Saturday, 15 July 2017

IV.32: The Demons' Prison

Beneath Haka’torvhak, in Khyber
Lharvion 6, 997 YK

We made the Undertake a Perilous Journey move last time—indeed the party have made two of those back-to-back. It’s time for them to be at their destination.

Show signs of an approaching threat: this is Eberron’s underworld.

The group moved in a bubble of silver light as they travelled deeper into Khyber. The throbbing veins of lava that ran through the caverns were the only movement that they saw, but faint sounds of hissing and screeching in the distance kept all of them on edge, anxiously watching for the next attack. Unlike the stillness of the natural caves that they had travelled through to reach here, these caves gave Vaalyun no sense of solitude. The legend that Nyseris told, of the malignant creator dragon Khyber imprisoned by Eberron at the world’s creation, had seemed fanciful at the time, but now that he was here Vaalyun could not deny that these deep ways did feel alive with some malign presence.

Vaalyun followed closely behind the two Templars, keeping well within the sphere of light cast by Anaya. Their journey down to Khyber had given the elf time to reflect on the past few months. He had started this journey back in Thaliost, many months ago now, in part because Esthana had saved his life back in the crypt, but also to learn more about their undertaking. He had learned more than he had expected, both about the nature of the Silver Flame and the forces that worked against it, and about himself. House Phiarlan was proud of its agents and its position as one of the Twelve, but the espionage business was not one that encouraged persistence or loyalty; the best Shadows worked secretly, and were always ready to cut their losses when an operation looked unprofitable. The Templars’ dedication to their cause, and willingness to endanger themselves for the greater good, was something that he had rarely seen before.

To stop himself from dwelling on their surroundings and the dangers that lay ahead, Vaalyun turned his thoughts back to the meeting with Taliesin and what had been revealed of the Prophecy. Could a prophecy formed, as the Dragons thought, by Eberron herself millennia ago really refer to him? Vaalyun had always been ambitious, and had no small opinion of his own importance in the world, but even he wondered that he could be a part of what lay ahead of them. If the Silver Flame’s teachings were true then the Overlords were gods of evil, sealed away to prevent harm to the world. What could he possibly do against them?

Every so often as they walked, Vaalyun would pull a notebook out of his jacket pocket, and look again at the text of the Prophecy mark that Taliesin had given them. Vaalyun had been learning Draconic from Nyseris during the journey, using their camp time to ask the lizardfolk to explain the words and grammar of their language; he had both the Draconic and Common translations of the Prophecy written down, and the margins were now full of notes that he had made about possible meanings of each part of it.

“We are here,” said Anaya. “I can feel it.”

Vaalyun looked up, quickly slipping the notebook back into his pocket. This rocky tunnel led out into another cavern around fifty yards ahead of them, just at the edge of Anaya’s light; Vaalyun saw that Nyseris had halted also, and was looking back to the Templars.

“Feel what?” asked Esthana.

Give an opportunity that fits a class’ abilities: This location is the very essence of Anaya’s whole religion: the Flame exists to bind the demons down in Khyber. It’s time to Introduce an Element from Ages Past: demons imprisoned since the Age of Demons.

“The Flame is here. I think we will see it soon enough.” Anaya nodded to Nyseris, who turned, and they began moving forwards again.

Discern Realities(Nyseris): 2D6(3 4) +1 = 8 Partial success.
What happened here recently?

Make a move that follows: we already saw these caverns in Anaya’s vision, 2 books ago.

They walked forwards, down the slightly inclined passage into the cavern. The cave was lit with a purple light from a cluster of Khyber shard crystals protruding from one wall. There were openings and tunnels leading into other caves to the sides and above them.

“There are markings–s on the stone here, of some clawed creature,” said Nyseris, who was kneeling down a little ahead of them, looking at the stone floor of the cave. “But these are old marks.”

As they paused, Vaalyun looked back down the tunnel that they had come from, wary of ambush. He did not not fully know what he expected to find down here but, if the cleric was right, there would be many evil and deadly creatures within the caverns here. Esthana had drawn her sword, and the silver flames flickered restlessly along the blade.

The ranger was on their feet again, moving through into the next cave, and the others followed. As they stepped through the opening, everyone turned to see a wall of blue and silver light which divided part off one section of the cave. As Vaalyun looked, something seemed to stir in the darkness beyond the barrier.

Anaya stepped up to the barrier, the silver flame around her hand rising in brightness until it flooded the chamber with light. The barrier seemed to glow brighter in response. The light revealed a creature trapped behind the barrier, recoiling from the Flame’s presence, its a serpentine body crouching down on a set of crab-like legs. The beast raised a giant pincer above its head, trying to shield itself from the Flame’s light. Vaalyun had seen this kind of monstrosity once before.

“A chuul,” said Anaya. “The creatures that attacked us in the jungle may have come from here.”

“They say that Masvirik is master of all creatures that slither in the dark,” said Nyseris.

A Little Help From My Friends(Anaya): 2D6(3 2) +1 = 6 Failure!
Use a threat from an existing faction or type of creature
Investigate(Vaalyun): 2D6(2 5) +2 = 9 Partial success.
Vague information

“Then the ones that attacked us are creatures of Masvirik,” said Vaalyun. “The Overlord—or his agents—struck out to try to stop us.”

“There will be many of demons imprisoned here by the Flame,” said Anaya. “It is as the Flame revealed to me. We must go on.” Looking to Nyseris and Esthana, she added, “Be ready—not all of the demons are bound.”

