Hand of Light, Episode 22 – My Dear Missing Mother, Part 2

Session Date: October 14, 2017

20 Flamerule, 1367 DR

As the heroes continue their discussion of where to go — wander the swamp or go to the ruins of Iniarv’s Tower — glowing balls of light appear in the distance, rapidly approaching them. Karn identifies them as will-o’-wisps just as the undead creatures attack.

Mostly stuck on a small island, the heroes are quickly surrounded by the monsters. The will-o’-wisps attack by slamming into them, sending jolts of electricity coursing through their bodies. Luna lays into the undead lightning bugs with abandon, her Maul of Disruption obliterating the creatures with every swing. After several moments of being zapped by the creatures and smashing them in return, all but one of the will-o-wisps are defeated.

As the remaining monster streaks off to the southwest, the heroes and Gabriel (their beloved NPC worshipper of Oghma) pile into their boat to give chase. The will-o’-wisp quickly zips out of sight, but the heroes continue in that direction thinking maybe it will lead them to the necromancer they seek.

In the distance they see a hunched figure in a boat, pushing itself along in the water with a crude pole fashioned from a branch. Dexter sends Vesper ahead to check it out and reports that it appears to be an old lady.

Immediately conversation begins regarding hags in the swamp.

I don’t get it. Can’t a DM simply place an NPC in a swamp without speculation and suspicion taking over?

As the heroes row closer, the old lady turns and greets them, introducing herself as Mildred. She says she lives in a cottage near the swamp and is looking for her granddaughter. According to Mildred — she tells the heroes they can call her “Milly” — undead broke into her cottage a few days back and kidnapped her granddaughter. She asks the heroes to help her find her.

Suspicions high, Karn, the noble paladin, agrees to aid her, but also casts divine sense. Milly is neither undead, celestial, nor fiend. However, Karn does sense undead creatures not far from the boat, some thirty feet down into the water.

The heroes begin dumping flasks of holy water into the swamp above the undead. The holy water purifies and cleanses the water, allowing them to see into its depths. Finally, one the divine water has penetrated to thirty feet, skeletal corpses of gnolls are revealed. The undead creatures’ eyes glow red when the holy water touches them, and they surge upward toward the heroes.

A brief battle breaks out — the gnoll skeletons are no match for the group — and Dunkle appears just as the last skeletons dies, the rogue exiting the water and pulling himself onto a log. (He had fallen into the water some ways back and the group had only searched half-heartedly for their lost pirate rogue.)

Translation: Dunkle’s player was late to the session.

“What’d I miss?” calls Dunkle.

“Undead. Old lady,” replies Lyr as Luna smashes the last skeleton.

The heroes then have another brief conversation with Milly, finally deciding that she is at least half crazy. However, they do set off with her to the southeast, deciding she’s the best lead they have for finding the necromancer. It’s worth noting that Gabriel and Lyr both insist they should go to Iniarv’s Tower, but they are mostly ignored.

After some time traveling, they come upon the ruins of some ancient civilization. Crumbling buildings rise from the swamp, their lower stories having sunken into the mire, and they spot a ziggurat in the distance whence from tortured screams float to them.

Hounds on the trail, the Hand of Light makes haste to the ziggurat and finds a moss-covered entrance — a narrow chimney really — leading down into the structure. The screams emanate from the chimney. They quickly tie off a rope, drop it down the chimney, and head down.

Karn is the first to drop into a fairly large room. The paladin sees several humans manacled to walls and tied to tables. Snake-like humanoids wielding implements of torture — hooked knives and heated pincers — stare at the paladin, having paused at their work when they heard a clamor and commotion from the chimney as the heroes were descending.

“Torm aid me!” Karn screams as he readies his halberd and charges the monstrous men.

As the rest of the Hand of Light slides down in the room, Dexter identifies the monsters as yuan-ti. Several of the creatures simply look like men with snakes for heads. However, two of them have arms that end in dozens of snakes instead of hands.

As the ass-kicking unfolds, one of the yuan-ti loudly calls down a hallway, presumable alerting others nearby to the intruder’s presence. Sure enough, more yuan-ti — these ones with lower torsos of snakes — and large, undead, skeletal snakes arrive soon after.

Many of the yuan-ti and the skeletal snakes have nasty and potent spells that they bring to bear against the heroes. Seeing they are at risk of being overwhelmed, Dexter drops a wall of force to split the yuan-ti forces. It buys them some time, but those that were cut off find an alternative way at them.

Karn, Luna, and Dunkle spend the battle taking names and kicking ass. Dexter casts spells like his life depends on it — it does — and counterspells most of the enemies’ nastiest spells. Lyr, however, spends most of the fight invisible and doing…well, things.

Lyr had cast invisibility on himself and didn’t want to have wasted a 2nd level slot. So, he spend the fight distracting and annoying the monsters. You know, typical Lyr stuff.

Finally, the Hand of Light does prevail agains their foes, though they are rather beat up, and Dexter is mostly out of spell slots. They believe, however, that they must have found the source of the undead that attacked Leilon and carried half the village away.

As they contemplate taking a short rest, they wonder how much more of the compound was alerted and en route.

The Hand of Light

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

Sword Coast Guard, Episode 13 – The Sunken Temple, Part 3

Session Date: October 8, 2017

13 Eleasias, 1367 DR

As the heroes look up from reading the letter, Rusty is surrounded by a mysterious blue aura and vanishes from sight.

“Woah,” says Xavier, drawing his sword and scanning the area for danger. “What in the Nine Hells was that?”

“Stand down. That’s just a no call no show right there,” Elodin explains.

Belgarath thumps his morningstar against the palm of one hand. “You know, in some adventuring groups, three of those in a row…” His voice trails off ominously.

“Damn!” Xavier sheathes his sword. “I was excited for a second. I do have the mage slayer feat, after all.”

The remaining four adventurers move down the hallway toward a set of double doors. Belgarath quickly scans them for traps, picks the lock, and pushes them open.

Beyond the doors is a large room dominated by a massive basin of water. At the far end, standing in front of an altar are a hooded figure and a woman, both wearing turquoise-colored ceremonial robes. The woman glances at the heroes in the doorway, smiles, and steps through a glowing magical portal behind her.

As the portal winks out, the hooded figure – one arm actually ending in a large crab-like claw – walks to the middle of the basin, supernaturally walking on top of the water. He holds a magnificent trident in one hand – a human hand – and pushes his hood back to reveal a barnacle-covered face.

“First, I want to thank you,” he says, “for giving us time to gather the remnants are move them somewhere… safer.” He glances over his shoulder to where the magical portal once stood.

For, you see, this is what happens when the heroes storm a compound, make a hellova ruckus, and then take an hour short rest: everyone else in the compound is alerted and has time to prepare.

“Now, any last words?”

“Yeah,” says Belgarath. “I HATE cutscenes. I would have eldritch blasted you in the face as soon as the door opened.” A mystical blue light begins to emanate from the warlock, and his body becomes less corporal.

Nigel elbows Elodin in the side. “Hey, can he force a no call no show?”

“DM can do whatever he wants,” Elodin whispers back.

“Damn…”

“Okay, okay,” Belgarath shouts. “It’s fine. Just kidding.” The blue light disappears, leaving the warlock in place. “Now – ELDRITCH BLAST!”

And thus the battle kicks off.

Hey, cutscenes are needed from time to time. Gotta deliver a semblance of story elements and plot points before the belligerent ones begin killing things…

As they move into the room, the heroes discover that dozens of starving ghouls are chained to the bottom of the basin of water, their reaching hands not far from the surface.

The barnacle-covered, claw-handed man – we’ll just call him Crab-Man here on out – causes a tidal wave to surge from the basin, slamming Elodin and Nigel to the ground. He then casts a powered up hold person at them, but Elodin counters it.

Low on spell slots, the bard and wizard begin throwing cantrips at their foe, while Xavier and Belgarath, both melee combatants, do what they can from range as entering the ghoul-filled water to get at Crab-Man is out of the question.

At a gesture from Crab-Man, water in the basin animates and attacks the heroes, grappling and restraining all of them except Nigel. The bard considers himself lucky…until Crab-Man casts another hold person and Nigel finds himself paralyzed.

Then water from the basin surges upward, swirls wildly near the ceiling to form large hailstones, and then pummels the heroes.

Laughing wildly, Crab-Man puts himself in line with Xavier and Elodin, pulls a wand from his belt, and unleashes a lightning bolt at them. Xavier avoids the brunt of the magical energy, but Elodin is hit hard and nearly goes down.

“Son of a tongue-less bard!” Elodin screams. “We’re screwed!”

