The town of Ravengro was quiet.
After the events of the last few days, the party decided to look around, as some visible effects of the last few days occasionally manifested as occurrences in the strange little hamlet.
While returning to the Lorrimar Estate, the party was noticed a cadre of horsemen moving in their direction. Curious, the party stopped to wait for the strangers.
About a dozen men and women in all pulled their horses to a stop in front of them. The leader of the horsemen announced to the party that they were to leave the area immediately, leaving Varek behind. Not wanted to desert their companion, the party asked who the people were, and why they wanted the sorcerer.
The leader of the riders informed the party that his name was Major Colson Madris, the leader of the Andoran Faction of the Pathfinders and he was here to take Varek into custody. His proof was shown a few moments later, when the priest of Sarenrae who was riding at his side suddenly cast a spell on Varek, wiping away the traces of his humanity and showing his head to be that of a tiger.
With a roar, Varek pushed his way to the back of the party, looking to escape the confrontation. He demanded to be left alone, that no one knew what they were dealing with. A nervous crossbowman fired his bolt at the newly revealed rakshasa, grazing his side. Varek uttered an incantation in return and blew the mounted crossbowman to pieces with a hurled bolt of lightning.
Suddenly more horsemen appeared, riding from behind the party, firing crossbow bolts at the Rakshasa. Two of the bolts hit the sorcerer in the shoulder, spinning him around. A leap carried the lion-man across the road, buying him a few moments to disappear in a flash of light.
A few moments later, Major Madris rode forward and dismounted from his saddle. He told the party that they were lucky to have survived as long as they had. Varek was a known agent working with the Coltin Family in alliance with a very dark organization known as the Whispering Way.
The party expressed disbelief that a man they had known for so many years would be an agent for such a sinister sounding organization. The cleric of Sarenrae approached and asked to cast a spell on them to show them the truth. They agreed, and with a gesture and muttered word, everything was revealed to them.
The events they remember from five years ago did not in fact happen.
They WERE captured by a massive band of ghouls, the HAD been tortured and questioned by an unknown hooded figure.
However, all of the members of band of explorers also had their memories altered to include a friendship with Varek that had never existed.
Major Madris informed the party of the interest in their activities by the Pathfinders, and asked if he could add two members to their expedition to help insure their success. The party agreed and were joined by a druid from the deep-south as well as a skilled archer from Varisia.
The members of the band said their goodbyes to the Pathfinders and returned to Harrowstone to finish looking for the Warden’s badge of office to secure the crumbling prison.
Deciding to explore the second floor of the prison in lieu of the dungeon levels, the party encountered two more apparitions of the prison’s most notorious prisoners; The Piper if Illmarsh, and Father Charlatan. After bloody encounters, the party was able to put these spirits to rest for the moment.
Continuing on to the dungeon levels, the party encountered the Mosswater Marauder as well as the badge of the Warden. The badge was recovered from the Warden’s body, which had been obviously tortured to death by the trapped inmates during the uprising.
The group handed over this item to the ghost of the Warden’s wife, Vesorianna so she could stand vigil against these horrible spirits for all time in the absence of her husband.
Feeling satisfied with their efforts, the party returned to Ravengro and finished their vigil over Kendra Lorrimar until the allotted month was past.
Gathering up the books they promised to make delivery of, the group set out for Lepidstadt and the University located there.
Upon their arrival there, they found the University was in an uproar. The night before their arrival, a creature known as The Beast of Lepidstadt had broken into the antiquities wing and stolen an artifact. After speaking with the curator; Dr. Montagnie Crowl, they were told that the only piece taken was known as the Seasage Effigy. A small statue made of an unknown green stone depicting a squat humanoid-ish creature with small, vestigial wings and tentacles protruding from its face.
The creature was captured in the act, though the artifact was still missing.
The Beast of Lepidstadt had been a thorn in the side of the citizens of Lepidstadt for quite some time, known for having committed many murders around the area, and always managing to avoid capture. A trial was now being set to bring the creature to justice.
Although of interest to the party, there business in the city did not include looking into the matter however, and they continued on, to speak with Judge Embreth Daramid.
They met her at her residence and returned the book, and to inform her of the Professor’s death. Her reaction, although reserved’ led the party to believe that her relationship with the professor went deeper than friendship. Stiffening her resolve however, she thanked the party, paid them the agreed upon sum and asked if she could continue their service with a new task for the same pay again.
