Star and Surf interrogate the miner who doesn’t quite seem to fit in, and finally, after some verbal back and forth, the encounter escalates. He eventually identifies himself as the Hyaena and tries to escape. He doesn’t seem to want to blow his cover and so rather than lashing out in a blur of soulsteel he evades and counters the attacks, with Star’s chakrams cutting off his escape and Surf in her war form wrestling him down. After they trap him in the essence-stifling chains he surrenders and starts answering more questions.
Apparently the creature they had just fought was a Hekatonkhire that was under the Hyaena’s control. They didn’t really kill it, but they forced it back into a quiescent state, and he has lost control of it (the hearthstone amulet is probably involved somehow but he doesn’t clarify). Surf and Star walk him back to Gethamane, intent on getting more information from him, especially since he casually mentions that Golden Face tried to stop him so he used him as a decoy for the Infernals. When Star and Surf share that the Infernals are trying to create a new Elemental Pole, this seems to concern the Hyaena greatly. He shares that he was hired by the Great Dogg to deliver on a contract to destroy a set of glowing green pillars, but they were too well-defended in Creation and the Underworld version of Gethamane is swarming with something bad, so he had to prey on the crew of miners to help boost his Hekatonkhire’s strength.
Meanwhile, Voice and Orchid are trapped in the Underworld, so Orchid summons her grandfather’s ghost to help them navigate. He appears and is troubled by being so close to the mountain, and leads them away, towards a small shadowland that they can use to get back into Creation. Partway there, the group sees a slithering, silvery mass of evil crawling along the canyon, and Voice summons a Spectral Steed to outrun it. They ask grandpa what it is, but all he knows is that they come from the mountain, dragging ghosts screaming into its depths.
Once they reach the shadowland, Orchid and Voice pass through and ride the Spectral Steed back to Gethamane in a hurry. They catch up with Star and Surf and the Hyaena, and everyone exchanges information (and dirty looks with the Hyaena as well). They finally get an inn for the night and sleep since there has been little chance to rest for a while.
The next order of business is to collect the information from the Elemental Courts about what could possibly have caused the earthquake that got everything started in the first place. With some diligent research and collection of materials (including the correct minerals from the mine that the group visited), the ritual is prepared. The group heads down into the underdark and finds a dead end tunnel to perform the ritual. Soon a portal opens in the rock, and a Kri, a man/deer spirit of stone, arrives and welcomes them to the domain of the Gemlord he serves. They pass into a large chamber covered entirely with glittering gems of varying size and quality. The cave itself rumbles a greeting, for the cave itself is the Gemlord, an enormous spirit of stone with a body that stretches for miles deep underground.
The party shares what they know about the earthquake, the twin dooms of Gethamane, and ask for information. The Gemlord hesitates deeply but finally admits that he and his two brothers were bested and coerced into cooperating to start that destructive earthquake. With the party’s prodding, the Gemlord dares to speak the name of the one who bested them: “The Scarlet Phoenix Astride the World.” The party is stunned. This is almost certainly the “strange bird” that has been lurking all along.
Star asks about recharging the green pillars that are slowly failing and about to allow a great evil into Creation. The Gemlord says only the Heart of the Gemlord would be enough, and even then it would probably take two, and it would be too risky to give his own Heart to them. He wishes them well and they are escorted out, but soon another earthquake rocks them terribly. As the party recovers, two other portals open and two other Kri arrive with Gemlord Hearts, saying they must avenge their fallen brother. The Scarlet Phoenix Astride the World has struck, and will most likely not be satisfied now until the party has been destroyed. The Hyaena seems particularly nervous, temporarily shedding his indifferent attitude.
Star takes the two Gemlord Hearts to a squad of the Mountain Folk, instructing them on how to power the pillars with these to keep the great evil of the Underworld at bay, and then the party prepares to go find Loyal and Lumaria, who are well overdue from trying to find the Infernals.