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"Fire and Ruin" (E3x04) is the fourth and final episode of Exandria Unlimited: Calamity. With time running out and an ancient terror unleashed, the Ring of Brass make their last stand for Avalir, for Exandria, and for their souls as calamity draws near...

Synopsis

Announcements

Previously on Exandria Unlimited: Calamity

Fire. Everything feels slow. There is movement and there is heat, but the only noise you can hear, despite all this chaos, is breath. It's yours. But it's also a stranger's.

Things are expanding once more, Zerxus. Fire moving outward, fast at first and then slow, as though through glass time. Near you in space is your oldest friend, Nydas, and the oldest friend of your husband Evandrin, Laerryn. All of you are suspended in time. The beginnings of a force more powerful than you have ever felt are starting to pick you up off the stone floor like paper dolls. Before you, the sundered Tree of Names is erupting into fire, and your companions Patia and Loquatius standing right next to it. You, in frozen time, will have a front row seat to see what happens to them.

Part I

As time slows to a crawl, the branches of the Tree of Names that had lashed out at Patia and Loquatius land their blows, severing Patia's arm at the elbow where it has sunk into the tree. Nonetheless, she transmits the truth of the Tree of Names to the others. Many of the magical items of the party (except for Cerrit, who is not present) explode, wounding them severely although Laerryn partially protects Loquatius with her Arcane Ward. A burst of fire and bludgeoning damage knocks out Loquatius, Nydas, and Zerxus and kills Patia outright, leaving only Laerryn up as more concussive damage strikes.

A Time Stop spell hits the room and Zerxus is brought barely back to consciousness. Vespin Chloras, now a fiend, is crouched at the base of the Tree as K'nauthi crawl through the streets with the artifacts from Vespin's ritual, having just completed their own ritual to summon him. Behind Vespin, Asmodeus is stepping through the ruins of the tree, and Zerxus realizes the Tree was already weakened by being starved of power and Laerryn's Blight was simply the final blow. Zerxus also sees that some part of Asmodeus seems to be tortured and shrieking in pain, and fights through to reach and touch him. That part seems terrified, and Zerxus helps pull him through into Exandria, holding his hand. Xartaza, the erinyes Zerxus fought, walks through as well, Zerxus's blood still on her sword.

Asmodeus heals Zerxus, who responds by using Cleansing Touch on Asmodeus, but it fails to have any effect. Asmodeus explains that it is a ritual of atonement, but -- his voice deepens and grows harsher -- he didn't do anything wrong. He stabs Zerxus through the heart and begins laughing. Zerxus screams, "You're wrong!", and tells Asmodeus that mortals were on Exandria long before the gods came. The gods shaped and changed, but created nothing. Scornfully, Asmodeus calls mortals "a bad first draft", and rips the skin off Zerxus's skull, smashes him into the floor, and breaks his spine, then heals him again. He tells him that mortals are the ones who are Asmodeus's enemies, not the Prime Deities who are his siblings. It was mortals who came to matter so much to the Prime Deities that they were willing to throw the Betrayer Gods away. Asmodeus's quarrel is with mortals, and his goal is to collect all their souls in his pit and punish them for eternity. There is infinite hatred in his eyes. Zerxus looks at him with pity, telling him to look at how much he hates himself along with everything else.

Asmodeus tell him his pride will make him a great Champion. He twists Zerxus's head, snapping his neck and killing him a third time. Asmodeus smashes Xartaza into the ground, and as she explodes in blood a black iron mace rests in that space, which Asmodeus offers to the dead Zerxus, at the price of becoming his Champion and surrendering his soul.

Meanwhile, still in the Time Stop, Laerryn is the only one left conscious in the Arboreal Calix. Surrounded by the bodies of the Ring of Brass, she Dimension Doors away to a safe, secret room in the Meridian Labyrinth from which she can watch a glitchy feed from the downed Dweomer still in the Calix. Asmodeus orders Vespin to get Lacrytia Hollow, Milus Phren, Findras Lightbreaker, and Micah Cormorant in position, but is annoyed when he learns they have all perished. With a gesture, Asmodeus ignites the runes carved into the flesh of the K'nauthi scattered all through the city, and from their burning chests full devils begin the emerge. He is surprised to learn that the new god of death, The Raven Queen, is a former mortal, seeing this as justification for his hatred of them. He tells Vespin to prepare the gateway for the Empress and Emperor, who must join them before sunrise in Vasselheim. Opening a portal to the newly-built Ghor Dranas, he steps through to join his fellow Betrayers there. Laerryn transmits all this information telepathically to Cerrit. Soon after, she senses that Loquatius has died back in the Calix.

