Nerd Night! Finally!
Valeriya and I gathered at the appropriate time and place. He was a bit late. I did the up-the-driveway shuttle as Tan Meng’s driveway is possessed by angry earth elementals. Garr and Raynard previously mentioned they were going to arrive late. Himo was AWOL. When Tan Meng arrived from his afternoon nap, we texted Brokk. Brokk was 300 miles away sitting down for dinner. Nice communication Brokk. Barbarian!
Terredon arrived and we set to grilling his hundred sausages and Tan Meng’s corn cobs. We ate outside at leisure. We the four.
Having our fill, we mocked our missing comrades, and then fired up the downward pointing data projector. We returned to the kennel outside the Lodge in the high pine forrest. Dead troll bodies and guard-dragon-dog-drake corpses littered the ground. The smell of their blood and the blood of our heroes mingled in the cool breeze. Valeriya thought to drag bodies inside the kennel and set to search. The four armed troll had some sort of shrine set up with a hanging, rotting boar, suspended by a tripod of old spears and bleeding into a rune-marked bowl. Tan Meng correctly identified the works as a blasphemous shrine of Baphomat.
Valeriya and Tan Meng raced one another to destroy the abomination.
Discussion began as to how to approach the main house. Jamna set off to reconnoiter. On her return and report of a second floor balcony at the rear of the house, all agreed upon the strategy. Mostly-somewhat stealthily, all arrived at the balcony and peered into the large comfortable chamber beyond. A large fire lit the sumptuous tapestry walled chamber. About then, Garr arrived. He too climbed to the balcony (even as he took off his coat and settled into Terredon’s sausage). He was stealthy…for a dwarf…in plate mail…. Soon, a kitchen staffer opened the door below and had a look to see what all the commotion was about. Once the coast was clear, Jamna opened the door and all entered the great house.
The room contained several large tapestries. The largest and most opulent depicted Tiamat laying waste to the Sword Coast. Other tapestries depicted various chromatic dragons wreaking destruction in a variety of inspiring and scenic representations…if you’re a crazed dragon cultist.
Our team moved on. They advanced down the hall, opening doors as they moved toward the front of the house. Behind one they found a weapons store containing an ancient spear of quality. Rusted and neglected, it still held its edge and mithril decorations. Marked at the crossbar with the name, “Dragongleam” on one side and “Tiamat’s eyes shine” in draconic on the other, the pretty piece walked out the door with Terredon.
Further down the hall, the group came to a door with voices beyond. All paused, then burst into the room with weapons drawn.
“Hold,” yelled Talis Kasterel, aka Talis the White, the half moon-elf standing before them in white dragon scale armor. It wasn’t clear if she was yelling at our bloodthirsty brawlers, or at the dragon cultist and mercenaries at her side. Years ago, Talis saved Tan Meng’s life when they were both in desperate times. Tan Meng had later heard she had disappeared or was taken in with some dangerous cult. Evidently, she found an audience that appreciated and recognized her unique strengths
All stood and stared at one another for a moment, weapons drawn. Tense negotiations ensued. Talis proposed a deal. Our band of heroic hobo-murderers agreed to an alliance of a sort. They agreed to pursue Rezmir and that dwarf, Varram the White (curse his name). After all agreed in principle, dinner invitations were extended and all retired to freshen up a bit.
Kusphia, the cultist seen earlier at Talis’ side, was noticeably absent at dinner. In exchange for a bit of information about the workings and schemes of the cult, our heroes acquired a chromatic banner which allegedly will help them gain access to the flying castle (!) moored in the fog near the Village of Parnast in the valley below!
Talks went on to regale assembled guests on exactly how incomprehensibly amazing Glazhael Cloudchaser the white dragon is, and how amazing dragons in general are. “Imagine if you could ally with such a creature, possibly even ride it into battle…. I can tell you that nobody would trifle with Talis Kasterel ever again!”
Our heroes learned that Rezmir was loading the castle with the last of a great load of gathered loot. The castle, apparently, is owned by a cloud giant in league with the cult. Additionally, Glazhael Cloudchaser calls the castle home and lair. Also aboard, allegedly, are an assortment of dragon cultists and one or two Red Wizards of Thay (Azbara Jos?).
Before even the soup course had been cleared, who should join the feast but Dralmorer Borngray, looking a bit sheepish and with apologies for being late. Once again tension filled the air. Borngray spoke openly with Valeriya and Terredon of the cult and his aims, but refused to respond to Garr’s inquiries or acknowledge his existence. The dwarf grew frustrated.
Luckily, there was fine ale and fine food on hand, the finest any had seen since the Pint and Plate on the road outside Greenest. Everyone ate and drank their fill.
