5e Planescape: Tales of Devotion

Enter the Den of Evil
All There for the Takers

With their recent humiliation still fresh in mind but at least Sterling attempting to catch a second wind – both mentally and physically – the journey leads the party of would-be heroes to the Hall of Records where they should be able to find details on their quarry, provided that the cambion indeed used to reside in Sigil (as their acquaintance with the incubus would suggest). Of course, everything comes with a price, particularly when dealing with the Fated who have cultivated personal interest and opportunist exploitation into their very ideology. These people are tasked with taxation for a reason: no loophole evades their greedy attention.

The first thing everyone notes upon entering the main building of the Hall of Records is the number of people: queuing, wandering, or clustering, the flow of more or less humanoid denizens of the Cage almost resembles the movements of a cancer-ridden, convulsing single organism. From the very first steps into the building, one will be forced to line for a waiting number. In the case of our brave adventurers, a mere quarter hour of waiting later, they are faced with the first true obstacle: an ashen-skinned elder with the visage of a wax statue left on a desert. The question facing them? Which department do they intend to visit. None having sufficient information on the Takers’ system, they are set back by the need to visit the information desk. With unerring precision, a living yet somehow artificial-seeming creature with the general appearance of a horizontally split cube with a face and stringy metal appendages lists a waiting number in the three thousands and everyone is pushed forward with equally unerring efficiency. Already, the newest addition to the party is demonstrating their usefulness since no slip is provided. Instead of having to enlist the services of the opportunistic Taker waiting close by and paying exorbitantly for basic note-taking equipment, the party can instead rely on Erdan’s near eidetic memory. The eladrin also manages to avoid having to consult any of the number of helpful Takers unnervingly eager to serve who are waiting for confused prey, rubbing their hands in anticipation. Instead, the party ends up following a pudgy yet jolly halfling who is also headed for the help desk.

It seems there are a number of doors, by which different waiting numbers are being announced as they finish serving the last person. Since this is likely the most popular stop inside of the Hall of Records, in no small part due to clueless visitors from the Prime worlds, the waiting time naturally reflects this popularity. Deciding to catch a break after their previous scuffles, the party ends up waiting somewhere between and a half and two hours, huddled by the wall and focusing on what matters: in the case of Sterling, munching on the mutton Rosie provided. Since the people waiting seem to come from all walks of life, including experienced and battle-forged adventurers, waiting rather than cutting the line seems like a fine choice. Finally, the number provided is called and everyone walks into a decently sized office large enough to accommodate a Storm Giant if need be, manned by a grey-skinned dwarf with a white beard. This dwarf clearly has the demeanour of a predator, stalking its clueless prey over its crossed palms unblinkingly. However, the welcome is mostly fact of the matter, if somewhat rude: what is it the party is trying to achieve with the help of the Fated and their records? A brief explanation of the circumstances later, it seems the dwarf has deduced where everyone should go but this transaction would not be complete without appropriate compensation. Before the answer is unveiled, the dwarf demands a help fee of no less than 20 gold. With everyone else gasping at the pricing, Vanhedra begrudgingly starts laying coinage on the desk for his fallen kinsman to count. Abusing this lapse in attention, Dantalus manages to magically charm the clerk and a few syrupy pushes later, the dwarf yields and leaves out their personal interest rate of mere 100%, leaving the party (i.e. Vanhedra) to pay no more than 10 gold pieces in total. Moreover, the now uncannily helpful grey dwarf even suggests snatching a number for historical personal records, rather than personal records as such, which should allegedly drastically reduce any waiting time. There is one step no magic can bypass, however: in order to receive a new waiting number, the party will have to again queue for one, much to everyone’s dismay.

