Never Trust an Elf
The next morning, while Taeva scours tax records, Balekh, Veshenga, and Haggor meet for breakfast. Apparently having thought of something overnight, Balekh suggests that they take a closer look at Aldern’s house now that they have government backing to investigate. He holds up the keyring taken from Aldern at the Misgivings: a housekey and a strange small key with a lion-head emblem. The other two agree, and they round up Sergeant Beech and head to the merchant district again.
Conveniently forgetting to mention Taeva’s previous midnight search through the townhouse, they feign surprise as Beech and the neighborhood’s security guard see the substantial destruction in the house. They let the guard go elsewhere to worry about getting fired for this breach of home security, and begin investigating systematically. As Taeva had noted, the house looks like it was very thoroughly searched. Beds and couches are slashed open, desks are emptied, and, to Balekh’s great consternation, the library floor is covered with books carefully leafed through and then dropped to the ground.
Finally, at the top of the house, Balekh notices that the fireplace includes a lion motif that feels oddly familiar. He and Veshenga search the mantelpiece and find what might be a keyhole and, after the key is inserted and turned, a secret compartment. Inside is a binder full of documents (and a bag of money that they pocket before Beech notices). A superficial glance at the documents shows them to include an accounting notebook and the deed to the Misgivings. Balekh’s inspection shows that the deed includes a strange clause that the house will revert to a group called the Brothers of the Saw in 20 years, as they helped finance its construction. Beech expresses a heavy interest in these documents, but immediately begins suggesting that the “saw” must refer to the Red Mantis assassins that they have already been investigating. Haggor, a keen judge of motives, thinks that Beech is very clumsily trying to throw them off the trail, and subtly conveys this to the others.
The group decides to march the documents straight to the Mayor’s office, to Beech’s increasingly awkward protestations. He suggests that the Mayor wouldn’t be the first stop with this evidence. Very suspicious of the man since his strange behavior earlier, they indicate that they’re going to wait for a while and read the rest of the documents before going to the Mayor. Beech sighs in relief and heads off to make a report while they sit at a cafe and read. Veshenga quickly slips into the crowds and follows him… directly to Justice Ironbriar’s office. After a short conversation that she cannot safely overhear, Beech heads back out. Just as Veshenga is going to follow him back, she notices Ironbriar leaving surreptitiously. Changing her target, she slinks after the elf as he exits through a back door.
Ironbriar’s direction gives Veshenga a sinking feeling, as he seems to be bearing straight for Underbridge. Somehow, she follows him all the way down the colossal ramp from the upper districts, and into the shadow of the Irespan, without being noticed. But the elf gets increasingly paranoid the deeper he gets, and he finally spots the ranger in a small market. Masterfully spinning a story, he explains to her that he is just getting lunch at a place he knows about, and turns the conversation to her investigation. If she wasn’t so suspicious, she might believe that she was in the wrong; the man is smooth.
Doubling her attempts at stealth, she manages to avoid being lost in the crowd and give him the impression that she is long gone, despite his numerous attempts to double back and spot pursuit. Finally, he heads into a strange dilapidated clocktower near where the bridge meets the cliff, and Veshenga doesn’t believe she can get any closer without being spotted by whatever beings within are giving her a dark and creepy feeling.
Meanwhile, Balekh has been moving through the accounting ledger, and has found that Aldern was making regular payments to the Brothers at some sawmill, apparently to have them keep Iesha’s death a secret. Haggor goes off to retrieve Taeva at this news, thinking they have a clear location of import to search for. Not long after, as Balekh still waits at the cafe for his party while double checking the documents, Beech appears and sidles into the back corner where Balekh is sitting. The sergeant talks with him for a few minutes, asking about the progress of the investigation, and it gradually dawns on the cleric that patrons of the restaurant have been quietly leaving… almost as if a police sergeant asked them to evacuate.