Meanwhile, in the Feywild, Lord Bamwin Vanderswell and Berrian are called to the Fey Court of the city of Astrazalian. While there they witness the kidnapping of the royal family by fiendish slavers. Chasing them to the Nine Hells, the EDGE frees the court and sends them back to the Feywild. (This was to be Julian’s adventure.)
However, the party members themselves are unable to cross through the portal. By any means they might devise, they are unable to leave the infernal plane of Ba’ator.
Interrogation by Professor Plum reveals the EDGE has been damned by the pit fiend Mephasm. The first victim of the Deck of Many Things, the mighty devil was enfeebled and destroyed by that mad artifact and swore that, should the heroes ever enter the Hells, they would be imprisoned forever. Plum determines they are forbidden from ever leaving unless they are pardoned by a greater power than even a pit fiend: one of the Lords of the Nine.
Fortunately, Plum has a contact in the city of Dis, the second layer of the Nine Hells. The walled city is built of red-hot iron, every surface scorching anyone not protected from the heat. Decrepit slums fester around decadent dens of hedonism and vice. Glamorous casinos separate the damned from their few remaining possessions, patrolling bands of devils are little more than thugs, drug pushers force addicts into depraved acts, succubi pimp their prostitutes, and damned beggars and thieves scrounge in desperate circumstances. The City of Sin is also a planar trading post in a sinister reflection of Hestavar; blackguards and warlocks trade in dark secrets, assassins openly sell deadly poisons, and slavers operate a thriving trade along the river Styx.
While the mortal city of Orspring was controlled by devils, the dwarven barbarian Bardryn was one of those enslaved and sent to the Hells; Plum volunteered to escort him as his agent. He coached Bardryn for long enough to get him out of the Fetters district and into the professional gladitorial circuit, at which point Bardryn decided he didn’t need the gnome’s help anymore and cut him out. Plum rejoined the party in the Great Bazaar of Sigil, selling goods he acquired on his journey into Hell. The party manages to locate Bardryn and Plum conspires to rig the gladiatorial tournament by entering the entire party in the games. The winner earns a single Wish Bardryn can use to pardon the party and send them home.
As the interplanar gladiator arena bracket is drawing to a close Dispater himself oversees the events. The characters enter the arena as gladiators, facing off against each other, until the champion faces Bardryn in single combat and throws the fight. Bardryn by this time has become so corrupted that he commands a measure of infernal power; with Plum’s knowledge and Bardryn’s strength, he is sure they will be successful.
As it happens, Bardryn does NOT use his Wish to free the party. Instead, he challenges Dispater to single combat for the title of Prince of Hell! In Plum’s experience with the gladiatorial arena, he knows the bylaws of the tournament are supreme and binding, even for the Dukes of Hell. If he goads Dispater into summoning allies in battle then the entire EDGE is permitted, by the rules of the arena, to come to Bardryn’s aid. The battle is won and Bardryn takes his epic destiny: Prince of Hell, Ruler of Dis, Archdevil and Lord of the Nine. He can no longer leave the plane, but can send a powerful aspect to join the party in their travels.
After the chaos subsides, Plum and Bardryn turn their attention to the administration of this layer of Hell. Among the thousands of prisoners of that infernal city, Dispater’s most prized is Gith.
In the ancient times when the Githzerai and Githyanki overthrew their illithid masters, Dispater brokered a pact between Ephelomon (now Tiamat’s red dragon exarch) and Vlaakith (now lich queen of the Githyanki). Vlaakith gained dominion over the Pactbound Red Dragons, and Tiamat gained the service of the Githyanki should she require it. Gith surrendered herself as Dispater’s prisoner, under the condition that the Githyanki always be free to choose their own destiny. If Tiamat were to subjugate the Githyanki, or if the Githyanki were to abandon the Eternal Crusade against the mind flayers, the pact would be broken; pactbound dragons and Gith herself would be freed.
As the supreme lord of the layer, Bardryn has Gith at his mercy and is free to interrogate, torture, or release her within Dis, none of which would tamper with the ancient pact because the terms of Gith’s imprisonment essentially amount to being subject to the will of the ruler of Dis. Dispater’s inclinations ran towards imprisonment but Bardryn’s are completely unpredictable. Tampering with Gith could overturn the balance of the war; the bindings of the contract would immediately change if the price of breaking them is nullified.
- If Gith remains imprisoned, the githyanki are among the forces blockading Tytherion from approach by the Astral Sea. They allow the players to pass unmolested so long as they are not aware of Bardryn’s displacement of Dispater and continued imprisonment of Gith. If this information is not controlled (for example, if Bardryn orders a citywide festival in his honor) the githyanki may attempt to waylay the party and bring them before Vlaakith.
- If Gith is destroyed, Tiamat would have no reason to allow the Githyanki their freedom, and would immediately enact her contingency plan to assassinate Vlaakith and replace her with her puppet, Emperor Zetch’r’r, thereby claiming the githyanki as her newest slave race. The githyanki are pressed into the war against Zehir, but hold particular and eternal hatred for Bardryn and his allies for annihilating their hero.
- If Gith is freed by Bardryn she joins the resistance against Tiamat, attempting to start a civil war among her race and release the Githyanki from their servitude. This is a conflict of interest as the players want Tiamat’s puppet Zetch’r’r to remain in power and ally with them to defeat Osterneth’s ally Vlaakith and their mutual enemy Zehir. Successful diplomacy could gain them the loyalty of Tiamat’s red dragons in the fight against Zehir; failure means making the EDGE enemies of Gith, the newly freed Githyanki joining Zehir and focusing their attacks on the material plane.
Depending on how intricately the party wants to involve themselves in these politics, they could make powerful allies or enemies which would have a significant impact on their chances of success later in the campaign.
Next week: More adventures and side-quests before the final push.