In which our heroes ascend to Heaven and muster the Armies of Hestavar to save the settlers of the Berare river valley…..
The night opens with five heroes desperately fighting a hunting party of thri kreen, who seem intent on adding “humanoid” to the cook pots tonight. Alruna fight alone at the front of the battle-lines, desperately fending off a horde of bounders who swarm over her. While she does that Sioned and Rook tangle with a pair of vicious marauders, while Pieter banishes the mantis warrior who leads the hunt. Soon enough the warrior returns though, and Alruna’s situation starts to look desperate. Alruna blows a few more bounders away, constantly shifting position in an attempt to slow down the flanking maneuvers the bounders use, Pieter fires off his best healing and summons his healing spirit.
In the end, with one marauder down, the mantis warrior calls off the hunt. Three bounders escape. The mantis warrior leaps over a ruined wall, but Alruna charges around a corner and cuts him down in a heroic flurry of blows. The last thri kreen, the marauder, nearly gets away but is cut down as he flees.
The sounds of more thri kreen mustering drives the party into opening the gate before they’ve even taken a short rest. Rook touches the Pyramid of the Dead Sea, a tall tri-faced obelisk, and it steals from him the memory of him dying from drowning in the seas off the shores of the Caliph Al Rashiq’s lands. Everyone piles through in short order….
.... only to discover a horde of zombies moving to attack them when they exit the Pyramid of the Sea in the Sargasso Graveyard. Aeran quickly leads everyone out, dodging around buildings and using close “alleyways” between mausoleums to avoid sight of most of the horde. But without Sioned and Rook running interference, drawing zombies away from the path of the group, everyone would surely have been swarmed. Alruna guides the way, having spotted signs of life off in the distance.
Eventually the group escapes the zombie horde and takes a quick breather before continuing onwards.
At a large mausoleum everyone sees the Dustmen going about their business. They speak w. Mr’vin, a remarkably depressing watchman who seems to think there’s no real point to much of anything, he does take them into the mausoleum before handing them over to a senior “dustie.” Ei Vene is an older tiefling woman, she’s emaciated to the point of appearing skeletal. She agrees to pass them through the gate to Sigil, collects the toll of a platinum a head, and instructs them on the principles of Dustman philosophy. The key to the gate is simply to think of the death you wish to have, but the gate itself is somewhat intelligent (and a great believer in Dustman philosophies) and will punish anyone who does not understand them, though belief is not necessary.
No one is injured as Ei Vene’s explanations are very good, and everyone emerges safely in the Cage. Jerek’s is a funeral parlor in a bad part of town, but seems to be run well. Jerek, a tall and thin human man, rushes them out saying “You need to leave, Factol Skall is soon to be arriving.” He apologizes at the brusqeness, but nonetheless deposits the group on the street.
As business is finished up the group notices a group of “trouble” walking down the street towards them, looks like a liche followed by a pack of followers. Given how little reaction they draw it’s even more shocking when screams from Sigilians erupt from the other end of the street. As the Lady of Pain emerges from an alley, flanked by a posse of dabus, her shadow slices outwards mercilessly cutting at least one innocent.
The dabus speaks, warning Skall to surrender peacefully and depart the Cage lest he meet the same fate as the other reluctant factols. Everyone except Sioned knows it’s time to get out of Dodge as Skall replies that he’s grown in power and is not about to back down to the Lady of Pain. (Sioned is too busy feeling the laser-like focus of The Lady’s gaze on her, for though she says nothing it’s clear the Lady of Pain is intensely interested in Sioned.)
As explosions and violence erupts the group dashes down the street to escape the destruction. Behind them there are the sounds of a fierce battle, featuring deadly-powerful magicks, for all of about 7 or 8 seconds. Then there is a deadly, and ominous, silence. No one anywhere will ever see or hear from Skall again.
Tiki, and Princess Lysistrata, take their leave of the group. Tiki takes the group to the House of Valdar, the PTC House in Sigil, and arranges to pick up payment later before departing with Lysistrata. People comment on what a dog Tiki is as it’s apparent he’s managed to seduce the princess as they’re clearly looking to rent some rooms for a little fun now that they’re safe.
In the PTC’s house they find chaos. Valdar has apparently fled the House now that Sigil has become so dangerous. In his place he’s left Pietra, an overworked and slightly desperate half-elf. Pietra expresses some dissatisfaction with her factor to Sioned, and says that Valdar would surely not help one of Estevan’s agents even if he should. But since she’s really quite upset with Valdar, and since Sioned’s mission is to the advantage of the PTC, she writes Sioned a letter of credit and sends her off to the Forge.
Pietra warns Sioned that the Godsmen were recently decapitated by Duke Rowan Darkwood’s “Takers” who slew the Godsmen’s factol. (their leader) That war is over as “The Lady slew or banished the lot of the Takers right quick afterwards”. However the upshot is that Silvari is the new high-up-man in The Forge, and he’s quite hostile towards Valdar (and thus the PTC). Pietra asks Sioned to try to keep the price low for using his gate to Hestavar, and to keep an eye out for the key if they can discover it, but says she expects Silvari’s anger to keep the price high.
As they depart the House of Valdar Alruna suffers a vision of men battling desperately at a makeshift wall. Some call out to Alruna, praying to her for aid. Robb puts a stop to it, saying they would be better to pray to Erathis . . . a real god. The vision passes as Alruna chooses not to go to help the battle.
