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The Architects of Betrayal (TAB) 56: Something We've All Wanted To Do For A Very Long Time!

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

She split Quagrim in Twain!

At last it comes! The end of Quagrim! Oh, I mean the end of the Architects of Betrayal campaign. And I have to say, the all day session started less than encouragingly.

As you will no doubt recall (even though they didn't) the end of our last session had the group admiring a great view with the crumbling city of Old Peltarch to their right, and a lake of solid ice straight on and to their left. On that lake, in the distance, they could see a sail driven ship skating along the lake's surface, which left them with a quandary: follow Rodney's advice to have the various allies they'd made throughout their journey assault the city, or try to ambush the asshole Minotaur that had so effectively ambushed them.

So they discussed. For an hour. Then a thought occurred to them. Why not do both? YES! Those vicious cultists would never see that coming! So they used the rocky talky Aanger had given them back in Ravnica to get him to spread the word. The Delicious Cupcakes Summon All Good To Stop Ragnarok!

P.S. There's a good chance we'll all die . . .

By the time they'd made up their minds the ship had made it to the city's docks. It was currently being unloaded under the watchful gaze of gunslinger infested towers.

But did that stop them? Not the Delicious Cupcakes! They used a dimension door to place themselves directly around the Ironbreaker and his Wizard cohort. Round 1: FIGHT!

Unfortunately for them, the Wizard was actually a Kensai Magus with a ridiculously high Initiative. On his first turn he and the Ironbreaker smiled smugly at the party and Dimension Doored themselves out of combat.

They were a mite annoyed to say the least, and they worked out their frustrations by grabbing the nearest of the peons that had been previously unloading the boat and intimidating the shit out of him. Literally.

About all they were able to get out of any of him was that their quarry had probably gone to the tower, maybe, he thought? He did point to a tower much nearer the center of the crumbling city. Being the largest tower in the area they judged him to be telling the truth. Probably . . . maybe . . .

Before they could act on said intel, several members of the party heard the sounds of footsteps drawing towards the near edge of one of the towers, no doubt in response to the aggressive fleeing the other peons were currently undertaking. But, that's what happens when you scare someone to the point of involuntary defecation.

Zornesk suffered a flashback of charging a machine gun laden enemy and immediately dove in a barrel.

Minerva . . . flew up to greet them. As she breached the plane of the tower's roofs she realized there were two gunslingers on each of the three towers within reach. Upon visual confirmation she immediately yelped, dropped back down, and informed the others that discretion was probably the better part of valor.

This coming from the Bloodrager . . .

They immediately used dimension door again to teleport to the base of the indicated tower and went inside. There they found a set of puzzles that were about as insidious as I could manage . . . in the short time I had to make them . . .

As expected, Bob reached through the curtain of electricity protecting the one breaker on the first floor, and pulled it out. Of course, the charred lump of metal was hardly usable as a circuit breaker at that point, which brought us back to Golbat.

One loooooooong casting of Make Whole later and they were ready to move on to level two. Two different search parties tried the door during the process. Thankfully Zornesk had locked it. Percentile rolls suggested that the searchers were low enough level that they hadn't had the keys and were more worried about the punishment they'd receive for breaking the door down unnecessarily than that the party might be inside. Thus proving once again that its better to be lucky than good . . .

Ironically the group had no trouble figuring out that their freshly made whole breaker was in the off position when it failed to perform. But on their return with the newly acquired breaker from the second floor that check slipped their mind. They spent a good fifteen minutes, and a lot of insanity along the way, before one of them even examined it. Well, I got a good laugh anyways.

They made it the rest of the way up the tower with no issue. They breached the last floor just in time to see that magus's smug look vanishing into a chartreuse portal taking up the opposite side of the tower.

{DM's Note: If they hadn't charred the first breaker they would have been able to interrupt the cultists opening this particular gateway. Alas they fell for the 'let's cheese it' impulse. As I knew they would.}

They'd have immediately followed, but there were more important things to take care of, namely the six cultists between them and said glowy green field. All but one cultists was quickly dispatched, that last to provide information on the portal.

