The party first has to figure out how to get into Malfeas, survive in Malfeas and get back out of Malfeas. Chelsea still has the equipment from the hell-portal she stole, so getting in or out could be just a matter of using it correctly, but there is also the option to travel five days through the desert wearing green, which is also considered. As for surviving, Grey needs some type of survival gear, and none seems forthcoming. Blake is also injured, so she may need to rest before they can begin.
Out of the desert, TJ arrives, eager to see that the party has survived. When he learns of their mission, his face falls, but he volunteers to get the party what they need. He says he will steal what they need, though he will undoubtedly get thrown in prison as well, he will also be cleared if they succeed in their mission. He heads into the portal to Yu-Shan, and some hours later, Rocky the Jokkun emerges from underground, carrying a glass of Celestial Wine for Blake and a Mayfly Mask for Grey. He wishes them good luck and sinks back down underground.
Plans are discussed, debated, and settled. The Crimson Gale is wreathed in green banners, and everyone wears green, and it sets sail low over the desert. While in transit Chelsea takes time to explain to everyone essentially everything she knows: the Ebon Dragon has a bride, identity unknown, that he is keeping in a palace that is being built in Malfeas. This bride is somehow integral to the invasion plans, and she is guarded by Infernal Exalted, the same sort of being that Chelsea is. She explains that there are demons of various calibers, as well as Akuma which are humans or Exalted of Creation that have sold themselves to the Yozis. She also warns about the weather, which is quite hellish, and that if night falls it’s the Ebon Dragon passing overhead.
After five days the Demon City becomes visible in the distance, its clamor and green sunlight unnaturally chilling to behold. Everyone dismounts and Edelweiss turns the ship around and leaves them behind. Grey has summoned a wind elemental to provide their loud noise for them to prevent the arrival of the Silent Wind, and as they enter the outermost layer of the Demon City, they can see many eyes watching them from the shadows. Chelsea knows the general location of the palace, and it’s quite some distance from here (several hundred miles) so Grey casts Azure Chariot to transport the entire party to the forest Szoreny near the palace (Blake has to hide in Sam’s shadow in order to fit everyone). They blaze through the sky, through several layers of the Demon City until they arrive in the forest of mirrors.
As they arrive and disembark, Sam uses Observer Awareness Method and notes they are being watched by something hidden in the forest. After localizing it, Chelsea uses her Spy Eye to see the observer, a demon with dark skin and bird legs with silver spikes for hair and silver eyes. She identifies it as Darake, the Stubborn Walker, Warden Soul of Naz-pherat. Grey realizes this sounds familiar and points out from the Scroll of Limbs that Darake is a component of the same demon that also spawned Minajikin, Thelonious and Altonellis. The party resolves to just head towards the city, noticing that there are massive hoof-shaped pools of silver in this forest.
Txori’s hearing and Sam’s earth sense tell them that Darake can jump into the silver pools and travel between them, soon appearing before them trying to act very impressive. His brash yet amiable demeanor is a bit odd for the party to experience, and when they say they have business at the palace (they are passing as cultists in servitude to one of Chelsea’s disguises) Darake says he has business there as well and follows along. They soon learn why he is called the Stubborn Walker, as he plows straight through buildings on his way there, leaving a massive trail of rubble for the party to pick through.
A massive stone stands in their way and Darake again just walks through it, carving a circular tunnel into the stone. Once the party follows him in, about halfway through the entrance collapses, and Sam can detect they are not alone. A deep, sinister voice greets them and suggests they light the space, noting that it knows Chelsea’s true identity. Chelsea then lights the area with her anima, revealing the cloaked black frame of Naz-pherat, the Collector of Fear, wreathed in purple flicking flames and with skeletal hands caressing a scythe. Naz-pherat reveals that he embodies Isidoros’s suspicion, and he loathes the Ebon Dragon for the suspicion he arouses for all his many double-dealing tricks over the millennia. Naz-pherat wants to know what the Ebon Dragon’s plans are but he and all his souls have been locked out, even forced into servitude for the invasion plans. He has been watching the party through the eyes of the Zolanski demons that Minajikin creates, and he wishes them to learn what the Ebon Dragon has in store for Isidoros.
Txori extracts a promise that if they provide this information they will be given safe passage out of the Demon City, and so a bargain is struck. The plan is for the Stubborn Walker to create the necessary diversion to enter the palace. Naz-pherat also warns that he is aware that Telessandra seeks vengeance against them for destroying her Mortal Market, and has sent a slave against them. He will be known by the clockwork construction where his heart should be.
