ill be rolling small today
What’s the plan again?
The heroes head up to Hespero’s mansion, Sora in tow, and run into a mysterious figure. Nahk hits a breaking point and absolutely destroys this person, while Abe tries to tell the others they should get a move on if they wanna launch this whole plot. The mysterious person is able to convince the heroes that they mean no harm and that they just were like hanging out, not stalking you guys, no way.
The heroes get into Hespero’s mansion only to find a runner also at Hespero’s mansion. This the same guy? Nah, no way. The heroes get in and tell the servant within that they’re here to drop off Sora and get that sweet reward. And Sora’s like, uh yeah.
Hespero takes Sora into the back and meanwhile, as Hobbes lingers in the doorway, that messenger? Yeah that’s the last of the Knife Siblings. Hobbes makes quick work of them as Hespero and his rakshasa soldiers make quick work of Sora. The beatings begin in the closet and the others launch their well-thought out plan of scrambling to save Sora. I believe Natalya hastes Nahk but regardless Nahk, and soon Hobbes, make their way into the back to beat back Hespero and the minions.
Hespero gives them a tough fight and outside the room, the Bakasura and his soldiers fight off Livius and his zombies, Natalya, Abe, and Cas. Casimir slays several of the foot soldiers as someone, maybe Abraham, deals the finishing blow on the Bakasura, who cries out in joy to be slain in combat like this and he’s all like, “We live, we fight, we die, we live again!” and dissolves into dust.
Livius pushes into the back room as Hespero’s spells and cantrips fire off. His soldiers fall left and right and he’s like, “Gotta blast!” and starts to make a break for it. Livius sets a delayed fireball in the kitchen for Hespero. In the chaos of it, I forgot what happened there, but the explosion definitely goes off and drastically cuts the resell value of the estate. Hespero jumps out the window and Abe follows. Nahk and Abe hold him down and Hespero laughs, “I’ll just come back! It’s been nice knowing you!” and he cackles. But Hobbes pulls out the liminal arrow and like that scene in Pulp Fiction, plunges it into his chest. “Wait, what’s that?”
As the arrow sinks in, Hespero continues to laugh, coughing up blood. His tiger face reveals itself, and he soon phases out of existence without turning into dust. Like when Ciri teleports or whatever. He appears in a rakshasa market in hell, phases in, the arrow still in his chest, and he says, “Hobbes!” as he dissolves into dust.
The heroes scramble for another plan, and this time it doesn’t involve hoping they can save Sora at the last minute. The signs of battle are evident as the servants come downstairs. Hobbes transforms into Hespero and Livius I think into the Bakasura. Regardless, they convince the servants that a great battle has taken place, an attempt on Hespero’s life. The servants board up the doors and the heroes begin casing the joint.
Hope those books weren’t important
Livius, Nahk, and Sora search the stacks. Nat starts work on some objects of power to help in the morning’s final battle. Abe and Nahk turn over the bookshelves onto the hellgate in the library, losing 5 books in the process. Whoops! Hope no devils find those and start casting spells. Sora finds evidence of a hundred years of anthropological research of the Undercity that Hespero personally conducted in order to exploit and dominate the people there. Sora uses the texts to forge a letter from Hespero to allow the Pontia Legions into the city.
Livius finds every spell! He also finds a way to charge the hellgate and lock it. The process takes 6 hours.
Abe heads back to Livius’s mansion and has a strained dinner with Baltsaros. Oceans of tense silences punctuate their conversation as they ponder whether their relationship will collapse with Hespero’s death and with the end of the war.
Casimir and Hobbes head down to the Market of Wonders with Hespero’s key that Sora found and ransack the place, finding a very convenient bag of holding to carry it all in.
My mindwife’s gonna be so mad
Hobbes, as Hespero, is intercepted by a runner for a meeting with Leandro and the generals outside the city. Sora joins him and they arrive at a pavilion on a hill, light by a large bonfire. The towering figure of the Duchess is present, and as some kind of display of power, she is not “meeting small” tonight.
