Planescape: Brush with Oblivion

Brush with Oblivion

Bryta, Krissy, Silversac Sam, T'chon, and Xenephon are joined by Vanthus Vanderboren, Arctos Silveraxe, Olidammara, Thor and Calladastina, Nauma the Hair-Splitter, as well as a host of blood-thirsty demons led by Iku-Tursa and a flight of aarakocra led by Queen Syranita. They enter Pandemonium aboard a fleet of Chaos Ships.

The only way into the Unseelie Court is by boat or flight, as the River Styx runs right up to its entrance. With the severe winds of Pandemonium as they are, the aarakocra ride on the ships with the demons. At the center of the outlying nexus, where many black crystal spans come together, the huge tunnel contains its single irregularity—a 40-foot-diameter circular gate of opaque crystal with strange glyphs inscribed on it.

And waiting for the invading army is another army upon the shore, an army of evil fey creatures, each of them willing to fight and die for the queen’s favor. Towering over the gate and the nearby creatures is an iron golem, a gargantuan construct shaped like a shadow dragon, a creature of midnight and darkness, like the queen herself. The dragon-construct stands up to its full height, extends its wings, and releases an earth-quaking roar.

With a resounding groan of timbers and bones and the scrape of rocks beneath, the Corpsecutter slams upon the shore before that army. Bryta, Krissy, Silversac Sam, T'chon, and Xenephon all leap from the deck. Behind them the demons surge forward and in front of them a rush of maddened fey come to meet them.

For Bryta, there is no dry mouth, no shaking muscles, but only the magical battle calm. She is happy. She is tired, too. She is soaking wet. She is cold, yet she feels invincible. It is a wondrous
thing, that battle calm! The valkyrie rides out upon her pegasus, sweeps her shield left, taking the first Unseelie elf’s spear thrust, lunges the Sword of Aaqa forward, and the elf runs onto her point. She feels the impact run up her arm as her tip punctures his belly, and she twists, ripping her sword up and free, sawing through leather, skin, muscle, and guts, and his blood is warm on her cold hand, and he screams, wine breath in her face, and she punches him down with the shield’s heavy boss, kills him with the Sword of Aaqa’s tip in his throat, and a second fey, some kind of gremlin, leaps at her, stabbing with a shortsword, and Arctos Silveraxe kills him easily, and then they are moving forward together.

Silversac Sam uses his blessing of Christmas to summon a treant, which stomps up to the construct-dragon, and the two colossal beasts grapple each other furiously. Xenephon hurls a fireball into their enemy's ranks, and the air is thick with the stench of seared flesh. "Light take you!"

Booming thunder rips the air as Thor's lightning streaks across the blackness overhead, illuminating T'chon and the flock of aarakocra descending upon the fey army. All is chaos in that glorious battle. When it is over, only half the invading army remains. Everyone pauses to catch their breath while the companions inspect the opaque crystal gate, the only single entrance to the Unseelie Court. It seems impervious to all damage, but then Xenephon wonders if the key to opening it involves magic or darkness, as the Queen of Air and Darkness is a deity of magic — especially illusions — and darkness. Vanthus makes sure Krissy is watching him before stepping up and casting darkness upon the crystal gate.

Immediately the door fades into nonexistence, revealing another army of evil fey creatures within. Thor whirls his hammer over his head, excited for more combat. But then the gate solidifies closed a few seconds later. Krissy nods understanding; the gate only stays open for a little while. Iku-Tursa casts darkness once again, and the gate opens, and the army of invaders surges forward like a tidal wave. Forward to battle slaughter. This is the day the skalds celebrate, the heart of the battle that leads to victory. But victory for the Unseelie, for their numbers seem endless, and the demons and aarakocra are quickly overwhelmed. Silversac Sam orders his treant, now armed with the Deus Ex Cannon, to clear a path to the queen's inner court. As the huge, lumbering giant lobs spheres of annihilation into the ranks of the fey, hundreds of their enemies swarm over the treant, pulling, chopping, ripping, and ultimately defeating.

The companions circle together, Bryta, Krissy, Silversac Sam, T'chon, and Xenephon, and their hearts drop at the sight of their army being slaughtered.

Then an old man walks into the fray, which seems to part for him like shadows at dawn. Garbed in tattered brown robes and a frumpy wide-brimmed hat, the man leans upon his gnarled staff, his one eye glaring at the horde of evil fey. He says nothing, even as they all swarm around him like moths to a flame.

And then Ygorl comes. The slaad lord of entropy, astride his chaos dragon Jormungand, leads his own army of a thousand slaad. And the courage is dashed from those evil fey in a heartbeat. They had thought they were winning, thought they had trapped the invaders by the crystal gate, and instead the slaad of Limbo rush at them like a storm.

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The Deus Ex Cannon

Bryta, Krissy, Silversac Sam, T’chon, Xenephon Keres, and Arctos Silveraxe meet with Olidammara in his Den of Thieves. They speak the true name of the Queen of Air and Darkness before him, which breaks her charm on him. Now free of her influence, Olidammara agrees to help the companions steal back the Spawning Stone from her. He asks if they have any "big guns" for this fight, like a deus ex machina type of weapon. Bryta looks to T'chon, who admits that the Godsmen have been building what they call a Deus Ex Cannon for quite some time. Olidammara suggests stealing it, but he would get much more amusement from watching the adventurers do all the work than doing it himself. (He is a fickle power, indeed.) Olidammara is so excited about this prank that he foolishly breaks into song.

In the boozer
you’re a loser
if the dice you’re shaking.
You’ll get hurt
and lose your shirt,
sit there cold and quaking.
Cailleach, your gifts are bad,
you trick us, then you make us mad,
make us gamble, make us fight,
and sit out in the snow all night.
“Brrr!” the naked loser moans,
when he’s cold and left alone,
shakes and shivers as he groans:
“I wish I could be
asleep under a tree
With a hot sunshine warming my bones.”
But now let’s roll the dice again
and win some drinking money!
Who thinks about July’s warm sun
while it’s still cold and snowy?

Into the great hall — filled with its scoundrels, gamblers, performers and party-goers alike — a satyr arrives to give Olidammara a message. This message comes in the form of a token, a small bone-carved holy symbol of Fharlanghn. But the symbol is broken in half… a terrible omen. Olidammara demands to know who gave this message, and the satyr just replies that it was "some faerie." Olidammara tells the adventurers that he must go check on a friend. Krissy says that this smells like a trap. She tells him that either she and her companions should go in his stead, or they should accompany him. Olidammara thinks on this, but replies that they would only slow him down. He then takes his leave of the Den. The other party-goers there awkwardly look around for a bit, then the music and dance resume.

A few minutes after Olidammara leaves, the barking of his Faithful Hound can be heard echoing throughout the Den. Silversac Sam draws his greatsword and snarls. The Unseelie faeries have come.

Cailleach heard her true name spoken in Olidammara’s song. After tricking him into leaving, the Queen of Air and Darkness deploys a host of evil fey creatures to swarm into the Den to overwhelm and destroy the meddling adventurers once and for all. When the companions rush through the Den of Thieves, avoiding the traps they all know about now, they come to the chasm where Krissy had convinced Olidammara to add an invisible wall. The faeries are here, striking and feeling along the wall, searching for a weakness. Krissy moves to the gap in the wall she knows about and fires a crossbow bolt at them. This causes all the faeries to turn their attention on her. As the sprites and quicklings swarm at the rogue, another fey creature, a korred, summons two gargoyles to the fight. Bryta and Arctos charge up to help Krissy, and Silversac Sam is locked in melee with a couple of darklings. Xenephon and T'chon blast the little faeries with fire magic. The korred uses its magic to open a hole in the stone floor beneath Arctos, dropping the werebear down inside, and then sealing the hole back up. Xenephon and Silversac Sam pound on the floor with hammer and axe, but to no avail. Then Bryta shoves them aside and bangs the Sword of Aaqa upon the rim of her shield, blowing a hole in the floor and releasing Arctos. Seeing the rest of the faeries all defeated, the korred flees.

The party returns to Sigil, still not sure how they'll acquire the Deus Ex Cannon. T'chon leads the way to the Great Foundry. The streets around them are a jumbled weave of workshops and worker’s taverns; they’re dirty and grimy and full of fiends. As the aarakocra talks with the guards out front, Krissy notices someone watching them from a nearby alley. She goes over there to see her ex boyfriend, Vanthus Vanderboren. She is not sure if she's happy to see him. Vanthus hurriedly explains that he's sorry for trapping her and her friends down that hole, and for his wizard's friendly-fire in the green dragon's lair. Since then, he abandoned that adventuring party and has been searching for Krissy ever since. He really wants to make it up to her. He still has feelings for her and wants to fix things. Krissy asks what he has in mind, and he reveals that he knows how to break into the Godsmen's vault which contains a motherload of magical weapons. This convinces her.

But not her companions. Silversac Sam seizes Vanthus by the throat and threatens him. Vanthus apologizes and begs for his life. The half-orc lets him go at Krissy's urging, but warns that Vanthus will end up in the deadbook if he tries any shenanigans.

The foundry’s the same dirty, sprawling complex of workshops, warehouses, storage yards and furnaces that the party had visited before. Within the gates, T'chon seeks out Kel’lera, the chief engineer on the Deus Ex project, at the armory.

Moradin’s Mirror once stood against the far wall, covered by a curtain, but since the slaadi overran Ashbringer, the Godsmen shattered the mirror for their own safety.

T'chon makes a very strong argument that his friends need to test the cannon before it goes to its buyer, and what better way to test it than in combat against the Queen of Air and Darkness! Kel’lera reluctantly agrees — reluctantly because she is bound to the cannon's controls, so she must accompany them into Pandemonium.

A squad of Harmonium Hardheads arrives. Thildon the Foreman had noticed T'chon's companions enter the foundry, especially Arctos and Bryta, who are now wanted by the Harmonium, and fetched the guards straightaway. The squad is accompanied by an archmage. Kel’lera warns T'chon that these elite troopers know how to deal with canny adventurers and will be more than happy if they resist arrest. She recommends surrender.

Vanthus Vanderboren tells the party that he knows of a secret portal that will get them to safety. He says the portal goes to the Outlands, down by Sylvania. Krissy suggests sending just Bryta and Arctos into the portal while the rest of the party tells the guards off. And so Vanthus opens the portal and escorts the two former Hardheads through it. Unbeknownst to everyone, the sneaky tiefling doesn't actually go into the portal; he stays behind to help protect Krissy.

The portal closes just as the Harmonium soldiers break into the armory. T'chon almost convinces them to leave, but the archmage mind-reads Xenephon and suspects lies. They are about to arrest everyone here when suddenly, Vanthus sneak-attacks the archmage, killing him outright! Combat ensues.

Silversac Sam's first blow takes a Harmonium soldier in the throat with a cut so fast and hard that it nearly severs his head. Blood splashes onto the half-orc's face. Krissy dances in beside him with her rapier. A spike-armored soldier swings an axe at her that she turns aside with her graceful blade, sliding the point into his exposed armpit. Xenephon summons a wall of flame that roars to life, separating half the soldiers from each other.

While, Silversac Sam, Krissy, and Xenephon hold off the soldiers, T'chon and Sprout dump the Deus Ex Cannon into Krissy's portable hole. Vanthus reopens the portal so they can escape.

The party quickly learns that Vanthus's portal does not, in fact, take them to the Outlands, but rather an audience chamber in one of the Revolutionary League’s many safehouses. The faction high-up, a kenku named Beringe, lounges upon a chair, rapping his fingers on the armrest, as though impatiently awaiting company. Four assassins stand guard in the shadows.

When Vanthus and the party arrive, Beringe rises to his crow-feet and greets them. Beringe expresses his pleasure with Vanthus for delivering these cutters to him. He says that he’s heard so much about them as champions of their respective factions. Xenephon snorts that that, remarking that they are more wanted dead by their factions than as "champions." Beringe, believing the azer to be bluffing, goes on to explain that their deaths will disrupt the plans of those factions the companions represent.

Beringe is an anarchist, through and through. He opposes all the factions. His primary goal is to remove the old order. That way, everyone can have the freedom to find the "Big Dark." He believes that he’s helping the multiverse by destroying the factions.

