Players: Lynn, Mike, Missy, Shane
After escaping, Victor, Mogdar, Shao Tsang, and Ezren drifted downstream and decided to head back towards Timber. They floated into the White Lake while the sun was coming up and began to notice that clouds were gathering. They managed to land the boat and find shelter under a rocky overhang before the storm reached full strength, but it wasn't enough to stop the waterspout that swept them up. Somehow they landed on the deck of a ship and were confronted by strange, telepathic humanoids concealed entirely by their clothing.
The humanoids identifed themselves only as "tradesmen" and proceeded to discuss the party's inquiries as if they were not there. They also discussed Shao Tsang, describing him as "the avatar" and saying he had been "damaged". Without warning, one of them grabbed Shao Tsang's head and proceeded to "correct the imbalance". Shao Tsang screamed, and experienced a horrific vision, which he was unable to remember until later.
Upon awakening, Shao Tsang found that only a few seconds had passed, and his psionic abilities had been changed from telepathic to psychoportive. The tradesmen looked at each other and one said, "There should have been no pain." Another said, "The interference is not relevant. The imbalance has been corrected." Shao Tsang seemed strangely relieved by the alteration of his psionic abilities.
The tradesmen then declared that the party would retrieve "the atavism" for them, and would be rewarded. One of them pointed at Ezren, declaring him "unreliable" and telekinetically hurled him from the ship. Another tradesman gestured, and a tall hooded man with bronze-colored skin appeared. He introduced himself as Oaklore, a half-dragon ranger. The next thing they knew, it was morning and they were all back in Shao Tsang's boat, just outside the town of Halclef. Mogdar was able to sense that they had lost several weeks.
Upon entering the harbor, they were all hit by a wave of nausea, but Victor was hit especially hard. He doubled over passed out, then spoke in a strange, mechanical fashion for a few moments after awakening. As they proceeded to investigate further, they became more and more paranoid. First the townspeople seemed to be watching them, then they began to notice suspicious behavior in their own traveling companions.
Some of the townspeople really were acting suspicious. The most obvious example of this was a construction project going on around the temple of Meilikki overlooking the town. It was being re-modeled and decorated with disturbing tentacular ornaments. Some of the townspeople said that this had all started after the storm.
They got rooms at an inn to rest from their travels. Mogdar and Shao Tsang spied on Victor. Victor caught on, snuck out of his room, and rented another one to sleep in. Oaklore seemed largely unaffected by the mania.
The next day, Mogdar and Shao Tsang decided to investigate the temple, but didn't want to tell Victor what they were planning. Instead, they told him that there was a magic shop nearby that they wanted to investigate. Then they headed directly into the temple. Once there, they were confronted by a fairly standard bureaucracy of priests, who claimed that they were "modernizing" the temple to reflect new interpretations of the goddess. After several discussions of this kind with Misha Devi, the attractive young priestess who greeted them, they were taken to the high priest, Gethran.
Gethran told them he was disturbed by the new worship practices, but could do little if the whole priesthood was against him. He then said that he needed to discuss something privately with them. However, because only priests of Meilikki were allowed past the main entry hall, Victor was the only one who could come with him. Gethran took Victor up the second story of the temple while Shao Tsang followed intangibly. Victor was taken to a room lined with skeletons, which came to life and attacked him at Gethran's bidding.
Shao Tsang brought Mogdar and Oaklore to help and, after a close fight, they managed to defeat the priest and skeletons. Then Misha Devi showed up at the door and asked to be let in, saying that Gethran's death had freed them all. Still suspicious, Shao Tsang teleported her into the room and Victor bound her with his rope before she could recover her senses. As they interrogated her, Victor became particularly agitated, and Misha finally blurted out, "I'm sorry I failed you!" to Victor.
Victor, frustrated to the point of madness, backhanded the helpless captive and demanded an explanation while Shao Tsang and Mogdar exchanged suspicious glances. Misha, apparently baffled by this request, said that this Victor was actually an other-planar creature who had replaced the real Victor to sabotage the party's investigation. While Victor was ranting at the priestess, Shao Tsang caught him in some sort of exotic hold and choked him into unconsciousness. Shao Tsang and Mogdar then tied Victor up and spiked the doors shut.
Victor managed to convince them that he wasn't a master villain, and they proceeded through the temple, roping some goblins along the way. Everyone remained suspicious and tense. Finally, they found a secret room containing a statue in progress and a girl in a cage. The statue represented a tentacled creature which looked somewhat like an aquatic version of a mind flayer. It induced mild nausea in everyone who came near it. The girl said that the creature had been unable to brainwash her, so Gethran decided to keep her for himself. The party released her, and she agreed to take them to the creature.
The girl led them out of the temple, through the town, and down to the basement of a tavern. From there, a barred door opened into a series of rough-cut tunnels. Bypassing several guards and probing deep into this network, they found a steam-filled room where several slaves were pouring hot water into a basin. Wallowing in this basin was the creature whose statue they had seen in the temple.
Finally exposed, the creature and its attendants proved to be fairly weak in direct combat. Although it did manage to take control of Victor's mind, it did not have time to make him entangle the party with his magic rope before they killed it. With the creature's death, the minds of the townspeople were freed and the tradesmen appeared to claim their prize. They carried the creature's body away and left a pile of treasure.