((Hopefully I remembered things well enough. This goes back a few sessions))
Having decided to help the citizens of Harkenwold by removing the Bullywug threat to Tors Hold, and thus freeing up their militia to join the efforts of liberating Harken Keep (now Iron Keep) and Baron Stockmer from the Iron Circle, the Salt Merchants headed west.
Travel was accented by marching songs, but otherwise uneventful. After a short stop in Tors Hold to speak with Bran Torsson and assess the situation (both the bullywug problem, and their openness to trade), it was roughly an additional day’s journey along the White River before following a tributary north. The ground became softer, and the air thicker. Mosquitoes buzzed in their ears and clouds of tiny insects hovered in their path.
The tributary ended at a waterfall, which spilled out of a cavern and down a 10-foot cliff, thick with vines. This, they knew, was the lair of the chieftain of the bullywug clan tormenting the villagers of Tors Hold.
Scroopel deftly and stealthily scrambled up the vines. Taking a quick look around, he signaled to the others to proceed quietly. Tiberius yanked on a vine, testing that it would hold his weight. Satisfied, he nodded to the others, and they all grabbed vines of their own and began to climb. Unfortunately, about halfway up, Tibs’ vine snapped and he crashed to the ground with an awful clatter of armor and curses.
Bulbous bullywug eyes popped up from behind rock outcroppings, followed by loud, gutteral croaking and rough-hewn javelins. Scroopel scrambled for cover and attempted to mount a counter-offensive while the others hauled themselves up the cliff face. They joined the battle in time to divert some of the enemies’ attention from the injured goblin. From a darkened corner came a handful of stirges, but they and the bullywug guards were quickly dispatched.
Scroopels crept deeper into the cavern, which opened into a large chamber, dominated by a dragon skull that had been dragged to the center of the room. Scroopels saw the bullywug hiding in the skull just as the others rounded the corner. Suddenly, javelins and bolts of icy energy rained down on them, catching some of them flat-footed. A pair of grey oozes slid up over the lip of a pit and advanced on them as well. The party systematically cut through the guards while the bullywug chieftain, Gloorpk, harried them with electrically charged clouds of frost and fiery explosions from safely within the dragon skull.
After killing off all of Gloorpk’s guards and gravely wounding him, the bullywug chieftain surrendered in exchange for his treasure. While pilfering the creature’s ill-gotten gains, Erik asked the creature, “If we let you go, you promise to take your clan and leave this place? To stop attacking the villagers?”
The creature nodded and croaked his response, “Yes, masters. Of course. Let me live, and I go. Go far away.” It followed with a toothy grin that Tiberius knew was anything but sincere.
“Liar!” Tiberius called, yanking his sword free. “He won’t stop attacking them. He can’t stop! It’s not in his nature. But lying is!” He drew back his sword.
“Wait!” Shorwyn called. “Don’ kill it! What’s one bullywug going to do? Besides, we could question it.”
“What it will do is bring more of it’s kind to continue murdering innocent civilians! It’s lying and cannot be trusted!” The paladin brought himself to his full height and set his shoulders. “We kill it. It’s the only way to be sure.” He made eye contact with the others in the group. Scroopels looked to Shorwyn, but none challenged him. With a decisive stroke, he severed the creature’s head from it’s body. “It’s done, then.” He said as he slammed his sword back into its scabbard and turned from the group.
No one spoke as they divided up the treasure. The silence was suddenly shattered by a deep croak from outside the cavern. “Apparently it’s not over.” Theon muttered ominously.
They all looked to Erik, who cleared his throat, swallowed, and then croaked a reply. After a tense moment of silence, the reply came. Erik let out a breath that he hadn’t realized he was holding and nodded to the others. “They’re coming.”
Shorwyn crawled into the dragon skull, as the others took up flanking positions and hid themselves. The leader of the group, a hulking bullywug named Uggloor, announces that he has a gift for Gloorpk: A halfling child they captured for the chieftain’s entertainment. Shorwyn urges them to bring the boy closer. When they are in range, he unleashes thunderous blast against Uggloor and his cronies. The rest of the group leaps from their hiding places and makes quick work of the Mud Hides champion and his hunting party, but not before Tiberius is swollowed whole by one of the giant frogs.
After the battle, the party decided to fortify their position in the cavern and spend the night and renew their energy before heading out the next morning. They learn that the halfling boy’s name is Heron, and he was captured by the bullywugs while fishing with his friends. His friends escaped, and he was worried his family might think he was killed. He’s anxious to return home to his clan who is currently camped along the White River. After some deliberation, Tiberius offered to escort the halfling back to his clan while the others returned to Albridge.
They made camp and posted watches at the cave entrance. Shorwyn decided to lay safely encased within the dragon’s skull. As he made himself comfortable, he noticed an inscription carved into the bone. He called Erik over, who identified the text as Infernal: the language of Demons. When translated, the script reads:
She of three lies well preserved
within her Mother’s breast
Bequeath’d by her: reward deserved
to they who end her rest
Dig deep within, with all your might.
Cast down the darkness with the light.
Below the inscription were three strange shapes; which Erik recognized as constellations.
Fortunately, no more bullywugs returned to the cavern, and the Salt Merchants headed out the next morning. Not far from the cavern, they heard a sucking sound, followed by a splash. Theon crept forward while the others hid, and soon locked eyes with a hideous monstrosity. It was 12 feet tall and covered with layers of spiked metal plates, from which dangled all sorts of gore.
The automaton didn’t seem interested in them, and continued its slow plod forward. A straight line of broken vegetation and trampled ground stretched out behind it. Everyone scrambled quietly to get out of the way, and Erik almost tripped over a goblin hiding in the bushes. All at once, a score of goblins burst from the underbrush and up from the muck; bows trained on all of the adventurers they could see. A larger hobgoblin surrounded by wargs took a few steps forward. “This collector belongs to us. Leave or be dead.”
Erik and Theon looked at each other, shrugged, then responded. “Okay.”
Confusion spread through the goblin ranks, and they looked to their leader but did not lower their weapons. “You are not here for the collector?” it asked. The hobgoblin squinted when Eric responded with a casual headshake and a ‘nope, why would we?’. Then it snorted, “Stinking humans been here trying to take what isn’t theirs. If you really don’t want it, then leave. Or we make you dead.”
The group agreed to leave, and cautiously diverted around the goblins, but stayed close enough to watch them for a while. The goblins fanned out in a protective semi-circle behind the collector and melted into the terrain as they assumedly followed it to the caverns they had just left.
That evening, they returned to Tors Hold, where they were warmly welcomed by an emboldened Bran Torsson, who was anxious to reassign as many men as he could from protecting the city from bullywugs to protecting the entire Harkenwold from the Iron Circle. Bran said it would be a few days yet until his men could be assembled, and suggested they go ahead and bring the news to Dar Gremath back at Albridge.