Campaign of the Month: December 2007

Cold Blood

Episode 31: The Demonweb Pits
In Which Our Heroes Really Piss Lolth Off, Not That It Was So Difficult

(image by Tony DiTerlizzi, from Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix II)

“Demonweb Pits?” Joris asked, perplexed.

“What exactly does that mean?” Talan added. “Then again, maybe I don’t want you to tell me.”

“It’s the 66th layer of the Abyss, the domain of Lolth,” Haden said.

“66th?” Sheen asked. “How many layers of the Abyss are there?”

“No one knows,” Haden said. “It’s not called the Infinite Layers for nothing. There are as many layers as there are types of evil.”

“The Guvners stopped counting around seven hundred,” Hexla explained.

“If Tulio is here, he’s probably in trouble,” Sheen said grimly. They walked down a sticky tunnel that seemed to have been spun out of layer upon layer of thick webbing. The floor was vaguely tacky and stuck to their boots as they walked. Talan crouched and began examining the webs, gently nudging aside countless tiny spiders that seemed to inhabit them. He began to walk, slowly, the others following. A faint light from somewhere deep within the webbing illuminated the tunnel vaguely. Then it darkened abruptly as a large shape moved above them and vanished into the distance.

“So. Spiders.” Joris said quietly.

“Again,” Talan added.

“Big spiders,” Haden muttered. Sheen groped for his hand and he held on to her tightly. The tunnel soon opened into a vast chamber studded with immense crystal shards that gave it an almost subterranean character. A tower of purple crystal loomed over the path, emitting a low, eerie hum.

“Well, there’s our Crystal Tower,” Haden said. They climbed the short path to the base of the tower. Sheen scratched at the crystal, finding the faint outline of a door with the tips of her claws. She searched, but could not find a mechanism or other device for opening the door.

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Episode 30: The Temple of the Abyss
In Which Our Heroes Discover the Whereabouts of the Thief.

(image by Beth Trott, from Drow of the Underdark)

The Temple of the Abyss loomed. It hulked. Like most temples, the architecture attempted to be imposing, to suggest some connection between this mundane structure and the timeless or infinite. Yet, it did not soar: it clawed its way skyward with bloody talons and nailed the heavens to the ground. Joris stared at the monstrosity in slack horror. Sheen reached out and squeezed his shoulder. The cleric’s hand flailed until it found hers and squeezed back fiercely.

“I sure wouldn’t want to join that,” Talan said, grimacing.

“It’s not as forbidding as you might think,” Hexla said. “They want people to come in and join, after all.”

“They like to make a big show of being terrible and powerful,” Sheen said.

“So, if I were a drow priestess, where would I keep my captives?” Haden mused aloud, walking up the stairs. He didn’t seem much intimidated by the Temple, but then he had fiendish blood. The show was wasted on him. Still, he paused briefly in front of a statue, startled. It looked so much like Kalisa that he almost wanted to check whether it was breathing.

“What does the inscription say?” Joris breathed.

“Malcanthet, queen of the succubi,” Haden translated.

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Episode 29: The Search for Tulio
In Which Our Heroes Become Entangled in the Thief's Mess Yet Again.

(image by Wayne England, from Drow of the Underdark)

Thea stared at their startled expressions. “What’s wrong? Was he a friend of yours?”

“Potential friend, maybe,” Haden said. “In any case, we need to find him.”

“Well, I saw him for the first time a few weeks ago. He was broke and I wasn’t making a case of it, but I could tell it was bothering him. Then he shows up again a couple nights ago, pockets brimming with jink.”

“Well, it’s not difficult for an enterprising sort to find work in Sigil,” Haden offered, “but somehow I’m thinking that’s not what happened.”

“Any time there’s too much money . . .” Talan said, letting his sentence trail off ominously.

“We had a good time!” Thea insisted defensively. “Then he was gone. Like, in the middle of the night and without his clothes gone. And he left all his money, too!”

“Did he leave anything else behind?” Talan asked. Thea shrugged.

“Do you still have his stuff?” Haden asked.

