Chasing the Hoard

A Dragon and an Oil Flask
Neither one explodes...

Hurriedly rising from their rest in the guest room, our team headed to explore the rest of the rooms in the corridor, coming to a locked room they had passed earlier. Talon and Pierre tried their hands at picking the lock, and failed, so Dame Alkwin resorted to a technique that seldom failed her – kicking in the door! As the jamb gave way to her armored boot, the room’s sole occupant was revealed to be none other than Rezmir, the black half-dragon Wearer of Purple commanding this sect of the Cult! Talon, especially, had been waiting for this fight for a long time!
Pierre and Talon rushed forward, unleashing punishing slashes from their swords, injuring the cult leader terribly! Galoshti had some trouble getting his thorn whip to land, but Dame Alkwin had no such difficulty, and her goddess-enhanced strike thudded into the half-dragon like a cleaver into a side of beef! The evil cultist unleashed her horrible acid breath upon the group to no avail, as all were able to dodge away or turn most of the acid from them, taking minimal damage. A few more choice strikes from each member of the team, and the cult’s leader collapsed into a pile of ashes! Searching her robes, they were able to find a key ring and her greatsword, a fine weapon of black steel and onyx decorations. One of the keys opened the steel-banded chest in the room, revealing nothing – until Dame Alkwin noticed the false bottom, concealing a small fortune in gems and jewelry!
Moving to the room across the corridor, they found it locked, but upon opeining it with one of Rezmir’s keys, they saw it was a coldroom for storing meats and other perishable foodstuffs. Closing the door, they returned to the staircase to the Upper Courtyard to relay their success to the Cloud Giant, and were intercepted by his dim ogre minions. The half-witted brutes escorted them once more into Blagothkus’ presence, where they proclaimed theire success in ridding the castle of the Cult’s leader and the Red Wizards. Unimpressed, the giant bade them to remove the White Dragon guarding the treasure hoard before returning to him. He dismissed them with a wave of his hand and his servants guided them back to the staircase, where they began the decent to the dragon’s lair while discussing strategies for defeating the dragon as well as the absurdity of their chance for success…
Finally settling on a plan, they re-entered the icy cavern of the dragon, who challenged them with the same question as before – “Do you bring food?” Pierre stated that they had already killed Rezmir, and would not hesitate to kill the dragon if he did not leave now. Talon showed the dragon Rezmir’s sword as proof, which the dragon recognized – “You have Hazirawn – she is dead, then”. Dame Alkwin restated their original demand – “Leave now or we will be forced to defeat you, as well!” The dragon hesitated, mulling over his choices, and seemed to decide that the only way to meet this threat to his lair was with force! He unfurled his brilliant white wings and glared at the intruders with the full force of his draconic presence!
Galoshti, Talon, and Pierre resisted the urge to flee in terror before the dragon’s awesomeness, while Dame Alkwin felt a calm settle about her radiating from Sir Garrick’s sword – she knew that though she may die, no dragon could ever cause her to flee as long as she held onto this holy relic for Sir Garrick was with her, as was her goddess, holy Chauntea! With the fight certain, Pierre and Talon set their plan into action by tossing four oil flasks (with poisoned at the beast as Galoshti lit them aflame with his Druidcraft! Three of the flasks hit the dragon among the icy stalactites, shattering on impact and spreading hot flames along his scaly hide (but not exploding, as they had hoped – alas, their creativity exceeded their pyrotechnical knowledge!). The Saviors of Greenest then ran back along the tunnel towards the staircase they had previously descended, hoping to lure the beast to follow after them.
Enraged, the dragon dropped from his high perch and followed his attackers indeed, unleashing his icy breath weapon upon them! Talon and Pierre deftly tumbled out of the path of the hoary frost, with Pierre heaving Galoshti aside as he rolled, but Dame Alkwin was not so nimble, and her lower half was coated in a sheen of ice as it went instantly numb! Pierre and Talon rushed down the tunnel, turning at a fork to double-back to the cavern, while Galoshti and Dame Alkwin stood their ground, harrying the beast to ensure that it entered the tunnel. As it approached, Galoshti heaved a dart at it’s head, striking near to it’s eye, and Dame Alkwin unleashed a smiting blow fueled by her goddess and Sir Garrick’s sword. The dragon responded by biting Dame Alkwin grievously, nearly killing her. Galoshti continued healing her to offset the monster’s attacks, but it was clear that the battle could not last very long if the heroes were to survive…
As their compatriots were keeping the dragon occupied in the tunnel, Talon and Pierre managed to get behind the creature, out of its sight, and proceeded to attack it’s undefended rear with staggering blows! As the dragon fought to defeat Dame Alkwin with its claws and mouth, it was at a disadvantage in the tight quarters of the tunnel, and the many slashes and stabs began to take their toll. Another round of abuse from the heroes was only answered by a weak claw swipe at Dame Alkwin, who was immediately healed by Galoshti. The beast finally realized it’s mistake in attacking these heroes, and decided to leave his lair and its treasure behind too late. As it fled from the tunnel, Dame Alkwin and Pierre took parting shots at it, and Talon felled the beast with a final stab to it’s flank, whereupon it sank to the ground dead!
Stopping only to grab a few dragon teeth as proof, they raced upstairs to inform Blagothkus of their success, when they were again intercepted by ogres, asking “You kill dragon?” When they confirmed their kill, the ogres moved aside telling them “You see boss, we take care of other cultists” and headed to the barracks on the Lower Courtyard. Ogres parted for them as they once again approached the Giant’s tower, rushing up the stairs to tell him of the battle. Blagothkus seemed impressed (for a Cloud Giant) that they had bested the dragon “Although it DID take four of you…” and re-directed the castle towards his massing kin in the mountains rather than the Cult’s rendezvous. With a sign of relief, the heroes noted that they had succeeded in not only finding the hoard of the Dragon Queen, they had also managed to intercept it, gaining a swamp castle and a new ally against the cult at the same time!
As the castle flew towards the Northern mountains, the team thawed the glaze of ice from the treasure and split it among themselves, including a magical Longbow, Longsword, and bracers, as well as a smoky-looking potion. Galoshti informed them of the purported magical properties of dragon body parts, such as the brain, heart, tongue, and eyes, so they began to butcher the beast, giving over the flesh to the kobolds in the kitchen. Eating the brain was a disgusting affair, with only Talon and Pierre able to keep the greasy matter down. Their intelligence and wisdom were magically improved by the meal, however. Galoshti and Talon attempted to eat the eyes of the dragon, but only Talon gained mystical sight from the organ (as well as a bulging left eye and a new nickname). Pierre took the dragon’s tongue and gained the ability to “taste” poisons in the air five feet around him. They divided up 5 stones that they found in the belly of the beast that were imbued with mystical power, and Dame Alkwin kept enough scaly hide to create dragon scale mail for two humans and a gnome.
Here our story takes a pause while the Heroes of Greenest, Bane of the Cult of the Dragon, Slayers of Glazhael the Cloudchaser (as the White Dragon was known to the cultists who were “escorted” off of the castle by the ogres) took a well-deserved rest aboard the flying ice-castle en route to a meeting with Blagothkus’s giant kin…may we hear more of their story another time???
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Flying Ice Castle
Ogres and Giants and Dragons, oh my!