Official art of Avalir aflame, by Clara.[art 1]

Flying high over the city, Cerrit sees the fires beginning in multiple neighborhoods and the panicked and screaming residents. He reaches his home and his children, but as he promises them he will someday tell them all about what's happening outside, his Ring of Honor begins glowing, detecting the falsehood. He assures them everything is fine and gives them the Runes of Recall but they sense something is badly wrong. Frightened and crying, they don't want to leave him. Telling them how much he loves them, Cerrit closes their hands on the runes, breaking and activating them, and the children vanish. Cerrit's ring slowly stops glowing. He wanders the now-empty house, reflecting on the time taken from his family by his obsession with his job. Quietly furious, he sets the home on fire. Steeling himself, Cerrit flies as fast as he can toward the Labyrinth and Laerryn.

Fan art of Zerxus and Evandrin, by Elaine Tipping.[art 2]

Meanwhile, Zerxus is in the Astral Realm, caught in the antechamber of death. Evandrin approaches him and moves to embrace him, but Zerxus stops him. Evandrin tells him it was not Zerxus's fault and that he loves him. Evandrin had told Laerryn the first test subject of the Astral Leywright should be himself, as then-current First Knight of Avalir. When he was transported by it, he became anchored to this other realm, and being in Exandria was killing him, not the Tree of Names. The Tree was simply trying to return him to where he now belonged. The Leywright's goal was to shift a leyline from the world's surface out into other planes of existance, to allow the city to move where it wished. Zerxus tells Evandrin that their son Elias is in Cathmoíra and they need to bring him here, admitting that he himself is a spirit and must move on to the afterlife. Desperate to bring Elias to Evandrin and realizing Evandrin cannot do it, Zerxus lifts the mace, accepting Asmodeus's bargain.

Fire erupts around Zerxus and two rams' horns grow from his head as his armor chars and he transforms. As he moves back toward the Prime Material Plane, Evandrin's voice in his mind assures him of his deep love, and that he will find a way to bring Zerxus home.

Arriving back in the Arboreal Calix, Zerxus finds the unconscious but stable Nydas, the dead Patia and Loquatius, and the similarly-transformed and very much alive Vespin Chloras. He also notices writing in Infernal still growing around his mace and understands it is the still-incomplete contract for his soul. Laerryn sees him arrive and through Dweomer, shouts angrily at the transformed Zerxus to, "Bring them back!" When Zerxus uses his Channel Divinity to calm all creatures in the room, Vespin destroys Dweomer with a Fireball. Zerxus uses Cleansing Touch on him, trying to give him a chance for redemption, and Vespin shrieks as his skin regrows and a human face appears on the fiendish body... for the moment.

Saying there isn't much time, Vespin grasps the mace and casts Time Stop. Continually fighting retransformation into a fiend, Vespin inscribes more runes upon the mace, moving the time that the deal for Zerxus's soul will go into effect to sunrise. Zerxus casts Revivify on Loquatius who is horrified at Zerxus's now-fiendish appearance, but hears him say he doesn't have any more magical energy, and Loquatius hands him the piece of raw ether given him by Laerryn. Zerxus immediately uses it to cast another Revivify on Patia, and uses Lay on Hands to bring Nydas back to consciousness. Vespin gasps out that they must go back to the woman at the Hall of Prophecy before Dimension Dooring away.

Cerrit has joined Laerryn and the party all gathers in the Arboreal Calix. Zerxus explains he has made a deal with Asmodeus in order to return to the Material Plane and only has until sunrise. As the party walks through the chaos of the city toward the Hall of Prophecy, Patia realizes she took some magical power from the Tree of Names that she is not sure she would survive releasing. Laerryn restores the Telepathic Link among the party, while, mounted on Tempus, Zerxus holds aloft the Banner of Avalir to alert the city.

