Adventurer's Beware

6 Alturiak (The Claw of Winter) – Destinations Unknown

Hesitation played across everyone’s face but Carden’s. He appeared like a child upon discovery of a new toy that had a secret yet revealed. As the group entered the standing stones, Carden produced his dragonscales. With scales in hand, he quickly touched the black to the closest stone and it along with its opposing stone flared to life. Without hesitation, he moved to an adjacent stone and touched it with the blue scale causing two more stones to ignite with an eerie radiance upon the runes there. He looked at Droom and Aelith eagerly. Droom just nodded in disagreement as Aelith sighed. The ranger produced his red dragonscale and walked to one of the remaining two unlit stones. With a look at the group to ensure they were ready, he touched the stone. It flared to life and a buzzing could be heard. With a shift in the air and a humming, the group found themselves in a thin mist with a chamber before them.

It became apparent that their arrival chamber was a large circular (30ft radius) room with four portals depicting draconic figures in the cardinal directions. A large statue of a multi-headed and multi-hued dragon was central above a shallow shifting metallic pool with a low wall (2ft) and small grooves to allow the flow of liquid. The grooves started within the maws of draconic heads carved from the dark stone that constructed the pool. As the group walked out of the portal beneath the arch of draconic figures, they noticed another across from them and one to the left of similar make though dark as if inert. The one to the right was damaged and collapsed along with two passages that originally led from the room between the portals. This left two other passages between the portals unobstructed. Muffled sounds were heard from one of the passages as two small kobolds shuffled forward.

Wrinkled and dry, both approach and speak in the draconic tongue. Carden quickly casts a spell to interpret what they are saying. He explains that the smallest, Skrite, just hailed them as Masters of the Scaled Tyrant and he knew they would return, not forsaking them. At this, the smallest kobold held up its hand with fingers outspread and stated “Praise her Glory!” in draconic. Carden lifted his hands similarly and repeated the words in common. The kobolds seemed to hear it in their tongue and the smallest became visibly excited. The second kobold wearing thick dry leathers and shield upon its back states it is known as Shleek. It tells Skrite to fetch Chackras and return before turning its attention back to the group. It then asks cautiously, “Are we to leave now? The sanctum has suffered greatly over the years.”

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5 Alturiak (The Claw of Winter) – Into the Woods

Once Valdis’ hut dissipated, the cold returned and a heavy snow began. Knowing they did not want to be caught in the pass, the group hastily broke camp and started their trek east. It was well past noon before the group found themselves out of the mountains and the heavy hills. Checking his maps, Droom consulted with Aelith and both decided that they could start northeast to reach the northern edge of the Weathercote where the airship originally dropped them before or head southeast into Parnast. The group unanimously decided for the woods and started in that direction. Through the drifting snow, they reached the location just beyond the woods an hour before dusk. Knowing darkness to be closing, they travelled into the wood at a southeastern direction noted before by the airship’s helm. However, the wood proved difficult and Valdis had to combine his woodsmanship with Droom to reorient after the group found itself back on its own tracks. As darkness fell, two things were noticed. Valdis glimpsed a series of large standing stones to the left while Carden pointed ahead at what appeared to be an abandoned manor or lodge of sorts.

The standing stones were discovered to be a teleportation circle of sorts and Carden, Droom, and Aelith all felt a tingling when they entered. Carden quickly produced a dragonscale and touched a stone to watch glyphs illuminate up the stone. His enthusiasm was unbearable as he kept asking Aelith and Droom to do likewise. Neither agreed as they wanted more study. Carden produced a second dragonscale and touched another stone. This caused a reaction and four of the six stones illuminated with glyphs. Droom stepped out of the circle and Aelith suggested that the structure be searched first. Defeated, Carden followed Aelith and Droom toward the structure. Valdis asked Tamnai to stay with him while he magically identified the circle.

The structure was revealed as a hunting lodge of two stories and a basement. Careful search suggested that it had been abandoned over a year and signs of battle as well as looting were discovered. Time on the Cult of the Dragon airship also allowed for the recognition that this site was likely used by the Cult as a base or way station of sorts. The cellars contained caged cells and a separate dilapidated stable was behind the lodge. Nothing of value remained, so the trio returned to find Valdis and Tamnai walking to the lodge. Valdis revealed that the stones were indeed a teleportation circle and that he had studied enough to use it in the future if they needed to return. The group gathered inside the lodge, created a fire in the large hearth and set about for a meal of trail rations. It was determined that they would experiment with the dragonscales on the morrow to see what three would achieve.

