Hand of Light, Episode 26 – My Dear Missing Mother, Part 6

Session Date: December 9, 2017

In this episode, the Hand of Light finds an unexpected ally, slaughters mommies and their ghastly children, wrecks undead beholders, and nearly perishes at the hands of an angel.

23 Flamerule, 1367 DR

Before the Hand of Light proceeds any further into the compound, the doors to the beholder chamber they just fled swing open. Two rotting undead beholders grab Karn and Dunkle with their telekinetic eye rays and drag them away.

Then, before the doors close, Luna comes dashing through to join the remaining heroes. The dwarven paladin as been with the group long enough to know that members being dragged off — whether by tentacles or beholders —  is usually something that no one can do anything about. So, she doesn’t even bother asking.

Yep, Karn and Dunkle’s players were unable to attend the session…

The heroes investigate two doors nearby and find captives within. Some are from Leilon and others were simply traveling the road when they were taken by undead. One of the captives tells them that Lyr’s mother, Nicolette Fairson, was taken recently, and that no one who’s taken has ever returned.

One of the captives is a half-orc named Torug FaceSplitter, and he initially believes the heroes to be those responsible for shackling him. However, the Hand of Light convinces him otherwise, and Torug, a powerful warrior in his own right, agrees to help them out as he’s looking to get revenge on his captors.

The heroes explain to Torug they believe it’s a lich, but the half-orc seems undaunted.

The Hand of Light then users the captives out of the catacombs, using Lyr’s insect swarm staff to get by the undead beholders.

Further in the catacombs, they come upon a hallway lined with funerary recesses and two long hallways with sarcophagi in them. As they advance, ghasts leap out of the funerary recesses and drag Lyr into the middle of the pack and begin eating him alive.

In panic the bard unleashes one of his most powerful spells, destructive wave, and obliterates all of them.

Then the lids of the sarcophagi slide aside and two mummies shamble toward the heroes. However, Luna and Torug make short work of them.

Exploring further into the catacombs, the heroes find a couple rooms of interest. One is but a disused altar room dedicated to a fallen deity, and the other appears to the bedroom and study of the lich herself.

The heroes suspect a trap on that door, owing to the arcane runes written on it in blood, but sadly their trapper is absent. So, Luna and Torug just smash the door down.

Predictably, waves of necrotic energy roll over the party.

After recovering from such a cleverly disguised trap, they enter the room. They find some treasure and the journal of Miriam Hargreaves. They learn that this woman, a necromancer — and hopefully not an actual lich — has discovered a way to magically link herself to people so that any damage directed at her is instead transfer to them.

And, fortunately for the heroes, Karn is not present this day. For if he had been — and Dexter is damn sure to point this out to everyone — they would have never learned this information because the paladin is heaven-bent on destroying any knowledge related to the dark arts of necromancy and lichdom.

After taking a short rest in the altar room, Torug opens the door to see two undead beholders staring at him. “Close the door!” everyone else shouts at him.

What better way to make them fight more beholders than a random encounter when short resting? [insert evil laugh here]

The heroes don’t hide or run this time, though. They come out of the room, weapons and spells flashing. Lyr blinds one of them with blindness, making it a mostly helpless target, and Dexter begins blasting and blinding the other with sunbeam. One beholder does get off a couple eyes rays before they are both destroyed; so the heroes are not totally unscathed in the battle.

After licking their wounds, the group moves into a hallway that looks quite suspicious to them. Upon investigating, they find slits all along the walls from which they suspect something quite nasty will exit should they do the wrong thing.

They investigate a pair of double doors at the end of the hallway, and find a metal plate next to them that can be depressed. They finally determine that the trap is most likely triggered by opening the doors and that the plate probably disarms the trap.

So, what does Lyr do?

HE OPENS THE DOORS, OF COURSE!

