The Rise of the Dragon Queen

Victory!

Rian Nightshade reported to the party that her spies infiltrating the cult had found a backdoor into the Well of the Dragons. A formerly collapsed tunnel had recently been reopened by chance when a wandering umber hulk passed through the area and dug out the collapsed section. Given that it was still largely unknown by the cultists and not under any sort of guard, she told the party this would likely be their best chance of entering the temple unnoticed.

The party took Rian’s advice and was teleported to the entrance by Nyh Ilmichh. She gave Aramil a small orb made of red glass with the instructions to shatter it when they found the defector Red Wizards. When he did, it would act like a beacon to her and the loyalist Red Wizards to teleport to Aramil’s location.

The party steeled themselves as the sounds of battle broke out behind them and overhead, the Temple of Tiamat looming far above up the slopes of the Well of the Dragons. The tunnels ahead of them, old lava tubes from the looks of them, were massive and winding, leading to several side passages. It was surprisingly quiet inside, the majority of the cultists either out battling the army of The Council of Waterdeep or at the temple performing the ritual to summon Tiamat.

Chen sneaked ahead of the rest of the party, scouting the path ahead to see what may be waiting for them. He found a large room with several cultists training more guard drakes but decided to leave them be for now. Further ahead, he found two large rooms that were mostly empty except for the remains of some habitation – decaying food scraps, old piles of excrement, and a few recent humanoid corpses. He returned to the rest of the party with his findings and they decided to travel down another hallway to avoid the cultists and their pets.

The next room they found was rather luxuriously appointed for being in an old lava tube. Based on the clothing in the footlocker, the rooms apparently belonged to the Red Wizards aiding the cultists. Unfortunately, the wizards themselves were not here as they were likely at the temple performing the summoning ritual.

Continuing down the hall from the largely empty rooms Chen had found, they found the purpose of those rooms – prisons. The last room had nearly 30 humanoid prisoners and a dozen cultists ordering them to get up as it was their time to be “sacrificed for the glory of the Queen of Dragons.” This spurred the party into action.

Chen launched in the initial salvo, nearly finishing off two of the cultists with only a couple arrows. The rest of the party followed in, Azrael and Miyeon firing magic while Stone and Reynar waded into the fray. The party defeated the cultists and freed the prisoners, finding from one who was mostly coherent that the remaining prisoners were taken just up the path to the read entrance to the temple in order to be sacrificed as part of the ritual to summon Tiamat.

Wanting to waste as little time as possible, the party rushed ahead to the entrance to the temple, preparing to finally confront the cultists and end their machinations. The temple itself was a massive structure shaped like a five-pointed star, each point over a thousand feet from the next one and capped with a spire several hundred feet overhead. The temple was heady with thick incense smoke and the air rang with the chanting of the wizards and droning of the eldritch vortex swirling in the center of the room

The party had a momentary element of surprised and used it to dispatch the Red Wizard floating high above them. The one on the ground near where they entered the temple survived the initial onslaught and immediately cast an invisibility spell, escaping the party’s wrath. Aramil smashed the glass orb from Nyh and hoped for the best that their unusual allies would come through on their word.

Unfortunately for the party, the cult had many allies as well. Two assassins appeared seemingly from thin air, one nearly slaying Aramil in one stab, the other firing a bolt from his crossbow. Dropping from the ceiling, an adult red dragon joined the fray as well with an opening blast of its fiery breath. It was then that the party met an old friend, the lead Red Wizard Rath Modar, and the leader of the Cult of the Dragon himself, Severin.

The might of the two wizards and the dragons proved overwhelming, the party being simultaneously bombarded with claws and fangs, fire and ice, and meteors from the sky. Under the combined salvo, the party was not able to entirely withstand and Aramil was slain, Reynar nearly following behind. Fortunately for him, death was only an inconvenience as Miyeon called upon the powers of her goddess and returned Aramil to life.

Thankfully, the party’s Red Wizard allies did fulfill their side of the deal, Nyh and six others teleporting into the temple and immediately assaulting their former countrymen. Though the flames of Stone’s magical sword were useless against a red dragon, the blade itself was still powerful enough when swung by him and the dragon was felled. Aramil and Azrael’s combined death spells were enough to stop the casters Rath and Severin, but the party’s success came too slowly.

The ground shuddered and the magical vortext churned upwards before a massive white dragon head burst forth, it’s long neck the size of some fully grown dragons. Tiamat, the Mother of Evil Dragons, was entering the material world. The party focused their assault on her as the Red Wizards were all dealt with and the portal was not likely to open any wider. Her freezing breath was nearly enough to wipe out the party, but they persevered and were able to force her back through the portal. The magic energy shook as it snapped back in on itself before bursting outwards again, shattering the walls of the temple, and finally dispersing, no signs of the portal remaining. The ground trembled as not only the temple but the entire raised caldera began to collapse back into the volcano. Aramil gathered the party and magically whisked them back to Waterdeep and to safety, leaving the army to be led by their generals, confident they would be victorious with the cult leaders ultimately failing their goal.

Tiamat’s threat has ended as she was sent back to the Nine Hells, but the aftermath of victory can create challenges of its own. There are hundreds of prisoners remaining in the Well of the Dragons and the surrounding area. Severin’s fall also leaves hundreds of unrepentant cultists still loose in the world, hungering for power and revenge in light of their recent failure. Moreover, much of the wealth of the Sword Coast is sitting in the Well of Dragons. Along with dealing with vengeful cultists, the party will undoubtedly have a lead role in deciding the fate of region in the days to come, being the heroes of the day that uncovered the cult’s plot and ultimately put it to an end.

For generations, the common folk will look to the exploits and sacrifices of the heroes for inspiration as they rebuild and set their sights on better days. For now, the Sword Coast is safe from the machinations of vile cultists and evil dragons. But that does not mean the story is over for our heroes as there are many more adventures to be had for those with a stout heart, strong arm, and the will to fight.

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Attack on Waterdeep

The party decided it was best to pursue Iskander into the basement immediately – whatever was in the tower would still be there after they found the wizard. After some indecision about who should try to activate the teleportation pad as it may be trapped, Reynar stepped up with the hourglass and turned on the magical device, whisking the the group into the tower’s lower levels.

The first chamber was a large, rectangular room that was mostly empty other than the blood smears across the floor, the gory remnants of three cultists laying on the ground, and the vaguely humanoid shapes of two earth elementals and one fire elemental which immediately attacked the party. Before the battle could fully get into swing, Aramil asserted his will over the elementals and banished them back to their home plane, ending their threat before it even began.

What greeted the party through the door leaving the room was more than they could have expected. The hallway had a stone floor, the same as the room, but it had no walls or ceiling. Instead, beyond the path was the night sky – inky darkness, twinkling stars, and the occasional passing planet or meteor.

Down the hall were several doorways suspended in the empty space. The first one led to what appeared to once be a well-stocked wizard’s laboratory. Though largely untouched by time, it clearly had not been used for a very long time. More notable than the alchemical equipment and braziers was the whirlwind in the center of the room, eight gems afloat in its winds. Azrael used his ring of telekinesis to pull the gems from the winds which Aramil identified as elemental gems, two for each type of elemental.

The next room down the hall was a study, a circular room lined with bookshelves reach to the edge of the domed ceiling twenty feet above. The library seemed to contain a book on almost every subject imaginable, though it was all mundane knowledge with no magical books in its midst. On the desk in the middle of the room were a variety of extremely fragile loose papers and a vellum map of the Sword Coast, horribly inaccurate as it predated the joining and subsequent separation of Abeir and Toril – potentially valuable to a collector but of little other use.

