Average Freaks

Session 17
Return to Sacred Stone Monastery

Monastic Masquerade

Orlav starts to gather up a dead body, and Shump and Naïru help with the other two. Along the canyon walls, Orlav and Naïru find a spot to cover and hide the bodies with enough foliage and random debris. Fully dressed in their robes and masks, the gang enters the monastery into the kitchen. Orlav surveys the kitchen, finding the food to be simple and bland, and frankly not very good. He takes some of their spices, even though they’re stale, and removes the unfinished bread loaves from the oven to keep them from burning and creating smoke later. Exiting the kitchen south, the gang enters the Refectory. A single monk sits at a large wooden table picking at some cheese. He glances at the group for a moment, but keeps to himself as everyone crosses the large room and exits into the southwest hallway. Peeking into a room, the group finds two monks sleeping in a dormitory. Ka kills both monks as they sleep, covering them in their bed sheets. She searches the room and is disappointed to find that the Sacred Stone Monks appear to be ascetics and don’t collect individual treasure.

Skipping the next two rooms, the gang follows the hallway out to the monastery entrance hall to find two minotaurs and a monk guarding the front doors. Keeping their cool, the gang crosses the hall as Shump tips his mask and says “M’inotaurs.” Following the southeast hallway, the group passes several doors before finding a stairwell leading down. Following the stairs, the group enters the mine tunnels under the monastery. Opening the only door at the end of the tunnel, the group finds an ogre and three orcs. Shump utters a brief salutation, and the leader walks directly up to Shump, leans in, sniffs, then says in Orcish, “The pass sign!” Shump pauses before responding in common, “Look, I just came down here to let you know that they want you upstairs.” The orcs all draw their weapons.

Orogs and Ogres

Naïru is the first to react, marking the ogre as her quarry and putting two arrows into it. Ka follows her lead sinking an arrow of her own. Rowan hits as well hurling a mote of fire, and Orlav gets the kill conjuring sacred flames. Shump marks the lead orc as his quarry, then draws his longsword of life stealing, Delilah, and lands a strike on the leader. The leader retaliates with two swings of his greataxe, one of which slashes Shump. The lady orc hits Ka with her greataxe, but she dodges the brunt of the attack at the last second. The lady orc swings again at Shump, but misses. The third orc swings twice at Shump but can’t get past his armor.

Naïru marks the lady orc as her new quarry, then unleashes two arrows, one of which hits, before putting a third arrow just wide of the leader. Ka is unable to hit the lady orc with Wally, but she sinks reszur into the orc as she’s distracted. Rowan moves to the corner of the room and evokes a roaring line of flame that engulfs the leader and the third orc in fire. Shump fails to penetrate the leader’s armor, but takes down the lady orc with Delilah. The leader retaliates landing one of two sizable greataxe attacks on Shump. The third orc is unable to hit Shump or Orlav. Orlav pivots around and breathes lightning as the two remaining orcs sidestep some of the arcing.

Naïru marks the leader as her next quarry, then lands one of two arrows, in addition to putting a third into the other orc. The orc leader’s armor deflects Ka’s arrow. Rowan twins mote of fire, hurling one wide of the leader and the other directly into the other orc. Shump lands one of two Delilah strikes into the leader. The leader gets his revenge striking down Shump with two massive blows from his greataxe. However, as Shump drops a knee, he springs back up, barely standing on two feet. Orlav dodges the other orcs attacks, before putting a hand on Shump and curing some of his wounds. Naïru takes advantage of the situation, killing the leader before marking the other orc as her quarry and finishing him off.

The Haunted Crypt

Shump suspects the orcs may have actually been orogs, orcs that have been blessed with heightened intelligence from the orc goddess Luthic. Shump takes the leaders plate armor, and Orlav manages to piece together a set from the other two orcs. Searching the room, the group finds some a hidden coin purse, in addition to two keys on the leader. The group dumps the four bodies down the well, before taking the north exit out of the guardroom. After some time exploring the tunnels to the east and only finding several different dead ends, the group eventually returns to enter the room opposite the guardroom. Inside the barrel-vaulted chamber that is obviously an ancient crypt, they find niches along the walls holding dozens of old skeletons, some with scraps of burial cloth still clinging to their bones.

At the east end of the crypt stands a magnificent sarcophagus. As all but Naïru move closer into the room, six zombies creep out of the shadows. Shump moves up to the nearest zombie and strikes with Delilah, which then glows with radiant light that spreads through the zombie before it explodes. Another zombie moves up and tries to slam Shump, but he dodges giving Ka an opportunity to put an arrow in the zombie. Rowan mimes a longbow and releases a flash of light that explodes in ball of flame, burning down the four other zombies advancing on the group. Orlav evokes sacred flames on the last zombie, just as Naïru catches up to the group and puts the finishing arrow in it.

Examining the Sarcophagus

Shump attunes his divine senses and determines that most of the tombs and skeletons were consecrated, but the zombies were desecrated. In addition, the sarcophagus and something inside were consecrated. Inspecting closer, the lid of the sarcophagus is carved in the image of a noble human knight with a long white beard. An inscription carved across the front of the sarcophagus reads: “Here Lies Samular Caradoon, Defender of the North.” After lots of debate, the group decides not to open the sarcophagus, convinced it contains the lich Renwick. Trying the nearby door, Ka finds it is locked. Ka and Shump both attempt to pick the lock but fail. Orlav tries to smash it with his warhammer, but it doesn’t give. Taking her time and focusing, Ka tries again and manages to pick the lock.

The Lich’s Tower

Ka sneaks up the stairs to find an older part of the monastery which has been fitted out as a laboratory, with work tables covered in alchemical apparatuses and shelves full of strange curios and dusty clay jars. The windows have been bricked up, and cobwebs hang thick in the ceiling corners. An ancient figure peruses a heavy tome that lies open on a small desk, making notes on sheets of parchment covered in arcane writing. Ka greets the man, who turns around startled and says, “I have already told you no. Depart.” After Ka tries to get a few words in, the stranger interrupts her and says, “In a moment I will fill this room with deadly poisonous gas. You should leave now.” Ka attempts to charm the figure with her devil’s tongue, but unaffected, he says, “Did you really think that would work on me?”

From Ka’s perspective, as though there was a glitch in time, she finds the figure is no longer standing in front of her and the room is suddenly entirely full of poisonous, yellow-green fog. Meanwhile, downstairs in the crypt, a voice from the back of the room surprises the rest of the party, as the same ancient figure says “You may need to collect your friend in a moment.” Startled and turning around to face the man, Shump is fairly certain he looks like Renwick Caradoon’s painting from Summit Hall. Shump asks what happened to Ka, and the stranger says that he warned Hellenrae’s minion to leave him alone, but she didn’t listen, so he filled the room with poisonous gas. At this point, Ka runs back into the room and collapses, coughing furiously. Orlav leans down and assesses her condition and determines that there are no lingering effects. He uses his magical healing and helps Ka upright.

Naïru tells the stranger that Hellenrae is neither their friend nor master and that they can help make her disappear. The ancient figure asks why the party is wearing the silly robes and masks of the earth cult, and also admits he has no interest in Hellenrae or the Black Earth Cult as long as they don’t interrupt his studies. The group removes their masks and the man remarks on each adventurer, “Istishia, Tymora, a tiefling, an air genasi, and … is that dragon’s blood?” The figure questions the group on their purpose, to which Orlav explains their quest to restore balance to the elemental forces. Refocusing on Shump, the stranger questions the half-orc on Tymora and his divine nature. Shump proves himself to have pure motives for justice in the stand against evil.

The figure continues to focus on Shump, asking if he knows who he is. Shump beats around the bush but posits he may be Renwick Caradoon and a lich. When asked what he knows of liches and their nature, Shump again walks a fine line and says that he has been told liches are evil but doesn’t know for himself. The figure asks Shump if he therefore believes that Renwick Caradoon is evil, but Shump again says he needs to know the facts. After further questioning, Shump tells the man that actions define a person. The ancient figure asks what actions have defined Shump, and Orlav testifies on Shump’s behalf accounting for his accomplishments. Shump further argues that only Tymora can judge him and would judge him as good.

Renwick’s Favors

Introducing himself officially as Renwick Caradoon, the lich invites the party up to his laboratory, but not before reanimating his zombies and commanding them back into the niches of the crypt. Renwick provides Shump with an amulet of health, Orlav a potion of greater healing, Ka a scroll of invisibility, Rowan a scroll of Snilloc’s snowball swarm, and Naïru a potion of hill giant strength. Orlav asks Renwick about the lost body of the dwarven knight, which Renwick tells the group that the monks stashed the body in his brother’s tomb in the crypt downstairs after Renwick refused to help them reanimate the fallen hero. Renwick is grateful when Orlav offers to keep Renwick’s existence a secret from the Knights of Samular.

Princes of Elemental Evil

When asked about Hellenrae, Renwick tells the group that she spends most of her time training in the dojo and occasionally retires late at night in her living quarters, both of which are just outside in the hallway. A further line of questioning unveils Renwick’s knowledge of elemental evil: Some of the primordial powers of the elemental plane are tainted with true evil. The Princes of Elemental Evil are old and jealous elemental beings that despise the world of living things. Each of the princes is a unique elemental lord of terrible power, and each commands the loyalty of many lesser elementals that have likewise been corrupted by their evil—as well as mortal worshipers who likewise seek to scour the world with the wrath of the elements. The four princes most strongly associated with the cult of Elemental Evil are malicious embodiments of the four base elements.

  • Imix, Prince of Evil Fire
  • Ogrémoch, Prince of Evil Earth
  • Olhydra, Princess of Evil Water
  • Yan-C-Bin, Prince of Evil Air

The princes aren’t concerned with spreading wickedness among mortals or making any kind of order or philosophy dominant in the world. Their evil is blind, destructive, and hungry. They hate the way the world is made and the natural laws that constrain their favored elements. They resent the gods who shaped the world, and the mortals for whom the world was shaped, especially mortals who seek to impose their will on the elements. The princes unleash natural catastrophes at every opportunity, and gladly crush or devour mortals to assert their mastery over the world.

Sacred Stone Slaughter

After using Renwick’s personal quarters to rest, the group waits until the wee hours of the night to sneak into the Abbess’s chambers. Exiting the lich’s tower and following the pitch black corridors, the party moves as quietly as they can towards Hellenrae’s door. Ka cracks the door and tiptoes in just as her uncanny reflexes partially dodge a hand from her blind spot striking out. Ka turns to see Hellenrae step out from against the wall. The abbess’s gargoyle mask lacks any openings for eyesight. Ka tries to retaliate with her sharp instruments, but Hellenrae dodges and ducks with finesse.

The abbess lands a stunning blow against the tiefling with her knifehand strike, just as her other hand knocks Ka unconscious. Quick on her feat, Helenrae turns another strike against Naïru next up in the doorway. Rowan is the next to respond, hurling twinned motes of fire that burn through abbess’s robes and against the flesh beneath. Seeing his friend fall, Shump utters a vow of enmity against Hellenrae before striking her with Delilah. The paladin drives the longsword again towards Hellenrae, but the abbess steers the sword away from her with her left forearm, as her right hand strikes against his armor. Orlav attempts paralyzing magic but the abbess resists.

Naïru marks Hellenrae as her quarry, before landing two blows with her shortsword. As Ka begins to look worse on the ground, Hellenrae attempts strikes on Orlav and Naïru before landing a massive blow to Shump. Rowan nudges Naïru to the side extending her arm as a bolt of lightning shoots out from her open palm, but Hellenrae contorts her body just enough to evade the spell entirely. Shump attempts to cast a bane enchantment on Hellenrae but she resists the effects. Meanwhile, Orlav rushes to Ka’s side and bestows healing magic to bring her back to consciousness.

Naïru once again lashes out with her scimitars. Hellenrae dodges the first attack, then attempts to grab the second but Naïru is quicker and strikes the abbess, who then dodges the third lash. Ka jumps to her feet and swings with Wally and Reszur, landing the dagger. Hellenrae turns back on the tiefling as she removes and tosses her mask, revealing her clouded, milky eyes. The abbess’s knifehand strikes the rogue, who stumbles and dodges the next blow, but Hellenrae’s third crushing blow knocks Ka out again. Rowan evokes another line of lightning as the abbess is partially struck by the arc. Shump takes advantage of the distraction and smites down Hellenrae to the ground with two radiantly charged blows with his longsword. The half-orc drops to Ka’s side and brings her back to consciousness with his blessed touch.

Exploring the Monastery

As the group takes a moment to regroup, Orlav gives Ka a potion of greater healing. Shump pockets Hellenrae’s mask. Searching around the room, the group finds a large wooden chest by the desk containing coins plus stones wrapped in a swatch of cowhide. The group finds two more keys, one hanging by the door and one around Hellenrae’s neck. Both appear to be different form the two found on the orog leader. Determined to find more, Ka exercises extreme diligence and finds a single copper hidden in a crack between two floor stones. The group persuades Ka not to light Hellenrae’s body on fire and compromises on letting her decapitate the abbess instead.

Heading across the hall, the group finds a locked door matching the key found hanging in Hellenrae’s room. Inside, piles of firewood are stacked neatly against one wall of the room, and four large copper kettles stand in iron frames above iron fireboxes. Copper tubing in long coils leads from one kettle to the next. Several large wooden casks stand at the south end of the room, and shelves on the eastern wall hold scores of brown bottles sealed with red wax. As the rest of the party makes wild guesses as to the purpose of the room, Rowan laughs to herself recognizing it as a distillery. Eventually Shump catches on, testing a bottle and finding it to be strong but not very good brandy. The group takes twenty bottles to potentially sell elsewhere.

Insights into an Earth Prophet

The group explores the dojo next, but finds nothing of interest. The next unexplored room appears to be a scriptorium. Dusty tomes, stacks of parchment, and pots of ink clutter writing desks. Naïru takes a stack of parchment and pot of ink, and Rowan finds two scrolls that were set aside likely because the monks recognized them as magical and uncopyable. Over the course of an hour in the room, the group finds a trove of information. Tomes include academic texts on the elemental planes, holy texts that refer to earth deities or elemental powers (most quite obscure), and philosophical treatises on self-denial and nihilism as the response to a flawed and illogical world.