Beren, leader of the Heckers (the survivors of Zulon) is there, commanding a powerful contingent of veterans. Ralos is there as well. The other generals too. Leandro looks at Sora and Hespero quizzically as Hobbes as Hespero describes the assassination attempt. Hobbes fails the thunder-flash test and Leandro smirks at her. The Duchess, likely clever enough to figure out the code, smiles at Sora, who blushes probably. Leandro accepts this and surprisingly is also fine with accepting the Pontia legions within the gates of the city.
A pit fiend disguised as a person inside of a humanoid skin suit appears and tells them that Zulon’s troops will provide cavalry support in the upcoming battle. The mindflayer lawyer Pinot Merlot, late to pick up his kids from astral soccer, hurriedly gives final surrender terms from the Deathless One, which no one is willing to accept.
The generals work late into the night to figure out the plans for battle. Sora swaps Ralos’s stamp for another stamp.
Like psychos who murder someone in their own house and then make a ham sandwich, although you can’t because you exploded his kitchen, the heroes reconvene around a burning trash barrel in the open concept kitchen and share their anxieties and hopes for the future. Livius begins his secret work on clones for him and Natalya to escape the hell-war and creates Walugius.
This time maybe you’re not the bad guys
The next morning the battle begins. The heroes, with Waluigius subbing for Livius, join up with the hellriders, Zulon’s cavalry of mounted devils of all kinds riding monstrous boars, lions, and wolves. A ship coming north on the river deploys troops to harass a supply train.
The Iron Reaper’s shock troops are dropped off by the Mineosi navy. Meanwhile, siege constructs barely make it to the northern shore after a rain of meteors from Livius, who is King of the Worlding on one of the Nistora dirigibles.
Mineosi cavalry units blast through the countryside, routing Zulon’s troops in a skirmish, the celestial white light of the Mineosi commander Helios sending the fiends fleeing. Nat feels not great about this. But it wasn’t about this, remember! It was about saving Beren’s Heckers, who do a pretty good job of holding it down. With the Heckers and Argoti cavalry maybe, who can remember, they pin down the Mineosi Ashen Riders and force a confrontation with the general. The heroes are able to get in there, with Livius returning on the dirigibles, taking down the general Helios and his mount Cloudstride. With the general dead, the rest of the units rout as well, and Helios disappears in a bright light.
The heroes quickly shove away a familiar “Are we the bad guys moment” because, no! Helios is an invading general and you guys are defending your people. You’re doing great.
Admiral Barty and Captain Winona lead the fleets to victory after victory in the harbor, fending off the enemy incursions, but they are unable to stop the Iron Reaper’s siege engines from being deployed.
The sky over the city is blacked by the wings of flying fiends and the heroes on the dirigibles turn their sights on them, pinning them down outside the city, and the heroes slay the general Syrax, though the rest of the fiends remain and escape from the units and into the city.
The day wears on and in the morning, the Iron Reaper’s siege weaponry brings down a gate while rangers on the walls frantically try to keep the enemy away. Krump and his bugbears and the Nistora raiders rout outside the gates, leading to the Iron Reaper’s shock troops entering, with a few infantry just outside the shattered gate. The infantry, not finding a way in, begin moving out to an undefended gate.
The enemy cavalry outside another gate are easily fended off by soldiers within the city. The fighting outside the walls becomes rough when the undead troops start whittling away at the defenses slowly but surely. The heroes, leading the Heckers, a Pontia Legion, and the air fleet from Nistora, come down on the undead army, with the Hama slingers harassing the zombies from within the city.
Null and void
The heroes find the Deathless One among the undead. Nine of them. Casimir rushes in, inflicting heavy wounds on one of them, and Hobbes joins him, only to be exploded upon when they are killed. Another stops time and teleports behind the enemy lines, next to his sister, and unleashes a crown of stars on her. The fight wears on, Nahk and Abe taking the brunt of hits while the Deathless One tries to harass the double-wizard. Much to their frustration, the wizard unleashes counterspell after counterspell.
