Fate’s Chosen: the gate

Sithka takes a deep breath and focuses on the surrounding environment to keep it from breaking apart in the churning chaos of Limbo. Feeling deeply distraught about her crew and ship, she reflects for a moment until she notices the tall spirit man who occupies the dwarf’s body, pick up the wand. She glances at the fortress and then back at the dead half-orc zombie; what a mess she thinks to herself.

Naismith exits the fortress, and moves to collect Kendall’s robe of stars; he then moves toward Zombie Nong’s body, undresses it and gathers his comrade’s belongings. Royce exits the fortress and looks at Sithka with a solemn face; he casts Tongues on himself and says to her,
“We are truly sorry for your crew and ship, Sithka. We did not expect the battle with Orcus to be here. We figured we would meet him in the Abyss.”
Sithka simply nods and responds, “My duty as githzerai is to protect my home, so this invasion was less about you and more about serving my calling. Nevertheless, if you were not here, that battle would not have happened.”
Royce looks down recognizing the truth in Sithka’s words.
“Royce, the fortress is on top of the key, which I already activated so it cannot be undone. Without more githzerai, I cannot complete the task. I need to return to Shra’kt’lor for more crew and another citadel. In the meantime I will show you and Mordrock how to maintain the stabilization of this environment.”

Royce dismisses the fortress as Sithka begins to teach Royce and Mordrock how to will their minds to keep the surrounding environment intact; the feeling is familiar to them, like concentrating on a spell. However, Royce is the only one who seems to master the technique which keeps him completely focused for the next few hours. Sithka draws a circle on the ground, casts a spell, and teleports away. Mordrock and Naismith notice that pieces of the rock beyond their current location begin to break apart, separate and transform. Both look at each other, concerned how much time they have left on the ground beneath them.

Naismith spends the next few hours resting and attuning to the Ring of Mind Shielding; he thinks he may put the ring’s ability to store his soul to good use, if things go awry in the Positive plane. He stares up at Anarchocles and takes a moment to digest what stands before him and then speaks out to the hero,
“Anarchocles, I can take hold of the wand, it cannot speak to me now that I possess this ring. You do not have to endure it any more.”
Anarchocles slowly turns to Naismith and stares at him before shaking his head, “No. The wand is my burden now and I must bathe it in the Positive plane. It will stay with me until then.”

Mordrock wills Anarchocles to sit down by Naismith and share with the group how he came to be and where he was prior to this. The mighty hero acquiesces and begins to tell his story. His story of the battle between Orcus and himself, fits the legend perfectly. When he was slain, Orcus trapped his spirit in a blood ruby and tormented him for a millennia. He made Anarachocles’s spirit feel the decapitation of his head, the exposure of his skull and the attachment to the wand. Anarchocles endured the pain from the necrotic energy Orcus used to bind his skull to the wand to craft the wand of Orcus. When Orcus was defeated in the Underdark, the Prince of Undeath’s essence returned to Thanatos to begin restoration. During this time, a squad of Kelemvor’s angels attacked Orcus’s lair, pried out the blood ruby from the throne, and bound it to Mordrock; none of the squad survived but they did complete their mission. Orcus nor the wand, knew what happened to the gem until Mordrock swallowed it and set Anarchocles free.
“And when I re-appeared today, thanks to Mordrock, I felt for a second fear from Orcus as he was completely surprised by this.”
Anarchocles pauses and then says to the group, “For you to have carried the wand all that time until here, is a testament of your endurance and personal responsibility to protect the multiverse from a great evil. You as well, are legendary.”

Naismith looks away toward the body of Zombie Nong.

Royce is the first to see another githzerai citadel approach what is now just a small island surrounding the group; a fraction of the rock formation remaining since Sithka departed. Royce, who is sweating and trembling from the concentration, feels the tension in his mind subside enabling him to relax and let go; he’s confident the githzerai on the ship have it now under control. Sithka and crew float down to the area and head toward the key that is partly submerged in the ground. She nods to Royce in appreciation and motions the Drow’s Bane over to her. The githzerai arrange themselves in a circle around the key and begin to concentrate. The key lights up again, begins to alter its shape and transforms into a gateway. The gateway activates and a bright light emanates from within, to reveal the Positive plane on the other side.

Sithka informs Royce that she can hold the gate open for about a minute. Royce tells the others and they prepare to enter. Anarchocles moves first through the portal. He is instantly blinded by the plane and Mordrock instinctively holds his breath from the lack of air; Naismith and Royce follow next. The rogue uses his blindsense to detect where Anarchocles and Royce are; he senses Anarchocles is struggling to keep the wand from thrashing about. He reaches out and grabs hold of Anarchocles’s hand to reaffirm the hero’s grip. When Naismith does this, a familiar dream appears in his mind. He remembers seeing Tymora’s silhouette in a bright light reassuringly nod to the rogue; the image calms Naismith allowing him to sense where Royce is and bring him closer toward the group.

Half a minute goes by and Naismith senses the wand is full of spider cracks and small chips in the skull are beginning to break away. With everyone holding their breath, no one can verbally guide the others so Naismith keeps his hand firm on Anarchocles’s hand. A minute goes by, and the party begins to feel discombobulated from the radiant energy penetrating their entire bodies. The wand is now severely cracked throughout and maybe a few seconds more, is all they need to destroy it. Naismith remembers Sithka holding the gate open, but immediately dismisses that thought; he always believed this was going to be a one way journey anyway.

One minute, eighteen seconds go by and the wand is exploding at the same time Naismith, Royce and Mordrock feel a cosmic pull on their beings; a feeling very familiar to each of them, like being pulled back from death. The choice is Now or Never…

Royce gives into the pull.

Mordrock gives into the pull.

Naismith resists the pull.

The wand explodes in the Positive plane causing the Wand of Orcus to be eternally destroyed forever in this timeline. The legendary Drow’s Bane succeed in their destiny! Huzzah!!!

Royce sees darkness.

Mordrock sees darkness.

Naismith awakes on the banks of the river Styx, in Avernus; the first layer of Hell.

Fate’s Chosen: audentes fortuna iuvat (“fortune favors the bold”)

Devils of all shapes and sizes spew out of crimson portals, screaming infernal battle cries: narzugons on infernal steeds charge past the Drow’s Bane and collide with death knights on their nightmares; pit fiends and amnizus fly out and lock onto dracoliches and their riders. Hellfire engines, last to emerge, slowly move out and position themselves ready to unload their deadly cannons upon Orcus’s army.

The War of the Wand has officially begun.

Orcus lets out an abyssal charge to his second in command, the molydeus, to take down Anarchocles now! The huge two headed beast moves to engage the legendary hero’s corporal form; it lets out a battle cry as it swings its gigantic battleaxe striking Anarchocles across the chest. The fiend follows through with a bite from his wolf head and another from his serpent head; both connect with their target. Mordrock feels the pain and also hears the thoughts of Anarchocles, who grips tighter his Rod of Lordly Might as he responds with a vicious blow to the wolf head.

Nong, who is engaged with Orcus, continues to pummel the Prince of Undeath unleashing everything he’s got. Each time Nong swings, Orcus returns with a tail swing. Then Orcus points his wand at Nong, utters a command and a swirling necrotic vortex forms around the monk. Nong realizes he is in a bad predicament as a large skeletal hand flies from Orcus’s wand, causing major necrotic damage to Nong; the skeletal hand hangs off of Nong hindering his ability to heal himself too. The monk is quick to flee the vortex by running across the battlefield towards his comrades. However this does not stop Orcus, who is unrelenting; he continues to cast more skeletal hands that fly across the battlefield and slice through Nong.

Kendall’s dracolich flies past Royce and Naismith and they notice Kendall is not riding it. The huge dracolich drops onto the ground near them, projecting a fierce frightening aura. Unfortunately, the aura does not affect the party thanks to last night’s Heroes Feast.
“Royce, be on the look out for Kendall. He has disappeared again and that means trouble. I don’t sense him near me either.”
“Watch out Naismith!”
Naismith dodges the great maw of the dracolich, somersaulting just in time. Naismith follows up with a jump to the top of the great undead beast and slashes away; the dracolich roars out in pain from the deep wound. Royce strikes next causing radiant energy from Dawn Bringer to rip a gash down the dracolich’s side. The huge beast flaps its wings in response, drawing its large body up into the air, causing a mighty current to knock Royce down.

“Royce watch out!!” screams Mordrock.

The molydeus lifts a huge molten rock with its mind and drops it on top of both clerics. The pain from the weight and molten lava is punishing. Royce responds by attempting to cast a healing spell, only to be countered. He looks around and sees no one responsible for this act. “Damn You Kendall!” screams Royce. Naismith runs past Sithka who finishes casting a spell that instantly engulfs her in a protective globe of energy. “Sithka, use your citadel! We need everything we can get now,” as Naismith points to the citadel. Sithka acknowledges the rogue, even though she does not understand him and vanishes into thin air.

Naismith runs behind one of the Hellfire cannons to catch his breath. He feels a tingling sensation all over his body as the plane of Limbo transforms before his eyes into a giant maze. At the same time, fifty feet in the air, four Kendalls appear from casting a spell. Naismith glances around the labyrinth and remembers a similar description from Nong, who could not escape for an entire fight. “Jimjar, please give me some luck here!” as he concentrates on re-imagining Limbo. Today, luck is on his side as he manages to overcome the image and will himself back onto the plane of Limbo. He pops back onto the battlefield as the scowling four Kendalls look down at him in anger.