Wading through the banal “insights” and “secrets” that make up most of the texts here, the group discovers what appears to be the personal testament of someone named Marlos Urnrayle. From this text, they gather that Marlos Urnrayle is the Prophet of Earth. He was drawn to a place called “the Fane of the Eye” by powerful visions. There he found “Ironfang, the Holy Implement of Earth Power,” and took it for his own. Marlos established the Temple of Black Earth in the ruins of a long-abandoned dwarven stronghold that exists below the Sacred Stone Monastery. He nurtures something called the Black Geode, and when all is ready, “the Evergrowing Mountain shall come and remake these lands in his own image.”

Monastery Emancipation

The party decides to explore more of the tunnels below the monastery and starts with the unexplored door exiting west from the haunted crypt. In the next room, the group finds a large chamber with a row of sturdy iron bars and a sliding cage door walling off the western portion of the room. Behind the iron bars stands a monstrous creature that resembles a cross between a huge ape and a beetle. It has wicked mandibles, powerful claws, and four eye sockets— but two of its eyes have been put out, and its claws are bronze blades. The creature bellows and thrashes in rage, constantly testing the bars and clawing at the walls. Rowan believes the monster may be an umber hulk, a burrowing creature known to hypnotize its prey. She believes its injuries and modifications prevent it from burrowing or hypnotizing.

Exploring further, the group finds several dead ends and unfinished mine tunnels, but one of the tunnels leads to a localized cave-in partially obstructing a disused mine tunnel. Naïru squeezes through and explores, finding the tunnel continues for a quarter-mile before opening into a well-hidden spot in the surrounding hills. She returns to the group. Realizing dawn approaches, the gang speeds up their exploration of the mines. Bumping into a few duergar, the group keeps their cool and their masks and robes allow them to walk on by. The group eventually finds a passage leading to a gate made of iron bars that blocks the way, secured with a chain and padlock. Just beyond the gate, worn stone steps descend and turn left. This is no mine tunnel—the stonework is near-perfect despite its evident age. Ka tries the key that Hellenrae kept closest around her neck and finds it opens the gate. After winding three stories down a spiral stair, the group turns back, leaving the lower levels for another day.

On the opposite end of the mines, the group finds three cell-like rooms have been excavated from the rock. Iron bars wall off each one, with a chain and padlock securing a swinging gate. Inside, a number of prisoners huddle on miserable straw pallets. Counting seventeen commoners in all, most are human peasants, caravan drivers, merchants, or tribesfolk. However, one is the dwarven sage Bruldenthar, one of the missing members of the delegation from Mirabar. Once realizing the adventurer’s aren’t cultists, the prisoners, who have been working in the mines, beg for the characters to free them from their pens and lead them out of the monastery. Using the key stolen from the orog leader, Ka unlocks each of the slave pens. Naïru, Rowan, and Ka lead the prisoners out as Orlav and Shump fetch the body of the dwarven knight from the sarcophagus. Everyone exits out the hidden tunnels into the morning twilight. As the group gets their bearings, Orlav spots boar tracks leading north.

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Session 16
Regrouping at Rivergard and Tracking Jolliver

Regrouping at Rivergard

The air cultist tells the group that once past the gate to the southwest, the party would not face any additional danger. The tunnel leads to underground caverns controlled by the Feathergale Society. The Dessarin Valley was once the site of the dwarven kingdom of Belsimer, and the dwarves established an underground stronghold called Tyar-Besil beneath the Sumber Hills. The water cult occupies a portion of Tyar-Besil that contained storehouses long ago. The Dark Stream provided a safe, navigable waterway linking the stronghold with the Dessarin River and the surface dominions of the realm. The Feathergale Society has occupied a portion of Tyar-Besil where the dwarves built a pyramid-shaped palace at the center of a vast cavern. Around the pyramid, the dwarves constructed spacious plazas, working the natural stone of the cavern to carve barracks and other living quarters into the rock. There, the cultist believes he could offer the party rest, or even simply escort them back to Feathergale Spire to speak with Thurl.

The Water Weird Whisperer

After some private group discussion, with Naïru giving the air cultist reassuring smiles every so often, the gang decides to take the air cultist captive and return to Rivergard Keep. First, however, Shump insists on investigating the elemental creatures in the copper vats. With the rest of the group standing by, Shump opens a vat only to find it filled with water. Disappointed, he reaches in to scoop a drink, but Rowan pulls him away just in time for a water weird to lash out of the vat. Orlav immediately attempts to calm the water weird speaking to it in Aquan, as Rowan grabs the weird tank. The three adventurers work together to coax the water weird into the tank and successfully contain it. Pushing their luck, the group opens a second tank with similar success in capturing another weird. On the way out of the temple, the gang sees two reavers investigating their dead comrades on the lake landing entering the temple. Ka quickly takes out both with her longbow and the cover of darkness.

Interrogating the Air Cultist

The group returns to Rivergard after being gone for a couple hours. Markus is a bit surprised to see Shump riding a giant crab, but gladly relieves the group of the air cultist captive. The gang spends the day at Rivergard recovering from injuries and formulating their next plan. Orlav, as he investigates his new ring, steps out onto Rivergard’s boat landing and realizes he can still walk on water, despite his spell effect having ended.

At some point, a knight of Samular beckons the group to join them interrogating the air cultist. The group learns about the water cult’s leader, a man named Gar Shatterkeel, enlisted Bronzefume the dragon turtle to join the water cult. Young and impressionable, Bronzefume was lured to the Temple of the Crushing Wave by Gar Shatterkeel’s offer of riches. Gar Shatterkeel, as the leader of the water cult, is essentially an insane pirate that can control the weather. Gar lost his arm as a child, replacing it with a crab claw. Ka realizes this is the same magical trident wielding prophet that the Crushing Wave Priestess referred to in her sermon, and the area beneath Rivergard must be the Temple of the Crushing Wave.

When asked about the delegation from Mirabar, the cultist admits that the Feathergale Society rescued one of the delegation members during a raid on earth cultists. The delegation member was sent down to the Feathergale’s underground facilities for safe harboring. The group posits and the cultist confirms that the air cult’s underground facility is the same location seen in the Sighing Valley from the Feathergale Spire spyglass. Naïru spends quite a lot of time convincing Ka not to slit the air cultist’s throat. The group then tries to convince Markus to raid the water cult. Markus doesn’t seem keen on taking on a dragon turtle or a crazy pirate that can control the weather, plus he confesses his men are mostly rookies and they’ve been preoccupied with restoring the keep. Markus asks if they know any woodworkers, and the group decides to head to Red Larch and enlist Stannor Thistlehair and his friends.

Back at Red Larch

Ka is disappointed to discover Gaelkur’s closed down, supposedly Harburk was getting close to proving he was a Believer and he fled in the middle of the night. The gang finds their drunken halfling friend, Stannor Thistlehair, back at The Helm at Highsun. After Stannor convinces Orlav to buy him and the party drinks, he and his friends listen earnestly to the pitch for Rivergard Keep. The wagon workers gladly accept the job, having struggled to find work and swayed by Ka’s promise of plenty of ale. Orlav and the gang also hire a group of aspiring adventurers to escort Stannor’s caravan of wagons and promise the fighter, cleric, wizard, and rogue more gold in the future if they stick with the Knights of Samular.

The group spends the rest of the afternoon taking care of errands. Rowan buys new leather clothes plus supplies for crafting a saddle for Shump’s giant crab steed. Shump checks in at Ironhead Arms to learn that Feng Ironhead tracked down a few magical weapons for the group. For Shump, he produces a longsword with ruby inlays in the shape of droplets of blood and depictions of blood flowing from out of an enemy’s wound into a swordsman. After some intense bargaining, Shump buys the life stealing longsword and Ka buys an upgraded shortsword at ten percent discounts. Orlavs trades a weird tank for an upgraded magic warhammer.

Hell Hounds at the Helm at Highsun

The group ends the night at the Helm at Highsun. Orlav stands on a table to perform a poem about standing down a dragon turtle. Just as his performance ends, with half the bar clapping, a hell hound crashes through the window. It sniffs around then looks right at the party and snarls. Naïru is the first to react, mystically marking the hound as her quarry before putting two arrows straight into its neck. It staggers for a moment before Ka finishes it off with an arrow between the eyes. For a second, the tavern patrons look at each other, wondering what just happened. Just as they start to clap again, three more hell hounds crash through the windows. They charge to the back towards the gang, and one of the hounds get close enough to breath a cone of fire that envelopes Orlav, Ka, and Naïru. Orlav and Ka take worst of it, but Ka’s hellish resistance helps.

Rowan evokes a line of roaring fire that engulfs two of the hell hounds, but they don’t seem phased by the flames. Shump throws his weird tank onto the ground and opens the lid, unleashing the water weird. Orlav evokes a sudden loud ringing noise that erupts around two of the hell hounds. Nearby chairs shatter from the painfully intense eruptions. Naïru marks a new quarry and hits it with two arrows from her longbow. Ka takes down one of the hell hounds with her new shortsword, Wally, then manages to nick another with reszur. Rowan, Orlav, Naïru, and the water weird are all caught in a hell hound’s fire breath, but the water weird is clearly less affected. The other hell hound lunges forward and also breaths fire on Ka and the water weird, but Ka not only takes cover, but her hellish resistance limits her burns.

Rowan extends her hand towards a hell hound and a puff of noxious gas, however, the hell hound manages to resist. Shump takes the opportunity to hit the hound with his longsword. He telepathically communicates to his crab outside to look for any suspicious folks. Orlav points at a hell hound as a flash of light streaks toward and hits it. The water weird wraps a tendril of water around the hell hound and restrains it. Orlav conjures a spiritual warhammer that slams the hell hound, just as Naïru finished the hound off with an arrow.

Strange Symbols

The bar erupts in huge applause at the end of the show. The group searches the hounds and finds that a mysterious bowl-like symbol marks the iron collars of the hell hounds. The group assumes the symbol is for the fire cult. Ka recognizes the hounds as hell hounds and explains that hell hounds are capable of tracking a scent for miles and could have come from anywhere.

Thorsk Thelorn, the owner of the surviving wagon shop in Red Larch, steps forward from the bar and recognizes the symbol. The wagonmaker recalls an Amnian merchant heading north on the Long Road who stopped for a wagon repair. His goods were marked by a strange symbol, like a bowl. The Amnian merchant paid Thorsk well and talked about a big gathering of druids he was heading to, hoping to sell kegs of beer and various trinkets. Thorsk provides directions to a place called Scarlet Moon Hall, which stands deep in the Sumber Hills “where the worst monsters are”—and as a result local hunters, prospectors, herbalists, and woodcutters rarely go near the place. The Sumber Hills are known for the standard bugbears, orcs, and gnolls, but the region around Scarlet Moon Hall is rumored to have jackalweres, ghouls, and wights.

Womford’s Woes

The group sets out the next morning to find out more about Scarlet Moon Hall, only to find a big commotion in the streets of Red Larch. Messengers rode all night to bring dire tidings from Womford. According to the riders, a group of humans wearing robes of seaweed marched into the center of Womford at dawn carrying a large box. Inscribed on the box were elemental symbols matching those found on the hell hound collars. The cultists set down the box, and opened it, revealing a levitating orb of water before running for the hills. The orb began to pulse and resonate faster and faster before detonating.

The detonation of the orb unleashed an instantaneous torrential rainstorm. After only a few hours, the Dessarin River flooded. Many townspeople were injured, and the lightest structures all collapsed and washed away, but when asked about Ma’s, the riders aren’t sure. According to the riders, witnesses also described someone matching Jolliver’s description, down to the tricorne hat, in Womford an hour before the cultists showed up. Shump suspects the water cult was attempting a false flag operation against the fire cult, but Rowan explains that elemental energy is diametrically opposed, and the fire symbols likely were to contain the destruction of the water energy within the container.

The characters decide to set out for Womford, and upon reaching Bargewright Inn, they confirm the scope of the damage to Womford. Even Bargewright’s heavily fortified walls took a thrashing from the storms. Evidently, the torrential rainstorm lasted a full 24 hours before stopping just as suddenly as it began. The Inn’s position on the hills helped it escape the river flooding, and the Zhentarim have constructed makeshift shelters and opened all available rooms at the Inn for tending to anyone wounded or put out by the devastation. The gang is also pleased to learn that Ma’s bar, The Leaning Boot, was actually fashioned from an old, grounded pirate ship. Ma survived the storms by floating on the flooded waters. Ma is anchored and still serving drinks to anyone that takes a skiff out to meet her.

Tracking Jolliver

The group visits Ma’s bar, and she retells most of the same harrowing details of the devastation. Orlav begins breaking bread and cutting fish until Ma suddenly finds herself with 45 pounds of food and 30 gallons of clean water. When asked about the cultists, Ma recounts that the cultists all ran north along the river. At the mention of Jolliver being a wereboar, the half-orc sailor from the last visit to The Leaning Boot lifts his head and mentions having seen a strange boar along the river. The group travels to the point of interest on the flooded water’s edge, where Orlav’s magic destroys some of the water, revealing some boar tracks which Naïru begins to track. The group travels the river north for a day and a half, eventually following the trail away from the river and around Rivergard Keep, keeping just out of eyesight. Just as night falls, the gang follows the trail right up to the hidden entrance in the hills to the Sacred Stone Monastery.

The gang follows the trail between the bluffs and finds the monks have since cleared the caved in boulders from Qarbo’s magic. A veil of shadows and silence radiates from Naïru, masking her and the rest of the party from detection. Entering the hidden canyon of the monastery, Naïru is certain that Jolliver’s tracks lead to the front door. The group sees a half dozen duergar patrolling the dusty footpath circling the monastery. Keeping their distance, the group scouts the perimeter. The eastern portion of the monastery is in very poor repair—the walls there are crumbling, and the windows have been bricked up with old masonry. A small side door is near that section, in the southeast portion of the building. On the northeast side, a low wall encloses a good-sized garden with a locked gate.

Returning to the Sacred Stone Monastery

On the northwest side of the monastery, the group sees a monk wearing brown robes and a gargoyle mask step out of a small door. Seeing a gap in the duergar patrols, Ka acts quickly and takes out the monk with her shortsword Wally. Ka dons the monk’s robes and mask, and covers the blood stains with dirt and mud. Ka enters the monastery through the door to find the monastery kitchen. Inside, two monks are busy making bread and one is scrubbing kettles. Looking at Ka’s dirty robes, the masked monks ask her what happened. She explains she was really clumsy and fell in the mud, and the monks point her to the adjoined laundry room and tell her to clean up quickly before Hellenrae sees her. In the laundry room, Ka finds stacks of clean robes. She shoves a stack of robes out the window to the gang, before heading back to the kitchen.

