Tiamat Returns!

In which our heroes fight to send Tiamat back to the Nine Hells!

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Note: This post covers the last two sessions of this campaign. It’s been a long but fun ride! Thanks to all my players for seeing it through to the end.

 

The group went up the tunnel and emerged in a wing of the temple decorated all in black. It was clearly meant to be some kind of chapel with a black dragon theme. They could see similar chapels dedicated to the other chromatic dragons radiating out from a central hollow, in which a massive twisting, glowing, pulsing orb of magic hovered. Red Wizards were in every chapel, on the ground and hovering in the air, concentrating their magic on the rapidly forming portal. Severin, wearing a fancy mask, hovered high in the air directly above the portal.

The heroes quickly assessed the situation, then set about attacking the Red Wizards in an effort to stop their ritual.  They slew both wizards in the black chapel, which alarmed the others, causing them to cast greater invisibility spells on themselves, making it harder (but not impossible) for the PCs to target them.

They also found Rath Modar in the red dragon chapel. He was being guarded by a massive construct that Flint recognized as a shield guardian. The group set upon him, but it quickly became evident they were attacking an illusion. In desperation, Flint pulled out the robe of useful items, put it on, and pulled off the patch with the dogs. He directed them to sniff out Rath and attack him, which they did.

Skie busied herself throwing her axe at any Red Wizard she could find, while Keo transformed into a spirit bear and went hunting invisible wizards. Roscoe and Flint helped out as best they could.

Ultimately they were not able to stop the ritual, and the portal began to open, revealing a nightmarish hellscape through which a mighty form began to emerge. The heroes managed to kill Severin before he could witness Tiamat’s entry into the world, but his body continued to levitate above the portal, so Keo swooped up and grabbed the mask off his corpse and tossed it down to Flint, who stuffed it in the bag of holding just as Tiamat’s white dragon head emerged through the portal. As the mask was shunted into the bag’s extra-dimensional space, the portal wavered and Tiamat let out a roar of frustration, but the portal didn’t close.

About this time, Talis the White came running into the temple from the door to the outside, located in the blue dragon chapel. She slowed, awestruck, at the sight of her goddess coming through the portal, but she quickly spotted Skie and went to attack her. Skie had finally slain Rath Modar, however, and, at Flint’s suggestion, had claimed the shield guardian’s amulet.

The Dragon Queen took her time emerging from the portal, and when she’d come all the way through, she ignored the heroes, instead making an effort to heartlessly devour any remaining wizards and even Talis! She then turned her attention on the heroes.

The battle was fierce, but just as it looked like all would be lost, the temple shuddered and a silver dragon made a hole in the roof and clawed its way through. Flint’s lifelong friend, Ironclaw, had come to the rescue, bringing the blessings of Bahamut with him! As the heroes saw a vision of a ferocious platinum dragon flash before their eyes, they felt refreshed and invigorated!

At Flint’s request, Ironclaw scooped up both him and Roscoe, depositing the dwarf on his back and dropping the halfling onto Tiamat’s. Roscoe managed to hang on to the goddess’ tough hide, digging his daggers in under her scales. Skie threw her axe again and again and again, hitting with all the primal fury she could muster!

At a word from Tiamat, Keo found himself blinded, deafened, and unable to move. It wasn’t until much later that anyone was able to help him, and he was much relieved to discover that Tiamat had ultimately been driven back through the portal and trapped in Avernus once again. Flint had struck the final blow, peppering Tiamat with a barrage of magic missiles of all things!

Poor Roscoe had been slain by an unholy word uttered by Tiamat’s five heads as her body disintegrated and her spirit was pulled back through the portal, but the others had grabbed his body as they fled the crumbling temple.

Keo resolved that he would bring his fearless friend back to life. And so, in the aftermath, the four companions were wined and dined and showered with gifts and honors and praised as the saviors of the world up and down the Sword Coast. They helped with redistributing the stolen hoard from the Well of Dragons, and they assisted with various communities’ rebuild efforts. In the end, they retired to live out their days as best they could. They’d done their bit. Someone else could save the world next time …

 

Under the Well of Dragons

In which our heroes attempt to rescue more prisoners from beneath the Well of Dragons.

While the party rested in the disused tunnel, Roscoe sent a message to the alliance’s commanders via flying snake, alerting them to the presence of the prisoners. A reply came back to say that a force would be dispatched in their direction to assist with the rescue mission.

