Gestalt:- Army of Light

A Little Bit of Home.

After a brief respite in Avernus, it was decided to follow the trace of power from the Triumvirate, rather than simply chase after Raziel. Quite apart from anything else, there was a growing reluctance to actually give the thing to the Fist of Heaven – especially with his increasingly rash actions.

So, following an active portal into Minaros, the party descended deeper into hell. While the Endless Bog was certainly physically challenging to them, the celestials did not find the need to continually fly particularly difficult. After a few days of flight, a raft of rotted matter was spotted – and a Gate with a village around it. Or, it was a village. The devils and lost souls within had been slaughtered by Raziel’s forces. As the trail of the Triumvirate’s power did not point further into hell, they left behind the destruction and flew on across the layer.

Passing a number of pillars, they learnt the origin of the immense siege-hand on Dis – More of them were being grown from rusted iron, the substance of the marsh, and corrupted Maelrhyssian technology.

Eventually, an incongrous White wall was spotted, holding back the marsh. Flying over it, the celestials each felt a slight resistance, but this barely occupied their thoughts – inside the wall were orderly fields, tilled by seemingly happy souls. And in the distance…a heavenly city.

The Deva guarding the gate was surpised to see them, and overjoyed to hear that Raziel had survived the wars in heaven. He was saddened to find that his own Paragon, Barachiel, had been slain. He did not allow the group into they city, stating that he had to report to his superiors. He did offer them lodgings, and sent them to a nearby inn. Here, they were given delicious cabbage meals and ale – including Joyful Bunny, a non-alchoholic cabbage beer for children. After the night ,even the suspicious Lyrus was convinced that these souls were indeed happy, and had apparently been rescued from torture in the hells.

The next day, they were invited into the city itself, were they met its leaders – the Lord Ramzazael and the Lady Seras (a Throne Archon and Sword Archon). Ramzazael greeted them, and told them that until he was sure that hell had no influence on them, there would be a few areas in the city they could not access, but otherwise, they were free to wander. He also told them that it was impossible for them to leave.

Obviously not taking him at his word, Keirna and Lyrus attempted just that. Keirna was not restricted, but Lyrus was repelled. Lyrus found the entirely sitution confusing, and attempted to find information – leading to a history book that had had odd pages replaced.

Meanwhile, Keirna fixed the Artificery (which was suprisingly poorly set up), Danara got a wonderfully crafted Ballgown, and Echo tried to get information from a Bellringer. Eventually, Lyrus confronted Ramzazael with the issues from the book, and although his suspicions were rationally addressed, part of him was still unwilling to accept this haven at face value.

Unfortunately, he was right to be suspicious. Zariel informed Keirna that these angels smelt odd, and she wanted to summone her armour. Worse, many of the angels smelt of nothing at all, save only their weapons, which smelt of dead angels.

Decided to get to the bottom of this, the group stormed into the Citadel at the centre of the city – only to find the chamber powering the barrier around the cty…in a room ringed by angels impaled and dead on hooks around the room. Blocking their access, Ramzazael and Seras engaged them – with both revealed to have the same strange power as Danara, Seras forced almost all assaults to target her, causing her shield to scream in agony. Meanwhile, Ramzazael summoned increasingly powerful servants – culminating in armouring himself with an unstoppable beast that with one blow smashed Danara’s own futuristic suit…and then a corrupted, decaying armoured figure nearly the full height of the immense room. The simple presence of this creature sickened everyone in the room – the Fallen God Guardian.

But before it could attack, swarms of butterflies filled the room, distracting it and allowing the group to counterattack. Disarming Seras of her shield, she was quickly killed, leaving the heavily armoured Ramzazael alone. Despite his overwhelming power, he was brought down by combined assaults – not least because of the intervention of a white armoured figure.

After the battle, everyone tried to make sense of what had happened – much was explained by the realisation that the angels that had inhabitated this city had been drained as power sources for a grand deception. One only foiled by the refusal of the Sealed Triumvirate to release its wards. Ramzazael, in death, was revealed as a true devil, horned and hooved. Expectantly, everyone waited for Seras to revert to her true form…

She did not. Examining her, a pair of internally spiked, delicate metal bracers was found embedded into her wrists. Each bore the mark of the God Razor.

Seras was indeed an Archon. And worse, with her soul trapped by the power of the Seal, there was no way to restore life to her.

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Interlude 2:- The War of Wrath

The Celestials descended further and further into hell. Gone was Raziel’s careful consolidation – the fiery angel obviously no longer thought it necessary. Especially not in the light of the revelations about Pistis Sophia. While many normally would not accept such rash assault, none of the Celestial Host could fault the Fist of Heaven for his mad rush deeper into the bowels of hell.

From the wildest Eladrin to the most stable Archon, Heaven raged a blazing wound into hell.

Avoiding Dis, Raziel smashed through Minaros and further into the Pit. Even his advisors telling him that faint traces of good could be detected somewhere in the Endless Marsh could not dissuade him. In the Hell of Fire and Lust he found traces of Hextor’s ever mobile domain, and so the armies settled in.