Ka convinces the three monks to help her with the mess she made outside. Annoyed, they follow her outside where the party gets the jump on her. Naïru hits two monks each with an arrow from her longbow. Rowan uses her wand of magic missiles to hit each monk with a dart of force. Orlav bashes the monk bringing up the back with his warhammer. Ka tries to slash a monk with her shortsword, but he dodges. She slashes again with reszur in her offhand, but the monk manages to parry the dagger with his forearm. Shump attacks a monk with his longsword, but the monk parries the attack as well. Naïru uses the moment to kill the monk with her shortsword. She swings around and finishes off the second monk, then advances on the last monk and cuts him down as well.

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Session 15
The Temple of the Crushing Wave

Temple of the Crushing Wave

While looking around the lake landing, Orlav recognizes claw marks on the stone quay consistent with a dragon turtle. Shump begins to summon a steed, with Naïru keeping watch, as the rest of the group explores the lake. Orlav and Rowan walk on the water’s surface following the northern wall, while Ka takes the south. Shortly across the water, Ka passes a stumbling stone quay that leads to a dark passageway. She continues on, moving towards a grotto behind a column of rock. Suddenly, from out of the water, a giant octopus tentacle reaches out and grapples her. Ka yells out for help and attempts to break free, but is unsuccessful. The rest of the party runs toward Ka, including Oralv, who hears an oafish voice call out and ask what is going on.

Meanwhile, the giant octopus further constricts around Ka, but moments later she writhes free and dashes away. Naïru is first to arrive and marks the octopus as her quarry, before striking it with her longbow. Rowan also hits the octopus with a mote of fire, just as Shump arrives to the scene. The octopus lunges towards the half-orc and grapples him with his tentacles. Orlav summons flame-like radiance on the octopus, just as Ka turns back around from fleeing to loose the final arrow from her longbow.

The Drowning Chambers

As Orlav cures Ka’s wounds, Naïru sneaks off to check out the dark passageway. She comes to a chamber where a dank, rotten smell pervades the air. The floor is perforated by eight small pools, each about 3 feet wide and filled to the brim with black, stinking water. Several large stones lie on the floor near the pools, each wrapped several times around by lengths of old rope. A symbol is painted on the southern wall—a shape like an X with the bottom limbs linked by a horizontal line.

Investigating to the west, the lake ends at a gravel shore. A natural cavern narrows towards a long gated passageway heading west. Several wooden skiffs are drawn up on the shore, and Ka gets to work sabotaging the boats. Naïru returns and tells the group of the dark chambers, presumed to be where prisoners are drowned. The group goes to investigate, with Naïru leading Shump and Orlav in first. Orlav notices several ghouls hiding in the darkness near the walls, and Shump’s divine senses detect the presence of at least four ghouls.

Several ghouls move out from the walls and towards the group, and one reaches Orlav. However, the ghoul falls over trying to claw at the dragonborn. One of the other ghouls cries out, as eight more surface in the water of the eight pools. Ka shoots an arrow into the ghoul on the ground, as Naïru unleashes a hail of thorns into the room at a cluster of ghouls. Orlav smashes the grounded ghoul with his warhammer, and Shump finishes him off. As the eleven remaining ghouls start to ascend on the party, a bright streak flashes past the group into the middle of the ghouls and then blossoms with a low roar into an explosion of flame. Rowan stands at the back in an archer’s stance with her arms holding an imaginary bow, with her front hand pointing to the center of the destruction.

As Shump searches around, Orlav says a prayer to Istishia for the drowned. As he consecrates the area with his words, one of the pools begins to dimly glow. Peeking in, he sees something shiny at the bottom. Unraveling some rope from one of the rocks, Orlav jumps in and discovers a ring at the bottom of the ten-foot deep pool. Once out of the water, he puts the ring on, but can’t determine its effects, but he’s certain it’s magical.

Paying the Troll Toll

The group decides to investigate towards the northeast end of the lake in the direction of the oafish voice heard earlier. A canal leads north from the eastern side of the lake. As the group walks the surface of the water, they see stairs on each side of the canal climb up to a stone bridge, which spans the canal fifteen feet above the water level. The sides of the bridge are carved in the image of dragons standing guard over treasure hoards. A single torch illuminates the bridge. The group sees a troll standing on the bridge, and the troll sees the group.

The troll calls out, “Hey, why can’t I walk on water?” Shump immediately responds saying “You can! It’s special water, try it.” The troll walks down to the water’s edge, steps out onto the water, and falls in. Swimming to the surface, the aquatic troll yells, “It didn’t work!” Shump says, “Are you wearing socks?” The troll says, “No, I’m barefoot.” Shump says “Well there you go, you have to be wearing socks.” The troll looks even more confused, and asks who the party is.

The party says they’re auditors there to determine if they’ve taken back Rivergard Keep yet. The troll says, “That is more of the humans’ thing, I just work for them. But I don’t think so …” Ka asks if the troll is being given the support and tools he needs to perform his duties. He says “Yeah, I think, there’s not a lot I really need … they feed me, and I’ve got my claws, lefty and lefty.” Orlav tells the troll the boats on the shore of the lake aren’t to code and it is his responsibility to take care of them. The troll reluctantly leaves to inadvertently sabotage the boats further.

The Dragon Turtle

Moving on along the water, the twenty-foot wide canal leads between ancient masonry walls into darkness. The water moves sluggishly, indicating a weak current. Turning around a bend, the group sees another quay up ahead to the left exiting west, as well as where the canal opens up to another cavern in the distance. There, a reflection of blue light shimmers and sparkles off the water. However, the shimmers and reflections begin to move toward the group. The group readies their weapons as the reflections get closer. Just as the reflections reach the quay in front of them, a dragon turtle lifts its head out of the water. It tilts its head as it observes the party standing on the surface of the water.

Orlav commands the group to run. Everyone else turns and flees back around the canal’s bend as Orlav stands his ground. The dragon turtle advances and bites into Orlav, bringing him to the edge of death. Meanwhile, Naïru leads the group back to the dragon bridge. In a split decision, she decides to exit the water using the western quay. At the top of the water’s stairs, she sees two tunnels, one straight ahead and one to her right leading back north. She chooses to take the group north, following a series of bends and turns and passing a few doors along the way. The ranger’s natural sense of direction takes Naïru to the end of a tunnel that leads back to the north end of the canal.

Peaking her head out around the corner, she sees Orlav floating on the water. Seeing the tail end of the dragon turtle to the south round the bend out of sight, she levitates herself to the ceiling and pulls herself towards Orlav to keep from disturbing the water. Rowan moves to the nearest door and begins to search for thoughts of any creatures in the nearest room. She picks up the mind of someone thinking to herself that the weird tank experiments have been going very well. Shump looks out at the canal and decides to risk it for Orlav. He runs out onto the water and lays his hands on the cleric. Shump and Orlav bolt back up the quay with Orlav dragging Naïru by the ankle along be ceiling.

Bugbears, reavers, and weird tanks

Naïru concentrates for a minute on her primeval awareness and determines there are seven humanoids in the nearest room. The group decides to follow the hallways back south towards the lake landing. Rounding a corner, they hear a monstrous voice yell out “pesky air cultists!” from behind an arrow slit. Naïru storms into the room and finds five bugbears ready for combat.

Naïru hits the nearest bugbear with a few swings of her shortsword. Shump slashes at another with his scimitar. Rowan twins to fire bolts at Shump’s target, but both fly wide. Orlav steals Naïru’s kill with sacred flames. Ka runs into the room and misses with an arrow. The four remaining bugbears split the room, two teaming up on Shump, one taking Orlav, and one taking Naïru. All four fail to connect with their morningstars, however one yells out “air cultists!” even louder towards a closed door.

Naïru hits her new bugbear target, and takes an additional jab at Orlav’s. She swings twice more with her dual shortswords but fails to penetrate the bugbear’s hide. Shump sinks two scimitars into his bugbear assailant. Rowan steals Naïru’s kill with a firebolt. Orlav lands a massive blow against his bugbear, then Ka comes in with reszur and steals his kill. The group hears yelling from the other room, as one of the bugbears misses Naïru and the other bugbear lands a morningstar on Ka.

Naïru lands one of three swings with her shortsword against her assailant. Rowan hits the other bugbear with one of her twinned fire bolts. Shump, Ka, and Orlav are unable to hit either of the bugbears. The bugbears can’t get past the party’s defenses either. The nearby door opens, and a woman with a frosty-white orb in place of her right eye stands at the ready with six reavers trailing behind her. A ray of frost shoots out of the woman’s missing eye but Orlav manages to dodge it. Naïru finishes off one of the bugbears, then marks the one-eyed woman as her quarry. She drops her short swords and pulls her bow, but Naïru’s arrow veers at the last second around the one-eyed woman as though obstructed by an invisible barrier.

Rowan runs to the door and sees what appears to be an arcane workshop. A long wooden table in the middle of the room is littered with pieces of a complicated apparatus involving a large glass tank, copper fittings and piping, and a leather carrying harness, while shelves full of alchemical reagents stand against the wall. The air is quite cold, and a chill mist clings to the floor. Rowan decides to risk it and takes an archers stance, pulls her invisible bowstring, and a bright streak flashes into the middle of the room and then blossoms with a low roar into an explosion of flames. Nearly everyone in the room is hit, and two reavers die. Additionally, the tank on the table explodes as well and splashes ice-cold liquid onto nearby reavers. Orlav evokes sacred flames that engulf the one-eyed woman while quickly conjuring a spiritual warhammer that slams into her. Ka finishes off the last bugbear then manages to hit the one-eyed woman with a dagger.

A wave of thunderous force sweeps out in realiation from the one-eyed woman, but Nairu, Orlav, and Rowan all manage to stand their ground against the shockwave. The four remaining reavers all attempt to hit Nairu with crossbow bolts but miss. Nairu manages to finish off the one-eyed woman with her shortsword, then break up the horde of reavers with concurrent slashes, killing two of the four. Rowan finishes off the third hurling a mote of fire, as Orlav takes down the last with sacred flames and his spiritual warhammer.

The Spy’s Letters

The group takes a moment to get their bearings and search around. The first room was clearly just a guardpost and, judging by the smell, the bugbears’ sleeping quarters. The room to the north, before Rowan destroyed everything with her fireball, was clearly an arcane workshop. The group finds some gold amongst the dead cultists, and Ka cuts out the leader’s frosty glass eye. They also find an iron chest in an adjoining bedchamber to the workshop. The chest contains some coinage as well as several unsigned letters reporting on events in Red Larch, including the arrival of the party and their actions in town within the last couple days. The handwriting is an unusual mix of block letters and script matching the letters found in Jolliver’s desk at Rivergard. The troll arrives and questions the scene, but the group blames shoddy work standards and safety practices. Rowan slaps up a “0 days since last accident” sign.

Rowan determines that items powered by the energy of elemental water were assembled in the workshop. Heading into the last adjoining room, the group finds sealed copper vats standing in two rows in the middle of a large room. The vats are old and completely covered in verdigris, and three vats are cold and clammy to the touch. A few faded murals remain on the wall, showing dwarves working in fields and tending hop vines. Three new, backpack-sized glass tanks with carrying harnesses are stacked neatly at the end of the row of vats. The tanks are ten-gallons of blown glass and sculpted bronze with a backpack-like carrying harness fashioned from tough leather. Rowan believes that the tanks would serve as vessels to contain elemental creatures made of water. Orlav posits that the three vats that are cold to the touch contain such creatures.

Bumping into Air Cultists

The group locks or barricades what doors they can and takes a short rest in the workshop. Nearing the end of an hour, Orlav is startled as the door he’s guarding shifts slightly against its barricade. A moment later, the door shifts again, indicating someone on the other side in the brewery room seems to be testing for entry. The party decides to circle back around from the hallway and surprise whomever from behind. The brewery has two doors, one of which is closed and Orlav and the party get in position behind. Naïru sneaks to the other door and finds it wide open and peaks inside. Crouched by the door, Naïru sees two members of the Feathergale Society.

Naïru walks into the room and loudly says “Hey brothers, what’s up?”
Orlav and Shump stand down outside. Naïru recognizes the two cultists, one is a young initiate the group ate a meal with, the other is one of Fremont Talaudrym’s two killers.
The cultists jump at Naïru’s voice and turn around, and the younger man whispers, “My lady Naivara, what are you doing down here?”
Naïru responds, “I’m curious what you’re doing down here, we’ve been down here for a while.”
The cultist whispers, “We’re on a mission to sneak into the water cult’s facilities and ascertain information on their experiments.”
Naïru asks, “Who sent you on this mission?”
The cultist gestures for her to be quiet as he whispers back “Thurl.”
Naïru still speaking loudly so the party can hear, says “Ahh yes, Thurl and I talked about some possible plans.”
The cutlist again asks, “My lady, what are YOU doing down here?”
Naïru replies, “That’s between Thurl and I.”
Suddenly, the older knight stops the younger cultist, and says “We have to go. I’m sorry my lady, our mission has been compromised.”
Naïru says, “Well, let me warn you, this is a really dangerous area, do you need me to accompany you on the way out?”
“No, it’s probably best if you leave immediately from whichever means you came in…”
Naïru quickly interjects, “Well probably the same way, what way did you enter through?”
The older knight again kicks the younger man before he can answer and says, “There is a secret tunnel we came through, but it’s too dangerous for you to go back that way. We’ll take our leave that way if you want to return the way you came.”
Orlav bursts through the door, and seeing the man who killed Fremont, evokes flame-like radiance at him.
Naïru pushes the younger cultist out of the way then yells, “This brother is a traitor!” She stabs the knight with her shortsword then hits him across the face with the blunt side.
The knight drops his longsword and utters, “My lady…”
Rowan begins to detect the man’s thoughts, as Orlav drops his shield and warhammer and grapples the man. Rowan hears the knight’s surface thoughts, as he frantically thinks to himself, “Shit, what have I done?”
Orlav yells “Murderer! You killed Fremont Talaudrym!”
Rowan hears the knight ponder to himself, “Who the hell was Fremont Talaudrym?” Rowan probes deeper into the knight’s mind, and he yells “Agh, fuck, get out of my head!”
Orlav continues, “On the road to Red Larch, you attacked a caravan. You murdered Fremont!”
The knight thinks to himself, “Oh fuck, THAT’S what this is about? Shit, what should I say…” He looks at Naïru and says, “My lady, I promise, whatever this dragonborn says is a total lie.”
Orlav punches the knight in the face. The knight grins and says, “Oh, so that’s how you’re going to play it.”
The younger cultist tries to interject and says, “Umm, guys, I really think we should get out of here. The water cult could show up anytime.”
Ignoring him, Naïru says “What really happened then?”
Rowan is able to tell from probing his emotional state that the attack was simply wreckless hatred. Out loud, the knight says “Sometimes there’s collateral damage.”
Orlav draws his handaxe and strikes the knight with the blunt handle, knocking out a few teeth.
The knight stops smiling, and again turns to Naïru. He says, “My lady, I promise, we can settle this elsewhere. Willem here is right, we should leave as soon as possible. We can continue this conversation in front of a tribunal with Thurl…”
Naïru interrupts and says, “No, your jury is here and your trial is now. Your choices are between telling the truth and death.”
The knight concedes and says, “Yes, I believe I killed this person, I have a vague memory of the events.”
Naïru asks, “And no explanation for why?”
The knight says “The destructive power of the winds and storms is an expression of personal freedom.”
Orlav leans in as close as possible and yells, “You coward, you pretend to be the wind, but I am the storm!” The dragonborn exhales lightning into the knight’s face, killing him.
The group discusses what to do next. The surviving air cultist snaps out of his state of shock a few minutes later at mention of the water cult. He says “Gar Shatterkeel will need quite some time to restaff ever since the Knights of Samular took Rivergard Keep and blocked their only water exit.”
Naïru asks if that was the tunnel he came through, and the cultist explains that there’s a smaller tunnel through the gate at the lake landing to the southwest. He offers a place to rest with food and beds on the other side.
Naïru concentrates on her senses and determines there’s roughly forty humanoids still close by. The group discusses continuing on through the caves, despite pleas from the air cultist to leave. They discuss keeping the air cultist with them, which he pleads again that he doesn’t want to die fighting water cultists or running into the dragon turtle, Bronzefume.