Sam boosts everyone’s stealth abilities so they are well-placed to take advantage of the distraction. The Stubborn Walker walks directly into the palace wall, causing several demons to confront him, then two Infernals (one of which is a pale man with spidery golden veins and black hair who Chelsea seems to viscerally loathe) and finally a mysterious being in the shadow. Darake seems to care not a whit, even claiming that “Imma let you finish, but Berengiere has the most beautiful voice of all time!” before he gets thrown out on his ass. While this is happening the party slips into the palace, snooping through the hallways (with Angyalkae harpists piping music through the entire building, their elemental is now silent as they are). Little is learned from the outer rooms except for a room stocked with lies, including many reports of Chelsea’s death. After essence is recovered, the heart of the building is next.
Through a combination of detection abilities and Sam’s odd intuition of the layout, it is determined that the well-guarded stairs lead up to the second, third and fifth floors, but only a secret passageway can lead to the fourth floor and it is guarded by blood apes that need never sleep or eat. Sam successfully opens the secret door without triggering the pit trap. Chelsea kills the first two demons on the first floor through the wall with her mind powers, then Txori bursts up the stairs and puts five arrows into the four blood apes, killing them all. The party then enters the mysterious fourth floor, finding all their detection abilities struggling to penetrate it.
The fourth floor has clean, simple rooms with pictures on the walls of various Realm Dynasts, rendered as hellish versions of themselves, in a manner very upsetting to Sam. Snooping down the hallways, the party finds their vision, hearing, and smell are all impaired as though through fog, but intelligence is gathered from a number of Akuma/Infernal Realm Dynasts scheming to ignite civil war, possibly involving Sam’s gathering might in the South. This is marginally useful, but doesn’t carry the true importance they need. Down another hallway, they party finds another Dynast, this one obviously very important and powerful, surrounded by various large mirrors hammered upright into the floor. Txori rapidly deduces that she is having a negotiation session with Szoreny, the Silver Forest, and that the negotiation is not going well for Szoreny. He is failing to secure any concessions for his friend Isidoros, which the party notes with interest.
Since neither of these two rooms is passable while occupied, the party begins considering ways to get deeper into this complex, and finally a plan is devised. Txori writes a letter to the various Dynasts of middling importance, ostensibly from the negotiator, with a suggestion on how to improve their plans. There is a secret message hidden within this letter suggesting that the Dynasts should bring their own suggestions to her own negotiation. Chelsea slides the letter under the door using her telekinesis, and Drax shadows the gaggle of Dynasts as they soon come eagerly out the door to share their insight with the clearly more important Dynast. One of the obviously inexperienced politicos wonders aloud to his peers how to get Szoreny to agree to the execution of Isidoros’s Fetich, which earns him a savage smack from one of his peers. Txori’s ears perk up and her understanding of the negotiations she was perceiving becomes much more nuanced.
Soon the party is in the room previously occupied by the Dynasts, with a wealth of information on the fomenting of civil war within their grasp. Joshua begins composing a dense, coded Infallible Messenger for Grey to send to one of his superiors on which Realm patricians and nobles need to be executed by demon hunters, while Sam, Blake and Chelsea scout ahead through one of the two doors out of the room. The shroud that limits all perception is becoming stronger, necessitating a closer approach to the next room down another hallway, and on the other side of that door there is a powerful warrior that Chelsea recognizes as Decapitator Jones, wearing a massive sword carrying an eyeball on his back. He is idly dictating letters and discussing strategies with two robed cultists.
Backing up, the group scouts the other hallway, finding a room with two humans and two Blood Apes playing a game of cards. Blake identifies the two humans as powerful, and one matches the description of Chelsea’s ex. Both this room and the other have but one other door, leading perhaps towards the same destination.
The party regroups, and is becoming concerned about the Dynasts returning soon as Drax returns, so they hatch a plan to get into Decapitator Jones’s room. Everyone piles into the hallway and it is plain to see that the Dynasts were not very successful, lacking two of their number (they deduce these two were executed by the other Dynast, one being the loose-lipped novice). Now to get past Decapitator Jones silently, Sam transforms himself into Amber Veins, Chelsea’s ex, while Chelsea hides the rest of the party on the ceiling above the door. “Amber Veins” walks in and successfully bluffs Decapitator Jones into changing his guard assignment to watching the negotiator, claiming she’s been “at it again”. The eyeball on the sword is staring intensely at “Amber Veins” but Decapitator Jones seems not to notice, nor does he notice as the sword’s eyeball is fixed on the party on the ceiling as he struts down the hallway, through the door, terrorizing the Dynasts before slouching off to guard duty.
