On day 73, the Steadfast headed north, keeping the coast in sight as it headed towards the colony site. With her captain still locked in a toxic trance, Commander Duellos still held command over the limping vessel. After a day and a half of travel, the ship came to a line of breakers. Duellos ordered the ship out towards the sea to avoid the numerous sand bars, small islands, and beach spots. As they passed by the treacherous waters, the saw numerous wrecks, the skeletons of past ships and their crews strewn across the perilous strand. Duellos made sure to note the location for future exploration. Moving past an L-shaped island on day 74, the lookouts spotted some flotsam, and then torchlight on the mainland yet again. Duellos decided against further investigation at this point, mindful of the responsibility she had for the crew’s safety.
The next day, movement was spotted in the jungle. The ship tacked closer to shore to try to get a better view, but nothing conclusive was learned. Friday recalled legends of birdmen and other unique peoples told by the Pymlions, which Scholar Mengzhi scoffed at.
After further travel, the Steadfast finally arrived at the colony site on day 76. Greeted by lights on the shore and in the bay, the ship approached cautiously. Everyone was overjoyed to discover that some of the lights belonged to the missing Reliant. After anchoring close by, the party learns that the Reliant arrived two weeks ago. Having long unloaded its charges, the Reliant is simple waiting for several crew members, including their captain, to recover from a fever common to the new colonists after they arrived. The captain of the Reliant keeps mumbling about some sort of temple in his sleep, but those afflicted recover after the fever breaks.
After a humorous incident involving a drunken ship’s carpenter giving his valuable second opinion on the case of Rehan Beiruni, the Steadfast made ready to unload its burden. The Steadfast, along with the other ships, are owned by the house of Poughash, a Zalamiri trading house with an infamous reputation. Their representative, Carbatkin the Golden, demanded that the “special cargo” be unloaded before anything else. Commander Duellos managed to get him to agree to a compromise in which the sick were delivered to the colony first, and then the “special cargo.”
Unloading takes most of day 77. Yu-chen receives a courtesy from the surveyors, and Commander Duellos assumes stewardship over the colony from Major Lucat, a retired Zalamiri cavalryman who had organized the Reliant’s colonists. Friday entered the jungle, finding a good place to establish himself while also procuring important reagents for the treatment of burns, as well as some painkillers. Duellos meets with Carbatkin after the unloading is completed to discuss the fate of the Steadfast. The ship will remain nearby the shore for now, but future use of it may be subject to negotiations. It is apparent that Carbatkin is interested in doing business, not in providing charity or favors.
Scholar Mengzhi and Yu-chen set up their tent with the aid of Talis, after a prolonged comedy of errors which surely brought mirth to all who viewed it. Talis and Yu-Chen then find the empty dugout that was used by the two brothers who originally found the site. While Talis decides to move in, Yu-Chen tries to ask Major Lucat about the fate of the brothers. After offending him by misidentifying him as a sergeant, the Major tells her that when the colonists arrived, the brothers were nowhere to be seen. Only a cheap tin belt buckle was left in the dugout. After being dismissed, rather than getting to dismiss the Major, Yu-Chen returns to Mengzhi in a huff.
Duellos calls for a council, inviting most of the major figures of the colony (aside from Friday, who has retired to his chateau). Everyone has a different first priority, but can agree that securing a source of ready food is a key secondary priority. The meeting is interrupted by the beat of drums, and the sighting of distant lights south by southeast. As the irrepressible Mengzhi sets about recording the phenomena, Commander Duellos organizes a search party. Friday begins to stalk towards the origin of the drums, while Hirase plunges recklessly into the jungle, musket at the ready. They eventually determined that the source of the disturbance was too far to reach in a single day, and decided that they would mount an expedition in the morning.
That intention was spoiled by the sudden arrival of a pair of birdmen into their encampment. Hirase snatched up her firelock and gave chase, while the rest of the camp rallied itself to go after her. Friday, whose dwelling is apart from the main colony, intercepted the birdmen and managed to parlay with them. After convincing Hirase to stand down, the Pymlion learned that the birdmen had been seeking their allies the missing tradepost brothers, for aid in fleeing from their enemies. Said enemies soon appeared in the form of a squad of catfolk, just as Commander Duellos arrived with her party.
The catfolk leader demanded that the party turn over the birdfolk to them, calling them cowards and saying they must face “cleansing” because of “the ritual.” Duellos stepped forward and challenged the catfolk leader to a duel. The struggle was terrible, and both Duellos and the catfolk leader drew blood, but the naval officer emerged triumphant. Some of the catfolk distinguished by strange ritual scarring, suddenly betrayed their felled spokesperson, leaping to the attack. In the ensuing combat, Friday fell defending the left flank, Talis destroyed the betrayer catfolk with a sweep of her greatsword and a fantastic display of holy power, and Yu-Chen demonstrated the power of her Word Magic. The birdfolk also cut into their foes with obsidian edges. The surviving catfolk tended to their leader and agreed to withdraw without further conflict.
The party returned with the birdfolk to their camp. Friday and Duellos began recovering from their wounds, and the rest of the party set about learning what they could from the birdpeople, and from the tokens taken from the fallen catfolk. The birdpeople gave them directions to possible catfolk and birdfolk villages, while also warning them of a fearsome predator called a Grondok. When asked about the brothers, the birdpeople told the party that the missing Mesiderians had not been seen for 2 and a half passes of Karos, and that the brothers had a way of crossing the river swiftly.
Yu-Chen and Talis went to the Major and then to Carbatkin to examine the belongings of the fallen catfolk. They determined that most of the ornaments are soft gold, indicating a further pure vein of gold in the region. They also found a curious file made of an unknown metal. The session ended with Yu-Chen and Talis planning to ask the smiths that set up across the rill to try and determine the nature of their new find.