Standing in the presence of the Cloud Giant who ruled the castle, the team decided to bluff him by pretending to be cult members who had lost their way, but the giant was far too smart for that. Threatening to turn them over to his ogres for sport, he admonished them to be truthful, and Dame Alkwin decided to reveal their purpose in part. To their amazement, the giant was unconcerned that they were planning to stop the treasure hoard from reaching the cult’s summoning location. His only desire was that his castle be unharmed. “I made a promise to the Cult to allow them to use my castle to deliver the treasure, but no promise to help them to do it, or to prevent other small folk from stopping them,” he said. He had decided to help the cult in their endeavor only to help create a foe that his fellow giants could unite against, since he felt they had grown soft over many years of infighting and there was no enemy for them to war with. He vowed to bring the group to his army of giants and fight the cult with them if they could eliminate the cult leaders and the dragon. With a final warning to avoid the upper courtyard, he dismissed them with a wave of his huge hand, and they were escorted back to the icy staircase leading to the lower courtyard and the castle’s frosty foundation below.
They decided to explore the foundation, a huge block of magical ice, rimed with frost and containing entombed creatures and treasures all it’s own. They passed kobolds, shields, coins, mugs, and animals near the surface of the tunnels, and other unidentifiable shapes buried even deeper in the ice as they progressed lower towards the center of the mass. Eventually the tunnels led to a large cavern, where a massive treasure hoard was laying below a 10 foot drop and covered with ice! Before they could assay the hoard, they noticed a large white dragon clinging to a stalactite on the ceiling, observing them silently. “Have you come with food?” it bellowed. Pierre told them that they did not, and Talon added that they would return with food shortly. “Stupid insignificant creatures, how dare you come in my presence without a gift of flesh me – when you return, bring Rezmir, so that I may discuss a punishment for this insult with her!”, he huffed at them as they left. The group returned to the lower courtyard, glad to have escaped the encounter with their lives!
Entering the castle proper, they passed a locked door and entered a further door that was unlocked to find a wizard’s chamber, with horse skulls hanging from the ceiling, arcane tomes spread upon tall lecterns, and two bald-headed wizards arguing. Their blue tattoos revealed that they were Red Wizards of Thay, undeniably evil and one bore many more markings than the other, obviously a senior wizard. The group remembered the younger wizard from their recent long caravan trip, and he recognized Pierre immediately, yelling, “What are YOU doing here? Stop!” and launched into a spell, firing rays of fire at Pierre, 3 of which he nimbly dodged, only being glanced by one. The senior wizard cast a spell of confusion that affected Talon and Dame Alkwin, although they were able to fight through the effects rather luckily.
After a few tense exchanges, including Galoshti dropping his club, the younger mage went down in a pile of limbs, and the senior wizard summoned a huge ball of fire to descend on the heroes! They were all seriously wounded, and Pierre fell unconscious from his wounds, slipping towards death! Dame Alkwin revived him with the power of Chauntea, and was then attacked by the wizard directly by magical missiles, herself falling unconscious! Talon dropped his scimitar as Galoshti revived his comrade just in time for her to land a few massive blows on the wizard’s person, and he decided to abandon the combat, turning invisible and flying out of the castle through a false wall he had set up for just such an occasion!
Searching the room, they found no treasures, but some books detailing summoning rituals for bringing a being out of the Nine Hells and into the Realms bodily – undoubtedly this was how the cult planned to release Tiamat, the dragon queen! Pierre paused to jam a candle up Azbara’s rear end and tossed him out of the false wall, to fall and land unceremoniously upon a random place…
Leaving the wizards’ study, they entered another nearby room that was reserved for humanoid guests and stopped to rest. Pierre finally attuned to the longsword he had acquired in Castle Naerytar earlier, finding it to be a weapon that caused bleeding in its foe – a powerful weapon, indeed…

