Cloudchaser

Flush from their victory over the vampire, our heroes rushed down to Rezmir’s quarters to tell their friend the good news. Shouldering Azbara’s limp body, Keo followed his companions back up to the steering tower to let Blagothkus know. The giant congratulated them before asking what they planned to do next.

When the heroes explained that they’d like him to take them back to Waterdeep, along with the treasure, once they’d dealt with the remaining cultists and the dragon, Blagothkus gave them a mischievous grin. “Oh really?”

Roscoe quickly interjected with an offer to give the giant a cut of the treasure. Blagothkus confessed that he’d already been given some choice pieces by the cult, but if there was anything else that might look good adorning the walls of his castle – thus enhancing his status in the eyes of his fellow cloud giants – then he’d be happy to receive it as a gift from the small folk. [DM note: I ended up just giving him 10% of the total treasure value in art objects.]

When the heroes asked Blagothkus for aid, he replied that as much as he’d love to fight the dragon himself, he would unfortunately have to stay in the tower in order to guide and protect the castle. He was willing to lend them three of his ogre guards, however.

The Cultists
After a bit of discussion, the heroes devised a plan: they would handle the cultists in the barracks by having the three ogres enter as if they were going to relieve their fellows in the southern gate tower (which was only accessible via the barracks). Once inside, they would turn and attack the slumbering cultists at the far end of the room while the heroes charged in from the side door and attacked the ones at the table.

The assault went more or less to plan. One ogre died in the process, and both Roscoe and Skie came close to it, as the cultists had proved tougher than anticipated. Flint ended up having to drop a fireball in the middle of the room, incinerating several cultists and just about everything else that was flammable.

Feeling a bit worse for wear, the heroes decided to rest up before hunting the dragon Blagothkus graciously gave them leave to sleep in the human-sized guestroom in the keep.

The Dragon
The next morning, feeling fresh and ready to do battle, the heroes geared themselves up. Flint remembered the oil of sharpness Leosin had given them and handed it to Skie to put on her axe. The dwarf then pored over his spellbook to ensure he had the right selection of spells to deal with a white dragon. Keo, as well, carefully mulled over his spell selection during his morning preparations. Roscoe fidgeted impatiently, waiting for his companions to be ready.

As ready as they could be, the heroes went and collected their ogres and headed down into the caves within the iceberg’s core. Scouting ahead, Roscoe found the dragon clinging to the ceiling above the cult’s hoard, which was encased in a thin layer of ice. The cavern was split with an upper level that would bring them face-to-face with the dragon. Numerous tunnels wound their way up and down to both levels of the cavern. The heroes chose to place themselves in some of the tunnels on one side, while their ogre allies took up a position further along. Roscoe then stuck some frozen meat from the storeroom onto Flint’s grappling hook and threw it into the lower part of the cavern.

The heroes could hear (and feel) a thud as the dragon landed on the floor and made to devour the meat. Before it could, though, Roscoe yanked on the rope and pulled it up the main passage. The dragon followed, tucking its wings in as it squeezed into the tunnel. As its sleek white-scaled head came into view, the heroes made ready to attack … but the sight of the dragon was quite unsettling, and several of the heroes and both ogres lost their nerve.

Cloudchaser roared in anger upon realizing he’d been tricked. Lashing out with his tail, he smacked one of the ogres against the side of the tunnel. It then sucked in a deep breath and exhaled an icy blast that caught the heroes full blast. Roscoe was instantly turned into a popsicle. Flint was able to resist the worst of the blast thanks to the magic of his silver dragon scale amulet, however, and retaliated by conjuring up a storm sphere centered on Cloudchaser’s position.

Skie channelled her rage, shrugging off the old and the dragonfear, and tossed her axe at the dragon’s neck, while Keo conjure a wall of fire in the tunnel. Roaring in pain, Cloudchaser backed down the tunnel into the treasure cavern and started scrabbling up the wall towards the relative safety of the ceiling.

Flint raced up to the higher ledge and attempted to zap the dragon with a lightning bolt from his storm. The angles were a bit too difficult, though, and he ended up dismissing his spell in order to allow his allies more freedom of movement.

