To the Well of Dragons

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

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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 …

Oyaviggaton

In which our heroes face off against Arauthator in his iceberg lair and live to tell the tale!

Note: This recap covers two sessions.

Part I: Against the Dragon
When it was clear that the ice toads weren’t going to stop them, the heroes collected their things, jury-rigged some crampons for their feet, and ventured out into the dragon’s lair.

Following a wide, circular tunnel that sloped up and down at odd intervals, they snuck past a chamber full of kobolds then came to a vast cavern filled with fog, in which loomed large shapes. Eventually they found themselves in an empty cave with a ramp sloping up out of the fog.

Flint cast invisibility on Roscoe so he could scout ahead unseen (as well as telepathic bond on the group so they could all stay in touch). Roscoe spotted a blue-skinned troll lurking in an alcove at the top of the ramp. Sneaking past, he entered another cave containing a large tent that looked like it would have been more at home in the deserts of Calimshan.

Slipping around to the back of the tent, Roscoe found another ramp sloping down into darkness. Creeping down, he found several makeshift bookshelves containing a number of books and scrolls that seemingly made his skin crawl just to look at them. The opening of a large chute yawned in the floor to the west.

Climbing back up to the tent, he pulled the makeshift walls apart just enough to peek through. Inside, he could see a tiefling sitting at a desk, with two nervous-looking kobolds in attendance. A brazier filled with warm coals gave off enough light and heat to make the interior quite pleasant. Although her back was to him, Roscoe was sure that the tiefling was the missing Brotherhood mage, Maccath!

Having telepathically reported his findings to the group as he went along, Roscoe waited for the others to come up with a plan. They rushed up the ramp and quickly dispatched the blue-skinned troll. As they rushed into the tent, they surprised the kobolds, who panicked and made a run for it, only to be swiftly cut down as well.

Maccath looked up at her would-be rescuers with disinterest. “Have you come to rescue me or kill me? Not that it makes much difference …”

The heroes quickly concluded from the tiefling’s demeanor that she was under some kind of spell. Keo dispelled it and suddenly Maccath came to herself. After bringing everyone up to speed on her activities during her years of captivity, Maccath pointed out that they’d have no hope of getting away from the iceberg with the dragon still present. Her absence would be noticed in due course and the dragon would hunt them down and kill them while they were out on the ice. The only real option would be to strike the dragon hard and fast and deal him a big enough blow – to his ego, if not his body – that he’d spend months sulking in one of his other lairs.

Maccath lent Skie her ring of cold resistance and let Flint rifle through the scrolls in the scriptorium below. After spending a bit too long hatching a plan for Maccath’s liking, the heroes eventually tied some rope together, tossed it down the chute, drank a few potions, cast a few preparatory spells, and then hastened down into the frigid darkness.

Arauthator somehow knew they were coming and was lurking in a pool at the western end of his lair, only his head showing above the slushy water. The heroes found themselves on an icy ledge, encrusted with coins and gems frozen into the walls and floor.

As you might expect, a fierce battle ensued. Spells were slung, dragon-slaying arrows and magic axes were hurled. Icy walls went up and fiery walls brought them down. Freezing fog froze lungs and icy breath froze flesh. Wings beat, tails slapped, claws ripped. Two aquatic trolls appeared and ripped poor Imsa to shreds before they could be stopped. Eventually, though, the dragon fled in a fury, and the heroes breathed sighs of relief.

Part 2: Looting the Dragon’s Lair
With the dragon dead, and Imsa’s body on ice, Flint cast detect magic and found two magic rings and a magic amulet. They dug those out of the ice, along with some gems and a fancy-looking eyepatch, and then climbed back up to the scriptorium. Maccath proceeded to collect all the Brotherhood’s stolen tomes and stuffed them into Flint’s magic bag.

They hurried back the way they’d came and climbed up the shaft to find themselves emerging in the Ice Hunter shaman’s hut. She was surprised to see them but made no attempt to stop them as they went back out into the snow and trudged over to the icy stairs, where Flint shot a fire bolt into the sky as a flare. Moments later, Desharra showed up with her griffons. They informed her that they’d chased away the dragon and found the person they were looking for. However, they just had a few more things to do before they’d be ready to leave.

