“Because I thought I was very smart and very clever—and I was. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ramifications to that kind of thing.”
—Avren, Heroes of the Vale
Watch Heroes of the Vale – Chapter 2, Episode 6: The Worm Has Turned
Our heroes are 8th-level characters known as:
- Todd Kenreck as the Dungeon Master
- Keen, Eladrin Eldritch Knight Fighter played by TJ Storm
- Briv, Half-Orc Cavalier Fighter/Barbarian played by Adam Bradford
- Penelope, Halfling Circle of Land Druid played by Hope LaVelle
- Alyndra Alexandria Garanahil Sarrbarand, Lorekeeper of Rime Spiro, Kinscribe of Clan Monkeymouse, High Elf Cleric/Wizard played by Jen Kretchmer
- Orkira, Dragonborn Light Domain Cleric played by Lauren Urban
An army of gith with their red dragon mounts march outside the Raven Inn, fortifying their position against the mind flayers' inevitable attack. Inside the inn, the Heroes of the Vale stare at a swirling pattern of leaves and wind, as the natural debris coalesce into a shimmering portal to the Feywild. They look upon the portal with apprehension—and then with glee, as their old friend Keen steps through, alive and well. They fill their oft-absent companion in on the nature of their latest peril, and he swiftly agrees to help them. Their reunion is cut suddenly short by the sound of shattering glass. The heroes rush into the back room and find Avren, friend to them all and father to Alyndra, face-down on the ground, with blood oozing from his ears. They inspect him in a frenzy, and discover a ring of regeneration upon his finger. The relic glows white hot as it strains its magic to its limits to constantly regenerate Avren's gray matter as a mind flayer tadpole tries to burrow into Avren's brain.
Using one of her portents, Alyndra casts command to force the tadpole to exit Avren’s head, and the heroes try in vain to squish the vile creature. The tadpole rapidly swells to the size of a large dog, before Alyndra casts polymorph to turn it into a rat. Orkira empties her satchel and nabs the rat, then deposits it into a birdcage Briv has found. Briv runs outside and finds Githrack Vos, one of the commanders of the Gith army, and gives him the polymorphed tadpole, with a single command: dispose of it.
When Avren returns to consciousness, he is disoriented and his speech is stumbling. Alyndra asks him to tell her the last thing he remembers—and as he opens his mouth, the group is engulfed in a flash of white light. They see a small hut on the beach, and a younger Avern talking with his wife then calling out to someone named Lindy—Alyndra, perhaps. Within moments, the flashback is over, and the heroes find themselves back in the present. Before they have time to discuss what they saw, they are pulled into another memory. This time, they're in a longhouse filled with seafaring, Viking-like warriors, all enjoying food and drink, while an even younger-looking Avren chats with a stranger about trading a wish for his soul. As most listen in on the conversation, Briv grabs a cooked deer leg off the bar, and he notices with surprise that he still has the meat in his hands after another flash of light returns them to the present day.
Placing a hand on Avren’s head, Orkira casts cure wounds in an attempt to heal his brain faster and prevent another trip down memory lane. The healing seems to echo back out in a shockwave and providing healing to everyone in the room before another flash transports the group back to the longhouse. Just as they appear Avren is saying to the infernal stranger, “I wish that no one knew who you are, and will never remember who you are.”
Inside this shared memory Alyndra appears changed, with ruddy skin and red hair that more resembles her parents. She warns the group that while this is a memory, any changes they make will not just impact Avren, but will also be noticed by other divinities. All the musclebound warriors in the longhouse suddenly looked towards the door of the longhouse, and drew their blades and axes, and Penelope and Briv joined them with a grin. All eyes were on the door, and suddenly a human being strode into the bar. The Viking warriors roared with mirth and hurled their weapons at the man, but they struck him ineffectually and clattered to the floor. The man responded with a disinterested smile, and it soon became known that this was no man at all, but a god named Baldur.
The infernal stranger growls out to Avren that he has one wish, and Avren replies, “I wish to never be forgotten.” His words seem to echo through the longhouse, and the Heroes of the Vale seem to be pushed by them, like driftwood upon the sea, back into the present day. There, Alynda casts tiny hut in an attempt to shield anyone outside room from being drawn into Avren's memories, then casts sending to her mother asking for help. Her mother responds that she will return as quickly as possible, and warns that no matter what memories come up that Alyndra asked to forget something specific.
