Not much happened last episode. But if you missed it, the herd assassinated a Duke’s entire lineage, they discovered Manzibar Kreeg and Numooru chained in a dungeon, Sleipnir obtained a sentient scythe, and they sparked a mob at the city gates.
Just the usual stuff.
The Herd is marching Manzibar Kreeg out of the sewers and to the angry mob. Tallest stops suddenly and demands help donning his East Clintwood disguise. The Herd piles on top of one another to make the disguise as Clintwood as possible.
“What are you doing?” Kreeg asks, staring at the minotaurs.
“Subterfuge,” Tallest replies.
“Something I bet you know a lot about!” Sfiros says.
The politician shrugs and asks, “How’s that temple going?”
The cleric gets really close to Kreeg’s face. “If you had anything to do with the infiltration of the temple and the imprisoning of Numooru, you have way bigger problems than the mob,” Sfiros threatens.
“Don’t tell him you fucked with the steam,” Caeus warns. “That will set him off.”
The Herd remembers that Numooru is basically naked, so they match his needs with their loot. They give him some fancy clothes, a stale brownie, and a nice bottle of wine. The priest pops open the wine and gulps it down.
“You have no idea how much this helps,” Numooru says.
“Yes we do,” Tallest says. “That’s why there’s a life debt.”
“There’s no life debt!” Sfiros tries.
“We only have sixteen bottles left,” Caeus interrupts. “Courtesy of the Vanthampurs.”
So yeah basically they tried to instill a life debt on a high-level NPC after he consumed the wine they gave to him after they stole it. And they can’t blame this bizarre social interaction on “it’s just minotaur culture” because Numooru wears the horns too!
They leave the stinky doodoo sewers and head east. But they’re not the only eastbound (but not down) crowd. Several groups of Baldur’s Gate common folk are also travelling east toward sounds of commotion. Onlookers look on, passersby pass by, bystanders stand by, and spectators speck potaters as the Herd makes their way through Baldur’s Gate.
Hoards of curious people crowd around the Basilisk Gate, where Eastway joins with Stonyeyes. Hundreds of Flaming Fist soldiers line the ramparts on top of the wall as well as the gate itself, barring the protesters in the Outer City from the people in the Lower City.
They hear chanting from over the wall. “Bring us the Dukes! Bring us the Dukes!” a mob demands.
“Boy, are they in luck,” Tallest says.
“They’re saying to put ya Dukes up,” Harken says, carrying his bag of freshly harvested duke.
“Harken, can you get these Flaming Fists to not hurt us while we confront the mob?” Tallest asks.
“Also, you have the Vanthampur heads,” Caeus reminds him.
Harken secures the evidence and searches for an authority figure. Flaming Fists leaders are easy to find; they have the tallest hats. So Harken dons his not-quite-as-tall hat and searches for a hat larger than his.
Harken sees a burly, bearded man with a hat of magnificent proportions and a name badge reading ‘Captain Zodge.’ The captain is leading a heavy escort for two aristocrats. Harken recognizes them as the Council of Four (minus two!): the elderly human woman is Duke Belynne Stelmane, and the old man as Duke Dillard Portyr.
“Oy, mate, what’s the rundown here?” Harken asks.
Captain Zodge salutes the bard in the captain's epaulettes. Harken salutes back haphazardly.
“It looks like there could be a riot soon,” Zodge explains, eyeing the protesters. “The crowd is a mix of Calimshan refugees and residents of Outer City. It seems they are unimpressed with how our Dukes have been treating them.” The captain then lowers his voice.“If you ask me, I believe their demands are valid. I’ve heard strange things going on in the Vanthampur Villa.”
“Heh, yeah,” Harken chuckles.
“What have you heard?” Sfiros interrupts, stepping forward.
“Who is this man?” Zodge demands.
“One of my deputies,” Harken says. “I needed some muscle.”
Sfiros flexes. The guard notices the Manzibar in shackles.
“Who is your prisoner?” Zodge asks. “Was he causing a ruckus?”
“Yes, protest related,” Harken laughs again. He shrugs his shoulders and jiggles the bag containing the Vanthampur heads.
“This protest is overdue. I never cared for Duke Vanthampur or her sons,” Zodge admits.
“Don’t you just wish someone would cut off all their heads?” Sfiros asks.
The captain laughs. “Dukes Stelmane and Portyr will address the crowd as soon as they can think of what to say. Their palaver may take some time. Duke Stelmane has zealous tunnel vision, and Duke Portyr is not as austere as he appears.”
Captain Zodge notices who all is listening: Sfiros, Caeus, Tallest, Sleipnir, Numooru, Kreeg, Ellison, and Falaster have been gathering closer and closer to Harken and Zodge.
