Carrion Crown

TotB: Recap of Day 009 (pt 2)
Epilogue

With horror defeated, and the Beast freed, the party returned below to the lab to find a weakened and upon searching found Count Caromarc sealed with the large iron idol (bound in chains of adamantine) they had spotted before. Breaking the Count free, they found him to be on the edge of both madness and starvation. He thanked the party greatfully, and immediately began to insist that they go after those who did this to him, the cult of the Whispering Way. He explained that Waxwood overheard them discussing the Shudderwood while he was locked up, and suspects they may be heading for the Ascanor Lodge, since that is the only island of civility in its deadly depths.

When asked what the Way was doing here he explained how Auren Vrood, a member of the cult of the Whispering Way, had sent word to him about a month prior that the cult knew of his secret experiments with the creation of life, and that they sought to make a deal with him. And before he could explain any more, Caromarc was grabbed from behind by an invisible creature, and his throat seemingly slit. As blood splatted forth, some landed on the invisible humanoid who bolted for the trap door below, with most of the party following (Chhakuk remained behind in an effort to heal Caromac – something that proved to be in vain as the dagger must have been poisoned).

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Largely staying ahead of the party’s attacks upon him the invisible man (who seemed to be rambling to himself a bit) was chased downstairs and back across the bridge, where a trio of companions were waiting for him. Riska, being halfway across the bridge when the man reached them was the only member of the party to get a good look at them: a varisian female, a pale skinned osiriani teenage girl holding a mace and shield, and an even paler skinned cloaked varisian male bearing a pair of shortswords. Each of them wore a pendant depicting a gagged skull – much like the one she’d found previously and left unmentioned.

As the invisible man reached the other side (with Riska midway across) he yelled out “Blow it”, which was followed by a loud explosion from the tower side of the bridge, causing it pathway to fall out from under Riska. Thinking quickly Riska was able to leap and grab a hold of the other side of the bridge, but upon climbing up she was instructed by the cloaked man to “jump” and she found she did not have the willpower to resist. Upon jumping though she was able to latch her rope and grappling hook onto something as she fell, catching herself in midair while the water rushed below.

While this was occurring, the tower began to crumble, and those left on the other-side were left with no exit but the river below. Chhakuk attempted to convince the Beast, who sat cradling the corpse of the Count bellowing in agony, to run but he could not break the creature’s grief. Running below to join the rest of the party (except Riska) they came up with a plan to tie themselves together with rope, have Simkin cast feather fall, and then jump into the river below – a plan they enacted just at the tower began to crumble behind them. Riska seeing her companions fall decided to take the risk, and joined them in the icy waters below.

Swept down stream, split up, and exhausted the party found themselves on the beaches along the Lesser Moutray River. Those no knocked unconscious by the ride down the river were still exhausted and some time passed before they had a chance to regroup – and by this time the affliction set on Baelor by the vargouilles’ kiss had made itself known. The party found him in a field chasing a local farmer boy half out of his mind, his hair now missing from his head, ears growing into leathery wings, tentacles sprouting on his chin and scalp, and his teeth becoming long, pointed fangs. In an effort to subdue him (which they succeeded in doing), Simkin let loose a fireball, raining sparks down upon a field of grain near ready for harvest – setting it a fire. Turning their attention to this sudden new threat, the rushed to put out the fire, but before doing so much of the crop had been destroyed.

As they stripped Baelor of his gear (like the amoral bastards they are – I should cross out the word “Good” on all of your alignments1) they were confronted by the boy’s father, the owner of the wheat they just burnt to the ground. The skirted the issues as much as they could, providing Baelor as a manual labourer given that he was the reason Simkin used a fireball (surreee). Not really giving the farmer a chance to argue they took off back to Lepidstadt as quickly as possible.

Once there they visited Judge Daramid and collected their reward. Explaining to her the events of the past few days, she offered to write them a letter to help seek entrance to the lodge the Count mentioned, and gave them some loose directions. With this in hand they took a few days to rest, less treasures, and gather supplies, and then set off to the Shudderwood in hopes of catching the bastards that killed the count.

1 Like I really should this whole thing was a pretty shitty to do.

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TotB: Recap of Day 009 (pt 1)
Schloss Caromarc - Part 4: The Menagerie & Tower

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Rising early the following the morning the party began to slowly and carefully make their way up the winding path to the north of the museum ending up in front of a large building made up of four interconnected towers right along the cliff side 200ft above the falls. Approaching the building, they descended a small stairway to a recessed iron door, from under-which water could be seen trickling and circling a small drain. Collectively they forced the door open, which was followed by a rush of water that had been pressing up against and rusting the door. Once settled the water proved to be about 3ft deep.

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Entering the flooded building the found what they assumed was once the main stairwell of the building filled with broken rock, blocking any entrance to the second-level. With water flowing from hallways to both the east and west. Picking one, they began to make their way down the corridor and upon reaching a corner set off a pit trap that had been rigged above a former drainage grate. With the path now open, the lot of them were sucked into a sewer room underneath containing a large mound of garbage and pair of tentacled beasts known as otyughs. Pulling themselves out of the water, avoiding a possible death by being sucked through a grate to the river below, they fought off the beasts, and climbed back up to the room above.

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Making their way though the rest of the building, they found it to be something of a personal zoo made up of four distinct enclosures. Taking advantage of second-floor entrances to the enclosures the fought some of inhabitants (three girallon-headed vargouilles1, a basidirond paired with two violet fungi, and some form of basilisk) while avoiding others (a black pudding). Exiting the building on the eastern side of second floor they found themselves at the edge of a 3ft-wide grand stone bridge that arched over the gorge to a high tower topped with an elaborate iron steeple, from which a huge lightning conductor called out to the skies.

