The Lorrimor Legacy

38: Ascanor Lodge
Broken Moon

As the company draws up at the gate, road weary though they are, the guards refuse to let them in, citing that they are unexpected. After Shala shouts they have a letter of introduction from Count Caromarc, the guards talk amongst themselves, and send for their superior. A few minutes later well-dressed Halfling appears, introducing himself as Belik, and asks they send the letter up in a basket he lowers. After carefully examining their letter, he still declines them entry, stating that it could be a fake, and that given the rough look of their company they are not likely here for leisure. Nisca talks further with the obstinate porter, passing along one of her ruby hat-pins as encouragement, and he begrudgingly agrees to let her and her entourage at least camp out within the safety of their courtyard for the night.

As they are entering the lodge grounds, however, their progress is moderately hindered by a hunting party pushing it’s way out. Duristan the Werewolf-hunter is in the process of badgering Delgros the Huntsman to show him and his men where he’d found evidence of something having killed a deer he had been stalking earlier – a creature Duristan is convinced must be a lycanthrope – when he spots our heroes and orders them to join him as he has need of extra swords. When they respond he stops and takes them in, then apologizes, noting Nisca is noble like himself, and the rest are clearly adventurers of some caliber, before again encouraging them – much more politely – to come along for the challenging hunt. Nisca & Shala agree, bringing along two of her duelist companions and Father Khruger. Kendra is left to see to it the rest of the expedition is settled in, and to see if she can’t get access to the lodge’s library.

The Heroes of Harrowstone find they are not the only adventurer Duristan has roped into this little hunt. Sir Jan One-eye, a halfling knight riding a boar, also travels with them. As they travel they chat up the hunter, discovering that the trap they’d run into was one of his. He also enlightens them as to the local werewolves society, of how there are five tribes living in the Shutterwood, in turn making up nearly a dozen packs.

Delgros proves quite upset when they reach their destination and he finds the stag-carcass missing. As they search, the woodsman points out the evidence of the beast’s death, and they follow a bloody trail for a short interval until they stumble into a trio of cranky Dire Boar, who very clearly were the culprits for filching the kill. After a brief but bloody fight (led by the ever impetuous Duristan) the Boar are killed and the stag’s corpse studied. Though little more can be discerned, Duristan declares it clearly as the work of werewolves, ordering his men set up camp and begin bating silver-tipped traps in the nearby woods. Delgros declares him to be a fool and stalks off to the Lodge, but the others remain and as they wait, Duristan offers his fellow heroes fine brandy and invites them to tell him their tales.

Shala eagerly leaps into the tale of fighting the horrible creations they found at Schloss Caromarc, which Nisca builds on in discussing the Skin-Thief Alchemist of Lepidstadt. Jan in turn tells them of his coming from Brevoy and challenges fighting Trolls and Elk in the Sundered Lands. He also tells them of how he and Variel had died there, and been brought back in new bodies by the Witch that now rules those lands, and of how they came to Ustalav and faced bitter loss in Carrion Hill in failing to stop the summons of a horrible, invisible monster that rampages there still. Duristan takes great delight in talking of the three werewolves he himself has killed, admitting that he’d fallen onto this path as a way of making a name for himself after one had come to menace his home town.

As they rap up their stories of adventure (and polish off the last of the brandy) a growl nearby brings them to attention, as does the scream that follows. Racing to find its’ source, they find a monstrously huge werewolf, great-sword in hand, standing over the corpse of one of Duristan’s men while ripping the throat out of another with her teeth. She turns and growls a warning for them to stop, to explain why they have impinged on the territory of the Vollensag Tribe. Nisca explains their purpose here is to hunt, but is interrupted in explaining what, exactly (the Whispering Way never quite getting out into the dialog), when the great wolf-woman calls her a liar. She goes on to tell them to flee back to their “master” and stay out of wolf politics. Their “master’s” alliance with the Silverhide leader Mathus the betrayer has not gone unnoticed, and that the other tribes will never accept at Silverhide packlord on the Highthrone. Should they and theirs continue to aid the traitor, they shall suffer the same fate. With that she demands they flee back to the lodge with haste, before she looses what little patience she has.

