I hope we solve this mystery!

Haggor sees a strange ship leaving the Dragon’s Punchbowl; though he does not pursue, he thinks it’s very strange. He lands on the island, finding a spot on the beach that has been deliberately set up to moor a small ship. The beach seems disturbed, though he can’t be certain for what purpose, and he finds a number of cow bones littering the sand. One such set of bones isn’t yet completely stripped. The meat bears a greenish tinge that he can’t identify, but he does find enough of the cow’s brand to identify the owner later. He pockets both to take to Balekh.

The island itself is forested, and he sets off into the woods looking for clues, or for adventure. What he very quickly finds is the shrieking of wyverns around the tall escarpment that dominates the island, and he decides not to climb such a peak by himself. On the way back to the beach, he nearly stumbles over a grounded wyvern, sitting idly in a clearing in the woods and making odd noises, as if shaking off some ailment. Back on the beach, he up-close look at a wyvern leads him to believe the depressions in the sand of the beach closely mimic reclining wyverns; he thinks that’s strange. A tour around the island lends itself to no other mooring spots, so he heads back out.

Meanwhile, Veshenga is at the Varisian encampment of her tribe. They throw a large party to celebrate her visit, and she spends most of the night swapping tales and merriment with old friends. However, her tale of travel into the east worries her father, Danel, and he cautions her that the lands around Korvosa are dangerous to their people, for near on thirty years since the Purge. Not wanting to get into a heavy discussion at the party, she merely tells her father that she will be careful.

However, the next morning, thinking over the discussion, she decides to ask the specifics of this horror her father described. He makes sure she is ready for some life changing facts, and then launches into his tale. He is not her biological father, as he had led her to believe, but is instead the close friend (and possibly had hoped something more?) of her mother. She had been one of the tribe’s great performers, and had shortly before Veshenga’s birth become the favorite of a small court of elves in a freehold to the east of Korvosa. One winter night, the elf lord she had taken up with was murdered as they shared a private evening alone together, and a Hellknight that happened to be in court blamed it on her and the other Varisians in attendence.

The tribe had played at the politics of the situation with their usual nonchalance for some time, but it slowly became apparent that the misunderstanding was becoming a witch hunt as the city of Korvosa was mobilized against them. They began to leave the area, slowly at first, until one fateful night shortly after the birth of the half-elven girl Danel would name Veshenga. Riding hard out of Korvosa came a pogrom of Hellknights and other hunters, and they began quickly culling the fleeing Varisians. Knowing that they would stop for her, Veshenga’s mother, Tessa, gave the baby to Danel and told him to ride hard, while she rode to draw off the hunt. The last remnants of a once proud tribe ran to the west, and joined another tribe, knowing only that Tessa had saved them, and that they could never return to Korvosa.

Back in Sandpoint, Balekh’s soon-to-be father-in-law, Ven, pulls him away from his work and asks him to take a walk. The old man explains that he has a hard time trusting, especially where his daughters are concerned, but that he’s come to realize that he mustn’t make the same mistakes with Shayliss as he had with Katrine, trying to over protect her and only risking her life and happiness in the process. He admits that Balekh seems a good man, and has gone over and above on his request to make a life in Sandpoint and keep his last daughter as safe as the situation will allow. He leads Balekh into his house and shows the theurge that he has cleared out Katrine’s room and turned it into an office for Balekh, and hopes that, once they are married, he and Shayliss will continue to live under his roof when they’re not out adventuring. Balekh gladly accepts.

