Asad Grulios invited everyone to a banquet in honor of Goethe and Hexa’s unexpected, but welcomed return. He didn’t seem to mind that Lorenz, Mr. Finn, and I broke into his dusty old mansion. Asad was all smile from ear to ear, hardly the flesh eating monster Goethe made him out to be. He was tall, bald, and wiry thin like he didn’t eat much. His face was just beginning to wrinkle around his kind deep set eyes. Asad spoke effeminately and with his hands. Again, he looked and acted more like a young genial grandfather than a self-serving devil from the hottest layer of Hell. Maybe Goethe had remembered his childhood wrong? Maybe his hate was misplace? A big misunderstanding? Maybe Asad desperately searched for his lost children? Maybe if Goethe embraced his father, he could convince him to help us? The sky was the limit if Goethe was willing. I sensed all those possibilities and more when I looked at the kind old man at dinner.
Goethe on the other hand, looked uncomfortable, like he was passing a ioun stone through his nethers. Asad repeatedly praised Goethe for this and that, which made Goethe squirm in his chair like a toddler. The dinner conversation deteriorated quickly. The old man was “delicate” to say it politely . Asad took offense to questions. He took great offense to one of Mr. Finn’s off the cuff comments. He took an even greater offense to Goethe not taking offense. He excused himself in an exasperated dramatic display. With his thin skin and heightened awareness to scrutiny, I couldn’t believe he was a Lord of Cheliax. Or maybe that was why he was a lord.
All was not lost, Asad kindly offered before leaving, “Goethe, my darling son. Please come to my study when you have an answer. We have much to discuss.”
Goethe was bent sideways in emotional hell. It was good to see that he had feelings, but seeing him experience them all at once was disturbing. We all gave him a concerned look.
“What did you father offer?”, asked Lorenz.
“He wants to bind a phistophilus devil in me. He wants me back…”, trailed off Goethe, “Please excuse me.” Goethe rose from his seat and followed after his father. We were all dumbstruck. What the hell? We were right to worry outside! I was about to say something, but Lorenz cut me off.
“Let him go. This is something he has to decide for himself. I have faith he will do the right thing”, confidently said Lorenz. We sat there in total silence. What was Goethe going to do? Would he pick family or Apsu? Could he get us into the basement vault?
After a while, Lorenz was called to present our Lirovilex rousing contract. Soon after a bird feather token landed on my shoulder with the message, “Convoy arrives this evening”. Crap! Our timetable just got cut in half! The Emerald Arrow and Drowning Devil must have sailed like hell to make it so fast. I sighed deeply and hoped that Lorenz and Goethe could keep us in Asad’s good graces.
“You are no son of mine! Get out! Get out you insolent brat before I rip out your tongue!”, roared Asad. I sighed again. Goethe and Asad’s intimate conversation must not of gone well.
We regrouped on the street outside. Goethe informed us what happened. He turned down the devil implant, which made his father weep. Asad was aware of who we were, which forced Goethe to bring up Lirovilex’s contract. Suddenly, Murk appeared out of nowhere to review the contract. Murk and Asad tempted him again with a devil bound contract. Goethe refused again, but did so in the rudeness possible way. Asad flew off the handle, his eyes literally turned red with rage. The man did not like to be perceived as weak. The good news was our contract was still intact. I told everyone that Denthanus and Marcellano were arriving in the evening. We had gotten nowhere in the last few days and now the deadline was barreling down on us. Why fret? One thing, I’ve learned on this expedition, “When life gives you shit, make stink bombs!”
First thing, Aschiuk must not get to Vira Grulios. We called forth our gremlin crewmates to sabotage the Westcrown canal locks. They might of succeeded too much. After Goethe fetched the wrecking crew I led them to the closest lock to Vira Grulios and told them to do their worse. I instantly regretted the order. Not even five minutes later a chain reaction of epic destruction occurred that the Westcrani papers named “The Gate Collapse of the Century”. The hinges rusted off the huge steel canal doors, the falling doors got tangled in the boom chain, the long chain sliced an enormous merchant ship in half, the ship was transporting explosives, the explosives blew, the blast destabilized the canal walls, and the collapsed walls took down half of the Dottari Keep and both lock towers. I slowly backed away from the mayhem. Check! Emerald Arrow stalled.
Second thing, stop the Vira Grulios Infernal Line operation. The devil binding probably happened in the basement vault. Since Goethe couldn’t get us into the vault door, we had to find another door. I proposed we go straight to Hell! We could pillage the Lethe, capture Murk, and walk into the Grulios vault from the other side. Begads, we could take Denthanus with us to show him the truth behind the dragon devil abominations. It was time to end the Infernal Line from the inside out!
“Goethe, fire up your talisman! We’re taking a trip”