They consider asking questions, but are interrupted by her howling, which is joined by a cacophony of howls from elsewhere in the wood, so all agree not to press their luck and retreat.

Back at the lodge they find an apologetic Belik with a tray carrying mugs of hot coffee. He explains he wasn’t informed of their coming and informs them his master, the Warden Estovion Lozarov, would like to meet with them. Leaving servants outside, they are led up to the library where the Warden himself apologizes for their earlier treatment, and accepts Duristan’s offer to cover them as his guests. With that e takes his leave of them, stating he is quite busy, but states he has sent orders to the kitchen for a late dinner to be prepared and Belik will lead them to their rooms when they are ready…

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37: Eyes in the Wood
Broken Moon

While traveling the following day the company draws up when a scream is heard off in the wood. Dismounting to find it’s source, Nisca leads a party consisting of herself, Aaron, Shala and her three duelist companions Hastor, Alyser & Francis. Hastily moving along they note a broken pouch of coins and hear yet another screech, until they stumble into a clearing with a ruined tower at it’s heart, and note melodious harp music. Alsyer & Francis seem to be enchanted and begin walking forward in a trance, and while Nisca and the others manage to shake them free, such freedom is short-lived as they quickly succumb again, returning to their march towards the tower.

Giving up, they follow the enchanted pair until they enter the tower proper, at which point both the music, and its’ odd effects, stop. Everyone is somewhat shocked to find a number of figures hanging from the rafters of the hollowed-out structure, cocooned in web, but before they can investigate further, Hastor is snagged by a strand of webbing and yanked down a hole. Following, the merry band finds an immense monstrosity with the head of an insect, the torso and arms of a beautiful woman, and the lower half of a silk-worm. Though frightening it proves unable to lay a claw on Aaron and Nisca, and the gang make short work of her.

After investigating the webs and cocoons and taking what treasures they may from the human corpses (including a blood-stained room reservation for one Echtmoor Dravin at Ascanor Lodge, set for a week ago), they set out to return to the rest of their caravan, but are ambushed en-rout by four Ettercaps, who do their best to entangle them with their webs while skittering about above in the trees. After filling two with arrows and wounding a third the survivors flee.

Camping early to avoid the storm, the others watch as the new, improved Aaron wanders out to get struck buy lightning and revel in the power he briefly gains, his metal halo crackling with electricity.

The following day they find a dead man tied to a tree, a knife stuck in his chest and his mouth full of flowers. In investigating further Nisca, Shala, Aaron & Kendra are peppered with arrows when a tripwire is snapped (though Nisca’s armor protects her from the brunt of it). Continuing their inquiry, they note the knife is silver, the flowers wolvesbane, and the arrows coated with the alchemical substance known as silversheen.

Pushing on, they manage to make Ascanor Lodge latter that day…

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36: On to Shudderwood!
Bandits!

Stuck waiting a week while Aaron is “repaired” by the Count, Nisca and the others spend sevral uncomfortable days answering questions at the Gravecharge Cathedral as Inquisitor Trajan Kraask has been assigned the difficult task of tracking down their missing comrade Narsius. Nisca (leaving out the part of how she was mad at the time) reveals how she had him abducted by Goblins – a troubling fact, but one the church is wiling to overlook as an act of desperation to avoid the company of a known Necromancer, and thus forgivable, given the circumstances. Discharged with the admonishment that should they run into him again they should persuade him to turn himself over to the church, the Heroes are released to finish preparations for their journey. much to Nisca’s surprise she finds her contingent of Foot Soldiers from the Judge has increased again by half, and Kendra has found her a personal maid, Freda (formerly of the Count’s townhouse staff). She also finds that while the Church itself seems unwilling to provide her with new Acolytes given her consorting with a known Necromancer, the mysterious (and creepy) Father Gregor Kraus has decided to take on the task of being her personal chaplain and spiritual adviser all the same.

