By User Weishan
this story mostly uses planescape cannon material, but i've some (mostly small) changes to the setting based on my lack of planescape source material and need for a slightly different setting. i suppouse you could say the setting is strongly based on planescape, but it dosen't entirely fit the setting.
the only really large change is a huge increase in the power levels of important outsiders and deities of all sorts. i generally reduce the power of intermediate and greater exempelars and make up the diference in class levels. in this campaign players cannot kill archfiends (except by trickery or numbers). for reference, the CRs of all the noble pit fiends mentioned in this story are in the high twenties to low thities.
this is a prequel to the actual story. the good guys will be introduced later, this is an anti-party of sorts. the party is a fairlylarge group of near-epic characters sincemy players have multiple characters. this party wins partly by numbers as well.
please forgive unique formating all sugestions on the writing are encouraged
Yazebel sat and opened an immense book on her polished volcanic glass desk. It was bound in white leather, and it had a catalog number in place of a title written in jet black ink on the spine. She flipped through the book, absentmindedly with one of her clawed fingers, careful not to tear the pages. Finally, she found what she was looking for, an entry dated exactly one month ago that had a list of all the ships that had arrived in Omroz on that day and a full inventory of their cargos. Yazebel leaned back in her chair, stretched out her leathery wings to their full twenty-five foot span, and began to read the entry. Twenty ships, the day’s quota, were given permission to tie up that, about half of these were the steel-hulled steam ships used by the Baatezu to patrol the river Styx. The rest were cargo ships. No mention of the cargo of enchanted swords–or any swords at all, for that matter–that had somehow gotten into the hands of her rivals. That meant that they didn’t enter the city by legitimate means this was also the last possible relevant entry, as this was the day that a squad of her elite guards were attacked by a mixed group of mortals and devils wielding identical enchanted swords. The pit fiend hissed in displeasure, and threw the book to the floor. After a pause, she picked it up again and shelved it. This meant that the rebels were somehow smuggling their supplies into Omroz–probably bribing port officials and inspectors. Failing that, they were somehow managing to conceal the shipments from a thorough search of their ships.”
“Remet!” barked Yazebel, not bothering to contact her general (who usually worked in the room next to her study) telepathically.
What do you ask, Lady? was the telepathic reply.
You. Here. Now. Yazebel commanded.
At this, the clatter of a heavily armored cornugon was audible through the adamantine walls of Yazebel’s study. There was a sharp knock on her door.
“You may enter, Remet.”
“Thank you, Lady,” replied Remet, almost automatically.
The immense cornugon stood at attention in the doorframe waiting for instructions. He was ten feet tall, and dressed in a massive suit greensteel plate mail. Yazebel liked Remet as much as such a thing was possible for a devil. He was a hopeless politician and was smart enough to realize he was. This meant that was trustworthy compared to her other subordinates. He was also a brilliant tactician, albeit a single-minded and inflexible one.
Remet pulled a chair out from the corner of the room, and inclined his head in a gesture of respect.
“What do you ask of me, Lady?”
“There is no mention made in the shipping records of any swords arriving here in the past month. Somebody has been paid off to ignore these shipments of weapons. You are to find this traitor and bring it to me. You may use all the resources available to you,” said Yazebel. With a vicious smile, she added, “Failure will carry a heavy price.”
“I understand, Lady. Is there anything else I must know?”
“I don’t know, but my personal archives will be made available to you if you need them for any reason.”
“I will begin my investigation immediately, Lady.”
Remet lumbered out of the room; steel boots on a steel floor making the noise of a thunderstorm as he left.
Yazebel pulled the foot high pile of the day’s orders and reports that she had to sign and read from the corner of her desk. She pulled the first report, a summary of one of her agent’s dealings with an obscure mortal wizard on an irrelevant prime world. The report was bound with shauguin skin and written in blood. It was also fifty pages long. Normally, Yazebel enjoyed reading these reports; but at the moment, she was far too distracted to care much about the exploits of some Gelugon under her command.
In the middle of the report, there was another, far more delicate, knock on Yazebel’s door.
“Yes, who is it?”
“It is Alsurez, Lady. There is a messenger from office of General Ocaton here to see you. He says his message is urgent.”
“Bring him in.”
