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A formerly flying fortress casts a foreboding shadow over the Avernian wastes. Crashed into the ground, hundreds of feet wide, and taller than the tallest buildings in Baldur’s Gate and the tallest minotaurs in here-and-now, the fortress is beyond repair from even the most mendful of minotaur mendings.
The minotaurs are really ticked off that the DM won’t let them fix the ship with their cantrips and fly it.
Mad Maggie points a gnarled finger to a broken window atop the fallen fortress and then to a small hole near the ground.
“You could scale the outer hull to reach the deck, although there may be a way to creep up its fuel pipe,” the hag haggie says, feeling extra excited when she mentions creeping up pipes.
“Oh, let’s scale!” Caeus exclaims, not wanting anything to do with no pipe-creeping. He casts spider climb on Tallest by sending out magical nanobot drones from his power armor.
Tallest embiggens, grabs Sleipnir, and dashes vertically to the ferrous command deck’s broken window. He drops the shadow sorcerer off alone on the dark bridge, and dashes back down to pick up Sfiros.
Sleipnir surveys the area, mongering for rumors with his darkvision. He hears a squelchy squelch, then sees that the noise is coming from giant mollusks with shells made from collected bones. These snail-like creatures squelch closer to Sleipnir, slurping and slopping around the dangling wires of the stripped bridge.
Already gross enough, Sleipnir doesn’t engage with the necro-snails and jumps out the window. He clicks his heels together and summons Odin, his flying nightmare steed, to help Caeus and Elric scale the fortress as Tallest hauls the cleric up behind him.
Once the Brazen Bulls are all aboard the fallen fortress, they discover no hostility from the giant bone whelks. They’re just squishy, creepy critters who keep following Sleipnir around.
“Oh, this place looks like it’s got a talisman in here,” Tallest says, having found a few talismans (talismen?) in his time.
Caeus does some beepy-boopy shit with his visor and scans the rooms, finding an empty area with green goop dripping from a broken pipe. He collects a sample of the goop in a bottle and labels it ‘Pipe Juice.’
He’s pretty sure he’s seen something with this label on it back at the Crossed Swords in Baldur’s Gate.
Sfiros discovers a large bell lying on its end in a corner of the deck. Since he’s the main party member with a history of distrusting things that begin with “Bel-” he becomes suspicious of this item, then casts detects magic on it because it’s got that suspicious look about it. The cleric summons the hand of Gond to adjust the bell upright.
Magic blasts from the bell, lighting the room!
Got-dang’d bell of course it’s bullshit!
A sinister cackle echoes throughout the fortress. This cackled was definitely caused by Sfiros over there fucking around with that bell like a freaking silly person!
“You did it now!” Sleipnir cries, galloping through the air in front of his bone whelks. “I don’t know what you did, but you did it!”
The magic and laughter coalesce onto the wall near the bell, forming a dripping mouth as the wall itself manifests into a living, breaking maw!
Caeus throws the pipe juice at the mouth, and a tongue within the mouth snatches the vial, slurps it inside, bites down, and swallows.
“You would fight me with my own spit?” the mouth asks, smirking.
Everyone is grossed out except maybe Elric I bet he thinks it’s kind of hot damned weirdo Joe Exotic-lookin’-ass robot.
“Be glad I wasn’t holding a baby,” Caeus says. “You talked! What are you?”
“I brought down the flying fortress,” the mouth grumbles, ooze and slime dripping from the rivets on the wall..
“Well, we need this to work, so let’s fix it!” Caeus says.
“Let’s make a trade,” Tallest says. “You give us this one, and we’ll give you Zariel’s. You just have to help us go get it.”
“I am not worried about Zariel,” the mouth says. “She does not have the gumption to rule Avernus.”
“Well, she’s out there doing it,” Caeus says.
“She is trying to tame what rightfully belongs to Chaos.” The mouth laughs again.
The Brazen Bulls see a vision of bloated, rotten creatures rampaging across the waste, filling the air with toxins and locust plagues. They see the under-alley beneath Baldur’s Gate… the vault with the plagued men and the treasures…
“This thing needs to die,” Caeus says. “It looks like it wants to spread.”
“You’ve helped us spread before,” the mouth says. “All you had to do was… forgive us.”
INTERNET BULLSHIT ALERT! That’s the name of episode 59!
“Are you Sleipnir’s babies?” Tallest asks, remembering Sleipnir once having the mark of Nurgle on his hand. “Sleipnir’s in charge of you. Sleipnir, tell them what to do.”
“Let’s go kill! And spread Chaos!” Sleipnir cheers.