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Session 14
Revisiting the Water Cult

Questioning Qarbo

Qarbo tells the group that it will take Hellenrae time to get another priest up from the temple to move the fallen boulders. Ka inquires further about Hellenrae’s relations with the Black Earth priests, and Qarbo clarifies that Hellenrae and her monks are still believers, but in his opinion, the priests are the most worthy and should (but don’t) outrank Hellenrae. When Ka asks about the distinctions between the priests and the monks, Qarbo grows suspicious as he says that surely they have a similar structure in the air cult. Looking back and forth at Ka and Naïru, he asks Ka why a tiefling is helping an air cultist. Ka tells Qarbo that the fire cult burned her village, killing her parents, and she found vengeful enlightenment in the air cult. Turning to Orlav and Shump, Qarbo’s suspicions grow as he studies their religious symbols. After further questioning, Qarbo realizes they aren’t cultists but in fact simply adventurers.

The group then proposes an alliance with Qarbo, offering to help take down Hellenrae so he can take her place in the cult’s ranks. Qarbo says that while he may not have been willing to die for Hellenrae, his loyalties are still to Ogrémoch and the black earth cult. However, as a sign of good faith, Qarbo offers to repair Ka’s longbow with a spell. When asked about the Mirabar delegation, Qarbo openly admits that the Black Earth cult attacked the delegation on the Dessarin Road. They took several prisoners and paid the Crushing Wave cult to ferry them across the river. On their way back to their monastery, they were attacked by air cultists who managed to capture a few of the delegation prisoners for themselves.

When asked why they attacked the delegation, Qarbo says with a wry smile, “there is power in knowledge.” His smile deepens as he tells the group that most of the captives are in prison cells in the tunnels beneath the monastery, while a special few are being kept in a strongly locked room in the eastern halls of the monastery’s surface level. When asked for the hand sign with which the earth cultists identify each other, Qarbo makes a triangle by touching the knuckles of his bent thumbs as well as the forefingers of both his hands together. When asked about the weather, Qarbo says the forces of elemental air, water, and fire are fighting each other for control over the climate. When asked about the other cults, Qarbo says the air cultists are mercurial, unreliable, and generally out of touch with reality. The earth cultists respect the strength and ferocity of the Eternal Flame followers, but also find them maddeningly inconstant. Black Earth cultists ally most often with the Crushing Wave, since they admire the patience and pragmatism of the water cultists.

Gargoyles!

Suddenly, the group hears screeching from the direction of the monastery. Qarbo perks up and yells, “Gargoyles!” Orlav jumps up, ties Qarbo’s hands together, and drags him behind as the group runs out of the hidden valley. Naïru’s sense of direction tells her they’re not far from Rivergard Keep where the Knights of Samular are holding fort. Halfway there, however, the gargoyles catch up to the group. As the gang stands their ground and attempts to fight, the gargoyles take a few blows as they focus solely on Qarbo, whose hands are still tied. Within seconds, they kill the priest for good, before taking off again in the night sky.

Revisiting the Water Cult

Once at Rivergard, Markus welcomes the group back and offers what minimal comforts the stronghold offers, including food served by the three Womford Wannabes. Markus shares that his order has done their best to keep the water cult at bay. In the six days since they took the keep, the water cult has made several attacks. The attacks have varied greatly, some from the underground stream, some the river, and some from outside the walls. Their attacks have varied between several times per day to no sightings at all, while always keeping the knights guessing. Their attacks are consistently brief, attacking then retreating, attacking then retreating, like the ebb and flow of water. The group decides it might be time to revisit the water cult and hunt down Jolliver.

Over dinner, Orlav informs the group he recognized the name Ogrémoch as an evil elemental deity of sorts known as the “Prince of Evil Earth.” Naïru has a recollection that in tracking her Black Earth genasi over the years, she once had a lead connecting a black genasi to the “Princess of Evil Water,” which she realizes is why the name Olhydra was so familiar to her. She dismissed it as a bad lead so many years ago because the connection of the two seemed unlikely at the time. Shump points out that combining earth and water results in mud.

The Dark Stream

The next morning, the group heads down the secret passage to the underground stream. There they find the single rowboat and take it west into the darkness. About a mile in, the group is surprised as two piercers drop from the ceiling. One misses Shump and slams into the boat floor, while the other manages to pierce Orlav with its mandibles. Startled, Rowan hurls a fire bolt into the piercer on Orlav, Shump slashes it with one of his scimitars, and Naïru takes it down with her shortsword. Ka single-handedly kills the other before kicking it out of the boat.

Continuing on, the group eventually begins to see the end to the dark stream’s tunnel as firelight up ahead shines from a large cavern. Orlav stops to perform a ritual, bestowing the ability to walk on water to everyone in the party. Carrying on, the stream opens into a large underground lake. To the left, the lake stretches into darkness. To the right, a crumbling stone quay leads to a tunnel. A ten-foot skiff is moored to the quay, and a torch burns in a bronze sconce by the tunnel mouth. Beside the quay, a twenty-foot wide canal leads north from the large lake. However, upon the quay are six cultists. Four are clearly typical reavers, one has serpent tattoos, and the last cultist wields a lance. Seeing the group’s boat, the leader says “Ahh, we’ve been waiting for you for some time to finally show up down here” as everyone draws weapons.

Quarrel on the Quay

Naïru is the first to react, nocking an arrow and uttering a quick word, before releasing the arrow along with a rain of thorns from her bow, hitting two reavers and the serpentine cultist. Ka finishes off one of the reavers with an arrow to the jugular. The lanced cultist whistles and runs to the water as he’s greeted by and mounts a shark. He greets the boat and from a bit of a distance thrusts his lance but only hits Shump’s shield. The serpent cultist pours a cup of water over herself that turns to ice. The four reavers all throw javelins, one of which hits Orlav. Rowan hurls a fire bolt at the serpent cultist, barely missing. Orlav dragonborn-Jesuses across the water toward the quay, then evokes flame-like radiance on a reaver, but she dodges away. Shump steps out of the boat onto the water’s surface and engages the shark knight, landing one of his two scimitar strikes.

Naïru fires two arrows at the serpent cultist. The first misses, but the second breaks the majority of her icy armor. Ka surprises the knight by also running out onto the water’s surface. She lands a blow with reszur but is unable to land her other dagger. The knight attempts to hit Ka and then Shump with his lance, but he has difficulty landing the long weapon at such close range. The serpent cultist unleashes two beams of crackling energy at Naïru, one of which hits. The three reavers all throw javelins, two of which hit Orlav and one hits Rowan. Rowan hurls a mote of fire at the serpent cultist, burning through the rest of her icy armor. Orlav exhales lightning on the two reavers in front of him. Shump lands another scimitar on the knight.

Naïru unleashes successive arrows, hitting the serpent cultist and two reavers. Ka uses this moment to finish the knight with reszur, before running across the water and surprising a reaver with a lethal blow. The serpent cultist hits Shump with two blasts of crackling energy. The two remaining reavers fail to land blows against Orlav, just as one dodges a blow from his warhammer. Rowan hits the serpent cultist with a fire bolt. Shump drops his shield, drawing his second scimitar, but only lands a single blow against a reaver. Naïru pulls three arrows and successively finishes off all three remaining cultists. As things settle, Naïru’s uses her primeval awareness to communicate with the shark. She determines the shark had a magical bond between it and its master.

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Session 13
Sacred Stone Monastery

Checking Out of Feathergale Spire

Naïru (Niavara) tells Thurl that her and her companions would love to meet his queen. Thurl explains that he will need to write to her to determine possibility and details. He once again tells Naïru that he believes their chance encounter to be very auspicious. He believes the fates have brought Naïru to the Feathergale Society, and that their order could enrich and fulfil her life. He suggests that she can find a place where she can finally fit in and belong, and that the path to exacting vengeance on her mother’s killer is through the truly destructive nature of the wind that the Feathergale Society reveres.

Naïru asks about the earth cult’s leadership. In addition to mentioning Miraj Visann again, Thurl mentions that the Sacred Stone Monastery is headed by an abbess by the name of Hellenrae. Miraj outranks Hellenrae, but she does not report to him. Thurl says that the earth cultists defile the earth by reshaping the natural order of the lands. When asked about the fire and water cults, Thurl says he’s aware of worshipers of other elements, but that his primary concern is with the hatred that is the earth cult.

The next morning, Naïru wakes to find Thurl fully dressed at his desk writing a letter. When asked, Thurl says he is writing to his queen to inform her of discovering Naivara and to inquire about a possible meeting and details. At breakfast, two men that Orlav recognizes as Fremont Talaudrym’s killers enter the spire great hall. Thurl passes off his letter to them, and before they take their leave with their breakfast, one of them makes brief eye contact with Orlav, before nudging the other and whispering something. Orlav leans into nearby Shump, Ka, and Rowan and confirms they have his back. Orlav leans back in his chair and swallows a croissant whole while maintaining his gaze at the knights. However, they leave without starting anything.

Ka asks about the spire and their visitor policy, and Savra says that while they maintain caution with strangers, visitors are more than welcome. Thurl continues to say that they are welcome to stay as long as they want, but inquires about their plans, offering airlifts to their next destination. The group proposes heading to the Sacred Stone Monastery, and Naivarra asks Thurl about the monastery and any secret entrances. He tells the group he isn’t aware of any secret entrances, but their monastery is a front for their cult, and as such, while they keep a low profile, they wouldn’t be openly aggressive to strangers that stumble up to their front door. In addition, he mentions that the monks inside the monastery all wear robes and gargoyle masks.

Ankheg Ambush

Setting out for the Sacred Stone Monastery, the group is trudging along through the barren countryside when they hear a low, distant rumbling. A moment later, the ground beneath their feet begins shaking. The tremor is strong enough to start small slides of pebbles from the hillsides and cause shrubs and brush to wave from side to side, but then it subsides. A moment later, horrible insect-like creatures as big as horses begin to burrow out of the ground!

Three ankhegs spring out of the ground, surrounding the group. Naïru is first to react, mystically marking the ankheg in front of the group as her quarry, before striking a massive blow with an arrow in its belly. Orlav runs forward to land his warhammer, but is unable to get past its swatting legs and mandibles. However, Ka uses the opportunity to sneak a second, fatal arrow in its underside. Shump turns around and smites the second ankheg with a thunderous blow from his scimitar, knocking it over. The ankheg immediately recovers to its feet and fails to bite into Shump. The third ankheg bites and grapples Rowan, who responds with two charges of her wand of magic missiles.

Naïru moves to marking Rowan’s grappler, then lands a critically fatal arrow into its head, releasing Rowan. Orlav descends on the last ankheg with is warhammer, but again fails to get past its tough shell. Ka has the same trouble with her arrow. Shump drops his shield and pulls his second scimitar, and taking two swings, lands with the off-hand. The ankheg once again tries to bite Shump but fails to get through his split mail. Rowan hurls a mote of fire near the ankheg, barely misses Shump and Orlav. Naïru marks the last ankheg as her quarry before landing an arrow in its belly. Orlav also lands a massive warhammer blow, this time breaking through its defenses. Ka sneaks in the last fatal blow with her bow.

Shallow Graves

Traveling onward, on a barren hilltop a few miles from the monastery, the group finds four shallow graves. The earth scraped out for the holes is piled nearby, although hastily gathered stones cover the graves. The group excavates the graves, as the faint smell of death hangs in the air. Inside, the party finds one male dwarf dressed in artisan robes, one female human warrior dressed in a black surcoat with a red axe (the symbol of Mirabar’s army), one male human warrior dressed in a black cloak with strange stony armor, and one male human in a white robe with black feathers at the shoulders. All died from arrow wounds or crushing blows. Searching around, Shump finds a confused collection of tracks, a few broken arrows, a discarded javelin, and a tattered gray cloak. Naïru reburies the bodies as Orlav performs funeral rights, despite Ka’s insistence to burn the bodies.

Sacred Stone Monastery

The few tracks that do leave the shallow graves return to the path toward the monastery. Eventually, the tracks and the group comes up on the supposed monastery entrance into the hills where the narrow trail leads into an ever-narrowing defile between bluffs of wind-sculpted sandstone. Shump insists on scouting the area for ambushes. After an hour circling the cliffs and hillside, the group circles back on the same spot without spotting any additional entrances into the hill. Shump and Orlav decide to climb the cliffside, where from the top of the hill, Shump is finally satisfied there’s nobody trying to ambush the group.

A trail leads into an ever-narrowing defile between bluffs of wind-sculpted sandstone. Eventually the walls draw in so closely that you can reach out and touch either side, but then the narrow space opens into a hidden canyon in the heart of the hills. A sprawling monastery with dark, narrow windows and red tile rooftops stands in the middle of this natural amphitheater, ringed by sandstone cliffs all around. Ahead, a weathered flight of stone steps leads up to the closed monastery doors. The plain doors are made of heavy timber with iron studs. A dusty footpath circles the building.

