As they entered through the portcullis, Cael’yn saw about a dozen humans waiting inside, in case the ogre and human failed, no doubt. The ogre dragged in the body of the human that had died, and Cael’yn saw evidence that these seven beast men were not the entire battle, but merely the end of it. There were guns strewn around the ground, as if they were abandoned. Cael’yn found herself wondering why they had abandoned the black powder weapons.
A man, obviously a leader among the guards, came forward. He had a long beard, perhaps enough to rival the beard of Skaldor. Though the beard meant little to Cael’yn, Helga knew quite a bit more from the way that the man was dressed and looked. The wolf insignia on his upper arm was indicative of Ulric, the god of winter, wolves and war. With his clothing, and stature, it was obvious that although this was a small town, the man was much higher in status than the other guards. He was more like an unofficial priest for the local towns.
The man, Grys, explained that the guards had been unable to use their guns because of an accident with black powder earlier. Their supply was ignited, and thus they could not use their ranged weaponry. Helga immediately pulled out her book and began to write a note about the manufacturer of the black powder for creating a shoddy product. The guard expressed concern about further attacks, and said that they needed to get more black powder to have a chance. Cael’yn thought about mentioning that they could use bow and arrows, but Helga finished her grudge and began to explain about the herd stone they had found.
The guard then explained that the group should pass this information to the Duchess of the castle, Duchess Otilla VonTopenheimer. The man led them inside of the castle, into a chamber with stairs, to a man with a black vest, one who was obviously a butler, at least to most of the brash young fools. Is this man the ‘Duchess’? Cael’yn found herself wondering, unfamiliar with the title herself. They stood awkwardly for a few moments, and Cael’yn tried to think about how to tell the man about the herd stone, about the creatures. She had heard it recounted by the dwarf at least once before, and she had picked up on quite a few of the necessary words. Besides that, her people had quite a few encounters with the beast men before—she knew how difficult they were to fight.
The man said something about getting the Duchess, and Cael’yn realized that she must have made a mistake, thankfully not a moment too soon. The door opened, and a large, ornate ballroom was revealed. The people were dancing, though not in the same manner as Cael’yn had seen from the common people. The door was not open for long, the man, who was apparently not the duchess, said something about getting the woman, and went inside, closing the door behind them. He returned shortly thereafter, and had them follow him to another room.
They waited in another room, during which time the dwarves began to debate entering the duchess into their grudge book for making them wait for such an extended period of time. Refreshments were provided, though, and the entry against the duchess was amended to include the fact that the serving staff had provided good ale. The woman finally arrived, her ball gown barely fitting through the doorway—servants had to squish it so that she could enter. The dwarves complained that had she taken the time to change her clothing it would have justified her absence a bit more, but she would certainly not be removed from the grudgebook, appearing in such a manner.
In any case, Helga moved on and explained everything that needed to be said to the nobles. Of all of the comments to make, the Duchess commented how strange it was that the attackers went straight to the castle. Cael’yn inquired if the woman knew that the beast men did not attack outlying areas, to which the woman responded that they did know—they had watchmen. Though the wood elf didn’t say anything else, she could not wrap her head around the idea that the watchmen were able to communicate their knowledge of a lack of attack so quickly. After all, the beast men that they had fought earlier had been close to the town, nowhere near the castle. Was the woman just oblivious to that part of Helga’s explanation? Or did she not care?
The duchess explained that the adventurers should retreat to the castle for the night, resting and hoping for a peaceful night. The question was posed as to whether that attack was common. Skaldor reminded Helga of some dates, some events in which the beast men had attacked. The dwarven hold in which Helga had been raised was the exception—there had been attacks in the other holds. Most attacks had been near the forest of Lauren. The wood elves had extensive fighting with the beast men in the past, probably the most experience of the other races. The beast men usually attacked caravans, but it was rare for them to be in mountain passes.
To the question posed, the duchess commented that the beast men had not been a problem for several generations. Cael’yn, having little understanding of human lifespans, believed that this was an impressive feat. In her mind, this was a long period of time in which they had peace from the beast men, not a century or so. The duchess excused herself, o doubt to go back to the strange dancing, and the party split for a short while.
Skaldor and Grys spoke about the fact that the guard did not have enough black powder to fend off an attack properly. The dwarf suggested that Grys instead send his men to Asgoraz for black powder, and the human agreed. While he conversed with the human, Cael’yn made her way down to the castle’s ‘doctor’.
The room had a simple wooden table with straps for holding people down, strategically placed candles, a large variety of strange devices hanging on the walls, and tall, thin doctor wearing a bloody apron. Though this might have looked like a horrifying scene to some, to Cael’yn it was significantly less creepy than the person she had seen when she had been injured as a pit fighter. The man tried to close her biggest wound, and though he managed to close it, there was little relief felt by the wood elf. The man was already quite exhausted from helping to fix the guards who had been injured in the battle with the beast men, but Cael’yn thanked the doctor for the help and then departed, the biggest wound at least covered more properly now.
After speaking with Grys, Skaldor worked on repairing armor for the guards, making a bit of money. He learned around this time that he could put a rune on the stone to possibly such the magic out of the stone, rendering it no longer a threat.
Helga, on the other hand, was spending money, eating with the vendor who had passed out during the earlier battle, the halfling named Clove. While Helga was eating, Ilsa Alderman, a servant, approached her with concerns. Count Victor von Kreinhoff, who was in charge of running the estate when the duchess was gone, was also replacing the serving staff. She believed that the beast men’s attacks were meant to provide cover for an assassination of the duchess, but she was afraid to go to the people in the castle because they were likely allied with the Count. Ilsa asked Helga to get evidence of the Count’s guilt.
In response to this information, Helga redirected her attention back to the herd stone, and went on a hunt for a baby to borrow, whose blood she could spill at the herd stone. She found a woman with nine children, and paid her a silver to borrow one of her babies for the night. The team reassembled, plus 5 guards and the infant, with the plan to return to the herd stone. As they walked through the forest, the baby began to cry. Helga tried to quiet the infant, but the female dwarf was busy renaming the infant Willhelm, or Beligar Helgasfind, and was unaware of the spider webs that may or may not have been there the first time they went to the stone.
The spider attacked, and Helga punched it with her hammer. Skaldor helped by chanting an ‘inspiring oath’ that was meant to wear down the enemy—the giant spider. Cael’yn didn’t see the point though, and decided instead to intimidate the spider, leading it to become overwhelmed. The spider had a swarm of smaller spiders as well, which attacked Helga and pinned her down. Cael’yn tried to climb a tree to jump down onto the spider and attack it that way, but the branch broke. Fortunately, the branch hit the spider, and it jumped off of Helga. The fight continued, and soon the swarm attacked everybody in close range, including the dwarves and some of the guards. Cael’yn was not involved in that fray.
In a dramatic turn of events, Skaldor stopped chanting (finally) and body-slammed the majority of the swarm that was left. Cael’yn climbed a tree (this time successfully) and attacked the spider, which had retreated into it. The spider was killed, and the dwarves found five cocoons, some of which held still living humans. One of the humans that had been trapped was a bandit, and the guards, upon recognizing the individual, arrested him. There was a hunter as well, and he carried a bow, among other things, which would find more use with the wood elf than anywhere else. The silver that was found among the dead went to the family of the deceased, which the guards would help to identify when they returned the bodies to town. The dwarves and wood elf were relatively unharmed, at least compared to their states when they began the trek back to the herd stone, though the wood elf did not think to immediately inquire about the health of the human child.