Return of Hadrach

Marshes and Monsters
9-11 Apirui

The party continued their slog through the marsh, unwilling to rest after merely 9 hours of marching. As they continued, they encountered what appeared to be a ferryman, and upon its approach, they realized it was not a skeletal ferryman, but a Vishkanya (a species of intelligent lizards) name Szessmia. She turned out to be an adventurer-merchant, currently scouring Hell for interesting artifacts to sell elsewhere.
The party attempted to purchase passage on her barge, but she would not take cash payment, and the party didn’t have any artifacts they could part with that she was interested in. However, Szessmia did strike three bargains with the party:
1. She will not reveal their presence to any infernals, in trade, the party would likewise not reveal her presence to them.
2. For the promise of an afternoon of coffee and cakes in the presence of her Highness Akiara Katsura, Princess of the Stars, she would meet the party at the the Lonely Cathedral (Blood Sepulchre) in two days time. At that point, they may attempt to negotiate passage on her barge again.
3. The party was able to purchase directions to the Lonely Cathedral from her for the price of 5 lbs of Voruubian coffee, a bottle of vodka, and 5 ancient gold coins from under Hettach.

After meeting Szessmia, the party continued more or less west, past the Fields of Wrath, where they were set upon by a couple of the Damned, convinced the party was merely some Lemures. They didn’t see through the illusion before the party’s retribution killed them.

The party found (randomly) A rusty greataxe +1 of human bane.

Eventually after several more hours of marching, the party encountered a horrific tree with fruit the shape of devil-heads, and bodies dangling from thorny branches. The tree seemed to put out a cloud of mind-affecting spores, causing members to attempt to eat the fruit or approach trunk. For those not under its spell, they saw a vicious toothy maw open up in the tree and vines dropped down in an attempt to grab party members. Several party members were seconds away from being stuffed into the tree’s hungry mouth, when a large bloom opened up from the top of the tree and was subsquently destroyed by Dinara’s sharpshooting. This caused the tree to drop the entrapped party members and withdraw into a barnacle-like formation on the ground. Kia then was able to get it to open up briefly and she tossed a bottle of alchemists fire into it – causing the ground to undulate, revealing a veritable graveyard of victims.

The party decided that 15 hours of travel was enough and made camp nearby.

After resting, the party continued on, encountering swarms of smallish worms with bizarre human-like faces, eventually choosing to water-walk across a large area of open water. There, they encountered a pair of much larger worms which they summarily defeated.

Eventually they made it to shore, where they found a small abandoned fishing village. once ashore they encounter a group of living humanoids (mostly humans from Tesra and the Combine) who were off to be tortured. After defeating them, they realized one of the prisoners was their old compatriot Juniper. Allowing Juniper to rejoin, they stashed the rest of the prisoners in the fishing village and continued to the Blood Sepulcher.

At the Blood Sepulcher, the various devilkind that infested it scattered. The party swept through the upper floors of the Sepulcher, destroying a powerful vampire named Aisund Crauss, a nun of Palenon who turned out to be a Handmaiden devil which had set a trap for them with a variety of devils.

Ascension and Acheron
8-9 Apriui

The morning of the 8th of Apriui, a voice of thunder shatters the morning calm, rumbling through the city, “ONE DAY”. At this, Mason’s dwarvish wife Veronika demanded a representative. She was rewarded with a bolt of lightning crashing through the roof, which delivered a djinni requiring an answer. After a short discussion in which the djinni insisted, ‘The Laws of your mortal mortal realm hold no bearing for the Kingdom of Ventis’, Veronika and Mason relented. The djinni stated they are required to organize a wedding in a week. The estimated value of the wedding should be about 50,000 gp.

While discussing the details after the djinni left, the party was down in one of the private rooms, when a group of 10 mysterious cloaked humanoids arrived looking for a meeting with Griangi. The party allowed them in, and the leader of the group revealed himself to be Nilson VonCrosia… “So what’s this I hear about a rebellion?”

After discussing this for a short time, time seemed to pause for a moment while VonCrosia was consumed in a bright white light that seemed to disintegrate him, then reform him into a slightly better version of himself… The party then realized he had ascended to Mythic status.

VonCrosia admitted that Hadrach insisted the party not be present for the coming summit, for fear the party would attempt to assassinate him. He provided the expected schedule of events:
1-7 days: Noble houses arrive from across Tesra
8 days: Hadrach’s official arrival and reception
8 days: Grand ball (19th)
8-22 days: Peace talks (2 weeks allotted)
23 days: Closing ceremonies
24 days: Hadrach officially departs

Afterwards, the party decided to attempt to complete their mission to Stygia in the intervening time.

Arrival in Stygia found a dark plane, stinking, fetid and foul. Exploration proceeded, and a number of different horrors were experienced:
Weird mushrooms with teeth and tentacles
A pair of bone devils flying patrol
An ice devil who figured out they were not the devils Jarbold’s illusion made them appear to be. The ice devil attacked, but was killed in seconds from several devastating strikes from Mason’s hammer and Dinara’s mythically accurate shots. A number of the Damned were found and destroyed in the Ice Devil’s lair, along with a collection of treasures.
A bridge tiled with ceramic faces that would chant and move when not looked at directly… Griangi stabbed one, shattering the tile and eliciting a howling scream of agony… and blood leaking out of the broken tile. “Let’s leave the tiles alone”. The party had traveled 9 hours at that point, and Dinara had started flagging from the constant slog through the marsh.

Dire and Dangerous Preparations
5-8 Apriui

The party’s not-so-triumphant return from Belnesse found them back in the city of Chytri. After the visit from Kalithrax, it was generally agreed upon the group would go to Stygia, to find and collect the Soul-gems of Tresa the Fury. 

