does he hate meat?”
“I don’t know, but he wouldn’t like all these questions. He’s kind of egotistical.”
“What’s ‘extra-testicle’?”
“It’s when you have more testicles than normal. Now—”
“What’re testicles?”

Eventually, Steelix asks her to meet them in the bathroom. She excitedly asks if he’s “seen the toilet?!” before using ‘Dimension Door’ to disappear into thin air.

Umbra reappears in the bathroom and falls into the toilet bowl. Atrox asks if she needs a hand and helps her out. Umbra recognizes Cornelius as one of Steelix’s friends and asks him if he’s “seen the toilet”. The halfling says yes and asks everyone to grab a hold of the heartstone.

Portal_Jump.jpgJosbert Plum returns to tell Reyes that he couldn’t see the fire from the window and busts down the door just in time to see Atrox, Cornelius, and Umbra turn ethereal and hop through the wall to the courtyard.

The Harmonium have gotten the metal-plated bull into a corner, but it is still huffing like mad, creating a cloud of green vapor all around it. The three horses are still running wild in the courtyard however, and it seems the stables have caught fire as well. Atrox, Cornelius, and Umbra ethereally run through the front gate and out into the Lady’s Ward, disappearing amid the crowd gathering to watch.

Tagon and Lady Mal enter Umbra’s room a moment later, and Steelix explains that he was talking to her when she suddenly disappeared. Tagon realizes he forgot to put his wards back up and gets a sarcastic “Great job” from the masked woman. Durkayle comes upstairs and learns from Plum and Reyes that “The Shadowknave and his sidekick, who is coincidentally also named ‘Umbra’” absconded with his daughter only a moment ago. So, they all rush back downstairs.

Durkayle yells at the terrified goblin to get moving, while Steelix asks Tagon if he can overflow the toilet to try and put the fires out. Steelix and Reyes continue on to the courtyard, where Reyes is able to calm the bull down, right before falling victim to its noxious breath and falling onto his ass into the mud. His genasi companion charges in a moment later, being sure to hold his breath, and slashes at the creature, which he recognizes as a ‘Gorgon’, a native of Acheron. Meanwhile, the other Harmonium troops corral the horses and get them out of the way. Steelix holds his ground as the gorgon tries to gore him, and is able to get the bull’s horns tangled in the razorvine, allowing him to slice at its leg. Reyes struggles to get back up, but is too lightheaded. Durkayle, standing in the doorway to the foyer, is dowsed in toilet water from the bathroom window overhead as Tagon succeeds in putting out the razorvine fire.

The goblin, no longer afraid to move, appears and paralyzes the gorgon with a spell. Tagon returns and puts out the stable fire with his Wand of Frost. Steelix points out to Durkayle that they came to the compound in an attempt to stop this from happening, and the Mover vows to get his men out and searching for his daughter immediately.

Astral_Plane_1.jpgLady Mal suddenly appears, flying down from the upper levels on glossy black wings. She says hello to Steelix and Reyes, and tells Durkayle that “These two are the ones who helped me in the Astral Plane not so long ago. Got me a tidy little promotion.” Both are confused, having never met this woman before in their life, and ask her who she is. She is of little help however, and tells Steelix to enjoy his glaive.

With that, Steelix and Reyes head after Atrox, Cornelius, and Umbra.

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The Spirit of the Law
Chapter 9

With the night hag Grezla defeated thanks to the aid of a baku, the party receives the heartfelt thanks of Narthel Excelwell and his long-estranged son, Dilethro Tillyfoot.

Bytopia.jpgNarthel gifts the party with a silver skull etched with magical patterns that he calls a ‘Mimir’. Reyes asks what it does, and suddenly, the skull rises out of his hand and begins to explain its purpose as a device for storing and reciting knowledge about the Outer Planes.

Steelix reminds the party that even though they defeated the night hag, they still have to deal with the obliviax. The genasi asks Narthel if he has any explosives that they might be able to use. He shows them some mining equipment left behind in the old quarry when he arrived, most of which he’s found little use for over the years. Steelix very bluntly asks the inventor if they can blow up his house, and, though shocked by the request, Narthel says they can. His son asks him about all of his things though, but the inventor pats to the haversack he’s carrying and then places a hand on Dilethro’s shoulder, telling him, “I have everything I need right here.”

