Chapter Two: Trial of the Beast II

Ceris Athiri’s journal, 7th Gozran 4711 cont…

The last thing the Beast said was to ask us to go to find his Master at Schloss Caromac. Once the crowd had dispersed, Azenutine disappeared. A flashily dressed young elven wizard called Lorinthor offered to show us the way to the Schloss where we would find Count Alfonse Caromac, once the ruler of Vieland before the Order of the Palatinate Eye got their hands on it. The castle is to the north-east of Lepidstadt and is more a collection of buildings than a castle. Presumably the Count is the one who made the Beast steal the sea-sage effigy.

Schloss Caromac is a collection of ramshackle buildings clinging to the side of a rocky gorge. A handful of them look like they might have been impressive at some point in the past. And in the centre is a strange building with four towers, apparently accessible only by a rope bridge. At the gatehouse, one of the few well-constructed buildings, we were met by two trolls. We politely introduced ourselves and asked to see the Count. The trolls weren’t keen on letting us in, we couldn’t see a way around, and so we decided to go through them.

Just as we dispatched the trolls we heard the gatehouse doors being barricaded. Lorinthor cast a spell on Daggmar that made her twice her normal size and she smashed straight through the gatehouse door. We encountered two more trolls and three goblins. Roguard quoted inspiring passages from the holy book of Pharasma and we took them down. The goblins told us that they were slaves and we said this would be a good time for them to leave. Lorinthor seems to have something against goblins. Before they left they gave me an amulet with the gagged skull symbol of the Whispering Way, told us that a group of humans had been there before us, and warned us about the flesh golem dog on the bridge to the next building. We found some money and a handy sledge.

Malvern and Lorinthor went up into the gatehouse towers to take potshots at the flesh golem dog. There were two more trolls with it and I think they were annoyed by the arrows more than anything else. This was a much more serious fight. I nearly died and would have if Sigmund hadn’t healed me. We prevailed but at great cost and more than one of us required healing.

The bridge was over a deep gorge. Daggmar went first taking a rope and Lorinthor’s grappling hook so that the rest could follow more safely. At the other side we found a strangely carved iron door. I checked it for traps and accidently released an air elemental. Sigmund and Daggmar put themselves in front of the rest of us while we attacked with ranged weapons. Roguard and Sigmund blessed us and Lorinthor enlarged Daggmar again. We killed it, but I don’t think we can take much more of this.

Daggmar barged through the door. In the room there was a fireplace over which hung a huge portrait of Count Alfonse Caromac. Roguard spent some time studying it. Then I cut it out of its frame and stuck it on the sledge. One of the doors led to a storeroom and then on to a larder. We found some wine and then some spices in the kitchen. From there we heard scuttling in the next room. There was another frightened goblin who told us that the Master was in the Drowned Menagerie. The people who’d come before had imprisoned him. The goblin gave us directions.

We returned to the room where the painting had been and went up the stairs to the landing. We found a nice lot of booty. Our trip to Lepidstadt has been confusing, stressful and much different to what I had been expecting, but it has been lucrative and that makes up for a lot. Sigmund doesn’t take a share of the loot we find and I think it makes him uncomfortable to witness us stealing. Roguard makes out like he doesn’t approve but he takes his share and he helped himself to some technical manuals we found in one of the rooms.

Lorinthor found a secret cupboard and took a flaming arrow in the arm when he triggered a trap. But there was plenty of money in that cupboard so it was worth it. Once we’d loaded up the sledge we followed the goblin’s instructions until we came to a rope bridge over a deep gorge. Roguard and Lorinthor noticed that it was covered in a flammable oil and I was able to remove the ignition device. I scampered across taking an extra rope with me to make it easier for others to cross. Roguard, Daggmar and Malvern got across safely. Sigmund slipped and fell. Malvern lassoed him before he hit the bottom and I fired wands of cure light wounds at him so that he didn’t die. Lorinthor also fell, and we saved him in the same way. Sigmund healed himself and the young elf wizard.

