The Illithid, Part I

In which our heroes go head-to-head against a brain-eating alien mastermind.

Dramatis Personae: Berrian, Tasklar (plus Karth, Gil, and Galindan)
Source: “The Hall of Harsh Reflections” (Dungeon 127)

NB. I only had two players for this session, but they were given permission to run Karth and Gil as well. I gave them a choice of two out of Karth, Gil, Galindan and Dorn. They started off with just Karth and Galindan, but later swapped Karth out for Gil …


Round 2

After the PCs revived him, a grateful Dorn led them to a safehouse where they were able to get a good night’s rest without interruption. On the way, they collected Tasklar from the Crooked House, as they did not feel it was safe to leave him there alone. In the morning, Gil suddenly remembered that he had something personal to attend to, while Dorn still needed some time to recover … so Berrian, Karth, Tasklar, and Bhára’s lover, Galindan, headed back into the sewers to delve deeper into the illithid’s lair.

As they passed through the naga’s lair, they caught sight of its ghostly form flitting in and out of sight. It was in the process of reforming, but in its current state could neither affect them nor be affected. They left it alone and moved on to the drow cave. Though the mage had survived their last attack, he was nowhere to be found.

Karth went up and searched the alcoves on the ledge. One contained a shrine decked out in spider motifs with a jade statuette of a strange spider/drow hybrid monstrosity. Karth took the statue, as it looked to be valuable, and destroyed the shrine. Galindan suggested that the statue depicted Lolth, the foul demonic being that the drow worshiped as a god.

The PCs then considered investigating the area beyond the locked gate. Tasklar, in particular, didn’t want to leave any enemies behind them. The others, however, were put off by the fact that four humanoid corpses with holes in their skulls were standing on the other side of the gate! So they moved on to the narrow passage down which the drow mage had fled before.

A short way down, they came to a wider area with a smooth floor, on which had been inscribed in glowing purple the same tentacle design they’d seen several times already. Galindan surmised it was the personal sigil of the mind flayer. Worried that it might be trapped, the PCs skirted around the edges of the chamber. As it happened, the room was trapped, though it was not necessarily the sigil on the floor. Acid rained down on the group from the ceiling. Both Galindan and Berrian complained about how their clothes had been ruined!

From there, the passage led to a large cavern with purple-veined marble doors barring the way to the north. In addition, a trio of strange octopus-like creatures with a single eye and two serrated claws came crawling into view from behind several rock pillars. The creatures had tough hides and a long reach with their tentacles, and they were able to fire rays from their eyes that caused various magical effects. The PCs had a difficult time until they opted to withdraw and have both Tasklar and Galindan toss fireballs into the cavern. That took out two of them, and then Karth finished off the third by bounding up the wall and hacking it down with his axe.

Karth then made short work of the doors, which were barred from the other side, by running up to them from the other end of the cavern and smashing into them full-force. The others watched as he continued into a circular room, at the center of which was a large slab of purple-veined marble carved to look like a brain. The barbarian suddenly stopped, and as the others drew closer to see what was the matter, he turned back towards them, a look of madness in his eyes, and charged towards them, his axe held high!

Tasklar reacted quickly and dispelled whatever magic was compelling Karth to attack. The PCs then proceeded to bombard the stone brain from beyond the doors. Once it looked to be badly damaged, Berrian bravely stepped into the room and stabbed his sword deep into its center. At once, it fell apart and the glow from the purple minerals winked out.

Up some stairs and the PCs found themselves in what appeared to be a laboratory. A large vat of murky green liquid filled much of the room. Berrian thought it might be filled with acid … and before anyone could stop him, Tasklar chucked a copper coin into it to find out! The liquid sloshed and a massive version of the octopus-like creatures they’d faced earlier came rearing out of the vat!

