Tyranny of Dragons

From the Horse's Mouth
Rise of Tiamat, Varram the White, Part 1

Having wrapped up their meeting with the Council of Waterdeep, the party is escorted by Leosin to another courtyard to select a guide for their journey. There imediate quest is to hunt down the Wyrmspeaker known as Varram the White, said to be traveling with minimal escort in the vicinity of the Serpent Hills.

They have three individuals to choose from. One is a burly and competitive human man named Dalbert Tane, affiliated with the Order of the Gauntlet. Another is a cheerful red-headed dwarf woman called Thali Understone who seems to be carrying an entire warehouse on her back. She does work for the Lords’ Alliance from time to time. The third guide is a rather grim halfling man with a dark beard and a pet eagle he keeps muttering to. His name is Gylan Darkfeather and he is aligned with the Emerald Enclave.

While the adventurers are impressed with all three guides, they ultimately select Thali since her “always prepared” nature would be the most flexible. She thanks them for choosing her and tells them that they can leave tomorrow at first light, as she has some final travel arrangements to make. The adventurers retire to the Yawning Portal Inn to prepare for the trip ahead. That night, they all have strange and portentous dreams.

The next morning, Garrett and Content Not Found: larion wake up to find a horse’s head in their bed. Things go from bad to worse when it starts speaking in the Xanathar’s voice and its ears unfold into giant bat wings. After expressing the beholder’s disappointment, the creature paralyzes Garrett with its frightful shriek.

In a near panic, Larion manages to stab the monster with a dagger. Even from across the hall, Beryl is startled awake by the shriek. She barges into the room, hammer in hand, and calls down a sacred flame that badly scorches the creature. Jamna darts in beside her, wild eyed, and looses a ray of frost that misses the horse head but strikes Garrett in the crotch.

The injury jars the rogue out of his paralysis, giving him a change to fight off the fiending equine head’s attempt to kiss him. Lacking a weapon, Garrett seizes it by its ear-wings and headbutts so savagely the monster’s skull caves in. Hurk arrives in time to help manage the apologetic staff at the Yawning Portal, managing to both get the rooms comped and score a higher quality of breakfast egg.

Inspecting the dead monster, Beryl concludes that it is a fiendish creature called a vargouille. These entities can spread their affliction by paralyzing and then kissing their victims, whose own heads slowly transform into new vargouilles. Garrett and Larion find that they have lost any appetite for breakfast.

Thali arrives late, explaining that someone had beheaded Garrett’s horse. They fill her in on the attack and then decide to let her know that there might be more such ambushes in the future. She finds this whole story fascinating and assures them she can take care of herself.

Beryl gets a sense that Thali has a bit of magic about her, though she’s no priest and no wizard either, despite her plethera of books. After the guide repeatedly assures Garrett and Larion that the horses won’t bite, the party sets out south down the trade way.

Aside from the cold autumn weather, it is a pleasant journey south. Thali makes for a cheery companion and always seems to have anything the adventurers desire near to hand. When Beryl asks for moonshine, Thali breaks out some gnomish liquor and a shot glasses from tourist traps across the Sword Coast. She is even a rapt audience for Beryl’s drunken Bahamut evangelism.

Despite the good cheer, Garrett and Larion continue to keep a wary eye on the horses.

After two weeks of travel, the party arrives at the Boareskyre Bridge. Thali explains a bit of history about the bridge and the monument to the battle between the gods Cyric and Bhaal that took place there. A tent city has grown up about the bridge, serving as a way station for travelers, and the paladins of Elturel have built a small holdfast to serve as shelter in time of danger.

Thali takes them to a large, brightly colored pavilion that serves as an inn. Its proprietor, a middle-aged halfling woman named Bolo, described how Varram and a small band of mercenaries rolled into the camp to hire guides for a trip to the serpent hills. The dwarf picked out a yuan-ti infiltrator and killed the serpent man on the spot, making him a local hero. He and his band left for the hills shortly thereafter and have not been heard from since.

The next day, the party sets out for the Serpent Hills themselves. Thali claims she is able to follow Varram’s trail, and Beryl suspects she is doing so with a little magical assistance. They track the dragon cultists to the ruins of a small settlement located outside some sort of catacombs carved into a cliff face. Thali stays behind with the horses while the adventurers move in to investigate.

Many of the stone buildings are empty shells, long since picked clean by scavengers. Beryl recognizes them as centuries old, holding up well for human work. In one, they find traces of an illusion spell that makes the crumbling furniture and moldy books appear brand new. The books are all written by someone named Diderius and seem to discuss visions and fortune telling.

The party also finds what appears to be the cultists’ camp, which appears abandoned. Seven shallow graves are dug nearby, and three heavy objects appear to have been dragged into a nearby well. Garrett ventures down into the well to find a small tunnel, too narrow even for Jamna to traverse, and no sign of bodies. There are large claw marks on the wall suggesting a creature or creatures climbed out of the well. Worse, the tunnel stinks of troll.

With that cheery discovery, the party approaches the entrance to the catacombs, which is flanked by two statues of robed men. The statues turn and challenge them, demanding to know if they seek “knowledge” or “wisdom” from the mighty Diderius who dwells within. Beryl says that they seek wisdom. The statues bid them enter, but warn that they must show the proper “respect.”

With that final bit of advice, the adventurers step into the catacombs.

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Picking Teams
Rise of Tiamat, First Council of Waterdeep Part 2

The next morning, Garrett is exhausted from a sleepless night while Beryl is battling a hangover. Jamna offers her a gnomish hangover cure, which works for the dwarf but leaves Hurk with an upset stomach. Raeyanne is drawn away on Harper business.