The Deathless One, to make up for their lost bodies, begins trying to absorb the others. They snatch Hobbes, Casimir, Sora, and Abe at various points, to varying success. They are able to break free, but Nahk reminds them of this grasp, how the Deathless One wanted to absorb him and turn him into one of them.
And the one behind the line approaches his sister Natalya and tells her, “You will join me,” and absorbs her as well. Deep within the void, Natalya sees what her brother has become, what she could’ve become had she followed down the same path, and heals herself, desperate to escape.
But Waluigius, her fanfic hero, commands undead and breaks the curse on this Deathless One, restoring him to the body he was before. The darkness sloughs off, orbiting the corpse, not Aramestes but someone else with hose scars riddling his skin, and Nat is ejected.
Meanwhile the Deathless Ones remaining struggle to kill the heroes. Livius’s powers doubled prove to be too much and Nahk’s hasted attacks cut down five of the bodies with ease, cutting them to dark ribbons. His fire plate armor lets the flames glance off him.
Cas, using the power of his resonance blade, shoves his way out of the absorbing void of the Deathless One and Sora shoves her way out. Abe and Hobbes break out as well, and scramble on the rampart as the Deathless One seeks to kill Livius on the wall, trying to absorb him too.
But Nahk cuts through him too, and jumps off the wall, bashing his knees, but as he gets to his feet and rushes the final Deathless One, the Binder of the Dead hums and bursts through the final one.
It leaves only the one under Waluigius’s command. Livius approaches the creature with the staff coated in god ichor that you guys harvested from those giant babies. What? That can’t be right. Something like that. The two materials, the sirablood and god ichor, cancel each other out and the void falls to the ground as a fine dust. Nat sits with it a while as the commanded corpse orders the undead horde to stand down.
Declaration of Surrenderpendence
Nahk and Sora travel on one of the dirigibles to deliver the news to Leandro and the war command. Sora in quite a move decides to announce the victory on the Duchess’s dirigibles rather than with the Pontia Legions, much to Ralos’s annoyance. The heroes, aside from Nat who contemplates her brother’s death and what it means and whether he is truly dead and what she should do now and oh god am I going to the hell-war now? start announcing the victory. The rank and file say OK and turn on their commanders immediately. Most of them return home, but the journey is long and many of them leave their units, becoming mercenaries, or farmers settling on Argolos, while others come home to find their families having forgotten them, thinking they were surely dead.
Calis on her riverboat is not quick to surrender, and neither are the Iron Reaper and the shock troops who have made it into the underground. The giants infiltrate the tunnels and fight the Iron Reaper to a standstill and he represents the Mineosi in the final negotiations.
Rather than accept the insinuation that he could be the emperor, the Iron Reaper simply agrees to tell the other conquered city-states that the Deathless One has found death. He and Calis depart.
Got your ass! Hah! BOOM
Ralos tells Sora he’ll give her the reward once she comes back to Pontia to pick it up. Sora says No, you’ll deliver it to me and give some to Kriv as well. Ralos squints at her and in the middle of the night, a bag goes over Sora’s head. She is dragged to Pontia and Ralos mocks her, saying that she should’ve known better, that she should’ve seized power when she had the chance, that she’ll definitely get her gold now, and pushes a chest of 40,000 gold coins to her. “In your fucking dreams!” he says. “And this is the paper I’m going to sign and stamp to send you to jail forever, you dope! I got your ass!” and he signs the paper and Sora braces herself as the stamp goes down and goes boom! Ralos becomes as much ash as the Deathless One. The gold hurtles at great speeds and the left side of Sora’s face is covered in gold scales.
After the war it’s the afterparty
She limps her way back home and finds the Pontia legions gone. She rejoins her friends at a big celebration at Livius’s house. It is bittersweet, there were so many they lost after all as the city begins cleaning up, and most bummed out of all is Abe, who after bearing his soul to the others about his fears about Baltsaros, had come home (to Livius’s home really) to a note on the pillow: Long and everything he needed to hear, everything he knew was true. Baltsaros had left him in the night.
