DGA17.01: Red Hand of Doom Part V – Ascent to the Ritual

The level 17 Vale Heroes for this session

Seck, rogue/Scout, wielding Maelsauga;
Ulric, paladin/Vengeance, wielding Kinslayer;
Phoenix, barbarian/Sea Eagle, wielding Mocair;
Cat, warlock/Titania, supported by Dis his familiar

The heroes begin at level 17 + 3,600xp and end 12,000xp below level 18

The story so far

The heroes are several days into the ten-day-deadline mission to prevent Tiamat’s summoning! They have penetrated warlord Azarr Kul’s mountain fane and, guided by a tiefling turncoat named Leucis, have reached a mysterious ancient passage towards the ritual chamber itself.

Not enough red

Cat focuses and guides his Arcane Eye down a broad, brilliantly-lit passage, while Dis watches his back. The others stand slightly below the “landing ledge” save that Leucis has scrambled up to stand with Cat.

The passage ends in a thirty-foot wide circular chamber, corpses slumped carelessly in death: there is a sense of the wrong shape: evident from the odd-shaped feet, or knees the wrong way, or a tail glimpsed, or a lolling tongue much too long, among those corpses. They sprawl at the feet of a winged red draconic fiend bearing a ceremonial-looking mace or scepter. And it is looking right back down the passage!

Even as Cat takes this in, Dis shrills a warning: Leucis convulses and drops Flame Strike on Cat and as many of the others as he can!

Phoenix uncharacteristically misses his DEX SV

For most of the heroes Leucis’ treachery is classed as Inevitable but, even as Seck and Ulric attack him, the wretch utters a last dreadful scream: his breastplate buckles and splits: his heart bursts out and appears in the outstretched hand of the red abishai! It crushes Leucis’ heart in its fist, as it sends forth a terrifying aura!

Red Abishai

Now they have their bearings, the heroes turn on the red. Cat attempts a devastating Mental Prison but finds the red’s defenses too strong. Seck hurls Maelsauga as Phoenix and Ulric advance and close. The red lays into its enemies with its mace – not ceremonial! – and claws and teeth.

But very swiftly, it finds itself bloodied and beaten. It Disengages and flies back and up a shaft that stands behind the main circular platform.

Phoenix races forward over the last few corpses and uses Flitting Step to grapple. But he is beaten down and falls, taking a few bumps and bruises. The others hesitate. And the red escapes into what appears to be a distant scintillating bluish energy rift or barrier.

Going up!

Cat walks down to the join the others, and once he has got the gist of where the red disappeared to, sends up an Arcane Eye. But once it gets beyond about 50′ the eye seems to take damage, and dissipates.

Cat ponders what he can see, and the effect he experienced.

Really good Arcana checks but not in the 25-30 range that such unknown phenomena call for

“It’s a perfectly smooth shaft, too wide to chimney up, about 100′ in total, with something that damages ethereal or insubstantial effects,” he offers.

“I have a potion that will make me gaseous,” Seck begins, and once the inevitable laughter subsides, continues with “and I’m pretty sure I can transform back at will.”

“But that leaves the rest of us unable to help, even if you survive the rift or whatever. What we need is a tank…”

Eyes turn to Phoenix. The Coaster pales under his natural tan. “Uh, in terms of taking damage sure, but we are talking magic here, the paladin is gotta be a better choice.”

“It is true my faith makes me near-immune to magic trickery,” Ulric agrees, “but how long would it take you to carry the others, Cat?”

Having readied a long knotted rope and grapnel they are near ready. Then someone has a brainwave.

“Once we know which side of the shaft end is safe to land on we can Dimension Door: Cat takes one, Ulric takes the other.”

Cat raises Phoenix using Levitate, to a point where they can both see the most likely ledge or opening. Then they descend and all four prepare themselves, swigging Potions of Lightning Resistance and the like.

Inner Sanctum Breach!

As they land out of the Dimension Door the four heroes behold:

The somewhat crumbling ledge above supports five deep bays, each with a fiendish draconic creature ready for them! And moreover at the center of the dais, the half-blue-dragon-hobgoblin warlord Azarr Kul focuses inward, looking towards the weird pool of energy coursing high above.

Inits: Cat/Ulric, Seck, Phoenix, blue abishai, red abishai

Round 1: While Ulric casts Haste and walks towards the dais and Azarr Kul, Cat calls Dominate Monster on a blue – a slightly easier prospect than the red. It fails. Ulric shouts a challenge at the warlord (finding that Silence pervades the area) but finds he cannot climb up.

