The Brazen Bollocks Mercenary Co.

Gundar's Tale, part 2

A strange group of 3 customers sat at the bar in madam Freona's teakettle. The hour was late, and the place had mostly cleared out, save the worst of the drunks and those who had a seat at Rando's nightly poker game. The group consisted of a dwarf, a large man, and a dragonborn. Adventurers, no doubt, for where else do the unusual races of the world mix and share their skills to cast out the darkness and its servants?

"Ok human, I promised ye a drink and a tale, and now ye have tha drink, so I must tell the tale", said the dwarf. "Well", said Culhwch, wiping foam from his beard, "I believe this single drink won't cover your long-windedness Gundar. You better talk quick!" Gundar eyed the human, made a face and said "You humans are so hasty. Those short lives don't help with your sense of respect and patience". Culhwch rolled his eyes and laughed as he made a twirling gesture with his finger- hurry it up already. The dragonborn watched this exchange and took it all in. Gundar had asked him to be here, and, although he personally had no stomach for the ale these two consumed in such quantity, he was glad to be a part of this sharing of friendship with the members of the band. "I think you both will want to hear this. It's relevant to tha jobs we've been doin in tha area" said Gundar. "I thought you were going to tell me about your people, dwarf" said Culhwch. "I'm getting to that you fool!" Gundar practically roared at him. Culhwch laughed and decided to stop riling up his old friend. It was far too easy. "Aye, my people. What happened to me clanhold, me past life". "As you know the dwarves are a proud folk. We of the Heldenhammer clan is some of the proudest. We kept our hold beneath the Dragonspine for some 800 or so years. Fended off the foul dark elves and dark dwarves, both of which wanted our finest works. I've told ye in tha past that I was a tunnel hunter, a type of dwarf scout sent out into the tunnels to see beyond the borders of our hold. Ye see, unlike the castles and fortifications of you surface dwellers, the underground races always have ta be thinkin attack could come from any angle. The dangers we faced living under the rock and soil were many, and the dwarves are not a numerous folk. Often we rely on the best weapons and armor, as well as some truly nasty traps to keep our foes away". Gundar chuckled at this thought, and Culhwch smiled a little as he though of how many souls much have been sent to Morrigan's realm at the hands of dwarven ingenuity. "We lived in relative danger, not because our enemies were so numerous, but because there were few nearby we could count on for strength if we were attacked. We had trade agreements with some surface lands, and at least one long standing treaty with the sverneblin gnomes of Tasthnelingorp, but those little fellas were hardly warriors." There was a commotion at the halflings' game table that stopped the story. One halfling with an eyepatch was yelling in the highest pitched voice at another across the table, accusing him of cheating. The other was saying something about how the first fellow's feet smelled like rotting cabbage. Madam Freona starting yelling across the bar at all of them, telling them they'd better settle down before she called the Black Fist in. The three at the bar knew this was an empty threat. Ever since the Bullocks took up residence here Freona hardly needed the help of the Fist and there was seldom any real trouble. Rando had whatever situation had broken out back in hand, no doubt soothing feelings so he could bilk more of the diminutive crowd out of their earnings. "As I was sayin " Gundar continued, shooting a dark glare over his shoulder, "we were able to hold our own and did well understandin' the threats in the area around us. We protected our hold and tha material wealth we had acquired fiercely. There were a few extremely rare and highly valuable items that had been crafted or found over the centuries. These were mostly sealed away in the thane's treasury. 