DGA15.04: Thus Snarketh the Dark Lord/Brindol Plans

The Vale heroes for this session

Phoenix, human barbarian/Sea Eagle Totem warrior, wielding Mocair the greataxe;
Cat, human warlock/Titania’s pact, wielding Staff of the Seas and the rod Osuz;
Seck, human rogue/Hunter, wielding Red Whisper the shortsword and Maelsauga the throw-blade;
Ulric, human paladin/Vengeance Oath, wielding Kinslayer the warhammer

Supported by NPC Lothair, hill dwarf barbarian/alchemist, piloting the air raft Liberator

The Vale Heroes begin 17,200 from level 16 (and all with Inspiration) and end on 6,450 and Phoenix without Inspiration

Night 0: The company divides

As they watch the last ashes of Trellara breathing away towards the great mire, the heroes continue their conversation with Sellyria. The druid proposes getting the two prisoners, Saarvith and Skather, to Brindol.

But Cat needs the Liberator – the Dark Lord’s bargain cannot be put off any longer and he has a serious case of the guilts for leaving Elke so long. But again, Ulric has a duty to get to Brindol…

“It seems to me we’ve had the conversation already” – Seck

“It’s because of the transport,” Sellyria interprets. “The two places cannot be approached at the same time.” She turns to Cat more directly:

“I hope I’m not stepping into your conversation, but I can arrange transport by Giant Owl. It will have to be at night. While we don’t know precisely what night-flying monsters the warlord may field, the day-fliers are deadly. Though, word is that you have slain all manticores.”

Ulric frowns. Phoenix looks absent-minded.

“Ulric, you are not comfortable with this situation” – Cat

“No, I am concerned that you are serving yourself up to the Dark Lord – he may seize you and the phylactery, then we would have to attempt a rescue.”

“It will be of no worth to bring Vir with me alone, he could be under the Dark Lord’s sway at any time. So I will go myself wearing my I’m-not-scared pants…” – Cat

Are you scared? How good’s your bluff game?” – Seck

“My dear Seck, I do not bluff – I am always truthful.”

As Seck’s mind reels Cat shatters this new concept with a laugh.

It would take a passive Insight of 19 to see through Cat’s innocent gags routinely

“But Ulric,” Cat continues, “you need to be at Brindol, with the prisoners, as soon as you may. Only your word and reputation will sway your lord to move.”

“You will need someone with you though.”

“Oh, I’ll go,” volunteers Seck. “No offense Phoenix but you have a bad habit of opening your mouth where silence is golden.” Indeed Seck has no wish to visit a big city, so this choice suits him well.

“Hmm?” – Phoenix, breaking away from thoughts of ale, wenches, and new armor

Ulric and Phoenix are weighed. A pack-owl is designated to tote armor. Phoenix makes a mental note to buy new half-plate in Brindol, which sounds quite the big city. Finally, two spares are mustered since the journey will be at least two days, three if Witchcross can’t muster the kind of druid magic needed to zip them on instantly. With prisoners in thick rope nets, and a ranger elf for owl-wrangling, and Sellyria, that’s quite the owl squadron!

Meanwhile Cat, with Seck dawdling behind, heads to speak to Lothair.

“Where away, my captain?”

“We are off to the Dark Tower again, to bargain with the Dark Lord and put paid to the undead army. What course can you recommend?”

After some discussion and a fairly expert guess on range, the three agree that they will head sou-sou-west over to the vacant dwarf watch-tower then due south on day two. Day, since the Liberator has had more than a day’s recharge and can lift off directly.

They walk back to update the others and notify Vir, to find Ulric ready to make notes on what to say and ask.

  • Prisoners needing interrogation
  • Ledgers needing reading
  • Dragons slain (three down two to go?)
  • Dark Lord’s menace (hopefully) neutralized
  • Allies found in Tiri Kitor, Sellyria to negotiate direct at Brindol
  • Three hobgoblin armies probably still extant – leadership removed from one
  • Tiamat on the rise, proofs to show

With these points agreed it is time for the smile-inducing task of dividing spoils. Vir receives his one-fifth share of coin, and the bow and quiver.

I score equally high on two random dice to decide if Vir is happy or unhappy with these

DM

He exults: then throws the pair of choice items down in disgust:

“I’m a two-fisted, ten-clawed, dual-weapon ranger, nyan!”

Everyone sighs and Kestrel secures the items, just in case Vir changes his mind.

As a piece of final prep, Cat asks of a villager that a broom be fashioned for him. He thanks the craftswoman and tucks it into the Liberator. It joins a very small store of supplies. Saarvith’s ledgers and the two prisoners will be flying by owl, after all. But the hefty loot, such as Vir’s spare items, the unclaimed mithral shirt, plate armor, shield, horn, and bracelet, are packed in the Liberator along with the iron coffer containing the phylactery.

