Kismet willingly takes to the task to distract Tabruz while the others search his quarters. She finds him in the Monkey and the Pearl wineshop, introduces herself, and offers to tell him a variety of stories about the drowned for his census. The scholar assents, and soon finds he has completely failed to anticipate the amount of stories contained in the elven sailor, or even to determine which of them are true and which are spontaneous. She confuses him and corrects him until finally he sets down his quill and declares he’s out of ink.
Tabruz attempts to excuse himself to get more supplies from his home, but Kismet insists on coming along with him. She shifts to more comical stories of death at sea during the stroll. “And the baboon remained wrapped around his head as he sank beneath the waves, its hips still moving—”
Kismet’s story halts abruptly as sharp nails rake across her lower back. A cold numbness locks up her muscles and she falls forward, only to be caught by a lean and powerful arm. She feels herself lifted across the shoulder of a thin creature that smells of the tomb, and then it clambers up the cliff with her dangling helpless in its grasp. She hears the chains rattle as Tabruz climbs up after them.
After far too great a height, Kismet feels her captor clamber over a ledge and drop her face-down onto a rough stone floor. The cliffside cavern is lit by a few candles, and it smells faintly of cinnamon and myrrh. Tabruz and the ghul exchange a brief conversation — they are aware that intruders have found the zaratan, and Hagwaan is dead. Tabruz insists he needs to make preparations, and he and the ghul Vekmeer head deeper into the cavern. But Kismet still hears the scrape of nails on stone as two other ghuls take up a sentinel position at the cavern opening.
The numbness begins to leave Kismet’s limbs. She slowly uncoils, quiet enough that the ghul sentries don’t notice. The two carrion-eating beasts continue to keep watch out the cave opening, talking about the distant fire in grating whispers. Kismet scans the cavern opening — long-disused, but with mosaics of a harpy queen picked out in seashell on the walls and tunnels leading further in. Her attention snaps back to the ghuls — they’ve noticed that someone is climbing the cliff from below.
The ghuls discuss dropping something from above, or cutting the chain, before Kismet cries out. The two corpse-eaters immediately whirl around to her. She backs away, making a grand show of being terrified and pleading for her life. The ghuls creep closer to her as she continues to crawl backward, pleading for her life with the same garrulous excess that she used to distract Tabruz.
“Perhaps… we will spare you if you give us a taste.” The ghul that speaks licks its fangs with a long, strong tongue, the sort that scrapes marrow from cracked bones. “Give us a finger. You will survive the loss of a finger or two…”
Kismet’s quailing rivets the ghuls, who are still staring at her like hungry cobras when the mechanical cat-form of Attsu climbs over the edge and slinks into the cavern. Then the wind changes, and Aya flies in on a blast of sea air that overpowers the musty smell of the cavern.
Attsu shifts back into his humanoid shape, detaching his tail into its whip form and lashing out at the ghul with it. An old memory surfaces of his escape from the collection of Hayr Charike, when he caught one of her minions and pulled him from a balcony with his whip. But the ghul drops to all fours and digs in its claws with a hiss. Aya sends an arctic bolt into the other ghul, and Kismet takes the opportunity to draw a blade and strike.
Attsu shifts again into his beast form to attack, and draws long bloodless rents in a ghul’s torso. One of the ghuls rushes for Aya, but she lifts the storm orb and calls on the winds trapped within. A sudden gale blasts the ghul out of the cavern and into the night sky, where it’s visible for just a moment before it plummets to the timber buildings a hundred feet below. The other ghul dodges away from Attsu’s claws and flees into the tunnels.
The three venturers quickly pursue. The tunnels smell even more strongly of cinnamon and myrrh, and for good reason — the mummified corpses of harpies rest in niches carved into the wall, adorned in funeral decorations. As the three round a corner in pursuit, Aya sees the telltale traces of a magical glyph drawn onto the stone floor. She cries out for Attsu to halt, but the clockwork warrior is a trace too slow. He skids to a halt just atop the glyph. A spectral, wild keening erupts from the harpy corpses, and for a moment Attsu is overcome by the impulses of the offended dead. He straightens up, and as Aya and Kismet draw near, he turns and rakes Aya across the torso. Aya shrieks in surprise and pain, and Ramjat flies in quick, panicked circles shouting in alarm. Like that, the possessing force is gone, and Attsu recoils. He apologizes heavily, and the three take a moment to rest while Aya binds her wounds and Ramjat scouts quietly ahead. “And don’t step on any more glyphs,” says Aya.
The genasi’s familiar returns in a few minutes, and guides them through the funerary tunnels to an opening in the floor, large enough for a harpy to fly in and out. They drop down into a tomb chamber, with a particularly well-adorned and splendid-seeming mummy in the far wall. Vekmeer and the wounded ghul hunch near a woman with white-streaked hair who lies curled like a child, bound in a few flimsy strips of linen adorned with odd calligraphy. Tabruz holds a perfumed cloth over his mouth with one hand and with the other brandishes a bone wand honeycombed with small holes. “There is no reason that this must end in violence!” he cries.
The three venturers disagree entirely. Tabruz insists that he would be happy to vanish and never trouble them again, and even offers grand riches looted from tombs forgotten to all but the Ghul Queen. But Attsu and Kismet are in no temper to bargain with kidnappers and ghuls. Even Aya is in a bad temper, and when Tabruz draws on a jade funeral mask in frustration, she is first to attack with another bolt of frost.
Vekmeer lunges at Attsu, who matches him claw for claw. Kismet joins the struggle, and the wounded ghul leaps in and attempts to rend her elven flesh. Tabruz, like Aya, keeps well away from the melee. He waves his wand through the air, and the wind passing through the holes in the bone magnifies into a cacophony of voices from the crypt. Kismet feels herself strangely affected by the voices, her senses blurring and suggesting a frightening new world to her.
Aya freezes the wounded ghul solid. Attsu drops away from Vekmeer, and corners Tabruz against a wall. And in the confusion, the enspelled Kismet lunges in a panic at Aya, striking her with an expert slash. Like the scavenger he is, Vekmeer leaps to the wounded genasi and strikes her down.
Attsu pays little attention to the sudden blow. He claws Tabruz again and again, keeping the desperate mage in a corner of the harpy’s tomb while Ramjat flies in tight circles above his fallen mistress, screaming alarm. Kismet returns to her senses, and before Vekmeer can lean down to finish Aya off, she strikes with elven swiftness. Her first cut opens the front of his neck, and with a quick pirouette, she slashes again at the back of his neck, completing the strike that severs the ghul’s head. At the same time, Tabruz screams as Attsu forces him to the floor, and with a rake of steely talons, opens the mage’s ribcage.
Vekmeer’s head is still rolling across the floor as Kismet drops to her knees. She immediately reaches into one of Aya’s pouches and withdraws a potion. Kismet pours the potion into Aya’s mouth, and suddenly the bleeding genasi’s wounds draw together. She coughs and sits up, much to Kismet and particularly Ramjat’s relief. Attsu rummages through the belongings of Tabruz’s corpse, and sets a small skeletal mole in Aya’s lap with an abashed metallic purr.
Attsu also claims the jade funerary mask from Tabruz’s body. The group break the thin linen straps on the corpse-skinned woman, and she comes awake. She snatches up an antique bronze mace that was lying by her person and rolls to her feet in a fighting stance, then pauses as she surveys the scene. The butchered ghuls and remains of Tabruz help clarify the situation. After a few hasty introductions, Savandra offers her thanks. Once Aya’s strength has returned and she’s walking again without any light-headedness, the group returns to the cavern mouth to descend, leaving Tabruz and the ghuls in the tomb of the harpy queen.