Audience with Qarbo

A small panel in the monastery’s front door slides open, and someone wearing a golden mask peers out. The mask is fashioned in the shape of a scowling gargoyle, but the hand that opened the panel seems human enough. From beneath the mask comes a female voice: “Yes? What do you want?” Orlav responds, “We seek enlightenment.” The monk tells the group they won’t find it at the monastery and to go away. Trying a different approach, Orlav says the group has an urgent warning about the air cult, and the monk demands details before letting the group in. She seems confused when Orlav mentions the queen of the Feathergale Society, stating they aren’t aware of any queen. When Orlav mentions the air cult is planning to assassinate Miraj Visann, the monks share furtive glances. Claiming they don’t know of any Miraj Visann, the monks still allow the party to enter and have an audience with their priest, Qarbo.

The monk leads the group through the front halls of the monastery, passing several doors leading to other rooms, before entering the inner courtyard, where to the north stands the main temple or shrine of the monastery, its copper-sheathed doors emblazoned with the earth cult symbol. Gargoyle statues guard the door, each facing the court with a ferocious leer. Through the doors into the shrine, four large columns of natural rock dominate the room. A wide set of steps descends into darkness in the center of the room, in front of a slab-like stone altar. Above the altar, a the earth cult symbol has been chiseled into the heavy stone blocks of the wall. Behind the alter stands a priest with stony vestments, and on each side stand two guards with stony armor.

The priest Qarbo is surprised by the sight of strangers and immediately questions the monk on the meaning of the disturbance. The monk says the group has information on an air cult plot to assassinate Miraj Visann. The group approaches the alter, as Orlav takes the lead and spins his tale. He tells Qarbo that he and his group were in Red Larch where a sinkhole opened and swallowed a group of adventurers who ended up battling powerful worshippers of the earth. Awed by the power of the earth, they sought out such enlightened power, learning both of the Sacred Stone Monastery and their sworn enemies, the air cult. During their search for the earth cult, the group’s air genasi was able to infiltrate the Feathergale Society who confided in her their plans to eliminate Miraj Visann.

Battling in the Shrine of Stone

Just as Orlav is winding down his tale, Orlav signals Ka to attack and get the jump on the priest. Unfortunately, in her haste to whip out her bow and sneak an arrow into the priest, her bowstring breaks. In parallel, Naïru mystically marks Qarbo as her quarry, then runs around the east pillars towards the side of the altar and puts an arrow into the priest. Both of the guards circle around to meet Naïru, landing three blows against her. Qarbo casts a spell with a wry smile on his face, before turning around and running up the wall and onto the ceiling. Shump runs around the west pillars to the alter beneath Qarbo and magically attempts to compel the priest to dual, but he resists. Ka sneaks an arrow into one of the stone guards, then ducks behind a pillar to hide from the priest.

The monk escort from the back of the room runs up behind Ka and strikes with her open hands. Orlav runs up next to Naïru and emits a thunderous wave that sweeps out at the stone guards. Both are hit by the blow but stand their ground as the thunderous boom emanates through the whole monastery. Orlav also conjures a shimmering field around Naïru. Rowan flings twin shards of ice at Qarbo, one of which nearly strikes, but the priest throws his hand up as the shard explodes against a magical barrier. However, both shards explode, and Qarbo is struck by shattered ice.

Meanwhile, Naïru moves her hunter’s mark to one of the stone guards, then slashes each guard with her shortsword. The marked guard retaliates and drops Naïru with a critical blow from his morningstar. The other guard lands two blows on Orlav, one with critical force. Qarbo evokes a painfully loud ringing around Shump, who manages to stand strong against most of the thunderous force. Shump runs over to join Orlav against the guards, landing a thunderous smite with his scimitar, as another massive boom emanates through the monastery. Orlav conjures a floating, spectral warhammer, swinging it and his actual warhammer against the guards, who stave off the attacks. Ka slashes the monk with reszur, who strikes back again with another open hand. Rowan emanates a line of roaring flame that strikes Qarbo head on.

As Naïru begins to bleed out, the stone guards split up between Orlav and Shump, landing two blows each. Qarbo runs down a pillar back to the shrine floor, and attempts to slow Shump, Orlav, and Rowan’s time. Shump and Orlav resist the effects, but Rowan is slowed. She begins to evoke another roaring line of fire in retaliation. Shump retaliates with scimitars but can’t break the stone guard armor. Orlav also has difficulty with his warhammer, but his spiritual weapon lands a blow. Meanwhile, Ka pulls a scimitar and strikes the monk, but misses with reszur. Again, the monk lands a blow with her open hand.

The two guards continue to assault Shump and Orlav, as Naïru gets closer to stabilizing at their feet. Orlav dodges both morningstar swings, but Shump’s assailant lands once against him. Shump’s two scimitars and Orlav’s spectral warhammer fail to retaliate, but Orlav is able to reach down and magically cure Naïru’s wounds. Ka finishes off the monk with her scimitar, then runs over to Qarbo who dodges out of the way of reszur. Rowan’s evocation slowly finishes, as another line of fire lashes out at Qarbo. Naïru jumps to her feet with both her shortswords in swing, lashing out and dropping one of the stone guards, and nearly finishing the other, who fails to land any retaliating morningstar swings.

Qarbo takes advantage of the confusion, conjuring another loud, intense ringing that sacrifices his remaining stone guard and drops both Naïru and Orlav. Seeing this, Shump runs over and lays his healing hands on Orlav to bring him immediately back to consciousness. Orlav sees Naïru next to him on the ground, and again cures her wounds. He stands again and conjures another spiritual warhammer, striking the priest. Taking advantage, Ka sneaks reszur into Qarbo’s side, and Rowan blasts again with another line of fire. While Qarbo is barely standing, he manages to dodge Naïru’s arrow. The priest evokes one more shattering, intense ringing on Shump, Naïru, and Orlav. Orlav is badly hurt, but standing. Naïru drops again. Shump nearly drops, but his relentless endurance keeps him on his feet. He staggers over to the priest and finishes him with his scimitar. Acting fast, Orlav feeds Naïru a healing potion to bring her back to consciousness, as Ka tells Shump to revive the priest and use him as a hostage.

As the sounds of combat recede, the group hears yelling from outside the shrine as a half dozen monks each pour through the east and west doors. Another monk enters from the southern exit. Rowan runs towards the single monk and prepares to spray them with poison, but Naïru casts levitate on the monk who unwillingly floats to the ceiling. Shump picks up the earth priest and holds a scimitar to his neck, shouting for everyone to stay back or he’ll kill Qarbo. A female voice to the east from just outside the shrine room commands the monks to ignore the air cultists and attack. At this, Rowan pulls a magical scroll and conjures a wall of water to slow the monks as the group runs out the south exit.

Escaping the Monastery

As Shump falls behind the rest of the party, the paladin turns towards his pursuers to use Qarbo as a human shield. Having caught up, the monks have a difficult time swatting past the priest’s body with their unarmed strikes and making any dents in Shump’s splint armor. Realizing the monks will overpower him any second, Shump is just about to drop the earth priest and run, when Qarbo suddenly stirs. There’s a moments pause as the priest locks eyes with the closest monk, then Qarbo lifts his arms towards the monks and mutters a few arcane words. Suddenly, the stone beneath the monks’ feet begins to shake with tremors, as the stone slabs crack, twist, and deform, knocking several monks down. Qarbo turns towards Shump and says “Get me the fuck out of here.”

As the two run, Qarbo continues to throw down several more earth tremors, leaving a difficult path of rocky stone terrain that slows the monks’ advancements. As Shump and Qarbo exit the monastery, the priest slams the door shut. The priest reaches out his arms towards the dirt path beneath the monastery stairs and lifts his hands. A large mound of dirt excavates from the earth as Qarbo guides it up the stairs and lowers it in front of the monastery doors, blocking the monk’s exit. Shouts from inside yell, “They’ve blocked the front doors, get to the side entrance!” The group continues to run from the monastery to the narrow defile between the cliff walls. Upon entering the passage, Qarbo triggers a cave in to prevent pursuit.

When asked why he helped the group, Qarbo explains that he was as good as dead. The Abbess of the monastery, Hellenrae, detests weakness in any form and would have killed him for his failure. Qarbo always resented Hellenrae’s higher position within the Black Earth Cult, as he believes the priests are the true believers and more worthy, and he’s pleased to know that allowing air cultists to attack the monastery and escape will look very bad for her. He only asks in return that the group spare him his life and allow him to go free.

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Session 12
Feathergale Spire

Feathergale Spire

After parting ways with the dwarves, the gang heads out immediately for Feathergale Spire, arriving that evening. The spire rises from a pillar of rock high into the air, the tallest point for miles. Built from white limestone and embellished in marble, the spire resembles a gleaming sword that pierces the sky. Beneath Feathergale Spire to the east, a wide gusty canyon yawns through the hills. As they near the spire, the group notices a giant vulture rider on patrol begin to track the party on their approach.

A gap of twenty feet separates the ledge where the path ends from the closed drawbridge on Feathergale Spire. The space between the cliff’s edge and the gatehouse drops several hundred feet to the bottom of the canyon. Near the ledge, a brass bell hangs from a wooden post. Ka walks up and emphatically rings the bell. A moment later, a small window opens near the gate, and a female human greets the party. Naïru responds and requests an audience with their leader. The woman is shocked and delighted to meet an air genasi, and grants the group immediate entry, as their leader, Thurl Merosska, would surely be very interested to meet an air genasi.

The Nickle Tour

The woman introduces herself as Savra Belabranta, while the party provides alternate names: Danny Shump is just Dan, Rowan is Sally, Ka is Bambi, and Naïru is Naivara Naïlo of the Nightbreeze clan. Orlav just emanates some thunderous noises. Savra then gives the group a tour. In the front hall, an eagle carved from a massive timber hangs from the far side of the ceiling, suspended on strong chains. Slender wings of steel sweep close to its sides. Its head is also fashioned of steel.

Through the hall on the opposite side of the central spiral stairwell, Savra first showcases the Solarium, where four men in robes tend to the plants. Skipping the kitchens and dormitory with the group’s permission, Savra takes the group down a level to the stables. Twelve stalls radiate around the exterior wall, with entry gates from the tower to the stall and from the stall to the open air outside. The great hall spans half the second level, and two men are preparing for the evening’s feast. The remaining half of the second level is occupied by knight’s quarters, as is the entire third level of the spire. Savra points out the commander’s room, while providing a tour of her own room. Ka takes this as an opportunity to slip into the commander’s room.

The Commander’s Room

Inside Thurl Merosska’s room, Ka heads straight for the desk to see what she can learn. She rifles through some papers, then finds a cylindrical leather case with a letter:

Merosska,

We are pleased to hear about the outcome of your altercation with the Black Earth cult, and we praise you for the capture of one of their prisoners. This noblewoman from Waterdeep has an interesting tale to tell, and we shall enjoy interrogating her further. Keep a close watch on the Sacred Stone Monastery. I want to know what our enemy is planning next.

Your beloved queen,
Aerisi Kalinoth

The rest of the party continues to provide distractions in Savra’s room, buying Ka some time to search around. She finds nothing behind his tapestries, but picking the lock to his chest, she finds a pouch of gold, a blue potion, and two spell scrolls.

The Lord Commander

Slipping back to the hallway, Ka reunites with the group as they all head up to the pinnacle, where a small lawn grows upon the top of the tower. At the pinnacle’s eastern edge is a spyglass on a tripod, pointed downward toward the Sighing Valley. The commander of the Feathergale Knights shakes off his surprise from the sight of the group, then bows low before them, as if he were only a lowly courtier. He welcomes the party and asks for what he owes the pleasure of an air genasi’s presence.

Naïru/Naivara tells Thurl that in their travels, the party witnessed an aggressive attack against several men on giant vultures. One of the men possessed a map to Feathergale Spire, and Orlav offers up the two suits of wingwear as additional proof. Naïru describes the aggressors to match the earth cultists’ garb and symbols, and Shump also produces the gilded tin gargoyle mask, which Thurl recognizes. Humbled by their actions, Thurl offers the full hospitality of Feathergale Spire and invites them to join them at the evening’s feast.

Orlav splits from the group to accompany Thurl to the kitchen. There, he witnesses the four members of the kitchen staff standing around inhaling the steam wafting from the cauldron. He inspects the steam and breathes a little himself, but it just steam. Meanwhile, still on the pinnacle, Naïru asks to use the spyglass, which Savra allows. She pulls Ka over, who conveys what information she learned in Thurl’s quarters. Ka also looks through the spyglass, just in time to catch a hooded figure slipping into a concealed door in the rock wall of the gully on the east side of the canyon of the Sighing Valley.

The Knight’s Feast

At the feast, Thurl asks the party for tales of their adventures. Ka tells Thurl that the party first met in Red Larch following their own muses, but banded together for a run-in with the earth cult in the caverns beneath Red Larch. Thurl is enamored by the story, and at mention of the Black Earth Priest, Larrakh, Thurl exclaims, “Great evil lurks among these hills. Depraved cultists led by wretched monsters.” He then follows up to learn what each party member’s individual muses were that brought them to the Sumber Hills.

Ka explains that she had a tough childhood, not fitting in. Eventually fire cultists tried to set her on fire and burned down her village. Thurl skirts around Ka’s racial features as he surmises, somewhat out-loud, how she survived the flames. Shump tells Thurl he was brought to Red Larch investigating cultist activity there, which ended up being the earth cultists. Rowan explains that after her parents died, her pursuit of leather took her to Red Larch.

Just as Thurl is about to pass over the untalkative Orlav, Orlav stands, clears his throat, then says,

“For whether we are white or copper-skinned
We need to sing with all the voices of the mountain
Need to paint with all the colors of the wind
You can own the earth and still
All you’ll own is earth until
You can paint with all the colors of the wind”

In the short silence that follows, Rowan adds “Well, really, all we are is dust in the wind.” Thurl thanks them both deeply for sharing. Naïru explains that her story is not one to tell over food, and instead asks Thurl for his tale.

Thurl was once a griffon rider in Waterdeep, but retired after a storm nearly claimed his life. He since then has devoted himself to the air, and recruited others among the wealthy of Waterdeep that might share his enthusiasm. Thurl also explains the history of Feathergale Spire, recounting mostly the same story of the Knights of the Silver Horn who built the Haunted Keeps, but he shares an additional detail unknown to most but some of the wisest of dwarven historians. The knights built the keeps on top of an ancient dwarven kingdom to serve as outposts for exploring down below.

