5e Planescape: Tales of Devotion

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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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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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.

View
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.

View
The Tracking Tour
Where Cagers Remain Unhelpful

Having vanquished the cannibal behind the Gate, the heroes return victorious and claim their handsome reward of pocket change and suspicious substances from Utadas Tensar’s office. Still hurt and tired from their clashes with various Cagers, they spend the night away at the Thorny Bush, digesting all these new experiences. The wake-up call the next morning would turn out mortifying for certain individuals, vaguely aware of the lurking horror ahead, but for the time being, sleep remains a sound option in order to momentarily forget.

Morning arrives and with it, a promise and a burden in the form of a halfling messenger from the Hall of Records. Teera and Sterling pay the snappy courier with some gold and Sterling’s green feather in order to finally receive the information everyone having dealt with the Takers knows will cost them dearly. Browsing through the alien notation and glimpsing a number of details about their fiendish quarry, the two find the invoice for this information on the other side of the parchment. Sterling is reduced to a gibbering pile at the sight of the final sum, prompting the rest to investigate the reason behind his collapse. None can say they are delighted with the amount they are now bound to since even combining all the resources currently at their disposal, the bill of nearly 600 gold pieces cannot be handled in full. Some such as Dantalus react with snarky epicaricacy, others in less obviously accusatory ways. While technically the invoice only mentions the Thorny Bush as the client, echoes of Rosie’s promise to find a way to use the Princess in order to make up for any payments the party might rack up silence thoughts about running from this responsibility. Hopefully, the missing remainder can be repossessed from the fiend now that a trail has been found, albeit centuries old.

What catches everyone’s eye about the document is how Sitri seems to have been enslaved during his stay in Sigil, subject to someone going by the name ‘Zincir’. Moreover, it seems he was bound to a locale called ‘The Chain and Whip’ on Salt Street. While everyone is getting pumped at the prospect of having successfully tracked the cambion, Erdan reminds them of how the dates on the document correspond to time long past. Nothing ensures that this information is still up to date after two centuries. Their initial enthusiasm curbed, everyone still decides that this lead which cost them dearly is their best bet for the time being. As such, they set off. First, they would visit Tensar in order to fund the missing remainder with another odd job if possible. Dantalus also needs some new spell components from the bazaar. Afterwards, they should be able to enlist law enforcement to help and finally ambush the cambion rather than vice versa.

Unfortunately, despite his best intentions, Tensar is unable to provide the party with additional tasks as he wishes to maximise the number he can help survive the unforgiving nature of the Cage and there are only a limited number of jobs suitable for the likes of the party. He promises to send a message to the Thorny Bush if a request befitting the party arrives. Continuing on their outlined circuit, the heroes reach the bazaar where Erdan, upon hearing the reason Dantalus needs to shop, realises that their best bet would likely be Tivvum’s Antiquities which lies just by the Great Bazaar. Inside, they find the old lady, Alluvius ‘Lu’ Ruskin, in her dark glasses and green jacket. She claims to have had some fine pigeon for breakfast earlier, providing her with what the half-elf seeks. She fetches a box of various feathers from which Dantalus may pick whatever he requires. Meanwhile, Sterling attempts to fund the repayment for his earlier blunder by haggling over his horn in which Lu shows mild interest. Teera also has her assess the strange spices on her person, received as a part of the reward for clearing the trade route. Apparently, they are spices and the most obvious use is as a condiment although the powder is inherently magical in some way. In the end, the only deal struck is over twenty feathers for a piece of silver each and the journey continues.

While they have been walking around Sigil, Dantalus has been hatching a song to describe his perspective on Sterling’s actions thus far. Once it is finalised and the bard begins accompanying their walk through the Cage with the less than flattering ballad, the guardsman snaps and attempts to tackle the half-elf who easily evades this rush and continues his business as usual. The interlude ends with a silenced Sterling seething but unable to lay a finger on his tormentor for the time being.

