The next morning, Veshenga is on archery training when she notices a dark-skinned Shoanti man she doesn’t know waving and heading across the training grounds. When he gets closer, though, he’s taken aback, and apologizes for thinking that all Varisians look alike, claiming that he thought she was a friend of his from across the room. He recovers, asking her if she’s joining the Black Arrows, and whether she can come to help staff up Fort Rannick. He claims they’re having an upswing in the aggression of the nearby ogres, and they’re getting more guards just in case. Veshenga tentatively agrees, but he points out that it would be for several months in a fort hundreds of miles away. She sadly declines due to her personal investigations, and they wish each other good luck.
Afterwards, she and Haggor make a trip back to the tax office, and the old dwarf, once woken up from a midmorning nap, eventually remembers them. She produces a thoroughly yellowed file and flips through, noting that the Foxgloves were once a very prominent family in the area, having subtle interests in many properties in the city. That all ended 80 years ago or so, with the death of Vorel Foxglove, and there has been very little of note to the tax office happening since. She did track down one holding still being taxed: a townhouse in the merchant district that is getting further and further behind on its taxes. They claim not to know anything about that, and head out to the provided address.
Heading to Grand Arch, the pair are stopped at a small guardhouse barring the entry into what they’ve identified as Aldern’s neighborhood. The guard on duty points out that the homes in this neighborhood are mostly empty right now, and visitors aren’t allowed in without an escort by a resident; especially types that don’t look like they fit in. Holding back their urge to be offended, the two convince the man to send a runner to the house and try to get someone to collect them. While they wait, they pump him for information about the murders, and he reveals that it’s something big and even hush-hush to him. He suspects it’s cult-related, and worries that the people killed did something to offend one dark god or another. Finally, the runner returns and points out that there’s nobody home and it looks like the house is closed down for the winter. They leave without convincing him to let them near the house.
Reconvening with the rest of the party, they intimate to Taeva that her skills at sneaking to the house would be useful. However, Veshenga lets slip that they got this information through the tax office, and that she and Balekh might not want to go by there anytime soon. Suspicious, the two hare off directly to the nearest tax office, where the tax man remembers the pair from the day before. He has the two give the correct names that should have been on the tax forms, but refuses to destroy the ones created in their names: he claims that it’s very difficult to get adventurers to register to pay their taxes, and he’s pleased that now the entire party is on the local rolls. He encourages them to accurately record all rewards and treasure they earn while dwelling in Magnimar, and bids them good day.
Annoyed at being had by the tax man, Balekh and Taeva head to the address provided, cursing their joking teammates the whole way. They reach a similar impasse with the guard at the guardhouse, but do leave a letter behind that he promises to have put in the mailbox. Taeva lurks nearby, waiting for nightfall so she can break in, while Balekh goes to research more about the house. He finds himself at the central tax office, facing the same old dwarf woman, who finds two questions about the same property in one day interesting. He admits that Foxglove is dead, hoping to get permission to look through the house, and she instead insists that it will have to go through the probate courts now before anything comes of it. She suggests that he go across the street to deal with the lawyers.
The middle-aged and haughty elf working the desk of the law office is at first cold to Balekh, and seems delighted to point out that little will be done on the death by the tax office for some time. Balekh asks how he might get information on the family of the deceased, and the elf suggests that the best be is possibly the post office down the street. Before Balekh leaves, the lawyer suggests adventurers in the city keep them on retainer for any legal problems that spring up, giving out the firm’s card. Balekh, in turn, leaves his address in case anyone in the law firm needs a discrete cleric.
The post office’s front desk is yet again staffed by a strange demi-human, this time an over-excited gnome who eventually introduces himself as Zif. Balekh and Zif have a somewhat confusing back-and-forth where the gnome tries to do as little work as possible, before he capitulates to letting Balekh do all the research while he watches. The cleric then wanders back to the archives of the post office and begins the long search for a forwarding address to Aldern’s two sisters while Zif regales him with a number of exciting, irritating, and obviously false stories about the young gnome’s exploits. After several check-ins, he does confirm that Zif is an employee, but only because the post office employs a small, motley assortment of maniacs that are willing to deliver post to the dangerous areas outside of the city. Balekh sends Zif to deliver a letter to Shayliss letting her know he’ll be out late doing research, and the gnome returns very impressed by Balekh’s girlfriend.
While Balekh researches late into the night, Taeva waits for darkness to sneak to Aldern’s townhouse. The back of the house has been strangely boarded up, but she quietly pries open a window and slips inside. She goes room by room, finding a house that has been very expertly rolled: mattresses are slashed, books are dumped onto the floor, and drawers are upturned. It looks like every area of the house has been searched for information, but the strongest impression she has is that either the investigators didn’t know what they were looking for or didn’t find it, because something looking for and finding something specific would have stopped when it was found. She isn’t able to find anything of interest on her own, so she slips back out into the night after confirming that the guard did, in fact, deliver the letter that she and Balekh sent that afternoon.
Still up from her B&E session, Taeva starts asking around at various dives for more information about the murders. Eventually, she hits on someone that seems to have a clue, saying that the killer is being quietly referred to by the authorities as the “Star Killer.” The contact doesn’t know why, assuming that it has something to do with celestial events, but, to Taeva, it sounds like a very likely name for victims found with Sihedron Runes carved into their chests.
The next morning, she somewhat petulantly wakes Veshenga with a bucket of water—still upset about the whole tax fraud thing—and the whole party convenes in the post office records room to discuss their options. Zif is immediately taken with Taeva, insisting that Balekh didn’t tell him that one of his friends was a beautiful gnome girl, and tries to regale her with tales of derring-do. She is less than impressed. To keep Zif from bothering Taeva, they send him to get them lunch. While he’s out, they decide that their best bet is to get a personal letter of recommendation from Sheriff Hemlock and take it straight to the upper leadership of the city. When Zif returns, they charge him with this special mission, and send him off to Sandpoint with a letter for Belor.
By the time he returns two days later, the group has finally finished training. He points out that he never made it to Sandpoint: he met another courier on the road already taking a letter from the Sheriff to the town guard (apparently the gruff sergeant had asked after all).
Not long after they hear this, guardsmen show up at their lodgings to request their presence at the Lord-Mayor’s office.