Our episode picks right back up in the midst of the heroes’ battle with one of Iuz’s pit demons, which followed them from Dorakaa back to Celene via Queen Yolande’s portal. The focus shifted quickly to Nilly’s grandfather, Kithral Belovar. Moving faster than one would suspect, the ancient warrior laid into the back of the foul beast, opening another set of large gashes and weakening the demon further. Queen Yolande’s forces opened fire as well, sending another volley into the enormous creature, as Nilly casts Dissonant Whispers upon it. Robilar runs in behind, great-axe cleaving even more flesh away with each strike as Elara slides into the beast’s blind-spot and digs in with her named daggers, Tooth and Nail. Merrick picks himself up off the stone and roaring unrepeatable oaths, cuts another strip of demonic flesh from their foe, while Alesa jumps out from behind cover to cast a set of Scorching Rays and deliver powerful blows to the fiend. The pit demon is weakened, but has more than enough fight left in him!
Queen Yolande raises her arms into the air, and with a flash, a Feyblade appears in the air in front of the demon, slashing away with a mind of it’s own. Yolande follows up with her melodic voice casting Sunburst on the foul spawn, the pure light smoldering the demon and drawing it’s full wrath upon her. Rearing back with a bellow, the pit demon lashes out with it’s flaming whip, the blazing leather wrapping itself around the Queen. For the first time, the group hears her cry out in pain as the demon pulls back on the whip and the lash flies away from Yolande, taking some skin and cloth with it.
Hearing the scream of anguish, Kallic sprints across the stone and launches himself off stonework near the beast. Scrambling up onto it’s back, Kallic’s whip encircles the demon’s neck and his free hand grabs the bladed end tightly, pulling back on the demon’s head as hard as he can. Seeing the opening, Kithral moves to Yolande’s side and plunges his great sword into the demon’s gut, burying it to the hilt. Quickly, he grabs the haft with both hands and wrenches upward, spilling the contents of the fiend’s abdomen onto the stone. The demon roars out in pain and hatred, the cry growing weak as he drops to his knees, then explodes into a gout of brimstone and hellfire that engulfs the area. Kallic’s body is thrown over the heads of Elara, Merrick and Robilar, his smoldering, ruined body striking a pillar with a sickening thud. Elara reaches for her brother’s flying body as the flames engulf her, the force of the blast sending her sliding across the stones. Merrick is thrown violently toward the steps and Robilar is overwhelmed and falls, a charred and burning heap.
A few seconds of stunned silence later, the group sees Yolande move her hands over the pool as tendrils of water rise and envelop her, healing her almost instantaneously and the watery, wispy strands reach toward Kithral, closing and cleansing his wounds as well. The Queen calls to Nilly, asking is she alright, to which Nilly responds, “I’ve been better, but thank you for saving us.” Surveying the fallen demons, Yolande reaches toward the tendrils of water as they spiral around her, tightening as they spin. The spinning tendrils suddenly shoot from Yolande, striking the demonic carcasses and liquefying them, dissolving them in their purity and light. As the creatures fade from existence, Nilly tearfully embraces her grandfather and the Queen turns to Kithral and says softly, “Bring the fallen.” He responds, “Yes, my Queen.” As the ancient Belovar moves toward Elara, Nilly scrambles over to Kallic and grabs his crisp and flaking form under the arms. As she drags him toward the pool, he leaves a smear of ash and blood behind him. As Kallic and Elara are submerged in the pool, their wounds begin knitting and the dead, blackened flesh gives way to fresh, pink skin beneath.
Merrick and Robilar are brought into the pool as well and as before, their wounds begin to immediately heal as their bodies begin to knit themselves whole again. From behind Alesa, Leotin Hax stands wide eyed at this spectacle of magic and life. After a brief discussion, Alesa directs Leotin to enter the pool as well and she follows him, standing poolside watching her fellows heal.
