Tyranny of Dragons

Into the Depths of Death's Domain
The Heroes Assault Thoss Fyurnen's Lair

As the twisted metal of the prison gate clanged in the mud at Cain’s feet a great clamor could be heard in the Dock house as the pirates and cultists threw down their flagons and put down their whores. Swarthy villains burst forth from the windows and poured out the doors in droves as First Mate Keenwright shepherded the beleaguered sailors out into the swamp. Only a few were able to escape before Pharblex Spattergoo, the dread pirate captain emerged. With a wave of his staff, a great thorny wall sprung up between the sailors and freedom.

The heroes went to work on these goons right away. Rowan started with a devastating Cloud of Daggers in the back doorway that sliced each of the cultists that poured out to ribbons. She hypnotized them soon there-after and left them drooling while she rained arrows and insults on the bulliwogs.

Cain, Ossendar and Jarrus waded into the pirates and slew them left and right as they rained down from open windows into the mud all around them. Pharblex, delighted to see Snapjaw , the failed shaman, with his enemies unleashed the full power of his stolen staff, hoping to bind them all with it’s power for his minions to cut down. He was too slow though and soon could tell he had underestimated the power the heroes brought to the battle. With his crew slain and the cultist allies scattered, the bloated bulliwug turned and fled out into the nearby river. Hot on his heels and looking for vengeance, Snapjaw transformed into a crocodile and leaped into the water after him. As Pharblex splashed and floundered Jarrus knocked his arrow and let fly, finding his mark in the back of the craven witch-doctor. From where the shaft buried itself into the back of Pharblex sprouted entangling vines, halting his flight. Between Jarrus’s arrows and Snapjaws rending teeth the leader of the bulliwug pirates didn’t last very long.

Snapjaw waded out from the water with a full belly and the Staff of the Mere in his hands. When Pharblex slew the Snapjaw’s mentor he stole the elder shaman’s staff and with it the power and confidence of the Scaly Death Tribe. Snapjaw was pleased to have it back and with it he led the refugee sailors and heroes back his village to rest and recuperate.

When they returned to the village Velkar greeted them as heroes! The staff and pride of the tribe had been returned and Snapjaw completed his trial and was now a full shaman! Velkar offered to shelter the sailors and their leader while they repaired the Crying Daughter. The heroes decided to follow the advice of Nymuurh and assault the lair of the Black Deaths, permanently freeing the Scaly Death Tribe from the influence of the Cult of the Dragon and returning them to worshiping the Seaflight family of Bronze dragons once again. Velkar warned them of their peril sent Snapjaw and a few of his finest warriors to escort them to the dragon’s lair.

For several days they traveled through the Mere of Dead Men, encountering an array of strange and foul creatures in their path. As they neared the lair the swamp clung to their every step, making their passage incredibly difficult. The air was thick with mist and they encountered a patrol of kobolds and black scaled drakes that they easily slew, but not before a single winged kobold escaped into the gloom.

Some time later they arrived at the rubble strewn hills and muddy pools that marked the entrance to the lair but found it strangely deserted. Rowan strolled up casually to the vine strewn maw and was ambushed by a swarm of kobolds and fierce, evil-eyed lizardfolk warriors. The heroes and their companions battled through their foes and slew them to the last. They felt pretty confident and decided to camp out outside the shallow cave to cure their wounds.

Bad move.

Thoss Fyurnen was not ignorant of their assault and came to the door to pay his guests welcome. As they rested the mighty dragon popped his head out from one of the pools and blasted the party with a fully strength acid blast from his hideous mouth. Rowan managed to avoid the worst of the blast but Jarrus took it full on, which knocked him to his knees and burned him terribly.

Snapjaw confessed he could not follow them into the Lair of the Black Deaths because of a madness curse that befell any of his kind inside the lair. He sent them with his boon and the blessing of the Scaly Death Tribe. The heroes pressed on without their shaman friend into the pool and descended into the dark waterways. After what seemed like an eternity they emerged in a dark and flooded cave. Their light stirred the swarms of quippers and stirges that made the greeting hall their home and the heroes had to scamper up onto nearby logs to avoid the flashing teeth. Ossendar discovered unpleasantly that the logs were home to swarms of ravenous centipedes as well and narrowly avoided them by jumping back into the waters. The stout monk fled to the nearby shore and with Jarrus’s aid slew the pesky stirges one by one.

A little shook up but no worse for wear, the heroes were presented with two paths to press forward into the dark caverns. The way on the right descended into glowing blue waters, beyond which were the snarls and growls of drakes and kobolds. The path to the left splintered and meandered into the darkness through loose roots and mud. From the darkness they could hear the pleas of a young girl in trouble. They decided that way was a better idea and set off.

A short way down the passage they encountered a pair of ravenous trolls. Rowan made clever use of her heat metal spell to burn the regenerative creatures with the embedded arrowheads of Jarrus and soon the horrid creatures lay in smoldering heaps. Battle-tired, the heroes decided that they would take their chances ducking into a side passage and using Rowan’s Leomund’s Tiny Hut spell to take a long rest. A risky move in a dragon’s lair! Time will tell if they are discovered by the lair’s many foul inhabitants and what the repercussions will be.

Luck was on their side that long night and it appeared that their antics thus far were not noticed by Thoss or his minions. Emerging from their shelter, they heard the continued cries of the mysterious woman echoing down the earthen corridors and decided to investigate. A short walk down the corridor brought them to a long and narrow chamber lined with tapestries on one side and alcoves on the other. The tapestries depicted people at feast and the alcoves each contained a defaced statue. The center of the room held a large, still pool that reeked of acid and the far end of the room was occupied by a large stone table and hanging, rotting corpses of all kinds. Upon the table the woman in question struggled to free herself as a hideous troll shambled out from the corpses to consume her. Convinced by the perilous scene, Ossendar and Cain bravely charged into the room to stop the monstrous creature only to fall pray to another. The woman vanished laughing and a faux tapestry revealed an especially large and hungry Otyguth, which promptly bore down on Jarrus. Slamming into Jarrus and Ossendar, the beastly monster flailed and smashed down on them while Cain battled the fearsome troll. Rowan hurled insults and spells to aid her friends. She was dismayed to see the stone door to the chamber slam shut and heard the unmistakable sound of a bar sliding into place on the other side. No escape that way. With some epic blows by Ossendar and Jarrus and a few well placed slices from Cain the monsters fell one after the other. Curiously, they found a locket and some strange Trolls Blood and Acid Resistance potions under the stone table and eventually found a secret door out into a long deserted hallway.

