Our chapter starts off with the party in the Viper's Nest, eating some snacks, drinking some ale, and looking around for a particular goblin who may or may not have been seen lately. While Brother Nizo and Svala stay downstairs and partake, Russ and Zenari go upstairs, after paying a small entrance fee, to investigate the games of chance, and perhaps find the goblin rogue known as "Pavek". After discovering that the room is very well guarded and protected, and after Russ managed to come out ahead after his gambling, the group then followed several well-dressed 'ladies of the evening' outside to Tradesman Hall. There, Russ discovered that a number of the Guild leaders were paying for an evening's pleasure, and probably not the first time, in the Hall at night. When Brother Nizo and Svala went out to catch up with Russ and Zenari, they thought they saw someone in the shadows, and Brother Nizo cast light into the heavily shadowed area near the Hall – alas, whoever it was had been to quick for them, and since that portion of the Hall was flanked by a stone deck, there were almost no footprints to examine. A reasonable suspicion would be that whoever was receiving the money from the Guild leaders for their 'company' was probably the person in the shadows, but this cannot be confirmed.
After meeting up back together, Russ was unable to control his desire for another magic mushroom, and ate one in front of everyone – when Svala insisted on searching Russ for the rest of the mushrooms, he fled off into the night. The rest of the group searched high and low for Russ, even getting members of the Town Watch to assist them, but they were unable to discover where he went.
While this was going on, Russ went to a certain spot, where he was assisted by certain individuals, who provides him with certain services and certain information which lead to his decision to return to Absalom. To let his friends know where he was going, and so they would not worry about him, Russ left a note with the Druid Elias Fernwood of Locust Grove, who also had some parting words of advice for Russ, who then left for the City.
In the meanwhile, Brother Nizo, Svala, Zenari, and Karla, who discovered gnoll tracks on the road south towards the City ,decided to follow them in the late evening/pre-dawn hours, hoping to catch the raiding party asleep. They found the raiding party nestled in a grove of thorn bushes between a pair of low rising hills, which the group attacked. Half a dozen gnolls were killed in the ambush, along with a dire hyena which was their pet, and the party managed to recover some coin and loot for their troubles. Once back to the Pampered Poodle after sun up, the party (minus Russ) went to sleep.
The next afternoon, Fernwood gave Russ's note to Svala, Zenari, and Brother Nizo; now they knew where Russ was headed, and they knew he had a 8 hour or so head start. Svala figured Russ would head to his flat in the Eastgate section of the City, and determined to catch Russ there. The party then retrieved their items, and after a confrontation with Venarius and his gang of rogues staying in the Copperwood Barracks, the party left for Absalom. Karla informed the others that she could no longer wait to go west to Diobel, as were her orders, and so while the rest went to the City, she left to go cross-country to pick up the road going west, hoping to catch on with a caravan.
The group traveled without incident, arriving in the City in the early evening. Meanwhile, Russ arrived in Absalom a number of hours earlier, and set about utilizing his alchemy lab to discover what he could about the mushrooms. However, someone was waiting for him, and before Russ could escape he was taken by a number of agents to see his old pal Pardu Pildapush once again.
Pildapush offered to bury the hatchet between himself and the part, and Russ in particular, but only if Russ went to Diobel and performed a certain service for him – on the condition of no questions asked. Russ, wary as usual, insisted on assurances, and took a very valuable ring from Pildapush to ensure his compliance with the agreement terms. Reluctantly, Pildapush agreed, and Russ was able to return to his flat and continue his work.
It took hours, but Russ was able to isolate a number of substances from a sample of the mushrooms, some natural and some not, which provided certain properties to the mushrooms, and which confirmed some of the information he'd been given earlier. in between this time, Russ caught up with 3 weeks worth of Tattler news, and found some juicy bits of Absalom gossip, as well as some information regarding Korlax.
Near dinner time, the rest of the party caught up with Russ, with Brother Nizo roughly kicking in the door – which ended up bringing Evona Peesami, Russ's rough gnome landlord to the scene, complaining of the noise. Once the gnome was mollified and left, the group tried to get Russ to give up his mushrooms, but he had already hidden them well. Russ did say he had things to tell the party, and so it was decided for the group to have dinner and talk at the Golden Tankard, a more upscale establishment that caters to a quieter, older crowd.
While dining and sipping the Tankard's delicious, home-brewed Golden Ale, Russ told the others what had transpired, mostly, and the group told Russ about the gnolls, the confrontation with Venarius and the mercenaries from the Copperwood Barracks, and Karla's departure west. As the evening wrapped up, Russ decided to take some time in the City to find out what his contacts, in particular the Bug Man, had to say about Pildapush; Brother Nizo, somewhat exasperated with the whole situation, decided to take some time and visit the Starstone Cathedral, in the Ascendant Court, and perhaps speak to one of his mentors; Zenari decided he wanted to visit with Ellwyn BrightStar, his friend and half-elf sage of the Outer Planes, to see if she had any information about the flying demonoid in Copperwood, while Svala determined to accompany Zenari, and perhaps visit the Temple of Calistria in the Ivy District, and visit her friend, the priestess Luna Silver Beam.