Once everyone arrives in the Lady’s Ward, they face a decision on whether to contact the Harmonium or the Mercykillers about Sitri. In the end, they decide against approaching the Mercykillers due to their reputation. Instead, the party heads towards the city barracks with Sterling to the fore. They negotiate with some guards outside the gates and manage to convince them of crimes being perpetuated under their noses but of a kind which may only be discussed with an officer. One of the guards leads the party inside and is immediately replaced at the gate. It turns out the barracks is completely symmetrical as the party heads to the first floor where they are greeted by a grizzled, scarred lieutenant while their attendant waits outside. The exchange boils down to Sterling claiming that a bordello on Salt Street is involved in keeping slaves as well as housing a criminal and demanding to be allowed to settle the situation as a representative of the law and the lieutenant sternly explaining just how deluded this batch of clueless primes at his reception are exactly. Their only evidence is a document from two centuries ago when no laws were in effect against slavery. They are demanding to be granted a right to potentially violent interference, a right reserved to the members of the Harmonium and other city officials. In the end, he simply uses the opportunity to spread the faction’s propaganda and even granting Sterling a copy of the Harmonium members’ code – a handy scroll packed tightly enough to be weaponized. Afterwards, the party is led out by the same Hardhead who let them in, whose only reaction to the whole farce is a single sigh and a brief shaking of his head.

Despite this lack of luck with the Harmonium, no one is suggesting to go see the Mercykillers as an alternative and as such, the heroes push forwards, towards Salt Street. On their way, they pass both the courts and the prison from behind and finally reach the Temple of the Abyss. Realising the potential connection between the fiend they are tracking and this nest of evil, some of the party members suggest investigating the temple while they are at it. However, Teera realises just how bad an idea this would be: the cambion they are looking for has a name granted in Infernal and thus likely descends from devils rather than demons. Additionally, she herself reeks of the Nine Hells which would place her in grave danger, were she to enter a temple dedicated to the mortal enemies of her infernal progenitors. As such, this plan is buried for the time being.

Instead, everyone’s attention turns to Salt Street and after a brief inspection, it becomes obvious that no place called ‘The Chain and Whip’ remains here. Instead, there are a few other locales, and the first to be inspected is the ‘Dead Sea’ tavern, owned by what seems to be a vaguely aquatic dwarf, standing in a pool of water behind the counter. Not wanting to waste the precious money he still has towards the full payment of his debt, Sterling opens by ordering the cheapest drink available. Much to his disgust, this turns out to be a glass of water scooped fresh from the pool riddled with a slimy film excreted by the dwarf and the occasional hair of unknown origin. The rest simply order lunch which turns out to be a plate of cold-smoked salmon, some bread, and a mug of ale on top. While they are eating, Vahedra keeps asking the proprietor questions about Salt Street and its denizens. Apparently, the place they are looking for has not existed for at least some decades now, and as such, their best bet to find someone acquainted with it would be either an elf or some form of immortal outsider.

The next stop is the ‘Law and Order’ inn, more or less across the street. Turns out, it is manned entirely by a horde of Modrons. After some initial trouble communicating with the attendant following a strict routine, the one in charge is summoned successfully. Since this cubic modron does not compute matters not directly related to the inn itself, everyone just sends word to current occupants. After some time, a visibly tired drow makes their way past the party, giving them a killing glare. After some persuasion, he simply reminds them that asking people staying at an inn about such local matters may not be the brightest of ideas. As a result of this reminder and confirmation that the actual owner will not be around for the next five days or so, the frustrated party leaves the inn behind.

A few options remain. Sterling is pulling towards the ‘Eye of the Beholder’ clothes outlet. Begrudgingly, the others follow his blind lead only to have him turn around upon entering since the red-headed proprietor is obviously human and as such, an unlikely source. Finally, the next stop then becomes the ‘Nail of Dis’ gambling hall – an oddity almost at the level of a bordello, considering the proximity of both the Harmonium and the Mercykillers. Both Giggler and Sterling stay outside. Inside, the rest are welcomed with the sight of six or so veiled and robed attendants clad in black and adorned with a red and white target insignia, as well as two Mercykillers on a break and none other than Izador, thought long dead.

