The remaining three adventurers – Lux, Odos, & Bruilinde – remain paralyzed on the ground around the Pillar of Skulls, their eyes fixed on the face of their companion Henrich lost among the faces swirling on the column. The orthon, Moriet, plops down a short distance away, cleaning his nails, seemingly unaffected by his horrendous actions.
Time passed. How long, they did not know. Minutes? Hours?
Suddenly, Lux begins to shake. She realizes her till-then silent tears were now sobs wracking her body, which meant she could move. She looked around and saw Bruilinde and Odos moving their fingers, the gaze of all three moving to Moriet, who was now standing, facing out towards the blasted plains of Avernus.
Shakily, the three heroes get to their feet, trying not to stare at the pile of Heinrich’s armor and items. Odos moved stealthily up behind the gigantic devil…and immediately struck him multiple blows, the final of which left him paralyzed and unable to move as Bruilinde and Lux both began to join the fray, vengeance the only thing on their minds. Bruilinde walked calmly to the front of Moriet, forcing his eyes to look at her. As she flung insults at him (“You are the pus-ridden spawn of a diseased glabrezu”), she deftly searched under his sash and removed the amulet he had used to stun them all, pocketing it. Lux sprang on top of his shoulders, slicing furiously at his neck, while Bruilinde retreated behind a pillar, putting a few well-aimed arrows into his back. With a quick sentence punctuated by another stunning strike to Moriet’s kidneys, Odos asked the women to move the devil towards the pillar. With a quick, flashing smile, Bruilinde yelled at her two comrades to get clear, as she laid her hand on Moriet’s chest. WIth a loud CRACK, she cast Thunderwave and pushed him within a few inches of the giant Pillar. The face which had devoured Heinrich suddenly became interested as Odos wordlessly gestured to Moriet, then the Pillar.
The party struggled to push Moriet through the pillar before his stun wore off. Twice more, Odos tried to paralyze him and failed. A second Thunderwave did not push him any further. Things were looking grim as he began to break free of the paralysis, until Lux, in a final burst of rage, stabbed him with such force that Moriet teetered backwards and came into contact with the pillar – which began slowly devouring him as he was now caught in their trap.
Wordlessly, the party watched every second of Moriet’s gruesome death as he was consumed by the pillar, his face frozen as the stun had not totally worn off. Bruilinde asked Odos if he would like to ask a question – he shook his head, and aid, “Ask it how we can free Heinrich.” He then turned and knelt, and in an uncaracteristic display of emotion, put his arm around Lux, who was sobbing on the ground. Pausing for a moment, Bruilinde turned back to the face in the pillar and made the inquiry. The face in the pillar told them there were three ways to free their friend:
– Offer 100 souls in exchange for his.
– The command of an archdevil to release it, which the pillar must obey.
– Destroy the pillar.
Armed with this knowledge, after taking one last look at Heinrich’s face (And Odos spitting in the now-appeared face of Moriet), the adventurers trudged back through the wasteland silently, with Odos quietly giving Lux back his dagger that he had stolen back from her. Eventually they found rest in the same cavern they previously trudged through. The party separated into their own corners, with Bruilinde building a tent fort from Rixtah’s stolen sheets to fend off some of the heat.
The evening passed uneventfully, save for when Lux awoke during Bruilinde’s watch to hear the bard singing to herself sadly in Elvish. Not knowing the language, Lux made note of it and returned to slumber.
The party continued retracting their steps, following the magnetic pull Bruilinde felt towards Tragar Hax. They carefully skirted around Bulyabat’s fortress, becoming thirsty and cranky along the way, with a few small uncharacteristically open conversations. Lux revealed that she remembered reading of boats that sailed the Styx from the library she used to hide in as a child; with questioned by Odos, she admitted she was part of the breeding program of the Scarlet Brotherhood, and hey discarded and abused children who didn’t fit their precise molds.
They eventually came upon a barge being pushed through shallows by almost twenty low-level devils and lemures, overseen by a tall, gaunt figure in black robes. While the party debated on what to do, Lux turned to Bruilinde and said, “Why don’t you go talk to him? You’re the weaver of lies, after all.” Bruilinde took serious offense at this and id not move. As Lux turned herself invisible and started to dash, Bruilinde Messaged her to wait – and turned Odos and herself invisible. Despite Odos and Lux making small missteps when leaping, the three managed to board the barge without seemingly being seen. As the skeletal ferryman climbed up, he turned to the three and stared at them, and extended his hand – seeing through their invisibility. Bruilinde fumbled in her purse for the few coins she had stolen while in Modenkainen’s tower and dropped five in his hand. He returned two, and the barge began its way down the Styx, travelling for hours.
Eventually, Lux approached Bruilinde to say she hadn’t meant to anger her with her ‘weaver of lies’ comment, but rather had been trying to compliment her. She asked Brui about the song she sang. Bruilinde hesitated, then explained that where she came from – the religious state of Veluna – she was hired out to perform for rich houses, which often included funerals. While she has no truck with the gods or religion, she admitted old habits die hard, and she meant the words she sang as a memorial to Heinrich.
Suddenly, a loud voice greeted them from the riverbank, asking why they were here. Lux, Odos, and Bruilinde realize dropping invisibility had been a mistake, as from the air they saw Jezmayrayeen circling the barge. SHe asked why they did not return to Bulyabat, her master. Bruilinde explained that their contract was void as the artifact had left Avernus, and she was sure Bulyabat would have felt that. Jezmayrayeen told them her master would like to make a new deal, and she suggested that she would forcibly take them – to which Bruilinde bluffed and claimed she knew the Ferryman would not allow them to be taken. Furious, the erinyes circled the boat again and flew off towards Bulyabat’s fortress. Brui approached the boatman and inquired if what she claimed was true. He assured her that while they were paid passengers of his boat, he would allow no harm to come to them.
With Odos and Lux joining her at the helm, the party stood and faced the horizon, and the thin black line that signalled the next part of their journey into the Abyss.