Shemeska's Planescape Storyhour - (Updated 22September2023)

Tsuga C

Yet another grand update. This is the caliber of campaign that would've caused me to skip other social engagements and do my homework and studying in a perfunctory fashion if I'd had the privilege of participating as a player back in my undergraduate days. May your imaginings and writings go ever on.

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The burning cloud washed over the top of the butte, stretching from the base of the onyx pyramid and flowing like a seeking, life-hungry liquid down the face of the cliff towards the mezzoloths clambering up the side upon and atop each other.

“My Oinoloth,” Venrisala turned towards the Oinoloth’s vessel, still averting her eyes from direct contact as she spoke, despite the fact that the archfiend was present by proxy rather than in person. “Shall we attempt to dispel the killing wind? I fear it will overwhelm the mezzoloths before the spell’s force is depleted.”

“No need.” The Ebon’s vessel waved one hand dismissively. “The spell was cast thousands of years ago in a period when Toril’s Weave still supported that capacity of magic. It will wither and fade before it does too much damage. I do not care unless it endangers the device. The mezzoloths are utterly disposable. If they die, we will bring them back in the same capacity as we have thus far.”

Venrisala nodded, though she had little doubt that the Oinoloth, even by proxy and separated by the space of the Astral at the very minimum could have dispelled the Netherese killing spell without much effort. Yet in the absence of the Oinoloth’s vessel saying a word or displaying any outward emotion on its featureless face, the scribe had the distinct notion that the Ebon was smirking.

“As you wish my Oinoloth,” Obsessively eager to plumb the Ebon’s mind, but unwilling to badger or second guess the unquestioned ruler of the Lower Planes of Conflict, the scribe returned to her role of recording her impressions of the day’s events.

Scratching her words with wide eyes, not bothering to look upon the page, Venrisala watched as nearly fifty mezzoloths shrieked and died. Losing their grip they plummeted towards the ground but never reached it before they disintegrated into their base essence and were drawn towards a trio of arcanaloths situated at the very base of the godisle. Each of them held a black onyx staff inscribed with runes and leaking a drifting aura of greasy darkness.

Each dying mezzoloth’s essence lanced towards a point equidistant between the staves, erupted in a pulse of flickering light that caused the runes on each staff to glow like burning coals, and then from nothing a newborn mezzoloth burst out of thin air at a random point within fifty feet. While the godisle prevented easy or reliable access to summons, teleportations, and gates, somehow the Ebon had provided a method to bypass such restrictions entirely and respawn each dying mezzoloth as if they’d died upon the Waste, Gehenna, or the first layer of Carceri within the range of the Third Tower’s influence.

How? She had absolutely no idea.

“How…?” She briefly glanced at the Oinoloth’s vessel, “Forgive me for asking, but how have you managed to replicate the properties of the Three Towers here on the prime, however in microcosm it might be?”

“Study the architecture of each tower.” The vessel replied, its telepathy worming its way up and down her spine like a finger tracing the outline of Khin-Oin. “Learn and understand the patterns woven into the bone of Khin-Oin as it meets the flesh of the Waste. Learn the patterns crafted into the foundation stones and the echoes of the screaming contract-binding souls in the archives as set down by Larsdana ap Neut when she designed the Second Tower. Stare into the Reflective Chasm of the Third Tower until your eyes go blind and you taste and experience the beautiful suffering of each and every screaming brick. Know those things and you will understand how I have done this.”

Venrisala’s eyes bulged.

“Learn those things and then,” The Ebon’s mental smirk returned as puissant as it had ever been. “Then you might be worthy.”

The arcanaloth scribe looked away from the Oinoloth’s vessel, suddenly struck by a sense of numbing worthlessness. She clenched her hands together, feeling unworthy of being in the Ebon’s presence, by proxy or not, and as she watched the mezzoloth burn and die en masse, she realized that in her present state she was just as much of a disposable tool as them.

Despite the scribe’s sudden introspection, what happened on the face of the butte was astonishing in two parts. As the ancient Netherese spell decimated their ranks, what occurred next was profound. As each mezzoloth died, their bodies disintegrated into clouds of visible, dull grey light that sprang forth on the air and bolted towards a trio of arcanaloths standing at the cliff base. Each jackal-headed wizard clutched a black, twisted metal staff in their hands, each emblazoned with runes and leaking drops of greasy darkness upon the ground moment by moment and lines of jagged magical energy traced between them.

As each mezzoloth’s essence sprung forth from the point of their deaths, they all lanced towards the center point of the area bound by the staves, and as they made contact, they created a pulse of black energy that seemed to consume the ambient light, and then at a random point within the surrounding hundred yards a new mezzoloth spontaneously burst into being, their essence reforged and created anew as if at the spawning pits of Khin-Oin, the forges of the Tower Arcane, or the Chasm of the Tower of Incarnate Pain.

Mezzoloths were tools at best, and here upon the prime their status as a renewable resource made them utterly disposable.

‘Whatever master you serve, you will die and they will suffer for this intrusion.’

The voice of Wulgreth washed across the assembled fiends. Against mortal adventurers it might have been terrifying, but against the ‘loths it would have been an open question in the first place, and in the presence of an extension of the Oinoloth it was only pointless bluster.

“Ignore the demilich’s taunt!” Vernisala shouted at the yagnaloths and their insectile soldiers. “Continue your climb to the summit and draw him out.”

As she screamed at the lesser yugoloths, acting in her capacity as an intermediary for the Oinoloth who’d barely acted through his vessel except to offer commentary, the scribe realized that the undead arcanist would need little goading to appear. The words were barely from her lips when the bejeweled skull of Wulgreth of Netheril appeared atop the butte and gazed down at the fiends dying from his magic.

“Target the demilich!” Venrisala barked angrily, even as she physically backed away and positioned herself behind a trio of ultroloths. The motion was not at all lost upon the highest caste of yugoloths, and all three glared at her before turning their eyes to the other member of their caste, the one with the jagged spike of crystal impaled through its forehead.

“Go.” The Oinoloth’s telepathy sneered, flickering into their brains the images of the ruling ultroloths of Khin-Oin dead and hanging from the spires, and the stench of their rotting corpses carried on the cold and fierce wind miles up. All three ultroloths bowed and turned towards the demilich high above. The Oinoloth’s command impressed upon them their place, even as they cleared disdained the position of favor that the arcanaloth scribe –their lesser in both power, experience, and caste – was granted.

Stepping free of the coterie of arcanaloths that traveled alongside them, the ultroloth sorcerers immediately hurled their own spells up towards the demilich: bolts of black energy, spheres of molten lead laced through with lighting, and words intended to break and push aside the undead arcanist’s own potent wards. As terrible as their magic was to behold, the first volley struck upon the demilich’s protective spells with little effect beyond rampant destruction all around but not actually touching it.

Wulgreth’s skull drifted forward, its laughing washing though the fiends’ minds as it wordlessly cast first a crackling bolt of lightning that struck one of the yagnoloths and then forked and lanced out to strike a dozen others, leaving them dancing and dying, with black smoke and ozone rising up from the joints in their carapace. Without a pause a green beam of energy erupted and struck one of the expedition’s nycaloths flying above the battle, reducing it to a powder-fine cloud of ash. All of that in space of a moment, before any mortal wizard would have finished a single casting.

Spurred into motion by both the Oinoloth’s orders and the frightening alacrity and potency of Wulgreth’s magic, the ultroloths raised their arms and began to cast again. Each hurled spells against Wulgreth’s defenses a second time, but either their spells were ineffectual against the undead horror, or else their acts of dispelling one shell of its multilayered defenses caused more to spring up in their place.

“Behold the pinnacle of yugoloth promotion.” The Ebon’s telepathic voice sighed before it snarled. “Worthless.”

Venrisala turned, eyes wide as the Ebon’s telepathy contained the impression of rolled eyes and growing impatience. He was absolutely nothing like the faceless, distant ultroloths whose influence he’d utterly bypassed on his way to Khin-Oin’s throne.

As the Oinoloth watched from behind the ranks of his forces, the fawning arcanaloth scribe at his side recording it all, the trio of ultroloths continued to do battle with the demilich. As the minutes stretched on and their spells continued to flicker and fly across the space between them and Wulgreth, it rapidly became obvious that it was a monstrous and utter stalemate. The ancient Netherese wizard was far and away superior to any of the ultroloths in magical combat, but collectively, and bolstered by magic items looted from their comrades executed atop Khin-Oin’s ramparts, over time the ultroloths might have eventually defeated Wulgreth or forced him to retreat. Outside of collateral damage to the other, lesser fiends watching the battle, the magical back and forth produced little obvious gain for either the demilich or the ultroloths.

Twenty minutes in, Wulgreth’s protections stood solid, and the ultroloths were uninjured, with the exception of one of them losing a hand when a magical item overloaded and exploded in the act of nullifying a use of the demilich’s soul-devouring powers. The fight would likely have continued another hour at least before one side or the other stood victorious.

It did not continue.