Haggor is investigating the strange ship and incidents on the island. Having no luck tracking the boat itself to Sandpoint’s harbor, he follows up on the devoured cows. With the help of Balekh and some local alchemists, it seems likely that the entire cow was suffused with a huge dose of sleeping poison, likely enough to make a wyvern pass out. The seemingly drugged wyvern in the woods comes back to Haggor’s memory. He traces the brand to a small farm outside of town, and asks the old farmer’s wife who they might have sold a whole cow to. She only knows one place that buys whole cows: the Sandpoint candlery, which mostly buys beef tallow for candles, but sometimes buys whole cows (she doesn’t know why). Haggor thanks the woman and attempts to investigate the candlery, but gets nowhere with the scuzzy, uncooperative Varisian louts hanging around outside. He does note that the shop is very close to the harbor, and also to the least reputable tavern in town. He decides his best bet is to catch the criminals in the act, and sets up within sight of the island for the next several weeks, fishing and waiting.

As it is quickly becoming full summer, Veshenga decides to head home and begins bidding her tribe farewell. They leave her instructions on how to find them closer to the Mierani Forest: they’ve heard some disturbing things about giants raiding the lowlands near the Storval Plateau, and aren’t taking any chances. This bears investigation, and is essentially on her way back, so Veshenga heads east towards the plateau. There, she finds many stories of strange attacks from the mouths of frightened citizens, and traces the most recent to a farm. The farmhouse is smashed, easily by a giant, and the place seems ransacked for food and valuables; all of the livestock and grain appears to have been carried off. She identifies tracks, which she identifies as most likely several hill giants led by a stone giant, and follows them. They do, in fact, lead to the Storval Stairs, and she sees evidence of quite a lot of giant passage in the area.

Hiding in the woods nearby but off of the main areas of giant tracks, over the next few days Veshenga sees several giants patrolling the ridge and more than one raiding party of a half dozen giants heading up and down the stairs. When she sees a party large enough to make a fully formed scouting trip, provisioned for a journey, she decides that it’s time to warn the populace that the giants might be massing their army. She returns to Sandpoint.

Not long after she gets back, Haggor finally has some luck on his hunt. The same boat pulls into the hidden mooring on the island, and begins offloading a dead cow. Fortune favors Haggor, and they don’t notice him until he slips almost on top of him. He drops anchor as soon as he thinks it will reach bottom and then swims as stealthily as possible towards the brigands. They try to pull away, but he catches their ship and climbs aboard, noting a small band of scuzzy Varisians. They fight back with oars and hooks, and he’s forced to knock a few overboard before managing to capture one. Those that abandoned ship seem to be making a swim for his own boat, but he deftly turns their ship around and cuts them off. They swim back for the island, and he leaps back to his boat with the prisoner, leaving their ship to drift in the currents. He plans to maroon them on the island and deal with them later.

Returning to Sandpoint with the uncooperative prisoner, he turns the man over to Sheriff Hemlock with his story. While the Sheriff doesn’t know if drugging wyverns is illegal, whatever one would want to do that for probably is. Between the Varisian thug in custody, Haggor’s testimony about the candlery connection, and the Sheriff’s long suspicion that the shop is a Sczarni front, he thinks it’s at least enough to justify a raid. So, that evening, with a dozen guards and the party in tow and brimming with enchantments, they march through the town wharves, thugs and ne’er-do-wells evaporating like a mist. They burst in on an elderly Varisian candler, and Balekh is very quickly able to detect poison and find a secret stash under a shelf: a large quantity of sleeping poison, and several vials of an ichor that could only be wyvern venom. A batch of fancy candles seem to have the same toxin brewed in, and it doesn’t take long to isolate them as a regular shipment to the Valdemars, almost certainly explaining the old man’s persistent lung problems.

None of the Varisian thugs will talk, and those that Haggor had marooned on the island seem to have manage to swim to their ship and flee. They’re sent to prison in Magnimar with the expectation that whatever their plot is has at least been completely disrupted for the time being. The party, however, has larger fish to fry: all are worried about the giant activity to the north. They resolve to deal with it, but not before Balekh’s impending nuptials. Word is sent to Magnimar to increase patrols, but the party’s involvement won’t be available until after the Swallowtail Festival.

They hope that won’t be too late, but some things, like marriage, are more important than getting a head start on saving the world.

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