The entrance to this new building was a set of double doors. There was a statue of a nymph to one side and above it a stained glass window depicting a unicorn. The door was alarmed and I was able to disable it. The doors led into a lobby filled with cabinets containing bits of creature and doors leading in every direction. We took the north door and went through a room filled with odd creatures and sarcophagi to a door that led to a narrow, winding path. This is where the goblin had said we should go. It led up to the four towers of the Drowned Menagerie fifty foot above us.

There was a recessed iron door at the top of the narrow path. Daggmar and Roguard cracked it open and we found ourselves standing in three foot deep water. A corridor ran left to right and in front of us was a blocked staircase. We went left, for no good reason, and got ourselves over a pit of leeches. Then we found double doors. Daggmar, Malvern and I forced them open. The circular room stunk with the decay of the rotting corpses of three great headless apes. Lorinthor, Roguard and Sigmund were overcome and threw up. We were working out how to get to the doors thirty foot above us when three bat-winged fiends appeared.

We won that fight. It should be noted that we may not have won any of the fights we’ve had without Daggmar’s strength.

The door led into a room covered in fungi which Lorinthor identified as predatory. We noticed a trapdoor in the ceiling, which when pulled down, we could climb up into the next level of the tower. There was an iron walkway leading to a double door which we would have to cross single file. We could hear snarling and hissing. I opened the door to reveal a curving staircase. It led up to a room full of books. In the corner there was a massive cage which had been burst open. The back of the door had some writing on it which Lorinthor deciphered as saying something about bond slave thrall and an object to control a flesh golem. But before we could digest this we heard a howling and looked up to see a freaky tiger/ape creation heading towards us.

I did not know how we would beat the thing, but Count Alfonse Caromac appeared and commanded the creature to stop. It did and came to the Count to lick his fingers whereupon we could hack it to pieces. I noted that Roguard had disappeared and I wondered if this was connected to his intense study of the portrait we’d found earlier. Even with this distraction, we were all so severely fatigued and hurt by this fight that we retired to the room below to rest. Somewhere in this building is the real Count Caromac and I think there are more ferocious monsters for us to fight.

After a rest and some food we returned to the book-filled room and went through it into a circular room filled with webs. Roguard and Daggmar discussed abandoning the search for the Count. Lorinthor dissolved the webs and we went up through another trap door. We found ourselves in a laboratory, face to face with a woman in a fluid-filled jar. Next to it was a zippered idol with blinking human eyes. And another Beast. But bigger. Much, much bigger.

I unzipped the idol and out fell Count Caromac, half-starved, helf-maddened. He asked if the Beast was with us and then said we were doomed when we said no. Roguard offered to help Caromac escape. Which now seems at odds with his later choices.

Lorinthor enlarged Daggmar and tried to find an object that might control the monster. Caromac ran off into a tunnel followed by all of us except Daggmar who was too big to get into the tunnel. She protected us all while we fled and she nearly died for it. The monster dealt her a mighty blow, knocking the spell out of her, and almost killing her. I think she may have been dead for a moment. In desperation, I pulled out a Greater Sun Rod of Ustalav. As the others pulled Daggmar into the tunnel, I fired the Sun Rod at the monster, flipping back and pulling the door shut behind us. It was very close but I succeeded without killing myself.

Caromac led us outside where we found the Beast coming to look for us. The other monster smashed through the wall of the tower and we found ourselves on a thin ledge trapped between two flesh golems. The Count told us that the Whispering Way had tried to buy the Beast from him and, when he refused, had imprisoned him in the device. The cultists used the Beast to steal the sea-sage effigy. The Beast roared that Caromac must die. The Count offered to pay us to go after the Whispering Way if we stopped the Beast from killing him.

