"What is going on?! I feel very lost!"
—Keen, played by TJ Storm, Heroes of the Vale, Episode 13
Watch Heroes of the Vale – Episode 13: The God You Don't
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
Leaves swirl and green light glows within the Library of the Norn as Keen steps out of the Feywild and back onto the Material Plane, now fully recovered after dining on wight flesh. The group tries to explain to him that they were searching for a weapon, but they are interrupted by Briv. The half-orc shouts from across the room that he found a pack of trading cards. Alyndra goes to him and asks to examine the box of cards—and identifies this deck as the infamous Deck of Many Things. She notes that, a very long time ago, they were tasked with recovering one of the cards from this deck. The one card found outside the deck, Ruin, matches the card they used in that initial mission. Briv takes the deck back though everyone cautions him not to pull any cards.
Alyndra casts detect magic as she scours the ruins, and her magic directs her to a talisman resting on the ground. She inspects it, and learns that this devil-faced amulet is an abhorrent Talisman of the Sphere, an item that can control a sphere of annihilation. She looks up at the magical ceiling above her, and sees runes highlighting pictographs that show four panels: a world with one sun, a world with two suns, a world with the original sun destroyed and the new pale sun alone, and a horrible, shimmering black sphere cracking between two hands.
The sounds of war horns blare from Stormherald, drawing everyone's attention from the magical artifacts. Keen summons his falcon familiar and prepares for battle, though he is momentarily distracted by how his glaive seems to have grown more powerful in his absence, and notes that there is writing on it in his own hand that he does not remember creating. He snaps out of his reverie, and looks with horror at the thousands of Shadowfell creatures seething beneath Stormherald and swarming around the entrance to the library. All of these abominations are distorted caricatures of normal humanoids, possibly rural townsfolk twisted into a hideous new form. Keen rushes back into the library slams shut the door as he explains what he saw. Briv uses his griffon call to bring Spiral back inside, but Penelope marches back out to address the crowd. “This is Penelope," she declares. "Princess Penelope, the Mender! This is what I do. Do you remember me?” The Shadowfell creatures remember and whisper about how they have to pay attention to her. Keen is struck by how brave Penelope suddenly has become.
Alyndra expresses her concern about the density of extremely powerful items they have found in the Library, and Orkira gives her the Phoenix tome to identify and joins Penelope outside. Penelope continues speaking to the gathered crowd from the Shadowfell, and asks them why they have come. The twisted beings respond piecemeal about leaving their old town once the Heroes of the Vale told them they were free to leave, and that King Avren told them he could leave as well and take them with him, and now Avren waits for them up on Stormherald. The Heroes' breath catches, and they rush towards the flying city without a second thought. Alyndra, however, pauses momentarily to gaze once more upon the murals—and is rewarded with an epiphany: the second sun depicted in the ceiling is not a sun at all, but a portal to the Nine Hells. Horror grips her, and she hurries to explain her findings to her party, only to be talked over in the rush to reach Stormherald.
The heroes gather in Stormherald's kitchen, where they find Avren. Their former companion is naught but a skeleton, radiant with sickly blue light, and he is trying desperately to eat or drink something, only to find that his undead body can't hold a crumb of food, nor a drop of wine. The Shadowfell creatures believed so strongly in Avren as their savior, that their combined belief was able to bring him back as their king. He had just only remembered his true identity a few hours ago. Penelope is glad to see Avren, returns to him the gun they took from his body, and tells him that they gave the locket to Rend. She beseeches him to rejoin the heroes and help them save the world. Avren scowls, and declares that saving the world is a task for the living. Orkira frowns. She shakes her head. She can hardly understand Avren's reasoning. He should be trying to recover from his current state; his lingering state of undeath is an abomination in the eyes of Pelor. But before she can explain her feelings to him, Avren asks her about what has happened since he died. Orkira ruefully explains to both Avren and to Keen—who still hasn't heard what his friends have gone through—everything that happened since they were first devoured by the bag.
