Once again they left town early that morning so to not overstay their welcome, once again following the old Mountain Road, which followed the river north east towards Lepidstadt. About two thirds of the way to the city, the road turned more directly north, no longer following the river banks due a boggy river valley taking shape along the river’s edge.
It was not far from here that the party encountered a caravan of nine covered Varisian wagons pulled by old worn out horses that had been pulled off to the side of the road. Approaching it to see if any aid was required, the found it to be home to the Crooked Kin, a troupe of performers and sideshow freaks who travel through Vieland and Lozeri entertaining the people of Ustalav. Each of the wagons gaudily painted and depict the show’s performers beneath the words, “The Crooked Kin — Ustalav’s Greatest Traveling Cabinet of Curiosities!”
As the party approached, they found the various members of the troupe are milling aimlessly around the stopped caravan. Two of the troupe’s pinheads are pacing back and forth crying and distraught, causing the a young furry boy to howl inconsolably. Two women; one tall and bearded, and the other is darker skinned with two extra arms; are attempting to console and calm them down, while the others were loudly arguing about what to do about someone named “Aleece”.
Asking if they could do anything to help, the party presence was finally noticed, and they were greeted by a gaunt albino man wearing a tall red top hat, a long red coat with gold buckles, and striped trousers. Introducing himself as Kaleb Hesse, the Ringmaster, he explains that one of the troupe’s pinhead sisters, Aleece, had recently wandered away from the caravan and was now missing.
With just the mention of her name the arguing started once more. A shockingly tall and ugly Ulfen man and a limbless Mwangi man argue that they have to mount a search party to find Aleece, while a short, hunched man and a trio of clowns, each with an extra limb, voiced their fears that whatever happened to Aleece might happen to them. At this moment, Kaleb ordered silence, and faced the party, begging them for aid, promising to reward them with a magical dagger if they can find the missing girl.
More than willing to take them up on their offer, the party ventured down into the boggy river valley. While Aleece’s tracks were easy to find, being fresh and the ground soggy, following them proved to be far more difficult – the soggy ground, dense vegetation, and constant annoyance from the midges keeping them moving only half as fast as normal. After following the tracks for about half mile, the tracks became too difficult to follow as the water grew deeper. Undeterred by this set back, they continued in the same general direction, and after about another hundred yards the bog opened into a cramped clearing filled with dismal-looking gray flowers, and on this firmer ground they found the tracks once more.
Not long after they entered the clearing did they hear a scream of a young girl in the swamp to the east, just beyond the clearing. Rushing into the swamp, they found nothing, and were only greeted with subsequent screams just beyond where they stood, causing the party to fan out trying to find the poor girl. With the party spread out, the beast stuck. Appearing out of seemingly nowhere came a 8 foot long spider-like monster with an eerie, humanoid face surrounded by a shaggy mane of fur. After one of their own had been subjected to the beast’s poisonous bite, the party clustered back into the clearing, as the beast disappeared once more. What followed what a somewhat prolonged battle, the spider jumping in and out of existence to take bites at the party, while they baited these actions so to have an opportunity to attack the beast. Eventually, although wounded, they prevailed – the beast disappeared once final time and did not return.
Now fearing the worst for Aleece, the party began to comb the clearing. No longer hurried they found what appeared to be tracks of something being drug out into the bug, and only a few yards beyond the clearing did they find the pinhead’s pale, broken body laying half-submerged in the mud and water. Along side her laid the remnants of the spider’s previous victims.
- Among the skeletons, they party found
- a potion of fox’s cunning
- a magnifying glass with a gold handle
- a small wooden box containing a set of brass weights
- a walnut travelling case with a pair of superior locks and their keys sealed in wax
- a jar of pickled garlic cloves
Finding only sorrow in the bog, the party returned to the Crooked Kin carrying Aleece’s lifeless body, providing them with much sorrow, but at least giving them some closure. Kaleb, clearly saddened by all of this, thanked the party profusely for their work, and true to his word offers them a +1 humanoid (shapechanger) bane dagger as a reward. At this time he once again asked them for a favour – seeing as both groups were heading to Lepidstadt, he hopes the party would be willing to travel alongside the show – he fears what may lay on the road ahead, stating that the Kin could not bare any more sorrow at the moment.
Seeing no harm in this, and taking pity on them, the party agreed, and with the caravan they arrived in Lepidstadt that evening, said their goodbyes to the show, and found themselves an inn to stay in until morning when they could deliver the books. The city proved to be a much less insular place than the other settlements they’d passed, and the night passed uneventfully and with some proper relaxation for once.