The Beast and the other monster started to fight and I waded in to help my friend. I have developed an attachment to this creature; I think it was the little girl’s picture that did it. I could have used a friend like that growing up. My companions joined the fight and the monster was defeated. The Beast then turned on the Count, but I persuaded him to leave the justice to us. Not because I care but because I don’t believe the Beast is truly murderous. The Beast just wants to go somewhere to live quietly and be left alone. Why shouldn’t he have that? He asked us to bury his wife – the woman in the jar – and we agreed.

Caromac offered us 4500 gold pieces to go after the Whispering Way. After some discussion, and with reluctance, Roguard agreed to give the woman funeral rites and we sent her body to the depths of the gorge in lieu of somewhere to bury her. We quizzed Caromac for all the information he had about the Whispering Way. Then Roguard declared his intention to kill the Count. Sigmund was against this. Malvern decided he wanted no part of it and wandered off to find Skippy and our sledge full of loot. Daggmar, Lorinthor and I were left to decide between the positions of the cleric and the paladin.

The world thinks of Kaer Naga as a hellhole of criminality and vice. I call it home and I have never felt this kind of conflict there. In Kaer Naga it is simple. You do what you have to do to survive. It’s kill or be killed and right or wrong doesn’t really come in to it. I’ve killed men before; those guards weren’t the first. But always I killed to protect myself. And now, we have to have a conversation about whether someone deserves to die or not.

Roguard says that creating all these monsters was wrong and that the Count should be executed for it. But, you know, he wasn’t actually attacking me or someone I care about, so I feel no great urge to kill him. Sigmund said that we should return the Count to Lepidstadt to have a proper trial, but I’ve seen what passes for justice in that place and the end result would be that he gets killed. Either Roguard does it now or Lepidstadt does it in a few days. I think it should be left to Lepidstadt – why should we take on the role of executioner? In the end, Roguard won the debate and the Count was sent to his death.

It was the early morning of the 8th when we returned to Judge Daramid to tell her what had happened. She didn’t seem pleased that the Count was dead or that the Beast wasn’t but she paid us anyway. Then she offered 6000 gold pieces each if we will follow the silent path to find out more about the Whispering Way and what they plan to do with the sea-sage effigy.

I am troubled in a way I don’t really understand. I miss Azenutine and I don’t know why he left;  perhaps it was out of disquiet at what we are doing. Lorinthor proved himself useful but his naivety makes him seem so young, especially compared to me and Daggmar. I guess not everyone has to grow up as quickly as we did. Lorinthor seems to think we’re heroes, or some sort of band of adventurers, when the truth is we’re strangers with only a friend and a sense of obligation in common. Sigmund seems unhappy. In different company he really could be a hero but he finds himself among ordinary folk for whom his noble causes are out of reach. Daggmar is also unhappy. She talks of joining a monastery to learn discipline and maybe that would give her the peace she yearns for, but I will miss her if she leaves. Malvern is a solitary man at heart and I don’t think he would choose to be in this situation. Roguard is enjoying himself mightily. He is very judgemental but I think he likes being in a situation where he can judge those he deems unpure. And me? Well, my father was a trader and I don’t suppose he ever even saw a platinum piece, never mind had a purse full of them. I’d rather be rich and troubled than poor and sanguine.

Letter from Roguard Ghaeler to the Penitence of Pharasma, 8th Gozran 4711

Reverend Mother,

I have been travelling with a group of individuals in dire need of the Lady’s guidance, truly they are the most morally bankrupt group of thieves and deviants I have ever encountered.  They have demonstrated, on numerous occasions, that they are motivated alternately by profit and bloodlust.  It appals me that they even tolerate the presence of half-breeds; one appears suffer from severe mental deficiencies, while the other displays wild arcane abilities.  I pray that the Goddess has a plan for them, preferably one that involves them sacrificing themselves to preserve the lives of the more racially pure members of the group.  My acts of contrition have increased in order to counter the corrupting effects of such unclean company, but I can also inform you that I have made progress in bringing the group round to the true way of Pharasma.

