The morning after the battle with the wereshark, the adventurers were surprised to find Hania missing from her room, her armor and gear left behind. A search of the area turned up hair and blood, but no further signs of their missing paladin. Furthermore, there was no sign of the Highspire at the docks, essentially stranding the group in Everlasting Dawn for the time being.
They spent the next several days doing business, collecting their reward for traveling to Alaron and opening an account at the Imperial bank; Henrik found that his family’s home had been sold, the price for it much too steep for he and his companions for the time being.
Adding to the mystery, Courtland vanished a few nights later. The group made an attempt at tracking him, but they all knew that, if Courtland didn’t want to be found, they would never locate him.
The following morning, while eating their breakfast, the troupe was surprised when Courtland returned, Hania with him, but changed. She’d taken on a darker aspect, no longer wore Pelor’s symbol.
Hania explained the reason for her disappearance, apologized for taking the Highspire. The benefit of her being at sea, however, was that she had seen strange lights in the water that she felt were connected to the stories of strange, corrupted fish being pulled from the ocean.
After a stop at an alchemist’s shop to purchase some potions, the party set sail from Everlasting Dawn to investigate the lights. As they sailed out beyond the unending daylight, Henrik and Hania went below decks, using one of the potions they’d purchased to reverse the petrification on the elven cleric they’d recovered from the tunnels beneath Thruvian’s home.
As the stone turned to flesh, the elven woman swung her sword – a beautiful, silver cutlass – the blade cutting through Henrik’s armor effortlessly, before she lost consciousness and tumbled to the floor. As they looked down at her prone form, they were shocked to realize who was at their feet: Archbishop Cynthiana. Or at the very least, her exact duplicate. For the time being, they agreed that it was best to keep her safe, and her identity a secret, and so she was stowed away in the captain’s quarters, with Seymour Ashby standing guard.
That night – the first nightfall they’d seen in almost a week – the group came upon the strange, flowing lights in the water. The lazy dance of the colors in the water was hypnotic, but staring into them soon had the group feeling vaguely dizzy and nauseous. Despite this fact, they downed their potions of water breathing and descended into the black ocean.
On the ocean floor, they came upon a sunken ship, clearly ancient, with the unusual lights pouring out of its every crack and port. All around the ship, the ocean floor had turned into a slippery, lumpy porridge, and the flora had turned into something sinister: some plants had strange, finger-like growths; others drooped with the weight of bulging eyeballs that grew on them like fruit; still more seemed to pull away from them, as though aware.
Moving forward, the group investigated the sunken ship. It was empty, the cargo it once carried long since buried in the silt, or deteriorated by time; however, sinking into the ocean floor, they came upon a bizarre tunnel, looking strangely like living tissue and growing with long, smooth pseudopods that lazily drifted in the water. The hole was clearly the source of the sickening lights.
As they moved through the tunnel, the pseudopods reached out for the adventurers, brushing their bodies warmly, gently, like a lover’s caress. Unpleasant though the sensation was, they pressed on and were rewarded with the discovery of an underwater cave. Inside, they found the nawidnehr, along with an ixitxachitl, standing alongside a bloody altar with three huge pearls resting atop it – one green, one blue, and one red, the obvious source of the dancing lights. The ixitxachitl screeched endlessly in prayer to Demogorgon, promising the fall of the golden city and the spread of chaos across the land.
The screaming eulogy was brought to a sudden halt by a dagger when Courtland rushed in silence from the shadows, sliding the weapon easily through the back of the demon ray’s head, the blade pointing out from between its teeth.
The nawidnehr wasn’t going to fall so easily. She made use of the pearls, shattering one against the ceiling, where the alien flora clung, making it all coalesce into strange, humanoid creatures, armed with barbs, snapping jaws, and grasping tendrils; the second sphere she threw into the water, causing it to churn into deadly whirlpools. The beast then turned its hungry eyes to Courtland.
In a rapid exchange of blows, the nawidnehr battled Courtland, while his companions fought off the small hoard of plant-things. Finally, the wereshark got a grip on Courtland, and her teeth sank into his side, teeth cutting deep, his warm blood flowing into her mouth and pouring out from between her teeth.
As Courtland died, everything around him stilled, even the whirling seawater came to a complete halt. Nerull stepped from the shadows and stood before the dying man, gazing up at him from within the shadows of his hood. The small demigod promised Courtland the strength to protect the people he loved, and warned him of Y’ora’s plight amongst the undead of Nazianz. Courtland agreed to aid Nerull in his rise to godhood, if only to save his adopted daughter.Courtland awoke as he struck the ground at the feet of the wereshark, just in time to look up and watch as numerous blades plunged through the body of the beast, her warm blood rushing out and splattering over his prone form. She toppled, forcing Courtland to roll out of the way, before finally becoming still.
As everyone caught their breath after the savage battle, Aiko moved to investigate the final remaining pearl. He found it to be some strange manifestation of chaos energy, clearly a product of the far realm. With a great effort, the dragonborn concentrated his arcane energy on destroying the orb, and in the blink of an eye, it erupted, washing the whole room in intense, green light. Intense, crippling pain and savage nausea overwhelmed the group for a heart beat, before passing just as suddenly as it had started, leaving no one the worse for it.