Red Hand of Doom

Happy 40th Birthday, D&D!
01/26/2014

Emerging from the black waters of the lake, whose surface was just starting to be pattered by raindrops, Tirah and his friends sought shelter from the rain inside the sunken building. In it they discovered several pouches with bribes and letters of invitation to join the Red Hand, as well as a box containing the Lion’s phylactery. Returning to Starsong Hill bearing the corpses of both Killiar and Elkantar, the adventurers showed the remaining dragonspawn egg to Sellyria Starsinger. She promptly crushed it underfoot, agreeing to commit 200 Tiri Kitor rangers, mounted on giant owls, to the defense of Brindol. They left immediately, winging their way with their newfound allies across Elsir Vale. After a flight of several hours, they landed at Brindol to find the Lions of Brindol, as well as reinforcements from the royal houses of Sarthel and the Silver Axes of the Hammerfist Holds, already gathered to meet the Red Hand Horde.

As the Brindol authorities scurried to arrange accommodations for the enormous owls, Lord Tirah of Sarthel and his companions were escorted to the keep of Brindol’s Lord Kerden Jarmaath, who had apparently been holed up in his makeshift war room for several days already, arguing with several of the city’s elite about how best to defend Brindol. Lord Tirah and the others helped decide the matter, and they agreed to act as a kind of mobile strike force, establishing a psychic link with Lord Jarmaath and Lady Verrasa Kaal, Brindol’s most powerful merchant, whose personal guard also reinforced Brindol’s Lions. They took with them Ukret, a hobgoblin supposedly caught reconnoitering Brindol for the Hand.

No sooner had this strike force settled in for a night in the keep when the Hand’s assult began. As hill giants pelted the walls with boulders to let in the amassed goblinoids, wyverns attacked from the air, to be engaged in bloody combat by the Tiri Kitor owls and their riders. Brindol’s strike force managed to defeat one group of hill giant rockthrowers and prevent them from breaching the city at one end, but another group of giants crumbled the wall at the other end, and the Horde surged in.

XP (Borim, Brandis, Frug, Thistle, Tirah, Ukret: 1,233
Next Session: 02/23/2014

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The Ruins of Rhest
12/08/2013

Having defeated the ogre guards, the heroes now faced the dilemma of whether to venture into the half-submerged building in pursuit of the dragon, or to cut their losses and return to shore. Wounded and exhausted though they were, they decided that to launch their boat would be tantamount to suicide, since the flying dragon could easily attack them from the air with little danger of reprisal. While they were discussing this, the monster re-emerged from his building, this time with an armored hobgoblin rider, who offered his opponents a chance to surrender. Of course, they refused, and battle was joined. Another hobgoblin hiding among the crenellations of the roof summoned a massive shambling mound out of the murky depths of the lake to besiege their enemies, whom he then proceeded to pelt with searing necrotic rays from his staff. Tirah and Thistle boldly leapt atop the dragon and soon knocked its rider off for their allies to slay. This enraged the dragon, who cried that they’d killed his Wyrmlord and best friend. The hobgoblin with the staff fell next, and the dragon soared into the air with a lone Tirah still clinging to it. Climbing higher and higher, he seemed surprised when the deva didn’t let go. Instead Tirah targeted a critical junction in the dragon’s wing joint and smashed it with his mace. Howling pain, the dragon plummeted into the pitch-black water of the Lake Rhestin. The impact separated a barely-alive Tirah from his foe, who vanished into the darkness.

XP (Borim, Brandis, Elkantar, Frug, Thistle, Tirah): 1,700
Next session: 01/26/2014

