Greyhawk 636 CY: The Rise of Asmodeus

The Rise of Asmodeus
Suns’ebb 20, 636 CY
Dearest Cousin,

By the time you get this letter, you will most likely already know what transpired. Still, while everything is fresh in my memory, I would like to record it.

Marsys hesitantly told all of us that she had a dream several weeks ago that only one person would be able to travel to the Isles of Woe. We were all slightly irritated that she hadn’t put forth this information sooner, but she apologetically explained that she had hopped Zagyg would be able to find some way around the issue before the day came for us to go. So we contacted him using the communication crystals.

He arrived inside a giant cake for reasons that likely make sense only to him. Even he seemed put out that he hadn’t been able to circumvent the restrictions on traveling to the Isles. However, he would be able to temporarily use Loreli’s curse to turn us all into tattoos. Once we arrived, we would be be released. Naturally, Loreli was unsettled by the idea, but we put our faith in her and let Zagyg work his magic.

My next memory is of being on the Isles of Woe in the Temple of Boccob. As we moved forward, it was quite evident that Bartholomew had beaten us there. Powerful guardians were slain left and right, traps literally torn from the walls… He had left a path of destruction in his wake. Arriving at the altar room, Bartholomew looked more than worse for wear. He seemed to be melting into black ooze, barely held together by force of will alone. The Codex of Infinite Planes merged itself into his chest and began to speak to us.

He blithely mentioned that Asmodeus had actually planned to use Balthasar as his host all along. Jack and their breeding project was merely a backup plan. The very thought that both our families were nearly destroyed for a contingency plan was infuriating! The Codex went on to ask if we had brought Jack along, pointing out that Bartholomew was not exactly the most ideal host.

The ensuing battle was surprisingly quick. The Vestige arrived but was confused since it was getting orders from both Bartholomew and the Codex. Idrys had evidently asked Zagyg to bless one of his arrows before coming and took that moment to shoot the Codex, embedded in Bartholomew’s chest. A rope shot out, allowing Villius to use his incredible strength to forcibly tear it out. The Vestige took it’s place, but we were able to slay it and free the souls inside. Bartholomew dissolved, and Jevan contained him inside a force cage. Moving quickly, we pinned the Codex to the Altar of Boccob with Hanna playing the Song of Ages, and Tulla used Flamestrike to destroy it once and for all.

We found ourselves outside on the surface of the Isles with a very irritated looking Balthasar. Of course, it was immediately evident by his presence and glowing red eyes that he was, in fact, Asmodeus. The arch-devil complained mightily that we had ruined his plans, but wasted little time before attacking us. A great blanket of magical darkness covered us right as Lianna dropped from the sky, trying to crush us. After getting out from under the wretched beast, I noticed that Devil Breaker’s light was able to cut through the darkness. My wedding ring also was glowing. It seems Jack, ever clever, had modified Claire’s ring slightly.

Idrys later told us that he could also see through the dark thanks to his tethered demon. Ashell, it seems, was getting orders from Grazz’t. Loreli’s fiancee, in his rainicorn form, leap free to do battle. Lianna took a great breath, ready to use a magically altered breath weapon of fire, but Ardes tossed flames from his holy gauntlets down her gaping maw. This had an unexpected effect of negating her breath and knocking them both back. Confused, she took to the air with Villius clinging to one of her claws. Idrys fired one of the daylight arrows blessed by Emperor Akihiro at Lianna, and Tulla used a spell to grant her powers from Garl. Between the two sources of holy light, the unnatural darkness was dispelled.

Ashell then turned to Idrys and explained that he was being turned into some sort of bomb by Grazz’t. The intent was to kill everything on the surface of the Isles. It seems that Ashell had been listening to his elven companion’s urgings towards redemption and made a surprising choice. Freed of his tether, Ashell flew into the sky where Lianna was just as he exploded. Villius allowed himself to fall just in time to avoid the blast, but Lianna was utterly torn apart.

We had no time to mourn our surprising savior as Reason’s Might smashed through the barrier around the Isles of Woe with a battering ram — evidently my wedding gift from Heironeous! Idrys snapped the stick that Zagyg had given us long ago. A strange mist billowed out, forming into what looked like a giant glowing chef. It began turning the devil’s Asmodeus had summed into… pastries which then started to animate and gather.

Now well and truly frustrated, Asmodeus split himself into three. One began attacking the massing pastries. The Asmodeus I was facing decided he had enough and attempted to destroy Devil Breaker with his Ruby Rod. I was horrified when I saw how much damage had been done, but our formidable sword wasn’t entirely broken. Idrys used his final blessed daylight arrow to shoot Asmodeus. The holy light resonated with my ring, and I realized that both Claire and Marcus were there. The light seemed to act as a catalyst and began healing Devil Breaker’s damage. Not wanting to injure my faithful friend any more, I decided to simply punch Asmodeus with the ring. It was more effective than I had expected as there were great bursts of sunlight at every strike.

Reason’s Might swooped in for a landing, ramming the third Asmodeus clone. Faern used an amulet he had gotten when we fought Drennik to summon the spirit of one of his ancestors. A great, ancient dwarven weaponsmith appeared, more than ready to do battle. He grabbed Faern’s arm and used some sort of ability built into his hammer to fire himself at the Asmodeus staggered by being struck by the ship. Between the two powerful dwarves, they completely obliterated the clone.

Villius was aided in fighting the second Asmodeus clone by the Garment Sage spirit that Loreli called forth. The pastries he had been trying to destroy formed into an enormous lizard creature that breathed frosting and started devouring shocked devils. At the same time, Idrys began looking about for Badr al din. Using True Seeing, our vigilant elf spotted the death knight standing right behind me! Moving quickly, Idrys shot him with two arrows, dispelling the invisibility and doing a significant amount of damage.

