Silt Striders of Balic


Insidious agents of the Far Realm have infiltrated the minds of Athas’ finest remaining arcanists, and under the cover of their evil alien patron begin casting tethering rituals allowing Allabar to find purchase among the dunes of the realm. Charging in from all sides are the last resistance of the world, heroes from throughout the realm coming to defend their homeland in this final desperate push. Above them, streaking towards their foe is the Dragon of Tyr, who is captained by the rituals of Thorin Bloodstone and is gripped with white knuckles by Samm, Althaea, and Vorelixen.

As the creature finds itself weighted by Allabar’s own gravity, it rights itself tossing its riders to and fro like ragdolls. Laughing maniacally, seeing his final plans come to fruition, is Thorin Bloodstone. Possessing the mind of his failure offspring, he hurtles to the victory he planned out centuries ago.

As Samm desperately tries to find a solid bit of flesh to plan his Boarding Boots so he might teleport, and as Vorelixen summons her devilish minions and transmutes in to whirling sandstorms, and as Althaea fey steps in to the updrafts of the Dragon’s flight, the beast begins to obliterate huge swathes of the surface with necrotic flames and ripping gales of ashen wind from its great wings. Eventually, they come face to face with none other than Mara of Urik, atop her most powerful minion in the form of a city-sized Beholder. In an instant, a flash of one of its great eyes turns the membrane of the Dragon’s wing to stone, causing it to crash in to the terrain and fling its riders, including Thorin, to the fleshy army below.

In this time, Rikard is desperately plumbing the depths of Thorin’s mind searching for anything that would reveal how to defeat both the Dragon and the Far Realm and stop his father’s deranged doomsday plot. Fighting for control of his body, Thorin finds his victory denied to him as Rikard’s will overpowers him. (DM Note: Rikard was the first and only character to have achieved an infinite number, as a 30th level pyreen knows every language and his Insight checks have a +1 for each language he knows. Thorin never had a chance.) As the herd of Far Realm creatures descends on the heroes, their greatest powers are unleashed. The curse of Vorelixen and Althaea’s teleporting prowess destroy literal thousands of creatures as Rikard and Samm force Mara to dismount, engaging them in a final deadly combat. Though Mara is undeniably powerful, She Which Bleeds is revealed to be a bit of a fraud when she is not only pinned by glaive and vine, but driven deep in to the acidic pores of Allabar. Samm dives in to hold her down by her neck as she drowns and dissolves at the same time.

Below, the armies clash with the ritualists who suddenly find themselves without a direct liaison with the Star above. Though they fight bravely, a number of great heroes are dispatched in the fighting including Tomm, whose final act of martyrdom is to save the life of his new deity in the form of Samm.

In the end, it was the spells of Vintner the Cosmic who, with the aid of the group above in killing She Which Bleeds and the group below in killing the ritualists, was able to use his maddening star charts to find the one point in history where this desperate group wins, which involves the forming of a single black hole absorbing Allabar itself. He gives up all his mightiest of arcane powers to manifest as this black hole, absorbing Allabar and dispelling it in the final seconds before Athas could also be swallowed.

The heroes would go their separate ways after that, some never seen by mortal eyes ever again. Their influence however would be felt across the realm in hundreds of different ways for many years to come.

The Sorcerer Kings

Throughout the land, in the final hour of Athas’ death knell, the world has summoned all of its heroes to make a final, desperate push against the might of the Far Realm and its frighteningly close Star of Madness. The bravest of souls anchored by the likes of Praetor Moon, Priscilla, Tomm, Kik’Oda, Vintner, Randall Sapesh, the Tourna sisters, the Githzerai of the Library, and many more charge upon the encroaching horde which disembarks from the Star like a spelljammer ship of old.

Having been traveling through cracks and tears in the planes for years, Vorelixen and Althaea find the journey to Ur-Draxa to be short indeed. Arriving before their allies, they find themselves in a race to the Dragon of Tyr’s sleeping chambers against the likes of Hamanu, Dregoth, and Ared, who seek to raise the dragon in an effort of mutually assured destruction. They arrive seconds before the sorcerer kings, and are able to pick strategic locations to begin their tense (and very quiet!) negotiation. As Althaea pleads with Hamanu and Ared to stop this madness, Vorelixen decides that she likes Hamanu’s plan more than the alternative and is actually opposed to Althaea’s opinion. They’re interrupted when Hamanu’s amulet somewhat noisily transmits the sounds of combat on the volcano’s surface.

