5th of Flamerule of the year 1492

Since it was still during the day, Ace decided to head up the tallest hill near Red Larch and start making an artistic rendition of the town. There had been a lot of growth in the last 45 days with all the immigrating Dwarves.  They had added many dwellings, some apartments for the workers, and even two windmills to allow them to grind their own wheat.  From the hill he could see the miners working diligently in the Tomb Quarry, others working on the construction to fix the sinkhole.  While it was not high enough to see all of the town, he could easily imagine the parts he had seen from the streets.

Fwoosh was using his time asking about the seal on the envelope that had included that message about Glance.  It did not seem that anyone recognized it, and a few suggested it looked like something from a macabre circus of some sort. He found a sympathetic ear with Gwendolyn.  Any of the others in town he asked about did not get him any other information or leads.

Gwendolyn Venelli

She pointed to his ring with the symbol of the Zhentarim on it and suggested that if Fwoosh was seeking something creepy or evil, he would be better going to the group represented by that group, and they might be able to find out something more than she knew.  

With such a busy week, the group all settled down for the evening for another night of a peaceful rest including Dancer who tried different places in his room to sleep every couple of hours as he tends to do.

6th of Flamerule of the year 1492

Early the next morning Dancer headed out for his daily ration of three doze bear claws.  The sky outside was fairly ominous.  The air was very still, not hot, nor cold, just tepid and dead. It felt like a storm was coming, but none of the accompanying smells were in the air.  Just black clouds filling the air suppressing the morning light and casting deep shadows over the town.  Arriving at the bakery and getting the pastries from Mangobarl, the baker whispered in Dancer’s ear that Jepos wanted to see him tonight.

Mangobarl Lorren

Getting back to the inn, he could see the rest of the party stumble down for their breakfast. Vladimir had stopped by the bar to see Dhelosk and collect the letter that had been left for him. When asked about who left it for him, Dhelosk just said that he owed this group some favors and holding a package for them did not cover them all. Heading to the group table Vladimir began reading the letter.

Dhelosk Quelbeard

He explained that it was some sort of Intelligence Report from the Harpers on Thurl Merosska, the leader of the Feathergale Knights. He shared what was written in the letter which led to some interesting side conversations about Thurl. Ace and Yllanys had to be updated on who and what Thurl was and about the Feathergale Knights since all of those adventures had predated them joining the party. All of them were still suspecting Thurl and his knight represented the air cult in some fashion. They talked about different ways of possibly infiltrating the knights to spy on them. Ace reminded them that they had some clues in Womford to follow up on as well.

Letter from the Harpers

Which read:

Harper Intelligence on Thurl Merosska

Name: Thurl Merosska

Occupation: Leader of the Feathergale Knights

Background: Griffon Rider of Waterdeep:

    Service Record: Thurl Merosska was once a prominent griffon rider in Waterdeep, renowned for his bravery and aerial combat skills. His prowess in the skies earned him a position of respect and authority within the Griffon Cavalry.

    Near-Death Experience: Thurl’s promising career took a dramatic turn after a severe storm nearly claimed his life. This experience profoundly affected him, leading to a noticeable shift in his demeanor and priorities.

Behavioral Changes Post-Storm:

    Risk-Taking and Recklessness: Following his near-death encounter, Thurl began exhibiting increasingly reckless behavior. He frequently took unnecessary risks during missions, endangering both himself and his comrades.

    Casualties Among His Troop: Thurl’s newfound recklessness led to several fatalities within his unit, including the death of a noble’s son. This incident, in particular, attracted significant attention and backlash from the higher echelons of Waterdeep’s military and political circles.

    Forced Retirement: Due to the escalating concerns about his judgment and the mounting pressure from influential families, Thurl was ultimately forced into retirement. His departure from the Griffon Cavalry was not voluntary but rather a measure taken to prevent further casualties and diplomatic incidents.

Formation of the Feathergale Knights:

    Feathergale Society: After his retirement, Thurl established the Feathergale Society. Ostensibly a social club for aerial enthusiasts and wealthy adventurers, it quickly gained popularity among Waterdeep’s elite.