The injured in the pool suddenly regain awareness, the pool’s magics healing them but not removing the disguise magics used to change their appearance. Each person rises from the pool with an involuntary gasp and the group comes together as Yolande addresses them. “You all fought valiantly, and I appreciate your sacrifice; not just here now, but I understand the sacrifice you all made in coming here.” She pauses for a moment, then asks, “Who did you leave behind?” Nilly replies, “Luciano didn’t.. Luciano didn’t go through the portal.” The breath collectively leaves the group as they grieve, some crying aloud and some mourning silently. Merrick utters, ‘he sacrificed himself, the damned… damned brave bastard.” Elara adds, “Brave or foolish, either way, he saved us.” to which Nilly responds, “I just hope he’s really dead, for his sake.” Yolande offers a solemn thanks to Luciano, as his sacrifice may have saved Celene from further invasion. Seeing their pained faces, the Queen offers to reach out to verify Luciano’s fate. Nilly thanks the Queen for the group.
Pausing briefly, Yolande then looks to Nilly and asks what else she has brought home. Nilly raises the locket and explains that things have become complicated, that Kika nearly died as well. The Queen nods and beckons Nilly to proceed. Opening the necklace, Nilly reached in with two fingers, gingerly lifts Kika out and releases her into the pool. Moments later, Kika bursts from the water into the air, glowing brightly and her wings a flutter. She swiftly glides around Yolande and lands on her finger, “I was no help to them, my Queen but-” Kika looks kindly at Nilly and continues, “-the brat was brave. She’s nobler than I gave her credit for. Noble. Like her parents.”. Giving the Queen’s hand a kiss, Kika goes soaring gleefully around the courtyard.
Turning back to Nilly, Yolande motions to the necklace again. “And your parents?” Nilly begins to explain the complication, that they have two sets of parents – one healthy and one near death and the circumstances surrounding them.The Queen asks for the healthy set first, and Nilly pulls them out, standing them gently on the stones. Yolande looks to them, then asks for the sickly pair. As gently as she can, Nilly lifts the sickly pair out with her fingers and lightly sets them in the water, which envelops them slowly and softly into its’ embrace. The Queen surveys both sets of parents, then commands Nilly to question them.
Nilly begins with the healthy set of parents, beginning her line of questioning asking about their lives and children, then notices they are not wearing their necklaces. They do not seem to recall the necklaces, which angers Nilly greatly, causing her to rush forward and grab her father by the throat. “TELL ME WHO YOU ARE!” she screams at him, clenching her hand tight on his larynx. Her mother pleads with her, saying they’d done nothing wrong and they did not know why they were here. Nilly points her dagger at her mother, and says ‘My name is Kyranil Belovar. Does that name ring a bell?” They both get wide eyed and then her mother exclaims, “You are our daughter.” As her mother reaches toward Nilly’s face, she leans into the dagger point and sighs breathlessly, “I don’t know you.” Her father says, ‘You are.. Kyranil.” then falls to his knees.
Nilly turns to Queen Yolande and says “Those two seem to know much, but they-” Nilly gestures to the two figures motionless in the pool. “-they knew me on sight, even as I look now.” Yolande looks to the healthy parents, then looks to Kithral. “Take their hands. Cut them off.” Kithral reacts with a raised eyebrow, then moves to the couple and commands them to raise their right hands. Elara protests, Kallic begins to agree and Nilly silences them both with a sharp comment. The healthy parents clasp their hands together, and in unison, hold their joined hands up. Kithral steps to the side and brings his blade down, removing their hands at the wrist. The hands grasped in love fall to the ground with a wet thump. A white, porous material pours from the stumps as in shock, the parents look soundlessly on. They face each other, watching as this fine mist of snow and ice pours forth. Queen Yolande softly says, “It is sad, but we must not cling to sentiment. They are not real, they were not born, they are not elves and when they are gone, they will not remember. Strike them down.” Nilly unsheathes Heartseeker, and in a full turn, stabs both of the simulacrums through the chest. They stand sobbing with each other briefly, and as they fall to the ground together, their bodies explode outward in a blast of mist and snow. Kithral steps to Nilly’s side, and she collapses into his chest, sobbing.