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Crossing they found a stout, iron-bound, locked door leading into the tower, and once picked and opened they found themselves in a circular room containing a curving stone staircase winding along the wall up to a trapdoor in the ceiling some thirty feet above. The room was in a state of chaos – books, alchemical equipment, and bits of curiously twisted metal everywhere. A huge, broken cage stood in the centre of the room, its bars bent and door smashed open, not far from which stood a fearsome, four-armed flesh golem that appeared to have been made from dead girallons. Bellowing in anger it rushed the party who responded quickly – using the stairwell to their advantage they surrounded the beast and took it down.

Now having time to examine the contents of the room. Among the torn pages and books in this room the found a collection of soiled and torn notes pinned to the back of the entry door. Virtually illegible the notes appeared to once be a collection of notations and diagrams, with marks made in the margins in red ink. While most of the party hung back trying to help Simkin decipher any of the note, Riska made her way upwards – finding the trapdoor being made of solid adamantine, unlocked, and untrapped. Opening it she found herself in a circular room choked in webs. As with the room below, a stone staircase curved along the wall to a trapdoor in the ceiling.

Cutting away the webs as she explored, muttering to herself about this foolish endeavour of finding Count Caromarc they’d ended up on, she was taken by surprise as a vaguely humanoid creature is about the size of a cat but looking more like a toothy, winged devil (later identified as a homunculus known as Waxwood) appeared out of nowhere. When it didn’t immediately attack her she became intrigued as not only was it docile but it seemed as though it wanted to she her something. Dragging her over to a wall and frantically pointing it her new companion pointed out something Riska had missed – a number of faint chalk marks on the east wall of the room. From what she could make our, the crude chalk diagram depicted the iron spire atop of the tower, and two strange apparatuses at its pinnacle. An arrow pointed to the larger of the two devices, next to a barely legible sentence: “The Storm Caller must be activated to energize the Bondslave Thrall.”

Calling the rest of the party (spending the time to assure Waxwood that they meant him no harm), Simkin began to study the markings, but was only able to make a minute more amount of sense out of them. Clearly the Storm Caller referred to the lightning rod, but as to what the “Bondslave Thrall” was – he could only surmise that it must be some device attached to the rod, but its purpose… he was not sure beyond some sort of slave controller (this really didn’t happen this way, but it makes for better reading). As the party began to move upwards, Waxwood became agitated – pointing frantically to the ceiling above and pantomiming. The best they could deduce was that there was some fearsome creature as well as someone imprisoned.

As most of them discussed what to do, one of them grew tired of waiting (I feel like it may have been Baelor… or maybe Kayl he’s a bit of a smash first fellow), and rushed forward – climbing up to and opening the trapdoor in the ceiling. Poking their head in this person found the room above, clearly once a laboratory, was choked with huge webs – even more so than the room below and two curious objects — a large iron idol and a glass bell jar of the same size containing a humanoid form — stood against the eastern wall. Along the southern wall an iron ladder, next to which was a metal lever, climbed some 60 feet upwards to a trapdoor in the ceiling, only made visible by the light escaping from around it’s cracks. The rest of the ceiling was cloaked in a darkness from which huge chains hung somewhat flaccidly.

With the party now shuffling into this ruined lab, the creature hiding in the webs in the ceiling could now see its prey. Bellowing with rage, a stitched abomination made from the parts of at least half a dozen creatures blended together into a disgusting mass of unlife descended from it’s perch. What followed was a long and arduous battle, while half of the party engaged the creature directly, the other half climbed to the roof, opening the shutters that served as the laboratory’s ceiling in the process. Once there they found the roof, 350ft above the river below, gave access to a spire of twisted iron in a series of three triangular iron platforms. Perched at the very top stood a huge lightning conductor and numerous lightning rods. Climbing to the top they found a peculiar brass device, studded with dials and protrusions and filled with a strange purple liquid attached to a huge silvery conductor on the side of the lightning rod connected by thick, rubber-coated cables.

Deducing these were the Storm Caller and the Bondslave Thrall, Simkin set about activating them. First turning on the device attached to the lightning rod, the hum of which began to summon bolts from the heavens, some hitting the rod while others the rooftop. The second device now powered added its own high-pitched whine while the purple alchemical liquid inside it began to boil rapidly. Unsure what to do next, Riska grasped one of the handles of the second device and at that very moment became immediately aware of the the Beast of Lepidstadt, taking in it’s surrounding and even feeling some of its pain and misery.

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No longer in prison (they would learn later that it had freed itself the night they’d left Lepidstadt), it had been sleeping only a few miles upstream. Calling out to it with her mind it responded immediately as if it was in her direct control. Racing towards and climbing in the tower, it brought all it’s great might against the horrific abomination that had the bulk of the party on the precipice of death. After trading blows a top the roof, and finding themselves fairly matched Riska let the Beast control itself. Pulling on all it’s reserves the Beast gave a mighty shove and pushed horror off the side of the roof into the river below.

1 This encounter was of particular note as Baelor was kissed by one of the vargouilles, something the ramifications of which would not immediately be clear.

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TotB: Recap of Day 008 (pt 2)
Schloss Caromarc - Part 3: The Living Museum

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Facing the slender rope bridge hanging between this building and another on the far western side of the gorge, the party slowly and carefully attempted to cross. For the nimbler members of the party this meant slow and planned crossing. For others it was more of a crawl. As the first party member made it midway across the bridge an unforeseen magical trap sprung, summoning a fierce fallen angel known to the party as an erinyes. Cackling with glee upon seeing the “fun” she’d been summoned to partake in, she flew high above the gorge and began shooting flaming arrows at those on the bridge. Those who had made it across began providing suppressing fire to help their companions still on the bridge, as well as Riska venturing back out onto the bridge to help those who remained across.

