Dramatis Personae: Berrian, Tasklar (plus Karth and Gil?)
Source: “The Hall of Harsh Reflections” (Dungeon 127)
NB. This was a bonus session I arranged at the last minute. I once again only had Berrian and Tasklar’s players but they managed things much better than last time.
Berrian awoke to find himself safe. Karth had rescued him. The big half-orc had even managed to corral the befuddled Tasklar. They were hiding out in the safehouse Dorn the watchman had arranged for them.
Berrian insisted they go and find Eligos. They trudged over to the sage’s mansion, where the aged elven manservant informed them that his master was away on their business. He reluctantly allowed them to wait in the parlor, however, where he kept a close eye on newcomer Karth.
When Eligos returned toward evening, he was surprised to find the PCs waiting for him. They gave him a thorough recounting of their interactions with the doppelgangers and the mind flayer. The sage was genuinely concerned that such creatures were causing problems in his city and offered to extend what help he could. He offered his home to them for the night, as it was warded against magical intrusion and would thus be safer than the Crooked House, where the mind flayer’s minions had already found them twice.
After dinner, Eligos summoned Berrian to his study. He had some good news! He had managed to find a journal that had belonged to an old archmage name Exethanter. The mage had written about discovering the existence of a remote temple that some well-intentioned wizards had built long ago. Dedicated to a lost god of secrets, they’d meant it to be a hidden vault to contain their collection of “vestiges” (the remnants of dead, malevolent entities). Exethanter wrote that he intended to find the temple in order to unlock its secrets.
Eligos was able to establish that the archmage had set off on a journey from which he had never returned. He did not know if Exethanter had found the temple, but he was fairly confident he could locate it with a bit more time. Berrian thanked the sage and encouraged him to continue the search.
As Berrian turned to leave, Eligos asked him if his friends were all right. One of them, the bard, seemed to be rather befuddled, and the half-orc seemed very attached to that axe. Berrian explained that Tasklar had lost his memory. He also said he was suspicious that Karth’s axe was cursed. Eligos offered to help on the condition that Berrian convince the half-orc to let him touch him while casting a spell.
Berrian succeed and Eligos was able to successfully break Karth’s attachment to the cursed axe. The sage then offered to hide it away somewhere for safekeeping. The PCs were most grateful.
Fourth Time’s the Charm
In the morning, Tasklar awoke feeling somewhat refreshed. He still couldn’t remember much about the past few days, but he was fairly sure that his lesser restoration spell might help. He gave it a try and was pleased when all his lost memories come flooding back! Well, until he remembered seeing Galindan getting his brain eaten by the mind flayer, at least …
Eligos offered to provide the PCs with a few minor magics that might be of use: a scroll of protection against aberrations, a potion of lightning resistance, and a potion of psychic resistance. Tasklar took the scroll, since the other two expected to engage the mind flayer in melee, while Berrian took the lightning resistance potion and Karth the psychic one. Eligos wished them good luck, mentioning that, should they be succeed, he would be interested in getting his hands on the mind flayer’s collection of books and its notes.
On their way back to the sewers, none other than Gil found them on the street! He looked completely unharmed and claimed that he had managed to escape all on his own. The others were somewhat dubious, and Berrian quizzed Gil by asking about his wife. When Gil assured them that he had no wife, they were convinced it really was him. He agreed to accompany them back into the mind flayer’s lair a fourth time.
They succeeded in creeping past the rejuvenated naga, which appeared be sleeping, and made their way across the drow cave. They saw the three surviving prisoners sitting around looking dejected on the other side of the prison grating but decided to leave them for now. Pausing at the threshold of the cavern with the mind flayer’s symbol on the floor, Tasklar decided to cast dispel magic in case the magical acid-spraying trap had been reset. Sure enough, it had, and his spell power was enough to deactivate it.
As Karth made to smash open the marble doors again, the three prisoners (the elven craftsman, the surviving barmaid, and the surviving merchant) suddenly showed up in their midst and started beating them up. Though Tasklar took quite a nasty beating, Berrian used his mark of healing to keep him up, while Karth flew into a rage and started hacking away at their attackers.
As the elven craftsman fell, with one of Gil’s crossbow bolts in his eye, his form shifted into that of a doppelganger! The game was up! The barmaid was the next to fall, and she too turned out to be a doppelganger. The merchant, in desperation, shifted into the form of a young street urchin, begging them not to hurt him. Berrian struggled, unable to harm the creature, even though he knew it wasn’t really a child. The deception only fueled Karth’s rage, however. “How dare you impersonate an innocent child!” he roared, as he cut the creature down. Spitting on the doppelganger’s corpse, he then turned to see where Gil had gone off to …
The rogue popped back into a view a moment later, having gone to scout ahead in the lair, and urged his fellows to hurry. No time for resting! The longer they hung around, the more time the mind flayer would have to prepare. The others agree and hurried after him. Gil suggested they split up, with the warriors taking the long ramp from the museum, while he and Tasklar went to the balcony beyond the scrying room.
