DGA15.06: Red Hand of Doom Part V – Brindol prep/Unwilling sacrifices

THE LEVEL 15 VALE HEROES FOR THIS SESSION

In order of initiative

Sir Ulric von Kessel, Teulon paladin/Vengeance, wielding the black dragon fang warhammer Kinslayer;
Cat Weasel, Teulon warlock/Titania, wielding Osuz, Rod of the Pact;
Phoenix Pilandaros, Tlinget barbarian/Sea Eagle Totem, wielding the greataxe Mocair;
Seck Rustrau, Teulon rogue/Hunter, wielding the stirge-souled throw-blade Maelsauga

The Vale Heroes begin 2375xp below level 16 and end 24,375xp below level 17:

They are level 16!

Part one: Brindol prep

Resolve

Each of the four faces temptation or confrontation in the days prior to departure

Players are told up front that this is social combat and they may take damage

DM
It ain’t gonna go as ya think it’s gonna go

Lars Ulverth captains lord Jarmaath’s elite, the Lions of Brindol. When he says a thing, he says is so you’d believe it. He growls a warning to Phoenix: sure Ulric and Seck have their reasons to head to certain doom but you – you are not of them! They are not your people! Lars too comes from a barbaric folk (far far to the north) and he urges Phoenix to use his fighting power on the walls.

Phoenix finishes sorting together a nifty heavy crossbow rig – which later he will completely forget – and turns his attention back to the grizzled commander:

“My purpose is to add to the fame of my people – I see a future where the Tlinget are just as good as any Teulon in the empire.”

Phoenix makes a Persuasion check with advantage and sustains no HD damage.

Lady Kaal sets a flag

“I’m glad you find the trinkets Paln afforded you so satisfactory. I have a favor to ask, in return.”

Seck grunts noncommittally: as he sips tea opposite her, Lady Kaal continues to eye him up like a housewife eyeing a slab of young prime beef in the market. She continues:

“When we cast our mind’s eye over the creatures of legend the warlord commands, it is obvious he has some kind of item that allows him far more power than any hobgoblin could have. Bring me back that item, and I will reward you.”

“Sure, sounds good, if it’s in my power.”

Seck makes a WIS SV and sustains no HD damage

The head in the bowl: Tredora offers a concord

Sir Ulric, invited to the cathedral to meet high priestess Tredora Goldenbrow, accepts. She offers hospitality of the usual kind…

Tea seems to be the Brindol style… must be the higher altitude… I’m picturing a nice Assam

DM

…and once the niceties are done, waves her juniors away.

“Lord Jarmaath argues that my priests are best stationed near the walls for the coming storm. I feel they will be safer in the shelter of this cathedral. Do you know why, Sir Ulric?”

She walks over to where by all appearances she has an elaborate chafing-dish and whips the cover off: there on the silver platter lies a deformed shriveled head!

“This is the head of a hagspawn, a servant of Tiamat, guardian of a white dragon until slain just days ago by bold adventurers in Brindol’s service. But it is also the head of Uthal Deathcaller, knight of the inquisition. Now do you see why I do not wish to expose my people where inquisitors may attack them?”

Ulric sternly informs Tredora that after this crisis is past he intends to purge the inqisition thoroughly – no-one is above question.

Tredora extends her hand:

“Then may we say that we have a compact, Sir Ulric?”

As he takes her hand, Ulric witnesses a pair of angelic wings flaring up behind Tredora.

Ulric makes a fine WIS SV and Persuasion check and sustains no HD damage

For once, you could have been less trusting

Cat wakes and waking realizes that he is dreaming. By the rolling sway of hips and the lashing of long braided locks he knows he is Elke Stormcaller, elite Wyrmlord of the warlord. He walks to the great bronze gates of the fane in its hidden eyrie on Windtop, and sees Tyrgarun the Blue, and in the way of dreams knows that only Tyrgarun can open the doors. The blue dragon presses keys to the door and they swing open.