Trudging back to the Ice Hunter village, they found the chieftain and informed him that they’d driven off the dragon. The Ice Hunters were ecstatic and, after a short celebration, began the arduous process of packing up their village. They intended to slip away into the depths of the Sea of Moving Ice, where they hoped the dragon would never find them again. Maccath reckoned they’d be OK. It was unlikely Arauthator would bother tracking them down, since they had no real contact with the outside world and thus would not be spreading word of his humiliating defeat.

After this, the heroes descended back down into Arauthator’s lair and sought out the ice toads. Maccath called for Marfulb, the toads’ leader, who came and spoke with Flint at length about Arauthator’s life. As the others began to get bored, Roscoe asked the ice toad if there was any more treasure in the lair. Marfulb explained that it depended on what he considered treasure. Some of the giants on display in the Hall of Giants, for instance, still wore some giant-sized jewelry. But there was also a chest of coins and jewels sitting on the deck of a rebuilt longship in the other trophy hall, where Arauthator also displayed his more bestial conquests: behirs, remorhazes, and abominable yetis.

Thanking Marfulb, the heroes retreated. Not wanting to tangle with the ice toads, they had Maccath guide them through the lair’s central chambers. As they attempted to pass another chute leading down into the caverns below, Keo’s weight dislodged part of the icy wall, which knocked Roscoe down the chute. They were able to fish him back up without too much trouble, though.

They then proceeded into the Trophy Hall, past all the enormous frozen corpses of monsters and onto the deck of the longship, which Skie could tell had been incorrectly rebuilt, though it didn’t look like too bad a job. Sure enough, there was an option chest of treasure. Flint opened his magic bag while Roscoe made to dump the contents into it.

As soon as the halfling’s hands touched the treasure, though, red light flared in the fog and the cracking of ice heralded the awakening of one of the remorhaz corpses! It appeared that Arauthator had set up some kind of trap! The remorhaz shrieked and attacked the would-be thieves. Roscoe delivered multiple nasty stabs, while Skie chucked her axe and Flint slung his spells. Keo changed into bear form and charged in, only to find that every bite was painful as the remorhaz was extremely hot! It got him up in its mouth and attempted to swallow him, at one point forcing him to revert to his normal form, but in the end the monster was slain (for the second time?) and the hard-won loot theirs!

Desharra agreed to fly the group straight to Luskan, where they returned Maccath and the stolen books to the Brotherhood. Once there, Keo arranged to have a gentle repose spell cast on Imsa’s remains, in order to buy himself more time to gather the materials he needed to bring her back to life.

And now that Maccath was safely back at home, she was happy to answer the heroes’ questions about the draakhorn. As it so happened, the horn had once been in Arauthator’s lair, but some humans in cultist garb had showed up sometime in the past year and had taken it away. It was an ancient relic that Tiamat had given to the chromatic dragons in their wars against the giants. There had once been coded blasts that could be used to send messages, but these were lost to the ages. She was not sure what the cult was doing with it now.

As the heroes were making ready to depart, Cashaan the Red, informed them that, in return for their help in rescuing Maccath and recovering the items Arauthator had stolen, the Arcane Brotherhood would be happy to join the coalition against the Cult of the Dragon! The heroes took this good news with them back through the magic portal to Waterdeep.

Keo wasted no time in using a sapphire he’d taken from the dragon’s hoard to pay for various rare oils and unguents he needed for the reincarnation spell. Once all was ready, he called upon the ancient magic and created a new body for Imsa’s spirit to inhabit. As the body, which was that of a strongheart halfling, came to life, its skin and hair rapidly changed to green. It would appear that whatever had caused this condition of hers was not merely physical! Keo resolved to get to the bottom of it somehow. In the meantime, he would have to help Imsa come to terms with the shock of finding herself in a completely different body.