Above, the soldiers of Hamanu are assailed by a source of devastation mounted atop a pheonix. Rikard’s primal magics rip the surface of the volcano apart, covering the soldiers in lashing vines and nettles. They bring all their weapons to bare on this new threat, including Dregoth’s magics raising dead soldiers as undead horrors and even Urikite elites riding giant flies with magic pikes. The chaos atop the volcano is so severe that the molten core of it begins to roil and shake threatening to explode. In an instant, Rikard wheels the phoenix in to the cave system and rushes through its triggered traps and dangerous environment to the central chamber where the others argue.

Argument turns to a physical confrontation, though the dragon’s slumber below keeps their fighting quiet. Fists, not blades, lash out as efforts are made to halt the ritual. Rikard arrives, tilting the scales in favor of Althaea who until this time has been fey stepping throughout the room to undo all the damage Ared’s contributions have been causing.

After observing for a time, Dregoth cuts all sound from the room with a Silence ritual. He taunts them telepathically, wrenching their minds and raising dead soldiers with frightening haste and power. The death of the Raven Queen has strengthened his hold on the realm of the dead, and even with Hamanu and Ared on their side Dregoth is insurmountable while he holds this power.

As he is about to land the finishing blow, his power wavers. Armies of ghosts pour in to the chambers from all directions as an armored figure with a skull mask descends the tunnels in to the room itself. Samm draws his radiant glaive, flexing his newfound power over death by easily overpowering Dregoth’s claim. Standing in a circle around the chamber like observers of a street brawl, the ghosts under Samm’s command are holding the torches of war as he descends on Dregoth like a man possessed. His allies find their strength returning, and are able to dispatch Dregoth and purge his threat for good. In the midst of the fighting however, Hamanu has continued to try to enact the ritual. In a desperate act, Rikard blasts him over the edge and he falls hundreds of feet in to the sleeping chamber of the giant dragon. The dragon, risen from simple noise and not from the destructive ritual, crushes Hamanu under a taloned claw and threatens to destroy Ur-Draxa and everybody within it.

The crown speaks to Rikard, telling him that now is the time. He places it on his head, but is unable to get the crown to operate being unfamiliar with the command word. With little hesitation, he casts the Ancestral Memories ritual and allows Thorin Bloodstone to take over his body. Grinning, Thorin whispers the command word just as the dragon comes crashing through the catwalk.

Above, the dragon hurtles towards the Star of Madness like a meteor with Thorin Bloodstone cackling madly atop its head. Desperately gripping rocky protrusions from the beast’s hide are Samm, Althaea, and Vorelixen in the hopes thy can find some way to stop this madman and end the threat of the Star once and for all.

The Man with Two Minds

In the observatory of Urik, Vintner stands by a few prone guards whose brains have been scrambled by his chaotic and dangerous magics. The walls are coated in his equations, and he is sweating trying to figure out what part of his numbers are wrong. As he erases Oba = 1 and replaces it with Oba = 0, he realizes his mistake is inherently Samm. Where Samm has been equal to 1 this whole time, Vintner scratches his head when he realizes his calculations make sense if Samm is equal to 2. He consults the stars to see what this could mean. Meanwhile…

Samm walks through the desert to Balic, intent to find his grove and dig his own grave. His thoughts are swimming, mingling with alien memories he either can’t place or places incorrectly. He remembers walking to the grove once before, when a member of their number was a Thrax in hiding. Try as he might, he cannot remember how the story goes, and even distinctly remembers Vorelixen being slain by the Thrax on the first night. He casts a suspicious glance on his allies who’ve fought with him for over a decade, remembering their expressions and trying to read who could be the undead horror plaguing them.

As the memory is dispelled, he remembers himself imprisoned in the chambers of the Library at Urik, being tormented not by a masked figure but by the Raven Queen herself. Fading from this thought, he continues to misremember and among other things remembers being camped outside of Gulg when the phantom witches arrived at their camp. However in his memory he can see plainly that Althaea is of their number, slitting the throats of Samm’s paralyzed cadre and drinking deeply of their blood.

