(image by Ron Spears, from Monster Manual V)
Sheen looked from Kalenthor to Haden and back, her hands gripping each other tightly. “So . . . what do we do now?”
“You know, I really should get started on that book,” Mal said, oblivious to the awkward atmosphere. He tugged insistently on Kal’s sleeve, startling the wizard, who blinked at him for several seconds before pulling the heavy tome out of his pack and handing it wordlessly to the warlock. “Thanks,” Mal said, somewhat ironically, then vanished into his cubbyhole.
“We got a line on Margone while we were in Dis,” Kal said to Sheen.
“Oh?” Haden demanded. “Where is she?”
“She was in the company of a remannon that stays at the Tenth Pit while it’s in Sigil.”
Haden frowned. “A remannon? That’s a type of devil. Do you suppose that might be Betzalel?”
“It could be. There’s a cleric involved, also, by the name of Orthros. It’s worth checking, at least.”
Haden sighed, then nodded. “Yes, let’s go have a look at it.”
Kal rubbed the back of his neck nervously. “Haden, I . . . are we all right? I couldn’t have known . . .”
“What you choose to do with your time is none of my business,” Haden said with uncharacteristic stiffness. Sheen smiled a little.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” she asked.
“I’m fine,” Haden insisted. “There’s nothing to be done about it now, so let’s just move on. Whatever happens, happens.”
“You think something will happen?” Sheen asked.
“I know something will happen,” Haden replied. “Whatever it is, it will be bad. But trying to anticipate will only make it worse.” He offered Sheen his arm with rather more than his usual formality and ushered her out the door. The Tenth Pit was on the far side of the Lower Ward, close to the Ditch. Someone had made haphazard repairs to the second-storey window, but the exterior was otherwise much the same.
Inside, a burly creature drew pints of some fuming mixture and slapped them irritably on trays that smoked and sizzled where the spilled drink touched them. Nearly thirty fiendish beings ranging from a gaggle of tieflings to a lone Osyluth were crammed into the dense, hot room.
“Excuse me,” Sheen addressed the proprietor.
“Ja?” the creature asked, not pausing. From the voice, it seemed to be female.
“We’re looking for Orthros,” Sheen said.
“Nefer ‘eard of ‘im,” the creature responded instantly.
“Yes, yes, very nice,” Sheen replied with a sigh. “Would you like a bribe, or are we going to have to start a brawl?” The creature finally turned and looked at Sheen, sizing her up with great care.
“Vat I vant is money he owes me for room.”
“That can be arranged,” Sheen said.
“How much does he owe, out of curiosity,” Kal asked.
“Ha,” the proprietress said without humor. “If you can get any money out of ‘im, you can go up. Lousy god. Street trash.”
“Oh, we’ll get something out of him,” Sheen announced.
“Last door right. Tell ‘im Gondul vant ‘er money.”
The steep, narrow stairs led to an equally narrow hallway and a series of small doors. The hall reverberated with the sound of snoring, but voices could still be heard coming from a room at the end of the hall. Sheen looked at Kalenthor. “You have a good spell ready?”
“A couple, yes,” the wizard said, eyeing the door with trepidation.
“All right,” Sheen replied, summoning up psionic power of her own, but before she could finish the snoring was suddenly blotted out by a powerful mental voice.
<<so>> The door seemed to leap from its hinges as a tall horned male covered in sharp barbs erupted into the corridor, striking Sheen almost casually with a clawed hand. She retaliated instantly, almost by reflex, and impaled herself on several barbs in the process. Swearing, she tried to back away while Kal desperately chanted the words of an invocation.
<<suffer>> Betzalel roared. A black haze swirling with red flashes seemed to descend, blotting out the corridor. Sheen slashed ineffectually at the air as her vision and hearing clouded. Kalenthor’s chant turned into a confused babble. Sheen thought she heard him retreat back down the stairs, but she couldn’t be sure. Something attacked from the clouds, crushing Sheen against a wooden surface—she thought it was the floor, but it could be a wall or even the ceiling for all she could tell. She slashed at it and heard it howl in pain. Then a wave of psionic force rolled over her and the attacker staggered away to be lost in the murk. She vaguely recognized that the power must have come from Haden, but she could not even guess at his location.
Kal stumbled blindly and fetched up against a warm body. Horrified, he attacked it with his bare hands and heard someone swear.
“What’s the big idea, you lousy berk?!” Gondul leaned out over the bar, her eyes narrowing at the sight of the elven wizard.
“Fairies in the belfry!” Kal announced helpfully. “Must bake a pie!”
“Jannix, get a nuller up here!” Gondul bellowed. A skinny tiefling leaning against the bar raised a hand. Kal, Haden, and Sheen felt their heads suddenly clear.
“Thank you!” Kalenthor yelled and charged back up the stairs. A human in priestly garb shrank back from the sight of Sheen, Haden, and Kal. He glanced at the dead hamatula blocking the door, then turned and jumped out the window. Haden cursed and jumped over the corpse, grabbing the sill and shoving his head out over the courtyard as Orthros staggered to his feet below and began running.
“FIVE THOUSAND GOLD TO WHOEVER STOPS THAT MAN!!” Haden yelled. Within seconds, Orthros was buried under a mass of bodies. He struggled to get free, but in the end a tiefling urchin managed to grab his head and slam it hard into the cobblestones. Haden blinked at the sight. “I know that kid. Hey, OLEG!! You’re a lifesaver!”
“Heya, Haden!” The youngster called, waving an arm.
“I’ll be down in just a second!” Haden said, and hurried back through the tap room. Gondul eyed him balefully and transferred her gaze to Kal and Sheen as they followed.
“Sorry about that,” Sheen said.
“For the record, the devil broke the door,” Kal added.
“The place ‘as seen vorse,” she said, sighing philosophically. Outside, Haden laid claim to the unconscious cleric, removing his purse in the process. Gondul accepted the payment with a faint nod.
“Let’s get this reprobate somewhere safe,” Haden said. Sheen nodded and shouldered the unconscious body. The excitement over, the crowd began to disperse.