However, the party then discovered that Von Crosia’s palace had been strangely closed to them and their possessions safely stored at one of the finest inns in town. Concerned about the implications and the rumors that a high-ranking dignitary will be visiting, they tried to force a meeting with VonCrosia. Unfortunately the outer gates remained closed while various functionaries came to speak with them. Finally, one of VonCrosia’s lead advisors came to the outer gate and spoke with the party.  He said that VonCrosia was terribly busy and would not be able to see any of them for at least a week, but he’d be happy to schedule an audience.  Several different angles were used, everything from announcing them as foreign dignitaries (which would take at least a month for VonCrosia to prepare) to voicing concern about his safety, well being, or even possible possession (Would a trusted representative like High Priest Stephanos satisfy them?). The party remained frustrated and unsatisfied, and even considered invading the palace directly to speak with VonCrosia.

Meanwhile, Midori used her stealth to sneak into the palace, to discover the truth. After successfully sneaking through most of the palace, she accidentally bumped into a guard – this led to a harrowing race through the palace, to get to VonCrosia before he was locked away while the palace guard was searched for invisible intruders. She made it into his office to find him penning a letter to Hadrach the Ever-King. According to the letter, VonCrosia is deep in the process of preparing for a visit from the Ever-King for peace talks. In addition, part of the letter confirmed they are working to make sure Griangi’s companions are excluded. Apparently to ensure violence doesn’t erupt.  Midori then successfully escaped and reported back to the group.

As the group discussed their options regarding their next move, two things happened:
- A ship flying a dwarven military flag arrived in port and Mason, shocked, says it’s his wife’s unit.
- A massive Djinni appeared in front of Mason, a golden glowing halo around his head. The Djinni announced himself as Aura, Djinni King. He demanded that Mason choose to marry his daughter. He has 3 days to agree or “Suffer the wrath of the Djinn nation of Ventis!” He then vanished in a clap of thunder and bolt of lightning. Many local eyewitnesses assumed that it was a demon, and rumors spread that Griangi, Mason or Kia scared the demon away. The rest of the evening was spent by the group drowning their frustrations at the Blue Dancer, trying to decide their course of action.

The next day, the party gathered to discuss their next steps and as they did so, the skies darkened, thunder rumbled, forming a voice heard throughout the city… “TWO DAYS”. Many citizens were terrified. The party, leaving Mason to make his decision, formed a plan to spread the information that Hadrach is coming, invited by VonCrosia. They planned to gather as many as they can that are loyal to Griangi and his Companions, and head out of the city, take over a hidden base where the party had previously defeated hobgoblins and trolls. An estimated 5300 souls can be expected to go, of those, roughly half could be considered at least competent with a weapon. This number represents about a third of the population of Chytri. The message passed around was:

VonCrosia is making a deal with Hadrach the Ever-king, the lord who allowed his servants to subjugate, butcher, devour, imprison, and torture the people of Chytri. Lord Griangi, Lady Akiara, and Sir Mason and company are offering any persons who wish to join under them, the protection and citizenship in their new nation.

The party spread the message throughout the town, via Midori’s street urchins, Kia’s congregation, Edire, the mayor of Chytri, Captain Farinost, and other allies and followers. They have a meeting with High Priest Stephanos, and Tavirend the Merry happened to show up with his Crossroads Legion. Tavirend hinted that he has been hired by VonCrosia and intimated he could be hired away for a better price. 

Decks and Deviations

Kia chooses to share her vision with the rest of the group.

She says, "I know that one of these is true, and the other is false, but I don’t know which one is which…

Vision 1:
You walk down a marble-lined grand hall, the opulence and wealth of a nation on display all around you. Marble columns, easily 4’ across sit behind tables adorned with a unique floral arrangements, each one representing a noble house of Tesra. The columns stretch up overhead where pearlescent chiffon is draped from one to the next, held in place with hooks shaped like golden leaves. Between each column is a Tesran lancer standing still as a statue, their uniforms spotless, each breastplate buffed and shined, each pleat of cloth laid perfectly in place. Behind the guards is a throng of lesser nobles quietly jostling each other to see you and the people you’re with as you walk down the Grand Hall.
Your eyes are drawn to the far end of the chamber, where you can see Nilson VonCrosia standing before a beautifully constructed wooden table. As you approach, you realize those walking with you are not your regular companions, and that you are looking at the world through eyes that are not your own. You stop, and rap a metal-shod staff upon the ground twice before speaking. “Milord VonCrosia, it is my duty and honor to present his eminence, the Lord of Mankind, the Hand of Fate, the Keeper of Truth, Emperor Beyond the Mountains, Hadrach, the Everking.” You bow deeply and step away to your left, rising only when you have repositioned yourself to watch the proceedings. Your heart swells with pride as you see the Everking’s entourage part, and he steps forward before VonCrosia. To the Everking’s right stands Lantern, his man-at-arms, proudly bearing the Rage and the Hope of Hadrach. The weapon and shield are polished to a high shine, the bright spring sunlight reflecting off their surfaces.
The Everking’s countenance is that of a walking corpse, dressed in slowly decaying royal clothes, a shredded cape, and bony fingers poking out of cracked, withered skin. Dark earth is packed in the seams and corners of the Everking’s clothes, ground into the cracked fingernails. Two red points of light in empty eye sockets glance at you for a moment as he walks past you. Your chest swells with pride that he would include you with a glance at such an important moment in history. The rictus grin on his skeletal face seems to smile even more widely before he returns his full attention to back to the Grand Duke.
The Everking steps up to VonCrosia, taking his measure of the man before he bows to the Grand Duke of the Tesran Republic. VonCrosia bows graciously in return.
A deep breath fills the Everking’s chest, and he begins to speak. “I have come to sue for peace, your Grace, and turn over to you all that remains of my forces.”

Vision 2:
Blood and gore drips from your stringy hair as you kneel on the ground, exhaustion weighing down your limbs as you stare at the darkly-spattered wet flagstone at your feet. To your right, the final twitches of the abomination’s death-throes rattle its thick, spidery legs against the ground. It takes another moment for you to catch your breath, but finally you stand and look around.
The domed ceiling arching over you is still obscured in dark mist, its frescoes still only visible as vaguely disturbing, indistinct blobs. The battle that just finished did little damage to the structure as a whole. Bodies are scattered about in the gore, and you can see your comrades moving about in the shadows, checking bodies for signs of life, delivering death blows to the surviving monstrosities. Looking back at the largest of the creatures, you see that it wears a golden crown with platinum filigree, and set in the center is a large gem, the size of a human fist, polished smooth. You recognize it as the last, missing gem of the Horn of Hadrach. Pulling the blood-spattered crown off of the creature’s head, you lift it up in the air in triumph.