Make a move that follows: there should be flesh renders down here, by Anaya’s vision, and Esthana has experience with them.

The cavern floor sloped down in one corner and, at Anaya’s direction, they climbed down this way into the next cave. Lava flowed through its lowest part, but the dull red light from the lava flow was outshone by another wall of blue and silver light. As Nyseris moved close to the edge of the flow, the barrier responded to their presence, and the creatures beyond the barrier became visible. Two flesh renders, tall and thin with vicious claws for arms, snarled at the group from behind the barrier; one of them whipped its claws back and forth threateningly.

Anaya looked at the creatures once and then turned to follow Nyseris towards the next cavern, but Esthana stopped. Standing as she was near the edge of the lava flow, sweat ran down her face and hands as she stared at the renders; her hand moved to grip her sword hilt tightly. Vaalyun, who was following behind the others, stepped up to stand beside her.

“The Flame protects us all from the darkness,” he said quietly.

He and Esthana turned to look at each other. After a moment, he added, “If any of us is capable of surviving down here, it is you. I have never seen you lose a fight.”

“I don’t know,” said Esthana. “You are always ready to run away at the first sign of trouble. You might be out before the fight even ends.”

Vaalyun shrugged, affecting more ease than he felt. “A spy aims not to get caught.” He turned and walked after Anaya, and Esthana fell in beside him.

Familiar Prey(Nyseris): 2D6(2 5) +1 = 8 Partial success.
Vague information

They passed through several more caverns, each containing more demons imprisoned behind walls of light. One of caverns had a large section sealed off by the Flame, and at first Vaalyun could see nothing beyond the barrier; but when he glanced to Nyseris and saw the lizardfolk staring up with teeth bared, he followed their gaze and was alarmed to see a huge serpentine creature clinging to the ceiling within its prison. Perhaps forty feet long, the creature’s torso was several yards across, with pairs of clawed feet at intervals down its long body that gripped into the stone ceiling above. Its skin was dark blue but streaked with red and green marks. It lowered its head to look directly at Nyseris, and there was a sudden flash of light as lightning burst from its snake-like mouth. But the barrier held, flickering with blue light as it dissipated the energy of the demon’s attack.

Nyseris gripped their bow tightly, their hands glowing with silver light. “There are legends amongst my people of this creature—of giant serpents that can destroy foes with the power of lightning. But none has ever been seen on the surface, at least in this age.”

“Nor ever will be—unless we fail,” said Anaya. “These creatures have been imprisoned here for more than one hundred thousand years, since the Age of Demons, since the dragons and Couatl drove the demons down here and sealed them away. There must be thousands of these demons imprisoned down here.”

Fictional positioning: Vaalyun is the rearguard throughout this. We had an attack from the front which Nyseris detected in the last chapter; let’s have trouble from behind this time.

Discern Realities(Vaalyun): 2D6(5 6) +1 = 12 Success!
What is about to happen here?
What here is useful or valuable to me?
Who is in control here?

Something else had caught Vaalyun’s attention, however—a noise of something scraping against stone from the previous cavern. “Something is following us, Templars.”

Esthana drew her sword, taking a step back in the direction that they had come from to put herself in the path of whatever followed. The blue and silver flames that ran along her blade flared fiercely, as if reacting to the presence of demons nearby. Anaya and Nyseris joined Vaalyun.

Vaalyun tries to transfer his +1 (acting on his Discern Realities) to Esthana.

Aid(Vaalyun): 2D6(1 3) +1 = 5 Failure!
Turn their move back on them: put yourself in the line of fire
A Little Help from my Friends(Anaya): 2D6(4 1) +2 = 7 Partial success.
Exposed to the common danger
Interrogator(Aided)(Esthana): 2D6(4 1) +1+1 = 7 Partial success.
You’ll have to prove it

Well, I was hoping to resolve this without a fight, but the party got their low rolls in there. If they can prove to the creatures that they are strong enough to beat them, then they will get what they want—safe passage through the demon caves (Interrogator is her enhanced Parley move, which uses her strength stat).

Make a move that follows: I’m using, as serpentine creatures, as the basis for these lesser demons. One has magic, and we just established that the larger creature uses lightning, so...

“The Flame, Templar—these creatures must be afraid of it.” Vaalyun stood behind Esthana, and drew his wand—just in case.

Defy Danger(DEX)(Vaalyun): 2D6(2 6) +2+1 = 11 Success!
Defy Danger(DEX)(Esthana): 2D6(5 6) +3 = 14 Success!

Three giant snake-like creatures emerged into the light from the dark opening behind them, their scales glittering darkly in the silver light. One looked towards Esthana and opened its mouth, and both Esthana and Vaalyun leapt out of the way as the creature unleashed a bolt of lightning which streaked across the chamber.

Anaya has +1 forward from A Little Help from my Friends.

Volley(Anaya): 2D6(5 1) +1+1 = 7 Partial success.
Put yourself in danger; deals d6=6 damage (4 after armour)
Cast a spell(Magic Weapon)(Nyseris): 2D6(1 5) +1 = 7 Partial success.
Lose the spell
Volley(Nyseris): 2D6(2 2) +2 = 6 Failure!
Deal damage: 2d8k1+4 = 11 damage, 10 after armour

Nyseris is at 11/21 HP.

