The victorious hunters returned to the village circle with the rescued half-orc in tow, where he was greeted by a tearfully vicious homecoming with his parents. The other townsfolk celebrated his return and were quick to acclaim the travelers as true heroes and adventurers – many fine pies and poorly fermented beverages were shared during the celebration.
Having earned a rest, the hunters returned the Temple of the Sea-God and bedded down for the night. The witch, Beatrice, excused herself for private meditation – and after making sure she was unobserved – quickly summoned the demon the hunters had defeated back in Callimaco using her arcane arts. The demon, going by the name of Candle, quickly struck a bargain with the witch and vanished within her own shadow until such a time when he was required.
The next morning, the party gathered their gear to depart. They had lost the trail of the notorious thief, Zed Mandrake – their only clue a vague sighting to the south. The best plan they could devise was to head in that direction and pray they caught some wind of his trail. But, before they could depart Usum Casane asked them to speak with his master, Prose Willow. She entreated the party, as the only adventurers of any skill in the area to assist her with a matter of some concern.
Being devoted to the god of water, Banu, allowed the Arcleric Willow to see for many leagues across the sea, everywhere within the sea-god’s domain. But she had noticed a spot of blackness, a place her sight could not pierce. In return for the hunters’ aid she offered to seek the guidance of the gods in their quest, a perilous venture. The group agreed and they were soon making their way across the sunny bay in a magical raft made of shell and rock, propelled by Prose Willow’s faith. The cleric of Marrus, Lysander, discovered he had a tendency to sea-sickness on the journey, and was soon to ill to do much else beyond groan and hold his stomach.
At last they arrived at the spot – the ocean appeared no different than the miles of water they had crossed, but Willow insisted this was the correct location. She wrapped enchanted cords of beaded rope around their hands – the blessing of Banu would be theirs for a short time, allowing them to breathe beneath the waves.
The hunters sank into a new world – water and wave, and the sun shining through a glass ceiling. They found a few oddments, including a cow skull many miles from land. The sharp eyes of the group lead them into a narrow canyon of sand and rock, following the movements of some vicious troll-dogs. A strange system of roots seemed to be growing along the canyon walls, hidden by the sand. Following, they found their way into an underwater cavern, but filled with air. The roots were even more dense here, gray and thick. A vicious battle ensued, dealing with the vicious troll-dogs, an invisible imp, and the mad enchantments of a savage wizard who gibbered and howled threats of insanity.
After the battle they found signs of a crude campsite belonging to the dead wizard, and a cluster of dark roots and plant matter that seemed to be the source of the infestation. A node of organic red substance seemed to pulse with dire threat. The group took a few samples of the roots and returned back the way they had come – their ability to breathe underwater was soon to fade. Prose Willow greeted them and listened to their report with a serious mien — and informed them that the blackness was not gone, her vision was still limited by whatever grew in the undersea cavern.
The hunters returned to the Temple with more questions than answers…