A messenger from The Emerald Enclave met with Puck and Kareep and tasked the two agents with traveling to Rundreth Manor to parlay with The Dark Lady. She is a powerful Shadow Dragon who has possibly allied with one or more of the cults. This upsets the balance of power greatly and the Enclave wants to convince The Dark Lady to remain neutral or move against the cults. Puck and Kareep enlisted the aid of Templeton and Quintus. They purchased 2 horses for 150 GP total and rode off to Rundreth Manor.
On the road the party met once more with the messenger and traded for some magic items to aid in the mission. Kareep traded his Ring of Fire Resistance and 600 GP for an Ion Stone of Reserve, a gem of brightness, and a potion of healing. Templeton traded 600 GP for a Helm of Telepathy and a Potion of Healing. Puck traded his wand of web and 2000 GP for a Cape of the Monteback. Three more potions of healing were donated to the group as a gift from the Abbott. Two went to Quintus and 1 went to Templeton. The Master Party Treasure List was updated.
After completing your negotiations, you move onwards to Rundreth Manor. A few miles down the road, in the distance you can see that what’s left of the Manor. It stands on a small, steep-sided hill just east of the Long Road, with a carriage drive opening off the road just south of the hill. The carriage road climbs the southern side of the hill to curve around and approach the back of the manor house from the east.
On the surface, where the Manor once stood are heaps of fallen stone blocks and tumbled lines of walls, which form a T-shaped outline with two rectangular wings thrusting north and south out of an enormous east-west rectangular room. This room has three-floor-high remnants of walls in two places, clinging to soaring stone chimneys. It looks like it was once a truly impressive hall.
You ride carefully, but casually up the carriage drive. Though it is in disrepair, it is passable. When arrive at the Manor, it becomes clear the two wings of the Manor are fallen stones and forest now. The large east-west room at the center seems almost to grow from the surrounding forest from this vantage. Initially, you are almost uncertain anyone could live here. Nonetheless, you dismount, tie your horses off and carefully explore the remnants of a flagstone floor you can see amid bushes and trees growing in front of the hall. With Kareep’s assistance, after a short time, you discover some old footprints leading to a particularly dense layer of foliage. You pull it back and see a stairway leading down into the earth…
Puck casts Comprehend Languages as a ritual on himself. Quintus casts a 2nd level Aid spell on everyone but Templeton. Templeton casts see invisibility. As we proceed Templeton will use his helm of telepathy to be refreshing the detect thoughts spell every 1 minute. Templeton will be using the ability of detect thoughts to detect creatures within 30 feet of himself.
Templeton will lead the way followed by Quintus and then Kareep and then Puck. He reminds everyone that we want to parlay and should not attack immediately. Templeton will check for traps as we descend and scan for thoughts other than our own within 30 feet.
All spells are cast and Templeton carefully leads the way, searching for traps and thoughts. In fact, Templeton’s efforts are rewarded on the second stone step. At first glance the step seems solid enough, but Templeton discovers they stone is precariously held by some small slats of wood – he believes it would likely collapse with any significant weight.
Templeton directs everyone to avoid the second step and you continue down the flight of stairs with no further mishaps detected.
Upon reaching the bottom landing, you enter into a very large, gloomy chamber. It is seventy feet wide and a hundred feet long with high window openings above the surface providing heavily filtered light to the bottom.
The room is littered with rotting remnants of long trestle tables fitted with sinks and loosely covered with rusted-out metal platters, carry-bowls and tureens. The ceiling is a magnificent series of vaulted arches that crisscross to hold up a stone block ceiling, pierced in many places by hanging roots of trees growing above.
As you take in the scene, the air suddenly shimmers in front of you as a female drow appears in the center of the chamber.
The drow looks you over and then speaks with a mellifluous, yet throaty voice, “Welcome to Rundreth Manor.” She then seems to simply wait.
Templeton detects no thoughts from her.
