“Before you wield her power, you must see her fall,” a voice says.
Sfiros of Gond appears in the middle of a battle from Kinchasa’s past. Now, neither the Sword of Zariel nor Caeus Anacos are nearby.
There is only Sfiros.
And oh SHIT THERE’S FIGHTING HAPPENING!
The cleric casts sending, sending a magic missive to Caeus that says “Took hold of Sword. Teleported to burning city. What happened to you?”
“I don’t know. There’s a big frog monster fighting a church. I think we’re in the past,” Caeus responds.
<You must see her fall…> the voice says again, echoing in their heads.
Old Kinchasa is a battlefield, with several peasants running with their peasant feet to their peasant homes. Presently (but in the past) some peasants having not-too-pleasant of a day shriek in terror as an unpleasant disaster presents itself among the peasants. Pheasant.
No, not pheasants! Four hostile, Baphomet-flavored minotaurs burst out of a ravaged building, snorting snortishly in the air and desiring nothing but bloodshot… so naturally Sfiros runs away.
“Gosh!” a voice cries from an alley.
Sfiros dashes to the sound and finds Sleipnir Reborn skulking in the shadows. The sorcerer has just cast cloudkill in the middle of a gang of poison-immune demons attacking a poison-susceptible peasant.
“Sleipnir!” Sfiros screams at the sneaking sorcerer.
“Don’t talk to me! I’m trying to concentrate!” Sleipnir shouts sneakily.
“There are minotaurs following me!” Sfiros continues. “Not the us kind of minotaurs, the big bad kind.”
Editor’s note: When Sfiros refers to evil minotaurs as “big,” this is not to be confused with the word, “tall.” Not all tall minotaurs are big. Nor are they bad. Bigful Bad and Tallfull Good are two vastly different archetypes and should not be used interchangeably.
The poison-immune demons and the Baphomet-minotaurs pincer the spellcasters in the alleyway.
Sleipnir misty steps to a rooftop and summons his flying nightmare steed, Odin.
Sfiros… can’t really do anything.
“I just got here!” Sfiros cries from the ground. “I can’t help but notice that you’re accidentally flying away without me!”
“I know!” Sleipnir agrees from the sky.
Sleipnir is a dick.
“It’s totally not my fault we’re here!” Sfiros lies and blocks an attack. “I totally didn’t touch a Sword!”
With lies on his lips, Sfiros of Gond summons spirit guardians. The spectral cattle trample around the cleric, briefly granting him some respite from the swathe of enemies. The Baphominotaurs and poison-immune demons lunge for the cleric. A divine cow smashes into the monsters, flinging them away.
One Baphominotaur charges through the spirit cows, and its battleaxe swings down.
From the sky, Sleipnir casts storm sphere. A torrent of shadows yank the monster out of the air mid strike. The area-of-effect attack catches everyone below in its terrible, effective area.
“You cast it on me!” Sfiros cries as the storm sphere indiscriminately pummels everything in the alley.
“It’s not as bad as you think!” Sleipnir lies.
The shadow torrent mixes with the radiant spectral cows, creating a dangerous magical aura around the cleric of Gond. This blend of shadow sorcery and holy cows annihilates the enemies, and in the middle of it all, Sfiros swings his mace as the magic around him tears the Baphomintoaurs and poison-immune demons to shreds.
“All me!” Sleipnir cheers from the safety of the sky.
Several blocks away, in a burning courtyard, Tallest sees a metallic bull gorgon attacking a mastiff under a statue of Zariel, who in the past is the defender of Kinchasa.
“Hey, bull, this mastiff doesn’t stand a chance! Let’s get him!” Tallest yells.
The bull gorgon turns in confusion just in time to get smacked in the face with a thrown handaxe. The axereturns to Tallest’s hands thanks to Caeus’s tinkering, and Tallest throws it again!
Screaming in rage, the gorgon blasts a cone of petrifying gas. Tallest inhales the gas and smiles with ecstasy.
“Oh, man, you done goofed. This is stuff they serve at the Crossed Swords!” Tallest embiggens as his body hardens under his plate armor. Little does the metal bull know that Tallest is a huge fan of that good gas, just like Sfiros is empowered by that good steam!
Big and hard, Tallest stabs the bull gorgon with his engorged scimitar. With each wound, gas sprays out of the gorgon’s tough skin. The splashes of the familiar gas excites Tallest further. His eyes dilate, his grips tightens, his heart pounds, his muscles bulge. He slashes the bull gorgon again and delivers a terrible gas-pounding from behind.
The gorgon roars out in anguish. It spins around to strike the massive minotaur with its own horns. The bull stabs into Tallest, through the plate armor, through a cloud rune, and into the nearby mastiff.
“Sorry, dog,” Tallest lies. “You killed my dog!”
The Blade of Ahn-Nunurta frees the bull’s head from its body, and its corpse falls to the ground. Tallest pulls the head out of the cloud rune, and the mastiff’s body collapses as well.