Yazebel’s erinyes secretary led in another erinyes messenger dressed in the grey and blue robe of a servant of General Ocaton. Alsurez quickly left the room and shut the door quietly behind her, anticipating the displeasure of her master.
“On whose behalf have you come, and why?” asked Yazebel–quietly threatening. She knew full well the answers to both questions.
“I am sent by General Ocaton. I have been instructed to inform you that the General requires that you provide your quota of soldiers for the Blood War. General Ocaton requires ten thousand lem…”
“Stop,” commanded Yezebel, holding up a clawed hand and drawing a finger through the air to silence the erineyes, “I am fully aware of the number of troops I am obligated to send to your master.”
Alar, send a squad of guards her immediately. Quietly, if you will, please.
Yazebel was aware that the vampire could not respond to her, but her captain of the guard was within range of her telepathy.
“Is there anything else?” Yazebel asked the messenger.
“No, there is not.”
Yazebel sat silently, waiting and adding to the messenger’s fear.
Lady, your guards are standing outside your study door at the moment, shall I send them in? Alsurez asked Yazebel.
Yes, please do, and tell them to have their weapons ready.
The massive reinforced door was flung open, and six pale skinned humans stormed into the room. Each of the black-cloaked vampires carried a double bladed sword–one blade was enchanted to kill devils, the other to kill mortals–and wore a thin blue-purple sash. The messenger jumped to his feet and drew his sword. His gaze darted around the room searching for any exit. His eyes fixed for a second on a small glass window behind him.
“Surely you jest,” said Yazebel with a wicked grin, “You would need our help to escape through that window–it’s dreadfully difficult to cut oneself into little pieces. And that is to say nothing of the difficulty of moving after the fact.”
The erinyes’ face grew even more panicked as he realized the room was teleport warded. The tip of his sword darted nervously from Yazebel, to each of her guards, and then back again. Yazebel concentrated for a moment, and appeared behind the messenger. She grabbed the erinyes’ sword by the blade and jerked it out of his hands, breaking his fingers. With a small flash of light, she rendered the erinyes motionless.
“It’s not teleport warded against me, silly erinyes,” Yazebel mocked, “Take him away,” she commanded, her tone of voice changing entirely.
I will be seeing you again shortly, said Yazebel telepathically to her motionless captive as he was dragged out of the room by two of the guards. The other guards filed out as well, the last one shutting the door softly behind him.
Alsurez, send a messenger to Raegor, informing him that I would like to meet with him about a business proposition.
Who should I send?
Why should I care? Just pick one of your subordinates you don’t like, but make certain that they can survive the trip to Raegor’s keep.
Thank you for your generosity, Lady. The wicked glee was evident in Alsurez’s telepathic ‘voice.’
Yazebel leaned back and stretched her wings again. With a sigh, she picked up the report.
I have much better things than this to do right now than signing every order for the day, she thought, turning the page.
While she held the report in one claw, Yazebel reached for a scrying disk from inside of one of her desk’s drawers and concentrated on Remet. An image appeared in her head of the cornugon reading a report summarizing all of the incidents and attacks so far. At the moment he was pacing along the north battlement of the keep of Omroz, and looking out over the rest of the city and the ice, snow, and lightning of Stygia. His silhouette was outlined by the harsh flashes, and he paused every now and then to shake the snow off his head. Yazebel shifted her focus to Emexir, nominally her second in command (in reality, Remet had far more responsibility and was also considerably more powerful than the pit fiend). Her lieutenant was currently asleep next to another lesser pit fiend, Nasaz. Both were supposed to be working at this hour. Emexir held his position because he had somehow managed to find favor with Duke Tahizael, this favor, however did not protect him from punishment for extreme laziness and incompetence–or from frontline service in the Blood War.
I will be seeing both of you soon as well, thought Yazebel, showing her vicious teeth in a grim smile.
Yazebel returned the scrying disk and continued reading through the pile of orders on her desk.
Alsurez, get…no, forget it.
Yazebel snapped out of her reverie and turned her attention to the projection of Raegor. The gaunt, black-scaled pit fiend was dressed in a thick, flowing black robe. Coldly glowing white eyes leered from inside a gold plated balor skull. The skull was carved ornately with runes and inlaid with cold iron. Raegor also carried a massive blacksteel staff with runes faintly etched in a swirling pattern across its surface in one hand. The other pit fiend stood still and silent with a faint closed lipped smile on his face.