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Cavern to Manor to Castle
Tense Negotiations

After a brief return to the castle to rest, where Dame Alkwin received more training from Sir Garrick in a dream and Pierre attuned to a Dagger of Venom they had previously acquired, the group cautiously resumed exploring the caverns below. Roaming around the caverns, they found evidence that the Bullywugs had taken up residence in the foul-smelling, muddy environment, but had left hurriedly, probably as the Lizardmen routed them. Galoshti, Dame Alkwin, and Talon even slipped in a muddy bullywug pit while they were searching for the portal below the castle. After passing through a large cavern with an underground lake, they found the portal in a mist-filled niche, and experimented with the magic word a few times to ensure that it was safe to travel. Despite these tests being inconclusive, the team entered the circle of the portal and, holding their breaths, Ionut said the magic word and they traveled to the meeting place of the Cult!
As their eyes adjusted to the light, and the smell of pine trees and crisp air filled their lungs, they realized that they had not perished – they were in the mountains, far away from the swamp where the castle was located. There were four sets of stone markers around them, possibly indicating arrival points from other portals as well. There was a large manor house nearby, and a path leading to the front door, which was slightly ajar, as if they were expected. Cautiously, they approached the manor, with Galoshti transformed into a snake and hiding in Pierre’s pocket just in case subterfuge was required. Knocking on the door, an older woman answered, and inquired if they were there to see the mistress of the manor, who was expecting them. Answering affirmatively, they were led into the house, past many great treasures, and some possible traps, into a guest room to await the mistress’s beckoning. Searching the room, they could find no way out of the meeting without resorting to naked aggression, and so they waited and rested, preparing for possible combat. Dame Alkwin blessed Galoshti and Talon just in case a combat ensued. The servant woman returned for them shortly and led them to a great hall to meet her mistress.
Entering the room, there was a table for 12 set with a half-elven woman seated at the far end, wearing purple robes over white scale mail armor, and holding a wand with a blue gemstone. Beside her stood a woman in full armor carrying an unsheathed dragon-hilted sword and glaring at the group. Behind the two women were two larger men similarly brandishing naked steel and ready for a fight. The Wearer of Purple introduced herself as Talis the White, mistress of the manor house, and bade the group to sit and hear her request. They stood, ready for battle in case the request was beyond their desire to fulfill.
Talis informed them of the location of the treasure they had been seeking, and that she would “look the other way” if they intercepted it, since another cultist, a dwarf named Varram, was in charge of acquiring the treasure, and had been promoted to Wyrmspeaker over her recently. If the party could derail his plans, then Talis stood to be elevated in the Cult of the Dragon. If, however, they decided to attempt to defeat her, she inferred that they would die or at the least, miss out on stopping the treasure from reaching it’s destination. The group conferred, and decided that stopping the greater evil that was attempting to summon Tiamat to the Realms was more important than defeating one Wearer of Purple, and they accepted Talis’s deal.
Talis told them of the plan to bring treasure to a nearby town named Parnast, that was controlled by the Cult, and load it onto a flying castle that was docked there. The castle was owned by a cloud giant that the cult had paid-off for use of the castle. The town leaders were all Cult members, and would surely stop the group unless they presented a Cult banner and the proper passwords to enter the castle. Providing them with both, Talis bid them good luck, and they left for the 5 mile hike to the town with no blood shed.
Entering the small town, they stopped at an inn to attempt finding a kindred spirit, or perhaps another Harper, to deliver a message to their fellow Harpers about their situation. They had no luck, for all in the inn were suspicious of them, even after ordering drinks and stew to seem more casual. With nothing to do but head to the castle, they crossed the gangway onto the huge ice-crafted castle. Hurrying past two cloud giant statues and into the lower courtyard, they rushed to a rear staircase up to the upper courtyard where many ogres were practicing their spear-throwing skills. The ogres spotted them and immediately surrounded them and took them to their master’s quarters, where a storm giant was being groomed by a pair of ogres, his huge morning star within easy reach of his massive arms…
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Castle Secrets
Chipping Away

