After the first step in the decrepit chapel, the Herd is ready to call it quits for the day. And boy howdy! What a day it’s been. So far they’ve teleported to hell with an otter, tussled with a hellscape city, cleaned out a cathedral, sat in chairs, and beat up bone people.
Who knew that being in hell could be so tiresome?
Not these minotaurs!
Fortunately for these minotaurs, their tiefling comrade can set up a magical barrier for everyone to snuggle inside. He scopes out a corner of the chapel and sets down some hay to cast Leomund’s tiny corral, but Sfiros decides to loot some of the cool minotaur skeleton horns, possibly to place over his own so that he looks extra manly. He then peaks behind a nearby curtain.
Peaking behind curtains is always going to be a good idea!
Behind the curtain are two hexapod fiendish nightmare psycho monsters wielding glaives. Oh crap, how did those get there? Have they been there this whole time!? Who cleans this chapel!? There’s doodoo bug killers in it now!?
That’s worse than regular killers!
And regular bugs!
And regular doodoo!
The Herd now has a problem. These two chittering bug soldiers realize they’re being spied on by the cow preacher… which is a weird sentence out of context, but within context it’s still bizarre.
<Are you a servant of Baphomet?> the bug creatures telepathically speak towards Sfiros.
“Yes!” Sfiros says, trying to come up with the best course of action, which right now means lying. <Yes, yes, yes,> he thinks in the direction of the bugs.
The chapel darkens
The fiends lower their glaives.
A rush of necromantic energy floods into the chapel from the south window, and the stink of death fills the air.
“DEEEEEMON!” a voice echoes through the desecrated holy structure. A swathe of purple flames chases the echo, spiraling into the antechamber and materializing into form. Standing in the midst of the Herd is a Kinchasan priest wearing a flash of bright purple, turquoise, crimson, and gold. His eyes become a white void, wild and tired.
“Who enters my church?” the priest demands, his voice sizzling with necrotic power.
“We’re the Herd!” Sfiros claims.
The man locks eyes on the minotaurs. “The Herd looks like DEEEEEMONS!,” he shouts into the air. “You’re bringing demons into Gideon’s chapel?!”
“No, in fact, we brought an elephant,” Tallest says.
Lulu trumpets in triumph. It’s cute.
The priest dashes around the chapel, inside and out, examining the various piles of broken minotaur skeletons. He roars in disapproval, picking up bones and trying to piece them back together. But none of them work! They’re not fully functioning skeletons anymore! They’re yuppie, hipster, deconstructed skeletons!
“They’re all destroyed!” he shouts.
“We did that!” Sfiros cheerfully claims.
The priest is displeased at this cheerful claim.
Sleipnir leans in close to whoever chooses to be close to him. “Is this a good thing?” he asks.
“I raised those!” the priest shouts, pointing at the bones.
Sleipnir hides a pair of minotaur horns he had looted.
The priest stomps back and forth. “I was using them to protect this place from DEEEEMONS!”
“Then why’d they attack us?” Tallest asks. “We’re not demons.”
“You look like demons!” the priest says. “The minotaurs I’ve heard of ally themselves with Baphomet!”
The Herd shrugs and gives their repeated refrains of not being servants of Baphomet. They like Gond, and Tyr, and maybe that weird minotaur titan that Sleipnir saw when he died. But just those two and possibly three!
This appeases the priest somehow, and he begins his tale.
“I am Gideon Magician,” the priest says. “High Priest of this church. A group came through here six, seven hours ago. After I let them pass, DEEEEMONS began to appear from within my church. I should not have let them through; they’re up to something.”
“Gideon Magician?” Sfiros lights up, ignoring The Plot. “Do you know Zanzibar the Magician?”
“You speak of my baby older brother,” Gideon nods.
“Tallest! Get this guy’s autograph! He knows Zanzibar!” Sfiros exclaims.
Tallest presents his book, and a quill appears in Gideon’s gnarled, clawed hand. The priest scrawls his name in Tallest’s book, and the quill disappears.
“Who is the god of this church?” Tallest asks. “You better not be worshiping Guga.” Tallest spits the dead Chaos god’s name.
Gideon flies to Tallest, the priest’s legs combusting into a purple flame. The Kinchasan hovers up to Tallest’s bejeweled face and sneers, “Don’t you ever mention that name on my sanctified ground again!”
“Oh, are you a Khorne fan?” Tallest asks. “We’ve got some Tzeentch and Nurgle, but we don’t have Khorne yet.”