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4 Alturiak (The Claw of Winter) – Back to the Surface

Remembering that the dragonscales had indicated a close proximity in the Weathercote Woods before they departed for Parnast, the group decided to look into this beacon since they may not see the airship again to use its navigation. Valdis took the form of a giant bird and started ferrying the group into the Greypeak Mountains. Droom looked at his maps and decided that the group could travel south and hit the Black Road to use the pass back to the eastern side of the mountain range. The cold winds and shifting snows slowed the group, but the road was discovered and they ascended into the pass. Shortly after dusk, the group camped in the center of the windblown pass as Valdis provided his magical hut to keep both the freezing temperatures and stinging winds at bay.

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3 Alturiak (The Claw of Winter) – The Beast Beneath

The group gathered and started exploring the icy caverns below. Aelith and Carden took point with Tamnai and Valdis in tow. Droom, not ready to allow the elf to be alone in the back, brought up the rear. After winding about the dark caverns below, the group penetrated a larger cavern with multiple stalactites. Carden, clinging to the walls, started to circle the room as Aelith, invisible to all but Carden, skirted the other side. Tamnai watched at the edge of the entry cavern as something appeared above Aelith at lashed out grappling him in a long bluish tentacle. Combat ensued as the others rushed in, but it became apparent quickly that this strange beast was capable of vanishing as well as teleporting about the cavern with anything it held. The combat became more like a chase as it pummeled and bit its prey while the others rushed about. Carden’s eldritch blasts and Valdis’ flaming arrows allowed them to strike at distance while the frustrated Droom chased down the beast only to get near as it teleported out of his range again. Tamnai’s spells and Aelith’s whip lashed at the creature, but it responded with jagged sharp teeth and needle-covered tentacles. Within a minute, the battle was over and the bulging beast lay atop Tamnai’s still form as the group attempted to get to her and heal her. After healing and gathering, the group discovered a trove of coin, gems and several magical items in a central pit of the chamber. Valdis set about identifying the objects and once revealed, the group offered Valdis the magical stone in approved his efforts. Tension between him and the group seemed to lessen. Tamnai claimed the magical shield and the potions were distributed. Droom placed the magical spear in the portable hole, before noticing the concerned look on Aelith’s face.

Aelith sit with his hands on his head, then explained that he was evidently placed under a magical charm by Nyarra during the battle she emerged. This charm was strong, but she only asked that he protect her from harm and make friends with the newly arrived elf. His guess is that the friendship would be to sow any confusion in the group why he trusted the elf more than caution would normally dictate. Of course, this would take any suspicion from her. Since the charm was just released, he assumes that her power was used on another or she was out of range somehow. The group rushed back to the surface to see that the airship was no longer in the lower courtyard, nor in sight. Taking the sending stone, Aelith sent a quick message to Captain Delsephine. Not surprised, the response came from Nyarra and she thanked Aelith for such a wonderful transportation device and crew. Carden became adamant that Aelith ask about Charcoal, his dog. But the use of the stones was done for the day. Carden paced in sheer irritation asking that Aelith ask about Charcoal the next day.

Discussion turned to how to leave the cloud castle without the airship and a few options were considered. The group could use the conch to go directly to the Storm Giant’s lair, Valdis could transport the group back to Semberholm on the east side of the Anauroch, or he could polymorph much like Dyan’ette did to get the group here and ferry them to the ground below. He would have to wait to prepare that spell the next day however. This allowed the group multiple discussions among themselves or select members during the remainder of the day.

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2 Alturiak (The Claw of Winter) continued – Retrieving Carden

After resting nearly nine hours, the group gathered in the level of the giant tower that had likely been Esclarotta’s chamber. Another discussion on the possible futility of destroying the lifetrapping mirror occurred and Dyan’ette made his argument against destroying such a powerful magical item. However, his recommendation of feeding lesser creatures into the mirror to slowly extract those trapped was not received well and the group positioned themselves in preparation for the shattering of the mirror. The mirror was scooted further from the wall while leaving the sheet over it. Rhogar looked worried as he thought of Dyan’ette’s belief that the blow must be powerful and true or the results could be possibly catastrophic. Uncertain if the drow was just looking for a way to preserve the mirror, Rhogar hefted Shatterspike. He cast a thunderous smite as he struck the mirror forcefully while channeling his divine power into the blow. A cacophonous boom occurred along with a rending sound and then a flash of bright silver light filled the room temporarily causing everyone to close their eyes.

Shards of metal with shimmering liquid surfaces scattered about the room in various shapes and the mirror was no longer present. The shards trembled as if agitated and Dyan’ette called out, “Be ready!” as creatures erupted from many. The first to emerge was an elf garbed in tight leathers and cloaked. A bow upon his back and a thin blade in his hand, the elf looked about guarded and somewhat confused. Just then, Carden emerged from a shard and immediately shouted, “What in the nine hells!” But before any could respond, a pixie flew from a shard and a long purplish serpentine body with a humanoid face slid from another larger fragment. Those prepared immediately attacked the serpent-like creature that was soon called a naga by Aelith. It retaliated with a flash of hypnotic lights that enamored both Carden and the newly arrived elf. Mere seconds later, an angry wyvern materialized between Aelith and Tamnai. But the most concerning figure to emerge was a robed figure with a smooth head with a tentacle mouth. Dyan’ette screamed, “Illithid!” as if this alone could define the threat before the group. The illithid took no physical movement as it assessed the room, but Dyan’ette felt an invisible force behind him when he attempted to back away from it. The drow wizard immediately misty stepped away and took a defensive position on the stairs upward away from the illithid’s immediate view. Chaos erupted as the group focused their attacks on the closer opponents, the naga and the wyvern.

