The Durgenheim Delver's Guild

The Trial of the Century

In which a verdict is rendered

(Again concatenating two (or three?) sessions – may be getting things out of order here thanks to taking too long to write these)

The guild decided the best course of action was to investigate the scene of the crime before talking to their incarcerated employer. Upon reaching the Peacemaker’s paradise the party immediately noticed that the place was overflowing with city guards putting the finishing touches on their investigation. After Ross used the guild’s celebrity status to their advantage, he convinced the sergeant to grant them access to the crime scene. A cursory attempt at trying to verify the official story – that Bignutz cut down Lord General Sturmacher with the large blade the guild had “acquired” for him – didn’t seem to hold up. There was the persistant aura of strong evocation magic throughout the bar, but there didn’t appear to be any indication of such phenomena in the official report.

On the way out of the bar the party was beset upon by a group of cultists, apparently worshipping Asmodeus. They were dispatched with extreme prejudice, with their eventual cause of death being ruled as “suicide by adventurer”. They did manage to capture one of the cultists, however, who would go on to reveal that the cult was behind Bignutz’ incarceration after Anathul cleverly implied that he was was an ignorant and unimportant member of the cult.

The party then decided to track down the inquisitor in charge of the case: Markus Khuvol, a tiefling obliquely referred to as the Devil’s Advocate and the highest ranking inquisitor in the king’s court. It became clear that the inquisitor had a personal (and perhaps perfectly justified) vendetta against Bignutz, and despite the shakiness of the evidence he would use this opportunity finally put him away for all of the many, many crimes he’d been unsuccessful in pinning on the half-orc. After all, if nothing else he did manage to get a confession from the alleged murderer, which should have been enough to guarantee a quick end to the trial. Over the course of this conversation the party learned that the lead investigator was still a student of the local arcane forensics college due to a devastatingly ill-timed sabbatical from her tenured superior. The party would later demonstrate that her conclusions were conclusively inconclusive.

The adventurers met with Bignutz shortly after. Apparently this was the only visitation he consented to in the weeks following his arrest. He indicated, thanks to a quickly innovated system of clandestine communication created by Ba’ab, that he was pretty much under duress but had in fact confessed to the murder. He also looked like he’d been getting beaten hourly while in custody, which is strange considering his apparent invulnerability before. He implored the party to continue their investigation despite his apparent uncooperativeness. The party, knowing that Bignutz owed them a five-figure sum of gold, reluctantly agreed to play lawyer.

Upon returning to the Shady Corner, the party was greeted by a chubby, middle-aged human who appeared to be a huge fan of the guild’s work, especially in the wake of their recent dragon-slaying. He revealed himself to be Chancellor Martin Quibley, and informed the party that the King himself sought audience with the guild’s founding members. Despite the ill timing, the party rushed off to the castle to meet the monarch.

The King seemed very pleased with the party, and even intended to knight the party on the spot for their service to the kingdom in killing Malkyr. However he seemed perplexed by the fact that the party intended to defend Bignutz, who was known all-around as a criminal mastermind. The party indicated that despite his alleged crimes he deserved a fair shake, and the King commended them for their convictions and offered to help in any way they could. The party decided to use this assistance to covertly exhume the general’s body for a proper autopsy, which revealed that the true cause of death was some kind of nonmagical poison – most likely black lotus extract.

Armed with this knowledge the party returned to the Peacemaker’s Paradise to look for traces of this posion. Eventually they found the remnants of a bottle of Iceholm Reserve – the general’s favorite whiskey – that contained traces of the poison. Narrowing their investigation, they found a secret door into the sewers, which was probably used for some of Bignutz’s criminal undertakings. Much to the party’s dismay, they discovered that Garm Garmson was waiting for him.

Interrogating the mentally deficient streetrat revealed that he saw the entire event, and had been hiding in the sewers in case the authorities were still looking for him. Although he maintained that Bignutz “totally iced that motherfucker” he also revealed that there a number of cultists involved in the actual murder – who were chanting some prophetic verse: “When the Nail of Pazuzu draws the blood of the king in the court of lies, Pandemonium shall fall on the cities of Man.” Shaken by the revelation that the sword they “acquired” months prior was indeed the aforementioned “Nail of Pazuzu”, the party decided to bide their time until the trial the next morning.

The first day of the trial was a very short one. The party managed to poke enough holes int he prosecution’s case that the judge cut it short and instructed both sides to be more thorough and more truthful in their investigations.