But Phlegethos had had time to prepare, and the battles here were not the simple assault that the conquering of Avernus had been. Fierna had prepared her defences well, and while the raw might of the Paragon of Wrath frequently won every battle Raziel particapted in, he could not everywhere. And more problematic still, this deep in the pit, the Light of Heaven was dulled and far too reach. Even the most powerful of the host found their abilities diminishing with every step, and the weakest slumped, barely able to even move, let alone fight.

After nearly a year of struggling through the ash wastes and magma, Celestial spellcasters developed a spell capable of overlaying an entire battlefield on to the Prime, before inexorably dragging everything on it back into the Pit at the conclusion of the battle. Newly revitalised, The Host won several incredibly victories, but they were slowed by having to carefully plan each transistion to ensure each chosen battlefield was on uninhabited worlds. Word was sent back to the rear elements with instruction on how to accomplish this spell.

After another year, Raziel took Belial’s fortress – largely unoccupied, as the previous ruler of the Layer prefered his daughter’s company. It did, however, contain another scrying chamber. Seshiel of the Eladrin tried in vain to point out how easy taking this castle had been compared to many of the other battles. How recent in construction this chamber was. But Raziel was deaf to all advice – his sister was suffering, and he must go to her.

The pace was too slow for him. It must be increased. And increased it was – the Celestials were informed that no longer were the transitions to be carefully planned. If mortals were caught in the crossfire, this was lamentable, but Sophia must be freed before she broke.

This proved to be enough to break Fierna’s cunning. Within weeks, Raziel’s armies were at the gates of her fortress, and the path of Hextor’s domain ran straight through and down further into the Pit. And so the casters chanted, and Fierna’s great fortress of perversion, and the besieging Celestial army were transported to a desolate moon to do battle.

Fierna’s defenders were massacred with an afternoon. Belial was dragged to the highest point of the fortress, and on Raziel’s orders, dismembered and incinerated for his crimes. Fierna herself escaped, in the company of a doll-like woman.

Leaving the fortress razed and broken, attended only by the maimed and burnt bodies of fiends, Raziel’s forces descended yet again.

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Inferno (Part 2)

Shocked by the revelation that Pistis Sophia was still alive, the celestials reacted..poorly. The original assault team sent by Raziel simply failed to process the information, and while Keirna sent a Sending informing the Throne Archon Borael, he did nothing with it.

So it was left to the group to fill in Raziel. Before this, however, was the matter of Lyrus’ mistakes. Keirna seized Heaven’s Blade Delieverance from Gideon and swung it at Lyrus – who, full knowing what the axe was dropped to his knees to await the judgement of heaven. He assumed that Keirna also must obviously know. It was only much later that the Firre realised that she could not. Delieverance passed its judgement on Lyrus’ soul, passing through him and taking much of the guilt with it.

While reporting to Raziel, Lyrus felt bound to inform Heaven’s Fist that Zariel had been imprisoned in Keirna’s claw. Raziel commanded it to be destroyed. Keirna refused, and Raziel..backed down, refusing to personally take to task one of Keriath’s people. He did command Lyrus to sort the problem out, however. Raziel showed the party the location of one of the Gate Houses to the second layer of hell – Dis. This had been sealed by upwelling ice, ice that resisted even Raziel’s celestial fire.

After some deliberation, Raziel assigned a Coere Eladrin Cleric to the party, and ordered them through a still clear Gate down into Dis to search for the third part of the Triumvirate. He would take the bulk of Heaven’s armies to rescue his sister. This despite all warnings given by Zariel and his own conscience of it being a trap.

Descending through the gatehouse, the group found huge numbers of dead devils, and eventually, located their killed – a shambling monstrousity impaled by six swords. Thinking about it allowed it to locate them – although oddly, in a way that did not require mental magics – and it swiftly assaulted Lyrus, the new Coere Vash’zs, and Echo – appearing to be in all locations simultaneously. Whenever it appeared to be put down, it reformed, drawing another blade from its back and becoming still more powerful. It was eventually defeated by repeated Holy Flame strikes from Vash’zs, Infernal Flame Strikes from Zariel, and the removal of its swords by Echo and Keirna’s railguns.

Leaving the gatehouse, the group found themselves in an empty iron city – the more knowledgeable knew that this was the Iron city of Dis, a place that should be teaming with devils and the damned. Looking up, they saw only a dome of endless ice. Already worried, they carefully proceeded – and then threw all caution to the wind as a scouting spell by Keirna revealed that a huge iron skinned man had just been beheaded. As the Plane shook, they flew towards the centre of the city and the dead body of Dis, Lord of the Second Layer.

Before they could reach it, a human sized male lept atop one of the walls, surrounded in flames of all colours, and roared in anger and triumph. From the cracking ice dome above the city, an unbelievable finger descended. Far larger than any building any had even seen, it descended to crush the man – who simply shouted louder and grabbed it. ARound it, others smashed through the ice to brace whatever was above.

