Thursday, March 25, 2021

Part 18: Mirror, Mirror


"I'm waiting..." the Alhoon demanded. "It's not that hard. Give me your soul coins, and I leave you all alone. You don't have all day, and neither do I."

Kalista decided to try stalling for time by projecting her thoughts out to the Alhoon. "Sir, I know soul coins are hard to come by in this economy. However, we also need soul coins in order to survive. You may have half of our soul coins if you leave us alone."

A chuckle seemed to emanate from the Alhoon. "That's not my problem. It makes no difference to me if you live or die."

Thinking fast, Faust quickly added, "That may be true, but can you sustain the damage we can inflict upon you?"

The Alhoon took this as a challenge. "Fools, you think I'm alone?"

On this, the Alhoon's Demon Grinder's doors all opened and various creatures started pouring out. Seeing this, Rylee quickly looked at Seliph. "Sometimes violence is necessary for peace and survival, right?"

"You're asking me?"

"Just say yes so I don't have to worry about this later!"

"Uhh, right, yeah."

She asked this because she knew that the spell she was about to cast could do quite a bit of damage, but she rationalized it as okay since the Alhoon was definitely undead, and it was extremely likely its followers would be as well. Wasting no further time, she quickly summoned a Guardian of Faith to, if nothing else, provide cover for the rest of the party to get back into the Demon Grinder and make a quick getaway. Which was helpful since although the Alhoon could sense where the remaining party members were, I feel it important to note that they were still invisible and would be for a short time, depending on how long they took to take an action.

Anyway, Kalista first took initiative to sneak into the Demon Grinder, with Faust and Sissy following suit. Naturally, the sight of the top hatch opening and closing three times was somewhat startling to Seliph and Rylee, but when Kalista, Faust, and Sissy revealed themselves, they breathed a sigh of relief.

Without thinking, Seliph said, "Everybody strap in. We're out of here!"

And thus they were. Seliph quickly slammed on the gas, angling the Demon Grinder for a small gap between the other and the entrance of the small cave they were hiding in, though not before a few of the Alhoon's goons were struck down by the Guardian of Faith and the other Demon Grinder needed a mild push out of the way.

It didn't take long for the Alhoon's crew to get their own Demon Grinder up and running, and thus began another chase.

Much like the last couple chases, the enemy Demon Grinder's crew did what they could to try to do as much damage to the party's Grinder while the party was doing what they could to escape. Spells flew back and forth along with harpoons and wrecking balls, but the party's Grinder slowly began to pull ahead.

At this point, Kalista, Faust, and Sissy were on the roof, for navigational purposes (as nothing had been done about the smoke pouring out of the engine since the last session) as well as slinging spells at whatever of the Alhoon's crew that that they could hit. Just when it seemed like the party's Grinder was about to make its full escape, it...stopped, as if it had slammed into a wall. Because it had. Specifically a Wall of Force. Naturally, when an object in motion is forced to a sudden stop, those things that aren't strapped down might be flung all over the place, and naturally, while the lithe Kalista was able to keep her footing, the less athletic Faust and Sissy were thrown into the wall. The fact that neither lost consciousness is a bit of a miracle, honestly. are we gonna get out of this situation? Well, I'll explain what I wish I could say had happened first.

Krickendolt, having spent most of the fight obsessively defending his chicken, demanded that Seliph do something to fix the situation, to which Seliph responded, "There are a few weapons that are still functional. I want you and Rylee to get on them." He indicated the Alhoon floating outside the other Grinder, coming upon them. "I want every weapon we have firing on that guy. If we can take him down we're golden."

Seliph quickly threw the Demon Grinder and reverse, slamming on the gas, beginning a quick game of chicken with the Alhoon. Well, what would have been a game of chicken before Krickendolt smacked him out of the sky with the wrecking ball. Seliph said something about a home run or a grand slam, and the party rode off into the sunset.

Well, that's not what happened, but it sounds cool, right?

Instead, we more or less talked the Alhoon, who by this point was the only surviving member of his crew, into leaving us alone. Faust reiterated, "You might be able to kill one or two of us, but all five of us would do so much damage that, honestly, would it be worth it to you to try it?"

