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The Arrival: Legacy
Session 32: Ashes to Ashes
As the sun began to set on a day that would be remembered as one of the most tumultuous in Janav’s long and bloody history, the F.I.A found themselves caught in a maelstrom. Crimson-cloaked members of the Bloodbroods and crazed cultists of Yelpech swarmed the streets of Yalba, striking at citizens with dagger and spell alike! Meanwhile, the demon witch Auntie Ashheart had taken to the sky, muttering an incantation as storm clouds began to gather around her! The only clue that the party of adventurers had of what plots were lurking under the surface of this attack was Princess Raha al-Kharii’s warning that the forbiddance spell that protected the palace’s grounds from fiends and undead had been suddenly dispelled. Faced with their greatest peril to date, the F.I.A sprung into action to save as much of the besieged city as they could!

The party split up in order to cover more ground. Thane, Hagar, and Wykeera rocketed into the sky. Their goal: steal Auntie Ashheart’s heartstone to prevent her escape. Meanwhile, unsure of the fate of many of their allies, Midzaynov and Zari sprinted towards the Sultan’s Palace. As the dragonborn and tiefling champions bolted through the city streets, they picked up on two vital pieces of information. Firstly, death dogs and gnolls alike seemed to be emanating from the Victory District, snapping their jaws at any who came too close. Secondly, their enterprising friend Dak was currently in the midst of frantically hawking to the entirety of Merchant’s Row the items that he currently had in the greatest supply: the absolute deluge of lightly used weaponry that the F.I.A had brought back with them from the Palace of Pleasure and given to Dak upon request.

Wykeera, Thane, and Hagar shot towards their target with resolute intent. About one hundred feet away from Auntie Ashheart, the party noticed that hundreds of emaciated vines were floating in a wide radius around her. Soon after, their fortunes took a turn for the worse. Hagar had an earthbind spell cast on him, Thane’s fly was dispelled, and Wykeera was blasted with magic missile. All three party members began to plummet to the ground. Wykeera cast a gust of wind straight downward, cushioning her fall. Thane grabbed onto Hagar while the barbarian was being dragged down by Auntie Ashheart’s magics, preventing a fatal fall. Thane cast fly once again and landed a few hits on Auntie Ashheart with his eldritch blast, but his fly was dispelled once again. Wykeera let loose Saadia’s Feather Token, releasing a gargantuan roc that caught Thane before he could plummet to the ground yet again. Hagar took off once Auntie Ashheart’s magics were dispelled and caught up with Thane in the vicinity above the hag. Hagar used his Snake of Climbing to temporarily tame the gargantuan bird, Thane attempted to invoke Moroden’s aid in the coming skirmish, and the two airborne adventurers strafed out of range to prepare their next steps.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party hastened to the Sultan’s Palace. As they charged, they became aware that a building had suddenly collapsed somewhere within The Spires. Aldritch Xanroc, wounded and bloodied, was holding the bridge that led into the palace proper when they arrived. Within the palace’s atrium, the party encountered Eldon, Raha’s other retainer. Zari intuited that Eldon’s intentions were malicious, and a fight broke out; her former ally had apparently been swayed by some dark influence! After a brief skirmish, and Eldon used dimension door to teleport away. The party sought out Artificer Saadia, who was barricaded in her tower. The party persuaded her to join them, and they set off to find prince Abdul al-Kharii. After searching through several passageways, they found him in dire straits. At the end of a long corridor, the party found a force of cultists and Bloodbroods alike facing down Rashad and Abdul, who were desperately outnumbered. Fireballs and other magics rang out as the party attempted to save the besieged prince and his retainer!

