Pharast 25th, 4711
The journal to the burned ruins of Sanctuary did not take long – the institution was merely 3 miles to the north of Lepidstadt along the Lesser Moutray river. A narrow track followed the western shore of the river, passing through depressingly gray marshland before the party arrived at the lonely ruins of Sanctuary on Karb Isle.
The sad remains of this broken building lay on a spur of land jutting into the river. The burnt timbers of a large house sagged into the undergrowth of nettles and thistles. Nature had taken back this charred ruin, as if trying to erase dark memories. Nearby, a small cluster of gravestones jutted from the weeds.
There were 12 gravestones in all, with simple markers all noting the same date – Neth 10, 4710 – from 4 months ago. Karl had stated that there had been 12 patients at Sanctuary when the fire occurred, and that the body of Doctor Brada had not been recovered, and this seemed to lead some credence to his tale.
A quick search of the ruins did not reveal much, for much of the manse was covered in thick, charred ash and burnt timber. Only after a closer investigation was anything of interest uncovered.
First, a small hole, perhaps 3’ around, was found in the floor on the south side of the building. It appeared to open into a stone shaft leading downward 15’ into darkness below.
Second, Torquemada uncovered a small metal lockbox, it’s lock melted into the lockbox itself, making it impossible to open normally.
A Light in the Darkness
Haza checked out the hole, dropping a light stone down it, revealing a flagged stone floor perhaps 30’ below – possibly a basement. Meanwhile, Ryszard and Torquemada were trying to break open the melted lockbox and were having little success. As such, Haza decided to intervene and went with the strategy of working on the box hinges. Alas, he did not success in his attempts either.
Finally, the group was able to pry open the stubborn box, revealing a thick sheaf of blackened and charred papers. Torquemada immediately began trying to sift through the material, looking for any kind of recognizable name or information that might help their investigation.
Meanwhile, Haza returned to the hole only to discover that his light spell had curiously expired – only darkness lay below. He once again cast his spell on a stone, dropping it back into the hole, while the party set about readying their climbing gear for the descent.
Having secured the rope, Haza took up point, only to stop short as he peered into the darkness below. Once again, his light spell was gone.
Casting light once again, Haza rapidly descended into the hole, finding himself in a stone-flagged cellar filled with barrels and crates, and as his feet hit the floor – apparently monsters. Creatures rushed forward from their hiding places, ragged claws tearing into his flesh, paralyzing him even as he screamed for help! Ryszard and Torquemada heard his cut-off cry and looked down to see the distinctive forms of ghouls attacking their helpless companion, while one of the undead picked up Haza’s light rock, taking the lid off a nearby barrel and sealing the rock inside. Torque wasted no time sliding down the rope, only to fall to his knees puking as the stench of the ghasts – not ghouls! – overwhelmed him. Meanwhile, Ryszard threw caution to the find and jumped down into the hole, landing hard but able to attack the undead monsters before they could do further damage to Haza. But Haza was not completely helpless and began to recover as the ghasts pressed in on the party. Although the hungry horrors attacked viciously, they were no match for the divine power of the party, and soon lay silent and still on the stone floor.
A quick search of the basement revealed a grisly discovery – a ghastly trophy made of burnt heads dangling on chains from an iron candelabrum hung from the ceiling near the shaft. A nearby table was covered in broken glassware, although one vial was found empty but intact, bearing a label “Vorkstag and Grine, Chymickal Bleach." Torquemada seized upon this item, and wanted to return to Lepidstadt to see if this company could be found. The party agreed, decided there was nothing else of value to be gained in the ruins of Sanctuary and climbed back out of the cellar.
But first, Torquemada wanted to finish looking at the charred papers in the lockbox. Unfortunately, Torque did not have the same Linguistics skill as his hopeful paramour Kendra, and was not able to make sense of the charred remains after poring over the remains for an hour.
As night had fallen, Ryszard had set up a patrol, on the lookout for any other threats. As Torquemada was finally getting ready to leave, Ryszard noticed that he was being watched from the nearby river. He sensed a great evil lurking in the waters and went to warn the others. When they returned in force, however, no sign of the creature could be found…
Until the massive troll erupted from the dark waters nearby and rushed headlong into the group, it’s claws tearing and rending Torquemada as he fought to escape the troll’s crushing grasp. The battle was joined by Haza and Ryszard, with Haza unleashing the burning powers of Sarenrae in an attempt to stop the regenerating monster. It was a fierce battle, with the party receiving many wounds from the troll before they were able to drive it back into the dark waters.
But there was no time to rest and nurse wounds, as the clock was still ticking and there was yet work to be done in Lepidstadt.