Immediately, Dantalus springs to action and rushes to greet Izador who collects himself after the initial shock of facing the party. The bard begins to aggressively and loudly question the tout about his involvement and feigned death. At first, the tiefling attempts to laugh such accusations off but in a split second, his whole habitus changes. Speaking in a completely different manner and without any of the cheerful lightness so characteristic of Izador, the person in front of the party frantically explains, in a hushed voice, how he is simply someone borrowing this face and since the tiefling has turned out to already have died, there should be no problem. As Dantalus keeps harassing him, he finally yields that when the owner, Focalor, passed him earlier, he did sense her thinking about the person the party is looking for. Afterwards, he suddenly goes completely pale and shakes Dantalus and the rest off, opting to pay his tab instead. Still donning the face of Izador, he rushes out and is spotted by Sterling who decides to follow the tiefling who morphs into the image of a random passerby. After a while, the shadowed person just suddenly turns to Sterling, grabs the guardsman by his shoulders and explains how the rest are in danger and that this person has nothing to do with the quest at hand. He even allows his eyes to morph into grey, slitted bulbs to prove how the one at hand is in no way the dead Izador. Thus warned, Sterling rushes back towards the Nail of Dis.

Inside the Nail of Dis, on the other hand, the rest ask to see Focalor and are guided to her door by one of the employees. By the sound of it, Focalor is having a discussion with someone in Infernal and mentions ‘Sitri’ and ‘trinket’. Once her door is knocked on, both participants go silent. The door is then opened by a striking tiefling woman with violet hair and purplish eyes, dressed lavishly but with scars across her face. She speaks sharply and to the point, intently elongating any false courtesies slathered on top. On her desk, Dantalus notes a very familiar white gemstone before Focalor closes the door and strides between the party and the gem. The focus of the brief exchange which follows is on the stone, to which the party claims ownership. Focalor accepts their seeming honesty and moves aside to allow Vanhedra grab the jewel. Immediately after he touches it, the dwarf can hear an unknown woman’s voice in his head, shouting how Sitri must be rescued and how these people are utterly terrible. Barely pausing, he pockets the item and thanking Focalor for her understanding, everyone exists, feeling her dark intent creep up their spines as they turn their backs on her.

Outside, everyone regroups and Vanhedra explains what the jewel is telling him. Apparently, the princess does not want to go back and indeed, was not so much kidnapped as ‘saved’ by the cambion. She had been in contact with him, having found out about the old dungeon and its inhabitant, and little by little, at least some change had occurred in the devilborn. In the end, since the princess’s body was failing her due to birth defects, Sitri promised to take Clemence with him and show him the wonders of which he had told this naive, backwater noble, perhaps on a whim or maybe out of some sense of gratitude. Even the earlier attack by the cambion’s incubus ally was a result of some misunderstanding: the incubus had only been sent to get the party to leave Sitri and Clemence alone. Attempting to murder them – or perhaps scare them off with the very real prospect of premature death – was not a part of the plan as much as it was the twisted fiends’s interpretation of the request.

Apparently, Focalor is the key to reaching Sitri and must be faced. Because the gem provides whoever bonds with it some semblance of the princess’s natural abilities, Teera follows her instructions and embeds the partly ethereal moonstone on her forehead. According to the princess, the feeling of bonding with the tiefling sorceress bears a familiar feeling. No time to ponder such trifle matters is allowed as Sterling wastes no time thinking of a plan, instead attempting to rush inside, his sword drawn. Everyone else combines their efforts to pull him back in before lasting damage to the prospects of them surviving this challenge is done.

End of session.