Several prominent moments stood out in this skirmish. Rashad defended the prince like a madman with his spear, cutting down several cultists. Eldon launched a fireball at the party, greatly compounding their wounds from their previous battle with Auntie Ashheart earlier that day. Abdul sparred with the cultists with a surprising amount of speed and agility, at one point disarming one and stabbing him with his own knife. Yeron, the new leader of the Bloodbroods after Thyrias’ death, was embarrassingly ineffectual at fighting the party. Kilvan and a black horse wreathed in red flame appeared out of the Ethereal Plane to snatch Abdul away, but they were thwarted. Artificer Saadia killed Eldon with a high-powered magic missile. The battle was bloody and decisive - the F.I.A was victorious! Once the dust had settled, Abdul revealed himself to be Fazil, who had used his changeling heritage to disguise himself and protect the prince. The clergy member in the back who was supporting his allies with long-range spells removed their veil to reveal that they were, in fact, Abdul al-Kharii. Thanking his saviors, the beleaguered prince warned the party that his father might be in danger. Aware that there may be spies in the Ethereal Plane watching them at this very moment, Rashad hinted to the party that there might be something in The Furnace that could help them fight back against Auntie Ashheart, who was still hundreds of feet in the air and out of their reach. The party decided to not check on Abdul’s father or Raha, opting instead to rush to The Furnace to search for aid. On their way out, the adventurers picked up Sekmet al-Id and Aldritch Xanroc and all rushed to the fighting pit together.

Meanwhile, the boys were getting into some nonsense. Hagar and Thane continued to assail the witch, who defended herself by casting a plant growth spell to enlarge the vines that levitated around her to form a humongous spherical entity made of living plants. At the same time, the adventurers saw that Calvinia was making a beeline towards them with eyes that glowed red with murderous intent! Hagar and Thane responded by commanding the roc to use its great talons to latch onto the night hag’s plant-based shield and propel the entire thing northward. To everyone’s surprise, their gambit worked. The entire plant-based fortress began to slowly move towards the city’s walls. As an unexpected consequence, Calvinia became entangled in the vines, unable to escape! Auntie Ashheart retorted by summoning a deluge of demons. Massive gorilla-like fiends used the writhing vines to swing up at their targets, and a vulture-like fiend with razor sharp talons sailed through the air towards the multicolored bird that now eclipsed the sun! Hagar responded by pulling out the sixty foot-long spear that Thane had created using Auntie Ashheart’s Miraculous Pigments, and leapt off the bird to strike down upon them! Hagar sunk his oversized spear into the shoulder of one of the demons, but was quickly rebuked by the fiend’s overwhelming strength. The fiends began to close in on Thane and Hagar as storm clouds and rolling thunder gathered above them …

At the same time, the other party members arrived in The Furnace with Artificer Saadia, Sekmet, and Aldritch in tow. The various creatures that were held beneath the fighting pit had been let loose, and were fighting both cultist and guard alike. The party came upon two wounded wyverns that were futilely thrashing against their chains. Midzaynov spoke draconic to one creature, and, with the help of Sekmet’s divinatory magic, convinced it to temporarily aid them in their battle against Auntie Ashheart. Midzaynov broke its chain with her hammer, mounted the creature, and was shortly joined by Aldritch. Wykeera failed to tame the other wyvern with her druidic inclinations, but Zari’s calm emotions spell allowed them to ride for the moment. Sekmet and Saadia cast various fly spells on the party as an extra layer of protection, and the wyverns shot up into the sky.

By the time that the wyverns arrived, the situation above the city had dramatically worsened. Auntie Ashheart had cast a call lightning spell that buffeted both Thane and Hagar, who were now outnumbered; both adventurers had been knocked unconscious by the onslaught of fiendish might. As the rest of the party approached on their winged steeds, Auntie Ashheart’s lightning turned from a bright electric white to a midnight black. She croaked at the party as they approached: “You absolute fools, meddling in affairs you cannot possibly understand. My original intent was to kidnap your precious prince and have him commit a public suicide to throw this city into chaos. It was Siaval who was to see that the final light of hope in this city was extinguished. But now, I see the truth. You have become the hopes of Yalba. When you die here, as loudly and publicly as possible, the soul of Yalba will be mine, and I will spread your carcasses to all four corners of the Expanse!” The F.I.A tightened their grips on their weapons. The final phase of their struggle for the soul of Yalba had begun!

Zari and Wykeera’s wyvern flew directly towards the roc in order to heal their allies. Zari cast a blight spell as she passed by the ball of vines, greatly decreasing their ability to hamper her allies’s movement! Wykeera managed to stabilize Hagar with her fey magics, but it was too late for Thane. By the time that they reached their changeling companion, he had already expired from his wounds. Zari cast the revivify spell on Thane, pulling his soul from Kielel’s warm embrace once again.

