“Deep down, we're all just gears inside.”
—The Iron Thimble, played by Todd Kenreck, Heroes of the Vale, Episode 8
Watch Heroes of the Vale – Episode 8: The Other Wight Meat
Our heroes are 6th-level characters known as:
- Keen, Eladrin Eldritch Knight Fighter played by TJ Storm
- Briv, Half-Orc Cavalier Fighter played by Adam Bradford
- Orkira, Dragonborn Light Domain Cleric played by Lauren Urban
- Penelope, Halfling Circle of Land Druid played by Hope LaVelle
- Alyndra Alexandria Garanahil Sarrbarand, Lorekeeper of Rime Spiro, Kinscribe of Clan Monkeymouse, High ElfCleric / Wizard played by Jen Kretchmer
- Todd Kenreck as the Dungeon Master
Several days have passed since the epic battle with the ooze-infested dracolich. Orkira has been struggling to deal with the changes to her body, adapting to her new form and trying to learn how to fly, all while helping heal the last few people in town still suffering from Sight Rot. Penelope has spent as much time with the tree as possible, introducing her new Dryad friend to everyone in Stormherald. Keen has been organizing the town into action; searching for any more ooze, searching for sickness, manning the battlements, working to grow food, and in general making sure the people are well cared for. He also spends time studying with his Weaponsmaster as he continues to learn how to become “a true Eldritch Knight”. Briv has named his ostrich mount Beakgrinder and is hard at work training with her, as well as finding those in town who might be interested in learning the skills of mounted flying combat. He is also trying to find or fashion a lance to use while out on patrol. Alyndra has helped stamp out the Sight Rot infection, but has begun to have migraines that get worse by the day. She has an imposing sense of dread that she can’t escape nor understand why she feels this way.
Alyndra and Penelope ask the dryad if they have a name. The old, wizened dryad says they don’t have a name, “I am not comfortable with having a name. When you give a thing a name you own a thing.”
Art by Brett Z. Hill
Keen has started dismantling the bones of the dracolich, though he’s attempting to be sneaky and nonchalant about it. Okira notices and asks if he’s moving the whole skeleton into his room. He confides that he wants to use the bones to make a proper, powerful lance for Briv to use, and wants it to be a surprise. She’s happy to help, and when Briv comes over to ask what they are up to she is quick to distract Briv by asking for his aid. She has watched him flying with Beakgrinder and is hopeful they can give her some help learning how to use her new wings. While the request is genuine, she does use the timing of the lessons to help distract Briv so Keen can finish harvesting the dragon bones.
On the side of the courtyard Briv gives Orkira some basic instructions on how to fly. She is having some success, but it’s shaky and awkward and attracts the attention of nearby townsfolk who gawk, cheer and laugh. Alyndra is watching with feather fall at the ready whenever Orkira takes a dive, just in case, but when she notices all the people gathering around, she instead snickers and she casts command and says, “Impress!” Now with a magically compelled drive to impress, Orkira dives into the air and almost crashes into the ground before pulling up at the last moment to join Briv in the clouds!
As they land Orkira notices a large flying creature headed towards Stormherald. When she points it out and warns everyone Briv quickly takes off again on Beakgrinder, calling to Orkira to join him. She’s reluctant to push herself too far too fast but doesn’t want to let her friend down so she flies out to help. Alyndra sends Griff along as well to keep an eye on what is happening, while Keen heads to a ballista for defenses. They find a goggle-wearing, green-skinned goblin riding a gigantic moth. It’s wings are flapping so fast that it’s creating a constant tremendous buzzing noise that is too loud to talk over. When it’s obvious they can’t hear each other Briv leaps off of his ostrich in an attempt to jump onto the moth, but is hit by one of the buzzing wings and falls towards the ground!
As Briv calls for his ostrich, Orkira goes into a dive to try and catch her friend before he hits the ground. Keen sprints to the Spire to use it to cast feather fall on Briv at distance, which succeeds in slowing him down. Unfortunately Orkira is still learning how to fly and instead of catching she headbutts him. But Beakgrinder arrives, and eventually Orkira is able to help him maneuver over and onto the ostrich back.
The goblin and moth crash onto the top of Stormherald but appear to be alright. Penelope is entranced by the giant moth, playing with the dander coming off its wings. Briv is more cautious and picks up the goblin by the shirt to demand answers.
The goblin announces his name is Vim and is sent as a messenger from “Gnomish City 7,271,938”. He’s lost a lot of his hearing from the noise, and can’t fully understand what anyone is saying except for Briv who is loud enough to be heard over the tinnitus. Keen uses silent image to create a book that writes out what his friends are asking so Vim can understand them. Vim explains he was sent by the gnomes to invite the leaders of Stormherald to meet right away, and Vim is prepared to lead them to their city. Their leader, a queen named Widdle, is currently on sabbatical, but she has left her representative, a being known as the Iron Thimble, in charge.
