Tyranny of Dragons

Searching for Steeltoes
The Second Council of Waterdeep, Part 2

After doing a little shopping in Waterdeep’s bazaars, the adventurers retire to an upscale inn called the Crossed Axes for a hot bath and a night in a feather bed.

But Garrett and Larion’s evening is spoiled when they spot a floating, miniature beholder lurking outside their window. They alert Beryl to their discovery, but she is unsympathetic.

Meanwhile, Hurk apologizes to Jamna for giving away the plunder of Arauthator’s lair to the frost giantess Imthr. He promises to make it up to her.

The next morning, Laeral Silverhand contacts Garrett to arrange a safe meeting space. She invites them into a mage’s private sanctum in the alley behind the inn.

After learning that the Xanathar is the one sending bounty hunters after Garrett, Laeral provides the party with some information about the beholder crimelord:

  • The beholder is scared of her and as a result won’t kill any member of the Lords’ Alliance. However, given the political circumstances and Garrett’s reputation, it would take more than her word to get him in. Garrett isn’t interested in joining a team, just as he wasn’t interested in signing on with the Zhentarim.
  • The Xanathar is obsessed with something called “Sylgar,” which could be used to gain leverage over it. Neither Beryl nor Jamna are familiar with it.
  • Beholders’ dreams manifest into reality, producing miniature gazers or rival beholders. As a result, the Xanathar is rumored to have commissioned a device that suppresses its dreams to prevent such creations. That could be another avenue to exploit.
  • Laeral provides them with a back door entrance to the Xanathar’s Lair in Skullport deep below Waterdeep.

After Laeral takes her leave, the party decides to split up. Garrett and Larion remain in the sanctum, while Jamna checks if her Zhentarim superiors have any information. Beryl and Hurk ask around with local merchants to see if any knows about Sylgar.

An old dwarf glassmaker named Gine tells them about a strange dwarf named Steeltoes who comes by every so often to buy a big fishbowl “for Sylgar.”

Following up the lead on Steeltoes, they check out an herbalist he is known to frequent. The proprietor, a short dwarf woman named Atlag, explains that Ott Steeltoes is passionate about cultivating subterranean mushrooms.

Having heard that he was also seen at the docks, they ask around there and discover that Steeltoes is known to visit the Fin Mill, a converted windmill that serves as a high end fish shop.

Inside, they find the aloof elf proprietress Viri, who does not want to talk about Ott Steeltoes. After Beryl promises to arrange an exclusive contract with the Church of Bahamut, she takes them into the back room.

She says that Steeltoes always buys a particular type of fish, and insists she keep a stock for him ready at all times. She knows he is involved in the Xanathar Guild.

As Beryl and Hurk prepare to leave, the front door is kicked open as a dwarf with a crossbow for an arm and a gang of bugbears burst in.

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Gentling the Giant
The Second Council of Waterdeep

Having pulled Hurk from the freezing pool in Arauthator’s icy lair, the frost giant bounty hunter Imthr—still charmed by Jamna—recommends they take him somewhere warm and get him out of his wet clothes.

Beryl suggests they return to Maccath’s tent in the ice caves above. Hurk is not opposed to this. Imthr places him inside a bag that she wears like a massive baby bjorn and climbs up the ice chute with him. A protective Jamna hangs onto the giant, and Beryl scales the rope after him.

Garrett and Larion remain below, sharing the dragon’s lair uneasily with Imthr’s winter wolf companion Atla.

After Hurk is settled into the warm tent, wrapped in some of the heavy rugs that make up the floor, Beryl and Jamna have a side conversation. Jamna reveals that she has about 40 minutes of charm spell left on the giantess. They both agree that Imthr needs to die, but first Hurk needs to be restored to fighting shape and then talked into battling the giant.

Down below, Garrett and Larion try to get some information from Atla, but the wolf isn’t sharing. Garrett recalls that dragon parts are valuable and begins carving up Arauthator’s remains.

Upstairs, Beryl and Jamna convince Imthr not to return to Atla and instead stand guard outside the tent.

Hurk insists that they should try to talk the giantess into helping them in the fight against Tiamat and the Cult of the Dragon.

Having thoroughly scavenged the dragon’s remains and spied the sparkling treasure encased in his lair’s icy walls, Garrett heads upstairs. Encountering Imthr outside the tent, he asks about the price on his head. She refuses to quote a figure, but acknowledges that she won’t collect the contract now that they are friends and comrades.

That’s enough for Hurk to go out and chat her up. He offers to let her take the entire treasure hoard if she agrees to drop Garrett’s contract and never take it back up. He also suggests she look up the cloud giant lord Blagothkus and join his anti-dragon crusade. She is amenable, and adds that the party should try to gain leverage over The Xanathar to get it to back off.