The rogue leaps up and flies close by the Kendalls, however, the rogue is not fast enough to strike before the four Kendalls succeed in banishing him back to his home plane. Naismith blinks into existence in the Dock Ward of Waterdeep. “What happened? Why am I…in Waterdeep? NO! This can’t be happening, not now!! Damn you Kendall!” Fear races across his mind as he grabs his necklace,
“Sithka, Sithka! Help Me! I’ve been banished back to Waterdeep in the Dock Ward. Please, you must help me get back to Limbo.”
Moments later he hears Sithka respond, “Naismith, this can’t be. I just positioned the citadel over the battlefield. I’m channeling all of my power into it now. Hold on, I think I know how to get you back.”
Sithka throws the controls over to her comrade and yells back at another to follow her. They run through the citadel, toward a summoning chamber. She races to the center of the room, grabs hands with her comrade, and casts Plane Shift.

Pop! Sithka and her comrade appear over the Dock Ward in Waterdeep. They hover in the air looking for Naismith as surprised Waterdhavians on the dock start pointing up at the githzerai. Sithka’s comrade points down and sees the rogue running toward them. They fly down toward Naismith, grab his hands, then Sithka turns to her comrade,
“Quick, Ansel, get us back to the citadel!”
“Order understood, captain.”

Pop! And the three reappear back in Limbo. However they do not reappear on the citadel, but floating among pieces of a destroyed citadel, at the claws of Kendall’s dracolich, who now sees the group twenty feet away.
“What?! This can’t be. No! My crew!”
“Sithka, the dracolich! Get out of here now!”
The dracolich moves in for a bite, missing Sithka but connecting with Ansel, who screams out in pain as the giant maw severs his body in two.
Naismith jumps across pieces of the destroyed citadel and lands on the dracolich’s head; he furiously slashes away and then flees. The dracolich flies after Naismith and manages to claw and bite him before turning around and flying towards the vulnerable Sithka. Naismith looks up and sees the four Kendalls hovering above him, glaring back at the rogue in bewilderment. The four Kendalls raise there hands and a cone of cold sprays over him.

Anarchocles and Royce continue to strike at the molydeus between lightning attacks from the four Kendalls. The molydeus focuses on Anarchocles, intent on felling the ancient hero’s spirit in duty to his master. Then, the clerics hear Nong cry out as the half-orc gets blasted by a beam of necrotic energy from the wand of Orcus, killing the monk on impact. A deep guttural laugh from Orcus overtakes the battlefield. The Prince of Undeath then points the wand at Nong’s dead body and issues an abyssal command. Moments later, the dead body begins to stir and rise up, now in the form of an undead drooling zombie. Orcus yells out in Common, “Nong my drooling zombie thrall, I command you to eat your comrades’ brains now!” Zombie Nong responds to the command and drags his disfigured body in the direction of the clerics.

There is a look of fear between Mordrock, Royce and Naismith in regards to watching their fallen friend, rise up as a zombie. The good news, is that Zombie Nong is a fraction of his true power, which means he is unable to land a hit on either mighty cleric. Between the mighty rod of Anarchocles, Dawn Bringer and Royce’s spiritual weapon, the clerics manage to take down the molydeus. However, the four Kendalls succeed in taking Naismith down at the same time. Royce is quick to get Naismith back in the fight as the thunderous Prince of Undeath charges toward Anarchocles. The legendary battle between Orcus and Anarchocles ignites for a second time in history. The legendary hero is fast, and Mordrock’s body keeps up, but Orcus is just as mighty, especially wielding the wand.

Mordrock realizes how easily he controls life and death as a cleric and as he dodges Orcus, he strikes Zombie Nong dead. He rushes to the undead body and touches it trying to restore it to natural life. Except, the undead body does not rise up as a living Nong. Only very powerful divine magic can restore an undead body to its original form and bring life to it. But that requires time, and time is not something Mordrock has right now.

The dracolich dives for Sithka and easily swipes both claws at her. Alone, among pieces of her ship and dead comrades, Sithka has few choices to survive. She casts a spherical wall of force around her as a last effort to endure the strength of the dracolich. The wall withstands several strikes, but Sithka realizes it is only a matter of time before she loses her concentration.

Royce looks up to the four Kendalls and attempts to banish them in hopes to turn the tables, but Kendall is quick to notice and counters the attempt. The wizard responds with another lightning spell that lights up Royce.

Royce realizes being in between Orcus, Kendall and eventually the dracolich, they cannot survive for long. The party needs protection and soon. His mind races through idea after idea until he stops, grabs the bag of holding and pulls out Daern’s Instant Fortress. He throws the tiny fortress in the direction of the four Kendalls and Orcus and says the magic word. The fortress transforms into its castle like size clipping Orcus and Kendall in the process; Orcus is pushed back fifteen feet and so is Kendall.
“Quick, get in the fortress now!” screams Royce as he rushes into it, followed by Naismith. Mordrock, however, is too engaged with Orcus to pay attention to the advice.

The battlefield is littered with infernal and abyssal ichor and no side seems to have the upper hand at the moment. But the bold move to unleash Daern’s Instant Fortress, gives advantage to the Drow’s Bane. The fortress provides cover allowing Naismith to shoot down the dracolich moments after its last strike causes Sithka to loose her concentration.

Orcus gets the upper hand with Anarchocles and when the mighty hero and Mordrock fall, the Prince of Undeath stomps on the unconscious body determined to kill it quickly. Royce is quick to intervene with a heal from the fortress window, but Mordrock does not manage to get up before Orcus stomps on his body again causing his eyes to close once more. Orcus is so focused on killing Anarchocles, he does not see Sithka appear near the fortress and cast Reverse Gravity in the direction of the Prince of Undeath and Kendall.

Orcus looses his balance from the spell but manages to grab hold of the ground instead of flying upward, however the four Kendalls are not so lucky and go spinning upward uncontrollably. The opportunity plays into the Drow’s Bane’s hand as Naismith reaches out of the fortress window and successfully casts Faerie Fire on the four Kendalls; and only the real Kendall lights up. As Kendall tries to regain his balance, Naismith lets arrow after arrow fly toward the undead wizard until Kendall eventually stops moving. Moments later, only the robe of stars tumbles to the ground.

Royce seizes the opportunity to get Mordrock back in the fight. The Prince of Undeath cannot regain control of the situation before Royce’s spiritual weapon successfully strikes deep into Orcus’s heart, causing the Prince of Undeath to look out in horror as he collapses to the ground, dead.

Fate’s Chosen: Limbo

There is no gravity in Limbo and the environment is constantly in flux. The Drow’s Bane see before them Sithka’s adamantine citadel among several colliding earth motes, a lightning storm and a swirling vortex that shifts between wind and water every few seconds. This plane is pure chaos.

The party wills themselves forward toward the ship; some catch on faster than others. The citadel’s hatch is open, and inside two githzerai focus on keeping the doors open as they motion the party to enter. Sithka stands in the back, waiting.
“Welcome back, I’m surprised to see you again and am happy you look well.”
Nong acknowledges her as the others acclimate to the ship’s gravity. Royce casts Tongues to understand the gith language.
“Thank you Sithka for hosting us again. It is a pleasure to be in your company once more. Since we last spoke, we have made great strides in our journey to defeat this thing,” as Royce points to the wand resting at Nong’s side.
“We have discovered these two metal plates, the first is a teleportation circle that maps to somewhere in Limbo,” as he hands the first plate to Sithka.
She examines the plate and concludes, “Yes, you are correct. I believe from what I’m seeing, these coordinates are in this vicinity of Limbo and we can easily set a course there.”
“The other plate here, we understand might be a key to a gate, and the key requires significant psychic power to manipulate. This is why we seek your assistance, for the key might unlock a gate to the Positive plane,” says Royce handing Sithka the second plate.
Sithka’s face lights up with curiosity as she examines the second plate, “Fascinating. I will need to study this further before I can answer you on what it is and how to activate it. I do sense this is very old and maybe it is a four dimensional key.”

She motions for her guests to follow her as she escorts them into the citadel to a comfortable room where a meal is nicely presented.
“Please, you can relax here and enjoy some fine cuisine from Limbo,” as she smiles and glances at the food.
“I must study this plate and I will return to you when I have more information.”
“Thank you Sithka, we truly appreciate it.”

Nong quietly requests a place to meditate three hundred feet away from the others and one of the giths obliges.

About four hours goes by before Sithka returns with a few gith by her side. She walks into the room looking confident. She waits until Nong is fetched before she explains her findings.
“You were correct this is a four dimensional key to a gate that opens onto the Positive plane. I will need five of my patrol with me to channel enough psychic energy to activate it and open the gate. I believe we can keep it open for about a minute. Can you accomplish your task within this time?”

Royce and Nong look at each other, unclear on how to answer but figure how much time should it really take to bathe a wand in positive energy?
“Uh, yes we will make it happen with the time you give us.”
“Excellent, how do you plan to protect yourselves? I’ve only had researches spend a few seconds on the plane to gather samples. A minute is quite long and probably very dangerous to your bodies.”

Royce and Nong again look at each other, unclear on how to answer. Sithka picks up on the apprehension and responds, “I see you are not familiar with the environmental hazards of the plane. Very well, we can probably shield you while you cross into the plane, but not for very long. The plane is so bright you will be blinded as soon as you step into it and of course, you will have to hold your breath given there is no air on the plane either. However, the real problem is the radiant energy that fills your body with healing energy until it cannot take anymore. Which results in your body exploding and you die. We obviously don’t want that, so you must be quick with your task.”