View
Rush and Regret
Planning is Optional

Having little chance to stop Sterling’s suicidal charge back into the Nail of Dis, the party is preparing for the worst. Even if they were to dogpile the guardsman, such a solution would only last for so long, and everyone knows that their only chance to return home lies somewhere in the depths of the gambling den. When Sterling rushes headlong towards Focalor’s office, Dantalus, Erdan, and Teera skulk in the cover of the stairs and a table, ready to spring to action if the situation so demands. Vanhedra and Giggler wait outside, readying for the worst.

The only explanation provided to the Mercykillers is Sterling’s copy of the Harmonium’s rules, claimed to be a warrant justifying the guardsman’s reckless actions. Although the ruse is almost immediately recognised and the bluff is called, the Mercykillers barely have time to brandish their mancatchers before Teera chimes in with a magical suggestion, prompting the Mercykiller with Sterling’s scroll to return to the Prison alongside his partner. Confabulating a reason to the best f their ability, the Mercykiller suddenly remembers how the two of them must immediately return to their posts or risk punishment. As the two of them head for the door, Focalor’s employees begin to silently circle on Sterling and manoeuvre to bar the doors. Since Sterling is still ducking behind the counter, having been scared by the approaching Mercykiller brandishing his mancatcher, the closest waiters lose no time and begin stabbing him out of sight even before the jailers are out the door.

Hearing her dear companion’s whining, Teera momentarily forgets about waiting for the Mercykillers to leave and shoots fiery beams towards Sterling’s assailants. This causes the Mercykillers to momentarily stop and reassess the situation, but in the end, the power of the suggestion overcomes the enchanted jailer who excuses them by mentioning how they should return with reinforcements after having clocked in. Thus, the lingering threat of having to face the Red Death itself – and not merely the servants of some of its members – is averted for the time being, although everyone becomes keenly aware of how the clock is ticking and they cannot linger without risking a raid by some of Sigil’s most fearsome servants of the law. A grand melee begins.

In order to help Sterling proceed, Dantalus opens the lock protecting Focalor’s office with a ringing spell. Erdan and Teera pepper the enemies with supporting fire while Sterling crawls towards the door. Unexpectedly, something sinister slams the door open and rushes towards Sterling, brandishing a flickering pair of daggers. In the blink of an eye, the guardsman is felled, having been weakened by the opportunistic stabs earlier. Erdan, now engaged in a fight with some veiled tieflings by the door alongside Giggler and Vanhedra, breaks free and risks a few passing strikes as he hurries to save Sterling from drowning in his own blood. No sooner than he manages to force the last remaining healing potion down the guardsman’s throat to save him from imminent death, is the eladrin also dropped to the ground, dying. Dantalus who has moved to the end of the terrace in the floor above begins distractinf Focalor while Teera unleashes a powerful sonic boom from the first floor, visibly disorientating the deadly proprietress and killing the nearest waiters by forcefully knocking them against unyielding corners. As Dantalus drops down in order to provide more direct support for his endangered comrades, he finds himself on the receiving end of Focalor’s fury, being bombarded by thrown knives as she closes in, ready for melee.

Since both Erdan and Sterling remain motionless and silent, Vanhedra follows the former’s example and leaves Giggler as the only defence between a number of remaining foes and Teera as he hurries to aid the wounded. Erdan is saved by the ranger’s magic while Sterling manages to stabilise himself by other means. No such luck comes to Dantalus who has finally been engaged by Focalor and finds himself gutted by her furious knifework, only distracted by Teera’s continuous bombardment with evoked arcane energies. Focalor seems to finally have realised the real threat posed by the wild sorceress to her well-being and locks unto Teera as her next target. This gives Vanhedra time to save Dantalus in the nick of time, ignoring the imp who had appeared out of thin air by Focalor’s door to stab him before vanishing again. The bard fights his way back from the depths of Styx to buy the dwarf time by drawing one more breath, not giving up. Moreover, a major victory is finally achieved as Focalor falls to Teera’s magics, grasping her stomach and coughing up blood but defeated non-fatally, as per the princess’s orders since she apparently holds the key to finding Sitri. The very last foe, a male tiefling with a goatee and tears running down his revealed cheeks is also seemingly vanquished by Teera’s spells, although a stomp and a whimper call his bluff. However, Teera decides to save the poor soul and leaves him be as everyone mops up their wounded and manacles the now unconscious Focalor in order to take her to the Thorny Bush for interrogation despite the princess’s protests that they should immediately follow Sitri’s trail and hope to find a chance to catch their breath. As one final, booming warning, a deep voice coming from nowhere echoes through the now peaceful Nail of Dis, welcoming those who would defy what is underway to the speaker’s carnival, towards which they already seem to be drawn like moths to a flame. Utterly exhausted, they leave the Nail of Dis in order to rest, and narrowly avoid the Mercykiller squadron dispatched to intervene on the earlier situation.

