Our heroes have been sent into the enemy stronghold of Skyreach Castle with orders to bring it down. The Castle is a floating iceberg acting as a barge to transport a huge collection of treasure to the Well of Dragons. Sabotaging the Castle will deny the Cult of resources and help to subvert the Cult’s plan to release Tiamat from the Nine Hells.
CAMPAIGN PAGE: HOARD OF THE DRAGON QUEEN
- Deiter, 6th Level Human Fighter (Neverwinter Noble)
- Ki’rok, 11th Level Drow Ranger
- Adabon, 11th Level Copper Elf Fighter
- Vrae’ree, 11th Level Drow Wizard
- Fo, 11th Level Human Monk
- Brûne, 11th Level Human Paladin
- Alric, 11th Level Human Paladin
- Tharivol, 11th Level Moon Elf Fighter
- Abernacky, 6th Level Human Fighter
- Tom, 5th Level Halfling Wizard
CHAPTER ONE: THE CHAMBER OF DOORS
After investigating the common room, our heroes searched through the two remaining rooms. They discovered that one room featured three doorways that glimmered with a strange green light. Runes flickering around the edges of the doorway. The second room contained a small pool of water. A large hole in the wall connected the two rooms, and in this crude hallway there was another giant-sized door.
The party discovered that the pool was a 25 foot deep well that housed an Orbus, a race of genetically deficient beholders which lack the typical offensive abilities of other Beholders. These beholders are usually killed at birth by the Hove Mother. However, those Orbus which survive are natural sources of magical energy and can be used to charge, recharge, and power magical devices. In this case, the Orbus’s abilities were being used to power the magical doorways in the opposite room.
Ki’rok attacked the Orbus as soon as it emerged from the pool of water, causing it to cry out in pain and retreat quickly enough to knock Deiter down. Vrae’ree attempted to talk to the creature in Undercommon, but it proved to be lacking in intelligence. It’s response was very basic, saying: “You Hurt! Go away!” In the end, the party decided to put the pitiful creature down. It flopped, moaned, and whimpered pathetically until finally it was dead. Vrae’ree stayed long enough to take a few samples from the creature for study, and then everyone agreed to look at the doors in the other room.
The party discovered that in killing the Orbus, they disabled the magical portals in the opposite room. These doorways were links to permanent teleportation circles leading to The Dragon Hatchery beneath the town of Greenest, Castle Naerytar within the Mere of Dead Men, and the Hunting Lodge in Parnast. The Cult was using the doorways to continue loading more treasure into Skyreach Castle during the trip to the Well of Dragons. In shutting down the doorways, the party lost the chance to enter any of these areas for investigation, but prevented any more treasure being loaded onto the Castle.
After a short time of investigating and discussion, the rest of the party realized that the Copper Elf, Adabon, was gone … and the door leading down deeper into the Castle was standing open.
CHAPTER TWO: THE ICY BARRACKS
Long ago, Giants and Dragons waged war on each other, a hatred that seemingly had no end. However in recent years, the Spellplague and Sundering changed this dynamic. The Giant God known as ANNAM THE ALLFATHER has abandoned his people and will not answer their prayers. Their clerics are powerless and abandoned. In this crisis, the Giant Kings held council. Their clerics and shamans petitioned the gods, begging for help.
The giants received their answer from Tiamat. In a shimmering vision, the Dark Queen appeared to them as a dreadfully beautiful female, promising to help them in their time of need. After that, all was well for the Giants. Their new goddess saved them. Under her guidance, they flourished.
And then a few months ago, Severin arrived before the Giant Kings requesting the assistance of the Giant Clans in their quest to bring Tiamat from the Nine Hells to Faerûn. Of course, they were eager to help. Each Clan committed forces to act at the disposal of the Cult.
Jarl Grugnur, Leader of the Frost Giants swore loyalty to Severin. They formed a large band of their best warriors to commission to the Dragon Cult. In addition to providing warriors, he also gave them an ancient artifact known as Skyreach Castle.
Völund and Éibhear were two such Frost Giants sworn to duty with the Cult of the Dragon by their Jarl. They did not hear Adabon as he broke away from the rest of the party and descended the wide, slippery steps from the Chamber of Doors to the Frost Giant Barracks. They were too busy discussing which of them was the greater fighter.
“I have killed dozens of wyrms!” boasted Éibhear, pounding proudly on his shield with a huge heavily notched axe. “I am the strongest!”
