An Alliance and An Assassination

Day 13: Twilight Telepathy

After raiding the dragon’s hoard and finding the important plot-relevant items in the Rhest town hall, the PCs figure out what to do with Nurkulnaak.

They plan to tie him to the side of the boat partially immersed in the water, among other grave threats and such. They even laughed at the irony of finding his torture implements inside his Haversack.

However, at this point things don’t go as they’ve planned and go surprisingly well according to my plan.

Using his telepathy, Nurkulnaak sends messages to the PCs heads in Daelkyr. None of them know the language, but the term “Daelkyr” is used. Nurkulnaak himself acts shocked and horrified, and begins looking around him in horror. Loven quickly rips off the gag while holding his rapier sharply against the beguiler’s throat (they still don’t know that he is one) and demanding what was going on.

“You fools, it’s the Daelkyr! Don’t you know the history of this place? It’s tainted!”

All this while, the same line keeps repeating in the heads of the PCs:
Fathk nrathkyl quyrafl uytrlk Daelkyr
Fathk nrathkyl quyrafl uytrlk Daelkyr
Fathk nrathkyl quyrafl uytrlk Daelkyr

Using Silent Spell, Nurkulnaak casts blur on himself—the only spell he can cast—and feigns a seizure.

Everyone does their best to try to figure out what’s going on, but without any spell components to identify the spell with, Linnea couldn’t really tell whether he had cast a spell or not.

Thoroughly spooked, they decide to quickly get the hell out of there and drag Nurkulnaak behind them. When they get onto the roof, they realize they’re surrounded.

Where Things DO NOT Go According to Plan
Four blackscale lizardfolk stand on the roof. These guys are enormous. Three of them are carrying tree-sized greatclubs, while the fourth has the telltale horns and wings of a half dragon.

Nurkulnaak secretly sends telepathic messages to the blackscales, telling them to run quickly and inform the Red Hand, and they will be rewarded. Despite their dim wits, they respect Nurkulnaak as a herald of Regiarix and fight a little longer only to escape. The half-dragon is the most intelligent and fastest, and as such is an ideal messenger, but Nurkulnaak broadcasts it to them just in case.

Once on the roof, Kikkeni begins to use her backup dorje of energy ray as she is out of PP.

Holden, however, quickly takes out the winged half-dragon via a lucky Divine Surge. The beast falls to the ground and almost pins him, but he successfully gets out of the way.

One of the remaining blackscales grabs Nurkulnaak from Holden, tucks him under his shoulder, and leaps into the water. The others do likewise, scattering in different directions.

Lyka manages an amazing leap onto the back of the blackscale holding Nurkulnaak and proceeds to hack at him, while the flying Holden pursues. Linnea plants an Ice Knife in the blackscale’s back, but it keeps on paddling. The two other blackscales escape unmolested.

Eventually Linnea uses her Rod of Viscid Globs on the blackscale, and Lyka shanks it dead. With the blackscales gone, their escape from the accursed ruins is going to be easier. More importantly, Nurkulnaak is alive. Still frothing and blurred, but alive.

They decide to paddle back to where they left the boat, using the dead lizard as a raft.

Don’t look at me, I just DM here. o_o;

Return to Starsong
Much to the shock of the elves, the PCs paddle in triumphantly, towing the corpse of an ogre-sized lizard behind them. The community gathers to welcome them, only to gape at their grisly trophy.

Killiar arrives and congratulates the PCs. He asks if they need to see the elders, to which they reply “Yes, we need items identified.” (SIGH.)

Trellara comes in and identifies Nurkulnaak’s gear, while Illian easily deduces that the PCs have been had. He dispels Nurkulnaak’s blur. Much wincing around the table.

Sellyria arrives and asks them what they plan on doing. “We wish to interrogate our ‘guest’.”
The old druid says she understands their needs, but says they may not shed any blood within Starsong. Holden assents, and they bring Nurkulnaak into a tent for interrogation.

In Your Face, Jack Bauer

Holden and Lyka decide to use both the candle of truth and the elixir of truth for redundancy. Nurkulnaak fails his save against the candle.