'Twas hardly a secret we had these, for they was the pride of our hold. I might even presume our downfall was due to one of these items, though I know not specifically which. I can tell ye that I was away on long patrol, several weeks in the underdark. When I returned, well, it was scene of the most heartbreaking loss I can tell ye." Gundar's face became stoic and sagged a little further here. "All of me friends who weren't away were dead. They died at the hands of an odd and crude force. From what I and the other surviving scouts could see, a very large group of goblins, kobolds, orcs, ogres, knolls, and assorted beasts descended upon the hold. They clogged our traps with their dead, and many of our folk showed evidence of dying under the effects of some sort of poisonous vapor. Me people sold their lives dearly, taking perhaps as many as 10 of the invaders for every dwarf. The thane's treasury had been breached, and its riches looted. In many ways this assault appeared fairly straightforward, but it was the makeup of the force that was most unusual. These normally useless dregs had been formed into an organized band. They appeared to use tactics as well as have at least some knowledge about their target. They suffered a high number of casualties, yet pressed on despite this. Me and the surviving tunnel scouts followed their backtrail as far as we dared and there couldn't have been more than 100 bodies left. They had traveled back to their destination urgently, never really leaving the signs of rest. Driven you would say. That was odd too. Our hold was thoroughly destroyed, and there could not be another similar threat to such a force for many wheels." Culhwch and Krev sat awestruck, silent as the dwarf went on. "Me and the rest of the tunnel scouts, we had nothing left to cling to. We made for the surface and each went our separate ways. We were all too stunned and really there was nothing left of home. We all felt a tremendous amount of guilt over being away in our hold's hour of need. We were looking down for a threat instead of up you could say. The guilt had driven our little group apart. We all went to find new places, but we agreed to always stay in contact with one another, in case one should happen upon the architect behind our home's downfall. It was during all this unrest here locally in Phlan that I started to feel an itch." Culhwch looked like he was about to say something, then the dwarf cut in "I swear human if you make a joke about me rashes we are gonna go ta blows!" Culhwch smiled and innocently gestured "who me?" The dwarf went on "this itch I speak of, involves the gut. You start to feel like you see something or feel something and it goes with something ya seen or felt before. Well all this dragon business, these cults and the issues with the Fey folk, it reminded me that an awful powerful being was behind uniting those lesser mobs and sending em into Heldenhammer Hold. It reminds me of the work of a dragon, if I'm being specific." Here Krev suddenly got excited, and spoke for the first time since the tale began. "What makes you say that? There are many powerful creatures that could command such a force". Gundar replied. "Oh I know. I thought of that too at first. But like I said, an itch. It really began when we heard about that dragon Skrollwerx. He be the red devil that had so many factions working and dying just to grovel at his feet." Gundar nervously rubbed the warm metal of the red ring he had taken from that fool Spernik. "So I started asking questions, and spoke to some with the Enclave. I recruited a few minor scholars to dig into records for me and turn out anything having to do with those beasts right around that time." Gundar paused here briefly for effect. "There weren't a lot- I suspect a monster that cunning leaves few survivors. But there were stories, and sightings, and at least one tale similar to mine. It fits, but I know not which of the tyrants to pin the crime to yet. And now, I find, that I may be the last." "What do you mean?" Krev cut in. The excitement that his ancient kin might somehow  be involved had him as on edge as either had ever seen him. "I mean," said Gundar, "that when I began to ask questions I had reached out to all my surviving scouts. I wanted to know what they might have discovered. And I couldn't reach a one of them. All gone, vanished as though they never existed." Culhwch looked troubled. He said "maybe they just moved away, out of touch?" Gundar shook his head. "No manling, we was kin. One or two maybe, but not all. And that itch, it grew more nagging than ever. This was the work of whatever monster was responsible for making me clanless, I'd bet me finest axe on it. And when I finally figure out which one it is, there will be a great many dwarves I'll need ta be avenging." Gundar banged his empty mug on the bar to signal he was done talking. Now, it was time to drink to the dead.

