Episode 58: Magnus and the Demon Snake
Keen slept, beginning his long recovery from the ordeal of resurrection. The rest of the party engaged in such minor celebrations of the Festival of the Hunt as they could, exchanging gifts and enjoying the festival foods Magnus had had delivered earlier in the day, though the ridiculously oversized, curved dining room table made this awkward. The discussion turned to the curse upon the horde of platinum coins which they had recently uncovered, and how to learn more about it. Magnus noted that during his time at the El Astrum Public Library, the most frequent vistors to the library in search of history and folklore were devotees of Syf, and he wondered if perhaps the local priest or priestess might know something. As the talked Keen awoke, and Sirlius related the details of the curse to him, which they had discovered while he was dead. Keen apologized sincerely to the party for the trouble his recent adventures had brought, and gave all 1100 of his platinum coins to Sirlius, in case it would help him uncover a way to lift the curse.
Taking Magnus’s advice, Yuna recalled a minor temple to Syf on the 7th Tier of Uman and together with Sirlius visited the temple to see what they could learn. They were met by the temple’s Holy Father, Rollick Rollingbottom, an aging and kindly gnome. He seemed to take a liking to the pair, and listened to their description of the cursed coinage and its origins with interest. Rollick had little first-hand knowledge of either Underdark history or the working of curses, but recalled the temple’s library contained a scholarly work called Tobin’s Grimoire, which contained amongst several other topics a compendium of Underdark folk tales, histories, and stories.
Sirlius examined the work closely, and with his superior understanding of written languages was able to identify key passages in Undercommon that spoke of an ancient Drow city, Na’Aldrathzil, where once reigned a Drow king, Pharaun the Mad. The king was overthrown by the adherents of Lolth, the city sealed and a curse laid upon it such that any who should attempt to profit by the wealth or works of the Mad King and his followers should know only ruin. And it describe in general details the location of Na’Aldrathzil: North-Eastern Telisar, a region that included – on the surface – the very city in which they now stood.
The pair thanked Holy Father Rollick and returned home, relating the information to their companions. The implications seemed clear: Solaufein Margoleth, the Drow wizard that had previously owned their house, had somehow come into possession of a horde of platinum taken from the cursed city; it seemed likely that the tunnels beneath their home in which Keen had so recently died probably led to the Underdark, perhaps to the cursed city of Na’Aldrathzil itself.
The evening having grown late, Keen returned to his rest; Whisper remained close to him in his bedroom, though she too quickly fell asleep. But at the stroke of Black Hour a violent explosion rocked the city. The party rushed outside to discover the glow of fire and flame far above them, perhaps on the 2nd Tier. More troubling was the great tear in the sky, which had hung like a wound in the blackness for many seasons now, had grown, nearly doubling in size, and from it streamed a sickly green light. A shout came from the two Initiates of the Reformed Martial Order of Bahamut still guarding their street, and the party watched as tiny demons popped into existence up and down the street, descending on the pair. They quickly dispatched the tiny fiends, and one took off at a run to alert the Order. More imps appeared, attacking the party, but were quickly brought down by Magnus, Yuna, Ara and Sirlius in the street; the final monster picked out of the air with a well-timed crossbow bolt from Keen, shooting from his bedroom window.
The party looked on in horror as several more explosions rocked the tiered city: the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th tiers at least. Screams and panic could be heard now, and Whisper, climbing to her rook in the attic, could see fires beginning to dot the darkness of the 7th tier also. A final explosion released a huge fireball into the night sky from the direction of the Main Gate of Uman, and moments later Yuna received an urgent message from Bartok Brescht, captain-general of the Uman City Watch, entreating the party to assist the guards at the Gate.
Magnus, Yuna and Ara immediately took off at a run for the Main Gate, while Sirlius and Whisper, concerned for the well-being of Keen, debated staying behind with him. In the end the three agreed to join the others in defending the city, but Keen agreed to wear the Hat of True Frog and stay safely stowed in Whisper’s pack. The left the remaining Initiate of the Order to guard their hosue, and quickly followed their friends.
