Adventurer's Beware

8 Alturiak (The Claw of Winter) – The Storm Giant’s Court

After their rest the group returned to the inner chamber with the pool dedicated to Tamara. Carden drank first and straightened as he walked back from the small landing of the pool. When he did not say anything, Droom strode forward and dipped his mug in the waters and drank deeply. The dwarf explained that the waters seemed to refresh him and warm him as if lifting bodily fatigue and providing a clarity suggesting that fear was but a state of mind that is not needed. Aelith, Tamnai and finally Valdis drank from the waters to gain its beneficial properties.
Gathering in the portal room, Valdis guided all to step within the circle he scribed. With Skrite still bound and Shleek and Chackras within the circle as well, the runes flared under the arcane mastery of Valdis. A flash of light and the distortion of teleportation occurred and then the group were standing in several inches of snow within the stone circle they used before. Shleek immediately bolted away in the snow neither looking back or slowing his stride. The group watched as the kobold sprinted beyond sight before turning their attention to Chackras. Skrite was struggling to escape his bounds as the group explained to Chackras that they were free. The female kobold looked at Carden remorsefully repeating that she would serve, but the party were not willing to accept such service. Aelith gave Chackras his winter cloak as she was already starting to shiver and pointed toward the empty lodge. Carden gave her a dagger for defense and reiterated that she should find shelter. Upon mentioning the rope that bound Skrite, Chackras took the dagger and slid it slowly into the struggling kobold’s neck until Skrite stopped moving. She stated, “fanatic” and then smiled at Carden while saying, “you need rope.” The group watched as Chackras strolled toward the empty lodge with the heavy winter cloak dragging across the snow as if she was a queen striding toward her palace.

Tamnai produced the large conch and waited for everyone to agree before she blew into it. It released a low reverberating sound and then the group felt the disorienting effects of teleportation again. The party appeared atop a glowing glyph carved into the floor of an alcove in the corner of a rough-hewn chamber. The moist slick walls are covered with bioluminescent lichen, snails, starfish, and barnacles. Tiny, harmless crabs crawl across the floor, avoiding the sigil. The group paused and listened as they heard music: a powerful female voice accompanied by the deep, haunting tones of a masterfully played pipe organ. It issues from within a spiral staircase across from the arrival alcove. The area is obviously sized to giants as the stairs are nearly 4 feet in height and the hallways leading from the central room are 30ft in height. Next to the staircase was a 40-foot-wide circular pool with an obvious large submerged passageway at the bottom. Aelith called forth a spell to deepen the shadows about the group and prevent their footprints in the sandy floor as the group started to explore the nearby hallways.

The hallway to the left of the entrance alcove ended in a life-size stone statue of a female storm giant holding a harp and wearing a gown of purple coral. Two ironbound oak doors measuring 15ft tall by 7ft wide lay on the south wall of the corridor. Neither door had a lock and strangely contained furnishings sized for humans or elves consisting of five comfortable beds, a circular rug, a barrel of drinking water, an empty dresser, and an empty wardrobe.

A similar hall stretched to the right of the entrance alcove with a statue at the end depicting a male storm giant blowing a pink and blue conch shell. Giant-sized doors to either side of the statue lead to similar quarters, but sized for giants. A giant door in the far wall opened into a storage room holding various crates and barrels containing food and wine. None of the rooms were occupied.

A narrow hall also led from the central room with the entrance alcove. It led to a circular chamber with a small boiling pool at its center with steam rising from it. The ceiling here was almost 50ft high and the humid room’s walls were dripping heavily. Determining that the clouded pool held little interest, the group exited back into the central chamber. As the group approached the stairs, the narrow hallway sent out a loud hissing noise from the geyser erupting within. Everyone slowly and quietly ascended the giant stairs toward the music.