Infighting ensues: Erdan and Vanhedra insist on playing by the Takers’ rules since these people have likely prepared for most if not all loopholes in their system and would only use then to lure in any potential victims while the rest have become fed up with all these delays while their quarry is at loose and are certain they can work out a plan to cut in line. Thus, the party is split. While Erdan and Venhedra wait for a proper waiting number, the rest go see if they can slip in using the fact that no official proofs are being handed out. Dantalus even manages to trick a faun-centaur-chimera of some sort to spill the location of the proper department by promising him a split of a non-existent pot. Begrudgingly impressed, the Taker does laugh off the loss and recommend joining since otherwise such tricks will not fly in the long run.

As such, the three impatient heroes wait by the door calling in people asking with questions about historical records, ready to jump in once a new person is summoned. Seeing their chance arrive as the cheerful automaton in charge of such tasks announces the next in line for historical records, Dantalus attempts to make a run for it, only to have his dash be cut short by the tight grip of a spotted, green hand on his shoulder. Attempting some sleight of hand to leave the proper people with a coin or two as compensation, Dantalus tries to reach for his purse but as soon as he makes any move, the other hand of the gith behind him connects with his face, to great impact. The half-elf is almost knocked prone by the impact, and his companions are being held by the menacing glare of the other gith whose position they wanted to supersede. The green, red-haired man in a warrior’s garb has their hand on the pommel of their greatsword, ready to draw and strike in reaction to any further actions by the rest. As Dantalus backs away, hoping to draw the ire of these gith and to create an opening for Teera and Sterling, the gith keep their eyes on everyone and slowly encroach towards the door. Teera uses her natural talents as a tiefling to add certain minor effects to her disposal, and Sterling makes a run for it with all the talent of a seasoned warrior on a commando run. To his surprise, these outlandish warriors teleport in front of him, blocking entry. Making a desperate last dive. he risks being sliced for the purpose of simply saving some time, and indeed, one of the gith connects, sinking their blade deep on the thigh of Sterling’s right leg. The mechanical apparatus serving as a prosthesis locks in place, causing him to stagger and fall in front of the draconic servitor behind the desk of this office.

Possibly amused but definitely irritated by this farce, the red, dragon-faced Taker adjusts his round glasses and addresses the parties. Little explicit emotion is available beyond the steely tone of his hissing voice when he notes that both parties can be considered lucky by the fact that no blood has been spilt over their dispute (with the exception of Dantalus’s bleeding nose). Making claims as to actually being the right person for this waiting number and accusing the gith for violently cutting in line, Sterling fails to even provide the Taker with the correct waiting number, unlike the proper clients. In the end, he is saved by Dantalus, magically disguised as one of the Takers (a grey dwarf, no less) passing by and shouting support for Dantalus’s claims. Hardly convinced but tired of this parade, the red dragon person decides to allow Sterling to stay, hushing away the nigh frothing gith who promise to wait. Instead of addressing the Taker, they are staring at Sterling instead, as they pledge to do this, granting the words a whole another meaning. The doors are closed, and Sterling is left alone in the most dangerous situation for his wallet imaginable.

In the meantime, those who decided to wait patiently finally have their waiting number as the line was faster than expected. As Erdan and Vanhedra hear from Teera what happened between the rest of the party and the gith, they are left with their faces buried in their hands, drowning in disbelief. Even Dantalus is nowhere to be seen as he decided not to risk drawing any further ire from the gith – or having to face the logical consequences of his earlier interjection – and as such, the bard stays in the safety of the ground floor, licking his wounds.

The situation having seemingly calmed down, Sterling is invited to take a seat and offered some wine to ease his excitement over the previous encounter. Gladly accepting this kind offer, he soon finds that this springs the first of the Taker’s traps, as the price of the wine is deemed 50 gold pieces. Realising how he has at most half that money on his person and nothing of value to pawn, the watchman panics and tries to negotiate for billing arrangements to be made using Rosie’s tavern as the location to send both any information as well as the bill. Nothing how Rosie belongs to the Fated herself and is known to the dragonman himself, the Taker gladly accepts these terms, with gleeful cheer. Finding himself sinking in the deep end at the thought of being unable to pay for any services, Sterling does still manage to provide the Taker with key information about the individual he is interested in: how he is a cambion going by the name of Sitri, controls ice, and used to live in Sigil some human generations ago. Having these facts to work with, the merry red lizard person dismisses Sterling and reminds him of how the bill will follow later.

