|OUR HEROES:||Tira Wolfsdaughter||Hank Woodman||Haiku Odsdottir||Gilead||Persia|
uring the night, the Tallonite party sets watches. Sometime after two in the morning, Slik Russpelt comes on watch and spots a Saginaw scout keeping an eye on them. Under Gilead's instruction, he sneaks out and garottes the man into unconsciousness. He also liberates a pair of ancient, yet fully-restored binoculars from his target. Gilead gives his spyglass to Russpelt to carry and keeps the binoculars.
Before Russpelt has completed this mission, however, Gilead notices that Arthur is nowhere to be seen. Using various means such as questioning the guards and using Char's tracking nose, they come to the conclusion that he has gone in the direction of the Saginaw.
Now that he has gone, it quickly dawns upon them how trusting they were of his stories and remarks. It is as if a curtain has been pulled aside, revealing a magician's secrets. Nearly everyone remembers being asked questions and getting little substantive information in return. It seems Arthur has more talent and skill than he has let on. After waiting for Slik's return, Gilead, Hank and Char run off to follow his spoor. It leads to an area above the falls, right at the water's edge and stops. There is a soft impression on the shore of a foot that Char attests as belonging to Arthur. There is no further sign of him although they do see another bridge upstream that is guarded by a small Saginaw force.
They finally abandon the search and return to camp to find it struck and the expedition ready to leave. A hasty strategy meeting is held and notes are compared. They decide to move downstream until a difficult passage is found. Here they will ferry across on the Raven. It is by this strategy that they hope to dissuade any pursuit by the Saginaw. They find a suitable crossing at what they believe to have been one of the ancient locks. Any followers would have to travel a wide distance around the flooded area.
During this time, Gilead is troubled by his promise. If the human that Tira and Hank saw at Stoneroost is really his father, can he just walk away? He decides to pitch camp curiously early and informs everyone that he is retiring in the middle of the afternoon. His attitude is plainly obvious. If anyone wants to go to Stoneroost under their own initiative, don't ask and don't tell. He has learned the value of plausible deniability.
During that day, a small tragedy occurs. Alexander, their resurrected marine engineer begins to suffer lapses of memory, during which a dull and placid personality appears. What they have conjectured is true. Alexander was not resurrected at all, but seems to be a spirit pulled from the past and placed in the body of a farm laborer. Alexander is frightened, and tells Tira as much as he can remember from his previous life, but his memories flee all to soon. Before nightfall, he is completely gone and in his places stands Talmuk, a farm thrall of the Saginaw.
As soon night falls, Persia is off like a rocket, followed quickly by Hank, Tira and Kamlak. They rendezvous outside of camp and decide to unravel the mystery once and for all. They take great care not to be seen and approach Stoneroost from the opposite direction of the Saginaw camp. Upon their final approach, Tira sees something curious. Surely her eyes are playing tricks upon her, but it seems like there is someone standing at the crest of the falls! She decides she must be mistaken, since after a brief obscuring spray of mist the figure is missing.
Nevertheless, the tower soon erupts with dozens of bats. They seem to be flying a search pattern within the circumference of the horseshoe-shaped falls. They are armed with rocks and spears. Though she is aware of the danger of her strategy, Tira reveals their position with her lumina. They are quickly spotted and yell out an overture of peace. The bats are very agitated, but they are at least disposed to listen. After identifying themselves, a bat who names herself Shra-hak verifies that the people in the tower are indeed Mranda and Hadrian. Shra-hak tells them that the two were rescued from the falls tow and a half years ago and have been serving the tower ever since. The normal penalty for setting foot upon Stoneroost is death, but they managed through diplomacy and faithful service to convince the bat-king, K'kreee, to reduce it to 36 moons of service. Thirty of these moons have already been served.
They are further informed that yesterday, the bats rescued another person from the falls. Arthur was pulled from the water last night, claiming to be an escaped Saginaw slave. He was held while awaiting the pleasure of the King, but instead managed to escape. The bats are not certain how he did it, but believe that he jumped from the top of the falls, surely suicide. The party is unconvinced. They begin to get actually fearful of Arthur. Who is he and what is he capable of?
They appeal to Shra-hak to ask the intercession of their King to free the two captives early. The female bat beast is doubtful, but sends a messenger. The male bats live somewhere outside of Stoneroost, but she thinks it likely they can get word to him.
Sure enough, within two hours they are escorted to a circle of ruins wherein a mass of bats await them. Tira's sight can see many more hidden in the ruins. They are all armed and ready for any treachery. They present their case and plead to the king. His majesty seems to have other problems on his mind. It seems that Arthur stole something before he left, a circlet of some sort, meant to be placed upon a human head. Thy surmise this must be a Demon-King artifact. After conferring with his ministers, the King declares he will release the captives if the Tallon party dedicates themselves to retrieving the object that Arthur stole.
To seal the bargain, there is a prisoner exchange. Perisa desperately want to be rejoined with her mother, while All present know that Gilead is far more interested in recovering his father than the actual mission objectives, though he would never state so. Both parties agree to exchange Persia for Hadrian. By means of a secret passage they accomplish the switch. Persia is finally reunited with Mranda and Hadrian is released to the Tallon party. In a few hours, father and son embrace.