Once they were feeling refreshed, the heroes sent some of their followers to scout the side tunnels while they headed back to the prisoner pits. They got the prisoners to start shuffling through the Red Wizards’ rooms to the disused tunnel.

Eventually some more cultists came to find out why the flow of prisoners had stopped. They were quickly cut down, although one was taken prisoner and dragged off to a side room to be interrogated. He didn’t know a whole lot, but he was able to tell them that there were lots of Red Wizards in the temple, along with Severin, and they were busy using magic to open a portal to Avernus. He also warned them to watch out for the Bladelord.

Sure enough, it wasn’t long before the Bladelord found them. He was an undead knight, and he had served as the Cult’s commander at the Well of Dragons for over a century. Shadowy beings flitted around him as he cut down the Lords’ Alliance soldiers guarding the intersection through which the prisoners were moving. The heroes rushed to engage him. Flint sent a fireball up the passage. It incinerated the shadows but the Bladelord kept coming. Skie rushed forward to meet him. The wight fought ferociously and very nearly drained the life out of the fierce barbarian, but he was ultimately no match for the combined might of the heroes.

When the scouts reported back that there was a room with some cultists resting in it down the main passage, the heroes went and cleared them out. They had sent the scouts to guard the passage leading up to the temple, and shortly after the last cultist fell, they heard screams.

Roscoe attempted to sneak up the passage to see what had happened to the scouts, when he was pinned to the ground by a massive claw that materialized – along with its owner, the green dragon Chuth – in front of him. As the others approached, they heard the dragon laughing and taunting them. He let out a terrifying roar, but Skie shook it off as she flew into a rage and charged forward enough that she could throw her axe at him. Flint stayed back and conjured a storm sphere around the dragon.

As the fight got into full swing, Neronvain, the green wyrmspeaker, materialized on Chuth’s back and proceeded to fire her poisonous magic bolts at everyone. Roscoe managed to escape from beneath Chuth’s claw and scampered up onto his back with the intention of attacking Neronvain, but the dragon knocked him off with one swipe of his tail.

With Skie’s axe and Flint’s lightning bolts raining down on them, Chuth and Neronvain were soon feeling the hurt. The wyrmspeaker leapt off the dragon’s back and went flying back up the passage to the temple, while Chuth turned invisible again and muscled past the heroes. They heard him mutter an oath as he went past: “To the hells with Tiamat! I’m not sacrificing myself for her!”

As the sounds of the dragon’s passage down the tunnel diminished, the heroes breathed a sigh of relief and withdrew to lick their wounds once again. They were getting ready for the final push.

To the Well of Dragons

In which the Alliance marches against the Cult, and our heroes infiltrate the tunnels beneath the Well of Dragons.

As the heroes made ready to meet with the Council of Waterdeep for the last time, the ever-present background noise from the Draakhorn shifted and became a clear, ominous blast, heralding the impending doom of all who heard it.

The final council was held in the palace gardens so that the representative of the giants, Harshnag the Grim, could attend in relative comfort. Harshnag, a good-aligned frost giant who had helped Waterdeep’s leaders in the past, reported that the Cult had recruited a number of trolls and ogres, as well as some hill giants, all of whom were clearly too stupid and/or ignorant to realize they were on the wrong side.

Lord Neverember and Taern Hornblade both complained about the suffering their cities had endured due to a lack of draconic support, although no one quite believed Hornblade, as Silverymoon had plenty of other defenses, including a mythal, to protect it.

The renowned elf ranger Cylanestriel was brought before the council to recount her harrowing experience at the Well of Dragons. She was the sole survivor of an adventuring party that had attempted to infiltrate the Cult’s lair. She witnessed the creation of the Temple of Tiamat within the well, conjured up out of the mud and bones strewn around the caldera and infused with infernal power. She spoke of access tunnels in the sides of the volcano, leading into a network of lava tubes that the Cult had long ago worked into a stronghold. The slopes of the volcano were swarming with troops, and dragons patrolled the skies. The land for a hundred miles all around had been scoured.

Lastly, the leaders of the various factions represented at the council voted to support the heroes in their efforts to fight the Cult. Although it was a close thing for some, particularly Lord Neverember and Ambassador Brawnanvil, all present offered their full support for the fight.

