Outside Zathare’s lair, Althaea had an idea. She used her bardic music to create an illusionary version of herself and used it to talk to the dragon Zathare. It was a good choice, as it appeared that Zathare thought that the intruders that entered her lair were the Dragonslayer. By coming alone, unarmed, with a diplomatic, yet unyielding attitude, Althaea managed to placate the dragon enough for the rest of the Party to arrive safely.
With Carric’s innate skill with talking to Dragons, the Party learned that after her defeat in the fight against the Dragonslayer, Thivaraxia called Zathare and Shahrazhad together to discuss an alliance and warn about the threat. While the two neighbors to Dusk Coast dismissed her talk of a human who could single-handedly slay a Dragon, fear instilled itself into Zathare. She and Shahrazhad did decide to attack Dusk Coast together to overwhelm the defenders and divide the riches between each other. But after their attack, Zathare received a message from the Followers of the Guardian, who stated that she would be the Guardian’s next victim. So Zathare retreated to her lair and commanded her kobolds to create a trap for the Dragonslayer when she would arrive.
The Party, seeing that this was a good opportunity to trap the Guardian, decided to remain close to the Dragon’s lair and help her defend against the Dragonslayer. For two days they waited, with Antinua building a little stone house for cover against winter, cleverly telling the Dragon to pull back her invasion force to meet the Guardian.
Then, on the evening of 6th of Hearth, a couple of orcs arrived on a wagon to bring a message to Zathare. Grom Maga, the orc capital of Steel Plains, had had a supply problem: The Followers of the Guardian had arrived in the city and spread their message of freedom and protection. Their covert messengers had claimed that the Guardian could even instill fear in Zathare herself. And when she retreated to her lair, a large amount of orcs had deserted, taking supplies and even ships with them.
These news enraged Zathare. She turned the poor messenger into ash with a lightning bolt from her maw as she realized that the cultists had probably tricked her into abandoning her attack. The Party slipped quietly to a safe distance, observing how Zathare took off on her wings and flew northwards. Desiring more information, they decided to interrogate the rider of the wagon, who was returning to wherever he came from alone.
The orc revealed two important bits of information: His cousin was one of the people who left, and there was apparently still one imprisoned cultist in the city. They thanked the orc for the information and left him alone. Then the Party scryed on the defected orc, discovering that he was travelling eastward, perhaps somewhere in the edges of the Drylands and Steel Plains. So they had a lead to follow. But first, they decided to see Grom Maga and see if the cultist was still alive.
What they found was that the orc city was partly burning; Zathare had shown her displeasure with her servants. With guile and magic, the Party infiltrated the city in chaos and found their cultist in stocks: An another orc. They freed him and posing as fellow followers, they heard that the orcs they recruited are supposed to gather to Kalrathia.
With this stronger lead, the Party knew their next target: The town in the middle of the Drylands.