The Illithid, Part II

In which our heroes seek to destroy their mind flayer nemesis once and for all.

Advertisements

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.


Help Wanted
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.

Research
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.

Surprise!
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.

Betrayal!
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 …

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.

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 …