13th Day of Solaris, 85 AR
(( Right-Click, New Tab for music: The Return of The Fraxin ))
Enotian midlands, in the farming village of Valhurst…
On the trail of a murderer from the city of Clearwater, Edra and a member of his team, the Human tracker Aluna Stromm arrived in Valhurst just as the sun was beginning to set on the horizon. Investigating a ranger’s hut set just outside the village, they discovered it empty but located a map of the village with several areas marked in chalk: the village hall, the blacksmiths, the local inn, a mill warehouse and the home of the village “leader”, a man by the name of Edwin Valhurst. Confiscating the map as part of their investigation, the two headed into the village.
The man they were perusing was a Human Alchemist by the name of Doctor Larkin Eldrich who, until very recently, had been a prominent member of the Clearwater Medical Academy. He vanished from work and was not seen for three weeks, the same time that the first reported disappearance of what would turn out to be a total of 5 young Human women.
Edra and Aluna arrived first at the village hall, and spoke with the two village clerks there (a couple of Humans called Eva Abbot and Mervin Fogg). Though they said they had not seen anyone matching Eldrich’s description lately, they gave Edra (who works directly for the Crown as an investigator) access to the village records and suggested they talk to the village Ranger, Conrad Rogers. A look at the village records indicated that the Eldrich family used to live in the village, which may explain why the Doctor had returned.
Moving onto the Blacksmiths, the pair found Vernon Smith, the owner working out front and questioned him regarding anything untoward going on in the village. From their questioning they discovered he knew nothing of strangers in the area, and was more pre-occupied with the recent loss of his son, who ran away a week ago and was found in the woods mauled by wolves.
Edra and Aluna moved onto the local drinking establishment – The Valhurst Inn – which was still relatively quiet: only two patrons were on site with the owners. Lucas and Ivy Rea. One of the patrons was a farmer, the other – sitting quietly in the corner – Edra correctly surmised as Conrad Rogers. Speaking with him for a time, Rogers was more than happy to help the pair with their investigation and explained that the markings on the map were places where a stranger had recently been spotted in the last two nights and that he was about to start an investigation of his own on the matter. Rogers noted that the farmer – who he identified as Theron Elmerswell, owner of the Elmerswell Farm on the east side of town – was leaving, and the three headed out after him.
Speaking to farmer Elmerswell gleaned some information, he was quite open about the fact that he saw a “tall, gaunt man” hanging around the mill warehouse the night before, but when he followed him to ask who he was, the man had vanished. Having had a heavy night of drinking, Elmerswell put it down to his imagination and did not report it.
Investigating the large warehouse-barn where the grain is kept for the mill, the trio found it closed but unlocked, and Aluna discovered several tracks leading to and from the warehouse. The weather took a turn for the worst, with large rain-clouds beginning to gather overhead as the group made their way inside the warehouse. Inside it first appeared that nothing is amiss, just several stacked sacks of grain and wooden boxes containing the same. On closer inspection however, it is discovered that some had been disturbed at the rear of the main floor, arranged into a makeshift sitting/sleeping area. Among the tracks in the barn Aluna noticed that one set seemed to be different from the others, with one normal boot-print and the other a scraped, dragged foot. Also, upon turning over some of the grain sacks, splatters of blood (about 2-3 days old) are found.
Leaving the warehouse the group were met with rain, but Aluna and Rogers working together were able to follow the unusual tracks south until they came across a deserted and dilapidated house on the outskirts of the village. Rogers explained that it was a home they sometimes offer out to weary travelers who cannot afford the local inn, but that nobody had owned it for many years. The house was overshadowed by an equally unused watchtower. The house turned out to be long-since unused as a home, but there were some signs that somebody had used it to sleep in very recently. As they were searching around the property, Edra’s keen senses picked up a flicker of light from the watchtower, and the group decided to investigate.
Remaining at the foot of the watchtower as a lookout, Rogers took up position in the foliage around the base of the structure as Edra and Aluna entered the tower, the door of which was hanging off its hinges. The weather had gotten worse as a storm approached, making it difficult to hear through the wind and rain, but Edra thought he heard a voice as he entered. Once inside it became apparent there are three separate floors connected by a spiral stone staircase which wound around the entire of the exterior wall. As the pair ascended the first staircase they heard the voice more clearly, speaking in common – a male voice that seemed to be apologizing for something. They recognize it as Larkin Eldrich, and he was only one floor above them. Readying their weapons they continued up to the top floor, with Edra casting an invisibility spell and Aluna slinking into the shadows.
What they found was not what they expected: a open-plan room with a large open window dominating one side, the building storm occasionally illuminating the room in flashes of lightning. A makeshift stone and wooden table/alter had been placed in the middle of the room and a body laid upon it, shrouded in a white cloth. Slumped over it was a sobbing Larkin Eldrich, already a broken man.
Invisibly, Edra approached Larkin and cast his "Lawman’s Brand’ upon him, stopping the doctor from being able to evade him in the future. Doing so caused Edra to become visible, but also stun Eldrich who stumbled backward and barely avoids falling out of the open window. The Doctor seemed less than surprised to see the lawman had caught up with him but stated that it was all pointless anyway, he pulled back the shroud to reveal a woman rebuilt from various body parts and explained that was his wife, Rowena Eldrich. She was killed when a horse and cart ran her down while fleeing a robbery in Clearwater a fortnight ago. Since then he had been using fresh corpses to supplement the body parts that where damaged, and when they ran out…..creating corpses of his own. He had attempted to bring his wife back to life but it had been unsuccessful.
When Edra confronted him about his crimes Eldrich seemed unconcerned, stating that without his wife nothing else mattered – not the lives he took, not even his own life. Despite his lack of empathy, when Edra tried to arrest him he resisted and broke into an ill-advised fistfight (Edra was trained, Eldrich was not). A well placed punch from the Fraxin Arbitrator slammed Eldrich into the wall and he then fell flat on his face, complete with the sound of broken glass. Unfortunately for the investigators Eldrich fell upon one of his mutagens and it was not the meek doctor that arose from the floor but a hulking alternate version of himself, a violent and nonsensical juggernaut who was filled with rage.
Edra and Aluna adjusted their tactics to engage the rampaging rage-Eldrich head on, but ware hampered by the fact that Rowena animated in response to her husband being threatened: proof that a spark of her was still kindled, yet ironically Eldrich was too enraged to even notice.
Suddenly paired off against a mutagen-fueled Eldrich and his wife as a Flesh Golem, the pair engaged in a long and difficult battle in an enclosed space where they could not even call on Rogers for backup due to the loudness of the storm outside.
Sustaining painful injuries and lasting what seems like a lifetime, Edra and Aluna were finally able to knock Eldrich unconscious (reverting him back to his normal state) and then co-ordinate their attacks to put Rowena back to rest for a final time. Handcuffing and dragging the doctor outside, the battered pair found that the storm was clearing and that Rogers was speaking to another Fraxin at the base of the tower.
The Fraxin introduced himself as ‘Varago’, an agent of Lord Panroar Flinteye and, once confirming Edra’s identity, gave him a Royal Decree that stated he was summoned before the Crown at the city of Karsek in a day’s time. Edra agreed, but insisted he needs to turn in Eldrich to the local authorities in Clearwater on the way.