The room at the end of the hallway was a simple storage closet containing supplies for cleaning, writing, and alchemical experiments. The next chamber was far more interesting. As the door was opened, the elves in the party immediately noticed the threshold was lined with salt. This was only relevant to Aramil though as he immediately knew this was some sort of a ritual circle. He prevented the party from entering the room and the reason became readily apparent as a gigantic humanoid with dark-red skin stood, greeting them all rather politely.

The creature introduced himself as Taraz, an efreet who had been bound here for centuries by Xonthal. Taraz informed the party that he was not able to grant wishes so long as he was imprisoned here but his powers would return to him once freed. The chamber was warded against him harming anyone so long as he was imprisoned here but he wasn’t particularly friendly, his imprisonment leaving his temper rather short. The party debated what to do with him for a bit before Aramil acted on his own and broke the salt circle, allowing the genie to disappear in a puff of fire and smoke with nary a word of thanks (let alone a magical wish or two).

The last room of he basement was a massive room with two giant hourglasses filled with some sort of glittering sand. To the party’s dismay, they found Iskander’s body slumped on the ground, bloodied and broken and dead. The blue dragon mask lay on the ground beside him which even a cursory magical examination revealed it to be a fake, the whole thing was a set up, though whether the party or Iskander himself was set up remained to be seen. Feeling bad for him and determined to get answers, Miyeon performed a ritual to raise Iskander from the dead while the rest of the party took a brief rest. While waiting, Stone searched the library some more and found a secret door that lead to a smaller study dedicated specifically to magical writings, finding several of the wizard’s spellbooks which Aramil eagerly took.

After his initial disorientation, Iskander realized his situation and that he had died but that the party had brought him back from the dead. Grateful the had ultimately saved his life, he was more than willing to be helpful. As far as the cult knew, he and everyone else at Xonthal’s Tower were dead, so he effectively had his wish of getting out of the cult. He informed them that the rest of the tower was mostly empty, nothing of value remaining beyond what was in the basement.

Finished exploring the tower, the party teleported away with Iskander back to Waterdeep. As soon as they arrived in the basement of The Taxidermist, the party heard the sounds of combat and slaughter outside . The clang of metal armor, blasts of magical energy, and the sound of heavy, beating wings overhead resonated through the city – Waterdeep was under attack by the Cult of the Dragon. The party rushed to where the fighting seemed thickest, passing many burned out and destroyed buildings on their way to The Council of Waterdeep’s chambers. By the time they arrived, the fighting had mostly dwindled, the combined power of the councilors present turning away the attackers, though it seemed like the attack was mostly a demonstration of power than a genuine assault.

Battered but still on his feet, Lord Dagult Neverember greeted the party and immediately set about interrogating Iskander once he learned who he was, a little more roughly than he should have at first but he was eventually calmed and Iskander spared a severe beating. The council held an immediate meeting with whoever was present, most everyone beyond the dragons, and heard the events of the expedition to the tower. Disappointed that the mask was a fake but glad to have another high-ranking prisoner from the cult, the council was mostly pleased with the end result of the excursion.

Over the next couple days, more and more of the forces of the council members came pouring into Waterdeep. Due to the party’s efforts in halting several major cult activities plus their influence over the individual members of the Council of Waterdeep, the size of the force was massive.

Remallia Haventree and Rian Nightshade were able to gather a large collection of spies from the Harpers and Zhentarim respectively, the former also providing bards to accompany units of soldiers and the latter providing assassins to carry out tactical strikes. Delaan Winterhound of the Emerald Enclave and King Melandrach rallied much of the forces of the woodlands in the north, bringing forth dozens of treants and elementals as well a druids and griffon-riding archers. Lady Laeral Silverhand and Taern “Thunderspells” Hornblade recruited several wizards from Silverymoon while also contributing ground troops to the overall might of the army. While not contributing to the major ground forces, Sir Isteval was able to get Cormyr to send several contingent of war wizards as well as Purple Dragon Knights, adding to the paladins and clerics already contributed by Ontharr Frume and the Order of the Gauntlet. The dragons were able to each recruit five others of their individual kinds, giving the army a flight of thirty metallic dragons which, while immensely powerful, is far fewer dragons than the cult has by all reports. Maccath the Crimson was able to contribute a small group of wizards from the Arcane Brotherhood and Nyh Ilmichh, along with a handful of Red Wizards, summoned several devils to aid in the coming battle. The rest of the members of the Lords’ Alliance provided the majority of the army – footsoldiers, cavalry, archers, and the supply lines necessary to maintain the forces.

When assembled, the party headed north, marching with the army to the Well of the Dragons to finally confront the cult at their home base. On the way, they were greeted by the strange but familiar sight of a flying castle headed towards them. The castle landed nearby and the party met the last piece of the forces – a squad of over 50 giants led by their old acquaintance Blagothkus.

The march north was a somber one, the tension of the coming conflict lingering heavily as the the army based burned out hovels and streams of travelers heading in the other direction to escape the devastation to the north.

With the Well of the Dragons in sight, the party was now able to see the Temple of Tiamat in its full splendor. Raised from the caldera of the now-dormant volcano, the temple was a jagged star of black rock, each of its five points as well as the center raising into massive, pointed spires. Chromatic dragons wheeled overhead, not daring to yet approach given the presence of the metallic dragons and the giant, flying castle. The draakenhorn droned incessantly as the cults forces rallied into battle formation – fire and frost giants readied massive crossbows and boulders, kobolds in the thousands formed loose packs ready to charge, defected Red Wizards summoned support troops of their own, and the massive army of mercenaries and cultists formed into proper combat units.

The War of the Dragon Queen was about to commence – would the combined forces of the north be enough to hold off the Cult of Tiamat while the party tried to stop her entrance into the material world?

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The Tower of Xonthal

After briefly studying a map, Aramil teleported the party to the village known as Xonthal’s Tower. The village had originally started as a dormitory of sort for the wizard Xonthal’s various apprentices and servants but, over time, grew into a proper village in its own right. Though the village still stood, the tower had been abandoned for some time, and the massive hedge maze surrounding it had become wild and overgrown.

Finding it the obvious course of action, the party first went to the village tavern, hoping to gain some information on the tower and its current inhabitants. The locals were friendly enough, though initially wary of anyone asking too many questions. That was, until the party started spending coin to get the drinks flowing. The party learned that the tower had been quiet for a long time until about a year ago when strange lights were seen through the tower windows at night and unearthly sounds resonated from within. Some villagers even claimed to see a dragon landing atop the tower, though most dismissed that as the claims of town drunks or senile.

The most resounding piece of information that the party heard from all the villagers was that the hedge maze was to be avoided. They had put up warning signs to keep people out as none who entered ever returned. Brave as ever, the party promptly disregarded these warnings and went straight to the main entrance of the hedge maze.

The path leading up to the maze was, as the villagers had said, lined with signs indicating to turn back, warnings of danger, and even a rope to block the entrance. As they approached, the party was greeted by shouting from the tower. Iskander, the dragon cultist that had contacted The Council of Waterdeep. He called out to the party that the cultists knew they were coming, having seen them in the village from the tower, and that they must hurry. He was going to go to the basement, the safest place in the tower as it required a specific key which he would leave for the party. Before he could leave, he was assailed by another cultist but was the clear victor as he flung the other cultist from the balcony then disappeared into the tower.

Ignoring the various warnings left by the villagers in favor of Iskander’s plea for urgency, the party continued on the path which lead to an eight-way crossing,a path going in each of the cardinal directions, with a sundial in the center of the crossing. Unsure of how to proceed, Miyeon sent her familiar Miki to scout out a path above. However, as soon as the bird reached the top of the hedge maze, the path disappeared below it, turning into an overgrown bramble of unkempt hedges. Even when it tried to descend, the bird was unable to find the party, despite going straight down. Having no choice, Miyeon instead dismissed the familiar to resummon it at a more convenient time.