The charm spell comes to an end, leaving Imthr startled and wary. After reaffirming that the deal is still in place, she makes her exit, pausing to kiss Hurk on his head.

With the giant gone, the party turns to Maccath’s request that they obtain the writings of the ice toad Marfurlb, who has taken extensive notes going back decades on Arauthator’s arcane research. Maccath wants that information conveyed to the Arcane Brotherhood at the Host Tower of Luskan. A parlay with the ice toads is successful, though Marlfurlb insists on traveling with her records.

Next, they notify the Ice Hunter villagers that the dragon is dead. The Ice Hunters immediately begin preparing to flee the iceberg. Maccath explains that Arauthator has a mate, Arveitrace, who is an infrequent visitor but may seek vengeance. Arveitrace is somewhat mad and still carries on her back the body of a wizard ally who had been riding her.

As the adventurers depart in the Frostskimmr, they spy the small ship that had been following them. Imthr and Atla is about, and the frost giant gives them a wave.

After carefully exiting the Sea of Moving Ice, they stop in the pirate hold of Luskan to drop Marfurlb and her records off at the sinister Host Tower. From there, it is another ten-day’s travel south to Waterdeep.

They are met at the docks by their old associates Leosin and Ontharr Frume. The duo are impressed with their victory, and also alert the party to a recent shakeup in Waterdeep politics.

The city’s long-time Open Lord, Dagult Neverember, has been dismissed by the Masked Lords of Waterdeep and replaced by the renowned adventurer Laeral Silverhand. In addition to various scandals, the Masked Lords had felt that Neverember was too distracted by his efforts rebuilding the city of Neverwinter to manage Waterdeep’s affairs as well.

This change has left things unsettled in the city, although Ontharr Frume is convinced it is for the best. It’s also created some tension on the Council, where Neverember still has a seat as Lord Protector of Neverwinter.

After this update, the party is taken to the Lords’ Palace, where they freshen up before attending a meeting of the Second Council of Waterdeep, now presided over by Laeral Silverhand. They report on their activities in the Sea of Moving Ice. The defeat of Arauthator receives general praise, but Ontharr Frume is unhappy that they did a favor for the morally questionable Arcane Brotherhood of Luskan.

Maccath also provides more information about the Draakhorn. She believes that so long as it is sounded, chromatic dragons within a mile or so of the horn will have their powers bolstered. Silencing the horn will be a priority in any final confrontation with the Cult.

Laeral Silverhand then alerts the party to two missions the Council has for them. Delaan Winterhound of the Emerald Enclave believes that recent dragon attacks against the elves of the Misty Forest are being personally directed by the Cult’s Green Wyrmspeaker. He suspects more attacks are imminent and urges the party to investigate.

The ruler of the Misty Forest, the wood elf King Melandrach, insists that his warriors have secured the forest against further attack and believes the mission is a waste of time, but he has been outvoted on the Council.

Also at the Council session is the mysterious silver-haired woman Elia, who at Laeral’s invitation reveals that the metallic dragons of Faerun are gathering in a conclave to decide what role they will play in the conflict. Elia reveals herself to be a silver dragon and requests that the adventurers participate in the conclave as ambassadors from the younger races of the world.

The party is uncertain which task to undertake first, but Elia tells her that it will still be some time before the metallic dragons can assemble their conclave. So the Misty Forest investigation will have to come first.

After the Council session, Laeral Silverhand approaches the party to ask about the frost giant bounty hunter they briefly mentioned. She doesn’t want them to be distracted by any outside troubles and offers her considerable help in resolving it.

Hyper paranoid about being watched, Garrett is reluctant to discuss the issue outside a secure area. Laeral tells them to spend a few days recuperating and preparing for the next task, and promises to arrange a safe place to chat.

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The Old White Death
The Sea of Moving Ice, Part 5

Arauthator the Old White Death narrows his icy blue eyes at the party. Hurk, dangling from a rope (with Jamna hanging onto him), had just spun a story of trying to defend the dragon’s hoard from the frost giantess currently grasping Garrett.

Arauthator thanks the adventurers for their service and asks them to hold the giant there for him. The great white dragon swoops towards them.

Jamna immediately casts a charm spell on the frost giantess, telling her that they are all on the same dragon-killing team now. The large, blue-skinned woman blinks and then agrees, releasing her quarry and turning to face the dragon. Jamna scrambles off of Hurk and onto the giant’s back.

From above Hurk, Beryl expertly descends to the icy cavern floor and then hits the dragon with sacred flame. The giantess hurls a chunk of ice at the dragon but misses. Larion makes his way down as well and scrambles for cover.