Second Council of Waterdeep
The heroes soon learned that a political shakeup had occurred in their absence: the Masked Lords of Waterdeep had dumped Lord Neverember and appointed Lady Silverhand as the new Open Lord of Waterdeep in his place! This was quite the coup, and while not everyone was happy with it, many people were breathing a sigh of relief.

And it was Lady Laeral who directed the second session of the Council of Waterdeep. A rather glum-looking Lord Neverember sat to her right, along with Zelenn the White from the Arcane Brotherhood. Dagult had clearly pulled some strings to get his old friend to be the mages’ representative. Her presence on the council was welcomed by everyone except Ontharr Frume, who was not happy because the Brotherhood did not police its members. “Their leader is a blinking necromancer, for gods’ sake!” he spluttered. Everyone else ignored him.

As the council meeting got underway and the various delegates reported on cult activity in their respective territories, it became apparent that the cult was increasing its raids. When it got to be Delaan Winterhound’s turn to speak, the half-elf began to explain that the Enclave was investigating reports of dragon raids in the Misty Forest, only to be rudely interrupted by King Melandrach, who insisted that the raids had been dealt with by increased patrols and improved fortifications.

Lady Laeral then introduced a familiar face: Elia, the Turami noblewoman and friend of Lady Haventree whom the heroes had met at the first Council Quiet some months ago. Much to everyone’s surprise, she revealed herself to be, in truth, a silver dragon named Otaaryliakkarnos. She informed the council that the metallic dragons of the Sword Coast were arranging a council of their own. She recommended that the council send representatives, and so, of course, the heroes were chosen.

After the meeting, Delaan approached the heroes privately and told them more about what was happening in the Misty Forest. King Melandrach’s own son, Prince Alagarthas, was also convinced that something sinister was going on, for there were reports from survivors that the dragon was being controlled by a humanoid, possibly even one of the cult’s wyrmspeakers! If the heroes wished to investigate further, Delaan suggested they head to the elven village of Altand first, as it had mysteriously survived intact, whereas all the other raided villages had been destroyed.

The heroes agreed that it would be worth investigating. However, they decided that it might be worth talking to the metallic dragons first, and so agreed to attend the dragons’ council with Elia (aka “Otaaryliakkarnos”).

To the Serpent Hills

Waterdeep
As the heroes settled back into the safehouse in the North Ward, Leosin told them they’d have a few days to kill while the various members of the Council Quiet could get organized for a formal debriefing. During that time, Flint used his magic to identify the properties of both the magic sword and the dragon mask they’d salvaged from Rezmir’s ashes. Both items were extremely powerful, and no one in the party felt particularly comfortable handling them, let alone attuning to them. They all agreed to hand them over to Lady Laeral.

On the way to the meeting, Keo spotted a cloaked figure watching them from some distance ahead. When the figure spotted him looking in his direction, it turned and pushed off into the crowd. Keo caught a glimpse of a fiendish tail swishing out from under the cloak. His thoughts turned immediately to Barakis, the tiefling cultist that had tried to murder him several times during the caravan journey. Signalling to his companions, Keo followed the tiefling all the way down the city’s main thoroughfare and into a side court known as Virgin’s Square.

Here, amidst a crowded night market, the heroes discovered that the figure was indeed Barakis! Keo also spotted Umara, the cultist guard who’d accused him of murdering one of her companions, lurking nearby, pretending to examine a merchant’s wares while keeping an eye on the party.

Barakis demanded that the heroes give him the maks they’d stolen from Rezmir. If they refused, everyone in the square would die. The heroes flatly refused. A fight ensued. Barakis ordered his men, dispersed among the crowd, to start their slaughter. In the end, five cultists and twenty innocent bystanders lay dead. Flint had inadvertently set fire to a number of stalls, and Barakis had managed to escape in the confusion. Though the city guards detained the heroes for questioning, word of the attack quickly reached Leosin’s ears and he was able to arrange their release.

