The Road to Hell

An offer you can't refuse
Decadre, 2nd Void day - 3rd Lady day

The following day was rather slow. Fox stayed inside and copied the Darkvision spell to his spellbook, while Alyah joined Kamau who went to finish the tattoo on his back. When they returned to The Bounded Space they were handed a message that had been brought by a courrier. It was a folded piece of paper with a simple calligraphic handwriting that read: “We need to meet tomorrow. Pick a time and place. Give your written response to the messenger so it may reach me.”

The following morning, they went to the Speckled Rat for their meeting. Instead of an old acquaintance though, they met an armored warrior that resembled a cross between a half-fiend and a half-dragon. He introduced himself as an ambassador of Dispater and someone who was unable to meet them in person for now, Zinnia.

“There is much satisfaction to the way you handled the situation in Fortitude. Not only did you manage to stop its transition to Arcadia, but you brought about the shameful death of the paladin ”/characters/daneel-1" class=“wiki-content-link”>Daneel and discreetly let our agents stay there to work undercover. Let me inform you that thanks to all that, we were able to work towards bringing the town closer to our side of the Planes…

That brings us to our current meeting. As you may or may not know, there is a neighbourhood in Sigil called Hellgate. It is located in the Lower Ward and built around three portals that lead to Baator . It’s residents are usually happy to be divided between various political groups plotting amonst them, but in the light of recent events between the city’s factions, they are about to put their differences aside and elect one person to lead them through these hard times. Through various channels, forces loyal to Dispater control the majority and it is the will of himself that you are presented as that leader. Why, you ask? I am not sure whether you stumbled upon a certain room in His tower, where he studies the nature of this town’s… mistress. As you might be aware, the gods are banned from entering Sigil but their proxies are not. I have reason to believe that you are being sent down a path that will lead you to becoming His proxy, as part of his grand scheme to take over this town.

As for you, wizard. I am aware that your kind is always seeking power and knowledge. My sources informed me that you attempted to make contact with a certain cult located in the Astral Plane. What I am offering you is a shortcut to power, this black orb that has everything you seek inside it. Ask me not how it is used, for I am not versed in the ways of magic. I am simply a messenger.

By the way, my name is Venalin "

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Questions and surprises
Decadre, 2nd Low day

During their breakfast, Fox told Alyah of his ambition to unify and transcend his divine and arcane spellcasting, following the path of a cabal known as Mystic Theurges and asked her if she had a clue where he could start. Considering the egos and solitude of wizards, this was not an easy request, but the tout had heard of some members of the Athar that had denounced the gods of magic and sought to reach the true source that all magic originated from, so she pointed him to their headquarters at the Shattered Temple. Kamau on the other hand wanted to know about the Oarsman and confided Zegonz Vlaric’s plans to overthrow Rule-of-Three and turn the place into a hangout for both baatezu and tanar’ri. Alyah seemed to be connecting the dots with some of her info and revealed that, according to her sources, Zegonz had been hospitalized for insanity at the Gatehouse. They decided to pay him a visit while Fox would go to the Shattered Temple.

Once they headed back to their rooms, the innkeeper handed them a heavy metallic box that had arrived for them by courrier service. They took it to their room and noticed it was held closed by a mechanical lock. It had three numbered wheels with 30 numbers each, but Fox cut through the riddle by using his knock spell. The sprockets spun to 4-9-19 and the box sprung open, releasing a strong smell of rotting meat. On top was a note that read “Thanks for the co-operation, here’s a little thank you” and signed Z. Underneath lay the severed head of the paladin Daneel still wearing the chainmail coif. For a second they thought he was staring at them with the same burning eyes they had seen him in Fortitude but then they noticed the detail; stuck in the sockets where his eyes should be, were two tiger’s eye gems. They removed the stones and shut the box again, as Alyah was smart enough to understand all this had to do with their business in Baator and wise enough not to ask.

And so, Fox went to the Shattered Temple where he was lucky enough to meet someone that knew one of the cult members personally. According to the man, they had a stronghold in the Astral Plane, on the dead body of a deity. He knew of a portal that led there and it was conveniently situated in the headquarters of the Lost, but the problem was that going through it consumed the portal key. Which was a statue of the dead god of portals, Aoskar. Slain by the Lady herself and his worship banned in Sigil, even his name was spoken in feared whispers. Fox had his work cut out for him.

Meanwhile, Alyah and Kamau visited the headquarters of the Bleak Cabal. As they were waiting on the long line outside, along with those wanting to commit a relative or get a plate from the Cabal’s soup kitchens, they saw a group of people dressed in the colors of the Doomguard leave in obvious frustration. When they managed to get inside, they visited Zegonz Vlaric in the Criminally and Irretrevably Insane wing, but he was in a chemical coma thanks to the Bleakers’ herbal therapies. When they asked the warden what had happened, he told them that he was committed by civilians that had arrested him, as he was running amok in the Lower Ward after setting fire to the Styx Oarsman.

When the three met again, Alyah was troubled, as it all seemed too convenient. Something had happened and the blame was put on someone who could not talk anymore, locked in the madhouse and kept comatose. This was so smooth it reeked of the baatezu. Even though he shared her worries, Fox was more interested as to where he could find a statue of Aoskar. Alyah took them to the only place that would make sense. Fell’s Tattoo Parlor.