A might struggle ensued. The PCs were badly hurt, but Karth prevailed, delivering a terrible blow that not only slew the creature but also smashed the side of the vat, spilling the green liquid out onto the floor. After withdrawing to the drow alcoves for a short rest, the PCs returned to this chamber and gave it a good once-over. Galindan found some records on a desk that, with a casting of comprehend languages, turned out to be the mind flayer’s notes on the creation of the “octopins” and some theories on an as-yet-unfinished project referred to as a “mind worm”. The lab’s bookshelves contained a number of books that the PCs figured might be of some value. They decided to come back later with Gil and shove the whole collection into his bag of holding.

A door in the north wall of the lab led to a smaller circular chamber with a dark pool in the center. Galindan ascertained that it was some kind of scrying pool, so Tasklar attempted to use it. He thought about Gil, and sure enough, an image of his roguish cousin, sitting by himself in an otherwise empty room, appeared in the pool. Next they tried to think about the cave beyond the gate, and they found themselves looking at a number of zombies standing around doing nothing … but they were also able to see deeper into the cave, where they spotted a number of prisoners, along with the drow mage!

Back to the lab and then up some more stairs and through some more doors and they entered what appeared to be a rather macabre museum of sorts. The centrepiece was a life-size statue of what Galindan identified as a vrock. There were also several glass cabinets containing all manner of books and trinkets, all of a seemingly malign nature. On top of one case was an item that Galindan insisted was a petrified pseudodragon, but Berrian wouldn’t let him touch it as he was sure that the room was trapped and that the vrock would come to life if they touched anything.

His theory was proven correct when Karth snatched up a battleaxe. The vrock turned out to be no match for the PCs, though, and soon was nothing more than a puddle of foul ichor. Tasklar took a wicked-looking dagger off a silk pillow and decided it would be his forever. Galindan took down a book and, after one look, tossed it on the floor and started exhibiting signs of extreme paranoia.

Though they had not yet explored the whole lair, the PCs decided that now was a good time to call it a day. They made their way back through the various rooms and caverns, only to find the drow mage waiting for them, the illithid’s prisoners arranged around him like a living shield. He mocked them: “You didn’t think you’d be allowed to get away that easily, did you?”

As it happened, they did. Though the prisoners did little more than grab at the PCs as they dashed through the area, and the zombies came to join the fight, and the mage cast a nasty tentacle spell on Karth and Berrian, the PCs all survived and made it through to the naga cave and out into the sewers and back to Dorn’s safehouse.


Round 3
After another long rest, the PCs came back down to the lair entrance to find that the zombies had been stationed there. Karth lured them out into the sewer tunnel, then proceeded to hack at them with his new magic axe. One of the zombies hit him on the shoulder and, all of a sudden, the great half-orc was foaming at the mouth, with a berserk look on his face. He took a swipe at Berrian, who backed away, then went back to hacking at the zombies.

Tasklar got everyone to back up along the sewer tunnel then cast compulsion on Karth and ordered him to march off deeper into the illithid’s lair. After the remaining zombies had been dealt with, the PCs waited. Karth eventually repaired, having regained his senses. He claimed to have no idea what had happened to him but refused to accept any suggestion that his new axe might have anything to do with it. The others decided it would be best to leave him behind, and so they tagged him out and brought Gil in to scout ahead for them instead.

In the naga cave, they spotted a large egg by the pool but wisely decided to leave it alone. They didn’t find the drow mage until they got to the cavern with the marble doors. A few fireballs did him in.

They decided to chill out in the scrying pool room for a bit, only to have the mind flayer itself make an appearance, walking through the back wall as if it wasn’t even there! It attempted to stun them with a blast of psychic energy, and then, when it saw that they had all resisted, it retreated back through the wall.

It turned out a segment of the wall was illusory, and a short hall led to a balcony halfway up the wall of a massive room centered around a pool. The pool seemed to have things wriggling in it. At one end of the pool sat a large, squat stone column with glowing green runes on it. Hovering above the pool was the mind flayer! And clinging to the wall to either side of the balcony were two more octopins!