When the heroes finally reached the Yawning Portal Inn, the faction leaders were all eager to learn more about the attack. Everyone agreed that the mask seemed particularly important and that it should be kept hidden away somewhere. If the heroes kept it, as Roscoe desired, the cultists would be constantly attacking them in order to get it back. In the end, Roscoe reluctantly agreed to go along with the rest of the party’s wishes and agreed to hand it over to Lady Laeral for safekeeping. Laeral also offered to take the sentient sword off their hands in exchange for some other magic items.

The heroes then gave a full report on their activities from the Mere of Dead Men through to Skyreach Castle. The leaders were particularly impressed that the party had not only befriended a cloud giant but had also bested an adult white dragon!

Leosin reported that the Harpers’ interrogation of Azbara Jos had not been particularly fruitful, unfortunately, although they had been able to get him to confirm that Rath Modar was the leader of his splinter sect, known as the Thayan Resurrection, and that they had allied with the Cult of the Dragon in hopes that Tiamat would repay them by helping overthrow Szass Tam.

Downtime
After the debrief, the heroes found themselves with some free time. With winter drawing near, and having suffered the loss of both Skyreach Castle and the treasure that had been aboard it, the cult and its leaders went to ground. Lady Remallia Haventree, the elven High Harper, invited the heroes over to her manor for dinner, where she introduced them to her husband, Lord Arthagast Ulbrinter. An influential noble in the city (and rumored to be one of the city’s Masked Lords), Ulbrinter expressed his desire to “wine and dine” the heroes among the city’s elite circles in order to drum up support for their cause.

Keo politely declined, opting to travel with Delaan Winterhound to Goldenfields, where he spent some time catching up with Imsa and reverse-engineered the magical cult emblem he’d claimed from Rezmir’s ashes. He was able to craft himself a new one in the form of the Emerald Enclave insignia. Looping it onto a large leather thong so it would still fit around his neck while in bear form, he was pleased to find that it magically enhanced his teeth and claws as he’d hoped it would.

As Imsa was just in the process of concluding her initial druidic training, she was able to rejoin Keo as his apprentice and accompany him back to Waterdeep. Before doing so, however, the goliath spent some time training to improve his powers of observation with Emerald Enclave operatives. [DM note: I am intending to give the PCs each a bonus feat at some point, and Keo’s player has chosen to take Observant.]

Meanwhile, Skie met with Lady Laeral in private to inform her that Mara had perished at the hands of her former friend Talis and that she, Mara’s ancestor, had taken possession of her body. She confirmed her desire to continue Mara’s mission and pledged her allegiance to the Lords’ Alliance. She then took a fast ship down the coast to Baldur’s Gate to break the news to Mara’s family. She spent the rest of her downtime training with Lords’ Alliance operatives upon returning to Waterdeep. [DM note: Skie’s player hasn’t yet decided which feat she’d like to take.]

Flint spent a good deal of his downtime copying spells from the spellbooks he’d acquired on his adventures into his own book before turning them over to his Harper colleagues. Leosin also arranged for him to train with a Harper spellslinger on the art of magical sniping. [DM note: Flint will be taking Spell Sniper as his bonus feat.]

Flint also discovered a newfound obsession with alcohol. In fact, he found that once he started drinking, it became very difficult for him to stop. It wasn’t long before Lord Ulbrinter stopped inviting him along to his little soirees. [DM note: This is the cost of Flint’s resurrection.]

As for Roscoe, well … the less said about his downtime activities the better. Suffice it to say that he spent a good deal of time learning new tips and tricks from Zhentish agents based in Waterdeep. He also made sure not to miss any of Lord Ulbrinter’s parties.

A Message Arrives
Finally, in the midst of a snowy winter, Flint received an unexpected magical message from none other than Talis! Using the sending spell, Talis told the dwarf: “You want to catch a wyrmspeaker? You’re in luck! Varram the White has been spotted near Boareskyr Bridge. Make haste lest he disappear again!”

