Upon returning to Gatecrasher Keep after various misadventures, the Guild sets out to find out what’s been going on. Vash and Chouko go in search of Qixi and her ragtag band, arriving at the field of poppies the next morning. They promptly encounter one of the Ark Guardians – the largest of three – and are asked for tribute before being allowed on their way. Vash foists off a set of towels and some soap, to which Chouko adds a magical wand and her ill-fitting tiny vest before explaining that they are friends of Gerfried and Clarice. The Guardian allows them to continue their search for Qixi and company, whom they track to Benobles in rather short order.
There, they reunite and make way back to the Keep – pausing once for Chouko to plant of of Nicholas’ beans in the spot where she’d previously planted a different one. Immediately, she and Vash are caught up in a magical ice storm and the rest of the group come to full readiness. Once the danger subsides, Chouko gets to play in the snow a bit before the group get back underway.
Once home, Qixi and Chouko explain to Olias exactly what has transpired in the time the main front of the Guild has been gone and that Qixi’s actions are directly responsible for the Mahrut’s melting to slag. Chouko explains to Olias that the poppies could easily be used to start a drug trade, but he declines and explains that with magical healing readily available the only purpose opium would serve would be as an addictive drug.
Chouko, Vash and Olias shortly depart for the Templekeep of Mes and find him en flagrante delecto with the High Priest of Karsus – Owen Bannor. The moment quickly broken and passed, the trio introduce themselves and Chouko launches into a bardic retelling of their Keep and its immediate surroundings which piques Owen’s curiosity quickly. Specifically the part about the devil-infested Duchy of Crimmor. During this tale, Vash is pulled aside gently so that she may be officially recognized as a Holy Liberator of Lysander by the Temple Prostitute – Dru.
Upon returning, Mes and Vash find Owen gearing up in preparation of a crusade against Crimor. It is revealed that Bannor began his previous career (that of a Paladin) in the town of Fairhill as one of the founding members of the Revenants – a group of crusading heroes known throughout Castafon. Having more than a small amount of personal investiture, he wishes to see what has become of Waymarch for himself.
And so it is that Bannor and Mes return with Olias, Chouko, and Vash to Gatecrasher Keep, at which time Bannor and Mes (With Vash in tow) are teleported to just outside Crimmor. Vash gives them the lay of the land and then heads back to the Keep, following a mysterious trafficker in Crimmor’s indentured/slave pens to one of the still standing Way Inns along the south road before turning east. On her return trip, she stops briefly at both the Way Inn that the Gatecrashers helped restore earlier in the year and at the town of Millthorpe. Along the way she gathers rumors to the effect that Waymarch is concerned about the “neighboring satrapy emerging to our east.” (i.e. Lord Aetherflame and Gatecrasher Keep.)
Thereafter, returning to the Keep and reporting her findings at breakfast the following morning, the discussion turns to the news brought by Qixi regarding the new settlement near Lightelf. Amidst much discussion of “many irons in the fire,” the days chores are outlined. Olias sends Gerfried off with a teleport scroll so that he, Clarice, Vash, and Tamilyn can travel rapidly to the Engram Ark.
Instead, the four mis-teleport and arrive at the lip of an arctic volcanic crater overshadowed by an immense statue of a dragon. Burning the last of the scroll they return somewhat defeated. In the aftermath, Chouko and Olias use the cubic gate to pop over to North Pole City to meet with Marl Tyro.
They do in fact meet with Marl Tyro, who hands off the “primal artifact” (!) that will be serving as his (and their) “introduction gift” to the Lord that Tyro and the ‘Crashers seek to do business with. Tyro furnishes them with a map of the Kaidanese region and a general understanding of and lay of the land. Quite clearly, Tyro is feeling pursued or watched and so Olias offers to transport them all to a more secure place of converse – they pop to the Sand Dragon Inn to conclude their business. In the course of his briefing, Tyro makes it known that the land through which they will be traveling is under a great curse – which is what seperates this former Crane colony from the mainland. However, the island that they will be beginning on (Gaijinoshima) is a town based around three portals (one of which works and is controlled by the yakuza, one of which hasn’t worked in hundreds of years, and one of which is “glitchy” but works one way….sometimes) that the yakuza use to control trade with other worlds.