The hall is square-cut as high as broad, and too small for dragons. By the wear of the ancient stone Cat knows this is far older than the warlord’s occupation. He walks on through the vestry or antechamber, two white dragonspawn and two blackspawn on guard: then on along the straight passage, to the Council chamber on the far right. Beyond that, and down the stair, he knows that the temple lies, and that is as far as Elke has ever been permitted – and knows there must be a secret passage to the inner fane.

Cat wakes more fully. Whether truly awake he knows not: he senses rather than sees his patron mighty Titania, now near her full pomp of autumn maturity, shadowed in the pillars of the room. He rolls out from Elke’s sleeping embrace and kneels to his patron and ancestor. He hears, like an echo of her mighty voice:

“As a wife myself I can only approve of the trust you placed in your own spouse, but you do see, she did hold secrets after all.”

Cat makes a dire WIS SV and loses 3HD from max.

Ranting and resources

“Windtop!!??!! Scrying!?! Do you think I have not?! Blue dragon – dragons – hobgoblins – I searched every nook, every cleft, every eyrie – nothing is there!!!”

Immerstal the Red is ranting. Thanks to Saarvith’s notes and Elke’s memories, the Council now knows that the fane is on Windtop – right before their very eyes, as it were.

“Wehhhehhheelllll at least! I have linked us – telepathically – and if! That is by chance if! You somehow manage to assemble a teleportation circle you may be brought back instantly!!!”

The vale heroes give thought as to a means of getting the Liberator close enough to the eyrie. Cat’s memory, which is to say Elke’s memory, does not offer a generously-proportioned hidden valley or canyon that the air raft can land safely in and still be hidden. And of course, should they explore, they will be seen.

Cat and Ulric head out, equipped with brew and beef, to speak with Lothair. Vir throws himself on the beef and Lothair swigs the brew appreciatively.

Lothair’s opinion is that Odenfrith will know more than anyone in the remnant clan of Windtop exiles, as to the whereabouts of the fane in relation to the peak and any safe canyon.

“I wonder if the Holdings have a teleportation circle?” someone suggests, and on checking back with Immerstal – why yes, owing to the need to swiftly bear news of orc invasion, there is a circle over in the eastern Holdings.

36 hours later Cat and Ulric (with Lothair to act as intermediary) have secured Odenfrith himself, as navigator of sorts. And in the meantime, Seck and Phoenix have completed loading the Liberator ready for departure.

Part two: Unwilling sacrifices

The approach: with legendary cunning

Already, outriders of the horde are driving in Brindol’s advance pickets as the Liberator lifts off. The city may not be fully invested for ten days, but there is the chance that Wyrmlord Hravek Khan attempts a fast assault using shock troops like sphinx, blackspawn and berserkers. The sooner the heroes return, the better.

As the Liberator, three days out, descends to the hanging valley Odenfrith has navigated them to, Cat reminds himself and the others as to the nature of the place.

  • Tyrgarun the Blue is the only one that can open the bronze gates
  • The stone is old, so walls and pillars could be easily climbed by someone with Seck’s skills
  • There is a good deal of height, not in the passages, but in places like the vestibule or foyer, and the inner temple
  • The complex wings to left and right are unknown, except in the vague dream-knowledge that they are occupied

Based on this information, Phoenix decides to remain in pact with his own totem – flitting step could be vital. He wears the fine half-plate he acquired from the citadel.

As to the approach:

“My thought is that Sir Ulric can appear to be Uthal Deathcaller, and Phoenix could be disguised as the larger of the hobgoblin priests. As for Seck and me, those shadow monks are smaller, unarmored, and fast-moving. With these close fits, Seeming should be as foolproof a disguise as possible.”

Lothair is linked to them telepathically, so they will be able to let him know if things go awry, or if they have found a teleportation circle and do not need the Liberator. And with that, hands are shaken all round, and the gang of hobgoblins led by an inquisitor, all bearing the five-claw sigil, stride off to the rock path leading to the fane.

