“Fine fine fine! You want Neverember? I haven’t forgotten. You can have Neverember!”
Watch Heroes of the Vale – Chapter 2, Episode 9: Personal Demons
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Our heroes are 8th-level characters:
- 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
The battle has turned against our heroes. An enraged Penelope, in the form of an eagle and with Briv clinging to her back, launches herself towards the kraken. Alyndra desperately flies through the air on the griffon Spiral, while her familiar Grif clutches the polymorphed red cap in its talons. On the ground a horrific army of mind flayers pick through the remains of the gith army while Keen is confronted by a mindwitness inside the remains of a downed ship. And Orkira has vanished, teleported away by a strange green light moments after succumbing to an intellect devourer.
The situation is dire.
Another wave of psychic energy emanates from the mutated kraken, amd Briv is unable to resist its effects. He falls off the giant eagle, stunned. This shakes the druid out of her battle fury and she dives down to catch her friend just in time. They come perilously close to the ground, and to try and keep the area clear while Alyndra casts hypnotic pattern to stun as many enemies as possible. Briv protests, recognizing that the battle is lost and their best option is to retreat, and whistles for his own mount.
On the surface, Keen takes cover behind rubble to get out of sight of the mindwitness. While dodging its attacks, another ouroboros appears in a bright green flare—and Orkira reappears just as suddenly as she was taken! Keen grabs her to move them to safety but is distracted by how different she looks; the cleric is several inches taller, her armor worn and patched, and noticeably older. She takes stock of the situations and grabs Keen, verifying she’s now large enough to carry him, and launches into the air to get to safety!
A mournful cry from the ground draws all eyes to Boom Boom. The kuo-toa is kneeling near a dead red dragon as a mind flayer begins to wrap its tentacles around his face. Penelope launches Briv at the creature, and thus weaponized the half-orc smashes into his enemy and breaks the grapple! As he slashes at the mind flayer the rest of the heroes move in to offer support, with Alyndra casting bless as Orkira moves Keen in to fire ice knives. In an effort to protect and comfort Boom Boom, the large eagle form of Penelope lands and wraps her wings around her kuo-toa friend.
All around them former gith are being consumed and transformed even as the swarm of brains on claws rush forward. The group attempts to organize a retreat, but the mind flayer once again blasts everyone with psychic damage and causes chaos. Spiral, Penelope and Grif slam into the ground stunned, with the familiar disappearing and the halfling falling out of her giant eagle wild shape. The red cap is released from its polymorphed form, and free to wreck havoc again the fey monster snatches a stunned Penelope and dives into a nearby pool of blood. Keen follow after to grab his friend and is pulled down as well.
Orkira lands, wryly commenting that this wasn’t how she expected things to go when she returned but seems happy to improvise. She casts wall of fire to encircle all her friends around the blood pool, holding the enemies at bay and turning brains to cinders. Convinced that wherever the blood portal leads must be better than their current battlefield, Briv announces they need to all enter the pool. He grabs Spiral and the two dive into the blood portal, with Alyndra following. Orkira tries to reassure Boom Boom that they’re going to be okay as she reaches out to take his hand, and then the final two jump in.
Inside the ancient realm of blood, Keen manages to wrestle the halfling away from the red cap as Briv engages the creature in battle and the two continue their assault. Alyndra casts toll the dead on the red cap even as she sends a healing word to Penelope. The halfling suddenly snarls out in anger that she has not forgotten Neverember as she wild shapes into a horrific demon with red skin, spikes, and a wicked grin. In her new cackler form she casts Tasha’s hideous laughter to incapacitate her foe, then launches a fire bolt directly through its chest. The red cap’s laughter continues beyond its own death, finally ending as Briv curb stomps the creatures head and claiming the metal boots for his own.
The sense of panic and fear that had settled into everyone’s mind while the red cap hunted them is finally lifted, and Penelope feels safe for the first time in ages.
At the edge of the blood pool Keen notices a strange membrane, and he is able to use his glaive to slice through to make an exit. The group climb out of a narrow puddle of blood left by the meat of a recently butchered animal, and find themselves back on the streets of Brimstone. As Alyndra uses prestidigitation to clean off the blood, Orkira announces how she’s missed everyone and asks Penelope when she learned to turn into the cackler. Using her mimic abilities Penelope plays a quick game, repeating what the cleric said in an uncanny imitation, until finally dropping the form and returning to herself.