More of the shards started to tremble and belched forth further horrors. Chaos erupted as a young scantily-clad bedine woman with a tambourine in her hands appeared above the stairs downward, but she was soon eclipsed by more immediate threats. A large beholder, a huge white dragon, a floating djinni, a dagger-wielding kobold and a possibly dead human emerged from other shards. The beholder’s central eye rested upon the dragon and Dyan’ette beyond it on the upward stairs while its eyebeams fired at the party. Tamnai slowed as she turned her will to fight the effects of a petrification ray. Unfortunately, Carden was struck fully by a death ray and awakened from his trance as much of his flesh began to wilt under the necrotic energy coursing over him. Rhogar resisted whatever ray hit him. The naga was slain mere seconds before the dragon breathed at the beholder catching it along with Carden, Droom, and the elf. As the battle waged, the lesser creatures were defeated by the group leaving only the beholder, the dragon, and the illithid opposing the Wardens. The dancer, though looking terrified, aided Aelith with her song but remained just at the top of the downward stairs. The elf began a mesmerizing dance that allowed both magic and blade to be used against the remaining threats. Rhogar, Carden, and Droom wailed at the beholder. Droom scored such a mighty strike, it appeared that the beholder was knocked unconscious as it lolled about. Carden did not hesitate, pushing his horrid rapier deep into the central eye until his hand was submerged as well. The beholder’s skin grayed as it desiccated and its mass rolled down the stairs with sickly thuds. The dragon took this opportunity to reposition and released a deadly freezing cone of breath that dropped both Tamnai and Rhogar while seriously injuring Dyan’ette, Aelith, and the others. Things looked bleak.

Receiving punishing strikes from Droom, the dragon turned its full attention toward the dwarf as Aelith, clinging to life, rushed the beast with a flurry of strikes from his flaming whip. The flames singed and scorched the scales as the last blow burned along the snout and burst one of the dragon’s eyes. It roared in pain as it collapsed in death throws. The illithid, now alone against the party calculated its escape. Before any could react the mindflayer stepped through space and emerged behind Dyan’ette. It placed a hand on the shoulder of Dyan’ette as if his mirror images were not there, then opened its other hand revealing a multicolored crystal orb. With one finger pointing toward the dying form of Rhogar, the illithid, Dyan’ette, and Rhogar simply seemed to fold into a dimensional rift.

With the threats removed, the group turned its attention to the elf and the scantily-clad songstress. The elf introduced himself as Valdis and told a story of how he was tricked by the Cult of the Chained One to believe that an ancient sun elf he sought was either aboard the cloud castle or information of his whereabouts were with the giant ruler here. However, he was taken to the mirror in hopes of it revealing the location of the sun elf and then imprisoned. After some discussion, he revealed that this occurred roughly six months ago. The songstress, Nyarra, on the other hand revealed that she was taken by the giant as a treasure shortly after the Shade Enclave returned to Faerun and when the giant became bored of her, she was imprisoned in the mirror. This drew some concern from the group as this had occurred several years ago and the songstress acted as if it was yesterday. When Carden openly informed her of this, she burst into tears and looked to Aelith for comfort as he was the closest to her during the battle and she acted as if he was a worthy guardian. Everyone started bandaging their wounds and looking for any signs of what happened to Rhogar and Dyan’ette. It was clear that Valdis disliked the fact that this group had a drow among them, but refrained from any direct criticism. Discussions lead to the group deciding to have Nyarra remain on the airship with the crew while the group descended in hopes to deal with the creature Dyan’ette had seen below in the caverns of the floating castle. Another rest was in order and the group prepared for the next day. Valdis created a similar sphere to Dyan’ette’s but hid himself away from the group for his rest as trust seemed to be a thin line at this point. Others discussed of how to locate Rhogar and Dyan’ette, realizing that the best chance would be Rhoagr since the drow wizard had the ring and amulet that were made to deter any divinations. Tamnai revealed that though she could prepare a spell to scry, she did not have a focus needed as Dyan’ett’s crystal in his staff was what they used in the past. Frustrated and tired, the group took to their rest. Carden sit watching over them with ample time to think as sleep was denied to him by his patron.

