Within the Ethereal Plane, Zach and Raziel sought each other across the ethereal ocean for days. They supplemented their exhaustion with magic as much they could, but they eventually lost even that, having to travel a whole day with no rest. In the midst of this exhaustion, Raziel was confronted with the ghost of a Githzerai named Baab, who claimed to know a way back to the Material Plane. While they traveled, Baab explained he was from the Order of the Still Mind, and was actually upon a mission with a monk who claimed the name of Raziel as well. He did not know what the mission was, other than it dealt with countering actions of the Githyanki.
Finding the gate, Baab noted it was a common occurrence for sailors to accidentally shunt themselves to the ethereal, so much so that sailors knew to evade this spot. With Raziel at the gate, Baab thanked him for finally getting the chance to move on, for he had finally got his wish: to be able to help someone get back to their home. Raziel signaled Zach with a Searing Light, and when they eventually met, Zach’s appearance was wretched, for not only was he exhausted from travel, but he was assaulted by countless Sending’s from his mother, and the Quest he accepted was beginning to put a toll upon him. Walking through the naturally standing gate, Raziel and Zach found themselves in the same location, only now swimming in the ocean.
Through all of this, Striker, Sig, Xavier and Thad went about business in Melmond (offhand mentioning they deserve statues for their efforts), discussing what they should do not only in regards to Raziel and Zach, but Bikke’s claim that the Yuan-Ti have overrun Berrick’s Expedition. They were eventually approached by an official from the governing body, asking them to pay twenty thousand gold pieces for the labor, resources, and homes destroyed to give them both for the construction of the three altars to Pelor. Paying the bill, they eventually came into combat with the ghost of Kholera, rejuvenated at her haunt in the docks. Her screams to have her mother killed were ignored, and he spirit was slain once more, though it was uncertain if she would return yet again.
With word of Raziel and Zach’s return to the Material reaching Sig via Sending, he made use of his newly written Phantom Steed spell, picking them up and teleporting back within the day. With their return came Kholera as well, who was talked down this time to discover what she sought: the death of her mother, the same mother of Zach. She claimed to have been raised in Noir, yet was cursed with the form of a Drider by Lolth. Knowing she would continue to cause trouble with the city if they left her in her current condition, Raziel propositioned he could revive her via resurrection…on the condition they were told all locations of the Assassin’s Guild she knew. She agreed, divulging all known bases within the city and island, though on where they kept their main base she did not know.
Hoping to not have to use their own funds for the resurrection, Sig and Xavier went to the city governance, hoping they could leverage some funds for ridding them of Dravo. The official was ever happy for their deed, yet he made it clear any funds they gave would have to be a loan repaid within the month, for they needed to focus on rebuilding the city and their trade (especially after an apparent airship crashed into it, which Raziel’s mercenaries were claiming). After much debate, they finally gave in and used their own funds, which Raziel used the next day to raise Kholera, who walked away from the city.
The final dealings in Melmond regarded the Book of Everlasting Divine which Garland promised them months ago. He gave the book to them without quarel (noting Dravo’s gem phylactery was now whole), and they conversed on what they should do with the book. Raziel believed Striker should read the book, believing he was closer to a power they desperately needed than Raziel would be. Zach believed he himself should have the book, desiring greater power as a Cleric. Striker, hesitant on what to do, concluded they should seek Randall Thay on what exactly the Book of Everlasting Divine contained, rather than reading it on a whim.
With their businesses in order, they teleported back to Corneria with assistance from Garland]. Coming to Randall, he explained the book was akin to the Book of Exalted Deeds and the Book of Vile Darkness, in that it contained powerful divine knowledge. However, instead of concerning itself with morality, it spoke of divinity in general, where there was no good or evil. After explaining, Randall asked if they planned to give the Book to Viktor, who tasked the party to win the book in the Challenge of Champions.
With the dilemma of reading the Book for their own gain or giving it to the Saint Cuthbert Church as they were commissioned (even though they thoroughly lost the right to the prize in the Challenge), they came before Viktor and put forth the possibility of getting the Book to his Church via leverage with the Madaras Syndicate (all under the pretense they didn’t have it yet). Viktor said the Church would reward them greatly, and would use the knowledge contained within to gain greater enlightenment to be spread through the land. Making their decision, they gave Viktor the Book of Everlasting Divine, who rewarded them with a Staff of Life and a scroll of Summon Monster IX.
The party then went about their business of gathering magic and supplies while Sig left to grab Bikke upon his phantom steed, and Thad went to a bank to store his excess gold after hearing how others began to store their funds. Thad’s presence and desire to open an account, however, roused the suspicion of the local guard, who came to arrest him because of outstanding warrants for thieving and murder. Sig and Xavier vouched for him, rallying the troops to bring them along to Viktor’s court as well.
Presented to Viktor, a case of Thad’s good deeds in Melmond were presented by Raziel, that having such a powerful individual around would be beneficial. In the end, Viktor found Thad guilty of theft, for no rebuff could be made for the stolen items Thad clearly possessed. He continued to state that Thad was in a difficult position, because Viktor was for certain that no prison could contain him. As such, the only certain way Viktor could contain him for his crimes was by Imprisonment. Because Viktor was certain Thad didn’t wish such a fate upon himself, Viktor gave a court order for Thad to be under the care of the party and to assist in the coming wars. Should Thad still be alive and Corneria still stood, Thad would be cleared of all charges.
With the court duties finished, Viktor came down from his bench to speak with them about the Yuan-Ti and their attack and Berrick’s Expedition. With Bikke finally arriving (a peculiar circlet upon his head), he was able to explain in full what happened: while he was upon his ship the Yuan-Ti attacked the city, facing off against the Cornerian guard (the new port needed protection after all). While it looked like the Cornerian Guard was winning, the presence of a gargantuan flying snake of insane visage changed the tide of the battle in an instant with a single blasphemous word, slaying every decent creature around it. With the resistance defeated, the Yuan-Ti eventually overran the docks and Bikke was forced to abandon ship and swim away.
Using their collective knowledge of religion and the planes, the party deduced the snake was an Aspect of Merrshaulk, the Demon God creator of the Yuan-Ti. It was said he was a slumbering god who could not consume the cosmos until he regained his senses. In the goal to awake their god, the Yuan-Ti created a construct vessel to fill it with Merrshaulk’s vile power, eventually turning it into a real Aspect of their slumbering god which would be filled with the horrible mind of Merrshaulk as it slowly awoke.
With the destruction of Berrick’s Expedition over a week past, slaying the Aspect was priority, for there was no telling how far along Merrshaulk had awoken. To assist the party in their task, they would lead a troop of forces upon horseback to the city, where hopefully they could defeat the creature before it gained true divinity.
Before leaving, Raziel made an effort to see Father Elijah, letting Father know his funds were set to be donated to the orphanage should he die, along with the sand he took from the realm of Pelor. Raziel also asked to see the scrolls left behind with him when he was found as a baby. More specifically, he asked if there were perhaps any dust or blood upon the scrolls as well (perhaps hinting at a possible resurrection). Father Elijah said he would look into it, and bid Raziel farewell.