Völund laughed loudly. “Wyrmlings, mayhap!” He thumped himself on the chest. “I have slain Cloud Giants by the dozen. I am the great hero of the Glacier Rift!”
Before Éibhear could retort, the man-sized door across the door slammed shut. Both Giants looked curiously at the door. These small door were added so accommodate the needs of the Dragon Cult, and were too tiny for Giant-kin to use at all.
“Maybe we scared off one of the wee black men,” mumbled Völund.
Éibhear chuckled. “Another one must have gotten lost.”
Both started laughing, but then grew silent as they remembered what their Jarl had warned them of a few hours before. There were invaders on the second level of the Castle, however they were blocked in and trapped there without a means of escape.
“Maybe …” said Éibhear with a glance at the door. “… maybe they found a way out of the Dragon’s Lair.”
Völund nooded grimly. “Elves and Men are tricky. They found one of the Secret Ways.”
Éibhear nodded. “Bring the hounds.”
Völund whistled, summong his terrifying Wulsinu dogs.
Éibhear, the elder of the two warriors, nodded to his companion confidently. “We dine on manflesh tonight.”
And at that point, the door crashed open and the battle began. It was hard fought, the elder giant crushing Fo¹ with its huge axe before the melee was finished. However, the two Frost Giants did fall in the end, pincousioned with dozens of arrows and burned by magical fire.
After the battle, some of the party members wanted to find a place to rest and recover, but Vrae’ree urged them to continue. He reminded them that during the battle, the Frost Giants had bellowed for reinforcements. To their dismay, the bellow had been answered. They had to keep moving.
CHAPTER THREE: THE TROPHY ROOM
Moving on deeper into the Castle, our heroes found themselves in another large cavern with 30 foot high ceilings. A greenish glow filtered down through the ceiling and cast it’s sheen through the walls and floor. In the front of the chamber, two more Frost Giants were preoccupied. One of them was sitting on its heap of animal furs, sharpening a large battleaxe, and the other was standing at a table, gnawing on a large wheel of cheese.
The two giants didn’t pay much attention to the sounds of combat coming from Völund and Éibhear. The two constantly argued, wrestled, dueled, and generally carried on all hours of the night. That was their ultimate downfall as both of them had become too complacent.
Our heroes entered the room aggressively. They focused ranged weapons and spells on the Giants, allowing Fo to close in and engage in mêlée. Although Fo was knocked unconscious² by the massive blows of the Giants, our heroes did manage to best them in combat. In only a matter of moments, the two Frost Giants lay dead on the floor in frozen pools of blood.
Our heroes soon realized that this large chamber was a cold larder. They found that there were meats, cheeses, and ale stored here. Looking through the crates, they noticed that these crates were from all over the Sword Coast. Clearly this was part of the import and export items stolen from the various caravans along the Trade Road running from Neverwinter to Greenest. Brûne knocked over a crate and it crashed to the floor. Coins poured out in a beautiful cascade of gold, silver, and copper. However, what drew his attention were the casks of ale marked with Dwarven runes. The marking were from Mithril Hall.
To continue they had to scale a 20 foot cliff to a ledge which then opened into a large ice cavern with a 30 foot high ceiling. A blue light filtered down from the ceiling, casting the entire cavern in an eerie light. They discovered that the cavern held a grisly display of morbid artwork. Eight different blocks of ice standing on end containing a single mutilated and posed humanoid corpses.
These trophies are the remnants of an adventuring party led by the Copper Elf named Deek Croodle. He had sworn to hunt down and slay the Frost Giant Jarl, but never returned to the Misty Forest. The only member of the party to survive the expedition was Neronvian, the elven prince of the Misty Forest, son of the King Melandrach. Ever since, Melandrach has desired to recover the Sword of Croodle, Deek’s magical blade.
Our heroes explored the trophy room, and discovered the chamber’s only guardian, a minor elemental called a Mephit. The tactic this elemental monster used was that it remained in a large pit which appeared to be full of water. Whenever a living being would step close enough, the Mephit would suck its victim into the water, seeking to drown them.
Fo and Ki’rok were the first ones to fall prey to the Mephit. Adabon and Deiter soon followed. Brûne was unaware of the peril his companions were presently experiencing and struggled at lifting a large cask of Dwarven Ale up to the ledge behind him. Vrae’ree acted quickly, seeing his companions in trouble, evoking Thunderwave at the water in the pit, sculpting the spell as not to injure his friends.
