In Which There is Surprise, and Then There is Fire, and Then We Almost Liberate the Hand of Vecna…but Ultimately Fail by That Much, As Usual
Sunday, 15 Fireseek, CY 596 (Maybe. Does it matter anymore?)
The party has no sooner been bestowed with conviction when a tear in reality opens between them and the Night Twist that Scar-Eater so doggedly soldiers towards. From the hole in space steps a crew of nightmares led by Darl, bearer of the Hand of Vecna. He is flanked by the pair of tieflings and an emaciated horned humanoid creature swathed in a sickening, greasy-looking layer of slime. Behind them stands a twenty-foot tall creature made of pure elemental flame. Of the Faceless One there is no sign. On the other side of the tear, splayed over the peak of a towering mountain, the desecrated corpse of what the party can only assume is the Roc King can be seen. Strapped to Darl’s back is a five-foot-long grayish-white feather.
No sooner has the tear closed behind them than Archie drops the icy burst sword he had equipped in anticipation of slashing the arrow-resistant Night Twist and draws Greenfang. While his first arrow finds its mark in Darl’s chest, the priest is unharmed by the attack. Riddle fires a line of ice at the cleric and follows that with a powerful blinding spell. Darl’s eyes film over as he loses his sight (though he appears only slightly affected by the cold), just as Scar-Eater charges forward at him (Darl being in the path between him and the Night Twist, after all). Scar-Eater’s blow deals a small amount of damage and the duskblade disappears from sight. Darl takes a small step backwards and casts heal upon himself, removing what little damage the party has managed to land along with Riddle’s blindness.
The fire elemental turns and charges at the Night Twist, setting it ablaze, as the slimy demon charges the area where Scar-Eater used to appear, scoring a surprising hit. Meanwhile, the tieflings close in on Long Fist and Archie, managing to grapple the archer but not the sentinel.
And originating from somewhere separate from the melee, a fireball explodes upon the Night Twist.
Jane activates her prayer beads and attempts to dispel the magic protecting Darl. She is surprised when her own spell bounces back upon her, stripping her of Riddle’s conviction and blessings of fervor as well as her own longstrider. Tyrrell tumbles towards the monks and stealthily slides his adamantine dagger into a soft spot as Long Fist pummels the same target from the other side. As the tiefling falls, Long Fist releases his aura of justice over himself, Riddle, and Archie.
The tree, awash in flames, turns all of its focus on the fire elemental, smashing down with its burning branches in an unrelenting attack. Archie struggles to free himself from the tiefling but only manages it with magical assistance from Riddle, who then proceeds to blind the remaining tiefling while focusing his smite on the Night Twist. Scar-Eater re-appears to smash at Darl with his cold iron longsword and a dose of enervation but while his attack lands, it deals only minimal damage, and Scar-Eater takes his own negative energy reflected back upon himself. Scar-Eater, undaunted, turns his next swing upon demon. He hits, but the slime covering its body coats Scar-Eater’s longsword in an attempt to destroy it. It manages to maintain its integrity though it is not entirely unaffected by the acid.
And then the moment everyone has been waiting for: Darl takes a step back and raises his unnatural, blackened, filthy rotting hand above his head and sends a pulse of black energy into Scar-Eater, Tyrrell, Long Fist, and Riddle. Jane and Archie watch in horror as their four companions are temporarily paralyzed and a bit of their strength is drained. Another fireball streaks from seemingly nowhere and into the Night Twist, who is only moments from destroying the elemental.
Jane heads for the only paralyzed ally she can reach and bestows freedom of movement upon Riddle. Archie unloads on the remaining tiefling while sidestepping out of reach. Riddle summons his own fire elemental to attack the Night Twist. Darl takes the opportunity while his foes are paralyzed and distracted to heal himself and the tiefling of all damage. Great masses of earth erupt on either side of the Night Twist, battering it even as it blazes, but it continues to stand and lash out whereas any other tree in the Doomshroud would have been buried by the spell. It suddenly clicks together in Jane’s mind that the melee with Darl is merely a distraction, an attempt to keep the party from completing the Trial, and she unleashes her most powerful spell, a firestorm, upon the Night Twist, followed quickly by a flame strike, which destroys the abomination once and for all. She immediately feels the full force of the Night Twist’s curse attempt to overtake her, but by force of will and spirit she refuses to allow it purchase. She shifts into Fury, howling with the pain and power of what she has just destroyed.
Free of the paralyzing blasphemy, Tyrrell turns his lightning fast attacks upon the demon, leaving it bleeding out in his wake, and Long Fist unleashes an overwhelming smite upon the cleric of Vecna, hurling Darl down to the ground. However, upon touching Darl’s flesh, the half-ogre is forced to resist some unholy energy that threatens to tear away at his own soul. Despite the disadvantage of a prone enemy, Archie pelts about six arrows into Darl. Riddle sends his fire elemental to pound on Darl as well, but it isn’t powerful enough to pierce the cleric’s defenses.
Scar-Eater finishes off the slimy demon and turns to get in on the fun against Darl, whose attempt to heal himself is masterfully thwarted by a counterspell from Riddle.
Then without warning, Darl disappears, plane shifting away, according to Scar-Eater. Shortly thereafter another rift in fabric of reality opens and the remaining tiefling runs through. Jane shifts back to her human form and attempts to bury the tiefling in a flame strike but he expertly evades it. Through the gate, the party sees the Great Rift Canyon, with White Plume Mountain towering in the distance. Long Fist howls in rage and fury. The gate winks shut.
In the aftermath of the battle, the companions find themselves a bit stunned, mostly un-hurt, and unclear about whether or not they can possibly complete the Trials of Tilagos without the Living Feather of the Roc King, still strapped to Darl’s back on another plane somewhere. But there is little time for conjecture. Riddle prepares to question the corpse of the fallen tiefling.
“Did your party take the Belt from our hiding place?”
“Did your party bring about the death of the Thorn Vale Terror?”
“What was the plan if something went wrong while you were here?”
Regroup at Dragotha’s Lair.
“Where is that?”
In the Worm Crawl Fissure.
“What did Darl hope to accomplish by gaining access to the Library?”
The secret must be kept, and he will be the keeper.
“What would Darl do if he was prevented from getting those secrets?”
His secrets are not mine.
“What is Darl’s weakness?”