Tyranny of Dragons

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?”

Don't Feed the Trolls
Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Chapter 7, Part 1

Having captured Castle Naerytar with the help of their lizardfolk allies during a fearsome nighttime battle, the adventurers take a well-deserved rest. They wake at mid day and interrogate the captured cultists.

They learn that the Cult of the Dragon’s primary goal is to free the evil dragon goddess Tiamat from her prison in the Nine Hells and summon her forth into Faerun. Tiamat will establish a tyranny of dragons, with the cult serving at her side.

This objective was laid down by the cult’s leader, Severin the Red, a Calishite human who carries a magical dragon mask. Releasing Tiamat has been something Severin has worked towards since he took command of the cult five years ago. The Naerytar cultists have had little interaction with Severin, as they are from a different branch of the cult.

There are five branches in all, representing the five aspects of Tiamat. The Naerytar cultists are primarily aligned with the Black Dragon faction, headed by the half-dragon Rezmir, who is one of Severin’s most loyal supporters. The Naerytar cultists know that the stolen gold is being sent through the teleportation circle below the castle to a lodge far to the east across the Graypeak Mountains. Beyond that, they do not know, due to the compartimentalization of the cult.

When questioned as to when the cult’s plans will achieve fruition, the cultists merely say they were told that Tiamat’s return was “imminent.”

The adventurers debate what to do with the prisoners. Some of the captives, like Kevan (who is putting his daughters through school), are in it for the paycheck. while others like Marget are dragon-worshiping fanatics. Beryl is happy to execute the fanatics.

Garrett uncomfortably glances at Larion, who is fiddling with a whalebone-hilted knife, and says that he would prefer not to have to kill any of them. The rogue then excuses himself from the discussion. Raeyanne wonders who they could turn the prisoners over to.

When the adventurers learn that Jamna is going to send a message to her bosses, they decide to have her ask that the Zhentarim take the prisoners into custody. After dispatching this report, Jamna has just a single winged serpent left to send.

With the prisoners dealt with and the castle thoroughly looted, the adventurers head down to the teleportation circle and speak the command word they found in Rezmir’s notes.

They are instantly transported to the cold slopes of a mountain valley, surrounded by pine trees. Garrett immediately wishes they’d brought warmer clothes, and the rest of the party shivers in agreement—save Jamna.

“What you need is a Hurk,” she says, cuddling up to the towering half-orc.

The rest of the party huddles together and takes stock of their situation. They are between two standing stones. Several other pairs of standing stones are nearby. Through the trees, about a bow shot away, is a large lodge. The bottom floor is made of stone, while the top is made of wood. There are also two smaller stone outbuildings.

The two rogues, both city folk by nature, have trouble moving through the underbrush, but the rest of the party is able to compensate and they scout out the area. There are large lizard tracks and the footprints of a giant humanoid near one of the stone outbuildings. The party concludes that the outbuildings are not barracks (due to the lack of windows or chimneys). Raeyanne suspects the buildings contain “either monsters or treasure.” They decide to camp out in the forest and wait for dark before exploring further.

They retreat into a secluded spot in the pines and huddle up against Hurk to stay warm while the sun sinks low and the temperatures drop even further. As sunset’s reddish glow begins to tint the horizon, the party hears a loud snort and a crashing sound from the woods. Two big green troll are tearing through the forest towards them, accompanied by a trio of giant war lizards!

“Oi!” one of the brutes calls out. “You’re trespassing!”

“Trespassers get eaten!” the other one shouts.

Hurk steps up in from of the party to try to take the brunt of the attack, while the rogues meld into the foliage. Beryl stands beside her and summons down a sacred flame that barely singes one of the big trolls. The lizards reach the party first, but have trouble getting through the adventurers’ armor.

The trolls are another matter. The uninjured one unleashes his ire on Hurk, teeth biting and claws rending. He savages the half-orc, who has trouble cutting through its moss-green hide. The other troll, still smoking from the spell, attacks Beryl and wounds her as well. The cleric calls up powerful healing magic to restore Hurk to full heal and spares a little of Bahamut’s blessing for herself as well.

After making their initial attacks, Garrett and Raeyanne retreat up into the trees to rain arrows down onto the trolls. Jamna, meanwhile, stays on the ground to attack the trolls from the shadows using her enormous wrench. Larion focuses his attentions on the war lizards, but has abysmal luck landing a blow.

Hurk and Beryl weather more savage attacks from the trolls, while the party focuses their wrath on the wounded one of the two giant monsters. But when they knock it down, its trollish regenerative powers bring it back up. They knock it down again and Raeyanne warns that only fire will quench the regeneration.

