Our story opened on Sindar passing the time by trying to ascertain exactly how a baby mimic might learn a language, and experimenting with strategies to defeat its innate tendency to just eat the textbook instead. Zayn, meanwhile, returned to Tulesa to check in with the house staff and Falat. After speaking with her, Falat recommended that the House begin to raise a proper army to deal with the potential strife ahead, and Zayn approved.
As they prepared to leave the infested remains of Latpasa, Sindar gave Tarsus a fly extract to use in conjunction with an Ant Haul spell in order to slowly float the rest of the party back to the ship, bypassing the throngs of sand shamblers below. Returning to the group, Zayn used her bracelet to commune with Ahti Ato and inform her of their plans to head to Kaleska. While not telling Ahti exactly what they were looking for in Kaleska, Zayn did ask her for any help she could provide with a contact there. Ahti was able to provide little help, as the city’s leadership was in flux with their delegate at the Asad missing and presumed dead.
As morning broke, the party decided to make a stop at Chamber Valley to return the insanely dangerous Orb of Golden Dragonkind they had found to the only gold dragon they knew. Zaun gathered the group up and teleported them to the valley, only to be violently yanked out of the teleport before reaching their destination as they hit the magical barrier protecting the valley floor. They found themselves partway down the slope that held the shack from the original expedition by the Pelt family. Venturing to it, they found Robert Pinan in pretty bad shape. Looking closer when initial attempts to heal him failed, the group determined he must be under the influence of some sort of curse. Erring with caution, Finn used an exceptionally powerful version of his Remove Curse spell to push the evil from Robert. The man collapsed onto his hands and knees, retching violently for several seconds before puking up a live black serpent in a pool of dark bile. With a speed only panic can induce, Sindar loosed a bomb on the thing as everyone else was just beginning to register what they were seeing. The bomb, unfortunately, was poorly aimed and a bit too powerful for the shack to contain, blowing one wall completely clear of the structure. Nevertheless, even the incidental damage from the bomb was enough to destroy the vile creature. After a bit more healing magic, Robert seemed to be on his way to recovery from what must have been some remnant of his close contact with Sadeesh and Sayoni’s influence.
As the party moved farther along the slope, Guardian showed himself in greeting. After he learned that the party had cured Robert of what ailed him, Guardian deemed that he would remain outside the valley for a little longer, before being allowed to return and continue his work. Robert had shortly before been exiled to the cabin when he fell ill of the curse, and the keepers had been planning to kill him when the Watcher awakened again, rather than risk meddling with the magic and possibly contaminating a valley denizen. Over the course of their discussion, Guardian took the party to the Watcher’s grove. Tense minutes later, the Watcher made a grand entrance on the wing, shedding her dragon form as she landed for the graceful beauty of the elven features Finn had been dreaming of a bit too much lately.
As soon became apparent, the Watcher had taken a liking to Finn, returning his curiosity and interest. She mused that she might make him her consort, once the work ahead was finished. The party turned over the orb as they brought her up to date on their findings. She could not add much to what they already knew, but the Watcher did tell them that Skullsoul’s creation was tied to the same incident that bound Arkeles al Farrin to the endless dream to bind Sayoni in turn. If either Skullsoul or Sadeesh were threatened, Sayoni now had enough power to back them up considerably. As such, the Watcher recommended finding a way to threaten both at once. Force Sayoni to split her attention, and weaken her hold on both. Then one might be vulnerable long enough to score a victory. Once they recover Skullsoul, the Watcher counselled that their priority must be destroying it quickly. Sayoni will focus everything she has on finding an securing it again. Before the party left to teleport back to their ship, she gave one final warning: keep all of this from Arturo. If he is tempted to help, or tempted to enter the Shadowfell to rescue them, he will fail to resist the force Xazat can bring to bear in there. It would catastrophic for the entire world if Arturo Ducet finally became the leader of Xazat’s legions he was created to be.
Teleporting back to the ship, a loud crack caught their attention as a hurtling boulder the size of a goat carried away part of the deck railing. Out in the distance, a dune was engaged in a fight with Kando’s new party, having cornered them on the rock where they were to rendezvous with the group. The party leapt into action immediately, seriously worsening the odds for the giant as it began to gain the upper hand against the junior party. Seeing the fight turn against him, the dune giant called out. Seconds later, he was joined by a juvenile roc as the monstrous bird swooped in from a fast dive to snatch Tarsus off the sand and carry him high into the air. Tarsus manage to wriggle around in the grip of the massive talons enough to get his arm free, and summoned Dervish to his hand to strike a skyreaving blow against the underside of the roc. The pair tumbled out of the air and the bird crashed hard into the desert floor. Temporarily unable to fly, it charged back into the battle on foot.
Meanwhile, the giant began resorting to magic to win the contest, summoning a minor earthquake to even the field a bit. Both Tarsus and Kando fell into rifts as they yawned open, finding great trouble in climbing back to the surface. Finn’s summoned earth elemental went after Kando first, reasoning he had less chance of surviving on his own when the spell inevitably ended. Kando was quickly tossed back up to the surface from below, landing a bit hard and getting the wind knocked out of him, but still alive. As the elemental turned toward Tarsus, the spell ended and the rifts in the ground began to rumble closed. As the elemental struggled to free Tarsus, the rest of the combined parties concentrated on taking down the roc and then the giant, in turn. At last, the battle was finished as the earth elemental, nearing the limits of its endurance, finally managed to drag Tarsus to the surface.
In the aftermath, Kando explained that they had been ambushed near the Seachild, while waiting for the party to return. Finn asked Kando to return to Tulesa and take up work for the town guard hunting down infiltrators, closing the deal with a bit of negotiation with Kando’s party to ensure they could bear the loss of their inquisitor. Zayn teleported Kando’s party back to Tulesa, where she was accosted by Dingo with news from his “interviews” with the captured cultists. It seemed the Singed Halls, assumed to be Sadeesh and the Children of Ahriman’s headquarters, were likely not in Nadju. Their involuntary informants suggested the compound was further behind Khasifi borders, in Zacat.
Our story closed as, back on the Seachild, Finn began to wonder if his new ring of sustenance was functioning correctly with his new elven biology. It had been days since he had donned it, but the hunger in his belly just kept getting stronger. Was this the curse that did in the original elves?
The legislative delay while searching for missing Asad delegates has elapsed. A vote to officially declare the missing delegates dead has been called and passed, and the Asad has requested new delegates from their sovereigns before moving to a final vote on the future of the Empire in Riyaqa.