The arena is tucked between two huge roots of Yggdrasil (which serve as the stands), which wrap around a huge tree stump. In the space between the roots and the stump are hundreds upon thousands of discarded weapons of every shape and size. As the party take their place in the arena atop September the Elephant, the starting horn sounds and the battle begins!
September charges Kostchtchie, the exasperated demon lord letting out a roar of frustration as his adamantine maul appears in his hand. He charges forward, swinging his weapon over his head. September's tusks jab into his body, but she is struck in the ribs by his maul with a meaty crack. Jimothy Jones runs up Kostchtchie's arm and strikes at him with Corpsebane, but the giant is faster than he appears. The demon lord grabs the paladin by his plume and swings him into Rorik Law like a humanoid flail. He gloats over them, but suddenly, an invisible Mye-kuhl Jancer 'Misty Steps' into the air over Kostchtchie's head, and slam-dunks the egg-phylactery directly onto the forehead. The giant swats at the necrodancer, but the half-elf evades, causing Kostchtchie to facepalm, driving the needle holding his own mortal soul into the flesh. His eyes go wide as it snaps, releasing a pulse of energy that spreads across the entire arena.
As Jancer lands, he hears Iggwilv let out an angry "No…!", and gives the witch a wink. Kostchtchie himself is stunned, and is only snapped out of it by a huge spear, animated by Brublind, that snakes its way out of one of the piles and propels itself through the giant's ankle, dropping him to a knee. Jimothy and Rorik recover, and remember something crucial if they want to win this match. Jimothy holds out a fist, and Rorik fist bumps him.
Kostchtchie bares down on them, shouting that they aren't worthy of being called "Bros", and that he's going to shove their fists up the other's ass when he's done with them. They heckle the demon lord, pointing out that only someone with some repressed sexuality issues would go there. Kostchtchie's face goes red and he catches both them and September with his maul, sending them all spiraling into a pile of weapons.
Brublind casts 'Fly' on himself to get a better angle on the fight as he commands his animated weapons (the huge spear and two small swords) to attack. Kostchtchie is enraged at the sight of his own blood pouring out of these wounds hot and red (rather than freezing over), and grabs Brublind out of the air by his frog leg, smashing him down to the ground. If not for his natural slaad regeneration, the transmuter would be done for then and there.
Meanwhile, Jancer levels the Wand of Wonder at the demon lord, and a circle of overgrown grass sprouts out of the ground around his foe, grabbing at his feet. As he prepares to send off another spell, he suddenly realizes that he's been surrounded by a field of magical force, and turns to see Iggwilv pointing her finger at him with a murderous grin.
September stands up, battered and bloody, rusty weapons impaled through her body, and lets out a vengeful trumpet blast as she charges Kostchtchie again. With an "OH YEAH!", the giant goes into a sumo stance. September's tusks stab into the warlord, but he yanks them back out, and tosses her by the tusks back onto Jimothy and Rorik. Her broken body evaporates into scintillating lights as Jimothy heals Rorik and himself, and the duo stand back up.
"WHY WON'T YOU STAY DEAD?!"
Jancer tests a few things to try and escape Iggwilv's 'Forcecage', but to no effect. He draws his githyanki silver sword however, and finds that the psychic steel of the blade can disrupt the magical energy, even if only briefly. He slices open a rift in the cage large enough for him to slip through, and lets out a triumphant laugh as he uses 'Danse Macabre' to raise five skeleton warriors using bones scattered throughout the nearby weapon piles. Iggwilv glares at him.
The skeletons swarm Kostchtchie alongside Brublind's animated arsenal, hacking and stabbing away at the demon lord, who, so lost in his battle-rage, barely even notices. Jimothy and Rorik leap back into the fray a moment later as well, with the paladin delivering a thunderous smite to the fiend's weakened leg, causing the bone within to snap.
"ENOUGH! You little tagnuts are getting on my nerves. You wanna play with the big boys? I'll show you playing with the big boys… THIS. IS. OVER!"
Kostchtchie slams his hammer on the ground with as much strength and hatred as he can muster behind it, shaking the earthberg to its very foundations. Several of Jancer's skeletons shake themselves apart, and both Rorik and Jimothy collapse back to death's door.
