Breath of Zehir

Breathless: Gabriella

The paladin atones for her sins in Hestavar.

Human paladin Gabriella Lightsworn has served Pelor her entire life, but lately has been unfaithful. Loyalty to her companions has forced her to defy her god in His own domain and imbue Berrian with the vestige of a dead primordial. However, Pelor is merciful and acknowledges the spirit of the act, and what He sees in her heart. To earn her god’s forgiveness, Gabriella’s penance is to descend to the Abyss, and defeat the demon prince Baphomet. Success means she is strong enough to be bound to Berrian as his eternal warden. Failure, and the hosts of the gods will smite him before he can reach his full potential and threaten the gods once more.

Baphomet’s layer of the Abyss is the Endless Maze, an infinitely twisting labrynth. Savage demons roam the endless halls, while Epic Vrocks hunt the skies above. The corridors change material depending on the part of the maze you’re in; a dense fog obscures vision, making it trivially easy to become lost or disoriented. It’s fairly easy to climb up the walls, or teleport or fly to the top of the maze, but creatures that do so are at risk of being picked up, carried away, and dropped in a random location by the vrocks; or worse, risking the attention of balors on the wing.

With Vayastra’s help, the EDGE can locate a portal into the abyss (known as a demongate). Arrange a stack of Adventure System dungeon tiles with the Start Tile at the bottom. At the table, place the party on the Arcane Circle tile, then place other dungeon tiles adjacent to the open sides of that tile. As the characters move, continue placing tiles so that every tile with a hero on it has a tile adjacent to each open side. Tiles adjacent to the hero’s tile are lightly obscured (-2 to attacks), while tiles further away are heavily obscured and effectively invisible. Powers, abilities, or items that remove concealment show that the space beyond is a wall, which vanishes when approached.

When a character moves away from a tile such that it becomes “invisible” again, remove it from the board and place it back on top of the dungeon tile stack. Thus the players will be endlessly navigating the maze, unless they split up and uncover enough dungeon tiles to get to the bottom of the stack, and reveal the large stairway. That hero must then remain in place and try to guide the rest to join her. The stairs descend to the Grinding Maw.

The corridors have their dangers. Demons appear on each tile with a black arrow, quickly overwhelming isolated heroes and blocking their way. Tiles with two exits have Evistro Devastators, tiles with three exits have Hezrou, and tiles with four exits have Goristro Chattels. Heroes who scale the walls can’t see anything due to the brown smog, but meet an Epic Vrock that scoops them up and effectively removes them from play until they escape. When they escape they take appropriate falling damage and they reappear on the next tile drawn (prone and probably next to a nasty monster.)

Descending the stairs takes them to the relatively uninhabited Flesh Grinder Foundry. A nightmarish weapons factory, belching smoke and the roar of the engines mingle with the stench of carrion and the howls of the damned. Tormented souls are used as fuel in great furnaces, or churned into gore to lubricate the huge spiked chains. Thousands of Flesh Grinders are forged here to corrupt mortals in the world. Pathetic dretches flee from the heroes, while the foundry’s masters, the Sibriex, confront them. After destroying the demons, Gabriella performs a holy cleansing ritual to free the trapped souls within and cause the foundry to implode.

After the ritual is complete, Baphomet himself teleports into the collapsing forge with a pair of Balors, filled with rage and intent on destroying the heroes. An epic battle commences as the foundry spirals into the abyss. The Horned King fights with his weapons and trapping enemies within his mazes until bloodied; in that frenzy, the beast throws aside his weapons and blindly rampages with horn, hoof, tooth, and claw until destroyed.

Without the demon prince’s will to shape the chaos, all of Baphomet’s layer begins to unravel. Portals crack open from other layers of the Abyss, overflowing with warring demons rushing in to claim the spoils. In the anarchy, the party makes a mad rush to escape through a portal before they are overrun, and make their way back to safety.

Back in Hestavar, Gabriella’s performance is evaluated. Having passed the test, and shown her ability to stand and face down the most powerful forces of chaos in the multiverse, Gabriella is anointed with immortality and bestowed her epic destiny: Exalted Angel. Gabriella is also honored with Pelor’s own blade from the Dawn War, that struck down Heur-Ket in that ancient time: the Holy Avenger (+6). With these gifts, she honors her sacred charge to defend the works of the gods from those that would unmake them.

Next week: Bamwin’s fate, and the return of Bardryn.

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