As Nigel shakes of the hold person spell, the bard, in shock, says, “He got my books wet.” He can see ink bleeding from his makeshift bag (made from a pair of pants) where he was carrying dozens of precious books.

“HE GOT MY BOOKS WET!”

“Ohhhh, that mother is dead,” whispers Belgarath as he begins to slam his morningstar into the altar, hoping it is the key to Crab-Man’s power.

“Sacrilege!” Crab-Man, a priest of Drazovinites, bellows as cracks begin to run along the stone altar. He moves across the water next to the warlock and unleashes a series of blows at him.

Then, fists clenched in fury, Nigel quickly casts a spell and a screams, “DIE, BOOK BANE!”

Crab-Man’s trident suddenly heats read hot, and he reflexively releases the weapon from his grip. He manages a whispered, “Oh shit,” before plunging into the water. It would appear that his water walking ability was tied to the trident, a fact that the ever-perceptive bard had deduced.

Several ghouls instantly lash out at Crab-Man, claws scratching his barnacled flesh. The man tries to pull himself from the water, but ghoulish paralysis sets in first. The ravenous ghouls then pull his rigid body beneath the water and begin feasting.

Xavier watches the bloody spectacle for a moment and then averts his eyes. “Nice work” he calls to Nigel. “Why didn’t you do that in round one?”

The bard glares at him dangerously. “No one touches my books.”

“NO ONE!”

After looting Crab-Man’s body, the heroes find a secret door in the room and investigate the tunnel beyond it. It leads them to a quay and an underground lake.

The heroes unanimously agree that nothing good will come of investigating the lake and that it will probably just lead to an encounter they’d rather just avoid. So, they send Belgarath in to investigate “real quick.”

One of the true joys a DM experiences is first hearing the players thoroughly enumerate why the should NOT do something, and then hearing them say they want to do it anyway. Because that always turns out well.

For the DM.

As Belgarath moves into the room on his flying carpet, he spots a gigantic shape protruding from the water. As he finally sorts it out as the back of an enormous turtle, a voice booms, “WHO ARE YOU AND WHY ARE YOU HERE?”

As this conversation unfolds, the heroes – most of whom are still back in the tunnel – identify the creature as a dragon turtle. It turns out that the Drazovinites and Sahuagin were paying the dragon turtle in order to mine the walls of the underground lake for remnants.

The dragon turtle demands a similar arrangement from the heroes, should they wish to leave his lair alive. The heroes discuss just leaving (they figure the monster can’t fit through the narrow tunnels), but then Belgarath realizes the turtle must have piles of treasure, possibly including magical items.

When they refuse to make a deal with the creature, it moves to attack, but Elodin casts banishment on it, and it disappears. This gives Belgarath, aiding by Xavier’s and Elodin’s octopus familiars, time to find the monster’s treasure trove.

Drinking a potion of water breathing and diving under the water, the warlock finds a tunnel and begins swimming down it. After half a minute of swimming, Belgarath determines the tunnel probably leads back out to the ocean, and turns around.

Back in the underground lake, the dragon turtle reappears as Elodin’s spell runs out and moves to attack. This time the wizard casts wall of force across the entrance to the tunnel. Enraged and unperturbed, the dragon turtle begins slamming its incredible bulk agains the wall of force and the stone walls.

As rubble and dust begin to rain down on Nigel, Xavier, and Elodin, the latter uses minor illusion to create duplicates of himself to distract the turtle. Meanwhile, the bard begins casting geas, which takes a minute to do so.

Seeing the turtle distracted as he comes back into the lake, Belgarath checks out other parts of the chamber, eventually finding another tunnel. And this tunnel does lead to the monster’s treasure horde! The warlock greedily scoops up a morningstar, scarf, and flute, though he leaves the tens of thousands of gold and platinum pieces on the floor – even he can only carry so much.

As Xavier and Nigel stumbled out of the tunnel that seems ready to collapse, the dragon turtle forces its head through a small hole its created between the wall of force and the stone wall. It inhales deeply and breaths a cone of scalding steam at the heroes. Fortunately, the angle is wrong, and it just hits the wall.

Just as the tunnel is collapsing, Eloding misty steps to the back of the turtle, using a minor illusion of himself in the tunnel to distract the turtle.

Belgarath spots three turtle eggs, each the size of a man, and ties a rope around one of them, planning to drag it out with him. Just as he nears the exit from the dragon turtle’s lair, he comes face to face with the enraged creature.

“THIEF!” it bellows as it inhales, preparing to breathe.

Belgarath discretely downs a potion of gaseous form, and is expelled to the surface of the lake as his body transforms into mist. He hears roars of rage and confusion behind him as he heads to his flying carpet.

Elodin, left floating in the water when the turtle headed under to its lair, casts fly on himself and begins booking it down a tunnel to the south. Belgarath is close behind him.

As they flee, both heroes can hear the dragon turtle behind them – it must have seen them – begin slamming into the entrance, apparently trying to follow them. However, the monster just doesn’t fit, fortunately for them.

This was a badass encounter and tons of fun. So glad the players decided to “just take a quick look.”

The four heroes meet back up in the Drazovinites complex, and review the loot Belgarath pocketed from the stupid turtle. A scarf of water breathing and golden flute go to Nigel, and Belgarath gets a Morningstar +2 of Giantbane.

After exploring some abandoned dwarven tunnels to the east, the Hand of Light heads back to an underwater tunnel they found near the entrance to the entire compound. They originally came here to kill sahuagin, and so far they haven’t seen any of the creatures. They figure that this tunnel should lead them to the sahuagin.

The Sword Coast Guard

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

Hand of Light, Episode 21 – My Dear Missing Mother, Part 1

Session Date: September 30, 2017

16 Flamerule, 1367 DR

After their tenday of downtime, the first order of business of the Hand of Light is to grill Luna over her motivations for joining the group and her general intentions, all while in a zone of truth. Specifically, they want to make sure she has no intentions of harming their adventuring company.

I missed this in the last entry, but Luna ate portion of a page from a book that contained information about wrongdoing of certain groups and individuals in Waterdeep. The presumption was that Luna was hiding something, and the group members are suspicious of her. But the DM would never create secret agendas for a character, would he???

Then the heroes head to New Olamn bard college to speak with Cora Sorel about the letter they received. They find Cora in Modesty Hall, the recreational hall. There they find her rather dejected as she and an instructor listen to three new students doing a horrible job playing their instruments.

Lyr casts enhance ability on the students, improving their musical talent signifantly, and their instructor begins praising them as musical prodigies.

As much of the rec hall breaks out into excitement over the students and heads over to listen better, Cora leads the Hand of Light out of the building and to her offices in the main compound of New Olamn. Cora berates Lyr quite sternly over delaying in arriving, mentions that he’s behind on his dues, and directs them to speak directly with Evard if they want to know more about Lyr’s mother, Nicolette.

Speaking with Evard, a bard who traveled in Nicolette’s band, they learn that she has been captured by undead near the town Leilon to the north. Evard tells them undead attacked the town, carrying off women and children into the Mere of Dead Men. Then, when Lyr and his friends did not respond to Nicolette’s first call for assistance, their band of bards took matters into their own hands, trying to find the captured townsfolk. This is when Nicolette was captured, along with the rest of the band, except Evard who escaped.

This is what happens when players are presented with adventure A and adventure B, and chose A. The story line of adventure B still advances...

The heroes begin to prepare for their journey to Leilon. Dunkle heads to the docks and finds a ship that can give them passage, though it doesn’t depart for five days. Dexter and Luna visit Essimuth, put up with long winded stories about undead, and manage to buy healing potions for the group. Lyr spends a couple hours researching undead types and the area around Leilon and the Mere of Dead Men. Karn procures flasks of holy water from the church of Tom.

The heroes then meet up and buy horses, since Dunkle’s connections at the dock didn’t yield a ship worth taking – they’d be in Leilon via horse before the ship even sails from Waterdeep. Then they set out along the High Road, heading north to Leilon.

19 Flamerule, 1367 DR

The road skirts the Sword Coast as it heads north, with jagged cliffs to the west and the imposing Sword Mountains to the east. The journey is uneventful until day three when they spot something flying toward them from the east.

The shape resolves into a large, winged devil bearing a trident. Dexter identifies it as a horned devil, and quickly relays some basic information to the others.

The devil tells that Hand of Light that its master, Jathar, wished to thank them for the excellent lead they gave him regarding the Moonstars. It looks like the elves will indeed be able to help with finding a map of Evermeet. That is, given enough “persuasion.”

