Episode 5: The Battle of Skyreach Castle

Riding on the head and shoulders of Gary, a Frost Giant who took pity on them for being unable to keep up with the rest of the giants, the adventurers soon see Skyreach Castle in the distance, resting at an angle to the snow-covered surface of the glacier. On the way there, Gary explains to them that Jarl Brunvild is concerned by the presence of the Cult of the Dragon around the castle, which is why he has decreed that the giants will go there to fix both the steering tower and the levitation magic that keeps the castle aloft. They also want to make sure that the Cult do not gain control of it, as giants and dragons are no allies to each other.

On arriving, Brunvild leads his platoon through the gates and into the lower courtyard, and the friends show their awe at the magnificence of the place as if they’ve never been there before. A man comes running across the flagstones towards the Jarl, backlit by the evening sun, dressed in rags and with his long, white, unkempt hair half-covering his face. Two yetis flank him as he approaches.

“Jarl Brunvild! The repairs are going well, everything is fine, all fine,” he yammers, sounding a little panicked.

Raddak realises that this is Allac, the wizard referred to by Dalo the Werebear, and that he is quite clearly bonkers.

“We’ve nearly finished with the levitation spells,” he continues as the Jarl nods in approval. “Just a couple more to go, I think. Yes, a couple. Maybe two. Or one. Ready tomorrow for sure!”

As the activity in the lower courtyard increases, Brunvild tells the adventurers that they should get something to eat and then rest, as the next day they will be guarding the entrance to the caves in the upper courtyard to make sure that the Cult do not try to come through them. But after visiting the makeshift food hall, the group wonder if there are other things they could do before turning in for the night.

Making their way to the upper courtyard, they first head for the chambers of Rezmir, one of the Cult of the Dragon’s Wyrmspeakers.

There isn’t too much to see there as the rooms have already been ransacked, but Moon finds some loose pearls behind a chest, along with a couple of books written in a language she doesn’t understand. Raddak pockets three spell scrolls. But the most interesting documents they find are old letters between Rath Modar of the Red Wizards of Thay and Severin, leader of the Cult of the Dragon which detail the depth of the connection between the two factions. However, a few of these letters reveal that some of the Red Wizards are not happy with this alliance, and the adventurers decide that it would be a good idea to take them to show to the Council when they get the opportunity.

Next, they head for the ice tunnels that they will be protecting the next day so that Raddak can put some precautions in place. He and Loli wander down to a junction about eighty feet below the surface so that the Kobold can set up a bell attached to a string and stretch it across the tunnel as an early warning system. He also casts a glyph onto the ice closer to the entrance, a glyph that will hopefully give any intruders quite a surprise should they step on it. With that, the friends turn in for the night and sleep well, given that they are surrounded by giants and thus very well-protected.

*thump*

*thump*

*thump*

The sounds reverberate through the ground beneath the adventurers’ feet when they rise the next morning, and they run outside to see Jarl Brunvild looking at the open gates with a furious expression on his face.

“What’s going on?” Moon asks him in the giant language, skidding to a stop at his feet.

The Jarl points to a legion of orcs outside, all banging their weapons on the ground in unison as they bare their teeth at the giants that have gathered in the lower courtyard.

“The orcs,” says Brunvild. “It seems that Gru-Nar has turned on us and allied his people with the dragons.”

“Traitors!” cries the Tabaxi, as the Jarl growls in agreement.

With no further warning, the creatures outside raise their weapons, whoop a battle cry, and charge forward to attack. The giants take up a defensive stance, and Brunvild yells to the adventurers.

“Go! Protect the ice tunnels!”

As the heroes’ pounding footsteps approach the entrance to the caves, a jingling of a tiny bell is suddenly drowned out by a thunderous explosion from within as Raddak’s glyph is tripped by an unwary intruder. As a result, quite a few of the orcs that emerge from the tunnels already look a bit worse for wear, but there are still twenty of them, and all bear down on the five creatures that now stand in their way.

Moon casts Green Flame Blade on her dagger and drives it into one of the orcs, watching as the fire leaps to another just behind it. Loli destroys four of them with a well-placed Fireball, while Yaseino jumps from one to another, punching, kicking and knocking each of them unconscious. The orcs try to retaliate by attacking the rogue and the monk, who are both in melee range, but two of them get cold feet and run away once they see what they’re up against.