Somewhere out in the cosmos, an ancient minotaur titan is wondering why the heck he helped Sleipnir return to life not once, but twice…
“Soon there will be a battle to rival the Great Peace,” the mouth explains. “With Baphomet aligned with Nurgle, this will be the final battle to usurp the Archduke!”
“You have Baphomet on your side?” Tallest asks, impressed.
“You’re not part of Baphomet’s retinue?” the mouth asks.
“No!” the Brazen Bulls moo.
Why are the Nine Hells so racist? Just because there’s one evil demon lord deity of the minotaurs, that doesn’t mean all minotaurs are in line with him! It’s the most gosh-est thing!
“We’re part of Gond’s revenue!” Sfiros says, standing proud.
“He’s with Gond,” Caeus clarifies.
“We’re with Chaos!” Sleipnir cries.
“We’re not really a monoculture over here.” Caeus shrugs. “We’re the Brazen Bulls; we’re all doing a bit of our own thing.”
The mouth on the wall slurps forward, gooping onto the floor as a bulbous creature. Puddle-like eyes manifest above the maw, and veined tendrils skitter across the floor.
“I don’t like that,” Sfiros says.
“This is not good,” Caeus says.
“It’s fine,” Sleipnir says, defending Chaos.
“Its stomach has a mouth of its own!” Sfiros shouts. “And its tentacles each have mouths! And it's got a lot of tentacles!”
“That seems like an efficient way to eat!” Sleipnir argues. “It won’t choke on anything.”
“It has too many mouths and too many tentacles!” Sfiros says. “It’s an abomination! We have to kill abominations!”
“No!” Sleipnir cries. “I don’t like this!” He mounts his flying horse to wait outside. The snails follow.
Tentacles burst out of the walls, floor, and ceiling, grappling and smacking the Brazen Bulls.
Elric struggles with a tentacle around his legs and shouts, “Why doesn’t one of our party members want to fight with us?”
“We don’t know that! I’m just upset,” Sleipnir calls, pouting on his horse.
More tentacles burst around the Brazen Bulls in every direction while Sleipnir flutters around outside not helping.
“Go with Gond,” Sfiros says to cast word of radiance, sending out a blast of radiant damage.
Tallest rips away from the tentacles and attacks with the Blade of Ahn-Nurunta. The champion of Tzeentch trapped in the scimitar eagerly destroys the tentacles of the Nurgle monster.
Caeus, restrained, casts faerie fire on the beast of Nurgle, outlining the bloated monster with magic.
The beast snarls and bites at Sfiros, and more tentacles restrain everyone in the room.
Sleipnir finally decides to help by polymorphing Caeus into a giant ape and sending Odin to the Ethereal Plane with the injured cleric. Unfortunately, the artist got this fight mixed up with another fight, so even though Tallest looks like a t-rex, just know that the artist has no intentions of starting over this picture again because dammit it took the longest to draw out of all of them!
Belligerent tentacles and mouths fly in every direction. Chopped and burnt and zapped, but they are always more and always hungry for flesh and metal and bulls and stuff!
Elric rips free long enough to whip out his adamantium longbow. The beast of Nurgle roars, and a precise arrow enters the gullet and pops just the right organs. You know, the important ones! Not those extra ones!
The beast pops in a spray of acid, snot, viscera, and bile, drenching the Brazen Bulls.
“We did it!” They moo. Odin and Sfiros pop back from the Ethereal Plane.
Caeus runs over to a panel of controls and starts pressing random buttons. He hears a soothing Infernal voice saying, “You are important. The motion is your destiny. Asmodeus loves you.”
They open more doors and find more empty offices, but eventually one office is less empty than the rest. Inside, they find a small, starving gnoll gnawing at its hands.
"Hello," Sleipnir says and casts friends on the starving gnoll. "Rumor has it, there are some snails out here if you're hungry."
"Ehh?" The gnoll looks up. He appears to be very stupid.
"Yeah, snails," Sleipnir says. "You wanna eat em?"
The gnoll turns around and faces the corner.
"Ok, sit there and think about it," Sleipnir says.
The gnoll lets out a little poot.
"This guy is Little Poot!" Caeus cheers. He pulls out a baby bottle and tosses it to the gnoll who greedily glugs the formula. Having been parents for about two or three episodes, the Brazen Bulls are naturals when it comes to raising babies, so Caeus has total faith that Little Poot will turn out fine.
Tallest finds a room with a crushed winged devil and an iron locked safe with three dials for random infernal numbers.
“I think I’ve got the key,” Tallest says and hits the safe’s lock with his warhammer, but the safe remains unchanged. “Sfiros, what are your three least favorite numbers?”
“Gond likes order and innovation,” Sfiros says. “37 is prime. Try that.”
