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.

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