“Just you, follow me,” Zodge disengages from the eavesdroppers, motioning Harken to tag along.
Harken turns to the Herd and puts a finger up. “Oy, one second, mates.”
The captain leads the PC who doesn’t derail the plot through the crowd of Flaming Fists escorts, up the ramparts, and to the Dukes.
“Duke Stelmane. Duke Portyr,” Captain Zodge addresses them. “This is Captain Beremon.”
“We are discussing ways to talk things over with this crowd,” Duke Stelmane says, her voice wavering with old-people-sound and fear. “I don’t suppose you have any information for us before we make our speeches?”
“I am good at getting ahead,” Harken jiggles the bag and laughs to himself.
“What did you bring us?” Stelmane asks.
“How squeamish are you?” Harken asks.
“I am a Duke of Baldur’s Gate,” Duke Stelmane says. “You don’t become a duke by being squeamish.”
“Oh yes, I’ve seen some shit in my day,” Duke Portyr babbles, his voice also thick with old-people-sound.
“I heard you were headstrong,” Harken says as he reaches into the bag and throws Duke Vanthampur’s head to Stelmane. She catches the severed head of her peer, their eyes locking together.
“Oh, fuck!” Zodge cries.
“What is this?!” Stelmane demands.
“It’s a head,” Harken says.
“I know it’s a head!” Stelmane cries.
“Then why are you asking?” Harken says.
Stelmane is speechless at this insolence and throws the head back at Harken like a game of hot potato but the potato is heads and everyone loses. Harken catches it and puts it back in the evidence bag.
“Is it true then?” Stelmane asks, her voice quivering. “Was Thalamra Vanthampur making fiendish deals?”
“Oy, hell yeah,” Harken says, “Ironically enough, ‘hell yeah’ is sufficient here.”
Zodge gathers a lieutenant and several Flaming Fist guards and tells them, “Search the Vanthampur Villa. The rumors are true. Find signs of corruption and devilish influence.”
“You see this stuff I’m covered in?” Harken gestured to his clothes and armor that are covered in devil juice. “This is devilish influence.” But it could also be jizz.
He is carrying the smut book!
The lieutenant and his group run westward towards the villas.
“Were you at the Vanthampur Villa? What did you see?” Zodge demands.
“Mostly demons and fiends,” Harken says. “I’m with the Herd.” Harken points out the minotaurs in the crowd below.
Sfiros waves. Caeus is shouting something they can’t hear.
“Due to civil forfeiture, the Herd has claimed the villa,” Harken says.
“Yes, yes, of course,” Stelmane says, impressed that Harken is so knowledgeable in the municipal law of mea dibs. “The law is the law.”
Duke Portyr whispers something into Stelmane’s ear. Her eyes widen and she nods.
“I know what to say,” Stelmane says, realizing who she’s speaking with after seeing the minotaurs below. “I’ve seen your wanted posters. This is your chance to tell the crowd the truth and be heroes.”
Harken considers whether he should share the glory. He has the heads, but he doesn’t want to be the face of ‘the truth’ if the crowd is unhappy. Better to have something big in the way in. Or a herd of big somethings.
“Give me two minutes.” Harken runs back to the Herd. “Oy mates, these fucks want us to say a few words to clear our names. We have to be responsible about this because there’s a herd of angry humans out there. I don’t feel like dying because you lot said the wrong thing.”
“What’s your plan?” Tallest asks. “So we’re on the same page?”
“My plan?!” Harken is insulted that Tallest assumes he plans. “I don’t have a plan. Just go up there and say we murdered the shit out of this dude.”
“That is the plan!” Caeus says.
“Well, leave out the stuff we don’t want them to know,” Harken says.
“Listen, this is how minotaurs decide. Tallest is the tallest,” Caeus explains. “He should tell them what happened.”
“I don’t know about this East Clintwood disguise if we’re going to be heroes,” Tallest says. The minotaurs all help him take off the ridiculous disguise.
“I witnessed it, too,” Ellison says. “My word as a Hellrider will help.”
Harken leads them to the ramparts overseeing the crowd. Tallest drags along Manzibar Kreeg for his foray into mob justice. Harken then pulls out his bagpipes and plays them to get everyone’s attention.
They finally see the full crowd from their position on top of the Basilisk Gate. There appears to be 5000 people gathered around, mostly Calishites. The Herd also spots specks of Hellrider armor in the mob, hinting that the Hellriders have shown up as well.
“Clintwood! Clintwood! Clintwood!” the crowd chants.
The real East Clintwood is shoved in front of the gate. He looks VERY confused.
