Tinkering with the wand they had stolen at the border crossing, The Party accidentally set off some kind of magical distress signal, bright enough even in daylight to alert any Areenian soldiers within a few miles. They scrambled to make it back to the road and adopt their disguises before they were discovered. To buy some time, Braydin carried the “wand of warning” down the road away from the Party’s direction of travel and activated it again.
Sure enough, shortly after readopting their “merchant and slave” disguises, the Party was accosted by a band of Areenian cavalry from the Longstrider Corps. It was a close call, but Marali managed to talk her way through the interrogation without arousing suspicion, though she was forced to turn over another bribe.
Travelling onwards, the Party spent a night at the “Knight of the Rock” inn. Emmerell, the innkeeper, was a pleasant enough man and was happy to have business; after some careful conversation, the Party decided to stay the night. (As Areenian custom demanded, the “slaves” slept outside, chained to the wall of the stables.
They awoke to find the inn on fire; Marali and Skalgar, who were sleeping inside, found their doors had been locked from the outside, but were both able to escape without injury. Outside, the Party was surprised to find that the inn had other occupants. The two men quickly fled on horseback, but the Party learned from the innkeeper that one of them was a young man named Tarsus Genova, son of a wealthy and prominent Areenian statesman; the two men had clearly met at the inn for some kind of secret tryst.
Leaving the distraught innkeeper behind, the Party made camp on the plains; the next day, they continued their journey to the mine. Whoever set the fire had clearly made a clean escape, but the Party suspected that it may have been the same mysterious bounty hunter who had attacked them in the Western Expanse.
They travelled for several days without incident and arrived at Bittertown, where they spoke with Platinus Remler, proprietor of the “Silver Bar” inn. From him they learned that most of the miners who made their homes in the village had left after being fired and replaced by slave laborers; the town has since fallen on hard times and is mostly abandoned. He suggested the Party speak to Bosman Fricht, the mine’s foreman.
On the way to the mine, the Party encountered a strange device placed in the middle of the road. When they approached, it emitted a deep, painfully loud noise which quickly drew an angry bulette. It attacked the Party ferociously, but they were able to drive it away.
Huddling on the plains just a few hundred yards from the mine, the Party made their plans . . .
As they traveled across the Western Expanse towards the border of Areen, they were attacked by a mysterious, cloaked figure who seemed to have the ability to change into animals. He shot N’Ganda with a poised arrow doused in some foul-smelling concoction designed to attract owlbears. The Party was attacked soon afterwards by a mated pair of the creatures, but managed to kill them by attacking from the trees and keeping them distracted and separated.
After traversing the forest, the Party donned their disguises as they prepared to cross into Areen at a border station on the Volan River. (Marali posed as a merchant travelling with her bodyguard and slaves.) Rivvin Iblith, refusing at the last minute to pose as a slave, decided to make the crossing alone and in secret. He intended to swim across, but after spotting a huge dorsal fin surfacing in the middle of the river, he elected to sneak across the bridge.
In order to procure a merchant’s visa, Marali was forced to hand over a massive bribe to the soldier manning the border station. Later that night, Rivvin snuck into the station under an invisibility spell while Braydin distracted the guards, retrieving the Party’s gold—and hundreds more—along with a few useful papers and a wand. They made camp on the plains away from the road.
At Pelisar Bottomleaf‘s hideout in the village of Honeywell, the Party planned their journey to Bitterrun Mine to investigate Asulia Kopis’ recent acquisition of Volan Minerals. Pelisar suggested a route designed to avoid well-traveled roads and prying eyes—the Party would travel west to the Bariv River, there to meet Clepper Peck, captain of the Merry Mackerel, who would transport them South in secret, after which they would journey East across the Western Expanse, traverse the Spine at “Breakneck” Pass, and enter Areen at a border station near the Volan River. From there it would be a short trek across the plains to reach the mine; if all went according to plan, the journey would take around a month.
Before setting out, Pelisar gave the Party a worn golden ring which, he said, would allow them to call on him if their situation became desperate; he promised to come to their aid as quickly as possible if they used it.
After parting with Pelisar, the Party journeyed west to the Bariv River.
The Party met Clepper Peck at “Ballard’s Fork.” He pledged to help them travel in secret, trusting them—he said—for Pelisar’s sake, whom he seemed to respect immensely.
Staying below deck during the day and avoiding contact with the crew, the Party traveled up river for over two weeks. The trip was boring except for one strange incident. Noticing the strange behavior of an unusually large rat that had been making regular appearances in the hold, Braydin used a “Detect Magic” spell to check for magical influence; sure enough, the rat was emanating an unmistakable aura of magic. As soon as he cast the spell, the rat fled from the hold and lept into the water, never to be seen again.
The Party left the Merry Mackerel several days early, leaving a misleading note. They journeyed across the forest and into the mountains, finding their way with relative ease and living off of the land.