Midzaynov and Aldritch’s wyvern shot straight for the sickly heart in the middle of the maelstrom itself: Auntie Ashheart. During their flight, they felt that the fly spells from Sekmet and Artificer Saadia had been lost. Something was clearly happening in The Furnace, but the party was too far away to tell what it was. Weaving through arcs of necrotic lightning that threatened to topple them from their mount, the two paladins soared towards their target. At the same time, Calvinia finally broke free of her bindings and rushed to intercept them. Calvinia took two mighty swings with her maul, causing Aldritch to hurtle towards the ground. Midzaynov commanded that her mount dive down to catch the unconscious aasimar, and leapt forward to strike at Calvinia with all of her might. Instead of connecting with the dao’s form, however, something unexpected happened. Thane’s djinn patron, sensing the imminent conflict with his rival, materialized just in the nick of time to give Midzaynov the requisite wind-based momentum to carry her to the hollow center of Auntie Ashheart’s makeshift lair. Midzaynov would have one chance to kill the witch before she began to plummet back to the ground. Mustering every ounce of her remaining strength, she brought her Hammer of Kar’duuth down on Auntie Ashheart’s form and unleashed the mightiest divine smite that she could! Midzaynov’s channeled holy powers proved to be too much for the fiend, who fell onto one of the now-deteriorating vines beneath her with a blinding flash of light. Midzaynov braced herself for the inevitable fall to earth, but she somehow remained aloft. Looking behind her, a pair of multicolored dragon wings had sprouted from her back. Looking ahead, her Hammer of Kar’duuth was shining brighter than it ever had before. Midzaynov floated down to the form of the dead hag and retrieved her heartstone as the evil being’s raiments began to disintegrate into ash.

Meanwhile, Calvinia continued her struggle against Moroden. Finally conscious and in the presence of his mighty patron, Thane willed a small cloud to form beneath him and act as a method of temporary flight. Infused with his patron’s full power, Thane unleashed a shocking grasp that was so powerful that it disintegrated the dao almost instantly. Still feeling the rush of might from his patron, Thane maneuvered towards the demon witch’s corpse. Something inside of him, equal parts integral and unidentifiable, compelled him to place a hand on her skin. Thane complied with his strange urge, and touched Auntie Ashheart’s cold flesh. When he tried to remove his hand, a sort of membrane came off with it, and began to attach itself to Thane’s skin! In a terrifying and sudden display, this cold membrane crawled itself over every inch of the changeling’s skin. By the time it was over, Thane had absorbed both new power and new understanding. He now had the ability to use his changeling heritage to create articles of clothing that he had seen before to increase his penchant at creating disguises. He also had the terrifying realization that changelings and hags are inextricably connected. Suddenly, the pieces of lore that Thane had picked up on his journeys began to click in his mind. He was not sure why, and he was not sure how. But Thane Illamin understood that he - and perhaps his entire race - owed their existence to that of hags.

While the immediate conflict seemed to have ended, several aspects of the attack still remained a mystery. What was Calvinia’s role in the attack? What became of the sultan, or Kilvan? How could such a large cultist presence gone undetected in the city for so long? These thoughts and more raced through the adventurers’ minds as they regrouped on top of their trusty roc. Waving from a balcony from the Sultan’s Palace was Raha al-Kharii, Quespa, and, surprisingly, Kilvan! After a brief moment, however, Kilvan’s form shimmered and turned into that of Atka al-Safiri. Apparently, she had mastered the disguise self spell that Thane had recommended she focus on, and was able to keep both the princess and Midzaynov’s dragonborn ward safe during the attack. As the F.I.A soared above Yalba, they could see that the remaining cultists and Bloodbroods had suffered a devastating loss in morale with the death of Auntie Ashheart, and were in full retreat. Their unanswered questions would have to wait for another time - for now, the city was safe. The F.I.A descended towards the Diamond Bazaar, their silhouettes framed by a brilliant Yalban sunset.
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