After using the Gem of Amara to shatter the bones of the Black Scourge and disperse his ghostly form, the party spent some time with Greybear and the local druid circle resting and healing from their adventure.
After a few days, they bid farewell to their druid friends and journeyed back to Dun Eamon for training and to seek out Elinda Bannon's aid. The mage in residence for the town had helped the party in the past, and hopefully she could shed light on how to deal with the dragon's bone shrapnel still embedded in their bodies. While it didn't hurt, everyone, except for Jesriel, felt a slight sensation where the fragment was.
By the time they returned to Dun Eamon, they found that Elinda was out of town for the next few weeks. The party used that time to get supplies and train in their various skills. At the same time, Adow was summoned by the Wizards of High Sorcery to take his Test, the results of which were sometimes fatal.
When Elinda returned, Hunter, Theo and Jesriel went to see her. After explaining their story, she realized that the only person in the area that might have an answer is Marzena, a mage and friend of Elinda's that specializes in dragon lore. Marzena was currently at Blackwater Keep, providing magical assistance to the guards in the keep and researching the rumor of a black dragon in the swamp. The party planned to head for the outpost once Adow returned.
When Adow returned, the party was shocked to see the changes the Test had wrought on the young man. Clad now in the white robes of good, Adow had apparently suffered greatly in his test. A large scare covered one side of his face, with some of his hair gone from the burn. In place of one of his eyes a large gem glittered as it moved within the socket.
Adow claimed to have little memory of what happened during this test, and could not explain how he survived, or earned white robes. While the gem was also a mystery, he did confide that he could see through the gem, even to the point of seeing in the dark like an elf.
After this reunion, the party set out shortly thereafter for the keep. The journey was uneventful until the last day. As they crested the final hill, they could see the keep in the valley below. Surrounding the building appeared to be several dozen jarak-sinn. Small clusters of 5 or 6 of the lizardmen dotted the area around the keep and even more dead lizardmen and dead soldiers littered the landscape. The nearby stable looked to be damaged and the dead carcass of a horse lay in the doorway.
In the keep itself, providing defense, less than a dozen soldiers manned the wall, some walking wounded, others covered in the blood of their comrades, all very exhausted. They probably couldn't out last a second assault from the jarak-sinn.
Moving closer, the party was able to get into a good fighting position without being noticed by any of the attackers. At first Hunter and Adow launched attacks from bows and spells. The long range attacks picked off a few of the jarak-sinn and caused others to advance on their position. When the lizardfolk got close enough, Theo and Jes sprung from their hiding spots and attacked those closest to them.
After the first group was defeated, two more clusters of jarak-sinn moved in to attack. Switching to his sword, Hunter dove into the fray swinging and hacking at the nearest jarak-sinn before him, while Adow unleashed any one of a number of deadly spells on the lizardfolk. Soon a dozen or more bodies lay around them. Seeing this, the other jarak-sinn retreated into the forest and into the swamp. For now the area was safe.
Inside the keep, the party found the remnants of an earlier attack where the jarak-sinn breached the main door. That time it took most of the soldiers to push them back and secure the keep.
Hunter went about helping the soldiers by treating wounds, changing bandages and for the most sever cases, administering some of the healing potions everyone had brought along.
"I know you want to speak with Marzena, unfortunately she was one of the people on the front line when those filthy 'jars' broke down the door. They pulled her and two other men out like trophies!" Arton spoke, the anger spilling out of his voice along with each word.
"I really wish we could run into the swamps and get them back, but as you can see, there's no men to spare right now. I can't offer a reward, but I can assure you that Lord Angus will know of your bravery. Can we count on your help?"
After the party agreed, Arton took everyone to a private room. Together they reviewed maps of the local area.
"In addition to the half dozen or so tribes in the swamp," Arton began, "there are a number of other creatures and hazards, not the least of which is the rumor of a black dragon. We've never seen it or seen traces of it, but Marzena was trying locate where it might be."
After a short pause, he continued, "the 'jars' today were all from the Black Spear tribe, based on their weapons. They lair somewhere in this general area," the soldier drew a wide circle on the map with his index finger, "infighting between the tribes keeps their numbers small and keeps them on the move every season."
"I wish I could be more specific on where to find them. It's important to find them soon, since the these jars seem to have a real 'taste' for the humans."
With that, the party set off into the swamp, hoping that they could rescue everyone before time ran out...