The horned devil them holds out two large gems saying Jathar wishes to present them with a gift. It throws the gems to the ground below, and two inter-dimensional portals open. Through the portals, the heroes can see an ice-covered landscape where the wind howls. Fiendish, ice-covered creatures resembling orcs exit the portals and attack.

The ice orcs turn out to be minor challenge – though Luna takes a terrible beating. It’s the horned devil hurling balls of fire from 150 feet above that really gives the heroes pause. First Karn and then Dexter feel the bite of that devilish fire, before Lyr drops an insect cloud around the heroes, hiding them from the devil’s sight.

Just as Dexter polymorphism into a giant eagle so he can carry Karn up to fight the horned devil, Lyr casts hypnotic pattern on the monster, causing it to plummet to the ground. From there it’s your basic surround and pound; the horned devil doesn’t stand a chance.

After resting, the heroes continue their journey to Leilon. However, they take note that their troubles with this Jathar and Mephistopheles, the archduke of Cania, the eighth layer of the Nine Hells, might not be over.

20 Flamerule, 1367 DR

Upon arriving to Leilon, the heroes note that fully half the town is in ruins. Patrols of mounted soldiers in blue surcoats, soldiers of Leilon, patrol the streets as do spear men and archers bearing the eye and tears sigil of Neverwinter.

They speak with Lance Captain Hermon Shagavon, the leader of the Lances of Leilon, and are told that a necromancer named Gabriel Erskine is responsible for the undead invasion. Captain Shagavon tells them Gabriel claimed to be a priest of Oghma, the god of knowledge, but was known for experimenting on cadavers. So, naturally, when undead attacked, Gabriel must have been responsible. Captain Shagavon tells them that they tried to apprehend Gabriel, but her escaped in the Mere of Dead Men.

The heroes also speak with Captain Ivon Paxton, the leader of the Neverwinter soldiers, but learn nothing else of value.

So, they head to Gabriel’s house to investigate further. There they find a workroom with a cadaver, several books with detailed scientific notes about the anatomy of several creatures, including humans, and a large sig of Oghma – a blank scroll – painted on the wall. The evidence they find doesn’t seem to implicate Gabriel at all. The heroes discuss and believe that the citizens of Leilon were not correct in their belief that it was Gabriel.

The Hand of Light purchases a boat and heads into the Mere of Dead Men to either find Gabriel or the source of the undead problem. They travel for some time with little results. So, Lyr uses speak with animals to get assistance from a crow who leads them through the swamp toward another human it’s recently seen.

The heroes come upon a man up a tree fending off a handful of undead creatures with long tongues lolling from their mouths: ghasts. The Hand of Lights pilots their boat to the small island of dry land at the base of the tree and quickly defeat the undead creatures.

They convince the man to come down the tree, and it turns out to be Gabriel Erskine. He explains to them that he’s been traveling the Mere of Dead Men for some time trying to find the source of the undead in order to clear his name. Under another zone of truth it’s revealed that Gabriel is an inept fighter and has mostly been fleeing undead for the last few weeks.

Gabriel tells them he believes the source of the undead to be located in the Ruins of Iniarv’s Tower. However, he doesn’t know how to get to the tower. The heroes, though, do know where it’s located – in fact they passed it on their way to Leilon.

After discussing, the heroes decide that the source of trouble couldn’t possibly be in the tower. So, they decide to wander the swamp, hoping they get lucky. Gabriel volunteers to help them, though he strongly doubts they’ll find anything in the swamp.

The Hand of Light

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

Sword Coast Guard, Episode 12 – The Sunken Temple, Part 2

Session Date: September 10, 2017

13 Eleasias, 1367 DR

With the heroes planning to head north in the underground compound, Rusty splashes out of the water onto a quay. “Sorry guys,” the fighter says, streams of water running down him. “Had a rough night.”

“No worries,” says Belgarath. “We had to fight some shark riders and ghasts without you, but it wasn’t that –” Before the warlock can finish, he disappears with a flash of soft blue light.

“Damn, DM magic,” mutters Elodin.

Nigel nods. “Yep, tell me about it.”

“You should see if you can borrow some of that for your demon spawn children,” says Elodin.

“Hey, I’m just proud to be a father.”

Translation: Rusty’s player – who wasn’t present at the last session – arrived for this session. Belgarath’s player, however, wasn’t present at the beginning of this session. Rule is “if a player’s butt is not in the chair, his character’s butt is not in the world.” (I’m still trying to figure out what I’ll do if I ever get a player who stands the whole session.)

Metagamey magic aside, the Sword Coast Guard jumps into the water and swims north. They soon see a bridge spanning the river down the tunnel and approach to investigate.

As Nigel is examining the underside of the bridge, something grabs his ankle and yanks him underwater. The bard finds himself face to face with an ugly – by the bard’s standards, at least – sea troll. The troll extends one hand and growls something Nigel doesn’t understand.

Trembling, Nigel pulls a gold pieces from a pouch and gives it to the troll. The creature snarls, bites the coin in half, and extends its hand again.

The heroes dive down after their companion, and Elodin, seeing the troll speaking a language no one understands, casts tongues.

“Five hundred!” the sea troll bellows.

The heroes see another troll, clearly female, approach them from deeper in the river. Rusty checks out the troll holding Nigel, and it’s clearly male. “Cute couple,” the fighter remarks.

Elodin convinces the sea troll to come onto the dry land near the foot of the bridge where they can better discuss things. The sea troll demands a toll of five hundred gold to pass the bridge – because the “missus” wants it. To avoid a conflict, the wizard pays the troll.

See, if this were an MMO, this is what we’d call a “cash store” where players can buy experience points to level up. So, two trolls are worth 3500 XP. That comes out to 7.2 XP per gold piece, not adjusted for DM inflation, of course. (And if it were a real cash store, I’d be charging them dollars, not gold pieces…hey, I may be onto something.)

As Elodin and the sea troll continue their conversation, the wizard extracts information about the underground compound. He learns that “magic men” live in the area just west of the bridge, and that “fish men” live west of the area they fought the shark riders in.

The wizard then turns the tables on the troll, offering it information and then demanding five gold pieces. The confused troll hangs its head, dives into the water, and returns with a sack with five hundred gold pieces. “The missus is gonna be pissed with me,” the sea troll says, head hung dejectedly, as it gives Elodin the sack of gold.

This is what it looks like when players hack the cash store, take the money back, and still get to keep the experience points. (Which is why I told them next time we wouldn’t have a session. Banning them, you see.)

The heroes then quickly head west from the bridge to the “magic men” area. As they head down the tunnel, they can hear a commotion and loud screaming from behind them.

Yep, the missus didn’t like it.

At the end of the tunnel, they come upon double wooden doors – the heroes know they are wooden because Nigel rolls above a 5 on his Investigation check to determine what kind of doors they are.

Xavier pushes the doors open (once Nigel confirms they are wooden, of course) and finds a large chamber with many doors about the walls. In the middle of the chamber is a basin of water measuring some twenty feet by twenty feet square.

The fighter confidently strides up to the basin and peers over the edge into the water.

I might note – and all the players loudly noted this as well when Xavier said he was going to do this – that jumping first didn’t serve Malark so well with the shark riders. (Xavier is the new character that replaced Malark – same player.) However, I usually consider myself a benevolent DM. Usually.

A thick tendril of water explodes from the basin and tries to wrap Xavier about the waist. However, the fighter parries the tendril away with his sword and backs away.

Rusty rushes into the room, drawing his swords and crying, “Hell yeah! Time to kill shit!”, and the other heroes take up positions in the tunnel.

Just as Rusty enters the room, a second tendril of water exits the basin, wraps around him, and yanks him into the water. The fighter can’t see anything but water around him – whatever he’s fighting is either invisibility or made of water – as he’d dragged thirty feet downward into the murky water.

Xavier hacks wildly at the water in front of him, scoring a hit on something that he can’t see. There is definitely more than just water in the basin. Nigel and Elodin fling what spells they can from the tunnel, but it’s hard to hit the tendrils of water from where they’re at.

As Nigel enters the room to get a better angle on things, Belgarath appears down the tunnel behind Elodin. “Sorry for the delay, boys!” The warlock charges down tunnel and into he room. “What’d I miss?”

“Time to kill shit,” Rusty gurgles from within the basin.

Belgarath’s player arrived. He was at a local game shop when his truck wouldn’t start. So, naturally, he just replaced the starter in the parking lot, just like anyone else would have done…

And then two of the doors open, and four human females bearing shields and shark-teeth swords move into the room.