After a brief discussion about how to go to the gnomish city (that includes the idea of riding gigantic iron battle balloons) the party decides to simply fly Stormherald in that direction and meet Gnomish City 7,271,938 halfway. The trip will take half a day, so the group invite Vim to dinner and custard. The chef, a winged kobold named Thrax, is upset as he’s constantly made fun of by the other kobolds for his wings and is currently the only one cooking food in the keep. As Briv helps with the cooking, Orkira promises to get more help in the kitchen and wants to go flying with Thrax and make friends. Briv has found some meat in the back of the fridge and has created a meal of cooked rib, but Keen inquires where he found this meat. When asked, Thrax admits he grabbed the remains of the wight that was riding the dracolich and that’s what Briv cooked.
Everyone is understandably disgusted. Penelope ends up curled in the corner popping goodberries into her mouth and crying, “I don’t trust anything anymore, and I’m the most trusting person ever!” The group makes sure everyone is okay, disinfects the kitchen, and replaces the stock with a create food and water spell.
Stormherald arrives near Gnomish City 7,271,938, parking over it to take the spiral stairs down onto a landing pad. Inside the city they are met by an official contingent with the Iron Thimble. They are excited to meet another city that is not hostile, and want to form an alliance against the Ocean of the Dead. At the mention of the dead Alyndra’s eyes turn black and she is suddenly struck with a vision of the sea of undead bodies. She screams and collapses, feeling herself linked to all the minds in that Ocean of the Dead. Billions of eyes and billions of mouths with a single, primordial intelligence filled with rage that only want to eat and grow. Orkira and Penelope rush to her side, noticing even in her delirium she is using her sign language but no one understands her. She finally snaps out of the connection, horrified but trying to piece the information she gathered together.
Penelope asks for help from the gnomes, and Keen picks her up to take her somewhere to rest. The gnomes offer a powered cart to use that Penelope is glad and giddy to enjoy using. They are taken to a building with some couches, a fireplace, a throne with a huge painting of Queen Widdle above it, and a gorgeous stained glass window. Alyndra is placed down on one of the couches to rest and recover.
The Iron Thimble introduces himself, thanking the group for coming, and saying they were hoping to form an alliance as there is safety in numbers. When he asks if Alyndra had any close contact with the Ocean of the Dead, she says she cast mind spike through the power of the Spire. The Iron Thimble is troubled, “There are no individuals. A mind spike attaches you to their mind, and they only have one.” He offers to help provide weapons, armor, and check the structural integrity of Stormherald. In return they want allies. They have lost many cities to the Ocean of the Dead, which grows larger even when they do not consume anything. The gnomes are desperate to fight them off and band together to find supplies. There is also concerned about an orcish city of slavers, as well as new floating city known as the City of Shadows. They sent an emissary to the city, but have received no response. There is a problem with the suns, as if something is controlling them, and the gnomes have a hard time predicting their movements and so do not know when the long night will come.
A small celebration breaks out as the two communities meet each other. The gnomes bring toys for the children, the communities trade resources and magic, and generally start a comfortable peace.
Alyndra felt a center to the darkness of the Ocean of the Dead, and wants to try and connect her mind to it again. After resting the group meet up in the library, putting down protective runes and casting Sanctuary for aid. Alyndra casts Bless, Keen is ready to blindfold her in case the Ocean of the Dead can see through Alyndra’s eyes, Penelope casts Barkskin to help protect her body, and Orkira casts Enhance Ability. Briv gives her a comforting fist bump then stands guard. As prepared as she can be, Alyndra once again touches her mind to the Ocean of the Dead. There are a billion minds seething across the world, hungry, angry, feeding, cresting in waves. She can see a singular darkness where no light penetrates and is sucked in to pass through. Before her is another world with no suns. It is an entire planet of dead. Undead on top of each other, a world made of death.
Can Alyndra come back from this vision? And how can our heroes fight an entire world of death? Find out on March 13th 2019 for episode 9!
Special thanks to Brett Z. Hill for permission to feature the Penelope art! Find him on social media: Facebook (Brett Z Hill) Twitter (@BrettZHill1) Instagram (brettzhill)
EPILOGUE: Somewhere in the swamp hundreds of kuo-toa are chanting and pounding drums outside a small cave. Rarv approaches, looking concerned, “I said to only bring him one troll, how many trolls did you bring Boom Boom?!”
The cave explodes into dust and rubble as a 60-foot-tall, musclebound Boom Boom bursts out! Two sickly, oozy wings spring from his shoulders, and he roars and leaps into the sky.
Rarv smiles fishily, “Okay," he titters. "I guess I can work with that.”
Lauren "OboeCrazy" Urban is the Community Manager for D&D Beyond, as well as a professional classical musician on oboe and English Horn. When she's not playing a Bard in real life she's a prolific Dungeon Master and player on a variety of livestreams and podcasts. She lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband Luke where they spend their free time playing video games and drinking tea. The best way to keep up with Lauren's busy schedule is to follow her on Twitter at @OboeCrazy.