At the Hall of Prophecy they find Karwen, the oracle, who whispers to them to break the circle holding her. When they do, she immediately casts Mass Healing Word on all of them. In a trance, she prophesies: "When crowned fire and a throned earth stride forth to join ancient war anew, then Mother and Father shall fall to the hands of their imprisoned kin, and all the stars will weep until the death of light for lost Exandria, whose every ashen breath will wish for death, and never knowing peace, shall stumble ever more to seek in vain the end of horror without name." They realize if Avalir lands, the Primordials will be freed. The gate has to be in Cathmoíra. And if the Astral Leywright can move ley lines themselves, what might it be able to do to the Primordials? If the Primordials join with the Betrayers, all hope is lost.

They decide they must attempt to use the Astral Leywright to shift the Primordials off this plane. Loquatius feels he has a duty to report what's happening, in an attempt to save lives both here and in Vasselheim. He kisses Laerryn and they separate as he heads to the Herald's Tome. Nydas summons his dragon Sha'korzhan to get more automatons from the Golden Scythe. Patia heads toward the statue of her grandfather Imyr Por'co at the top of the city for a quick stop, while Zerxus, on Tempus, flies off the edge of the city toward Cathmoíra and his son Elias, followed by Cerrit.

Break

Part II

Fan art of Patia, by @lolthies.[art 3]

As fires spread throughout the city, Patia reaches the Archsept, which seems undisturbed as yet, and tells the statue of her grandfather Imyr the Bold that she intends to try to end the cycle of selfishness he began. She breaks off a piece of the statue depicting the Librarium, and teleports both it and her Sphere of Power holding her lifetime of accumulated knowledge and memories to Maya, Cerrit's daughter. She realizes her grandfather took away her memories of her parents because he regarded them as failures.

Loras of the Weaver's Mask suddenly enters and asks what's happening outside. She tells him to go fuck himself. Affronted, he goes outside as the elderly Eldamir the Wise arrives. Eldamir wants the Herald's Tome to tell the citizenry to pour their magical energy into the Etheric Net to preserve the city, which sounds like something one would say if they wanted to preserve Avalir at the expense of all the people living in it. He further wants to requisition the ships of the Golden Scythe to transport the effects of the Septarion to safety. Numbly, Patia leaves to rejoin Laerryn.

The Golden Scythe currently has five massive skyships in port, and as Nydas drops off Loquatius, he tells him to notify people to go to the galleons to evacuate the city. Nydas arrives at the Guildhall to learn the Ring of Gold has indeed requisitioned the ships. Shouting "Damn the Ring of Gold! The people of Avalir must survive!" Nydas refuses the request, but when he turns his back, Badran Esparad, his captain of mercenaries, stabs him deeply saying he has lost his mind. Nydas and his dragon both counterattack, killing him as he tells him, "Badran, you are a pirate and I respect you. But Avalir comes before any oath I made in a past life." Nydas then directs one of the smaller ships be sent directly to the University to evacuate the students.

Fan art of Nydas, the sphinx, and the taxmen attacking, by Lap Pun Cheung.[art 4]

Nydas attempts to send the taxmen automata to help deal with the devils attacking the city outside, but notices some of the hodmedod engines have been tampered with, Infernal runes reading "Ghor Dranas" added to them. Hundreds of K'nauthi emerge from the shadows. As Nydas starts to flee, the sphinx Feromyne limps into view and roars, scattering them. Nydas sees that the engines for the four Taxmen currently at the Astral Leywright have been tampered with, and warns Laerryn telepathically. The other automata start killing devils.

Meanwhile at the Herald's Tome, Loquatius prepares for a special broadcast. As he writes, golden leaves circle in front of him and a gate to the Feywild opens. Lady Elmenore addresses all Fey of the Seelie Court on Exandria, telling them doom is coming with the rising sun. She can only save them, not mortals, but they can step through the gates into safety. Loquatius tells her he must come if she calls, but then turns his back on the gate and lets it close, telling Elmenore that though he loves her, he loves another more. As he walks by the desk of the reporter who had discovered Evandrin's disappearance, he remembers that firing her was the first time he ever killed the truth, to protect Laerryn.

