Hoard of the Dragon Queen has a much stronger finish than it does a middle. Castle Naerytar is an okay dungeon, the random encounters on the road are alright, but the lack of any particular involvement of the caravan makes it feel underwhelming, and I would’ve appreciated more guidance on what to do with all the other merchants and guards. Greenest was a great opening and Skyreach Castle is a great end, especially with the possibility that players can get their hands on a flying castle. That’s just awesome. My little brother did not actually pull that off, but it’s cool that they thought to leave the option open. Unfortunately, this ending is going to be botched up a bit by the several months of time between when it happened and when I’m writing about it, but it was filler to begin with, so it’s not a big deal.
The party met with Talis, who wanted to be the white wyrmspeaker and was rather put out at having been passed over for the job, and Talis agreed to give them the services of his four-armed troll buddy Trepsin to track down and kill Rezmir as a favor to Cyanwrath. Cyanwrath, in return, promised to kill the white wyrmspeaker and return his mask to Talis. If Severin, the red wyrmspeaker and leader of the entire cult, doesn’t like these shenanigans, Cyanwrath and Talis are staging a coup.
Talis reports that the party were killed and eaten by Trepsin to stop Rezmir from flying off with the castle immediately, and the party spends some time cleaning out the rest of Naerytar. Arvensis is killed, brought back at the temple of Malar found in Parnast, the town outside of which Skyreach Castle is currently hanging out. Malar is an evil god of the hunt worshiped by Trepsin, and he’s able to arrange with the Cleric to have Arvensis raised with no questions asked.
The party heads into the castle disguised as allies of Talis (which technically they are) and scouts the place out before ambushing and exterminating them. The party is critically underleveled at this point (the XP given out is just not enough for a standard party of five to keep up with the levels they’re supposed to be at), but they manage to ambush both Rezmir and Rath Modar while the castle is still on low alert. With the staff of fire and Hazirawn on their side, the party is able to fight off the vampire, his spawn, and a small army of ogres before barricading in for a long rest. Kobolds attempt to break into the room they’re hiding in while they rest, but the second a pick-ax strikes through the wall, Arvensis uses the opening to shoot a fireball from the staff. None of the kobold work crew survives, and the remaining kobolds refuse to take their place.
Rested up, the party is able to defeat the remaining enemies in the castle, including Blagothkus, but the dragon poses a serious problem. He’s directly guarding the treasure they came here to keep out of the cult’s hands, and the castle could be moving them closer to the cult’s ultimate hideout (it’s actually moving towards Rheged Glacier, which is the opposite direction from the Well of Dragons, but the party doesn’t know the location of the dragon cult’s hideout). After brainstorming a few different ways to disperse the treasure across the ground as the castle flies (much to the agitation of both Cyanwrath and Robyn), it’s finally agreed upon that the best plan is to position two of the castle’s ballistae in the ice tunnels with chains attached to their bolts. Arvensis will distract the dragon, then use the staff of fire and his own magic to shoot two fireballs and collapse the ice tunnel over the dragon’s head, whereupon the two ballistae will fire their bolts in an x-shape across the dragon’s back from behind. With the dragon’s head caught under the ice and his body restrained, he will be stuck and unable to turn around and confront the party with his terrifying breath weapon. The party can then attempt to stab it to death before he gets free.
Somewhat anti-climactically, this goes off without a hitch. The dragon dies, but soon afterwards the castle crashes into Reghed Glacier. Blagothkus was aiming for the frost giants camped nearby, but he’s starting to lose it and wound up crashlanding instead. The party stumbles, shaken but mostly unhurt, from the wreckage of Skyreach Castle into an unforgiving winter wasteland, having thwarted the dragon cult’s nefarious schemes for now, but having lost themselves miles and miles from civilization in the process.