Having explored the rest of the castle, our heroes explored the final tower, to find first a deserted barracks, and then at the top, a long-abandoned observatory. In the center of the glass-ceilinged room was a strange brass and crystal contraption that Ionut was certain would create moonshine from the light of the moon itself! Dame Alkwin, however, remembered a story told to her by a monk at an abbey of Chauntea’s long ago about a mystical observation device called The Farseer of Illusk – an ancient device driven by magic and something called “optics” that could show anything the user desired, if he or she was smart enough to turn the right dials and nimble enough to focus them on the scene. Galoshti was suspicious of the room which sported nothing but this wondrous device, and cast a spell to detect poison, but sensed none…
Dame Alkwin attempted to use the Farseer, but was unsuccessful, and while the group discussed the use of the device, Talon heard strange scratching sounds from the stone outside the room. Warning his friends just in time, they were ready when 4 Gargoyles appeared, materializing through the stone of the tower itself! Ionut began casting his frost rays at the creatures, while the others each faced-off with one of the beasts in combat. The massive stony beasts were resilient, and the battle raged on as the heroes literally shipped away at their dense enemies, Pierre having a doubly difficult time despite wielding two blades simultaneously – these creatures were resistant to virtually all non-magical attacks!
As the combatants traded blows with blade and claw, with each side faring equally well, Ionut mispronounced a phrase of one of his spells and all felt the spell go awry! Ionut’s hair began to fall out as the magical energy warped around him! Swearing under his breath, he resumed his mystical assault, as first Dame Alkwin, and then Talon, felled their opponents. Dame Alkwin then assisted Galoshti to dispatch his gargoyle as Ionut defeated Pierre’s winged assailant to end the conflict before Talon succumbed to the many wounds inflicted upon him. Dame Alkwin beseeched Chauntea to grant succor to her friend, and Pierre was restored to nearly normal.
The team took turns cautiously using the Farseer for a few minutes, but saw nothing of value after many attempts. Leaving the unwieldy construct, they headed down the stairs to the under-levels of the tower. They arrived in a wide open cavern with paths leading to the right and to the far left and a pool of water flowing from a crevasse in the wall straight ahead that only a smaller being could squeeze through. There were muddy webbed footprints reminiscent of buyllywugs leading down the right path, but no clues as to where the portal Snapjaw and the leader’s notes had referred to lay…

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Exploring the Castle
G-g-g-ghosts!

After examining their new magical items, the team was met by Snapjaw, who informed them that the bullywugs had left the castle, and that the lizardmen were pursuing them through the swamps. The cultists had also escaped through a portal below the castle, but Snapjaw did not know where it led nor how to activate it. Feeling ready to explore, the team rested up and began looking around the castle.
p. They began at the strangely-named “Garbage Tower” that Snapjaw had told them of, finding that it was filled with garbage and rotting, presumably inhabited by a “Garbage Monster” that they were fortunate enough not to meet. The second floor was half-rotted, but some spells of flight and nimble rope-climbing (by all save Galoshti who struggled mightily and barely made the climb) allowed them access to the second floor. Talon opened the lone chest and found it full of copper pieces, with the exception of a fine silver earring, which he kept.
p. Climbing the still-intact staircase, the heroes found a trapdoor with strange chalk markings in Dwarvish. Since none of them read Dwarvish, they proceeded up and found an amazing room filled with scrolls on wall racks and a large table, with 3 bodies sprawled upon the ground. The bodies were ancient and half-crumbled to dust, but upon investigating further, they were greeted by a wailing cry and 3 spectres attacking them! Defending themselves, they discovered two facts: the spectres could not be harmed by normal weapons, and their touch robbed a person of their life-force! After a heated battle, the spectres were defeated by Pierre and Dame Alkwin, but not before Margot was wounded by one of the spirits… She collected a trio of scrolls to barter in town, as they seemed full of priceless information about the stars.
p. Descending, they explored the Southeast tower, which contained a small altar to Tiamat, with a well-carved likeness of the dragon queen that contained (as Ionut discovered) a hidden compartment with a wicked-looking magical dagger that radiated Conjuration magic. Heading upstairs, they discovered an entire library of books, from all over the Realms! The cultists’ ruler here must have been saving them from the ill-gotten treasure brought here over the months. It was a peerless collection that would fetch a king’s ransom…if they could have taken it with them, which they could not. Above the library was the third floor residence of the ruler of these cultists, a Wearer of Purple…one of the leaders of the entire cult!
p. These rooms were decked-out in elegant finery fit for a king, with 2 beautiful 400 pound onyx sculptures of Black dragons, silk, velvet, and furs lined everything. Searching, they found another smaller statuette of a black dragon atop a hoard…and this hoard was real – made of gemstones and gold! Pocketing the statuette, they looked through the armoires and discovered that one was trapped. Disarming the trap, Pierre opened it to find various Cult regalia, including extravagant purple robes and a horned mask of glossy ebony, with a skull-like mien and a dragon-like appearance. Ionut discovered among the papers strewn about on a desk a note describing the portal beneath the castle, and the word of activation: “Draezir”. Further exploration of the castle is next on their agenda, indeed…

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Conquering the Castle
The Bullywug Slaughter...