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Episode 4: Shadows Over the Moonsea

Shadows Over the Moonsea

*Thark watched from his position near the west gate of the city as the Brazen Bollocks embarked out into the countryside. Rumors were that they were doing some more work for Knight Burral and the Black Fist. Thark was glad to know that; as the other rumors related to the Bollocks were more sinister and quite dangerous to the mercenaries. Thark was always on the streets looking out for the city and he had managed to use a bit of his time to keep tabs on the Bollocks as well. They had saved his life on two different occasions and he had a vested interest in helping to keep them alive and to assist them as necessary. They didn't seem the type to do anything altruistically, but the work they had done for various powers in the city had been extremely helpful. At least two different plots of the Dragon cultists had been foiled by the Bollocks and from his experience, extremist groups like that did not take transgressions lightly…

The Bollocks headed out of Phlan to some poorly named and barely known island just off the coast and north of the city a few days to investigate rumors of ghost pirate attacks along the coast. This island was believed to be the next target. They headed swiftly up the coast until they discovered a group of bandits terrorizing a man and his son. The Gray Patriots, as they called themselves, pushed the Bollocks into a fight that they could not refuse. The bandits lost, very badly. The Bollocks rescued the man, who turned out to be a merchant. He travels the coast of the Moonsea selling staples and a few unusual goods. He also works for the Lord's Alliance. They all camped together and traded rumors about the Gray Patriots and Claws of Tiamat, large outlaw forces that were raiding and warring along the Iron Route. The merchant gave the Bollocks some info regarding the island they were seeking and the parties parted ways.

The Bollocks arrived at the ferry to take them to the Island of the Folk. The unpleasant ferryman did not give a good impression of the people who live on the isle of which, he was one. Upon landing on the isle a young woman greeted them with curiosity. Elisande was a young orphan girl who followed the party and watched as they worked. The rest of the islanders were unfriendly and somewhat hostile. A crazy man in a collapsed hut had items in his possession that identified him as a member of the Cult of the Dragon. The Bollocks were tiring of these half-assed dragon worshippers running around the countryside stirring up the locals. They looked into a few other places on the island and prepared some defensive lines to protect the village from the supposed ghost pirate attacks they had been sent to investigate.

The pirates attacked that night. They turned out to be kobolds and humans in poorly made costumes. They were good enough to fool the uninitiated, but the Bollocks had faced several types of undead monsters during their time in Phlan, and these trivialities, were neither undead, nor monster. Also, the villagers were some kind of devil worshippers.

As the last of the "ghost pirates" were slain, a peal of thunder overhead portended the eruption of a massive portal between the island and the Nine Hells, from which a blazing pirate ship and an unnatural, hell-born storm arrived. The Audacity was crewed by the damned souls who landed on this island 100 years prior to hide their treasure. The islanders did not take well to being oppressed by these "outsides" and they summoned up some diabolic powers and made a pact with Tiamat from her abode in the Hells. She granted them the powers to escape from subjugation and to curse the crew of the Audacity to living damnation in the Hells. They held that pact for more than a century, before the Cult of the Dragon arrived.

The Audacity flew from the portal and the storm came with it. Both crashing into the island with dreadful force; smashing apart the ship used by the ghost pirate imposters, and sending it flying. A whirlwind grabbed the remnants and scattered them across the beach. The Audacity collided with the shore and came apart, scattering the infernal crew across the beach. They gathered themselves and set upon the Bollocks at their beachhead. The battle was tense, but the Bollocks prevailed and the hell-damned crew of the Audacity was sent back to their punishment, for good. Another portal and a massive vortex dredged all that remained of the ships and the pirates from the beach. All of the islanders were taken away as well for breaking their infernal pacts. The only thing left, a large statue of a dracolich, half-buried in the sand, its eyes glowing red.

The rest of the island had been whipped by hellfire and would burn from now unto the next Sundering.

The Bollocks explored the island and found the alter where the villagers conducted their devil business. They found several books there with information about the island, the crew of the Audacity, and their victims in life. They wrecked it and took the books and loot. They found a usable raft and ferried back to the mainland. Elisande tagged along, of course. Business concluded, they headed to the town of Kabel's Hill to see if the Black Fist job they had there was worth taking. Damn this rain.