Berrian teleported to the far side of the pool and shot fire bolts at the mind flayer, while Gil turned invisible and crept along the walls and ceilings to get into a good position to snipe the mind flayer. Tasklar and Galindan stayed on the balcony and attacked with their spells.

Gil fired a shot at the mind flayer, hitting it hard enough that it lost concentration on its levitation and sank into the pool. However, it then teleported up onto the top of the stone column, looking like it had healed some of its wounds in the process. Berrian used his last teleport to come appear beside it, but the mind flayer then just teleported over to the balcony, where it – along with one of the octopins – pursued Tasklar and Galindan as they retreated into the scrying room.

Berrian had a hard choice ahead of him: stay and help Gil fight the remaining octopin or go to the aid of the spellcasters? He chose the latter, leaving Gil to his fate. When he arrived in the laboratory room, he found Tasklar on the ground and the mind flayer busily wrapping its tentacles around Galindan’s head. With a horrible slurping sound, it devoured the elf mage’s brain!

Horrified, Berrian hacked the octopin off the wall, then revived Tasklar, only to find that the bard was suffering from partial amnesia. Knowing who he was but not where he was or how he got there, and not recognizing Berrian or the elf whose brain was being eaten by a horrible tentacle monstrosity, Tasklar decided to make a run for it. Luckily, he chose the right route and soon found himself running through some caves. Berrian decided to run after him. He was stunned and knocked out by the mind flayer before he could get very far, but fortunately, Karth had decided not to sit around waiting up on the surface and had finally come to help his friends.

Having seen Tasklar run past with a panicked look on his face, the half-orc was expecting the worst. Sure enough, as he saw Berrian lying on the ground with the mind flayer closing in, he leapt forward, scooped up his fallen comrade, and made a run for it!

Tune in next time for the thrilling conclusion!

Down the Rabbit Hole

In which our heroes attempt to get to the bottom of things …

Dramatis Personae: Berrian, Gil, Karth (plus Galindan and Dorn)
Source: “The Hall of Harsh Reflections” (Dungeon 127)

Not knowing how to proceed, the PCs dragged Tasklar back to the Crooked House, where they found a seriously inebriated Karth being looked after by a city watchman – the same watchman that Tasklar had given a bit of lip to after the fracas with the doppelgangers the night before! His name was Dorn Greywood, and he informed the PCs that he’d drunken half-orc rambling about his friends being in town. Did they know him? Why, yes, they did!

Meanwhile, Tarquin the innkeeper let the PCs know that, in gratitude for having saved his life, he would be giving them free drinks and rooms for the next month!

Once Tasklar and Karth were installed in their room, the others thanked Dorn. The watchman wasn’t about to leave just yet, though. He wanted to know more about the doppelgangers. He listened intently as the PCs related what they’d found in the Sodden Hold warehouse. Dorn told them he’d send some guards to check it out on the morrow.

Dorn stayed in the inn’s common room, chatting with Tarquin, long after the others had retired for the night. Well after midnight, he heard a commotion from above and raced upstairs to see what was the matter. As it turned out, the PCs were under attack from drow assassins! Two drow had snuck into their room, while a third drow was firing poisoned bolts at them through a window. Berrian was looking quite hurt, having taken a shot to the back of his neck! The two assailants in the room went down quickly, one of them only unconscious, and then Karth and Berrian smashed through the window and leapt across the alley to land on the roof where the third assassin had been.

They chased the drow across the rooftops and through washing-laden alleyways before Karth, with his superior speed, finally caught up to her and grabbed her firmly. Berrian came up from behind and ran her through. Searching her body, Karth discovered that she was wearing a nice pair of magic stealth-enhancing boots with a spider motif on them. They were also covered in sewer muck and residue from a fungus he recognized as Beggar’s Gold, which was quite common in areas where there was run-off from forges and smithies.

In one of the drow’s pockets, the PCs found a crumpled up note from someone telling his “thrall” to meet him beneath the cold forge. There were some “troublesome small minds” that needed dealing with. Small minds?! Berrian and Karth tried not to feel insulted as they dragged the drow’s body all the way back to the inn.

