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When we last left our intrepid heroes, the Order of the Vine (Charissa, Garden, William, and Shandri) had begun to be reestablished. In the course of that, had found Sir Firemane, the wemic paladin, and had decided to help him find his missing charges. Meanwhile, the Violettes had met some dragons and awakened an ancient queen.

Being as the finding the Temple of the Darkening Dawn, where Sir Firemane’s people might be, could involve both intrigue and violence, Shandri sent verbal messages via Urchin Postal Service to both Evelyn and Steven, asking for their help. Knowing her audience, the urchin that went to Evelyn at her home said, “The others say there’s a rich nobleman who needs rescued.” Evelyn was immediately interested, and said she’d come. Steve’s messenger came to him at the Temple of Mystra, and said, “The people Sir Firemane was looking for might be trapped and needing rescue.”

With gold fever, desire for noble favor, fellow paladin feeling, and the obligation to see no creature in chains, the Violettes joined the group at the Empty Grave (naturally), so everyone could be brought up to speed. During the discussion, whereupon it was revealed that the temple was said to be below the Warrens, the halfling/gnome district under Dock Ward, Garden said he’d go scout ahead. For the rest of the group, they pooled their knowledge to figure out even if the Warrens were usually not sized for big folk, there were several “tall paths” for large cargo and taller visitors. Also, the name of the temple, the Darkening Dawn, sounded like some variation of Lathander’s faith, but was probably a cult. The Dawnlord would never condone a temple built below ground.

Garden descended into the Warren, and found, entirely by coincidence, someone he knew. It was Beak (Calla Break Snorpthangle the 32nd and a half), a high-ranking member of the Origami clan in town for business. Beak said she hadn’t heard anything about the Temple of the Darkening Dawn herself, but she could send Garden to someone who lived below the Warrens, in a place where the rock walls came together close, known as the Blade. She said his name was Rich, an assumed name, but no one could pronounce his real one. He was an octopus (truly), an octopus sorcerer as a matter of fact. He’d been awakened by a druid’s spell some time ago, and was shunned by those who lived in the harbor. As he was very small and prone to being eaten by sharks, Rich now lived in the Blade, inside his water elemental familiar.

Thoroughly amused, Garden went to talk to this oddity. Rich could not speak any language Garden could understand, so instead invoked a spell of light in the dim Blade and wrote his answers on the wall in his own ink. The Temple of the Darkening Dawn had a holy symbol much like that of Lathander, except in grayscale. But the most interesting thing about the Temple was that supposedly the god was manifest there, which was why it had been gathering more support recently.

A bit perturbed, Garden returned to the group and relayed this information as they prepared to travel below the Blade. Charissa felt right at home traversing the Warrens, but occasionally the others had their heads introduced to skywalks, balconies, or were occasionally literally clotheslined. Eventually they neared the Blade, but as the area below was not well lit, if at all, so they paused to purchase illumination at Lifty’s Nifty Lights (run by a gnome, of course). She was able to dig out a nearly-dead ioun stone with a light spell on it for Charissa, an everburning torch for the party, and a couple of lanterns. The group came up a little short on cash, so Steven offered up a corsage made of dried bats (he’d taken it from a drow he’d killed, along with the stylish blue-sheened boots he was currently sporting). Lifty was thrilled at such a unique find, and took it, cooing over it a little unsettlingly.

Thusly illuminated, the party ventured downward, eventually finding some of the grayscale holy symbols painted on the walls. They used them as guides as they followed the twists and turns to a set of guarded double doors. After fumbling a bit to the guards’ questions, the group managed to say they wished for a new beginning, and were admitted. The underground temple was large and old, older than this new church. Several worshippers, robed in gray, sat the in pews.

But what caught the group’s attention was the purple ball of flame, big as two people put together, hovering above the altar. The high priest knelt before the altar, several acolytes off to one side. As the group watched, several worshippers petitioned the god. One was being punished for “failing the faith,” and writhed in pain as a beam of gray energy emanated from the god and struck him. The priest praised the man’s acceptance that he was willing to endure punishment and begin anew. Another sacrificed a coffer (presumably full of valuables) and named a name of someone who had wronged him. The god spoke in a booming voice, saying to bring this unbeliever to him that he might see the faithful’s new god, as a reward for diligence and piety.

This struck most of the party as at least sketchy, if not some elaborate con, though William could see the “god” was very magical indeed. Looking about, the group spotted the three Shaaran men they’d been looking for. Garden decided to pretend one of them was his uncle, and threw himself at them with a cry of welcome. This disrupted the service, and both the high priest and the god questioned the party, asking how dare they interrupt their service with their rudeness. The god then invoked a spell upon Garden (he was playing the whining nephew to the hilt) and Garden suddenly realized that the priest was entirely worthy of respect and he was being unconscionably rude in church. (William realized he’d been charmed.)

But as the priest was staring daggers at them (and the guards and most of the rest of the worshippers) the group decided it would be a great time to leave. Well, Evelyn did, and nearly dragged the rest of the party out by the hair. Once out of the temple and the immediate range of any listeners, the group told them Sir Firemane had sent them, and asked them what they’d been doing since they’d been “missing.”

The three men felt terrible that they’d caused their protector so much distress, but they’d thought he’d been killed. You see, in their travels, they’d once offended some priests of Talona (the goddess of disease and poison) by healing and succoring plague victims. That had been some distance from Waterdeep, but the church had cursed them, and servants the church had been after them. When Rel and Sir Firemane had been attacked and fallen to the red coral curse (truly, the three remaining men thought they had died), the remaining Shaarans hoped to find a way to lift the curse and pursuit from them with their knowledge of the gods. Without money to pay for a miracle, and wary of involving the larger churches in this feud (sparking a holy war, very bad idea) they sought another way to lift the curse.

This new and manifest god had some promise, though he was a harsh and unbending deity. But the news that Sir Firemane, at least, was alive, was cause for much rejoicing. Quickly retreating from the Warrens, the Shaarans were happily reunited. Sir Firemane said he was profoundly grateful, and as long as he was in the city, the group could call upon him if any evil needed to be vanquished.

Wanting to do something about the Darkening Dawn, Steven and the group called upon the temple of Lathander. After speaking with some of the priests there, they said that there were some apocryphal texts of the church that spoke of Lathander’s brother, the god of dark dawns, the dawns of stormy or rainy days. But although the rituals of the group described were not unheard of for some very strict religions, the Lathanders agreed to look into the manner…

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Timothy
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