Seriously, Lyr is the type of player that all DMs love. I mean the players had figured out my trap and were just about to completely bypass it. And then Lyr totally redeems my time spend designing the trap. 🙂

Fortunately, only Lyr was in the danger zone, and only Lyr is hit by a multitude of sharp blades that spring from the walls and begin slicing him to pieces. In panic, the bard slams his palm into the metal plate, depressing it and causing the blades to grind to a halt.

There is a bit of name-calling at this point, but Lyr just smiles, undaunted, and moves on.

The Hand of Light then enters a large chamber with columns running down the center, and a fallen, broken bronze statue lying in the center of the room. To the north are crypts with funerary recesses. To the south the ceiling has collapsed and stone rubble is strewn about.

As the heroes investigate the statue — that of an angelic being known as a solar — a deep noble voice begins to speak to them telepathically. It identifies itself as a powerful servant of a fallen god, Tabris, and warns them agains the evil necromancer that lies further on in the catacombs.

Luna uses her divine sense, determining that the area has been desecrated, but senses no fiendish, celestial, or undead creatures nearby.

After some discussion, the heroes ask the being if it can aid them. The voice tells them it will bestow a blessing on their weapons and armor if they lie them near the broken statue. Lyr immediately removes his armor and does so. Luna is about to do the same, but Dexter speaks up, questioning whether that is wise or not.

When Luna changes her mind, the rubble to the south explodes out ward, and a large demonic creature with four arms, two of which end in massive pincers, emerges. A glabrezu.

The voice in their head, now guttural and demonic, mocks them for their foolishness, and the demon drops a globe of darkness over itself.

The battle that follows is epic.

The glabrezu strides forward, snatches both Luna and Torug up in its pincers, and then casts power word stun on Dexter. As the wizard is left reeling for nearly half a minute and the demon begins rending the dwarf and half-orc to pieces, Lyr does the only thing he can think of.

He casts insect cloud from his staff, obscuring the demon’s vision, too.

Enraged, the demon goes into a frenzy, taking out its hatred on poor Luna. Lyr casts Bigby’s Fist, but the demon contemptuously dispels it. And then, the glabrezu tears Luna in half, throwing the two halves of her body to either side of the room.

Having no answer to the creature’s raw power and magical abilities, Lyr and Dexter both discuss fleeing, leaving Torug to his fate and losing the option of revivifying Luna.

However, the half-orc barbarian is not having it. With one final burst of courage and rage, Torug lays into the demon with his borrowed greatsword. The blind barbarian feels his weapon sink satisfyingly into the monster’s flesh several times.

And the darkness winks out.

The heroes then witness the might creature issue one last curse at them before its body dissipates into nothingness.

Immediately Lyr and Dexter pull the two halves of Luna back together, and the bard casts revivify. Luna’s eyes flutter open as life is restored to her corpse.

Then, wrecked, badly injured, and out of spells, the Hand of Light limps off to a dark corner of the catacombs to take a much needed rest.

That was an AWESOME battle! I had a blast running that glabrezu and was totally prepared to TPK the heroes. Fortunately, their bacon was saved.

This time.

The Hand of Light

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

Hand of Light, Episode 25 – My Dear Missing Mother, Part 5

Session Date: November 24, 2017

In this episode, the Hand of Light finds an unexpected ally in Iniarv’s Tower, argues over the fate of three books, and runs into creatures far beyond their pay grade, forcing them to flee.

21 Flamerule, 1367 DR

“Clearly we must unstone Gabriel,” Dunkle says, holding his hand out for the stone to flesh salve.

Karn shakes his head. “We have but two of the salves. These two stoned lizardfolk will likely prove more useful to our cause than Gabriel ever was.”

And thus the Hand of Light enters and extended discussion about who gets unstoned and who doesn’t. In the end, they decide to unstone Gabriel and one of the lizardfolk.

Because the DM made them roll dice for it. How many games have we all been in where the players took hours discussing something like this? Geesh…

After escorted the liberated lizardfolk and the stoned one back to the ziggurat where the other lizardfolk warriors are, the heroes rest for the night.

