Discoveries & Decisions
Having just defeated the pit fiend Azazal, we find our heroes resting within the Iron Fortress on the cube Kolbian in Avalas, the first layer of the plane of Acheron. It was no small feat taking down a pit fiend and they were tired. While they rested, the battles on other iron cubes continued. Even within the fortress, they could still hear the din of battles raging on other cubes.
For the next few days, they explored the rest of the Iron Fortress. They quickly learned that all the doors were magically locked, yet opened at Quinn’s touch. And they often found rooms Quinn desired, like the place was molding itself to his desires. While that was creepy, they figured that Quinn delivered the killing blow to Azazal and that transferred control of the place to him.
Klang got to wondering if the fortress had become a trap for them or perhaps just Quinn. So they wandered outside and were free to come and go as they pleased. So not a trap. However, the entire exterior that had appeared as a poorly constructed bunch of iron plates, now appeared as iron feathers of a raven with a large raven’s visage protruding out over the entrance. Seems the Iron Fortress really reflects its owner’s desires.
After some time, Rolen emerged from his hidey-hole and noticed the changed entrance and figured it was probably a sign that things had gone well for his fellow adventurers and kept an eye out for them to emerge. When they did, he join them.
The heroes’ continued searching found the laboratory/factory that was used to make Rolen clones. It was very advanced and took some time to figure out its most basic workings. Rolen was intent on destroying the clones, but Paelius and Klang were able to convince him to not destroy the system itself. It was quick work for Rolen to introduce poison into the system, thus killing the clones that had yet to be invigorated with life.
When the clones were all destroyed, Rolen felt a sense of completion, both in body and soul. Quinn posited that perhaps his shattered soul had been made whole once more. Rolen didn’t care – it was done and he felt better. He was looking for to retirement now. However, there was the small matter of who created this system and for what purpose?
There was a library of sorts that housed a great many tomes, most ancient by any measure. Paelius and Levi spent a few days pouring over the place, searching for information about the cloning machine, its maker, its purpose, or any other clues about the Iron Fortress itself.
Meanwhile, Klang, Rolen and Quinn finished exploring the fortress. There were no other treasures or hostile creatures in the place. Rolen and Klang were overly not pleased. It seems the ownership change was complete and Quinn was the sole beneficiary.
They did find one room different than all the others, and it was not something Quinn had any hand in creating. It was a cube with smooth, dark glass-like walls. In the center on the floor was an engraved circle with indentations for three bars, forming a triangle. It was a mystery for some time until one of them noticed the indent was the exact shape of their immovable rod. They tried inserting the rod they had with them, it fit perfectly. They also inserted the one they had found in the place with identical results. That was a puzzle they were unsure they wanted to solve without more consideration. It might open a portal or gate for something or to some place – they had no idea.
When Klang tried setting up the room as a sanctuary for one of his spells (Word of Recall), he found he could not. It seems the cube room was shielded from magical use or something like that. That would make sense if this was indeed a portal or summoning room of some sort. There was much speculation about this, but in the end, both Quinn and Klang decided to use their respective headquarters (Kickass Keep and the Phandelin Mine’s All Saints temple) as their sanctuaries for this spell…should they need them. Who knows where they may end up next time?
It wasn’t for a several more days that they Paelius and Levi reported on their findings. The first finding was that there were a lot of books related to the origins of the universe and the names of those around when it was first formed. It seems the focus was on learning more about Tharizdun and the Elder Elemental Eye. It seems he was imprisoned for creating the Abyss…or something like that…and his followers want to destroy the universe (or at least that’s what they interpreted “the very threads of existence must be torn asunder and then burned” meant). Yeah, that seemed like dangerous stuff.
The second finding was that while Azazal was the owner, he did not know much about what was inside the place before taking ownership. Azazal had learned that the fortress had been plundered by a group of adventurers who, when done killing the inhabitants, had abandoned it.
