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The archduke of the seventh stared at Asheroth for a long moment, before again breaking into that low, distinctive laugh that seemed to eek into your bones. "Is that really the best you can do? You expect me to divulge the secrets of the nine hells to the lackey of a disgraced archduke? You think me that foolish? If you wish to know why, ask the Dark Prince of Frost and Fire yourself."
Baalzebul turns slightly to meet Eltain's gaze directly, and again that slimy tongue licks the Lord of Flies' repulsive lips. "And what of you, altar boy? Do you wish to explain what brings one of Corellon's flunkies into the middle of the greatest army assembled this side of the dawn war?"
------------ Zyrr -----------
OOC: Still need a perception check
As Zyrr the succubus looks out over the edge at the arena below and his friends entering into the bottom of the large barge, a bearded devil appears on the deck, and steps over to speak with the War Devil that had questioned Zyrr earlier in a low voice. "We've received word that a shapechanger is on the ship. We've got acolytes sweeping the barge deck by deck with pendants of seeing. If you see anyone try and leave the ship, Zorella has requested they be captured immediately, dead or alive." The war devil gives a grunt, and nods, before motioning a handful of lesser devils over to the arcane cannons and catapults that line the infernal vessel.
Apparently, the monstrosity before him was as dense as he was repulsive not to pick up on the sarcasm playing in Ash's words. Definitely the first to go. "Too true, Lord Baalzebul. For without The Master of Hellfire, this assemblage of fiends is but a fraction of that great multitude that brought low the primordials. Likely, my master has deemed this outing a failed endeavor anyway." Ash dismissively wave his hand in the air.
He shifts his body nonchalantly to regard the painting once again. "I know a wonderful elf in Sigil that can repair works of art. A Lord of Hell should not have such a stunning piece marred by anything. Especially a painting of the great Triel." Ash lets the name roll off his tongue laced with scorn.
It's a good thing Zyrr has bluffed such trinkets before, but the sheer methodical nature of a search devils are likely to perform is unnerving. Nonetheless, the succubus smirks and whispers to the war devil once the bearded devil has left. "My, I have been left out of the loop. Whatever is a servant of Grazz't doing giving orders on in the domain of the great Baalzebul? And who would be stupid enough to try to infiltrate it?"
Diplomacy - (1d20+14)
Avatar gladly adopted from Ink!
Pavick replies to the fiend, "Yes, it is grotesque." Leaving the it ambiguous, but of course for Pavick it refers to the change that has taken place to the once beautiful creature.
When Baazebul refers to Shep, Pavick can't help but give a questioning glance to his friend, but decides to let Shep persue it or not as he wanted.
In response to the archfiend's question, Pavick speaks up again. "We are here, for a very simple reason. We wish to be here. You've created quite a ruckus throughout the planes, and being the nosy busybodies that we are, we decided to look into things. A similar question might be asked of you. Why have you chosen now to mobilize your forces? The only real change of consequence lately is the war in the feywild, and that doesn't seem like the sort of thing you'd be interested in."
As Baalzebul's swarm ate the skin away from the Pit Fiend, Zyrr noticed a small group of erinyes subtly slip off the back of one of the nearby spelljammers, and begin making their way towards another distant group of Astral Ships. The group does not look pleased, and the flags flying above the ships they're headed towards are all marked with the iron tower of Dispater.
The War Devil shouts out a few more orders, before finally turning his attention back to Zyrr. "What have they had you doing down there that you don't know what's going on?" The devils face changes into a leering expression as he ventures a few guesses that make even one who grew up among drow priestesses blush with embarrassment."Ok, I'll give you the quick version, but only because it could save your neck. If one of Graz'zt's cronies comes around. Just remember who did you this favor the next time I'm off duty." Again, the leer returns.
"So it turns out Graz'zt wasn't actually a ******-ing traitor like we thought he was. He's been in the Abyss for tens of millenia because Lord Asmodeus told him to stay there and bide his time." The War Devil stops to curse again "Of course, you wouldn't have known that considering how many times we had to fight the demons serving that ******ing ****** during the Blood War.