Another pregnant pause fills the room before Nong responds, “We heard about the plane’s hostile environment already. We understand this is potentially a suicide mission.”

Royce translates to Naismith and Mordrock about Sithka’s findings.
“What if we figure out a way to use our Caps of Water Breathing to simulate an environment with air, like we could wear glass bowls filled with water in them?” asks Naismith.

The groups spends an hour exploring options with whatever glass containers Sithka has on the ship. They fill them with water, put them on their heads while wearing the Cap of Water Breathing, only to find the water pours out; they next try with sand and hold their breath while the gith focus on converting the sand to water, but the water still empties out. Naismith asks about wax, but the gith have no understanding of what wax is. Eventually, they give up exploring options.

The adamantine citadel arrives near the teleportation circle. Sithka first channels her citadel’s energy to stabilize the surrounding area into a rock formation that should persist for several hours. She, five githzerai and the Drow’s Bane exit the ship and will themselves down to the area.

The rocky ground is littered with pockets of molten lava, caught in mid-transformation, which now sits bowling and spewing among the rock formation; the location is very warm but well lit thanks to the lava pools. Sithka counts her steps and then stops, “Here is the location of the teleportation circle.” She spreads her hands and focuses on the area; the ground lights up with runes that match the runes on the metal plate. She takes out the second plate and lays it down in the circle. She motions to her patrol to grab hands, form a circle, and begin the psychic focus. The Drow’s Bane watch the circle intently.

The metal plate begins to glow. The gith’s psychic energy causes the plate to begin to expand, form into a cylinder, and move.

Naismith and Royce think they hear sounds, like a roar, come from the distance somewhere. Nong notices in the corner of his eye, the forming of a new rock formation extending from where they are, out a thousand or more feet. He looks around but only sees the giths focusing on the key. How is this happening?

Everyone hears a horrible screeching sound above them as a giant cloud fast approaches their location from the extended rock formation. The cloud washes over them and hangs in place, causing the area to become heavily obscured. The gith begin coughing as they inhale the cloud’s poisonous vapors and lose their concentration; they break the circle, cover their mouths and look for an escape, not understanding what just happened or why. The Drow’s Bane begin calling out to the gith and to each other in the impenetrable fog; fortunately for them, they are not affected by the poison thanks to last night’s Heroes’ Feast.

Then, everyone pauses as they focus on the sound coming toward them like a great tidal wave of movement and angry cries. The thousand angry voices penetrate the cloud and flood past the party; the crying is so loud it prevents anyone from hearing anyone else in the chaos.

But that’s not the worst of it.

Everyone is pummeled with cold, spectral hands that wash over them as the cries penetrate their minds. The flood of undeath moves through the cloud overwhelming the gith patrol who immediately succumb to death. Sithka and the Drow’s Bane are tougher, but barely survive the attack. Fear clouds Sithka’s mind as she begins to crawl in any direction to survive another onslaught. Naismith leaps up and flies searching to escape the chaos. As he crests the cloud, he stops in shock.

Several dracoliches with riders, one being Kendall, hoover quietly, staring back at him. He sees beyond the dracoliches, death knights on nightmares who silently glare back at him too. The rogue flies over the cloud in the opposite direction to find more dracoliches with riders; he also catches a glimpse of a huge two-headed fiend wielding a gigantic battleaxe, just standing and watching him. Mordrock manages to escape the cloud next and freezes as he catches the same sight of an army of fiends and undead, quietly staring back at him. The cleric calls out to his comrades at the same time the cloud begins to break away. Royce and Nong watch the cloud lift, but then drop their jaws as the horrific scene beyond, slowly comes into view.

Nong pulls out the wand and gets into a defensive stance as he hears a familiar deep guttural voice laugh inside his head,
“It is time for me to take back my wand Nong Sung Roc. Your death today marks the beginning of your eternity as a drooling mindless zombie forever roaming in my shit!”

The party quickly turns to see the monk let out a cry as the wand he wields, engulfs his hand in necrotic flame, then flies across the battlefield and lands in the palm of the Prince of Undeath. The pain is so severe, Nong falls to his knees clutching his charred hand, looking up and seeing the huge fiend in the back of the battlefield, triumphantly wield the wand of Orcus.

Royce, Naismith and Mordrock see Orcus now too and quickly realize how dangerous this situation has become. They see Nong let out a battlecry, then charge across the battlefield and engage with the Prince of Undeath. Kendall’s dracolich responds next as it lowers its head, opens its mouth and unleashes a lightning bolt that lights up Royce, Mordrock and Naismith. Royce begins casting a healing spell only to be countered by a dracolich rider. Naismith begins casting Faerie Fire only to be countered by Kendall.

Mordrock steps away from the group, pulls out his necklace and swallows it. He feels the crystal go down and then an immense warmth overtake his body. A surge of energy rises up from within the cleric of Kelemvor as the spirit of Anarchocles emerges; the two become one as the spirit of Anarchocles is now anchored to the corporal body of Mordrock. Royce and Naismith stare in shock as to what just happened to their comrade, neither comprehending it but hoping it means good news.

Orcus lets out a fell rage as he witnesses the transformation and realizes who now stands on the battlefield – the legendary fighter, whose skull rests on the wand of Orcus; whose soul was imprisoned in the throne of Orcus; where legend has it he is the only one who can wash the wand in positive energy to destroy it for all eternity.

At the same time, several crimson portals erupt from behind Royce and Naismith…

it looks like the infernal cavalry has joined the party too.

Fate’s Chosen: saying goodbye to friends and loved ones

Petha and Lela notice the flash in the courtyard and see familiar faces appear out of thin air. They greet the Drow’s Bane but realize the towels they carry are not needed this time.

Royce is greeted by Lela who speaks to him in broken common,
“Lela, that’s good. You are speaking common now.”
“Yes, master Royce, her classes have been going well; she’s a fast learner of the language.”
Lela takes Royce’s hand and describes to him how she thinks Petha is nice, and Yonica is sweet and says ‘Petri’ shaking her head and frowning. She breaks into Aquan and details how the basilisk scares her; Nong listens and smirks in response.

The party spends the day acclimating back into familiar territory. After a meal and some light rest, Naismith calls to Petha to take a walk with him. The two walk in the garden as he explains to her that Illian and Tusker, have unfortunately passed. Petha grips her scarf and begins to cry; Naismith follows suit. The two console each other and talk about the need for hosting a memorial dedicated to the ranger and her sidekick. They continue this conversation with the others and ideate on what to do.
“I have her two scimitars that I would like mounted. We can place them with the memorial.”
“I can make them into a cairn and we can assemble it on the small mound over there,” points Mordrock.
“What do you think she wants to be remembered by?” asks Petha.
“I think we plant in her name a tree right over here,” points Naismith toward the garden.

Two days later, the Drow’s Bane and Catchbreeze staff hold a memorial in the garden, attributed to Illian Nightbreeze and Tusker. Each take turns speaking about a favorite memory of their friends and an occasional laugh breaks the constant melancholy mood. Lela and Yonica carry baskets of cut flowers, and proceed up to the cairn where they lay them out. The party closes the memorial by planting a tree in Illian’s name. The beautiful event not only helps with closure, but serves as a catalyst for each of them to consider the implication of their next journey.

Over the next few days:

Royce finishes the letter and wraps it with ribbon. He takes it to his father, who has been really enjoying his stay at Catchbreeze.
“Dad, I’m happy to hear how wonderful your stay here has been for you. Listen, I need you to do something for me, okay?”
Royce hands his father the letter, “Please take this to mom after I leave for my next trip. You see, where I’m going will be extremely dangerous and necessary…Dad, if I do not return, then consider this my goodbye,” as Royce hugs his father deeply.

Royce’s father looks surprised but remembers all the times he has kept dibs on the whereabouts of his son; to him, Royce has always been a great hero to this world.
“I’m so proud of you son, for everything you have accomplished in life; especially your dedication to Tempus. I know you have to do what you have to do, and I know He is watching over you.”
Father and son spend the rest of the afternoon together, catching up on old memories and laughing about this, that, and the other.

Mordrock enters the City of the Dead holding a blanket. He makes his way to a familiar corner of the cemetery where he goes to escape from the world. He gently places the blanket down and begins to dig a hole. He unwraps the blanket, takes out the body of a two-headed kitten and buries it. “There you go Samantha. It is time for your eternal rest. I’m so sorry I kept you from it, for so long. Please forgive me.”

Nong looks up and sees the sign, “Monastery of the Sun” and enters. He glances around and sees monks dressed in simple garb and the fragrance of incense burns in the background; he is confident he has found the right place. Nong walks up to a man in yellow robes, “Hey, I’m looking for the abbot of this place?”
The man nods and replies, “You have found him. My name is Abbot Hanor of the Monastery of the Sun. How can I…help…you…?” The abbot trails off at the end of his question when he notices the strange creepy wand and dark aura emanating around this half-orc.

Nong presents a heavy satchel filled with coins, “I would like to make a donation of five hundred gold,” and hands it to the surprised abbott.
“I have one request. The next foundling who joins your monastery, I ask you to name him Taliq. That is all.”
Nong abruptly turns around and walks out of the monastery before abbott Hanor has a chance to respond.

On the opposite side of Waterdeep, Naismith enters the Tower of Luck, a temple dedicated to Tymora, goddess of luck.
“Excuse me, I have an important request for a clergy member. I am seeking the aid of a planar ally known as Jimjar; he is a deva of Tymora. How much would it cost to summon him for me?”
“Your request kind sir is expensive but possible. We can arrange for this for the price of one thousand seven hundred fifty gold pieces.”
“Done,” as Naismith hands over a large sack of gold pieces.

