- Ki’rok , 9th Level Drow Ranger
- Alric, 7th Level Human Paladin
- Adabon, 9th Level Copper Elf Fighter
- Vrae’ree , 9th Level Drow Wizard
- Fo, 9th Level Human Monk
- Brûne, 9th Level Human Paladin
- Tharivol, 9th Level Moon Elf Fighter
- Deiter, 6th Level Human Fighter (Noble)
- Abernacky, 6th Level Human Fighter
- Tom, 5th Level Halfling Wizard
CHAPTER ONE: THE CHAMBER OF THE DAIS
Moving through the door, they carefully crept along towards a room filled with a strange green light. They discovered a room dominated by a large raised dias with a huge double throne on top of it. Two Giants sat on the thrones, one male and the other female. They were clearly exhausted and emaciated. Their appearance included a thinning of the limbs, their upper body in a skeletal-looking state with an apparent absence of fat and muscle tone. Their skin was thin, dry and translucent in some areas of the body, to the point that veins beneath the skin were somewhat visible. Their faces were thin and drawn with a hopeless, vacant and distressed demeanor; the eye sockets were sunken, giving the eyes a bulging appearance. The scalp is bony with dry, withering hair.
All around the room, the two Giants were surrounded by beings of various races all in the same terrible condition. There were arranged around the room on similar but smaller chairs, positioned as to be staring blankly at the two Giants.
As our heroes investigated the room and daïs, they were unaware of the room’s caretaker, Dael, an Illithid outcast who has joined with the Dragon Cult. Dael was one of the five Illithid operating with the Cult in Helm’s Hold. Dael was the only one to survive the massive assault on the Neverwinter Asylum, and had taken over operations within Skyreach Castle. It’s duty was simply to stay as a caretaker to maintain the Lifejammer helms being worn by all the captives in the room.
Lifejammer helms are devices created by an alien race known as the Neogi. These devices use the life-force of its users to power large ships. It was one of the two engines powering Skyreach Castle.
When Dael saw our heroes enter the room, it called upon his Psionic abilities to make itself Invisible. Then it used it’s innate ability of Levitation to take cover in a defensive position within the room’s high ceiling. It observed them momentarily, using another inborn ability to listen in on the thoughts of the strangers. Then it observed them using its natural ability to discern auras. Auras are invisible to the naked eye, but to a Psionic viewer manifesting this power they appear as glowing halos or envelopes of colored light that surround all objects and beings. The color of each aura revealed information to the Illithid. After determining that they were enemies of the Dragon Cult, Dael decided to take action.
The Illithid saw that most of the group was composed of Humans and Elves. What bothered it was the presence of two Dark Elves. These creatures might be familiar with Illithids depending on their background in the Underdark. If they had the presence of mind to use their infravision, its invisibility would not matter as its body heat would shine like a bright light against the cold walls of the Flying Iceberg. Thankfully, Dael found that as time progressed, neither Dark Elf decided to call upon this innate ability.
“Clearly,” the Illithid thought within its heart of hearts. “They have been among the surface dwellers for too long.”
The Illithid was able to use its dreaded Mind Blast ability several times against the strangers without retaliation due to being Invisible. Each time it directed the mental attack against them, he felt them growing weaker and weaker. In turn, the Illithid grew bolder and bolder.
Using its ability to Mind Dominate, it took control of the Copper Elf Fighter. Using the Elf, it took the advantage to put the two Frost Giants down like sick animals, knowing that their usefulness was waning. Dael could not allow these invaders to use their healing magic to make them well. The giants would offer too much information that could damage the events that the Cult had put into motion. Using the Copper Elf’s adept skills, it placed an arrow into the throat of each Frost Giant.
Its next victim was the Moon Elf. The Illithid enjoyed toying with these strangers, turning their own ally against them. Its courage continued to soar. Soon it was tapping into the mind of one of the Drow, forcing it to see things that did not exist. Dael expanded his power, causing the others to see what the Drow did. The illusions were real as far as his playthings believed.
But in the end, the Illithid realized that it was time to finish the game. Dael lowered himself to the daïs, and allowed himself to become visible for the first time. He watched as the strangers reacted instinctively, almost like animals. Arrows pierced its arms and legs, disrupting itss thoughts and focus. Magic washed over it, sending pain throughout its body. The invaders raged against it, using steel, wood, and flesh to batter its body.
And in the end, there was nothing left to do but to escape. It finally resorted to the lower powers in its possession, deploying the same arcane magics that lower beings did. It murmured in its native tongue, opening a Dimension Door. Knowing that the Purple Ones would not be pleased with his failure, Dael slid though the portal and vanished.