About a day away from Breakneck Pass, the Party was attacked as they slept by a small band of marauding Orcs. (They had seen signs over the past few days that Orcs were in the vicinity.) The Orcs dropped boulders from a clifftop and charged down into the camp, but the Party quickly drew together and repelled their attack, slaying the entire band.
Successfully negotiating the pass, the Party began the climb back down into the lowlands.
Back at Effri Hart‘s farm after their escape from the Hall of Truth and Law, the Party interrogated Craddo Terrigan with the help of Pelisar Bottomleaf. Under the influence of a “Zone of Truth” spell, Craddo told them everything he knew. He had been paid by Prokofian Amberline, for whom he had worked many times before, to steal a magical artifact as it was changing hands in Valan. He had returned to Walsh and handed over the artifact, but not before removing a crucial—and, he hoped, valuable—component and stashing it with a friend at a bolt hole in the Western Expanse. A few days later, Amberline was murdered and Craddo was arrested for the crime; his cudgel would later be found covered in Amberline’s blood, but Craddo was adamant that he had not committed the murder. Craddo also stated that he had been assured that he would not be convicted by members of what he called “The New Outfit,” the criminal syndicate led by “Stranglevine”. He further admitted to having committed many awful crimes during the Walsh Crisis.
Once the interrogation was over, Pelisar dragged Craddo Terrigan outside the farmhouse. Summoning a clearly magical warhammer from thin air, he proclaimed Craddo guilty of crimes against man and nature and executed him with a single blow to the head.
Warning the Party that, as wanted murderers, they were now being hunted by any number of lawmen and/or bounty hunters, Pelisar offered to lead them to a safe place he knew where they would be able to rest, regroup, and continue to help him in his investigation of Asulia Kopis; proving her guilt, he said, would be the only way for the Party to clear their names and return to normal life. Reluctantly, they agreed.
The Party traveled without incident to the village of Honeywell. To keep from being noticed, the travelled only at night and avoided the roads.
The Party agreed to help Pelisar by journeying to Craddo’s bolt hole and finding the stolen component while he (Pelisar) travelled to Valan to confirm Craddo’s story. Before his departure, Pelisar gave the party a heavy, black sphere about the size of a fist, which he said was a magical artifact that should protect them from scrying and other forms of magical tracking. Once again avoiding the roads where possible and sticking to the forest, the Party made the trip to the cabin without incident, getting some help along the way from a herd of deer that Braydin Sylvanwood was able to communicate with.
The Party arrived at the cabin to find that it (and the whole surrounding area) had been infested with giant spiders. After finding the artifact (a small, smooth, gently glowing tube) on the corpse of Craddo’s friend “Rogen”, they were forced to fight their way out, killing a dozen spiders along with their ettin “shepherd.” They returned to Honeywell to wait for Pelisar.
On his return, Pelisar reported that he had learned that the artifact Craddo Terrigan stole had indeed been intended for purchase by one of Asulia Kopis’ intermediaries, proving (at least circumstantially) her motive for Amberline’s murder; he was delighted to find that the Party had also achieved their goal. Taking them into his confidence, he told them what he knew about Asulia. He suggested several leads he thought were worth investigating—her company’s heavy involvement in artifacts trafficked from the Talarian Empire, the disappearance of a wizard from Manse coinciding with one of her trips there, and her recent acquisition of a small mining company in Areen. Together, they decided that the Party would journey to Areen to investigate the mine while Pelisar caught up with Asulia in Getheen.
The Party discussed the case with the other Auditors, choosing not to reveal what they had learned about Craddo Terrigan‘s innocence. They learned, however, that Coral Goodbarrel had noticed during her investigation of the crime scene that a page from Prokofian Amberline’s personal ledger had been neatly and carefully torn out. (The Party would later confirm this.) After a brief discussion, the Auditors decided that they had gathered enough evidence and would allow the next day’s hearing to proceed on schedule. The Party retired to their quarters for the night.
In the dead of night, the Party was again summoned by Pelisar Bottomleaf to the empty quarters at the end of the hall. They filled him in on what they had learned; he seemed elated to learn that his theory had been correct. Pelisar advised the Party not to advocate for Craddo’s release; instead, they should allow him to be convicted, then free him from prison before his execution.
Pelisar gave the Party an enchanted monocle to use during the trial; he requested that one of them use it to spy on Asulia Kopis from the Auditors’ box. Zendra took charge of the artifact. Pelisar also gave them the location of a farm outside of Walsh where he could meet with them after the trial.
