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.
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.
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.
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.