Arauthator then breathes a freezing blast at Hurk, Beryl, and Garrett. The ring of cold resistance softens the blow for Hurk, while Garrett dodges out of the way entirely. Beryl takes the full blast.

Swinging from the rope, Hurk lands on top of the dragon and hacks into it with Hazirawn. The greatsword is excited about this plan. The dragon flies up to scrape the half-orc against the ceiling and he tumbles to the cold hard ground.

Arauthator retreats back across the room. Garrett snipes it with his bow. The dragon calls upon it’s lair to drop falling icicles on Hurk, Garrett and Beryl.

The giantess, with Jamna on her back, charges forward to challenge the dragon. She pelts him solidly with another chunk of ice. Beryls calls upon her divine magics to heal the group.

Arauthator sallies forth to attack the frost giant, filling the room with its frightful presence. Garrett and Jamna are terrified. Hurk shoots the creature with the first arrow of dragonslaying. The Old White Death resists the effects but is still wounded. The second arrow glances off its scales and lands somewhere in the room. Hurk decides to switch back to his sword and go after the dragon.

A pair of sea troll bodyguards arrive to protect their master. They attack Hurk and the giantess. Beryl struggles to keep everyone healed as Arauthator hurls blasts of cold magic at them. A terrified Garrett has trouble hitting it from a distance. Jamna is freaking out, her fingers trembling too much to land a spell on the trolls.

The dragon’s lair summons up a wall of ice to block off view of it from everyone except Garrett. Jamna drops off the giant’s back as she turns to fight the trolls with Hurk. She urges the giant to get the dragon on the ground so Hurk can kill it.

The giantess call on the green man to keep up as she starts to lumber around the wall. After confirming that the giant can throw him onto the dragon, Hurk cuts down a troll and makes his way towards her, flirting the entire time. The giant insists her name isn’t Frosty Girl, but Imthr.

Beryl continues to summon up untapped reserves of healing magic to keep the battered party afloat, even sparing some for the giantess.

Garrett lands a shot on the dragon and shakes off his terror. The dragon’s lair then surrounds him with an obscuring, freezing mist.

Imthr picks up both Hurk and Jamna and carries them around the ice wall, then tosses Hurk. Beryl utters a prayer to Bahamut as the giant winds up, and with her blessing the half-orc lands solidly on the dragon’s back.

This triumph is short lived, however, as Arauthator batters Hurk with his tail, then shakes him off into the freezing slushy pool below. The dragon then pounces, tearing into Hurk. The half-orc, submerged in icy water, responds with a fury of his own and cuts into the dragon, finally piercing its heart with Hazirawn. The dragon’s dying breath freezes half the slush.

As Hurk enters the first stages of hypothermia, Imthr wades into the water and retrieves both the fighter and the dead dragon. The surviving sea troll flees.

Up above, Larion gives Garrett the all clear. As Garrett emerges from the mist cloud, a huge white wolf suddenly appears and chomps down on his leg, trying to knock him over. Imthr hastily calls up to Atla, telling the wolf to stop.

“Are we not still doing this?” the creature asks around a mouthful of Garrett. Imthr insists that they are not and he lets the rogue go.

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Out of the Cold, Into the Freezer
The Sea of Moving Ice, Part 4

The adventurers take a short rest in the tent of Maccath the Crimson, having learned from the tiefling wizard that they must vanquish the white dragon Arauthator the Old White Death before they can safely leave the iceberg. Hurk takes this time to attune to his ring of cold resistance.

While they rest, the kobolds that Maccath dismissed earlier return with her food and are accompanied by an ice troll. The tiefling uses illusion magic to hide the party as the troll pokes its head into the tent. But event after, Beryl hears the big monster lurking outside.

The adventurers quickly decide to confront the troll. It manages to call out an alarm before they cut it to pieces and burn the pieces. The party decides to wait and lay an ambush for reinforcements coming up the ice ramp.

Another troll and a band of kobolds rush up, and the ambush is spring. The kobolds quickly gang up on Larion, while the troll considers Beryl’s sacred flame its most pressing threat. The adventurers make short work of most of the kobolds, and the last two try to flee. Garrett and Jamna finish them off.

Beryl and Hurk work together to take out the troll. The ice monster discovers at the last minute that Hazirawn was its greatest threat, as the evil sword greedily feasts upon the troll.

Garrett and Jamna notice that a large group of man-sized ice toads has gathered at the entrance to the chamber. The arctic amphibians watch them impassively with their enormous eyes, but make no aggressive gestures. With a shudder, the rogues retreat back up the ice ramp to join the others.

With no more reinforcements inbound, the adventurers move on to the back entrance to Arauthator’s lair in the heart of the iceberg. The entrance is a vertical chute in the ice, which opens out into a large chamber.

