When the Riders return from the Cassian Labyrinth Prison, they discover that many Riders are no longer present in the city. Indeed, rumors swirl that Blacksnarl Orc Dude, Lucien Oldmoor, Maurissa (the woman who was trying to kill Valandil), Erik Valtjof, and basically everyone we hate went off to see the Elf King. Sage Marin made it a priority to discover what happened to them, but then rumors surfaced that they had returned.
Tarare was met by Nemo the Beggar who passed on the message (after much lamenting about itchy palms) that the ones who left had returned. They wanted to see all the Riders and Sage Marin at Minoc Heart Intelligence. Upon hearing this, Sage Marin advised against walking into an obvious trap. He then gave a history lesson the origin of the dragon gods, of which Sherylin was one. Evidently, the departed usurpers had visited the dragon goddess of nature in Thaylithien. While the dragon gods were born to Bahamut, who is good, Sage Marin believes they were reared by Tiamat, who is evil and once tried to burn the world. As such, they can be trusted, and they cannot, he was a little confusing on this point, seeming to bounce around a little in specifics. Suffice it to say, the Riders need be cautious, for the dragon gods are more likely to act for their own best interests, rather than the best interests of the Mortal Realm.
The Riders decide to confront Blacksnarl on his own. They learn he is addressing his troops in the morning and they plan to listen in on the briefing and talk to him after. He seems congenial enough, and so they go back to Sage Marin’s with the intention of going to MHI.
While Valandil is out buying better armor, he is confronted by one of the usurpers, Maurissa. She explains that she took out a contract against him with the Brotherhood of Ravens, but that the contract was not yet active. However, some recruits learned of the contract, and in an attempt to curry favor with the Brotherhood they acted prematurely. Turns out, she is an Aecheron sent to prevent a prophecy pertaining to his particular brand of shapeshifting elf in the world. The prophecy foretells that one such will bring out about the extinction of the Aecheron race. Also, it turns out Aecherons are celestial beings who protect the Mists.
Lucien Oldmoor visits Tarare at Sage Marin’s house and insists he talk to him outside. Tarare warily consents and gets threatened oh-so-lovingly yet again by the Cassian pomp. It turns out Aurelie wants to name their child Tarare and Lucien says Aurelie gave him one story for why and it had better match or he was going to go full trailer park domestic violence up in this bitch. Tarare first pokes at the ridiculous ass and then confirms their great-great grandfather was named Tarare. Lucien threatens again, which Tarare does not deign to respond to, and Lucien departs.
Meanwhile, Esh investigates a small mouse demon creature that turns out to be Goku the Nezoumi trying to make contact with him. Goku tells Esh of all the plans that the usurpers have made, how they met Sherylin in Thaylithien, how they are all now servants of a dragon goddess, and how Sherylin has said that if Sage Marin and his Riders remain in control of Simon’s Rest, it will spell the destruction of Simon’s Rest and even the world itself. The usurpers are conspiring to send the Riders off to Hell.
At MHI, the Riders and Sage Marin encounter Erik Valtjof, who is holding a baleful black sword and shield. Tarare ascertains the magic in his armaments could be dragon-god in origin. Eric explains that the Mists are Sherylin’s dream. She slept to hide from the Aechmus brothers, but they have discovered a way to discover her. Now she needs to awaken to fight them. She has seen that as long as Sage Marin and the Riders are in control of Simon’s Rest, the pocket will be destroyed. Valtjof also reveals that Sherylin ordered the death of the Riders, but they are choosing to disobey and instead banish them to the Underworld to face the growing demon menace. In this way, the Riders will still be able to help Simon’s Rest, without the ability to return to it via the portals. To ensure the latter, Maurissa casts a spell on each of them that prevents the portals from opening back to Simon’s Rest. Also, the magic she used creates a certain instability when using the portals so it’s not guaranteed they will all end up at the same place in the future.
Outgunned and with little choice, the Riders begin entering the portal. Pausing at the entrance, Tarare lashes out at Lucien Oldmoor with a prismatic ray, turning the Cassian to stone. He then ducks into the portal, leaving Valandil to face a stunned crowd of Sherylin followers. Valtjof won’t brook another betrayal and pushes him through.
Satisfied the portals aren’t the only way to return to Simon’s Rest, the Riders begin their descent into Hell.