Aid(Vaalyun): 2D6(2 1) +1 = 4 Failure!
Monster move: cast a spell, Hold Person
Hack and Slash(Anaya): 2D6(2 4) +0 = Failure! Monster move: Constrict

Well, the dice are consistent I guess: Esthana has to save everyone yet again.

The other two snake demons moved quickly towards them. Anaya loosed an arrow at the first, scoring a hit just behind the creature’s head. Nyseris, their bow glowing with silver light, also loosed an arrow, but it deflected off of the creature’s scales. The demon lunged at the ranger before they could take another shot, sinking its large fangs into the rangers side and knocking them to the ground.

Seeing the second snake demon moving towards Anaya, Vaalyun went to raise his wand to attack the creature, but he felt his limbs freeze. The snake hanging back in the opening was staring directly at him, and he realised that it had cast some spell to hold him in place; he could only watch as the second snake quickly seized Anaya, wrapping itself around her before bringing its head up before hers.

Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(4 1) +3 = 8 Partial success.
Deal damage: d10+d6=6, 2 piercing; Deal damage: 2d8k1+4 = 11 damage to Anaya, 10 after armour

Anaya is at 7/17 HP. But Esthana cuts the snake’s tail off, so it cannot fight Esthana and attack Anaya next round.

Defy Danger(DEX)(Esthana): 2D6(3 6) +3 = 12 Success!
Deal damage: d10+d6=5 damage, 2 piercing

Killing the snake constricting Anaya.

The demon was crushing Anaya in its coils, but Esthana was back on her feet now and rushed to help her friend. The creature tried to knock her down with a sweep of its tail, but the Templar was too fast, ducking under the blow and then bringing her sword down on the creature’s tail, severing it with one stroke. Lightning flashed once more across the chamber, as the snake demon at the opening tried to strike down the Templar, but Esthana sidestepped the blast and drove her sword into the head of the demon holding Anaya, cutting short its hiss of pain. Blue flames from her sword burst out around the wound, spreading over the demons body, consuming it and leaving only ash behind.

Hack and Slash(Nyseris): 2D6(4 3) +2 = 9 Partial success.
Deal damage d8=1, negated by armour. Monster move: Constrict
Defy Danger(Str)(Nyseris): 2D6(3 4) +2 = 9 Partial success.
Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask: drop your weapon and you can grapple with the creature without getting crushed.

Nyseris was still struggling with the other snake demon, stabbing at it with their spear. But the weapon was not suited to close quarters, and they could not get a strong enough stroke to drive through its scaly hide. The creature began to coil its body around the lizardfolk, and Nyseris had to drop their spear to grapple with the creature, wrapping their hands around the creature’s body and straining to keep it from pulling tight around them.

Cast a Spell(Cure Light Wounds)(Anaya): 2D6(3 5) +3 = 11 Success!
Heals d8+7=11 HP; back to full
Aid(Nyseris): 2D6(4 1) +1 = 6 Failure!
Deal damage: 2d8k1+4 = 9 damage
Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(5 3) +3 = 11 Success!
Deals d10+d6=5 damage, 2 piercing
Volley(Anaya): 2D6(6 3) +1 = 10 Success!
Deals d6=2 damage, negated by armour

Second snake is at 3/10HP. The snake demons have lost over half of their HP total, which is enough to fulfil Esthana’s Interrogate move earlier I think: she has proved they have the Flame on their side. Plus Anaya just healed herself with the Flame.

Esthana ran over to the lizardfolk, and with two precise strokes of her sword stabbed into the creature’s body as it strained against Nyseris’ grip. The creature hissed in pain, releasing Nyseris and dropping to the cavern floor. It slithered quickly back towards the opening from which it had come. Anaya loosed one last arrow at the fleeing creature, which did not break through its scaly skin. Vaalyun suddenly staggered forward as the magic that had held him was released; the other snake creature had also fled.

Cast a Spell(Cure Light Wounds)(Anaya): 2D6(5 3) +3 = 11 Success!
Heals d8+7 = 9 damage

Nyseris was at 2/21, but is now back to 11/21 HP. The party has a lot of healing, which makes it hard to keep down.

Anaya had drawn on the Flame to heal herself; now she walked other to Nyseris and the light of the Flame surrounded her once more as she called on its power again to heal the ranger. Blood was pooled on the floor around Nyseris, flowing from several deep wounds that the snake demon’s teeth had made in their hide; but their wounds closed with the Flame’s healing, and Nyseris was able to stand again and retrieve their weapons.

“How many more demons do you think are free down here?” asked Vaalyun.

Discern Realities(Anaya): 2D6(4 2) +3 = 9 Partial success.
What is about to happen?

“Many more than that,” said Anaya. “Perhaps even more than there are imprisoned here. But demons are capricious creatures without their leaders, and it appears that they fear the power of the Flame. As we have proved that we are a danger to them, they will be reluctant to attack again.”

“Then we should move on while we can,” said Esthana.

About ten minutes later, after they had passed through a dozen more caverns containing trapped demons, they came to an opening into a much larger tunnel leading down deeper into Khyber. The tunnel was dimly lit by Khyber dragonshard crystals, fixed in sconces at intervals along the tunnel; this was the first sign of civilised habitation that they had seen since they left the surface.

Anaya leaned heavily against a rock, setting down her shield. “This must be the tunnel that the Blackscales use to reach Rhashaak’s prison. It is not far now; I feel the Overlord’s power flowing through these caves.”