Their teary reunion is interrupted as Atrox tosses a ‘Fire Bolt’ into the pile of dry leaves that Cornelius piled around the explosives set up by Steelix (to, in the rogue’s words, “make it so she only has to hit near where the fuses are at”), causing the cliff-face to come crashing down over the mouth of the tunnel. Steelix bemoans not being able to eat the memory moss, as his previous experience of having memories that were not his own was quite invigorating.

With their job in Bytopia done, the party decide to head to Tradegate in order to book passage back to Sigil.

Cornelius asks Narthel and Tillyfoot what their plans are, and the pair reveal that they intend to go on vacation, relax and catch up on all that they’ve missed. The rogue reminds Narthel to let the Factions know of all that they did for him, and the inventor assures them that he intends to.

Airship.jpgMaking it back to Hanei, the travelers find the townspeople hard at work rebuilding their town following the flood brought about by Kawaikari. Dojotaro greets them, and is quite pleased to hear that they’ve dealt with the memory-stealing evil that Inari warned them about. While he laments the loss of his memories, the headman knows that, through his people’s hard-work, Hanei will prosper once again. Cornelius asks if they’ve seen Black Bart around, as they lost contact with him after the flood, but Dojotaro hasn’t seen him. He decides to investigate their campsite with Atrox to see if they can find where the orc went. Meanwhile, Dojotaro asks Steelix and Reyes if they wouldn’t mind visiting the Planar Trade Consortium offices in Tradegate to set up a water caravan for Hanei, as Kawaikari’s death has left them without a river.

Atrox and Cornelius find the area littered in debris, and now much drier. Using magic however, they follow the track to two trees leaning against one another. Nearby lies a wagon wheel, hoof prints, and the rotting corpse of a kappa. Atrox is able to discern that the space between the trees is a portal, though she’s not sure what the key is or where it leads. Cornelius is disappointed to lose his mercenary, horse, and cart, but hopes that maybe Black Bart will be able to start up a farm for himself wherever he is now.

Before long, the party make it back to Tradegate, and head to the Aurumvorax Den Inn, where they find Yannick Wex and ask him about bringing water to Hanei. He takes them to the P.T.C. headquarters, where they enter the familiar-looking office of Estavan the ogre mage.

As they are walking in, an angel with skin of jade, hair like spun copper, and eyes burning with white flame is walking out. He nods to them before exiting out the front door. Reyes catches a brief glimpse of what looks like the Clerk’s Ward as the angel passes through.

Koe.jpgThey find Estavan mumbling angrily under his breath and fixing his hair as they enter, but the merchant-lord quickly dons his all-to-insincere smile as he spots them. He is more than happy to set up a caravan rout to Hanei, noting that it is quite profitable to have a goddess in one’s debt. The party also ask about caravans headed back to Sigil, and Wex interjects to tell them that he’s heading out tomorrow. Estavan gives him a cold, hard stare before wrapping things up.

Exiting the office, the party goes over to investigate the hubbub around the Museum of Oblivion. Steelix shows his badge to get them through the Harmonium perimeter. A gnome cleric is speaking to a Harmonium officer as they approach, while a fez-wearing modron fiddles with an abacus off to the side; Reyes also spies the planeo-archaeologist, Jiermo, pacing nervously nearby.

Sarin.jpgThe Harmonium officer introduces herself as Lemgwaith Aritsan, and fills them in on a situation in the museum. She points to Jiermo, noting that “this Doomguard” and “his leatherhead of a boss” have been hoarding “items of a chaotic nature” in the building, and things have gotten out of control. The cleric explains that she tried to contact whatever ghost or demon or spirit is causing the havoc within, but just had things flying at her head in response. Jiermo gets emotional over the loss of such historical treasures. Measure Aristan tells him that if she knew the evil inside wouldn’t leak out, she would’ve already marched in there and smashed every last one of these so-called “artifacts” of his.

Knowing that Steelix came with Mover Shar’s recommendation, Measure Aristan asks him to get in there and deal with the situation. She points the party to a backdoor leading down to the basement. Questioning the bravery and the devotion of Aristan and her men, Cornelius nearly gets himself punched, but convinces Lemgwaith Aristan herself to accompany the party into the museum.