Garrett notices that Igach is waiting in a shadowy corner of the Yawning Portal. After determining that Beryl lacks a method to shield the party from eavesdropping, he seeks out an old contact amid the caravan masters in the South Ward.

Officially, Tenore Edorasil manages the Viridian Chalice service of caravan guides, but his real business is serving as a neutral fixer for Waterdeep’s underworld. For the price of 250gp (plus a hefty tip), he is able to arrange a secure room at the Thirsty Sage where the party can talk.

There, Garrett blurts out his situation to the party and asks for advice, as he is not keen on helping Xanathar. Larion insists that he’s already walked into worse dangers with Garrett and will stick with him. He also suggests seeking out a stronger ally.

Jamna reiterates her offer to join the Zhentarim, and the notoriously independent Garrett weighs the idea. Hurk argues against it, noting that the party can generally take care of itself and that the Zhents’ protection might not be worth much more than what the adventurer can already do.

Garrett decides to tell Igach to pass a “fuck you” on to Mr. X, but holds on to the vulgar cartoon he had Larion draw. Garrett also has to placate an angry Talis who contacts him via sending to ask about her brother.

Once the message to the Xanathar is conveyed, Garrett has a tense evening at the bar followed by a night of cuddles with Larion.

The next morning, the party arrives at the Lords Palace for the meeting of the First Council of Waterdeep. Larion and Jamna are asked to wait outside.

The Council consists of representatives from communities and organizations across the Sword Coast. It is chaired by Lord Dagult Neverember, Open Lord of Waterdeep and Lord of Neverwinter, the most powerful ruler in the region. Grand Duke Ulder Ravenguard of Baldur’s Gate is there, as is the elvish King Melandrach of the Misty Forest, Taern “Thunderspells” Hornblade of Silverymoon, and Sir Isteval of daggerford. Ambassador Connerad Brawnanvil is there representing the dwarves of the north. The Lady Mage of Waterdeep, Lady Laeral Silverhand is there. Remallia Haventree and Leosin Erlanthar are there for the Harpers. Ontharr Frume is there on behalf of the Order of the Gauntlet. Delaan Winterhound is there representing the Emerald Enclave.

The Council asks the party to relay the story of their exploits. Some council members are unhappy with how the dragon egg situation was resolved. Elia then informs everyone about the Draakhorn, which calls to dragons all over the world. It was last seen in the Sea of Moving Ice, which was also where the Draakhorn expert Maccath the Crimson disappeared three years ago.

Before the party can go there, however, Leosin reveals that the Harpers have discovered the location of one of the Cult’s Wyrmspeakers. Varram the White has been seen venturing out into the Serpent Hills northeast of Baldur’s Gate. With their resources spread thin, the Council wants the party to go after him. They offer to provide them with a writ of investigation, which would grant them authority and resources but place the adventurers under the Council’s oversight.

The party has a private huddle and grudgingly agrees to go along. They are informed that horses are available for their use and they have their choice of guide to take them into the Serpent Hills.

Outside the Council chambers, they spy Jamna talking to a mysterious tiefling. Hurk is approached by Ulder Ravenguard, who recruits him into the Lords’ Alliance and promises him an officer’s commission in the Flaming Fists when this is all over. The half-orc agrees.

Beryl is also approached by Ontharr Frume, who recruits her into the Order of the Gauntlet to increase the representation for the Church of Bahamut.

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Homecoming
Rise of Tiamat, First Council of Waterdeep Part 1

Following their battle with the white dragon Glazhael the Cloud-chaser, the adventurers rest and recover aboard the floating cloud giant castle of Skyreach. Hurk and his evil talking greatsword Hazirawn bicker. Jamna thanks Beryl for keeping the half-orc alive during the battle. Larion thanks Garrett for helping to set him on the right course. Jamna offers Garrett a chance to join the Zhentarim, who can protect him from old enemies. Raeyanne collects her winnings from the ogres’ javelin contest.

That night, Beryl is visited in her dreams by the platinum dragon god Bahamut. He praises her efforts so far in thwarting the Adversary, but warns that greater perils await. He grants Beryl his blessing.

Skyreach arrives at Waterdeep and after some tense negotiations, the authorities allow it to land outside the city. The adventurers reunite with their old contact Leosin, who asks them to gather that night at the Yawning Portal Inn.

Before the meeting, however, the adventurers take their hard-earned gold and go shopping. Beryl picks up a pair of gauntlets of ogre strength, greatly enhancing her physical brawn. Garrett and Hurk also acquired boots of elvenkind. Raeyanne goes off to report to her Harper superiors.

Once the merchandise has been acquired, the party regroups at the Yawning Portal, where they are met by Leosin, the boisterous paladin Ontharr Frume, and the silver-haired woman Elia.

Leosin brings them up to speed on events. The treasure haul that the party liberated amounted to between a quarter or a third of the hoard the Cult had been gathering for Tiamat, but they are still pressing forward. Cult attacks are on the rise and they have even struck within Waterdeep itself, murdering the husband of Harper leader Remallia Haventree. This assassination proved even more significant when it was revealed that Remalia’s husband was one of the Masked Lords of Waterdeep.

In response, a Council has been called summoning leaders from across the Sword Coast to organize a collective response to the threat from the Cult. Leosin says that the Council will meet in two days, and that the adventurers will be asked to share their story.

A sudden icy shiver runs through everyone in the Yawning Portal Tavern, as if they all felt someone walking over their grave. Beryl experiences it differently, however. She hears a a deep and distant horn calling out to her, and realizes that Elia hears the same. The silver-haired woman excuses herself and runs off.

Beryl then proceeds to get smashed. Hurk is in the process of joining her when he encounters an old friend from the Right Bastards mercenary company. The veteran, Orvin, explains that he is fleeing the Sword Coast for Calimport before the dragons attack. Hurk wishes him luck.