Krissy slaps Vanthus. Silversac Sam draws his derhii greatsword. And then Beringe casts some kind of time stop. The anarchist orders Vanthus to kill the adventurers, starting with Krissy. Vanthus is torn. He steps up to her, draws his Nine Lives Stealer rapier, hesitates. Beringe shouts at him to hurry up, taunts him for not being true to the cause, for being a slave to his feelings for her. Vanthus draws his poisoned crossbow and fires it at Beringe, piercing the faction higher-up in the throat. A second later, Beringe’s assassins move in. Time resumes. All chaos breaks out.

Krissy throws a magic bean at the feet of one assassin, which bursts into a full-sized tree, carrying him upward in its leafy embrace. Another assassin lunges at her with a dagger, but Vanthus intercepts the blade with his own. Xenephon uses his blessing of Christmas to summon a treant, which then steps on a third assassin before animating the bean-tree. Bryta and Silversac Sam meet their enemies with their blades, and T'chon freezes two assassins with a cone of cold.

After the fight, Vanthus compliments Krissy on her fighting prowess. He then suggests fleeing this safehouse before more anarchists show up. The League has eyes and ears everywhere; it won’t be long before they learn what happened here. The party still doesn't trust him, but they are all weary and wounded, and they allow him to show them to another safehouse where they take a long rest.

Krissy and Silversac Sam return to the Styx Oarsman to ask Rule-of-Three for a portal to Pandemonium. But they don't find Rule-of-Three here. Instead, they encounter a shoosuva, which barks recognition and runs up to Silversac Sam, jumping on him and licking him with its tongues. The half-orc laughs and looks past the ugly dog-demon for its owner. Iku-Tursa and her tanar'ri crew are spread out among a few tables in here, enjoying the spoils from their latest raid. But of course they’re also looking forward to their next job. The demons volunteer to help load the Deus Ex cannon onto Corpsecutter and take it to the fight against the Unseelie Court. Iku-Tursa suggests that they first pay the Abyss a visit to pick up more help, that the demons there will be more than willing to rally behind Silversac son of Skarjaw Sam if it means they’ll get to see blood and chaos. Silversac Sam agrees to this plan. While he and the succubus go upstairs to get a room, and to get reacquainted, Krissy returns to the safehouse to inform her friends of the next step in their quest.

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Blood Warlords

The party’s descent into the void of the Demonweb Pits is slowed by webs below, and eventually they find themselves in the 67th layer of the Abyss. They land on the muddy shores of the Heaving Hills, where the River Styx flows by. Earthquakes roil the landscape, drowning the layer’s hills in the surrounding marsh and pushing up news ones to take their place.

As the companions crawl out of the muck and attempt to clean and dry themselves, Xenephon notices a herd of catoblepas drinking from the river. The big, hairy cow-like animals don't seem to pay any mind to the party's sudden appearance. But the thing about catoblepas is that they stink, like that of death mixed with swamp gas and skunk musk, giving the herd away as being much more ghastly than their appearance suggests. Everyone retches and gags at the smell, except Silversac Sam, who doesn't seem to notice it.

The half-orc and his companions make their way to higher ground to survey their surroundings. T'chon looks up, his thoughts of flying suddenly dashed by the sight of swarms of bloodflies above — swarms so thick they're like black clouds.

A moment later the aarakocra spots a ship moving along the river, a ship seemingly cobbled together from bones and body parts and chunks of metal and wood. A great grinning skull dominates the prow; the ship doesn't have any visible sails or oars, though. T'chon waves his arms and hails the ship, which responds by pulling up onto the shore of the river. A horde of tanar'ri pours off the deck, yipping and shouting and drawing their weapons. The companions ready themselves for a fight.

A woman then parts the crowd of demons. But this is no ordinary woman. Her pale skin contrasts with her black hair, hooves, and black bat-wings. Her eyes, like twin candles burning within black candles, fall upon Silversac Sam. With a soft voice that can barely be heard, she halts the advance of the other demons. They obey her and stand down. She introduces herself as Iku-Tursa “the eternal Tursa.” She and her twelve crewmembers are on their way to raid the devils in Baator. Their ship, the Corpsecutter, is bound by fiendish enchantments and run with the energy of crushed spirits, once a battleship in the Blood War but now used for raiding.

Iku-Tursa mistakes Silversac Sam for his father, Skarjaw Sam. After he corrects her, she is still impressed. Her demon crew cheers excitedly and rushes up to greet and meet him. The succubus invites the half-orc and his companions to join her. The tanar'ri are all eager to see if the son of Skarjaw Sam is as ruthless in battle as his father. They plan to raid Charybdis’s stronghold and could really use the party’s help. Feeling like they don't really have a choice, the companions agree to come aboard.

On their journey, Iku-Tursa takes a liking to Silversac Sam. She invites him into her private quarters, where she shows him all the carnal pleasures of the flesh. His dreams are haunted by visions of disaster: a giant cannon loaded onto the ship and laying havoc to an entire race of beings.

The morkoth called Charybdis lives inside a cave beside the River Styx on Avernus, the 1st layer of Baator. Getting there first involves navigating a narrow channel, then the treacherous rocks and whirlpools outside his cave. The entrance is partially flooded at low tide and completely flooded at high tide. The companions load onto a small landing craft with Iku-Tursa and a handful of tanari'ri raiders, and at just the right time, they make their way inside the cave. There, a barnacle-encrusted stronghold awaits. The walls appear to have been constructed from bones and pieces of ships of all sizes. The parapets are lined with devils, for Charybdis became aware of the new arrivals the moment they passed the narrow channel. Iku-Tursa planned on just charging up to the front gate, and nobody offers a better idea, so that's what they do.

After the battle in Charybdis’s stronghold, Iku-Tursa offers to take the party to a portal to Sigil.

The party exits the portal from Avernus through an arch in a park that’s abandoned and forgotton. The arch itself is made of blood iron, and the park is in the Lower Ward. Once statues of baatezu heroes stood here, but they are now in ruins and the park is overgrown with weeds.

T'chon, Xenephon, Krissy and Silversac Sam ask around for a way of getting back to Ysgard. Now that they have the true name of the Queen of Air and Darkness, the next step is to speak the name before Olidammara to break her charm on him. A tiefling tout directs them to a tavern called the Styx Oarsman.

Bryta leaves on her own to go check on Arctos Silveraxe at the Harmonium Headquarters. When she gets there, she learns that the werebear is actually on the run, an outcast from the Harmonium now. A dragonborn fighter named Tonat Shar has since replaced him as Factor here. When Bryta confronts him about it, he explains that Arctos was seen as being too negligent to be a Factor in the Harmonium. The werebear’s reckless abandon when assaulting the slaad in the 3rd layer of Ysgard left Sigil weak to demonic incursions. The Harmonium are already stretched thin; this unlawful use of resources was seen as unacceptable. Factol Sarin thus promoted Tonat to the position of Factor and put the dragonborn in charge of the City Barracks. Disappointed and angry, Arctos submitted his resignation to Sarin, who saw this as a betrayal of the faction and sentenced him to death. Nobody just quits the Harmonium — it is the law. Sarin also denied Baldur’s request for Harmonium reinforcements to Ysgard.

The Harmonium have since pulled out of Nidavellir so they can reinforce Sigil again. While they were gone, demons took the opportunity to flood into Sigil, so that now the City of Doors is more chaotic than neutral. Black storm clouds appear on the Outlands horizon…

Bryta is ordered to take a squad of Hardheads into the Hive Ward in search of slaad activity there. She takes them, but then makes up an excuse to split off, and goes in search of her companions.

Located in Sigil’s Lower Ward, the Styx Oarsman typifies the multiracial planar metropolis. The patrons run the gamut from good to evil, with the scales tipping toward the dark side of life. This inn caters to a mostly humanoid crowd. Humans, elves, dwarves, halflings, and githzerai compose the majority of the clientele; and then there are a few of those from or touched by the Lower Planes, including tieflings and even demons. The Styx Oarsman is a discreet location to meet and do business. And it is here the companions meet a cambion called Rule-of-Three who tells them how to get to Ysgard. The price is three potions. Once the potions are handed over, Rule-of-Three tells them that the portal to the first layer of Ysgard can be found in the Great Gymnasium in the Guildhall Ward, where the characters must simply jump into the cold pool of water while holding an ounce of silver.

A hulking bear of a man, wrapped in a tattered burlap cloak, catches Bryta's attention. A thick brown beard tumbles out from beneath his hood, and he grasps his ale mug in a gnarled, battle-scarred fist. The valkyrie leaves her friends' table, buys a couple of drinks from the bar, and sits down beside him at his table. He reveals himself as Arctos Silveraxe. Now a wanted criminal for leaving the Harmonium, he has no place in Sigil anymore. Bryta offers him a place among her companions, and he heartily accepts.

Krissy also notices someone she recognizes. Her ex-boyfriend, Vanthus Vanderboren, skulks in the shadows, watching the party. She advises her friends that they'd best leave now.

The first floor of the Gymnasium is dominated by the exercise field used for various martial arts and combat skills. The center of the field also sports three pools, one hot, one warm, and one cold. Beyond the field is an inner portico used for musical and other public artistic demonstrations and lectures. Past the portico are a number of separated rooms for music, dancing, sculpting, and other artistic endeavors as well as sealed and warded rooms for spellslingers to practice their arts without harming themselves or others in the process.

The companions go up to the cold pool and jump in. After submerging under the water, they resurface to find themselves on a snow-covered mountain slope in Ysgard.

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What's in a Name?

Krissy’s leafpod finally hatches, revealing the successor to the Seelie Court. For lack of a better name, she calls it Sprout. At the same time as Sprout is born, Titania dies, for there can only ever be one Seelie Queen at a time.

Hunclay and Bargle are in their cave, researching, trying to figure out how to break the charm on Olidammara. Unfortunately, they never do. A band of evil faeries sent by the Queen of Air and Darkness descends upon Hunclay’s cave. They kill Bargle, and the firbolg barely escapes with his life. Hunclay turns into a sparrow and flies to find Breidablik. He frantically tells Bryta, Krissy, Silversac Sam, Xenephon Keres, and T’chon that it was the faeries’ doing, and that the companions should go speak with these feyfolk as soon as possible concerning the attack.

Getting to the Seelie Court involves getting to Arborea's first layer, Arvendor, then traversing through Lolth’s abandoned grove. There are several entrances to Arborea from Ysgard, but only one of them well known. Following Heimdall's advice, the companions head for Turtle Pond, near Alfheim.

On their way to Turtle Pond, the party encounters Hödr the Blind. The exiled brother of Baldur the Beautiful is on his way to Breidablik to warn the Aasgardians of the slaadi threat beneath them in Nidavellir. That third slaad army that had left just before the Battle of Clontarf went down to reinforce their brethren in Ysgard’s 3rd layer. Despite the Harmonium defenders there, the slaad overran Ashbringer. Arctos Silveraxe was himself badly wounded in the fighting. Bryta is most troubled by this. She touches her shoulder where Tøki's entropic blade had pierced her mail; the wound still festered, and could only be healed by the Waters of Creation.

Krissy looks behind them, in the direction of Breidablik. She can see the great Nothing, a black line on the horizon, a primordial darkness that seeks to swallow both Limbo and Ysgard. Indeed, the war between both worlds threatens to hurl the entire multiverse into oblivion…

The companions say farewell to Hödr and continue on their way. They activate the Turtle Pond portal by stepping backwards into the moon’s reflection on the water.

Arvendor is under winter’s grasp by now. Deep snow covers everything. Nearby is a fast-moving river, with sheets of ice floating along, eventually disappearing over the edge of a waterfall. Shortly after they arrive, they meet Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Hermey, an elf who ran away from Santa’s workshop in Christmastown because he wanted to be a dentist instead of making toys. After a little bit of conversation, they are attacked by an adult white dragon named Angkarasce, attracted here by Rudolph’s nose!

The companions manage to fend off the white dragon, who flies away into a blizzard.