Azazal sent agents to hunt down these adventurers, learned who dealt the killing blow, and then killed that adventurer himself to claim the fortress for himself. He rewarded his agents with quarters in the place. Azazal was not actually interested in rewarding his minions, but needed more guards for his lair than the lame iron golems automatically provided by the magical fortress. This was the plane of battle after all…
Going back further, the owner slain by the adventurers remained a bit of a mystery. He was named Imperagon, was a a half-duergar/half-dragon warlord, and was the ruler of the Iron Fortress of Zandikar. It seems he had some sort of plan for the stolen adamantium, but what exactly that was is not made clear. It’s also not clear what purpose the cloning system was for, but it seems when Azazal took ownership, he kept the cloning system in place and spreading Rolen-driven chaos to the material plane over time.
The third and last finding was the cube’s actual name – Kolyoral. That was the best Levi and Paelius could make out from the texts and some of Quinn’s knowledge.
It was about then that they noticed a large blue silk tent appear a few hundred meters in front of the fortress. It stood out like a sore thumb and that’s not something the heroes needed on another plane of existence. Paelius sent his owl out to investigate and it was exactly what it appeared to be – a big, blue silk tent with various sigils decorating it’s surface.
While the rest talked over what to do next, Levi went up to the parapets and started yelling and waving his arms. That seemed to do it as a djinn emerged from the tent and greeted welcome to his friends. Klang and Rolen were clueless on who this might be, but the others seemed to recognize him. It seems they had freed this djinn several years ago while on the Reaper’s early adventures and their was at least a friendly business relationship between them still. He would sell them magical things from time to time.
Klang was inclined to stay back in the Iron Fortress, but was convinced he should accompany them to see their “friend” the djinn Chalazon. OK, the convincing involved a mage hand, but Klang still got the hint from his fellow heroes.
With a sense of wonder, they discovered the inside of the tent was much larger than the outside. There were many items to be had and while most perused the offerings, Levi and Quinn questioned how Shelzon happened to find them here. Seems word leaked out about the team’s plundering of the Chalychia prison hoard and, being an avid (rabid?) sales person, Chalazon queried into our whereabouts. The team left behind to control and finish cleaning out the place did not provide any useful information (note to selves, give those saps a raise). So he sought other sources with looser lips and managed to track the heroes down. Wandering about with glowing magic relics on other planes tends to get you noticed…and stealth is not the team’s forté.
Once the items were selected, the haggling began. Klang was no slouch and neither was Shelzon. After the first few hours, the endurance of Klang fellow adventurers had given out. One by one, they gave up and went back into Iron Fortress to sleep. The next day, such as they were here on Kolyoral cube, they returned to see what had come of the negotiations. Final touches were being put on the agreement – both were tugging at the last coin.
Rolen had hung around longer than most, causing some mischief of his own, forcing occasional recounts. Once concluded, they split the copper coin, and Chalazon reveled in the final deal. Klang was haggard looking, but grinning just the same. It was time to party!
Chalazon offered up his 100-wife harem and a feast was made manifest for all to partake, at no fee. It had been eons since he had such a stiff challenge and he wanted to share in his delight. And so it was they passed the time in a bit of debauchery on the plane of Acheron. It wasn’t often they were able to take a vacation of sorts…and Levi, the polyamorous paladin, was immune to disease.
Levi picked up a chalice of healing, Quinn a cloak of displacement and tomes to augment his library, Rolen went of a ring of invisibility and winged boots, Paelius populated his spell book with a few more spells, and Klang opted for a magic shield and cap of water breathing (it seems drowning has been a fear of his since childhood).
When asked about the devil that had been freed, Chalazon pulled out a book and after some searching, identified her as a Jezebel, a handmaiden of Asmodeus, technically called a Erinyes. Yeah, that’s a whole lot of “no good”.
Bidding Chalazon farewell as he disappeared with an elemental whoosh of air, the heroes returned to the Iron Fortress with its iron golem protectors and the steady din of distant battles a constant reminder of their unwelcoming surroundings.
Time for Hell
The next day, they suited up with their new items, prepared themselves with a magical heroes feast and various buffs. Then it was time to read that scroll from the handmaiden. (What were they thinking, reading a scroll given to them by a handmaiden of Asmodeus?!)
As the final words were uttered, a shimmering portal of fire appeared (yup, that’s thematic). After a month on Archeron, they had become accustomed to the din of battle and had tuned it out. But what they heard coming from the other side of that portal sent shivers down their spines. The inhuman screams and cries of death we not exactly inviting. But our (crazy?) heroes stepped through the portal and into the largest and most gruesome battle they had ever witnessed.