At first he refused to give any information, wailing about the punishments he'd received. In the end they coaxed the information that this portal led to Baphomet's lair, in the center of his maze like layer of the Abyss, out.

Which effectively put the ax out of reach and made their quest a bust. While most of them took on a rather sickly look at the realization that they'd failed, Quagrim's face became an interesting shade of green. He also began sweating bullets.

Sense motive checks made it clear that whatever his issue was was certainly greater than just the thought of trying to wrest Arumdina (that would be Garl's Axe) from the furry grip of The First Minotaur.

When they questioned them on it Bob immediately grappled Zornesk. The excitable Kobold restrained, Quagrim admitted to them that there was still one way to recover the artifact, but it would require an unlikely ally. As it turned out he'd not only been evil at the beginning of the campaign, but had actually been under contract to Graz'zt to keep Baphomet from getting the axe, with a bonus if he should deliver it to the demon.

Part way through the confession the preventative Bobbing of Zornesk became entirely justified, as the dragonkin began trying mightily to reach the gnome. Golbat wasn't doing much better. He had a glassy eyed look and just kept muttering that this wasn't in any of the books.

Eventually Zornesk calmed down and Golbat pulled himself together. Once assured that he wouldn't be assaulted mid conversation, Quagrim pulled the pendant that he'd used to swap alignments out and began talking into it.

A deep, sultry voice came back out of it. Graz'zt presumably. It was not amused by the current circumstances, even after Quagrim pointed out that he'd urinated on Baphomet. But, after much haggling, he did agree to help. Graz'zt told them to get to Baphomet's laboratory and smash the pendant on the ground.

Thus it was, that with only their wits and this sliver of hope that the group stepped through the portal.

They found themselves in a long dark hallway filled with Minotaur (Minotaurs? A herd of Minotaur? We'll figure that out in the next campaign). At the ceiling, some forty feet above them, ran a clear conduit filled with an electrically charged fluid.

There were several unusual things about this fight. For one, magical flight didn't work at all, and non-magical flight was extremely exhausting. Two, every creature in the hall (including our team of chaotic heroes) seemed to have some magical darkness surrounding them, making it impossible to see through each other's spaces. Three, whenever they dispatched a Minotaur some form of essence would rise from its body into the conduit. Golbat quickly guessed that these kills were actually feeding the ritual Baphomet was using to drain Garl's divinity.

Four, these were no ordinary Minotaurs. They had two new, never before seen, feats. The first made them immune to the last harmful effect (or effects) they were subjected to. For this boon they suffered the penalty that all their hit dice were the minimum result of 2. (we reroll ones). The second Feat stopped all damage they took at 1 HP so long as they were above 1 before the damage was applied. Coupled with having fast healing 5 made this a very unusual fight.

Of course, the gnome was the one to figure out the immunity trick. He immediately began wall jumping around, spreading his fire to as many targets as he could. Minerva and Globat made use of what area of effect spells they had. In Golbat's case that would be all of them. Zornesk . . . felt left out. The fight went pretty quickly after that.

The tunnel led to a large room. The conduit above lined the corners met by the walls and ceiling of the room. More conduits ran from the side of the room at seventy-two degree intervals, forming into a pentagram over its center. In that center was Baphomet with the fully assembled ax on an alter. A beam of electricity was arcing down from the center of the pentagram to the ax. Between the first Minotaur and the group were another dozen cultists, with more spread casually about the room. And in the back corner sat Lamashtu. Quagrim immediately threw his pendant on the ground. As it shattered it created a gate. Graz'zt stepped through immediately. But he wasn't alone; Asmodeus came with him. As the group should have guessed, they'd been working together all this time. The four gods immediately began fighting it out, leaving the party to deal with the cultists.

