The next morning, a swordmage named Rorik Law arrives at the hall of the Forgestewards to pick up an item. A clerk goes to retrieve his order from the Wyrmsmith's chambers, but returns looking like they've seen a ghost.
The clerk rushes over to Undren Drakebrand and begins furiously whispering something into the other dwarf's ear. Undren pushes the clerk aside and looks inside the dragon's chamber himself. Rorik asks what's the matter, and Undren pushes him aside, telling the clerk to fetch the human's item and then get him out of here. As Rorik is escorted out, he hears Undren telling his fellows a dire bit of news: Embergut is gone.
Meanwhile, Nylah wakes up in the barber shop, having forcefully taken over Wilson Tendersnip's bed as recompense for his having been so rude to her before. She is surprised to find Algernon curled up beside her, and even more surprised when she opens the door to the upstairs loft to find Elspeth standing guard outside.
The smell of fresh coffee fills the room, and both Elspeth and the barber are sipping on cups. Nylah asks her dwarf compatriot why she's here, and Elspeth holds up her hands—covered in bites and knicks from her brief time as Algie's babysitter. She also admits that she wanted to make sure that Nylah was safe, since splitting up hasn't exactly gone well for them in the past. The tiefling gives Elspeth a hug and a kiss on the forehead, thanking her as "my love" despite the dwarf's best efforts to stop her (Nylah just pulls Elspeth's hand off of her mouth every time she tries to cover it).
Back on the boat, Jimothy wakes up to find a note from Ridak Linmo on the cabin door, regretfully informing the party that he doesn't think that he's cut out for their "troupe", and has returned to his position in the city guard. Jimothy finds Pleedleplop meditating on the deck and asks the kuo-toa where Jancer and Brublind have gone off to. As it turns out, they got up early to visit the Chorus of Minds.
Pleedleplop also asks Jimothy, as a man of faith himself, if he could help arrange a funeral for Roland Leopold and Krog, as the kuo-toa is not exactly familiar with overworlder customs. He feels like a funeral will help their own party through the grieving process. Jimothy agrees and gives the fishman another perfect bow.
Rorik spots Jimothy as he's heading off the boat, and recognizes the paladin from descriptions he heard of the fight at the bar two nights ago. Wanting to test his mettle against someone who defeated a cadre of githyanki, he walks right up to the goliath and challenges him to a duel.
Jimothy strikes first, feinting with one attack then busting in the visor of Rorik's helm with the other. Rorik casts 'Mending' on the helmet (and glasses underneath), and they pop back into shape. The eldritch knight moves to strike at Jimoth with his blade, but the goliath is too fast; the paladin moves for a counterattack, but Rorik dodges just as quickly.
Back at the barber shop, Nylah asks Wilson about his daughter, Miri Tendersnip. He tells the tiefling that a horrible plague befell their home, and that he moved from place-to-place with his sickly daughter to try and find a cure, but she became too ill to travel not long after they came to Zakkencrag, and not long after that… she died. Little did the barber know that his daughter would not pass on happily to the afterlife, but would remain a prisoner to the soul gem-powered monstrosity that is the Seat of the Ancestors—same as everyone else who has ever died in Zakkencrag.
Jancer and Brublind arrive at this very moment. Nylah concocts a plan to free not only Miri's soul, but Roland's and Krog's as well (as well as deal with that fucking dao Zahadara once and for all!). To hear Jancer tell it, simply shattering a soul gem would release the spirit—if they're going to try and bring Roland or Krog back as Nylah suggests, they'd need a living vessel for their spirit to inhabit. Nylah wonders if they could use "that half-orc" as a new body for Krog. Brublind suggests that they go and get the piece of the Rod of Seven Parts that Bingle told them the location of, as their next mission for the Chorus will take them to the very same place anyway.
Returning to the boat, they find Jimothy and Rorik facing off. Elspeth almost charges in to defend the goliath, but Jancer holds her back. Bingle siddles up to the half-elf and bets him that Jimothy wins the match and creams the new guy, and the necrodancer is happy to accept—as long as the Wand of Wonder is up for grabs.
Nylah steps in and is almost donked by Jimothy. The tiefling punches him on the shoulder (having to jump to even reach it) and grabs his crotch as she tells him to heal her. He 'Commands' her to leave, but Nylah is too willful to be told what to do by anyone, and indignantly heals Rorik, who subsequently bests Jimothy.
The swordmage helps Jimothy back to his feet, and they both agree that they will need to have a rematch when there is no interference. Rorik says that the paladin has much to learn about combat, and HE would be the perfect teacher. He joins the party, with only Bingle grumbling about it as he hands the Wand of Wonder back over to Jancer.
Sporp stares entranced at their new companion. Rorik begins chatting with the myconid and learns that he can't read, so decides on a trip TO THE LIBRARY! to teach the sproutling this fungimental skill.
Having spent a lot of time in the library since he came to Zakkencrag, Rorik knows the place like the back of his hand, and quickly finds and reads 'The Happy Little Myconid' to Sporp. The swordmage spends quite a while teaching the myconid all about reading and knowledge and even shows off one of his personal favorites—a book all about unsolved mysteries.
Sporp is amazed that there are people from the same place that his friends came from who don't know things, "I just thought I was dumb or something." Rorik tells the myconid that the only people who are dumb are those who refuse to see the "light of knowledge", and Sporp points out that "Well… there weren't many lights in the Grove. OH! That's why they call it the UnderDARK!" Rorik gives him a proud high-five.
