Note: Sir Daniel the Savage is not an entirely reliable narrator.
Having only hours earlier rescued and returned the Oracle of Veldanaya to safety, we were called upon once more. It seemed that the oracle’s prophecy was a dire, albeit non-specific one – as prophecies tend to be, in my experience. The silver dragon Cloudshaper had borne a child who was destined to do some great good, but who had not yet hatched. The egg was located in an isolated temple well-concealed deep within a most dangerous swamp. If said egg were to remain unprotected, some terrible fate would befall the land. And so, we were charged with a new task.
Departure was delayed slightly by deliberations and consultations regarding the local climes and the relevant supplies required. Our resident illusionist, in particular, thoughtfully inquired into the nature of the dangers we might face. One of her more fanciful ideas was to obtain a sheep’s bladder and fill the cured organ with air, thus providing buoyancy in case one found oneself suddenly thrashing around in the murky depths. Had I known what the swamplands helin store for us, I perhaps would not have thought this idea so amusing – but I get ahead of myself.
Our travel went most pleasantly, our steps no doubt lightened by my uplifting notes. Yet as I strummed upon my recently-purchased lute, I could not help but harbour an unpleasant feeling about what was to come. Our initial foray into the swamp was blessedly uneventful, and as night fell we set up camp, choosing not to risk travel by darkness. The watch was taken by Rage, our warforged barbarian. One advantage of his curious nature as a living construct is that he does not seem to require that which sustains most mortals – sleep, food, drink, or even air itself. This nature made him an excellent candidate to keep up the guard, and his lack of reliance on respiration would assist him later as well.
In any case, Rage woke us in the wee hours of the morn, alerting us to some danger edging ever closer. While Saraneth, Escher, and I readied our weapons, Rage advanced into the thickets in order to determine the nature of the threat. In seconds we heard a great wailing and gnashing of teeth, and Rage stumbled out of the bush, covered in snapping drakes. Turning to assist him, I was blindsided by a larger beast, which spewed acid from its snarling maw. Aside from Rage’s misfortune, and my temporary inability to conjure up sufficiently damaging verbal barbs with which to pepper our foes, we dispatched the wild creaures with little difficulty. The rest of the night passed peacefully, and we advanced further in the morn.
As we followed the snaking trail through the swamp, we spotted a lone figure standing in the distance. While my companions attempted to stealthily approach from behind the cover of foliage, I took a different tack, approaching in plain sight down the path, lute in tow. A particularly incisive limerick was cut short by the sound of a blade drawn by my head. I threw myself to the ground, but my assailant was nowhere to be seen. My suspicions were later confirmed – Saraneth had employed an auditory illusion in order to sway my course in case of potential danger. Effective, surely – but a simple “hold!” might have performed the trick just as well, and in any case spared me the intimate knowledge of the bog’s stench. These theatrics proved unnecessary when we closed on the figure and discovered that there were not one, but three armour-clad figures present. Perhaps more importantly, they had all been dead for some time – pinned up like gruesome scarecrows, a sign hanged over one body warning us of the danger to come. Yet we pressed further, and forthwith came upon what appeared to be a recently sacked camp.
Was this the last residence of those unfortunates we had just encountered? Escher noted a trail of blood from one tent and followed it, hoping for clues of some kind. Instead, it led him to the dark river, a bend of which edged one corner of the camp. While the rest of us scanned the camp for activity, Escher stepped up to the riverbank and was abruptly attacked by a reptilian beast of grand proportions, which tore at him with its hungry jaws. We rushed to assist him, but found ourselves surrounded by lizard-like creatures, who fell upon us with spear and blow-gun. Escher was nimble enough to escape the river-beast’s grasp, but when Rage charged the monster, we saw him dragged beneath the surface. Unfortunately for the beast, it had chosen the wrong target to try and drown, and as Rage hacked away at it, we sprang into action to see off the other scaly interlopers.
Saraneth led us into the pitched battle with unusual tactics – throwing herself, along with one of the campsite tents, into the foe. Meanwhile, I cursed our foes in their language of Draconic, but my words seemed to fall on deaf ears. Rage continued his struggle with the gator, managing to tear himself from the toothy trap, only to receive several blow-darts for his trouble. Perhaps foolishly, we continued to fight alongside the riverbank, giving the beast (which I suspect was water-bound all along) ample opportunities to strike at us. At one point, it ensnared my mail and jerked me into the bog. Only as a result of my deft maneuvering and the wounds already inflicted on the lizard by Rage’s strikes was I able to writhe free. Clamoring onto solid land, my mood was as foul as the stench which now hung over me. With a mighty cry to Avandra, I surged forward, striking down one of the feral lizardmen. Saraneth and Escher struck at the rest, while Rage crossed the river to deal with one of their more cowardly brethren. In something of an anti-climactic turn, Escher hurled a shuriken at the water-beast, almost as an afterthought. It struck it squarely in its misshapen eye, killing it once and for all.
Having weathered the poisonous barbs and striking spears, we routed the creatures and rendered one unconscious. As the only member of our band with knowledge of Draconic, I spoke with our captive, explaining our circumstances. My offers of cooperation were rejected at every turn, and the creature’s defiance nearly led me to finish it off before it could tell us anything. Regaining my composure, I delivered my final attempt at diplomacy, and my magicked words found resonance. The reptile hesitantly gave us directions to our destination, all the while reassuring us that if its compatriots did not defeat us, then the gods themselves would strike us down. Unfazed, we released our informant and redoubled our efforts towards the temple. Our directions proved accurate, no doubt leading us past many hazards. Finally, we arrived before the hidden temple, carried out initial inspections, and prepared a plan to cross the final barrier—a mighty wall and gate which surrounded the entire structure.