Chapter Two: Trial of the Beast I

Ceris Athiri’s journal, 3rd Gozran 4711

Finally, we’re leaving Ravengro. We bought a horse to pull the cart we built, loaded up the books and set off for Lepidstadt. All we have to do is deliver the books as Petros requested and then we’re done; we can go our separate ways. As I write this I find don’t believe it will be that straightforward. The villagers were full of stories of a beast that was going on trial in Lepidstadt, so the town will be full. I hope we don’t get caught up in anything.

Most of the journey was uneventful until just after sundown when we ran into a caravan. There were about eight wagons in a circle with ‘The Crooked Kin’ painted on the sides and an unholy wailing coming from inside. Azenutine snuck up and looked under one of the caravans. There were a number of the ‘crooked’ gathered round the wolf-child responsible for the ear-shattering noise.

While we were arguing about whether or not to stick around and help we were spotted by the leader of the caravan, an albino man with red and white striped trousers and a ridiculously tall hat. He told us that one of their number had wandered off into the marsh on other side of the road and had not come back. It was a little girl named Aleece, evidently much loved by the Crooked Kin. The albino man introduced himself as Kaleb Hesse and asked us to find her. Roguard wasn’t keen, but Malvern and Sigmund wanted to help. Then he offered us payment and that’s good enough for me. Daggmar and Roguard stayed with the cart.

Malvern asked for something that belonged to the girl so that Skippy could track her and her sister brought us a red ribbon. Skippy followed the scent half a mile to a river in a midge-infested marsh. We heard the cries of the child in the distance and were about to follow when we heard them again from another direction. It was not the child. It was the thing that killed the child. We prepared for battle and waited for it to come to us.

It was a massive spider with a human looking face. I’ve never seen anything like it. We defeated it but Malvern was seriously hurt. After it was dead, we saw that the whole area was covered in corpses, old and not so old, including the body of a little girl with a tiny head and red ribbons. We also found a few nifty little trinkets. We took the child’s body back so the Crooked Kin could bury it properly. They gave us our payment and we agreed to travel with them the rest of the way to Lepidstadt.

Lepidstadt Express, 4th Gozran 4711

TRIAL OF THE BEAST STARTS TOMORROW

The list of the crimes that the Beast has committed over the last ten years has been published and it will be brought to justice tomorrow. The long awaited trial will be presided over by Chief Justice Ambrose Khard and Justice Kasp Aldaar.

The Beast murdered ten souls in the fishing village of Morast a year ago, a tragedy that the tight-knit community has never recovered from. Six months later it murdered six children in a vile attack on the religious community of Hergstag, and then committed the recent arson attack on the Sanctuary at Karb Island. As citizens of Lepidstadt will know, these are only the worst of the Beast’s crimes. The catalogue of abductions of travellers, savaging of livestock and destruction of property done by this monster is so large that it is impossible to list every crime.

Justice will be done and the abomination will pay for the terror it has inflicted on our town. When this evil creature has been destroyed Lepidstadt will be safe once more.

Ceris Athiri’s journal, 4th Gozran 4711

We arrived in Lepidstadt this morning. The whole place is in an uproar. We’d heard about this Beast that has been terrorising the area and that it had been captured. Seems like everyone’s blood is up. I’m not sure I want to stay here more than one night. We found a Ye Olde Travel Inn to stay in and stabled the horse and cart. Someone was handing out these leaflets.

Sigmund went for a drink in the bar and discovered that this Beast has been accused of a long list of crimes, such a long list as you might think that everything bad that happened in this town in the last twenty years was the fault of the Beast. Apparently it was captured when it broke into the antiquities department of the University, which if I’m not mistaken is where we need to go to give the books to Professor Crowl. I have a bad feeling about this.

But first we went to take the purple book to Judge Embeth Daramid. She wasn’t at the courthouse – which looks like a fortress – so we went to her home. The town is very excitable. Malvern asked around a bit and found out that Judge Daramid is a member of the Order of the Palatinate Eye and thinks that this Beast should have a proper trial. Doesn’t seem to be a popular opinion. When we arrived at her house, Judge Daramid invited us into her office. She was sad to hear about Petros’ death and I think they must have known each other well. She paid us for delivering the books.