As Atrox, Steelix, Reyes, and Aristan descend into the earthen tunnels of the basement, they spot the ghostly figure of a kobold crossing the junction ahead of them. Reyes fires a bolt at it, but the spirit doesn’t even seem to notice as it continues on through a cave-in. From behind them, they hear a scream however, and the party turn to find Jiermo shaking in his boots. Aristan is not pleased, but Jiermo insists that he came to try and resolve this without needless destruction. He tells them that he believes the box he found on his most recent trip to Acheron is the cause of the trouble, and reveals that he was very close to discovering the command word for the relic before things went to hell. All they have to do is get his notes from the restoration room and seal the spirits back inside the box.

Reyes asks if the ghost they just saw is related, but Jiermo tells him that it was here long before Mr. Hexlithiss built the museum, as these tunnels are all that is left of the very first kobold warren—the domain of their god Kurtulmak—before Garl Glittergold brought the place crashing down on his head and the vengeful Kurtulmak’s realm shifted over the planar boundary to Gehenna.

Steelix doesn’t trust the gnome any more than Aristan, and tells Jiermo to show them the way, keeping a hand firmly on the top of his head.

Modron.jpgMeanwhile, Cornelius speaks to the modron back out front, who introduces himself as Root of All Evil, a name “taken from the conception of wealth as the ‘root of all evil’,” which Root says is now the maxim by which he lives. The rogue is intrigued by the idea of a modron adopting the pursuit of wealth as a means by which to spread law throughout the multiverse, as well as his support of the Harmonium doctrine of “universal harmony” due to its business applications. Cornelius also learns that Root of All Evil has calculated a 69.58% chance of the Museum of Oblivion and all of its contents being auctioned off “if current conditions do not improve,” which would be “a most profitable outcome” for him. The halfling admires this modron’s overriding self-interest.

Back underground, the party enters a large chamber where pieces are stored when not being on display. Atrox spies something moving across the ground behind some boxes and summons ‘Dancing Lights’ to illuminate the area. They turn the corner to find a pair of basilisks staring up, mesmerized by the lights. Steelix lifts Jiermo up so he can stare the gnome in the eyes, asking him what the big idea is. The planeo-archaeologist tells him that the basilisks were brought in by Mr. Hexlithiss to “protect his hoard”, and that the spirits must have opened their pens and let them out. Reyes asks him what he means by “his hoard”, and Jiermo tells them that his employer is a black dragon.

The party is shocked, but Measure Aristan explains that anyone with a guild membership and enough jink can buy their way onto the Parliament of Masters. Hexlithiss is one of the major impediments to the Harmonium operation in Tradegate due to his position.

Trying to sneak past the basilisks before Atrox’s spell runs out, the party ends up drawing the attention of the creatures. Steelix charges towards one of them, but catches sight of its eyes and finds his limbs stiffening. Reyes fires bolts at the beast as it advances on his fellow fighter. Aristan engages the other basilisk, which latches onto her arm with its powerful jaws until Atrox sends three ‘Magic Missiles’ sailing into its side. The Measure admits that she’d never see the day that she’d be thanking a Doomguard. Steelix takes a few bites, but eventually shrugs off the petrification process thanks to his earth elemental heritage and defeats the beast with help from Reyes. Having heard the commotion, Cornelius appears a moment later, and collects the eyes and stomachs of the basilisk for later use.

Jiermo says that Hexlithiss will not be happy when he returns to town in a few days and learns his pets are dead. Aristan says he’ll get over it, and Steelix pushes the gnome along towards the restoration room, where he grabs his notebook. With the key to finding the command word, the party climb the stairs to the exhibition floor.

The heavy door at the top of the stairs slams shut in front of them. Reyes asks Jiermo if he has a key, and the gnome produces one, putting it into the lock… only to have the lock spit the key back out and begin to speak. “Oi, ya shove that fookin’ sticker in me hole egen n’ I’ll shove it so far up yers it’ll be comin’ out the otha end it will!” Steelix tells Jiermo to try again, and silences the gnome’s protests with a stare. This time, the lock bites off the end of the key and spits it back in Jiermo’s face.