After these events, the party regroups and Erdan and Vanhedra start hailing down judgement for the rashness of the others’ actions, mostly focusing on Sterling. Everyone decides to stop by the Thorny Bush for lunch and for repairs on Sterling’s now dysfunctional leg prosthesis. Food is had, considering how the mutton is seen as ruined by Sterling’s earlier demonstrated lack of the civility to use a knife to carve the meat, opting to take direct bites from the leg bit instead. Plans are reviewed and it is decided that the next stop should remain selling what Teera secured from the yugoloth earlier by Erdan’s familiar fence. The sudden need for additional funds is felt acutely when Rosie promises that she will find ways to use the princess to make her money back in case the party tries to bail and leaves her as the one responsible for their bills.

Erdan’s contact in the Great Bazaar is a hobgoblin lady by the name of Grinshark – a salty dog with a hand-made cheshire smile. She is a mutual acquaintance of the eladrin’s adoptive parents in Sigil and mostly willing to help a body in need. However, negotiations take an immediate turn for the worse as Sterling tries to pawn his guardsman’s horn and green feather as some sort of mystic treasure. Luckily, Dantalus manages to butt in and do some more serious business using the princess’s silver tiara he picked up by the cave opening earlier. In particular, insuring the hobgoblin of the fact that none would make claims to the item afterwards secures three platinum pieces, and some additional haggling has her throw in an empty silver snuff box as well – with the word ‘Dreams’ etched on the item in Elven despite its obvious sub par craftsmanship by the fair folk’s standards.

Teera also manages to have her items evaluated and while the amount offered – 12 platinum – is not quite what everyone expected, it more or less suffices in the end. The sorceress even catches Grinshark’s attention with her old drawing of some goblin – a hero of those small folk across the planes, it turns out. The hobgoblin pays her ten gold for the piece. Finally, since Sterling continues to tout his wares, the hobgoblin offers to buy his horn and the contents of his pouch. Before hands are shook and the deal struck, having the hobgoblin call someone for a knife makes the guardsman back down in fear of the fates of his prospective future children. While hobgoblin laughs the incident off as just her pulling his strings. she does seem to lament losing out on this particular delicacy. When everyone finally leaves, Erdan notes her stabbing a pillow while looking their way.

Deciding that the amount they received is simply not enough at this rate, everyone turns to Erdan who might know where to find some well-paying odd job on the side. Indeed, the eladrin does know of a man by the name of Utadas Tensar who makes a business of finding the right people to help others with their woes. His office on the Clerk’s Ward is not too far off, and so, everyone makes their way to meet this so-called ‘most honest person in Sigil’. Turns out the pudgy man rocking suspenders is indeed possibly the most pleasant person they have had the pleasure of meeting since setting foot in the Cage. Moreover, he seems to have just the thing everyone was hoping for: a quick and dirty job on the side, dispatching some savage on the other side of a portal which acts as a part of the Planar Trade Consortium’s trade network. Armed with a piece of parchment containing their deal with Tensar and instructions on how to use the portal, they are off.

On the other side of a ramshackle, improvised arch between two buildings, a world of endless dunes of dust and ash waits those with the image of a black sun in mind. The sky is a sickly mustard colour, and dark clouds dot the horizon. Behind one of the dunes near the ruins of what might be an old temple, based on the fallen pillars and eroded, faceless statues, Sterling spots a pair of antlers one might have mistaken for desiccated branches jotting their way to the surface if this pair was not the only such sign of life around. No sooner than he manages to spot the assailant does the savage spring into action and release a torrent of arrows at Vanhedra and Sterling himself, standing in front of the party. A skirmish ensues, the barbarian making its way around the dune in a flash of rapid, short steps, and continuing to harry the party with its longbow. After some successful return of hire by Erdan, Teera, and Vanhedra – the dwarf managing to score a particularly solid hit with his throwing axe – the foe finally becomes goaded into close quarters, swinging wildly with a battleaxe. Being swarmed by Vanhedra, Erdan, and Sterling, while distracted and harried by the magics of Teera and Dantalus respectively, it finally succumbs to wounds which would have killed a sane man many times over.

