Our heroes, fresh from a much-needed rest, travel ever onward with Elspeth to the site of the final ritual to stop and even reverse the damage her society has caused to this area. They find themselves on a rocky plinth overlooking a tall waterfall, which empties into one of the three main lakes of the region. At first glance, the plinth is not accessible, but Elspeth has an edge. She does the same shufflestep that the council searchers do, and just like that, our heroes are now in the ritual space.
Once there, Elspeth wastes no time getting her materials ready, and beginning the ritual preparations. Right about here is where everything goes straight to hell. Just as Elspeth gets going and can’t stop preparations, three portals open up, and start spewing corrupt councilors and little whirlwind elementals all over the place. The elementals are annoying as hell. They move everyone all over the place, and fling each other at the party. The councilors are more focused: they head straight for Elspeth, stopping only when the party demands their attention.
It becomes quickly apparent that our heroes will not only have to fight off the hordes, but contribute to Elspeth’s protection over the course of the fight. Kol conjures up a telekinetic shield. Keyleth calls down the wrath of Dol Arrah and burns a portal out with the angry sun. Cyricus beats things up and An-Eld figured out the general tactics in play. During the encounter, Kol sends out a mental challenge to one of the aggressors: “Why are you so determined to stop this ritual?” and receives the answer “This will certainly displease the Three. The consequences of their displeasure are always deadly. We must not fail here.”
It takes Elspeth some time to finish her ritual, but when she completes it, she summons a pillar of cold arcane light that is beautiful, powerful, and ultimately deadly to the aggressors. They are burned to dust in an instant, and even our heroes come close to being pushed right off the plinth. An-Eld gets an impromptu bath when he is thrown into the river.
Unfortunately, the ritual casting leaves Elspeth spent. She falls unconscious as soon as it’s all over, and while the crew decides what to do, An-Eld pitches a tent and goes to work lighting some fires, while Cyricus goes to pick Elspeth up to put her in a better spot.
Cyricus’ hands don’t even fully make contact with Elspeth before his soul is whisked away and he finds himself alone facing the Raven Queen. She tells him that his requirements in the bargain made for his soul have been met. He is free of the terrible demands she was forced to place on him. He no longer faces the prospect of eternal loneliness, and when he dies again, he will be returned to the Raven Queen’s embrace as if none of this had ever happened. He is now for all intents and purposes… free. When he regains himself, Cyricus has a lot of questions. He finds out that Elspeth has been completely attuned to the Star, and so has become an extension of it. This means that he has “placed his hands upon the Star” as the Raven Queen required. The Star is a shard of an ancient soul; in fact, the Star is a fraction of the soul of the most ancient being in the universe at large, and its whole purpose, insofar as the Raven Queen can tell, is to be at the right place in time to bring the right people together to correct an ancient wrong. Further, she warns that the corruption within the Council that our heroes have witnessed runs very very deep. The Raven Queen reassures Cyricus that Elspeth is trustworthy, and while perhaps naive and unrefined in her methods, she truly is working for what she believes to be the greater good.
After all this information, a fairly-shaken Cyricus asks for the Raven Queen’s patronage. She is more than happy to oblige. She promises to find a way to make her holy symbol come into his possession soon, and welcomes him into her service.
Once Cyricus returns to himself, the party hunkers down to wait for Elspeth to do the same.