As Zendo, Gellius and Hikage talk to Sheriff Belor Hemlock about the increasingly wide-spread cult activity, Hikage notices Corvus struggling down the street with a large, evidently heavy parcel. Zendo and Gellius go out of the Sandpoint Garrison to assist him, and Corvus enters the garrison, explaining to Belor that he has located the Rusty Dragon’s lightning rod, which was hidden in the attic of the White Deer Inn.
Sheriff Hemlock is upset that his own brother, Garridan is implicated in the crime, but Corvus quickly assures the sheriff that he, for one, believes the theft and plant was an obvious attempt at a frame-up. The heroes are unsure what to do with the inn’s namesake, but Belor insists that they cannot store it in the garrison, as questions are sure to be asked about any apparent arrangement between the two brothers. The men carry the lightning rod back to the Rusty Dragon, and Zendo enters the public room alone. He tells an engrossing, amazing tale which he learned as a child, embellishing it as necessary and providing dramatic flourishes. The men use the distraction to carry the rusty dragon upstairs and present it to Ameiko.
The feisty bard is difficult to convince of Garridan’s innocence in the matter, since any lost revenue from her inn would directly flow to him. Corvus assures her that as a powerful wizard, he would have been able to assuredly locate the lightning rod at the White Deer, so any attempt to hide it there would have been sure to fail. As such a ‘powerful wizard’, however, Corvus is forced to admit that he is unable to determine who removed the rusty dragon, since he’s not ‘that kind’ of wizard. However, he is maneuvered into agreeing to repair the lightning rod on the morrow, as he is indeed the ‘kind of wizard’ who can do that.
Corvus and Gellius retire to their rooms to enchant a wand and scribe a scroll, respectively. The other heroes make their way out of the Rusty Dragon, through the infuriating drizzle. Ragnar accompanies Zendo and Hikage part of the way up to the Old Light, but stops at the General Store to flirt with Shayliss Vinder, though without success. The seductive town flirt was evidently less impressed with Ragnar’s exploits in Magnimar than others, or perhaps a bit upset that, unlike his previous exploits, the Ulfen didn’t come bearing gifts.
Hikage and Zendo call on Brodert Quink, delivering the package entrusted to the monk by Sheila Heidmarch. Quink is obviously pleased with himself, and happily unwraps the parcel in front of the men, revealing a strange spherical object on a short cord. Seeing their puzzlement, Quink opens a clasp on the device, called a Wayfinder, and explains that it is a sort of magical compass, based upon ancient Aztlani devices of a similar nature, discovered by famous Pathfinder Eando Kline. The wayfinder is not merely a compass, Quink lectures, but can also serve as a home for an Ioun Stone, another Aztlani magical invention. Zendo sees the utility in being able to conceal and still use an ioun stone, but Quink explains that the Wayfinder is much more sophisticated than that. Not only will an ioun stone continue to safely function in a wayfinder, ioun stones manifest additional magical properties when stored thus. These resonant magical powers are not deliberately enchanted into either the ioun stone or the wayfinder by modern enchantment, but instead, appear to be evidence of a deeper, more fundamental understanding of magical theory by the ancient Aztlani.
Quink explains that much of the ancient knowledge of the Aztlani remains undiscovered, and explorers like the Pathfinder Society are desperately needed to discover, document, and maintain such knowledge. Some of the great magical effects of the ancient Aztlani are fading, like the preservative magics used to guard their monuments against the effects of time and weather. Those magics, if not fully understood, could fade without ever being replicated. More ominously, the ancient Aztlani could have also constructed magical barriers and wards, which could also be fading over the centuries. Rather than simply losing knowledge of the past, those wards might crumble and release unknown entities or energies. Quink explains that others, such as the Aspis Consortium, seek to pillage these same ruins for antiquities and simply sell them for profit, rather than understanding them. Gellius visits with his girlfriend, while Zendo calls upon the lovely half-elven seamstress Rynshinn.
