“Drive us into the mouth of Hell, little one!”
—Keen, played by TJ Storm, Heroes of the Vale Episode 15
Watch Heroes of the Vale – Episode 15: Portal To Hell
Our heroes are 7th-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
The Heroes of the Vale rush to Orkira’s side, who lies unconscious on the ground from her wounds. Penelope pours a potion of healing into her mouth and also casts cure wounds. However, instead of waking up with her friends, Orkira finds herself outside a golden city of tall spires. Nearby is Avren, throwing rocks at the wall in annoyance. He turns to her with a scowl and remarks that he's irritated it took her so long to wake up. Orkira is glad to see Avren looking healthy again, and with a sense of dread asks where she is and what happened. Avren announces she is dead, but that she should be fine, and meanwhile someone he knows is coming to say hello,
The gates open and the luminous figure of Pelor steps out to greet Orkira. At first Orkira is overwhelmed, but then launches into a rambling apology. Despite believing that summoning the Phoenix was the best course of action to save everyone, she is upset that she hurt her friends in the process and afraid he will be angry that she has forsaken him for the Primordial. “I kinda promised to follow you and then I waited an entire lifetime to get you back, and then my friends fixed everything and I got you back, and then a day later I left. I’m sorry.”
Pelor insists that she has nothing to be sorry about, that she did what needed to be done, and that she is on a journey that he cannot help her with. He assures that she made the right choice, and that the Phoenix needs her more then anyone. When she asks what it could possibly need from her, he only says she will find out.
Pelor reminds Orkira that his door is always open, and that her trials are not over yet. Then in a flash of golden light Orkira wakes back up in the dirt with her friends. There is a moment of surprise, and then Orkira reflexively casts cure wounds on both Penelope and Alyndra, in an attempt to overcome her guilt for burning them when she summoned the Phoenix. They note that her spell has changed in appearance, looking like flames that flicker backwards and heal instead of harm. Penelope asks if the change is because of the Phoenix, and Orkira confirms as much.
Stormherald breaks through the clouds with a beam of sunlight, and everyone climbs back onto Spiral. Penelope thanks the Shadowfell army for their work holding back the undead, and Briv commands them to continue to hold the perimeter. They fly back to Stormherald to find the bodies of zombie wyverns littering the area from a swarm Keen and some of the guards were able to fight off. The sun grows darker as the portal to Hell grows larger and more powerful.
Alyndra is still very injured, and Orkira uses her most powerful spell to heal her completely. Alyndra also feels a great weight lifted off of her mind as the Ocean of the Dead no longer plagues her psyche. Between the physical and mental healing she is feeling herself for the first time in years. However Penelope is distraught that she was not brave enough and her idea caused so much pain, but Alyndra comforts her that they have done good.
There is not much time before the Convergence, so Alyndra begins to read the books that were found in Saranthis’ prison to learn as much as she can. She learns how the second sun that they now know is a portal to Hell began to pull life from the planet. A decay started to settle into even the very rocks and undead began to appear. There is also information about the Sibriex being a genius that warps the flesh, and the only natural enemies it has are devils. They discuss the relative morality of good and evil, arguing if working with a devil is worth the risks. Briv reveals that his society used slavery, but he murdered those in charge and freed the slaves, asking if his actions were good or evil.
The conversation is interrupted by a peel of thunder and the sun goes a bit darker. Keen can confirm that Stormherald has enough of a magic shield to allow them to fly the city into the portal. However they need to leave all the citizens in a safe place. The group talks to Vim, the goblin moth-rider, to ask about finding the gnomish city in hopes of sending the people of Stormherald there. Vim informs them the city went far to the west. The Convergence is in two days, but they believe the sun will not last the day, and Stormherald will not make it to the gnomish city in time.
Keen finds Master Dagon, asking if it is feasible or allowable to bring the people of the city into the Feywild to keep them safe. Dagon is not happy with this idea, saying their home is to be protected and kept secret. He says those on Stormherald have fleeting lives, and threatening the Feywild way of existence is not worth the risk. Keen argues that the people’s lives are not worth less, and it is their duty to protect them. Dagon says he will guide the people, but that it is Keen’s decision and risk and if anything goes wrong the Council will blame Keen.
Despite his misgivings Keen activates the ring to the Feywild and gives detailed instructions about how to act, what to avoid, and to listen and obey Dagon as law. Once the speech is done Dagon leads the thousands of citizens of Stormherald into the fairy ring. Briv asks for volunteers to stay and take positions in the battlements, and thirteen people agree to remain. Keen asks if there is someone who can pilot Stormherald, and Alyndra wonders if the Dryad can help. Penelope isn’t sure the Dryad will know anything that isn’t already in the books, but Alyndra wants the wisdom of the ancient being. “Books are not living, and the living often understand in a way the words cannot.”
Penelope knocks on the tree, calling out the Dryad. Alyndra uses her telepathy to speak with it, admitting she is afraid and asks if it can help at all. The Dryad says it can only help in one last way, that their time is coming as they have never seen past this moment. The tree is a branch of the World Tree, and it may be of use yet. It reaches a hand out to touch Alyndra’s shoulder and comfort her, “It will be okay, it will not be your fault. Goodbye.” and then retreats back into the tree.