It would not, as death for an undead creature such as the Alhoon would be, as he put it, extremely awkward, specifically considering where he was and where he was likely to go after death. So, in the spirit of said awkwardness, he drove off into the sunset, leaving the party to quickly repair their own vehicle and get on the road.

Eventually, the party arrived at the obelisk that they were told about, or at least they were pretty sure that's what it was, as the obelisk was surrounded by eight pillars. In the middle of the eight pillars stood a man gesticulating wildly, spouting off the grossest of obscenities. The party glanced at one another. Surely, this crazy person wasn't the person they were supposed to be meeting, right?

"Are you going to come out here or are you just going to sit in your vehicle and stare at me?!" the man demanded, seeming to read their thoughts.

Naturally, the party was willing to put up with a lot of things but weren't all that willing to help someone being that rude to them for no real reason, but he pleaded with them to not leave him behind, saying that he had information on how to find the Bleeding Citadel, and he would give them that information if they helped him escape where he was, stating that he was pretty sure that he could escape if the party activated the pillars for him.

Rylee read his mind and discovered that he had absolutely no idea that this would work, and Seliph, sensing a trap, used his Divine Sense to...well...sense anything suspicious about the man. Well, as before, the man was not a man at all, but this time a demon, trapped there by the pit fiend Bel. At this revelation, the party was like, "Nope, we already released someone who was strung up by a big name fiend in Avernus and that got us into this mess, we can find someone else." Naturally, this didn't last long as the party knew for a fact that they were lost without any morsel of info they could get (to Rylee's chagrin in particular), and they agreed to help him out.

Basically, the pillars surrounding the obelisk were all tied to the eight schools of magic in the Forgotten Realms, and the demon thought that activating them and, through them, the obelisk, would set him free. Being trapped there for as long as he had, he was running out of ideas.

Well, needless to say it didn't work. As far as we know. Faust took his hand off his chosen pillar before the ritual was complete, but considering almost everyone was injured or suffered an adverse effect, it might not have really been worth the party's while.

The demon shrugged, stating that maybe a deal with Mephistopheles would help him out, but being a man of his word, he suggested that the party might find the next step in their quest at the Crypt of the Hellriders. Which sounded just peachy.

So, those adverse effects on the party? Well, one of them was that Rylee, who put her hand on the Transmutation pillar, had her skin turn blue for 24 hours. So...that was kind of awkward. the party went.

Along the way, Faust approached Seliph and Rylee with a request. Specifically, he wanted them to write their names in his book. He said that this was in case one of them should die, it would be a form of insurance.

He was more honest with Rylee, stating that Hadar might offer a solution (since well, she knew about the Hadar contract anyway).

Naturally both realized he was hiding something, so Seliph weaseled out of the conversation saying he'd think about it, and Rylee flat out said no, she wanted nothing to do with it.

So on the journey went in some mild awkwardness until Faust offered to take over the drive so Seliph could get some rest.

Things were actually going pretty smoothly until Faust, staring out into the distance, was startled back to reality by sudden thump against the windshield, as an imp had flown straight into it. Faust slowed the Demon Grinder down gently, so to not wake the rest of the party, and the imp made the gesture of removing a ring from a finger, obviously referring to Faust's ring.

Once Faust removed his ring, the imp immediately contacted him telepathically. "Finally! Listen, I need you to take a bit of a detour. Your employer wants to speak with you."

Faust cursed silently, then nodded. The imp left Faust with an image of a giant shard of ice that looked similar to an item Sissy was given earlier (that totally isn't meant to help her use ice magic against the usually ice-immune demons).

Great. Can't wait to see the man behind the man.

Following the imp's directions, Faust found the ice shard, also known as the Mirror of Mephistar. He quietly exited the Demon Grinder, taking extra care not to wake the rest of the party, and made his way over to the mirror.

Definitely seems a bit excessive--his thoughts, along with any sort of voluntary motion, suddenly stopped as he gazed into the mirror, where he saw his reflection, but something about it was just wrong. He looked haggard, his eyes lacked any sort of light. Suddenly, something pried into his mind, and he saw a vision of a large frozen fiend, whose face was occasionally thawed out just enough to talk by an imp pouring water over his icy prison.