Garrett is approached by the elven gangster Igach, who lets him know that the Underboss of Waterdeep, “Mr. X,” wants to meet with him that night. After arranging for Jamna to keep watch over Larion’s room, Garrett sneaks away that night and is led deep below the city to the subterranean lair of the mysterious crimelord.

The Xanathar turns out to be a grinning beholder. He offers Garrett forgiveness for past indiscretions, and even a promotion within the thieves’ guild. In exchange, the rogue is expected to provide regular updates on the Council’s operations against the Cult.

Garrett is skeptical, but the Xanathar claims to merely be a concerned citizen with a vested interest in the Cult’s defeat. The beholder gives Garrett 24 hours to respond to the offer.

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Saving Skyreach
Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Chapter 8, Part 4.5

While the rest of the party confronts Glazhael the Cloud-chaser down below, Garrett and Larion have been asked by Esclarotta, the spirit of Skyreach, to stop the Cult from scuttling the flying fortress.

Garrett and Larion scale the treacherous ice cliffs of the Skyreach Castle. Every shudder of the glacier sends razor sharp shards of ice cascading down on top of them. Garrett tries to pick up the pace but nearly slips to his death. So they ascend slow and steady, finally arriving at a ledge facing an enormous ice cavern.

Esclarotta warns them that one of the cultists has gone inside and barricaded himself deep within, where he is sabotaging the castle. She does not know what defenses within the tomb yet remain. Larion stops an overeager Garrett from stepping on dangerous pressure plates, and they carefully avoid the trap.

Igniting a torch, they realize there are skeletons within the ice walls of the tunnel. The “honored dead,” Esclarotta calls them, servitors of her family from long ago. Not all of the dead rest easy, however, and one of them bursts out of the wall. It’s eye sockets glow with pale blue fire. Garrett kicks the skeleton into a pit where it is impaled upon an ice-bound stalagmite.

Esclarotta warns that the cultist appears to have some necromantic skill and draws on the skeletons’ fading energies to temporarily imbue Garrett short sword and Larion’s scimitar with frost energy.

Pressing deeper into the ice tunnels, they see at least three more places where skeletons burst out of the wall, but no sign of the undead. They assume the cultist has taken his reinforcements with him.

A powerful jolt runs through the castle, rending a huge crack through the tunnel floor. Garrett nearly slides into it, but is caught by Larion. Esclarotta, now manifesting as a ghostly outline of a frost giant made of swirling snowflakes, strides across the gap. She urges them to hurry, before the castle completely loses its structural integrity. Garrett leaps across and secures a rope, which proves to be quite valuable when Larion flubs his jump and has to be hauled up.

Following Esclarotta’s giant footsteps, they hurry down the tunnel to the main chamber. The enormous double doors are made of the same magically-reinforced ice, but they have an enormous bronze lock built into them 10 feet off the ground. Esclarotta warns that the device is complicated and magically warded. Garrett asks if she has a magic passcode to share, and she tells him “Not to get into the room.”

To reach the giant lock, Garrett has Larion hoist him up on his shoulders, then secures his position by driving pitons into the ice. Using his thieves’ tools and a dagger, he gets to work disabling the three stages of the lock. It is challenging at times, but it brings him back to his second story roots in Waterdeep. A few moments of effort, and the lock clicks open.

The chamber beyond is circular, featuring a gallery made of sculpted pillars made of ice that wraps around a central floor, with a large round depression in the center. The pillars and walls are etched in glowing runes, though some of the symbols flicker or lie dead. A half-orc cultist stands halfway across the giant room, fiddling with a rune using a wand that looks like a giant icicle. Two skeletons lurk in the gallery near him, and two more wait near the entrance.

The half-orc orders his skeletal minions to attack, then uses the wand to blast Garrett with a ray of freezing energy. Garrett and Larion duck into cover behind a pillar, out of view of the skeletons. Garrett notices that there are large icicles hanging from the ceiling above the half-orc. He shoots one with an arrow, sending it plunging down onto the cultist, who is wounded.

The cultist then summons forth billowing wings of greasy smoke, which he uses to fly across the room to a different rune. Garrett concocts a plan involving a bottle of oil and flaming arrows, but Larion fumbles and they end up covered in oil with a broken bottle on the ground. The plan foiled, they race out towards the cultist but slip and fall flat on the ice. They rising unsteadily, they move more carefully across the slick floor. Garrett looses another arrow directly at the cultist, wounding him.

The two closest skeletons close in, one of them wounding Garrett. The other two skeletons, still across the room, sheathe their swords in their ribcages and then draw their bows. Larrion is badly wounded by an arrow.

The half-orc cultists chuckles, then draws energy out of the rune he was meddling with. Runes flare up across the room, flashing randomly, and Garrett gets blasted by one of them. The cultist calls out in excitement that the castle is about to fall. He then flies over to the round depression at the heart of the chamber.

Growing desperate, Garrett slips Larion a healing potion and surveys the room. He picks out the largest icicles in the ceiling and shoots another arrow into it. A huge cascade of ice falls down on the half-orc, crushing him. The animated skeletons crumple into a pile of bones. But the castle starts to shake and shudder violently, the floor tilting dangerously. The runes flash on and off like warning lights.

Esclarotta announces that it is losing altitude rapidly and urges Garrett to find the wand of winter. The rogues dash to the center of the room and grab the wand from the dead hand of the half-orc. They discover that in the sunken center of the room is Esclarotta’s enormous sarcophagus, which features a marble carving of a cloud giant woman. She directs Garrett to touch the wand to a halo of runes around the head of the carving, following a particular pattern. Doing so causes the runes to stop flashing and the descent to halt.

