Monday, April 26, 2021

Part 20: This is Where the Fun Begins


She said the real fun would begin after another hour. She wasn't kidding.

During that short time period between waves of enemies, the party discussed a plan for protecting the citizens that had holed up in the cathedral. Though this was still in a deep dive into Lulu's memories, the fact remained that injuries seemed to be real in this place, and nobody wanted to chance death being real as well.

Thus, here was the plan.

Faust, Sissy, and Kalista would take up positions on rooftops surrounding the statue square in front of the cathedral as seen on the east side of the map. Monsters seemed to be mostly coming through town from the west side of the map, and once they were within range, Faust and Sissy would pelt them with magic while Kalista would rain arrows down on them. Well, that was the idea anyway, but as it turns out (that I forgot to mention in the last update since so much had happened), Kalista had a new toy.

You see, we'd levelled up recently, and Kalista had taken the feat Magic Initiate, specifically opening herself up to the warlock spell list. On its own, Magic Initiate isn't all that impressive, just some access to lower level magic from any magic class's spell list. However, since most warlock magic thrives on low level stuff, this basically allowed her to gain access to the warlock's bread and butter Eldritch Blast.

For lore reasons, we'd elected to explain it away as Kalista's pact with her sister finally showing forth good returns, but the bottom line is Kalista suddenly had magic.

So...we've got three snipers. The other party members, Seliph and Rylee, were placed in front of the cathedral behind the barricade. To be honest I kinda missed this point in the planning session because I was out of the room, cooking, but I feel like this informed Seliph's next move pretty well.

That is, upon sight of the next wave, Seliph strode out from behind the barricade to offer himself up as bait (to much shouting from the others through telepathy). This was 100% an establishment of dominance, a silent, but clear declaration of, "We are not afraid of you, and if you don't turn back, you will be destroyed."

Already the gears were turning in Seliph's head. "I'm going to claim the sword if it's the last thing I do."

However, unbeknownst to him, he wasn't the only one who was planning to take the sword. But more on that in a bit.

First came a balgura leading a wave of five dretches. Monsters that had caused the party some trouble earlier in the campaign, but considering how much stronger they had gotten (especially in the past few sessions as the story came closer and closer to the endgame), these guys were nothing.

Unfortunately while being the bait, Seliph also took the bait, as this left the barricade completely defenseless while a pack of gnolls rose up from the south, quickly descending on Rylee and Kalista (well, in Kalista's case, ascending since she was on a rooftop).

Poor decision on their part with Kalista considering she was more potent with her shortswords than with a bow, though Rylee's options were significantly more limited even with her being more willing to use force to protect those innocent people in the cathedral.

Well, Seliph, Faust, and Sissy did what they could to dispatch the first group of monsters before turning their attention to the gnolls, which went down quite a bit more quickly. Naturally, this raised a question among the group.

Just what was supposed to be coming? a word, this.

This guy is Yeenoghu. As in, one of the two demon lords that Zariel wanted the party to hunt down and destroy.

Unfortunately, Rylee was the only one who realized that, but she wasn't able to communicate that information to Seliph before he rushed down the beast, hoping to end the conflict quickly by taking out the biggest guy. he was sprinting towards the hulking monstrosity, Seliph quickly realized... This guy is much bigger than I thought he was. This led to Seliph taking a direct hit by that flail and getting blasted back fifteen feet while another gnoll took the opportunity to try to dogpile on Seliph. Which, fair, but also, rude.

In the ensuing fray, everyone did what they could to pile on the damage against Yeenoghu, but they were no match for him, and eventually Rylee was knocked unconscious, with the rest of the party not far behind.

Just then, an angel wielding a bright sword riding a large golden mammoth descended from on high in a pillar of light. The angel caught the flail, dealt a devastating blow against Yeenoghu, opened a portal to the abyss behind him, and shoved him right in.

Once the party was able to collect themselves, they realized that the person who saved them was Zariel, before she had fallen into darkness.

Zariel thanked the party and healed them of the injuries they'd suffered in the battle as a squadron of other angels--the Hellriders--mopped up the stragglers among Yeenoghu's forces. Among them Seliph recognized his father as well as another similar looking man, his uncle, no doubt.

They also recognized the woman who had placed them into this dream, Yael.

The Hellriders formed ranks, ready to charge into the newly-formed portal into Avernus, when suddenly our heroes found themselves unable to move or respond, as if they were frozen in time. Zariel turned to them and said, "Yeenoghu slaughtered those I swore to protect. I can stop him and others like him. I might have to give up all I stand for, but I could stem the tide of chaos and save many lives from the demonic terrors of the Abyss. Were you in my place, would you risk it all to save others?”

Faust chuckled. "An interesting question. Something you yourself are contemplating? Unfortunately, we know how this will end, and it is not in the manner you expect."