Karth and Berrian drank their potions, then ran down the passage. They shivered as they noted the disturbing murals on the walls, depicting mind flayers marching across the world under a sunless sky. The mind flayers’ ultimate goal, perhaps?
Stepping into the lair, the warriors discovered that the last octopin was waiting on the wall nearby. They backed up into the passage, but it followed and attempted to paralyze Karth with its eye ray. The big half-orc shrugged it off, then Berrian had the idea of casting earth tremor so it would affect the wall instead of the floor. This worked, knocking the octopin onto the floor. The two warriors quickly finished it off.
Meanwhile, the mind flayer laughed. “Back for more, eh? I relish the thought of devouring your brains. Especially yours, Berrian the elf!” He then cast mirror image on himself.
Suddenly, Berrian heard Tasklar cry out and looked up to the balcony in time to see Gil dashing away, a bloody dagger in his hand!
As “Gil” taunted Tasklar, the shocked bar retaliated by casting a fireball into the scrying chamber. “Gil” just laughed as he avoided the worst of the blast, mocking him for his weak power. But just then, Berrian showed up at the door, having raced back up the ramp and through the museum and laboratory. The angry elf hit “Gil” with three scorching rays, causing him to screech in pain and run up onto the ceiling.
Tasklar shot his cousin down, and as his body fell, it morphed into that of another doppelganger! This creature had all of Gil’s stuff and, seemingly, all of Gil’s memories! What had happened to the real Gil?!
The Final Showdown
Meanwhile Karth had made to follow Berrian but found himself trapped inside an invisible bubble, the mind flayer’s alien laughter echoing inside his skull. The mind flayer then tried to dominate him, but Karth called upon Tasklar’s inspiring words and shrugged off the magic. This also meant that he was free of the invisible walls. He charged back up the ramp and around to the scrying chamber.
The PCs took a moment to catch their breaths and down a few healing potions, the Berrian misty stepped from the balcony onto the monolith to engage the mind flayer and his illusory duplicates. Tasklar swiftly followed, bringing Karth with him via dimension door. Though they managed to eliminate the mind flayer’s duplicates, the creature just laughed and misty stepped over to the balcony, drawing upon the power of the monolith to heal himself as he did so.
Berrian stepped off the monolith and floated gently to the floor, thanks to his ring of feather falling. Tasklar attempted to follow by climbing down the side, but it proved to be too smooth and he fell the full 40 feet to the floor. Karth, meanwhile, was in a rage again and decided just to leap off into the pool, suffering very little damage in the process.
As the mind flayer then teleported back to the top of the monolith, Karth roared in frustration and proceeded to start attacking the monolith itself. Unfortunately, he couldn’t even put a chip in its smooth surface!
Tasklar wondered if he could disrupt its power with dispel magic but he wasn’t strong enough to affect it. He made to run away but found himself being telekinetically lifted up into the air instead. He fired a few spells at the mind flayer, then found himself falling back to the floor as the enemy turned its attention to Karth again.
The half-orc, in his extreme frustration, had decided to start attacking the wriggling tadpole creatures in the pool. The mind flayer clearly did not like this, as the PCs could hear its screams of rage in their minds. It switched its telekinesis over to Karth and left him out of the pool, pulling him all the way up to the ceiling, 80 feet up, where he let the half-orc go.
Karth hit the ground with a splat and stopped moving. Berrian rushed over to heal him using his dragonmark. The mindflayer then hit Karth with a confusion spell and the poor half-orc found himself crawling over to the wall and banging his head against it stupidly. Berrian shot some fire bolts at the mind flayer, then he joined Tasklar in the pool, where the bard was busy firing eldritch blasts at the tadpoles.
Unfortunately for the mind flayer, it was running out of spell power. In desperation to save its little colony, it made the mistake of coming down to the floor. Berrian and Tasklar both moved to engage it in melee, with Tasklar even pulling out his rapier! At that moment, Karth shook off his confusion and came back into the fray with a roar. The PCs hacked and slashed and stabbed … and then the mind flayer telepathically cried “You haven’t seen the last of me yet!” and vanished.
Berrian was pretty sure that the creature had plane shifted away and wouldn’t be coming back any time soon, so the heroes dusted themselves off, slaughtered the rest of the tadpoles, then set about looting the mind flayer’s private study. They found a ledger written in Undercommon, a locked chest full of bags of money and gems, and a familiar starry cloak that gave Berrian the sudden realization that they had just been fighting the same mind flayer that had been behind all the chaos in Brindinford! No wonder!
Hurrying back to the scrying chamber, they relieved the doppelganger’s corpse of all of Gil’s things, then stuffed as much stuff as they could from the mind flayer’s macabre museum and laboratory into the bag of holding before sneaking back past the naga and heading back to the surface.
They headed straight for Eligos, who thanked them for their services to the city and paid them a hefty sum for the confiscated books and sundries. He also offered to help them sell or trade some of the magic items they had obtained but didn’t want to keep, like the cursed axe and the wondrous figurine that could turn into an evil nightmare. They decided to keep the petrified pseudodragon, though, in case they found a way to restore it to life.
Now they just had to decide whether to go back to the Sodden Hold and root out the rest of the doppelgangers or not …