Here There Be Science; Here There Be Dragons!

Chapter 11: Madness Incarcerated

Throughout this adventure in space, time, and scientific fantasy, one player character has retained a constant presence from start to finish: our prideful and intellectual alchemist, BetterBorn. Imagine a superior mind, emboldened with perpetual pride and vigor, that initially set out to be the best and brightest metalworker in the nation. Imagine such a mind taking part in the slaying of dragons, giants, and confronting other intellectual foes—such as the dethroned god of tyranny himself—all in the midst of the tremendous psychic strain that can accompany travel through the many planes of existence.

Sometime between the party’s victory over the giants in Reptilla Cave and the time they arrived in Leo‘s mansion to report, something snapped in BetterBorn’s mind. As Leo expressed his gratitude to the players for once again saving his village, BetterBorn spoke up.

“Leo,” he said, a grave expression on his face, “I want to give you something, something to help you protect this village.” BetterBorn took out a piece of black cloth, a portable hole, in which he has been storing the quarter of a million gold pieces he pilfered from Reem’s cave. He transferred his wealth onto Leo’s desk. As if in reaction to Leo’s (and the other party members’) expressions of shock, BetterBorn said, “Take this. Protect Wozington. Build it up to greatness. I no longer have any need for it.” After he said these words, BetterBorn took off his hat, made by Pith especially for him, and placed it on Leo’s desk as well. With a low bow, BetterBorn takes his leave of Leo. The rest of the party, still confused, left shortly afterwards.

The players, encouraged by their victory in Reptilla Cave, decide to explore the Western Fortress, believing that some other monster has taken residence there. They all leave for the fortress except for Bran, who decides to stay with Leo, a fellow paladin, to help around the village and to learn more about what Leo might know about deities such as Moradin and Asmodeus. The rest of the party, Nobu, Rahm, Jerome, and BetterBorn, arrive six hours later at the Western Fortress.

BetterBorn and Jerome still remember the last time they explored this area, and the party set out to search every room like before. Overall, the fortress had been left just the way it was when Elphabon was dragged out nearly two years ago (even though it only felt like a few short weeks ago for BetterBorn and Jerome). A few tiktoks and other objects were moved around a bit, however, hinting to the possibility of a new inhabitant.

The party arrives on the second floor, in the same room where Elphabon was found the first time. In the drow’s absence, a new foe has taken residence: Aryan. The black dragonborn was sincerely surprised to see the familiar adventurers, remembering that he had banished them to Mechanus. Aryan did not divulge exactly what he planned to do in the fortress, but he did make it clear that after the death of Arkan the Black Dragon, he has come to serve Asmodeus. With that, the players begin their attack.

This is where BetterBorn’s burgeoning madness becomes truly manifest. As Nobu and Rahm begin to make melee and magical attacks against Aryan, BetterBorn begins to attack them! Using his bind, spike, and other spells, he deliberately gets in the way of the other players.

Unbeknownst to any of the other characters, Jerome’s mind has suffered in similar ways to BetterBorn, but only because he came from a background of evil. Now, in this chaos of hero against hero, he chooses to succumb to his chaotic and evil nature. With his shotel and his cursed claws, he turns against Nobu and Rahm as well. As Aryan fights and sees this chaos, he becomes legitimately confused. He is not accustomed to the sight of good heroes and adventurers turning against their own.

Even so, Aryan feels that he is in danger. He soon snaps a finger to summon a beholder (a large, floating, spherical creature with one eye, a toothy maw, and a dozen tentacles that end in more eyeballs) which comes crashing through the stone walls of the fortress a few seconds later. The beholder’s large eye dispels any magic in the room, and sends eye rays that can shock, disintegrate, and confuse.

As the chaos unfolds, BetterBorn and Jerome turn to Aryan, each giving a small bow before BetterBorn says, "Surely we have proved ourselves worthy to join you in the service of Asmodeus. Aryan is taken quite aback. He pauses for several moments to try to discern the players’ true intentions. Finding to his surprise that they seem sincere, Aryan decides to say nothing, just to see what happens. If these would-be villains truly believe they are worthy servants of fallen tyranny, Aryan thinks, they can prove themselves one more time by dealing with their own party. He steps away from the battle, snaps two fingers, and disappears along with the beholder.

Nobu and Rahm are left alone in the room with the two traitors.

Rahm, weak from battle and knowing he can easily be overpowered, dashes through the hole in the wall (caused by the beholder’s arrival) and jumps out onto the plains below. He continues to run, towards Wozington, to get away from the chaos. BetterBorn and Jerome turn towards Nobu and quickly slay him.

Just days before these events transpired, Booth noticed what happened to the Capitol and witnessed dozens of monsters enter the world through a portal in the sky. He decided to briefly come out of retirement to help the village of Wozington once more. When he arrived at the village, Leo informed him about the players’ trip to the Western Fortress. By the time Booth arrived at the fortress, he could hear the sounds of battle upstairs. He decided to sneak up on the battle and wait to strike until he could see what was going on. He saw the altercation between the players, Aryan, and the beholder. He saw his friends turn against two unfamiliar adventurers, and he saw Rahm’s flight, as well as Nobu’s death. Booth is shocked, but soon becomes determined to rid the world of BetterBorn and Jerome’s treachery.

Booth appears and begins to shoot his former friends. BetterBorn and Jerome respond gladly to the sound of continued combat. The sight of their friend does not deter them from their traitorous designs. Eventually, BetterBorn takes out his powerful Staff of the Magi and snaps it in half over his knee. This causes a magical explosion which kills Nobu and Jerome. BetterBorn is teleported by the staff’s erupted magic to a random plane of existence, and it turns out to be the existence that he deserves by his recent actions.

BetterBorn finds himself in the Tarterian Depths of Carceri. It is a plane meant for those who have lived a life, or committed acts, of chaotic evil. It is “a plane of desolation and despair,” “a model for all other planes in existence.” (DMG, 63) There are six layers in Carceri, and BetterBorn finds himself imprisoned in a realm of jagged mountains. There are secret portals that allow an escape from Carceri, but they are heavily guarded. There, BetterBorn continues to thrive in his chaotic madness.

When a person dies, their spirit is sent to the plane that is most aligned with their character and nature. Jerome is also sent to Carceri, but in a layer of vast bogs. Nobu’s neutral character becomes a resident of Mechanus. Booth’s chaotic yet good spirit is sent to the Heroic Domains of Ysgard, where he can continue to prove his goodness and valor in “a rugged realm of soaring mountains, deep fjords, and windswept battlefields.” (DMG, 61)



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