After a smelly rest with the Lizardmen, our heroes again conferred with Snapjaw and readied themselves for the coming battle to free the castle and the lizardmen from the bullywug menace. Heading into the main courtyard, they were led to the bullywug barracks by Snapjaw, and found a dozen of the disgusting creatures lounging in their muddy filth. Planning to quickly eliminate them with his wondrous magic, Ionut created a swirling storm of blades just inside the room, while the others attacked from the relative saftey of the courtyard. This tactic backfired when a hail of spears flew towards Dame Margot Alkwin! Bearing the brunt of the attack, she survived with 4 spears lodged in her!
p. Arrows and spells were flung at the bullywugs with little effect until their leader, Pharblex Splattergoo descended from the second floor of the barracks, turning the tide of battle in the bullywugs favor! With a monsterous thunderclap, he injured the heroes and alerted cultists on the other side of the courtyard, where they poured from the great hall to flank the team!
p. The group converged on Pharblex Splattergoo, and dropping the blade barrier, Ionut switched his tactics from murder to subdual. Dame Alkwin and Galoshti fiercely attacked the shaman with divine power and magical poison while Talon and Pierre continued to rain arrows upon him. Flooding his words with his magical power, Ionut cast a mighty sleeping spell, followed by another and yet a third to put the remaining cultists to sleep.
p. After many close calls and much damage, a final magical barrage from Ionut took down the unholy frog-priest, and the few bullywugs that remained alive and awake huddled in the corner of the barracks, begging for mercy. Letting them return to the swamp from whence they came, the team turned to the cultists to bind them and hide them, finding that most had already been slain in their sleep by Pierre! Vowing to discuss this heinous act later, they hid the bodies in the barracks and searched the shaman’s quarters finding a chest, that when opened by Talon, contained many fine and delicate items of jewelry. Dividing the gaudy pieces among them, they proceeded to the Great Hall.
p. In the Great Hall were mounds of miscellany that had been picked-out and partially sorted by the cultists. Trinkets, gems, weaponry, armor, and home decorations were piled alongside paintings, carvings, fabrics, and utensils from all over the Greenfields and other places in Faerun. Dame Alkwin cast a spell to locate any magical items and selected 6 things from the varous piles. The heroes blocked the door to the Great Hall and rested, attuning to several of the items. Talon had claimed a Scimitar of Shade that would keep him cool in even the most searing temperatures, Pierre had chosen a black cloth Mask of Assassins that increased his luck in games of chance as well as his damage during surprise attacks. Dame Alkwin found a pair of Gloves of Lies that improved her health and allowed her to cast illusions, while Galoshti had gotten an Orb of Healing which would let her cast healing spells and assist in her avoidance of dangers. Ionut found the most powerful item of them all, a Staff of Taverns, which could unerringly locate the nearest alcoholic beverage as well as acting as a powerful weapon! Not requiring the orb, Galoshti gave it to Ionut so that he could heal people as needed, since she was already capable. The final item, a long sword with an onyx hilt that radiated strong necromancy, was held for later investigation by Dame Alkwin

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Castle Naerytar 1
Frogs vs. Lizards?

After eliminating the bullywugs in the barbican, the haggard adventurers explored the second floor, surprised to find a cadre of 3 lizardmen calmly awaiting them! One of the reptilians introduced himself as Snapjaw, and asked the team if they were members of the Cult of the Dragon, to which Pierre replied, “Of course”. Snapjaw then asked if they were here to terminate the arrangement with the bullywugs, who were “Foul creatures”, and Pierre again confirmed the lizardman’s expectations. On that, Snapjaw directed his companions to dispose of the bullywug and frog bodies in the moat, to be eaten by the crocodiles therein. He then beckoned the group to follow him to more bullywugs for slaughter.

The heroes followed Snapjaw through the causeway, fearing a trap, but none came. Passing through a rusted portcullis, they entered the outer ward of the castle, seeing 4 bullywugs taunting a pair of lizardmen who were training their giant lizard mounts in the courtyard.Snap jaw spoke to the lizardmen privately and ushered them into a stable area with their mounts, leaving the bullywugs regarding the group apprehensively but without malice. Approaching the bullywugs, the heroes lept into action – Dame Alkwin sliced through a bullywug in two strokes! Another was laid out by Galoshti’s thorn whip and Ionut’s ray of frost, while Dame Alkwin made short work of another, and Pierre took out the last.