Mirik and Raddak both conjure columns of energy that thud down into the pack or orcs, scattering them across the snow-covered ground; Mirik’s Moonbeam finishes one of them, while Raddak’s Flame Strike kills four more. Moon backflips over Yaseino and stabs two more with her daggers as the monk leg-sweeps another unfortunate orc, somehow knocking it unconscious with a hit to its knee. The rest of the orcs launch a mobbing attack on Yaseino, so Loli fires Eldritch Blasts at them while Raddak and Mirik heal the monk’s wounds. It doesn’t take long before the only orcs remaining are the two that ran away.

Thinking that it would be best to get the castle into the air so that no more orc reinforcements can get inside, Moon makes a break for the steering tower, but Raddak sees what she is doing and waves her off, launching himself into the air to fly up to the tower instead. The rogue turns on her heel and changes direction to head for the lower courtyard, hoping to show support to Brunvild and help the other giants there.

Meanwhile, Yaseino, Loli and Mirik watch in horror as more orcs erupt from the ice caves, and there’s a distant, strangled groan from the sky as if an all-powerful deity has just realised that the party has split off in three directions.

The three friends tackle the onslaught as best they can: Loli with her Firebolts, Mirik directing lightning from a thunderous storm cloud overhead, and Yaseino with his Fist of Unbroken Air and boxing paws.

As the fight continues below, Raddak turns invisible and speeds towards the steering tower just as the White Dragon, Arveiaturace, lands atop its roof with five dangerous-looking passengers on her back. The Kobold muffles a squeak and throws open the door to reveal the room beyond, seeing the glowing, white runes drifting around the steering chamber. He can’t read them, but he thinks he recognises one of them as being ‘Cast off’ from the last time he and his friends were here.

Down in the lower courtyard, the giants are still trying to fend off the orcs that are pouring in through the main gates. Moon skids to a stop at the feet of Jarl Brunvild, but she arrives too late. The orc in front of him thrusts a spear up into his chest and he collapses, much to the horror of his brethren, and the Tabaxi has no other choice than to leap behind his fallen body to fight alongside her spirit brothers.

Back at the ice tunnels, Loli, Raddak and Yaseino are victorious after the warlock fires a couple of Eldritch Blasts into the last orc, felling it in a flash of light that reflects brightly off the icy ground. Mirik steps forward, takes out a piece of obsidian and speaks an incantation that causes the earth in front of the entrance to erupt, partially blocking it, then the three turn and run towards the fracas in the lower courtyard. There they find Moon, amid a battle that is claiming the lives of giants, yetis and orcs, and the four of them stand together, side-by-side with the giants against the dragon cult and its allies.

Up at the top of the steering tower, a little Kobold stands frozen in fear as he suddenly senses a presence in the room with him. The spectral form of a Frost Giant, Jarl Brunvild of Uldoveld, appears in front of him and strides silently across the room, through the floating runes, to the centre of the chamber where he nods to Blagothkus and takes over the propulsion and buoyancy controls, releasing his brother. Then Brunvild vanishes and, with a ragged breath of relief, Raddak quickly pushes the ‘Cast Off’ rune. He feels a vibration, and the Kobold staggers to one side as the castle begins to rise unnervingly beneath his feet. From high above him comes a roar of frustration that sounds as if it may have come from a dragon. Racing to the door, Raddak takes the key and locks it behind him as he leaves, then he casts Dimension Door to take himself back down to his friends. Unfortunately, he arrives on top of a pile of dead orcs covered in burns and bruises, and none of his friends are anywhere in sight.

A huge shadow falls across the lower courtyard, and all the creatures who are fighting there raise their eyes fearfully to the skies in unison. Arveiaturace, the White Wyrm, lands gracefully atop the wall separating the upper and lower courtyards, not too far from Loli and Mirik, and four Cultists dismount from behind the desiccated corpse of the dragon’s usual rider. Two Dragonwings and two Dragonsouls stare across the fight as if assessing the situation, but suddenly a Wall of Fire springs up as if from nowhere, separating them and the dragon from everyone else. Loli grins and lowers her staff, but Arveiaturace beats her wings and lifts off again, hovering above the fire and exhaling a breath of frost directly at the warlock and the druid. They both cry out in pain but are immediately encouraged by the sight of Leosin Erlanthar of the Harpers, who is mustering a group of yetis on the top of the adjacent wall. They man the ballistae and loose a volley of bolts straight at the dragon.