Despite the zone of truth‘s effects, Nurkulnaak is able to remain dodgy. He knows how these effects work, and as such only answers yes/no questions. He also replies with questions, making it harder for the PCs to get any info out.

Here’s how the interrogation played out:

<H> What is the Red Hand’s strategy?
<N> What kind of strategy do we need against an army of farmers, farriers and stable boys?
<H> What are the Red Hand’s plans?
<N> You have the map. You tell me.
<H> Irrelevant. I asked you a question.
<N> I don’t know.
<H> Any specifics? What was the Red Hand’s purpose in Rhest?
<N> You saw the hatchery, didn’t you? We were breeding Greenspawn Razorfiends for use as shock troops.
<H> How many are your forces?
<N> *shrug*
<H> I want a number.
<N> I don’t know the exact numbers.
<H> Are there other spellcasters like you?
<N> Yes.
<H> To what platoon or organization do you belong?
<N> I am a member of the Kulkor Zhul, the elite spellcasting brigade.
<H> What do they specialize in?
<N> I’m sure you would consider any spellcasting special, Mr. Mundane Dwarf.
<H> *annoyed* I was asking what kinds of sorcery the others could do.
<N> Various kinds.
<H> How many casters are there?
<N> I’m not sure. I’ve been stationed here for a while. Not many survive our training.
<H> How many do you know survived?
<N> About two dozen.
<H> How do you intend to deal with Brindol?
<N> How does any large army deal with a fortified city?
<H> So you’re planning on laying siege to it?
<N> *shrug*
<H> What about the dragons? How many dragons serve—
<Kikkeni interrupts Holden> Dragons serve no one.
<H> Fine, how many dragons fight with the horde?
<N> One.
<H> What type?
<N> Red.
<H> Name?
<N> Abithriax.
<H> How old?
<N> I am not well-versed enough in draconic lore to know.
<H> Who is in command of the horde?
<N> Wyrmlord Hravek Kharn.
<H> Who are his direct subordinates?
<N> It wouldn’t matter anyway, would it? Two of them are dead.
<H> Who is still alive?
<N> Wyrmlord Ulwai.
<H> Where is Ulwai stationed?
<N> I don’t know.
<H> Who reports to Ulwai?
<N> The Wyrmlords are assigned specific tasks, and typically don’t directly command the armies.
<H> Why does the Red Hand have the Ghostlord’s phylactery?
<N> What is every lich’s greatest fear?
<H> What is your relationship with the Ghostlord?
<N> Liches never make friends with anyone.
<H> What are you asking him to do?
<N> I don’t know. Ask Ulwai.
<H> Where is the Ghostlord’s lair?
<N> Ask Ulwai.
<H, tries to intimidate> You’re lucky we aren’t allowed to spill your blood here. Tell me what you know.
<N, laughs, grins> I know how these things go. This was my JOB in the Red Hand! I know all about interrogation and torture. You’re doing it wrong, and your precious principles are holding you back.

Presently, Killiar enters and asks them how things are going. They reply that they haven’t been getting much, and feel they’re about done. They escort Nurkulnaak off the grounds, asking Killiar to keep the archers’ bows trained on the hobgoblin as they leave the community.

Loven begins to turn into a cyborg Belkar as he says “You know, I don’t like killing. But I can kill in the name of the greater good. And you know what?” he glowers as he pushes his rapier against the hobgoblin’s throat.

“THIS IS THE GREATER GOOD!” *STABBITY* (At this point, the pizza arrives and we break for lunch.)

Recovering the Hoard and New Allies

The group purchases some sacks to carry the cash from Regiarix’s hoard, and spend the first half of the day doing this. They then return to a banquet in celebration of their feats, and Sellyria tables the alliance dialogue.

