Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Part 8: Rich People and Their Weird Basement Parties

On the way to the Vanthampur manor, the party, in the midst of continuing their discussion, Kalista stopped dead in her tracks, having seen a bunch of pirates, the very same ones from a couple days before, walking in the direction of the Low Lantern at a very...intent...pace. As in, word of the scuffle at the Low Lantern had somehow reached their ears and they were out for revenge against the party for completely screwing up their hit at the Elfsong Tavern.

Before she could ask what happened, Seliph put his hands on Rylee's shoulders with Kalista doing the same for Sissy, pushing them further away from the pirates.

"What-what are you doing? Get your hands off me!" Rylee shouted. "What was that about?"

"So, do you remember how we got banned from the Elfsong Tavern a few days ago?" Seliph reminded Rylee.

"Those gentlemen were the ones responsible," Faust finished.

Insert eye-rolling from Rylee, before Mortlock urged the party to continue on, anxious to get this out of the way so he and Vendetta could begin their travels elsewhere. Understandable. The DM also wanted us to get a move on (we're on part 8, almost session 10 of this campaign and we're still in Baldur's Gate when the adventure takes us to Hell, yeah, I can see why he wants us to get a move on)

Anyway, the Vanthampur manor was in the upper part of the city, in a location not easily accessible to the common folk of the lower city (y'know, that classic fantasy city trope), and having read that section of the module, there are a few ways the party could get up there through the security checkpoint. Just so happens our solution was Mortlock showing off his childhood home to a group of friends. Helps that the person who let them through was a guard that either didn't know that Mortlock was at this point supposed to be a dead man or didn't care. Either way, he wished them luck going through, and soon the party found themselves on the Vanthampur property. After a few knocks, the door was opened by Fendrick Gray, a seventy-year-old butler.

"Ahh, Master Mortlock, to what do we owe the sudden call?" the butler asked.

"I just was hoping to introduce some friends to the family, Fendrick. Would you let us in?"

"Why yes of course, Master Mortlock."

As the butler led the party through the entrance hall, making small talk, Kalista quietly made fun of his uppity mannerisms, ending with a quiet, "Rich people, am I right?"

Seliph tried (and failed) to keep a straight face, snorting as a means of stifling laughter, which was met both with a sharp elbow to the ribs by Rylee and the butler rolling his eyes at Mortlock's continuous fraternizing with "the filth from the lower city."

The butler left the party in a gallery filled with multiple intricate art pieces depicting the Vanthampur family, in particular a 6-foot-tall wax statue of the Duke herself, Thalamra Vanthampur cradling this...thing. Faust spent quite a long time looking at the creature, and something within his mind clicked. That thing being...his player decided he wanted the creature as his character's familiar, because it's a winged cat. And that's adorable.

*insert "badass mother" joke here*

I'm not kidding, by the way, this lady's Strength score is the same as Seliph's, with better ability scores across the board, and she has magic. This pic and this news making one of our group jokingly reference this clip (language warning). Can't wait to fight her.

After the party took some time to soak in the house's atmosphere (as well as remembering their own lack of cash), Mortlock cleared his throat and gestured to follow him, saying that if anyone knew what his mother was up to, it would be his brother. Who was likely holed up in his room working on something.

Mortlock led the party upstairs to the bedroom of his younger brother Thurstwell, a sickly, slender, weaselly man. Basically everything Mortlock wasn't, his brother Thurstwell was. Where Mortlock was a strong, beastly man with average intelligence and a hair-trigger temper, Thurstwell was...well...

Anyway, the party burst into the room, seeing the form of the man above working on...well...the puzzle box he was holding, as is seen in the image. At the sudden burst into the room, he shouted, "Mother! I told you to KNOCK!" He quickly shoved the box into his desk and turned to see the party striding in.

"Oh, hi, big bro...nice to see you...hehehe....GET 'EM!" he shouted at something in the direction of the fireplace and dove onto the floor beside his bed, hiding from the party hoping his invisible pet could take care of the party.

He did not, however, plan for Kalista being faster than anyone else in the party. Before anyone else could act, she was already on top of him, sword drawn, growling, "Call off whatever you're siccing on us."

"Yeah, of course, don't hurt me please!"

Seliph grinned, "We're not gonna hurt you. We know what your mom's up to and we're here to stop her. No promises about him though," he finished, glancing at Mortlock. "I can only promise to stop him from killing you."

Mortlock waved him off and stalked over to his brother, knelt down, and flicked him on the nose. "I just wanna know where mom's doing whatever it is she's doing. After that, I'm outta here. I'd suggest you do the same if you don't wanna die."

Thurstwell grimaced. "All right, fine, there's a secret facility under the house. You know all those secret projects mom had going while working on the water ways? That's it. You can get in through the cellar. Could you please have your devil friend get off of me?"

