50 posts. Alias of Camris.
The Quartermaster, Lord Horgus is the first to return, his face a perpetual frown of disapproval.
"Yes, well, General Irabeth said this was an emergency. This is what I found I thought might be useful in your mission." He said, putting a locked chest on the table and opening it.
He pulls out a bandoleer for each of you, each one pre loaded with three potions of Cure Light Wounds, two potions of Cure Moderate Wounds, one potion of Lesser Restoration, one potion of Resist Energy:Fire, two smokesticks.
Horgus came into the command tent all covered in smoke stains. He sat down and held his head in his hands.
"Well, I suppose we should give thanks only seventy-five percent of our food supplies are burning.
"She was so helpful. She said the supplies had to be gathered centrally to protect them from raiders.." He muttered wearily.
Lord Horgus came out of the command tent and looked agape at the warehouse fire.
"Warehouse One! We need to put that fire out! HALF OUR FOOD SUPPLIES ARE IN THERE!" He shouted, then charged out shouting orders for soldiers to gear up for firefighting.
Irabeth pointed to a stout balding man dressed in rich robes.
"Lord Horgus Gwerm, Quartermaster and Chief of Supply."
The man half waived acknowledgement and looked like he was distracted by a thought he didn't like.
"At the very least a full refund for what we all paid for passage would be a step in the right direction."
Captain Veane frowned.
"You astonish me sir! Have you forgotten you didn't just save our ship, but your own lives as well? Why should I have to pay for that? It was a public service!"
He said, pounding the table for emphasis.
Captain Veane pulled out a heavy presentation box of fine mahogany.
"I found this the first place I looked; under a plank in his cabin.
I know a man like that would want something up front."
He opened it, and there, rack upon rack, there were one hundred gold coins. He picked one out and held it up to the light; and it glistened with that lovely yellow color.
"One hundred golden sovereigns. Chelaxian; and brand new to boot." He put it back and then slid the case over to you.
"I think you should have it. You did save the ship after all. And, I don't want to be holding it if whoever paid that thug come looking for it."
The Captain nodded.
"And so you shall sir. Not least of which is all of us keep our heads when the agents of the Mordent Spire come calling to find out what happened to their Ambassador...
"But first, we need to clean up. I need to do a little searching, because whats in his belt pouch cannot be all he was paid.
"At eight bells (after dusk), join me in my cabin."
With that he set the crew to work clearing the deck and hoisting sails up to the spars again.
"Well done sir. Well done." Said Captain Veane.
Slotting the belaying pin back in its notch, he casually spit on the body of his former first mate.
"I knew the rat was ambitious, but this..." He waived his arms about. "Selling out our passenger to his political enemies for money. Well, I suppose it's not THAT unknown, but there is taking greed beyond the pale! People that hire such things don't want anyone left to testify either, the stupid fool.."
'I was also thinking we could use your cabin to go over and get your opinion on the evidence we have so far. I can speak to where all these folk were and this seems a place farthest away from listening ears on the ship.'
Captain Veane looked at Thurden for a long moment. Then he looked out of the windows overlooking the sea.
Finally he grunted assent.
"Very well then. If you think it will help."
Veane fixed Sunny with cold eyes.
"Was there something else?" he asked, clearly willing you to leave now.
The skritching of the Captain's pen stops. Slowly Captain Vean's eyes turn towards you all.
"You can help," He said clearly "by finding the murderer. For everyone's sake.
Gritting his teeth with fury, Captain Veane turned sharply on he heel and stormed out of the cabin, knocking gawkers aside as he did.
Captain Veane leapt toward the bed, turned Sephriel over and felt for signs of life. Finding none, the captain shook his head and looked gloomily down at the corpse.
"...Marius, keep an eye out for if anything breaks through that ice."
Looking dubious, Marius just nodded.
He said, turning his gaze to the ice plug overhead.
The Captain nodded.
"And Madame Mavato is also under the weather with the same thing.