As Loquatius prepares to go live, Loras appears in the studio demanding he broadcast an order to the populace to pour all their spell energy into the Etheric Net and stop the evacuation. Loquatius agrees, but casts a Wall of Force around Loras that he fails to Counterspell. Going live, and mid-broadcast using the face and body of Eldamir the Wise, Loquatius explains that the Replenishment is cancelled and the population should all flee both Avalir and Cathmoíra immediately, using all the skyships available. He also tells all members of the administration that they must stay and go down with the city.

Meanwhile, Cerrit and Zerxus land in Cathmoíra and go to the home of Eaedalus Okiro, Nydas's brother, where Zerxus's son Elias has been living. Elias is horrified at Zerxus's fiendish appearance, but Zerxus gives him his journal to read later, then jumps back on Tempus. As he does, a single feather falls, which Elias picks up and asks Zerxus to promise he'll be all right. As Zerxus flies away, he tries to shout to the attacking devils in Infernal to lay down their weapons, and although this works in Cathmoíra, Asmodeus intervenes and blocks it reaching Avalir. The Lord of Hells realizes the contract writing itself on the mace has been altered to allow Zerxus until sunrise.

Photograph of the Astral Leywright, with art by Joanna Johnen and @iamjasonchadwick on Instagram.[art 5]

At the Astral Leywright, Laerryn arrives, hearing Loquatius's broadcast on the way. She realizes she has the ability to shift the captive primordials elsewhere, but a truly staggering amount of energy will be released. Patia arrives and they realize they have a half hour together to re-do Laerryn's life's work. While Laerryn works, Patia inscribes upon the Leywright the hundreds of names for the Primordials that she learned through her Legend Lore at the Tree of Names. The rest of the party soon arrives as well.

There are now only twelve minutes to sunrise, and two minutes until the city docks for the Replenishment. Zerxus admits that at dawn, he will no longer be himself, but the leywright will go off at docking. With only 18 seconds left, the door explodes open and two of the four corrupted taxmen automata enter, along with Vespin Chloras and his mirror images. Roll initiative!

As the battle begins, they learn that the taxmen's attacks cause damage proportional to the highest spell slot they still have access to, so they begin throwing their most powerful spells at them in an effort to hold the door and prevent the entry of the two remaining taxmen. The enemies' counterattacks are damaging, but Laerryn continues working and is able to ensure that the release of energy that is coming, while still tremendous, will not shatter the entire planet. Standing next to Laerryn at the Leywright, midway through the battle Loquatius gets on one knee and proposes to her. She accepts his offer and his raven's feather.

With 12 seconds remaining, the party continues to do damage, still trying to keep the enemies away from the frantically-working Laerryn, but also taking massive damage in return and the two additional taxmen are able to enter the Calix. Laerryn is forced with a choice: further limit the damage done to the two cities from the energy release, or ensure that the two captive Primordials are permanently banished from Exandria. She chooses the world. Avalir be damned. She inscribes the final names onto the crystal. Telepathically telling the group that she loves them, Patia casts a Wall of Force around the Leywright, Laerryn, and herself. Zerxus falls unconscious, but his griffon Tempus grabs one of the automata, teleports out, and drops it a mile to the ground. Loquatius holds a Healing Word.

With only six seconds till touchdown, Vespin begins to cast Power Word Kill at Laerryn but Cerrit manages to sneak attack and, with a natural 20, kill him before the spell goes off. Seeing Zerxus fall and hoping to protect him from eternity in Asmodeus's service, Nydas positions himself so that when he himself is then struck unconscious, his sword goes into Zerxus's heart for two failed death saves. A Dispelling Blast gets through the Wall of Force, and Patia also falls, releasing all the magic she has gathered into the Leywright as her final sacrifice, further raising the city's energy level.

Only Laerryn, Loquatius, and Cerrit are still standing. Two blows come toward Laerryn. The first hits, bringing her to one hit point. The second would have knocked her unconscious, but Loquatius's held Healing Word is released, saving her. And it is her turn. The city lands.