The castle rights itself with a lurch, sending a last wave of ice tumbling down from the ceiling. The rogues manages to protect themselves, but find that the exit is buried under rubble. Esclarotta tells them that they can whisper the word “Blagothkus” into her carving’s ear to be teleported out of the room.

They appear in the control tower of Castle Skyreach, where Blagothkus is bringing the castle under control. He thanks them for saving the castle, which his rash alliance with the Cult had endangered. He promises to take the party to Waterdeep, then head north to rally an army of giants to march against the Cult when the time is right.

Garrett asks if he will help against the white dragon Glazhael, but the cloud giant lord says that their friends have already dealt with that particular wyrm. Blagothkus tells them that he has arranged for guest quarters where they can recover. Barely on their feet, the two rogues thank him for his hospitality and then stumble out of the tower once the giant summons its door.

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Dragonslayer
Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Chapter 8, Part 4

Having vanquished the Wyrmspeaker Rezmir and come to an amicable resolution with the Red Wizards Rath Modar and Azbara Jos, the adventurers have only one major enemy left on the flying castle of Skyreach: the white dragon Glazhael the Cloud-chaser.

As the party plans their attack, the cloud giant castle begins to shake and tilt disturbingly. An alarm howls through the castle and moments later, the adventurers are contacted by the melodious voice of Esclarotta, the spirit of Skyreach Castle. She warns them that one of the dragon cultists has managed to climb into the inner workings of the castle and is attempting to scuttle the flying palace.

Esclarotta explains that the chamber is only accessible via a difficult climb and the entrance has been sealed. The servants of her husband, the cloud giant lord Blagothkus, cannot reach it, so she has reached out to the party for assistance.

After a bit of haggling, the adventurers decide that preventing the castle they are on from crashing into the ground is A Good Thing. Garrett is volunteered to put his second story skills to work, and he takes the still-excited Larion with him.

The rest of the adventurers still have the dragon to deal with. Raeyanne concocts a plan to convince the dragon that it has been betrayed and that it should go back to the Parnast Hunting Lodge to regroup with Talis the White. The plan involves using a bit of Jamna’s illusion magic to disguise the Black Wyrmspeaker’s Mask as the White Wyrmspeaker’s Mask. The party believes this plan will work because white dragons are known to be dimwitted.

Hurk remembers a bit of lore about the Wyrmspeaker masks that he overheard during his time in the mercenary company the Right Bastards. The masks, a creation of Tiamat herself, allow the wearers to take on certain aspects of their respective chromatic dragons, causing those particular types of dragons to look upon the wearers favorably in negotiations.

When they descend into the frigid tunnels within the glacier at the heart of Skyreach, they discover a complication. Three of the remaining dragon cultists have regrouped with Glazhael and are conferring with him. Raeyanne insists on attempting the plan anyway, despite a growing sense of foreboding that there would be blood spilled on the ice.

Wearing the illusory White Wyrmspeaker’s Mask, Raeyanne stepped into the cavernous chamber that Glazhael called home and warned the white dragon that the Cult’s leaders planned not to free Tiamat but to control her. Raeyanne claimed that the white dragon faction was withdrawing from the cult and urged Glazhael to regroup with Talis at the hunting lodge.

The real dragon cultists accuse her of being one of the interlopers who had invaded the castle. As Glazhael stands confused, Raeyanne orders the servants of the white dragon to cut down the traitor cultists. She retreats into the tunnel and removes her mask, while Hurk comes charging out, shouting “For the white dragon!”

The half-orc’s evil greatsword Hazirawn cuts down one of the cultists in two swift strokes, yellow-green necromantic energy burning outward from the initial wounds. The two surviving cultists attack Hurk, one of them landing some nasty cuts with his scimitar.

The dragon is perplexed by this violence among the cultists and ineffectually orders them to stop. He also demands to speak with Talis, as she writes him poetry. While Beryl marches forward to heal Hurk, Raeyanne and Jamna stick to the tunnels to attack from afar. Soon there is only one badly wounded cultist left, who retreats around behind the dragon, begging it for help.

The castle continues to shake and shudder, occasionally sending icicles plunging down from the ceiling, causing minor injuries to the dragon and Jamna.

Glazhael proves to be too stupid and bloody-minded to be tricked by Raeyanne. Instead, he rears up, his fearsome magnificence sending a jolt of fear through the adventurers. Hurk’s thoughts keep turning back to the last time he faced dragons close up, during the Battle of Karse where the Right Bastards were wiped out. He can’t bring himself to get closer to the creature.

Glazhael then opens its broad jaws to unleash a gout of frigid cold more terrible than any blizzard. Hurk and Beryl take the full brunt, while Raeyanne and Jamna are somewhat shielded in the tunnels. Hurk nearly freezes sold, but the orcish rages burning in his blood keeps him warm and upright. Beryl, nearly laid low herself, blesses Hurk with her most powerful healing spell.

Still trying to conquer his fear, Hurk takes a defensive stance. Raeyanne abandons her attempts to persuade the dragon, and instead stealthily approaches it, looking for some sort of weakness. Jamna, enraged by what the dragon did to Hurk, charges it. Her wrench merely clangs against its icy scales.

The dragon chomps down on Hurk, nearly dropping him, and wounds Jamna with a claw. Beryl calls upon Bahamut to channel more healing energy into the half-orc, but her powers are running low.

The piercing touch of the dragon’s fangs stirs Hurk from his fearful reverie and he rushes forward, Hazirawn telepathically urging him to sate his bloodlust. The black blade, surging with necromantic energy, carves terrible wounds into the dragon.

The surviving cultist rushes to attack Jamna, wounding her. She leaps up onto the dragon’s back, narrowly avoiding another scimitar strike. From her perch on the creature’s back, Jamna slams her wrench into the joint where the wings meet the dragon’s shoulder.