This has delayed their preparation merely a couple of hours, whereas their two comrades will be training for owlback and making ready for a night journey all the next day.

Farewells are said, sincerely meant: Ulric is fairly convinced the Dark Lord will turn on them.

Loot notes: Seck takes the boot-tassels; the pass and blindsight potion are left as group supply; and Ulric takes the earring.

Day 1: The old dwarf watchtower

Flying in daytime is a revelation. The vale’s exact geography is visible! After some hours the Alshon’s north source passes under them and Lothair can be guided very exactly, as Seck spots the landmark of the von Klarch tower.

Jokes about Lady Elis’ table fare and Ulric’s insensibility and the near-certainty that the Graf is a vampire while away the hour, and in early evening the Liberator is lined up directly with the old watchtower.

At 120′ away and 20′ down, Cat’s three Repelling Blasts deal with the winged kobold sentry! The Liberator hovers: Below them, perhaps a score of kobolds, winged and regular, explode out of any opening in the time-worn bulk, and flee! One turns to shake a fist, then flees again as the Liberator, charge exhausted, crashes down. (And drops to 95 hull points.)

An easy evening and night (during which the main danger is from Vir), and 12 hours later the Liberator lifts off again.

Night 1: Peril from the green!

By dint of training during the day, Ulric and Phoenix are almost definitely not going to kill their mounts, or crash them. They mount and the squadron beats its way south-east towards Witchcross.

I’ve stretched a little point, allowing the owls enough endurance that they can make Witchcross on night one, and Brindol (if need be) across one further night. It’s much easier for me plotwise, than saying that they need to find a random roosting-point at 40 miles from Tiiri Kitor.

DM

Thanks to keen sight (and nerves) Phoenix and Ulric become aware of a great winged greenspawn, the last survivor of the marsh confrontation perhaps, coming up from the Witchwood beneath them!

Inits: Greenspawn, Ulric, Phoenix, elves

The greenspawn fiend breathes a gout of poison at Phoenix and as the barbarian’s owl begins spiraling treeward makes the error of closing on Ulric for a bite attack, and though the paladin – lacking metal armor – is hard-hit, he responds with his glowing dragonslaying hammer and a raised Smite! Phoenix uses his rage-powered flight-step to mount one of the spare owls. A well-directed arrow finishes the greenspawn off.

They land as best they can, to reclaim the dead owl’s harness, and say a prayer over the crumpled corpse.

By ill fortune this is the stomping ground of a terrifying gray-hided, six-eyed monstrosity! It barrels out straight at Ulric! Who now has his shield and hammer, but nothing else.

Grey render

The pair of PCs make DC15 disadvantage Perception checks and have 20′ of warning!

Inits: Ulric, Gray Render, Phoenix, elves

As Ulric takes the Dodge action he yells:

“Is this a natural beast? Can we scare it off?”

The beast crashes into him and as he stands ground, grabs him in a bear-hug. Phoenix rages, races around to the monstrosity’s rear and chops Mocair into it with Reckless and Great Weapon Power attacks! The two devastating axe-chops bite deep.

The elf ranger misses completely and Sellyria calls: “do you need healing” – Ulric declines. She unleashes the owls so that they can get clear.

The Gray Render takes a Bloodied Reaction, clawing deep into Ulric who Misty Steps clear, but keeps its attention on him. It charges, and thanks to his shield, misses. Phoenix chops deep again! The thing is on its last legs, but both elves fail to hit. Ulric switches to the offensive and slays it!

Having completed the task of changing harness, they essay a clumsy takeoff and make the final leg of the night’s journey, to Witchcross.

Day 2: The Handover

It is a starkly beautiful day. After eleven hours of due south flight the deadness of the Thorn Waste takes over and soon, the miasma of black around the vast lion-shape Dark Tower looms.

Unpleasant flying creatures have been making their objection to an intruder plain, but they have travelled canopy up. Now, Lothair expertly times the landing to the same spot, and they are swallowed up in the poor visibility of the dry, dead radius around the tower. A miserable spooling of dead dusty vegetation sculls up in its wake.

Cat tucks the iron coffer under his arm – roped to him just in case, and he and Seck vault onto the ground. Vir sniffs the air, shaking his head:

“You say I’ve been here before? Eugh…”

“You weren’t yourself…”

“Well, I’ve got your back now! With my two weapons… or… where is that bow…”

Cat braces to feel the eyes of the Dark Lord on him…

Seck notices that Cat is “hearing voices” again.

