5e Planescape: Tales of Devotion

Try and Make Merry

A Series of Unfortunate Failures

After the fight, Sterling cuffs the Incubus while Vanhedra inspects the quarters in the back of the tavern. There he finds the orcs, defeated but mostly alive. Some still hold whatever kitchen utensils they had used to defend themselves to no avail. One of the orcs, a male which he had not seen in the tavern, seems to have been killed and feasted on by the incubus’s canine companions. In the bedroom in the back, the dwarf finds the gruesome remains of the short-lived companion of his own: Kade, skewered on the wall and hanging by his own sword, the handle of which sticks out of his midriff. It seems the fiend took its sweet time to desecrate the corpse, having essentially flayed all visible skin into ribbons a good tug away from peeling off. Rosie and the princess remain unharmed, and it seems the proprietress is slowly coming to. Thus, Vandedra simply grabs the body and returns to the others.

As the incubus comes to, it is greeted by the grim faces of the surviving members of the party as well as a fairly cross bugbear. Immediately, it begins to parley for its life, noting how the party is now amongst civilisation and should honour his surrender. This hardly convinces the people who now know what happened to their paladin behind closed curtains, not to mention Jugem whose bugbear underlings Unko and Bishikuso were killed before his very eyes. Matters are definitely not helped by the fact that, being a creature of pure hedonistic evil, the incubus takes nothing but pride in his achievement of successfully slaying and defiling Kade. Being by all accounts beyond salvation, the creature also remains immune to Teera’s and Sterling’s attempts to intimidate it. It might wilfully indulge the victors on what it knows about Sitri and the cambion’s whereabouts but only on the condition that it would be able to walk out unscathed. Swallowing their fury, the rest agree to leave the incubus be if it shares its knowledge, hoping to leave any punishment to be dealt in the hands of Rosie and Jugem.

It seems the incubus is an old acquaintance of the cambion from its days in Sigil centuries ago. As fate would have it, the two met in the Civic Festhall where the cambion had come to share its memories. Indeed, considering the time required to extract such things, it should still be in the festhall but not for long. Upon hearing this, the adventurers almost rush to the festhall on the spot, before their exhaustion (both in body and in spirit) makes itself known once more. Rosie has also regained consciousness and gladly accepts what coinage Vanhedra offers from Kade’s old pouch as payment for drinks and lodging. Considering the circumstances, she even closes shop for the day in order to have time to clean and recuperate from the earlier encounter.

What the incubus does tell is that while it will not be able to locate Sitri at will after the cambion leaves the Festhall behind, he does know of the sorts of inhabitants the cambion used to mingle with back in the day. However, since the topic is dropped in favour of any other useful tidbits regarding the cambion’s personal prowess, the incubus remains silent on what it is not questioned about. Instead, it does mention how Sitri is not a creature of fire like most of his kind, but rather, an user of ice and cold. Considering the distracted state of its interrogators, the incubus then asks whether it is free to leave. The party feels a need to rest and recuperate and thus, finally leave the fiend in the caress of Rosie and Jugem who take it to the back while the others prepare for bed on the floor of the tavern, by the fireplace.

In the morning, some suffer the effects of the day before more so than others. Namely, Sterling has the valiant armies of Ysgard clash inside of his head at the slightest movement or noise while the rest – including Vanhedra who had broken his vow of abstinence with glorious fanfare – seem more or less fine with any lingering effects of their earlier actions. Breakfast is served and it turns out Kade’s body (alongside the rest) had been delivered to body collectors, to be incinerated at the Mortuary. Sadly, the incubus had escaped nigh immediately once taken outside, as it was able to shapeshift and escape the handcuffs, taking flight once no longer indoors. Despite this ever so slight setback, final drafts of the plans for the day are drawn alongside the newly joined member of the troupe, Erdan. Since the last known location visited by Sitri is the Civic Festhall which lies relatively close, it shall be the first location to be inspected. Afterwards, there should be ample time to visit the Hall of Records or the Bazaar or to follow any emerging leads, as need be. With this in mind, everyone sets off, having been granted a a piece of mutton by Rosie for lunch.