Glazhael roars in pain and confusion and lays into Hurk, biting and clawing the warrior until he lies broken and bleeding on the ground.

Raeyanne tries and fails to leap atop the dragon, and instead drives her blades into its flank. Glazhael glances at its many wounds with a worried look and says “So you were saying about going to see Talis?”

Beryl summons the last of her healing energy to revive Hurk. The half-orc springs to his feet, roaring “Motherf*****, if you thought I was mad before!”

With two spectacular cuts, Hurk splits Glazhael’s head from Glazhael’s neck. The dragon’s head rolls across the icy floor, necrotic energy still chewing away at it as it tumbles. The last surviving cultist drops to his knees in disbelief, crying out in shock. Jamna watches him for a moment, then conks him out with her wrench. Raeyanne is already collecting white dragon scales.

Suddenly Skyreach Castle lurches violently beneath their feet!

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A Keenblade Need Cut Only Once
Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Chapter 8, Part 3

Previously, the adventurers infiltrated the cloud giant castle of Skyreach and negotiated a non-aggression pact with the giants. They have ambushed the cultist leader Rezmir the Black, slain her guard drakes, and dispelled her magic. All that stands before them now is a pissed off half-dragon and her enormous magic greatsword.

Rezmir charges out of her room and tries to cut her way past Hurk, but the half-orc proves too resilient for her. While her hungry greatsword Hazirawn hacks fruitlessly against his defenses, Hurk, Jamna, and Garrett strike back at the cult leader. Raeyanne’s crossbow bolt goes wide, and Larion continues his streak of ineffectiveness. Beryl attempts to strike Rezmir with baleful magic, but the cult leader shies away from her grasp. The cleric then imbues Hurk with a smidgen of healing magic.

Unable to break through the half-orc’s defenses, a badly wounded Rezmir flees down the gigantic corridor, cursing the Red Wizards for failing to assist her despite hearing her calls for aid. Jamna clips her with a ray of frost as she runs, but Rezmir uses the frost to try to blend in with her surroundings. Her copious bleeding, however, gives away her location.

Hurk goes in for the kill, only for Hazirawn’s black blade to block his sword. Rezmir then counter attacks, savagely wounding the half-orc. Only Beryl’s previous healing spell keeps him upright.

Raeyanne misses another shot with her hand crossbow, but moves up to flank the half dragon with Hurk. Larion rushes forward, with Garrett right behind him. The young half-elf circles behind Rezmir and sees an opening. He slashes upward in a vicious arc with his standard-issue cultist scimitar.

And as Garrett watches, Larion Keenblade cuts Rezmir the Black almost in half.

Rezmir’s body erupts in necrotic energy that consumes her, converting her flesh to ash. Among the charred robes, Raeyanne digs out and stows away the Black Wyrmspeaker Mask.She also finds a strange cult insignia that has a magic aura about it.

Garrett, meanwhile, sweeps an astounded Larion into his arms and passionately kisses him. The two continue to squee over this unexpected victory.

Hurk picks up Hazirawn, sensing the power within it but also encountering the sword’s intellect, which snarks that it’s customary for the one who struck the killing blow to claim the spoils. Hurk persuades the weapon that Larion doesn’t have the strength to wield it. Hurk then clues the rest of the party into why he is talking with his sword. Beryl bestows more healing magic on the fighter.

A large squad of cultists in full regalia dash around the corner, but quickly realize they’ve arrived too late. Making some awkward excuses, the cultists back up and then flee.

Rather than give chase, the party decides to hole up in Rezmir’s quarters for a brief respite. Hurk investigates Rezmir’s treasure chest, shaking off its poison trap to discover 3,750gp in gems and coins. Hurk also takes this time to fully attune to Hazirawn and unlock its fearsome powers.

The party debates their next move, ultimately deciding to confront the Red Wizards before moving on to the white dragon Glazhael the Cloud-chaser. Based on the intel Jamna had gathered, they quickly locate the wizards’ quarters. After her experience with the rug of smothering, the gnome is none too happy to find the wizards have covered their entire room in rugs and carpets.

The Red Wizards, Rath Modar and Azbara Jos, are cordial. They explain that while they are allies with the Cult, they have no investment in Rezmir’s scheme and will not oppose the party’s efforts to thwart it. They say that they have been conducting an audit of the Cult’s activities and have uncovered many concerning issues they plan to bring up with the Red Wyrmspeaker Severin. The party leaves the wizards to their deliberations, having concluded the two Thayans pose no immediate threat.

Which means the dragon is the only danger that remains. Fearing the creature’s abilities in the air, they discuss ways to manipulate it into staying on the ground or even using the cave environment like icicles against it.

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When Rugs Attack
Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Chapter 8, Part 2

The party has infiltrated the flying castle of Skyreach, which the Cult of the Dragon has been using to transport the treasure it’s plundered from the communities of the Sword Coast.

Having persuaded the cloud giant lord Blagothkus and his minions not to intervene in their fight, the adventurers discuss next steps. They debate whether to attack the white dragon Glazhael or try to trick into leaving the castle, mindful that Larion’s sister Talis the White is a fan of that breed of dragons. They ultimately put off a decision about the dragon, and instead decide to attack the cultists first.

At the bottom of the icy stairwell, their gnome compatriot Jamna announces herself by goosing Hurk. She chides the half-orc for leaving a loose end: He had told the cult officer Tark that they were with Azbara Jos, so Tark was about to check with the red wizard when Jamna intervened. She charmed the cultist into giving her the numbers and location of the other cultists, then lured him into the glaciar tunnels. Once there, she bashed in his knee before kicking him down the chute into the open air. Garrett asks Jamna to remind him not to get on her bad side.