Templeton bows to the drow woman and says, “Thank you.” He waves his hand gesturing to all the rotting and rusted remnants of the once great mansion, “I love what you have done with the place. My name is Templeton Daltrey of the Waterdeep Daltreys. My associates and I are here to speak with The Dark Lady. Would you be so kind as to direct us to her presence? We have some interesting business opportunities that I am quite sure she will wish to hear about.”
With an almost imperceptible raising of a single eyebrow. “Speak. I am curious to hear what business opportunities would interest one such as I?”
Kareep opens his beak to speak, but then gets a sharp glance from Templeton and holds his tongue. Templeton raises an eyebrow and says, “It has come to our attention that you have made an alliance with a local elemental cult that has gotten onto the wrong side of our interests. When we heard that one as powerful as you had come under their fold, we were quite shocked considering you have a history of being neutral in such matters in the past. We are actively working to take down this cult and wish to see it come to an end. We would like to discuss your arrangement with the cult and see if there is any way we might be able to persuade you to become a neutral party once more and end your involvement with them. We would be in your debt. And the Daltreys always pay their debts.”
(Imagine her voice with a slightly altered southern bell drawl…)
“Well, well. Word does get around, doesn’t it. I have to say I am curious where such information began… and how your precious ears came to hear it. I wager it is a… delectable story.”
She pauses a moment while she lightly licks her lips.
“Now debts. I do love any conversations that include debts… As a gesture of goodwill, why don’t you begin by telling what you know about these cultists and how you have come to… engage them.”
Templeton smiles, “Indeed. We are all about goodwill. And I must say I find your voice and this particular form quite lovely. I appreciate your good taste. Our introduction to the cult stems back to The Town of Red Larch. My family, The Daltreys… The Waterdeeep Daltreys, owns several businesses in the town and has stakes in many important trade routes that run through Red Larch. I hired on these brave companions to help me investigate some trouble that was brewing across the Dessarim Valley. It started with a missing caravan of dwarves from Mirabar and has led down a rabbit hole of secret cults and hidden temples. We have identified a cult of earth, water, fire, and air. Each seems to be at odds but linked in some way. They are toying with ancient and powerful elemental magics which have brought destruction and danger in their wake. The safety of the entire Dessarim Valley and its inhabitants are at risk. In order to quell this threat and bring peace and stability to the region, we have identified and eliminated many of the cultists and their leaders. We unmasked the Circle of the Scarlet Moon as the Fire Cult, destroyed their cultists and leader Elizar. We slew Jolliver Grimjaw, the wereboar leader of the water cult and cleared out their river keep. We unmasked Thurl Maroska of Feathergale Spire as a leader of the air cult. We cleansed the spire and followed the trail to the self proclaimed queen of the air cult Aerisi Kalinoth. We slew her minions and cleared out her temple of the howling hatred sending her fleeing for her life. We cleansed the Sacred Stone Monastery of the earth cult and killed their leader Abbess Hellenrae. We are closing in on Marlos and the last remnants of the cults. They seem to be inhabiting the old dwarven ruins of the Bessilmer Dwarves. Is there a particular cult and leader you have been dealing with?"
The Dark Lady said, “Interesting. You seem to have delved deeply into their machinations. You mentioned that some cults seem to be at odds. What has you believe this?”
Templeton responds by saying, “We found evidence of air cultists fighting earth and water cultists. Prisoners and treasure of one cult were taken by force to the base of another cult.I can show you a letter penned by Aerisi Kalinoth, Queen of the Air Cult to Thurl Merosska praising him for leading an altercation between the air cult and the earth cult and the capture of one of their prisoners. She calls the earth cult in the Sacred Stone Monastery an enemy. We found bodies of both types of cultists that had been killed by one another.”
The Dark Lady then asked, “Additionally, what destruction have they wrought – other than upon their followers?”