As the Heroes brace for another wave of memories, they hear the sound of screaming from outside the inn. Alyndra and Keen remain behind to keep Avren safe while the rest rush to the street—and discover that something has gone horribly wrong. The mind flayer tadpole has broken free of Alyndra's polymorph spell and metamorphosed into a hulking neothelid. The worm-like abomination writhes through the city streets, crushing buildings and eviscerating gith and humans alike. Penelope calls down a searing, silvery moonbeam, and Briv leaps onto the back of a nearby red dragon. Orkira unleashes a breath weapon she’s never displayed before, a cloud of yellow gas, but the creature resists it’s weakening powers. The red dragon unleashes its own fire breath, and the neothelid falls. Between Briv’s relentless assault and Penelope’s radiant arcana, the abomination never stood a chance.
Inside, Keen props Avren up and makes him comfortable enough to heal. They begin to talk about the red cap that has been stalking them since the death of Saranthis. Infused with that goddess's power and malice, Avren says that the creature hates Keen with particular malice, for they are both beings of the Feywild. Briv, Penelope and Orkira return victorious from the battle, and Avren finally begins to regain his memories. While he doesn’t remember how he got infected with the mind flayer tadpole, he does know it happened a few years ago and had been working to purge it from his head ever since, including enlisting spells from a Faerûnian adventuring company known as Acquisitions Incorporated. Only Avren's immortality has prevented the tadpole's aggressive burrowing from having any serious consequences; anyone else would have fully undergone ceremorphosis and been changed into an illithid.
Avren remembers that he had been working on gifts for everyone, and hands out armbands with dragon heads on either side; each has the power to cast a single spell five times. Anxious to try out his gift Briv suddenly shrinks to only a few feet tall, then expands to over ten feet tall! As Alyndra marks his band to help him remember which side does which Avren explains what the rest of the items do. Since it’s important to Alyndra to see the truth, hers allows her to see things that are invisible. Despite Penelope being brave and courageous, her band lets her turn invisible when she needs to hide. For Keen, the band forms a blur of illusions to prevent anyone from landing a blow upon him. Reaching into his own pack Keen pulls out a bag, explaining that his people do not accept gifts without reciprocation, and explains they are treats from his favorite baker. There are eight macaroons in the bag, two representing each of the seasons. Finally, Avren gifts Orkira a band that allows her to change her form, understanding how much not being in control of her own body has bothered her.
Now that Avren seems back to normal, Alyndra warns him that he was casting his memories in public and that Briv had eaten and drank from the longhouse. The half-orc is unconcerned about any consequences from such a simple act, but Avren warns that he might have some adverse effects from the food as well as caught the attention of powerful beings. Alyndra also warns her father that they all witnessed the memory of his wish. The creature Avren tricked was Asmodeus, Archduke of Nessus and Lord of the Nine Hells. Avren sighs and says that Asmodeus will always be angry over his deception. Everything having to do with that memory is why Alyndra and her family have had to hide and be careful about who knows about their relationship, and the group agree to keep it secret.
Alyndra relays that she knows she had something removed from her memory, and while she doesn’t want to know what it was, she asks Avren to explain to her why she chose to have it removed. He says the truth was too strange, too horrifying, for her to live with, and that she agreed to forget. As the group starts to discuss their next move against the mind flayers, Alyndra is still bothered by the conversation with her father and asks about the diamond mine he mentioned earlier. Her father vaguely replies that something horrible happened a long time ago he’s trying to fix. Realizing what spell components those diamonds could be used for, Orkira asks who he’s trying to bring back from the dead.
Avren snaps his fingers and the group are once again transported to his memories. They see a young Avren back at the cottage watching half a dozen illithid nautiloid starcraft descend from the clouds. A voice whispers in everyone’s mind, “You don’t think I forgot about you, did you? I sent them for you.” The scene then shifts, and the heroes find themselves in a metal room, floating in a briny pool. Above them is a brain the size of a house, with Avren as well as many other humanoids lying unconscious in the pool. Orkira is quick to get her bare feet out of the pool, while Penelope and Briv are unconcerned; they believe no one can be harmed inside the memory. When a mind flayer tadpole appears, Orkira panics and casts sacred flame on it to protect her friends, drawing the attention of the nearby mind flayers who screech at them.
Once again the scene shifts back to the tiny house on the side of a lake. As the ships slowly leave Avren swears vengeance even as ceremorphosis transforms him into a mind flayer.
We're off for San Diego Comic Con, but will return July 24th at 2 PM as our heroes continue to learn more disturbing things about themselves while trying to battle against the mind flayers!
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.