Campaign of the Month: December 2007

Cold Blood

Episode 53: Finale
In Which Cold Blood Draws to a Close.

The mirror led to an unremarkable corridor of stone and mortar. Windows opened on views of foreign planes, some recognizable, some not. At the end of the hall stood another door that opened on what looked very much like the house they’d just left.

“This leads to Dis,” Kal said. “Let’s hurry.” He stepped forward through the door, or tried to, colliding with a seemingly solid wall. “Ow,” he complained.

“Did you wish me to open the mirror?” Mal asked.

“Please!” Kal said. They climbed out on Mal’s bed and down the stairs.

“Let’s go,” Sheen said. “The Jester’s Palace is a good distance from here.”

The street outside was the same as the Smith Street in Sigil, but it was filled with war. Everywhere devils were struggling against demons, surrounded by hordes of panicking petitioners.

“Oo, a party!” Mal announced.

Haden scoped out the street and led them through twisted back alleys. As they traversed the Lady’s Ward they could see that the buildings were incomplete. The building facades were mostly complete, but the back alleys were empty and sterile, unlike the real Sigil. They crept out into Bloodgem Road, across from the temple of Shang-Ti. At the end of the road, near the park, a pit fiend battled with a swarm of familiar-looking four-winged, hawk-headed demons—Aspects of Pazuzu. They hurried across the street, petitioners racing past them. They emerged again near the Prison, where a blind and enraged demon over thirty feet high had smashed a hole in the wall, allowing a horde of petitioners to run free. One of them, a human woman, approached the group and stopped.

“Talan? Is that really you? It’s me . . . it’s Therya.”

Episode 52: Family Reunion
In Which Haden Has His Final Meeting with His Mother.

It took some time, but in the morning Sheen, Kal, Mal, and Talan returned to Sigil through the portal and headed back to the house. H aden had clearly been waiting, because when they arrived he climbed down from a roof and hugged Sheen tightly. He handed a book to Mal. “I got this from Tarsem at the Circle,” he explained. “There’s more, but this isn’t the time to go into it.”

“What more?” Kal demanded. Haden sighed.

“Kalisa, Catriona and Joris went and rescued my grandfather, Faodhagen while we were preoccupied. Then Sauraphine showed up looking for you, so I left. Quickly. I’m sure they’ll both come looking for us once they’ve gotten themselves straightened out.”

Kal winced.

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Mal opened the book and flipped through it, frowning. Sheen looked over his shoulder, but the writing was gibberish to her. “What is involved in this ritual, anyway?”

“The Hand of Chaos, for one,” Mal said. “Margone still has it. We need a minute to complete the ritual. The escape window is vague, but the ritual likely must take place at the Dis-Palace of the Jester.”

“What will we need to do in order to escape?” Sheen asked.

“Well, with luck Disigil doesn’t have the Cage’s property that prevents escape with conventional magic. But we might be able to convince the stones to help us one last time,” Kal said. “The timing is still going to be dicey.”

“This is exactly when you need a simulacrum,” Haden remarked. “Let’s go.”

They approached the house, but slowed when they spotted a Harmonium guard standing outside.

Episodes 50 & 51: Inferno
In Which Our Heroes Battle Hell's Agents.

Sheen gestured to the dragon and spoke again in Margone’s voice. “Hold! Give us the stones, or you will all die here and now.”

“Why are you assuming we still have the stones?” Haden asked, throwing dispelling magic over Sheen. She blinked and her expression changed again.

“Kill them all!” someone yelled from far above them, and the dragon spat out a cone of fire. The group scattered, leaving Betzalel and the dragon temporarily alone in the street. The dragon casually knocked over a house and snapped at Talan, getting a sword in the nose for its trouble, but Talan was badly hurt nonetheless. The sky darkened as thunder rumbled. Betzalel found Mal and slapped the warlock with a fiery claw while Sheen tried to divert the dragon and failed. Kal had vanished, perhaps gone invisible.