Manticore Hunt

The doors to the great hall fly open and a sentry from the pinnacle shouts, “Manticore! It’s on the move!”

At this announcement the Feathergale Knights rise as one, the feast before them unfinished.

“We should take this opportunity to slay the monster,” Thurl says. From his finger he removes a feather-patterned golden ring set with a garnet and holds it aloft, saying, “A prize for the one who brings me the beast’s head!”

Four Feathergale Knights assemble at the pinnacle, each mounted upon a giant vulture. Orlav recognizes two of the riders as the men who attacked him and Fremont Talaudrym, but the men are distracted and do not notice him. The moon illuminates the misty canyon below Feathergale Spire. In the far distance, a single shard of darkness moves, flitting in and out of the mist. Then the shadow sinks beneath the bank of clouds, lost again from sight. The party is quickly provided with flying mounts, with Rowan doubling up with Orlav. The four Feathergale Knights and the four party riders take off, all finding the manticore within a minute. The manticore knows it can’t outrun hippogriffs or giant vultures, and turns to fight.

Manticore Fight

Rowan is first to act, taking out her wand of magic missile and releasing three glowing darts that all hit the manticore. Shump flies in and attempts to hurl a javelin, but misses. Orlav casts guiding bolt, and a flash of light streaks out and hits the manticore. Naïru marks the manticore, illuminated by Orlav’s light, as her quarry, then hits it with her longbow. Meanwhile, the four knights move in and throw spears. One hits, two miss, and the last slips off his saddle and dangles from his stirrups. Ka sneaks an arrow from her longbow into the manticore. The manticore retaliates, hurling three tail spikes that all fail to strike Orlav and two knights.

Rowan hurls twin motes of fire that both hit the manticore. Shump flies up next to the manticore but fails to land his scimitar strikes. Orlav also flies adjacent and unleashes his lightning breath on the manticore. Naïru flies toward the manticore and jumps on its back. She lands both her shortswords in the neck of the manticore, finishing it off. As its wings stop beating, Naïru and the manticore begin to dive. Quickly hacking away, Naïru removes its head and then levitates as the body crashes to the canyon floor moments later. She calls for her vulture in Auran, who comes to pick her up.

As the group returns to the Spire, the entirety of the Feathergale Society has congregated on the pinnacle to watch what they could catch of the hunt. Seeing her with her trophy, the knights call out with cheers of “Naivara, Naivara!” Thurl parts the crowd, allowing the group to land their mounts, as Naïru throws the head of the manticore at his feet. Thurl nods approvingly and hands over his golden garnet ring. He invites the gang to join him for drinks in the great hall, joined by Savra and the monk from the solarium. In the excitement, Ka uses the opportunity to return Thurl’s gold, scrolls, and potion in order to not blow the group’s cover.

Night Dranks

Down in the great hall, Naïru challenges and beats Thurl to a chugging contest. As they all settle in over additional ales and more serious conversations, Thurl implores Naïru for her tale. Naïru tells Thurl and the the gang that as the genasi child to two elves, it was tough growing up different from everyone else. When she was eleven, Naïru/Naivara was out-of-sight of her mother in the woods when she heard screams. She ran to find her mother murdered by powerful earth magic, crushed in the grasp of a giant hand of earth and rock. In the distance, she saw a genasi with smooth, black rock skin leaving the scene. Naïru/Naivara has been searching for her mother’s killer ever since, uncovering some clues, including the alias “mud sorcerer.”

Thurl offers Naivara/Naïru his condolences, and explains that their meeting must be a sign. Thurl knows of the mud sorcerer and that his true identity is Miraj Visann, one of the Black Earth Cult’s ranking leaders. As champions of the air, Thurl and his men have been at odds with the Black Earth cult, a group of monks dedicated to elemental earth operating out of the Sacred Stone Monastery. They find these Black Earth cultists to be coarse, rude, unimaginative, and stubborn to the point of stupidity. Most offensively, the earth cultists are bluntly unimpressed by the Feathergale Society and its achievements. They pose a threat to the Sword Coast, having had ankhegs and umber hulks attack gnomes in their underground homes and sending a medusa and a gargoyle to kill innocent miners as punishment for desecrating the earth.

Playing with Sword and Sheath

At the end of the night, Naïru waits for the rest of the party to retire, before flirting with Thurl alone in the great hall. She and the lord commander retire to his private quarters to make opposed Performance (Constitution) checks. Shortly afterwards, Thurl informs Naivara that his queen would likely love to meet her. He confides that the Feathergale Spire serves a higher power, and he knows that their queen has been yearning to find an air genasi for some time.

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Session 11
The Gang Runs an Inn

Leaving Rivergard

The next day, the gang sits down with Markus to discuss plans for Rivergard and its treasure. After some negotiations, the Knights of Samular agree to station men at the castle and to keep the water cult at bay in exchange for only three-eighths of the treasure. They also agree to conscript the three ne’er-dowells from Womford and the surrendered pirate in exchange for the gang escorting the other five captives back to their homes in Womford and Westbridge. The gang also repossesses the Rivermaid and sets sail downriver for Womford.

Aarakocra Scouts

Sailing through the night, the gang nears Womford in the morning. Suddenly, to the east, the silhouette of a small flock of birds in the distant sky grows larger as it moves closer. Soon, it is easy to discern the flock’s five individual members. The outline of each bird slowly begins to take shape, and soon it becomes clear that these aren’t birds, but rather winged, bird-like humanoids. Naïru recognizes them immediately as aarakocra.

Naïru knocks an arrow and calls out, “Friend or foe?” when they are close. They respond with the Auran word for friend. The aarakocra circle above the group for a moment before slowly lowering lowering themselves all the way to the boat deck. The aarakocra closes to Naïru speaks first, in Auran, and says “Greetings, air genasi. Pleasant weather we’re having, isn’t it?”

Some quick conversation reveals that the aarakocra nest in the High Forest and are out patrolling for elemental cultists. Upon hearing this, Naïru reveals she has had the privelage of visiting their colony, the Last Aerie, on the slopes of the Star Mounts at the headwaters of the Unicorn Run. She and the scouts share stories of mutual acquaintances before discussing more details of cult activity in the region.

Unfortunately, the aarakocra have little to add on cult activity that the group wasn’t already aware of. They do mention an aarakocra camp in the Sighing Valley keeping watch on Feathergale Spire and the air cult there. Shump asks if there’s any signal or passphrase they can use to identify themselves with the scouts in the Sighing Valley, to which the aarakocra say to use “Wubba-lubba-dub-dub,” which means “I am in great pain, please help me” in Auran. They also reveal that the Feathergale Knights keep constant aerial watch over the surrounding area and would be aware of anyone’s approach. Also, when Orlav produces the group’s two suits of wingwear, the aarakocra tell the group to be careful wearing them around, as other aarakocra may mistake them as cultists and attack.

Womford

Aftering parting with the aarakocra, the gang makes it to Womford early morning. They take the three Womford natives, Anya, Berd, and Nayreen to their respective families. Their parents don’t have much to offer in return, but provide the party with fifteen gold pieces and promise that Ma at the Leaning Boot will set them up with a room anytime they’re in Womford. Heading into the main village, the group stops at a shop where Ka and Naïru purchase studded leather armor. The party also inquires with the shopkeeper about selling their keelboat, to which he says, if given a couple days, he could possibly find a buyer and fetch fifteen hundred gold pieces minus a ten percent finder’s fee.

The Leaning Boot

The gang heads to the Leaning Boot next, hoping to find a lower finder’s fee, while Ka quickly gives Lathna and Oric a crash course in deception, particularly how to fake cry. The Leaning Boot is marked only by a salt-stained, old boot nailed to a post at the top of a set of narrow steps leading down to a nondescript door. A laughing half-orc wearing sailor’s homespun staggers from the place, reeking of alcohol. Blood trickles from various cuts on his face, and a knife protrudes from his shoulder. “Great fucking night,” he grumbles before stumbling drunkenly down the road.

Inside, the gang finds the proprieter Ma behind the bar. When asked about the half-orc that just left, in a raspy voice indicative of a least half a century of heavy pipe smoking, Ma explains that such things happen when folks decide to play darts with knives instead. Ka then has Lathna and Oric turn up the tears, then she spins a tale about how their family had a run in with a fire cult who cursed their mother such that she’s now slowly burning up from the inside. In her tale, the gang needs to sell their keelboat for coin to help pay for lifting the curses. Ma says they’re welcome to approach any of her customers, but that they’re unlikely to find any patrons with enough personal wealth to purchase a keelboat.

Bargewright Inn

The gang heads to Bargewright Inn across the river next, where Shump and Orlav are able to procure splintmail. A merchant there also offers to sell their keelboat, but thinks it would take five days to find a buyer and would require a 15% finder’s fee. Realizing the Womford deal is better, the gang circle back for a moment to agree to the Womford shopkeeper’s terms and to drop Lathna and Oric off with Anya, Berd, and Nayreen for some group therapy for the two days while the adventurers go adventuring.

The Gang Runs an Inn

Our heroes head back to Bargewright Inn and stop in The Old Bargewright where Rowan runs into an old friend, Nalaskur Thaelond, who runs the inn. Nalaskur needs to make a supply run to Waterdeep, but his assistant management team is tied up for two days. For political reasons, Nalaskur doesn’t trust the Senior Sword, Chalaska Muruin, to run the inn, and he asks Rowan if she and her friends would be willing to watch the place for two days. In addition to playing innkeeper, Rowan is made personally responsible for the security of the keys to Bargewright Inn and its gates. Innkeeping isn’t their only business, and their organization’s negotiations, trade, and logistical preparations must remain secure.

With Rowan in charge, the rest of the gang is put to work. Ka takes care of tending bar, Orlav goes to work in the kitchen, Shump handles bell-hopping, and Naïru is teamed up with Inglor the handyman to chase rats in the basement. Orlav makes a mediocre stew, but makes some spectacular bread to go with it that really ties it all together. Some guests get lost looking for leather shops and ask for a map, which Inglor shows Rowan where to find the tourist maps in her office. Chalaska comes for the keys to lock up the gate walls for the night. Shump provides an escort, and Chalaska takes a liking. The next day is more of the same with various distractions for Rowan and the gang. Orlav finds his calling, making stellar steak and eggs for breakfast, chopped salad for lunch, and braised leg of lamb for dinner. Naïru is stuck cleaning up unsavory messes for most of the day.

The Keys Go Missing

On the second night, Chalaska comes for the keys, but six are missing, including all four gate keys, the key to the meeting rooms, and the key to the strongroom. Rowan recalls seeing a well dressed human male quickly leaving the tavern earlier with a worried look and a note in his hand. Chalaska becomes aggrovated, and searches Rowan, then the rest of the gang. Inglor tells Naïru that he saw one of the tavern servers, Grendo, reading a piece of parchment. Chalaska orders out all the staff, then has everyone turn out their pockets. Sure enough, Grendo has a note, but denies knowledge of it. The note reads, “Tell Kendrin Feldarr it’s Chalaska.” Of course, Chalaska denies knowledge of any Kendrin or what the note could be. Rowan recalls a Kendrin Feldarr in the guestbook.

Wishing to interrogate Grendo further, Orlav casts zone of truth and is magically aware that Grendo and Chalaska must speak the truth, but Inglor the handyman does not. Grendo truthfully tells the group that he doesn’t know what the note means and has never seen it. Naïru immediately realizes Inglor was lying and huddles the group. Wishing to catch Inglor in his lies, Rowan casts Detect Thoughts. Together, between Orlav’s Zone of Truth spell and Rowan’s Detect Thoughts spell, they determine that Inglor stole the keys and hid them in Chalaska’s private chest to frame her as part of a Zhentarim power play.

The Gang Sells a Boat

Back in Womford the next day, the shopkeeper informs the group that he found two potential buyers. The first is someone he knows well and whom has agreed to the price of fifteen hundred gold pieces. The other buyer he can’t vouch for, but is supposedly very motivated and turned up looking to buy keelboats new or used and offering up 3000 gp. The gang agrees to meet the unverified purchaser that night at the Leaning Boot before heading down the docks to verify the boat’s condition.

The buyer at the Leaning Boot shows up matching the shopkeeper’s description wearing a dark navy travel cloak with a golden circle pin. He says his name is Gordon Fishsticks and he’s an entrepeneur looking to get into the fishing industry as quickly as possible with multiple investors lined up. He’s motivated to maximize his capital spend to seed rapid growth. Shump isn’t totally convinced, and Rowan demands to see the money. However, Gordon says he isn’t foolish enough to bring money directly to a transaction such as theirs, and assures any other buyers smart enough would do the same to avoid being swindled by some nefarious Womford boat sellers. The group threatens to leave, but then agree to at least let Fishsticks see the boat.

Reaver Ambush at the Docks

Down at the docks, while assessing the boat, the buyer asks about the name Rivermaid, which Shump says was given by the previous owners. As soon as the buyer says “Rivermaid,” two pirate reavers and five swashbuckler-types jump out from an adjacent boat and surprise the group. The reavers hurl javelins, but they strike into the dock floor just short of the group. Each of the five swashbucklers are armed with crossbows, and one hits Rowan while one critically hits Ka. Naïru knocks a bow and releases it on one of the reavers while conjuring a hail of thorns that hits both reavers and three of bandits. She also sneaks in another arrow on the second reaver. Ka tries to attack the buyer with reszur, but he reacts by throwing up his hand and conjuring a magical barrier.

The buyer then casts another spell and becomes blurry, before running onto the boat. Unfortunately for him, Shump lands a blow in the process as the buyer runs by. Meanwhile, the reavers and dirty sailors continue to run at the group hurling javelins and firing crossbows. Shump is hit by javelin and Naïru is hit by a cross bolt. Rowan sees an opportunity and runs onto the back of the Rivermaid and evokes a line of roaring fire that emanates through four swashbucklers, killing three of them. Orlav then evokes a loud, painfully-intense ringing that kills the rest of the ambushing cultists. Shump runs onto the boat and hits the buyer with a thunderous smite. Naïru puts an arrow in him, as does Ka who finishes him off. Naïru takes the buyer’s cloak, and Shump takes his pin.

