Sean, an aged widower who sells alchemical and herbal mixtures in the town of Jadeborough, has been sad lately since his wife Mary died. His only daughter Fiona left town many years ago, having abandoned her studies and fallen in with a bad crowd. The last he heard she was rumoured to be part of a bandit gang in the north, near Ferleigh. He doesn’t know what has become of her.
The bandits’ hideout is known to the Ferleigh villagers, although they aren’t keen on revealing it for fear of reprisals. The hideout is within a huge hollow petrified tree in the forest. It’s been furnished quite comfortably, with living space for the entire bandit gang and a private office for the bandit leader. They keep a careful lookout and will try to draw adventuring parties away from the tree.
The bandits’ hoard consists mostly of coins and jewellery, and is kept in a secret chamber dug out between the tree’s roots. A trapdoor under a rug in the dining-hall grants access, but one of the steps down is rigged to a slicing blade trap.
Fiona tried to leave the bandits some time ago, to settle down with a baker in Nettford and raise a family. The gang’s rule is that nobody leaves except in a box, and so she was tracked to that village and killed. This is clearly documented in the gang roster and in the leader’s diaries; those bandits that were in the gang back then also remember the event personally if questioned. Each source of information also mentions in passing that the husband and child were left alive.
In the village of Nettford, the baker and his son — Thomas and Brian, respectively — are well-known; the father is caring and hardworking, while the boy is now three years old and loves to be helpful. Thomas relates that Fiona rarely talked about her family and was too ashamed to return and visit them.
If the two can be united with Fiona’s father, Thomas will in gratitude show the characters the space under his floorboards where some of Fiona’s belongings were hidden when the bandits came to exact revenge. This cache consists of her weapon, a map with ciphered notes, and some scroll cases. Thomas can’t read any of the esoteric writings in the cases but believes them to be valuable. One of them is the fourth page of the Cadian text regarding the Gadolim.