The Chymic Works
The group returned to Lepidstadt and were able to easily find someone who had heard of Vorkstag and Grine’s Chymic Works. They followed their directions to the southeast side of town – home to many factories and industrial buildings, and soon found themselves outside the gates of the Chymic Works.
A tall, iron chimney belched yellow clouds into the sky from a small brick factory. Large leaded windows arched in a dozen places on its outer walls, but they were so begrimed as to be opaque. A large gate opened onto an inner courtyard beneath a sign proudly proclaiming “Vorkstag and Grine, Chymic Works.” The building had two floors and a tower, topped by a lightning rod.
Boldly striding forward, Torquemada noticed a signal bell beside the gate, and rang it loudly. A minute or so passed, and then a door opened up on the second story – apparently a loft above the courtyard – and a dark figure asked what they party wanted. Torquemada replied that they were working on official business for the court and demanded to speak with someone about the ongoing trial. He was curtly rebuffed and told that the factory was closed for the evening. Torque tried to bluff his way further, but the closing door made it clear that the conversation was over.
Torque was miffed to the say the least, and tried to force open the gates, but they proved to be too big and secure for that to have any success. So it was decided that the party would attempt to scale the courtyard walls – the glass-topped brick walls. However, Torquemada had another plan and left to seek outJudge Embreth Daramid once again.
Meanwhile, Ryzard made a go at climbing the factory wall, but was not able to gain much purchase. Haza had more success, but not much. Finally, Haza remembered that the party had a rope of climbing, and decided it was time to put the magical rope to good use. It snaked up over the wall and Haza was able to ascend the brick, although he cut himself badly on the glass shards embedded on the wall-top. He smashed the pieces to dust as Ryszard made the climb, and both dropped down into the dimly lit courtyard.
As Ryszard and Haza turned to move towards the factory proper, it came bounding out of the shadows of a nearby wagon, silently running on padded paws. It resembled a dog, albeit one made out of assorted body parts cobbled together with arcane sorcery, and it leaped at Ryszard, its powerful jaws tearing at the paladin.
Haza and Ryszard responded in kind, but Ryszard knew that they were outmatched when a point-blank shot dead on target simple bounced off the creature’s skin, only causing a minimal wound.
Decided discretion was the better part of valor, the duo turned and fled back up their rope, leaving the disturbingly silence hound watching their ascent from the courtyard below.
Time for a new plan.
Time to climb to the roof!
Snapping into it
Ascending the wall once again, Ryszard and Haza this time went for the factory roof. From their vantage point, they could see a tower rising near the smokestack, and made their way across the slippery roof towards that structure.
With the aid of their magic rope, they soon stood atop the tower itself. The roof above this was topped with a copper lightning rod in the form of a raven eating a wolf. A trapdoor led downward into a small room. Slatted timber openings covered the windows of this towertop room, 60 feet above the ground. Another trapdoor led further down into the tower.
Suddenly, from out of the room’s corners, a small reddish creature came flying at the party, it’s jaws gaping impossibly wide showing long, venomous fangs.
The Snapjaw Homonculus sank it’s teeth deeply into Ryszard’s arm, tearing it open in a splash of crimson blood, as the duo fought off the flying construct. The room’s narrow confines did not allow it much room to manuever, and it was struck down by Haza as it attempted to to bite Ryszard again.
Through the next trapdoor another ladder led down into a room seemingly filled with art and artifacts. As Haza stepped onto the ladder to investigate further, a sonic burst trap went off and two more Snapjaw Homonculi flew up through the trapdoor, attacking once more.
But once again, Haza and Ryszard prevailed, and the bodies of two more Homonculi lay dormant on the floor.
Finally descending into the next room, they spent a few moments looking through the assorted items within – mummies from distant lands, paintings and sculptures, totems, and much more. More importantly however, was yet another trapdoor, this one leading down into the factory itself.
Opening this last door, Haza stared down into a room that was as much an abattoir as a bedchamber, containing not only a four-poster bed, but also numerous workbenches and alchemical gear. The walls were lined with shelves and strange looking objects in jars of liquid. Bits of rags littered the floor, and the air was heavy with the stench of spoiled food mixed with acrid chemicals.
On the bed, a small, dark figure slept.
At first glance, he seemed to be a gnome, but he was not. Haza had heard of such creatures, and knew him for what he was. He was a creature that lurked in the black places deep below the surface of the world. He was a Dark Creeper.
Around his neck, on a silver chain, hung a holy symbol. Or rather an unholy symbol. A symbol of Norgorber.
Haza crept forward, hoping to dispatch the cleric of Norgorber while he slept. Unfortunately, clad as he was in plate armor, Haza’s stealthiness was questionable, and the eyes of his target flew open as Haza lunged forward with an attack. Ryszard followed, but the Dark Creeper was awake now, and rolled out of the bed, lashing out with an envenomed hand axe at his attackers. The duo pressed their advantage, but suddenly darkness filled the room, although it seemed not to hamper the Creeper at all!