Naismith is brought to a summoning room where he is asked to sit at a table and wait. The cleric lights candles around the room and then approaches the middle.
“Jimjar is what you said, correct?”
“Yes, that is the deva’s name. Thank you.”
The cleric begins casting Planar Ally and ten minutes later, the deva appears in the room.
“Naismith. It is wonderful to see you.”
“And you as well Jimjar. We just experienced a horrific situation, and a perilous decision on my part to save the group.”
Jimjar responds with a loving smile and simple affirming nod. Naismith motions the deva to sit at the table with him, as the rogue pulls out a deck of cards and shuffles them.
“Come old friend, and play cards of chance with me.”
Jimjar takes a seat at the table and receives the dealt hand. Naismith begins playing a card and describes the choice he had to make.
“I took your advice you gave me. But I wasn’t expecting that it would lead to the ultimate gamble for my soul.”
Jimjar looks at his hand, draws and plays a card, “Everything has consequences. But I am happy you sit before me alive and well.”
Naismith plays two cards, “Is there a way back for me?”
Jimjar responds with two cards, one face up the other face down, “What you ask I cannot see for it is too far into the future. But there is always a way to play the odds if the timing is right.”
Naismith plays a three card combination of high cards, sits back and waits. Jimjar looks at this hand and knows he cannot beat that; he lays down the rest of his hand, “You win!” and smiles.

The deva stands up and says, “Know this, inspite of your contract, I am still granting you spells. Think about that,” as he prepares to exit. “It was great to see you Naismith. It was time,” and vanishes from the room.

A few days later, Royce returns from a shopping trip having spent one thousand five hundred gold pieces for a tuning fork to Limbo. The group decides to leave the next day. Later that afternoon, Royce approaches Petha and explains to her about their next trip and how they may not return.
“We leave you everything in the coffers and the property itself, so you can enjoy the rest of your life. We have truly enjoyed having you as head of estate.”
Petha gives Royce a hug and says, “Thank you master Royce. I am sad to hear this but in my time working here, I’ve come to expect such things. You know, you are not the first to occupy this estate. I do believe it was granted to you by Lady Silverhand herself. Have you informed her yet of your next adventure? I’m sure she would appreciate the information.”
“You are right Petha, I forgot about that. We definitely need to speak to her as soon as possible. She was the one who brought us together.”

The next day, the Drow’s Bane arrive at the palace to see Lady Laeral Silverhand. She welcomes them into a dining hall where a small feast is presented. They partake in lunch as they fill her in on their latest news. She listens intently and when they are done, asks,
“Do you know anything about the Positive plane?”
“Umm, not really Lady Silverhand. Only that we need psychic power to open up the gate from Limbo.”
“I see,” and turns to her staff to request the presence of Talestra, her loyal wizard.

Talestra appears and bows to formally greet the guests. Lady Silverhand asks her to describe the Positive plane. Talestra does not see that coming, and pauses for a second deep in thought. Once she is able to call to memory, she approaches,
“Yes my lady. The Positive plane is a plane composed of pure radiant energy. There is no air on the plane and it is inhospitable to those that depend on it to survive. One cannot see either and if you stay for more than a minute, you explode from the healing energy that constantly infuses your body until it reaches capacity.”

The party looks at each other in fear for what they just heard. Lady Silverhand picks up on the awkwardness,
“Thank you Talestra. Do you guys have any way of staying alive on the plane? How long do you need to bathe the wand?”
“We are unsure my lady. We hope it requires no more than the time it takes to hold our breath and keep our eyes closed.”

Together, they agree for Lady Silverhand to renounce Catchbreeze from the Drow’s Bane in one year, if they do not return; Petha will become Lela’s official guardian at that time as well. Lady Silverhand is proud of them and promises to begin work on their epic saga with her bards.
“You will not be forgotten Drow’s Bane. I promise you that.”

The next morning, Royce, Mordrock, Naismith and Nong stand in a circle in the garden. They clasp hands and listen to Royce cast Plane Shift marking their destination as ‘Sithka’s adamantine citadel in Limbo’. A moment later, they blink out of existence and reappear in Limbo five hundred feet from the familiar ship.

Fate’s Chosen: the MacGuffin

Royce’s eyes open to see staring down at him, Nong, who is barely alive. There is a look of exhaustion in Nong’s face – partly from fighting a god and partly from carrying the weight of the wand of Orcus all this way. Nong limps back to allow Royce space to move and get up. The cleric of Tempus looks around and sees the results of the battlefield: huge chunks of dead Kyuss litter the ground, spawn corpses everywhere and a horrendous stench of worms and undeath. He feels a throbbing pain creep up on him, as he looks down and sees a bloody finger stump.
“What the hell happened to my finger!”
“Talk to Naismith about that one. If you ask me, he did what he had to do to save our lives.”
There is also a slight sting coming from Royce’s inner arm; he grabs it searching for the culprit. He is shocked when he sees staring back at him, a branded copper scourge tattoo – the mark of Glasya.
“Damn him! I curse Naismith for doing this to me. Why didn’t you leave me to die in peace. I could be resting in Warrior’s Rest right now, instead of this crap.”
Nong gives Royce a look of disgust as he moves toward the bodies of Naismith and Mordrock, “Royce are you going restore our comrades or not?”

Royce glances nearby to see the stable bodies of Talina and Naismith and a dead Mordrock. He bandages his finger stump and prepares to restore the party with some mass healing. Naismith and Talina slowly open their eyes, inhale the stench and jerk upright. Naismith looks up and catches an angry stare from Royce.
“What happened? Where are the devils Nong?”
“They are gone. Those hellfire cannons got the last good hit in, tore Kyuss to shreds and then went home.”
Nong walks over to Naismith, extends a hand to him, “Thank you Naismith for the courage you took to engage them. We wouldn’t have survived without your leadership,” as he scowls in Royce’s direction.

Naismith is quick to comprehend what is taking place; he looks at Royce’s hand and says, “I’m very sorry Royce but I had to break your ring. I couldn’t afford the time to take it off you while I had spawn breathing down my neck. I simply reacted, and I hope you know how to restore your finger.”

Royce looks away for a moment and then focuses his attention on Mordrock’s body, “I can bring him back, just give me a moment.”
Talina approaches and touches Royce on the shoulder, “We are alive and free from that terrible thing. You fought well and brave.” She steps back and commends Naismith and Nong for the same thing. “I don’t know how we survived but you will have to tell me what happened after I fell.”
“Talina, I don’t think you want to know what happened. Just be thankful we took care of it, for you.”
Talina frowns at Nong and then replies, “I guess you are right that it’s not the most important thing to talk about right now,” as she looks over at Mordrock’s body. “But eventually, I want to know why do both clerics have one less finger?”

The few times Mordrock has briefly visited his deity was never in a chamber, like the one he is in now. This chamber, unlike the one where Kelemvor judges the dead, is small and only an ornate throne exists in it. Mordrock feels the divine power of Kelemvor emanating from the throne; the cleric instinctively kneels in respect. “Mighty Kelemvor, I have returned to you. Please oh great Kelemvor, bless me and judge me for my life trials.”
“Now is not the time for that Mordrock. You are not done with your life journey. You must return to fulfill your destiny.”
“Yes my lord. What is it that I must still do to serve in your name?”

Kelemvor lifts his hand and the necklace around Mordrock’s neck rises up and begins to glow. Mordrock looks down at it, confused by the meaning of this.
“Do you recall how this necklace came to be, Mordrock?”
“Yes. It came to me in a dream I believe, from one of your angels. But I am not clear on what it is or does, my lord.”
Kelemvor gives Mordrock a stern look, “I sacrificed many angels to fetch that from Thanatos after Orcus was defeated on the Material Plane, and before he could re-materialize.”
Kelemvor pauses and then laughs, “I guess this place is the best place to keep a secret from that wand, as Orcus hears all from his weapon. Mordrock your dream was actually you in the Astral plane, then in the Abyss, observing the rescue of Anarchocles’s spirit. His prison was contained in one of the many blood gems that decorate the throne of Orcus. His minions were quick to protect their master’s throne but were not fast enough. My angels succeeded in prying out the gem at the cost of their lives. The last angel chose you as the bearer before succumbing to the fiends of Thanatos.”

Mordrock stares at the glowing crystal, wide-eyed after hearing the story of its journey to him. He recalls the research the Drow’s Bane did to learn of the ways in which to destroy the wand. Obviously bathing it in the Positive Plane at the hand of the slain hero, is the true legend. “When you meet Orcus on the battlefield, swallow the gem to unleash Anarchocles’s spirit. Together, you and he, will become one and can defeat Orcus. Then, take his wand and go to the Positive Plane to destroy it.”

“Ouch!” cries Mordrock as he looks down and sees on his inner arm, a branding of a copper scourge appear. Confused as to how such a thing can happen to his spirit, Mordrock looks at the symbol and realizes what has happened to his body. “No!!! My soul has been sold to Glasya,” he cries out, covering his face and feeling ashamed in front of his god.

Unexpectedly, Mordrock does not hear the wrath of his god but something quite the opposite. In a gentle and comforting voice, like a parent to a child, Kelemvor reassures, “Do not be afraid of what has happened. Nothing is earned in the multiverse without cost and sacrifice, Mordrock. That is the journey all heroes eventually realize and have to accept and deal with. That is the balance of the multiverse. Today you fret about your contract with Glasya, but tomorrow you may realize it was because of this contract, that allowed you to accomplish your greater goal.”