The eldritch energy rushes into the ground, bolstered by that released by Patia as she fell, and that from the damaged eldritch battery Calum Staffwright managed to restore before he died. As it releases the two imprisoned primordials, the Astral Leywright crafts a path for them, shifting a leyline into the heavens. The voice of the Lord of Hells rings out in protest and anger: "If Domunus is the smile of Exandria, let's shatter her teeth!"

In the final moments, Zerxus sees a vision of Tempus, Elias on his back holding Zerxus's journal, climbing into the sky and opening a door into a sea of stars. Elias leaps into the arms of Evandrin, reunited. Though Zerxus falls into the flames to become something terrible, he knows that his husband and son are safe. Nydas sees a vision of his younger self and his brother on the deck of a ship, and knows that his brother and the children of the University survived the city's immolation as well. Patia remembers her grandfather Imyr and holds onto the knowledge that there are many more dreams still possible, as she hears the voice of Maya come through on Cerrit's sending stone telling him she has received Patia's sphere.

Cerrit's family, through the Stone, tells him they are all safe in Gwessar. When the children leave, his wife asks him if this is goodbye, and he tells her no. He will make it back to the children, and to her. As he hears rumbling begin around him, the stone goes dark in the eruption of energy.

Fan art of Laerryn and Loquatius, at the end, by Ace Newland.[art 6]

Laerryn runs to Loquatius and they hold each other. With the stained glass windows around them resembling a church, they pledge their love to one another.

Amidst the chaos and the crumbling Labyrinth, Cerrit moves to the door, and Laerryn telepathically sends him the directions to the nearest window. He decides he owes it to his children to at least try to escape. With a DC of 30 and help from a bardic inspiration, he succeeds by one, and dashes out through the crumbling city. Telepathically, he tells Laerryn, "The Brass Ring endures. You gave us a chance."

Fan art of Cerrit's escape, by Lap Pun Cheung.[art 7]

All that now remains of the continent of Domunas, once the most beautiful of Exandria, is the chain of islands now known as the Shattered Teeth. As the world opens, fire and stone explode the continent. The Calamity will last for centuries, and at the end of it two-thirds of living beings on Exandria will be dead. Many of them died in its first moments. Rau'shan and Ka'Mort, fire and earth, believing they would join the Betrayer Gods, are instead unmade and bound to a surging leyline, diffused through as many realms as the Leywright could send them through.

The eruption of ash and fire and molten stone sends a cloud of ash over Exandria that will cover the world for a hundred years. At the very top of that cloud, the last member of the Ring of Brass wings his way toward his family.

We've told a story of the coming of a time of darkness, the coming of Calamity, of shadow and fire and ruin. Why do we tell stories? To try to make sense of a world that can be terrifying and ernormous. In Exandria, I don't know that your story will long be known. I don't know who will remain to tell it. But it did happen, and it did matter. And though Calamity is here, because of you it will not be here forever.
– 
The conclusion.[1]
[!h]

Featured characters

Player Characters

Returning

New

  • Gruumsh (addressed offscreen)
  • Maya, Cerrit's daughter
  • Wrayne, Cerrit's wife

Mentioned

Quotations

  • Asmodeus: (to Zerxus) I think I know what may be happening. The ritual of Evandrin, the resurrection, it didn't work because you tried to resurrect him but he wasn't dead. You're trying to atone me... and I didn't do anything wrong![2]
  • Asmodeus: (to Zerxus) You are not our children. You are... a bad first draft. [...] Who is the most proud man here? These ones who thought they would fly a city, or the man who thought he would teach me a lesson? The only difference between you and the Dawnfather is that the Dawnfather is a little more humble. Now, I'll tell you why I spit on your forgiveness. I'll tell you why I loathe your redemption. To reach a hand down to somebody, they need to be beneath you! And I am beneath nobody.[3]
  • Evandrin: (to Zerxus) I don't know how deeply you have sacrificed to do what must be done, but I know this: There is no god that strides this world that I worship more than I worship your heart. There is a power beyond the stars that you alone could find. And though you may be his, by working of foul magic, I vow this: I bear your name. I bear it on this stone. And one day, I will bring you home.[4]
  • Badran: At the beginning of time the gods made all the gold there will ever be. There will always be more people.
    Nydas: Gold? Gold means nothing if you do not use it to lift people up. Gold is a resource by which mortaldom climbs![5]
  • Asmodeus: What?! What have you done?!
    Laerryn: My best. Finally.
    Asmodeus: (as energy erupts straight up into the heavens) Well. If Domunas is the smile of Exandria, then let's shatter her teeth![6]
  • Brennan: (to Laerryn) This thing you made, this dream-- are you the woman who doomed the world? Or are you the woman who saved it? Are all of you the heroes that you strove to be, or the villains that from time to time you might have been afraid you were becoming? In a world with this much power, what can be said to be the difference?[7]
  • Brennan: (to Cerrit) You don't get to give your kids the world that they deserve, but you get to give them a world that they can fight for with you.[8]

