After their night of drinking, gambling and strange encounters, the party returned to their flophouse apartment on Rat Catcher’s Row. Lil Paw had stayed home to care for Jak, who still remained largely homebound after his head injury during the The Last War. Ket Ahman placed his strange trophy — a clay idol — on the nightstand and went to bed, planning to examine it more thoroughly in the morning.
But Ket’s prize held a secret inside. A secret he would have preferred to leave at the tavern. A secret that slithered free in the night.
The sound of breaking clay startled the party from their slumber. When they investigated, they discovered the statue’s pieces on the floor. Suddenly, Jak bellowed for help from the back room he shared with Paw. Everyone rushed into the squalid, dank space in time to see something slither past the helpless gnome’s lips and down his throat.
Paw convulsed violently and began developing reptilian and amphibian traits. He also started spitting a blue-green ichor replete with tiny, black worms. Healing spells did nothing to halt his transformation, and the group had to bind and gag him for both his own safety and theirs.
Helpless, frustrated and desperate, the mercenaries embarked on a cross-city race to the Temple District, hoping that the clerics of the Sovereign Host could help their friend. Although the senior members of the order were able to slow Paw’s degeneration and contain him (both by holy magic and the use of restraints), they lacked the ability to cure him.
Father Theodorus, head of Punjar’s Sovereign Host enclave, researched the situation and recognized the idol as an artifact of the Daelkyr War. Specifically, the idols were employed by an ancient half-daelkyr wizard named Skoulos. Skoulos used the idols to forcibly conscript humanoids for his bloody campaigns during the Daelkyr War.
Skoulos’ army slaughtered spellcasters all across the Shadow Marches thousands of years ago; he viewed their abilities as a threat to daelkyr supremacy. During this long, bloody purge, he confiscated books, scrolls and holy artifacts from his victims and sealed them inside the Black Library at his spire, which still looms over the Great Black Salt Marsh to this day from its ominous, rocky perch.
Recently, Theodorus has heard rumors of a cult forming in the marsh, led by an enigmatic man named Malikai. Theodorus suspects the group may be a Cult of the Dragon Below that serves the daelkyr. The party’s tale about their odd evening at the tavern only confirmed his suspicions. “If there’s a cure for your friend,” he mused somberly, “it undoubtedly depends upon stopping these fiends.”
The adventurers agreed to enter the marsh on their friend’s behalf and hunt down the cult, although they truly had little choice. During their stay at the church, more reports of strange idols and infected townspeople reached the clerics. Without intervention, Punjar might fall to an ancient epidemic of evil, and after that, perhaps all of Khorvaire.
As a gesture of support, Father Theodorus used his considerable holy power to heal Jak’s injuries and return him to duty. He also agreed to supervise Paw’s care while the group pursued their quest. After a brief stop at their apartment and the Souk to equip themselves, the stalwart band marched out into the swamp.
Before the party had even entered the deepest part of the marsh, they were beset by six large crocodiles lurking beneath some log bridges. The enraged animals jaw-locked the mercenaries’ legs and tried to drown them beneath the bridges. Fortunately, the warforged members of the group didn’t require oxygen, and others managed to fight their way free from the brackish depths.
Five of the monsters died by the party’s blades, but one escaped back into the depths, possibly to return later. Bleeding, tired and wet, the group opted to rest for the night before pressing onward into the foggy reeds and deep bogs before them. However, there was one small, literal silver lining to their dark day: a jeweled armlet discovered inside one of the gutted crocodiles.
625 XP total (89 XP per player)
- Jewel-encrusted armlet, inscribed with the name “Rhiannon.” (Value: 40 GP)