End of session.

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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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Rosie Times
The Thorny Bush Experience

Having despatched their assailants with swiftness and ease, the party somewhat begrudgingly followed Izador’s lead in tying up the loose ends by carrying the corpses of their foregone enemies to the puddles they had previously evaded. With a heave, Izador flung the first body toward them, and indeed, a pseudopod of ooze and filth slithered its way to the corpse from one of the puddles and dragged it inside like a rag doll filled with twigs and juice being pulled through a straw. As unnerving a show as the cracking of bones and splattering of bodily fluids provided, the rest also unloaded their victims near said puddle while Izador explained how sometimes the puddles on the road in the Hive Ward would open as portals to the Plane of Ooze and drag in careless people.

The rest of the tour was over soon enough: the party hurried through the rest of the Hive Ward, over the Ditch, and into the Lower Ward. Izador introduced to them the remaining factions present in these areas, from Xaositects to the Doomguard, and led everyone to the door of what appeared like a private lodging if anything, promising to take them to a tavern where the adventurers would be able to get their well-earned rest. Hushing the slightly belligerent drow inhabitant of the house with a quick kiss on the cheek, Izador lead everyone through his quarters and into the bedroom where someone was still hiding under the blankets. Opening the wardrobe, he revealed yet another portal, allegedly reacting to the red of his skin. Everyone made their way through, into the inner balcony in the first floor of the Thorny Bush tavern – a homely enough locale for these poor primes, save for the fiendish customers and an undead beholder clad in roses for decoration.

Everyone made their way downstairs where they spotted a few more customers: a group of three bugbears and a mysterious stranger sitting alone by the fireplace, clad in a hooded cloak hiding their visage. Moreover, a huge, stout redhead woman seemed to be manning the bar, ordering around a group of orcish waiters. Izador introduced this owner of the place as Rosie, and Teera explained the party’s circumstances to her in detail. Sterling, on the other hand, grabbed a few tankards of Ysgardian mead and made his way to the mysterious stranger, offering a drink which was not so much refused as ignored. Dantalus, having been offered some commendation as well as free mead, had already seated himself on the other table by the fireplace and began warming the atmosphere with tentative notes from his viola. Vanhedra ordered some goat milk and whatever was on the menu (boar, it turns out), and things would perhaps have calmed down, had Izador not decided to test his luck with Rosie’s beholder game as the hapless tout was immediately reduced to a pile of ashes inside of the marked area, leaving the party without a guide.

While Dantalus was taunting both the bugbears for having rudely replied to his queries and Vandhedra for the heck of it, Sterling kept insisting on establishing contact with the mysterious stranger. In the end, he resorted to looking inside of the hood and even throwing it back, causing the stranger to immediately disappear in thin air, leaving behind only his thick, dark grey cloak which was promptly snatched and stashed away by Teera. In the end, Sterling ended up gobbling all the mead he had brought, leaving him more than a bit tipsy as he followed Teera who wanted to ask the fiends they had seen upstairs about the one who had escaped. As it turned out, the two were bickering about some nonsense over whether ‘yugoloths’ could be trusted in ‘the Blood War’. Of the two, a fly monster seemed more than a bit cross over the topic and the insults of the other fiend, a purple-skinned and bare-chested muscular humanoid with green tentacles or pseudopods growing from his chin. This fly thing established telepathic contact with Teera once she turned her attention on the two of them and promised to reward her, were she to somehow lure the other one in the toilet area of the tavern.

