This issue begins in Shadowdale, in the famous tower of Elminster the Sage. Lhao notices that bell 45 begins to ring. Checking his notes, he realizes this means the Hand of Vaprak is loose and runs to warn his master.
The scene shifts to Agrivar and Vartan arriving in Baldur’s Gate. If you have an eye for detail, you will notice that the Realms Master, Captain Omen’s ship, is tied off at the dock. Vartan insults the whole of humanity and follows it up by making rude comments about Priam’s father Ostus Agrivar in particular. As Agrivar storms off, apologizes and offers him a drink… which is a bad idea for a recovering alcoholic like Agrivar. Nevertheless, Agrivar takes the apology in the spirit in which it was offered and the two head to the bar.
Unbeknownst to them, they are being observed by Foxilion. He reports back to his companions that the two adventurers are in town and that they are carrying the hand. Captain Omen then shifts into exposition mode and explains that the Hand of Vaprak was originally created when the Grandmother of Trolls attempted to trick the Child of Ogres into fishing some chestnuts out of a fire. The Child of Ogres plunged both their hands into the fire.
This proved to be a bad move for both the Grandmother of Trolls and the Child of Ogres as they both lost their hand from the incident. The two hands were fused into one, which allowed the god Vaprak to to claim dominion over both types of creatures.
I am going to skip over the scene with Elminster other than to note he is attempting to decide which pawn he should use to solve his "hand” problem. Back at the bar, Vartan is going over perfectly reasonable suggestions for what to do with the hand, all of which Agrivar dismisses out of hand (so to speak). Vartan wonders if Agrivar just wants to keep the hand for himself, a thought which disturbs him.
Ishi Barasume shows up at the table, pretending to be drunk. With a quick move she flips the table, launching the hand into the air. Foxilion is on hand to catch it and is off like a shot. Meanwhile, in grand comic book tradition, our heroes battle it out. Agrivar against the golem Minder and Vartan against Ishi.
Meanwhile, Foxilion proves that Wisdom is his dump stat when he hands the hand over to a doppelganger disguised as Captain Omen, even though the doppelganger doesn’t even know what a Dimension Door spell can do. He then proceeds to get his arse handed to him.
Agrivar and Vartan then track down Foxilion, only to find him at 0 hp in an alley. Between the two of them they heal him up, which proves to Minder that they are honorable. They then decide to go talk to Captain Omen.
Of course, if they had decided to do this in the first place, they would probably still have the hand.
Elsewhere in the city, the doppelganger attempts to betray the ogre mage so he can claim the hand for himself, only to prove that Wisdom is also his dump stat. The scene ends with one happy ogre mage and one dead doppelganger.
Back on the Realms Master, Captain Omen falls into exposition mode again, this time to explain that he and his crew travel the realms looking for artifacts so that they can properly dispose of them. The two groups decide to join forces, and Captain Omen decides that contacting a local sage named Gondal is the best place to start looking for the hand. Unfortunately, the Ogre Mage is scrying on them again, so he knows all of their plans.
Back in Shadowdale, Alias and Dragonbait from the novel Azure Bonds arrive at Elminster’s tower. He announces that he needs them to go to the Sword Coast to deal with his artifact problem. He also mentions that he created the Hand of Vaprak and that if it is not dealt with it will surely destroy him!
Dun Dun DUNNNN!!! (Man, Jeff Grubb likes his cliffhangers).
- Until I reread this, I never realized that it was set in Baldur’s Gate (of video game fame).
- I really like the mythic feel of the Grandmother of Trolls and Children of Ogres story. It really adds something to the feel of the Hand of Vaprak. Also, Rags Morales’ art in the sequence is great.
- Despite my jokes about the fight, it was an efficient way to get the group together. Maybe that is why it is such a comic book cliché.
- It was nice to see Vartan kick ass.
- Alias and Dragonbait seem a bit tacked on to this story. Of course, if I was Jeff Grubb, and I had written Azure Bonds, I might have tacked them unto my first comic book story arc as well.