As the other troll redoubles its attacks on Hurk, Beryl is forced to choose between calling for sacred flame again or healing the half-orc. She does the former, burning the wounded troll to a crisp, but is still able to spare a little magic for Hurk. The half-orc ferociously attacks the remaining troll, and the rest of the party joins in, bringing it down so that Beryl can burn it.

The last remaining war lizard attempts to flee, but Garrett picks it off with an arrow from his perch high in the trees.

The trolls have nothing of value on them, though their loincloths bear the cult’s symbol. With the sun setting and a patrol eliminated, the adventurers consider their next steps.

The Siege of Naerytar
Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Chapter 6, Part 5

Having infiltrated Castle Naerytar posing as mercenaries for the Cult of the Dragon, the adventurers coordinated an uprising by the oppressed lizardfolk the cult used as servants. The party successfully sabotaged the alarm drum and helped the lizardfolk secure the gatehouse. But Garrett was badly wounded in the process, and has to be tended to by Beryl.

While the dwarf cleric patches up the rogue, the lizardfolk press the attack deeper into the castle. Snapjaw reports back that the surviving cultists, together with the bullywug leader Pharblex Spattergoo and his bodyguards, have barricaded themselves in the mess hall. The mess also connects to the stairs leading into the tunnels below the fort where the stolen loot was being transported. The lizardfolk believe that the half-dragon Rezmir the Black and the Red Wizard Azbara Jos fled into the tunnels.

Storming the mess hall barricades would result in high lizardfolk casualties, so for the moment it has become a standoff. Snapjaw is confident that if the two remaining leaders—Pharblex and the arrogant sun elf Dralmorrer Borngray—are slain, it would take the fight out of the enemy. The party agrees that a decapitating strike is their best option.

After some discussion, Garrett asks Jamna if she can put together an explosive capable of breaching one of the barricades. She admits she knows how, but would need time to see if the appropriate ingredients are available. The party rests for an hour while the gnome scours the castle for parts and alchemical components. At Garrett’s request she also prepares a makeshift smoke bomb for him.

Jamna eventually reveals her highly dangerous, unstable explosive, which she hastily hands to Garrett. The rogue carefully transports the device over to the northernmost barricade, which he stealthily approaches to plant the bomb. It goes of with a sharp blastf, signalling the lizardfolk to launch their own diversionary assault on the other end of the mess hall. Garrett also tosses the smoke bomb into the room to screen the rest of the hall from their attack.

Pharblex immediately begins calling up spike growth and entanglement spells to hinder the party’s entrance into the hall, while his bullywugs hurl javelins at the adventurers. However, each of Pharblex’s spells are interrupted by by Raeyanne’s arrows and Beryl’s sacred flame. Garrett puts an arrow into one of the frogman’s eyes, while the party’s allies advance into the room as the magic fails.

The shaman throws up several spike growth and entaglement spells to dissuade the party from entering, but is distracted each time by Raeyanne’s arrows and Beryl’s sacred flame. Garrett shoots the shaman in the eye. Once the spells, have failed, the adventurers and their allies move in to attack.

Raeyanne finally brings down the outraged Pharblex, while Hurk shoulders his way through the melee to cross steel with Dralmorrer. The arrogant elf under estimates his foe and suffers a grievous wound. But he strikes back, electrifying the half-orc with shocking grasp and retreating while the sword falls from Hurk’s numb and twitching hands.

Garrett chases after him, but only manages to further wound the elf, while Raeyanne’s crossbow bolt goes wide. Hurk moves up to stand beside Garrett, and Dralmorrer tries to drive them both back with Thunderwave, but they stand their ground. Garrett tries and fails to tumble past the elf and cut him off, but when Dralmorrer lashes out he exposes his flank to Hurk, who goes in for the kill.

The smoke fades in time for the surviving cultists and bullywugs to see their leaders perish. The bullywugs leap out the window and flee, while the cultists (including Kevan and Tharn), lay down arms.

The party strips the valuable items from their fallen foes, while the lizardfolk offer them the cult’s treasure as reward for helping the revolution. Up in Rezmir’s quarters, they also discover that there is a portal circle in the caverns below (similar to what Beryl saw in her dream), which teleports people and things to a mysterious lodge on the other side of the Graypeak Mountains.

