"Day of the Jackel" - January 18th, 2003
INTRODUCTION - WILL MEETS WITH MERZIN
Will, you were called away by Mumsford just prior to the party leaving for Hell. You were torn. The mission
to Hell was foremost in your mind, but knowing that Mumsford had given you that sword for this very mission, convinced
you that he wouldn't call you away if it wasn't something important.
You had were taken to a meeting with an assistant of Vavasha's named Merzin. On the way in the guard warned you to watch yourself...Merzin's magic worked in shadows, and the guard did not trust him. You discounted this information...after all did not Vavasha, the Emperor's mage, trust Merzin. Superstitious guards!
Merzin told you that the Empire and the warriors of Shronth could not win against the forces gathered by The Red Jackel. Merzin insisted that the whole situation with the Seal needed to be resolved as quickly as possible. "The Jackel is using the Seal...and the failure of the humans to deal with this, as a rallying cry for the non-human armies he has gathered to his side. We can diminish his power...if the whole affair with the Devils and the Seal can be ended...and ended soon."
Merzin went on to suggest to you that the party was becoming embroiled in a Hellish play for power, and that they were pawns in the greater plans of political powers in Baator. Merzin paused, and Will expected that a brilliant piece of wisdom was about to be shared. Merzin simply said, "Trust the son."
Will scoffed. "That is the best you can do? For Kempin's sake man...tell me more than that!"
Merzin laughed darkly, his eyes flashing. "Trust the son, for the son loves his mother." Will was even angrier now, and raised his hand in a fist, about to say something rather rude and threatening. But Merzin waved his hand. "Re-join your friends..." And there was a flash!
Will was in the safehouse...on the 4th layer of Baator...with the other Finders.
As Will appeared in a flash, he was shocked by his strange surroundings, and drew forth the blackish red steel of his sword...the sword Hellbound. Shapiro, the Hooded Mage took one step backwards at the sight of the sword...but then quickly composed himself. The other party members quickly caught Will up on recent events. The party then continued to discuss whether they should destroy the Wyrm's Tear as a seperate mission or as party of their mission to kill She Who Suckles the Hoards of Hell.
Shapiro pointed out politely, that focusing on one goal at a time might be more fruitful, and that it is possible that once the Red Queen was dead, it might prove untimely to destroy the Wyrm's Tear. Shapiro was clear though, that it was completely up to the party...and he didn't care if the Wyrm's Tear was destroyed or not. The party decided to not go through with the Wyrm's Tear mission at this time...and to deal with it later. Shapiro gave them a map showing another safe house. "I will meet you there in three days...go there when and how you will, but don't stay here too long. This safehouse may no longer be safe."
As Shapiro left the party watched him go. They noticed that several parties ducked from alley to alley behind him, as if they were trailing him. The party decided to go to the second safehouse as soon as possible, but then they began to argue. When should they go? How should they go? Should they go see Jack Skull first? Or should they go straight to the safehouse? That's when they noticed that horrible skeletal hounds approached from below.
A hound leapt up the stair and latched onto Casiel's arm. Jeremiah began casting a Wind Walk spell, as Will charged forward to free Casiel from the jackel's grip. Casiel and Will chopped at the creature...and when Hellbound struck the creature, he exploded into dust, which quickly disappeared. The party grasped tightly to each other...and the Wind Walk went into affect. As they escaped as wisps of wind into the hot air of the hellish sky, they saw scores of such hounds approaching their old safehouse at a run.
Drifting across the sky, the party engaged in whispered plans as to whether they should visit Jack Skull, or go directly to the new safehouse provided by Shapiro. It was decided to go to the safehouse. It turned out that their safehouse was actually a room on the 4th floor of an apartment-like building. All manner of desperate beast dwelled in the floors below them...but the 4th floor...the top floor...seemed abandoned. The party booby trapped the stair and hall to give them warning of an approach on foot...and then began what they felt would be a long wait until they again saw Shapiro.
There was a hole in the ceiling through which the red air and distant cavern roof was visible. The party had worried that an attack might come through this hole...but in the end it was a message that came through the hole. "Do you remember Jot? Do not hurt me...for I bring a message." The Quasit told the party that they must go to a business called the Tortured Soul...and ask the bartender that they are there to meet with the "Padre." Jot told the party how to find the place and then left them to consider the offer.