Her plan for this course of action, as it turns out, was chatting up the purple devil and informing him of Sterling’s bravado and willingness to challenge this proud fiend to endure the assault of the beholder downstairs. Having already lost his nerve with the fly thing, the fiend was not ready for yet more disrespect and from some addled human-thing, no less. He stormed after Sterling who received a brief instruction from Teera to bait the devil into the loo, where the heroic guardsman indeed tried to hide momentarily. After the purple devil ripped the locked door open, Sterling pointed his rapier at the fiend without realising how Teera was sneaking up from behind and tackled the devil on top of her guardian. Immediately, an unnatural darkness enveloped the room and over the next few seconds, everything those outside could hear were the fiend’s screams and a vaguely familiar popping and gurgling sound. In the end, Sterling was revealed to remain in the loo, alone, covered in a black liquid which as splattered across the room from the hole used for one’s natural needs, looking somewhere between spooked and enlightened. For her troubles, Teera received some gear looted from the battlefields of the Blood War by the chuckling fly thing, before it left the tavern. While Sterling was being bathed with the help of a big, grey orc called Grim in the back alley, everyone divvied the spoils of his and Teera’s efforts, opting to sell most of it in the end. (Also, let us not forget how Vanhedra decided to break his vow of abstinence as a result of these superficially silly developments, ordering a whole skull-faced bottle of Baatorian whisky, best described as ‘liquid burning pain’.)

Everyone having engorged themselves in the different roasted meats Rosie provided them with, the voluptuous barkeeper emerged from the back with yet more drinks for everyone. Perhaps tipsy from the atmosphere herself, she began flirting aggressively with Kade who had mostly been sitting silently, thinking up the next step in trying to find their enemy. Despite the paladin’s initial unwillingness to indulge the giant lady, he seemed to suddenly have a change of heart. Grabbing the princess to have her placed on a more comfortable spot in Rosie’s quarters, he silently followed the lead of the tavern’s towering owner, much to everyone’s amusement, prompting more than a few raunchy comments from the rest of the company. In Rosie’s quarters, the first thing he noticed was Rosie lying on the floor, unconscious. The other Rosie who had charmed him with some vile enchantment whispered to him in a soft but masculine voice ‘One down’ before planting a kiss which drained the paladin’s very life force from him through his now desiccated lips.

Rosie returned alone, without Kade, which did prompt a few raised eyebrows but mostly more jeers aimed at the paladin who had lasted a mere few minutes by the looks of it. She attempted to invite another person to finish the job but was turned down, failing to establish a magical suggestion a second time. Shrugging, she began talking about how eliminating even one member would be enough to tips the odds in her favour as she distanced herself from the party’s tables. On the way, her form began to flow and morph, revealing the striking if androgynous figure of a bat-winged fiend – an incubus. Having shaken what he described as the hideous and clumsy form imposed on him by this assignment by an old friend but still remaining enlarged, the fiend summoned its pets from the kitchen: an albino hell hound and two death dogs. Combat was imminent.

The party was clearly disadvantaged, having been surprised with their pants around their knees. Not only had Kade been overcome by the incubus, moments ago Sterling had finally succumbed to the alcohol content of his blood and lost consciousness. Both Dantalus and Teera had to spend their first few moments of the fight kicking him awake while Vanhedra intercepted the canine assailants, calling for the help of the remaining customers: the group of bugbears. It turns out they were aching for a fight and managed to surprise the fiend with a nice, kneecapping blow out of nowhere. It was too late to distract the hell hound before it unleashed a fiery breath on the party, catching Teera and Vanhedra in the blast (both making the best of the situation with their strengths: the sorceress’s infernal heritage and the dwarf’s honed reflexes). While it did take a while for Dantalus to heal the worst lingering effects of both previous scuffles and this initial onslaught, the tide of battle slowly turned to favour the heroes. The bugbear lackeys of their big boss Jugem were slaughtered but this bought enough time for Teera to unleash her sorcerous might in a barrage of ice and fire, taking out the closes canines (including the hell hound). The remaining enemies attempted to flee with the remaining death dog dragging the body of one of the bugbears and the incubus finding itself fighting a losing battle. Before the fiend managed to make its way outside, it was ambushed by a random passer-by who sank their knives on his side. Alone and surrounded, the fiend finally yielded by dropping on its knees and claiming to give. Sterling threw a net over him as a precaution and the still infuriated Jugem knocked out the lights with the handle of his morningstar.

