The party awoke from their second strange dream sequence safely back in their rooms at the Cat’s Cradle. Linny was still very distraught but managed to pull herself together enough to head downstairs with the rest of the gang. Vincent was already at the bar, smoking his pipe and criticizing the group for being late to rise. He suggested that they go for supplies before leaving for the island, so they headed over to the town’s general store and found that, much to the dismay of Ye’Kan, it was run by yet another ones of Hughes’ brothers named Stu. The bard spent most of the shopping trip with his head in his hands while Gaius egged the shopkeeper on and the rest of the group picked up some potions and a wheel of cheese. Now fully prepared to head to the mysterious island to acquire the polar bear tail that both Camilla and Vincent desired, they boarded the Icarus Two airship and ascended into the sky.
On board, Ye’Kan continued to try to impress Vincent with sailor talk, Linny explored the bowels of the ship and found Vincent’s diary, and Gaius and Osborne took note of two mounted crossbows on either side of the deck. Just as they began to see the island come into view below, eight flying spined devils emerged from the clouds and attacked the ship. Gaius smashed one that landed with his maul, but the fiery splash damage from the blow caused one of the cables holding the ship together to snap. The young paladin was thrown overboard and nearly fell to his doom, just barely managing to grab on to the hull at the last second. Thankfully Linny cast Mending on the broken cable and righted the ship, allowing the rest of the group to finish off the devils and eventually land safely on the island.
Now back on solid ground, the party gathered their things and prepared for their polar bear hunt. Vincent informed them he would be staying on the ship, which ruffled some feathers but he was quick to point out that he had never promised to go with them and that he was their only way back so they better deal with it. He also warned them of rumors about a dangerous cult that lived somewhere on the island. They stepped out and found that they were far from a tropical paradise — a heavy fog hung low, all of the trees were dying, and the ground appeared rotted. The copper smell they had sensed when first arriving back in Almamoon also filled the air as they began their trek. The island was relatively small so they hadn’t been walking for very long when they spied a strangely colored bush that did not fit in with any of the other local flora. Upon investigating they discovered that the bush was hiding a cellar door that led underground. Osborne carefully lifted it open and the adventurers headed inside.
The first room was filled with broken tables and barrels, though Gaius was able to find one wine barrel that was still intact and quickly filled his waterskin. A long black carpet formed a path that led to the next door, and along the ground were mysterious symbols painted with blood. The party checked Leon’s journal for any hints about these symbols and found nothing, but Linny remembered from her studies that this symbol had something to do with a cult that believed they could splice themselves with animals. The symbols appeared again and again as the group moved through a series of empty rooms and hallways, with Gaius and Osborne stepping through and smearing a few of them as they went. Eventually they snuck up on three cultists with bloody pet tigers and panthers and attacked. During the battle, Gaius and Osborne felt random sharp pains as they fought that didn’t do very much damage but were strange nonetheless. The group vanquished all but the last man, whom Ye’Kan cast Charm Person on to get more information.
The charmed cultist introduced himself as Ezekiel and said that his cult was indeed conducting experiments to splice people and animals into single beings. He noticed a smeared blood symbol on the ground and said that whoever had done that now had a blood curse that would hurt them slowly over time until it wore off, which explained what was happening to Gaius and Osborne. He also said his leader Ozymandias was off worshiping in a nearby room and that there was more “prizes” behind a locked door in this room. Ezekiel fetched the key for them and Ye’Kan sent him away to guard the cellar door they had entered from.
Through the locked door they passed a hallway with magic force traps that the usually dexterous Osborne and Ye’Kan had trouble getting over in a repeat performance of the chain climbing incident. That hallway led into a room with a large blood symbol painted on the floor, a piano, four cultists and their pets, and two men on tables who had been cut open and had their organs rearranged with animal parts. The cultists and their beasts were defeated while Gaius and Osborne continued to be hurt by their curse, but the men on the table were unable to be saved. They noticed that the piano had a riddle carved into the side that could only be solved by playing specific keys in order, and after a lengthy brainstorming session they were able to hit the right notes and the piano opened up. Inside was a tattered black cloak with black necromantic mist swirling around the bottom that Gaius claimed for his own. Feeling dangerous in his new attire, the paladin summoned his black spectral steed Francine to complete the ensemble.
The four adventurers plus horse moved through a few more hallways, with blood stains and corpses becoming more plentiful as they went. Finally they entered a small room with a cage in one corner. Inside they saw a man who appeared to have been cut open down the middle and then hastily sewn back together, with a few random tufts of fur growing along his back. He was moaning in pain and asked the group to help him. As they unlocked his cage he said his name was Charles and that he had been kidnapped from his home in Castaway Cove and brought here to be experimented on by the cultists. He started to explain that there were sewers beyond this room but before he could get very far he began heaving and writhing in agony. His body started twisting and transforming into something, so the party pushed him back into the cage. Linny and Francine pushed against the bars to hold him in as he changed into a giant polar werebear that now occupied almost the entirety of his cell.
Charles the Polar Werebear pushed back against them as Osborne quickly dashed up to re-lock the door and Ye’Kan reached between the bars to cast Bestow Curse and make it difficult for the monster to move. He swiped at the bars of the cell, eventually breaking it wide open and setting himself free. He had difficulty fighting back against the curse and also caught on fire thanks to a Searing Smite from Gaius. He was eventually able to break both spells and was furious at that point, so he picked up Francine by legs and threw the horse at Ye’Kan and Gaius and trapped them under the animal’s weight. Linny was able to deliver the killing blow with her Spiritual Weapon spell before the werebear could inflict any further damage, however, and the gnome cut off the beast’s tail to fulfill Camilla the hag’s request. Beaten and bloodied from such a frightening encounter, the party took a moment to regroup and ponder their next move. The sewers were ahead, the cult leader Ozymandias was back the way they came, and a choice between giving the polar bear tail to either Camilla or Vincent loomed large.