The Oinoloth’s telepathic voice called out. Immediately the ultroloth trio moved aside to allow a fourth member of their caste into view, this one unadorned in any finery or marked by any place of station, bereft of any trinkets or objects of power save one: a shard of cobalt crystal thrust into its skull. As it stepped forward, the flickering, multicolored radiance of the ultroloth’s eyes dulled, died, and then reignited with a singular, sickly glow in reddish-pink.

Taking the pause in combat to its advantage, a magical bubble of force erupted into being around Wulgreth’s floating skull. The spell added another layer of protection from the presumed magical barrage to come, but the demilich went no further in his spellcasting because something about the yugoloth’s voice struck him as odd: the fiend suddenly addressed him in fluent Netherese.

“I would have expected more from you Wulgreth.” The Oinoloth spoke through his chosen vessel, his words expressed through the debased ultroloth’s telepathy like claws breaking through a layer of ice and carrying a feeling of almost palpable pollution. “You’ve had more than a thousand years to prepare this place as your refuge and clearly we find those defenses wanting. Still, I must admit my surprise at your allowing a second lich residence in your citadel atop Karse: Wulgreth of Ascalhorn.”

Wulgreth hovered in the air, exuding a soft green radiance, and as the demilich stared at the Ebon’s ultroloth puppet, the other fiends uniformly paused and waited. Although neither of them had begun to cast, all presumed that a renewed magical battle was imminent, all but Venrisala.

Standing next to the Oinoloth, the fur across her arms and neck bristled and moved with an unseen wind, like hair drifting and moving in the presence of wool and amber. Though not moving or speaking, the Ebon was doing something that she could only just barely discern: below the level of the Oinoloth’s telepathy channeled through the ultroloth, there was a soft, oh so faint susurrus of what first seemed like a low, droning mental static. She turned to look, eyes wide at the Oinoloth, and realized that the static had patterns and words. She turned away and shut it out as it burned her mind like grazing one’s fingertips unknowingly upon a burning piece of metal. Below the level of the demilich’s senses, the Ebon was casting his mental fingers to pluck and weave the ambient and broken tatters of the Weave in the presence of the godisle at a profound level of nuance that she had quite frankly never witnessed.

The scribe smiled to herself and wiped the drool from the corner of her mouth. There would be no grand spell-battle.

'How do you know me fiend? Speak. Explain your blundering intrusion now.'

“Speak I will.” The ultroloth vessel’s eyes flickered with their albino radiance as the Ebon caused it to spread its arms and half bow in a sarcastic gesture of humility and apology. Had the Oinoloth been physically present he would doubtless have done the same, but the ultroloth lacked a mouth with which to mockingly smirk. “Our surprise when the Wulgreth we first fought in the ruins of Karse was far below what we would have expected. How convenient to muddy history and your own lore with a second wizard of the same name. My servitors found him difficult on his own and then we found you and all of your traps here as well. Unlike him and his death knight however, you are not some mere pretender to Netherese might. You are Netherese yourself. But alas Wulgreth, for all your blind hatred of your long-dead nemesis, you could never hope to equal Karsus.”

Wulgreth hovered in the air, still and silent, his jeweled teeth flickering with a myriad of colors similar to those that only moments before the ultroloth’s eyes had possessed, but now they met the gaze of the ultroloth’s orbs which shown with only the sickly albino radiance of the Oinoloth’s as if the Ebon were looking through a pair of windows into the Prime Material. Wulgreth gazed back through those windows and then in that voice, that mocking arrogance, and the gaze of those eyes, he recognized the creature for who and what it truly was.

Memories kindled in the demilich’s brain from more than a millennium earlier, there in the palace of Karsus, atop the archwizard’s floating city and the last moments of his mortal life: a single glimpse of those same albino eyes and a single, beguiling ivory smile in those last moments before his doom at the hands of Karsus and the mad archwizard’s experiment.


The mental presence of the Oinoloth smiled just as it had so many years before as its ultroloth vessel raised one arm, extended a single withered hand and then clenched it tight, pulling tight the cords of the magical webs and wires woven about the demilich. With a resounding thunderclap and eruption of raw magical power, the entirely of the demilich’s protections imploded in upon it, leaving behind nothing but a warped smear of ash upon the ground in the shape of the Oinoloth’s symbol and a tortured, shifting afterimage of Wulgreth frozen in the air above it.

“The way is clear. Wulgreth’s essence now resides in the depths of one of his own spelltraps. Return to clearing the way towards the heart and ready the device. As for the demilich, he can rot in solitude for all I care.”

Within the depths of Khin-Oin, the Oinoloth smiled, knowing well the irony of the statement.


The group continued their trek through the twisted, magically warped landscape of the Dire Wood, cautiously avoiding the worst of what Tristol described as “wizard weather” and the largest packs of both the wandering undead and a number of ancient, weathered, and utterly violent golems and other constructs. Still, their caution made the next two miles into the next four as they ended up backtracking at several points.

Outside of the “normal” terrain, the magical weather, and the spontaneous wild magic zones (which didn’t actually seem to affect Nisha in any negative manner), they continued to run across evidence of Taba’s passage. Trees, both sickly and petrified alike, lay snapped or shattered, and vast sections of terrain lay scorched from flame, frozen by intense and lingering cold, corroded by acid, or blasted with lightning and still reeking of ozone. Each such location was littered with the remains of packs of undead who’d swarmed the altraloth lord. Clearly they’d barely slowed the archfiend’s passage.

All the way through it all, Tristol continued to provide a meandering lecture on the history of Netheril and its catastrophic fall.

“If not for Karsus’s profoundly misguided actions, can you imagine what magic on Toril might have accomplished by now?” Tristol put his hands in the air and sighed.

“A gigantic mage war between the enclaves?” Florian raised an eyebrow.

“Or…” Toras glanced at the wizard with a wry grin, “A situation like Thay right now with wizards ruling over a peasantry composed of everyone without magic?”

“Maybe. Maybe not. There’s no way to know now after what happened. Karsus meant well I suppose. He wanted to become the savior of Netheril.” Tristol sighed a second time, “He wanted to protect his people from those damn toothy windsocks lurking under the Anauroch, but rather than just being pragmatic about it, he decided to do something so grotesquely over the top and remarkably shortsighted. Netheril virtually died because of his ego. For all of his brilliance, Netheril’s fall and everything around us now can be laid entirely at his feet. All of this is the fault of Karsus and Karsus alone.”

Tristol paused to take a breath before launching into another half-rant-half-lecture about Netheril’s fall before he noticed that Toras had stopped dead in his tracks and put a hand to his blade, while Fyrehowl had already spun around and brandished her own at something behind them.

“Well naughty word…” Clueless blurted out as he took to the air and saw both the solitary figure that stood only a few dozen feet behind them and also the tide of undead massed and waiting in the woods, almost entirely surrounding their position.

Tristol turned around, noticing Nisha deftly clip-clopping a few steps to put him between her and the thing that watched them.

“You…” The deathknight’s voice echoed across the landscape with a harsh, hollow echo. “What come you seeking?”

Jingleshod’s ghostly, transparent body flickered with a cold light, surrounded by and linked to the corporeal world by the platemail armor that he’d worn in life. Once gleaming and imposing, it still struck fear into those opposing him, but the centuries and the elements had not been kind to its appearance. Gone was the shine of steel and what remained behind was rusted and corroded, though the greataxe cradled in the undead warrior’s arms like a toy remained as sharp as the day it cooled from its birth in the forge. Standing silent as the grave, the deathknight’s eyes gleamed black from within the empty recess of his helm.

“We came here to meet someone.” Clueless called out. “We have no desire to plunder or disturb anything in or around Karse.”

“Is that so?” Jingleshod gestured to the hundreds of undead that surrounded them, “Lie to me and I will command them to swarm. No matter your power I command an army that acts upon my word.”

Florian swallowed hard and took her fingers from her holy symbol. The deathknight was true to his word, and if he called them forward, no amount of prayer on her part could stop them all.

“Might be worth risking the wild magic and just teleport us out of here Tristol…” Nisha’s tail nervously tapped her fiancé in the small of the back. “I don’t want to be eaten alive by zombies. That’ll kind of ruin the wedding plans…”

Before anything hasty occurred, Tristol stepped forward.

“Jingleshod, yes?” The aasimar called out to the hulking, armored deathknight.

The deathknight lowered his axe, more a showing in curiosity than of relaxation, but a positive showing nonetheless.

“You are correct wizard. I admit my surprise at someone knowing of me after all these years. Perhaps you can explain your intrusion then.”

“It’s as my companion explained before, we came here to meet someone.” Tristol put his hands out in contrition. “I would have expected that Wulgreth would have us butchered for simply being here in the Dire Wood. Yet I find you in command on the undead here, not him. What has changed, and what caused it?”

“Wulgreth is indisposed, and in the absence of his will, the undead army he raised after fleeing Hellgate Keep defaults to my command. For the first time in centuries I may act in the entirety of my own will, rather than the lich’s.” The deathknight’s form flickered as his ghostly form lapped within the confines of his armor like a tide going in and out, almost as if the creature had chuckled. “That is my answer for you wizard, so complete yours for me. Who then did you come to meet?”