Cornelius steps in and is a bit more diplomatic, noting that of course locks are supposed to keep things closed, but they can also allow things to be opened. The rogue points out that either the lock will open by its own volition, or his big metallic friend will smash it into a million tiny pieces. With that, the door opens and allows the party through.

They find themselves standing in a gallery of items from across the Great Ring. All around are displays, with labels like:

  • ‘Lost Gate-towns of the Outlands’
  • ‘The Abyss’s Fallen Lords: A History of Might Makes Right’
  • ‘First Contact: Ancient Spell Weavers of the Prime Material’

Barbazu_Portal.jpgAs they move towards the Acheronian box however, the doors and shutters snap closed all around the room, and the artifacts themselves begin to move to intercept the party before they can interfere. They are not above destroying these relics, much to Jiermo’s horror, Steelix in particular has little qualms about it, as he attunes to his barbazu glaive as he and the weapon both bask in the rush of combat. Eventually, the gnome is able to get the right command word and trap the spirits back inside the box.

Steelix hears the screws of the box seem to beg for their freedom, but he ignores them, handing it over to Measure Aristan. The officer puts Jiermo in cuffs, handing him off to her subordinates for “questioning”. She is glad to have met Steelix and the rest, and shakes the genasi’s hand before departing.

Cornelius introduces the rest of the party to Root of All Evil as they step outside, and Reyes invites the modron back to the Aurumvorax Den Inn for some celebratory drinks. The fighter asks Root if he can tell their new mimir about modrons and Mechanus, which he happily agrees to do. The next morning, they awaken to find Root still talking to the mimir. They thank him, he thanks them, and with that, the party return home to Sigil.

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All In Your Head
Chapter 8

The party arrive at the Bones of the Night, but find nothing there except for a ruined building with a strangely intact window of stained glass that seems to shine with a light of its own.

Mortuary.jpgThey ignore a pair of tanar’ri beating up some poor sod in an alleyway nearby, and investigate the window more closely. Steelix makes note of the light, and, believing that perhaps the window is a portal of some kind, hops into the shaft of color. He doesn’t teleport anywhere, but does discover that the stone floor seems to be hollow. The genasi tests the stones, and finds that the light defines the dimensions of a trapdoor.

Descending down a ladder leading below the ruins, the party find themselves in a dark hallway with another door at the far end. Steelix knocks on this one as well, and after a moment hears a voice from the far side bid him enter.

Beyond lies a dimly-lit salon, its walls dominated by shelf after shelf lined in skulls, all of which seem to turn towards the party as they enter. Sitting in an armchair near the center of the chamber, set across from a divan and flanked by a side table and a basin of bubbling red liquid, is an ancient man, with stark white hair and wrinkles beyond count. Atrox practically feels the power radiating off of him as they approach.

He asks their business and introduces himself as the Master of Bones, Lothar.

Lothar.jpgReyes introduces himself as “The Shadowknave”, and tells Lothar that they heard he has the skull of Narthel Excelwell. The Master of Bones confirms this information, but is quick to note that, if there is specific information they are looking for, his services do not come free.

Cornelius asks him what kind of payment he would accept, and Lothar tells him that gold would be acceptable, but another skull would be greatly appreciated. Reyes asks if he would accept a promise of a skull they don’t currently have in return for use of Narthel’s skull now, and if it would chance his answer if he were to tell him that the skull belonged to a night hag.

Lothar laughs, and admits that he is intrigued by the notion. He agrees to this proposal, but only if Reyes is willing to be put under a ‘Geas’ spell until the terms are met, an arrangement that the fighter finds reasonable enough. The spell is cast and Lothar claps his hands together, bringing a gnome-sized skull floating over to rest on the table beside him.

Cornelius inquires as to how exactly this process will work, expecting to hear that the Master of Bones actually animates the skulls somehow, but Lothar dispels any such ideas. He points out that “there are truths in every socket, every suture, every ivory-pale curve of bone”, traces left by the passing of life and ossified within. It is these traces that he uses in his divination. As if to make a point, the old man flexes his fingers and traces the curves of the skull with his fingertips, his eyes rolling back as he tells the party to, “Ask.”

