After slaying Xanthir, the party got a bit of downtime. It was the last they were likely to see for some time. Arueshalae decided to undertake the final two penances to secure her redemption. First, she went to the temple of Desna for an atonement spell. This would have done the job for a mortal, but as a demon it merely helped her. Next, Bendak decided to help with the final penace. Bringing Tane along to cast the teleport spells required, Bendak took her to his homeland.
Once there he had her spend the day in nature. She helped first ensure that the demons of the Worldwound hadn’t brought ruin to the saurian jungle. Once that was accomplished, she aided in all the small and humble works required of a druid. Trees were replanted, wounded animals were tended to, and lost travelers nudged toward home. Once the work was done, Bendak lead Arueshalae and Tane to one more stop before returning to Drezen.
This time they entered the walled town of Tolguth and went to a home attached to a shop. Bendak removed his mask and set it down on the ground before knocking. It sprouted bone tendrils and crawled over to his other creatures. After a moment, Bendak’s parents answered the door. There was a moment of shock at his unexpected return before the greetings and the questions began. One of the first was from his mother, who quietly asked who the girl was. Bendak dismissed any hopes of his settling down and not living in the woods with dangerous animals anymore by stating that she was probably more interested in one of his cooworkers and also was a succubus.
At dinner, Bendak’s parents were rightfully wary that he had brought a demon home. After some tension, his father admitted that she wasn’t the worst girl he had brought in. Arueshalae wondered who the worst was, and Bendak’s mother launched into a story about a “Jessika” as Bendak groaned. After that, the dinner was a much more cheerful affair. The jungle trip, the light of the hearth, and the sound of the laughter was good for Arueshalae. As they said goodbye and Tane teleported them home, Arueshalae left her past behind in Tolguth.
When the expedition returned to Tolguth, they were greeted by Wase and Gith. Wase had returned from duty on the front lines against the demons. The experience had left him more powerful, but also more internally scarred by the horrors of battle and too many fallen comrades. Poonisher had suddenly left the city, muttering something about needing to help a flying vigilante in a metropolis. The paladin seemed romantically interested in the demon. For her part, she seemed a bit interested, more so than she had been in Tane. However, they had little time to get to know each other, as Queen Galfrey called them for a meeting.
Galfrey met the heroes in the castle. The creatures and the demon waited elsewhere. The queen’s top councilor, an aasimar named Opaline, carried in a pair of metal plates in a case. The Queen explained the plates were from a rare and dangerous tome called the Lexicon of Paradox—the same book of forbidden rituals and incantations used over a hundred years ago to open the Worldwound and destroy Sarkoris. Areelu Vorlesh later tore the book in half and destroyed the portion containing the information about how she opened the Worldwound so that no one could reverse-engineer the process.
Fortunately for the crusaders, the actions of a small group of mercenaries led by Venture-Captain Varian Jeggare, his tiefling accomplice Radovan, and the half-elven paladin Oparal resulted in the book’s rediscovery and restoration, and the complete text was now in crusader hands.
Currently, the Lexicon was in a secure vault in Lastwall, being studied by skilled scholars under careful observation by the Knights of Ozem, but she did bring the pair of thin copper plates she had removed from the artifact concerning a ritual that can, in theory, be used to shut down a small rift between the Material Plane and the Abyss.
Galfrey allowed the party to examine the two plates. They were densely inscribed with runes, incantations, and equations, switching from Thassilonian to Abyssal to Hallit to Aklo, and even to Druidic in places. Between their various magics and languages, the party could confirm that the pages seem to describe a ritual for closing rifts between planes, but also that the ritual was incomplete.
The magic infusing these two plates, combined with a significant source of magical power such as that now wielded by the PCs, should be enough to shut down a smaller rift. And if that worked, then Galfrey could report the success to Lastwall and greatly accelerate the process of deciphering the remainder of the book. She believed that just as the rituals in the Lexicon of Paradox were used to open the Worldwound over a century ago, a powerful group could use the tome to do the reverse: close the Worldwound forever.
At this point, Galfrey asked the party for an update on what they’ve learned. She is particularly intrigued by the revelations from intelligence gathered at the Ivory Sanctum that the potent Nahyndrian crystals are being refined into elixirs of mythic power, and she is concerned by the discovery that the cults of Deskari and Baphomet are seeking to draw Nocticula into their plots. She was a bit more skeptical about the idea of redeemed demons, but willing to tolerate the concept. The rampant use of undead and ear collecting by some party members was probably not important enough to mention to her.
The task the Queen set before the party was complex and dangerous; not only did their growing powers make them the best suited to accomplishing the mission—they might be the only ones capable of doing so. Galfrey goes through the list of tasks she’d like the party to accomplish as a prelude to the eventual mission of closing the Worldwound forever.
1. Destroy the Nahyndrian Refinery: The party must travel to the Midnight Fane where Nahyndrian crystals are refined, search the fane for the methods by which the demons and their allies are creating these elixirs, then destroy their tools, resources, and inventors.
2. Close the Midnight Fane Rift: Next, they must use the Lexicon of Paradox to close the small but permanent rift within the fane that connects this world to the Abyss.
3. Prevent the Midnight Alliance: They must travel beyond the rift into the Midnight Isles to sabotage the Worldwound’s attempt to secure an alliance with Nocticula. This may require a face-to-face encounter with the demon lord, who seems to have her own reasons to not want to enter this alliance. The best place to go to secure an audience with Nocticula is her capital city of Alushinyrra, and the best way to get her attention would be to seek methods of becoming notorious in the city.