Thereafter, Olias and Chouko return to N.P.C. to let Tyro go his own way. Contemplating their return to the Keep, Olias wishes to pursue Chouko’s desire to track down her homeland (accessible primarily via the NPC gate). They bluff their way into the Gate Pyramid and find two of the city’s elder magi holding an open debate regarding the portals. With some quick thinking on Chouko’s part, her and Olias offer their services to “fix their problem.” A woman they have not seen before, but presumably one of the Mage-Governors of the city, teleports in and is giving their offer a fair shake when suddenly the portals all go back on-line.
Immediately, white clad armored halberders begin filing out of one portal (the portal to Talim Shilbari). As a confrontation looms, the pair charge through the portal to Shiranbansho and are confronted by twenty or thirty deeply fearful peasants and freemen, of mixed Yonshono and Dai Nam ancestry. The apparent destruction of the White Moon and the scattering of the “Moon’s Milk” across to (now) encompass nearly the whole of the night sky has fed a frenzied panic in the Empire of the Crane (indeed, rumor suggests rioting in the cities of the north). In a masterstroke, Chouko convinces each of the 30 or so faithful gathered that while things are changing nothing is to fear – the best thing that can be done is go back home and carry on with life; the world is not crashing down. So successful is she that the crowd is, at once convinced, scurries back to their villages to share this bizarre hope meme. For such a masterful ‘trick’ within her spirit shrine, Chouko gains her fourth tail.
After her and Olias discuss what to do next (over an hour and no one follows them through the portal), they opt to use the cube gate to pop over to the Kaidanese town of Gaijanoshima, built around three such portals – the intent is to scout the terrain the characters will be dealing with over the coming days and possibly weeks.
Instead, they find that all three of the portals are online and fully functional. Opting to seize the opportunity, rather than explore the town (which, locally is experiencing the deepest part of night, around 4 am) they go plunging through what they believe to be the non-functional portal, now mysteriously back online.
And they emerge on a jagged rocky landscape, cleared to landing strip smoothness in a radius about an immense pyramidal structure, underneath a pink, gaseous sky.
After some debate, they approach the structure, only to find that they portal through which they have stepped is moving and in fact it glides through the air until it enters the pyramid through a large hole in the front. Reaching the side of the immense structure, Olias attempts some manner of travel magic….....and is immediately afflicted by some bizarre malady leaving him convulsing and nearly unconscious (and apparently, temporarily somewhat blind). As Chouko fights back panic, she lays a cure song on him to no avail.
A large three legged (tentacled?) metal construct descends from the pyramid and gathers them up in it’s open top. The controls remind Chouko of the “Crab aparatus” that she climbed into in the ruins of Ptolustiusi several tenday ago. The immense tripod ascends the side of the pyramid with them in two.
It becomes apparent that the pyramidal structure is in fact one of two – a smaller pyramid floating over a much larger, flat topped, one. They are carried into the smaller of the two and desposited in front of a portal. Olias at this point seems to be recovering but is still showing clear signs of disorientation. After a moment, they step through the portal…to find themself elsewhere within this massive structure.
An hour or so passes in which time the pair explore the apparently empty building. Twice they are confronted by illusions of red skinned humanoids who speak a language similar, in some respects, to Chouko’s language. Each time their translation magics fail. (Eventually it’s recognized that both the illusions and the gatecrashers are using translation magics and it’s cancelling out both effects). At long last they reach a control room which seems to be able to learn Chouko’s language…and to respond to her (unintentional) control to whistle up a new portal just outside the control room window.
Amazed but overwhelmed they debate what to do and finally decide to head back to the Keep, (or try to) and – if successful return here after they complete their obligation to Tyro.