The Hand of Destiny awoke to a gloomy morning. There was little to be grateful for. Not only did they need to find a way to break the children out of the demonic contract they had been included in, but there were new charges being brought against Laeral that needed to be addressed by the Magistrate and council. The morning was fraught with decisions over what to do and how to remove the children from the contract with Asmodeus.
That was when Kariss remembered the scroll they had from their adventures in Barovia. While there, they had acquired a scroll that helped them break the contract between Count Strahd and Sable, the Queen of Blood Pacts. It had not gone in their favor but that was not the fault of the scroll, only their own lack of knowledge. Kariss pulled the ancient scroll out and showed the rest of the group. They realized this was probably the only way to get the children free of this eldritch pact without actually going to the Nine Hells in person. Having chosen their path, the party began to prepare for the ritual. Kaladrax was a little lost since he had not been present the last time the spell was cast, but Aleera helped him through it.
They began their chanting and almost broke hands when Kaladrax jumped at the flaring of the candle fire. At the zenith of the casting they felt a darkness fill the room, it became uncomfortably hot and in the center of the circle, a smoke form of Asmodeus came into focus. They couldn’t hear anything but a deafening roar as finally, the contract broke and the children were free. The smoky Asmodeus looked them each in the eyes before vanishing completely. They knew they would never be able to set foot in the Nine Hells without Asmodeus searching for them. They were now the prey of the King of Hell and he could always keep sending assassin demons until one succeeded.
Yet, the children were free of the dark influence of the King and would not have to face the horrors of the Nine Hells. That would have to be comfort enough for them. They could do nothing to bring back their parents or the two other Cassalanter children that had already been sacrificed to Asmodeus’s thirst for power. The children would be provided room and board at the tavern and the rooms above, as well as meals without charge. The wages they earned, working at the Spectre’s Respite, would be placed in the bank under their own names to be accessed when they came of age. It was what they had done for the three orphans they had taken under their wing in Novos. After setting the children up to work at the tavern in the time it took to locate any other next of kin they group set off to the offices of the Magistrate for the new trial set at the feet of Laeral Silverhand.
The somber mood in the judgement chambers matched the gloom outside and everyone waited with baited breath for the proceedings to begin. It was a shock to Aleera, as the Grey Hand, when Vajra Safahr entered the chamber followed by Laeral’s former steward. It was apparent that he was now working for the Blackstaff. He was holding a large wooden crate in his arms and set it down gently on an empty table nearby. Lateral Silverhand was brought in from her imprisonment once more and set before the Magistrate and council to hear the new charges. Vajra explained that she had been investigating Laeral after her attempts to work with her failed. After Laeral’s arrest Vajra worried that there had been more to Laeral’s plans and had conducted a search of her offices and home, where she alleged the crate on the table had been found.
The former steward opened the crate on Vajra’s command to reveal several large vials containing a luminescent red liquid. There seemed to be small particles of grey floating amongst the red. Vajra continued explaining that she had been warned of the Curse of Ash by the Hand of Destiny and that this seemed to be a substance that proved similar to what the curse was supposed to spread. She argued that, for the good of the city, Lateral had to be put to death for her crimes. Aleera, shocked most of all, interceded saying that they had no proof that this was that same curse. This was not how the Curse of Ash had spread before, they had no reason to believe this was real. Vajra had thought of everything and offered to try the substance on the steward who, in his shame at being connected to Laeral, had offered to use himself as the testing person.
Aleera interrupted again and spoke loudly to the crowd that she would never let this curse kill anyone else if it could be prevented. She would be the one to test the vial. Silence reigned in the hall as Aleera lifted one of the delicate vials out of the crate. She held it up to the light and examined it for a few seconds before uncorking the top. The rest of the group tensed as they fought themselves not to stop her. With a small tip of the vial a drop of the red liquid fell onto her hand. For a second there was nothing and then Aleera let out a piercing scream before falling to the ground. In those seconds, ash began to spread over her body at an alarming rate. The crowd gasped and that reaction seemed to seal Laeral’s fate.
Aleera had died instantly. Kariss could only do what she could to stop it in the moment and cast Gentle Repose on the body. The rest of the group gathered her up in their arms and rushed out of the hall. Those left behind preceded with the sentencing of Laeral and washed their hands of her fate. While Vajra had wanted execution, the Magistrate felt it was too harsh and instead sentenced Laeral to life imprisonment. The remaining members of the Hand of Destiny rushed their friend out hoping to find a way to deliver her from death.