As the party nears the Civic Festhall, they are welcomed by the festive sounds of the parade surrounding this ornate tower, growing stronger with each block. Once there, they are welcomed by the sight of hundreds of performers from hyena-taming gnolls to some gnome sitting by a big but hardly innocuous machine, as well as people with living tattoos and all sorts of performances by all sorts of performers. Making their way through, towards the actual festhall, none pays heed to these wonders surrounding them, save for Vanhedra who would be more than willing to converse with any willing animals about either sightings of the quarry or the chance of newfound companionship.

Once inside, the party does split into two and decide to regroup by a large statue of a comely woman holding a book and staring forwards and into the skies. Vanhedra and Erdan would return outside and look for any clues from the performing animals there. The rest would try and find someone useful inside. With this much having been agreed upon, the dwarf and the elf head outside while the rest start looking for anyone even vaguely helpful. While the faun who eventually approaches the latter group hardly oozes trustworthiness, it does claim to be the sort of person with insider connections, able to link the newcomers with anyone they might seek – for the right price. Bouguereau, as he states he is called, does not even manage to list its prices before Sterling already begins haggling the prince down with Teera’s wilful co-operation in promising the faun a party (of sorts). Turns out that while these conditions are hardly ones the sly satyr would refuse, it can help them out for a mere 18 gold – out of the goodness of its heart – or a kiss from the lovely tiefling lady. Knowing full well how precarious draining their little remaining funds unnecessary could turn out to be, Teera accepts the latter deal but tries to minimise the intimacy of the act by aiming for a kiss on the cheek. Bouguereu, having anticipated as much, is not fazed and manages to steal a brief but most definitely tongue-involving smooch on the mouth. He then promises to take everyone to the person responsible for newly acquired recordings – at least.

Meanwhile, Vanhedra and Erdan are enjoying a show of hyenas performing tricks, waiting for it to end in order to contact the animals in peace. Having to chip in a bit once the show ends, they then approach the trainers and the animals, explaining the bare minimum. Luckily, the earlier donation pays off and the two are given some time with the animals. It turns out they have nothing on Sitri, based on the description provided, but apparently, the incubus is a regular who views the animals with an unnerving look in its eyes. Having little choice in terms of potential companions since it dawns on Vanhedra just how rare suitable animals might be in Sigil, Vanhedra decides to buy one of the hyenas off the gnolls. Apparently, one of them is a worse performer than the others so the beastmen have no qualms about the deal which does leave the rest of their animals envious of the treats fed to Vanhedra’s newly adopted companion in front of their eyes. The hyena is re-named ‘Giggler’.

Sterling, Teera, and Dantalus are being led underground by Bouguereau who promises the person able to help them will be there. In these almost dungeon-like corridors reflecting little of the splendour above-ground, they finally come by a reinforced wooden door, on which the faun knocks, telling whoever is inside that they have visitors. With a sigh, permission is granted but only for a little while as apparently the person inside is still in the middle of work. Bouguereau opens the door but decides to stay outside himself. Inside, the three adventurers are met with a view of a narrow room with shelves full of some sorts of rune-inscribed, round and oval rocks on both sides. On the floor, there are rails in two axes, leading up to a desk as well as a chair sitting on said rails. Whoever has their back still turned on these visitors is not visible but welcomes them regardless, asking about their business. Once the party begins answering, this person turns around, revealing their slim, black-clad figure topped by a sickly purplish squid for a head. Sterling explains how they are looking for a certain recording made on the previous day by some fiend. The squid-headed Sensate does agree to perhaps allow a viewing if a more precise description can be provided. After some back and forth, he does finally concede that indeed, someone matching this description had provided the Sensates with an experience. However, if the party wishes to view the recording, they will have to join the Society of Sensation, as such experiences are not made publicly available.