Creeping to the landing, the room beyond was enormous. Music filled the hall beyond which was split into two levels; a 15-foot-high raised ledge hugging the walls of the half of the room across from the group. Gently sloping ramps led up to the ledge. The acoustics within the hall were excellent as they reverberated off barnacle-covered pillars of hewn rock rising to meet the vaulted ceiling over 100 feet above. A huge crystal window allowed additional light to cast beautiful patterns on the walls from the ocean beyond. Under the crystal window was an enormous crab with colored nodules and hollow flutes of beautiful coral growing out of its shell. The creature was a living instrument. As one of the nodules on its shell was tapped, the motion caused the crab to exhale a burst of air through one of its coral pipes, producing a deep tone similar to that of a pipe organ. Performing next to the ledge were two elegantly dressed storm giant women. One was singing, while the other provided instrumental accompaniment by tapping on the crab’s shell with a pair of whalebone mallets. It appeared as if the pair were
entertaining several high-ranking visitors: a regally dressed cloud giant male, a female fire giant in red-hued armor, a dragon-scaled cloaked frost giant male, and a stone giant male with gemstones embedded into his flesh. The giant gather around mussel-shell tables and a giant coral fountain in the lower part of the room. The coral fountain spouts water, which the giants drink from their conch shells. Watching the visitors flanking the stairs you hide upon are two storm giants wearing helms. A 40-foot-wide dim hall led away to your far right while a 20-foot-wide arch was just to the left of stair exit. Another stairwell can be seen on the ledge to the left of the window as you face it.

The group slowly descended back down the stairs to discuss their way ahead.

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7 Alturiak (The Claw of Winter) – The Fate of Rhogar and Dyan’ette

The group gathered the following morning and discussed the day’s tasks. It was requested that Tamnai commune to discover the fate of Rhogar and Dyan’ette and then magically assist Droom in sculpting the shaped Tiamat structure in the Temple to that of Tamara as it had originally been. The priestess of Sune started her prayers reaching into the ether to commune with Sune or one of Sune’s servants. A feeling of peace and ease washed through Tamnai as she felt a light presence of warmth awaiting her questions. Her first question echoed in the chamber of the pool room, “Is Rhogar still alive?” She smiled as she received the answer “Yes” from a tender feminine voice. Eagerly, she asked the same question concerning Dyan’ette and received a similar response. A heavy sigh from her and Carden were visible at the news as Droom, Aelith, and Valdis watched the communion at a distance. Her third question was worded carefully, “Is it within our group’s current abilities to retrieve Rhogar from his current location.” Tamnai waited anticipatingly and her shoulders slumoped when the voice simple stated “No”. The connection faded and a sadness crept across her face. Aelith added, “At least they are alive.” The group decided to focus on their next destination as Droom and Tamnai went to reshape the stone statue in the outer temple. Carden had to restrain Skrite as the fanatic erupting in a fury when he noticed that Droom and Tamnai intended to reshape the Tiamat structure. Later that day while sharing rations, the group decided to move forward with using the conch to visit the Storm Giant’s Court, but only after returning to the portal stones before the hunting lodge. Valdis was asked to use his ability to teleport the group as opposed to using the portal room’s blood requirement. This way, the kobolds could be released and spells prepared appropriately for the storm giant location supposedly in or upon the sea.

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6 Alturiak (The Claw of Winter) (cont) – An Abandoned Temple

The group eventually discover through Carden’s ability to magically speak with the three kobolds that the chambers they discovered were previously used as a garrison or lair for the Cult of the Dragon. Several discussions between party members resulted in disagreement on the fate of the three kobolds left from the garrison of them left nearly a year ago according to assessments by the group. Further knowledge that the underground complex had suffered a seismic event that collapsed the western portal along with much of the chambers, especially the western chambers of the upper level and even more of the lower level. A close investigation of the complex started with Valdis using ritualistic detection for magic and others closely searching for anything of value. It was quickly revealed that nothing but stone and metal remained as the near 30 kobolds left to care for the complex had turned toward desperation once their food supply was consumed. Beyond eating some of their own, especially any that befell tragedy, the small creatures had consumed all cloth, leather, hide, and eventually wood throughout the chambers. Only slivers of wood remained and even the wooden doors were ingested eventually.

Valdis discovered magical wards about a crude statue of Tiamat in the temple residing in the SE of the complex. Tamnai agreed to attempt to dispel the evocation and abjuration magic found, but the group decided to explore the remainder of the complex before doing so. Chackras used a sleep spell to subdue Skrite and Shleek when they proved to be disruptive. The female kobold reiterated her value to the party when she suspected that the kobolds could be left to starve, overhearing some comments between Carden and Aelith.

