Monday, November 30, 2020

Part 10: A Hell of a Time in Elturel

We're going to be adapting a few sessions here, since once the party arrived in Avernus, it was essentially fight after fight after fight.

So...two hours after the party left their meeting with Sylvira, Faust slowly made his way out of the library, not having finished his research into getting out of warlock pacts, but he was able to formulate a strategy for getting Rylee off his trail and getting the shield into Avernus. After all, the party had a twenty mile ride ahead of them. Sure, Sylvira was experienced and powerful enough to use the Plane Shift spell to send the party to Avernus themselves, but because of the wards placed upon the city of Candlekeep, it wouldn't work, so there would be no point. Instead, she was sending them to a tower belonging to a wizard named Traxigor, who would send them there as well as send them with a friend of Sylvira's who had some history fighting with the forces of Avernus. So, easy in, but still, twenty miles.. It was going to take a while by horse.

Well, it would have, except as the party was getting their horses ready for travel, Sylvira dashed into the stables, insisting that she had an idea to make things go a bit more smoothly for the party. She had a few griffons (or griffins or gryphons depending on your chosen spelling, D&D uses griffon) the party could use to fly to the tower they were being sent to, as time was of the essence. She'd watch the horses and take care of them all on her own dime in exchange for the party getting a freaking move on.

Faust thought of a few curse words, realizing that he had far less time to plant the seeds than he had planned. As seemed to be his lot in life, he was going to have to call an audible.

So, the party took off and Faust slowly positioned himself close to Kalista to "get to know her better". Specifically, to get her talking about her past to open her up to trusting him. Well, kind of. You see while she was talking for the duration of the flight, Faust spoke telepathically with the devil in the shield, suggesting that an easy way to get him into Avernus past Rylee's ever-watchful eye (and as a way to get said watchful eye off Faust).

After a little bit of arguing back and forth with the devil, the devil finally groaned in agreement. Meanwhile, Faust realized that he'd completely tuned Kalista's rambling out and quickly snapped back to attention to find literally anything he could put in his back pocket later in case of questioning, and as fortune would have it, Kalista's ramblings made their way to her long dead lover, something Faust zeroed in on. It couldn't have gone more according to plan.

Naturally, the devil in the shield reached out to Kalista to ask if she knew anything about her parents, mainly to find an easy way to segue into an, "I am your father" moment, which she gave him with almost no challenge (although her ramblings and the dawning realization that she was going to want to do daddy daughter stuff caused him to reach back out to Faust, cursing him for talking him into this insanity). Anyway, the promise was made that at some point when they landed at Traxigor's tower, she would try to smuggle the shield into the tower, and by extension, Avernus, with them.

Anyway, the party landed at the tower to...absolutely zero fanfare. They were expected...right? Sylvira must have sent word ahead of them somehow, right?

Anyway, the party looked at each other awkwardly, before Faust knocked on the door, which was opened by...nothing? Or so it seemed before...

"Ahem, down here!" The party looked down at the direction of the voice to see...

I couldn't find official artwork of this guy, so enjoy this picture I found on Google instead.

The party glanced at each other awkwardly before Faust asked, "Excuse me, are you Traxigor?"

"Yes, of course!"

Kalista then added, "But you' otter...?"

"Why yes of course. I suppose that nobody filled you in?"

They had not.

"So..." Seliph began awkwardly, "you're the one who is going to help us get to Avernus?"

"Yes, yes, you will be going along with my associate Lulu here," Traxigor said, gesturing further into the foyer of the building, where, well... this thing was.

"Hello everyone! My name is Lulu! I'm going to be your guide in Avernus so we can go save Zariel!"

A look of concern crossed everyone's faces. After all, this...thing...surely knew that Zariel was the bad guy in this situation, right?

Actually let's talk about that for a bit. I don't remember if I mentioned it before and I don't particularly feel like combing through past entries to confirm it, but Zariel is actually a fallen angel who became obsessed with ending the eternal Blood War between the devils and the demons (and yes, there is a difference in D&D), with her nature becoming corrupted the longer she spent in the Nine Hells until eventually she found herself trapped and abandoned there. In response, she allied herself with Asmodeus, ruler of all devils, and was eventually placed in control of Avernus.

Which brings us back to Lulu. Traxigor, now quietly nestled in Rylee's arms, having allowed her to pick him up and pet him, explained all of this to the party, adding that at some point Lulu's memories were corrupted, leaving behind a sort of childlike hope that in spite of everything she had done, Zariel could be redeemed, being her "best friend" and all.