“I would prefer to negotiate elsewhere, Baroness.”
“Where do you suggest then?”
“My keep, naturally,” said Raegor with a grin.
“I defer to your rank, Lord.”
“I will see you shortly then, Baroness?”
Raegor’s projection vanished in a wisp of green chlorine fumes.
Alsurez, please tell Remet to wake Nasaz and Emexir.
I can tell you’re restraining yourself from making a smart remark. Please don’t in the future. I ‘dislike’ those two. I couldn’t care less about insubordination when it defies the dead.
Is there anything else, Lady?
No, that will be all.
Yazebel stood, put her things away in the desk and softly climbed the staircase that led to the rest of her apartments. At the door to her living quarters, she stopped and held her ear to the door for a full minute prior to opening it. Before she stepped through the threshold, she checked to see that all her wards were intact. On seeing they were untouched, Yazebel began to systematically search her room, which was furnished with simple but elaborately etched steel furniture, for any traps or out of place magical auras. There were no apparent assassination attempts today–a surprise if ever there was one given the political climate in Omroz.
Yazebel removed off her heavy ceremonial greensteel armor, and carefully set each piece on a pit fiend sized manikin in the corner of her room. Instead of this heavy and provocative protection, she pulled on a form fitting mithril chainmail coat that reached to her knees and covered her neck. She then pulled on a heavy pale purple robe with her personal seal on the right breast and Levistus’ seal, subtly embroidered in metallic thread across the entire back. The robe had holes for her immense bat-like wings. Various knives and wands were concealed also concealed inside the many hidden sheathes and dimensional pockets of the robe–all were unmoved since she last wore it. The majority of the knives were poisoned, mostly with magical poisons created specifically to kill devils, but some were soaked in distilled holy water. Yazebel then reached for a heavily magically trapped polished wooden jewelry box sitting on her workbench, which was mostly covered with the ingredients for various magical poisons. Yazebel flicked the catch open and pulled out two rings. One was an unadorned cold iron band; the other was platinum, inset with jade. Yazebel then put on a platinum choker and two thin steel armbands inlaid with an elaborate copper fire motif. She put away the box and tied a white silk sash around her waist and tucked a pit fiend sized pearl-handled short sword with a mirrored blade inside it. Next, she reached for a container of chalk white paint and a brush. Yazebel covered her entire face with the paint and put the container and brush away in the drawer it came from in its exact place. Yazebel pulled her hood over her head and concentrated on the icy gates of Emkur (she couldn’t pass the teleport wards surrounding the city without permission, which she didn’t have), the city Raegor ruled.
Yazebel appeared exactly ten feet in front of Emkur’s immense gates. She walked purposefully through the heavily trodden snow to the massive adamantine gates and struck them with a massive fist, disregarding the knocker, which was barely at her knee level.
A cornugon guard, dressed in the jet black breastplate and facemask of Raegor’s elite soldiers addressed Yazebel from the top of the gate, “Identify and declare,” it barked over the icy wind and lightning.
“It is Baroness Yazebel of Omroz. I am here to meet with Lord Raegor.”
“Open the gates!” commanded the cornugon.
Slowly, the gates were drawn to the side. Yazebel wrapped her wings around her like a cloak and threw back her hood to make herself more imposing. Waiting on the other side were six cornugons and sixty-six barbazu. All were dressed in the uniform of Raegor’s elites.
“You may enter,” said the commander, who still stood on top of the gates.
Yazebel stepped forward and into Emkur. The door guards parted to let her pass through and saluted with an open hand to the heart (recognizing a devil of superior rank who did not command the one saluting).
Yazebel walked down the central street of the city, the fairly thin crowds of mortals and devils allowing her a wide berth. On each side of here were buildings made of ice and steel. Most of the buildings on the main street served as the residences of Raegor’s favored bureaucrats and officers. Those that weren’t mansions were shops that served the higher devils living in and visiting Emkur. Raegor’s buttressed keep made of polished grey marble imported from Maladomini stood at the end of the main street in the center of a large square paved with obsidian.