During first watch the shadows in the altar room begin to elongate and move, coming alive to attack them. Lyr, already heavily wounded, goes down and nearly transforms into a shadow himself. However, his friends quickly defeat the creatures and go the bard’s aid, reviving him and sparing him a fate worse than death.

22 Flamerule, 1367 DR

The next morning, the Hand of Light sets off for Iniarv’s Tower. They exit the swamp several hours later, and — after arguing over where to hide the boat — approach the tower which they can see off in the distance.

The tower lies mostly in ruins with but two spires and two chambers intact. There is only one obvious entrance into the compound, and there are no windows anywhere.

Believing this to be either suspicious or convenient, the Hand of Light is hesitant to enter through the doorway. So, Dunkle climbs the tower to check things out. From the south spire, he can see the top of the north spire, the roof of which as crumbled inward, revealing another entrance.

Dunkle gets a running start and leaps into the air, trying to clear the thirty feet between the two spires. Obviously, he doesn’t make it, slams into the side of the tower, and falls forty some feet to the ground.

Dexter, meanwhile, uses his spiderclimbing boots to easily scale the tower and tie off a rope to the north spire. The heroes then scale the rope and enter the spire, bantering back and forth about looking for a new rogue when they get back to Waterdeep.

The north spire turns out to hold very little beyond refuse and some rotten sleeping rolls. They descend the spire into one of the compound’s remaining chambers on the ground floor. In an adjacent room they can see massive piles of refuse.

“You know what lives in piles of refuse, don’t you?” comments Dexter. The group ignores him.

Dunkle sends his new owl familiar into the room to check things out. Looking through his eyes, Dunkle can see movement from one of the piles of refuse and relays the information to the group.

Karn snorts and begins moving into the room, silencing Dexter when he starts going on about stuff living in refuse. “Torm will protect us!” the paladin insists.

And then, as the Hand of Light nears the center of the room, the three piles of refuse explode into movement, and eight barbed tentacles begin wrapping around them and pulling them in toward large hungry maws.

“Otyughs live in refuse!” Dexter screams as a tentacle wraps around him.

What follows is a pitched battle with four ravenous otyughs that the Hand of Light nearly loses in the first few moments. However, the tide turns, as it usually does, and the monsters are put down.

However, not without loses.

“Gabriel, no!” screams Dunkle as he stares at his apprentice’s two legs — legs that were separated from the rest of his body when an otyugh bite him in half. The rogue then crawls into the monster’s corpse and pulls out the rest of Gabriel. Unfortunately, the state of his body prevents him from being raised from he dead.

As Dunkle, tears streaming his face, buries Gabriel outside the tower, the rest of the group takes a short rest. When they are all ready, the go back into the compound and ascend the stairs of the south spire.

At the top, they find a wooden door in excellent repair — not rotten like the others in the tower — and beyond it is a well maintained room containing a desk, a fireplace, and a bookcase.

Dexter and Dunkle find several books of importance. Three have covers of bones, pages made from human skin, and give information about dozens of known lichens in the Realms. A few other books appear to be the journals of Iniarv himself.

The heroes hear a muffled sound coming from the desk and can see one of the desk drawers rattling. Upon inspection it appears the drawer was wedged shut.

When they remove the wedge, a tiny gray creature with wings an large bat-like ears flies out. It zips over to Karn and lands on the paladin’s shoulder. “Hi, I’m N1-24. What’s your name?” it asks in a high-pitched voice. “Are you my master?”

“No,” Karn says, narrowing his eyes. “What are you?”

“That appears to be a hommonculus,” Dexter says. “If he doesn’t know who his master is, I’d guess that the bonding ritual with the wizard that created it — Iniarv I presume — was never completed.”

At that, Karn snatches the small creature in his gauntleted fist and brings it down in front of him. “How did you get in the desk?” he asks the creature.