Snapjaw returned and guided the heroes to the Northeast tower, which housed the lizardmen in the castle. Past a warm forge, on the second floor, they were given an area among the lizardment, who, Snapjaw explained, believed that they had come to remove the bullywugs from the agreement with the Cult. As they rested, he told them of the uneasy alliance between the lizardmen, bullywugs, and the Cult of the Dragon, led here by an elf named Dralmorrer. The Scaly Death tribe of lizardmen were directed by their leader, an ancient Black Dragon named Voaraghamanthar, to join forces with the Cult and the bullywugs. The bullywugs, and their shamanistic leader, Pharblex Splattergoo, bully the lizardmen at every opportunity, and the lizardmen are forbidden by their leader from reprising. Their soothsayers have told of a person who would arrive and drive out the bullywugs, and Snapjaw believes that one of the heroes is that person.

As the team rested, Snapjaw retrieved Talon from the trail to the castle and brought him to the others, knowing that he was one of the group by the smell of them on his clothing. Talon and the others, reunited, completed their rest and will soon begin ridding the castle of the bullywug menace…

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Castle in the Swamp
Half-orcs, and Lizards, and Frogs, oh my!

We last joined our intrepid road guards as they were staking-out the exit of the hidden tunnel from the road house. They spied a troupe of lizardmen leaving the tunnel with sacks presumably full of treasure heading along a trail in the swamp. The band traveled through the night, and arrived at a ramshackle camp to rest through the day, while our heroes bivouacked nearby to keep an eye on the reptilian roughians. Early into the morning, another party of lizardmen showed up by canoe and joined them in their rest at the campsite. After an uneventful day, the two groups resumed their treks through the muck, and Talon followed them back to the road house to take care of a “loose end”, namely his target given to him by the Assassin’s Guild, Bog Luck. The rest of the group took a canoe to follow the lizardmen group with the ill-gotten loot. Galoshti utilized his connection with the land to become a crocodile, pulling the team’s canoe behind him well out of range of detection by the lizardmen.

Talon arrived at the road house shortly before morning and re-entered to stalk his prey. Bog Luck was still in his room, so Talon picked the lock, but neglected to cushion the door as he shut it behind him, waking the half-orc! Quick talking, and lying about his purpose saved him a sure beating by the overseer of the road house, and revealed that not only was he allied with the Cult of the Dragon, as was suspected, but that he was much more intelligent than he let-on. Talon told him that he was a fellow agent of the Cult, and that his companions had been sent to stop them from attaining the treasure they had stolen. The Half-Orc’s fears allayed, he let Talon return to his supposed duties, so off he slunk to rest up for his next opportunity (and perhaps to change his undergarments).

Dame Alkwin, Pierre, and Galoshti were nearing a large castle as dawn approached, and Galoshti noted something wrong with the way the swamp creatures were acting nearby, and his enhanced reptilian sense of smell picked-up six lizardmen standing watch along the banks of the waterway ahead. He warned his friends and they beached their canoe to avoid detection near a picket of giant lizards a distance from the castle. Galoshti resumed his comfortable diminutive form and spoke with the beasts, telling them to run away while cutting open the gate to the picket, hoping to distract the lizardmen with a stampede of giant lizards. The lizards vanished into the swamp instead in a flurry of scales and tails, and the group set up camp to allow the sun to pass, not willing to risk being seen entering the castle in the light of day. Galoshti sent a swamp bird as a messenger to Talon with a message describing the path to the castle.

Talon finally saw his chance to strike when Bog Luck checked on the horses after the mid-day meal. Sneaking up behind him, he landed a crippling blow on the half-orc, followed by a coup-de-grace that ended his life. Hiding the body, Talon wrote a quick message to Carlon Amofel in Waterdeep describing the tunnel and the camp in the swamp, along with the short instructions to the castle he had received from Galoshti’s messenger to ensure that other Harpers would be able to pick up their mission if they failed. He then set out along the trail once again to catch up with his friends, who were the better part of a full day and night’s travel ahead of him at the castle.

As dusk set in, the party near the castle decided to eliminate the watching Lizardmen on their side of the bank so that they could approach the castle unseen. The stout stone castle stood on exposed bedrock, and although it was covered with the mold and slime of the swamp, it seemed to have been built to withstand such an environment, even to embrace it, with a moat which surrounded the castle on all sides and wild, thorny growth covering three of them, leaving only the Southern barbican available for entrance. Longhouses and small, squalid huts sit in front of the Barbican, housing the lizardmen and bullywugs who seem to be protecting and staffing the castle. The group ambushed the three lizardmen watchers quickly, with each member eliminating one of the foul humanoids before they could call for help from the other bank. Galoshti unleashed a new, powerful spell that sprayed poison at his enemies most effectively, replacing his usual Thorn Whip. Proceeding into the castle, they encountered a gang of bullywugs and giant frogs in the barbican!