“I don’t know how this happened. Or why this happened. Or what I’m supposed to say!” the celebrity shouts.
There is a long pause.
“East Clintwood, everybody!” Caeus starts the applause. The crowd cheers and claps as East Clintwood dashes away, eager to be done with this ridiculous nightmare.
Duke Stelmane raises her hand and casts thaumaturgy so she can be heard over the cheering crowd and melodious bagpipes.
“Citizens! Refugees!” she shouts. “I don't know what torments you have suffered. The complete loss of a city. The displacement of a people. Only to stumble in a city rolling in turmoil from fiendish interlopers. Order itself has given way to chaos. Several districts are turning to their own militias to keep order and wreak havoc on their neighbors. You sought the Dukes,” she points to herself and Portyr. “And we agree. We need to audit our leadership. Therefore, I present to you, a member of the Herd. He has brought your Manizbar to answer for his crimes.”
Tallest steps up with the Manzibar Kreeg in chains. Duke Stelmane casts thaumaturgy on Tallest, letting his voice be not just tall in size, but tall in sound.
The crowd jeers and hisses insults at the Manzibar, who stands stoic and silent, his eyes fixated forward.
“Listen!” Tallest shouts. “This human man, Manzibar Kreeg, is the swine who has lost Kinchasa for us!”
The Manzibar in the fur-lined coat, stooping a little, stands in submissive attitude, his fingers clasped before him. His haggard old face, remembering the bag-laden heads, hangs down. At these opening words he slowly raises his head and looks up at the Tallest as if wishing to say something or at least to meet his eye. But Tallest does not look at him. A vein in the old Manzibar’s fat neck swells like a cord, going blue behind the ear, and suddenly his face flushes.
All eyes are fixed on him. He stares out at the crowd, and, as if detecting signs of encouragement on the faces before him, he gives a pathetic little smile and looks down again, shifting his feet on the steps.
“He is a traitor to his city,” Tallest continues. “He went over to Duke Vanthampur. He is the only Kinchasan to have disgraced a Kinchasan name. It is because of him we lost Kinchasa. It is because of him, the black star destroyed the city.”
Suddenly Tallest takes a quick glance down at Manzibar Kreeg, who is still standing there in the same attitude of resignation. As if to indicate that one look at him is the last straw, Tallest raises a fist in the air and screams at the crowd, “You judge him! Do what you want with him!”
The people were silent; all they did was squeeze up closer. Clutching at each other, struggling to breathe in that highly charged, stifling atmosphere, unable to move, vaguely sensing the approach of some indescribable horror, the mob can not take much more. The packed crowd at the front begin to part, making way for a small Kinchasan woman: Madame Botha.
Madame Botha stares up at the shackled Manzibar and says, “I’ve heard that the youngest candle burns the brightest. You are neither young, nor bright.”
“Nor a candle,” Sfiros adds.
“But you do burn,” Botha continues. “And you have burned your last.”
Madame Botha holds out her fist with her thumb pointing down. The mob copies her motion.
Tallest leans far down.
“You cannot deny the Kreeg Resolute!” Manizbar Kreeg shouts.
Tallest gores the Manzibar with his horns and slings him off the ramparts.
Manizbar Kreeg tumbles over the gate and falls three stories. The shadow he leaves on the ground sprouts wings and flies away.
The Manzibar smashes against the ground into a lifeless husk with a crunch like that part in Les Miserable about 7 hours in where Russell Crowe smashes into the river.
The crowd erupts in approval.
“We did it!” Caeus cheers.
“Which way did that shadow fly?” Tallest asks, but no one hears him over the cacophony. It’s probably nothing.
“Get absolutely fucked!” Sfiros says to the husk of a Manzibar.
“There’s more!” Tallest shouts to the crowd. “Duke Vanthampur was behind it, too. And her sons! They were raising hellish monsters and demons.”
“And actual demons,” Caeus interrupts. “Not just those fucking kids.”
“She’s tried to bring the Chaos Gods to Baldur’s Gate, and we brought her to justice!” Tallest shouts. “Harken, show her the heads.”
Harken puts down his bagpipes and reaches into the bag, drawing out the heads of Thurston and Thalamra Vanthampur.
“And we, the Herd, are claiming her villa as legitimate salvage,” Tallest continues, citing the municipal law of mea dibs.
He looks at the crowd of refugees, at the two old Dukes, at the hundreds of Flaming Fist soldiers, and at Harken, who he promised not to say anything that will get them killed.
“For all the refugees to take refuge in,” Tallest keeps going, enacting an even more ancient municipal law of audaces fortuna casa. “You’re all welcome in the Vanthampur Villa in Upper City.
