We continued investigating the island, heading towards the next cluster of ruins indicated on the map. On our way there we encountered a cluster of darkmantles, a rather random encounter to say the least. Darkmantles are usually subterranean and rely on surprise to attack random adventurers that are occupied dungeon-delving. Six of them floating around in bright sunlight? Easy targets to say the least. Soma dropped a fireball right on the center that killed all but one of them, the last one was left pretty seriously singed but Meda quickly shot it out of the air. The tower itself was much more interesting. Apparently it was made of a sort of white shale (don't ask me how we figured that out), and the tower appeared to be constantly growing and shedding giant shards of shale, which we were mostly able to avoid but a few of us got knocked around.
Inside the tower we found that the dirt appeared constantly shifting and being incorporated into the growth process of the tower, a peculiar situation to say the least. Whitmore was able to discern a distinct pattern to the dirt, providing a sort of staircase to an upper level, but requiring a great number of precarious leaps. Fortunately for us, Meda was able to nimbly scramble up to the second level, discovering a group of three wisps, including the one we had argued with earlier. I will say this about the wisps, they're either insane or just plain stupid. Possibly both. The one we had run into before "tried" to negotiate with us, but I got the feeling he wasn't terribly interested. I tried explaining once again that we were looking for Gerlach and if the wisp would help us find the alchemist, we'd be able to leave his island much more quickly. When the wisps proved to once again to be utterly obstinate, we engaged in some mean-spirited taunting which goaded the wisps into attacking us. The fight was a pretty close thing there for a while. Soma managed to summon a lighting elemental that harried the wisps, and a few solid hits from me, Meda, and Whitmore managed to drop the bastards. Whitmore considered trying to capture one of the wisps and teach them how to properly negotiate, the logistics of such a proposal proved too prohibitive to be implemented. However we did find a decent collection of ioun stones, meaning pretty much everyone in the party now has at least one stone whirling around them. Soma also found an armillary amulet which apparently shows the positions of the celestial spheres, which seems to fit with everything else we've heard about this island.
As we left the tower we discovered a hidden cover around the rear of the island which had a canal to the ocean and a cave. We were able to determine the canal was being excavated by some sort of freaky fish people who were being overseen by a slightly different type of freaky fish people. We presumed this is what happened to the villagers on the pirate island, but didn't relish the prospect of heading down there without more information. So we decided to investigate the remaining ruins before tangling with whatever was down there.
The first set of ruins we investigated had a small outbuilding that was missing its top half, not in itself unusual. What was very odd though was the top half of the building was orbiting the island in some sort of magical field, making a lap of the island every ten minutes or so. We decided it might be worth investigating later, but we wanted to check out the larger building first, which proved to be a very large orrery. (Or for those of us that don't have technical training, a giant mechanical model of the cosmos) We were initially hesitant to enter, fearing another surprise attack of rust monsters, but our scouting revealed the building to be inhabited by three phase spiders instead. Lucky for us we got the jump on them and managed to drop one of them in six seconds flat, causing the other two spiders to run off to the Ethereal Plane. We waited for a good two or three minutes, expecting the spiders to come back, and were rather confused when they didn't. We eventually decided to investigate the orrery, which Soma and Whitmore were able to determine was in serious disrepair. I'm not sure if it was the disrepair of the orrery or just the fucked up nature of this island, but we started getting hit by random bursts of magic. This proved much to our advantage, though, because Meda and I started phasing between the Material and Ethereal Planes, allowing us to lay an everloving smackdown on those damn spiders. Meda did really well, putting a few arrows straight through the creatures' eyes, and I got a really solid hit in with my sword, finishing the creatures off.
Threatened with continual bursts of random magic and approaching darkness, we decided to rest for the day before giving the orrery a more detailed examination. I will say that I rather like Soma's new ability to give us a hidden campsite in a pocket dimension. It means I finally get a nice, uninterrupted stretch of sleep.