Just as the heroes adjust to the new threats, another door opens. Three men, each covered with a sheen of frost and one eye frozen over, enter the room. Rays of frigid frost blast out from their eyes, hitting both Nigel and Elodin, freezing them in place.

Waves of enemies are fun.

Despite being frozen in place, Nigel drops a hypnotic pattern on a group of enemies, incapacitating two of the frozen eyes. Then Belgarath and Xavier go to work, morning star and sword smashing and slashing through their foes. An invisible water creature, several of the warriors, and a frozen eye go down in pools of blood – or water.

Meanwhile, Rusty escapes several times from the water grasping him, only to be grappled again. Finally the fighters embraces the possibility of drowning and simply begins hacking away at the water around him. His flurry of attacks does the trick, and the water releases him. After swimming to the surface, he pulls himself back on to dry ground.

“And that’s how shit gets killed,” he says, spitting up a pint of water.

The frozen eyes repeatedly try to cast fear on the heroes, but Elodin is quick to counterspell them. Then, as the heroes drop more foes, one of the frozen eyes drops a fog cloud around him and moves through the double doors leading north.

Xavier and Belgarath follow after him, and Nigel casts dispel magic, removing the fog.

The two warriors find themselves in a corridor with basins of water lining either wall. Standing in the basins of water are four suits of plate armor engraved with water and seashell motifs and holding fanciful, silver tridents.

After they slaughter the remaining frozen eye, Belgarath investigates a suit of armor and yanks the trident away from it. A silver trident might be useful after all.

At that, Xavier moves to another suit of armor and begins monkeying with it.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how one encounter dovetails into two encounters back to back. The DM wanted to give them a moment to regroup – he really did – but no one, I mean no one, monkeys with my armor.

Two of the suits of armor glow softly with blue light, and water from the basins rushes up to fill them out, a sort of body made of water. The water armors then move to stab Xavier and Belgarath with their tridents, frigid ice coating them.

The hack and slash and lobbing of spells commences, and this battle is rather straightforward compared to the last one.

When the water armors are vanquished, the Sword Coast Guard moves back to the previous chamber and begins checking out the various rooms that opening up from it. The rooms all appear to be barracks, and the heroes find a decent amount of loot – gold, gems, and the like. Nigel also discovers dozens of tomes of history, and two books dealing with arcane topics. His backpack already overfilling, the bard improvises a pair of pants as a satchel, and stuffs the books into them.

We’ll need to remember throughout the rest of this adventure that Nigel is dragging around several dozen books in a pair of pants…

The heroes also discover a letter from a Vidette Rhona to a Zac Stormcrow. As they settle down to take a short rest, they read the letter.

The Sword Coast Guard

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

Not Pictured: Xavier - Eldritch Knight Fighter

Hand of Light, Episode 20 – Finding Katso: Part 3

Session Date: September 2, 2017

5 Flamerule, 1367 DR

Dunkle makes his way through the compound, intent on finding his comrades. The sounds of battle echo down the hallway, and the trail of corpses lead him in what he presumes is the correct direction. Finally, the rogue enters a large chamber and finds the other members of the Hand of Light locked in a pitched battle with several winged tieflings – and his friends aren’t doing so well.

Quietly, Dunkle sneaks up behind one tiefling and stabs Bleeder, his enchanted rapier, through its back. Yanking the blade out, he kicks the dying foe over a ledge into sewer water far below. Then he moves to the next tiefling. Bleeder lashes out ruthlessly, spilling the tiefling’s life blood and toppling it over the ledge as well.

And thus, with Dunkle’s arrival, the tide of battle shifts.

At this Karn dispatches a third tiefling, and the forth wisely flees down a tunnel. Katso, from behind his wall of force prison, pounds futilely against the magical wall, his mouth forming silent screams of rage.

After thanking Dunkle for finally showing up – and saving their butts – the heroes turn their attention to the gnomes. First, they convince them to stand down and stop throwing concussion grenades at them. Then they begin to persuade them that Katso is the villain here and would enslave the gnomes all over again if they continue to follow him.

At first the gnomes are hesitant and proclaim loyalty to “the Great One.” However, they eventually come around and admit they’ve erred – again.

Dexter’s wall of force then dissipates – it only lasts ten minutes – and a torrent of backed up water rushes forth from the tunnel above, wishing Katso with it. The Great One crashes into the water in the basin below and disappears under the swirling liquid.

Several moments go by, with the water level rising by ten feet in the basin, but Katso does not resurface. He was either killed by the force of the water or escaped.

If you had just watched your elite soldiers defeated and then faced the choice of fighting all five adventurers by yourself, what would you do?

The heroes then investigate the rest of the compound. In Shindia’s room they disarm a trapped chest and find gold and and two jars of flesh to stone ointment. In the general barracks, they find Katso’s bed – a bunk bed piled with blocks of wierdust – but little else of interest.

The heroes then approach both New Olamn and Eltorchul Academy to see if they can find a home for the gnomes. In the end, they land the gnomes a gig at New Olamn, documenting their alchemical knowledge and researching formulas.

6 Flamerule – 15 Flamerule

Then the Hand of Light spends a tenday of downtime:

  • Dexter – Researches the magical darkness covering Faerun and finds a formula for a solution that counteracts the particulates in the sky. He also surmises that the solution must be applied to the source in the meteorite near Amn for the particulates filling the air to be permanently neutralized.
  • Karn – Meets with the Scribe, requesting that he track down Jathar, an agent of Mephistopheles who recently attacked them in an attempt to get a map of Evermeet. He then spends time in religious service, encouraging the populace to take heart despite the darkness covering the land.
  • Lyr – Spends his time carousing with the merchant class in an attempt to find a manager for the tavern the heroes purchased. He hires a man named Barrick who agrees to do it for 10% of the inn’s revenue. He also recruits a redhead, Cynthia Silvertooth, whom Barrick required be part of the deal.
  • Luna – Writes letters to various people. She also carousels a bit, gaining three allied contacts in the middle class.
  • Dunkle – Recruits “the Flower” to work at their inn when it opens up. He also begins training her in the roguish arts so she may serve as a mole, gleaning information from patrons.

16 Flamerule

A courier delivers a letter from Cora Sorrel to Lyr, requesting – demanding – that the heroes come to her forthwith.

The Hand of Light

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

Sword Coast Guard, Episode 11 – The Sunken Temple, Part 1

Session Date: August 27, 2017

11 Eleasias, 1367 DR

The heroes walk up early before the sun has risen to the sound of watch horns blowing and patrols of Waterdeep soldiers streaming toward the docks. After quickly donning their armor, they head to the docks.

There they find hundreds watch members and soldiers waiting anxiously on the docks. Belgarath investigates the water and discovers that it is darkened with blood.

Soon, several dozen Waterdeep soldiers emerge from the water, carrying a dozen wounded and bleeding sea elves, including Parlanacel Fairskin. The soldiers and sea elves give a report to a man of authority standing nearby, Captain Rulathon the commander of Waterdeep’s soldiers and watch.

It turns out that hundreds of sahuagin attacked the sea elf colony, massacring nearly all of them and stealing the remnants out of their magical vault. Parlanacel sees the heroes standing nearby and flies into a rage, demanding to know why they did not eliminate the sahuagin threat as they had promised to do.

This brings the attention of Captain Rulathon down on the heroes; he also demands answers. The heroes explain that they were dealing with hags in Rassalantar, and Rulathon’s ire is partially abated, though he does reprimand Tzarkin the Younger – a soldier in charge of negotiating contracts with adventurers – for his trust in the Sword Coast Guard.

Finally, the heroes are charged with dealing with the sahuagin forthwith and dismissed from Captain Rulathon’s presence.

On their way through the city, a courier finds them and delivers a letter from Lady Nellabee Tharmar to Nigel. Nellabee says she was pained to find that Nigel did not visit her during the last tenday he spent in town, and asks him to join her in the library if the love they shared was real. This, of course, is the same woman who magically compelled Nigel to give her the remnants the bard carried not so long ago.

Nearby, Nigel spots someone who looks exactly like Ashton Sanguine, the man who ruined his reputation at the bard college in Silverymoon and whose throat he slit several ten days ago. The heroes quickly swarm the man, who doesn’t even try to flee.

In the discussion that follows, the man who appears to be Ashton Sanguine claims to be Nigel’s son. The heroes immediately begin talk of the demonic offspring Nigel has been fathering with Nellabee Tharmar. In the end, the heroes release the man, who merely requests that Nigel join his mother in the library, as he did in the good old days.

With Nigel’s loose ways – and a rapidly growing linage – continuing to plague the heroes, they head north along the coast toward the Red Cliffs where they should find the sahuagin.