The burning man dragged the finger while the party did their best to stay out of the way….until they realised that he was somehow planning to flip the entire thing, and its shadow was larger than the city they were in. Quickly, they teleported up and through the gaps in the ice, looked down to see an upended fiendish hand, smashed fortifactions embedded in it. In the centre, the glow of something immeasurably hot melting through it. But there was something else – far to the east, a small flash of Good.

Beginning to head towards it, all of the Celestials felt the arrival of a Power behind them. A few turned back, before fleeing in undcontrolled terror.

Behind them, the Uncontrolled Son descended. Phouka of the Winter and Shadow descended to do battle with the Sin of Devestation.

Leaving the battle of incarnate deities behind them, the party concentrated on their mission, finding the source of Good to be a Triumvirate Shrine covered in ice – it’s heavenly boundary weak and its wards recently shattered. Readying for a fight, they opened the doors, to find Briarius fighting with a half-devil, half elf girl – Lyrus knew myths of her. Korae, said to be a rebellious child of HExtor. If that was truly who she was, judging by the chains around her limbs and neck, she was rebellious no longer.

Concentrating on Briarius, the party attacked, to very little effect. Echo, meanwhile, dodged past the battle towards the Sarcophagus, as yet untouched. Briarius tore the lid off with telekinesis and attempted to use it to bat away Korae, but failed. Echo took the opportunity to remove the contents, despite the disapproving glare of the Deathless Guardian, and passed the items to Danara.

No sooner had he done so than Korae stepped through the dimensions in front of the stunned Danara. Infernal fire rose in her eyes, and Danara had nothing to stop it – the rising knowledge that her armour, her defences, even her beloved monsters could not save her.

And then Briarius manfested between the two of them, waves of colour rising in the path of the Blast. Not needing even the brief encouragement of the sardonic grin, Danara activated her mechanical armour, and pushed its speed to the limit, smashing through the door and into the icewall outside. The rest of the party took this opportunity to run as well.

Returning to the Gate, they found the city freezing quickly behind them, and no sign of the combatants. Heading back up to Avernus before the gate froze over completely, they found that most of the army had gone further into Hell. Borael had been left in command of Avernus and directed them to a weak artifical gate to Minauros, the third layer. Raziel had left for there some time ago – due to time differentials, most of a year had passed on Avernus. He could not say how long had passed on Minauros for Raziel’s force.

Worse, while they had recovered the third piece of the Triumvirate, a less harried attempt to examine it revealed that whatever power was within it was being used somewhere else in hell.

And why had Briarus chosen for them to have it rather than chance Korae getting her hands on it?

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Sound of Echo

So we are in Dis, finally. This is what Dispater’s foul demesne looks like – magical darkness and rot in the air. As we step through, I reflect on the progress we have made.

We are finally achieving some sort of coherence, as a squad. Keirna has proven herself to be one destructive dragon. I would not want to cross her – or her rail gun. Danara is becoming more and more of the spirit of the team, with her unconditional mirth. Even Lyrus received atonement from the Heavens. If the Heavens say so, he must be trustworthy. Although his actions are often rash, I believe he has the potential to be a great team member. He is an extraordinarily powerful ally to have in this forsaken place. A cleric has also been reallocated with us – Vash’sz. I do not know him well enough to determine his worth. However, the way things are going, it seems that the vilest of places temper the worst of teams.

There is something with us in the room!
It is shuffling away from us. No wonder I didn’t notice it earlier – the darkness and the fetid stench did well to obscure my perception.

Vash’sz gasps next to me and reaches to his side in pain, as I hear a smack. I can no longer feel any presence ahead of us. Lyrus starts his battle chant, and I hear a louder smack, coming from the bard’s direction. His music does not waver.

What is attacking us? My eyes snap towards Lyrus. I see a lumbering humanoid with malformed features. Several swords have been impaled into its back. Swords!

The creature is no longer there!

A meaty blow hits me in the back and I stagger to regain my balance.

“Think about something else!” somebody yells, and a painful crack sounds from the hit.

Our minds are not safe! I must think about something else! But I must also help the others!
Vash’sz is raining holy fire and Keirna looks as if she is about ready to do the same. Lyrus is using all his contingency spells. Danara is humming and playing cards with herself, and her army never stops. The creature is annihilated. As we stand and look at the lump of impaled flesh, it starts wriggling again. A detached arm crawls to the torso and pulls out one of the swords and the creature is no longer there.

Nobody is thinking about… Aha! Its swords! They must be the source of its power!

The creature appears behind me and swings for a rib-crushing blow. But I am too fast for it.

I reach for one of the swords and pull it out. Immediately, the hilt starts to writhe in my palm. I can feel a fouling power making its way up my very fiber, trying to subvert, destroy, negate. The sword – I must drop it! My whole arm feels painfully bloated, but this is merely the most pleasant of all the circumstances.

The creature has grown in size and is now much bulkier. Once more, we bring it down. This time another hand separates from the mass and pulls out another sword. I no longer want to be within range of its blows. I start thinking about Freudian Psychoanalysis. Everybody else also preoccupies their minds.

The smacks are growing louder and more frequent. At times, it is as if three of us are hit at the same time.

How can we kill this thing? Just thinking about it is deadly, and there seems to be no margin to its power. The more my arrows sever it, the stronger it gets!