“Sure, it’s in my room still. Come on.” Thea led the way up the stairs, unlocking her door. She gestured to a small pile of clothing and other personal effects heaped on the trunk at the foot of the bed. Sheen picked up the pile and began a forensic-style investigation. A sword and crossbow both looked new, along with a roll of small, complex tools. She opened a small sack filled with coins and spilled them onto the bed.

“None of this looks really noteworthy to my eyes. Do you more visionary folks want to have a crack at it?”

Haden picked up one of the coins and held it to the light: it had an unearthly sheen to it, a faint iridescence. He held it in his gloved palm and began concentrating. Talan and Mal examined the coins as well. One side bore a haughty-looking face with an unmistakable elven cast. On the reverse, there was a stylized spider and the words ERELHEI CINLU.

“Vault of the Drow,” Mal said absently.

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Episode 28: Family Things
In Which Our Heroes Gain Some New Information And Start Back Out on the Trail of Adventure.

Haden and Talan sat in the living room of the town house. Haden was ensconced, as usual, in the most comfortable chair, a book in his lap and a glass of wine at his elbow. He’d taken to reading since Cerellis’ funeral, rendering the evenings unusually quiet.

Talan was trying to convince Ari not to use the couch for a bed, with mixed results. Usually Ari took well to training, but she really loved the couch. Mostly, she obeyed when Talan was in the room. Otherwise, not so much. She briefly gave up her attempts to conquer the furniture and curled up in front of the fire with a sigh. It was cold outside and the warmth was very welcome.

Sheen arrived at her usual time, her hair still damp from scrubbing. Yolette trailed behind her, immediately heading for the kitchen to grab a snack. Sheen paused beside Haden’s chair and brushed her lips against his forehead. He glanced up at her and smiled.

“Haden, I’ve been meaning to ask you, what are you reading?” Talan asked.

“Well . . . nothing much, really,” Haden replied.

“You’ve been so engrossed in it . . .”

Haden flushed a bit, embarrassed. “It’s just some histories about my father and grandfather. I never really knew my family very well.”

“Your father was a great man,” Talan announced. “I’ll bet those histories are fascinating. Maybe you can share some of them with us.”

“They’re certainly startling. This book actually mentions a fiend named Kalisa, if you can believe it.”

“Really?” Talan blinked. “What does it say about Kalisa?”

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Interlude: Haden and Cerellis
In Which Father and Son Speak for the Last Time.

Haden closed the door behind Talan and Felise as quietly as he could. The movement brought his gloves into view. They were filthy, sticky with blood. Haden’s stomach wrenched and he ripped them off, followed by his rapier and sword-belt, his armor, and his boots. He leaned his face against the wall, shaking, then slowly crossed the room on bare feet and sat on the bed next to Cerellis.

Haden found himself tucking his feet up under his legs, the way he’d sat when he was a child, listening to his father’s stories for hours on end until he’d fallen asleep and Felise or one of the maids had come to carry him off to bed. His hand trembled as he reached out and stroked Cerellis’ thin hair, extending a tendril of psionic power in the hopes of finding something, anything left of his father’s mind. The effort made him shake more; his faint powers were all but exhausted. Very slowly, Cerellis blinked and his eyes seemed to focus.

“Dad?” Haden whispered.

“You haven’t . . . called me that . . . since you were a little boy,” Cerellis breathed. “I missed . . . I think I missed it.”

“Not since you turned me over to Mother,” Haden said bitterly, then cursed himself mentally. He hadn’t meant to say that. What was the point? It was too late. It had probably been too late years ago.

“Yes, I know. I probably . . . shouldn’t have done that . . . she hurt you so much . . .”

“What?” Haden gasped, sitting up straight in shock. “You knew? You knew about that? You knew what she was doing?”

“Yes . . . I knew . . . I may be . . . old, but I wasn’t . . . blind.”

“And you just let it happen?” Haden’s throat was tightening; he felt like he couldn’t force enough air past the terrible constriction that had seized his windpipe. “How could you do that to me?!”

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Episode 27: The End of Gyderic
In Which Our Heroes Negotiate an End to Hostilities.