Even though they had some trouble communicating with him, they eventually found their way around it. Before they could get into the tricky questions, Kamau decided to expand his new look by getting a tattoo, a large pit fiend across his entire back. Fell seemed interested in learning about his choice, what it meant for him and whether he had met one, so Kamau told him that he had seen a few, fought one even if it had been weakened before and it represented absolute power for him. Even back in his gladiator days, he was known as a bezerker and rumors went around about him being posessed while fighting in the arena. The dabus worked until late in their company, but asked them to visit again the following day to finish.

On their way back to The Bounded Space, they heard the news that had spread like wildfire. The populous and carefree Society of Sensation had been pushed over the edge and allied themselves with their arch-rivals, the Harmonium.

If Sigil was a miniature of the planes, this was like the baatezu had just allied with the tanar’ri to end the Blood War and invade the multiverse.

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Death and disorder
Decadre, 2nd Hive day

The following day, Fox and Kamau returned to the house in the Hive Ward and informed Possel Pekich of what had transpired. In his panic, he lost all sense of syntax, sense or connection between his thoughts, so they had to calm him down before he told them of the real problem: the plan’s loophole was that the real Factol Karan was hidden amongst the decoys. In a cruel twist of fate, he happened to be the one they were assigned to guard, now in Harmonium custody.

Pekich went with them to a tavern opposite the Court, where they met the tiefling known as “Sly” Nye, a colourful lawyer and dedicated Xaositect who applied his confusing tactics in court with extreme success. Together, they visited the Barracks but even “Sly” Nye was unable to cut through the red tape and bureaucracy that the hardheads had managed to create around Karan. Never the one to back down, he managed at least to be allowed to visit the prisoner.

Once they were all led to the cell, Karan was not there. His door was still locked tight and the planar mancatcher lay in the floor. Pekich and Nye accused the Harmonium of foul play, while the hardheads blamed the Xaositects and their tricks for somehow resulting in the escape of an arrested felon. Kamau mused with the conflict, while Fox stepped aside to search for the missing Factol using his arrow of direction which didn’t seem to respond. Just before the argument was ready to result in physical violence, a young guard came running, his pale face more reminiscent of a Dustman than a hardhead.

“He’s dead! Shot right through the heart! Some arrow… I was just… he…”

“Factol Sarin is dead”

The news spread like wildfire, sending all hardheads out of the Barracks and into the city streets, baying for blood. In the ruckus, Fox cast a knock spell, releasing a random prisoner from the holding cells for extra disorder. Unhassled by the Harmonium, they left the Barracks and hit the streets of Sigil, where a riot was boiling. Next stop, The Other Place, for a relaxing bath and massage.

Several hours later, since Kamau fell asleep on the table, they made their way back to the Bounded Space. En route they saw a tavern that had been attacked by the Anarchs, resulting in the deaths of several patrons, most of them members of the Society of Sensation. Back at their place, Alyah had left a message, asking them to meet as soon as possible Using the arrow of direction once again, they tracked her to a house in the Hive Ward, where she opened the door with a loaded crossbow. Beckoning them inside, she poured some wine and explained her situation.

Work was extremely low as of late, since no one cared for tours of the city, neither was it exactly safe anymore. What was worse, without income she would be unable to pay those who sponsored her work and guaranteed her security, which meant she was hung out to dry, if not due for a visit from the collectors pretty soon. To make matters worse, as an Indep, she faced the open hostility of the Harmonium. What she needed was backup and a new place to stay, so she asked Fox and Kamau if she could stick with them for a while, since they were the only ones she could trust, not to mention they were some of the few that had managed to visit Baator and return.

They welcomed her to the team and went back to the Bounded Space, where they booked a larger room with an extra bed.

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Chaos, unpredictable Chaos
Decadre, 2nd Clerk day (Taker's Day)

When they woke up, Fox went to the Hive Ward to scout out the location described on the note they had received. Meanwhile, Kamau visited the Armory once more, only this time he utilized his brand new Taker membership, claiming he had arrived to collect taxes, in order to cut through the crowd. To his disappointment, the Sinkers randomly distributed a single weapon to everybody, certainly of good craftsmanship, but nothing special and certainly not magical. Therefore, he demanded to see Ely Cromlich who he convinced that, as an above-average warrior, he required a fitting weapon, one he was willing to pay. Playing on his hate of the Harmonium, he managed to convince him to buy a blade made out of Baatorian green steel. He was told that it would be forged in about ten days, but until then he had to give a downpayment of 2.000 gold coins and pay 3.000 more upon receiving it. Thus, he placed the order, left the advance coin and left to meet with Fox.

The meeting point was a house with several broken windows in the Hive Ward. The doorman, after being shown the red token stamped with a slaad, guided them to the back of the building and down a hole in the ground. In that underground hallway, they met several groups of various hirelings of every gender, race and class. Some small talk later, they discovered that everyone had been invited in a similar manner to hear an offer of employment from a Xaositect high-up. Also, every group had a similar token, although colors and stamps varied.

Before long, a group of 15 Xaositects entered the room. Eleven of them were identical male githzerai, dressed alike. The rest included the plump aasimar that Kamau had met the previous night, a muscular blonde man, a towering human female and a bariaur. The latter introduced himself as Possel Peckich and adressed the crowd, while the aasimar passed around the people and gathered their tokens in a sack.