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1-2 Alturiak (The Claw of Winter) continued – Skyreach Castle

The group prepared themselves as they ascended the giant-sized stairs to the upper courtyard of the Giant Caste. The moonlight illuminated a single tall tower across the open courtyard of rocky ice. To the left was three huge domes against the inner wall with giant doors and a long rectangular structure. To the right was the tall wall of the castle that stretched further out of sight. The group chose the domes and Carden checked each for traps before unlocking the doors. All three were empty of occupants, but appeared to be visitor’s quarters for giants as they held various furnishings to include a giant bed, table, chairs, dresser, and armoire. Also, all three had access to a ledge when the back wall was touched, causing it to disappear and expose the room to the ledge and night sky beyond.

Slinking to the rectangular structure, the group discovered that its giant door contained a smaller wooden door like the barracks on the lower level. After Carden apoened the door, Droom slid into the dimly lit interior to hear gasps of several humanoids. He quickly realized that a score of woman and children occupied the room with most asleep until his startling entrance. The remaining members of the group entered as Droom set about calming the obvious captives. Confirming that these were the woman and children taken from Parnast, the group assured them that they would return them to their families below. Gathering information on the location of the cloud giant and his ogre retainers, the group moved to the single tall tower spied earlier.

Discovering that the lock on the tower was magical in nature, the group discussed whether to risk their spell resources to open it or bypass it. Eventually, the narrow vote to open the door was agreed upon and Tamnai used a spell to dismiss the magic on the lock. Entering the tower revealed a single giant staircase winding the inner walls to a single room some 100 feet above. Entering the eerie room revealed numerous giant runes floating about the room with only one, “anchor” remaining centralized. Additionally, numerous gemstones of various sizes and make, along with copper levers and mithral rods were embedded in the walls. The walls became transparent to anyone standing in the very center of the room. After discussion, a mutual agreement was reached that the room served as the control area for the castle’s movement and defenses. Only Droom felt a sentience in the room and shared it, but since no others felt the same, the group departed to further investigate the remaining structures.

Deciding to assault the ogre barracks identified by the captives, the group easily entered the barracks and quickly slew a dozen ogres as they attempted to rally a defense from their sleep. Further reconnaissance found a dilapidated tower, a tall tower with a blue sheen, and the largest tower housing the cloud giant and his personal guard of ogres. The group decided to take the trail just outside the ogre barracks winded up to the bluish tower. Again, after bypassing the lock, the group discovered themselves in a hollow tower with a giant stair winding the inner wall. Upon reaching the top chamber, four open balconies with thin curtains depicting clouds and clear skies were the only furnishings in the open chamber. Aelith decided to slide one of the thin curtains over the opening to a balcony and then a few members noticed a feint rune illuminated by the moonlight as it pierced the cloth. Sliding all the curtains across the openings, the group discovered runes that likely spelled a name, “Esclarotta”. Aelith voiced the name to Droom to answer the dwarves’ query and the entire group were transported to a sealed domed chamber of glowing blue ice. In the center of the chamber was a solid marble tomb with a carved figure resting upon it that resembled a female cloud giant in flowing robes. Dethek runes were carefully chiseled into each side beneath the figure and each read “Esclarotta”. Not willing to desecrate the tomb, the group set about looking for an exit and settled that magic was the only way to escape the room. Eventually, the group reasoned that the female giant was likely the mother of Eigeron and wife to Blagothkus. After pronouncing “Blagothkus” aloud, they were transported back to the tower top. They descended and skirted the ogre barracks to view the final large tower to see some activity upon the battlements above. Approaching the tower carefully, the group discovered another domed giant visitor chamber similar to the ones found earlier close to the final tower.

