Aurélien wakes up and finds Krisilla pacing around her room in a frenzied, rabid state. When he runs to get help, he finds that many in the city are exhibiting the same symptoms before succumbing to catatonia. When he returns to her room, she too is unconscious.
The city is in a panic and most people are off of the streets. Florian informs Aurélien that the plague is affecting five other cities throughout the Commynwealth. No one seems to know the cause, but the disease is so potent that even the fleas on its victims’ bodies are said to die from the infection. There are few fatalities but half of the nation is at a terrified standstill. The people of the realm have named the plague “The Misery”.
Florian rushes throughout the city searching for answers. The only ones on the street appear to be clerics burning sage and corpses in the streets and poorfolk looting the bodies and houses of the dead. On his way to see his friend Ephraim Cartyr, he spies a gnome shimmying into a boarded-up building. Sneaking in through the chimney, he finds the place covered in refuse and infested by rats. When investigating the second floor, he finds one of the rats staring at him curiously, and manages to wrestle it into submission whereupon it takes its hybrid form.
The building, turns out, is the home of the wererat Matteo Widdershins (though he would not learn his name until much later). The two quickly realize that they mean each other no harm and begin to speak of the Misery. Matteo seems beset by violent fits of scratching, and intimates that he may be able to pass along the cure for the plague if Aurélien can get him a tonic to stop his itching without killing his fleas.
Aurélien goes to Minnigan’s Emporium and asks Mihaul if she has anything that fits the bill. The gnomess tells him she may have some botch potions that would work in the “Oops Paint” room in one of the conical towers. Florian finds what he needs and the Minnigans let him have it free of charge.
Xherdan bar Granit joins Aurélien for the handoff, which takes place at the Burrows in Wetwall, a neighborhood in the Gnome District. Matteo emerges from the burrows in his rat form with a small scroll tied to his back which he trades Aurélien for the tonic before disappearing back into the abandoned tunnels. The parchment reads PENNYROYAL AND DUST.
Aurélien receives some Dust free of charge from Ephraim, who expects a favor in return one day. Xherdan assists Aurélien in making an infusion for Krisilla, who wakes up shortly after swallowing. The men quickly evacuate the room as Krisilla defecates and bleeds all over the floor, screaming in an inebriated rage.
Aurélien takes knowledge of the cure to Grandmatryn Claudia West who dispatches her clerics to spread the word. She presses Aurélien to give up his source, knowing that it could lead back to the cause of the disease. When he finally gives in, the Grandmatryn sends her inquisitors to Matteo’s home in Highmarket and takes him into custody. The Dauphin is very impressed with Aurélien’s bravery in facing the plague to save his friend, and even seems to respect his loyalty to the wererat.
Aurélien meets with the wererat in his prison cell. Matteo explains that the plague was magically manufactured by order of his Lady, the Werequeen, who hides in the woods of Flourentia under the protection of the Seelie Court. When Aurélien tells him that his life is in danger in the Commynwealth’s custody, he assumes rat form and slips out of his cell while Aurélien makes a casual exit.