Garrett descends first, relying on his experience as a second-story man to properly climb down while securing a rope line for the others. As he climbs down the rope into the large cavern, he finds himself hanging above a large ice shelf overlooking a vast chamber. On the floor below, there are several slushy pools of water, as well as ice that sparkles with frozen treasure. And hanging from the ceiling above the treasure is the huge, sleeping shape of Arauthator the Old White Death.

But Garrett has more immediate concerns, instinctively swinging aside on the rope avoid the grasp of a frost giant woman who suddenly becomes visible right beside him. Garrett realizes this must be one of the two invisible figures they encountered earlier. He negotiates with her and after being promised she won’t kill him, descends to the ground.

It is then that she pulls out the manacles and explains she is there to collect him for a many-eyed individual in Waterdeep. Garrett is less than enthused by this, but is also concerned that the dragon might notice them. The giantess uses a ring to turn herself invisible again, then grabs him with a big cold hand.

The other adventurers, unclear on what is taking place below, have been descending the rope. Hurk (with Jamna clinging to him) dangles down into the cavern, while up above Beryl’s armor clanks noisily.

The sound echoes across the chamber, stirring the dragon to open one stark blue eye. it rears up angrily. The frost giantess grumbles “why must there always be complications?”

Hurk, meanwhile, breaks out his fabled silver tongue and tries to bluff the dragon into believing that the party are devoted servants trying to stop the giantess from raiding its treasure hoard.

Arauthator’s blue eyes narrow…

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Ice Skating Uphill
The Sea of Moving Ice, Part 3

Having gathered in the shaman Bonecarver’s yurt and been provided with a map of the first level of the dragon Arauthator’s ice caverns below, the adventurers come up with a plan. Because of how slippery and uneven the caverns are, they also use climbing kits to create makeshift crampons. They then head down through the back entrance beneath the shaman’s hut.

Following their plan, they move stealthily out into the central circular hall and move in a clockwise fashion towards the red lady’s room. They manage to slip past the kobold quarters unseen.

However, the tunnel starts to slope downwards in a steep ramp and they run into trouble trying to traverse it. All but Jamna take a tumble and land in a heap at the bottom of the ramp. An eerie, roiling fog sweeps over them, filling the hallway, and they realize they are not alone. There is something very large in the fog as well.

Rather than investigate, they feel along the wall to head away from the creature and eventually come clear of the fog. They reluctantly pass by the dragon’s trophy room.

The adventurers reach the empty chamber just before the red woman’s room and are confronted with another ice ramp, this one sloping upward. As they ascend, Hurk tumbles back down. This draws the attention of an ice troll standing guard around the corner, who attacks the party. Hurk isn’t able to make his way up the ramp, so the others retreat back towards him.

Garrett is the last to go and takes the brunt of the troll’s attack before escaping downstairs and then winging it with an arrow. Hurk follows suit with two more arrows. The troll jumps down to attack Hurk but can’t get through his armor. Beryl restores Garrett with healing magic. Hurk takes the troll to pieces with Hazirawn.

Using a rope to assist, the party climbs up the ice ramp. They discover a strange tent in the next chamber. Listening carefully, they hear trolls and ice toads in the distance. They also sense other entities closer to home. Jamna sees big footprints in the empty chamber below, while Beryl hears two invisible creatures.

Fearing an ambush, Hurk charges in the general vicinity of the invisible creature Jamna identified, but his sword cleaves only air. Rather than attack, the creature moves past him and up the ramp. It pauses near Larion, Jamna and Garrett, then moves on past the party. A second, faster invisible creature follows it on four legs, pausing in the same spot and sniffing Garrett. The adventurers decide to see where this goes and don’t try to attack the invisible entities.

Garrett and Larion then try to scope out the tent, which is made of many carpets and tapestries hung from a whalebone frame. The invisible creatures appear to have pressed on down a side passage towards the back entrance to the dragon’s lair below.

Entering the tent, the party meets the missing tiefling Maccath the Crimson. She isn’t all that excited to see them. The dragon has pressed her into translating its trove of plundered arcane secrets. They will have to kill the dragon or drive it off before it will be safe for anyone to leave the island. Maccath grudgingly gifts them with a ring of cold resistance and two arrows of dragon slaying and describes the layout of Arauthator’s lair.

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Clash of the Kayfabe
The Sea of Moving Ice, Part 2

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The adventurers’ latest mission has them sailing north to the Sea of Moving Ice aboard the longship Frostskimmr, seeking the iceberg that was the last known location of a tiefling woman, Maccath the Crimson. She is a renowned expert on the Draakhorn, an artifact being used by the Cult of the Dragon. Maccath hasn’t been heard from in three years, and it is feared that she may have run afoul of the dragon Arauthator, the Old White Death.

