Tyranny of Dragons

The Siege of Naerytar
Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Chapter 6, Part 5

Having infiltrated Castle Naerytar posing as mercenaries for the Cult of the Dragon, the adventurers coordinated an uprising by the oppressed lizardfolk the cult used as servants. The party successfully sabotaged the alarm drum and helped the lizardfolk secure the gatehouse. But Garrett was badly wounded in the process, and has to be tended to by Beryl.

While the dwarf cleric patches up the rogue, the lizardfolk press the attack deeper into the castle. Snapjaw reports back that the surviving cultists, together with the bullywug leader Pharblex Spattergoo and his bodyguards, have barricaded themselves in the mess hall. The mess also connects to the stairs leading into the tunnels below the fort where the stolen loot was being transported. The lizardfolk believe that the half-dragon Rezmir the Black and the Red Wizard Azbara Jos fled into the tunnels.

Storming the mess hall barricades would result in high lizardfolk casualties, so for the moment it has become a standoff. Snapjaw is confident that if the two remaining leaders—Pharblex and the arrogant sun elf Dralmorrer Borngray—are slain, it would take the fight out of the enemy. The party agrees that a decapitating strike is their best option.

After some discussion, Garrett asks Jamna if she can put together an explosive capable of breaching one of the barricades. She admits she knows how, but would need time to see if the appropriate ingredients are available. The party rests for an hour while the gnome scours the castle for parts and alchemical components. At Garrett’s request she also prepares a makeshift smoke bomb for him.

Jamna eventually reveals her highly dangerous, unstable explosive, which she hastily hands to Garrett. The rogue carefully transports the device over to the northernmost barricade, which he stealthily approaches to plant the bomb. It goes of with a sharp blastf, signalling the lizardfolk to launch their own diversionary assault on the other end of the mess hall. Garrett also tosses the smoke bomb into the room to screen the rest of the hall from their attack.

Pharblex immediately begins calling up spike growth and entanglement spells to hinder the party’s entrance into the hall, while his bullywugs hurl javelins at the adventurers. However, each of Pharblex’s spells are interrupted by by Raeyanne’s arrows and Beryl’s sacred flame. Garrett puts an arrow into one of the frogman’s eyes, while the party’s allies advance into the room as the magic fails.

The shaman throws up several spike growth and entaglement spells to dissuade the party from entering, but is distracted each time by Raeyanne’s arrows and Beryl’s sacred flame. Garrett shoots the shaman in the eye. Once the spells, have failed, the adventurers and their allies move in to attack.

Raeyanne finally brings down the outraged Pharblex, while Hurk shoulders his way through the melee to cross steel with Dralmorrer. The arrogant elf under estimates his foe and suffers a grievous wound. But he strikes back, electrifying the half-orc with shocking grasp and retreating while the sword falls from Hurk’s numb and twitching hands.

Garrett chases after him, but only manages to further wound the elf, while Raeyanne’s crossbow bolt goes wide. Hurk moves up to stand beside Garrett, and Dralmorrer tries to drive them both back with Thunderwave, but they stand their ground. Garrett tries and fails to tumble past the elf and cut him off, but when Dralmorrer lashes out he exposes his flank to Hurk, who goes in for the kill.

The smoke fades in time for the surviving cultists and bullywugs to see their leaders perish. The bullywugs leap out the window and flee, while the cultists (including Kevan and Tharn), lay down arms.

The party strips the valuable items from their fallen foes, while the lizardfolk offer them the cult’s treasure as reward for helping the revolution. Up in Rezmir’s quarters, they also discover that there is a portal circle in the caverns below (similar to what Beryl saw in her dream), which teleports people and things to a mysterious lodge on the other side of the Graypeak Mountains.

Adhering to their promise to the dragon Voaraghamanthar the Black Death, the party recovers the book he was obsessed with, a set of rituals to Myrkul the god of death, and sought out the scrying device that the dragon asked them to destroy, the farseer of Illusk. Jamna slavers over the device (“So many big gears”), and Raeyanne figures out how to operate it. Through it they learn the dragon’s secret—he has a twin. Raeyanne also uses it to check on the Carnath Roadhouse, where the cultists have been arrested (but Zora is missing).

She then uses it to scry out out the lodge across the mountains where all the loot is going, which proves to be a sizable structure in the forest. She notes that guard lizards and some sort of giant-sized humanoid appear to have left footprints by an outbuilding. The portal circle itself is in the woods some ways from the lodge. There are several other circles nearby, suggesting that this might be a transport hub of some sort.

Then, in keeping with their promise to the dragon, they destroy the farseer.

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Death Comes to Frogtown
Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Chapter 6, Part 4

Having infiltrated Castle Naerytar, the adventurers have arranged for an uprising by the lizardfolk resistance. They sent the three rogues Garrett, Raeyanne, and Jamna to sabotage the alarm drum in the upper floor of the barbican while Beryl and Hurk wait below with the lizardfolk. Garrett successfully destroyed the drum, but drew the attention of the bullywug guards.