“We came here at the urging of Taba, a yugoloth lord.”

At the mention of the word yugoloth, Jingleshod slammed him axe into the ground and screamed with rage.


Jingleshod’s rusted, broken armor shuddered and crawled with a crackling tracery of green, necromantic energies that crawled across each plate and piece of chain like worms bursting free or and then returning to a rotting corpse.

“Clearly you don’t like yugoloths…” Toras deadpanned, “Welcome to the club.”

“We hate them.” Fyrehowl snarled. “What did they do to you?”

“We came here at the urging of Taba,” Tristol’s ears perked in anticipation of a reply, “Did Taba slay Wulgreth?”

“The shapeshifting monster is your Taba?” Jingleshod asked.

“Shapeshifting monster pretty well describes them, yeah.” Toras nodded.

“It is newly arrived. I have avoided it. The undead outside of my range of control have of course attacked it, much to the results that you’ve seen as you walked through the wood. No, I speak of its kindred who arrived nearly a year ago.”

Tristol narrowed his eyes, joined by a chorus of disturbed and concerned stares from the others.

“Yugoloths came here almost a year ago?” The aasimar’s fox ears lay flat against his head, “Why? What did they do and what did they want?”

“They came in numbers, their trident wielding insects scuttling through the wood before their leaders, the jackal headed wizards and the faceless ones with flickering eyes. I knew not who they were or at first what they came to do.” The deathknight snarled bitterly, “Wulgreth opposed them, but it was a quick battle. I laughed with joy when they slew him. For the time it would take for the lich to reform and reanimate I would at least be free to seek my freedom and destroy his phylactery.”

“Why didn’t you find it and destroy it?” Florian asked.

“I have tried before, more than once, but it is beyond my capacity to destroy.” Jingleshod sighed, “Wulgreth knew this. I suspect that he designed his phylactery in that manner from the start.”

“Perhaps we can help you?” Toras volunteered them all to go hunting a lich, smiling as he made the offer.

“I would have sought the aid of you or any others, but that hope is now beyond me.” The deathknight looked up and off into the distance, staring at the red stone godisle that towered above the Dire Wood and the ruins of Karse.

“How?” Tristol asked, “We have magical resources that you do not. We’d be more than happy to help you if you could keep us safe through the Dire Wood?”

“Because they have stolen it! They have stolen the Karsestone itself!” Jingleshod’s response trailed off into a wail of loss, less anger than misery and disbelief. He’d never chosen undeath, but Wulgreth had imposed it upon him, contingent that he would remain in that state and in thrall to the wizard so long as Wulgreth lived, in whatever state of being that happened to be.

“They what!?” Tristol’s eyes went wide.

“Wulgreth bound his spirit to the great magic-bleeding stone at the heart of Karsus’s petrified corpse. The object was impervious to damage, and so impervious to any attempt of mine to destroy it. Wulgreth would return and mock my attempts, knowing that each rare occasion that I was afforded the chance to try that I would fail.”

“Yugoloths stole the Karsestone?!” Tristol put a hand on Nisha’s shoulder to steady himself as his brain swam with a multitude of questions with no answers. “Why? What could… what?!”

“They came, made for the stone, destroyed all that stood in their way, and then vanished.” Jingleshod turned and began to walk away. “I am resigned to an eternity in my present state. You are no friend of theirs though it seems, and so you have no enemy in me and mine.”

“We can try and help you!” Toras called out as the deathwalk walked away, his army pulling back to follow him.

“Meet your fiendish friend and leave me to my solitude. If you can return what was stolen, seek me out, otherwise I suspect that we will not meet again.”

Silence returned to the Dire Wood and with questions on their mind, they continued their march towards Karse and their meeting with Taba. As they walked on however, Tristol’s eyes radiated fear and worry as he looked up and stared long and hard at the godisle of Netheril’s greatest wizard and the reason for Netheril’s doom, the genius that the elves had mocked as the Ape Who Would Fly.


The ruins of Karse hugged about the base of the ruddy stone godisle, the literal petrified corpse of Karsus, dead at the moment of his ascension to misbegotten godhood. Broken by wars, invaders, plunderers, and magical catastrophes, the buildings lay in a mixture of states, everything from abandoned but intact to reduced to their foundation stones like a giant’s dollhouse scattered by the hand of an angry child titan.

Small numbers of the undead crawled about, though Florian’s divine channeling drove off or destroyed most of those that took an interest in them well before they drew into close range. The few that managed to surprise them met swift doom at the blades of Cluless, Toras, or Fyrehowl, and in the case of one particularly silent but grossly unlucky zombie, destroyed when Nisha accidentally jumped off of a nearby column and landed hooves first upon its head.

More of Taba’s path of wanton destruction wove its way into the depths of the ruins, and there settled on her haunches in full, grandiose, and conspicuous sight near the base of the butte itself, sat the altraloth herself.

“It is good to see you again mortals.”

Taba the Infiltrator of the Planes gazed down with her feral red eyes from atop a pile of granite rubble in the massive form of great wyrm fang dragon. Her scales gleamed a glossy metallic black as she spread her wings and momentarily cast her shadow across the mortals below, chuckling as she blocked out the sun.

“We meet in much better circumstances this time even, for I have no Baatezu to slaughter for their complicity in the crimes of traitors.”

“Why did you call us out here to Karse?” Clueless asked, his hand gripped upon Razor.

Taba opened her mouth to reply but Tristol spoke first, interrupting the altraloth with a finger pointed directly at her.

“Why did your kind come to Karse a year ago?”

Taba smiled, a slow rumble erupting from her gullet before she chuckled and inclined her head up towards the top of the butte. Distantly from their position they could see a black stone pyramid situated atop the petrified shoulder of the dead, would-be god.

“Look up above you mortals. Do you see it? Go into the pyramid atop the butte. Go, look, and you’ll find reasons why you should ignore my prior actions, and in fact see them as completely justified.”

Again, Taba chuckled, crossing her forearms like a happily purring cat. A set of eyes sprouted upon her left wing to gaze up at the pyramid even as she kept her primary eyes focused upon the mortals that she’d fought in the depths of Baator.

“What are we supposed to be looking for up there?” Tristol asked, recognizing the pyramid as a distinctly Netherese construction, and likely the demesne of the original Wulgreth. “What does Wulgreth, the original one, have to do with this?”

“Absolutely nothing,” Taba smirked, “The demilich is a curious but incidental player in this all. But no, go up and look for yourself as to what has gone on within, both in the ancient past and much more recently. You have to means to view past events, you or you both at the very least.” Taba inclined her head to Tristol, then Florian, then to Clueless. “Perhaps even you as well. Go in, see what you will and understand a sliver of how my conflict involves your kind.”

Given their previous encounter with the altraloth, they stared dubiously at the shapeshifter. Trust in the words of a yugoloth, even an apparent renegade against the current order in the Waste was not something easily granted.

“Or you know,” Toras grinned, patting a hand on his sword handle, “We could kill you and improve the multiversal balance of Good versus Evil.”

“And just how well did that go for you in the past?” Taba sneered, craning her long neck forward towards the half-celestial, with a dull draconic rumble emanating from her cavernous throat as a dull, red glow seeped between the armored scales of her belly and the smell of sulfur touched the air. “And this time I would not be concerned with the forces of Hell or my own wayward brethren…”

“There is that I suppose,” Fyrehowl swatted a paw at Toras’s hand, “Put that away.”

Baring her fangs, Taba’s eyes turned from the half-celestial and lingered on Clueless. For a split second she pursed her lips and whistled a nightengale’s tune as dozens of eyes flickered open upon Taba’s fang dragon body, forming from suddenly fluid flesh to each focus upon one of her mortal guests. In assorted places her scales parted with the opening of newly formed fanged mouths, each smirking with subtle hatred.

“I came here to inform you of things invisible to you. How often can mortals claim the support of an altraloth with mutual goals? Hmm? Do as I say and you’ll understand this better; especially you wizard.”

Tristol narrowed his eyes. He didn’t know what had happened here beyond what he already knew of the fall of Karsus, why the ‘loths were so interested in it, or why Jingleshod had claimed that they’d stolen the Karse Stone, but he didn’t like the sound of Taba’s implications that it all would mean something particularly to him.

“We’re not your puppets.” Fyrehowl insisted.

“Oh but you are!” Taba beamed, smiling from a dozen mouths. “Count yourself lucky and among the few who’re aware of that fact!”

The lupinal frowned before pantomiming taking a pair of scissors to any invisible strings above her head.

“Now go, you have a mountain to climb.” The altraloth glanced up the sheer Cliffside and the shadows of dead mezzoloths burned into the stone.

“Or we could go for round two…” Toras tapped his sword a second time.

“Oh please! Let us!” Taba’s maw stretched wide as she laughed and leered, “Ask the bladesinger how that worked out most recently.”