Avren nods as he hears the story recounted to him. He then simply says, “I am here because someone cast a wish spell. Someone apparently wanted guidance, and so now I am here.” He tells the story of Saranthis, how she was a powerful and jealous deity who grew to hate the power of mortals. Mortalkind had grown powerful enough to challenge the gods themselves, and she resented their ambition and their power. She created the Ocean of the Dead to serve and worship only her, and started assassinating the other gods to expand her power. It was only through the command efforts of a group of spellcasters and artificers that she was imprisoned. There were only four survivors of that battle; Avren, Whittle, Rend, and Rarv.
When Orkira asks how Saranthis escaped, Avren looks around the room with concern, and asks the party if they are sure they are not being overheard. Alyndra casts Leomund's tiny hut as a safe place to talk, and Avren, assured in their confidentiality, tells his former companions that Saranthis has not yet escaped her prison. The goddess Saranthis is hidden deep in the bowels of Stormherald. Rarv was originally tasked as her jailer, but he was injured by Saranthis, and has been transformed into the twisted creature the group remembers encountering. The location of her prison must remain secret, or else all her followers will be sent to attack them and free her. Fortunately for them, the prison is shielded so no one can see inside to find her, and she cannot see out to know where she is.
Avren continues his explanation, and reveals that Saranthis bargained with a sibriex, a type of fiend that can warp flesh, to create a contagion that forces the Ocean of the Dead to worship her. The more followers she has the more powerful she becomes, until eventually she could break free. Those infected on this world could still be cured and saved, but the sibriex would need to be found somewhere in the Nine Hells and bargained with for information on on the cure. The sibriex is also using the portal in the sky as a means to absorb energy and life from the world. Avren warns the heroes that they only have a few days to stop Saranthis. In the places where the weave is still weak the Grand Conjunction can take place, where all the portals to all the worlds align. The Conjunction is happening in a matter of days, and if the Ocean of the Dead is there they will be able to spread everywhere.
The group ponders how they can destroy enough of the Ocean of the Dead to weaken Saranthis to the point where they could kill her. Briv suggests that Orkira could use the book she found to summon the Phoenix, but Orkira is terrified that summoning the legendary firebird would simply trade one apocalyptic event for another. She admits that she has always wanted to find and speak with the Phoenix that destroyed her clan, but is unwilling to risk the fiery demise of all her friends and loved ones. Keen insists they need more information about the sibriex to prepare for a confrontation with it, and Avren tells him that there are tombs of knowledge hidden in the room where Saranthis is imprisoned that could help. He warns not to touch the box that is her prison, then announces that he has fulfilled the terms of the wish, and told everything he knows about the situation. It is time for him to leave.
Avren has told the Shadowfell creatures that he is no longer their King, and to follow the direction of the Heroes of the Vale. He reveals he’s a Trickster God, empowered by the Shadowfell creatures' worship, and that he is a being of a constantly changing form. While this unfortunate circumstance makes him immortal, it also makes it nigh impossible to achieve his true goals. He asks Orkira to “kill” him, as his current undead form prevents him from being reborn into a new body. Orkira is sad to see him go, and says with a smile, “Thank you for your help. It was good seeing you again.” She invokes Pelor's power and uses Destroy Undead to vaporize Avren’s body. As his ashes collect on on the ground, a small tree beings to grow between the stones of the floor. Briv walks forward and steps on the tree as if to crush it, but Penelope casts plant growth to make it strong and large. As the tree erupts from the ground gold spills out from around it; the gold tree that Keen was promised.
