Saturday, January 30, 2021

Part 15: Gas Gas Gas! I'm Gonna Step on the Gas!


The vehicle in the cloud of dust grew ever closer as Seliph quickly looked over the controls to see what his options were. The vehicle in question, a Demon Grinder (pictured below) was a great deal bigger than the party's Tormentor (something I didn't realize when roleplaying Seliph's actions so it may come off as more reckless than it should).

Seliph's first idea was to try to outrun the vehicle, though try as he might the Demon Grinder was determined to stay on a direct collision course with the party. Something that could prove to be quite troublesome on its own, but it was around this time that Faust noticed that Kalista had changed directions, trying to go around the Demon Grinder.

What the party didn't see was the fact that a harpoon fired from the Demon Grinder had lodged itself in the Devil's Ride, and Kalista was bringing it to a stop so she could fix it. Once the smoke cleared enough, a fireball erupted from the Shield of the Hidden Lord, engulfing the Demon Grinder, though failing to damage it.

At this point, Seliph got an idea...

He quickly hit the brakes and turned onto an intercept course with the Demon Grinder. Naturally the others in the vehicle were less-than-enthused, but Seliph said, "Just focus on doing what you can to damage the other thing. I've got an idea!"

Fortunately the front of the Demon Grinder (the toothy bit on the left) provided a decent amount of cover from the two harpoon flingers, so the party was able to pelt the Demon Grinder (and its inhabitants) with magic and projectiles while Seliph carefully considered his timing.

90's gonna be close...

However, if there was ever time for something to appear out of nowhere and break his concentration, it would be this. You see, in Avernus, particularly in vehicle encounters, there's a chance of random shenanigans to occur, and unfortunately this was one of those times. There's a 5% chance of a fire tornado, 300 feet high and 30 feet wide at its base, to spring up, and today just happened to be our lucky day. And I mean that sarcastically as well as sincerely.

Anyway, it sprung up in front of the Demon Grinder, still a decent ways away, not giving the Demon Grinder enough time to change course, so instead the party got to watch this giant vehicle be completely engulfed in flames for a second time. However, once it emerged from the tornado, the party had a pretty good view of the damage.

Of all the creatures that were manning stations on the Demon Grinder, only one remained alive.

And now it was the party's turn to try to dodge out of the way. Faust cursed, Sissy swallowed, Rylee began to scream, and Seliph muttered a faint apology under his breath, before...

Yes, three separate gifs. I'm not sorry. It was cool.

Somehow Seliph tapped into his inner tofu delivery boy and managed to slide in within the 90 feet he was hoping for to cast Sleep on the sole survivor in the Demon Grinder before slipping out of the way of the fire tornado. Was it a terrible idea? Yeah. Was it a great idea? Also yeah.

Anyway, the other vehicle, now completely sans driver...well...

Nah, I'm just kidding, it was a flat expanse, there was nothing for them to crash into so it just kinda coasted to a stop.

"Well," Faust said, breaking the silence after a minute or so, "Shall we go see what survived the fire tornado?"

"Yeah," Seliph gasped, having forgotten to breathe, "I wonder if we could take that thing instead. Might make it easier for us to travel together."

Indeed, it was much more spacious. Spacious enough that they were able to load the Devil's Ride on it, which was great because it required more repairs, which Kalista and Faust would be able to do on the drive rather than being forced to stop.

Anyway, yeah, most of the inside of the Demon Grinder was scorched, though the party was able to find a few more soul coins and a rather curious looking circlet, which Faust was able to identify as a Circlet of Blasting, which would allow the user one use of the Scorching Ray spell per day. Faust suggested Seliph take it to provide him with at least one ranged attack per day.

So everything sounds great. Wanna see how we screwed it up?

On the last level up, Sissy found herself in possession of a fun new spell (as is the norm). The spell in question? Animate Dead. By itself, something that made Rylee in particular extremely uncomfortable, but here's the discussion that went down.

"What are we going to do with the survivor?" Faust asked.

Seliph shrugged. "I dunno, probably just leave him."

"We should kill him," Sissy suggested, with a rather...disconcerting grin.

"I agree," said Kalista. "If we leave him alive he'll probably come back with more friends."

"He's incapacitated!" Rylee shouted. "We don't need to kill him!"

"But I wanna make him into a slave!" Sissy said.

"A what?" asked Rylee incredulously.

"A slave! I'll reanimate him and he can help us do stuff!"

"The dead should stay dead!" Rylee spat back.

Faust, suddenly feeling quite awkward, suggested, "Fine, fine, we leave him in the Tormentor. It's not much better than killing him outright, but we should respect Rylee's wishes. That is, if she's willing to carry him out to the Tormentor with me?"

"Fine," Rylee agreed.

Sissy waited all of thirty seconds after they had stepped off of the Demon Grinder before she began looking at the other corpses. "I think I can use this one." Before Seliph and Kalista finished cleaning the Demon Grinder's cockpit (specifically moving the corpses outside) Sissy quickly hid her chosen and began casting the spell.

Needless to say when Rylee saw the animated skeleton cleaning the Demon Grinder on her way back, she froze, skin turning about as pale as Seliph's. "What...what is that?"

Faust chuckled. "It appears Sissy has just changed targets."

At this point Rylee was pretty despondent, so Faust waved Seliph over. "Take Miss Godsong back to the Demon Grinder. I'll finish this myself."

Seliph reached for Rylee's hand, "Here, let's go, it'll be okay." To her credit, she didn't pull away.

Excellent, thought Faust, before he walked back to the Tormentor and fired a single Eldritch Blast at the sleeping occupant. Like we're talking ice cold execution.