"Anyway, Zorella, one of Graz'zt's squeezes, manages to get ahold of some artifact that keeps demons away. Graz'zt sends out all of his armies against Orcus and that oversized two headed monkey, and all the demons tear each other apart. Graz'zt sets up the artifact in his layer of the Abyss, and we get to swoop in, land inside the Abyss, and set up shop where the demons can't attack us." He gives a laugh. "An unbreachable fortress inside the Abyss? The demons tearing each other apart? It's too easy! This time, we win the Blood War!" He raises his Trident, and the other devils on the ship begin cheering and whooping.
Eventually, he calms down. "So, Graz'zt turns out to be a hero after all, but the downside is that now we're stuck taking orders from some of his more obnoxious lackies."
---------------- Down Below --------------------
As Asheroth speaks, the slime on Baalzebul takes on a slight tint of red, but the Archduke does not reply. When Asheroth speaks the name Triel, Baalzebul roars in outrage. "YOU WILL NOT REFER TO ME BY MY SLAVE NAME, WORM!"
Asheroth feels a tingling around his feet, and looking down he can see that a swarm of flies, grubs, and all other manner of insects are quickly rising up his legs, and soon the entire lower half of his body is covered with the insects. They have not started to bite or sting yet, but Asheroth can feel them walking across his skin, under his clothes, in his shoes. Thousands of tiny legs crossing his body.
"You would be wise to watch your tongue before I have it nailed to the bow of my ship. I allowed your vanity on the arena because it amused me, but do not think that your boasts to the disgraced lord of Cania will help you here. I was in the room when Lord Asmodeus rejected Mephistopheles took his armies away from him. Your devotion isn't to a Lord of the Nine, but to a pitiful shell of a devil holed up in his icy castle, praying that those he has scorned over the years wait just one more day to settle the score."
Baalzebul's eyes are lined with fire at this point, and the slug lord is leaning forward so that the table itself is beginning to crack and splinter under his weight. Eventually, Baalzebul sits back, and the eerie calm drifted back over his bulbous face. When Pavick speaks, the Lord of Lies slowly turns his gaze to the gnome, "Ah, you wished to be here? While I understand that the glory of my presence is greatly desired, you do not seem the type to recognize such beauty."
He pauses, and turns to Aramil. "I'm surprised at you, general. From what I hear the Feywild could use a military leader. What would cause you to dally your weeks away here rather than on the battlefield where you could truly be useful?"
There's a small of a door opening, and a small imp scurries in, pausing every few steps to bow to Baalzebul, before flying up and whispering in Asheroth's ear, careful to avoid contact with any of the insects still swarming Asheroth's body.
"Sir, the woman you are seeking is on the second deck of the war barge next to this. She isn't under lock and key, but she has an "honor guard" that seems to follow her everywhere."
Eltain glances at the scaled humanoid sitting at the table, and a name pops into his head. "Vashaak Ratoth Bruu," a male medusa who was given as a gift to Baalzebul by Malagard, former ruler of the Sixth Hell. He is rumored to be an exceptionally gifted monk.
The arched eyebrow on the succubus's face is hardly faked, though the giddy smile that accompanies it is part of the act. "Grazz't on our side? Truly? Now, I can't possibly imagine why my master - hey, it makes him happy, and a happy devil is a generous devil - wouldn't have informed me that he is now an ally, with his rock-hard chest, his chiseled abs, and not to mention those fingers. ...I have to tell the others. Thanks for the information. I'll pay you back later." Zyrr winks the devil goodbye and makes his way downstairs.
Once back on the second deck, Zyrr tries to find an alcove or room to hide in while he changes his disguise. It wouldn't do for folks to learn that this succubus that was going to go gossip with her colleagues instead proceeded to interrogate the entire ship.
Stealth - (1d20+22) if needed, using my hat to change into a Barbed Devil. Bluff - (1d20+24)
Avatar gladly adopted from Ink!
Zyrr manages to duck into a closet and quickly change. Stepping out, he spies a trio of bearded devils and a robbed acolyte with a glowing pendant that gives off a low-pitched chirping. The three look back in Zyrr's direction examining him briefly.