Esthana glanced back in the direction that they had come from, but going back was hardly an option. There would be no safety while they remained in Khyber, and they had come too far to turn back now.

“I need to commune with the Flame before we face Rhashaak anyway,” added Anaya. “We should rest before we go down to meet the Overlord’s servant.”

Nyseris quickly found a smaller cave, out of sight of the main tunnel, in which they could rest for a while. Anaya sat down, leaning against a rock, and closed her eyes, taking the symbol of the Flame that she wore around her neck and clasping it in one hand. Esthana leaned against the cave wall opposite her, watching her fellow Templar with concern. Vaalyun rested as well, sitting near the entrance, away from the cleric so as not to disturb her prayers.

The party needed to make camp, so Anaya can swap spells for the denouement.

Make Camp(party): Heal up
Level Up(Vaalyun): +1 Cha; Student of the Prophecy: Spout Lore and Discern Realities can now reveal information about the Prophecy

To pass the time, he took out his notebook to read the section of the Prophecy one more time. They did not need Anaya’s connection to the Flame anymore to tell them of the danger here; harsh cries of demons echoing through the caverns kept it foremost in their minds, and lent new urgency to Vaalyun’s speculation. He wished that he had asked Taliesin to communicate with Argonessen to see if there was any more information available about this fragment of the Prophecy, though he supposed that the dragon should have known if there was.

Nyseris was standing only a few feet away from him on the other side of the entrance, alert and with an arrow at the ready as they watched the next cavern for movement.

“Nyseris, you said that ‘sjach’ is the Draconic word for ‘shadow’?”

Sjach” said Nyseris with emphasis, though keeping their voice quiet; Vaalyun could not match the pronunciation from a lizardfolk throat. “This is not the time for lessons.”

“And ‘whedab’ is darkness?”

Nyseris eyes flickered to the elf for a few seconds, and they nodded impatiently.

“The Prophecy seems to use ‘whedab’ to mean tainted.”

“There is no difference, vaecaesin. The darkness that obscures the light of the Silver Flame is corruption.” Nyseris’ hands twitched as another demonic cry echoed through the caves.

Student of the Prophecy(Vaalyun): 2D6(2 1) +2 = 5 Failure!
Front move(Blackscales): Spy on someone with a scrying spell

Well that’s unfortunate.

I never actually wrote out the Grim Portents for Rhashaak; I am using my GM move here to rework that chain of events now. They were:

  • Learn a ritual that can free Rhashaak. DONE.
  • Start tracking Anaya’s movements. DONE.
  • Begin the ritual. DONE.
  • Seize Anaya. Done but...
  • Bring her to Haka’torvhak. FAILED.
  • Use her to complete the ritual, freeing Rhashaak.
  • The Blackscales would gain the upper hand over the gul siksta and take control of the jungle, eventually leading to Masvirik’s release (as Prophesied).

Our heroes prevented Anaya being brought to Haka’torvhak, preventing this plan at the time; but now they have delivered her themselves. So we delete the “Seize” and “Bring” steps, and replace them with a step “Prepare for Anaya’s arrival”, which is the move that they just got to make. So the Blackscales are now ready for her—ready to complete the ritual.

That sets the stakes up perfectly. I had thought to have the Blackscales be no more than a brief warm-up prior to the real battle with the dragon, but now the party has to fight both. The party are good, but their chances have to be worse now. Vaalyun doesn’t get the info that he wants, but he will have a second chance to use that move—as a Discern Realities—once he can see the dragon first hand.

Commune(Anaya): Sever, Bless

Vaalyun frowned. He felt sure that there must be something more to learn from the Prophecy’s words, but still nothing seemed to suggest a specific course of action that might aid them in the struggle ahead. He looked across at Anaya, and saw that the cleric had opened her eyes now. “Well, cleric? What does the Flame tell you?”

Divine Guidance(Anaya): Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask: You can cast sever to separate Rhashaak from his taint, but if the taint is inside his mind them doing so will likely kill him, or leave him with nothing of his own mind remaining.

“The Flame does not speak, but can reveal its strength to me. The Flame here is strong, and it has the power to strike at corruption. I believe I can use it to burn away the taint where it touches living things; I am only unsure whether the subject can survive the process. Rhashaak has been under the effect of this corruption for tens of thousands of years, and that impurity will run deep. Using so much of the Flame’s power against him may kill him.”

“Legend says that Rhashaak first came here to watch over us,” said Nyseris. “Death would be better than what he has become.”

“Yes, but...” Anaya trailed off, clearly dissatisfied with that outcome. After looking at the ground for a moment, she continued. “The Flame has brought us here and given me the power to do this; there is no turning back now. We must have faith that the Flame’s actions will be right.”

“We will be at your side, come what may,” said Esthana. “Are you ready to go?”

“Yes. It is time to meet Rhashaak.”