Upstairs

As the bullywugs start to converge on Garrett, Raeyane and Jamna are perched on the crumbling wall overlooking the barbican’s second floor. Raeyanne throws one of her daggers and kills a frogman. She then ducks back into the shadows as the startled bullywugs look around for the attacker.

Jamna casts a minor illusion to create the impression of a gruff voice on the other side of the room saying that the bullywugs are surrounded. The frog people are literally too stupid to fall for this and remain focused on the one foe they can see—Garrett.

Two of the creatures charge up to him, while the rest throw spears. The rogue is badly wounded by the onslaught, but he manages to retreat from the attackers and clamber back up the wall to take cover.

The bullywugs move up to investigate, and Jamna quietly hisses at Garrett for drawing them towards the other rogues. Garrett sarcastically apologizes for getting swarmed. Raeyanne and Jamna continue pick off the frogmen with ranged attacks, always fading back into the shadows afterward.

Thrown off balance by his wounds, Garrett has trouble avoiding detection and is the target of more throwing spears. Jamna urges him to take cover dangling off the side of the wall and allow the bullywugs to approach, as she’s “got this.”

As the creatures approach the wall near Garrett’s position, she blinds several of them with color spray. Meanwhile, Raeyanne continues to shank bullywugs as they climb up near her section of the wall, disappearing back into the darkness each time. The bullywugs begin to think they are being killed by “the ghost of the castle.”

Jamna tries to use color spray on another pair of bullywugs, but they shake off the bedazzlement. The gnome wishes Garrett the best of luck and then tries to hide, but a loose stone in the wall throws her off balance and leaves her wide open. The two bullywugs move to go after her.

With the center of the battle moving elsewhere, Garrett jumps down into the barbican in order to attack the two blinded bullywugs within. He brings one of them down.

Raeyanne is spotted and attacked by a bullywug who “ain’t afraid of no ghosts.” She kills him and then becomes the night, moving forward to help Jamna. The gnome scrambles away from the frogmen, shaking too hard to meld into the shadows. She blasts one of them with a ray of frost.

The remaining bullywug on the barbican floor recovers from the color spray blindness and hits Garrett with a thrown spear. The rogue crumples to the ground, bleeding out.

Raeyanne kills the last bullywug on the wall with extreme prejudice. The lone survivor races down the barbican stairs, shouting that attackers have taken the tower.

Downstairs

Hearing the fighting break out above, Beryl, Hurk, Larion, and the lizardfolk in the castle rush the barbican’s ground floor. Beryl gets things going with a silver gout of sacred flame. Hurk slashes the smoldering bullywug with his longsword, and Larion finishes him off with a cut from his scimitar.

The bullywugs unleash their giant frogs, which swarm Hurk and Larion. They then pepper the half-orc and the lizardmen with throwing spears. Beryl heals Hurk, who frees himself from one of the frogs and hacks at the other.

Snapjaw leads the lizardmen on the attack. The front ranks smash into the giant frogs, battering them into submission with heavy clubs and spiked shields, while the back ranks launch an organized volley of javelins. There is a terrifying roar from the exterior entrance to barbican as the lizardmen from the camp outside rush in.

The bullywugs realize they are caught between two pincers. A lone bullywug races down the staircase from floor above screeching that the tower is taken.

Beryl bellows at the bullywugs to surrender. They immediately drop their weapons and raise their hands.

The gold dwarf heads upstairs, where Raeyanne has stabilized Garrett. Beryl heals him and gives him a potion. The adventurers regroup and prepare to press the attack.

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Among the Dragon Kneelers
Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Chapter 6, Part 3

The adventurers head down to the mess hall to chat up the cultists. Raeyanne sits down to a card game with Kevan, Marget, Ryany and Addmyng. The rogue quickly proves to be more than a match for them, but tries to glean information from them.

She learns that the cult is putting Kevan’s daughters through law school and regrets hustling him. The cultists are in the dark about the overall plan for the cult, beyond bringing about a reign of dragons. They also wonder about the involvement of the Red Wizards. The adventurers learn that the cult’s overall leader, Severin the Red, apparently has a connection with the wizards that led to their partnership.

Hurk asks about the leaders of the guard patrols and learns the Bullywugs handle security. The cultists count and sort the loot, then package it off to the lodge, which is apparently a much nicer posting. The bullywugs are not well-liked, especially their strange religious ceremonies.

While the rest of the party pumps the cultist for information, Garrett and Larion stay in the party’s room to engage in a different sort of pumping.

During the cold, damp night, Beryl has a dream of standing out look up at unfamiliar stars. Green lights dance overhead and then shoot over to the west. She then sinks into the earth and finds herself in a underground chamber full of mist that lights up with the same eerie green. The glow comes from a set of runes etched i a large circle on the floor.

The morning drums from the barbican wake her and she hastily scribbles down what she can recall of the runes.

As the party gets dressed, a red mist coalesces at the window and then disburses to reveal the Red Wizard Azbara Jos. He wants to speak with the party privately and asks them about their business here, as well as their thoughts on the cult’s leaders and its overall plans.