In the Thorny Bush, the manacled Focalor is shoved inside of Rosie’s loo and warned not to try anything funny lest she would prefer to face the terrors summoned by darkness inside the stall. Everyone makes merry to the best of their ability before retiring for the night. Due to his pureblood elvish heritage, Erdan is the first to wake up and realise how something is terribly amiss: the barred door of the loo is open and Focalor is nowhere to be seen. It is almost as though she had invisible allies who were able to track the party unseen earlier when they brought her in and who had waited for her to be left unguarded. Cursing but knowing full well how waking up the rest would do them no good – the tiefling is who knows how long gone – he makes a half-hearted attempt at warning Sterling before deciding to wait until morning. Everyone had gone through terrors and needed to revitalise. Disturbing their rest would do no good.

Come morning when the terrifying truth is revealed to everyone, the party finds themselves in yet another conundrum. If the imp followed them to the Thorny Bush – and because Focalor definitely knows where she was taken – the tavern is no longer safe as the enemy could arrive with reinforcements at any moment. Moreover, the earlier encounter proved how dangerous a force they are facing and this time, they would likely be risking coming face to face with the even less friendly aspect of Sigil’s finest. The Mercykillers had been alerted previously and at least some of the heroes faces had been witnessed. Sterling suggests relying on the Harmonium while some others plan to use the Chaosmen as a distraction. Teera tests the cloak she secured earlier and it seems having the hood drawn causes her face to become indistinguishable. However, it is soon revealed that now that she has donned the cloak, it cannot be removed. In the end, everyone goes to investigate the situation by the Nail of Dis. Much to their chagrin, officers are keeping an eye on the place. As the party sets foot on Salt Street, Erdan notices how a number of both Harmonium members and Mercykillers are eyeing the entrance to the Nail of Dis and shoves everyone down an alley in order to avoid their attention.

After a brief peewee on their options, the rest of the party allows Erdan to go around Salt Street in order to scout ahead by asking the person at the Eye of the Beholder what has been going on near the Nail of Dis. Less than surprisingly, the red-headed and absent-minded salesperson has not got the faintest clue, so Erdan simply opts for buying himself a beholder-inspired, rubbery leather cap with fake eye stalks held together by a string. As he returns, some other options are considered – some sillier than others such as just using Giggler equipped with Erdan’s new hat as a performing distraction. In the end, Dantalus recommends buying some cheap wine from the Dead Sea tavern in order for him and Erdan to disguise themselves as drunks and sneakily catching a peek inside after a seemingly tripping against the door to the gambling den. In the lack of other even remotely sober suggestions, everyone follows the plan.

Before initiating the scouting mission, Dantalus magically disguises himself as a Githyanki to avoid drawing suspicion. He and Erdan sprinkle their clothes with cheap wine and go their merry way, singing most off-note indeed to evidence their state of stupor to any guards. Once they reach the the Nail of Dis, Erdan tackles Dantalus, feigning having tripped on his own feet, slamming the half-elf against the door. Upon getting back on his feet, the bard uses the door’s handle as a support, opening it and catching a glimpse of Focalor and the employee saved by Teera explaining the details of what had happened to a number of both Harmonium and Mercykiller officers. Attempting to infiltrate the place seems hopeless.