Shaken, overwhelmed, and on the verge of tears, Alyndra tells her friends that things are going to be bad—but in the end, things will be okay.
The last one left to deal with is Valasar, and after a brief discussion Orkira convinces everyone to just lower Valasar to the ground and let him fend for himself, unwilling to murder someone who has surrendered. They drag him from where he was imprisoned to the edge of Stormherald, and after a few snide words he grins as he descends to the ground. Briv asks Orkira one last time if she would like him to kill Valasar, but she says she needs to be careful about her impulses to burn everything. When Briv says she should give into those impulses because of what she can do, Orkira responds “Yeah, and there were a couple sacrifices that had to be made to do that.”
Keen takes charge of piloting Stormherald up through the thunderstorm and into a blizzard. Briv wanders the quiet streets of the now empty city, calling out to hear the echo. Alyndra asks Orkira to help sanctify the ground, but the dragonborn is nervous and unsure if that is something she knows how to do now that her powers come from the Phoenix, but she is happy to help Alyndra sanctify the the area to Oghma.
Stormherald breaks through the storms into the solitude of starlight, the portal casting red light down on them. Penelope flees into the hall to stay near the fire, and Orkira follows her friend. The halfling asks if Orkira can remember her homeland. Orkira talks about how it was cold in the mountains and that her tribe wandered, then asks Penelope where she is from. Penelope speaks about the innocent homeland of her youth, finding an army that she wasn’t strong or brave enough to convince her people were coming. She now works to find her bravery, and struggles to be believed. Orkira comforts Penelope, telling her how much she helped make all the success they’ve had happen. They both say how sorry they are, then decide to go check on the others.
Alyndra sits watching the stars and thinking of home. Briv spends time securing whatever he can to keep the castle safe, then joins Alyndra in the grass to ask what she is looking at. Alyndra explains what constellations are and points out to him the Griffon. This delights and fascinates Briv, who asks Alyndra to show him that constellation when they return from their trip and reach the ground again. She promises to show him that one, and many more.
As Stormherald approaches the portal Alyndra, Penelope, and Orkira head to the control room to offer help to Keen while Briv stays outside to stand guard. Keen says that he is glad to have his friends besides him on this trip, that they are like family, and invites Penelope to help drive Stormherald the final distance. Orkira discovers a little red gem in her pocket that was not there before, and seems to remember it was among Avren’s things. She asks Alyndra to examine the red gem as it is covered in runes. Before she identifies the gem, Alyndra hands Keen a small leftover part from the time machine, asking him to hold onto it and keep it safe. Then she examines the gem, discovering it is some kind of gem of warding and binding, more complicated then any arcane lock.
Stormherald passes through the portal, causing everyone to feel a bit ill, and the temperature rises dramatically. The air filled with acrid smoke and ash, with a maelstrom of red lightning surrounded them.
Keen remembers the gem came from the golden cage in the dungeon, and in a panic Alyndra and Orkira rush down to check on Saranthis’ prison. They see the golden cube in the center of the room, but can see a tiny opening on the side, a small gap in one of the corners, and the inside is empty. Outside Briv notices a spear with a skull planted on top of it nearby, the skull of a halfling, placed as if it was meant for him to find it. Below it there are more bones, the buried body of a halfling where Penelope was buried.
In the tower Penelope begins to laugh, “I have foreseen this moment!” She raises a hand and casts shatter, destroying the orb as she reveals herself to be Saranthis! As Stormherald begins to plummet to the ground Orkira grabs Alyndra to fly them out of the dungeon while Briv mounts Spiral. They all rush towards the tower, while Keen immediately attacks Saranthis but she misty steps away. Alyndra arrives, announcing that she believes in Penelope Half-Pint, but Saranthis laughs and says that Penelope is dead while casting anti-magic field. The Goddess and the Wizard trade spells and counterspells, but Saranthis is overwhelmingly powerful. Orkira takes the direct approach and flies into Saranthis to attack with her claws. She does a small amount of damage but it’s enough to make her make a concentration check. Alyndra uses one of her portents to cause the Goddess to fail and the anti-magic field drops.
Outside Briv can see Stormherald is only moments from crashing into the ground, and calls out for everyone to get outside! At the last minute Keen plants the time machine part onto Saranthis then pulls Orkira and Alyndra outside.
Saranthis grins at Orkira, thanking her for summoning the Phoenix into her demiplane after Valasar had failed. “It will become the herald of my light and fire.” and Saranthis teleports away.
Orkira grabs one of the warriors who came with them to try and save who she can, Alyndra and Keen use feather fall, and Stormherald explodes as it crashes into the ground. The group lands among the wreckage to find a figure riding a hellhound covered in bone armor approaching. The figure removes their mask in joy, claw marks down her face and burnt hands, and calling herself Penelope Neverember.
Our next episode is a special event, playing from D&D Live: The Descent! Watch Saturday May 18th at 12 pm PT on twitch.tv/dndbeyond to see everyone in the same room trying to figure out how to survive!
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.