Suspecting an alarm similar to the ogre barracks, Carden climbed the wall and confirmed that a set of large silvered chimes were just within the door as the door was slowly cracked open. As Carden held the chimes for the group, Aelith snuck through the door. However, when Droom and Rhogar entered, their stealth was lacking. Two pompously dressed ogres in breastplates and frilled collars yelled out and the battle ensued. The group swiftly dispatched the two armored ogres as well as the two unarmored ones that were aroused from their sleep. But not before one of the unarmored ogres banged a gong suspended in the central table. The clanging deafened both Carden and Rhogar beneath it for nearly a minute and certainly alerted the tower above. Gathering their might, the group ascended the stairs to the floor above and found a locked door. Carden was unable to pick the lock. Droom, Rhogar, and Aelith rotated strikes with their shoulders to force the barred door open. Once the door was disabled, the group rushed the room to find the armored Cloud Giant Blagothkus and two of his ogre retainers. Spells were exchanged and an air elemental under the giant’s control entered the fray. The ogres were quickly slain, but the elemental sent both Tamnai and Dyan’ette flying before it was finally destroyed by Carden and his questionable blade. Realizing that he was outnumbered even after a lightning bolt and shatter spell that injured a few of his assailants, Blagothkus decided to make a break for it after a silence spell surrounded him. The cloud giant used magic to misty step and rush down the stairs stepping over those that tried to bar his path. Dyan’ette polymorphed Carden into a giant ape after the rogue cast some strange spell that leeched his own life force only to be hurled to heal Tamnai. The chase was on as the giant was outpacing the group. As the warriors rushed after the giant, Dyan’ette used a dimension door to transport him and Tamnai before the giant. At that moment, Aelith cast a sleet storm that surrouded the giant, the giant ape and the pair of casters. Chaos ensued as Aelith and Droom caught up to the storm’s edge. Rhogar enhanced his speed with magic and started hi circle of the storm to ensure the giant did not exit the other side. Dyan’ette cursed as his concentration broke but he eventually slid from the storm. Both Carden and Tamnai fared worse as they wandered blindly in the sleet. The giant, though originally hampered managed to levitate above the storm. Dyan’ette spyied the giant and Droom warned the others of his position above the storm. Aelith dropped the magical storm and the group reverted to ranged attacks. Tamnai struck from directly beneath Blagothkus with a series of scorching rays. The pair that hit burned deeply and the giant plummeted to crash on the hard-icy stone courtyard. As the group approached the corpse, a ballista bolt shattered the floor nearby and the group realized the need to eliminate the few ogres still atop the tower.

With no enemies in sight, the group searched Blagothkus to find a magical cloth and then searched the tower. The keys upon the giant opened two chests in his room that held tremendous wealth. The only room giving cause for further study was the third floor above Blagothkus’ chambers. It appeared to be a female’s room, though all the furnishings were covered in sheer cloth with dust suggesting that years had passed since its use. All the furnishings were giant-sized except a large mirror in the corner facing away. After removing all the cloths, the group searched for any valuables while Carden and Dyan’ette searched the mirror. Dyan’ette determined it to be magical with a transmutation property and even suggested that it may be a portal though he could glimmer little more with its current position in the corner. As Rhogar slid the mirror so that it could be searched properly, Carden started his search for traps along the rim. It was then that the rogue simply vanished when he moved before the mirror. Further study suggested that it could have transported him somewhere or even worse, it may have trapped him within. Dyan’ette set about with an identify spell after it was covered again. The drow confirmed that the mirror was used as a trap and was known as a mirror of life trapping.

The sudden shift in the castle suggested that it was moving. This sent Aelith, Droom, and Rhogar rushing to the control tower. Once there, they spoke with the disembodied voice of Esclarotta who was released from her bindings with Blagothkus’ death. She argued that she must find her son and that the castle was heading home to find him. Knowing that Eigeron was dead, the group sensed that his knowledge may not be best shared with his mother while aloft. Unable to convince the spirit to land the castle to allow the captives to depart, the group decided to call the airship to transport the captives to Parnast. Another decision was made to take a long rest before determining the best way to retrieve Carden and whether to inform Esclarotta of her son’s death.

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1 Alturiak (The Claw of Winter) continued – Skyreach Castle

With hopes of clearing the areas surrounding the lower courtyard without raising an alarm, the group opted to start with the stone giant. Carden rushed the room and cast darkness around the fire before disappearing into his darkness. Tamnai cast a silence as Droom rushed the giant. It was apparent that the stone giant was no ordinary giant when it thrust its hands into the icy ground beneath it and similar stone hands erupted near Tamnai to batter her and cause her silence to fizzle when she lost concentration. The others rushed to prevent the giant from escaping and Aelith repetitively struck with the burning whip. Another silence spell by Tamnai prevented the giant from casting or using the glowing glyphs on its skin. Within a moment, the giant lay dead and the group listened to ensure their actions were not discovered. Dyan’ette watched an ogre peering toward the chamber from the top of the nearby tower, but it returned to its watch. After discovering a hoard of gems protected by a force barrier that Dyan’ette dispelled, the group decided to press onward.

The next room held a warlock of significant power, but the sheer numbers of the party overwhelmed him. Again, a large collection of wealth was obtained suggesting that he was a high ranked member of the cult. His robes bore the image of a jagged circle spiraling inward. Tamnai remembered it to be the symbol of a lost god, but could not remember the name of this being. The next room uncovered a supply room and larder. However, the next room the group entered was occupied by a hulking mass of flesh with mirrored eyes and a strange shifting robed figure. The group assaulted the hulking creature that attempted to block their path to its master. The shifting figure seemed to fold space and distance and most of the party suffered psychic pain from the bending of the reality about them. As the hulking mass dropped and the battle waged forward to the robed figure, space warped and Tamnai and it were transposed just as Carden struck. As his blade pierced Tamnai’s back, horror crossed his face as his ally slid unconscious dying before him. Dyan’ette tended the fallen cleric with a potion of healing as the group tried to coordinate their strikes against this formidable foe. Several deep wounds occurred for all as reality itself seemed to oppose them, but eventually the shimmering form slumped to the floor without breath. Close inspection revealed the figure to be genderless and its face smooth as if glass. Discovering a magical cloak and wraps on the figure along with a couple of magical scrolls, the group of adventurers decided to take a short rest after disposing of the bodies over the balcony beyond the illusory wall in the room. Dyan’ette identified the items and it was decided that Tamnai would take the wraps of missile snaring and Carden the cloak of protection. The various writings, scrolls, books, and loose parchments bearing a language that only Dyan’ette could decipher suggested that the cult followed a being known as Tharizdun, the Chained God. Eventually, everyone rested and bound their wounds before continuing.