_"Factol Terrance of the Athar – gone. Factol Pentar of the Doomguard – gone. Indep high-ups Bria Tomay, Lethea and Lysander – gone. And our informers have heard of other Factols who haven’t seemed to be around during the last week or so, though that’s unconfirmed and denied by the rest of their flocks. You’ve probably seen those Eschaton berks out in the streets, proclaiming these are the end times. Well, we don’t know what’s happening. We just don’t want it to happen to us. And it won’t… One Factol is a sitting modron,. But eleven? With eleven, the promise of chaos will see us through. With eleven, the truth och chance will keep us safe.

While the real Karan spends the next few days in safety, these eleven decoys will roam The Cage in full public view to draw out those behind the – well, behind whatever’s happening. And that’s where you come in, friends; To make each look like the real one, they all must be guarded by a gang of capable bodyguards. It’d look too odd for a Factol to walk alone through Sigil at a time like this. Make it look good and you will be amply rewarded – coin, magic items, portal keys, information, whatever you want, we’ll get it for you"_

As he was talking, the aasimar had gathered all the tokens. Now the githzerai were drawing from the sack and as they announced their pick, a large image of it appeared above the heads of those it had been given to, a minor illusion used to match decoys with guards. The red token with the slaad was among those picked, actually by the eighth decoy. Once that was finished, Pekich resumed his speech.

“Eleven false ”/characters/karan" class=“wiki-content-link”>Karans. Eleven stalwart groups to defend them. Each party, step up and meet your assigned decoy, then escort him out into the city. Remember that he must be treated like the real one at all times, you never know who’s watching. Respect him and follow his wishes. Return here in three days’ time to claim your reward. And to any groups whose tokens weren’t drawn from the sack, sorry that you weren’t needed. As you leave, my assistants here will give you a little gift as compensation for your trouble."

The unmatched groups left indeed and the githzerai went to meet their groups. The one assigned to Fox and Kamau had a fake moustache and told them he was assigned to roam the Market Ward. However, once they hit the streets, he announced that he had changed his mind and wanted to walk around the Lady’s Ward instead. On the way he chatted with them to know them better, while pulling small pranks to people around him, such as giving wrong directions or baffling them with his chaospeak. Things got a little more serious when he stole an apple to give to a beggar, but his guards intervened and paid the angry merchant.

Once they were at the Lady’s Ward, they noticed several Harmonium patrols “questioning” people, especially those they deemed the wrong types. However, their escort suggested to stop for lunch at a popular place there, the Fortune’s Wheel. Upon entering, he basked at the glory of being recognized and bought drinks for everyone inside. While enjoying their lunch, they noticed Shemeska the Marauder with her tiefling guards sitting alone at one table. After eating, the decoy Karan decided that he wanted to spin the Fortune’s Wheel inside the establishment. He kept winning and winning, buying drinks for everyone around, until the staff politely but persisently asked them to leave.

During their stroll, they passed from the plaza outside the Prison, a place called Petitioners’ Square. Standing there on the gallows was Arwyl Swan’s Song and a few Mercykillers, with Duke Rowan Darkwood in the background. The paladin began a long speech about the faction’s purpose and the importance of justice, so Fox and Kamau shifted their attention to the crowd’s gossip. Nearby, a tiefling made a sarcastic comment about the Duke hiding behind the Red Death. A githyanki answered him, praising the Duke for his bravery to make a public appearance after receiving death threats from a barmy that had escaped from the Gatehouse, unlike his darling Alisohn Nilesia who didn’t show up for something that probably had to do with her own faction.

Meanwhile, Arwyl Swan’s Song announced that an “unfortunate incident” had shaken the Mercykillers to its core and caused the faction to splinter. More than 600 years ago, when the Lady of Pain had limited the number of factions allowed, the violent and brutal mercenaries who called themselves Sodkillers had joined with the noble Sons of Mercy to form the Mercykiller. Now the faction was breaking down those lines again. Denouncing the Sodkillers and Nilesia’s poisonous leadership, the paladin promised that the Sons of Mercy would uphold justice. After thanking Rowan Darkwood for his efforts to help the Sons establish themselves in these dark times, he announced that the Sons of Mercy would be reviewing over 1.000 cases of imprisoned people, releasing those who had been unjustly jailed. Furthermore, executions were held back indefinately and punishment would now be assigned to truly fit one’s crime. After finishing, he drew his sword and in a symbolic move cut the noose hanging from the gallows. The crowd exploded in a mix of cheers, booing and pleas to free a specific person, as the paladin and his team left to return to the Prison and begin the process they had announced.

The triad decided to retire for the night and think the events through. However, this was not meant to be. On their way to The Bounded Space, their escort tickled one of the boys that were lighting the street lights. In his surprise, they boy dropped his things on a nearby fence, which caught on fire that spread to the garden inside. Before there were even screams about a fire, a patrol of twelve Harmonium guards led by a lieutenant appeared, accusing the githzerai of arson. Despite Fox and Kamau’s complaints of it all being an accident, their escort surrendered and tried to calm everyone down. He was certain everything would clear out at the court, however he required that they notified Pekich of what had happened. Before he could finish his sentence, the guards slapped their planar mancatcher on him, obviously frustrated from trying to do all the process by the book.

