While walking to the inn, we discussed our newly earned property. Krawaal wondered if perhaps the property was haunted. We had a good laugh at this, as we were all sure that spirits and ghouls do not exist (Note: never doubt Krawaal in the future).
Our conversation was cut short, however, as we came across another grisly murder scene. Strung across the pathway between two coniferous trees, roughly 15 feet in the air, 20 naked half elves were lashed together, arm to arm and foot to foot. They resembled a grotesque paper chain. They were nude, however each wore a hat or habit that signified a religious order. When we passed under the bodies, I looked up. The fingers and toes of each half-elf had been sanded down to nubs. Blood and viscera dripped from their desecrated toes and fingers down to the path.
We approached the inn near nightfall. It was made of rough hewn, untreated wood. it appeared sturdy, but in a state of disrepair. The sign at the front had been ripped and splintered in half. As we bickered over what to name the inn, I noticed that some of the torches were lit in the inn windows. The building appeared to be inhabited. This incensed us to no end, and we ran to the property. A cold dread overtook me as we stepped into the shadow of the building, but I did my best to suppress it in front of my comrades.
While most of my comrades appeared to be at ease, the dwarves were observably uncomfortable. The three of them became even more quiet than usual, and Krawaal assumed a fighting stance and looked around the building in earnest.
We entered the courtyard of the inn and the main entrance doors swung shut behind us. I glanced around. Two horse heads were skewered on pikes behind us. The voice of a young girl materialized, seemingly out of the ether, and said, “come play with me.” The torches flared up, and then burned lower than before. Since this is a private journal, I have no shame in admitting that I was terrified beyond belief. I began searching for a way out of that inn. However, the only paths open to us were the stable and the entrance to the common room. Both were full of darkness. Turok used a song to summon a bright light, but even this could not illuminate the darkness of the main door.
The group ventured into the stable. I attempted to stay back with the dwarves and the mule. But when the group entered the stable, the horse heads sprang to life, braying and biting and spitting. The decapitated corpses filled the stable, and we were forced into battle with the loathsome beasts. Through my terror, I shot the heads with my crossbow while the others attacked the reanimated bodies. All throughout the fight, the sound of the child’s laughter bounced off the walls.
Tig was badly bitten by a horse head, but we managed victory.
Upon defeating the beasts, I made a calculated decision – my odds of survival were better with the group. I left the dwarves in the courtyard and continued into the stable. Through the stable, we found a door leading into a hallway. Once again, since this journal is private and will not be read by the others, I have no shame in admitting that I walked down that hallway with my eyes half-closed and my crossbow cocked. I heard screams. The torches flared wildly. Blood dripped down the walls, and faces appeared to stretch and scream and bite out of the walls. I felt something crawling around my legs. Dougal attempted to explore some of the rooms on his own, which I found both brave and foolish. But I continued on with Buck, Krawaal, and the others, until we reached the common room.
Here were the bodies of various patrons and employees of the inn. Their limbs jerked and twisted, pulled by their intestines as if they were marionettes, as if they were the dolls of some young child. One corpse was forced to playe demented music on an untuned fiddle. Blood dripped down the walls, and the floor was sticky with the dark effluvium of the murders. The heads of the bodies had been hacked off, and stitched on to different corpses. One woman’s eyes had been removed and nailed to her chin.
Buck poured himself a drink.
Something scurried across the ceiling. It was the body of a small human girl. It had been her we heard laughing. She laughed still, crawling across the ceiling, twisting her head fully around and staring at us. I have no shame in admitting that when she did so, I wanted nothing more than to burn the inn to the ground. I desired to raze the building to the ground, and never return. But the girl would not let us leave. She spoke of a “Red Man” who would not be forgotten.
I panicked, and I let loose a crossbow bolt aimed squarely at the girl’s heart. This did not do anything, however, except irritate her. She began attacking us, as did the puppet corpses surrounding her. Her demented toy followed, an animated doll, stabbing wildly with a large dagger. Dougal was severely wounded in the fight, and went down while fending off the corpses. Ironsong managed to use his gong as a powerful tool of combat, weaving a song that must have been infused with magic, for it dealt great damage to the devil girl.
(Note: Where did the Ironsong study? How does he know such arcane arts?)
After a long battle, the girl succumbed to our repeated blows. Her body lay on the ground, spattered with blood, her limbs twitching, and her bones poking out of her pale skin. She laughed, and spoke again of a “red man” who told her to “play.” She kept speaking of this red man, saying she did this because of him.
When she drew her last breath, the blood stains disappeared and the corpses sank to the ground. The torches went out and we panicked. After much screaming and cursing, we managed to relight the torches and sconces in the room.
All of the bodies had the insignia and patches of the Rift Sea Trade Co. on their clothing. (Note: Perhaps we found the explorers who were sent to Grave.)
After the fight, Gren and Glenda joined us in the common room. Glenda sidled up next to Krawaal, and put her arms around him. While Krawaal did not reciprocate, he did not push her away. We agreed that for now, we should rest.
I spent more time examining the bodies, looking for clues. Around the girl’s neck was a piece of parchment, a message from the Red Man. I will copy it below.
“Stare upon our first masterpiece,
a testament to our expertise
Marvel and adore!
Gape and abhor.
Look. Do not Touch.
Be not troubled overmuch.
The punishment upon which you gaze
is punishment for presumptive ways.
wide eyed wayward pioneers,
seeking fortune on these far frontiers
So go home, little travelers, we were here long before.
This display merely harkens what this land has in store
Perhaps you can live another day.
if you run along now, far, far away."
I am not sure who or what this red man is. I do not know if he is mortal. I do not know what he intends to do, or what his endgame is. But I do know this: Grex is far more magical and far more dangerous than I could have ever imagined.
Below, I shall list our loot:
A large jewel (from the eye of the hideous doll)