After their encounter with the dragon, the party ventures onward and gets lost in some heavy fog, which Silversac Sam describes as "thick as peanut butter." Eventually they discover the Island of Misfit Toys where unloved or unwanted toys live with their ruler, a gynosphinx named King Moonracer. Some of these toys include a Jack-in-the-box named Charlie, a spotted elephant, a train with square wheels, and a water pistol that shoots jelly. Krissy tells the pistol that she'll give it a good home in her backpack.

King Moonracer allows the group to stay one night on the island in exchange for asking Santa to find homes for the unwanted toys. Santa lives in Christmastown, here on Arvendor. The king also gifts the party with a couple defective magic weapons and he gives them directions to Ladinion, the realm of the faeries.

Rudolph leaves the island in the middle of the night on his own, fearing that his nose, which attracts the dragon, will endanger his friends. T'chon tracks the reindeer, but he floated away on a sheet of ice, so his tracks end at the water’s edge. Refusing to give up, the aarakocra flies out over the water and eventually finds Rudolph and convinces the young reindeer to rejoin the party.

Bryta, Krissy, Silversac Sam, Xenephon, T'chon, Rudolph and Hermey continue on their way to Ladinion. Just outside Lolth's Grove, the party encounters two mezzoloths led by an ultraloth. The yugoloths are on their way to join the slaad army in Ysgard. They reveal that the angels of Celestia are staying out of this conflict, seeing it as a battle between lower beings of chaos. The devils and yugoloths exploit the conflict for themselves, selling weapons to both sides. And then there are the demons, who have the numbers to make a difference in this conflict but no real leaders, so they won’t be of much help to anyone.

Struck by a sudden inspiration, the companions decide to go around Lolth's Grove, completely avoiding the dangers within. It costs them extra time, but they figure the safer route is worth it.

Finally they make it to Ladinion. The Seelie faeries are preparing to go into hiding. Titania has passed away, leaving the faeries under the leadership of her widower Oberon. Evil faeries recently attacked a leafpod grove, killing all the unborn fareries there. When asked, none of the Seelie admit to having tricked “Oli,” but Oberon confirms that it was the work of Titania’s evil sister, whose name shall not be spoken. The Queen of Air and Darkness has always lived in the shadow of her older sister. While growing up together, her jealousy of Titania was often displayed as rage and anger, ever driving the sisters farther apart. The evil Queen, her once bright spirit now corrupted and dead because of the Black Diamond, hates and opposes Titania’s Seelie Court and everything they stand for. She probably wants the Spawning Stone so she can kill good faeries and destroy their leafpods, and at the same time spawn more evil faeries, which deeply upsets the balance. This is probably why all the good faeries are sick.

When the faeries of the Seelie court discover Sprout with the party, they all gaze in awe and wonder at their new queen. Oberon asks Sprout to stay here and go into hiding with her people, but Sprout refuses, saying that she must go with Krissy and the others to set things right again.

In order to stop the evil queen, Oberon suggests convincing Olidammara to confront her and call her by her true name. Just knowing her true name will break the charm on him, and speaking it aloud in her presence will weaken her enough for the party to steal back the Spawning Stone. However, there’s only one soul who could possibly know what that name is: the drow Witch of Yggwyrd, Ingrid Liansdottir, the Keeper of Mysteries and the Wyrd.

Time is running out. Ysgard is quickly being devoured by the malevolent force known only as The Nothing, and so the party needs to find Ingrid Liansdottir quickly!

While making their way to Christmastown for King Moonracer’s request, the party hears sounds of combat coming from a nearby cave. When they go check it out, they see Rudolph's parents and his childhood friend Clarice trapped by the dragon Angkarasce! Nobody hesitates to go help them.

The white dragon’s hoard glitters in the back of the cave, frozen to the floor and mostly covered in snow: walrus and mammoth tusk ivory, whale-bone sculptures, figureheads from Viking ships, and furs; embedded into the ice are piles of loose coins and gems, as well as an enchanted suit of full plate armor, a magic carpet of flying, and a manual of bodily health.

Rudolph takes his family and Clarice back home to Christmastown. Hermey and the companions go with them. Bryta asks Santa if he has the name of the Queen of Air and Darkness on his naughty list, but he tells her that his list is only for children’s names. The party asks Santa for a lift on his sleigh to wherever Ingrid Liansdottir is.

The Demonweb Pit on the 66th layer is the nexus of some of the most nefarious plots in the Abyss. This realm is made of thick, magical webbing, sometimes forming passageways and other times forming vast webs or cocoon-like chambers. Throughout the web, various structures hang amid the strands, as though caught in the web’s snare. Curved walls of sticky webbing form the pathways, creating an immense network of overlapping tube-like corridors. Krissy's examination of the pathways reveals a subtle movement in the apparently natural patterns formed by the webs, which constantly shift to form the twisted bodies and faces of condemned souls. The webbing is only slightly adhesive—enough to feel strange but not enough to hinder movement. Silversac Sam says that it's like walking on the sticky floor of a kitchen.

The companions search around a little bit, and eventually find a black curtain covering the corridor ahead. Krissy sneaks up there first. The room beyond the curtain has been expanded into a summoning chamber or makeshift laboratory. Braziers in the corners burn with coals; long shelves hold hundreds of books and scrolls. More tapestries cover the walls and hold in the heat of the braziers. One section of the chamber directly across from her is lit by a metal candelabra that holds hundreds of candles; their light shines on an old drow woman—Ingrid Liansdottir. Ingrid's white hair is long and ratty; she’s dressed in tattered black robes that look like they’re absolutely crawling with tiny spiders. Krissy waves the rest of her companions over.

Silversac Sam plays a tune for Ingrid as payment. Pleased by the half-orc's song, she reveals the Queen of Air and Darkness’s true name: Cailleach, but warns that speaking the name draws the attention of the queen herself as well as other dark powers who might be listening. Xenephon starts writing the name down, but Ingrid snaps at him, "What are you doing!? Writing the name is worse than saying it!"

Lolth stirs in her web when the faerie queen’s name is uttered. The whole of the Demonweb shakes violently. A tiefling and a demon run down the corridor outside, screaming, “The goddess comes! Flee or be devoured!”

A moment later, a ten-thousand-spider swarm enters the area, scuttling and scurrying through and around the party. Everyone is grossed out and damaged from the swarm. The companions rush outside, where they see a lone drow walking calmly toward the direction of the tremors. “I will live to see her aspect destroy you all," the drow says. "Fools, the goddess comes to greet me. Her and ten thousand of her children.”

The companions take this as a sign that they need to get out of here. They rush down the corridor, take a left, then a right, then realize that they are hopelessly lost and have no idea where to go. The tremors get more violent. Another swarm of spiders splits through the web-wall, filling the area with tiny, chitinous, eight-legged, mandible-clicking horrors.

And then the avatar of Lolth herself appears. The companions ready themselves for combat, but Lolth smashes the webbing beneath their feet, sending them all plummeting down into the void.

View
Deliverance

"It is too late. The Nothing comes, and you cannot stop it." Grimnoth's words echo in Bryta's mind as she rolls out of bed. Her shadow dances upon the wall, the dance of death, and she swears she can still smell the derhii's musky fur, hear that awful roar, those claws smashing into her shield like a battleaxe. Breidablik's hearthfire smolders in the center of the hall, fighting with every last grey coal against the chill that winter brings. Despite the thick fur rugs covering the floor, her feet are still cold. Bryta stands and walks to the hearth, taking up a fire iron and stirring the coals so that they hiss and crackle and glow again with renewed life. She rubs her hands together briskly to warm them.

Exhausted by their encounter with Grimnoth, the party spends a couple nights resting at Breidablik. They are more than honored guests, and indeed it may be difficult for them to ever leave, so eager are the Aasgardian warriors to hear more tales of their adventures.

Baldur, Heimdall, and Jarnskeggi decide that the best way to end this slaad problem is to go to the source. If a champion can defeat the death slaad in charge (once a grey slaad known as Tøki), this war might just end, or at the very least this would give the Ysgardians an advantage over the slaad. And Ysgard has just the champion for the job: Thor, god of lightning and thunder. Baldur asks Bryta, Silversac Sam, Krissy, T’chon, and Xenephon Keres to seek out the death slaad in Limbo. Bargle just discovered Tøki's location in a book he didn’t know he had, and also recently acquired a cubic gate. Xenephon takes the cube from Bargle and examines it. Bryta winces, remembering the wound on her leg that the death slaad Nurn had given her. Once the companions have found Tøki, they are to activate the cube to open a gate for Thor to enter and help face the slaad.

One of the warriors in the hall stands and removes her hood, spilling out a mane of golden hair. Badb demands to join the companions on this quest. She wants nothing more than to die in battle herself. Bryta nods respect at her sister, who has proven herself in battle time and again. Silversac Sam shudders when a vision of her inevitable death flashes in his mind. There are only two valkyries left, but soon there will only be one.

Before going to Limbo, the companions first escort Bargle back to Hunclay's cave. Xenephon reprimands a couple kobolds outside for picking on a squirrel. Hunclay, not expecting house guests, frantically tidies up his living room that is cluttered with books, maps, charts, and all manner of arcane instruments. The companions ask if he can craft them healing potions, and he gives them a jug of greater healing tea. Hunclay says that he and Bargle have been working diligently to figure out how to break the Faerie Queen's charm on Olidammara, but they aren't even close to finding an answer. They did, however, find a book that describes Tøki's hall in Limbo in strange detail. Hunclay packs his friends a lunch for their trip, including fresh-baked apple pie.

Thus equipped, they gather round in a circle and hold hands while Xenephon activates the cubic gate.

Limbo tests a cutter’s adaptability to the limit, because Limbo is change. Everything here is in a perpetual state of flux; even magic is affected by the chaos. Limbo’s basically a big, churning stew in which earth changes to air changes to water changes to fire, with no fixed duration, no apparent pattern. Everything mixes together, dissolves together, boils and bubbles together. There’s no universal gravity, no up or down. Terrain that spontaneously appears also has no permanency — they dissolve just as fast as they appeared.

But Limbo’s primal matter is extremely yielding to sentient thought. By focusing their thoughts, conscious beings can shape the matter around them into whatever terrain they will. And as long as they concentrate on it, it remains in that form, providing them with a safe spot to stand and breathe instead of floating, weightless and breathless in the primal soup.

Their arrival in Limbo finds the adventurers immediately roasting in a pocket of fire. While his friends scream and writhe in agony, Xenephon wills the flames away, consciously reshaping the environment to something more habitable.

After a bit of searching around aimlessly, the party eventually spots a pair of githzerai monks battling a group of slaad. The companions come to the aid of the gith, defeating the slaad and afterward making some helpful new friends: Arl’lak and Na’kar. The two monks explain that they were out raiding the slaad, and offer to take the party with them back to Shra’kt’lor, the githzerai’s largest city. The point of their raid was to capture a slaad and question it; they want to know where all the slaad have gone, since the slaadi population seems to have dwindled of late. Xenephon happily shares what he and his friends know about the slaad, explaining that their numbers are dwindling because Olidammara stole the Spawning Stone for the Faerie Queen of Air and Darkness, and without their Stone the slaad can't reproduce as easily. T'chon asks if the gith know where Tøki Melnirson's hall might be. The gith don't know who that is, but they do know of a hall here on Limbo that resembles those found in Ysgard. They offer to show the way.

Ever since his infiltration of Breidablik, the death slaad called Tøki Melnirson has become obsessed with Aasgardian culture. And so he created an earthberg in Limbo with a hall of his own on it. There are hills and rivers and mountains and forests, all a perverse copy of the first layer of Ysgard.

When Krissy levitates up to the roof to spy through the smoke hole, she sees three human warriors drinking and laughing and talking down there, but no slaad. T'chon suggests just walking in there and demanding that Tøki reveal himself, which is exactly what they do. The warrior at the head table laughs at the aarakocra's demand, and then transforms into its true form: a death slaad.

Xenephon presses the little button on the cubic gate to open a portal to Ysgard and summon Thor. But nothing happens. He turns the cube around and fidgets with it, but it doesn't seem to work no matter what he does with it. Silversac Sam grabs the cube away and realizes that it was never meant to work more than once.

