It took a few moments for the heroes to gather their wits once they’d passed through the portal and immerged on the other side next to a large stone monolith. The fresh mountain air was a blessed relief from their time in the stagnant salt pools of the Mere of Dead Men. Around them stood three more monoliths with chiseled draconic script on each reading “Endless dunes”, “Eternal Ice” and “Shadowed Trees”. Through the trees nearby they could just make out a large hunting lodge and decided to make for it.
Before they could step in the woods they were assaulted by a pair of vicious Perytons. Before they could sweep in for the kill Jarrus took aim with his bow and whispered a spell of entanglement and let fly. The arrow found its mark and from the wound burst forth thick thorny vines. The vines bound the wings of the monster and it plunged to its death, landing among the heroes with a sickening thud. The other Peryton did not last long against the combined volley of arrows from Jarrus and Rowan. As they battled the beast a mysterious woman clad in white plate armor strode out onto a 2nd story porch on the lodge, waved her hand in the air and with that caused a sudden ice storm to engulf the heroes. What an asshole. Ossendar took this personally and took to the woods to but a hurting on this new threat. Keen to the potential dangers of the Cult of the Dragon, Jarrus used his primeval senses to detect a large group of dragons and humans in the direction of the lodge and in close proximity.
The impulsive wood elf didn’t make it far into the woods when he realized he wasn’t alone. Excellently camouflaged green drakes swarmed from the underbrush and sunk their poisonous teeth into the monk where-ever they could. While Ossendar fended off the drake ambush a pair of ghastly trolls burst from their hiding spots and slashed Jarrus and Cain with their wicked claws. A searing smite from Cain and some well placed heated arrows counteracted the healing powers of the trolls and they were soon brought down as well.
Immerging from the trees into the clearing surrounding the lodge they noticed a pair of outbuildings between them and the lodge. One appeared to be a shuttered stable and the other maybe was a kennel. Able to clearly see through the keyhole on the door that several more drakes skulked inside the kennel they knocked on the door politely. Why not? When the heavy oak door creaked open out wafted the stench of rotting flesh and death. So much death. Filling the doorframe was massive troll garbed in a mossy cloak and sporting 2 extra arms! A four armed troll! As if two sets of claws wasn’t enough. The creature glared at the intruders and said, “Show the sign.” The heroes sadely couldn’t think quickly enough on their feet and the troll took them as intruders and slashed out an attack and bid his drakes to attack. The drakes swarmed out of the kennel and nearly overwhelmed the surprised heroes with their speed and potent poisonous fangs. Eventually they did manage to beat back the hounds and do massive damage to the Trepsin, the Troll houndmaster. The troll cleverly ducked back while his beasts kept the party busy, letting his healing abilities kick back in and repair some of the damage. He came back with a vengeance a few moments later gunning for Rowan. He got a few slashes in before heroes blasted him again, laying him low. The players ducked into the stables and hoped they could take an hour to recuperate.
They immerged an hour later feeling much better! They decided to investigate the woman in the blue-white armor hiding our in the lodge and crept up to what they assumed was the back door. Ossendar tried to pull open the door, but only succeeded in triggering the spike trap that he unfortunately took the mean end of. The door was solidly locked but in their attempt they did get the attention of a ornery chef hard at work in the kitchen. He took a moment from dicing some beets and tried to wave them around to the front door instead. Feeling somewhat foolish they took his advice and walked around to the front door where they saw a large pair of oak doors, both ajar and inviting.
Jarrus was the first to enter, deciding to do a commando roll into the door and duck into a corner out of sight of the murder holes that lined one wall in the small entryway. Ossendar then used his kung fu to bust down the next door and found himself in an entry hall staring facing down a small squad of brutes and the mysterious woman in blue-white armor, a beautiful elf with a cold blue-eyed stare.
“Greetings. I am Talis the White. Welcome to my home.” the steely eyed elf woman said. As the heroes filed in cautiously, the imperious Talis looked them each over in turn until her gaze fell upon Rowan.
“Rowan Evenwood what in the Nine Hells are you doing here! It turns out that Talis and Rowan are old friends from their time in school together. Talis had disappeared mysteriously about a year ago and the last Rowan had heard of her she was in Greenest, where the heroes first met the Cult in battle. It seems Rowan’s old friend is alive and well and climbing the ranks of the Cult of the Dragon. Their reunion was awkward, but served to calm emotions on both sides.
