This week in Carrion Crown, a Dan (Auberon Crane), Geoff (Andris Kreitov), Toby (Solis Lightwarden and his eidolon Gea) and Tyler (Alexandros Callimachi) and GM Hunter took a moment to catch their breath from the breakneck pace at which business concluded in the previous session.
The body of their fallen comrade twitches, then begins to drag along the ground in some cruel parody of Horace joining the retreat. It is, of course, the unseen Solis doing his best. The hound seems perplexed as to how its kill is moving, but the eidolon keeps it sufficiently occupied for Solis to get Gunderson’s mortal remains away and place them in the care of Callimachi as he makes for the safety of the factory.
The third day of the trial passes in a blur. Callimachi has to step up as the lead junior justice defender in the absence of Horace. He is rough-mannered in his attempt at oratory, but what he presents does much of the work. The heap of evidence from the chemical factory not only shows the Beast was never at Karb Isle, but puts the testimony of previous days into question, such as the mongrel man suit with wounds matching those as described as being inflicted by the Beast by a blood caiman. Grine hollowly confirms much of it, assenting to every charge laid at his and Vorkstag’s feet. Without his master, the dark creeper seems to have lost any spark of life. By the end of the proceedings, the gallery is in an uproar at the effrontery of this motley assortment of wanderers in disproving the incontrovertible guilt of the Beast.
The triumvirate of judges elect to recess for the day to consider the torrent of new evidence before them. The next morning, the courtroom is packed with more onlookers than seems possible. The judges are brief. Given the evidence presented by the defense, it’s clear everyone involved has been saved from a tremendous miscarriage of justice. Even as the crowd rages, the Beast is released from custody and escorted from the courthouse.
At the edge of the city, where the Dimplemire Swamp begins, the Beast turns and acknowledges his defenders for the first time: “Father… doesn’t much like visitors… but… come… visit. Soon. Soon, come see me at… Schloss… Caromarc.”
“Did we — ? Did it — ? Did we just get snookered by a golem?”
— Alexandros Callimachi
Callimachi is rather non-plussed that the Beast has chosen now to start forming complete sentences. Everyone else is somewhat choked up at the flesh golem wades into the reeds, rapidly disappearing from sight completely.
The rest of the day passes in a blur. The investigators meet Judge Daramid at home, where she transfers the payment for the rendering of their services in ferreting out the truth about the Beast’s guilt. While there, they cross paths with a human who’s very interested i the final disposition of Grine, currently in the custory the Lepidstadt city guard. The three who’ve dealt most recently with Grine try to disabuse the stranger of this notion, but he is unflagging in his resolve to attempt to save Grine’s soul, as he’ll surely be executed for his crimes. He introduces himself as Auberon Crane, a traveler from Absalom who came to observe the trial of the Beast. Shaking hands in greeting, everyone notices the day lily tattooed on his palm.
Leaving Daramid’s home together, the four see an angry-seeming crowd hustles by, being not at all subtle about its intention of following the Beast to Schloss Caromarc to ambush it en route. This doesn’t sit at well with the people who just watched some die in the creature’s defense and Auberon’s not too down with mob justice in general. Additionally, Count Caromarc sounds like an interesting customer, what with crafting flesh golems and other servants, living atop a cascading waterfall and being one of the few nobles in Ustalav to abdicate his title in the face of the democratization of the northwestern counties.
The group splits up to take care of some shopping, now that they’re flush with cash. Crane visits Grine in his cell. The dark creeper is reluctant to forsake his faith in Norgorber, no matter how grim a picture of the afterlife Crane paints for him. Grine seems mildly thoughtful as Crane departs, at least.
Reconvening after scouring the market and shops of cunning artificers, purses are lighter and backpacks heavier. Callimachi’s step is noticeably lighter thanks to the rustic haversack he sports. Thus provisioned, the four strike out on the road to Schloss Caromarc. Kreitov leads the way, taking the most common route of a road that skirts the Dimplemire Swamp. Unlike the Beast, the adventurers can’t slog their way across the bottom of the swamp without breathing.
It’s a two day journey, even by horse. Early morning finds Callimachi and Crane competing in their dawn-time devotions. Stripped to his breech clout, Crane shows off a great deal more flower tattoos, including the sunflower, beloved of Sarenrae.