Flint quickly informed his companions and they went and told Leosin, who called an emergency session of the Council Quiet to discuss the matter. While some were concerned that it might be a trap, all agreed that it was worth following up. Lady Laeral teleported the party to the middle of Boareskyr Bridge. Getting their bearings through the snow, they headed to the south end of the bridge and entered the tent city situated outside the walls of the fort that soldiers from nearby Elturgard had recently rebuilt. At the pavilion inn, they discovered that the Halfling proprietor remembered seeing a dwarf matching Varram’s description. She regarded him as something of a hero, though, because he’d attacked a yuan-ti spy that had been lurking in the inn. She added that they last anyone had seen of him, was when he’d taken his heavily-cloaked entourage north along the river.

The heroes hired a human guide named Elowyn and headed upriver themselves. Along the way, they met a patrol of Elturgard soldiers who said they’d seen a dwarf and some rough barbarian types traveling upriver in canoes a few days earlier.

Emboldened, the heroes pressed on through the rough wilderness of the Serpent Hills. Elowyn was able to steer them clear of the area’s worst dangers. After a few days, they came across a set of canoes, abandoned on the north side of the river. Their guide found them a safe place to ford and they headed deeper into the hills, hot on Varram’s trail. On the seventh day out from the bridge, they came to a canyon in which lay the ruins of an ancient town.

The Tomb of Diderius
Searching around the ruins, they found some freshly-dug graves and an abandoned campsite. Roscoe noticed some massive, partially broken statues flanking an old path and approached them. He was surprised when the statues moved to face him then spoke, asking him if he sought wisdom or knowledge. Thinking quickly, the halfling chose knowledge, which seemed to satisfy the statues, which reverted to their previous position.

Soon after, Elowyn departed with her payment, and the party passed between the statues to investigate a tomb in the cliffside beyond them. Someone had placed a ladder against the cliff to reach the tomb entrance. Roscoe got Imsa to turn him invisible so he could climb up and look around more safely. The tomb appeared to be full of shiny treasures, but as Roscoe’s greedy little fingers made to pick out a few pieces, they turned out to be illusory! In truth, the tomb was completely empty. Everything had been looted long ago. The only real thing in the tomb was a stone door in an alcove at the back.

Roscoe discovered that the door had been forced open recently. Popping on his magical nightvision goggles, he pushed the door open and peered into the darkness beyond, spying a series of cowled statues lining a corridor that led to another door. As he crept into the corridor, a thought came to him that he should avoid looking into the darkness inside the statues’ hoods, as some things were not meant to be known by mortals. As he reached the midpoint, the robed statues all turned their empty cowls in his direction, making it harder for him to not look. He managed it somehow, though, as did his companions, once he’d warned them of the danger.

In the next room, they found a tile mosaic on the floor that depicted an armored knight battling a chimera. A ledge ran around the room near the ceiling, and there were two doors and a sloped passage leading out. The door to the left bore the word “SAFE” written in chalk on it. The door directly opposite was bulging outwards.

Roscoe chose to check the door marked “SAFE” first. As he crossed the mosaic, Keo noticed that the chimera had started moving. It clawed its way up out of the mosaic, turning into a barely three-dimensional creature that proceeded to breathe fire on everyone before swooping up to perch on the ledge.

The tile chimera proved to have more bark than bite, as it did not breathe on them again. Despite being thin in one dimension, the heroes had little trouble scattering its tiles around the room each time it swooped down to claw and bite at them.

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!

The Council Quiet

Who’s Your Friend?
As the heroes gathered for their standard breakfast of oatmeal, Jamna wandered up and grabbed Erevan’s bowl. She poked around in it with her knife, all the while glancing over at some of the cultists (who were clearly trying not to look in the group’s direction). She pulled out a little round thing that she said was a bone spur that would uncurl when swallowed. Potentially fatal. Probably in all their bowls. She told them she’d talk to them again that evening, and off she went again.

Mara, Keo and Flint frantically dug through their oatmeal, finding a number of lumps that could’ve been just about anything. Keo obtained a sheep’s stomach from somewhere and placed the bone spur inside. Sure enough, it uncurled and pokes its spines through the lining of the stomach. Yikes!

That evening, Jamna told the heroes that she was on the same mission they were. She wanted them to help her break into the cultists’ wagons. The heroes replied that they’d already done that and gave her a quick rundown of what they’d found. Jamna was most grateful but offered little in return and evaded questions about her employer. Afterward, the heroes wondered if they’d done the right thing sharing all that info with her.

