By: firstname.lastname@example.org (GR Cogman)
".. Ye sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt couriers of oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head!" --King Lear, Shakespeare
Things are on the edge of breaking. A major Word-Bound angel of Gabriel's has reported that the Diabolicals are massing forces in (a large and appropriate city, pick your own): and now Gabriel is moving in response, beginning to mobilise the powers of Fire, and spreading the word to War, Stone, Wind. The Symphony may have cause to tremble.
Baal has finally found an opening that may permit him to begin the true War. He has corrupted the Angel of the Cleansing Flame, and used him to leak false reports to Gabriel of diabolical build-ups. He is also massing his own forces on the edges of Beleth's Realm: when the diversion takes place in the real world (and he'll make sure that the forces of the Princes that he dislikes are stationed there) then he'll move his own troops into Blandine's territory, allied with Belial, and do as much damage to Gabriel's Citadel and past as he feasibly can.
Poor Accidie, the Seraph of the Cleansing Flame, had lost his faith. After Baal's conversion, he has come to see the cleansing flame as that of war, which will leave a cleansed and purified earth behind it. He is doomed: Belial is sending a hit squad after him, to take him out at a conveniently crucial moment. They hope he'll be in Trauma long enough to let the whole mess climax.
And it will ruin Gabriel's reputation yet further.
Option one is to make the whole mess somewhere near where they are. A Superior (not Gabriel) has requested an additional survey of the area. Then again, if it is Gabriel, she wants them to do a thorough spying job. And prepare for War.
Option two is a job for Dominic, who is suspicious of the loyalties of Accidie (and of course would appreciate some dirt on Gabriel). For once, he's got it entirely right, but will the PCs believe it?
Option three is more fiddly, but could be rewarding. If Accidie (or a similar figure) could be worked into a few adventures beforehand, the players could realise that he is beginning to Fall, or observe his Fall. Can they put together what's going on (perhaps the Celestial Forces are massing more quietly) and act in time to prevent disaster?
There are some clues that Accidie's reports are not entirely accurate, on investigation. Diabolical troops have not been present in the area for _that_ long (footwork will show this up) or as active as suggested. Accidie's behaviour would also provide a tip or two: perhaps a certain willingness to slash and burn entirely, and a belief that the cruel should be punished with cruelty.
In any event, there should be a hint or two by the time Belial's hit squad arrive. (Perhaps a Djinn attuned to Accidie, a Habbalah or two, a Lilim as decoy, and plenty of flame.) If the PCs act fast enough, they might even be able to save Accidie, who could have let out an incriminating comment or two, and could be persuaded to spill the beans. He acted for the best, of course. If the hit squad get him, the players may be able to capture one of the hit squad: interrogation would reveal that Accidie had been set up for this _by a Balseraph he'd been in contact with for a while now_. They don't know the full plan, but they can provide enough full details to seriously worry the Players.
Another clue: there are _no_ servitors of Belial around, other than the hit squad. What, Belial's people missing out on a chance to hit Gabriel's forces? Something wrong here.
If they can present Gabriel with _good_ proofs that Accidie's loyalty is dubious, she'll listen. Not happily, but she'll listen. If they go through their own Supervisors, it may depend on that supervisor's relationship with Gabriel. Either way, this will spark more widespread checking around, and a slowdown of gathering forces around the city.
At this point, Baal and Belial will have realised that the PCs are investigating and liable to blow the gaff. Action is required. Evidence is funnelled at a servitor of Dominic that at least one (or maybe more) of the PCs is guilty of consorting with Demons, and has framed poor hapless Accidie. How fast can the PCs dodge or explain? (As to how the evidence is produced, perhaps one of the earlier hit squad of Belial's will fake a meeting with the PC, accuse them of cooperation, whatever.)
Anyhow. As the PCs dodge accusations of treason, other hit squads, etc, they will hopefully be able to prove that the situation is being artificially escalated. If they can do this, then it'll begin to fizzle out. If they can leak to the other demons around that Baal and Belial are using them as a diversion, it'll fizzle even faster.
Gabriel is unlikely to be happy whatever happens, but if the situation is defused, and if Accidie is captured, she'll be less prone to take it out on the nearest convenient characters. Dominic will be counting up the evidence: he is, for once, in the right to do so. Michael will breathe a sigh of regret, Baal and Belial will regretfully retreat to plan again...
The only person I've really defined in this is Accidie, who is something of a tragic figure. Fire taken too far, and burning away all hope of compromise or mercy. If the players can see why he Fell, they may have more of a chance of persuading him to explain or testify. Can he be redeemed? I don't know, but characters come up with truly interesting ideas sometimes. Like all good Balseraphs, he is now doing what he believes to be right. Cleanse the world and start again. Burn it all away.
Stats should be good, and perhaps a Rite or two, like burning corrupt books or weapons used for murders. I leave the mechanics to individual GMs.
Opinions, as ever, welcome.
Maya, Elohim of Eli in service to Blandine
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