Finally finishing the preparations for their Altus expedition, the Clowns headed to the airport to meet up with Fara, Seras and Galros. There they were introduced to Captain Ivar of the Cloudchaser, an experienced and skillful dwarf, who told them the journey to Altus would take about two full days travel. He also warned them about the Garuda, a race of territorial avian people that had settled in Altus. After a quick tour of the ship, the moorings were cut loose and the expedition officially set sail.
The journey was mostly uneventful, punctuated by Darhe’el’s constant bouts of airsickness. Craig spent the time holed up in his quarters, while TC barely left his position at the bow, where he kept a constant watch for their destination. Ahava spent hours working with Seras to figure out how he could bring passengers along with his teleportation.
Near dusk on the second day, TC finally spotted the outlying islands of Altus floating in the distance. Captain Ivar pointed out one of the islands, which he knew to be the main Garuda settlement, and announced that the ship would be heading there first to announce their presence to the Garuda, thereby pre-empting any misunderstandings. As they drew closer to the island, a massive unkindness of ravens burst forth, heading straight for the ship. Peering intently at the birds, the Clowns noticed that they seemed strangely synchronised with each other; a sweeping mental probe by Darhe’el identified only three sentienrs amongst the entire flock. They tried their hardest to communicate the peaceful intent of their mission, and eventually some of the ravens split apart from the rest and coalesced on the deck, shifting into a Garuda.
The Cloudchaser’s Garuda interpreters immediately rushed forward to address the representative, who introduced himself as Iru. Donning one of his angel costumes (don’t ask), Ahava tried to pass himself off as a cousin of the Garuda race, but was merely met with contemptuous disdain. Through the interpreters, Darhe’el learnt that someone calling himself Asimir had recently integrated himself into Iru’s tribe, and had been helping to close the planar rifts popping up around the land. It was very likely that this was the same Asimir that the Clowns were searching for. However, Iru bluntly refused to let them dock and contact Asimir, who he had taken on as a student.
After much persuasion, Iru gestured at Ahava and revealed that large numbers of white-masked landwalkers had been sighted on the neighbouring islands and were causing trouble for the Garuda. He agreed to consider letting the Clowns contact Asimir if they brought him the leader of these white-masked people. Seeing no other alternative, the party agreed to accept this quest. In a burst of wings, Iru dissolved back into ravens and departed.
That night, the Avenging Clowns held council, eventually deciding to send one of Fara’s constructs to the Garuda home nest, in an attempt to secretly locate Asimir. Meanwhile, the party would head to the other islands and investigate the white-masked people.
Piloting a skiff to the islands, the party saw ruins dotting the landscape, but could detect no overt signs of habitation. Once they’d made landfall, Craig quickly discovered fresh tracks which led to a ruined tower. TC cleared away some of the rubble from the tower, revealing a trapdoor. Attempts to pick the lock failed, and Craig was unable to force it open. Ahava then realised it was a basic arcane ward around the trapdoor, and spoke the magic words “Open Says Me.”, causing it to swing upwards and open.
Cautiously heading down the stairs beneath, the party found a partially collapsed chamber filled with magic lightglobes and workrooms. Creeping forward, Craig overheard a pair of people in one of the workrooms, talking about expecting an inspection from one of their superiors soon. A mage named Kaira was apparently in charge of the magical device they were using and the arcane ward, along with someone named Jakic. Learning this, Ahava sauntered forward and banged on the door of the workroom, “You idiots, this place is full of security flaws! I can’t believe I managed to get in without either of you knowing.” He flung the door open to find two white-masked men staring dumbly back at him, “Well don’t just stand there! I’m here to carry out the inspection. One of you come out here and help me unload my belongings.” Utterly taken in by his deception, one of the men obediently followed Ahava back out into the chamber. Unfortunately for him, Darhe’el and TC were lying in wait and unleashed a flurry of surprise attacks as he rounded the corner.
Maintaining the charade, Ahava cried out in alarm and ran back into the work room, shoving the other masked man out to face Darhe’el and TC. It was two against two now, but Ahava wasn’t done with his performance. He staggered forward, clutching his sides and collapsed in front of the two masked men. Darhe’el mentally rolled his eyes at the ridiculousness of the situation as Craig came vaulting over Ahava’s prone body, licking his blades, “Your boss was no match for me, and you’re next!” Shocked and awed, the masked men didn’t put up much of a fight. The Clowns decided to leave one alive for interrogation.
The prisoner woke up to find Darhe’el and TC staring down at him as well as the sounds of Craig’s maniacal laughter and Ahava’s entirely believable screams of pain echoing from a neighbouring workroom. Darhe’el hissed menacingly at him, “Your boss is being a little sstubborn, but you look like you’re more clever than that..” He quickly capitulated and told Darhe’el that they had been scrying on the Garuda home nest in an attempt to find a precious artifact for their cabal.