Having overcome the obstacles of a long-lost elven observatory, the party runs afoul of a hydra lurking within the flooded telescope chamber.
The beast lashes out at Nylah, Rorik, and Mye-kuhl Jancer with its three heads, snapping at them with the ferocity of a half-starved animal. It's still waking up however, and doesn't prove very effective, only catching Rorik as he leaps to join Jancer beside the telescope. Nylah dives under the water to escape the creature, casting 'Invisibility' to sneak-swim to the stairs to join her comrades as the hydra strikes again.
Jimothy Jones, intent on not losing yet another animal friend, puts Piper down at a safe distance and charges in, leaping onto the distracted hydra's back. The goliath tries using one of its necks as a ramp, but slips on the wet scales and barely catches himself by digging the fingers of his gauntlet into the beast's hide. Elspeth rushes in after him, beating at the neck with such precision that she actually manages to kill it. Unfortunately, this causes the limp neck to slam into and collapse the platform beneath her, dropping both her and Jimothy into the stagnant pool below.
Jancer recalls that hydras are magical creatures, spawned of the blood of a dragon god who was slain by Tiamat during her attempt to consolidate all draconic divinity within herself (an effort foiled when her brother, Bahamut, allied with gods like Torm and Ilmater). He also remembers that hydras regenerate—if one of a hydra's heads is slain, two others will grow to take its place! He tells his comrades (especially Rorik), and lobs a 'Fire Bolt' to prevent this from happening.
Nylah leaps into the water to rescue Elspeth as the heavily-armored dwarf sinks like an anvil. With a little inspiration from Wave, she is able to pull the unconscious scout out, but the hydra suddenly attacks her while her back is turned. Algernon lifts off from the bard's shoulder and unleashes a cloud of fishy-smelling repulsion gas right into the monster's face!
Brublind casts 'Fly' on himself and pours out the rest of his bag of Dust of Dryness into the flooded portion of the room, soaking up nearly ALL of it! As the hydra rears back from Algernon's breath, Rorik double taps it with a slice from his longsword and an 'Eldritch Blast'; Mye-kuhl Jancer joins in with a few slashes of the old githyanki silver sword for good measure.
Nylah gives Algernon a quick scritch of appreciation, telling him how proud she is before giving Elspeth a CPR kiss. The dwarf regains consciousness, and she gives Nylah a hug before pointing out that "there's time enough for all this later—we've a beastie that needs killin'." Wave exuberantly agrees!
The dwarf runs in and gives Jimothy the distraction he needed to bait the hydra into biting him. The paladin grabs a hold of its jaws and forces himself down its gullet through sheer strength, but not before Brublind is able to cast 'Haste' on him. Elspeth is pretty horrified.
Nylah gets behind the hydra and thrusts Wave into "one starfish I hope never to see again" as the trident proclaims loud and proud, "From hell's heart I stab at thee!" The beast yelps and tries biting the tiefling, but ends up biting its own ass. Before it can recover, Jancer points his silver sword at it and lets loose a 'Lightning Bolt'.
Inside the hydra, Jimothy has worked his way to the stomach and is busy laying down a flurry of 'Hasted' blows as acid begins eating away at his armor. Suddenly, the muscles around him clench, and a burst of electricity pulses through the creature, hitting the paladin as well. He endures the pain and continues his task, just knowing that Piper is cheering him on from outside.
Rorik slices off another head, but as Jancer tries to cauterize the wound, he misses, and inadvertently hits Elspeth, causing her to have flashbacks to another incident. Meanwhile, from up above, Brublind casts 'Reduce' on the hydra. It lets out a yelp as its body instantaneously shrinks and then…
Jimothy bursts out of the shrunken hydra, leaving him standing in a shower of gore. Piper comes flying down and begins grooming him, trying to clean off the blood. The paladin pets her lovingly.
Both Nylah and the paladin go over to Elspeth and help alleviate her burns, while Jancer apologizes profusely, telling the dwarf that he knows she's strong enough to "shake it off." Rorik downs Jancer's Potion of Healing and copies the ceiling etchings, while Brublind scavenges anything he can from the hydra's body.
The following morning, the party find Pleedleplop talking with Choke and Stroke, who they learn are interested in purchasing Sporp's elephant, Mr. Meat Mountain, to help rebuild the carnival's menagerie. Rorik explains to Sporp that the carnival has the resources and know-how to give his pet a better life than they could, and it is agreed upon to sell the elephant for 500gp. Nylah is also able to convince the strongmen to accept Sporp as part of their carnie family, allowing him full access to the elephant. The myconid rides Mr. Meat Mountain one last time as they head down to the carnival grounds.
Jancer asks Pleedleplop if he's seen the Prince of Tindomeel around, but the kuo-toa hasn't seen hide nor hair of him since the party a few nights back. Jancer figures he's off getting funky with some illusory elf girl, "It's as good as the real thing after all, right?"
