Hand of Light, Episode 24 – My Dear Missing Mother, Part 4

Session Date: November 11, 2017

In this episode, the Hand of Light discovers the importance of listening to NPCs despite how much they dislike them. The heroes also discover unexpected allies, finish up the yuan-ti temple, and investigate a “Bone Graveyard.”

21 Flamerule, 1367 DR

Unsure of their ability to battle the two massive snakes in lower, flooded level of the yuan-ti temple, Dexter proposes they move on.

Karn protests briefly, citing the thirty some yuan-ti eggs the snakes carry and the likelihood of them hatching into more yuan-ti to plague the Mere of Dead Men and surrounding area. Amazingly, Luna and Dexter manage to convince the paladin quite easily that there are more important matters to deal with.

Apparently not even the mighty Karn had the cojones to fight these powerful beasts in their own element…

As the Hand of Light begins to travel toward a Bone Graveyard to the south that Mildred “Milly” Mildew told them about, saying that her missing grandaughter might be there, Dunkle surfaces from the water, a massive black tentacle wrapped around him. “Help!” he gasps before the tentacle begins to pull him back under the water. “Pirate energy!”

Lyr holds his mandolin forward like a mounted soldier holding his saber, and jumps into the water with a shout of “I’ll save you!” The bard’s confidence in himself is overestimated — isn’t it usually? — and a tentacle quickly wraps around him, too. Lyr’s eyes go wide, and just before he is pulled under the water he squeaks, “I’ve got this, guys!”

Karn, Dexter, and Luna shoot glances at each other and then shrug. What’s one bard anyway?

Lyr’s player joined Dunkle in the ranks of players who didn’t make it to the game session. Life sucks; then tentacles grab you.

So, the heroes begin rowing their boat to the south. Gabriel, the priest of Ohgma, rides with them, and Milly is poling her own boat along with them.

Suddenly, the water churns around them, and a reptilian form rises before them. “You are surrounded, smoothskins,” the creature states awkwardly in Common. “Give us that one, and we let you go.” It gestures at Dexter with its spear.

Dexter, having identified the beast as a lizardfolk, says, “And why may I ask?”

“We hunger,” it states, “and only walking corpses are to be found here.”

Karn smiles and says, “What if we told you where you could find two delicious and quite fresh meals?”

And so the heroes tell the lizardfolk about the two massive snakes and even offer to help them kill them. The lizardman agrees to the arrangement, and two more rise from the water.

And thus the three players who came to the session each got to play a lizardfolk warrior! They were level 9 barbarian/fighter hybrids I made that morning when I found myself up to two players who wouldn’t make the session.

Then, with their new allies in tow, the Hand of Light heads back to the yuan-ti temple. One lizardfolk goes under the water and draws the gargantuan snakes out from their lair. Dexter banishes one immediately, and the heroes gang up on the remaining snake, fighting from a wide staircase that runs up the outside of the temple.

The snake turns out to be quite nasty, spitting acid and even swallowing on of the lizardfolk. Fortunately, the snake regurgitates its still-living meal, and the adventurers are able to bring it down.

Once the remaining snake returns, the heroes all unload on it. It doesn’t take long before the beast is but a corpse floating in the swamp.

Then the group takes a few hours for the lizardfolk to prepare a meal of the snakes and set up an impromptu smoke tent to cure more of the meat.

For their help in bringing down enough meat to feed them for months, the lizardfolk offer to aid them further in the swamp. The heroes mention they are looking for a Bone Graveyard to the south. The lizardfolk tell them they know of it — in fact, many of their clan entered it and never returned — but that it lies to the east, not the south.

Hey, Milly is an old woman. Her memory is going… (And I just work here.)

The group then travels to the Bone Graveyard where they find an island covered with skulls and bones from a wide variety of creatures, small and large. The ground is spongy, but it supports them, allowing them to leave their boats behind.

They spot the ribs and backbone of some monolithic creature rising in the distance and start toward it.

As they travel, rotting arms burst forth from the moist ground, and zombies pull themselves out of shallow graves. The Hand of Light and lizardfolk immediately go on the offensive, hacking and slashing into the small horde of undead.

The battle is over quite quickly, though, as simple zombies proved to be no match for the heroes.

“Well, that was invigorating,” Luna says, patting her Maul of Disruption. As it turns out, undead are her favorite sort of enemy.