And then offered us another job. Daramid told us that the crimes the Beast is accused of are based on rumour not fact. She says the Beast can speak and is sentient, so it should have a fair trial. She wants us to find some evidence. It doesn’t matter whether we prove its guilt or its innocence. It seems there are plenty of stories that suggest the Beast is kind and gentle. It doesn’t remember why it was at the university where is was caught and Daramid thinks it may have been tricked. Only one item was stolen – a sea-sage statue. The Beast has a lawyer, Gustav Kaple. Roguard asked who the prosecution lawyer was – Otto Heiger. Daramid offered us another 100 platinum pieces to do it. I don’t feel good about this, but I’m not about to turn down that amount of money.

Next we went to the University to deliver the rest of the books to Professor Montague Crowl, which co-incidentally is where we need to be to find out about the break-in at the antiquities department. Sigmund asks around but all we find out about Crowl is that he’s a bit eccentric. His workshop was still a mess; looks like something was rampaging through here. We gave him the books and told him about Petros. He seemed sad, but kind of evasive.

He told us no-one was here when the Beast broke in through the back door and then through a 1″ thick iron door with a strong lock. The only thing that was taken was the sea-sage statue. The workshop was full of books, furniture, scrolls and fetishes strewn all over the place. The back door had been forced from outside and we found the remains of an alarm spell. There was the smell of beeswax and deep scratches in the rail. One area was curiously untouched and Crowl told us that the statue had been there.

On one wall there were three windows. The middle one has been opened recently. Roguard worked out that you’d need to be inside to have opened it. There were no tracks to be found in the gardens outside. Apparently nothing much is known about the Sea Sage statue and Crowl had no idea why the Beast might have taken it. It seemed to us that there must have been someone else here as well as the monster.

We went back to the courthouse to look up Gustav Kaple. The word is he’s so incompetent he’s practically working for the prosecution. Azenutine spoke to the guards and found out his last six clients have been hanged. Roguard was looking for Heiger but he wasn’t there. He gave us the details of the three main crimes the Beast is accused of and told us that witnesses had been interviewed in the last week.

The Beast is being kept in the cells. He seems to have been created out of bits of other things. Azenutine recognized that he is a flesh golem. The Beast said that he had displeased his master and refused to tell us who his master is. He doesn’t remember breaking into the University. He gets very angry when the children of Hergstag are mentioned. It was hard to get too much sensible information out of him, but he seems terribly vulnerable and confused. My gut feeling is that the Beast is a scapegoat and is innocent of what he is accused, although I don’t think everyone agrees with me.

We discussed who would present the evidence that we found and agreed who was most charismatic amongst us. We thought about whether we should split up to investigate but agreed in the end to go to Morast together and make sure we were back in time to get enough sleep

Morast is a sorry place. It’s a collection of huts on stilts in a blood-cayman infested swamp. The village elder, Lazne, told us that the Beast had killed ten of the village’s people. In a place this size, ten is a lot. Then they’d trapped it and it had run through the huts and got into a fight with a blood cayman and ended up with a bite on the shoulder that had caused so much blood that the restlands had been tainted with it. Azenutine recalled that the Beast did not have any scars that could have come from that fight. On closer questioning it transpires that six of the ten disappeared and the bodies haven’t been found. The other four were taken from their beds and died on the night the village was attacked. He acknowledged that the Beast had never been seen with a victim but also said that there had been no attacks or disappearances since that night. I think some of the disappeared might just have left. Who’d want to live here?

So, Lazne fleeced us 15gp for boats out to the little island which was the village’s restlands until a year ago. I meant to steal it back but, in our haste to get back to Lepidstadt, I forgot. There were fetishes all over the place and about forty graves. We followed an old track heading south-west and found an old camp. There were some old rations and a vial that had once held a potion. We didn’t know what it was but it seemed important. Then we saw a canoe partly concealed in bushes. It was bloody and contained a human face. Daggmar tried it on, which was pretty funny. Something was tied to the boat so we dragged it up. It was a sack filled with tools, rope and a gag. Creepy.

We noticed that about six of the graves were sunken and empty. Then we noticed a manticore nest. Daggmar freaked out and suggested we run. If Daggmar doesn’t want to fight something then it’s time to leave.