Clueless had been conspicuously silent for the duration of their audience with the altraloth. He still remembered the surprise and the pain when she’d slain him in the Beastlands.

“F*** that…” The bladesinger gritted his teeth. “And f*** you too.”

“Your death was delicious mortal and it would be yet swifter a second time.” She snarled, the expression reflected a split second later in every one of her sneering mouths and every narrowed, mocking eye as ever more sprouted from her polymorphic flesh to reflect her mood. “This time mortals I find myself unencumbered by the forces of a Duke of Hell, the nuisance of manifest Law in the air I breath, and fully willing to train my sole efforts on butchering you all in as brutal a capacity as needed.”

“Yeah I think we’re good without a fight here.” Nisha peeped up from behind Tristol. “And really, do you all really need the Xaositect to be the voice of reason here right now?”

“We can take her.” Toras insisted, one moment before Taba sprouted two additional heads, each of their maws dripping a different element, “Or perhaps not. I take that back.”

“So yes… do tempt me to revel in your deaths if you so choose.” The altraloth cackled, “Or not as the case might be. I could have butchered you and your loved ones a dozen times over, but yet I have not. Ask yourself why.”

“Why didn’t you kill us?” Tristol asked, his interest overwhelming his hatred.

“You survived and thus you gained my attention.” Taba pantomimed peering through a spyglass, then scratching her claws, then working a marionette, “I was wrought by the hags to be a spy, both perfect eye and perfect blade, and a gifted spymaster does not dispense of useful tools.”

Fyrehowl snarled, “Oh f*ck you you f*cking ‘loth”

“Careful with your hatred there guardinal. I did not drag your precious Belarion from its moorings and drag it across the planes for my own ends. Direct your hatred at the Usurper and I will direct mine to the same. The false claimant to Khin-Oin and to my race is the object of my hate, though yes, he and I, we do view our eventual victims in much the same capacity.”

“Tools.” Fyrehowl shook her head.


A long, pregnant silence descended upon them, broken only by the sparking of broken magic upon the cliff face high above.

“Seriously Taba, you’re claiming to be our ally for the moment?” Clueless glanced up with utter contempt. “Really?”

“Ah finally a thought of truth that begs me to illuminate you and your convictions as to why I am not your enemy.” Taba smiled a dozen different times in sequence, “I wasn’t going out of my way to kill you at any point: not then in the Hells, not then in the Beastlands, and not now on the Prime. You were unforeseen victims of my revenge against tools of the false-Oinoloth. My apologies I suppose.”

“Thank you I suppose?” Clueless remarked with an absence of sincerity.

Upon seeing the bladesinger’s doubt reflected in his features, Taba curled her lips and spat, ejecting a tiny object from the depths of her cavernous throat. The object twirled and glimmered in the sunlight, shining as it arced through the air and then fell at Clueless’s feet.

A large and flawless diamond.

“Consider that my apology for your slaughter. Hopefully you’ve learned something from the experience. Very few can knowingly claim to have been butchered by an altraloth lord and come back to tell the tale. Do be polite though and don’t spread this one, I find it somewhat embarrassing that I didn’t have time to clean up and abscond with your soul for later sale.”

Clueless strongly considered kicking the gemstone and punting it straight into one of the archfiend’s open eyes. The fiend’s poking, prodding telepathy seemed to gradually sift through his surface thoughts and make a mockery of his mental protections, and as a slow grin formed below the eye he’d considered aiming at, he thought better of it.

“Thank you.” The bladesinger replied, stooping to pick up the gemstone. “No hard feelings.”

“I do have one lingering question for you mortals though before you begin your ascent.” Several of Taba’s newly formed mouths exuded tongues of all manner to flit and flick at the air like a sniffing serpent, curious and questioning. “It strikes me to wonder why you were present in the Hells in the first place. Our encounter seemed laughable and for you nearly deadly happenstance, but you don’t strike me as the sort to have been trodding into the estate of an infernal duke without someone sending you there. What were you actually doing there and who sent you?”

“We were sent there to kill you.” Toras smiled, once again patting his sword, and once again receiving a half-hearted swat from Fyrehowl.

“Unexpected.” Taba’s draconic countenance tilted its head and she quirked an eyebrow even as her myriad of other eyes narrowed in suspicion.

“Not that we knew that you were, well, you.” Toras added.

“Curious.” None of her expressions changed as she waited for further explanation.

“We were duped into going there.” Fyrehowl explained, “We were told to find a man meeting with the duke, and that by killing him that we’d end up preventing a string of future atrocities. We were lied to, because they didn’t expect that we’d take up the task if we knew that we’d be fighting you, rather than a particular elf who never actually existed.”

“WHO?” Taba snarled, hissing in anger from her ancillary mouths, “Who sent you after me. Their name. Now! The pretender to Khin-Oin? One of his vassals? The Keeper of the Tower? The scheming b*tch in Sigil? The presently silent Overlord of Carceri, the Pretender’s ragged, bleeding consort?”

“Green Marvent of the Illuminated.” Toras spoke with a shrug.

Always so certain of herself, always knowledgeable and informed, the Infiltrator of the Planes blinked, uncertain of what to say. She knew absolutely nothing about the man or his would-be faction.

“Curious…” Taba muttered.

“I take it that wasn’t the answer you were expecting?” Toras asked.

Taba stared at the fighter and gave no response, even as the wheels in her mind spun wildly. She would have to investigate the matter. First within the Hells and the court of the Hag Countess, and then to Plague-Mort itself. Perhaps the fool was a proxy of some power slighted by her in the past? Perhaps he was a diviner of profound magical insight? Without more information, she was for once absolutely dumbfounded as to how he’d known she would be there and what she actually was.

“No.” The altraloth finally replied, “It seems that you’ve given me a question to ponder and investigate even as I’ve tasked you for one of the same of your own. A fitting start for allies of circumstance.”

“We aren’t allies.” Fyrehowl glared.

“We appreciate you not killing us and we appreciate you giving us something to investigate.” Nisha called out before leaning in to Tristol, “Am I seriously going to be the voice of reason today? That’s scary.”

“So I suppose that we’re done talking then and we have something up above to investigate.” Clueless glanced up and then back to the altraloth.

“Indeed we are, but do watch your step however during your ascent and beyond.” Taba lazily inclined her head towards the pyramid high above. “Karse originally housed not one but two liches as you may or may not be aware, both of them named Wulgreth. Both of them seem to have been indisposed of late. One of them was physically destroyed and so presumably he’ll be reconstituting himself, but the other I cannot quite sniff his fate for certain. In either event, regardless of when one or both return, they left a rather large amount of wards in place, and the detritus of their recent visitations of which there have been several in the past year, may have left their own perils as well.”

Toras pulled out rope and searched the rock for the quickest and safest route, with Taba’s myriad eyes upon his back the entire time.

“I’ll be in telepathic contact as you search through Wulgreth’s effects and the marks left by my kind high above. Until you find what I’ll have you discover, I await your return mortals.”


First Post
So, a character question, and perhaps one you have already answered. What classes did all these folks play as, just in the main storyline?



So, a character question, and perhaps one you have already answered. What classes did all these folks play as, just in the main storyline?


Clueless - rogue/wizard/arcane trickster/unique PrC eventually
Tristol - wizard/archmage
Nisha - rogue/wizard/XaOsiTeCT PrC
Fyrehowl - barbarian/monk/cipher PrC (we justified the combination of monk and barbarian through the whole monastic cipher theme and their focus on intuitive action)
Toras - fighter/the broken as all heck PrC that gave mettle (basically evasion for Fort saves)
Florian - cleric
Kiro - rogue
Skalliska - rogue/wizard/gatecrasher
Alex - wizard/alienist
Future PC (Alex/Skalliska's player) - cleric

And just because:
Shemeska - sorcerer (plus those racial arcanaloth caster levels). I want to say that I ended up putting her in as an effectively 21st level caster before all was said and done, but she wasn't the highest level arcane caster in (or under) Sigil.


First Post
Clueless - rogue/wizard/arcane trickster/unique PrC eventually
Tristol - wizard/archmage
Nisha - rogue/wizard/XaOsiTeCT PrC
Fyrehowl - barbarian/monk/cipher PrC (we justified the combination of monk and barbarian through the whole monastic cipher theme and their focus on intuitive action)
Toras - fighter/the broken as all heck PrC that gave mettle (basically evasion for Fort saves)
Florian - cleric
Kiro - rogue
Skalliska - rogue/wizard/gatecrasher
Alex - wizard/alienist
Future PC (Alex/Skalliska's player) - cleric

And just because:
Shemeska - sorcerer (plus those racial arcanaloth caster levels). I want to say that I ended up putting her in as an effectively 21st level caster before all was said and done, but she wasn't the highest level arcane caster in (or under) Sigil.

I figured there was a lot of multi classing going on, and it's cool to see how you set up Shemeska. It's definitely a trick to make an NPC villain high enough in the food chain to be a campaign-long problem, but not quite on the god-level of things the PCs aren't supposed to fight.

