The PCs get called in to investigate the death of Nilasa Hume, who perished while trying to steal from the Danoran consulate. Her manner of death suggests a connection to the fey terrorist Gale, but the Danoran security Chief Julian leBrix is under orders to cover up what actually happened, and tries to make it look like just a normal botched robbery.
In truth, Nilasa accidentally stumbled upon a cache of documents that could reveal Macbannin’s criminal activities, and she was killed by Mayor Macbannin’s aid, Cillian Creed, who was at the consulate for other business. Unfortunately for Macbannin and Creed, just before Nilasa died she handed off the stolen documents to a man who fled the scene.
This man, Dr. Wolfgang von Recklinghausen, has no connection to any of the major players in the adventure, and was just an innocent bystander who panicked and ran. Once he discovered what he’d been handed he hid in The Nettles, hoping to shake pursuit and arrange for passage out of the country.
The PCs set out to find the doctor and figure out what Nilasa was up to. By tracing Nilasa’s connections they learn of a smuggling operation bringing in magic items to arm Gale’s allies. Clues from various sources lead to a confrontation with wand smugglers in Flint’s harbor. After a battle that fields barely-controlled magic wand blasts, the party captures a few Family toughs. Soon thereafter they are contacted by Morgan Cippiano, who offers to help the party out with their larger investigation in exchange for letting off his people.
Another thread of Nilasa’s activities leads them to Heward Sechim, a man who runs a factory producing alchemical acid, and who was friends with Nilasa. Sechim, who despite owning a factory is opposed to Danoran presence in Risur, defends Nilasa as a good young woman.
Heward can get the party in touch with nevard sechim, Heward’s sickly old uncle and a once-renowned skyseer. Nevard is highly respected by Gale, and if the party is willing to help him, he can get them a meeting with her. Nevard wants to climb above the smog cloaking the city to see the stars again; he hopes a vision will help soothe the unrest in the streets. But the only place to get a clear view within the city is the top of Cauldron Hill, said to be haunted and thus prohibited, except by permission of the mayor of The Nettles, Reed Macbannin.
When the party goes to Macbannin, he agrees to let Nevard up the mountain, and encourages them to go with him as defense against the evil spirits. In truth he hopes to arrange for their deaths and thus end their investigation; simultaneously he sends his lizardfolk arsonists to destroy Heward Sechim’s factory so he won’t be able to point any other constables this way. When the party survives Macbannin’s ploy, Nevard receives several visions, one of which guides them to thwart the arson just in time. Macbannin, of course, pretends to be pleased they survived the dangers of the mountain, while secretly planning another way to thwart them.
Nevard arranges for Gale to meet with the PCs on safe ground. She claims they have a common enemy, and shares her hunches and limited knowledge of a secret group operating in the Bleak Gate, which she think has ties to the Danorans. If the party doesn’t try to arrest her, she gives them a spell that will let them track the trace “scent” of a person who has traveled into the Bleak Gate. She says she used the spell at the Danoran consulate the night after Nilasa’s death, and sensed traces of dark energy. Though the range is limited, it can point the party toward possible suspects.
The final thread is Dr. von Recklinghausen. Various avenues give the party a chance to track down the good doctor, who has hired some of Lorcan Kell’s own thugs as protection. When the party finds him, he has to be convinced he can trust them, and he eventually points them to an abandoned Clergy church in The Nettles, where he hid the documents Nilasa gave him. The doctor says that he read the documents and found references to a substance he recognized as “witchoil.” The documents, he says, were written by the Danoran security chief Julian LeBrix.
LeBrix reveals that months ago he was investigating strange goings-on in Danoran-funded factories. He thought they might have been caused by sabotage by Gale, but instead he stumbled upon strange vials of witchoil, stashed in dozens of factories. He wanted to find out what they were, but was told by his superiors to end his investigation. The party realizes that someone is using the deaths of factory workers as a way to gather energy for some nefarious purpose. LeBrix thinks that with the information he got as a starting point, it might be possible to figure out who’s behind it.
When the party goes to recover the documents, though, Cillian Creed leads a strike team to kill the party, recover the material, and kidnap the doctor. Creed arranges a trap for the party, burying them alive, but clever thinking can save them.
With evidence of larger goings-on, but no clear idea of who is responsible, the party gets guidance from Nevard the skyseer, who says he will present his visions and interpretations of what they mean at a large rally. Dockers, factory workers, and thousands of townsfolk attend, making security nearly impossible, but the party gets clues in advance that the same group who killed Nilasa and tried to recover the documents will target Nevard. Magically-altered great cats, infused with shadow energy, attack and create a panic, and it’s up to the PCs to save the skyseer, or to listen to the revelations on his dying breaths.
Ultimately, with a combination of evidence and aid from Nevard, Gale, Morgan Cippiano, the documents Nilasa stole, and interrogating the arson brothers, the party is able to link Reed Macbannin to the whole plot. When they go to take him into custody, however, the strange tremors that have been shaking the city for weeks finally erupt into a massive earthquake, releasing huge torrents of witchoil that Macbannin was collecting and refining. As the mountain starts to break apart around them, the witchoil flood threatens the slums of The Nettles, forcing the PCs to decide what’s more important—saving thousands of innocent lives, or capturing Macbannin.