The party rested up and made their way out to the docks in the morning to meet with Toli the fisherman. They piled aboard his boat and made their way out to the cave Toli had spoken of. Immediately upon making their way inside they discovered that there was something living here as the entrance was rigged with a trap that nearly cut Krakrox in half and an assassin vine dropped down from the cave ceiling and attacked.
Once that was dealt with, the party discovered a set of tracks coming in and out of this cave, confirming their suspicions that someone was living here. Inside the cave they found a makeshift gate made of driftwood and vines blocking off passage to a larger portion of the cave. Krakrox decided to rush headlong at it and burst through. On the other side they found a woman dressed in leather armor, wielding a spear with wild hair and leaves and vines adorning her. In front of her were two wolves that appeared to be made of fungus. Said wolves immediately attacked. Throughout the fight, the party was poisoned by the wolves' spore clouds and eventually the woman put up a cloud of fog and disappeared, apparently attempting to escape. Before she could get away though, the party did stop her despite a phantom fungus showing up to the fight and nearly killing off Krakrox.
Once the threats had been dealt with, the party searched the cave and found an alchemist's lab and ingredients for making several poisons and hallucinogenic mushrooms. They also found a letter requesting "more of your dream inducing brew and more of that oil" signed by someone named Melisenn.
Upon speaking with Cesadia later on, you learned that Melisenn is the Count's steward and is managing his estate in his absence. Cesadia knows little of Melisenn other than that she's a foreigner who the count brought in as an assistant several years ago. Cesadia seemed convinced of your motivations now and offered what info she had. Her primary concerns were the lack of leadership in the town, with the Count gone, the Magistrate gone, and the Constable shuttering the fort, there is little in the way of leadership left. Even with the mercenaries defecting, shuttering the fort entirely is very odd especially given all the other troubles in town. The disappearances the party was already aware of. Cesadia had little other information about that other than that they're still happening. She was approached just that day by a girl named Holissa asking for help locating her older brother Sholn who had disappeared. On top of that, the murals appearing all over the town and a sudden influx of foreigners coming in had Cesadia suspecting cult activity, but she has no solid evidence and is stretched thin on resources.
With this information the party decided to head out and talk to Holissa. You found her staying at a room in the Silver Wagon. Apparently her parents were gone and with her brother now disappeared she didn't want to stay in her home anymore. She mentioned that Sholn disappeared in the middle of the night while they were sleeping. When the party went to investigate the house they found that the parents' room which was covered in a thin sheet of dust showed some signs that someone or something had come through the window somewhat recently. Additionally you found that one of the murals you'd heard of was on the back wall of this house and a dusty footprint was on the wall beneath the window. While this was happening a nosy neighbor asked what you were doing, apparently concerned that you were snooping around the girl's house. After being convinced that you were working with the Sleepless Agency, he eventually relayed to you that the night of the disappearance he hard some strange noises outside and when he looked out his window he saw some small shadowy figures that he presumed to be children playing running in the neighbor's backyard. He was reluctant at first to divulge the next part of his story, but eventually admitted he thought he saw them emerging from the back wall, but figured he must have still been sleepy or still half-dreaming.
While investigating the wall, Josiah determined that there was a faint magical aura about it, but none of the party couldn identify it specifically. Josiah was able to determine that the magic was associated with conjuration. With that information in hand the party decided to check out Iris Hill. Upon knocking at the door they were met with a very gruff guard opening the shutter and telling them to go away. Repeated attempts at reasoning with the guard resulted in threats to leave "or else". The party seemed to take this as a challenge and decided that explosives were the logical course of action, so Connor tried to blow the door open. He succeeded in damaging it, but the bar held the door shut. At this point the door was thrown open and about a dozen guards in full plate armor marched out with shield and spear and advanced on the party warning them away. The party decided that discretion was the better part of valor and did in fact leave.
They then decided to check out the Fort. They met a similar, though less hostile reception there. The constable listened to their concerns but ultimately told them that there was little she could do. With the mercenaries all gone she'd had orders to shutter the fort and she doesn't have the resources to really help. She said she'd sent messenger birds to neighboring towns to ask for reinforcements, but so far had received no responses. After some continued pressing by the party, she eventually became exasperated and told the party that she would love to help but she simply doesn't have the resources and to ask the Sleepless Agency for help. After that she asked them to leave and that was it.
Later that afternoon as the party returned to speak to Cesadia, they noticed a gallery of portraits of the prominent people in town, the current and past counts, magistrates and constables. Chesna, with a keen eye noticed that the portrait of the Constable had a scar over her right eye. The constable that the party had spoken to earlier had had a scar over her left eye. Now convinced that they had been speaking to a doppelganger or at least an imposter, the party decided they needed to return and find another way in to investigate.
But first they needed rest. And so they went back to their bunkhouse out by New Chapel and went to bed. Their rest, however, was interrupted when a woman snuck into their bunkhouse and stabbed Krakrox in the chest, not quite killing him, but dealing a significant amount of damage. She had struck with a poisoned blade, which Krakrox as able to resist. Once everyone had woken up and joined the fray, they found a woman with slightly tan, freckled skin, reddish blonde hair ties back in a pony tail, dark black chain shirt covered by a dusty gray trenchcoat. Her face was partially concealed by a bandana over the lower half of her face. Her belt held several vials of dark liquids, small crossbow bolts and daggers. The woman seemed surprised that Krakrox was not dead and fought on the defensive before ultimately being driven off and disappearing before the party could capture her.
After taking another couple hours to finish resting and have Winter heal you up, the party set out for Fort Hailcourse under cover of darkness. They snuck around to the backside of the fort where Connor levitated up to the top of one of the guard towers and anchored a roped for everyone else to climb up. A fight then ensued where the party found themselves attacked by what at first seemed to be guards wearing Ustalavic guard uniforms, but on closer inspection turned out to be ju-ju zombies.