Most of the companions are grievously wounded and Emeris accepts Shilukar’s offer to negotiate. The dark elf seems to have lighter skin than the average dark elf and carries an assortment of weird tools and devices at his belt. He seems frank while he elaborates on why he wants the protection of Castle Shard. He says he has many enemies who wish to stop his experiments, and he has been forced to use the gnolls as protection. He wants to live in Castle Shard so that he may pursue his experiments in peace, for no one would dare assault him if he is under Lord Zavere and Lady Rill’s protection. He says that if he can live there, he can be rid of the gnolls. Ravaan is the Beast God and is the father of BRUGUL and Angash, and for some reason it is because of him that they serve the dark elf. He also cryptically says that he is the key to transforming Abbercrombe, and if he is killed or hurt restoring the man will be impossible. The group is sent away to deliver the information to Castle Shard.
Dziga, Vatex, Early, and Emeris stop by the Ghostly Minstrel to discuss the current situation over a few drinks. Dziga and Vatex want to kill Shilukar. Early wants to kill the fiendish blue gnolls. Emeris wants to see what happens if they play both sides to their own best advantage. They are unsure of what to make of Helmut’s prophecies, anticipating the “black rain” to cause trouble for divine spellcasters and a possible connection between Helmut and Shilukar. They are interrupted by some excitement about a bold paladin of the Emperor proclaiming he is going to enter Jabel Shammer due to an item that grants immunity to disintegration. Unfortunately, the plan does not work and the man disappears in a cloud of dust as he flies towards the evil fortress at the top of the spire.
Emeris reads the historical book from the university about the runebearer heroes. It is a florid text that describes the many exploits of the eight legendary heroes, such as the slaying of great wyrms, demon lords, and the Dread One himself. Darkstar had attained divinity and was worshipped by many as the epitome of evil, but such was the power of the god-like runeheroes. The runebearers champions were also responsible for the defeat of two of the most powerful servants of the mysterious Ancients, Mrathrach and Vladaam. Mrathrach shares its name name of both a huge sinkhole by Aelric’s hometown, and the strange game at the White House. Vladaam shares its name with the notorious Elanian noble family of House Vladaam.
Later, Dziga and Vatex return to the Temple of the Rat God. They find it empty. The chaositech gargoyle has been removed and the idol of Abhoth seems to have melted into the ground. That night, Dziga dreams once again of the huge empty city and this time finds his way into a library of mythic proportions, with thousands if not millions of books twice the size of a man. Within this building, he finds a strange statuette of a star-headed…thing. He is not sure what it is, but when he wakes up he finds it still in his hand.
From Saharasahla, the group learns more about the Ancients (also known as the Galchutt, the Hylden Lords, the Lords of Chaos, the Natharlu’carna, even the “Creators” to some). They are mysterious outsiders, beyond godlike in power, alien in thought and deed, who crave only pure destruction and chaos. When Saharasahla sees the star-headed thing that Dziga has, he is clearly disturbed and censures the rogue for touching the Abhoth idol, banishing him from the library. Additionally, the shadowcaster gives Emeris the minor task of acquiring anti-sleep drugs from a Shuul agent named RINNER.
Early tells Hitomi about their discoveries at Helmut’s house. For now, her hunt for Vermillion will continue and she plots for when Helmut returns in a few weeks. She continues to wonder why Helmut wants the runechildren dead.
At Castle Shard, Zavere is ultimately forced to accept Shilukar’s offer. He has the company deliver the message, and when they do the dark elf is delighted. He also offers them a mission of his own. He says he will pay them each an amount equal to the bounty on his head in exchange for the head of a Shuul scientist named DR FEAGUS. The Shuul are a group dedicated to law and order, the Empire, and the resurgence of technology, with connections to the Temple of Vexander and the Sorn organization of techno-magi. Shilukar says they are secretly funded by the Killraven Crime League, and Dr Feagus is engineering anti-chaos monsters and a machine that will supposedly be capable of destroying all the chaositech in the city. Shilukar believes he must be stopped.
The group accepts the mission. Shilukar tells them of a rumor that an old chaos cult hid weapons that were strong against the forces of law and order in a building called the Pythoness House. Emeris is immediately summoned by Saharasahla via the thoughtstone. The old shadowcaster tells of women named MAQUENT and RADANNA who ran a strange brothel that also offered fortune-telling during copulation. The place was a front for a bizarre cult called the Crimson Coil. The leader of the cult, named KHYRON, gave Maquent one of Neveran’s allkeys as a gift. And their brothel was called the Pythoness House. The Knights of the Pale attacked the place three years ago and drove out or killed the cultists and demons and undead. He also speaks of fate and destiny -- how Emeris was destined to meet the old shadowcaster, and he is apparently destined to go to the Pythoness House.
Before visiting the Pythoness House, the group takes a few days to train and rest and study. Early refines his connection to the Vajra with Hitomi’s help through meditation and exercise. He also gives Itumar some more training, and learns the young man has some rather fiery anti-Empire sentiments and had a pamphlet from an anti-Empire group called the Brotherhood of Elan. Emeris reads more of the Book of Eidon and learns more about the metaphysics of shadow. Dziga has not had any dreams of the giant city in many nights. And Lord Zavere offers each one in the group a friendship band, a sign of their good relationship with Castle Shard.
Next: The companions enter the Pythoness House, seeking the weapons of chaos and the allkey of Neveran.