Creeping into the darkness they came upon a series of store rooms and one makeshift bedroom containing a glowing mirror. Inside the mirror the ghostly image of the woman from the table peered mournfully out at them. She begged them for some food and, upon learning that they held her locket and had met ‘Greta the Hag’ (presumed to be the disappearing girl from the other room) asked one of them to let her possess them and kill Greta herself. Greta kidnapped the poor woman when she was a girl and used the trolls blood potions and trolls to perpetually harvest her for fresh limbs. After who knows how long of torment the girl freed herself into the maw of the otyguth, only to be bound to this mirror until she pays back Greta. Cain, moved by her need for vengeance, took on the poor soul and allowed her to hitch a ride until they could catch up with the Hag and put her down.

Stumbling deeper into the darkness the party came upon a larder and battled several hungry carrion crawlers and the fiendish Hag. Her ability to escape the clutches of the party was horrifying.

The next room they came upon was a mushroom filled high ceiling cave where they could hear the roars and cackles of drakes and kobolds near at hand. They warily made their way through the cavern but eventually tripped a shrieking mushroom trap that awoke the sleeping stirge swarm roosting above them. Using some newly aquired arcane knowledge, Rowan summoned a swarm of massive bats! The bats devoured the stirges she was totally OP, yet again. Ossendar decided to creep off on his own down a side path and came face to face with a ‘beholder’! Fortunately one punch was all it took to explode the creature into motes of dust that gently drifted into Ossendar’s lungs. He felt…odd…after that. They pressed on!

in the next chamber they found a half flooded assembly room and the waiting Hag with the remaining forces of Thoss and Cheleen. Kobolds swarmed out of crevices in the walls and fierce black drakes leaped across the room at them. Confident in her numbers, Greta pulled a lever on the wall behind her, causing a collapse in the tunnel behind the heroes. Again, no escape! Greta drifted in and out of sight, clawing and casting her cackling spells as best she could at Cain and Jarrus. Rowan yet again flexed her spell prowess and locked down some of the lizardfolk lackeys with a hypnotic pattern in the air that kept them stupefied. With the dragon’s minions smashed around them Cain bore down on Greta, leaping onto her throat with his bare teeth rending into her flesh in a ghastly (ghostly) display of wrathful vengeance. Successfully achieving the ghosts unrestful wish, the spirit left the paladin and drifted to the ethereal plane to find peace at last. Roused by the ruckus outside his chamber and still deeply overconfident, Thoss slithered from the water and gave the heroes a quick thrashing before fleeing to call home his mistress, Cheleen. Before giving chase they found a magic ring on the Hag and discovered the ghosts locket was magically preventing them from feeling the effects of disease (albeit it also made them crave raw flesh). They called on Nymmurh using their sending stone and pressed on, trusting the great dragon would come to their aid before Cheleen could arrive and surely spell their doom.

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Poor Captain Barnabus
The Heroes get Heroic

The Heroes woke the next morning refreshed and set off into the swamp for their return trudge to the Scaly Death Tribe’s village. They had an uneventful journey and arrived at the village by early afternoon. They then presented themselves to Velkar victorious over Narkem and his undead horde. Velkar was impressed (naturally) and the heroes’ status within the tribe rose considerably. Before a feast could be prepared a cry went up and a battle horn sounded! Lizardfolk scurried about securing their loved ones and locking up their homes while the village warriors rallied to their chieftain. Velkar led the group to a nearby overlook and from there they could see several sentries fighting a losing battle against the swamp itself!

Velkar turned to his warriors and the heroes and said “The Creeping Deaths are upon us! Quick- we must fight them off before they get catch the scent of our food stores or the clutches! Without them the Scaly Death Tribe is lost!”

The heroes seized the opportunity to protect their new allies in the Mere and leaped into the fray below. The swamp creatures were monstrous plant creatures given life by some primordial evil and were insatiable in their need for organic matter. They greedily consumed the bodies of the fallen sentries and were rumbling their way directly to the Tribe’s food stores when the heroes caught up with them. They slashed at the hungry walking bushes, leaving one nearly limbless when a second horror engulfed Cain Sundersword outright! Snapjaw had to grab the paladin by his boots and pull him free while Ossendar (The Hideous) Osterius and Jarrus Stormrider found torches they could use to light the creatures aflame and hopefully drive them off. Their plan worked and the monsters were soon shambling away as fast as their roots could take them! Huzzah!

Having secured secret allies against the cult and the bulliwug pirates, the heroes now turned their attention to the nearby dockhouse and the captured crew of the Crying Daughter.

The afternoon of their second day in the Mere of Dead Men was spent navigating the misty byways with their increasingly capable guide, Snapjaw. They encountered a patrol of Kobolds with several fierce Black Drakes they used as mounts. They got the jump on the group and made short work of them. They learned from their battle cries that they served “The Black Ones”, likely meaning Thoss and Cheleen. When they neared the tidal flats that made up most of the harbor they saw several ships in various states of decay and disrepair scattered about. One ship beached along the shore looked familiar and when they crept closer they could see it was the Crying Daughter! Ossendar and Jarrus sneaked aboard and searched the vessel top to bottom for any sign of the crates containing the stolen treasure. No luck. Jarrus concentrated his hunter senses and could tell that the mask warn by the Red Wizard was relatively nearby. Possibly in the dockhouse even? When the two returned to the group they revealed to Snapjaw what they were looking for and the druid had some important information for them. The Scaly Death Tribe had been ferrying crates for the cult between the dockhouse and an old castle many miles into the swamp called Naerytar.

The party gathered themselves and attempted to creep stealthily through the swamp to the dockhouse but were totally busted by a bulliwug patrol. They made short work of these brutes and collected their eyes to give to Velkar. Gross.

When they reached the edge of the small clearing containing the dockhouse and adjacent warehouse they could make out the scene in much greater detail. Sadly, Captain Barnabas met a tragic end. They could easily see his lifeless body hanging from a tree near the docks. Two dozen sailors were locked up in a makeshift prison beneath the dockhouse, which was lifted some 5’ above the muddy swamp by stilts. The jail’s lone gate was obviously locked, but appeared to be unattended. A raucous gathering of pirates and cultists seemed to be going on inside the dockhouse and the windows were lit but grimy. Jarrus and Rowen set up traps at the front and back door and Ossendar and Cain approached the jail door cautiously. As they crept closer they could make out a few uncharacteristically large muddy lumps that appeared to be…breathing? Cain, not one for a cautious approach, channeled his Misty Step ability to close the gap instantly on the concealed sentries and struck down with his sword with all his might. The concealed bulliwug guards fell nearly instantly before the pair’s onslaught! With the guards dead, First Mate Kel’ritha Keelwright approached them from behind the bars and in a hushed whisper said,

“Quiet! That bastard Spattergoo has the only key and he’s upstairs with at least a dozen bulliwugs and maybe half that many cultists. The crew is pretty beat up and we’re in no condition to fight. We need a plan.”

