|The Beast - I didn't do it guvnor|
Our party is somewhat changed from its initial foray into the haunted prison of Harrowstone: Victor Pruce, our alchemical compadre, has been called away on business in the far north, and the ranger Brevan has elected to seek employment elsewhere. Instead we have the half elf ranger Tarion with us as we leave Ravengro to carry the arcane books of our dead mentor, Professor Lorrimor, to his old university at Lepidstadt.
An uneventful overland trip brings us to Lepidstadt, where we hear that a Beast made of the parts of dead humans, which has been tormenting the locality, has been brought to justice and is awaiting trial in the town gaol. We meet with an old colleague of Lorrimor's, Montaign Crowl, and learn of a break in at the university library, in which a statuette of an ancient god called the Sea Sage has been stolen. The Beast was captured breaking into the library and overpowered by university guards, but someone else broke in under cover of the disturbance, and made off with the statuette.
We also visit with a judge, Emerreth Darramid, who tells us of the coming trial of the Beast, and of its foul crimes, and enlists our aid in investigating these dark events further. We meet with the barrister who will defend the creature in court, who seems beneath the task ahead of him, and also view the large wicker man, called the Punisher, being constructed in the town square, in which the Beast may well meet its fate. The creature, which has dwelt in the region for several years, but whose origin remains a mystery, is accused of several crimes in the vicinity.
|The Punisher - old fashioned justice in Lepidstadt|
We visit the Beast in prison and debate casting Zone of Truth on it, but in the interests of harmonious relations, settle instead for a civil discussion. The Beast denies all, of course, although it is obviously a base and horrid thing. Still, our Lawful inclinations are such that we must see to its defence, in case it really is innocent. It also speaks of a little girl Elsa that was once its friend, and of its lost teddy bear. It hints at other members of its 'family', including brothers and sisters, and a father.
Apart from breaking into the university's library, the Beast is also blamed with the disappearance of 10 souls from the swamp village of Morass, amongst other crimes. While backward folk in the most part, they are not deserving of such a fate. Our party travels to Morass to speak with its headman, and meet here with suspicion. Again Veneticus ponders using Zone of Truth, but is talked out of this by Sir Erudil. Instead the party learns how the Beast was seen by the villagers in battle with a giant blood cayman and was wounded in the arm (although it bears no such wound now). Also, we learn of how a local poacher called Nan Cleven was enlisted to help track the Beast.
|Morass - waterside property in a quaint rural location|
The party scouts the village's old graveyard on an island in the swamp, and there finds some bodies have been removed from graves. There are also signs of a camp, and a broken vial that once contained a potion of dark vision. A box of surgeon's tools with a crow emblem is discovered in a coracle, and a colourful coat and a human face, skinned off its owner and identified as belonging to the late Nan Cleven.
|Manticore - now where did that come from?|
The party returns to Lepidstadt, where Veneticus suggests burning the Punisher, but it is decided that such flagrant ignorance of the town's laws goes against the grain. Instead, they follow up the clue of the raven-marked surgical tools, leading them from their original creator to a middle man, to a factory on the edge of town owned by Grime and Vorkstag. This is a mysterious place indeed, with chimneys belching fumes, but no workers seen to be entering or exiting. The party has a brief conversation with one of the owners, before retiring to consider whether they have enough evidence to defend the Beast on the morrow, or whether they will need to break into the factory under cover of darkness, another less than lawful act.