They learn that this man died ten years ago, but that it was not a painful death, in fact, Lothar points out that the man didn’t feel much of anything at that point, as if his mind had fled long before his body gave out. The Master of Bones reveals that before this however, there was frustration and resentment, targeted at an apprentice, who Steelix points out is probably the ‘Clutch’ that they read about at the Hall of Records, and Lothar says that that name rings true. Evidently, the apprentice eclipsed the master, with one’s mind peaking as the other’s faded away. There is also a palpable evil upon the skull, as if its previous owner had been victim to dark magic, though even the bones are unclear as to the source. Atrox notes that the memory-absorbing obliviax they encountered on Bytopia may have been the culprit, as her research clearly links the plant to night hags.

With this information all but confirming Reyes’ suspicion that the Narthel they met was not the original Narthel, the party decide to hit the Night Market near the Gatehouse to see if they can dig up anything on the Baku, the “natural enemy of the night hag”.

Reyes pays Morvun & Phineas, who are performing nearby, a few silver to play louder as he goes over to talk to his contact, Felix. Felix tells him that ‘powdered baku tusk’ is a powerful opioid used in a number of pleasure houses around the city. If the party were able to track down the source of these tusks, they might be able to find a live baku.

Neogi.jpgThe party heads to the nearest such brothel, an establishment back in the Lower Ward. Tiefling jinkskirts whistle to them as they approach, and after greasing a few palms, they’re led in to speak with the manager, a neogi pimp named R’haj’ek. They find him sitting astride his umber hulk, counting the day’s earnings on its head while smoking from a hookah pipe. Steelix, knowing the bad reputation of these creatures, stands far away from the neogi and simply shouts BAKU!”. After a much more subtle touch by Reyes and Cornelius, R’haj’ek explains that he receives his shipments of powdered baku tusk from his boss, Shemeshka the Marauder.

Cornelius and Steelix both recognize the name. The neogi points them to Fortune’s Wheel, where Shemeshka can usually be found, but warns them not to get on her bad side. The party make their way there and soon find themselves face-to-face with the so-called “King of the Cross-Trade”.

Shemeshka.jpgHolding audience from a comfy booth overlooking the gambling hall, the yugoloth grooms obsessively as they preach their case to her, staring lovingly at her own reflection in a mirror held up by her manservant, Colcook. She seems disinterested at first, but when the party mentions that their predicament involves a night hag, Shemeshka’s ears perk up, and the crime lord gives them her full attention. With a few well-placed compliments by Cornelius, she eventually agrees to help the party find a baku, and tells Colcook to send a message to Adamok Ebon immediately. The party is to expect a courier the following morning, and decide to retire to the Hall of Records.

As they head into the Market Ward, someone whizzes overhead on a flying broom, showering the Great Bazaar with pamphlets of Planarist propaganda. Sarin and Duke Rowan Darkwood are called out as examples of how “Primes” are stealing from hard-working planars. Reyes makes note of this, remembering their brief run-in with the Planarists, but brushes it off pretty quickly. A Harmonium patrol pass through a moment later, threatening to arrest anyone found carrying one of the pamphlets. Cornelius mocks the idea of someone going up against not only the city guard, but the tax collectors as well.

Reyes spies Dilethro Tillyfoot slipping into Fell’s Tattoo Parlor and the party follow along. The eponymous Fell welcomes the group. Reyes instantly feels something is off about the dabus, and realizes that his feet touch the ground.

Fell leads them into his parlor’s back room, where Steelix notes that most of the assembled people appear to be members of the Sign of One, including Tillyfoot himself. The Fallen Dabus begins relating the tale of a god who was unjustly cast down by The Lady of Pain, and all the glories lost as a result. Afterwards, the party pull Tillyfoot aside and fill him in on the situation.

Tillyfoot is overwhelmed with the revelation that his father is alive… sort of. He explains that he and Narthel had an argument over a decade ago and never reconciled before his disappearance. Steelix asks about Clutch, and learns that Narthel’s apprentice was a xivort. Evidently, the xivorts were created by a trickster god who sought to throw angry pursuers off his trail by creating clones of himself. Clutch always seemed a determined but melancholy fellow. Evidently, his condition as a ‘clone’ bothered him. Tillyfoot admits that it was this very thing that led to the argument between him and his father, as Narthel believed this angst was all a test, in keeping with his Godsman ideology; while his Signer son suggested that such a notion was cruel, and that Clutch could be whatever he put his mind to. The gnome goes so far as to suggest that Clutch was more of a son to the inventor than he ever was.