Hurk, awoken from “a pleasant dream about tiny… things,” does most of the talking. This is probably a mistake, and explains that they were mercenaries hired by Cyanwrath and they don’t exactly know why they’re here or what they are doing. Jamna spends much of the conversation elbowing him in the leg, trying to get the half-orc to shut up. Raeyanne meanwhile creeps in a position to backstab him should hostilities break out. Looking a little disappointed, Azbara bids his farewell and exits out the door.

Hurk wonders if Azbara could be an ally against the cult, but the rogues want him dead. There is discussion of the best way to kill a wizard, with Rae and Garrett favoring striking the throat first, which is difficult for Jamna to do without a ladder.

The gnome spies the sketch of the runes and identifies it as a permanent teleport circle, likely activated by a command word. Beryl doesn’t know where the circle might be, so they decide to file that away for now.

The party goes down to breakfast, a boring porridge, that is being drowned out by the rally outside. The bullywugs have gathered in the courtyard, where Pharblex Spattergoo shares the secret mysteries reveal to him by the Elder Gods and the spirits of the earth, the air and the other places. But the gods demand a sacrifice, and also a knife to perform the sacrifice. A goat is brought forth and Pharblex proceeds to cut out its heart. He takes the still-beating organ and smacks it against the heads of his followers, blessing them with the powers of the Elder Spirits and the gods of the earth, the air, and the other places. The goat is roasted up for breakfast, while Pharblex eats the heart and then retreats below to commune with the spirits once more.

Garrett is unhappy that the bullywugs get to eat goat while he’s stuck with porridge, so Kevan introduces him to the Dwarven cook Tharm. The cook is willing to provide some contraband bacon (“contrabacon”) in exchange for coin. Garrett shares his meal with Larion.

Afterwards, the party goes to the smithy to confer with the Lizardfolk, but they find Dralmorrer Borngray there trying to instruct them in metalworking. He asks why they aren’t doing whatever it is that they’re supposed to do. “This is a cult, not a charity—except for tax purposes.” They explain they want to thank Snapjaw for guiding them through the swamp, and the elf, who has a strange appreciation of the lizardmen, allows them to go speak with him.

They huddle with Snapjaw to hammer out a plan for that night. Garrett suggests getting the cook to put something in the bullywugs’ rations as a “prank” that will incapacitate them during the night. Beryl recalls that the frog men will be thrown into a deep slumber if they drink any shade of the evening, a type of palm oil. The two of them bribe and cajole Tharm into sabotaging the food.

That evening, the group engages in stage two of the plan: Garrett, Raeyanne, and Jamna climb up to the second floor of the barbican to sabotage the message drum and signal the lizardmen in the camp outside. Down below, Hurk, Beryl, and Larion wait with a small group of Lizardmen to help secure the balcony.

The climb doesn’t go as smoothly for the rogues as hoped, but the lizardmen are too distracted by a theological debate to notice. The trio creeps up until they are perched on the wall overlooking the roofless second floor of the gatehouse. Jamna creates an illusory noise to draw the guards away from the drum, and then Garrett jumps down. Along the way, he knocks loose several bricks which clatter onto the roof.

“Hi guys!” Garrett says and then rushes over to the drum, cutting it open with his shortsword.

“Get him! Get him!” the bullywug sergeant shouts, and all nine of them rush towards the rogue.

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Castle of the Frog Men
Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Chapter 6, Part 2

The adventurers have ventured into the Mere of Dead Men, following the trail blazed by lizardfolk porters who have been carrying the Cult of the Dragon’s stolen loot to a castle hidden in the swamp. They are accompanied by the well-spoken lizardman Snapjaw, who believes they can liberate his people. After a day of travel, in which they fended off an attack by giant frogs, they have bedded down at a lizardfolk way camp.

Eleint 18, 1489 DR

In the pre-dawn hours, as Raeyanne is wrapping up the third watch, she spots a dark shape blotting out stars in the sky and moving rapidly towards them. Recalling a similar sight during the blue dragon Lennithon’s attack on Greenest, she hastily wakes the others. As the dragon swoops low over the camp, Hurk takes aim with the Bow of the Golden Hart, but Snapjaw stops him.

“I say, chap, it’s not bad as all that,” the lizardman says in draconic. Beryl translates. “Things aren’t quite as pear-shaped as they might appear.”

The dragon lands on the edge of camp, and they see that it is a black dragon the size of an elephant. Snapjaw immediately prostrates himself before it. Raeyanne recognizes that dragons like to be sucked up to and curtsies, saying “Welcome, great one” in the Common Tongue. The others make similar gestures of respect and Garrett compliments the creature’s horns.

The dragon commends them on their courtesy, and introduces himself as Voaraghamanthar the Black Death, lord of the Mere of Dead Men. He asks who they are and what business they have in his swamp. Garrett offers non-committal answers about being a thief seeking adventure.

Beryl bluntly declares herself to be a cleric of Bahamut, causing Raeyanne to nearly go into conniptions. But Voaraghamanthar bows his head, noting that even dragons who do not follow the path of Bahamut still respect him.

Voaraghamanthar explains that his lovely swamp is being defiled by visitors who have overstayed their welcome—the Cult of the Dragon, who he deduces the party is after. Raeyanne has trouble concealing her relief at this announcement.

