The Whisperer in Darkness
Using the rocks as cover, the party creep into the gorge. Wistark gets a closer look at the crab beasts and recognises them from a book on magical creatures – they can attack from great range with electrical attacks and are resistant to magic. He also senses magical activity in the valley, but cannot pinpoint its location.
The group have a quiet discussion and agree that Wistark should focus on attacking the monsters at the bottom of the valley while two others dispatch the thunder-powered sentries. To this end Lumen lends Poobeyr his rope and grappling hook. The adventurers continue their approach, hidden to all visible eyes. Lumen hangs back and targets a distant floating creature, anticipating sudden trouble. Keyleth manages to crawl across the open face of the valley, hiding from prying eyes facedown in the dust.
At the end of Branock’s Gorge, something writhes. At first it appears to be the far wall of the gorge, but as Poobeyr and Grimlock draw closer they realise that it is composed of endless trails of massive, writhing tentacles. The size of a large house, its flailing appendages seem possessed of a dark intelligence. Wistark shudders in horror – it is a Fini. A terrible portal spoken of in only the oldest myths, consuming any brave fool who comes too near, which only powerful necromancy can destroy.
This changes everything. Wistark babbles his fears to the group but is interrupted mid-flow when a vorpal beast appears out of thin air in front of Poobeyr. It clamps his arm inside its massive tooth-filled maw and vanishes, taking the startled warrior along with it. Seconds later the two of them reappear amongst the floating monsters, Poobeyr now right within their clutches! The fiends are alerted and charge into Poobeyr, tearing at him body and mind.
Intent on taking out the most distant thunderbeast, Grimlock runs from cover to cover and reaches the other side of the valley. Lumen fires careful shots at the distant floaters in Poobeyr’s defence. A petrifying scream emanates from the Fini. This is no mere sound, it is a mind-rending psychic attack which freezes and agonises the entire group.
Pooling their strength, the Risen Adventurers unite their resistance efforts under the mental fortress of Grimlock Skullfucker. Though still dazed, the collaboration succeeds, and the painful effects of the scream are pushed from their minds. A wounded Poobeyr runs from peril back towards the company, and the monsters give chase, headed by the vorpal beast. Still lying on the ground, Keyleth hits a pursuer with an Eldritch Blast. From his hidden position behind a large rock, Wistark takes advantage of the clumped distribution of the enemy to ensnare them within a potent freezing cloud. Two floating creatures and three flesh lumps fall to the ground dead as their bodies frost over.
A thunderbeast fires an arc of electricity at the wizard from the clifftop, but he deflects it with a magical shield. Lumen attempts to scale the cliff towards this enemy, but it is too sheer and he skids back down to the valley floor.
A chilling new roar is heard. From amongst the tentacles at the end of Branock’s Gorge, a twelve foot giant lumbers onto the battlefield. Despite its size, and an array of disgusting disfigurations, the creature bears a strange physical likeness to a human. The remains of the lump demons shoot onto its chest and together form a tough, black armour that covers its hide. Having heard the roar, Grimlock leaps onto the rock he was sheltering behind and glimpses this new opponent, before running up a steep slope towards his previous target.
As the giant dragonborn gets closer to one thunderbeast, Poobeyr decides to take down the other, despite the fact that he is still running for his life with the vorpal beast snapping at his heels. Taking Lumen’s rope and grappling hook, he flings it at the thunderbeast 60 feet above as the vorpal beast bites deeply into his rear. The hook hits the creature but quickly slides off, falling heavily onto Poobeyr’s head and knocking him out.
Keyleth and Wistark barrage the bestial teleporter with magical attacks, but it shifts halfway into another dimension and becomes difficult to slay. Another wave of power bursts from the Fini, but again the group unify under Grimlock and are protected from mental assault.
Lumen tries a second time to climb the southerly cliff face, and this time succeeds. With startling elven agility he ascends tens of feet in a matter of seconds and climbs onto the ledge of Poobeyr’s thunderbeast high above the valley. It turns and fires a thunder jolt at him, but Lumen cleverly grounds himself using his bow, channeling the attack harmlessly into the dirt.
Down below, the vorpal beast teleports to a position close to Wistark, whose dazed attention remains on the void giant. The monster in question stomps slowly towards Keyleth, the girl still lying in the dirt and attacking left and right with the warlock powers of curse and nightmare. One floating creature rubs her coarsely with a painful tentacle caress.
From his vantage on the north cliff face, Grimlock fights off a third mind blast from the Fini, but perhaps this confounds his mind. His next action is to throw his great axe into the second thunderbeast, risking the loss of his only weapon. Luckily, fortune favours the brave, and the hit is a marvellous one. Grimlock charges the thunderbeast and tears his axe from his its hide. Re-armed, he then cleaves it heavily through its axe wound, cutting it open like crustacean cake.
