As the party began preparing for the trip into the Snakebite swamp, Donald Oates, a paladin arrived. He rides a triceratops and has a squire. He is a paladin of Pelor.
The party reacted to the addition of a new member in the way these things usually happen; by acting as if they had always known him. Which was odd because this was a real-world introduction between strangers as well.
Rovarath the Black
The day after Sir Oates arrived a dragon buzzed the town. When Cup’s troops were beginning to assemble, some of the townsfolk on the edge of town started shouting and running, pointing up and behind them. “It’s Rovarath!” The soldiers all dropped to the ground and covered their heads. A gigantic dragon was in the North Eastern sky swooping above the fields outside of town.
Its entire body is a matte black. There are two long horns protruding forward from its forehead and extending beyond its nose. It has a long frill starting behind its head that runs down the center of its neck and back which it retracts and flares as it twists and banks in the sky.
As the dragon turned it dove gracefully toward the earth swooping down and touching the top of the tall grass, it sailed over the fields and reached down with one talon. As it did so one could tell how terrifyingly huge this monster is. Stretched out, it is half as long as Milborne. In modern terms, ts as big as a hockey rink or a garage used to store school buses.
It reaches down and scooped up three sheep in its paw and left a gouge in the earth the size of an irrigation ditch. It then flew over Milborne. Everyone but the paladin was overcome with paralyzing, pants-shitting fear as its shadow passed over the tiny town. The dragon then flew off and disappeared into the swamp.
After some investigation Donald Oates learned from the villagers that Rovarath has lived in this swamp for longer than any human settlement has existed here. Living with the dragon is like living in the foot of an active volcano. Once in a while the dragon comes to town. Sometimes he just takes some sheep, other times he hauls people from their huts and vivisects them in the town center, or he will just knock down all the buildings. Its capricious and evil and destructive.
The Outer Swamp
The party learned that those that travel too far into the Snakebite swamp are never seen again. They took some of Cup’s followers as guides since most of them had grown up here in Milborne.
The party devised a system whereby they would head into the swamp in ten canoes and boats would be tied together with fifty foot sections of rope. Making this a long procession.
They cautiously approached the place the locals said was the furthest it was to go safely. The first canoe, piloted by Captain Biggy McLarge-Huge of the Biggonites pressed on. Nothing happened. The next canoe passed the point of no return. Nothing happened. by the time all the canoes had moved fully into the depths of the Snakebite swamp the party was convinced that this was simply an idyllic natural environment.
The party cruised about in their canoes heading South pressing through the swamp toward the forge. The first day ended and some in the party were convinced that they should have reached the sea by now, given the size of the swamp.
A hail storm began at night and Ehlonna AriEr cast Leomund’s Tiny Hut. The entire party spent the night inside with some members taking watch. Nothing happened.
The next day passed much like the first except they spotted a lizard man watching them from the bog water. When Whuh Sdat attempted to speak with the lizard man, it submerged himself and swam off. Thick McRunfast attempted to track the lizard man but with limited success. The party passed a second night in the magic hut.
The next morning the party was up and in the boats before the spell ended. The third day in the swamp passed like the first two. They woke up, morning ritual, Thick McRunfast found some plants to make into an insect repellent poultice. (for which he received 50xp for preventing the party from getting malaria). They saw herons, geese, ducks, fish, turtles, snakes, crocodiles, dinosaurs.
As they came around a bend in the river Whuh Sdat spotted two lizard men who were spear fishing. The party was quite conspicuous and so the lizard men spotted the party quite easily. Again Whuh Sdat attempted to begin a parley and again the lizard men rebuffed him by diving into the water.
One of the lizard men stood watching the party for a few seconds and when it was apparent that the party meant to get close enough to talk, he dove in the water and swam away. This same lizard man stopped, turned back and watched the party from a submerged position for some time.
The party chose to stop on the island where the lizard men were fishing from. They reasoned that this must be their tribe’s territory so they will be back. The party wanted to make contact with the locals since the lizard men had traded with the humans of Milborne in the past and the paladin did not detect evil from them. The party reasoned that the lizard men might be aligned against the evil orc army in the swamp. They made camp for lunch and set a watch.
Cup got to thinking about their progress over the last 36 hours. He knew a thing or two about deception and he also knew what it was like to be the butt of a joke. Cup cast detect magic and discovered the party had been circling around inside an illusionary terrain for two days.
For once “I DISBELIEVE!” was the appropriate answer and the illusionary swamp disappeared to reveal the real swamp.
Whuh Sdat decided to hop into a canoe and check if he could follow the lizard men any easier this time. He headed in the direction they went and discovered a statue of Rovarath surrounded by bushes on the East bank of the river. Pythagos McTherian was able to identify the writing on the statue as a dialect of draconic. The inscription declared the swamp and all of the sea to belong to Rovarath the Black.