Pekich would have to wait. Besides, the githzerai was just a decoy.

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The gathering storm
Decadre, 2nd Guild day

Kamau woke up early in excitement and dragged a groggy Fox for breakfast. Passing in front of the reception desk, the young man working the shift handed them mail that had arrived for them. One piece of paper was a handwritten note from Alyah, in which she said that the Oarsman had burned to the ground and she was going to investigate. The other was a flyer from a bathhouse or spa called “The Other Place” and the final was a letter from Unthar that prompted them to speak their names out loud. So they did, and a magic mouth spell was activated, informing them that according to the Duke’s command, the faction would now accept Namers with only a basic background check to exclude spies. Since they had expressed their interest in joining, Unthar thought they would like to know.

Their early visit to the Armory was a disappointment, since the entrance was already crowded before the gates were opened, perhaps more crowded than the previous day even, since the word had spread around town. They walked on to the Barracks to ask about their gem reward. The gate guards stopped them and after transferring their question, responded that Tonat Shar had been extremely busy as of late but assured them that the matter would be taken care of within the next few days. Moving on through the Market Ward, they ran into Ghal in the Grand Bazaar, who told them of the last meeting at the Red Pony and how Fulgarn drew the ire of him and others, cutting the meeting short.

Next stop was the Hall of Records, where they met Unthar and signed up as members of the Fated. Afterwards, Fox withdrew to the Bounded Space to spend the day copying a spider climb spell to his spellbook, while Kamau decided to try and find a direct portal to Dis, his mind already on returning there. He returned to the Sill, the place where they had begun their journey to Baator. After apologizing to Cedlic Marr, the landowner, for his behavior the last time he was there, he asked her whether her establishment had portals to other parts of Baator. Although the answer was negative, she pointed him to the large green tower at the Bazaar, a shop called Tivvum’s Antiquities that sold portal keys. The ground floor was littered with barrels and cases full of bulk items and not a soul was around. Climbing the central spiral stairway, he ascended to the first floor. Although the scenery was similar, he had a chance to talk to the owner, an elderly tiefling who introduced herself as Lu. She couldn’t help him either, but told him of a woman called Lissandra the Gate-seeker who travelled around Sigil and recorded the locations and mechanisms of portals. Her method of operations didn’t provide her with a steady location where she could be found, but she often visited Tivvum’s Antiquities for work so Kamau left his contact information for when she returned.

Since he was in the neighborhood, he visited the tavern that Alyah had taken them two days ago in hopes of seeing her again. Instead, he met Elisa and Morgil, who invited him to their table. They seemed to be regulars and the reason, explained Elisa, was that Morgil was a Sensate and occasionally performed there as well. While they were chatting, a group of five hardheads in a nearby table were teasing an old man sitting alone. They identified him as a Sinker and called for his faction to “vacate the Armory and save them the trouble” as it would be shame “if the same thing that happened to Pentar happened to other Sinkers as well”. Before long, a bariaur and a tiefling dressed in the colours of the Free League stood up and challenged the hardheads. Kamau interfered and asked the Harmonium watchmen to take their attitude to another place, as four half-elves joined the fray. The hardhead in charge responded with an insult, sparking a brawl that left the tiefling, one half-elf and all the guards dead.

As he made his escape, Kamau was stopped by a plump aasimar. From his jumbled speech pattern, he could tell that he was a Xaositect. The aasimar praised his fighting skills and asked for his help, passing him something wrapped in a piece of paper before he left: Three gold coins, a red token stamped with the image of a slaad and directions to a place written on the paper. Of course, the words were not in the right order, so Kamau decided to call it a day, return to the Bounded Space and tell Fox of his day before sleeping.

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Home... sweet home?
Decadre, 2nd week

Still upset with the failure of the town’s Ascension, Tonat Shar explained to Fox and Kamau that any issues concerning their involvement with Daneel would be buried, as long as they kept the latest events in Fortitude to themselves. With that, he demanded that they left for Sigil immediately, ensuring them that any loose ends, namely the gems they were supposed to receive in Ribcage, would be sorted out in a few days.

So, they returned to Sigil. By now it was already the second week of Decadre, the mid-winter month dedicated to the faction of the Doomguard. Ironically, their Factol had mysteriously disappeared a few days ago, something they blamed on the Harmonium. Picking up on the local news since they’d left, they heard that in response to accusations, the hardheads demanded that the Doomguard vacate the Armory and turn all weapons to Harmonium control, which of course they refused. To make matters worse, just the previous day before their return to the Cage, leaders of the Free League as well as several Anarchist cells also disappeared, a fact that sent faction members raging against “_the oppressive forces of the Harmonium_”. Just as they thought they had dealt a serious blow to the hardheads in Fortitude, they felt like they were back to square one. When they visited the Styx Oarsman to discover it closed and sealed, they thought whatever was going on would definitely get them involved.

They returned to the Bounded Space, left their gear and set out to the Hive and then Clerks’ Ward. On the way they met Alyah, who seemed very happy to see them again, since she was afraid they would never return from Baator. She took them to a tavern near the Civic Festhall, one with fine drinks and excellent musicians that was popular with the Sensates. There they briefly spoke about their adventure out of the Cage while Alyah told them of the latest news, the appearance of a group of street preachers and doomsayers called the Eschaton and of her suspicion that it was the Harmonium that was responsible for the shutdown of the Oarsman.

