After leaving the Temple Observatory of the Watcher of the Skies, Aelric leaves the group to rest. Despite the Temple of Ashe’s magical healing, he has not fully recovered from his encounter with the chaos beast and the last few days have been exhausting. This leaves Early and Emeris to head for Dziga’s apartment. In order to break into Helmut Itlstein’s house, they will need the rogue’s skills. Dziga decides to go along – not to mention, he needs to get his alchemy lab equipment back from the Darkwater hideout somehow.
While the next step is to find out where Helmut lives, Emeris receives a sending from Lady Rill, summoning the group to Castle Shard at once. There they meet with Lord Zavere, whose usual calm composure is nervous and distraught. Rill has not been able to unravel the mysterious magic holding Lord Abbercrombe in his stasis. That morning, they had received a message from Shilukar. The dark elf was offering the restorative for Abbercrombe in exchange for Castle Shard’s protection, and they have been given two days to decide. Zavere insinuates that he wants the companions to find Shilukar within two days and get the restorative from him. Zavere tells them to work with another “associate” of theirs, an elven urban ranger named VATEX who has relevant skills.
Together, the four of them start their hunt. After a few hours, they learn that Shilukar sometimes uses a fence named AMMEL DAR. They also ask around the Temple District and find the location of Helmut’s residence. They break into the residence and find a couple of Fate Weavers, the sorcerer MENASTER and the fighter JAMILA. (A third person, a man named URLIN, was seen leaving the house before they broke in.) Jamila is killed in the melee and Dziga and Emeris torture information out of Menaster. He reveals that Phon is hidden in a secret room in the house, and that they are making a mistake by rescuing Phon, for her baby cannot live. Emeris kills the man and the group finds Phon heavily sedated but otherwise healthy and pregnant. They are surprised by a large magical table that animates and attacks them, but they trash it. Emeris searches Helmut’s office and takes a stack of notes on the Watcher’s prophecies and signs. They then haul Phon back St. Gustav’s and leave her in Fabitor’s care.
The companions then head to the Manticore’s Plate, a tavern where Ammel Dar hands out. While waiting, Emeris reviews the strange prophecies in Helmut’s notes. Many are unintelligible without accompanying interpretation. Some are specific:
> “A test of will, a test of faith, the children of the New Gods are Silenced by the Black Rain.” When the black rain comes, wielders of divine power will lose their connection to their gods. At this time, Helmut plans to attack the Holy Palace of Elan (home of the Prince of the Holy Order of Vigoor and headquarters of the Knights of the Dawn).
> “The Dark Traveller will find the Golden Man. But the Idol of Ravaan brings doom.” This is accompanied by a map of the Guildman District identifying Shilukar’s lair hidden beneath a junkyard. But who or what is Ravaan?
> Another prophecy mentions Dreta Phantas. They can make no sense of it, but Vatex tells them Dreta Phantas was the legendary city of the lunar elves of Moonsilver Forest, which was reputedly completely spirited away by dark elves several thousands of years ago.
> Finally, they find the most detailed notes surround the rune children. It is said that the appearance of the runebearers will bring disaster to the city, and any child conceived by Helmut will be a runebearer. This analysis accompanies the following disturbing verse:
They who are not dead, they who can eternally lie
Dreaming within the earth until the initiation of a Strange Aeon
When it becomes necessary to utter a Word
The whole planet will be bathed in blood
Ammel Dar no longer matters. With the location of Shilukar’s lair, the group heads to the scrap yard. They find a hidden door leading underground into a portion of Ghul’s labyrinth. A difficult battle against Shilukar’s gnoll minions unfolds. The companions are tested by gnoll warriors, their hyena pets, and a powerful cleric named NYRATHAH. Emeris controlls the battlefield with shadow magic while Early and Dziga cut and shoot down foes, but Dziga is held by the fierce gnoll cleric’s magic. Nyrathah is brought down but the situation grows direr when a huge fiendish blue gnoll with a greataxe called ANGASH enters the battle. The brutal fight pauses only when Shilukar arrives with another squad of gnolls, and another huge blue one that seems every bit as fierce as the male but it is female and wears armor.
“If you kill her brother, she will fight you,” Shilukar says. “Perhaps it would be better if we negotiated.”