End of Session(party): We’ve found some of the demons imprisoned since the Age of Demons; I think that counts as learning something new about the world

Anaya: 2 failure, session goal; at 5XP.
Esthana: 0 failures, alignment goal, session goal; at 2XP.
Nyseris: 2 failures, session goal; at 3XP.
Vaalyun: 3 failures, session goal; at 2XP.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

IV.31: Gateway to Khyber

Make Camp(party):
Commune(Anaya): Bless, Cure Light Wounds, Magic Weapon, Sanctuary, Darkness
Undertake a Perilous Journey(party): Once again, using this instead of Mythic
Scout Ahead(Nyseris): 2D6(3 6) +1 = 10 Success!
You get the drop on whatever lies ahead; You discern a beneficial aspect of the terrain
Navigate(Anaya): 2D6(5 3) +1 = 9 Partial success.
You encounter a Danger

Under eastern Q’barra, in Khyber
Lharvion 6, 997 YK

They had been underground for two days by the time they reached Khyber itself. Most of the descent was less treacherous than that initial climb down from the surface. For most of the first day they followed a dry tunnel and series of caverns carved out by an underground stream. Many of the more dangerous sections were made easier by more of the climbing fixtures that they found alone the way; these were left, they presumed, by the cultists that had created the map that had led them here. Even so, they all had plenty of scrapes and bruises after two days of this dangerous passage, and all of them were indebted to Nyseris’ quick reactions and keen eyes that prevented many accidents.

Show signs of an approaching threat

As they descended, the sense of evil that Anaya felt from below continued to grow in strength. At the surface it had merely been a taint, a scent of something wrong, but, as the party descended closer to Khyber itself, it became a constant presence around her. The others, it seemed, could not sense it at all; the enclosed space of the caves, the dirt and darkness, made it an unpleasant journey for them, but these were nothing to Anaya beside the growing sense of evil coming from deep below them.

They were at least well stocked, as they were all equipped for travel in the jungle, and Vaalyun had secured provisions from House Ghallanda before leaving Newthrone. The lack of firewood meant that they could not cook food at camp, but the caves were hot—relentlessly so, when away from water, making it a hard journey for the two Templars. Nyseris’ spear haft had been cracked by her fall into the fissure on the first day, and Anaya could sense the ranger’s frustration that there was no way to repair their weapon here. But they had plenty of food and water, and the Flame provided all the light and guidance that they could want for.

Spout Lore(Anaya): 2D6(5 4) +1 = 10 Success!
Good information

On the third day, the path that they were following merged with a larger tunnel, which descended at a shallow enough angle that they could easily walk along it. A faint purple light suffused this section of tunnel, emanating from a small cluster of Khyber crystals that protruded from the side of the tunnel a little further down. It appeared that they were getting close to Khyber itself.

After two hours they arrived at the end of the tunnel. Even before reaching the end, they knew that something unusual lay ahead of them, as an eerie green light shone into the tunnel from the cavern beyond. With Nyseris leading the way, the group stepped out into the cavern.

Introduce an Element from Ages Past

The cavern was about a hundred yards across, roughly circular, and the rocky ceiling above looked normal enough. Their tunnel entered at a high point, with the floor sloping down to a shimmering green barrier that extended all the way across the cavern, completely covering the floor below. Through this barrier, they could see two more tunnels leading off from the lower section into other caves. Just above the barrier, carved into the rock at regular intervals, were arcane sigils of some kind, which glowed brightly with the same green light.

Discern Realities(Anaya): 2D6(3 4) +3 = 10 Success!
Who is really in control here?
What should I be on the lookout for?
What here is not what it appears to be?

While Esthana and Nyseris looked on in awe at this strange sight—and the first light, or sign of something more than just caves, that they had seen in days—Anaya turned to Vaalyun. “Vaalyun, that book that you recovered—can I see it again?”

“Of course. Are these symbols the same?” Vaalyun asked, handing over the book.

Anaya leafed through its pages until she found one bearing a circular inscription surrounded by arcane runes. “Yes, these are the same symbols. Whatever warding is inscribed here, it is as prescribed in this book. And the patterns do look druidic. Whoever placed this meant to keep out something unnatural.”

“Keep out?” asked Esthana.

“Keep below. Could it be the Overlord itself and its servants that they sought to seal down here?”

“We have travelled some distance,” said Vaalyun, looking around, “but we have a way to go before we reach the vicinity of Haka’torvhak. This might have been the most convenient choke point; perhaps this was the best place for a single barrier to prevent all access from below.”

“I think that this serves a different purpose,” said Anaya. “I sense nothing of the Flame in this warding, and the patterns mean nothing to me. I think I would be able to feel something more here, if this were attuned to fiends. I think this denies passage to something else.”

“Another type of evil?” asked Nyseris.

“The Overlords are the greatest danger in Eberron, but they are not the only danger.”

Anaya stepped forward, gingerly stepping past the edge of the barrier and putting a foot down on the rocky slope below it. There was no resistance, and no sensation from passing through it.

“We can pass through. Stay on the lookout, though; there may be more than demons ahead of us.”

Change the environment

They had now passed into the underworld realm of Khyber. Anaya had learned of it in her studies after joining the Church, but reading about such a place was still poor preparation for seeing it first hand; and to the others it was entirely alien. The cave system in which they found themselves was hot, a constant oppressive heat much beyond that of the jungle above. Magma flows emerged in places in the cavern walls and joined into a larger underground flow which ran through the principle caverns in this area. Large Khyber dragonshard crystals emerged from the rock in many places, providing an eerie purple illumination in most areas; Nyseris and Anaya had stopped calling on the Flame for light, as they had done in the caves nearer the surface, as they did not want to draw the attention of any creatures dwelling here.