{DM's Note: I'd actually run that fight the day before. Special thanks to Christian and Alex for running Baphomet and Lamashtu while I ran the other two. The fight actually went to 8 rounds before Baphomet and Lamashtu were slain.}

{DM's Note: I'd actually set this up for them to have a chance of snatching the axe. Puncturing the conduit would shower anything below with electricity doing serious damage and stunning them (DC was based on the number of Minotaurs empowering the conduit). There were also four pillars surrounding the alter that could have been wrecked via Warp Metal (or the like), or with the ballista Bob was carrying around.}

For a short time it appeared that the group would fail. They gamely had at the various cultist surrounding them, despite the knowledge that there were an unspecified amount of reinforcements. Keeping to that status would have inevitably left Graz'zt and Asmodeus in possession of the ax.

Fortunately, the status quo only lasted until Minerva's first turn. She ignored the cultists to dash over to the ax, provoking a number of AOO's from the various enemies along her path. The gods completely ignored her up until the moment she placed her demonic claw on the ax. At that point it was like four sentry turrets had swiveled towards her. Baphomet burned a villain point to shoot her with his gun. Graz'zt prepared a special AOO just for her.

Recognizing their plight Golbat used a hero point to cast wish, asking that they all be whisked back to the safety of the material plane. A splendid idea. Asmodeus then burned a villain point to negate his wish with a Miracle.

Realizing that she was never getting out of this, Minerva burned a hero point of her own to throw the ax at Quagrim. She more than made the number to hit him, even with the -4 for throwing an improvised weapon. An opposed strength check did not avail Quagrim well. Instead of catching the axe it impaled him and kept going until the two were slammed into the wall. There the gnome hung, limply, pinned to the wall by the ax.

Strangely the wound didn't seem to hurt at all. All Quagrim actually felt was a slight sucking sensation at the point of impact. Others in the room were far more emotional about the turn of events. Graz'zt bellowed 'NO!'. Baphomet roared in rage. Lamashtu and Asmodeus both seethed hatred. The party stared at their helpless ally, unsure what to do next.

Those paying close attention (which was everybody) noted a hand come out of the ax. It grabbed Quagrim and pulled him inside just before he lost consciousness. Then another figure leapt from the ax. A much larger figure.

{DM's note: when I started this campaign I could find no description of Garl. Being that he'd been around before the gnomes I didn't expect anyone to describe him as such. Instead I went for something more like this.}

As that figure's feet cleared the ax he reached behind himself, grabbed it by the grip, and ripped it from the wall. He fell the few feet to the floor, slamming the ax on it. The impact sent out beams of light that sought every evil creature in the room, dealing 40D6 holy damage to them. They then exploded for another 9D6 fire damage.

After the first explosion a confused look passed over Garl's face. He held up his ax, revealing a new symbol on the blade, the same symbol the group had seen on Bob and Quagrim's foreheads. "You've got spirit little one," he said before leaping the distance from the wall to Baphomet, burying his ax in the Minotaur's chest.

Minerva, being at the end of the round (except for the now dead cultists) they started round 2. If you've looked at the stat blocks I built then you know Garl went first. He used felling smash, gaining 2 AOO's on Baphomet. The minotaur did not survive.

The remaining deities then decided that they had other places to be. Asmodeus opened a gate that Graz'zt immediately jumped through. He himself stayed long enough to express his hope that Garl had learned his lesson as far as all the jokes he used to play. Garl assured him he had, just as a mythic banana peel materialized under the devil's hoof. He slipped, caught himself, glared at Garl, and exited.

Surprisingly, the group's first question involved the health and whereabouts of Quagrim. I mean, after all the shit he put them (and myself I might add) through, I'd have thought they'd first have worried about their reward. But nope, it was all team all the time with them. I can't help but wonder if Quagrim's own priorities would have lined up quite the same.

In answer, Garl turned to Baphomet's table and tapped the top of the blade of his ax on it. Quagrim immediately fell out of the artifact's blade, catching himself on the ground. He was completely unharmed

Garl expressed his profound thanks, asking what they all wanted in return.

Zornesk grabbed an axe from one of the exploded cultists and asked Garl to sign it. He also pulled the gentle reposed apple he'd been saving since the beginning of their adventure out to eat; his celebration. As he raised it to his snout Garl reached out and touched the apple, blessing it.

Minerva asked to join him in his travels, but was rebuffed. He was wild, and a loner, and he could see he'd have driven her absolutely mad. He did max out her glaive with enhancements and enchantments, though.