The party agreed, and the Judge outlined her position to them:
“Judge Daramid explains that she believes there is a cancer in Lepidstadt, a darkness lurking behind the shadow of a scapegoat. For many years the people of Lepidstadt have laid all their ills at the door of a creature known as the Beast of Lepidstadt—murders, thefts, and terror have all been attributed to the Beast, but Judge Daramid knows that many stories are exaggerations or simply untrue. She also knows that some people have different stories to tell about the creature—about its kindness and humanity, of how it has rescued loved ones or helped those in distress. Now that the time has arrived for such kindness to be repaid, however, no one dares to step forward and challenge the Beast’s reputation.
As a judge, Daramid has a keen sense of justice, and she fears the Beast will not receive a fair trial. The people of Lepidstadt have blamed the Beast for too much and for too long, and they want it to pay for its crimes, whether those crimes are real or imagined. In addition, the judge has some concerns about the crime for which the Beast was finally apprehended—the break-in and theft at Lepidstadt University. She is also convinced that the Beast’s capture at the university was not all it appeared to be, for why would a creature that is intelligent knowingly enter the university, where it was certain to be trapped? However, to publicly announce her suspicions could put her at great risk, both professionally and politically. As one of the three justices presiding over the Beast’s trial, she is unable to openly intervene, other than insisting that the Beast be properly defended in court.”
What Judge Daramid really needed was a group of people without local bias to uncover the real truth about the Beast and its alleged crimes.
They agreed and went to seek the appointed defender; Gustav Kaple. A nearly incompetent advocate, cursed with a horrible stutter and stammer.
He informed the group that the prosecution was using three recent crimes attributed to the Beast to convict the creature of murder: the murder of 10 citizens of the village of Morast a year ago; the slaying of six children in the farming community of Hergstag 7 months ago; and 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.
After this briefing, the party met with the beast, chained in a holding cell below the couthouse.
The Beast of Lepidstadt was a massive hulking creature, assembled from the pieces of different men and given life and intelligence. After an initial meeting that was met with aggression, the beast was calmed down and was able to, haltingly, give them information for them to work on.
The group decided to travel to the scene of these crimes, gather their own evidence and use their findings to present to trial. The first place they chose was the swamp village of Morast.
The group gathered their possessions, and newly purchased mounts and rode for the village.
The testimony they gathered led them to the boneyard, a graveyard where the villagers claimed they had shot, and wounded, the Beast as they drove him from their lands.
At the boneyard, they found some interesting items, hidden and forgotten for the past year:
1. A boat, hidden in shoreside brush. On this boat, they found a large leather bag containing clothing, boots and worse; The neatly removed face of a human.
2. A leather-bound case containing filled with fine tools, made of silver with amethyst handles. The handles had a small maker’s mark in the shape of a raven. The tools were designed for use by a physician or chirurgeon.
3. An alchemist’s pot with the residue of a Darkvision compound in the bottom.
After discovering these items, the group was attacked by a manticore, the nest of which was located in a nearby tree, causing the beast to become angry with them and attack. They were able to drive the beast away and return to the village.
The items they found, made them question a few things about the murders. The items had been sitting at the boneyard since the same time the Beast was driven away. No other villagers had died since then, meaning no one else had been back since then. However, the Beast was obviously a construct (albeit an intelligent one), meaning that the wounds the villagers had claimed they inflicted should still have been visible on the creature. They were not. An innate ability of constructs was darkvision, why would the beast have need of a compound that granted such?
Deciding they had enough information to at least shed some doubt on the veracity of the claims, the party raced back to Lepidstadt.
When they arrived, they decided to try to track down the maker of the surgical tools they had discovered for possible information on who owned them.
After a daisy chain of buyers and purchasers, the group finally managed to find who was in possession of the items around a year ago.
Master Vorkstag, of Vorkstag and Grine’s Chymic Works.
After some asking around, they discovered where this Chymic Works was located, and decided to visit.
The Chymic Works was a large chemical factory, thick stone walls and smoke stacks marked its appearance. Knocking on the door, they were rebuffed by a man from a second story window who said that Vorkstag was away on business. Repeated attempts yielded no success in gaining access to the building.