Dame Alkwin smote two bullywugs almost immediately with her Chauntea-given prowess, while Galoshti attacked with his poison spray and Pierre with his steel. Bullywugs and frogs fell before their onslaught, until a giant frog caught Galoshti in it’s powerful jaws and swallowed him whole! Pierre and Margot pressed their attack, and Pierre was caught by the bite of another frog who was quickly slain, when suddenly Galoshti re-assumed his crocodile form, exploding from the belly of the frog with a sickening squelch of flesh and organs! With the barbican cleared, the heroes are ready now to enter the castle proper and begin investigating the whereabouts of the treasure from the Greenfields…

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Road crew
Roadhouse Rules

When we last left our intrepid band of sell-swords, they had tracked the Cult of the Dragon and their wagons of stolen treasure to a warehouse on the North end of Waterdeep. Carlon Amoffel, the Harper the group had rescued from being buried in the Trade Road, informed them that the warehouse was owned by the High Road Charter Company, a consortium of nobles who are rebuilding the road to Neverwinter. The Cult seemed to be taking their wagons along this half-built road to points unknown. In order to stay on their tail, the group decide to hire-on as mercenaries guarding the road-builders. It seemed their travels would never end…

During the 2 days before their next trip Northward, Ionut located a Heart of Ice at a local alchemist’s shop, and he contacted his Master, the gnomish artificer Elishae. Sending the frosty trophy to him, he received a scroll with new teachings of the arcane arts! Dame Alkwin was visited by the spirit of Sir Garrick in her dreams that night, and he instructed her of Chauntea’s wishes for her, and how to best achieve them! Pierre sought out The Inn, easily recognizing the sings of his shadowy brethren now, and conferred with the mysterious bar keep of the extra-dimensional place. He was referred to a strange gentleman, who offered to recommend his skills to Shem in exchange for a mysterious crate that he said would be in the storeroom of the roadhouse they would be residing during their job. The only description of the crate was that it would obviously not belong among the other crates. Researching this heist showed Pierre new ways of applying his sneakiness in order to achieve his ends, and he perfected a disguise to hide his identity from any Cult of the Dragon personnel who may be holding a grudge against him for Akshak’s demise on the road! Talon was unsuccessful in locating any assassins in Waterdeep, and so he concentrated on maintaining his deadly hardware, only to find a note in his pouch that simply read: “Bog Luck”. His preparations for this inscrutable assignment helped him identify some of his practices that were not as efficient at hiding and killing as they could be, and he felt ready for this kill! Galoshti found a nearby circle of Druids and was able to commune with nature via strange dances and rituals, becoming more attuned to it, and learning it’s esoteric secrets!

The group met with their new Commander, Ardred Briferhew, and began the journey, noticing that many of the guards and volunteers on the crew were from their recent caravan, but some were newer faces who may or may not have been associated with other Cult of the Dragon wagons in Waterdeep. After an uneventful week-long trip to the roadhouse, the wagons were unloaded (in private and one-at-a-time) by the roadhouse workers. After entering the roadhouse, they were briefed on their living arrangements and job by the owner of the roadhouse, a large, brutish half-orc named Bog Luck. The rules for their stay were simple – “No stealing, fighting OK”. They were shown to a bunk room and deposited their belongings to bed-down for the night. A highlight of their stay was the amazing breakfast cooked by the roadhouse’s dwarven cook, Gristle Pete – eggs, bacon, and potatoes that were perfectly salty and greasy, better than anything they’d had in years! Over the next couple of nights, the team investigated the storeroom, based on Gristle Pete’s mumblings of noises heard there, and they heard them for themselves, as well. Galoshti transformed into a snake and then a roach in order to slip into the room, and confirmed their suspicions – Lizardmen were working in the storeroom overnight!

The next day, Pierre faked illness in order to slip into the storeroom by picking the lock, and found his target – a tiny crate sitting on top of another crate, obviously it didn’t belong…so he pocketed it! He also spied a false crate covering a trap door leading to a tunnel to an area outside the roadhouse. He marked the exit and returned to await the return of his friends and nightfall in order to explore the happenings in the storeroom further…

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On the Road 3
Are we there yet?

When last we left our intrepid band of erstwhile caravan guards, they were traveling alongside the Cult of the Dragon and their wagons of ill-gotten treasures from Daggerford along the Trade Way North towards Waterdeep. On the morning of the 35th day out of Baldur’s Gate, the camp awoke to a horrible event – one of Irarum’s wagon “Guards” (a cultist named Ramset) had been murdered in the night! He was run-through with a sword from behind and dragged under Irarum’s wagon. The caravan was in an uproar – who would do such a thing? According to Irarum (one of the elfin triplets posing as tradesmen who “owned” the wagon of goods), nothing was missing. Ham, a cultist sorcerer, blamed Pierre, stating that he and others had noticed him giving strange looks at Irarum’s wagon and guards, and maybe he’d tried to steal something and been discovered by Ramset. Though Pierre and others decried this scenario, the cultists banded together and asked the caravan for justice. There were enough doubts that the wagon owners decided to convene to decide what to do. After a day spent burying Ramset and reminiscing about the good natured fellow (who was very likable, despite being a cultist), the leaders of the caravan decided that there was no proof and the fate of the murderer would be left to the Gods. From then on, the cult members have avoided Pierre except to throw hostile glances his way occasionally.