But all the shipmates are there, the tibbits from Hama, the Osterosi dragonborn, Krump and his bugbears, those who survived. The Duchess is conspicuously absent along with the other giants. Not that they could’ve fit but the Duchess could’ve if she really tried you know.
Natalya, after the party, finds herself alone, looking up at the tanks containing her and Livius’s clones. A fiery warmth licks the back of her neck and she turns to see Zulon with his hand outstretched. “You have already died after all. It was time for you no matter what.”
Natalya asks if there is any way Livius can be spared. Zulon bares his rows and rows of fangs and he says, “But of course,” readily agreeing and she is not sure why. She looks up at the tank containing her own body, wondering if it will work.
The others wake to find her gone. Livius and Waluigius are distraught.
The Osterosi ask Sora if she would come to Osteros and help them with running things. Krump asks Nahk too to come back to the 13 Islands. The tibbits ask the heroes too. Really all of them do, mostly using Nahk and Sora’s connections to appeal to them, but they look to them all. Casimir, Abe, Livius, and Hobbes all decline the offers, knowing there is still much work to be done to restore Argot. They all agree to meet again for the Damage Sluts holiday on Osteros the next year.
War’s done, go home
The Iron Reaper and Calis sail off to lick their wounds. Calis subtly manipulate the Iron Reaper and tells him to return to Mineos to deliver the new while she spreads the news throughout the recently conquered Golden League and Sickle Islands. Instead, of course, she installs herself as ruler over these cities.
With the war over and news of Hespero’s death (at the hands of the Mineosi) public and his decision to let the Pontia legions in proving unpopular (as much as he blamed it on Hespero), he soon sees the writing on the wall and relinquishes his emergency powers and retires. He goes to his country estate to live out his years, haunted by the strife of his marriage, affair, and broken friendship with Armand. Armand’s heir Taedor, whom you saved from becoming an Ambassador hive mind body, becomes a respected politician as he grows older.
Ralos’s sudden death in a violent explosion leaves a vacuum in Pontia. His plans and correspondence destroyed, his successor is slow to move on the Werriadi Republic’s plans for Argolos Island.
Theo, the cleric from the past who told you about the liminal arrow, is not heard from again.
Polos Devenir, the dinosaur hunter and former judge, returns to hunting dinosaurs.
Admiral Barty Cromwellus and his crew Captain Winona Pona, Salty Sabrina, Boatboy Bucephalus, Hungry Hamboy Hugo, and Know-it-all Nausicaa, continue to serve the Argot fleet with illustrious careers.
Nestor Domorosi, the former city attorney who prosecuted you guys for killing the Mineosi Ambassador and was part of the cabal working with the Mineosi, is banished for treason, his ultimate fate unknown.
My grandma’s on the city council in her town
Livius joins the town council as a respected elder. He pushes strongly for magic reform, noting that were it not for the magical skills and efforts of their allies and themselves and the people of the Undercity, Argot would have been conquered. This movement gains support and Argot’s arcane education system over the years begins to rival those of their neighbors. The Arcane Schools of the Undercity merge with the University and Livius becomes dean of the School of the Necromantic Arts. His studies mainly focus on finding out what has happened to Natalya. He monitors the clone of her floating in a tank for years, waiting for her to awake.
The growth of magic in Argot leads to it becoming a dominant force on Argolos Island and the Sickle Islands. With the city’s power growing, they are able to win a short war against the Werriadi Republic, expelling the Werriadi from Pontia and making it a satellite state of Argot.
New bargainer, new bargains! Everything must go!