The next day, Fox stayed inside to copy the knock spell from a scroll to his spellbook. Kamau kept him company and slept until the afternoon, when he set out to visit the Red Pony. There he met Rakk, who told him that three more Factols had gone missing: Factol Darius of the Signers, Factol Ambar of the Godsmen and Factol Terrance of the Athar. The Athar loudly blamed the Signers and vengeful priests of Sigil, while the other two factions responded that their leaders had ascended. Because of all that, explained Rakk, the inter-faction Inner Circle that used to meet at the Red Pony was crumbling. Tensions were building, sportsmanship went down the drain and the fistfights got real.

When he got back on the streets, Kamau heard that the Sinkers had opened the Armory to the public and were distributing free weapons to anyone who would vow to use them against the Harmonium. Hoping to get one, he visited the Armory but the crowds were massive and the gates were soon shut for the night. Disappointed, he visited the Black Sail nearby for a drink. The place was without its usual Doomguard clientele, filled with all sorts of armed miscreants instead. After a small chat with the barman on recent events, he returned to the Bounded Space and went to sleep with the intention of waking up as early as possible to get to the Armory before they opened the gates once more.

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Some people just want to watch the world burn...
No idea of date or time

Their plans were cut short when they woke up from the roar of the crowd outside and strong light coming through the shutters and curtains. Looking out from their room’s balcony, they saw the entire population of Fortitude marching in the most orderly fashion possible to the town’s square. Sensing that the ceremony of the Ascension had begun, Kamau put on his chain shirt armor, enjoying the cold feeling of the metal against his skin after all this time in Dis and rushed out as Fox followed. On a pyramid of white stone in the middle of the town square stood a brazier with a green flame in it. Standing in front of it was the paladin Daneel flanked by two elderly dwarves in ceremonial armor. He was holding Guardian on his left hand, as the right was still missing, a fact that didn’t seem to trouble anybody but Fox and Kamau.

“Beloved citizens of Fortitude!” began Daneel. “Truly on this day thou art blessed, for on this day shalt thou ascend into the land of perfection, the land of harmony, the land of all that is good – our most noble and rapturous Arcadia! I stand now before thee a humble servant, willing to lend my aid in ushering this city into a new age of amity, truth, and sun-kissed serenity. And now I beg of thee, good people: Lend me thy hearts – lend me thy minds – lend me thy bodies and thy spirits, and let the celestial hosts themselves weep from the glow of our assembled fellowship!”

The green flame behind Daneel grew taller. On the horizon beyond the city’s walls, the blurry forms of proud mountains and gigantic trees began to appear. As everyone was lost in the collective trance, Fox was the only one to see a red sparkle on the tip of the paladin’s blade, one that flew down to his forehead. Suddenly, his worry was gone. He knew Dispater had something in store that would prevent the town’s transition into Arcadia. Signalling to Kamau, they waited for the twist. Indeed, Daneel lowered his sword and assumed a more casual pose. “Know what lads, I think I’ve had a change o’ heart. What this town needs is a slap in the face” he said and swung his blade, taking off the head of the dwarf next to him. The crowd gasped in shock, while Fox and Kamau struggled to hold their smiles and excitement. Still riding the shockwave, Daneel stabbed the second dwarf and began laughing. “Oh I’m sorry” he said in a mocking voice. “Truth hurts, don’t it? Stick with me, I’ll show you the lies you’ve all been putting faith in. Ol’ Daneel’s gonna celebrate alright.”

As the second dwarf hit the ground, the green flame blazed and a group of celestials jumped out. However, the flame clinged onto their wings, setting them ablaze as soon as they were done with their entrance. They fell to the ground screaming, their voices creating a choir of horror as they mixed with Daneel’s hysterical laugh. “Thought you’d just march in and fix things, huh? Guess the truth makes you a little… hot under the wings. Useless hypocrites!” said the paladin as the archons and devas burned alive, then he jumped down behind the pyramid. With the stage empty, the crowd began to react. Fox checked the horizon, which was nothing but a blur of light. They were stuck between the planes and a riot was brewing.

Using the arrow of direction to locate Daneel, they looked to the pillar erected in the middle of the town. Normally, up there stood an orb that produced light and darkness for the town, but now flames were burning and the sound of people screaming could be heard. When they made it to the base of the tower, the arrow pointed to the graveyard. There they found the paladin walzing around as the noble heroes buried there were rising from their graves as skeletons and zombies. Calling to him, or whoever he was now, Fox and Kamau offered to help. With a smirk, he asked for the leader of the town to be brought before him. Indeed, they went to get Tonat Shar who followed them to the graveyard, but Daneel was gone again. Discreetly slipping away in the chaos, they let Shar and his men deal with the undead and set out to locate the paladin again. They found him behind some enraged men that were ripping out the tiles of the street while he was directing some others to destroy the flowerbeds. All around fistfights had broken out between the faithful and the disappointed. Fox and Kamau told him they would bring the town’s leader, but he had to stop running around. When he agreed, they went back to the graveyard and brought Shar to where they had last seen the paladin, who seemed lost and unable to resist arrest.