The Death Knight was not well pleased and advanced on our elf even as our pirate allies spilled from the ship to attack the remaining devils. Ardes stepped forward and used his gauntlets to catch the abyssal fireball Badr threw at them. They all seemed a bit surprised when the monk simply blew out the fire as one would snuff a candle. Our monk companion then used another power of the gauntlets to assume a fiery form and pummeled the former Baklune until he was finally and truly dead.

Rather than joining his crew in the fray, Jack came rushing towards Idrys with clerics of Rao in tow. They handed our archer the Crook of Rao, modified to be fired like an arrow. Jack then shouted instructions to Jevan, telling him to use one of his spells to pin Asmodeus in place. Taking careful aim, Idrys fired the Crook and struck Asmodeus square in the chest. We all dropped to the ground, but the giant confectionary lizard… thing swallowed the King of Hell and exploded in a shower of frosting and pastries. Lying on the ground was the Crook of Rao, none the worse for wear.

There are still things we are concerned about — no one knows what happened to Celasur or Arabell — but our quest is finally finished. We decided to turn Bartholomew, or what is left of him, over to the clerics of Incabulos. Now that their god is no longer insane, perhaps they can help him. As for valiant Ashell, we hope that his soul will be freed of his demonic curse and able to move on. The Islands sank quietly back into the water, leaving no trace of the battle that took place.

Yours devotedly,
Wilhelmina Stalwarth
The Wedding
Suns’ebb 4, 636 CY
I’m am writing this as a way to record the events of my wedding for future memory.

To say that things didn’t go as I had expected would be an understatement. Before we even arrived, a mob of Heironean clergy descended on our home to cleanse it of the blight that had lingered ever since the Von Slythe’s betrayal. Shortly after, the dwarves sent a contingent of engineers who blithely decided to repair and rebuild everything in sight. Their crowning achievement was the construction of a new castle on the site of the old one. This alone was more than I could have imagined. But there was much more.

The dwarves also chose this time to give us gifts as thanks for defeating the dwarven lich, Drenik. For Marsys they constructed a great hearthfire in Elmshire to protect the townsfolk. For Tulla they crafted an adamantium and gem encrusted living dog. Jack and I were further gifted with enchanted stones used to rebuild our home. So long as our people stay true to their good and valorous ways, they will always be safe. Loreli received a forge to craft magic items for her shop. To Villius’s people they sent a great fire pit with a flame of protection for his castle hall. They seemed at a loss for what to give Ardes and instead pledged to train the future clerics of Ranet in the ways of fire for the next 400 years. Jevan’s present was a great stone ship that will patrol the Nyr Dyv, defending Dawnbay. Kylie received a staff of construction and stoneshape with very special abilities. Idrys was gifted a portable lab full of mythril charm making tools. For Qui they would build a monastery in the Isle of Pearls. Fearn, of course, was given great renown and respect for his impressive deeds.

Faern and Marsys had, admittedly in the old Oeridian noble tradition, invited literally every important individual we had encountered on our travels. Including two gods. Poor Jack seemed rather flustered by the platinum edged R.S.V.P. notice that arrived from Bahamut’s realm and the gold lightning embossed response from Heironeous. I had no idea what to do. This wasn’t at all what I had planned for.

Bahamut decided to enrich our lands with veins of the purest platinum as his wedding gift to us. The dwarves seemed quite concerned and insisted on teaching our people how to properly mine and ration it. Zagyg arrived via a strange chariot pulled by flying gorillas and deposited a fully stocked library for our people. It was a bit of a relief since everyone had been dreadfully pondering what sort of gift he would find appropriate. The bespectacled flying ape librarian seemed to quite like his new home and was rather pleasant. The Seafires brought young Jack and Marcus along with them. Of course, the Sultan of Zeif arrived by flying carpet and camels. He declared he couldn’t think what to give us and had decided on a formal alliance between his people and ours. An incredible present to be sure!

The Emperor of the Isle of Pearls arrived quietly during all the fuss, preferring not to disturb everyone. Heironeous, of course, appeared in a clap of great thunder. I admit that I made a bit of a fool of myself, not sure what to say, but he simply smiled and said he understood it was always difficult to be face to face with one’s god. Garl Glittergold, not to be outdone, created a rain of beautiful, minut gemstones and handed out candy to all the children. Naturally the Canon of Rao and the royal family of Geoff were calm and less dramatic about their arrivals. Villius’s mother, Baldrun, brought a retinue of frost barbarians to supplement Villius and Hanna’s presence.

There was a lone representative of the church of Hextor, sent by the high priest currently running Rauxes. The man looked understandably uncomfortable, but was quite genial when Idrys decided to speak with him. He did give us a worrying bit of information. It seems Balthasar was elevated to being the ruler of Levsitus’s former plane of hell. Whether that makes him more or less likely to continue harassing us, I don’t know.

At least the ceremony was properly traditional. It was exactly what I had always imagined, though without my parents it felt a bit bittersweet. Normally, the celebratory feast would only last a single day, but Faern and Marsys, as is the way of their own people, managed to extend things considerably farther. There was food, music, and many happy people. Despite things getting rather out of control, it was wonderful to see so much joy.

Especially since our next destination will be the Isles of Woe.
The Tomb of Horrors
Ready’reat 12, 636 CY
Dearest Cousin,

Acerak’s tomb was full of many surprises for us, but we were incredibly fortunate to have an expert guide. Thaddeus was, perhaps, the biggest surprise of all.

There were murals in the hallways depicting some twisted versions of Acerak’s life and service to the archlich. Oddly, he seemed to revere his mother to some extent. She was shown as a paladin of Pelor, though looking not quite human. We were assaulted by devious traps, miniature black puddings fired from the walls, greater mummies, animated swords, and gargoyles falling from the ceiling. Even stranger, though, was when Thaddeus finally revealed his reason for coming with us. He voluntarily stepped through a trapped doorway that shifted his disposition to good! It seems he wanted to finally, and absolutely, break his ties to the archlich. I have no idea what he plans to do from now on, but I wish him well after all he’s been through.