Adhering to their promise to the dragon Voaraghamanthar the Black Death, the party recovers the book he was obsessed with, a set of rituals to Myrkul the god of death, and sought out the scrying device that the dragon asked them to destroy, the farseer of Illusk. Jamna slavers over the device (“So many big gears”), and Raeyanne figures out how to operate it. Through it they learn the dragon’s secret—he has a twin. Raeyanne also uses it to check on the Carnath Roadhouse, where the cultists have been arrested (but Zora is missing).

She then uses it to scry out out the lodge across the mountains where all the loot is going, which proves to be a sizable structure in the forest. She notes that guard lizards and some sort of giant-sized humanoid appear to have left footprints by an outbuilding. The portal circle itself is in the woods some ways from the lodge. There are several other circles nearby, suggesting that this might be a transport hub of some sort.

Then, in keeping with their promise to the dragon, they destroy the farseer.

Death Comes to Frogtown
Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Chapter 6, Part 4

Having infiltrated Castle Naerytar, the adventurers have arranged for an uprising by the lizardfolk resistance. They sent the three rogues Garrett, Raeyanne, and Jamna to sabotage the alarm drum in the upper floor of the barbican while Beryl and Hurk wait below with the lizardfolk. Garrett successfully destroyed the drum, but drew the attention of the bullywug guards.


As the bullywugs start to converge on Garrett, Raeyane and Jamna are perched on the crumbling wall overlooking the barbican’s second floor. Raeyanne throws one of her daggers and kills a frogman. She then ducks back into the shadows as the startled bullywugs look around for the attacker.

Jamna casts a minor illusion to create the impression of a gruff voice on the other side of the room saying that the bullywugs are surrounded. The frog people are literally too stupid to fall for this and remain focused on the one foe they can see—Garrett.

Two of the creatures charge up to him, while the rest throw spears. The rogue is badly wounded by the onslaught, but he manages to retreat from the attackers and clamber back up the wall to take cover.

The bullywugs move up to investigate, and Jamna quietly hisses at Garrett for drawing them towards the other rogues. Garrett sarcastically apologizes for getting swarmed. Raeyanne and Jamna continue pick off the frogmen with ranged attacks, always fading back into the shadows afterward.

Thrown off balance by his wounds, Garrett has trouble avoiding detection and is the target of more throwing spears. Jamna urges him to take cover dangling off the side of the wall and allow the bullywugs to approach, as she’s “got this.”

As the creatures approach the wall near Garrett’s position, she blinds several of them with color spray. Meanwhile, Raeyanne continues to shank bullywugs as they climb up near her section of the wall, disappearing back into the darkness each time. The bullywugs begin to think they are being killed by “the ghost of the castle.”

Jamna tries to use color spray on another pair of bullywugs, but they shake off the bedazzlement. The gnome wishes Garrett the best of luck and then tries to hide, but a loose stone in the wall throws her off balance and leaves her wide open. The two bullywugs move to go after her.

With the center of the battle moving elsewhere, Garrett jumps down into the barbican in order to attack the two blinded bullywugs within. He brings one of them down.

Raeyanne is spotted and attacked by a bullywug who “ain’t afraid of no ghosts.” She kills him and then becomes the night, moving forward to help Jamna. The gnome scrambles away from the frogmen, shaking too hard to meld into the shadows. She blasts one of them with a ray of frost.

The remaining bullywug on the barbican floor recovers from the color spray blindness and hits Garrett with a thrown spear. The rogue crumples to the ground, bleeding out.

Raeyanne kills the last bullywug on the wall with extreme prejudice. The lone survivor races down the barbican stairs, shouting that attackers have taken the tower.


Hearing the fighting break out above, Beryl, Hurk, Larion, and the lizardfolk in the castle rush the barbican’s ground floor. Beryl gets things going with a silver gout of sacred flame. Hurk slashes the smoldering bullywug with his longsword, and Larion finishes him off with a cut from his scimitar.

The bullywugs unleash their giant frogs, which swarm Hurk and Larion. They then pepper the half-orc and the lizardmen with throwing spears. Beryl heals Hurk, who frees himself from one of the frogs and hacks at the other.

Snapjaw leads the lizardmen on the attack. The front ranks smash into the giant frogs, battering them into submission with heavy clubs and spiked shields, while the back ranks launch an organized volley of javelins. There is a terrifying roar from the exterior entrance to barbican as the lizardmen from the camp outside rush in.

The bullywugs realize they are caught between two pincers. A lone bullywug races down the staircase from floor above screeching that the tower is taken.

Beryl bellows at the bullywugs to surrender. They immediately drop their weapons and raise their hands.

The gold dwarf heads upstairs, where Raeyanne has stabilized Garrett. Beryl heals him and gives him a potion. The adventurers regroup and prepare to press the attack.


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