Bodies were strewn about, some in piles while others were simply ground into the dirt. The red soil beneath their feet was probably made so by the blood leaking from those bodies. Weapons, mandibles, claws, shields, armor – all the weapons of war – were mixed in and among the bodies. The signs of battle were every where. The heroes were taken aback by the sheer magnitude of the carnage.
Before they could take in any more of the horror of war, the Jezabel who gave them the scroll was there with an army of devils, barking orders at both the devils and the heroes, “Get ready, they’re coming.” Her eyes turned toward the coming onslaught of a demon army…
Quinn, quickly taking in the scene, explained to his fellow adventurers, “That’s no army, demon’s don’t have armies, they only wage war in hordes of chaos. The devils have an army. And we’ve stumbled into the ages old Blood War between demons and devils.”
Before he could say much more, the demons had closed within range. Paelius, with Quinn’s shared insight, realized this unit of devil army had been holding this portal from the demons…the devils had been awaiting their arrival. Hmm…devil’s awaiting your arrival – that’s ominous he thought to himself before he was forced to turned his focus to casting combat magic.
Klang, more concerned the imminent battle, glanced to either side to see the entire devil deployment was surrounded by demons and that the other flanks were covered by legion devils – a solid choice for fighting demons. So it appeared the heroes just needed to focus on defeating the demons coming straight at them and leave the rest to the other devil units.
As for what was coming at them, it was a test in demon identification – a Balor, Hezrou, Goristro, Barlgura, Marilith, Shadow Demon, and Quasit – a regular smorgasbord of demon kind, all come to serve up death to the heroes and devils.
Seeking a simple way to discourage spell casting by the back row of demons, Klang cast silence to force the spellcasting demons to move or choose non-verbal spells…or at least prevent the leaders from issuing commands to their subjugated underlings.
Rolen, spying the leader like figure of th Balor in back, attempted an assassination attempt with the aide of Paelius’ teleport spell. It dealt an incredible blow the Balor, but the tough demon simply shook it off what would have felled any mortal being.
Levi used destructive wave to great effect, knocking the foes prone and breaking their “surround and pound” tactics. Quinn summoned a spirit guardian as a defensive measure to slow the demon horde’s charge. Klang was pulled into melee by a demon’s whip attack, making his touch attack with the talisman of pure good particularly effective.
Paelius lined up his lightning bolt, but it was less effective on the demons. Damn their natural resistance to such attacks! Rolen, hiding amongst the bodies after his first attack, back-stabbed another demon. Levi again used his destructive wave, although more out of desperation this time as he was bleeding from several grave demon-inflicted wounds.
The Balor summoned 2 more Mariliths and then teleported away. Klang, heeding his calling to heal and preserve, healed his comrades and moved out of melee before they could “surround and pound” him. Quinn was less fortunate and was knocked prone.
Paelius swapped places with Quinn using benign transposition, then launched a thunder wave attack in an attempt to disrupt the surround and pound demon tactic. It was not quite as effective as he would have liked and he took a beating by the demons before blinding them and escaping their grasp.
Levi, himself still suffering from many wounds, had used misty step to follow the Balor. The idea of keeping up the pressure on the wounded beast was effective, but he was rewarded with death when Klang’s killing blow to the Balor resulted in an explosion. Klang wasn’t far behind Levi into death when a Marilith squashed him like bug.
Quinn, having recovered from his prone state, cast mass healing on the entire party, bringing both Klang and Levi back from the clutches of death. Klang, eager for revenge on the Marilith, got his chance when the Marilith fell tripped and fell – applying the talisman of good’s touch once more and then issuing a divine word, sending the demon back to it’s own plane. Levi got his vengeance on the still standing Marilith with a blow that shook bones.
It was an epic battle, but only a tiny footnote in the history of the Blood War. Licking their woulds, the heroes regrouped, checking each was still alive and not tainted by disease or worse.
Levi was still wondering if he should turn on the charm with this Jezabel handmaiden as she seemed smitten with him…his immunity to disease would be certainly be put to the test…and perhaps he could instill some good in her.