As the party exits the Gloomvale, Doval Tyrrenus brings to them a human man, middle-aged, and clearly a ranger. Tieran instantly recognizes him as Beren, a ranger with the group of mercenaries that raised him, and as such a close personal friend.
Beren is burdened by news he must deliver, and has much to tell the party. It seems that while the party was isolated and off adventuring in the Kyuri Marshlands and the Gloomvale, a new organization became active in Braeden Prairie (and Stormgarde City especially) calling itself the Cult of the Damned. They have been kidnapping people at random throughout the Braeden region, and authorities have been stymied as to what pattern the kidnappings might follow. The Helion Knights were clearly expected to enter the scene and take quick, decisive action. However, while they’re making a big show of defending the bigger cities such as Stormgarde City and Crestholme, the smaller towns and villages are left relatively unprotected. Supposedly the Mithril Aegis is deploying troops, but they won’t arrive en masse for some time, and the townships between Stormgarde City and Crestholme are especially in need of protection.
Adventurers, especially humans, are flocking to Braeden Prairie in order to protect it, but people are generally terrified, and local militias and town guards are searching many people for any signs they might be affiliated with the Cult. Another problem perhaps even bigger for the party in particular is that Kalden Thentral, whom the party has had a run-in with before, is stationed at Crestholme at the eastern end of the Braeden region, meaning the party would be able to simply travel west towards Braeden Prairie. Beren suggests the party travels to the Kyuri delta and the halfling port town of Kyrith, and then traveling to Stormgarde City by ship, thus avoiding Kalden Thentral altogether for now.
Beren cautiously adds that he came to his nephew to seek his help as well, but