Tøki laughs at the glorious confusion and chaos, even as the two other warriors transform into green slaad. Krissy fires a crossbow bolt at one, then ducks behind a pillar. T'chon casts haste on himself and Silversac Sam and then flies up to the safety of the rafters. A wild magic surge causes the aarakocra to age ten years. Bryta stands before Tøki, braces herself, and bangs her sword against her shield, assailing him with a wave of thunder that sends tables flying and blasts a hole through the back wall. Xenephon calls down a flamestrike that scorches his enemies, while Silversac Sam buffs himself with truestrike. The two green slaad first polymorph Krissy into a dolphin and T'chon into a lizard, then drop two fireballs on everyone. Silversac Sam, his skin steaming from the flames, activates his ring of shooting stars, launching a pair of lightning bolts even as he moves up on one of the green slaad with greatsword drawn.

Bryta slams her shield boss into Tøki's face, sending the death slaad sprawling backward. Her sword cuts into Tøki's leg a second later. The slaad croaks in frustration and lashes out with his entropic blade, slicing through mail and flesh. With a twist of her sword, Bryta disarms him.

Badb's ululating warcry pierces the air. Astride her pegasus, the valkyrie charges into the melee, her spear glinting in the firelight. Behind her come the two gith, their movements so precise in combat as to resemble a dance. Their assault breaks the concentration of one of the green slaad so that T'chon reverts back to his original avian form. Silversac Sam zaps the other slaad with lightning, which causes Krissy to return to normal, too.

Tøki conjures up a cloudkill that fills half the hall. Xenephon backs out of it while the two gith choke and cough and crumple to the floor clutching at their throats.

The green slaadi release spell after spell upon their attackers, until Bryta finally cuts Tøki down. A moment of dreadful silence hangs over the hall. Their morale now shaken, the two green slaadi both conceal themselves with invisibility, intending to flee. Silversac Sam electrifies one of them and chops with his greatsword. Screaming, the slaad stumbles back, clutching at a stump that was once an arm. The half-orc chops again, this time taking the slaad's head. T'chon and Xenephon both hurl fiery spells at the spot where the other slaad had been before going invisible. They are rewarded with a cry of pain and a heavy thud as the slaad topples to the floor, its seared flesh still smoking.

Finally the hall is silent. Krissy and Silversac Sam begin casing the place for loot. Xenephon tends to the wounded. Tøki's entropic blade left a permanent mark on Bryta's shoulder, a wound that can only be healed by the Waters of Creation. The two githzerai monks, Arl’lak and Na’kar, had both been killed by the green slaadi.

Bryta cleans her sword and sheathes it, nods at Badb. Their eyes meet, and in her sister's blue eyes Bryta sees the joy of glorious combat — the only time Badb is truly alive.

An earthquake rumbles the ground. The timbers of the hall creak, groan, and snap. With Tøki dead now, the hall and entire earthberg have become unstable. Suddenly a whole piece of the hall breaks off and floats away, joining the rest of the primordial soup of Limbo. And in that abrupt open air, the companions are horrified to see an apocalyptic black storm cloud rolling toward them. Two red eyes appear, then a shadowy face, a skeletal humanoid cloaked in impenetrable darkness. Two huge horns protrude from its skull, and a third from its spine. The shadow creature steps out of the black cloud and advances upon the companions, who can only stare in paralyzed fear, for indeed this is Ygorl, Slaad Lord of Entropy.

Badb laughs and drives her heels into the flanks of her pegasus, charging straight at Ygorl. Bryta glances at her friends, their mouths agape in shock, their eyes wide with despair. Such a foe seems beyond their capabilities. Still, the valkyrie raises her shield and sprints after her sister. Krissy and Silversac Sam run to Xenephon, the rogue shouting for him to try activating the cube again. T'chon bombards Ygorl with scorching rays, but to little effect.

Ygorl leans out from the black cloud of entropy, stretching a bony, claw-tipped finger at the companions. A sphere of negative energy ripples through the hall, engulfing his attackers. Despite suffering terrible damage from that spell, Badb hurls her spear at Ygorl. The glinting blade slashes across his hand. And then Bryta strikes, her eyes glimmering with radiant energy, her sword flashing down like a comet. Ygorl releases a sound not unlike an avalanche, a terrifying bellow of agony.

The Slaad Lord of Entropy glares at the two valkyries as he summons a churning storm cloud overhead. T'chon tries to counter the storm of vengeance but it is too powerful. Lightning flashes in the area, thunder booms, and strong winds roar.

Xenephon fumbles with the cubic gate, trying to get it to work. Krissy reaches into a belt pouch and desperately throws a magic bean at Ygorl. The bean sprouts into a giant treant that grows and grows, bursting up through the roof of the hall. Silversac Sam pulls a tiny fuzzball from his bag of tricks and throws it at Ygorl. The fuzzball transforms into a jackel in mid-air! T'chon suddenly disappears, and the last look of surprise on his face tells his companions that this isn't his own doing. 

Acidic rain starts falling from the storm cloud, the drops sizzling and burning everything they touch. Xenephon calls upon the power of the Light to heal everyone in a burst of positive energy. Krissy suggests retreating. This isn't a fight they can win. Badb shouts for Bryta to withdraw with her friends. But her sister resolves to die here in glorious combat with her.

Ygorl throws another sphere of negative energy at the companions that wounds them terribly. Krissy returns with another magic bean. This time it sprouts into a landshark that starts fighting with the treant. Silversac Sam throws another fuzzball that turns into a tiger.

Ygorl laughs at the chaos of it all. Two valkyries, a treant, a jackal, a landshark, and now a tiger are all locked in furious melee before him.

T'chon reappears then. The aarakocra quickly explains that help is on its way. A lightning bolt strikes the roof, setting it ablaze, thunder booms, and gale-force winds drive the acid rain down hard. Badb's sword rasps from its scabbard. She hacks at Ygorl and shouts again for her sister to get out of here, but Bryta ignores the demand and instead slashes their foe with her Sword of Aaqa.

A rainbow suddenly descends from above, and a portal at its apex appears, revealing the rolling grassy hills, snow-capped mountains, and deep fjords of Ysgard. Silversac Sam hefts his greataxe, about to charge up to Ygorl himself, but T'chon grabs him and flies him up the rainbow bridge. Xenephon wastes no time in following after them. Krissy hesitates, calling for Bryta to join them.

Ygorl casts its baleful gaze upon the rainbow bridge. The black clouds, flashing with lightning, billow all around, plunging the hall in darkness. His jaws part. His serpentine tongue flicks hungrily at the thought of entering that perfect, beautiful world. Badb stabs him again with her sword, and again she pleads with Bryta to leave. Bryta shrieks her warcry, "For Valhalla! For Father!"

Ygorl shifts its immeasurable weight, moving toward the rainbow bridge. Badb kips up so that she stands upon her pegasus, and with a last nod at her sister, leaps from her mount onto Ygorl's body, her sword piercing the Slaad Lord's breast. Ygorl recoils back, bellowing, arms flailing. Bryta takes a step forward, but her advance is checked by the pegasus, who whinnies and pushes against her. Bryta looks up at her sister, then back at Krissy. Finally she swings a leg over the pegasus and flies toward the rainbow bridge. Krissy jumps up behind her and they both ride through the portal. The rainbow dissipates, and the portal closes.

On the other side, in the hall of Breidablik, Baldur and Heimdall rush up to greet the companions and ask what happened. Thor paces in the background, spinning Mjölnir anxiously by its sling. T'chon explains, then, that they have all been deceived by Loki. Thor stops pacing. T'chon gulps and continues. It was Loki who planted the book in Bargle's library, the book that showed the way to Tøki's hall, and Loki who left the defective cubic gate for Bargle to find. Apparently Loki wanted to punish the Aasgardians for blaming him for stealing the Spawning Stone. This entire journey into Limbo was just a dirty trick.

When Heimdall asks what became of Badb, Krissy replies awkwardly, "Did her a die." Bryta screams that her sister died in vain because of Loki. Thor kicks over a table and storms out of the hall.

But there's more, T'chon continues. When Loki offered him a place in the trickster god's hall, he refused. Instead, the aarakocra swore an oath to give Loki the entropic blade in exchange for rescuing his friends. It was Loki who gave Heimdall their location. So, in a way, they all owe Loki their lives. Bryta's eyes smolder with celestial fire. Silversac Sam cracks his knuckles. "Then let's visit Loki's winter hall and let him know how much we appreciate his help," the half-orc snarls.

"I'm afraid that won't be so easy," says Xenephon. "We had to go through Nidavellir and two layers of Pandemonium before we stumbled upon Loki's hall in a blizzard."

Krissy chimes in that the Nothing can only be stopped by returning the Spawning Stone to Limbo. Perhaps they'd best consult with the faeries in Arborea about where to find this Queen of Air and Darkness.

"Or maybe with enough lawful influence," Silversac thinks out loud, "we could tip the balance back to where it was."

Baldur agrees that it's worth a shot. He will send word to his brother, Hödr, in Nidavellir, to ask the Harmonium if they can spare any more troops. The Hardheads are, after all, the most lawful warriors he knows.

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The Den of Thieves

When the party goes to speak with Olidammara to confirm Loki’s suspicions, they first have to  navigate his gauntlet full of tricks and traps.

Krissy goes in first, using her trapfinding skills to keep her companions safe. She enters a large chamber that looks like a beautiful grove with a sparkling pond, colorful flowers, and a weeping willow tree. She quickly discovers that it's an illusion, and she is accosted by a Mordenkainen's Faithful Hound, which repeatedly bites her before Xenephon realizes what it is and orders everyone out of the room.

They easily bypass a snare and pit trap, no problem. The next large chamber is decorated with frescoes of happy people enjoying music and dance. A 20-foot wide chasm cuts across the chamber. The sounds of splashing water emanate from the chasm bottom. Krissy looks down there with her X-ray goggles and sees a lone merrow lurking in the water, but nothing else of importance. Silversac Sam eagerly jumps across the chasm, setting off a trap that detonates a glyph of warding right next to Krissy and Xenephon.

Next they encounter a clay wall and a puzzle door. The clay wall animates into a golem and attacks!

A terra-cotta army of what looks like chess pieces guards the next chamber. The companions completely bypass whatever trap is in here by having T'chon fly them across to the door on the other side. Beyond is a trapped stairway that leads up to an armory of sorts. In here the adventurers find an enchanted war pick, morningstar, and rapier. Xenephon figures out the riddle that opens the next door.

Beyond the door is a short passageway leading to a huge room lit by golden-hued continual flame torches. The entire chamber is smooth and polished, like a fancy hall in a lord’s manor rather than part of a dungeon. Flanking a mirror mounted to the far wall is a life-sized beholder statue enchanted with a permanent levitate so that it floats just above the floor. Letters are carved into the wall above the mirror, but they can’t be made out until Krissy and Xenephon move closer.

Bryta examines the beholder. Its eye sockets are hollow where the eyeballs should be. The letters carved above the mirror read “TIRIANISPORITIUS.” Further, when Xenephon gazes into the mirror he sees an exact reflection of the room, except that the room in the mirror shows a pile of loose coins, gems, and several weapons scattered upon the floor, with a set of six large tomes stacked in the corner. The azer picks up a handful of coins, only to realize that the reflection isn't real.

The mirror is a magic transport device, activated by speaking the proper command word. T'chon notes the eyeless beholder and applyies that to the word carved above the mirror. Removing the “I’s” from the word “Tirianisporitius” gives the true command word: “transport us.”

The mirror’s image darkens to an inky black and acts as a dimension door that leads straight to Olidammara’s Den of Thieves. The smoky air is filled with raucous laughter, music, and storytelling. Everybody is drinking and having a good time here except Olidammara himself, who slouches on his golden throne with a hand half covering his handsome face.

It is here the companions learn that Olidammara did indeed steal the Spawning Stone — and he’s deeply regretful of it, admitting that he was deceived by the Faerie Queen of Air and Darkness, but he will not speak any more of the matter. She has the Stone now, and he is under her charm for another seven years.

Since he refuses to answer questions about the Faerie Queen and the Stone, the companions take their leave of this place.