Daneel was led to a tiered pit called the Confessionate, formerly used by the locals to publically confess their sins and throw themselves at the mercy of the crowd. There he was charged of spilling innocent blood, committing evil and destructive acts, betraying the faction and preventing the ascension of Fortitude into Arcadia. Although he had only the faintest of memories and swore he was acting under the influence of something or someone controlling him, he assumed responsibility for his actions. Convicted after his confession, he was put to his knees and decapitated. Fox once again noticed the crimson light in the severed head’s eyes as it faded out. He was not sure, but he thought he saw the eyes of a man in the crowd lighting up with the same glow.

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Escape, at last
No idea of date or time

When they woke up, their whole body ached from the uncomfortable ground. Thanking their rings of fire protection for allowing them even this little rest, they set on their way back to the city of Dis in order to find a portal to Fortitude or Sigil. By asking around, they managed to find a local drinking hole. What they were served burned their throats like the hottest spice, but the barman told them, after receiving a hefty sum, of course, that there was indeed a portal around that led to Fortitude, but its exact location, as well as passage allowance, involved the King, of whom he would say no more.

So, Fox and Kamau went out to the streets and began asking about the King. It was no surprise that minutes later, a group of armored thugs came to them and offered to take them to him. The King turned out to be a slender but muscular tiefling clad in black leather armor and stationed inside some warehouse, a setting that would very much fit the stereotypical leader of a thieves’ guild. Since he was controlling the market, they inquired about their employer’s intent to set up shop, which the King accepted, as long as they were willing to pay the standard fee of 500 gold coins and a 60% share of the profits. Negotiating on his terms, they were able to try out the balance between those two numbers, but the best they could get was 300 coins and 90% of the profits. Considering they only had 200 gold coins on them by now, plus that the letter of intent was their only safe pass in Baator, they decided to pass and inform their employer, in order to receive money from him and return to seal the deal. As for the portal, they were able to play on the King’s confidence, getting a good offer for access to the gate to Fortitude, price not including the gate key (which they already had anyway). So, they were led to some alley of Dis and an arch between two buildings that held the portal to Fortitude.

The portal led them to a walled city in oval shape. The roads were paved with white flagstone of extreme craftsmanship and crossed in perfect angles, while the buildings were orderly, practical and left plenty of room between them for public spaces that had been filled with gardens, fountains and parks. Setting out to explore more of the town, one of the guards in ceremonial armor that stood in every corner began shouting “Evil! Trespassers!” and pointed towards them. Before they could react, they found themselves circled by concerned citizens. Four guards, a dwarf followed by three humans, broke the circle and demanded to know where they came from. Instinctively, Fox and Kamau began shouting to bystanders that they had just returned from DIS where the STOLEN SWORD of DANEEL had been safeguarded. Clearly in stress, the guards asked them to do this the easy way, just be silent and follow them. With a wide smile on their faces, they did.

They were led to a large cubic building that was built to resemble the Barracks in Sigil. There, they were brought before Tonat Shar and demanded to receive the gems that supposedly would be given to them in Ribcage before they handed over the sword. Shar explained that he had sent them through a trustworthy faction member and was surprised, but still agreed to honour their deal and retrieve them for Fox and Kamau. He also paid them their promised reward, in platinum coins no less. Before handing the sword, they made a note that they hadn’t forgotten how the faction tried to frame them and blackmailed them into going to Dis, but Shar’s reality check of where they stood brought them back in line. Their exchange complete, they were afterwards led to Stonehammer, who removed the limitations from their arrow of direction and rings of fire protection and a Harmonium mage that cast a spell to conceal Kamau’s aura of evil, so that they would be able to wander around town.

Fox and Kamau went to the local inn, named “The Tears of Tyr”, and loaded with money and rough times on Dis, ordered the best food, drinks and housing the establishment had to offer. After a power nap on their new quality beds, they went out shopping. Fox visited the local magic shop, while Kamau went to a weapons vendor and bought a military grade Scythe. Despite its beauty, they found the town could get pretty boring pretty fast, so they returned to the Tears of Tyr to rest a little more.

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The Iron Tower pt. 3
No idea of date or time

Varg.jpgUsing their new flower of holes , they returned to the huge cavern with the floating stones. This time they made the jumps without being tied to each other. Halfway on, they were attacked by some hideous shrieking creatures that resembled flayed heads with bat wings where their ears should be. Even though the fighting ground was to their disadvantage, Fox and Kamau managed to destroy the monsters without getting really hurt. When they made it to the cave wall, they slapped another portable hole on it, using a petal inscribed with the new symbols they had found.

The next room had a single feature in its middle: a living woman, held in the searing metal up to her shoulders. Around her head was a circle of sharp blades, making her a cruel mockery of Sigil’s Lady of Pain. Despite the pain from the hot metal, she remained silent, although her eyes followed them around the room. Once their brains got around the sight, they reluctantly came closer. Any attempts at communication failed, however they noticed that the blades were stuck on her neck, creating slowly bleeding wounds. With caution, they each removed a blade. Kamau felt something on his head, and touching it he realized with horror that his hair had been replaced by hideous writhing worms stuck on his head. Fox on the other hand, felt like his mouth was filled with cotton. He was no longer able to speak. Even after they put the blades back in place, the change was irreversible. Despair was setting in, as Fox pulled a petal with the symbol leading to the Library. The good news was that the devil was no longer there. The bad news was that neither was Kamau’s falchion. Before they went on, he took a minute to shave his worm-hair. Despite the pain it caused him, in the end he felt much better.

