The next morning, many tracks were found outside the cavern, giving a wide berth to the protective totem…Mongo identified them as lizard man tracks, and it was obvious the scaly folk had come from the swamp that night to scout out the smells, light and noises they must have heard the night before. However, the magical totem pole had done its duty and kept the reptilian beings far away from the entrance, as there was no evidence any of them had gotten within 10 feet of the totem (and thus, the entrance behind it). Although the magical totem had accomplished its purpose, the party was now extremely wary as it was obvious the lizard men had discovered their hideout…
Keeping a watchful eye out, the party made plans to investigate the other two cave entrances, and then perhaps a bit of the swamp, during the daylight hours at least.
The first cavern was nothing but a crack in the cliffside, only three feet wide. Questioning the wild boar, Kal found that the boar had seen snakes emerging from the crack, and the group reasoned it must be a snake lair. A vial of lit oil was tossed within, and the party sat and awaited anything retreating from the smoke and flames. Soon, several poisonous bushmasters emerged, discomfited by the smoke. They were hacked to pieces and killed, and when the smoke cleared out, Cadelaine (the smallest member of the party) managed to slip inside invisibly, and found nothing but a stinky cavern with many nests and hidey holes for snakes. Satisfied none were inside, and even if they were they would be of no danger, Cadelaine left (without treasure also, for the half elf did search for that in case something of value lay around….)
The last cave had a very large entrance, and the boar told Kal that large scorpions and spiders laired within. Sure enough, as the party approached, three giant scorpions skittered forth to attack, clearly protecting their territory. Kal used a Shrink Insects spell to take care of one of the abominations, zapping it down to a size where the stomping foot of the druid killed it. Mongo easily handled another one, while the last was battled by Endefal, Kumar, and Nadal, Cadelaine providing missile fire. Cadelaine was even able to milk a bit of scorpion venom for herself….to later brew into a sludge she could coat her weapons with to poison a foe. Finally the last was destroyed, leaving the mouth of the cavern only. Cadelaine entered invisibly, to see a large chamber (obviously the lair of the scorpions) and two branches from this chamber, each leading off into darkness. Silently she slid along the wall into the eastern passage, and soon came upon webbing filling the rest of the corridor top to bottom….and spotted several large spiders crawling in the mess. Not wish to go any further, Cadelaine crept back outside to the light of day and told of her findings. So now who would be brave (or foolhardy) enough to slash through the webs and spiders for any sort of treasure? Where was Mongo?
Mongo, finally seeing a concrete use for his Ring of Fire Resistance, volunteered to investigate the caves. First pouring a vial of oil upon himself, he then lit himself on fire, and using the sword Sentinel he flew ahead into the darkness! Burning a path through the webs (and sending the large spiders scurrying), he blazed a trail to a large chamber at the end of the corridor…and was promptly struck by a pair of magic missiles! In the chamber, he saw a man sized shape, an unholy amalgamation between man and spider, and it appeared to lair here (and was casting spells). Soon a stinking cloud formed in front of Mongo, but he flew around it and struck the spider-creature, killing it in two blows. As it flew in pieces to the ground, many large spiders scurried away from both the flames flickering off Mongo and his furious sword. As Mongo began flying among the webs, burning them, and cutting up spiders, Kal, Gra Gra, Kumar, Cadelaine and Endefal (following the burnt trail Mongo had blazed) took up the rear and began picking off other spiders in the webs, or ones that dropped down on top or beside the group. No one suffered damage, and soon a full dozen of the loathsome arachnids were dead. In the chamber many copper, silver and gold pieces were found scattered on the ground among bones and other filthy goo, and these were gathered.
Since the plan had worked so well, it was repeated on the other side, with the same results (down to the appearance of a spider-man who cast spells). As ineffective as the other spiders had been, once again a flying, flaming Mongo cut the spider creature in half and began hacking at the large spiders crawling in the webbing. After the slaughter, more coins were found, gathered and cleaned off, but nothing of note was otherwise found in the caves.