Arriving to the grove, Samm speaks with the gravedigger Granger who understands with some sadness what Samm intends to do. Samm heads to the inner cloister of the grave site, where he digs his own grave and plunges a blade in to his stomach. Instead of laying dead in the hole, he is assaulted from every direction by the laughter of long dead enemies who do not rest well in their holes. Struggling to suck wind in to his ruined guts, vision cloudy, Samm fights these spirits with feverish desperation, finding that by shedding his own blood he unwittingly completed a ritual he’d been setting in motion for months. Implanted in his mind and finally freed, Borato emerges from his psyche in a cloned copy of Samm’s body and immediately resurrects Elgo from the grave Samm put him in long ago. Forced to fight with what little he has left, Samm is finally able to dispatch these agents of the Raven Queen and as their final attempt to reclaim life comes to an end, Samm re-emerges in the torture chamber of the Raven Queen.

His mind finally his own, the shackles of the Raven Queen find no further purchase on his limbs. No stranger to conflict in far away lands, Samm draws his radiant glaive and advances on the goddess herself. The fighting is intense, as though the Raven Queen’s power is immense and she is able to crush, stab, and flay Samm numerous times she is unable to stop the engine of hatred that pushes on through mortal injury. Desperate to stay his assault, she summons a horde of ghosts to wage war with him. Undeterred, Samm draws upon the same power and while the ghosts of Sorcerer Kings and long deceased foes assault him they are deterred by the heroic efforts of Captain Husk, Gorye, Tarek, Ro, High Praetor Lucius, Honey Badger, and others. In the end, Samm finds himself looming over the broken form of the Raven Queen. Like so many before her, Samm’s glaive ends her and offered her power he refuses.

Drawn to a familiar place, and the closest thing to a god of death remaining, Lakan-Do’s ghost emerges. Having just been slain in a coup at Ur-Draxa, he questions if Samm will once again take up the mantle of the Imperator of Xanthus and put an end to the insanity there. Raising an army of ghosts, he marches towards that cursed land.

The Oba No More

Rikard finds himself in the streets of Gulg, hiding out after a botched plan in the city square. Hiding behind a rain barrel as the child soldiers of the Oba spill out in to the streets, he thinks about what led him to this moment…

Priscilla and Moon are led to a gallows with black bags over their heads, their path weaving throughout the city so they can be paraded about for the Oba’s citizens. Arriving to the gallows, the executioner gives a nod to two hidden figures hiding amidst the rooftops. The fallen angel Tomm and Vorelixen’s spy Tarin begin moving in to position. Wielding a Bloodstone axe as the would-be tool to end Moon and Priscilla, Rikard reveals himself to be the executioner and with a swift motion whirls the weapon towards a collision course with the Oba’s head. Attuned to her and bound to her magics, the axe stops short hovering in the air before it clatters to the ground, ruining Rikard’s initial attempt on her life. Stunned and drugged, Moon and Priscilla attempt to make their escape aided by a distraction caused by Tomm and Tarin. The city square becomes armageddon as Tarin’s bottled poisons fill the street, knocking out some and fatally wounding others as the group attempts to break free of the Oba and her soldiers.

Among the most harried is Tarin, who as part of the plan had splashed some of Vorelixen’s tainted blood in to the Oba’s consectrated ritual blood bucket. Enraged, the Oba’s forces pursued her through a series of homes and tunnels, eventually cornering her at the end of a precipice. Realizing she’s caught, and more importantly that her oilskin has been torn in the skirmish, she closes her eyes and strikes a flame which ignites the wall of soldiers and launches her off the precipice. With divine precision, Tomm swoops in and rescues her unconscious body before she can be killed from the fall.

Escaping to regroup and lick their wounds, Rikard heads to the former lair of Thorin Bloodstone which he finds in complete shambles. Its floors are littered with the bodies of Oba soldiers, overcoming the countless traps by sheer brute force. Portals throughout the lair leave it disjointed, as their destinations have been altered by the crushing force of the Far Realm.