A detailed inspection of the complex revealed kitchens, a pantry, a cold storage. Chackras warned that the cold storage was filled with a dangerous mold that froze any that opened the room. She further warned that fire should not be used near the door. The northeast contained barren rooms that had been kobold warrens and cult member quarters along with a privy over a deep acidic pit. The temple filled the southeast along with a large staircase that descended to the lower chambers. The southern ring held the remnants of a consumed library, a shattered laboratory, and larger living quarters that Chackras informed were used by wyrmspeakers of the cult before they left. Secret one way passages penetrated all the quarters from a two-way secret door in the largest chamber that belonged to a Red Speaker known as Severin. The southwest opened into a large room with a worn map upon the floor with half of the chamber filled with rubble from the cave-in. A search of the lower chambers found an armory with only rusted metal weapons and weapon parts in the southeast, a series of sunken prison pits with rusted iron bars covering them, and nearly thirteen individual crypts extending into the rubble from the seismic event. The crypts held solid stone biers with draconic carvings ranging from crude upon the older stone and detailed on the smoother stone. The group believed stone shaping magics were used to seal the crypts and Chackras eluded that they were spoken of as if they were cult ancestors.

After deciding to return to the temple, Tamnai used two separate spells to dispel the protective wards upon the statue. Some manipulation of the statue resulted in it shifting into the wall upon Droom and Aelith pushing it. This revealed a small lever that was pulled to cause the heavy stone statue to slide forward while the wall beyond lifted into the ceiling. Carden eagerly entered the room causing three green globes to brightly illuminate. Everyone slowed and Aelith pulled the lantern of revealing to bask the room in light.

A heavy table with five heavy chairs around it was centered in the forward chamber. Several leather-bound tomes rested upon the table along with a handful of scrolls wrapped tightly. A strange bag with a shoulder strap and a small bag that felt like it held sand were on the table with the books. Two extremely decomposed humanoid corpses lie near the table, the first with tattered robes appearing to be originally white and the second with decomposing bluish studded leather armor and a drying cloak of blue hide. Tamnai checked them to reveal that both had several puncture wounds in their back and lay upon a pool of crusted blood. Aelith pointed toward the walls where opposing bas reliefs representing three silver or platinum dragons were closely gathered. At this time, Carden’s curiosity drew him toward a glowing pool beyond the large entrance chamber. This triggered a summoning and the party were immediately attacked by fiends with draconic features.

The largest was covered in thick green scales and it pressed its will into the party attempting to suggest they place their magic on the table and sit to discuss their trespass. Carden complied as the others replied with counterattacks. Two black-scaled draconic fiends filled the room with a creeping darkness and waded into melee to tear flesh from the mortals before them. The battle raged as Tamnai used her prayers to Sune to remove the darkness and give the group better odds at defeating the fiends. Droom and Aelith waded into melee scouring scaled flesh while Valdis wreathed himself in flames and then used powerful spells to shred into all three fiends in a single movement. Carden took advantage of openings as all of the group continued to resist the green fiend’s intrusive mind numbing magic. As the black scaled fiends fell, two large wingless drakes appeared to join the fray. Aelith and Tamnai were snatched in their jaws and suffered several wounds with Tamnai receiving the worst of them. In mere moments, the group proved victorious and decided to refrain from any further disturbance of the room beyond until the contents of the table could be assessed and the writings there interpreted. While Tamnai performed a prayer of healing to aid everyone injured, Valdis performed a ritual to detect magic. Once the strange bag and the contents of the small bag were determined to be magical, the group decided to take a short rest so Valdis could identify them as well as use magic to discern the draconic writings in the books. Meanwhile, Aelith and Droom investigated the three platinum heads and the strange field just above them preventing them from being touched or damaged.

Comparing the field with that on the dragon scales carried by the group in addition to determining that the pool beyond radiated an aura similar to the celestial essence within the scales, the group was certain that he dragon scales originated in this chamber. After nearly an hour of reading and revealing the content of the tomes, the group discovered much.