Tyrgarun the Blue

Pacing patiently before the gates – for he has long since heard them coming – Tyrgarun awaits. Cat’s Arcane Eye, sent forward a few minutes before, has witnessed that the dragon wears and bears a number of magic items.

“Uthal Deathcaller, here to bring urgent news of the war.”

“News of the war?”

“Urgent news that must be passed on! I am heading towards the council.”

Tyrgarun makes a DC20 INT: Investigation check against the Seeming and fails.

“Only he, the High One, remains in the fane, and cannot be disturbed. It is I, mighty Tyrgarun, that you may pass this ‘word’ to.”

“We require access to the magicks within to pass this word on to everyone.”

Uthal makes a mere 14 on Persuasion.

At first Tyrgarun seems reluctant. But one of the shadow monks presses his Lucky Ruby into Uthal’s hand and this bribe, paltry though it be, tips the balance. Blue dragons, as the disguised heroes know, love gems.

A re-try makes DC16

Tyrgarun, though watching for treachery carefully, presses the keys against the gates and with a chime! – which has Seck thinking durn it, I have a charm for that – they swing open smoothly.

Unwilling sacrifices

From there the ruse works insanely well. The white fiends act as doorkeepers, the blacks ignore them, and they march steadily on, towards where Cat knows steps descend.

But as they approach within a couple dozen yards of the Council Chamber, a fearful-looking Tiefling rushes out and towards them, followed by a female of the same kind.

A Chain Devil, waiting in ambush, coils chains around the lead Tiefling and binds him!

“Help us!” the woman cries and flings hellish flame at the devil – which cares little about it. More Tiefling pop out of the Council rooms, joining the fight. And more chain devils begin rapidly converging on the passage!

At first, the heroes are inclined to simply push through. But physical contact makes the illusion obvious:

“More sacrifices for Tiamat!” gloats a devil and the heroes too are under attack!

I use 2d6, high is good, to summarize Tiefling vs devils and an escalation d6 that represents the adventurers getting to quickly understand the best ways to strike at the devils beyond their 10′ chain reach. As a result an otherwise drawn-out fight is simplified down to 8 rounds, including the two the adventurers did not take part in.

DM

As more devils converge – the barracks sheltered a half dozen, and the four that had been hunting the Tieflings around the guest quarters – the vestibule doors swing open again and the two whitespawn, each bearing a massive greatsword like a one-hand sword, advance as well. But they seem content to let the chain devils take all the punishment first! And finally the blackspawn emerge and spill Darkness down the passage ahead of themselves.

Hack! Munch! Chop! Crunch! The warhammer – which does extra damage against dragonspawn – and Mocair, ably backed up by Maelsauga and a few decisive spells from Cat, cleave through the devils. The Tieflings account for a pair of them, though the two war priest Tieflings die in the process.

Then the heroes chop their way through the whitespawn: and the lead blackspawn dies before it can even get a series of attacks off. The other flees, bellowing for Tyrgarun.

But the bronze gates are very solid, and even if Tyrgarun is still outside, he hears not. Cat blinks up behind the creature using Dimension Door, Shocking Grasps it, and Ulric uses his Charger feat to race back along the passage, across the vestibule, leap down the steps, and brain the blackspawn.

“No need to come chasing Phoenix, Seck, the matter has been dealt with” he coms back through their ‘net’.

Back at the other end of the passage, the remaining four Tieflings begin unbinding the original fallen one. Seck watches them and patrols cautiously to where he finds the expected flight of steps down. Phoenix shakes the blood off Mocair and – possibly – realizes that he has left the heavy crossbow back in the Liberator.

The other two return, and look at the Tieflings, two lying dead, the others looking scared. They are all dressed as Tiamat clerics of one stripe or another.

“I wonder… has Tiamat directed her devils to sacrifice the Tieflings, as a way of opening a gate?” Cat wonders, and as he says these words, and the Tieflings and heroes weigh each other up, the session ends.

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