From the hospital, Rapture, Grilmund, Prospero, Balusar and Leton are awoken early by bells ringing through the city. The Council of Archons have sent out riders to collect the dwellers of Cair Marin to the Town Square for a second day in a row. The Polemarch has instituted martial law. After the affair with the Basilisk and the attack of imps the previous day, all able-bodied citizens are ordered to assist in the defense of the town. Having been so involved in the fights from the previous day, all five volunteer to assist.
As the guard captain begins to organize, Cael approaches escorted by two of the city guard with news.
"I have news from beyond the walls, but feel it is better discussed in private." The captain escorts Cael into the meeting chamber.
"Archons. I have been camping outside the city walls for some time now. I was part of the party that fought and killed the basilisk. After the events of yesterday, I thought it prudent to make a inspection of the country side this morning. I have found, what seems to be at any rate, a circle enclosing the town of blighted ground. It appears continuous, and a steady 20' deep across it's length. It's too even to be a natural occurrence. I must ask you, what is it that this town has done?"
At these words, some of the council shift in their seat, some speak out indignantly, everyone is generally uncomfortable. The Archon Basilius speaks up.
"We do not know. If we did, then do you not think we take some action?"
Cael notices that there is some hesitation, and there is, despite the united front presented by the council, there is dissent. Some fear remains unspoken by certain council members toward other members, but the exact factions are not clear.
"Fine. I see you have been organizing a militia of sorts. I propose to take a few useful individuals and investigate this blight further," Cael responds. The Archons quickly assent with the condition of including two of the best from the town guard.
With most of the town still gathered outside of the town hall, Cael quickly finds and recruits Leton, Rapture, Grilmund, Balusar, and Prospero. He tells them to get ready to investigate this blighted land, and meet by the side gate.
"I've got one more thing to do before we set out."
Emtree, meanwhile, is awoken early at her room in the inn with everyone else by the town criers riding down the streets calling for a town meeting. She goes to hear the same message as the group from the hospital, but instead decides to spend a little of her haul from the previous day getting better fighting gear. Cair Marin hadn't been dangerous until yesterday, but now it seems it would be good to be better prepared. She manages to trade for everything she needs by selling her old gear and the leftover basilisk eye. That done, she falls back into a little pickpocketing, but gets caught by the town guard. Cael intercepts them.
"Hold there!" Cael yells. "You need to release the halfling. The Archons have charged me with defending the city, and I need her."
"She was caught pickpocketing. She is going to jail," the guard responds.
"You must release her now. She will return what she took." The halfling looks up, glaring at Cael. Cael produces an order from the Archons to defend to the city. "You must release her, I need her."
With the authority of the town council behind him, the guards reiterate that she must return the goods, but release her to Cael's custody.
"What is it you want?" Emtree asks.
"I am leading a group to look at a blight that has encircled the city. It's mostly the basilisk hunting party. I think there is something going on with the council of Archons, I want you to find out what it is. I say you can pick pocket all you want while you're doing that, just don't get caught. Otherwise, I will give you back to the guards and you can sit in jail."
"Fine. I'm not giving back the money though." She says and strides off to the town hall.
Cael watches, then also strides off, in the opposite direction to meet the investigation party. The six exit the gate along with two from the town guard, Brouwie and Gachen. Upon reaching the blighted ground, it appears to have expanded to a 30' ring. There seems to be a barrier enclosing the blighted ground, though not an impenetrable one. With the talents of the Dwarf, Grilmund, and the Tiefling, Rapture, the space appears to be a manifestation of the realm of Shadowfell, an ethereal plane of evil and darkness. With nothing else for it, Grilmund, Rapture, Leton, Balusar, and Cael cross the barrier into Shadowfell.
They are quickly spotted by two displacer beasts. After a brief but brutal battle, Leton is knocked unconscious, and the beasts are defeated. There seems to be no escape and no answers as to the cause of the breach. The party exits the breach toward town to discover it is yet bigger, and more frighteningly, it is expanding slowly toward the town walls. After Leton is restored the party sets off back to town to update the Archons.
After a failed first attempt to gain access to the Archon's chambers, Emtree talks her way into a private meeting with the Archon Basilius and the Archon Eponymous, but discovers little beyond the information Cael managed to extract from his interview. The only important piece of information was that while the Archons had tried to contact the King for help with the Basilisk, they had not heard anything back. The most probably reason for this, was that the messengers had been waylaid on the way there or on the way back. Waiting the town square for Cael to return, she observes nothing more than the normal official comings and goings during a town crisis. Dipping into her criminal connections Emtree does ask for a meeting with the local Thieves Guild.
Cael and the rest return meeting Emtree at the center of the square. After a brief review of the little Emtree discovered in her interview, a quiet female half-elf with a subtlety dangerous aura sits next to them.
Emtree turns to her other side. "Cael, take a walk." Cael stands and enters the Town hall to brief the Archons about the battle. He reiterates that there is something rotten in town. Furthermore, according to the orders of Sorcerers residing in the town, this type of attack could only be caused by someone or something inside the town. If that could be discovered and destroyed, the town would likely be saved. The Paladins and Sorcerers are preparing defenses, but those defenses will only be effective for a short time unless the root problem is taken care of. Cael promises that he will do everything he can to save the town.
Back outside, Cael finds Emtree sitting alone where he left her.
"Well, there are some interesting things we didn't know about before. There seems to be a church of Wee Jas, the neutral goddess of Death and Knowledge. The church itself is harmless, but a couple factions have risen up within the ranks that are less so. There is a faction of Tharizdun, the god of eternal darkness and of Vecna the god of evil secrets. My contact suggested they might be involved. Most of the criminal activity has been normal, but there seems to be a slight uptick over the past month in the humanoid trafficking. There is also a rumor that one of the Archons, don't know which, has been bought. There have been some unusual ruling recently; tariffs that seems to benefit a particular business venture more than normal, land grants to unusual owners, that sort of thing."
"This martial law business strikes me as strange, I feel like the Polemarch might be the one bought," Cael replies. "He triggers the threat, declares martial law with the support of the council, and suddenly is flush with power." Cael stands. "Look, the circle of blight is expanding inward toward the town, and we think that the where ever the center of the circle is where we will find the person or thing causing this. We think the center of the circle and the center of town is the same location. Let's go join our comrades." He strides off toward the large obelisk that sits at the center of the town.
"They're not my friends," Emtree says under her breath following after the elf.
They meet the rest of the party at the obelisk, but discover neither secret doors or anything unusual.