I am powerless! In the end, we are all gnats in the struggle of the higher forces! As this admission reaches me, despair starts to flood in.

As despair starts to flood in, tree shape and win!

I am confused by this strange tune.

It is as if a hook is probing within me, teasing a part deep within me I do not know. I stumble and mutter some gibberish.

Nothing happens, and I am confused once more.

As if sleeptalking, I mutter the gibberish louder.

TREE SHAPE!

@@@@@@@

Lucidity, at last! I have regained enough. I must protect the Paragons! Oh, Aria, sweet Aria, lovely Aria, bless me once more to the rescue of the Heavens!

  • “Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training is arguably the best known medical treatment of dementia.”
    - Anonymous fan
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Diary of Echo

Echo’s diary is written in Treant, mixed up with drawings of Battle Signals, so that “virtually nobody” can read his stuff.

Dear Diary,

This is my first time writing here, as it was all Treeshrink’s idea. Before I get carried away, Treeshrink is that treant I went to on Maelrhyss. Yes, even I see it is weird, but it seems that treants have historically put great value in psychoanalysis – what with looking after all the other bored to pulp trees. Treeshrink was, as he called himself, an accomplished Freudian Analyst. While he was indeed muttering about stamens and stigmas, I did manage to pick up some of the knowledge. Now I can proceed to develop my Freudian Analysis skills. I hear it’s an immensely accurate way of predicting behaviors and moods. Surely, it will be a good addition to our efforts!

The god awful noises have been gone ever since Treeshrink gave me his special Blood Pressure elixir. At any rate, I am beginning to fall into pace, for the first time since a long time. My past is still in gaps, but at least I can focus on tackling the present.

Hell, here we come!
The gate-city to hell. The sight was gruesome, yet glorious. Impaled infernal bodies, a panorama of madness, despair, and death. But it was all dampened, because the Heavens’ intervention was in effect.

Angst flashed within me together with the might of Celestia. Finally, it was time for retribution! The heathens would pay for soiling our beloved Celestia! Evil deserves not a place in the Multiverse! Exultation coursed through my body and wings, as we descended into the dark pit of the Hells. The Holy Heavens were evident everywhere in this forsaken place, here to reclaim and rebuke.

We reached a rear Angel camp, where we got a situation report. The Army of Light had bull-rushed through the pitiful defenses of Hell. Most of the first level of Hell was now the Heavens’. Raziel had made a base of operations in an enormous fortress, visible from even a thousand miles away, where the camp was.

At this point, it became clear the camp was under attack. A tidal wave of evil spirits came crashing into the camp-wide magical barrier, after which a pit fiend and his cronies followed. Even after a million years of lenience, Hell still is prideful and treacherous!

And so, a fight was anew! I had not started you back then, Diary, so my memory was not as clear as it is now that I am writing. That is why I forgot about my newly acquired chastity belt. Why a chastity belt, you might ask, Diary? I believe every angel should have a chastity belt. One does not simply frolic into Hell without a chastity belt. Do not ask Treeshrink,as he has his own view on things. My forgetfulness of the chastity belt was blessed this time. I was hopelessly entangled by an evil sadistic whip, at which point I plummeted to the ground – and a scratch or two. That was when I remembered the chastity belt. Freedom of Movement! As if drained of power, the whip shook and untangled itself from me. The vile erinyes had wasted her whip on me, and I was back into the fight; a combatant previously thought to have been dispatched. Remind me from now on, Diary, of all the things I must remember in my struggle to destroy evil.

The battle took its toll on us. Most of all, it had a disturbing turn of events. Lyrus aimed his most powerful strike at the pit fiend, which tricked him into going for Gideon instead. Lyrus killed Gideon. In the middle of a Celestial healer camp, that was not such a problem. But what did this tell me about Lyrus?

Lyrus may be a good being. He might have spent much time in the armies of Celestia. But what good is that if he ceaselessly puts his comrades in danger’s way? What good is he doing, if he is letting himself become the pawn of evil, even with good intentions in mind?

I have trouble trusting Lyrus, Diary. His intentions are pure, but he does not give thought to consequence and cares little for the workings of everyone else. Did I tell you he went and partied for a whole month in Arborea, while we were training to become better in Maelrhyss? His decision was completely selfish, considering the fact that Treeshrink’s seminar could have easily accommodated him.

I have the uncanny feeling that Lyrus will himself reaffirm my prediction about his character. Mark my word, Diary, somebody else will end up suffering the effects of his frivolous actions.

In the face of the greatest good, such flaws, even if they are of good origin, are evil. Malachii was an angel, was he not? He started off with good and righteousness in mind, and dealt a crippling blow to the Heavens.

I say these words to you, Diary.

If that eladrin gets in the way of our glorious victory over Hell, I will dispatch him myself, for the greater good.

All must work together, empathy is the greatest virtue of good!