Paraphrasing a bit because he also said some derogatory stuff about Kalista's mom and how she made a tiefling baby, Kalista demanded to know how he could know about who her dad was, some choice words were thrown back and forth, and we played off of Kalista's running gag of asking every devilish creature if they're her dad (either in a literal or in a metaphysical sense considering tiefling genetics...not really the case considering her mother was a warlock in service of devilish forces (y'know, since we're breaking that D&D stereotype)).

Speeding us right along, Mortlock left the party at the cellar, the party went in, fought some imps, wandered through a few rooms and fought some patrolling cultists, argued with one who directed them to a chapel in the center before killing himself (after all, he'd just end up in Hell serving his master anyway so death was preferable to capture).

The chapel...is something else. From the book...

Two rows of tall wrought-iron candlesticks light this vaulted chamber, each one bearing nine flickering candles. A seven-foot-tall statue of an angel with white glowing eyes and a longsword stands atop a dais to the south. A six-foot-tall fiend bristling with spines stands west of the statue, glaring at four black-robed cultists who kneel and chant in the middle of the room, their faces hidden behind golden devil masks. Nine tapestries depicting the layers of the Nine Hells adorn the walls.

So yeah, the fiend realized that the party was trying to sneak in, and the battle began. The cultists weren't all that impressive but the big guy was quite scary. We're talking multiple attacks per turn, claws, fangs, tail swipes, summoning fire, the whole nine yards. I mean, somehow we managed to avoid having anyone go down during the fight, but one thing that happened quite a bit in this dungeon were some awkwardly bad rolls from everyone, DM included. So because of that Seliph actually made a pretty good wall while the rest of the party (sans Rylee, who was hiding behind Seliph) hammered the fiend.

With the fiend dead, the party shut the door and set about trying to relax a bit so they could regroup and conquer the rest of the dungeon. Faust took a moment to examine the statue a bit more closely, realizing that something about it was magical, specifically the space behind the eyes.

"Perhaps if we were to...break the statue to see what's inside..." Faust suggested.

"That might be a good idea," Seliph replied, thinking maybe it could be connected somewhere else in the dungeon.

Kalista tried to push the statue, but her strength isn't...that great, so Seliph, Sissy, and Faust joined in while Rylee began loudly protesting the destruction of a statue of an angel.

"I don't want to take part in such blasphemy!" she said.

Faust responded, "I don't believe it's as blasphemous as you think."

Indeed, while investigating the statue, the party realized it was a statue of Zariel, a fallen angel, lord of Avernus. Basically the D&D version of Lucifer, but a female, if that makes sense. Like a Valkyrie Lucifer. Because of this, nobody else seemed to mind destroying a statue.

Seliph continued. "You said yourself, it's a lord of Hell. If anything, the existence of a statue to her is the blasphemy." He left out the part regarding his own curiosity behind what was in the statue.

We probably should've thought through the consequences of smashing a large stone statue.

Anyway, out of the head and neck area of the statue spilled a mace that Faust quickly identified as the source of the magical energy in the statue. In order to determine specifically what the statue was, he began a ritual to cast the Identify spell, which would allow him to specifically figure out what the mace was or what it could do.

While Faust was doing this, the rest of the party was resting a bit, since the ritual was set to take a little over ten minutes. However, while his eyes were wandering along the wall, he noticed a rather large gap in the bricks quickly slam shut.

The DM kept asking if the party was going to investigate the wall, but, really, Seliph had already decided that whatever was happening, he didn't want to rush into anything. The enemies would have to come to the party, rather than the other way around. So because of this, Seliph drew his blade and suggested the rest of the party steel themselves, and surprise surprise, from the main door of the chapel spilled in eight cultists led by a large woman the party quickly identified as Lady Vanthampur.

Spells began flying back and forth, but because the party realized they were handily outnumbered, Sissy decided to cast Darkness, dropping a shroud of...well...darkness around the party, giving the party some room to strategize. Kalista and Rylee dashed for the wall that turned out to be an entrance into a hidden room. Faust quickly abandoned his ritual to grab the mace and do the same, leaving Seliph and Sissy alone in the room.

Seliph, thinking on his feet, shouted to Sissy, "Just focus on keeping the spell up!" and dashed for the wall, scooping Sissy into his arms (Seliph is a strong boi and Sissy is a tiny 14 year old girl, this is easily something Seliph could do) in a quick motion to pull her to safety as well. The party quickly shut themselves in the hidden room and barred the false wall. Again, from the book...

This room is lit by a pair of tall wrought-iron candlesticks in the northeast and southeast corners. Nine candles burn atop each one, casting flickering light across a claw-footed altar carved from a single block of obsidian, and which has a small angel-shaped flame erupting from its top. A gray-haired woman kneels before the altar.