Murder Most Foul
A piercing scream awakened the group the next morning. Someone had been murdered! It turned out to be the traveler Pavel Borsk had hired as an extra guard after the late Losvius Longnose had gone snooping through his stuff. Both Pavel and his bodyguard, Umara, blamed Keo, despite the fact that the murder weapon had clearly been a sword of some kind, which was not something the goliath owned. As tensions mounted, Azbara Jos surprised everyone by coming forward and attempting to calm the situation. (“Let’s not bicker and argue about who killed who!”)

When someone suggested that Pavel look to see if anything of his had been stolen, he spluttered a bit and then grew quiet. Edhelri and the other senior merchants all agreed that, without any witnesses, nothing could be done. The murderer’s fate was in the hands of the gods. The cultists seemed to think otherwise, though, as they proceeded to glare at Keo with undisguised hatred for the rest of the journey.

Waterdeep at Last!
On the fiftieth day of the journey, everyone heaved a sigh of relief as the City of Splendors came into view. The caravan disbanded in the city’s Southern Ward. Flint received his fifty gold for a job well done, while Mara only received forty from Aldor, who had docked her pay for her “poor” service. He also insisted that she sign a number of legal waivers. The merchants then unloaded their cargo and headed off to the Trades Ward.

The Harper Carlon approached the group and offered to use his many contacts in the city to keep track of the cultists and their wagons on their behalf. He told them to just take it easy and do a bit of sightseeing before meeting him at the famous Yawning Portal Inn later on.

The Council Quiet
When the heroes entered the Yawning Portal, they found Carlon waiting for them, along with Leosin and Ontharr! What a surprise! After a hearty greeting (and a quick explanation as to Erevan’s change in circumstances), Leosin informed the group that there were some others waiting to meet them in a back room. As the party headed across the inn’s common room, Ontharr nudged Mara in the ribs and pointed at some rookie adventurers getting ready to descend into Undermountain via the Entry Well. The two warriors shared a smirk and thought back to the days when they were just as inexperienced.

As the heroes entered the back room, they all felt the tingle of magic. The room was warded! Inside was a table laden with a fantastic spread. Present in the room were three noblewomen – two humans and a moon elf – as well as a male half-elf. Dressed in furs and leathers, the man looked out of place (and more than a little uncomfortable) next to the women in their expensive gowns.

Leosin introduced the elf as his superior, High Harper Remallia Haventree. She greeted the heroes warmly and then introduced her friend, Elia, a Turami woman who knew a lot about dragons. Leosin then introduced the third woman, Lady Laeral Silverhand. Although Keo had never heard of her, the others all had. She was one of the legendary Seven Sisters, the Chosen (and some say daughters) of Mystra, the goddess of magic! Although she was once a Harper herself, Laeral was present at the gathering on behalf of the Lords’ Alliance. Last but not least was the half-elf Delaan Winterhound, representative of Keo’s faction, the Emerald Enclave.

As Ontharr implored everyone not to let the food go to waste, Jamna made her presence known. Everyone had forgotten about her! She announced that she was with the Zhentarim and would like to be included in the gathering. She had knowledge she could share to make it worth their while. Remallia suggested they put it to a vote and asked Jamna to step outside briefly. Ontharr objected on principle, as he did not like the idea of consorting with such unscrupulous mercenaries, but he was the only one. Everyone else, including the heroes, voted to let Jamna join them.

To begin, Carlon gave his report. As the others tucked into their dinners, Carlon related that his informants had discovered that the cultists had all taken different routes to Virgin’s Square, their faction’s long-established meeting place in the city. (“You’d think they’d know better by now …”)

In the square, Barakis had met with a hooded figure, who must have been there to deliver the next set of orders, for shortly afterwards the cultists had all dispersed again. They were tracked through the city until they reconvened at a stableyard in Field Ward. The yard was owned by the High Road Charter Company, a business set up by the Open Lord of Waterdeep, Dagult Neverember, to rebuild the road to Neverwinter. After the cultists had deposited their cargo in the yard, they’d retired to a nearby inn. Carlon was able to learn that they had all signed on with the company’s next convoy, due to depart for the Carnath Roadhouse near the Mere of Dead Men a few days later.