  • “There was a point, at which Echo’s psyche took a sharp turn, as he moved from an undecided, yet neutral good angel, to one of extremes. There have only been presumptions as to how exactly Echo’s character was so eccentrically bent. However, even though his moral beliefs changed, one can argue that Echo’s unconscious remained the same. He was still overly distrustful of the ones closest to him, and naïve towards his most grievous enemies. Whether this was a result of his past experiences, or it was something yet to bear fruition, we do not know.”
    - Outsider Psychology, Psychosis, B Daft
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Continuing Keirna's log, again

I decided to have a shot at the plans I had found. I tried the mecha first, and I was … surprised. I know how much metal and other material went into them. I carried the stuff. But when I was just finishing up it suddenly it folded in upon itself into something far smaller, travel sized. Well, I gave it to Danara. Then I looked into the Rail gun, and did somewhat better with this one. It’s lovely, a real thing of beauty and quite worth the time, in my opinion. We travelled to a gate town to follow after Raziel, it took about a month. We got into hell, in the middle of the celestial camp. One of the camps anyway, it appears to be mostly wounded and healers. There was almost a bit of excitement when there was a huge wave of creatures flowing towards us, but the celestials seemed quite used to it. What they weren’t used to was the pit fiend that followed behind them. So we set into it. It called a few friends but on the whole wasn’t an issue. Apart from when it directed Lyrus’s attack onto Gideon. And killed him. But hey, Camp of celestial healers, no biggie. We then went on to find Raziel, and we gave him the two pieces of the sealed triumvirate. He sent us on to Bel’s palace. In the doorway were several prismatic spheres, which imps were throwing various pieces of furniture at. It didn’t appear important to keep them in, or even that that’s what the spheres were for. So I blew a hole in the wall with my new Railgun. Boom. Got a few imps too. So many of them and they kept on coming. We ended up just standing around the outside for a bit. I was just asking the claw about the enchantments on the walls when the imps were interrupting me, so it got rid of them. Quite convenient really. WE went on inside and somehow got a little lost. We were looking at a door and Lyrus managed to melt part of his brain… he fixed it though. I opened it, with a simple spell. The sight inside was… worrying. And there were some annoying bug people whom I flame throwered. There was a lady in the middle, whom I’m going to assume is the one Raziel mentioned. I was all for killing her then and there, and made this clear, but the others wanted to chat, so I left them to it. She was playing with us, really. Must have been quite bored. She Knew I wanted to just kill her, and I didn’t bother to hide it. She even gave me a bit of advice about missing the device she was in. When Lyrus decided to have her reincarnate as something good, which she twisted horribly. So I decided upon putting her into my claw, to keep the “teacher” company. At least then we have time to think about things before she dies and causes problems. We went through to the next room and we saw … another Paragon. I shall need to contact someone in the camp and tell them now briefly so they can pass it on to keep an eye out/ actively look, for her.

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Inferno (Part 1)

Returning from Chronepsis, Keirna spent a month frienziedly putting together the strange items she’d found blueprints for – the first she suspects she did something wrong with, as on completion it shrank from a large suit of armour to a thin strip of metal. Danara seemed quite happy with it, however. Learning from that, she worked on the second one, producing a powerful gun. Lyrus spent this time partying with the Eladrin in Arboria, and Echo tried to persuade a Treant that he was psychological traumatised (The Treant played along, because any angel not aware of the ease of curative magic had bigger problems).

Everyone then went to hell, via the gate town of Flayed Maiden (Where all of the inhabitants had been impaled by the celestial forces). Shifting easily to Hell, they descended to a rear medical camp. Here they found that the attack was proceeding and Raziel was with the main forces to the ‘east’. Before they could leave, the Eladrin to the south of the camp shouted an alarm and began stacking their Wall of Force abilities. It quickly became evident that a tidal wave of lemures (the deformed souls of the damned) was sweeping upon the camp. This hit the wall of defences and largely liquified. However, behind it were a number of devils, including a pit fiend. These teleported directly into the camp and began setting on the defenders and the injured.

The party engaged the pit fiend, who summoned a pair of eryines to its aid. Despite the Pit Fiend revising reality so that Lyrus accidentally killed Gideon, the Fiend wasn’t really a match for the party. They killed him, his Eryines friends, and took their stuff. Most of this was broken down for parts by Keirna, but Echo decided he wanted to wear the nipple clamp the eryines had on.

Everyone else was slightly disturbed by this.

Pausing briefly to allow Gideon to be ressurected by the medics, everyone flew off to Raziel. He largely ignored their worries about the Sealed Triumvirate, telling them that he wasn’t concerned with its secondary powers, and that it contained “Heaven’s Weapons”. He took the two pieces Danara currently had, and then told the group to investigate Bel’s old palace to find out if the rumours about the previous ruler of the layer being imprisioned there were true.

This they did, observing on the way that Raziel’s strategy for the first layer was working very well, but it all seemed too easy. Reaching Bel’s palace, they observed two things – one, the immense front door had been caved in and now had a large prismatic bubble in front of it, and two that the palace appeared to have undergone a rapid and recent cooling.

Looking through the windows, the prismatic bubble was under siege by a huge horde of imps. Keirna pulled out her new gun and fired it through the wall. Four imps. A throne. Two statues. Another wall. And a staircase. Everyone entered through the hole and fought the horde of imps for awhile, until Keirna’s Claw got annoyed with the imps interrupting its lessons and started blowing them up.