Haden crouched under a porch and tried to think of something to do. Sheen and Talan were being methodically ripped apart by the dragon. Betzalel seemed to have Mal cornered. He felt the horrible oppression of a mental power and fought it off. It was becoming clear to him that they would all die soon if they stayed. He turned himself invisible and scooted down the street past Mal and the devil. “Margone is up there on the roof!” Mal cried, pointing as Betzalel knocked him down yet again. She flew down toward the street to cast another spell and a line of bright green force emerged from another building, striking her. She screamed in horror, barely diverting the disintegration ray.

Haden cursed under his breath and manifested another mental power, contacting Mal. He felt the warlock receive the message and then raised his voice. “You’re going to have to catch me if you want the stones!” Haden yelled. Then he turned and ran.

“Flagrion!” Margone shrieked. The dragon lifted heavily into the air and gave chase. Betzalel turned away from Mal, who ran in the opposite direction, grabbed Sheen and Talan, and vanished. Sheen gave the warlock a disgruntled look as the three of them materialized in the forest.

“It was Haden’s idea,” Mal explained quickly. The fiends and dragon were all chasing Haden toward the portal, Margone screaming conflicting orders.

“Don’t get yourself killed, you idiot,” Sheen said, unable to do anything more than watch. Betzalel teleported down to the pier and was instantly struck by a tremendous bolt of lightning. Talan cheered as Halfleikr erupted from the lake and dealt the fiend a blow with his massive sword. Betzalel panicked and dove through the portal. The dragon crashed into Halfleikr a moment later, but it was slowed by its wounds and the giant struck its head from its body with a single blow.

“Best ally ever,” Mal remarked as the portal flared a second time.

“Try and get them now!” Haden yelled, invisible, and jumped through the portal.

Episodes 47, 48 and 49: Evershade
In Which Our Heroes Confront a Traitor.

Mal sat translating from the book of Genesis, needing little sleep. Sheen and Kal were preparing for the expected battle, but Haden, unusually, was also awake, perhaps too nervous to find any real rest.

“So what will happen if we destroy the stones?” Haden asked. Mal glanced up.

“Well, they will not be able to use them to unmake the universe, I am assuming.”

“Yes, I know that, but can we assume that destroying them won’t have terrible consequences, like returning everything to the stuff of chaos?”

“It will have terrible consequences, but only on a localized scale.”

“How localized?” Sheen demanded.

“They’ll only destroy Disigil,” Kal elaborated. “Assuming we can find it.”

“That wouldn’t be so bad, but what about whoever does the destroying?”

“It will destroy the stones, the Hand of Chaos, and Disigil for certain. Other than that, I am not certain,” Mal said, frowning. Then he brightened. “Perhaps we could get Talan to do it.”

“What’s the Hand of Chaos?” Sheen demanded.

“I do not know,” Mal said, “but we need it to perform the ritual. Perhaps Uilleam will know.”

“Bah, I’ll do it,” Kal said. “If I survive, I’ll have one hell of an experience to share with the other Sensates. And if not, well, you’re welcome.”

“I hear reincarnation is a blast,” Haden joked. “Maybe you’ll come back as a woman.”

“Ooooh,” Kal breathed, grinning.

“This is all well and good,” Mal interjected, “but don’t we have a castle to storm at the moment?”

They left the cabin, blinking in the half-bright afternoon sun. Moments later Halfleikr emerged from the lake, now wearing a breastplate and carrying a sword as tall as he was. It didn’t seem possible that any creature could wield such a weapon, but the giant tossed it over his shoulder easily.

“Let’s hope he’s still friendly,” Mal muttered through his teeth while smiling and waving.

“Or that he hasn’t gotten any smarter,” Haden replied in a similar fashion.

Interlude: The Right Thing to Do

Catriona arrived the morning after Joris’s sending spell, just as the cleric concluded his early services. The three left Firil to mind the temple and retired to the vestry.

“It’s true,” Catriona said. “Malcanthet has Faodhagan in Shendilavri.”

Episode 46: Glenloch
In Which Our Heroes Find a Place to Hide.

(image by Sam Wood, from Monster Manual v.3.5 [source])

Mal stood in Dancer’s Square on the fringe of the Guildhall Ward with Kal, Sheen, Talan, and Haden arrayed around him. They had prepared for a long trip as well as they could, dispatching messages to their many friends across Sigil, and now they were waiting for the warlock to open a portal to a small demi-plane called Glenloch. Mal had found a pile of ancient detritus—wooden scaffolding that had become cemented together into a rough trapezoid by rain and neglect. Bowing formally, he began to dance. Faint lights flickered from deep within the wood and a portal leapt into existence.