Trying the other petal with the new symbol, they ended up in a small study, featuring a wooden desk and chair, as well as a small tin bucket filled with some of the searing metal in liquid form. Over the desk, nailed to the wall was a skeletal hand gripping a sword. Even though they were suspicious, since the room seemed extremely normal, thus out of place in the Iron Tower, Fox decided to risk it and stood on the desk to reach the sword. As soon as he plucked it from the skeletal fingers, the whole room began to shake as if an earthquake was taking place. The liquid metal shot out of the bucket like a geyser, creating a rain of burning droplets. Soon as they hit the ground, they began concentrating on a specific point, rising up to create feet, then legs, a torso. Finally, the grand form of Dispater himself stood before them, while behind him teleported his personal guard: 9 fiends like the one they had met when they crossed the portal to Avernus, 9 insectoid fiends like the one that took Guardian and Daneel’s arm off and 9 pit fiends, all in 3 orderly rows behind their master. Suddenly the room felt extremely small.
Dispater.jpg
“Come to rid me of that dreadful nuisance, have you” he spoke in a deep voice. “Well, it was only a matter of time, I suppose. Although I have to admit” he said as he looked over them “I’m a bit surprised… I was expecting a grand invasion force, perhaps a host of noble paladins descending upon my palace in the name of righteous retribution and so forth and so forth… Instead I find you, a couple of – excuse the expression- ordinary thrillseekers, mercenaries and all-around troublemakers. I thought I deserved better.” Noticing Fox’s struggle to answer, he snapped his fingers and removed the curse. Fox then told the archduke about the force that had died on Avernus and of the fiends’ actions in Sigil (“An attempt by some of my followers to impress me, I assure you I was not involved and certainly not happy to receive their prize”), the Harmonium’s blackmailing behavior (“I have neither knowledge nor interest of these ‘factions’ you are talking about”) and proposed to the archduke to work together, actually, take advantage of their intentions and use them as pawns, in order to achieve their common goals. Fox explained that they were looking for a way to harm the faction, so Dispater could use their presence in Fortitude and the sword to open a gate for his invasion force to take over the town. “I am already extremely busy fighting the Blood War, I have no interest in the little town you mentioned” explained Dispater. “This blade you hold has only brought me problems. It has incited a race among my followers trying to impress me. It has me waiting for someone to come and reclaim it. Plus, I have heard several rumors about the Lords of other layers being jealous of my possession. The last thing I need right now is internal struggle and civil war. Please, take it away and trouble me no more.”

They did not dare to deny the archduke’s request. Upon agreement, he snapped his fingers and another pit fiend appeared. “Please Kri’ik, accompany our honored guests out of here, will you?” said Dispater, as Fox and Kamau were trying to hold their jaws from dropping. The pit fiend obeyed without question and teleported them and himself out of the tower and back onto the skull road that led to the city of Dis. There, he exclaimed that the deal involved stealing the sword, not receiving it with its owner’s consent, thus they hadn’t honored the agreement and he would kill them. Fox and Kamau fought for their lives in what was a desperate battle, hoping for something to save them. Indeed, Dispater’s form appeared from the ground after a few seconds that had felt like centuries. “Dear me, Kri’ik” said the archduke, shaking his head at the stunned fiend. “I am truly saddened by this cowardly betrayal. And to think that it was I that guided your ascension over the millennia. Why, I remember when you started as a squiggling larvae – such a waste… Ah well, this hurts me more than it does you, Kri’ik. I hearby revoke the powers granted to you as a greater baatezu. Go and never darken my door again.” He then turned to the humans. “You know, I hear the jawbone of a pit fiend can bring quite the price in the right places. I’m sure our friend here wouldn’t mind losing his.” The archduke’s form melted back to the ground. Morale was on Fox and Kamau’s side and they turned the tide against the enraged pit fiend, especially since he no longer had his spell resistance protecting him. Fox stabbed him with Guardian and Kri’ik screamed in pain. Reading the battle, he was forced to a shameful retreat, vowing to return and get his revenge.

Once he was away, exhausted and feeling protected by the Lord of the layer himself, Fox and Kamau collapsed on the spot, trying to get some much needed rest.

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The Iron Tower pt. 2
No idea of date or time

They had no idea how long they were asleep, but thanks to Fox’s healing spells and Kamau’s enchanted belt, they were quickly back and ready to go on. The next petal led them to the torture chamber where they had started, only this time one of the prisoners was fashionably dead, his chest ripped apart as if something had burst out from inside. It dawned on them that there had to be a connection between the rooms and symbols, in some way resembling organs of a humanoid. Still, such a theory told them neither where to go next nor where the sword was hidden. As for the arrow of direction , it was as confused as them. Venting out his frustration, or perhaps preventing future anatomical surprises, Kamau murdered the second prisoner as well. Faced with his companion’s sociopathic impatience, Fox took a chance and pulled another petal quickly.