After leaving Waterdeep’s harbor, good omens of dancing dolphins are soon drowned by a winter gale. The further north the Frostskimmr sails, the colder it gets and the more ice drifts they encounter. Eventually, the ice floes are big enough that Captain Lerustah has the longship pulled onto a big ice floe at night. He assures them that all is well.

It is bitterly cold in the open air vessel and keeps getting worse. Jamna spends much of the trip bundled up inside Hurk’s greatcoat for warmth. She insists its simply a matter of her small body mass proving less effective at retaining heat. Yeah, that’s it.

As the Frostskimmr ventures into the shifting archipelago of icebergs, the crew spots a distant ship following them. After a discussion with Lerustah, the party decides to press onward rather than confronting their pursuer.

It takes five days of searching in the sea of moving ice before they find the iceberg mentioned in Maccath’s notes. They approach cautiously, and Lerustah observes signs of Ice Hunters, the human tribes native to the region. The are not known to be hostile.

The party decides to have the longship pulled up onto an ice shelf at the base of the iceberg. A huge pile of bones is there, showing bite marks from a large predator, likely the dragon according to Lerustah. The party leaves him to shore up defenses while they press on to the icy plateau above.

They are greeted by the sight of ten corpses frozen in a wall of ice, three Luskar warriors, a dwarf, and six Ice Hunters, the nomadic people of the Sea of Moving Ice. Beyond, they discover a hidden village of Ice Hunters. The villagers hastily run out to confront them. Beryl casts tongues on Hurk so he could negotiate with them in their native language, as none speak Common.

The Ice Hunter chieftain immediately tells Hurk to leave. Garrett spots a couple villagers slipping away to the meeting hall in the village. The rogue also notices there are no elderly among the tribe. Hurk realizes they are lying and challenges them. The chieftain suggests a contest of strength and valor to earn their place in the village. Hurk will face their champion, Orcaheart. The two will hurt each other until one is unconscious. Magic is forbidden to be used.

Orcaheart gets the upper hand and Hurk realizes he won’t be able to batter the man down. He tries to knock Orcaheart over, but the champion won’t budge. So a badly wounded Hurk decides to switch from swords to his silver tongue, and demands to know what happened to the Ice Hunter elders.

An intimidated Orcaheart quietly admits that the dragon slew them and its lair is inside the iceberg. He reveals that the Ice Hunters have been forced to serve it. Hurk convinces him that the party can slay the creature.

So they attempt to fake Orcaheart losing the fight. The initial swing obviously doesn’t connect and Orcaheart falls unconvincingly to the ground. He then starts clutching at his face, pretending the half-orc threw something in his eyes. While he writhes around on the ground, Hurk finally manages to land a blow on him. Orcaheart goes limb, pretending to have been knocked unconscious.

It’s a passable showing that convinces most of the village, but Hurk suspects the chieftain and the young shaman Bonecarver have their doubts. As Bonecarver treats Orcaheart’s “wounds,” he whispers something to her.

The chieftain welcomes the adventurers to the village and says they will be tended to by Bonecarver. She takes them to her yurt, and comes clean. The dragon has effectively enslaved the villagers, using them as spies and demanding they provide food and tribute. She believes that the village will eventually be destroyed by the dragon, and has had visions that the totem spirits would send heroes to slay it. She prays that the party are those heroes.

She explains that the dragon has been alerted to their presence and she is expected to poison them so they can be taken prisoner. She gives them a general description of the ice cavern’s layout and warns them of the dragon’s servants, including ice trolls and ice toads.

“Frogs,” Jamna shivers, “why does it always have to be frogs.”

There is a little used entrance to the caves under Bonecarver’s hut, and a more frequently used one under the meeting hall. She also tells them that the one they seek, Maccath the Crimson, is also being held prisoner below. The party tries to determine the best route through the caverns to get to the dragon without running into a lot of minions.

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Clearing the Air
The Sea of Moving Ice, Part 1

Still perched up in the tree he was sniping from, Garrett is ambushed by an invisible stalker. The creature whispers “The Xanathar sends its regards” into the rogue’s ear as it attacks. Both Beryl and Larion notice Garrett flailing about trying to get free of the creature but mistakenly think he’s trying to swat a fly.

Then the invisible being of air grabs him by the throat and lifts him up, making it clear something is very wrong. Garrett stabs it ineffectually with a dagger.

Larion scrambles up the tree to try to slash the unseen entity with his scimitar, but never hits. Beryl rushes over and tries to restore Garrett with a healing word and hit the elemental with sacred flame, a combo she repeats multiple times with mixed success.