In the darkness, a door banged open. He was escaping! Haza rushed forward onto a wooden walkway, and sensed a large open space looming out in front of him. He turned left and moved along the wall, turning a corner before emerging from the dark and found himself in an enormous room in the factory.
This chamber occuped a whole side of the building, from the cellar level below up to the roof high above. Seven iron vats, each ten feet across, occupied the majority of the room. Furnaces fueled the vats at cellar level, while at the ground floor level a series of planks had been laid across the vats to allow passage to a ladder that led to an iron walkway on the level where Haza stood. Two ladders also allowed access from the planks to the floor below. The air in the chamber was cloying and acidic.
Suddenly, out of the darkness came Ryszard, stopping himself as he ran up to Haza. Both realized that the threat was behind them as the darkness moved forward to envelop them, Ryszard crying out in pain as the Creeper sneak attacked him with his poisoned axe.
The fight spilled out into a larger area as Haza opened a nearby door. This room overlooked the courtyard and had a retractable timber and iron crane to lower goods into wagons below through a sliding wooden door – the door the dark figure originally appeared in to answer Torquemada’s summons earlier in the evening. Presently the room had only a few wooden cases in it, giving Haza and Ryszard the chance to put some space between themselves and their mysterious attacker.
Ryszard attacked the darkness, his arrows flying out in vain at the Creeper as it played a game of cat and mouse with the duo. A burst of negative energy lashed out at the two, and although not a powerful blast, both were in bad shape from the many wounds taken at the hands of their near-invisible attacker.
And then Ryszard’s senses reached outward, searching for a telltale sign of the presence of evil, and was rewarded for his effort. While not providing an exact location, he was now able to sense the evil cleric’s general position, which allowed him and Haza to finally counterattack.
And then Ryszard sensed the Creeper retreating, and as it moved towards and opened one of the outer doors, Ryszard rushed forward, throwing his full weight at where he thought the creature was. He was rewarded with a satisfying impact and grunt as he collided with the Creeper, sending them both flying towards the open door. Haza was able to grab Ryzard and pull him back from the edge, but the Dark Creeper was not so lucky. He flew through the door and landed hard on the ground below, the magical darkness disappearing as life fled his body, but only to be replaced a few seconds later with a blast of bright light that seared the night and ripped the body of the Creeper known as Grine into nothingness. The burst of light temporarily blinded Ryszard, but he recovered a minute later. The two bound their wounds and discussed their next plan of action.
Meanwhile, back at stately Embreth Manor…
While this was happening, Torquemada was wending his way back to the house of Judge Embreth. Along the way, he passed by the courthouse, and sure enough, the crowd was growing – both in size and in anger. The situation was turning ugly and it seemed that Haza was right, if something was not done before the night was out, mob justice would be felt that night in Lepidstadt.
Arriving at his destination, Torquemada knocked upon the door of Judge Embreth, the brass knocker ringing out hollowly in the silent night. Minutes passed, but finally a servant opened the door. Torquemada explained that he needed to speak with the Judge, and was persuasive enough that he was told to wait while the Judge was summoned.
Perhaps ten minutes later, Judge Embreth opened the door and greeted Torquemada. He went on to explain that he needed to bring in the proprieters of Vorkstag and Grine in for questioning concerning the trial of the Beast. Judge Embreth wanted to know what was the basis of his claim. Torquemada then explained their findings at Sanctuary, including an empty vial of bleach from their factory. He also said that they had talked to someone at the factory, but had been rebuffed.
From the look on her face, Judge Embreth was not impressed. She explained that there was no basis to act on – an empty bleach vial was hardly reason to force oneself into a place of business. Torquemada argued his point, but the Judge was not convinced and told him coolly to turn his attention to finding some worthwhile evidence, and doing so quickly, as the final day of the trial was in a few hours, and would not be delayed to simply interview a citizen who happened to make bleach. Refusing to hear any more protestations, she turned and closed the door, ending the conversation.
Torquemada was unsure where to go next, so he returned to the Purple Stallion, with the intention of disguising himself to infiltrate the crowds outside of the courthouse.
Dressed now as a commoner, Torque made his way back to the courthouse, mingling in with the locals and trying to get some insight into the situation. He quickly found that it was bad and quickly getting worse. People were crying out to “Burn the Beast,” and worse. It was only a matter of time before it reached a boiling point.
Deciding it was time to act, Torque shouted out that the Beast had escaped, and had just been spotted heading towards the Spiral Cromlech. While a few locals moved off to investigate, Torque was shouted down by a number of others, who insisted that the Beast remained locked within the courthouse, and that it was about time for justice to be done…