On the way back to Breidablik, they pass through a ruined city broken between floating earthbergs. Xenephon and Krissy notice tracks on the ground, left by some large bipedal ape. Bryta leads them in following the tracks. A minute later they meet a stone giant named Pyornkrach who tells them about the Nothing, a primordial darkness that formed because of the war between Limbo and Ysgard, spreading into both planes and threatening to hurl the entire multiverse into oblivion. Pyornkrach is a petitioner here, so he cannot leave. He sits down, resolved that he will die a true death when the Nothing consumes this place.

Following the tracks some more leads the party to a final confrontation with Grimnoth. When the derhii sees his greatsword in the hands of Silversac Sam, he growls. “If you come any closer I will rip you to shreds.” The companions taunt him, and he laughs. “Brave warriors, fight the Nothing, if you will.”

A storm grows closer to the city, slowly shaking it to pieces. Rocks fall here and there. Krissy asks about the Nothing, and Grimnoth responds, “Foolish mortals. Don’t you know anything about the Planes? These worlds are ideals, the perfection of their alignment, existing unchanged since the dawn of creation outside the Material Plane. Every part, every creature of them, is in a steady state of equilibrium. Both Ysgard and Limbo are dying now because they are no longer balanced. As the chaos increases, so too does the Nothing. And the process is irreversible. In time, the Nothing will consume all the Planes, and the multiverse will return to its original state of entropy.”

T'chon asks who Grimnoth works for. The derhii replies, “I am the servant of the power behind the Nothing — you once knew him as Tøki Melnirson. He is a death slaad now. I was sent to kill the only ones who could have stopped the Nothing.” Grimnoth smiles, then. “But now it is too late. The Nothing comes, and you cannot stop it.”

Silversac Sam hefts his new greatsword and taunts Grimnoth some more. With a howl of rage, the gorilla-demon lunges forward. The companions had encountered Grimnoth before, this incredible creature, its bristling fur shading from blood-caked black to hoary silver, its face a flaring, slavering mask of malevolent ferocity. Bryta draws the Sword of Aaqa and bangs the blade against the rim of her shield, summoning a wave of thunder that rolls forward, stunning Grimnoth momentarily. Xenephon calls down a flamestrike that sears the derhii's fur and enrages it even more. Grimnoth roars again, exposing dripping yellow fangs, rumbling forward and swinging its clawed fists wildly. T'chon touches Silversac Sam with a haste spell. The half-orc pounces into the fray, his greatsword narrowly missing the creature's face, then striking its shoulder, to little effect. The great blade is scarcely longer than the demon's massive arm, so Silversac leaps in and dodges back to protect his own skin. The dance of death.

Xenephon pauses to recall any useful information about this type of demon. He suddenly remembers that derhii are vulnerable to silver!

Krissy draws her ornate silver dagger, which she had forgotten about until now, and slips into the shadows flanking Grimnoth. At this point Grimnoth is frenzied, outraged. Claws pound and splinter Bryta's shield. The valkyrie jabs with her sword, but steel blades don't seem to do much more than enrage the derhii.

Suddenly, Grimnoth howls in pain. His arm jerks back to clap at the wound on its back. Krissy drives her silver dagger into the derhii's spine again as he twists aside and swings a massive arm at her head. The rogue ducks and stabs again. Grimnoth, slavering blood and bellowing its death-cries, falls onto one knee. Then its malicious eyes fall upon Krissy's sheep… and the leafpod nestled in the sheep's wool.

"Her!" Grimnoth growls. Hauling itself to its feet again, the derhii charges at the sheep, heedless of its attackers. Silversac and Bryta try to intercept, but the demon barrels past them. Krissy desperately runs to the rescue, slashing at Grimnoth's hamstring and toppling the great demon once and for all.

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The Battle of Clontarf
"Oh, what glorious death!"

The mummy lord’s planeshift spell returns the party to the plane of Ysgard. It’s late autumn; the leaves have all fallen, and a cold wind blows across the rocky hills and fjords of Aasgard's wilderness. While everyone else looks around trying to figure out where they are and how to get to Breidablik, Silversac Sam finds tracks in the ground that lead to a familiar road. This road takes them near the cave of Hunclay the firbolg. The companions agree that they have time to stop by and say hi for just a little bit. It's evident that Bargle is here, too, because of the two kobold guards outside. The enchanter who’d once lost his mind because of Tøki’s foul magic has since regained his wits. Inside the firbolg's home, Bargle and Hunclay pore over stacks of books to find an answer to the slaad problem. All they’ve found so far is the story of a rogue named Thomas and a mysterious woman who charmed him nearly a millenium ago.

There was once a young rogue named Thomas, who loved nothing more than to wander the beautiful countryside surrounding his home town of Erceldoune in Ysgard. His favorite spot to sit and admire the views over the mysterious Eildon Hills was a lovely old tree, said by some to be a hawthorn, and later known as the Eildon Tree. One day while taking a rest under the tree, Thomas spotted an elegant lady on a milk white horse. She threw down a challenge to him:

Harp and carp, Thomas, she said
Harp and carp along with me
And if you dare to kiss my lips
Sure of your body I will be

The woman dared Thomas to kiss her, so he did, and she asked Thomas to come away with her and serve her for seven years. She mounted her horse with him behind, and together they travelled, her horse travelling swifter than the wind itself. She told Thomas to hold his tongue no matter what he hears or sees, or he will never return to the mortal realms. On they rode, wading through rivers, and through the roaring of the sea, and through rivers of blood. They finally came to a green garden, where the woman plucked an apple from a tree, telling Thomas to take it for his wages and it would grant him “exceptional proficiency in thievery.” The story ends that:

And, till seven years were gane and past,
True Thomas on Ysgard was never seen.

Bargle thinks that whoever this woman is, she charms roguish men into becoming her servants and uses them to her own nefarious ends. When Krissy brings up Olidammara, Bargle nods and suggests that this same thing might have happened to the god of rogues. Krissy mentions that she once heard another song about this "elegant lady," who, in that song, was a faerie. Hunclay is deeply concerned. If Olidammara had been forced into service to this woman for seven years, then perhaps he is the one who stole the slaad Spawning Stone. The Stone has not been missing for seven years, though — only about a month, actually — so he cautions the adventurers that Olidammara is likely still under this woman’s spell. Bargle assures the party that he will continue his research and try to find a way to break this “elegant lady’s” charm, even if she may be a faerie. Bryta thinks it suspicious that Elden, the sprite they'd met earlier, had been so surprised to learn that Queen Titania had given the Seelie queen leafpod to Krissy. Why, the valkyrie wondered, had Titania given such an important leafpod to Krissy in the first place?

Before they leave, Hunclay mentions that Odin is no longer at Breidablik. Shortly after Baldur the Beautiful led the companions to the Infinite Staircase to begin their quest, Odin’s wife Frigg moved him to his own hall, Gladsheim, which lies on another, nearby earthberg.

Finally the party makes it to Gladsheim. They meet Calladastina, Hodd, and Letha again. Odin’s wife Frigg is here, too, as well as his son Baldur. Frigg is dressed in funeral robes. Everyone is concerned about Odin. His health has been fading fast; he becomes weaker every day. While Frigg has lost all hope, preparing to take her husband to Valhalla, Letha remains positive. Frigg blames Loki for stealing the Spawning Stone and starting this whole war against the slaad. Xenephon corrects her on this, and Baldur agrees that this isn't Loki’s doing. Krissy's suggestion that, if Odin does die, he won't have far to go since Valhalla is on this same earthberg earns her a scornful look by Frigg and Tercival.

Odin’s cure is finally delivered. Krissy thinks she knows how to drill a hole in the orb to drain out the Waters of Creation. Tercival is skeptical about this, but Krissy goes ahead and does it anyway. Bryta holds a mead pitcher and Krissy pours all the Waters into it. And as the primordial waters touches Odin's lips, renewed life courses through his veins!

Once the Allfather is back on his feet again, everyone cheers and praises Bryta, Krissy, T’chon, Xenephon, and Silversac Sam for a job well done. But this is not enough to stop the war. As a war-god himself, Odin is principally concerned not with the reasons behind the conflict with the slaad, or even its outcome, but rather with the raw, chaotic battle-frenzy that permeates this recent agonism. He is grateful for the aid the companions have given him, and so he rewards each of them with a blessing. Bryta reconciles with her father now, showing him the dragon slaying battleaxe Arngrim. He embraces her, teary-eyed, and she regains her place by his side as one of his valkyries.

Frigg throws a big feast in honor of these heroes. It is a time of celebration and drinking! Krissy gives the pitcher with the Waters of Creation to Tercival, who thanks everyone and takes his leave, heading back to Celestia. Shortly after the feast, a raven brings news from Thor and Nauma the Hair-splitter at the frontline, at a tower called Clontarf. There have been many victories against the slaad so far, but at the same time, more losses. While the slaad numbers grow after each battle, the number of Ysgardians dwindles. Odin says that he must go on a quest to find more wisdom, more knowledge, and more power, and then he takes his leave of the hall. Frigg asks Bryta to visit those on the front lines fighting slaad and bring the worthy heroes to Valhalla. Krissy wants to go to the Den of Olidammara and ask the god of rogues about the Spawning Stone, but it is decided that Clontarf is in more urgent need of assistance.

Frigg opts to stay here and defend the hall, and Baldur wants to return to Breidablik. Calladastina, Hodd, and Letha offer to accompany the companions to Clontarf, where Thor and Nauma the Hair-splitter are fending off the full might of the slaad army.

A severe storm blows in from the east, from the direction the companions are going. Cold rain falls, and a colder wind whips at cloaks and bites deep into bones. The sky is black, the thunder loud and angry. Despite the miserable conditions, the companions decide to push onward.

By morning, the storm has blown itself out, leaving a dense fog in its wake. Everybody is cold and exhausted. The sun rises behind a misty grey veil, providing no warmth on this chill autumn day. Now the adventurers look out upon a rain-soaked plain, which now more resembles a moor. In the distance they see the high tower of Clontarf, piercing the sky from the summit of a steep hill. Surrounding the scorched fields all around the hill are the thousands of bodies and bones of the fallen.

The first defender of the tower that the party meets is a valkyrie named Badb. She flies down upon a pegasus, lands, and dismounts, striking a pose with her spear and shield. Her gaze lingers inquisitively on Bryta. Badb greets the party and explains Clontarf’s predicament as they make their way into the tower.

There are two armies of slaad attacking the tower: one led by a chaos dragon named Jormungand and the other led by a death slaad named Nurn. In addition to the slaad, a number of demons and yuggoloths have also joined their number. Neither of these armies gets along with each other. There was a third army, who just left through a portal a few days ago. Nobody knows where they went or why. With the companions’ help, the defenders have a good chance of holding off the slaad. But Thor does not like being on the defensive. He asks the companions to help figure out a way to go on the offensive and defeat the slaad. Every time the defenders left the walls, they were driven back by the overwhelming number of enemies.

Badb points out that slaad try not to kill their opponents. Rather, slaad incapacitate them or otherwise wound them enough to render them unconscious. Aarakocra scouts have reported that the death slaad keeps a prison camp of Ysgardians behind his army, most of whom have either already been infected or are awaiting infection by the slaad. These prisoners are of utmost importance to the slaad because, without their Spawning Stone, infection is the only way slaad can reproduce.

Krissy asks Badb where all the other valkyries are, why they aren't helping out at Clontarf. Badb frowns, her response irate: "We have suffered many losses in this war."

The mist lightens as the day goes on, yet does not vanish completely. Clontarf seems afloat on a sea of fog. The companions are invited to stay here and rest while the powers come up with a plan. Besides Thor, Nauma, and Badb, the leadership also includes an aarakocra named Deekek, who the companions already met in the Vale of Syranita. Deekek brought with him a small detachment of aarakocra to assist in the defense of the tower. As evening approaches, the leaders can’t agree on any plan. And so they come to the companions for suggestions.

Bryta remembers that slaad fight for only two reasons. The first is for food; the second is to prove who’s the toughest. They are so wrapped up in this reverence of individual strength that they never cooperate in combat, preferring to take turns and watch. If one champion were to challenge the death slaad in single combat, the grey slaad beneath it in the pecking order would fight each other for the right to devour the death slaad’s body and thus become a death slaad themselves. After the leadership breaks down, the slaad would end up fighting each other and their army would unravel. But who should duel Nurn?