The party investigated their surroundings in an attempt to find the right path through the hedge maze and noticed something rather peculiar – the shadow on the sundial was pointing directly north though the sun was passed its zenith and heading towards the western horizon. Following that clue, Chen walked up the north path.

The path led to a gallery of six statues and a strangely carpeted floor. Unsurprisingly, the statues animated and attacked when the party entered the courtyard. The animated armor was dispatched easily enough though, and rattling out of the helmet of the last suit of armor that fell was a bloodstone the size of a human fist. Taking the jewel, the party continued on through the next passage, only to find themselves back in the eight-way crossing with the sundial in the center.

This time, the sundial had two shadows, one pointing to the northwest and one to the northeast. Knowing now that they were in some sort of magical maze, the party went through the north passage again, between the two shadows, to try to find the right path. This time, they were led to a relatively narrow path with a fountain in the center that was flanked by overgrown plants and large flowers. Seeing a large peral inside one of the flowers, Miyeon was unable to resist herself and attempted to take the jewel. Again unsurprisingly, the flowers and plants animated, attacking the party. The enemies were again defeated with surprising ease, allowing the pearls within their petals to be collected.

The path again brought the party to the crossing with the sundial, this time the shadows pointing to the north, southwest, and southeast. Following the same formula, the party headed down the path between the shadows to the south and were led to a large courtyard with a pool in the center. In the middle of the pool was a massive boulder upon which was constructed a large pagoda. Outside the pagoda stood a man in yellow silken robes who beckoned the party inside. Chen, Eisa, and Miyeon followed him inside while the rest of the party waited (or hid) outside, not quite trusting the mysterious man in the yellow robes.

Inside the pagoda, the man prepared for the party a kettle of tea, the teapot itself appearing as a sneering face while the man remained passive though friendly. His intentions soon became clear as not only he started giggling but the pot started giggling as well as viscous smoke poured out of the spout. Recognizing the leaves as a poison known as drakeswort, Chen told everyone to hold their breath as they tried to find a way out. Unfortunately for the party, the man in yellow created a wall of stone blocking the exit before he himself sunk into the boulder, disappearing from sight. Investigating the pot, Chen found a junk of jade inside, He took the stone then the three teleported outside by way of Eisa’s magic. The threat resolved and another jewel in their possession, the party left the area and once again found themselves at the sundial passage.

This time, the sundial was pointing in each of the four diagonal directions, leaving no clear path for the party to take. As they searched and fiddled with what they could, Chen touched the sundial then immediately vanished. The rest of the party quickly followed suit, believing it was likely another trap or test but not wanting to leave Chen by himself.The next area was a surprisingly large pasture filled with sheep, a small pool, and an exceptionally large hut. The shepherds of the flock were two cyclopses, fairly docile for their giant reputation. Once they were alerted to the presence of the party, namely by Aramil sprinting across the field, the cyclopses began a game of rock-paper-scissors.

After their game, the losing giant approached the party and picked up a nearby boulder before hurling it down the field as far as he could. Eisa translating, the giant told the party that they had to beat his throw in order to pass. Stone, feeling up to the task with his magical belt, lifted one of the nearby boulders and flung it down the field as hard as he could. Aramil, feeling he needed a hand to ensure he would win, magically reversed the gravity in the area to send the boulder flying even further, ensuring Stone’s throw beat the giant’s. Satisfied with the competition though a bit surly about losing, the cyclops busted one of the boulders open with his shepherd cane and gave the party the raw chunk of topaz encased inside it.

The party again entered the sundial passage where they found the sundial now pointing in all eight directions. They tried going down several paths, each one ultimately leading them back to the sundial after only a couple minutes of walking. In a moment of inspiration, Aramil walked straight into one of the points of the hedges, the space between the shadows, and found himself in the courtyard in front of the tower facing a teleportation circle carved into the ground. At the foot of the tower lay the broken and bloodied corpse of the cultist flung from the balcony, but other than they, they were not able to find an entrance into the tower.

With no other way in and with the path behind them leading back past the sundial and to the village, the party activated the teleportation circle and was whisked inside the tower. The first floor appeared to be an audience chamber of sorts, comfortable furniture spread around the room and the walls decorated with geometric carvings of various local animals. The pleasant nature of the room was thoroughly disturbed by the presence of a human female wearing cult regalia sprawled face down in a pool of her own blood.

The room had no visible stairs or way to leave the room other than what appeared to be another teleportation circle on the southern wall. Above the circle was a metal panel inscribed with a variety of symbols, one of which was shaped like a chair and presently glowing with a faint blue light.Pressing the star-shaped button, the party was teleported to one of the top floors of the tower, an observatory with a balcony overlooking the hedge maze.

As soon as they materialized from the teleportation, the party was hit by a fireball spell from one of the cult mages. Along with three other cult fanatics, they attacked the party, not giving them a chance to take in their surroundings. As with the monsters in the maze, these cultists were no match for the combined might of the party and they were defeated. Now able to search the room, the party found that this was indeed an observatory and was the room where Iskander had contacted them from earlier.

They found the hourglass key he had left behind on the body of the dead mage and now had to make a decision – continue searching the tower or rush to the lower levels in an attempt to find Iskander before it was too late?

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The Hospitality of Thay

Upon meeting with The Council of Waterdeep and introducing their new metallic dragon allies, the party relayed the concessions they made. Though somewhat displeased, the council was accepting of sharing an equal amount of the treasure with each dragon, even though they were considered overall one faction. King Melandrach carried out his formal apology to Protanther earnestly but with little enthusiasm, not so much because he felt it a personal affront but because that was his general way of acting these days.

The dwarves were a little harder to convince. Ambassador Connerad Brawnanvil did indeed know of the old dwarvish dragon hunts and had even participated in some. He seemed to recall a cousin of his having a suit of armor made from silver dragon scales who he promised to meet with in order to see if he would return the armor to Otaaryliakkarnos. The ambassador bristled at the idea of having to give a formal apology for the wrongs of old (especially since he doesn’t see them as wrongs) but said he would think it over after he talked to his cousin.

That matter resolved, the party went back to their home and to tend to their personal business. When Chen arrived at The Taxidermist, he found that Rian Nightshade was already waiting for him with a glass of fine wine, as she is typically wont to do. Atypically, she also had a mysterious guest shrouded in magical darkness. Once she had Chen’s assurance that he wouldn’t do anything rash and that her “friend” was simply here to talk business, she dismissed the darkness and revealed the figure – a Red Wizard of Thay.

Rian introduced the wizard as Nyh Ilmichh, a young wizard sent here on behalf of her superiors to negotiated a deal against their common enemy in the Red Wizards working with the Cult of the Dragon. Nyh was a bit cagey on what exactly the plan was or what the Red Wizards would do, but she promised to reveal all if the party traveled back with her to Thay to meet one of her superiors.

Chen took the message to not only the rest of his party, excluding Stone, but also to some of the likely more agreeable councilors – Remallia Haventree and Leosin Erlanthar of the Harpers and the leader of the council, Lady Laeral Silverhand. Laeral was the most receptive to the idea, seeing the benefit of bringing Thay into the fold against the cult, but the Harpers needed a little more convincing and wouldn’t commit to anything until they knew exactly what Thay was planning. Not wanting to send the party into potential danger entirely alone, Remallia gave the party signed and sealed documents indicating they were under the protection of both the Council of Waterdeep and the Lords’ Alliance and that the consequences would be appropriately meted out should something happen to them

With the next council meeting still a few days away, the party decided it best to accept Nyh’s offer to go to Thay. However, their sneaking around amongst themselves was not lost on Stone. Not exactly the spying type himself, he asked his friend Carlon Amoffel to find out what was going on. Feeling he still had a debt to fulfill, Carlon agreed to Stone’s request and found out what was going on for him, pointing them to the party’s meeting at the Taxidermist that night. Aware of the party’s plan to enlist the aid of Thay, Stone brought his concerns to Ontharr Frume of the Order of the Gauntlet who promised to bring this up to the rest of the councilors prior to the next meeting.

