Planescape: Brush with Oblivion

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 T√łki), 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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