Lady Laeral used her formidable magic to conjure up an illusory map of the Well of Dragons and the vicinity, and the alliance proceeded to plan their attack. The soldiers and mercenaries of the Lords’ Alliance, along with the agents of the Emerald Enclave and the Order of the Gauntlet, would take on the bulk of the Cult’s ground forces. The mages of the Arcane Brotherhood would work to counter the actions of any rebel Red Wizards on the battlefield, while the mages and spies of the Harpers would focus on sabotage and intelligence-gathering, as well as relaying messages between the various allied units. Lastly, the metallic dragons and the giants aboard Skyreach Castle would engage the chromatic dragons in the air.

The heroes, meanwhile, would take a small force (consisting of Lords’ Alliance soldiers, a dwarven priest from the Order of the Gauntlet, a Harper spy, some elven scouts from the Emerald Enclave, and two Zhent thugs posing as Roscoe’s bodyguards) and infiltrate the tunnels beneath the well in order to stop Severin from completing the ritual that would bring Tiamat to Faerûn. If they came across the Draakhorn in the process, they were to put a stop to its noise as well.

After months of preparation and marching, the alliances’ forces were arrayed on the battlefield. On the eve of battle, Keo communed with nature in order to locate the tunnel entrances on the mountainside. Based on intelligence reports, he knew which ones were heavily used by the cult already. He located one on the south side of the mountain that hadn’t come up in the reports. The heroes decided to check it out.

The next day, as the battle commenced, Keo turned himself and his allies into clouds of mist, and together they sped up the southern slopes of the mountain until they found the tunnel entrance he’d sensed. There didn’t appear to be any recent activity here: no path or even any tracks. Only bats inhabited the cave. After shedding their cloud forms, the heroes and their followers proceeded inside, with the stealthy Roscoe leading the way.

At length, the group came to an intersection. It appeared to have been blocked at one point, but something had cleared most of the rubble away, except for a shallow wall still blocking the eastern corridor. Roscoe pushed on down the straight and came out into a sinkhole filled with dragon bones. He could see dragons of all colors battling in the skies far above, but he could see nothing of what else lay in the caldera, as the pit was a good 30 feet deep.

Reporting back to the others, they decided not to risk exposure in the caldera and dug out the side passage. This opened onto a disused corridor that led to several chambers and intersections lit by lamps and torches. Roscoe scouted ahead, finding several luxuriously decorated rooms that appeared to be where the rebel Red Wizards resided. He also found a large chamber containing several guard drakes fighting over hunks of meat that were best left unidentified.

The group pushed on through the Red Wizards’ rooms and came to an intersection along a wide, curving corridor. They could hear a patrol moving about and hid out of view as it went past. Shortly after, some cultists came down from the left and went into nearby chambers and brought out a bunch of prisoners. As they hauled them back up the way they’d came, the heroes decided it was time to act.

Charging out into the corridor, the heroes laid into the cultists. A few survived long enough to yell for reinforcements. One of Roscoe’s bodyguards accidentally shot one of the prisoners in the process. After all the reinforcements had been dealt with, the heroes ushered the freed prisoners back the way they’d came into the disused tunnel.

There, the heroes and their squad paused to bind their wounds and catch their breath before heading back into the tunnels once more …

The Frozen Castle

In which our heroes journey to a remote glacier to recover Skyreach Castle.

Note: This recap covers two sessions.

Upon returning to Waterdeep, the heroes learned that agents of the Cult of the Dragon had attempted to reclaim Skyreach Castle. They failed, but the attack resulted in the castle crashing into a glacier north of the Spine of the World mountains. The council wished to see if it would be possible to get the castle flying again so it could be used in the assault on the Well of Dragons (and afterwards for recovering the treasure hoarded there).

The heroes agreed to go and investigate. Before they left, a number of councillors took them aside and gave them special information:

  • Delaan told Keo about a werebear friend of his, Dalo, who lived on a peak jutting out of the glacier. He could give them the lay of the land. Delaan also gave Keo directions on how to find the glacier.
  • Ambassador Brawnanvil told Flint about some dwarves struggling to survive on the glacier. The mining community of Mkoz was under the thumb of a group of frost giants, who forced the dwarves to pay heavy tithes for access to the outside world and who occasionally stirred up a nearby orc tribe to help keep the dwarves in their place. Brawnanvil suggested that the dwarves would be able to get the castle flying again. He was adamant that Flint should take all steps to avoid letting the castle fall back into the hands of the giants.
  • Zelenn the White told the group of a wizard named Allac who was studying a tribe of yetis on the glacier. He was a strong enough mage to have the power to get the castle flying again, and his yetis could crew it, if needed.