When the rest of the party arrived at the bar, they found Stone already waiting for them. They again tried to dissuade him from coming with, not wanting him to sully his hands with such shady business (or to potentially mess things up with his sense of righteousness), but Stone remained steadfast and went with the party to Thay. Nyh teleported the party to Nethwatch Keep, one of the border outposts on the edge of Thay as a more hospital meeting ground as compared to the heart of the nation.

The party was guided by Nyh and several zombie servants through the opulent halls of the keep, tastefully decorated with fine furniture, masterful paintings, and, of course, plenty of red draping. They were brought to a dining hall where they met with the zulkir Eseldra Yeth, a vampire woman calmly sipping a wine glass filled with blood. Once the party was seated and given refreshments, she produced a scroll and read a proclamation from the lord of Thay, Szass Tam, which explained that the Red Wizards would offer their assistance in destroying to dissidents who sought to use TIamat’s power to start a rebellion in Thay. The vampire discussed what she knew about the rebels with the party and vice versa, asking some probing questions and being harshly dismissive of those judged to either be clueless or without tact.

At the end of the dinner, she informed the party she would have a decision for them tomorrow and that they would now be shown to their rooms. Again led by Nyh and several zombie servants, each party member was given a luxurious room entirely to themselves to spend the night. Azrael had slightly different plans as some flirting with Nyh led to him not sharing his bed with her that night. Stone, far less the romantic, stayed up the entire night, not trusting the fact they were deliberately told the doors did not have locks.

During the night, both Azrael and Reynar had the same horrible dream wherein they were bound by magical chains and tentacles inside a bubbling cauldron while a dozen Red Wizards passively observed them, one stepping forward to ask more pointed questions. When either of them answered in an incoherent or overly obtuse manner, they were jabbed with a long spear that sent excruciating ripples of pain through their bodies. The questioning was brief and thankfully just a dream, or apparently not entirely when Reynar woke up to find his bed sheets covered in blood despite having no visible wounds.

Not having time to discuss it with each other, the party was awoken by several zombie servants escorting them back to the dining hall. At the head of the table now sat Nyh, a sealed document in her hands. Reciting from memory, she read the document to the party, relaying that the Red Wizards would indeed help the council’s efforts against the Cult of the Dragon, specifically in eliminating the opposing Red Wizards, on the condition that Nyh be granted a seat on the council. The party knew that it would be a hard sell but they also knew that having the Thayans on their side would be incredibly helpful.

Once back in Waterdeep, Chen again met with Lady Laeral prior to the council meeting the next day to let her know what the Thayans had agreed to. Laeral found the terms reasonable enough and assured Chen that she would throw her weight behind it at the next vote.

The council meeting was as uproarious as one would expect, several of the members already whipped into a frenzy by the information Ontharr brought to them. The debate raged for some time but ultimately the council voted to granted Nyh a seat and to bring Thay into the alliance, the stipulation in the deal being that Thay would halt their aggression against the factions until the cult was dealt with helping to smooth things out.

That business dealt with, Laeral presented a message to the council they had received a few days prior. A man named Iskander, supposedly a member of the Cult of the Dragon, was asking for help as he seemed to regret joining the cult. He indicated that he was with several other cultists at the Tower of Xonthal, the home of a mad wizard long since disappeared, and that they were in possession of the blue dragon mask. He was willing to hand it over to the council if they were able to save his life and extricate him from the cult.

But was he ultimately trustworthy as the Thayans had so far proved to be, or was this a trap? The party would soon find out as they agreed to head to the tower to meet with him.

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The Splendor of Dragons

With the prisoners safely out of the cave, the party ventured deeper into the dragon’s lair to find it and hopefully Neronvain as well. The room outside the ettin chamber was a large, partially flooded cavern. The water had a small but barren island in the middle and was quite murky, likely where the dragon went to hide. Rather than deal with him just yet, the party instead continued down a tunnel. The first rooms they encountered showed signs that the cave was definitely inhabited by more than just a dragon, and recently. A roast pig was burning on a spit and plenty of valuables had been left behind, though there was no sign of the occupants.

Deeper into the cave they found another storeroom, mostly dried and pickled foods with a few rain barrels, though one crate was particularly interesting. Carefully packed in straw, the party found eight bottles of Evermead, honey wine from the elvish homeland of Evermeet. Deciding it was too valuable to leave sitting in a cave, the party decided to liberate it from the cult.

The next room was a richly appointed chamber, the stone cavern lined with lush carpets and the walls decorated with artwork from all around the Sword Coast. Unfortunately for the party, the entrance was also protected by a glyph of warding which sprayed acid on the party as they carelessly strode into the room without first looking for traps.

As with the rest of the cavern, the room was empty. Having searched the caves, they now knew the dragon had to have gone through the water. Heading back to the main room, Miyeon cast a ritual of water breathing on the party. Reynar, Dragon Slayer sword in hand, went into the water first to see if the dragon was simply laying in wait. Instead, he found that the cavern continued on under water and went into another chamber.

The party together swam through the cavern and were greeted by the green dragon accompanied by a wood elf in purple robes wearing a mask resembling the face of a green dragon – Neronvain, the green wyrmspeaker of the Cult of the Dragon and the son of King Melandrach. The wyrmspeaker offered the party a choice – to surrender to him and abandon their quest or to face certain doom at the hands of the forty cultists waiting outside the cavern. Not entirely believing him, Miyeon sent her familiar Miki to the cavern entrance to check.

Before they could know for sure, Chen decided to call his bluff and fired at the dragon. The fight was on! The party’s ranged offense battered both the dragon and Neronvain, their magical defenses helping some but not totally stopping the onslaught. The dragon charged Chen, having felt the sting of his arrows in their previous encounter as well, and attempted to end the elf. Fortunately, their various protection magics held and the dragon was only able to inflict minimal damage. As Reynar continued to assault the dragon with his magical sword, the dragon was eventually forced to flee, casting a dimension door to teleport away before he could be slain.

Neronvain, having much less fortitude than the dragon, last far less time once Stone engaged him in melee. Also preferring to live, he surrendered to the party, ending his spells and allowing himself to be bound. Not wanting to risk being assaulted by more cultists, even though Miki confirmed he was bluffing, the party used Aramil’s teleportation circle to return to Waterdeep.

At their manor, Reynar was surprised to see that his elder brother Jack. He had apparently been sent to the Sword Coast to complete the business transactions his brother had never finished as he was now off gallivanting across the country side and playing at hero. Though he was unimpressed with Reynar’s living conditions, he was (though he’d never admit it) impressed at his acquisition of the evermead and the several magical items he was now adorned with.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party contacted Melandrach and let him know that his son was there. They also contacted Rian Nightshade, who they spoke with first, to remove Neronvain’s attunement to the Green Dragon Mask, which she did for only a sample of their evermead. When Melandrach arrived, he seemed both relieved and saddened. Confirming the party had in fact broken Neronvain’s connection to the mask, Melandrach whispered something to his son before stabbing him in the heart with a fine dagger. With a heavy sigh, he left, letting the party know they would still receive their reward, and thanking them. Rian took care of the practical matter at hand, her “cleaning crew” arriving shortly after nightfall.

The next day, Melandrach saw the party off with a gift – a Moonblade, a powerful elvish sword that is normally passed down through the generations, though he no longer had a use for it. A council meeting not yet ready to be called, the party again traveled via a teleportation circle, this time to the city of Silverymoon due to its proximity to the Glimmerwood and the location of Stone’s newly forged magical sword. They met with the elvish smith, old even by elf standards, who gave Stone his blade for the rest of the payment due, a sword that could magically burst into flames and shoot a ray of fire, dubbed Justice by the warrior.