Inventory

Adjustment Count Item Source Destination Notes
Transferred
Expended
2 Runes of Recall Cerrit Kir and Maya Keyed to their mother, Wrayne.
Transferred 1 Namestone necklace Zerxus Evandrin Bore Zerxus's name.
Transferred
Expended
1 Piece of raw Ether Loquatius Zerxus It had been given to Loquatius by Laerryn. Zerxus used it to Revivify Patia.
Transferred 1 Locket Laerryn Zerxus It had been given to Laerryn by Evandrin.
Transferred 1 Sphere of Power Patia Maya Teleported by Patia to Maya just before Avalir's end, it held all Patia's knowledge and memories.
Transferred 1 Griffon feather Tempus Elias When it fell as Zerxus said his final farewell to his son, Elias picked it up.
Transferred 1 Raven's feather Loquatius Laerryn Offered to Laerryn in lieu of a ring when Loquatius proposed to her.
Transferred 1 Pact boon talisman Loquatius Cerrit Adds a d4 to a failed skill check. Tossed to Cerrit in the final moments of the city of Avalir.

Trivia

  • Vespin Chloras stated that he was a malconvoker. That was a "Prestige Class"[9] in Dungeons and Dragons 3.5, the focus of which was on summoning infernal creatures and binding/dominating them without being an evil alignment themselves. One of its features was 'Deceitful Bargaining' where the player tricked evil creatures into thinking their interests aligned so as to bind them. Potentially, this is why in his moment of clarity, Vespin was able to partially change the term of Zerxus's bargain with Asmodeus.
    • This continues a pattern of using spells and lore from earlier editions of D&D to denote lost knowledge from the Age of Arcanum. For example, Halas Lutagran's spellbook contained Trap the Soul, a spell which appeared in the 2nd and 3rd editions of D&D.
  • During the four-episode run of Exandria Unlimited: Calamity, the border of the overlays on the show progressively displayed more and more damage.[10]

References

  1. See "Fire and Ruin" (E3x04) at 6:05:23.
  2. See "Fire and Ruin" (E3x04) at 58:26.
  3. See "Fire and Ruin" (E3x04) at 1:00:42.
  4. See "Fire and Ruin" (E3x04) at 1:59:08.
  5. See "Fire and Ruin" (E3x04) at 3:12:20.
  6. See "Fire and Ruin" (E3x04) at 5:37:26.
  7. See "Fire and Ruin" (E3x04) at 5:34:06.
  8. See "Fire and Ruin" (E3x04) at 6:04:33.
  9. See "Prestige Classes" on the Forgotten Realms Wiki, and "Malconvoker" on dnd-wiki.org.
  10. See the tweet from the artist confirming that this was intentional, and done at the direction of Kyle Shire.

Art:

  1. Official art of Avalir aflame, by Clara (source). Used with permission.
  2. Fan art of Zerxus and Evandrin, by Elaine Tipping (source). Used with permission.
  3. Fan art of Patia, by @lolthies (source). Used with permission.
  4. Fan art of Nydas, the sphinx, and the taxmen attacking, by Lap Pun Cheung (source). Used with permission.
  5. Photograph of the Astral Leywright, with art by Joanna Johnen and @iamjasonchadwick on Instagram, from Critical Role's Tweet.
  6. Fan art of Laerryn and Loquatius, at the end, by Ace Newland (source). Used with permission.
  7. Fan art of Cerrit's escape, by Lap Pun Cheung (source). Used with permission.
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