“I was locked in there,” N1-24 responds.

“Who locked you in there?”

“None of your business.”

“No games,” the paladin growls sternly, squeezing the creature slightly. “Who locked you in the drawer?”

“None of your business! None of your business!” N1-24 squirms around, trying to get free. “What’s your problem you big stupid metal head? Let me go! I just want to find my master.”

Dunkle then walks over. “N, calm down,” he says. “I am your master.”

“Master!” the hommonculus cries out in happiness. “I’ve been waiting for you! See how clean I’ve kept your room? Please tell ugly-faced metal head to let me go.”

Once Karn can be convinced to release the N1-24, the creature goes to Dunkle’s shoulder, embracing his neck and purring into his ear.

At Dunkle’s prodding, the creature reveals that he was created by Iniarv but the bonding ritual was never completed. He’s been waiting in this room for a long long time for his master to return. Recently, a women with black hair named None Of Your Business entered the room and locked him into the desk drawer because he “talked too much.”

N1-24 then notices the books that Dunkle and Dexter were looking over and points out that one of Iniarv’s journals is missing. The Hand of Light begins to suspect that this woman took the journal which likely contains information about achieving lichdom.

When they ask N1-24 where the woman might have gone or where they could find the journal, the creature says he doesn’t know but they might look in the crypts below the tower.

Just as they are about to leave the room, Karn demands that they destroy the books that give information about the liches. What ensues is a lengthy and heated discussion between the paladin and the wizard, the latter of which refuses to burn books that likely contain important information about the liches should they ever desire to track them down and destroy them.

In the end, the books disappear, much to Karn’s anger. The paladin suspects either Dunkle or Dexter did something with them, but he has no evidence.

This marks the third argument of the day with the Hand of Light. The stress of the adventuring life may be getting to them. Maybe it’s time to retire and hang out with flumphs.

With N1-24 happily riding Dunkle’s shoulder, the heroes arrive at the entrance to the crypts and find the door — a large circular stone — already rolled aside. Inside they find clear tracks made from creatures dragging their feet (zombies most likely) and follow them.

As they travel, they notice most of the funerary recesses are empty as though the remains were either stolen — or worse, animated.

The come into a massive chamber whose ceiling stretches more than sixty feet above them. Columns run down the center of the room, and lining the sides are dozens of stone slabs on top of which lie humanoid forms wrapped in linens. In the four corners of the room are small waterfalls that plummet from far above into basins. A basin of water with a fountain shaped like some angelic being stand in the center of the room.

“Those can’t all be mummies, can they?” Lyr asks, indicating the linen-wrapped figures.

Karn moves forward, hefting his halberd. “Only one way to find out.”

As the heroes move into the center of the room, several of the figure stand and attack.

Dunkle dashes forward and stabs one of them with Bleeder. The linen wrappings immediately fall away into a crumpled pile on the floor, but a swarm of furious beetles flow down his rapier and onto the rogue, crawling under his armor and bitting him all over. Dunkle screams like a girl, and swatting the insects off him, moves away from the beetle swarm.

All of the linen-wrapped figures turn out to more of the same, with swamp of beetles emerging to attack the heroes the moment they destroy the linen wrappings.

Just as the Hand of Light is starting to get the hang of the fight, using holy water from the fountain in the center of the room to destroy the undead creatures, floating bulbous creatures begin to emerge from behind the four waterfalls in the room.

“Holy hells!” shouts Dexter from his perch atop the fountain. “Undead beholders!”

The four beholders immediately begin pummeling the heroes with necrotic rays from their central eyes and a variety of other rays from their eye stalks. After only a few moments of taking shots from the rotting, undead beholders, the heroes know they are outmatched.

“Let’s get the hell out of here!” screams Dunkle. No one disagrees.

At that moment, Lyr is struck by a moment of genus — a rare occurrence. The bard first casts insect plague to hold back the linen figures, and then uses his magical staff to create a second harmless swarm of insects around the heroes that completely obscures them.