Once the ideals of the Sensates have been affirmed by everyone to consist of a devotion to experiencing everything the world has to offer – the good, the bad, and the ugly alike – none of those preset is truly stirred to make the commitment. Haggling their way, the adventurers attempt to bribe this attendant. Giving the idea some thought, it does agree that a hearty meal would be most welcome if anyone willing were to provide it with one. It seems to intentionally avoid the details of its diet, prompting Sterling to vent his frustration and to attempt coercion by force. As though reading his intentions, the squidman then lashes out both verbally and psychically, leaving part of the party stunned and on the brink of a brain haemorrhage. Deciding that negotiations have failed, the rest drag out their dazed friend, only to find an equally cross-eyed and unconscious satyr outside of the room. Making their way up, everyone decides that what little they did manage to salvage – a confirmation that the fiend had visited here and sold the Sensates some experience or another – will have to do for the time being, seeing as to how they are no longer welcome after this short-lived scuffle with the gatekeeper to the information they sought.

As such, the party regroups once everyone meets up by the statue. While little advancement has been achieved, at least there is now a new member in the party and they still retain some leads. Finally, the party leaves the ruckus of the Civic Festhall behind, only to come across a most bizarre show a hundred feet or so from the main parade. On the road, away from the rest of the performances, they see a spirited goblin wearing a skull mask. a blue-tinted monocle, and a ragged, patchy set of ballroom clothes advertise for a show named ‘the Meat Circus’. Behind him, a set of three horrified goblins in clown make-up as well as what is obviously a similarly masked ogre can be seen. Intrigued, the party stops to view this scene. Sterling, in particular, realises just how terrified the poor goblins are and acts on this instinct springing from the goodness of his heart.

Once an unremarkable number of audience has gathered, including the party and some sort of a toad-looking fiend, the Meat Circus begins. What appears to be the ringmaster equips the three poor goblins with rusty, worn daggers and informs the audience how their next performance is known simply as ‘Quest’. Since the ogre is not hiding the genuine bloodlust in its eyes and the rest of the performers seem scared out of their minds, Sterling decides to take the initiative in order to try and save those three hapless goblins. With his surprise attack, he successfully wounds the ogre in the chest, drawing its ire and attention, as well as that of the ringmaster who jumps at him with its laughably flaccid scimitar. The rest join in on the fray as well, following suite, and prompting some chaos on the streets, much to the amusement of the remaining member of the audience.

After this initial success which is disrupted by some erratic attacks aimed at thin air on Sterling’s part and brought to conclusion by some pyrotechnics to neutralise the ogre, this fight takes a turn for the stranger. Not only does Dantalus’s earlier casting of faerie fire cast an eerie, rainbow-hued glow over the street turned battlefield, those with a more direct approach (namely, Sterling, Vanhedra, and Erdan) find that their attacks do connect but only to leave no visible impact on the mysterious, skull-faced goblin. Indeed, after some initial scuffling, the ringmaster decides to wilfully ignore its assailants in favour of rounding up its remaining performers who are scared out of their minds. The goblins seem to try and communicate something, noting how the ringmaster is apparently something called a ‘nilbog’ and that clearly, the party are not the saviours they had been wishing for. Even escaping would be futile as the ‘nilbog’ holds the key to their freedom.

Having failed to persuade the mysterious goblin-creature by force, the party turns to negotiations, attempting to turn this thing’s earlier claims to the futility of everything against it. However, as soon becomes apparent after some actual discourse instead of the occasional exclamation in the midst of battle, whatever this thing is, it either wilfully or instinctively ignores the very rules of logic around which any such attempts to persuade it would revolve. Having run out of ideas, they finally relent, Sterling remaining the last standing member to turn his back on the depressed goblins. As he makes his way towards the Hall of Records alongside the rest of the party, the would-be hero can hear the echoing of this thing’s claim how everything is meaningless and the goblins’ claim that the party are not the saviours they had been awaiting inside of his head. Frustrated in every turn thus far, everyone turns their head towards the next stop on their journey, hoping to finally escape this unfortunate sequence of failures.

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