"Mephistopheles," Faust muttered, not as a greeting or a question, just a statement of fact.

"Jerrod Anton Faust," the fiend began (okay, so the DM didn't have him actually first name Faust, but doesn't it just sound like something a king of Hell would do?), "You've mainly been corresponding with my agent Advocati, but it certainly is nice to finally meet you face-to-face, or as much as can be done without you coming all the way down here."

"I can see that you bypassed my ring," Faust noted, slightly changing the subject.

"You see, that's what I like about you, Faust, m'boy. You're intelligent. You're ambitious. I can use that, and to that end I have an opportunity for you to break your pact with Hadar."

"Let me guess, some sort of contract?" Faust responded smugly.

"But of course! You come down and serve Advocati, and through him, me, and you've got an eternity of power and arcane knowledge at your fingertips. All I require is that book of yours and half of your natural mortal lifespan, which given the way you've been living up to this point, you likely won't even notice it's gone."

"And what are your plans with the tome?" Faust asked.

"Same as yours. Increase my power. Which, naturally, would benefit you as a sort of trickle-down effect."

If Faust were capable of moving, he would have stroked his chin. "I almost want to give you the book to see just how you screw this up, as I bet it would backfire just as spectacularly for you as it has for me. But I will have to take some time to ponder on the proposition."

"If you must," Mephistopheles allowed, "but the clock is ticking, and the longer you spend in Avernus, the less likely it is that you'll leave."

With that, Faust found himself back in his body, again in control of his voluntary movement, and suddenly he found himself collapsing to the ground, vomiting.

Once he fully composed himself, he slowly made his way back into the Demon Grinder. However, in his distraction he woke Rylee's dog Yasha, who in turn woke the rest of the party.

Seliph groaned. "Rylee could'ja do something about that dog?"

"I'll try, why are we stopped?"

Faust, thinking quickly, threw out the first thing that came to his mind. "I...needed to take a bit of a private break."

"Maybe I'll take Yasha for a walk, that should calm her down."

DAMMIT! Faust cursed within his mind, knowing that there was no reasonable way he could prevent her from going outside without drawing attention. The best he could do is scramble to prevent anything from getting worse.

Well, naturally when Rylee saw the giant shard of ice, she had questions, but because she'd looked at said giant shard of ice, well...she was in for a ride.

You see, what Rylee saw inside the mirror was an image of herself if she decided to follow Zariel. Fallen. Dark. Corrupt.

Something bored into her mind, finding her fears the same way that it had done to Faust, and like Faust before her, she found herself face to face with Mephistopheles.

"Ahh, here we have a guest I wasn't expecting," Mephistopheles announced.

Curse that Faust, Rylee caught herself thinking.

"So I heard on the winds that you had a rather interesting conversation with Zariel. As well as that encounter you had with the Alhoon. Very interesting indeed. It seems your stay in Zariel's little corner of Hell has changed you quite a bit. Your precious vow of non-violence, so casually disregarded. Why, you've killed three beings since you've been here."

"I didn't kill the Alhoon's minions. They were already dead!"

"Oh, Rylee, Rylee, Rylee. The Alhoon was dead, but I assure you his thralls were not. They weren't even acting of their own accord. Doesn't that just tear you up inside?"

"I'm not proud of what I had to do, but I did it to protect my friends!"

"Pah, friends, whatever helps you sleep at night. My agent will be in contact with you soon enough."


"Advocati. He's got another task for you, and he should be able to help you."

"Task? Help? With what?"

"Help you kill devils, and if you mean to make a move against Zariel you're gonna need to kill many, many more than you already have. But I believe you could prove useful to me to get to Zariel."

"I will not be used as a pawn for someone's schemes!"

"You already are for your god. But all will sort itself out in time, and Advocati will be in touch."

Rylee...took this conversation significantly worse than Faust took his. In addition to the sickness, she collapsed to the ground with a thousand-yard stare, repeating the phrase, "I don't want to be that person."

