"Remember to remain calm."
—Rarv, played by Todd Kenreck, Heroes of the Vale Episode 17
Watch Heroes of the Vale – Episode 17: Justice
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 take a long moment to relax in the wake of Saranthis's defeat, and of their escape from Avernus. Around them are thousands of people reunited and crying, animals and plants returning to a healing world, and even dragons flying in the air. Nearby is the ruins of a port town on the ground on the edge of a vast ocean.
Briv triumphantly climbs to the top of the war machine to proclaim to the people, “Behold, the Heroes of the Vale!” Immediately afterward, he blows upon his griffon call to summon Spiral to his side—only for his loyal steed to not return. Afraid that Spiral might be trapped in the Nine Hells, Briv asks to go back to Avernus immediately, but his companions can only look at him apologetically. No one has a way to return. Briv slams his fists against their infernal war machine, and stalks away in frustration.
As Briv exits, Alyndra notices a look of discomfort on Orkira's face, and asks if she's all right. Orkira admits to feeling exhausted and unwell, and explains that she's afraid of mutating into a dangerous monster, now that she's been touched by the siberix. Alyndra looks her over and sees no further physical changes to the dragonborn, but she nevertheless acknowledges the potential danger of the sibriex's flesh-warping magic. She asks if Orkira can try casting lesser restoration on herself to same way she has used in the past, Orkira admits that part of her exhaustion is magical; she's completely drained of spell slots. Despite her concerns about waiting, the only thing they can do is rest and try to regain some of their strength.
Suddenly, fire erupts from Orkira’s eyes! This change isn't a mutation from the sibriex, but a vision from the Phoenix. The mighty elemental gazes upon Orkira and, in a low, rumbling voice, commands, “You have to get Penelope out of here now! They are coming! Hide Penelope now!” before the vision fades. Orkira relays the message as Alyndra can feel something entering into this plane of existence. They conceal Penelope in a tiny hut inside the war machine as Briv frantically tries to fix it to get it moving. Orkira notices a nearby sea cave, and they drive the war machine into it before their mysterious assailants arrive. Alyndra suggests that Keen take Penelope to the Feywild, and everyone agrees this is the best option. The two disappear in a flash of verdant light, and a hush falls over the interior of the war machine.
Orkira reaches out to the Phoenix, letting it know Penelope is safe and asking what to do next. She can sense its reassuring presence, but it doesn't directly respond.
A screech pierces the air and everyone can see Spiral has appeared and is floundering in the ocean! Briv dashes towards the shore and dives into the water at the first sign of Spiral's plight, and manages to calm the panicked griffon enough to help it get to the safety of the cave. The poor creature is severely injured, its wings broken and burnt, and Briv recognizes that his griffon must have endured some fearsome battles of its own while in Avernus. Briv determines that Spiral will heal, but the wounds are severe, and will require intense treatment and a long recovery before Spiral will return to its full strength. Orkira reaches into her pack and offers Briv her last remaining potion of healing, as she remembers that Briv offered up his earlier in the day. Briv feeds Spiral the healing potion and then a taste of the remaining demon ichor. Some life returns to the griffon, and it happily nuzzles Briv’s neck.
The group head into the nearby ruins of the city of Kraken's Bay to find shelter, and notice an inn that is still in good repair with a door slightly ajar. Piano music plays from inside where they find an older man in a dusty and torn black raincoat playing. The man knows who they are and seams familiar, and Orkira recognizes him as Rarv! The last time they saw Rarv he was a kuo-toa, but now cured of Saranthis’ madness he has returned to his original form. He says he has no quarrel with the group, as he was under Saranthis’ evil influence, and forgives them for their actions. Alyndra scowls with mistrust, and casts detect thoughts, only to find that Rarv is telling the truth. He likewise apologizes for his own actions, and is glad they were able to finish what he started. Rarv says he has a bad feeling that something is coming, and suggests they don’t tell anyone about how they assisted Penelope in killing Saranthis. Such knowledge is dangerous.
As they hunker down in their new shelter, Alyndra asks him what he knows about the sibriex. Rarv thoughtfully explains he’s seen several such demons in his travels, but he tries to avoid them, not only because they're dangerous, but also because they're simply disgusting. When asked if there is a way to undo the physical transformations they can cause, Rarv only knows that a wish spell is required. Disturbed, Orkira asks if the bar still has any alcohol, and when Rarv confirms there is whiskey she heads over to pour some glasses for everyone.
The group find empty rooms in the tavern, with Alyndra casting her tiny hut for safety, and they finally bed down for a much needed long rest.
The next morning Orkira wakes suddenly from a nightmare, startled and breathing heavy, and reflexively casts lesser restoration upon herself. Nothing happens, and Alyndra reassures her that she looks exactly the same as she did before. Briv has returned to his normal size, and is feeling some withdrawal effects from the demon ichor. Orkira casts cure wounds on Spiral to make sure the griffon is not in any pain, and then lets Briv know she’s happy to help heal him as much as necessary. Briv takes his griffon outside to get some fresh air while the rest sit down to enjoy some breakfast from what Rarv has scavenged. Rarv cryptically lets them know they should remain calm while he prepares some food.
