The Speaker in Dreams

Dramatis Personae: Berrian, Bhara (and some others)
Source: The Speaker in Dreams

NB. I only had two of my regular players for this session. My wife joined us and played Ser Alein.

The Guild Safely ensconced at the Reality Wrinkle, the Starflower siblings and Ser Alein rested and discussed their options going forward. They had no way of knowing if Karth had survived his heroic gesture, or where their friends Gil and Tasklar were. Nevertheless, they decided they’d try heading for the thieves’ guild again in hopes of making contact with some of their friends. From there, they would seek help in infiltrating the baron’s manor so they could investigate the hooded figure Bhára saw lurking in the shadows during the proclamation. After that, they’d deal with the hellish portal in the septry. [Their reasoning being that if they shut that off first, the hooded figure seemingly in charge of things might just open it up again. Better to strike at the head of the snake first, then take care of the body as it writhed about in its death throes.]

This time, they stuck to the back alleys and managed to keep out of sight of both the militia and their fiendish overlords. That is, until they were getting ready to cross Southspur Street. As they approached the mouth of an alley, a familiar voice called out from around the corner: “O wand of wonder! Please will you conjure something frightening, like a bolt of lightning!”

Sure enough, as Berrian popped his head around the corner and looked out into the street, he saw the familiar form of Bruce the Goose, pointing his wand at a horrid-looking fiend with a wicked glaive in its hands and a beard consisting of what appeared to be barbed tentacles. As the elf watched, a beam of light shot out from Bruce’s wand and caused the fiend to glow with purple faerie fire, marking him as an easy target.

Berrian and Ser Alein dashed out into the street, swords in hand, while Bhára moved to where she could see the foul creature and readied her magic. Although Bruce’s wand hadn’t given him the result he’d wanted, the effect nevertheless assisted his rescuers in making short work of the devil before it could harm the halfling. As Ser Alein landed the killing blow, the creature disappeared in a puff of black smoke. Seeing her companions exchange worried glances, Ser Alein told them not worry: “That fiend has gone back to where he came from. We won’t be seeing him again any time soon.”

Grabbing Bruce before he could finish thanking them for rescuing him, they dashed across the street into another alley and continued on their way to Brindinford’s thieves’ guild, using the directions Karth had given them before he’d disappeared. They arrived at the Gold Tabard Merchant Company building in Eastgate without further ado and found themselves being welcomed by an amiable human named Thos, who explained to the heroes that, while their companions had been and gone, they were welcome to make themselves at home in the warehouse.

Partaking of the guildmaster’s hospitality, the heroes soon learned that a hooded figure had been approaching various merchants in the Eastgate district with offers of large sums of money. When the thieves’ guild looked into it, they discovered that the figure was seeing to expand the influence of a diabolical cult – the one now in possession of the septry across town – to other towns and cities in the vicinity. One merchant had even accepted the offer.

Upon learning that the heroes had spied a hooded figure lurking behind the baron, Thos suggested they could be one and the same. He offered to have a scout around the baron’s manor, if the heroes were willing to wait overnight. They readily agreed and settled down to get more rest. Before leaving, Thos joked to Ser Alein that now that she knew where the guild was located, they’d have to move … once the fiends had been dealt with, of course.

Thos and his spies returned an hour or so before daybreak. They informed the heroes that a mysterious hooded figure was indeed hanging around with the baron. They hadn’t spotted the baron’s regular bodyguards either. Lady Eriana and her family appeared to be all right, though; they weren’t being kept hostage or anything like that. Giving a description of the manor layout, Thos added that there was a trapdoor on the roof of the tower.

The Manor
Following directions from the thieves, the heroes made their way across town without encountering any wandering fiends or militia patrols. They scaled the walls of the keep without any trouble and made their way to the baron’s manor.

Climbing up to the top of the tower, they found that Thos had even oiled the hinges of the trapdoor for them. It turned out to be a piece of cake to get into the tower. Creeping down the spiral stairs, they first passed a room in which Lady Eriana and her family were sleeping. Seeing that they appeared to be all right, they continued down to the next floor, where they found Baron Euphemes II snoring away in his large, ornate bed.

While the others waited in the stairwell, Berrian crept into the baron’s room and then eased open the door that led out onto the balcony overlooking the main hall. He spied two comfortable chairs positioned in front of a roaring fire. Two figures were sitting in the chairs, one wearing a dark robe stitched with arcane symbols, the other wearing hide armor and fondling an axe. The latter pricked up her ears and turned her sightless gaze toward Berrian. A grimlock! Probably the one that got away from the abandoned warehouse. Berrian quickly closed the door and went back to report what he’d seen.