Reyes invites Tillyfoot to accompany them back to Bytopia so that he can see his “father”, and maybe try to reconcile with him. The gnome reluctantly accepts, and agrees to meet them there.

Astral_Plane_1.jpgThe next morning, the party meet Adamok Ebon at the Fat Candle. They negotiate a price with the bladeling, and, after receiving her payment, she insists that they get under way. Happy to oblige, the party follow her to a portal that leads to the Astral Plane. The huntress gets to work immediately, tracking her prey with a cold efficiency. In only a few hours, the group finds a lone baku, wounded by a psychic wind.

Cornelius approaches the creature, and though it lashes out at him at first, he is able to calm it by filling his mind with his good intentions. He applies a healing salve to the beast’s wounds, and lets it sniff the Aoskian Portal-Stone that Narthel gave them, hoping that some hint of Grezla’s presence lingers upon it. Intrigued, the baku agrees to help the party.

With a baku in hand, the party meet back up with Tillyfoot and return to Bytopia.

The Portal-Stone crumbles to dust as they rematerialize near Narthel’s house, but they have little time to mourn its loss as the baku darts off into the tunnel. They find the inventor on the floor, his skin clammy and his breathing shallow. The baku touches its trunk to his forehead and disappears, while the party quickly use Narthel’s dream device to follow it into the dreamscape.

Night_Hag.jpgGrezla is outraged, telling the party that nobody crosses her, only to be interrupted as the baku attacks. Though wounded, the beast still gives the night hag quite a fight. With the baku’s help, the party slowly wears the night hag down. Atrox, remembering what she read about ‘heartstones’, tells Steelix to aim for the hag’s pulsating amulet. The genasi is able to tear the necklace off, forcing the night hag out of Narthel’s mind.

Pursuing, they reawaken to find Grezla with a razor-sharp talon against Tillyfoot’s throat. She orders them to return her heartstone or face the consequences. Steelix tosses it back to her, but slams into her chest with his shoulder as she grabs for it, sending them both crashing into a cluttered table. The night hag tosses the fighter off of her, and makes Reyes experience a waking nightmare. In it, he relives his capture by the Unseelie Court of Queen Mab several years ago, and sees a familiar man being dragged off in chains, only for him to look up and reveal that he has Reyes’s face. This causes the archer to keel over in a fit of hideous laughter before he can fire off a bolt at her. Cornelius dashes behind the hag however, and slits the backs of her knees, causing her to collapse and giving Steelix the chance to stand up and swipe his halberd across her neck, liberating Grezla’s head from her body.

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Living the Dream
Chapter 7

With the storm having abated, the party follows a group of strange, memory-eating plant creatures down into an abandoned quarry on the Bytopian layer of Shurrock.

Portal_Jump.jpgSteelix heads down the tunnel where Cornelius had seen the creatures going, but is stopped when he finds a wooden wall with a door set into the surrounding earth. Rather than knock, the genasi charges, and busts through in a hail of splinters.

He looks around to find himself in a warm, comfortable-looking hovel, filled with strange gadgets and gizmos. An old halfling, startled half-to-death by the six-foot tall dwarf with metal skin that just burst through his front door, recovers, and begins to unleash a tirade on Steelix as the rest of the party swoop in behind the fighter.

Reyes and Cornelius are able to smooth things over with the halfling after explaining the situation, though he doesn’t seem to know anything about the mosslings they saw. The rogue notices that he looks incredibly tired, with hand tremors and heavy bags under his eyes. The party are surprised to learn that this is none other than the man they were looking for in the first place—Narthel Excelwell.

The inventor points out that his latest creation is ruined, motioning to where he had been working when the genasi made his surprise entrance, and that, to make matter worse, now he has a headache. Atrox introduces herself, and tells Narthel about the task that Doomlord Cromlich gave her in regards to his service to the Doomguard. He yawns and says that the Factions “don’t seem like they’d get anywhere without me!”