Cain smirked and said, “F that. We’re getting you out of there. Now. Run straight for the swamp and follow our new friend, Snapjaw!”

With three thunderous pulls he tore the gate from it’s hinges and tossed it aside. Many boots scuffled above and several voices could be heard shouting orders as the front and back doors flew open. It is ON!

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Building Swamp Credit
Adventures in the Mere

Determined to prove themselves to the Velkar, the leader of the Scaly Death Tribe, the heroes set off into the Mere of Dead Men in search of a foul necromancer.

With Snapjaw leading them, they walked for several uneventful hours into the misty swamp. As dusk settled they heard in distance the hissing chants of some indecipherable religious incantation. Creeping closer for a better look, Jarrus Stormrider, Ossendar, The Hideous Osterius and Rowen Evenwood could make out three female humans around a small altar. Jarrus’ foot fell on a twig as he worked to get a better look at the three lovely ladies and the jig was up. They each beckoned to the hunter in turn, eventually breaking his will. The enchanted human stumbled forward and laid down on the altar, primed for a sacrifice.

Looking on in horror, Rowen and Ossendar could see these women were no human enchantresses, but Yuan-ti Purebloods! Their patches of scaly skin and snake-like eyes gave them away! Ossendar leaped to his friends aid and came in swinging before the foul females could dig their blades into the enchanted ranger. Perched in the trees above them, two Yuan-ti Malisons rained down arrows on the heroes, their lower bodies had the form of tails and they used them to wrap around the tree. Channeling his Ki, Ossendar snatched an arrow from the air before it found him and hurled it back with deadly accuracy. Cain Sundersword charged in swinging at the Purebloods, hacking them down one by one as Rowen unleashed a volley of her own up into the Yuan-ti sentries. Frustrated and unable to reach the two, Cain dropped his shield and channeled his divine fury, magically bridging the gap with his Fade Step ability and catching himself on a tree branch near one of the creatures. He then slashed at the beastly snake man and forced him to the ground. It wasn’t long before the heroes dispatch the whole Yuan-ti group and resumed their walk towards the necromancer’s lair.

They had been walking carefully forward in the darkness, Snapjaw and Ossendar leading the way for nearly an hour when they came upon a small clearing in the dense swamp. At the clearings center a small domed sepulcher stood, around which a dilapidated fence enclosed an array of scattered and broken gravestones. Snapjaw looked back at them nervously and whispered,

“This is the resting place of the human people who once dwelt near the Mere. The swamp has taken it and now a wizard desecrates it. We should be cautious…he breaks the order with his magics.”

Cain wisely delved into his holy magics and perceived that scores of undead were somewhere within the yard. Ossendar crept closer, and could make out the glow of enchantment emanating from within the Sepulcher. A horrid stench of death was about the place and as they all closed in on the necromancer’s lair the yards inhabitants crawled up from the loose mud and attacked! Charging in bravely to take the fight the evil necromancer, Cain and Ossendar were soon trapped when several rotting lizardfolk bodies staggered up from where they lay and attacked. The necromancer cackled as he disappeared from the dark crypt,

“So, you’ve come to join Narkem’s collection? Excellent!”

Bobbing and weaving, Ossendar’s fists crushed the brains of a zombie before it could make a meal of his. Cain hacked another zombie in two with ease. Outside, the necromancer kept Rowen on the defensive with his Counterspell charms and Snapjaw and Jarrus managed to keep the skeletal forces at bay.

“To the Shadowfell with you!” Narkem screamed and with an outstretched finger he leveled a foul incantation on Ossendar and Rowen. The pair faded from sight completely! The battle raged on in the graveyard and after a brief moment they reappeared, but their cheeks were pale and they were visibly horrified by what they had seen in their brief time in the plane of Death and Sadness.

The necromancer rained down vile sapping energies on Jarrus but the heroes converged on the madman and cut him down. The undead didn’t last long against the heroes and soon Narkem and his budding legion was in utter ruin. When investigating the dead mage’s lair they discovered some potions and other assorted valuables, and a Tome of Resurrection!

Not wanting to brave the trek back to the village through the swamp by night, the five made their camp there in Rowen’s enchanted enclosure. They were safe from any unwanted visitors, but the effects of their trip to the Shadowfell still weighed heavily on Rowen and Ossendar.

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Frogs and Scales
The Dread Pirate Strikes and an Ally is Revealed

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.

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High Seas and High Adventure
A Brush with Disaster and Intrigue in Waterdeep

Back on the Sea of Sword, the Crying Daughter made excellent headway towards Waterdeep. Their luck sadly did not last. Still a week at best from their destination, the skies darkened and storm clouds rolled in on an otherwise pleasant day at sea. The crew grew nervous at the sudden and unnatural change in the weather and Captain Barnabus’ face went pale and grim. A few hundred yards off a massive dark bulk could be seen just below the surface, approaching the fleet at great speed. A few moments later a cry went up as a massive tentacle slithered over the gunnel and snatched up a nearby sailor. Horrified, Cain Sundersword slashed the slimy thing away and freed the terrified man…only to see more tentacles emerge from the dark water and find more sailors!

“Fight! Fight for your lives! The Kraken has found us!” wailed First Mate Keelwright as she desperately tried to fend off another tentacle.

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Bravery (or madness) overtook Ossendar Osterius and he slammed back a water breathing potion and leaped from the crows nest down into the black water. Plunging into the darkness the monk was confronted with a horrible sight. A pair of massive eyes and a maw with a seemingly endless field of sword-like teeth peered up at him from the blackness. Steeling himself for his probable demise, the monk found an inner peace, focused his ki into his fists and swam towards one of the giant eyes.

Back on deck, Rowen Evenwood did her best to inspire her allies as they fended off the probing tentacles of the Kraken. Cain ran below deck to find harpoons to drive off the beast (cleverly stored in the harpoon closet of course).

Ossendar delivered a flurry of blows to the giant eye and the great beast grunted in brief irritation, then it reached out and easily grasped the impish monk with one of it’s many tentacles, crushing the heroic fool. Struggling futilely against the Kraken’s inevitable victory, the monk was swallowed whole. Once inside the foul maw, Ossendar was able to crack one of the many teeth of his death prison and hope was kindled. But the Kraken’s acidic saliva was overpowering, and the monk’s skin began to bubble and melt away as death took him.