Not knowing if there was any other way to flank these foes, the heroes decided to charge right in. Berrian went first and found that the grimlock was waiting. She tossed a handaxe at him as he came through the door. The figure in the robes, however, was now floating near the ceiling. He could see that the creature had tentacles on its face and its eyes were milky white, as was its skin.

Chaos ensued. Bhára cast thunderwave, which pushed the grimlock towards the balcony’s edge and woke up everyone in the manor. As the baron rose from his bed, seemingly in a trance, and reached for his sword, Bruce stepped forward and cast Tasha’s hideous laughter on him, causing him to fall back onto his bed in a fit. Ser Alein rushed in to assist Berrian with the grimock. As she did so, the heroes’s minds were pummelled with a blast of psychic energy. Ser Alein and Bhára were both stunned but Berrian managed to shake it off.

The grimlock soon fell to sword and spell, her dead body toppling off the balcony into the hall. The heroes were rather surprised to see that it floated down gently. They vowed to look into that more closely later. There was still the tentacle-faced mage to deal with! It attempted to take control of Berrian’s mind, but he was again able to resist. Then one of Bhára’s spells broke its concentration, and, as it floated back down to the ground, Berrian and Set Alein leapt forward with their blades. Just as Berrian thought he was about to land the killing blow, the creature vanished into thin air! It hadn’t merely turned invisible either. One moment it was there, the next it was simply as if it had never been there at all!

Perplexed, the heroes returned to the baron. As Bruce released him from the spell, he came to his senses. As the heroes explained to him what had happened, Euphemes was most remorseful. He told them that he felt like he’d been living a dream and couldn’t fully remember what it was he’d said or done over the past few days. He was most shocked to learn that he had invited fiends into his beloved town! When his thoughts turned to the welfare of his sister and her family, the heroes assured him that they were quite all right and suggested that he take them somewhere safe while they dealt with the fiends. Euphemes agreed to take them down into the dungeons beneath the manor house.

Berrian went and checked on the dead body of the grimlock. A quick search revealed a metallic ring in the shape of a twisted feather on one finger. Pocketing the ring, he later discovered that it was magical and conferred upon its wearer a feather fall effect. He offered it to his sister, but Bhára replied that she didn’t need it as she could already reproduce the effect with her own magic, so he decided to keep it for himself.

The Grove
After ensuring that the baron and his family were as safe as could be, the elf siblings and their companions set off for the druid grove in the woods across the river in hopes that they might be able to help them close the portal in the septry. Cutting across the Chatterstreet Market district to avoid having to pass the septry, they scaled the outer walls and headed across the open fields towards the northern bridge. They soon found themselves being approached by three hell hounds, though they were able to dispatch them without too much trouble.

They also discovered that the druids’ grove was not too difficult to locate either. The circle tending the grove was led by an elderly woman named Enselle, who was only too happy to provide what healing she could to the heroes. She was also able to provide them with a scroll of dispel magic inscribed on a strip of bark, though she warned them that she could not guarantee it would work. Successfully closing a gate was a difficult thing.

For some reason, Berrian then brought up their friend, Iriandel the unicorn, lamenting that he was too far away to be able to help them in their current predicament. At the mention of unicorns, both Ser Alein and Enselle perked up. It just so happened that this forest had its own unicorn, one who went by the name Dawnstrider! Berrian was able to convince Enselle to summon the unicorn. It took a few hours for him to arrive, but when the majestic beast strode into the grove, the heroes set about asking him for his assistance. Convincing a unicorn to enter a walled city and assist with driving out some powerful fiends was never going to be easy, but Berrian and Bhára proved to be up to the task. They even managed to convince Enselle to accompany them. [DM note: I went with the default DC 20 Persuasion check to get a friendly creature to take a significant risk to help, and they nailed both checks! I think they even rolled a natural 20 for one of them.]

After a quick pow-wow to discuss strategy, Enselle magicked up a view of the burning septry in the grove’s pond so that Dawnstrider could teleport himself, Ser Alein, and the elves to the back door, while Enselle shapeshifted into a large owl and flew Bruce across the river in her talons.

The Septry
Without Gil there to help them break in, Berrian decided to just smash a window. Luckily for him, it opened into a closed stairway. He climbed through and entered the hallway with great caution, but there was no one about so he went and unbarred the door to the outside so the unicorn could get in.