Note that what follows is telepathic, between Dis and Cat

DM

“My Lord.”

Yes?

“I have two matters to speak of.

“First, I humbly confess my jealousy of your bride to be, and crave your forgiveness. I fear I have not been as forward and ready with my aid as of old.”

Dis I’ve never had any complaints about you.

“Second though I would now welcome the prospect of glorying in watching your concupiscent plunging and doting on the resulting magnificent multitude of descendants of our Lady, I must soon leave you.”

Oh Dis!

“My kind is short lived by your standards. When our lady devoted my… self to your magnificence I was already in my prime. The first trip to the Dark Tower seems to have worn away my life quicker than expected, perhaps because I exposed myself to the life-hating Lord. Now, it is happening again, though not so extreme. I do not know when I shall transpire into her great design, but it cannot be more than a month.”

Dis… I don’t know what to say…

“Allow me to hide down your throat again.”

Of course. But should you find that we are in the Feywild, unloose the knot on the rope at my shoulder.

Party order: Cat, Seck, Vir

As the trio gain the amphitheater-like space between the lion forelegs, a female hobgoblin figure bounds down from the secret tunnel up at the stone chest, runs to Cat, laughing and crying, and embraces him with mighty arms, clutching him face to bosom:

“You brave stupid idiot, you… Cat!”

“Sorry I’m a bit late.”

“The phylactery!”

“Yes, we now go to treat with your Dark Lord”

There is now an awkward negotiation between Elke Stormcaller and Cat. Elke’s instructions are to place the phylactery in its coffer at the tunnel entrance where a giant lion will bring it away. Cat’s plan is to speak man-to-lich with the Dark Lord. He eventually approaches the tunnel himself – Elke clutching hold the while – and regards the giant lion crouched ready!

Vir triggers and drops to all fours, growling. Cat throws Dark Delirium on him, which keeps Vir from attacking anyone or anything.

Eventually Seck clears his throat and points back and up:

In the rank miasma that is the air, a vast humanoid shape forms, as tall or taller than the tower. The Dark Lord’s image regards Cat with some disdain.

“Elke no longer needs to be your servant,” Cat yells, “nor does Vir! Keep your word!”

“Quite some days late aren’t you, but well enough. I grow so used to terrified obedience I forget what ‘wiggle room’ looks like.”

“But yes, as a sign of good faith, let Elke return to her true shape now.”

“So you choose not to remain a fine example of hobgoblin femalehood? As I said before, probably my finest work, at least on the living.”

“He’s got a point you know Cat, she is damn’ hot” – Seck

Cat ignores the comments from the cheap seats. Elke tugs on his elbow and points to the tunnel.

“I’m prepared to lay it down…”

“Oh stop buggering around!” – Seck

“I know perfectly well that you are capable of travel to other planes”

“We must trust each other”

“Exactly, so why aren’t you getting on with our bargain?”

Lich Overlord sketch by Savedra

“I want to see… I’ve brought you this… <sigh> oh very well,” Cat decides, and places the coffer where the giant lion can mumble it up and bear it away.

“Yes yes, very nice. I do congratulate myself on the whole business and in that light, say fare well. Having you about the place was quite, quite annoying. Especially your monthly fecund wastes. Having to recast Blight on the privies all the time. Tch!

“However:

Unbind. Impermanence. Dispel!…

Elke shrinks to her previous size, but remains, outwardly, a hobgoblin.

“There we are, you will now be able to return to the female human form once a Remove Curse is cast by some life-affirming <shudder> type.”

“And now I return to my previous pursuits…”

“And Vir?”

…Oh, yes.. <snap>

“Let none disturb me again! And don’t let the finger of death spell hit you in the nethers on the way out.”

Seck nods politely as the apparition begins crumbling; he begins heading to the Liberator.

“Well let us get on board and get the hump away from here… Elke! We are off to Brindol!” – Cat

Vir follows Cat (since he’s the only thing the weretiger can see) to the Liberator. They settle into various seats or benches.

“Nice to be me again… though I did enjoy staring down smaller folk” – Elke

Night 2: to Brindol!

At Witchcross, they learn that townsfolk from Brindol have been sent away as refugees, north east and south.

Adranna the Young will defend Witchcross primarily using her powers of illusion. Unluckily Adranna does not have tree-traveling power to send them direct to Brindol.

“I hear that there is an ancient druid to the east that does have that kind of power.”

Ulric nods wisely: “I have heard of him, I think. I am changing my opinion of where help may spring from.”

“I feel that things are on the turn, now that your heroes have intervened. With Tiri Kitor free to act, the path to the north may be opened, and allies come. What say you, stranger from the north?”