After taking a day’s detour back to Schloss Caromarc to retrieve their newly revivified (and still partially living) comrade Aaron, they set out for the Shutterwood and the head of the Silent Trail. Leaving the Dipplemere Swamp is not without excitement, as while they camp their large expedition is attacked by a small swarm of Styrges – easily taken out by Aaron’s blade and Variel’s bow, but making for an exiting bedtime none the less.

The following day they enter the Shudderwood. Not to far in they find their path suddenly blocked by a collapsing tree and find their ensemble held up by a large band of bandits led by the ex-mercenary turned Bandit Chief, Elmeri Laukkanen. Variel, having dealt with many Bandit’s back in his days clearing out the Sundered Lands, notes the willingness of the Bandit lord to negotiate the price for their toll, and not only talks them down to less than half their original price, but even manages to persuade them to join Nisca’ merry band as escorts through the reputedly werewolf-infested forest!

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35: The Final Tower
Trial of the Beast

Upon their return to the manse, they find Narsius has apparently left, along with his skeletal minions and his cart (and much of the party’s stashed loot), though the abruptness of his leaving (and the fact that his hoard of minions briefly went berserk, driving Nisca’s entourage to flee for safety in the Guard-house) implies he may not have left willingly. After debating whether to chase him down, they agree to let be the mystery for now.

In the wee hours of midnight, Variel (meditating in a nearby chair) notices a winged woman, her plate armor decorated with a skull motif, appear in the room next to the bed where Shala sleeps. With her appears Aaron (also asleep), but all swiftly awake and quickly recognize her as non-other than Pharasma’ own Herald, the Steward of the Skein. She tells them that now the evil necromancer (Narsius) no longer lurks in their midst, the Goddess of Death and Rebirth has decreed they receive a blessing and a boon to aid them in their mission against the Whispering Way. To that wend she has reunited them with Aaron, and touches each, giving the three a gift of luck for the coming year. She also gives them each a magic item: Variel a bow, Aaron a greatsword, and Shala a ring. After they give thanks she vanishes, having one last thing to do before she leaves. That’s when they hear screaming from Nisca’s room…

Racing to the door the find the Steward pulling a nasty glowy mass from the Dhampyr noble, while Kendra screams in terror. All calms as the Herald reveals she has simply pulled forth the madness and malady’s that had made her evil of late (Nisca had been insane since the troubles at the Black Goat, not that anyone had noticed). Nisca reveals afterward that of her two persona (Valenka & Lucretia), Lucretia had taken it into her head that others in the party might mean her ill, or otherwise stand in her path. It was she who had cut the rope-bridge the other day, and it was she who had sent her new Goblin flunkies to poison, beat soundly, and kidnap Narsius while they were away. With no idea where the little blighters went (and fearing the Herald’s disapproval for even considering rescuing a Necromancer), they polity watch as Nisca & Kendra receive their own gifts( a suit of Folding Plate for Nisca & Blessed Book for Kendra). Gifts & Blessings distributed, the Steward of Pharasma’s will takes her leave.

The next day Variel, Nisca, Kendra, Shala & Aaron (and his wolf) head back to the final tower (being careful to avoid the watery menagerie in the other four towers). Planning ahead, they pop open the door and manage to take down the four-imbed flesh Golem Gorilla Monster swiftly with little injury to their own side. Variel spots notes pinned to the inside of the door, and Kendra uses magic to discern they relate to some machine called the Bondslave Thrall, a device meant to control the Beast. Moving up the stairs, they manage to push past a block of adamantite, finding another room in disarray. Here they encounter a crippled Homunculus who mimes them more clues, revealing that a mighty monster holds his master above, and points out chalk-drawings they puzzle through, telling them of the Lightning Generator at the top of the spire that powers the Bondslave Thrall.