    Recruitment and Training: Leveraging his connections and reputation, Thurl recruited several members into the Feathergale Knights. This group was framed as an elite order dedicated to mastering aerial combat and exploration.

Current Activities and Influence:

    Leadership: Thurl is the undisputed leader of the Feathergale Knights. He commands a dedicated group of knights who look up to him for guidance and inspiration.

    Base of Operations: The Feathergale Spire, a tall tower situated on the edge of the Sumber Hills, serves as the headquarters for the Feathergale Knights. This location provides both a strategic vantage point and a secluded retreat for the group.

    Reputation: While some view the Feathergale Knights as a group of eccentric aerial enthusiasts, others recognize the potential danger posed by their militaristic structure and Thurl’s influence. Rumors of their intense loyalty to Thurl and their secretive gatherings have raised suspicions among certain factions.

Known Associates and Connections:

    Noble Ties: Thurl maintains connections with several noble families in Waterdeep. His charm and the allure of the Feathergale Society have attracted individuals from influential backgrounds.

    Recruitment Efforts: Thurl is believed to be actively recruiting more members into the Feathergale Knights. His criteria for selection are not entirely clear, but he seems to favor individuals with a penchant for adventure and a willingness to embrace unconventional ideas.

Unresolved Questions and Concerns:

    Motivations: While Thurl’s obsession with his near-death experience is well-documented, the full extent of its impact on his motivations remains unclear. Some speculate that he seeks to recreate or understand the forces that nearly ended his life.

    Ultimate Goals: The true purpose behind the Feathergale Society and Thurl’s long-term plans are subjects of ongoing speculation. The Harpers are particularly interested in uncovering any potential threats posed by the group.

Surveillance and Recommendations:

    Continued Monitoring: The Harpers recommend continued surveillance of Thurl Merosska and the Feathergale Knights. Any significant changes in their activities or membership should be documented and investigated.

    Potential Allies: Identifying and cultivating potential allies within the Feathergale Society could provide valuable insights into Thurl’s plans and the group’s internal dynamics.

    Caution: Given Thurl’s past behavior and influence, caution is advised when dealing with him directly. His charisma and leadership abilities should not be underestimated.

Summary:

Thurl Merosska, once a celebrated griffon rider of Waterdeep, now leads the Feathergale Knights, a group with growing influence and a reputation for secrecy. His near-death experience and subsequent forced retirement catalyzed his transformation into a risk-taking leader, attracting a dedicated following among Waterdeep’s elite. The Harpers continue to monitor his activities, aware of the potential dangers posed by his leadership and the mysterious objectives of the Feathergale Society.

With breakfast completed, Ace headed back to his hill and because of the black clouds and a general lack of sufficiently light used his imagination more than his sight to continue making his painting of Red Larch. Yllanys went out seeking some exotic skins for his hobby, but there were not any in town, but the Dwarven tanner did offer to process any that he found.

Once a sufficient amount of time had passed, Dancer and Fwoosh headed to the bakery for his meeting with Jepos.  Once ushered in, he could see that Jepos’s office was now a solid stone addition added to the bakery.  No longer was he conducting business on some sacks of flour.  He had a nice furnished office with a nice wooden desk, several bookcases, and all the things he needed to do his work.

Jepos Copperhand

“Wow.”

“I’m glad you guys came in. Let me get straight to the point. Barge right in is critical to our operations in the Dessarin Valley. Any instability there affects all of us, and especially my profit margin. I need you to handle this, Delicately, but effectively, if you can do this job for me.”

“What job?”

“The owner there is a member of our group, Feston Bargewright. He’s a 5th generation owner of the area, and only in the last 20-30 years have we managed to take control of it. We groomed him in, and then slipped in and took over. It’s a big money maker. There seems to be some kind of conflict.

We are getting weird answers out of there. The finances seem kind of odd. They’re not making nearly as much money as they used to. I don’t know if it’s him or his second-in-command who is Chalaska Muruin, and she’s a very fierce warrior, and also a member of our group, whereas Feston is more of the sticky-finger type.