The trip to and ultimately through the Nether Mountains was largely uneventful. Given the position of two major dwarish citadels on either side of the road and Silverymoon near the mountains, banditry was uncommon among the roads and monsters were even less so. Given the presence of five ancient metallic dragons in the mountains, the were also far safer than normal.

The party met the dragons at the site Elia had marked on their map, an old shrine to Bahamut, the only indication of it an old, weathered statue of dragon in the center of a clearing. There, in all their majesty, stood the five representatives of the races of the goodly metallic dragons – Protanther, a gold dragon, Ileuthra, a brass dragon, Otaaryliakkarnos, Elia’s true name, Nymmurh, a bronze dragon, and Tazmikella, a copper dragon. It was clear the dragons had been having conflicting debate amongst themselves, each having a rather different opinion. (Check out the individual dragon’s character pages for more specific information)

In the end, by offering the each dragon a share of the treasure that was originally to be split amongst the factions and nations of The Council of Waterdeep, the party was able to get the reluctant dragons more on their side. By further making personal concessions to every dragon but Nymmurh, the party was able to convince the dragon leaders to join the cause of the humanoid nations, further strengthening not only the dragons’ chance of succeeding against TIamat’s cultists but gaining an immensely powerful set of allies for the races of mortals.

On the wings of dragons the party flew back to Waterdeep, the dragons deciding to no longer sit out the council planning and to take an active party in determining the direction of events to come. Surely some of the council would be displeased with the decisions the party made on their behalf, but little could be said to argue with their results.

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Devils on the Road and Dragons in the Wood

At the next meeting of the The Council of Waterdeep, the party was given a bit of a surprise. Apparently the cause of Lord Dagult Neverember‘s recent disgruntling was that his appointed handmaiden Elia wasn’t so much an annoying servant to watch over him as she was an ancient silver dragon sent to the council to observe the mortal races before extending an invitation to representatives of their kind to a meeting of metallic dragons. The party, being the only representatives present without major ties to any specific organization or nation, were deemed as the most neutral and best representatives to attend the meeting.

Elia offered to fly the party to the meeting under the condition that they leave immediately as she was already expected back. After a brief sidebar, the party declined her offer, instead wanting to pursue the Wyrmspeaker Neronvain, King Melandrach’s exiled son, who was still raiding elvish villages to the north in the Misty Forest. Elia was fine with this decision but urged them to make haste with the task and join the meeting in the Nether Mountains at a former shrine to Bahamut as soon as possible.

After the meeting, the party a visit to Viltharus, the half-dragon they had resurrected after recovering his remains from the domain of the slain white dragon Arauthator. He seemed to be acclimating well enough to the new time period but still seemed out of place and unsure of himself. He was no longer attending the council meetings as he did not feel he was well-versed enough in current events to offer a fair input, nor did he think he would be a good representative to accompany them to the dragon meeting when asked by the party. Though he was once a proud warrior, laying dead for nearly three centuries would take its toll on anyone’s psyche.

Before gathering supplies and purchasing new horses for the journey north, several of the party members met with Rian Nightshade at Chen‘s tavern, The Taxidermist, to discuss the sale of the White Dragon Mask the Zhentarim had “liberated” from Varram the White. Unfortunately, the party was not able to afford the 75,000 gold piece asking price, though a deal was struck that Rian would knock some off the price if she was brought a sufficient replacement item from the party’s next inevitable encounter with a dragon hoard. Meanwhile, having no interest in such dealings and apparently in need of some soul searching, Stone spent some time at the local temples of the Triad – the gods Illmater, Torm, and Tyr.

Business on the homestead taken care of, the party struck out along the Long Road towards the Misty Forest. The trip was largely uneventful, Azrael and Stone getting into some hijinks with the locals of Red Larch and Westbridge. It wasn’t until the party reached Triboar with plans to do much the same that something interesting happened. While drinking, they were approached by a man who was dressed at a villager but clearly wasn’t given his diction and manner of carrying himself. He proposed to the party a meeting with his lord who wanted to aid them in their quest against the Cult of the Dragon. Skeptical, the party was eventually swayed and was lead to a tent nearly a mile out of town and off the road.

Inside the tent, they were greeted by a most unusual host – a horned devil named Lord Volmer. He was extending aid to the party as a representative of the former and, according to him, rightful ruler of the first layer of hell, the pit fiend known as Bel, recently deposed from his position by the fallen angel Zariel. Bel had an interest in keeping Tiamat in Avernus as she was a persistent thorn in Zariel’s side, having only recently held the angel prisoner. To that extent, Lord Volmer offered the party any sort of magical item they needed to aid them in their quest, asking nothing in return other than to continue what they were doing and to sign a contract sealing their deal.

After much debate on the type of item they should acquire and the ethics of the deal, the party decided to ultimately not make a literal deal with a devil and refused to sign. Lord Volmer was disappointed though not hostile, disappearing it what could almost be considered a huff.

Back on the road, the party eventually reached the Misty Forest and the only village on their map, Altand. The village appeared to be grand, or at least once grand, as many of its sweeping bridges and elegantly carved homes now stood in ruin. Heading to the only stone structure in the building, they found what looked like it was once a temple but was now a makeshift hospital, solemn elves in green robes tending to a multitude of wounded. They discovered that the village had recently been assaulted by the Cult of the Dragon, only within the last few days while the party was on the road. One of the healers directed the party to look for Galin va’Altand, the village’s ranger warden and acting elder as the actual elder had disappeared in the recent assault.

Galin was easy enough to find, the group of rangers he was giving orders to giving him away as much as his unusually bald head for an elf. He informed the party mostly what they already knew and brought them to the elder’s home at the request of Miyeon. Though Galin didn’t seem to fully trust the party, he did wish for their help as he had little idea of what to actually do next.

In the elder’s home, Miyeon was able to find some of his hair in a nicely carved comb made of a silvery wood. Using her magic mirror, she attempted to scry on the elder. Her spell revealed that the elder was alive though severely maimed, little remaining of his hands. He also was aware that someone was trying to magically view him and, hoping that it was someone friendly, he drew a brief message on the ground in his own blood – “two days west, behind waterfall.”

Galin knew approximately where this would be, the only waterfalls in the region being those of the Mirar River as it tumbled down from the mountains of the Spine of the World. Unable to leave the village, he sent the young Vanya va’Altand, still a ranger in training, to serve as the party’s guide. Luckily, they were not accosted along the way, the cult’s activity with a rampaging dragon likely keeping the lesser beasts in hiding.

As they reached the edge of the forest before the river and base of the mountains, Vanya stopped the party and fired an arrow at a crow. As Chen noticed as well, the crow had been watching the party a little too closely and a little too intently, likely a magical spy. Having no choice but to move forward, the party continued up the base of the mountain near the falls. It wasn’t until the second drop over a ridge that they found a cave behind where the waterfall was gathering into a large pool.

It didn’t take long before the owner of the magical spy revealed himself, a massive green dragon breathing a blast of noxious gas from behind the waterfall at the party. They were prepared for this though, Miyeon’s magical hero’s feast protecting them not only from the poisonous cloud but the dragon’s aura of fear. Surprised by undeterred, the dragon attempted to dispel the protection magic but failed. After sustaining a few injuries from the party’s arrows and spells, he fled deeper into the cavern, taunting the party to follow him if they dared.

Dare they did, though not as far as the dragon would like. The next cavern was filled with a large pool and, given the large splash they heard after the dragon flew away, a likely ambush from the beast. Instead, they investigated a well-hidden side passage that Chen’s keen senses detected. Shortly ahead, they heard six voices arguing in the guttural tongue of the giants. Being the only one who spoke giant, Vanya translated for the party that they were arguing over a belt and that, though there were six voices, there were only three creatures – the two-headed giants known as ettins.

