After returning from the successful manticore hunt, Thurl Merosska – true to his word – awards his ring to the unassuming Tamael Talstag, who delivered the killing blow. Thurl would not have believed that this diminutive priest could have felled such a beast on what had to be his first flight if his men hadn’t vouched for Tamael. The hunters then returned to finish the final course of their feast, washing down sweet cakes with mulled wine.
The Feathergale Knights were kind enough to share their bunks with the adventurers, and offered them a filling breakfast the next morning.
“If you’re heading east,” Thurl said, catching them before they departed, “there is a monastery that we believe to be harboring evil creatures and vile men. I would very much appreciate knowing what is going on behind those walls. Consider it a repayment of hospitalities.” he grinned as he marked the location on their map. The adventurers swore they heard a dinging noise as he did so, and Gurdis mumbled “Quest Unlocked”, but they seemed to be the only ones to notice.
Just before leaving, Savra pulled Gora aside. She was giddy with the possibility of having another woman in the ranks, and offered to put in a good word with Thurl, if they wanted to join. She added, seemingly hoping to capture their interest, that the Feathergale Society had a secret mission to master the element of air in order to crush Waterdeep’s enemies and restore her to her former glory.
After hours of travelling north, around the vale, and across seemingly endless hills, they spotted a small group of local barbarians. The barbarians were only interested in throwing them off their land. Luckily, Gora blew them away. No wait – she blew them and they went away.
Not long afterward, the trail wound through ever-narrowing bluffs of windswept sandstone. As the trail had narrowed so they could reach out and touch either side, it opened into a hidden canyon nestled in the heart of the hills. A sprawling monastery with narrow windows and red tile rooftops stands in the middle of this natural amphitheatre, ringed by sandstone cliffs all around.
The weary group climbed the weathered stone steps up to a pair of heavy timber doors bound with iron studs. They pounded a hideous, gargoyle-faced knocker and waited for a reply. Moments later, a small panel slid open, revealing a scowling, golden gargoyle face. From behind the mask comes a female voice. “Yes? What do you want?”
Crith cleared his throat and stepped forward. “Ahem, yes. We have come from the High Forest to meditate with you.”
“I’m sorry. We’re not accepting visitors.” came the woman’s cold reply, followed by the sharp crack of the slat slamming closed.
Again they rapped the gargoyle knocker, and again the small portal opened. This time they inquired about the missing Mirabar delegation. Despite the woman claiming not to know anything, she made a glance to an unseen comrade behind the door that did not go unnoticed. Sensing her resolve wearing down, the party pressed on, insisting that they had come too far to go back, and wanted to prove themselves worthy as peers of the Sacred Stone monks.
The gatekeepers reluctantly let them in and led them to a large room with pillars in the corners, and a large stone altar in the center. There they spoke with a monk named Qabo, who interviewed them, asking them personal and uncomfortable questions all while wearing a smirk like he was enjoying their discomfort.
After agreeing to take them in, a pair of gargoyle-masked monks came and relieved them of all of their posessions. They were given robes to wear, and put to work in the kitchens. Food was at a minimum, and when they weren’t working, they were meditating or performing feats of endurance (things like holding buckets in each outstretched arm, or doing knuckle pushups over a crevasse). Sometimes both simultaneously.
The goal of these activities, they were told, was to exercise self-denial and self-reflection. After a few days of greuling physical activity and meditation, they were again called into the shrine to meet with Qarbo. He told them he had one last test, and guided them down the stairs behind the altar. The exhausted group followed without question.
As soon as the last of them had cleared the first few steps, Qarbo pulled a concealed lever in the corner of the rooms, collapsing the stairs and opening the gate to a cage containing an Umber Hulk. Luckily the umber hulk’s eyes had been damaged, and it was without its befuddling gaze. Unfortunately, its claws had been augmented with metal blades.
Amazingly, the unarmed party managed to dispatch the umber hulk without too much injury. After killing the beast, Qarbo re-enabled the stairs and muttered something about them “passing the test” and sent them to the dojo to meet the abbess.
There they met five monks. Two had already been beaten fairly severely by one of the others. As they entered, the monk they identified as the abbess called them forward one-by-one. Though Gora waved her hand and said something like “this is not the monk you’re looking for” and was skipped over, the rest were called up in turn. She gave each a beating and moved to the next. Sun tried to envelop her in darkness, but at the last moment noticed that the eyes of her mask were solid.
As the abbess was starting to become injured and looked like she might back off, Gora and Sun broke protocol and attacked her from behind, causing massive damage. The rest took the opportunity to unload everything they had, grinding the formerly formidable warrior-monk to a paste. They then dispatched the remaining monks and took stock of their situation.
Too wounded and weary to confront the remaining monks, they snuck out through a nearby door and took a brief rest hidden in the gorge.
Sneaking back in they came to a secluded room and made some macramé
Found the slaves and helped them escape.