And then it was time to go. Our heroes said their goodbyes and, with their furled chromatic banner, set off down the mountain toward Parnast. It was late, about 9:00 PM, when they departed. The journey down the rutted trail through snow covered pine forests lasted longer than anticipated.
Finally, about 4:00 AM, our tired troopers slogged among the outbuildings of Parnast. Light flickered from windows of weathered buildings, dimly illuminating the flagstones of the shabby town square. Parnastians moved from the square as our heroes entered. Doors closed. Lights went out.
Tan Meng noticed a young lady try to conceal herself within a local shrine, the Shrine of Axes, and followed her within. The shrine contained statues of Chauntea (summer), Auril (winter), Mielikki (autumn), and Angharradh (spring). The statue for the obscure elven god, Angharradh, was crudely defaced, its hands chopped off. A dead squirrel lay in offering at Auril’s feet. Tan Meng tried to question the child despite her protests and obvious fear. “It’s not safe!” When she fled, Tan Meng followed her home. (!) There he met the girl’s father, Gundalin, who suggested rather firmly they speak at the inn, perhaps in 10 minutes. Tan Meng again didn’t catch the hint. Gundalin didn’t want to speak in his own home and wanted the stranger far from his daughter. Finally, Tan Meng departed to join the rest of the party inquiring about food and drink at the inn.
Meanwhile, at The Golden Tankard, Valeriya, Raynard, and Terredon opened the door. As they stepping into the smokey warm room, half a dozen or more locals sharing a late drink suddenly went silent. These were working men. Most looked as though they’d just finished a long night’s work. Wet boots, dirty clothes, tired faces, silent eyes. Slowly and more quietly, folk returned to their meals. Our heroes ordered an early breakfast from a heavyset man with enormous mutton chop sideburns; the proprietor Raggath Redtooth and his “boy”. The boy served nice mugs of excellent dwarven ale and all waited for their food.
Meanwhile, Garr decided to work on his “deep cover” a bit and knocked at the back door of Gundalin’s house. Gundalin answered and there stood Garr, disguised in the black armor of a mid-ranking cultist. Garr interrogated Gundalin as to what the strange outsider priest was asking about, but learned nothing from the wheelwright who remained adamant that his daughter had nothing to do with the priest and had not spoken with him. “She behaved as we’ve been told and said nothing to the stranger.” Garr scowled menacingly. Gundalin stood beside a wall of iron bitted woodworking tools including adzes, axes, and spoke shaves. Finally, his purpose accomplished, Garr set off.
Meanwhile, in The Golden Tankard, ale mugs were empty and many others had been served but our heroes hunger only grew. Valeriya stepped into the kitchen and there lay our heroes’ food! Getting cold! She set in to question and intimidate Raggath. Finally, the man confessed he was doing as instructed by Captain Othelstan, who was supposed to be along shortly.
Fed up, our heroes went in search of Othelstan, or at least to see what was happening in the stables, where they suspected the cult to be keeping wyverns!
As they crossed the square, however, who should they encounter but Othelstan and six dragon cultists! Othelstan prompted for the passphrase. “Hail, Tiamat.” … “Tiamat, Our Strength…..”
And the fight was on. Valeriya and Terredon went for Othelstan. Two more cultists appeared from the stables and joined at range with long bows. Garr kept his deep cover and fought with his dragon cultist armor on. Alhough the dragon cultists worked well together and struck some fearsome blows, a lot of fearsome blows, our champions bested the lot. All were knocked unconscious (Terredon ran down one cultist who attempted to flee and brought him back for questioning) or slain. As townspeople looked on, the last cultist, a dwarf, awkwardly fell to the ground “unconscious” (Garr’s ploy to keep his cover).
A minor revolt that will go down in the history books of Parnast ensued. Remaining cultists and collaborators were outed. Some were executed. Others were interrogated by our heroes and then executed. Here’s what was learned:
- Rezmir – the half-dragon she-cultist thing was here until recently, as in hours ago.
- Parnast has been a conduit for treasure using wagons and teams composed of cultists and townspeople.
- Skyreach Castle was/is moored just a few hundred yards down-valley in the fog.
- The town has been occupied by the cult for more than a year. Many townspeople have been enslaved, tortured, or killed.
- Loading of this treasure into Skyreach Castle was only completed a few hours ago.
- The passphrase is “Tiamat, Our Mother and Strength”
- There are wyverns in the stables!
So. There is once again, a fortress. This time, it is a flying fortress full of foes. Are their factions? Is it fleeing? Is it far? How fast?
There are sure to be cultists. Perhaps Wyrmspeaker Rezmir. Perhaps Red Wizards. Perhaps Wyrmspeaker Varram (curse his name) the white. Perhaps a Cloud Giant. Perhaps Glazheal Cloudchaser the white dragon!!