The rest of the time is spent bickering on their options. Apparently, Zincir works in the prison so maybe everyone should just lie in wait for him to emerge from inside the prison. Then again, none really know what the torturer looks like, and there is a good chance they might be a fiend whose physical requirements differ from those of mortals. Additionally, it seems something is amiss and in all likelihood, there is only a limited amount of time left to stop whatever the devil’s so-called carnival is. Chaosmen are an alternative although more lawful citizens such as Sterling fear it might incite a civil war. Another alternative, silently acknowledged by everyone, is giving up. They might never see their home again, but at least they would still be alive and breathing in the short term.

End of session.

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Hollow Path
Of All the Routes

Wishing to push through and escaping back home, away from Sigil, the heroes refuse to decline the challenge presented by the Mercykillers and their Prison. Having little in terms of plans and a number of less motivated members, they stall until the inevitable happens and Sterling decides to take matters to his own hands. Having learnt discretion from his previous encounters with those who would tackle him mid-charge, he decides to try and see whether any lonely Mercykillers are scanning the alleyways in the vicinity of the Prison. While successful to a degree, the plan backfires because the one Mercykiller he finds relieving himself on an alley is one of the two who witnessed his attack on Nail of Dis. Faced with the brute in front of him and the crowd of enemies who would swarm him if alarmed out back, Sterling attempts to disorientate the solitary enemy by claiming he was working for the Harmonium all this time. This move allows him to walk past the Mercykiller before he realizes to ask for concrete evidence of Sterling’s allegiance. Feeling cornered, the guardsman draws his rapier and furiously assaults the foe in front of him. Had this man been your average member of the Red Death, he would surely have perished in this initial assault packing all of Sterling’s accumulated prowess. Sadly, such is not the case, and thus, the wounded Mercykiller is able to back towards his comrades and alert them to the wanted criminal’s presence.

Facing impossible odds, Sterling flees but decides to hide in the shadows of the alleys near the Prison. Meanwhile, the Mercykillers dispatch a number of units to surround and scour the area. Inevitably, Sterling is found and brought to justice. As he is dragged to the wide streets surrounding the prison, the rest of the party witness their beloved if rash comrade captured and surrounded by a group of five Mercykillers. Some, like Erdan and Vanhedra, ponder whether they should finally give in with the addition of this nail on the coffin of any plans they could have hatched, had Sterling waited for them to think matters through. Dantilus and Teera, on the other hand, keep a close eye on Sterling and his guards. The half-elf bard even disguises himself as a member of the Red Death and approaches the group, intending to read Sterling’s mind before he is taken inside the walls of the unapproachable fortress known as the City Prison.

Much to his surprise, Sterling witnesses something most peculiar just as he is being dragged around the corner of the prison. He sees the tall figure of a woman clad in flowing robes, her head surrounded by a multitude of jagged blades, float over the walls of the prison. Not fully comprehending the meaning of this event but deciding that it might grant him one last chance, he opposes being taken inside with all his might, forcing the Mercykillers to literally drag him. Dantilus manages to catch a glimpse of this scene and the hope it has seeded inside of Sterling’s mind before all hell breaks loose. Squirts of blood can be seen flying over the high, high walls of the prison, and even the less perceptive can hardly escape the screams and wailing of the Mercykillers inside. The question on everyone’s lips seems to be the same: But why? Alerted by this turn of events, the Mercykillers around the prison rush towards its main gates while it seems most of those inside are attempting to escape something. Abandoned by his captors but still shackled, Sterling is aided by the disguised bard who unlocks his manacles. In front of their eyes, the mass of Mercykillers by the gates is reduced to a splatter of blood and fleshy bits, extending across the whole wide street in front of the prison. In the blink of an eye, only the open gates remain where there was an impenetrable mass of people.

