The conflict with the Cloud Giant sorcerer Yakupinyage was brought to a pause when a surgically altered aaracokcra with a voicebox escorted by several apes appeared. The voicebox spoke with a tinny voice of what everyone supposed was the voice of Yakupinyage. van Rijn negotiated the return of the captive aaracokra three days hence and also indicated that more mechanical components might be available. Yakupinyage agreed and suggested that these components be sold three days hence.
Zell was put on the trail of the lizardfolk in Ambartzumian, who, it was later determined, had been recruited by Adrienne the Fire Witch, for some unknown purpose. The aaracokra scouts and Mhyrryn followed them as they scouted Ambartzumian for a new homeland for the aaracokra.
Everyone else returned to Hest, finding that Orixia, Clockwork van RIjn, and Borat the Bugbear were holding off an angry crowd who had insisted on voiding two humans. The ringleader of the crowd was the tiefling butcher Meerk. The two fellows proved to be the hapless but horribly destructive rogues Tkalec and Korban. They had followed Nicholas van Rijn, their onetime business partner, whom they’d stranded, looking for revenge on him. van Rijn, who was nowhere to be seen but was now selling art objects from a world called Balaton in Hest through a now-deceased agent named Sumegh.
When the crowd was dispersed, van Rijn noticed a figure wearing a moon amulet with the symbol of Selune. A search was mounted, and the group found that the figure had gone through the 8-sided gate. Inside they found an obviously Feebleminded half elf that van Rijn recognized, the famous courtesan Devin d’Ascoli, a half elf who ran Selune’s Kiss in the city of Lion’s Bridge in his homeworld.
After capturing Devin d’Ascoli, Andra used an Antimagic Shell to suppress the Feeblemind. This proved to have been likely cast by a Master of the Festrilan Mage Guild named Lupo de Lucarello, who is a Guild ambassador. He was one of her clients but “not one she enjoyed.” She remembered very little of her experience, just going to Lupo’s home. Andra realized that Feeblemind would likely block out memories so it was unclear if any were there to be investigated.. After some more discussion it was revealed that she was an agent for the Countess and had been an agent for the Count before that. It seemed that the Guild ambassador sold her to someone, with Tkalec and Korban—-now safely imprisoned in Borat’s special creation he called “gimp suits” and subject to ever-increasing but carefully nonlethal humiliation and “punishment” by the creepily sadistic bugbear. It was decided they should wait the judgment of the God Machine. Devin preferred to be restored and was rilling to risk the Rod of Law to avoid being Feebleminded. It worked but she seemed to age slightly after it. She stayed in the tower in Hest, feeling safe there for the moment, but was eager to return home as soon as she could. Around this time, Orixia was called to the scene of Meerk’s murder. He’d had his throat cut neatly with his own killing blade. No clear culprit was in the offing, however, even after thoroughly searching. Zell was called back from Ambartzumian and then searched for clues but none were to be found. van Rijn gave the description of his ne’er do well cousin Nicholas van Rijn.
More searching in Trobriand’s laboratory commenced, looking for parts to trade to Yakupinyage, without giving him anything of great importance.
Styg approached the party with an update on his research on restoring the Brain in a Jar. He noted that the torpedo fish he’d tried had revived it for a while but that magical electricity would be too damaging. He also had to soak it in a solution of void salts and palm sugar. Voy indicated she needed to take observations and decided to join Captain Yna Emet’s crew, now made up of former courtesans rescued from Sitirthra’s Pleasure Palace. Styg was reluctant but Andra felt that it was time for Voy to travel. Phantine had returned with a large crew of giff, and took over as city captain, freeing Orixia—-frustrated at dealing with squabbles among merchants—-to travel with Voy.
Andra, Ariel, Zell, van Rijn, and Wendeam returned to the aaracokra and briefly explored the giantish ruins on which the aaracokra dwelled. A strange electrical construct was found but left for later. Soon the group departed for the rendezvous with Yakupinyage to deal with gears and such. A distinguished appearing apeman with silvering hair and a robe, one Ape Romney, was waiting along with some apemen soldiers and an “expert” who proved to be a gnome working for Gnelam Skoradinssen… an unwelcome name, given that Skoradin, the gnomish priest of Talos was an old (though vanquished and deceased enemy) who had build many horrifying gadgets. However, the gnome identified the gears as being “Trobriand work”. Zell eavesdropped on his conversation with the distinguished apeman and realized that the gnome insisted on buying everything. The apeman’s bargaining position thereby undermined, van Rijn took him for nearly all the money he had, but left a bit back. Eventually this led to an invitation to visit “Prince Yakupinyage of Cloud Castle”, but only if a proper gift was proffered.