Mordrock, feeling as if surrounded in a big Kelemvor hug, begins to feel safe again in his god’s presence. He lifts his head and thanks Kelemvor for the mighty wisdom. Together, god and cleric, sense the cosmic tug of life enter into the room, like a umbilical cord tugging Mordrock back to his body.
“Go now, my faithful servant. Complete your destiny and make me proud as your side stint in necromancy has not been overlooked!”
“Yes my lord, I will honor your call and…refrain from any future necromancy,” replies Mordrock, feeling ashamed of being called out for something he thought he was doing secretly.

Mordrock’s eyes open as he senses he is back in his body once again; except for a throbbing feeling in his hand he quickly remembers the stench of the room before his fall. He remembers the last image before he fell and reacts by shaking his body to release the burrowing grubs that are no longer alive.
“Welcome back, Mordrock. You are alive again.”
“Thank you Royce, for saving me once again.”

Mordrock looks down and sees a bloody finger stump and now feels its throbbing pain. He realizes his ring finger is missing.
“Where’s my finger?”
“We will grow you a new one once we are in a safe place and can rest.”
“I’m sorry Mordrock, I had to cut it off to get to your ring. I did not have the benefit of time on my side.”
“I understand Naismith. You did what you had to do.”

Nong sees behind him, an invisible imp appear; it waves to Nong as it flies toward the party. Nong begins to say something when the imp drops the invisibility.
“I guess now that we are family, you can call me ‘Bedichiah’. Come, you need to find the dawn essence to will it to reveal to you the Positive Plane.” Bedichiah flies toward the remains of Kyuss’s prison.

The party leaves Talina behind and follows the imp. When Talina catches up to them, she finally sees the imp. By now, she has learned this troupe of characters have very colored stories and it is best to just go with the flow. She approaches, sighs and points, “Let me guess, that thing’s with you right?”

The Drow’s Bane silently nod back to her.

Bedichiah motions for Royce, Mordrock, Naismith and Nong to reach into the essence at the same time. “This essence is from the dawn of time. What you are about to do, no human has done in all of their history.” Together they reach into the essence and focus their mind on it, willing it to reveal to them the path forward. The essence responds with a bright flow that turns dull; out of it emerges a contraption of multi-colored tiles in response. The party stares at the contraption, unsure of what to do next or if this is the answer they seek. Bedichiah flies to it, examines the structure and replies, “But of course, the gods placed a lock on the essence. You must figure out the pieces before the answer is revealed to you.”

Royce, Mordrock, Naismith and Nong inspect the puzzle and see three colors of runes – white, green and brown; the runes have symbols on each of them. There are also matching white, green and brown tiles.
“I think we need to place the runes on the same color tiles.”
“Yes, and match the symbols at each endpoint, I think.”
Curiously, only Naismith can move the white runes, Mordrock and Royce the green runes and only Nong can move the brown runes. Eventually they figure out the puzzle and when the last rune is placed, two symbols emerge from the essence.

Talina is first to recognize the first symbol looks like the runes that compose a teleportation circle, but to where she is uncertain. Bedichiah approaches the first symbol and removes it from the essence and eventually determines the runes inscribed on it are a teleportation circle that originates on the plane of Limbo.
“Limbo? Our next trip is to Limbo?”
Bedichiah approaches the second and inspects it. “This is not a teleportation circle, but the beginning of a key to possibly a gate to the Positive plane. This key requires significant psychic energy to transform it into its four dimensional self.”
“If that is true, then the teleportation circle has to be the source where you launch the gate from,” replies Talina.

The party stares back in amazement at Talina for her discovery.
“Who do we know who has psychic powers?”
“None of use have such powers. We must seek the wisdom of Tempus once we have traveled to Limbo.”
“Wait! We know someone from Limbo.”
The party stares at Naismith hungry for what he has to say next.
“The Githzerai are from Limbo. Remember these necklaces that Sithka gave to us? We can call to her if we ever needed her help!” Naismith reveals the simple necklace from around his neck. He holds it in his hand and begins to focus on it. The necklace appears to be infused with a way to communicate to the githzerai captain. Everyone else quietly watches the rogue begin to speak out loud; no one else besides him, can hear the female githzerai voice respond. When Naismith ends the message, he turns to the group excitedly and says, “Sithka agrees to help us! We must travel to Limbo to meet her.”

The party breaks into a conversation of planning and strategy at the same time, the female triton takes a few steps back from the group. Royce is the first to notice,
“Talina, everything okay? You must come with us to Limbo. We can’t do this without you.”
Talina smiles back at Royce, “Royce, my journey with you has always been to see you safely through my plane of existence. Where you go next is not my journey; my journey with you has come to an end. A happy and wonderful end.” She walks up to Royce, gives him a kiss and says, “I hope we will meet again when you are done with your task. I will certainly miss you.”
Royce embraces her, and passionately kisses her back, “I understand Talina. I will miss you too and I can’t wait until our paths cross again.”

Talina embraces the others in a warm goodbye, then waves to them, and makes her way down the stairs toward the laboratory’s exit.

Bedichiah cuts through the pregnant pause that lingers in the room after Talina’s departure.
“Do you understand why only some of you could move certain runes only?”
“Well, the two clerics could move tiles so maybe it has to do with being a cleric and not?”
“Or maybe it requires more than one person to unlock the puzzle?”

Royce, who is still looking at the stairway where Talina descended, drys a tear from his eye and says, “If it took the whole pantheon of gods to imprison Kyuss at the dawn of time, then that means good, neutral and evil gods came together. The runes represent the three alignments.”
“YES! Royce that is correct. Glasya did chose well,” smiles Bedichiah.

Mordrock puts two and two together in his head as he looks at Nong, who happens to look a bit awkward at the moment. He then hears the voice of Kelemvor enter his mind,
“Nothing is earned in the multiverse without cost and sacrifice, Mordrock.”

The Church of the Morninglord: St Andral

With two clerics (one a cleric of The Morninglord) playing through Curse of Strahd, I find myself fielding a number of questions about the church’s locations and history, and trying to piece together the information as it comes. On a second pass through St Andral’s Church in Vallaki, our curious cleric was examining the empty reliquary under the alter. Father Lucian had disappeared that this point, but she asked if she (as a cleric of the morning lord) was familiar with who St. Andral was, and rolling well enough, I proceeded to tell her… well, I proceeded to panic, as I realized the book gives us next to nothing about St Andral.

What we know for sure:

I was shocked to realize the Curse of Strahd hardcover gives us nothing except the following:

  • St Andral’s bones rest beneath the alter in the church in Vallaki. We don’t have a map to go on, but we can assume the church is slightly larger and slightly grander than the church in Barovia, although the book tells us to re-use that map if needed.
  • St Andral’s remains are indeed blessed and hold have some level of sacred power, as the will hallow the church grounds when returned.

Given these limited details and the need to answer the question, I decided in the moment that St. Andral and Lugdana, the paladin who carried the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, were now the same person, and gave a brief bio she might have reasonably recalled with a high roll on her history check—

St Andral was a paladin in the early days of the church when is was known as “The Cult of the Morninglord”. The Holy Symbol of Ravenkind was delivered to her by an angel in the form of a raven, which she famously used to destroy a nest of vampires.

But What Else Do We Know?

It may be too late to incorporate all of these details into the canon established on the fly, but it’s always interesting to dive into the lore and see what else we can find in the annals of D&D history.

Fair Barovia

St. Andral’s Church and Father Lucian appear in Claudio Pozas’ Fair Barovia (4E, Dragon Magazine #207), but doesn’t give us much more in the way of new information— only:

The Morninglord was originally a religion brought to Barovia by traveling adventurers. In time, that religion was mixed with the traditional Barovian worship of hallowed saints of the past.

In addition to St. Andral, other Barovian saints include St. Ecaterine, St. Bogdan, and St. Markovia.

Fair Barovia, Dragon Magazine #207, p.51

For more of Fair Baroiva and its relationship to Curse of Strahd, I can’t recommend enough this excellent article from Powerscore RPG. Saints Ecaterine and Bogdan and their relics both appear in Expedition to Castle Ravenloft (3.5E) alongside St. Markovia.

The church (or cult) of the Morninglord deserves its own space in another post, but if we want to learn more about this “traditional Barovan worship”, we can look next to Sword & Sorcery’s Ravenloft Gazetteers for third edition.

The Church of Andral

The Church of Andral predates Sergei von Zarovich’s ill-fated wedding in 351 Barovian Calendar (BC), having been founded in 168 BC to worship a sun god known as Ahndrel or Eundrel. By the fourth century BC, the church had died out, eventually supplanted by the worship of The Morninglord (Ravenloft Gazetteer Vol 1, p. 16).

One option might be, perhaps this is a good reason nothing is known about St. Andral himself— the name remained in the recesses of the church history as the worship of the Morninglord became more established in Barovia (which only happened after the mists descended on the valley). Andral became forgotten, the god demoted to saint with no other miraculous events or valiant martyrdom attached to his name. The bones could belong to anyone, given power by others’ faith in their divinity.

One other fun fact I learned in this research that doesn’t have much bearing on our St Andral is that according to the same Gazetteer, the leader of The Keepers of the Black Feather, Keeva Sixtywinters is, in fact, a cleric of Andral, the last keeping the original faith alive (p. 38).