Badb gestures to speak privately with Bryta. First Badb wants to know how Bryta returned to Odin’s favor. A long and exciting story, indeed! Then Badb reminds Bryta that, now that she’s a valkyrie again, they should discuss the matter of who will die tomorrow. These petitioners have forgotten what real death is, and this war is reminding them. Badb is confident that whoever fights Nurn tomorrow is doomed to fail. Even if this champion kills the death slaad, he will suffer festering necrotic wounds that cannot be healed, and so will ultimately die. If any of Bryta’s friends dies, their soul will not go on to the afterlife, but instead will degrade and dissipate into nothing. Badb stresses this again: The death slaad’s wounds inflict permanent damage, and so the secret to success is not getting hit.

Bryta decides that she will fight Nurn herself.

Everyone agrees to this plan. Thor will take half the army and strike at the death slaad’s army’s rear, breaking the Ysgardian prisoners free. Thor can’t duel Nurn himself because he has to lead his army; they trust him more than the party. Meanwhile, Nauma will lead the other half of the Aasgardians and attack the slaad army led by Jormungand. Their chances of success will be vastly improved if they only have to fight one army. Badb will wait behind at the tower with Deekek and some others in case the third slaad army shows up.

T'chon leaves with Deekek on a scouting mission. They find the prisoner compound at the rear of the slaad army, a chaotic jumble of tree logs and rocks — the closest thing any slaad will ever come to creating a structure.

Clontarf’s meadhall is gloomy and quiet that night as the defenders eat what may be their last meal. The only sounds are the clink of dishes, the sniff or cough of brooding warriors, and the whimpering of a wardog scrounging for scraps. Letha chimes in that this plan will work and they have nothing to fear. Silversac Sam watches Thor, and suddenly has a vision of disaster for the Aasgardians: Thor will be killed by Jormungand, and Baldur will be killed by his brother Hod. This reminder of the inevitability of fate, of the pointlessness of it all, brings the half-orc to tears.

Bryta, T'chon, Silversac Sam, Krissy, and Xenephon, accompanied by Calladastina, Hodd, and Letha, set out before morning’s first light. Under the cover of darkness, the aarakocra fly the companions out to the death slaad’s army and drop them off where they need to be — Bryta and T'chon by Nurn and the others nearby the prisoner compound.

As slaad of all colors circle around T'chon and Bryta, the aarakocra introduces her as a champion that challenges Nurn to a fight. The other slaad would sooner tear them both apart, but Nurn accepts the challenge. And so a crowd gathers to watch. More slaad pile in so they can see, too, and more and more. And soon enough, most of the slaad army is here to watch the duel between the death slaad and this puny-looking valkyrie. T'chon pats Bryta's shoulder, gracing her with a haste spell.

Just the distraction her friends need to attack the prisoner compound. Only five slaad stand in their way. Krissy sneaks up and fires her crossbow from the shadows. Xenephon blasts the slaad with a fireball. Silversac Sam charges in with his greatsword. Letha and Hodd shout warcries and follow right after him, and Calladastina prays to Torm before throwing herself into the melee as well.

Bryta draws the Sword of Aaqa and bangs the blade against the rim of her Shield of Lightning, causing a wave of thunder to erupt before her. The death slaad, staggered by that initial blow, lunges forward, snapping its mouth and flailing its claws. The terrible jaws gnash upon Bryta's shield, and one claw bangs off her helmet, but the other claw slashes low, cutting through metal, leather, and flesh. Bryta grimaces and shoves the slaad away, simultaneously slashing with her longsword.

Xenephon, Silversac Sam, Krissy, the two dwarves and Calladastina are wrecking the slaad defenders, cutting down one after the other until there are only a few left. Xenephon's fireball sets the wall of the compound ablaze. Silversac Sam goes up and drives a boot against the timbers, causing a thunder wave that shatters what's left of the flaming structure. Those prisoners inside, now freed, make their way out, stumbling and carrying those too weak to walk themselves. Aarakocra fly in and start picking them up and taking them back to Clontarf.

Pretty much the whole of Nurn's army yells and croaks and cheers at the spectacle before them. Bryta ducks low under the death slaad's flailing arm, driving her sword in between her foe's ribs. She jerks the sword back and thrusts again. Nurn inhales, but the breath is wheezing, strained. Bryta pushes the attack, striking a third time. Her blade cuts so deeply through Nurn's chest that the tip juts out of his back. Nurn shudders, convulses, and slumps forward. Bryta kicks the slaad's body away and turns to face all the rest.

A couple of events transpire after Nurn is defeated. First, the ambitious grey slaadi who’d been watching with anticipation leap forward to fight over the right to devour the death slaad’s corpse. Next, the rest of the slaad, inspired to show off their own strength, immediately begin fighting each other. The whole slaad army turns into a giant brawl. And with a rumble like a thousand chariots, Thor’s warriors blitzkrieg into their midst, the god of thunder and lightning so incredible to behold.

T'chon grabs Bryta and flies straight up, away from the slaad that swarm in to tear her apart. From above they can hear the shouts of battle, steel upon flesh and claws tearing through mail, the screams of the dying. And then the aarakocra archers loose their bows, and a moment later the Ysgardian spears come, arching over the slaadi. Bryta watches Thor in the front of the fighting, the tip of the wedge, and she sees the shieldwall behind him rushing forward like an armored beast. T'chon swoops low, dropping Bryta off even as he hurls fireballs from his hands. Bryta puts her horn of blasting to her lips and annihilates a great swathe of slaadi an instant before she lands among them. All around her blades are rising and falling, and she hears that sound, the real music of battle. The crackling of Thor's lightning bolts sends bodies flying, and the Ysgardians move forward, and though the superior number of slaadi wrap around the shieldwall, it seems the Ysgardians are winning for they press forward across the mire now sodden with blood, and the warriors behind cheer and surge to run down the retreating slaadi.

On the other side of the field, Nauma’s warriors clash against Jormungand’s army. After the companions and Thor are finished with their half of the slaad forces, they join Nauma with hers. Silversac Sam gladly leaps into the thickest of the fighting. All around him men and slaadi are screaming and the Ysgardians axes and swords are chopping and swinging. The grim work, the blood feast, the song of the blade. Jormungand, sensing defeat, takes to the air and flees the battlefield. It is a furious and epic clash that will forever be remembered in song. Oh, what glorious death!

After the dust settles and the slaad armies are routed, Badb flies out to survey the field. There was a time when she would have collected the bodies of the greatest warriors to bring back to Valhalla with her, but today there are no souls to carry. The chaotic nature of Limbo and the presence of so many slaad here causes the souls of the fallen to disintegrate into nothing.

Hodd then approaches the companions. In his arms he carries the dying body of a dwarf female up to Bryta… his sister Letha, dying. She has been infected with chaos phage and will transform into a red slaad very soon. Xenephon lays his healing hands upon her, but this region is so saturated with chaos that his spells cannot remove the disease, nor reverse the transformation. Hodd desperately asks Bryta to give his beloved sister a place in Valhalla, and with tears in her eyes the valkyrie takes Letha from him. Badb tells them that Letha must be burned immediately to stop the slaadspawn incubation; there’s nothing to be done for her. Hodd crumples to his knees and wails.

Thor, flicking blood from Mjölnir, says they should push the attack and drive all the slaad back to Limbo. Silversac Sam raises his greatsword and cheers. But most of the Aasgardian lords wish to return to their halls and celebrate this great victory. They have enjoyed so few victories of late in this war, after all. Silversac Sam tries making a rousing speech to rally everyone, but the army still breaks up, and those willing to continue the fight are now too few.

Thor reluctantly says goodbye, returning to Thrudheim; Calladastina goes with him, thirsty for vengeance against the slaad who took her dwarf friend. Nauma returns to Breidablik. Deekek takes his aarakocra back to the Vale. Badb, feeling like the valkyries have no purpose in this war anymore, storms off to Valhalla.

And the companions build a funeral pyre for Letha.

View
The Waters of Creation

The fallen demiplane of Occipitus appears as a great basin surrounded by impossibly steep mountains that rise to the sky. Near the center of the basin is a ruined cathedral, the Cathedral of Feathers. The sky is covered with clouds lit with fire and evil energy, bathing everything in a reddish glow. The ground is a fleshy, springy surface, warm and slightly damp. Nothing grows here. Some rubble remains as a reminder of the layer’s celestial origins — stone walls, partial statues, or intricately carved monoliths. What the companions find to be a relief, after their journey through the howling darkness of Pandemonium, is that there is no wind here.

On their trek toward the cathedral, the adventurers pass through an ossaic forest. Formed of chalky, crumbling substance, this forest is a collection of gently curving columns that pierce the spongy surface of the layer, kind of like giant rib-bones thrusting up into the air. A vrock wanders about this area, picking at the ground in search of valuables. The companions choose to avoid the avian demon.

Krissy's sheep wanders off, looking for grass to eat. She chases after it while her companions ascend the steps at the cathedral's entrance.

T'chon flies up high to scout the cathedral from the air. The roof is full of holes, the whole building itself looks to be slightly slanted, as if it had fallen onto the ground at a slight angle. He spies two shadowy figures inside the sanctuary. The aarakocra returns to his friends at the cathedral entrance as Silversac Sam and Bryta work at opening the stone double-doors. They both push and shove upon the stuck doors, and finally open them after quite a while.

Once inside the narthex of the cathedral, the companions see the remnants of tapestries hanging on the cracked stone walls, and broken furniture and fallen stonework covering much of the floor. In the opposite wall is another set of stone doors. Xenephon strides inside, but immediately falls through the illusionary floor into a 60-foot-deep pit. Strangely enough, as soon as the azer starts to fall, he is graced with a feather fall spell, descending slowly to the bottom of the pit where a swarm of poisonous snakes awaits. On the way down he casts fireball at the snakes, killing most of them.

As soon as Xenephon disappears into the floor, a yuan-ti abomination reveals itself from hiding. The large snake-like creature sets its captivating gaze upon the second explorer to enter the cathedral: Silversac Sam. Thus suggested, the half-orc turns his rage upon his own companions! Bryta and Tercival run up to the yuan-ti, but Silversac Sam intervenes, swinging his greatsword wildly. The heavy blade bangs upon Bryta's shield once, twice, and then connects, nicking her shoulder. Tercival thrusts his Holy Avenger at the yuan-ti, but his foe coils, dodging the attack. Krissy, who had been chasing her sheep outside, now enters but skids to a halt just before the patch of illusionary floor. She makes her way carefully around it to the yuan-ti. Bryta's firm belief in order gives her the power to charm Silversac Sam, turning him back upon the yuan-ti, who is quickly cut down.

Beyond the narthex is the sanctuary. This room has a vaulted ceiling supported with buttresses but showing several gaping holes in the roof. Most of the floor is a sea of debris — collapsed archways, shattered glass, and broken pews — but a clear path leads down the center of the room. Where an altar once stood is now a rough hewn statue depicting an obscenely fat humanoid with the head of a ram. Black silk hanging from nearby pillars gives the statue the appearance of bat wings. Silversac Sam recognizes this statue from a vision he once had: Orcus, demon lord and master of the undead, whose followers obviously once visited here. T'chon flies up to the buttresses to examine the room from above.

Of more concern than the Orcus statue is the salamander spellcaster named Arrokh lying in wait for the adventurers. Arrokh uses his magic staff to summon a wall of fire across the room, separating the companions and almost killing Krissy's sheep. Next Arrokh casts a fireball that scorches Bryta and Silversac Sam. Xenephon, having been created in a realm of fire himself, is immune to its effects. The valkyrie and half-orc, and Tercival, all charge up to the salamander. Xenephon dispels the flaming wall.

Meanwhile, up in the rafters, T'chon meets Liuvash, a succubus who reads his mind and takes the form of a beautiful aarakocra female with glinting white feathers. She explains to him that she's here for the treasures below, specifically the Waters of Creation, but an abjuration in the cathedral prevents her from entering the antechamber below. T'chon, charmed by her beauty, agrees to bring the Waters to her once he finds it. Then he flies down to aid his comrades.

