In their travels it was decided that in order for things to get better, they must start from scratch, overthrowing the king and the reigning nobles. The best choice for a new king would be the duke. He is in a position of power, one of the wealthiest nobles, a simple man, but a wiley family member behingd him, and a large and powerful army. So in their visit with him our heroes decided to ask him to be a party to their betrayal and he agreed.
They recieved a letter from the library saying that an explosive had been found, so they went to investigate that next. While confirming that not only did the explosive work, but that it had been used before as an inert material, they also received a letter about the finding of a large find of quicksilver.
Finally they decided to check in with the King’s Hand. There they found out their handler was dead. He had been killed by a dragon. Not dragon blooded, but dragon. They also found they were needed by the King for a vitally important mission which many others had failed at. He needed them to find out why people were discovering more about magic. In short normal people were maing discoveries about magic that was surpassing what even the most knowledgable witches from a few years back knew.
The King also told them he had been watching them. Including their treachery. When asked why he was taking it so calmly he merely told them that he has known for most of his life that he would be betrayed and killed by a member or members of the King’s Hand, but all would be lost if he didn’t find out what was going on.