Insight vs. Disguise: (1d20+16)
The Acolyte in the middle nods, and the trio continue their sweep through the ship. Elsewhere on the deck (and on decks below) Zyrr can hear similar chirping sounds from other search groups. As Zyrr surveys the area, he overhears a group of Cambion waiters speaking just on the other side of a thick curtain.
"Are you sure we aren't going to get eviscerated for this?"
"She gave me the poison and the orders herself. Just pour it in the wine pitcher right before you take it in, and you'll be fine. She's paying us enough souls that we may be able to buy our way off of this barge."
"But what about the great lord?"
"Him? He'll be fine. There's no way something like this could slow him down for long."
------------ Dinner ----------------
Baalzebul gives a low grunt, clearly not getting the response from Aramil he desired, so he turns back to face the rest of the table. "Well, it seems my overtures of friendship are not being well received. A Pity. So tell me, what should I do with you? As far as I can tell, there isn't really any reason to keep me from killing you all here, but I'm willing to listen to your arguments."
"I really am surprised that a Prince of Hell can see no reason to keep such beings as us alive. Perhaps you can win the Blood War with this fleet and that device that was pilfered from Mephistopheles. But can you win it if the gods realize what is going on? Can you kill all of us before any one of us escapes? Can you prevent Corellon from realizing his altar boy has been killed by devils?"
Baalzebul smiled. This is what he was hoping for. "Oh I agree, you could be very useful. But what are you willing to do? That's the real question..." He waves a dismissive hand, sending bits of slime over those of you nearest. "As for Corellon and the other gods, that is Asmodeus' problem, not mine. He gives that low chuckle again "And if I were a gambling creature, which I am, I'd bet on the Lord of Baator every time."
Honor guard? They probably need her to perform at her best, and so are detaining her through less forceable means.
The fact that the one he seeks is so close eats away at Ash's insides. But there is a more pressing matter. The fact that at any moment this slug of a being could end Asheroth right here. However, it was briefly comical to think that he had at this moment ants in his pants. But only briefly. The insects milling over the lower half of his body do little to calm his nerves.
Mephistopheles had been stripped of his armies. That news hit Ash like a charging dwarf. The wheels began to spin in his mind. Where was the positive in this situation? Could this information avail him in any way? His eyes shifted back and forth as he frantically searched for solid mental ground. Should he keep pushing Baalzebul and risk his life and soul, or be cowed by this wretch and possibly lose the favor of him who had his soul, no matter how disgraced?
Ash quickly interjects, possibly to his own demise, "What do you propose, Slime. All this cloak and dagger subtlety is tiring and pointless." Ash locks Baalzebul with a glare of contempt. "The Lord of Nessus has stripped Mephistopheles of his honor and armies. He has amassed this vast army for some reason. If you want our help," indicating himself more than anyone else, "then tell us why this army is here and why you want to keep us around."
Ash needed his soul. But more importantly right now, he needed his life, and it may have shown.
"Perhaps you should kill us, but you won't. You've agreed not to, in order to ensure this little meeting. We are far too entertaining and have proven useful to your kind before. Despite any little problems that we may have caused with Aleksie's attempts at a double cross, we did deliver to Zorella exactly as she asked." Pavick says with a smug grin.
"And more importantly, you have a use for us. If you didn't, you would have just killed us out in the arena. I'm sure the audience would have preferred that anyway. But you requested a meeting, so here we are. As Ash said, I think it might be time for you to get to the heart of the matter. What need do you have that is so great as to require a grandmaster wizard master of both illusions and travel throughout the planes, a professional demon hunter who is already under the weight of an agreement with Mephistopheles, a general of the legions of the feywild who at a young age has already won more victories than many other great tacticians of ages past, a bard so great that stories and prophecies are being shared about him, the son of the winter ghaele and leader of a religious order in his own right, and of course the great Shepherd. We are a force to be reckoned with. A force powerful enough to almost anything if we put our minds to it, and you want something from us. So, I turn your original question back to you. Why are we here?"
As Asheroth speaks, Baalzebul's turns towards him, and a fiery green light begins burning behind the slug lord's eyes, but before he can react, Pavick speaks up. "You don't believe I invited you here simply for the pleasure of your company? I'm insulted." the archdevil gives another mocking laugh.