With all party members across they rushed forward and luckily found that the doors to this new building were unlocked. Bursting through as she landed on the broken abutment behind them, they found themselves in a room crammed with cabinets full of weird, alchemically preserved creatures, including a pair of ice mephit wings, several large spiders, parts of a dissected giant slug, and the digestive tracts and proboscises of three stirges (I’m sure they shivered with disgust at the mention of stirges). Thinking quickly they manoeuvred cabinets in front of the doors just as she began to bang on them. Using all of their might they held her back long enough for the spell that summoned her to expire.

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After taking a brief moment to breathe, they pilfered some vials from this room, quickly healed and opened the door on the southern wall finding themselves in a room seemingly dedicated to creatures of the sea. Domination their attention was the skeleton of a sea cow hanging from the ceiling, but after taking that in they found that numerous jars sat on shelves within the room, containing alchemically preserved octopodes, tubeworms, the head of a skum (a hunchbacked, green-skinned humanoid has a wide, frog-like head), an eel-like creature with fangs, and a strange, mermaidlike creature with the upper body of a monkey and the tail of a fish, which they identified as a ningyo.

While they found little of value among the shelves, Riska found a spiral staircase leads up to a second floor, hidden behind a secret door. Climbing the stairs they found a room similar to the one below, but this time dedicated to creatures of the air. Three dissected, preserved harpies sat in huge bell jars in this room, along with jars containing four stuffed bats, the skeletal front legs and head of a griffon, and the preserved wing of a roc which was slowly losing its feathers. A door lead north from here while a ladder lead up from here to a trapdoor in the ceiling. As Riska climbed the ladder she found it to be armed with a magic trap that was beyond her skills to disarm.

Unable to head upwards without entering immediate danger, they opened the northern door and found the large room on the other side to be crammed with crates and boxes. Being the greedy buggers they are, the party of misfits began to dig into the crates finding them containing many curious like they saw on display in previous rooms – animal bones, stuffed birds, and many more preserved creatures. Upon opening one of the large chests in the southern portion of the room, out of it flew the animated severed heads of two medusae which attacked the party on sight. Fortunately the party was able to defeat these beasts without being turned to stone. Unfortunately they found nothing of value.

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Returning below they found the ocean room contained new occupants, a faceless flesh golem chained to which were six imp-like creatures identified as homunculi. As the museum’s guardian began to swing semi-blindly at the party, unintentionally smashing some of the contents of the shelves, the party set about tackling the beast front on. It wasn’t until the incidental death of one of the creature’s homunculi did they realize that such an action would weaken the beast. Refocusing their efforts on these much weaker targets they fell the beast without hurting themselves too badly.

Once again they healed quickly and this time exited the room to the west, finding yet another room of organized displays – a stuffed bulette so realistic that it at first seemed alive faced the entrance, while cabinets along the walls contained a partially dissected bugbear, a partially transformed doppelganger, and a complete goblin dog, all preserved in alchemical fluids.

Finding nothing of use, they exited the room to the north and found themselves in a room is filled with weird-looking preserved creatures. Two elaborately carved and painted sarcophagi stand against the eastern and western walls, while a pile of chains laid in the centre of the floor. In the north west corner of the room a stairwell could barely be spotted from the entrance. As they made their way into the room a mummy launched itself out of the western sarcophagi, and after they spread out to face the mummy they found the eastern sarcophagi was not what it appeared as it began to attack the party (who promptly identified it as a mimic). Burning through nearly the last of their prepared resources they felled the creatures, and explored this room and the one below.

In the main-floor room they found little of interest, but below they found a storage room containing three large and empty crates, along with three large, sealed, opaque black glass jars. Baelor decided to open one such jar, and found within it the alchemically preserved head of a creature so revolting that he was instantly weakened (strength damage bitch). For some reason he blamed Riska and they got into yet another loud argument that had to be diffused by the other party members who had now began to question having brought Baelor with them.

Returning above they opened the northern door of the room that contained the mummy, and on the other side found themselves outside and in front of an exposed, winding, narrow pathway that climbs the bare rock face north, presumably to the buildings they could see off in that direction. Deciding that they were too taxed, and that they museum was now (relatively) safe, they holed up on the upper floor, hiding the entrance, and hoping nothing horrible would come before morning.

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TotB: Recap of Day 008 (pt 1)
Schloss Caromarc - Part 2: Manse & Alchemy Wing

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Rising the next morning rested despite the cold hard floor of the mansion’s gatehouse, the party proceeded once more to the locked entrance. Knowing now what to look for Riska identified that the trap had not reset itself, and that the door was clear for her to take her time with. After a few minutes of working, she popped the lock and the door opened into a large entry chamber. Therein a huge portrait hung above an enormous, lit fireplace with exits north directly to the left or right. A set of steep stairs rises to the right, alongside a door leading east.

As they entered a strange animated object of metal and flesh lumbered out from under the stairs and immediately attacked them. The creature, a mixture of metal and organics, initially seeming more for decoration than for a purpose. Awkwardly hobbling over to the party on it’s two huge, scythe-like forearms, and slamming into the party, defending it’s home.