Jancer and Rorik also share the etchings from the elven observatory with Saladesh, who's dusty mind is jogged by the words of his people. He recalls that one of the Dukes who helped create the Rod of Seven Parts had a pet air elemental named Euroclydon. After its master's death, Euroclydon was driven mad and fled with the only memento it had left: a segment of the Rod. Both Jancer and Rorik have heard of a so-called "living hurricane" that haunts the sea to the south, and agree that this would be a good place to start looking.
Nylah notices that Shaela isn't around either, and goes into town to look for her drow protege. The bard finds her sitting pretty in a jail cell.
Back on the ship, Jimothy Jones is awoken by knocking at his cabin door. Elspeth enters nervously as the goliath (naked save for his helmet, his privates covered by a fur blanket as he reclines on the bed; nearby, Piper eats a banana) asks her how he can help her. The dwarf thanks him for healing her once again, and for always being there to protect their companions from harm. Jimothy tells her that it is his duty as a servant of Ilmater to take such suffering onto himself. Elspeth admires that level of selflessness, and kneels at Jimothy's feet, asking him if he will teach her in the ways of the paladin, that she too might stand as a bulwark against evil. Jimothy agrees! Piper claps excitedly, and flies over to give the dwarf a hug.
Jaraltanth approaches Brublind, telling the transmuter that from the moment he laid eyes on him, he recognized him. Brublind nervously says, "Oh?", casting 'Shillelagh' on the quarterstaff held behind his back just in case. Jaraltanth suddenly reaches into his pocket and pulls something out, the startled Brublind almost thwacks the gnome in the head, but notices that Jaraltanth has only produced pen and paper. As it turn out, he's a real big fan of Clan Kofir, the famous line of dwarven masons from which Brublind hails, and hopes that they can exchange info.
"I would be absolutely delighted to learn from a Kofiri master, and I am certain that I can teach you a thing or two, oh yes, yes, yes!"
Brublind is alright with that, and explains that he's actually heard of Jaraltanth's engineering prowess, and would appreciate the tinker's help in some plans that he himself has for the future: plans to help rebuild the kuo-toa city of Slooblidoop.
Meanwhile, Nylah and Jancer learn from Maltravakis that Shaela was arrested after an altercation between her and Tobin Shanks on the night of the party. The specifics the captain does not yet know, and both sides have pointed fingers at the other as the aggressor. Nylah and Jancer agree to help him get down to the bottom of things.
First they talk to Shaela, who tells them that she was walking along in a dark alley when Tobin attacked her, stabbing her in the side before she disarmed him and started slashing back. "Hah! The miserable iblith really thought he could overpower a drow. Adorable…" She goes on to say that, were they still in the Underdark, the guardsman would be the only one risking punishment for such a display of weakness, and she'd have been thanked for killing him.
Tobin tells them that he was only defending himself. According to him, he and a lady friend went into a dark alley for some privacy when "that filthy dark elf" suddenly emerged from the shadows and began goading him on. She said that she could do anything to him, even kill him, and get away with it, then drew her knife and sliced his cheek open. He retaliated in order to protect himself and his companion from "the witch's predations". Jancer asks about the crossbow wound on his shoulder, but Tobin can't remember exactly when that happened, nor can he seem to remember the face of the woman he was with ("I might've been… a tad bit drunk.").
After some deliberation over these stories, Nylah suddenly realizes exactly what went down that night:
A drunk Tobin was standing guard when he was suddenly approached by a beautiful girl—none-other than Shaela herself. They went off to have dirty alley sex, and Shaela started insulting Tobin. Nylah points out, however, that insults, threats, and degradation are basically the equivalent of dirty talk to a drow. Things might've gotten frisky because Tobin took things wrong, but Shaela was just having fun the only way she knows how.
Tobin denies these accusations, while Shaela plays coy, giving Nylah little more than a sly smile. The party explain the situation to Maltravakis, who releases the priestess after they promise to keep a closer eye on her in the future. Nylah says she'll punish Shaela herself (wink wink).
Up in Grekas's tower, Rorik shows himself into the library to do some research on the application of soul gems, as well as a book about "exotic body exercises" that Nylah suggested to him. He finds both subjects quite fascinating, taking ample notes. He also looks into beings who obtained knowledge through means other than reading, finding pertinent information on five such individuals:
- Iggwilv – adopted daughter of Baba Yaga, former member of the Company of Seven, and author of the Demonomicon of Iggwilv, which she wrote using information gleaned from demon lords, especially Fraz-Urb'luu and Graz'zt.
- Shemeshka the Marauder – fiendish socialite, spymaster, and information broker based in the extraplanar city of Sigil, sitting at the center of a vast web of debt, intrigue, and blackmail that has made her very, very rich.