Jamna blasts away at the thing with her ray of frost. Each time she hits it, half the creature is briefly outlined with ice crystals. Hurk brings out the Longbow of the Golden Hart, but none of his arrows strike true—although two of them do strike Garrett. Eventually, Captain Khalia and the confused paladins join in with heavy crossbows, hitting the invisible stalker with a couple bolts.

Garrett finally manages to slip away from the creature’s ever-shifting grasp and scrambles down the tree and out into the open. The invisible stalker continues to pursue him. Hurk finally discards the bow and charges the entity with Hazirawn, tearing it apart.

Garrett then gets some paper from the paladins and writes an obscene note to The Xanathar. He then finds an underworld contact in the tent city to convey it to the beholder.

As the party recovers from the one-two of the cult ambush and the assassination attempt, their dwarven guide Thali arrives. She tells them about invisible stalkers, elemental entities that are summoned to kill specific targets that they can always track down. This does not reassure Garrett or Larion.

After resting up, the next day the party sets out for Waterdeep. It takes more than a ten-day to reach the metropolis, with Garrett jumping at every random gust of wind along the way. On arriving, they report to the Council about Varram’s capture and death, as well as the information they extracted from him. Lord Dagult Neverember and the other Councilmembers appear to be impressed with their handling of the situation.

The Council tasks them with tracking down Maccath the Crimson, a sorcerer from the Arcane Brotherhood who is an expert on the artifact known as the Draakhorn. She’s gone missing in the Sea of Moving Ice far to the north, presumed a captive of the white dragon Arauthator.

Jamna reunites with the adventurers after the Council session, giddy with her promotion in the Zhentarim. They go shopping for winter gear, then head to the Yawning Portal. While Hurk and Jamna chat each other up and Beryl gets drunk on two beers, Garrett and Larion spot Igach watching them. They spend the night sleeping in shifts, having set up candles to spot any stray breeze.

The next morning, the party heads to the dock to meet with the longship the Council arranged to take them north. They meet with Lerustah Half-Face, captain of the Frostskimmr, who welcomes them aboard. Soon, they are sailing out of Waterdeep and towards the Sea of Moving Ice.

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Total Party Kickass
The Cult Strikes Back, Part 2

Having discovered an impending cultist ambush at the Boareskyre Bridge, the adventurers race to disrupt the plot. Beryl and Hurk warn the paladin Captain Khalia to summon reinforcements, while Garrett, Larion, and Jamna attempt to do something about the barrels planted at Bolo’s Tentside Inn.

While trying to sneak in the back of the inn’s pavilion, Larion and Garrett spot a rapidly approaching blue dragon. They realize that it is lining up a strafing run across the row of barrels. Inside the tent, Jamna disguises herself as an inspector for the Guild of Inns and Taverns and demands that the barrels be rolled outside. Unfortunately, her bluster isn’t quite convincing.

So it falls to Garrett, alarmed by the incoming dragon, to burst into the tent and start shouting “Fire! Fire!” His genuine fear convinces the crowd and sparks a stampede for the exit, just as Beryl and Hurk arrive.

Beryl stands firm against the throng but Hurk is immediately bowled over. Jamna likewise is knocked to the ground and trampled. Beryl senses a fellow dragon nearby and casts her gaze up to see the diving wyrm. She also sees several individuals in full Cult of the Dragon regalia dashing from one of the nearby tents into the cover of the tree line.

Beryl pulls Hurk onto his feet and warns him about both dangers. The two of them elbow their way out of the crowd as Hurk unslings the Longbow of the Golden Hart and readies a shot at the dragon.

Inside the pavilion, Garrett urges Larion to pick up Jamna and make a break for it. The half-elf collects the gnome and carries her to the threshold, where she wriggles free and slips into the crowd. Garrett himself rushes out through the back of the tent and up into a nearby tree a safe distance away.

By this point, the dragon’s approach is noticed by the crowd of evacuated patrons and an even greater panic starts to set it. Their surprise spoiled, the cultists decide to reveal themselves. The blue half-dragon leads his band of cultists out into view, shouting “The dragons rise! None can stop Tiamat’s return!”

The half-dragon then belches forth a long bolt of lightning that strikes Hurk square in the chest plate, thoroughly zapping him and putting his hair on end.

Three individuals in the crowd cast off their cloaks, revealing cult regalia beneath. They, too, shout “The dragons rise! None shall defeat them!”

The trio rush up behind Hurk and Beryl, their scimitars at the ready. Meanwhile, two of the cultists from the tree line dash forward and lift off, their capes taking the form of great bat wings to fly them over to the adventurers. They descend sword first, their blades crackling with electricity. Hurk and Beryl both take savage wounds from the attack.