At that moment, a door across the hall opened and one of the diabolists stepped out … and died a swift death for his troubles. Berrian then had to fend off a pesky imp that came out of the kitchen it had been trashing to investigate the noise. The heroes could also hear scratching and pawing coming from the other side of another door.

Setting up an ambush, they had Ser Alein open the door so they could get at the hell hounds inside. Bruce’s magic wand turned one of them to stone and sword and spell made short work of the other one. Enselle and Dawnstrider provided the heroes with some healing and then they proceeded up the stairs rather than heading straight into the septry’s main hall. Upstairs they found what had once been the chamber of Ser Marith, the septry’s champion. A gory scene greeted them inside. They weren’t sure if the remains were those of Ser Marith herself or someone else, but they decided to leave the room be for now and headed over to a door leading onto a balcony overlooking the septry’s main hall.

Berrian pushed the door open quietly and then crept out onto the balcony. The roar of the flames rising up through the hole in the domed roof helped cover his movements. Peering over the railing, he saw the bone devil lurking amidst the wreckage below, talking to a blond warrior woman who appeared to carry some authority. The woman soon turned and walked out the door on the far side of the hall, and the bone devil resumed its watch over the portal. Berrian crept back to report his findings.

As the group headed back down the stairs, Dawnstrider used his magic to suppress the sound of their movements. This even enabled him to creep up on the bone devil without it being aware of him so that he could banish it back to its home plane with a touch of his horn. The devil never even knew what had hit it! Bhára then whipped out the bark scroll and intoned the words to dispel the magic holding the portal open. Her will was strong and as she read the last words, the portal closed with a strange sucking noise, and the fire dissipated. [DM note: With gate being a 9th level spell, the DC was 19. Bhára got a high roll on the check. If she had failed, though, she had been (jokingly?) intending to use Ser Alein as a sacrifice …]

With that done, the heroes decided to sweep through the rest of the septry complex. They encountered the blond woman and another diabolist underling in the library. A fierce battle ensued, in which Berrian fell not once but twice and wound up with partial amnesia, Bruce finally got his wand to cast lightning bolt, and the diabolist immolated himself and all the books in the room with a fireball. The blond woman did not last long under the combined might of the heroes and their allies either.

As Berrian wondered aloud where he was and who all these strange people were, the others patched up their wounds and set about searching the rest of the septry. They found another hell hound that had taken up residence in the vestry and quickly slew it. And that was it. No sign of any other fiends or diabolists.

Epilogue
As the heroes emerged from the still-smoking wreckage of the septry and headed back towards the keep at the top of the hill, a crowd of followers quickly grew behind them. Everyone wanted to know what had happened. The crowd’s curiosity quickly turned to elation as the heroes told their tale, and all of a sudden the heroes found themselves in the middle of a street party as vendors began handing out free food and drink and minstrels retold their story in song as the townsfolk danced in the streets. Brindinford was saved! All hail the mighty heroes!

After taking their fill of the festivities, Bhára and Berrian went in search of their missing companions. Those scoundrels had some explaining to do …

Taking Care of Business

Dramatis Personae: Berrian, Bhára, Karth
Source: The Speaker in Dreams

The Cellar
After reviving Karth and taking a quick breather, the heroes were ready to continue the search for the missing Ser Alein. As she did not appear to be anywhere on the upper levels, Torea suggested they look in the cellar. As the party headed back down, they found that the feelings of unease they’d felt when they first entered the bookshop were growing again. Citing the need to find somewhere quiet to lie down and watch the world spin around them, Gil and Tasklar abandoned their mates to whatever fate awaited them down below.

As the remaining heroes descended into what appeared to be a meeting room of sorts, their feelings of vertigo and disorientation grew unbearably intense. Bhára found herself clinging closely to her brother’s side as though he were some kind of good luck charm she could use to stave off her burgeoning feelings of inadequacy. Karth, meanwhile, found himself being deafened by a constant buzzing in his ears. Berrian, however, managed to hold himself together and moved to open a door in the south wall.

As the door opened, the group was assailed by a babbling of voices coming from an amorphous blob in the middle of the floor. Another gibbering mouther, this one flanked by two of the mad sorcerers. Beyond them lay a woman in a red gown, grimacing in pain as she clutched her hands to her ears.

Trying not to look at the maddeningly distorted walls and floor, Berrian charged into the room and swung his magic sword at the monster, Bhára following closely at his heels. While Torea stood motionless in the doorway, stunned by the mouther’s babbling, Karth pushed through and, blissfully unable to hear the babbling, charged into the fray.

