Yuletide has passed. Illyria wakes up in her bed in the Rising Giant inn and stumbles down to the bar for her usual breakfast – two straight whiskies. In a corner is slumped a grey-bearded man, dead to the world.
Outside, in the Witchwoods (for this is where the refugees from North Arnest have settled alongside the orcs and built the Rising Giant as a social centre), Sal is dancing. Or so it would appear, to anyone unfamiliar with the martial art she is practising. Krom and Drum come across her, and after some bemusement they invite her back to the clan settlement.
Indeed the entire party gathers to discuss the next move against the enemy. (Illyria is last to arrive, bringing with her the grey-bearded stranger, who turns out to be Father Miguel, and two exploitatively-priced bottles of whisky.) The meeting is chaired by Joaquin, the manticore from the ruined castle, who has assumed a position of leadership in the community.
The shadow of wings precedes the arrival on owlback of Killiar, noted warrior and prick from the elven community of Not!Lothlorien. He has been scouting, and can report that the enemy horde, more than 3000 strong, is moving steadily southwards towards the capital, Theria. Mortimer’s scrying gives him a vision of Clausis, south of Theria, preparing to move north with her force of 30 undead mages.
After some discussion, it is decided that the party should go to Theria with all due dispatch, to aid in the defence. If the capital falls, Arnest will doubtless fall. But how to get there before the enemy?
The party decides on a two-pronged approach. A bird will be sent to Not!Lothlorien, requesting more owls to be sent to the Witchwood, to allow an airborne journey. Meanwhile, a representative will fly with Killiar to Theria, in an attempt to obtain the sigil sequence for the teleport circle in the capital. This would allow travel via the portable teleport circle inside the chest that the party looted from the Tomb of Horrors. Killiar insists that he can only take one person with him, as the owl cannot carry more, and he will land a safe distance from the city walls.
Now the obvious person to send to Theria would be Jonathan – as a King’s Man, he can gain access to the court, report on the situation, and request the sigil sequence. Unfortunately, he is now a halfling, so that isn’t going to work. He does, however, write up a detailed report (as is his wont) to be delivered to the King.
Instead, Jack will go to the capital, assuming Jonathan’s original form as and when required. Mortimer manages to persuade Killiar that there is room on the owl for him as well – he is only small – and the three set off.
The rest of the party agree that it would be a good idea to launch some skirmish attacks on the enemy while all this flying is going on, and so Krom, Sal, Lubash, Illyria, Tuakiin and Father Miguel ride westward out of the woods. They come upon a group of about twenty goblins and as many wargs, and manage to sneak up close to them before attacking.
Illyria goes straight for the goblin leader, charging through the goblin troops and disembowelling him with her glaive. Several goblins slash at her as she passes – all dropping dead from the freezing shock of her Armour of Agathys. Sal joins her, smashing into the goblins with rapid unarmed blows. The two women proceed to wipe out the goblins with a flurry of attacks, helped by the goblins’ collective failure to grasp that hitting Illyria means certain death.
The rest of the party engages with the wargs. They prove to be vicious foes, far tougher and deadlier than their goblin masters. Eventually they manage to destroy all of the creatures, but not before Father Miguel is struck down and killed.
At about the same time, the owl lands outside Theria and Killiar deposits Jack and Mortimer. Jack assumes Jonathan’s appearance, and the pair make their way to the palace, where they are stopped by guards. Jack easily bluffs his way past them, but once inside they have to get past a second set of guards. These ones regard their insistence on seeing the King with a healthy scepticism, who point out that Jonathan would be wearing his official ring if he were really a King’s Man. Jack quickly manages to produce an illusory ring, but it takes an enchantment by Mortimer before the guards will finally consent to letting them speak, not to the King, but to his Vizier.
They hand over Jonathan’s report to the Vizier, and at this point Jack’s Archfey patron decides that now would be a highly amusing time for Jack’s disguise to end. Awkward. The Vizier runs off to get the guards, but on his return Jack is sitting on his seat, feet up, smoking a fine cigar. Despite all this, they are able to persuade the Vizier to trust them by telling him secrets only his son would know (such as that he hated him), and telling him of his son’s heroic death. Moved by this, the Vizier agrees to allow them to meet the King.
The King is not in the best of health, and is accompanied by his Wizard in Chief. The wizard detects the pair’s thoughts while Mortimer speaks eloquently, persuading the King to go along with their plan.
Back in the Witchwood, the teleport circle activates. The party travel through it, and join Jack and Mortimer in audience with the King. He gives a splendid speech about how they are going to work together to win this war, and begins introducing newfound allies, defectors from the Red Hand who should turn the tide of the war.
First, the battlemage Jenneth of the westerlands, who has been training Theria’s troops in magical combat.
Second, the wizard Ella Mondath, former lieutenant of the enemy and commander at the Cavern Fortress.
Finally, the man who created and commands the Harrowblades, corrupted dragon-beings that will now fight on the side of Arnest. It is Javier Asturro. The man who killed Tuakiin’s mother. The man that Tuakiin is sworn to kill.