Dorn questioned Karth about having stolen the drow’s boots but ended up deciding it wasn’t worth fussing about. Instead, he turned his attention to the still-living drow, whom he’d made sure to truss up securely. As the drow came round, they attempted to question him, but a strange tentacle-like sigil materialized on his forehead and he grimaced in pain, then keeled over dead.

When Karth showed Dorn the note, the watchman was able to help them puzzle out the clues. He knew of a smithy named the Cold Forge. They decided they’d check it out in the morning. Dorn opted to deputize the PCs, which enabled them to enter the sewers beneath the city legally.

As they slogged through the sewers, following what signs they could of the drows’ passage and the presence of Beggar’s Gold, they came across a spillway where a strange telepathic voice warned them that some “spawn of the Faceless Lord” lurked ahead. Sure enough, a large black pudding and several gray oozes with psychic powers were blocking their way. After dealing with the monsters, another strange creature emerged from the darkness ahead: it looked a lot like a floating jellyfish. Dorn freaked and fired a crossbow bolt at it, causing it to flee, but Karth ran after it and convinced it to return.

It turned out to be a flumph – a good-aligned parasitic being that fed on psychic energy. It informed them that they were close to the lair of an illithid. The flumph was quite keen to show them the way to the lair’s entrance in hopes that the PCs would get rid of it. Wondering if the illithid was behind the attacks, the PCs were reminded of the illithid that had been behind all the strange goings-on in the town of Brindinford. But why was this one targeting them? What had they done?

The PCs agreed to let the flumph guide them the rest of the way. It led them deeper underground to a point where a hole in the wall of the sewer opened into a natural cave tunnel. Just beyond, around a slight bend, was a large fungus garden carpeted with yellow mold! Stepping forward, the PCs also discovered the presence of several shriekers in the garden. So much for the element of surprise!

After hacking apart the shriekers, the PCs then set about burning their way through the yellow mold, only to come under attack from some drow guards positioned on a ledge further along the tunnel. Dorn was knocked out (by drow poison) and woken up again several times before the drow guards were dealt with.

Pushing on, the PCs came to a cave with a little stream ending in a pool. Gil sent his bat familiar into the cave to scout ahead. Through the bat’s eyes, he caught a glimpse of some treasure at the bottom of the pool, visible thanks to some phosphorescent fungus illuminating the cave. He then also caught a glimpse of a large snake with a humanoid face just before it killed his familiar.

This snake-like creature turned out to be a naga. It was incensed that the PCs had disturbed its rest and demanded tribute. Karth decided to attack it instead, but it turned invisible and slithered away, so they decided to press on deeper into the caves.

Next up was a larger cave with a bunch of drow in it, who were now poised in a defensive stance, having been alerted by the shriekers. One of the drow looked to be a mage, and he had a strange winged shadowy creature lurking next to him. Karth used his dragonmark to turn invisible and slink up behind the mage.

The ensuing battle was fierce! In the end, all the drow were dead except for their leader, the mage, who had turned invisible and then retreated further into the caves. The naga, which had reappeared in the middle of the fight, had also been slain at Karth’s hand, although the half-orc knew, thanks to Galindan’s long-winded ecology lesson, that it would return to life in a day or so.

Still, everyone was hurting badly, and Dorn had nearly died, so the party decided to withdraw and rest up before returning. Gil made sure to steal the naga’s loot from the pool on their way out, though. And that is where things stand.

 

 

DM Note: Bhára’s player had not yet finished up her replacement PC by the time this session came around, so she ended up playing Galindan instead. He is a high elf evoker. Dorn was a last-minute NPC I whipped up for a friend of Bhára’s player who joined us on the night. Gil’s player was not present, but he was happy to have the group manage him anyway. Tasklar sat out this session, but he’ll be back next time. We’ll be missing both Karth’s and Gil’s players, though.