With Whisper masquerading as a cabal leader, the party sends up a signal flare to the Garuda. Shortly, an envoy appears from the Raven tribe with instructions from Iru; the Clowns are to bring the cabal leader to the home nest for an audience. Deciding that it is unlikely to be a trap, the party sets off to the Raven tribe village, with Whisper, Fara, Seras and Alina the interpreting security officer in tow.
The Garuda village is made up almost entirely of dwellings high up in the trees, with no access for landwalkers. The party find themselves subject to many wary stares as they are led to a pavilion set up specifically for dealing with land walkers. Iru and his council of Garuda elders are waiting inside.
Greetings are exchanged and Whisper is brought forward to be addressed by Iru, who intones gravely, “We are grown weary of your constant intrusions in our lands, and demand that you cease all such activity.” Before Whisper can interject, he continues, “We are aware of your bases on the islands, and have thus far made no moves against you. We give you one chance to remove yourselves peacefully, or we shall be forced to raise our hand.” Whisper sputters indignantly, “What! You Garuda steal our holy relic, and now you have the gall to issue us an ultimatum like that?” At this, the entire council rears back, puffing up their feathers, and the guards make ready their weapons.
“whoa! Let’s all just calm down!” Darhe’el steps in, realising that Whisper doesn’t have any tact at all. “No one here is being accused of anything. Just, you know, their holy relic was stolen just over a month ago, right before, you know, a stranger came to your tribe, you know, Asimir, yes that guy. And, like, you know, we would just like to ask him a few questions, so if you could let us do that we won’t have to kill anymore of your guards notthatwe havedonethat atallnopewehaven’t. oops.” Iru is skeptical, but decides that the Clowns have been fair with their dealings in the past and so starts a quick casting to contact Asimir. Embarrassed, he finds himself unable to connect, and instead conjures a scrying circle from the stones in the pavilion.
Everyone there is amazed to see scenes of Garuda fighting with otherworldy beasts, with two great rifts rending the landscape asunder. The council immediately break out in alarmed chatter, and Iru tells the party to leave, saying they would resume negotiations once the situation was dealt with. Knowing that Asimir is likely to be at the rifts, Darhe’el instead offers the aid of the Clowns. With a dismissive wave, Iru tells him to do whatever he wants, just stay out of their way.
Back on the Cloudchaser, Captain Evar sets sail for the rifts on the other side of the island. A pack of flying beetles and jellyfish lies straight between them and their destination, and the fearless Captain decides that the fastest route is straight through. Tc mans the harpoon gun while the rest of the party prepares for combat. The flying beetles latch on to the ship and start gnawing through the cables connecting the air balloon to the hull. One of the jellyfish goes for the Captain, while another wraps its stinging appendages around the harpoon gun to disable it. A flaming skull materialises and starts flinging out bolts of shadow, obscuring TC’s optics and pinning him to the ground. Fortunately, the creatures seem to be preoccupied with eating the ship instead of the Clowns. Once the skull is extinguished, they clean up the monsters with little danger to themselves, though one of the cables has nearly been chewed all the way through.
Captain Evar orders makeshift repairs and presses on towards the rift. As they draw close, the party see a deva standing in the middle of an arcane circle, surrounded by Garuda. They hear a magically amplified voice, which they can understand(magically) even though it seems to be addressing the Garuda. “Look. I know I lied to you and pretended to be one of your people blablabla, but it was for your own good and anyway we have a really big problem to deal with right now so let’s just talk about it later alright?” The deva turns to look at the crew of the Cloudchaser, which has drawn level with him, “Ho adventurers! You look like a sturdy crew (and I’m assuming you’re here to help). I’m going to force the rift energies to take on a physical form, which you can poke at. This will allow you to help close the rift without requiring any magical knowledge on your part. Couldn’t be simpler!”
As Asimir starts his spell, the Mask of Deceit floats up and suspends itself in front of the rift. It rapidly enlarges, then splits into three faces. Tendrils of energy spin themselves out of the rift and attach to the faces, twining into physical bodies, a stone giant, a water titan, and a twisting nether hulk. The stone giant steps forth first, flinging chunks of earth at Asimir, disrupting his concentration. The Clowns rush forward to surround the massive creatures, covered by supporting fire from Kaira and Seras. Asimir stumbles back, and the disruption in the ritual causes the three forms to merge into one colossal being, which stomps the ground, unleashing a terrifying burst of energy. The Clowns are gravely injured by the blast, but inspiring warcries from TC and Darhe’el keep everyone on their feet. Fara’s constructs also dart back and forth amongst the melee, dispensing their restorative infusions.
The rift gargantuan splits back into three, and the water titan spits gouts of liquid, pushing everything backwards. Darhe’el unleashes rapid attacks with his psionically charged greatspear, weakening the titan’s defenses and creating openings for the rest of the party to pile on. TC and Whisper work together to flank and cause massive damage. The nether hulk sends its draining energies out, sapping the adventurers’ will. Temporarily empowered with flight by Iru’s shamanistic magics, Ahava charges repeatedly at the head of the giant, teleporting back to safety after each strike with his divine blade. Craig makes clever use of Fara’s explosive constructs to cause maximum amounts of injury along with his own twin swords.
The fight rages on as the party struggle to bring down the three rift titans. Another stray attack hits Asimir and causes him to falter. With a triumphant roar, the titans merge again and release a flurry of magical energies. The Clowns have used up almost all their jokes. Darhe’el and TC are pushed to the very edge of the cliff by the blasts. Just as the titan is gathering its energies to sweep them off, Ahava teleports behind it and deals the final blow, causing it to dissipate in a flash of energy. The rifts implode, sucking all the remaining otherworldy denizens away as they do.
As the dust settles, Iru hops over to Asimir and caws angrily. Appearing from the rubble, Alina translates for the Clowns’ benefit, “You! The elders banned you from our tribe. How dare you show your face here again?”. Asimir replies, and it seems his translation spell is still in effect, “It was nice to see you all again too. Anyway, you’d never have been able to close these rifts without me, so I’m just gonna go now and let’s leave it at that alright?” Turning to Whisper, he says, “Thank you for the use of your relic. You can have it back now.” Whisper is too flabbergasted at Asimir’s audacity to reply, and simply snatches the Mask of Deceit up, reverently tucking it away into his pouch. Finally, to the Clowns, “Well, you lot arrived just in time to give me a ride off these islands. Let’s go then!” Darhe’el pipes up, “You know, we’ve been tasked by the Arcanum to enlist your help in closing the rifts that have been appearing around Alter. It seems you’ve the same goals as well, so why don’t we, you know, work together for now.”
“The Arcanum finally got off their asses eh,” Asimir says amusedly, “let’s talk more on the ship; I think Iru’s just about had it with me.” The Clowns pack up and return to the Cloudchaser, setting sail for Tanar.