Yolande addresses the group, letting them know they will experience a deep rest here, and that she will stand watch over Nilly’s parents, looking for signs of healing and progress. She motions for the archers to lead the group to their rest, and after a question from Merrick, assures the party that they will be returned to their own forms as soon as possible. The party relents and follow the archers to a place of deep slumber.
Quickly our view shifts to Dorakaa, and in the Throne Room of the Bone Palace, the Conclave has begun. Instead of excitement and passion, however, the crowd is cowed with fear and concern. A crimson-colored tiefling by the name of Archelaus makes his way through the crowd, passing out strange drinks to the attendees while Iuz the Old sits on the throne, surveying the room. The tension is palpable as Iuz moves to the edge of the platform and stares down into the crowd. Iuz’s stares remind Archelaus that the beverages he is passing out are meant to cause intense pain to anyone who imbibes them. Reminding himself that his mission is to observe and gather intelligence, Archelaus continues to move through the fearful crowd, pushing the glasses into the hands of anyone whose hands are empty. His eyes are drawn to the floor in front of the throne, to see Potch and Althea bound, beaten and on their knees before The Old One himself.
Iuz clears his throat and the room falls silent as he goes into his opening statement of the Conclave. His tone raises, then he exclaims his need to address the failures of his followers, motioning to Potch and Althea. He recounts the release of prisoners, taken from under the very noses of the attendees here. Priests, priestesses, all will suffer the pain of failure! As Iuz bellows this into the air, tentacles burst forth from the floor across the room, and begin to wrap and caress Potch and Althea. The slithering strands begin boring into their flesh, moving under the skin and offering them a level of pain and torture that the crowd could only cringe and shy from. As this torture continues, Iuz details his plans for the fall of the Horned Society, supplanting the patriarchs. His army will surge south, King Belvore will visit the Pit of Torment himself, and Iuz will sit on the throne in Chendell. He commands the massive crowd to raise their glasses and drink.
Archelaus moves through the crowd and up the stairs toward Althea’s former throne, to better observe what is about to occur. Iuz cries to the crowd, “Yes! SUFFER!” and as they all drink in unison, moments later the entire massive crowd drops to the floor, writhing and crying out in agony. An acrid smell floods the air as Archelaus realizes the crowd has lost control of their bowels. Suddenly, in his mind, Archelaus feels a shadow pass as a chill falls over him. Iuz exclaims to the writhing crowd, “We will purge every weakness from our midst. We will root out all falsehood. Every betrayer WILL be found.” As another shadow passes over Archelaus, a pleasant voice rings in his mind. “Archelaus. You must flee. Now.” As he begins to work his way through the filth and pained, screaming forms on the floor, the soft voice rings in again. “Find a secluded spot. You have two minutes.” Slipping past the large distracted guards, Archelaus makes his way down a hall to a deserted backroom and steps into a corner. A few moments later, the soft voice speaks again. “Are you alone?” Archelaus responds, “Absolutely”. Seconds later, a portal opens in front of him and through it, he can see the form of Queen Yolande. He takes a breath and strides through the portal, and as it quietly closes, it leaves the sounds of agony behind him.
As we cut back to our heroes, they are awakening from a deep and restful sleep; those who rejuvenated in the pool wake with vigor and energy. They appear to each be alone in a quiet, restful area. Kallic rouses, and his instinct drives his hand into his pouch to grasp the black stone. Upon touching the stone, agony drives into him and saps his vigor away, causing him to shrink and slouch. Elara finds her brother in a nearby grove, staring at a tree and looking worse for wear. After a brief emotional exchange, they head off to join the group, while Merrick meets with Robilar. The two men discuss the grim realities of fate and relationships, patrons and the cost of power. Merrick reveals the name of his patron to Robilar, and explains his bond to Iggwilv. Robilar scoffed and mocked Merrick for both trusting in Iggwilv and Mordenkainen, then tells Merrick he would have to break the bond with Iggwilv, even at the cost of his own life. He then thanked Merrick for saving him, then before he can be overwhelmed with emotion, commands Merrick to find some bacon.
