After completing a successful(?) dogsitting job, the party spent a few more days in Roadside. Ceri celebrated by hitting the bar, Esda tried to learn about the ring they uncovered in the cave, Astratta prepared for their date, and Josh kept an eye on the rest of them, worried they might cause trouble.
During Astratta’s date with Bryndle, a hooded figure hung up four wanted posters featuring children’s drawings of each of the party members. Esda noticed this, tore down Astratta’s poster and their own, and waited until Astratta finished their date to tell them. Josh joined the conversation and Astratta eventually tore down the other two posters.
Meanwhile, two mercenaries approached Ceri in the bar, and made quick work of capturing her. Luckily, she made a ruckus in her struggle, and the other three were able to track her to the bar’s back room.
Esda picked the lock and the three of them tried to sneak into the building, but caught the attention of others in the room. Josh hid while Esda and Astratta entered combat with a half elf, a halfling and a human named Noah. As things went poorly for the party, Josh stepped forward and intimidated the attackers. Esda surrendered and the attackers asked instead to talk.
The strangers brought Ceri forward and introduced themselves as Noah, Caleb and Layla, and admitted to putting up the wanted posters. They then proceeded to interrogate the party on Cieran’s whereabouts and the events that went on in the cave. In the middle of questioning, a messenger showed up and related information to Layla. The group huddled and talked urgently before Layla and Caleb jumped the party and placed metal collars on each of them.
The group left in a hurry, telling the party that they’d be keeping an eye on them, and that if the party could bring Cieran back safely, they would be off the hook.
After untying Ceri, the party investigated their new collars, and found no apparent way to remove them. They paid Bryndle a visit, asking her about the collars and how they might track down Cieran. She had no ideas on the collar situation, but recommended finding something with Cieran’s scent on it to track him.
The party rested in Astratta’s room in the inn, and woke the next morning to find some answers. Esda headed to the blacksmith to try and remove the collars. The blacksmith refused to cut that close to Esda’s neck herself, but lent them some bolt cutters for a small fee. Using these, Astratta seemingly cut through Esda’s collar, but as soon as they felt the metal snap it was back in one piece. Esda spent their day searching the town for Cieran, but couldn’t find him.
Astratta went to Terhin’s apothecary shop in town, asking if they could borrow Buddy to track someone. Terhin reminded Astratta that they had their own riding dog, and the two shared a poignant moment reflecting on the importance of a druid’s trust in their companion. Astratta asked Terhin about the collar, and they said it was giving off transmutation and divination magic.
Josh asked around town. He learned that Cieran was well known in the commercial district, as he frequently chatted with many of the shopkeepers, whether they liked it or not. On the job board Josh discovered missing persons posters for a few other people in addition to Cieran. Among them were Diggles, a former employee at the inn, Perdita, a mercenary who’s partner offered a reward for her return, and someone named Marnie, whose poster seemed sloppily written and had no other information. Josh visited the inn and learned that Diggles was last seen leaving work for a walk in the northern woods.
While the others investigated around town, Ceri set up a stake-out in front of Cieran’s parents’ house. When they got home, Ceri listened in and overheard that Cieran’s parents were not the ones who offered a bounty on the party’s capture. After the conversation died down, Ceri snuck through a window into Cieran’s bedroom, and stole a pair of pants from his dresser.