Having noted the recent turn of events, everyone joins Sterling and Dantilus. Confused and unnerved, they decide to peek inside the prison, having been granted this chance. Inside, they see how whatever decided to attack the Mercykillers has reduced the courtyard to an abstract piece of art, splattering bloody strokes with a wide brush of death and carnage. Since whatever caused all this is nowhere to be seen, the party proceeds deeper, intending to find their way to Zincir during this mess. The occasional, panicked Mercykillers they come across seem to be babbling that the Lady herself has unexpectedly attacked the prison. Deciding to risk the certain death encountering her in this context would seem to entail, everyone pushes on. Indeed, when they notice a squad of Mercykillers bent on capturing any escaped prisoners, they decide to draw these people’s attention in order to have at least someone show them where Zincir might be waiting. Having few options, the Mercykillers decide to let the group tag along as they sweep the hallways.

Everyone finally reaches the stairway supposedly leading to Zincir’s dungeon where the most heinous of criminals are being kept. As they prepare to enter, something hulking, loud, and rancid emerges from the shadows of the stairway. It quickly becomes obvious that there is indeed a troll in the dungeon, and this thing is not exactly happy to encounter a group of Mercykillers now that it has finally managed to escape. Grasping a bloody sack of flesh with patches of white fur, it roars and prepares for combat. Everyone approaches the troll, only Giggles not throwing caution to the wind. There is no time, and they have the advantage. Dantilus and Teera cast their respective spells at the thing, Teera’s fiery magic proving a bane to the tough beast. Using the chance provided by this distraction, both Vanhedra and Erdan pepper the thing with their respective ranged arsenal. Vanhedra scores a dangerous hit with his axe, and Erdan takes out the troll’s right eye. The Mercykillers have a more reserved approach to the situation which leaves Sterling to charge in and be forcefully flung against the wall as the troll backs down to recuperate from this onslaught of fire and steel. However, as it tries to disengage Sterling, the warrior sees an opportunity and lunges at the green beast. Momentarily, the troll is downed which gives the party reason to cheer, although the Mercykillers are still collecting torches, warning that nothing is over yet. Vanhedra also grabs a torch and flings it towards the troll, ultimately unsuccessfully. It manages to get up one last time, trying to gut the dwarf in front of it, before the thing is taken down by everyone, its fate sealed by more of Teera’s magical fire which blows its head off its shoulders, covering Vanhedra in its foul blood.

After this scuffle, all but one Merykiller continue on their merry way, leaving a single man to monitor those inspecting Zincir’s alleged involvement in this tragedy. As everyone enters the first room of the dungeon, a hallway of cells lining its walls, they witness how two of the doors have been destroyed and a bloody trail leads towards where they entered from one of them. Inside of this cell, they see the head of an albino woman with somewhat sharp, pointed features. A sly voice from the next cell keeps insisting whoever entered tells it what happened while another opposite to it seems to house a more booming inhabitant who insists it could guide whoever entered. Both are ignored for the time being. Instead, Sterling decides to tease the inhabitants by knocking on their cell doors but otherwise ignoring the denizens. Behind the first door, he hears a rasping voice pleading for water. The second one contains the insistent, squeaky inhabitant demanding to be let out. As he reaches the final door for that side of the hall, he notices its hatch has been left open. Carefully peering inside, Sterling is greeted by the image of a great, yellow-orange eye with a slit pupil. Immediately, he is assaulted by some unseen force and the rest see his body deform slightly, briefly sprouting a tentacle which then recedes back under his shirt. However, he manages to fight off this affliction and close the hatch, leaving the malignant inhabitant laugh maniacally at his trouble.

The next room contains Zincir’s torture equipment, ranging from silvered instruments immediately looted by Dantilus to branding equipment and an iron maiden. There is also the door to his personal quarters, which Vanhedra starts breaking down with his axe. Since the reinforced wood is taking a while to hack down, Dantilus casts a spell to open its lock with a booming knock. No sooner than this side-effect has people covering their ears does the trap on the door trigger and fill much of the chamber with bursting flames. Most of the heroes come away relatively unharmed, particularly Vanhedra despite him remaining right by the door. The same cannot be said of the Mercykiller who is roasted alive and collapses. Left to their own devices, everyone decides to enter the room.