Liuvash next takes the form of Vanthus Vanderboren and approaches Krissy, asking for her forgiveness for all that he's done. Vanthus leans in for an embrace, but Krissy pushes him away and shoots her crossbow at the salamander. Arrokh, who hadn't noticed the rogue skulking in the rubble, takes the bolt in the face and dies instantly. Then Krissy turns her ire upon Vanthus. Bryta, Silversac Sam, Xenephon, and Tercival notice the tiefling also. They all confront him, demanding to know who he really is. Tercival's oath of devotion allows him to detect that Vanthus is an evil fiend. Krissy agrees that he is an evil fiend, but despite that, this Vanthus isn't what he seems. Liuvash changes form once again, this time to that of an angel. She pleads for her life, describing her reasons for being here, but the adventurers aren't having it. They chase her away. Before she leaves, Liuvash gives T'chon a last look; he gives her a reassuring smile.

The other two rooms up here hold nothing of value. One is a library with floating books and the other was once an art gallery and meditation chamber. Both rooms are badly destroyed.

A strange thing happens then. The ruined cathedral blinks between planes and transforms back into the version of the cathedral that once graced the slopes of Mount Celestia. The cathedral temporarily becomes whole, its roof intact, its pews and other furniture restored. A warm sunlight beams in through the stained glass windows, bathing the room in a kaleidoscope of colors. Furthermore, the air is filled with faint downy feathers. Bryta grabs a couple spell scrolls from off a table.

The world blinks again, and the cathedral is back in the Abyss, a ruined shell of its former glory.

Downstairs, the antechamber is lit by continual flame torches. The scent of spices fills the air. Sitting at an oak desk in the center of the room is a withered, desiccated corpse covered in funeral wrappings underneath golden-filigree plate armor. Both north and south walls have iron doors on them.

The corpse at the desk suddenly moves, rising slowly to its feet. Silversac Sam, T'chon, and Krissy are terrified — in fact, Krissy is paralyzed with fear. The mummy lord addresses the party in a hollow, raspy voice: "Adimarchus, Most Potent Ruler of Occipitus, bids you welcome to the Test of Creation. If you think yourself worthy, step forward and undertake the test."

Bryta steels herself and steps forward, volunteering to undertake this test. Tercival and Xenephon are right behind her. The mummy betrays no emotion on its face. One withered hand points to the north door. "Behind that door lies Bruva the Troll Matron. Pass through the door and slay her and her ilk."

Bryta, Tercival, Xenephon, Silversac Sam, Krissy, and T'chon step through the door. Bruva the Troll Matron lies in this chamber with her children, two baby trolls suckling at her breasts. They have been here for countless years, trapped in a stasis where time does not exist. Bruva pleads for the party to spare her and her babies, and to free them from this room. The companions aren't even torn about it. They all agree that slaying her and the babies is out of the question. Bryta takes Bruva by the hand and leads the troll from the room. Bruva is amazed. She cries and hugs the valkyrie and runs up the stairs with her children, free at last.

The mummy lord shows no emotion. He stands once again and points to the south door. "Behind that door lies the angel Arariel, and your deaths. Pass the test, and the Waters of Creation shall be yours."

Arariel, a planetar angel, crouches in this room. He wears beautiful plate armor and leans upon a celestial greatsword. In the center of the room is a stone pedestal topped with an iron bowl. When everyone has passed into the room, the door behind them slams shut. Arariel flinches at the sound. He tells them that he's been trapped here since Occipitus fell into the Abyss, and he would dearly like to go home. The only way out is to place the severed head of a humanoid into the bowl. Arariel himself must be the executioner. A few minutes after the door shuts, the room begins filling with poisonous gas. Everyone but Xenephon, being a construct, and T'chon, protected by the necklace of adaptation, starts coughing and hacking. Xenephon steps up to the iron bowl, volunteering himself to the angel's will. Another moment goes by as Arariel stands and steps up to the pedestal. Xenephon's friends cough and gasp desperately. Tercival puts a hand on the azer's shoulder, arguing that he, instead, should be the one who dies. But Xenephon is resolved. Arariel raises his gleaming sword high. The celestial blade sings down to strike, but doesn’t. The door opens.

After both tests have been passed, a secret door on the east wall grinds slowly open, revealing another chamber. The companions take a short rest before moving on. In the next room, frescoes depicting a black-feathered angel in battle with hordes of demons and devils cover the walls of this room. Where the wall meets the ceiling is a sentence carved into the granite, repeated over and over again as it encircles the room. Bryta reads it aloud: "Let there be light." The room’s only other feature is a tall stairway leading to a dais. On the dais is a short pole supporting a crystal ball filled with glowing, sparkling water… the Waters of Creation.

Tercival makes the sign of Lathander, breathes a prayer, and steps slowly up the stairs. When he reaches the top, he lifts the orb slowly from its resting place. He turns the orb in his hands, marveling at its beauty. "We must return this to Celestia," he tells the others.

Bryta rests a hand on her sword hilt. "No. We must take it to my father and use it to heal him."

The air is suddenly very tense. Krissy tries convincing Tercival that he can return the Waters of Creation to Celestia after they use a little bit of the water to heal Odin first. The paladin argues that Odin is a fickle god, not truly lawful nor good, and that the war between two planes of chaos is inconsequential in the grand scheme of the multiverse. During the debate, Krissy somehow removes the orb from Tercival's possession with some amazing sleight of hand. She and T'chon sneak upstairs. Finally Bryta uses one of her spell scrolls, commune, to ask Lathander himself for permission to take the Waters of Creation to Ysgard. The Morninglord answers yes, and that's good enough for Tercival.

When the rest of the company gets upstairs, they see Krissy and T'chon speaking with that aarakocra female again — truly the succubus Liuvash in disguise. She's convinced Krissy to give her the Waters, and offers to carry the rogue up to the Vale with her. As Silversac Sam raises his sword in protest, T'chon — still lovestruck — uses his wand of fear to send his companions all running away in terror. Xenephon shakes off the spell and hurls scorching rays at the fleeing succubus. T'chon uses his own magic to counterspell the azer's. Liuvash charms Bryta into helping her. Bryta attacks Xenephon with her longsword. Xenephon, while fending off Bryta's attacks, throws more spells at Liuvash until she finally falls. Her enchantments upon the companions end, and the Waters of Creation is safely in their possession again.

The mummy lord appears at the top of the stairs then. "Where would you go from here?" he inquires.

Xenephon considers asking to be taken to the location of the Spawning Stone, but then realizes that whoever has the Stone is probably too powerful for them to handle at this time. So he answers, "Ysgard."

A swirling gold portal opens up, and the mummy lord collapses onto the flagstone floor, his plate armor clattering around the dusty bones. Bryta retrieves the armor, and then the companions step into the portal.

View
Larder of Ba‘al Zebûb

The party spends the night at the Madhouse, a Bleak Cabal citadel turned into an inn and bazaar. Other than Krissy and Silversac Sam sharing a room, they all buy separate rooms. As Xenephon is settling into bed, he sees a large shadow loom over his window. The derhii Grimnoth steps into his room, the demon's great wings folding around him like a cloak, his great curved sword glinting in the dim light. "I bring a message from Toki," he grumbles, raising the sword high. Xenephon rolls out of bed as the derhii's sword smashes down. He calls for help, desperately hoping his companions wake up.

T'chon, in the room next door, hears the azer's cry for help and the commotion. He opens his window, where the hurricane winds of Pandemonium howl and roar outside, and makes his way across to Xenephon's window. The wind whips at his feathers, blinding him, threatening to rip him away and send him hurtling up into the darkness, but the aarakocra manages to haul himself into Xenephon's room.

Grimnoth bellows and drums his chest with a fist, swinging his sword in great arcs.

Xenephon dodges back, casting spells defensively at the derhii, but the heavy blade strikes him in the head, dazing him for a dangerous moment. T'chon blasts Grimnoth with fire spells from the window.

Silversac Sam and Krissy finally show up. While the half-orc raises his greataxe in rage, the rogue draws her crossbow and fires an enchanted bolt at the derhii. Grimnoth's sword loops down to right and left in a great figure-eight. On either side, Xenephon takes a blow to the arm, Silversac Sam a nasty wound on the shoulder. Moving with blurring speed, Grimnoth's sword next whooshes over the half-orc's head, almost decapitating him. The half-orcs attacks, while they might have slain a dozen men already, only seem to annoy the derhii.

Bryta arrives and takes in the scene. She rushes up to where Grimnoth and Silversac Sam are locked in furious melee and, with a flick of her blade, disarms the derhii of his greatsword. While Grimnoth roars and lashes out with his claws, Krissy grabs the sword and runs down the hallway. T'chon fires arrows from his longbow, and Xenephon rains holy light down from the heavens, distracting their foe so the rogue can get away.

Grimnoth swings his arm around, striking T'chon like a windmill blade, and then the derhii leaps out the window. Silversac Sam and Bryta run to the window, but their enemy is already flying away into the darkness.

Everyone takes a short rest to recover. Krissy gives the greatsword to Silversac Sam, who claims the new weapon as his own. A couple other inn patrons arrive to investigate the commotion. The matron of the inn, Maris Warrow, demands to know what happened. When T'chon explains, she looks terrified. The derhii Grimnoth is a legendary demon who takes orders from the slaad lords of Limbo!

Maris gives the party directions to Ba‘al Zebûb’s Larder here on Pandesmos. After breakfast, they head over there, braving the darkness and the wind of Pandemonium once again. The entrance to the nalfsehnee's Larder is a gaping maw leading to a long tunnel, like the mouth and throat of some gargantuan beast.

The first chamber the companions encounter when entering the Larder is a rectangular room with small columns around the edges that partially hide the carvings along the walls. The carvings depict hundreds of naked people fleeing as a gigantic mass of shapeless flesh covered with eyes and mouths devours them. Xenephon and T'chon recognize this as Turaglas, a powerful demon lord. Pale green light glows from two large chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Heavy iron double doors stand at the top of a flight of stairs opposite the main entrance, guarded by two gargoyles. There’s also a single door to the south and double doors to the north. This chamber is guarded by two mezzoloths and a giant spider.

After battling the mezzoloths and spider, the companions investigate the northern door, wherein lies a dungeon and about a dozen prisoners, including the dark elf Nalfein Warrow, all fated to be meals for Ba‘al Zebûb. They tell the prisoners to flee back to the Citadel.

Next the adventurers ascend the stairs to the iron double doors. Within, there are tables littered with rusty cutting and sawing tools, as well as old rotten food, dirty dishes, and piles of bones. A fireplace is dominated by a large cauldron that bubbles and steams with some foul-smelling dinner. The cupboards and shelves all contain various cooking supplies and spices, including a tube containing dust of sneezing and coughing. There’s also an oven that radiates intense heat. Six dretches hide in here, emerging to attack!

From the next room Krissy hears the splashes of someone really big emerging from water. She peels a patch off of her enchanted robe, which magically turns into a battering ram. Silversac Sam takes up the ram and slams it into the door just as whoever it is opens the door. The force of the half-orc's blow knocks the nalfeshnee on the other side of the door back into the pool of slimy liquid it had been bathing in. A breeze that smells like sour body odor and rotten meat wafts out of the room.  The floor in there slopes down toward the center from all directions, like a funnel. At the bottom bubbles a pool of slimy liquid with rotting body parts floating in it. Everyone is surprised to realize that the nalfeshnee they knocked over is, in fact, Ba‘al Zebûb!

The demon hauls itself to its feet, its fur all wet and foul-smelling, its claws glistening, the fangs in its snarling mouth dripping with anticipation of its next meal. Xenephon and T'chon hesitate, remembering that awful time when they themselves had once been Ba‘al Zebûb's prisoners before they miraculously escaped. Silversac Sam drops the battering ram and hefts his new greatsword. Bryta raises her shield. Krissy nocks a bolt into her crossbow.