Skie and Keo followed the dwarf up onto the ledge only to have Cloudchaser breathe on them again. Both Flint and Keo succumbed to the cold, leaving Skie to face the angry dragon alone. She chucked her axe at it once, twice, thrice … and the extra-sharp blade bit deep each time. Cloudchaser let out a bone-shattering roar and fled up another passage. Skie made to chase after him, but stopped when she realized she’d lose him in the fog swirling around outside the castle. Instead, she turned to Keo and managed to pour a healing potion down his throat, reviving him.

With the druid back in action, they set about aiding their companions. Roscoe was somehow still alive but Flint was frozen stiff. There was nothing his friends could do for him except mourn.

Searching through the treasure hoard, the heroes found a number of magical treasures. Skie claimed a pair of bracers fashioned from fish scales and coral for herself. They would come in handy as a magical substitute for armor. Roscoe claimed a pair of boots that enabled him to move faster. They also found a potion filled with cloudstuff and a javelin that could turn into a bolt of lightning when thrown. Lastly, they found a slender wand of duskwood, which they set aside for Flint, should they find a way to restore him to life.
Choosing a few select art objects that they though would look good on Blagothkus’ walls, they took them up to the giant as an offering. Most impressed with their battle prowess, the giant congratulated them on having bested a fully-grown dragon. He agreed to fly them back to Waterdeep, a journey that would take a few days.

Epilogue
The people of Waterdeep didn’t quite know what to make of the sight of a flying castle landing on the fields outside their city, but the truth of the matter was soon revealed as the heroes sent word to Leosin and co that they had returned with the cult’s stolen treasure hoard. Blagothkus obligingly ordered his ogres to assist with extract the treasure from its icy blanket and carting it into the city, where Leosin’s helpers whisked it away somewhere. The heroes also handed Azbara Jos over to the Harpers and then headed for their safehouse for some much-needed rest.

As the heroes recuperated from their adventures, they were paid a visit by Lady Laeral. The regal archmage thanked them for all they’d done for the people of the Sword Coast. Without any fanfare, she then wished Flint back to life, restoring his lost arm in the process! In return, she asked for nothing but a promise from Flint and his companions that they would continue their fight against the Cult of the Dragon.

And thus we conclude our playthrough of the Hoard of the Dragon Queen! Everyone seemed to enjoy the ride. In fact, they are all eager to begin the next stage of the story, The Rise of Tiamat!

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.

Second Chances

Second Chances
We pick things up just after Keo roused Flint in the lodge. Both PCs watched in fascination as a ghostly figure emerged from Mara’s greataxe and disappeared inside her bruised and battered body. Before their very eyes, the bruises faded and the wounds closed, and then Mara opened her eyes and sat up … but was it really Mara? They weren’t too sure, and it appeared that she wasn’t either.

Just then, Talis’ last remaining bodyguard smashed down the door to his quarters and came looking for the source of the disturbance that woke him up. He was an older fellow, still bleary-eyed from sleep. Keo used his imposing size to intimidate the cultist into backing down. After promising them that they’d never see him again, the old fellow hot-tailed it down the back stairs.

The surviving heroes then went exploring, only to found Tails’ warm and inviting bedroom. Giving it a good once-over, they were delighted to find a large amount of treasure in Talis’ chest, including a magic figurine of an owl that could transform into a giant owl for a short while! They decided that this was as good a place as any for a much-needed a rest.

First, though, Keo went downstairs and found the lodge’s butler, Gastyn. He told the startled man that Tails was gone and the lodge now belonged to him. Keo suggested that Gastyn find the deed to the place. He then went back up to Talis’ room and attempted to rest.

As the heroes got to talking, it was soon revealed that Mara was no more! Her body, as they suspected, had been possessed by the spirit of her ancestor, Skie, who had been inhabiting her greataxe ever since they’d found her tomb in the catacombs beneath Baldur’s Gate.

Sometime later, they were disturbed by the butler, who informed them that they had some visitors! They turned out to be none other than the young woman and the priest of Lathander they’d rescued from the lodge cellar earlier! The priest, Brother Caemon, explained that, as they were heading through the woods, he’d received a vision from the Morninglord directing him to turn back and help those who had helped him. They had saved his life, so it was time for him to save one of theirs. And with that, he performed a magic ritual that brought Roscoe gasping back to life again!

The head maid, Aerlenga, then brought up some food for everyone and told them that if they were going to go down to the village, they should keep an eye out for her brother-in-law, Gundalin, the village’s wheelwright. He was not a cultist and might be able to help them.