12 Eleasis, 1367 DR

As they travel, they notice a much increased orc presence in the foothills south of the Sword Mountains – Belgarath and Nigel fly above the group on their flying carpet and hippogriff. One orc patrol spots them and beadlines their way.

Five orcs mounted on dire wolves surround the heroes who attempt to parlay. Though initially aggressive, demanding to know what right the heroes have to be in Shattered Teeth territory, the orcs change their tune when the heroes mention an affiliation with Lord Paxton. After some discussion, the orcs reveal that they are sword vassals to Lord Paxton.

The parlay proceeds with uncertain results until Nigel claims he is Ashton Sanguine and produces a letter that seems to substantiate his claims. Convinced, the orcs tell him that Grammillion (the leader of the orc tribe) will want to see him as he totally screwed up the remnant job. The orcs even threaten to take them to him themselves, but the heroes sweet talk their way out of that.

In the end, the orcs let the heroes go on their way without violence.

And that doesn’t happen very often with this group…

The Sword Coast Guard arrives at the Red Cliffs and, after some time searching, finally discover a cave that leads to an underground stream.

Flying two to a carpet and hippogriff, the four heroes follow the stream into a small cavern that appears to be part of an underground lake. There are two quays that lead to passages, and a couple other tunnels leading in other directions.

As the heroes begin looking around, a man bearing a long lance and riding a great white shark surfaces from the water’s depths. He demands to know why they are there, and the heroes tell him they are hunting sahuagin and plan to kill them. The man responds that sahuagin have been displacing his tribe.

The heroes then offer to work with him to kill the sahuagin, and the man accepts. He motions them to follow him. The heroes drink their water breathing potions, Xavier jumps into the water, and the others dismount onto the quays.

At this point one player tries to make an insight check as I’m getting out the battle map and minis. LOL A little too late…

The man was, of course, deceiving the heroes, and Xavier notices five more men on sharks submerged below the water just as he jumps in. They move to attack immediately.

Though Xavier finds himself in a dangerous predicament, Elodin responds with a well-placed hypnotic pattern that catches most of the enemies. As the heroes attack their foes, one of the warriors moves about slashing his companions to wake them out of their stupor.

Just as the enemies have mostly escaped the hypnotic pattern’s effects, Nigel casts compulsion on them, causing nearly all of them to move away from the battle.

At this point, the fight turns into a matter of cleaning up one or two enemies at a time as they escape the compulsion effect. Xavier, with a stroke of inspiration, blows his Horn of Blasting at a group of them as they return from up passage. The enemies are heavily damaged, but the horn blows up in Xavier’s face.

It had a twenty percent changes of blowing up. I rolled 89 on the percentile dice. This made me happy.

Once the last of the shark riders and sharks are killed, the heroes search their bodies and not tattooed along the inside of their forearms: the distinctive symbol of Drazovin.

Then the heroes move to the south to investigate a room off one of the quays. The room contains two pools with large rocks scattered about. Rope is tied around the rocks with the loose ends coiled next to the rocks. On the far wall is painted the symbol of Drazovin.

Belgarath suspects something amiss with the rocks and moves in to investigate. As soon as he nears the pools, the water ripples and several pale-skinned humanoids with long tongues lolling out of their mouths emerge from the water.

Ghasts.

Though the heroes are initially overwhelmed by the monsters’ sudden rush, they quickly shift the tide of battle back in their favor. Belgarath downs several of the undead with his morningstar, and Xavier does the same with his magical sword. Nigel and Elodin fling spells from the back line.

Soon, the ghasts are defeated, and Xavier dives into a pool to investigate. At the bottom of the pool, he finds a skeletal figure with a rope attached to a rock tied around its ankle. The skeleton is “alive” and claws futilely at Xavier, who is out of reach.

After finishing the skeleton off, Xavier tells the group what he found. The heroes suspect that the ropes and rocks were a method of feeding the ghasts.

The Sword Coast Guard

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

Not Pictured: Xavier - Eldritch Knight Fighter

Sword Coast Guard, Episode 10 – Tichwillow’s Truth, Part 2

Session Date: August 13, 2017

1 Eleasias, 1367 DR

As the Sword Coast Guard stands over the hacked and smoking corpses of ogres and trolls, they hear loud footsteps – running footsteps – approaching from separate corridors. The heroes discuss briefly how to prepare for whatever is coming, but end up doing nothing.

That’s what happens when players spend the time discussing what to do but don’t actually decide on anything.

Then, from one corridor emerges a large, two-headed giant – which the heroes and their grandmothers easily identify as an ettin. A second horribly deformed giant covered with bumps and boils, though with only one head and much larger than the ettin, exits another passage. This giant, a formian, bellows, “For Tichwillow!” and leads a charge against the heroes.

Elodin immediately banishes the formian, and Belgarath nearly single-handedly takes the ettin down. The heroes then gather around the spot the formian was banished from and prepare themselves to attack when it returns.

The formian returns, takes an incredible wolluping from the heroes, and then turns its large, misshapen eye upon Nigel. The bard’s skin ripples as his bone structure rearranges itself, and he is left as horribly deformed as the formian.

Which is possibly the single worst sort of thing that could happen to a lady-loving, player like Nigel. All good things much end eventually… I was originally debating between evil eying Elodin or Nigel, but Nigel insulted the formian and Elodin kindly translated. So, the formian chose Nigel. Thanks, Elodin!

The formian puts up a decent fight, dropping Belgarath, before finally going down himself. The heroes then mercifully heal Belgarath and bring him back up.

The heroes pass through a chamber covered in mud created by water constantly running down the walls, and enter a large room that serves as the pantry. Several carcasses hang from the ceiling by chains, maggots swarming them and flies buzzing about. Nigel then searches the containers and packages on the shelves, looking for ale, but instead finds several bottles of rum. That’s a win in Nigel’s book.

Just wait for when he decides to drink the ogre rum…

They then arrive at the door leading into what they call the “root room.” Belgarath listens at the doors, hearing what he believes to be primates grunting within. With the door barred from the other side, Mugzy – Malark’s ape companion – bum rushes the door in an attempt to break it down. Although he does fail to break the door down, he overwhelmingly succeeds at alerting those within to the heroes’ presence outside.

Nigel examines the door, finds a crack through which he can see the other side, and casts unseen servant on the other side of the door. The magical creation then lifts the bar from the door, opening it.

Inside the massive chamber, they see several thick roots – some 10 feet in diameter – punching through the walls and protruding into the floor. On the roots are perched two large, four-armed, white primates which Malark identifies as girallons. They are native to jungles far to the south, but the ranger knows they can be trained, and he immediately tells the group to leave one alive for him.

Mugsy is a good companion and all, but, I mean, a two-ton, four-armed gorilla is hard to beat, right?

As Belgarath moves into the room, Granny Tichwillow’s voice calls out to them. She congratulates them for making it this far, claiming it was but a test. She them proposes they work together, as they did when they brought down the White Knights, instead of fighting. Tichwillow promises them such a deal would be very lucrative for them.

Though the heroes cannot see her in the room – they suspect she is invisible – the begin negotiating with her. Among the many things discussed is that Tichwillow wants them to deliver unspoiled, innocent children to her. In exchange for that, she’ll give Belgarath information about a sentient morningstar he is seeking. Though Malark seems okay with such an arrangement, Elodin opposes it.

See? Occasionally alignment does matter in D&D. The other 98% of the time it might as well just say “whatever.”

Meanwhile, Nigel tried to sweet talk Tichwillow, saying he never wanted to fight her to begin with. Some of the heroes favor making the deal and walking away, though others want to fight – and which wants which sways back and forth several times.

FWIW, I would have been completely happy with Tichwillow making the deal and allowing the heroes to leave. Hags generally prefer to negotiate rather than fight. Also, it gives me that much more time to dream up foulness and mayhem for Tichwillow to be about and look forward to another encounter between her and the heroes. Alas, it was not meant to be…

Belgarath decides the matter, casting shatter where he believes her to be standing. Once Tichwillow is visible, her true form is revealed: a large annis hag, deformed and hideous.

