End Game

The Red Wizards
While catching their breath in Rezmir’s chamber, the heroes heard some kobolds come open the cool storage across the hall. They were babbling about how the cultists didn’t understand the dragon, Cloudchaser, like they did. One kobold reminded another that the best thing to do was to just toss the frozen meat into the cave and then run. Kree forgot to do that yesterday and is now a permanent fixture of Cloudchaser’s lair. The heroes filed this information away for later.

Flint convinced the others that they needed to confront the Red Wizards in their hidden sanctuary before doing anything else. Roscoe attempted to trick the wizards into coming out into the antechamber by posing as a cultist summoning them to speak with Rezmir, but the wizards wouldn’t bite, replying that Rezmir could come and see them herself.

Recovering quickly, Roscoe shouted that Rezmir couldn’t come because she’d been killed by a bear and that actually the wizards needed to let him in because the bear was going to kill him next! It was unlikely that the wizards bought this story either but it did get them to open the door at least. Azbara Jos himself ushered the heroes in and introduced them to his superior, Rath Modar, who eyed them up haughtily from his position behind a lectern.

The heroes were surprised that the Thayans would actually invite them in, but things quickly turned sour as Rath remarked that he had little patience for ruffians seeking to stop the inevitable. The heroes bristled at this, and as a fight broke out, it turned out that the Rath standing at the lectern was just an illusion. The real Rath was invisibly watching them from somewhere else in the room.

One of the gargoyle statues animated and moved to attack Flint. Roscoe stabbed Azbara with his daggers, then Skie bashed him over the head with the butt of her axe, knocking him out cold. Rather reappeared near another vanishing wall and attempted to cast a defensive spell on himself which Flint was able to counter. Soon after, the gargoyle was finished off by Flint and Keo in bear form.

Frustrated, Rath vanished again before loosing a fireball, which set much of the room’s contents on fire. The outer wall then vanished, revealing another landing platform, and Flint surmised that Rath had just fled. After securing Azbara, the heroes set about saving what papers they could from the flames.

Flint used his scroll of comprehend languages to identify the hefty tome that Rath had been reading as a book full of devil-summoning rituals. There was even a whole chapter devoted to summoning Tiamat herself, although the specifics of the ritual itself weren’t included in the book. Knowing that his Harper superiors would want to see it, he gingerly stuffed the book into his bag of holding, although with various letters showing that Rath Modar was in contact with Severin, the leader of the Cult of the Dragon, as well as various other Red Wizards back in Thay. It was clear from this correspondence that Rath was an instrumental player in the Thayan Resurrection resistance movement.

The Vampire
The heroes deposited the unconscious Azbara in Rezmir’s room and left Keo to guard him while they headed back upstairs to deal with the vampire. First, though, they opted to quickly explore the rest of the buildings on this level. The first building turned out to be a stables housing several wyverns. It appeared that the wyverns they’d ridden to the castle had been moved in here as well. Not wanting to disturb the ornery creatures, the heroes moved on. The next building was a barracks housing approximately a dozen cultists, most of whom appeared to be resting. Not wanting to disturb them either, the heroes moved on to the last building, which looked to be a kitchen full of kobold servants watched over by a griffon. How odd!

Heading back up the icy stairs to the upper courtyard, the heroes discovered that their rope was still attached to the side of the vampire’s tower. Roscoe scrambled up first, followed by Skie, who then lifted the one-armed Flint up to the open doorway.

The lid of the vampire’s coffin was closed, and the one surviving minion was nowhere in sight. Roscoe hefted the makeshift stake Flint had fashioned for him from an arrow and crept towards the coffin. Just as he was reaching for the lid, the remaining vampire spawn leapt out from behind the coffin and grabbed him. The wiry Halfling slipped free and stabbed at the creature with his dragontooth dagger. Skie then stepped up and slashed at with her axe. Although the creature managed to get its fangs into Skie’s neck again, it was not enough. Blade and spell swiftly ended its miserable unlife.

Cautiously, the companions raised the lid of the coffin, fully expecting the vampire to be waiting for them … but no, it appeared she had gone back to sleep. Without hesitation, Roscoe thrust the stake into the vampire’s heart. As her eyes popped open in surprise, Skie slashed down at the vampire’s neck. The three heroes then wrestled the coffin off the mound of dirt and slid it across the icy floor to the open doorway, where they pushed it out into the air. It smashed open on the ground, exposing the vampire’s body to the harsh sunlight. Like Rezmir, she was soon reduced to ash.