Finally enjoying a moment of peace in a back alley, Orkira relays what happened to her when she was teleported away during the battle. Despite only being missing for moments from Verdeneth, Orkira lived through six years of time. The first few hours were with some new friends in a strange city called Waterdeep, before being eaten by the bag of holding she had received from Avren. Inside the bag she spent years recovering from the injuries left by the intellect devourer while trying to survive in a strange world. In the moments her brain was attacked she was able to gain valuable information from the hive mind of the mind flayers, including the location of the Elder Brain and the fact that it is searching for a portal. Healed and with vital intelligence she was finally able to return to her friends.
Keen wonders how Orkira knows she has fully recovered, even as she stumbles under a moment of vertigo hearing whispers. Shrugging off the concern Orkira insists that she’s done all she can to fix her own injuries, and the important part was that she was able to bring the information to her friends. If they can destroy the Elder Brain they should be able to stop the invasion, and knowing its location is a vital step, but it’s currently in a ship deep in the ocean which will make it difficult to reach.
As they continue to talk, Keen feels the presence of the Shadowfell emanating off the strange crystal rod he took from the mind flayer ship. Alyndra remembers a story of an ancient artifact, the Rod of Rastinon, that is part of some ancient machine, though she cannot remember what it does. When she relays how powerful the rod might be Briv offers to protect it, claiming he is excellent at keeping things safe. From his pocket Flo emerges to verify the truth of that statement, before being hugged by Orkira who is happy to see the flumph again. This prompts Penelope to check up on Walton and is pleased to find her chwinga companion safe and asleep.
From the street they hear the sound of marching, and around the corner they see the citizens of Brimstone in chains being led by githyanki down the street. The stronger citizens are being fitted with collars and handed weapons, while others are being sent to work in forges. Keeping tight control on his anger, Briv approaches one of the gith guards to demand an audience with Githrak Vas in order to make a report on the battle they just came from. He intends to use that as a ruse to get close enough to attack the gith commander. Alyndra wants to get the Rod to safety back at her father’s house, so Keen uses alter self to look like a gith and pretends to escort her as his prisoner. Penelope and Orkira decide to join Briv, and the heroes split up.
Overseeing a nearby town square is Vas, still sitting atop a red dragon perched on a building. Briv confides his plan to use his own normal bag of holding to entrap Vas and force him to release the slaves, and asks Penelope to join him on Spiral as they fly up to see the General. Hoping to cause a distraction, Orkira calls up directly to the red dragon asking what is happening. In that moment the familiar voice of Valasar speaks up behind her, gloating about the will of Tiamat, but before he can continue Orkira spins around and unleashes her weakening breath on her old nemesis. As Valasar succumbs to the cloud of smoke the cleric launches herself into the air and continues to shit talk to the dragon. She informs him that they know where the Elder Brain is, that the smart thing to do would be to stand down and organize a strike team to go take care of it, and refuses to hand over any other information until the slaves are released. This sight and information are enough to draw all attention, allowing Briv and Penelope to move close to their target.
Meanwhile Alyndra and Keen arrive at the Bird of Doom Inn to find Avren, Rarv and Boom Boom in chains outside the house. There is a crowd of gith as well as three red dragons guarding them, and when Alyndra sends her father a message asking what their plan is, he sadly replies “I think this is goodbye.” In a panic, she tries to use suggestion on the leader of the gith to get them to abandon the prisoners, but instead the command is given to burn them all to the ground.
They watch in horror as the three dragons unleash their fire, burning their friends and family to ash.
Is this really the end of Avren, Rarv and Boom Boom? Will knowledge about the location of the Elder Brain convince the gith to release their hold on the people of Brimstone? Episode 10 airs August 28th at 2pm PT on twitch.tv/dndbeyond!
Lauren was a guest star on Session 30 of D4, "Disconcert Decadence and a Distant Dragonborn"! Check out that episode to see a bit more of what Orkira was up to while she was missing!
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.