The party set up some traps for the eventual return of other members of the White Mask Cabal. Ahava and the remaining cabal member are tied together to maintain the charade that Ahava is part of the cabal. The party hear footsteps and voices nearing, and someone exclaims at the ineptitude of new recruits leaving the trapdoor unlocked. A figure in a white mask and dark clothes enters the room and triggers the trap, knocking him to the ground. Unfortunately he manages to shout out a warning to his companions. Two other figures with white masks enter before dark smoke fills the whole room, obscuring everyone’s vision.
When the smoke finally clears, the party are surprised to see doubles of themselves in the room with them. Ahava senses does not sense an illusion but manages to sense the presence of magic cloaking someone else in the room with them. Craig and Darhe’el quickly decide to take down their respective doubles, while TC is bogged down with confusion as his analytical engine struggles to come to terms with the situation. Ahava hears a voice questioning him about his identity, and deduces that the person in the room with them is the high-ranking mage Kaira previously mentioned by the white mask cabalist. Darhe’el manages to discern the rough location of the cloaked figure, and Ahava drops his pretense to charge the mage. However, the mage takes the opportunity to add more confusion to the mix by taking Ahava’s form. In the end the party are still sticking to their strategy of focusing on their doubles. Realising that the party are experienced adventurers, Kaira orders his subordinates to drop their disguises and just kill them all. The features of the faux party members shift and are revealed to be changeling agents.
The mage conjures an illusory horde of soldiers to harass the party as the changelings dart in and out to deal devastating strikes. After a fierce fight, the party manage to defeat the changelings and subdue the mage. They revive the unconscious TC and bring Kaira back to the ship to hand him over to the garuda.
Back at the Cloudchaser, the party frisk Kaira and discover identity papers linking Kaira to the Merchant House of Fremen but notice that they are high quality forgeries. When questioned, Kaira maintains his claim to be a member of House Fremen which cause the party to be suspicious of him. However, Kaira expresses his admiration for the party’s skills and suggests that they aid him and the cabal in recovering an important artifact from the garuda. He offers the party reward and the opportunity to get into good graces with the merchant houses of Tanar, many of whom are members of the White Mask Cabal. He claims that the cabal undertakes less savoury tasks for the merchant houses to maintain their economic and political superiority, and expresses his interest in enlisting the services of the party for the cabal’s cause. Knowing his duplicitous nature, the party still decide to go along with Kaira’s plan and hope to discover more about the White Mask Cabal.
Before going, Fara activates a connection between TC and a spy drone that they sent to the garuda’s home island. They notice that there is a rift in the air near one of the settlements where elementals are pouring out and the garuda are striving to fend them off. They also utilise Kaira’s scrying crystal to spy on the main settlement and see the garuda shaman Iru possibly sending off various other garuda shaman to aid the other garuda at the rift. They also notice a garuda with Iru who looks quite different than the other garuda, and suspect this may be the garuda Asimir.
Kaira is freed, and they return to the abandoned mage tower to meet with his other changeling contacts. Kaira plans to use a changeling to take his place with the garuda and maintain his distance. He also indicates that having a changeling tag along would be crucial as they can sense the artifcat that they are seeking. Kaira sets of a flare, and several figures eventually approach their position. A lean changeling in dark leather armour addresses Kaira. He introduces himself as Whisper, and appears to be a sort of leader among the other changelings. Kaira explains that they had an altercation with the party and that his changeling retinue were indisposed. Whisper seems irritated at this. From their conversation, it appears to the party that the changelings appear to be a sort of mercenary band who are allied with the White Mask Cabal for some strange reason. It also seems that the artifact being sought by the Cabal was originally in the possession of the changelings who had some sort of deal with the Cabal regarding it. Upon hearing Kaira’s plan, Whisper volunteers himself for the mission and begins to make preparations. The party question them about the artifact and how they are to find and retrieve it. Whisper reluctantly tells them that what they seek is a magical item called the Mask of Deceit. The changelings are a sect who worship Ehrim, and believe that the mask was created by Ehrim himself and bestowed to the first changeling. It is rumored that anyone who wears the mask can take on any form, and no method of divination can tell the difference without the wearer’s consent, save Ehrim and his favoured children, the changelings. The changelings can sense the rough position of the artifact which becomes clearer the closer they are to it. After Whisper is ready, they head back to the Cloudchaser and prepare to contact the garuda.