Chaab was traveling with a small band of his fellows, back from near Zhentil Keep, where they had met with suppliers and traded news, before heading back to the base they had established in the old Circle of the Scale Temple. Rumors from the coast were that the Cult of the Dragon was moving their treasure horde, meant as a offering to the Dragon Queen, to a place called the well of Dragons. They were gathering an army. They were growing. Chaab traded rumors of a growing force in Phlan calling itself the Tears of Virulence. They had seen evidence of meetings and heard whispered rumors, but its secrets were not yet revealed. Chaab also reported on the general state of the city. Phlan was bursting at the seams from the influx of people for a variety of reasons. Unrest in the countryside due to bandits, monster activity, lizardfolk raids, and rumors of dragons in the swamp were also pushing people to the shelter of the walls. Phlan was overripe, and any variety of crisis may cause it to burst apart.

Chaab's attention was caught by a flicker of light in the night sky, out over the Moonsea near a small island. He didn't even know people lived out there, but he could see on the beach, the motion of torches that must be held by someone. The flicker of light suddenly grew to massive size and  peal of thunder so loud it caused them to clap their hands over their ears, rolled off the water and up to where they were standing on the road like a wave. Fire and lightning tore out of the portal and scoured the island. The light show revealed a ship out on the water and suddenly another ship came flying out of the portal and smashed the floating ship, scattering its bits across the island. Chaab watched the new ship crash onto the beach and scatter, and he saw the motion of the torches become more frantic for several minutes before the whole thing was taken up again by a vortex.

Chaab and the rest of his party looked at one another and silently concluded that they would hide in the woods nearby  for a few days and see if anyone came off the island, before they moved in to loot whatever remained.

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Episode 5: Tales Trees Tell

Episode 5 – Tales Trees Tell

Halvin Graingle sat uncomfortably in his run down hovel. He had been sending letters to the elven village of Greenhall. Some ridiculous system of birds, wooden whistles, and boxes on trees…he didn't know what was going on with it, but he sent several letters and received many acorns in return. He didn't really know what to make of it, but he had a mission and he wanted to fulfill it. He had places to go. After all, he had been sent on this special mission by the Cult of the Dragon, and that was a sign of confidence. He asked Pipyap again why he shouldn't just go into the forest and call out for what he wanted. Pipyap stated that not all ancient and evil things are as harmless as Imps, and that Halvin should wait for a response from the creatures within. Halvin spoke the words to dismiss the imp back to his holding area, closed his eyes, and imagined what it would be like to be leader in the cult someday.

The Bollocks arrived in the farming village of Kabel's Hill on a rainy afternoon. The town appeared quiet, no one was on the streets. The Bollocks found the majority of the citizen gathered in the Leaky Bucket, the local tavern. The Bollocks were welcomed by the villagers who explained that they were in the middle of a meeting to decide a course of action. Halvin Graingle, a stranger to the village had moved to a ramshackle hut near the edge of the Quivering Forest several months ago. approximately 20 days ago, he disappeared. His abode was searched by the locals and evidence that he had gone into the forest had been found. The villagers feared the worst as violating the borders of the forest meant that an ancient pact between the fey of the forest and Phlan and the surrounding villages may be in jeopardy. The nature of the pact was poorly understood by the villagers, but they seemed to believe that extreme danger awaited them due to the breaking of the pact. Their fear overcame them and they sent a rescue party into the Quivering Forest to try and find Halvin and make peace with the fey residing there. They pleaded with the Bollocks to go into the forest and find out what had happened to Halvin and their search party.

The Bollocks agreed to go and took the evening to rest. In the middle of dinner a scream of terror from outside alerted the village and they ran to the town square. They found a member of the search party with his eyes removed and tongue cut out lashed to the post where notices were hung. He was pierced through with a 12-inch long hairpin made of bone and silver. The wounded villager was taken down and treated. The Bollocks set out the next day.

