Following first the apparent death of an important merchant and the subsequent disappearance of another in what appear to be highly experimental magical rituals, the watch, in concert with the people's college, are seeking investigators to ascertain if crimes have in fact been committed and if so prevent further such happenings.
Pay is 30 Riel a head for a satisfactory investigation, significant bonuses are available for the identification and resolution of any major problem.
Investigate disappearances, find evidence of dodgyness in the victims. Talk to Colin Fletcher since a man looking like him was the last one seen with one of them, get told about his stupid experiment. Get called to scene of one in progress. Kill paper golems including a sentient one, hand off mystery book “The life of a villain” to the college of the stars. Howard tracks culprit through the streets and sees him go to ground in the warehouse district. Contacts the rest of the party by urchin. Confront the culprit who does indeed look like Colin, in the basement. Almost reach an amicable arrangement discussing with him what he'd done, he refuses to go with them or talk too deeply before his assistant shows up (who's with the Civil service and arranges mana and suchlike) but before the party settle in for a wait until evening Howard jumps the twitchy mage with knives, causing him to unleash a stored calamity and tear a hole in space to escape. Howard and Richard quickly dive in after him followed fairly shortly by the other two as they patch their wounds and see the hole begin to close.
Inside what they quickly suppose to be a dragon they see a trail of firestorms in the distance but are beset by horrible demonic entities from all sides. Fighting their way through them and chasing after the firestorms they come to a twisted garden where nymph like entities force food upon them, telling them to stay and be safe. Howard bargains with one to be shown the way out and it places itself within him to aid him. When they attempt to leave strange harpy like creatures try to force them to stay. Finally catching up with the culprit three of them bargain for forgiveness that he will let them out with him whilst Richard is overheard wishing death upon him and thereby sent away before the group are overwhelmed by the inhabitants of the area. Wandering through the place Richard runs across a strange not-quite human non-hostile entity that cackles madly about its the revenge it seeks against the magisterium, it offers to take him out with it if he will provide the missing reagent for its ritual to escape, a soul to fracture. After some being beset by the denizens of the area he accepts the offer and as the ritual is performed feels that something is now most definitely wrong with him.
The rest of the party emerge into a small house surrounded by inquisitive paper golems. They discuss matters with both the Archmage and his assistant. Whilst the Archmage is studying Jeremy and his assistant talking to Lucian, Howard takes his opportunity to flee from the place escaping from them out into the flux.
Having fled from the Archmage's hideout Howard is first to arrive back in the Acryn. He reports to the watch that the disappearances are killings arranged by the civil service by a mage too powerful for him to stop and is paid his 30 Riel. He reports the whole story to his superiors in the Wayfinders Guild then provides a message to Frederic Dines via a drop point of the location of a powerful mage and potential ally outside the city. By the time Dine's agents find the house it appears recently abandoned.
Jeremy and Lucian, having sworn oaths of secrecy sufficient to satisfy the Archmage's handler, depart on good terms from the Archmage a short time after though without their wayfinder find themselves with a significantly longer journey back to the city. Lucian leads a report to the watch, successfully discrediting Howard's position on the involvement of the Civil service and convincing the watch captain that the matter was simply internal politics of the True Council come to a head which should now have come to a stop. They are both paid their 30 Riel for a satisfactory investigation. Lucian makes it publicly known in high society that those who died were bad sorts involved with the True Council and it was that involvement that lead to their deaths at the hands of other True Council sorts.
Jeremy returns to the house to find the Archmage ready to leave and directs him to meet with the group of mages that reconstituted him. The Archmage makes some vaguely non-committal noises and says he'll get round to it when the current task is finished.
Finally Richard makes his way back from the distant field he'd found himself in, parting ways from his new mage companion and making plans to meet up again. The after effects of the ritual are painful and perpetually disorientating but he finally makes his way to the watch to give his report explaining how the killer was an unstoppable wizard in the employ of the civil service with whom the others had cut a deal in order to escape the dragon that they'd followed him into. The watch is left fairly convinced of his story and he is paid his 30 Riel for the investigation. Following this he goes into hiding with the Cargans barring a visit to the college of the stars where his condition is diagnosed as exceptionally similar to one that once plagued the current battle Magister of Acryn, Gidnor Waycox, and that it appeared inevitably fatal without treatment.
Some time later the mage hired at the college of the stars will inform Lucian that the book he gave them appears to be some form of highly enchanted exceptionally detailed and slightly banal auto-biography that is exceptionally difficult to read. His report is that it takes him most of a day to decipher a single page as everything written there is almost instantly replaced with words like “traitor” or “guilty” whenever anyone goes to look at it and that it seem to cover events to an almost unfortunate level of detail with no surrounding context making it almost impossible to get a good feel for the man that it's about.
Everyone who ate the food (ie. everyone): Your definitions of food have been subtly warped. Fresh, clean, well presented food now seems somewhat wrong to you, a similar level of distaste to, for example, eating things off the ground on Shotover that you think has probably been stepped on. On the other hand food that shows defects now appears thoroughly appetising, the squashed cake, the pudding on the floor, the green bread and cheese, all ideal things to eat.
Howard Branch: Occupied by a draconic entity that only wants the best for people. Whilst it is in you you nolonger have a death count as the creature fixes the worst of your wounds from within, keep track of the number of times you would require a new heal 0 to stop your bleeding as each time the creature's flawed understanding of humanity warps you during the “fixing”. In addition whenever you are aware of a creature you believe to be sentient bleeding to death in your vicinity you will begin to take a THROUGH SINGLE every 10 seconds as the draconic entity begins to burrow its way out of your stomach, if you hit 0 body hits during this the entity bursts out of your stomach to go treat the dying individuals and will provide you with its normal treatment as it leaves and re-enter your body when it is done.
Richard Silver: Your soul has been ritually cracked, currently these are just faultlines by all the time it isn't fixed it is getting worse. On each adventure you go on until it is fixed choose a number of skills at random equal to the number of adventures you've been on since (starting at one) and those skills will not function. At the end of the fourth adventure if it still isn't fixed you will simply die as your soul completely loses coherency. On the positive side you have access to the burning soul epic tree as the ritual also damaged the container.