Grey, dull, rainy days follow, allowing the heroes to rest and heal in the abandoned town of Briare after their fight in the demon’s pit below. The usually boisterous Jurak is uncharacteristically pensive, spending a lot of his time alone, often out in the rain. At first, Reed tries to get him to talk; the big barbarian and the little Halfling having forged something of a bond of friendship during their fishing expeditions. But the dark, unusually introspective silence eventually causes Reed to sink into a similar foul mood. Samuel himself, having fitted and donned the ghostly Paladin’s armor, can’t help but think of the charge that was laid upon him concerning Jurak. With grey storm clouds hanging over their heads, and the events in the caverns hanging over their hearts, the uneasy state of affairs is broken on the fifth day by the arrival of the company of the Blazing Sun.
Away from Seline, the party explains to Brother Sanzo of their opening of the Sealing Shrine and their… victory over the demonic creature in the caves below, carefully omitting certain details. While disappointed that they opened the shrine without the Blazing Sun company present, Sanzo is rather understanding of the actions. However, he warns that it would be a good idea to get on the road before Seline found out. Jacen hands over the materials they recovered from the Kobold Sage, and, after partaking in a small meal and prayer to Pelor given by Sanzo, the heroes set off on the two day trek through the rainy forests, back to fort Tylmer.
Over the past couple of weeks, Tylmer has developed a lot more bustle, with a number of trading caravans from outlying villages making an impromptu marketplace. The refugees from Briare have already begun to settle in, putting their efforts into turning an aging stone armory and the surrounding streets into homes for their families. Thus is born Briare Street. Trade ventures from Tir’Heth and Ilbakov have set up temporary trading posts around the markets and Briare Street, making a wide selection of tools, weapons and items available. There are already shops springing up, like the Ilbakovan Fashion Exchange, which sells well-made clothing styles, from the billowing robe, sash and turban of southern Andalona, to the sharply cut, high collar long-coats of western Ilbakov.
Not even a month ago, the Stone Tankard was a grimy mess hall and dormitory for the workers. Now the place is doing steady business with the new arrivals. The atmosphere is very friendly to the locals, the natives of Rivemar, simple folks with simple tastes in beer, food and song. The place has become the unofficial community hall and gathering place for the townsfolk of Briare and the traders from the nearby villages; a loud, boisterous, foot-stomping attitude fills the place with laughs, curses and song. Sadly the place is also under the control of Jakob and his gang, which means that foreigners, especially non-human ones, are invariably driven off.
While Jacen has gotten in good standing with the rough characters in Jakob’s entourage, and Jurak seems to be generally well accepted by everyone else there, the rest of the party tends to gravitate to Marta’s Inn, where the foreign traders and adventurers. Ever impressionable Jacen decides to side with Koteth and Samuel, rather than his countrymen at the Stone Tankard.
Lady Sendina, the Andalonian noblewoman, had left by that point, but at least two members of her entourage remained in Tylmer. One is the missionary Vichenti DelVerda, currently trying to raise enough funds to build a small, permanent shrine to Bahamut in Tylmer keep itself. The other is a dragon-blooded chronicler named Arjhan, who left Lady Sendina’s fickle employ after traveling with her retinue for months, all the way from the heart of Andalona. After a few social exchanges over a meal and drinks, the silver-skinned and silver-tongued Dragonborn offers his partnership to the adventurers.
Word reaches Koteth that there has been an alarming increase in the trade of hippogryph eggs ever since the reclamation started. The theft and sale of hippogryph and gryphon eggs has been illegal in the four nations for ages, but many powerful mercenaries, warlords and nobles are willing to break these laws to get their hands on such superb flying mounts on the black market. After separating to search for information in their own ways, it’s Samuel who manages to find a lead; inconspicuous caravans heading to the eastern borderlands, avoiding Fort Tylmer and sticking to the road south of the Tylmer river, passing near the old temple ruins on the river rather than take the main road.
The group decides that a brief foray into the lizardfolk ruins at the fork in the Tylmer would be in order, allowing them to follow the road, hopefully find some evidence of this black market trade route, and maybe reclaiming items of value from the ruins themselves. The journey is brief, the road passes swiftly and pleasantly under their boots thanks the song and heroic stories of their new bardic ally. In the light of the setting sun, the heroes make camp on the southern bank of the fork in the Tylmer river, the half submerged stone domes and minarets of the lizardfolk temple reflected in the fast flowing waters.
Small clusters of sunken and overgrown ruins are scattered all along both banks of the river around the main temple. One such structure, not far from where the party stopped for the night, was a relatively dry, mostly intact edifice that had apparently been used recently, if the muddy boot prints and burned out camp fire were any indication.
Night passes, and morning breaks, allowing Koteth to follow the cart tracks away from the ruined stone house. The people they are following are obviously avoiding the main road, as the cart tracks lead deep into the thickest part of the river-side forest. The heroes stumble upon the overturned and empty cart, with obvious signs of struggle and copious amounts of blood. The odd thing is that Koteth can only find evidence of the booted footprints of the cart’s owners, not of who or what attacked them. He does manage to pick up a trail of blood leading north to the river’s edge, though still no tracks or even signs of dragging.
Right on the river bank, hidden in the deep shadows of the dark woods, a cluster of ruined stone buildings and an overgrown cobblestone street. The blood trail leads in, but at that point the trail peters out. The domed stone buildings seem mostly sealed off, though Arjhan manages to shoulder one open. Inside is what remains of some sort of place of worship or school. Mostly filled with debris, rot, mold and plants, the main feature is a sundered serpentine stone statue that takes up the whole length of a wall. Samuel’s knowledge of religious organisations and symbols (What To Smite, Vol IV, section 3) identifies it as a stone idol venerating the dark god Zehir, lord of poison, assassination and treachery.
Exiting that building, Samuel spots something out of the corner of his eye. A trio of spider-humanoids called Ettercaps open fire with long sharpened bone spikes, shot from their carved bone longbows. The spider creatures scuttle towards a door on the opposite side of the street, but the heroes move in quickly to block their path. Battle is joined, and the creatures are pinned to the wall and are very quickly dispatched.
Carefully moving through the door that the Ettercaps were trying to reach, and moving through the ancient, pottery-filled storage area beyond, the heroes find themselves on the rooftops overlooking a long web-choked marketplace, two stories down. The rooftops at this level are flat, with small connecting bridges spanning the dark, webbed market street below. All along the rooftops, Ettercap archers are caught by surprise, allowing the heroes to quickly assess their situation before the spider-creatures can open fire.