It almost seems like they’re struggling against each other or vying for something, we don’t know. I’m not able to get any clear answers. So, I’d like you to go, begin with observation, and integrate yourselves there, get a feel of the daily operations, and keep an eye on Feston and Chalaska. Don’t necessarily announce who you are. See if there are any unusual meetings or shifts in their routines or changes in their behavior, and once you have a clear understanding of what’s wrong, you need to find a solution. It could be anything from negotiating a truce, uncovering and stopping any external influence or corruption, or if necessary, reasserting our influence directly.

If you uncover threats beyond just internal squabbles, say external forces or deeper corruption, report back to me before acting. You can use this to communicate with me three times. It also can represent my authority if necessary.”

And with that Jepos handed off a small token to Dancer

Zhentarim Token

“My ring looks like that.”

“I need you to kind of be discreet about it.”

The three then strategized on how they would convince the party to head to Bargewright and allow Dancer and Fwoosh to conduct their investigation.

“I have heard through the grapevine that there might be things in Womford that, the party wants to do, which is right adjacent to Bargewright. Any influence that’s occurring into Bargewright could be coming from Womford. There have been some strange happenings there as well. And our influence really hasn’t, for some reason, getting into Womford. So, there’s something on the other side of that river as well. It’s also been known that the pirates have come and gone in Womford, which is probably related. I wouldn’t think it’d be too difficult to convince them to take a peek that direction.”

“We’re so discreet. A cat and a bird. What could be more discreet than that? Nothing.”

“You don’t need to head down immediately, but if you could take off in the next couple of days at least, that would be great.”

“Yeah, I think we could do that.”

“Yeah, it’s roughly the time frame that we’re working on. I think that kind of has the party’s attention right now is that we’ve just gotten some information about the Feathergale Knights.”

“If you get names of people, that’s something that we potentially could create a report on. That is one of the services we provide to people for money.”

“Yeah, I think we actually got a pretty concise report.”

“Thurl Merosska. He was in Waterdeep for a long time.”

“Oh, I can send a request in. Maybe they can get information back.

“Maybe even about some nobles that were funding him. I guess the spire that they built a decade ago was funded by some noble houses. “

“I mean, what we’re really trying to figure out is whether or not he’s tied up with these cultists and what not.”

“Some sort of storm swept him up. That spire was there fourteen years ago. Well, they were celebrating their big ten-year anniversary.”

“I think that spire’s been around for three, four hundred years.”

“That would make a lot more sense given how big it was.”

“Maybe he was just celebrating ten years of his society.”

“How dare he is not so specific.”

“Supposed to be one of the rumored haunted keeps that are here.  I have been doing history research. There’s just been four of them. There was a fortress on the river. There was a monastery. There was a spire, and then there was another building deeper in the hills.”

“Something to explore if you find out more information.”

“I can look into Thurl. It might take two or three days. I mean, if you want to stick around two or three days, then I can probably have the report here for you.”

Fwoosh changed the subject to the symbol on the letter and his fortune card he had found, but Jepos did not know anything but could make a request to see if there is anything he could gather.

“There are two other names that might be useful to you. There’s Aldon Bargewright, who’s Feston’s brother. Something’s happening to Feston in Bargewright. He might know something, but gaining his trust could be difficult. He’s awfully protective of his brother. And then there’s Nalaskur Thaelond, who is the innkeeper at the old Bargewright Inn. The inn inside the Bargewright Inn.”

“There is an inn?”

“There is.”

“What an interesting name for a town. And an inn.”

“It was formed by a bunch of halflings, and they have an odd sense of humor. Interesting. Although, with the intermarriage with humans, pretty much all the Bargewright are human now, with the occasional short stack showing up. Not that I should say anything about short people.”

“None of us really can.”

With their assignment given, the two went back to the inn.