This private sanctum was an original temple to Tamara, the dragon goddess of life, light, mercy, and forgiveness. This platinum dragon was said to be the mother of Bahamut and consort of Lendys. The Cult of the Dragon discovered the sanctuary under the leadership of Naergoth Bladelord, a death knight, when the cult followed the way of Sammaster and pursued the goal of creating dracoliches. Decades passed as Naergoth, the oldest member of the cult, entrusted only a few with the knowledge of the entombed vault of chambers since he used it as a refuge that none could find. As the Cult of the Dragon fell under the sway of Severin Silrajin, Naergoth continued serving loyally in the new direction even though he did not agree with it. Once Severin was brought to this sanctuary, he ordered the desecration and conversion to the worship of Tiamat. A statue was formed in her likeness in the portal chamber as well as shaping Tamara’s form to that of Tiamat in the Temple. Only the room beyond the Temple retained some semblance of Tamara’s presence as the glowing waters of the pool still radiate the original magic from her existence.

Severin then ordered Naergoth to scribe the origin and function of the Tears of Tamara. These dragon scales were from the brow of ancient chromatic dragons that had come to the Well of Dragons at the end of their natural lives. Each was approached by Tamara that offered a merciful end. In exchange, they gifted a scale to the lady and passed from the realm of the living. Tamara imbued them with her essence and thus each was linked to the final sanctuary of the Platinum Lady. Dozens of portals spread across Faerun in each cardinal direction, but as time passed many were destroyed. Both natural events and destruction by the races lessened the number. A list of locations or destinations was penned along with the requirements to activate the portals.

The locations were listed as:
N-beneath Yartar, N-menhirs/hunting lodge, N-High Moor/near Dragonspear
W-Myrloch Vale/fey danger, W-Nelanther/cove of sharks, W-Forest of Wyrms
S-Calim Desert/oasis, S-Lake of Steam/volcanic threat, S-Jungle/mindless drakes
E-Beneath Earthfast/underdark, E-Dragonjaw Mount/near Thay border, E-underwater/danger, E-Gulthador

The requirements were that an imbued scale placed within the appropriate draconic maw of the portal fountain along with a drop of chromatic dragon blood dripped upon the scale while the user placed their hand upon the top of the maw and chose the location from those that washed through their thoughts. Once chosen, the portal opened and remained for several minutes. The scale was removed and taken through the portal which activated again when the scale was returned to the location. If another bearer returned with the scale, either additional scales or the presence of dragonblood upon the stones were needed to reopen the portal. Additional passages described that one way portals could be opened in the vicinity, usually within a mile or two, of true dragons if their name was called when the blood was placed on the scale. Only the type of chromatic dragon affiliated with the scale could be used this way. Naergoth also erratically penned that Severin entrusted each Wyrmspeaker with a dragonscale matching the Wyrnspeaker’s mask. Further writings and scrolls, not in the same hand, discussed the staffing of kobolds as servants and chromatic dragonborn as overseers of the sanctuary. Several ledgers detailed logistics for gathering and maneuvering an army to be led by the cult when they called forth Tiamat from the hells.

After discussion about the tomes, the group decided to investigate the glowing pool beyond. The inner lip of the pool had draconic writing about it, and Valdis set about his ritual to comprehend the runes. The elf revealed that the inscription read:
Justice and Good above all.
Honor and Fealty to the King.
Honor and Respect to Righteous Innocence.
Honor and Duty to the Balancer, to Her Mercy, and to the Justice maker.
Honor and Protection to the Lesser Races.
Honor and Correction to the Enemies of Justice and Good.
Honor and Forbearance for oneself.
Tamnai confirmed that Rhogar had spoken that Bahamut was called the Justice maker and the group decided that Tamara must be ‘Her Mercy’ and her consort Lendys ‘the Balancer’. Unable to identify the pools true nature, a belief that some beneficial aura persisted in the crystal clear cool waters. It was assumed that the waters would likely lose any properties if removed from the hallowed room as well as their beneficial properties being limited to how often they could be granted. Agreement to test the waters when the group was prepared to leave was reached. Placing the tomes and ledgers in the bag of holding for further study at a later date, the group decided to speak on their discovery over some rations. The kobolds were given rations as well and they seemed content to hover just beyond the group with Chackras remaining closer than the other two now released.

Tamnai shared that the pool could likely be used to scry on Rhogar and Dyan’ette and the group agreed she should try. She focused on Rhogar since Dyan’ette wore magics to prevent divinations upon him. Unfortunately, the spell failed as if the magic could not find him. Tamnai voiced that this could be because some divination-blocking magic or that he was not currently upon the prime material plane. She offered that she could attempt to commune with a divine being the following day to discover whether the two remained among the living. All agreed and eventually settled for a night of rest in the large abandoned feast hall.

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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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