Despite Bhára feeling like she was running on empty, and Berrian and Karth still injured, the heroes managed to prevail in short order. Soon, the mouther was nothing but a pile of goo, and the sorcerers had followed their leader into the afterlife. Trying not to throw up, Torea staggered across to her master and knelt down beside her. Shakily getting to her feet, Ser Alein asked for the heroes’ help to get her back to the shrine. Once there, she would explain all that she knew.

At the shrine, after changing into something more comfortable, Ser Alein thanked the heroes for rescuing her. She explained that she had heard a cry for help outside, but when she’d gone to investigate, she’d lost consciousness. When she’d next awoken, she’d found herself in a strange place. She didn’t know how she’d ended up wearing that red party dress, but she suspected that the crazy sorcerers, whom she’d heard refer to themselves as “Those Who Hear”, had planned to sacrifice her in some mad ritual. In gratitude for their efforts, Ser Alein offered to let the heroes rest in the shrine overnight. Karth happily accepted, while the Starflowers were simply too exhausted to go in search of more luxurious accommodations.

Downtime
The next morning, the Starflowers felt well-rested enough to head out into the fair and find a spot to set up shop themselves. They proceeded to spend the better part of the day using their magic to clean and mend people’s garments* to earn a bit of coin. As they worked, a small boy approached them with a message from the dwarf weaponsmith, Shoomma, congratulating them on their efforts to clean up the city and inviting them and their fellow heroes to a feast to be held in their honor that evening.

Meanwhile, Karth had wandered about, getting the lay of the land, and ended up paying a visit to the thieves’ guild. When he stopped by the elves’ booth, they showed him the invitation. Aware that they still had the wererats in the bell tower to deal with, the group decided that they’d leave them until after the party.

The Party
Everyone who was anyone in Brindinford was at the Stony Gaze Tavern, so named for its medusa theme, when the heroes arrived. Ser Alein and Torea accompanied them in their fully knightly regalia. Various aristocrats schmoozed with them, and the Starflowers were able to make accommodation arrangements with one well-heeled family for after the party.

Curiously, Baron Euphemes II did not attend the party, sending his sister, Eriana, in his stead. Various locals assured them that this was perfectly normal, however. As a token of the city’s gratitude, Lady Eriana presented each of the heroes with a fine silver brooch set with a purple amethyst.

The feast itself was lavish, with roast boar and plenty of ale and mead for everyone. The entertainment culminated with a poetic retelling of the heroes’ exploits, with some episodes fabricated from whole cloth but all very grand and heroic. There were also numerous toasts and much applause in the heroes’ honor.

Ambushed!
The party lasted well into the night, and as the last guests staggered away, the heroes departed with their would-be hosts. As they passed a dark alley on their left, a low voice called out to them. The heroes caught a brief glimpse of a hulking figure shrouded in a cloak that was quickly obscured by a blast of freezing air that billowed out into the street. As the heroes shook off the cold, they saw with dismay that both Torea and the kindly nobles who had been escorting them home were frozen solid.

Charging after the retreating figure, the heroes entered a confusing maze of alleyways. A number of assassins leapt out of the shadows to attack with steel and spell. In addition to a number of roguish types, armed with short swords and hand crossbows, the heroes also found themselves being attacked by another of the mad sorcerers from the bookstore, as well as a pale figure with hellish symbols on his robes who seemed to be able to conjure up hellfire. The hulking figure who’d cast a cone of cold at them was nowhere to be seen, but a well-armored woman wielding a glaive entered the fray and quickly displayed magical powers of her own, at one point rising up into the air to land on a roof above.

Berrian had climbed up onto a roof to take out a pesky assassin with a crossbow. Seeing the woman with the glaive standing across the alley from him, he backed up and attempted a running leap. Unfortunately, he misjudged the distance and began to fall. Luckily, his sister had his back and saved him from embarrassment by casting feather fall on him.

In the end, only two would-be assassins survived, hightailing it away into the darkened streets. Both magic-users were cut down, with the diabolist’s body turning to ash upon his death, and even the glaive-wielder was laid low, at which point her broken body transformed before the heroes’ eyes into a blue-skinned giantess with small horns on her head and hair as white as snow. An oni! How strange.

While the group searched their attackers’ bodies, Bhára sifted through the diabolist’s ashes and came across a small black pearl that was warm to the touch. Feeling it contained some magic power, she pocketed it. Later, when she’d had a chance to examine it properly, it turned out to be a pearl of power.