Acerak was more than ready for us when we stepped into his chamber. It was quite fortunate that we were equally prepared. Devil Breaker’s ability to resist spells in an area saved several of us. During the fight, I temporarily found myself trapped by the demilich in one of his prison… teeth. It’s strange, believe me, but my friends quickly rescued me by shattering the gemstone. We were more than happy to finish the monster off, though I admit, he never actually spoke a word to us.

We quickly gathered up the texts that he had left, though much of his purported treasure seems to have been hidden elsewhere. The books were what we truly wanted, and they did indeed tell us how to defeat the Vestige. There is a ritual to create leather straps that can be added to a weapon which allow one to strike at the heart of the creature, sparing the souls trapped inside. We will immediately set about crafting some.

This only leaves us with the Isle of Woe. It seems so strange to be this close to the end of our journey. I have had the opportunity to meet so many interesting people and travel to incredible places. I can only imagine what will come next.

But first, I’m getting married!

Yours devotedly,
Wilhelmina Stalwarth
Kylie's Secret Diary: Brewfest 5, 636CY
Brewfest 5, 636CY

Brewfest 5, 636 CY

James took me to the Moonbeam Pastry Shop hidden deep in Clerksburg. During Brewfest, the shop offers a full line of decidedly potent alcohol laden sweets. His father came along to chaperone, but we ended up helping him back to the main house before heading off to the opera, only this time with his exasperated mother.

I know that this started as some plot of Millie’s, but I don’t mind. James’ interest is genuine. He’s afflicted with his mother’s ‘Hollowfaust love.’ That woman is seriously into the City of Necromancers, which is good since she handles that supply line for the family. While James pulls bodyguard duty on occasion, his job for the family is contract negotiation and he’s very good at it. He was responsible for the current contracts with the Noble Council of Furyondy and the Yeomanry. He stops by the shop to see me when I manage to be home for a bit and always finds the seat next to me when I go to the main house for lunch with Millie.

Young Jack found my copy of Master Raven Mournhold’s Treatise on Surgery and is in the process of devouring it. He has gone beyond tinkering with his zombie to using it as practice for the techniques in the book. He’s working on making stitches with minimal scarring, skin grafting, and limb reattachment. He made a list of things he would like for the next session, so i’ll be seeing the Bone Market for materials.

Millie’s wedding planning is well under way. I’m pretty sure I’ve tried on least forty dresses. I’ll need several for the week long celebration. Thankfully, it’s not as intense as what I would have to do if I was Wil’s maid of honor. The Oerdian wedding customs for nobility are killer. Not so bad for everyone else though. It’s still weird when compared to a one day only Hollowfaust wedding.


The Mayor's Pants
Brewfest 4, 636 CY
Dearest Cousin,

Brewfest in Greyhawk City is about as raucous as you can imagine. There were alcohols of all sorts from every part of the Flanaess. Tulla and Qui seemed particularly excited about getting to sample as many as they could, getting rather spectacularly drunk on more than one day. Idrys, in accordance to his elvish traditions, spent the time pondering more somber themes and kept to himself for the most part.

I admit, I sampled some of the Brewfest fare myself, but decided against indulging too much. Jack and I finally sat down and had a conversation about our wedding. Before we left the Frost Barbarian lands, Marsys suggested that we might want to consider having the ceremony before I leave for the Isles of Woe — since no one has ever returned from that place. Or at least, no one has returned whole. Jack very quickly agreed and seemed more than content to take charge of the planning. Faern has volunteered to assist since he says our traditions seem a bit similar to the ones of the dwarves. I get the impression that dwarves take their weddings very seriously indeed. Which makes sense, I suppose, since they only marry once. I also suggested they speak to you since I know how much you adore planning weddings.

I promise I’ll come home and talk things over with the rest of the family as well. I imagine the wedding will be small, quiet affair. I can’t imagine that many people of importance would be all that interested in attending the wedding of a nobleman from a disgraced house to a commoner. The feast should be fun, however, and it will be wonderful to throw a celebration for our people.

During the Brewfest holiday, we also spent some time discussing how we would handle the tomb of Acerak. Thaddeus appeared part way through and evidently has decided to help us by coming along. While none of us trust him, he seems to have more knowledge of the place than anyone else. He has a map from the destroyed timeline he came from which will likely prove helpful. At least we aren’t going in completely blind. In the end, we decided that I, Faern, Kylie, Marsys, Qui, Tulla, and Hanna would go while the others remained as backup. I can’t say that I’m looking forward to fighting this… demilich, but we’ve faced some truly terrible foes already and lived to tell about it.

Thaddeus did have some interesting information about Acerak. Since he is a cambion, we had been speculating about his fiend parent. It seems he is Levistus’s son. No one seems to know much about his mother, though the prevailing story is that she was a simple maid who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Knowing that Levistus was involved, however, made us question that his conception would be at all a random thing. We’ll have to do some digging and see if we can find out more.

The last thing of note… One day while we were eating lunch at a tavern, there was a commotion outside. Idrys got up to check. He had a strangely amused look on his face when he called Qui over, and she immediately bolted from the scene, obviously terrified. The rest of us quickly came over to see what was going on. It seems Lord Mayor Zagyg has a pair of… wayward fighting trousers which had encountered the worm in a tophat… in a bar. The two quarreled over a game of darts and became engaged in a brawl. It was… strange to say the least. The pants had smashed a bottle and was hopping on one leg while attempting to stab at the worm. For its part, the worm was telekinetically wielding a walking stick. In the end, the trousers killed the worm before Jeremy and Frederick subdued them with some kind of sedative made of starch. It turns out they had been assigned to track down the pants for the Lord Mayor.