When the heroes reach the gigantic ribs and backbone, they notice two petrified lizardfolk standing near it. They question their lizardfolk allies about it, but they know nothing, having never dared enter the bone graveyard themselves.

All about are many rotted corpses, and then they recognize several as lizardfolk. It would appear they have learned the fate of their compaions’ clan.

Then, two more zombies, these quite large, rise up from the ground and advance on the heroes. Just as they move to engage the monsters, Luna practically skipping with joy, another creatures floats up into the air above the skeletal backbone.

The Hand of Light pauses collectively, and Dexter mutters a simple, “Oh shit.”

The newest combatant appears as a large skull with a glowing central eye and large maw. Ten spectral eyes float about its skull, turning to regard the intruders.

“Death Tyrant!” the wizard says, recognizing the monster as an undead beholder.

The battle that then unfolds test the heroes to their limits as the death tyrant begins unleashing ray after ray of deadly magic at them.

It turns out that a death tyrant can fire SIX rays per round. Oh, I was in heaven! LOL

Karn is nearly petrified right off the bat, and the heroes urge their lizardfolk allies to simply run, which two of them do after taking the two large zombies down. The biggest challenge the heroes face is actually getting at the monster as their two heavy hitters — Karn and Luna — are mostly useless at range.

Dexter, however, as an answer with fly. Of course, as soon as he casts the spell and the two paladins begin flying up toward the beholder, the aberration begins targeting the wizard with all of its rays. Freaking out, Dexter downs an invisibility potion and hides under the skeletal backbone.

Outraged, the death tyrant strikes Gabriel with a petrification ray. The simple priest has no defense against the attack and turns to stone.

If Dunkle survives the tentacles, he’ll find his new student too “stoned” for learning the ways of the rogue, I feel.

Karn flies toward the death tyrant, but gets zapped by a sleep ray. As he falls unconscious, his grave falls over fifty feet to the ground. A lizardfolk hits him with a javelin to wake him, but Karn then spends precious time recovering his weapon.

Meanwhile, Luna has much more luck, closing with the death tyrant and slamming it with her maul of disruption. She empowers the blow with a smite, giving the monster much to think about.

The death tyrant uses a telekinesis rays on her, moving her back, but the determined paladin comes right back at the beast and continues to work it over with her maul.

With the monster nearly dead and his glaive recovered, Karn flies recklessly at the death tyrant, glaive extended. His weapon impales the monster through the bottom of the jaw and up through the skull.

The monster screams in agony, and then its spectral eyes wink out as it becomes noting more than a large skull.

After the death tyrant is destroyed, the heroes loot the area of treasure from the aberration’s previous victims. They then begin to scour the area, destroying at least fifty more zombies.

When they finish, Milly tells them she’ll go home to her cottage now.

“But what about your lost granddaughter?” Karn asks her.

“Shelly?” Milly looks confused. “She’s a weaver in Baldur’s Gate. Has been for years. I’m sure she’s fine, dearie. Thanks for your concern, though.”

As Milly poles her boat away through the swamp, the Hand of Light stifles a surge of rage.

“I have a feeling we’ll see her again,” Dexter says.

“Probably at the head of an undead army,” Karn replies.

The heroes had noticed on several occasions that the undead always completely ignored Milly.

It’s amazing that they never asked her about that though… I had a backstory and excuses — er, reasons — prepared and everything!

The Hand of Light then tells the lizardfolk they are looking for people being captured by undead and dragged off into the swamp. The lizardfolk tell them they have, in fact, seen this. The undead are taking the people to a tower to the east.

“Damn it! I told you!”

Dexter, Luna, and Karn all turn to see Lyr dragging himself out of the swamp. Apparently he had escaped the tentacles.

“I told you we should have gone to the tower!” The bard begins flicking chunks of black flesh off his clothes. “We wasted all this time wandering the swamp while my mother is held hostage!”

Karn shrugs. “Hey, you win some and you lose some, right?”

The Hand of Light

Below are the famed members of the Hand of Light adventuring party.

Sword Coast Guard, Episode 15 – Confronting Lady Tharmar, Part 1

Session Date: November 5, 2017

13 Eleasias, 1367 DR

In this session, the Sword Coast Guard finally investigates the truth behind Lady Nellabee Tharmar. For some time, the heroes have suspected her of breeding demon spawn with Nigel. The adventuring party also gains a new necromancer comrade, Belwar.

