After a wellness check, the Brazen Bulls figure baby Zanzibar is fine turning into a devil with Bel. He’s certainly doing better than the other add-ons they’ve had join them.
The map sings the whole way to the Bleeding Citadel. Three days of travel, three days of non-stop singing, three days of hellish hot winds scouring their fur and armor until they see an unusual bulge in the landscape.
They approach the bulge.
The Bleeding Citadel is a castle of good and blessed celestial nature. This radiant goodness is harmful to Hell, and Avernus’s evil realm scabs over the wound, slowly subsuming the holy edifice. The massive citadel with spiral towers shimmers incandescently beneath a holy barrier, but layers upon layers of caked-on, pulsating sores stretch over the citadel. Hell itself wants to devour the holy bastion..
Caeus kicks his feet together, and his power armor greaves merge into a rocket. “I can do this now!” He flies up into the wine-dark welkin.
Sleipnir summons his nightmare steed, Odin, and the Anacos brothers fly around the perimeter, but they find no entrance through the shimmering barrier–only scabs and bloody stuff.
They return to the map, demanding answers, and it sings them to a tunnel as dark as it is hidden.
The Brazen Bulls review their levels and limitations of dark vision.
Sleipnir, the shadow sorcerer, can see in every form of darkness within a great distance.
Tallest has invisibility vision, which grants him blindsight within a short distance.
Elric, the motorcycle dad, has eyes that shine like headlights in a medium distance.
Caeus imbues his power armor with light.
Sfiros takes out his fiery holy symbol of Gond.
They see the tunnel ooze with fresh, recurring wounds. Undisturbed, Sleipnir gallops deep into the tunnel where he finds a shimmering window. Sleipnir is no strangers to windows–but he prefers his windows open–and if he can’t open them…
BANG BANG BANG
Sleipnir’s torch breaks against the window as he tries to smash the window open.
“There’s something wrong with my torch!” he cries.
Sfiros raises his holy symbol of Gond to get a clearer view of the window and sees an image of Zariel.
“Oh shit!” Sfiros says. “I hate her.”
“Help me break this window!” Sleipnir yells.
Sfiros and Tallest join Sleipnir on the nightmare mount to charge the window.
Sleipnir shakes his head. He and Tallest are still on Odin in the oozey side of the shimmering window. Only Sfiros appears on the other side.
The cleric of Gond illuminates the citadel with his flaming holy symbol.
This place is the BEST! It’s so holy! It’s so not-hellish! Sfiros has been in Avernus for so long that this holy space makes him feel like a man so starved he forgot he was hungry… and then he suddenly stumbled upon a banquet. Ornate marble columns and carved rules decorate the beautiful hallway–a blessed relief from this stupid, dumb hell place.
“I love it,” Sfiros beams, basking in the holy goodness. “How do I get my friends here?” Sfiros prays to Gond.
On the other side, Caeus scans detect magic on the shimmering window, and his power armor alerts him that it is indeed a magical barrier.
“Dispel it,” Tallest says.
“This is a monitoring system,” Caeus says. “I don’t actually do anything about it. I can tell you there’s magic there, it’s on you to do something at this point.”
Caeus frostbites and shatters the window, causing the citadel to chill and shake, but the glimmer over the window does not fade.
“Well, it’s unbreakable,” Sleipnir gives up, pouting over his pile of broken torches.
Caeus, Tallest, and Elric load up on Odin again, and Sleipnir crashes all of them into the window.
This time, Caeus appears on the other side!
“You let my brother in?! GOSH!” Sleipnir cries at the window.
“Hey! How’d you guys get in?!” Tallest screams.
“You guys want to go down the long, bloody hallway?” Sleipnir asks Tallest and Elric.
“YEAH!” Tallest pouts, and Odin carries them away.
They find a room filled with blood and barbed hircine demons, bleating and biting with goat heads. Two balgura demons cut off their retreat. Not only are they not allowed to enter the pretty stained glass window, but they also have to deal with the random encounter?
“Are you all right for a second?” Sleipnir asks Tallest.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Tallest jumps off Odin to pull away the demons, allowing Sleipnir and Elric to fall back.
Although many demons find themselves in the path of the Blade of Ahn-Nurunta, Tallest is surrounded. The demons climb and claw and bite and poison him.
Sleipnir and Elric attack the horde from deep in the bloody tunnel while the demons focus their rage on Tallest.
“BAA!” the goat demons screech, ripping into Tallest’s plate armor.
Bloodied by his own blood, Tallest slices off a demon’s head, stabs another through the stomach, and holds another up as Elric pierces its eyes with arrows.
“We did it!” Sleipnir cries as the final balgura falls.
Elsewhere, a cleric and an artificer stand near a window and a set of stairs in the Not-Hell portion of Avernus. The stairs lead up to a red glow, but also lead down to a white light. A feeling of holy sanctuary washes over them.
“I’d like to defer to Gondish rituals,” Caeus says.
“This is a really holy and sanctified place,” Sfiros says, not wanting Caeus to pollute the Gondness with any robot nonsense. “This is the first time I’ve felt this kind of energy since we came to Hell.”
“It could just be that there’s something magnetic here,” Caeus suggests. “You’ve ingested a lot of iron. I’m just saying, it can’t be good.”
Either magnetism or pragmatism leads the armored spellcasters to explore the red glow upstairs first.
Red light, filtering in through the glimmering scab, washes away all other colors in a large domed room.
A bright coatl feather falls, its pattern blending from red to blue to green to yellow. Caeus puts the feather in the bag of holding.
“Do coatls lay eggs?” Caeus asks.
“I don’t know,” Sfiros says. “I’ve never worshiped a coatl before. Or even met one.”
