For their heroics defending the Emerald city, King Wilbur III made the party members Knights of the Emerald Court, granting them titles to land and squires in their service.
Their prestige was clearly growing.
Overhead, a great howling sound came roaring through the sky toward the city. It crashed in a great fireball to the ground, revealing itself to be a crystalline entity that Char recognised as another Shardmind, a shard of The Living Gate. The creature attacked Char, attempting to return him to the Gate. Oizo, Char and the Bard worked together, easily defeating the Shardmind.
They were called by Hanael to return to Hestavar and discuss what had happened.
In Hestavar, they caught up with the other half of the group and explained to Hanael the events that had unfolded. Hanael told them that it seemed Vecna was defeated for now, but far from dead. He also informed them that apparently Vecna was unable to claim all of the Raven Queen’s portfolio. She was the goddess of Winter, Fate and Death, but Vecna could only claim two of those for himself. Someone else had Fate in their hands.
Asmodeus appeared then before the party, silencing Hanael. He told them that he had a deal to make them.
“Do you know how to kill a god?”
“There’s more than one way. Vecna discovered one, though I think he’ll find that won’t work more than once. The gems of Tharizdun weren’t made for that purpose. Almost the opposite actually, they seek to bring a god back. No, the most effective way to kill a god is much more difficult to obtain. You may be interested to know that I’m the only one who’s managed to pull this one off. Sure, the Raven Queen may have killed Nerull to become the goddess of death originally, blah blah blah. She had to get him to become vulnerable first. But this is a power in a league of its own. How much do you know about the Abyss?”
“I see you’ve been there, but do you know what it REALLY is? It’s a spiral, a tornadic chaos that spirals down into oblivion from the Elemental Chaos. It’s growing, destroying ever more of the Elemental Chaos as it does. Given enough time, it might destroy everything. But that’s eons away, of course. It’s pathetically slow. It may be more fitting to think of it as a drain. At the bottom of every drain is a source, a hole. Guess how many gods have seen the bottom of that drain?”
“One. Just me. None of the others are brave enough to try. Most of them just ignore the Abyss unless it comes and attacks them. Idiots.”
“Many, many years ago, I managed to survive the trip down there. I wasn’t even as powerful as I am now. Not even a god. Maybe that helped, I could pass by more easily without the demon lords’ attention. What lies down there is the reason why the Abyss exists. It is responsible for tanar’ri, the demon lords and all six hundred and sixty six layers of the Abyss. Why don’t the demons use it?” He laughs.
“They can’t get near it. It simultaneously fascinates and terrifies them. The very deepest realms of the Abyss are so inhospitable that the demon lords don’t even venture down there. And of course, I suspect that it’s the driving force behind the demonic instinct to destroy. How did I survive it? Let’s just say that I had a strong enough motivation. Now my question to you is: Tharizdun, Vecna. There are two gods who specifically seek to destroy you. One of them may be trapped, for now, but there are those working to undo that. And the other? Vecna may be in hiding right now. But he won’t be for long. You’re not just in danger, you’re in danger from two of the most powerful and evil creatures to ever exist. If I were you, I would want some…insurance. I’ve long been an enemy of the Abyss. The Blood War has ensured that I can’t enter the Abyss without drawing attention to myself. But you can, to some degree. You get this power, all I ask is a portion of it in return. You could call it a finder’s fee. And why wouldn’t you just take it for yourself? Well that’s where I come in.”
He pulls a piece of bloodstained parchment and hands it to them, along with a black quill. “There are two options for you right now. You sign this, putting your souls down as collateral, and you retrieve the power, keeping some of it for yourselves and giving a portion of it to me. The other option is that you refuse to sign it, and you die, right here, right now and everyone in Hestavar will be destroyed along with you. I think it’s pretty clear which is the better arrangement for you.”
The party signed the contract.