The party decided they could not ignore this invitation, and Wind Walked over to the Tortured Soul. They entered through a fireplace chimney, and found themselves in a bedroom where a female soul was being apparently raped by a large devil. Ruahdin paused at the door, wondering what he could do to help the female soul...but in the end, he did nothing. Under the door as wisps of wind, down a hallway with many doors, from behind which wicked screams issued, the party entered what can only be described as a large bar/brothel. These were unpure women...who had been damned to hell...and now suffered for their earthly sins.
The party drifted to what appeared to be doors leading to a private backroom, and slipped beneath the door. Inside as a handsomely outfitted smoking room. Thick carpets, artwork on the walls, ornate furniture, and a raging fireplace that a small shed would fit within. In a chair before the fire sat a devil with bright red skin, horns curving out from his head, a dark mustache and beard, and legs more like that of a goat than a man. It was decided that Jeremiah would approach the devil.
It was revealed that this was Belial...and that he was the Captain of Lies, rather than the false name given to the party by Shapiro. It was clear that She Who Suckles the Hoards of Hell had toppled this, her father, from power in order to make him hate her. Only those that love her can destroy her after all. Belial was less than happy to serve as a Captain beneath his daughter, and made it clear that this was no favor on her part...but only an attempt to further humiliate him. Belial revealed that Malvorith, Captain of the Hoards...better know to the party as Jack Skull, was none other than the son of the Red Queen...She Who Suckles. Belial further revealed that Jack Skull still loved his mother.
Belial spoke with pride for his grandson as he described the grand way in which Malvorith had taken back his position on the 4th level of Baator after his exile on Kempin. He said that Malvorith had not yet chosen a side...and that the party had been chosen for a very specific purpose. Because of his love for his mother, Jack Skull would not move against her. But Shapiro had come up with the idea to make Jack Skull make a choice. Put the party in jeopardy while Jack Skull was present...give the danger to the Azure Kingdom, and the World of Kempin, a physical personification in the form of these party members in danger. Emotional bait in order to force Jack Skull's hand. For it was only Jack Skull's hand that could destroy She Who Suckles.
Once again the devils held back many details from the party...but it was clear that events had been set in motion long ago that led to this point. The party would attack the Red Queen...at a time and place, with a set of circumstances influenced by Belial and Shapiro...though they had no hope of succeeding in their task. But this very helplessness was the key to turning Malvorith's hand against his mother. Once the Red Queen was no more...Jack Skull would clearly withdraw the devils from the Azure Kingdom, or so Belial suggested. The party asked Belial if they could destroy the Wyrm's Tear on the alter in his tower. Belial agreed.
Wind Walking to the tower, the party was aware that they many be walking into a trap. But all was as promised when they reached Belial's tower. Belial met them there. Jeremiah opened the extra-dimensional hole and the rope from the rope trick spell dropped and dropped and dropped, and continued to drop. Jeremiah eventually retrieved the Wyrm's Tear and closed the hole...and all the hundreds of feet of magical rope withdrew. The Tear was placed upon the alter...and a great discharge of energy occurred. Belial appeared drunk on all the energy "sacrificed" on his alter...and he thanked the party for being so reasonable.
The party Wind Walked away to return to their safehouse. They would be given instructions soon. They observed that a man with a pointed hat was following them below on the street...despite the fact they were Wind Walking. They descended into an alley and made contact with the man. It was the evil soul of Zelagorn...the wizard that a little over a decade before had attempted to take over the Azure Kingdom for himself. The same wizard that had told Oren a little of his past in return for Oren playing a deadly drinking game with him...a drinking game involving poison from the Black Lotus.
Zelagorn was very disappointed that Oren was not present. The party told him that Oren had been called away to defend his title after bringing Zoven to his knees at the arena beneath Babel's Tower. Zelagorn made them promise to give Oren a message. "Tell him that everyone deserves a second chance. Sometimes people do things due to their past...or great harm that they perceive has been done to them. A good man will be patient with such people, and let them learn their lesson and keep their lives. Tell Oren that. It is very important to me that he keep this in mind." The party was perplexed, but promised to pass the message on.
The party returned to the safehouse, and waited...and waited...and waited. Soon they would play their part...emotional bait. Soon they would force Malvorith's hand. Soon, Jack Skull would have to make his choice...man or devil? Kempin or Hell?
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