“I do the fighting, other people do the thinking” – Phoenix

So it’s on a very tired flight of owls that they arrive at Brindol. Across the night they have seen evidence of refugees, as Adranna explained. Indeed with flames of the warlord’s raider-forager parties rising from the vale in a great arc to the west, Brindol is beginning to look like a bottleneck.

The walls defend the whole city save for the river, and a settlement south of the Elsir. And despite Seck’s fears that it will be barren, there are large green spaces and plenty of trees within the walls. Ulric points to the citadel and the green outer ward. Their elf guides lead the flight down.

Day Three: A Council is Formed

Leaving her ranger to fulfill his owlmaster functions Sellyria accompanies Ulric and Phoenix to meet Lord Kerden Jarmaath.

The lord, looking older than his true age of mid-thirties, greets them warmly and sends them with servants to the luxury of warm baths and barbers. As for him, he will see that a council is summoned immediately. This is easily done: he has already converted his Great Hall into a war-room and he and his closest advisers even take their meals there as they hear messages, send orders, and talk over the endless scenarios of Vale defense.

Ulric reunites with Bestellen who is in very sad state. With the bridle on, the paladin’s steed cannot eat properly.

Phoenix joins the others for the first few minutes of the council. Those present, other than functionaries and couriers, are Lord Jarmaath; Lady Verrasa Kaal who heads the strongest House in Brindol; Captain Lars Ulverth who leads the Lions of Brindol; High Priestess Tredora Goldenbrow; Captain Soranna of Drellin’s Ferry, and Lord Norro Wiston of Drellin’s Ferry. No representatives from the mercenaries – Flame Fists or Shining Axe – is present.

Even before Ulric makes his detailed report, Phoenix is permitted to leave. Lady Kaal’s eyes follow him out.

Phoenix has downtime in mind: Armoring and Carousing to gain info.

By contrast Sellyria is an important addition. The fame of the Vale Heroes grows at news that Tiri Kitor is inclined to assist, especially with opening the road north, from where the only help can be expected.

Tredora is prejudiced against Ulric, and it soon becomes obvious this is about the Inquisition. Despite the successes he has achieved at the head of this “new band of mercenaries” (as he puts it) she has nothing good to say. But she has to admit she does not have the Zone of Truth miracle. (There is some major snark between them!) Jarmaath bids the prisoners be questioned once Ulric is ready to assist, on the morrow.

Tredora is most disparaging about this supposed ‘Dark Lord’ which no-one has heard of, except as an obscure legend. Ulric’s claims that there was a real threat go down feebly, since there has not been a visible threat. Tredora basically accuses him of making shit up to make the Inquisition look good. Ulric’s claims grow wilder, even speaking of undead threatening Brindol itself! Jarmaath smooths the rift over but Ulric’s fame dwindles.

Another knife-turn in Ulric’s bosom as Captain Ulverth bemoans the dispatch of the Shining Axe to the front line! Despite Soranna’s protest he insists that Ulric should have dealt with the matter in person!

Jarmaath gives his lover Tredora props for the idea of inviting Immerstal the Red, senior mage, to assist with communications. Ulric admits that controlled magic use can be of benefit. Tredora looks surprised.

The talk turns to evacuees. Jarmaath explains the principle: Brindol will rely on its trained defenders, including the militia being trained now, in what used to be the market.

Brindol must not lose sight of the whole Vale. Dennovar for example may not be as watchful against orc menace as it should be. Veteran adventurers from Prosser have made representations on the south-east, and even little villages like Dauth are menaced by foraging parties from the horde.

The Council breaks up to deal with pressing concerns and the minutiae of defense. Ulric heads off to take a well-earned sleep!

Day three: The Proposal

Like Ulric, everyone aboard the Liberator is in need of sleep. But Cat has some things to say. He fishes in his belongings…

“So sorry I was late, I was busy saving the world. It’s my great regret that I did not leave Mooregate with you.”

“If and ands, pots and pans…”

Cat produces a Ring of Free Action:

“Umm… ah… will you take this ring, and consider marriage?”

“Of course I’ll marry you, idiot hero, what did you think was going to happen?”

“Well! That, but… you have free choice… shuddup Seck!”

And the couple snog off in a spare corner as the Liberator heads for its first stop…

“By the way Cat, do you enjoy whip play? For some reason I keep thinking about my whip, and I think I’m an S…”

Cat’s eyes don’t say no… but as she sleeps he check in with his Lady. “The marriage looks quite positive, my queen.”

“I approve! I foresee many great things, and many beautiful children.”

Long Rest!

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