(image by Tony DiTerlizzi, from the first Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix)

Joris dropped to his knees and pressed his fingers to Hexla’s wrist, frowning. Then he nodded, smiling in relief. “She’s alive.”

Talan also knelt on the floor, clenching and unclenching his hands as though he was uncertain what to do with them. “Why isn’t she moving?”

“I’m not sure,” Joris said. “It could be magic; let me try dispelling it.” The cleric waved his hands through the air and Hexla suddenly gasped for air. “Some variation of the spell the Shadowknave was using, I think.”

Talan leaped to his feet, startling Joris and bumping into Sheen. Talan turned to apologize and Sheen got a look at his expression: worried, hesitant, embarrassed. “I’ll just . . . look around, shall I?” Sheen said awkwardly.

Hexla sat up slowly, then noticed Talan standing over her. She blanched and flung up an arm. “No! Get away from me, impostor!”

Talan reached a hand toward her, then dropped it helplessly. “Hexla, it’s me . . . you have to believe me. See? Here’s Joris, and Sheen, and Haden . . . and Ari, look, she wouldn’t be here if I were a fake.” Ari whuffed.

“Clearly she is mad and will have to be put down,” Mal said coldly. “It’s the humane thing to do.”

“MAL!” Haden groaned, hauling the elf backwards out of Hexla’s line of vision. Mal stared at him, confused. Talan shot Joris a look of appeal.

“He’s right!” the cleric said hurriedly. He pointed up the hall towards Baltazo’s corpse, sprawled inelegantly in a pool of blood. “That’s the imposter. He can’t hurt you any more. He won’t hurt anyone any more, Talan saw to that.”

“What about the other one, Gyderic?” Hexla asked quietly. “Did you get him too?” Talan shook his head and Hexla sighed. “I didn’t see him, anyway, just Baltazo muttering about him and someone called Cerellis . . .”

“Cerellis and Gyderic?” Haden asked instantly. “What could Gyderic want with my father? What would that accomplish?”

Sheen paled. “Haden, we’d better go back to Honorgard NOW.”

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Interlude: The Eternal Boundary
In Which Gyderic Visits Lord Cerellis.

by DarthKrzysztof

Gyderic found Lord Cerellis in the study, standing next to the map of Sigil. The half-celestial moved his gaze to him, and Gyderic found himself transfixed… time had eroded Cerellis’s face like a rocky shoreline, but his eyes still held the blue innocence of an infant’s. Gyderic felt like Cerellis was looking at his soul – this was not the old fool he’d seen in Haden’s mind.

“Do I know you?” asked the lord, in a tone which suggested he already knew the answer.

Still, if he’s more conscious than I expected, thought Gyderic, that might make my mission easier. Let us begin simply. “Where is Haden?”

“Don’t know,” Cerellis replied. “How did you get in here?”

“Your githzerai is useless.”

“Too true.” Cerellis moved from the map toward the desk to sit on its edge; Gyderic noted the greatsword resting against the wall behind the chair, its point lost in the lush carpet. “I hated to let Suinjes do his Unbroken Circle routine, but it was so important to him…”

“Where is your son?” Gyderic said, louder this time.

“I just told you I don’t know. Is something wrong with you?”

“No,” he replied through clenched teeth. Best not to agitate him – who knows what he’s capable of? “But I know that he and his friends were here yesterday. I know they’ve checked out of the inn where they’ve been staying.”

“Did you try at the Hands of Time? His elan acquaintance works there.” The inflection Cerellis placed on ‘acquaintance’ was unreadable. Was there something between Sheen and Haden? What did the old man know about it?

“No,” Gyderic snarled. “They weren’t there, either.” That, he thought, and the good Doctor has that place defended like a fortress.

“Or at the Circle? Their cleric stays there, redeeming the succubus that my father—”

“I tried there, as well. I’m afraid that I’ve lost my patience, milord.”

“Do you remember where you had it last?”

“WHERE IS HADEN!”

“I’m not deaf, friend. Perhaps you should look to your own ears, though, as this is the third time I’ve told you that I don’t know.”

“We’ll soon see about that,” Gyderic sneered, and his power surged forth to rake through Cerellis’s mind.