Greyhawk City is a very strange place.

Yours devotedly
Wilhelmina Stalwarth
Always a Good Son
Harvester 23, 636 CY
Dearest Cousin,

Our trip to the Frost Barbarian lands was quite exciting. Eira Ralffson, Villius’s aunt through his mother, led an army of frost giants and demons to attack the barbarians. She is a follower of the god of chaos, Loki, and did her best to destroy her family. Hanna’s mother was kidnapped as well.

We aided the barbarians in fending off the attack, but quickly realized there was some other purpose to this strike. The dire frost wolves that were traveling with the frost giants were sniffing around deliberately, searching for something. We discovered that there was some kind of mystical anchor point nearby, a huge chain rising into the sky attached to a great block of stone. Evidently this was something used to bind the great wolf, Fenris, son of Loki.

Eira’s chaotic nature proved to be her undoing as she split her focus between harassing her family and trying to sever the chain. The last task failed miserably when she tried to sneak up on Idrys, who used one of his special fireball talismans that only harms evil people and then used his ring of the ram to toss her off the stone block.

In the end, her demon compatriots decided it would be a better life choice to head back to the Abyss to join in the assault on hell — weakened as it is by the destruction of one of its layers. The frost giants found themselves swarmed by the dwarves of the Ratiks who had tunneled under the snow to surprise them. The frost wolves were soundly destroyed by our party members. Jack arrived with the airship to mow down more of the frost giants. Thaddeus, Vecna’s one time dark herald, arrived and, oddly, decided to aid us. And Eira fell under the hands of the family she wanted to torment. Her bones below the waste were shattered with a blast from Hanna’s horn, and Baldrun took custody of her sister.

We discovered that Hanna’s mother was being held in a prison in Pandemonium, but Villius’s sword, Nightcry, was able to open it with ease. There were many dead among the Frost Barbarians, though the cries of victory still rang out along the snow covered landscape.

Yours devotedly,
Wilhelmina Stalwarth
A Paladin in Hell
Harvester 18, 636 CY
Dearest Cousin,

Our talk with Celasur proved to be quite useful. She evidently has tired of her existence as a slave to Asmodeus and took the opportunity of an area where only Suel magic would be used to make plans to help us. It seems she hopes to either anger Asmodeus so greatly that he destroys her outright or to find someone who has the power to free her. Ardes suggested Dorgha Torgu, the Baklunish god who destroyed the Suel Imperium and was stripped of his divinity until the Heroes of the Key helped him find his own redemption , might be willing to aid her.

Celasur explained that, due to the rules of the place, Zegran, disguised as Jack, would need to travel through all of the layers of hell to get to Asmodeus. This would give us options of where we could attempt to rescue him. I proposed that we might be able to pit Glasya, Asmodeus’s daughter, and Levistus, who was frozen in a block of ice as punishment for slaying Glasya’s mother, against each other. Levistus was well known to hate Asmodeus, and it wouldn’t be any stretch to think he would attempt to steal ‘Jack’ from his rival. Glasya, on the other hand, dearly wanted revenge for her mother’s death, so if we gave her enough proof of his intent to ‘betray’ Asmodeus, she would likely strike against him. In the end our plan proved to be unnecessary, but it was the plan we went ahead with.

Using the magical obelisk in the center of the null magic zone, Celasur sent us to Dawnbay, along with Reason’s Might and its crew. Rutherford Seafire was able to help us prepare for our journey while Celasur sent us forged documents of passage to ease our way through the layers of hell. We disguised ourselves as a traveling caravan.

It may sound strange, but things went incredibly smoothly. Other than a few devils dearly wanting to purchase Idrys’s demon companion, Ashell, we were entirely unmolested all the way to Levistus’s realm. In the end, I was able to pinpoint Zegran’s location thanks to the Crook of Rao. It turned out that Levistus had actually planned to betray Asmodeus all along, and some of his servants caused a commotion while they grabbed Zegran. We gave chase, snatching our colleague back with no trouble while Lianna flew into a draconian rage. There was a great deal of chaos as we fled the layer of hell.

Levistus, in his icy prison, had been drawing closer to the Mad God through his insanity and proximity to cold. His layer of hell had been infested with black ice which spat black fire as we raced away. Using his powers, Levistus actually traveled through the ice, reaching out to grab Zegran, who he still believed to be Jack. This turned out to be a terrible mistake as the Crook of Rao suddenly activated, sending its fiend destroying power into the lord of the layer. The entire plane of Hell fragmented, sending us tumbling through space. Fortunately for us, we landed in Elysium safe and sound and were able to use Jevan’s cubic gate to transport back to Dawnbay.

Jack was overjoyed to see his friend again, though still quite angry that Zegran had taken such a terrible risk. We were told that the members of our party who had not come with us had traveled to the Frost Barbarian lands at the request of Villius’s mother. It seems something terrible is happening up there, and we will be joining them shortly.

Yours devotedly,
Wilhelmina Stalwarth
Journal of Marsys Lightouch: Harvester 9th 636 CY

Journal of Marsys Lightouch: Harvester 9th 636 CY

I am writing this quickly but I feel it needs to be set down. Some of the others are in Hell, saving Jack’s friend. The rest of us are staying in Dawnbay until they get back. But we are on the move now and I am not sure this is going to turn out well. Let me start with my dream.

A few hours ago I was sleeping rather peacefully until I found myself in a long set of halls. Massive stone walls with evidence of water action on the stone towered above and around me. There was a fishy smell and an overall damp nature to the place. I noticed the writing on the walls in the place was in ancient Flan. With little effort I was able to see that I was in the dungeon we will be going to on one of the Isles of Woe.

Behind me was an entrance, a massive portal. It was obviously the way to get into this place. Above it, in ancient Flan, it read: “Only once may many walk through the way. But one may carry many as the burden of a curse.”