Sarin.jpgNarthel says that he hasn’t been able to get anything productive done for nearly a week because he’s been unable to “recharge” his “intellective instrument”. Steelix has no idea what that means and asks the inventor for some food instead. The moody halfling glares at him, noting that the genasi seems to run on nothing but “primitive instinct”, and that it’s little wonder that he is one of Aristan’s “leather-headed lackeys”.

Regardless, the halfling gets some nuts and berries out for his guests, while Cornelius asks him why he hasn’t been able to sleep for so long. Narthel tells them that every time he shuts his eyes, he is haunted by a fiendish-looking witch—a night hag who claims that he owes her something, yet never tells him WHAT. Not that it matters, as he doesn’t remember making any such pact with a hag or any other creature in the first place. Indeed, he suspects she is trying to extort him for some reason and wants her gone.

Reyes’s ears perk up at the mention of ‘remembering’, and the archer asks again if Narthel has seen any plant creatures about, but the inventor becomes impatient, asking if they’ll help him with his dilemma, or will continue to ask after imaginary plants that they think they saw before deciding to bust into someone’s home. Reyes simply wonders how he expects them to help him if he’s only ever seen this hag in his dreams. At which point, the inventor pulls out a clock-like device covered in tubes, a device that he claims will allow them to enter his dreams, “if my calculations are correct, and they usually are.”

The party agree, but Steelix stays behind to keep an eye out for any mosslings, not trusting Narthel’s recollection of things, and suspecting that if they came to the inventor’s hovel earlier, they’re likely to return. The genasi takes a seat near the door (or… what remains of it) while Atrox, Cornelius, and Reyes stick tubes into their ears, hooking up to Narthel’s own as the inventor drifts off to sleep.

Night_Hag.jpgThe three dreamers appear in a hazy landscape, not unlike a foggier version of the Astral Plane, but filled with the sound of ticking clocks. Suddenly, an ancient and hideous-looking woman with scraggly black hair, jangling with the bones of tiny humanoid creatures, approaches from out of the mist, a predatory smile across her face. “What sweet things my inventor has brought me, though none quite so sweet as sweet Grezla herself, methinks.”

With a vile cackle, the witch allows them to ask their questions. She tells them that “this one” signed a contract with her “not o’ so long ago”, but that now that she has come to collect what she claims she is due, he refuses to hand it over. Cornelius asks what they agreed to, but Grezla is “a’feared” to tell him that she will not discuss such matters in the name of her continued credibility. The rogue respects such business acumen, but Atrox, already freaked out by this fiend’s sudden appearance, steps in and tells the night hag that she has to tell them something, or else they may just decide to drive her off here and now.

Grezla cackles again, and says that she will tell the fiendling something—something of “the girl who lost everything in the blink of an eye. She who claims to embrace the fact that all things shall come to an end, and yet fears the coming of her own. The past is an anchor, and you, sweet thing, a ship in a storm.” Atrox’s features harden at these words and the tiefling backs off, gripping her crossbow ever more tightly.

The night hag does note that there was another who witnessed the contract between her and the inventor however, his old mentor, who will be able to confirm their deal as legitimate. She tells them that if they settle this matter so that she can get on with her business, they will be generously rewarded. With that, she disappears back into the mist.

Airship.jpgMeanwhile, after an hour or two, Steelix hears something in the tunnel outside, and remains completely still as a group of memory-gorged mosslings march into Narthel’s hovel, climb onto the bed, and force-feed themselves to the sleeping inventor as they climb down his throat. The genasi is at once fascinated, disgusted, and… hungry again, and decides to raid the halfling’s pantry just in time for his companions to wake back up from their dream-diving.

They tell each other what happened, and while Narthel is now willing to accept that these plant creatures may exist, he points out that they are obviously somehow linked to the appearance of this night hag. Reyes explains to the halfling that they need to find his mentor, and Narthel tells them that he is likely back in Sigil, still working at the Great Foundry of the Godsmen, though they haven’t spoken since he left the city for Bytopia a decade ago. The inventor can’t seem to recall much about the man, not even his name. When Reyes points out how odd that is, and asks him if he doesn’t “find that a little weird”, Narthel brushes it off, noting that he purged his mind of that “planar cesspit” in order to focus on his own pursuits long ago.

