The fight with Venticles Veyne was quick and brutal. Even as the sorcerer strode down from his position atop the pyramid to attack, the skeletal corpses around him rose in seeming unending number and what little flesh they'd had left between them flowed together into a rather hungry sounding blob.
Shallahai kept the skeletons' numbers under control by pelting them with magic stones, while Ungarth unleashed his specialised form of brutality on the flesh-lump.
Venticles fought on using telekinetic powers and defiling magic to leech the life of his opponents, but couldn't manage to shake Raina's dogged pursuit as he tried to keep from her punishing hammer. Eventually, when he thought himself safe to feast on Pik and his menagerie of summoned beasts, the mul utilised her psionic powers to switch places with the druid briefly and crush the sorcerer's skull.
Once freed, the minotaur was found to be in perfectly healthy condition. He explained - after introducing himself as Asterius, self-styled king of the island that held his name - that proximity to the glowing light at the pyramid's height meant he could not die, and would regrow any injury. That was why Venticles had been feeding on his flesh, as it would never run out.
The Veyne had seized control of the pyramid some thirty years prior, and was killing all the people that were monthly offered to the light. Normally, Asterius would have provided them with a choice, either to go into the light or return to the outside world and join the villagers. Elves mainly opted for the portal, and humans chose to remain in the real world. Thirty years with no new influx was why the village was so small now.
Asterius had no clue what was behind the light, or any knowledge that the eladrin may have possessed; all he knew was that Andropinis was willing to pay a steady tithe just out of fear for what the minotaurs could do. It was a sign of strength that he did so.
Trapped within the wooden prison until it was opened from outside, the party chose to rest for a few hours. They awakened refreshed, Pik and Raina bearing new blessings from their proximity to the portal. The druid had also deepened his connection to nature, and asked questions of the twisted trees around them. They were far from knowledgeable, but could confirm that people had come and gone from the portal in the past; it probably did lead to the Lands Within the Wind, and wasn't merely a deathtrap.
The doorway was eventually opened for a new influx of slaves, and the party dashed out to attack Viscera Veyne and her slave-handler attendants. The woman shouted up at the two beast-giants hauling on the chains to aid her against our heroes, but there was enough argument between the two sides that the big brutes decided to watch the fight and see who won; might would prove right.
The conflict was even quicker than that against Venticles. Raina, Shallahai and Ungarth took on the mancatcher-wielding slavers while Pik simply called upon the darker side of his primal powers to simply leech Viscera's body of all her blood, leaving her unable to give any further testimony to clarify the situation.
The giants were amused, but far from won over, still calling the party puny. When Ungarth picked up and pulled one of the chains single-handedly (Natural Twenty Of The Week!TM) they were more than ready to start handing around alcohol to our victors.
The slaves, giants and villagers were all welcome to the victory feast the heroes organised, although any hint of lotus-bloom was ruthlessly withheld from the food. Pik was all for organising the rag-tag group into an avenging army to storm Balic, but those less naive or more versed in war quickly came up with excuses not to partake in such a suicidal action. Even the giants knew that Andropinis' city was too well-defended for a group of warriors to take.
Still, plans were laid out for some of the slaves (those who wished) to remain on the island, while those that wanted could come back to the mainland. When Kotnalishmaelantok's skimmer arrived at midnight, he was surprised to be given a welcome by the giants, but happy enough to join the festivites.
For that evening, the world of the dark sun didn't seem so grim.
Laurence J Sinclair