I like multi-classing in 5e quite a bit, but I wish they wrote more than just Cha classes with some synergy. Basically if you're a lock/bard/pally/sorc you can make really interesting combinations that are also optimized, and if you're not, you have to choose.

Anyway, thanks for the detail.



The climb up the red stone butte was long and slow, complicated by a lack of natural handholds in places, flickers of wild magic precipitating out of the stone, and the presence of carbonized mezzoloth corpses that clung tight to the stone, only to crumble to ashes when touched, defying any climbers a firm and safe grip. All the while, Taba waited below like a lazy, idle, sadistic cat lounging in a dragon’s flesh below, seemingly divided on whether she wanted them to successfully ascend and see what she intended for them to see, or else slip and fall to their screaming deaths.

Half of their attempts to scale a given stretch ended up in failure and a panicked backtrack to a lower point. Each moment was split, with one half spent glancing down towards the ground and the amused, watching altraloth below, and the other frantically clinging to the stone or a lowered rope, the wind blowing sharp and cold in their face as they drew closer and closer to the peak.

Finally they reached the summit, somewhere atop what would have once been Karsus’s shoulder. Gasping for air, her claws grasping for sure purchase on the blood red rock below her feet, Fyrehowl reached the summit first followed shortly after by Toras, and the two of them lowered a rope for the rest of the party to follow suit.

Situated there atop the shoulder of the failed god, at the highest point of elevation for a hundred miles or more, they gazed out at the ruins of Karse, the magical wastes of the Dire Wood, and the wilds of the High Forest beyond that point. Occupying that spot was something distinctly out of place: a black stone pyramid, some hundred feet high and partially sunk into the godisle like an erupting tumor.

“What the hell is this thing?” Toras asked, glancing at the magical flickering that meandered across the stone. A large crater dotted its left side, the hollow crackling with random energies, but otherwise the stones showed no signs of weathering over the centuries that they’d stood there.

“It’s Netherese.” Tristol remarked as he carefully studied the High Netherese runes embossed in low relief across the surface. “Presumably it’s what the older Wulgreth set up as his home… tomb… whatever you want to call it I suppose.”

“I don’t see an entrance.” Florian smirked, “But I don’t think I want to touch the magically sparkling deathtrap wrought in artistically carved black stone either.”

“Hold on one moment…” Tristol muttered as he translated the particular Netherese dialect, looking for the phrase to call forth an entrance. Twice as his eyes scoured the stone, he reached out and pushed away Nisha’s far too overly inquisitive hands, “…and please don’t touch the hideous magical traps Nisha. That crater was formerly one of them.”

“No touchy?” The tiefling frowned.

“No touchy.” Tristol smiled, just before he tapped a series of runes and spoke a phrase, invoking a door to form in the stone. “Except for that touchy I suppose. In we go!”

Several of the group immediately invoked magical lights upon their head, their blade, or to bob and follow them around as they warily stepped into the black, featureless passage into the demilich’s lair. The passage proceeded for a dozen yards at a slight descent before it opened up into a single, dimly lit chamber which had once served as Wulgreth’s laboratory.

“Wow!” Fyrehowl’s eyes went wide as she gazed upon a chamber filled with abandoned wealth in chests and barrels long since fallen to rot and decay as their former owner had lived on unchanged as around him time and entropy had marched on unheeded by his necromancy.

“Apparently demilich is a lucrative career choice!” Toras laughed as they gazed upon the broken remnants of an alchemical laboratory, wizard’s library, and a storehouse of wealth.

“Now touchy?” Nisha’s tail pointed first at a scattering of gemstones and then at a stack of ornately decorated tomes. “It seems like a good time for the rogue to go touchy touchy grabby looty.”

It didn’t take long for Tristol to object to each and every notion of looting.

“Woah! Nobody move!” The wizard held up both hands as his tail bottlebrushed with alarm, “Nobody touch anything! And Nisha I really seriously mean everything! This entire room is trapped all to hell and back. This is meant for thieves.”

Looking up from where he’d crouched to scoop up a pair of gems, Clueless closed his hand and glanced warily about.

“The gems are trapped to ensnare souls. The books are covered in paralytic runes… except when they’re covered in explosive ones. There’s what looks like a few symbols tucked away in various places, and there’s a hidden door on the north side of the room… with a disintegration field right behind it.”

“I was about to tell everyone about all of that.” Nisha nodded with a smile and a rattle of her tail’s silver bell.

“Ok, so maybe demilich isn’t quite so lucrative as I thought, but it certainly seems to make you into a murderous son of a bitch.” Toras worked his way around the room, virtually on his tiptoes to avoid so much as jostling any of the trapped objects.

Several long minutes later and Tristol and Nisha had opened the false wall and dispelled the flickering green field of death that lurked behind it, revealing another passage, and beyond it Wulgreth’s actual laboratory. Virtually untouched by time and absolutely untouched by dust, it seemed as if the demilich had never truly ceased his life’s work. Dozens of bookcases held texts both prosaic and magical, including those from his own era and even more penned since from a dozen different cultures.

At the western corner of the room, a marble column sat conspicuously as the location where Wulgreth’s mortal remains would have stood, glittered and bejeweled if the demilich had remained intact and not indisposed.

“Someone’s been here.” Nisha blurted out, her eyes dancing to specific spots where she noticed not objects worthy of theft, but empty spaces where those objects had been taken.

“Hmm?” Tristol turned to her, his ears perked with curiosity.

“About six spell books are missing, and a few objects are missing from their spots on shelves.” The xoasitect pointed them out with a thief’s trained eyes, “Pretty subtle job of it too, whoever it was. Most looters would have just dumped it all into a bag and hauled it all off… Toras…”

Wait, what?” Toras looked at Nisha, “What did I do?”

“You’re like a hungry puppy with an open bag of food on the floor when it comes to looting a place.” She rolled her eyes, “Sloppy but enthusiastic. It’s cute for a puppy, an actual puppy I suppose, but totally not my preferred style.”

Toras winced, “Is this about what I did to that group of slavers outside of Ribcage?”

“Is that what you think it’s about?” Nisha glanced back and him and shrugged, much to the confusion of literally every other person in the room as they carried on their own conversation without giving much details as to what incident they were even talking about.

“Probably,” Toras gave a guilty chuckle, “But are we really going to have this conversation right now?”

As Toras and Nisha talked, Clueless and Fyrehowl walked over to a deep and yawning pit in the center of the room. There a perfectly circular hole in the black stone revealed the underlying blood red substrate of the godisle itself, and a passage descending down into the stony flesh of the failed god himself.

“Uhh…” Tristol glanced at Nisha and then to Toras, “What group of slavers outside of Ribcage? This is the first that I’ve heard about this.”

“Well technically they aren’t slavers anymore.” Toras bobbed his head side to side with a smile, “Not once I got done with them.”

“Sloppy sloppy,” Nisha pantomimed someone clearing a table with their arm and dumping things into a sack.

“Really? I free a bunch of captured people from hellish slavery and you pick at my method of looting the bodies?”

Nisha laughed and walked off towards the hole in the room’s center with a shrug and a soft clip clop of her hooves on the stone.

Tristol continued to look askance at Nisha before finally, she giggled and leaned in, whispering to him, “Yeah, I have no idea what we’re talking about either. I was just making stuff up and letting him fill things in.”

“Before we get too focused on what might have been here before it got pilfered, let’s focus on what might –still– be here. Tristol? Nisha? And also,” Fyrehowl sniffed at the air, “More than one group came through here: fiends and then another group that I can’t honestly place.”

Nodding, Tristol studied the room for any latent magical auras before shaking his head, “There isn’t anything left around, either as a trap or any sort of alarm spells either. Feel free to rifle through anything if you want.”

They spent a short while picking through the demilich’s belongings, picking out a number of spellbooks, wands, a considerable amount of gold and gemstones, and a number of unique objects that they’d identify later. One item however was left behind: A delicately filigreed ivory circlet.

“What’s this one do?” Nisha asked Tristol as she held the object up, letting Tristol examine its magical auras for a clue as to its purpose.

“It’s Netherese, that’s for certain.” Tristol explained, pointing to the Netherese script carved into the object, “But the runes on the side are a bit fuzzy in their translation. It either means ‘Song or the Teu-Tel’Quessir’ or ‘Scream of the Teu-Tel’Quessir’. I’m actually going to dig a little deeper on this one just to make sure that it isn’t cursed.”

“Good idea!” Nisha smiled far too widely as she paused from trying the circlet on and handed it to her fiancé.

Tristol whispered the words of an incantation as he rattled off the objects properties, “It seems like it’s designed to provide elven specific traits to its wearer, including low light vision, and immunity to sleep spells, a resistance to enchantments, and to qualify as an elf when using magical items and specifically high magic items that would normally be barred from use by any non elves.”

“Hey that sounds awesome!” Nisha tried to snatch the item back, but then Tristol’s eyes went wide and he tightened his grip on the circlet.