Armed with that information, the PCs used the Harper teleportation network to reach Everlund, and then Keo wind walked them all through the mountains.

They headed for Dalo’s cave first. The werebear told them about the various factions and their relationships. He also told them about some thermal vents east of Uldoveld, the frost giants’ steading. Lastly, he informed them that he’d seen a white dragon flying overhead a few times, scouting out the glacier.

After resting in Dalo’s primitive accommodations, the heroes to make a circuit of the glacier, starting with Skyreach Castle itself. Shrouded in fog, the castle took some finding. They discovered that most of the lower courtyard was crushed in the crash, but the iceberg core and the upper courtyard were still intact (with the exception of the crumbling tower that the vampires had been nesting in). The only problem was that it was now frozen solid into the iceberg and would need to be dug out.

The heroes proceeded north, through the thermal vent area (which they were forced to avoid due to a territorial polar bear) up to the yetis’ hills. There they discovered that Allac, who looked much like a yeti himself, was a little unhinged from his long isolation. He was happy to help but only if they dealt with the orcs who were hunting his yetis first.

Next up came the dwarves of Mkoz. They were reluctant to let anyone inside until the heroes showed them their writ from the council and Flint dropped Ambassador Brawnanvil’s name into the conversation. The dwarves said they would be able to dig out the castle and get it flying again, but only if the heroes killed or drove off the giants first.

Feeling somewhat discouraged by all the tit-for-tat that was going on, the heroes decided to skip the orcs and head straight to the giants. As they approached the great hall of Uldoveld, they were met by a friendly storm giant named Oromis. He took an instant liking to them and offered to help them get an audience with Jarl Brunvild, the ruler of the frost giants on the glacier.

Brunvild was impressed with how the heroes presented themselves and offered them a chance to prove themselves worthy by completing one of three tasks: stealing a remorhaz egg, wrestling a giant, or going on a spirit journey. The heroes all readily agreed to the last option and partook of the giants’ spirit mead.

Stripping of their weapons and armor and cold weather gear, the drunken heroes wandered out onto the ice, warmed from within by the mead. Keo saw a vision of the frost giants’ god, Thrym, cutting up the ice with his giant ice axe. A small shard fell near Keo’s feet and he took it back to show Brunvild. Skie encountered Pindalpau-pau, the Mother of Reindeer, and returned with a distinctive frost-burn scar resembling the ancient Giant rune meaning “birth”. Flint and Roscoe, meanwhile, encountered an ancient yet born on a litter by ice toads. In the yeti’s lap was a snow fox pup. A voice in their heads told them a little of the history of Ostoria and the giants’ ancient war against the dragons and informed them that they both had fragments of the soul of a long-dead giant warrior named Salakko inside them.

When Brunvild heard these stories, he was most impressed and declared the heroes honorary giants and agreed to help restore Skyreach Castle. Once it was back in the air, he and his giants, along with Blagothkus and his ogre guards, would aid in the assault on the Well of Dragons!

First, though, the castle had to be dug out of the ice. While the ogres and other giants were busy doing that, Blagothkus had to use his magic to restore the castle’s ability to fly. While this was going on, agents of the Cult of the Dragon stirred up the orcs and convinced them to rebel against the frost giants. Just as the repairs were nearly finished, a horde of orcs showed up and attacked!

While the heroes helped defend the castle, who should show up but Talis, the new white wyrmspeaker, alive and still riding on Cloudchaser’s back! She brought with her a small but deadly strike force of cultists, backed up by a flight of five young red dragons who kept the giants busy while she focused her attention on the heroes.

After finishing off a group of orcs that had stormed up into the upper courtyard, the heroes fled for cover in the old kobold servants’ quarters. They weren’t safe there for long, however, as Cloudchaser flew down and tore a huge chunk in the roof with his teeth and claws. The heroes fought a bitter fight against Talis and her minions, but in the end the orcs and cultists were all slaughtered and Talis and the dragons were driven off. A few frost giants and ogres lost their lives in the fight, but the heroes had succeeded in getting the castle flying again.

Blagothkus gratefully flew the heroes back to Waterdeep, then departed again, saying he and his crew were going to see if they could recruit any other giants before meeting the alliances’ armies at the Well of Dragons!

Xonthal’s Tower

In which our heroes explore Xonthal’s tower.

Note: This recap covers several sessions.