After catching up briefly, it was apparent that Talis has no intention of leaving the Cult of the Dragon and actually thinks the party can help her climb the ranks as she feels she deserves. She seeks to discredit Rezmir by aiding the Heroes in their quest to stop the mass theft of the treasure from the good folk of the North. The heroes accepted her offer and she told them of the nearby town of Parnast, a small village in the Grey Peaks now completely run by the Cult. The village serves as a dockage point for Skyreach castle. Skyreach is a marvelous flying castle owned and operated by the Cloud Giant Blagothkus. She tells them that Blagothkus is a hesitant and non-enthusiastic supporter of the cult and its not entirely clear what his end-game is. However, the giant and his forces have allowed the cult to use the castle to transport the vast wealth they’ve collected to the Well of Dragons, far to the south. With a proper banner and the pass phrase, she tells them that if they hurry and use the banner and phrase, they can pass through the main gate and enter the castle in-hindered. Once inside, its up to them to take down the cult or crash the flying castle. She warns them that Glazhael the Cloudchaser, a magnificence white dragon resides in the castle and that they should not harm him if possible.
With a group of spectral steeds to speed their way they took to the harsh mountain paths to Parnast and Skyreach Castle. On their way there the heroes encounter a helpful druid who told them about several side entrances and a pair of stabled riding wyverns they could use to access Skyreach without using the main entrance. They thanked him and proceeded to the village with great haste.
In Parnast they used the banner to declare their allegiance to the cult and were able to enter the town unmolested. Not surprisingly they ducked into the first tavern they saw and tried to get the lay of the land. The Castle loomed large before them on the edge of the small village and they needed more information. Unfortunately for them the barkeep was in the pocket of the cult and promptly called in Captain Othelstan and his thugs. They had been tipped off by Rezmir when she passed through to Skyreach that meddling heroes from the battle at Castle Naerytar could be on her trail. Before the Captain could take them in to custody Rowan whispered one of her most powerful spells, compulsion! The Captain and most of his men succumbed to the spell and moved about as she wished, taking vicious hits from Ossendar, Cain and Jarrus as they stumbled out towards the door as she bid. Unfortunately one of the cult thugs came to his senses outside the tavern and took off to the castle to warn them of the heroes and get them airborne.
Seeing the castle rise into the sky without them aboard the heroes had seemingly very few options. Suddenly the words of the druid came back to Cain and he bid his companions to follow him to a nearby shuttered stable. They had to dodge ballista missiles from the castle ramparts across the courtyard to the stables and ducked in the back door. Inside they found two ornary beasts and saddles for both. Enough for the whole group. It took soothing words from Jarrus and Rowan but the foul tempered creatures were eventually ok with bearing the heroes for a time. They burst skyward and managed to avoid the additional missiles thrown their way as they found safe vantage points in the woods to observe the castle. They continued to trail the castle into the evening, where they finally made their move to board. Under cover of darkness and with the aid of Jarrus’ stealth spells the group avoided triggering any alarms or getting the unwanted attention of Glazhael. The two wyverns found their perches on the second tier of the castle and were able to use pass by the magical ice walls into an empty giant guest room. The wyverns were sent back to Parnast and the heroes crept out into the dense fog of the upper courtyard. Ossendar managed to check in a nearby tower to see a small group of ogres without being detected. Too many to slay without attracting attention! Ossendar slinked through the mists to a seemingly deserted tower that looked like a good place to hole up and get the lay of the land. With the rest of the group hiding out with Jarrus to avoid detection, Ossendar carefully scaled the outer wall of the tower, climbing 70’ up to a small ledge and open door. Inside a small chamber at the top of the tower was a pair of beautiful elf women who beckoned to the monk seductively.
“Come, join us. Please!” they begged him in turn, as they slinked towards him. Ossendar was beguiled at first, but quickly came to his senses, understanding that these women were not to be trusted. Too late though, for they closed the distance with in-natural swiftness. They clawed and bit at the monk like a pair of starving animals, sinking their teeth deep into his exposed skin and sapping him of his lifeblood. The commotion at the ledge got parties attention and Jarrus and Cain took off after the monk to give assistance. Rowan had a harder time with the climb but eventually made it up as well. The battle with the vampire spawn raged for quite some time, as they managed to sink their teeth into many of the party and use their spider-like climbing ability to their advantage. Eventually Cain’s smites Rowan’s spells were able to slay the pair at last, but not before they wounded the heroes greatly, sapping them of their strength. The party decided that they should take to the shelter of Leomund’s Tiny Hut and wait out the night, hoping that no more vampires showed up. So they rested, watched, and were watched in turn.