Back out of the Belly of the Beast
Dragon! Or is it...
A black dragon-shaped gathering of darkness, lit by the interior glow of souls it has consumed.
Giacomo attacks! He pops off a hex, then casts Hunger of Hadar centered on the dragon-thing.
Dorian fires an arrow into the wavering cloud surrounding the dragon. It seems to hit, to little effect…
The dragon-thing inches forward and breathes a chilling, necrotic cloud over our heroes.
Giacomo and the strange silver dragonborn, Erturin crumple to the ground.
J transforms into her horrifying warform, the strange insectile creature from another reality. A wave of fear spreads outward from her. She bounds forward and tears at the dragon-thing.
The strange cleric casts Prayer of Healing. Giacomo and Erturin suddenly find themselves awake again.
Ren casts Bless (how is Ren casting spells?!?!), bestowing bonuses on Ake, J, and herself. And she’s radiating paladin-ness?!?! She moves into melee range.
Ake, filled with determination from Ren’s blessing, fires off two arrows: both strike true!
Erturin spits in the dragon-thing’s face and takes up a protective position next to his cleric companion.
The dragon-thing whips its tail around, smashing at the cavern walls. Chunks of the cavern tumble down. Dorian and Ake dodge the falling debris.
Giacomo takes to the air.
Dorian sidesteps to cover, firing an arrow, and calling, “Giacomo, get me out of here!”
The dragon-thing lashes out with its claws. It tears into Ren. Then it takes flight! J and Ren attack it as it leaps. There are tears in its flanks, exposing veins flowing with souls. Black ichor drips from its sides.
J takes to the air in pursuit, attacking its underbelly.
Ren is disappointed with this development. She exerts her new-found paladin powers and commands it to “grovel!” The dragon-thing looks to Ren and its demeanor changes.
The strange cleric casts cure wounds on Erturin.
Ake hexes the dragon-thing, then hurls an Eldritch Blast at it.
Erturin directs the cleric, “keep the shapeshifter alive, but stop healing the rest of these jackasses.”
Ren overhears and calls, “if you don’t help us, we’re just going to die anyway.”
“Good talk,” calls back Erturin.
Giacomo fires a volley of Eldritch Blasts, pushing the dragon-thing backward.
Dorian peers from behind his rock and fires another arrow into the creature.
The dragon-thing lands at Ren’s feet per her command, but then viciously attacks her. Ren stumbles, near collapse, but manages to stay on her feet, just barely.
J lands on the dragon-thing’s back and digs into it with tooth and claw. The creature finally collapses under her onslaught.
After tearing through its flesh, J stands over the powerful heart of the creature. It is obvious to us all that the heart of this thing could be used to powerful effect.
Bickering ensues over what to do with the heart and the souls trapped therein. The TIP are not successful in convincing the Black Bell cleric to sanctify the souls. Ren loses patience and smashes the heart.
The black blood inside leaks out and it slowly loses its glow. There is no explosion, no fanfare. It is just silent. Something unique is now gone from the world.
Our flyers ferry everyone out of the pit.
The Black Bell camp is deserted, and seems to have been for some time. More bickering ensues, this time over what to do with the two surviving Black Bell mercenaries. Unlike a well-oiled machine, our heroes begin working at cross purposes. Ren provides them with a week of rations. Ake casts Sleep on the two mercenaries. Giacomo ties them up and fastens them to J like a couple of truck nuts.
After some negotiation, the TIP settles on treating their captives per the code of treatment for prisoners of war.
One night during the return journey, Ren finds herself dreaming of Carson torturing someone. Ren tries to convince him to stop. Carson tries to convince Ren to come work for him. Ren seems to have accepted that offer…
Ake dreams of encountering a mystic. She is wearing chain mail and carrying a longbow. She drops the bow and unlimbers her shield. She attacks him with a sacred flame. This appears to be Astaria, the Bleakbow Mystic. Ake asks her, “how do you justify all the death and destruction?”
She replies, “do you mean, ‘why do good things happen to bad people?’”
Ake spills his whole backstory to her. She paraphrases, “you had something bad happen and you blame people. Then the demon comes in, right?”
She confronts him about the murders he has committed, asking if he had done anything to make reparations. She seems unsympathetic to his explanation that he was “given a task”.
After undergoing a lengthy interrogation by Astoria, Ake is at an impasse in his crisis of conscience: how to proceed?!