We return to our own world with our new Beholder companion, Igor, who excites much fear and suspicion, which we do our best to allay.
Accepting to Ehput-Ki’s counsel, our group disperses. Flint heads immediately to the President and the Pig to reunite with Pensiar, accompanied by Wellby, Sparkle, and Kurshk. Lydia returns to Lady Katrina’s employ. Chinicum joins Ehput-ki to attend a Cabal meeting to vote on important pending matters. Igor and Cid remain with Mialee, who senses that Cid needs healing from the dark forces he encountered in the alternate universe.
At the President and the Pig, Wellby and Kurshk begin a night of heavy drinking, while Sparkle looks on in concern. Flint only has eyes for Pensiar, and is putty in her hands. She wishes to show Flint a perfect place to get married and he follows willingly. Pensiar leads Flint to a park, chatting excitedly the whole way. Flint is charmed and diverted, and doesn’t immediately notice when Pensiar begins to speak only in rhyme. Gradually he becomes puzzled and alarmed and leads her out of the park. They are followed by a man, who continues to follow them into a shop. Flint grabs the man from behind and places his short-sword against his neck. To his surprise the man talks to him in rhyme! He claims that Bareris has put him up to this to “buy time.” The spell soon wears off both the man and Pensiar, who is sure the man is no longer a threat. Flint, however, is not amused; he expresses himself in angry rhyme while he ties the man’s arms behind his back and drags him along with them back to the President and the Pig.
Mialee begins the ritual to heal Cid by pressing her palms to his temple. Igor misunderstands and fears he is witnessing a mating ritual, but is reassured and sits back to watch. After a while, black smoke issues from Cid’s mouth and congeals into several black demonic forms. Mialee cries, “To your feet! Destroy them!” At this point a mysterious silence falls and observers are not privy to what occurs next. We later learn that Cid has destroyed the demons, presumably aided by the indefatigable Igor.
Lydia obsequiously returns to Lady Katrina’s employ to sing soothing songs. Lady Katrina is transported back in memory to a faraway place and her form shimmers before solidifying. She is now so relaxed she becomes quite chatty and requests Lydia to ask her any questions she might have. Lydia tries to use this to advantage, and learns that the Lady is very fond of music and that she is really a … DRAGON!
Chinicum and Ehput-Ki hasten to the meeting of the Cabal. Bareris immediately tells them the Cult of the Dragon is succeeding in their plan to return dragons to the world of men, and that there are two ways to combat this. One way is to assist the elves and deny Sultana Pyre the civil war she desires. But Bareris has a second, fiendish idea of using an Elvish Burial Orb to take advantage of the civil war and siphon from the orb the power created by the deaths of elves. He pulls an Orb from his pocket — it is the very orb that we adventurers had long ago obtained for “Thia” (who blamed us for its fiery shattering)! It had not shattered; instead, Chini had used a Time-Stop spell to obtain the orb for Bareris, at his request!
Bareris now demonstrates how Chini, who possesses no such magic, was able to use such a powerful spell. A shadow passes over Chini, who sits taller and says, “I give Bareris my proxy for the upcoming vote.” He then collapses back in his chair. Umara immediately accuses Bareris of illegally compelling a vote, but Bareris, Ehput-Ki, and Chini himself inexplicably deny that this is the case.
Bareris now demands a vote, and it seems certain that his diabolical plan will win. Ehput-Ki inexplicably stalls for time when asked for his (the final) vote. At the last moment, who should float in but a small, withered Genasi, surrounded by a brilliant blue aura of magic. The magical power emanating from him is immense. He is none other than the long absent, 12th member of the Cabal, Szindaer. “I have not voted yet, Bareris,” he says, and casts the final vote in favor of aiding the elves in their war against Sultana. He explains that he does this because of an old promise to his friend Shavia.
Szindaer calls Chinicum a walking time-bomb, and suggests sorting out what came over him, to prevent it reoccurring at an even more inopportune time. Ehput-Ki explains it was Chini’s patron, who provides him his warlock powers, who possessed Chinicum. Szindaer offers to make sure Chini’s patron can never possess him again, and Chini agrees.
Back at the President and the Pig, Kurshk gets rip-roaring drunk, and Wellby gets stupefied. A terrible brawl occurs, but none of the participants remembers the details, so we only barely learn of its occurrence from Sparkle, and see little evidence except for some miscellaneous bruises and broken barstools. Sparkle has developed a very special affection for Wellby, and she offers him encouragement to avoid becoming a sorry drunk.