After discovering only one other room nearby that was likely the sleeping quarters for the strange being slain in the research room, the group decided to assault the barracks they viewed earlier in hopes many of the cultists were now asleep. Backtracking through the complex and the kitchen, they gathered beyond the barracks. A plan to allow an invisible Droom to block the back door while the others surged in was executed almost to perfection. The cultists in the room were quickly defeated and many before they even had a chance to rise and determine their doom. Ten cultists lie dead and the group continued through the far door into the first tower. Careful planning and stealth allowed them to silence the four ogres in the first tower and a couple in the second tower before a final battle on the roof with two ogres. Carden attempted to intercede between the warning gong and an ogre only to be hefted up by the beast and used as a club against the gong. The sound however was dulled by his fleshy form and he deftly pierced the beast’s lung sending it over the edge along with the rogue. As the others defeated the remaining ogre and rushed to see Carden’s fate, the grinning rogue clung to the tower’s sides with his magical boots several feet below the lip.

Finding the last building to be large stables with two wyverns contained within, the group investigated the lone white statue in the gateway seen from the causeway when crossing between the towers. It was discovered to be a golem made from what seemed to be large salt crystals. Droom, though blinded by the stinging salts from every strike, harried the construct while others struck from a distance. Rhogar used Shatterspike with savage force empowered by his divinity to smite the golem into a large pile of crystals. With the lower courtyard cleared, the group discussed their next task of ascending to find Blagothkus.

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1 Alturiak (The Claw of Winter) – Skyreach Castle

After a night’s rest, the group watched Parnast closely. Several men left the village with obvious intent to either hunt or gather wood as the party watched from their perch in the barn. Minutes turned to hours and boredom settled quickly. Unsure if any cultists would descend, Carden decided to visit the tavern and before anyone could intervene he was on his way across the central square. Droom and Aelith decided to circle to the rear of the tavern in case the rogue got himself into trouble.

Carden’s small venture was filled with suspicion as he claimed to have just traversed the snowed in pass to the west and claim he was headed east in clothing and gear not appropriate for the weather or travel thanks to his magical armor. Ragnar fixed Carden some thick oatmeal and offered him a heavy stout beer for his travels and asked several questions. Once it became obvious that neither were interested in answering the others questions with much detail, Carden wished the tavern keeper farewell and exited toward the east. Dyan’ette could see that the Ragnar watched the traveler depart and Droom and Aelith made their way back to the barn arriving before Carden looped back. The group decided that if no cultists arrived by dusk, they would ascend to the castle using the cavern Dyan’ette discovered the night before.

Dusk approached and the group traveled a couple hundred feet away from the town before Dyan’ette transformed into a giant eagle and started ferrying the group to the castle above. One by one, the group assembled in the caverns below the castle until all were present. Dyan’ette resumed his form and informed the others of the path to the large monster. All agreed to avoid it for now and instead followed the higher path that lead to a spiral staircase carved into the stone-ice. Slowly and quietly, the group ascended until they reached a landing that opened out into a large courtyard with adjacent structures. The stairwell continued upward and widened to allow huge creatures to ascend or descend. Sliding along the wall to the left of the landing, the group let themselves into a giant door that opened into a quiet, yet chaotic kitchen. Wooden stairs and walkways suggested that humans or similar sized creatures used this area to cook and prepare meals. Several large chests full of spices were the only items of interest and the group passed through to the adjacent door.

After further reconnaissance, the group discovered a chamber occupied a stone giant with runes carved into its skin as well as a barracks for cultists that held at least ten cultists wearing robes with what appeared to be a weeping eye on them.

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28-30 Hammer (Deepwinter) – East toward Parnast

The group discussed options into the night as the airship traveled east. As the sun crested in the east, the Ardeep Forest passed by beneath the airship. Captain Delsephine announced that she would take advantage of the tailwind off of the coast and could likely make it deep within the Forlorn Hills by evening. Close watch on the cloudy skies throughout the day revealed nothing and the crew seemed content to sail several hundred feet above the land below. Travel through the night resulted in passing over the Iron Road between Secomber and Uluvin by sunrise the following morning.