Wandering around the largely empty (other than the now cooled souls of the tortured dead in the walls and the infinite imp generator) palace, eventually the group found itself at a very, very evil door. This caused a few problems, but was eventually navigated…on the other side, a large spherical chamber filled with insectile torturers – and a deviless pinned in place with spikes and tubes. Her wings had been quite obviously torn off. She let out screams at regular intervals.

The torturers really didn’t last very long….and then people decided to talk to the deviless, overruling Keirna who just wanted to kill her. She told them that the entire invasion was a trap, was suprised that the group thought Raziel was “the only one”, and that Briarus “Had a Monster in him”. She was also being syphoned off for someone other than Bel, but said she couldn’t say who without killing all the celestials. She also told them she was Zariel, previous ruler of hell, and had been being tortured here since the Eladrin Crusade into hell – in far prehistory.

Eventually deciding to kill her, Lyrus offered her Last Rites in Words of Creation, unaware of their power. Zariel sang Dark Speech interwoven with the Words of Creation as Keirna attacked, stopping at the last moment as her Teacher-Claw screamed a warning at her – Zariel, if killed, would be reborn…as a Celestial Paragon, with the mind of a lord of hell.

While Zariel helpfully gave advice on how to kill her, everyone debated what to do. Eventually, it was decided to trap her soul for now, and Keirna cleaved through her with Compensation. Compensation immiediately became prettier.

This problem delayed, they turned to the other door out of the room, from behind which faint sobs eminated. Looking through it, they found a scrying chamber, focused on a blue skinned woman chained to a floor, unable to turn away from the millions of images of mortal suffering being displayed to her.

Pistis Sophia, the Celestial Paragon of Calm, Joy, and Ascetiscm.

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Interlude 1:- Raziel's Assault on Hell.

Light tore through the screaming fabric of Hell’s sky. As imps and uncounted infernal avians fell in terror, the angels manifested. In their ranks and flights, each of them glaring down at the source of evil. Singing, they drew their weapons.
Behind them, the Eladrin courts, scintillating masses of colour. They weaved and darted joyously, even in the scorching air.
Raziel, at the lead, beat his wings once and smiled briefly at the army of heaven. Turning back, he folded his wings and dived towards a fortified palace covered with the still living skins of the damned.
“Avernus! I come! Heaven has returned, and I am its fist!”.
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It had been so very easy. In the old days, any approach to hell for a heavenly force would have had to assault one of the heavily guarded gate-towns. Raziel had known this and so his armies had formed up before attacking the gate-town of Flayed Maiden. IT was imperative that no one in the town be allowed to flee to warn Bel.

Angels had formed into disciplined aerial legions, and to Raziel’s brief amusement, the Eladrin seemed to have adapted Auroran naval tactics – formations of Coere in support the ‘warships’ of the line – Ghaele and Firre and a handful of Tulani.
Useful as it was to see the formations, they were unneeded. Flayed Maiden had barely a hundred inhabitants. Raziel had them destroyed as a matter of course, but they didn’t even need to do that. The gate extended nearly a day’s flight from the town.

And so they had perfect surprise when the army of heaven broke through into Avernus.
*****************************************
Sword Archons and powerful deva streamed down behind Raziel as he dived. In the centre of the wedge, sheltering behind the angels, Eladrin formations waited – oddly calm for the frenetic celestials. At a gesture from the Fist of Heaven his angels drew their weapons and ignited them in retributive, holy flame.
There was no song from Raziel’s guard. They didn’t need the encouragement.
From the ramparts below the panicked susurration of the lesser devils died off as Hell’s Mighty arrived. Pit Fiends and Desmodu, Cornugon and Erinyes readied themselves to take to the air. Worse joined them, as the Infernal General Bel materialised. At this presence, the constant screaming of the walls ceased and faded to dull whimpers. Every fiendish eye looked to him.
He laughed, flexed his distended muscles and spat through protruding fangs. Roaring, his wings unfurled and he leapt. “Kill the fools. But leave the leader. I’ll use his flames to warm his sister.”

Behind his immense form, the horrors followed. And while even Pit Fiends were dwarfed by Bel, they still towered over an angel. And against thousands of angels were hundreds of thousands of fiends.
The angels descended a burning lance into the swarming darkness.
Raziel narrowed his eyes. It was almost disappointing. Where the legendary discipline of the pit? Where the torturous strategy? This mass, uncoordinated charge…still. It would only make his work easier, and if the Maelrhyssians were right, time was pressing. He focused on Bel and accelerated, flashing past the Devil Lord in a line of fire. Bel roared in pain and swung his strange curved sword in a clumsy swipe. The force of it – just the air being moved ahead of the blade – decapitated two Erinyes and tore the wings from an Archon. Screaming, he fell only to be caught by a group of Coere. Hundreds of the tiny Eladrin flashed passed Bel peppering him with stinging magics before breaking off and rejoining their formations.