Zariel frowned. "Regardless, the blood war is at our doorstep, and soon it will spill into the mortal plane. Something must be done. I say again, were you in my place, would you risk it all to save others."

Faust shook his head, Sissy shrugged, but it was Rylee who first opened her mouth. "No. I would give it all to save those around me. My friends are my strength as well as my reason for living, and I would give anything for them, but not in the way you're considering."

Zariel looked to Seliph. "I suppose your answer might be different?"

"Honestly, no. I will defend this world from our doorstep, but I would not lead a counter-offensive."

Sissy then piped up. "I agree. I feel more comfortable fighting would you say it...home field advantage."

Kalista, on the other hand, said, "I'd do it. If that's what it would take, I'd do it."

The way we answered the question changed things slightly, as those who survived the battle (technically all of us because Rylee was rescued before she died) were given charms, either of restoration or vitality, and I'll go into those as (if) they get used.

Soon enough the party was back in the citadel, and Lulu began to explain what had happened to her.

“I remember everything now. Idyllglen was the last straw. We followed Zariel to Avernus, but the evil there proved to be too much for us. Asmodeus appeared and promised Zariel infernal legions to end the Blood War, but she had to give the Lord of the Nine Hells her fealty. She accepted and became an archdevil, but not before Yael and I took her sword, hoping it could redeem Zariel someday. I gave up my magic and memories, and Yael gave her life to construct this place to protect the sword.”

Yael, who was still there to judge the party's worthiness, then said, “You have faced many trials to claim the Sword of Zariel. I’m sorry to say, you face one more. As the inscription on the dais says, ‘The hero who becomes one with this blade exists no longer.’ Which of you is brave enough to draw the blade and be gone forever?”

Faust began to laugh.

"You cannot be serious," he began. "After all this, after all we have been through, it was all to spring this upon us at the end? This was your great backup plan? Depending on some selfless soul to give up all that they have for the greater good?"

Lulu frowned, "It was our only choice."

Faust spat back at them, "Your only choice." Not a question, just a disdainful statement of fact. "If this was your only choice you deserved to fail." He then turned to leave, but not without telepathically contacting Sissy, saying, Come with me. Let me show them what a real backup plan is all about.

This left Seliph, Rylee, and Kalista staring at the sword. Seliph hesitated, having not realized what the sword would require.

"I'll do it," Rylee said, solumnly.

"What?" Kalista asked.

"Someone has to," Rylee responded. "Why not me?"

Seliph then spoke up. "I wouldn't have you abandon your oaths for this. Let me do it. I have the least to lose anyway."

Kalista quickly shot back, "There's nothing for me! As it is right now I'm stuck in a contract with someone who hates me, but this sort of sacrifice might be able to help me get out of it. Of course I'd use it to save Elturel, since that's why we're here in the first place, but still, let me do it!"

Without another word, Rylee lunged for the blade, with Seliph and Kalista trying to restrain her, if nothing else so they could discuss this more.

So...I'm not sure if she was thinking this in character, but Rylee's player wasn't expecting it to work, but after a contested athletics/acrobatics roll, Rylee grasped the sword first, and then...well...then the magic happened.

Well, sort of, let's jump over to what Faust and Sissy were doing first.


"I said I need to borrow your ice shard. It will only take a moment," Faust quickly responded.

"'re going to do it, aren't you? You're bringing Advocati here." Again, not a question.

"Do you have any other ideas? Clearly Lulu and Yael have completely lost it."

"Honestly, no, I was hoping we could do this instead. If we're going to be used, let's at least be used by the one who was up front about it."

This statement is a bit of an embellishment from me, but still, considering how angry Faust was at this point and how quickly Sissy was willing to go along with Faust's plan, I'm keeping it.

Once the ritual was completed, and Advocati finished gloating about how he was finally materialized and ready to move onto the next phase of his plan, well...fireworks.

The ghost of Yael met eyes with Olanthius's demon knight form, taking in the sight of her love one last time before she vanished, finally able to pass onto the next life, while an explosion of radiant energy nuked the citadel and the scab off the face of Avernus. Those outside the citadel (including Faust, Sissy, and the newly awakened Advocati) took the full force of the blast, and while Sissy and Faust survived, merely falling unconscious outside the citadel, Advocati was nowhere to be seen, having either perished in the blast or vanished (he totally vanished, there's no way the DM is letting this guy die this easily).

Once the light cleared, Seliph and Kalista cast their eyes about, seeing that Rylee was...well...different.

Specifically, she took upon herself a new, angelic, perfected form, glowing with radiant light and adorned with feathered wings.

And that's about the extent of what we know happened to her her, as while the sword forced changes upon her personality, those personality changes have not been revealed in campaign yet.

And this is where we're at. Rylee, as we knew her, is gone, and in her place...we're not sure yet, but what we are sure of is that this is the end. We're saving Elturel somehow, whether Zariel wants to be saved along with it or not.


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