Gas explodes from the head of the bull gorgon. Tallest reaches into the skull and rips out the stone brain. The brain immediately sublimates, and the gorgon head hardens hollow. Tallest puts his head into it and wears it like a helm. It’s not every flashback that a guy can get some gas and some head.
On the other side of the courtyard, Caeus is watching a frog-like dretch demon attack the barricaded church of Tyr, presumably to eat the juicy worshippers inside.
Caeus charges the dretch and zaps it with his thunderfists, and the dretch punches back into the power armor. Caeus’s magical defensive field slows the monster’s attack to pitiful taps.
Caeus swats the dretch’s arm away and thunderpunches it in the face. The frog-like demon’s pudgy face folds inward, but then it exhales a putrid stench that pierces the power armor’s ventilation.
“Oof, that smelly smell. Makes me want to go fast,” Caeus says. With expeditious retreat, his power armor hooves blast off. He disengages from the stinky dretch and runs to Tallest. Unlike the tall minotaur, Caeus isn’t as open to gas action.
A chorus of screams echoes through the town as people, livestock, and pests scamper and flee the Kinchasan battleground.
A herd of snapfires scurries away from an emerging chimeric demon, a monster larger than the buildings with the body of a serpentine six-armed bull with a sword in each hooved hand. The monstrous chimera teleports in front of Tallest and Caeus. It twirls its swords like that robot in that one Star Wars movie.
“I was raised in your minotaur arts by Count Mooku!” the chimera gloats.
Yeah, that movie!
“Hey Caeus!” Tallest says. “This snake thing teleported right where I wanted it to! I’m gonna stab it!”
The chimera parries Tallest’s attack with one of its six arms.
“WHAT?! What if I stab it again?!” Tallest says.
Caeus notices his expeditious retreat is still running, so he retreats expeditiously by running away.
From the sky, Caeus’s useful little brother summons Sophie, who is promptly slaughtered by the chimera. So many dogs are getting slaughtered in this episode that… something-something John Wick joke!
“He killed your brother’s dog!” Sfiros shouts a second level healing word at Caeus as the tinkerer runs past, gulping a potion of healing.
“Everybody’s killing our dogs!” Tallest cries.
The chimera hisses and moos.
“I don’t need six arms. Two should do!” Tallest slices the chimera again.
The froglike dretch demon that Caeus led to the fray attack Tallest from behind, distracting the fighter long enough for the chimera to smack him down with its one tail and six arms, which is way different from Tallest’s three tails and two arms.
Sfiros casts healing word and guiding bolt to heal Tallest and shine radiance around the chimera.
Tallest stands up, slashes the chimera, and misty steps behind Sfiros.
“I’ve got an idea! Hide me,” Tallest booms.
“You’re three times my size!” Sfiros says.
The chimera teleports in front of them and attacks Sfiros sevenly. The grace of Gond, Sfiros’s forged armor, and Tallest’s runic shield protect the cleric from the onslaught.
Sfiros of Gond prays a mass healing word on his allies. He strikes the chimera with his mace, critically hitting with radiance from blessed strike and fire from his gauntlets of flaming fury.
The chimera rubs its head and examines his haggard, desperate foes.
<You win this one,> they hear in their heads. The chimera teleports away.
“Dang, I’m out of counterspells,” unharmed Sleipnir mutters from the safety of his flying nightmare steed.
Nobody likes Sleipnir.
With the chimera gone, Caeus bravely enters the fight. He thunderpunches the dretch demon to death and retrieves a tooth as a souvenir proving his valor.
Six Kinchasan soldiers run into the courtyard, covered in black ichor and their mouths foaming with weird.
The Brazen Bulls happily slaughter the possessed guards
… What? These events already happened!
<You have about an hour before the really bad stuff happens,> a Chultan man’s voice says inside their minds.
The chapel door opens, and followers of Tyr filter out.
“The Chaos God Guga is flaying our lands,” a priestess says. “I know our hero Zariel will save us. Maybe Tyr sent you?”
“Yeah, but we don’t do this for free. What are you offering?” Tallest asks. “We want money. Treasure.”
“Magic items,” Sleipnir adds.
“All of us like magic weapons,” Sfiros nods from his magic horsey.
As part of negotiations, Sleipnir employs the huddling masses to build barriers around the courtyard to set up traps and difficult terrain.
Sfiros addresses the statue of Zariel. “Zariel, I know you’ve lost your way. No one would build a statue of you now. Clearly, there was a time you were revered by these people.”
The statue radiates a bit, and the Brazen Bulls’ eyes brighten as white as #FFFFFF. The blessing grants them protection from good and evil.
A neutral arrow flies from the rooftops aimed at Caeus, but his power armor flings it away to impale the Zariel statue.
“Some little creep just attacked me!” Caeus yells at what looks like a bit of an elf atop the roofs.
Six Baphominotaurs charge in from the south, and Sfiros shoots one with his crossbow.