The Bollocks searched Halvin's abode for clues. They found that he was a member of the Cult of the Dragon who had been attempting to renegotiate the treaty between the fey and Phlan. He wanted the fey to stand down as the Cult of the Dragon took over Phlan. While searching they also encountered an Imp named Pipyap. He stated that Halvin was a wizard who worked for the cult, but he had no idea what his plans were. Pipyap advised against going into the forest and stayed behind when Halvin embarked on his journey. Pipyap accompanied the party on their trip. Next stop was at the house of an elven ranger named, Sariel. She gave the Bollocks the info she had regarding the pact. The Bollocks showed her the bone hairpin they had and Sariel was repelled by the object. She noted that the pin was a scrying device and that the hag who owned it, Jeny Greenteeth, had heard everything the Bollocks had said to this point. A sudden thump on the door of Sariel's cottage announced the arrival of an animated scarecrow and several Needle blights, that attacked the party. Sariel was wounded by the Blights, but the creatures were otherwise swiftly dealt with.

Halvin could not believe what he was hearing. He had made a strong case and presented all of the facts for why the Cult of the Dragon would be triumphant, but this old fey bitch, this hag, she wouldn't budge on the pact. He couldn't understand why she wouldn't just stand aside. The people of Phlan were doomed. The Cult was already in the process of taking Phlan. He had received word from Spernik recently that stated the plan was moving along as expected. This spurred Halvin to make one more attempt at convincing the hag to see reason. He thought that the letter from Spernik would help to sway her, so he bent to retrieve it from his pack. He never saw the 12 inch bone hairpin that pierced the back of his neck and exited at his throat, but he saw the old woman transform into a monstrous visage, and he knew, at last that he was dealing with a real Hag.

The Bollocks and Sariel headed for the elven village in the forest, Greenhall. They arrived at Greenhall and were greeted with hostility. The villagers had visited the village and asked for assistance, which the elves reluctantly offered. They had not seen Halvin. They did not want to deal with the Bollocks, but due to some diplomacy from Sariel, they managed to not be attacked and to obtain direction to Jeny's lair in the forest.

The Bollocks were ambushed by displacer beasts in the forest, they managed to drive off the creatures, but Sariel was again, badly wounded and in need of healing magic. The Bollocks traveled a while longer and found the lair of Jeny Greenteeth, an ancient Hag. The glade where she resided was idyllic. Clear sky shone from above and the ever present rain, since the events at the Isle of the Fisher Folk, seemed to shy away from this place. Several old-women were seen working at various tasks around the glade, and a large cook pot was simmering a delightful smelling stew. Jeny greeted the Bollocks and all of the old women in the glade spoke the same words, with the same voice, in unison. It was creepy. The Bollocks engaged in conversation with the Hag and learned that Halvin had been by and made his proposal, but he was rude and summarily killed by Jeny. She also encountered the rescue party of villagers, some of whom were helping to serve dinner, and some of whom were not present. The Bollocks accepted her hospitality, but were cautious of eating the offered stew. They discussed the pact, the villagers, Phlan, and the Cult of the Dragon. Jeny had been unaware of the Cult as active in the modern day, but she spoke of the notions held by Halvin as ludicrous. She believed that summoning Tiamat to the world would be bad for all of Faerun. She noted, however, that the pact had been broken and that such things are inflexible in the world of the fey. The Bollocks spoke further with her and gave their best effort to convince Jeny to restore the pact, but she would not relent. Finally, the Bollocks asked that the villagers be allowed to leave with them. Jeny stated that the still living villagers could go in exchange for telling the villagers to stay out of the forest. The Bollocks agreed and made their way back.

The villagers rejoiced at their returned comrades. They mourned the loss of the fallen. They agreed to stay out of the forest, but wondered what the breaking of the pact meant to them and their families. The Bollocks strongly advised them to stay out of the forest. The villagers offered up a boat passage and the promised reward money, most of the town's savings, and saw the Bollocks off. Hard rain accompanied the Bollocks downstream to Phlan.