The party realizes that these aren’t second-stringers. The cult is truly bent on killing them in this ambush, and has invested substantial resources to do so. From the shadows of the trees, their old enemy Frulam Mondath watches her cultists do their work.

The blue dragon dives low, flinching only slightly as Hurk wings it with his arrow. It is younger and smaller than the dragon that attacked Greenest so many months ago, but still dangerous. Its lightning breath scorches a line through the pavilion. There is a hissing sound and then multiple explosions tear apart the inn. Larion is singed by the blast. The dragon starts to wheel around for another pass.

Beryl struggles to heal the damage the cultists are dealing out, as she and Hurk bleed from multiple wounds. Garrett looses arrows from his perch in the tree, then ducks back into cover, hidden from view. Larion manages to sneak up to one of the cultists, but his scimitar glances off their armor. Jamna casts color spray and manages to briefly blind two of the three that are flanking Hurk and Beryl from behind.

Hurk drops the longbow and has a cackling Hazirawn to hand an instant later. The greatsword cleaves through one of the dragonwing cultists, but a slash against the second one is parried.

The remaining dragonwing calls for help and the half-dragon marches forward, cutting into Hurk with a vicious falchion. Garrett takes a shot at the half-dragon, but the arrow bounces off its armor. The sighted member of the cultist trio slashes out at the badly wounded Beryl, but swift as a sentinel Hurk lops the top of the man’s head off.

The wounded dragonwing cultist takes a swing at Hurk, but Beryl hooks his leg, throwing him off balance and allowing the fighter to easily bat aside his attacks.

A frustrated Frulam Mondath edges closer to the battle and uses a crackling orb of electrical energy to hurl a bolt of lightning at Beryl. The cleric barely stays on her feet, but is able to recite a healing word that bolsters herself and her allies. She then moves to flank the half-dragon with Hurk.

The young blue dragon swoops down and bites Hurk as it passes by, its teeth easily punching through his armor. The half-orc still has plenty of fight left in him however.

Larion sees his chance and cuts down one of the blinded cultists from behind, then wounds the other badly with a dagger from his off hand. Jamna decides against magic and instead marches out into the open to pop the wounded dragonwing cultist in the knee with her wrench, then splatter his head once he falls to the ground.

With Hazirawn whispering in his ear, Hurk lops off the half-dragon’s sword arm. He the grabs the half-dragon by the shoulder with one hand and rams the evil sword straight through the creature’s armor. Hazirawn’s necrotic energy drinks deep and the half-dragon wilts into a desiccated husk that Hurk casts to the ground.

He casts his gaze over to the last of the three cultists that had been flanking him from behind. This gentleman, having just regained his sight, realizes that he is the last cultist standing in the half-orc’s immediate vicinity. The man, already badly wounded by Larion, tries to disengage and flee. Hurk just flicks out with Hazirawn to spear the cultist’s heart.

Frulam Mondath stares in disbelief at the circle of six dead elite cultists around the blood-spattered Hurk and Beryl. She then uses her orb to fire a bolt of lightning into the sky and starts running. Garrett lets fly with an arrow, but just misses her. The silvery wrath of Beryl’s sacred flame scorches her but does not slow her.

Then the blue dragon, with an air of “I can’t believe I’m doing this,” swoops down to pick up Frulam Mondath and carry her off. Captain Khalia and a lance of mounted knights ride up in time to witness the escape. From his perch in the tree, Garrett flips them off for their tardiness.

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Roll Out the Barrel
The Cult Strikes Back, Part 1

The adventurers have a tense interaction with Talis the White, who wants to question the captured Wyrmspeaker Varram the White. This is further complicated by the fact that their guide Thali secretly has a bomb ready to go off if negotiations fail.

After Varram refuses to cooperate, they let Talis ask her questions. Once she does, she informs the adventurers that the cult plans to ambush them at the Boareskyre Bridge. Talis, Larion, and Garrett then have an awkward reunion before she departs.

On their way back through the Serpent Hills, the adventurers question Varram. He reveals the following information:

  • The Cult is based out of the Well of Dragons, an ancient dragon burial ground to the south, which the Cult has heavily fortified.
  • The Cult can complete its ritual without all of the Wyrmspeaker masks, but every mask that is lost will weaken Tiamat’s avatar when it manifests on Faerun.
  • The loss of Wyrmspeaker Rezmir has thrown the Black Dragon sect of the Cult into chaos.
  • The Cult’s leader Severin the Red is relying on the magical expertise of exiled Red Wizards of Thay, but the wizards aren’t true believers. They just want to use Tiamat against their enemies in Thay—and those same enemies could intervene against the Cult.
  • The Cult has diabolical allies who want to see Tiamat released from the Nine Hells, but other devils make want to thwart this plan and keep her there.
  • One fiendish ally of the Cult is a succubus that has compromised some Council staff and has been feeding information to the Cult.