Back in the village we showed Lazne the face and he identified it as Nan, a poacher, who hadn’t been seen for about a year. He took Roguard and Malvern to his hut where he showed them a collection of knives he’d taken from the camp a year ago. Roguard recognised that they were surgical tools. They were beautifully crafted in silver with amethyst handles and a raven symbol carved on them. The Beast could not use these, but we took them with us to see if we could find out more in Lepidstadt. The rest of us went to the village healer to ask her to identify the potion. She told us it was a darkvision potion. Azenutine told us that flesh golems have darkvision and wouldn’t need a potion.

Just before we returned to Lepidstadt, Lazne said he was testifying for the prosecution. Then something weird happened. Roguard offered him money to forget about the cayman bite. Daggmar crushed Lazne’s hand until he dropped the money. It seems most of us think that the Beast could be innocent – except Roguard, who seems keen on burning the Beast.

Lepidstadt Express, 5th Gozran 4711

THE BEAST WILL BURN!

The whole town turned out for the first day of the trial of the century. The gallery seating was sold out and full of the great and good of Lepidstadt. Outside the courthouse those not able to secure a seat inside were creating a carnival atmosphere with picnics and street entertainment. The inns are full and traders are enjoying the boom this event has created.

For the first day of trial, the audience was treated to an examination of the Beast’s foul crimes in Morast. Otto Heiger was in fine form and displaying just why he is the most successful barrister in Lepidstadt. He had the gallery enthralled by his description of the Beast’s villany. The sad figure of Gustav Kaple could hardly hold a candle to him, even aided by the strange testimony of a half-elf who is not from our fair town and couldn’t know what the Beast has subjected us to. His ludicrous claim that there is evidence to shed doubt on the monster’s guilt spoilt the good feeling of the day and many left the courthouse in anger.

But this is just a distraction. Who else could have committed these crimes? It’s unthinkable that the Beast is innocent. Tomorrow, Otto Heiger will further elaborate the Beast’s evil deeds and show just why it should burn until it is dead.

Ceris Athiri’s journal, 5th Gozran 4711

Daggmar and I got up early to try to find out something about these surgical tools. It took a while but Daggmar’s rather direct questioning techniques revealed that the tools had been made by a master craftsman at Zbraslav Hora and Sons’ on the Anatomists’ Row. We didn’t have much time left so we headed back to the centre to meet the others.

The crowds in front of the courthouse were ebullient. Lepidstadt is having a festival around this trial, the climax of which will be the burning of the Beast. An enormous wicker man is ready and waiting and I am surprised to find that I feel very strongly about all this. Lepidstadt has decided the Beast is guilty and all this is more about exorcising something than it is about justice.

The prosecution opened with the murders in Morast. Otto Heiger is very eloquent and the gallery were hanging on his every word. Lazne appeared as his witness. Kaple was as inadequate as we’d been led to believe. Azenutine took the witness stand to tell the court what we had found. Our main points were:

  • the bodies of the ten missing Morastians were never found, so there is no evidence of a crime;
  • no-one from Morast saw the creature that attacked their town so cannot positively identify the Beast;
  • the Beast has no scar from a blood cayman bite on his left shoulder, so couldn’t be the creature from Morast;
  • the tools Lazne had found which require much greater dexterity than the Beast has;
  • the darkvision potion that the Beast wouldn’t have required;
  • and that the Beast has a master who could be controlling it and should be held responsible.

It was not what the crowd wanted to hear, and Heiger did his best to discredit Azenutine, but I hope we have sown some seeds of doubt. The trial recessed at 2pm and we took advantage of the half-day to do some more investigation.

Daggmar and I headed to Zbraslav Hora and Sons’. With some of Dagg’s special brand of persuasion Hora told us that he’d made them for Vladka Kostel who works for an auction house. By that time it was nearing 6pm and we had to join the others in Hergstag.

When we got there, they told us that the only three people still living in the village are three sisters who are witnesses for the prosecution. Sigmund used his austere paladin charm to persuade them to tell us what they intend to say. The children disappeared one by one and their ghosts still haunt the houses. The Beast bought back the body of one of the little girls, Elsa, and said he was laughing as he did it. The villagers chased him off. The women admitted that one child, Karin, died in her bed two days after that and that they wouldn’t tell the court this. But she came back as a ghost like the rest – ghosts that want to kill the living.

