Leaving the Solace Bole, the group somehow got turned around and returned to the entrance, where they fought death giants that Ionen swore vengeance against for their ancestors’ part in the Dawn War. The giants drained them of much of their vitality, but were ultimately unable to best them. The party debated a long time on how they’d manage to go in a circle, and how best to avoid getting lost again, eventually settling on a combination of the Hand of Fate and Whispers of The Edifice rituals. They discovered that the walls themselves shifted whenever they reached a dead end or stalled for too long, making further rest stops unwise.
The Hand pointed the way to a statuary decorated with magnificent (and expensive) tapestries, depicting vast cities and vistas, as well as the maps of long-dead empires. The statues themselves displayed the forms of several figures, engraved with names familiar to the group, including Sarissa, Mornujhar (both in a dragonborn and black dragon form, oddly), Onthorirfel, Arantor, and a strange angel named Niuria, who bore a striking resemblance to Rachaela. The art was guarded by a trio of cambions and a pair of nothics, favored pets of Vecna cultists. After slaying the devilkin and rendering the nothics powerless with another Word of Peace, they stowed the stuff in Komè’s giant chest and moved on. Blank stole a brazier.
Next was a room filled with sulfur cones and three undead, including one of Vecna’s Abhorrent Reapers. They were beat into the ground after some minor difficulties, and the Champions hotfooted it out of the room, glad to be rid of the smell.
Finally, they made it to the lowest chamber, only to be stopped by Bahlik Gur, leader of Arantor’s death giants. He was greatly intimidated by Ionen, fully believing him to be the reincarnated slayer of Erek-Hus, but fought the group anyway. He and his men lost rather quickly, but not without giving them some grief.
Wandering into the enormous cavern, none of the heroes could see Arantor, and so turned on all their light sources and flew around in Komè’s new cloud chariot, following the sound of skeletal wings. A raspy, conniving voice cursed their intrusion, and before the party could react, Jett turned his blade on the party, rocking the chariot with a burst of force energy. As Erdanen snapped him out of it, the psychic presence moved to Ionen, who unleashed a blast of fire upon the group.
Finally, the dragon came into view and Erdanen hit it with a light spell. Now that Arantor had lost the ability to hide in the darkness, the group immediately split up to minimize their chances of being caught in friendly fire, but the Heart of Darkness punished them for their loyalty to each other, slowing their movements. Divided and unable to support each other, Arantor wreaked havoc on the Champions until he was challenged by Erdanen. Unable to ignore the radiant rebukes that lashed his bones whenever he turned his back on the bard, he concentrated many blows onto him, the worst of which were absorbed by his shield. While he was distracted, Blank managed to regain control of the situation, but only after succumbing to the influence of her darker half. She psychically forced Arantor to leave himself open to attack, allowing Erdanen and Jett to strike. Erdanen’s songblade struck true, and his yell of triumph inspired the others to unleash a combined attack which felled the dracolich.
But they were not done. The dragon’s corpse cracked open, and the skeleton of a smaller silver dragon burst free – the Heart of Darkness. Infuriated by the interruption of the darklord’s punishment, it swore revenge on the Champions, but Ionen’s arcane fury revealed itself in full and he tore the Heart to pieces.
Upon its death, an illusory wall at the back of the cavern faded from view, revealing the dragon’s hoard. Most of the treasure was simple to divide amongst themselves, but at the bottom of the pile lay the Sword of Kas. Komè reached for it, but Jett threw his sword into the ground at the cleric’s feet, stopping him up short. After a heated debate, it was agreed that Erdanen would take the sword, wrapped in a magic cloak so as to hopefully prevent any kind of mental control the relic might possess.
Right on cue, Kas himself appeared. He gave a slow, sarcastic applause and congratulated the heroes on defeating Arantor without even attempting to disrupt the Heart’s control over him. He demanded that the bard hand his sword over, to honor the bargain made in the graveyard.
Kas didn’t seem interested in traveling to Vaerothim, and made no real attempt to reassure them that he would keep his promise. Erdanen strongly advised against trusting someone called “The Betrayer,” but no one else saw any other option – they were exhausted and bruised from the battle with the darklord, and spent of their mightiest spells – there was no realistic way they could defeat someone as powerful as Kas. Erdanen smiled, saying, “We don’t need to beat him. We just need to get by him!”
Ionen, immediately picking up on his ally’s meaning, summoned a gust of wind that sent them soaring over Kas’ head, while the vampire lord looked on in angered frustration. As he drew his weapon to give chase, Jett summoned a blast of fire, invoking the power of Ruin Silme Megil to seal him into a demiplane. He hurried to rejoin his allies as Erdanen thrust the sword into the portal. Eldritch power unfathomable twisted up the blade and into his arm, coaxing a scream of pain from him as the gate wrenched open.
Kas’s howl of fury echoed through the dimensions, but the swordmage’s spell held fast, keeping the Betrayer locked for another precious few seconds. Komè and Ionen hurried through the portal while Erdanen kept it open, but Jett refused to leave his old friend behind him. Blank, in all her practicality, mentally shoved the genasi into the portal and dove in after.
At that moment, the binding on Kas failed, and murderous eyes turned to the lone bard, inches away from escape. “NOOOOOOOO!” shrieked Kas.
In spite of his agony, Erdanen chuckled. “Sayonara, bitch,” he quipped as he moon-walked through the portal.