“And in no way do you want to ever actually wear this…” He turned the circlet to the side, finally noticing that it wasn’t a perfect circle, and that the shape confirmed what the magic had informed him of: it wasn’t ivory, but bone. The circlet was a horizontal section of an elven high mage’s skull sawed open when they were still alive. “It gives you things, but the circlet bleeds when you wear it, and it screams, hearable by any high mages within several miles around. Yeah, this was something the Netherese would create all right. I think we’ll be leaving this behind…”

Reluctantly, Nisha left the unsavory object behind and joined the others at the hole descending down into the godisle. Curious as ever, as she made her way down the rope, she rapped her knuckles across the stone, noting with a single quirked eyebrow that the rock was oddly soft and warm, as if the corpse itself was still cooling from its moment of death many centuries earlier.

“Where’s it go?” The tiefling asked. “You have to admit that it’s weirdly and disconcertingly natural. But far be it from me to be this group’s voice of reason. Heaven forbid.”

“There’s nothing heavenly about this place,” Fyrehowl shook her head, “Nor you for that matter; more croaking in your case.”

Nisha beamed a smile but said nothing in reply.

“As for this tunnel? I looks like the demilich carved out part of it,” Clueless explained, “But below a point it looks like a natural tunnel, almost like a giant vein in a gigantic petrified body. It looks like it quite literally leads to the heart.”

“Indeed it is mortals” Taba’s voice rung through their minds like a sudden, unexpected drizzle of cold, greasy runoff from a roof in the Hive. “The way is not far now. Carry on towards the heart.”

They paused and waited for further explanation from the altraloth, but nothing further was forthcoming. The fiend gave away her secrets sparingly, and seemed intent on leading them along with a morsel of facts towards a promised treasure simply to lay claim to having been the one leading and controlling them in the first place.

“Why can’t she just tell us what she knows?” Florian sighed as she continued down the passage. “Why lead us on this merry little goose chase across Toril?”

“Because she’s a yugoloth,” Fyrehowl grimaced. “That’s how all of them have acted. Every single one of them.”

“A’kin has never led me anywhere with beguiling words.” Nisha quipped, “He’s even given me free chocolate!”

“Ok, so maybe there’s an exception.” The lupinal shrugged, “One singular exception perhaps. He must piss the rest of his kind off something fierce. Can’t tell you what I’d pay to know what the history between him and the rest of his kind is.”

“You think he’s outcast from his kind?” Clueless glanced across at her, a dubious look playing across his face, “Or he’s just a hell of a lot more subtle than the rest.”

“Seriously, there has to be something going on between him and the Marauder,” Toras looked at the lupinal, “I swear to you they have to be a good inquisitor, bad inquisitor sort of deal going on.”

“I don’t think so.” She shrugged, “I genuinely don’t think so. There’s something there in terms of shared history I bet, but I don’t think it’s how you suspect it.”

“Have you been talking to him?” Nisha quirked an eyebrow, “Because I have, but he won’t talk about his past history or where exactly he stands as far as being a ‘loth goes. He mostly wants to talk about whoever happens to be talking to him, other people in Sigil, or his shop, and trust me that he’s got a story behind pretty much every item that he has in stock. He just doesn’t talk about himself.”

“We’ve talked a bit,” Fyrehowl said, thinking back to her conversation with the fiend, “After he landed a spot on the counsel and I was pissed off that I lost out to the Marauder for the other open seat.”

“What did he say?” Clueless asked, “I’m seriously curious.”

“Mostly,” She put a claw to her chin, “mostly, just advice in dealing with Shemeska in the aftermath of losing out to her in the voting. He had quite a bit to say on that issue. He’s been there in his shop for a few centuries at least, and she’s been in Sigil just as long. He almost opened up about it.”

“Seriously?” Clueless’s eyes went wide.

“He started to say something about dealing with her and about his own status as a ‘loth, but he caught himself.” Fyrehowl nodded, “It seemed genuine. He wanted to say something but held himself back, even if he really wanted to talk about it.”

“Fyrehowl?” Florian looked long and hard at the lupinal, “Keep talking to him. Seriously.”

The conversation about that conversation would have continued for some time, but at that point they arrived at the location Taba had wished for them to find.

“Oh what the hell…” Tristol blurted out, having been silent through their descent through the godisle up to that point. His eyes bulged at what they saw.

“What the hell happened here…” Florian whispered as her hand went to her holy symbol.

They stood in a high, vaulted cavern, resembling nothing less than space of a great petrified heart if drawn by a sculptor granting artistic license to render Netheril’s fall in blood red stone. A bright and cold silvery light banished every shadow and a faint lapping of liquid reached the ears, but aside from the light and the soft ambient noise, something was terribly off.

The air in the very center of the room was warped, twisting the light that passed through it, like the shimmer of heat above rocks in a desert’s sun, though nothing hovered there. If anything it seemed as if what had once been there, the Karse Stone, was by its conspicuous absence the source of the warped space, with its metaphysical weight in place there for so many centuries responsible for a permanent deformation in the fabric of space.

Their conjured sources of light immediately dimmed upon entering the room, and the walls themselves seemed leeched of color. The reddish rock of the godisle was pale and sickly as it approached the depression in the room’s center, almost as if it were rotting from the inside out. What has once been there as a pool of heavy magic pouring out from and then returning to the Karse Stone, the literal heart of Karsus the Accidental God, was present but… changed… a transparent, diaphanous reflection of its former deadly puissance.

Nearly tangible on the air itself, a sense of grieving regret saturated the space there at the godisle’s heart.

“Someone had a rather large fight in here…” Toras whispered as his eyes adjusted to the dimmed light and noticed the humanoid corpses strewn across the ground and the broken remnants of five separate golems of ancient Netherese manufacture.

“Those are relatively fresh, not ancient,” Clueless pointed to three bodies on the floor, “And they aren’t human corpses either.”

Tristol stared at the bodies and every other disturbing aspect of the chamber, including the fact that Jingleshod had told them the truth: the ‘loths had come for the Karse Stone. They’d come for it and they’d taken it. But why?

“What the hell are they?” Toras motioned to how the humanoid corpses seemed to blur into any adjacent shadows, as if they weren’t entirely corporeal.

“They’re shadovari.” Tristol finally explained, stepping over to one of them and reaching down to examine its armor. “Shades. Humans who’ve traded part of their souls for shadow-stuff and received extended life and power in exchange.”

“Ok and that means absolutely nothing to me other than presumably they were evil.” Toras shrugged. “Who are they? What were they doing here? Why did the ‘loths kill them?”

“Remember what I said about the Netherese enclave of Shade?” Tristol shook his head at each corpse in turn. “Prior to Karsus casting his spell, they shifted their city and its entire population to the Plane of Shadow. Either they stayed there intentionally, or the changes to the Weave in their absence prevented their return. They apparently returned in the past year, and clearly they were interested in finding out what had become of the empire that they’d once been a part of.”

“So they’re working with the ‘loths?” Florian rolled her eyes, “Great.”

“I very much doubt that.” Tristol frowned. “They seem to have uniformly embraced the worship of Shar during their centuries in Shadow. The ‘loths would have absolutely nothing to do with them. Frankly it seems as if they were either here when the ‘loths arrived, or more likely the ‘loth presence here drew their attention and Shade dispatched them here to find out what was going on, much to their doom.”

Over the next few minutes they explored the room and tried to piece together what had occurred, though without touching the pool and the space where the Karse Stone had been. As far as they could tell, the ‘loths had come first and destroyed the golems set in place by one of the Wulgreths to guard the chamber, and in their wake the shadovar had followed and paid a terrible price for their intrusion. The corpse of one shadovari fighter lay partially submerged in the pool of greasy, translucent liquid, the man having apparently been roasted alive in his armor. Two other armored fighters lay dismembered by mezzoloth claws, one of them with a broken trident still impaled through her chest and into the blood red stone of the wall behind her.

In the process of piecing together the fate of the shades and collecting a number of weapons and magical objects left behind on their corpses, they discovered one other salient piece of information as to what the ‘loths had done. Situated at the closest point from solid ground to where the Karse Stone had once stood were the faint impressions of a heavy tripod and two cylindrical objects: the Divinity Leech.

“They took it you see. They were jealous. They were always jealous of me and the machine that I’d created…” Tristol whispered to himself, recalling the words of Ghyris Vast, the creator of the machine they’d seen and seen used in the Astral atop more than one drifting godisle, there to siphon, extract, or to mine… something… from the drifting bodies of dead gods.

Tristol knelt down at the edge of the pool of heavy magic and traced his bare fingertips across the stone where the device had once stood. Lapping against the stone but seemingly drained of whatever essence it had once held, the pool of heavy magic was thin, ash grey, and translucent.

“This was where they came to test the Divinity Leech.” Tristol turned and looked at his companions. “This is where they came to use it first before they dared make the attempt on the Astral.”

“F***…” Clueless gritted his teeth, his mind spinning to make sense of it all and what the yugoloths intended.

“Why do it here on Toril though?” Florian asked, “Why here and not one of a dozen worlds with dead gods? Why not just start on the Astral? Starting here and you’d be likely to provoke one of Toril’s gods to step in.”