With Grimlock tired from this exertion, a fourth mind blast from the tentacle wall shakes the group to its core. At the valley bottom: the giant, the vorpal beast and a surviving floating creature run riot, with only Wistark and Keyleth hard pressed to manage them.
High up on the opposite side of the valley, Lumen stares down at the battle. Looking at the hulking giant, he recognises its broken face from pictures in the Toulson’s home. Due to some evil, unknowable corruption, this mad hulk is what’s left of little Thomas Toulson. The elf is consumed with rage, and fires his best shot yet hundreds of metres through the air into the maw of the Fini which spawned him. But the vortex is completely unaffected. Lumen communicates to Wistark the giant’s identity as he dodges another thunder attack.
The wizard, however, has troubles of his own. He is the vorpal beast’s new target and has fled from cover to escape it. Giant Thomas sees him for the first time and plucks him from his feet with one hand. Wistark mutters the beginning of a spell, but is interrupted when the giant throws him ten feet through the air. He hits the ground hard, rolling for several feet before lying motionless in the dust.
Poobeyr rises groggily in his place. Typically stubborn, the fighter immediately attempts to latch the thunderbeast a second time with the grappling hook. Directly above, Lumen decides that he has shared his ledge with a thunderbeast for long enough. He charges at the monster, aims his bow on the run and fires. The shot misses, and firing it unbalances the ranger to the extent that he falls onto his back and skids across the ground to rest at the beast’s feet.
As the monster seeks to press its advantage with a discharge of electricity, a grappling hook strikes it from below and catches between its plates of armour. At the bottom of the valley, Poobeyr tugs mightily on the rope. The thunderbeast is yanked to one side, and a hard kick from Lumen sends it tumbling off the cliff. It falls sixty feet and lands heavily on its back. A jubilant Poobeyr swings his axe over his head and finishes the beast with a cleave to its soft belly.
On the opposite cliff, Grimlock adds a thunderbeast skull to his pack and views a dire situation. Thomas Toulson has found Keyleth’s hiding place and just delivered the warlock an extremely heavy punch. Grimlock sees this and becomes enraged – how dare the giant be so much taller than he! With a run and a draconic bellow he launches himself off the edge of the cliff. Falling like a great green boulder, he swings his axe downwards in mid-air, shaves an ear off the side of Toulson’s head, cuts deeply into his shoulder, and hits the ground, winding himself and fracturing several bones.
Toulson falls heavily to the floor, and a joyful Keyleth leaps onto its head, places a magic curse upon it and then rubs its face with her knickered fanny.
Nearby, Wistark is back in action, and conjures forth the Flaming Sphere. It destroys the last tentacle creature and the vorpal beast before moving onto the giant, now the only combatant still moving.
From his vantage point, Lumen takes in the situation. Thomas Toulson stands up, casting off Keyleth as it does so, and takes a moment to paw at its face. The elf knows the towering brute will strike with incredible power at the prone, injured dragonborn for his airborne attack. Clearly damaged from the fall, Grimlock could be slain by such punishment. The pulverised dragonborn rises painfully to his feet. Lumen prepares to defend his foolhardy friend.
Grimlock is disgusted to see that the monster is so tall that he is face to face with its purple nipples. He attempts a frustrated attack at the giant but it steps easily to one side. Thomas pulls back his leg to kick Grimlock, and up on the cliff Lumen leaps up and fires. It is a good shot, but not good enough. The kick strikes Grimlock in the chest, and strikes so hard that he is flung up and back several metres, collapsing like bricks, possibly dead.
Toulson turns to face Poobeyr and the Sphere, only now paying attention to their ongoing attacks. The Fini sends out another pulse of deadly power, and without Grimlock the Risen are exposed to excruciating pain, their bodies torn in blistering agony.
Behind Thomas, by some miracle, Grimlock gets to his feet. He raises his axe and makes one last charge to finish the battle for good.
But it was not to be. Keyleth recovers from the mental assault and unleashes her most powerful psychic attack, which drops the giant like a stone. Grimlock is denied his final blow and his face twists with rage.
As the group contemplate their unlikely success, Wistark turns to look upon the Fini and wonders if it would be possible to smite it with rockfall from the valley wall. He casts a magic missile at the south face of the valley, but in his fatigue is not powerful enough to achieve his goal. The entire group is exhausted, and when the Fini attacks yet again, all of their mental barriers are breached. They pass out, fading away to the sight of armed men entering the valley.