So with nothing else on St Andral, what else can we learn about Lugdana, the Paladin? Her only mention in Curse of Strahd is in the entry for the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind.

The Holy Symbol of Ravenkind is a unique holy symbol sacred to the good-hearted faithful of Barovia. It predates the establishment of any church in Barovia. According to legend, it was delivered to a paladin named Lugdana by a giant raven — or an angel in the form of a giant raven. Lugdana used the holy symbol to root out and destroy nests of vampires until her death. The high priests of Ravenloft kept and wore the holy symbol after Lugdana’s passing.

Curse of Strahd, p. 222

The holy symbol has its own place in Ravenloft’s history, but Lugdana appears previously in Expedition to Castle Ravenloft, which seems it be, like Curse of Strahd, a semi-reboot of Barovia stripped away from the second and third editions’ expansive Ravenloft settings. I couldn’t find mention of her in any of the 2e or 3e books.

Alongside much of the same information about the holy symbol, we learn “[Lugdana] was among the earliest settlers of the valley” (Expedition p. 214). Lugdana would later die battling a fiend named Chernovog (cue Mussorgsky) summoned by a band of witches at Lysaga Hill— a location that does not exist in Curse of Strahd, but perhaps could be combined with Yester Hill instead (Expedition p. 217).

Where to Go From Here

I’m keen to explore the “Church of Andral” aspect of the Barovian church and the Keepers of the Feather’s relationship with the “old ways” in our campaign, I think it would be an interesting place to go once the Martikovs learn the party has acquired the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind. We’ve only just learned the family’s secret and their relationship with the birds of the valley, and I’m sure the party will meet them again soon. As is often the case I wish I’d know just a bit more and had done this research before the questions came up, but many times we don’t quite know where the party will end up next and don’t anticipate exactly which clues and mysteries we need to have ready for them.


Curse of Strahd (5E, 2016)
Expedition to Castle Ravenloft (3.5E, 2006)
Fair Barovia (4E, Dragon Magazine #207, 2012)
Ravenloft Gazetteer Vol. 1 (3.5E, 2002)

Fate’s Chosen: the Worm that Walks

Standing inside the platform, Naismith is the first to attack the oncoming masses of worms. He fires an arrow that pierces one of them, then steps back and vanishes into the shadows. Talina steps outside the doors onto the undulating floor of worms; she grimaces with every step, slogging through who knows what. She moves into position, focuses her casting and unleashes a cone of prismatic colors that impacts several spawn and rot grubs; some easily parish while others are held in place. Nong takes off running through the room en route to engage; along the way he vanishes into thin air. The Drow’s Bane offensive is flawless with a very strong opening. Royce casts Dawn and Mordrock casts Flame Strike; together they neutralize the rot grubs before they can even advance. However, a few swarms of Kyuss do manage to reach the party.

The chanting of the remaining swarms of Kyuss do not skip a beat and cause the Writhing Battery to spider crack across its crystalline surface. Unfortunately, the power of the Dawn spell also envelopes the prison with radiant damage, enough to cause a humongous wormy hand to break through the cracks. The sight empowers the chanting to increase in volume as the swarm senses their god is close to freedom.

Nong makes his way toward the chanting and easily attacks while no one can see him; he catches Zabrok looking around, sensing someone is nearby. When the spawns of Kyuss reach the party, they vomit more rot grubs onto Talina, Mordrock and Royce. The party is quick to zap the rot grubs to death, but the spawn of Kyuss manage to fling worms onto the party. Talina feels once again, something crawling up her skin and burrowing into her flesh. Royce is quick with a cast of Greater Restoration in response, and kills the burrowing worms.

The party hears a large crack from the Writhing Battery and now sees a huge arm breaks free. The undulating arm of worms pummels the ground near the chanters, making direct contact with the invisible Nong. When Nong comes to his senses he attacks the arm and quickly moves away, but the arm is too fast and pummels him before the monk can escape.

Talina, Naismith, Royce and Mordrock manage to take down the surrounding swarms and rot grubs, only to watch the arm point to the corpses and raise up new swarms. Royce manages to maintain his concentration on the Dawn spell that sears radiant damage into the chanters, the nearby swarms and the prison. In response, another loud crack is heard as a humongous head of moving worms and two hollow eyes, emerges. With the last of the chanting completed, Kyuss the worm that walks, breaks free. His visage is so grotesque that any other party would be instantly frightened of this great monstrosity. Thanks to last night’s Heroes Feast, the party is unaffected.

With each step, the ground beneath Kyuss trembles as he fast approaches the party; he stands twenty feet tall and he’s not alone. All of the chanters and new piles of rot grubs are en route behind him, hungry to join in on the fun. The massive head of Kyuss focuses on Royce as his first target; he raises his arm and smashes into the cleric. With that impact, Royce barely holds onto his concentration of the Dawn spell; he also feels tiny things begin to crawl over his flesh and burrow. Another swing and Royce’s concentration is gone. The bright light of dawn fades away, as darkness moves in to take its place. The Drow’s Bane continue to feel the god’s wrath leaving only Naismith without tiny visitors. Fortunately, Nong is immune to necrotic damage while he holds the wand of Orcus, preventing the multitude of his tiny visitors from killing him.

Talina is the first to succumb to worms. When Nong sees this he screams out, “Now is the time to break the rings?!?!” Naismith hears this, closes his eyes and acknowledges reality,
“Royce we need to break the rings now! We won’t survive without help!!”
“No! I will not break the ring and surrender my soul. I am ready to die and accept Tempus to carry me home!”

Royce is next to succumb to the burrowing. Mordrock is quick to cast a Mass Healing Word in response, before he succumbs to the same. Royce’s eyes open and before he can call out to Tempus, the worms burrow into him further causing him to close his eyes once again.

Nong breaks his ring and hopes for the best. Two swarms have now engaged with Naismith who is able to dodge the worms flung in his direction. The voice of JimJar enters his mind reminding Naismith to not overlook friends in his darkest hour. Naismith surrenders to the inevitable, “I knew I always would be damned in this life,” and breaks his ring. He turns his attention towards the downed clerics and dashes for their bodies.

Meanwhile, Nong is striking Kyuss with all of his might. He knows a stunning strike is pointless against the god and so he channels his ki into additional blows. Kyuss responds with signficant damage to Nong, who realizes he does not have much runway left in this fight. “Naismith, do something quick!!”

The determined rogue manages to dart next to Mordrock and Royce. Without giving it much thought, he slices off each of their ring fingers and breaks both rings. Even with all of the adrenaline rushing through his body, Naismith still feels the pain of Glasya’s copper scourge branding, upon his left inner arm. He looks up to see crimson red portals open up behind Kyuss, at the same time he feels little visitors crawling up his skin.

Emerging from the portals, two huge armored diabolic vehicles move out; both with large cannons and a hideous face carved into the front of each. Behind them, a large horned devil flies out followed by two other devils, amnizus, one holding flasks in its hand. The hellfire engines are the first to unleash their cannons, hitting Kyuss and his minions. Nong hears the cannons and immediately sees spawns and rot grubs surrounding him explode from the impact. The horned devil, attacks Kyuss from the air, striking the god with his forked spear followed by a tail swing. The aminzu holding flasks flies toward the downed clerics as the other holds his position and unleashes a fireball. Zabrok who has been taunting Nong from the air is in direct line of fire of the cannons and fireball spell. The deluge of damage tears the cambion apart as his broken body falls to the ground. Nong catches sight of this and spits in his direction before being pummeled by Kyuss. The god’s hit drops Nong to his knees; he spits out blood, channels his orcish ancestry and stands up once again, though barely alive.

The amnizu arrives at the cleric bodies and feeds them potions in between fighting the two spawn of Kyuss that took Naismith down. Unfortunately, these potions are meant to terminate the burrowing rot grubs, not heal them from unconsciousness. The impact of the diabolic firepower is enough to steer Kyuss away from the party towards the devils. Kyuss engages with the hellfire engines and pummels them but the engines are tough and stand their ground. Kyuss manages to kill the horned devil at the same time the amnizus unleash mighty attacks on him. What’s left of the battlefield is Nong, Kyuss, and the remaining devils; all of the spawns and rot grubs are destroyed by cannon fire.

As the tides of battle turn toward the party’s favor, the cleric of Kelemvor breathes his last breadth and quietly dies. Royce, Talina and Naismith are unconscious but manage to stabilize.

Nong can sense the life force of the god is fading and he musters all of his remaining strength to strike the god down, except he is unable to. It is the hellfire cannons who provide the killing blow to Kyuss. As the cannon fire tears into the god, large chunks of the wormed body fly off. No longer able to stay standing, the remains of the worm the walks, plummets to the ground.

The smell of brimstone and burnt putrid flesh fills the chamber along with an eerie silence. Nong who is breathing very heavy, looks up and sees the aminzus inspect the carnage for any lingering threats. An aminizu flies toward Nong and says, “Our business is done here. You can handle the rest.”

Crimson portals open up and the engines move into them. As the amnizus fly past Nong toward the portals, one says to him, “Mordrock must live no matter what the cost.”

Journey to Fate’s Doorstep: finding the Writhing Battery

“You left me here alone to fend for myself!!” cries Talina when she sees the Drow’s Bane emerge from the crimson portal.
“I suddenly woke up and didn’t see anyone around. How scary is that given what we just endured. What happened to you?”
Royce approaches the triton and explains to her what happened, minus the deal offer, “If that didn’t happen Talina, we would be dead or worse, we might have risen as swarms and killed you.”
Talina listens to Royce but is upset no one invited her to the party.