At the inn, Vladimir and ISAC were discussing their next plan and that Bargewright Inn and Womford might be a better destination for them to gather more information before trying to assault another fortified location. He had some concerns that Dancer and Fwoosh might have an issue with going south to those locations and wanted some support from ISAC to help convince them that it was the right way to go. He also wanted to make sure that they had addressed all the commitments they had made as a group.  ISAC reminded him of the assignments from Briiathor Alougarr and Tina Ammakyl, and that they should send them letters before going anywhere.

The party all gathered for dinner.  Vladimir and ISAC started their argument for heading south to Bargewright Inn and Womford before tackling any of the other cultists areas.  They espoused the need for more intelligence and clues about the cults.  Oddly enough, Dancer and Fwoosh were easily convinced about heading that way and Dancer was quick to point out that this was all Vladimir’s idea and not his.

Vladimir was pushing to get the group to move out the next day, but Dancer and others pointed out that they had things to pick up for the next couple of days and should delay until everything was ready, especially the Goggles of the night that they had ordered, giving all the humans and Angelica the capability to see in the dark. Coming to an agreement to depart the day after they get the goggles, the party would finish any preparations needed for the trip over the next couple of days.

They also spent a considerable amount of time trying to decide what they should be calling themselves since the “Watchers of Waterdeep” just never fit very well.  When ISAC asked Claugiyliamatar at the other end of his magical tattoo, she only suggested:

“Snack.”

With that suggestion, they went to bed dreaming of bear claws (or at least Dancer did) and water cultists shooting ice at them.

7th of Flamerule of the year 1492

It was at breakfast the next morning that something unusual happened. A petite red headed woman snuck up on Vladimir.  She had carefully placed her great axe on a nearby table, and as the party watched in awe, she handily picked him up, slammed him down in a suplex and then one handedly grabbed him by the collar and shook him until he woke up again.

“Oh shit, Olga?”

“Oh Vlady, did you miss me?”

It was Vladimir’s sister having come to visit after his too short letter arrived at the family farm near Neverwinter. Vladimir had a lot of explaining to do to her and the party.  After which she made him show her the town and making sure that he paid for anything that got her interest.

Olga Miller

The rest of the party gathered supplies and prepared for their trip, and when meeting for dinner again Vladimir was still alive, although somewhat bruised. Since Vladimir had a two-person room, Olga was quick to take a space within there. The evening ended and the comfortable beds helped everyone sleep well.

8th of Flamerule of the year 1492

The next day went by uneventfully with Dancer and Fwoosh collecting the goggles from Jepos, and ISAC buying a specialized scroll from Dhelosk.  But it was when Dancer and Fwoosh picked up the goggles that Jepos had something extra for him.  It seemed that the report on Thurl had arrived.  It proved to have some important additional information that the Harper one lacked.  Seeing that it contained many sections that might be more questionable for the rest of the party, Dancer spent the time editing it and removing all the more questionable subjects.

Zhentarim Report on Thurl

Which reads:

Zhentarim Intelligence Report on Thurl Merosska

Subject: Thurl Merosska

Role: Commandant of the Feathergale Knights

Personal Weaknesses

Near-Death Obsession: Thurl’s near-death experience during a severe storm has left him with a profound obsession. This fixation on mortality and the forces that nearly claimed his life can be leveraged to manipulate his actions or decisions.

Recklessness: Following his traumatic experience, Thurl has exhibited a propensity for reckless behavior. This trait led to multiple fatalities under his command, including the death of a noble’s son. Exploiting his impulsive nature could drive him to make compromising decisions.

Loss of Noble Support

Disgraced Reputation: Thurl’s fall from grace with Waterdeep’s noble families presents a significant vulnerability. The withdrawal of their patronage and the political isolation that followed can be used to apply pressure or coerce him into compliance.

Lack of Social Cover: With his former noble allies distancing themselves, Thurl lacks the social and political protection he once enjoyed. This makes him more susceptible to threats and manipulation.

Feathergale Society

Recruitment of Wealthy Individuals: Thurl has targeted wealthy and influential individuals in Waterdeep to join the Feathergale Society. While publicly framed as an elite group of aerial enthusiasts, these recruits are potential sources of leverage due to their hidden involvement in unsanctioned activities.