Yasha, alarmed at her master's sudden worsening condition, rushed to the Demon Grinder, barking up a storm.

Without thinking, Seliph grabbed his sword and shield and dashed outside, with Faust close behind shouting, "Seliph! Whatever you do, do not look into the mirror!"

Dang it Faust, you of all people should know not to tell someone not to look at something if they're not even aware it's there.

So Seliph, like Faust and Rylee, found himself unable to move, gazing upon a corrupted image of himself, but once he noticed something probing his mind he immediately put up some resistance.

A voice rang out in his head...

Don't you want to speak with Mephistopheles?

Seliph recoiled, then redoubled his resistance.

No. I'm here to save my friend.

The voice seemed disappointed, but then responded, He has nothing to offer you at the moment anyway. But since I got a quick look at your fears, I think I'll just let you stand there motionless for a little while, unable to watch as your friend suffers. So long!

Seliph recoiled again. What? No, stop, you BASTARD!

It was only for one minute, but it seemed like an eternity before Seliph could finally move as Faust was trying to get Rylee to respond to literally anything.

Seliph looked the situation over quickly. "We need to leave. Now."

Faust looked at Seliph in disbelief. "What do you think I'm trying to do here?"

Seliph quickly scooped Rylee up into his arms. "I'll carry her. We need to put as much space between us and soon as possible."

Once Faust and Seliph got back on the Demon Grinder, Faust said, "No time to explain, someone drive. Seliph and I will do what we can to bring her back to reality."

Kalista quickly put herself in the driver's seat and started driving in the direction Faust gave her, and on the ride people tried everything they could think of. I-Spy. Faust playing the drum (that for some reason he had even though he didn't know how to play it). Seliph casting a spell to create food and water.

However, Rylee wouldn't come out of her funk, leading Faust to commit some...slightly more drastic actions.

As in, he slapped her.

"Get ahold of yourself. Every single one of us has done terrible things. None more than me. Unfortunately it's probably going to get worse before it gets better, so get ahold of yourself so we can move on."

Rylee looked back at Faust, a mix of rage and sadness in her eyes. "Have you ever not hit someone, Faust? Have you ever held it all in, no matter how much the other person deserved it? I have done things I promised, swore never to do. Maybe I'm not the same person anymore..." she trailed off, tears forming in her eyes.

Kalista responded first. "I think it's true that we aren't the same people we were when we came here. We've all done things we regret, or that we wish we hadn't."

Seliph added, "Of course we're not the same people. Change happens all the time whether we want it to or not. But that doesn't mean that you're stuck to a path you don't want to be on. There's always a way."

"Until you make a contract with an archfiend," Kalista muttered.

"Yeah...I've got nothing for you there," Seliph said, "but I'm sure something will turn up."

Rylee remained unconvinced. "Zariel...offered me a deal. While you were out of the room. She said that if I swore allegiance to her, she'd let everyone go. It would be so easy. I wonder if I made the wrong choice in saying no."

"Rylee," Seliph started, "you already know that it's not that simple. You making that decision would negatively affect each one of us." Images of this alternate timeline flashed in his mind, specifically how he'd be affected. Images of casting aside his oaths as a redemption paladin, of a one-man war against the forces of Hell itself, of suffering and death flooded his mind.

Faust added, "Zariel knows that too. She doesn't care about you or any of us. Her bargain with you would certainly be beneficial to her, damn the consequences for yourself or anyone associated with you. She approached you. You are in control. Don't forget that."

"I...need to be alone," Rylee said, finally.

"Honestly, I was about to step out onto the roof for some fresh air. At least, as fresh as this place has got, anyway," Seliph said. "Come with me? I'll give you some space."

"Yes...I'd like that."

It was brief and faint, but above the hellish atmosphere as well as the (literal) screaming from the engine, Rylee felt a connection with Eldath, that she was still loved, and that things were going to be okay.

Seliph noticed her slightly more relaxed posture and stated simply, "That's a relief."

At this point, Faust frantically leaped out onto the roof of the Demon Grinder. Gasping for breath, the only words he could manage to form were, "Sissy...warlock!"

Sissy popped up right behind him with another skeleton, replacing her other one that perished during the fighting. "Yeah, I' a thing."