Unable to see any targets, the undead beholders fire randomly into the the area, but hit nothing. The Hand of Light then retreats from the room. The linen figures amble stupidly into the insect plague area and are quickly destroyed.

From the hallway, Lyr peers through the doorway into the chamber as he is the only one who can see while in his insect swarm. After a few moments, he sees the beholders float back where they came from behind the waterfalls.

The Hand of Light discusses their options and decide to sneak past the beholders. They simply don’t have the resources to deal with the creatures on such unfavorable terms, especially when they might need to fight a lich yet that day.

So, under the guise of the bard’s insect swarm, they sneak back through the chamber. The beholders do exit and take blind shots into the insect swarm, but the heroes make it safely across the chamber and into another hallway.

“By Torm, that was tough,” Karn comments.

None of the other members of the Hand of Light disagree.

The Hand of Light

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

Hand of Light, Episode 17 – Out of the City of Spiders

Session Date: July 8, 2017

23 Kythorn, 1367 DR

Karn’s player was not present for this session.

As the last of the drow chapel’s defenders falls, the chapel rumbles, and an otherworldly, feminine voice booms, “You have desecrated my unholy place. Take this as a toke of my dissatisfaction.” Then vertical slashes of darkness split the air, and two monstrosities resembling melted candles with tentacles exit the extra dimensional portals.

Dexter and Lyr identify the demons as yochlols, Handmaidens of Lolth, and the Hand of Light moves to attack. The yochlols fill the chapel with webbing, and as they attack the heroes, it’s revealed that their tentacles excrete an extremely dangerous poison. (Though Dona, of course, cares little about that.)

One yochlol chases Dunkle and Dexter about the room, and the other engages Lyr and Dona. After a pitched combat, where Lyr goes down at least once, the Hand of Light triumphs.

The Spider Queen sends two yochlols, Handmaidens of Lolth, against the Hand of Light after they slaughter her clergy.

The alarm horns that sounded earlier continue to blare form outside. The heroes gather the rescued captives – three of them are Dona’s brothers – and head into the courtyard.

However, they spend a little too much time discussing plans there, in the open, and a drow sentry spots them. He calls out that the intruders are in the inner courtyard, and a quick shuffle begins, with the sentry going down quickly. But the damage was done.

Thinking quickly, Lyr uses minor illusion to imitate the drow’s voice, calling out that the intruders are now in the outer courtyard. Then the heroes hurry through a door into a lounge, and then head up some stairs. They were told that the First Wizard Orond’s quarters were on the second floor and that he has Dona’s sister Marta.

As they are moving the rescued captives into a room upstairs, Lyr looks out the window and confirms that the drow bought his deception.

Then a door in the hallway opens, revealing three drow. Simultaneously, more drow arrive from the opposite side of the hallway, boxing the heroes in.

This battle involves a drow wizard, however, and turns out to be rather nasty. Various spells are flung about by both sides, including walls of force and walls of fire. Lyr, once again, comes very close to going down.

One would almost think the DM had it in for Lyr… However, when the bard climbs over a wall of force that is obstructing the hallway and takes on several drow, including the wizard, all by himself, stuff like that tends to happen. It’s actually surprising he hasn’t died at all yet.

Yet.

Drow warriors and a drow mage ambush the heroes as the try to find Dona's sister, Marta.

When the battle has finished, the Hand of Light has a brief discussion and concludes that must have been Orono, the First Wizard. Now they just need to find Dona’s sister.

Searching the rooms upstairs, Dona and Lyr open a cabinet, triggering a trap. Webbing expands to cover the entire room and much of the hallway, and poisonous gas begins to billow out of the cabinet. In the cabinet, the bard and barbarian see an extra-dimensional portal.

