Waterday, Fireseek 26, 553 CY (51 AN)
Over the course of the day, Bezaldooz is out shopping for spell scrolls while the others discuss plans. Torinn is vehemently opposed to dealing with the Khan of Nightmares, while Bosabrieln thinks it represents their easiest option. Peren just doesn’t like the idea of their souls being collateral.
Over the course of the conversation, they decide to renegotiate. Bosabrieln sends a message, saying that he wants to see Ekaterina, as proof that she is alive and well. The Khan of Nightmares will allow him to do so, if he is nude and consents to having his hands and tongue removed; they will be replaced immediately afterward.
After some more of this back-and-forth, the Khan of Nightmares invites Bosabrieln to discuss terms with him in the afternoon. The rest of the Shields of the Sorrowfell accompany him to the Chimeric Amphitheater, and he meets the Khan in another meeting room. This time, they get down to cases: as per the Shields’ discussions earlier today, they want to remove the potential that they will be forced to serve in perpetuity, instead returning at some future date to participate in more bouts. The Khan of Nightmares agrees, but along with a couple of minor stipulations, he presents a major one: if they agree to this deal, they can never move against him, nor can they incite anyone else to move against him on their behalf. Bosabrieln says he will need to discuss these matters with the rest of the Shields.
When he takes his leave and reports back to the others, the Shields agree to the original contract, operating on the idea that they can then return and move against the Khan if they win. They review the instructions for the original contracts and mix in a little blood with the ink as requested. (Being intensely irritated with the whole affair, Torinn stamps his contact with his genitals. In a similar vein, Bosabrieln cuts his lip to incorporate his blood into a lipstick print.) The Khan’s messenger retrieves the contracts and presumably takes them to the Chimeric Amphitheater. (The Khan must have received them, because he sends a fruit basket later in the day.) Bezaldooz is also certain to summon Goruthrel again and inform her of what has transpired while she was away.
The next two days are largely uneventful. Bezaldooz finally tracks down a merchant in the Tarnished Souk who happens to have a couple of spell scrolls: continual flame and scorching ray. (Locating said merchant and purchasing the scrolls costs 110pp.) And so the Shields find themselves waiting in the Chimeric Amphitheater on the evening of Freeday, Fireseek 28. The Jack of Diamonds is assisting them with anything they need, as well as informing them that each bout will have an hour to rest between them rather than a back-to-back gauntlet. However, the particulars of each match will not be revealed until the actual event begins.
The Shields are eventually led through a back way into the arena — Bezaldooz leaves Goruthrel behind in the hopes that she can map this place while they’re competing — to the arena floor. They find themselves in what appears to be a cavern, marked with side passages and doors. Although the cavern roof is above them, they can hear the roar of the crowd and can see the Khan’s skybox floating above the arena, strangely superimposed over the cave ceiling.
It is difficult to see from this angle, but it appears others are in the box with the Khan. Peren’s sharp eyes suggest they might be the hags of the Hendiatris that have been antagonizing the group thus far.
The Khan of Nightmares addresses the crowd, explaining that the Shields of the Sorrowfell are here for love, attempting to rescue a friend whom they believe was wrongfully imprisoned. He notes that the Shields of the Sorrowfell are newcomers to the Chimeric Amphitheater, but on their home plane they are renowned for having slain a manifestation of the drow death-goddess Kiaransalee. An inquisition of Kiaransalee seeks revenge, and will be granted the opportunity tonight.
Tonight’s contest is a two-minute bout: whichever team can score the most kills against the other team wins. The Khan will be resurrecting fallen participants constantly throughout the bout, so it will be a grand melee until the contest ends.
