The Welcome Lobby
Participants in the famous (and deadly) Breaching Festival at the Acadamae, the Crimson Blades have entered the Hall of Wards from the east side, with the intent of exiting from the west side before dusk in order to win the contest.
After stepping into the roiling darkness of the eastern entrance, however, the party finds themselves in a stone room illuminated by a sourceless orange glow. A faint door-shaped outline can be seen on the wall behind them, while ahead is a strong iron door. Lying in front of the door, in a pool of dried blood, is the mangled body of one of their competitors, the wizard Maganrad.
Arlynn checks the body and discerns that it has been dead for hours. Even more disturbing, the mangling seems to have occurred after death. Ashla pragmatically searches the bloodstained robes but finds nothing of value.
Egan wildshapes into an earth elemental to scout ahead, only to discover that the stone floor only goes down three feet before it stops—with nothing beyond. The adventurers begin to suspect they aren’t in Korvosa any more…
The iron door opens onto a long hallway lined with doors, which ends in two richly carved wooden doors. Egan’s tremorsense reveals that there are three human-sized individuals in the nearby rooms.
The first one they investigate is the chamber opposite theirs, which has no occupant. It resembles an academic’s office, but has been thoroughly trashed, save for the bookshelves where the bones of humanoid creatures are neatly arranged in piles.
Arlynn searches the room and finds crammed into a crevice in the back of a bookshelf a scroll of banishment. The paladin also discovers that each pile of bones rests on top of an iron plaque engraved with a short phrase in Infernal describing the deceased in enigmatic and ambiguous poetry.
Scratched into one of the larger bones themselves is a phrase in Common: “This is no Hall of Wards but a Hell of Magic. The Breaching is a sham. Flee, if you can, before the whispers drive you mad.”
The adventurers move on to the next room down the hall, which has the look of a small lecture room. Instead of a chalkboard, however, dozens of chains hang from the far wall. Snared in the chains is their remaining competitor, Illia Ean, who looks as if she’s been beaten.
She begs the party to free her and somewhat incoherently explains that she has been tortured for hours by the “tentacle woman.” She also encountered a blue skinned monster with a touch as cold as ice. Illia seems not entirely stable, so the party keeps her in back.
Based on Illia’s account, the adventurers conclude that time must pass differently in whatever pocket dimension they’re caught in.
The Mad Wizard
The Crimson Blades move on to the large room on the other side of the hall, which has the look of an academic library. Bookshelves line the walls and small bookshelves break up the floor, but their contents do not stay static. Books appear to be constantly rearranging themselves of their own accord, sometimes even flying across the room to different shelves.
In the midst of this bedlam, a disheveled man in wizard’s robes watches the chaos with a twitchy, nervous energy. He whirls to confront the party as they enter.
The man, who looks to be over 50, introduces himself as Terentius. He was the sole contestant in the Breaching Festival of 4707—just last year from the perspective of the party, but two decades ago for him.
Terentius explains that they are on some sliver of Hell, which is controlled by the contract devil Chyvvom. No one leaves the plane without striking a bargain with Chyvvom and the devil demands a high price. When he first arrived on the plane, Terentius tried for months to find a way out before eventually caving and selling his soul to the devil for a chance at escaping the maddening torment.
In order to leave, Terentius must find his spellbook somewhere in this library, but there are thousands of books constantly rearranging themselves, making the task all but impossible. Arlynn asks if in his searching has ever come across a book with information about Lorthact. The wizard insists that he has not.
Flint, meanwhile, has an epiphany and leaves the library to go search for the spellbook in the ruined office. Terentius grows increasingly agitated and demands that the party either help him search for his book or leave. Unable to calm the man, Arlynn and the others leave the room.
The Inevitable Tentacle Joke
The adventurers then move on to the last chamber in this wing of the complex, which contains what appears to be some sort of perverse alchemy lab. The room also holds a strikingly beautiful woman with red hair, who asks them one question: “Why should I let you live?”
After some back and forth, the adventurers discern that she is contractually bound to Chyvvom but despises him and is looking for a chance to get free. Arlynn strikes a bargain with her: if they slay Chyvvom, the strange woman will help them find Terentius’ missing spellbook, as well as the Book of Golgothus.
The woman agrees, but on the condition that they first prove their mettle and demonstrate they are capable of overcoming Chyvvom. With that, she abandons her human form and takes on her true shape as a creature with the upper half of a woman, whose waste sprouts tentacles.
Nox charges her and is immediately grasped and hauled inside her mass of tentacles, which squeeze and batter him. Arlynn rushes to his aid.
Out in the hall, Illia is seized with panic and tries to grab hold of first Ashla and then Flint, attempting to offer them to the devil in exchange for her escape from the demiplane. Illia’s attempt proves to be little more than an annoyance.
Nox goes in and out of the tentacles, while the devil’s magic has trouble taking hold. Eventually, the tentacle woman concedes the fight and even offers the wizard’s spellbook to them—it is sitting on one of the nearby tables.
She also tells them enigmatically that “Chyvvom’s contracts are his strength” before teleporting away.