Indoctrination into Cult Beliefs: The Feathergale Society has been subtly transformed into a recruitment front for the air cult. Members indoctrinated into the cult’s beliefs can be manipulated through their allegiance to Thurl and the cult’s doctrines.

Corrupt Noble Connections

Noble Collaborators: Despite his fall from favor, Thurl maintains covert relationships with certain corrupt nobles. These connections can be exploited to gather intelligence on illicit activities and to pressure Thurl through his noble associates.

Noble Patronage: The following nobles are known to have past or ongoing associations with Thurl Merosska:

Lord Ravenguard: Involved in clandestine financial dealings with the Feathergale Society.

Lady Moonshadow: Uses Thurl’s network for espionage and covert operations against rivals.

 Baron Blackthorn: Has engaged Thurl for discreet and unsanctioned reconnaissance missions.

Criminal Activities: Kidnapping and Blackmail

Savra Belabranta: Thurl is suspected of kidnapping Savra Belabranta, a prominent noblewoman. He is believed to be blackmailing the Belabranta family, threatening Savra’s life to extort favors and resources from them.

Search and Rescue Failures: The Belabranta family dispatched men to locate and rescue Savra, but none have returned or made contact. Additionally, an old servant of Savra who went out searching for her has also disappeared, leading the family to fear he is dead.

Leverage Over Belabranta Family: The kidnapping of Savra provides a significant leverage point. The family’s desperation to ensure her safety makes them vulnerable to manipulation and coercion.

Targeted Manipulation

Exploit Obsession: Leverage Thurl’s obsession with his near-death experience to manipulate his decisions. Presenting scenarios or opportunities that play into his fixation can drive him to act in predictable ways.

Pressure through Associates: Utilize Thurl’s connections with corrupt nobles to apply indirect pressure. Threatening to expose their clandestine activities can force Thurl to comply with Zhentarim directives to protect his allies.

Utilize Kidnapping: Use the information regarding Savra Belabranta’s kidnapping to exert further pressure on Thurl. The fear of exposure or the potential harm to Savra can be powerful tools in ensuring his compliance.

Summary

Thurl Merosska, the disgraced former commander turned leader of the Feathergale Knights, presents multiple vulnerabilities that can be exploited by the Zhentarim. His obsession with his near-death experience, loss of noble support, connections with unsavory individuals, and involvement in the kidnapping of Savra Belabranta provide ample leverage points. Strategic manipulation and targeted pressure can be employed to coerce Thurl into compliance, ensuring his actions align with Zhentarim interests.

Working all night, he was able to create a version that was better for public consumption.

9th of Flamerule of the year 1492

Dancer shared the modified version with the rest which spawned a lot more conversation about Thurl and his society.  Finding out that Olga was going with them south, the whole party was very happy, except Vladimir who seemed a bit less enthusiastic. Setting out early with Vladimir still hung over, the group headed south along Cairn road.

The first day heading south was smooth with little weather issues and a severe lack of ambushes. Camping that evening was a simple affair and having done this enough, they were efficient in getting the camp set up.  The watches were simple with Olga helping and Ace taking his life in his hand when he started providing her with Dwarven Ale during their watch. But everything passed without issue, and the evening ended.

10th of Flamerule of the year 1492

Knowing that they would not be able to make it all the way to Bargewright and would come up short by a few hours, they started off with a leisurely pace. Perhaps it was that, or everyone was watching Olga tease Vladimir, they were surprised by a sudden winter storm dropping on top of them quickly followed a cloud of javelins.  Only Dancer was able to respond while the rest were caught flat footed.

The javelins were followed by a second set and a dozen reavers that they had faced previously at the pirate keep. They were following a priest who was quick to summon a ball of water over Yllanys’s head rendering him mostly useless during the combat.  They were not far into the combat when the priest also summoned a water elemental to add to the mix. It was a running battle from the road into the trees to the south where they managed to pin the priest down just in front of some hills where he self-exploded taking down several of the party members.

Water Cultist Reaver

Water Cultist Priest

Water Elemental

And this is where the session ended.