Spout Lore(Anaya): 2D6(5 4) +1 = 10 Success!
Good information

According to accounts of Templars that had made the descent, Khyber itself contained many such cave systems at different depths that were connected over greater distances by tunnels that formed a complex, and largely unmapped, mesh. Navigating the tunnels did not concern Anaya greatly, since the sense of evil ahead of her was so strong that the way forward was clear; and, if getting back might be more difficult, Anaya was less concerned by that than with completing the mission itself.

Nyseris led the way. Despite a lifetime spent in the jungles of Q’barra, the lizardfolk seemed unaffected by these strange environs, scouting ahead of them much as they had done on the surface. Anaya could see reflected in Esthana’s face the same unease that she herself felt in this dark place. Vaalyun kept to himself as usual, following the Templars and watching for dangers behind them.

After half an hour they found themselves in a long, low cavern bisected by the main magma flow. A dull red light from the magma contrasted with the purple light of the other caves, and there was a strong sulphurous odour in the air here. There were opening into other caves from above and to the sides in several places, some with their own tributary flows that joined the main magma river flowing through the central channel; the radiated heat from this made the party keep the edge of the cavern.

Give Nyseris the benefit of her scouting roll here.

Cast a Spell(Magic Weapon)(Nyseris): 2D6(1 5) +1 = 7 Partial success.
Lose the spell

Anaya had just turned from looking down a side tunnel when she saw Nyseris pause, turning their head as if to some inaudible sound. Nyseris pulled an arrow from their quiver, and the bow in their hands suddenly flared with silver light.

Anaya moved forward, speaking quietly. “Nyseris, what—”

Volley(Nyseris): 2D6(4 2) +2 = 8 Partial success.
Put yourself in danger; deals d8+d4=4 damage, negated by armour

Make a move that follows: we hinted at the Lord of Eyes as a Xoriat entity back in Starilaskur, and now we are in territory with Xorian enemies. So it makes sense to use everyone’s favourite eye aberration.

Defy Danger(DEX)(Nyseris): 2D6(4 2) +2 = 8 Partial success.
You dodge but you are still close enough to be in the antimagic field that’s about to hit. Use up their resources: Magic Weapon is dispelled.

Something large floated down through an opening in the roof of the cavern on the far side of the magma flow. Nyseris loosed her arrow, and as Anaya looked to the creature the streak of silver light hit the floating, fleshy orb, though it seemed to have little effect. The creature turned, and suddenly multiple rays of dark energy streaked from it across the chamber.

Defy Danger(DEX)(Anaya): 2D6(6 6) +1 = 13 Success!
Random Disintegration beam misses you
Defy Danger(DEX)(Esthana): 2D6(6 3) +3 = 12 Success!
Random Death ray misses you

Vaalyun is easy to miss, probably went still when Nyseris hesitated. But the creature is Terrifying too, so...

Defy Danger(WIS)(Vaalyun): 2D6(4 1) +1 = 6 Failure!
Use up their resources: Vaalyun is out of action until someone aids him, or he makes another roll to overcome the fear

And Anaya will immediately realise that she is in an antimagic cone.

Everyone scattered. Nyseris threw herself forwards, rolling to their feet standing closer to the magma and reaching for another arrow, the silver light from their bow lost. Esthana sidestepped a beam that seemed to suck the light out the air around it. Anaya threw herself to one side as a beam of grey light shot at where she was standing; the rock face behind where she had stood seemed to instantly vapourise, leaving a foot-deep crater in its surface. Alarmed, Anaya tried to draw on the power of the Flame, but suddenly she realised that the Flame that she always felt within herself was missing—its power was not there.

Familiar Prey(Nyseris): 2D6(6 1) +1 = 8 Partial success.
She knows what it is, but not how to fight one.

The creature itself was a floating orb of flesh, with one large mouth and a large eye set above it. From it protruded a number of short stalks, each ending in a smaller bulbous orb containing a smaller eye; the beams of energy that it emitted seemed to come from these eyes.

Volley(Nyseris): 2D6(4 3) +2 = 9 Partial success.
Put yourself in danger; deals d8=6 damage, 2 after armour.

The creature is at 18/20HP.

Really there’s no downside to putting yourself in danger here, since everyone active in the fight is going to be shot at by eye beams all the time anyway.

Defy Danger(Nyseris): 2D6(4 5) +2 = 11 Success!
Dodged again

“Beholder!” cried Nyseris. They loosed another arrow—now without any magic enchantment to boost it—and it struck home, provoking a hiss of pain from the creature. The lizardfolk then had to immediately dodge to the side as it directed another beam of grey light in their direction.

Show a downside to their class, race, or equipment: one-armed Esthana has no ranged weapons, and the creature is on the far side of the magma.

Seeing Red(Esthana): 2D6(6 1) +1+1 = 9 Partial success.
What here is useful or valuable to me?
Bend Bars, Lift Gates(Esthana): 2D6(3 3) +1+1 = 8 Partial success.
It doesn’t take a very long time; nothing of value is damaged (so you don’t bring the roof down)

Esthana had her sword drawn, but the magma flow lay between her and the creature, and she could not use a bow. There were thin columns of stone in places that ran between the floor and ceiling of the cavern; squaring up to one of these columns, Esthana let out a cry and charged, slamming into the column with all her strength. It cracked loose from the ceiling and toppled into the lava.

Aid(Anaya): 2D6(6 2) +1 = 9 Partial success.
Expose yourself to danger
Defy Danger(DEX)(Anaya): 2D6(1 1) +1 = 3 Failure!
Double ones, hit by a Random Death beam
Defy Danger(CON)(Anaya): 2D6(5 1) +0 = 6 Failure!
Not resolving

Okay, whoa there. Anaya dying would be a pretty big blow to the story and the party. So I’m going to let Nyseris roll Aid here.