Without explaining I ask Ulric for a %deity check, nothing happens. There was always the chance Ulric’s favored saint (one of the vengeful ones I believe) could power him through.

Seck focuses on available cover and decides on the nearest overhang. He races round to it and takes Bonus Action: Hide and takes the potion he ought to have swigged earlier.

Phoenix Rages, yanks out his Zap Wand, gets to handy SV range from Ulric and tries to zap Azarr Kul. He feels a strange twinge of sympathy for the warlord and loses his action. He relays this telepathically and races to the overhang that does not contain Seck.

The blues hurl a variety of spells down: Darkness closes over the overhangs, Ulric takes lightning damage, and Cat takes some poison damage from a Chromatic Orb.

“Guide me, Mocair” – Phoenix

As the blues change stance to keep targets lined up, the red, standing high opposite the shaft down, sounds a call to action!

The four blue abishai receive fanaticism

Round 2: Cat casts his most powerful spell, Blade of Disaster, while Ulric again attempts to attack. Cat finds himself reluctant to use the attack. He hurls four Eldritch Blasts into the red, near-killing it! Then zips around to near Seck:

“This is Cat coming in, don’t slice me. And the red is near-down.” – Cat

Meanwhile Ulric (who has Truesight up so can see where everyone has run) asks for telepathic advice about the Silence issue, slams his Kinslayer into a dragon-sculpture, and receives some unpleasant poison damage in response.

Seck zips out from cover, hurls Maelsauga and kills the red, and keeps running, reaching Phoenix (and warning him that he is incoming!) Phoenix tags in, walks out to find the edge of darkness then uses Flitting Step to reach a ledge and attack a blue. Reckless Attack! Then Bonus Action dashes around to the next.

The blues, save for that one, stick with the spells-first strategy. Ulric takes more lightning damage, a blue multiplies into Mirror Images, and the remaining, just-wounded one hurls a Dispel Magic at Phoenix. It has no effect. The blue in melee range wields quarterstaff (feebly) and bite (powerfully with added lightning).

Round 3: Ulric realizes he can’t push through. He tries Misty Step: it fails. He needs a range or reach attack! Azarr Kul seems to take note of his presence and vanishes.

Cat has now moved his Blade of Disaster as far as a new target and uses it to make two attacks on the wounded blue. Crit! (The blade has a crit range of 18-20 with x3 dmg.) The blue is suddenly bloodied and very badly rattled. Cat follows it up with four Eldritch Blasts, hammering most home. The blue is quite wobbly. Seck, hearing Cat’s mental note, hurls Maelsauga after sidling out of the Darkness. It doesn’t quite drop the blue. As Seck Hides again, Phoenix wallops the blue he’s facing, races around the treacherous ledge, finishes the staggered blue, then uses Flitting Step to get back to where he was in the blue’s face!

Blue Abishai

The two unharmed abishai nod to one another and both hurl Chain Lightning, catching all save Phoenix. Ulric and Seck avoid damage: Cat takes serious lightning damage but manages to avoid losing Concentration.

Meanwhile, in melee, Phoenix takes some more bite and lightning damage and another feeble quarterstaff tap.

“My grandma hits me harder just to chastise me” Phoenix mouths silently.

Round 4: Ulric heals himself, pacing around the barrier Darth Maul style. Cat shifts his Blade of Disaster around to support Phoenix and makes two attacks, neither crits. He follows up with Eldritch Blasts: the blue is bloodied. Seck sidles out again, with Cat’s direction telling him where to snipe. Sure enough, Phoenix is in melee there. Seck runs around as far as Cat and hurls Maelsauga, getting a fine hit and near-dropping the blue, then gets as close to the pacing Ulric as he can. Phoenix decides to load up with Great Weapon and slays the blue! He uses Flitting Step to bypass a treacherous ledge to the next Mirror Imaged blue, but it parries him off twice.

The two surviving blues take stock. Azarr Kul is invisible and seems unharmed. The blue in melee shoves Phoenix but the raging barbarian (using both Inspiration and Luck) resists being shoved off the ledge! The other blue moves around to join the fight up close, and delivers a Cone of Cold attack.

And as Phoenix’ hp drop to double digits, the session ends.

XP: each hero gains 14,500xp

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