“But,” Caeus interrupts, “the top floor with the nicest bathroom is for us only.” Having never had a bathroom before, Caeus reels back some of the audaces fortuna casa for an extra dash of mea dibs.
The Dukes look at each other to say something. They start to, but the Herd moos triumphantly and holds the Vanthampur up higher.
The crowd cheers louder.
Duke Stelmane composes herself and says, “To commemorate ripping this blister out of Baldur’s Gate, I declare this Vengeance day to be a day of celebration!”
“We should call it Purification Day,” Sleipnir, the least pure of the Herd, says.
“We will consult our stores to ensure all of you will have plenty of wine and cheer to celebrate this first annual Purification Day!” Duke Stelmane declares.
The crowd cheers. They shout “We’re going to get drunk!” in glee.
The Flaming Fists shake their heads in disappointment.
“And thus, justice has been served,” Duke Portyr pats Harken on his shoulder as he follows Captain Zodge off the ramparts.
“I didn’t get us killed,” Tallest brags. “Yet.”
“We’re heroes!” the Herd moos.
The Herd decides to join in the festivities and get shitface-drunk after all the devils they’ve been fighting, but when they reach the ground level, Captain Zodge intervenes.
“You all may want to lay low,” Zodge warns. “Not all of the people you killed were devil worshippers.”
“They shouldn’t have been working for devil worshippers, then!” Sleipnir argues, forgetting that the Herd literally delivered a suit of armor on behest of a Tzeentchian demon as the literal first task of this new campaign.
“We gave them all a chance to leave,” Tallest remembers. “They attacked us.”
“Their families will care that they’re dead and that you killed them,” Zodge says. “You could wave proof in front of them, and they’d still be mad. Because their family member is dead. That’s how people work.”
“Sounds like you need to provide some protection for the heroes of the city,” Sleipnir says.
“We’re already stretched thin, here,” Zodge says.
“Captain Zodge, I think our heroes should have an extra escort,” Duke Portyr grumbles.
The NPCs argue for a bit off screen because the DM isn’t going to just sit there and argue with himself like a crazy person, but eventually Zodge relents. Four featureless Flaming Fists soldiers stand into formation around the Herd to escort them to their annexed bathhouse.
They fill up the hot tubs and soak their wounds. They drink their fancy wines and eat their stolen cheeses. Sleipnir sends one of the guards out for more cheeses and wines.
Tallest claims the largest tub for himself, and Numooru silently lies on a massage table. Sfiros, ignoring his own wounds, enthusiastically tends to the High Priest.
After rounds of merriment, Caeus notices Ellison alone in a tub, dozing off, her curly hair splayed out on the surface of the water. She is muttering, “As long as I live... as long as the sun shines upon me... I will faithfully and resolutely serve the laws of Kinchasa... and the wisdom of the Manzibar... May the light we bring into the world through our faithful service drive back any and all invading hordes... This, I swear... body... and soul...”
“You ok, Ellison?” Caeus asks.
The young Hellrider shakes her head and wakes up. “What? Is everything ok?”
“You were getting a little creepy,” Caeus says.
“I was just… saying my prayers,” Ellison says, then closes her eyes again.
“Do you guys wonder who the new Manzibar is now that we killed the old Manzibar?” Tallest asks. “Do we become the new Manzibar like we became the new Duke?” Some municipal laws are not well known by Tallest.
“You are not Kinchasans, so you cannot be a Manzibar,” Ellison explains.
“You’re Kinchasan,” Caeus says.
“Are you the Manzibar?” Sleipnir asks.
“Once I swear an Oath as a Hellrider, then I am bound as a Hellrider,” Ellison explains. “I imagine the Kinchasans will vote on a new Manzibar.”
“It’s not a hereditary position?” Sfiros asks. “No, that’s stupid,” Ellison snaps.
After they’re all good and drunk, they remember to identify their loot from the villa because holy shit some of that stuff might be expensive or cursed or hopefully both!
Harken’s wooden hand pipes turn out to be pipes of the sewers, which he can use to summon swarms of rats, which isn’t too different from his bagpipes, which summon ratty people.
Thurstwell’s puzzle cube is glowing with magic, but it’s locked.
“I know someone who could open it,” someone says. “Oh, I’m still here, too.” It’s Falaster, who is also in a tub. He’s been here the whole time. He was also at the speech at the gate. You just didn’t see him or hear about him. He has a fantastic stealth score!
“Oy, mate, who?” Harken asks.
“My boss. Your mother,” Falaster says.
“Your boss is my mother,” Harken says.
“Yes, we discussed this when I was in the cage,” Falaster says.