The black dragon explains that he granted them the use of Castle Naerytar and the service of his slaves, the lizardfolk, in exchange for the Cult recovering a certain book from the ruins. They have failed to uphold their end of the bargain and he is tired of their excuses. Unfortunately, he cannot act against the Cult without incurring the wrath of their other dragon allies. So he has a proposition for the party.

In exchange for not killing them, he wants the adventurers to retrieve the book, free his lizardmen from their subservience to the bullywugs, and also destroy another artifact in the castle: the farseer of Illusk. It is a contraption with a large brass tube mounted in a dome.

Garrett asks why he wants the device destroyed and he merely says “It irks me.” Raeyanne agrees that it can be uncomfortable to be watched by someone else. The dragon gives her a look.

To aid in rallying the lizardfolk, Voaragamanthar gives Beryl a scale inscribed with his symbol (the draconic letter “v”) and wishes her the best on her journey. After basking in his own noblesse oblige, he flies off.

Too rattled to go back to bed, and with the rosy fingers of dawn creeping across the eastern horizon, they decide to have breakfast. Garrett tells Jamna that there is plenty of frog left. She insists that she’s fine with what she has and quickly puts Hurk between her and the rogue. Larion, meanwhile, is happy to tuck in on the amphibian.

The rest of their journey east is spent traveling by canoe. As they draw near to the castle, they start encountering patrols of bullywugs. They avoid the first one in a bank of fog. But a few hours later, a patrol of 12 frog men spot them. Snapjaw insists that they can pretend to be cultists and should be able to get through fine.

But as the bullywugs draw near, Jamna becomes very agitated at the sight of them. “Cool your tits,” Beryl insists, while Raeyanne and Garrett reassure her that if the frog men eat her, they will cut her out of their bellies. The gnome huddles up against Hurk and manages to stay quiet.

The bullywug leader challenges the party, ignoring Snapjaw’s assurances in broken Common. The frog man insists that the adventurers provide a password to demonstrate their fealty to the Cult. Raeyanne hails Tiamat in draconic and the bullywugs let them through. Once they are past, Snapjaw explains that there is no password and the bullywugs were just hassling them.

A little more than an hour later, they find themselves approaching Castle Naerytar. The fortress is a collection of towers, two or three stories tall, enclosed by a curtain wall and surrounded by a moat save for a single open gate. One of the towers sports a strange wooden dome. Outside the castle are two camps. One is made up of crude huts and is full of lounging bullywugs, while the other consists of longhouses inhabited by lizardfolk.

As the adventurers approach the outskirts of the camp, they are challenged by a squad of lizardmen. Snapjaw assures the guards that these are great warriors who have come to free the Scaly Death Clan from the tyranny of the bullywugs. To reinforce this story, Beryl holds up Voaraghamanthar’s scale and all of the lizardmen (including Snapjaw) immediately kowtow. Once Beryl is persuaded to put the scale away, Snapjaw insists that they are the chosen ones of the black dragon and the time is right to strike.

“Jolly good then,” the patrol leader says in draconic, “we shall notify the Resistance.”

The lizardmen explain that they have been stockpiling weapons in the castle for an uprising, but haven’t had any figures to rally around. For now, they recommend that the party continue to pose as mercenaries for the Cult. Snapjaw leads them up to the castle, warning them about the alligators in the moat.

They are challenged by the bullywug guards, who send a runner to fetch the castle commander. While they wait for the runner to return, the bullywug sergeant asks how long the adventurers are staying. The party freezes, realizing they hadn’t really worked out a backstory. “We’ll be here as long as they need us,” Beryl manages.

The bullywug then prattles on about how awesome the Mere of Dead Men is and tells them how the bullywug leader Pharblex Spattergoo made a deal with the Cult to take over Castle Naerytar once their operations in the region are complete.

The castle commander finally arrives. Dralmorrer Borngray is a one-eyed sun elf with long blond hair and creepy leather armor. A longsword is at his side and a shield is slung over his back. He demands to know who sent the party here.

Garrett and Hurk spin a story about Hurk dueling with Langdedrosa Cyanwrath, which impressed the half-dragon enough to bring them on board. The elf is dismissive of Cyanwrath’s recruitment methods, but accepts them as legit.

Dralmorrer tells them that they are restricted to the first floor of the castle to keep them out of the way of the guests: Wyrmspeaker Rezmir and the Red Wizard Azbara Jos. He then dismissively instructs Snapjaw to find them food and lodgings, and wanders off grumbling about having accommodate humans, dwarves, Half-orcs, gnomes and a “half-breed.”

Snapjaw gives a quick tour of the ground floor. The only working entrance is through the barbican, which opens out onto an open-air causeway vulnerable to ranged attacks from the keep. The causeway leads to the central courtyard, from which they can access several different freestanding towers and the keep.

There is a forge on the ground floor where Dralmorrer has been attempting to teach the lizardmen metallurgy. Also on the ground floor is a stable for giant lizards, a barracks for bullywugs, and a mess hall for the few human cultists in the fort. The mess hall also doubles as a counting station for the loot that the lizardmen haul in from the roadhouse. A chapel to Tiamat rounds out the ground floor features.

