Continuing up the trail, it wasn’t long before the constables reached a clearing surrounded by stone plinths; inside, a dozen or so humans milled about a single small tent, and two of them with spears confronted the party as they approached. They were reticent to allow them access to Nevard’s tent, but after hearing that they were sent by his nephew, and that one among them, Enna, was a skyseer herself, they decided to permit them to visit the old man.
Nevard was saddened to hear of Nilasa Hume’s death yesterday morning, but not surprised—he’d foreseen it in one of his visions. Pressing for answers, the constables asked if there was indeed any connection he knew of between the girl and the fey symapthizers around the city, and he seemed certain that the girl was in contact with Gale herself. He told them he could set up a meeting with the elusive eladrin girl, but he wanted a favor first.
As Enna well knew, the visions of skyseers had become hazy and unreliable of late, and the haze of smog over Flint that blotted out the stars as night only made things worse for them. Nevard had a slinking sense of dread that something was wrong in Risur, that something bad was about to happen… but try as he might, he couldn’t get a vision of the future to divine anything more solid than that. Too old and infirm to survive a trip far from the city, he decided the only way to get his vision was to rise above the smog for just one night – a night on cursed Cauldron Hill, in the Nettles. He asked the constables to be his bodyguards. The party agreed, provided they could get permission from the mayor of the Nettles, Reed Macbannin.
Hugo and Enna went ahead to secure an audience with the mayor, while Arthur and Qiyet remained with Nevard to help him travel. After an awkward moment with an irate messenger who complained about Macbannin’s futile attempts to help the city, they were shown by the mayor’s butler into the man’s office, joined by the other constables when they arrived. Darsys did not join them, suddenly departing for her home as she suffered some sort of allergy brought on by running around the Cloudwood.
Reed Macbannin pretended to have his feathers ruffled by the constables’ brazen request to do something so reckless, but soon admitted he was only kidding. He seemed almost too glad to help them out, gifting them with rusted iron amulets to ward off evil spirits, goat’s blood to distract the monsters, and other words of advice. As evening drew on, Pazamu (Nevard’s shaman caretaker) urged the party to make use of a ritual scroll her family had kept, recovered from the witch’s possessions after they were defeated on their hill so long ago. The Bonds of Forced Faith would tie Nevard’s life to the party’s own, making it nigh-impossible to kill him so long as the party lived, though his injuries would be inflicted upon each of them. Qiyet, Enna, and Arthur agreed to undergo the spell, but decided to keep the fragile Hugo out of the rite.
Filled with youthful vigor again, Nevard climbed the mountain alongside the constables, setting up camp on the summit just before the sun went down. Strange lights and sounds accompanied the chill wind that night, and the three who tied their lives to Nevard saw a few glimpses of what appeared to be skyseer visions. Nilasa appeared before them in front of a red curtain, warning them, “The man who killed me is coming. His face is scarred, so he hides behind many other faces.” Then she raised a featureless black mask to her own face and vanished.
Not long after, a sunrod flared on another part of the mountaintop, a shadowy being running to the edge of a cliff before stopping and hurling the light into the party’s camp, drawing all manner of shadow-corrupted monsters to try to make a meal of them. Enna was nearly slain by a vision of death itself, an ethereal being that seemed to phase in and out of the world until finally defeated through coordination and timing. Also slain were a fearsome lion with a mane of serpents, and a legless corpse with a bare skull that chuckled maddeningly.
Nevard said he’d seen enough for the night, and the five of them raced back down the hillside, staying out of the light of the sunrods they’d thrown from their campsite, each of them now surrounded by more dark creatures. Lieutenant Dale and a squad of four night-ops-clad soldiers met them with swords drawn, but the mayor assured them it was all just a simple misunderstanding, and the party had every permission necessary to be up there. Eager to leave, the four of them had the Bond dispelled and headed for Heward’s alkahest factory, following another vision: someone was going to burn it down before morning.
Summer 3, 500 AOV (before sunrise)
Sure enough, someone was milling around the building at night: a red-scaled dragonborn with a greatsword strapped across his back, accompanied by four humans unloading bundles from a wagon and using ropes to get them up to the roof. It didn’t take much questioning to find out they were up to no good, and before long weapons were drawn.
Weakened by their encounter on the Hill that night, Eberardo and his brother Valando thrashed the party soundly, but fled once they set their arson materials alight, and saw their helpers laid low. Eberardo dashed off down the street, while Valando jumped into the lake and swam away. Still having to contend with the fire, Arthur bravely marched through a fiery wall to use his Piersonian Augmentor to repulse the wagon into the water, while Qiyet chopped through a support beam of the rooftop water tower, spilling its contents onto the blaze before it could spread.
The arsonists got away, but not without leaving behind evidence – notes from their employer.