Let's back up a few minutes. Faust had approached Sissy with condolences about her fallen skeleton.

"Oh, not to worry. I've got another one stowed away here somewhere. A couple, actually."

Faust's eyebrow twitched. "This is...very troubling behavior. Doesn't it bother you?"

"Not at all. It's kinda like an organ donor."


"Ah right, I should explain. You see, we don't have magic where I came from, so doctors use science to treat their patients."

"Yes, I'm familiar with science, what sort of scholar do you take me for?" Faust asked impatiently.

"So some people have it in writing that they permit the use of their surviving organs to be used for medicinal purposes when they die. Someone needs a new heart? Great! Someone just died whose heart can still be used!"

"I suppose that makes sense, though that does sort of beg the question about your magic, anyway."

"My friend helps me out. He came to me when I was scared and alone." She pointed at the bottle her patron, a genie, dwelled in.

The gears were already turning in Faust's head. "Ah, so this friend of's because of him that you can use magic?"

"Yeah. Also he helped me get rid of my dad."

"He...I beg your pardon?"

"My dad. He was a bastard. He needed to go. My friend helped me get rid of him."

"I...see..." Faust, panicking, then said, "I think I shall join Seliph and Rylee on the roof." His speech hastened. "Good luck with your skeleton friend byyyyyyyyyyyye!" and up the ladder he went.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Part 17: Character Development Avalanche

Seliph and Rylee were led by Uncle Badguy (whose name I don't think we ever got) into the dungeon area of Zariel's fortress. Unlike more normal cell blocks, this dungeon is a tad more...escape proof. Anyone in the Forgotten Realms can probably bust out of an iron cell with just a little elbow grease, to say nothing of the citizens of Avernus. However, when the cell's bars and door are made of molten iron dripping from the ceiling, you've got yourself a bit more potent cell. Also a great deal warmer than the average jail cell, but that's not that hard to pull off.

Upon reaching a specific cell belonging to a man with ashen pale skin and dark hair, the uncle said, "Hey, Sariel, you've got a visitor! First one in quite a long time, ain't it?"

Pause. Yeah, I called him Sariel in my character's backstory because I guess I forgot that Zariel was the name of the primary antagonist of this campaign. I just picked a random angel name from a random name generator and it seemed to work. Next time I play someone related to a celestial I'll be sure to pick the name of one of the Evangelion angels instead -_-

Anywho, the man in the cell--Sariel--looked up towards the bars. He squinted his eyes. "Who is this supposed to be?"

One could hear the smirk under the uncle's helmet. "Why Sariel, you don't recognize Seliph, your own son? I'll leave you two to it, but don't take too long." With that, the uncle stepped away.

Sariel looked a little more closely before gasping in realization. " your mother Elaine?"


Sariel frowned. "Has it been that long? I guess it would have been about twenty-five years. How is she?"

" didn't know? She passed away. She got really sick. It's been about ten years now."

"That is...a shame. I'm so sorry."

"Well...I suppose you wouldn't have known if you've been here this whole time..."

Sariel's frown deepened. "So why are you here? Don't tell me you're here to rescue me."

"I wish I could say I was...that's probably easier to explain than..."

Rylee broke in. "We're here to save the city of Elturel."

Sariel looked even less impressed. "Elturel? How did you get roped into saving that place?"

Seliph awkwardly shrugged. "It's...a tad complicated. Just a long spree of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, up to and including now, with Zariel putting out a hit on Baphomet and Yeenoghu. Basically if we can kill one of them and bring proof, Zariel will let the city and all its inhabitants go."

Sariel rubbed his forehead. "It's plain that you've inherited my penchant for getting into hopeless situations. I can't believe you'd serve Zariel as well."

"Don't get it twisted. I'm not bowing down to anybody. I'm a mercenary here. One job, and I wash my hands of this place for good." Seliph rehearsed the same line he'd said dozens of times in his wanderings as a mercenary, but this one rang more hollow than usual.

Sariel, of course, was completely unconvinced. "Do you really believe you can redeem that city?"

