After a long voyage at sea the fleet was finally closing in on Neverwinter. The heroes could see the towers of the fabled city in the far northern distance just cresting the rolling swells of the icy Sea of Swords. Sailors busily prepared for their arrival and no one noticed the dense mist creepy towards them from the eastward shores of the Mere of Dead Men. The Mere, a salty swampland serving as home to myriad unnamed and unknown horrors. The mist soon enveloped the ship in its chill embrace.
Suddenly, a cry went up from the crow’s nest before being abruptly cut short. Moments later, the lookout crashed onto the deck, a crude spear and fatal wound blossoming from his chest (thankfully, Ossendar Osterius was off watch today). Chaos broke out on deck as a dozen hulking bulliwugs scrambled over the gunnels and attacked wantonly. Cain Sundersword and Jarrus Stormrider cut down bulliwug pirates left and right and Rowen Evenwood let loose fierce volleys of arrows. Ossendar weaved through the fray, smashing one bulliwug after another with his Ki augmented strikes.
One bulliwug charged at Rowen, attempting to push her overboard! She deftly sidestepped the lumbering brute as she strummed her lute, creating a hypnotic pattern above the quarterdeck. She captured the attention of four of the frogmen bearing down on Captain Foamrider, but also sent the poor captain into a stupor. As the fighting raged across the ship, a particularly large and surly bulliwug crawled up over the aft quarterdeck gunnel. He wore an elaborate headdress of bone and skins and carried an ornate staff. Hopping over to his lackey’s aid he shook them free of their stupor and bellowed,
“Surrender or die! I, the Dread Pirate Captain ”/characters/phlarbex-spattergoo" class=“wiki-content-link”>Phlarbex Spattergoo now own this ship…Rib-bit!!!"
Spattergoo then stood poised to strike the incapacitated Captain Foamrider dead to hopefully cow the feisty crew. Clearly he underestimated the bravery and tenacity of Cain Sundersword, who used the power of divine vengeance to appear beside the Pirate and smote him! HARD. To Cain’s dismay, the pirate shrugged off the paladin’s holy wrath with a smirk as The Cry Daughter’s hold burst forth with six cultists. Each villain was dressed in black leathers and armed with scimitars and daggers ready to overtake the ship at last!
First Ossendar, then Jarrus, then Rowan each fell to the blades and spears of the Cult of the Dragon and their bulliwug pirate allies. As enemies closed in on Cain, the mysterious magician from earlier in their voyage appeared from nowhere on the forecastle deck. He had cast off his disguise and now openly revealed his bald, tattooed head and red intricate robes. A Red Wizard of Thay! Weaving an arcane word of paralysis the wizard overtook Cain’s will and froze the warrior where he stood.
Cain watched helplessly as he and his friends were bound in heavy shackles and revived. Surprisingly, the pirates and cultists bound Captain Foamrider and the rest of the remaining crew and tossed them unceremoniously into the hold as Spattergoo turned the Daughter east towards the distant Mere of Dead Men.
“Now that the good Captain has played his part,” cackled the wizard, “lets send these foolish heroes to the deep. We have no use for troublemakers in the Mere, right Pharblex?”
“Nope, toss them in swords and all. More to speed their doom!” replied Spattergoo.
A plank was hastily assembled and the four bound friends were poked and prodded with spears to persuade them to take the long walk. Not to be forced into anything, they each gave the pirates a solid ‘F U’ and jumped into the icy waters in turn.
The Daughter cruised away to the east, leaving the heroes to flounder in the waves. The gulls cackled and cawed overhead annoyingly and all appeared lost. Then, just as they were losing their strength and succumbing to the icy waters, a massive shadowy form appeared in the waters below, rising quickly towards them. The gulls cried and scattered as two enormous jaws engulfed all four of them and they were cast into darkness.
Some time later they all regained consciousness and found themselves in a remarkable and unexpected place! Through the damp gloom around them they could see a cavernous chamber and a nearby pool of clear blue water. The walls were jagged and rocky with moss and colorful seaweeds adorning them all the way up to the lofty ceiling. Along one wall were hundreds of small alcoves, each recess holding a small dragon shaped statue. In the cavern’s center a massive pile of treasure lay. Statues, gems, coins, arms and shining armor beckoned to them.
“Dragon…definitely a dragon.” said Jarrus. “touch nothing”.
Naturally, Ossendar’s curiosity soon got the better of him and he decided it would be prudent to check the periphery of the cavern, for you know…an exit. Not treasure. Never treasure! He made his way into the dark depths of the cavern, carefully avoiding touching any of the horde. At the far end of the cave his luck ran out and while he was admiring an especially opulent emerald pendent his foot fell onto a solitary silver coin…
From around the horde five suits of armor surged to life, clamoring their way directly towards the interlopers. Not quite recovered from their ordeal on the Daughter, Jarrus was quickly knocked out cold by one suit. Cain and Ossendar smashed a few other suits to pieces while Rowen chanted and encouraged the group, bolstering their health as best she could. Soon, the remains of all five suits of plate lay scattered about the horde room, all of them smashed to bits.