    After defeated the construct, the party began to explore the mansion, finding no further resistance in this building. Within they found:
  • A library with shelves crammed with books line the walls of this room with a comfortable leather chair sitting in the room’s centre
  • A cramped, tobacco-stained room smoking room wherein two plush chairs sat around a small lit fire. Numerous tobacco jars stood on a shelf next to a pipe rack filled with strange pipes.
  • A pair of trophy rooms, crammed with taxidermied animals and stuffed heads.
  • A billards room with a large table filling up most of the chamber, a rack of cues on one wall, and a brass and gold score checker hung by the door
  • A dining hall with a vaulted ceiling adorned with gilt. Filled with a great dinging table, twelve chairs, and a huge lit fireplace on the far wall, above wich hung a pair of halberds
  • A group of four storerooms crammed with items in boxes and on shelves – one room containing household wares, one wine, one foodstuffs, and coal in the final one
  • A large kitchen containing a roaring stove, several workbenches, and a spice cabinet. A bell hung above the stove.
  • A pair of unoccupied guest bedrooms with white sheets cover the four-poster bed, wardrobe, and dressing table in these luxurious guest rooms that are rarely used. A locked door in the southern room lead out to a narrow stone balcony with no handrails.
  • A room containing 3 simple cots are arranged within this chamber with numerous drawings (depicting a stone bridge) and books littering a nearby table.
  • A tidy master bedroom containing a resplendent four-poster bed surrounded by oak furniture wherein they found a hidden (and trapped) cupboard containing some items of note, including a figurine of wondrous power (ivory goats).

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Finding no evidence of living inhabitants, they pushed forward and exited the mansion via a northern door that opened onto a narrow, 3ft wide, stone bridge without a handrail. Once again, far below the roaring river waters thundered as they were drawn over the edge of the falls. Taking their time they carefully made their way across they found themselves in a large workshop with alchemical equipment strewn all about the floor, which they assumed was caused by an explosion of some kind that ripped away the western wall and floor, and has since started being repaired as indicated by the area being wreathed with scaffolding. A hallway lead off to the west. Upon entering the room a group of rust monsters scurried out from under some of the rubble and below the scaffolding and set their focus on the tasty morsel that was Kayl’s wardrobe.

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After dealing with them, Kayl was left with damaged armour, and a room that had barely survived the chaos of the combat. Having a moment to breathe and not wanting to press their luck staying in the ruined building, they took the western hallway and found themselves in front of a slender rope bridge hanging between this building and another on the far western side of the gorge.

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TotB: Recap of Day 007 (pt 2)
Schloss Caromarc - Part 1: Arrival

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As the party arrived at their destination, the fens gave way to a deep, rocky gorge at the northern edge of the swamp, where a peculiar group of buildings, clung to the steep cliff edges above half a dozen plummeting waterfalls. Beyond a fortified gatehouse, they could see a stone bridge arching over the raging torrents below. Beyond this was a fine, fortified manse and beyond that across yet another stone bridge a ruined building that appeared to have partially collapsed into the river below. From there a slender rope bridge lead west to a strange tower pierced with beautiful stained glass windows depicting bizarre beasts. A further building could be seen to the north of this, but how it could be reached was impossible to see from their vantage point. And even beyond that, the a great tower rose from an isle of stone to the sky, ending in a great steeple topped with a huge lightning conductor.

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Approaching the two-story stone gatehouse leading to the castle, each corner of which was topped with a crenellated tower, the found the main gate is closed, and guarded by two large, troll-like canines with oversized jaws, creatures identified as trollhounds. Upon seeing the party the trollhounds howled balefully, raising attention from those in the tower, and attacked the party. No long into the fight did several trolls gather atop the parapets of the gatehouse, two of which promptly began throwing rocks down upon the party, while the third, who was larger than the others, took his time notching bolts into a monstrous crossbow and launching them at the party.

Now under constant fire, the party dispatched the hounds as quickly as possible and moved to enter the gatehouse only to find it barred from within. Collectively they threw all the strength they could muster against the door, and burst through to find a broad chamber with a vaulted roof and three somewhat frightened (albeit ready to fight) goblins inside. Two large fires burned in the room, spiral stairways climbed up in each corner toward the ceiling, and the gate on the far side of the room was barricaded with timber and furniture. The bulk of the party ran up the stairs to deal with the trolls, while a few remained downstairs to dispatch the goblins, one of which surrendered rather than be killed.

As the rest of the party moved upstairs to case the area (and look for treasure) Riska began to interrogate the goblin, who readily revealed that he hated the trolls and happy that they were now dead. He readily informed Riska that group of humans left the area some time ago, he didn’t understand why the trolls did not attack and no information as to what the humans looked like (as all humans look alike to goblins). He also explained that on the other side of the barricade were another troll and trollhound keeping an eye on a monstrous dog across the bridge guarding the mansion. For her surprising kindness, he gave her a small amulet depicting a gagged skull that he found in the gatehouse and pocketed. Later on, when she revealed the amulet to the others they identified the gagged skull as the symbol of the Whispering Way – the cult that was responsible for the death of their late friend. Letting him go, the remainder of the party returned having found nothing above outside of items on the larger troll’s corpse, and searched the main room finding a few items of value, including a stained and ragged gray tunic with blue trim among the items found the barricade (unfortunately for them they didn’t figure out the significance of it).

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Clearing the blockage away, and opening the door they took the troll and trollhound on the other side by surprise, and quickly dispatched them. With that dealt with, they could now take in the broad stone terrace. Having no rails along its edges, and across it to the north, the 10ft wide stone bridge (also without rails) arched above a waterfall that drops into the river two hundred feet below leading to a fortified manor house clinging to the cliff on the far side, guarded by yet another beast similar to the one they encountered outside of Vorkstag and Grine. As they made their way across, the beast attacked trying to force them off into the river below. Miraculously this didn’t happen – they pushed back and watched the beast tumble below.

Now having time to take in the other side of the bridge, they found themselves on another small cobbled terrace with a curious looking iron door depicting a scowling sun being devoured by ravenous clouds. Finding the iron door to be locked, they first searched the area and found a hidden bell-pull hanging by the eastern side of the door. Pulling the bell, sound could barely be heard beyond the door, but nothing of note happened. With no other options left, Riska attempted to pick the locked door, and in the process set off a trap, summoning a Huge air elemental to repel them. Once again a miracle occurred (I wonder how….), and they defeated the elemental by exhausting the last of their resources.

