After soaking in the adulation of the frontier settlers, we decided to rest so that I could regain my health. After a few days, I was feeling hale and hearty only to discover that Ming made himself a new friend. My simple minded servant truly has a way with animals so it shouldn’t surprise me that he befriended a dog named Zeus. He spent the day bonding with his dog who now seems determined to follow him everywhere. After a healthy meal, I went out to find the source of a ruckus near the front gate to the outpost. It seems that Grisham, one of Daphne’s acolytes from Hiroit, had come on a pilgrimage to spread the word of Amun-Tur. Unfortunately (for his companions), they were set upon by what they described as “beastmen” who managed to overcome their small group, killing one member and abducting several more. The outpost was in quite an uproar, but since the sun was setting, the gates were closed and guards kept a wary eye on the shadows in the darkness. Some of Grisham’s companions were wounded and Daphne looked like an angel of mercy as she moved through their midst healing the wounded and comforting those grieving their lost comrades. I was shaken out of this captivating vision by Floyd offering to assist any people who were at the end of their life’s journey. I admit that it lightened my heart to see him concerned for those waiting for the Fates to cut their threads. My worries about his mental health dissipating with his act of kindness and caring.
That night, some of the men-at-arms claimed to hear animalistic noises coming out of the darkness. When I queried why they should be surprised to hear animals in the wilderness, they corrected themselves and said that they were not natural noises and rumors of more “beastmen” spread quickly through the outpost. Knowing how easily frightened peasants can become, I led our group out to circle around the frontier outpost looking for signs of interlopers. We did discover some scat that some of the more environmentally minded claimed could only have come from humans. How they determined human feces from animal, I did not want to know, but Ming certainly was thorough in his investigation. He was also quite proud of his new pet, Zeus, who was proving quite useful as a tracker as well as a distraction to keep Ming occupied. We soon determined that this scat was indeed from whoever was out the night prior making noises and scaring the simple minded. Star retrieved his crystal orb and after a few unsuccessful attempts, was able to spy upon several mutated humans with the features of beasts in some sort of ruins. Intrigued by the recently corroborated rumors, we went out in the direction of some local ruins and my apprentice used the unusual properties of his Toad familiar to inscribe some ruins upon several trees. We then headed back for a warm meal and what the locals claim to be wine, but is an insult to any vintner worthy of the title.
Later that night, Star warned me that something had triggered one of his runes. I tasked Brume with reconnoitering the area only to discover one of the Beastmen, for that is what the vile abominations truly were – a horrid blend of beast and Man, immobilized by Star’s runecraft with two others frantically trying to understand what had happened. With the lightest touch of power, I channeled my magic through Brume and sent all three Beastmen to a deep, magical slumber. We roused the men-at-arms and procured a cart from the townfolk and headed out to investigate these abominations. The others were shocked to see what I had viewed through my connection to Brume – the two Beastmen asleep on the ground were some sort of cross between Lizard and Man while the immobilized one was a disgusting mixture of pustules, open sores, and maggot ridden flesh. A cloud of flies swarmed around the disgusting creature causing me to look away lest I relieve myself of my earlier meal. When I turned back, I saw the Barber pull out a cleaver he must’ve acquired in town and proceed to dissect one of the lizard looking creatures. I was heartened to see him take an interest in anatomy, even though several of the hirelings were disgusted by it. For some reason, he also dissected the second lizard, but what he hoped to find, I had no idea. Perhaps he was simply ensuring the consistencies in their mutations. Either way, he finished his task quickly and with a relish I’ve only seen in him when talking about this confounded “Andy” creature.
The trip back to the outpost was horrific to say the least. I was riding in the cart with Ming to avoid turning an unpleasant walk, but the stench of the Beastman that Star insisted we take back for “questioning” was overwhelming. It was not long before my gorge rose faster than I could react to and I was spilling my dinner off the side of the cart. Ming soon followed, so I know it wasn’t just my frail constitution failing me. We finally made it back and the guards wisely suggested we leave the Beastman outside of the gates, but within easy bow shot. Since Brume seemed not the least bit affected by the stench, I set him to watch the abomination and warn me of any trouble. As the sun rose, I decided to hold off on breaking my fast until after dealing with the pestilence outside the walls, so we journeyed forth to interrogate the misshapen nightmare. Star made good use of his talent with Runes and scribed some sort of Rune that compels the subject to only speak truthfully. So armed, we tried to discern if the creature was intelligent. It spoke a crude version of Gnoll, so it fell to me, the only erudite in the group, to interact with it although he did not provide us with much information. He WAS a man at one time, but VOLUNTARILY accepted a dark curse to turn away from humanity and embrace the abomination. He was part of a force that holed up in the North with more than a score of other mutations. Knowing these to be a foul stain upon the land, we quickly set forth to scour the earth of this blight. Unfortunately, Half-Pint was in a bad state and claimed that he did not want to come with us. Star had pity on him and suggested he hole up in the Inn until our return. Frankly, that sort of compassion only leads towards sloth. Next thing, the men-at-arms will be asking for three meals a day and extra pay on Holy Days.
As we came upon the area we found the Beastmen the night before, we realized that someone (or something) had dragged off the pieces of Floyd’s dissection. Showing his capability with animals again, Ming coached his new canine into picking up and following the trail and we set off cross country. After walking seemingly forever, we made camp and settled in for a night under the stars. I tried to spark a religious discussion with Daphne, but her servants kept butting in and resorting to base, male posturing as they vied for her attention. She cast me an apologetic look and I stepped aside so she could settle their nerves. Just as well, because the long march had taken a lot out of me. In the middle of the night, Brume alerted me that more of the Beastmen were approaching. I roused Ming and then realized that Floyd was on guard duty so I called for the others to awake and arm themselves. Star was already warned by another of his runes proving him quite the capable Runecaster. As the Beastmen approached, I conjured a few dogs right in their midst to distract them and buy us some time to prepare. Star followed suit and then Daphne and her apprentice sought out the blessings of Amun-Tur. I could easily see that they are favored by their God, because they were wreathed in a Holy light and I swore I could hear angelic singing*. Even so, I moved closer to protect Daphne and her Diety blessed me with additional magical power for protecting His chosen. I used this extra power and channeled a harrowing volley of Fire Arrows of Fate laying the enemy low and breaking their morale. They fled in haste and we thought better than rush after them into the dark forest and a possible ambush. A few of the Beastmen had fallen because of the dogs Star and I conjured so we went over to investigate. Floyd was closest and he quickly pulled out his cleaver to perform another dissection. This time, the focus of his research was less Beast and more man which made it all the more disturbing. I heard Daphne gasp as he quickly reduced the creature to its component pieces. It could be that he is a Blade of Fate, but I fear that Floyd may be descending towards madness. I will need to seek direction from my patron before deciding how to handle him.
- Of course, Daphne has been struggling because her order must insist on her celibacy! Why hadn’t I considered it before? She yearns for me, but must keep me at a distance or else succumb to her baser desires and lose favor with Amun-Tur. I shall endeavor to be more considerate of her fragile emotional state and not tempt her with my flesh. All things become clear to those who dare pierce the mysteries of the universe