The battle develops into a lengthy affair (taking nearly 3 hours of game time). Here are some highlights:

  • Tichwillow casts wall of thorns cutting off the party into two groups.
  • An acidic gas cloud wells up within the wall of thorns were some heroes are trapped.
  • Belgarath casts darkness on himself and takes on Tichwillow – an annis hag – and a girallon mostly by himself.
  • Tichwillow lightning bolts Belgarath, uses a bottle of wasps that heal her with their stings, and shatters a mirror over her head, producing a duplicate of herself.
  • Nigel dispels the duplicate.
  • Tichwillow casts blink (which the DM then forgot about for the remainder of the battle).
  • Elodin burns a hole through the wall of thorns and begins lobbing spells in the room.
  • Tichwillow gives Belgarath a crushing hug, dropping him unconscious, and then continues to crush him in his arms until he is dead.
  • Malark fires off volleys of arrows at Tichwillow.
  • Malark and Mugzy go down at various paints.
  • Tichwillow walks through the stone wall and appears in hallway next to Elodin and Nigel.
  • Elodin’s owl carries a potion to Malark, healing him.
  • Tichwillow casts cone of cold on Elodin, Mugzy, Nigel, and Malark.
  • Tichwillow drinks several healing potions.
  • Finally, Malark shoots an arrow in Tichwillow’s throat, dropping her

With Tichwillow and her girallon pets dead – Malark didn’t get his wish – the heroes quickly move to loot the hag’s body. They find potions of healing, a potion labeled “Love Potion #11,” an immovable rod, and a horn of blasting.

In the adjoining room used as prison cells, they find Tonguecutter, the orc they had rescued from the trolls and ogres and who had pledged allegiance to them. Tichwillow had imprisoned him once again; so, they free him once again.

2 Eleasias, 1367 DR

The Sword Coast Guard then heads to Gauntlet Hall, the castle they took over after killing most of the White Knights – noble paladins of Torm. There the heroes receive fanfare and a reverent chant of “Sword Coast Guard!” from the garrison of Waterdeep soldiers as they enter.

Not sure how they pulled this off… They ally with an evil hag, kill goodly knights of Torm, and then are revered as triumphant heroes… (It would be unfortunate if the truth ever came out…)

Civilar Casey is in charge of the garrison and tells them that the castle is now fully fortified should the orc army in the Sword Mountains make a move on Waterdeep. The heroes entrust Tonguecutter to her care, telling her that he has valuable information that can be used against the orc army.

2 - 12  Eleasias, 1367 DR

Then the Sword Coast Guard heads back to Waterdeep where they pursue various downtime activities:

  • Elodin buys and scribes scrolls, and meets with a member of his old thieving group. He is trying to get information about rescuing Sharra, a former companion, from the Velvet Fists, the thieving group that absorbed his.
  • Nigel works as a researcher in New Olamn bard college and earns a favor from a scholar.
  • Belgarath works on finding someone who can cast a permanent tongues spell on him, and runs across Fea Eltorchul, a powerful wizard from Eltorchul Academy. Fea tells him that she could do such a thing, but he would need to bring her tomes of great arcane power. She also agreed to research the crypt where a sentient morningstar could be found.
  • Malark finds a merchant selling magical arrows and buys five arrows +1.

The Sword Coast Guard

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

Hand of Light, Episode 19 – Finding Katso: Part 2

Session Date:August 4, 2017

5 Flamerule, 1367 DR

After the Hand of Light takes a short rest, Dunkle arrives with a new companion: Luna Hammerforge, a dwarven paladin that he met at a tavern who would like to join their group. After a quick introduction, Dunkle leaves the compound, explaining that he has other matters to attend to.

The heroes go around, introducing themselves to Luna, and then continue their quest to find Katso. While the heroes are traveling through the large chamber of wooden platforms and bridges, a massive tentacle explodes from the water, grabs Dona, and pulls her in the murky water far below.

The heroes briefly discuss looking for her but decide against it. Dona survived a kraken before, they conclude; she’ll survive one again.

The come to a corridor with double wooden doors at the end of it. Lyr does his best to search for traps in the absence of their trapper, Dunkle, but finds nothing.

When Karn pulls the doors open, spinning blade traps spring from the walls, slicing into the heroes. Furthermore, iron door slide into place, blocking the way forward and back, and the door to a secret chamber opens. Several aggressive chicken-like creatures stream forth from the hidden room, heading angrily at the heroes.

As they duck the spinning blades that fill the corridor, they must contend with the creatures that Dexter correctly identifies as cockatrices. Both Luna and Dexter are nearly turned to stone by the monsters, but manage to fit through their petrifying magic.

Karn, meanwhile, jams his halberd into the trap mechanism, disabling some of the blades. Once the cockatrices are dealt with, the heroes smash the trap’s gear boxes, disabling it.

The heroes come upon an octagonal chamber, and, upon thoroughly searching it, find a secret door. However, they are unable to discern how it opens. So, Karn rams his shoulder against the door repeatedly until it begins to crumble inward. Believing the door now inoperable, the heroes continue onward.

They come upon a set of heavy, iron-bound wooden doors. When they can find no way to open them, Karn and Luna begin to hack at them with their halberd and maul. Once they’ve done enough damage – and alerted everyone for miles around to their presence – they can see a heavy beam barring the door on the other side. They reach through, remove the beam, and the nearly ruined doors swing open.

Beyond is another octagonal chamber, this one with a high ceiling and a ledge some twenty feet from the floor. Lyr creates a giant scorpion with his staff, and sends it in with Karn and Luna to investigate.

Inside they find the walls below the ledge covered with a thick grease, preventing easy climbing. As they begin to search around for secret doors, three secret doors open, two at ground level and one on the ledge. The doors below review more swashbucklers and spies, and from the door on the ledge enters a half-elf drow they’ve dealt with before.

Shindia Darkeyes congratulates them on making it this far, and claims she has unfinished business with Lyr – who turned her into a rabbit in the heroes’ last encounter with her. After some dry banter and Karn calling Shindia to justice, a battle ensues.

Dexter immediately cuts off several of the enemies from the battlefield with a wall of force. Karn, Luna, and the giant scorpion engage the foes on the ground. Up above, Shindia begins shooting crossbow quarrels – heavily poisoned quarrels! – at the heroes.

The giant scorpion goes down quickly, and both Lyr and Dexter take cover behind the doors and farther down the corridor. Fortunately for them, the enemies are unable to flank them since they ruined the secret door back that way.

Luna begins dropping enemies at ground level, while Karn levitates up into the air – thanks to a spell from the bard – and uses his halberd to push off the wall and towards Shindia. The half-elf drow assassin had been decimating the heroes with her poisoned bolts, but once the paladin of Torm closes with her, she is quickly ended.

Dexter drops his wall of force, and the heroes make short work of the remaining enemies. One spy does surrender and rattles off lots of information about the compound and where to find Katso. Because he was so helpful, the heroes decide to spare his life and leave him tied to a door that Karn ripped from the hinges.

The Hand of Light enters Shindia’s private quarters next. Searching her desk, they find a “book of dirty secrets” that lists embarrassing and incriminating evidence for noble families and guilds of Waterdeep. Lyr immediately consults the book and finds an incriminating entry for Physic Verdon Hulda of the Guild of Apothecaries and Physicians.

In another part of her room, they find a chest with several glowing runes on it. However, they decide to come back for it later, after they’ve dealt with Katso. They also bypass the general quarters.

The come to the workshop, where the interrogated spy told them they’d find Katso. It is a massive chamber, split by two ledges, one on either side. They are on one of the ledges, and can see rancid sewer water far below. Two rickety wooden bridges stretch across to the far ledge. That ledge has alchemy equipment peaking above a low stone wall that runs its length. On one side of the chamber, two water outlets exit the wall, dumping murky liquid into the water below.

A familiar voice, echoes through the room, “Hello, friends. I’m glad you made it this far.” The heroes recognize the voice as Katso’s. “I just want you to know that the gnomes are mine. I would let you leave for old time’s sake, but you’ve seen the Great One’s wings and must now die. Any final words before I reveal my grand surprise?”

There is a brief exchange of words, but both parties know there can only be conclusion: battle. The heroes try to determine where Katso is but are unable.

Suddenly a gigantic tapestry unfurls from the ceiling along the eastern wall. The tapestry spans the entire wall. It depicts Katso sitting on a throne of wierdust blocks while Dona, Dexter, Lyr, Karn, Adrie, Balasar, and Rainn bow down before him in worship. Katso’s hair blows in an invisible breeze, and gnomish servants attend to his every whim.

“Do you like it?” the Great One’s voice calls. “This represents my grand vision of the future. Now, let’s make it a reality, shall we?”

Four winged tiefling thieves – Katso’s special hit squad – rise from behind the stone wall and fire bolts at the heroes. The heroes’ missing gnomes also reveal themselves from behind the wall, hurling concussion grenades at the Hand of Light. Katso emerges from on of the water outlets, fires an arrow at them, and retreats back within.