From the safety of the sky, Sleipnir casts shatter at the enemy minotaurs.
From the danger of the sky, a flying vrok stunning screeches at Sleipnir, incapacitating the sorcerer atop his nightmare steed.
Copying his brother, Caeus Anacos casts shatter at the enemy minotaurs.
Copying himself from the last battle, Sfiros summons his spirit guardians.
Copying Sfiros, the priestess of Tyr summons her own spirit guardians in the form of dwarven valkyries.
“Yes, yes fight with me!” she cries. “Our spirits are entwined!” Which sounds like something kinky is happening… hell, maybe it is? Is this how clerics are born?
The dwarven valkyries mount the stampeding cattle, and together they slaughter the Baphominotaurs.
Enlarged by Caeus, Tallest stabs the last Baphominotaur through the eye with a hellfire javelin. The monster’s soul implodes out of this vision of the past, damned to the River Styx.
A wild, hideous laugh pierces the air and cuts through the battle. A massive minotaur covered in stained bloody fur swings its claws. Gore drips from its red maw, open in a violent laugh. This minotaur monster is much taller than Tallest.
“What?!” Tallest cries. “Who else has enlarge? I need another one.”
“Traitorous wretches!” Baphomet snarls.
“Baphomet?!” Sleipnir shouts, recognizing that dialogue tag. He wakes up to the vrok pecking at him.
<I told you this was the really bad stuff!> Ch’kagare says inside their minds.
“You betrayed us, sir!” Tallest yells at Baphomet. “You were supposed to be our loyal servant, and here you are sending people to attack us! That’s not cool.”
Baphomet teleports in front of Tallest and, with his heartcleaver claws, lifts Tallest off the ground and slams the fighter down. The minotaur demon god smacks Caeus, flinging the tinkerer against a nearby wall and forcing him to lose concentration on enlarge.
“Not so tall now, are you?!” Baphomet screams at Tallest’s unconscious body.
Sfiros of Gond raises his mace and prays to Gond for salvation as Baphomet laughs.
The cackling demon lord shuts his maw and narrows his gaze, looking upward toward the sky as a beam of radiant light pierces the haze. A powerful angel streaks down from above, followed by a gold-furred mammoth with wings.
The angel slashes her sword across Baphomet’s chest and utters a spell. A portal opens behind the demon lord as the mammoth rams her head into Baphomet, pushing the demon lord through the portal.
The angel looks around the turmoil and unceremoniously banishes the vrok and the useless elf assassin.
“Who do you fight for?” Zariel asks the party of minotaurs as she heals them.
“Changes day to day, minute to minute,” Caeus says.
“Just a moment ago we were fighting not for but because of Baphomet,” Tallest says.
“We self-advocate. We fight for ourselves,” Caeus says.
“We’re the Herd. The Brazen Bulls to some,” Tallest says. “You’ll hear about us later, don’t forget.”
“I’m sure I will,” Zariel says.
Sfiros is shaking his head during this exchange, muttering something about Gond.
“Quick question, Zariel, do you have any weak points we should be aware of? In case we need to protect you?” Caeus asks.
“My Sword,” Zariel reveals. The angel places a ward on the ground, creating a green smoldering flame encased in a metal cage. Zariel takes the flame and mounts the massive mammoth version of Lulu. “It’s time to ride to Hell. It’s time for Guga to end.”
Sfiros tugs at her robes and whispers, “You better know that we would fight for others.”
Zariel tearfully winks at the cleric of Gond as the portal closes around the doomed angel and her forgetful hollyphant.
The vision ends.
Sfiros and Caeus are back in the Bleeding Citadel with the Chultan warrior Ch’kagare and his noble hollyphant Ghom.
Sfiros is holding the Sword of Zariel, and he feels changed.
“This longsword belonged to Zariel before her fall from grace,” Ch’kagare explains. “Fashioned from celestial steel, this weapon gives off a faint glow and hum.”
Sfiros examines the sword and nods in agreement.
“The weapon chooses who can attune to it and who can’t,” Ch’kagare continues. “It desires a wielder who embodies bravery and heroism.”
The Sword of Zariel immediately attunes to Sfiros of Gond.
The minotaur forge cleric transforms into a heavenly, idealized version of himself. Blessed with otherworldly divinity and heaven in his heart, Sfiros can now speak, read, and write Celestial. He has resistance to necrotic and radiant damage. His charisma score becomes 20. He sprouts a beautiful pair of angel wings that give him a flying speed of 90 feet and the ability to hover. His eyes become luminous pools of silver, allowing him to see in normal and magical darkness, to see invisible creatures and objects, to automatically detect visual illusions, to see original forms of creatures transformed or shapeshifted through magic, and to see into the Ethereal plane within 60 feet.
“You have faced many trials to claim the Sword of Zariel,” Ch’kagare says. “The hero who becomes one with this blade exists no longer.”
Sfiros Dimirgos, Sfiros Dimirgosn’t’ve, and now Sfiros of Gond are gone.