Parnast
In the middle of the night, the PCs decided it was time to get a move on. They didn’t want to hang around too long, in case Tails came back and/or the flying castle departed without them. Keo summoned up the giant owl, and the party rode it down the mountainside. Circling over the village in the predawn light, they could see bits of a giant-sized castle poking out of a fog-shrouded ravine to the southwest.

As the sun rose, they landed the owl in the woods nearby and slipped into town. The wheelwright wasn’t at his shop, so they went looking for him at the tavern. Quite a few locals, including the wheelwright, were having their breakfasts there, and all were curious about the newcomers. The party was kept busy with plenty of food, drink and questions for at least an hour before they managed to get Gundalin’s attention. He indicated that they should meet him at his shop shortly.

However, as they went to follow him out into the square, the ground rumbled. Rushing outside, they saw that the castle had taken to the sky and was slowly moving up and to the south! They dashed across the square, which had begun filling up with merchants, to Gundalin’s shop. Along the way, Keo noticed one of the locals from the tavern slip up and whisper something to one of the guards in the square, who promptly turned and dashed off down an alley.

Gundalin informed the party that the cult kept a pair of wyvems in the old stable building. He suggested that commandeer the wyvems and fly them up to the castle. They rushed off down the back lanes to the stable and, without too much trouble, managed to saddle up the wyverns and mount them just as the leader of the village’s cultist contingent, a burly dark-skinned man who introduced himself as Captain Othelstan, showed up with his forces.

Although things looked a bit hairy for a bit, the heroes managed to trick Othelstan into believing that they were fellow cultists on an urgent mission to warn Rezmir of Talis’ treachery! While he appeared to buy this story, he wasn’t willing to help them with the wyvems and seemed somewhat amused when Skie and Flint had a bit of trouble getting theirs airborne. (Keo and Roscoe, meanwhile, had no trouble at all getting their wyvern into the air and circling the town.)

Once both wyverns were up in the air and obeying their riders’ orders, they sped into the sky and circle around the giant flying castle. The heroes spotted ogres on the parapets and in the upper courtyard. They also noticed that the central iceberg was riddled with caves. No one appeared to be in the lower courtyard, but they nevertheless chose to land up top, where some ogres were just starting to practice their javelin throwing.

The Giant
Assuming them to be cultists, the ogres escorted the party to their leader, a cloud giant named Blagothkus. Although he was at first angry that some cultists had invaded his private sanctum, the heroes soon revealed their true purpose, at which point Blagothkus calmed down and agreed to talk with them. He admitted that he was indeed carrying a contingent of dragon cultists who were carting stolen treasure to the Well of Dragons, an ancient volcano caldera that dragons have been using as a graveyard for centuries. Once there, the treasure aboard the castle would be added to an even greater hoard fit for the Queen of Dragons herself!

Blagothkus then revealed that he was only aiding the Cult of the Dragon because he wanted to bring the dragons out into the open in order to stir his people out of their complacency and unite them in the face of their ancient foe.

When Roscoe boldly called him out for the illogic of his plan, Blagothkus was impressed and admitted that things weren’t going according to plan. The cultists had brought a vampire with them. The vampire had located the hidden tomb of his dead wife, Esclarotta, and was threatening to desecrate it if he didn’t let the cult take over the castle.

Together, the heroes and the giant lord came up with a plan: the heroes would deal with the vampire while Blagothkus locked himself in the steering tower and turned the castle towards the north, moving it away from the Well of Dragons. He would also enshroud the castle in fog so the cultists couldn’t tell that they had changed direction. Once the vampire was defeated, Blagothkus would help them deal with Rezmir and her underlings, as well as the white dragon that was guarding the treasure hoard in a cave in the iceberg.

The Vampire
Unfortunately for the heroes, the vampire had taken over the top floor of a crumbling tower with no easy entrance. The ground floor door was blocked by a heap of rubble on the inside. There was a door high up on a balcony near the roof, but when Keo climbed up to investigate, his weight was too much for the balcony, and both he and it plunged back down to the ground again. Roscoe then climbed up and tried to wedge a grappling hook into a crack in the tower wall by the door, but he failed and also fell, although Skie managed to catch him. She then climbed up herself and successfully jammed the grappling hook in so the others could climb up a rope.

