Given approval for a day’s leave by King Eresar II, the Party had left the embattled city of Bet Kasel and returned home to the streets of Cosolen – where the presence of foreign peacekeepers proved an unpleasant distraction. Despite this, a pair of joyous ceremonies saw the return of lost loved ones Olelita Randorian and Obri Faircap to life; events that were hastily followed by the magical rescue of Maldus’ daughter Mindoleen from orcish captivity.
With their families restored and Prince Sevlen updated on recent events of note, the Group made its way back to the Kasite capital, where the looming threat of the devil portal remained, and to where an “elite legion” of Kalamaran soldiers were reportedly drawing close. Their subsequent attack on the portal’s guardians ended quickly, as powerful Pit Fiends from the Nine Hells proved to be an obstacle even they as Aspects could not overcome. If the interference of the outer planes was to be stopped, it would take more than “merely” the Party of Aspects, it would take the Circle of Exarchs…
Pelsday, Ninth of Harvest, 1044 Y.K.
Still within the grand chambers of the Celestial Council, the Party once more took knee before their patron Deities. The divine servitors and lesser beings parted to afford the passage of Brovadol, Knight of the Gods, who came first and placed his hand upon Alamir. As the Champion of Tellene empowered his servant further, he stated that no longer would the cleric be the Aspect of Valor. Instead, he would be known henceforth as Alamir Artur, Exarch of The Valiant.
Plondar, the Fate Scribe came forward next, robed in silver-trimmed green, with hair of red. She took Rarnok by the shoulders and stared for seemingly endless moments into the gnome’s eyes. Content, she touched him then with the Staff of the Prophets, infusing him with power via the Eye of Knowledge. In that moment the Aspect of Time ceased to exist, and had been replaced by Rarnok Suvok Vofa, Exarch of Queen Destiny.
The divine procession continued as Bleslelna, The Eternal Lantern came forth, her porcelain white skin and gleaming golden hair shining like the sun. The beautiful goddess stood before the Halfling Stoat, growing brighter and more radiant with each passing second. The chamber soon filled with a blinding light, forcing all to shield their eyes. As the flash of intense illumination faded, the Aspect of Resolve had vanished, and in his place was Stoat, Exarch of the Shining One.
Selandi, the Lord of Silver Linings followed next, adorned in blue and carrying the powerful artifact, the Staff of the Merciful. He stood before Maldus and spoke of the healing and hope that was needed on the material plane, and of the prayers for mercy from those affected by the violence of the evil beings who made war in The Dark One’s name. Where the humble cleric had once been the Aspect of Life, he was now Maldus Randorian, Exarch of the Lord of Blue Skies.
With the last of the Party’s former Aspects recreated as Exarchs, only one was left to be empowered. Azravan waited cautiously as the cloaked form of Emnon, The Riftmaster approached him. The fearsome skeletal figure of The Gatekeeper stood in stark contrast to those who had preceded him, and his methods of recreation proved to be similarly opposite. Where the previous four had imbued their Exarchs by way of a blessing or anointment, the god of magic simply blasted the Halfling with power, recreating him as Azravan, Exarch of the Sorcerer Supreme.
Dubbed the “Circle of Exarchs”, the Party collected itself and reconnected with Alanthiess as the meeting in the Celestial Council chambers concluded. The divine servitor escorted them back to the Creator’s throne room and answered various questions posed to her, including those regarding the Realm of Annihilation asked by Stoat. Being the final destination of unclaimed souls, the Realm of Annihilation grew with each soul added, and forced the gods to tolerate one-another’s activity, for fear of adding to the void that surrounded the Eternal Palace… and might one day swallow it.
Katarday, Tenth of Harvest, 1044 Y.K.
Leaving the grandeur of the Eternal Palace behind them, the Circle returned to the material plane, appearing within the safety of the teleportation chamber inside Eresar II’s castle. The King expressed his pleasure at their presence and admitted to having been increasingly concerned after not hearing from them following the devil portal mission. The city, though breached briefly on the southern end, was still intact, and the hobgoblins had ceased their advance in light of a new sight.
