With the departure of Ot to the manic voices in his head, the group approaches Red Larch with the surviving convoy. Posters for Harburk and Jalessa line the streets for the upcoming election. A number of Harburk’s posters have been vandalised, changing his name to “Hardork” or “Dorkburk”. Malark decides to even the odds a little and magically conjures some of his own graffiti to change Jalessa to Failessa.
The Bargewright merchants pay the group for their guard services and ask if they wish to continue on to Bargewright Inn. The party opt to stay in Red Larch and prepare for the upcoming trek to the Vale of Dancing Waters in an effort to finally track down Vallivoe and discover who is killing all the water cultists. They find Harburk spruiking in the streets, encouraging people to vote for him in two days time for the sake of bacon. The party discusses who is eligible to vote and find out as deputies they can. But they may not be in the area when the election is held. The sheriff insists that it does not matter and he’ll cast the vote for them while they’re away. Given the help he has received in the past, he promises that the adventurers will be given the title of co-sheriff when he becomes Mayor.
Harburk also mentions that Alton’s shop is nearly complete, but he’s concerned that so many boxes of weapons are stored in the back room. Alton manages to bluff his way out of it, saying that meat preparation requires many tools and he’d be happy to host a feast post-election if the party is around. Malark asks Harburk about the Vale of Dancing Waters and cult activity around the area. The hopeful mayor says that the vale is home to a number of dwarves that worship sea deities, and no cults should be around that area. He doesn’t want to give too much away because he lost the dwarf vote after an incident involving the him getting drunk and ranting about the difference between male and female dwarves. He instead suggests to the group that Riverguard Keep, downriver from the Vale, may be occupied by cultists.
The party go shopping for new equipment. A blacksmith offers Redkin a good price on plate armour, but Redkin decides to be a massive jerk about it for some reason. The blacksmith is offended and overcharges Airi for a mace and some darts. Redkin feels that as heroes and deputies of the town that everything should be given to them at cost. The blacksmith tells him that any plate he wants is going to cost double now. Alton looks to find some shady goods for his shady self, but discovers that the local fence and shadyman was one of the townsfolk arrested after the sinkhole incident. He finds a shadier man working a shady stall in the market, and buys some shady sundries. The band of miserly heroes agree to buy horses with their small fortunes, and set off east to the Dessarin River.
The trip is uneventful. The skies are free of Howling Hate scouts, and the plains quiet from roaming gnolls. Our hearty band of adventurers make good time and turn upriver when they reach the bodies at the tree from their trek to Summit Hall. They ride up the banks until they spy the keep in the distance, and choose to continue on foot. There is a small discussion about horses dying without water, and horses dying with too much water, but they take their chance on a tree near the riverbank in the hopes that their horses aren’t stupid enough to drown while having a drink. With the keep ahead of them, Malark summons a familiar in the form of an owl and sends it off to scout the area. The owl does not return, a good indicator that danger lies ahead. They move forward to the base of the keep.
Airi turns herself into a spider and climbs up a tower wall through a window to find a dead body of a bandit. He has the familiar cut from his forehead to stomach, but Airi notices a number of coins scattered around the body, as if whoever killed the man had no time to loot. The Tiefling druid returns to the group and reports her findings. Malark sends another owl over the wall. Peering through the eyes of the familiar he spies a live guard on the wall. The guard shoots down the owl. The group decide to try the front door while Airi goes into spider mode again. Alton spots a dead body on the battlements and urges her to be careful.
Airi crawls back inside the tower and shifts back to her druid form to open the front door. But she cannot find the lever. Looking up she sees that the chain to the door leads to the level above, where the guard is. Malark tries to communicate to Airi but the guard overhears and panics, demanding to know who they are. With confirmation that the keep is indeed occupied by cultists, Malark shifts his appearance to that of Larrakh again, under the assumption that the earth and water cults are in alliance. He uses his disguise to calm down the guard, who tells them that he had been sent out of the fortified keep to man the gate. Jolliver “Jolly” Grimjaw, a cultist captain who the group has had a run in with before, has locked himself and a number of cultists up in the keep to defend against a pack of demons that overran them in the night. The guard, Holgor, says that the demons are small and fast, and that they scaled the walls and killed with swiftness and ferocity unmatched by humans. Holgor warns the party to tread carefully around the keep, as Grimjaw will fire on anyone who comes near. Holgor also mentions that he’s confident one of the demons was struck with a bolt in an earlier melee and may be in the chapel.