Busting the door open and leaping into the room, the heroes were immediately set upon by two elven vampire spawn. While Skie and Keo attempted to hold them off, Flint fiddled with a mirror in a vain attempt to direct some sunlight at them. Roscoe, meanwhile, sauntered over to a coffin resting on a mound of dirt in the center of the room.

Popping open the lid, Roscoe found a female elven vampire in sweet repose within. Forgetting what he’d been told about driving a wooden stake through the vampire’s heart, he proceeded to pour a vial of oil over her and light it on fire. Much to his surprise, this merely caused the vampire to wake up and angrily reach out and pull him inside her coffin! She sucked a bit of his blood, then exerted her will and charmed him into serving her.

While Skie and Keo were getting the life sucked out of them by the vampire’s spawn, Flint went over to help Roscoe but ended up being charmed as well. The vampire ordered him to close the door, but Keo managed to stop the dwarf and then smashed the door off its hinges, sending it plunging down to the ground.

Shrieking in rage, the vampire leapt out of her coffin and dashed through the sunlight towards the broken stairs that once led to the tower’s lower floors. Grabbing their bewildered companions, Keo and Skie made a run for it, out into the safety of the sunlight.

The Hunting Lodge

Searching the House
Leaving the cult meeting room, the heroes went down to the kitchen, where the four cultists attempted to spring an ambush. Two of them died in the first few seconds so the other two surrendered. While Keo helped himself to some of the food in the kitchen, the others interrogated their prisoners. They asked how many people they were cooking for. The cultists indicated about a dozen, not including the two dozen kobolds. The group also found out that the cultists’ master was none other than Talis, Mara’s childhood friend! What?! Not only that, but she was supposedly waiting for them to come upstairs.

The heroes ended up locking the two cultists in the pantry and headed down into the cellar, where they found three prisoners: a male dwarf, a female human, and a male human. The dwarf and the woman looked to have been beaten up quite badly but the man hadn’t been harmed at all. He turned out to be a priest of Lathander who’d been on a pilgrimage when he was kidnapped by the cultists. He had no idea why Talis had been so nice to him. The woman was with a caravan that had gone to the nearby village of Parnast, where she’d stumbled on the cultists and was kidnapped. Talis had been interrogating her to find out how much she knews about the cult, which she insisted was nothing at all. The heroes untied those two, healed the woman, and sent them on their way.

Flint’s efforts to talk to the dwarf prisoner, however, proved fruitless. The guy didn’t seem to want to say anything without knowing whether he could trust the heroes first. He kept throwing them the cult’s hand sign. They concluded that he must have been a rogue cultist that Talis was punishing.

After that, they went up and peeked through the doors leading out of the kitchen. Two led to hallways with more doors. The third was locked. Taking a key from one of the dead cultists, they opened it up to find a trio of real servants sitting around glumly. One was a haughty butler type, the others a maid and a hunter/groom. They explained that they used to serve the lodge’s previous master, whom Talis had killed when the cult took over. The servants were kept confined in their room when no cult dignitaries were visiting the lodge. They were occasionally let out to run errands in Parnast, and on their most recent visit, they had spotted a castle floating in the sky nearby!

The servants were also able to give the heroes a detailed description of the layout of the lodge. Armed with that knowledge, they did a quick sweep through the ground floor to make sure that no one else was around. They avoided the front entrance, with its trapped suits of armor and demonic statues. Roscoe went around and jammed shut all the doors leading to the kobolds’ room. This meant going into the southeastern parlor with a magic tapestry in order to get to the bathroom. He noticed the suit of black armor and was concerned that it might be magical but nothing happened as he tiptoed through the room alone.

With that task completed, the group ventured upstairs, jamming shut the bodyguards’ barracks door on the way. The door to Talis’ meeting hall opened ominously as they approached, and a cold voice called out, “Ah! Welcome! I was beginning to think I might have to go in search of my guests. Please come in and take a seat.”

Meeting Talis
Talis was quite surprised to see Mara, and the two had a brief exchange in which Mara desired to know what had happened to her friend. Talis explained that she’d had a vision in which the queen of dragons and her brood ruled over Faerûn and had decided not to fight that vision but accept it. She eventually came to be blessed by Tiamat with magic powers as well.

