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:
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.