“There are three numbers,” Tallest says.
“Add a zero!” Sfiros says.
3-7-0 does not open the safe. 0-7-3 also does not work.
“I have a scroll of knock.” Sleipnir burns the scroll and one of the numbers changes to a 6. With one lock figured out, they still need to decipher the other numbers.
“Try 6-6-6!” Sfiros says.
Them’s devil numbers!
6-6-6 opens the safe and reveals a talisman with a devilish face with horns and green eyes. The face has a wide open mouth that descends into darkness. Looks pretty Guga-ish to me!
“That does look like the talisman,” Sfiros cheers.
“I don’t like that it looks like it could be used as a mastubatory aid,” Caeus says. “We’re going to keep this thing visible at all times.”
“Darkness!” Sleipnir casts.
Later, Sfiros identifies the talisman and discovers it can control the Sphere of Damnation.
Their job finished, they vandalize the fallen battle machine with Brazen Bull banners and iconography and leave Little Poot stuck to the bone whelk snails like good parents.
Below deck, they dig around and find forty vials of demon ichor.
“Do not drink that!” Sfiros says.
“We went out of our way to save your life–” Sleipnir starts.
“And I’m not using that gifted time for you to do stupid stuff!” Sfiros says.
They compromise by taking the ichor and making Little Poot and a bone welk drink the ichor. Just like good parents!
The bone welk grows a second mouth inside its mouth, and Little Poot’s skin becomes bark armor.
Satisfied, the Brazen Bulls return to Mad Maggie at the vehicles parked outside.
“How did it go?” the hag asks.
“Hm, that’s on a need-to-know basis,” Tallest says. “How was the hot wind on your face?”
“It was everything I needed,” Mad Maggie says.
“Great. That’ll be two soul coins,” Tallest demands.
“No!” Maggie yells. “I gave you your infernal warmachines! How are you still alive if you talk to everyone like this?”
“It’s they who aren’t,” Tallest says. He smiles, but nobody can see it due to being so high up.
On the way back to Bel’s Forge, they see that damned city Kinchasa floating in the distance. The Sphere of Damnation still hovers above the city, and massive infernal chains still tether it down.
The battle below is even bigger than before, and even Chaos God champions have joined the sieges.
Elric attunes to the talisman of damnation and feels evil magic infect his circuits. He tries to move the Sphere of Damnation, but apparently miles in the distance is too far to have any effect.
Maybe next time…
They enter Bel’s Forge throne room and find Bel still holding the devilish baby Zanzibar.
“Glad to see you all in one piece,” Bel says.
“Glad to see you didn’t eat the baby,” Caeus says.
“Why would I do such a thing to such a darling?” Bel pats Zanzibar on his baby head. The devil sees the talisman around Elric’s neck. “Give me the talisman, and I’ll tell you where the Bleeding Citadel is.”
“What are you going to do with it?” Caeus asks.
“With that talisman, I can control the Sphere of Damnation,” Bel says. “There is a great battle coming. Zariel’s success lies in Kinchasa. Losing it would lead to her downfall.”
“We have an interest in getting Kinchasa back to our plane of existence. Can that be your interest as well?” Sleipnir asks.
“All best interests are written down,” Bel says. A contract appears between them. “There are multiple others involved in this war since the Great Peace. I have yet to enter the war. On one side is Zariel, who I am allied to, in theory. On the other, the Chaos Gods themselves–Khorne, Nurgle, Tzeentch... And now Baphomet has joined the fray. It seems that Arkhan and Tiamat are no longer a factor…”
“We did that!” Sfiros beams.
“Neither is Dendar, nor this upstart Shomarrah,” Bel continues. “I need assurances from you about your allegiances. I need to ensure that when this is over, you won’t join Zariel or any of the Chaos gods who try to take Avernus from our grasp. Is that understood?”
Bel holds out his pen.
“Works for me!” Sleipnir cheers.
After further negotiations, they agree to sign the following contract:
“The Herd/Brazen Bulls of the First Regurgitation/Sfiros, Caeus, Sleipnir, Tallest, and the rest, shall receive (1) information directing them to the precise location of the Bleeding Citadel/Sword of Zariel. (2) A promise binding that Bel, Bel’s forces, and any subsidiary of Bel’s forces will not harm Kinchasa in any way. (3) Three soul coins.
Bel shall receive (1) talisman of damnation.”
"One more thing," Bel says, smiling over the contract with the talisman in his hands. "The next time you sign a contract with a devil, know that it's not legally binding if it doesn't specify consequences for breaking it."
The devil snaps his fingers. The contract disappears, and the Bleeding Citadel appears on the map.
"Now go get your damned sword," he says, draping the talisman over his neck.