The remaining heroes looked on helplessly from the deck of the Daughter in dismay as their companion was consumed. Oddly, Jarrus Stormrider‘s Primal Awareness tingled, and he could feel the presence of a dragon of incredible power. Scanning the skies above he could see no dragons. Suddenly, a flash of brilliant scales like a massive fish sped between the onlooking crew and the writhing Kraken. The waters churned and bubbled with acidic fumes and flashes of lightning lit up the darkness. The skies cleared. The water lightened. The Kraken was gone. Ossendar’s body floated to the surface.

After a long night of healing potions and all the rejuvenating chants Rowen could recite, the foolish monk pulled through, though his skin would be forever horribly scarred. He now resembled the unwanted child of an avocado that had sex with a older, uglier avocado.

Several days later Ossendar the Hideous was awoken by the sound of hushed whispers in the cargo hold down the hall. Remembering their mission to track the movements of the Cult of the Dragon and their stolen treasure, Ossendar woke his companions to observe a secret cultist meeting. They overheard references to ‘Naerytar’, a ‘Mere of Dead Men’ and someone named ‘Spattergoo’. As the monk looked on stealthily from the shadows, a blue crab conspicuously skittered across his feet and zipped out a nearby port hole. Weird.

Jarrus Stormrider crept up behind the monk to get a better view, knocking an arrow tentatively… just in case. His distraction cost him though and his foot fell onto a particularly creaky board. The sound alerted the sentries to the interlopers and they attacked! Ossendar cried out that a mutiny was afoot and fought fiercely with the cultists, Jarrus’ arrows whizzed past his pointy ears and found their marks deep in the chests of the two nearest foes. Cain, seeing no easy path into the fray, channeled his divine powers and teleported in the midst of the group while Rowen traded spells with a mysterious masked magician hidden by the hold’s depths. She moved back to cover the ladder to the upper deck when the magician disappeared from view. She stroked her Lyre and summoned a hypnotic pattern in the midst of the melee, stupefying Cain and several of the remaining villains. Above her, the magician appeared between the heroes and the quickly assembling crew and captain. Captain Barnabus tolerates no brawling on his vessel, but by some magical contrivance he was persuaded by the hooded magician to confine only the heroes to their quarters and the brig.

A few days later they arrived in Waterdeep, the City of Splendors and Jewel of the Sword Coast. They were unceremoniously handed off to the city guard to be judged by the Dock Ward magistrate in a weeks time. As it stood, their journey north with the fleet was at a end.

Sitting in their cell, the familiar soft patter of small gnomish feet approached them. Jamna Gleamsilver appeared before them, smug as ever.

“Quite the predicament you four have landed yourselves in. Lucky for you, The Black Network might just be able to help…” she said with a mischievous gleam in her eye.

Jamna secured their pardon by the magistrate in exchange for a solid, ‘you owe us…BIGTIME.’ from the heroes to the Zhentarim. On their way out into the Dock Ward Jamna mentioned that their crew was at the Yawning Portal, a nearby tavern of good repute. She then disappeared into the bustling streets. Waterdeep is a busy and well organized city, and the Watch keeps a sentinel’s eye on the normally peaceful streets.They arrived at the Yawning Portal a short time later, ready to party! In the bar they found a raucous but merry gathering of sailors from around Toril and showed Captain Barnabus their pardon papers (much to the captain’s relief). The heroes got about celebrating their freedom with vigor! Before long a stranger approached them, a stranger that that looked vaguely… familiar? It was their friend, Leosin Erlanthar, in a clever disguise! He was happy to see they’d been released and had some updates from the Harper spy network.

“The Cult of the Dragon has been raiding settlements all up and down the Sword Coast. While you’ve been at sea they’ve become bolder and bolder, hitting larger settlements with greater frequency. The pattern has remained the same. They raid settlements and move the stolen goods to the coast where it is loaded on ships, never to be seen again. None of our agents have reported in once they’ve left port…except you.”

He warned them to watch their backs and snuck off before he attracted too much attention. As he left, the heroes noticed a group of swarthy sailor’s looking threateningly their way across the bar, several of them from the group they’d brawled with in the hold only a few days past. Their leader was a hulking half-orc guard from the Feasting Father who stood at least seven and a half feet tall! The brute strode over confidently to Cain, looming over the ginger paladin and doing his best to be intimidating.

“You! The a curse of the 9 Hells on you and may Tiamat feast on your souls. I know you are to blame for Clabrack’s death on the Crying Daughter. Vengeance will be mine and you will pay! Raise your sword, scum!”

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Cain took up the challenge and the two (along with their assorted companions and many bar patrons) funneled out into the street. Not wanting to end up in jail another night and miss their voyage in the morning, Rowen sauntered over to the nearby members of the Watch and ‘distracted’ them. An expert in diversion and performance, she easily kept their attention firmly off the dual. As Cain readied himself for the combat, Ossendar and Jarrus worked the crowd, taking bets and sowing rumors about the offending sailor cultists.

Cain and the half-orc traded blows, but first blood went to the Brute when his warhammer found its mark. Divine Might flowed through Cain and he countered with smite after smite with his longsword. It wasn’t long before the half-orc buckled before the assault and with a final bash with his pommel, Cain knocked out the foolish cultist. Once revived, the bitter thug looked at Cain and said dumbly,

“We see how you do when you meet Spattergoo. Not so well me thinks.”

The night was full of victory songs and merry-making as the heroes celebrated Cain’s victory, their release from prison and their miraculous escape from the Kraken. Cain had the time of his life, winning round after round of cards, dice and darts. Alas, Ossendar pissed off the bartender and made an enemy of the staff with his poor tipping. Good thing there are hundreds of other bars in Waterdeep!

The next morning the fleet embarked on the (hopefully) final leg of their journey to the city of Neverwinter. Spirits were high, the weather was fair and Captain Barnabus was skillfully making his way up the coast. There was little sign of the mysterious magician above decks and a dozen or so of the crew now gave the heroes a wide berth. A week passed with little eventful happenings, but on the 8th night out from Waterdeep a squall fell upon the fleet and scattered the ships.

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The Crying Daughter managed the storm well and was underway again in no time. Early that morning as they sailed on they found a man adrift, clinging to some debris and barely alive. Upon questioning, they learned the man had fallen off the Feasting Father during the storm. After rejuvenating the man with healing magic, Rowen discovered the man wore a Harper pendant. She revealed that she was a member of the Harpers as well, and the man revealed his true tale. He was accused of foul play by members of the crew he suspected were members of the Cult of the Dragon and tossed from the ship by it’s shrewd captain. A seagull suspiciously was caught eavesdropping, but flew off before it could be captured.