Ba‘al Zebûb snarls a curse and lunges at the intruders. Silversac Sam drives his sword in a horizontal sweep, opening a deep gash on the nalfeshenee's arm. His backhand stroke catches Ba‘al Zebûb on the jaw. Bryta slams her shield-boss into Ba‘al Zebûb's face, shattering nose and teeth, and hacks at her enemy's exposed thigh. Ba‘al Zebûb drops to a knee, almost falls over again. Krissy's well-aimed crossbow bolt pierces the demon's eyeball. Scorching rays of fire streak from Xenephon's fingertips, charring fur and flesh and bone. T'chon casts haste on himself and unleashes a volley of longbow arrows that drive Ba‘al Zebûb back into his bath of foul, slimy liquid. Silversac Sam raises his sword up just in time to turn a devastating blow from the demon's claws. The half-orc rolls aside as Ba‘al Zebûb's hoof crushes the flagstones where he'd been. A hairy fist pounds down on Bryta's shield, the force of it knocking her to the floor. The demon slashes again, and again, until the valkyrie's arm feels numb and pieces of her shield splinter away. A bolt from Krissy's crossbow pierces Ba‘al Zebûb's throat. The demon emits a howl like a slaughtered pig and falls with a great splash into the bath.

Then Bryta's eyes flash white, and two luminous, incorporeal wings sprout from her back. She leaps up into the air, suspended there for a moment, and lands hard upon Ba‘al Zebûb's exposed belly. The steel blade of her sword sings down, and in an instant Ba‘al Zebûb's guts spill into the steaming, bubbling liquid of his bath.

And then something like blue smoke rises out from Ba‘al Zebûb's stomach, taking the shape of a humanoid with an expression of relief and joy upon its ethereal face. Another smokey figure emerges, and then another. Indeed, these are the spirits of all those Ba‘al Zebûb had devoured! Before they can all whisp from the room, Bryta calls, "Tercival!"

One of the spirits halts. It turns slowly to meet her gaze. "I am Tercival," it responds.

Bryta, T'chon, Xenephon, Krissy, and Silversac Sam all explain to the spirit of the paladin that they need his help to locate the Waters of Creation. The moon goddess Selûne foretold that this ancient artifact would cure Odin of his entropic wound. Tercival seems to consider this, and then agrees to help them. But he says that he'll need his armor and his sword first. He also explains again the history of the Waters.

The Seven Mounting Heavens of Celestia guarded this item in the Cathedral of Feathers for millennia until a demon army invaded centuries ago, intent on rampaging and pillaging as much as they could. The heavenly host repulsed the demonic army, but at great cost: the angels of Celestia had to cast the part of Celestia occupied by the demons into the Abyss — it is now known as Occipitus. But not before Turaglas stole the Waters of Creation and brought it with him. Tercival and his company of paladins were chosen to find and return the Waters to its rightful place, but they were all killed in the attempt.

Tercival sees the death of Ba‘al Zəbûb as a sign that he can recover the Waters, cleanse Occipitus of evil, redeem himself, and return victorious to Celestia. And so, with the ghost of the paladin with them, the companions explore the remainder of Ba‘al Zebûb's Larder. They discover a hall of ice where countless numbers of bodies hang from meat-hooks. Beyond that is Ba‘al Zebûb's treasury. Here they find Tercival's Holy Avenger and his enchanted armor, which restores him to life once again. Tercival runs a hand over his face and mane of black hair, his eyes bewildered. After having been trapped inside the demon's belly for so long, to have life again brings him to tears. While the others go through the treasure, Tercival snatches up a scroll of planeshift and offers to take them all to the Cathedral of Feathers… and the Waters of Creation.

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Pandemonium

After saving the dwarven town of Ashbringer in Nidavellir, Bryta, Krissy, Silversac Sam, Xenephon, and T'chon joined a faerie named Elden on his journey to Phlegethon, the 3rd layer of Pandemonium. Elden was sent by the queen of the Seelie Court, Titania, to search for the cause of the faeries' recent pandemic. A gold rush of treasures entices many planar adventurers to the town of Windglum, which is where the companions begin their adventures in Pandemonium.

Insanity from continual exposure to Pandemonium’s wind is a real danger. Bryta warns that hearing protection should be used, but her words go unheeded. While their friends resist the effects of the madness, Krissy and Xenephon are consumed with frustration and vexation; they become snappish, continually irritated by the smallest things, impatient to just get on with business and get out of the noise.

They all take shelter in a tavern called the Scaly Dog, run by a wereboar named Hagus Grimcrack who has reasonable prices and is free with advice to newcomers. T'chon tries to ask around for information about Tercival, Ba‘al Zəbûb, or Loki, but is only met with glowering stares and cold shoulders. Xenephon talks to a sea captain who introduces himself as Bonefist and claims to have already defeated and looted a green dragon, one of many down here right now; his ship leaves tonight. Xenephon, overcome by an uncharacteristic greed, leaves the tavern and heads down to the docks to scope out this ship. Silversac Sam plays a song on his lute in exchange for a pint of beer. A crowd gathers, as his song is actually pretty good, and Hagus even offers him a free night here if he entertains the guests for a while. Krissy meets her old boyfriend, Vanthus Vanderboren. The tiefling is still as handsome and sly as she remembers. He tells her that his adventuring company knows the location of another green dragon and plans to leave tomorrow morning to procure its treasure hoard. Apparently a mother green dragon moved down to Phlegethon centuries ago and gave birth to a dozen babies, then was killed; her babies divided her hoard and went their separate ways. This is the reason for the recent gold rush that's drawn adventurers from all different planes to Phlegethon.

Krissy goes up to a table full of baatezu and asks them about Ba‘al Zəbûb. They are insulted by her racist assumptions and get up to attack, but T'chon quickly calms them down. Silversac Sam sits back down as well; he had been ready to scrap with the devils, if needed. Their leader, a surly horned devil, warns them that he'll kill them if they meet again.

The companions go find out what Xenephon is up to. The azer is caught just as he's about to attack the guards on Bonefist's ship. He seems to be blinded by greed. His friends subdue him and knock him out. And then the ghost of Rongnir emerges from Xenephon's body. So the azer had been possessed by the greedy dwarf's spirit all along! The ghost is dispatched and Xenephon's friends take him back to the Scaly Dog for a long rest.

The next morning, Silversac Sam resumes information-gathering in the Scaly Dog's common room. Unfortunately he insults the barkeep, who asks Silversac and his companions to leave. Krissy reluctantly agrees to join forces with Vanthus — she needs directions and he needs the extra muscle — so together both parties head out in search of a green dragon. Over the course of their journey, they grow closer.

Eventually, the companions find a lair and face off against a young green dragon. Krissy spots the dragon slaying battleaxe Arngrim beside a dead storm giant. She sneaks up, grabs the axe, and runs, the dragon hot on her heels. Vanthus fires a poisoned arrow at the dragon but misses. The wizard in Vanthus's party blasts the dragon with a fireball that also catches Silversac Sam in its radius. After the dragon is defeated, Vanthus cheers and offers to split the loot among the two adventuring parties. But the half-orc is vexed about having been hit by friendly-fire — not to mention the fact that the tiefling had locked them all up in a smuggler's den in Yggdrasil's roots that one time. Silversac intimidates Vanthus into calling it even and leaving. As he departs, the tiefling makes eye contact with Krissy one last time.

After Vanthus and his party departs, Bryta, Krissy, Silversac Sam, Xenephon, and T'chon sort through the green dragon's hoard. Bryta is excited to finally receive Arngrim, and her ticket to returning to Odin as a valkyrie once more. On their way out, the horned devil from the tavern shows up. He demands they hand over all the treasure; weapons are drawn and combat ensues.

After returning to Windglum to sell off all their loot and liquidate the treasure into coins, the companions ask around for the location of Loki's winter hall. A bladeling shares this information in exchange for a bit of jink. And so they all set off again into the darkness and wind. While they are traveling, a light snow begins to fall. The snow grows thicker as the minutes pass, until they are stumbling along in a blizzard. The visibility from their lanterns and driftglobes, and even Xenephon's flaming beard, all drop to just a few feet. Within moments, they are hopelessly lost. A pack of wolves howl nearby. Then Krissy spots a rough log building ahead, recognizing it as Loki's winter hall.

The hall is gigantic in proportion, its huge door too heavy to open. But the adventurers are able to slip inside through a crack near the door. Within, they find themselves faced with a roomfull of sleeping giants. Loki sits passed out at a table on the far side of the room, snoring away with one hand on a tankard of mead and his other resting against his cheek. Krissy cases the room in search of the slaad Spawning Stone, but she doesn't find it. T'chon and Xenephon remind her that this stone is huge, like ogre-sized, so it shouldn't be hard to miss if it is here. Bryta nudges Loki awake. He seems pleased to see her. He asks about her father, Odin, and about the slaad and the chaos war that rages now; he also asks about the entropic blade that the grey slaad had weilded against Odin. Krissy asks if Loki knows where the Spawning Stone is. Loki replies that he has an idea, but he makes them promise to give him the entropic blade after they defeat the grey slaad. Bryta agrees, and Loki says he saw Olidammara skulking out of Limbo, through Pandemonium, on his way to Ysgard. The Laughing Rogue, god of music, revels, wine, humor, and tricks, hummed a tune along the way:

Betide me well, betide me woe
That weird shall never daunt me
And I shall kiss your rosy lips
All underneath the Eildon Tree

Bryta remembers the first half of this tune, which she found on a scrap of paper in Bargle's fortress a while back:

Harp and carp, she said
Harp and carp along with me
And if you dare to kiss my lips
Sure of your body I will be

Maybe the crazy old Bargle knows more. Loki warns that whoever is capable of stealing the heart of the god of thieves is probably a dangerous foe, indeed. The adventurers should consult with Olidammara in his Den of Thieves on the first layer of Ysgard. The Den is riddled with traps, so Loki advises them to be careful!

The next order of business the adventurers want to resolve is finding Ba‘al Zəbûb and rescuing Tercival. Odin's entropic wound can only be cured with the Waters of Creation, and there's only one paladin in the multiverse who knows where that is. T'chon asks Loki about the Waters. Loki says that the Waters is an artifact item that was created by Selûne and Shar. The Seven Mounting Heavens of Celestia guarded it for millenia until a demon army invaded ceturies ago, intent on rampaging and pillaging as much as they could. The heavenly host repulsed the demonic army, but at great cost: the angels of Celestia had to cast the part of Celestia occupied by the demons into the Abyss. But not before Turaglas stole the Waters of Creation and brought it with him. Tercival discovered the location of the Waters and brought a following of paladins with him to go get it, but they all died. Silversac Sam asks Loki if he has any tips on how to fight Ba‘al Zəbûb. Loki just says that they'd better not fight him sober.

And so the party sets out into the blizzard again, back to Windglum. T'chon asks around and learns how to get to Ba‘al Zəbûb's Larder on Pandesmos. A couple githyanki tell him that he'll need to eat sauerkraut until he pukes into an iron cauldron, which then becomes the portal that they can step into. This will take them to Pandesmos.

Most of Pandesmos is howling wasteland, but there are scattered spots of habitation. One such town is called the Madhouse, a Bleak Cabal citadel turned into a bazaar and tavern. It is here the party meets Maris Warrow, a drow cleric. She explains that she came here with her sister, Nalfein, six decades ago on a trip to see the “glorious madness” of Pandemonium.  She and her sister became the matrons of this citadel. And then her sister was taken by Ba‘al Zəbûb. Now, after all these years, Maris realizes that the only meaning to her existence is to be with her sister again. Maris gives the party directions to Ba‘al Zəbûb’s Larder here on Pandesmos. When T'chon asks about Tercival, she admits that she met the paladin once on his way through here, about 100 years ago. He was a handsome and charming fellow; exceptionally pious, too, always reading his prayerbooks. After he left to battle the demon Ba‘al Zəbûb, she never heard from him again. Perhaps he shares the same fate as her sister, their souls bound and imprisoned by the nalfshnee.

The party decides to stay here for the night and head out in the morning. Other than Krissy and Silversac Sam sharing a room, they all buy separate rooms. As Xenephon is settling into bed, he sees a large shadow loom over his window. The derhii Grimnoth steps into his room, the demon's great wings folding around him like a cloak, his great curved sword glinting in the dim light. "I bring a message from Toki," he grumbles, raising the sword high…

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