Through the Swamp
Leaving the harrowing experience with the giant crocodile behind them, the heroes paddled on through the murky water. As the sun started its descent into the west, everyone was relieved to set foot onto relatively dry land again. Snapjaw led them through the tangled undergrowth, making sure that none of them stumbled into any of his people’s hidden traps.
At one point, Snapjaw warned the group that they were approaching a watch post. He told them to wait while he went forward and met with the six lizardfolk guards, attempting to convince them that he had brought the tribe’s saviors with him. He mentioned that the great dragon had spoken to the heroes, and that they were now on “a mission from god” (as it were). He also pointed to Flint’s missing arm and told them about how the dwarf had survived an encounter with a giant crocodile. The heroes looked the part well enough that the guards were suitably impressed. They agreed to send word out to the other members of the tribe.
A short while later, Snapjaw brought the heroes to the castle. He pointed out the stockade in which the giant lizards used as pack animals were kept, and the crude huts the bullywugs used for shelter. He led them to an expertly-made reed longhouse, roomy enough inside for quite a few lizardfolk, and offered them a meal consisting of smoked fish and crushed birds and lizards. The group relaxed in the longhouse until well after the sun had set.
When it was time for the lizardfolks’ nightly meeting, Snapjaw roused the herpes and escorted them past the bullywug guards in the barbican and across the causeway. They could see a few lights flickering through the windows and arrow slits in the castle but no one was out in the yard. Snapjaw led them into the forge and up the staircase to the armory above. There, representatives of the lizardfolk stationed in the castle were already waiting.
Snapjaw repeated his sales pitch, but this time the lizardfolk were a little more leery, perhaps because several of them were the elf Dralmorrer’s personal guards. Erevan stood up and did his best, in his finest Draconic, to sway them over to the plan of open rebellion. His stirring words proved sufficient, and then all that needed deciding was when to attack: should they attack right then, while the bullywugs were sleeping, or wait until morning, when more lizardfolk would have had time to come in from the swamp?
The heroes opted for the element of surprise. They wanted to take Pharblex the bullywug shaman out while he was sleeping next door, and after getting a better description of the layout of the castle from the lizardfolk bodyguards, they thought they knew just how to do it. Once the plans were in place, the heroes popped their potions of climbing and walked out onto the roof of the forge, over the castle wall, and around to the back side. Flint then put on the robe of useful items and pulled off the patch with a window on it. They stuck it on an arrow slit leading into the third floor of the barracks, which widened it enough that they could all slip through.
They found the third floor empty, except for a few old training dummies. A faint glow – and a sickly stench – rose up from the stairs leading down to the second floor, though, where the lizardfolk had said Pharblex and his guards slept. Erevan crept down the stairs to see. Sure enough, there was the bullywug shaman, slumbering alone at the far end of the room, while his guards slept in a great heap in the middle. Ranged about the room were jars full of fireflies. It was their light that was giving off the glow. The floor was covered in mud and filth. Hence the stench. The half-elf crept back up and reported his findings to his friends.
Flint moved back over to the window and used prestidigitation to send a signal to the lizardfolk. As they barged into the first floor of the barracks and start slaughtering the bullywugs down there, the heroes set up their ambush. Jamna snuck down and across the floor to stand over Pharblex, then waited for Erevan to fire an arrow into the shaman’s bulk. Meanwhile, Keo planted a spike growth on the area around the bullywug heap.
Mara nearly ruined the plan by not bothering to even try to be stealthy as she ran across the room, but even though she woke up most of the bullywugs, it took them too long to realize what was happening. Before any of them could even croak out a warning, Pharblex was shot, stabbed, and decapitated.
While the guards were able to leap out of Keo’s spikes and head for the stairs down, some of them ended up returning when they saw the slaughter that was taking place below. The heroes made short work of them. Jamna and Erevan had a bit of a contest to see who could find anything of interest on Pharblex’s body. Erevan won, finding the key to the chained and padlocked chest in the room. He opened it up to find it full of women’s jewelry and accessories. The collection seemed a bit out of place, but the heroes weren’t too fussed, chucking it all in Flint’s bag of holding to sort through later.
Heading downstairs, they found that the lizardfolk had lost six men, but there were close to thirty dead bullywugs in the room. The lizardfolk were keen to go and slaughter the bullywugs in the barbican next, so off they went while the heroes walked out onto the barracks roof to survey the scene. Some cultists had come out of the doorway directly opposite the barracks to see what was happening and then hurried back inside. The heroes decided to head for the observatory at the top of the keep in the center of the castle courtyard. They used an archway where some gates used to be in the wall separating the outer yard from the inner yard to get to the keep without having to set foot in either courtyard.
The Farseer of Illusk
As luck would have it, the magical telescope had not been left unguarded. As the group neared the roof of the keep, what had appeared to be mere grotesque statuary animated. Erevan made a beeline for a hatch leading to the interior of the observatory, with Keo (and Jamna, who’d been getting a lift from the goliath) hot on his heels, while Mara and Flint attempted to hold off the gargoyles. Once inside, Keo summoned up some bears and then shifted into his own bear form as the gargoyles followed him into the room. The foul creatures bit and slashed him quite badly, though, and he was unable to maintain concentration on his spell, the bears vanishing with a pop.
The group were eventually able to destroy all four gargoyles without any losses on their own side. However, the destruction of the stony creatures had been quite noisy, especially since one fell about fifty feet down to the courtyard, where it shattered into lots of pieces, while another broke apart and clattered down all over the telescope’s brass roof. Realizing that the cultists would be alerted, the heroes paused only to smash as many of the farseer‘s fragile pieces as they could find before agreeing that it was time to get out and find a safe place to rest.