With the gnome’s information, the party decides to strike at Rezmir in her quarters. Slipping stealthily across the icy courtyard, they enter the frigid, giant-sized keep. Garrett tries to pick the lock on Rezmir’s door, but it is beyond his skill.

Raeyanne knocks on her door and in her best kobold voice calls out “Housekeeping!”

Rezmir sees through her ruse, but ultimately unlocks the door and invites them to enter.

Hurk forces the door open to reveal that the the half-dragon and two guard drakes are ready and waiting across the room. Rezmir raises a clawed hand and spits out a curse, launching a bolt of sickly green acid. Hurk leans out of the way and it passes over Beryl’s head before colliding with the opposite door, which it eats a hole through.

Jamna is the first through the door. But as she steps onto the the large, ornate rug inside, it’s corners suddenly pull up like a Venus fly trap. The terrified gnome manages to leap free before the rug’s jaws close and scampers up onto a nearby desk.

Hurk tries to leap over the rug, but gets tangled in its folds. The cloth monster tries to envelope him, but he plants his feet wide and beats its jaws back before hacking at it with his sword.

Moving with supernatural speed, Rezmir casts another spell, summoning forth a magical darkness that seems to fill the room. Garrett and Larion hold back, waiting for something to emerge from the inky blackness. Raeyanne fires her hand crossbow at the last place Rezmir was standing and is rewarded with a pained grunt.

Beryl steps gingerly into the darkness, feeling for the writhing fringes of the rug. Finding it, she brings her warhammer down onto it and slams the last vestiges of animating magic out of the cloth. The rug crumples lifeless and defeated to the floor.

The guard drakes rush forward to attack Hurk, but slam into each other in the dark, accomplishing little. But he discovers that Rezmir is far less hampered by the darkness, as she cuts open his side with her evil magic greatsword.

Jamna calls out to the others, trying to identify who is outside of the darkness. Garrett tells her the hall is clear. The gnome recommends they retreat back into the light, and then takes her own advice. Hurk and Beryl also withdraw. The adventurers realize they are caught in a stalemate as they ready themselves to fight anything that comes out of the darkness.

The guard drakes come out of the darkness to snap at them, and get steel as an answer. Beryl calls on Bahamut’s blessing to heal Hurk’s wounds. Rezmir spews forth a stream of acid that wounds Hurk, undoing Beryl’s efforts.

The door to the courtyard opens as one of the cultists enters. Raeyanne distracts him by claiming that the guard drakes have gone berserk, then shivs him. Garrett follows up by jamming a short sword through the man’s mouth as he tries to call out an alarm. Larion closes the door quickly, his first significant contribution to the battle.

The adventurers take down the two guard drakes. Rezmir, still lurking in the dark, starts calling for help. Beryl decides it’s time to bring the half-dragon out into the open and casts dispel magic to banish Rezmir’s supernatural darkness.

The cult leader stands alone in her room, the black-bladed greatsword Hazirawn in her hands and the Black Wyrmspeaker Mask on her face.

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Fast Talk and Yodels
Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Chapter 8, Part 1

Having bluffed their way into Skyreach Castle posing as cultists delivering supplies, the party confronts the reality that they never really figured out a step two to their plan. A cultist officer named Tark questions Hurk and Beryl as to whether they’ve brought provisions or replies.

“Both,” Hurk replies. The aggravated officer tells him to drop the provisions off at the kitchen and get directions to the treasure hoard from there. The cultist urges them to hurry, as the castle could take off at any moment and he doesn’t want them stuck here.

The kitchen is staffed by kobolds, under the watchful eye of a griffon. A kobold steps out to greet the cart and is skeptical of Hurk’s story. The half-orc and the dwarf unload three crates from their wagon (which happen to contain Raeyanne, Garrett, and Larion). Beryl makes a big show of being tired and sitting down on a crate, leaving Hurk to haul the remaining two barrels down to the treasure hoard. Beryl uses this excuse to make sure the kobolds don’t open the crates.

Traveling into the glacier at the heart of Skyreach, Hurk gently shakes his barrel. “Jamna, are you in there?”

“No,” comes the reply.

He urges her to get out and find a place to hide. Jamna complains that the tunnels are stark white and she’s dressed in slimming black. But she quickly uses illusion magic to turn her hair and clothes winter camo white.

Hurk then carries the empty barrel deep into the glacier, depositing it in the enormous treasure vault at the center, while the white dragon Glazhael lazily looks on.

Back in the kitchen, Raeyanne concocts a plan to extricate herself from the crate. She starts knocking loudly on it, then bursts out, acting confused. She blames Beryl for getting her drunk and leaving her in a crate as one of Azbara Jos’ pranks. The kobolds laugh as she rushes off to her “post” in the stairwell.

Raeyanne, Hurk, and Jamna confer about next steps, coming up with a plan. The gnome creeps around the side of the kitchen. Meanwhile, Hurk pokes his head into the building to tell Beryl that “When you’re done with your nap why don’t you meet me out here.”

Having said that, the half-orc heads back out to the wagon to pantomime removing a “heavy” barrel from the back while a bored kobold looks on.

Jamna then unleashes her illusion spell, mimicking the sound of a hobgoblin yodeling a terrible rendition of “Reveille” at the top of its lungs. Every kobold head turns towards the sound as they scream for it to stop. Beryl needs a moment to realize this is her “wake up call” and then hops off her crate to rush outside. Garrett and Larion stealthily exeunt soon after. Outside, Hurk uses the distraction to bop the kobold outside on the back of the head and stuff his unconscious body into the barrel.

The yodeling draws the attention of several cultists who stumble out of a neighboring building, and the ogre guards in the watchtower also squint down at the scene. Jamna’s camouflage shields her from the humans and the ogres, but not the beady eyes of the kobolds. They start shrieking about a horrible white shadow while Jamna tries ineffectually shushing them before finally scrambling up onto the roof of the kitchen.