Golbat asked for a way to pass his memories of his future past to himself when the time came. Even Garl was leery of granting such power to anyone, until he realized that Golbat himself had been the recipient of such magic. He then stated that he felt he could trust the Samsaran to use such an item since he'd clearly already used it, and touched Golbat's forehead. With a rush of memory the Samsaran remembered his true life. As it turned out, he hadn't lived to see the end of the world. Instead, he'd grown up in a golden age. A golden age where an older version of himself had taken special interest in his training. His last session he'd been given a magic crystal that had altered his memories. A crystal that Garl was now holding in front of him.

Quagrim's request was the hardest of all. He asked for a way to restore Augerhead to the way it had been before he'd destroyed it. Garl informed him that both he and Bob would have to help with such a massive undertaking. They quickly agreed, but chose to hold the doings of until they were out of the Abyss.

The group quickly returned to the portal and exited back into the tower they'd come from. There they found Mirrodin (recently retrieved from Bator), Elminster, and Khelban. The three had apparently been trying to force there way into the gate to help the group.

Then it was time for the righting of certain wrongs. Garl insisted that only those involved should help put things right. So it was that those three became encompassed in a vortex of winds that blocked out all but the most vague silhouettes of the participants.

The winds became stronger and stronger as the three focused inside. Khelban, Mirrodin, and Elminster used aid another to help. Strangely, the group did not. But they had had a long day. It's not entirely sure if a couple of them might have served as more of a distraction than any actual help anyways.

Two minutes into the ritual Bob grunted in pain and exploded in a shower of green and brown.

Five minutes after the start the winds subsided, leaving a shaking Quagrim, and an exhausted god. One of the group asked if it worked. In response Garl teleported them all back to Augerhead. Despite the fact that teleportation to or from the area had supposedly been blocked.

They found themselves on the mountain path to Augerhead at the exact spot where they'd tied up their horses so long ago. Then they started up the path. The town looked almost exactly as they'd left it. But it felt different. Cleaner somehow.

As they approached the walls, that massive door that had troubled them so (that Quagrim could have easily subverted, the evil little shit) opened, revealing a crowd of living gnomes, which are so much better than unliving gnomes. At the front was the mayor of the town. Zornesk and Quagrim recognized him as the ghost that had enchanted the lure on the gnome the last time they'd been in town. Quagrim tried to apologize, but a hand held up stopped him. The mayor grinned, saying that they'd have all given their lives willingly for the return of Garl Glittergold. He also told Quagrim that it had been his essence that had returned the town and its inhabitants to their former selves. A part of him was in all of them. They knew what he'd done, all of it. Then he stepped aside.

The crowd parted, creating a pathway into the now restored town. As they passed through the gates they saw the doors of the temple of Garl open. The clerics they'd helped on their first visit emerged, blinking and rubbing their eyes, as if they couldn't believe what they were seeing.

Their path through the crowd ended at Quagrim's mother, despite the fact that she'd died many years earlier. And in her hands was a baby white rabbit.

Epilogue: Zornesk became known as one of the mightiest paladins ever to exist. His powers of redemption were considered unparalleled. He also created a fabulously successful brewery and pub specializing in an alcoholic apple drink. Apples grown from the trees of the seeds from that first apple. The pub has the ax signed by Garl hanging (quite securely) above its main door. When handled by a lawful or evil person the ax makes them feel uneasy. Good people feel emboldened while chaotic people feel mischevious. Minerva became a highly sought Professor of hunting demons. When not in the classroom she was usually off on the hunt for same. Zornesk often joined her on these outings. Golbat wrote a very successful series of future fiction novels based on the original timeline. A century and a half later he found his younger self and closed the loop. Quagrim became the Marshal of Augerhead, a truly strange twist for one so chaotic. He quickly discovered that, though his abilities as a summoner had been stripped from him, he hadn't lost his flare for the arcane talents. THE END

P.S. Okay, in all honesty I was torn between Lullaby by Nickleback, and The High Road by Three Days Grace for the credits song. But, there's a rabid Nickleback hater in my group. How could I resist?

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