I'm looking for some help with how to handle a tricky situation I got myself into with my group...
The party have been carrying around the Raktavarna from All the World's Meat for quite a while now. We're just starting book 2, and the PCs are level 5. I've been messing with them: they keep getting rid of the dagger, and it keeps coming back to them, replacing the rogue's dagger when he draws it at the most inopportune moments.
They finally decided to do something about the dagger, and had a grumpy wizard look at it. He told them that it wasn't cursed, and that it wasn't a dagger, then kicked them out. They eventually discovered the raktavarna, and it attacked them. But then they managed to grapple it, and intimidated it into telling them who its master was.
I tried to think fast and figure out how to not give them that info, but RAW says that an intimidated creature will tell them what they want to know, so I told them the master was Meliya Arkona. This shouldn't have been much of a surprise, since they knew her name since the butchers shop. We ended the session with the PCs heading to the Arkona mansion to confront Meliya... And their usual approach is breaking-and-entering under cover of darkness.
Now I don't know what to do. Meliya (or whatever her real name is) obviously knows she's discovered, so she has time to act before the party descends on the manor. What might she do? Would she speak to the PCs? Have Balor (forget his fake name) talk to them? Recruit them or buy them off somehow? They absolutely would not want to reveal their true identities or intent at this time.
I guess I just need a way to distract or defer the PCs investigation into the Arkonas until the appropriate time. Any ideas are appreciated.
My group ran into something of the same issue the other day with this same scenario.
I side tracked them with a quest.. Eels End, and had a NPC talk them out of it. I think I phrased it like. "Your gonna need some major muscle,or hard proof to deal with those accusations like that." "those guys are very scary", followed up, by trying to give another easy road of adventure.
In some cases, I have found that being in character and straight up logically honest, most groups take the hint to take the railroad back to the track.
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Balor apologizes for his cousin, who's gotten out of control with this toy brought back on a trading ship from Vudra, recompenses the PCs for their trouble, and promises that Meliya will be on the next ship out so she won't be causing trouble.
Failing that, he throws her under the bus and she runs.
The Arkonas will be prepared for things like that; it probably isn't the first time someone has come close to one of their secrets. They probably have several levels of defensive schemes floating around, too, so there will be backup plans to the backup plans.
I would echo Zebbie's advice. The Arkonas are one of the five great houses of Korvosa. A group of level 5 PCs is not going to be able to successfully confront them, any wise NPC (Cressida Kroft etc) will advise them that. Trying to 'out' the Arkonas is only going to have half of Korvosa's underworld paying close attention to them from then on.
The PCs also have no real proof. Korvosa is a lawful city, but the Arbiters of the Longacre Building are not going to bring a trial against Meliya Arkona based only on the testimony of the PCs. You might have your PCs look into this possibility only to have the Arbiters advise them such.
For my campaign I have a flexible 'court scene' ready in case its needed. This has two objectives: the first is to immerse the PCs more deeply into the byzantine nature of Korvosan law. The other is to introduce them to Zenobia Zenderholm, so that her later activities an their encounter (in book 4) is more meaningful.