A few days later the winds died down and a dense, chilly fog fell on the Daughter . Bodies of drowned sailors drifted by as they moved forward through the mist and eventually they came upon The Wretched Hag. The ship appeared abandoned and Captain Barnabus asked the proven heroes to cross to the Hag and determine what the status of the ship was. They found on deck a truly horrific sight. From a pile of seaweed two sea hags slithered out, their horrific appearance struck terror into all who gazed on them. The two screamed in unison,

“You’ve come to take our pretty new ship away hm? Gaze into the eyes of Mirbella and Girbella the beautiful and think again!”

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Scared shitless by the Hags’ otherworldly and ghastly appearance, the heroes jumped back into their boat and began to flee. Before they got far though, two Merrow harpoons burst out from the dark water, and Jarrus was dragged into the icy waves by the abyssal monsters. Overcoming their fear, Ossendar and Rowen climbed back on board to deal with the hags. Rowen delivered a powerful hypnotic spell on the pair, taking them effectively out of the fight. However, no sooner had she cast her spell but from the depths of the ship the corpses of sailors shambled into view. The zombies were cut down one by one while Jarrus and Cain (astride his sweet new Killer Whale mount) made short work of the monstrous Merrow. Eventually, with the zombie sailors properly disassembled, Cain and Ossendar made short work of one of the hags. Before the other Hag (Girbella) could be slain too it escaped over the side and disappeared beneath the waves.

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Kugag Laid Low
Kugag's Story revealed and back on the High Seas

The Heroes bravely entered the silent tomb of Kugag with frayed nerves. What elemental beasts awaited them in the shadows? Before them on a raised dais in the room’s center a massive sarcophagus sat, while at the rooms far end a life sized statue of a mighty Storm Giant, presumably Kugag himself stood as a silent sentinel. Leaping boldly up onto the sarcophagus, Ossendar Osterius stirred the spirit of the dead giant and Kugag’s ethereal essence possessed the nearby statue.

“Who are you who beg doom and plunder my tomb?” asked the statue.

The heroes felt kinda like dicks but introduced themselves in turn. At Kugag’s request they told of their quest to thwart the plot of the Cult of the Dragon to amass a horde and somehow free the Queen of Evil Dragons, Tiamat, from her prison in the Nine Hells. Kugag then told them his own tragic story.

When defeated by the metallic dragons in ancient times long forgotten, his kind was abandoned by their cruel god, Amman. In a bid to win back Amman’s favor, a Cloud Giant King named Gratogalkus rallied all giants and began subjugating and enslaving the smaller races of the world. In protest and pity, Kugag crafted the Hammer of Ages and gifted it to the dwarf king Adrozag. Led by Adrozag and the Hammer of Ages, the dwarves cast down the giant overlords and shattered their armies.

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“So terrible a weapon I made, so many slain seeking the favor of our lost god Amman. My pity on the smaller races and rejection of the brutality of my kind brought ruin to us all. Will we ever rise again? Should we? You are here to seek the Hands of Strength no doubt. You may not have them! I will not bring more suffering to my people however misguided they may be. Now (sigh)…you must die.”

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The possessed Kugag statue waded into battle with the Heroes. Crashing lightning fists and powerful lightning bolts coursed through Cain Sundersword and the heroes were hard pressed by the giant’s onslaught. But it seemed time had worn away at the Giant’s fighing prowess, or his statue wasn’t made of stern enough stuff. Soon the mighty statue was cast down, and Kugag’s spirit disappeared. Left behind, the hands of the statue looked strikingly similar to those depicted in the murals as being used by Adrozag while wielding the great Hammer of Ages. Donning the gloves gave Cain the feeling of incredible strength! Enough to move mountains perhaps? As Ossendar and Rowen Evenwood collected the beautiful gems from the sides of sarcophagus curiosity nearly broke the Paladin’s resolve. The greedy monk begged him to use his new strength to open the sarcophagus of Kugag and search for the Hammer of Ages.

“Nay, good friend.” said Cain to Ossendar. “Kugag was a hero in his time and I will not disturb his slumber any more.” Epic. As. Fuck.

Silent up to now, Jamna Gleamsilver took this moment to remind them all that the only reason they were there was to escort her as she collected the sweet loot from this place. She wasn’t going to be unreasonable though as she didn’t favor her chances against the might heroes. She offered to forget she ever saw the gloves in exchange for their pay and the newfound gems. The heroes obliged and upon exiting the sundered tomb Jamna bid them a unceremonious farewell. The heroes returned with a day and a night to kill in Mintarn and celebrated their victories with vigor.

Back on the Sea of Swords with their Captain Barnabus Foamrider and Sal’Rtha Keelwright at the helm! A week went by the treacherous waters as The Crying Daughter dodged pirates and fought off both Sehuagin and Harpy raiders. With another fortnight at sea before they were expected to arrive in Waterdeep, who knows what adventures might lay before them?

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The Fury of the Elements
The Spices Search for the Keys to Kugag's Tomb

Gazing up at the wonders of the aquatic world above them the Spices were in awe of the Tomb of Kugag. Many incredible creatures of the deep could be seen swimming by, including a whale of incredible size. Truly, the dwarves must have held this storm giant in high esteem to build him such a place to eternally rest. The story of Kugag and the dwarves played out in relief carvings along the walls of the room. A terrible war was waged by giants of all kinds against the people of Faerun in ancient times. Kugag is portrayed as the bringer of hope and salvation, though it is not apparent how or why a storm giant would betray his people. A massive door loomed before them at one end of the perfectly circular room and four doorways led off into the gloom. Braziers adjacent each doorway swirled with the elements; fire, wind, water and earth. The massive door had four empty sockets and their task appeared clear. Find the keys to the sockets to breach Kugag’s tomb and claim his treasure.

First they delved into a room of bitter cold. They found a frozen pool that contained a glowing blue orb in it’s depths. Ornery ice mephits greeted them and tried to thwart their attempts to access the ice covered pool. Upon touching the pool’s frozen surface, a Water Weird burst forth and lashed out at the heroes. The fearless monk, Ossendar Osterius dived into the form of the water weird and managed to pass through it into the depths of the pool. Ossendar swam to the orb on it’s pedestal without succumbing to the icy waters and escaped the fluid tendrils of the water weird as well. But the magical power of the key flash froze the water of the pool again, sealing the monk and Cain Sundersword in ice. With immense strength Cain cracked the restraining ice and escaped the Water Weird before the guardian could drown him. Passing over the threshold seemed to dispel the guardian and they walked away chilled, but resolute.