As the winds shifted, Captain Delsephine decided to sail northeast upon them to keep a momentum similar to the previous day. Passing over the Delimbiyr River and staying north of the Delimbiyr Road, the airship sailed above the Delimbiyr Vale some 400 feet. In the late afternoon, the small town Zelbross could be spied in the distance, but it appeared ruined and blackened. A closer look confirmed that what life had once been in Zelbross was there no longer. Though no smoke rose in the air from the remnants, it was clear that many of the structures had been burnt to their foundations while others were merely crumbled into rubble. The ship stayed its course turning due east and sailed into the night passing over the Southwood and into the Greyvale by morning.

Deciding to sail south of Llorkh, the airship hugged the foothills north of the Greypeak Mountains and made the Dawn Pass by noon. A test of the dragonscales in the helm revealed that something straight ahead gave them reason to glow much like they did when close to Yartar. After flying over the snow-covered Dawn Pass, the ship was slowed by headwinds and the captain dropped altitude to a few hundred feet above the mountains below. By late afternoon, the captain spotted something of concern in her spyglass ans passed the instrument around for the group to see. Beyond the snowcapped hills and before the Weathercote Forest, a huge castle floated in the sky above a small village that must be Parnast. After a discussion, an agreement to head northeast and over the forest to the north of the castle was reached. The setting sun should help keep the castle from spotting the airship and since dusk was fast approaching, the darkness could allow the ship to travel to the intended destination.

Shortly after dark, the airship rested above the tall snowcapped trees below. The dragonscales still pointed due east and were brightly lit suggesting that their target was extremely close. The group decided that the possibility of a dragon was something for another day and focused on the floating castle. After coordinating with Captain Delsephine and leaving her a sending stone, the Wardens decided to move within a few miles under darkness to allow Aelith to determine the giant’s strength and Dyan’ette to use his arcane eye to spy the village and possibly the castle.

Aelith determined random monstrosities to the east, north, and south, but none in the village or the castle above it. However, he numbered some 28 giants in the vicinity of the castle/village and a few other giants to the southeast a few miles away. Dyan’ette sent his arcane eye into the village to discover a somber and sad existence for those there. Few tracks in the snow and less than half of the score of buildings were with smoke rising from their chimneys. He spied into one of the buildings to view a single haggard man eating a scarce meal near his fire. A look of desperation and hopelessness was obvious upon the man. The drow then sent the eye skyward toward the floating castle. Approaching the castle, it appeared to be constructed of ice more than stone or cloud, but was surrounded by thin clouds. The eye entered into a tunnel on the underside of the castle and winded through some tunnels before viewing a large chamber with a horrid tentacle creature dangling from the ceiling with a large maw filled with spiny teeth. The spell’s duration ended and the eye winked from existence. Curious, the group decided to enter the village of Parnast under the cover of darkness. Aelith called upon his magic to mask the groups tracks as they travelled the miles ahead.

Upon reaching the village, the group decided to find someone to speak with a settled on the lone man with the look of desperation. Dyan’ette and Carden remained outside as the others knocked at the back door. After some caution and hesitance, the man allowed the group to enter and submitted to their questions. The group discovered from Rem that the cloud castle known as Skyreach Castle had been near Parnast for over a year. It was first allied with the Cult of the Dragon, but a group of adventurers came through and defeated the Cult. Unknown to the villagers of Parnast, the why the castle remained was not evident and several months passed with no contact from above. A few months back, another cult arrived and the Dragon Cult seemed tame compared to this one. They dominated the village by slaying any that spoke against them and then took the women and children to the castle above. Many villagers simply ran away in the dark of night, but those with family taken stayed and now gathered food and wood for the cult members above. Rem admitted that he had seen ogres and a giant in the past, but the castle almost never descended as it did when the dragon cult was present. Instead, two cult members would descend on dragons with stingers and take the food and wood back with them. The village was left to fend for itself while providing for the cult above and few here held any hope that they would see their families again. Rem also suggested that Ragnar Redtooth, the tavern keeper was likely in league with the cult as he receives special treatment. Rem adamantly stated that the group were never in his home and never spoke with him. The group left and settled in the nearby barn after discovering it was an abandoned building used to stall wyverns during the dragon cults occupation. Dyan’ette set up his magical hut and the group decided to sleep and wait for any activity the following day.

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27 Hammer (Deepwinter) – A Visit to Waterdeep

Shortly before noon, the group arrives about an hour walk north of Waterdeep and Captain Delsephine starts to descend into the snow-covered hills near several copses of trees. Aelith decides to stay aboard the ship wanting to test some theories with the dragon scales and where they possible lead. Droom shares his scale and map and then departs with the others for Waterdeep on foot. Decisions are made that Tamnai and Dyan’ette will attend the Temple of Sune and Mystra, Droom and Rhogar will liquidate the items for sale, and Carden will check for any news. Tamnai gives Droom the Bag of Holding and others provide the items they want to sale to Droom and Rhogar. Once the group reaches the North Gate of Waterdeep, it is shortly afternoon and they agree to meet again just prior to sundown or shortly thereafter.