So this room is a small chapel that Lady Vanthampur was praying in in preparation for the ritual. A prayer that was interrupted by us destroying the statue to Zariel in the next room.


So the room had a door opposite where the party entered that spilled into another hallway which led into the sewers. Naturally the party decided to just continue into the sewers, but not before Faust quickly experimented with the flaming altar. If the flame was extinguished, it would quickly reignite. However, because the rest of the party had quickly left the room before Faust could formulate a plan, he quickly cast an illusion spell to make it appear that Seliph and Sissy were hiding behind the statue.

Dashing down a hall in a sewer, the party quickly came to a door, behind which a voice carried into the sewers, "Wait, who's out there? Hello?"

This wasn't what Kalista wanted to hear and started to bolt further into the hall before Reya muttered, "Wait, that voice..." and dashed into the room. "I KNEW IT!"

The "it" that Reya "knew" was that the voice belonged to Thavius Kreeg, the former high overseer of Elturel.

Seliph quickly caught Kalista by the shoulders and said, "Whatever, let's duck in here, he can explain things."

The room was a vault with a few tables and different amounts of treasure on a few tables as well as a large golden shield hanging on the back wall.

"Of course," Faust muttered through gritted teeth.

Thavius began asking questions. "Who are you people, and what are you doing here? Don't tell me you're imprisoned down here too?"

"Imprisoned?" Seliph asked. "No, we're here to take you into custody. We represent the Flaming Fist and you'll be safer with us than here."

At the name "Flaming Fist" Thavius grimaced, something that was not lost on Rylee, who exclaimed, "Stop throwing the name of the Fist around!"

Seliph furrowed his eyebrow. "That's...literally the first time I've invoked their name so far."

"Well he clearly doesn't feel comfortable with it. People don't like the Fist!"

This touched a nerve in Seliph. "You think I don't know that? You think I like having to work with them again?! Gods, there's a reason I left the Fist."

The room got...kind of awkwardly quiet, as Rylee rolled her eyes and looked elsewhere in the room...

...to see Faust staring intently at the Shield.

For you see, while Seliph and the others were talking to Kreeg, the shield was calling to Faust. Like, literally, a voice reached into his mind, saying, "Hey, hey you! You're magical, you can help me, right buddy?"

The shield explained that it was actually the soul of an angel trapped inside the cursed item, and that it needed to return to Avernus to the one who cursed it to get out. Seems kinda fishy, but whatever, it's part of Faust's sidequest so we're doing it regardless.

Anyway, during this exposition dump, Rylee cast Detect Thoughts on Faust, became privy to the conversation, and a very, very tense game of mental Cat and Mouse began as Rylee kept trying to catch Faust in a lie, to which Faust would respond by coming up with another lie to cover his previous one. His player has been planning this kind of thing because he knows eventually he's going to be exposed, but come hell or high water, he's going to keep a death grip on his secret until it happens.

Eventually the shield reached out to everyone, letting that cat out of the bag and causing Seliph to quickly cast Divine Sense, which would allow him to detect all good and evil throughout the room, and hoo boy, did that reveal a lot.

The shield had good and evil coming from it, Thavius was evil, the only unambiguously good party member was Rylee, and there were a bunch of evil people trying to smash their way into the door. Upon closer examination, Seliph noticed that Thavius' shadow did not match his own form, instead being that of a pudgy, horned fiend.

Naturally Seliph began shouting, cluing everyone into the things that had been revealed to him. The shield quickly set about explaining that, yes, he's an angel trapped in a cursed shield, Thavius had no excuse that he could adequately explain before the door got knocked down, and they could discuss it if they got out alive.

The shield, however, had a suggestion.

Faust told the party to stand clear of the door and wait for it to open, after which he would signal the shield to go ahead with what it was going to do. That being...

A Fireball. Launched right in the middle of all the people trying to smash their way into the room. Completely vaporizing all eight of the cultists with Lady Vanthampur coming out like a roasted cartoon character, but still in relatively good health.

Though she didn't survive the next turn of...well...

Anyway, with that taken care of, Faust turned to Thavius, who had slowly been drawing a dagger to try to backstab his way to safety, and said firmly, "As I was saying, we're taking you into custody. And to make sure you don't do anything funny, well...I see that you and Reya have some history, so we're going to let her keep an eye on you."

The dagger clattered to the ground.

"Ah...yes, of course."

The party quickly left (but not before Kalista grabbed a bunch of treasure), made their way into the city, and decided to call it a night before they took Kreeg to Zodge of the Fist. Faust got a private inn room to continue his studies, Rylee returned to her room, desperately trying to figure out how to get out of this mess, and Seliph, Kalista, and Sissy took turns helping Reya keep an eye on Kreeg.

And now we're finally caught up. We're not in Hell yet, but we're dang close.

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