Carlon surmised that the cult must have had a man on the inside (either an infiltrator or someone they’d bribed). Laeral quipped that she’d never allow the cult to infiltrate any of her pet projects. When the heroes inquired if she was implying that Lord Neverember himself might be in on the cult’s scheme, Laeral shook her head. Neverember was honest enough, she maintained. It was just that he was too preoccupied with rebuilding Neverwinter and ruling over Waterdeep to pay much attention to the little things.

Next up was Jamna the gnome. She had a number of interesting tidbits to share with the council. Firstly, she informed the group that the Cult of the Dragon had formed an alliance with a number of Thayan exiles, including the Red Wizard from the caravan, Azbara Jos. Jamna professed not to know the extent of their relationship, however, but made it clear that her superiors were keen to find out. The heroes backed Jamna up on that one, having seen Azbara Jos hitch a ride with the cultists on the caravan (after they’d turned everyone else away) for themselves, as well as having discovered links between the cult and the Red Wizards while in Baldur’s Gate.

But wait! There was more! Not only had one of these exiled Red Wizards actually joined the cult, but he’d also risen to the rank of wyrmspeaker! His name, Jamna said, was Galvan the Blue. This was news to all those assembled at the meeting.

Jamna then dropped a bombshell: she had it on good authority that the elves of the Misty Forest were paying the cult large amounts of protection money to stay out of their woods. At this, Delaan jumped to his feet, strenuously objecting on the grounds that he had a good relationship with the elves and had heard of no such arrangement. Furthermore, the elves would never even consider such a thing! Erevan agreed, saying that he’d seen no signs of anything like that during his (admittedly brief) time with the elves after his reincarnation.

The gnome shrugged. That’s just what she’d been told. Her next bit of info was that some other Zhentish agents had recently spied some cloud giants near the Well of Dragons, an extinct volcano that had long served as a dragon graveyard. When approached, the giants claimed they were searching for relics from their age-old conflict with the dragons. Jamna was offering this information on the off-chance that the giants could be convinced to help combat the Cult of the Dragon.

Last but not least, Jamna said she’d heard that the cult was also attempting to forge an alliance with the Arcane Brotherhood. The faction leaders look concerned at this, and Remallia indicated that she’d get some Harpers on it right away. While the Brotherhood may have reinvented itself as a mercantile organization in more recent times, there were still plenty of unscrupulously dangerous mages in its ranks.

Over the course of the meal, Flint noticed that Elia didn’t appear to like him. Despite the fact that they both shared an interest in dragon lore, she seemed completely uninterested in talking to him, with an attitude that was cool to the point of being rude. She was perfectly cordial to the others, so he concluded that it must have been something more personal. Perhaps she just didn’t like dwarves for some reason. Flint decided not to mention it to anyone else.

As the meal concluded, the faction leaders reiterated and expanded on the mission that Leosin and Ontharr had given the heroes back in Elturel. They wanted the group to continue tracking the cultists and their treasure wagons. However, once they’d learned where the treasure was ultimately heading, the heroes were to attempt to stop it from getting there. Laeral indicated that the Lords’ Alliance would like the treasure to be recovered, if possible, as much of it had been taken from people in their care. Remallia stated that she would particularly like it if the heroes could capture any Red Wizards they found working with the cult so they could be questioned. Finally, the faction leaders all wanted the heroes to attempt to capture Rezmir, the black wyrmspeaker who had so far remained one step ahead of them. Alive was preferable but dead worked too, as death was no real obstacle to communication.

