The party heads back to the surface, having successfully quieted Stone Brother and the hejkins. They go to see Grak for a reward, but he is incredulous at their story, saying they have no proof, and gives them only 125 gp — a quarter of his promised reward — and a goliath slave, Vimak. He says he’ll pay them the rest if the party does another job for him — during the hejkin attack, one of his guards, Iphitus, stole something valuable from his treasury, which he won’t say what. He wants Iphitus back, as well as what he stole. He introduces them to Mardukai, a mercenary who’s been doing some jobs for him, who’s been already assigned to the search for Iphitus.
The party is very uncomfortable owning a slave — although slavery is a legal institution in Athas, most of them believe strongly in the cause of freedom. (Notably, Talgeyl, a mul and a former slave himself, has no qualms about keeping Vimak.) None of the caravans leaving Grak’s Pool are willing to accept another hand, but Serge convinces Grak to free him and take him on as a guard.
The search begins for Iphitus. Mardukai speaks a caravan of nearby elves, but they insist they don’t harbor those outside their tribe. Talgeyl meets with a dragonborn seer, Mafoun, who tells him that Iphitus is in darkness and in danger about a day away (presumably in a cave), and he’ll be dead in a few days. Mafoun also tells him that Vimak will live long as a free goliath and come to praise those who freed him, thus salving their consciences. Talgeyl then meets with a cartographer, learning about the two nearby villages where Iphitus could’ve gone — Altaruk and South Ledopolus.
While wandering around the tent city, Alanna is approached by a charismatic mul named Sanozar, who already knows about Iphitus and offers the party 500 gp if they bring Iphitus to him instead of Grak. Serge investigates a Balican templar who lives at the pool; he finds out that the templar is sent to track down Balican criminals, and is under Grak’s protection to avoid bringing undue attention to the oasis. Serge looks for someone “in the know” and ends up talking to Sanozar, further inquiring about the Veiled Alliance. Sanozar says he doesn’t know any of their agents at the oasis, but he says he’ll try to help him find a cell if they bring him Iphitus or whatever he stole.
The party doesn’t know who to trust between Grak and Sanozar — Grak shorted the party significantly on their reward, but Sanozar is shady himself; he’d expressed an interest in buying Vimak earlier, and is a member of House Vordon, a merchant house with designs on taking over Grak’s Pool.
While looking around in the direction Iphitus must’ve gone, according to the maps he’s looked at, Talgeyl finds some tracks going into the desert. The party follows for about half a day, avoiding getting distracted by a mirage but getting briefly knocked about by a silt storm, before the tracks lead into a cave. Residue on the entrance indicates that this is the cave of a silk wyrm, a deadly psionic predator.
The party enters and finds Iphitus wrapped up unconscious in silk, and as Serge tries to free him, the wyrm phases through the wall and attacks him. A fight ensues with the wyrm flying about, biting as many as it can with its paralytic venom. Finally, badly wounded, it tries to run, only to be beheaded by Mardukai.
While searching the wyrm’s treasure pile, they find a primal totem — which seems to be somewhat intelligent, and communicates to Talgeyl that its master was killed by the wyrm — as well as Grak’s stolen treasure: a spying mirror, showing an ancient, gold-trimmed room full of golden objects, with runes written on the wall. None of the characters can read the runes; under interrogation, Iphitus says Grak has been trying to find someone who can translate the runes, find out where this room full of gold is, and launch an expedition.
The party debates what to do with the mirror. At first, everyone seems inclined to sell it to Sanozar, but Talgeyl offers to pay expenses (bribes, travel costs, etc.) if they can find out where this treasure is, convinced that there will be a big payout if they can launch their own treasure hunt.
The group decides that Serge will sneak back to the pool and talk to Sanozar; if he can’t turn up any members of the Veiled Alliance, then they won’t tell him anything or give him the mirror. What to do with Iphitus is up in the air, too.