Traxigor cleared his throat. "All of this means nothing unless we can find my tuning fork. It' here somewhere, but..."

Yeah, Traxigor's place was a mess.

Kalista tilted her head quizzically. "Why do we need that fork in particular? Can we use any other forks?"

Traxigor furrowed his brow. "Do you mean to tell me you think a normal dinner fork can send you to Hell?"

Seliph, who had rolled a natural 20 on his investigation, had already started digging around the place, asking, "A tuning fork is one of those things you use for music, right? I think I found one."

Indeed, he had found, and Traxigor set about trying to activate the fork, right as Rylee noticed that Kalista was carrying the shield. Some quick back and forth arguing ensued, but Traxigor, blissfully unable to read the room, finished casting the spell, and the party just sort of ended up in the square of a very much on fire city. A quick "good luck" message from Traxigor, and the party plus Lulu were left trying to figure out what to do next.

Cue some quiet frustration coming from the shield, as the arrival in Avernus had done absolutely nothing to release the devil inside.

It specifically requested to not be thrown into the River Styx, which would mess it up something fierce. So...

Nah, just kidding, they're still not sure what to do about it.

Anyway, as a means of establishing the fact that things had literally gone to Hell, as a group of citizens were being chased down by three bearded devils. Kalista, Faust, and Sissy moved to hide from the bearded devils, but Rylee dashed off to use her magic to protect the citizens. Seliph shot a quick apologetic look at the hiding party members, saying, "Duty calls," and dashed off to help.

Bearded devils are kind of nasty, but Seliph happened to have a new spell to handle the problem of resistance to non-magical attacks. That's not the important bit, though. You see, I haven't given enough credit to Sissy in these posts, as she's been steadily turning into a pint-sized nuke. Her damage output is insane. To the point that she would probably be the most dangerous if she were to turn against the party.

Anyway, the party finished off the three devils and talked with the civilians, finding out that the city was split in two, and that a lot of people were holed up in the High Hall. There, the family believed that they would be safe under the watchful eye of High Overseer Thavius Kreeg. A dream that was quickly shattered by Kalista and Faust, who despite Rylee and Seliph's attempts to stop them, quickly filled the family in that Kreeg had abandoned them.

Regardless, the party now had a small group of innocent people that they had to guide to safety, so they made their way into the city, specifically to the bridges between the two sections of the city. A group of fiends was standing guard on one of the bridges, but while the party was hiding and planning their approach, they noticed some runes etched into the stonework on the bridge. Despite not being religious or even being proficient in religion checks, Kalista was the one who figured out that the runes were a prayer to the god Torm.

Quickly putting together what would happen, the party considered uttering the prayer. However, Kalista wasn't interested, Faust already had two sugar daddies that were fighting over him, Rylee didn't want to cheat on her own deity Eldath, and...well, Sissy didn't say anything. Seliph offered to do it, not trying to hide what he was doing, he locked eyes with one of the creatures on the bridge before placing his hand on the bridge and uttering the prayer, to the shocked reaction of the fiends.

Their reaction was shocked because the bridge started dealing an enormous amount of radiant damage every turn, and the party was able to quickly mop up the fiends on the bridge.

The party battled their way into the cathedral of the High Hall, eventually coming to a room with a bunch of corrupted religious paraphernalia that was originally to other gods before being...well...corrupted into being tributes to Zariel. One thing that hadn't been changed was a large altar in the shape of a gauntleted hand, an altar to Torm. The party was able to figure out that by touching it or making offerings to it, they would be healed, none too soon because another group of monsters attempted to ambush the party.

This fight went a little more poorly as basically everybody but Seliph was pretty severely injured. Magic exhausted, Rylee wasn't able to do much to help everyone, but Seliph quickly used what was left of his paladin abilities to heal the rest of the party. However, Kalista got an idea for something to take back to Sylvira. Could it be some of the defaced religious paraphernalia? Nope. Weaponry from the fiends the party had slain so far? Nada.

No, she tried to cut the face off of the lead fiend the party fought in this most recent bout.

Okay, let me back up a little bit. We fought one of these guys.

So, this is kind of understandable. It looks like its made of brass, especially the facial area, which was something Kalista thought was a mask. Until it wouldn't come off. And then she kept trying to pull it off.

And then she used her knife to try to carve the face off.


Naturally, Rylee and Seliph protested this, whereas Faust and Sissy were (mostly) just uncomfortable by the whole showing. But I think Kalista was far enough in and invested enough time that it was less of a "I want this to impress my senpai" thing and more of a pride thing. Which is understandable. I mean, you guys have watched Home Alone, right? I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that the Wet Bandits would have been better off just...leaving. But pride makes people do strange, unreasonable, even stupid things.

