After Hardluck quickly delivered the Totem of the Wolf to the Shadowskins, it was time to attend the Merchant Prince’s (first) engagement party. Everyone who was anyone was there, including Gable’s girlfriend Rebekah and Asher Macavoy; the Merchant Prince was joined at the head table by the Herald of Progress himself and a representative from the Dragon Empire, the Emperor’s Champion Teuxin. After an ostentatious dinner and a boring speech hailing our heroes, it was time to mingle. Hardluck lost no time walking up to the Merchant Prince and delivering a ‘friendly message’ to him about his continued existence, but any attempt to monetize this relationship was interrupted by screams and the dissolution of several of the guards and guests into a fine red mist as the dining hall was invaded by several shouting dragonborn and a basilisk. As the Merchant Prince activated an emergency teleport for himself, his fiancee, the Herald, and the Champion (to the latter’s chagrin, it seemed) Harley leapt into action, grabbing a tablecloth and wrapping it around the basilisk’s head as it barrelled toward Hardluck. Iron Horse, spotting a set of pipes wielded by one of the dragonborn, challenged him to single combat and prevented him from commanding the beast. Lear moved to support Harley and Gable made his way to Rebekah’s side to protect her. Zharra noticed what could only have been a frost draconian making its way to the center of the room in an attempt to detonate itself, causing even more damage, and melted the creature with her fire. Hardluck was struck by the beast’s gaze and found his left arm slowly dissolving; the limb had fallen off altogether and the contagion had almost spread irreparably to his torso when Iron Horse, having dispatched his foe, blew on the pipes in a way that caused the basilisk to charge about in a frenzy, creating openings for the rest of the heroes to put it down. This also caused the gaze to cease, though Hardluck had now become a one-armed bandit.
Concern on that front was short-lived, however, as a response team of healers from the Temple, including Gratia, arrived, and were able to put everyone who was still alive back together. Hardluck’s arm was reattached and showed no signs of developing a conscience. Iron Horse’s opponent had been incapacitated but not killed; he proved unusually forthcoming and freely told everyone how they had come through a portal to a safe house in town and through the underground tunnels on the condition that he be neither put to death nor released back to the Army (who would put him to death), at which point the constables took him away for further questioning. All told, eleven had been killed, but the number would have been much higher without intervention. Our heroes made their way to the Merchant Prince’s mansion, correctly assuming that would be the location of his panic room. They were allowed in after reporting that the basilisk had been slain; the Prince concluded that the Army of Io was attempting to create the impression (and possibly the reality) that Vegas was not a safe place, draining the wealth that was the Prince’s source of power. The Prince officially hired our heroes as security consultants for the rest of the week; he was convinced that there would be other attacks. Having the ear of the Herald of Progress, Gable tried to sell him on an adaption of his communication technology to a large billboard which could display moving pictures to the entire city. The Herald was unimpressed by the financial arguments but conceded the value to public safety of such a device in an emergency; he agreed to ask Duna Sparksteel to look into it.
Our heroes next turned their attention to the matter of the safehouse and tunnels. They first cleared the tunnels of other Army agents, then sent for Azaria, the wizard of the Silver Lodge, who agreed to open the portal in reverse (and set up a few nasty tricks later on) for the sheer pleasure of thwarting allies of the Magician. Several of the heroes went through the portal to an equally hot but much more humid climate; an open-air storage facility with rations and weapons, surrounded by stone ziggurats, as well as statuary depicting snake-bodied creatures worshipping a conjoined pair of dragons. Gable remembered them as a species known as the yuan-ti which had reportedly gone extinct several thousand years ago, though the statues were newer than that and the yuan-ti historically worshipped a god named Zehir, not Io. In the absence of any living yuan-ti (or dragonborn) they grabbed a few plant samples and returned with the conclusion that the Army of Io had bases far to the south of Aztlan.
The Gable and Zharra show was even more packed than it had been the last night, and Gable continued his tradition of incorportating current events into his act with a replica basilisk which proved very popular. After the show, he was confronted by a jealous Astarte, and chose for once not to ignore her thinly veiled threats; temporarily cowed, she backed off for the night.
Our heroes opted to head off for a nightcap before going their separate ways, and making their way down a dark alley they were confronted by a dark figure ahead of them and about twenty feet in the air, slowly lowering itself to the ground and walking towards them. Gradually, they could make out the familiar-but-not-familiar face of another of Zharra’s clone-sisters, but this one’s neck stood at a painful angle. Silver tears streamed from both eyes as she came to greet her sister.