“Amber Veins” distracts the two cultists while Txori and Chelsea execute them, then their bodies are stuffed into a filing cabinet while Joshua rifles through more of these documents (all apparently various directives meant to be sent to various operatives in Creation and throughout Malfeas). The party then scouts through the next hallway, finding the fog becoming almost intolerably thick. At the next door, the Spy-Eye, hearing, and smell are barely functioning, but are able to penetrate into the room, which is a large war room filled with 3rd Circle Demons, Akuma, and Infernals. Demons are occasionally entering and leaving through several large hell-portals in the room, and the tables are filled with maps and charts. Everyone takes a turn with the Spy-Eye and Sam sees something impossible: the Scarlet Empress herself, dressed in regal finery and wearing an enormous diamond engagement ring, plotting the invasion of Creation.
What. The. Hell?
The party observes with strained patience to see how the operation works, and notes that there is a strange purple-black orb on the ceiling which is producing the miasma that is filling the entire floor. It appears to obscure detection of all kinds, making the various conversations within the room private, so that they cannot be eavesdropped on at all. Nevertheless, things are getting written down and various cultists are taking them out of the doors to be carried out. One such cultist is approaching the party’s door with a stack of papers, so everyone hustles back into the room, and Sam takes on the appearance of Decapitator Jones, holding the cultist’s attention until he is in the room, at which point Chelsea grapples him with her telekinesis. A highly involved questioning session ensues, with Joshua and Chelsea both capable of laying his secrets bare.
From their questioning, as well as Chelsea’s ability to question inanimate objects (including the papers he was carrying), the party finally learns the true horrible plan of the Ebon Dragon. There is soon (at the upcoming Calibration) to be a great wedding at the steps of the palace they are currently in. At this wedding, the Fetich Soul of Isidoros will be ritually sacrificed, and Isidoros will become something new. Currently a great unstoppable black boar, upon the death of his Fetich he will twist the skies into something new, changing and warping in nature so as to twist a path into Creation from Malfeas that any demon could make with a single step. Thus the invasion will begin, and with the Realm already in chaos, Creation will not stand a chance.
Chelsea is now feverishly praying to Naz-Pherat, expecting that he will receive her prayers and be alerted to his suspicions being correct. When asked if the cultist has any further use, he confirms that he does, because he has not yet shared that the miasma that fills these rooms becomes more dense and entangling the more fear those within have, and will grind any attempt to flee to a halt. They have no escape. Chelsea determines at this point to treat the head and neck as separate objects.
Now realizing the full gravity of their situation, the party concludes they must flee through one of the hell-portals. Chelsea has the necessary equipment to change its destination to their starting point and can probably be disguised as a cultist. The question remains, however, what to do about this invasion. Will telling the Sidereals be enough? Everyone concludes that no, that’s not good enough, this plan has to be sabotaged. So they have a new Best Plan Ever: Steal the Scarlet Empress.
After a lot of feverish preparation and planning, the plan is executed. Chelsea enters first as a cultist, along with Grey and Txori, wearing cultist robes and carrying papers. Chelsea gets to work on a hell-portal while Txori keeps watch. Sam enters, still disguised as Decapitator Jones, with Blake still in his shadow (where she’s been for this entire trip) and Drax now merged into the shadow as well. Joshua enters last, as another cultist. Just as an Infernal from across the room notices something odd about Sam (presumably possessing Magic Vision), Chelsea completes the portal (despite Felhart now screaming in her ears) and moves Blake’s Shade Prison Amulet along the floor to this suspicious Infernal, breaking it right under her foot. Instantly, fifteen Hungry Ghosts manifest themselves, savagely mauling the Infernal and creating an enormous ruckus.
Sam, on cue, snatches the Scarlet Empress’s ring right off her finger, while Blake emerges from Sam’s shadow and executes an absolutely perfect choke hold and drags her through the portal back into Creation. Sam and Grey follow, with Txori blasting to Iconic Anima shooting arrows around slaughtering several Infernals, and Chelsea splattering some blood on the walls in the shape of the Dragon Fractal. Joshua, being last, punches the floor so hard it shatters the entire level of the building, leaping through the portal at just the right instant so that nothing is left in his wake but collapsing rubble.
Blake, Sam, Grey, Txori, Chelsea, Joshua, and the kidnapped Scarlet Empress are now standing in the desert, in front of a portal to hell that immediately flickers out, and gets smashed a moment later.