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!

Cloudchaser

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Castle in the Sky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second Chances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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