The party tracked the Catoblepas to its cave. The caveside pond was thick with rotting trees and the bones of the creature's many victims. Above its lair was a hill with a strange cottage and animal pen.
The party took an extremely magical approach to the encounter, using water walk and a swarm of owls to engage the monster without nearing it. It fled into its cave, prompting Yuna and Jade to enter with what was left of the giant owls. Through Vani's magic, the party learned the cave was home to another catoblepas, as well as a juvenile one. Yuna was able to endure the Death Ray from the uninjured beast and managed to stun it, setting up Jade to deliver a fireball.
Meanwhile, Ireni and Uli flew up to the hut on their owls. The pair found an inert earth elemental clutching the bones of some sort of humanoid monster in the destroyed pen; a fight seemed to have happened there long a go, creating a hole in the back of the cottage and smashing apart the side of the pen.
Uli returned to finish off the Catoblepas. Vani attempted to remove the eyes of the only intact carcass, the fireball having cooked the first beast and its child. Unfortunately, she was unsuccessful, damaging the creature's eyes in the process. The party returned to examine the hut in more detail; Ireni noticed the pen was like a magical electric fence, imbued with a bastardized form of the spell Power Word: Stun. They found a ring of desiccated human ears in a lockbox near the hut's ratty bed, and what looked like alchemy supplies and a book with all of its pages torn from its binding. Jade found a magical cloak that could change its color and design hanging from the coat rack.
The party delivered the heads of the Catoblepas to Kess, who grudgingly agreed to support the Rift Walkers at a guild meeting if the forest proved free of their influence. Ireni promised to revive the swamps with her magic the next morning.
The Rift Walkers then returned to the Adventurer's Guild to find it partially burnt down. Arrold explained what had happened, and a wounded but still living Kaneza may have given away a hint that the Bhaal Avatar had disguised himself as Vani. The group decided on code phrases to confirm each other's identity, answering a question about the current time with a color. Kaneza said she would still stay at the guild, but would sleep in the basement from now on. An upset Vani returned Kaneza's symbol of Yondalla to her, and Kaneza informed Uli that Maximus II sadly perished in the fire.
The party visited Brunnar next. His office was locked, but a silhouette could be seen through the window. Ireni, transforming into a mouse, discovered that it was a dummy, and that the real Brunnar was lying in ambush, stunning her. After using a wand of detect magic, he apologized and released her, letting the party in. Brunnar said that going to ground slowed his investigation, forcing him to change up the hours he'd leave his office every day. He said he often visited the Barrister's guild, trying to slow an innocent verdict on Annah Sylveste. The party told him of their new code system, and Brunnar mused on if his decoy dummy could use a hat. He's still thinking it over.
The party then went to the Artists' guild, hoping to bring Elavor Corvi's mistakes to light to his mother, gaining her favor at a guild meeting. They decided it was worth the risk of breaking their word, having already accepted 25 platinum pieces from him in advance for their secrecy.
The artist's guild turned out to be a strange place; deeply embellished architecture was everywhere, and the guild headquarters turned out to be a windowless castle with the image of another city block etched into the stone with such detail it looked as if one could step into it. There was also an orphanage that seemed to be funded directly by Fringilla Corvi, Elavor's mother and the leader of the Artists' Guild. Yuna learned from an attendant that Fringilla's husband, a Moon Elf from Issylria, is not present in the city, suggesting some sort of separation.
The interior of the guild headquarters was equally strange; it was a large, red-carpeted lounge with magical lighting, connected to a massive dining hall from which attendants were serving drinks. A halfling perpetually played sonatas on a piano while an attendant delivered the Rift Walkers' request for a meeting to Fringilla. The party found the entire district very strange and refused all offers of refreshment while they waited.
After an hour of waiting, the party finally was led deeper into the castle, ascending as massive staircase overlooked by three massive portaits of the Corvi Family; Fringilla was clearly a human, but her children were both half elves, looking quite different from their mother in both facial structure and complexion. Jade noticed the paintings were enchanted with some sort of abjuration spell.
The party was led into a spacious lounge with high backed chairs lit by a fireplace. A woman with her back to the party took a puff from a slender cigarette and welcomed them.
The Artists' castle seems to be teetering on the threshold between decadent and threatening.