The group successfully navigates the Lower Ward and reaches the Forge. Though the journey is not without some trouble as they are ambushed by a gang looking for a tithe for passing through their territory, Rook threatens the lot of them and they retreat without a fight or payment.
At the Forge Sioned and everyone cool their heels for a while before Silvari comes out to see them. He’s an immense, grotesquely, obese man. (tiefling) He clearly knows Pizarro is the PTC’s spymaster and as much as calls Sioned a spy when she says she works for him, Sioned is bluffing at the time to conceal her relationship with Estevan. The two bargain, in a process that both clearly enjoy, and settle on a fair price of 12,000 gold to use the gate. Silvari suggests that Sioned betray the PTC by letting him pad another 10,000 gold onto the bill, for which he’ll give her 10,000 gold. (his goal is to make Valdar poorer) Sioned cannily agrees, takes the money, signs the bill, and resolves to return the 10,000 gold to the House of Valdar when they return. She knows no agent who would betray the Consortium in such a manner, but she’s met several who would let their outside contact think they had done so in order to close a deal on more friendly terms.
The passage to Hestavar itself is uneventful. Everyone emerges into bright light on one of Hestavar’s islands.
Alruna brings the group straight to the War Academy where she sees the cadets arming for battle and the officers racing around mustering the armies of angels. The one angel she speaks to directs her to Erathis’s palace, there to speak to “the Fallen one, Machariel”. (some explanation of angelic nature to the non-religious members of the group follows as Alruna explains how an angel should be just a tool, not a person)
At the palace the group is brought by Machariel into the presence of the three Gods of Hestavar; Erathis, Pelor, and Ioun. Also present is the exarch of the Raven Queen known as Akasha. Together they reveal that Alruna has been given the power she has in order to lead the hosts of Hestavar into battle on the world of Carta. Alruna is shown the Wardrobe Gates, and told that when she is next called she must take one of them with her. Ioun grants Sioned a boon, a boon of knowledge, though it’s fuzzy at the moment she promises Sioned that when the time is right what she needs to know will become clear.
Everyone then rests for a time.
An hour or so later everyone finds themselves on a great mustering field. Machariel is there, along with Akasha and a host of angelic and exalted warriors. Both wardrobe gates are there as well. As Alruna steps onto the field a vision overwhelms her.
Alruna vision shows Torgar and Yuggoth battling, they are both huge figures (towering over the hills) and are locked in mortal combat. Nearby Grithka lies wounded, her brother standing over her blazes fire forth in a wave that washes over hordes of creatures charging them. Goliaths from Tablarax and settlers die trying to hold back a horde of minotaurs charging down on the escaping women and children fleeing south along the river. Alruna’s vision finally draws down to an old, gray-haired, woman. Tara (“the Terror”) is in the back of a bouncing wagon tending to Jeb, who lies unconscious in the wagon’s bed alongside other casualties of the battle. She prays to Alruna, “I’ve never had truck with gods, but if you have the power to save us as you saved your companions you must come now. For if you will not come we are surely doomed. Save us Alruna!”
Answering the call Alruna’s body collapses on the mustering field in Hestavar. Her spirit flies down from the heavens towards the world, but not so quickly that she fails to graps the wardrobe as she passes by it.
There is a blaze of light as Alruna appears, floating, above the wagon. As she descends there is a tremendous explosion as the Wardrobe Gate shatters. The explosion is deadly, and it injures several settlers who were too close to it. Afterwards a black hole in reality is left, a cracked in the worlds, a gate created by the destruction of something as powerful as the Wardrobe Gate.
Machariel charges through the rift in time and space. Following him the angelic hosts stream forth. With a lending of divine power to Grithka Machariel heals her, though she is still wounded. Together with the Fire Lord the three assault Torgar, even as he tears the last essence of Yuggoth to shreds.
Leading the battle lines Alruna, and the rest of the group, fight through waves of minotaurs. Alongside them are settlers, goliaths from Tablarax, orcs from the nearby hills, and fiery demons summoned from the depths of Carta. The combined army is irresistable, and soon the minotaurs are fleeing back towards their camp, pursued and slaughtered by the army.
When the battle is done it is discovered that Boss Simkins and about a hundred of the settlers and orcs who held the pass (at what is now being called Simpkin’s Wall) have survived by retreating into a cave in the defile. Simkins is injured, as is everyone still alive, but is in fighting form. Robb is much worse, his penchant for leading from the front combined with his willingness to die for Alisse and his future children have again resulted in him taking critical wounds, he will survive but will not even awake from his coma for some days.
The gleanings from the barbarian camp results in the settlers giving Sioned 100,000 gold in loot in thanks for her services. Machariel learns to channel the power of Carta (the world) to create souls, but warns Erathis not to come here for the link is permanent and now that it is made he can never leave the lands of the Berare river valley again, which is not what Erathis wants for herself at all.
Spiritually we can count Robb as a true convert to Erathis, Boss Simpkins converts (though his heart isn’t in it he is a man of his word). Machariel is pretty much now a local god in the valley. And it seems there’s a new religion in town, so to speak, though no one will admit it there is an underground worship of Alruna that is starting up as well. (let’s hope Alruna never hears of it)
The next day everyone meets in Sigil, at the Golden Apple. Estevan takes some of the gold from Sioned to fund operations in the Cage, the rest he uses to buy people magic items.
Thus endeth the Heroic Tier.