“I don’t know…” Tristol stammered, trying to wrap his brain around the intersection of his own people’s origin with the fall of Netheril at Karsus’s hands and both the use of the Divinity Leech and the theft of the Karse Stone.

Tristol’s confusion was lifted by the unsettling caress of Taba’s telepathic voice in his ears and his ears alone, “If you have the capacity to ensorcelle the pool with a legend lore dweomer, do so and you will see what I wished for you to see.”

“Taba wants me to legend lore the pool.”

“She wants you to legend lore a pool of heavy magic?” Clueless asked, raising an eyebrow and having very conspicuously both eyed and kept his distance from the pool, even in its altered state, given his own prior experience with the substance, and especially given Tristol’s lecture on how Karsus had toyed with the material and caused the original Wulgreth’s transformation into a lich purely by accident. “Are you crazy?”

“I need to know what happened here.” Tristol furrowed his brow and stood up, staring into the warped and empty hollow where the Karse Stone had hovered. “So you might want to step back.”

Collectively the group edged back as Tristol began to cast, though Nisha did so reluctantly. The effect was much more profound than any other time they’d seen the spell cast as the pool of depleted heavy magic shimmered. Sparks of magical energy erupted from its surface like flaming oil cast into a white hot metal pan. Runes in the yugoloth tongue scratched into the rock below the pool in a swirling, drain-like spiral glowed with a sudden sickly greenish light. The ‘loths had been utterly methodical in their testing of the device, leaving nothing to chance, but whatever their original purpose, they posed no danger as Tristol looked into the past.

Slowly an image formed within the pool, acting almost like a monstrous scry focus. Then without warning an audible scream shook the room as the image of Karsus himself, swollen with the divine might of Mystryl turned to stone and plummeted forth into the Dire Wood. They watched and listened as the ground rumbled in concert with his titanic red stone form falling to earth. An utter sense of regret reached out and filled their minds with a near divine sense of ache and sorrow for what his arrogance had done to him and his own people when he’d only been seeking to be their savior.

And then with a subtle ringing sound and a tremble within the liquid at their feet, the image vanished from the pool of depleted heavy magic and the legend lore spell jerked and rewound the clock even further, tumbling backwards at a rapid pace before providing a view of past events leading up to that first and terrible moment in time. Only Tristol saw it all, and as he watched those events in real time in his mind’s eye as only seconds elapsed in the outside world, his eyes went huge, his face turned ashen, he dropped to his knees trembling, braced his hands on the floor and vomited before he screamed in horror.



that is one hell of a cliffhanger ��



Over 1700 years earlier:

The chamber was vast, its ceiling vaulted, and yet despite its profound size it managed to appear cluttered, filled as it was with bookcases, tables covered in open tomes and scrolls, and dozens of sprawling, fantastical magical and alchemical apparatuses, all surrounding a central pool of glistening, golden heavy magic. Arcane lights burned bright, banishing each and every shadow from the sight of the chamber’s master: the archwizard Karsus.

“Ah hah!” Karsus exclaimed as he penned a correction to a series of arcane formulae in one of more than a dozen books that lay upon the table before him or drifted in the air, held open and aloft by a coterie of conjured and permanent unseen servitors.

The Lord of Karse Enclave and arguably the greatest wizard to have ever walked the face of Toril was a study in manic brilliance. He never paused, he never stopped moving, his fingers fidgeting and tugging at his hair or the sleeves of his robe when he didn’t have them set to a more useful task. The great arcanist talked to himself, holding entire conversations out loud as he worked through the wording of his current project, a task which he’d been researching for years, even as he tinkered with side projects which would have ensured that any lesser wizard be remembered in legend for but one of them.

“Ioulaum will eat his heart out with jealousy!” Karsus laughed, shouting the phrase another three times, “Do you hear me oh Father of Netheril?! Ha hah!”

“I’m certain that he will hear you if you speak his name enough times.”

Karsus’s laugh trailed away but the jubilant, frightening smile on his face never faded even as he looked over his shoulder at the source of the other voice.

“Bah!” The archwizard waved both hands to dismiss the concern, “I’ve warded my sanctum to avoid the prying eyes of every arcanist in the empire, and Ioulaum is first on the list of those seeking to build off of my greatness. He can go f*ck himself, wherever he’s seen fit to bolt himself away to in secrecy. This, this will put him to shame.”

Secluded on the other side of the chamber a single figure sat within an elaborate series of concentric binding circles drawn in salt, ash, wax, powdered electrum, dragon’s blood, and the liquid glimmer of heavy magic set in channels carved into the stone. Within that bound space, unlike every other place within the chamber, shadows did indeed fall.

“Now that the framework for the dweomer is penned and the concept sound,” The figure within the binding circle asked, their words as smooth and exquisite as the spells drawn by the mad, brilliant human dancing as he penned his burgeoning masterwork. “Do you have a name for your spell in mind?”

Karsus paused for but a moment, tapping his toes upon the stone and then hopping from one foot to the next before racing to the pool of heavy magic and dipping in a single finger. Without saying a word, he drew his finger through the air and his thoughts became manifest through the golden liquid. Drawn in blazing flame, slowly transmuting in color and material as it hung suspending in mid-air for both Karsus’s own edification and his guest’s illumination were the words in Netherese runes, larger than life:

12th Sphere Dweomers: Karsus’s Avatar

The creature in the binding circle nodded in approval, smiling a smile of ivory fangs in lieu of saying anything out loud. In Karsus’s view, the fiend needn’t say a word. Speaking would have diminished the triumph of that sublime moment in Netherese and Torillian history. The fiend’s wide eyes and astonished smile at a mortal’s work were statement enough. In fact, the smug grin on the archwizard’s face spoke to the fact that he wanted the fiend to feel as much jealousy as astonishment.

“When you first summoned me Karsus,” The bound fiend used the Archwizard’s first name without honorific, using a tense in old Netherese that denoted a mixture of formal admiration but informal association: admiration from one friend or professional peer to another. “When you first summoned me from Carceri I thought to fight your attempt.”

“You would have failed.” The Netherese archwizard laughed, his tone matter-of-fact.

“In time, if you’d persisted, yes.” A being of lies incarnate, the words came easily to the fiend’s lips and from there to the arcanist’s ears. “Why waste my efforts and your time knowing that you would have torn me across the fabric of the planes in more unpleasant ways than not if I’d resisted? Besides, your power begat curiosity on my part, and indeed I feel rewarded in some measure having been here and watched this unfold.”

Ivory fangs smiled and Tristol’s vision lurched forward, remaining in Karsus’s study but skipping to discrete moments in time as the archwizard set about refining his masterwork, defining the material components, practicing the somatic elements, and setting in motion the events that would lead to his own doom. Through it all, while he might display a portion of the material components to visiting archwizards, none of them were privy to the actual spell, knowledge of its nature, or entry to the sanctum itself. Through it all, only the bound fiend remaining with him to watch, comment, advise, feed, and influence without ever casting a single spell of its own.

“Your so-called rivals among the other enclaves, some of them have actual talent.” Barefoot and seated upon the floor, surrounded by the concentric circles, dressed in a simple robe compared to Karsus’s madcap extravagance, the fiend waved a manicured claw to dampen the burgeoning sneer on the human’s face, “Admit it! They do. Some of them at least. Ioulaum of course principally, but also Larloch, Aumvor, and perhaps your former student Telamont have lesser but true talent. I know this. I recognize this because my friend, this is what I am. Sorcery taken form in metaphysical flesh. I feel you and your kind like iron to a loadstone. It is beautiful. It is exquisite.”

Karsus turned to glance at the pooling darkness within the binding circle which snapped into discrete form only when he looked at the fiend directly. He frowned at the suggestion that his supposed rivals among the archwizards could be spoken of in the same sentence as him, much less by a conjured fiend, no, and archfiend reduced by his magical prowess to a second set of eyes and a sounding board for his word, a familiar in all but a tether to his soul.

“But…” The fiend extended a single claw towards the archwizard, “None of them operate on a level close to yours. They are candles to your burning star and I am eager to see you display your mastery.”

Karsus’s frown flickered and turned to a lazy, prideful smile. The Ape Who Would Fly laughed to himself, turned, and resumed his work. For the next six hours he gestured and controlled the filling of a stone-filled gizzard of a gold dragon with a mixture of tarrasque blood and 12-headed hydra bile, all to simply complete the enchantment of one of the material components for his Avatar spell.

For the next six hours he would idly exchange banter with the inchoate horror looming behind him within the binding circle. The fiend watched and the fiend smiled, working the archwizard with teasing words and platitudes, having reduced itself in Karsus’s view to simply another tool to be used as he created his masterwork, rather than a bottled archfiend watching and slavering only a few dozen feet away.

Time skipped and the inevitable drew close as slowly, inexorably, the fiend led Karsus towards completion and casting and dismissing any rational thought of stopping. Karsus was blinded to his own looming folly.

