Oh, yes, I went there. (Or, you know, will go there once we get to the next game diary update.)
But first, a bit of wonderment from my over-tired and over-stimulated brain.
I realize that the set-up we’ve got here for earning recipe XP is rather inelegant. Make-shift. Clunky, even. But what if–and that’s all this is so far–what if I found a way to fix that? Would you use it more, do you think?
What I’m looking at is building a custom web app for What to Feed Your Raiding Party and (pie in the sky dreaming, it feels like) eventually a phone app that would allow you to register your progress easily and maybe automate it a bit. Thus, getting away from the whole Buddy Press aesthetic with the unnecessary feature-bloat. Obviously this is still in the brainstorming phase and wouldn’t get started on until next year, but it’s definitely something I’m interested in pursuing.
And while you tumble those possibilities around, here, have an another installment of…
It was the witch’s cave we’d found, as evidenced by the fact that she herself emerged to greet us.
After, of course, ensnaring us in a magical web and dousing us with holy water to make our intentions clear.
All were welcome in her cave except Kelch. This puzzled us as Kelch has been nothing but helpful all this time. What she told us, and he(?) confirmed has turned my heart to stone and hopefully Melora will understand my future actions in his regard. It would appear that quite some time ago–the night spent at the fort, to be exact–our Kelch was murdered as a matter of convenience and a shape-shifter took his place. When we thought that Shannon and company had fled while at Castle Pantera it was actually “Kelch” attempting to dispose of the other two, but the ground opening up interfered.
We have yet to come across Larem, and Shannon was visibly distraught at this news. But enough time spent on the traitor…
The “Mad Witch” Hexla seems to have brought herself here to Baator while experimenting with spellwork that would allow her to travel the different planes. Unfortunately, the supplies she needs (sweet grass and bat skulls) to make the potion to return home or leave can neither be found or magicked in this realm, so she stays and sustains herself by producing what she needs through other spells. As we already knew, the devils stay out of her way–apparently it’s the threat of holy water and her staff of dispersion that swayed them–but there was not much we could do or offer in exchange for her help.
There was one thing she could tell us, about the Pillar of Skulls. Apparently they have the answers for leaving this plane, but they ask a steep price.
After fording the blood stream again, we came to a veritable tower of Babel–all of these heads stacked upon one another in various states of decay. The large ogreish head on top seemed to be in charge but even he had a hard time stilling their tongues (those that still had them, that is). We stated our purpose and the price was set: a life would be needed.
It was tragically fortunate, therefore, that we had one in our midst who could be of such service. I will say not much more than that the shape-shifter who has been impersonating Kelch is no longer of our party anymore, but was given the opportunity to atone for his misdeeds and aid our escape from Baator.
The skulls told us of the Great Road of Averniss, the bricks of which would act as a key to open a portal out of this plane. We were given directions that would take us past the keep of Bel–someone we were not keen on meeting–but it was our only option so we left.
Our journey to the Great Road was not without incident. During our third crossing of the river of blood we were set upon by a pair of vicious, very large snake-like creatures. Up to our waists in muck we were ill-matched for this fight, but Kira’s arrows eventually felled both beasts and we were able to make it to the other side and catch a glimpse of Bel’s monstrous castle in the distance.
Creatures roamed inside its gates and we skirted the keep at a far distance to avoid their notice. At the rear of the castle we finally caught sight of the road but acquiring a brick thereof would be no simple task. Legions of devilish beings filled the road in clumps and packs, as that of an army readying for deployment. Still keeping our distance, we traveled parallel to the road for a distance with the masses unchanged.
Vlax proposed starting a fight among the creatures to create a diversion. He sent out an inflammatory whisper on the wind that seemed to work as far as starting a scuffle, but opened no hole Teran could slip through to retrieve the needed brick, much less return undetected. Air support soon arrived to break it up, anyway. Thanks to his gift for languages, Vlax was able to translate some of their conversations, too, and it appeared the troops would be moving out in short order.
It took a couple of hours (we’re guessing–time was so fluid in that realm) but the Great Road eventually cleared and Teran and Kira made a stealthy approach to the road. The bricks were not huge, as we’d feared, but they were well-cemented in place. Taking advantage of the continued clearing, Teran was just freeing the second brick (insurance, he later told us), when a flapping of wings was heard in the not-distant-enough sky.
An air patrol–alerted by the brick removal? we still do not know–was bearing down on our party members who were running with all their might to our meager cover. As the flyers pursued we all began to run back towards the foothills we’d come through when something appeared on the top of the nearest hilltop.
Within a ring of spikes there was an old man, arms raised and waiving at us as if in greeting. What was more miraculous was that the riders in the air halted their pursuit, hovering at a distance. He greeted us upon on our speedy approach and introduced himself as Aarchomans, the Guardian of the Portal.
This was, incidentally, especially lucky as one of the questions we’d failed to ask of the Skulls (they gave us 5) was exactly where the portal was located.
Upon hearing that we had a brick from the Great Road as our Key, he told us we could travel to Sigul, the Land of Doors. None of us knew anything about that place but could there be much worse than remaining in Averniss and fighting the 50 beasts with their fiery eyes still trained upon our tired band of 6?
There was but one catch–we had to take an orb with us through the portal. The Guardian said we could do whatever we wanted with it once we passed through and that it would not directly harm us (only a small comfort, that) and while I puzzled Kira made the decision for us all, taking the orb and offering up the brick she carried in exchange.
After a moment’s disorientation we were through, all together and unharmed, and found ourselves in an alleyway, at dusk (oh blessed that change from unending red skies), with all manner of curious creatures outlandishly dressed passing by our view to the street. Some gave us curious looks, but none seemed hostile, even though our appearance could have easily caused alarm.
Realizing our shoddy state compared to our new surroundings, I was finally able to fully justify the purchase of a set of fine clothing on one of our previous Waterdeep trips as it afforded me the chance to blend in somewhat as I went to find lodging for our party. Venturing into the milieu, I was never so happy to see a crowded marketplace, and signs with the familiar marks of taverns and inns.
Entering the first one I came to, hoping the stench of our recent journey would not be too off-putting, I was greeted by a–well, I would say a man of a sort. He was humanoid from the waist up, at least, with horns upon his head, but the lower half was a quadruped of some undetermined origin. Nevertheless, he was cordial and rented us rooms for the night, but laughed at my ignorance of this realm. He soon-off identified me as a “Prime” though elaborate more he would not. He was genial in his brush-off, though, and upon returning to my companions our more learned members were able to decipher our position better: We have walked into what would see the great crossroads of the outer planes.
But that is enough for now. A good meal, a cool bath, and a night’s rest are all we need. Tomorrow we will explore and try to better find our bearings.
Wasn’t that fun?! I honestly don’t know if it was the DM taking pity on us or if that really was how the adventure was supposed to go, but we were all happy to get away from the flying horde and take whatever was on the side of door #1 at that point. And the funny thing was, when battling the blood snakes, Kira made both final kills and her player wasn’t even there! (Her husband was rolling for her due to an unfortunate migraine keeping her from joining us.)
Our next session will give us time to explore, to properly level up and maybe do some trading and training since we’re finally in a place to allow us to do so, and then we’ll be back on a gaming break until almost Thanksgiving! Life and tides and all of that.
One last reminder! Unicorn Party at Secret Headquarters this weekend! Starts at 7. Comics, gaming, fun stuff, vendors, food trucks, and more! Come see it for yourself! (And the fire dancing happens at 8pm, I’m told.)