Once the adventurers have heard what they need, they give Jamna the green light. The next morning, Varram is missing. Tracking his “escape,” they discover he has fallen down a ravine to his death. Thali decides she isn’t going to pay to have him raised from the dead.

They approach the tent city at Boareskyre Bridge and see no sign of a cult attack. Jamna turns Garrett invisible so that he can scout the camp. He spots a paladin helping to bring some unruly dogs under control. He also uses this opportunity to try picking some pockets and acquires a strange little bag. At Bolo’s Roadside Inn, Invisible Garrett doesn’t see anyone unusually shady, but does notice something odd about the barrels of ale that the innkeeper is being sold. Five of them smell very chemically.

Invisible Garrett follows the ale merchant back to a tent, where he is conferring with Frulam Mondath, last surviving leader of the Cult’s attack on Greenest many months ago. The Cultists have spotted the party, but are surprised the adventurers haven’t moved on to the inn yet. Frulam says it will be a while before the innkeeper taps the special barrels. She tells the merchant to “suit up.”

Invisible Garrett returns to inform the party, pausing first to surreptitiously tie Hurk’s shoes. They debate what to do. Garrett discovers that his pilfered pouch contains hairy beans that turn into small animals that temporarily obey him. He sends a red squirrel to go gnaw on the funny smelling barrels in order to mark them.

Larion suggests they bring the authorities in on this. Hurk, Beryl and Thali decide to talk to the paladin while the rogues try to abscond with the barrels. The paladin, Captain Khalia, remembers them and agrees to get reinforcements from the nearby watchtower.

At the tavern, the rogues try to find a way to get the barrels removed. Jamna disguises herself as a guild inspector while Garrett and Larion stealth around to the back of the pavilion. Just before they slip inside, they spy a dragon approaching in the distance.

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The Obligatory Serpent Cult Battle
Rise of Tiamat, Varram the White, Part 5

After the party recovers from the bridge battle, Jamna thanks them for saving her. She confesses her secret mission to murder Varram in order to prevent him from revealing details of Zhent operations to the rest of the council. Garrett suggests that they question Varram about the Cult and then kill him. The others are on board with this plan.

They jerry-rig a rope bridge across the chasm and venture deeper into the serpentfolk complex. Following a trail of blood, they arrive at a temple. Six enormous snake statues flank the room, the green flames in their mouths providing eerie illumination. At the far end of the room is a dais with a large stone altar. Behind it is a naga-like yuan-ti priestess, holding a semi-conscious Varram at knife point. Their foe Ssessirex stands near the altar, as does another yuan-ti malison and two lizardfolk warriors.

The priestess calls out to the adventurers, offering to give them the dwarf if they leave. Hurk demands satisfaction against Ssessirex and ultimately arranges for a duel between them. The half-orc confidently brings Hazirawn to bear against the yuan-ti’s scimitar. The baleful blade cuts the yuan-ti down.

But the green flame from one of the six snake statues flits over to the fallen Ssessirex, restoring him to vitality. The serpent-headed man presses the attack. Though Hurk kills him repeatedly, the green flames continue to revive him and the yuan-ti’s own attacks begin to wear down the half-orc, despite Beryl’s healing magic. Hurk cries foul at this, but Ssessirex points out that he is the one who provoked a duel i a temple.

Meanwhile, Garrett and Jamna have been slowly and stealthily creeping across the fringes of the room, moving from snake statue to snake statue. Jamna is ultimately discovered, sparking outrage from the yuan-ti for her interference. As the duel devolves into a battle, the yuan-ti priestess calls for the adventurers to just take the dwarf and leave, using magic to strike terror in them.

Beryl, jamna, Larion, and Ssessirex are all afflict and run. Hurk manages to lead the barely conscious Varram out of the temple chamber. Garrett lingers to take a few potshots at the priestess before following.

Out in the corridor, Jamna runs as fast as her little legs can take her, but the others quickly shake off the priestess’ magic. Ssessirex is caught outside the temple’s magic and is put down viciously.

The adventurers make their way outside of Diderius’ Tomb, where they reunite with Jamna. After dousing Varram with curative magic, the golf dwarf Wyrmspeaker becomes very talkative. He explains that the White Wyrmspeaker mask was stolen from him, so he traveled out to the tomb to use its divining pool to locate it before the theft was known to the rest of the Cult. Unfortunately, the pool revealed that Cult agents had already recovered the stolen mask, leaving Varram’s reputation in shambles.

That is when Talis the White and a band of her followers emerge from one of the ruined buildings outside the tomb. Talis is very disappointed to hear that the White Wyrmspeaker mask was recovered.

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