It has been two weeks since Zil'dejin, Tam'elanath, Lythanis, Stahlstrauss, Eshunu, Garmeth and Lucan arrived back in Lakeside from Winterhaven. Lucan has departed to report back to House Medani. Tam'elanath has returned to his home/shop combination, and Zil'dejin continues to sleep in his shed. Stahlstrauss and Eshunu, who require no sleep, spend the nights in an alleyway, and Garmeth and Lythanis have been sleeping at the Lucky Gnome Taphouse and Inn across from Tam'elanath's hovel. Garmeth has decided to remain with the party for reasons indecipherable: common logic fails with Garmeth's line of reasoning, a fact he's particularly proud of.
Zil'dejin, Lythanis, Stahlstrauss and Eshunu are gathered in the clearing between the hovel and the Lucky Gnome when they are approached by a man. He is wearing red leather armor with gold trimming, and a bright red cape. Both the cape and the shoulder pads of the armor are emblazoned with the same symbol: a stylized gold circle with the letters "RA" in the center. He asks if they are the ones who have just recently returned from Winterhaven.
The party tells him that they are, and he responds that he is a member of the Aurum. Lythanis recalls the historical context of the group but not the significance, and the agent explains that the Aurum is a renowned group of wealthy, individual collectors of objects of historical, arcane, or other significance. The man he personally represents is identified only as Mr. Artauche, a Gold Concordian (a very high ranking member in the Aurum) who has a business proposition for the adventurers. He says that they must agree to accept before he can give them details, but promises 20% up front and the rest after the simple job is complete.
The group eventually accepts, and Artauche's agent explains the details. Mr. Artauche has apparently become interested in an item called the "Golden Claw," an object revered by gnolls. It is quite old, and Mr. Artauche has discovered it is currently located in some ruins north of Vulyar which predate the establishment of Galifar. Some gnolls have indeed taken up residence here, and are worshiping the claw. Stahlstrauss asks if the gnolls are of any importance; the agent replies that they are not part of any known tribe, and are a small, isolated group. He gives the party some prepaid tickets for the Lightning Rail to get to Vulyar from Irontown, and tells them to meet with him in the Singing Serpent in Vulyar when they have finished their job. With this, he leaves. The party also visits the Septarch's Tower at the east gate of Lakeside before leaving on the King's Road going south. Here, Nimozaran the Green, the pompous elderly "septarch" of Lakeside, initiates Lythanis into the so-called "Lakeside Mage's Guild" and teaches him the Enchant Magic Item ritual. With this, the four leave south for Irontown, unaccompanied by Tam'elanath or Garmeth who remain in Lakeside for the time being.
In Irontown, the group is relatively unfamiliar with the area and asks a local man for directions. He is unhelpful and apparently drunk, but points Stahlstrauss in the direction of the blacksmith and is able to give rough directions to the Lightning Rail station. Stahlstrauss and Eshunu then visit the blacksmith, who they discover is Brozan Coalstriker, the brother of Thair Coalstriker (of Winterhaven renown, who has apparently recently escaped from his prison). Brozan is quite taken with Stahlstrauss and gives him a bizarre, double-sided axe for a low price, and fixes a few more spikes onto his frame. Stahlstrauss then explains the situation of the forge in Winterhaven, and Brozan panicks, grabs his hammer, and charges out of the shop, locking it behind him. After this, the four regroup and board the train bound for Vulyar.
At Vulyar, evening is already approaching, and they decide to make haste for the northern path out of the city to get to the ruins. The road gradually disappears, and they find themselves in a wooded area. Following the map, they arrive at the ruins in question, and they go inside.
The first room is slanted upwards, and has a number of alcoves with gnolls standing at the far end, and a large crevasse in the ground between the party and the gnolls. Lythanis notes an out-of-place carving of a skull on the ground, and tries to pull it telekinetically. The effort causes the skull to twist, and gates in the alcoves open and start releasing fine silt into the room. The party acts quickly, and are at first able to impact the gnolls significantly; but, before long, the silt starts sweeping through causing footing to be lost and toppling some of them, dragging them into the crevasse at the far end.
The battle under these conditions is difficult - Zil'dejin nearly suffocates - but they are ultimately successful in defeating the gnolls. They return back to town to gather some supplies - Lythanis hopes to try his new ritual on Zil'dejin's halberd. They go back to Vulyar, and arrive around sunset. They go first to a general store, where a dull merchant sells Stahlstrauss 30 ft. of hempen rope. They are then directed to a place to purchase reagents: an alchemist's shop a few buildings down from the general store. They go where they are directed and find a house with the windows boarded, and a sign over the door reading "Alkemist." The "t," impossibly, appears to be written backwards.
They go inside and see nobody. Lythanis calls out, but gets no response. Stahlstrauss notes a bell on the counter; he hits it, and it detonates (the raw power of the Destructabell!). This prompts a gnome with a van Dyke beard and white hair (save one black streak) named Pock, prone to confusion and sudden loud outbursts, to emerge from somewhere in the recesses of the building. He is able to sell Lythanis some of his spare reagents, and at request (with a small fee) affixes an experimental component onto Stahlstrauss' body. With this, the party leaves, and is again interrupted on the street by the same agent they met earlier that day.
He tells them Mr. Artauche has changed his mind, and must have success within 24 hours. The party begrudgingly agrees (after all, what choice do they have?) and goes back to the ruins, which have been barricaded by the gnolls. The four work together collectively to smash the barrier, and they go back inside past the room now covered in dirt into a room flanked with sarcophagi and ending in a throne made from worked stone. There are more gnolls here, as well as two hyenas.
The front gnolls and the hyenas charge the party in the doorway, but they are fought off by direct assault from Zil'dejin and Stahlstrauss and support from Eshunu and Lythanis (including a telekinetic lifting of one of the sarcophagi and subsequent dropping upon them). They then move to attack the one with a bow at the end; Zil'dejin, with his halberd now enchanted with lightning, charges forward with a very strong attack using his enchantment to his advantage, and knocks the gnoll backwards onto the throne. He suddenly becomes dazed and disoriented, and the party quickly uses this to their advantage. The room is now cleared, and they have only one door to proceed through. The four search the room and find, among more basic treasure, a small figurine which they determine creates an illusory projection of a soldier in a uniform that they do not recognize. Additionally, Zil'dejin sits on the throne and finds the source of the gnoll's disorientation: it presents an illusion of pre-Galifar Karrnath, when the ruins were still an active building. He steps off the throne, and they take a short rest before going further.