After the tentacle woman leaves, the party searches her chamber while Arlynn takes the spellbook down the hall to Terentius. Tucked in the back of a table full of vile alchemical concoctions, Nox finds a strange bronze helm.
Meanwhile, Arlynn enters the library to confront Terentius. She asks again whether he has seen any information on Lorthact in the library, trying to ascertain his truthfulness. He insists he knows knowing and demands she return his book.
Arlynn realizes that the books in the library have stopped rearranging themselves.
A moment later, she is struck by a volley of books coming from six different points in the stacks. The paladin shouts in alarm and the others come running.
After one of the bookshelves falls over, Earth-Egan can sense something being pinned beneath it. The adventurers come to realize that the books are not moving on their own, but are being thrown by a half-dozen invisible stalkers.
Flint begins tossing tanglefoot bags in the directions the books are being hurled from. He manages to stick one to the top of a bookshelf, causing it to topple over onto the invisible creature. Ashla and Nox move in for the kill.
One of Flint’s tanglefoot bags malfunctions, exploding in his hand. Trying to make up for her earlier misbehavior, Illia cuts him free.
Arlynn kicks over a table and ducks behind it, with Terentius taking shelter beside her. She gives the wizard his spellbook, and he is immediately teleported away. Arlynn realizes that she is the only one with the ability to directly see the invisible stalkers, which she begins pointing out to the others.
Working together, the party takes down the stalkers one by one. After the room is cleared, they sift through the books, most of which appear to be mundane tomes. They discover that many of them have feathers in them, pressed between the pages like bookmarks.
Earth-Egan does not recognize them as the feathers of any natural creature, but judges that they came from a human-sized creature. The adventurers speculate that they could be from erinyes.
Earth-Egan glides through the stone floor to scout out the next chamber beyond the double doors. The room has a high ceiling, with a balcony looking over the open floor, where two summoning circles are etched on opposite sides. The room’s only two occupants are a spined devil and a devourer, who appear to be in some sort of heated argument.
Egan alerts the rest of the party, who gather around the entrance. They have Illia quietly open the door enough for Flint to draw a bead on the spined devil. In the process, Arlynn overhears the argument in Infernal—the creatures are arguing over the fate of Maganrad’s soul.
The spined devil insists that he has a contract with the late wizard that gives him a claim to the man’s soul, while the devourer insists that “possession is nine tenths of the law” as Maganrad’s soul peers out from between its ribcage.
Flint solves the matter with a flight of arrows, pin-cushioning the spined devil to death. Nox, Ashla and Arlynn then charge and dispatch the devourer in short order. Maganrad’s soul is released, but to what fate?
Searching the bodies, they find the remains of the wizard’s gear, as well as a densely written contract between Maganrad and the spined devil. Arlynn recalls that both parties to an infernal contract hold copies of the contract. Only if both copies are destroyed will the contract be broken. But Ashla found nothing when she searched the wizard’s robes.
Get Thee Behind Me, Chyvvom!
Egan can tell that the chamber beyond is the final room, while Nox’s bronze helm gives him the sense that the way out is in the center of the chamber. The party places their archers, Flint and Illia, on the balcony, while the rest enter below.
As they fling open the doors, Chyvvom speaks to each of them telepathically, welcoming them and suggesting that they can resolve their differences peacefully. He suggests that if they make a bargain with him, not only will he release them from the demiplane, but he will also grant them their heart’s deepest desire.
They each have visions of what his power can offer them, but Nox insists that his greatest desire is Lorthact’s head on a pike. Since the contract devil can’t offer that, the fighter charges.
Chyvvom’s frost devil bodyguards block the charge and keep the melee fighters away from their master, while Flint and Illia loose arrows down onto them. Chyvvom, meanwhile, blasts the party with devastating magic and shrugs off Earth-Egan’s fire seeds.
The contract devil’s mind-influencing spells are unable to take hold on Nox, while arlynn uses her powers to free Flint and Ashla from different debilitating effects.
The adventurers slowly cut their way through the frost devils, who give almost as good as they get. Closing in, Arlynn is seizing by one of Chyvvoms unfurled contracts and is slammed on to his horns before being hurled across the room.
But the Crimson Blades, though battered, have the advantage now. Flint lands a devastating strike on Chyvvom and Nox follows it up with the killing blow, taking the devil’s head clean off.
Fire spurts out of the wound and the conflagration burns away the fiends body and all his rolls of contracts, save for one—Ileosa’s infernal bargain. The party claims this as the teleport circle in the center of the room lights up.
Nox is the first to step through, followed quickly by Illia and then the rest of the party. Arlynn is the last to leave, giving one last look over the complex for any sign of the Book of Golgothus or any other information on Lorthact.
After stepping into the teleport circle, the Crimson Blades emerge almost simultaneously through the western doors of the Hall of Wards. They can see Terentius nearby, being led away by test proctors, who are questioning him intently.
The waiting crowd gasps at the sight of the adventurers and then erupts into a roar of applause. Acadamae authorities on the edge of view begin scurrying about to implement procedures for crowning a victor that have not been employed in over a century.
The Crimson Blades’ triumph is short-lived, however, as devils begin bursting out of the hall on all sides.