“I have no concern about you, mate,” Harken says. “I’m gonna be honest, I forget your name, even.”
“Everyone laughed at it,” Caeus says. “It’s Falaster.”
“Oh, the dickboy! How ya doing? It’s been a hot minute,” Harken says.
“We met him today!” Sfiros adds.
“Will I be taking that to your mother, or will you?” Falaster asks, looking at the cube.
“Oy, boys, ya wanna see me mum?” Harken asks.
“Is she in the city?” Sfiros asks.
“That’s a good question,” Harken says. “Where is that old hag at?”
“She’s in Candlekeep,” Falaster says.
The Herd are all definitely in favor of going to Candlekeep.
They keep identifying and detecting magic on stuff, finally figuring out what the deal is with this fancy-looking scythe that Sleipnir nabbed. Sleipnir’s scythe, Silence, is an outer planar prison for the fiendish monster, Rotund’jere (commonly known as Round Jerry). Possessing the scythe grants bonuses to Sleipnir’s spell attacks, provides immunity to poison and disease, and allows him to cast certain spells through it.
“Use that carefully,” Sfiros warns.
“OR DON’T,” a voice echoes in all their heads.
Sleipnir cuddles with the scythe as he sleeps.
The next morning, they wake up stronger and ready to take on the imposter Numooru at the High House of Wonders.
The real Numooru stretches out, feeling very refreshed and massaged. The old minotaur priest walks over to the Flaming Fist soldiers standing guard.
“I’m taking your sword,” Numooru says to a soldier and takes his sword. It’s not a question. The soldier doesn’t debate the elder servant of the Machine God.
“No one should not have a weapon,” Sleipnir says and gives the soldier a dagger, a bottle of wine, and a gold piece.
The soldiers grumble and walk away. “First they kill some us, then they keep us from the party,” they pout.
Caeus mends the broken ivory dagger from their loot pile, increasing its value to 250 gold pieces. That’s a rich way to stab someone!
Sfiros gives Numooru his own Holy Symbol of Gond to use as a spell focus, since he’s pretty sure that Numooru can cast hella stronger magic stuff than he can as the holiest of holy cows.
As they casually stroll through Baldur’s Gate, they notice they’re drawing stares, nods, and leers. Most people give the Herd wide berth. Clearly they’re even more well-known than before! They also notice more Calishites around, suggesting that more of the refugees have been allowed in Baldur’s Gate proper.
A few Kinchasans call out in victory to Ellison, “Hellrider! Hail!”
The young Hellrider smiles confidently, her face blushing. Valour Stevenson would be proud!
At the Upper City gate, a guard nods to them. He opens the gate and says, “This is where I’d ask you for your business, but I have an odd feeling that doesn’t matter anymore.”
In the streets of Upper City, the people chatter about who to elect as the new Duke, what to do about the missing Duke Ravengard, and where to put all these refugees. You know, usual snooty small talk.
They stop at the steps leading up to the High House of Wonders.
“Oh my goodness, I’m so erect,” Sfiros stands up straight. “We’re going to infiltrate my temple to restore the rightful High Priest. And I’m with him! We’re going to do it together! We’re going to take back the temple I’m a member of! I can’t wait to kill the fake guy.”
Sleipnir feels pressure as he climbs the steps, as though an invisible force is holding hi back.
“Cut through the barrier with your scythe,” Caeus suggests.
“Tzeentch cannot keep me out too long,” a voice echoes in Sleipnir’s head. “Break his barrier!”
Sleipnir doesn’t need a third opinion. The shadow sorcerer raises Silence and attacks the invisible barrier with the ancient scythe. He feels the scythe slice through the barrier, shattering the invisible force and eliminating the psychic magic condom.
Because Sleipnir likes doin’ it raw!
“As soon as this is finished, you are getting that thing out of this temple,” Numooru says, looking at the obviously-cursed scythe.
“My brand?” Sleipnir holds up his arm.
“That weapon!” Numooru snaps. “It is also tainted by CHAOS!”
The Herd ascends the steps and pushes open the doors to the High House of Wonders. The main chamber is beset with pews, each seating several acolytes. At the front of the pews, standing behind an altar, is the false Numooru in the middle of a sermon.
The fake Numooru sees the real Numooru and the scythe in Sleipnir’s hand. His eyes light up in surprise. “Congregation!” he shouts. “This is a vile sorcery upon us! That one wields a weapon of the Chaos God Nurgle.”
“He’s got you there,” Caeus says to Sleipnir.
The various worshippers of Gond sense danger and find somewhere else to be, meaning they run like shit out of the worship room and into the side doors, back doors, front doors, and sideways doors.
