The adventure renews as the party faces the wonders and delights of the Gathering, a festival of indigenous cultures and art mashed together with outbursts of wholesome, old-fashioned violence. Moccan returns from his vision quest and rejoins the group; the group has him examine the objects acquired from the Pymlion. Moccan determines that the winged serpent stone is magical, and has communication magic imbued into it. Its full purpose will be revealed later.
Dusk settles over the Gathering; both violence and commerce are now fair game. A conflict is brought before the Oracle between some Ratfolk and a Strix at the painted wagon. Rebecca sets about looking for some weaponsmiths, noticing the Kambral and the Grugan as possible options.
While she looks, the albino Pymlion Oracle on the wagon’s roof seems to decide in favor of the Ratfolk and the Strix is tossed into the pit of boars guarded by Jaguarfolk. The Strix makes good its escape with some swift gliding and flees the scene to the amusement of most.
Moccan, meanwhile, looks for other Tigerfolk Dunyabetia and is disappointed in his search. He also keeps an eye out for insider market information, noting that the weapons and armor are the best selling items, although the metal armor on offer is not too popular. The giant also receives numerous visitors, interested in his working with wood.
Among the other merchants is an Azkaderra who seems to be selling scrolls that aren’t getting much attention from the assembled natives. This Azkaderra seems to be of a different ethnicity than those the party met on the ship. After a short conversation, the party barter out a trade to try to identify the rings and the carving in their possession. The carving is a powerful magic item that can summon help from one of the seven “Sentinels” to keep the temple from unleashing “evil and death.” The shrine rings also hold potent magic, with the blue ring protecting against cold, the green against acid and poison, the red against fire, the yellow against lightning, and the purple against sonic attacks.
The party divvies up the rings among themselves, now appreciating their value. The Azkaderra learns of the new colony and asks about the two brothers who lived in the dugout. The party explains that they haven’t been seen and ask about their whereabouts. The Azkaderra merchant can offer no insights, but agrees to visit the colony. The party offers more items for identification: the sash that Ts’ao Hai has as a gift from the Azkaderra is a Fruitful Sash, and the small box he has is a Noble’s Vigilant Pillbox. Both items are wonderfully suited to the pirate’s life and his ostentatious taste in fashion. The last wand from the shrine is a Wand of Remove Sickness with 31 charges. The 7 scrolls in the satchel from the shrine are parchments of Invisibility, Scorching Ray, Ray of Enfeeblement, Detect Magic, Open/Close, Lesser Restoration, and Plane Shift. Talis’s bow is also identified as a Starbow. When the party shows the magical stones collected from the chasm, the Azkaderra identifies them as iounite stones. The Azkaderra points the party to the Vishkanya gem cutters for assistance with the gems.
The party then goes to parlay with the Kambral, wherein Rebecca insults the work of their assistant Janco. The Kambral negotiator, Ruan, states that they can barter weapons/armor, raw ingots, favors, and useful items. The Kambral are interested in establishing a supply line to the colony for metal ingots, but want the party to kill Staakos the Night Hunter as payment, a being which they call “blackness personified” that can kill with blasts controlled by his mind.
The description given of this being is quite fearsome; he is 7 and a half feet tall, wearing animal-folk skins. There are many rumors about this being, including that he is not from the continent, and is a “kutsa.” He is rumored to come from the Confluence of the Great Rivers, from the Well there, but other rumors claim that he does not come from the Confluence at all, and in fact avoids the area. He travels alone most often, but sometimes is accompanied by great beasts.
The party talk about their colony, mentioning the Kambral that have settled there. These Kambral are quite interested when they hear about the other Kambral at our village. Their reaction to the names of the Westgate Kambral contain quite a bit of greed, which Ts’ao Hai notices. They promise to come two Gatherings from now, to travel with the Westgate delegation to the colony proper. The Kambral are not eager to discuss their settlement, but do give away that they live in mountains to the south. The party gets a list from the Kambral of the materials they have available. Hot bartering action ensues between Kambral and Westgaters. The party turns to the iounite stones as their chief trade good. The party has in their possession the following raw stones: a dusty rose, pale ruby, pink and green, scarlet and blue, dark green, mulberry, onyx, silver, and a gold. The Kambral merchant, Ruan, directs us to Jiao the Vishkanya to get them properly appraised.
The party majority heads over to the Vishkanya while Rebecca heads over to the giant to place an order for javelins and lances. They settle on a deal and Rebecca pays up front, which results in a horrific death for a goat. Back at the Vishkanya stall, we present the stones to the Snakefolk. The valuation of the stones is as follows: the onyx is worth 6,000 and will make one healthier, while the silver is dependent on the cut but is probably worth 1,600 and makes one better at maneuvers in combat. The gold has to do with language and is worth 1,000, the dusty rose is worth 2,000 and makes one harder to be hit. The pale ruby is worth 1,600 and makes one harder to be found, with the pink and green being worth 3,000 and makes one more likable. The scarlet and blue is worth 3,000, making one smarter, the dark green is worth 2,000 (but quite a bit more worked, up to 4x) and keeps one safe from poisons. Finally, the mulberry is worth 4,000 and it makes it easier to talk to people.
The party agrees to trade the silver and the pale ruby to Jiao in exchange for having the others cut, and the jade in our possession also being improved. What follows is the result of Jiao’s work: the finished gold ioun stone grants the wearer a language. The dusty rose ioun stone is a +1 insight bonus on AC. The onyx ioun stone gives a +2 stackable enhancement bonus to CON. The pink and green ioun stone gives a +2 enhancement bonus on CHA. The scarlet and blue gives a +2 enhancement bonus to INT. The dark green ioun stone gives Detect Poison within 5 ft. The mulberry ioun stone gives a +5 competence bonus on Bluff and Diplomacy. The party trades the mulberry to the Kambral for a steel and a mithral ingot.
Ts’ao Hai goes drinking and finds out that the Staakos is a name that ends parties real fast. Staakos is thought legendary by some, but others claim to have seen him at gatherings slaying people. Talis hears the legend of the Night Hunters, servants of the darkness in the temple, of whom the current title holder is our familiar friend Staakos. While Ts’ao Hai is out schmoozing and Talis is playing chaperon, Moccan buys a pair of mules for the colony.
Afterward, the party kicks back and watches all the skirmishes that break out, blood and coin flowing in equal measure. Meanwhile, Rebecca seeks out fellow cartographers and is disappointed on this night, finding no knights of the compass and sextant present.
The next day, Moccan practices his new art and shifts into the nature realm, seeing that the plateau is occupied by several animals in the parallel plane. Before he can shift back, the animals flee and the water begins to broil. Moccan hides in the brush and watches. A great long neck erupts from the lake, a giant aquatic dinosaur taking an antelope. When he returns, he is surrounded by nagaji, who admire his feat and tells him that he has entered the “World of Nature and Beasts.” They invite him to come swimming in the holy lake with them and want him to meet their shaman. Ts’ao Hai puts on a juggling act while Moccan is messing around with the fabric of the planes.
The party completes the trade with Ruan, the Kambral merchant, acquiring two ingots to deliver to the Kambral back at the colony. The party again promises to meet the Kambral two gatherings from now, explaining how to find Westgate. As dusk settles, the Grugan gather for their conflict. Ts’ao Hai wagers 20 gold on the north group as the two companies square off. The fight begins with a flurry of arrows and the striking of spears! The south holds the advantage as the two chiefs square off in the center. As the fight intensifies, it is suddenly interrupted by an attack on the crowd far to the south. Blood flows and limbs fly as one name fills the air: Staakos! The night hunts!