Taken From Tunwéya’s notebooks:
The darkness in which we had stood faded out to be replaced by an impossibly hot, burning vista of the ruins of Elturel. Lulu made the useful observation that the huge billowing flames and clouds of omnipresent choking smoke “smells like Avernus”, at which point Traxigor, and the summoning circle, vanished. As we surveyed the twisted wreckage of her city, Reya began choking, presumably because of all the smoke.
Before it was possible to make a useful sketch of the scene, a screaming woman ran into view from the North, herding a couple of children ahead of some pursuing Devils, and we accordingly moved to close the distance.
The Devils – a hitherto nondescript species with curious, living, tentacular beards – closed in and formed a line as we ranged up against them. This should have been a textbook opportunity for an ice knife to do some reasonable damage, but the bearded Devils, vexatiously, proved to be cold resistant despite the heat, and on later experimentation largely unfazed by radiant damage as well.
The woman and the children took refuge behind Reya as Hinnerk slashed at the devils, and it was interesting to note how quickly they seemed reassured by her presence (?query: does presence of recognisable Hellrider in party increase or decrease probability of success?). Hinnerk’s attacks with silvered longsword more efficacious than use of any unsilvered / nonmagical weapons, which confirms traditional commentaries. Of additional note, the pseudophant Lulu demonstrated an ability she described as a “Trumpet of Sparkles” which was successful in punching a hole clear through the body of a bearded devil: should investigate further.
With the Devils dispatched and their corpses lying in the road, we sought refuge in the ruins of a nearby building. The woman remained effusive in her thanks to the “brave hellriders”, although she appeared a little downcast when Leofric was obliged to explain that the sum total of relief from the world above was currently huddling alongside her amid the ruins. Her name is Harkina Hunt, the two children are twins, Exo and Brask. Reya’s authority as Hellrider was sufficient to help convince Harkina that Thavius Krieg was responsible for the Fall, and in return she was able to provide some information about the current state of the city, viz:
- Supplies are running low throughout the city ruins
- The bridge at Thorm’s Reach, which leads to the older, West side of the city is guarded by Devils
- Earthquakes are becoming common, especially on the East Side, as the infernal chains now surrounding the city continue to drag Elturel downwards.
- What population remains is becoming more desperate – some Devils are taking advantage of this by offering various deals: Harkeena saw one one, for example, who permitted passage across Torm’s Reach at the cost of a man’s soul. This constitutes market rates because, to the best of Harkeena’s knowledge, the West Side is safer than the East; she was hoping to find a way to smuggle her boys across.
- We discussed the viability of utilising Lulu to fly the twins across but this may prove mechanically challenging even if her abilities were magically fortified as Lulu is approximately as small as the twins themselves. (?query: would this become more practical if the children were in a more advanced state of starvation? Presumably fine balance between loss of muscle mass and ability to maintain grip while flying across bottomless ravine, probably not worth risks)
During our discussions it dawned on us that the corpses of the bearded devils remained, conspicuously solid, in the streets: we bundled them into the building and looted the remains, which included another iron coin.
From a turret of this building we made and inspection of the surrounding streets and ruins (observation: while cities rarely exist in a balance with their natural environment, Elturel post-fall appears to be adapting extremely well to the local atmosphere: the magical sun they call The Companion has turned black and now discharges lightning at random intervals. Seems a remarkable instance of an urban ecology adapting well to straitened circumstances. Memo: if possible, resist urge to point this out to Reya, who seems sensitive today.), and resolved to take a short rest before proceeding to the Market, where Harkina believes there are soldiers.
With Leofric humming an incongruously jaunty tune we proceeded down Baker Street towards Shiarra’s Market, until we were interrupted as we overheard a conversation in Common between a halfling and an imp.
The Halfling later proved to be Pilster Pebblehuck, and the Imp’s name was Perchillux: the latter proposed to purchase the halfling’s soul in exchange for one week’s food for him and his family (observation: given the voracity of certain other halflings I have known, this could have proved a poor deal for Perchillux!) – however Leofric intervened with the practical observation that by properly curing and preparing Pilster his entire family could remain fed for at least a fortnight and he, Pilster, could continue to the afterlife with his soul unencumbered. This proposal seemed to give both pause.
Perchillux seemed intrigued either by our presence or potential as customers and held a tolerably convivial conversation with us, in which he let slip that a contract, such as the one Krieg signed, could be broken in two ways – either via the Infernal Bureaucracy or, more directly, by “bringing both halves of the contract together and destroying them”. He noted that Zariel must have half of the contract corresponding to the one we found on Krieg, but she would naturally be unwilling to void the contract at this stage.
Perchillux also provided us with some information regarding the heavy iron coins – Soulcoins – which apparently fuel the Devils’ infernal machines and “make it possible to push the Demons back to the Abyss”.
At this juncture Pilster, in the way of halflings, interrupted demanding immediate satisfaction of his own personal wants, and declared his intention to sign the contract Perchillux previously proposed. He was quieted with an offer of some Goodberries to take home to his family.
In the lull, Leofric made some efforts to recruit Perchillux who had at least seemed interested in what we might be up to, but Hinnerk suggested, a little too audibly, that an Imp could probably survive inside a Bag of Holding if necessary, and Perchillux vanished.
We therefore accompanied Pilster back here – it was once Grindel’s Blacksmith – bringing with us Harkeena and the twins. Also sheltering here is a woman named Grace who somewhat surprisingly recognised both Hinnerk and Leofric as having helped her previously: she was able to come to study here in Elturel because they provided her with funds, although circumstances being what they now are she has been reduced to eating her former donkey, Lonkey, a situation made all the more tragic by the fact the bones have been cast aside haphazardly, thus limiting their value as an object in comparative anatomy.
However, Grace has provided me both with a spare textbook, Contractus Infernales, in case it should prove useful, and – in response to the simple practicality of replenishing their remaining few drops of water with a fresh 10 gallons – with a kiss on the cheek: there has been no rain since the City fell into Avernus, so the city is suffering from a terrible shortage of drinking water as well as food.
Grace provided us with further useful information, specifically regarding the state of play in the market: it is currently populated by, and apparently under the control of, Vampires, who “never left” but merely sheltered from The Companion before it took on its present, less diurnal form. Currently they patrol the streets, apparently keeping the Devils away – but they also actively recruit citizens with the (?doubtful?) promise of food.
We discussed whether the natural evil of vampires should be stamped out but concluded that, at present, the Devils are a greater threat: if Elturel is returned to its natural place in the world, The Companion would presumably return to its normal state, in which case the Vampires issue resolves itself. If it isn’t returned, the Devils remain a more pressing concern.
Leofric has been investigating the Soul Coin in his possession. It appears (or claims) to contain the soul of a Naluth Makaos who anticipates being freed from the coin in the next 190 years or so. It claims to be able to “help with magic” and is eager not to be put back into an infernal machine.
The coin Reya is holding, taken from the Bearded Devils earlier today, purports to have spent 220 years as home to the soul of a human cultist who is – evidently – extremely bad at wishes, but who says he has a good memory.
We now settle down to an overdue Long Rest, after which we intend to see if there is any sort of bargain, or at least studied neutrality, to be made with the Vampires…