Moments later, a figure enters the bar, dressed in ornate full plate black armor, moving in an unnatural way that bothers everyone. The creature sits down silently as a second identical figure enters. Alyndra casts message to Rarv asking if he knows who these creatures are, and Rarv only responds that they should all remain calm. More enter, eventually filling the inn with these identical armored figures. Outside Briv notices the confusing sight of armored creatures appearing out of nowhere to enter the inn, so he stashes Spiral somewhere safe and heads inside. All the creatures remove their helmets at once to reveal pale beings with strips of cloth tied around their heads where their eyes should be. They turn to Briv in unison and one asks, “Where is the halfling? Penelope Neverember?” They say they are an order established to prevent mortals from killing Gods and are here to take Penelope as she has upset the balance. They don’t care about mortals, only when gods are murdered. These are celestial beings, harbingers of death and justice, and they were the presence everyone felt coming.
Alyndra tries to reason with them, claiming it was self defense, and trying to understand who is in charge of this order. The beings are here for justice. The harbingers insist Penelope is brought to them, but Alyndra refuses. The celestials draws their swords. Briv draws his sword, and steps in front of his friends. Alyndra hisses at Briv to stand down, but the half-orc shakes his head. He insists he will not attack first, only in defense.
Another figure enters the inn and heads for the bar, seemingly unconcerned with the tense drama unfolding around him. There’s an uncanny air surrounding him, and it’s hard to remember his face even after just looking at him. The creatures in the room pay him no mind as he approaches. When Orkira asks if he’s here to make things better or worse, the man knows her name and asks what she would prefer. Realizing that a fight may be about to start, Orkira starts to move but is momentarily stopped by the strange man asking what she is about to do. She says, “I’m here to protect my friends, so I’m going to protect them.” When he asks how, she admits she has a spell of protection from evil and good, and in confusion pushes past him to cast it on Alyndra.
The stranger draws his sword, a jet black blade with glowing celestial runes and a skull with glowing eyes ringed with tiny flames on the hilt. He asks Briv if he would like to trade swords, and Briv accepts by tossing his flaming sword to the man. Receiving the black blade back he looks deep into the eyes of the skull on the sword and feels good, filling with murderous anger. The harbingers attack and Briv quickly moves with his new sword to defend his friends. As Briv kills one of the celestials, its body turns to ash as its essence is sucked into the skull on the blade.
Alyndra is unwilling to fight these beings, asking one of the harbingers to stop the battle, but Rarv appears behind it and drives a dagger into its skull. She appeals to Briv to stop, but Briv is engaged and unwilling to let them attack his friends or go after Penelope. He continues to cut down celestial after celestial, and the sword drinks up their souls like man parched by thirst. Horrified, Alyndra uses misty step to escape the inn, leaving Griff behind to keep an eye on her friends.
Orkira turns to the stranger demanding to know what the sword is doing. He confirms that it’s sucking up the essence of those Briv kills, and so Orkira turns back to Briv to plead with him to stop using it. Briv ignores her, and insists that the sword is just a tool. The half orc is so intent on protecting his allies, he is blind to the evil nature of the blade he wields, and he cleaves through warrior after warrior until only a single harbinger remains. Finally Briv pauses in his assault and addresses the creature, “Thou hast now a choice. Die with thine allies or give us information and carry a message to whomever sent thee!” The harbinger looks at the faceless man and says he shouldn’t have interfered, before winking out of existence.
Once again Orkira pleads with Briv to give back the sword, believing it to be evil. Briv feels love for the sword, but can see his veins have grown black where he grips the hilt and he somehow knows that he should let it go. He exchanges it back with the faceless man, who thanks them and says he appreciates their efforts in helping collect a debt. Flipping a coin onto the table he walks out of the bar. Alyndra returns to the inn as Orkira looks at the coin; a soul coin with the symbol of Bhaal—Faerûnian god of murder—on it. She puts her hand on it, intent on releasing the soul, but can feel that the soul inside is Saranthis.
Briv and Alyndra begin to argue about what just occurred. Briv is defensive, pointing out the harbingers came to destroy them and attacked first, and that he saved his everyone including Penelope. Alyndra argues that this fight should not have happened, they should have just talked, and that these souls were just destroyed. Briv offers to give Alyndra the soul coin with Saranthis in it. Alyndra refuses, saying it was all Briv’s decision and that he should carry her soul. He accepts, warning that it might not be the safest decision, but completely assured that everything he did was correct.
Orkira slowly returns to the bar, asking sadly “Hey, are we still good people?”
EPILOGUE: Inside Avernus lies the body of Saranthis in a pool of blood, her form being picked clean by carrion birds. The blood begins to move as two small hands emerge, pulling itself out of nowhere. A tiny man with a grey beard, red cap, steel boots and glowing red eyes appears. It grabs the scythe Penelope left behind in the body of Saranthis, looks out into the distance, and growls, “Now, let’s begin.”
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.