The return of Mashaar the Golden-Fingered occasions celebration. Her captains make plans for a feast, and even Abd is persuaded to stay the quest for the Zodiac Jewels for an evening. The venturers disperse into Adwa to spend the evening and the next day in more pleasant pastimes before the festivities.
Aya notes that Tiyesha and Hajuda, the wives of Barbafir Bloodmouth, were likely growing very anxious as the venturers were diverted to rescue Mashaar’s soul instead of pursuing the corsair. The two are unlikely to be reassured by the further delay of a celebration. She visits the two, and convinces them to be patient just a little longer. Tiyesha sulkily agrees. With a little more grace, Hajuda says, “Barbafir is not a great man. …He’s not even a good man. But we would miss him.” Aya promises the two that they will do what they can as soon as they are able.
Kismet takes Nehedza’s spellbook and pays a visit on Harira, whom she finds enjoying a hookah in a small lounge dedicated to exotic smoke. After the requisite pleasantries, she presents the elven broker with the spellbook. One of Harira’s halfling aides examines the book through an odd pince-nez, and nods vigorously and wide-eyed. “That is certainly more than I had even hoped for,” says Harira with satisfaction. “I believe I should sweeten our deal.” Kismet declines to name an additional benefit, asking instead to think on it for a time. She does, however, accept a pull on Harira’s hookah, and is quite surprised when the world becomes painted in various shades of reflective gold.
The following day, Aya decides to visit Ilsissa, and invite her to the feast. She finds the Serpent Emir basking on a favorite stretch of wall. Ilsissa graciously accepts the invitation, and she and Aya spend some time chatting in the morning sun and turning the heads of passerby.
Wind-of-Embers visits the shrine to the drakhan deities to perform a necessary devotion: if there is to be a feast, a priest of Hakasarre must cook. She purchases an entire young bullock from a butcher, and has it brought to the shrine’s adjoining kitchen. Partway through the morning, she is surprised by Breskh and Tikha, who bring her the latest gossip, listen to the tale of her errand to the City of Flame, and sample the meat. They recognize the name “Baklasha of the Iron Spiral,” the ifrita that Axos mentioned as having an interest in Wind-of-Embers, or at least they recognize the Iron Spiral. After companions telll her what they know about the trading house, Wind-of-Embers invites them to the feast as well.
The feast begins that afternoon, with lavish amounts of food from fine delicacies to hearty dishes, many of which speak to the personality of the venturer who brought it. The group enjoys the opportunity to socialize with their fellows, guessing at who might have provided which dish. The orc ranger Ruzakh develops a friendship with the magical hound Haup, who was invited by Abd. Ilsissa makes the rounds graciously, and those venturers who guess at the true nature of the coral viper in woman’s form are particularly polite. The al-Tajat priest Rizazh is another guest of honor, and seems somewhat overwhelmed when both captains Navaad and Mara-Set flirt openly with him. Barbafir’s wives are also in attendance, and although they have enough drink over the afternoon to begin being disruptive, again Aya is able to smooth their ruffled feathers.
As the sun sets and the feast reaches one of its lulls, Mashaar has two giant-blooded assistants bring out a massive chest of dark wood and firebrass. She stands before the chest and begins to speak. “O my beloved children of my heart,” she says, “I would say that this day is the finest I have yet experienced, but each day I spend among you competes as the finest, for you are all such splendid persons and you fill my heart with pride. Yet it would be dishonest to pretend that something exceptional did not just happen; that we are not feasting because some among you dared so very much. It would be insulting to downplay the valor of these heroes.” She takes a set of keys, and unlocks the three dangerous-looking locks on the chest. “I owe you a thousand thousand thanks, and perhaps this may at least dull the edge of my debt.”
She opens the chest lid, and reaches deep within. She draws forth a bridle of braided metal and bright jewels. “Abd,” she says, and the paladin rises. “I believe you would cut a dashing figure on a steed of smokeless fire. And,” she smiles, “it would tweak the beards of the ifrit to see a man of virtue riding it.” Abd humbly takes the bridle, bows to Mashaar as she bows to him, and thanks her as she thanks him in turn.
Mashaar reaches into the chest again. “Kismet,” she says, and the elf sailor starts. Mashaar holds up a ring of dark silver wrought in geometric patterns, set with a large black stone. As Kismet approaches and takes the ring from Mashaar, she notes that the stone is set on a hinge, much as a ring that contains poison might. “This ring holds darkness,” says Mashaar. “It will cloud areas that must be clouded, and it will bring night when day will not do.” Kismet flushes and thanks Mashaar, and again Mashaar thanks her in turn.
“Aya,” she says, and the next item from the chest is a rich cloak the color of the sky on a winter morning, set about with feathers. Aya recognizes it at once — a bird maiden’s cloak. “This was given to my by bird maidens on my third voyage. I believe it would suit you well.” Aya takes the cloak, and as she does, Ramjat hops on the feather ruff. To the bird’s immense delight, the cloak’s plumage shifts colors to match his own. “Thank you,” says Aya, and “Thank you,” says Mashaar.
“Attsu.” Mashaar takes another garment from the chest, a rich violet kaftan. “You already have many forms. But as impressive as you are in each one, sometimes it might help to look like someone else.” She helps Attsu into the kaftan, then whispers a word, and like that, the mechanical man is gone, replaced by a dark-skinned dwarf in a kaftan. Attsu bows deeply and thanks her, and she thanks him in kind.
“Wind-of-Embers.” The elven priest looks surprised, and is cut off mid-protest. “Yes. Please, come up. You are not one of mine, but you aided my children in this dangerous gambit.” Breskh nudges Wind-of-Embers in the side, and rumbles “Don’t offend her” under her breath. Wind-of-Embers concedes, and approaches Mashaar. “Kuraakta,” she says, a drakhan word signifying grateful acceptance. Mashaar removes from the chest an elaborate gauntlet of steel and brass, fashioned in the likeness of a dragon’s claw. As Wind-of-Embers takes the gauntlet, Mashaar says, “When it is ready, this gauntlet will crush even stone or metal beneath its claws.”
“Things that fire cannot burn,” murmurs Wind-of-Embers. “Thank you so much.” “And thank you,” says Mashaar.
The feast breaks out into more boisterous celebration again, as the five venturers are exuberantly honored by their peers. Tiyesha and Hajuda seem more sober after the gifts, and an astute observer would deduce that the corsair’s wives are genuinely realizing the caliber of adventurer that surrounds them.
Wind-of-Embers introduces Tikha to Kismet at one point during the evening. They play a game of skill together, despite Tikha’s skepticism that Kismet would not lose at a game of chance, and become great friends over the course of the evening. The two discover they have much in common philosophically, and go on at length about the pleasure of playing by the rules from time to time in order to experience a challenge. Wind-of-Embers also introduces Breskh to Abd and Blessed Lirin. The three also find some commonality, although in much less outrageous fashion — certainly not to the point where Kismet and Tikha drunkenly plot to write a book.
The feast thus runs its length as a great success. In the small hours of the night, Tairasha asks the venturers if they still intend to leave tomorrow. “We should,” is the answer.
“And where do we sail?”
“Hmm. And how do you plan to find the City of Corsairs?”
“Zan says he knows someone,” says Aya, gesturing over to where Katifa is struggling to lever up a very drunken Lightning Zan and take him somewhere to rest.
“Ah,” says Tairasha. “Then I suppose we are in the hands of Fate.”