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The Blackfens
11/24/2013

Recovering from the unexpected attack of the giant reptiles, Cyress’s companions dragged his body to the rotting ruins of a nearby wooden structure. Here they rested, and Tirah performed resurrection magic to restore Cyress’s soul to his lifeless corpse. Instead of Cyress, however, the soul contained in his mysterious sword rushed in to replace him. He introduced himself as Yarlnox, a great githyanki general, determined to reunite with his former mount, the red dragon Abithriax, and set off on his own. Then they heard sounds outside from a group of elves investigating the carnage. They were led by Killiar Arrowswift, and they were searching for a missing elf named Lannikar. When presented with Liokio’s nameband, Killiar confirmed that the owl was Lannikar’s steed, and the elves soon found in the belly of one of the reptiles a slender elven finger bearing a ring that had once belonged to Lannikar. Killiar explained that the beasts were called dragonspawn, the scourge of the Blackfens for the past few weeks. In another white flash, a dwarf warrior materialized, startling the elves. The dwarf introduced himself as Borim, a Silver Axe from the Hammerfist Holds, sent to assist the discoverers of Glitterhame. Having tracked them to the Lion’s lair in the Thornwaste, he met the lich, who teleported Borim as he had Thistle and her friends earlier. Killiar and his rangers took their guests on owlback to meet with their leader, Sellyria Starsinger, at her home on Starsong Hill. Sellyria told them that the dragonspawn seemed to centered around the sunken ruins of the city of Rhest, once capital of the kingdom of Rhestilor before it was intentionally flooded by opening its levees to prevent its capture by the gnoll hordes advancing from the south a century ago. The Tiri Kitor elves keep a respectful distance but the local lizardfolk do not. Tiri Kitor scouts also reported sightings of a black dragon in the area.

Tirah proposed that the Red Hand was responsible for the dragonspawn and asked Sellyria for Tiri Kitor support in the defense of Brindol against the Hand. The xenophobic elves were hesitant to provoke the goblinoids but agreed that if the dragonspawn were indeed brought by the Red Hand, they would help Brindol. After attending a funeral ceremony for Lannikar, the visitors were taken by Killiar on owlback to the lake that was once the city of Rhest. Alighting some distance away from the shore, they left their owl mounts and avoided the scattered lizardfolk huts to send Elkantar in crocodile form to scout out the underwater ruins. The upper stories of several buildings still jutted from the water, and one of them was ringed by a recently lashed-together wooden boardwalk. Several ogres patrolled its length. Stealing a boat from the lizardfolk, they rowed out to the structure under the moonlight. In an annex to the main building they discovered a hatchery for reptilian eggs. It seemed the Hand was growing the dragonspawn. Elkantar managed to snatch one of the eggs in his crocodile jaws. The first ogre guard to find the intruders was their old “friend” Gnash, who had apparently finally contacted the horde and joined them. Remembering the previous thrashing the adventurers gave him, Gnash didn’t attack them, but he was soon joined by the other ogres, who weren’t as peacefully disposed. They were supported by a great black dragon, which soared out of a gaping hole in the main building’s roof to strafe its enemies with a gout of corrosive acid. However, it soon vanished through the hole and left the ogres to finish the battle on their own. As the fight raged along the creaky boardwalk, Gnash dove into the water to save an ogre that had been pushed in with a wail of “I can’t swim!” Once in the water himself, the not-too-bright Gnash cried out, “I forgot – I can’t swim too!” The intruders also suffered a casualty, as Killiar was pierced by an ogre’s javelin and disappeared beneath the water of the hatchery.

XP (Borim, Brandis, Elkantar, Frug, Thistle, Tirah): 1,966
Next session: 12/08/2013

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The Lion
11/10/2013

The undead troops returned for their visitors to find the Master’s boneshard skeletons lying in charred heaps, but they took them to see the Lion anyway. Unlike the living wizard Thistle remembered, the Lion was now a withered husk of his former self, transformed into a skeletal lich. He received his guests in a chamber dominated by a black and twisted tree, whose branches snaked all over the walls and floor. He told Thistle that this was her tree, the tree inexorably entwined with the pixie from her birth, as all fey native to the Feywild have. Thistle’s tree, however, sprouted from a stake used to slay a vampire, accounting for the pixie’s strange bloodthirst. Hoping to absorb her unnatural vitality and extend his own life, the Lion conducted agonizing experiments on her to rid her of her bloodlust. Instead, his rituals served only to magnify her vampirism and ruin the king’s attempt to leech the life force from the verdant plains around his lair. He became not immortal, but an undead lich. As he told Thistle now, she created him as much as he created her.

The exploded boneshard skeletons, as it turns out, were created by the Lion for the Red Hand, who coerced him to do so by stealing his phylactery, a necklace of lion’s teeth. The former king implanted an image of the necklace in Frug’s telepathic mind, and agreed to withdraw his support for the horde if Thistle, Frug, and their friends returned his phylactery to him. He also agreed to entrust into Thistle care her soul tree, since the tree’s fate is the pixie’s as well. The lich told their party that five boneshard skeletons were to be delivered in five days for the attack on Brindol, and to save them some time he performed a ritual to teleport his new allies to the Blackfens, where they intend to contact the Tiri Kitor elves.

