Celestials Continued

The room grew silent after the battle subsided. Jia quickly began tending to the wounded while Joselin and Orek tried to figure out how to free Mirari from the mirror. Before long the silence was broken with the sound of stumbling footsteps. Ravage had reappeared on the balcony overlooking the arena. He appeared dazed, barely able to stand, and leaned heavily on the balcony railing. With the party looking on his eyes seemed to roll back as he toppled over the edge to the arena floor. Again, everyone stood silent fearing that this was another one of Ravage’s tricks.

Weapons at the ready the party moved to surround Hans Drubal’s body. Before the circle could be completed Drubal’s body let out a deafening gasp, his body lurching a couple of feet off the ground. Then, almost as if he were sundered in two, a hideous demonic creature pulled itself free of Hans Drubal while the two fell back to the ground with an enormous thud. Again, the party wondered if this were another attempt at deceit on the part of Ravage. Before anyone could act the demon sprang to its feet and attempted to slay the helpless body of Hans. Grishma moved to block the blow while Sveta grappled the demon.

While Sveta and the demon exchanged blows Orek and Joselin ran to the mirror and pulled it upright. With Omar’s assistance Sveta drug the flailing demon to the mirror. Seeing what the party was planning the demon fought with all its strength to escape and nearly succeeded until Orek yelled for Sveta to release the creature. Sveta dove out of the way as Orek pushed the mirror sending it crashing into the demon. Quickly, Joselin turned the mirror over and just as before Mirari was pushed free while the demon, who you believed to be Ravage, was imprisoned.

While The rest of the party dealt with Ravage, Grishma tended to Hans Drubal. He was conscious but he lacked the strength to do more than weakly smile at the half-giant. Grishma healed his wounds and finally used a restoration spell to return his strength. After more than 800 years of torment Hans Drubal stood a free man. Staring at his hands and then at the party, Hans was teary eyed and grinning. Meanwhile, Ravage, chained just as Hans Had been, flailed and shrieked in a futile attempt to break free.

Before Hans could say anything Miranon appeared again, looming over the arena from the opposite balcony. The Balor’s monstrous body swirled with flames as it spoke, “You have what you came for now surrender the mirror to me.” Drubal stepped to the front of the party and angrily replied, “No.” Seeing that Hans was unarmed, Grishma handed the paladin his greatsword and unsheathed his spare. “Such arrogance!” Miranon bellowed as unfurled his fiery whip. The whip flashed through the air above the Balor and with a mighty crack the stands of the arena filled with Hezrou, Vorcks, Chasme, and Tannaruks.

Quickly the party circled around the mirror while Miranon and his followers spilled into the arena. Massive explosions killed and maimed demons as Orek and the other spell casters unleashed their most powerful spells. Hans Drubal rushed to meet Miranon and stopped the Balor’s advance some distance from the party. Just as the party began to buckle Uriel and Takashi appeared on the balcony above the fighting. Unaware that Hans Drubal was now free of Ravage’s control they assumed that their master was now battling rebellious demons and rushed to his aid. Uriel jumped from the balcony shifting into his werewolf form before hitting the ground.

Many demons had been destroyed, banished back to the Abyss for 101 years, and Miranon was unwilling to sacrifice more for his trophy. Seeing that the tide had turned he ordered his demons to retreat knowing that the party still had to find a way out of the fortress. Miranon and his forces fled out of the arena where they could teleport away.

Hans recognized that Uriel and Takashi were unaware that Ravage had been expelled and decided to keep up the ruse. He ordered Uriel to carry and protect at all costs the mirror that, unknown to Uriel, held Ravage.

Having shared all of Ravage’s experiences for the duration of his imprisonment Hans was also aware of the layout of the fortress. He knew that leaving by conventional methods would be impossible. An army of demons waited for the party outside the fortress. Hans knew that there were dungeons below the fortress that led to the underdark but even Ravage avoided those tunnels as they directly accessed the lower underdark. The only other way out was a bit of a gamble. Ravage had captured an Angel some time ago and had planned to sacrifice the celestial. He was unaware if the Angel still lived but if they could rescue him the Celestial could plane shift the party to safety. To further complicate matters the Angel was held in the upper levels of the fortress in the complete opposite direction of the other way out.

Climbing their way through the fortress the party fought through several ambushes and eventually found the Celestial unconscious but still living. After defeating the Marilith jailer the healers tended to the wounded Angel who in turn took the party to Elysium. While Uriel traveled with the party Takashi, suspicious of Drubal’s behavior, stayed in the Prime Material Plane.