The party gathers to meet Queen Yolande in the clearing, as agreed upon the night before. In the light of the day, the clearing seems quite peaceful and serene as Yolande offers Nilly a brief update on the condition of her parents; there is improvement, but their fate may still be to pass on to the next realm. Once everyone is settled in, a strange figure joins the proceedings. Archelaus makes his way up the stairs and takes a place by the side of the Queen, to the surprise of the heroes. She beckons the group closer, and slowly stands with some effort. “Archelaus, despite his appearance, has been loyal to the elven realms for some time. Like you, he has just arrived from the city of Dorakaa.” Kallic asks of Luciano, and Archelaus informs them that he had not seen any of them and did not know them. The Queen explains that she retrieved him as a response to Iuz’s increased aggression as a response to the heroes. Frustration appears on Archelaus’s face and he responds to the Queen in deep Infernal, “We almost had the complete plans, we were so close!” Yolande responds that his safety was more important, and it was important to bring him back. Alesa scoffs at this, and Yolande gives her a soft reprimand.
Yolande turns back to the group, stating that she has some grave news. No trace of Luciano’s life force was found, and if he had been alive, it was likely he would have been present at Iuz’s grand Conclave as a prize. The Queen beckons the heroes to celebrate and remember Luciano here at the clearing, and as they acquiece, Kallic and Merrick exclaim that Luciano would want them to drink for him. Yolande smiles, and a number of glasses materialize, carried by wisps and delivered to the party.
Merrick starts, exclaiming his initial thoughts of Luciano’s cowardice and drinking to excess. He spoke of Luciano’s growth into a warrior, a man of honor, and a bastard in his own right. Merrick swears to honor and avenge Luciano’s sacrifice, and then takes out his blade and begins carving a scarification into his arm, honoring Luciano, his fallen wife Lucille and young Becky, all souls that will not be forgotten.
Elara grins with the warmth of the wine, and states what while she did not know him well, his healing ability and his love for Mar’lith were his legacy, and it falls on us to let his betrothed know of his fate.
Alesa goes next, muttering some words under her breath in her own language. Silently, she whispers, “Stupid fucking priest.” and pours her wine to the ground.
Silence followed briefly, then Kallic thanks Luciano for the welcome given to he and his sister, that Luciano knew his fate, and that he will be missed. Kallic slams the glass of wine back, then drops to the ground, cross legged.
Nilly speaks last, her voice cracking and breaking. She speaks of family, and how when she lost her parents, she thought she lost everything. She didn’t think she would be able to save them, but her life became filled with these amazing people, and they helped her in her darkest hour. She apologized to Elara and Kallic for her treatment of them initially, and then spoke of her sadness at not being able to thank Luciano. However, Nilly wrote a poem for him and she wanted to read it for the group.
Eccentric men oft die alone in stride
Luciano made no exception there
His love for us was what was testified
A sacrifice in which we can’t compare
With coin in hand and favored stein of wine,
He fought with us, he fought on our behalf
He cured our wounds and made sure we were fine
Heroic strength worth more than bardic paragraphs
We say goodbye with bittersweet farewell
Olidammaras priest who fought off Iuz
Luciano Venturi the fates foretell
Your story will have the Flaeness abuzz
You are truly the hero Oerth needs,
And we will fight as one to sow your seeds.
As the group mourns, Queen Yolande remarks that in her time, she has seen much and that rarely has she seen a group of individuals so tightly bound and that the absence of Luciano is a gaping wound that will take time to heal. She recommends that the party stay, rest and take advantage of the elvish hospitality, but that the group should stay together and continue to press on. One by one, the group responds that they will stay, with Alesa remaining silent. Kallic beckons to Alesa to come with them, and while Alesa protests, she eventually concedes. Kallic moves in to hug her, and while Alesa is distracted, Elara moves in behind her to give her a squeeze and exclaims in her ear, “You are wanted here, Alesa”. Alesa softens in Elara’s grasp, then Merrick moves in to give them all a grand bear hug, and the party degrades into laughing and carousing.
Yolande looks to Kithral and states softly, “It appears the Citadel still stands.”