Warning: this post may contain spoilers for the “Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus” 5e module.
Horns flew towards the site of the battle between Zariel, Archduke of Avernus, and Graz’zt, Lord of Azzatar, but didn’t enter the melee. Instead, he wild shaped into a giant gorilla and tore up chunks of heavy debris from the shattered landscape and hurled them at the demonic prince.
Meanwhile, confusion spread through most of the occupants of the Anti-Chrysler, and the group was conflicted about whether they should return to the very dangerous combat in order to retrieve Horns or whether they should just leave him behind. OneShoe’s conscience got the better of her, so she once again turned the demon grinder around.
Then, every member of the Menagerie was sharply torn away from their realities. Each of them found themselves alone in an endless black void. From the darkness spoke two voices to each person.
From their left came an authoritative feminine voice, sharp with fury. It offered each of them the same deal: “I offer you immediate power. It will be yours from now until the end of your days. In return, you will aid me now in this fight against Graz’zt, and then in the far future when your life has naturally come to its conclusion, your soul will come into my possession."
Simultaneously, a bassy, velvety, masculine voice issued forth upon their right: “I know that Zariel is trying to broker a deal with you. Side with me instead and I’ll double her offer, no strings attached."
Though feebleminded, Grey’s instincts told him that neither of these voices could be trusted, and he bared his teeth at the darkness in defiance. OneShoe knew immediately that neither of these beings were to be trusted, and she opted out immediately. Finn shrunk away from both voices, defending herself with an anxiety attack. Horns railed against Graz’zt, but asked the voice of Zariel if it was possible for him to agree to such a deal given that his soul is already the possession of Levistus; she responded in the negative. (Retroactively, Zed politely declined both offers and Grale said “fuck no.")
Val said yes to Graz’zt.
The experience ended for all the party at once, and no time had passed upon Avernus. Within the cargo hold, a surge of energy coursed through Val, healing her wounds, restoring her abilities, and making her jacked AF.
From within the cargo bay, she noticed the changing velocities and direction of the demon grinder; spurred partially by that information and partially by a new desire to help Graz’zt against his enemies, she returned to the deck of the Anti-Chrysler. When OneShoe explained her decision, Val spoke out against it, but the gnome was determined to stay her course. Val tried to wrest the steering column out of OneShoe, but she was too fast for the elf and countered by inflicting possibly the most powerful of wedgies ever seen on Avernus; you see, Val’s the type of person who goes commando, so OneShoe scouted for and discovered an undergarment (a banana hammock belonging to Zed just happened to be lying around the helm of the Anti-Chrysler), properly applied it to Val’s nethers, and stretched it cartoonishly up Val’s back and over the top of her head - all in the fraction of a second that it took Val to try and take control of the vehicle.
In anger, then, Val thunderwaved OneShoe. Black tendrils of power lashed out all around her and flung the gnome almost off the demon grinder entirely, and she crashed down onto the back of the devil’s ride (a docking mechanism had been modified so that the motorcyle could be attached to the demon grinder and come along with the party when nobody was driving it). Wounded in so many ways, OneShoe decided that she needed to leave the group. After a brief conversation with Lulu (who had taken up residence in the cargo bay), the two of them properly seated themselves on the devil’s ride, yanked the quick-release, and sped away.
Zariel was proving herself to be the victor in this engagement once more, and before she discorporated him Graz’zt was able to tear open a black, planar gash. Inky, shadowy tendrils lashed out from the pitch-black rip, assaulting Zariel and anyone else who happened to get too close. Yet despite Graz’zt’s defeat and expulsion from Avernus, Val’s urge to slay Zariel and her followers didn’t wane. She turned the demon grinder upon Horns, trying to crush him beneath its brutal wheels.
Grale recovered from his absent-player NPC stupor and addressed Val, demanding that she explain her behaviors. The conversation became more and more heated as Val’s newfound power and its source clashed with Grale’s lifelong opposition to demons and his current lack of empathy and heightened selfishness.