Jancer falls on his bony butt, and whips out the Wand of Wonder again. He feels power building up inside of it as it begins to tick and whir. He channels a 'Blight' spell through the wand, which causes Kostchtchie's body to tense, and his enormous muscles to suddenly begin atrophying as the necrotic energy of the attack is MAXIMIZED. The demon lord's loincloth falls off, too large for his newly bony frame. Brublind is back in the air and safe from the earthquake after being helped up by Pleedleplop ("I know that you can do this, my friend!"), and does his best to retaliate using his animated weapons, the spear firing up into Kostchtchie's back and out through his chest. The transmuter flies down with Iggwilv's stolen headboard (the witch is visibly confused as to why he has it), and smacks the demon lord on the ass with it.
"What—What did you DO to me, you prissy little freak…?!"
Kostchtchie tears the spear from his chest and snaps it over his leg, tossing the tip at Brublind and sending him hurtling back to earth. The giant finds that he's too weak to even lift his maul, and is utterly dumbfounded.
Behind him, a blood-soaked Rorik struggles back to his feet. His breastplate and helmet look more like a crushed soda can than proper armor. A few of his weapons are just as twisted by the impacts he sustained. He doesn't need them though. He undoes his sword belt and lets it drop to the ground. He can't feel his left arm, but his right arm still works fine. As he limps, his eyes locked on Kostchtchie, the sword tattoo he got from Fell slinks around his body and down to his palm, where it materializes as an inky, black shadow blade.
He slashes the backs of Kostchtchie's knees with the blade, sending the demon lord to his knees.
"I'm Kostchtchie. I… I can't lose."
Rorik steps up behind his foe, and drives the blade home at the base of the giant's skull.
"You just did."
There is a pregnant silence as Kostchtchie's corpse collapses to the ground, and Rorik collapses unconscious on top of him. Suddenly, the audience lets out a roar of approval for the new champions of the Ysgard Invitational!
Jancer's skeletons lift him up onto their shoulders as he basks in the adulation of the crowd.
Iggwilv's face contorts with rage at her pet demon's defeat. "No… NO. NO!"
A sickly green ray of crackling energy fires from her finger at Jancer, who quickly casts 'Counterspell'. While he blocks the brunt of the blow, it hits all the same, and Jancer feels magical energy tearing at the very fabric of his being, even worse than the sudden necrosis he experienced a few months ago. Iggwilv prepares another spell to finish the necrodancer off. There is a flash of light…!
Suddenly, towering over the two spellcasters is a figure—HEIMDALL.
The watcher god stares down at Iggwilv in silence. As the witch-queen turns to cast a spell in his direction, Heimdall blows his horn, and Iggwilv's body is blown apart by the blast.
Jancer notices that there is something… off about it all though. There is no flesh or blood when the deafening sound finally ceases… only snow. This Iggwilv was a simulacrum! As the crowd carries the victorious champions off and the celebrations begin, they are left to wonder about the implications.
As word of the party's stunning victory over Kostchtchie in the Ysgard Invitational spreads, people from all over converge on Himinbjorg for the week-long celebrations that follow. Brublind, Jancer, and Pleedleplop party while Jimothy and Rorik recuperate.
Our goliath paladin finds himself sitting in an art studio, completely naked, doing a "Thinker Pose" on a stool at the center of a circle of aspiring painters. They work hard trying to capture every nick and scar on his impressive frame, especially the glowing wound left by his martyrdom in the name of Ilmater three months ago.
Time is called, and the artists show their work off to Jimothy. The teacher, a gnome with a moustache like the end of an old paintbrush, thanks the goliath for modeling for them, and the class gives him a round of applause. The teacher tells Jimmy to mark his words, these portraits of him will hang in some of the finest establishments in the planes, "right beside the works of Renbuu and Nolzur", as artistic testaments to what a paladin can and should be. Jimothy is happy to have participated, telling the gnome that Ilmater smiles on few more than "the suffering artist".
Laying in a cushy bed stacked high with animal furs, Jancer reclines in a power pose beside Hilda, a freckled shieldmaiden, her finely-muscled frame covered in scars that only serve to accentuate her natural warrior beauty. She draws circles with her finger on the necrodancer's chest, and tells him that she is glad to see that his vigor on the battlefield is matched in the bedchamber, as is his skill with the sword.
He smirks, "I gotta admit, you ain't bad yourself, baby. You really know how to work a bone."
Jancer looks over to his opposite side, where his three skeletons are laying beside him, exhausted. They give each other a thumbs up before he turns back to the shieldmaiden. Hilda tells Jancer that she hopes to one day fight by his side, and gifts him a Horn of Valhalla to make this dream a reality, as the horn can be used to call her and the einherjar forth into battle, wherever it may be fought.