When the gong sounds, the Shields of the Sorrowfell begin moving forward, looking for their opponents. Peren is the first to make contact, as he scouts ahead, finding an armored female dark elf in a breastplate accompanied by a giant spider. As he withdraws, Bezaldooz drops a delayed blast fireball near the mouth of the passage in which the drow reside, but the breastplate-clad drow manages to sidestep the defenses, and shout a warning back to her fellows. Bosabrieln sends her running down a side passage with dissonant whispers as Torinn moves to engage the giant spider, noting that there is a male dark elf wielding a shadow-wreathed sword behind the spider. Peren attacks the breastplate-clad drow one more time before retreating to assist Torinn while Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln focus on the breastplate-clad drow, slaying her. She stands as the Khan resurrects all participants, but Bosabrieln hits her with a terrible psychic resonance and Bezaldooz picks up the glowing bead of force that represents the delayed blast fireball and throws it at her, sending her flying back and into death again.
The battle against the spider and the swordsman is similarly productive, as the spider is slain and turns into a slight drow woman. However, Peren finds out the hard way that the swordsman can summon shadows to terrible effect. Bosabrieln manages to daze the participants in that melee with a hypnotic pattern, including his allies, but he does not have a chance to shake his comrades out of their stupor; Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln are too focused on the melee to notice the breastplate-clad inquisitor as she returns to life, cursing at the Khan for not allowing her vengeance. (He shrugs, as if to say she need only be strong enough to take revenge.) She stands, steps forward, and invokes a spell to summon a carpet of biting spiders on her enemies and allies, awakening everyone subjected to the hypnotic pattern. Although this is effective, the tide turns as Bosabrieln casts hold person on the two drow while Peren — realizing that he has the perfect tool to end this contest — rushes forward, burning two souls in his helm to heal himself. He then slays the breastplate-clad elf, stealing her soul and trapping it in his helm.
She cannot be resurrected until her soul is freed.
Realizing that the battle is largely over, Torinn sits in protest while Bosabrieln begins playing music for the crowd to keep them entertained for the remaining minute or so. Peren makes short work of the swordsman, also stealing his soul and trapping it within his helm, while then borrowing Torinn’s manacles to bind the surviving dark elf woman. When she finally shakes free of the hold person, she is pinned on the ground. The gong sounds shortly thereafter, and the Khan gives the Shields an opportunity to slay her, which they gladly take in the hopes of avoiding her in the future.
The Khan seems pleased with their progress, and does not resurrect her after that.
The Shields then return to the Pagoda of Regicide to rest for an hour before their next bout. Goruthrel says she was unable to make sense of the layout in this strange place, although she will continue to investigate during their next bout.
After resting and binding their wounds, the Shields of the Sorrowfell return to the arena, finding themselves in another cavern accompanied by the sound of running water. The Khan announces that the Shields have returned after their triumphant inaugural bout to face the Rolling Stones, pride of Fantasy Toril’s Chaos Stadium. When the gong sounds, the Shields begin moving forward, noticing a stone fortress in the gloom, a pair of double-doors facing them across a bridge over the cavern stream. As fast as he is, Peren is first to make contact, dashing across a stream to climb atop the fortress. He finds no trapdoor, but notes one of the walls is partially collapsed. He drops down to see four squat figures, likely dwarves, crouched inside of the fortress — they each wear leather armor festooned with metal spikes, and they each carry two shields similarly covered in spikes. He immediately summons a wall of fire to harry them before retreating.
The dwarves open the main door and step out of the inferno, arriving on the scene. As the one in the front is hammered with spells, they say in unison, “A rolling stone gathers no moss!” pointing at the Shields in challenge. They launch into battle, but are instantly frozen with a well-placed hypnotic pattern. However, when Peren and Torinn begin focusing on one of the dwarves, that one begins throwing javelins at his fellows, attempting to knock them from their stupor. When he succeeds, that dwarf awakens the others, one of whom attacks Peren by somersaulting into him with his spiked body. Peren is grievously wounded and quickly retreats, but not before making short work of the heavily-wounded dwarf.
The fight comes to an abrupt end when Bosabrieln freezes them with a well-placed hold person, and the dwarves cannot break free. As such, the Shields of the Sorrowfell make short work of them, moving from man-to-man and slaying them one-by-one.