"To be honest...I don't know. It's a monumental task. I mean, slaying lowly demons and devils is one thing, but..." Seliph trailed off, and Sariel nodded, understanding. "That being said I can't just sit by while innocent people suffer. And then there's Zariel herself..."

Over the next few moments, Seliph and Sariel said nothing, but Sariel knew exactly why Seliph trailed off. Like his son, Sariel saw a hint of sadness and regret in Zariel's rage.

Sariel moved closer to the bars of the cell (well, as close as reasonable considering, y'know...molten iron), motioning for Seliph to do the same. In a low voice, Sariel suggested something. "Zariel can be redeemed. It's a long shot, but her sword and Lulu are the key. There's a reason her loyalists don't want either of them near her."

The same thing had occurred to Seliph, who nodded. "Got it. My first target here was the sword anyway, since without it, this whole quest is over before it starts."

Sariel smiled. "Maybe there's hope for our line after all. I'm sorry I can't be of more help to you, my son."


Seliph kept his poker face in spite of it all, merely saying, "No, you've proven more helpful to me in the last thirty seconds than anyone else has since I came to this forsaken place. Thank you...father."

At this point the uncle had returned to the room. "All right, enough mushy business. You've got a job to do, nephew."

Seliph and Sariel exchanged one final look that seemed to cap off the conversation. Seliph wasn't leaving Avernus without the city of Elturel, and if he had anything to say about it, he wasn't leaving without his father.

Before the party was dismissed from Zariel's fortress, they were led to Zariel's armory for some better equipment to aid them on their quest, after which they were sent on their way.

The party returned to their vehicle at the Wandering Emporium in silence. Once Zariel's knights had left, Kalista then said, "Guys, I think I'm going to try to go talk my sister into letting me out of my contract."

Naturally, this development was something the entire party was happy about. People began discussing the various things they had to do before leaving the Emporium, until Seliph said, "Actually, can we have a brief meeting before this? I've got some stuff I want to say.

"I know the task we've been given is difficult. Probably even impossible. To that end I think we still need to go get the sword of Zariel."

Lulu, having been kept out of the loop, raised an eyebrow. "I thought that was what we were doing from the start."

"It was, but things have gotten a little more complicated. A few extra steps have been added to the plan. But, thanks to my conversation with--" Seliph then noticed Rylee making a slashing motion across her throat, the universal Shut Up gesture, "--a certain informant, I think we've got a shot with the sword and with Lulu's help."

"So are we still going to try to help Zariel?"

"Of course."

"But who did you talk to about this. It wasn't a devil was it?"

It's a good thing Lulu didn't catch everyone else in the party frantically waving their hands, and Seliph quickly responded, "No, it was an angel."

Faust broke in, "Seliph has some contacts here."

This satisfied Lulu for the time being, and now the party's mission was clear:

  1. Find the sword of Zariel
  2. Track down and defeat Baphomet or Yeenoghu
  3. Meet with Zariel, somehow bringing Lulu with them
  4. Get Zariel, Lulu, and the sword in the same chamber and pray that what they're setting out to do works
Admittedly 2 and 3 are somewhat interchangeable, but the meeting with Zariel was most likely to happen if the party accomplished their assigned task.

At this point the party split up to spend some time doing various chores around the Wandering Emporium. The last session was brutal and everyone had some stuff they wanted to do.

Faust wanted to acquire some spell components, specifically a pickled tentacle and an eyeball in a platinum inlaid vial Kalista wanted to speak to her sister again, Rylee wanted another meeting with Advocati to figure out just what Faust's deal was, Sissy was mainly just planning on relaxing, and Seliph...Seliph had some important stuff to take care of.

He was going to hit the spa.

Before we launch into that, regarding the spell components, Kalista suggested that there was a way to get it for free instead of needing to spend the 400 gold pieces required,

Seliph was unconvinced. "Yeah, there's a way, but do you really want to sleep with that guy?"

"Of course not! I'm just saying it's on the table!"

"It was never on the table unless you were going to actually do the deed!"