After taking another wrong turn in the maze, the group came across a long corridor lined with gigantic flowers, each one with a pearl in the center of it. Roscoe couldn’t help himself and tried to grab one, only to have the flowers animate and attack! The heroes ran away only to find themselves turned around and coming right back to the garden again. They wisely chose to take one out from a safe distance and then Flint used mage hand to pick up the pearl. This allowed them to return to the sundial.

By this time, Skie had had enough of this place. In frustration, she climbed up on the sundial only to find herself getting sucked down inside. The others were astonished but quickly followed suit. They all found themselves being unceremoniously dumped around yet another sundial (or was it the same one?). This time, however, there were eight shadows, one pointing to each of the eight paths.

Again, Skie was not having any of it. She looked over the hedge for the direction of the tower and headed straight for it, cutting her way through the hedge in the process. She disappeared through the hedge. When she didn’t reappear, the others followed again, and they were all amazed to find themselves standing at the base of the tower!

Looking back, they could see a straight path leading past the sundial and back out to the village. They had solved the maze! That said, there still didn’t seem to be any way inside the tower. Unless the teleportation circle on the ground in front of them was the way. They stepped onto it as a group and almost immediately were transported into an antechamber. Two balconies overlooked a room containing a long table. A dead cultist lay on the floor. A panel covered in symbols was set into the wall behind them.

Roscoe had Keo lift him up so he could see over the edges of the balconies. Nothing of interest was up there, so the curious halfling took a good look at the symbols on the panel instead. Since there were no stairs, the group figured they would have to teleport around the tower. Roscoe suggested trying the star symbol first, as it probably indicated an observatory of some kind, which would most likely be at the top of the tower, where the balcony was.

Roscoe turned out to be correct! As the group examined the observatory, a group of cultists came through a door leading out onto the balcony and attacked! One appeared to be the leader, a mage of sorts, but he was quickly taken down by the heroes’ combined might. But one of his underlings grabbed an hourglass-shaped device from his leader’s body and made a dash for the teleport pad, vanishing before the heroes could stop him.

They’d seen which symbol he’d pressed and followed, finding themselves in a shrine of sorts, with an altar in the center of the room with the skeletal arms of a dragon attached to it. There were numerous cultists in the room, the walls of which were adorned with pictures of skeletal dragons.

Keo used his magic to paralyze the cultist with the hourglass key and quickly retrieved it, but not before one of the other cultists had animated the skeletal arms, which swiped at him as he came within reach.

The heroes retreated back to the teleport pad and went back to the antechamber, where they figured out that they had to press the hourglass device to the teleport pad in order to make it work. They found themselves in a dungeon corridor in which the bodies of several cultists lay dead. There was also a bit of blood leading down a side corridor.

Flint turned Roscoe invisible and the halfling crept down the corridor. At the end, he found a laboratory guarded by several elemental beings in plate armor. On a table behind them stood a small chest. Unable to resist, he crept past the guardians, as silent as a mouse, and managed to lift the chest without making a sound. He crept back to the others. Inside the chest were some scrolls of protection that would help them against the elementals.

As it happened, the scrolls didn’t work all that well, as the group still ended up having to fight their way past the elementals. Luckily, there was a way out near the way in, and the elementals didn’t pursue them out of the room they guarded.

Beyond the lab, there was another side passage leading to a closed door and some stairs leading down. Roscoe went and listened at the door. Hearing a whirling sound, he decided to leave it for now and crept down the stairs instead. He found himself staring at a stone path that led out into a black, starry void. Several doors stood on the edge of the path, with no walls to support them.

Feeling a bit disturbed, Roscoe reported back to the others. They decided to ignore a side passage at the top of the stairs and head down to the first door at the bottom. This door opened into a library. Flint was overjoyed and wanted to give it a good once over. The others agreed. Roscoe found a fake book on the bottom shelf at the back of the room and pulled on it, revealing a secret door in the bookshelf that opened into another room containing a magic view screen showing nothing but flames … before Roscoe could take a closer look, however, hundreds of sheets of parchment stacked neatly by a desk whirled up into the air, forming into swarms of paper birds that proceeded to attack the heroes!

As the paper swarms seemed endless, the heroes retreated out into the strange corridor, finding to their great relief that the swarms did not follow them. Roscoe went to find out what was at the other end of the path through the void. As he proceeded down, he had to dodge some little meteors that went streaking past him suddenly. At the far end, he found another door, a passage to the left leading to a second door, and a passage to the right that actually had walls and a ceiling!