Moving upward, they find the final tower room filled with webs, and the horrible abomination lurking above, while nearby they notice a glass jar holding the preserved body of a woman, while someone still alive suffers next to her, trapped in a misery idol. The fight is swiftly joined, but the monster proves to much for them, so they switch to delaying it long enough for Kendra to drink a potion, transforming herself into a gaseous cloud so as to slip pass and head above to the lightning generator at the tower’s peak. While Variel & Nisca are badly injured, Aaron and his wolf make the ultimate sacrifice, ripped apart by the savage claws and tendrils of the abomination. As lightning rains down on the tower they can hear the hum of the machines and Kendra’s screams as she is hit repeatedly by lightning, but moments later they are rewarded by the Beast of Lepidstadt’s arrival. With him leading the way they rush back in and manage, finally, to bring the monster low and free Count Caromarc from his prison. Nisca climbs up to recover and heal the unconscious Kendra, and collectively they all retreat to the manse to recuperate.

The Count recounts how the Whispering Way came and imprisoned him, using the Bondslave Thrall to steal the Seasage Effigy (for what purpose he never found out), then left him trapped to die amongst his collections and creations. As reward he grants them a writ to draw funds of 3,000gp from his bank in Lepidstadt, but begs they keep his involvement in the Beast’s creation (indeed, all his dabbling in arcane experiments) secret. He also reveals his Homunculous heard the Cultists were planning to travel through the SHudderwood next – the only place he knows of out there is a hunting lodge used frequently by the aristocracy, Ascanor Lodge (Nisca recalls their brief meeting with her old dance-partner Andovin Androsant, and wonders if he might not be involved in some way). Once recovered (and armed with a writ of introduction from the Count to the Lodge, presuming they go that way) they return to meet with Judge Daramid in Lepdstadt and tell her that the Beast is safe & under the control of the Count. She (like the Count) asks they continue after the Whispering Way, and offers not only a bigger reward for their aid in this matter, but possible membership in the Order of the Palentine Eye if they are successful.

And poor Aaron, who fell in battle against the horrid creation of reanimation gone wrong? The Heroes of Harrowstone make use of the Count’s offer to speak with his dead corpse and find out if he might be willing to take a one time offer and be brought back to life in a most peculiar way…

…as a Flesh Golem.

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34: Behind closed doors...
Trial of the Beast

Taking the rest of the day and the one to follow to recover (and marveling at the storm that passes through, striking the last tower above’s lightning rod repeatedly with it’s wrath), a small party consisting simply of Variel, Nisca, Kendra & Shala clamber back up to the network of towers with their interconnecting halls filled with water. Heading right this time, they stumble into yet another trap, yet again dumping them into deeper water. This time however they are attacked by four dead men, dressed in the garb of the Count’s soldiers, who try to pull them under. Without Narsius to make them play nice our heroes slash and fight them as best they may, though Shala finds herself pulled under. In the end the Draugr can’t stand up to their blades or magic, and the group pulls themselves back up to the ledge to examine the double doors around the corner.

Finding them bolted from the outside, they draw the bolt and peer inside. Variel quickly spots that the floor drops 20’ bellow the water, and the ceiling climbs up another 40’. While two doors can be spotted above, the catwalk that once connected them has collapsed bellow the water, and swimming up from the depths is a strange, translucent creature. Before Kendra can properly identify and warn them, the aquatic Basilisk turns Nisca to stone before attacking. Fleeing the room under Kendra’s magical Haste, they retreat into the hall to give themselves fighting room, and though it manages to bite Shala and turn her summoned Dolphin to stone, it takes enough of a barrage from Kendra and Variel (even with them in turn tryng to avoid it’s gaze) that they manage to drive it back to hiding bellow the water. Shala continues her hobby of playing bait, dancing in to the water with multiple images surrounding her, and manages to draw it out long enough for Kendra to bring it down with missiles of force from her wand.