Yazebel stopped at the doors to Raegor’s keep and knocked once. The doors opened of their own accord, and Yazebel stepped inside the dimly lit antechamber of the tower–designed to intimidate mortals, she could see even in total darkness. The entrance hall of the tower had a high vaulted ceiling and was decorated with enormous tapestries depicting various scenes of death and destruction. The inside of the tower was totally silent once the double doors closed again. After several minutes, Yazebel heard the click of taloned feet on the spiral staircase at the other end of the hall.
“Greetings, Baroness,” said Raegor as he stepped off the staircase at the far end of the room. “Follow me please.”
Yazebel obeyed silently, and climbed the stairs after Raegor; keeping further than her arm’s reach behind out of courtesy. After climbing twenty flights of pit fiend sized stairs, Raegor held up his hand commanding Yazebel to stop. Raegor set his hand on the door.
“You too,” he instructed.
Yazebel placed her hand on the door. After a pause, it swung open. Raegor stepped inside and indicated that Yazebel should do the same. Raegor’s study–Yazebel presumed–was decorated similarly to the entrance hall of the tower with elaborately carved wooden paneling and large tapestries. There were several chairs and a desk; all were carved in a style similar to the rest of the room. On the wall hung a silvered longsword inscribed in Celestial: “Devil slayer,” below it hung the magically preserved severed head of its owner, a mortal paladin.
“Please sit, Baroness,” said Raegor after he had seated himself.
“Thank you, Lord.”
Yazebel obeyed and pulled up the nearest chair to Raegor’s desk. She drew her wings around her and turned her attention towards Raegor. Absentmindedly, she curled her tail around one of her chair’s legs.
“So, you want to make a deal, Baroness?”
“Yes, I do, Lord.”
“Ehz kor dhez a ehil raet kor ger?”
“I want out of my troop quota and I will name my price based on the solution you offer, Lord.”
“You ask much of me, Baroness. What is your quota?”
“I am required to send two lesser pit fiends, fifteen cornugons, sixty gelugons, one hundred and fifty narzugons, two hundred erinyes, one thousand barbazu, and ten thousand lemures, Lord.”
“You understand that I cannot possibly expect to convince General Ocaton to ignore your obligation without providing another source of troops–which naturally will cost you more.”
“I’m more concerned about the lower ranking devils. I can supply the pit fiends, cornugons, and gelugons.”
“So you want one hundred and fifty narzugons, two hundred erinyes, one thousand barbazu, and ten thousand lemures? Is this all?”
“Yes it is, Lord.”
“Those are quite some numbers, Baroness. What can you possibly give me that is worth that much of my army? It is a rather large number after I’ve already met my own quota.”
“I will allow your ships to jump the lines to dock and resupply unless I’m ordered otherwise by our mutual superiors.”
“I dislike this proposal, Baroness. You have only twenty docking quota slots. Even if you allowed my ships to cut the line you couldn’t service enough of them to make it worth my while. There are other ports. Also, the ‘unless I’m ordered otherwise by our mutual superiors’ is too vague. Do you mean to say that if Count Nehunaron orders you to give his ships priority then you are no longer held to your contract? If this is all you have to offer, it would be best to sign the deployment orders for your troops now.”
“Alright. Unless my superiors order me otherwise to allow military ships only. And with the ten thousand lemures I’m not wasting in the Blood War, I can unload and resupply more ships each day.”
“What if the military shipments are bound for me?”
“I will not take sides in a quarrel between two of my superiors. This is nonnegotiable.”
“You still aren’t giving me enough.”
“I will lower the docking fee and tariff on ships and goods from Emkur by ten percent.”
“Try fifty percent and you will have a deal.”
“Thirty five. Final offer.”
“Fine. Take your thirty five percent,” sighed Yazebel.
“I promise these terms will not change in the next sixty six hours,” said Raegor, holding out his left claw.
“I promise the same,” said Yazebel, shaking the proffered claw.
“I would like to draft the formal contract a bit later. Would you walk with me?”
“Certainly, Lord. The agreement isn’t that urgent, I suppose.”
“I am glad you are feeling social today, Baroness,” said Raegor, standing and picking up his staff, which he set against the wall by his desk.
Yazebel stood after Raegor and followed him into the corridor.