Eventually, another plan is hatched and the group heads back in to the city by aid of Rikard’s rituals. They infiltrate the Oba’s personal gardens, where Rikard has been laying traps for over a decade. While the rest of the group fights a guerilla war against the Sorcerer Queen’s army, Rikard and the Oba meet in single combat. While the Oba is the more powerful of the two, Rikard’s traps come to fruition in the form of deadly plants collected from all throughout creation, ranging from devilnettle in the Malebolge to the pines of Lutherna, works of druidic magic from Dorean, and even the Pride of Balic where it all started. In her rage, the Oba unleashes and enormous torrent of destructive energies, but Rikard is able to evade it. Instead, it cracks the trunk of a Lutherna pine which comes crashing down atop her, pinning her to the ground and leaving her at Rikard’s mercy. Her punishment is death, carried out by the mul who’s harried her for so long. In her dying breaths, she muses that the other sorcerer kings had already gone to Ur-Draxa to rise the dragon, to overcome her power.

Sarcos Jessara, Time Mage

The travels of Althaea, Vorelixen, and Vintner were troubling. Vintner’s close association with the stars and their effects had damaged his mind greatly, as Allabar the Star of Madness was already a dangerous entity to the uninitiated. However, their trek through the sands was largely uneventful otherwise until they happened upon some soldiers of the Oba trying desperately to dig a siege engine out of the sand. The group set upon them with powerful magics and maddening visions, and were able to rout or slay the soldiers and destroy the engine. They continued on towards the city limits, which they found still guarded but not by sane guards.

The architecture in Urik was, by their king’s decree, extremely uniform and made out of the same semi-reflective yellow materials. This material captured the light of Allabar perfectly, rendering the entire city in to a maddening deathtrap. Entering the city past the guards was not difficult, but enduring the effects of this reflection and surviving the maniacal occupants proved to be a much greater challenge. In the chaos, they bumped in to Inquisitor Randall Sapesh, who had gone quite mad but was still in control of his mind enough to know an opportunity when he saw one. He joined up with their ranks, though his parrot was noticeably absent. When pressed he explained it was still there where it should be, though some investigation proved that quite false.

Making their way through the city proper, they found it to be an absolute disaster area, as the new denizens of Athas were also affected by the Star of Madness and the streets were wandered by insane devils, demons, elementals, and even formerly imprisoned djinnis. They checked out the palace of Hamanu, though it had been ransacked and abandoned long before the group had arrived. Eventually they happened upon a proselytizer shouting on a street corner, and they found it to be crazy old uncle Archeffon of the Library, apparently escaped from Hell and doomsaying. His mad rants about the city being run by “marble men” proved surprisingly accurate when the demonstration was set upon by massive marble golems. Dispatched with some heroics, they were able to probe Archeffon for information and determined he was really throwing darts in the dark and got lucky. However, there was enough in his ramblings to encourage them to check out the old Library.

Arriving there, they found it to be the home base of these marble warriors. Penetrating deep in to what could now be considered eladrin catacombs they found a powerful time mage known as Sarcos Jessara, who was slowly being turned to green marble. In his hands he held a familiar marble orb, the Sargessa itself. At this moment it dawned on the group that this mage was released from Balic’s Ivory Prison and should not even be in this time line, for in the future the marble illness claiming his body converts him fully and he becomes the artifact he has in his hands. When the fight breaks out, Sarcos uses his time magic to travel back in time several seconds multiple times to assist himself in killing them. It proves to be too much for him anyway though, and with the Sargessa itself trapped in a bucket of sticky arcane sludge and Sarcos cut down, the threat was ended. In so doing, they also prevented him from completing a ritual to rip the plane apart at this location, as his last ditch effort to destroy the entire plane and eliminate the possibility of winding up an artifact enslaved to “idiot wielders.”

The Grasp of the Oba

The world has taken a strange turn since our heroes find themselves dumped unceremoniously in to the sands in a way only Althaea really finds familiar. The dunes are lit with violet light that causes the mind to swim and sanity to erode, and though they find themselves at Altaruk they see it is guarded not by the usual human or elven guards but by devils, apparently displaced from their own plane. They quickly find out that many extraplanar creatures have had to find ways to be at home here, as their own realms have been either shattered or occupied by the Far Realm. Within Altaruk, they see devils, demons, elementals, and the usual slew of Athasian sentients and even some races thought to have been extinct, and likely would still be if not for escaping their eternal torment in Hell’s detonation.