Soon after the meeting with Pelisar, all six members of the Party were roused from their beds by two Wardens of the Court and escorted through the streets of Walsh to a small weaver’s shop in the merchant quarter. There, surrounded and outnumbered by armed men, they met with a half-elf who called himself Stranglevine. Professing to know the details of their investigation, including their interview with Rolly Hooper, this Stranglevine suggested to the Party in clear terms that they should abandon any attempt to pardon Craddo Terrigan. He paid them in gold for their silence—an unambiguously illegal act under Walsh law—and further implied that any disobedience would be met with physical harm. (After some discussion of the details of the encounter, the Party would later conclude that “Stranglevine” was most likely a leader of one of Walsh’s underground criminal syndicates. Pelisar believes that he had been paid by Asulia Kopis to influence the outcome of the trial and that he bought or coerced the cooperation of two Wardens of the Court, the Auditor Hish-tet, and possibly others.) The Party returned safely to the Hall of Truth and Law.
The following morning, after the Auditors informed the Scribe of the Court that no further time was needed for the gathering of evidence, the trial proceeded as planned. Skamos Mellix offered convincing proof of Craddo Terrigan’s guilt; Barstok Pelwich again offered no arguments and called no witnesses. Craddo sat calm and smug for the duration of the trial.
Zendra was able to use the monocle to spy on Asulia Kopis; she reported a strange magical effect and was also sure that Asulia had somehow known what she was doing.
After brief deliberation, the Auditors voted to convict Craddo Terrigan. When the Arbiter pronounced the verdict, Craddo Terrigan was clearly stunned and began shouting and raving about his innocence until they dragged him out of the court.
The Party met with Pelisar at Effri Hart’s farm to discuss plans for rescuing Craddo. Pelisar was in possession of a teleportation device (a magical rope which, when activated, would transport anyone touching it to a previously prepared circle), so it was decided that after he got the Party into the prison he would set up the teleportation circle outside the city and wait for them there.
The Party spent the following day gathering their possessions and preparing to leave Walsh.
Late that night, the Party met Pelisar in front of one of the side entrances to the Hall of Truth and Law, where they were admitted by a guard, obviously a friend of Pelisar’s. Maneuvering carefully, Pelisar was able to sneak them down into the dungeon without being spotted; they were instructed to wait half an hour for him to set up the teleportation circle.
On cue, the Party stormed the prisons. Contrary to Pelisar’s instructions, they killed several members of the Watch during the skirmish, but they did manage to successfully reach Craddo and activate the device. Once outside the city, they followed Pelisar back to the farm.
After spending some time getting to know each other, the Auditors retired to their court-provided quarters; each Party member found a note inviting them to a secret meeting later that night in an unused room. When they arrived, they met Pelisar Bottomleaf.
Pelisar informed the party that he believed Craddo Terrigan to be innocent; after forcing them to take a magical oath of silence, he told his story. He claims to be a former member of “The Hand of Pelor,” a secret organization dedicated to preserving peace throughout Urda. According to him, the group’s leader, a man named Caius Justinian, disappeared several years ago and is presumed dead. Caius had always been careful to keep the Hand of Pelor “cellular,” keeping the identity of each operative secret even from other members of the Hand, so after his death Pelisar was left on his own—he has no idea whether any other members are still operating or even alive. For the last two years Pelisar has been following Caius’ last order—to investigate a Getheen business called Memnon’s Antiquities.
Pelisar informed the Party that, a few months after Caius’ disappearance, Memnon’s was acquired by a woman named Asulia Kopis following the sudden death of the previous owner. Pelisar claimed that he had connected at least a dozen murders to this woman and that he had followed her to Walsh, where she seemed to have taken an interest in Terrigan’s trial. Pelisar was certain that she had something to do with the murder of Prokofian Amberline.
Pelisar asked The Party to investigate on his behalf, as his ability to travel freely in Walsh was limited. He directed them to visit the house of Bertin Hooper, a deceased associate of Terrigan’s. He cautioned them not to trust anyone, claiming that at least one other Auditor had been compromised.
The Party spent the next day investigating. They visited Rolly Hooper, widow of Bertin Hooper. At first she was reluctant to talk in the presence of the Warden of the Court, but after The Party dismissed him from the room she was visibly relieved; after a charm spell from Rivvin Iblith she was happy to confess everything she knew. Contrary to Pelisar’s instructions, this interview took place in the presence of Hish-tet, one of the other Auditors.
The Party learned that Bertin Hooper and Craddo Terrigan had been longstanding “partners in crime,” going all the way back to their time together in the Crushers, a local gang. According to Rolly, “Bert” knew that Craddo could not have committed the murder of Prokofian Amberline because the two criminals had been together that night committing a mugging. Bertin had been planning to come forward with this evidence, but he was murdered—partially incinerated, in fact, during a botched smuggling deal—before he had the chance. Furthermore, Rolly claimed that Bertin’s grave had been disturbed sometime after he was buried.
The Party attempted to interview Craddo Terrigan, but he was completely unhelpful.
The Party also visited the crime scene, but learned little that they didn’t already know.
The Party headed back to the Hall of Truth and Law.