At this, Dexter casts another wall of force, sealing Katso inside the water outlet. Lyr then casts fly on Karn who then moves across the gulf to engage the thieves. Luna refuses to go across the bridges, believing they are trapped or will otherwise drop her into the water below, and fires an arrow at the thieves.

The battle that unfolds is nasty. Karn drops the thieves several times into the water with his advanced sentinel training, but they unleash loads of punishment regardless. Lyr casts blindness on two of the thieves, but they remain somewhat effective regardless. The gnomes continue to lob concussion grenades at the heroes, who do nothing to them as they want to rescue the gnomes from Katso’s lies, not kill them.

Luna moves over a bridge to engage a thief but is stabbed by two of them and goes down. One of the thieves casually pushes her unconscious form into the water far below where she will surely drown.

The battle going against the heroes, Lyr desperately casts polymorph on himself and turns into a T-Rex. However, before he can do much, two thieves stab him up with their swords, causing him to lose concentration.

Dexter drinks an invisibility potion and flees from one thief that had moved to engage him. The wizard then dives into the water after Luna. Finding her, he unstoppers a healing potion and forces the liquid down the dwarf’s throat before she drowns.

And, during all of this, Katso waits patiently, still trapped by the wall of force. He knows his former companions will have to release him eventually, and when they do…

Katso has more than enough surprises for them.

We had to stop the session mid-battle. It was 12:40 am, and the game shop was closing.

The Hand of Light

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

Dona Falone - Barbarian

Dexter Ambrose - Wizard

Aelyrendar "Lyr" Fairsong - Bard

Dunkle Fledermaus - Rogue

Karn Mondel - Paladin of Torm

The Sword Coast Guard, Episode 9 – Tichwillow’s Truth, Part 1

Session Date: July 30, 2017

Midsummer, 1367 DR

Following the lead Linare gave them, the Sword Coast Guard heads to Dock Ward to speak with the sea elves about the malenti they found in their midst and the remnant it had.

They arrive at the harbor master’s office, and strike up a conversation with the busy man. Instead of getting straight to the point about why they are there – they simply need him to call the sea elves so they can talk – Nigel decides to spin up a tale about being there to claim salvage from the harbor.

The harbor master naturally asks to see requisition papers, which they don’t have. There is some back and forth, during which a second lie and the true reason for their being there are put forth. However, the harbor master is not having any of it, including a substantial bribe the heroes try to give him. Finally an attempt at intimidation by Malark pushes him over the line. In short order the harbor master has a squad of Waterdeep Watch there to sort things out.

The Watch calls bullcrap on their stories, and gives the Sword Coast Guard a stern rebuke. They are warned not to engage in any more deception against city officials. The civiliar in charge tells them that only their good reputation for aiding Waterdeep is saving them from official charges being laid against them. This time.

With the heroes somewhat deflated, the Watch detachment blows a giant horn that protrudes into the water of the harbor. Soon thereafter, a handful of sea elves emerge from the water.

The heroes tell their leader, Parlanacel Fairskin, they were sent by Linare to inquire about the malenti and remnant. The sea elves take them somewhere private underwater where they may talk, giving the heroes potions so they can breath underwater.

Throughout the scenes with the sea elves, the players continue to butcher Parlanacel’s name, leading to some interesting dialogue.

The heroes learn from Parlanacel that they captured a malenti – a Sahuagin, the racial enemy of the sea elves, that looks exactly like a sea elf – in their mist and that this malenti was carrying a remnant. He tells them that over the millennia the sea elves have been gathering remnants from the sea bed, and they have a few dozen stored in their magical treasure vault. The sea elves did not know the significance of the remnants until recently.

The heroes mention that they have eight of the remnants themselves. Parlanacel tells them the remnants all have a certain marking on them, and asks to see the hero’s remnants. Nigel then opens the tube where the remnants should have been – before he lost them to Lady Nellabee Tharmar – and feigns surprise when the tube is revealed to be empty.

Nigel then goes on to say how he had a dream where Nellabee took the remnants from him, but he though it was just a dream. Now it looks like it really happened.

All the players know what really happened, but their characters don’t. So, I had Nigel roll a Deception check and the others Insight checks. Nigel’s roll was higher than everyone else’s, so I ruled all of the characters believed him.

The heroes are taken to the malenti, whom the sea elves still have captive. Thus far the creature has refused to give any information.

So, the Sword Coast Guard then interrogates the creature, using detect thoughts. They gather valuable information about where the Sahuagin live, who their leader is – a four-armed Sahuagin brute – and that the Sahuagin are mining an underground lake for more remnants.

The also get information about a cloaked figure holding a trident who appears to be related to the effort to collect the remnants.

In the end, Parlanacel beseeches the heroes to go to the Sahuagin community, destroy them and all the malenti, and reclaim as many remnants as possible. He fears that if the heroes don’t do that immediately, the Sahuagin will attack the sea elves in order to steal the remnants from their vault.

The heroes promise Parlanacel that they will take care of the Sahuagin threat, and the sea elf leader gives them a dozen potions of water breathing to aid them in their efforts.

After their meeting with the sea elves, the heroes leave Waterdeep and head to Granny Tichwillow’s cottage, figuring that settling that business is the most pressing matter.

Some promises were meant to be broken, right? Actually, the group was split on what to do next, and I had the dice settle the matter. The dice ruled they go to Tichwillow’s.

1 Eleasias, 1367 DR

As they travel along a gravel path flanked by fields of wheat, they hear the sound of children’s mischievous laughter coming from the fields. The heroes investigate – Belgarath using his flying carpet and Nigel his hippogriff – but they find nothing but solemn scarecrows in the field.

There are some jokes at the table about the scarecrows animating and attacking them, but the DM pays this no mind. Players have fanciful imaginations, after all.

As they get nearer Tichwillow’s cottage, the gravel on the path turns supernaturally sharp and harms the hooves of two of their horses. They continue the rest of the way through the wheat fields, wheat tassels breaking off and sticking fast to their clothes as they walk along.

They finally arrive at the cottage around midnight – a fine hour for meeting someone suspected to be a witch or hag – and Granny Tichwillow invites them in.

The heroes confront her about the letter they found in the Candy Witches’ lair. Tichwillow reads the letter and then exclaims that her “evil clone” from the feywild must be working with the Candy Witches. She says that the Unseelie fey creating an evil person that looks just like her, and that it must be her that did it.

Belgarath is having none of it, though. As he eyes the stooped old woman before him, he sees through her magical disguise and and sees the grotesque form of a hag standing before him. He tells his companions what he sees, but most seem content to ignore him.

Nigel in particular wants to believe Tichwillow, and asks her where they can find her “evil clone.” Tichwillow them brings forth her divining tin and begins her ritual for consulting the bones. Blood, spit, and herbs go into the tin tray, and finally she casts in a handful of small bones. After a moment of reading the bones, she tells the heroes they can find her clone in a cave on the coast.

There is some discussion among the heroes about what to do, but Malark and Belgarath decide it by drawing their weapons and attacking.

As the battle unfolds, Granny Mathilda Tichwillow’s true form as a grotesque, large hag is revealed to all. Granny Tichwillow immediately squashes a toad on her shoulder, triggering teleportation magic that whisks her away.

Then the cottage itself comes alive: the doors and windows grow sharp protrusions that attack the heroes when they try to move through them, and the cauldron begins spewing forth toxic gas. Outside the cottage, several scarecrows, including a giant-sized one, animate, pull themselves down off the poles that hold them aloft, and swarm the cottage.

The heroes scramble to get out of the cottage – toxic gas is not good – where they then confront the scarecrows. The creatures are resistant to many of their attacks, but Elodin quickly learns that fire works quite well on them. He then drops a fireball that immolates several of them.

Granny Tichwillow's cottage turns into a death trap.

Once the heroes defeat the scarecrows, the cottage stops attacking them. With the danger passed, the heroes move back into the cottage to explore its contents.

Malark picks the lock on a chest upstairs and opens the lid to release a swarm of wasps. The insects cover him with scores of nasty stings before the ranger and Belgarath can kill them all.

In the bottom of the chest is a single copper pieces. Covered with swollen stings, Malark snarls and tries to scoop up the copper piece. A massive jolt of electricity courses through his body and tosses him away from the chest.

Just as he’s about to have Mugzy smash the chest to pieces, Elodin calmly has his mage hand retrieve the copper piece for the ranger.

Downstairs Nigel discovers a secret recipe book of Tichwillow’s that appears to contain recipes for potions and other oddities. The bard discretely pockets the book, hoping it contains a recipe for more of that delicious candy.