The adventurers are given an unused room on the ground floor of one of the towers. They quickly discuss their next move. The lizardfolk will smuggle their weapons stockpile out of the castle that night and the following day, in preparation for an attack the following night. In the meantime, the party will keep up the cultist act and try to scout out the facility. Snapjaw notes that most of the second story areas do not connect with each other, which means that enemies upstairs cannot easily reinforce one another.

Garrett notes that the window in their room overlooks the narrowest section of the moat, though it would still be challenging to jump across. Snapjaw warns them that crocodiles live in the moat and are kept fed by the bullywugs. Garrett then creeps up the stairs into the upper floor of the tower, finding an empty common room and two doors. Not wanting to risk being seen, he retreats downstairs for the time being.

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Green Scales, Silver Tongue
Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Chapter 6, Part 1

The party interrogates the lizardman, Snapjaw. Though he speaks pidgin Common, he turns out to be surprisingly eloquent and discursive in Draconic, which Raeyanne and Beryl also speak.

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.

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The Carnath Massacre
Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Chapter 5, Part 4

Faced with a trio of Lizardmen in the strong room of the Carnath Roadhouse, Hurk steps forward into the room and demands to know what they they are doing here. He tries to look intimidating, but it’s hard to do when you’re a big half-orc who still has to look up at the lizardmen.

After stating his challenge, he readies for the inevitable while Beryl moves up beside him. Raeyanne had already slipped inside the pitch black chamber, unseen but also unable to see.

Out on the roof, Jamna’s keen gnomish ears perk up at the sound of the half-orc’s voice. Garrett asks if Hurk is being smart.

“Hurk is being Hurk,” she tells him.

“Well, at least he’s consistent,” Garrett says.

“The word for my man is ‘reliable,’” Jamna says. “Solid.

“Thanks for sharing that, Jamna,” Garrett replies. “Even though it was more than I needed to know.”

The rogues debate whether to head downstairs and join in.

Below, one of the lizardmen charges Hurk, provoking an attack from the half-orc. Beside him, Beryl unleashes her prepared spell, a sacred flame which briefly illuminates the pitch black room. The flash of light allows Raeyanne, otherwise blind in the dark, to draw a bead on the lizardman and hit him with her shortsword.

With their friend badly wounded, the other two lizardmen drop the crate they were carrying and join the fray. The reptiles wielding heavy clubs and spiked shields made from giant turtleshells. They try to attack both the fighter and the cleric, but Hurk forces them to stay focused on him.

The sound of all this ruckus settles things for the rogues upstairs and they dash down to the ground floor. Garrett’s longer strides quickly outpace the gnome.

“Need me to carry you, shorty?” he calls out. Jamna stares daggers at him.

Fighting continues in the strong room, where Raeyanne kills the wounded Lizardman but another one clambers out of the trap door to join the fight. Hurk continues to draw their ire, while Beryl unleashes more sacred flames, the bursts of light giving Raeyanne glimpses of the fight in the dark. Hurk lands two devastating blows on one of the creatures, and Raeyanne pulls out her hand crossbow to give it a bolt to the brain.

Garrett finally charges into the warehouse and stops at the entrance to the strong room, realizing that he, too, can’t see in the pitch darkness. He hears the fighting, however, and can smell Hurk just ahead of him inside the room. With his shortbow knocked and ready, Garrett stares into the darkness uncertainly.

Jamna arrives a moment later.

“Boy, it’s a good thing you got here ahead of me,” she says.

“Get stuffed,” he hisses back at her.

“Did enough of that already today,” she says. The gnome squeezes in beside him to take stock of the situation with her darkvision. “Let’s light things up a little.”

A glowing ray of blue-white light bursts from her hand, lancing past Hurk’s left armpit and just missing the lizardman in front of him. The beam strikes one of the crates in the room and freezes a section of it solid.

The light from the ray lets Garrett take aim and he lets fly an arrow that whizzes past Hurk’s right ear to smack solidly into a lizardman’s chest.

Hurk is startled by all the missiles flying from behind him and is thrown off his game as he fights the Lizardmen. Beryl continues to call down the fire of Bahamut, while Raeyanne takes aim again with her hand crossbow.

Garrett moves over to give Jamna some more space and the gnome crouches down behind Hurk to fire another blue-white ray between his legs. The frigid spell leaves hoarfrost clinging to his pants, while the targeted lizardman is left sluggish from the cold. With the flash of blue-white light, Garrett fires off another arrow

Hurk savagely cuts down one of the lizardmen while Jamna cheers him on, leaving only one remaining. Beryl calls down a pillar of silver fire that scorches the creature nearly to a crisp, and Raeyanne finishes it off with a crossbow bolt.

The commotion in the strong room roused the rest of the roadhouse. Raeyanne insists that the party drag the lizardmen out into the main warehouse floor as proof of what they fought. Beryl, meanwhile, inspects the trap door, which leads down into a well-built tunnel that stretches off to the east.

The camp superintendent Bog Luck (a half-orc the party suspects of working with the Cult), arrives in the storeroom along with the guard captain Ardred Briferhew. Most of the camp arrives with them, including laborers, guards, and undercover cultists.

