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.
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.
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.
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.