One does not merely…

After the exertions of the night, the heroes rest late into the morning and eat well with their host Alquazam. They discover that he was once a great Qubtan in the Amyr’s fleet, a contemporary of Qubtan Tubki. The pair has sailed with two great fleets to besiege a city on behalf of the Amyr and the surrounding islands when on the return home, Alquazam’s fleet had become separated in a mystical fog. For many years he struggled to return home to his wife and child and on the way had many adventures. In the end, he escaped an enchantress on an island sailing away on a crude raft to return to the only woman he truly loved. However, on returning home he found the house empty but for a single servant. His wife and son had disappeared and fearing that they had died, Alquazam sank into a reclusive melancholy with only his dogs for company and fed by the now near invisible bondsman. The activity of the Zilal is news to Alquazam but he takes this as a sign that all may not be lost, for having raised his blood in their attack and knowing of the death of Tubki, he feels he should return to Mustiq Eali and present himself to the Amyr as would be right and proper.

After being given directions to the estate of the Aismilays Mahma, the party take their leave and set out on the short journey. They arrive and are treated as honoured guests, a state of being that the heroes feel needs to be strung out as long as possible. As a result, their investigations are slow and shallow in nature and revolve around requesting a dinner audience with their host and a picnic with the head of the hunters. They also fear that because of the attack on the road the Zilal know of their presence and have a spy on the estate itself.

Aismilays Mahma is effusive in his greetings and Fulton begins to feel embarrassed by the tall tale he has told that makes him appear to be the hero of the action and the Avenger of Tubki. Denig appears not to be relegated to the roll of an enchanted stone statue servant and the other two lack a role except that of lesser companions. Aerandir relays this information to the rest of the party who do not understand the local language. Although outraged by such a deceit, the companions decide that if it continues to work in oiling the wheels of state and providing them with a meal they will keep up the pretence. In the course of the meal, Fulton also tells of the Night of the Long Knives and of Alquazam’s return from the sea. As M seems slightly alarmed at this information and says that his cousin the vizier will be most interested to hear the news. The fine meal continues: during which As M tells the party of what he knows of the attacks on his estate. He also suggests that taking the cloak to Z is an important task and may also help them discover more information. They ignore this suggestion choosing to leave the birthday gift and returning the young lord to Mustiq Eali to after their mission has been completed.

The picnic with the head of the hunters does also not reveal the location of the headquarters of the Zilal Ramiditan. They do discover a few more details about the killings, including the removal of the hands and feet but do not pursue any additional avenues of enquiry. Instead they load up with supplies and prepare to set off into the jungle to explore a valley that is rumoured to be perpetually shrouded in mist, having first said that they intend to scout a completely different area.

Relying on a sense of direction more than any skills of jungle survival the party follow animal trails or hack a pathway through the dense growth of the jungle for three days. Always moving vaguely in the right direction they feel that they are making progress until even Aerandir and Denig, who have the best sense of direction, feel at a loss. They decide that climbing a tree to the top of the canopy would be a way to gauge direction and distance. Unfortunately, even through he is an able climber, Denig cannot scale the tree due to his weight. Aerandir climbs a few feet before an ill-placed foot sends him back to the ground and so it is only Fulton who manages to make it to the top. The sight of a sea of green and the short distance they have moved up and sideways fills him with dispair. Knowing they only have food for three more days at most the party decide to return to the estate and rethink the plan.

Upon their return to the estate, they pass off the lack of progress as having investigated one area and that after a rest they will continue to quarter the lands beyond until the location of the Zilal is discovered. Returning to their rooms to change and bathe before a meal, Fulton discovers a letter that is addressed to him as the Avenger of Tubki. It appears to be from a member of the Zilal Ramidatan who has become disenfranchised with the leader of the group Jundiin. He bids them to meet him on the shores of the lakes at the northern edge of the estate.

The party are a little concerned at this turn of events and fear that there is a chance of ambush. In spite of the risks though they load up with supplies and proceed to the lakeshore. Here they make a camp and although Dagaard and Aerandir use the tree line as cover they make little effort to conceal their presence. So it is that they are easily discovered by al’Ahmaq who steps out of the dark almost on top of Dagaard who feels himself concealed. Assured that he intends no harm, they listen to his tale.

This al’Ahmaq is concerned that the actions of Jundiin will endanger the whole island and that Jundiin intends to seize power from the Amyr. al’Ahmaq does not want this because he dreamed of joining the great war fleet but since for various reasons he was unable to do so he joined the Zilal Ramidatan who he thought would be secret protectors of the island’s safety. Jundiin has a clasp to a cloak that appears to grant the wearer the ability to travel in shadow. However, it is incomplete and Jundiin has become impatient with discovering the whereabouts of its partner. Instead he plans to forge one of his own. Guided by the shards of a knife, which he says speaks to him, Jundiin will take the knife and remake it into the clasp. To do so he has been creating a forge beneath the mountain where the fires of the earth weep. al’Ahmaq is worried that this will bring catastrophe to the island. Who knows what will happen in the forging or what Jundiin will do if he wears a cloak bound by the two clasp. Especially, as the metal of the knife seems to speak to him with the voice of one called Zigur.

The heroes hear this tale with the weariness of the experienced adventurer. “One does not merely…” starts Dagaard, but the others cut him off before he can continue. They wish to know how they will get into the camp and the forge. They enquire about where the base lies and how four of them, five if al’Ahmaq is willing, defeat a whole army of Zilal fighters? A outlines his plan and the layout of the base which is on an island to one end of a volcanic lake. The heroes can enter the island through a little known escape tunnel that runs from an islet known as the Phantom Ship further along the lake. He will distract the guards who will be at the tunnel entrance and the party can make their way to the main tower. Here he will help them gain entry to the tower through his rooms on the upper floors.

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