Clear that they would no longer be able to find Caromarc and return before the Beast’s execution, they made the decision to make camp in the guardhouse and continue into the mansion on the following day – hoping to clear the creature’s name posthumously. Plus they wanted the gold from Daramid.

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TotB: Recap of Day 007 (pt 1)
The Trial Completes

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For the final day, the party was ready and waiting to deliver the evidence they found related to Karb Isle, and Vorkstag and Grine the moment the courthouse was open for the day. Again the party was split up, with one of them staying in the defence chambers and the rest taking seats among the rabble, who seemed somewhat terrified of them, unsurprising given the events of the night before. Yet again the same members of court were gathered, the Beast was once more brought in and shackled, all rose for the prayer to Iomedae lead by The Holy Sister of Justice, and then the chief justice gave his brief preamble concerning today’s case the related charges. He also noted in the speech that as this would be the last day of the trial, closing statements would follow as well as adjournment while the judges deliberated. On a final note he clearly outlined, again given the events of the night before, that he would not see mob rule take over Lepidstadt, and that the decision the judges arrive on must be respected by the populace.

Once the prayer was complete opening statements were once again held. Otto Heiger outlined the case for the prosecution, describing the details the arson attack on the hospital of Sanctuary on Karb Isle 4 months ago. Otto alleged that the Beast set fire to the building, murdering Doctor Brada and his patients in the process, and stated that only Brada’s loyal assistant Karl survived. Otto called Karl to the stand to give his evidence, during which it was pointed out the harassment lobbed his way by members of the party working for the defence.

Following this, Kaple called the party’s witness to the stand, and they presented the evidence that they had found at Karb Isle, linking Vorkstag and Grine to the site. What followed was a detailed explanation of the party’s well meaning trespassing at the factory in Lepidstadt, the capture of Grine, the death of Vorkstag, and the evidence of illicit activities they found within. At this point, Grine was brought out to the witness stand, where he begrudgingly admitted to his and Vorkstag’s involvement in the events at Karb Isle as well as at Morast. The prosecution held a short cross examination, outlining that this confession was clearly made under duress.

With all evidence and witnesses exhausted, the closing statements began with the prosecution asserting that the Beast is a danger to society, and is a monster that should be destroyed. He recommending punishment in accordance with traditional law—execution by burning in the Punishing Man. Gustav countered this with the assertion that the prosecution’s evidence was not enough to prove the Beast guilt and recommended that the Beast be freed immediately. The trial now complete, Chief Justice Khard announced the end of the trial as he and the other justices departed to deliberate.

Approximately an hour after the justices left to deliberate, they returned looking grim. The Herald calling for order, the crowd hushed immediately, and Chief Justice Khard stood to announce the verdict. He stated that the justices had deliberated upon the evidence they had have heard, expressing their collective shock at the details of the events, and stating that given all that they heard, while they no longer believe he acted alone, they must find the Beast guilty of the majority of counts of murder for which he was on trial. As such, it was in the court’s judgement that the creature would be taken to the Punishing Man at dawn on the following, where it would be burned to death, adding “And may ”/wikis/pharasma" class=“wiki-page-link”> Pharasma have mercy upon its soul, if it has such a thing.”

With the trial over the crowd gathered in the viewing balcony let out many an excited cheer, and all but the party rushed their way out immediately to spread the news. With the room now largely empty, the sobs of the poor beast could be clearly be heard. Looking up at the party as he was dragged away in chain he yelled to them “Help me! Go to ”/characters/alpon-caromarc" class=“wiki-content-link”>Caromarc. He can save me! He can prove I didn’t do it!". Given their confidence in his innocence after investigating, the party found this quiet a depressing outcome – and yet they were intrigued as to who this “Caromarc” was.

With their task complete, and having tried their best they returned to Daramid for the promised reward. Once there she asked one final favour – Daramid requests that they party acts on the Beast’s final desperate screams. Being foreigners, the explains to them that Caromarc either refers to the former count of Vieland, Alpon Caromarc, and that he should be found his ancestral castle north of Lepidstadt, Schloss Caromarc. She offered them an additional monetary reward to do so, and as such they promptly set off.

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TotB: Recap of Day 006 (pt 4)
Vorkstag and Grine - Part Two

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With the upper level of the factory almost completely rooted through, the party opened the final door (the northern one) off the iron walkway hanging above the bubbling vats. In the room beyond the found room similar to Grine’s and yet very different. While Grine’s room was filled with the chaos of jarred horrors this appeared to be the study of a scholar: a roll-top desk with a leather chair stood against one wall, holding a variety of alchemical equipment, hundreds of books laid piled on every available surface, and a narrow cot was found nearly-crushed into one corner behind a wall of books. Yet another door, this one locked, provided an exit north.

Finding nothing of particular use in the room proper, Riska began to pick the lock on the northern door, but found it well beyond her skill. With the trial looming over their heads, the party decided they had little option and had Kayl bash the door down with his mighty strength. Curiously beyond the locked door, laid a tiny room holding but a single object — a large oak cabinet. Opening it they found it to be a true cabinet of horrors, as within they found nearly a score of flayed skins, hanging like empty sacks of flesh. Holding back their sick, they flipped through the skins, finding many to be the skins of mundane people – regular men and women. Most shocking of all was one skin that was not of that ilk, as handing at the front of all the skins was the grotesque, deformed skin of a 8-foot-tall mongrelman, made up of flesh, fur, and scales and covered with fungal boils and hideous puss-filled eruptions.