Raziel didn’t even bother to duck. He simply vanished and reappeared on Bel’s room sized head, igniting the hellish air around him. Bel roared again, trying to dislodge the annoying Celestial. Raziel dug his clawed feet in, and shook his head. “Come, Bel. I know it’s been a while, but I could see that attack. Slowing down? In hell? Don’t try and play with me.”
*****************************************************
Behind Raziel’s force the majority of the host descended. Wings furled and weapons were drawn as heaven dived into the massed ranks of hell. A column of light and fury, the wrath of heaven blazed.
Few of the Devils could react fast enough. A handful of imps got airborne only to be set upon by watchful Coere. Archons engaged already aerial devils while the Eladrin took their original forms as they touched the ground and began spinning a merry, chaotic dance amidst hell’s army.
After all, had not the Eladrin taken this ground so long ago? Few Devils could comprehend intelligent disorder, and denied formation, the devils were easy prey.

Mere moments after the first landing, hell’s landscape joined the fight. Great pus filled boils erupted under the feet of the Eladrin. Tendrils of razor edged flesh wormed under clothing and armour, imprisoning and cutting. Geysers of blood and molten bone spat at the heavenly intruders.
And amidst it all, the Eladrin laughed. From Pus filled gorge, Light Spheres and Living Flames rose. The spat blood met nothing but immutable force as Ghaeles interrupted them. And no matter how intimately invasive, the razored tentacles could never hope to hold a child of Arboria.

And descending from above the Eladrin, the choirs of the Archon, their purity falling as a hammer blow. Under the radiant authority of their eyes, hell itself submitted.
The land settled. Hell may have stolen parts of heaven. But heaven’s spell casters were quite willing to return the favour.
*******************************************
Bel was exhausted already. It was barely a workout, let alone the challenge Raziel had been expecting. Keriath had told him Hell’s power had been diluted, but this much?
Bel swung again, and Heaven’s Fist caught a Pit Fiend, angled it up and into the strike. The Lord of the First bellowed, broken as he drew a gasping breath.
Another swing. Predictable. Too patterned. What had happened? Bel should have been nearly his equal. Too long with no challenge. Or perhaps another…
On time, Bel Struck. This one a simple overhand swipe. It wasn’t even faster than sound and mortals could manage that. Raziel caught it and blurred.

The Lord of the First roared again, looked in puzzlement at his shattered sword and sniffed. In increasing incomprehension, Bel looked down at the smell of burnt flesh. At the precise, angel shaped hole through his chest.

Never knowing how outmatched he’d been, the Lord of the First died.

While Raziel mourned the lack of a challenge and hell’s army broke and ran, the Eladrin Seshiel looked around and wondered.

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Continuing Keirna's log

Log:
I persuaded the group we should ask Keriath to look at the staff. He doesn’t appear to know what to make of it. My workshop is exactly as I left it, I think. It is hard to tell under the piles but I’ll assume it is. Everything is in order, I restocked in little pieces and oiled up a few pieces, checked supports their and found half of a very old lunch…. Woops. I invited Echo and Danara to stay at my house. We were just settling down for a bit when the alarms went off, although the others didn’t appear to recognise them as alarms. We went out to see what’s going on and Echo headbutted a strange green scaly creature in the face… it promptly keeled over. There was a figure who seemed … amused, I believe, watching. We had the oddest of conversations with him, and then he set a monstrously sized creature on us, even by my standards. It amazed me how agile it was, almost gliding. The beast made a game of eating Danara’s creature, which at least diverted it from us. It did swallow me, which I really just didn’t appreciate, and I think I made that quite clear when I tore my way out. So it ate Danara. It then tore through my house, I wonder if it was retaliation… Well, I wasn’t having any of that. I was just tearing it to pieces when it disappeared. After I quickly Checked over the rest of the town we left to talk to Chronepsis. There wasn’t much of interest in the flight to find hom, so I was just looking about, there was a Small figure waving, I pointed this out and Danara went down to say hello. I’m very glad that we did. We had a short chat with a very intelligent lady, who managed to help us getting to Chronepsis, and now I owe her.
WE got to the queue… and after another week or so of traveling we got to the building. Echo tried to fly over and disappeared… he later messaged me that he’d been petrified at the end of the queue. Really quite an ingenious system. I managed to contact the lion the lady knew on the inside and he agreed to talk to us. He eventually let us into the place. In a wonderous library. We were just left so I tried calling a book to me… it hurt. Eventually a representative came to talk to us. We managed to get some information, Echo disappeared yet again. After we had finished with our questions we were sent to the end of the queue, where we found Echo again. Quite a day. I do like the expulsion system.

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Mind of Echo

Commit to memory.
How long has it been since I last ruminated on the present like this?
I find it hard to focus on that bleak existence. My days are blurred, my vision – cloudy…
I watch, but… it seems that I rarely see. My memories are patched with the red of rage and the blue of melancholy. There is a memory of sunlight, joy, and order, long ago. But it has not been so for eons… That memory is gray with ash and black with regret. All but instinct has been drained of it. Not even the song remains.