The Khan congratulates them on their continued victory, and tells the crowd that the Shields of the Sorrowfell will return on the morrow. They return to The Silver Key to sleep for the night.
The next day, Starday, Readying 1, Bezaldooz spends his day scribing his new spell scrolls into his spellbook while Bosabrieln plays music for the crowd in The Silver Key, holding court with his newfound fans. Peren and Torinn largely rest.
Bosabrieln does have one interesting encounter: a burly man cuts through the crowd, and Bosabrieln realizes he recognizes him. Lord Maervik of the Court of Fallen Leaves is present, and indicates that he is actually dreaming at the moment; he is currently negotiating with the Jarlkona, and so is actually in the far north of Khaldun. (Jarlkona Ragnhildur Brimirsdóttir sends her regards, by the way.) Lord Maervik happened to see the fight last night, and congratulates the Shields on their victory, also thanking them for sparing the Four Seasons — it seems those four eladrin warriors are allied with Lord Kaerwyn, so their continued service is appreciated. Lord Maervik notes that if the Shields need anything, they should be free to ask. Leaning in conspiratorially, Lord Maervik also notes that the Court of Fallen Leaves is friendly with someone named Auberyon, another one of the sponsors in the Coliseum Morpheuon. Lord Maervik heard a rumor that the Shields have access to a talisman of the sphere. If that’s true, they might want to attune it between the second and third bout today. It should help.
With that, Lord Maervik wishes them well and takes his leave.
That evening, the Shields return to the Chimeric Amphitheater to compete. Before the first bout, the Jack of Diamonds challenges them to a dice-off, indicating this will determine whether or not they have a slight advantage or disadvantage in the upcoming trial. Bezaldooz has a reputation for being lucky, so he takes the challenge, but he unfortunately loses the roll.
When the Shields are led into the arena, they see why: they are led to a large step-pyramid, decorated with a spiraling staircase that leads to the summit. They are placed just behind the rival team, a group of six armed and armored githyanki. The Khan re-introduces the Shields of the Sorrowfell as well as their rivals, the Stardock Six, and then announces the challenge: king of the hill. Whichever group has at least one representative that can stand atop the summit for a consecutive thirty seconds will win the contest.
However, when the gong rings, Bosabrieln is ready for it, immediately conjuring a hypnotic pattern. The githyanki at the head of the Stardock Six, an armored woman with a longsword and wand, invokes a sigil in the air with her wand, attempting to counterspell. However, Bezaldooz counterspells her counterspell, and the hypnotic pattern erupts forth over their heads. The scintillating lights enthrall the entire Stardock Six, and so the Shields quickly climb the pyramid to the summit and wait. (Bosabrieln again plays music for the amusement of the crowd.)
Despite the lack of action, the Khan is still quite amused. The Shields and the Stardock Six are led offstage. After the show, the leaders make introductions: the gish is named Marmayah while her warlord companion is Kranod. They are suitably impressed with the Shields’ conduct, and tell them to give greeting should they ever find themselves in Toril.
After the hour rest, the Shields return to the field. They are again led into a cavern, this one filled with stone statues, some of them in various states of shock. The Khan announces that they are to face Syntyche of the Stone Garden in a battle to the death.
When the gong sounds, the statues briefly come to life, screaming and moaning and clawing the air. One next to Peren grabs him, prompting the Shields to begin moving through the complex, smashing statues as they go.
Expecting to find a medusa of some sort, they move very carefully, attempting to focus on their feet in the hopes of not being surprised by whatever they find. Peren is the first to make contact, sighting the creature in an alcove. She is enormous, easily twice the size of a mortal woman, a serpent’s tail where her legs out to be. Rather than a crown of writhing serpents, she instead has flowing and slithering tendrils atop her head. Peren reflexively invokes a wall of fire. She screams, and then the place falls deathly silent.