As the council adjourned, Remallia took Flint and Erevan aside to formally welcome them into the Harpers. She thanked them for all they had done so far and raised them to the rank of Harpshadow. Lady Laeral did the same for Mara, raising her to the rank of Redknife within the Lords’ Alliance. Delaan also took Keo aside, but he just wanted to talk to the goliath about Imsa. The half-elf understood that Imsa wished to become a druid. However, he was concerned that she would not survive the dangers of Keo’s journey. He suggested that Imsa go to Goldenfields, a walled commune not far from Waterdeep that doubled as a base for the Emerald Enclave. There she could learn the ways of the Enclave and the druids in relative safety. When she was ready for the rigors of the adventuring life, she could rejoin Keo and train under him once again. Keo reluctantly agreed.

Safehouse
Before the council members dispersed, Remallia offered the heroes the use of a Harper safehouse. They asked for Jamna to be allowed to come with them, as they wanted to keep her close by. Carlon escorted them all across the city to the well-heeled North Ward, where they entered a seemingly-abandoned manor only to find it fully furnished. All of them were able to have hot baths and a good night’s sleep for the first time in nearly two months!

In the morning, the group chose to lie low for the day. The cultists wouldn’t be leaving until the next morning, but they would undoubtedly be on the lookout for their pursuers. ‘Twas better to just stay put in the relative comfort of the safehouse than risk being assassinated while out shopping or sightseeing.

Towards the evening, Leosin and Carlon stopped by to check on the party. Carlon offered to arrange to get them hired as guards for the convoy, but the heroes politely declined. They were tired of serving as caravan guards, and they could see how badly it could end if they came into close contact with the cultists again. No, they would shadow the convoy instead this time. Leosin then handed over a stash of magic items that the heroes’ factions had requisitioned for them, including a number of potions, a wand that could help them find secret doors and traps, and a robe covered in magical patches that could turn into a variety of useful items.

On the Road Again
The following morning, the heroes left Waterdeep, making sure to keep the dust from the convoy’s passage up the High Road in sight. It took another ten days to reach the roadhouse. Mara was somewhat upset at having to rough it out in the wilds again so soon. Along the way, the heroes were set upon by a lone troll that was attracted by the smell of their campfire. It rushed into the camp and proceeded to rip Erevan to shreds. When Flint hit it with a bolt of fire, it leapt across the fire to do the same to him. Keo turned into a bear and started shredding at the troll with tooth and claw, while Mara stayed where she was and repeatedly threw her magic axe at it. When the troll dropped to the ground for the second time, she finally remembered that fire was needed to keep it down permanently. While Mara busied herself with burning the troll to death, Keo healed up his fallen comrades. A short while later, Jamna wandered back into the camp, conveniently too late to be of any help in the fight.

Carnath Roadhouse
On the tenth day, the heroes stopped on a hill as the convoy made its way inside the roadhouse. After some discussion, the group agreed that Erevan would disguise himself as a cultist and go scout out the lay of the land. Using his magic to make himself look like an ordinary human, he strapped on the cult scabbard he’d obtained from the dragon hatchery south of Greenest and strode into the roadhouse. None of the cultists from the caravan recognized him, of course, but he quickly established that they all seemed to be there. Their cargo, however, was nowhere to be seen. He sought out the roadhouse commander, a surprisingly erudite half-orc named Bog Luck. The half-elf got the half-orc alone and magically charmed him into being his friend. The two then headed up to the kitchen to have a chat over some drinks. Erevan learned that Rezmir was in charge and that some lizardfolk came in the night to take the cult’s treasure away via a secret tunnel under the roadhouse strong room. Erevan was also able to ascertain that this wasn’t the first shipment of treasure the cult had brought to the roadhouse. The half-orc professed not to know where any of the treasure was taken, though he did remind Erevan that a big black dragon lived in the swamp.

Erevan slipped away again before his charm spell wore off and Bog Luck realized what was happened. Finding his real friends, the half-elf made his report, and the group decided (despite Flint’s objections) to bypass the roadhouse and head straight into the swamp in search of the secret tunnel’s exit so they could follow the lizardfolk carrying the treasure. Jamna volunteered to stay behind and keep an eye on the roadhouse, but the others insisted that she come with them.

With a growing sense of dread, the heroes ventured into the swamp, certain that the treasure was being taken straight to the dragon’s lair …