"Very well, no sense on waiting for anyone else. I will call for the main course." He said, reaching out to ring a ships bell sharply.
"Now then, I believe I owe Master Thurden an answer as to our course. It is fairly basic; we'll be following the coast of the Mwangi Expanse south, dodging the Eye of Abendego and around the Shackles to the town of Eledar on the coast of Sargava.
"Not a straight course by any means, but still reasonably safe if we don't cut any corners."
Captain Kovack Vean
'I was in a bit of a hurry before I climbed aboard. What's our route down south?'
The Captain held up his hand to Thurden.
"A moment if you would. Let the others make their introductions first."
At this point, the richly dressed man you saw on deck ordering people thrown overboard swept in and took his place at the head of the table.
"Greetings to you all.
"I am Kovack Vean, and I have the honor of being the Captain of the good ship the Throaty Mermaid. On behalf of the ship and crew, I bid you welcome."
"Now, as we were... compelled to shove off earlier than I had anticipated, perhaps we should begin by formally introducing ourselves." He said, gesturing vaguely in your direction.
The Captain staggered to his feet.
"That is IT!" He bellowed in a surprisingly loud voice.
"Put out those fires! Cast off! And ANYBODY WITHOUT A TICKET GOES OVER THE SIDE!!"
The sheriff goggled at the evidence.
"I can't... I can't believe it! I've met young Foxglove. He's well regarded around town. He can't possibly have anything to do with... all this bloody murder!"
He frowns in thought.
"But we can't overlook this either. We have to look into this." He muttered.
He turned to you.
"We have to follow this up. But quietly.
"I'm delegating YOU all," He said, pointing to each one of you individually. "To go to the Foxglove manor and find out if he really has something to do with this.
"You have carte blanche to solve this, but I want EVIDENCE.
"The people are already up in arms, and ready to throw the lot of US on a bonfire if we can't PROVE who did it."
When you report to the sheriff, he frowns and turns to a big map of the area with a bunch of colored pins stuck in various points.
"It's a good thing you're back. We've had a dozen attacks from those freak ghouls while you've been gone." He said grimly, pointing to pins stuck in the south, southeast and eastern areas outside of Sandpoint.
"Whatever the hell this is, it's spreading."
He turned to look at you seriously.
"Titus Scarnetti was found this morning in his office. All carved up like the others." He shook his head.
He held up a folder for you to take.
"We found this note pinned to him."
NOTE FOUND AT SCARNETTI MURDER
A man came up the ladderway onto the deck.
"What in the Name of Besmara is going..." He gets out, bewildered, before his is hit in the crotch by a passing Szarni and falls prone, swearing.
"Damn, damn, damn..." Horgus swore under his breath, looking through his papers.
"General Irabeth sir!" Horgus called out to Irabeth, looking frazzled as he bumped other officers aside in his haste.
"Can we detail troops to look for clean food and water? I was counting on my factor here to have supplies for us! It will take a day or two to do a complete job of it.
Looking around, he saw a lot of bored looks on the noble officers faces.
"Look, we have enough supplies with us for the week it will take for us to travel to Drezen, plus four and a half days of fighting. Without ALL these supplies we'll fall short!" He argued.
"I could use... holy scriptures of the gathered faiths of the crusaders here.
Horgus stiffened, then nodded slowly.
"Yes, yes of course. We have the basic holy texts, prayer books and hymnals of the major faiths involved in the Crusade, suitably bound for travelling.
"I... apologize to you for my reticence. I was not as courteous towards you and your friends as I perhaps should have been, given your rescue of us civilians from that black underground fate.
"It was something of a shock you know. I used to be rich and influential; and now, I am not. It is something of an adjustment.
"But why did you come to me for religious texts, and not Sir Sosiel, our Chaplain?"
The guy almost leapt out of his slippers at the sudden appearance of Ten-Penny.