The wave of thunderous force sweeps out from the Dark Elf and blasted the Water Mephit from the pit, killing it instantly and sending it reeling back into the Elemental Plane of Water form which it had been summoned so long ago.
With the Mephit defeated, our heroes were able to retrieve the Sword of Croodle from the block of ice holding Deek’s remains. Although Adabon wanted to return the blade to his King to seek the outstanding reward, Brûne asked permission to wield the legendary sword for the rest of the expedition. Adabon uncharacteristically granted Brûne use of the sword with the agreement that it be return to Adabon in the end.
Before the party could take any other action, they heard a loud bellow of rage and turned to see a powerfully built Frost Giant rush into the room, swinging his axe side to side, smashing some of the trophies into jagged fragments. The Jarl had arrived in response to the cries for help from his warriors. He stood there, seething with rage. His eyes glimmered frightfully as he sized-up his opponents. He smiled grimly, lifting a forearm to wipe away some of the spittle oozing from his pale blue lips.
The Jarl sneered. “Who are you puny creatures who seek to undermine the schemes of The Glacier Rift?! Tell me your names, man-things so I may remember them while I feast on your still warm corpses!”
There was a moment of silence among the group as the Jarl’s voice echoed thunderously through the cavern. Then Ki’rok stepped forward. Without a word, the Dark Elf Ranger lunged forward, shifting his weight from foot to foot, and twisting his hips as he launched himself into the air. His weapons flashed in the pale blue light oozing down from above. When Ki’rok landed in a crouch, the Jarl’s eyes were wide and he was gagging. The Frost Giant King dropped his weapons to the icy floor, grasping at his neck, pointlessly trying prevent his head from falling from his body. In sickening slow motion, the Jarl’s head tumbled to the ground, spraying dark red blood in the walls and ceiling and coming rest next to Ki’rok.
The Jarl was dead.
“My name Ki’rok of the Black Isles,he whispered into the ear of the Jarl’s severed head. “Assassin of gods, slayer of dragons, and killer of giants.”
Ki’rok reached out and plucked a the Jarl’s handaxe from his ornate belt. The weapon was large in the Dark Elf’s hand, the size of a greataxe and cold to the touch. Upon touching the weapon, he immediately knew that it was called “Axe of the Glacier Rift.” It was carved from black ice, the iron haft engraved with strange runes.
His companions, astonished, could not help but cheer at Ki’rok’s amazing feat.³
CHAPTER FOUR: THE EMISSARIES
Moving deeper into the caverns, our heroes stumbled on to a meeting of the Giant Clan Emissaries, all discussing plans with Sable, one of the Cult’s Wears of Purple. Jarl Grugnor had put out the call to the Giant-Kin lords, summoning representatives to assist the Dragon Cult with the delivery of cargo to the Well of Dragons. Not only would the Giant-kin serve as warriors, but also has laborers to off-load the treasure once Skyreach Castle docked at the mountain. When the party arrived, Sable was explaining to the Giant Emissaries exactly what role they would play once arriving at the Well of Dragons.
Vrae’ree touched Ki’rok, casting Greater Invisibility on the Ranger. He moved into the room quietly, and removed a scroll from his satchel. Chanting the phrases inscribed on the scroll, Ki’rock unleashed a fog of poisonous gas to rise up from the icy floor, choking the Giants and sapping their vitality.
Adabon acted next, drawing first blood. His arrows streaked out, hitting one of the Frost Giants (named Felskär) three times in the left shoulder. Felskär shrieked in pain and outraged, causing all those assembled to take notice of the party. Without hesitation, Hâaskkarth the Hill Giant shouted “Intruders!!” and rushed forward swining his cruel wooden club crafted from a solid oak tree and wrapped in iron bands.
Sable shouted, “Now! All of you! Protect me at all costs!” Then she retreated, summoning forth a flaming sword of pure energy into her hand. “Kill them all!”
After Hâaskkarth made his mad charge against the party, the other Giants followed his lead. They thundered through the door one after another, bringing their huge weapons to bear. The battle was brutal but the party fought vigilantly. Fo was knocked unconscious for the third time, but recovered soon after Brûne has been knocked out by one of the enemy. Fo carried the dying paladin to safety, and called on the power of his Coneyberry Staff to cast Revivify. He touched Brûne with the staff, bringing him back to life.4 Deiter fell next, knocked unconscious by the spiked mace of a Stone Giant. Again, his companions dragged him to safety, and plied healing potions to bring the noble back from Death’s Door.