The Drow’s Bane notice they fill rested, as if they completed an hour’s rest. They ponder what is going on when Naismith says, “I bet you it was the wine.” The others nod in agreement as they look at each other realizing not only did Glasya save their lives, she gave them rest too. Royce, Mordrock and Nong open their hands, take the crimson ring, and slide it onto their fingers; Naismith watches but places his ring in his pocket. He notices when the others place the ring on, they look a little more protected. He says to himself, “I bet the ring is magical.” He reaches into his pocket, pulls it out, and puts it on; he now feels more protected too.

Mordrock heals Talina before the party heads back toward the staircase and down to the first floor. On the first floor eastern staircase, they move toward the black mass near the stairway and wait; the black mass wiggles and retracts revealing a similar corridor with prison cells and skeletons in them. They move quickly west through the corridor and return to the entrance chamber. They decide to move to the black mass in the south wall next; they watch it wiggle and retract. They are not surprised to see another corridor with prison cells and skeletons. They move quickly through it and cross into a southern library, similar to the northern one they previously encountered. They look around and notice, besides bookcases with tomes, there is also a very large opened book on a pedestal.

The party inspects the western bookcases and finds large tomes made of metal and stone, each with two symbols on the spines; the first symbol is an item like a weapon or piece of armor next to a school of magic symbol. They choose a tome, slowly pull it out given its weight, and open it; even though they cannot read the language, Talina can tell the content is not spell based, but more like notes. On the eastern bookcases, each shelf’s tomes are dedicated to a school of magic with the last tome stamped with a diamond symbol. “I bet you that diamond symbol represents the school of chronomancy,” says Naismith. Talina opens up the tome and sees the same foreign language across the pages unable to discern more about Naismith’s suggestion.

The party moves to the pedestal to examine the very large tome; the cover is made of brass and silver metal, the pages are made of stone with reinforced metal, probably due to their large size. The left page details a portrait of a middle aged man in full military dress wearing ornate mithril armor. On the right page, is a detailed schematic of a barbed greatsword covered with necromancy, enchantment, and abjuration sigils; another sigil is scratched off and the diamond symbol is pressed into the corner of the page. Mordrock’s eyes pause on the greatsword; the sword looks familiar to him as though he has seen it before, but he is unable to recall from memory, where. His hands turn the heavy pages to see more portraits on the left with schematics on the right; he recognizes nothing else in the tome.

The party chooses to walk from the library, down the western corridor which turns ninety degrees north. They follow the northern corridor which leads them to a small room with an ascending stairway, identical to the same location on the opposite side of the pyramid. They decide to ascend the stairway and notice with every step, the heartbeat gets louder. After spending almost and hour climbing stairs they arrive onto a platform whose floor, walls and ceiling resemble the night sky on a clear night. Nong tests the floor before walking on it, so as to not to fall into oblivion. He sees two large stone doors on the opposite side of the platform, that vibrate in harmony with the loud heartbeat. Naismith moves to the double doors and listens; besides the heartbeat he thinks is originating from behind the doors, he also picks up chanting.
“The heartbeat sounds like it’s coming from behind these doors. But I also hear chanting, which is never a good sound.”

The party organizes into a defensive stance as Nong opens the doors. He gives them a push and the stone doors easily open up. A humongous dim lit room lies beyond; the floor of the room is covered with worms that undulate in time with the heartbeat. One hundred feet or more into the room, a dozen swarms of Kyuss and a cambion kneel before a huge crystal pillar. The pillar shakes as if something is trying to get out; the impact agitating the pillar is what is generating the heartbeat sound. The cambion is the first to look back and see the party; it scowls and points to several swarm, who rise up and turn toward the party. These swarm vomit familiar rot grubs, as they move quickly over the undulating floor, in pursuit of the Drow’s Bane.

Journey to Fate’s Doorstep: spilling the T.

Talina swears they move like creatures, but as they approach, the party sees three humanoid masses of undulating worms with dull glowing orbs for eyes. The three spawns of Kyuss move to engage the party; each vomits a pile of rot grubs on their way there. The piles of rot grubs begin to undulate too and follow the spawns.

The party leaps into action except for Royce who is buckled onto the metal table with a tube sticking out of his arm; he takes a moment to move off of the table while everyone else launches into battle. Nong approaches a spwan of Kyuss and pummels a fury of blows into it; only to find with each punch, worms fly off of the spawn’s body in the monk’s direction. Nong easily dodges out of the way, but takes a second to register what just happened. When the other spawns of Kyuss engage with the party, they too fling worms from their bodies towards Drow’s Bane; some worms miss but others hit their target, immediately finding the warm flesh under armor and burrow in.

The swarms of rot grubs move slowly but eventually invade Talina’s, Nong’s and Mordrock’s spaces. Nong escapes but realizes too late, that he brings with him several visitors that announce their welcome by burrowing into his flesh. The party takes down rot grubs only to find that the swarms of Kyuss just vomit up more. Royce is next to be infected by worms; he stumbles as the pain is unbearable from the burrowing. Luck is with him however, when he casts a spell that cures disease, the pain disappears. Nong, Mordrock and Talina are not so lucky and one by one they succumb to the extreme burrowing pain and fall.

Thanks to Naismith’s agility, he easily navigates in and out of the swarms path, always able to find a safe location out of their reach; but in doing so, he also sees how his comrades are fast falling around him. The rogue however, has a few tricks up his sleeve as he revives a person here or another there; but as soon as they return to consciousness, the rot grubs agitate, burrow further and take their hosts down once again. One of these people is Royce, who is not fast enough to cast a remove disease spell before the agitation begins, and he closes his eyes once again. The battle does not look good for the Drow’s Bane as Naismith, now perched upon a statue, looks out and sees none of his comrades are conscious while the swarms are fast approaching his location. He gulps and cries out to Tamora for a bit of respite and a little luck.

A crackling sound is heard in the center of the room as a crimson red portal opens up. The first to exit, is a familiar imp the party met in Candlekeep, who flies out and fixes its eyes on Naismith; several fiends exit next. The fiends take down the swarms, then grab the bodies of Royce, Mordrock and Nong and drag them into the portal. The imp says to Naismith, “The Lady requests your presence,” as he points to the portal. Naismith acknowledges the imp but first runs over to Talina, feeds her a healing potion, then enters the portal.

The smell of blood and brimstone ignites life back into Royce, Mordrock and Nong who open their eyes and realize they are in a dim lit room, lying on their backs, looking up. They hear a strong female voice say, “That was a pathetic fight don’t you agree?”

Royce, Mordrock and Nong rise up, see Naismith standing near them looking at the figure in the front of the room. They all lay their eyes upon:

The Arch-devil of Malbolge, Lady of the 6th layer of Hell, Glasya, daughter of Asmodeus.

Glasya, Lord of the 6th Image courtesy of https://www.obsidianportal.com/

Glasya seductively lays on a chaise lounge made of arms whose bloody stumps ooze blood whenever she moves. She stares intently at the Drow’s Bane, then smiles and says, “Please, have a drink and let’s toast to common goals.”

A platter, with four goblets filled with red liquid, appears before the party; everyone takes a goblet, holds it up and waits. Glasya motions her goblet upward in a toast then moves it to her mouth and sips, while observing the party. Naismith, Nong, Mordrock and Royce follow suit and drink; the liquid tastes like wine and is smooth going down.

A pregnant pause fills the room. As they begin to offer thanks to Glasya, she cuts them off and proclaims,
“I do believe we still share a common goal together. We both want to see the wand of Orcus destroyed, yes? That is why you stand here today in my presence…alive. I am impressed you blindly managed to find your way to the laboratory using the map I gifted to you. You’re welcome,” as she laughs, revealing a mouth full of fangs. She lifts up, leans forward, and uncurls her immense bat like wings that protrude from her back.
“Do you know why you are there? Do you know what it is?”
“Uh…I’m sorry my lady, I don’t believe we do.”
“It is ancient Netherise, built two thousand years ago on the Material Plane. The ancient Netherise were gifted humans steeped in the art of the arcane. One thousand years ago, they discovered an energy source and brought it back to their laboratory. The energy source was nothing they ever experienced before; it enabled them to delve deep into fusing arcane power with simple weapons and armor. It even enabled them to be foolish enough to try their hand at the lost school of chronomancy, which only one of them ever survived. All of the others who cast those spells and traveled through time perished, never realizing there was no air along the way.”

The party takes another sip as she continues speaking,
“What the Netherise failed to realize was their ‘Writhing Battery’ was an aspect of a chained god from the Dawn War – Kyuss, the worm that walks. The pantheon of gods, at the beginning of time, came together to defeat Kyuss; they separated his body into several pieces, imprisoned each one and hid them all over the multiverse. Over time, the Writhing Battery corrupted the Netherise researches and turned them into the spawns you fought – nothing but a mass of worms intent on doing their gods dirty work. In fact, if I didn’t save you just now, you were about to join their ranks,” as she points to Royce, Mordrock and Nong.

“So why do we care about this in the age of today? It matters to us because Orcus, more than ever, hungers to become a god. Since you failed his attempt to align with Bane in Fort Morninglord, he is onto striking a deal with Kyuss next. Thanks to YOU, his wand has been feeding him every soul you strike down Nong!”

The party glances over at Nong, who looks down and stares at the wand in his hand.