"What the hell? What ruckus? Who are you?" He shouted, grabbing his rapier. "And how the HELL did you put a DOOR in my bedroom?"
Early one morning, you receive a visitor at the Sheriff's offices.
A historical scholar by the name of Brodert Quink saw your request for information about that odd star pattern you found at the crime scene at the Sawmill.
He shakes your hands eagerly.
"Bordert Quink! Professor of Thassilonian History! Honored, really honored to be of aid!
"Yes, yes, to business.
"Unfortunately, much of the lore about ancient Thassilon has been lost; what does remain has been gathered from barely legible carvings on the surviving monuments or extracted from the myths and oral traditions of Varisian seers and storytellers.
"What we know about Ancient Thassilon is that it was a vast empire ruled by powerful wizards.
"The sheer size of the monuments they left behind testifies to their power, and the unnatural way many of these monuments have resisted erosion and the march of time testifies to their skill at magic.
"Most sages place the height of the Thassilonian empire at 7,000 to 8,000 years ago, but I think the empire was even older—I suspect
it collapsed no sooner than ten thousand years in the past!"
He continues to natter on and on...
To those of you who don't tune out, you can tell that much of what Brodert has to say is vague theory based on conjecture—his belief that the Old Light was once a war machine capable of spewing fire from its peak is relatively unpopular among his peers, for example.
Yet he tells you a few things of interest about the star— namely, that it seems to be one of the most important runes of Thassilon.
The star itself is known as the “Sihedron Rune,” and signifies not only the seven virtues of rule (generally agreed among scholars to have been wealth, fertility, honest pride, abundance, eager striving, righteous anger, and rest), but also the seven schools of magic recognized by Thassilon (divination magic, Brodert points out, was not held in high regard by the ancients). Brodert notes with a smirk that much of what is understood about Thassilon indicates its leaders were far from virtuous, and he believes the classic mortal sins (greed, lust, pride, gluttony, envy, wrath, and sloth) rose from corruptions of the Thassilonian virtues of rule. In any event, the Sihedron Rune was certainly a symbol of power, one that may well have stood for and symbolized the empire itself. The fact that the killer carved it into the flesh of his victim might point to the fact that the murderer is some sort of scholar—although as soon as Brodert comes to this conclusion, he just as quickly proclaims himself to be innocent.
"Who made you.. I'd like a name and a description of him."
Doctor Habe looked confused.
He looked over at the body of the Necromancer.
"No, no. I mean he forced me! To help him!"
He pleaded eagerly.
He opens his eyes and blinks.
"What? Where? No. Oh no! Please! He made me! HE MADE ME!" He said desperately.
"Damn, damn, damn..." Horgus swore under his breath, looking through his papers.
"General Arthas sir!" Horgus called out to Arthas, looking frazzled as he bumped Irabeth aside. "Can we detail troops to look for clean food and water? I was counting on my factor here to have supplies for us! It will take a day or two to do a complete job of it.
"Look, we have supply with us for the week it will take for us to travel to Drezen, plus four and a half days of fighting. Without these supplies we'll fall short!" He argued.
Walking down the steps of the courthouse, you see with amazement that it is only about three o'clock in the afternoon! It felt like it should be closer to midnight.
The previously pleased crowd outside is now grumbling and glaring daggers at you. Metaphorically at the moment.
"Well my boys and girls, that went far better than I expected.
"We are still going to lose of course, but very well done!" Expanded Barrister Kaple.
"Now; tomorrows session will deal with the Children of Hergstag."
He ruffled through the papers in his briefcase.
"Now. It seems that the village’s children vanished one by one, only to return as ghosts. Then one day the culprit was found—the Beast of Lepidstadt. It boldly walked into the village with one of the dead children, a girl named Ellsa. The witnesses all recall seeing the Beast laughing as it carried the child’s broken body. As soon as the locals saw the Beast, they set upon it with pitchforks, but try as they might they couldn’t catch it, and the Beast escaped into the swamp. The poor innocents it killed continued to haunt the village, and before long became too much for the locals, who soon abandoned the cursed village."
