Returning to the Prancing Pony for another planning and strategy session, the party must now determine how they are to proceed with attending the ball. Vash manages to get admitted to the kitchen staff as a cook, and his excellent dishes cause a small bit of upset on the part of the head cook, who’s creations appear to be becoming eclipsed by Vash’s. Martin will maintain his alias as a noble from the south, while Kiara poses as his daughter and Jenner as his personal body guard. Argonath will enter as part of the elven embassy, because it is not seen as proper for servants to enter the ball. Jenner is therefore able to enter openly with his weapons, while Kiara and Argonath sneak daggers and darts under their garments. Martin’s weapons, of course, are his magic, which cannot be openly seen until he casts it, and thus cannot be confiscated at the door. Vash elects to take no weapons in with him, hoping to remain an anonymous observer.
All goes according to plan and the party enters the ball without anyone realizing their true identities. After engaging in small talk and a few rounds of dancing, Jenner makes contact with Prince Richard, who suggests that they check out the marvelous gallery on the third floor of the ballroom. Jenner messages Martin via magic, and the two of them maintain a connection while he, along with Argonath who observes Jenner break his cover as Kiara’s companion from his vantage point in one of the sitting areas across the room where the elven embassy is gathered, heads to the gallery.
Meanwhile Kiara, who Jenner was supposed to be accompanying, finds herself in a rather sticky situation with a young noble who is clearly interested in more than just a social visit with her. She is forced to break her cover to avoid being taken advantage of, and Argonath, having realized her vulnerability, seeks and finds her shortly thereafter and escorts her to the gallery as well.
In the gallery they find many paintings, but are particularly drawn to an odd one of the king who was assassinated twenty years ago. Something about it just doesn’t seem quite right. It’s as if they eyes are watching them. While they are investigating it, the stone doors between the gallery and the ballroom close and the party momentarily appears trapped until the mysterious painting open to reveal Prince Richard and a secret passageway to the palace interior. Richard reveals that he was dethroned for acting too interested in his father and brother’s mysterious activities. He reveals a few of the bits and pieces that he managed to uncover before his dethronement, but the party is already aware of these and then some. Richard then escorts them through the passageways to an alternative secret entrance to the second floor of the ballroom. Unfortunately, the party was about to take a very ugly turn.
Down in the kitchens, Vash bears witness to several assassins who, posing as servants, have managed to infiltrate the palace. They kill several of the servants before heading upstairs, but are clearly not interested in Vash himself beyond incapacitating him as he gets in their way with a butcher knife. He recovers and pursues them upstairs but they are too quick and he arrives in the gardens just as the door closes for the presentation of the crown prince, and he is forced to deal with two guards who are of opposing opinions about whether to let him go or not. Playing both ends against the middle, Vash manages to get away from them and into the ballroom, where the attack has begun in full. The newly crowned Prince Gareth takes a crossbow bolt for his father as everyone but the party flees the room. Martin also flees in order to maintain his alias, and a powerful mage who turns out to be the mysterious Benneth also remains, though his spells threaten to undo the part as well as he is apparently unable to tell the difference between them and the assassins. The party survives and manages to escape, as do half of the assassins. The other half are killed, mostly by Benneth’s spells albeit with a little help from the party.
They make their way back to the inn, nursing their wounds, to discuss the unexpected turn of events the night has brought them. While they clearly have something of an ally in Richard, the fate of the new crown prince is unknown, and thus they do not know how much power their new ally will have. If Garith was killed, then Richard is the only option left for crown prince and he will then be able to resume brokering the deal with the elven embassy. If Gareth survived, however, Richard may be in danger of being blamed, and the price on the party’s head will certainly not have remained the same. Whether it has gone up or down, however, depends on whether or not their attempts to help were noticed. One thing is certain though, that they will have many awkward questions to answer should they be identified, and so they decide to report their findings to the elven embassy but otherwise lay low until things calm down.
Exhausted from their affairs this night, they finally turn in.