What were we talking about again?

Oh yeah, while investigating the cathedral, Kalista had actually discovered a trap door leading somewhere, but we got distracted by monster attack, as you do. Anyway, monsters slain and Kalista working on carving up her present for her celebrity crush, the party was approached by a druid named Seltern Obranch, whose enthusiasm for the party's presence slowly gave way to horror as he realized what Kalista was doing.

"Oh, ignore me," she cheerfully said, continuing to carve up her prey, "the others are more normal."

Anyway, Seltern had gotten lost trying to find his way into a secret area in the cathedral when fiends had attacked, and because he was separated from the rest of his group, he found himself just hiding until someone came along that could possibly help, which the party assured him they could... soon as they figured out how to get back.

Yeah, the path into the inner sanctum might have been a little awkward, as Orbranch was certainly not planning on turning away the new help, but the question of just how much help they would be was definitely up in the air, and Kalista's new mask (that she thankfully had just stowed in her pack instead of wearing it) wasn't helping things.

We ended the session by meeting up with Orbranch's group, who offered to put us up for long enough for a rest (which we desperately needed). Kalista continued her discussion with the shield about all her plans once he got freed, but by this point it had been a decent amount of time before his patience finally disintegrated and he let the cat out of the bag. He's not Kalista's father and was only using that connection to get into Avernus, hoping that once he arrived there he would be able to escape from the shield, but alas that didn't happen. Once the party had a chance to rest up, they were sent off to find the missing Duke Ulder Ravengard, and once again, I am caught up. This was three sessions, and once we got to Avernus it's been fight after fight after fight. Apparently Hell is a scary place. Who knew?

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Part 9: So Long, Baldur's Gate!


As planned, the next morning, the party reconvened at the office of Captain Zodge after the evening the party spent split up. Everybody was surprised that Rylee came back. However, the thing that would be more surprising if they had any idea about it would be the fact that Faust did not sleep a wink the night before while studying the puzzle box. Indeed, through his pacts as a warlock, he no longer needs sleep at all, and cannot be forced to sleep by any means. You might think this is the top of the slippery slope to insanity. His player would disagree, saying this is the key to ultimate power, and to his credit he makes a good point. There's a lot you can do in that extra eight hours if you don't need to sleep.

Anyway, Reya declined to join the party at the meeting, for understandable reasons. The remaining Hellriders were being hunted down, and considering she avoided arrest not a day before, she was very disinclined to meet with any other members of the Fist. Again, understandable. So instead she opted to just lay low in Seliph's house until they got back.

Zodge, sitting at his desk working on some paperwork, quickly welcomed the party in. "Please, sit down, what information do you have for me? It's been...a few days. I'd worried that you all split on us."

"Things are a bit complicated," Faust offered.

"To start," Seliph continued, "Do you know this man that we brought to you?" Seliph pointed towards Thavius.

"I...can't say that I do."

"This is Thavius Kreeg."

"As in, High Overseer of Elturel, Thavius Kreeg?"

"Correct," Faust confirmed.

"Yes...that's...certainly me," Kreeg offered.

Zodge paused, and then said, softly, "Where is Ulder Ravengard?"

"Excuse me?" Kreeg asked, feigning being hard of hearing.

"I said, WHERE IS ULDER RAVENGARD?" he said again, now shouting.

"I don't know! I'm innocent! I was being held captive by Lady Vanthampur before these guys rescued me!"

Faust reached out again to Kreeg via telepathy, saying, It would be best for you to end this line of deceit. It will only get worse for you if you don't.

Kreeg Faust's eye that assured him that he was absolutely not joking, that, somehow, in his mere 35 years, he had seen far more and suffered far more than he could possibly imagine. This look told Kreeg that there was absolutely no way he was going to worm his way out of this one, and as such, he started blubbering different things, to Zodge's frustration.

"Wait, what about Lady Vanthampur?" Zodge asked, before continuing, "I can see this is gonna get complicated. Let's start over. Chronologically, this time."

The party did as requested, recounting the events of the last few days. The bathhouse. The Low Lantern. The Vanthampurs being the ones bankrolling the cultists. The facility beneath Vanthampur manor. Kreeg being the one behind Elturel's disappearance (a fact he vehemently denied, but Zodge was going to put the screws to him until he got the information he wanted).