Magnus, Yuna and Ara arrived at the gates well ahead of the others, and were alarmed to discover that in addition to a multitude of the tiny fire imps attacking the city inhabitants and setting small fires, the guard were engaged with a one imp riding huge Alnaar Demon, a flying snake-like monstrosity some 50 feet in length. The demon’s blackened, charred scales were shot through with crackling orange and red, like the fires of a forge. The Alnaar Demon writhed and circled the guard, striking out with blazing red fangs and devouring guardsmen in a single mouthful. The three adventurers rushed to their aid and Magnus unstoppered his Iron Flask, releasing the horrifying spectral aberration known as Vaxrithar Unshackled – the living embodiment of the dreams of an ancient insane beholder the party had dispatched deep inside the Pashtum Bank. Under Magnus’s control the spectral beholder engaged the demon, possessing it. Vaxrithar Unshackled vanished into the Demon, its horrible central eye opening in the centre of the snake’s head and six writhing eye-stalks bursting forth from the skull. The three then climbed aboard the Demon, which Magnus flew to the 2nd Tier, stopping only to pick up a startled Sirlius and Whisper and destroy whatever demons they could along the way.
When they reached the 2nd Tier, they observed that both the 3rd and 2nd had suffered major attacks; the entire Brescht compound appeared to be ablaze. They found Bartok Brescht and his elite guard engaged with a 16ft tall Tanarruk Demon near the gatess. As they descended to intervene, Bartok swore a foul oath and smote the demon with his mace, creating a thunderous explosion as bolts of lighting struck the demon from all sides. The immediate danger abated for the moment, Bartok conferred with the party and they learned that while the entire city was under attack from demons, there had been simultaneous, coordinated strikes against key strategic locations: the entire Temple District on the 6th Tier, the Pashtum Bank and other Merchant Prince family holdings here on the 2nd, and the city’s Main Gate had all suffered fiery explosions. Worst of all, the watch stations had been attacked by the sudden appearance of robed fanatics who had slain the guards and released all prisoners; Bartok warned Yuna that this included Mera Maryndottir, the mad Lady of the Hearth they had so recently captured.
As the weary half-orc related this news, a group of the elite guard dragged one of the robed attackers before them, gravely injured but still alive. Bartok briefly interrogated the man, a human, who laughed, declaring that it was too late to stop what comes, and invoked the name Graz’zt as he died. This news seemed to shock Bartok, who turned his back on the party and watched the city burn in silence. Yuna recognized the name as one of the Demon Lords of the Abyss, said to be godly spawn of Tiamat, the Rainbow Queen, and who had commanded the armies of the Abyss in the Blood War against the Devils of Avernus for time beyond measure. Magnus realized that this seemed to confirm Whibraxis’s warning to the party that the Blood War would spill onto the Material Plane. Bartok grunted, saying, “If this is true, then we are already lost.” The party also realized that the robes of the dead fanatic were the color of oxblood – the very same as those worn by the Trajzte ur Flasch cultists that had taken their former companion Levani.
Bartok Brescht seemed to rouse himself then, and considered the giant snake demon with beholder eye-stalks still floating sedately in the air above them. He asked Magnus what he intended to do with it. Magnus instructed the possessed demon to fly to Greencrack Copper Mine, some seven days' journey to the north, knowing that his hold over the will of Vaxrithar Unchained would hold only another 30 minutes or so. He cautioned the party that once his hold was broken, he could not predict what the spectral beholder might choose to do. Bartok seemed to accept this and, rallying his guard to him, set off for the Pashtum Bank which was still under attack.
New Side Quest Rating: Underdarky
Main Quest Level: Escalating
Major Encounters Avoided: ??
RP Rating: Awesome!