On the sixth of Neth, a light morning drizzle clears up by mid-day, allowing the group to do a little sight-seeing in Magnimar while Corvus scribes spells into his new spellbooks. Gellius and Boudra (accompanied by Hikage and Zendo) go to see many of the varied monuments in Lowcleft, as well as taking a look at the massive bronze lighthouse called the Wymwatch. Being in Beacon’s Point, Zendo takes the men to the Varisian encampment there, located adjacent to the strong fumes of Washer’s Row. He visits with his kinsmen, sharing stories of the ‘Lost Coast Avengers’ with the travellers there. A sceptical caravan roustabout insists that Zendo is lying about burning down Foxglove Manor, but the bard wittily parries the verbal jab.
The next day, the morning drizzle builds into a lashing rain, driving the heroes inside for much of the day, save Ragnar, who seems unperturbed by the cold and damp. Towards evening, though, strong winds from the gulf drive off the clouds, and Hikage invites the others to dine with him at the Kibagami home. Arriving at the home of Hikage’s parents in Keystone, the heroes (and Boudra) are taken off-guard by the thoroughly unfamiliar layout of the home, and a little bemused to remove their boots and dine sitting on the floor. Hikage’s parents have invited another guest, Amander Malonial, a representative of a mercantile consortium. He seems quite interested in grilling Hikage about Ameiko Kaijitsu, though the monk is politely evasive. Amander explains that he wishes to purchase the Glassworks and corner a small, but lucrative market in Tian glasswares in Varisia. The merchant is concerned that Ameiko, who seems to be uninterested, at best, in her family’s ‘noble affairs’ might let the Glassworks suffer through inattention, and he is trying to make an attractive initial offer for the business, in hopes of securing a deal before that is the case. While Hikage is non-committal, Corvus offers up some suggestions to the inquisitive businessman. Ragnar, however, curtly suggests that Malonial should stay out of the affairs of Ameiko’s family name, causing great consternation to the Kibagami elders, who seem hopeful that such a transaction could help their own business dealings with the consortium.
After dinner, Zendo journeys out to the nearby Varisian encampment in Keystone to share stories and tales with his fellow wanderers. He puts on a fine performance which is much appreciated by one of the attending caravan masters, who invites the half-elf and his friends to journey back to Sandpoint in the wagons a few days hence. An elderly Varisian seer, perhaps the caravan master’s aunt or grandmother (though both are used as terms of endearment as well), also takes a liking to the glib bard and offers to harrow his fate. The grandmotherly woman takes time to explain the manner of the divination to Zendo’s non-Varisian friends, laying out the cards to represent Zendo’s future, and past, and his weal and woe. In his past, she sees the Tyrant, overthrown, and the Tangled Briars of ancient plots, as well as the suffering of the Cyclone, disaster brought about by mortal toil. As for Zendo’s present situation, she sees the good omen of the Publican, representing his camaraderie with his companions. Though a bit obvious given the wagonmaster’s offer, the Cricket represents travel, but she also sees a lurking danger in the Liar, a card represented by a seductive Lamia, who Gellius thinks should be in the past, rather than the present. As to Zendo’s future, the harrower sees the Mountain Man, an irresistable force of nature which must be endured, rather than overcome. The uncertain paths of the future show both the overturned Fiend, meaning a chance to rescue the innocent from peril, and the Avalanche, a sign of impending natural disaster.
On Abjurant Day, Corvus takes a break from his spell studies to draw the group to the Stone of Seers, the magical academy founded in recognition of the oracular nature spirit that formerly inhabited the spring in Magnimar’s natural park. On this day sacred to Nethys, many people gather to bid good fortune to young apprentices in magic, as well as to share blessings and charms against evil sorcery. The weapons which Hikage, Zendo, and Gellius were having enchanted will be ready by the end of the day, so most of the group accompanies Zendo to Carent’s camp, at the foot of the Summit, before ascending into the Capital district to retrieve their newly enchanted weapons. Zendo spreads tales of the Avengers throughout the camp, and despite the rather disreputable air of the damp, muddy encampment, many of the nomads reward him with a silver or two for his troubles.
On the 9th of Neth, the heroes (and Boudra) meet up with the caravan heading up the Kaspakari trail, following the Lost Coast Road to Sandpoint. The steady rains coming in off the Varisian gulf turn the packed earth of the road into mud, and the wagons make for slow going. The incessant rain drives most of the Varisians into the wagons for shelter, so there is little opportunity for a pleasant walk along the wagons, or a restful ride alongside the drivers. For the most part, the Heroes of Sandpoint stay in the warm, dry wagons, speaking with the Varisian nomads and passing the time as best as possible. Corvus engages in a few games of Tower with some of the less pious nomads, pocketing a few silvers for his troubles. Zendo whiles away the time trading stories with the other Varisians and playing tunes on his flute around the damp campfires at night. They learn that Ethram Valdemar‘s lung infection has been acting up with the damp, and the old man seems unable to get rid of it, regardless of the attention of the Sandpoint priests. The aloof fishermen of Grubber’s Hermitage haven’t been heard from in quite some time, and the ship captains report seeing unusual quantities of seabirds gathering around the small, rocky isle. The local folk say that the wyverns nesting at the Dragon’s Punchbowl have been joined by a dragon again, though no one in the wagons claims to have seen more than a large, winged silhouette along the Coast. Hikage talks to the Varisians about their faith in Desna, and their wanderlust, learning more about the enigmatic nomads which roam among the wilds of Varisia. Ragnar makes an overly bold attempt to bed one of the more winsome Varisian maidens, and while she spurns the shaggy Ulfen, she takes a liking to the quieter, more civilized Corvus.
