As the Starhunters come within view of Mytha Petraea, they see the ancient city wrapped within a sandstorm; its whirl offering only brief glimpses of the massive ‘Titan’ that Captain Perevis warned about. Their gnoll captain guide points to it, saying that the Sleeper, Lithok has awoken and walks upon Em.
As they travel, Fendrys becomes wise to a band of figures shadowing them all, and keeping their distance. The group sees an oasis ahead and decides to investigate, hoping it will be a good place to make a stand, should a fight break out with their trackers. The oasis’ waters have turned to boiling tar pits, its vegetation yellowed and dead, and the adjacent ranch wrecked, no doubt by one of the recent earthquakes. The trackers then reveal themselves, they are a group of gnolls from Perevis’ company. They have come for the horses, demanding two of the steeds so that they might avoid starvation.
A quick bargain is struck as the Starhunters agree to give up only Leonidas’ horse. They abandon Perevis just as quickly while he is caught between them and the mutinous soldiers. The gnolls are not seen again…
After moving on, the dust storm around Myhta Petraea envelops the group. Chaos erupts as everyone moves quickly to first shield their faces and then calm their steeds. Aelish’s horse panics and darts away into the dun clouds, taking some of her equipment with it. Leonidas is ‘swept away’ at this time, and isn’t found again until his companions cross through the storm. Strangely, the bard is seen to be climbing down from a building on the outskirts of town. Mytha Petraea looks to be just as deserted as the nearby oasis, but with one very important resident—a massive, several hundred foot tall colossus, formed of clay and parts of buildings that stands astride the river.
Half-blind and wearied from the storm, they decided to rest and allow night to come on, agreeing to tackle the city first thing in the morning. With the stars out, Leonidas has more of his arousing dreams while A’Kelah is plagued with a nightmare of spiders crawling on her brain. During his watch, Fendrys glimpses the woman called Małgorzata, seen to be looming around the sleepers during a few electric splashes of lightning.
The following morning, they plot a course to move north and eventually behind the colossus in hopes of avoiding its ‘gaze’, should it prove to have one. The giant anomaly must be their destination, for Leonidas recalls their goal—the tollstone—to be within the ancient pantheon of the city. High in the sky, the entire pantheon structure rests now on the shoulders of the massive edifice, its dome forming the semblance of a head.
On the way, strange sights are encountered. Bands of (brave but lawless) looters ransack the buildings. Elsewhere, as at the duke’s palace, materials have changed structure into glittering gems and pools of acid or quicksilver. They also cross evidence of large footprints, likely belonging to giants from the mountains and huge tunnels burrowed by gods-only-know-what. Rather than spend fading daylight on investigating these phenomena, they turn southwest and make for the riverside.
Three gargoyle-like creatures, assembled from chunks of bricks, clumps of sod, and pieces of monumental sculpture arrive and perch on nearby rooftops. A gargoyle sporting the marble, turban-wrapped-head of Myhtanian Emporer Varellion III sees A’Kelah with the orb and swoops down to snatch it away. Before it can escape, the group destroys the creature and fight off its wingmen. At the river, the true scale of the colossus—which stands bestride the River Striton—fills their hearts with awe and terror. Their goal is many hundreds of feet into the sky.
A’Kelah takes the orb and dives into the river, hoping to make use of the orb here, directly under the tollstone. Meditating on her magic and her connection to the Lurker, the sorceress veer attempts to will the colossus to life, hoping to march it forward. She meets with scant success, but success all the same as the titan shifts, dropping boulders and grinding its sand down into the river below. Her efforts are interrupted, however, by the arrival of an arrogant man called Mardus walking on the water.
Mardus is acting as though he is king here and these intruders must obey or remove themselves from the city. The Starhunters take none of the man’s guff, however. In front of their eyes, he transfigures himself into a hulking mass of clay and dried mud. Before he can do much damage or even walk onto land, Aelish traps him inside a Bead of Force. A water elemental called forth by A’Kelah then dribbles the force-sphere, with Mardus in it, a mile or more down river. The gargoyles, his servants, reassert themselves in his stead, but are dispatched by the spells and arrows of Aelish and Fendrys.
