At this point the party is divided on their next course of action. Esper wishes to investigate the meteorites and the strange creatures that attacked them on the road to Bieto. Glerothain is intent on searching for members of his clan. Malkus wants to learn more about the temple of Pelor, and T'sabo would prefer to try and talk some sense into the reclusive sanctuary elves.
It seems Glerothain will win out when a letter arrives from Mads Lengkin. While the pyromancer does have information on the Theinburgh clan, he also has an urgent request. Residents of the slums are being murdered in grisly ways, and the only witness refuses to speak to anyone… except for the adventurers!
Intrigued by this mystery witness, the party sets aside their other plans for now and heads to Mads' place. Glerothain is given some information about an ancient dwarf fortress located underneath the city- his kin may be hiding there. Mads tells him to get in touch with Parhalan, a dwarf adventurer who has been exploring the aquaducts and caverns beneath Cyneburga's streets.
With that, it's off to the latest murder site. The men guarding the narrow alley are not members of the guard. They are all in plainclothes, though each wears an unfamiliar red pin. It appears they may be part of an unofficial militia formed by Mads.
No one can make sense of the victims' bodies, which have large gaping wounds and are missing most of their vital organs. The party is further mystified when the identity of the witness is revealed- it is Roland, the young halfling whom they assisted on the road.
Roland seems quite shaken up, and tells the adventurers privately that he is sure that the murderer is his own uncle- Bedrich, a magical researcher and an upstanding halfling by all accounts. Though Roland was supposed to stay at Bedrich's house when he reached the city, his uncle has been missing for some time now. It seems unlikely that a happy reunion is in Roland's future.
Bedrich's house is easily entered when Esper "Blinks" through the door. A research journal is uncovered that no one can make head or tail of (it mentions omni-reality, celestial pins, potential order and other terms that are beyond the mostly non-magically inclined adventurers). The only thing out of the ordinary is a huge pile of random trinkets of no particular worth sitting on the living room table.
Leaving this mystery for later, the group checks the basement. Like many cellars in Cyneburga, it contains a well for access to the aqueducts. The large painting of a battle scene is more out of the ordinary, as is the series of cages at the bottom of the well, one of which contains a limp body!
Descending into the well proves to be a simple task, but the investigators find themselves under attack when a fast moving construct bursts up from under the water. It seems to be made of the same materials as the floating tentacled thing from earlier, but it walks on two legs and attacks with a pair of razor sharp scythes. It nearly finishes off the party with a burning ray attack, but finally succumbs to the repeated attacks of the heroes.
A strange frog-like humanoid seems to have not been so lucky. Its corpse floats to one side of the aqueduct, bearing a banner with the symbol of a blank mask under a ship. No one has encountered it before.
T'sabo administers healing to the wounded, as well as to the occupant of the cage, who seems to be poisoned in some way. Though groggy, the prisoner is able to introduce himself as Vit, Bedrich's research partner. He says that Bedrich appeared to him after an extended and mysterious absence, ranting like a madman. When Vit turned his back for a moment, he felt a sharp pain in his back that soon gave way to oblivion- he assumse Bedrich poisoned him.
Vit has been in the cage for a few days now, and says he thinks something has been done to allow Bedrich to control him. He wants to leave the house immediately, especially considering that his ex-partner usually returns to the house through the aqueducts.
Vit is escorted out of the house and an ambush is set up in the basement. The plan is to catch Bedrich unawares as he climbs out of the well, but the plan goes awry when he suddenly appears in the centre of the basement instead. Despite his magical tricks, however, he proves to be much easier to handle than his construct guardian. Perhaps a bit too easy- After an initial volley of arrows from T'sabo and some quick attacks form Glerothain and Esper, Malkus nearly cuts him in half! It seems they will be unable to question him about the murders. Oops!
Examining the body, the party finds a tangle of small, silvery tentacles at the base of Bedrich's neck. The discovery only serves to deepen the mystery, but at least Roland, Vit, and the residents of the slums are safe for now.
It falls to T'sabo to break the news of Bedrich's death to Roland, who takes it about as well as can be expected. Luckily he didn't notice his uncle's prized rapier hanging from T'sabo's belt, or he might have been really upset.
This scene was actually pretty hilarious, despite what should have been the very sad news. T'sabo was going on about how sorry they were, and how there was no choice, and then Esper's player pipes up with "Does he realize you have his uncle's sword in your scabbard?" The sword was masterwork and thus pretty distinctive, but luckily for T'sabo, Roland rolled a 1 on his spot check, which saved the paladin from having to explain why he was looting the body of Roland's beloved uncle.
With the murderer dealt with, Roland and Vit are left in the care of Mads, and the adventurers seek out the dwarf explorer Parhalan. Mads suggests looking in the Spine of the Dragon pub, and indeed the explorer is there (easily picked out by the tattoo of a green boot on his forearm). While Glerothain makes arrangements, the rest of the group chat with the bartender and learn of Jadranka- the monstrous lord of Cyneburga, a red dragon who weilds influence over the city from afar. The flavour of the pub's special brew comes from the dragon scales immersed in each keg, and these scales are said to come from Jadranka himself.
With this tidbit of information, and the means to contact Parhalan when they wish to seek out the dwarven fortress, the party retires to the guard house to prepare for the next day.