As the heroes proceeded cautiously down the path, Skie was hit by meteors and knocked off the path. In a flash, she disappeared into the void! Unbeknownst to her stunned companions, she soon found herself falling through the ceiling into a room that appeared to be a private study. Picking herself up, she went for a door in the wall, which opened up in the bookshelf, ten feet off the floor of the library!

Hearing Skie call from the still-open library door, the others hurried back across the treacherous path to find their friend still alive! What a strange place this was!

This time they all managed to get across the path safely. Roscoe peeked through the door directly ahead and found it to be an empty storage cupboard. Creeping up the normal passage to the right, the heroes discovered an efreeti playing a game by himself in the middle of a closed room. Keo noticed a line of salt along the floor at the door and surmised that the genie was trapped within.

The group decided not to bother the efreeti and went to the other door, which opened into an hourglass-shaped room with two giant hourglasses in it. Roscoe could see the glint of gems within the sand in the hourglasses. More importantly, though, they had found the defector, Iskander! Or at least what was left of him. He appeared to be dead of wounds he’d suffered at the hands of his fellow cultists and the elemental guardians at the other end of the dungeon. In his cold hand was clutched the blue dragon mask!

Flint took the mask and looked it over. He then cast detect magic and was surprised to pick up a number of magic auras from the gems inside the hourglasses! Smashing the glass from a safe distance, the heroes proceeded to sift through the spilled sand to pick out the magic gems. After Flint had inspected them, he discovered that each one could be used to teleport a short distance once. After its power was used, the gem would disappear. What an interesting find!

Before departing the dungeon, the heroes looted the library, finding some valuable books on various subjects, and checked out the side door with the whirling sound coming from the other side. There was another lab on the other side, with a great whirlwind spinning around in the middle of the room, several gems whirling around within it.

Once again, Roscoe couldn’t help himself and tried to catch a gem. He actually managed it a few times before merely knocking one out of the whirlwind. As it shattered, it summoned an angry earth elemental! Before they group knew it, two more gems had smashed, and they were faced with an air elemental and a fire elemental as well! They retreated, leaving the earth and fire elementals to duke it out with each other while they dealt with just the air elemental.

The heroes then decided it would be a good idea to rest before heading back into the upper levels of the tower. Nothing came to bother them in this strange, extra-dimensional space. Once they were refreshed, they made a mad dash past the elemental guardians and made it safely back to the teleport pad.

They battled their way through the tower only to find a blue dragon waiting for them outside. It turned out to be none other than Lennithon, the blue dragon that had assisted the cult in its raid on the town of Greenest! The dragon wanted them to hand over the blue mask, which Flint had determined was an elaborate fake. Not wanting to let the dragon know that they knew it was a fake (because they weren’t sure if it knew), they refused to hand it over at first. They tried to flee, but the remaining cultists and the dragon stopped them.

Eventually they agreed to hand the mask over to the dragon and then Keo turned everyone into mist and they fled through the maze, past the burning ashes of the village, and back out over the wilderness to Loudwater, where they took the secret Harper teleportation circle back to Waterdeep.

There they reported to the council that they had defeated the cultists in the tower but had been unable to take it because of the dragon. They also told them how the mask had been a fake. The factions were all rather disappointed by this turn of events.

 

Lost in the Maze

Sometime after the attack on Waterdeep, Roscoe received a flying snake with a note from another agent of the Zhentarim. Within the note was a letter from a member of the Cult of the Dragon named Iskander, who claimed to want to defect with the blue dragon mask from a place called Xonthal’s Tower. Roscoe showed the letter to his friends. They took it to the council.

Everyone seemed to be of one accord: It was most likely a trap, but the risk was worth it, especially if the heroes could secure the tower for the alliance. Given its relative proximity to the Well of Dragons, the alliance would like to use it in the coming assault on the cult.

The heroes agreed to go investigate. Once again taking advantage of the Harpers’ secret teleportation network, the heroes zipped to Loudwater, then Keo turned them all into clouds and they wind-walked the rest of the way to the village of Xonthal’s Tower.

In the village, they learned that the maze surrounding the tower was magical and quite probably extradimensional. It was designed to keep people out but was also the only way to gain access to the interior of the tower. As the heroes stood at the entrance, gazing inside, they saw a figure up on a balcony near the top of the tower. Using magic to amplify his voice, the figure waved something that could have been the blue dragon mask and yelled out to find him in the dungeon below, accessible only with an hourglass-shaped key. Another figure appeared on the balcony and attacked the first but was ultimately thrown off the balcony. The first figure ran back inside.

