Episode 132: Aeor
As the Nein set off towards the secret entrance of Aeor, Essek suggests they disguise and camouflage themselves as they travel so they don’t stick out like sore thumbs. He casts seeming over the party and their clothes shift to a more appropriate shade of white. Satisfied that they won’t be as easy to spot, the party trek for several hours into the frozen landscape. Jester suggests they take a quick break so she can try to scry on the Tomb Takers.
The Traveler aids Jester in casting the spell, but Lucien’s warding eye is too strong for their magic and her spell fails. They will have to try again another time and hope that the Tomb Takers haven’t beaten them to the entrance. Essek sends a message to his trackers guarding the entrance, letting them know he and the Nein will be arriving soon.
As the party carefully make their way down a steep cliff face and wind their way towards the entrance, a familiar shape pops up over the ridge. Dagen, and several drow rangers welcome the Nein to the secret entrance. The rangers have seen no sign of Lucien and crew yet. The Nein agree that acting quickly is most important and they will delve into Aeor now. Essek leaves instructions for the rangers to message if they spot the Tomb Takers and Caduceus shows the group where the entrance hides.
As the party struggle to decide whether to all go in together or send two members ahead to scout, Caduceus notices some rumbling sounds nearby. He pulls his teammates back towards the entrance as the snow and ice begin to shift around them. Three 20 foot tall decaying frost giant corpses rise up out of the ground and lumber menacingly towards the entrance. Time to fight!
One of the corpses grabs Yasha in a tight fist, but she rages free, cutting her way out of its grip. Veth runs up the back of the giant, firing her crossbow into the back of its skull. Beau’s stunning punches seem to not be effective against this enemy. A blue light radiates out of one of the corpses eyes and a freezing ray cuts across the field. Jester manages to resist most of the freezing damage, but her body stiffens up and she is paralyzed for a moment. The giant takes two devastating attacks against her and she suffers massive damage. She’s still conscious but just barely. Fjord runs in, grabs Jester and thundersteps them away to safety.
Essek casts Haste on Yasha to let her do most of the dirty work while he and Caleb hang back at a safe distance. He holds his bare fists up in defense. Caduceus and Caleb, sensing the battle quickly going south, pop a few defensive moves up. Caduceus lays a Bless over half the party, Caleb spices things up with a polymorph. Suddenly one of the three giants is turned ito a cute little sloth. Caleb goes running across the battlefield yelling at everyone “Don’t hit the sloth!” He gingerly picks it up and rushes it to the edge of the battlefield.
Meanwhile, a hasted Yasha, and a battlelusted Beau make quick, bloody work of the remaining two giants. Yasha hacks one to pieces in a series of increasingly gory strikes from the Holy Avenger. Beau of course, punches and piñata swings the other giant to death with her fists and bowstaff. The battle over, the group relax a moment and notice Fjord and Jester making out in one corner, while Caleb passes over an angry looking sloth to Dagen, asking him to carefully drop it off the nearest cliff and run away. Ah, the good old Mighty Nein. Essek is amused and confused by his initiation fight with them.
After a short rest to heal up and regain spells, the Nein begin their journey into the secret entrance. It’s a tight squeeze in between a crack in two ice sheets. With a great amount of crawling and shuffling they all manage to slip through that tight little hole. (Yes, Laura did laugh at this imagery all the way through break). On the other side of the crevasse is a dark cavern lined with icicles . The path winds for quite a ways before a steep drop off halts progress. With his dancing lights, Caleb can see a doorway cut into the ice about 100 feet down.
Caleb, Veth and Yasha come up with a plan to scout ahead. Caleb polymorphs into a giant snow spider, Yasha climbs on his back. Veth casts spider climb on herself and down the cliffside they go. They safely reach the jagged cave floor and realize they are too far away to message the rest of the group. Oh well, they’ll keep going alone. Nothing too scary will happen right? Caleb-spider will stay put here while Yasha and Veth check out this half collapsed tower over there.
