Mid-Winter, Hadrer 24th (The Month of Protection), 151 AV in Stygia:
Leon, Zoltan, and Zhou Pan entered the wooden door and felt the heated air and the smells of cooked food. Having traveled by sled across the icy wastes of the 5th layer of the Iron Hells, Stygia, they were chilled to the bone and nearly frostbit even with protective magicks. Having climbed the great iceberg that housed the devil-town of Tantlin and the fortress of Ingacka in its hollow interior, they made way through the icy caverns that lead to the town avoiding challenge from devils as they acted as merchants.
After receiving the cold stares of the crowd of merchants, devils, and other beings present within the Polar Opposites, the group went to the bar for drinks and rooms. Domino, beautiful half-fiend barkeep, quickly got keys and refreshments for the weary trio. As they enjoyed their repast, the group discussed in hushed tones how best to find the wayward halfling, who Leon felt sure was alive and somewhere in the plane, perhaps within Tantlin itself based on his strong link with his brother.
Meanwhile, the disguised Xaylin was indeed nearby watching his brother and his adventuring companions at the bar. After a bit of time, he eased into the shadows, went invisible, and stealthily made his way over to the companions. Edging out his dagger, he put it between his brothers legs and began tapping his armored cup.
Leon nearly sputtered out his ale as something began making a metallic sound against his private areas and a disembodied voice said “I wouldn’t move if you want to keep that”. Quickly recovering upon recognizing his brother’s voice, Leon replied “I would still have more than you, runt.” Xaylin indicated the group should head upstairs to his room so they could talk in private away from prying ears.
In short order, the group headed upstairs and met within Xaylin’s chambers to discuss what had befell them both. After a bit of time, the adventurers had relayed their respective tales, with Xaylin being sure to reinforce that Burskel was very antsy to have the promised blades of Ingacka. With that, conversations turned to how to accomplish the mission – Leon still intent on engaging Moreto and some other heavy hitters to give them a bit more punch. Xaylin mentioned Kara being a potential aid to their cause and the group agreed to check her out to see if she would be a helpful worthy to the cause. Tired from their 15 hours of travel in the bitter cold of a fast moving sled, the group decided to turn in early.
Mid-Winter, Hadrer 25th (The Month of Protection), 151 AV in Stygia:
The group slept well overnight, though all were cold when they awoke even with the blankets and firepits of their individual rooms. Leon went down and got breakfast arranged to be delivered back to their rooms so they could meet and scheme in relative peace. Meanwhile, Zhou Pan and Zoltan observed the normal rituals associated with Landsday, being the last day of the month, the day dedicated to the Earth Mother, the titan Denev. Xaylin meanwhile wrote a note for Kara and left it with Domino to arrange a meeting for shortly afte lunch.
A quick inventory of resources lead the group to continue with the plan to try to bypass Ingacka’s forces somehow. Leon, Zhou Pan and Zoltan remembered the area where they met the Barbed Devil and his mob of mine slaves and how they had got there, feeling that they could likely use teleportation spells to get them back to those points without going back through the poisonous and hallucinogenic fumes in the mines.
Noon quickly came and a knock came upon the door. Kara entered the room bearing a few exotic looking sausages and cheeses. Leon and Zoltan sucked in a bit of breath as the beauty entered the door, her creamy white skin, blue eyes, and blonde hair striking a primal nerve within them both. After eating a quick lunch, the group asked Kara of her skills and intentions. She likewise did the same after explaining that she did not serve Burskell, just merely worked as an associate mercenary now and again for the beholder. Xaylin talked about her use of ice and frost magicks, and Kara explained that she was an Albadian, a barbaric civilization living far in the north of Ghelspad where many of the women are gifted with sorcerous powers. More introductions followed as well as some of the exploits of the group and Kara was suitably impressed. She agreed to aid the group with their adventures as long as she received an equal share of treasure.
Kara informed the group that their was some unrest in the city. Some devils had recently fallen out of the hierarchy and while trying to get through the byzantine rules to figure out where they fit, meanwhile causing trouble whilst waiting. Kara mentioned that a few well placed bribes could cause these devils to act as an effective distraction by launching a few wand-based attacks at Ingacka’s fortress. Capable of going through several intermediaries, Kara felt this would be one method to further distract the forces of their target. Several of these activities were set up to occur on the morrow, so that the devil guards of Ingacka would have to fan out and hunt in multiple areas for their attackers. Meanwhile, the group would teleport into the bowels of Ingacka’s fortress and quickly move up to his court area to attack, while Kara used magicks to prevent the devil’s from escaping or teleporting to the rescue of their lord. Kara had access to scrolls with invisibility and nondetection magicks, to further obfuscate and confuse their opponents.
Kara also mentioned that rumors were running rampant after the previous attack. Several devils were openly remarking that Ingacka was weak since the whole band of interlopers were not slain. Likewise, the closely guarded secret that Ingacka had a child and its mother living in his court had gotten out further leading the local fiendish population to question whether the great warrior had developed a chink in his armor. Evidently, one high devil had already challenged Ingacka, but Ingacka had slain the challenger whose head now decorated the entrance to Tantlin.
Leon had not heard from Moreto and felt that Kara would take care of their need for more firepower. Using a sending spell, he let Feflin know that they were in Stygia and would not need his help though his willingness to join them was appreciated.