“I am pleased that my aide and council have proven crucial to your work on the avatar spell.”

“I would have perfected it in time without your aid, but dragging you across the planes and binding you to my service for this task proved worth my effort and the considerable expense of reagents to ensnare you.” Karsus shook his head as he recalled the cost, exhaling through clenched teeth, “The price in objects it took to anchor you here would have provided a trio of lesser arcanists the means to raise mythallars and enclaves of their own. But your knowledge has sped my efforts and unlike so many of your kind you recognize your place.”

Without the archwizard’s eyes upon him to force it, the fiend snapped back into discrete form and almost imperceptivity the trio of ioun stones that orbited above its head slowed for but a fraction of a second in lieu of a sneer.

“I suppose that I do. Had I done otherwise I would not have witnessed your triumph.”

“I appreciate that sentiment,” Karsus chuckled, glancing briefly at the summoning circle, “You know, you weren’t the first fiend that I bound to aid me.”

To this the archfiend actively sneered as if his pride were wounded; a choreographed display as would have been expected of any normal member of his race and caste.

“The pit fiend made demands and so I simply slew it.” Karsus explained, waving his hands through the air to conjure tiny, animated illustrations of the event like pictures from a child’s book of legends and tales of heroes, “The balor raged and beat against its bindings uselessly until it killed itself in the process and sought to slay me in its death throes, though its explosive demise never breached the bindings either. You have had the sense to obey and do what you know, understanding that once your task is complete, I might eventually release you.”

“I came here because I was interested in your work Karsus,” The fiend smiled and stepped to the edge of the innermost circle, pausing before it touched it, “I have never wished not to aid you. The spell is brilliant. Your spell is brilliant. I find it fascinating, if of course distasteful on some level to myself as a yugoloth. But fascinating nonetheless and you have my respect for seeing this through to completion.”

Time skipped again and the process drew to finality. Public proclamations were made that Karsus would be undertaking a profound work of magic that would end the slow destruction of the Empire’s lands to the life-devouring magic of the phaerimm, a race largely unknown except to a select number of the archwizards who had collectively been impotent to stop.

“You’ve yet to decide on the target of your casting.” The fiend raised its eyebrows, staring at the archwizard for an answer. “You have many options, all of which I will appreciate being bereft of their power for the spell’s duration.” The fiend laughed, earning a roll of Karsus’s eyes.

“I have options yes.” Karsus mused, pantomiming the actions and moods of various gods and goddesses, “Kozah for pure raw power to destroy the phaermim…Tyche for luck and good future for Netheril’s future… Jergal to bring death to all who would oppose Netheril... Jannath to make the land fertile against all efforts of the phaerimm…”

“Mystryl.” A single damning word from the fiend, a single name, a single target. It smiled at Karsus, hands spread, offering the suggestion to a mind plied and seduced by years of beguiling words.

Helpless as he watched, Tristol screamed.

Karsus turned and faced the bound archfiend, his mouth open, his eyes narrowed, his lips pursed to respond in dismissal for but a moment before he reconsidered.

“This was what you wanted Karsus.” The fiend explained, a single finger extended and a knowing look in its eyes. “You told me yourself, years ago when I asked you what it was that you wanted.”

“What is it you want…” Karsus mumbled the archfiend’s question to him, one of the first things that they’d ever discussed. Satisfied of the fiend’s binding he’d answered flippantly and honestly.

“Tell me Karsus, what is it you want?” The fiend asked, not hiding its hungry smile.

“Power and understanding of magic,” Karsus whispered his original answer, “All magic at my command, all arcane knowledge in my thoughts. It’s almost poetic now isn’t it?”
A single soft chuckle on the human’s part, a nod from the fiend, and then wide eyes and racing thoughts through Karsus’s brain.

“Mystryl it shall be.”

Agonized as he watched the past replay, Tristol wailed in horror as Karsus smiled and behind him, so did the fiend. “No you stupid fool! NO! NO!”

The phaerimm would be destroyed.

Karsus would be elevated to godhood in order to accomplish that task, usurping the divinity of the goddess of magic herself.

Netheril would reign supreme and unchallenged.

Karsus would be on the lips of every wizard, every bard, and every creature from the planes beyond.

“And with her name in place, it is finished.” Karsus looked upon the formulae of the single 12th level spell in existence, the words splayed across the pages of more than two dozen pages suspended in the air. He read them and recited the words in his mind, burning them into his memory for later recitation at the highest point in Karse Enclave. As it transferred to his mind, the words burst into flame and the pages reduced to fine ash to scatter at the mad archwizard’s feet. “I am ready.”

Absorbed in his work and no longer paying attention to the archfiend bound in his study, Karsus never saw the fiend smile, stand up, and deliberately step upon and across the border of the circle. The fiend’s footprint smudged the salt, wax, and every other material, never setting off the wardings or sending so much as a ripple through the surroundings binding magics. The archfiend smiled, his albino eyes glittering, as he casually motioned with one hand and the binding circle’s mundane components crawled and skittered back into place, repairing themselves where he’d deliberately smudged them with his foot.

Helpless to stop the flow of past events, Tristol Starweather watched as the future Oinoloth smiled.

Vorkannis the Ebon was not then, nor had he ever been bound there in Karsus’s study. Rather he sat there on the mad archwizard’s floor by choice, for years aiding him in his grand work, knowing full well what would likely happen. He’d cultivated the arcanist’s pride, nudged him towards an intended end, dangled bits of insight or snuffed alternative thoughts to fuel the archwizard’s “invention”. He’d fed the man’s drive and foolhardy attitude just as much as he’d aided him in understanding the brilliance and nuance of the spell itself. How much of the spell was actually composed by Karsus and not the fiend whispering in his ear for more than a decade was up for debate.

The spell flickered and time skipped, flowing at high speed through the actual casting of the spell, Karsus’s transient and fatal usurpation of a goddess’s power, the unraveling and collapse of the Weave, and the archwizard’s brief, horrified understanding of what he had done as magic abruptly stopped.

Mystryl’s dying wail echoed in Tristol’s ears as Karse enclave plummeting down to its doom, falling from the sky. Each and every other enclave followed suit as Karsus screamed and died, swollen and petrified into the crude shape of a weeping, horrified man before he too fell to earth.

As the Weave broke and magic died, slaying a goddess and destroying a civilization and culture in the process, Vorkannis the Ebon drifted in mid air, the wind of the heights flapping about his robes as he watched his work unfold with a rapturous look upon his face.

To Tristol’s senses the wind whistled and the screams faded away, leaving only one sound remaining above it all: Vorkannis’s laughter.


The spell ended and Tristol’s senses returned to the present day, the knowledge of what he’d witnessed burned into his memory.

“It was him!” Tristol screamed, his speech slurred and nearly incoherent, “He killed her!”

“Who?” Clueless asked, startled by the aasimar’s sudden and horrified reaction only moments after he’d cast the spell at Taba’s suggestion.

“Tristol!” Nisha grabbed onto the wizard’s robe and struggled to get him up to his feet. “What happened?!”

“Taba what did you do?!” Toras shouted, hoping that the altraloth lord could hear them.

“I’ve done nothing but lead him to the truth about certain events mortal.” Taba’s telepathic voice echoed in their collective minds, an almost tactile sensation of her sneering from a dozen mouths present on her words, “He’s seen what I have seen. Only in this location would the effect have managed to evade the deliberate obfuscation of those events, though I’m uncertain whom to blame for hiding the past, my kindred or the next incarnation of Toril’s goddess of magic herself.”

Eyes wide, his face ashen, Tristol looked up at Nisha and then to the others around him. He’d watched his goddess die and his entire view of his own peoples’ history was forever altered by what he’d learned. Karsus in all his reckless brilliance had been a puppet in the act, following a trail of formulaic breadcrumbs to “invent” a spell whose seeds were given to him by the future Oinoloth himself. The fiend had used Karsus like an overly eager, foolhardy test subject.

Perhaps the avatar spell was something that the ‘loth’s own nature made impossible for him to cast on his own, perhaps the result was considered revolting given the uniform anathema towards the gods held by his kind, or perhaps by leading a mortal to create, prepare, and cast the spell on their own, the ‘loth avoided the sort of deific retribution that might have otherwise been invoked by the murder of a goddess at a fiend’s claws.

Tristol looked up into Nisha’s eyes, and the concern and empathy he saw gave him pause. He mumbled, uncertain of how to explain it all, uncertain how to describe what he’d lived through as it had happened. He would explain it, but as he struggled to pick himself up off of the floor and avoid his own vomit now mingling with the depleted heavy magic still present there, he put his hands together, closed his eyes, and prayed to his patron goddess.

‘I will kill him. Whatever he is I will bring him to justice for what he did and what he has done since. Whatever his goals then or now by desecrating this place, I will dismantle his plans and see him destroyed. This I swear to you Mystra…’

In that moment as Tristol put his hands together for a single unspoken prayer, though he didn’t notice it at first, and though he wasn’t aware of what it meant for him, for the first time in his life his fingers flickered with the gift of silverfire.


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