"Very well. I'd invited you here with a few possibilities in mind, some I'm now seeing would be a waste of breath, but some may still hold potential. I have three offers for you. First, for your war in the Feywild."
Baalzebul's gaze shifts to Aramil, Eltain, and Pavick. "I understand that you currently have the Prince of Frost under siege in the Fortress of Frozen Tears. A tough bastion to crack, and your forces are already weakened and exhausted. You increase your ranks with gnomes and slaves you rescue from the feydark, but how much longer do you think you can continue until the Formorians rise against you in force? I hear they're very unhappy." The archfiend's bulbous tail twitches slightly in Pavick's direction. "You need fresh armies, new weapons that can withstand the frost lords, and to end this war quickly so you can rebuild the defenses of they feywild. I can provide you with all of these."
"My second offer will possibly interest you the most, but I feel that it may require your combined efforts. He looks towards Asheroth, still covered with flies, and waves a hand to dismiss the swarming insects. "As you say, Mephistopheles has neither honor, nor armies, but his continued existence irks me. If he were to be disposed of, I'm certain that in addition to any souls he currently has under his dominion, the lost treasures hidden in Cania would be more than enough recompense for any losses incurred in the disposing." Again, that green fire returns to Baalzebul's eyes at the thought of Mephistopheles' death, before it fades and his gaze turns to Lucan and Shep at the far end of the table.
"As for you two...a bard with a troubling prophesy hanging over his head, and the return of *********." Again, the flies buzz and the name used for the Shepherd is lost in the drone. "Fate has claimed you, and you seem to be little more than twigs caught in the flow of a river. How does a trade sound? You sell me your destiny, and I'll sell you a fate of your own choice."
The archdevil leans back. "Those are my offers. Armies to save your home, an assassination to save a soul, a trade to choose your fate. Now, are we ready to make a deal?" The archdevil shudders in anticipation, slime and flies falling to the ground around him, stirring up the refuse on the floor.
The steely gaze of the Shepherd had not ceased through the conversation, and he remained iron-jawed and utterly silent. But as the Lord of Lies finally looked up at him and addressed him, the Shepherd raised an eyebrow. And then, in perhaps a completely uncharacteristic display, the Shepherd snorted. Loudly.
"Sorry, the situation in the Feywild is perfectly under control and nothing we can't handle ourselves," Eltain says, leaning back in his chair, the soft snowfall that seems to always be about him these days leaving a few delicate white flakes on the filthy carpet, a fleeting bit of beauty in a place stained with ugliness.
"As for Mephistopheles, sure, he's a menace, but that would just leave a power gap that I'm sure you're looking to fill. Or rather, Asmodeus is. Graz'zt, I'm sure. Not actually something I'm utterly opposed to, but I strongly object to doing it for you, and I do not trust you nor like your talk of losses. Your kind always want more than you imply." He taps his fingers on the table idly, little areas of frost in their wake.
"As for fate, I don't believe in it. Your destiny is always what you choose to make of it. Nothing to do with you or anyone else but the person themselves. Lucan and Shep can see to their own futures just fine." He smiles warmly at his friends and returns to his idle staring.
At the immediate out of hand rejection from Shep, the hesitation from Ash, and the categorical rejection by Eltain, Baalzebul's eyes bulge slightly in outrage, but he quickly manages to subdue himself. He debates for a long moment which of the three to answer.
Before he replies, a cambion servant enters carrying glasses and a tall bottle of wine. "M'Lord, fey wine for your guests?" he mumbles, and quickly pours glasses for everyone at the table and sets them down. Baalzebul looks at the glass of sparkling liquid in front of him before reaching over, grabbing a vial of blood, and adds a drop of the sanguine liquid into the wine, swirling it deeply before drinking. He then motions to the small vial. "I'm not a fan of fey brew, but adding a dash of virgin blood seems to help the taste."
With a gross smacking of his lips, he turns to Eltain. "You assume much. By Hellish law, if you kill an Archduke, you are rewarded with that Archduke's holdings. Tell me..." He pauses for a moment to thumb through the parchment he was carrying when he first entered and double check something. "You're one of those Winter-fey. If you do manage to win this war, what will be left of those winter lands? Why not separate from them completely and start your own icy kingdom in Cania, ruled according to whatever laws Corellon wishes?"