After taking a long rest, the heroes find several tracks made by large creatures outside the cottage. Following the tracks brings them to the Troll Holl, wherein dwell the ogres and trolls that helped them destroy the White Knights.

Things click together for Nigel at that moment. He tells the group that those ogres and trolls were probably working for Granny Tichwillow all along since it was she who sent them there to recruit them. The heroes agree and suspect they are walking into a trap.

Before going in, Belgorath and Elodin cast comprehend languages just in case they need to understand Giant, the language both trolls and ogres speak.

In the first chamber of the cave complex, they find several ogres and a troll on guard. They convince the brutes to lead them to the throne room and overhear a conversation in Giant where the ogres are talking about Tichwillow giving them orders to kill the heroes.

Ogres aren’t smart. No one else speaks their language, right? So why not talk about killing the heroes in their presence?

Elodin casts suggestion on one ogre, convincing it to leave the cave, and that ogre takes one of its buddies with him. With only a few ogres and one troll left, the heroes pounce on them. A wall of fire and some hack and slash later, the ogres and trolls are but smoking corpses on the ground.

The heroes confront ogres and a troll as they track down Granny Tichwillow.

And now they just need to find Tichwillow.

 

The Sword Coast Guard

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

 

Hand of Light, Episode 18 – Finding Katso: Part 1

Session Date: July 21, 2017

23 Kythorn, 1367 DR

The Hand of Light arrives in Eltorchul Academy, where Dexter learned his craft as a wizard, and they are greeted by Fea Eltorchul. Dexter’s former instructor tells the group that darkness that covers the sky – it began when the meteorites crossed over from the astral plane and crashed in their world – has not abated.

Scholars and wizards all across Waterdeep have been studying it, though. So far they’ve learned that the source of the darkness are particulates that saturate the sky, blocking most sunlight. They used weather effects to clear the particulates, but they quickly returned. This shows that there is an ongoing effect that produces them. Upon studying the particulates themselves, they could not determine their nature except that they are made of a substance not native to the material plane.

Fea also tells them that the darkness has encouraged denizens of the Underdark, such as drow and mind flayer, to surface. She fears that if the darkness is not removed soon, a full scale invasion may result.

After leaving the academy, the heroes take a tenday of needed downtime:

  • Dona sends a message to her two brothers via a sending spell that they should come to Waterdeep. She tells them she’s located her other siblings and that they should all return to their homeland together. She also hires a woman to serve as a therapist for her siblings and a healer for the group.
  • Lyr buys an inn in Sea Ward to serve as the Hand of Light’s new base of operations.
  • Dexter scribes spells into his spell book, creates a handful of scrolls, and spends time researching the darkness.
  • Karn performs religious service to Torm, making rounds in the city and encouraging the populace to keep their spirits up despite the darkness covering the sky. He gains two favors from people he meets.

The heroes receive a message from the Scribe, asking them to meet him at the Safehaven Inn. They go to the inn, and as they are waiting, a half-elf named Jathar approaches their table. Jathar tells them he works for a connoisseur of exotic maps and is seeking a map of Evermeet. He’s heard the group was in possession of one recently.

The heroes tell him they gave the map to the Moonstar family who likely destroyed it. Jathar seems excited at this information. The topic of Katso and that he might have a map of Evermeet comes up, too. Jathar offers to find the rogue for them if they will bring Katso to him alive. In the end, however, the heroes are suspicious and come to no agreement with Jathar.

Moments after Jathar leaves, bone devils break through the inn’s walls, one proclaiming, “Mephistopheles sends his greetings, mortals! You will produce the map, in this life or the next! Prepare your souls for harvesting!” Several imps – invisible up to this point – fly down from above as the bone devils move in with their polearms.

Bone devils and imps attack the heroes when they refuse to help Jathar obtain a map of Evermeet.

A nasty battle follows. The heroes note Jathar cast darkness from outside the inn at the beginning of the battle, but they do not see him after that. Shortly after the Hand of Light dispatches the devils, an elite force of the Waterdeep Watch arrives. Too little; too late.

The Scribe also shows up, beckoning them to follow him so they can speak. The heroes are initially suspicious of the Scribe, thinking they might have betrayed them. In the end, though the Scribe tells the group Katso and Shindia Darkeyes have a hidden compound in the sewers. He gives them instructions for finding it.

Down in the sewers, the Hand of Light finds the secret door hiding the entrance to the compound and enters. In the first intersection, they find another secret door and open it, causing a puddle of sludge – a black pudding – within the hidden room to surge forward and attack.

A secret door reveals a black pudding intent on eating the heroes' weapons and armor.

Karn is the first to discover the creature dissolves the metal of his halberd – his magical halberd! He also discovers that slashing weapons seem to split the monster int two.The heroes quickly fall to defensive positions, Dona and Karn in front dodging, and Dunkle and Lyr blasting the monsters. It’s slow going, but the pace picks up when the group starts dousing the puddings with flasks of oil and setting them on fire.

With the puddings defeated, the group turns east. They find a room lined by petrified humans, elves, and dwarves. On the far wall is written in Elvish, “Speak the passphrase, friend, and enter.” The heroes trip over themselves to say “Friend” in Elvish, but nothing happens.

Back the way they came and to the north, they find that two rooms and the corridor that connects them has grating for a floor. Looking through the grating they discover a dark liquid a couple feet down. Suspecting a trap, they toss a flaming flask of oil onto the grating, and sure enough, the liquid ignites and fills the rooms and hallways ahead.

They can see more liquid begin to fill the area below the grating, so Dexter sends his bat ahead to scout. Vesper flies past the grated hallways, and finds a hallway with water covering the floor. Likely another trap. Flying further, the bat comes into a large room with a lever set on the far wall. Above the lever is written in Draconic, “Enemies to all; friends to none.”

The heros then go back to the room with petrified people and speak that phrase. There is a rumbling as a secret door slides aside, revealing stairs leading down into the darkness.

Through a door at the bottom of the stairs, they enter a massive chamber. Wood platforms connected by rope and plank bridges span half the chamber. To the right is a stone platform. Far across the way is another stone platform, an elevated platform (later referred to as the archer’s nest), stairs, and a door that leads farther into the compound.

As the heroes move into the room, Dexter sends his bat ahead to scout. Several arrows fly at it, killing it. A voice – Katso’s voice – calls out from behind a low wall on the stone platform, “Ah you’ve finally arrived. Ready to join the Great One?”

Lyr and Dona teleport up to the low wall where they find a swashbuckler, a spy, and Katso hiding. Dexter casts fly on Karn and begins walking along the wall with his slippers of spider climbing. As the battle breaks out, more swashbucklers and spies swing up onto the wooden platforms from hiding places below. Also, arrows begin to stream at the heroes from the archer’s nest across the way.

The Hand of Light is ambushed by Katso and a band of rogues.

Despite the advantages the ambushes had, the Hand of Light brings the swashbucklers and spies, low. However, when they kill Katso, his form shifts to the milky white body of a doppleganger. That wasn’t Katso.

The archers continue to rain arrows on them from the archer’s nest, though. As the other heroes move across the platforms and bridges to engage them, Dexter walks along the wall and climbs under the archer’s nest.

From there, Dexter notices two more figures appear, both appearing to be Katso. “Ah ha, you’ll never defeat the Great One!” calls one of the thieves. “But I’m the Great One,” responds the other.

Two more "Katsos" and several rogues engage the heroes as they make their way deeper into Shindia Darkeye's compound.

Lyr and Dexter begin taking out the archers. Meanwhile, Karn and Dona move onto a stone platform at the base of the stairs leading up to where the two new Katsos are. As they do so, more swashbucklers appear out of hiding to engage them. The two Katsos begin rain down cross bolts on Karn and Dona.

Lyr puts a Bigby’s Hand spell to good use in the fight, and Dexter employs telekinesis to throw enemies off the platforms. Karn and Dona do what they do best, shredding their enemies with their weapons.

The two Katsos were very close to killing Lyr at one point. Unfortunately, Karn ran to his rescue. Paladins are not cool.

Not surprisingly, when the heroes finally finish off the two Katsos, they are nothing but two more dopplegangers.

Will they ever find the true Katso?

Low on health and resources deprecated, the Hand of Light retreats to a previous chamber where they can take a short rest and lick their wounds. After the beating they took, they’ll likely have some strong words for Dunkle whom they couldn’t find before beginning the assault on the compound.

The Hand of Light

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

Dona Falone - Barbarian

Dexter Ambrose - Wizard

Aelyrendar "Lyr" Fairsong - Bard

Dunkle Fledermaus - Rogue

Karn Mondel - Paladin of Torm