Using it’s blood, Kendra smears enough over Nisca to restore her to flesh, and they decide tather that just moving streight on to another set of double-doors, to use the magic rope to climb up and explore the upper doorways. After clambering up and breaking down the nearer door, they find themselves in an upper hallway, which contains the upper end of the collapsed stairwell, along with a door opposite. Popping open the door and sending in dancing magical lights, they startle three flying giant winged heads Nisca identifies as likely Vargoulles of unusual size, but swiftly slam the door and bar it before the monsters can engage. Moving back, they use the magic rope to slip over to the other door above the basilisk’s chamber, break it open, finding a long hallway, this with several other doors branching off. Finding more basilisk’s blood and a couple of useful potions in a recessed cabinet at the hallways end, their investigation reveals more door leading to more water-filled towers: one containing strange animate fungi, while the other contains aggressive black goo (as well as a persistent scratching from behind a flat patch of stone), both of which fail to engage them before they manage to slam the doors shut.

The last door leads out to a thin stone bridge leading to the final tower. Working their way across carefully, they reach the double doors, which Variel finds magically shut, but manages to open with Nisca’s help. Inside they find a room that has been trashed, along with a wrecked cage, and a raging, four-armed monster that rears up to slash and rip into both Variel and Nisca. Again under Kendra’s magical Haste, the Seer shouts “Flesh Gollem!” as she zips back across the bridge. Though Shala suggests they might be able to take it, Nisca and Variel think not, slam the doors shut as they retreat, and prey it doesn’t follow.

Apparently the monster doesn’t understand latch technology.

They retreat, wounded, back to the safety and comfort of the Count’s mansion and their allies to again rest, recover, and plan their next move…

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33: Further in, further up...
Trial of the Beast

As they discuss their next course of action, the whispering from the Mummy in the sarcophagus draws their attention, and Nisca and Narsius hold a peculiar conversation with it that eventually results in Narsius receiving the Mummy’s magic ring in payment for giving him his due respect and promising to assist in his eventual freedom from this place. Continuing their exploration they find one room dominated by a stuffed Bulette (which gives them a momentary fright), and in another room the remains of various sea creatures in which Nisca finds a hidden stairwell. Pausing, Narsius, Variel & Shala head down bellow to the cadged area where the Golem had come from, where they note three opened crates they guess once held the Rust Monsters they’d encountered in the ruined lab. They also find three opaque glass jars, but after the first reveals a hideous head, they decide to avoid further study of the others.

Rejoined by Oanon, the three head upstairs, leaving Kendra & Nisca behind. In a large storage room Variel opens a crate, releasing a pair of screeching Medusa heads, which quickly fall under Nasius’ dominion. Exploring further, Shala sets off a trap that floods the rooms with acidic fog, forcing them to flee back to safety, but damaging their gear and destroying their clothes. Discovering their is little else in the building, they finally notice Kendra & Nisca are gone, and that the rope-bridge has broken (or was it cut?). Worrying about wither they are safely sleeping back at the manse, or if they’d fallen to their doom, the gang curls up to sleep upstairs (except for Narsius, who goes to sleep in the room with the taxidermy’d Bulette, listening to Oseriani bed-time stories from the Mummy).

The next morning they awake to hear shouts of a concerned Nisca and Kendra from the far side of the gorge. With some effort they manage to restring the bridge (thanks to the help of their magical rope), and Kendra repairs servant and guard livery for them to wear. United, the Heroes push forward from the Meuseum along a narrow ledge towards a collection of towers further up. Once there they find a recessed stairwell and a door rusted shut, bucking outward from some internal pressure. Working together (and with a little magical aid), they eventually pop open the door, finding the internal hallway partially flooded, and the stairwell across the way collapsed and blocked with rubble. Heading through the flooded hall to the right, Narsius manages to stumble into a deep watery patch while turning the corner, and is attacked by a large swarm of leeches – soon they are all fleeing for their lives from the toxic things, and little seems to slow them, not even Oanon’s summoned water elemental. It isn’t until Kendra pulls out her staff and invokes an even larger swarm of wasps to hold them off that they get respite as they cling to the cliff-side outside of the towers, and all breath a sigh of relief once her insects win out over the leeches. Battered, poisoned and leeched of a little blood, they retreat back to the manse to recuperate before attempting another foray.

