Cult of the Crushing Wave
Cultists of the Crushing Wave worship the awesome power of water, from the surging tides and deadly maelstroms of the sea to the raging torrents of rivers in flood and the rock-crushing power of ice and glaciers. Crushing Wave cultists see all living creatures as nothing more than trapped water that could one day be free to return to the seas or skies in a new form. The seas and deep waters are eager to reclaim the parts of themselves currently held in the blood and bodies of living creatures, and it is the duty of Crushing Wave initiates to return nonbelievers to the primal waters by drowning them or shedding their blood.
The Crushing Wave cult appeals to those who live in or near bodies of water, as well as to those who appreciate subtlety and inevitability. Wicked sea creatures such as aquatic ghouls and merrows are friendly toward water cultists. Even non-sentient predators such as sharks or octopuses understand that water cultists are allies to be aided or masters to be obeyed.
The Sign of the Crushing Wave
Water cultists use a simple hand sign to identify one another when a token of recognition is required: crossing the forefingers and overlapping the thumbs to create an X-shape linked by a line across the bottom. It stands for waters eternal surge and retreat, a cycle of unending change.
Tactics and Philosophy
Crushing Wave cultists are almost as patient and stoic as the followers of the earth cult. They understand the value of outlasting formidable foes and slowly eroding their defenses. However, they are far more flexible and opportunistic in their overall philosophy than the earth cultists are. Like a flood that seeks the weak point in a levee and then bursts through with ever-growing strength, water cultists are quick to sense an opening and then act to exploit it. This philosophy of pragmatism and opportunism means that the Crushing Wave is the most mercenary of the four elemental cults. Water cultists eagerly seek out rich prizes and use their ill-gotten loot to develop their schemes.
In combat, Crushing Wave cultists excel as skirmishers. They value mobility and opportunism, rarely making a stand in one place for long. Instead, they feign retreats, regroup, and launch new attacks, wearing down their foes like storm-driven waves eating away at a sandy beach. Almost all water cultists are excellent swimmers skilled at fighting in water, so they look for opportunities to surprise their enemies by using bodies of water to slip around or through defenses.
Because the cultists see water as the wellspring of all life and purpose, they spend as much time in or around it as possible. Many cult hideouts are located near large bodies of water, and those that aren't feature hidden pools or wells in which cult members can immerse themselves. Water cultists prize water-breathing magic and seek it out for no other reason than to spend hours meditating underwater. Few cultists gain any profound insights from these exercises.
Prophet of Water
The former sailor Gar Shatterkeel leads the Crushing Wave cult. He wields the elemental weapon Drown, a trident imbued with the essence of Olhydra, Princess of Evil Water. Gar is a sullen man who says little, letting his actions speak for him. He believes he has been wronged by the world and hates all people except those as broken and unfortunate as himself. Gar also despises weakness in others.
Gar was born in a poor fishing village in the Nelanther Isles. At a young age, he lost his family to a sahuagin attack. The sea devils slaughtered almost everyone he knew. A Tethyrian merchant galley conscripted the young orphan into service, and Gar was forced into a brutal indentured servitude that was barely better than being enslaved. His unwilling service came to an end when pirates attacked the merchant ship. During the fighting, Gar was knocked overboard. For days he survived by clinging to the ships wreckage, until a shark ripped off his left arm. Death seemed imminent, but a powerful current arose and bore him away from the hungry predator. Within an hour he was cast upon the shores of the Sword Coast.
Gar believed that the current that had saved his life was an elemental sent by the sea. From that day forward, he devoted himself to the ocean, teaching himself its secrets and learning powerful water magic over years of lonely wandering. He despised all other people, remembering only his harsh treatment by the merchant crew and the brutality of the pirates. But in time he became aware of a call to a higher purpose, impelling him to find other examples of human flotsam and teach them about the power of the sea.
Gars visions led him to the secret waters beneath the Sumber Hills. He found a hidden cavern temple, on whose altar lay a powerful magical trident. Sensing its power, Gar took up the weapon and began to call his cult to join him in the Temple of the Crushing Wave.
Gar is covered in barnacles, and he wears an artificial arm in the shape of a crabs claw over the stump of his left arm. He never uses two words when one will do, and he believes that anyone addressing him with courtesy is either insincere or subtly mocking him. The water prophets primary motivation is retribution; the world has been cruel to him, and he intends to make everyone else suffer as he has. He longs to be near the ocean again and is distressed by the fact that the driving force behind his visions keeps him so far from the sea.
Enemies and Allies
The followers of the Crushing Wave detest the Cult of the Eternal Flame. They find the fire cultists to be hostile, short-tempered, and unforgivably rash. The Howling Hatred cultists aren't as hostile, but they are likewise given to sudden impulses and are unreliable. The water cultists get along with the Cult of the Black Earth. The earth cultists are deliberate and dependable, if perhaps too inflexible for their own good.