"What the fuck happened to your family's armor and shield?"
"Black ooze. Don't ask."
In which my wife and I meet up with Tilly's player on a lazy Saturday to play their haven turns. This mini session of Belswick: heresy, devilish contracts, saying no to promotion, and sending the littlest paladin to Hell.
Last session in Belswick, the party made bone meal out of Xiximanter the lich, earning level 7 and two solid haven turns for all their trouble. This is how Tilly the cleric and Shams the eldritch knight spend that time:
TILLY convinces Baltoplat the Succubus (liberated from Xiximanter's tomb) to serve as his confidant and agent. Baltoplat will assume the guise of Moira the Mouseling nun of the Order of the Scroll and act as caretaker for Tilly's orphanage-cum-spy-school in Crossroads.
The price: one soul freely given for each year of service, or four souls captured through Tilly's infernal Soul Coin, or the contract is void and the devil is free to act as she please. The pair sign an infernal contract and tear it into two halves, each of which heals into the full text; Baltoplat hands one to Tilly and the other to a little notary imp in a monk's frock. If Tilly wants more services - like learning how to summon devils or binding imps, he will have to pay extra.
Then in a dark, dark rite, Tilly uses necrotic power to shear off his left hand, grafting on the Hand of the Betrayer instead. As a nice aside, this desecrates the old cemetary north of Crossroads, allowing entrance to his buddy Jacques Cousteau the Ghoul.
SHAMS returns to the neighbouring fief Witmarrow, where her Dwarf compatriots have built up a fortified trade house above an underground vault and barracks. From here they will trade advanced siegecraft and alchemy to Duchy Belswick in return for food and basic materials. Shams' aunt Tole arrives to stone shape-caulk any leaks in the cellar - and to tell Shams that she's done well, congrats, now accept a glitzy position as captain of a company on the Dwarves' Great Trek Down.
Shams, however, is very ready to turn her back on her race's mad dash into the depths: she wants to stay topside. Together with Tole she hatches a plan to be inducted into the loreseekers of Tole's Marble Library, which will give her an honourable way to stay in the sunlands. We run-skip past difficult discussions with Shams' family in the underground city of Holderhek and her oath of allegiance to the Marble Library.
On Tilly's behalf, Shams talks to the surface dwarf Doravik, a red-bearded miner from Copperstone contracted to get all the worked stone out of the Tomb of the Serpent Kings to build a wizard tower and other fortifications. Doravik is apprehensive at first when he sees the noble dwarf from the deep kingdoms, but warms up a bit after Tilly tells him that the knight actually likes it topside.
SHAMS AND TILLY catch up and discuss all the heretical things they've learned in the Tomb of the Serpent Kings. Tilly warns the Dwarf that this knowledge is enough to get her on the pyre and into Hell which is why he's been keeping it to himself. The Dwarf, however, wants to know what she's in for with this party. Tilly teaches her the Du'van tongue and she learns the following about the Tomb of the Serpent Kings:
- built by the long-dead Du'van (Serpent Folk) after they fucked up invading Heaven and killed the Creator. The top god is now an angel calling itself the Authority who set up the system of Hell and sin to keep souls from overrunning his meager excuse for a heavenly city. Many current-day devils and demons were hatched after the fall and think this is the natural state of affairs.
- Du'van remnants set up a colony of 6 tombs in current-day Belswick. Here they tried to revive their race, creating the Elves as a fleshy placeholder to keep the Du'van souls from damnation. This is pretty unique lore; Tilly thinks the party may be the only ones to know.
TILLY asks Shams to talk to her imp familiar Ricky. The little guy was imprisoned by a Du'van wizard way before the Fall, and is not-so-quietly appalled by the concept of sin and punishment that Tilly keeps trying to explain. Tilly wants Ricky to sneak into Hell and get some information out.
SHAMS can actually ask Six Questions to Hell as thanks for freeing Ricky. It turns out basic stuff like "who is this Count Naberius devil" or "is our buddy Mike in Hell" is a freebie; for her first real question, Shams wishes to know what is behind the new war between Kingdoms Pembroke (in which Belswick) and Arrayne to the south. Tilly tacks on the following to get a quick who-is-who / whereabouts of the following:
- Vorraak Soulbinder, a devil master of chains
(thank god for Tilly's player's notes and memory; I'd totally forgotten about this one! Improv is nice, but you need to write it down or lose it...)
- Count Naberius, tamer of beasts
- Baltoplat the succubus
- Mike the druid
Shams gets the little imp a backpack full of pocket bacon before he leaves. After she signs the correct form, Ricky turns the parchment into a burning portal and dives into Hell.
RIGHT BEFORE WE END THE GAME, we find Tilly asleep as he dreams of a white-lit room, details hazy but reminiscent of Xiximanter's laboratory. Snake bones rattle on the tiles as the Serpent Mage slithers up. "You're interesting, monkey. We should talk."