Captured malenti in tow and defeated sahuagin and cultist compound behind them, the Sword Coast Guard travels to Waterdeep. The journey is uneventful, and when they arrive they set off for Castle Waterdeep to report their success to Captain Rulathon, the commander of the Waterdeep soldiers and watch.

After a short wait, they are granted an audience with Rulathon. He is pleased to hear they successfully defeated the sahuagin and brought back a captive. However, when the heroes tell him about the Drazovinite cultists they also found, Rulathon is upset to learn the heroes killed all the cultists except for those that got away.

Rulathon upbraids them for “cowboy tactics” and explains the captives provided information for battling one’s enemies. Ian, a paladin of Helm, vehemently vouches for the heroes, and Rulathon — himself a paladin of Tyr — abates his lecture.

Xavier then convinces Captain Rulathon that the Sword Coast Guard’s efforts on behalf of Waterdeep would be much more effective if they weren’t questioned by every city official — such as the harbor master — when they were about tasks assigned to them by Rulathon or others.

Rulathon then commissions them as official agents of the Lords of Waterdeep and has papers drawn up for them. He does, however, charge Ian with responsibility for the group’s conduct.

The heroes then go about their separate ways to pursue downtime activities.

Elodin is granted entry to the War Wizards and serves with them for a ten day. The wizard, however, leaves no lasting impression with them. Linare lectures him briefly, saying that he should put the same effort into service with the War Wizards as he does adventuring with the Sword Coast Guard.

Elodin also meets Sharra, his dear friend and former member of a thieves guild that Elodin ran in Amn. Elodin’s guild had been absorbed by the Velvet Fists with Elodin himself forced to flee. Sharra tells him that the Velvet Fists themselves were forced out of Amn by the Shadow Thieves several years ago, and they’ve been operating in Waterdeep since. She tells him that Petrick, their leader, runs a guild called the Loyal Order of Couriers and Servants as a front for information gathering. Many of its members gather information from nobles to be used for heists and blackmail. Sharra and her companions are forced to do Petrick’s dirty work and are basically slaves.

Elodin assures Sharra that he’ll find a way to rescue them and bring justice to Petrick. She tells Elodin that the best time to strike is when they are preforming a heist because Petrick and Gelven, a diviner, will be distracted as they oversee the heist. She tells him she’ll let him know when they have a heist planned next.

Iantorin serves at the shrine of Helm in Waterdeep for the ten day. He travels about the city spreading the word of Helm and helping those in need. He gains one favor from the church of Helm in the city for his efforts.

Xavier goes to the War Wizards, hoping to learn about this missing mentor, a former War Wizard, and a couple villains from his past he’d like to get even with. The cost for information is exorbitantly expensive, though, so he resorts to good old fashioned street research. He is rewarded for his efforts when he learns that Andres Rowe — a man who betrayed him and his mentor to an ambush by assassins — runs the day-to-day operations of the Loyal Order of Couriers and Servants, a guild in Waterdeep.

Belwar, a newly arrived necromancer in the city, seeks out a source of corpses and bones for his undead creations. He finds a man, Kados Starfire, who can supply him. Rumors says that this Kados is associated with a dangerous group of mages who operate out of Skullport, a black-market city below Waterdeep.

Nigel spends his time with Lady Nellabee Tharmar, catching up on vigorous activities in her library. At the end of the ten days, Lady Tharmar invites Nigel and his companions to a banquet hosted at her mansion then next day. With a caress across the cheek and sweet words, she magically convinces the bard that they should all arrive unarmed and unarmored. Nigel promises to do his best to ensure this happens.

When the heroes come back together, Belgarath introduces them all to his step-brother Belwar. Belgarath then takes his leave, and Belwar takes up adventuring with the Sword Coast Guard.

Belgarath’s player wants to try out a necromancer. So, this was the handoff.

The heroes then hear rumors of someone looking to purchase an underwater breathing item. They just so happen to have a magical trident that does this, among other things — quite a powerful weapon, actually, though none of them want to use it. They meet with a shifty-eyed man and negotiate a price around 150,000 gp. They all agree to meet on the 15th of Eleint, five miles north of Waterdeep, on neutral ground, to make the exchange.