Raeyanne explains that they defeated a band of lizardmen steeling gold from the strong room through a trap door. Ardred demands to see the trap door and immediately questions Bog Luck about it. The half-orc unconvincingly denies knowledge of it. He promises to take an inventory to see what is missing, and suggests that the guards scout the area for more lizardfolk.

The adventurers notice that Bog Luck is trying to position himself in front of the dropped crate, which has split open to spill stolen gold coins on the floor. He is clearly trying to dissuade any questions about the gold, and they suspect that he intends to cover up the loot when he takes his “inventory.”

The party takes a quick huddle in the corner to discuss their next move. Beryl and Raeyanne argue that their mission is to determine where the loot is going, so they should hold off on confronting Bog Luck until they have explored the tunnel. Besides, Captain Ardred seems to viewing Bog Luck’s fumbling explanations with skeptical eye.

Garrett has been distracted this whole time by concern over the half-elf Larion Keenblade up in their room, fearing that something might have happened during the chaos. But there isn’t time to go check on him. Raeyanne suggests that Jamna hang back to keep an eye on him and the cultists. This the gnome is happy to do.

Raeyanne then tells Ardred that they have volunteered to explore the tunnel and hunt down any remaining lizardfolk. Still amped by her killing spree earlier, she admits that she is eager to kill more of the reptiles. Ardred wishes them luck, while he calls in guards to secure the strong room, to Bog Luck’s consternation.

Entering the tunnel, Beryl sheepishly casts light on her shield so that the humans can see. The tunnel is well-made, and the gold dwarf can tell it has been in place for months. It extends roughly 50 yards, emerging at an area screened from the Carnath Roadhouse by trees and bushes. As they approach the exit, they overhear bestial voices conversing in Draconic. Navigating by star light, Raeyanne and Garrett creep forward.

The speakers are six lizard folk, who are lazing around the entrance to the tunnel, where they have rigged up some porter poles to haul the crates. They are grousing about being assigned this duty and are starting to wonder what is taking the other group so long to return with the next crate. There are six in all: five around the tunnel exit and one lookout in the trees watching the roadhouse.

Raeyanne and Garrett sneak past them and take up position a short distance away, their bows at the ready. Garrett puts an arrow through the lookout, while Raeyanne shoots the nearest lizardman. At that signal, Hurk comes roaring out of the tunnel and dives into the cluster of five lizardmen. Beryl is only a step behind, once again calling on the power of her god.

In the ensuing battle, Garrett brings down the lookout in the trees, while Hurk eviscerates one of the other lizardmen. This cause the four survivors to scatter and attempt to flee. Raeyanne insists that they take one prisoner, so Garrett catches and hamstrings a wounded lizardman. Beryl chases after another, blasting it with holy fire, while Raeyanne kills a third. Hurk drops his sword and unslings the Bow of the Golden Stag, which he uses to bring down one of the other lizardmen. Beryl chases hers down and puts a hammer through its skull.

The party then converges on the prisoner, which Garrett and Raeyanne are already tying up.

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Reptiles of Unusual Size
Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Chapter 5, Part 3

After learning that the cultists expect Larion to report back on their activities, the party discusses what false information he could feed to his compatriots. They consider trying to drive a wedge between the Red Wizards and the Cult of the Dragon.

Raeyanne asks around about Azbara Jos, the red-hatted wizard traveling with the cultists, learning that he disappeared within the past day. Some of the roadhouse residents suspect he might have fallen victim to one of the swamp’s more dangerous denizens.

Garrett, meanwhile, casually spies on the cult and the warehouse. He determines that the cultists’ crates were taken into the strong room with the other valuables. He gets scolded by the camp superintendent, Bog Luck, for poking around the warehouse.

The adventurers ultimately decide Larion should tell his companions a version of the truth: that Garrett left for a short while and otherwise the party bedded down for the night uneventfully.

The next morning, Larion meets up with the other cultists in the communal dining room, while the adventurers sit down for breakfast. Bog Luck and the guard captain Ardred announce assignments. The party learns that they have the day off, as they will be assigned to guard duty that night. Meanwhile, the camp cook Gristle Pete complains about rats in the walls keeping him up all night with their rustling noises.

Raeyanne watches the cultists go about their business and notices that Bog Luck’s scabbard has five scratches on it, a design similar to the Tiamat symbol used by the cultists at the raider camp. Raeyanne’s other attempts to gather information are distracted by Beryl, who is hanging around the kitchen area getting progressively drunker and chattier as she works her way through two beers.

Garrett tries to spy on the cultists again and is confronted by his nemesis, the Calimshani cultist Zora. She tries to pick a fight with him, and when he won’t play ball, tries to start one by herself. She accuses him (wrongly) of murdering her friend, since he had been lurking around the cultists during the trip up to Waterdeep and had broken into the Wandering Serpent. When she comes at him with a scimitar, he deftly springs out of the way and parkours across the cavernous interior of the roadhouse, landing at a card table in the dining area.

“Deal me in, chaps,” he says, grabbing a drink.

A furious Zora storms off.