“So, you’ve uncovered Tzeenntch’s infiltration,” the fake Numooru mutters callously, as soon as the followers have gone.
No one says anything.
“That’s right, we did,” Tallest decides. “You’re going to explain—”
“On purpose, too,” Caeus interrupts.
“You want to come quietly, or do we have to make a mess?” Sleipnir asks, twirling Silence.
“That’s just it,” fake Numooru explains. “Tzeentch is a god of not just trickery…” His head twitches. “But also change. You should always adapt to your problems!”
The fake Numooru shifts form. His horns burst forth, growing several feet as his skin ripples from brown to mottled blue, laced with glowing white tattoos. He lurches upward, muscles bulging; his mass doubles—triples—quadruples—on and on he grows, as tall as Tallest!
He raises a cloven foot and brings it down on the altar, spider-webbing it with cracks as the marble falters under his weight, and he continues to grow! He grows tall, taller than even Tallest. His horns scrape the walls behind him.
The fake Numooru stares down at them, red mane billowing, eyes seething in hatred; he has completely transformed into an ogroid thaumaturge: a mighty horned demon of Tzeentch.
“We found Tzeentch’s thaumaturge!” the voice of Rotund’jere echoes in Sleipnir’s head.
Numooru clutches his holy symbol and mutters a word, then fades away as he casts invisibility.
Falaster hides behind a pew and shoots the thaumaturge with his crossbow.
Sfiros casts aid on Tallest, Caeus, and Ellison.
Caeus rolls up his sleeves, lightning-ifies his fists, and runs down the center of the aisle like a son-of-a-bitch because he wants to punch that big bastard right in the shins! He charges the ogroid thaumaturge, but he trips over a pew and misses his thunderpunch.
The ogroid thaumaturge ignores Caeus on his ankle. He focuses his rage on the scythe, lowering his horns and charging forward, his massive hooves leaving cracks and dents in the floor as he aims for Sleipnir. The sorcerer focuses his magic onto his black gemstone and shields himself, just barely negating attack as the ogroid thaumaturge clashes into his own magical barrier!
How’s it feel to be stopped by an invisible barrier now!?
“Ay mate, you're not the tallest anymore,” Harken inspires Tallest. He slaps the cheeks he can reach to cast heroism. “Now go get that slightly bigger fuck.”
Sleipnir ducks to one side and blasts a beam of shatter at the thaumaturge and spits a little bit of acid at his face.
Tallest embiggens, but he still is much shorter than the ogroid thaumaturge. He is as mad as he’s ever been. Tallest raises his hammer and smashes the thaumaturge with it. As soon as his hammer connects, Tallest activates his fire rune. Shackles of flames whip from the warhammer, engulfing the ogroid thaumaturge and lashing around it.
The thaumaturge laughs, but it struggles with the chains, rolling two back-to-back natural 1’s on a saving throw with advantage. He’s trapped for a round! The fire shackles hold him down long enough for everyone to hit him. They just dogpile his ass! Full on curbstomp but the curb is a monster and you can only reach its shins.
The ogroid thaumaturge weathers the assault and bursts from the flaming chains, stomping at Sleipnir, bypassing his magical shield and his relentless endurance and Harken’s cutting words. With enough following punches from his massive fists, the thaumaturge drops Sleipnir to the ground.
“Get him up!” a voice from the scythe echoes in Harken’s head.
Harken obliges and heals the sorcerer.
“The weird scythe told me to get back in the fight,” Harken says.
“I knew there was something good about him!” Sleipnir cries. He immediately casts darkness and dashes into it.
“You fucking coward,” Harken complains.
Numooru emerges pops out of invisibility. The priest swings the sword, and it glows with radiant magic, illuminating the chamber with beams of sunlight as his enchantment carves several gashes into the monstrous demon.
Caeus punches the thaumaturge’s ankle again, drawing its ire.
The thaumaturge reels back and stomps Caeus with his hoof, slamming him to the ground. The ogroid thaumaturge raises his fist to pummel the prone minotaur.
“Falaster, you must die for us!” Tallest shouts the magical incantation that activates a cloud rune on his shield. Two cloud portals appear in front of Caeus and Falaster.
“What?” Falaster asks.
The thaumaturge fist punches through the portal, missing Caeus as it reappears in front of Falaster, punching him in the gut and doubling him over to the floor.
Harken pulls out his bagpipes and plays careless whispers. The ogroid thaumaturge absolutely hates bagpipes! He runs out of combat, provoking attacks of opportunity from everyone.
As it runs, Ellison lands an attack with Shatterspike. She charges the hit with divine smite through Tyr justice, blasting the demon with a blaze of lawful hate!