Hobbes takes up his post in the Undercity, his old friends down there need him after all and with all the destruction caused by the giants and the Iron Reaper down there, he knew no one else in power would be around to help them out. But he thought he could do better with his new persona as the Bargainer. Soon his identity slips and they know him to be Hobbes, and eventually the personas really merge, and he is now Hobbes the Bargainer. He runs the Undercity much like Hespero did but, he thinks, with more benevolence, though it is hard to say how close his notes on the denizens match Hespero’s own notes and manner of writing and thinking. Assassins come his way time and time again, each time thwarted, often with help from Casimir, Abe, and Livius, and over time, it becomes clear that the attempts come from hell, from rakshasas sent by the Bakasura.
Fishing for compliments and also meaning in life
Abraham builds a fishing shack in the Dock Ward, destroyed as it had been from the shock troops incursions there. Casimir spends most of his time as a cat, hanging up his scimitars at Livius’s mansion, only taking them up when the need arises, helping Hobbes in the Undercity. Abe’s day-to-day is fulfilling, his neighbors nice enough, and he settles into city life, previously used to the solitude of the wilderness. His days of adventuring prepared him for that, for the closeness of others, and he realizes that the solitary relationship of the mentor and the lover, both avenged, was not the only way he could be fulfilled. The fisher friends he makes are mad chill, and they think he is impressive of course, hero of Argot who hung up his weapon humbly and declined any power he could have had, friend to the famous wizard Livius, who brought magic to Argot.
“Yeah but he’s not the best wizard. He’s like the fourth best wizard I know. Watch this.”
Rubbing shoulders and scratching ears
Casimir never suffers a bad fish in company of these folk. He is happy to watch the ships coming in and out, the peace of the day to day, the companionship he provides Abe and the other fishers. A far cry from the experimentation he suffered under his captor or the violence and day-to-day stress of adventuring.
He enjoys his dinners with Livius and his fancy friends and nascent wizards. He even enjoys strange dinners in the Undercity with Hobbes, especially during the phase when he was still pretending to be a vampire for the remaining vampires, and Casimir would help him decorate for dinner parties, and Hobbes would just put up some black fabric and be like, “Does this look vampire-y enough?” Truly Casimir rubs shoulders with all different types of elites and with the good common folks, as long as they scratch him behind the ears too.
Casimir always makes sure to pay a visit to the tibbits on Hama when traveling for Damage Sluts Day on Osteros.
Ole goldface and ole furface
Loaded with the treasures from Hespero’s casinos, the Duchess returns to her realm, the 13 Islands, with Nahk and Sora in tow. Nahk hopes he can be a positive influence on Sora and Sora hopes she can make a closer connection with the Duchess, but finds herself merely a representative of the Duchess’s interests on Osteros. The people grow more distant from her over time, thinking her allegiance to the Duchess a small betrayal, not deserving of death or exile, but merely cold shoulders and tacit acceptance. Another unpopular decision of course being the soul-tree groves Sora “accidentally” destroyed. Roots clumped around stone humanoid figures are burned away and destroyed, the forming bodies falling to the ground, inert. “Uh, those are haunted anyway,” she says. The kodama watch on angrily.
On Lemba, however, the fairies have crossed over, no longer trapped on the demiplane, and a pair of trees grow on the island. Though the fairies have crossed over, visitors to the island never stay for long, disappearing in the twilight, but the trees still stand.
The Duchess’s reign is benevolent enough. True to her word, she did not enslave anyone. Nice. Thanks. Literally the least you could do. The bar is underground. But her rule was absolute and soon began to spread to Great Sickle and Kalens. Less nice. She had no time for anything else but war and delegated smaller tasks to her governors. Governing small.
Nahk’s travel diaries and cookbooks are shelved for a time. On Charatos he leads the bugbears along with Krump and often travels to Osteros to keep an eye on Sora and ensure her governance is good and just. He returns one day to Charatos, and sitting at his desk, realizes that he hadn’t needed to keep such a close eye on Sora, that in the end, all she wanted was freedom and peace, not just power for its own sake. Her gold scarred face was proof enough of that, a constant reminder of the scheming that got her to where she was. Decisions all made under duress, under the threat of Ralos, but decisions that were hers all the same. As a free woman, she was free again to choose to work under the Duchess, to work with her Osterosi people, much as they resented her, to maintain a good deal for them.