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Disgusted by and unsure what to make of their find, made their way back and carefully descended down to the floor of the factory from the iron walkway – hoping to find more clues below. For the first time exploring the factory, the party made few discoveries, only a single unexplored exit to the east laid before them, and the door to access it was locked. Fortunately for the party this lock was not beyond Riska’s abilities, and it was opened within minutes of her starting work on the lock. Entering the room they found it to contain several dozen crates packed for shipping (similar to those Baelor found on the upper floor), a few coffins (disturbingly they were both empty and used), lots of straw, and several huge bell jars. Searching for items they might be of use, they found the crates to hold five pots of bladeguard, 10 doses of bloodblock, 5 applications of silver weapon blanch, 5 applications of cold iron weapon blanch, and a single application of adamantine weapon blanch.

With the only remaining exit being a pair of double doors exiting south, they tested them and finding them unlocked opened them – beyond laid a 10ft wide stairwell leading downwards to yet another pair of large iron double doors on the south wall, and on the wall near the doors hung a 10ft gaff. Proceeding with caution they descended and opened those doors to find a large chamber who’s floor was hidden beneath some unknown depth of murky water and filled with dozens of floating pale cadavers. The air in this room was still and quiet, broken only be the sound of water lapping against the stonewalls, or the noise of the bodies bumping into each other or the walls. Horrified by what they found, and fearing worse if they’d continued to investigate the pool (as corpses have a bad habit of coming back to life) they returned to the storage room above, closing the doors behind them.

Baffled as to where to go next, the party began to search the storage room for some clue they may have missed. After spending 5 to 10 minutes searching Riska discovered what appeared to be a door hidden in the eastern wall of the room. With a bit of additional tinkering she was able to swing it open, and to reveal a room filled with grisly things in jars, two complete skeletons of monstrous creatures, a coffin, and a handcart over which was hunched a gaunt humanoid stripped of its skin, its pulsing dark pink muscles completely exposed. Throwing a bag from the cart of its shoulder, it launched itself at the party with claws popping out of it’s hands and vocalizing its displeasure at the party invading its sanctum (as this point they were fairly sure they were duelling Grine’s partner, Vorkstag). Just when it seemed as though that they had the upper hand, Vorkstag quaffed a potion of invisibility, and it was only with great luck that the party swung blindly and killed the creature, as a large pool of blood began to form on the floor.

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Finally having time to examine the contents of this room, the party found it to contain jars of various preserved specimens awaiting shipment, including a preserved drow head, a pickled pair of hill giant eyes, the half-changed head and spine of a wererat, and a trio of chuul tentacles. The party identified the skeletons to be those of a pair of owlbears, while the coffin holds the well preserved body of a dead man. A ledger sat in the handcart, listing all of the objects in the room, their buyers, and delivery destinations – all of which bound for high-paying scholars in Caliphas. Beneath the ledger laid a wand, identified to be a wand of gentle repose with 28 charges remaining.

With Vorkstag’s corpse still invisible, they examine the narrow corridor to the east which lead to a locked iron grille that Riska promptly picked open. Continuing not far beyond the grill the part found the tunnel joined with the local sewer, which Vorkstag and Grine had likely used as a path to move cadavers and merchandise through the city unseen. Returning to the room under the factory and the now visible body, they found multiple items of note (I’m not listing them all) including a set of keys, assuredly for the locks the party had already bypassed.

With his partner dead, the party returned to question Grine using that fact, what they found below, and some choice words to pressure him into confessing. He copped to Vorkstag and his involvement in both the events in Morast and Karb Isle, but claimed innocence with regards to any of the events in Hergstag. Hoping this was enough, and having no other leads, the party took Grine to the city jail where he would remain until the trial on the following day, and they returned to their inn for some well needed rest.

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TotB: Recap of Day 006 (pt 3)
Vorkstag and Grine - Part One

Returning to Lepidstadt to gather information on “Vorkstag and Grine” the party found the city in a state of chaos. A large mob had formed outside of the city’s courthouse demanding the end of the farce of a trial. Fired up on anger and strong cider, the mob had gathered torches and other improvised weapons and marched on the courthouse demanding that the Beast be burnt alive in the Punishing Man (the large wooden man being built in the centre of town) so that justice would be done.

It was at this point that the party met Baelor Raventooth, a drifter of an adventurer, who had recently wandered into town looking for more coin. Taking this as an opportunity to get in on some of the action, he joined the party in dispersing the crowd. At first they attempted reason, but when that failed the party dispatched a few of the ringleaders and Simkin dispersed the rest of the crowd by frighting (and not harming them) with a well placed fireball. With the threat dealt with for now, the courthouse guards that remained gave many thanks (given that they were way over their heads), and offered up the information the party had been searching for – that Vorkstag (a human) and Grine (a gnome) were well-respected merchants who run a a mundane chemical factory, Vorkstag and Grine’s Chymic Works. One of the guards, who lived in the area of the plant, also stated that he couldn’t recall ever seeing workers entering or leaving the plant, an how he’s always found that particularly odd. With this lead, and Baelor in tow, they headed off for the industrial area of town.

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It was not far into the industrial district before the party was able to see the tall iron chimney of their destination belching yellow clouds into the sky, as well as a tower topped by a lightning rod. As they got closer they were assaulted by acrid fumes coming from the chimney, identified by the party as a by-product of acid and bleach production. With a few more blocks, the (relatively) small brick factory was now right before them. Casing the place, they found the only entrance of the building to be on the other side of a courtyard surrounded by twenty-foot-high stone wall, topped with broken glass. Entry into the courtyard was accessible only via a large courtyard gate, over which hung a sign proudly proclaiming “Vorkstag and Grine, Chymic Works.” Unsurprisingly, the gate was barred.