Fight and session over. Number of casualties: 1 (?).

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And So It Begins
Enter Sigil

The journey of our valiant adventurers begins as they emerge from the woods on the more gently sloping side of an old gorge left behind by a now dry river. On the other side, the steeper cliff seems to house a cave opening at its base. Moreover, judging by the rocks on both sides of the opening, it has been cleared only recently from behind said rubble. With no other adventuring parties in sight, the party makes its way to the opening and finds the silver tiara embedded with fluorite which definitely belongs to the kidnapped princess Clemence von Patafian. Dantalus Creed, the half-elf bard, secures the item while Kade from the Order of Deneir, a paladin, vigilantly observes their surroundings for any signs of life. He sees naught but a lone bird taking flight from the woods on the opposite side, and so, the adventurers enter the darkness of the cave, now illuminated by a torch prepared by Sterling, a fighter and once a member of the city watch. As the party vanishes from sight, the shadows grow deeper alongside the dyeing of the light in yellow and orange hues as the sun slowly begins to set.

While Sterling and Vanhedra, the dwarven ranger hired to guide the rest in this wilderness, inspect the trail left in the dust-covered floor of the cave, unwittingly destroying said evidence in the process, Dantalus creeps further into the cave. His nose irritated by the dust being set in the air by their entry, the half-elf feels a sneeze coming and attempts to hide it to little avail. For a split second, time freezes as the half-muffled sound of the sneeze echoes through the cave. It seems no reaction is prompted for the time being and thus, everyone advances deeper into the cave. Teera, a tiefling sorceress, remains sensitive to any reaction by the denizens of this cave to the earlier heralding of the party’s arrival and indeed, now that they are deeper into the cave, she can hear a smooth, vaguely human voice murmur in what appears to be common but using expressions she has never before witnessed such as ‘yugoloth’. Once everyone goes silent, they are able to reaffirm how this voice echoes from deeper into the cave. Once again, Dantalus takes the lead, covering his face with cloth this time around, having learnt from his mistakes. At first, it seems the cave is coming to a crossroads but one path is but a short dead end.

However, the other path seems to occasionally be lit by short bursts of purplish light. Advancing with care, the party arrives at a spot where the natural cave gives room to clearly man-crafted architecture. What is more, they are staring down on a number of tiles, each etched with an ancient rune in the Infernal alphabet. Dantalus throws a rock on the tiles and it rolls across but no reaction seems to have been prompted. According to Kade who for some reason knows Abyssal, the language of demons, the three markings replicated across the floor in seemingly radom patterns would correspond to the ideas of heat, belovedness, and elders, respectively. Both Teera and Dantalus know Infernal which would attribute the same runes with polar opposite meanings: ‘siin’ for ‘forsaken’, ‘tien’ for ‘cold’, and ‘ris’ for ‘child’. Despite being convinced of this being a trap, the party has no option but to advance, and thus, Vanhedra the dwarf takes the first step, on a ‘tien’ tile. Everyone may be holding their breath, but… Nothing happens. Emboldened, the dwarf advances and is forced to take cover after their second step into the patterned hallway as bolts of eldritch energy launch from the floor. Having avoided injury, the dwarf continues forward, harassed by a barrage of arcane blasts. Before he manages to take the last step to the other side, Dantalus, who followed their guide’s lead, uses the dwarf as leverage to run across this hallway using the left wall as footing.