The party continued their drive in silence for a few hours, with Rylee giving the thousand yard stare at the skeleton politely helping Kalista and Faust work on the Devil's Ride. Eventually, Faust walked over to Seliph at the helm. "You should rest. I'll take over for now."

"You've been working with Kalista. Are you sure you don't need rest?"

"Trust me, this will be restful for me. I've taught myself how to properly pace myself to save energy. You, however," Faust nodded at the seat next to Rylee, "should take a break." Though let's be real, he was actually saying, "You want to comfort Rylee. Get to it."

Okay, I got it, Seliph thought. "Thanks. Just come grab me if you want to swap."

So Faust drove the rest of the way to the party's destination, a location called Haruman's Hill, but what awaited them was not the castle Lulu had expected to find, but rows of iron trees, each topped with a crucified knight being feasted upon by stirges.

Yeah...this isn't a happy place.

Near the summit of the hill was one knight in particular, an elf, that got the party's attention, though to be honest what got the party's attention was something he had in common with all the other knights. That is, the fact that he was still alive. Anyway, the party was briefly able to talk to him. He identified himself as Jander Sunstar, a vampire who originally had served Zariel in her assault on the Nine Hells before abandoning her with a group of deserters, the other crucified knights. Eventually, he was unable to withstand the grief and killed himself by walking into the sunlight, hoping to find rest and relief in his god Lathander. Lathander said no, condemning him to suffer in the Nine Hells for his sins.

Naturally, Lulu wasn't all that happy talking to someone who betrayed Zariel, and she began making her way back to the Demon Grinder (yeah, she basically said, "Forget you guys, I'm gonna go wait in the truck,"). Seliph, however, took pity on the vampire and said, "Let's pull him down. He may be able to help us."

He was not, as once he was carried down from the tree, he smiled, thanked the party, and crumbled to dust, grateful to be released from his torment.

That...may have been a poor choice.

Descending from the sky was a narzugon atop a nightmare, basically a black demon knight riding a scary devil horse, who said, "You have sinned most foul by releasing a prisoner. For that, you must be punished. Throw down your weapons and come quietly or face destruction."

Seliph reached for his longsword on his back, but Rylee extended a hand, gesturing to wait. "What type of punishment are you talking about?"

"That's for Lady Zariel to decide," the knight replied.

"I don't trust you," said Kalista.

"Do you mean to defy Lady Zariel?" the knight asked ominously.

"No, we'll come quietly! We just have questions," said Rylee, trying to stall for time.

While this was going on, Faust had telepathically contacted Lulu, asking her to return to the top of the hill. Specifically, "Your glitter gun may be required," he said.

Anyway, Lulu's leisurely pace increased to an outright dash when she saw what the party was faced with.

The knight, hearing the fluttering, turned, and once he figured out what Lulu was, he dismounted the nightmare and drew his blade. "The circumstances have changed. It's time for you all to die."

Seliph finished drawing his longsword. "I wasn't planning on going quietly anyway."

If it were only the knight and the horse it might not have been so scary, but yeah, remember how I mentioned the stirges? Okay, before I go any further, stirges are jerks. They're annoying to deal with in any setting. Basically, they're big mosquitoes who can attach themselves to their prey and continually do damage by sucking blood. Not only that, but they usually attack in pretty big swarms.

In this case there were ten of them. And I know that our DM was going easy on us because the module calls for more.

So, naturally, this fight was already pretty difficult with the party taking a rather heavy beating by being overwhelmed by the stirges. Not only that but for some reason Lulu was rather slow in her approach.

You see, she was also beset by something. Namely, a hellwasp.

Okay, before I continue, I just gotta vent. I hate wasps. Hate 'em. It's irrational. I've been stung by them. It's not even really that bad. But for whatever reason, I just can't stand them. I guess one thing that bugs me is the fact that unlike their smaller striped brethren the bees, whose barbed stinger forces them to take a more measured approach to violence lest they waste their one shot and die, wasps can sting you as much as they want with no recourse, and it doesn't feel like it takes much to set them off.

Anyway what were we talking about? Oh yeah, Lulu versus the hellwasp.

The hellwasp was essentially taking a linebacker approach to keep Lulu from reaching the rest of the party. I'm not kidding, it actually tackled her, got her in a grapple, and (okay, thus ends the linebacker analogy) was trying to carry her back to its nest.

The party realized this was happening, slowly beating back the stirges, while Sissy took a few shots at the wasp. Seliph, once he was able to line up a shot, fired off his one cast of Scorching Ray at the wasp, though nothing the party did seemed to be helping.

It was around this point where Rylee, after a full day of stressful thing after stressful thing, finally snapped and started smacking the stirges out of the sky with her quarterstaff.

It was also around this point that the party started dropping from the wounds they were taking.

Rylee went down first. Faust, making a mad dash to rescue her, also got knocked unconscious. As did Kalista. Leaving Seliph and Sissy to do their best to keep the knight at bay, though eventually they got some aid from Lulu, having blasted the hellwasp to oblivion.

Eventually, the knight made one more stroke with his sword, severely wounding Seliph, before vanishing.

Seliph quickly did what he could to stabilize the rest of the party (thank you Lay on Hands) before he collapsed to his knees, tears forming in his eyes.

And that's where the session ended. Unlike the pre-danger cliffhanger of the last session, this one just ended with the sour taste of defeat, their biggest since Faust died originally. Though thankfully it could have been worse. If Lulu had been carried to the hellwasp nest, the party would have had to fight their way through the nest to get her back.

Count your blessings, folks.

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