Arriving in the marshy Blackfens with a white flash, the travelers materialized near the shredded corpse of a giant owl, which had apparently been killed and partially devoured by something with large, sharp teeth and acidic saliva that corroded the bird’s feathers and flesh. Around one talon was a gold band with the name Liokio in elvish. Soon the newcomers to the swamp learned what had killed the owl as a great roar pierced the woods and an enormous green reptile burst from the water, trashing razor-sharp wings. Its call brought more reptiles, two blue and two red, in a ground-shaking charge. The blues fought with charges of electricity, the reds with gouts of flame, and the green with spurts of acid. In the end, the heroes prevailed, but at great cost. Cyress fell to be trampled into the muck by the beasts’ taloned feet, dead.

XP (Brandis, Cyress, Elkantar, Frug, Thistle, Tirah): 2,733
Next session: 11/24/2013

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The Thornwaste
11/03/2013

Venturing into the Thornwaste, a barren and twisted land where the Lion is rumored to make his home, the adventurers came upon a massive structure in the form of a lion. In the darkness of night, spectral forms flitted about it, but they seemed to vanish in the light of the sun. In a hollow at the base of the structure, in the lion’s chest, slept a gargantuan behir. Above, in the lion’s mouth, Thistle discovered two of the specters keeping watch. Upon closer inspection, they wore phantasmal armor bearing the crests of Rhestilor and Nerath. The pixie requested an audience with the Lion, but a fight broke out between the visitors and the behir, which the ghostly guards merely observed from above. The behir, named Varanthian, became enraged when he learned that the heroes were enemies of the Red Hand, and unleashed withering blasts of electricity at them.

The heroes prevailed, and the ghost soldiers escorted them into the lion structure’s foyer, where they were bade to wait while the guards informed “the Master” of their wish to see him. Not content to wait, however, they began exploring as soon as their escorts vanished through a wall. Amidst the ubiquitous lion carvings and statues they discovered a grisly laboratory and a chamber with a mysterious pool, floating black orb, and motionless ogre skeletons in alcoves. Disturbing the skeletons caused them to attack, and the intruders soon learned that the skeletons exploded in bursts of razor-sharp bone shards when broken.

XP (Brandis, Cyress, Frug, Thistle, Tirah): 2,610
Next session: 11/10/2013:

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Road Blockade
10/20/2013

While Duke Meitor began mobilizing Sarthel’s army to aid in the defense of Brindol, the Heroes of Sarthel and Drellin’s Ferry set out, upon Meitor’s suggestion, to enlist the help of the Tiri Kitor, a xenophobic elf tribe that made a home of the distant Blackfens in Elsir Vale. By the time they bring the elves to Brindol, Sarthel’s army should already be there. On the way the heroes gave the High Hall of Overlook an update on the events in Sarthel. Elder Cadrick confirmed that the Shining Axes had already reached Brindol, but no news of a Red Hand attack had yet come.

The next side trek en route to the Blackfens was the Thornwaste, rumored home of the legendary Ghostlord. However, the road in that direction turned out to be blocked by a hastily-erected log palisade and watchtower, manned by Red Hand hobgoblins and ogres led by a shapeshifting barghest. For the most part the hardy ogres refused to fall, even after the goblinoids were slain. But Thistle had set the blockade aflame, and when the ogres realized that their orders were to protect the barghest and the blockade, both of which were now beyond saving, they ceased fighting and let their enemies continue on the road.

XP (Brandis, Elkantar, Frug, Thistle, Tirah): 1,281
Next session: 11/03/2013

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To Hell and Back
10/06/2013

Realizing that House Meitor had turned against the Iron Circle, Lord Tynaron shouted over the din to Duke Avrul that the hellflame portal should be almost ready. Hearing them, Hierarch Nagal cried “No! We must close it!” But the tieflings, devil, and imp were already retreating into the Temple of the Golden Flame. The heroes went after them, dispatching their new high priest on the way. They fought their way into the temple’s central chamber just in time to see their foes leaping into the column of flame. After some hesitation, they followed.