Hurk comes around the corner to “search” for this intruder and sees nothing. The kobolds are not placated and demand to know what made that noise. The half-orc suggests it might be the mating call of another griffon. This terrifies the kobolds, who slink back inside, while the cultists laugh it off and return to their building.

The castle shudders under their feet and the adventurers realize that it has begun to rise into the sky.

The cultist officer Tark marches up, demanding to know what made that racket. Hurk suggests a griffon mating call, which provokes Tark to demand his name and that of his cell leader. Hurk blurts out that he works for Azbara Jos. The officer is disgusted to have more lackeys of the Red Wizards on board, since they’re mercenaries without faith in Tiamat’s grand plan. The officer angrily notes that since Hurk and Beryl took so long, now he has to find accommodations for them, which means talking to the giants.

Once Tark is gone, the adventurers head down into the glacier tunnels. Hurk disposes of the kobold in the barrel by dumping it down a chute that leads out of the bottom of the flying castle complex. The adventurers decide to focus on tracking down and killing Rezmir the Black. They figure that she is somewhere in the upper level of the castle and they take the stairwell to the upper courtyard.

Stepping out in to the brilliant white courtyard, they come across four ogres who are holding a javelin throwing contest. They explain that they were late arrivals working for Azbara Jos who got caught on the castle when it took off, a story that the jovial ogres buy completely. Raeyanne and Garrett decide to bet on the javelin contest, with Raeyanne backing Zeke and Garrett supporting Jim Bob.

The contest is interrupted, however, when a huge, blue-skinned figure emerges from a nearby tower. This is the cloud giant Blagothkus, the lord of Skyreach Castle. He questions the party about their presence on the upper level, which is reserved for giants. Deeming them “interesting,” he asks that they join him in his chambers.

Once there, he demands to know what they are really doing on his castle. Hurk and Raeyanne claim to be acting on behalf of a faction of the Cult that opposes Rezmir’s plans. They say that any bargain made with her should not be considered a valid agreement with the Cult.

Blagothkus is bored by the petty politics of the small folk. His only concern is that Rezmir and her master Severin are planning to summon forth Tiamat and establish a tyranny of dragons.

“The nerve of it!” sneers the cloud giant, confusing the adventurers. “The hubris!”

He tells them that his concerns is with his own people, the giants, who have grown soft and dissolute. They have abdicated the leadership of Faerun to the small folk. But what better way to get some fire back in their bellies than thrashing some dragons!

Blagothkus explains his heighten-the-contradictions plan thusly: while he helps the Cult work towards their foolish goal, the rising threat they pose is rallying an army of giants in the north who will march forth when the time is right to smash the draconic plot. The party members quickly work out that this won’t be good for the people caught in the middle.

In a sudden but inevitable burst of eloquence, Hurk persuades Blagothkus that this strategy could backfire. If the other giants learn he is helping the Cult, why would they follow him? Blagothkus ponders this argument and admits that the risks of his plan have been weighing on him. But he has taken the cultists, their dragon and their Red Wizard allies in as guests, and it would be dishonorable to raise a hand against them.

So instead, the cloud giant will order his servants to their quarters and will then seal himself within the castle’s control tower, shifting its course towards the Spine of the World in the far north. Perhaps the cultists will be aboard when the castle reaches its destination. Perhaps not.

Sensing that they dodged a crossbow bolt, the adventurers thank him for his wisdom and discretion, and then set about plotting how they can kill Rezmir, the dragon, and her friends.

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Talis the White
Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Chapter 7, Part 3

Following from last session’s explosive revelation that Larion’s long lost sister is the cultist Talis the White, the young half-elf quickly learns that his family has a long history as senior leaders in the Cult of the Dragon. Talis herself is a traditionalist, who would rather be creating dracoliches than trying to summon forth Tiamat. She is also unhappy that the cult’s leader Severin chose to give the White Wyrmspeaker Mask to his crony Varram the White rather than her.

Talis explains that the cult was plundering the Sword coast in order to amass a treasure hoard worthy of a god, which they intend to offer to Tiamat to curry favor once she is summoned into Faerun using the dragon masks. Talis offers to help the party strike a blow against this plan and also conveniently eliminate Severin’s ally Rezmir. She explains that the last of the treasure is being held in the nearby village of Parnast, where the cult is loading it into Skyreach Castle, a flying fortress that belongs to the cloud giant Blagothkus. Talis gives the party a rough sketch of the castle defenses as well as the pass phrases needed to enter.

Talis asks to speak with Larion alone, but the half-elf insists that Garrett remain present as well. Talis catches up with Larion, and seems to be genuinely concerned for his well being. She also pitches him on rejoining a reformed Cult of the Dragon. Garrett not-so-subtly gets out his clockwork goldfish, which had such meaning from their conversation earlier that day.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party gathers in their luxurious quarters to discuss next steps. Hurk believes that Talis’ information, if true, presents a tremendous opportunity, but warns that they should be prepared for her to stab them in the back. Jamna points out that she’s already told them everything they need and suggests just killing her now, avoiding the backstab fears entirely. Beryl and Raeyanne ultimately side with Hurk however. The conversation quickly devolves from there into innuendo about the uses of Jamna’s over-sized wrench.

After Garrett and Larion rejoin the group, they decide on their next move. They will try to get into the castle. Larion is shocked and confused about the revelations about his family, but wants to continue with the adventurers.

The following morningTalis speaks to Garrett before the party leaves, urging him to look after Larion and warning him of deadly vengeance if any harm comes to her brother. She gives Garrett a silver raven token that can be used to send a message to her if needed and she will be able to come to their side within two days.

