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?

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