He offers to assist them in their war against the Cult of the Dragon, which has impressed the Scaly Death lizardfolk into its service. He provides a great deal of information about the cult’s operations in the Mere of Dead Men:
- The lizardfolk serve as porters carrying the crates from the roadhouse to Castle Naerytar deep in the swamp, where they also provide manual labor. The lizardfolk are poorly treated, particularly by the cult’s bullywug allies, and could be convinced to rise up. Snapjaw hopes that the presence of allies like the party will convince the others to act. There are 80 warriors in the Scaly Death clan, about 40 of which are in the vicinity of the Castle at any given time.
- The bullywugs are slimy, cruel, and lazy frog men who serve as soldiers and enforcers for the Cult. They are loyal to their chieftain-shaman, Pharblex Spattergoo, a particularly vile specimen. Approximately 30 of them guard the Castle, while another 30-70 are in its vicinity at any given time.
- There are relatively few cultists at the Castle, but three significant figures were there when Snapjaw left. These include an elf with an unpronounceable (to Snapjaw) name, who is the castle commander, as well as the half-dragon Rezmir and the Red Wizard Azbara Jos.
Snapjaw offers to escort the adventurers to the castle, where he would vouch for them as more cultists in order to get past the patrols. They could then rally the lizardfolk and take the Castle by surprise. Though the Scaly Death clan is outnumbered, if the adventurers are able to defeat Pharblex and the cult leaders, that should break the resolve of the cowardly bullywugs.
Judging the lizardman to be speaking true, the four adventurers agree to meet with him the following day and begin the journey. Beryl also makes sure to cure his wounds, for which he is grateful.
The party returns to the road house, where tensions between Captain Ardred’s guards and the caravan cultists remain high. The party reports to the Captain that they killed six lizardmen outside the tunnel. Ardred places the camp superintendent Bog Luck under arrest and sends word to Waterdeep about the incident.
Retiring to their shared bedroom, the party finds that Jamna the gnome has struck Larion in the knee, tied him up, and is in the process of working him over. Raeyanne’s personal effects are strewn across the room. Garrett immediately orders the gnome to back off. Raeyanne is fearful that her tiger skin rug was stolen, but it was just tossed in a corner.
Jamna reveals that she caught Larion planting the key to the vault in Raeyanne’s things. The young half-elf says that the cultist Zora threaten him into planting the key. The plan was to accuse Raeyanne of stealing it from Bog Luck and blame the party for the missing crates.
Larion also identifies Jamna as a member of the unscrupulous Zhentarim, the Black Network of merchants,mercenaries, and mafiosos that seeks to monopolize trade on the Sword Coast. Raeyanne reveals that she has known about Jamna’s affiliation since Waterdeep and told Beryl on the way. The threat posed by the Cult of the Dragon has forced the Harpers and the Zhents into an uneasy alliance.
While Hurk silently thinks through this revelation, Jamna insists that they are all on the same side. She was just instructed not to disclose her allegiance. She also mentions that she discovered that Larion had pilfered 1,400gp in gems from the cultists’ loot. The half-elf explains that he needed to fund his escape. He notes that he is far from the only cultist to dip his beak into the flow of treasure.
Hurk tells the kid (“Pinky”) that this should be a learning experience—don’t betray the party. He promises that they can protect him from the cult. Larion insists that the lesson is learned. Garrett releases him from Jamna’s expertly tied knots and checks whether he has any other stolen goods. At Garrett’s request, Beryl heals the lad’s injured knee.
Jamna asks Hurk if things are still good between them. He notes that she acted to protect the party when she didn’t necessarily have to. He also understands having to do what your bosses tell you. Jamna insists that she will always have his back, no matter what. She gives Larion the stink eye, then hops into her bunk.
The adventurers sleep in after their escapades that night. When they finally rise, they inform Captain Ardred that they intend to head deeper into the mere to chase stories of treasure. He’s sorry to see them go, as they had done good work and he was hoping to bring them on full time. Hurk makes a mental note to follow up with this guy about employment once the Cult is vanquished.
Garrett checks with Larion. The rogue had seen the half-elf undergo a long night of the soul, but this morning he seems to have come to a decision. Larion says he is committed to sticking with the party—though he doesn’t know where they are going.
Jamna sends one of her winged serpent talismans to inform her superiors of what they’ve uncovered, but she is less than thrilled to enter the swamp as she is deathly afraid of frogs. She explains that they can grow large enough to swallow a gnome whole. After Garrett teases her, she reveals that she witnessed her own father be devoured in such a fashion, which makes him feel kind of bad. Jamna ending up riding on Hurk’s shoulders for much of the journey, occasionally whispering sweet nothings in his hear, but always watchful for the frog menace.
After linking up with Snapjaw, the party sets out through the mere, following the blaze marks cut in the trees. As they head deeper into the swamp, Beryl has an unsettling feeling as she realizes they are crossing into the territory of a dragon. Garrett notes that they can duck for cover under the trees to avoid being seen from the air.
A couple hours into the journey, hurk accidentally steps into a patch of quicksand. He immediately leans back and tosses Jamna into the air, so that he falls backward onto solid-ish ground. The gnome lands on his chest, helping to weigh him down as he pulls his feet free. Although the maneuver kept them out of the quicksand, it did cover them both in mud.
Towards the end of the day, as they approach Snapjaw’s “bivouac” site, they hear a deep, rumbly “RIBBET” close by, follow by several responses all around them. The adventurers realize they’ve been surrounded by six giant frogs.
“I told you so! I told you so!” Jamna cries out, near panic. Hurk, Garrett, and Raeyanne make use of their bows as the frog close in, while Jamna flings magic at them, Snapjaw chucks a javelin, and Larion stays close to Garrett with his scimitar drawn.
The frogs swarm Hurk, viciously biting him. Beryl cures his wounds with a surge of divine energy, while the rest of the party switches to melee weapons. Jamna manages to blind two of the beasts with color spray, and the adventurers dispatch them with brutal efficiency.
Snapjaw shows them how the lizardfolk skin and carve giant frogs. Despite Garrett’s urging, Jamna pledges not to touch the frog meat.
The party arrives at the lizardfolk camp site, consisting of a couple of lean two on less soggy ground next to a flat rock used for campfires. Three dugout canoes are pulled up nearby, for beyond the camp the muddy ground sinks below the water.