The team heads back towards town after the conclusion of the negotiation. On the way back, Sanvi runs over to Coratana and gifts him with Sanvi’s lucky rock - just a rock, worn smooth with the passage of hands running over it over time. Dorrin is gifted with five knots tied in a magical rope: each knot, when untied, will untie a corresponding knot on another rope within sight. Sulyex speaks with Leanor and gathers the party’s reward for completing the mission, requesting that if Marek returns, or sends further word, Leanor send word back to the Sanctum’s hub. Leanor asks if the group has a moniker to differentiate them from the other runners, and Halbard tells her to call them the Shadow Runners. Sulyex leaves his full name with Leanor, asking for her to also specify that word be sent to him.
The group returns to the Sanctum’s Hub, and Dorrin heads directly toward the workshop where he begins working on treating and tanning the snakeskin leather the group gathered on their first mission. Gribble and Quaesitor speak together briefly before heading further into the Sanctum. Sulyex, Audir, and Halbard follow Coratana, who asks the Sanctum to open the path to the Map Room, and to ask Owen to join them there. The Sanctum opens the path into the Void, and permits them into the Map Room. As they arrive, they see the glowing orbs describing the worlds the Sanctum has access to, but Owen is not there. Coratana demonstrates the abilities of the room, and the four runners each seek out their homeworlds. In doing so, they discover that Audir’s forest and Halbard’s home are on the same world, but that none of the rest of the worlds they ask about - or have visited - overlap… Coratana realizes this means that, although they have fought similar foes - arcanely intelligent animals - on their two missions for the Sanctum, the ultimate cause of these missions may be able to travel to various worlds, much like the Sanctum permits travel between worlds.
Owen reveals his presence from where he has apparently been watching the group for a while. He reveals that a team of runners had been killed on mission by a group of monstrosities: animals whose bodies have been altered or combined in grotesque ways. They ask him a few questions, eventually asking him about the world the mission they hope to take next is based from. They discover that this mission - to find a missing scalebearer - is based from Sulyex’s homeworld. During the discussion, Owen also reveals that the Map Room is close to the Sanctum’s heart, and that some of the defenses the Sanctum puts into place are inactive in this area. There is a brief discussion about the Sanctum’s ancient enemy: an Alliance that feared the power of the Sanctums and sought to exterminate them. After a genocide that was largely successful, the remaining Sanctums - and new ones, as they were created - disguised themselves, secreting their nature away and hiding their pathways in buildings and places of business.
In the middle of this discussion, the lights suddenly go out. When they return a few moments later, there is a pulsing red glow that comes, too. Owen announces that the Sanctum is under attack: a keeper has requested emergency aid. He tells the group that Tyrik, Lyran, and Luka will be leaving in ten minutes to provide what help they can. Quickly, the four adventurers leave the Map Room and make their own preparations to mount this rescue. Audir makes her way to the armory and requests a magical quarterstaff from the Sanctum. The light from the crystal in her pendant drifts out into an orb in front of her face before floating over and disappearing into a case holding a wooden staff with a bright green crystal on its head. Audir reaches for the staff and takes it easily, hurrying to rejoin her companions with a new weapon.
Luka, Tyrik, and Lyran gather supplies to take through the portal, and Luka quickly enchants a rug to levitate the baggage through. The group steps into a burning room, blazing with heat and clogged with smoke, with the prostrate form of a woman lying in a pill of blood before them. They quickly gather her dead body and remove themselves to an alleyway behind the inn they arrived in. Hearing screams and cries from multiple buildings around them, Luka rushes off, and Lyran and Tyrik go out to the next street over and begin setting up a triage station.
Coratana has Kaira polymorph him into a copy of the tiny dragon, and the two take to the skies, quickly spotting the source of the fire: three short flame-wreathed forms vaguely resembling dwarves. He telepathically conveys this information to the party, then flying ahead with Sulyex in tow, rushes to fight these three foes.
Halbard and Audir rush into two of the buildings where they hear screams and crying. Halbard pulls out two young children, and Audir helps a mother try to pull out her teenaged son. They struggle along, with Audir doing most of the heavy lifting, until Halbard and Nightbane arrive to assist. Halbard loads the two figures up on Nightbane and send the beast to deliver them to Tyrik and Lyran, and the two rush to catch up to their two comrades.
Meanwhile, Sulyex, Coratana, and Kaira engage the the flame-wreathed figures in combat. Coratana ends up putting himself into a flanked position and taking a large amount of damage fairly quickly from the heat radiating off the figures’ forms. One of the short figures sends off a few fireballs, and the other two seem determined to protect this spellcaster. During the confrontation, Coratana falls unconscious multiple times, and little Kaira takes serious affront to the damage being done to him.
Halbard and Audir use their own skillsets to make their way to the combat: Halbard by using his Zephyr Strike, and Audir by utilizing the Fearsome Beast Shape gifted to her by Granny Titchwillow. In doing so, Audir discovers an unexpected facet of this shape: it radiates an aura of fear, causing all who see her within a certain radius to have to overcome the effect or be frightened of her… even her allies. It doesn’t take long after the two arrive for the three foes to be struck down. Halbard shoots down one warrior with his Leafbow, Coratana, newly-revived and conscious decapitates the other warrior, and in her Fearsome shape, Audir tears the throat out of the caster. Bruised and bloodied, the four party members share a glance before looking around them, taking in the sight of the town burning down around them and the sound of screams and cries of those still trapped in burning buildings.