Gideon erupts in rage. “Stop saying names! Do not speak the names of those Chaotic entities! Names have power.”
“What is the name of your god?” Tallest asks.
“My god is Death,” Gideon says, placing a hand on his insidious, blue spellbook emblazoned with a purple skull. “Zanzibar introduced me.”
“Where is your brother?” Tallest asks.
“He is on a quest of… restructuring,” Gideon says. “He is broken. When he is reunited with himself, I believe he will have the means to free us from this place. Until then, I will keep my church free of DEEEEEEMON-ic incursion.”
“Did he leave behind a helm?” Tallest asks.
“That’s what the last group wanted to see,” Gideon says. “I let them pass, and since then DEEEEEEMONS have been emerging.”
“You haven’t thought to investigate the situation?” Sfiros asks.
“I cannot investigate! There’s too many DEEEEMONS coming up!” Gideon wails. “If you all investigate for me, I will allow you a place to rest and recuperate. Find the source of this incursion and bring back my brother’s helm.”
“Anything else cool down there we should look at?” Sleipnir asks.
“It’s mostly a crypt,” Gideon says. The priest turns to the bug fiends. “These mezzoloths are my servants. They’ll guide you there. I need to make more preparations.” The Kinchasan priest combusts into a purple flame that trails out of the antechamber in an echo of Wicked Witch of the West-ness.
The mezzoloths motion with their glaives for the Herd to follow them down the stairs.
“Where’s the best place to set up a corral to rest?” Tallest asks.
The mezzoloths chitter in confusion since they are unaware of corralling and corralling extremities.
The Herd decides this place is as good as anywhere else, and Harken begins the ritual by spreading more hay along the floor and playing Save a Horse (Ride a Cow, Boy) by famous Bloomridge Dandie songwriter, Big & Britches.
The Herd, Ellison, and Lulu pile into the tiny corral, preparing to hunker down for about eight hours. As they squeeze into it, Tallest politely declines Caeus’s offer to reduce him. Tallest will simply make due finding an optimal way to sleep in the dome-shaped corral, which is vastly different than the polygon-formatted hypotenuse he’s used to sleeping in back home.
He feels around inside the dome…
Surely if there’s no hypotenuse, there must be a side A! Or a side B! But no, Tallest is fraught with no angular sides or linear dimensions. Everything curves!
Tallest isn’t a curvy minotaur! He’s not even a straight minotaur! He needs the tallest side of the shape! He needs something familiar! A squared plus B squared equals C squared. He needs his C! Surely there’s something C in here!
In desperation, Tallest finds a sliver of normalcy. As long as he’s touching the outer edges of the corral, he feels at peace. He curls around his sleeping friends, enveloping them. Within minutes, he doses off, his circumferential relativity placing him at peace.
Three people might get that one!
Caeus shrugs and spends the first hour modifying his power armor, changing it to infiltrator mode since he can’t hit people without an assload of lightning from that fucker Black Star plowing down and blowing everything to kingdom come and pissing off Sfiros’ ghost cows.
Six hours in, the Herd is awakened by the alarmed chittering from the Mezzoloth servants and a familiar bark from an unseen hellhound.
At the first sign of trouble, Harken leaves the corral, dispelling the ritual. The magic bubble pops, robbing Tallest of his circumference and forcing the Herd to fight.
The hellhound barrels up from the stairs and breathes fire on the minotaurs, scorching their still-depleted Hit Points.
The flames attract another demon to the room. The Herd recognizes its twisted, spiked armor and its blanched child face from their studies back in that place where Harken’s mom does nerdy stuff. It's a merragon. The demon's chest and crotch are mawed voids, and it wields a glaive matching the mezzoroths’ weapons.
The metal-baby-faced-spawn-of-kill-it-now creeps up with the hellhounds, but the Herd just has zero time right now and zero patience. They and their fiend bug buddies dogpile and curbstomp the hellish spawns and send them right back to the hell they’re already in!
The mezzoloths chitter and gesture, and the Herd realizes they can’t sleep here with all the demons attacking. They’ll get no rest around the wicked.
Without renewed spell slots, Hit Points, or class features, the Herd descends the staircase to continue their mission, though this time they’re being a heaven of a lot more careful to not let their precious remaining Hit Points get got.
The first room they discover in Gideon’s freaky-deaky chapel of horrors is filled with embalming fluid, shattered flasks, and other uninteresting objects. Nobody loots any of it. Not even Sleipnir.
