Campaign of the Month: December 2007

Cold Blood

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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Interlude: The Devil You Know
In Which Gyderic Confronts Baltazo.

(image by Ron Spears, from Monster Manual V)

by DarthKrzysztof

Baltazo looked up from his work to see Gyderic approaching, a stormy look on the elan’s face. “So, how did it go?” the changeling asked, keeping his tone disinterested.

“The Bleaker didn’t have the Eye,” the elan said.

“He never had it? Or he didn’t have it any more?”

Gyderic slammed his fists down on the desk. “He gave it to the adventurers. Those Gatekeepers!”

“So you don’t have it, then,” Baltazo said in the same half-bored tone.

“No. And I’ve been wondering why that might be. There’s no way the Gatekeepers could have known about the Eye unless someone told them!”

Baltazo steepled his fingers, then arched an eyebrow.

Pointing a finger, Gyderic said “You never explained how you got away from them in Plague-Mort.”

“Why don’t you just tell me what’s on your mind, Gyderic?”

“You told them where to find me.”

“Of course.” Gyderic seemed taken aback by the confession. “What was I supposed to do? They made wreckage of my lions, and I couldn’t teleport away.”

A violet halo burst into view around Gyderic’s shoulder, and the elan growled “You treacherous bastard.”

“Pike it, Gyderic.” Baltazo stood and backed away from the desk. “If you’d killed Starwing, like I ordered you to, we’d already have the Eye. Everything they’ve done to thwart us comes from your sloppy work. I knew I should have sent Fade.”

“He never would have learned what I have,” Gyderic replied, circling around the desk. “And now, neither will you.”

“Do your worst,” replied the changeling, beginning a defensive spell.

“ENOUGH!” came a bellow from the hall, freezing both men in place.

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Episode 24: Key and Lock
In Which Our Heroes Obtain a Key, Yet Remain Staring at a Locked Door.

Haden stared at Lady Margone. “Mother?!”

“You were expecting someone else?” she asked.

“Expecting? No, that isn’t the word I’d use. Hoping, maybe. What are you doing here?”

“I came to see your father, of course,” Margone sniffed, leaning back against the couch.

“Is that so? And what are you after this time?” Haden demanded.

Lady Margone snapped her fan open in front of her face and fluttered it sharply. “That’s no way to talk to your mother,” she hissed. In the corner, Splinter took a step forward. Cerellis blinked in confusion.

“Is Haden here?” he quavered.

“Yes, darling, he’s just arrived with some . . . others.” Margone made the word sound like a pejorative term. Cerellis hauled himself upright and looked around the room until his eyes fixed on Haden, then he broke slowly into an incredulous smile. Haden clenched his teeth and shot Margone a poisonous look before making an effort to return the smile. It did not come off very well. Margone, in her turn, shifted her sneering expression to Sheen.

“My boy . . .” Cerellis said. “How are you?”

“I’m fine,” Haden said shortly, then realized that this was a bit impolite. “Things are . . . things are actually going fairly well, for now.”

“Good,” Cerellis said, then repeated himself slowly, “good.”

“You remember my friends?” Haden essayed. “Joris, Talan, and Sheen? And this is Mal.” Mal waved a hand limply; he seemed engrossed in staring at a small jade ornament. Cerellis looked at each of them for some time.

“I . . . yes. I believe I do,” he said finally.

“I heard that you were . . . better,” Haden continued, “so I . . . we thought it might be a good idea to visit and . . . say hello. But if you’re busy, I can come back.”

“Your father and I were—“ Margone cut in.

“Enough!” Cerellis said, his elderly voice taking on a surprising tone of strength and authority.

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Episode 23: The Thief
In Which Our Heroes Once More Interfere in Someone's Life and Prepare To Visit Honorgard.