Aid(Nyseris): 2D6(1 6) +1 = 8 Partial success.
Expose yourself to danger
Defy Danger(CON)(Anaya): 2D6(5 1) +0+1 = 7 Partial success.
Anaya is Sick; -1 Con ongoing.

Anaya looked back for Vaalyun, and saw the elf sheltering in the entrance to a side tunnel. “Vaalyun, help us!” she shouted. She turned back towards the creature just in time to see one of its eyes looking directly at her. A beam of black energy shot forward, hitting her in the chest, and she blacked out.

Defy Danger(DEX)(Esthana): 2D6(4 1) +3 = 8 Partial success.
Separate them

Esthana jumped onto the column that now bridged the magma. The creature turned several of its eyes towards her, but she ducked and ran forward as fast as she could. A bolt of fire shot past her, scorching the cavern floor behind her, and she jumped over a beam of blue light that seemed to grab hold of the air behind her, pulling the column off of the magma and tossing it across the chamber towards the others. Esthana jumped as the column was torn from beneath her feet, landing on the far side only ten feet from the floating monstrosity.

The creature doesn’t have a melee weapon apart from its teeth, and it doesn’t use that yet—it is facing Anaya and Nyseris to suppress their magic. So no Hack and Slash is triggered here; Esthana deals d10=7 damage, 5 after armour.

The monster is at 13/20 HP.

Volley(Vaalyun): 2D6(6 6) +2 = 14 Success!
Blinds the death ray eye

I am using an option given in one of the alternate templates for this monster in the Dungeon World codex, which allows successful attacks to blind particular eyes. That death ray eye has scared Vaalyun, and he wants it out of action.

She drew her sword, its silver light flooding the cavern, and slashed at the creature. The creature had no body, arms or hands, no weapon to defend itself, and she cutting a deep gash in its exposed side. It screamed in pain, the unnatural cry echoing through the caves. Several eye stalks on this side of the creature turned to her, but a bolt of arcane energy from across the cavern struck one of them, exploding the eyeball before it could focus. Circling around behind the creature, Esthana saw that it was Vaalyun, wand in hand, harassing the creature from the far side of the cavern.

Defy Danger(DEX)(Esthana): 2D6(3 4) +3 = 10 Success!
You are fine.
Seeing Red(Esthana): 2D6(5 4) +1+1 = 11 Success!
What here is useful or valuable to me?
What should I be on the lookout for?
What is about to happen?

Look out for lots of eyes all trying to target you, or for it flying up out of reach; it is turning towards you; turning the creature away from your friends takes the pressure off of them.

Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(1 3) +3+1 = 8 Partial success.
Deal damage d10=5, 3 after armour

“Rujat auga, karanzol,” the creature hissed in some unknown tongue, as it turned to face her.

With its many eye stalks trying to target her. Esthana ducked directly under the creature, as beams of fire and green and purple light struck the ground where she had been standing. She stabbed up into the underside of the creature, causing another serious wound. Several of the creature’s eyes lowered themselves to look at her, and she dodged away again, rolling behind the creature before the eyes could focus on her.

Defy Danger(DEX)(Vaalyun): 2D6(1 3) +2 = 6 Failure!
Random Telekenesis, Put someone in a spot: tosses Vaalyun across the cavern to land on the same side of the magma as Esthana and the beholder. Deal damage 2d10k1 = 5 damage, 4 after armour

Vaalyun is at 11/15 HP. The beholder is at 10/20HP. Anaya is back up at this point, and magic is available to her and Nyseris for now.

Volley(Vaalyun): 2D6(1 6) +2 = 9 Partial success.
Put yourself in danger
Defy Danger(DEX)(Vaalyun): 2D6(4 5) +2 = 11 Success!
Okay, you dodge the Random petrification ray
Defy Danger(DEX)(Nyseris): 2D6(2 4) +2 = 8 Partial success.
Too busy dodging to take a shot right now.
Defy Danger(DEX)(Anaya): 2D6(3 6) +1 = 10 Success!

There was a shout of alarm, and suddenly Vaalyun crashed into the cavern wall just twenty feet to her left; a blue beam from one of the creature’s eyes following his flight. Winded, the elf nevertheless raised his arm and fired another bolt from his wand, searing the side of the creature’s head, and then rolled aside just before a grey beam of light struck where he had lain.

Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(1 4) +3 = 8 Partial success.
Deal damage d10=9, 7 after armour; takes 2d10k1=8 damage, 4 after armour.
Defy Danger(DEX)(Esthana): 2D6(6 1) +3 = 10 Success!
Dodge eye rays

Beholder is at 2/10 HP. The party is in good shape, actually; they have hardly failed any saves.

Esthana moved in to strike again, but this time the creature surprised her by lunging forward, latching its massive jaws around her injured shoulder. She felt the massive force compressing her breastplate and pauldron, and sharp pain as several of the creature’s teeth punctured the plate mail. She carried through her own attack though, driving her sword deep into the creature’s side. It released its grip, screaming in pain, green blood pouring from the wound and pooling on the stone floor beneath it. Its eyes flailed wildly, shooting beams of many colours in front of it to drive back its attacker; Esthana stepped back and began to circle around for another attack.