At this point the entire spur had been investigated, and all it’s caves cleared of potential hazards. Becoming curious about the lizard men in the swamp that had scouted out the spur the night before, Mongo stayed in the air and checked the swamp from on high. The swamp consisting of many clumps of ragged trees and bushes, surrounded by fields and fields of 6-7 foot high swamp grass, cat tails, rushes, bushes and other foliage. This made visual examination difficult as anything inside the area would be hidden from view if it was traveling low to the ground (or under the water, as may be). Besides the tall grasses, several hundred yards away stood a large mound with a stockade surrounding, and frog like figures hopped to and fro around it…..it looked like home to many of the amphibious frogmen. Flying low along the north cliff wall of the swamp, Mongo did find what appeared to be a cave mouth, and a couple of lizard men entering and leaving. Seeing the lair of his hated foe, Mongo returned to the group (as the last of Sentinel’s flying power wore off) and told them he was off to confront the hated reptiles in the cave, and they were welcome to follow! With that, Mongo and an invisible Cadelaine began forcing their way thorough the head high marsh grass, knee high stagnant water, and clutching mud….perhaps not the most well thought out plan, nor the safest, but the flying power of Sentinel was used up for the day and it was the only method of reaching the cave. Sticking along the cliff wall to prevent getting lost, Mongo moved off into the muck. Most of the party reluctantly followed…except for Alando, who gave excuses to as why he did not want to slosh around in the swamp (they might need him for healing later!). The priest of Vistna, and the charmed wild boar, both stayed at the swamp’s edge to await the group’s return. Kal, Endefal, Nadal, Kumar, and Sholo could only gripe and complain as they slogged after the quickly advancing Mongo in the knee-high water. It did not help that almost immediately upon entering the swamp they were set upon by clouds of stinging mosquitoes and swarms of hungry leeches (which covered their legs and any bare flesh upon entering their domain).
As the party determinedly followed Mongo’s path, they heard yells, struggling and fighting ahead! Mongo, upon getting within a hundred yards or so of the lizard man lair, had been set upon by over two dozen of the scaly foes! With claws and bites they attempted to bring the ranger down, but Mongo quickly began weaving a web of death with his swords as the creatures hissed and clawed at him. Coming upon the battle, Kal quickly hit the area with Entangle, taking care of many of the creatures, and the battle was joined. Nadal, Sholo, Kumar, Cadelaine and Endefal soon found the environment was not ideal for fighting, as several times the mucky area played havoc with their footing, sending them sprawling wildly. Soon, more lizard man reinforcements met the party, including leader types. Mongo inexplicably once again left the group to go towards the entrance, and was set upon by three leaders near the entrance to the cave. Meanwhile Kal turned into a crocodile to facilitate travel in the swampy environs and headed, with Cadelaine, farther towards the frogmen encampment in case those creatures wished to join in…which appeared imminent, as they could see several hopping shapes coming towards the battle. The fighters and priests appeared to have the situation with the lizard men in hand, although the battle was far from elegant.
Distressed by the sight of several dozen hopping forms getting closer, Cadelaine used her fireball spell, sending the ball of flame directly where the mass of the froggy foes seemed collected. A gigantic explosion, a geyser of mud, burnt plants, and frog parts exploded out of the swamp, and in the aftermath the adventurers noticed the entire swamp had gone completely silent. They could hear the sounds of yelling and voices as far away as the city itself, as their presence had undoubtedly been noted by anyone with ears or eyes who was watching the swamp! Investigating the crater her fireball had caused, Kal and Cadelaine noticed no survivors from the fireball, but saw far away in the city several figures riding giant spiders buzzing the edges of the swamp trying to find the source of the noise and flames. They advanced no further, however, so Cadelaine was able to keep her wands in reserve just in case…
Deciding that enough attention had been drawn, the party made to head back. Mongo returned just in time as another wave of lizard men attacked, this group including a scaly shaman that cast entangle on the party. Cadelaine returned in time to kill the shaman with well placed arrows (assisted by a Fist of Faith by Endefal), and then cast web on the mass of lizard men to restrict their movement. When the few loose foes had been dealt with and healing had taken place, the web surrounding the remaining lizard men was torched, and the burnt reptiles (those that didn’t escape) were soon dealt with. Fully 30 of the lizard men had been killed in the carnage, and the area was churned up with blood, lizard man parts, and broken grasses all around the battle site.
Finally the party (quite beat up) headed back to the swamp’s edge, dirty, smelly, bloody, muddy, leech covered and soaked with disgusting swamp water. Immediately upon reaching the cave, they had to disrobe to clean their almost ruined clothing, and clean their weapons of the muck coating them. Very quickly several party members began feeling hot and faint, and were running fevers….exposure to the swamp waters (including swallowing same) and open wounds in the filthy area had already caused the beginnings of some sort of swamp fever. Quickly, Kal and Endefal cast Cure Disease on the four members showing the worst symptoms, and all the wounds were expertly cleaned and dressed by the priests to hopefully prevent any further disease. Clearly walking through the swamp pell-mell was not the best method, but what other choice had they to get to the city itself (or the lake where the dragon lurked)? Better plans would have to be made, now that the group had brought attention to themselves through the battle royale with the lizardmen and the fireball thrown by Cadelaine. After cleaning, healing and eating, the party set up watch for what might prove an uneasy evening now that the swamp creatures knew something new and powerful had invaded their territory…