Our D&D game has been having a series of fits and starts as several of the players are away, seemingly every week, and that has been slowing the denouement of the current campaign. The players had found themselves engaged with one of the major henchmen and personal foil for Icio the Monk. Said foil was dispatched with aplomb, as a villain you’ve built up over a while always seems to be in role playing games. (After 30+ years, I’ve realized players usually will chew up your big finale, but it’s the little milk run you threw in on a night you didn’t have much that normally get characters killed.)

We opened with Calvinus the bard, still staunchly a Roman pantheist, getting a dreamtime visit from Kore, the goddess of the Underworld. After a millennium of being stuck with her husband, she is ready to escape. More, she thinks the Shadow — the veil that separates the various planes of existence — should come down. It’s not just that Satan’s plan for the monsters in Tartarus is going to lead to inevitable destruction on Earth, but that Pluto sees the use of the same army to stop Satan and preserve his rule in Hades (and keep the other gods at bay) is likely to have the very same result. She gives Calvinus an offer he’s unlikely to refuse — save the world from the Christian anti-Christ, release the gods back into the world, and possibly stop the spread of Christianity, which Calvinus is against for personal reasons. As a cherry on top: she will give him the most beautiful woman in the world…

Icio meets with the angel Michael, who it appears increasingly likely is his father despite God’s injunctions against angels having relations with women. (Yes, it’s in the Bible…) He tries to find out ther truth, but Michael tells him to focus on the task — finishing God’s enemies at the River Styx. Preserve the veil, and with the army of faithful that will be waiting for him, and Michael’s bring a choir of angels, they can defeat Satan. Just one thing…they need a human to cast the banishment. (He doesn’t explain why.) They need Augustinian to believe in Christ and to use his power to rid them of Satan and his minions.

They arrive in the Peloponnesus under an expanding storm cloud. Lightning and rain are lashing the area, and in the east, where Corinthus is, there’s a strange flickering light…is the city on fire? On the beach, they find a crowd of thousands of people, recently fled from Corinthus before Satan’s hordes. They are waiting for Icio, the Warrior of God! Hundreds of demonic things, a thousand Goths and nephalhim [tiefling]) invaded the city and are coming this way. They are only a two hour hike/climb from the beach to the River Styx, which they can see tumbling down the sheer cliff of Mount Aronia. Marcellus and Carrus prepare their men, and organize the faithful into units and formations, even the women and children. Augustinian and Icio, along with Calvinus debate what they should do: Icio wants to stay with these people and fight, but Augustinian thinks they can do more by keeping their eye on the prize. Stop Satan, save the world.

The characters eventually light out of the camp under a spell of invisibility cast by Anathema when Michael arrives with his angels to meet the overwhelming force of hellish creatures advancing on their position, and they race to get to the river. They are spotted by one of Satan’s scouts (a horned devil from the Monster Manual) which led to the main conflict for the night. The creature proved to be a challenge to the characters. Several of them got fried by the devil’s hurl fire, including Augustinian, who was badly injured. Spells had little effect, and Marcellus was having trouble getting hits with the Bow of Indigence. (Crappy rolls were translated into the bow fighting Marcellus a bit because he was not succumbing to its corrupting influence.) There was a great moment where Carrus the dwarf, took a running sprint up Amathema’s back to get a good jump at the devil, where he got a crit on the creature’s junk.

The use of fire spells led to the forest being on fire around them, and eventually — badly mauled — the devil flew off to warn it’s master, rather than get killed. They hired the last bit with the forest behind them burning and arrived at where the river dropped into a placid pool. The waterfall made almost no noise, and there was no sound of birds or creatures, just the trumpet blasts of Gabriel in the distance — each blast shattering devils in mid-air. Fireballs, lighting, very very frightening…only a mile or so away, thousands are dying in an apocalyptic battle, but at the pool, all is quiet but hardly serene. The storm overhead is not raining here. The wind isn’t blowing. Anathema announces they’ve arrived…

At that moment, the water ripples and a gigantic thing, make seemingly of water rises out of the pool. A section of the cliff face breaks loose, a warrior of stone. The forest conflagration behind them whips out a swirling figure of fire. And a wind begins to stir…

The Kidemones tis Skias — the Guardians of the Shadow — have arrived…

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