The party decided that they needed to go to the Peacemaker’s Paradise one more time and investigate the secret tunnel once more. When they returned they found that a group of the false guards had a similar idea, but the party dispatched them with relative ease after some clever scouting by Treestar in rat form. Delving into the secret tunnel and unperturbed by the presence of Garm Garmson, they realized that it wasn’t actually a sewer at all, but rather an underground river sending pure, fresh water outside the city. Geologically this was an impossibility, and so some powerful (and expensive) magic was at work here.

Following the tunnels as far as they could, the party came across a patrol of orcs. This was strange for several reasons – orcs were a rare and generally unwelcome sight in the kingdom, and these orcs were wearing relatively sophisticated armor instead of the primitive hide armor associated with their kind. The party decided to quickly and quietly neutralize the threat, and ventured outside.

What they saw stunned the guild – mere miles outside the city walls, hidden in a deep ravine was an entire orc encampment – a settlement of nearly a thousand orcs. The party debated several ways of handling this revelation when they were noticed by an orc child (and shortly thereafter the settlement as a whole). The tense situation was defused by the orcs’ apparent chieftain, an old (even by human standards) male orc named “NAME”.

The orc became friendly with the party once they indicated they were acting on behalf of Bignutz, who he claimed was his son. Apparently Bignutz had some kind of arrangement – likely with Sturmacher – to provide water and supplies to this settlement in exchange for not attacking everything all goddamn time. Bignutz was also referred to by the chieftain as the orcs’ king, which suddenly made the party very, very nervous about the prophecy GG had revealed to them.

Even more worrying was the fact that the chancellor was waiting for them at the Shady Corner informing them that the king was actually missing! Thinking of only one place the king would be, the party rushed to the courthouse.

The King (who had arranged for Bignutz’ pardon and eventual release) was talking over the situation with Bignutz himself. All appeared well until the Inquisitor – wielding the Nail of Pazuzu – appeared to the party. The Inquisitor revealed that he was Pazuzu incarnate on the mortal plane (the Demon Prince having used the Inquisitor’s morbid curiosity to take up the blade and be possessed), and that his victory was ensured as he would surely fulfill the prophecy. He lunged at the king with unfathomable speed, but Bignutz managed to tackle the king and take the blow himself.

The blood of a king was spilled by the Nail, on a moonless night in High Court of Pallan’dur. Pandemonium began to fall.

The confrontatation was brief but bloody. The Demon Prince, perplexed by the party’s apparent inability to understand that they had already lost, decided to finish the party himself while he waited for the barriers between the material plane and the Abyss to dissolve completely. A troupe of six Balors – The Six Wings of Pazuzu, observed as the Inquisitor sprouted black wings and engaged the party. After dispatching a shadow demon that Pazuzu had conjured, the Demon Prince redoubled his efforts and managed to mortally wound Kieran with the Nail. The party would have their vengeance, however, as the rest of the party knocked the blade out of the inquisitor’s hands, freeing him from Pazuzu’s influence.

However, the situation was deteriorating as fast as the boundary between the planes. The party tried every spell they had access to in order to buy time, but nothing they had was powerful enough to dispel the blade.

When all seemed lost, Anathul heard an icy voice, as if from a great distance. In the blink of an eye he found himself in a strangely familiar room, similar to the courtroom they’d fought Pazuzu in, or some sort of throne room. Indeed, ice-covered chamber was the infernal hall of the Duke of Stygia himself – Levistus of the Nine, He Who Is Frozen.

Levistus revealed to Anathul that Asmodeus’ stake in this demonic prophecy was to incite violence against tieflings, who unbeknownst to the race despised their creation as an affront to Hell itself. Levistus is indeed their true patron and creator, and chose to mark Anathul in hopes that he could begin to turn the tide against the Archduke and ultimately foil his schemes. To that end, he endowed Anathul with a powerful magic implement known as the Devil’s Due – an infernal badge of office imbuing the holder with the formal authority to make deals for souls, and access the cohort of souls in Hell as a source of power. Levistus bid Anathul good luck, and granted him access to a powerful cleric who made a difficult choice several millennia ago and would have the spell he needed to finish the job.

In a flash, Anathul manifested the staff and called the name of the ancient, hellbound cleric of Zeus. He cast Hallow, which freed the courtroom of the Nail’s influence and sealed off the abyssal incursion for good.

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Ostrakon

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