Celestial

Once in Elysium, Uriel was overcome by the plane’s aura of good and fell helpless, crippled by the “sins of his past.” He also began to age rapidly. Whatever magics Ravage used to halt the aging process were severed upon entering Elysium. The Celestial used this as an opportunity to test the party. As Uriel lay dying the Angels asked the party if the werewolf deserved absolution for his many atrocities. Each party member answered the question and gave their reasons. Those who believed in absolution were given the Blessings of Elysium (A powerful buff that may be invoked one time).

Most importantly the party learned that the Celestials had plans in motion to stop the flow of evil outsiders to the Prime Material Plane. First, an attack had already been launched against the first layer of the Abyss. It is from the Iron Fortresses in the Plane of Infinite Portals that demons project themselves into the Prime Material Plane. If a demon’s projection is killed they are merely banished back to the Abyss but if their helpless bodies were killed in the Abyss while their consciousness was in the Prime Material Plane they would be destroyed forever. The Celestials believed that an attack on the Plane of Infinite Portals would bring the demons flooding back to the Abyss and give some relief to the mortals in the Prime.

The second attack was actually more of a gamble because it relied so heavily on the scant knowledge of Asmodeous’ motives. The Celestials widely believed that Asmodeous had become obsessed with a prophecy that, the devil believed, would lead to his domination over the entire multiverse. Recent events like the rise of Cuthalion and Tharizdun, the invasion of the Prime Material Plane, and even the return of Hans Drubal all fit nicely into the events of the prophecy as it unfolded. While current events were strangely similar to Asmodeous’ prophecy the Celestials thought they could manipulate these events to their benefit.

The Nessian Guard is Asmodeous’ greatest legion. All were battle hardened devils that had earned a spot in the most prestigious of all of Hell’s Legions. However, the lord of the 9th had never committed this force to battle. This, the Angels believed, was a sign that he was saving them for something greater. They believed that the sole purpose of the Nessian Guard was to further then ends of the prophecy and be at its heart during its climax. Since this legion had never left the 9th level of Hell until the events on the Prime Material Plane took shape Asmodeous must believe this time to be at hand. The Nessian Guard had been moved to a fortress in the astral plane near a portal that leads directly to the Prime Material Plane. The Celestials plan was simple. Attack and destroy the Nessain Guard. They believed this would force Asmodeous to abandon the Prime Material Plane to protect an integral part of his prophecy. Again, the Celestials recognized how thin the information was that led to this plan but they believed that it would do the most good for the mortals struggling on the Prime.

After resting the party was returned to Freeport to find that much had changed. Admiral Seastar had received reports of Demons and Devils abandoning their offensives and vanishing. The celestial’s plan of drawing the enemy away seemed to be a success. The admiral had a plan to first land in Merithil and march north west from there while Durge would land in Helegrod and sweep west and then north. They would converge at the Morodran/Merethil border for a final push north into Morodra. With no time to waste Durge left the care of Hope and Rosie, who had grown about four times faster than a normal human children, in the hands of Celia and departed for the wars.

Hoping to make amends for slaying Doran, Joscelin gave one of Doran’s claws to Meruvax, the elven ambassador to Freeport, in the hopes that the elves could find a way to resurrect the slain dragon. Meruvax told Joscelin he would see what he could do in his normal arrogant way.

Back at Doran’s Well Hans Drubal was looking to Raziya. She was still suffering from terrible fevers with bouts of hallucinations. Hans explained that Ravage had done horrible things to the girl but with the help of powerful psions. He believed that the party would need to locate another equally powerful psion to undo the damage done by Ravage. It was then that Sveta remembered that an Illithid was hiding in “the Tombs”, Freeport’s prison. The Tombs is a savage place where the courts of Freeport, and often corrupt police, sent prisoners to die. There were no guards save for those who watched the single entrance. Once inside there was usually no way out. Of course the party, after being framed for murder by Sandek, a guard captain, did manage to find their way out of the Tombs with the help of the Illithid that Sveta spoke of.

However, this plan was complicated by the fact that Githyanki bounty hunters had come to Freeport in search of this Illithid who they claimed was a war criminal from one of their many conflicts. To make matters worse the Gith had negotiated the right to search Freeport with the Captain’s Council and were harassing the citizens of the city with questions and threats. When they came to Sveta and told her that they knew she had knowledge of the criminals whereabouts (a bluff they had used on everyone) she replied, “Yeah, and what of it?” The Githyanki demanded to know where he was to which Sveta told him to, “get bent.” Once the Githyanki left, obviously leaving to get more help to deal with the stinky half-orc, the party decided that making a deal with the Gith might not be a bad thing. They are a race that is known to be gifted with psionics and may help Raziya in exchange for the location of the Illithid.

