To: High Priest Hassadur
Temple of Kelemvor
Blessings and greetings, my friend. I hope all is well in Waterdeep, and all is well with you.
Much has happened since my last letter. We have been very busy, and have discovered quite a bit about the goings-on in this area.
Not long after my last missive, we discovered a cult operating underneath of Red Larch. The call themselves the Black Earth, and use a symbol like a triangle with a half bar bisecting it from the bottom. They had created a sub-cult in Red Larch called the Delvers, which consisted of several leaders in Red Larch. They had murdered several travellers, and had set up operations in abandoned dwarven tunnels beneath the town. We discovered the place quite by accident, as an earthquake caused the town square to open a massive sinkhole, revealing a large chamber that led to the cult’s “temple”. The town elders tried to dissuade us from entering, but the stink of their deception was detectable from a mile away, so we entered. There were many traps and more than a few opponents, but we managed to dispatch the worst of the lot and bring the rest to justice, except for a priest of the Black Earth cult, who managed to escape. I hope we are able to find him before too long. The cultists had a small group of mercenaries they called “The Bringers of Woe”, who presented little challenge. It was quite amusing as we were able to use the traps that the cult had set against the mercenaries and bring them a little woe of their own. In the end they surrendered and showed us where they had been encamped at the old mines nearby.
I was fortunate to meet the Lady Ushien Stormhammer, leader of the Knights of Sandalor. They had come through Red Larch to investigate the attack on Westbridge, the same attack that caused Pierce Elkhart’s amnesia and other distress. We later learned from the Knights that the attack was not as devastating as once feared, and Pierce’s commander had managed to survive despite several Abazai attacking him directly.
We later learned that a trade delegation from Mirabar had vanished in the Sumber hills. That bitself might not be so noteworthy, but the trade delegation consisted of several important people from Mirabar, and they were transporting the body of a Knight of Sandalor to Summit Hall for proper interment.
Because of this particular issue, Piotr, Flinar, Pierce, Amergin, and I set out to see what we could determine about the disappearance of the trade delegation. My personal hope is to find the body of the Sandalor Knight and return it to Summit Hall. He deserves that at the very least.
We left Red Larch by way of the Larch Path, which leads through the Sumber hills to the Stone Bridge and then to Beliard, the last place the delegation was seen. The Stone Bridge is an amazing work, presumably made by the dwarves that once inhabited these lands. It spans the Dessarin River, and is quite long, close to two miles, and broad, around six paces. There are no side rails or balustrade to prevent you from stepping off the edge, so crossing it seems far more harrowing than it is.
Once in Beliard we were able to learn a little of the trade delegation at the Inn of the Watchful Knight. They had been in the town, and had headed south on the Dessarin road towards Summit Hall. Senya, the server at the tavern, had noticed a strangely dressed monk who wore a golden mask, obscuring the monk’s features. The monk departed a few hours before the trade delegation’s caravan, headed south along the same road. A cattle drover told us he had encountered the trade delegation about ten miles to the south, on the Dessarin road. A few hours later he noticed warriors in sky blue, riding giant vultures. They were headed south as well.
We followed south, hoping to find evidence of the delegation along the way. Fifteen miles or so south, the horizon became clouded with carrion birds, so we proceeded to investigate. We discovered the remains of a battle, several dead soldiers, broken wagons, and scattered debris from the wagons. The soldiers wore the insignia of Mirabar, the Red Axe, on their tabards and shields. Two stone cairns rose nearby, a smaller one that contained the body of a female human, in the robes of a monk, wearing a golden mask, and a larger one that contained the bodies of five bugbears. The bugbears wore black leather armor with the emblem of the Black Earth cult on it. We inferred that the woman was a monk or priest of that sect. We kept the mask as evidence and re-interred the dead.
While collecting the bodies of the soldiers for burial, we discovered several craters around the battlefield, which at first I thought were some strange earth magic from the monk, but were actually the result of large rocks dropped from above. From the information we had, we surmised that the vulture riders had probably attacked the bugbears, and dropped the rocks from a great height to slay the foul beasts.
