Following their successful defeat of the kobold tribe hiding within Droskar’s Crucible, the adventurers continue to scout out the tomb where they discover the remaining children, all beaten and abused but alive, as well as signs that at least some of the kobolds survived and managed to escape. As they search, Úzi hears the Dark Smith’s whispers still and has a terrible vision where he sees himself seated upon a dark throne with thousands of filthy, exhausted-looking dwarves arranged around him, toiling away without end. At least some of them simply appear to die of exhaustion. In his vision, Úzi can’t help but to note that his old self looks slumped and beaten and old. As politely as he can, he refuses the Dark Smith’s offer of allegiance and places the stone fist upon a desecrated shrine – it sinks into the stone and the entire complex begins shaking. Rocks fall and the PCs quickly grab the children they have rescued as they race for the exit. They narrowly escape the Crucible’s collapse but Úzi can still hear the Dark Smith’s whispers…
Upon their return to Falcon’s Hollow, the adventurers are quickly met by the local militia about to investigate what appears to be a great earthquake. Edgrin begins to tell the tale of what happened, but the shock of seeing his companions slain and his own abuse causes him to falter in the telling, so Walen steps in and dazzles the growing crowd with the exploits of his group. The family members of the children are quite grateful for their rescue – though not enough to pony up a reward, it seems! – and whisk their children away. Alain briefly rejoins his friends, along with Sister Jenya who is very grateful for the actions of the heroes.
After a final evening of rest in the Hollow, the adventurers (plus a recovered Alain set out once more, intent on returning to Kingsport to deliver their official documents. It takes several days for Úzi to escape the Dark Smith’s whispers which ease as they put the mountains behind them. During the nearly week-long trip, the PCs discover Alain reading a small book that turns out to be a primer into the teachings of Iomedae, a hero-deity and Ascended paladin of the Sun God. He accepts their teasing in the nature it is meant.
As they approach Kingsport, the adventurers discover the army camp has expanded considerably in size and appears to be conducting maneuvers or training exercises. The PCs are quickly intercepted by a patrol of guards who demand identities and reasons for being on the road. Upon confirmation of their identities, the PCs are escorted into the camp where they are taken to a fairly large tent surprisingly guarded by female soldiers. Inside, they meet Dame Lynda, who is meeting with another knight to whom she grudgingly defers and addresses as “Your Lordship,” implying he is of higher social rank. Once the PCs introduce themselves, both Dame Lynda and the lord appear to recognize them, and the lord departs, taking with him Alain because he “needs him for the upcoming Event.” Dame Lynda seems irked at this but does not contest it and informs the adventurers that General Tso has assigned her the role of liaison while he leads.
After listening to their report about their expedition to the dwarves (and reading the official response), Dame Lynda orders one of her pages to go and bring the dame’s “companions” here at once. Long minutes later, Sir Mrak and Reeve Teffer enter whereupon Dame Lynda produces a magic candle and lights it. All three of them prick their hands with knives and demand the PCs do the same to prove they are not dopplegangers – the candle appears to act as proof, and the three relax slightly before telling the PCs about the woes of the city. When the PCs departed to assist “that damned wizard” (as Sir Mrak calls him), the [[Adventure 4: “The Weather Underground” | doppleganger threat]] wasn’t over. Numerous cells of the creatures were destroyed but all evidence discovered pointed toward something really big coming very soon … but the three now have too high a public profile to effectively conduct their terror cell hunt and would like the PCs to do this. The heroes agree and are pointed toward positive sightings of a noblewoman killed in the initial attacks as a place to start.
The PCs set up a headquarters at the new home of Lloyd and Wanda Thatcher’s who are happy to help them on their official mission to “track down a criminal group”, and over the next week, the PCs conduct recons of the area surrounding Lady Tannaril’s home while following up leads about other sightings. Their investigation does not appear to yield fruit to their great frustration until a random comment stated in Lloyd’s presence gives them another clue and points them toward the merchant Barlowe. Upon paying him a visit, they take the opportunity to offload some of their captured loot, purchase some staggeringly awesome hats that Barlowe insists are coming into fashion. Some quite subtle question of the merchant reveals that some of the dead people still walking around have visited one of Barlowe’s nearby rivals, Rickard Undercutter, who has a shop across the street and was the man whom Bruno observed being shaken down some weeks back by that well-dressed man. More interesting, though, is an earlier visit Barlowe observed: “that ”/campaigns/forgotten-greylancerron/characters/ishmael-thatcher" class=“wiki-content-link”>dock kid and the cleric he tags around with" went into Dick Undercutter’s … and now that he thinks about it, Barlowe doesn’t remember seeing them leave.
Deciding to investigate, the PCs head across the street but find the shop mysteriously locked and shuttered, even though it is only midday. While Bruno bangs on the door, the other heroes realize the shop is being monitored by a mysterious woman. She ducks away when the PCs look at her, but doesn’t try to hide the fact that she’s watching them. Maia and Walen decide to seek a rear entrance to the shop and discover a small delivery door in the narrow alleyway behind the shop. Meanwhile, the mysterious woman purchases a hat from Barlowe and then disappears in the crowd. Maia retraces her steps to inform Bruno and Úzi of the rear door while Walen fiddles with it.
Alone, Walen is surprised when the door starts rattling – someone is coming out! – and he quickly hides in a convenient cart nearby. An unremarkable man emerges and resecures the door, but Walen has an excellent vantage point to see how he does it (for future B&E, no doubt.) Donning his own hat – though not as awesome as the one Bruno is wearing – the man makes a discreet exit from the alleyway, clearly heading away from where the other PCs are. Walen is about to act when he sees two burly men – he mentally tags them as Thug #1 and Thug #2 – leave another shop and begin to shadow the man Walen believes is Dick Undercutter. Thinking quickly, the halfling bard casts disguise self from a scroll, arranges some sticks in an arrow pointing in the direction he intends to go, and gives chase himself, unaware that his friends will be entering the alley moments later where they will be baffled at his disappearance and the sign he left behind.
Dick Undercutter remains oblivious to the pursuit of the Thugs (and Walen ), and eventually meets up with another man, at which point, the Thugs split up themselves, with #1 continuing to follow Undercutter while #2 shadows the Other Man. Walen decides to continue after Undercutter and Thug #1, and is surprised sometime later when Thug #1 pauses before a shop stall and speaks softly to the Mysterious Woman, now wearing a very nice hat. They are too far for Walen to eavesdrop, but whatever is said has Thug #1 heading away while the Mysterious Woman saunters closer to Dick Undercutter. She brushes by the man and keeps walking. Instantly, Walen suspects she’s picked the man’s pocket … but when Undercutter starts shaking and drops to the street as if in an epileptic seizure, he realizes that isn’t the case at all! He darts closer, thinking to render aid so as to hopefully gain intelligence, but it is already too late. Dick Undercutter starts foaming at the mouth and, to Walen’s brief surprise, the man’s face changes slightly in the heartbeats before hideous-looking blisters and boils distort his face into something unrecognizable.
Of the Mysterious Woman, there is no sign…