Seeking to regroup and dig up information, they set up camp at the bar stools. Samm realizes at this moment that he fought, and won, his war. He was going to wait out the Star of Madness’ prophecy and drink until death claimed him. Disgusted the other three followed a lead to an abandoned storefront in Altaruk leaving him there. Within they found some old friends and a lot of information – Apparently according to Ganus, Kik’oda, Arthur, Tomm, and Gazbordical, the world has changed pretty radically even beyond what they’ve already seen. It’s been six months since they were lost in planar space, and in that time the Oba has laid claim over almost the entire world. She has been thus far unable to conquer Nibenay, and her claim to Urik is being contested by the locals, but known civilization otherwise belongs to her. Further, she is regarded as a saint and a hero for holding back the incursion of the Far Realm, known to be amassing at a tumor in the world where Raam once stood. Hamanu’s location, as well as Ared’s and in fact the entire city of Xanthus, are completely unknown. It was believed that Xanthus had planar traveled in the past and potentially had done so again.

With few leads as to stopping the apocalypse, the group decided they had unfinished business and set out to accomplish their final desires before regrouping to face the end. Althaea and Vorelixen, with Vintner close behind, set out towards Urik to see what damage the war between the locals and the Oba had occurred and to hopefully track down their missing sorcerer king to be finally dispatched. Rikard traveled to Gulg, perfecting his ritual for the creation of deadly fungal spores to combat the Oba’s unnatural plants. Samm, thoroughly inebriated and without speaking to the others, set out to the grove at Balic to dig his own grave.

The Sundering of Hell

Fleeing desperately from the portal to Lutherna, Samm, Rikard, Tarek, and Tan dive through in to Dispater’s iron tower once more. Tan’s escape is cut short by the talons of an angel of the Raven Queen, and they dig deep in to his calf shredding the muscle. He cuts the leg off at the knee to escape, being carried by his able-bodied friend Tarek.

Realizing very quickly they need someone who knows portals to shut down this entryway before both armies can spill in to Hell, Rikard begins rapidly casting the Raise Dead ritual with the trapped remainder of Althaea’s soul. Samm bottlenecks the encroaching horde and puts himself between Rikard and them, while Tarek and Tan hold off the forces of Dispater from the other end. Eventually, Althaea’s soul is raised and the portal is sealed, for now.

Meanwhile, back in Dispater’s chambers Vorelixen, Titivilus, Baalzebub, and Keltinjin leap in to action, trying to secure both Dispater and Hamanu before the two can flee. It becomes readily apparent that these two beings are far too powerful to be corralled in this way, and that they’ll have to focus on a single one to apprehend allowing the other to escape. While this scrambling fracasse is going on, the heroes downstairs have split up to navigate the treacherous and winding route through the Iron Tower, relying on their muscle and wit to defeat the many obstacles set by the paranoid devil lord above.

Eventually the group arrives, just in time to see Hamanu cement his escape through powerful planar magic Althaea has trouble tracking. When the brawl ensues between the group and Dispater, Dispater stands little chance and is eventually beheaded by Vorelixen, who claims his skull as part of her trophy collection. The crumbling of the rulership of Dis has other repercussions however, as the constant planar tweaking by creatures like Althaea and Hamanu and the dissipation of the protective wards weaved by Dispater himself has exposed the plane to outside invasion. The planar tearing accelerates ripping massive holes to the far realm and other places already conquered by it, and all of Hell goes to war on multiple fronts. Demons sense the time is right to invade and in mere minutes the plane is a whirling maelstrom of demonic shock troops, infernal defenders, devil lords including the mightiest Asmodeus, millions of unknown Far Realm creatures, and at the head of it all is Mara riding an enormous and bloated Beholder going toe to toe with the prince of Hell himself.

The group is swept up in it while trying to make their escape, and while they’re able to watch the trapped souls of Hell escape they shortly find themselves in a ruined village. Corpses piled up appear to have been partially eaten, while thatched roof homes are on fire. Numerous other corpses are here as well, horrifically tortured troll victims. Althaea is quick to point out that this appears to be a realm of Hamanu’s construction, where he must vent his anger and frustration on these trolls. This miniature plane appears to be the village of Deche, a long forgotten hamlet that Hamanu dwelled in before discovering the power that made him a sorcerer king. Following them here was Vintner the star cultist and the one-legged Tan, though the rest of their friends and allies were nowhere to be found. Though a few other Hellish denizens wound up deposited there as well, Althaea’s grasp of planar travel enabled them to return to Athas.