Sfiros doesn’t know what coatls are.
They find a dais with a tempting sword. Caeus and Sfiros rock-paper-scissors by flipping coins to see who gets the sword. Caeus wins by pushing Sfiros over and grabbing at it.
Caeus is interrupted by a MASSIVE HOLLYPHANT TRUMPET!
“Is that Lulu’s grampa?” Sfiros asks.
A golden hollyphant the size of a mastodon steps out of the shadows. Its massive tusks, inscribed with scriptures, scrape the ground. A decorative rainbow headdress with coatl feathers shakes with the enormous hollyphant’s trumpeting.
The two minotaurs wonder why they couldn’t have been stuck with this hollyphant instead of the rinky-dink-dipshit-Finding-Dory one from the beginning of the campaign.
“Now, now, Ghom. Let us see what these visitors have to say. They bypassed the barriers after all,” a Chultan warrior says behind the hollyphant.
Divine energy pulsates from the warrior, and his image fades in and out of focus.
“What up?” they ask.
“Who might I have the honor of addressing?” the blurry warrior asks, scratching the hollyphant’s ear.
“I am Sfiros of Gond. This is my friend Caeus. We are on a mission to save Kinchasa.”
“And a demon backbone,” Caeus adds.
“We’re also looking for demon spines.” Sfiros nods.
“I’m not familiar with Kinchasa, but the world does move on. I believe that trinket,” the blurry warrior says and points at the sword, “had some connection with that town.”
“Things change, but they always stay the same,” Caeus says. “There are always bad people out trying to harm others and impose their will. We need that sword to take one of them down.”
The Chultan warrior laughs. “Were you born in Avernus?”
“We traveled via otter,” Caeus says.
“We descended!” Sfrios beams. “We’re from the Material Plane!”
“You came here as warriors?” the blur asks.
“Hm, some warriors. There was a smaller version of your friend with us,” Sfiros says. “We’re trying to rescue her, too.”
“You must be talking about Lulu,” he says.
“You know Lulu!” they cheer.
“Hollyphants never forget,” the warrior says.
“Lulu actually forgot a lot!” Sfiros says.
“We’re also looking for Valour,” Caeus says.
“You might know him by his government name, Uul’valaar Stevenson,” Sfiros says.
“I have not thought of governments since I slew the king of Omu,” the ghostly warrior says. “But that was long ago.”
“You slew Dur-Dur-Dur?!” they cry.
“What?!” The warrior’s image blurs rapidly in confusion. “No. I was born in Omu. The king tricked me into the hells, but Ghom and I rode out. We were among the only mortals to return. I found the king and freed his skull from his neck and turned it into a chalice. That is how you deal with those who wrong you.”
“Skulls don’t make very good chalices,” Caeus points out.
“I read about a group of adventurers who recovered that chalice,” Sfiros says. “Wasn’t it totally evil or something?”
“It wasn’t evil when I made it,” the warrior says. “You may call me Ch’gakare.”
“How long have you been down here in Hell, Ch’gakare?” Sfiros asks.
“I am in Heaven! I keep an eye on Hell from here,” Ch’gakare says. “Ghom and I lived to old age, and when we died, we ascended to Heaven. But this sword, here, needed to be protected, lest it be swallowed up. It has a purpose, it seems.”
Ch’gakare sizes up Caeus and Sfiros.
“The hero who becomes one with this blade exists no longer,” he says. “Whoever seeks this blade will be reforged anew.”
Sfiros inhales with glee at the thought of forging and reforging!
“I don’t really do swords…” Caeus says.
“I’m going to be honest,” Sfiros says quickly, not hiding his raging boner. “I’ve been waiting my whole life to do something stupid in the name of religion.”
“You’ve been waiting?!” Caeus asks.
“It was fashioned from celestial steel by the great forge master himself,” Ch’gakare says.
“Gond?” Sfiros asks.
“Yes.” Chuckakari nods.
“OH I HAVE TO HAVE IT!” Sfiros screams piously.
“I can see you have a good heart,” Ch’gakare says. “And I know that you cannot be responsible for the morality of the company you keep. I know you walk with those who wield Tzeentch weaponry, those who dabble in dark sorcery, and those who would give away their own son’s soul simply to have a conversation with an agent of an evil dragon goddess. Not everyone can be free of sin. Will you take the sword?”
“If it’s a sword forged by Gond, oh yeah!” Sfiros cheers.
“Then take the sword and see the truth,” the blurry Chultan warriors says.
Sfiros casts communion to reach out to Gond. Holy flames erupt in front of the cleric, and a ball of iron drops to the ground. Sfiros picks it up and shakes. “Hey, Gond, it’s me, Sfiros of Gond. I’m here in the Bleeding Citadel. There’s a sword, and a spirit who claims to be its protector, and he claims it was forged by you. Is that true?”
Flames on the ball move to form the words SIGNS POINT TO YES.
“Would I be advancing your mission to take it up in arms?”
“That is all I need to know,” Sfiros says, then throws the ball away. “I don’t need a third question. Thank you.”
Sfiros takes the Sword of Zariel.
The souls of the cathedral are replaced by havoc, screams of panic, and acrid smoke.
“WHAT?! No!” Sfiros screams.
He finds himself standing at the edge of a small town in the desert with burning cottages, fields, and trees.
“We did it!” Caeus cheers.
A broken sign reveals the settlement’s name: Kinchasa.
“We did it!” Caeus cheers louder.
Shrieking townsfolk run from cackling, snarling demons and minotaurs.
Sfiros hears in his head, “Before you wield this power, you must see her fall.”
Next Time! On BlunderQuest! Zariel’s Fall From Grace: The Flashback Episode!