As Lyr dispels the webbing, Dona goes back to Dunkle and Dexter to tell them she and the bard are going to check out the portal. The wizard and rogue then round up the rescued captives and head down to the prison level while Dona and Lyr get Dona’s sister, who they presume must be through the portal.

Splitting up the party. DMs work so hard to split the party, and players generally resist it. However, from time to time, a DM receives a gleeful gift when the party splits up when the DM wasn’t even trying.

As Dona is gabbing with the wizard and rogue, Lyr jumps through the portal by himself.

See what I mean?

The bard explores a short corridor, the walls of which are covered with tapestries depicting four-armed demons conquering the enemy of the drow – elves, dwarves, and humans. As Lyr approaches the double doors at the end of the corridor, large four-armed demons walk through the illusionary tapestries and attack. Lyr identifies the creatures as draegloths and knows he is outmatched.

Just as Lyr is beginning to get his face smashed in, Dona comes through the portal. After a few sentences berating the bard for his foolhardiness, she pulls here silver great sword and begins to lay into the demons. Lyr, meanwhile, polymorphs into a tyrannosaurus rex.

Lyr and Dona, though their injuries are mounting up, aren’t doing half bad, all things considered. However, then the double doors at the end of the hallway open, revealing a drow wizard – the First Wizard Orono himself.

Orono first banishes Lyr and then sends in a shadow demon to help finish Dona off. After the barbarian goes down, the wizard allows Lyr to return from his banishment. The bard lasts only moments before going down as well.

Down in the prison area, Dunkle and Dexter wait for fifteen minutes for Lyr and Dona to catch up. As the time drags on, they conclude that their companions must be dead. Dexter, out of spells, suggests they leave the drow compound, take the captives to safety, and then return later to revenge their friends.

Dunkle, however, will hear none of that. He gathers several magical potions and prepares to head back, by himself, to find out what happened to his friends.

Then, pirate energy coursing through his veins, it occurs to Dunkle that the goblin and bugbear slaves in the nearby chamber might be willing to help. After some tense negotiations – assurances that most of the drow are already dead and that there is an armory upstairs where the slaves can be armed with drow weapons – the rogue convinces several dozen goblins and a handful of bugbears to help him and Dexter assault the remaining drow.

Dunkle and Dexter then lead their goblinoid battalion upstairs, outfit them in the armor, and then head through the portal in the cabinet.

They immediately find themselves assailed by the draegloths and Orono. As one draegloth falls, the heroes press their foes back and into the wizard’s personal chambers. There they can see several captive females lying on cushions. They also spot Lyr and Dona unconscious, manacled, and hog-tied on the cushions.

Dunkle and Dexter lead a battalion of goblinoids to rescue Dona and Lyr from the First Wizard of House Oussiryn.

When the remaining draegloth goes down, Dunkle and the goblinoid move in on the wizard. Meanwhile, Dexter is kept busy feeding healing potions to Lyr and Dona, trying to keep them alive while the battle rages in the room. The drow wizard is flinging around several nasty area of effect spells while he himself is chugging potions.

The wizard then turns invisible and attempts to flee. The heroes, however, quickly find him and break his concentration on the invisibility spell.

Orono, the First Wizard, pops back into view, his robes tattered and many nasty wounds bleeding profusely. The mage curses the heroes, and then drops a fireball at his feet, killing himself but catching everyone else in the blast, too.

Drow wizards that suicide by fireball is becoming a thing, I think.

The heroes are wounded by the fire, but it’s nothing too serious. The female captives, however, are caught in the flames, and to a one they are killed, including Dona’s sister Marta.

Quickly, before Dona can fly off too far into a rage…

And before Dona’s player jumps across the table to strangle the DM…

Lyr moves to Marta and casts revivify, bringing her back from the dead.

Then the party retreats to the dungeons where the destroy the drow teleportation portal to ensure the drow can’t easily find their way back to Skullport. Dexter casts teleportation circle, and the heroes and rescued captives walk through into Eltorchul Academy, back in Waterdeep.

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