Before they leave, Rorik notices an old woman, ringed by royal guards, reading from an ancient-looking tome as large as she is. He tries to approach, but the guards push him away, telling him that no one is allowed to approach "His Highness" without permission. Rorik remembers that he heard that the king had died a few nights ago, but the guards insist that "King Grunthor Rockcrusher is as timeless as the stones of Zakkencrag." Rorik sends his raven familiar to serve as his eyes in the sky, and sees that King Grunthor is pouring over passages pertaining to the interplanar River Styx. He takes note of this and heads back, Sporp riding on his shoulders.
Meanwhile, Jimothy Jones calls forth a celestial griffon. He, Brublind, and Jancer hop aboard, with Jimothy warning the half-elf not to antagonize his steed. They land atop Zakkencrag's artificial sun, and Jermlaine Jancer opens up a tunnel nearby, sliding down one of the chains to join the trio.
Jimothy asks exactly what they're here to do, and Brublind produces a familiar device (magically shrunk down to fit in his bag)—the Prismatic Percolator! Mye-kuhl Jancer explains that they're going to hang the Percolator up over Zakkencrag, which will create a psychic amplification field that the Chorus of Minds can use to "talk over" the Seat of the Ancestors. Jimothy climbs down into the hollow sphere to grab the Rod piece while Brublind and the Jancers start unlatching the chains holding the artificial sun in place.
Engraved with the word 'RUAT', the fragment pulses with approval as soon as the paladin grabs ahold of it. Lawful knows lawful, and the goliath can pratically hear applause in his ears. He snaps out of this momentary reverie just as the final chain is undone and the sphere begins to drop… fast! Jimothy is propelled into the ceiling, but climbs along, and, with a hastily cast 'Levitate' spell from Brublind, is able to hop back onto his griffon alongside his companions.
Suddenly, from down below, there's a loud boom—but not from the fallen sun. A tunnel bursts open along the wall of the city's central shaft. Rorik Law and Sporp run to see what's happened, and arrive just as several shadowy figures emerge from the darkness—DROW!
At their head is none other than Ilvara Eilservs, who the party escaped from twice two weeks ago. Brublind and Mye-kuhl Jancer only barely recognize her however, as the priestess's torso now disappears into the bloated body of a massive spider. Flanking her are the acid-scarred warrior, Jorlan Despana, and the junior priestess, Shaela Vae. The four other drow (three warriors and a mage) who survived the party's previous encounter are also with them, and it looks like they also brought a hook horror.
Brublind re-enlarges the newly-attached Prismatic Percolator and jumps off onto it with the Jancers. Jimothy wishes them luck as he dives headlong into the dark elves atop his griffon, wooshing past Rorik and Sporp in dramatic fashion, bashing the drow with his shimmering Mace of Disruption. Jorlan draws his own mace—this one made of pitch black metal that seems to absorb the light around it—and strikes back.
Rorik takes Sporp down off his shoulders and charges in to aid Jimothy as the dark elves close in on the griffon-riding goliath. The drow wizard spots the closing swordmage and tosses a bolt of green flame in his direction, but Rorik slices it in half, some of the fire clinging to his blade as he wades into the thick of things. Rorik cuts the wizard down with a fiery X-slash that causes the lower part of his robe to fall away, revealing spider-print undies beneath as he crumples to the ground.
The moment that the wizard falls, the hook horror trying to rip Jimothy from his saddle lets out a screech and turns on the drow. Rorik realizes that it was being dominated by magic. As the drow break off to deal with these new threats, Jimothy and Jorlan meet in single combat, deflecting each other's blows with ease. Jorlan gets too cocky however, and gets a faceful of radiant-infused mace that shatters his jaw and leaves his non-acid-scarred cheek branded with the holy symbol of Ilmater.
Ilvara notices the Rod piece hanging from Jimothy's belt and lashes him with her serpent whip. Jorlan tries to take advantage of this to hit the paladin, but he misses twice, not even noticing Rorik as he comes up behind him and stabs the warrior in the back. Jimothy grabs the serpent whip as its fangs dig into his flesh and pulls Ilvara closer. The drider priestess latches onto him with her mandibles and begins trying to tear him in half as he grabs her by the head and tries to do the same. His griffon swoops back in to try and help, but the flailing hook horror keeps it at a distance.
Shaela says a prayer and brings Jorlan back from the brink of death. The acid-scarred warrior mocks Rorik and tells him to pray to his heathen gods, but his attacks miss horribly, and Rorik slices off the dark elf's arm before moving in to help Jimothy. Ilvara's mandibles are weakened enough for Jimothy to free himself and, with grisly ripping noise, the paladin yanks the priestess's drow torso from her spidery lower half, offering it to the hook horror (NAT 20!), who flings aside a mook it was in the process of devouring in favor of the more succulent meat of a noble.
Shaela and the last remaining drow warrior look at each other before hauling ass back into the tunnel they emerged from. Rorik sends two 'Eldritch Blasts' spiraling after them, missing, but causing some rocks to fall from the ceiling, which crush the junior priestess's leg. The warrior looks back at her, shrugs, and disappears into the darkness. Rorik approaches the struggling drow, grabs her by the hair, and puts his blade to her throat.
"Start talking. NOW."
Shaela begs for them to spare her, as she has no interest in them or the Rod of Seven Parts—"that was Ilvara's crusade, I was only trying to survive!" She says that she can be more useful to them alive than dead—that she can even show them a way back to the surface world! Jimothy is not sure if they can trust her, not only because she stinks of evil, but because she is also an elf. All the same, Rorik removes the rocks and casts 'Mending' on the exposed bone, using his medical knowledge to patch Shaela up as good as new. He and Jimothy help the priestess out of the cave just in time to spot a cadre of city guardsmen heading their way.