Late one evening, Gellius is sitting around the campfire with several of the travelers from the caravans, when a strange, flaring light attracts their attention. The mysterious fire winks in and out above the treeline to the east, slowly and erratically moving north. The Varisians utter superstitious oaths and mutter darkly about the Sandpoint Devil, a strange fiend said to haunt the region in the last few decades. Blamed for missing livestock and vanished children, the beast leaves hoofprints on isolated roofs in the winter and is said to curse all who suffer its searing wrath. While the travelers watch the bobbing flames apprehensively, Gellius wakes Corvus from a warm berth shared with the Varisian maid.
The two men traipse off in the dark towards the enigmatic flames. They cross over the road and scramble down a damp hillock into a copse of trees. Realizing that the light is further away than they had thought, and thus, a larger fire than expected, the two press on through the wet, leaf-littered forest, wandering far from the camp.
When they finally clear the forest, they are startled to see a large, bat-winged, bipedal horse flying over a panicked encampment of goblins. The strange beast opens a fang-filled maw wide and vomits forth a gout of greenish fire which incinerates several of the goblins and sets one of their small, damp leather tents ablaze. The two men realize quickly that they are outmatched by none other than the Sandpoint Devil! Corvus quickly casts a spell and flies away over the treetops. Gellius transforms into a small bat and flees as well, though not as quickly as the wizard. The goblins scatter, terrified, in all directions, though Corvus curses the luck that several run their way. The Devil, flapping its monstrous wings, utters harsh syllables in Abyssal and the burning tent explodes into a blinding spray of sparks. While the two men are too far away to be seriously inconvenienced by the flash of light, the goblins are utterly dazzled, and run into trees and in circles. One even blunders back into the camp and trips over his own tent. Gellius continues his headlong flight in bat form, as Corvus pauses in midair to render himself invisible before continuing. The two wing their way back to the camp, and quickly rouse both the other heroes, and several of the caravan’s guards. Corvus encourages the dousing of the campfires, to hide the camp from the attention of the Devil, while the men debate the wisdom of breaking camp in the dark to find safer environs. Some of the Varisians bemoan the decision of the druid and wizard to ‘stir up’ the Devil, particularly when Corvus reveals that the beast was attacking goblins, and not fellow travlelers, in the woods. “Curious fools will draw down the Devil on us all!” is heard more than once. In the end, however, the Sandpoint Devil seems content to wreak havoc on the goblins, and, though the watch is redoubled, his eerie flames eventually fade away.
Other than the incessant rain, the remainder of the trip passes without incident. The men make their way back into Sandpoint, across the south bridge, late in the day on the 12th of Neth. Though all are eager to get back to the warm and comfort of beds in the Rusty Dragon, Zendo notices, with his acute elven eyes, that the inn’s namesake, the rusty lightning rod in the shape of a dragon, is missing from its perch upon the rooftop.
Entering the Dragon, the men find it sparsely filled and subdued. Ameiko welcomes them back warmly, with a brotherly hug for Hikage. Ragnar tries for a rather more ‘friendly’ hug from the shapely bard, and she deftly slips through his grasp, but takes the attempt in good humor. Ameiko offers them their ‘customary’ rooms, explaining that with such light traffic, a good deal of her beds are empty. She complains that the foul weather combined with the missing iron dragon, has robbed her of much of her clientele. “It’s hard to direct people to the inn with the rusty dragon on top, when the dragon’s not there! Everybody can find the White Deer inn, even in the rain,” she grouses. Hikage resolves to climb onto the roof, in the dark, in the damp, and Zendo, sensing a good story at least, accompanies him. The agile monk clambers onto the wet, slippery roof and can see that someone has pried the lightning rod loose using some metal tools (so, not the Sandpoint Devil).
Most of the men settle down in the warm, dry inn for dinner, but Gellius accompanies Boudra back to her home. Boudra tells her parents breathlessly about all of their adventures, or at least her part in them. She recounts their ship voyage, and their trips to the Aquaretum, the monuments, the Serpent’s Run, the Hard Roc Café, and the theater. She shows them her new dress, her clockwork pegasus, and her pearl earrings, as well as the pearl necklace from the Lord-Mayor himself! She tells her astonished parents about her arrest by the Watch, and their late-night encounter with the Sandpoint Devil himself!
Corvus cautions Ameiko about Amander, the merchant from Magnimar, and assures her that he will ply his wizardly arts on the morrow to locate her inn’s namesake.
On the morning of the 13th of Neth, most of the men go to speak to Sheriff Belor Hemlock about their recent exploits. Corvus, however, excuses himself and heads more directly towards the town center. Casting a spell to locate the Rusty Dragon lightning rod, he walks through the muddy streets of town guided by his magic. He is surprised to find that his spell leads him unerringly through town towards the White Deer Inn. He enters the inn and confronts a confused and suspicious Garridan Viskalai, who angrily denies vandalizing the Rusty Dragon, but warily agrees to allow Corvus to search the inn to satisfy his curiousity. Forced to extend his spell, the young wizard guides Garridan into the cramped loft of the White Deer where they store seasonal items, like winter blankets and summer sheets. Garridan is astonished and displeased to find the lightning rod wrapped in blankets and hidden in a corner. He angrily denies being involved in the theft, and insists the slight wizard take the hefty iron sculpture with him as he leaves the inn to meet his companions.