Busy recovering from smashing animated armor suits, none of the heroes noticed the gargantuan dragon head breaking the surface of the pool behind them. The dragon’s all-seeing eyes took them in one by one… breathed deep and…
“Ah, you’re awake! My name is Nymmurh, welcome to my home-What’s this?” his gaze fell upon the shattered armors.“Your curiosity seems to have gotten the better of you! No matter. I’ve been watching you on your voyage north aboard the Crying Daughter. Initially I was going to just bargain with Captain Barnabus for a share of that delightful treasure but when I came aboard to inspect it, I found the ‘Cult of the Dragon’ fools and quickly surmised the goods were stolen. You fought bravely against them, and the Sehuagin and you even rid my waters of that wretched sea hag, Mirbella. Come now, tell me your names and your tale. Obviously you weren’t on that ship by chance."
After introductions were made, Rowen recounted their adventures thus far. She expertly channeled her inner C-3PO and really dressed up their encounters with the cult in Greenest, the Thayan wizard in Scornubel and of course their adventures ashore in Mintarn and Waterdeep. Thoroughly impressed, Nymmurh goes on to explain himself.
“I am the Bronzescale Guardian of the Sword Coast (he puffs up his chest proudly and stretches his wings), an esteemed post among my kind that I have held proudly for near 1000 years. I guard the shores and seas from Luskan to Beregost, defending them as best I can from the agents of Olhydra, the Elemental Princess of Evil Water. It seems as though fortune and the Gods have brought us together at an opportune moment. For thousands of years the Scaly Death tribe of lizardmen in the nearby Mere of Dead Men have paid homage to my kind in the form of intricately carved coral dragon statues (he gestures towards the wall alcoves) and we, in turn, have protected them from many unseen perils.”
“However, five years ago the lizardfolk turned away from me. Thoss Fyurnen and Cheleen, a most foul pair of black dragons if there ever was one, have taken up residence in the heart of the Mere and they surely have something to do with it. I have had enough of their dark influences! Will you act as my agents in the Mere of Dead Men?”
The heroes accepted! But they needed more details…and of course there’s the issue of payment for services rendered.
“Find a way to bring the lizardmen back into the fold and when you’re ready, aid me in my assault on the black dragons. If I allow the black dragons to become aware of my ire the cowardly beasts will doubtlessly take flight or hide, so my involvement must be a secret for as long as possible. In return for your aid you will have the gratitude of the Seaflight Family of Bronze Dragons, your choice of the single finest item from the black dragons’ horde and 500 platinum pieces.”
Nymmurh took a moment and dug through a small pile and finally produced two small vials, a stone and a handful of bound scales. “Here, take these acid resistance potions and this sending stone. The potions purpose is obvious if you know anything about black dragons, and the stone is attuned to a stone I keep with me always. When you touch this stone with wet hands and say these words “Wer tairais ihk vargach ui sva cha’sid, Nymmurh”, I will know the time to destroy the upstart black whelps is at hand and seek you out with great haste. And here, take this patch of scales. I’d only just started collecting them so there’s only enough to make a pair of underwear… but it’s better than nothing right? Remember, the lizardfolk of the Mere are the true masters of their domain, though they have gone astray. With their aid, your mission to dispatch the black dragons and track the cult’s stolen treasure has a much greater chance of success. You should know that I followed The Crying Daughter into the swamp while you were resting and pirates have taken it’s captive crew and cargo to an abandoned pier just inside the Mere. I can bring you near to there but no farther, lest I risk detection."
Nymmurh then indulged the heroes with an evening of marvelous and interesting conversation. The chatty dragon regaled them with tales of the Bronze Dragonflight’s exploits and victories. Once the next morning had arrived and the heroes were rested, he transformed back into whale form and swallowed them back up for a very uncomfortable ride back to the surface.
With the midday sun high overhead Nymmurh coughed them each up onto the salty shores of the Mere of Dead Men. He bid them farewell and transformed into a dolphin before disappearing into the estuary’s murky byways. Ossendar scrambled up the nearest, tallest tree to get a good view of the lay of the land. He could see to the south a cluster of what could be masts poking above the treeline and to the northeast a rocky, tree-covered outcropping bulging out from the dense swamp trees. They decided to strike for the outcropping in hopes of finding the Scaly Death Tribe’s village.
Their gamble paid off and after a few hours of trudging through the briny muck of Mere they neared the outcropping enough to see that indeed it looked to be a rustic settlement. Suddenly, seemingly from thin air, three lizardfolk warriors astride giant lizards dropped into their midst. Each brandished a fierce spear and silently appraised them with emotionless eyes. One said,
“What you want here humans, elf-kind? This is the home of Scaly Death. Cult not welcome in village.”
The heroes explained that they are not of the Cult of the Dragon and would like to meet with their tribe’s leader. After some hushed whispers and hand signals one of the guards scampered up a nearby tree with his mount and leaped from tree to tree up into the village. A few moments later a shrill horn sounded and the heroes were led into the village. They met with the leader of the village, Chief Velkar who refused to act openly against the Cult of the Dragon, or the Black Dragons unless the heroes proved themselves friends to the tribe through action. With no better options, Velkar sent his last remaining shaman, a meager pupil named Snapjaw, with them into the Mere. He made clear that the Tribe despises the Bulliwugs empowered by the Cult, but that they must respect the power of the Black Dragons.
Snapjaw, practically a youngling by the look of him, told the heroes of a necromancer that had invaded an old human crypt deep in the Mere and was performing foul rituals on any deceased he could find.
“We could pay him a visit, hm? Maybe see what all the fuss is about?” Snapjaw suggests before transforming into a bat and fluttering into the misty trees.