Six months after the defeat of the Whispering Way and Simkin‘s unfortunate self-sacrifice, Chhakuk awakes from a dream of the dragon that destroyed his village to find that Cathran has vanished during the night, leaving only a note as explanation. She’s sure Simkin is still alive, and she’s set off to find him, something she apparently has to do alone.
Depressed, Chhakuk heads downstairs at the lodge, which he’s been helping rebuild, to have breakfast. Riska and Kayl are persona non grata at the Lodge (see Kayl’s Punching List), but Chhakuk has wisely set someone to keep an eye on them. That someone shows up during Chhakuk’s delicious breakfast and reports that Riska and Kayl took off in a big hurry. He knows where, but he demands an extra 25 gold in exchange for the information (see Kay’ls Punching List). Reluctantly Chhakuk pays, only to learn they’ve gone to Riddleport in search of some sort of cloak. He speaks to Desna, who he’s enjoying a much closer bond and more direct communication with these days, and reports his despair over his abandonment and the destruction of his village ten (or three) years ago. Desna suggests he find his friends, and gives him a vision of Kayl and Riska.
Meanwhile, Riska, Kayl, and Trapspringer have decided to take Reece to the nearest town and abandon him at a temple of Erastil. Riska is in violent rebellion against the entire situation and, despite Kayl’s urgings, refuses to engage with her so-called brother, suggesting they instead head back to Chhakuk. On the way they meet him and find Chhakuk has deep seated abandonment issues, causing Riska to drain her entire flask. Partway through his sob story, he notices smoke nearby and realizes they are near his home. He tells the others about how a dragon destroyed his village, mentioning that one day he hopes to return and avenge his people. Riska jumps at the mention of something to distract her (not to mention the treasure), Kayl is all about fighting a dragon, and Trapspringer is excited just to see one, so they agree to head off to Chhakuk’s old home which he has not been to in ten (three) years. They set off into the mountains, but as they reach the swamps, Riska and Trapspringer hear arguing. Riska recognizes the goblin voices as calling for help, and sneaks ahead to spy out the situation.
In the nearby swamps, Iora is having problems of her own: she’s completely forgotten that it’s her turn to take the druid’s watch monitoring the nearby ogres. Flustered, she and her wolf race off to take their place, and soon encounter a trio of ogres loudly arguing over a struggling pack of of goblins. She hides to monitor them, but when Riska pops up and gives her a wave, she hits the ground in panic. As Iora hides, one of the ogres starts clubbing the goblin. Its screams draw the rest of the party. Before they arrive, Iora charges in and commands them to stop in the name of the First, but Kayl charges in full blast, attacking. With the somewhat terrifying assistance of Trapspringer, the party dispatches the ogres with alarming alacrity.
Chhakuk recognizes the axes the ogres carry as being from his city and bearing noble crests, in spite of not having been there for three (ten) years. He also recognizes Iora, certain she is the daughter of a pair of humans who lived in his city, but she claims not to know what he’s talking about. Chhakuk and Riska are pretty sure she’s honest, in spite of some puzzling information. When she hears they are planning to fight a red dragon, she decides to come along.
After an uneventful night, the party reaches the city’s ruins. Chhakuk and Kayl bond over rubble while Riska frantically searches the looted ruins, discovering a statue with dwarven graffitti. Chhakuk continues to reflect on Iora and believes he may have known her under the name Penelope, which she denies. He then translates the writing on the statue:
I’m a strange creature, for no one endures at my hands except for my slayer. I grow tall and erect in a bed, while underneath I am shaggy. From time to time a maiden proud, the determined daughter of some yokel dares to hold me, gripping my russet skin, robbing me of my head and placing me in her pantry. Once that girl which seizes my head, she knows immediately what meeting me means, as she grows wet at the eye.
After much ribald joking, Chhakuk suggests the riddle may refer to an onion. At the word onion, the statue comes to life, pushes aside its dais to reveal a stairwell, and then returns to, well, being a statue. The party descends into what is clearly a disused training hall coated in dust, although they do manage to snag a masterwork longsword from the rubble before progressing into the next room.
Nine chests line the room, but as soon as they touch one, a voice announces: You have one minute to find the key and leave the room or you will be returned to the training area. They begin opening chests, finding keys and other loot: a wand of hold monster for Trapspringer, some vaguely stone-related potion for Riska, a wish ring that later disappears for Kayl, and a handful of worthless gems for Chhakuk. They also find several keys, and release both an air elemental and some grey ooze. Kayl’s key opens the door, and the party escapes after Trapspringer defeats the air elemental, although Iora comes very close to losing her life in the process.
Healed, they continue through a dark corridor. The darkness swallows the light and only the two dark seeing members of the party, Chhakuk and Iora, can see at all. Riska carefully proceeds, but part of the floor is illusory and she falls into water, catching blinding sickness. There follows some shouting as Riska and Kayl try to get Chhakuk’s attention, Iora moves onward (much against Riska’s advice, as Riska noticed a loud growling at that end of the corridor), and Trapspringer, presumably, continues to have a wonderful time. Chhakuk and Riska eventually, between them, figure out what’s going on, and Chhakuk is able to heal Riska’s blindness.
Chhakuk casts airwalk to get over the missing segment of floor, and the party easily crosses in various ways, progressing to the next room. Chhakuk uses prayer on the party, and Desna praises him. Go, Chhakuk! Go, Desna!
The next room has a tunnel with three segments spinning at various speeds and, as Riska finds out the hard way, coated in grease. The party hatches a short-lived plan to set the grease on fire, which they quickly abandon as they realize the magical grease will not burn out, but just keep sizzlin’. Chhakuk is able to airwalk through, and Riska uses her Rope of Climbing to climb through as well. Trapspringer and his wolf have a tough time making it through, but get there in the end; Kayl and Iora also climb through on Riska’s rope, and Iora’s wolf nimbly dances over the grease.
Riska reclaims her rope, and they open the last door to see the same two statues who guard the city’s entrance flanking a platform. A booming voice announces: “CONGRATULATIONS, STUDENTS! YOU HAVE PASSED THE CHALLENGE. STEP ON THE PLATFORM TO GO HOME.” The party climbs on the platform and emerges
-a-s some sort of weird merged creatures with five heads. Riska promptly bites Chhakuk, who begins casting a spell before realizing it will affect him as well, and they all— in a moldy room full of cots. In one corner huddles a group of dwarves and, much to Chhakuk’s shock, his mother — presumed dead — stands among them.