Tired and cranky, the Herd rushes through the only door to a hallway splitting in two directions.
The left pathway leads to a rubble strewn vault containing five marble statues. Four statues are unrecognizable, their features marred by rock fallen from the ceiling. The fifth statue is a kneeling man.
Caeus mends the closest broken statue to its original state, revealing a dwarf paladin, standing vigilant in an array of dazzling armor. He recognizes the image.
“Valour!” Caeus says, the hero from Baldur’s Gate standing before him in marble form. “Hey, Ellie, look at this!”
Ellie steps up to the statue, a tearful smile on her face. “It’s good to see you, sir,” Ellison salutes the idol.
Caeus mends the next statue, finding a wood elf druid with a round, flowered hat. He’s heard of this hero as well: he accompanied Valour into Chult to stop the Death Curse that plagued the realms seven years ago. This is 🌱!
Caeus notices Tallest is transfixed with 🌱, so Caeus assembles and mends some extra rubble into a small replica of the statue. He gives the figurine to the smitten fighter.
The next two statues are the other heroes of Chult: Dur-Dur-Dur the orc, and the goblin, Chumbawamba. They conclude that the kneeling man must be Zanzibar.
Sfiros detects a residual amount of magic atop Zanzibar’s head, as if a magical helm once sat there and is now missing.
Caeus chisels off a sample of Zanzibar’s head, collecting a modest amount of the Zanzibust’s zanzidust. He adds it into his stone scalp collection.
The next chamber has walls lined with funerary daises, each set with dusty humanoid bones. Relics and holy symbols set prominently on a number of shelves.
“This is another shelf room,” Tallest sighs, wishing it were another room with druid statues.
Ignoring the shelves, they descend a small staircase and find a door, their old nemesis.
Sfiros jiggles the handle, and jiggle it does!
He opens the door easily, and sees a large room filled with a meditation pool, set off from a broad landing edged by a low wrought-iron railing. Wondrous frescoes along the walls depict souls gaining blessings. The frescoes on one wall have been twisted into abyssal forms surrounding a shimmering portal emanating from the wall.
A demonic incursion!?
Is this what the vrock was speaking of!?
The meditation pool is littered with corpses wearing the uniforms of Baldur’s Gate and Kinchasa. The swirling water of the pool roils with shadow, stained by black ichor shaped like fallen demons.
An armored man crouches among the bodies, writhing in pain. His eyes are clutched closed, and his hands claw at a gold helm latched on his head.
Sfiros rushes to the man and tries to pry off the helm.
The man strikes out at the cleric and shouts wild, unintelligible mutterings.
Sfiros takes a step back, and the Herd gasps as they recognize the man as Grand Duke Ravengard from The Plot. All right! Main quest is best quest! Also technically this guy is their leader so that’s an important find as well.
While Caeus and Tallest discuss how to best ransom the leader of Baldur’s Gate, a burst of laughter erupts from the shimmering portal. A pair of glowing eyes materialize from within the portal, and two massive horns emerge. The Herd feels an ancient, instinctual connection to this entity.
“Some of my children have gotten away,” the portal minotaur says. “Where did you go, little ones?”
“Are you… Baphomet?” Sfiros asks.
The portal minotaur laughs again. “Names have power. You will learn your place, lost ones.”
Launching from the portal, axes held high, three massive minotaurs crash down, snarling with rage and recklessly attacking the cleric.
Harken, Sleipnir, and Caeus run back down the hallway, sniping spells through the open door as the melee within grows in recklessness.
Tallest embiggens, sneering, “These minotaurs think they’re so tall!?”
“You won’t be so tall when you’re dead on the ground!” one of the portal minotaurs taunts.
“That’s my line!” Tallest shouts. He lunges with the Blade of Ahn-Nuruta, savagely attacking the largest enemy. He slices off the portal minotaur’s legs and shoves the scimitar through its heart.
Tallest, Sfiros, and the mezzoloths form a wall around Ravengard and the hallway of spellcasters.
Beams of vicious mockeries, chill touches, and lightning launchers blast from behind the shielded minotaurs, vanquishing the snarling brutes.
The shimmering portal closes. Baphomet's ire echoes from the empty space, throughout the room of blood, viscera, and ichor. The bloated corpses shudder with the sound.
The Grand Duke Ravengard continues his mutterings, a blend of solemn piety and cruel hissing.