There Were Never Really Any Negotiations
Just then the party became aware of a group of six lizard men standing on some rocks downstream behind a thick wall of foliage. The individual lizard men were painted with the markings of a coral snake. The chief was decorated with colorful feathers from the birds of the swamp. The shaman was decorated to look like Rovarath. He had carved bones into a set of horns for his head, he was painted black, and had made fluffy wings of black feathers attached to his back.
The chief was the only one that spoke. He spoke only in a broken dialect of the branch of Draconic particular to evil dragons. The Chief told the party that this is Rovarath’s swamp and he rules it. He warned the party that they should leave the swamp.
Whuh Sdat offered that the party was not concerned with dragons and only sought to remove the Blue Fist from the swamp and that if the lizard men would be kind enough to let the party pass. Pythagos McTherian boasted that the party would sweep through the swamp and destroy the orcs with ease.
The lizard man chieftain only repeated his warning to leave the swamp.
Pythagos McTherian then threatened that the party could easily destroy the lizard men, lay waste to their lands, and bring down their god. By now Donald Oates had summoned Mildred and emerged through the brush to punctuate the threat. The chief was visibly shaken and the party passed by without conflict.
The party pressed on in the direction of the forge trying to close the distance before nightfall. They pressed on into the night and another hail storm kicked up. The party took refuge under their canoes for an hour or two and when they emerged they discovered one of the canoes had been damaged. It turned out that one of Cup’s followers was a carpenter and could repair the canoe. By now it was nightfall and the party chose to make camp.
Chemical Fire in the Darkness
Being experienced adventurers, the party knew they would be attacked by the dragon this night. They set an extra careful watch. On the first watch Thick McRunfast saw a lizard man out in the darkness of the swamp. Their eyes met and the lizard man slunk back into the darkness. Nothing happened.
Three hours later, one of the soldiers said he thought he saw something up in the trees. Perhaps a bird, but birds don’t fly about at night. Captain Biggy McLarge-Huge of the Biggonites applied his Wis 6 to the situation and decided it was time to start gambling. The soldier agreed since he needed something to take his mind off this dragon business.
This time something happened.
Rovarath stuck his head down out of the trees and sprayed his acidic breath weapon into the magical hut. Captain Biggy McLarge-Huge of the Biggonites and Whuh Sdat managed to dodge the blast entirely. One of the soldiers was killed so completely there was not enough left of him to fill a Dixie cup. Another of the soldiers lost his left leg up to the knee. Julius took a heavy acid burst to the stomach, completely dissolving his abdomen away. Cup was splashed by Rovarath’s acid and lost his right foot.
The members of the party that could still move sprung into action. The lizard men struck fast with poison darts but did as much damage to themselves as to the party. Captain Biggy McLarge-Huge of the Biggonites laid waste with his anchor while swimming upstream in the river. Donald Oates mounted Mildred and stampeded across the shaman and his attendant. Thick McRunfast let fly with arrows.
Pythagos McTherian sought to teach this dragon not to trifle with a mage. He leveled his hand and cast a bolt of blue burning electricity at the fleeing beast. The lightning bolt struck Rovarath square in the side, doing nothing. A quick check of his mental inventory reminded Pythagos McTherian that some creatures have magic resistance and it is very rarely total immunity.
The Usefulness of Magic
After the immediate threat of stabbing had been dealt with and the horrified screams of the mutilated party members had subsided there was a surprisingly calm discussion of the limits of their healing magics. Without access to regenerate the lost body parts would be lost permanently. There was talk of teleportation but humans have been forsaken by the gods and would have no healing magic and Pythatos has never been to any non-human racial lands so teleportation to a useful destination would be impossible.
Cup decided that he would rather have a hollow foot to hide stuff in anyway. So heroic measures would not be needed on his behalf.
Taking a Different Approach
One of the lizard men allowed himself to be captured by Whuh Sdat. This was the one that had been seen fishing earlier that day and the two of them had an understanding that the lizard man felt did not warrant this unprovoked attack. He explained the situation to the party; The Blue Fist Orcs pay tribute to Rovarath the Black with the coins they mint and Rovarath lets them use his swamp. The Orcs send and receive their supplies from ships at a dock on the ocean. He took the party to the spot where the tribute is paid to the dragon and he showed them the end of the swamp where they could safely make camp by the sea. He stayed with the party because his tribe had basically been destroyed that night and he could see the capricious nature of their god.
The party decided to take to the seas and cut off the Blue Fist supply line. They reasoned that a few weeks of loosing supplies and an inability to pay off Rovarath would weaken the orcs and get Rovarath to do their work for them.
Captain Biggy McLarge-Huge of the Biggonites sent word by messenger seagull to his band of pirates who were waiting off shore for their captain. Now the party is cruising in style in a bio-magi-mechanical whale-submarine from the outer planes.
Oh yes. It’s come to this.
I’m Gonna Ptero-You A New Asshole
When he was keeping watch on the ship Whuh Sdat was snatched from the top of the ship by a Pterodactyl and carried off. He punched that sucker right in the guts. It died and crashed into the sea taking Whuh Sdat with it. Shifty McPardee saw all this and got the pilot to drive the ship over and pick up Whuh Sdat.