As the Illithid vanished, seeking refuge, it felt sudden and painful regret at abandoning its larvae brood¹. It knew that if the Human and Elf animals found their chamber, they would destroy the brood.
“Revenge,” it thought angrily. “Revenge.”
CHAPTER TWO: A LITTLE SLEEP, A LITTLE SLUMBER
Eight Wearers of Purple, leaders of the Cult of the Dragon, sit around a large conference table within a large chamber made entirely of ice. Black-clad assassins stand guard around the room. Captain Othelstan, a young, charismatic leader, led the discussion.
“Until this barge is docked at the Well of Dragons, we are vulnerable. The enemy factions are banding together. Even now, as we speak, they are conferencing in Waterdeep to unit against us. They are more of a threat than Severin thinks.”
Commander Talis Kasterel shifted angrily in her chair. The Half-Elf woman glared at Othelstan, but said nothing.
“Dangerous,” said Galvan with a menacing tone. “Dangerous to whom, Captain?” The Thayan sat forward slightly, narrowing his dark eyes. “I know that the Cult of the Dragon is its own worst enemy sometimes, and that there are members who reject Severin’s leadership and cling to outdated philosophies and ideologies.” He stood up slowly, locking eyes with Othelstan. “Perhaps you are one of these, Captain. Perhaps you still believe the teachings of Szass Tam?”
Othelstan cleared his throat, eyes and nostrils flaring with anger. “The factions will continue to gain a foothold as long as we continue to fight among ourselves. We have-“
Suddenly all heads turn as The Captain’s retort is cut short and Severin Silrajin, leader of the newly reformed Cult of the Dragon, entered the room. He was followed by his powerful alley, Master Wizard, Rath Modar. All of the Wearers of Purple stand, bowing on one knee before the Calishite visionary who has brought new life to the fading organization. The Wizard stands looming behind him.
For a moment, there is silence. Finally, Severin speaks. His voice is deep, powerful. His piercing brown eyes seem to stare at each of the Wears in Purple at once.
“You are my Inner Circle,” stated Severin. “You are my right and left hands. My eyes throughout the Realms.”
Many of the Cult Leaders nodded. The Captain smiled, glancing over at Talis with a sarcastic gleam in his eye.
“You have carried out my plan flawlessly. You have collected the Hoard of Treasure that I need to force open the gates of the Nine Hells. You are piloting the next to last barge to the Well of Dragons as I have commanded. You have been obedient, strong, and powerful. You serve Tiamat well.”
Many of the Wears of Purple visibly relaxed. Othelstan beamed with pride.
Severin stood up suddenly, tossing the ice table end over end with a single hand. The Wearers of Purple gasped, falling backwards to avoid being crushed by the large chunk of ice. The Cult Leader seethed with anger, his eyes gleaming with the slightest of red tint.
“THEN PERHAPS YOU CAN EXPLAIN TO ME WHY THERE ARE INVADERS ON THIS BARGE?!”
With the Mindflayer defeated, our heroes decided to rest and recover. They secured the chamber as best they could, even blocking the doors with hammered in pitons. Brûne set traps at the doorways. When they felt safe enough, they settled down for a much needed rest.
All save Ki’rok who decided to go exploring in the two remaining rooms jutting off from the main chamber. In the first room he discovered the Illithid’s lair. There were blocks of ice where sat glass canisters with metal lids. They looked like over-sized steins. Inside each was a pink brain suspended in a slightly orange fluid. Along with that, there was a large capsule, resembling a coffin, made of some sort of strange black metal. There was also a pedestal that held a dark green leatherbound book with odd runes carved into the cover. When Ki’rok lifted the book to inspect it, he found three strange silver devices that resembled medical tools.
Opening the capsule, Ki’rok discovered it was filled with dark water that smelled like brine. Peering closer, he could see that there were many small tadpoles swimming throughout the capsule. He dumped out one of the brains and used the canister to scoop up some of the creatures. Replacing the lid, he saw that he had capture about a dozen of them. He ended up doing this again, capturing another half dozen before pouring a vial of poison into the liquid of the capsule.
Ki’rok investigated the other room, and found it to be storage for the treasure being collected by the Cult. There were chests, barrels, and bags all neatly arranged along with bundles of weapons. The Dark Elf smiled at this, realizing that this was one of the stockpiles that was being delivered for use by the Dragon Cult.