Far behind the Krangi position, banners bearing the markings of Kalamar could be seen. The force was heading north, lined up for a direct assault on the enemy from the rear. King Eresar was decidedly quiet on what prompted such a response on his kingdom’s behalf, and the Party didn’t ask. For the moment at least, it did not matter, so long as the threat of the humanoids was stopped. Even if “The Vast” intended to take the city after defeating the hobgoblins, at least they weren’t loyal to The Dark One.
Now fully updated on the situation, the Circle took their leave, pledging to again assault the devil portal. Given their now clearly divine nature, Eresar stated his belief in their success and wished them well. Once outside of the chamber, the Group made its plan quickly. Azravan and Maldus would report to Prince Sevlen in Cosdol while Rarnok spoke to the Kalamaran commanders, to coordinate a joint attack as soon as possible. In the meantime, Alamir and Stoat would ensure that things remained as they were in Bet Kasel.
A short while later, the Party reconvened, with all events having gone as planned. Prince Sevlen had taken the news to his advisers and the Kalamaran force would be in range for an advance strike on the Krangi by the midnight hour. The Circle now had only one more thing to do before the joint attack…
Making the assumption that portal would not have been relocated given the lack of success on their first mission, the Party moved to the site of the prior engagement, discovering the device to still be there as they had hoped. The lesser devils of the exterior patrols were easily avoided as before, and the trio of Pit Fiends were found to still be protecting and maintaining the gateway from the other side – a situation that again prompted immediate battle.
Being better prepared for the situation this time, the Circle acted first, engaging the Fiends without delay. Maldus and Azravan turned their focus on the devil not nearest the portal, using the columns and roof of the structure he stood under to trap him with both a Blade Barrier and Prismatic Wall. Alamir used his newly granted abilities to beckon the remaining Fiends to attack him. Stoat and Rarnok took to their positions, attacking the creatures with arrow and spell.
Inside the Prismatic, Bladed Barrier, the Fiend there attempted to dispell the magic, growing angry at repeated failure. Meanwhile both Rarnok and Azravan conjured Cloud Kills on their respective targets, sapping the devils of vitality. In a dramatic reversal of the previous encounter, Alamir stood against both Fiends nearest the portal, his enhanced durability making their attacks ineffectual and seemingly pathetic in nature.
From his ranged position, Stoat assaulted the pair of Fiends mercilessly, his aim unmatched and his damage extraordinary. As the first creature fell, the third within the makeshift magical prison abandoned his efforts to dispell the magic and instead teleported himself outside of the structure. The beast began casting on a powerful Meteor Swarm, intending to destroy the Group outright. The spell was not to be however, as the Exarch of the Sorcerer Supreme countered the magic with but a wave of his hand.
Enraged, the Fiend attempted another spell, and another. Each time the magic was countered by Azravan – his instinctual knowledge of the magic making his ability to counter spells most powerful. Across the field of battle, the second Fiend fell, arrows filling his body and large slashes visible across his chest. Being suddenly alone, the final Fiend swore to inform his masters and attempted escape. Rarnok and Stoat provided chase, easily exceeding the devil’s speed thanks in part to their Haste spell. The beast fell in short order, leaving the now unmaintained portal fluctuating and rapidly closing.
As they exited the portal and returned to the material plane, the Group could not help but be amazed at the power bestowed on them. As Aspects they had been outmatched by the trio of mighty devils. Now as Exarchs, they had bested the same challenge almost effortlessly. Would the remaining dark Aspects of Malice and Torment be felled as easily? And what of the Godspawn? It had been said that a Godspawn was worth two Aspects, but what of Exarchs?
For now such questions would have to wait. The joint assault with the Kalamaran soldiers would be starting at midnight, and there were preparations to make…