They had much to report to Knight Alyed Burral: Dragon Cultists were on the island of the Fisher Folk and in the village of Kabel's Hill. The islanders were some sort of devil worshippers. A pirate ship and storm came from the Nine Hells, and is probably responsible for the constant rain. They left an active, magical dracolich statue on the island, but they do not know what it does. Some kind of ancient pact between Phlan and the fey of the Quivering Forest has been broken; and if Phlan is in trouble, they fey will not assist the city. A Hag killed several villagers, but also, a dragon cultist. And, the Bollocks killed several members of a group called the Gray Patriots, who they heard about from Aleyd, when she was drunk. Aleyd paid them and dismissed them. She was embarrassed and had too much to discuss with the Lord Regent.

The Bollocks took a month off, and the rain never stopped.

Ellison hated that he had had to kill Garda Greenleaf. She had always been so sweet and helpful. Even when he was new, and a stranger to this place, she had always offered to help. She had been happy to take him down into the archives to look for his books this evening, but she became suspicious when she saw the Dragon necklace spill out of his pack while he searched it. He had stammered and panicked a bit, but when she threatened to go to the Black Fist, he acted decisively and ended the issue. "Praise Tiamat and the favored of the Dragon Queen." Ellison quickly went about searching the books they had retrieved for the information related to the Pools of Radiance and excising the necessary pages. He had to get out of here soon, someone would be missing Garda. He had done his research and the deep archives down here exited out to the sewers and he could make his way out of the city in secret. Thankfully he had stolen this Horn of Blasting from Aya Glenmiir earlier. He hoped that he could make the rest of this endeavor cleaner than this part had been. Spernik had sent him that threatening note earlier this week that had spurred him to action. He guessed that the urgency associated with the tasks was due to Rynthrax having a deadline in Scrape, across the Moonsea, to deliver these books and other items for the leadership of the cult. The plots seemed to be escalating quickly at this point. Ellison had been in the city for moths just working as a a scribe before orders to act had been issued. Halvin had received his orders first and departed for the village of Kabel's Hill. Tibeem and Spernik were prompted to act months ago, and Spernik had been acting inside Stojanow's brig ever since he had been arrested. Ellison wished he knew what was going on, but his desire to carry out his mission overrode his curiosity.

He had what he needed. He sounded the Horn and created his exit. He would have to work quickly through the archives if he was to meet Rynthrax tonight, but he felt good about his ability to accomplish this task.

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Episode 6: The Scroll Thief

The Scroll Thief

The Bollocks were alerted late in the evening by Aleyd Burral of a series of robberies that occurred under the cover of rain and night, in various locations around the city. Homes and offices were broken into rather brazenly and some citizens were assaulted in the course of events. The robberies were thought to have been perpetrated by small humanoids, possibly Halflings, and some human counterparts.

The Bollocks visited Martin Foss and Aya Glenmiir. They each had books stolen from them. Marten lost a numbered journal detailing the adventuring exploits of Ren O’ the Blade and the Pool of Radiance some 150 years past. Aya lost a book detailing the mysteries of the Weave and how it creates Pools of Radiance, specifically the one that used to be located in Phlan, under Valljevo Castle.

The Bollocks were distracted and subsequently attacked by a group of Kobolds (posing as Halflings), a Dragon Cult Cleric named Soares, and a transformed man in the shape of a monstrous dragon-powered creature. The fight was dangerous, but the Bollocks prevailed and gathered some clues. The man had been wearing the armor of a Black Fist officer splattered with green paint. It was strange. This must have been one of the groups that participated in the series of robberies.

The Bollocks went to the Library and spoke with several people, but specifically Cassra Brandywine, who is in charge of the scriptorium. Cassra indicated that an attempt to break into the library had been made, but that it had not been successful. Upon investigating some suspicions, the Bollocks found that a man they had investigated once before in conjunction with other stolen documents, Ellison Berringer, was also missing. It was believed that Ellison was in league with the cultists Spernik and Tibeem, and may have been acquainted with Halvin Graingle (Tales Trees Tell). The Bollocks followed Cassra to the archives below the library to search out companion volumes to the books that were stolen. Their investigation led them to discover the body of a Library employee who appeared to have been murdered. A sudden, loud sound like a thunderclap shook the archive room and the bookshelves collapsed on the party, trapping a couple of them undershelves and books.