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The heroes next tackled searing heat of the room of flames. Intolerable blasts of heat leaped forth randomly from fissures in the floor and magma mephits shrieked and clawed at the intruding heroes. So long had the heat brewed in the depths of the tomb that they had attracted fire snakes from the plane of elemental flame to them, and they fiercely defended their home. This time it was the bold Jarrus Stormrider who nimbly ducked in and out of the flames, managing to traverse much of the gauntlet without meeting harm. His luck ran out though as several of the snakes and mephits converged on him. The searing heat from their flesh nearly bucked the brave ranger but he was rescued by the healing words of Rowen Evenwood. Eventually Ossendar again was able to retrieve the key from it’s resting place. Without the key the searing flames were subdued and the Spices were able to squelch their flaming garments and left the room victorious.

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After a brief rest to mend their wounds, the heroes decided to tackle the room of howling winds. In this room they found a series of pillars scattered about a windy room with a tall monolith at it’s center. At the top of the monolith they presumed their next key awaited them. Seeing an opportunity to break the shit of out the DM’s – er- I mean cleverly ascend the monolith, Ossendar tied a thin piece of rope to an arrow and Rowan shot it over the top, trying to secure a climbing rope somehow. The trick worked, but as soon as Ossendar grabbed the rope to start climbing he was hoisted up into the clutches of a very angry Air Elemental. The otherworldly strength of the creature was not enough to squash the pesky monk though, and he nimbly ducked much of it’s assault. The monk managed to grab the key from it’s nearby resting place and base-jumped off the monolith. Never had the skills of a monk been more utilized than this day. Focusing his Ki, the portly bearded bastard fell harmlessly to the earth. HERO KNEE SLAM! The air elemental swept down among the Spices like a hurricane and battered Jarrus and Cain, tossing the pair like ragdolls while searching for it’s lost Key. Eventually the magical spells and arrows of Rowan and Jamna Gleamsilver sent the windy creature back to it’s plane. On to the earth key room!

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This dark earthen cavern seemed to be an intricate set of natural tunnels and at first the key alluded them. Suddenly, the wall behind Ossendar came alive as a massive boulder fist crashed down on the monk. An earth elemental of incredible strength and durability and it’s mud mephit allies smashed into the party from all sides. The elemental passed through the caverns walls like a great fish through water. Again and again the fists smashed into the ranger, paladin and monk, but it was the cunning words of the Bard that brought them relief. A spell whispered from the lips of the beautiful Aasimar caused the elemental to launch into an uncontrollable fit of laughter. The peals of laughter sounded like a landslide and rumbled through the cavern, causing dust to fall from the ceiling. By the time the creature composed itself and shook off the powerful spell, the blows of the Spices had nearly whittled it down to mere pebbles. As the last boulder cracked asunder a glowing orb of elemental energy popped out. The final key to the tomb of Kugag the Betrayer was theirs.

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Kugag's Tomb
A Storm Giant's tomb is no place for the unwary

After a pitched battle with the Sehuagin, Captain Foamrider brought the fleet to the Freeport of Mintarn for repairs and resupply. Before they could settle in Jamna Gleamsilver approached the Spices with a job offer. A group of Zhentarim ‘archaeologists’ has gone missing on a nearby island while investigating a tomb. She was tasked with the recovery of the team and their goods, but intends to finish their mission as well. She needs muscle, hero muscle… Spice muscle! The area of Mintarn is lorded over by a ornery ancient red dragon named Hoondarrh and she had no intention of ending up in his belly. Having a week to kill, the Spices decided to make some coin while they waited for the Lonely Son’s repairs to be completed.

Jamna commissioned a small sailing vessel to take them to the somewhat remote island where the tomb was said to be located. Besides an attack by a pair of hungry Perytons the voyage was uneventful. By mid afternoon they had beached their vessel and made their way to the far side of the island. They were surprised to find a group of sailors from the Howling Hound on the beach as they rounded a rocky outcropping.

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The sailors had heard tales of a great stag with a coat of pure gold that made it’s home on the island. They promptly took to the woods to search for and slay the beast. The Spices decided to join them and before long Jarrus Stormrider and an invisible Rowen Evenwood found their quarry. Amazed by the beauty of the golden stag, Rowan could not raise her hand against the beast. With the help of Ossendar Osterius they persuaded the stag that they meant it no harm. The creature then beckoned the Spices, seemingly asking them follow it into a nearby ruin.

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They followed, and once they promised not to slay it for profit it revealed a divination, saying “Though much pain lays yet before you, stay true to your path and follow the river of Gold to the castle in the sky.” The stag then offered them an Elvish Songbow to aid them in their quest and thanked them for their mercy.

The Spices reached their destination by late afternoon. The Zhentarim expedition’s camp was pristine, but deserted. The camp laid just outside a great cave opening along the craggy seashore. Jamna noticed that the tracks of the archaeologists led directly to the cave opening.

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The Spices carefully investigated the cave and found a gruesome but puzzling scene inside. The expedition members were found all dead on the cave floor, their battered bodies covered with blisters and apparently drowned as well. A great door stood at the far end of the cavern above which read in dwarven script “Here Lies Kugag, Beloved Betrayer. Endure as he and you may pass” and four pillars of unique construction stood at it’s center. On each pillar a riddle was written in a different language:

A smooth blue stone pillar with a basin protruding from it read in Celestial, “I look flat, but I am deep, Hidden realms I shelter. Lives I take, but food I offer. No man can own me, yet I encompass what all men must have.”

A intricately carved sandstone pillar with a small hole carved in it read in Primordial “Born of cold and born of heat. Pacing the world on legs fleet. Swiftest on high, lethargic down low. The actions are seen, but the form does not show.”

A roughly hewed granite pillar with a jagged recess read in dwarven script, “I wear a crown of white and a shirt of green. My heart is heavy and hard, though I know no sorrows. To the sea I march day by day and yet I never reach it.”

Finally, a jet-black glassy pillar with a notch in it had writing that nobody could decipher, so the Spices decided to rest the night while Rowan brushed up on her Comprehend Languages Spell.

Shortly before dawn the Spices were awoken by the sound of howling wolves in the distance and quickly came under assault by a pair of Dire Wolves and their wolf pack. The massive beasts burst forth from the trees and their snapping jaws dug into the Spices where-ever they could. Jarrus was surrounded, but his flashing blades slew many of the wolves before they make a meal of him. Coming to the aid of his companion, Cain Sundersword channeled all the fury of his faith and smote the male Dire Wolf…HARD. With their pack now in ruin, the remaining Dire Wolf fled into the gray morning mist.

