"The boy, no older than eighteen, looked up with dark circles under his eyes, blood spilling from his mouth. Shae's invisible hand swung harder, sending a solution of saliva and blood to the dark wooden floor. Dickfor, flashing his Dragon claws and his hybrid wolf eyes, made it clear the boy wouldn't leave alive. Evie watched her comrades, quietly suggesting sparing the boy and tracking his whereabouts utilizing magic…Maybe he would lead them further into the Rosenthorn web. Pablo laughed, detecting a magical presence about the boy. No, he would tell the party nothing. His mind was too far gone, imprisoned by a powerful spell. Arcerys grew frustrated with waiting, and plunged a dagger through the boy's right hand. The boy only stared, laughing calmly under his breath. The spell only grew stronger, as its caster watched deep into the darkness…"
The third installment of our series began in the Gare Noir headquarters, with our heroes returning to Fallon with Holden safe and sound. The guild remained uncharacteristically empty—save Fallon and the two assassins from the previous day. After inquiring Fallon about the absence of the members, Fallon revealed the Rosenthorn's had attacked Astrid personally, critically injuring her husband and threatening her two children. Fallon had limited knowledge of the Rosenthorns, knowing only they were a rival guild originating from the South, and their attacks were intimate and deadly. The seedy organization seemed to know everything about their targets, from personal history to who they slept with to where they resided. For Fallon, who followed Astrid's creed for the Gare Noir firmly and steadfast, this method of operation greatly disturbed him. He revealed Astrid was in hiding with her husband at the Church of Ara, and she would only take visitors escorted by a member of the Gare's inner circle. And she wanted revenge.
Dickfor and Shae decided they would visit Astrid in the morning with Fallon, while Evie and Pablo took to the streets for information and some light shopping. Before leaving however, the party paid their assassin allies for information regarding rumors about the Rosenthorns. The assassins heard three rumors surrounding the Rosenthorns: they had a red dragon-born in their leagues, they were secretly ran by a family of Yuan-Ti, and they had a resident mage who could read the minds of his victims. Not knowing the validity of any of the rumors, the party gathered the information and took their leave for the night. At the Church, Shae and Dickfor reunited with Kari Zev—the orphan girl the party rescued from the evil Sisters of Chordessa. She told them her parents, when they were alive, owned a ship called the Ragivan (or Rag of Anne if you're Matthew and deaf). Her mother died at sea, and her father was presumed dead after disappearing on an island off the coast of the Naya Republic. However, Kari firmly believes her father is alive and in danger on the island, and wanted the party to help her investigate. She will turn seventeen in one month, the age of legal adulthood in the City of Tidus. The ship will pass to her, and she still retains control of the crew. Once she can leave, she hopes the party will join her on a quest to the high seas.
However, more pressing matters required Dickfor and Shae's attention. In a hidden part of the church, Astrid sat watching a Priest of Ara try to heal her unconscious husband. Distraught and white with rage, Astrid asked the party to help heal her husband. Dickfor called for Nissa, their Paladin ally, to tend to the man's near-fatal wounds. After a few minutes, it was clear he needed care beyond Nissa's skills. Astrid's beloved husband had been severely poisoned, and he was getting worse by the minute. Waiting with Astrid was Arcerys Bant, the lead assassin in the Gare. The sending stone in Shae's pocket began to vibrate, signaling Evie and Pablo had news. Shae put the stone to his ear, and heard Evie yell for backup.
Meanwhile, in the Middle District Market, Evie and Pablo went to their trusted Apothecary (the one who sold Evie poison for her arrows). Unexpectedly, someone was waiting for them at the merchant's stand, captain of the city guard Francis Palisade. He inquired about any suspicious activity, such as people requesting poison from a public merchant (a highly illegal substance). However, his focus centered on a wanted criminal named Tristan Esper, a known associate of the Rosenthorns. Palisade did not know much about the Rosenthorns, but Evie revealed they were on the hunt for Rosenthorns as well. Palisade assured Pablo and Evie he would aid them in their investigation, but little did he know a Rosenthorn spy was watching, and had stolen Pablo's wondrous Silver Raven from beneath his robes. Evie's quick perception spied the thief a mere thirty feet away, but he sounded an alarm—bringing eight more rogues into the fight. Backup became a necessity.