Nigel then tells them about the banquet with Lady Nellabee Tharmar, and everyone agrees they should go and figure out what’s going on. Many of them suspect Lady Tharmar and Nigel of spawning demon children together.

I have no idea why they all think this…

Nigel then works hard to convince them not to wear armor or take their weapons with them. Iantorin immediately agrees, saying it would be poor form to arrive garbed for battle at such a function. Xavier insists on wearing his armor, though he agrees to leave behind his sword and shield — as an eldritch knight he can summon them in moments anyway. Elodin and Belwar have no problems leaving behind their obvious weapons, knowing their real strength — spell casting — doesn’t rely on mundane steel implements.

The heroes arrive to the banquet and are escorted inside. Belwar has a detect magic spell going, and he notices that many people have auras of transmutation around them.

They are escorted to the Great Library where Lady Nellabee Tharmar has a long banquet table set up. There are many other guests, a few of them beautiful women supposedly present for the companions “entertainment.” These three women also radiate transmutation magic…

After they are welcomed and seated, Lady Tharmar invites Nigel to dance. As their dance finishes, Lady Tharmar kisses Nigel full on the lips, draining part of the bard’s life energy. When the other heroes see this go down, they immediately leap to attack.

Lady Tharmar reveals herself as as succubus, and, as she is attacked repeatedly, teleports to the ethereal plan, escaping. She smashes an amulet at her feet first, though summoning a massive ice devil. The beautiful women turn out to be cambions, devilish offspring that result from union between a succubus (Lady Tharmar) and a human (Nigel).

The Sword Coast Guard then battles the ice devil and Nigel’s children, the cambions. Belwar polymorphs into a T-Rex attacking the cambions, while Elodin and Nigel fling spells at their foes. The wizard animates ten forks from the table which he then directs against his enemies. The bard spends most of the battle under the effects of greater invisibility, throwing eldritch blasts at the cambions.

Xavier and Iantorin move about the field together against their foes, the later using a table knife as a weapon and turning the ice devil and one cambion with his Helm-granted divine powers.

In the end their foes are defeated, those one of the cambions also flees with plane shift.

The Sword Coast Guard then hears Lady Tharmar’s laughter off in the distance and know that their night has just begun.

The Sword Coast Guard

the adventurers formerly known as the Heroes of Gold, Glory, and Girls

Not photoed: Iantorin Mournsoul - Half-Elven Paladin of Helm

Hand of Light, Episode 23 – My Dear Missing Mother, Part 3

Session Date: October 27, 2017

In this episode, the heroes continue to delve deeper into the yuan-ti temple. Players can be obstinate at times. That’s why DMs wield complete cosmic power: they need it.

20 Flamerule, 1367 DR

As the heroes contemplate their next move and prepare for a short rest, Dunkle shimmies up the rope back outside to check on Milly who they had left there in her boat.

Inside, the remaining heroes hear a commotion, and Milly calls up, “Um, hello? Black tentacles just came out of the swamp and pulled underwater the fellow who goes on and on about pirates and pirate energy and all that related baloney.”

“That’s fine,” the heroes call up as one. “Just a plot device.”

Dunkle couldn’t make the session. Our table’s standing rule is that black tentacles gobble your character up if the player isn’t present. It’s a fine tradition that started with Dona the Barbarian. I miss Dona. L

Meanwhile, Dexter and Karn try to convince Gabriel to stay outside the temple with all the captives they just rescued. They are having a hard time of it until Lyr, still invisible, intercedes. The bard casts minor illusion on the pebble, making it glow, and carries it to Gabriel.

“This magic pebble will grant you powers,” Lyr tells the man. “Powers that you must use to protect the captives outside. We are counting on you, Gabriel.”

Trembling Gabriel takes the pebble, which appears to be floating in midair. “Yes, Mystic Seer! Your wish is my command!” And with that, the priest of Oghma scrambles up the rope to fulfill his duty.

Gabriel is a fine NPC. I don’t understand why my players dislike him so much…

The heroes then sweep the temple level they are currently on, rescuing two injured and sick captives from one room. In another room — a room that is pitch black — they find several humans manacled to the walls. One is but a decaying corpse, and the others are so starved that they are naught but bones covered with flesh.

They free these prisoners, and Luna determines that their condition is quite serious and will require weeks if not months of medical attention to nurse them back to health. They carefully move these people outside where Gabriel can protect them.