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Ready for whatever might burst forth from the tombs massive doors, the Spices set about to solve the riddles. Casting her comprehend languages spell on herself, Rowan read the black pillar’s Jotun (giant) speech riddle, “A bound serpent dances on the cave floor. A writhing guardsman of the windy door. Sharp yet supple and mute yet speaking. Devoid of hunger, nourishment seeking.”

The elements of course! But what sequence would spare them the same fate as the last expedition? With no obvious course before them the Spices decided…to hell with it! Cain poured his flagon worth of seawater into the blue pillar’s basin. What’s the worst that could happen, right? The cave mouth immediately sealed them in by some hidden mechanism and water burst forth from the tomb’s ceiling and began to rapidly fill the room. Sensing a slight weakness in their plan, Cain scooped up a torch from a fallen researcher, lit it and placed it into the black pillar’s notch. Immediately the water and the air in the room began to feel much warmer and several of the party began to feel the heat. Jarrus reached down and scooped up some sand from the cave floor and stuffed it into the granite recess, causing the ceiling to begin dropping down toward them! Time seemed short as the water deepened, the ceiling began to drop while the temperature climbed. Jamna swam down to the remaining air pillar and blew into it as hard as she could. Arcane light burst forth up from the cave floor, revealing an unseen portal circle beneath the sands between the pillars. After a blinding flash, Jamna and the Spices found themselves prone on the floor of a great circular room. They could see faintly above them the depths of the ocean through clear crystal. Faint blue light from the far away surface revealed a room with intricately carved reliefs on the walls and a massive humanoid statue at the room’s center. Four dark doorways lined the walls around them… they had arrived in Kugag’s Tomb!

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The Sea of Swords
High Adventure on the High Seas

With Frulam Mondath in tow, the Spices embarked on a brief cruise down the Chionthar River to the city of Elterel to meet the Harper agent, Leosin Erlanthar at the Green Dragon Inn. Approaching the city they couldn’t help but notice the shining orb floating above the central citadel, the Companion. This orb of divine radiance shines over the City of Elterel at all times and is said to protect the entire realm of Eltergard from creatures intolerant of sunlight (Drow, Vampires, Zombies etc.). After delivering Frulam into custody of the city guard they set out into the city to find the Green Dragon Inn. They found the Inn easily enough and were greeted by their old friend Leosin. Before they got a chance to catch up though, Leosin introduced them to his associate, Ontharr Frume, a paladin of Torm and the leader of the Order of Gauntlet. Ontharr challenged the Spices to a number of good-spirited drinking games and tests of strength during their evening in the Green Dragon. Jarrus got his ass kicked in arm wrestling and Cain shamed the fellow paladin in the art of the guzzle. Eventually, Ontharr was impressed by the Spices and at last saw the spark of debauchery – er- heroism that Leosin had extolled. As the hour grew late Ontharr invited them all to a secret meeting in one of the Inn’s back rooms.

With the curtains drawn tight and the door secured, Ontharr and Leosin debriefed the Spices on the situation with the Cult of the Dragon as far as they knew it. The sacking of Greenest by the cult was by no means an isolated incident. The larcenous fiends had been looting small villages up and down the sword coast and east as far as the inland sea. Strangely, up to now the cultist had been extremely successful at making their stolen treasure disappear. With great effort the Harpers had discovered that the cult was moving the treasure in disguised crates west, to the harbor city of Baldur’s Gate. The cult intends to ship it north to Neverwinter by sea as part of a merchant flotilla in ten days time. Leosin and Ontharr asked the Spices to travel down river with great haste to the city of Baldur’s Gate and meet with a representative of the Zhentarim, a gnomish woman by the name of Jamna Gleamsilver. The Zhentarim (or Black network as many know them) have a professional interest in the thievery of the cult, and have accepted the Harper’s request for assistance in this matter. Before parting ways, Leosin (Harpers) and Ontharr (Order of the Gauntlet) offered them all membership into either of their factions, with access to the faction’s resources going forward and on their mission. Jarrus Stormrider and Cain Sundersword joined the Order of the Gauntlet, and Rowen Evenwood and Ossendar Osterius joined the Harpers. Huzzah!

A few uneventful days on the river later and the Spices arrived at the foggy Gray Harbor of Baldur’s Gate. They took in the sights of the glorious city briefly and tried to lay low, then made their way to the Low Lantern, a beached 3-mast sailing vessel converted into the seediest of seedy taverns. Hours went by and they were beginning to get nervous that their contact wasn’t going to show. Then, while waiting for an order of mutton and a round of mead, Ossendar heard the faint sound of breathing from close at hand and then noticed a pair of large eyes peering up at him from under their table. They had found their contact.

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Jamna made quite the impressive entrance. The spunky gnome immediately slid into their midst and claimed to save them from an assassin’s barb. They had been ‘sloppy’ up to this point and attracted far too much attention during their stay in Baldur’s Gate so far… according to her. She offered them three options for joining the flotilla bound for Neverwinter. First, they could join the crew as deckhands and be invisible, unarmed and undetected by the cultists. Second, they could book passage for a handsome price of 100 gp per person and try their luck at disguising themselves from the cult’s agents on board. Third, they could bribe the guard’s guild and attempt to join the voyage as the ship’s guard. Unpredictably, the Spices decided that that best course would be to split up, with Ossendar joining the deckhands as a crows nest squab, Chef and Cain signed on as guards and Rowan and her manservant Jarrus signed on as passengers. They each donned their disguises hoped for the best.

Sadly, the open seas are no place for a panther of the likes of the mighty Pan-thor. With a heavy heart, Jarrus Stormrider released the faithful cat from his side and they parted ways…possibly forever. In typical cat fashion, Pan-thor coudn’t care less. It would take much time and training for Jarrus to hone his skills in combat to make up for his beast companions absence, but luckily Chef had nothing but time and cooking to keep him occupied on the voyage so the two got to work.

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The captain of their vessel, The Crying Daughter, and commander of the flotilla was a water genasi by the name of Barnabus Foamrider. He and his sea-elf first mate, Sal-Ritha Keelwright ran a tight ship, and the small fleet of 5 sailing ships made its way north at a moderate clip. The voyage was uneventful for the first couple weeks…

One day, a passing pod of dolphins and whales caused some commotion when a particularly large whale breached nearby, splashing the deck and knocking some crates loose..and open! Some unseemly deckhands quickly secured the cargo before anyone (anyone except the keen-eyed elf in the crow’s nest that is) could get a look at what was in the crates. From his perch high above the deck, Ossendar got a fleeting glimpse of something shiny before the deckhands packed away the goods. A few nights later a murder was discovered! One of the ship guards, a swarthy fellow that shunned the Spices for some reason, was found dead on the deck one night amidst some crates. Cain noticed some small boot-prints leading from the scene, but eventually lost the trail below decks.