I tried not to think of what that may mean, and my eyes fell on the decayed but still discernible symbol of Olidamara beneath it. The Laughing God. The story of the Heroes of The Key said he sided with the Archlich during the war with Vecna. His followers had been floundering without an identity for nearly 30 years. They were once tolerated and even loved. Now they were held in suspicion by all races of the Flaness. His choice in the decision was mystifying and baffling. It was one of the aspects of the tale that was odd, out of place…and still a mystery.

I turned at the sound of steps further down the hall. Removing a torch I slowly advanced. At the intersection of the first hallway with a perpendicular one; I saw one of the most disturbing things I have ever seen. If I am destined to see this while waking I am thankful for the dream as preparation. Walking into the intersection, lit by wall torches, was Bartholomew. But the phrase, “shell of his former self” Was more apt than ever. To all senses the evidence before me was not of a man but a husk walking, dragging itself on two legs only in approximation of a man.

His normally immaculate clothes were covered in grime and mire, torn and frayed in a manner that did not hint at a casualty of activity but as if they were the victims of a lack of attention so great that they began to despair and decay on their own. His right hand hung taut at his side, the weight of the Codex he was dragging, pulling it backwards as he walked. His tall frame was bent over in exhaustion and almost an awkwardness of someone unfamiliar with his own body. His left hand held his mask, but it was not removed from his face. His face had…melted…like festival taffy in the sun. It was still attached to both his skull and the mask; he tried with a clumsy effort, to put the part with the mask back on his head. The result was not unlike trying to reunite a skein of yarn that had divided but remained joined by one strand between two halves.

I remember gasping. And the thing that was Bartholomew raised its face in its hand and looked at me.

A voice from behind me cut off my scream.

“It is filled with nightmare. All the things that were too vile to return immediately to Incabulos stayed with him. And the other thing…the Vestige is living inside of him.”

I turned to see our goddess Dalia Thaun standing there, looking with contempt at the creature.

“My people,” she continued, “in there.”

“Is there any way to free them?” I asked.

She nodded, “You’ll find it in a different tomb than this one. This one is really only the tomb of the group that tried to get to the altar of Boccob before you. Not much of a tomb but it only takes one corpse not really an intention in design.” She moved forward between me and Bartholomew. He looked around as if I was suddenly invisible to him and shambled on down the hall.

I swallowed hard and composed myself. “Did you send me this dream Lady?”

“I did,” she replied, “I thought you should know about the inscription and what’s waiting. After all; the better prepared you and your friends are the more likely it dies.”

I had wanted to kill Bartholomew ever since I found out he was connected to the Yellow Eye plague. That he had taken the souls of members of all the races, including my own, to form the Vestige. And that he was a monster beyond measure. I wanted to kill him in vengeance and rage for what he had done. But now, I just pitied him. I wanted him to not be like this. I wanted no one to be like this.

My concern must have showed on my face. The goddess smiled. “I understand your heart is good. I do not care child, what your feelings are when he dies…rage or compassion is all the same to me in this. He dies for what he did. That is enough.”

The world grew unstable around me. I heard noises and had to focus to remain aware of my surroundings.

“The approaching horse is waking you. The other reason I sent the dream…get up, put on warm clothing and get ready for a long trip: Spy on your friend Villius before he does something stupid. “

In a moment I was awake and heard noises outside the Seafire home. Villius and Hanna were talking to a messenger who had come. I moved onto my window ledge so I could hear better. The rest of the house, with the exception of Rutherford and Hanna were asleep. The conversation was upsetting. Something had happened in the Frost Barbarian lands. A king was dead. Frost giants were on the march and war was coming. His aunt had been responsible and few could stand against her and the evil she had allied herself with. His mother had sent for him. Villius asked why he had been sent for this late when his mother could see the future. The messenger did not know. Hanna asked about her family; the messenger lied and said he did not have news on much beyond his message. Neither Villius or Hanna saw the lie. He brought a token that would take Villius and Hanna home to help. Villius had the man wait until they could get their gear and be ready.

I moved along the ledge to his and Hanna’s room. Opening the lock on the window and climbing in I began packing their things. I had finished the first bag when the door opened. Villius looked at me. I smiled back.

“I remember the type of cold up there…so I packed extra wolly things for you.”

He shook his head. “Marsys…Hanna and I will be back; we have to go home…”

I cut him off. “I was just told by a goddess to prevent you from doing something stupid. “

He frowned. “You can’t stop me from going back.”

I shook my head, “One; when did we just start letting the phrase I was just told by a goddess slide like saying I had ham for breakfast. Two; I’m not going to stop you. I’m going to make sure we all go with you and the others join us when they are back from hell.”

He and Hanna packed while we talked.

“The token will take us and the messenger. Three total. There is…”

“We’re in the house of a guy who can move the whole town to the plane of elemental fire for a suntan if he wanted. I know you’re thinking quickly but he can put us next to your mom. All of us. Rather than just you two alone…with no backup.”

“And if our friends in hell need us?” Hanna asked, I believe already knowing the answer. I smiled back at her and remembered that the messenger lied when she asked about her family.

“Again, the guy fishes for sea bass with a Staff of the Magi…if his grandson needs us; he can get us for them. Or…he can go and do gods know what to help them.”

They looked at each other and nodded. I went to get the others who hadn’t gone to hell. Prevent stupid move…done. Shiver internally at how we get the the Isles and what is waiting for us…done. Ardes was going to hate this. He hates the cold. But frost giants…cold you can punch. That may help.