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Smashing the gate open they were immediately confronted by the first actual sign that the place wasn’t on the level, as out of dog house in the courtyard came a beast that appeared to have been stitched back together from multiple hounds. While chained to its kennel in the south-east corner of the courtyard with a 20-foot-long chain, it easily engaged the party in combat as their ranged options were limited in the small space that made up the courtyard. A fierce battle ensued.

Once the beast was dispatched, they assessed their options – a locked door to the north, double doors to the east open, and above those a large set of doors on the second floor of the building. Thinking the eastern doors would be the best solution, given that they were unlocked, they opened them only to find a chamber containing numerous boxes, crates, and bales of straw for packing. Packing these boxes were three creatures identified as Mongrelmen, who immediately attacked the party yelling about “trespassing”. Fortunately these creatures were easier to deal with than the flesh golem dog in the courtyard, the party were soon able to get back to searching. While a pair of double doors lead east from this room, only to open into some stables which proved to be a dead end. Returning to the storage room, they began to crack open the boxes and found them to hold (in total): 12 vials of alchemist’s fire, 12 vials of liquid ice, 10 smoke pellets, 10 smokesticks, and six bottles of bleach with the same labels as the one found in the Sanctuary.

Returning to the courtyard, Riska set about picking the lock of the main entrance, and taking her time she was able to pop it. Opening the door they found themselves stepping into a large chamber that occupied the whole side of the building and onto a stone platform 15 feet above a floor below with a roof high above. On the floor below sat seven iron vats, each ten feet across, occupying the majority of floor space of the room. Each vat was bubbling from the heat provided by the furnaces heating them from below, causing the air in the chamber to be nauseatingly cloying and acidic. At ground floor level a series of planks (each just under a foot wide) had been laid across the vats to allow passage to a ladder that lead to an iron walkway on the level above. Two ladders also allowed access from the planks to the floor below.

While quietly observing they noted eight mongrelmen wearing cloth breathing masks attend the vats in this chamber – each heavily scarred by acid, making them even more horrid in appearance than most. Of the eight, three were clearly trusted with security as the seemed to be patrolling the room while the others directly worked the vats (although given the scars it was likely that this was a rotational duty). Just as they were descend the ladder to the floor below they were noticed by a small red-haired humanoid that had quietly exited onto the iron walkway above. Ordering the mongrelmen to deal with the intruders, the three responsible for security set on the party, and once it was clear that his guards would not prevail the red haired man retreated to one of the rooms off the walkway above. With the three security dispatched, the remaining five begged to be set free, and the party obliged.

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At this point, the party was faced with having to make their way across the narrow planks so that they could climb to the walkway above, knowing full well that the small humanoid, who they assumed was Grine given the description they were given, would be expecting them. Taking their time (and praying to the various gods that Grine wasn’t about to come back and start shooting at them) they made their way to ladder and up onto the iron walkway. There they found two doors leading east and one leading south. Opening the central door, they were immediately plunged into darkness and attacked by an unseen foe. What followed was much chaos, but fortunately the party was able to subdue Grine and miraculously without killing him in the process so they could question him – and question him they did, but got little in the response to threats and lacking any further evidence they left him tied up and continued to explore.

With the craziness of combat out of the way they could only now take in their surroundings, finding the room they entered to be as much an abattoir as a bedchamber. It contained not only a four-poster bed, but also numerous workbenches and alchemical gear. The walls were lined with shelves and strange looking objects in jars of liquid and a ladder provided access to a trapdoor in the ceiling.. Bits of rags littered the floor, and the air was even heavier than in the room with the vats – filled with the stench of spoiled food mixed with acrid chemicals. Among this room packed with curios, medical oddities, and the entire set up for a proper alchemist’s lab they found four vials of antitoxin and in on of the larger bell jars full of a liquid, which was deduced to be acid, the found a small golden key. Underneath the bed they found the chest the key belonged to. Setting Riska on it, she disabled not only the lock, but also the dust trap attached to it. Inside the chest they found 200 gp, four more vials of antitoxin, and a small purple velvet purse containing 4 small, cloudy diamonds.

While this was going on, Baelor had wandered off back to the walkway and into the room to the south. Therein he found a room overlooking the courtyard containing a retractable crane made of timber and iron crane, able to raise and lower goods from wagons below through a sliding wooden door. At the time of his entry the room contained only a few wooden boxes that he promptly searched, finding most of them full of nothing but straw. A few of them did contain some things of value: 12 vials of acid, 12 vials of nushadir, five tanglefoot bags, and three thunderstones. Returning to the rest of the party he made use of his masterwork cuffs and chained up Grine in the storage room.

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With Grine bound, they began to explore the room above Grine’s via the ladder and found themselves in a room filled with strange art and artifacts from distant lands, and another ladder leading upwards could be spotted across the room moments before they were attacked by a pair of red imp-like creatures. After dispatching them the party searched the room and among the mess of antiquities they found the following items of value: an ebony tribal mask from the Mwangi Expanse, a silver torc from the Lands of the Linnorm Kings, and a magical mammoth tusk scrimshaw from the Realm of the Mammoth Lords with several spells carved on its surface. The tusk weighed 20 pounds and was found to function as a magic scroll containing the spells bull’s strength, ice storm, and phantom steed.

Following the new ladder upwards, the party set off a trap creating a loud boom stunning both of them as well as another one of the imp-like creatures waiting for them above. Taking advantage of this they disabled the beast quickly, and made their way up into the room and found little more than some boarded up windows. And as such, they went back down to the iron walkway…

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TotB: Recap of Day 006 (pt 2)
Karb Isle Investigation

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Yet again over half the day was already gone the party immediately gathered after the trial, and set about working on the third investigation. Knowing that Karb Isle, the scene of the Beast’s final alleged crime, was razed nearly to the ground by the fire the party was once more faced with having to find the witness for the prosecution. As they set out from the courthouse to do this they found a smaller and not as unruly crowd had formed. While they had a bad feeling about this, they left their concerns to the city guard and set about trying to find Karl. With some plying – both verbal and monetary – they discovered that Karl now lived in a small cottage by the river in Lepidstadt.