As the two approach, they notice the air becomes absolutely frigid. Like, more cold than they’ve ever been before. The warmth seems to be sucked right out of their bodies and they suffer some damage from the frost. Weirdly, the brown mossy growths on the ground seem to inch closer to them. Eh, that’s probably nothing to be too concerned about. They keep going towards the tower. Ice covered dessicated corpses and bones litter the path. They pick their way over the rubble, seeing more moss nearby and experiencing the occasional unnatural bone deep chill. Yasha notices a half buried body wearing a nice silk robe. She tries to give it a couple tugs, but it’s stuck fast under the rubble. Veth has finally had enough of the weird moss and awful cold and leaves back towards Caleb. Yasha gives one last strong pull on the robe. She hears a rip, and a shifting of rubble. The robe comes free but the rocks have collapsed, sparking a landslide. She rushes through the dust and falling rocks, back to where Veth and Caleb wait. She has no explanation why she needed this robe so badly, maybe this robe hold the key to unlock all the secrets of Aeor. I guess we’ll find out.
Meanwhile, up above, the rest of the party hears a crash and ruckus. Hearing no calls of reassurance or screams, they begin to fear the worst. Jester polymorphs into a spider, carrying Beau. Caduceus goes with Fjord and Essek flying down behind Jester. They see a dust covered Yasha holding a tattered robe, and the dust settling over a ruined wreck of rubble. What the hell happened? Caduceus and Essek both notice the strange chill and investigate the moss. Caduceus recognizes it immediately. It’s a dangerous species that attacks heat and fire sources, but a little ice or frost damage should clear a path through safely.
Essek leads the way, using his ray of frost to cross over the mossy path. There are no signs of the Cognouza ward yet, Caleb reads some sigils signaling they are somewhere in the Presidium ward. Lost, cold, and concerned about an ambush, the Nein stop for a quick check in with the Traveler. Jester starts casting her commune spell, hoping to ask for directions and whether Lucien is in Aeor or not. She doesn’t get very far though, Caduceus picks up some sound and movement on the ceiling above them. A giant frost breathing lizard drops down onto the party, sending a wave of icy frost spraying across the Nein. And that’s where we’ll pick up next time.
Another solid episode this week! A great blend of action, suspense, puzzle solving, and humor blended into this ramp up towards the end game.
Starting out with that little zombie giant warm up fight was a great easy back into the action this week. Essek’s little moves helped boost the party without taking over the story which makes the encounters and role play still feel balanced and player led. With Jester nearly being taken out in one round, we might have missed her usual power play Polymorph. Thankfully Caleb came in clutch immediately taking out a full health zombie giant into a sloth form. No repeats of past polymorph mistakes this battle! It was a one and done spell casting and Caleb quickly got it off the field and out of danger of area effects, stomping feet, and errant crossbow bolts.
We got to see Yasha finally use Holy Avenger with its new abilities. All those stacking class/race bonuses, rage bonuses, sword bonuses, and attack bonuses led for some very confusing math formulas that took Ashley and the rest of the cast a second to figure out. Travis helpfully pointed out that he made a cheat sheet chart for Grog that helped him figure out the calculus involved in adding dice damage. Minor math mumblings aside, Yasha absolutely destroyed with her sword, dealing respectable amounts of barbarian damage to the corpse.
We also got another lovely Yasha roleplay moment when she and Veth went spelunking down to the abandoned tower. Mercer was right that we have been sorely deprived of some hilarious comedy duo moments between these two. Sam Riegel is always a solid role play partner, willing to “yes and” above and beyond without fear. At least everyone made it safely out of this adventure without murdering innocents, destroying livelihoods, or doing serious self harm. I love that Ashley is finally getting to explore Yasha’s character much more…you know… more than 100 episodes into this campaign. I can’t wait to see what she can do if she’s around full time for a third campaign.
The in between moments showed just how nervous the Nein are about facing off with Lucien. Every room they explored became a possible ambush point. They discussed tactics and the efficacy of using psychic bombs against pysonic attackers. Both attempts to get a read on the Tomb Takers location went poorly this session. Hopefully after next week’s lizard encounter ends, Jester will have a moment to finally figure out where they are.
My guess is we’ll have at least two more sessions before the Tomb Taker’s show up, or if we’re extra lucky, Jester will find out they’re already in the Astral Sea and we’ll get a longer chase mission (and possible Yussa rescue mission!) Next week will jump right into an encounter! Then, more unknowns as the Nein try and guess their way through the labyrinths of Aeor. Don’t worry Critters, it’s almost Thursday!