Having found little in their investigation of the plague house, the party search the nearby streets for clues.
Amidst their search, Sam discovers a wounded drow in an alley. Initially suspicious of the party the stranger, named Temar (as the party would learn much later), is rescued by Orion when his wounds overcome him, forcing the druid to heal him. Thanking the adventurers, Temar agrees to answer their questions in private and is promptly lead to the plague house by Orion and Casper, the three men briefly encountering an unfamiliar minotaur along the way while Sam distracted guards.
Inside, Temar explains his complicated past as a thief in a distant city and the events that led him to wind up in Winterhaven. When the party is satisfied with his story and getting ready to leave, he offers to aid the adventurers in their investigations as payback for their help, which the group reluctantly accept.
Back at the Marigold Inn, a crime boss, Dratel, has taken Marigold hostage and is waiting to ambush the party. Revealing that he was alerted to the group’s activities after Vilnar started asking around about the strange crystals, the criminal has the party disarm in exchange for Marigold’s safety.
After briefly interrogating the party to learn their motives, Dratel has his masked thugs open fire on the adventurers. A bloody battle erupts in the inn, revealing Dratel’s true nature as a wererat, before the party emerge victorious, saving Marigold in the process.
Marigold leaves to fetch the guards, while the party question Dratel, who reveals his partnership with a cult who had him distribute the strange crystals throughout Winterhaven in exchange for bringing elves, such as Vilnar, to a ford north of town, though he didn’t know what happened to them.
Sam executes the crime boss shortly before Marigold returns with Elnór and a company of guards. Hearing their latest information, Captain Agerond agrees to lead the party to the ford when they are ready, before Orion examines one of Dratel’s thugs, revealed to be a cultist.
The Bluestream Ford: Part I: The Crone’s Bargain
Two days later, Sam and Orion are having a heart to heart when the druid casually mentions his encounter with the new minotaur. Uncharacteristically concerned, Sam demands to know what happened, before warning Orion to stay away from the man, claiming he is dangerous, but refusing to say more until the party is all together.
Several hours go by, Temar joining the pair in the interim, as the party waits for Casper.
Growing impatient, Orion volunteers to check on the half-elf, whom he finds bloody and exhausted in his room. Casper reveals that the night prior he had attempted to scout the ford, finding goblins skittering around, before being knocked out.
Deeming Casper in need of more rest, the party temporarily delay their trip, deciding to visit the Hall of Scholars to learn more about goblins and any historical information on the cult.
Along the way, Orion becomes incensed when he discovers the party is being followed by a strange creature, but when it darts away Temar calms the boy and urges the party forward towards their destination.
At the Hall, the party struggle to uncover any additional information about the cult, but Temar is able to learn that goblins are typically cowed into the service of greater beasts, which both enlightens and frustrates the group.
As the trio discuss what to do next, they are interrupted by the sudden arrival of Casper, claiming to be ready to leave. Though Casper is clearly still tired, the party reluctantly agree to travel to the ford.
Traveling back to the inn, the party find Captain Agerond who helps to guide the party to their objective.
Several hours later, the party arrive, finding the bucket Dratel spoke of, filled with the strange crystals, and anchored to a rock beneath the water.
Diving below, Orion finds a tunnel near the anchor point and after some discussion its agreed that he will investigate the cavern.
Shifting into a crocodile, Orion has Temar secure a rope around him, to aid in the party’s swim, before diving into and eventually entering the dark tunnel.
A brief time later, the crocodile emerges in a dimly lit cavern, illuminated by a blue glow and stinking of decaying fish. After signaling the group, the party, minus Elnór, rejoin their ally then set about exploring the cave system.
Glowing blue crystals permeate the twisting caverns, before the party step into a large chamber. Still in his crocodile form, Orion searches the area, venturing towards a deep pool where he discovers, to his horror, the mutilated corpses of elves.
Peering deeper into the water, Orion looks for any hint of Vilnar, but is interrupted as the eyes of the nearest elf snaps open.
The mutilated elves, twisted by black magic into monstrous aquatic thralls, attack the party, first attempting to crush the crocodile in a vice like hug. The adventurers rush to Orion’s aid battling the thralls, but are interrupted by the appearance of more of the creatures. Surrounded, the party battle the creatures as they are pummeled and shot with poisonous quills, eventually emerging victorious, though they all had suffered minor injuries.
Continuing their search, Sam discovers a pair of locked doors built into the cave walls, hearing muffled voices beyond, though they go silent when she calls to them. Temar picks the lock, revealing a dark curving tunnel beyond.
Following the tunnel, the party is confronted by the terrified form of a filthy elf that Orion recognizes as Vilnar, his eyes seemingly having been plucked out, now wrapped in bandages.
The party calm Vilnar, who warns them of a woman who burrows into his mind, afraid that she might be close. As they try to guide him out, he resists informing them of another captive, Tenýa, whom the party shortly after discover, her ears mutilated. Leaving, the party make the sick connection between the elves and the thralls.
Unsure whether the elves can make the icy swim, Orion, Casper and Temar search for another way out while Sam guards their charges.
Exploring the cave, the men eventually find themselves in a strange chamber, dominated by shelves of strange reagents and a purplish egg-shaped cauldron, bubbling with a strange liquid.
In his exhausted state, Casper senses magical energies, before Orion inadvertently finds a magical jug. As the half-elf examines the item, the group is interrupted by the raspy voice of an old woman.
Staring hungrily at Orion, the crone demands to know what the party is doing in her home, but the party ignore her, Orion demanding to know if she is the one behind the plague in Winterhaven. She denies this, claiming no connection to such a “horrific thing”, but when Orion reluctantly giver her his name and questions whether she is behind the appearance of the crystals, she proudly admits that she is.
Orion demanded to know why, but the crone, calling herself Orphelia Damphair, simply claimed many came to make deals with her. Orphelia wondered if the men had come to bargain, but Orion angrily claimed there was nothing she could offer him. Smiling, she claimed to be in possession of many magical items, which tempted even the druid.
Continuing to speak with the crone, the party learned that she had asked for elves in exchange for the altered crystals, prompting Temar to demand why. Orphelia cooed that it was for her own pleasure.
Turning back to the group, the woman offered to reveal the source behind the cult should the adventurers complete a task for her; the delivery of a ring to the city of Golgatha. The woman looked at each man, offering to share anything they wanted, should they only make a deal. Orion, bowed his head in shame, while Temar restrained himself and Casper openly considered the deal.
Meanwhile, Sam waiting in the main chamber noticed beneath her feet a trail of garbage and filth leading from one end of the cavern to the other.
Back in the cauldron room, Orion, conflicted, turned to Temar, placing his hand on the elf’s shoulder. “I’m sorry,” the druid said sadly, before shifting into a dark furred brown bear and leaping at the hag…