The party stands in a field dotted with trees. Behind them, Ikar’s caravan is racing away at top speed, elemental engines roaring. Ahead of them, a hobgoblin garrison charges, roaring louder still, swords drawn. Yeraa hails the goblins- her soldiers. Quickly, the party is surrounded by cheering hobgoblins, celebrating the safe return of their chief.
Hurriedly, the party removes the lid of the coffin to prevent the enemy from coming through after them.
One gruff hobgoblin steps forward from the crowd. “There she is!” he shouts, pointing at Arasinya and a group emerges from the crowd, hands on their hilts. Dex quickly intercedes to protect the sorceress. The group of angry goblins accuse Arasinya of hindering Yeraa’s rescue by locking them in the hold of her airship, then later, after they escaped from the hold, ejecting them (and the statue they used to get aboard) from her airship before flying off without them. Arasinya replies that while she put them in the hold, she certainly didn’t eject them her ship, or fly off.
Realizing that if Arasinya had, indeed, flew off with the airship, she couldn’t possible be here now, the hobgoblins demand a lock of her hair to prove that she’s not a doppelganger. Dex, eager to solve the dispute as quickly as possible, over Arasinya’s objections, cuts free a lock of the sorceress’ hair and hands it to the hobgoblins. The hobgoblins regard the hair for a moment and note that it does not change colour. They discuss the possibility that Arasinya could have been replaced with a naturally blond doppelganger, before reluctantly concluding that they had been hoodwinked by a doppelganger earlier.
As Arasinya comes to the realization that her airship has been stolen- probably by Ikar’s people- she is filled with fury. But by rescuing Yeraa, Arasinya has finally gained the hobgoblin chieftain’s respect. Yeraa expresses her deep gratitude to Arasinya. Yeraa notes that while she herself has promised not to come after Ikar, she can, in recognition and repayment of her debt to Arasinya, give Arasinya a portion of her garrison to command as she sees fit. With much cheering, Arasinya is hoisted onto the shoulders of a crowd of hobgoblin soldiers and is carried off after the fleeing caravan.
Meanwhile, the party decides that the coffin is too dangerous to leave even in its partially dissembled state. Tinker performs a disenchantment ritual to turn the coffin to dust. Aurora removes the legs from Fenmarel.
Yeraa suggests smuggling the statue to the Gathering Stone as a means of retreat or reinforcement should anything go awry at the Clan-Meet in two days time. Using a ritual she learned from her new book, Aurora enchants the statue to resemble an innocuous looking boulder. The hobgoblins travel through the statue and bring back materials to construct a pair of wagons for transporting Fenmarel and the “boulder”.
After a long walk, the party, statue, Fenmarel, and hobgoblins arrive at the Gathering Stone. Arasinya has already arrived- Ikar got away, his caravan crossing over into the treacherous wastes of the Mournland.
Dex discovers that she cannot approach the Gathering Stone. A boardwalk has been built in a circle around the Gathering Stone and all the tents of the Clan Meet are being set up inside the circle. For Dex and Dex alone, trying to cross this boardwalk is like colliding with an invisible wall.
On the night of the Clan Meet, the Clan of Heroes delegation is the last to arrive. They come bearing the coffin Khaas, their assassinated chieftain. The delegation halts just outside the magic circle of the boardwalk and Korrga, a half-troll half-hobgoblin leading the delegation, begins to rally the crowd. Over the past week, the Clan of Heroes has been offering miraculous healing to the clanless exiles living at the Gathering Stone. The Clan of Heroes has promised that these miracles are just the beginning, and by tapping the power of the Gathering Stone itself they will even be able to bring back the long dead. Korgga tells the exiles that today they belong to the Clan of Heroes and he promises them a glorious new future if only they destroy the circle protecting the Gathering Stone, which Korrga claims is a result of Word Bearer treachery.
Tinker, broadcasting telepathically, and Dex, using ghost sound, manage to get the mob of exiles to stop in their tracks before attacking the circle. Aurora warns the exiles that the purpose of the circle is to keep out aberrations: The Clan of Heroes are not what they seem. But the mob is more willing to believe the Clan of Heroes’ message of hope than the party’s message of doom.
Dex finally manages to get the exiles to begin re-thinking their position by demonstrating that she is unable to go through the circle because of her clearly aberrant vest of eyes. An exile who was healed by the Clan of Heroes is invited forward and he finds that he is unable to pass his healed leg through the circle. The exiles begin to have doubts, but Korrga insists that the circle is Word Bearer trickery. Aurora offers to give further proof: Under supervision, she will create a tiny magic circle that wards against aberrations and demonstrate that the Clan of Heroes cannot pass through the circle.
The tiny circle takes one hour to create. During that hour, Dex begins to feel uneasy. She spies pale moonlit shapes rising like party balloons from the Clan of Heroes’ fortress, rotund and writhing. She reaches out with her Coat of Eyes and makes a connection…