Volley(Anaya): 2D6(4 6) +1 = 11 Success!
Deals 5 damage, would be 1 after armour, but I’ll choose to take out the disintegration ray instead; Anaya has seen enough of that.
Defy Danger(WIS)(Nyseris): 2D6(6 5) +1 = 12 Success!
Not terrified
Volley(Nyseris): 2D6(6 2) +2 = 10 Success!
Deals 2 damage, negated by armour.

It’s not over yet.

Defy Danger(DEX)(Vaalyun): 2D6(4 1) +2 = 7 Partial success.
Too busy dodging a Random paralysing ray to fire

+1 as her discern realities foresaw that the creature would try to float out of reach.

Defy Danger(DEX)(Esthana): 2D6(2 4) +3+1 = 10 Success!
You get it. Deals d10=9 damage, 7 after armour.

I would have had Esthana grab one of its eye stalks and bring it down that way, but she is one-armed and shouldn’t drop her sword. Less cool finishing move instead, then.

The creature was being harassed by arrows from Anaya and Nyseris on the far side of the cavern again now; one arrow popped another of the eyeballs that was flailing a dark ray of energy towards Esthana, and another sunk into the back of the creature. The creature turned its face upwards, looking back towards the tunnel down which it had originally entered; all the while, its other eyes continued to shoot out rays of deadly energy; Vaalyun was forced to duck into a side tunnel to avoid several rays directed his way. Esthana charged towards the creature and, as it began to float up towards its exit, she jumped and slashed at the creature’s underside, her sword cutting deeply into its flesh. Hot green blood splattered her helmet, and she staggered back.

Defy Danger(DEX)(Estana): 2D6(6 5) +3 = 14 Success!
You are fine

The creature swayed in the air, and let out a long scream, lower in pitch than before, as it sagged lower. Its eyes flailed wildly now, posing little danger to those further away, but Esthana had to dance backwards to avoid a beam of fire that cut through where she had been standing. The creature lurched and landed on the rock only a foot from the magma flow; immediately there were sounds of spitting and burning, as its blood began to boil and its flesh burned. The monster’s vast bulk sizzled like a frying egg on the stone floor; the eye stalks went limp, and the central eyelid dropped to be half-closed. The smell of burned flesh filled the cavern.

“Is everyone alright?” asked Esthana. Nyseris and Anaya nodded, though Anaya looked shaken by the encounter. Esthana turned to Vaalyun, who was limping a little as he emerged back into the cavern.

“I will be alright,” the elf said.

The magma flow had carved a deep channel at the far end of the chamber, and by scrambling up the sloping side of the cavern there, Esthana and Vaalyun were able to cross back over the magma and rejoin the others.

“I have heard of beholders, but never thought to see one,” said Anaya. “I suppose that is what the druidic cult sought to keep at bay with their warding.”

Spout Lore(Vaalyun): 2D6(1 5) +2 = 8 Partial success.
Vague information

He does not connect this with the lord-of-eyes stuff from chapter 8.

“Their book spoke of Xorian aberrations, and I have heard it said that beholders come from Xoriat,” said Vaalyun grimaced. “Their writings appear to be truthful. I suppose we can be glad that the Church is not the only group seeking to keep evil creatures from the surface of Eberron.”

“Hopefully we will not encounter any more of these aberrations,” said Nyseris. “We should press–s on.”

They turned and set off again, passing through an opening into a further cavern.

Anaya is weak and we need to declare that in the fiction too.

It was apparent immediately to Esthana that Anaya was struggling to keep pace now; the light of the Flame from the cleric’s holy symbol was undimmed, but she herself slowed at any upward slope.

“Are you alright, Anaya?” asked Esthana.

Anaya shook her head. “Whatever that beholder hit me with, it drained me greatly. I passed out, and it is fortunate that Nyseris was there to revive me. I am a little weak, but we can go on—we must go on.”

Esthana watched her friend with concern; but there was nothing to be done about it here. “Let us know if you need to rest.”

End of session(party): We defeated a notable enemy, +1 XP to all; Nyseris, Esthana and Anaya all met their alignment goals.

Anaya: 1 failure, alignment goal; at 15XP. Level up!
Esthana: 0 failures, alignment goal; at 13XP. Level up!
Nyseris: 0 failures, alignment goal; at 11XP. Level up!
Vaalyun: 2 failures; at 11XP.

Level Up(Anaya): +1 Cha; multiclass move A Little Help From My Friends: when successfully aiding an ally, also take +1 forward.
Level Up(Nyseris): +1 Con; Blot out the Sun: deal damage to multiple targets when volleying by using more ammunition.
Level Up(Esthana): +1 Wis; Superior Warrior: on a 12+ on Hack and Slash, dismay the enemy.
Make Camp(party): Everyone back to full health

The party took relatively little harm there, as—apart from Anaya’s back to back failures—they largely succeeded on their dexterity saves and let Esthana do the dangerous stuff. The party was particularly strong against this enemy, because everyone has at least a +2 Dex modifier.

Vaalyun needs just one more XP to level up, and it would be helpful if he made it to level 7 before the grand final scene that we are building towards. It’s not essential, but it will fit better if he can take the Draconic Prophecy move before we get there.

Commune(Anaya): Bless, Cure Light Wounds, Darkness, Hold Person
Commune(Nyseris): Cure Moderate Wounds, Magic Weapon, Cause Fear