A week after the attack, and the Firstborn has struggled to find time to get together. The Smith children have been running ragged trying to balance schoolwork and the workload dropped on them by their father. Having his children’s name slandered by the Jade Talon family has sent him into a frenzied state.
Luken’s father, on the other hand, has hired a personal trainer for his son, to teach him to defend himself against further attacks, and be damned what Administrator Clelan has to say about students carrying weapons.
Dorgen Ashe has been battling with bouts of guilt, struggling to accept the fact that he isn’t responsible for the attack on the Firstborn. He dealt with the situation as best he could, but still feels like he failed the group by not preventing the injuries sustained by the Firstborn.
The faculty at Kihan’s has been scrutinizing the Firstborn, their attitudes ranging from waspish annoyance to fullblown outrage at the smallest (sometimes imagined) infractions.
Chip and Cog, Instructor Halfhand‘s homuculi, have been around the Firstborn more and more. Being an extension of Halfhand’s will, seem to be the most understanding and honest with the group. Trading jokes and passing along warnings, the two constructs are showing more and more that they are individual beings, and not just additional hands for the Artificer.
During the weekend, Roel, Ashen and Cro are finally able to isolate from the watchful eyes of parents and teachers, and discuss what happened, and what they can do. They decide to go back to the scene of the attack and see if there are any clues left there as to how the kobolds managed to get into Last Stand, or at the very least, the Tannery.
As they get ready to head to Dockside, a young messenger from the orphanage approaches with an invitation to lunch with Keeper Terrance Hobb, head of the White Star, the organization that runs the local orphanage.
Cro RSVP’s to the messenger, who returns dutifully to the Keeper with the Firstborn’s reply.
The Firstborn, without further ado, head to the Tannery. They find that the local guardsmen have already cleaned the place out, removing bits of ruined furniture and random odds and ends left behind from the previous inhabitants. They decide to check out the disposal chute in the far corner, which was used to dump all sorts of unpleasant things into the water below.
Using a bit of rope and some ingenuity, they lower Cro down the chute to see if anything interesting lies at the bottom. With his keen observation skills, Cro spots a small chest suspended over the edge of the opening. The Firstborn manage to secure the chest, and sneak out of the Tannery before the guards return from lunch.
Inside the chest is a bottle of goblin liquor, a pouch filled with 100 silver pieces, and some random bits of crap that could belong to none other than Biff and his crew. The question is, where did all that money come from? And why that particular vintage of liquor, one that isn’t normally sold in Last Stand?
The next day, Cro, Roel and Ashen go to the orphanage to have lunch with Keeper Hobb. Hobb, an elderly gentleman with a big heart, has discovered something that he thinks he shouldn’t have.
One week ago, a former orphan, Tade Fenden, was found dead. Tade was adopoted out two years ago to a family that reportedly moved to Agrimar a year ago.
Tade was found dead in an alley behind Tong’s Brewery. No evidence of foul play was discovered by the coroner, but there were a unusual aspects of the teenager’s death. First, there were strong traces of the opiate Cla’niet in his system. The levels built up in his body showed that he’d been using the drug for well over a year, and in doses high above the legal limit. Second, the wear and tear on his body, both internal and external, would normally be expected to be found in people who had worked in cramped conditions with poor ventilation and exposure to harsh chemicals for decades. Tade was fifteen years old.
Keeper Hobb, being concerned and outraged at the condition of his former ward, decided to do some research. He came across six other cases of former orphans that had died under the same circumstances, as well as a startlingly high number of other children that were exposed to the same harsh conditions. The cases go back almost twenty years.
Checking through his personal files of his former orphans, he found that the other six cases involving adopted out kids all had the families reported as moving out of Last Stand within a year of all paperwork becoming official.
Hobb immediately took the found information to the police, who just dismissed him as being paranoid. Even the Justicars wouldn’t listen to his pleas. Hobb informs the Firstborn that he has noticed that his personal items have been tampered with, and reports seeing strange figures on the Orphanage grounds at night.
The lunch meeting is interupted by Hobb’s butler, who informs him that the local Imperial Magistrate is here, and demands Hobb’s presence. The butler sneaks the Firstborn out through a back door, and as they are leaving, they see the Magistrate, along with a number of soldiers, desecend on Hobb, citing criminal charges and demanding to see all official files of the Orphanage, declaring an audit’s beginning.
Right before Hobb left, he passed a single worn pouch that was found on Tade’s body. Inside, they find a wrought iron bracer with a crudely cut emerald set in it. Beneath the emerald are rough glyphs of scrying and warding. The party deduces that this could be a short range way of keeping magical tabs on Tade, and whoever has similar bracers like it.
Also in the pouch were a pair of thick leather gloves, scorched and pitted. The damage to the gloves shows that the wearer handled various acids, and was exposed to extremely hot temperatures on a consistent basis.
Lastly, is a worn down chisel. Also pitted and scarred, the chisel has a melted appearance to it, showing that it had been exposed to extreme heat and acid.
The group is determined to follow through with Keeper Hobb’s wishes, and find out who is using Last Stand’s orphans for malicious gain. Meeting with Jayvin, the party explains to him the situation with Hobb. Jayvin tells them that officially, he’s been issued an order to ignore Hobb’s accusations on the basis that he’s a paranoid old man. Jayvin cannot officially act on this, because the Crown has gotten involved in the cover up.
Who could have enough political clout to keep something of this magnitude quiet? What exactly are the kids being used for? How does the Crown benefit from this immoral and illegal operation?
All evidence points to someone is mining something. But what? The party starts researching geographical data, looking for signs of ore deposits, potential dig sites and recent structural changes to Last Stand’s islands.
Councilman Miles Kilnier is the prime suspect right now. He has the power over the Council, he has the wealth needed, the mining and crafting experience, and the Imperial sway to operate something of this nature and get away with it. But is it him? And if it is, how do they prove it?
If someone is monitoring other slave laborers with these bracers, they’d need an enormous emerald as a focus to exert any amount of control over the smaller emerald wearers. But how to find it? Break into Kilnier’s estate, of course!
TO BE CONTINUED….