Azrael, using his mysterious power of telepathy, convinced the giants to fight amongst themselves over the item. This gave Chen an opportunity to sneak past them to the passage on the other side. The passage ended in a sturdy door locked shut with an even sturdier padlock. In the end, neither were a match for Chen’s skills and he managed to get the door open. Fearing an ambush after he heard several elvish voices inside, he slowly peaked in in the room to inside find over a dozen prisoners from Atland, including the village elder. He communicated this information back to the party using the mindlink Miyeon had granted them all and an attack plan was formulated to eliminate the ettins and free the prisoners.

Under a combined assault of Chen’s arrows, Azrael’s fiery magic, and Reynar’s blades, the ettins fell before they even fully realized they were under attack. Fearing they alerted the dragon to their position, the party quickly freed the prisoners and led them to the hidden passage. Vanya agreed to lead the captives back to Atland where they could receive some much needed medical attention while the party continued on through the cave, feeling that them dealing with the dragon would be a much better use of their time.

The prisoners free and a new magical belt acquired, the party mustered their courage to continue forth and confront the dragon. With any luck, Neronvain was also in the cavern and, with even more luck, he’d come quietly once his dragon was put down.

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What Vengeance Means

With the shadows of his past so close, Stone Wilson insisted the party head into Anauroch to find the Black Lion Mercenaries. Though everyone did want to help him, they also had a prisoner they wanted to keep alive. As a compromise, Aramil cast a teleportation circle to send Azrael and Eisa back to Waterdeep with Varram while the rest ventured to the desert.

The party traveled on horseback for a couple days before the reached a trade outpost, mostly a collection of variously sized tents, at the entrance of the pass through the Blade Mountains. They resupplied, stabled their horses, and rented camels for the trek into the desert, all at a very unreasonable price but the locale didn’t offer much choice, and set off through the pass.

On the other side of the pass, the party immediately saw signs of a large camp that was abandoned only in the last few days. They also saw signs of the campers activities – ruin caravans, discarded weapons, and bleached bones littered the area. Most importantly, they found a tattered banner of the Black Lion Mercenaries, appearing to prove that Carlon’s intel was accurate.

Unfamiliar with the desert as they were, the party was not able to find any sort of trail of the company in the shifting sands. Fortunately, Carlon had given them a map of the region marking where the mercenaries had been reported as well as several points of interest. The nearest location besides the current camp was an oasis about two days’ travel away.

Once nearly at the oasis, the party dismounted and crept along the dune. Below, they did indeed see an oasis along with over a dozen mercenaries and one of their more frightening allies – an adult blue dragon. Most importantly, they spied Dok Chaw, the leader of the band the one who had personally imprisoned and set his life on its current path.

Chen was able to temper Stone’s desire to rush headlong into the battle so they could ambush the mercenaries instead. Using his last dragonslaying arrow, Chen fired a volley at the blue dragon, not quite killing it but severely damaging it. Enraged, the dragon took to the air and charged at the party, singling out Chen with a blast of his lightning breath.

No longer able to contain his lust for revenge, Stone charged the mercenaries as they began preparing for the assault. The rest of the party whittled down the dragon’s health with spells and arrows until it was force to flea. Unfortunately for the dragon, Chen is a really good archer – his final parting arrow dropped the dragon from the sky at nearly 600 feet away.

Stone continued his charge and was met in turn by Dok, the orc hurling insults as he recognized Stone. The two clashed in battle, the orc managing to deal some fearsome blows to Stone but ultimately not being able to stop his rage as he was felled. Stone continued to brutalize the corpse, venting his grief and anger at all the mercenaries had done to his family, while the rest of the party took shots at the now fleeing mercenaries.

Not content to simply kill the slaver, Stone impaled the orc’s corpse on one of his own mercenaries spears with their banner attached, a dire warning to any who would return to the area.

Their business in the desert completed, the party used another teleportation circle to return to Waterdeep. Upon return, they went their separate ways for now, the day too late to set up another meeting with the council. Upon returning to his bar, Chen was directed to the back room almost immediately by his barkeep where he found Rian Nightshade waiting. She had heard of their exploits from what Azrael and Eisa reported and informed Chen that she was in possession of the white dragon mask, her agent who had infiltrated the cult had actually stolen it which led to Varram’s ill-fated expedition into the Serpent Hill’s. She offered Chen a proposal – his party could have the mask to battle the cult for a nominal fee, if the so wished. She had no intention of handing it over to the cult of course, but she wasn’t about to give it up to the adventurers for free either, especially when the agent who stole it was likely dead. Chen wasn’t quite able to decide but Rian appeared to be in no rush, instead enjoying a leisurely drink and promising to discuss it again after the next council meeting in two days.

Once again back in civilization, the party had some time to rest and contemplate the events of the last week before meeting with the The Council of Waterdeep to determine their next course of action.

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Varram in Custody

The decision was eventually made by the party to ignore the devils for now and head back to the library while the ghost was gone in hopes of finding some useful tidbit they missed while the ghost was there. Unfortunately, all the books had been long since taken or were destroyed, leaving only a few bits of faded and brittle paper with all but illegible text.

Returning to the throne room, the party attempted to speak with the guardian seated upon the throne. Upon further inspection, they came to the conclusion that he wasn’t a living being and was likely a construct of some sort, programmed to react when new people enter the room and to manage the treasure donated by guests.

Before advancing, the party went back to the room where they battled the mosaic manticore to investigate the copper-plated door with the depiction of the wizards performing a ritual. Worried that the bowing of the door was because of a monster attempting to escape, the party set up for an ambush while Azrael used his telekinesis ring to open the door. It was good they stayed back because, though it wasn’t a monster on the other side of the room but rather a cave-in that the structural support of the door was holding in place. Once the door was opened, the stones tumbled into the hallway beyond and into the mosaic room. Unable to proceed, the party returned to the later rooms.

Once again in the room with the devils, the party decided it was best not to go into a room labeled as dangerous and continued through the northern door, which then turned to the west to another door. Again sending Miki to scout, the party discovered the next room was not only the same one the bird had previously gone into while going through the pipes but was the room on the other side of the now caved-in hallway.

The next room was another tomb lit by magical flame braziers in each corner of the room and prominently displaying a large sarcophagus in the center. As the party entered, each had a feeling of uneasiness, as if they were being watched, and they all heard Diderius speak – “you approach Diderius in repose. I know what you seek.” To Chen, he further went on to say – “The snake people have taken the one you seek beyond their portal in the northern wall. Be prepared, for I shall open the way to peril.”

And peril did the party find. The next room greeted them with a volley of javelins from a half dozen lizardmen, all of which were rapidly dispatched by Azrael’s fireball spell. To the east, the stairs headed downward led to a wide but slippery bridge guarded on the far end by not only more lizardmen but also two yuan-ti malisons – largely muscled humans with the head of a snake. Unfortunately for them, this fight was also short-lived as a combination of magic and intense physical fighting defeated the reptilians in very little time. In order to cross the bridge and not fall into the flooded pit some 100 feet below, each party member took their time slowly walking across, that is, everyone except Azrael who retrieved a chair from a prior room and used it to float himself across the bride.

The complex continued on into what appeared to be some sort of snake breeding pit. As the party soon found out, the pit was very well guarded by two yuan-ti abominations. One rushed to immediately engage the party as they stood at the top of the ladder into the pit while the other slithered to a separate tunnel. The second abomination brought in some reinforcements, two more abominations, and attacked the party from the rear. The party was able to fight off the snakemem, thankfully not falling into the pit at the same time.