Later, when they were all finished with resting, our heroes investigated the storage area. They combed through the items, discovering that the bundles of weapons were finely crafted. They were all made by different smiths. Some of them were Elven, some Dwarven, and still others Human. They managed to find a few random magic items, as well as a few shields and weapons with minor enchantments. Tharivol could not resist, and scooped up a few handfuls of gold coins (100 gp) to add to his pouch. Although they could not actually catalog the amount of treasure stored here, they were sure that it was a hefty amount of what was stolen from the trade routes of the Sword Coast.²
They were all disturbed to hear a loud booming roar from somewhere behind them, echoing through the caverns. Obviously the White Dragon male had returned to its lair, finding its mate and child murdered.
While the others search through the treasure, Brûne began searching for secret doors. Fairly quickly, the Paladin managed to find a hidden panel in the floor, made of ice, that could be removed to reveal a chute. It didn’t take long for them to figure out that the chute was a way to get the treasure form the storage area to the level below.
CHAPTER THREE: A DESPERATE BATTLE
Efren and his fellow Dragonclaws were relaxing in the common area. They had been working hard the last few weeks in Baldur’s Gate fleecing the three-in-one city of its goods, money, and resources. They were enroute to the Well of Dragons, now and had earned their time to relax. All of them remained garbed in their black uniforms as required by The Code. They were not even permitted to remove their masks. That privilege needed to be earned. He glanced over at his lieutenant discussing tactics with a couple of the wizards. He had earned his rank for the part he played at Greenest. Efren would earn his unmasking as well. He knew the time would come soon.
Efren stood up when he saw the man come sliding down the chute from the upper level. He was an familiar looking in many ways. He resembled the monk called Foo, slightly perhaps, before the transformation. The man hit the floor skillfully, falling into a fighting stance. However, seconds later a large armored man slid down the chute behind him recklessly, crashing into the first and knocking them both into a heap on the floor.
Efren heard the lieutenant shouting orders for the men to assemble and defend. The wizards started moving to the corners, seeking angles to unleash Hellfire and Magic Missiles. Many of the Dragonclaws rushed forward, brandishing cruel daggers blessed by priests loyal to Tiamat. But Efren held back, knowing that the enemy would try to push through the mass towards the rear of the room. When they did, he would be there to cut them down. He would earn his unmasking today.
The Monk and the Paladin fought bravely, if not foolishly, against the overwhelming odds. For every Dragonclaw they dropped, they sustained three injuries from the onslaught of the fanatical cultists. Two more slid down the chute, the first a Moon Elf who landed on his knees and the other a Copper Elf who landed and started firing his bow masterfully.
Before long, several more invaders joined the battle, all coming from the upper level via the chute. There was another Paladin, this one wearing beautiful iridescent green armor. And two Dark Elves joined the fray, one a pirate and the other a mage.
The tide was turning in favor of the invaders. Efren glanced around, seeing his comrades being cut down despite their best efforts. Even as Efren watched the Human Monk drop lifeless to the floor³ it was not enough to make him believe that he would survive this battle. He saw the lieutenant go down with two arrows in his chest. Efren gritted his teeth, swiping his paired blades at the enemy. In the end, Efren was cut down by the invaders. The last thing he saw was the face of a Dark Elf, primal and fierce.
Efren knew that they had failed to protect the Castle. With his dying breath, he sobbed softly. He would not earn his unmasking today. He knew that with taking this room, they would capture important information about the treasure being taken to the Well of Dragons. And worst of all, they would discover the Armory and the Room of Doors.
Efren gritted his teeth. All was lost. Tiamat would be displeased. And he would see her soon, in the fires of the Nine Hells.
¹ Illithids are hermaphroditic creatures who each spawn a mass of larvae two or three times in their life. The larvae resemble miniature four-tentacled tadpoles. Larvae are left to develop in the pool brine and cerebrospinal fluid. The ones that survive after 10 years are inserted into the brain of a sapient creature. Hosts are determined in a very specific manner. Hosts generally are humanoid creatures that are between 5 feet 4 inches and 6 feet 2 inches. The most desirable of races for hosts are Human, Drow, Elves, Githzerai, Githyanki, Grimlock, Gnoll, Goblinoid, and Orc. Upon being implanted, the larva then grows and consumes the host’s brain, absorbing the host’s physical form entirely and becoming sapient itself, a physically mature (but mentally young) Illithid. This process is called ceremorphosis. Illithids often experiment with non-humanoid hosts, but ceremorphosis involving other creatures usually fails, killing both host and larva.
² The characters each had the opportunity to roll randomly on the charts in the DMG for magical items. Also, the treasure trove held several basic +1 weapons and shields. If the characters had the time, they could sort through everything and find that it contained:
- 2000 pp,
- 7000 gp,
- 22,100 sp
- 313,000 cp
- 8000 gp worth of gems and jewels
³ During the combat, Fo was reduced to Zero Hit Points. He was able to pass his Death Saving Throw and use his abilities to heal himself.,