Gimble had left, and OneShoe and Lulu were doing the same; Zed and Bullwinkle were still under the sway of the NPC stupor; Horns was exploring his loyalty to Zariel and engaged in combat with the unknown entity beyond the rift, and Grey was still under the effects of the feeblemind spell; Grale was infected with the pervasive evil of the Nine Hells, and Val was drunk with Abyssal power and a conviction that labeled members of the Menagerie as enemies.
With Grale and Val mere seconds away from a lethal throwdown, the only person with a chance at defusing the situation was Finn.
Finn was the adult.
As Val drew power into herself in preparation of blight, Finn interposed herself between the two and shouted at them to stop fighting. Her voice was the only thing able to cut through the violent miasma clouding Val’s mind, and in a brief moment of clarity she was able to reign herself in for just a moment; just long enough to ask if Finn would come with her to make a call. Finn agreed, and before her gathered spell could be released upon Grale, Val changed its purposed and cast investiture of wind upon herself, picked up Finn, and flew away.
Val brought out her sending stone and called Master Elian. Between her and Finn, they were able to convery to him the events of the recent moments, and he reacted with shock and disappointment. He told Val that while deals with devils are dangerous but potentially navigable, deals with demons are completely unreliable. There’s no contractual obligation that demons follow, and they’re free to lie and cheat and swindle as much as they want. Val’s new lack of conscience didn’t see why this might be a problem, until Elian pointed out that it was entirely within Graz’zt’s power to take control of her body, shunt her consciousness into a tiny closet, and make her watch as she slaughters her friends and family and pulls her own intestines out from her stomach with her own hands, laughing as she does so.
Elian told her that there was probably not much chance of Val being able to free herself from Graz’zt’s influence, but if she manages to make it back to Neverwinter before things go horribly wrong, a concerted effort by several of the mages at the university could purge his demonic influence. Until then, because both Val and Elian recognize that she’s intelligent, the best modus operandi would be to defer all conscientious decision-making to Finn, effectively turning Finn into Val’s Jiminy Cricket.
Meanwhile, Horns returned to his tiefling form at the behest of Zariel, and the two of them hurled spell after spell into the rift, eventually closing it. In exchange for his assistance, she gave him a pouch containing eight soul coins. They had a few moments to talk; Horns asked her if her ring was lost, and she told him that she didn’t lose it, but rather that she just didn’t need or want it any longer. At the end of it, she mentioned that she would be glad to have him back in her legion, and then took off into the sky.
Zed too returned from his NPC stupor, and the party slowly reconvened aboard the Anti-Chrysler. With Finn’s guidance, Val was able to not murder any of the group, and they decided that they should try and seek out OneShoe. The demon grinder drove off in OneShoe’s last known direction, and the party decided to take a long rest (with Bullwinkle at the wheel) so that, once refreshed, they could start doing something about the various afflictions suffered by the party.
First, Horns cast greater restoration on Grey, and was able to free him from the feeblemind spell. He then also greater resto’d Val, which was able to dispel the madness that Graz’zt had bestowed upon her (not the pact for power, of course, just the effects of the kiss). Those two castings were all he could manage for a while, needing time to recuperate those energies, so it next fell to Val to greater resto Grale and cleanse Avernus' pervasive evil from the half-orc. Val turned to Finn for moral guidance… and Finn only shrugged, not seeing a problem with Grale being evil.
Zed studied Finn closely, and concluded that her behavior was very similar to when she had turned evil before, so he used his single casting of greater restoration from his necklace of prayer beads and restored her moral compass. Thus recovered, Finn advocated for Val to fix up Grale; she did so, and finally the Menagerie was altogether back to normal.
Not counting OneShoe, of course, who had gone rogue, and still had eyestalks, a tail, and a second head.
Oh, and Val was still supercharged on Abyssal juice and constantly suppressing a gentle suggestion to visit war upon Zariel and her followers.