The heroes helped Ser Alein carry Torea’s frozen remains back to Lurue’s shrine. Although she again offered her home to the heroes for the night, they gave her some space to mourn in private. As they rested, the heroes were troubled by bizarre dreams. Images of their would-be assassins mingled with hissing words that twisted and writhed together, like snakes within their minds, making their sinister intent clear despite their foreign syllables. After what felt like an eternity, words suddenly rang out clearly over the cacophony, as if howled by a madman: “The bells toll! The gate swings wide!”

The Baron’s Proclamation
In the morning, the heroes were roused from their troubled rest by the blaring of trumpets coming from the direction of the keep. Gearing up, they headed out into the streets and followed the crowds to the square below the southeast tower. Up above, the baron himself appeared on the parapet. With an oddly emotionless voice, Euphemes began addressing the crowd. Speaking about the lawlessness and disorder that had overwhelmed even the efforts of an heroic band of adventurers, not to mention the town guard, the baron announced that he would be bringing in a new force of law to make the city safe again.

On top of that, the baron issued some new edicts, among them the ending of the street fair and the closing of the city gates. Carrying weapons would also be prohibited. The septry would be closed and the godsworn declared outlaws. All able-bodied citizens were also ordered to report to duty in the militia.

At this point, Bhára spotted a shadowy figure lurking in the background. Her keen elven vision allowed her to see a pair of milky white eyes peering out of the figure’s cloak. She passed this information on to her brother, who bristled in anger – the baron was being controlled like a puppet!

As Baron Euphemes concluded his speech, a tall, skeletal figure with shimmering gossamer wings stepped into view on the roof of the tower. A tail like a scorpion’s lashed around behind it, stinging at the empty air. With that, the baron turned on his heel and disappeared into the tower.

As the crowd erupted into chaos, Berrian let loose a fire bolt at the retreating figure. His shot went wide, but the town guard noticed and began making their way towards the elf warrior.

Just then, cries arose from the crowd as a column of fire rose into the air from the direction of the Andarian Septry. The sky began to darken with hellish smoke. As the guards drew closer, Ser Alein suggested they head for the Reality Wrinkle bookstore. It would still be empty, and it was unlikely that anyone would think to look for them there.

Evading the guards easily, the heroes soon found themselves on an empty street, face-to-face with a large monster with ruddy scales and sharp talons. As it leapt towards them, Karth and Berrian ran forward, blades flashing, and laid the creature low.

As they made their way back towards the bookstore, they saw a number of other fiendish creatures chasing people through the streets, laughing gleefully at the mayhem they were causing.

Terror in the Streets
Back at the bookstore, the heroes discussed their next steps. Bhára told everyone about the figure she’d seen lurking behind the baron, and they concluded that he was being manipulated by someone. It would also seem that someone had summoned fiends from the Nine Hells. They would have to be dealt with.

Ser Alein mentioned that there was a druid enclave in the woods on the other side of the river, not far from the bridge at the north end of town. The druids and rangers there might be able to provide some assistance, should help be needed.

When Bhára complained that this wasn’t their problem and they should just get out, Ser Alein pointed out that if left unchecked, the fiends would spread. It would eventually become everyone’s problem. If there was an open portal to the hells somewhere in the city – and the pillar of fire above the septry seemed to suggest to the knight that there was – it needed to be closed urgently.

After some further discussion, the group resolved to head for the thieves’ guild across town in an attempt to reunite with Gil and Tasklar. Unfortunately, as they made their way through the eerily deserted streets, they were accosted by a group of frightened-looking militia members led by the bony fiend they’d spotted earlier. It spoke in their minds, telling them they were under arrest for breaking the new law against carrying weapons in the streets. Berrian drew his sword and yelled at the fiend to come and take it. He charged in to attack, and the others watched on in horror as the fiend rent him with its claws and stung him with its venomous stinger. The elf collapsed to the ground, his face pale and sickly.

Karth dashed forward and grabbed his friend’s limp body, then everyone made a run for it. Grabbing a potion and pouring it down Berrian’s throat, he thrust the elf at his sister and then shouted for the fiend to follow him. He split away from the others, telling them to get back to the bookstore. The brave half-orc led the fiend away from West Hill, buying the elves and Ser Alein time to get back to the bookstore.

 

 

*Berrian and Bhára’s players have been using some of their PCs’ downtime days to run a “drycleaning” business. While they have a physical shop, run in their absence by an assistant, back home in the elf kingdom, they can actually operate from anywhere since they mostly just use their prestidigitation and mending cantrips to due the cleaning and mending.