As the distant cathedral bells toll the hour of 10am, the chief justice pounds the gavel thrice. The crowd quiets and everyone rises.
"Bring forth the Defendant." He intoned.
A squad of guards hauls the Beast into the court and shackles it to the large iron chair in the center of the courtroom. The Crowd jeers and catcalls, and a number of things are thrown at the Beast. These were easily fended off by the Holy Sister of Justice, those responsible were Held and the Chief Justice ordered them hauled off to a cell for Contempt in an abject demonstration of the Court's authority. The crowd quiets down at this, and the trial proceeded.
Looking rumpled in his robe after being woken from a sound sleep, Barrister Kaple met you in his parlor lighting candles.
"You are back! What was so urgent that it couldn't wait until morning? Have you found something?" He asked blearily.
Passing by the snickering guards, you ascend to the portico of the Courthouse. From there you can see the Punishing Man looming over the city square.
Barrister Kaple harumphs.
“Well then. In any case, I would suggest that you investigate the events in Morast first; as that evidence will be presented tomorrow, and it is only about eight miles out of town."
"Well, that went about as well as could be expected." Barrister Kaple said as he started shooing you back up the stairway.
"You certainly missed your calling as an interrogator Sir Christoph." He said to Christoph, with just a bit more sardonic emphasis than was strictly necessary.
Barrister Kaple spoke to the creature.
”Hello sir! I just stopped by to have you meet some of the people who will be helping me on your case.” He said in a friendly voice.
The creature flinched as if he was about to be whipped, then slowly turned his eyes towards the barrister in what looked like a hopeful gaze.
”Let me introduce Sirs Ereviss Ladyhunter, Agrimar Vaskel and Christoph Metzger; and here we have Ladies Rhia Van der Geist and Skiia Anamabon.” Kaple said, gesturing to you in turn.
Marius, not really understanding but relieved to be shed of the responsability, gives the pulsing black pearl to Bryson.
Marius' eye is caught by a blaze of energy through his Detect Magic.
Gingerly he approached Father Feres' body and peered down at it.
Using the tip of a wand he probed through the spilled entrails, poking through the broken remains of the gems that had been hidden in his gut the whole voyage.
Carefully he lifted the wand, on which rested what looked like a black marble, a marble that pulsed with black radiance. It looked remarkably like the one in Vanthus' image.
"Guys!" He called out. "I think we have another problem!"
"What is the official story on what happened in Morast, and what evidence has been presented relating to that case?"
Barrister Kaple summarizes that the first crime the Beast is charged with is the killing of 10 people in Morast, a small hamlet in the Dippelmere Swamp about 8 miles east of Lepidstadt.
The Beast snatched 10 victims, one at a time out in the fields, then in groups in their own houses before finally being driven away by a mob of villagers. They chased the “Beast” into the swamp, where they saw it attacked by a blood caiman and assumed it was killed.
The evidence is the star witness; the village elder Lazne. Since he led the mob that attacked the Beast and drove it to what he thought was its death.
As they are introduced to the new barrister, Ereviss bows: "We are only here to help you. Tell us what you know, and we will see if we can help you mount a credible defense. This could be the trial that makes you famous."
Barrister Kaple preened at the recognition.
”Yes. Well. Thank you.”
He said, basking at the praise. He looked you all over.
”I must say, I have never heard of any of you before. But my unknown benefactor was fulsome with praise for your work. And it’s not as if I could turn down any help."
He looked sad for a moment.
“Anyway. To work then.
“As you may know, The Beast of Lepidstadt has finally been captured after decades of rampaging through the countryside.
“They caught him as he tore the hell out of a university building. And let me tell you, that was some magnificent work by the city guard! The report I read had a mere six guards take the beast down after an epic battle lasting two hours! And considering the Beast has been known to rip an iron door out of a castle wall, there were NO casualties!” He said with ironic emphasis. He shook his head with fake admiration.