The major character development happened with Sissy, Rylee, and Kalista. Sissy was approached by the same creatures that had approached her before, impressed with her power and offering her more for her help in dealing with a certain group of demons, even handing her an icicle that would help her ice magic bypass the ice resistance that demons had. Unconvinced that the fiend was feeling completely charitable, Sissy studied her client closely. At any rate, if she took the ice, if the fiend decided to betray her, she'd have the jump on him.

Kalista's experience...was less positive.

Though it didn't start out that way, as Fierna quickly agreed to meet Kalista.

Once in her...void office? I dunno what to call it, but once there, Kalista quickly launched into her request.

"I understand that you're behind me and I want to do what I can to support you and father, but the contract isn't working out. I just don't feel like I'm really cut out for this sort of work.

"Not now, you aren't, but give it time and you'll find a groove."

Kalista wasn't so sure. "That may be true, but I feel like it might be better if I just quit."

"That's what I'm trying to tell you, sister, you can't. You signed the contract. Your soul belongs to me and father now."

"You can't make a special exception for family?"

"Kalista, the contract and the dagger were the special exception, but if that doesn't get the point across this will. I'm just using you, and that will continue to be our arrangement until the end of time. Though, there is an escape clause of a sort."

"What do you mean?"

"I'm willing to void the contract if you can bring me a powerful artifact such as...say...the hand of Vecna or the sword of Zariel. Or you could just sacrifice unto me one thousand souls. Though, I think you should realize that any of these things would probably put you on a one-way trip to Hell anyway, so you'd be better off enjoying yourself by serving me willingly."

"I do have one artifact...what about this stone mask I carved off a fiend?" Kalista reached into her pack and brought out the mask.

"A fiend mask? Honey, I'm an archdevil, my domain is covered in the things. They're worthless. I'm firm on the artifact or the souls. Unless you can deliver, I'm afraid your contract is still valid."

Unfortunately, she wasn't willing to bend, so Kalista returned to the war machine in a bit of a sulk.

Rylee's trip was...a little more enlightening. In that her character was able to find out everything we as the players already knew, which has been an interesting 4D chess match to watch play out in real time between her player and Faust's.

Basically, she was offered one question which Advocati had to answer truthfully, so she asked what his relationship to Faust was, and the answer was given plain: Faust died and Advocati brought him back and gave him a few tasks, one of which relating to the book Faust carried around.

Speaking of Faust, guess what he was doing shortly before Rylee confronted him with this info? Look, that's not even a spoiler. Do you really think Rylee wasn't going to smash in his door demanding answers after that bombshell was dropped?

Anyway, Faust was taking a moment to contact Hadar, who wasn't really enjoying the radio silence and having his messages reduced to speaking through a book. Nevertheless, he encouraged Faust to continue feeding him, not really caring about Faust's connection with "that Avocado guy". Being an otherworldly...being...essentially composed of sentient hunger (not unlike your average college student under certain influences), the presence of a devil wasn't all that concerning. Even if said devil had an important upper manager.

Anyway, once Faust was satisfied/finished with his part of the conversation, he cut Hadar off by closing the book. Riiiiiiiiight as Rylee was entering the room to begin the aforementioned chewing out.

Anyway, Rylee came out swinging, stating the one thing both of them knew for certain. "You died. You died and came back."

Faust tried to weasel his way out of the accusation, but Rylee wasn't having any of it.

"I want the whole truth, otherwise how can I trust you?"

Faust was unconvinced. "You haven't trusted me from the beginning."

"True. There’s something odd about you. I’ve ignored it, but now it’s becoming pressing. If it’s something you don’t want the others to know, I won’t tell them."

"My bond is more connective, than I thought."

"Then the magic you wield is not your own magic, I would presume?"

"This is as far as I would like this conversation to go. My life is based on the idea, that I am an accomplished person."

"So you would lie to the world? That you can acquire magic, which I suppose is true if you summon a demon or devil."

"Hadar is no demon or devil."

"Then what is he? And I have one last question. Advocati mentioned something about a book. What’s in the book?"

Faust declined to state, having said all he wanted to say.

"This will stay between us. You have my word," Rylee finally said, relenting.

"I should hope so. I have had to take drastic action against thoughts who have discovered less than you."