I sit on the windowsill, struggling to remember. Or forget? It does not matter. Keirna has gone to speak with Keriath and give him the Staff. It still screams in my memories. Ddddeathdeathdeath, death, death to the living and undeath to the dead! Death, death, death deathdeathhhh! Deep down, I shiver. Something within me, a struck string, answers to this call, but I know not why. For this, I fear it.

“Daeva,” one of Keriath’s servants whispers. “Keriath extends an invitation for you all to stay and rest, while he looks into your findings. Mistress Keirna has deemed to retire to her quarters within the city.”

I decide to go to the palace library. The resounding, muffled silence of the library is soothing, but my mind soon makes up. Figments of my imagination flow within and without audible perception.

The Sealed Triumvirate…

I begin searching the enormous library, stacks upon stacks of tomes and enormous honeycomb scroll stands. The silence is becoming worse. I can barely hear a chime, sounding in the distance. My vision gets blurred and cloudy once more, as its edge vibrates with the unheard intensity of the bell.

… I cannot… I must… ting tingggg rustle ding Ding DIN-

I stumble out of the library and into the lively courtyard of Keriath’s palace. Some of the servants tarry around, befuddled by the rare sight of a kneeling celestial, moreover panting and holding his head as if struck by a hammer.

My place is not here. Keirna invited us to her villa in the city proper. I suppose Lyrus, Danara, and the rest will be there as well.

I find myself at Keirna’s place. She seems proud of it. There is no sign of the huge sacks of mithril and gold we found on the Maelrhyssian ship on Faerun. Something tells me it is all safely hidden with the rest of her dragon hoard.

I try to relax and absorb the stylish décor of Keirna’s living room. Having something to focus on helps keep the sounds away.

Sounds! Why are there sounds?!
abuzzzzz abuzzzzz abuzzzzz…

I jump in panic, but it seems this is not a trick of my mind. My adrenaline is building and my vision is crystal-clear.

“It’s the alarm!” I hear Keirna’s yell from another hall. “The City of the Silver Wing is under attack!”
“We must get out in the open!” I yell to the others.

I make haste towards the main gate, while everybody is scrambling. Crotch, Robe, and Healbot hurry out the back door, singing and humming potent incantations. I push open one of the gate’s wings and jolt, only to freeze in front of something.

What… is this? I have seen all that crawls and slithers in Celestia and many other realms, but no such creature as the one in front of me, a mix between a velociraptor and a devouring coat of arms, yet nothing I feel the Wild in. A nauseating fog hisses in my earshot and restricts around the edges of my vision.

What is it? What IS IT? Yet again, frigid shivers crawl up my spine and into my temples.

I must act!

I headbutt it into pulp.

Then I stumble out and over the misshapen carcass. Keirna exits; Danara as well, eyeing the dead thing curiously.

There is a man, leaning against one of the buildings ahead, clapping.

As an electric current leaving my body, my nausea disappears and my vision becomes crystal-clear once more. My wings shift and bristle, reacting with vigor to the sudden depth of reality.

This man. Tezzerich. Something within me reacts to him the same way it reacted to the Staff. A different string, perhaps.

I vaguely realize I am huffing, clenching my stringed bow in one hand, the other prepared to draw and release. Tezzerich is in the center of my world now, the very bullseye of existence.

Keirna and Danara are conversing with this Tezzerich. I seem to be saying something as well.

He laughs, even though he looks disappointed. He snaps and gestures toward a colossal rag-like rift forming an arrow’s flight above him. My whole mind focuses on what’s on the other side of the tear. Legions upon legions of invincible beasts, an undefeatable throng, ready to conquer the Multiverse and bend it to the Master’s will. My huffing has turned into alternated grunt; every single muscle of my body is strained and honed for the kill.

Tezzerich laughs once more.
“I will leave you to it, then.”

All at once, Keirna transforms into her true form, Danara commands her legion, Zerato in lead, and my bow string snaps torn in two, releasing the bow with a powerful twang. I am glaring at the enormous beast in front of us, making its way out of time and space and into here and now.

Even as I am plunging deeper and deeper into the frenzy, changing the bowstring and plugging enhancement gems in the bow, a voice and instinct resounds deeply within and grows to define me: YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!

My frenzy stays with me during the fight.

Nocking arrows and letting them loose. Crawling through the mucous and stinging gut of the beast that has swallowed me. Slashing a way out with a dagger. The frenzy and panic swirl and mix within me like two mystical, unmixable liquids, the two sides of all of my existence. My wings are slick with the beast’s gall. I have enchanted myself with a protective spell sometime during the fight. I am climbing up the thing’s throat, only to find myself pushed to the bottom of the gullet once more. A bloody opening is ripped and I am outside again, along with the other struggling. It swallows Danara. Another hole is torn open and I rush to rescue her.
We fight.
Keirna’s house is in ruins.
Fatigue from the frenzy and a sickening smell are sapping my strength. Keirna tears yet another hole in the beast.
It’s over.

  • “… What Echo heard when he heard Death was silence. For one cursed with sound, true impermeable silence is as potent as the feeling of suffocating, locked lungs, for a breathing, living person…”
    - The Timeweave II, I:2, SRN Asp
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