Narthel tells them that he knows of a quicker way back to Sigil than making another jaunt through the Astral, and returns with what looks like an ancient stone idol, depicting a two-faced head with gemstone eyes and gaping mouths. He tells them that it is an Aoskian Portal-Stone, perhaps the last relic of the dead god Aoskar’s fallen priesthood, which they used to co-opt portals into Sigil so that they could easily reach the city from elsewhere in the multiverse. He received it as payment from a collector of antiquities in Tradegate several years ago, but never found much use for it after his initial experiments failed. He gives it to the party and promises to sing their praises to whatever high-ups they want if they get rid of his hag problem once and for all.

The party activate the portal-stone and find themselves coming out of a portal in Sigil’s Clerk’s Ward.

Sigil_Color.jpgThey are quickly accosted by a wizard who appears out of thin air nearby, and introduces himself as Ramander the Wise. He claims ownership over this particular portal, and asks that they pay the toll for using it. They do so, and even Cornelius is unable to slip under his watchful gaze.

Being close to the Hall of Records, the party decide to track down information on Narthel’s mentor, as well as any other clues they might be able to glean. After an hour or two of waiting, and another two of searching through stacks of dusty shelves, they find what they’re looking for, most of it dating back ten years. There is nothing on a mentor, but an apprentice in the Godsmen named Clutch is listed; as is a Signer son named Dilethro Tillyfoot, who Atrox remembers running into the week before.

The party decide to continue on to the Great Foundry to see if anyone there can point them in the right direction. Meanwhile, Atrox heads to a bookstore that she knows near the Shattered Temple to see if she can’t find any knowledge pertinent to the situation there.

She arrives at the Parted Veil as the grim light over the Lower Ward dims to a rainy black, finding refuge amid the claustrophobic realm of leaning bookshelves within. She is greeted by the owner, Kesto Brighteyes, as he carries a stack of books twice his height past, and the sorceress awkwardly tells him what she’s looking for. He warns her to be careful, relating an incident from thirty years ago where a night hag tried to burn down his precious shop, and asking his assistant, Sir Cleve, to direct her to the appropriate section. A skeletal figure with shadowy skin and a big grin emerges from between the stacks and beckons her to follow.

The rest of the party reach the Great Foundry to find most of the workers going home, though the sounds of work continue within as night falls. They are stopped by guards at the gate, and when they ask after Clutch or anyone else who might know Narthel Excelwell, the captain approaches. He asks why, and Steelix tells him that it is Harmonium business. The captain seems surprised to hear that they met Narthel, as the inventor went missing ten years ago after becoming deathly ill, and everyone presumed he had ended up as another nameless victim of the plague that swept through the city around that time. His poor apprentice, Clutch, fell into a deep depression afterwards and disappeared as well. Steelix tells him that he can sort out who died and who didn’t with the Dustmen later, but for now, they need information.

The captain is unsure what to tell them, but one of the other guards pipe up, suggesting that they go to the Bones of the Night if they’re interested in speaking with ghosts. The captain turns on him, saying that “some darks are best left that way”. He warns the party that fraternizing with necromancers like Old Lothar can only lead to trouble.

At the Parted Veil, Atrox finds a number of books:

  • The Flora of the Lower Planes, which reveals that the mosslings the party encountered on Bytopia have many similarities with ‘obliviax’, a plant from the Gray Waste that has memory-stealing properties due to its natural habitat along the River Styx. She also learns that it can be distilled into a potion of forgetfulness, and that its spores can actually alleviate the effects of memory loss.
  • Magica Most Malevolent, which has a section on night hags. She learns three key pieces of information: that they are known to cultivate obliviax; that the hags need a magical heartstone in order to manipulate dreams; and that a rivalry exists between night hags and baku, creatures from Elysium that eat the nightmares engendered by the hags, leaving only blissful emptiness.

She stuffs Magica Most Malevolent into her bag and quickly leaves, barely batting an eye at a little magical performance being done by Kesto outside his shop. She finds the rest of the group and shares this information with them.

Lothar.jpgReyes connects a number of dots and begins to have doubts about the identity of the man they met in Bytopia, noting that the night hag always seemed to refer to him in rather uncertain terms, and never by name.

He is unsure what to make of this however, and they decide to pay a visit to the Bones of the Night, and its enigmatic master, Lothar.

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