Meanwhile, Hurk and Jamna knock boots (and other things) in the party’s room. The combination of half-orc endurance and gnomish manic energy leaves the two of them indisposed for pretty much the entire day, denying Garrett a chance to nap.

The adventurers reunite at the end of the day, some more rested than others. They decide that Beryl (“BAHAMUUUT!”) is still too drunk to take a position on the roof, so she and Hurk will patrol the grounds, while the three rogues take their posts up top.

It’s a clear night, with the moonlight glistening on the swampy expanse of the Mere of Dead Men. Jamna claims she saw something large flying in the distance, but otherwise the rooftop sentries don’t notice anything.

Down on the ground level, Hurk and Beryl overhear rustling noises from the strong room around midnight. Hurk signals the sentries to come investigate. Raeyanne and Garrett play rock paper scissors to determine who will go downstairs, while a disgusted Jamna looks on.

Raeyanne is the victor and joins the dwarf and the half-orc downstairs. Working in near-darkness, she is able to pick the lock to the strong room and then stealthily slips into the pitch black room.

Thanks to their darkvision, Hurk and Beryl have a clear view as they stride inside. Three seven-foot tall lizard creatures are in the strong room. Two of them are in the process of hauling a crate into a secret trap door in the floor, while a third one stands guard. They are shocked to be discovered and start to reach for their weapons.

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The Not So Great Escape
Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Chapter 5, Part 2

Ambushed by Gallowed brigands, Garrett chats with their leader, an elf named Igach, who tells him the gang’s leader wants to see him. Garrett decides escape is a wiser choice, and swings down into an open window of the Wandering Serpent Inn. He interrupts a couple (a human man and a dwarf woman) enjoying a romantic evening, then careens down the hall, stealing an expensive, dragon-themed vase of imported tulips.

He attempts to swing across the chandelier in the lobby, but the whole thing comes crashing down, alerting the entire inn. Garrett overhears the alarmed cultists coordinating with the Gallowed. In the chaos, he sneaks out the service entrance.

But he soon picks up two tails. He tries to lose them in the city streets, but gets delayed by an angry dog. After scaring off the dog, he attempts order a fruit cart vendor out of the way, but the wizened half-orc refuses to budge. After “trading” some tulips for blood oranges and avoiding a befuddled baker, Garrett finally eludes pursuit. Battered and breathless, he arrives at the temple of Bahamut to tell Beryl what he saw.

She berates him for stealing the vase and damaging the chandelier, insisting he pay for the damages. The rogue then spends the night on the floor in her room. The next morning, they regroup with the rest of the party.

The cultists have hired on as teamsters and laborers for the High Road Charter Company, which is repairing the trade road between Neverwinter and Waterdeep. Raeyanne buys a disguise kit to hide Garrett’s identity, and then the adventurers (plus Jamna) hire on as guards for the caravan.

It takes a ten day to reach the Carnath Roadhouse, located in the treacherous swamp known as the Mere of Dead Men. Jamna tells a ghost story about how the mere is haunted by the spirits of the human and orcish armies that perished there thousands of years ago.

At the roadhouse, a half-orc named Bog Luck oversees the unloading of supplies.

The adventurers are assigned a shared barracks room at the roadhouse, but the sixth roommate turns out to be the half-elven cultist Larion Keenblade. He reveals to Garrett and the others that he wants to get away from the cult. There aren’t any wagons heading back to Waterdeep for at least a few days, however, and at least one person at the roadhouse is the cult’s contact.

The party is left with the dual questions of how to get Larion out alive and how to find out what is happening to the loot the cult hauled up.

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Show and Tell
Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Chapter 5, Part 1

The party arrives in Waterdeep. Beryl goes to the temple of Bahamut, where she notices something interesting about the statue of the god.

Garrett tracks the cult down to the Wandering Serpent, but notices some old enemies from the Gallowed lurking on the rooftop nearby.

Raeyanne stops by the Rat’s Nest, reports to Leosin and Remallia They question her about her mission, her companions, and Jamna. Cylanestriel drops by to deliver a dragon head. She is investigating matters in the south. Leosin asks to meet with the group at the Yawning Portal.

Hurk goes looking for some schwarma and has trouble getting help from the guards, but manages to track it down. There he runs into Jamna and the two of them chat on their way back. Jamna asks about Hurk’s background, the cities he’s been to. She says she has been from Neverwinter to Amn, dealing in information for merchant interests.

The party decides to bring Jamna with them to the Yawning Portal meeting. Leosin is waiting with two companions, a ranger named Delaan and a silver-haired woman named Elia. Beryl experiences a strange sense of familiarity when she meets Elia, something the woman seems to share, though the two have never met.

The adventurers learn that Rezmir has gone north ahead of the wagons and that she is one of the five Wyrmspeakers, said to carry a powerful artifact. Jamna says her contacts have let her know that two more of the Wyrmspeakers are Galvan the blue and Severin the Red.

Leosin wants them to track the cult further north. So long as the cultists have to pose as normal members of a caravan, they won’t be able to directly attack the heroes. The loot is likely to find its way to Rezmir. If the adventurers encounter her, Leosin asks that they kill her and take whatever artifact it is that she carries.

