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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.