Ron: "Maybe I can calm -"
Ron: "You can't just cast sleep on people's children!"
In which our heroes run into their rivals; a young girl falls mysteriously ill; the alchemist's guild is suspected; self-immolation is so hot right now; a little bit of water never hurt nobody.
One morning during the days leading up to the opening of Ron's play the adventurers found themselves killing time at the bar, when in walk some familiar (but unwelcome) faces: the other party of adventurers from Caer, who cleared out just as the going got tough. Most irritatingly, they seem to have found gainful employment in the weeks since as they swaggered into the common room with an ostensibly heavy chest borne between them. They called themselves the "Crimson Hawks" and demanded the finest rooms in the inn, before announcing to the general public that they were the finest adventurers in the land, capable of taking on any job – so long as they were adequately rewarded. Then, still carrying the chest, they claimed a private dining room and shut the door, not looking once at the shocked foursome.
Hardly an hour had passed before news got around and someone came to take the Crimson Hawks up on their offer: an anxious, motherly woman named Lilieth in her late 30's petitioned them pitifully, claiming her daughter Beth had fallen ill with a fever and was slowly becoming unresponsive, despite obtaining treatment from the alchemists' guild. It was the strangest case – the fever had broken days ago, but the girl's condition only deteriorated. She didn't have much to offer in reward, and thus found herself talking to a shut door. Moved by compassion (and let's face it, a little bit of healthy competitiveness) our heroes offered Lilieth their services – pro bono, of course.
When Beth was examined it soon became apparent she was not under the effects of a mundane illness – some form of entity had put some sort of mind control on the girl and left her to waste away, without even the will to feed herself. A quick casting of lesser restoration restored the girl's lucidity temporarily – long enough to describe the face of a woman she saw in her dreams while she was enthralled. She described a pale, strikingly beautiful woman with her hair slick and tight to her head as though wet, and bits of pondweed twined into the locks. Unfortunately as the spell worn off Beth began to fall into a trance once more.
Lilieth mentioned that Beth often played with a girl who lived in the apartments below theirs; this was Elizabeth, one of 9 (or so) children, who were re-enacting some sort of pitched battle when our heroes arrived to make inquiries, much to the exasperation of their mother. Elizabeth was eventually separated from the melee and the general pandemonium subdued in favour of a sudden and unannounced nap, courtesy of Salazar. Elizabeth was forthcoming with her answers (particularly under the influence of friends) but couldn't offer any useful information, save that the girls seldom played near the waterfront because of the smell from the river. Elizabeth's aunt (who sometimes looks after Elizabeth after school) similarly lives far away from the waterfront; the alchemists' guild, however, has their guild hall on the docks and even has their own wharf.
The guard at the guildhall initially tried to forbid access, as the alchemists had left instructs to turn away any visitors. However the unusual behaviour of the alchemists has left him on edge and with remarkably little convincing he "went on a smoke break" asking Ron to hold the key while he was gone. The interior of the guildhall seemed initially to be deserted; the furniture in the antechamber was wet, but there seemed to be no signs of active inhabitation. A single alchemist sat at the dining table, insistently asking the group to leave in an emotionless voice and (in a stellar gesture of hospitality) blowing himself up when they didn't. When the smoke cleared, only Ron (who had wisely kept himself to the other side of the room) and Randall were left standing; Songs and Salazar were down, and the alchemist was reduced to so much burnt calcium. So far so good.
A search of the rest of the guildhall revealed a gnomish cook hiding in the kitchen and another alchemist (this one lying on a bed); both were safely apprehended and questioned about the mind control: a woman named Zariez had arrived with one of the alchemists just over two weeks ago, alternately claiming to be a master alchemist from the countryside or a "lady friend" of Master Vernon. Over the course of a week she had managed to place the entire guild under her spell, forcing them to work to some unknown end in the workshop. Meanwhile the city watch had been alerted, but with the possibility of one (or more) monsters of unknown danger lurking in and around the workshop they refused to move in before the party could at least tell them what they were dealing with: otherwise they were going to burn the workshop down, killing all the alchemists without the certainty of breaking the enchantment.
After stopping for lunch (lamb, or possibly fish) our heroes prepared to storm the workshop at the end of the wharf – they only made it halfway along the pier before being ambushed by a pair of water elementals. A desperate fight ensued, as the elementals threatened to overwhelm the adventurers while shrugging off blows. As the last dissolved into mist and floated away, our bruised and soaked heroes had no time to recover themselves – a shrill voice from the workshop end of the pier demanded to know the meaning of the interruption to her work, and the pallidly beautiful woman it belonged to had an unearthly edge to her stare…