”But to our part.” He drew himself up to his considerable height. ”We will be defending the Creature to the best of our ability! Although the Beast is undoubtedly guilty, it is also undoubted that the prosecution has larded on unrelated charges. Probably to clear his docket and make him look good to the Lord Mayor.
“But my particular problem is that I have been struggling to find ANY kind of evidence in support of the Beast’s innocence.
“The prosecution is using three recent crimes attributed to the Beast to convict the creature of murder.
“Number one; the murder of 10 citizens of the village of Morast a year ago.
“Number two; the slaying of six children in the farming community of Hergstag 7 months ago.
“And Number three: the arson attack 4 months ago at the Sanctuary on Karb Isle, which resulted in the deaths of Doctor Brada and his patients and the blinding of the doctor’s assistant, Karl.
“I have interviewed the main witnesses from each of the three cases to be discussed at the trial and have found that their stories are very plausible. But I have serious doubts that ALL of them are true.” He sat down heavily.
”I feel certain that without evidence in its favor, the Beast will certainly be convicted.
“I am really hoping that a fresh set of eyes, yours for example, will turn up something we can use.”
He sat back and rubbed his eyes.
”And the one thing we need is the very thing we are almost out of.
“With the trial already under way, preliminary evidence has already been presented to the three justices.
“The trial begins in earnest tomorrow, however, as the majority of the evidence for the three crimes will be presented over the next 3 days. You are going to have to act fast if we hope to find any evidence in support of the Beast’s innocence.
“I would suggest that you investigate the events in Morast first; that evidence will be presented tomorrow, and it is only about eight miles out of town.
“You can investigate the other two crimes over the following two nights.
“Do you have any questions for me before you get to work?”
He looks at you with some skepticism.
"So. You are the new Defense Councillors?"
Does Dr. Crowl know Judge Daramid?
"What? Oh yes, we know each other through Professor Lorrimor. We don't really move in the same circles, but I occasionally bump into her at the Club or some official function.
"She has a townhouse just off the Circle. Here, let me give you directions..." He said.
This Seasage Effigy must be researched. Why a Beast would go after such a thing should be understood.
"Mm. Well, as I recall, the effigy is a murky green statuette about the size of both your fists put together, depicting a grotesque creature writhing with tentacles." Professor Crowl described aloud.
The description sent a quiver of disquiet through your soul. Somehow like the promise of endless pain in the future. The afternoon light through the windows seemed to dim.
"As for why the beast went after it, well, its the Beast! It's been rampaging the countryside for years; gods only know what madness drove it.
He pointed out, We are only assuming the beast took it at all. It had after all been sitting in a closed box filled with wood shavings on a shelf for the last decade or so. Frankly, I think the odds are even a student took it out for research, accidentally dropped it to shatter on a paving stone, and binned it from embarassment."
He shook his head sadly. "Such has been a sadly common occurrence amongst students."
"I never heard of this artifact."
"Well, you aren't alone. We have been backlogged; and aside from a few research papers which boiled down to 'I have no idea what this is', no proper research has been done on it." He said, leaning back and drawing on his pipe.
I was hoping anything you and the professor shared would be passed on. We were fond of the professor, and want to continue his legacy.
He nodded, understanding.
"I think I understand; but I think you need to know, Professor Lorrimor and I shared much in the way of correspondence on his findings, but I was mostly just another researcher. Perhaps an ear to bounce ideas off of. If he had any secrets, he didn't leave any with me."
"And no one has been able to calm the creature's mind with magic? Perhaps reach past the fog of madness to discern its motives?"
"Well, I don't know for sure, but why would they? It is the Beast of Lepidstadt! Hundreds dead in a reign of terror! Finally brought to bay!"
"What is known of this Beast? What drives it?"
"In truth, it is Probably just another maddened beast, twisted by evil sorcery. Such is all too common in Ustalev these wicked days."