- Kostchtchie – barbarian conqueror-turned-demon lord who sought the secret to immortality and found it in Baba Yaga, who granted him eternal life. This "gift" proved more a curse than anything however, and now he seeks a way to die once and for all.
- Vecna – ancient lich who used long-lost magic to try and seize divinity for themselves, but were betrayed at the moment of their final victory and destroyed. It is said that Vecna's mind still lives, and some offer secrets in exchange for a glimpse of its knowledge.
- Diancastra – giant goddess famous for her many exploits to gain knowledge and power, including out-partying the Seldarine to learn the music of the fey, stealing from the undersea palace of Blibdoolpoolp, and making Deep Sashelas consider monogamy. Rorik recognizes this as Nylah's goddess.
The next morning, Pleedleplop asks the party about finally arranging a funeral for Roland Leopold and Krog, as the 'Gentle Repose' spell cast on their bodies is due to expire soon. He also heard from Choke & Stroke that the carnies are planning on memorializing Scaly tonight, and thinks that they should all just do one big get-together.
Jancer is relatively familiar with most funerary rites, but double-checks the tome taken from the orc necromancer (a follower of Yurtrus, the orcish god of the dead) to figure out what to do with Krog. As it turns out, orcs eat the bodies of their fallen in an elaborate feast where tales are told of the departed's life. He also learns that the nasty hand necklace he took from the necromancer's corpse is actually a crawling claw!
While the necrodancer does that, Nylah takes Krog's "diary" out of her cleavage, and decides to read through it properly:
Nylah learns that, before being captured by the drow, Krog took part in a raid on a mountain town and was separated from his kinsmen. The orc found shelter in a cabin after strangling its sleeping occupant, but was driven into a cave by an angry mob before too long, running away rather making one last stand. He got lost in the caves and wandered into the Underdark in his desperate bid to escape.
Krog believed he would die down there, forever a coward in the eyes of his gods, which is why he became so attached to Nylah when the tiefling saved him and swore to sing of his deeds. When Jimothy defeated him and then went off to the mines with Nylah, it seems Krog went into full panic mode, thinking he'd lost the bard forever, and vowed to make the goliath pay for humiliating him. It seems that he died before enacting any kind of revenge scheme though.
In the mean time, Brublind builds a small boat to carry Roland's body, and decorates it with symbols of the Leopold family, while Jimothy finds Cripple Talth, and convinces the monk to conduct the funeral for the party.
That night, the entire party, as well as Maltravakis (who begrudgingly attends because "it would be negligent of my duties to do otherwise"), head down to the carnival grounds. They find the carnies assembled in the beer tent (Whiskers is conspicuously absent after his near-brush with death). Flower-ringed portraits of Scaly, Krog, and Roland are set up beside a pulpit where Talth stands.
First, the carnies remember Scaly before dipping the kobold's body into a vat of his own frying grease and setting him up as a new exhibit ("Hey, we're tight on cash here").
Next up, Nylah tosses Krog's body on the grill, using magic to give the orc's meat a special kick as she dishes it out to the assembled mourners (Elspeth, Jimothy, Ridak, and Shaela do not partake). Everyone tells tales of Krog as they chow down: how Brublind enlarged the orc, who then made certain their escape from the drow; how he tossed Pleedleplop up a cliff to save Sporp from hook horrors; how he dared touch Saladesh and nearly turned to dust; and how he personally slew two githyanki to help Nylah claim Algernon before falling in battle himself.
And last but not least, they place Roland Leopold in the boat that Brublind made. Sporp puts the fake xvart moustache onto him, while Pleedleplop takes off his shell necklace and places it around Roland's neck, praying that "the Sea Mother accept with open arms Roland Leopold, who restored my faith in her when the depths of my mind were murky and uncertain." They send their old friend off as Nylah and Ridak play a dirge on the harp and trumpet. Jancer sets the boat alight with a 'Fire Bolt' as it disappears downriver.
The next morning, Brublind tells his companions that he's parting ways with them. The dangers of the Underdark and his temporary death have given the transmuter some much-needed perspective, and he wants to do some good with his masonry skills—to atone for old sins and at least try to repair the damage he did to the name of Clan Kofir.
Jimothy is glad to hear that Brublind has turned his suffering into something noble, and the dwarf thanks both the paladin and Nylah for saving his life. Pleedleplop thanks him for going to help the kuo-toan people, and promises not to fail in his own quest to stop Demogorgon. Elspeth gives Brublind a hug and a kiss on the cheek for luck, and jokingly regrets that he never got to see what a "bonny lass" she is with a beard. He glares at Shaela Vae as he passes her, still sore over the whole "enslaving" and "torture" thing. Sporp commands the transmuter to stay, but Brublind pats the little guy on the cap and departs.