An Interlude in Belnesse

Darker than expected.

Admirals and Sailing Ships
1-Ianui through 5-Ianui

After discussing their problem at length and ensuring that Mason was properly watched (in case Denuriel still had control of him), Griangi decided he was assert control over the compound and they would make plans to find and reclaim the Heart of Sinakua, if not also the Tears of Marsa. Midori, concerned for the people of Tesra, snuck off to inform Admiral Farinost that he should take the devil’s deal if they don’t return.
Desperate, the Admiral broke and demanded Nilar’s presence, that he would go ahead and sign away his soul for the lives of the Tesrans and for three wishes. Shocked at his reaction, Midori stared as Nilar appeared, contract in hand. Midori immediately fled.
Around the same time, the party were on their way to see the Admiral and exercise Griangi’s authority over the city of Tesra – just in time to see the Admiral finish signing. Griangi and Kia laid into Nilar, while he protested that he was unable to fight back and that Xiwrath would have his revenge if they killed him. Heedless of his protestations, Kia and Griangi slaughtered the hapless herald of Xiwrath, and destroyed the Admiral’s contract. Sadly, this had no effect on the contract itself. Meanwhile, Midori locked herself up in the fortress’ brig.

After deliberations and discussions, Griangi exercised his authority over the city and its defenders, and made a rousing speech about resisting the devils and the infernal threat they present. The party then took Farinost aside and spoke with him in private about what the next steps were, and learned that he had chosen to sell his soul because he had simply lost all hope that they would escape with their lives. While doing so, an imp arrived with a request from Rykel, the new Herald of Xiwrath, for an audience under a flag of truce.

Rykel explained that the contract was secure and that Farinost still had three wishes per the contract. Also that the people of Tesra may leave by land, sea or air. Farinost then wished for enough ships to transport the people safely to wherever he chose, and to be younger and healthier. The second wish resulted in him being a man of 20 again, having lost all the memories and experiences he had gained.
The first wish resulted in an infernal fleet of ships, black and evil-looking, with living figureheads that would move and change when people weren’t looking. The ships themselves had no helm, no oars, and their sails would fill with wind, even on a calm day. A metal plate with the face of a person was bolted into place where the wheel would normally be, and would take commands of the captain.

The party asked Farinost to have a devil bring the Heart of Sinakua to them (with a great deal of conditions), while Griangi and Dinara went into the hills to find mounts and companions. Returning with a pair of young Rocs and a flight of hippogriffs to be trained as mounts. As this was happening, the party made sure the people of Tesra were loaded on to the ships with their goods and supplies, received the Heart of Sinakua, placing it in the ark, and prepared to depart Tesra for Chytri.

Upon placing the heart in its ark, the Affliction was lifted and the priests of Tesra returned to consciousness. It will take a few days for them to fully recover.

Bookworms and Books
1-Ianui (Welcoming Day)

The party assembled and readied an assault on the Holy Library of Tesra. Their goal: snatch or destroy the Heart of Sinakua to put an end to the Affliction that was crippling the divine spellcasters. Hurrying through the city, they arrived and climbed in through the same window that Midori had escaped through the day before. Climbing up the rope, the Library was fairly empty, save for Legionmaster Denuriel and a horde of imps.
The battle plan fell apart quickly as several bone devils appeared in the chamber, and the battle for the Heart of Sinakua began in earnest. Iktar threw up a wall of ice to prevent the swarms of imps from attacking them and summoned a lightning elemental to go and snatch the heart. Mason also leapt down to do battle with Denuriel and hold his attention while Griangi and Kia battled the Bone devils, hoping to make good their escape.
As Mason approached the Legionmaster, the creature emerged from the pile of ruined books and with a few words, cast a spell and vanished, taking control of Mason’s body.
Mason/Denuriel then snatched up the Heart of Sinakua and fled, leaving the party behind. With no prize to claim and no way to catch up to Mason, the party retreated back behind the Bastion Wall…

Hours later, Mason approached the Bastion Wall and submitted himself for arrest – without the Heart of Sinakua and, as revealed to the group, he also had the book, the Tears of Marsa. Now with both treasures gone, the party sat down to figure out what steps to take next…

The Devils and the Wall
Temur's Day

Dawn of Temur’s Day found the party marching on the Bastion Wall…

As the party set themselves to the task of taking the Bastion Wall, and Xiwrath the Caustic hovered high above, other devils wheeled and cavorted. Farinost’s troops provided support, battling the Host devils as they swooped out of the sky. Midori drank a potion of invisibility and promptly vanished, while the rest of the party put down the bone devils in fairly short order.

Xiwrath, in the mean time, summoned four more siegebreaker devils, ordering his brothers to destroy the party and the Bastion wall. As the four of them set upon the party, Xiwrath himself cast prismatic spray, blinding the party and turning Kia to stone. In the furious battle, the brothers of Xiwrath fell quickly, but not before crippling Dinara and nearly killing the other party members. Upon their destruction, each of his brothers exploded into thousands of black shards, which were promptly swallowed by a vortex. Xiwrath, injured by the spells of Ezra and the attacks of Dinara, chose to spit a stream of powerful acid at Dinara, reducing her to little more than disembodied, burned-off limbs and a bubbling pool of acid.

With two members down, one off on her own mission, and the battle for the Bastion wall heating up for Farinost’s men, the situation was looking more desperate. Regaining their vision, Mason and Griangi laid into Xiwrath and injured him enough that he finally fled.

