Those Bloody Beastmen

The adventurers consider their next move, questioning the mysterious figure. It transpires that a huge beastman called Izka the Madtooth is the leader of the beastmen of the swamp, and using the lightning stone, which brings down bolts of lightning from the heavens, he is inciting them to war against Stromdorf. Formerly they have been mollified by the sacrifices that the Holtz clan have brought to them, with the help of the greedy halfling Keila Cobblepot, who drugs out-of-towners at the Stewpot Inn, steals their valuables and gives the poor unfortunates to the Holtzes.

Otto Holtz retrieves a cart from nearby, which the adventurers drag into the swamp. During the brief flashes of lightning they spot other distant figures converging towards the place up ahead where it is striking. After some difficulty, pushing and pulling the cart through the muddy pools of the swamp, they begin to draw near. Torus goes on ahead and sneaks carefully up to the edge of a clearing.

There he beholds a huge beastman before an old standing stone, a muddy marble slab tied to the top. Izka bellows his rage at the sky and harangues a gathering of beastmen in his guttural tongue. Occasionally a bolt of lightning descends from the sky and strikes the stone, and each time this happens the beastmen are whipped into an even greater frenzy. More are arriving as Torus watches.

Torus creeps back to where the others huddle around a stunted tree and explains the situation. The adventurers argue for some time about their next course of action; perhaps they should wait until the beastmen leave to destroy Stromdorf, and then steal the stone; or perhaps wait and see if the beastmen eventually end their revels and sleep, when they can sneak among them and reach the stone?

Torus sneaks up to the clearing to spy further, and a small band of four beastmen stumble upon the other three adventurers. There is a brief, desperate battle in the swamp. Luckily no other beastmen are alerted and the small group is dispatched.

When Torus returns again, a plan is finally formulated. Covering himself with mud, Torus creeps around one side of the clearing and as far into it as he dares, and there prepares to shoot arrows into the huge beastman leader in an attempt to draw him away from the stone. Immolatus does the same on the other side of the clearing, planning to distract another group of beastmen with flameblasts. Yuri and Grudge prepare to run directly for the stone.

The die is finally cast. Torus manages to hit Izka with a couple of arrows, who is initially confused but then spots the interloper and, bellowing in rage, lowers his sharp horns and charges into battle, looking to impale this upstart human. Torus is struck with terror and almost faints, but manages to gird his loins enough to stay conscious; Izka does terrible damage to him but he survives and turns to run into the swamp for his life. Another group of beastmen rush towards Torus, joining their leader. Things are looking very grim for Torus as Izka closes in for the kill, but at that moment Foaldeath appears by the standing stone and chants strange words. Up from the very mud and earth of the swamp come grasping vines and tendrils, clawing and entangling the hooves of Izka and the beastmen and slowing them down; and Torus makes good his escape.

On the other side of the clearing, Immolatus lets fly with a flameblast, which kills a beastman. The survivors rush towards him. Yuri and Grudge move forward to support Immolatus. As Torus runs for his life into the swamp, combat is joined between Immolatus, Grudge, and Yuri on one side and the beastmen on the other.

Eventually Torus manages to get enough ahead of his pursuers to induce them to give up and return to the clearing. As they do so he follows them, harrying Izka with arrows all the while. Back in the clearing, around the lightning stone, the final battle is joined as Grudge and Yuri charge at Izka and, weakened by the arrows of Torus, he is finally brought down by a final blow from Grudge’s axe.

There is a moment of deadly quiet; suddenly one beastmen bellows at another, then a beastmen charges at another … then all hell breaks lose as all over the clearing the beastmen begin trumpeting ghastly challenges and headbutting each other. The fight for the new leader of the tribe is on. By the standing stone, the bestial figure of Foaldeath cackles with pleasure, then disappears into the darkness.

Immolatus conjures up flame enough to burn the ropes holding the lightning stone, and it crashes into the mud at their feet. Hauling it between them, with the bellowing and fighting of the beastmen ringing in their ears, the adventurers make haste to escape the clearing and reach safety.

After much difficulty they reach the Holtz farm again. The Holtzes are in hiding, but the adventurers decide not to pursue them, and move on to the Eigel farm, where they find Tristan Eigel, sitting among the ruins of his family’s home, sobbing into his hands. He is cheered by the arrival of the adventurers however, and rushes on ahead to Stromdorf to tell the populace of their exploits. In the meantime, the adventurers bury the lightning stone under a tree, which seems to calm its lightning attraction powers somewhat. They then walk on, muddy, wounded, wet, tired and sore, to Stromdorf; reaching the town as the sun is finally rising above the horizon.

At Stromdorf a small crowd is waiting, and the adventurers are cheered as “beastman killers” and town saviours, even though no one is really quite sure what happened in the Oberslecht. In any case, the very fact they seemed to survive a trip deep into the swamp is reason enough to make up plenty of wild stories. The watch captain, Arno Kessler, steps forward and makes enquiries, but the adventurers decide to play it coy and tell him nothing, though he is naturally suspicious. Grudge says nothing, refusing to turn in the Holtzes, as he had made a promise to Marie Holtz not to betray her family which he intends to keep, and he takes no part in the subsequent decision to inform Kessler.

The adventurers leave the somewhat disappointed crowd and head for the Stewpot Inn, which they find deserted and showing all the signs of a hasty departure. Splitting up to run to the three town gates, they pursue Cobblepot. Grudge finds her on horseback near the north gate, grabs her horse, and endures a thrashing with a riding crop before he intimidates Cobblepot severely and takes her back to the inn, now a broken woman.

There the adventurers interrogate her. It is not long before the entire ugly truth comes out—the druggings, the stealing of valuables, the selling of the victims to the Holtzes. Grudge searches her belongings and finds Florian Wechsler’s merchant signet ring.

The adventurers decide to come clean with the law and visit Kessler’s offices, taking Cobblepot with them to be arrested. Kessler listens to the story, then immediately sends a party of watchmen to arrest the Holtzes. In the meantime, the adventurers return to the empty Stewpot Inn and take comfortable rooms in which to finally rest.

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