Return to Red Larch

The next day, the gang sells the boat to the Womford shopkeeper’s verified buyer, receiving their net one thousand three hundred and fifty gold pieces. They pick up Lathna and Oric and then travel the day and a half back to Red Larch. Harbuck greets them on their arrival and catches the group up on what’s happened in the fifteen days since they left. Harbuck is now townmaster. Remora Moxley of the Lord’s Alliance helped adjudicate trials for the Believers. Mellikho was found guilty and sentenced to prison in Waterdeep. Waelvur took a plea deal and was also sentenced to prison in Waterdeep, but with a much shorter sentence. Baragustus was exiled, and Gaelkur has been playing it cool denying everything.

The group asks Harbuck if anyone might be willing to take Lathna and Oric back to Westbridge. He recommends Vallivoe. On their way to Vallivoe’s, the group stops at Ironhead Arms where Ka buys a longbow and Shump purchases a shield from the half-orc proprieter Feng Ironhead. Shump asks him to be on the lookout for any magical swords. At Vallivoe’s Sundries, Vallivoe gifts the group a bronze oil lamp that was rumored to once hold a genie. Orlav rubs it, but nothing happens. Vallivoe agrees to take Lathna and Oric to Westbridge on his next supply run. He also confirms having the missing tome of dwarvish text, having bought it off a traveling merchant. Vallivoe doesn’t understand dwarvish, but suggests waiting for some traveling dwarves to come through town.

The group heads to the Helm at Highsun to wait for any traveling dwarves and to unwind with some drink. Shump buys a couple rounds, and an hour or so later, some dwarves coming through town stop in at the tavern. The dwarves are from Mirabar on their way to Waterdeep to sell gems, and they bond with Ka over the jewelry business. Taking a look at the six volumes, the dwarves reveal they are highly-esteemed historical volumes on the dwarf clans of Mirabar. While uncommon, they’re not unique, and any dwarven nobles or dwarven history buffs with enough coin would likely own a set.

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Session 11 Preamble
Fast Forward

Fast Forward

As the party exits the north tower of the castle, leaving the bugbear stench behind them, they carefully approach the bluff’s edge and peer down at Rivergard’s river landing and water basin. Two men patrol the eastern wall along the river, two patrol the southern wall, and three men occupy the gang’s repossessed keelboat. As they discuss various strategies over whispers, suddenly one of the Rivergard patrols on the east wall takes a cross bolt to the chest and falls to the ground. Looking in the direction of the shot, our heroes see the Knights of Samular sailing swiftly towards Rivergard, with Markus reloading his crossbow at the bow of the ship. He seems to have a half dozen more men with him somehow.

Jumping into action, Ka and Naïru pull out their bows and begin to pick off the rest of the patrol with Markus’s help. It takes the Rivergard men a few moments to react, and their hesitation proves fatal. With the area clear, the group runs down the staircase that leads from the north tower to the east wall below and reunites with the sailing boat. Markus’s men pitch a rope ladder over the wall to Shump and Orlav who anchor their end so the Knights can climb up from the sailing boat. As Shump and Orlav help each knight over the wall, Markus explains that a group of knights returned to Summit Hall early from their adventures shortly after everyone left for Rivergard, and Lady Ushien sent them an hour or two behind to catch up and provide support. Just as the last knight climbs over, the alarm sounds from the nearby water tower.

Three reavers exit the water tower onto the landing, but both groups are separated by the water basin. Ka, Naïru, and Markus begin taking potshots at the reavers. The reavers flee up the staircase carved into the bluff towards the main castle grounds, as everyone heads back up the stairs the other way. By the time the group meets the reavers at the top of the bluff, they have taken a few arrows and cross bolts and are easy to finish off.

Seven more men led by an eighth barking orders are just ahead in the castle yard. The leader appears flummoxed and sends a man into the barracks to get reinforcements, just as battle breaks out between both sides. The gang and the Knights of Samular quickly tear the cultists down. The last survivor runs back out of the barracks, yelling “They’re all dea…” Trailing off, he looks around at the carnage and immediately drops his weapon and puts his hands up.

Exploring the remaining towers of the castle and looting the dead, the gang finds additional coin, a potion of healing, and a potion of diminution. Content that the castle is empty of cultists, everyone finally turns in for the night spread out between the keep, the barracks, and the other various bedrolls spread around Rivergard.

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Session 10
Truth in the Deep Waters

Rivergard Rescue

The party manages to calm down the servants and assure them they’re not pirates. The servants reveal that they are natives of Womford who were kidnapped by the Crushing Wave cult and brought here to take care of cleaning, cooking, laundry, and waiting on the cult warriors. All three are anxious to escape and head home. They also mention there are more servants in the kitchens, but three of the men there aren’t to be trusted.

Investigating the kitchens, the group finds the three ne’er-dowells as well as two human siblings, Lathna and Oric. Orlav recognizes their names from his travels as two siblings missing from a homestead a short distance outside of Westbridge. He lifts them up and carries them into the other room. The group then interrogates the three men, who don’t put up a fight. One mentions Jolliver Grimjaw is a wereboar, the next mentions the secret exit in the great hall, and the last breaks down crying, admitting that the three of them are from Womford and tried to sign up to be pirates, but were deemed too weak and pathetic and pressed into service in the kitchens instead. The group ties them up and leaves them in the kitchens.

Strategizing their next move, the team sends Markus and his men to investigate the courtyard buildings. Meanwhile, Shump and Orlav retrieve the treasure chests from Jolliver’s private quarters upstairs. Just as they bring into the great room, Markus and his men return to say they found the armory which held mostly common weapons and leather armor. Markus is pleased to see the treasure haul and remarks that it will finance some much needed repairs at Summit Hall. The party members all give each other furtive glances. After a quick attempt at negotiating, including offering Rivergard Keep to the Knights of Samular, the group agrees to settle the matter later, and that Markus and his men will take the rescued servants back to the boat while the group investigates the rest of the castle.

The Chapel

Orlav performs his detect magic ritual, and then the group sneaks out the keep’s main doors. With the back door to the chapel straight ahead, the group decides to start there. Orlav picks up a small amount of transmutation magic inside. Ka tries the doorknob and finds it locked, just as a female voice from inside yells, “how many times do I have to tell people to use the front door?!” The group knocks on the door and all ready their weapons to jump whomever opens the door, but after the door is unlocked, footsteps trail back away from the door and the voice says “It’s open, come on in!”

Upon entering the room, the group finds an old priestess wearing vestments made from dark green seaweed tendrils. She is accompanied by two reavers, one male one female, seated at the pews. The woman is pleased and says “Ahh, good, new aspirants! I didn’t think Grimjaw would find replacements so quickly.” One of the reavers says to the priestess, “But Drosnin…” to which she immediately silences and scolds the reaver for interrupting her. She then invites the group to sit at the pews and worship the awesome power of water. The reavers carry a cup and a large bowl to the alter, then stand at either side of Drosnin. Drosnin mumbles a few words, waves her hands over the bowl, then overturns the cup as a single drop of water falls into the bowl. Almost instantaneously, the bowl fills itself with water.

Sermon of the Water Priestess

Drosnin launches into an exhaustive sermon filled with enthusiastic, relentless oratory. Five minutes of how awesome the power of water is, then ten more minutes of how there is truth in the deep waters, then fifteen more minutes of general rambling about great revelations to come. Every so often she conjures minor illusions or transmutes little props to accompany her ramblings. She creates crashing wave noises, or puffs of air that smell like the sea. Most often, she simply shapes the water in the bowl and animates depictions of crashing waves and the occasional water serpent and such. The reavers roll their eyes through most of it. The party begins to get restless.

“…And so from the surging tides and deadly maelstroms of the sea to the raging torrents of rivers in flood and the rockcrushing power of ice and glaciers, we shall all be returned to the seas and skies, for we are nothing but trapped water, yearning to be freed.”

Drosnin motions for all to stand. Rowan subtly detects thoughts, finding nothing ill-willed but just general boredom coming from the reavers. Drosnin leads the congregation in the following chant:

“For the water is deep,
and there is truth in the deep waters.

“And the deep waters shall wash away
all that you are,
for you are nothing,
and we are nothing,
and I, state your full name, am nothing.”

Water Prophet

Drosnin launches back into more oratory, telling the following story:
"For there once was a boy, a boy born in a poor, island fishing village, and at a young age, the boy lost his family to a Sahuagin attack. The sea devils slaughtered everyone he knew, and a merchant galley conscripted the young orphan into service, and the boy was forced into a brutal indentured servitude. The boy’s servitude was barely better than being enslaved, but thankfully his unwilling service came to an end when pirates attacked the merchant ship. During the fighting, the boy was knocked overboard. For days, he survived by clinging to the ship’s wreckage, until a shark ripped off his left arm. But still, the boy clung to the wreckage. Death seemed imminent, but a powerful current arose and bore him away from the hungry predator, and within an hour, he was cast upon the shores of the mainland.

“The boy believed that the current that had saved his life was an elemental sent by the sea. From that day forward, he devoted himself to the ocean, teaching himself its secrets and learning powerful water magic over years of lonely wandering. He despised all other people, remembering only his harsh treatment by the merchant crew and the brutality of the pirates. But in time, the boy became a man, and he realized his call to a higher purpose, impelling him to find other examples of human flotsam and teach them about the power of the sea.

“And in time the man became our prophet, as visions led him to secret waters beneath the hills. He found a hidden cavern temple, on whose altar lay a powerful magical trident. Sensing its power, the prophet took up the weapon and began to call his cult to join him in the Temple of the Crushing Wave.”

The Teachings of the Crushing Wave

Drosnin launches back into yet more oratory. Another thirty minutes goes by, with more of the same rambling, water shaping, and other minor illusions, before she motions for all to stand again. The priestess asks her reavers to conduct the aspirants to the alter to be washed and rinsed by the Crushing Wave. The two reavers roll their eyes, then move forward and motion each hero to the alter. Orlav goes first. He’s skeptical and cautious, but his knowledge of religion and the arcane makes him relatively certain everything has been more symbolic than truly divine. Going with the flow, Orlav watches as Drosnin lifts the cup from the alter, and dips it into the bowl. She lifts the cup high into the air, then back down, then throws the water straight into his face. It’s cold and salty. She motions him back to his seat. One by one, each party member gets water thrown in their face.

Drosnin continues, “This is the obligation sign of the Crushing Wave, which we use to identify one another when a token of recognition is required. Make it with me, and remember it.” She crosses her forefingers and overlaps her thumbs to create an X-shape linked by a line across the bottom. “It stands for water’s eternal surge and retreat, a cycle of unending change. A suitable metaphor for the unstoppable power of the Crushing Wave. The pass sentence of this degree is a summary of the symbolic lesson. It is ‘I am nothing.’ Repeat it after me, and fix it in your mind.”

“Aspirants, you have now completed the first part of your symbolic quest for wisdom in the mysteries of the Crushing Wave. You are now advanced to the second stage, which is that of a Neophyte.

“And so, deep waters beget the washed and rinsed, and the washed and rinsed shall know great revelations.

“For it is said that Olhydra, Princess of Evil Water, shall rise out of the plunging torrents, up through the fane of the eye, past the temple of the crushing wave, and into this world. All shall know her destructive power. Just like the eternal tides, Olhydra’s rise is inevitable.

“For the deep waters shall wash away
all that you are,
for you are nothing,
and we are nothing,
and I am nothing.”

Orlav, in Aquan, says to Drosnin “You are nothing.” Elated, Drosnin responds as well in Aquan, “Yes, you’re getting it!”

Drosnin finishes, “Aye, we are nothing, all living creatures are nothing, nothing more than trapped water that could one day be free to return to the seas or skies in a new form. The seas and deep waters are eager to reclaim the parts of themselves currently held in the blood and bodies of living creatures, and it is the duty of Crushing Wave initiates to return nonbelievers to the primal waters by drowning them or shedding their blood. You are dismissed.”

Thanks, Now Here’s an Arrow in Your Side

Immediately after the sermon ends, roughly two hours after the group entered the chapel, Orlav suddenly evokes a painfully intense, loud ringing centered on the alter of the chapel. Its thunderous force shatters the cup and bowl, and the cultists all grab their ears and recoil. Naïru pulls her bow and shoots an arrow at Drosnin. Drosnin reacts by throwing up her hand and conjuring a magical barrier, but the arrow is too quick and hits her in her side. Startled, the reavers immediately jump to life and draw their weapons. The male reaver runs straight ahead and swings against Rowan, but misses. The female reaver moves in on the dragonborn, hitting Orlav with his sharktoothed longsword. Orlav reacts with the wrath of his storm, unleashing arcs of lightning on the reaver. Drosnin is also shocked and releases five magic missiles, one against each member of the party.

Meanwhile, Rowan steps forward and extends her hand towards Drosnin, projecting a puff of noxious gas at the priestess, who coughs and chokes on the air. Ka stands up and exclaims how she’s so bored, then fatally stabs reszur into the male reaver. She swiftly moves to the female reaver and manages to knick her with her other dagger. Shump lands one of his two scimitars into the reaver, and Orlav finishes her off. Naïru runs towards Drosnin with both her shortswords, but Drosnin throws up another hand and conjures another barrier. “But my neophyte!” she exclaims, as Naïru slips past the magical shielding with her off-hand. Drosnin responds by whacking Naïru with her quarterstaff. Rowan hits the priestess with a beam of crackling, blue energy, locking onto the priestess. This throws Ka off her attempt with reszur, but Ka recovers and finishes off Drosnin with her other dagger.

As things settle, Rowan places her glass bird figurine into the pool of spilled water on the floor. It dips its head as if to get a drink. Meanwhile, Orlav takes his warhammer to every cult remnant in the chapel. The others check the bodies and find some coins amongst the dead. Returning to the keep, the group finds a note from Markus that he and his men returned from the ship and waited for the adventurers, but were worried their lingering presence in the great hall was too risky. The knights decided to haul the treasure back to the ship and would wait till morning for a rendezvous.

Tiefling Assassin

The group decides to further their exploration, and heads back to the courtyard. Ka sneaks up and approaches the barracks and spots five men, four of whom are sleeping. The tiefling channels her devil’s tongue and attempts to charm the man that is awake, but she’s unsuccessful. She moves to the door and softly knocks. She hears the man wake one of the others, who tells him to see who it is. She attempts to convince him she needs his help, but she realizes immediately in his eyes that he’s processing the fact that a half-demon woman he’s never seen before has no business within the castle walls. Ka puts a dagger in his throat, then seeing the other man lift his head up from his bed, she puts an arrow in his throat as well. She then one by one slits the throats of the other three men as they sleep in their beds.

Bugbears, Bored!