They found themselves in front of the city of Altaruk, though the night sky was dotted by an ominous purple star that seemed to hang low in the sky, tempting stargazers to look upon it. The Star of Madness had arrived, and to view its light was to go insane.

Dispater's Fall

Though the armies cheer for their successes on Avernus, the group is in a period of mourning and honest surprise at Althaea’s death, as she had survived so much that seemed impossible for her to fall. Their various attempts to scry or raise her had failed, and the only means that detected her was a very special ritual performed by the vizier of the Imperator – Vintner Al-Ghaz, with a dark scry from his order.

This scry backfires, colossally, as the sensor works both ways and they are beset by the Raven Queen’s talons. Vintner suffers extensive injuries from her wrath before the scry is dispelled, and the challenge is made to Samm – if you want her soul, come take it.

Rikard reclaimed Althaea’s Bloodstone weapon after she fell, and on contact with the kin of its creator a new planar power was revealed to him – like a compass, it would point directly towards the nearest planar disfunction. In this case, down through the plug and in to Dis, towards the Iron Tower of Dispater.

As the army descends through the ruined plug of Avernus, their soldiers are assaulted by winged predators, choking ash, devilish assailants, and other horrors. The survivors regroup at the base of the landing before the main gates of the Iron City of Dis. In an instant, Samm observes a grinning devil with a hand upon a lever on the walls above. As instinct he uses his Boarding Boots and launches himself up the wall to prevent this satisfied devil from enacting whatever plan he’s hatched, and this moment everything begins to go haywire.

The lever is one of many which causes the landing to tip and bob in to the molten rock below it, where Rikard and Vorelixen still stand with most of their troops. Samm is unable to stop the horde of devils from reaching levers, but he can delay them. Meanwhile, Kwalish in his massive construct is attempting to smash down the gates of the city, but he is attacked by an enormous devilish creature some 60 feet in length. As the construct battles the devilish Kaiju, more and more of the troops (not to mention their Imperator) are overwhelmed by thousands of devilkin though eventually the mad inventor is able to dispatch his opponent and obliterate the gates permitting entry for their armies to penetrate Dis’ outer walls.

In the chambers of Dispater, the devil lord holds conference with a number of other figures. He spits some venom at one of his female guests before ordering his right-hand man, the Nuncio Titivilus, to claim a favor owed by the devil lord Glassya. Their conversation is interrupted by Mara, who is aware that Dispater will need something of value to offer Glassya in spite of this favor. She offers up none other than the tainted acorn used as Rikard’s phylactery, which she has looted from the old Bloodstone complex during their months away.

The protections of Dispater’s Iron Tower prevent any groups of interlopers from reaching his chambers with a number of sneaky ways thought up by its paranoid leader, though the greatest hindrance is that no group of 3 or more beings can find their way anywhere in there, often dying from the suffocating heat, enclosing iron walls, or simple starvation. To thwart these protections, Vorelixen and Hamanu move through the keep with the intent of finding Dispater at its heart, while Samm and Rikard split off to go find whatever temporal disturbance the Dolorous Blade directs them to.

The Blade leads them directly to Lutherna, where they are surprised by two friendly faces – Tan and Tarek, who’ve somehow out-stealthed the protective magics of the Iron Tower and tailed Samm and Rikard. The four of them enter in to the plane with an explosive arcane device created by Kwalish with the intent of staging a prison break for Althaea’s soul. With surprising effectiveness, they are able to break in to the Raven Queen’s museum of death and elude the attention of her or any of her guards until the very moment that their device is activated. At the same time, for reasons none could explain, a second device was activated causing the entire plane to split and a horde of far realm creatures to descend on it like vultures. While angels dueled far realm horrors, the four made their escape with a glass case containing Althaea’s soul.