They walked through the streets of Sigil, not bothering with trying to hail a cab during the busy part of the day. As they passed the Tenth Pit, an alehouse more disreputable than most, the door burst open and a massive red-skinned devil trundled out, dragging a smaller devil by the neck. It looked them over, then turned and stomped into an alley, muttering something that sounded like: “. . . mouthing off to a superior officer . . .”

“I’ll never get used to seeing things like that wandering around in the streets,” Sheen said after it had left.

Joris looked over at Haden. “Are you? Used to it, I mean.”

Haden thought for a long moment, then chuckled. “The fact that I don’t really know probably means that the answer is ‘yes’. I never realized there was anything to get ‘used to’. If you think about it, humans are more of an anomaly here than devils.”

“Oh, I think about that all the time,” Joris said.

“We probably look as strange to them as they do to us,” Talan offered.

“I don’t know about that,” Haden said. “What strikes me as odd is that the planar creatures have use for or need of a city at all.”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Joris said. “Yet they have so many.”

“Their existence is secondary, really, borne from the nature of the planes themselves. And yet they adopt so many human ideas, mannerisms, and habits. It makes you wonder who’s really in charge of the Universe.”

“It does, doesn’t it?” Joris said.

Sheen unlocked the back door to the Hands of Time, looking askance at the Harmonium guards lounging around the front of the shop. “Should put up a ‘no loitering’ sign,” she muttered. “The washroom is that way. I’ll go get some towels,” she added, and hurried up the stairs.

The men peered around the back room, which was full of interesting gears, springs, and other bits of clockwork. A half-finished mechanical nightingale sat on a workbench. Then raised voices suddenly rang out from inside the store proper. Haden and Talan peered around the corner, trying to see.

Dr. Rhasmanayet and Yolette were talking to a Harmonium guard, a dwarf, whose back was to them. He was holding a young male human by one arm, and two other hardheads stood in the shop aisle, guarding the front door. Haden straightened up and strode into the room, his hands nonchalantly in his pockets.

“Well, hello,” he said. The dwarf turned: it was Fritzan Ringhammer.

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Episode 22: The Eye of the Dawn
In Which Our Heroes Discover The Object of Gyderic's Desire.

(image by Tony DiTerlizzi, from The Planewalker’s Handbook)

“Sooo, is anyone hurt?” Joris asked, healing his own spider-bites with a pained expression.

“I don’t think so,” Sheen said.

“Not really, just tangled up a bit,” Talan replied.

“I’m fine,” Haden said. “Sticky, but fine.”

Mal did not venture an opinion.

“Did that spider drag Firil down here? What happened to her?” Sheen asked, beginning to explore the lair a bit more thoroughly. Talan hacked the webs away and approached the pile of bodies. He unwrapped the cocoon on top to reveal an unconscious elven woman. She stirred as the web was pulled away, leaving nasty red welts on her skin.

“Are you okay?” Talan asked carefully, in elven. She didn’t respond.

“It may be the poison,” Joris said. “Let me try something.” He held up his hands and a faint silver glow formed around them. When he touched the woman, the glow sank into her skin and her breathing eased. She slowly opened her eyes.

“I don’t like this,” Sheen said. “Let’s get out of here.”

“We can’t just leave her,” Talan said.

“I wasn’t suggesting it,” Sheen replied. “Let’s all get out of here.” The two of them picked up the elven woman and began carrying her towards the exit tunnel.

“We should set fire to the remaining webs,” Mal suggested. “There may be egg sacs or young spiders remaining.”

Haden hesitated. “It may set fire to the entire tree. I don’t think the elves would appreciate that much.”

“Perhaps not, then,” Mal said, bending down and liberating a sack of coins from the webbing, then climbed out of the pit.

“Where am I? Ahh!” the elven woman squealed as she was hoisted bodily up the passage.

“Don’t worry, we’re here to help you,” Talan said.

“I’m just supposed to take your word for that?” she huffed.

“Um . . . yes,” Talan stammered.

“You can go back down in the pit if you like,” Sheen added uncharitably.

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