With Mardus out of the way, but only temporarily, they move quickly to surmount the colossus. It is an arduous project for which none of them are equipped. A’Kelah loses one of her prize keepsakes and then herself falls from a loose hand-hold, nearly dying from a terrible head injury. Leonidas is lost inside the structure itself when a rope snaps. Aodh’s armor is destroyed by the corrosion of jagged rocks and acidic slime. Fendrys too loses his sword when it slips from his sheath and turns end over end into the river below.
More than an hour after the sun goes down, the top is finally achieved. They make what rest they can and attempt to wash off the grime and dust of the ascent. An apparition of man who looks to be a foreign sultan or vizier is noticed up here near the tollstone before it becomes spooked that it is seen; it quickly fades away.
A’Kelah, tapping into previously unknown energies, has learned to fly. She uses this new talent to seek Małgorzata who it seems has been waiting up here for them all the while. She asks of the veer the same request that was put to Leonidas, “offer up Aelish’s blood to the tollstone.” A quick debate over the proposition leads to defiance on the part of Aelish and others. Frustrated, Małgorzata reveals herself as the succubus she truly is before soaring away into the night sky. The Starhunters make haste to finish what they came here to do before any further interruptions. The orb, just as at Imia, is united with the obelisk. The massive eldritch power running through Corinth’s Meridian is shut away once more, diverted now to Strondkard. As they perform this ritual, a scant amount of the mystic energy seeps into Aodh …
With the magic of the meridian no longer holding it up, the colossus of Mytha Petraea begins to rumble and come apart. Mardus arrives, having also climbed up, but he is too late. A’Kelah simply flies over him, out the ‘mouth’ of the temple. Fast thinking Aodh saves everyone else except Fendrys inside his own Bead of Force. The ranger does not make it to the halfling’s improvised shelter in time, but luckily still has his own bead and follows suit to save himself. The same impenetrable force fields, meant originally to trap Aelish and bring her to heel, now are all that stands between the Starhunters and certain death. The two magic cages, Starhunters inside, ride down a collapsing hill of stone and earth and gushing water before being deposited in the river, now partially damned with the wreckage of the colossus. The momentary duration of the beads comes to an end and again Aodh, thinking quick uses the Potion of Giant Strength to lift away the heavy boulders that trapped them all.
With the colossus no more than a pile of earth and stones, Myhta Petraea is an even less recognizable ghost-town than before. Exhausted, they wait out the night in a make-shift cave of toppled buildings, happy to be again on terra firma. In the morning, they scrounge together what valuables they can from the surroundings which includes a hoard of precious gems and rare metals (that look to have been gathered up by Mardus). Wishing to leave the scene before inquirers come looking, the group picks their way through what remains of the city, heading south for Taval. The road is not as deserted as one might expect. Others out on the move tell a tale of Taval experiencing the upheaval of so many soldiers and so much panic.
Aelish convinces a young Eladric acolyte (Brother Thelonious) and his two friends met on the road to join with her, rather than face the uncertainty of Taval’s martial law. So the Starhunters stick to the hard road of the vagabond, avoiding Taval for the second time. They head overland, trusting in Fendrys’ guidance, choosing a steady path to intercept the next fallen star as soon as possible. As they make way south-east on the Foghand Road, many dozens of human refugees are encountered also fleeing the turmoil behind. They beg for escort to Belendhin; Aelish feeds them with her miracles, but the Starhunters agree they cannot afford that diversion. Before the refugees are even entirely out of sight, two Tarimite inquisitors arrive on horseback. They are seen to interview the refugees and quickly catch up with Fendrys and those he leads. A’Kelah recognizes one of these mage-killers from the passive arrest of Almdor weeks ago. They bring news similar to that offered by the mercenaries slain on Vercetin lands, “Cease your travail and return with us to the capital.” A tense stand-off ends when they convince the Tarimites that their young Eladric acolyte companion, Brother Thelonious is one of them. The Inquisitors make detailed copies of A’Kelahs journals and notes before departing with the novice acolyte in their custody. Brother Thelonious’ friends, despondent over his fate, retreat to throw in their lot with the refugees a mile down the road.