After resting in Dragonpriestess Valka’s lair for the night, the party continues to explore the remaining sections of the cavern. North of the kobold’s sections, they find a fungal farm tended to by giant worker ants. The workers and a pair of soldier ants attack as soon as the party approaches, crawling along the ground and on the ceiling above, but the party defeats them. They then find a stone mist cloak buried in the dirt the ants planted their fungus on. They also find a series of tunnels leading into a massive ant hive, but decide to turn back rather than crawl into the tight tunnels.
Continuing into the original cavern, the party finds another set of rooms that once belonged to the dwarven settlement. Passing through the dining hall they enter a straight hallway with Annar in the lead. He notices a vague shimmering in the air right before he walks into it. Flynn comes forward to investigate, while Ingmar, sensing danger, bolts back towards the dining hall. The warpriest had the right idea – the gelatinous cube surges forward, engulfing Annar and Flynn. The party makes a fighting retreat back to the dining hall, Flynn laying caltrops to shred the cube while the weaponless Tatiana resorts to throwing rocks. The cube drives the party back, but dies before it can do more than deal out some acid burns to Annar. The party gathers some coins the cube had collected over the years, and finds some untouched jewelry and stonework in the dwarven bedchambers past the cube’s ambush spot.
Having slain the Dragonpriestess and explored the caverns, the group returns to Camber. As promised, the druid returns Ulrich’s shield to Ingmar and allows them to rest and recover beneath Pine for another night. Camber offers to heal the wounded if they have anything to wager against his services, but no one is willing to gamble with him. Before they leave the next morning, Annar and Ingmar ask if Camber has any messages he would like delivered. Getting a paranoid look in his eyes, the druid ushers the two to the other side of Pine, and sets his massive frog companion to stand watch lest the other adventurers eavesdrop. He then quietly whispers to the dwarf and the warpriest – there’s a dwarven barkeep in Novo Ostia named Jorvil, and Camber wants them to tell Jorvil that “the three holly bushes are ready”. He swears them to secrecy (even going as far as to warn both Annar and Ingmar that the other one might not be trustworthy for such a vital task), then asks them to return within a month with Jorvil’s reply, or after eight months if they can’t return within one.
Taking leave of Camber, the party exists the sunken hill fort and returns home (luckily, their horses are still waiting for him, as Camber didn’t free them, or worse). Upon returning to Kastoria, the party are greeted by Lt. Drake – Novo Ostia has dispatched him along with two decades of legionaries to help protect the village against further attacks by Umus. The soldiers are preparing to construct palisade walls and watch towers and have begun giving the villagers basic training, but Drake tells Annar that he trusts the dwarf’s familiarity with the village and the situation, and he’ll give Annar command over the decades should they confront Umus together.
Ingmar returns the shield to his uncle – Ulrich is heartened by Ingmar’s bravery, but is still ashamed about the loss of his honor to Lothar, and is also still quite drunk. Ingmar tells him to shape up, cut back on the drink, and help defend Kastoria while he continues his quest for the rest of Ulrich’s arms and armor.
Tatiana asks Nori is anything else has happened while they were away. She tells Tatiana that Gehlarrin stopped by a few days ago – his search to the north didn’t find any trace of the orcs, so he’s heading to the hills in the west, and will return in a few days if he doesn’t find anything sooner. Having found Camber’s advice to meditate on nature helpful, Tatiana asks Nori and Berde about their philosophies and views on nature. When Tatiana suggest finding an animal to test how well she can control her bleeding touch, Berde pales, and insists that she not attempt these tests until she has a better control over her condition, and that she only try such a test on Berde himself.
After spending a few days in Kastoria, the party sets off for Novo Ostia. The majority of the journey is on the well-traveled, well-guarded main trade road running east to west. A day outside the city, they come upon a traveler’s rest stop/shrine build by a defunct Fall cult, Horizon’s March. The shrine is currently being ransacked by a small number of actual Lavinian legionaries. Annar quickly draws his axe, and the legionaries respond quickly, falling into formation. Tatiana steps forward and tries to defuse the situation. The leader of the band introduces himself as Exarch Quintus, a Lavinian noble equivalent to a baron. He states that he is traveling to his estates in the west, and the city of Novo Ostia owes the Empire for decades of unpaid taxes since the collapse of the Empire, so he considers the shrine and it’s contents to be his. Ingmar disagrees with the rude foreigner, and tries to talk him out of destroying the shrine with a hint of diplomacy; Quintus is outraged by Ingmar’s honest words, but quickly scowls and storms away, his guard following as he continues west. The party spends the night at the shrine, and Ingmar repairs most of the damage the Lavinians caused.
The next day the party arrives at Novo Ostia. Ingmar informs the city guard of Quintus’ actions – they haven’t heard of him, not even the Lavinian members of the guard, but when they hear that the Exarch is accompanied by Lavinian legionaries, they grow nervous, and suggest Ingmar and the others leave Quintus alone. The guards give them directions to several inns; the Fox’s Hall is the best, but they’re interested in something a bit less pricey, so they head for the Dreaming Hound. They also tell Ingmar and Annar where to find Jorvil’s tavern, the Serpent and Cask. As soon as they reach the Hound, however, Flynn recognizes it as an establishment frequently visited by members of the Thieves’ Guild, so they settle for another nearby inn, the Axe and Lance.
After getting a drink and some rooms, they decide that the one place they all have an interest in visiting together is the Prismatic Tower. The shimmering structure is easy to pick out from the crowded city streets. A Sage named Fitz welcomes them as they enter. When Flynn shows him the dead Ioun stone and the compass, he asks them to follow him deeper into the tower (which is bigger on the inside than it should be). He leads them to a library room containing hundreds of books, and he invites another Sage named Magd over to examine the stone. After a few moments, Fitz determines that the stone isn’t dead, just asleep, and he should be able to awaken it. When Flynn asks what he thinks the stone does, Fitz admits that he has no idea yet, but Magd is convinced that the stone was created by Emperor Ioun himself, the greatest wizard to ever live, and it could be capable of anything (Fitz is quite embarrassed by Magd’s fangirl worship of the archmage).
Tatiana then asks Fitz about the card. He recognizes that it’s enchanted, but he can’t identify it, guessing that the enchantment may be incomplete. She also asks if the tower has a resident necromancer she can speak with about a personal matter; Fitz suggests she return in a few hours at sundown to meet with a Sage Genevieve.
Their business at the tower done for now, the party heads out into the city on various errands.