Arriving at the cottage with their patience running thin after many long days of travel, they spent the next hour or so rudely interviewing (aka threatening) the blind man after he’d invited them into his home to break bread and drink wine. Despite all this, Karl did his best to tell the party what he knew, describing the last image he saw before the fire took his
sight — a shambling beast escaping the burning hospital while Karl tried to save his beloved master. He stated unequivocally that he believes that creature was none other than the Beast of Lepidstadt.

With this information in hand, they party set out to the ruins of the Karb Isle Sanctuary, 3 miles north of Lepidstadt along the Lesser Moutray river.

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Following a narrow track along the western shore of the river, they passed through depressingly gray marshland before arriving at the lonely ruins of Sanctuary on Karb Isle. The sad remains of the broken building laid on a spur of land jutting into the river (and thus not technically an island). The burnt timbers of a large house sagged into the undergrowth of nettles and thistles that had formed as nature had begun taking the charred ruin. Nearby, they noticed a small cluster of gravestones (12 in total) jutting from the weeds.

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Exploring the ruins of Sanctuary, they found them choked with fallen debris. Taking their time working through this dense rubble so to not cause more collapse or hurt themselves, the first thing of interest that they took notice of was a 3-foot-wide hole on the south side of the ruins, opening into a 15-foot deep stone-walled shaft. Five feet from the top of the shaft a stack of large casks sat to climb on. They surmised this was once a cellar entrance.

The second thing of interest they uncovered was a charred metal strongbox, warped by the heat of the fire. While the lock was fused shut by the heat, they were able to break it open without doing too much damage to the contents. Within they found multiple charred documents seemingly relating to the running of the sanctuary. While much of the documents contents were illegible, they were able to note that the words “Vorkstag and Grine’s Chymic Works” appeared an suspicious amount of times across almost all the documents.

Finding little else of use in the rubble, the party descended the shaft into the basement of the ruined sanctuary. Therein they found that the hospital’s damp cellar, which contained Dr. Brada’s private workshop, which while having escaped the fire remarkably unscathed appeared to be in utter mess, likely due to the group of ghasts that rushed the party immediately upon their entry. Surviving the assault of these monsterous creatures stinking of carrion, they began to search the cellar.

Immediately they noticed the ghastly (yuk yuk yuk) trophy made of burnt heads dangling on chains from an iron candelabrum near the entry shaft. Many of these heads sported physical deformities despite the charred state. Digging through the debris they found the following items of value: 12 silver crossbow bolts in a quiver, a slightly melted gold belt buckle, and an iron bracelet with silver filigree work depicting a moon eating an owl. Also among the ruins they found numerous shards of charred, broken glass, and in a corner they found one unbroken vial that has rolled into a corner. While the vial was now empty, and quite damp, the words “Vorkstag and Grine, Chymickal Bleach” are still clearly visible.

Having found little evidence concerning the actual fire the party decided to head back to the city before it go too late, and look into who these “Vorkstag and Grine” were.

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TotB: Recap of Day 006 (pt 1)
The Trial for Hergstag's Dead

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Once again, the party was ready and waiting to deliver the evidence they found in Hergstag the day prior the moment the courthouse was open for the day – albeit far more bleary-eyed as they had little time to rest between returning to town and having to make the delivery. Discussing what they’d found with Barrister Gustav Kaple, he reluctantly agreed to seek the court’s permission to cast Speak With Dead that day, stifling any qualms he had with the party’s actions – largely out of fear. Once again the party found themselves split up, with Chhakuk staying in the defence chambers and the rest taking seats amongst the rabble, who seemed noticeably less welcoming than the day before, but still reluctant to act on these feelings.

Yet again the same members of court were gathered, the Beast was once more brought in and shackled, all rose for the prayer to Iomedae lead by The Holy Sister of Justice, and then the chief justice gave his brief preamble concerning today’s case the related charges.

Once the prayer was complete opening statements were once again held. Otto Heiger outlined the case for the prosecution, describing the events that transpired in Hergstag 7 months prior, alleging that the Beast slew six children and, when caught, was driven from the village. Following him, Barrister Kaple yet again produced a loudly booed speech full of stutters and awkward pauses.

At this point witnesses for the prosecution were brought to to the stand. Otto called the former residents of Hergstag, the sisters Garrow, Starle, and Flicht, to give their eyewitness testimony of events in the village. Having heard thier story previously and not having anything of material to add, the defence passed on any questioning.

Following this Kaple called Chhakuk to the stand, and he presented the evidence that they had found. Casting Speak With Dead on Ellsa’s remains (much to the shock of the rabble) her spirit came forth and told the story of she and the Beast became friends. At time, the Beast of Lepidstadt was living by a small lake near Hergstag at the time and met Ellsa one warmer winter’s day when she’d wandered off exploring. The young child saw nothing wrong with the Beast’s terrifying appearance and the two became friends. The Beast found Ellsa to be a gentle, kind friend but begged her to keep his presence secret for fear of what her family might do. Months later Ellsa was lured to the hill by one of her “ghostly” friends, spawn of the wraith known as Brother Swarm, the Beast tracked her, but unable to touch the creature’s incorporeal form he could do little to help. The last thing Ellsa remembers of the Beast is watching it, stricken with grief, rescuing her pale body and heading off in the direction of the village.

Once again, at 2 in the afternoon, Chief Justice Khard announced the recess for the day, bringing the first day of the trial to a conclusion. As the Beast was led away, the crowd jeered even louder than before.

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