As the party was explaining things, the door to Zodge's office burst open, and two figures walked in: Amrik Vanthampur and a woman that Seliph recognized as Liara Portyr, commander of the Flaming Fist.

Faust immediately reached out to Amrik telepathically to...curse him out, something Amrik responded to with a simple wink before turning to Commander Portyr and saying, "Yes Ma'am, these are the ones who saved the city from my mother."

Commander Portyer looked the party over and then said, "Excellent. They are to be commended. Zodge. Make sure they're well paid. Whatever it is that you promised them at the outset and then some for their exemplary service to the city."

Zodge snorted, then reached into his desk, pulling out separate bags of gold. Realizing that one more person was in the office than had been hired at the beginning, Zodge looked at Rylee and said, "Who even are you? Your services weren't contracted, and you certainly didn't owe us anything."

Seliph quickly suggested, "Oh, her services were subcontracted. We needed a healer, and she fit the bill."

"Whatever. I'll pay her a share as well. Afterwards, get out of my office."

"Actually," the commander said, "The five of you have proven quite useful to us so I have a personal favor to ask of you."

The party quickly cast eyes one to another, before Faust finally offered, "Yes?"

"Based on some of the information that Mr.Vanthampur here gave to me, it sounds like you've managed to procure some items from the Vanthampur manor of a fiendish or devilish nature. Specifically a puzzle box. I would like you to take it to Candlekeep for inspection by Sylvira Savikas, a tiefling researcher who is the leading researcher in all things Hell."

Kalista's ears perked up at this. A well-known, well-respected tiefling researcher? Kalista had to meet her.

Indeed, the party had procured the puzzle box from Thurstwell in the last session, but like the genius I am I completely forgot to mention that Faust snatched it from Thurstwell's desk before we continued into the dungeon.

Anyway, Seliph turned to Faust slowly and said, "We've got that, right?"

Faust quickly responded, "Yes, we do. It would be our pleasure to go to Candlekeep on this errand." If someone was paying attention, they would have seen a hint of childlike excitement in Faust's eyes, Candlekeep being the place to be for scholars and wizards looking to increase their knowledge, a place he had been wanting to visit for most of his life, though had been up to this point unable to access.

"Excellent," the commander replied, smiling. "Well, we shall leave you to it. In the meantime, I believe Zodge, myself, Master Vanthampur, and the High Overseer have much to discuss."

"Yes, you all go on, now," Zodge added.

"Gladly," Seliph said, though what he was thinking...well...involved words he was trying to remove from his everyday vocabulary. And gestures.

Yeah, Seliph's a Redemption Paladin and all, but his grudge against Zodge is a difficult thing to let go of.

Anyway, after leaving the office, the group took a moment to discuss the new assignment thrust upon them. Seliph took the lead, saying, "I suppose you guys will all have some things you'll want to take care of before we head out."

Rylee then said, "Well, I suppose this would be goodbye. I wish you safe travels on your journey."

Faust then smirked, "I don't suppose you'd like to continue healing us for money."

"It was never about the money," Rylee said defensively. "I just stepped in to help you as expected from my oaths."

Kalista jumped in, "We could certainly use the extra help."

"I...will have to consult with my god in prayer."

"No pressure," offered Seliph. "We'll leave from my house around midday. If you're in, I suppose we'll see you there, if not, long and safe travels."

And this is where the party split up to do some shopping. Seliph purchased a new set of splint mail armor. Kalista and Faust visited a local apothecary to purchase some potions. Faust actually used a small fortune to purchase a bunch of spell components as well as other preparatory items, unsure of what he would need and not wanting to be caught lacking in an awkward situation. He also purchased a horse and a mule to carry his things.

Rylee returned to her room in her inn, greeted her dog as well as providing him food and water, and knelt in prayer for guidance. And there she sat for quite a while before being jolted back to reality by her dog nuzzling her arm. She looked down at the dog in confusion. The food and water bowls were full. What could it want now?

The dog, seeing it had her attention, pointed towards the water bowl with its nose.

Rylee stepped over to the bowl to investigate it. After all the bowl was full. What else could possibly be stopping the dog from lapping it up?

Peering into the water bowl, Rylee was assaulted with visions of battle, bloodshed, and other such terrifying things, with the party in the center of it. She surmised that if she wasn't there to keep the party from getting themselves killed, the world could be at risk.

So she had her own suiting-up montage. She bought some new armor and took up a shield, deciding within herself that, though she would not break her oaths of nonviolence, she would be doing everything she could to keep herself and the other would-be heroes alive.

