Carrion Crown, as told by Inquisitor Victoria van Helm.
Esteemed Witch Hunter Coim,
Our journey continues after a break.
Paladin Ronan has departed the party to attend to the business of purifying that mine; he will rejoin us once he has seen the process begin, I imagine. Jeff follows to further document the banishing of the Witch.
There's been a change in plans. The Chapel can wait. The cultists have a higher priority, so our destination is Ilmarsh, further down the river. In my previous letter, I mentioned the Lanternghast festival, which our cultists might have something to do with.
As we begin our journey, we realize Mei has an animal companion, a crocodile named Hillary -- because what else would you name a cold-blooded creature that kills everything that gets in it's way? We say crocodile. It's a blood cayman, and it's a "biggun".
We spot someone in the water at the edge of the river. I call out to them, and ask if they come here often, or have seen our dark-robed cultists riding by in a hurry.
A female voice calls back, and denies having seen them. She approaches us, emerging from the reeds, and I avert my gaze in case she's too virtuous.
I also notice she's got friends hiding in the reeds. One of them chimes in with something in a foreign language.
The nymph has a sister in the reeds, who may have seen our riders. But first, she wants an offering. Mei knows they want something of sentimental value, or intel. Lucia has a necklace a child gave her for saving the mining village, and that buys our intel.
The nymphs confirm that the riders did indeed pass this way, headed for Ilmarsh. Incidentally, Ilmarsh is a bad place; we should stay away from the water. They offer us shelter; a storm is coming. We decline, and move on.
As we ride in, we notice a stone dock / pier. In the dying light, we see a boat floundering on the water with a sole crewman, in no small amount of trouble. We elect to step in and help.
Mei warns the person on the boat that Hillary is coming to help. I try to fire a rope out to the sailor with my armbow, but a wave leaps up and snatches my shot. Lucia jumps in to swim out to the boat and help there, and grabs the rope on the way. Hillary guides the boat closer in, trying to bring it under control, and Lucia grabs the helm, but it's not enough and the boat hit the pier rather hard.
It wasn't all bad; at the very least, the boat, the Isinglass, ran aground. It's piloted by Horace Croon, who was running experiments. He had a more experienced sailor on board, until the storm hit and they ditched. Incidentally, they're from Ilmarsh, and Croon has a low opinion of them.
He was performing research on the underwater environment; I correctly identify him as one of those Aquanauts. He likes the name, and confides that he's got something the others don't -- a Subaqueous Research and Exploration Vessel.
We help him unload his ship, and get his cargo onto a wagon he had parked nearby; there's not much else to be said or done, so he tells us where we can find him, and we part ways.
We eventually arrived in Ilmarsh. The wind was fierce, but it didn't stop people trying to hang up paper lanterns of fish and generally trying to have a good time. It was a masquerade, and as we rode in, Mei and I noticed we were getting odd looks.
As we rode into the town square, I spotted a group of men; one was a well-dressed, portly fellow that had a Noble look about him. His companions looked pretty stressed and upset, so I ride closer to bid them good evening, and comment that they look a little upset for a festival.
The mayor looked to be on the verge of panic, and asked if we were adventurers. We barely got a word in before he expressed joy at us agreeing to help. It turns out that there's been a few murders.
Some of the festivalgoers were found dead; Sheriff Anders set out to investigate, but Undersheriff Grumph found the Sherriff dead not long after. We agree to investigate, get deputized, and decide to get started ASAP, so Grumph rounds up a small posse.
On the way out, Grumph shares a theory with us. The mayor reckons it's just some nutjob off his rocker, but Grumph thinks it could be a killer ghost, Old Crandall, back from the dead. Apparently he always said he'd be back, but that was 20 years ago. Crandall was the cousin of the inkeeper. Went off his rocker. Butchered his wife, fed her to a mermaid for luck.
The sheriff of the time caught him and sentenced him to The Rock; a literal rock off the coast, where you're chained up and left to die and be judged by the local religion, which is a fringe branch of the church of Gozreh. At the end, he'd ranted and raved about how the town did it, and that he'd make sure the town got what was coming to it.
After a while, we make it to the crime scene, in the middle of a clearing in the swamp. Two bodies; young, late teens. Nearby, a broken lantern. The bodies are badly beaten, and saturated in blood. Which is odd, because they look like they were strangled to death, not slashed. That can't be their own blood.
Grumph shows us to the Sheriff's body; he found it after coming back with a posse to help, and following tracks away from the initial crime scene.
A short distance from the clearing is the Sheriff, decaptiated thouroughly. His head's been cast aside, and his body seems shrunken and withered. Some bushes nearby... there was a scuffle there. And in it, a well-dressed corpse with no head.
Grumph reckons the Sheriff found the headless body, and got attacked by whatever did them in. The headless guy seems like a merchant who arrived in town a few days back.
The dead sheriff is radiating magic of some sort; his gear. +2 chain shirt. A longsword with hooks, barbs and serrations, a +1 / +4 Shatterspike sword. He's unusually decked out for a small-town sheriff.
I ask to borrow Grumph's sword. I'm rather persuasive, but he still declines, insisting I borrow Anders'. I insist harder in the opposite direction, and ask him if he's hiding anything.
He says no, and I back off a little, asking him if he'd demonstrate in my stead. He obliges, drawing and swinging his sword experimentally. No blood on it.
The hut where Crandall used to live isn't far away; we agreed we should check it out. We have whistles; blow once for We formed a perimeter around it to catch the ghost if it tried to escape, and close in on the hut.
Inside, the floor is sunken in the centre, like it's hollow beneath. As we peer at it, something peels itself free of the wall and goes for us, shooting acidic spores into the room. Lucia dodges, but I take the hit.
We battled the tree; Lucia was grappled, but I remained free to stab the tree to death.
My offer to heal Lucia from her bloodied state was rejected.
We found a chest with a padlock on it; Lucia smashed it open for 47G and 65S. There's a large lump of amber; within is a perfectly-preserved treefrog, it's bulging eyes staring lifelessly into eternity. There's also an old, leather-bound journal. It contained rather normal day-to-day accounts of life; the weather, and such - the diary of Crandall Drelay and his life with his wife, Savannah.
He found the lump of amber with the tree frog in it - it serves as the eye of something far greater than man. The entries get more sporadic and sparse. Savannah disapproved of the globe, and tried to hide it. Something about a feast of the Reefclaws, and then all is about the Globe. The wife is mentioned no more. He begins writing in spirals.
Something falls on my shoulder, and goes for my head; I manage to stop it just in time and stab it with my dagger. There's no more on the ceiling, thank goodness.
Before we can investigate much more, someone starts blowing their whistle;
We find two posse-members dead in the shrubbery; killed with bows and arrows.
We run back to town.
We watch the crowd. The crowd parts just long enough for us to see an apple-bobbing station open up... and a huge slug fall into the water as someone stepped up to have a go.
We sprint towards him; Lucia casts the man aside, and I activate True Strike as I stab the water and the slug hiding within.
I present the slug as a party trick, and people applaud.
We go back to our seat. There's another commotion across the square; a headsman with a bloody axe raises it, and decapitates a man in a fountain of blood. Children scream.
We start to charge in; I disguise myself as the decapitated man. Lucia holds fire, and good thing too; the decapitated man stands up, and his head pops out of his neck.
Japed twice by mere tricks, we almost relax when we spot the Sherriff sprinting towards the church, and we give chase.
Glory to Pharasma,