There are six buildings in what used to be Hergstag, all abandoned now. We noticed that there were no sounds; no birds, no wind in the trees. The first building we went in looked like a small chapel dedicated to Pharasma. Roguard went in to offer a prayer, which action brought forth a wraith. We defeated it and it fled. In the graveyard we found that four of the children hadn’t been recovered. Roguard blessed the graves.

To get into the next house we had to break down the door. It seems this is the house of the little girl who died in her bed. Again, Roguard prayed and we fought a wraith. Malvern got hurt but we defeated it, only to see it flee in the same direction as the other one. Azenutine noticed that what killed the girl got in through the window, fifteen foot off the ground, but that there were no signs of the scratches and damage that would have been there if the Beast had done it. Daggmar made a quick sketch.

The next two houses were empty and Roguard’s prayers had no effect. Outside the fifth building there was a corpse. I had a rifle through its pockets and found some useful stuff. In the house we found a diary belonging to one of the children. He wrote about noises from the marsh, and that he’d asked Elsa if it was her friend but she’d said no. In the next house we found a drawing of a little girl and a monster with a heart round it. We assumed that this was Elsa and the Beast. It was quite sweet, really.

We went up a hill behind the houses and Azenutine found a hidden cave. We found the bodies of the children which was a bit upsetting. Roguard blessed the bodies and six wraiths merged into one big wraith. But we were expecting that. After we’d killed it, Elsa’s ghost appeared to us and said that ‘he’ didn’t do it. The killer was the ghost of Brother Swarm. She told us the Beast’s master was a great scientist who lives in a castle near Lepidstadt.

It seems even clearer that the Beast isn’t guilty of what he’s accused of, but what happened in Hergstag is much stranger and harder to swallow than the simple story of a murderous monster. Lepidstadt wants someone to pay for these crimes and they’ve found an easy solution.

Lepidstadt Express, 6th Gozran 4711

CHILD-MURDERING BEAST HAS TWO DAYS LEFT!!

As the middle day of the trial gets going, the crowds outside the courthouse are growing. The carnival atmosphere is back in full flow after the disruption provided by the counsel for the defence yesterday.

Day two of the trial will see the elegant and brilliant Otto Heiger tell the story of how the evil monster savagely attacked the religious community of Hergstag. Six children were brutally murdered before the Beast ran laughing into the centre of the village. Hergstag has never recovered from this foul attack and most of its inhabitants have moved to other villages in the area.

Today, Hergstag will see justice. The little children can’t be brought back, but their murderer will be punished.

Ceris Athiri’s journal, 6th Gozran 4711

The rest of us went to the courthouse. We stopped in to see the Beast before the trial re-started. When we talked to him about Elsa it looked like he was laughing but we soon realised he was crying. Which means that when he appeared in the middle of Hergstag with Elsa’s body, he was crying. We presented our evidence, namely:

  • one child died after the Beast had been chased off;
  • Elsa’s picture showing her friend, clearly the Beast;
  • the boy’s diary saying that Elsa’s friend didn’t do it;
  • Daggmar’s drawing showing that there were no marks in the wall of Karin’s house;
  • the testimony of Elsa’s ghost.

Sigmund presented the evidence today and Otto Heiger made mincemeat of us. In the cold light of day our evidence sounded ridiculous. Also, I think I saw Roguard passing notes to the prosecution.

Malvern and Daggmar spent the day trying to find out more about the surgical tools. They discovered who the auction house sold them to, a Mr Vorkstag. Then they went with Roguard and Azenutine to the location of the final crime, the Sanctuary at Karb Island. Sigmund and I stayed behind to be fully rested for the next day.

Karb Island was a Sanctuary for the deformed and disabled, founded by someone afflicted by terrible looks. As we know, the citizens of Lepidstadt don’t like those that look different. They talked to the blind assistant Karl who told them that the last thing he remembered seeing in the blaze was a giant hulking, shambling beast fleeing the building. All the patients perished. Karl had been pulled from the flames but couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say by whom.