For the next hour, the battle for the Bastion wall raged, and the line held. As the assaults of infernal forces finally began to slow and weaken, Midori reappeared, shot full of arrows and nearly dead, chased by a pair of darkly beautiful women with black wings and powerfully magical bows. Saving Midori, the party continued to battle the last of the devils trying to take the bridge and successfully killed the two female devils.

The Battle for the Bastion Wall finally over, Midori was healed up and the party took stock of their injuries and losses. Upon returning to the fortress, Farinost and Stephanos presented the party with four scrolls of Resurrection and extracted a promise from Wizard Jerak “Jerkface” Hefia to return Kia to normal on the following day.

Gorrok continued to train the civilians, and Farinost began moving the rest back into the city behind the Bastion Wall so that the fortress could begin to return to normal.

Midori finally shared the treasures she had retrieved and related the tale of her encounter at the Holy Library of Tesra (as related in The Devils in the Details)

The Devils in the Details
Temur's Day

Midori and the Library of Oh Shit, We May Be Fucked.

The grey, cloudy cold sky hangs low as Xiwrath howls overhead and Host devils pinwheel and spin through the sky. Rain has begun to fall, steady, cold, but not heavy as the Battle for the Bastion Wall rages.

A number of devils linger on the far shore, watching Xiwrath, and Midori is convinced they are ready to join the battle as well – a couple barbed and bone devils, with the soldier-like bearded devils hanging back. On Midori’s side of the river, Admiral Farinost deploys his column – Spears and swords are intermixed with the archers, while the archers are set up to shoot volleys at the infernal enemy. Several squads break off and head towards the tower and are scattered around. Midori sees that these groups are armed with the harpoon-style light crossbows and magical axes.

The devils on the far side of the bridge begin to crowd on to the bridge and Kia and Griangi battle them with little support. Midori sees no easy way to cross it, even if she were invisible.
Below the bridge, the river is a dark slate grey, the murky water impossible to see into. It moves at a fast clip, the water from recent storms pouring down from the mountains, through the city, and draining into the bay. Midori mentally calculates her chances of injury and how long it would take to climb down instead of leaping off the wall to the river below. Eyeing the river she estimates how quickly she could cross it using magic.

Looking north along the Bastion wall, Midori can see that the battle has not yet extended to other parts of the city, and, while the other two bridges have been destroyed, it may be easier (safer) to make it across further north. Midori glances at her map of the city sewers, prior to the infernal invasion, comparing the notes on her map to the entrances to the sewers. The entrances line the river banks at intervals of about 500’, each one large enough for a large creature to enter. It is clear to her that once she enters the sewer system, as long as there are no obstructions or groups of devils, she could probably make it to any point in the city; except the palace, she thinks to herself, these notes show they don’t connect.

Finally deciding as the clamor of battle grows, Midori pulls out a potion of invisibility and drinks it down. Her hands, clothes and feet all vanish before her eyes and she carefully picks her way through the rubble scattered across the street and steals around to the northern turret along of the Bastion wall. Slipping past devils as they swoop at the defenders, she swings her feet over the wall and, mentally reminding herself about the waterwalking spell that was cast on her, she drops down to the river below. Rolling with the fall, she successfully deflects the force of her landing so she doesn’t break anything, however, the cushion of air that keeps her from getting dunked in the water comes up unexpectedly and she stumbles and fall backwards. The “cushion” turns out to be a bit more solid than she expected and a quiet ‘ooof’ escapes from Midori’s lips when Midori slips and crashes to the ground. It’s just a bruise, Midori tell herself as she watches for any reaction from the dozens of devils around. None of them seem to have heard her over the clash of weapons and screams of the injured. Standing back up, Midori finds herself walking on what seems to be an invisible layer over the river.

Midori moves carefully across the river, then slowly picks up speed as she realizes her feet make virtually no sound until she’s almost running. The nearest of the sewer entrances was once covered by a large metal grate, but it has recently been torn off, as evidenced by the lack of rust along its ragged edges/. Broken metal bars jut out from the stone work as she moves past them. Once inside, Midori pause to take stock of her surroundings.
Moss and slime coat the stone walls, and the 10’ wide tunnel arches overhead. The passage was designed to have a narrow walkway, about 3½’ to 4’ wide along each wall, about 3’ up from the bottom of the round tunnel. A channel runs down the middle of the tunnel, and normally it would be easily deep enough for both storm runoff and the normal contents of the pipe. However, the water has somehow risen and stands two feet over the walkway, nearly unseen beneath the sloshing, murky water under her feet. All kinds of detritus floats in the water, from leaves and twigs to wads of what might be fur, dead fish, shattered pieces of waterlogged wood. The smell in the tunnels reminds Midori of rotting fish and seaweed.
Nothing moves in the darkness, not even rats. The sounds of the battle outside rise as the fighting gets more desperate.

Midori considers her map, trying to determine if she wants a direct approach to the Library, or if it might be better to take a more roundabout route through the sewers. Studying the map carefully, she tries to figure out if it’s best to come up outside of the Library and sneak in, or if she wants to search for an entrance to the Library proper from the sewer tunnels. Estimating only a few minutes of invisibility remaining, she calculates it would take her perhaps 10 minutes if she made straight for the building, while a more roundabout route would require more time and exploration. Once the invisibility fades, she would have to take even longer…