Now all they had to was tackle the dragon, Cloudchaser.

Castle in the Sky

The Vampire’s Plan
Just as the heroes were leaving the crumbling tower, the vampire called out to Flint and Roscoe, imploring them to return. Evading their companions, the pair climbed back into the tower and headed over to where their new friend was hiding in the darkness of the broken stairwell. There was something she wanted them to do for her … namely, kill Rezmir and bring the half-dragon’s sword and mask to her.

Down on the ground, Keo and Skie were wondering what was happening with their friends. Why had they gone back into the tower? Ah, but here they came, climbing back down the rope again. And now they wanted to go and kill Rezmir?! But those damned vampires had had a veritable feast and only Flint was in any shape to fight. Despite Roscoe’s protests, the group headed over to the steering tower to find Blagothkus.

The Steering Chamber
Luckily for them, a knock on the door was all that was needed to get the giant’s attention. The massive portal opened on its own, revealing a staircase spiralling up the inside wall. Cresting the stairs, the heroes found themselves in a room seemingly without walls. In fact, the castle itself and the clouds around it seemed to have disappeared as well. The room provided a commanding view of the world and the sky in every direction. Blagothkus stood in the middle of the chamber, with what looked to be magic runes floating like large snowflakes floating all around him.

“We, uh, had a bit of trouble with the vampire. We failed to kill her.” Keo confessed.

“What? No! We just decided it was better if she stayed alive. She’s actually quite nice.” Roscoe protested.

“You fools!” thundered Blagothkus. “What have you done?!”

Keo expressed a desire to try again but indicated that the group needed a chance to rest. Blagothkus bluntly replied that there wasn’t enough time for that, as the vampire would undoubtedly leave the confines of her tower and carry out her threat to desecrate his wife’s tomb as soon as the sun went down. She might also hunt down the heroes and finish draining them of their blood. She might even warn Rezmir, and then they’d have the full contingent of dragon cultists after them.

After some discussion, an agreement was reached: the heroes would visit Blagothkus’ guests, a mated pair of stone giants named Wiglof and Hulda. The cloud giant thought they might have some restorative magic at their disposal. He would then give the heroes a second chance to dispose of the vampire. Fail again and the consequences would be dire.

The Stone Giants
The heroes thanked Blagothkus and left the tower, the door locking shut again behind them. Taking the stairs down to the lower courtyard, they crossed the vast open space to the open archway leading to the stone giants’ quarters. They found the male giant, Wigolf, staring into a large cauldron sitting atop a huge stone table. His partner, Hulda, sat dreamily in a chair nearby.

Keo opted to take the lead, knowing that stone giants generally regarded his kind with some affection. (That is to say, stone giants regarded goliaths as stunted children who’d lost their way in the dreamworld that is the surface.)

Hulda came to speak with Keo, staring at a point above his head. The druid explained that Blagothkus had sent them down here after they’d tangled with a vampire and lost. They were in need of healing, and the cloud giant had though the stone giants might be able to help. Hulda turned to Wiglof and rumbled at him in their own language, and then the male giant tore himself away from his musings and reached into a large chest. He pulled out a handful of what looked to be diamonds. After ladling some of the brew in the cauldron into a stone mug the size of Roscoe, he crushed the diamonds in his fist and stirred them into the drink as he intoned an incantation. Hulda then took the mug and offered it to the heroes, some of whom had to struggle a bit to reach its contents.

Keo, Roscoe, and Skie all found themselves feeling full of life again. Even though Flint had not been bitten by any of the vampires, he decided to have a taste himself and soon found himself wondering why he’d ever regarded the vampire as a friend. [DM note: I had the brew grant the benefits of the greater restoration spell.]

Before anyone could have a second sip, Hulda whisked the mug away and Wiglof poured its contents back into the cauldron.
Thanking the giants for their generosity, Keo decided to try his luck and asked Hulda if she could tell them where Rezmir was. She pointed dreamily at the east wall. He also managed to get her to tell him that Rezmir didn’t leave her room much and that she has two blue-scaled drakes as pets.

Exploring the Keep
Heading back out into the courtyard, the heroes decided to explore it before heading back upstairs. They found that there were two entrances to the large keep-like building sitting directly under the upper courtyard: a set of double doors on the south side, east of the stone giants’ chamber, and a single door on the west side, north of the chamber. Roscoe indicated that he’d prefer to start with the west door.