One by one, the elves state their cases.
Killiar: Is not convinced the Red Hand directly threatens them; thinks dividing their military to help the humans is a bad idea.
Trellara: Wants vengeance for her brother, but is not too confident of her opinion as she is the youngest of the elders. She also thinks that acting out of passion may be a bad idea.
Illian: Wishes to help Linnea, a fellow Sovereign Host cleric (though Illian is a cleric of Balinor and Linnea is a cleric of Aureon), but does not want to put Starsong’s leaders into a situation where they are cut off from Starsong itself in the event that the Red Hand lays siege to Brindol.
Sellyria: As the oldest of the elves, she remembers the ancient wars fought between the humans, and she knows all of the Last War’s history. She is not convinced the humans are trustworthy enough, and while she is aware that war devastates her beloved nature, she knows its destruction need not come if she can avoid it.

The players break into a very long and well-Rped discussion among themselves, excusing themselves while they put together their case.
Holden, being the party face, leads the discussion.

Holden admits all four of them have good cases and wants to concentrate on convincing Killiar. He thinks that Starsong’s military need not be divided, as all of them could march to Brindol and take all the people with them.
Kikkeni and Lyka react, saying that bringing even more refugees to the likely overburdened Brindol is not feasible.
Holden doesn’t see refugees but an army; Kikkeni says there are a good number of noncombatants who might be put directly into harm’s way.
Lyka echoes this.
Kikkeni also brings up the matter of Starsong Hill being sacred ancestral ground; it’s not a plot of land to be abandoned so easily.
Holden realizes this and begins formulating other suggestions.

-The proximity of Rhest to Starsong Hill suggests that it is likely that once the Razorfiend army was completed, Starsong Hill would have been used as a testing ground.
-The leaders of Starsong need not go to Brindol.
-Kikkeni suggests that if the Horde is indeed able to lay siege to Brindol, then it is likely that an army able to deal with a fortified city can easily breach a grove of trees. The red dragon alone could smoke them out like rats by setting fire to the entire tree wall.
-Holden tables a substantial offer of gold to the elves.

The PCs conclude that staying in Starsong Hill is not the right course of action, considering the power of the horde. Holden makes his checks, and the others, having contributed to the discussion, make their aid another checks as well.

Poker-faced, the elves break for their own huddle. They return, still poker-faced, and begin with their response.

Alliance point tally:
-Killiar: Completely convinced. (DC 31) +2 alliance points.
-Trellara: Completely convinced. (DC 23) +2 alliance points.
-Illian: Partially convinced. (DC 32 to convince completely). +1 alliance point
-Sellyria: Partially convinced. (DC 34 to convince completely). +1 alliance point.
-Razorfiends slain: 3. +3 AP
-Rhest cleared of Red Hand presence: +2 AP
-Generous gift of gold: +2 AP
Total: 13 AP

Impressed by their performance, the elves offer a cadre of archers to bolster Brindol. Killiar and Trellara will go as well. Illian will remain behind in Starsong to manage it while Sellyria goes off to Brindol to meet with its leaders. She will then promptly return to Starsong.

Illian hands the PCs a sending stone for them to use to call on the elves; only then will they send the army and their representatives.

Sellyria concludes: “While we elves live long lives, not many of us live to see times as dark as these. It is fortunate, however, that in these dark times we have allies as honorable as you.”

The players rejoice, though I tell them what they would have gotten if they had been slightly more successful: They missed out on the owls. Massive groaning. They also remember now that they had left their mounts at the edge of the swamp. They give up their mounts for dead, and figure it would be best to depart quickly.

They travel the remaining half of the day and camp out in the burnt-out shell of the Rhest blockade.

Days 15, 16, and 17

Day 15: Random weather says Heat Wave. They decide they would rather risk the fatigue and nonlethal damage than have the potential obliteration of Brindol on their heads. They press on and fail a lot of saves, but none of them passes out.

Day 16: Uneventful.

Day 17: They march through the day and arrive at noon at Witchcross, which has become a ghost town. They decide to make use of the remaining half of the day and spend time to train for teamwork benefits. Lyka and Holden primarily gain the use of Crowded Charge, Massed Charge and Like A Rock. They camp.

Day 18: Marked for Death

Half a day’s journey from Brindol, they come to a clearing in the road early in the evening and spy two men being tortured by a gang of hobgoblins and an ogre. Loven is unable to see well in the gloom and can’t spot whether the men are still alive; the distance makes his check worse. He slips into the woods and brings out his crossbow.