The party continued searching the crypt, looping back around to a room they had passed previously. This room was rather richly appointed, or was at one point, and the frescoes on the room depicting the yuan-ti gods Merrshaulk and Sseth. Most noticeably, there stood two suits of exquisite armor carved with depictions of yuan-ti conquest and prayers to the gods each set represents. To the party’s dismay, the armor wasn’t just nice armor but enchanted to animate when filled with snakes, attacking with a blade slick with poison. The party defeated the snake-powered suits but unfortunately the armor began to rapidly degrade and could not be salvaged.

Returning to the main hallway, they followed the path to what ended up being a temple to the very same deities. In the room stood six more abominations, two more malisons, and what was known as a yuan-ti pureblood, a woman appearing to be human under all but the closest scrutiny. She introduced herself as Akhala, the leader of the yuan-ti present, and struck a deal with the party – she would spare the life of Varram the White, presently her prisoner, if the party left without killing any more of her people.

When the party asked about the mask, a far greater concern of theirs than Varram himself, she informed the party that she did not know and nor did Varram for that matter, that was why he was here. The wyrmspeaker had lost his mask, stolen he believes, and had not been able to locate it using mundane divination magic. Desperate to find the mask, he came to the crypt to make use of the divination pool to find it. Whether or not he succeeded, the party did not know.

Ultimately, the party agreed to Akhala’s deal and took Varram’s unconscious body away from the temple, finding a garbage-laden lizardfolk den and an empty prison along the way. When they reached the diving pool again, the party attempted to operate the device to find the masks themselves. They managed to fill the pool with water from the well in the next room but felt an unforeseen side effect. As the pool filled with water, the water began to glow with a silvery light as its connection to the astral plane opened. The sudden sight of such a powerful divination overwhelmed the minds of most the party, those unable to sort the information they were being shown suffering a severe headache to say the least.

Investigating their surroundings, the party came to the conclusion (with some aid from a now awake Varram) that the pool requires a living sacrifice of a humanoid to become fully operable. Unable to risk the life of a prisoner or their own lives on such a device without fully understanding it, the party left the diving room and ultimately the crypt entirely, unwilling to battle the undead Varram told them would be waiting behind the door the devils were left to guard.

A wyrmspeaker captured but his mask still missing, the party felt confident they struck a blow to the cultists. The only question remaining was now what had happened to the mask? The party now had to decide their course of action – to return to Waterdeep with Varram or to head into the nearby Anauroch desert to pursue the Black Lion mercenaries that had imprisoned Stone so long ago.

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The Tomb of Diderius

Before they had a chance to finish their rest, the party was greeted by the owner of the inn and a dozen of Boareskyr Bridge’s finest guards. The massive hole in the wall, the dead cultists in suspiciously sinister attire, and the many dragon sightings corroborated the party’s version of events relayed to the guards and they were let go without further detainment.

The party finished their rest at another room at the inn before they stocked up on supplies for the coming journey and left the bridge city. The road leaving Boareskyr Bridge was largely desolate though kept in good shape; trade didn’t often come out of the Serpent Hills or Anauroch. They follwed the road for a couple days before encountering a fork, the road continuing to the north and south and only rolling hills lying on their path to the east. Chen, the most competent tracker of the group, found the trail or a large group on foot that had traveled off the road within the last tenday or so.

The tracks led deeper into the Serpent Hills, the spares trees and grassy knolls giving way to rocky mesas and dusty winds. That night, the party camped in Eisa’s magical hut. In the temperature-controlled dome, the night passed comfortably under a massive starry sky, the only disturbance being a duo of hill giants escorting their herd of aurochs across the plains under the cooler temperatures. Wanting to avoid an unnecessary conflict, the party let the giants pass as the giants failed to notice their camouflaged dwelling.

The following day, the tracks led to the ruins of what appeared to be an ancient elvish city built atop a plateau on the edge of a deep canyon. The settlement likely predated the fall of Netheril as most the buildings were little but rubble and one or two standing walls, all except a tower that was largely intact, at least externally. Inside, the tower was all but gutted, any floors its upper levels had long since crumbled. At the rear of the tower was a door that led to a staircase carved into the side of the cliff that led down into the canyon.

Following the stairs down, the party came across what must have been the city proper, though little was left of it besides dusty foundations. The only building that was still wholly intact was a massive domed structure, its entrance flanked by two twenty-foot statues, one an elvish scholar and the other a warrior. Outside the building, the party found remains of a campsite that had been used recently, though the remains of its inhabitants was more of a mystery. Near a ruined and dried up fountain was a relatively fresh (and large) puddle of blood, the sand causing it to congeal a bit but it wasn’t quite dry. The winds and shifting sands made finding a trail difficult, though they were able to make out several shallow graves. Digging one up, they found the remains of a cultist wearing typical dragon regalia. The cultist had no visible signs of death so the blood certainly wasn’t his, but what exactly he died of couldn’t quite be determined. Having no further interest in the fate of the cultists who had been camped here though glad to know they were on the right track, the party went to investigate the building..

As the approached the door, the statues revealed their enchanted nature, heads turning towards the party and relaying a recorded message – “Half. You come before Diderius, ether walker and conduit of clairvoyance. Behold ye now his wondrous triumphs. Diderius extends wisdom, and Diderius offers knowledge. Which do you seek?” Reacting quickly, Chen told the status they seek wisdom which was apparently an acceptable answers as the status resumed their neutral position and the doors opened.

The insides of the tomb looked like they had once been covered in intricate carvings inlaid with precious metals and gems, now much more plain after years of robbery. The next room was littered with the bones of dozens of humanoids and the walls were lined with status of robed figures, the dark under their robes resisting the light the party had brought with them. As they investigated the room, the party heard a sinister whispering seemingly coming from the statues – “some secrets are not meant for mortal minds to know. Look away from the darkness in which such knowledge hides.”

Being as reckless as he is, Aramil, of course, decided to look in the dark of the hoods. His mind was assailed with the blabbering of a hundred voices, all whispering and shouting secrets of the multiverse. His mind reeling, Aramil began to seizure then passed out. His mind was resilient though, a lifetime of hallucinatory drugs apparently building up a tolerance to such insanity, and he even managed to glean a few cosmic secrets from the din, though what they were, he kept to himself.

The next room was the largest chamber so far with a door to the west with the word “SAFE” written across it in chalk, a double-door to the north, and a hallway to the east. The floor of the room was filled with a large mosaic depicting an elvish warrior battling a manticore. The mosaic proved to be incredibly lifelike as the manticore stood up, still made out of tile, and attacked the party. The guardian proved to not be much stronger than the tiles that made it and the party quickly defeated it, the remaining tiles clattering to the ground.

The party next headed to the room to the west through the door marked as safe by presumably the cultists that made it into the tomb. The circular room contained a well with a brass bucket at the end of a fine rope and an elevated dais with an empty basin next to a brass lever. Putting the pieces together, the party pulled up a bucket of water and poured it into the basin but it did not appear to be the legendary scrying pool Diderius was known for. Fearing a trap, the party all stepped outside the room while Azrael pulled the lever using his magical ring. As it turned out, the lever did nothing more than drain the water from the basin, leading the party to believe it was simply a fancy toilet.

Not entirely satisfied with this being an overly elaborate restroom, the party convinced Miyeon to send her familiar Miki through the pipe under the basin. The bird communicated telepathically with Miyeon and told her, with its limited ability of speech, that the room contained a big hole and many dead men, all stabbed by “elf-sticks,” but it wasn’t able to give a good description of the dark room otherwise.

Returning to the mosaic chamber, the party now investigated the door on the north wall. The double doors were banded in a corroded copper plaque engraved to depict a group of wizards peering over a pool of water with an over-sized figure at the top of the image raising his hands as if summoning a creature from the pool. Were that not ominous enough, the door itself was showing signs of buckling, stress induced on its frame by an apparent structural weakness or collapse in the stone behind it. Not wanting to deal with that just yet, the party instead headed to the hallway to the east.