Templeton answers by saying, “In every conclave and hidden temple of the various cults we have found prisoners. People taken from their homes, travelers captured on the road, nobles, simple folk, merchants, and farmers. Men, women, and children of a variety of races. All has been tortured, some killed, many put into forced servitude as slaves. We freed and liberated all that we could save. We found the remains of an entire merchant train. Everyone was either slaughtered and left on the ground to rot or taken prisoner to some terrible fate at the elemental temples. The town of red larch is almost completely destroyed. Air Cult priests brought a magical box to town that unleashed a terrible windstorm that killed many innocent folk and destroyed their dwellings. And just when they were trying to rebuild the town and restore order, the black earth cult arrived and used some horrible weapon called a devastation orb to create an earthquake that leveled many buildings and killed many people before we were able to put a stop to it. These cultists are evil, the worst kind of evil who care for nothing but their own pathetic elemental powers. They will be made to pay for their deeds and their destruction.”
The Dark Lady replied, “Devastation Orbs… Oh, my. That does sound amaz… I mean awful. Can you tell me more exactly what happened? Please describe the orb and how it was delivered.”
Templeton frowns, “I have been very straightforward and forthcoming. But negotiation is a two way street. I have answered all of your questions but it is now time for you to answer mine. To which cult are you currently allied and what is your arrangement?”
The drow smiles. "Why, Mr. Templeton, you were sharing information so forthcomingly I didn’t think there was any need for… negotiation.
“You also leap to hasty conclusions without much evidence, don’t you? What reasons might you have to assume these…. cultists and I have any such arrangement. I certainly have not said so.
“A piece of unwarranted advice, neither speak nor listen quite so quickly…”
Templeton smiles. “Such wise words… Truly a revelation…” He takes a bottle of fine Sembian wine out of his bag of holding along with a beautifully crafted silver goblet. He pours the wine into his cup and takes a long draught. “Yes indeed an excellent vintage from many years ago.” He lets go of his goblet but it remains floating in the air using his mage hand. He uses his actual hands to produce another silver cup and pours wine into it as he continues, “We humans are such busy folk scurrying about always in a hurry. But those of your kind always have a different perspective on things. Much more cognizant of the long view. At least with wine we humans attempt to be patient and take our time. A toast to patience.” Templeton presents the silver goblet to The Dark Lady to take it and drink.
Kareep’s feather’s bristle on his neck…
“Templeton you are wasting time with your wine drinking and pandering to our dark host. Tell me witch as I do not pretend to know, do you have an alliance with the cultist and to what end. My 7 years on this plane seem like an eternity compared to this conversation. Squawk!”
Templeton laughs at Kareep’s outburst and takes another drink of his wine. “It seems that humans are not the only impatient race. What leads me to believe you have made arrangements? Let’s just say I have very reliable sources whom I trust that say you have taken sides in this silly little elemental cult uprising. Honestly when I heard the news I was quite taken aback. To think one as powerful as you would bother herself to get involved with such rabble, well I could not believe it. So I have come here to see if the rumors are true. We have seen envoys from the cultists come in and not come out. But suddenly things seem to have changed. Tell me what is different now? What could they possibly offer one so great as you?"
“Dear Templeton, you make two mistakes.
“First, never forgive rudeness. In fact, The Aarakocra now owes you his life… well, at least for now. Were it not for your graciousness and wit, dear Templeton, he would be mine… now and forever.”
For a brief moment, the entire room darkens ominously and seems to terrifyingly writhe in shadow, humanoid shadow forms emerging and disappearing in an overwhelming pool of darkness. Then the dappled sunlight returns and the deep pressure of the fear abates.
“Second, you exhibit facile hubris with the claim the current states of things as a ‘silly, little elemental cult uprising’. For all you’ve discerned, you are still blind.
“As for the cultists that left a tendays ago, it seems that someone watches… Interesting. You mistake my purpose, however. I wearied of their attention – merely consuming them did not seem to slow their entreats so I pursued another tact.
“Those that I let fly will never be rid of the fear I planted in their hearts. It is my hope that they communicate such to their brethren. It seems to have worked so far.”