Keen reminds the group how careful they must be about the rest of Stormherald as no one can find out about the prison of Saranthis. Orkira is going to study the Phoenix tome, while the rest get the books from the Prison to find out information on the sibriex. Briv heads outside to patrol on Spiral, feeling he will not be useful with all the research the other want to do. Meanwhile, as Alyndra leaves the tiny hut, her eyes go black and the Ocean of the Dead encroaches upon her mind. “We see you, and we know where you are,” the chorus of souls snarls. Orkira sees her friend's eyes change, and swiftly casts lesser restoration on the wizard, and breaks her out of the connection. At the same time, Briv watches as the original sun in the sky goes dim and turns red, while a great peal of thunder shakes the air around him.
The party follows the sound of thunder, and finds Valasar, the burnt dragonborn from Orkira’s old clan, standing upon the stones of Stormherald. Without pretense, Valasar asks the heroes what is going on, and what the group found in the Library. Orkira ruefully mutters, “More than I wanted to.” Keen orders Valasar to gather the people to move Stormherald and get onto their battle stations and he moves off.
Briv suggests a daring strategy: fly Stormherald into the portal into the Nine Hells. If Saranthis escapes because of their planar journey, then at least she will be on a plane of existence they don’t care about. Penelope likes Briv's plan, calling it bold. Likewise, Orkira thinks it could work as long as they get all the people off in time, and suggests riding with it into the Nine Hells to find the sibriex. Keen wonders if the portal is close enough to make flying into it possible. Alyndra is worried about Saranthis finding allies there, and asks Penelope if her “new friend” would be of aid to them or turn to the evil god. She’s especially worried that no one knows the real name of the devil she made a pact with, but Penelope is willing to give him a chance to prove himself. Briv takes Spiral up into the sky intending to find out how far away the portal really is, and while the air grows thin and the two are covered in frost Briv believes they can reach it!
At that moment Alyndra’s eyes go black again, but this time she is more prepared. She can see an army of undead across the mountains and asks them what they want. She watches as ten thousand undead speak in her voice to all the other undead surrounding them. She gasps in slight shock. Somehow, she can control them! The rest of the Ocean of the Dead retreat at the sound of her voice, and Orkira severs the connection once more.
They still need information before they enact Briv's daring plan, and Keen does not think Alyndra should come to Saranthis's prison. Alyndra agrees—her connection to the undead might leave her compromised. Ultimately, the heroes decide that Orkria should stay with her in case she needs to pull her out of the Ocean of the Dead again. Then, Briv, Penelope and Keen head down into the bowels of Stormherald. They explore its musty depths, and eventually find find a dungeon housing a large golden box. The box is covered with arcane sigils and spinning gears, and it floats in the center of the chamber. The walls are lined with books, as well as an astrolabe charting the Conjunction. After conducting a brief search, the party finds a book titled the Fiend Folio, containing information about the sibriex demon. They also find a "Guide to Godhood" that Keen finds suspicious, and a manual that Briv cannot read, though its art seems to indicate that it could make him stronger. Penelope examines the machine that is charting the Conjunction, and she can read it to see that the Conjunction will arrive in three days. It lists several realms the Conjuction can take everyone to: Faerûn, Krynn, and the Nine Hells.
Orkira and Alyndra sit down to examine the Phoenix tome, but discover with horror that the book is missing! They can’t find it nearby but realize the only other person they spoke to was Valasar. Orkira rushes outside to search and discovers him sitting under a tree holding the book. Orkira stalks up to him angrily asking why. Valasar believes dragonborn to be higher beings then the others, and wants to use the book to summon the Phoenix to burn the world and save it for themselves. He reveals that he was actually a member of the cult that summoned the Phoenix that destroyed the Ildrex clan all along. Enraged, Orkira tackles him!
There's a fight, a plan, a portal and more in store for the next episode of Heroes of the Vale! Watch Episode 14 live on Wednesday May 1st at 2pm on twitch.tv/dndbeyond!
EPILOGUE: Somewhere in a dusty laboratory a cylinder filled with liquid opens. As it drains onto the floor it reveals Avren, now in a fresh body with a mechanical arm, crawling to his feet. “I really wish I’d packed some pants.”
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.