In front of the hallway, slightly separate from the manticore mosaic but still a part of the overall image, was a large mosaic sun. Investigating it and finding it to be harmless, Chen then scouted out the hallway ahead. He didn’t make it but halfway down the hall when the sun revealed its purpose, belching forth a massive boulder of stone and bones. Before it could roll down the ramp and bowl Chen over, Azrael grabbed it with his telekinesis ring and shattered it across the far wall.

Now able to proceed down the hallway, the party found a poorly hidden trapdoor on the left wall which turned out to be a dumbwaiter. Continuing his best efforts as the party’s scout, Chen climbed into the dumbwaiter and was lowered down. The other end opened up into a short stretch of flat hallway with stairs going up and down on either end. Disinclined to investigate it alone, he signaled for the party to pull him back up and relayed what he found.

Continuing down the hallway, the party came to a chamber lit by a small chute to the surface. As soon as the party entered, they were greeted by another disembodied whisper – “Humility proffered in the manner of Mystril shelters those opening the way to seeking knowledge.” The party collectively knew that Mystril was the goddess of magic who was eventually slain by Karsus, the archmage of Netheril, when he usurped her power and made himself the god of magic, ultimately causing his nation’s downfall. The room also contained six sarcophagi embedded in the walls. Braving what seemed like an obvious trap, Stone opened the sarcophagus to reveal the elvish mummy within, and interesting discovery as elves are not known to mummify their dead anymore. However interesting, the mummy was not animating and attack, nor did it reveal any clues about the humility to be offered to Mystril, so the party closed the sarcophagus and continued through the less imposing door on the east wall rather than through the door to the north that bore Mystril’s symbol.

The next room looked like it was once an elaborate library, though little of its knowledge seemed to remain beyond a few tattered and brittle scraps. This information appeared to be lost on the library’s guardian, a ghost elf named Ilda. She was pleasant enough with the party, offering some information on Diderius, apparently not aware that he is likely dead, and warned against the party venturing into his throne room as they were not viewed as worthy of his knowledge. The party decided to go into the next room anyway which threw Ilda into a fit of rage. She lunged at Stone, possessing the fighter and using his strength against the party, but was driven out of his body and the room in general by Miyeon’s holy channeling.

Once they were confident the ghost wouldn’t return, the party headed into what was once Diderius’ throne room. Sitting upon the throne was a twelve-foot-tall elf with a brown complexion, flowing white hair, and a purple toga. As the party approached, the figure turned to them and spoke – “e who seek Diderius’ insight must first furnish tribute, that Diderius might work his mighty magic> Lay such tribute at my feet or depart.” At the figure’s feat lay a small pile of coins and trinkets, none appearing to be particularly valuable, but apparently tributes nevertheless. The party each left something in the pile but only Aramil, being as brash as he ever is, advanced to the next room without waiting to see if anything happened.

The room was dominated by a long table in the middle of the room. To the south was a door with “DANGER!” written across it in chalk that had been stuck shut with several pitons in the ground. To the north was shut but bore no markings and the door to the room Aramil just left was marked with “? DANGER.” Most notably, the room contained five bearded devils sitting at the table, eating what appeared to be human remains. Rather than grabbing their glaives and attacking, the devils were rather cordial with Aramil, informing him that they had been summoned by the cultists to guard this room against anything coming out of the room marked danger. They seemed to have no interest in fighting the party, nor any interest in stopping their progress, informing them they would only do as they were contracted which was to guard against anything coming out of that one, singular door.

Aramil returned to the party and relayed the strange meeting with the devils. Thankful to not have to fight but wary about leaving five devils at their back, the party paused for a moment to contemplate their next course of action through the tomb.

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Ambush!

The party met with the The Council of Waterdeep to relay the events in the Sea of Moving Ice and Oyaviggaton. On the whole, the council was pleased with the results, especially since they not only killed the dragon Aurauthator but they managed to bring the Arcane Brotherhood into the fold, Maccath taking a seat on the council to represent their interests. Only Ontharr Frume seemed disgruntled at the news, not trusting the arcanists, perhaps rightfully so given their reputation.

Additionally, there was a new face at the council, a rather unassuming, plainly-dressed woman named Elia, a handmaiden in the service of Lord Dagult Neverember. After the meeting, in addition to what he drank during the meeting, Dagult continued to heavily drink and lamented to the party that he was no longer the Open Lord of Waterdeep, the Masked Lords instead giving the position to Lady Laeral Silverhand, feeling that her viewpoint on how to handle the cult was more in line with their own. Ultimately, Dagult didn’t feel too bad about losing one of his many titles, he couldn’t say he really disagreed with the other lords, but his pride felt the sting nevertheless.

After the council meeting, Azrael left with Maccath and met with Dala, a mostly social meeting but with some business being discussed in regards to dragons – a pleasant evening overall.

While leaving, Chen was approached by King Melandrach to walk with him and discuss a sensitive matter. The northern tribes of elves were being assaulted by a group of cultists lead by a green dragon and one of the cultists Wyrmspeakers, a wild elf named Neronvain, the king’s own exiled son who had been presumed dead. Given the sensitive nature of the matter, Melandrach trusted Chen with the secrecy of the matter and promised to personally aid them in their endeavors if they were able to bring back his son alive.

Lastly, Carlon Amoffel reached out to Stone to let him know that he had found some information about the Black Lions, the mercenary band that had sold him into slavery. The mercenaries were operating on the western edge of the Anauroch dessert, preying on the native Bedine as well as refugees heading east to escape the madness the Cult of the Dragon was wreaking upon the region.

Confronted with this new news, they had to decide which wyrmspeaker they wanted to pursue – Varram the White or Neronvain the Green. Given that the heard of his exploits first and he seemed to have a more specific goal than simply raiding, the party, plus the Serpent Hills were relatively close to the Anauroch dessert which would give the party an opportunity to look for the Black Lions as well.

Heading east on horseback, the party traveled for a tenday before reaching the town of Boareskyr Bridge, a massive stone bridge spanning the Winding Water with a town built around and upon it. The bridge, famous for the battle between the then god of murder, Bhaal, and the new god of murder, Cyric, was an incredibly bustling trade town given that the bridge was one of the only ways to cross the mile-wide river.

Feeling unusually generous, the party bought a few things from merchants hawking their wares but also threw handfuls of coins to the beggars and peasants along their path. Setting up at penthouse of the nicest inn they could fine, they then struck out into the town in search of information. They found an explorer’s guild and spoke with some of its members, providing drinks in exchange for information. They found out that a dwarf matching Varram’s description, most notably the purple robes and travelling with an entourage of unsavory looking folks, had headed through the city not more than a tenday prior, buying travelling supplies and maps of the Serpent Hills, though his purpose he kept to himself.

With a little information under their belts and weary from the road, the party, except Aramil, retired to their penthouse where they threw quite the party, inviting or simply attracting most the patrons in the common room, especially the women. It wasn’t until the predawn hours that people in the room began to stir, particularly Chen and Miyeon given their elvish nature, which proved fortuitous as they were the only to notice the room suddenly becoming charged with electricity. With a crack of thunder and a flash of light, a blue dragon the size of a large horse burst through the wall of the room. At the same time, two half-blue dragons kicked down the door, brandishing spears and shields and accompanied by four dragon cultists.

The entire party now awake, the battle was on. The dragons’ lighting breath kepet Miyeon busy, frantically chanting prayers to Sune and waving her Staff of Healing to keep everyone in the fight. The combined assault of Chen‘s arrows, Reynar’s Dragon Slayer sword, and Azrael’s magical fire forced the dragon to take to the air and flee while the rest of the party, including the mysteriously present Aramil, dealt with the remaining cultists.

With the battle behind them, the party had a chance to lick their wounds, survey the damage to the inn and their new found friends, and to figure out just how the cultists managed to find them.

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