Talis offered the group a proposition: she wanted them to go and kill Rezmir and disrupt the treasure loaded up on the flying castle. Why? Because she really didn’t like Rezmir and wanted to see her fail. The heroes surmised Talis wished to take Rezmir’s place, although she was even more envious of her hated rival, Varram, an incompetent dwarf whom Severin had appointed as his white wyrmspeaker instead of her.

Roscoe wanted to know what was in it for them, to which Talis responded: “Your lives?” She gestured at her three bodyguards, whose hands were hovering close to the hilts of their weapons. Talis added that she had a banner and a password that the group could use to get into the castle unmolested. The group indicated that they’d already found the banner, and in a fit of overconfidence, Talis told them that the password was “Tiamat, Our Mother and Strength“.

The companions went into a huddle to discuss the offer. Keo was vehemently against “making a deal with the devil”, and Mara felt quite strongly that her friend had betrayed her, so the two of them were inclined to fight. Roscoe wanted to do no such thing, and Flint wasn’t so keen either. Since they couldn’t seem to settle on a decision as a group, they decided to let Mara choose on her own …

Mara reached for her greataxe. Talis shook her head. “Wrong decision.” Magically enhancing her voice, she shouted for reinforcements as her bodyguards whipped out their weapons. Roscoe ducked under the table in order to attack Talis from below, while Mara leapt up on top of it to attack her from above. Talis attempted to summon a spiritual weapon in her defense but Flint stopped her with his newly acquired counterspell.

For a moment, Flint felt safe at the back of the room near the door, but he soon found himself under attack by the two demonic statues from the entry hall, which had animated as gargoyles and come swooping through the door!

Talis went on the defensive and was saved from instant death by her magic, enabling her to make a risky escape out one of the windows. Meanwhile, Roscoe was slashed and stabbed under the table and collapsed into a coma. Mara decapitated Talis’ female bodyguard and then raced to the window, only to see Talis disappear through one of the portals in the front yard.

Keo leapt up onto the table and used thunderwave to blast one of the bodyguards out a window as well, giving him enough space in the cramped room to shift into his bear form. Flint then disengaged from the gargoyles and made his way to the opposite corner, near where Talis had been, so that Keo could soak up the gargoyles’ attacks.

Seeing that all appeared to be lost, the last remaining bodyguard threw his weapons down and backed into a corner, only to climb out a window himself when his captors weren’t looking.

Shortly after the gargoyles had been broken into little pieces, the black suit of plate armor that Roscoe had seen in one of the downstairs parlors came marching into the room. As it entered, black smoke emanated from it and the room suddenly filled with squirming black tentacles!

Keo was the only one who made it out, after breaking free of the tentacles and pushing his way past the animated armor. The construct gave chase, but in his bear form, Keo was faster and managed to escape down the back stairs and out through the kitchen door. The armor did not come out of the house after him. Eventually he climbed up a tree to look through the open windows and saw that the tentacles were gone. He threw a rope up and climbed into the room through the window. He found Flint unconscious but still breathing, while Roscoe and Mara were both dead, having been smothered and crushed by the horrid tentacles.

Keo poured a healing potion down Flint’s throat and helped the one-armed dwarf to his feet. The two of them gazed sadly at all the carnage in the room. Perhaps they should’ve taken Talis’ offer after all. The goliath was sure there were other druids in the mountains who might be able to reincarnate their friends, much like the druids of the Misty Forest had done for Erevan during the caravan trip. He had some influence with the Emerald Enclave now. Flint thought that sounded like a good idea, since Waterdeep seemed so very far away. He was worried, though, that they might miss the castle … after all, Talis had made it sound like the castle would be leaving at any moment. What to do?

Through the Portal

Just a quick recap of last session, as I’ve only just remembered I haven’t done it yet, and I’ve got the next session this evening! (We can’t play next weekend due to scheduling conflicts.)

After a long rest, the PCs went to the portal. Fully expecting to be ambushed on the other side, Flint cast invisibility on himself and Roscoe. After the portal was activated, everyone was surprised to find themselves staring at an old hunting lodge on a forested mountainside, with snow gently drifting down all around them.