Our best guess is that the Black Earth attacked the trade delegation, slew the soldiers and captured the leaders (as well as the Knight’s body), and when preparing to retreat, were attacked by the vulture riding warriors. The Black Earth managed to fend them off, and headed into the Sumber Hills. We were able to find their trail and follow it as far as the river, where they boarded boats. We had no way to follow, so we retreated to the main road and headed to Summit Hall.
Lady Stormhammer welcomed us to Summit Hall and offered us hospitality for the night. We discussed what we had found up the road, and showed her the gilt mask. She recognized it as the mask of a monk of the Sacred Stone, who have a monastery created from an old keep in the hills. The Lady provided us with directions to the monastery. We believe the monks are related to the Black Earth cult. We rested at Summit Hall and headed for the monastery in the morning.
The monastery is at the end of a narrow passage through the hills, no wider than a horse. We let Flinar approach the main gate, but he was attacked on sight. Four gargoyles attacked initially, followed by two monks. We were barely able to fend them off and escape, although we were fortunate enough to capture one of the monks for questioning. They sounded horns as we retreated, which roused a trained or controlled ankheg at the exit. We managed to escape it after injuring it enough that Amergin’s magic was able to put it to sleep.
We were able to rest after leaving the hills, and interrogate the prisoner. His name is Quinn. From him we learned that the trade delegation was taken to the monastery, so we have plans to revisit them soon. He confirmed that the vulture riding warriors attacked the cult after they had captured the trade delegation. He called them Feathergale Knights. He told us that the monks are part of the Black Earth cult, and begged us to bury him if we killed him. He told us the Black Earth wishes to “become like stone”, which is a term I do not understand. Any insight you can provide would be quite welcome.
He also told us more of the Feathergale Knights, including the location of their keep, called Feathergale Spire. He gave us a location for the Spire, which is also in the hills, but only 20 miles or so from Red Larch. He called the knights flighty and chaotic, and not trustworthy.
We took him to Summit Hall, turning him over to Lady Stormhammer. We informed her of the immediate attack by his cult, and the full story of the trade delegation. We will be returning to the monastery before too long.
We proceeded to investigate the Feathergale Knights. We rode to their tower, a spire in the western portion of the Sumber Hills, not too far from Red Larch. As we approached we could see large birds and similar flying creatures at the top of the tower. We were greeted at the gate by a female Knight, Savra, who granted us entry and escorted us to Theril Merkosa, the lord of the tower.
We were offered the opportunity to stay for a feast they were holding that evening, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the founding of their organization. We accepted and they granted us rooms to rest and shake off the dust of the trail.
The feast was immense, with the knights in all their finery. We shared tales with them, Amergin performed, and we learned a little of the history of the tower. Apparently, many of the structures were built by dwarves some 5000 years ago, and rediscovered bt the Knights of Silverhorn six centuries ago. The Knights built the tower and other strongholds, then later abandoned them for unknown reasons. They clearly defend something, but what is unknown.
We also learned that the Feathergale Knights had slain the one earth monk and five bugbears we’d discovered in the cairns. The Black Earth had captured the trade delegation and slain their guards, and by pure happenstance the Feathergale Knights had stumbled across them. They threw themselves into the attack, and while they were able to slay those six, they were unable to carry the attack further and free the trade delegation.
During the feast a manticore attacked and we were invited to join the hunt for it as it fled. We were fortunate and not only spotted it, but were able to hunt it down as well as discover its lair, which hosted two other manticores, all of whom we slew. We returned to the tower for more feasting and celebration.
We retired, but were awoken in the dark of the night by Sevra, the same Knight who had admitted us to the tower. She had been impressed with our capabilities and wanted to recruit us to the Feathergale Knights. She was strangely enthusiastic, and told us that they seek to master the element of air to use to defeat the enemies of Waterdeep. We politely declined.
In the morning we asked Theril Merkosa for assistance against the Black Earth monks, which he said he will provide once we have more information on their forces, and why they’re holding the trade delegation.
We parted ways after that, and are headed south to Womford, a point downriver from the place where the trade delegation was attacked. We know the Black Earth had assistance from boats, so we hope to find some evidence to indicate who had helped them.
May the scales always balance,