Inside Zincir’s ascetic quarters, everyone finds but a minimalist bed, a desk with simply some note-taking equipment and a note stating ‘Only do what is right and all that is left is to face the consequences’ in Infernal, and Zincir’s records of the punishment he has been inflicting on the poor souls laid to his care over the centuries. Finding no sign of the torturer himself, nor any hidden entrances, the party backpedals. Erdan and Vanhedra skim through the archives while Sterling begins negotiating with the actively annoying resident of one of the cells. This thing calling itself ‘Smelly’ claims it knows the key to a portal Zincir has been using. Not trusting the criminal who turns out to be a jackal-faced half-beast, Sterling forces it to reveal its real name so that the rest may check the archives. Turns out their friend is a serial rapist of no small notoriety. Having little choice, Sterling first attempts to buy its favour using rations but since it refuses to budge on its demand to be let free, he ties its hands to the bars of the hatch and opens the door. Apparently, Zincir had been using ‘Stinky’ – the now dead woman in the next cell – for something whenever he left. Giggler is told to drag the remains of this person who became troll-feed to the torture chamber as the jackalwere is betrayed and locked back in. As it realizes how there is no escape, it tries and successfully stalls Sterling with its hypnotic gaze but Dantilus simply kicks the door to close it and takes care to also lock it after himself. Sterling is slapped awake by the loving hand of this bard who has been aching to smack some sense to him despite the considerable inspiration provided by his antics.

Apparently, no portal is to be found within Zincir’s quarters but instead, one opens inside the iron maiden as Giggler drags the bloody mess by it. Having little choice at this point, everyone enters. They are greeted by a dark hallway with one source of light at the end of the tunnel. Once they reach the light, there are two further hallways leading straight to the left and straight to the right, respectively. In between, opposite to the entryway, is a brass decoration embedded into the wall – or rather, sprouting from it – in the emotionless visage of the Lady of Pain herself. Inspecting this decoration reveals no hidden mechanisms but Vanhedra’s inspection of the hallway itself reveals that the right passage has been used more than the left one. As such, everyone goes right, only to find themselves again in the same spot after a while, as testified by the dwarf who recognizes all the signs.

Acting randomly, trying to test if there is any difference, Sterling rushes to the left and appears again from the third hallway. However, this time there is an ever so small change in the Lady’s expression as a faint, lopsided smile graces her stern lips. Some more random charges are made both to the right and to the left but only when one goes left, does anything change visibly: the smile on the decoration’s face grows wider and more obvious. The third left turn is taken by Vanhedra who actually finds himself ambushed by shadowy things in the darkness before he reaches the light yet again. Their touch saps the warmth from his body as they grab his ankles. These things turn out to be relatively fragile, though, and they are destroyed with relative ease.

More turns to the left have the Lady actually open her lips, although little to nothing can be observed of what lies inside. After three turns since the ambush, her mouth has opened to a full circle big enough to fit a person’s arm. However, people note how the inside of this opening seem to be fitted with razors. Plus, a sudden blot of darkness blocks everyone from seeing deep inside. First, Teera takes her staff and fits it as deep as she possibly can without inserting her hands. She does not reach the back of the hole. Erdan even shoots an arrow inside and based on the time it takes for there to be a thunk of any sort, he estimates that there must be a room on the other side. Taking one for the team, Vanhedra then reaches inside. As he finds himself shoulder-deep inside the mouth of this brass face in the likeness of her Serenity, the blades inside suddenly swirl to life, instantly eviscerating his limb. The mouth also snaps shut, leaving but a malicious smirk. Luckily, there is still enough healing magic available to stabilize his bleeding stump.

Having had enough, the party turns their back to this torturous puzzle and returns through the portal still shimmering at the end of the hall from whence they arrived. If their only way out of Sigil is through the portal to that desert world with its black sun, so be it. None wishes to stay in this Cage any longer.

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