Realizing they didn’t have time to dawdle, the heroes climbed over the fence the villagers had erected in front of the maze entrance to keep children and animals out and proceeded down the gently curving pathway. They soon came to an intersection with a sundial at its center. Even though the sun was setting to the west, the sundial cast a shadow straight ahead.

For some reason, they chose to turn around and go back the way they’d come. Instead of ending up back at the entrance, they instead encountered a dao disguised as a man, who invited them to join him for tea in a pagoda perched on a rock in the middle of a pond. The dao attempted to trap them with a wall of stone and poison them with drakeswort fumes, but the heroes resisted. After defeating the earth genie, they found a gem inside its tea pot.

Moving on, they returned to the same sundial (or an identical one). This time they decided to take the path towards which the shadow was pointing. After a short while, they came to another intersection with a sundial in the middle (or was it the same one?), only this time there were two shadows, pointing at right angles to each other!

Taking a path seemingly at random, the heroes came across a large, circular pool with another gem floating above its center. As Flint used his mage hand to collect the gem, four overgrown lobster-like monsters – which the wizard recognized as chuuls – emerged from the water to attack. As Flint and the others grappled with the creatures’ massive claws and paralyzing tentacles, the wizard remembered that the creatures liked magic items. He took out Dragongleam, the magic spear the party had found in Talis’ hunting lodge but had never used, and commanded it to shed light before tossing it into the pool. Sure enough, the chuuls all dove back into the water (with the exception of one that Keo had confused), and the heroes were free to escape with the captured gem.

This brought them back to the sundial with two shadows, although it may have been a different one. It was hard to tell, as the maze was extremely disorienting. Although they could almost always see Xonthal’s tower rising above the hedge walls, it never seemed to stay in one place. Marking their passage through the maze proved futile as well, as their markings either disappeared or the maze never allowed them to return to the same place twice. It was all thoroughly confusing.

The next path they took brought them to a large field full of boulders. To one side was a sheep pen and an oversized cottage. In the middle of the field were some sheep being tended by two cyclopes. All of the creatures seemed frozen in time but they came to life as soon as the heroes entered the area. The cyclopes played some kind of game and the loser came towards the heroes, picking up a massive boulder along the way. Instead of hurling it at the heroes, however, it turned and tossed it most of the way down the field. Both cyclopes then looked at the heroes expectantly. Keo approached and spoke to the cyclops in Giant, learning that they were expected to toss a boulder of their own further than the one the cyclops had tossed.

After some discussion of options, Flint ended up using stone shape to transform a boulder into pumice. Skie was then able to hurl it with enough force that it ended up bouncing past the cyclopes’ boulder, which promptly split open, revealing another gem inside. Roscoe took the gem and the group left.

They came back to the sundial with two shadows (or another one just like it). This time they took the path between the two shadows, which led them straight to an intersection with a sundial with three shadows! These shadows formed a Y shape. They chose to take the path leading between the two arms of the Y, which brought them to a fourth sundial. This one had four shadows, and as they approached it, the shadows began to swirl faster and faster and grew smaller and smaller until they disappeared within the center of the sundial.

Unsure of how to proceed, the heroes took another path at random, which led them to a carpeted area with bits of armor strewn all about and several suits of plate armor on pedestals to either side.

As the heroes entered, two of the suits came to life and attacked. As the battle progressed, the heroes discovered that each time they destroyed one suit of armor, two more animated. Once all six full suits animated, bits and pieces from the ground started coming together to form more suits.

Although a gem had rolled out of the first suit they’d destroyed, it took the heroes a while to battle their way through to the other end. Flint even went down at one point, surrounded by suits. They stopped attacking him once he was down, though, and he managed to stay alive long enough for his companions to rescue him by hooking him with a grappling hook and pulling him out from between the suits of armor.

After reviving Flint, they pressed on and returned to the sundial with the swirling shadows (or another one just like the first). Stumped, they slumped to the ground to catch their breath and have a think.

The Cult Strikes Back

In which the Cult of the Dragon attempts to assassinate our heroes.

As the heroes left the palace after another council meeting, they were approached by two pallid humans in dark robes. Up close, Flint and Roscoe noticed occult symbols stitched into their garments. The men explained that their master, one Lord Volmer, wished to have an audience with them at their earliest convenience. He would await their arrival in his tent, situated on the fields north of the city.