Mid-Winter, Vanger 1st (The Month of Pestilence), 151 AV in Stygia:
At the appointed time, the group witnessed a series of flares and fireball flashes towards the direction of the gatehouse of Ingacka’s fortress. Gathering together, they quickly used invisibility sphere to keep from being seen and then teleported into the dungeons of the fortress. Thankfully, the mob of minors and the Barbed devils were no where to be seen. Quickly making their way up the tunnels, the group bypassed a few guard posts until they came to a post that was going to be difficult to sneak by. Xaylin snuck into the post and back-stabbed the Orthon devil that was leading 4 legionnaire devils. The rest of the group fell upon the surprised devils, quickly taking them out.
Further in the tunnels, the group came to a torture chamber and sort of betting parlor for the devils. Several huge, iron pentagrams with great barbs, spiked chains and spiked shackles were strung up on the walls by large chains. Several Orthon devils cruelly shoved a prisoner onto the barbs and wrapped him with the spiked chains as they made wages on how long the impaled prisoner would last. Watching in horror, the group saw the prisoner expire and the pentagram began to glow with an eerie purplish haze as if the soul had been trapped within the cursed iron. Revolted at the proceedings, the adventurers fell upon the devils with righteous fury, quickly killing them and striking down the pentagrams. Zoltan and Zhou Pan did there best to deface these unholy creations using holy water, blows, and urine in equal measures.
Soon the group came to a stairway leading up. The walls were obviously enchanted and soon began to keen at the presence of uninvited guests. Hurrying upwards, the group encountered mage devils that slowed their process and called ice down upon them. The great stairway continued up and the group weathered the attacks even as they climbed. A trap followed where large stone boulders came bounding down the stairs from above and threatened to crush them since there was limited space to hide or dodge these crushing rocks. However, the group was able to escape dire injury by agility, magic, or just luck depending on the adventurer and their method of avoidance.
Eventually, the group fought to the top of the stairs where the boulders were launched from and the outer court chambers of Ingacka’s court. The battle there was bloody and vicious consisting of many legion devils, orthon devils, and some more of the mage devils encountered earlier. A large set of double doors dominated the icy chamber, and late in the fight, the doors opened revealing a long passage to another set of open double doors and a throne room where Ingacka set next to his great hydra pet. Seeing the object of their quest, the companions launched their assault with renewed vigor quickly invading the throne room and locking in combat with the devil bodyguards, hydra, and Ingacka himself. More devils continued to teleport into the throne room and outer throne room as they became alerted to the attack.
The battle went back and forth as many minions were destroyed, but Ingacka and the hydra were difficult foes. Ingacka hit a button on his throne and suddenly the double doors of the throne room closed with a bang trapping the heroes within. Rising from his throne, Ingacka set upon Leon in a flurry of blows from his fiery blades quickly sending him reeling to the floor. Likewise, the great hydra had Zhou Pan bleeding from a multitude of bites. Kara used her ice magicks mightily as Xaylin and Zoltan called upon the spiritual abilities of their deities to further reduce the bodyguard forces. Kara used a special dimensional anchor spell from a scroll to keep further devils from entering the room via teleportation and soon their was a clammer at the double doors as the devils tried to break in to help their lord.
As Ingacka and his devil bodyguards continued to fight and seemingly turn the tide on the adventuring strike team, a small girl dressed in a night shirt came running out of a side passage to stand over a semiconcious Leon and scream “Don’t you hurt my daddy!”. The child’s frantic mother came running out after her. In a surreal moment, Ingacka turned his attention to the child for a moment, a moment of decision, and then through his mighty blades through one of his devil court members impaling the creature to the wall. Ingacka screamed at the companions and his hydra “Kill the devils and I shall reward you.” Not sure if this was some trick or not, the party did as instructed even as Ingacka’s great hydra tore apart another of the devil court with its twelve heads. Soon the betrayed devils inside the court area were slain even as Kara’s magicks prevented them from fleeing. Meanwhile, the devils outside the courtroom redoubled their efforts to break down the door.
Ingacka, warrior and father, took off his helmet and set it down on the floor and then took a sack out and sprinkled dust about the area where he had stood. He explained that the group was to say that he was disintegrated if asked about their heroic exploits, as was his mighty hydra. Ingacka explains that he has long been in the service of Chardun, but had never fealt the power of family or love until recently; he now acknowledges his past misdeeds and only wishes to atone by living as a father and husband. It quickly becomes apparent that Ingacka has planned to use the groups attack to his advantage as he and his wife and child desire to leave behind Stygia, devils, and evil and have the chance to be a family. Ingacka relinquishes his great blades and the Rod of the Elements to the party as well as some treasures and bids them good luck. Zhou Pan and Zoltan both wish him well and think highly of his faith and turn of thought. With that, Ingacka’s wife activates an items and they gate out
Hearing the great doors to the court room beginning to crack from the thunderous pounding put on them by the angry devil’s outside, the group gathered together. Kara dispelled her anchor and then used a scroll to teleport them to Burskel’s weapon shop. Quickly, they handed over the blades to the beholder and concluded their business with the planar arms-dealer. Afraid to wait too long on Stygia and also afraid that the beholder might see their weakened condition following battle with Ingacka, the hydra, and his devil minions, the group used another scroll to teleport them to the portal leading from Stygia to Sigil, the City of Doors.
Quickly finding their way through the streets and the press of creatures ever present on the streets, the group found their way to the Goblin’s Crown, one of their favored inns in the city. They secured rooms and ordered food to be delivered, heading up to rest, heal, and otherwise stitch up their wounds. Jadess quickly brought them steaming victuals, sandwiches, and some bottles of wine. After recovering and eating a brief repast, the group split up the loot and then went back to their rooms to rest and reflect upon the encounter; successful in recovering the rod, yet used and manipulated by Ingacka to get his desired result as well.