"Oh! Yes of course. It was the Beast of Lepidstadt! It was a huge hulking thing, like a short hill giant; it just smashed it's way through a wall and tore up the classroom and museum!
"They caught him of course, just outside the building. It looked like it had knocked itself silly in the attack. They threw a net on him, chained him up and hauled him off to gaol.
"It was a curious thing though; despite the devastation we were able to find almost all the artifacts stored there, except for one that must have been taken.
"A strange statuette called the Seasage Effigy.
"Frankly, I am baffled by this whole thing—the statuette was very singular, but it was hardly valuable. And where is it now? It had no time to hock it, and they caught the creature right outside the museum!"
He shook his head, clearly puzzled.
"Ah well. At least the Beast was caught. I wish we could understand what the creature was thinking, though I understand the poor creature cannot explain its actions and is clearly mad."
"No, no. Of course not! I would never hold back knowledge of such criminals!
"I mean I would if it would protect..." The professor flailed around.
this business greatly interests the Voices and I wonder if you have heard of any similar incidents?
Professor Crowl shook his head.
"Nothing precisely like that. Although... Professor Lorrimor noted to me an overall increase in haunt activity. He said he was going to look into an interesting cluster of haunts in our last meeting."
Why don't you tell us all you know, and we will perform research in this library to better arm us with knowledge.
Professor Crowl nodded seriously, and he tells you that Professor Lorrimor, amidst his adventures, felt that there was some manner of hidden conspiracy at work in the monstrous attacks that have afflicted Ustalav over the years. He said that Professor Lorrimor speculated that perhaps the 'Whispering Way', thought destroyed long ago, might still be around.
"Any effects the professor had now pass to Kendra. Hopefully and secrets and commitments too."
Professor Crowl nodded at that, puzzled.
"Well, yes of course."
He said, clearly not following.
Professor Crowl carefully knelt down and slowly opened the chest.
He carefully picked up the tomes and checked through them.
"Yes, yes. I remember these now. I think we will all be a sight safer now with these back under chain, lock and key in the restricted stacks." He said, snapping the books closed again.
He turned back to you.
"No, he had not mentioned this bequeathment, though strictly speaking he was simply returning University books. I thank you for this last service to Professor Lorrimor. I think we are going to all miss his presence here at the University." He said sadly.
He frowned suddenly.
"Wait. You said something about... Foul Play?" He asked, his eyes sharpening.
"Oh, well..." Doctor Crowl started before a couple workmen passed between you all, calling out "Coming Through!"
Leaning back over his desk, the Professor sighed in resignation.
"I suppose I understand. Come with me." He said.
He led you outside, weaving through crowds of workers and students and across the campus to a smallish mansion just bordering the University grounds. Stepping up to the porch, he let himself into a house crowded with ancient relics and papers, bound in books or wrapped up in stacks of scrolls.
"Magda! Tea for, uh, seven! Maybe!" He called out and moved some stacks around until you could all sit around in the living room.
"Terribly sorry. Half of these are from the lab."
Sighing with relief, he collapsed in a reading chair and brought out a pipe.
"Ah, thats better." He said, then lit his pipe with a flare of a burning finger.
"Now then. What brought you here?" He asked.
The professor gives you all a sharp bow.
"And I am Dr. Montagnie Crowl." He said formally.
He turned to Kendra.
"As wonderful to see you as it might be, I have to wonder why you, and a number of your fathers closest associates, have traveled halfway across Avistan to see me. Is something wrong?" He asked, clearly concerned.
He looks at the rest of you.
"So who are your friends Kendra? Introductions please!"
He expresses astonishment at how tall she has grown and quickly hustled you all into his office, piled high with documents and boxes.
"Kendra, I cannot tell you how sorry I was to hear of the passing of your father. I would have come to pay my respects, but you see, we have had a bit of a mess here." He said sincerely, waving his hand about at the wreckage.