4. Find the Crystals’ Source and Cut Off Their Flow: Finally, they must discover where in the Midnight Isles the Nahyndrian crystals are coming from, then put a stop to that operation.
As the meeting ended, Queen Galfrey gave each party member a talisman of true faith. Since this mission required them to delve deeply into the Abyss and to interact with some of its most dangerous and manipulative denizens, these items would warn their bearers when they might unwittingly act in ways that could endanger their souls.
The Queen also said that she herself would fight alongside the party on this mission until they had to enter the Abyss. Then she would have to remain on the material side of the portal to complete half the ritual. The Queen was not blessed with mythic powers, but she was an expert combatant in her own right. Arueshalae would not be coming on this mission. She feared that she could be corrupted again in the realm of the succubus queen. However, she could give her anarchic gift to party members. Normally, this ability is used by succubi to tempt mortals with the offer of power. In her redeemed state, Arushalae could give it freely. Those who had the gift would be a bit more powerful and be able to communicate with her telepathically, but would have to trust her not to hurt them through the mental link. Bendak, Tane, and Wase accepted the offer*.
The party and the Queen headed out to the rift. It was located in a place called the Locust Shrine. An imposing door marked the entrance. Wase approached and knocked. Nobody answered, so the party let themselves in. A statue of the demon lord Deskari activated when they entered. It began reciting a speech, something about how interlopers would die a thousand screaming deaths or the like. Four incubi entered the room. Rather than starting a fight, they bowed low and announced that their leader had been expecting the party. Not knowing what to do in this situation, they agreed to meet their leader. They were unused to situations such as this, since usually the demons all got shot in the throat before they could finish speaking.
The party was lead through a wide hall to a back room of the temple. A huge alchemical lab made mostly of glass took up most of the room. Three more incubi joined the procession, along with a floating tumor demon called a gibrileth. At the chamber, the eyeless demon woman named Minagho extended a greeting to the party.
A beaten and manacled paladin crouched by her side. Minagho had been involved in the early plot to destroy Kenebraes. She was eager for vengance, while some of the party were vaguely aware of her existence. The Queen recognized the paladin as Yaniel. Her current weak and broken appearance seemed a mockery of the warrior she once was.
Yaniel was the famous hero who had once owned Wase’s sword and was thought to be dead for nearly the past 20 years. Minagho offered for the party to take Yaniel and go. The Queen strongly desired to rescue Yaniel, and Tane read Yaniel’s mind for treason and advocated taking the offer. The talismans didn’t see anything alignment-threatening about it. The party agreed-for now- and began taking Yaniel away. Then the trap was sprung.
Tane turned out to be under mind control and cast Haste on the demons. An unseen assailant tossed a bomb emitting noxious gas into the room. Thankfully, the gas mostly worked against the demons. Gith was the first of the party to respond, blasting Minagho and several of her minions with a fireball. An ash giant stomped in and nearly slashed Hook with a hook.
Bendak nearly managed to summon a whole pack of T.rexes, but he just wasn’t strong enough yet. Someday. For the moment, he summoned one T.rex, which devoured an incubus. Wase struck down two more. The gibrileth unsuccessfully tried to summon additional demons as the giant struggled to push over the T.rex. At this point “Yaniel” revealed demonic limbs and began tearing into the Queen. A cambion alchemist became visible and hurled bombs at the Queen. The Queen took an opening to cast a spell that freed Tane from the fiend’s control. Tane immediately cursed a large number of the demons with blindness. As they blinked, Gith launched another fireball into the alchemy lab. The equipment reacted and exploded as well. The gibrileth, several incubi, and Minagho were incinerated. The alchemist cursed and screamed in fury at the destruction of his life’s work. Gith used a Quicken rod that Tane had spent about 2 1/2 weeks to cast a bunch of spells during the fight, but had to drop on it on the floor when it was emptied. Galfrey was badly hurt, but her paladin abilities quickly got her back to normal.
The party began to focus their attacks on “Yaniel” as the last two incubi teleported away. “Yaniel” revealed she was actually Minagho in disguise. The other one was a disguised incubus. Minagho knew the fight was turning against her, so she telekinetically stole the Quicken rod off the floor and teleported away with a laugh.
The giant stopped fighting. He had actually been magically manipulated into fighting for the demons and had been freed by the Queen’s earlier spell she cast for Tane. He was evil, but temporarily joined the party to get revenge. All that was left to deal with was the alchemist. Bendak summoned another T.rex to attack him, and Gith fireballed both the alchemist and the dinosaur. Both survived. The alchemist used an invisibility potion and escaped the temple. Bendak tried sealing the door to the alchemy room with himself and his creatures inside, but the alchemist was already gone.
Tane was furious after being forcibly turned against his friends and wanted his Anarchic Gift removed. Arueshalae apologized, but was unable to take the gift away without wounding his mind. Galfrey, however, was prepared for this situation and cast Dispel Chaos to rid him of the gift.
The party began searching the area and Gith did some psychic readings. Tane guessed that Yaniel was actually most likely still alive and Minagho had been using her as a backup source of life force. The party found Yaniel as a dried husk shut away in a closet, still bearing a spark of life. The Queen broke her curse and Yaniel returned to full life. The party gave her clothing and water. Yaniel recognized her sword, Radiance, in Wase’s hand. She felt that it suited Wase more in her present state, but she did ask to hold it once more. Wase handed it over. When Yaniel took hold of it, Radiance revived like its old master, revealing it was a mighty Holy Avenger, a weapon capable of breaking spells and butchering demons in great and equal measures.
*I’m not sure if certain players wanted the gift, as they haven’t said anything about it yet. I’ll update this bit if need be.