Cassra led the Bollocks further into the archives where they were attacked by some Shadow creatures awoken by the loud noise. They then found a secret chamber with the collected histories of Phlan prior to the takeover by the Zhentarim. The items were stored by Denlor the Sage. The Bollocks looted the place and took a Headband of Intellect from a trapped box. Another thunderclap alerted the party to an opening in from the archives to the sewers of Phlan.

The Bollocks followed the sewers to a drainage area and were attacked by two Carrion Crawlers. Dealing with the creatures and sliding out of the sewers and into the Stojanow River set the Bollocks on a path to the Twilight Marsh. Some information gathered form a found backpack indicated that the Cultist Ellison was headed to the Marsh to meet with someone named Rynthrax. Following the trail into the Marsh led the Bollocks to a small island surround by water and reeds with a cave opening leading into the earth. Ellison was sitting on the beach tending to a fire. Rando snuck into crossbow range and shot Ellison in the back as he headed into the cave. Ellison cried out and fell out of sight. Seconds later the wingtips of a horse-sized Black dragon portended the appearance of the dragon itself. It took to the air as the Bollocks approached the island.

The dragon, Rynthrax, used its control of the area around its lair to attack the Bollocks with the water from the marsh and drag them to the ground. It also created an area of magical darkness over the cave entrance. The Bollocks fought Ellison and tried to stave off the strafing acid breath attacks from Rynthrax. In an inspired moment, Frost used her magic to speak to the dragon. Rynthraz was convinced to land and parley with Frost, who worked hard to convince Rynthrax that she was a member fot eh Dragon Cult and that Ellison is a traitor. Believing her, Rynthrax used his acid breath to attack Ellison and destroy him.

The Bollocks parleyed with Rynthrax for several more minutes. They exchanged some books from Rynthrax and he went off on his own errand for the Cult, thinking that some new allies had presented themselves. The Bollocks headed back to Phlan for some much needed rest.

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Episode 7: Drums in the Marsh

*Throstugrael slept. He had come to this place in the Twilight Marsh from his lair in the sunken temple. Rumors of  the existence of a tree where powerful dragons had laired throughout the ages. It was also thought that the tree may contain the lost remains of the ancient and once powerful Black dragon, Chardansearavitriol, also known as Ebondeath. Legend says that he died in 1202 DR and that the remains of his body were never found. Throstugrael’s recent contact with the Cult of the Dragon had also sparked interest in the rumors, so it was sought out by Throstugrael and the Cult over the past months.

As he slept Throstugrael could hear the whispers from the darkness of the tree. Other legends recounting the death of Ebondeath stated that the disembodied spirit of the dragon still haunted the remains and if that were so, Ebondeath was a Dracolich in spirit form and Throstugrael thought perhaps he could learn the secrets of lichdom from the whispers…

The Bollocks were spending a quiet night at the Tea Kettle. The rain on this evening was nothing more than a gentle mist and the people of Phlan were taking advantage of the fairer weather to revel and exchange good tidings in the streets of the city. A grim half-orc named Thark, entered the Tea Kettle and approached the Bollocks with a proposal.

The Welcomers had been acting as protectors of the city for months; working against the tyranny of the Black Fist and keeping tabs on the streets of the city trying to root out the plots of the Cult of the Dragon. Tonight, they wanted to chase down the Black dragon they believed to be residing in the Twilight Marsh and kill it. The Welcomers had recently heard from travelers that Lizardfolk had been attacking settlements near the marsh. They feared that the encroachment of the Lizardfolk into civilized territory and the threat of an actual dragon so near the city need to be dealt with. Thark asked the Bollocks to join forces with the Welcomers to search out the dragon in its lair, tonight. The Bollocks related their recent experience with the dragon Rynthrax, and expressed their regret at not having killed the dragon.