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32: Night at the Museum
Trial of the Beast

As dusk falls and the storm recedes, Variel stands one hundred feet above the raging waterfall on the swaying rope-bridge between the ruins of the Count’s Alchemy Lab, and the mysteriously ornate building on the far side of the gorge. He faces sudden peril, as once he passed the mid-point of the dangerously fragile bridge, an Eyrinies appeared and took aim as she flew about him, while his companions shouted warning from where they stood at the Lab. Three flaming shots from the Devil’s bow and Variel is half-dead, and his return shots miss. The Devil takes a new target, in her folly deciding he’s no threat, when Shala charges out (surrounded by her multitude of mirror images) to heal him. Two of her shots disrupt illusions, but her third strikes true – but the distraction is enough for Variel to strike true, badly injuring the wretched Devil, aided some by more support-fire from Nisca, Kendra, and even Narsius’ pesky magic. Variel’s last barrage does the trick, sending the Devil back to Hell, but he manages to loose his grip on his bow in the process, and all watch in dismay as the Longbow that had served him so well since he’d taken it from the Stag Lord of the Sundered Land’s cold dead hands falls into the frothing waters bellow.

Retreating to the ruin, the Heroes of Harrowstone spend a few minutes healing and catching their breath, when one of Nisca’s dueling companions approaches from the Mansion to announce that an old Elf Wizard, a friend of the Count, has arrived to pay him a call. After letting the stranger in, introductions are made, and the venerable Oanon offers to lend a hand to find his old mentor in the arts of enchantment (an offer the adventurers readily agree to).

While the rest wait to see how it goes (and not to crowd them), Variel and Shala cross to examine the door, noting the statue of the Nymph and the stained glass Unicorn in the entryway. They grow cautious when they find the door unlocked but under the effects of abjuration magic, and suspect an Alarm spell of some kind. Opening it and entering while Narius and Nisca cross and assist Kendra and Oanon to do the same, they marvel at the weird and grotesque collection of dead creatures (or parts thereof) that they find in the front hall. Narsius, however, warns that he’d spotted something large working it’s way upward from a caged stairwell under the building, so they are somewhat ready when a homunculus opens one of the nearby doors and leads a large but blind Flesh Golem in to attack. Quickly discerning the monster uses the half-dozen Homunculi swarming about it to see to attack, they target the little creatures primarily and find it not only uses them to “see” but that it is injured as well when they are struck down. Once half are dead, so to does the creature die, though not before it manages to smash Narsius’ skeleton dog to powder.

While Nisca and Kendra hang back, the rest head in to search the room from whence it came, finding remains of several creatures from the Darklands on display. Of particular interest are two sarcophagi on opposite ends of the room, one of which opens to reveal a mummy, which swiftly begins shambling forward. Narsius holds up his hand though and orders it to return to its’ coffin, which – after a moment of consideration, it does. Thus they are completely taken by surprise when the sarcophagus behind them comes alive and starts animatedly smacking Shala around. Oanan finds his double-sword sticks to it when he throws his elven weapon at it, and when it smacks Shala she finds herself stuck to it. Even Narsius’ hand ends up glued to the Mimic (as they soon recognize it to be), but their counterstrike manage to kill it before it can devour Shala. The room claimed, they again pause to heal and catch their breath, debating their next move.

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31: Terror in the Air
Trial of the Beast

As the humungous Air Elemental manifests, Kendra screams “Back to the tower” before running back herself (closely followed by Nisca). With the storm raging around them, the Elemental transforms into a whirlwind, and tries to suck up one after another of our heroes, but though it buffets them about the bridge, it never manages to knock them off. Ursus, Shala and the soldiers manage to escape back to the tower as well (along with Narsius’ bone-dog), while Variel and Narsius do their best to distract the vortex. Rallying, Nisca and Shala charge back out to join the fray, with fire support in the form of magical missiles from Kendra’s wand, and soon they manage to disrupt it enough that the funnel of air dissipates and the Elemental is released back to whence it came.

