The search for the assassin begins at the hospital — where they also can pursue the objective of Dr. Kravoss’s effects and notes. They search Kravoss’s office both for private journals and knives. The former isn’t in evidence — the only books here are innocuous medical texts. But they do find a variety of knives designed for surgical use. The most likely-looking one is a large blade with a notch in its edge. Honora evaluates the tool, and surmises it would have been likely to slip and taste Kravoss’ blood when a bone notched the blade.
As they search, Baden notes a single rat watching them from concealment. He feigns ignorance, then turns swiftly and cleaves it in two. The dead rat shifts form, becoming two halves of a slim, severed finger. Convinced that the Faceless Gryphon’s assassin is keeping an eye on the hospital, they move quickly.
Kravoss’s quarters reveal a little more of use. They discover a secret journal strapped to the underside of a desk, in which the doctor details the creation of the Stoic Man. Kravoss knew a Sevenstrong mason who led him to the lightning forge below Lanthorn; he remarks that the dwarf had a penchant for a white cloak. The notes also mention that the doctor had an assistant who was badly hurt when the Stoic Man came awake. This assistant, Kulvick, survived but currently resides in the insane ward of the hospital.
The other find of note in Kravoss’s quarters is a black hair on the pillow. Kravoss being white-haired, it seems that the assassin has indeed rested here lately, though the bed is made and the room tidy. The group decides to withdraw as if they have noted nothing, and return later in hopes of catching her while she sleeps. Baden keeps a careful eye open for rats as they look about, though none come to his attention.
They make a point of leaving the hospital visibly. The next step is a search for accommodations. By an hour past midnight, Abbron leads them to the Devil’s Tail, a less than fastidious tavern with a pair of rooms attached. The group chooses one of the rooms for their rest.
After a few minutes in the room, Abbron announces he’s going to go out and have some drinks. Honora says it’s dangerous, but Abbron notes that if he doesn’t go through his evening ritual, it’s going to look even more suspicious. Bralta offers to keep him company at the bar. The two leave Honora and Baden to rest. Baden attempts to go more thoroughly through Kravoss’ journals, but the combination of their technical content and the day’s fatigue overwhelms him. The elf nods off almost instantly.
Abbron and Bralta do rather better for themselves for a time. But shortly after two of the few remaining tavern patrons leave, the door opens, and a pair of bulky men swagger in. Their forms are oddly shaped under their cloaks. They belly up to the bar, and one rests his arm on the surface as he smiles at Abbron — but his arm is huge, greenish, the arm of a troll. Abbron’s lightning storms up to the surface, and the thunderbolts are already on his fingertips as the troll-grafted men attack. Not alone, either — three rats shift into humanoid shapes and join in.
Badly outnumbered, both Abbron and Bralta are wounded before Honora comes charging out of the back, and Baden shakes off sleep and fatigue to follow her. One of the wererats, hidden in a corner, marks Honora as she emerges, but this simply riles the half-orc’s temper. The few patrons of the Devil’s Tail still in the common room either flee or cower under their tables as the battle breaks out.
For all the strength of the troll-grafted, and all of the cunning of the wererats, the heroes are fiercer and more durable. The four ignore their wounds and give better than they receive. One of the rats makes the mistake of leaping up on the bar, which incenses the already harried and angry Abbron. The rodent cutthroat is thundered down almost immediately. The troll-grafted fall under sacred axes, and the final surviving wererat tries to flee, but is cut down in the streets.
The bodies of the wererats revert to human form. But in a particularly unpleasant discovery, it’s found that they have small wounds over their hearts — small holes, from which the tips of rat muzzles protrude. Large rats have eaten hollows into the chests of each of these shapeshifters. Though nobody can recall a specific precedent for this, it seems in keeping with folklore that the rat queen must be creating her followers in such a fashion.
A small troop of understandably nervous city watch shows up to ask questions. The slayers explain, citing their commission from Countess Vainharte to do what they can about the plague and the killings. Once the sergeant is satisfied with their side of the story, the group searches for somewhere to take a safer and more thorough rest.