The Fire Bringer
Goodmonth 28, 636 CY
Dearest Cousin,

Our Grugach allies in the Otobo jungle led us to the cave where Ranet’s remains were said to have been hidden. We found ourselves in a curious, and enormous, maze filled with all manner of amazing things. Whomever had set up the cavern left a number of very dangerous guardians. There was another of those enormous reptilian creatures, tainted by the presence of a dead god’s power, an ooze golem, undead tree monsters with scythes strung on their swaying branches… Fortunately, my comrades are competent and we managed to find our way through relatively unscathed.

We came to a doorway that had red, blue, yellow, and blue-ish white lights that rotated above it. Not sure what this meant, we opened the door and found ourselves face to face with earth elementals and a mandragora swarm. The plant creatures were easily dispatched, and Faern used his clerical abilities to calm the elementals. They were quite happy to talk to us once they were freed from the charms that held them there. Thanks to them, we learned that the different lights signalled which elemental plane the doorway would lead to, and they directed us to the plane of ice where Ranet’s remains were stored.

It didn’t take long for us to come across the largest frost giant that Villius and Hanna had ever seen. It was gargantuan and had flames leaping from its eyes and mouth. It seems this creature was used to house the goddess’ remnants. Ardes ducked through its legs and climbed it’s back while the rest of us kept it distracted. We were unsure if using fire attacks on it was wise since it certainly was feeding the goddess’ power, but we had little other option against this massive foe.

Ardes explained later that there was a series of Suel symbols along the monster’s back that directed him to a weak point on it’s neck. Wasting no time, he use the gauntlets taken from under the Burnt Circle to strike the spot. The creature literally cracked in two as the fiery energy spilled out into a maelstrom. Powerful poison, strong enough to slay a goddess, was spewed in every direction as she freed herself. It seems Ranet was still enraged even centuries later and used her powers to pull her murderer, Pyremius, from the moment before he stole her portfolio of fire. She incinerated him instantly, and in a flash of light we found ourselves outside. As Ranet’s golden gauntlets unbuckled themselves from his arms, we saw that Ardes had the holy symbol of Ranet branded onto the back of both of his hands.

Unsure of how Pyremius’ death might have affected things, we took a moment to consider what might have changed. This, of course, was when I realized something was terribly, terribly wrong with Jack. I had asked Faern to make a set of iron engagement rings — very traditional, I know — with an enchantment that allowed us to know the other person’s physical status and general location. The ring pulsed strangely, and we all agreed that we needed to make haste to wherever he was.

Faern used the ring to transport us all immediately, but we found ourselves trapped in the Sea of Dust. Reason’s Might was in pieces, and the normally efficient pirates and calm clerics of Rao milled about in a daze. Searching for Jack, I ran into Glynis, the bard cartographer, who explained what had happened.

Lianna had finally showed her hand, attacking the ship and teleporting them to an area of the Sea of Dust where no magic, even that of gods, worked. She used Jack’s missing uncle, Donovan, as a shield and snatched Jack from the ship while he hesitated. Except, it wasn’t Jack at all. His first mate, Zegran, had planned for such an event and had, with the help of Chal, the young Olman girl who was a master of disguise, made himself look exactly like Jack.

The ship was heavily damaged, so Idrys decided to… commune with the living wood it was made from, encouraging it to heal. Faern organized the gnome and Raoan engineers to craft a sled to make the ship essentially sail on the sand. The rest of us were taken to see Jack, who was still unconscious from when his friend, Marlais, had knocked him out. Everyone seemed relieved to have us there when he woke. Young Nasim, the cleric of Istus, broke the news.

Predictably, Jack was furious about having been tricked and, though he tried not to show it, greatly fearful of his dear friend’s dire situation. I know he will demand to go with us when we head to Hell to rescue Zegran, however at the moment he’s resting. Poor Donovan is still unconscious as well, having been rescued from Lianna during the chaos of her attack, but we’re hopeful he will recover and might have information that will be useful to us. Glynis, it seems, decided to steal the Crook of Rao out of the bowels of the ship and slipped it into Zegran’s coat before he was taken. No one is sure what might happen with that.

Currently, I’m watching the desert fly by at an astounding rate as the winds whip through the sails, carrying us across the seemingly interminable Sea of Dust. Our Suel compatriots, Ardes, and Kylie, have realized that the magic and items they possess that are purely of Suel origin still seem to function. It’s a curious thing, but heartening since our combat capacities are greatly diminished otherwise. With no way of knowing how far this “null zone” extends, we’ve set out in the direction that Nasim says is the fastest out of the desert.

Hmmm… The lookout is saying they’ve spotted something on the horizon. According to Tulla, it’s the Null Obelisk that the Heroes of the Key came across during their journeys. It seems we’ve headed right into the center of the null zone after all. On the other hand, the Obelisk can apparently be used to create portals to different places and times. Wait. There’s someone next to it? Is that… Celasur?

I’ve got to go. I’ll tell you more when I can!

Yours Devotedly,
Wilhelmina Stalwarth
Didn’t we used to be pirates?
Goodmonth 26, 636 CY

Didn’t we used to be pirates?

Zegran pondered the question while he examined his cards. Those at the poker table could tell it was occupying his thoughts because he had stopped his normal routine. When playing poker Zegran twirled his lucky card, the Jack of Diamonds, through the fingers of his unoccupied hand. Normally the presence of an extra card at the table of a pirate game would require a severe beating. But this was no ordinary card. It was the card. The lucky card. Every member of the crew had a tale of how the presence of the card had saved their life. It did not just bring Zegran luck; it shed its blessings on them all. In a way it was a member of the crew…the other Red Jack. The card stood still between the fingers of his left hand.

Nevyn Talshar, the ships boatswain, had asked the question. She waited as patiently as she could: Which meant with a scowl and slight agitation. Nevyn was the kind of woman who impressed. Nearly six and a half feet tall and imposing, she was attractive in the way a storm or fire was attractive. On the deck she kept perfect order through a combination of skill and intimidation that served as impressive partners. She decided to give Zegran time. She smiled inwardly at the three nines in her hand and looked around the table.