He lets the question sit in the air for a moment before shifting his attention towards Pavick. "You've been leading gnomes out of slavery, then what? Sending them away across the planes to whoever will take them in? Why not have a home just for them? You obviously know a thing or two about creating portals he gives a sly glance towards Aramil, but continues speaking to Pavick "I'm sure that bringing gnomes in or out wouldn't be difficult for one of your talents."
He pauses for a moment, and his gaze turns to Lucan, but the archdevil hesitates. "And you, archer, what do you want? You have been very quiet during our little dinner, what does your heart burn with passion for?"
A barbed devil sidles up behind the two waiters, his spines hovering just out of contact with their skin. "What is His Lordship spiking his drinks with now? Just last month I heard he was doping his feast with powdered cocatrice feathers."
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The barbed devil's face contorts in a wicked grin at the question. "Why? Because I've heard who else is in that room, and I made quite a bit of coin thanks to those ingrates. Being able to say what killed them when a dragon and a pit fiend at the same time couldn't would just be icing on the cake."
The devil holds his arms out to his side. "Could you tell me what's in the wine? Pretty please? Oh, maybe a hug will convince you."
Avatar gladly adopted from Ink!
The two cambions look at the disguised Zyrr, look at each other, then burst into laughter before turning and walking away, headed towards Baalzebul's private reception hall with the mysterious glass of wine.
This felt familiar to Ash. The promise of power. The deal. This felt all too familiar. And it made Ash inhale quickly. A little too quickly. He begins to gag on the foul atmosphere and ends up in a fit of coughing as the wine comes in.
"Excuse me. I've been in this position before, sadly to my own disadvantage, and my knowledge of my own situation has increased since I entered the arena below. After all your words and offers, after all your blustering and lies, I am more inclined to turn down your deal, Lord Baalzebul. Never again. Never again will I be controlled by my past and the past of my forefathers. I was blind to disregard my father's words of warning. Naive to think I could outsmart a Lord of Hell being so young. And I would be a fool to repeat my mistake a second time."
Ash waves the cambion on as he tries to place a wineglass in front of him. Keeping his eyes on Baalzebul Ash leans away from the table, "Friends, please forgive me my weakness. And I would advise you to decline this last drink. For I suspect it is just that."
"I make it; you buy it."
Last edited by Orsik Vondal : 10-07-2012 at 02:01 PM.
After that, all is red. Zyrr has just been insulted by a couple of nobody slaves. All is red. They walk away, laughing at him. All is red. He draws his knife. All is red. He creeps up behind them, silent as ever. All is red. He doesn't care that his illusory form has barbs, he slings one arm around a waiter's mouth and yanks it back. His other arm draws the dagger across the cambion's neck. The wall is red. So the second waiter sees, hearing a gurgling sound behind him, when he feels a hand land on the top of his head and a sharp pain at the base of his skull. All is red.
One trip to the nearest window later, Zyrr the cambion finishes the touches on his new identity and examines the wine. He frowns as he swirls a sample in a flask, and searches his pack for some antidote. He finds something else instead, and smiles as he pulls a cross-shaped stopper out of a small rectangular bottle.
"M'lord, more wine for your guests?" For Baalzebul and his attendants, there's nothing odd about this voice. Not as burly as one might expect from a cambion, but just another voice from just another servant. For the party though it's as familiar as their own shadows.
The waiter has a bit of small talk for each gladiator he serves.
For Pavick, "I do hope you enjoy this, the taste is to die for. I bottled wine much like this myself, years ago."
For Aramil, "Though I must say, violet wine such as this is far too strong for my taste. I much prefer blue or red myself."
For Lucan, "I say, you look a bit familiar. Perhaps I've met a relative of yours."
For the Shepherd, he kicks the crook leaning on the chair. "Odd, you don't look like you'd get on well with sheep."
For Eltain, "And you don't look like you'd get on well with me. Though stranger things have happened, I suppose."
