After killing Bek in cold blood, the party decides to regroup back in Tel Myca with the exception of Gjalund, who will follow The Shadow and James McMasters just in case they don’t go to the Transitgate. The party re-integrates Stormfury, and shares the information they learned from their encounter, some of which is confirmed by Stormfury in a private communique he received from his superiors. Stormfury also informs the party he’s been tasked with tracking down James as the Crimson Claws believe he may be trying to unleash another Lith invasion.
With this revelation fresh in their minds, the party quickly sets out for the Transitgate, knowing that if James deviates from his path, Gjalund will leave word for them at the Transitgate on where to catch up to him. After tracking the path left by the spider, however, Gjalund begins having difficulty following the trail after The Shadow takes to the tree tops in his travel, losing the trail completely after a short period beyond.
Left without much more of a plan, Gjalund sets out for the Transitgate, hoping to find more sign of the spider’s passing. In the process, he crosses paths warily with a huge Buayan, who is also on his way to the Transitgate. The two avoid each other, but are eventually forced into contact again as they arrive at the Transitgate to find it the site of a massacre, with the bodies of the Gateway guardians strewn about the clearing and the Gateway itself deactivated. The party catches back up shortly thereafter, and all involved begin searching the clearing; Gjalund for wealth, the rest for signs leading to the cause of the destruction or survivors.
It becomes quite clear that The Shadow and James McMasters were the result of the destruction, confirmed once Anzula manages to revive the sole surviving Gateway acolyte, who recalled that he thought James’s eyes had a faint blue glow behind them as he slaughtered his way through the Gateway before apparently closing it behind him.
With Anzula providing a little more healing to help ease the journey back to Tel Myca for the acolyte, and Gjalund showing uncharacteristic charity and providing some coin to the youth, the party set about deciding how to chase down McMasters and The Shadow to the Desolation. With no Gateway Architects among their number, the party is initially hesitant to attempt reactivating the Gateway, but eventually decides to give it a try first, then charter a moranthian chitin ship to take them to Gargatua on the western coast of the Desolation.
Lyndir and Alexandros attempt to pull the Gateway’s energies into line and reopen the path, but fail after several minutes of straining. Calling the effort impossible, the party begins gathering their belongings with the intent to head back to town, oblivious to Anzula approaching the gateway and making her own attempt. To everyone’s shock, she succeeds where the more powerful arcanists failed, and the party goes through the Gateway.
On the other side of the Transitgate, the oppressive heat, dry air, and bright sun comes as a shock after spending so much time in the cool, damp, and darker Vvark forest. The second shock comes from the five Gateway guardians, heavily injured from recent combat, with weapons and spells trained on the party. After being talked down by Anzula and Lyndir, and having a lingering mental spell removed by the Judge that blocked some of their memory, the frightened guardians explain that James slaughtered many of the guardians before taking off into the heart of the desert. Assuming he is making his way to the ruins, and learning they have little-to-no chance to make it to the ruins cutting across the foreign desert without dieing, the party sets off for Gargatua.
Along the way, they met a group of members of the Disciples of the Wanderer, who aid them with supplies and clothing to ease their passing across the desert, and make it to the city alive. From there, the party splits up into multiple groups, with Lyndir and Anzula securing access to the ruin dig site through the church of Eriaxs issuing a warrant for the capture of James, while the rest of the party hire themselves on to a mercenary company that just secured a defense contract for the ruins.
After arriving at the dig site, the party begins searching for information on James’s arrival. After Gjalund is thrown out for racking the expedition foreman in a successful attempt to clear him from the effects of a similar mental spell as the guardians were affected, the party learns James had arrived several days prior, spent a little over a day in the as-yet-unexplored northwestern quadrant of the ruins, and then left, heading East. Lyndir reveals his intent to arrest McMasters due to artifact smuggling and manslaughter charges, though conveniently “forgets” about the stolen artifacts in his backpack. Gjalund sneaks back into the camp at night with an amazing display of stealth, and the party secures passage into the underground ruins as guards for one of the scholars since the foreman won’t allow them in on their own.
Once inside the vast underground cavern housing the ruins, the party separates from the other scholars and guards, intent on attempting to discover what James was searching for and apparently found. While slightly unnerved at the complete and utter lack of dust in these clearly ancient ruins, the party finds what appears to be a major highway leading into the heart of the ruins, and begins making their way deeper into the ruins.
However, not long into their trip, the party is attacked by a swarm of blue-eyed zombies, and begins making quick work of them thanks to the powerfully repellent faith of Lyndir allowing the party to engage on their terms, up until they discover some of these zombies could cast necromantic spells! Despite taking several serious wounds, the party still manages to prevail, and after bandaging their wounds as best they can, continues on their way into the heart of the ruins…