As the King presents Javier Asturo, Tuakiin surreptitiously asks Mortimer to get him out of here. This Mortimer does, no questions asked, quickly Dimension Dooring back into the Vizier’s office before Javier spots Tuakiin.
Or that’s what he tries to do, anyway. Unfortunately for Mortimer and Tuakiin, the Vizier’s office is magically warded against this form of entry, and the are instead transported to rocky ground outside of the city. About 200 feet in the air above it. A swift casting of Feather Fall prevents disaster, and they have the leisure as they drift gently down to the rocks to discuss their situation.
Back in the palace, the Vizier has noticed Mortimer and Tuakiin’s sudden departure, and decided it is mightily suspicious. He gives orders that the two should be detained if they show up again, and not overly gently. Meanwhile the King is still in full flow, revealing how Javier has been crucial to bolstering the kingdom’s defences by creating harrowblades from dragon eggs, including those sent south by Lady Anarië, and asks the adventurers if they know of any other dragons from whom eggs could be obtained. Krom tells him of the dragon Venomfang, in the town of Thundertree to the north, and the King is grateful for the information.
Illyria then steps forward, revealing that Clausis and her thirty undead mages are somewhere to the south, and proposing that a small group of adventurers should go and deal with her. The King summons Krom, Illyria and Jack to a council of war, while Lubash and No Name go into the city. Finding a quiet corner, Illyria drops some of her blood into her silver bowl (it instantly turns black) and attempts to scry for Mortimer’s whereabouts, but the blood stays black.
At the council of war, Illyria continues to argue for a special mission to take out Clausis. The King is not initially convinced that one woman with a small force is significant enough to be bothered with, but when Illyria makes an impassioned case that she is the most dangerous enemy of all, having the power to bend reality to her will and destroy entire planes of existence, and that she should have her head cut off as a matter of urgency the king gives assent to Illyria’s plan to make her a foot shorter. As for Krom, his proposal that the orcs in the WItchwood should harry the enemy army’s rear also meets with approval. He further points out that the elves in Not!Lothlorien could be useful allies, and arrangements are made for a message to be sent to them.
Meanwhile, Lubash has taken a trip to the ghetto of Ogretown to spread the word about the Ogres’ Union. Resplendent in his fine cape, flowing locks and dragontooth necklace, he cuts a dashing figure, but unfortunately his impromptu speech to a group of ogre labourers does not go down as well as he had hoped. Indeed, they appear ready to attack him, until he faces them down with his tales of wrestling and killing dragons, at which point they decide a fight isn’t worth it and he scatters some pamphlets before departing with a swish of his cape.
No Name has more domestic concerns. She goes to Jonathan’s lodgings, and tries to persuade him to oppose the King’s plan to create harrowblades from dragon eggs. Jonathan is having none of it, however. He has little time for her arguments for the rights of animals, and is firmly of the belief that the King is justified in doing whatever it takes to defend the kingdom.
Having descended onto the rocks (which do not, thankfully, explode in a burst of fireballs), Mortimer and Tuakiin start walking back towards the city, observed by the guards on the walls. Tuakiin wants Mortimer to get him within striking range of Javier, but Mortimer feels this will be easier said than done. On the way, Tuakiin gets Mortimer to send a magical message to Venomfang. He even writes it out for him in phonetic Draconic, for added credibility. The message is a warning that people will be coming to steal her eggs. Venomfang responds, in common, naturally, thanking Tuakiin for the warning and emphasising just how much she likes treasure.
Avoiding the main gate, they make for an anonymous part of the wall that they might pass through magically. While they are deciding what to do, guards gather on the wall above, calling less than respectfully down to them. Tuakiin’s insistence that the guards bring Javier Asturo out to face him prove ineffectual, although he does at least finally convince the guards to take him seriously enough to send a messenger to the palace.
The council of war over, Jack, Illyria and Krom make for the Craven Raven, an upmarket drinking establishment, where an unobtrusive man silently appraises their likely wealth before discreetly nodding to the maitre d’ to welcome them. Fortunately Illyria is in fine (albeit goth as fuck) clothes and jewellery, and Krom is a Clan Chief, so all is well and they settle in a booth and start downing Goldsmiths, the most ludicrously expensive cocktails on the menu. In due course Lubash arrives, then No Name and Jonathan, and they start working their way through the tasting menu while wondering where Mortimer and Tuakiin have got to. Illyria even tries sitting back for a while and letting her arcane eye rove the streets in search of them, but to no avail.
Outside the wall, Mortimer finally decides that the best plan is for him and Tuakiin to go into the Ethereal Plane (also known as the Grey Wastes). He cast his spell, and they find themselves in the grey desert, where they can see the shadowy shapes of the wall, the guards above them… and the Grand Vizier, standing in front of them, as ethereal as they are. He points out to them how suspicious it was that they vanished from the King’s audience just after military secrets had been revealed. Tuakiin tells him of his feud with Javier. The Vizier values Javier’s services, but evidently has little friendship for him, as he cuts a deal with Tuakiin. If Tuakiin can deliver Venomfang to fight for the King, the Vizier will give him Javier. They duly get in touch with Venomfang again and a deal is struck. Venomfang will fight the King’s enemies in return for half the current contents of the treasury and five magic items, three of which she can claim from the battlefield and two from Theria.
This business concluded, Mortimer and Tuakiin are free to move through the city once more. Having received a magical message from Jack telling him where the rest of the party are busy getting drunk, they are swiftly reunited with their friends. They now turn their attention to Clausis. Mortimer attempts to pin down her location by scrying her once more, but this time looking up at the sky and using his own clearly ceremonial dagger to make a map of the stars by stabbing a board. Inspecting the star patterns, No Name is able to estimate how far south Clausis is, but not how far east or west she may be. Still, this is better than nothing.
Clausis is about a fortnight’s travel away, and Illyria can’t wait that long. She proposes taking the party for a shortcut through the Feywild – she can transport them there, and after a rest bring them back to their home plane near to their estimate of Clausis’s location. She has never been to the Feywild herself, but after consulting with Jack she takes the party to what seems to be a reasonable place.
This does not go entirely as planned. They arrive in a mysterious forest, where huge shadowy creatures gnaw the trees. Broken glass crunches underfoot, as if some massive glass structure had exploded here not long ago. Three of the shadowy creatures see our heroes, and attack. The party manage to do them some serious damage, but unless killed outright these creatures can reform themselves from shadow and dust, regaining their vitality.
Eventually two of the creatures are dead and the third seriously injured after being blasted through a hellish landscape by Illyria. But with all the commotion, the other creatures have started to look up from their gnawing and notice the party. The creatures stretch as far as the eye can see.
Illyria has a plan. She instructs the party to link hands and casts a Darkness spell, which they can’t see through but she can. Her plan is to lead the party through the creatures under the cover of this shroud of darkness. Unfortunately, all the creatures are now looking straight at them – the darkness has just enabled them to see the party more clearly.