So, cut to Seliph, Kalista, and Sissy sitting on Seliph's porch waiting for the rest of the party, when the parade began, starting with a random dog that seemed vaguely familiar that padded up to Seliph. Seliph, being the goodest of boys, gave the dog a nice scratch as Rylee greeted the party, decked out in her armor. Following behind her was Faust, driving his horse and mule covered in his various amounts of overpreparedness.

The presence of the pack animals suggested something else to the party: how were they going to travel? They were looking at a five day journey, so any method of making the travel easier on the group was something worth taking into consideration. After discussing this for a bit, the party decided to purchase a wagon that would be driven by Seliph while Rylee and Kalista rode inside the wagon for reasons of cheapness or something (Kalista's player confirmed cheapness, Rylee's another question), and Sissy decided to purchase her own horse. I'm sure Reya had her own means of travel as well. This kinda makes me feel good about myself because a common problem I have in my games is that I keep forgetting about NPCs that travel with the players, so I'm glad to see that our current DM is carrying on that tradition.

And thus we set off on the five-day journey to Candlekeep. Five days of possible danger, roughing it in the wilderness, and more than likely bad camp food, right?

I dunno. We did a travel montage because the DM wants to get us to Candlekeep, and later Avernus as quickly as possible so we didn't roll on the random encounter table. Which is fine. I'm not sure what's on the encounter table for this area, but considering how finicky random encounter tables can be, there's something that scares me about us getting jumped by dragons on our five day camping trip, and as the Runesmith said in his random encounter video (language warning), "Nobody should die to two dragons outside of story parameters."

Anyway, it's probably for the best that Faust had his own horse and wasn't in the wagon, because chances are five days of, "Are we there yet?" would cause Rylee to rethink her oaths. Indeed, as said before, it really is difficult to express the high amount of childlike wonder and excitement Faust had at the prospect of finally, finally getting into Candlekeep. And indeed, once he had donated the book he was carrying as the means of entrance into the fortress (as seen in the image at the top of the page) and the party was allowed inside, he wasted absolutely no time getting into the library, Rylee hot on his heels to see what he was up to.

I've spent the last paragraph making fun of Faust's excitement at the prospect of getting into Candlekeep, but I should also note Kalista's...disturbing excitement at meeting Sylvira. I'm serious, once the party made it into Candlekeep, she was adamant about going to see Sylvira, to the point that the only reason she didn't burst into a meeting Sylvira was having was the fact that Sylvira's assistant was very persuasive at helping Kalista set a proper appointment for the party at third bell the next day. And thus commenced Kalista's misunderstanding of what third bell was, thinking that she'd be meeting them at 3 AM before the assistant explained that the bells started at 6 AM and would ring on the hour.

Somewhat dejected from the mild rejection she just received but excited nonetheless to meet up with Sylvira the next morning, Kalista rejoined Seliph and Sissy at the tavern, soon to be joined by Rylee, who had come away from spying on Faust with no real information she deemed helpful.

Faust, on the other hand, was scribbling notes as quickly as he could on what little paper he was able to use, when a library aide approached him, saying, "Sir, just to inform you, the library will soon be closing its doors for the night and the scholars in the building will be returning to their quarters."

Faust's lack of fatigue continued to surprise him considering he had been like this for nearly a week. I'm pretty sure most of the party was expecting him to meekly agree to turn in, but to all of our surprise, Faust pulled rank as a travelling scholar, a professor, no less.

Well, it worked! The poor associate stammered out an apology (though let's be fair, Faust wasn't exactly mean to the poor kid) stated that if he wanted to leave at any point before the doors opened again, just to lock the door when he left.

Anyway, the next morning, Kalista realized that Faust never came to his room in the inn. Figuring he was still in the library, she made her way there to find him and let him know about their appointment before he was late. Though he wasn't exactly happy to be torn from his studies before he'd found the breakthrough he was hoping for, he wrote down which page of which volume he was working from and followed Kalista to Sylvira's chamber.

Paraphrasing a bunch, Sylvira quickly pointed out that the shield Faust was carrying was just a devil, no angel. It had been bound in the shield millennia ago. She also informed the party of her own request for them: go to Avernus to gather information and/or items, with the possibility of saving the citizens of Elturel. She requested that the party hurry, people were dying after all, but Faust requested an extra two hours to finish what he was working on (as well as to quickly formulate a plan to get the shield to Avernus anyway, something Rylee was...very vocally opposed to.)

And thus the session ended much like it began. Waiting for everyone to finish up last-minute sidequests.

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 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... 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.