"Ooh honey, I had no idea you were so horny!"
While out and about with Pleedleplop, Brublind is approached by a drunken group of warriors. They are not happy to see a slaad, and say that they only beat Kostchtchie because he did not have his mount, Fafnir, with him. Pleedleplop steps in to defend his friend, but Brublind puts a webbed hand on the kuo-toa's shoulder and tells him not to worry. The transmuter 'Reduces' the lead warrior. and a bar brawl suddenly breaks out. Brublind and Pleedle mop the floor with these drunks, and are given drinks on the house!
A familiar song drifts into the darkness Rorik Law has known since falling unconscious after slaying Kostchtchie—a simple tune his mother used to sing to him when he was a boy. In all of the crazy adventures he's gotten himself into since meeting the party, his mind has been far away from home.
He opens his eyes to beautiful light filtering down through the leaves of a canopy overhead, warming his face. To one side, he sees Breezy's smiling face looking at him. Behind her is a pile of books, stacked neatly in the meadow of flowers and soft grass he finds himself laid out upon.
"Am… am I in heaven?"
Ash tells him that his lady friend thought he might enjoy somewhere a bit more quiet to recuperate, so the dryad offered to set him up at her grove outside of town. He's been out for six days, and Breezy hasn't left his side once in all that time. The books were brought by some of his adoring fans, who were just as impressed as she was that he took out Kostchtchie despite his debilitating injuries. Rorik notices that vines are wrapped around him like bandages, and he can't feel his left arm at all. Ash explains that it was so thoroughly destroyed by the demon lord's assault that he'll never be able to use it again.
The words stab deeper than any blade, but Breezy grabs his right hand with her own remaining hand and clutches it tight. He looks at her and smiles. If there's anything she's taught him in the time since they met, it's that nothing is impossible.
On the seventh day of celebration, in recognition of Conkord, the holy day of the god of strength and athleticism, the party are called forth to the high hall of Himinbjorg for the tournament award ceremony. Each of them are granted a champion's belt with a stylized image of Yggdrasil on the buckle, and Brublind is given the transmutation segment of the Rod of Seven Parts, carved with the word 'CAELUM', which the architect recognizes as meaning "chisel". Rorik is also given a Bag of Beans by a group of myconids, who he recognizes as being the singers that he woke up to the day before. They say nothing to him, only bowing their caps before departing.
Afterwards, the party heads down to the arena grounds and find Kostchtchie's body, which appears to have turned into some kind of grotesque ice sculpture. Breezy helps Rorik up to it, and together the Black Antlers heave the sculpture over and shatter it as it smashes into the ground.
"That was for all of the scholars you murdered."
Pleedleplop points forward to the horizon with a triumphant smile, "And you're NEXT, Demogorgon!"
Returning to Sigil along the Bifrost that evening, the party meet with Shemeshka the Marauder in her private box at a fancy-pants theatre. She isn't watching the performance, too enamored with her own reflection it seems. The party close their deal with her as Rorik imparts the secret he retrieved from Graz'zt's palace.
As they're leaving, they bump into a squirrelly tiefling playwright named Witigan dos Avnos, who admits that she is a big fan, having heard all sorts of stories about their adventures. She takes them out to The Flying Ostrich, and treats them to dinner in exchange for an interview. They embellish their tales of course, though Rorik tries his best to tell the complete truth. Jimothy also arm-wrestles and beats the orc bartender.
The next day, the party head through a portal that deposits them a few miles from Kalfsgate. It's been a month since most of them saw home, and they are looking forward to some rest and relaxation. Rorik opens up his Bag of Beans and pops one in his mouth along the way, and suddenly, tree roots sprout from his shoulder and wrap around his dead arm. The arm begins moving, and like a sock puppet, talks to him. The beans have caused a treant to sprout from his arm! He is a little disturbed, but names it "Gerald". Amazed and believing the beans might also help Breezy get a new hand, he gives her one, but it doesn't seem to do anything when she eats it. She shrugs.
The sky overhead darkens, and what looks like snow suddenly begins falling.
"Damn frost giants… we killed their boss, can't they just leave us—"
Up ahead, they spot an entire forest of towering mushrooms rising from the ground as far as the eye can see. It's not snow… it's spores.
"Ooh, Sporp-baby, you are in so much trouble!"
Not seeing much choice, the party continue into the overgrowth…