On the 14th of Neth, Ragnar is visited at the Dragon by an attractive young woman in a rather skimpy outfit. Ameiko sternly reminds her that the Rusty Dragon is off-limits for ‘that sort’ of work, but the girl breezily replies that she was just visiting her best customer before work ath the Pixie’s Kitten. Gellius waits until the young ‘lady’ gets out of Ragnar’s lap before cornering him about his past. Ragnar is guarded, but agrees to exchange answers with the inquisitive druid. He reveals that, as a young boy, giants raided his family homestead, killing his father and mother, and his younger sister, who tried to flee. He survived only by hiding, to his shame. Ragnar, then orphaned, served aboard several Ulfen ships for well over a decade, never settling down. He insists that he has joined the band of heroes not for any grand cause, but because of a determination to steel his own nerves, and because of a sworn oath of vengeance to Shayliss Vinder. Since her sister’s murderer, Aldern Foxglove, was but a pawn in a larger scheme, Ragnar does not consider Katrine Vinder‘s death truly avenged. The gruff Ulfen surprises Gellius by pointedly questioning him about the wisdom of building a relationship with Boudra Fullona. Ragnar’s estimation of the lifespan of heroes is rather bleak, and the men realize that his inveterate wenching might be a strange sort of principled stand.
Later that evening, both Shalelu Andosana and Amander Malonial turn up at the Rusty Dragon. Shalelu has made her routine return to the small town to restock and resupply, and, as usual, is visiting her friend Ameiko at the Dragon. She talks to the men about her patrols in the outlying regions, and is sceptical of Corvus’s tale of the Sandpoint Devil. When convinced of the wizard’s veracity, the laconic elf is unimpressed, and seems to think the wizard and druid dangerously foolhardy, rather than brave. Ragnar presents her with the Arrows of Elf Slaying taken from Bruthazmus, and thus the bedraggled ranger learns of the demise of her hated rival, though she fails to warm to Ragnar as he had evidently hoped. Zendo asks the retiring elf about forts upriver from Magnimar, but Shalelu demurs, explaining that a great many forts litter the wild and untamed regions of Magnimar. Amander seeks to speak privately to Ameiko about a business venture, but the men are none the wiser as to the outcome. Zendo and Gellius both call upon their lady loves, though Hikage returns to the House of Blue Stones to train, while Corvus continues his work enchanting a wand of fire.
The next day, Fireday, is Market Day in Sandpoint, so, despite the gloomy weather, many locals make their way to the market square to buy goods from merchants both local and from abroad. In addition, the 18th of Neth is Evoking Day, in commemoration of Nethys, god of magic, and many of the more affluent townsfolk are purchasing fireworks for the attendant celebrations. Shalelu plans to go to the market to re-equip herself, so most of the men, other than the busily enchanting Corvus, accompany her. Shalelu confesses that her ‘step-father’, Jakardros Sovark, might be serving among the Black Arrows garrisoning Fort Rannick, near the Storval Deep. Ragnar bluntly inquires about the man, and the situation, and to the surprise of the others, the reticent Shalelu speaks about her situation forthrightly. She explains that Sovark abandoned her after the death of her motherSeanthia. As a young elvish maid, she never understood the romance between her mother and the ranger, but it surprised and hurt her when he left their village after the dragon’s attack with no explanation.
Zendo decides to seek out Vesnutt Parooh and draw upon the gnomish mapmaker’s geographical expertise. Though Vesnutt is very interested in the plans of the heroes, he cannot offer any good suggestions, as ‘upriver’ from Magnimar describes a great deal of the Varisian countryside, and manned and abandoned forts litter the uncivilized hinterlands. The bard also decides to seek out Niska Mvashti and ask the elderly seer her advice about the persistent rain. Madame Mvashti tells Zendo that the rain is indeed unnatural, but the residents of Sandpoint are fortunate that the constant rains are not focused on the Lost Coast. She explains that someone, somewhere, must be summoning the rains, and Sandpoint is simply unfortunate enough to be between the gulf and the summoning. Zendo tries to get her to speculate on the cause of the torrential rains, but the wizened seer laughs and explains that she is no priest and no wizard. She can see that the ill winds blow no good, and that the rains bring someone sorrow, but she cannot speculate on the nature of the magic any more than the swordsman can scry the forging of a blade.