The normal chilly shock of translation was replaced all-too quickly by another, far more worrying shock: the portal emerged deep under water.

Interlude: Bearer of Bad Tidings
In Which Joris Delivers the News.

“The others wanted me to give you this.” Joris placed one of the tiny red crystals in Tarsem’s outstretched hand. “It’ll let them contact you if they need you.”

Tarsem’s green eyes lingered on the crystal still in Joris’s hand. “They gave one to you, as well.” He wasn’t asking.

“That’s right. I, um, I’m not traveling with them any more. My responsibility to my shrine is getting in the way.”

“Of course.” Tarsem pocketed his crystal. “How is my sister? I haven’t seen much of her since I arrived in Sigil.”

“Sheen’s fine. She was worried about Haden… honestly, I haven’t seen her that much either. Listen, have you seen Tulio? I’ve got some bad news for him.”

“He was at Chirper’s when I left.”

Joris uttered his thanks and left the Library of the Lady, headed for the Market Ward.

Episode 45: Requiem
In Which Our Heroes Survive the Death of a World.

Without so much as a word, the adventurers began silently preparing for a fight. Talan glanced across the clearing and realized Haden was staring right at him—the aasling looked quickly away, but Talan understood. “Haden knows we’re here,” he whispered.

“So what am I supposed to do with these rocks, anyway?” Haden said loudly, startling even the fiends in the clearing. “Stick them together?”

“Yes,” Margone replied. She reached down to lift what looked like a small bird cage. “It takes energy, though. Energy which I’m all too happy to provide.” Haden rolled the Eye of the Dawn and a different stone, this one jet-black, around in his hands, his expression distant. Suddenly, they began to glow.

“What is he doing?” Sheen demanded, whispering.

“What are you DOING?!” Margone demanded across the clearing.

“Don’t distract me,” Haden said. The adventurers exchanged a look and sprang into the clearing, then the world suddenly went white in a blaze of power.

Interlude: Dagger in the Dark
In Which an Accord Is Reached.

by Darth Krzysztof

“You’re not the first person to wake me up with a knife at my throat,” growled Nashtoreth of the Umber Scales.

Interlude: The Place Between Mirrors
In Which Mal Finds a Strange Place and a Strange Lady.

by Kalyth

Mal could feel the floor under his feet as he stumbled forward in the darkness. Even his keen elven eyes revealed nothing of his surroundings. He knew not where he was, nor even when he was, but he was used to such things. He continued on through the blackness, raising his arms out before him to feel his way. It was then that he realized that it was not dark – there was simply nothing to see.

He stood in a void of blackness. There was ground beneath his feet, or something solid anyway; he could feel it. Yet the landscape about him was nothingness. He continued forward searching for something, anything, in the void. Slowly in the distance came a shape – a speck, really – almost like a flickering star. He hastened his way toward it. As he neared it took shape; it was circular, or more egg-shaped, really. As it came more clearly into view, Mal paused. It was like a window floating in the blackness.

As he stepped closer he could see through it; on the other side was a small room with a wardrobe and a bed. Seated in front of the window was a young woman gently brushing her hair. She hummed to herself and made no reaction as Mal stepped up and greeted her. It was not a window, Mal thought to himself, but a mirror. The girl sat before a mirror with him behind it. Or was he within it? Mal raised his hand and touched the back side of the mirror. It was solid and cool, just as a glass should feel. He knocked, but the girl seemed not to hear or react.

Mal took a step back and looked around him at the emptiness. In the distance he saw another spot. He headed toward it at a casual pace. It was another mirror, this one hung in a great hall. He could tell from the tapestries that it was a human dwelling, but could not make out the region. He moved on for what seemed like hours and found countless other mirrors showing many scenes of various regions and worlds.

Mal was frustrated and exhausted. This place seemed unending. He finally plopped down on the ground next to the nearest mirror and sighed.

“What troubles you, dear?” a familiar voice whispered to him.