“Use me! Use me!” the voice in Sleipnir’s head pleads.
“You mean attack him?” Sleipnir asks the scythe.
“Use its magic spells,” the Herd moos.
Sleipnir looks through the list scribbled on the handle. “I’m going to use… probably the vitriolic sphere,” Sleipnir says. He raises the scythe to cast the powerful necrotic spell.
The scythe glows green and ghostly. Sleipnir immediately feels he is no longer in control.
“Oh no,” the shadow sorcerer cries.
A spectral image of a hooded, ghastly, withered man with pockmarked skin rises out of the scythe and blasts out at the ogroid thaumaturge, a ghostly yellow shade of the scythe itself slicing the thaumaturge in half as the weapon casts reaper’s scythe, a dangerous ability unknown to Sleipnir that does damage to a foe equal to the amount of Hit Points it is missing!
The ogroid thaumaturge shrieks in anger, succumbing to its wounds as it implodes and dissipates back to the hells from whence it came.
Numooru steps out of invisibility, raises his sword to the disappearing demon, and casts an ancient Gond spell from the great forge: harvest of the fallen. A golden radiation of Gond fills every direction in the temple. The radiation lashes out and strikes the demon as it recedes back to hell, halting the planar vortex and calling the soul of the fiend back into the Material plane.
Numooru is preventing the demon from going back to the deep hells!
The soul coalesces, jittering around the room like a mad dog on a leash, but then Numooru thrusts the sword high, and the soul careens towards him, smashing into the sword and filling it with a mighty glow. Blue, pink, and purple etchings criss-cross over the sword. The colors dance inside the sword, angry and unpredictable. Numooru sheaths the sword, halting the chaotic kaleidoscope of power, and he looks at the astonished Herd.
“Remember the life debt you owe us?” Tallest tries.
Sleipnir drops the darkness and pretends he didn’t just lose control of the magic in his scythe.
The temple is silent, and people begin to funnel back in, aghast at the destruction.
Numooru steps up to the altar and says, “It’s time to get back to regular business.”
“What do you mean by that, Numooru?” Caeus asks.
“Yeah, what do you normally do around here?” Tallest says.
“All kinds of fun stuff!” Sfiros offers. “Do you want to learn what it means to be a cleric of Gond?”
“I want that sword,” Tallest says.
“Don’t hassle him, he's had a rough day,” Sfiros says.
“Hey, Sfiros, you got a little brown here,” Caeus points to his nose.
“It’s actually rubbed raw,” Sleipnir adds.
“I don’t know where your travels will take you,” Numooru says, casually setting the weapon on the broken altar. “Having one weapon with a trapped champion of Chaos will be difficult enough.” Everyone looks at Sleipnir and nods.
“Having two will be a testament of your true faith,” Numooru says and puts the sword down. “If you take these weapons, you must never bring them back to this church.”
“Deal!” Sleipnir agrees.
“Acolyte Sfiros, step forward,” Numooru demands.
“Oh, I totally step forward,” Sfiros jumps forward.
“I am bestowing upon you a mission from Gond,” Numooru says.
“I’m on a mission from Gond!” Sfiros cheers.
“How are you still an acolyte?” Sleipnir laughs. “After all you’ve been through?”
“You are the caretaker of these two weapons,” Numooru says. “You are the custodian, the quartermaster. Ensure that they are not abused.”
“Wait!” Sleipnir interrupts. “You are not in charge of my scythe.”
Numooru glares at Sleipnir.
“How would you like if I said, ‘Tallest, you’re in charge of this temple?’” Sleipnir continues.
Sfiros tries his best to cover Sleipnir’s mouth, but Sleipnir slips out of his grasp because he is a slippery little fuck.
“We just saved your temple, sir,” Sleipnir complains. “Taking over my stuff.”
“Shush!” Sfiros hushes. “Numooru, go on.”
“Trapped in these two weapons are two mighty and champions of the Chaos gods: Nurgle and Tzeentch,” Numooru explains. “They are diametrically opposed. Tzeentch, agod of magic and change, and Nurgle, a god of decay and entropy, despise one another. It will be very rough for you to carry both of these. Sfiros, you are to be sure that their custodians treat them properly. Is that understood?”
“Understood,” Sfiros exaggerates.
Numooru pushes the sword forward. “It is yours then.”
Sfiros clutches the sword with reverence.
“Let me hold it!” Sleipnir reaches for the sword, but Sfiros turns away.
“Report to Duke Dillard Portyr,” Numooru tries to get them to leave.
“Can you remove this brand first?” Sleipnir begs.