Evie and Pablo acted quickly, both utilizing their skills in magic to buy time for Dickfor, Shae, Arcerys, and Fallon to join the battle. Pablo split into four separate Pablos, confusing the lowly rogues while Evie summoned an entanglement of magic vines to slow the thieves down, and prevent them from wounding her or Pablo. Francis engaged in melee combat with the thief who stole Pablo's raven, seemingly the most skilled in combat. After grappling him to the ground twice, Francis suffered an unfortunate surprise attack from the thief, injecting a powerful sleep poison into his neck. Once the other party members arrived, the battle ended quickly. Dickfor and Shae slaughtered a few thieves, while Arcerys and Fallon showed their true skills and eliminated the rogues in two fatal blows. Pablo acted quickly, sending the young bandit captain into a deep magical slumber. Shae, Evie, and the two Gare members dragged Francis to the church for healing, while Pablo and Dickfor took the bandit to Krishna's bakery for questioning.
Darkness swept over the city, and our heroes took to questioning the young thief. Due to Dickfor's uncanny ability to find every little detail at the most convenient of times, the party found the thief's poison capsule attached to his back molar, as well as his poison needle used to incapacitate the Captain of the City Guard. Shae used his mage hand to extract the capsule, and Pablo's spell kept the rogue sound asleep. Evie elected to stay behind to work on an herbal remedy for Astrid's husband, another feat the party discovered tied with her mysterious past. After some careful examination, Evie discovered that Astrid's husband had been poisoned in a similar manner to Francis Palisade, only this specific design caused the man's wounds to not close, preventing him from breathing easily. Her remedy worked to slow the poison, buying time to find a real cure. Thanks to Evie's expertise, the only cure she knew of resided deep in the forest: the husk of a Vine Blight.
Meanwhile, the three men ended the thief's slumber, opening up a line of questioning. From the little information they gathered, the thief was a member of the "Rosenthorn Family" and was assigned to watch the party by a mysterious contact, only known by the initial "J." He had no apparant knowledge of the Red Dragonborn rumor or the Yuan Ti, but he was not in a very high position in the family (so the rumors could still be plausible). He did however mention, after Dickfor claimed to know "J," that he would never reveal his family's secrets due to J's intimidation. Yet, he did reveal Tristan Esper, the man wanted by the city guard, was responsible for coordinating the attack on Astrid's family. His unwavering loyalty to the Rosenthorns shone through any method of questioning inflicted by the party—almost too much loyalty. Pablo decided to cast a Detect Magic spell on the thief, sensing not all was what it seemed. It appeared the young thief was under a powerful mind control spell, dictating he reveal nothing about the Rosenthorn Family. The spell seemed to be wearing off, but then renewed once more as the questioning continued. Once Evie arrived, unaware of the two dark figures watching the bakery door, she suggested the party let him go and let Pablo's familiar follow him to his contacts. They agreed, and watched the thief fade into the darkness—out of the city and into the woods.
The party called it a night, and took to TGIFreydas for a restful evening (except Pablo who apparently needed to spend gold on a more boujee establishment). The next day, Fallon found the party and told them he knew where to find Tristan Esper, and a whole clan of Rosenthorn rogues. However, it was a two day's ride, and the woods were dangerous. Fallon offered to provide two Rogues to accompany the party, and would pay 1000 gps for the sigil of Tristan Esper. Nissa elected to join the party as well, provided that her healing would be more beneficial to the party rather than to Astrid's husband. The party agreed they would help find Tristan, and set off into the thick forest surrounding the city. A numerous set of encounters occurred on the way to the Rosenthorn camp—supposedly set on the large stone porch of some Dwarven ruins. It seemed every encounter eluded to the ruins as the Beldam Ruins, hinting at a dark presence that dwelled deep within. After fighting some goblins, discovering a nest of Vine Blights (how convenient), meeting a mysterious fortune teller, and encountering some living ooze, the party found the ruins and surprised Tristan's gang. Evie used her wild shape to turn into a serpent in order to spy on the party closely, but had unfortunately been spotted by Tristan. Dickfor charged through the crowd, raging and seeking revenge for his boss' plight. Pablo shot fire into the camp, unfortunately giving away his position due to a critical miscalculation. Shae snuck from behind, causing a distraction in the stables and spooking the horses. Through some incredible rolling, the party defeated the rogues—allowing the unarmed members of the party to escape into the forest. The party found numerous poisons, all skillfully made and foreign to identification. However, what intrigued Nissa most was the overwhelmingly dark presence that surrounded the ruins, and Dickfor's danger sense ran wild upon gazing at the great stone door…
Will the party discover more about the Criminal War? Who is this mysterious J? Who creates these poisons for the Rosenthorn Family? What rumors are more than rumors? What the hell is a fortune teller doing in the middle of the woods? What lies within the Beldam Ruins? Find out next time…