Upon questioning the next day, the circus-folk claimed to have had nothing to do with the events outside the Dancing Dryad. In fact, the leader of the thugs, who was thought to be the circus strongman, turned out to be a different dwarf entirely. Was someone trying to frame the carnival or just keep their own sinister agenda under the cover of circus revelry? It was not to be known. To emphasize the point, it was found that the prisoner had died (of natural causes?) in his cell during the night.
Frustrated and suspicious, but in need of coin, the Company agreed to guard the circus-folk for the two day remainder of their stay in Fallenrock. There was an understandable concern that the townfolk might be looking for an excuse to blame the outsiders should anything else go wrong in town. It seemed a simple job, below the usual standards of the Order, but it paid and allowed the Company to keep an eye on the carnies as well.
During their time among the tents, they discovered a most unusual performing attraction which they had not seen the night before. It seems that the circus had a genuine creature of myth in their employ after all. They called it a sphinx, part woman and part lion with the wings of a great eagle, and it called itself Jerizana. It spoke fluently and intelligently, and the cage which it inhabited was a false one that seemed only for show. Many members of the Company were truly astonished to see such a creature, and Tyr called it sorcery, a creation of wizards. Misrani Karaquazian claimed that such blendings of man and beast were not uncommon in his experience, but the others seemed skeptical.
It was that night that the murders began. The proprietor of the Open Hand pawnshop, a man named Valdo, to whom the party had recently sold goods, was found slain in a back alley, torn open as if by the claws of a great lion. The mayor of Fallenrock, a woman named Varis Welldrake, sought out the party to ask for the protection of the Iron Star. It had always been that the Order protected Fallenrock and the town supplied them in return. When the Company arrived in town, it was assumed that the arrangement still held true. This made things difficult when it began to look as if the sphinx was the agent of Valdo’s demise.
Torn between loyalty to the town and contract with the circus, the group set about investigating the murder. When several thieves were discovered trapped in Valdo’s vault beneath his shop, new plots were brought to light. Upon questioning one of the drug-addled thieves, it was revealed that he was from the city of Phaestia and had been promised his fix of “shiver” if he raided the vault and turned over the goods to his patron when contacted. All, including the murder, had been arranged by this patron, who the shiver addict could only decribe as a man in a black cloak.
The Phaestian was released so that the group could observe him and secretly await his contact with the black cloaked man. Tristem Tsara disguised himself and followed him to his common-room lodgings. The rest of the Company lurked nearby, while Renuk returned to the circus to have words with the ringmaster. Just as the party was attempting to be inconspicuous, the mayor arrived with her entourage of town matrons in tow, and demanded a report. Cover mostly blown, the group made for the circus tents outside town, leaving Tristem to watch his charge at the halfway house.
This night would be the Circus’ final performance. As the Company observed the big show, it was easy to sense tension in the crowd. At the end of the performance, the sphinx was supposed to appear. It didn’t. And then panicked word arrived in the great tent that there had been another murder. This time it was Sister Marigold, a priestess met earlier with the mayor’s entourage. Once again, she had been torn apart by claws and huge leonine paw prints were found around her body.
The crowd went mad, and it was all the Company could do to hurry them toward the exits. The mob was not so easily quelled however. Failing to find the sphinx, a number of angry citizens began to take out their rage on other circus folk. One of the dancers and her small baby seemed in imminent danger, so the party came to her defence. Things got extremely ugly, and before the mob could be dispersed, four townfolk lay dead at the hands of the Iron Star.