Raddak speeds towards the main gates, closely followed by Mirik who has turned herself into a polar bear to try and protect herself a bit. The dragon lands in the lower courtyard and attacks Moon but the rogue retaliates with a huge hit, as does Yaseino, who leaps into the air and lands numerous hard punches on the creature’s neck and chest. Arveiaturace has had enough; she takes to the air again and disappears over the Promontory Peak, just as the castle judders and begins to sink once again.

The friends take out two of the Cultists before Raddak scoots up to Moon.

“Hey,” he pants. “You can speak giant right?”

Moon nods, stabbing an orc before answering.

“Yes, why? Do you need…”

The Kobold grabs her arm and casts Dimension Door, whisking the two of them back up to the steering tower where they appear immediately behind a Dragonsoul who is standing just inside the splintered door, studying the runes. Moon surprises him with a hit from her dagger while Raddak blinds him with a spell so he can’t easily retaliate, then the two of them put a quick end to his shenanigans.

Everyone in the courtyard staggers as the castle thuds to the ground again, but this time a cheer erupts from the remaining giants as they all turn towards the main entrance, raising their fists and clubs in triumph. Striding through the gates is another Frost Giant that the friends haven’t seen before, and he’s leading around fifty of the Ice Hunters, including Orcaheart, Bonecarver and Barking Seal, the Chieftain from Oyaviggaton. With a joint battle cry, they pull their weapons from their scabbards and charge into the castle grounds to join the fray.

Having lost his Dragonwing companion, the one remaining Cult member who is still alive, a Dragonsoul, marches through Loli’s Wall of Fire with no regard for his own health. He uses the distraction of the newcomers’ arrival to cast an Orb of Dragonsbreath directly at Yaseino, knocking the monk unconscious, then he spins around to face Loli with a snarl.

“These aren’t written in giant,” says Moon, studying the white, floating runes as Raddak pushes the ‘Cast Off’ one, causing the castle to start to rise again. “But this one means ‘Sink’ if I remember correctly, and this one…” She thrusts her dagger towards the rune just as Raddak grabs her hand and casts Dimension Door once more, returning them to the lower courtyard.

“…means ‘South’.” Moon looks down at her dagger, the blade of which is now buried in the chest of the Dragonsoul. He slumps over and collapses onto the floor as the confused rogue tries to piece together what just happened.

By the time the fight finishes and any remaining orcs have fled, only ten giants remain of the sixty in the platoon but, having stopped the castle from falling into the clutches of the Cult of the Dragon, they are triumphant in their victory. The giants bow to the newcomer, as do the adventurers and Leosin, who joins them from the battlements. He walks across and kneels at the body of his fallen brother, gently taking the bracelet from his arm and putting it on his own.

“You are Storvik, yes?” whispers Moon in the giant tongue.

The giant nods.

“Yes. I was found and helped by the Ice Hunters after they were freed, and they told me what you did at Oyaviggaton. They also told me about the Cult and the Draakhorn.” He places his hand on his brother’s chest and sighs, before standing again. “I was too late to save him, but the castle will be in good hands now that he is the pilot. I must go to the steering tower.”

Leosin watches him leave, then encourages the adventurers to get some rest in the Ogre’s quarters.

“We have much to discuss,” he tells them as they walk. “There are big changes in the Council. Lord Neverember is still in charge, but barely. However, we now have Skyreach Castle and an alliance with the Giants for the battle to come, which is all thanks to you.”

“Perhaps we can talk to them when we get back to Waterdeep?” replies Loli. “There must be something we can do.”

Leosin looks a little embarrassed.

“There is, but it does not involve your return to the city at the moment,” he says. “We have discovered that one of Severin’s Wyrmspeakers, Varram the White, has been spotted near Boareskyr Bridge, below the Serpent Hills. Tomorrow, the castle will take us to Baldur’s Gate, and we would like you to travel to Boareskyr to see if you can find him and get the white dragon mask. You will need to move fast, or we may lose track of him again.”

The heroes all swap looks of disappointment at not being able to go back to Waterdeep yet, but are optimistic at the possibility of getting some shopping done in Baldur’s Gate. Leosin continues.

“For now, get some sleep,” he says, as the adventurers check how much gold they have. “We will talk again in the morning.”

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