Deciding quickly, she walks quickly along the most direct path to the library for a couple minutes, still unnerved by the fact that she’s literally walking on water. Moving quickly through the tunnels, occasionally she passes something that sloshes about in the murky water. Not wasting any time, she hurries along, with barely a glance over her shoulder to wonder what it might be. As the minutes tick past, the sense of urgency is nearly overwhelming and Midori finds herself almost running before she catches herself and slows down again. After what seems like too short a time, Midori realizes the invisibility is about to wear off and she ducks into an alcove to hide as the last few seconds of the spell’s duration pass. Once visible again, she pauses to check her map to confirm her location.
Cloaked in darkness, but still feeling terribly exposed, Midori finally ventures out into the corridor again. She moves as swiftly as she dares, emboldened by the fact her shoes make almost no noise on the invisible surface over the water. As she hurries along, she estimates that she’s about halfway to the Library when she stops dead in a four-way intersection because of a nearly overwhelming stench of rotting meat. As she pauses, Midori hears the evil, sibilant sounds of Infernal speech to the corridor to Midori’s left. Midori pauses at the edge of the intersection trying to decide if she should… just take a peek. Midori listens carefully to the devils speaking, able to hear most of the conversation,
A growly voice first, “…1189th Legion is having all the fun. No one comes down here anymore.”
A second voice grumbles, “Of course not. There aren’t enough of them left. And if Nilar gets his contract, then the rest will get away.”
The third voice complains, “However it is he actually makes his numbers serving as the Herald to Xiwrath, I’ll never understand.”
Growly, “That’s why you’re not in Acquisitions, brother.”
Complainer, “Feh. I notice you’re not there, either.”
Grumbly, “You two keep squabbling if you like. Personally, I like being a guard. Especially here on Yerth. Even though the water isn’t as deep, it’s still clearer, and the prisoners don’t fight back as much.”
The voices chuckle in agreement and the conversation seems to move on to small talk…

Midori continues straight ahead, not pausing to look down the corridor. She does her best to keep as quiet as possible, even more aware of the danger she’d be in if she were to get caught. She utters a silent prayer to all of her gods – Namli especially. As Midori continues, Namli seems to smile on her. Midori’s passage seems to have gone unnoticed by the voices in the corridor. The stench gets worse as Midori continues on, and after a couple twists and turns, She comes to a large chamber that seems to be some sort of collection basin. Looking on this room, it occurs to her that perhaps she hasn’t made enough sacrifices to Namli lately – The smell clearly emanates from here, as there are dozens, if not a couple hundred bodies piled in the center of the chamber. Bloated and stinking, the waterlogged, rotting flesh hangs from the bodies. She gags slightly at the warmer air, and she can see that the bodies are crawling with insect larvae. Midori doesn’t notice any devils in the chamber, and her planned route will take her out an exit on the opposite side.
As Midori considers going around and finding another route, Midori hears sloshing in the tunnel behind her getting closer. She moves around to the opposite end of the chamber and ducks into the tunnel, moving as quickly as she dares away from the sound of the approaching infernals.

It’s not long before she realizes they are moving far faster than she could if she wished to remain silent. Midori looks around and finds a small feeder pipe to squeeze into. Midori wiggles into the tight, shadowy space and places a bit of debris to camouflage the pipe just before two large infernals pass in front of hiding place. Their appearance is straight out of a nightmare – a hideous cross between a long, eel-like fish, the upper torso of a humanoid, and a crustacean-like head with four eyes and rams-horns pass by Midori, clearly on patrol. Midori recognizes them as Drowning devils, defenders of the waterways of Hell. They seem to miss her entirely and continue down the corridor.

Midori waits for a short time, and then crawls out of her little pipe. Smeared with gunk, she suspects it is a mix of ash, dust and mud. Harmless, she thinks to herself, but it still doesn’t smell terribly good. Moving on, she continues to navigate the pipes and finally identifies an exit close to the Library. Midori wraps her hand around the pendant Azata’s Faith and casts Detect Devil before peeking out from under the exit from the sewers. Concentrating, she look around and see no devils nearby. Finally she takes in the Holy Library of Tesra.

The structure itself is mostly intact, but the outside of has been defaced. Evil runes, written in blood are smeared across the facade. Studying them, she realizes they appear to be the name of some high ranking devil…Legionmaster Denuriel. There are additional runes below it that she studies for a moment longer – and she finally recognizes them as deadly spell. Realizing that anyone passing through the front door will activate the evil runes, the spell will likely kill nearly everyone close to them. Her eyes drift upward to see the top of the building is festooned with spears and somewhat more organic bone-like spikes, but underneath it all, Midori can still see a shadow of its original majesty in the layers of fine woods and marble. She can see several infernal guards lurking in the entrance, and more devils alight on the spikes and spears along the roofline. Even with the security provided by the guards, Midori glances to the south and can see hundreds, if not thousands of Host devils flying about as the Battle for the Bastion Wall rages on. At least they’re being kept busy… over there… She worries briefly about how her compatriots fare at the battle before refocusing on the task at hand.

Midori slowly slides the manhole cover to the side, providing herself with enough room to climb out of the sewers. She replaces it as quietly as possible once she’s out, then heads for the nearest hiding spot she can find, making sure she’s concealed from the eyes of the guards at the entrance of the library. She sneaks around the rubble and remnants of the buildings in the area to take a look at the Eastern side of the library. Once there, she doesn’t see any evil runes, but there are no entrances, either. Looking at the wall, she is able to see that she could probably climb it, and there are some windows on what appears to be the second or possibly third floor; easily 30’ up. Looking at the structure, she suspects that if there are other ground-floor entrances, they are likewise covered by those deadly runes.

Determined to make the climb, Midori crouches down behind some rubble and strips off the clothes most fouled by the filth in the sewers – leaving little more than her shorts, boots, and tunic. Taking her dagger to her leggings, she is careful not make any obvious ripping sounds as she cuts them off. Once finished, she stuffs the filthy clothes into her bag of holding, pulling out her last potion of invisibility shortly after.

She downs the potion and puts the empty bottle in her bag before heading to the middle of the wall of the Library. Taking a moment to mentally prepare herself, she leaps up, grabs a narrow ledge and scales the side of the building, her hands and feet finding ledges and gaps in just the right place, as if the wall was trying to help her. It’s a quick climb, and there are a couple of places that she nearly slips, but she makes it up to the window. She realizes that it is unlatched and with a quick shove, she opens it enough to squeeze in. She finds herself on the second floor of the Library, in the middle of the eastern stacks.