“Orcus will be a lot stronger the next time you see him. And now, his pesky cambion minion, Zabrak, has managed to enter the laboratory; Zabrak is close to restarting the ritual to break the aspect of Kyuss free, so that he can join with the Prince of Undeath. But Kyuss’s prison also offers an opportunity for us. His prison is made from the essence of the dawn of time. Hold the essence in your hand and will it to convey to you the coordinates of the location in the Positive plane where you must bath the wand. Only by defeating the aspect of Kyuss first, can you access the essence. You do not realize that you are now entering into a very, very dangerous time Drow’s Bane; a time which you may not be strong enough to handle on your own.

Which Is Why I Now Offer You, A Deal…”

The Lady of the Sixth flicks her hand outward and immediately the party feels something inside the grip of their hands. Nong, Naismith, Mordrock and Royce look down, open their hands and see a ring, made from bone and died crimson red.
“You do not have to accept my offer today. But in order to do so, each of you must break the back of the ring at the same time, this seals the deal. In response, I will call forth my army to aid you.”
“And what do you get out of this deal?”
Glasya shifts comfortably into her chaise lounge, smiles and replies, “Your Souls.”

The party goes wide-eyed and momentarily stops breathing.

Glasya reassuringly says,
“Think of it this way. I see three options for your fate:
Option One) Orcus defeats you and he raises you as zombie thralls to mindlessly walk deep in his shit for the rest of eternity…on a good day! Don’t think for a second he is not forming the strongest army that will be able to defeat you. He has learned everything from that wizard who survived your battle – like how you fight, what you cast and when. I wouldn’t be surprised if Orcus unleashed that battle on you, only so he could learn your strategies and tactics!
Option Two) You miraculously save the day all by yourselves. You somehow manage to defeat the god Kyuss, go onto defeating Orcus and his army, and then ride into the sunset, like the heroes you always dreamed to be.”
“I like option two the best in my opinion.”
“Yeah, sign me up for that one!”

Glasya scowls, rolls her eyes, and continues,
“Option Three) You get a clue, realize you are way over your mortal heads, and accept my deal. In return, you are bolstered by a powerful army familiar with how demons and the undead fight, which gives you a real chance of winning without significant cost. Remember this, I’m not interested in zombie thralls. I need lieutenants and captains to lead my army.”

She looks at her goblet while she brings it to her lips and drinks. Silence fills the room as no one speaks a word in response. When she finishes, she looks away and nods. From the darkness, the familiar imp flies into the light and past the party. The imp speaks an incantation, and a crimson portal opens up; it motions the Drow’s Bane to enter. “The Lady is done with you. Now you must go,” it says. The party enters the portal one by one and Naismith is the last to leave. He looks around and quickly uses his blindsense to read the room; he picks up several creatures lingering in the shadows and he also manages to get a glimpse of bejeweled columns and a dais before he disappears.

The party appears back in the room where Talina was left by herself. The final thing they hear Glasya’s voice say to them is,

“Welcome to Fate’s Doorstep. The door is always open.”

Journey to Fate’s doorstep: Netherise Laboratory

The metal staircase collapses upon itself forming a symbol on the floor of the entrance chamber; a slow thumping rhythm like a heart makes, can be heard in the ears of the party.
“Do you hear that sound? It sounds like a subtle heartbeat in the distance.”
“I hear it too.”
“Me too.”
“I as well. And it sounds like it’s coming from everywhere and nowhere at the same time.”

The entrance chamber is lit by ambient light similar to the entryway outside the pyramid. The smell is stale and leaves a bad taste in your mouth, but at least there is air to breathe. The party looks around and notices in their periphery, black masses in the north, east, south and west walls that wiggle to alert the party something is there; but looking directly at them reveals just blackness below four archways.

Royce casts Detect Magic and walks the square room; he picks up several different magic auras with an additional aura he’s never seen before.
“There’s a strange magic aura here that is not one of the familiar magic schools.”
“I wonder if that is what I felt all over the place outside?”
“Maybe this is related. I hope it is, Talina.”

Nong reaches out to the wand of Orcus and only feels the familiar emotions of annihilation and destruction emanating from it, nothing out of the ordinary. He moves toward the north wall and watches as the wall wiggles and recedes backward revealing another room containing several prison cells along a long hallway.
“How did you do that?”
“I just walked up to it.”
“And it just moved out of your way?”
“Let’s move quickly before that thing wiggles back into place.”

The party moves into the room and notices eight cells, four cells on the right, four cells on the left; they can still hear the heartbeat in the background. Inside every cell is a skeleton resting along the back wall, except for one cell that contains a red robed figure. Mordrock casts Eyes of the Grave and senses many undead within sixty feet. “Guys there are plenty of undead here, be on your guard,” he says.

Naismith searches the first cell door and figures out the contraption that serves as the locking mechanism; he easily unlocks it. He casts Mage Hand as his companions open the door. The wispy spectral hand moves toward the red robbed hooded figure and touches it. The figure tumbles forward, revealing a skull and bony arms, however something else is interesting here; the arms and face are covered in tiny bite marks. Naismith moves to the opposite cell, opens it and beckons Nong to move in. Nong approaches the skeleton and notices a similar thing; the skeleton’s bones are covered in small bite marks. As he moves closer to inspect the body, a ghastly spectral claw emerges from the wall and strikes him. The claw rakes across Nong’s body, stealing his breath and life force in one swoop.

The party is now alerted to the other wraiths that emerge, one from each cell, all hungry for their life force. They ready their weapons and respond. The wraiths swipe several party members, some more than once with each swipe sucking more life away. Mordrock and Royce channel their gods’ wrath and turn several of the undead, leaving the remaining few to be taken down quickly.
“Move quickly down the hallway. We need to get out of here before they return!”
The party runs down the hallway toward another black mass. As they approach, it wiggles free revealing another room. They quickly proceed into a room filled with bookcases and tables.

The spines of tomes stuffed into the bookcases are metal; pulling one out and opening it up reveals stone pages scribed with similar characters seen on the dais – all unreadable by the party. Talina pulls a few tomes from bookcases and can deduce these are not spellbooks, but maybe research journals. The party takes a moment to catch their breath and assess the impact of the battle; some party members are winded and tired as a result of being drained of lifeforce.

The party decides to take the eastern exit from this room and proceeds down a corridor that eventually turns ninety degrees south. It becomes obvious they are walking the perimeter of the pyramid’s eastern side. Mid-way down the corridor the path opens into a small room that contains an ascending staircase and they also see a black mass on the western wall.
“I bet going through that thing only takes us back to the entrance.”
“Yeah I think so too, let’s not do that, ok?”
“I vote for taking the stairs up.”
“Sure, why not. It’s not like we know where we’re going.”

Ascending the stairs feels like it takes forty minutes or more before they enter a very large room, too big to see the entire space. The first thing the party notices is the thumping heartbeat is progressively louder here. The room is filled with bookcases in every direction; each bookcase is crammed with many of the same kinds of objects; the nearest bookcase contains long swords and the next one is filled with maces, and on, and on. Talina notices under each item there is a nameplate with the familiar pattern of foreign characters no one can read. Nong breaks from the group and runs up a bookcase to get a better view; as his feet bump items along the way, the items shiver and turn to dust, too ancient to withstand the motion. Unfortunately, the bookcase abuts the twenty five foot ceiling giving Nong no advantage perspective of the room.

Royce casts Planar Ally after walking aimlessly about. He summons a deva to help them decipher the room. A tall deva appears, wearing beautiful golden armor that gives off a bright glow. Its face wears no expression until it glances over at Nong and then scowls in response. The angel carelessly glances over the rest of the party and settles on Royce; when it looks down on him, Royce can hear the angelic voice in his head,
“How may I aid you?”
“Praise be to Tempus. I seek your knowledge on what is in this room as we cannot read the language.”
The deva nods and begins to glide toward the bookcases; Royce accompanies it while the others trail behind. The deva points southeast,
“This area holds weapons and armor of the school of Conjuration.”
Pointing east, “This area holds weapons and armor of the school of Evocation.”
Naismith speaks up, “What is he saying? We here nothing,” but Royce ignores him paying attention only to the deva.
“This area holds weapons and armor of the school of Divination. The magic here no longer holds power. None of these items can help you.”
The final area the deva crosses in the northeast causes it to abruptly stop, tilt its head, and stare. Royce can hear a whisper of surprise in its voice as it says,
“Strange, the school of chronomancy.”
“Deva what is chronomancy? I’ve never heard of that before.”
“It is a lost school of magic dealing with manipulating the essence of time; too dangerous for mortal experimentation.”
The deva turns to Royce fulfilling what it came here to do and Royce gives the celestial payment for its services. As the deva departs, Royce hears one final thought from it,
“Beware of the worm that walks.”

Nong looses interest in the library tour and moves closer toward the middle of the room. He finds an open space that contains a large metal and glass contraption surrounded by metal tables; there are many tubes protruding from it, with some connected to each table. The party discovers Nong and join him near the tables. Mordrock notices an indentation the size of a humanoid on each of the table surfaces; he then looks at the contraption and puts it all together,
“People were experimented on here. The indentations suggest people were placed here and belted in.”
“Maybe this contraption has something to do with chronomancy?”
“Let’s see what it does. Hook that tube up to me,” requests Royce as he places his body on the table, fitting inside the groove. He beckons the group to puncture the sharp endpoint of the glass tube into his arm. They watch as the blood pours out toward the large contraption.

Behind Talina there is movement. She turns around and sees shapes moving quickly in their direction. She taps her staff on the ground in quick repetition to get the party’s attention as she readies herself for the worst.