Aeta Earthcut, the ships munitions expert, was the hardest to read. She kept the dwarf face on as she looked at her cards. She seldom had a tell that revealed what her cards were because dwarves only gave you what they wanted. She was a strange woman. A dwarf on the water is more than uncommon, it was unheard of.

Glynis smiled. It was impossible to tell if her hand was good or bad. The young bard was an odd combination of easily distracted and competent. She was an amazing cartographer. She was a happy girl who specialized in dirges and songs of appalling horror. The smiling bubbly scholar of death customs was a contradiction in all terms that could describe her. Nevyn had a respect for artists, or rather for art. Everyone had their art. But the term artists was often an excuse for or other way of saying…distracted. Glynis was often distracted. But almost always reliable.

Marlais was easy. Despite being the best fighter of the crew and the rock they could trust when all things had gone to hell; he was awful at cards. Marlais was not a bluffer, except in combat for an advantage. Someone once compared cards to fighting in a long allegory. Marlais wanted to throw the man overboard. Life and death was never a game to him… cards was just a game. The one place, Nevyn mused, where his guard was down. Where he allowed it to be down. With cards the only thing you risked was money. And money meant less than nothing to him. Marlais has served in the army of Iuz to save his loved ones. He lost his honor. He was happy with the woman he loved his whole life and their child. His home was destroyed and his family slaughtered. He lost what he lost his honor for. And like everyone else, Jack had given him a fragment of his lost purpose back.

Nasim sat smiling with no hand in front of him. He was the dealer. The cleric of Istus was always the dealer. He played once. And without trying cleaned everyone out in less than an hour. The crew weighed the joy of his company and the merriment of Baklunish stories at the game…against the proposal to hang him naked upside down from the top of the mast. They decided to make the hand of fate the dealer. He accepted, for a small percentage, and was the perfect choice. He watched as Nevyn examined the others for tells. The cleric who had run from his destiny had once said that the surest way to get to your fate was not to run at it, but from it. She asked was he trying to be wise. He told her it was not wise, simply unfair but true. She decided not to run from winning this hand…it would not matter since it was a sure thing.

Zegran raised by two gold and shook his head, “We are pirates,” he said unconvincingly.

Nevyn laughed. “Not even close.”

“Privateers then,” Zegran said.

Aeta folded, “And when have we pillaged a ship of a rival nation?”

“Well…” Zegran dodged, “that hasn’t been necessary.”

“But,” Glynnis jumped in, “We get to go to the most interesting places still.”

“Not exactly the job description of a Pirate,” said Nevyn. “Let’s tick off the boxes. Someone say yes when I list something we have done in the last few months…Taking a ship by force, taking it’s loot, going on shore and getting embarrassingly drunk, disrupting trade, kidnapping…”

“With the exception of getting drunk,” Aeta scoffed, “when did we do any of that…nevermind the last few months?”

“We boarded ships and killed people all the time and took their loot,” Nevyn supplied. She was more than a little irritated that her point had been interrupted.

“Well,” the dwarf continued, “Innocent people…did we kill them? Did we cripple their way of life without remorse?”

Nevyn shook her head. “That’s not the point.”

“We all know why we are here and who and what we are,” Marlais said. He waited for everyone to become silent. He was used to people being silent when he spoke. It was the benefit of talking only when it was important. “We’re the Captain’s crew. Whatever he needs us to be. Each and every one of us was as good as dead in a life that was either ashes or headed to worse. And the Captain gave us back something or gave us something we needed." He looked around the room waiting uncomfortably long on each person with his eyes. “Freedom. Everyone got a type of freedom. From slavery, expectations of our races, freedom to follow dreams, freedom from irreverence or from…regret. Freedom and purpose. So pirate, privateer or whatever name you want to put on it…we’re the Captain’s.”

There was a long silence. It was broken when Nasim said, “I was going to say that.”

The laughter broke out quickly. Zegran smiled, twirled his lucky card, and looked back as the door to the room opened. It was Chal, the young Olman girl who was a master of disguise and infiltration. Like everyone else on board, she owed much to Jack. Unlike them, she thought, Zegran wagered, that Jack might be some kind of god. The Olman were odd, but it was how she looked at him. If Jack knew, he would be embarrassed and try to dissuade the girl from it. But Zegran knew it was best to not try…It would be harder than it was worth.

Chal handed him the duty roster and he nodded and handed it to Nevyn. “Seems a normal day,” he said. “Nothing too intense.”

Just as he finished his sentence the ship jolted and they heard a roar that sounded as if the air itself was enraged. It shook the ship so hard that some of the wood screamed in capitulation. Zegran jumped up. “Marlais, am I right? That it’s…”

Marlais interrupted, “A dragon.”

“I don’t think we have to wonder which one,” Glynis added. “Zegran?” she asked in a question she wouldn’t phrase.

He nodded, “It’s time. Get it all ready. You and Chal. The rest with me to the deck.”

They burst into a warzone. The dragon shot by the ship like an arrow. It spun in the air and began to turn back. She was huge. Lianna. Jack’s ancestor who helped start the process of making modification to the family in order to breed a host for Asmodeus. A process that culminated in Jack. The Great Wyrm shadow dragon seemed to be keeping her distance after the first attack.

Most of the deck was on fire – the initial sweep was an obvious warning.

Zegran gave orders and sent Nevyan to give more as he ran to where the Captain was coming in his direction. He cut an imposing figure, red clad and casually moving the dragon fire out of his way with his magic. For the first time ever, Zegran thought that this might be the last time he saw him. “Fire?” Zegran asked.

Jack nodded, “Many dragons have magic that can substitute for their natural breath weapon. She knows her negative energy attack is of little use with the Crook of Rao on board. Seems dear many-times-grandmother can become a dragon even though she is only half. Princesses of hell are tricky I suppose.. shapeshifting with blood affinity.”