The morning of the 36th day started off with an axle of Sharum’s wagon snapping while traversing a rough patch of the trail, spilling crates on the ground and exposing the contents of a few. The cultists rushed to repack the crates, but not before some others asked questions about the miscellaneous treasures revealed. Questioners such as Akshak, one of Beyd’s Booze-wagon guards, were met with harsh words and no answers as to what Sharum was carrying or where he had gotten it all. Later that night, Noohar, part-owner of the wagon full of elfin carvings, begged Margot to sell him her wedding ring, which he had spied one day and for reasons unuttered could not bear to leave in her possession. They negotiated a price far above what her husband had paid for it, and the deal was struck. 65 gold dragons for the ring that had cost perhaps 5 many years ago. This money was sent to her family in Greenest at the next trading post the caravan passed, for she had less need of it than they did.

The caravan continued along the Trade Way through the Fields of the Dead, a long-forgotten battlefield wherein many burial mounds and dolmens dot the area. Shortly after the noon stop of the 40th day out of Baldur’s Gate, the lead caravan riders spotted a lone wagon surrounded by animalistic hobgoblin raiders! Our heroes charged forward, sans Pierre, who was maintaining a low profile after being accused of being a killer, and Ionut, who had been requested to remain alongside his employer, Lasfelro, after a particularly nasty nightmare a few nights ago. Talon defeated one of the beasts singlehandedly, while the warlock Zomaya zapped one to death with eldritch energy, and Dame Alkwin made short work of another as Galoshti thorn-whipped her opponent to death. Shulhoris was unable to hit the wiry creatures, but the loss of so many of their number so quickly inspired the others to flee before the might of the caravan guards! The wagon owner, Enom, and his lone guard, Tobun, thanked the group and purchased some spare horses from the caravan in order to travel with them to Waterdeep.

Following the mid-morning stop on the 42nd day, Akshak fell from his horse and was trampled after his saddle strap snapped. Everyone agreed that his time had been marked, for he was the worst rider anyone in the caravan had ever seen. He was a nice enough fellow, and had freely drank and sang with all members of the caravan at one time or another, and he would be missed on chilly nights by the fire. Uncharacteristically, Beyd even treated the entire caravan to a drink (one per person, non-transferable, one night only) that night in memory of his hireling.

The following day was rainy and dark, as was the night afterwards, and the next 4 days and nights were the same dreary, wet, sogginess. Virtually nothing remained dry, and lighting cook-fires was an almost impossible task, aided only by magical flames conjured up by Zomaya and Ham, although none were brave enough to actually cook on the green fires Zomaya created, not knowing exactly what her strange patron created them from… The morning of the 45th day on the road dawned beautiful and bright, lifting everyone’s spirits until they stepped out of their tents and saw what the rain had nurtured – a veritable carpet of tiny mushrooms as far as the eye could see, and they were visibly growing as the caravan prepared to start the day’s travel! Although Galoshti and Margot determined that they were not poisonous, these strange fungi made horrible noises when stepped upon, like anguished moans. The horses were spooked by the sound and would not step upon them after a while, so the caravan leaders directed the guards to sweep a clear path through them to allow the wagons to continue the journey. As they stomped, hacked, and slashed the now foot-high fungi, the moans became blood-curdling screams, piercing into their memories of battle and strife, making them recall the most horrific things they’d ever experienced. After spending the morning at this distasteful task, the way was cleared-up along the road, and the caravan could continue unhindered. Talon and Margot were so distressed by the memories these noises brought back that they sunk into a depressive mood for the remainder of the day and swore off eating mushrooms ever again…

This brought the caravan past the Ardeep Forest, and into the safest part of the trip, a mere ten-day outside of Waterdeep, where regular patrols kept the Trade Way clear of hazards. The days moved quickly, and the nights even faster, as Beyd discounted the remains of his wagon each night and they all celebrated the impending end of their long voyage. Arriving at the outskirts of the “Crown of the North”, our adventurers received their pay with thanks from Lasfelro, Oyn, and Beyd, and were assured that they would always have a job defending trade caravans henceforth if they wanted. Unlike the rest of the traders, Irarum, Fearum, and Sharum led their wagons and guards past the market square, so saying their farewells to Osric, Shulhoris, and Zomaya, they set out to follow the cultists’ wagons through the city. The cultist wagons stopped in a stable next to a warehouse on the Northern side of the city, where 5 other wagons also waited. Rumor has it that the warehouse is a clearing house for construction teams setting out to help rebuild the roads North of the city that have been reclaimed by swampland after the destruction of Neverwinter years ago. Now that Neverwinter is being rebuilt, the road is as well, and it seems the Cult of the Dragon will be heading along that road with their queen’s horde of treasure…

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