Brave words. I don't think the rest of the party would be so down with an assassination attempt on the healer though >.>

Anyway, before we continue our adventure, let's check up on Seliph.

Oh wait, he's just...chilling in the bath. Eventually he finished up to what may be the most depressingly real narration from the DM.

"Since you got to Avernus you've had an ache in your back and shoulders and the stress of the situation made it worse, so the bath was nice. For a moment, you felt yourself released from all that stress and fatigue, before you exited the spa and remembered, 'Oh yeah, I'm in Hell.'"

So...basically any time I take a bath. Y'know...once I get over how pathetically small the bathtub in my apartment is.

Anyway, the party asked why Seliph was so relaxed before Kalista pointed out that he didn't bathe at the bathhouse. Y'know the one from way back at the beginning of the campaign?

"I...yeah, I guess I didn't," Seliph admitted, not really wanting to get into it.

"Why not? It was really nice!" Kalista replied.

"I'm sure it was. I just...there were too many people, and this one was basically empty."

"Why didn't you say anything?"

"Look, I wanted a little privacy, that's all."

Kalista blinked before pushing Seliph to continue.

"I...I'm a little self-conscious, that's all. I don't wanna talk about it any further."

And that's the end of that conversation.

So the next session was almost essentially all back and forth driving. The party went to a place called the Spawning Trees and helped a work crew of fiends in destroying some of the trees, preventing some demons from appearing in Avernus. There they picked up a bearded devil named Krikendolt, a bit of an outcast among his peers at the spawning trees. Why?

Well, because he was keeping one of these as a pet.

This is an Abyssal Chicken, something that shows up on the menu at the Wandering Emporium. Rylee wasn't completely on board with this new stowaway, but Krickendolt said he could help the party find their way to the scab, and finally, the sword of Zariel.

On the way to the tower, the conversation went in a few different directions. Kalista learned that her father and sister owned their own level of Hell, and Seliph, entirely unintentionally on my part, did something really stupid.

So, you know how, when you're driving, your conversation filter is weaker? Yeah, Seliph accidentally spilled the beans about the party meeting Zariel, something that Lulu...didn't take well. She only relented when the party promised that they'd try to get her to Zariel, and that her meeting Zariel again was still the most important part of their plan.

Anyway, Krickendolt directed them onto a tower where they met the wizard Mordenkainen, kind of a big deal in D&D. Mordenkainen took some persuading before finally directing the party to an obelisk which would be the next step in their quest.

And almost as a way of apologizing for two straight sessions of talking and character development, the next (and most recent as of writing) session was a breakneck series of vehicle combat encounters. Which is easy to sum up but it was extremely stressful running it.

Basically, two vehicles, a Scavenger and a Tormentor closed in on the party's Demon Grinder. A boarding party of ghouls tried to...well...board the party's Demon Grinder before Rylee friggin' dusted the lot of them with the spell Turn Undead. Some back and forth from onboard weaponry and Kalista standing on the roof of the Demon Grinder later and the party managed to get out of that encounter with some damage to the wrecking ball and one of the harpoon flingers, with smoke billowing out of the engine.

Unsure of how safe it would be to proceed, the party agreed to stop and let Kalista try to fix everything. Well, apparently billowing smoke acted as a pretty great signal to another crew on another Demon Grinder that we were wounded and easy pickings, which led to a car chase through a rather rocky canyon. Eventually the party got enough of a lead on the other Demon Grinder that they were able to briefly discuss a strategy.

Seliph suggested using Sissy's skeleton buddy as a decoy on Kalista's Devil's Ride to lure the crew of the enemy Grinder into a trap. Seliph and Rylee stayed aboard their Demon Grinder while the rest of the party hid in the rocks, waiting to spring the trap.

Unfortunately, the captain of the other Demon Grinder? One of these guys.

Yep, an undead mind flayer. He could detect thoughts and knew that the party was waiting in ambush (well, he could detect everyone's thoughts but Faust's, anyway), and he broadcast his own message to the party:

Offer no resistance and give up their soul coins, and they'd be safe. Any funny business and they'd be destroyed.

Cool, and now Faust is our wild card. Great.