Zegran wondered why she was attacking. Not because he did not know why. She wanted Jack; her master wanted Jack. But what would it gain? This was the ship Reason’s Might. An airship built by Geoff and powered by the legendary Crook of Rao itself. All in order to protect Jack. So given that, she could not actually get very close…What was this?

Jack gave orders to get the weapons aimed at her and prepare for other attacks. The crew readied everything and took care of the wounded. Jack ordered them to close the distance. “Since she can’t get too close…let’s drive her on our terms.”

The ship sped toward the dragon, who grew larger as the distance closed. Jack smiled, “If she wants to hover there we can take out her wings.” He raised his hand in the air. “ON MY SIGNAL, AIM FOR THE WINGS!”

Zegran looked at the monster in front of them. This was all wrong. This was some kind of trap. He tried to make out what was on her chest. Something was on her chest. Chains. Was it armor?

Jack had seen it too. “I think armor is a bit of an overkill for the old girl…What does..?”
They noticed at the same time. She had someone chained to her chest. Zegran noticed who it was and prayed Jack didn’t. If he did he would not fire. But he heard the Captain’s sharp intake of breath.

Uncle Donovan,” Jack said.

Lianna began to move and dart about in the air. In her movements something was happening. And whatever it was, Reason’s Might was heading straight for it at a speed too fast to stop. She had achieved her goal. She made Jack close distance and hesitate just long enough to run into whatever this spell was.

The ship passed directly through the energy field. Everything was stunningly bright and then a soft grey that gave way to a rush of air that was filled with grit and dust. Zegran looked over the edge. Below them was a stark grey and white desert. The Sea of Dust. The home of the ancient Suel empire that was destroyed by the Rain of Colorless fire.

The ship suddenly became listless..undriven. Zegran, spun toward Jack. “Does the Sea block magic?!”

Jack nodded, “Some areas. My magic is gone. And it seems this part is amazingly strong. The Crook has stopped powering the ship.”

Zegran could hear the clerics of Rao panicking below deck. It was a rare event – the normally calm clerics driven into panic. Sighing deeply he turned toward the aft of the ship to look at the portal. He knew what he would see…he just wanted to face it. The dragon dove through the portal. She dug her claws into the ship and raked across the length of the deck. Zegran looked at Jack’s ring. A gift from Will to let her know when he was in danger. It was pulsing. Some magic still worked. It made Zegran happy. And that happiness firmed his resolve.

Taking a deep breath he faked excitement. He was anything but excited. “Sir, please follow me. I have a plan.” Jack nodded and began to follow him to where the poker game had been. As they ran along the deck, Zegran yelled for Marlais to join them. He fell in behind Jack.

As they entered the room Jack laughed. “I hope your plan is not to play cards.”

Zegran looked his captain in the eyes. “Do you trust me, sir?”

Jack nodded. “Totally.”

“Then,” Zegran said, “I am even sorrier. Goodby, Jack.”

Marlias slammed his fist into the back of Jack’s head and brought only darkness for the Captain.


Reason’s Might lay broken and battered on the shifting landscape of the Sea of Dust. The battle with the Dragon had been fierce. The crew watched as the Shadow Dragon flew away into the morning with her red clad prize. Nevyn resisted the urge to cry for one of the few times in her life. She said without looking back, “Amazing, Chal. Amazing job.”

“Mr. Zegran said I had to be able to imitate scent, look and resonance without magic, only with chemicals and other means. He knew when she came, she would suppress magic somehow to catch the captain. Without that vile trick he would have killed her instantly.” She said it all with regret and with no pride.

Marlias smiled. She had such faith in the captain. “Still,” he said, “to add inches in height. Get everything done so quickly.”

Chal dismissed the praise. “We had all been preparing for a long time. Mr. Zegran had the black dye in his hair for months. We all played our part.”

Glynis nodded. “We all have blood on our hands.”

Nevyn looked back into the room. Jack lay unconscious and covered by a sheet. She walked in and looked at Nasim, who was taking care of the Captain. “How is he?” she asked.

“About ten minutes from being so angry he might kill us all.”

“So, ten minutes until he wakes up.”


Outside the clerics of Rao were telling the crew how the dragon had somehow stolen the Crook of Rao. Glynis was assuring them that it was somewhere in the damage and they would all look. Nevyn made a note to organize a party to assess what the damage was and gather supplies. They would get out of this. No matter what else it was…it was a sea.

“Did you get Donavan? That was a last minute snag.” Nasim asked.

She nodded. “Marlais got him right off her chest when she took Zegran.”

“Is he ok?”

“He’ll be fine. She was willing let him go without much of a fight. She got what she wanted.”

“Or thought she did,” Nesim added.

“Yes, or thought she did.”

“So,” he pressed, “What about the other part of the plan that you hid from us?”

Nevyn met his gaze unblinking.

“Please,” Nasim continued, “Zegran came up with this plan months ago to take Jack’s place if devils or the dragon came for him. We all bought in. But why did you steal the Crook of Rao?”

“Zegran had nothing to do with that,” She said smiling. “He was surprised when I shoved it in his coat. I had Glynis steal it while we made the switch with the Captain. I wasn’t sending my friend into Hell unarmed.”

Nasim shook his head. “Geoff is going to lose their minds when they find out we stole it.”

“Why?” Nevyn asked smiling. “We’re pirates.”

Chal walked into the room. “I am worried about Mr. Zegran.”

“Don’t worry about him,” Nevyn said, “He’s…” The word lucky died on her lips as Chal held up a Jack of Diamonds.

It was old and worn from years of spinning around a man’s hand. It was singed by fire from where Zegran had dropped it on the deck when he ran with the Captain. Chal set it reverently at Zegran’s seat at the table.


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