Tiamat Returns!

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

Advertisements

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 …

 

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!

The Serpent’s Lair

DM note: This post covers events from the past two sessions.

After a nice long rest in a cave, protected by Flint’s spells, the group headed back into the tomb.

First, they went and pumped the ghostly librarian for more info, with mixed results (Skie now looks to be in her sixties!), then they headed back through the throne room to talk to the devils. They mentioned that there was treasure in the room at the bottom of the stairs but wouldn’t say what was down there without a bit of something in return (they may have mentioned something about gems).

Leaving them to twiddle their thumbs – or whatever it is a pack of devils does when left on guard duty for long periods of time – the heroes pressed on to Diderius’ tomb. The long-dead wizard opened the way again, and the heroes slaughtered some more lizardfolk guards in the cave beyond and fought off their yuan-ti handlers.

Next they went up into the yuan-ti shrine and ended up fighting two suits of armor animated by swarms of snakes. They were soon dealt with.

Upon finishing off the snake horrors, the group proceeded up into the yuan-ti shrine room, where Roscoe resisted the temptation to pry out the rubies in the statues’ eyes. Instead, he listened at the door through which the yuan-ti had come, then opened it to find a short passage ending at another door. This one opened to reveal an ovoid chamber riddled with holes in the floor – along with two different yuan-ti.

Roscoe and Skie proceeded to talk to them, convincing the yuan-ti that the party didn’t want to fight. The yuan-ti, surprisingly, agreed and offered to take the party to their leader, a priestess named Asutali.

The yuan-ti led the heroes down the undulating hall and into a grand temple filled with more snake-themed statuary. Green flames guttering out of the statues’ mouths illuminated the temple. At the far end, a large snake-like yuan-ti waited, a dragontooth dagger held to an unconscious dwarf’s neck. The dwarf was dressed in purple robes. It was Varram!

Asutali indicated that she would gladly hand the dwarf over provided that the heroes promised to leave her people’s lair without further violence and never return. They readily agreed, but as the yuan-ti priestess released the dwarf’s body, she warned the heroes that his soul had been sucked out of his body temporarily and would not return until they had gotten him out of the lair.

Keo carried Varram’s body back to the divination pool room, where the party was able to revive him. He seemed resigned to his fate and admitted that he had lost the white dragon mask. He had come to the tomb to use the pool to find out where it had gone; unfortunately for him, it had already been recovered. He was now no longer welcome in Severin’s inner circle. Most likely, Talis would take his place.

The heroes managed to get Varram to talk about the room at the bottom of the stairs: he said it looked to have been Diderius’ bedchamber and was guarded by incorporeal undead. He’d lost a few men in there. The heroes then got him to call off his devilish guards, who vanished back to whatever infernal realm they’d been summoned from.

Heading out to the canyon, a slow clap brought the heroes’ attention to the clifftop above, where they discovered Talis waiting, sitting astride the white dragon they’d chased away from Skyreach Castle. Talis demanded that they hand Varram over to her if they wanted to live. Varram wasn’t keen on the idea.

Not wishing to relinquish their prisoner, the heroes retreated back into Diderius’ antechamber to rest. Upon their return to the tomb entrance, they discovered that some dragon cultists were waiting in ambush there. A fight ensued, during which the dragon and Talis kept swooping down to attack before flying back up out of sight.

The heroes managed to dispatch the cultists with relative ease, and Flint temporarily trapped Talis in a resilient sphere. Although she broke out, the party took her down with ranged attacks and the dragon breathed one last time in its fury before swooping away with Talis’ limp body still on its back.

Although the dragon’s icy breath knocked several of the heroes down, Keo’s protege Imsa was able to keep everyone alive. Flint contacted Leosin via the sending stone; the half-elf told the party to head back to Boareskyr Bridge, where he would send help. After limping back through the wilderness, attracting nothing more than a pack of vultures, the party found a small animal with a scroll of teleportation waiting for them at the bridge.

Flint successfully cast the spell from the scroll, and the heroes found themselves standing outside the gates of Waterdeep, with Varram still in tow.

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.

The Hunting Lodge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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