After pausing to heal, the gang regroups in front of the Manse proper, and Variel picks the lock on the huge Iron door. Inside they are surprised, both at the warmth and cleanliness of the front hall, and the Iron sculpture wrapped in copper wire with bits of flesh attached that quickly comes to life to attack them. Though it hits hard, they manage to surround and confuse it with Shala’s mirror images, before their own attacks snap enough wires to cause it to fall to pieces. Spending the next half-hour searching, they find the mansion well stocked and inviting, but empty of actual inhabitants (discounting the numerous unseen servants haunting the place, bound and determined to make their stay a pleasant one). THey notice the fancy protrate of the Count, and find evidence of Engineers having at some point been staying there, but none are present now.

Low on magic, Narsius suggests they pause and rest here, to which the other spellcasters agree. While Narsius cuddles for a nap with a skeleton in one of the creepy trophy rooms, Kendra naps in the master bedroom (while the somewhat peculiar-acting Nisca rummages through the Count’s wardrobe and jewelry), and Shala rests in one of the nicer guestrooms. Variel performs a more thorough search, but outside of a few new secret doors, finds nothing too exiting. Nisca rearranges her men, sending the soldiers back to join the others to watch over the camp, while her Duelist buddies settle down to hold the Manse (in comforts they quite enjoy). Narsius in turn has his larger skeletons hold the gatehouse until their return.

Rested, they leave the Manse to cross yet another, smaller bridge, this time to the ruined Laboratory. Variel finds a Rod of Fire Extinguishing amongst the rubble just as they are ambushed by a trio of Insects who’s touch rusts metal. Using a mix of arrow-fire, strategic withdraws, natural attacks (on the part of Shala and the bone-hound) and Nisca’s magic, the critters are quickly dispatched. Finding little else to interest them in the ruin, they begin working their way across the rope-bridge to the museum, but as soon as Variel hits the half-way point, he finds magical runes activating one the rope-bridge, and above he hears a screech as something appears in the air circling above – a winged woman with bow drawn, an arrow in flames…

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30: Hounded
Trial of the Beast

As night settles in, a powerful windstorm whips through the hills surrounding Schloss Caromarc. Retreating to camp at the edge of a cliff nearby, the company sets watches and beds down for the night – the Goblins hunker down near the safety of the campfire, eying the horses with distrust, while Narsius takes first watch with his gang of gigantic monster skeletons, along with two of Nisca’s soldiers who she insists lend a hand. It is not long into first watch the two soldiers earn their keep as they race into camp screaming “Troll! Troll!” at the top of their lungs, doing their best to rouse the camp to the danger. Right behind them comes the last of the Trolls from the gatehouse, along with his Trollhound, and before Narsius can muster his minions both of the guardsmen are nearly killed. But his menagerie tie up the enemy, doing them no small amount of damage as the others wake and rally. With Narsius healing from afar, the two fallen soldiers Rogi Nodder & Margin Lychim pull themselves back into the fray, and soon Troll & Hound are dead. Meanwhile, the winds have gained such sufficient strength as to nearly blow two of the three Goblins off the cliff’s edge, grabbed and pulled to safety at the last minute by Variel’s heroic efforts.

The next morning Variel determines the weather will remain stormy for another day or so, and leads the Caravan to the safety of a new campsite better protected from the wind and the rain, where they wait out the worst of the storm. The next day they strike out again for Schloss Caromarc, leaving the Caravan under the protection of Nisca’s entourage, while she, Narsius (and Narsius’ new skeletal hound), Kendra, Rogi, Margin, Ursus, Shala & Variel head up to push further in to the Fortress and see if they can’t find the Count.