The door was made of ice. Upon opening it, the party found themselves looking down a long corridor heading east towards a dark, seemingly empty antechamber. Another door stood on the north wall. Unlike the other doors the party had encountered so far, this one appeared to be size for humans. It opened into a well-furnished but uninhabited room. While the others poked around the furnishings for anything interesting, Flint was intrigued by the oddly unadorned outer wall. The moment his hand touched the wall, it disappeared, revealing nothing but open sky beyond a small ice platform jutting out of the outer wall! The wind began whipping around inside the room. A minute later, the wall rematerialized, much to everyone’s relief.

Moving on, the party reached the empty antechamber, where they found another corridor leading south to the set of double doors. Two more doors, both sized for humans, faced each other from across the corridor. While Roscoe snuck ahead to listen at the doors, Flint felt a strange tingle of magic. Casting detect magic as a ritual revealed that a large portion of the ice wall in the northeast corner of the antechamber was illusory! Sticking his hand to it, expecting perhaps that it would disappear like the wall in the guest room, he was surprised to find that there was not really anything there at all. Peering through it, he could see a hidden door in an alcove on the far side.

Disappearing through the fake wall, Flint attempted to creep up to the door quietly and peer through the keyhole. He could make out a large room with carpets on the floor and horse skulls nailed to the ceiling. The room also contained desks and lecterns laden with books. Furthermore, in the center of the room were six gargoyle statues and two red-robed, tattooed humans, one of whom he recognized as Azbara Jos, the wizard who’d joined the caravan in Daggerford.

Unfortunately, Flint had made too much noise approaching the door, and the two Thayans were now glancing over at it nervously, waiting for whatever was going to come through. Flint hurriedly retreated, fully expecting the wizards to come charging after him, slinging spells as they emerged through the illusory wall. But come they did not!

Roscoe, meanwhile, had discovered that the eastern door led to a cold storage room full of meat and other foodstuffs, while the western door led to what looked to be Rezmir’s private chambers! He could see the half-dragon reclining on her bed through the keyhole – and, in doing so, discovered that the door was locked with quite a clever mechanism. As the others gathered in the hall behind him, Roscoe attempted to pick the lock. As flubbed the first attempt, a low growl emanated from the other side of the door. Uh oh!

Rezmir
Without a moment to lose, Skie brushed Roscoe aside and, channeling her inner rage, smashed the door open with one swift kick. Rezmir was ready, hurling a glowing green blob of acid at Skie. The barbarian was too quick, and the blob whizzed past her ear and slammed into the corridor wall, dissolving a small chunk of the ice. Flint responded by conjuring up a storm sphere inside Rezmir’s room.

Though Rezmir was able to delay the inevitable by conjuring up magical darkness, luck (and possibly a god or two) was with the heroes. Skie and Roscoe were still able to hit the guard drakes that had bounded up to attack her even though they couldn’t see the beasts, and Flint was able to strike Rezmir repeatedly with bolts of lightning from the sphere. Keo dispelled Rezmir’s darkness, then lit her up with faerie fire. Rezmir got one good hit in with her wicked-looking black-bladed greatsword, which seemed to suck some of Skie’s life force out of her in a manner not dissimilar to a vampire’s bite, but then Roscoe stepped out from behind the barbarian and stabbed the half-dragon with his magic dagger.

Rezmir looked surprised as her body suddenly burst into flames, reducing her in seconds to a mere pile of ash. All that was left was the evil-looking sword, a mask in the shape of a black dragon’s face, and a small bejewelled badge in the shape of the cult insignia.
Keo attempted to feed Skie some goodberries, but the sword’s lingering effects rendered them ineffectual for a while. Roscoe wondered aloud if the sword was inhabited by a spirit, much in the same way Mara’s axe had been. Much to everyone’s surprise, the sword replied in the affirmative! Its voice was deep and imperious – a voice used to being obeyed. It bluntly told the little rogue that he was not worthy of wielding it and dared him to pick it up.

Ignoring the sword, Roscoe went and investigated a chest resting on Rezmir’s desk. After picking the lock, his eyes lit up as he found it to be filled with treasure! He sighed with longing as the chest was snatched away from him and its contents poured into Flint’s magic bag. The dwarf, meanwhile, had cast detect magic again and picked up strong vibes from both the mask and the sword. The badge also detected as magical, as did, oddly enough, the few shredded bits of carpet strewn about the floor.

Fed up with the sword’s relentless taunts, Keo grabbed a sheet off Rezmir’s bed and used it to wrap the sword up, hoping that would keep it quiet. Unfortunately, it just started laughing at him in his head. Roscue insisted that they take it to the vampire. The others were not so keen.