Remaining invisible, Roscoe went for a walk around the lodge, while the others crept into the trees. Roscoe noted doors and windows around the lodge, taking particular note of the stone balcony above the back door and the large hole in the northwest portion of the roof. He picked up on animal noises coming from one of the outbuildings around the back. The other building was quiet. As he was heading back, he also heard the unmistakeable sound of a pack of kobolds coming from the back window on the lodge’s east side.

Meanwhile, a pair of trolls and their drake companions on patrol picked up the scent of the PCs and moved in to engage. Keo summoned his bear companions and then wildshaped into a bear himself. The three bears ganged up on one of the trolls, although it eventually hit him hard enough to cause him to lose his concentration and the other bears disappeared. Mara hacked away at the other troll, while Flint shot fire spells at both of them from up in the pine tree. Eventually Roscoe arrived and helped kill the trolls with his new acidic dragontooth dagger.

Flint then cast rope trick and the party retreated into the safety of the extradimensional space to catch their breaths. As they rested, they were disheartened to see a big, four-armed troll with a muddy (and obviously fire resistant) cloak with a drake on a chain leash approach the battle sight. The troll sniffed around for a while, then headed off again.

Rest over, they followed his footprints in the snow and noted that he had gone first to the back door of the lodge, then along the short path to what was obviously a drake kennel. The door of the kennel was now slightly ajar. The PCs crept up through the woods on the west side of the lodge and took position behind the wood pile. They were nearly discovered when a cultist came out of the back door to fetch some wood, but fortunately the others were able to keep Mara from making too much noise.

Roscoe then decided to brazenly approach the kennel. The troll saw him coming and opened the door wide enough to be seen. They had a brief exchange in which Roscoe was able to convince the troll that he was a cultist looking out for those responsible for killing the patrol. The troll explained that he’d gone and had a look himself but hadn’t been able to find anything, so he’d reported that there were intruders on the grounds and had come back to take a defensive position in the kennel.

Roscoe wandered back to the group, and they devised a plan: Roscoe and Keo would circle around the kennel from the back, while Mara and Flint would stay behind the wood pile. Roscoe would then attempt to get the troll to come out into the open so that Keo and his bears could jump him. Flint and Mara would then engage from a distance. The signal to attack would be Flint casting a fireball into the kennel through the opening in the doorway.

The plan worked pretty well, and the four-armed troll went down in a hail of claws, teeth, enchanted steel, fire and acid. His drakes didn’t last much longer. When no one came out of the lodge to see what was happening, the PCs went into the kennel. Keo took one look at the troll’s makeshift shrine to the demon lord Baphomet and ripped it apart. The PCs also found a collection of valuable furs that had been outside the range of Flint’s fireball.

Keo had also been able to get his bearings, as the view of the surrounding region was much better on the far side of the kennel. He realized that they were now in the southern reaches of the Greypeak Mountains, not far from the human settlement known as Parnast. He had been here before with his clan, back in the good days …

Figuring that the cultists in the lodge were waiting to ambush them should they attempt to go through the back door, they instead moved over to the eastern side of the back wall, where there was a decent blind spot between the windows, and proceeded to chuck a grappling hook up onto the balcony. Scaling up one-by-one, they found a set of double doors leading into a large open room. The walls were covered in tapestries of dragons in various locations. The largest tapestry depicted Tiamat squashing the cities of Neverwinter, Waterdeep, and Baldur’s Gate beneath her massive claws.

We finished the session with Roscoe wondering if he could pry off some of the valuable-looking gems stuck on the tapestry of Tiamat, while Flint cast detect magic and picked up a ping coming from the other side of the west wall, in which the only door out of the room was situated. (Roscoe searched for secret doors behind the tapestries but didn’t find any.)

Flint’s Journal

This session’s recap is brought to you by Flint:

By some miracle Mara stabilised and recovered enough to travel back to the roadhouse with us, where Jamna was reassigned and replaced in the group by the halfling rogue Roscoe. He has a flying snake, which might be useful. I found some time on the journey to study the scrolls and spellbooks I recently acquired from Erevan’s effects and the chest in the caverns and add a few to my repertoire. The swamp crocodile was, thankfully, nowhere to be seen. Perhaps the dragon pickled him.

On returning to the castle, with Roscoe fully briefed on our previous experiences and current assignments, I turned him invisible and he had a scout around the castle in the late afternoon. Then we all went back down to the caverns using Keo’s wonderful water breathing spell again.