That’s when the party noticed the Black Spider, their old enemy. The outcast Drow made attempts to target Vrae’ree with Hellfire Orbs but missed both times. He used his Magical Blade to call upon Misty Step to move about the room and avoid battle as best he could. He understood clearly that the intruders wanted to see him dead.
The battle with the Giants was not going well for the party. Attrition was a factor, and the Giants were powerhouses that seemed nearly unstoppable. But then Ki’rock engaged Sable. The Ranger stepped forward, weapons in hand, spinning effortlessly in front of him.
Sable raised a hand. “Stop, you fool! You’ll kill us all!” Despite being Invisible, the Half-Dragon was able to see him.
Ki’rok seemed to understand, and glanced back at his companions. They were injured. Making a last stand against the Giants. This was his one and only chance to finish what they had come to do. His companions were sacrificing themselves so he could finish this once and for all.
“You’re powering the Castle.” Ki’rok stepped closer, looking for angles and openings to strike out at the Half-Dragon.
Sable took two steps backwards, swiping at the Dark Elf with her flaming sword. “If you kill me, we all die, Elf!” She touched the Crown of Stars hanging from the breastplate of her armor. It was in the shape of a medallion.
As Ki’rock spun forward, and his blades struck once – twice – three times into Sable’s scaly flesh, the Half-Dragon screamed in frustrations and agony. She clutched at the medallion, straining to remain focused on Skyreach Castle. Then came the final blow as the Dark Elf shoved his longsword through the Half-Dragon’s heart.
Sable lost control of Skyreach Castle. The enchantments of the floating iceberg were undone. Not only did the Castle begin to immediately collapse in on itself, but it fell – suddenly – from the sky and smashed with a mighty impact into the ground.
The party and their enemies were helpless to stop what was happening. The world turned upside down. Jagged chunks of ice were flying this way and that. Bodies collided, bouncing against walls, floors, and ceilings. And then suddenly … darkness took them all.
Skyreach Castle hit the ground, and shattered into so many glittering pieces.
CHAPTER FIVE: THE FALL OF SKYREACH CASTLE
CHAPTER SIX: AFTERMATH
Our heroes awoke, one by one, finding themselves battered and bruised. Trapped in small pockets, apparently by dumb luck, they were all able to dig themselves out of the wreckage in time. Struggling out of the ruins of the Castle, they all gathered to check on one another. As they all began to recover from the shock of what had just happened, they all noticed a small yellow canary hovering above them. Although they didn’t fully understand it, they felt that the tiny yellow bird was somehow observing them. After a few moments, the bird fluttered away to the East.
“Where are we?” moaned Adabon. The Copper Elf was holding his arm. It looked like it might be broken.
Brûne sighed, sitting down to rest. The stabbing pain in his side was too much. “Looks like the Serpent Hills.” He was sure that he had at least one broken rib if not more.
Fo stood up. It was clear that the monk was in pain. He was bleeding from several gashes all over his body.
Deiter cried out. He had attempted to stand, and his knee gave out. He tumbled to the ground.
Vrae’ree clutched at his hand. His wrist was broken, he knew, and he was fairly certain that his shoulder was out of place.
“Yes, the Serpent Hills.” Ki’rok was sitting down. His leg was twisted at an odd angle. He dared not move. “Not far from the High Moor by my guess.”
Vrae’ree stumbled forward, and sat down. “Okay,” he said slowly. “What do we do now?”
END ACT SIX
… to be continued in PART ONE of THE RISE OF TIAMAT …
¹ Fo was reduced to Zero Hit Points but did not suffer Massive Damage. His player (BK) managed to make the first of three Death Saving Throws and was able to use Fo’s monk abilities to heal himself.
² Fo was reduced to Zero hit Points a second time, but managed to make the Death Saving Throw to survive. Luckily, his Coneyberry staff had plenty of Healing Magic and his companions had a stash of Healing Potions.
³ Ki’rok’s player rolled for his first two attacks and both dice came up as natural 20’s. In my homebrew rules, I have always followed the example of Mr. Gygax saying that two 20’s rolled back to back is not only a Critical Hit but an Instant Kill. Therefore, Ki’rok brought down the Jarl with a single hit. Nice!
4 Fo’s player made the Death Saving Throw after using a Luck point, and two inspiration points for rerolls. However, Brûne’s player was not so lucky, and failed the first of three Death Saving Throws. Using Revivify brought the paladin back to life with 1 hit point.