The floor she is on has a 20’ ceiling, the individual shelves stretching nearly the whole distance. Once oriented, She carefully moves forward and looks out on the Library proper. The The interior of the Holy Library of Tesra was once a wide, open, airy space. The eight walls stretch up three stories to meet in an arching glass dome that provides light and drew the eye upward at one time to contemplate the gods.
Now, the glass is missing and instead of open space, the building is filled with a network of dark chains, linking one end of the building to the other like a demented, tangled iron spiderweb. The chains are adorned with people, both whole and incomplete, attached by hooks, spikes, manacles and other, more horrific methods. The floor of the library, once a finely made marble and granite inlay, now is covered in discarded and destroyed books, torn apart and soaked in the veritable lake of blood that covers the floor.
Atop the pile of books sits what appears to be a golden ark, the edges of the chest encrusted with gems and gilded with precious metals. Two devil-like statuettes stand atop the chest and a huge rounded gem that looks like little else but a red and black crystalline heart. As soon as her eyes land on the gem, the light refracting through it seems to grow in intensity and drive painfully bright spikes into her eyes. Closing her eyes against the pain, she hears faint noises like whispers and furtive movement around her. Her eyes flash open and she quickly glances around, and it seems that the shadows in her peripheral vision move just when she’s not looking at them. As her paranoia grows, her eyes fall back on the crystalline heart, and she recalls an ancient legend about something called the Heart of Sinakua. As she struggles to remember details about it – more than the vague recollection of a minor god and madness – she realizes the crystalline heart is moving slightly, beating despite its structure. As she stares, the pain in her eyes seems to reach down to her chest, and she can feel her heart skip a beat, a feeling almost as if her heart is trying to align with the beat of the crystal. As she stares, she sees several Lemures move back and forth across the pile, and she notices that some of them bear faces that remind her of the acolytes suffering from the “Affliction” back at the naval fortress.
She finally tears her eyes away from the disturbing crystal and sees she is in the east wing on the 2nd floor. Midori can see that the third floor has vaults, and there are eight spiral staircases that connect the floors. As she stares out over the open space, she sees that the roof serves as a roost for bone devils, while imps and other lower devils infest the weblike network of chains strung across the chamber. Down on the ground floor, Something moves amongst the pile of books, and you see the strange, slime-like body of lemures tend to something larger than themselves. The air here seems still – as if the world is holding its breath to see your next action.
In the silence, you start hearing some voices – faintly. You can’t quite make them out, and as you look around, you see a book on one of the bookshelves inching its way off the shelf as if being pulled out by ghostly hands.

Midori cautiously steps over to the book to take a closer look, prepared to catch it if it falls. She tilts her head sideways to look at the title. The Betrayal of Juan Marcos. The book drops into her hands, and the voices are slightly more distinct. She barely makes out a phrase, “History is a lie”. Another book starts being pushed out of a bookshelf… then another… and a third… then five more. She hears more voices as each book begins moving… “History is a lie” “Faster!” “History is a lie.” “Our lives…Hurry!” “Save us…” “Hurry!” The voices suddenly stop as the books are about to fall…

Midori’s eyes go wide as soon as she makes out what the first voice is saying. Her heart starts pounding against her ribcage, and she’s not entirely sure if her hands are shaking from the force of her heartbeat or the sound of the voices. Still invisible, Midori clutches the book to her chest, glances at the other books, then hurries to the spiral staircase, just as the books fall to the floor as one. The imps’ gaze snaps to the floor where the books fell, and dozens of them leap from the chains and swarm through that section Midori just vacated. Swirling around, torn pages are lifted from the floor. As Midori begins to climb the stairs, she sees several Bone devils swoop down into the chamber, expertly avoiding the chains. They carefully eye the area, suspiciously looking about for the source of the disturbance. Midori continues to hurry up the stairs as other bone devils peer down through the shattered skylights. Down below, the pile of blood-soaked books shift and a large, bald, human-like head emerges. It says something to its attendant devils, too far away for Midori to hear and the lemures start moving the pile of books about. The bald-headed creatures eyes scan the chamber carefully and Midori pauses, just as its eyes pass over her. They snap back for a moment, as if reexamining exactly where she stands, then its gaze moves on.

Midori makes it to the third floor of Marsa’s wing and over to the vault door. She sees a number of scratches and dents on the surface and the charred remains of several imps lie on the floor nearby. As she looks at the vault door, the combination that Stephanos gave her springs to mind. Resting the spine of The Betrayal of Juan Marcos on the vault door, and placing her hand on the locking mechanism, Midori enters the combination. The vault’s lock quietly unlocks and the mass of devils seem to not notice. The floor of the library isn’t visible from here, but she thinks she hears some disturbance down there. Midori slips inside the vault, and seeing a handle on the inside of the vault door, she quietly and completely closes the door behind her before she begins her search for the Tears of Marsa.

The inside of the vault is more reliquary and less library. The room is lined with shelves and all kinds of artifacts and relics are stored here. Four chests are in the room. A quick glance reveals there are no books out in the open, but there are probably thousands, possibly tens of thousands of gold crowns worth of treasure here. Carefully picking the locks on the chests, she is able to get the first two open without a problem. Inside one are ancient vestments made of delicate cloth. The other contains dozens of potion-sized bottles and a few larger bottles. The third chest seems impossible to open – and her hands become suddenly visible while trying to open this particularly small chest. The final chest is also more difficult to open, but she finally picks the lock and it springs open. Inside is a small book, no more than 8” tall, 6” wide and 1” thick. The cover is made of woven reeds and the center of it is a moonstone cut in the shape of a teardrop. Beyond that, the book seems unremarkable. No clasp holds it shut. The silence seems to intensify and the whispers return… “Hurry” “Save us…” “Faster…”

Before reaching out to pick up the small book, Midori looks around her at all of the treasure. She bites her lip in frustration before her right hand starts to clench and unclench. Inhaling and exhaling slowly, she clutches at the dragon-tooth dangling from a simple leather cord around her neck. It’s as if she’s trying to resist scratching a very powerful itch. Just as soon as the moment begins, it’s gone. Finally, she closes her eyes as she lets out a sigh, before picking up the book in earnest to take a closer look at it.

