[3 Flamerule 1372 continued]
After leading his companions into victory against the gnolls who defiled a sacred site, Syd summons a unicorn to heal them. The group begins to walk back towards their camp. On the way, Mellia asks Myst (still in Ralkin's body) how he is coping with the loss of his friend Gelkar; Myst replies that he is doing the best he can under the circumstances, especially since the cleric did not wish to be returned to the land of the living. Dolcetto (still in Fargrim's body) asks Mellia if she is sure Cain wishes to be rescued. The red-haired diviner replies that Cain said they should hurry, and, regardless, she owes him.
When the group reach their campsite along the river, the small hawk that had telepathically communicated with Syd earlier changes shape, slowly and with some difficulty, into an elderly half-elf. The figure introduces himself as Kithrin Rei, Heirophant and Yuir-Warden. Rei tells the group that although Thay seems to have abandoned its schemes of conquering other lands by force, it has turned to trade and economic might to expand its influence. Thayan merchants sell magickal weapons and other wondrous devices throughout Faerun, and some of the rare alchemical and other ingredients for these devices are "harvested" by raiding parties of gnolls from ancient, holy areas in the Yuirwood!
Rei says the intrusions of raiding parties sponsored by the Red Wizards are becoming more and more frequent, and that his energies are waning. He says he is looking for a successor, and implies that Syd could learn much under his tutelage while simultaneously showing his determination to protect nature. Syd responds, however, that he has vowed to help his friends on their current mission. The halfling apologizes profusely for starting the fire in the forest. Dolcetto adds that if the group comes across anyone who might help Rei protect the Yuirwood, they will make clear the urgency of the task.
Rei departs, and the group rests for the night.
Thousands of miles away, in Silverymoon, Markus arrives at the Academy for his rematch against El Capitan just in time to hear the dashing swordsman tell his coterie of female friends a story about dashing into a burning building to save an infant. The crowd is definitely in El Capitan's favour as the duel begins. For this bout, the arena has been laced with a wide variety of mechanical and magickal traps, and the winner is the first duelist to land four strikes on his opponent. Darts, javelins, fire, and more threaten the two fighters as they move across the perilous floor, but in seconds both are trapped in the same pit! Markus takes advantage of El Capitan's inabiity to evade his strikes, and wins the day, much to the dismay of El Capitan's devoted followers. The booming voice of the next swordsman on the Academy's leaderboard, a dwarf named MacBronzebottom, can be heard welcoming a match. MacBronzebottom bets Markus 100 gold that the latter won't even hit him once during their match, and Markus accepts.
[4 Flamerule 1372]
Back on the Aglarondan Peninsula, the adventurers prepare for another day of travel and talk about various things. Mellia reveals to Fargrim that her daughter has been turned to glass by the mysterious figure who is forcing her to find the Crown of Horns, and that she plans to return Cain to Startop Mountain before letting him make any important decisions about his future. Soon, Mellia starts to suspect that her companions whose minds have been placed in different bodies are starting to forget who they are. Dolcetto (in Fargrim's body) says that when she served in the army, it was common charge headlong into the enemy. Fargrim (in Dolcetto's body) has difficulty remembering details about Cain, and talks about his "great love of stone." Ralkin (in Myst's body) says he always loved casting spells. Only Myst (in Ralkin's body) seems unaffected, and he says that his anger after Gelkar's death keeps his memories in place. Annoyed, Mellia quips that the group "will be lucky if we don't end up with a bunch of Multivars!"
The group's multiple channelers of arcane energy summon phantom steeds for the day's ride. Before they go, Ralkin (in Myst's body) casts a permanent spell to sharpen the claws of his real body. The group makes quick speed through the countryside, following the Yuir south and then heading east across the narrow strip of land dividing the Yuirwood and the southern swamps of the Wizard's Reach.
Despite their map indicating that they should be passing through relatively level terrain, the adventurers find that the ground ahead seems to be getting steeper and steeper. Soon, a thick grey fog rolls in and the riders find themselves on a high ridge overlooking a valley below. As the fog roils and shifts, the faint outline of a city can be seen in the distance. Remembering Fargrim's tales of Phynys Muir, "The City of Lost Hope", the group quickly decide to ride back down the slope and find another way east towards Thay. Dolcetto and Myst find themselves drawn to the edge of the ridge, however, and stare at the misty city with longing. Dolcetto says she sees a golden statue in the center of the city, while Myst begins whispering as if in conversation! Both try to persuade the group to ride forward. Mellia says she doesn't see any statue and has no interest in what lays ahead, as she has "bigger fish to fry." Myst, however, responds "I too care little for the statute, but there is something I want: power!" Mellia persuades a reluctant Dolcetto and Myst that the group can come back and explore after they rescue Cain.
The adventurers ride back the way they came and then south into marshland before once again turning east. Soon they pick up a road, cross another river, pay a small toll at a tax station, and reach the outskirts of Escalant. The city is firmly in the hands of Thay and is the last stop before the border. The adventurers find their way to the large fortress that serves as the headquarters for the Thayan Legion. A long line of petitioners are there waiting for a permit, and a clerk inquires about the adventurers' presence. Mellia explains that the group is on a pilgrimage to the Flaming Brazier where they hope to meet up with an old friend who is a cleric of Kossuth. She says that the others are all "part of her retinue." Syd in particular comes into heavy questioning about his deity. At last, the adventurers are told that they can rest in the fortress' courtyard for the night, along with many other petitioners, and expect an audience with the Legion Commander the next day.
[5 Flamerule 1372]
The hours stretch on until finally, late in the afternoon, the adventurers are led the fortress' narrow corridors to the office of Lord Vicnan Chorster, commander of the Legion's western expeditionary force. Chorster is an imposing figure and eats a greasy meal of some indeterminate meat. He interrogates the adventurers about their purpose in seeking to enter Thay, and why they chose the unusual route of travelling across the Wizard's Reach. He seems to already know that they were seen in Laothkund, and the adventurers soon suspect that an invisible figure is lurking nearby, scrutinizing them carefully. Mellia provides a persuasive explanation that adheres closely to the truth, as she proclaims her growing appreciation for Kossuth and her desire to be reunited with an old friend. Somehow, Chorster knows that the adventurers are carrying several magickal items and says the group will need to donate to the cause of Thay's defence in order to receive a permit. The adventurers retreat to a corner of the room to discuss what should be turned over, with Mellia pushing for more valuable items and Dolcetto suggesting restraint. The group decides to turn over two suits of magickal armor, and an hour later the adventurers have a permit in their hands. As the sun is already starting to set, the group decide to camp for another night in the fortress' courtyard and start again upon the morrow.