They were inside an octagonal room, each wall a bookcase rising up as far as they could see and filled with black, leatherbound tomes inscribed with infernal runes. In the middle lay a single block, much like a desk or an altar, with a few stacks of books laid on top of it. Fox flipped through a few until he stumbled upon one that seemed completely blank. Instinctively, he ripped it from the book, just as they heard the by-now-familiar sound of someone teleporting near them. hamatula.jpgIt was a 7 ft. tall devil with sharp claws and a body filled with spikes. Before they could talk to it and almost certain that it had been summoned in response to Fox’s actions, it attacked. Kamau’s confidence quickly turned into panic as his sword barely scratched the fiend. It struck him with both claws and pulled him into a grapple on its barbed body. Fox managed to slip a simple Daze through its spell resistance, but it was enough to allow his friend to escape the death grip. Kamau dropped his falchion and cowered in a corner as Fox pulled a random petal. It seemed like a lifetime until the small black thing grew into a full-size portable hole and for a second, he thought they were going to die. Just before the fiend struck again, he managed to grab Kamau and pull him along through the hole.

Next thing they knew, they landed inside a tower-like cylinder with circular stairs going up, where they could hear soft whispers, and down where they could hear a stream or river flowing. Fox took out a rock from the pouch he had found and dropped it down, but never heard a splash. Sensing this room was another trick, he placed some rocks on one step and they began descending. As expected, they soon found the exact same rocks in front of them, while the sounds had never gotten any stronger or dimmer. Trying the same but going up, they had the same result. Quickly deducing that this room was designed as a trick or sick joke, they created another hole and went through.

They were inside some big long cave, standing on a slab of rock floating in mid-air. A line of similar rocks ran across the cavern. The arrow pointed towards the wall on one side of the cavern, so they tied themselves just like when they had crossed the river Styx and began jumping. Not surprisingly, the less athletic Fox missed his second jump, pulling Kamau down with him. They both crashed on the floor of the all-too-familiar by now torture chamber. Nothing had changed since their last visit, plus the chains on the roof had slowed down their descent a bit. With a sigh, they pulled another petal.

The next room was round and its walls were adorned with all kinds of gems forming circles in various sizes. Despite their attempts however, they could not pull them out. As they were trying, the wall inside one of the circles became blurry and formed the image of a desolate grey wasteland. It didn’t take long for them to realize they were staring at an activated portal before a small spiky devil jumped out with a sack on his shoulder. Thankfully, it was the small type like the ones that had been driving the work crews around town, nothing like the beast that almost killed them in the library. Stunned to find anybody there, let alone a non-baatezu, the devil took a while to speak, proposing that it would answer questions in return for gems. Fox seemed willing to give it a try, although he knew he was almost broke. However, Kamau was in a less negotiative mood and bullied the little fiend, which responded by dropping its sack and releasing the larvae inside. The ensuing battle was short. So short actually, that Kamau slew the baatezu before Fox could hold him back and propose interrogation or something similar.

The next room was circular but had a domed ceiling made of glass. Looking out, they realized they were somewhere near the top of the Iron Tower, providing them with a stunning view of the city below. That’s when their brain kicked in: the city was infinite, yet somehow they were able to see all of it. Puzzled as they were, they never heard someone teleporting in the room. “You should not be here” a voice said. Turning to face the newcomer, they saw a large spiked fiend, similar to the one they had faced in the Library. Or was it the same, chasing them from room to room? Not waiting to find out, they defended themselves as they could until the last petal had changed into a hole, which they slapped to the ground and jumped through.

They were standing at a crossroads of two corridors, with walls made of bones. From one they heard mumbling and saw a man advancing towards them. He was wearing ragged clothes, much like those of slaves they had seen in the city’s streets. His long hair and bushy beard were white, while he was holding a broken bone and a gold coin. When asked, he identified himself as the Keeper of the Maze and inquired if they had seen his fish. Even though he was clearly barmy he seemed to know his way around, so they convinced him to take them to “the Armory” where he claimed the holy blade was kept. On the way, he named them deputy Keepers and lost track of whatever they were doing, so they let him go. Checking on the flower of holes they saw that from its center had grown a new single petal, with the symbol of a leaf inscribed on it.

The new hole led them on top of a hill made of actual dirt. Beneath them lay a garden with rows of black flowers, tended carefully by two pit fiends. They crawled down to take a closer look and hid behind a tank filled with some transparent liquid and balls of glowing light. To their terror, one of the fiends began walking towards the tank, but just seconds before they were discovered, a third pit fiend teleported in the garden and summoned the other two to another post. The three monsters teleported away, so Fox and Kamau came out of their hiding place to explore. On the other side of the tank, which seemingly had no way to be opened, they found a single cut flower, a bucket of blood and a long thorn. Quickly grasping the concept, Fox dipped the thorn in the blood and began inscribing the petals. It was no easy job, but despite botching several symbols, he got more than a few right as well, including two inscribed with new symbols that he had found written on a piece of paper he had taken from the trinket-filled skull before. Meanwhile, Kamau had destroyed an entire row of flowers for his own reasons. Fox stopped him from causing any more damage, explaining to him that besides Dispater’s potential wrath, he was also destroying their only source of new flowers to use for travelling the tower.

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