At this point, both Dantalus and Vanhedra have made it across, in that order (much to the chagrin of the dwarf). Dantalus continues forward where he sees a pair of doors ajar. From between these doors, the half-elf can peek at a circular room with some kind of an altar in the middle. The earlier noises seem to have alerted the fiend inside but they continue chanting in whispers… To whatever sinister end they have in mind. Neither of these people on this side of the hallway find any sort of mechanism to disarm the trap, but they do notice how one of the ‘safe’ runes used by Vanhedra seems to actually have been broken by what they surmise was a rock falling from the ceiling. The rest must follow lead, despite not having the faintest clues as to the pattern they should follow (if one exists). Growing weary of the wait, Vanhedra beckons to his animal companion, the ever loyal boar. Following its master’s lead, the beast attempts to charge across, only to be shot down by a violent and sudden barrage of eldritch energy. With what seems to be an accusatory one last look at the master who betrayed its trust, the boar draws its last, wheezing breath on the cold stone floor and perishes. The smell of burning grease fills the air.

Having been alerted to the true danger of the trap, the rest hesitate. Sterling is the next to make their way through, despite having been hit by a number of bolts. In one last leap, they avoid any unnecessary steps on the trapped tiles. Having no opportunity to help his animal partner any more, Vanhedra cures the worst of the injuries the fighter sustained on their way across. This leaves only Teera and Kade stranded. While the tiefling sorceress had intended to make their way across in as few steps as possible by jumping across whatever tiles they could and being carried by Kade the rest of the way if need be, she is stopped by fear and an accidental bump on the dungeon’s wall when gathering momentum. Many plans are considered, with Dantalus surveying the actions of the fiend in the next room. It seems whatever it was trying to accomplish is now finished as there is a sudden outbreak of pearly, white light, which is soon dimmed by the source seemingly being grasped by the fiend.

Having no time to waste, Kade attempts to make his way back in order to help Teera across if necessary. However, his jump falls short and releases yet more eldritch blasts, one of which hits the back of the paladin’s head, catching them unprepared. He collapses on the floor on the other side – still alive but clearly hurt by yet another hit. By now, Kade has the identity of the party’s target figured: some centuries ago, a fiend called ‘Sitri’ arrived seemingly out of nowhere and attacked the free people of the free city of Schildheim. While not fluent in Infernal, the paladin still remembers how this creature’s name consists of the runes etched into the tiles of this hallway. Despite being armed with this knowledge, the party does not know whether it is of any relevance or not: thus far, starting with runes other than the one at the beginning of the name seems to have been safe. Because the blasts hurting Kade when he made his way back seemed to have visibly exhausted the amount of magical energy streaking across the floor, Vanhedra finally places his bets on a desperate gamble to completely drain whatever power is left in the trapped floor by making his way back. Once the dwarf reached the corpse of their companion, he decided to try and minimize damages by using it as bait instead. Despite the boar’s corpse being desecrated by being flung around, it seems not to activate the trap. Instead, Vanhedra is forced to risk himself some more until the magic finally runs out and the only light remaining is Sterling’s torch, tugged in the corner of the hallway and set on the rock Dantalus threw when they first arrived.

Teera and Kade make their way across. Everyone is gathered once more, and the furious paladin storms the door, behind which the fiend and the princess await. At first, he sees nothing but darkness and the fiend’s young, pale, and famished face in the pure light of what appears to be a jewel on his palm. The thing taunts its hunters, telling the party how they should not follow it as it turns its back on them and absconds to yet another hallway on the other side of the circular room. The adventurers follow in its footsteps, with Dantalus and Vanhedra taking the lead. Once the torch illuminates what lies in the middle of the room – a foul stone altar with poor princess Clemence lying on top in her tattered white dress – Kade makes his way to the princess and ascertains whether they were too late. It seems the princess is definitely alive, despite her vital signs being faint, and so, the paladin grabs her and flings her on his shoulder. Everyone then follows the fiend which had vanished behind a corner. The hallway they enter is pitch-dark and surprisingly long. After giving chase through the unchanging darkness, the adventurers finally see a source of light at the end of the tunnel. However, they realize something is wrong too late, as everyone stumbles through the portal, with Sterling at the front.