They emerged from the scorching flame into another world, a dark, smoky desert with flowing rivers of lava. Tynaron, flanked now by armored devils, welcomed the newcomers to Hell, where the Iron Circle was fortifying the portal to allow their devilish allies to teleport en masse to reinforce the Circle forces already in Sarthel. The tiefling invited the visitors to join him and the devils for a meal at their citadel, but they recalled what happened the last time they accepted such an invitation and decided to continue their battle instead. One of the armored devils escaped, presumably to alert the citadel, so there didn’t seem to be much time. The fighting was fierce, with Cyress luring Tynaron into a one-on-one confrontation to avenge his lost Jarett. In the end, only one foe remained – the hulking Duke Avrul, who had displayed the ability to teleport at will in a burst of flame that burned his opponents, now endured blow after blow standing in front of the hellflame portal and blocking his enemies’ only escape route. The flames began to flicker as someone presumably began closing the portal from the other side, and an oncoming troop of more devils could now be seen approaching from afar. In desperation, the heroes piled on to the massive tiefling and were eventually able to force him back into the portal, then they leapt in to join him.

Back in the temple, Hierarch Nagal was chanting a ritual to close the portal before the Iron Circle’s reinforcements could arrive when Avrul appeared before her. To her relief, he was quickly surrounded by her rescuers. The tiefling smirked – the fools thought they had him beaten, but he could simply teleport back into the flames to Hell, where his reinforcements were on their way. He vanished again in a fiery flash, but his flame dissipated in a resounding scream on the surface of the hellish column. Nagal chuckled, “Fool. You can’t teleport into a portal.” Avrul, it seemed, was finally destroyed. House Meitor guards soon caved in the temple’s barricaded main doors, beyond which could be seen the remnants of battle, where House Meitor continued pushing back the Iron Circle in scattered skirmishes. The day was won.

Exhausted and severely injured, the heroes of Drellin’s Ferry and Sarthel were tended to and allowed to rest at the Alamarid Palace before being brought to the palace’s meeting hall, where Duke Meitor greeted them warmly, thanking them and rewarding them with treasure for their services. He agreed to send troops to defend Elsir Vale from the Red Hand, and made Tirah a lord of Sarthel, granting the deva the holdings once belonging to the treacherous tieflings Avrul and Tynaron. A grand feast was held to celebrate the victory, and from the palace’s window the heroes could make out the foundation of a monument being erected on Temple Square in their honor.

XP (Cyress, Elkantar, Frug, Thistle, Tirah): 2,010
Next session: 10/20/2013

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Temple of the Golden Flame
09/22/2013

The heroes wended their way through the cramped, dank, pitch black tunnel, which descended beneath West Hill, on which the Reality Wrinkle was located, then up Silver Hill to the Alamarid Palace, where the tunnel became a stone spiral staircase hidden within the palace walls. It emerged behind a bookcase in Lord Tynaron’s study, now barren of books and most everything else. The only other exit from the study opened onto the large meeting hall where the Sarthel Council of Lords normally gathered. At the moment, despite the late hour, the hall was full of Duke Meitor’s soldiers, unarmored but still with swords strapped to their waists. While duty-bound to follow Meitor’s orders, they were still hotly debating whether to confront the hated Iron Circle. The duke, as had been the case for the previous few weeks, was away at the Temple of the Golden Flame, the local center of Pelor worship.

The soldiers and their one-eyed commander, Captain Revince, first viewed the interlopers with suspicion, but eventually agreed to help free the duke from the temple if evidence of his capture could be produced. Tirah suggested the captain check the dungeons below the Champions Arena for the dead “mind worms” they left there. However, entering the arena without permission would violate the law and, therefore, the soldiers’ oath to the duke. Cyress, having arrived with a handful of Black Knives to back up his friends, offered to send some of the Knives to do the breaking and entering dirty work and bring the worms to the captain. Unfortunately, they were unable to locate any remaining worms underneath the arena.

Captain Revince told the adventurers that some of his men would be near the Temple of the Golden Flame with concealed weapons, should anything happen to threaten the duke. Should they be able to show evidence of his mind control, Tirah, Cyress, and the others would have their support. Under the watchful eyes of Meitor’s soldiers, then, they snuck into the temple early in the morning.