They decide to throw caution to the wind and attack; it’s late in the evening, so they can afford to spend all their spells and power points. Kikkeni launches a devastating augmented energy missile at the gang, dropping almost all of them dead in one shot. Holden and Lyka close in on them rapidly.

Then the excrement collides with the ventilation.

Linnea and Loven begin walking towards the woods. An enormous hobgoblin materializes, swinging a wicked-looking heavy flail. He takes two swings at her, smashing off about half her HP. Breaking invisibility, two other large creatures appear—9-foot tall black-scaled dragon men wielding giant falchions, their eyes gleaming with cunning and wickedness.

Almost immediately, Linnea is dropped to -2 HP by a critical hit. A voice enters Holden’s mind, speaking to him in Goblin, saying “Hold tightly onto the Kalashtar and it will be over quickly.” (Holden fails his save vs the Charm Monster (Sp), and grabs Kikkeni).

Kikkeni struggles against the grapple, and two more blackspawn appear in the forest, bearing down on Loven. Lyka uses her incredible speed to reach one of the giant blackspawn and cuts it down. Kikkeni is able to use energy missile once more, augmenting it to its maximum level, and hits the greater barghest and two of the blackspawn. The barghest is damaged and responds by casting blink on itself, while the blackspawn goes down. Meanwhile, the sinister voice compels Holden to drag Kikkeni into the woods where the newly-materialized blackspawn await the slaughter.

Seeing this as an opportunity, Loven makes a break for Linna and uses a potion of cure moderate woundson her. The cleric woozily gets up and immediately identifies the giant hobgoblin as a Greater Barghest, a soul-devouring lupine fiend. Immediately another Barghest materializes right beside Kikkeni. The compulsion on Holden seems to let up for a bit, as the Barghest takes swings against the psion. Kikkeni manages another maximized energy missile on the first Barghest, sending it shrieking back into the void.

Ultimately only one Barghest and one Blackspawn are left. Attempting to take out the psion once and for all, the remaining blackspawn attempts to grapple Kikkeni and hold her down for the Greater Barghest to feast on. While she manages to land an AOO on the Blackspawn, her nonmagical staff simply bounces off his DR (YAY DR/MAGIC WAS USEFUL FOR ONCE). At this point, Kikkeni is down to 4 HP.

Without the compulsion forcing him to act, Holden uses Revit Strike to hit the Barghest and heal Kikkeni up to more comfortable levels. The Barghest dimdoors away to safety, considering the day’s work done, while the remaining Blackspawn drags the psion away from the party. Linnea puts a smoldering hole in its head with her wand of scorching ray.

To The Slaughter
Day 19. The party wakes up and begins to continue walking toward Brindol, which is half a day’s journey away. As soon as they clear the Witchwood, they see a massive column of smoke rising in the west. Its base is periodically illuminated by flashes of blue-white light and long, slow blasts of red fire.

Drellin’s Ferry has fallen.

End of session.

Shaken, but not stirred not slain, the party heals up and rests uneasily.

-We started really late and only had two combat encounters, but this is seriously one of the best sessions I’ve ever DMed. The roleplaying was good, and I was able to make the Red Hand troops look far more competent. Suddenly they aren’t grab bags of XP anymore; they can think, they can fool the players, and have an intelligence network that makes them dangerous. Even Lyka’s player said she found “finding out we were beguiled was honestly very awesome.”

-This session, IMO, epitomizes all of the good things about RHOD. It’s malleable enough to fit in any campaign setting, allows the PCs to perform their own actions while sticking to an urgent timeline.

-This high-risk, high-reward session really carried the feel of urgent danger and lucky saves that Eberron is all about.

-I was really happy with the roleplaying in both the interrogation encounter and the negotiation with the elves.

-It was hilarious how they first thought that the burning column of smoke was Brindol. I had to explain that the smoke was coming from the direction of Drellin’s Ferry.

-The Marked for Death encounter happened almost exactly as I had playtested it. My heart was pounding really hard as they fell for it, and I was honestly worried about one of them getting eaten by the Barghests. Still, they pulled through with perseverance, teamwork and heroism. They really deserved that big chunk of XP they got from it.


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