As the rest of the party disappeared with Dacien's teleport, Zhedd and Banshee were left behind with two mocking baboon faces leering hungrily at them both. Zhedd quickly dimension door'd the pair of them upwards and out over the lake on the surface. Using illusions, Zhedd kept the two of them hidden as he sought out a refuge to hide and await contact from the others. He found a crevasse on the sheer cliffs that surrounded the plateau, and created a ledge to rest upon. Having rested and memorised new spells, Zhedd communed to get a feel for the creatures that lived nearby, and identified a powerful unnatural creature living in the lake on the plateau, and the treant he'd met earlier currently somewhere in the forest to the south. Zhedd searched the forest for some time, luckily avoiding any encounters, until he found signs of the treant's passage. The treant recognised Zhedd, and agreed that the druid could accompany him to a meet with his grafted partner for safety. In return, the treant explained he was distraught at the 'two-legged civilisation' that had come to the plateau and cut down trees to build structures, and exacted a promise from Zhedd that the druid would destroy any further spread of this 'civilisation'. In the meantime, Zhedd found a pool and, after failing to contact Dacien, managed to scry Mendel and pass on the message about where he was hiding. Dacien came up with a plan to retrieve Zhedd, and after a series of teleports the party were reunited in Farshore.
Catching breath in Farshore
The party had filled Lavinia in on what had occurred and looked to return to Sasserine to get supplies. Getting an update on events in the settlement, it appeared that Manthalay Meravanchi had started an operation to source criminals from the natives and ship them back as slaves, to keep a trade ticking over for the growing operation. Lavinina also introduced the party to two phanaton that were seekign adventure with the party in return for passage away from the Isle of Dread - Gerald, a reincarnated dwarf, and his companion Lenny. Three new ships were in harbour - one of Karameikan origin, looking to resupply on the voyage south, a ship of Vanyan pilgrims heading south, and the other a strange ship of dried aged wood with rigging and sails made from webbing. Of the latter, there had been no sign of activity on the ship, save for a pteranodon which had been caught in a spider-web bag on the central mast, and was fluttering listlessly.
The Karameikan ship Ekaterina was strange for not docking at one of the jettys and remaining further out in the harbour - also, all windows were blacked out. The crew had made little contact save for the first mate Ivan Ivanov who was overseeing supplies. None of the crew had been ashore for leave. Mendel spied on the ship from one of the clifftops and saw a pale figure hiding in the shadows. When Ji and Faldak escorted the supplies to the ship, there as resistance to let them board, but Ji persisted, drawn by the smell of stale sweat, and also spotted the strange figure. Slipping the first mate some coin, Ivanov let slip that he was carrying a cargo of strange albino humanoids he'd picked up from the caves to the north, at the behest of some shadow elves form the nation of Aengmor.
Mendel spoke to the head of the Vanya missionaries, Heinrich, who spent most of their time in weapons training by the docks. They were headed to Raven's Scarp on the southern continent of Davania as part of a pilgrimage to a place called Vanya's Rest. They suggested approaching Steefanie's mercenary contingent for burial rites, but felt that the death in battle against a major foe would suffice.
The webbed ship caused more interest, and the part approached it. Strange metal plates adorned it surface, and after hailing the ship, something from within tapped on the metal sheets. After contact was made, a group of large dark spiders emerged on deck and spoke in piping voices. The leader introduced himself as AckAck, of a race of planar spiders known as Chak that called the Astral plane home. They often travelled as merchants, picking up exotic wares and information to trade. They explained that they had been drawn here following ships from the Material Plane that were sailing on other planar seas, and they were curious who and how. The ships carried flags of a skull over crossed swords on a red background - the same flag the party had seen carried by the Sea Reavers of the Crimson Fleet. After exchanging tales, and signal books, the party were able to trade with the Chak and get the supplies they needed.
Round Two on Taboo
Once the party were rested and prepared, and items identified or traded, the party returned to the temple on the plateau. They gathered at the top of the stairs descending to the chamber filled with mud pools, and cast their spells in preparation. The chamber below was empty, so the party hurried through the broken wall as they did before. In the main chamber, four kopru, a crocodile demon, and the two headed beast waited for them. In the arms of the statue now rested the defiled bodies of Stefanie and Rissashtak. Battle commenced, and the party fared better this time, as they resisted more of the attacks and ere able to focus on dealing damage to the large creature. Some of the party succumbed to the confusion, including Banshee, and were caught in melee with the beast. Then, with the kopru killed or driven off, as the demon was looking increasingly beaten, it suddenly vanished, and in its place, conjured forth by some demonic pact magic as far as Dacien could tell, appeared a large thrashing eel-like demon. It wasn't over yet...
Our Last Best Hope
16 hours ago