The Githyanki hunter eventually did return with about a dozen of his crew. Joselin spoke to them and asked to speak to their captain. The party met aboard the Githyanki Astral Cruiser and worked out a deal where the Githyanki would send for one of their psions, which would take about a week, in exchange for the location of the Illithid. Once back at Doran’s Well the party decided that perhaps a week was too long to wait and decided to head into the tombs to see the Illithid after all.

The Githyanki, always suspicious of other races, followed the party using their dimension door ability. They quickly learned that the party planned to betray them and followed them into the tombs in search of the Illithid. The party found the Ilithid first where they had met him the first time deep in the Tombs. They quickly negotiated a deal where they would help the Mind Flayer escape the Githyanki in exchange for his help with Raziya.

The Illithid told the party that the process would be dangerous. Raziya, he explained, was of a powerful psionic race of beings that dwell somewhere outside the prime material plane. However, in order to have children they have to take a mortal mate. At some point, as the child ages, they “Transcend” into their natural form and join their people. Raziya had experienced some incredible trauma that prevented her from moving on with her people. To make matters worse her personality had fragmented into numerous different shards. Each of these shards, as the Illithid put it, could physically manifest through Raziya and interact independent of her for short periods of time. He went on to say that to free Raziya, each of these personalities would have to be destroyed. He could bring them out but they could be incredibly dangerous. The party was suspicious of the Illithid’s motives but they agreed to hide him in exchange for his help.

Once the psychic connection was created the Illithid went into a trance. Joselin realized that the Illithid was completely helpless in this state and had to be sure that he was defended at all costs. Before he could react the first personality manifested, that of a crazed orc wildly swinging a great axe. The massive orc charged directly for the Illithid but the party was able to quickly take him down. One after another, personality shards emerged and were dispatched reuniting their essences with Raziya. Some were easy to kill while others like that of a small crying girl were emotionally taxing for the party.

Everything was going smoothly until the Githyanki appeared about halfway through the process. About a dozen Gith warriors dimensioned doored into the room and blocked the exit. Orek quickly summoned several small fire elementals to occupy a few of the warriors while the rest of the party shifted between Gith and Raziya. Ultimately the Githyanki were driven away with four of their own killed in the battle.

After the last of the personalities were destroyed the Illithid warned that there was something more within the small girl. Something not Raziya. It too would have to be dealt with before she could transcend. With little other choice the party told the Mind Flayer to bring forth the challenge. To their horror Ravage manifested free of the mirror. Somehow Ravage had forged a link to Raziya that he was able to use to pull himself free of his prison.

Joselin and Sveta moved to engage the demon while Orek unleashed a hail of spells. Ravage was quick to strike as he bit and clawed at Joselin. His attacks coming so fast that Jia found it difficult to heal the group as Ravages attacks tore through the party. Then, as if things couldn’t get worse, Ravage polymorphed Sveta into a plump slug and sent the majority of the party fleeing under the influence of a fear spell. It was clear that Ravage was about to defeat the party when there was a sudden burst of blinding light that lurched Raziya into the air sending the Illithid hurling into the wall knocking him unconscious.

Raziya floated motionless in the center of the room still bearing the likeness of a young half-elf child but her body now appeared to be made of pure energy. Mustering what strength she had left a second burst of energy engulfed Ravage banishing him back to the Abyss.

After returning Sveta to her normal form the party asked Raziya if she had the ability to divine the location of Philmar and his items that could be used to close the gates to the outer planes. Raziya agreed to try but warned that her time on the Prime Material Plane was limited. She had to return to her people while she still had the strength to. Raziya took Sveta and Joselin by the hand and asked them to close their eyes. Almost as if they were actually there, Joeslin and Sveta could see a small coastal fishing village inhabited by Khemite humans. Even more distinctive was a coral reef that formed a large sheltered lagoon off the coast of the village. “He is there” Raziya said softly.

Orek stepped forward anxiously and asked Raziya what rite or ritual needed to be performed to restore the barriers that had once protected the Prime Material Plane from the outer planes. Raziya explained the ritual to Orek but warned that he must first recover the Rod, Circlet, and Amulet from Philmar and even more dire is that the wizard performing the ritual will lose his life during the process.

“Now I must go.” Smiling and glowing warmly Raziya grasped Sveta’s arm “I hope very much to see you again soon.” Turning away Raziya slowly faded away and was gone.

The party was horribly beaten during the battle but now had to decide what to do with the unconscious Illithid knowing that the Githyanki were waiting.

Celestials Continued

Adoraith Adoraith