Our story opened as the party consolidated their position on the small island in Port Miller’s harbor, preparing for imminent attack from their unseen and unwanted guest. Dirt shuffled near the spot where the book lay closed on the ground, and Finn responded with Invisibility Purge. As the sphere of shimmering power expanded around him, it blasted away the shroud of magic obscuring the 9 foot tall beastial shadow looming over them, and the nightmarish thing attacked. War joined in the effort with the party to vanquish this foe. His skills were considerable, though he had trouble integrating with the tactics and timing of the rest of the group. Unable to retreat for fear of losing the book to the interloper, the party pressed forward. Tarsus did his best to stay front and center, absorbing everything he could from the beast. Tremendous injuries were heaped upon him as the thing tore into him with fervor, severing tendons and cracking bones, bleeding the man’s very strength from him. Just as it seemed the thing would be able to hold its position long enough to steal away the tome, the group managed to turn the tide, doing enough damage to distract and enrage the thing. But trading blows with the party of heroes proved an error in judgement, soon costing the nightshade its life on this plane.
After a brief break to collect themselves and figure out how to make Tarsus combat-effective again, the group set out for Port Miller College to rendezvous with Willie and officially send him to his next assignment. The had expected to find the college in the midst of preparations to withdraw from Riyaqa, following an update from the IGG office in Gol Asad. What they found was a campus completely abandoned, except for a bewildered Willie that they found wandering the darkened halls. Spreading out a bit to search the place more effectively, the group eventually came across some puzzling conditions in the Rector’s office. A bit of checking around revealed a message left in a not very obvious place. Reading it carefully, Sindar realized it had been written using the same code he often used in his own messages to the guild. It pointed the way to a group of researchers still hiding on the campus. Finding them in the special projects lab, the party got an update from Autumn, Sindar’s supervisor within the IGG. The rest of the campus personnel had already gone, including Rinn. Only a small team was left behind to finish tying up loose ends, including making contact with Sindar. Facing his refusal to leave the continent until his tasks were complete, Autumn placed Sindar on administrative leave from the guild, to expire upon his return to Farwater. She took supervisory custody of Willie, and sent Sindar on his way after taking his reports and updates. With their business in Port Miller complete, the group teleported back to Tulesa to rest for the night.
The next morning, Finn and Zayn spent considerable effort working on Finn’s non-denominational chapel. Zayn had a conversation with Falat to order that house troops refrain from public worship that might be divisive to other worshippers in the fledgling city. While talking with the newly resurrected Hana Daea, Finn discovered that things weren’t going that well between her and her son, Kando. No longer adventuring with Finn, Kando had decided to sign up for work at the new explorers’ guild in town, worrying Hana about the path her son was taking in life. Going after him, Finn discovered that Kando had signed up for work using Finn’s last name, Dennison, instead of his own. He discovered Kando’s group had headed out north the day before to escort some researchers to a remote site., on a job funded by Mehra Rabadi of Herlish. After that, they were due to head to Latpasa to try and recover arms and armor from the abandoned garrisons there. Learning this, Sindar spent the rest of the day preparing fuel for the SeaChild as the rest of the group made final preparations to depart that evening. A Sending spell between Finn and Kando gave them a rough bearing north of Tulesa, and they were off.
Late in the morning the next day, SeaChild was stopped for a fuel cell change when the party spotted a humanoid form floating along far in the distance. On impulse, they used a mirror to signal to the figure, which responded in kind and approached. Upon his arrival, the man introduced himself as Alexander Selkirk, Imperial wizard at large and non-active member of the Grand Council. He claimed to be on a search for various kinds of information about rumored devices of great power hidden throughout Riyaqa, and was on the trail of a “hidden city” in the desert. After some questioning back and forth, they group came to the realization that the hidden city he searched for was their own Tulesa, and the devices he sought were the arcane cores they had encountered themselves. Not wanting to hand the keys to the shop to a stranger, but intrigued at the possibilities of Selkirk’s assistance, the group struck a deal with him. They offered the location of Aridesa and it’s hidden crypt, asking him to explore and investigate the premises. If he could determine what had happened there that flushed most of its populace in the direction of Tulesa, and help determine the whereabouts of Oxyr and the Blazing Sun artifact, they would help him find Tulesa. Selkirk thanked them for the information and departed in the direction of Aridesa.
As the SeaChild continued on, Finn completed another Sending with Kando, learning that his party’s first mission was scrubbed after losing the researchers to a sand devil ambush. They were now on their way directly to Latpasa. SeaChild turned toward Latpasa itself, intending to meet them there. The remaining journey took them another two and a half days. Somewhere far to the south, Speaker Raha Delina was summoning the Asad this morning to an historic vote that, one way or another, would change the course of many thousands of lives.
Arriving at the edge of Latpasa, the group encountered its legendary gatehouses on the plains of scrubgrass surrounding the city. The wall and gatehouses looked serene in their abandonment. Using Dimension Door to hop atop the wall, the party found a different story within the walls. The streets were alternately empty and littered with swarms of sand shamblers as their gaze passed across the city. A half dozen such swarms lay between them and the likely location of the access to Latpasa’s core- the Queen’s Keep near the center of the city. A nervous run through the street accompanied by liberal use of Dimension Door quickly saw the group to the roof of the keep. Using a grapnel to cover the last of the distance to the tower roof, the party was briefly engaged by a few straggler shamblers- likely the remnants of keep guards.
The story closed as the party slowly and cautiously made their way down through the tower floors. Individual shamblers were very nearly trivial encounters for any one of the heroes by now, but getting caught by surprise could still be dangerous.
The legislative delay while searching for missing Asad delegates has elapsed. Presumably, a vote has been called on the issue of naming new delegates and moving forward with a resolution for the Empire’s offer, but the results are unknown.