The book tingles in her hand as soon as she touches it. Not unpleasant, but unusual. Lifting it up, she becomes positive this is the book she seeks. Opening the book to the first page, she sees that instead of the carefully illuminated script of most religious texts, this book has a handwritten scrawl across it:

Greetings, noble being, anointed Hand of Fate.
If this book is open, your world is on the brink of destruction.
The ritual contained herein may be of some use… in the right place, at the right time.
I wish you luck.

Hadrach, Hand of Fate, Lord of Man
Keeper of the Truth.

The writing, as soon as she reads it, fades away. Midori scrambles to get out ink, quill, and paper to copy down the disappearing foreword from Hadrach. She ends up hastily writing it down on the back of her map of Tesra, nearly spilling ink on herself. Once finished, she blows on the ink to make it dry faster.
Once finished, she pores over the Tears of Marsa. She finds the rest of the pages are filled with complex formulae, detailed descriptions of steps and prayers. Puzzling over it, she realizes this is unlike any prayer book she has ever seen to gain the favor of a god’s servants in order to obtain spells. This reads almost like a wizard’s spell. If I’m being honest with myself, She grumbles, this is well beyond me…
She puts both the Tears of Marsa and The Betrayal of Juan Marcos, as well as the writing supplies and map, back in her bag before glancing once more at the small locked chest. Cursing to herself, she scoops up the small chest and stuffs it into her bag as well. As she cinches the bag closed, she makes a silent prayer: Marsa, and all the rest o’ you gods – I swear, if there’s nothing in this chest that helps save Tesra, I’ll return it. I swear… besides, this is a library, after all… right?

Brushing herself off, Midori circles around the room to close and re-lock all of the chests that she’s opened… pausing briefly over the chest of potions, she can almost hear the voice of one of her mentors calculating the value of that chest alone. Once the chests are closed, she takes the empty potion bottle out of her bag, placing the open end of it against the vault door while she presses her ear to the bottom of the bottle. Listening closely, it seems the devils flying about outside seem to have calmed down. The enraged imps screech less often and it seems fewer wings beat the air.

Midori slowly opens the vault door a crack and carefully peeks out the door – directly into three large pairs of humanlike eyes. Time stretches out as the world holds its breath. Looking at the creature, the large, pale, worm-like monster stares back at her in surprise. Three large humanoid heads sit atop its torso, and it floats in the air without the assistance of wings. Finally, each of the creature’s three heads yell simultaneously:

Midori shouts back at the creature in the language of devils, “No! YOU’RE the thief!” then slams the vault door shut. The vault door automatically locks and the creature slams against the door a moment later. It screams and howls as it beats against the vault door.

Her adrenalin pumping, Midori quickly reviews her options. It’s been about 40 minutes since she left the Bastion wall. It’s possible the battle is over, but getting her friends here to save her would be risky, at best. Listening to the creature beat against the door, she suspects it will hold, but there’s no telling how long. She glances at the potion chest… maybe… wracking her brains, she can’t seem to think of what kind of devil the monster outside could be. Settling on “asshole bookworm” she goes back to the chest full of potions, unlocks it again, and with a prayer to Marsa for forgiveness, she sets to work trying to figure out what the potions could be. Minutes pass, all the while the asshole bookworm rages at the door, its attacks crashing against the vault door.. Booom! Boooom! From outside, the creature shouts epithets and vows to destroy her. Through it all she hears it call itself Legionmaster Denuriel.

After examining the potions more carefully, Midori realizes there’s 19 unique potions. She quickly checks them to see if she can figure out what they can do, and when she’s done, she grins and puts all of the potions in her bag except for two Stone Shape potions, and a potion of Flying.

Midori drinks down one of the Stone Shapes and begins to mold the stone into large braces for the door. It doesn’t take long to get through the floor, as it turns out to be only about 8” thick. Once through, she’s a little surprised to see that solid metal beams support the stone vault. She realizes they had escaped her notice when climbing the stairs from the lower level – The metal beams are hidden by additional wooden beams and wooden paneling concealing the structure from the library floor below…
Sticking her head into the gaping hole, she can see that the beams create a crawlspace between the wooden paneling of the 2nd floor ceiling and the vault floor. The dusty crawlspace is about 2’ tall and the metal beams run the length of the vault from the outer wall of the Library to the inner atrium where the devils gallery is filled with chains and body parts. More wooden panels serve to support the facade to the atrium, and the outer wall appears to be made of more metal beams and the outer stone wall of the Library. Considering her options, she wets down a cloth before tying it around over her nose and mouth to prevent herself from sneezing. The Asshole Bookworm Denuriel’s unrelenting assault on the vault door seems to get louder. Boom. Boooom. Boom…

Midori withdraws her head from the crawlspace, then sticks one of her feet down, testing how much weight the wooden panels can bear. As she puts her foot down on the panel, it flexes slightly. She’s not sure if it can actually support her weight, though she is reminded of surviving on thin ice by laying flat to distribute her weight… Unhappy at the prospect of scooting across the thin wood panels, Denuriel’s assault on the vault door suddenly breaks through; Booom… Booom… BOOOMMMCRACK…sizzlesizzlesizzle…

Her eyes dart towards the door and she sees a crack is split down the length of the door and a small, eyeball sized hole is being eaten away by some kind of acid. Denuriel’s three voices booms out at the same time, “THERE YOU ARE!” “THIEF!” “SUFFER!!” A few arcane words later and a thick billowing fog pours into the room, filling the space from the center of the room – Midori sees the fog wash over things like the shelves, their wooden surface begins to blacken, moments before the fog completely obscures them. Some of the softer objects begin to hiss, sizzle and melt. As the first vapors reach her, they burn, her exposed skin reddens and blisters painfully while the remainder of her clothes begins to smoke. The fog spreads like a living thing into the dark gap between the floors, and the air feels thick, resisting her movements. Midori finds moving through the viscous fog difficult, like trying to walk through a deep pool of water. A moment later, Denuriel’s assault on the door resumes as the acid continues to burn.