As we moved along the passageways we heard voices in the misty cavern where we had previously found the magic portal. We could hear at least three voices which we assumed were cultists tasked with guarding the portal. To minimise the risk of being attacked from behind as we attempted to enter the castle from below, we attacked the guards, killing them quickly and dumping their bodies in the water for the giant frogs to eat.

Moving to the stairwell, the still-invisible Roscoe scouted up and reported back. The first level was muddy with pathways indicated by planks on the mud. We moved up there and barred the door into the hall from the stairwell, then continued up the stairs. The second level stairwell revealed closed doors behind which we could hear snoring and muted conversations. On the third level a cultist was seen through an open door to be reading at a desk while snoring emanated from behind the second door, which was closed.

Roscoe and Mara were able to kill the reading cultist quickly but they made enough noise to disturb the cultists in the other room. The door opened and battle began, made a little awkward by Keo transforming into bear state in the confined space at the top of the stairs and trying to attack the cultists through the doorway while I tried to keep an eye out for anybody coming up the stairs. The cultists knocked out Mara but were all eventually killed, and I poured a healing potion down Mara’s throat.

By now cultists on the lower levels were mobilising and Keo lumbered down the stairs. A few cultists were able to evade his reach and rushed off screaming about a bear attacking them, while the rest were slaughtered. By this time Mara, Keo, and Roscoe needed a bit of healing, and I needed some time to recover some of my magic, so we all went back down to the caverns and used my Rope Trick spell to have a short rest.

During the rest, a detail of lizardfolk searched the caverns but went back up the stairs empty-handed. I don’t know if they were looking for us or for the portal guards we had killed earlier.

With everybody feeling a little better, we went back up the stairs to the first level where the entrance to the main hall was. We had originally barred the door while we cleared out the upper levels of that tower but some of the cultists escaping from Keo’s bear had unbarred it and we hadn’t re-secured it when we were looking for a place to rest. Now Roscoe saw that during the time we had been resting the cultists had been barricading the hall and preparing for a fight.

I came up the stairs behind Roscoe and cast a fireball into the room, killing eight cultists, singeing a few others, and leaving two cultists and a guard drake to fight amongst the barricades and burning debris. The drake was eventually killed but the cultists ran out the side door into the courtyard. Keo, once again in bear guise, followed them to the now-closed keep door. He couldn’t hear anything through the thick door but returned to the main hall when he heard more shouting.

While Keo was outside, I had gone to the kitchen end of the hall and carefully climbed the stairs. The cook threw a meat cleaver at my head from where he and two assistants were hiding in the pantry. They were quickly subdued and tied up. The top dry goods level was cleared and discussion began on how to deal with the keep. Without any climbing spells, entry would have to be by another method than last time.

Moving back to the hall door out to the courtyard, we saw that the keep door was now open! Roscoe rushed out the door to try to get in but was ambushed by a guard drake and a cultist as soon as he left the hall. While we were engaged in battle with those two, the elf teleported into the hall behind us.

Now that I have only one arm, defending myself is so much harder because I can’t carry a shield. In this fight I quickly fell and have been told that Mara defeated the elf and removed the magic ring he was wearing. When I woke up I examined the ring, noting it was an evil magic device associated with Myrkul, god of the dead. It was with misgivings I presented the ring to Snapjaw to pass on to the swamp dragon as promised in return for our lives in the swamp. Finally we entered the southeast tower.

It was empty of people and we explored freely, finding the codeword to activate the magic portal amongst the papers on a desk, many valuable books in a makeshift library, and furnishings which collectors would pay well for. Snapjaw revealed that one of the statues had a magical dagger inside it, which we’ve let Roscoe have. An acid trap on a wardrobe was cleverly avoided when Roscoe used a rope to open the wardrobe door from outside the room. We were all safe when the acid bomb went off but most of the contents of the room was damaged or destroyed. It looked like the black half-dragon Rezmir’s room. We sent a message to Leosin through the Sending Stone, informing him that the castle had been cleared of cultists and that there were valuable books and furnishings to be collected.

The delay in clearing the castle due to Jamna’s departure and Roscoe’s arrival meant that the treasure we have been following appears to have been moved through the portal already. We untied the cooks and returned to the caverns to have a good long rest before we attempt to use the portal and find out where the treasure has gone.