And finally, for Asheroth. "I heard about your little show down in the ring. Bravo, I say."
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Lucan looks up as he's addressed. "What do I want?" Lucan says, taken aback. He doesn't often think about what he wants. He's found his father, he's partial owner of an inn in Sigil, and he still gets to go adventuring with his friends. Plus, he has a unicorn companion and a Coure attendant familiar. What more could he want? "Well . . ." he says, cautiously. "I do sort of want to know what happened to the Lings."
The sound of Baalzebul's thick voice began to wane in the Shepherd's ears, becoming not much more than the sound of the flies buzzing perpetually around him. He found himself starting to yawn, as if the disturbing droning was lulling him softly to sleep. All around him seemed to take on a glassy texture, and again the Shepherd felt himself outside of his body, looking in on his surroundings as a far-away observer might through a smoky lens. The morbid candles on the table reflected in the gloomy filter hazily, and all motion blurred and twisted around him. And in this slowed and thickened state of time, the Shepherd found himself turning his judgment upon himself.
Why had he accepted Baalzebul's offer, exactly? The archduke obviously had no intention to humor him, or even to speak to him properly; but this he should have known. His title was the Lord of Lies after all. Why had the Shepherd expected him to be direct? It seemed to him that he could never get past the fact that he expected others to be upfront and honest, putting all their cards on the table before them. And yet, so few people ever did, and the Shepherd wondered if he'd ever learn to fully realize that fact. And so instead of realizing this, he had jumped at the Lord of Lies's proposal, and agreed to something none of his companions wanted to partake in.
The little bubbled popped, and he could hear Baalzebul's bubbling, hammy voice again. The Shepherd's eyes traced a path around the table, observing each of his friends; their eyes were all locked on the slug-duke. He shrugged. At least they seemed to be half-enjoying bantering with the devil. From under his mottled cloak, and the breast of his tuxedo, the Shepherd pulled out his small pair of brassy glasses and put them on the bridge of his nose, and drew out a half-finished piece of needlework depicting a funny little hut in the middle of a forest glade. He withdrew a silvery needle, and a spool of dark thread, and began to stitch, very quietly humming to himself. Ah, let them have their fun, he thought as he threaded the needle through the cloth, I'll apologize to them after our daring escape.
Last edited by Haberdashery : 10-08-2012 at 11:19 AM.
Eltain looks at Asheroth, a warm smile of genuine pride spreading across his face.
"Well spoken, friend," he says softly, nodding at the Tiefling in acknowledgment. He turns back to Baalzebul, still smiling.
"Plenty will be left of the Winter Lands, and we can rebuild. Those lands are my home, and the home of my kin. I won't abandon them. I have no need for Cania, or power, or anything you would understand. I have my friends, my service to my god, and something to protect. I need nothing else." He winks at the 'cambion' as the wine is brought around and winks at Shep as he notices the Goliath begin to work at something. Lucan's words bring a wince.
"Come now, Lucan, do you really expect truth from the Lord of Lies?"
As you reply, Baalzebul seems distracted; smacking his lips in apparent distaste. Suddenly, the Lord of the seventh leans over and vomits on the floor, a green-grey torrent of bile, dead insects, and what look to be humanoid body parts. Once the foul smelling spew subsides. Baalzebul looks up at the Cambion who served the drinks. "Why was there holy water in that wine?"
Before he can answer, the medusa next to him speaks, examining the wine closely. "M'lord, this wine has been poisoned." He reaches in and tastes a drop before spitting it out. "An abyssal poison..." Leaping across the table, the scaled humanoid grabs the "Cambion waiter" by the arm, fangs dripping.
Baalzebul continues staring at the cambion, and his eyes narrow. "As my guests seem fond of mentioning, some call me the Lord of Lies. Tell me," he pauses to glance at the parchment on the table "...Zyrrdellin, what demon lord was foolish enough to attempt to poison me?"
"And the rest of you...you seem to think that I was making an offer that you were free to decline or accept. Perhaps you would like to reconsider your decision, as it may force me to reconsider having this drow tortured in Maladomini? Or maybe I'll give him to Glysia as a new plaything..." A wicked smile spreads across the slug-lord's face.