The archer climbed to the top of the building 3 story tower and discovered a trapdoor leading inside. Without waiting for the rest of the group to catch up, he opened the door and was attacked by a monstrosity from within; a small devilish looking creature seemingly stitched together from other pieces of devils.
The creature had huge jaws, with which he ripped the face from the archer, killing him instantly.
The rest of the party arrived, dispatched the beast, and continued into a nightmare. Twice more they were attacked by similar creatures, and once by a large creature that resembled a dog that was also assembled using pieces of many types and breeds, without skin of any kind. The party were nearly killed entirely here, one of the dwarven brothers was the only member left standing when he was also attacked by a strange little man who threw small clay globes that exploded on impact.
Seeing that his bombs were doing little to the dwarf however, the strange man dove out the door he came in and disappeared.
The remaining party member helped to revive the cleric, and together worked to bring everyone else back to consciousness. Now distracted by their need for revenge, the group began looking around the plant, looking for the owners.
They found huge vats filled with chemicals, floating in the vats were the bodies of dozens of men and women, all in the final stages of being converted to a type of Alchemical Zombies. They also found a closet filled with the skins of over a score of races, hung likes clothes from hangers, including the large skin of an 8-foot tall mongrelman.
Another fight ensued as the owners appeared again and began to attack the party with a combination of clerical magic and alchemical bombs.
At that moment, the front door was smashed inwards and a large creature charged into the room, attacking the chemical plant’s owners. He was followed by a gnome who seemed to be in control of his movements.
In moments, the owners were subdued and the city watch were called in to arrest the men. The party investigated the plant in detail now and found some much needed answers.
1. The small man – Vorkstag – was a race known as a Skin Stealer. An alchemist of some ability.
2. The cleric of Norgorber – Grine – was his cohort, and added his magic to help secure the building.
3. Several of the skins hanging in the closet were later identified:
A. Forthin –A miller from Hargen
B. Olga Slovech –the scandalous “Harlot of Cerny Brothel in Lepidstadt
C. Borgo Znojmo –a respected and reclusive Lepidstadt merchant
D. Doctor Katarina Vilt –an esteemed lecturer at Lepidstadt University
Most importantly, they found the journal of Vorkstag, which detailed the events occurring lately:
The true culprits of the crimes attributed to the Beast are Vorkstag and Grine, the two alchemists-cum-bodysnatchers, who operated out of a mundane chemical factory in Lepidstadt.
Grine discovered a mongrelmen living in the sewers near the chymic works -a giant, twisted specimen – and decided to steal his skin to create his Shambling Man disguise to broaden their activities and provide a good scape-goat, the Beast of Lepidstadt.
Their chymic works’ alchemical acid and bleach production has never been better.
Vorkstag and Grine are keenly aware of the value of their goods, however, and had recently made arrangements with a pair of intelligent chymickal zombies and purchased a flesh golem hound to guard the premises.
Armed with this knowledge, the party raced to the courthouse, just as session was about to begin, and presented their evidence. The judge’s retired to their chambers, debated and returned. They pronounced the beast innocent of all charges, and his freedom to be returned.
After the Beast was found innocent, it thanks the group for their help, calling them its “best friends in all the world.”
The Beast confided that it wanted nothing more than to go see its “father,” who lives at Schloss Caromarc. The Beast told the group that “Father doesn’t usually like visitors,” but invited them to visit it there in a few days.
The guards escorted the Beast through the baying crowds to the edge of the city, and released it into the Dippelmere Swamp.
Judge Daramid requested that the party meet her the next morning to receive their payment. When they arrived at Judge Daramid’s house, she gave them their promised reward, telling them they have earned it, as the Beast was able to receive a fair trial.
But she asked them to complete one more task for her. Although the Beast was declared innocent and released, Judge Daramid asked them to go to Schloss Caromarc in search of the Beast and its creator. She is interested in the Beast’s history, and thinks the Beast might still be dangerous. If they can find its creator, perhaps they can learn how to control the Beast, or convince its creator to keep a tighter rein on the creature. Daramid has also heard rumors that the townsfolk are planning to track down the Beast and overturn the court’s verdict on their own. If they want to protect the creature, they should hurry.
On their way back from Judge Daramid’s house, the players noticed a large number of people gathering on the streets with torches and various weapons and farm tools. When asked, the townsfolk tell of their plan to go into the swamp, find the Beast, and “give it the justice it deserves, once and for all.”