“I will remove the brand from you,” Numooru says. “But you must swear to me, if the influence of this scythe overwhelms you, you will allow Sfiros to carry it instead until the influence wanes.”
“Ok,” Sleipnir exaggerates again.
“Swear it,” Sfiros says.
“I just said ‘Ok!’” Sleipnir whines.
“You can’t just say, ‘Ok.’ You have to swear it!” Sfiros says.
“I don’t follow these rituals,” Sfiros replies. “I just said, ‘Ok.’”
“Do you want the brand removed?” Numooru glares.
“I don’t know, do you want to remove a Chaos brand from somebody?” Sleipnir mocks.
“I could have you removed,” Numooru, the high priest of Gond, threatens.
“I’m gonna leave,” Sleipnir says sheepishly. “I’m taking my scythe and we’re leaving!”
Sleipnir comes back.
“Fine, I swear,” Sleipnir says sheepishly.
Numooru grips Sleipnir’s arm, not gently. He squeezes the magical Chaos brand out of Sleipnir, casting a spell on the minotaur and removing the brand from his arm.
“My brand!” Sleipnir cries. “Ah I feel so much better. I’m not even mad at everybody. I was really angry before! This is a beautiful palace!
“Isn’t it nice? You guys want a tour?” Sfiros chimes in happily.
“Yeah let’s go!” Sleipnir says, then turns to Numooru. “Hey uh, this scythe just cast a spell on its own. Should I be worried about this—”
“YES! YES!” Numooru shouts, slamming his fists on the busted altar. “That’s precisely what I just told Sfiros! These are sentient weapons containing the power of chaos so that their hellish masters can’t regain them! No go report to the Dukes!”
“You got it, boss!” Sfiros says. “Oh, question… while you were in prison, I had to do some pretty weird penance under the oversight of the fake Numooru.”
“Go on…” Numooru says.
“He made me eat iron,” Sfiros says. “And change my name… and all kinds of other weird stuff.”
Numooru squints in aghast confusion as Sfiros recalls to his master the tale of his penance and all the weirdos with their penance hats and other nonsense.
“That’s… the dumbest thing ever! Why did you even think that was something that we do!” Numooru says.
Sleipnir steps in, “Well there were other people doing it, and they were really good at it!”
“I have a lot of fucking work to do around here,” Numooru mutters. “The best thing you could do then is to locate these weapons somewhere outside of this vicinity.”
“Yeah, we’re flush for cash. We need to go buy stuff!” Sleipnir says with his fat stacks. “We can start our own church: the Church of the Scythe!”
“We are not starting a Church of the Scythe!” Sfiros says.
“Silence!” Sleipnir says. “What do you think, Mr. Scythe?”
“Don’t ask the scythe questions!” Sfiros says.
“GET OUT!” Numooru shouts, casting mass healing word on the whole party and tossing Sfiros a spare holy symbol from the spare pile.
“Oh, he’s wearing my holy symbol! That’s so nice!” Sfiros says. “That actually means a lot to me! We have a bond!”
Numooru kicks the bastards out of the High House of Wonders before they unleash the demonic magic within their items so that they can cause hell for some other poor son-of-a-bitch. As they hit the street, they see several of the upper class citizens heading for some kind of town meeting over in the fancy-pants part of Baldur’s Gate.
Being fancy, but not so pantsy, the Herd follows these people to see what’s all the hullabaloo.
Sfiros hands the Tzeentchian magic sword over to Tallest and says, “You must be very, very careful with this!”
Tallest grabs the sword and just starts swinging it around.
“Hey you wanna practice sparring!?” Sleipnir says, holding up his scythe.
Sfiros feels closer to Numooru’s ever present pessimistic dread every single second. As his comrades begin to spar with their evil fucking weapons, he casts mage hand to slap both of them with it, shouting “STOP!”
Tallest feels less slapped and more petted by the mage hand, then sheathes the sword.
The Herd follows the growing crowd, leaving the temple and approaching a building in the Manorborn area that’s surrounded by Flaming Fist guards. The soldiers part, allowing the Herd to enter. Within the building is a large council of patriar families; four seats rest above all others.
Dukes Dillard Portyr and Belynne Stellmane sit in two of the four seats, conversing with their audience. Standing in the middle of the chamber, however, is an elder human with blond hair pulled into a ponytail. Standing off to the side of the elderly gentleman is young elf woman with blue eyes.
Duke Portyr is speaking to the man in the center of the chamber, “In the vacancy of Duke Vanthampur, the Patriars have now—with vast majority—voted that you shall take the new seat. Everyone welcome our newly elected official: Duke Stevenson!”