Acting quickly, Midori drinks down the flying potion, and leaves the other potion of Stone Shape behind. She drops onto the wooden panel directly below her as forcefully as she can. She hears the wood splinter and feels it flex… Nothing more, until she jumps one more time, desperately whispering a prayer. The wood gives way and she drops several feet, almost catching herself with the flight, but her foot catches on one of the bookshelves of the section below, and she swings around, smashing herself against another bookcase before she painfully crashes to the floor.
Above her, Denuriel’s assault on the vault door stops, and she hears his voices say in infernal, each voice talking over each other; “You, soldier – check on that sound. The interloper may be trying to escape.” The other two voices also issue orders, but Midori can’t pick out any more than those words. Then the Asshole Bookworm resumes his assault on the vault door. Booomm… Booooom….
Glancing up. The cloud doesn’t follow Midori into this lower chamber. As she picks herself up off of the floor, she see severals imps fly down from the floor above, and several more turn towards her from their roosts on the deadly-looking chains that hang in the atrium. They screech in recognition and warning as soon as they see her.

Midori takes a couple steps toward the westernmost window and leaps into the air, swooping down the row toward the window. She skids to a halt easily and yanks on the latch, pushing the window open with her foot. She glances over her shoulder to see the imps will be unable to keep up with her, if she can get into open air, and feels a surge of confidence… until two bone devils swoop down after her. One pauses to raise its hand and utter a few arcane words… while the other continues to swoop towards her. Midori steps off of the window’s ledge, hoping to catch herself with the Fly spell. The first Bone devil completes its spell a moment too late, and her escape route is sealed off with a wall of ice. The ice doesn’t even crack Infernal cursing is heard from inside the Library.

Still in midair and now outside of the library, Midori flies down and away from the library, making her way west of the Library. Flying as quickly as she can, she glances up at the top of the library. There, she sees a number of Bone devils stalking back and forth, looking in the direction of the atrium. However, two darkly beautiful women stand at the edge, watching as Midori flies towards the west side of the Library. Dark black wings hang at rest behind them, and as Midori flies, she can see them unlimber longbows and spread their wings to take to the air… Inside the library, Midori hears the booming voice of Denuriel as he rages, apparently at her escape.

Midori takes off like a shot, and the ground whizzes past her as the dark female archers take aim and flaming arrows rain down from their bows. Fire streaks past Midori and she begins to feel a little confident… until the first arrow smashes into her leg, feeling like a searing hot lance. More arrows rain down and a second one pierces her shoulder. Barely making it into what remains of the ruins, Midori flashes past several stone pillars and walls, more arrows striking the stones, raining smoking chips down on her. One more arrow strikes her, but each hit she takes causing her to lose altitude as the pain distracts her. from flying… She tumbles over the edge of the levee towards the river, her last glimpse of the female devils telling her that they’ve lifted off and are beginning to give chase. Several more Bone devils lift off along with them…

The Shade of the Leper
27-Murgus to 28-Murgus

Arrival in Tesra was not the joyous homecoming the party had hoped for. Instead, they discovered the city was embroiled in an infernal siege. Most of the citizens had escaped or were dead, but some surviving refugees were crammed into the naval fort on the southwest side of the port city. The bay filled with sunken ships and watergoing devils, the skies patrolled by Host devils and the fortress under attack, the party was able to leap to the defense of the fortress and save Admiral Farinost from being kidnapped, killed or worse.

Once the battle was over, they discovered the survivors had been held together by a newcomer named Iktar and her Eidolon, Farinost and his remaining soldiers and the Tesran High Priest Stephanos. The party learned that while Grand Duke Nilson VonCrosia had escaped with a portion of the city’s populace, there has been little those left behind could do, except fight a series of losing battles and retreating farther across the city. Now, after about three months of near daily battles, the defenders of Tesra were out of supplies, out of ideas and out of time.

Stephanos’ acolytes and under-priests were suffering from an Affliction that separated them from their deities, eventually leaving them catatonic. Stephanos asked the party to find a book in the Holy Tesran Library called the Tears of Marsa, so that they could summon the Host of Marsa, what the priest believed to be the last hope of the city. He also revealed he predicted he would slip into catatonia in just three days from the Affliction.

Farinost asked the party to help him retake the Bastion Wall, a defensive wall that lined the river and bisected the city. Taking the wall would let him relight the blacksmith’s shop and allow the other facilities in the fortress return to work, instead of providing care for the refugees.

As the party considered their options overnight, Prokhaz the Leper manifested, looking to Midori, begging the Oracle for help. The party was able to destroy the ghost again. The party guessed what she could have brought with her that would bring the ghost as well, and after determining it to be a silver candelabra, used a ballista to launch it well into the devil’s side of the river.

The next morning on Farewelling Day a Contract Devil who called himself Nilar, Herald of Xiwrath the Caustic arrived at the gates to offer the “Master of the city” a contract – the lives of the people for the soul of the Master of the city. Griangi convinced Farinost to decline, wait a day while they sorted this out. Farinost seemed to accept it, and Mason generously offered his legal advice and explained to Griangi and Kia that they could become the Master of the City rather easily:
1. Declare that they are exercising their noble rank to take command of the post from Farinost (in the name of the Grand Duke).
2. Demand Farinost’s troops to now be subject to their commands.
3. Provide a legal writ that they are now the Duke of the City, pending the return of Grand Duke Nilson VonCrosia.
The party later discovered what seemed to be evidence that Admiral Farinost was reconsidering the deal offered by Nilar.

After sleeping on the situation and considering the visit of Nilar, the party chose to send Midori on the mission to get the book for High Priest Stephanos, while the rest of the party marched on the Bastion Wall to take it, partially as a distraction for Midori.

As the party, the column of soldiers and the raw recruits that Gorrok was training arrived at the Bastion Wall, the battle began with two Bone Devils and the party. As the column behind them formed up and the battle escalated, Xiwrath himself appeared, a huge, dark, shadowy devil whose voice shook the heavens and promised the doom of everyone…


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