The party then went to the ruins. They found a cluster of gravestones and a shaft of some kind. Azenutine conjured light and sent it to the bottom, revealing a set of steps. He and Daggmar went down into a cellar, obviously used as a private workshop, contained a grotesque trophy of deformed heads. Azenutine found a iron box and what looked like a nest with lots of bones. A ghast lair. Azenutine picked the lock on the box to find it contained invoices and other papers. Many of the invoices came from Vorkstag and Grine Chymie Works. Hearing hissing noises, they left swiftly, taking the heads and the paperwork.

Back in Lepidstadt, they went to find the alchemists Vorkstag and Grine. Sigmund joined them but Roguard retired to bed. At the Chymie Works they found the gates locked. Unsurprising, given the lateness of the hour. Azenutine picked the lock and they found themselves in another courtyard with another gate and no other way in to the building. It seemed that people were still working inside. Trying to break through the next door, they were spotted by a watchman who set a flesh golem hound on them. It was a savage fight, Azenutine nearly died and possibly would have had not the town guard arrived to arrest them. It seems a high price to discover that Vorkstag and Grine manufacture flesh golems.

Daggmar, Azenutine, Sigmund and Malvern were offered a choice between a fine of 500gp or a week in prison. They all paid up and returned to Ye Olde Travel Inn.

Lepidstadt Express, 7th Gozran 4711

BEAST TO BE FOUND GUILTY TODAY!

In the most important event in Lepidstadt’s history, the Beast will today be found guilty of its crimes and sentenced to death. Despite the efforts of the defence attorney’s investigators to disrupt proceedings it is clear that the Beast will be justly punished.

The evidence presented by the investigators yesterday was farcical. To prove the Beast’s innocence they tried to persuade the court that the ghost of a long dead killer had murdered the children of Hergstag! This is plainly ridiculous and these interlopers should be found in contempt of court and burnt alongside the monster they are trying to protect.

This paper can exclusively reveal that the investigators tried to break into the premises of respected alchemist Vorkstag and Grine last night. Fortunately, they were apprehended before they could do any damage. However, the incompetent town guard didn’t incarcerate them as they deserved but accepted a bribe to set them free. The citizenry of Lepidstadt will have to take matters into their own hands.

Ceris Athiri’s journal, 7th Gozran 4711

My turn in court today. We had little more evidence to present:

  • the Beast is the only one that can have rescued Karl from the fire;
  • there are lots of other flesh golems wondering around Lepidstadt;
  • Vorkstag is clearly up to no good.

It’s weak but I had to try. I am convinced that the Beast is a scapegoat and that this trial is merely the build-up to the execution. No-one here cares about the truth. Heiger claimed there were thousands of people in Lepidstadt who had the skills to create flesh golems. In a town that can’t number more than ten thousand? Pfft.

Anyway, over the three days of the trial I think we have raised enough evidence to create doubt in a reasonable mind, but it is clear we are not dealing with reasonable people. The trial closed at 3pm. Heiger summing up was masterful, Kaple’s was barely audible. The verdict was predictable and the Beast was sentenced to burn tomorrow. He left the courtroom screaming “I didn’t do it!” I feel like I need to do something.

The Beast was taken back to his cell and Kaple warned us not to leave the courthouse just yet. An angry mob was forming outside. Hanging around didn’t seem to be working, there was no sign of the town guard, and the mob was just getting bigger. Daramid appeared and told us that we had one last chance to stop this and should go to Count Caromac who lives in a castle north of Lepidstadt.

The mob outside wasn’t dispersing of its own accord, so Azenutine cast ghost sounds to tell the ringleader that the Beast was in the Sanctuary. Some left but not enough. I ran downstairs to break the Beast out of his cell and found him struggling with a guard. I helped him get away and we looked for a back way out. We ran into some guards who attacked us. The Beast pulverised three of them. I don’t know which way is up any more.

Back at the front of the courthouse, Azenutine had succeeded in drawing away more of the mob, and confusing others, enough so that the mob went away.

One Response to “Chapter Two: Trial of the Beast I”

  1. Shame I missed This, sounds like a good game. Hope u guys all had fun.

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