The Shields begin searching the cave, smashing statues and probing for their foe. As the most mobile, Peren dismisses the wall of fire and begins searching her alcove and the rest of her den. As he passes by an alcove featuring a desk and a statue, he realizes only too late that her enormous bulk was hidden within as she dashes out, clawing at him, grasping him in her muscular coils, and whipping him with her tentacle-like hair. He notes that her burn scars are turning grey, like stone. He shouts that contact has been made as she summons a horde of serpents, boiling up from the ground, which begin biting at Peren. Despite the poison he feels coursing through his veins, he continues carving into her with his swords as the rest of the Shields arrive. (But again, any wounds he carves into her flesh become similarly ossified.) The combined onslaught of the Shields take her down, but when she appears to breathe her last, she turns to stone and collapses into rubble — only to reveal herself as the dust settles, as her old layer of stone gives way to new, undamaged, unblemished skin. She flees down the corridor, taking a hard right.
While the Shields move to cut off her escape, she returns. Despite being hammered by blades and spells, she pushes her way down the corridor invoking those same spectral snakes again on Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln, and then dashing forward to grab Bezaldooz in her coils. Bosabrieln gets the clearest view as she begins undulating her coils, turning Bezaldooz toward her and looking at him directly in the face. However, Bezaldooz, dazed by the spectral venom of the summoned serpents, seems to have trouble focusing on her face, and so is unaffected by her horrible gaze.
It is her last major action, as the combined might of the Shields falls upon her, truly slaying her.
The Khan again applauds them for a job well done, and informs the audience that they will see the Shields of the Sorrowfell for their last bout in an hour.
The Shields return to the Pagoda of Regicide and rest. As instructed, Bezaldooz dons the talisman of the sphere and prepares to use it in the upcoming bout. The Shields then make their way to the arena one final time. When they do, they emerge from a portal onto a sports field. It looks like a standard football or soccer field, similar to that used for the Trials of Blood on the Sorrowfell Plains. The other side of the field also has a stone gate leading to some planar portal, clearly to be used as some sort of goal. The other players are a group of fiends: a hulking, bat-winged creature with an axe, twice as tall as human; a smooth-skinned, grey, largely featureless humanoid with a sword; a loathsome toad-like creature; and a robed humanoid resembling a fox.
In the center of the field floats a two-foot-diameter black sphere, a sphere of annihilation. The Khan announces that this is the final contest, a football match like the Trials of Blood of the Shields’ native Sorrowfell Plains. They are to compete against The Hades Nuts; whomever manages to first push the sphere of annihilation into the opposing team’s goal wins the bout.
When the gong sounds, Bezaldooz is ready. He immediately asserts control of the sphere and launches it almost the entire length of the field toward the opposing goal, sending it downfield so quickly that the grey-skinned creature barely has time to get out of the way of the sphere. Peren and Torinn immediately rush the opposing team. Torinn invokes an expeditious retreat to enter into melee, making short work of their grey-skinned team captain while Peren pulls forth the horn of Valhalla and summons twenty berserkers who immediately bind the opposition. The loathsome toad does something which makes Torinn forget himself and how to speak, and the fox-headed humanoid attempts to assert control of the sphere of annihilation, failing to wrest it from Bezaldooz’s grasp. As such, Bezaldooz is able to effortlessly push it into the goal, where it is reduced to wisps of shadow and dissipates.
The Hades Nuts move to congratulate their rivals, and fox-headed creature briefly converses with Bezaldooz, asking where he retrieved a talisman of the sphere. He replies that they retrieved it from a lich’s lair before The Hades Nuts take their leave of the field. The Khan then announces that there is one more bit of business; there is a commotion from the skybox, the sound of a couple of spells being cast, and then a night hag gets thrown over the side, falling to the ground. The Shields and the berserkers descend upon her, making short work of her.
The Khan then announces that he is true to his word; the portal from which they arrived flares open, and Ekaterina steps out, wearing a shabby white prisoner’s robe, but otherwise appearing largely the same as before. Content that they have all they need, the Shields note that they will see the Khan again soon — he retorts that he’s sure they will — as Bezaldooz pulls the tuning fork from his pack and casts plane shift to travel to the teleportation circle in Duchy Jepson.