by Gerald "Gray Erikkson" Chartier
Once again, in the waning month of summer, the forces of the Realms found themselves embroiled in conflict in the infernal plane. I, Gray Erikkson, write this chronicle of the events that transpired as one who bore witness and took part in the events described.
Like a slow moving storm, conflict embroiled us slowly at first. The entity known as Guile called upon the Realms to honor the agreement made to back his ascension as one of the Princes of Hell. In order to affect this power play, we had to seek out and break four seals to the Citadel, so that we could access that location and use the Quill of Judgement to enact Guile’s ascension.
Demons began to appear at the borders to Respite, our domain in the nether realms. We faced them in battle, pushing forward against initially weak resistance, but gradually we face larger numbers of the infernal beings, and had to regroup. I found myself able to keep them at bay with the power of Order, but only those I could directly face, and the chant that warded them off also interfered with my ability to cast other spells. I became isolated from the bulk of our forces trying to recover some of our fallen and was overcome, but recovered and raised shortly afterwards.
As we pushed forward, I encountered a sultry demoness offering to trade for information. I passed along her open offer to Janus of Chimeron, but had little time myself to dwell upon it, embroiled as I was in fighting our way forward alongside our warriors and combat mages. Eventually, we cut our way through to the location of the first of the four seals, which was within a volcano. By the entrance was a placard and a cauldron. We found we could not just enter when Grebinar strode through the entrance and promptly asphyxiated. We had to recover some sort of volcanic stone from the demons in the area and place bits of it in the cauldron as an offering in order to pass safely within the volcano.
The interior chamber of the mountain was protected by animated rock guardians, within which were pools of lava and eldritch rings upon the stone floor. The guardians were slow, but proof against most attacks. They would however reel back from a magical blow or spell. This discovery allowed us to herd them into the lava pits, where their attacks became imbued with hellfire, but they became vulnerable and could be destroyed.
We divided our efforts, with some of us fending off the guardians while others worked to break the seal. When those efforts succeeded, the mountain shook so violently we were repeatedly knocked off our feet, and an even more formidable guardian came forth, requiring our full numbers to defeat. When that champion guardian fell, the volcano flooded with lava, forcing us to flee and sealing off the interior.
With most of Mayerling attending to other matters, I joined with the members of Gau Dring in investigating rumors of a mine of some sort, in search of resources with which to empower Respite and enhance our warriors’ weapons so they could fight the infernal denizens more effectively. We found the mine, but it was almost entirely worked out, leaving very little left for us to find. Moving on through the shifting hellscape, we found a realm where souls needed to be sorted to their proper final destinations, while reapers sent undead husks against us to add our souls to their collection. I found the demon-warding powers useless against these creatures, but my usual combat magic proved effective. Restoring order to the judgment of the dead broke another of the seals.
More demons appeared to oppose us as we added successes to our tally, and we were obligated to fight our way to the next seal, finding it on the shore of a sulphorous lake. There, statues of warriors had to be maneuvered into their proper places by applying globes of energy to them, with each statue responding to only the correct form of energy. We harvested the energy from the demons who continued to harass our forces, eventually succeeding in maneuvering the statues into their correct locations, at which point they animated and attacked. Defeating them brought down the third seal.
The fourth seal was a labyrinth we were only able to access in small groups. Finding ourselves scattered, we first had to reunite before we could properly explore the maze while fighting off attacks from demons looking to pick off weak groups and stragglers. We found dismembered entities within looking to recover their missing parts, which of course were scattered among the demons within the maze. Restoring the body parts to the revenants of the maze brought forth another master guardian, whose defeat broke the fourth seal.
With the seals broken, we returned to Respite to regroup, while Rell conferred with Guile on behalf of our combined forces. We planned our assault on the Citadel, and our defense for the counterattack which would be inevitable when we began using the Quill to write Guile’s ascension into reality.
The Citadel was a strongly defended fortress, with vicious warrior demons holding the gates and the ramparts, and assassin demons emerging from the darkness to harry our rear and flanks. I dared not unleash my power in the packed confines of the fighting front, so I turned my efforts toward keeping the raiders at bay. With the assistance of my apprentice Zinc and a few others, we kept our forces safe from the harassers long enough for the front line warriors to breach the defenses and clear out the fortress.
We then arrayed our defenses. We did not have long to wait for the counterattack. I watched from the ramparts as wave after wave of demons broke themselves upon our defenses. Then, Sir Guilliam of Invictus called for a counterattack. We surged out, cutting down the remaining attackers, the last falling to my summoned lightning.
During the fighting, the ritual to sign Guile to princedom of Hell was enacted, and the Quill disappeared, as it does whenever it is used. Having accomplished our immediate goal, we withdrew back to Respite, dined on rations, and prepared to face the night’s onslaught.
Despite our location in the realms of damnation and perdition, a miraculous event took place – Sir Guilliam manifested angelic wings. This certainly made him stand out in the infernal night as we battled our way through demons, recovering orbs of light we used to dissolve barriers of darkness and destroy the nocturne champion dogging our heels.
We fought our way to a darkling plain, where pools of illumination awaited to be lit and guarded against demons who strove to snuff them. We were obliged to divide our forces to protect multiple pools from ongoing attack. What followed was a confusing melee in almost pitch blackness, but the forces of the Realms prevailed.
We then returned to Respite, set our watches, and took what sleep we could.
The next day, we fought our way forth to recover the Quill. We found it in the possession of a demon-magus, who set powerful wards all around it. The demons in the magus’s employ were not particularly difficult to destroy, but the magus himself proved harder to destroy or contain. He could be felled, but regenerated quickly, even in spite of efforts to impale or mangle the body to prevent him from doing so. He also proved able to escape magical confinement when he vanished from the Circle of Protection I’d set around him. Eventually, he was defeated permanently, though I know not how this was accomplished.
While I participated in holding off the magus and his minions, our more bookishly inclined adventurers strove to recover the Quill from the concentric circles of wards the magus had set around the artifact. This proved to be a difficult task, coming close to stymying the cleverest of our number. I lent what assistance they could, giving blood sacrifice to my gods in exchange for their aid. My sacrifice evidently pleased my gods, for when I was revived, I found that most of the wards had vanished, leaving only the innermost to be overcome. When we finally did so, the Quill was returned to the care of Invictus, whose might is unquestioned and whose honor is impeccable.
Upon returning to Respite, Sir Guilliam had a few choice words for me for offering blood sacrifice in Hell. I have to admit, he has a point. In my defense, I was improvising.
Having recovered the Quill, Atticus of Chimeron went forward with a plan to change the artifact from its current form to something safer for the mortal planes. He was able to prevail upon Arioch to change the Quill of Judgment to the Quill of Storytelling. In exchange, the Quill is to be used to write stories for Arioch’s amusement.
An optimistic man might think the danger of the Quill has been resolved. I am not optimistic enough to believe it. Regardless, we’re still left with the small matter of an open portal to Hell, to say nothing of the repercussions our actions there will have generated.
Gray Erikkson, Sorcerer of Mayerling
Lord of Respite
The ninth month of the year 1016