There is no Order without Punishment
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The party bursts into the dining room of a half-ruined castle fortress, seeking the dragon they believe dwells within - a dragon that has been terrorizing the local towns and villages, as well as kidnapping any mortal it can lay its claws on. Instead, they see a feast laid out - not lavish, but expensive, with invisible servants continuing to straighten the table and pour wine. Sitting at the head of the table, dressed practically in leather breeches and a chain shirt, is their old foe, Kylira of Ash - a tiefling assassin that they have clashed with on several occasions. As they go to charge, she holds up a hand and speaks.

"Sheathe your weapons, travelers. I only want to have a polite conversation. Now, let us speak about Order."

She gestures to the seats, and the party's paladin goes to attack her anyway, upon which she politely says, unconcerned, "I am an unarmed woman sitting peaceably down to my meal. I am glad to see that you are honorable enough to strike me down."

The paladin hesitates, agonizes over the decision, and ultimately sits, seething at this use of his Code against him. Reluctantly, the other party members sit, knowing the paladin is now obligated to defend Kylira's hospitality. The mage checks the food for poison and finds none, and the party thus begins to eat reluctantly.

"Now," Kylira begins pleasantly, "would you all agree that there can be no Order without punishment? This is the most basic tenant of laws across the multiverse - there is a code, and to break this code invokes a punishment. Even your friend here," she says as she gestures to the Paladin, "understands the concept, for he is obligated to seek out and punish those who harm the innocent. Now, who do you think does this punishing. The forces of Celestia? Too dirty for them. They feel conflicted and wrong unless fighting the vilest of fiends and undead. Mechanus? No one trusts them. The term 'proportionate response' is not within their vocabulary. Baator? Ah, now there we run into something interesting."

Kylira pauses to sip her wine and take a few spoonfuls of soup before continuing.

"As you may well know, my lord Asmodeus was once an angel of Celestia - was, in fact, their greatest general. What you do now know is that he is still in their employ - that he, in fact, rules Hell by virtue of Celestian authority and, if need be, can maintain his throne by virtue of Celestian might. In the wars of Creation, when the forces of Celestia balked before the evils of the Abyss and could not fight, Asmodeus fought. When they let innocents suffer under the willing rulership of demons, Asmodeus overthrew them. He tread where even angels feared to go, and so they in turn grew to fear him. They told him that he was not one of them, and he replied that, as he had broken none of their laws, he could not be punished. The wisest of Celestia met, and here they had their greatest stroke of genius - exile the dissenter and his armies to a forward outpost where they could resist the Abyss directly, thus ridding themselves of the troublemaker and ensuring that the demons could be contained on two fronts. They presented this pact to Asmodeus, who accepted."

"If only he had known their treachery. They hurled him deep into Baator, where his fiery impact gouged out huge craters in the Pit, and laughed as they made him King of an empty Hell, with only his armies to attend upon him."


Kylira paused to let the group absorb her words while the party's priest, devoted to Boccob the Uncaring, muttered in a shuddering whisper that his magic detected no lies from her.

"And here is the part you should know - my Lord still chose to serve them, and he serves them still, because he is honorable and loyal, and knows his place. Whenever Celestia is faced with a problem it will not solve, it calls upon Asmodeus to sully his hands. Whenever Celestia faces a foe it cannot comprehend, my master comes forth as its sword and shield. They cower behind him and call themselves righteous, and he serves them without thought for reward, for he knows that the forces of Baator are the only beings courageous enough to do what must be done to preserve Creation in all of its glory and splendor. When angels stay their hands, weeping impotent tears, we step forward to end any threats to existence that we may find. Tell me, is this who you want to serve - cowards that hide behind veiled excuses and pretend that they have no responsibility? I think not. You have been courageous, and valorous, and you have displayed an admirable concern for the lives of the innocent. I tell you now that I am not your enemy. No, I have been helping you for some time - tarnishing myself so that you might enjoy the privilege of remaining pure. But now I have need of you, and so I ask this - what is that privilege really worth? People are suffering. You could help."

Kylira pulls from her pocket a small scroll and sets it on the table.

"This is a contract of service, passed down by one of my master's more trusted servants. I shall leave you to finish your meal now, but think about what I have said. If you sign the contract, you will be teleported to my side. If you do not, you are free to leave, though you should be made aware that the dragon you seek dwells in a cave eight miles north of here. Think on it awhile. I bid you farewell."

The party eats and drinks in uncomfortable silence, each pondering her word's and the cleric's assertation that she was telling the truth. Then, slowly, the paladin reaches for the scroll, and signs.