The heroes agreed to visit with the lord, though they chose not to go immediately. They took care of a few errands first and then headed through the Field Ward and out the North Gate, where they discovered a large tent in the Calishite style. The two robed men who had spoken with them previously stood at attention outside the entrance.

Using the hubbub of people coming and going on the road as cover, Flint cast invisibility on Roscoe, and the sneaky halfling crept around the tent and then attempted to slip underneath the canvas at the back. Much to his surprise, he found himself coming out the other side near the guards. It was a magic tent! A fact that Flint confirmed after casting detect magic as a ritual.

Suspicious, the heroes nevertheless walked up to the guards, who ushered them inside. They were somewhat taken aback to find that the interior of the tent was larger than its exterior suggested. There even seemed to be multiple rooms just out of sight. The main room, however, was sumptuously decorated. A robed and goateed man appeared out of a side room and welcomed them.

The man introduced himself as Lord Volmer. He offered them food and drink, delivered by unseen hands. The heroes demurred, remembering what had happened to them the last time they had accepted food from strangers (see their adventures on Oyaviggaton).

Lord Volmer claimed to represent interested parties who wished to see the heroes succeed in preventing Tiamat from entering Faerûn. He explained that she had once ruled Avernus, the first layer of the Nine Hells, and that her successor, Zariel, wished for her to be gone. To that end, her devils were aiding the renegade Red Wizards of the Thayan Resurrection to bring about the cult’s plans. Another former ruler of Avernus, Bel, was keen to thwart Tiamat’s plan, however. He was willing to lend infernal aid to the alliance’s cause via the Red Wizards still loyal to Szass Tam. Lord Volmer was their representative. He offered the heroes their hearts’ desires in return for accepting the devils’ aid.

The heroes hesitated. Lord Volmer offered to give them a tenday to think it over. Thanking him for his generosity, the heroes departed and headed back into the city.

As they made their way through the jumbled streets of Field Ward, they spotted a familiar face: Barakis, the tiefling dragon cultist from the caravan! He stood, leaning against a well, his arms folded across his chest. When he spotted them, he stepped forward, a smirk on his face. “Hello, friends!” he called. “Severin sends his regards!”

And with that, a whole flight of red dragons thundered overhead and the Field Ward went up in flames. As chaos ensued, a pair of insectoid fiends appeared at either end of the street, wicked-looking tridents held in their pincers. Clouds of poisonous gases billowed out of their mouths and people all around them began to choke to death. Keo recognized them as mezzoloths, fiendish mercenaries with thick carapaces and many immunities and resistances. To top it off, two tattooed Red Wizards began casting spells from open windows to either side of the street. The heroes had been ambushed!

In the chaos that followed, Keo polymorphed Barakis into a field mouse, and the shocked cultist crawled into the well to hide. Keo then turned into a spirit bear (air elemental) to get at the male wizard on an upper floor, but the wizard banished him to a demiplane and escaped. Flint managed to rescue a few people by leading them into a warehouse, but he soon fell to the wizards’ spells and the choking fumes of the mezzoloths.

Roscoe and Skie had their work cut out for them then. Skie tried to sneak up on the female wizard, but she had powerful enchantment magics and was using a poor family as human shields. She forced Skie to attack the father and one of the children, killing them both. Roscoe spent much of his time trying to keep Flint from dying, only to have to fight Barakis when he climbed back out of the well, his polymorphing having worn off when Keo was banished to another plane.

To make matters worse, a young red dragon swooped overhead, lighting the warehouse on fire. The heroes attacked it from range and it flew off down the street. Eventually Keo returned and went to help his comrades. He wished that Imsa had not chosen to end her apprenticeship and head back to Goldenfields. The group could have really used her healing magic at this time!

In the end, all four heroes remained alive. The mezzoloths were both defeated, sent back to the lower plane from which they’d been summoned. Barakis lay dead in the street, amidst the bodies of all the innocent bystanders who’d choked to death. The female Red Wizard also lay dead in the house, but the male wizard had teleported away. Skie had given the bereaved mother and her surviving child a bag of gold coins as a way of saying sorry before sending them on their way.

As the heroes later learned, the attack on the Field Ward had been a distraction, as had other attacks around the city, all designed to draw resources away from the cult’s main goals: assassinate the heroes and reclaim the black dragon mask. While the cult had failed on both counts, the cost was high: the Field Ward was now a smoking ruin, and most of its inhabitants were dead.