Upon returning to Foren, the adventurers took stock of their situation. The excursion to Joqul had been semi-successful; Walliss was whole and sane again, and they had the turncoat “Lord of Dread”—in fact, just a small-time pirate and con artist named Jadrah—and his vital information. But Vanthus had eluded them, draining his family vaults to fund his own exploratory mission; they now knew the coastal cities were threatened by an apocalyptic conspiracy; and Kyler's shady brother Durzo had turned up again.
They found tiny Foren much the same, at least, and best of all the Sea Pansy had not been sent back out again under contract; apparently, the Foren Merchants' Guild did not have many willing merchanteers to pick from. Encouraged, Kyler, Achu, and Shid Na re-applied. After some bartering—and numerous promises to really, really map out a reliable, profitable trade route this time—they received a contract for a second voyage. The Guild provided a quantity of metal ingots from their mines, as before, and set the contract price at 80 gold thuli and a usable trade route.
Before leaving, their old acquaintance Akos aPhaestos, the mercenary fire mage, showed up asking for a berth on their next voyage. Happy to have him along, and owing him a favor anyway, they hired him on the spot. Shid Na, however, was curious why he was so eager to leave Foren, but Akos explained he was just restless. Jade ar Liss, having transported them in the Jade Serpent, also decided to go along with them for a bit longer, in the hopes of finding either Vanthus or the supposed pirate fleet gathering to oppose the Hajhi of Joqul.
A mile or so off shore, they noted that the large boulder that had once been several miles out had moved much closer, and was now a good 6 feet above the water level even at high tide. Showing he really was back to normal, Walliss impulsively dove in to investigate wearing his Cloak of the Manta. Swimming in descending circles, he found that about 10 feet down, ledges jutted out slightly from the boulder on opposite sides, but otherwise fell quite steeply downward.
He swam farther out as he went down, and so had an abrupt revelation a ways down: the thing was a colossal stone statue, with just its forehead sticking above water. He reported this discovery back to the others, but what it could mean, and where it had come from were unanswerable. It did not seem auspicious that it had slowly moved closer to shore, but there seemed little useful to do about it, so they set out back to Mershan.
A few days later, they docked and sold off the ingots, and after some debate about Captain Kraken's coded log books, decided to invest in ngotharma root (cheap and plentiful) and try to find the Kamorro to the southeast, who supposedly loved the stuff. Jade, and those individuals with some liquid assets, made their own investments in the voyage as well before all was ready, anchor was lifted, and the two dhows set sail.
Finally, they were back on the open sea. Shid Na kept the mostly southerly breeze tweaked just enough to help them make good time in the right direction, though their pilot Astra mentioned they'd be lucky indeed to make it back home before Othanari, the monsoon season, set in.
After 8 days bearing mostly ESE, they hailed land and approached a lightly forested island, hoping it was one of the cluster of three they were aiming for. It was clearly inhabited, but when a small party went ashore, the natives seemed rather aloof. Most pretended they hadn't even noticed the newcomers, and the few who did were not only winged, but said little or nothing to each other, let alone their guests.
That the natives were winged was notable, but less because they could fly (only the children seemed to be able to get off the ground at all, making little flapping hops) than because—according to Shid Na, who had labored most to make sense of Kraken's cryptic notes—that these were the Lieu Vadish. The Yaren native Bahasa tried to greet them, but either they did not understand him, or pretended not to. Returning to ship, the landing party reported this to Captain Jade and the others, and both ships continued on.