After clearing out Rolth’s lair in the Dead Warrens, the party investigates two outlying tunnels—eliminating a pair of ghouls and discovering the Midland bookshop that was a front for Rolth’s backdoor entrance into the Gray District. They learn from residents that the necromancer cleared up shop in a hurry a few days ago and vanished, much to the relief of his neighbors.
Cressida takes custody of Gaekhen’s body, promising to return it to Thousand Bones. She also lets the heroes know that Trinia Sabor is being placed on trial at Castle Korvosa under charges of treason, regicide, and conspiracy to commit regicide. Despite the irregularities in her arrest, the evidence against her seems compelling.
While waiting on the results of the trial, Ser Arlynn drops by the orphanage, which has already begun to see results from Lord Jalento’s patronage—the building is undergoing much needed renovations, the staff have new supplies, and the children have gotten better clothing.
On her way back, however, Arlynn learns of another child in need when she is approached by a distraught Varisian woman, Bekara, who says that her daughter Kel has gone missing. Kel often dawdled at Pestico’s toy shop, but the shopkeep claims not to have seen her and the Guard has had no luck finding her in the two days since her disappearance. Arlynn vows to find the girl and loops the rest of the party in to the task.
But when the arrive at Pestico’s, they find that the toymaker was about to contact them about his own missing daughter, Nathaly. The old man explains that after the death of his wife, he set out to create the children they never had, ultimately crafting six animate dolls, each brought to life with a fragment of a soul. During his decade of research, Pestico partnered with an adjunct professor at the Acadamae, Troska, but they had a falling out. Since he unveiled his daughters several weeks ago, Troska has been pressuring him sell one to her, most recently sending ruffians to threaten him. Now his daughter Nathaly has gone missing and he is convinced that Troska has taken her. When the party brings up Kel, he worries that Troska might have kidnapped her, too.
Troska lives in a two-story house with a balcony in the Heights District, within sight of the Acadamae’s tall black marble walls. It’s dark by the time the party arrives, but they notice a light on in the second story. While the others cover the exits, Ashla stealthily climbs up onto the balcony, where she observes a trio of goons ransacking the room. Overhearing their whispered conversation, she discerns that they are there to recover money on behalf of Devargo Barvasi. After Arlynn bashes down the front door, the trio stumbles out onto the balcony where Ashla confronts them.
The thugs know nothing about Kel’s whereabouts, but they refer to Nathaly as a “murderous little demon.” The conversation is punctuated by Nathaly’s arrival, leaping from the rooftop to attack one of the guards with a dagger held in both of her tiny hands. The ruffians try to flee, but are detained by Zandu, Arlynn and Egan Silentall, while Ashla speaks with the doll.
It seems that Nathaly had been hunting the gang for several days after they threatened her “papa.” Ashla explains that the thugs won’t be able to scare her papa anymore and convinces her to return. Nathaly also knows Kel’s whereabouts; the girl was living with her in a former imp nest that the doll had cleared out.
A thorough search of Troska’s quarters reveals a letter from the Acadamae rejecting her tenure request and a half-burned scrap of paper from the Temple of Sarenrae reporting that her request is “beyond our means.” A cryptic note in the margins says that “Pestico has the answer.”
After handing over the prisoners to a Guard patrol, the party heads back towards Pestico’s neighborhood to collect Kel. Along the way, they are approached by Remmy, who has been investigating the missing girl and a rash of deaths in the area. Remmy alerts them to strange goings on at Pestico’s, but the party decides to retrieve the girl first. Ashla climbs up into the attic, past the line of imp heads on spikes, and convinces Kel to return to her mother. The girl claims to have seem the fabled vigilante Blackjack running through the Shingles in the area a few nights ago.
Once Kel is given over to Remmy’s care, the party (and Nathaly), investigate Pestico’s toy shop. The front door is unlocked and as they venture inside they discover the ruined remains of Nathaly’s sisters scattered across the floor, the gems holding their soul fragments thankfully intact.
In short order, the five of them are ambushed by an animate display of tin soldiers, lead by a tiny toy Ileosa, who urges on a small army of guardsmen and hippogryph riders. The toys do little more than scratch the party, but they do cause enough of a ruckus that Troska descends the stairs to investigate. The party convinces her to talk rather than fight and she takes them upstairs to where Pestico is bound and gagged.
The group swiftly sorts out matters: Troska had helped fund her mutual research with Pestico, using money she borrowed from Devargo. She’d intended to pay him back by helping him cheat at the Acadamae’s next Breaching Festival, but when the unlearned toymaker unlocked the secret of Soulbound Dolls first, Troska lost her shot at tenure and her ability to pay back Devargo. Pestico had broken ties with Troska after he learned that she intended to use his work to place an entire soul into a construct, creating an easy ticket to immortality that would further stratify society. Troska, meanwhile, was desperate to get access to his research so she could find a way to save herself from the same heart affliction that had slain her human father.
After a lengthy debate over what to do, the party resolves to break into Eel’s End, kill Devargo, and use his money to pay for the expensive miracle spell that could cure Troska, thus solving everyone’s problems through the judicious use of violence.