Forewarned by the Goblins of the Flesh Golem Hound guarding the bridge, they establish an elaborate battle-plan involving Variel and several others shooting it (or dropping rocks) from the gatehouse battlements while Shala magically greases the bridge to slow it down. By the time it gets across and breaches the blocked door, it has already been badly damaged, and in the face of Rogi & Margin’s spears, Nisca’s sword, Narsius’ skeletal pet & Ursus’ glaive, the monster quickly falls.

From there they march across to the front door, the skeletal hound scouting ahead, announcing their presence loudly in hopes someone might answer – but none do. Variel notices a bell-string and pulls it, and hears a ringing further inside. After a few moments, an eye slit opens, but they see no one, and just as quickly it closes. A moment later winds pick up, as behind them a huge funnel of air manifests into a menacing elemental of equally large proportions…

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29: Harsh welcome at Schloss Caromarc
Trial of the Beast

While the rest of the gang finishes their affairs in Lepidstadt and Hergstag, Variel had struck out for Schloss Caromarc on his own in hopes of warning the Beast about the mob preparing to give chase. Loosing his tracks in the Dapplemere Swamp, Variel pressed on to the old Count of Vieland’s residence, reaching the foothills bellow. Finding the Beast’s tracks again, he notes the Beast had veered off for some reason, and rather than go up to the fortress on his own, he chooses to camp out beneath the waterfall that races bellow the peculiar collection of fortress and manse and interconected bridgeand wait for the rest of the Harrowstone Heroes.

Meanwhile, after giving the bodies of the four lost children of Hergstag to the Cathedral of Pharasma, Nisca treats everyone (including their new friend Daemienten, who somehow had transformed into a nondescript Varisian girl on their way back to the city) to a fancy dinner. The following day she buys another wagon and the Heroes of Harrowstone consolidate (along with all their new friends) into the Bleakwall Traders caravan, setting out for Schloss Caromarc by mid-morning.

After a brief side-trip to Morast so Narsius can fetch the Manticore bones he’d asked them to boil the flesh off of, and so they could return the preserved head of the Morast swamper they’d found in the Chymics Works, they press on. Just outside of Morast though, they pause again so Narsius can animate his new collection of giant monstrous skeletons – much to the horror of the two Acolytes that had joined Nisca’s entourage. When he refuses to stop his practice of black necromancy and return to Lepidstadt to face Pharasmam justice, they apologize to Nisca and take their leave from the company, vowing that the Church has now witnessed Narsius’ unrepentant criminality, and that Parasma’s retribution will not be long in coming. Except for the bitter cold of the day, the rest of the journey proves uneventful, and they rejoin Variel at the foot of the waterfalls bellow Schloss Caromarc by nightfall.

Leaving the rest of the company to pitch camp, Nisca, Kendra, Shala, Narsius & Variel head up to inform the Count of their arrival and ask for hospitality, but are quite shocked to discover Trollhounds guarding the gates. As the two beasts charge them, their barking and howling raises an alarm, and shortly three Trolls stand amongst the crenelated towers of the gatehouse, chucking rocks or taking shots with a massive crossbow. After a fierce struggle, where Ursus manages to huff up the hill to lend a hand, the Heroes of Harrowstone manage to kill the Trolls and their horrible dogs, securing the gatehouse.

Amongst the refuse within the Gatehouse they find several sacks of treasure, as well as the troll’s slaves, a trio of increasingly happy Goblins the Trolls had enslaved. Though language proves to be quite a barrier, the Goblin’s use of disturbing noises and gestures manage to get their point across, and they warn their may be other Trolls about. Shala and Kendra get into a spat over a magic staff that the Trolls had found being used by the Trolls as a meat-rack, until Nisca has to forcibly take possession of it until such a time as their competing claims can be resolved. Returning to their base-camp, Nisca finds that the three little lunatics seem to have decided she’s their new “boss,” as they proceed to favor following her around over fleeing for the hills (much to the concern or amusement of everyone else).

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