Yeah… Protect them…

The heroes then move down wide staircases to the next level down. There they find an enormous temple, complete with a stone altar and wall steamers covered with snake patterns. Two more staircases lead down to another level, and several large stone doors line the walls.

The heroes move to one such door and upon opening it, discover more than half a dozen humanoids in the room. They have snake-like features — forked tongues, narrow eyes, scaly skin — and the heroes identify them as yuan-ti purebloods, the “lowest” form of yuan-ti.

The yuan-ti make a half-hearted attempt at demanding who they are, but then leap to the attack.

Only moments in the battle, a stone door nearby opens and four creatures resembling large snakes with arms — yuan-it abominations — emerge. Two fire arrows at the heroes, one uses suggestion on Lyr, causing him to surrender, and the fourth casts blade barrier around Luna and Karn, cutting them off from Dexter and Lyr.

And just like that everything turns to shite.

Lyr — the only caster with spell slots left — calls out to his friends, “Guys, I think it’s best that we just surrender. We are not match for them!” The yuan-ti abomination that had cast suggestion on him, stoops the bard up and begins carrying him back to the prison room upstairs.

Luna and Karn, trapped in the blade barrier, do what they can to fight their foes, but their efforts are a stalemate at best. And, while they are trapped, the yuan-ti abomination priestess drops a flame strike and other nasty spells on them.

One abomination grabs Dexter and drags him into the middle of the temple. Another abomination puts his sword to the wizards throat and demands that the heroes surrender or he kills their companion.

In response, Dexter casts misty step and appears next to Karn and Luna inside the blade barrier. The priestess laughs and drops another flame strike on all three of them.

Once Lyr is manacled in the prison room and the abomination leaves, the suggestion dissipates. The bard, suspecting that his friends need him, casts dimension door and appears back down near his companions.

Up until this point there had been much guzzling of healing potions and general distress. Things looked bad. Very bad.

With nothing but his life to lose, Lyr strides out into the midst of the yuan-ti and drops a destructive wave. One of the yuan-ti abominations goes down, and another is severely injured.

The priestess drops her blade barrier, and the purebloods surge toward Luna and Karn. The two paladins make short work of them and then move onto the abominations.

As the tide of battle shifts, the yuan-ti priestess flees to the stairs leading downward and escapes. Then the yuan-ti that had shackled Lyr returns and gets summarily dealt with.

With their enemies defeated and their lives still intact — barely! — most of the heroes, severely injured and with resources depleted, want to hole up for a long rest.

But not Karn. Evil must be vanquished!

At the paladin’s insistence, they explore the rest of the level. The rescue some more captives from the kitchens and find a yuan-ti egg chamber. The eggs are guarded by yuan-ti broodguards — people that have been magically turned into hideous yuan-ti minions — and the heroes wisely close the door when the broodguards don’t immediately attack.

Finally Karn agrees to let them get some much-needed rest, and the heroes leave the ziggarat and find a ruined building a ways away that will serve well as a resting spot. Fortunately, they rest eight hours without incident, recovering their health and magical resources.

Upon returning to the ziggarat’s temple area, they find the yuan-ti broodgurads carrying the eggs out of the egg chamber and down the stairs. The broodguards immediately attack, and the priestess who had escaped joins in, also having rested and regained all her resources.

This battle goes much better for the Hand of Light, with them quickly capturing most of the broodguards — they are hoping to turn them back into people — and causing the priestess to flee yet again. This time, however, the priestess simply disappeared from inside a room. They didn’t see what she did, so they aren’t sure how she left. They search the area for her but find nothing.

They discover that the stairs leading down to the next level actually lead into a submerged part of the temple. Dexter transmutes himself into a fish and explores the level down.

The wizard-turned-fish discoveries two massive snakes some fifty feet long in one chamber. The snakes wear saddles and net rigging holds dozens of yuan-ti eggs to their backs. It appears that the priestess was attempting to flee the ziggarat and take the eggs with her.

Dexter goes back above, turning into a man once more, and relays this information to his companions. The heroes then begin preparations for luring the snakes out of the submerged area where they can be better dealt with.

The Hand of Light has no intention of letting those yuan-ti eggs hatch.

Mmm… still haven’t found Lyr’s mother though…

The Hand of Light

Below are the famed members of the Hand of Light adventuring party.