The party agrees to regroup at the Yawning Portal. Hurk decides to stay there and hangs out in the common room with Jamna. Raeyanne goes back to the Rat’s Nest to visit the rodents, while Beryl stays at the Temple of Bahamut. Garrett gets a room at the Yawning Portal, but goes back to check on the cultists.

The wagons are still there, but so are three members of the Gallowed, who spot the rogue. Unable to elude pursuit, Garrett gets the attention of a guard patrol, forcing the Gallowed to back off while he easily escapes the guards.

Garrett circles back to the Wandering Serpent and manages to spy on the cultists. The wagon leader, Zora, and Azbara Jos are chatting. They plan to rest the horses for another day, then head north to the Carnath Roadhouse posing as a supply train. Azbara claims that his Red Wizard superior is impatient with the tardiness in assembling the hoard, as it delays the rest of their plans.

Unable to spy the half-elf, Garrett returns to the Yawning Portal and reports his discovery to Hurk. Still feeling restless, the rogue then returns to spy on the Wandering Serpent, but is ambushed by a band of Gallowed.

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Accidents Happen
Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Chapter 4, Part 4

After five ten-days on the road, the caravan stops at the town of Daggerford to take on supplies and make a few last minute trades before arriving at Waterdeep ten days hence.

Garrett spots the half-elf cultists and several others leaving the caravan. He tails them to a tavern called the Toad’s Meadhall. Beryl and Raeyanne, meanwhile, head to the tavern to relax and take part in a game of Three Dragon Ante. Beryl plays her cards well, but is no match for Raeyanne’s cheating.

The cultists meet with a strange Rashemi man wearing a ridiculous red cap. Garrett’s attempts to eavesdrop catches the attention of the half elf, who pretends not to see him. Raeyanne loudly jokes about Garrett’s interest.

Hurk, meanwhile, chose to stay with the caravan. Keeping a watchful eye on things, he notices that a dangerous-looking gnome with pink hair is asking merchants if she can join up. Hurk decides to chat her up a bit and see what she’s up to. The gnome introduces herself as Jamna Gleamsilver and claims to be a passenger heading to Waterdeep. Hurk lets her know he’s available if she needs anything heavy lifted.

Meanwhile, the cultists conclude their meeting with the red-hatted man and he returns with them to the caravan, where he appears to have joined as a passenger.

Beryl lingers in the tavern, having a bit too much to drink, and has to be escorted back to the caravan by Raeyanne. She has an unhappy evening.

The next day, Garrett avoids being crushed by a barrel of ale as he helps to unload Beyd’s wagon during a stop. Garrett and Raeyanne assume it was an assassination attempt by the cult. They notice that Jamna is watching the red-hatted guy, and is also quietly gathering information on them. She seems to be aware they are watching her.

Raeyanne confronts her, conversing via thieves’ cant. Jamna claims that she isn’t interested in the man’s red hat so much as what’s underneath it. She asks to meet with the party later that night. Hurk is confused why the two of them appeared to have a tense conversation about the weather.

Jamna interrupts their dinner to pick a bone sliver out of Hurk’s bowl. She claims that if swallowed, it would unfurl in his stomach and pierce his intestines, fatally wounding him. She warns that all of their food is likely poisoned with the things. The adventurers spread a rumor around camp that the stew is bad to discourage people from eating it. Hurk tries to convince Gilas to eat it, but noble shoos him away.

Beryl is concerned that she had already eaten some stew. The party consults with resident herbalist Green Imsa, who advises a purgative. They consider administering the medicine to the rest of the caravan, just to be safe.

Late that night, Jamna meets up with the four adventurers. She explains that she is there for the same reason they are, tracking the cult wagons to find out what they are up to. She indicates that she is working for some sort of mercantile interest that’s unhappy with how the cultists’ raids are impacting trade.

The gnome suggests an alliance and reveals that she’s not certain what the cultists are hauling. They inform her the wagons are full of stolen loot. In turn, she tells them that the red hatted man is in fact a Red Wizard of Thay, which raises a whole other set of questions.

Jamna isn’t sure what they can do about the “accidents,” other than try to survive until they reach Waterdeep. In the mean time, she will keep her distance. She doesn’t want the cult to get wind of their alliance, so that the cult doesn’t go after her, too. When they get to the city, they can regroup.

That night, Garrett seeks out the half-elf cultist and warns him to walk away from the cult. The young man seems to think long and hard about this warning.

The next day, Hurk notices a loose wheel on his cart. The day after, they find a spooked horse who had been drugged. That night, they plant Green Imsa’s purgatory mix in a barrel of ale in order to cleanse the rest of the caravan of any lingering bone slivers. Hurk makes sure to give Jamna a heads up.

The day after that, the adventurers awaken to a murder. A young cultist, who was seen hanging around the stern-faced woman Zora, has been stabbed to death. She is furious and accuses Garrett, demanding to see his short swords. They match the wound, but so would any shortsword. The merchants ignore her accusations and press on to Waterdeep, trusting the gods to administer justice

Finally, after two long months on the road, the caravan arrives at the greatest city of the Sword Coast. The adventurers are paid for their services as guards and the merchants start to go their separate way..

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