The group quietly proceeds to the north tower of the castle and listens at the door. Naïru hears a deep, hoarse voice say, “So bored, need to kill something.” With the team readied, Naïru storms through the door, seeing three bugbears sitting around filthy furs and discarded bones. A rank animal stench hangs in the air. Naïru eyes her chosen bugbear quarry and mystically marks it, then runs forward and slashes it with her shortsword. The bugbears are surprised and scramble to find weapons and stand up. Rowan runs in and hurls a mote of fire but is unable to land it on a bugbear. Orlav runs in and approaches Naïru’s mark, hitting it with his warhammer. Shump picks a different bugbear and lands one of his two scimitars, just as Ka sneaks an arrow into it.

Naïru finishes off her mark, then refocuses on another bugbear, just as it lands its morningstar on her. Shump parries the other bugbear’s morningstar. Rowan throws twin fire bolts and hits a bugbear with one. Orlav fails to connect with his warhammer. Shump takes down his quarry, as Ka puts an arrow in the remaining bugbear, which is still alive. Naïru is still engaged but fails to land either shortsword. The bugbear also fails to return the favor. Rowan lands a fire bolt just as Orlav finishes off the bugbear with his warhammer.

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Session 9
ManBearPig Redux

Making an Exit

Each of our heroes scoops electrum coins from the chest using both of their hands. Shump has the least luck, dropping most of his haul trying to get the coins into his belt pouch. Eating goodberries as they run, the party exits the secret room, hearing voices coming from the great hall. A voice shouts down below, “You two, Captain’s been hurt, the hotheads are upstairs!” The group rushes across the hall into the guardroom, finding the door has now been barred, but thankfully from the inside. Orlav throws the bar off the door, exiting back onto the castle’s west wall. Straight ahead, two guards look over the wall at their dead comrade down on the ground below. One looks over just as the party runs down the stairs into the castle yard and towards the bathhouse, but he is too slow to react. Inside the bathhouse, the adventurers startle a reaver sitting on the privvy. The reaver fumbles for his pants, as Orlav throws open the drainage grate, and the gang slips down into the underground stream.

Sprinting back to the boat, the group gets onto the river as quickly as possible. They travel thirty minutes or so south before Naïru spots on the opposite side of the river a small, overgrown cove to stash the boat. As Rowan anchors the boat, Naïru is quick to partially disguise the boat with well-placed branches and other foliage, buying some time. They all head east, two miles up into the hills, before making camp in the darkness and resting undisturbed.

A Plea at Summit Hall

The next day, with the temperature suddenly below freezing, the party heads back to Summit Hall to seek help from the Knights of Samular. There, Markus Tallstag has returned from his unfruitful search for the missing delegation, and the party meets with him and Lady Ushien Stormbanner. After disclosing what new information they had on the delegation’s river travels and the party’s experiences at Rivergard Keep, Rowan pleas to Lady Ushien for support in returning to the pirate stronghold. At first, Ushien is unmoved, as based on the group’s findings, it would seem that neither the delegation members nor the body of their dead knight were taken there. In addition, the description of Jolliver Grimjaw matches that of a wereboar, and fighting lycanthropes is surely perilous.

Markus mentions that in his travels, he connected with sailors sympathetic to the Order of the Gauntlet who mentioned that the occupants of Rivergard Keep have been harassing riverboats for protection money when in fact they are the very outlaws from whom they claim to be defending trade. Lady Ushien agrees that such injustices would surely upset Tyr, and that if the cause is important to Markus, he could take three men with him and assist the party. In addition, she offers her smith’s silvering services and spares a potion of healing. Ka is able to fashion some jewelry from found gemstones to offset the cost of silvering. The group agrees that both of Shump’s scimitars should be silvered, taking two days.

A Lich’s Tale

While staying at Summit Hall, the group comes across two paintings of brothers Renwick and Samular Caradoon. Hundreds of years ago, Renwick was a hero of some renown and the brother of Samular Caradoon, the founder of the Knights of Samular. The two of them fought bravely in the second Troll War. Rumor has it that Renwick’s hunger for arcane knowledge eventually led him to prepare for lichdom, and supposedly he became a lich only because his brother fed him a lichdom potion on the battlefield rather than let him die. Only Samular Caradoon is buried in the crypts below Summit Hall, and due to Renwick’s body never being found on the battlefields, many believe the rumors to be true.

Storming Rivergard, or Fogging Anyway…

The second day at Summit Hall is unseasonably hot, but the second scimitar is silvered and the party prepares to leave that evening for Rivergard to use the cover of night to their advantage. Joined by Markus and three of his knights-in-training, they all set off for the Dessarin River to meet with friendly sailors Markus arranged to provide crossing. Once in place near Rivergard Keep, Naïru scouts out Rivergard looking for underwater entrances. As an air genasi, she is able to hold her breath indefinitely and swim from a far enough distance into the keep’s boat basin without coming up for air and being detected. Naïru discovers the Rivermaid, the boat the party took from the water genasi and then stashed in a cove two nights prior, has been reclaimed by the pirates and is docked at Rivergard Keep. In addition she finds that the boat basin is fed by an underground stream that runs below the keep, but it is blocked by a locked gate. Unable to pick the lock, Naïru returns to the party and shares her discoveries.

Realizing a full party water intrusion to be too risky, the group approaches by land. Orlav conjures a large fog cloud centered on the keep’s northern wall to mask their movements. Naïru casts Levitate on Ka, who sneaks up to the roof and lowers a makeshift rope ladder for the rest of the party to climb. From the roof, the gang observes two guards posted on each of the castle’s four outer walls, as well as a giant rat sniffing around the castle yard. The group deliberates quietly under fog cover for a few minutes, unsure of how to proceed.

Focusing first on the west wall, the group waits for the two guards to get near each other before striking. Ka attempts to snipe a guard with her shortbow, but grazes his armor. Naïru puts an arrow from her longbow into him, and a second arrow into the other guard. Markus misses with his crossbow, but Rowan finishes off both guards with twin fire bolts. Ka levitates down to the wall and tosses the bodies over without being noticed. When she returns, the group focuses on the north wall. Sniping again with her shortbow, Ka assassinates the first guard this time with an arrow straight into his jugular, preventing any screams. Naïru puts an arrow in the other guard, who stumbles, before Markus takes him down with a cross bolt. With the levitation effects worn off, Ka jumps down to the wall, throws the bodies over, and has no trouble climbing back to the roof.

ManBearPig Part Deux

Orlav and Shump lower Ka upside down on a rope to the arrow slit looking into the second floor guardroom. Seeing nothing, the group enters the second floor of the keep the same as they did two nights ago. This time it is empty. Ka decides to sneak out into the great hall to scout the area, but steps on a creaky floorboard, losing the element of surprise. Ka sees two reavers and a man with water serpents tattoos stand up from the great table below. The tattooed man picks up a glass of water and pours it on himself, creating an icy exterior barrier just as Urshnora had done two nights prior. Ka attempts to shoot one of the reavers with an arrow, but drops it in her haste. The two reavers both attempt to throw javelins at Ka, but also miss. Rowan, hearing the commotion, jumps out of the guard room into the hallway and hurls a fire bolt upon seeing a reaver down below. The reaver dodges.

Following Rowan, Shump casts Shield of Faith, then charges down the stairs. Orlav also runs out of the guard room and hits one of the reavers with sacred flames. Markus runs to the banister but misses a shot with his crossbow. His three men run down the stairs. Meanwhile, the tattooed man casts a spell and reaches out to touch Shump, but Shump parries. Naïru jumps over the banister onto a desk below, and finds herself face-to-face with Jolliver in hybrid form. She disengages and jumps off the other side of the desk. Ka runs down the stairs and hits the tattooed man with reszur, shattering much of his icy armor, but finds that an icy wave of cold spreads through the magic dagger and up her arm, causing her pain. Her second dagger is barely stopped by some magical force from connecting. Jolliver sidesteps his desk, puts his head down, then charges Naïru, who barely jumps out of the way. Jolliver then swings his maul at her, but she dodges that as well.

One reaver swings his shark-toothed longsword at Naïru, but is unable to penetrate her leather armor. The other reaver has the same problem with Shump’s chainmail. Rowan uses her wand of magic missiles to focus three missiles at Jolliver. Shump attempts to move away from the Reavers, clearing one, but the other lands an attack of opportunity. His movement interrupted, he attempts to hit the tattooed man with both his scimitars, but is unsuccessful. Orlav conjures a spiritual warhammer, swinging it at Jolliver, but unable to hit. He has similar trouble hitting a reaver with his own warhammer. Meanwhile, Markus yells out some encouraging words to Naïru, while one of Markus’s men hits the tattooed man with his shortsword, breaking the remainder of his icy exterior, but also receiving a chilling wave of ice shooting up his arm. The tattooed man reaches out and touches the knight in response, draining some of his life energy. Naïru attempts to move away from Jolliver, who swings with his maul but misses. However, the reaver nearby is able to connect, stopping her in place. She puts two shortswords into him in retaliation.

Ka swings at the tattooed man again with reszur, barely unable to get passed his magical armor. Her other dagger slips past and into his side. Jolliver is unable to hit Orlav with his tusks, but connects with his maul. Orlav responds in kind with the wrath of his storm. One of the reavers hits one of Markus’s men with his shark-toothed longsword. The other swings wide against Naïru. Rowan magic missiles Jolliver again, hitting him with three more darts. Shump declares a vow of enmity against Jolliver, then hits him with his scimitar with divine smite. Orlav’s spiritual warhammer misses Jolliver, but Orlav’s own warhammer finishes off a reaver.

Markus shouts a few more words of encouragement at Orlav, while one of his men is able to strike the tattooed man with his sword. The tattooed man retaliates against Ka, grabbing her arm with his hand, draining some life from her while healing some of his wounds. Naïru swings with each shortsword, putting one into the tattooed man, but missing the reaver next to him. Ka stabs the tattoed man again with Reszur. Meanwhile, Jolliver hits Shump with his tusks, but misses Orlav with his maul. Rowan twins two fire bolts and both hit Jolliver. Shump also hits Jolly with two scimitars, smiting on the first blow. Orlav’s spiritual weapon hits Jolliver, as Orlav reaches out and cures some of Shump’s wounds.

Satisfied with his leadership abilities, Markus finally joins the fight, dealing a massively fatal blow to a reaver with his longsword, and putting another large slash into the tattooed man. Two of Markus’s men also hit the man, who fails to reach out with his life draining hand. Naïru puts two more shortswords into the man, but he is barely standing. Ka tries to finish him off, but he dodges. Instead, one of Markus’s men deals the final blow. Meanwhile, Jolliver fails to land his tusks, but hits Shump with his maul. Rowan directs a magic missile at the tattooed man and two at Jolliver, but both still stand. Shump and Orlav nearly finish off Jolly, as Shump puts two more scimitars into him, and Orlav lands both his spiritual warhammer strike and a thunderwave. Naïru casts hail of thorns, then releases an arrow on Jolliver. The arrow hits, but as it is un-silvered, there is no effect. However, the magical rain of thorns does drop him to his knees, but he gets up back up. Ka hits him with Reszur, and again he staggers down, but picks himself back up.

Defeated again, Jolliver disengages, hopping over his desk and pulling a candlestick on the wall, revealing a secret stairway spiraling down. He runs down the stairs just out of sight, as Rowan jumps over the bannister to see the wall closing back up. She runs to the wall but is unable to find a way to open it, having not seen the candle lever pulled from her prior position. Shump runs over and pulls the candlestick, but hesitates and decides not to pursue. The group takes a quick moment to regroup and heal a few wounds, before heading down to see where the stairs lead. At the bottom of the stairs, they find a torch-lit chamber where a single boat bobs in an underground stream. The stream flows towards daylight to the east and leads upstream into darkness towards the west.

Ghouls in the Dark Water

Given only a single boat too small to fit everyone, Markus and his men are ordered back up to the great hall to loot the bodies and burn the tattooed man’s remains, while the party investigates the stream. Rowing west into the darkness, the group makes it only a short distance before six ghouls swim out of the shadows towards the boat. Ka, from starboard side, puts an arrow in one. Rowan, also starboard, hits another with a fire bolt. From the front of the boat, once the ghouls get close, Shump uses both his scimitars to finish off the ghoul Ka struck. The other five ghouls all grab onto the boat, and shaking with all their strength, they capsize the boat, sending all the party members into the water. Treading water, Naïru puts two scimitars into a ghoul on the portside, and Ka takes advantage of the moment to sneak in Reszur for the final kill. Orlav tries to move away from a ghoul on the starboard side, but the ghoul gets a bite of his leg, keeping him from escaping.

Orlav hits his assailant with the wrath of his storm and a warhammer, and Rowan finishes the ghoul off with double daggers. Shump hits a ghoul with two savage scimitars. Ka swings at a ghoul with her dagger, and the ghoul bites onto her arm. Meanwhile another ghoul bites Orlav’s arm. Naïru doggy paddles into a better position to engage two ghouls at once, missing one with her primary sword, but striking with the offhand sword and taking the opportunity to also hit the first ghoul with the same swing. Orlav tries again with his warhammer, but has trouble wielding the weapon in water. Ka uses both her daggers to take down another ghoul. Rowan hits another with one of her two dagger stabs. Shump finishes off a ghoul using an underwater javelin strike, while the last ghoul fails to grab onto him for a bite. Naïru puts two short swords into the last ghoul, and Orlav sacred flames it, but it’s barely up. Ka tries to finish it but can’t land the underwater stab, so Rowan finishes the deed.

On Second Thought

With Jolliver well ahead at this point, and unsure of just how far the underground stream will take them, the group returns by boat to the secret landing and heads back up to the great hall. Markus and his men have just finished looting the bodies and burning the tattooed man’s remains. The party searches Jolliver’s desk, which is littered with papers and discarded plates. Clearly, Grimjaw has little patience for administration. Various reports are buried in the piles of paper on the table, along with routine notes about Rivergard’s supplies, boat sailings on the river, and logbooks and manifests taken from plundered ships. The bandits report exactly what loot they take, but location descriptions are imprecise: for example, “wagonload of flour, near B.,” or “40 silver pieces, traveler near W.”

One of these reports details caravan traffic in Red Larch. It makes note of the arrival of “a band of troublemakers” with the racial mix of the party. The letter is unsigned, but the unusual handwriting mixes block letters and script. Everyone then decides to look inside a downstairs room, and venture into the first door on the left. They find a plain dormitory featuring six bunk beds and a small wooden table and chairs, as well as two large laundry tubs and several baskets full of dirty clothes and linens. Three humans, two female and one male, cower in the corner.

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