While attempting to destroy the Beast of Lepidstadt, we encountered the foul heretic responsible for its creation; truly this depraved soul’s defilement of the dead and abuse of powers undeserving of mortals knew no bounds.  However, I was able to convince the group that Count Caromac, for it was he who dared to attempt to usurp the Goddess’ power to grant life, was undeserving of a trial in Lepidstadt.  Besides which, the Lepidstadt judiciary has been corrupted to the core by the perverse attitudes of the liberal intellectuals of the University.  I proposed that only the Lady could truly judge him, and after some deliberation they agreed to let me send him to meet the Lady in person.  It troubles me that Sigmund actually tried to defend the wretch, but in fairness I would expect no less of a servant of Sarenrae…

We have received word that a foul necromantic cult is at work in the area, so will be pursuing any available leads in this matter.  I will keep you informed, but in the meantime recommend that arrangements be made for the Lepidstadt University to be burned to the ground; as an act of leniency we could allow the faculty and students to leave first, though I would never presume to second guess your superior understanding of the Goddess’ will in this regard.  Also, if the opportunity presents itself, I would suggest that a team be dispatched to cleanse the region of the Schloss Caromac; the Beast of Lepidstadt may still be active in the area.

Your servant,
Roguard Ghaeler

Lorinthor’s Journal, 8th Gozran 4711

Today was my first day as an adventurer, as a hero in training. I’m very lucky that a brave band of established… Mercen… Heroes have taken me under their wing. There is much I can learn from these people.

I met my first half-Orc and despite what I’ve been told they are not savage beasts. Well not totally, I mean I wouldn’t want to get hit by that huge axe that she uses so effectively. But she seemed rather decent and very brave, she fought that massive beast on her own telling me to leave even though it almost killed her. She seems very keen to fight but defiantly brave and certainly not the monster I was lead to believe Orcs are.

I also met another archer his aim is as true as his heart. He wanted no part of the trial of the man that created these monstrosities. I look forward to learning much from him about the wild and maybe he will help me develop my aim as well. I’ve been uncomfortable since leaving my forest home so maybe Malvern will be a good friend that understands that.

Sigmund is a hero in the mold of those from the history book and legend. He is clearly of noble birth but has also left his life of comfort to make the world a better place. Already I can see that he is a true example to follow. Though he clearly felt uneasy with some of the wealth acquiring that was going on. It must be hard to be so noble in character when those around him are, well less noble. I think the group needs him as a moral compass to help us.

Roguard is something of a mystery to me to so far. He is clearly very wise and pious. He pushed the idea that we kill the beast’s master. I was unsure of what to do but he was right. This man had done so much evil and caused pain in his creations desecrating dead bodies enslaving goblins and keeping these golems bred to destroy. So the priest was right to act as the prosecution. I just hope we did the right thing in finding the man guilty.

Finally there was a fast and clever young lady called Ceris. She seems very noble she was trying to save the count so he could be tried at town. She and I both seemed to understand that part of adventuring is getting good loot so that we can do more good later on. She was very good at finding the traps and I rather suspect that without her we may have all burnt to death or been squished. She also seems to carry a lot of stuff especially healing potions, I’ll be staying close by.

I’m a week out of my village and I already feel that I’ve learnt more here than in a hundred years at home. I really hope we can make a difference, I hope it’s a good one, and along the way we may just become true heroes.

Daggmar seems very keen on getting magical items made, perhaps I should study this area of arcana and see if I can help. I do wish to be a help to the group and so maybe this is a way. So far my biggest contribution was well making Daggmar big. Which she seemed to like.
I am torn about the trial though, the count was evil and the world is a better place without him but maybe we shouldn’t have let the beast go. After all it did kill the guards and more so as well. This life won’t be easy I can see that. Yet I must keep my nerve, today we faced death and survived so tomorrow we will see what comes.

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

  1. Really enjoyed Ceris’ journal and the letter from Rodguard.

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