Meanwhile back in Hell, Dispater’s chambers were tossed open by Hamanu and Vorelixen who had found their prey, though it was revealed to be a ruse as Hamanu had made a deal to bring Vorelixen to her former master in exchange for favors regarding the future of his city. The betrayal was short-lived, as Titivilus revealed his own betrayal bringing not Glassya, but Keltinjin of Cania back to the chambers. Another unwelcome guest was the devil lord Baalzebul, who also appeared at this time. With realization none of his plans will come to fruition, Hamanu’s shoulders drop.

The March on Avernus

In the aftermath of Demogorgon and Eiber’s defeat, Althaea begins the laborious process of refinishing the layer of the Abyss in reduced horrific decor. She meets her new advisor, the obnoxious and egotistical quasit Gazbordical. Content with the idea she’s made the plane a better place after observing a unicorn foal settling in, the group sets off to meet with Hamanu’s troops at the Red Obelisk.

Their army is daunting, composed of thousands of troops including elite Urikite soldiers, Xanthusine devil hunters, a grove of Druid acolytes, cultists of Althaea, Thri-Kreen clansmen, gladiators loosed from the slave pits, and even constructs built by the inventor Kwalish who rides a massive construct of his own.

Samm issues a rousing war speech and gets the troops fired up, though he falls to heat exhaustion when drilling with soldiers literally several days straight. He rises from his chair on the final day before the attack in good health, raising the morale of the troops, and Hamanu opens the portal to Hell that they will march through.

They arrive on the other side in an absolute maelstrom of swirling blades, hellfire, and infernal bodies. Hamanu orders the assault on the high ground, to leverage the army’s siege engines and wizards most effectively. The group eliminates the horde of devils defending a guard tower on a nearby hill, cutting down hundreds as they push through the crowd and claim it for the army’s heavy hitters.

They then engage on a campaign of war that takes several weeks, advancing across the ruinous terrain of Avernus, the first layer of the plane of Hell. Casualties are great as they wage this campaign, but the heroes persevere in spite of it and some warriors make it all the way to the mighty plug between the layers of Avernus and Dis, guarded by the finest of Hell’s warriors the devil lord Bel.

The fight with Bel is incredibly dangerous, and many of the surviving warriors are cut down either by Bel’s minions or his mighty flaming greatsword. In the end, the most surprising cost is the life of Althaea, who is beheaded by his infernal blade. However, Samm and his allies are able to claim vengeance, killing the general of Avernus and laying claim to Hell’s outermost layer.

The Grand Cleric Eiber Schance

The group has become irate with Eiber’s off-again on-again betrayals, and patience has been running thin. When the cleric’s notes are deciphered fully using the group’s various rituals, they decide to march right in the front door in spite of the obvious nature of a trap being laid out by their old friend.

Arriving at the structure in the letter, they find it packed with elite guards wearing fine winter gear, some of which are manning an enormous ballista atop the building. They discuss their options once they actually get there, and wind up half-attempting a sneaky entry only to be relieved when it falls apart and they’re able to just cut up the guards. The ballista proves to be a difficult combatant as it is a sentient creature, and requires the attention of Vorelixen to neutralize by quite literally filling it with self doubt.

Entering the building, they find the interior strangely quiet and begin looking for clues. They find a few traps, easily thwarted, and begin looting Eiber’s supply of tomes and destroying his guardsmen’s supply of shoes by throwing them in to the fire. What they discover is that Eiber has been playing both the Raven Queen and this poison deity, with the aid of a different power that is known to be demonic in nature but is otherwise obscured.

Eventually they come upon Eiber drinking a glass of wine in one of his chambers, ignoring them as they enter. When they do, they find this layout is an illusion and they have entered in to a pocket plane Eiber controls in the Abyss. They battle him and his demonic coterie for a time, until Eiber’s vigor fails him and he cashes in his pact with his dark master. At once, the pocket plane is absorbed back in to the domain of Demogorgon and the demon prince assaults the group, primarily to claim the head of “that devil bitch” Vorelixen.

The fight is bloody and strenuous, and though Althaea is trying to convince Demogorgon they have the same enemies, the group is forced to dispatch him, leaving his layer of the Abyss masterless. An argument breaks out immediately after, as the group is aware that unless this layer is claimed by one of Demogorgon’s killers and defended it will be absorbed by one of the other demon princes. With much deliberation, the group eventually convinces Althaea to take on the responsibility and she lays claim to it.


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