After leaving the lodge, Garrett questions Larion about what he intends. Larion is confused about how to react to his sister, who believes some crazy things but who he hopes can be talked out of them. But the young half-elf is determined to do what he can to thwart the cult that he and his family had done so much to support. Larion also reiterates his desire to stay at Garrett’s side, which means a great deal to the older rogue.

In Parnast, the adventurers run across an old friend: Green Imsa, the verdant woman from the Waterdeep caravan. Although they are initially suspicious of her, they adventurers realize that she is cheerfully ignorant that the town is under the cult’s control. Imsa arrived in the area via airship to collect rare herbal components for another attempt to cure herself of her green complexion.

A friendly wheelwright manages to get them all into his shop and (unnecessarily) warns them about the cult. The wheelwright reveals that the cloud giant’s castle is getting ready to leave the area. The party quickly throws together a plan to infiltrate the fortress by posing as cultists delivering supplies. Unable to go with them, Green Imsa gives Raeyanne a farewell kiss and address to look her up in Waterdeep later.

The rogues hide in the back of the wagon, while Hurk and Beryl sit up front. They are challenged at the gates of the castle by a folksy ogre watchman. Hurk provides the pass code and the wagon rolls on through the gates of Skyreach Castle.

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Cry of the Mountain Goat
Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Chapter 7, Part 2

After slaying a patrol of trolls, the party hunkers down to wait until dark before they investigate the mysterious hunting lodge by the Cult of the Dragon’s teleportation circle.

Garrett notices that Larion is looking glum, obsessively playing with a whalebone handled butterfly blade. Garrett takes the young half-elf aside to awkwardly ask what’s wrong. Larion admits that he feels like he’s dead weight and is failing to meaningfully contribute to the party, just the latest in a string of failures and bad decisions.

Garrett shows him the clockwork fish he carries with him in a glass bowl. It was part of a job, but the fish looked so pretty he kept it and is always cheered up when looking at it. He clumsily compares Larion to the fish, as someone else he cares about.

Larion shows him the whalebone dagger, which is carved to look like a dragon. It’s his only keepsake from his family. When he was a young boy, he stole it from his sister the night before their ship was caught in a terrible storm and foundered on rocks. Larion survived, but his mother and sister were lost. Sharing stories about trinkets revives the half-elf’s spirits and the two of them return to the rest of the party, who have been gossiping shamelessly about them.

“So it’s not Maid Marion so much as Laid Larion,” Hurk is snickering as they return. Garrett warns him off the jokes, otherwise he’ll find a shrieking mushroom down his pants. Hurk replies that he already has one—she’s called Jamna. The gnome whoops as the group’s snickers turn to laughter. In high spirits despite the cold, they await the fall of darkness.

Once the sun is safely set, the adventurers creep towards the hunting lodge complex. Ignoring the kennel and stables, the three rogues move in to investigate the lodge itself. Garrett has the misfortune of disturbing a slumbering bee hive, but his howl of surprise fails to draw any reaction.

Counting themselves lucky, the rogues scoop out the building, peering in the windows where they can. They find several well lit rooms with hunting trophies, suits of armor, and even a magic tapestry, but no people. They also find a cold an empty guest room. The kitchen has four human cooks busy at work.

Garrett, with a boost from Raeyanne, tries to climb onto the balcony above the kitchen, but can’t find purchase on the icy surface. His scrabbling alerts the cooks. Raeyanne bleats like a mountain goat, hoping to assuage them. Instead, the cooks groan that “It’s those damn mountain goats on the roof again. Best drive them away before they knock off more shingles.”

With some deft moves and a hasty minor illusion from Jamna, the rogues manage to avoid scrutiny from the cook who steps outside. After that, they hastily retreat back to the treeline to regroup with the others. The adventurers decide that their best bet is to break into the empty guest room and go from there.

Garrett and Raeyanne manage to keep the others from bumbling into the bee hive, and Garrett swiftly gets the guest room window open. They proceed to scout out the western wing of the ground floor, before moving cautiously into the central chamber. There, the two demonic statues flanking the stairs leading up come to life and attack them.

Raeyanne gets in an initial vicious strike and then ducks into cover, but swords and daggers prove to be less effective against their stony hides. Beryl tries to get at them with her warhammer, but can’t land a blow. Hurk stands sentinel at the center of the fight, lashing out at the monsters whenever they try to harm one of his companions. Garrett finally brings down one of the gargoyles, while the other grows concerned about the lack of reinforcements.

With just one target left, Hurk drops his shield and goes after it with his longsword gripped in both hands. Larion tries to leap over the staircase to get into a flanking position with Beryl, but his foot catches on the railing and he ends up sprawled beside the creature, which tears into him. Hurk instead edges forward to flank with the half-elf.

Jamna, who had been firing her frost ray between Hurk’s legs, runs along the wall to get behind the tottering gargoyle and bash its knees out with her enormous wrench. She grins up at Hurk. “All yours, big guy.”

The half-orc hacks the monster to pieces.

Afterwards, Beryl heals Hurk and restores the badly wounded Larion to ship shape. But as her spells knit torn flesh back together, a figure dressed in cult regalia appears at the top of the stairway.

“Welcome to the hunting lodge, honored travelers,” the cultist tells them. “My mistress will see you now. She expresses her gratitude for your dealing with the… scenery.”

Raeyanne stays out of sight as the rest of the party warily follows the man up the stairs and down a hall to a meeting chamber. Inside is a stern half-elf woman dressed in purple thrown over white scale mail. She is attended by three bodyguards.

“Welcome,” she says. “I consider you my guests. Perhaps we can do business. I am Talis the White.”

At the sound of her name, Larion pushes past Garrett to come to the head of the party. Talis gapes at him as he blurts out a single word: “Sister?”

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