A number of bodies are discovered in a courtyard between the gatehouse and the chapel. Some with large vertical cuts, and others with crossbow bolts in their bodies. One of the bodies has a tuft of red hair in his hand. Chanting and drumming can be heard coming from a tower to the northeast. The group saunter into the chapel with little regard for safety and find themselves face to face with a water cult priest and his guard. A small body is behind them but the view is obstructed. Malark attempts to charm his way through but new of Larrakh’s passing in the monastery has reached the Keep, and the cultists attack. Malark, upset that his trust disguise has been finally seen through, gets super angry and sets the entire chapel on fire with an enormous ball of searing demonfire. The cultists and the body are disintegrated.
Airi decides that now is the time for diplomacy, and calls out to the keep in order to discuss the situation with Jolliver. The gruff thug exchanges words with the petite druid and, dissatisfied with her responses, orders his men to fire upon her. Airi’s body is peppered with bolts, which pisses her off. Looking deep within her Tiefling soul she boils with rage and uses thaumaturgy to demand that Jolly speak with her. It’s as if hell itself opened to lend its voice to the druid. Grimjaw relents, but stands his ground. Saying that he’s willing to talk, only after the group disposes of the demons in the north east tower. The party see no other choice and approach the tower where all the chanting and drumming is coming from.
As they approach the tower door the chanting stops, but it is quickly followed by the screaming of a man. The group bursts through the door onto a scene they were not expecting. Wild children, dressed in furs and loincloths, some wearing bugbear heads for helmets, are sacrificing a cultist who is tied to a wooden apparatus. They cut him slowly from his head to his stomach. The children are chanting “NUMBER ONE, NUMBER ONE, NUMBER ONE”. The group recognises this feral kids as Vallivoe’s orphans. They turn to the group and point to Malark. Accusing him of leaving Vallivoe to his fate in Womford. But Malark quickly convinces them that the group is here to save Vallivoe, who he believes is held prisoner in the keep. The children tell their tale, how they began ambushing and sacrificing cultists by cutting a larger number one into their bodies, the number one representing Vallivoe number one best prices. One of the smaller children tells the group that there is a secret cave in the harbour that may lead to the keep from below. The party leaves the children to finish their grisly ritual and rest on the steps of the dock. While resting they see the “demons” burst from the tower and clamber along the walls with astonishing speed, the sounds of battle can be heard from within the south east tower before the chanting begins again.
Alton sprints ahead to a small fishing boat in the harbour, and finds a king’s bounty in stolen goods within. His little Halfing heart skips a beat as he begins to stash as much as he can in his many pockets. Some large artworks are also in the boat, but will not fit into the bag of holding. Malark decides he too is lucky and runs to the bigger ship, where he finds a group of rats. He finishes off the vermin and scores a small amount of loot from the captain’s lockbox. Redkin waits patiently at the fishing boat, while Airi squids it up in the water. They find the hidden entrance but find it behind some iron gates. Malark blasts it with warlock magic, but it has little effect. Alton has a spark of Halfling genius and builds a small contraption using gears and pistons. It resembles a reverse trap, with a piston erotically pulsating up and down. Redkin brings the boat alongside the grate and Alton jams the device into the gate and flicks the switch. The construction shakes for a moment then pops out the piston, bending the iron with relative ease, which opens enough of a gap for Airi to squid through and find a lever, her tentacles are no match for opposable thumbs, so she shifts back to druid form and lets the party through in the fishing boat. The tunnel is incredibly dark, so Redkin lights up Malark’s necklace to act as a headlight at the front of the boat.
The arrive at a small dock with a set of stairs leading up, but notice that the tunnel continues into the darkness ahead. They have a vote and choose to scout ahead before beginning their assault on the keep. A body is found floating in the water, which Malark flips over. It opens its eyes and begins attacking the group, as does five of its buddies that were waiting in the depths below. The ghouls begin to rock the boat and claw and bite at the group.
Malark pings ghoul after ghoul with Eldritch energy and magic missiles, as Airi summons the light of the moon to penetrate the darkness and burn the ghouls up. Redkin raises his shield and calls down the wrath of Illmater, which sends a number of the undead fleeing, and Alton plays whack-a-mole with heads coming out of the water, jabbing at them with his dagger. Eventually he strikes gold and pulls out an entire brain as a gross prize.
Enraged by the moonfire, some of the ghouls turn their attacks onto Airi. She is struck down and, and is dragged underwater. Malark ponders his actions and weighs up the situation, debating internally whether to endanger himself to save her, or stay on the boat and fire from afar…. Redkin dives in, chainmail and all, casting light on his shield to guide his way through the murky water. He is also struck and paralyzed but shakes it off enough to beat off Airi’s kidnapper. The group finally destroy the ghouls and collapse on the deck of the fishing boat, exhausted but at least there is some nice artworks to look at.