Midday finds the travelers entering a rocky gorge. They hear the thundering cataracts long before they come into sight. And what they spy is even more staggering: an enormous manse leaning out over the waterfall, thousands of gallons of water cascading over the precipice to the river below. Jutting out from the waterfall, there’s a tower with rather interesting stained glass windows and another, taller spire reaching up from a rocky crag in the midst of the torrent.
Before them, however, is a stout gatehouse, blocking the only means of access to the manor proper. It’s closed up tight with no sign of occupation, save the pair of troll hounds guarding the front gate. Count Caromarc’s reputed to have a number of curious creatures in his employ. All the same, weapons are readied as Crane and Callimachi approach. The troll hounds catch their scent, beginning to howl. As the two approach closer, they rush forward. One hound knocks Callimachi completely off his feet while Auberon tussles with the second.
Then the trolls appear on the gatehouse parapets. They hurl boulders down, as trolls are wont to do, while goblins caper around their feet. Once the troll hounds are dealt with, the travelers briefly toy with advancing toward the gate. An even bigger troll clambers up on the gatehouse roof. It begins the laborious process of cocking and loading what might be a siege-grade ballista. The huge troll is completely unfazed by the spiritual weapon Alexandros casts before it; the cut it leaves closes almost immediately. Once Gea confirms the gate is soundly barred, everyone assents to Kreitov’s increasingly impassioned suggestion they fall back to consider their options.
Under cover of the rocky landscape, the group concocts a plan. First, Kreitov and Callimachi scour the countryside for comestibles and fuel. Andris comes back with a brace of coneys; Callimachi finds some swamp plants suitable for binding into torches and something that will double as smokesticks. Further, Andris reports running across the tracks of the Beast. It seems he trudged out of the swamp, watched Schloss Caromarc from cover long enough for his enormous feet to settle rather deeply into the group, then turned around and went right back into the swamp with no indication of where it went from there.
Over a quick meal, options are discussed. With the trail of the Beast gone cold, there is still the pressing issue of Count Caromarc. He and his household may besieged, imprisoned or otherwise imperiled by whatever force to which these trolls belong. So a plan of attack is devised. They also have time to reflect on the oddity of multiple trolls working together. Trolls are typically solitary creatures, from what the group mind knows about their habits. What could bring them together to do something as orderly as guard a gatehouse?
Once night falls, Solis renders everyone invisible. Using the rope of climbing as a guide, they move as one across the open expanse to the gatehouse, scale the side with the rope, then descending to the first level to scout out and deal with any threats. To that extent, the plan works perfectly.
Reaching the gatehouse parapet, Andris finds a lone goblin passing the night by throwing small rocks at larger rocks. He cursorily slits the creature’s throat — becoming visible in the act — which leads to an extended exchange about the morality of killing the enslaved of evil creatures between the rough hunter and Crane while the rest of the party dangles from the rope below. Once everyone has ascended, they take stock from the new vantage point.
On the far side of the gatehouse, leading to the bridge and the manse beyond, there’s at least one troll guarding it — from approaches from the manse? In the distance, they glimpse what can only be another flesh golem hound at the doors of the manor house. Gea slithers down below to scope out the interior of the gatehouse. It’s a regular den of trolls, with goblins cowering in corners.
With the duration of the invisibility spell ticking down for everyone but Andris, who must be feeling rather exposed at this point, the next step is clearly using the element of surprise to catch the trolls off their guard. Solis proposes lobbing a thunderstone into the center of the ground floor. The trolls will run upstairs to check. While they’re hampered by the narrow turns of the spiral staircases, the adventurers can spring upon them unseen to get the drop. Auberon points out the importance of keeping the slaves alive so they might be saved, which may or may not sink in with everyone else at the moment.
 With Sir Horace gone to his great reward, Dan seized the opportunity to bring a new character into the story, who will join the action shortly.
 Which will never be renamed the Horace Gunderson Memorial Palace of Justice, much to Dan’s regret.
 Because apparently we are still not done with this damn module. I was really hoping we would move on from the trevails of this beleaguered flesh golem lacking in personality.
 Which led to the tidbit that tattoos on the palm require regular touch-up work, according to Toby. The cells there wear away pretty rapidly in the course of daily life.