As promised, you had a formal dinner with Laryssa Tomefinder, Winter, and Riva Diamol. The dinner contained many dishes for which you had not seen ingredients in the tower larder; Riva claimed to have gathered them all herself during her absences from the tower in the preceding days. She also claimed to have cooked the entire meal, not entirely successfully.
Laryssa explained that during her famous expedition to Galvarien University, she and her traveling companions had uncovered a startling secret: the gods have moved intelligent life from world to world over the ages. Each world is inevitably poisoned and exhausted by civilization before the gods rescue it from the brink of destruction – each world but Artaxes. This world has its own intelligent world spirit. The entire earth is a living organism unlike any other in the cosmos – and it views the races the gods have brought to it like an infection. In Artaxes, the gods have found a world so vital that their worshipers cannot exhaust it – at the cost of the planet constantly trying to purge itself of civilization.
The gods had destroyed Galvarien University when its faculty discovered this history, and they would have destroyed Laryssa's expedition as well – if not for the intervention of the world spirit itself, which shielded the explorers from the pantheon's wrath. Artaxes and the gods then gave the explorers a choice. The gods demanded that they travel west into the primordial heart of Insser, there to re-imprison the world spirit. Artaxes implored them to find a way across the Silverway to a new world, leaving it in peace.
Laryssa and her team chose the latter, incurring the undying wrath of the gods in the process. They faced several obstacles: only Tiamat could open the Rainbow Gate to other worlds, but even then the path lead through a mysterious nexus known as Sigil, the City of Doors – and Sigil was closed, ruled by the so-called Lady of Pain. Half of the expedition was sent through to Sigil in an attempt to secure passage through the City of Doors. The other half remained behind to find a way to placate the goddess.
Now, though, decades have passed, and Laryssa fears her companions have failed. Her work at Vesh Toraein has been to find a way through dimensions, to reach Sigil and discover its secrets. Laryssa said that portals used to be common, and some can still be seen on university campuses across the Empire, but they all require a key of some sort to activate, and keys can be anything. Her attempt to create a new portal, so far, has been a failure.
During the discussion of portals, Wil remembered the bean she had stolen from Thorvald Torquemand's mansion. Laryssa examined it magically, and believed that it might be a portal key; she took the bean for use in her next experiment.
The following day a supply caravan arrived at the tower, bearing both groceries and arcane reagants. Riva left for a shopping trip of her own to Banriel, claiming that the caravan merchants harassed her. During the trip, Wil discovered that the villagers were surprised to see her alive, believing that all who ventured to Vesh Toraein met an ill end. Back at the tower, Edric Ironhand noted that the caravan seemed suspiciously unsurprised to see so many guests, and Lord Desideratus Constantin Lycurgus Xenophon, Ehrkun of Gorizda, Sixth of His Name (aka Betty) discovered that the caravan was selling ale to the party with some sort of drug added. He had Winter use the tower's alchemical apparatus, located in the second tower, to try and determine what exactly had been added. The caravan loitered for a day after unloading their scheduled cargo, seemingly in no hurry to leave.
Before Winter's tests could run their course, Wil and Riva returned from the village, and the caravan abruptly left. That evening, Winter cleared the tower of all but herself, Laryssa, and Riva, as they attempted to power up the portal apparatus once again. You watched from the slope as the sun set and the ancient tower pulsed with magical energy. Just as the sun sank behind the mountains, a crimson dragon flew low overhead with an angry roar, headed for Banriel. Winter leapt from the top of the tower and sprinted after it, heading towards you. No sooner had she reached the party than there was an explosion of magical energy from the portal level, and a vortex of silver energies engulfed the tower – along with Laryssa and Riva.
Winter insisted that you would be unable to assist her in combating the dragon, but she begged your help in saving her daughter. You headed for the tower as she ran east towards the village.