It was immediately apparent that the temple had been compromised. The temple’s main doors were barricaded with wood, and the large column of sunlight, which one dominated the central chamber, had been replaced with a column of hellish green flame. Hell hounds lounged in the servant’s quarters. On the upper floor were Duke Meitor and Hierarch Nagal, entangled in her bed and controlled by soulrider devils, the “mind worms.” Not far away Lord Tynaron was having a conversation with the devil Malthagoras. The duke’s rescuers managed to extract the soulriders and get him and Nagal out of the bedroom window to relative safety before being discovered and confronted by the temple’s new head priest and his pet hell hounds. Once battle began, they were joined by Tynaron, Malthagoras, and a flying imp. Tynaron had alerted Duke Avrul to the intrusion and before long, his fellow tiefling appeared at the head of a phalanx of Iron Circle soldiers. Fortunately, Captain Revince and his hidden House Meitor guards had by this time realized that their liege was fighting against the tieflings and hurled themselves into the fray, throwing back the cloaks that concealed their longswords and eagle-crested breastplates and crying “for Duke Meitor!” House Meitor and the Iron Circle crashed into each other in front of the temple in a cacophony of clanging metal.

XP (Brandis, Cyress, Elkantar, Frug, Thistle, Tirah): 500
Next session: 10/06/2013

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Martial Law
09/08/2013

Escaping the Champions Arena, the fugitives found themselves in a scene of chaos. The rampaging hydra had left a trail of destruction in its wake, and the streets of Sarthel were filled with screaming citizens and running soldiers. Cyress, in fact, had somehow become lost in the confusion. The rest of the escapees made for the Alamarid Palace hoping to rescue Duke Meitor, but they were accosted by a group of Iron Circle soldiers with a pair of trained, fire-breathing hell hounds. Even with a hydra tearing up the city, the soldiers were still adamant on enforcing the Duke’s new edict that only the Iron Circle could bear arms in Sarthel. The armed adventurers overcame them, but decided they were no longer in any shape to free the Duke, and they retreated to the bell tower to recuperate.

They found the bell tower once again occupied by Black Knife thugs. These thugs, however, were happy to see them. It turned out that their former halfing lieutenant, Kelson, had been appointed by “the boss” and had been none too popular with the rank and file. By Black Knife tradition, whoever deposed the previous lieutenant should become his replacement. Unfortunately, Cyress was nowhere to be found. The Black Knives allowed their guests to recover from their battle, after which they escorted them to a secret entrance to the Alamarid Palace.

XP (Brandis, Elkantar, Frug, Thistle, Tirah): 580
Next session: 09/22/2013

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The Champions Arena
08/11/2013

Thistle watched as the thugs piled her allies into Lord Tynaron’s waiting carriage, which she tailed to a large warehouse near the Champions Arena. She broke into the warehouse and discovered a hidden passage leading underground to a warren of living quarters and barren holding cells. One of them contained her companions, who had regained consciousness but were still under the influence of strange mind-controlling worms implanted in them. Thistle managed to figure a way to get the worms out an restore their hosts. Then Lord Tynaron and a very much alive Duke Avrul arrived to greet them, apparently still believing the prisoners to be under their control. They told their “servants” that they were to be instrumental in the induction of a new age for Sarthel.

Unfortunately for them, Avrul noticed one of the extracted worms on the cell floor, and the passage down which he directed them to receive further instructions led not to a mission, but to the arena floor, where the tiefling lords and even Duke Meitor himself condemned the visitors to death for the murder of Lord Padumor. He said he’d been away negotiating for the Iron Circle to protect Sarthel by installing troops in the city. An enormous four-headed hydra was unleashed to make a meal of the accused, but Thistle was able to talk to the beast and convince it that its best hope for freedom was the levers near Avrul’s seat that controlled the arena gates. Aided by Thistle’s pixie dust, the hydra flew into the crowd near Avrul but was unable to comprehend the system of levers. Eventually it continued ascending the seating area and climbed over the lip of the arena to make its escape, leaving Thistle and her friends to fend for themselves. Lords Avrul and Tynaron fled in the chaos, which Iron Circle soldiers had begun arriving to quell. Tossing a rope over the arena wall, Thistle and company rappelled to relative safety.

XP (Brandis, Cyress, Elkantar, Frug, Thistle, Tirah): 1283
Next session: 09/08/2013

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