After a damp day, the heroes return to a hot meal at the Rusty Dragon. Ameiko asks them for advice about Amander’s offer to buy the Glassworks for his mercantile consortium. She explains that the eloquent merchant is offering a generous price for the Glassworks, but is insistent on the need for a complete transfer of ownership, preferably quite soon. Ameiko tells Corvus that the merchant is unwilling to agree to a partial ownership of any sort, or even allowing Ameiko to remain as a silent partner. Malonial has assured her that the money would be quite substantial, and would allow her to maintain both her family’s villa here in Sandpoint and the larger Kaijitsu manor in Magnimar. The heroes speculate about the merchant’s motives, and Zendo muses that perhaps the Glassworks is not his actual object. Gaining control over the only remaining access to the Thassilonian ruins under Sandpoint could be the true goal. That would explain his urgent attempts to close the deal, as well as his unwillingness to consider any other arrangements. The men urge Ameiko to be cautious and deliberate in her dealings, reasoning that such delaying tactics will not unduly upset a true investor, and will expose any nefarious plans.
Late that evening, a rain-soaked rider arrives at the Rusty Dragon with a missive from Magnimar. The rider explains that he was sent from the city two days ago with an urgent communication from the Lord-Mayor. Opening the sealed scroll, Zendo reads a letter from Valanni Krinst, written on behalf of the Lord-Mayor. It reveals that communication from Turtleback Ferry indicates that the rangers of Fort Rannick, the Black Arrows, have been incommunicado for longer than expected. The mayor of the small town, Maelin Shreed has sent men to the Fort, but word was sent to the heroes before awaiting any response. The Lord-Mayor clearly expects the heroes to swing into action to investigate this occurrence, though he also grants them an audience on the way. Zendo seems unwilling to entertain the mayor’s political posturing, but Shalelu does point out that travel across the Varisian hinterlands would be a good bit more arduous than following the well-established caravan and barge routes from Magnimar to Turtleback Ferry.
The men resolve to purchase horses on the morrow and ride for Magnimar, and thence, to Turtleback Ferry. The elven ranger diffidently offers to accompany them, in hopes of confronting her long-absent ‘stepfather’. The heroes agree, more than willing to have a seasoned outdoorsman like Shalelu along. Zendo makes a scandalously late visit to Rynshinn to inform her of his plans, and Gellius argues with Boudra, who, despite the possibility of peril, feels a bit ‘left out’ by the plans of the druid and his companions.
On the morning of the 16th, the ‘heroes of Sandpoint’, and the ‘guardian of Sandpoint’, purchase horses from a bemused Daviren Hosk. Zendo, Gellius, Corvus, and Shalelu purchase well-groomed riding horses named, respectively, Caramel, Nutmeg, Pepper, and Strawberry. Hikage buys a lean and whipcord-strong horse named Picket, which Daviren himself often rides around town during tense times. Ragnar scrapes together some coins and two chunky golden armbands and buys a thick, unkempt destrier named Trencher, so called for his undisciplined appetite, though the massive horse seems sturdy enough. Hosk seems pleased to sell most of his stock in one go, though he does seem sorry to see his horses leave. The men make their way to Ven Vinder’s general store for supplies, roundly cursing their lack of foresight, as the gear and provisions they now need would have been cheaper during Market Day. In the end, they settle on warm clothes, oiled leather ponchos, ample rations, and a sturdy tent or two. So equipped, they begin their ride back to the City of Monuments.