Suddenly, everyone finds themselves in a place the like of which they had never even imagined. It is a city of sorts, made of different recycled materials, all the multitude of elements barely fitting together to form any sort of coherent whole. What is more, there is no horizon and no real sky either. Instead, it seems the ground beneath everyone’s feet curves slightly inward, making the streets continue all the way to above them. Besides rest of the city, the sky (if it can be called that) hosts a jagged spire jotting from the side and continuing to the side for all eternity, and a vaguely yellowish glow pulsating slowly in every direction besides. The denizens of the city seem to consist of whatever monstrous things and bizarre humanoids a fevered sorcerer’s imagination might conjure, from fiends to colourfully clad albinos. At least at first – these wonders are what catches the eye, after all.

Since Sterling has been knocked to the ground by the rest who followed him through the portal, he is approached by some local who offers him a hand in standing up. It seems the stranger is some bright red tiefling, and so, the ex-guardsman scurries away from the offer. This stranger then proceeds to introduce himself as ‘Izador’, a so-called ‘tout’. He prattles away with a strange accent, lacing his speech with foreign concepts. The gist of it seems to be that he is a guide to this city called ‘Sigil’ and would like to help the newcomers find their way around – for a price. Dantalus is the first to pick up on the name of the game and attempts to at least seemingly befriend the tiefling while fishing for further free tidbits. Izador seems to catch on, though, and while the amused tiefling is willing to drop a few gold off their price, he warns not to further stretch his hospitality under the circumstances. Sterling also tries to simply gain minimal instructions to find the worst hive of villainy he can, but it is agreed that for the time being, the best course of action would probably be to cough up and follow the local guide’s lead. Maybe that way the party would find a place to stay, while Sterling will come to know the dark corners of the city and Vanhedra whatever the closest approximation of nature there is to offer.

Thus, everyone stuffs themselves (and the princess) into a pony cab summoned by Izador and listens to him prattle further about the mysterious laws of the planes and this city of Sigil. Apparently, the city is ruled by some supreme being called the ‘Lady of Pain’ who is even able to kill gods, and beyond her, the more mundane and everyday tasks are governed by fifteen factions, each with a distinct philosophy. The cab makes it through the Lady’s Ward, the Marker Ward, the Guildhall Ward, and the Clerk’s Ward. Izador keeps introducing new places and new factions living in each. Finally, it arrives at the border of what seems to be a slum, and the driver refuses to go any deeper. Izador agrees and tells the party how they have arrived in the Hive, Sigil’s slums and home to some unpredictable as well as desperate individuals. He promises to lead the party through these slums safely and so, having little choice but to trust the tiefling, the party complies and follows his lead. They are eventually led to a narrow alleyway, and even though Sterling had noted that they were being surveyed, the party is successfully ambushed by a shady group of individuals claiming they are after Izador’s head. The leader of the group, clad in inconspicuous robes, explains how Izador owes money to someone, and he should have known better than to try and cross this person and their boss, someone described as a “benevolent” individual.

Ignoring the assailants nonchalantly, Izador asks for the help of the party in defending himself, seeing as to how they have already been associated with him. As compensation, he will give them the map they decided not to buy earlier. Everyone agrees, and Dantalus is give the map before a skirmish breaks out. It seems the leader of these racketeers is some form of a spellcaster who attempts to imprison Izador as the first thing once the fight breaks out. Failing miserably, he falls for the tiefling’s mocking taunts. Meanwhile, the four henchmen who arrived in groups of two on both sides, are being dispatched by the party’s fighters. Teera casts a chromatic orb at them but fails her shot. Instead, Vanhedra manages the first blood with a well-placed thrown axe, and Dantalus, Kade, and Sterling follow suite, each with their own weapons of choice. The grunts are dispatched of with ease, and barely any injuries are sustained as a result, but the ringleader is somewhat more tenacious. In the end, he finds himself alone and cornered and attempts to make a run for it. However, Kade compels him to face the party with his holy magic, and in the end, this debtor flings himself at his blade, laughing at how the party is doomed for having crossed the path of someone beyond their reach.

This concludes the fight and the session.

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