Nahk, realizing all this, finds his old journals. He smiles and reads them, thinking of the recipes he has yet to find. He heads down to the docks, a sailing ship in the water and thinks of his old friends. He boards the ship.
Sails appear on the horizon of Osteros and the dragonborn summon Governor Sora to the docks. She gets there, and sees a familiar face. She smiles.
“Heard you were a big fucking deal,” Kriv says. He gets off the ship and the two embrace.
Argot and Nistora find themselves allies several times over the years, fighting to slowly loosen Calis’s grasp over the Golden Gulf, though often it comes with the Duchess’s holdings expanding as well, but usually returns the city-state to its original government or, when it goes slightly more Argot’s way, a democratic form of government in the tradition of the Argoti state.
The Iron Reaper’s journey home to Mineos is long. The empire withdraws from him as he travels, and when he is at last home after two years, the rump state that remains is small and does not reach the Sunrise Sea as it once did. He enters the Pyramid of the Deathless and within the central chamber a man lies on the stone floor, void tendrils coming off of him. Tubes hang down from the ceiling, dripping void liquid. The Iron Reaper withdraws the blades from his arms and reveals his plasticky hand to examine the body of this man he has never seen. Aramestes stares up at him, his eyes bloodshot and full of fear, and the man is clearly undead, reactive to stimulus but unintelligent, his eyes elsewhere.
Oh cool, you’re here too
In the depths of hell, Natalya is having a pretty shit time. She hopes she’ll just get killed right away and maybe that clone thing will work. But rakshasas, pit fiends, bearded devils, lost souls, fighting alongside her against the dark demons of the abyss.
The Bakasura barks orders at her, mocking her. Yeah that’s right, he’s her commanding officer.
“This is what Hespero would have wanted for you,” he chuckles as Natalya stands in a row of other captured souls. “Don’t read books you shouldn’t be reading, Alchemist. The knowledge is too great for mortals. And even immortals like you.” Natalya guesses yeah, sure, I am technically immortal. And when she dies after a maw demon rips her to shreds and she is not reborn inside of the tank in Livius’s house, she appears before Zulon in the pools of rebirth.
“Oh, this is what you meant by immortal.”
“This is what becomes of those who cheat death,” Zulon tells her, her wounds sloughing off skin and muscle every time she returns, “for your soul is mine for eternity. Oblivion will never come.”
Natalya dies time and time again, the pain excruciating, the memories of her friends fading as she becomes a skeleton once again. She drapes a black robe over herself and a jaunty hat and returns from the pools of rebirth up the blasted plains. She writes everything down, on her bones, the story of her life, so that she may remember this time. Carved into her bones are the names of the sled dogs, the names of her friends, the straw hat she made on the ship, the deal she made to save Livius, the adventures in the feywild that she had with Casimir, the book club aboard the Admirable Decision where they invented Waluigius, the deep conversations she had with Luigius. And every time she emerges from the pool, a lemure, a wretched creature like a pile of melted flesh with a mouth that can only scream, finds her, escorts her back to her commander, the Bakasura.
Over time she realizes it is the same creature every time, speaking in a voice that wants to tell her something desperately, with eyes full of bloody tears. But her memories faded, she cannot remember the name that it speaks, a name which seems to be the only thing it can say. And she never wrote it down. She didn’t need it anymore. The world didn’t need it anymore.
“Aramestes!” the voice cries out. “Aramestes!”
Natalya shrugs. Another day in hell. She crosses the river of blood, but something hits her ankle. A book. When she takes it out, the blood runs off it and she knows it’s a magic book, or was like treated with that water repelling spray or whatever. The binding is familiar, a pair of claw marks raked across it: the symbol of Hespero, though she does not recall it. She hides it within her cloak.
A much older woman now, Sora watches the seas from Osteros. Banners line the docks. Ships appear on the horizon. It’s Damage Sluts Day.
Previous episode: biblically accurate argoti soldier