“Now, Templeton, I have played your game. I have pulled back some of the shadow. Your turn. Tell me more of these so-called devastation orbs….”
Templeton’s laughter dies in his throat as the shadowy forms writhe ominously. As the fear abates and the dappled sunlight returns, he drinks his wine nervously. Templeton shakes his head and says, “Ah yes… Hubris… I am afraid you are quite right about me.” Templeton casts his gaze down at his feet in shame, "Its something I am working on..”. His gaze rises and fixes once more on the beautiful drow elf, "But I do appreciate your patience with me and my compatriots. I do not deny the dangers of these elemental cults. They dabble in ancient and powerful magics that they do not fully understand. You are correct they are neither silly nor small. They do in fact represent a great threat to this region. I am glad you have sent them packing with fear in their hearts. Hopefully they have learned to leave you alone.”
With a wave of his hand Templeton uses a minor illusion to re-create the spherical metal object he saw in the chest. “This is a devastation orb. One of the priests that brought it to Red Larch said it was crafted by Marlos Urnrayle, leader of the earth cult. Once activated it pulses with power until it unleashes terrible waves of force creating earthquakes and knocking creatures down. I witnessed the earthquakes it produced level several blocks of dwellings in Red Larch. All were of sturdy construction but they could not withstand the deadly earthquakes produced by the orb. Quintus here…” Templeton gestures to the cleric, “was able to use the power of Tempus to quell the magic of the quakes and put things to right. But the devastation the earthquakes had wrought was most certainly worthy of the orbs namesake.”
Templeton puts away his wine and goblets as he says, “It seems our friends were mistaken. I am glad you are not in league with cultists. We are still learning more about them and as you have so eloquently stated we are still blind to their ultimate goals.. As I said our intention is to put an end to them. Is there anything you can tell us that might aid in our quest. If we are successful they will never bother you again. Is there perhaps some boon or aid you might provide to help us? We would be most grateful and would repay you for your help."
“An intriguing object. Let me see it more closely…”
Templeton shifts the illusion her direction and she studies in silence for a while.
“How was the orb transported? As you describe the orb and its destructive power, I do not believe the magic could be contained without some other means.”
Templeton then describes the chest the orb was being pulled out of and how it had some sort of runes on the outside.
“Ah, that explains it. I believe that chest was a fundamental part of the creation of such magic. If you had gotten a view of the runes you said you saw from a distance, I surmise they were elementally opposed symbols to keep the orb in abeyance… until the chest was opened.
“Though it seems strange that my motives and yours might align, you are a Harper I believe, in this instance they do. I care nothing for the goals these elementalists pursue. In truth, I actually do not wish them to achieve their goals at all…
The Dark Lady explained that there are 4 cults – earth, air, water, and fire. Each has a prophet who wields a legendary artifact crafted by the drow Vizeran Devir. The prophets took the artifacts from the The Fane of The Eye – a drow temple devoted to the Elder Elemental Eye. The cultists are scared of the elder elemental eye. Each artifact weapon is linked to a particular elemental plane and to a particular evil prince of that plane. Wind Vein is a silver spear linked to Yan Si Bin, the air prince, and is currently in the possession of Aerisi Kalinoth. Ironfang is a solid iron war pick linked to Ogre-Mach, the prince of earth and currently in the possession of Marlos Urnrayle. Tinder Strike is a flint dagger linked to Emix, prince of fire, and in the current possession of Vanifer. Drown is a bronze trident with barnacle and sea shell motiffs linked to Al-Hydra, Prince of Water, and in the current possession of Gar Shatterkeel.
In exchange for not killing us all (or worse), The Dark Lady has graciously allowed us to leave her lair alive. In exchange we are to seek out these cultists and destroy them before they can bring any of the elemental princes into this world. The Dark Lady has happily agreed to safe guard the items in her lair to keep them from falling into the wrong hands.
Before we left she gave us a brief glimpse at her true form to hasten our exit.