Tamnai and Dyan’ette travel to the Sea Ward and visit the House of Beauty first. More open about her heritage and worship, Tamnai strides up to the temple with Dyan’ette, a drow, by her side. After a few side glances and some scornful looks, she is admitted and offers prayers to Sune in the main chapel. She then sets about to pay her tithes while waiting for word if Serrita is present. Eventually, it is relayed that Serrita is not present, but should be in the city as she left the temple with Vain a few days ago and neither has returned yet. Unsure if the disdainful glances are from her openly wearing her tiefling heritage or something else, Tamnai thinks it is best to leave the Temple without inquiring on the High Priestess or any others and went to find Dyan’ette.

Dyan’ette is found in one of the foyers alone, though seeming to enjoy the glances and whispers certainly at a distance. Both leave the Temple of Beauty for the House of Wonder, the Temple of Mystra. As the pair walk the streets, several stares follow them but little more. A Waterdeep patrol passes and gives the two a cursory watch, but does not accost or engage either in conversation. Several moments later, the pair ascend the stairs before the House of Wonder. Upon entering the large entry room, Dyan’ette asked about the Temple and admittance. The clerk leads both to a smaller room and discusses the Temples fees, dues, benefits, and services. Knowing much of this from his previous visit under disguise, Dyan’ette listens and then offers the Wand of Web as an item for annual dues and fees. The young woman send the wand with another for validation and drinks are offered during the wait. Upon confirming the wand’s authenticity, Dyan’ette is given a large scroll tube containing the Temples rules, regulations, services, and information required of a member of the House. Seeing that the day has passed, Dyan’ette suggests that he and Tamnai leave. Once outside the Temple, Tamnai realizes that to travel to the House of Healing to pay future dues to her guild may take longer than expected. The two decided to return to the North Gate to meet the others.

Rhogar and Droom, neither familiar with Waterdeep, ask Carden where they should start. Carden advises paying a local child or teenager to serve as a guide as they are very knowledgeable and eager to earn coin. As the rogue departs south, the two dwarves just shake their heads in frustration. However, a suitable lad of some 13 winters is soon found and offers to guide them for a copper for each hour. Droom grins at the boy and whispers that he will pay a silver an hour if the boy is honest, quick, and takes them to the best spots for each item they need to sell. Within an hour, Droom and Rhogar find themselves in the Castleward at the Halls of Hilmer, a master armorer to sale the mithral breastplate. Nearby, is Balthor’s Treasures, a goods and curios shop that caters to the wealthy. While there, the more expensive and luxury items are sold at a fair price. After these good deasl, the dwarves urge the young guide onward and they end up visiting Saern’s Fine Swords and Orsabba’s Fine Imports in the Trades Ward to unload further items. A short visit by Halazar’s Fine Gems on their way back north ended their errands in Waterdeep. Droom gave the young lad a small pouch full of copper and silver, knowing that gold coins could likely get the lad killed or robbed for sure. Rhogar and Droom headed back to the North Gate.

Carden strode toward the Dock Ward knowing that his side trek would be best discovered there. Though it took a few hours, the man raised in Waterdeep was able to find what he was looking for as well as gather some significant rumors spreading through the underbelly of the city. The rogue discovered the following rumors of interest:
• Laeral Silverhand, the new Open Lord of Waterdeep is being pressured by the nobles and merchants as two Masked Lords are rumored to have been murdered in the past week.
• Vajra, the Blackstaff, has been quiet of late and it is said that she is opposed to the current Open Lord due to lack of support.
• A Cloud Castle was sighted over the Sea of Swords only a day’s sail from the city
• The Zhentarim have become more active in providing caravan guards with recent giant sightings and have even petitioned to use a growing goblin mercenary group on the trail to Baldur’s Gate.
• Balabar Smenk, from Daggerford, has been nominated to replace the current Guildmaster for the Mining and Minerals Guild.

Tamnai and Dyan’ette spotted Droom and Rhogar after a short wait. Dyan’ette informed all that he believes a drow was following him and it may be best to exit the city. As soon as the group questioned Carden’s whereabouts, he melted from the nearby ally and asked if everyone was ready to leave. He shared the rumors with the others on their travel north of the city and within an hour a firebolt signaled skyward and the airship picked up the group.

Once aboard, it was determined that the airship would head due east toward Parnast so the group could fulfill their promise to Eigeron in delivering justice to his murdering father. This course also could uncover magical items to be used for the mission to the Strom Giant’s stronghold.

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