The Bollocks joined many Welcomers and some other adventuring parties to form a 40 person search team to blanket an area of the swamp where the lair was believed to be and work in a grid formation to search the marsh thoroughly. The Bollocks formed their own team and set into the marsh in search of a dragon.

The Bollocks encountered some creatures in the marsh, but they also discovered and trailed a party if Lizardfolk marshalling a raft of prisoners through the dense terrain of the area. The Bollocks followed along until a conflict erupted on the prisoner raft. The Bollocks took action to eliminate the gards and free the prisoners. A captured Lizardfolk and freed dwarven merchant, named Rolk, explained what had been occurring. The lizardfolk tries had been spurred to action after a Balck dragon attacked and killed the tribal leader of the Lizardfolk a few weeks ago. The dragon had destroyed a large village of Lizardfolk and they had all relocated to the Ringcurrent Islands just off the coast of the Moonsea. Approximately 150 Lizardfolk had gathered and about as many prisoners had been taken to offer as tribute to the dragon. The Bollocks decided that a an assault on the gathered Lizardfolk tribe would most likely result in their deaths, so they opted to deliver information regarding the events and continue their search for the dragon.

The signaling spell was triggered by another party and the Bollocks followed the beacon deep into the marsh. The gathered parties stood in the ruins of an ancient stone circle on a patch of high ground in the marsh. Hundreds of thorny branches tangled together to form a covered walkway into the area where the dragon was lairing. Approaching the lair the Bollocks saw a massive Mangrove tree surrounded by a wall of branches and plants about the size of a stadium. A large moat of swampy ground and water stood between the parties and the Mangrove tree where they had seen the dragon Rynthrax enter a large cave at the root of the tree.

Rando scouted the area and found a safe way into the lair and up to the large patch of land raised in the center of the lair. The groups rallied together and entered the lair. They successfully navigated the swamp and as they arrived on the island, Rynthrax was emerging from the cave. The Bollocks went into action and killed the beast in about six seconds. Considering how frightened they had been of the beast, they were surprised how easily it had been slain. It was then that Rando, hidden in the shelter of the tree roots, felt a large object move next to him. Looking up he saw the enormous form of an Adult Black dragon awakening and dislodging itself from the Mangrove Tree.

Throstugrael greeted the parties and derided them for bringing a group of 40 humanoids to kill one tiny dragon. As he fully dislodged himself from the massive Mangrove, he spoke of his need to leave and deal with the selection of a new chief from the assembled Lizardfolk tribes at the Ringcurrent Islands. Throstugrael turned his head to show where the skin had been burned from his skull and left the bone exposed. A  green light flickered in the ruined eye socket and stared down the assembled group before taking flight and leaving the lair via an opening in the top of the wooded canopy.

The Bollocks and assembled companions looted the lair and made their way back to Phlan as fast as they could. They took the body of slain Rynthrax with them and stowed it in a shed outside of town.

The threat of Rynthrax had been displaced by the emergence of Throstugrael onto the scene of troubled Phlan.

*Rynthrax spoke into the Sending Stone and waited for Sharrak to respond from the other end. Rynthrax had just returned from delivering orders to Narle Shieldbiter, Chieftain of the Burning Banner Orc Clan. The chieftain had made a pact with the Cult of the Dragon and they would soon attack the troublesome Claws of Tiamat and eliminate their mad leader, Jeralla. He spoke openly despite the presence of the Imp floating invisibly nearby. It would seem that visitors had arrived. He did hope it was someone he could eat, he had flown a long way to arrive at this lair and he was hungry. He knew for certain that if Throstugrael awoke, he would have nothing to eat, so he changed from his elven form back into dragon form and stepped from the cave. He did not expect to see the Dragon cultist Frost and her companions, especially not in this place. How did they get here and what exactly did they want? The crossbow bolt that struck Rynthrax in the neck, mortally wounding him, gave all the answer he would need to know..

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