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A few days later, The Lonely Son, was attacked by a group of bloodthirsty Sahuagin. Rising from the depths without warning, the vile sea demons attacked from the backs of fearsome hunter sharks and wreaked quite a bit of havoc and misery aboard the Son before the Spices could make their way over to fight them. The Sahuagin priestess and her giant octopus mount made short work of some of the Son’s guards, but were no match for the Spices!

After a rousing victory party, Captain Foamrider decided it would be prudent to seek repairs to the Lonely Son in the nearby free port of Mintarn. The island city was known as a safe, albeit fairly lawless harbor for those seeking refuge in the Sea of Swords. On their way there, they encountered a group of merfolk merchants. The merchants sold the Spices some water-breathing potions, conversed with the crew for a time and then were on their way. Chef decided to join the merfolk and rode astride their sea turtle beast of burden away into the sunset to everyone’s great sadness. It seems as though not even the trackless paths of the sea could tame the wild wanderings of the Dragonborn hero-chef.

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The Scornubel Marathon
The Spice of Life is born!

With Frulam’s hideout now known, the heroes made their way through the busy streets of Scornubel to confront the priestess. Death was in Jarrus Stormrider’s eyes and his mood was as black as his cloak. As they entered the square they found their timing to be poor. Frulam, seeing the now famous Chef Boyarde across the square, gathered her guards about her and took flight through the streets. If the heroes wanted to stop her before she met with the Red Wizard Emissary, they were going to have to catch her first!

With a healthy head start of 500 feet, Frulam and her guards led the heroes on a long chase. Though many obstacles impeded their progress, it was Jarrus’ feats of superb marksmanship that ultimately slowed the priestess’ flight. He whispered the sacred words of the wild to his first arrow and let fly an unbelievable shot of at least 300’. The arrow found it’s mark in the leg of Frulam and burst forth with terrible nettles, piercing her flesh and binding her legs. She lost much ground to the heroes before she resume her flight, and it was only a matter of time before Pan-Thor and Ossendar Osterius closed the gap. Desperately casting her domination spells at any hero in reach, Frulam couldn’t quite gain any distance. Ossendar ran himself ragged with incredible speed, closing the gap quickly! A final arrow in the back from Jarrus brought the cowardly priestess down. With their employer now defeated, the guards gave up and scattered into the city.

The heroes bound and gagged the unconscious Frulam and brought her to the nearest inn for interrogation. Once she regained consciousness, Frulam (with some persuasive assistance from Rowen Evenwood) sang like a bird. She revealed that with her failure at the hatchery she was likely now marked for death by the cult. Her only option now was to sell out her former cohorts, the red wizards Azbara Joz and his mentor Rath Modar. She contacted the leaders of the Red Wizards of Thay and arranged a meeting to reveal the cult’s movements and plans as best she could in exchange for transportation to Thay and a ‘safe’ harbor. She asks the heroes, “Who are you people?” and they respond in unison “We are the Spice of Life!” She then tells the heroes of the assigned meeting place with the Emissary at the Wailing Wench tavern. Ossendar, exhausted from his efforts in the chase takes this time to rest and keep watch over their prisoner.

The Spices decided to attempt a bold ruse. With their purple cultist robes from the hatchery, they disguised Rowan as Frulam to attempt to learn what they could from the Emissary, possibly even offering to hunt down the errant wizards Azbara and Rath themselves for a prize. A grim scene greeted them at The Wailing Wench. The bodies of patrons were strewn about the place and the back room glowed with cold blue menace. They may have underestimated the evil of the Red Wizards! Steeling their will, the Spices enter the back room and found a red robed and tattooed human man and a ghastly bodyguard. Behind them, a glowing circle of runes on the ground pulsated with arcane energy. The wizard greeted the Spices coldly, but was otherwise convinced by Rowan that she was indeed Frulam. After a brief exchange, the wizard harshly ordered Rowan to enter the portal for her payment. Rowan hesitated, but moved toward the portal slowly. Her confident outward appearance hid the sheer terror building inside her. At the edge of the portal circle she stopped, sweat now beading on her brown. The terror now evident, the Wizard deduced he had been duped!

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Pan-Thor leaped to Rowan’s aid and began slashing at the Wight, though his teeth seemed to do little real damage. Uttering the words of the spell Tasha’s Hideous Laughter, Rowan then attempted to neutralize the wizard. The Emissary laughed, but only at her pathetic attempt at spellcraft as his Counterspell easily negated Rowan’s efforts. With a sneer and a cruel laugh he disappeared from view. Now the Wight looked to the dead bar patrons and said in a voice that chilled the heart, “Rise!” and four of the deceased staggered to their feet and attacked with cold, lifeless limbs. Overcoming his horror, Cain Sundersword invoked the blessings of Lethander on his allies and Rowan gather her spite and cast Bane on several zombies. Chef waded into the fray, wielding Lawbringer with incredible skill as he hewed one of the Zombies in two. The Wight struck out at Rowan, diminishing her life-force little by little. From about the room the Emissary cackled, letting fly barrage after barrage of magic missiles, whittling down the Spices. As the zombies began to fall to pieces and the Wight’s defenses buckled, a cruel laugh from the Emissary heralded a fiery blast as the Thayan let loose a powerful fireball on his undead thralls and his enemies. The arcane flames incinerated the zombies and overcame Cain and Chef. With glee the Wight’s longsword slashed at Rowan, rendering her unconscious as well. Jarrus alone stood now against the invisible wizard and his Wight, but he took a moment to administer a health potion to Rowan, getting the bard back into the fight before the Wizard could finish them all off. With words and blessings of healing Rowan then healed herself and Cain. Cain in turn with healing hands brought Chef back from near death. Seeing his defeat at hand the Emissary howled, “The Red Wizards of Thay will not forget this! We will bring ruin to the enemies of Szass Tam where-ever they hide!” and with a flash of arcane magic the portal activated and whisked the wizard back to Thay. The wight was quickly slain without the aid of the Emissary and the Spices took a moment to survey the scene and recover.

The Wight wore a Cloak of Protection, which luck gave to Jarrus for his many heroic deeds. After a quick swig of the finest spirits the Wailing Wench had to offer, the Spices returned to Ossendar and Frulam to plan their next move. Leosin Erlanthar waits for their report on the hatchery in the Green Dragon Inn of Elterel, a 2 day cruise west by river skiff on the Chionthar River.

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