“Give me your arm, Baroness,” commanded Raegor.
Yazebel hesitated for a moment before offering her arm. Raegor’s right claw gripped her wrist. She could feel the faint chill in Raegor’s claw–the sign of one who spent a great deal of time practicing the art of necromancy. Raegor spoke the words of a greater teleport spell and Yazebel’s other hand instinctively drifted towards her sword.
The two pit fiends appeared in a cave made of polished ice. Small glowing crystals inside the ice provided the only dim illumination for the cave–each crystal reflecting of other walls hundreds of times. It was colder than the surface of Stygia, but not enough to be dangerous to a devil. Occasional streams of Styx water ran purposefully down the walls and into grates inset into the floor.
“If I wanted to kill you, Baroness, I would do so in my study, not here. Please take your hand away from your sword.”
Yazebel immediately complied, not wishing to be perceived as a threat–the skulls of those who Raegor perceived as a threat adorned the walls of his keep. Raegor let go of her wrist.
“Where are we, exactly?” asked Yazebel. “I’ve not seen either your study or this before.”
“My keep is built over natural ice caves, we are below it. You have never visited my keep except for feasts and celebrations, correct?”
“Yes, correct. I suppose that would explain why I’ve not seen your study.”
“We digress, Countess, I wish to talk of other things.”
“Certainly, Lord. What do you wish to speak about?”
Raegor began walking, Yazebel followed next to him.
“My agents have discovered an opportunity of sorts. They have located an artifact that is hidden in the outlands. It is heavily guarded by archons. My spies could not determine the exact size of the force guarding the artifact, and it is still unclear what the artifact actually is. The Archons always refer to it as the artifact in their communications. It is held in an underground complex and is guarded by at least thirty thousand Archons, forty thousand in the worst case. Most aren’t lantern archons unfortunately. I’d like to recover this artifact myself, but after my troop quota, I don’t have nearly the force to ensure an easy victory. I’ve handpicked two of my other most loyal vassals. You are the third and last unless you decline my offer.”
“What force would I be required to commit, and how can I be assured you won’t kill me and take the artifact for yourself? And why is the artifact hidden on the Outlands?”
“I have sworn to Levistus to turn the artifact over to him. I gain a promotion, you gain a promotion, and I keep my closest allies,” said Raegor with a wink. “As for troop commitment, you will send everything you have after you–or rather I–have met your quota. As for the third question, I don’t know, but the place radiates an evil aura even with all the upper-planar filth around. Besides, Archons don’t set traps–it’s dishonorable.”
“What of my city?”
“If you are promoted, you can leave the unrest to your unfortunate successor. If we fail, none of us will be ruling anything except a desk if we’re still alive.”
“This seems like something of a gamble. Why should I take such risks?”
“Between you, myself, Baron Mahabon, and Baron Etecaz, we can field an army five times larger than anything the Archons could possibly have if we commit all of our forces. Failure is impossible unless arch-celestials get involved–then we call for help. We benefit less, but we still get promoted.”
“I will speak with Levistus to see if you tell the truth. If you do, I will join you.”
“I am glad you are supportive of my plan. I will expect a message back within two days. We will deploy in two weeks at the Atucal portal.”
“I will take note of this.”
“Very good. Now, there is no need for your contract with me, is there? It makes no difference where the troops come from so you really may as well supply them yourself. I suggest you ask Levistus about our agreement now too, so you have more time to mobilize.
It’s not as though he has anything better to do, he added telepathically.
“Why didn’t you tell me this before?” Yazebel asked.
“Where would you scry if you wanted to spy on me?”
Yazebel spoke a sharp command word, and a telepathic channel of communication was established between herself and Levistus through the symbol on the back of her robe.
Lord of the Sixth, Levistus, I have a question…
Viscount Raegor speaks the whole truth–shocking as it is. I have been scrying on you through the robe.
Thank you, Lord.
Yazebel broke concentration.
“I agree to your offer, though I would prefer to deploy far sooner than two weeks time.”
“Naturally we all would, we will deploy as soon as it is possible. But now that this is all settled, I suppose I ought to be a good host and offer that you stay.”
“I accept your offer, Lord.”
“Let us return to my study, then. There is much to discuss still. Give me your arm.”