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Episode 26: The End of Baltazo
In Which Baltazo Gets His Just Desserts.

(illustration by Daarken, from Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells)

“What’s going on?” Sheen asked, joining the group in the shadow of the Glass Pearl. Joris was praying loudly. Haden, Talan and Mal all cast a few spells over themselves. “Getting ready for a fight?” Sheen asked. Haden nodded, so she closed her eyes and began concentrating, directing psionic power throughout her body to bolster her natural abilities. She flexed the claws that had grown from her fingertips and smiled.

“We think we’ve tracked down whoever kidnapped Hexla,” Haden said. “Presumably Baltazo. We thought you’d want to be here for whatever happens.”

“Are we planning to just storm in and attack him?” Mal asked.

“We may have to,” Talan growled.

“He’s a wizard,” Haden added. “If we don’t attack him immediately, there’s no telling what he may do. Let’s go before he realizes we’re here.”

They ducked under the “closed” sign, passing down a narrow corridor into a large wide tiled hall. The air was warm and humid, and the tiles formed into an elaborate mosaic: two dolphins swimming intertwined. The walls were lined with niches where visitors could place their belongings. A passage to the left was marked “Male”, with another passage opposite it marked “Female”. A wide marble counter stood at the end of the hall, with what looked like another exit behind it.

“Can we . . .” Haden began, but instantly a hideous bellow shook the room, followed by another.

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Episode 25: Kidnapping
In Which Baltazo Unwisely Tries Taking a Hostage And Our Heroes React Appropriately.

Sheen looked up at the townhouse and wrinkled her nose. “It’s filthy,” she commented. Indeed it was, covered in soot and the grasping fingers of razorvine.

“It just looks like everything else on the block,” Talan said, gesturing along the line of similar houses.

“Well, what were you expecting?” Haden asked, fiddling with the lock.. “It’s been vacant for some time. Come on, let’s go inside and have a look.” With a loud screech of corroded metal giving way, the lock turned. They stepped inside, exploring the dusty, silent rooms.

Joris shook his head. “If Yolette really wants something to clean, we’ve got a job for her now.”

Haden nodded. “It looks serviceable, it just needs some work.”

“I’ll be back,” Sheen said, moving her fingers as though going through a mental list. She walked out the front door, still counting silently to herself.

Ari snorted dust up her nose and sneezed, then bounced through the kitchen to sniff around the back door. Talan wrestled with the hinges and Ari catapulted herself into the small back garden with a joyful bark.

Haden brushed some dust off a frame in the front parlor and was startled to discover an ancient family portrait still hanging there. It was a beautiful painting, but he found himself thinking that there was something a little strange about it. He didn’t move again until Sheen came stomping back and dropped a stack of buckets pointedly on the floor. Yolette grinned at Haden nervously.

“Are you going to help?” Sheen demanded, waving a scrubbing brush at him.

“Of course,” Haden said, “but not like that. See what Mal’s doing?” Sheen glanced into the back parlor and saw the elf waving his hands around in the air. Dust billowed into the air as though swept by invisible brooms, then was sucked into a whirlwind and vanished. Haden grinned. “I can do that, too.”

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Interlude: Under the Shadow
In Which We Revisit Eliath Morard.


by Darth Krzysztof

Eliath stared at the ceiling and begged the powers for sleep. Every night had been like this for the old wizard, ever since he’d encountered that woman. What the Hells were you thinking?!, she had demanded of him. What little he could remember of the answer terrified him, to the extent that he hadn’t asked Thea for any help with his memory.

Now, in the grip of another sleepless night, Eliath wondered if he’d made the right decision. Again he promised to seek her out, doubting that he ever would. His work with the Doomguard kept him so busy during Sigil’s daylight hours… still, how much more of this could he take?

What was that? Eliath’s eyes drifted to the door of his small room – had he heard a noise in the hall? Straining to see in the darkness, he invoked a spell of light, catching the glint of shining metal – a silver blade, drawing closer.

Eliath rose from his bed and beheld the weapon’s wielder, a flat shadow with a humanoid shape. “Death has come for you, Eliath Morard,” it breathed, and raised the sword to strike.

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