Nightrealms Carrion Crown

Cui prodest scelus is fecit...
“The one who derives advantage from the crime is the one most likely to have committed it.”

Pharast 22nd, 4711

Lepidstadt

Having enjoyed the hospitality of the Crooked Kin after their run-in with the Feaster in Watery Shadows, the party resumed their journey to the city of Lepidstadt along with their new-found friends. It was a sunny day, a rarity for Pharast in Ustalev, especially in the mountains. The city could be seen ahead as they approached from the west, following the last remnants of the Mountain road.

Off to the left of the city, a curious site could be seen. It was a series of standing stones arranged in a two alternating circles. The rings of menhirs were moon-white and surrounded a twisted, 16-foot-tall central spire of black rock. A most curious sight especially given its proximity to such a large city.

As the group meandered through the streets, Kaleb and company parted ways with the group, the former heading off to find the town center. Kendra Lorrimor and Vincent DuMont also went their own way – Kendra claiming to be tired and wanting to rest. Vincent suggested that they meet up later at the Purple Stallion Inn, and the party moved onward looking for directions to the University of Lepidstadt. Given the number of students and teachers, it wasn’t long before they found themselves on the campus, looking for the offices of one Dr. Montagnie Crowl, to whom they were to deliver a trio of books from the library of Professor Petros Lorrimor.


A Beast in the Night

Heading into the Department of Antiquities, the party was led up into the second floor workshop/library of Dr. Crowl, which was in state of disarray and destruction. Chairs, shelves, glassware, pottery, wooden figures, book, scrolls, and more were strewn about the room. While clearly efforts were currently underway to clean up the mess, it looked like a tornado had passed through the room.

Torquemada, Ryszard, and Haza were introduced to Dr. Montagnie Crowl, who apologized for the terrible state of his office, explaining that it was a bittersweet thing – for while his office was destroyed, it had paved the way for the capture of the legendary malevolent monster, the Beast of Lepidstadt! The doctor went on to explain that it had been caught after breaking into the building and stealing a curious relic called the Seasage Effigy. The Beast had been subdued by the local guardsmen and taken to the city jail, where it awaited it’s trial and subsequent burning, but there was no sign of the Seasage effigy.

Haza though it was passing strange that the Beast had been subdued in this room after stealing this idol, but that it had not been found or recovered from the person of the Beast, but to this point Dr. Crowl had no answer. He remained convinced that the idol was not valuable monetarily, and that it would only be a matter of time before it was recovered, given it’s unique appearance.

At this point the Doctor returned to business, asking to examine the books that the party had brought him at the bequest of Professor Lorrimor – the tomes On Verified Madness, Serving Your Hunger, and The Umbral Leaves. Torquemada was curious about the tomes, and the doctor explained that they all were tomes concerning great evils, and that they were best kept safe from harm and especially from those who would seek to exploit the knowledge contained within to do great evil.

Having concluded their business with the good doctor, the party asked if he knew of the whereabouts of one Judge Embreth Daramid. Crowl knew of her by reputation, and gave the party some general ideas where the local judges lived. Taking their leave, the group soon found themselves in a well-to-do district near the town center. A couple of inquiries led them to a fine three-storied brick townhouse. The brass door knocker clanged out it’s announcement to those inside, as the group waited for a response.


A good Judge of Characters

The door opened to reveal a stern woman, well into her sixties, with gray hair pulled back tightly into a bun and icy blue eyes. As the party introduced themselves (Torquemada the Holy Inquisitor of Iomedae, Ryszard Paladin of Iomedea, and Haza of Katapesh, she curtly cut them off and said that she had no interest in joining their temple and started to close the door. Talking quickly, Torque explained that they had been sent to find Judge Daramid on an errand for Professor Lorrimor.

“Ah, you are they. But I was told that there would be four of you,” said the Judge.

The party explained that there had been a fourth, but that she had gone her separate way back in Ravengro.

Embreth considered that for a moment, and then invited the party inside, leading them into a small sitting room and disappearing into the back of the house, where the sound of a whistling kettle soon filled the air. She reappeared a few minutes later, bearing a silver tray of fine china. Tea and scones were served, and after everyone was refreshed, Judge Darmid spoke about the death of Professor Lorrimor and asked to see the book that the party had brought her – The Manual of the Order of the Palatine Eye.

Torquemada asked her if she knew what was contained in the Manual. Embreth replied, “Yes, of course,” before taking the book and exiting the room. She returned a few minutes later, laded with three fine leather pouches, heavy with coin.

“Your payment gentlemen, as agreed.” Inside each – 100 platinum Crowns. A small fortune.

“Would you like to double your payment?” asked Embreth, peering at the group over the tops of her reading glasses.

“Petros obviously trusted you, and I begin to see the reason for his trust. Maybe I can trust you also? For an additional fee of 100 Crowns, of course.”

Judge Daramid went on to explains that she believes there is a cancer in Lepidstadt, a darkness lurking behind the shadow of a scapegoat. For many years the people of Lepidstadt have laid all their ills at the door of a creature known as the Beast of Lepidstadt — murders, thefts, and terror have all been attributed to the Beast, but Judge Daramid knews that many stories were exaggerations or simply untrue. She also knew of some people have different stories to tell about the creature—about its kindness and humanity, of how it has rescued loved ones or helped those in distress. Now that the time has arrived for such kindness to be repaid, however, no one dares to step forward and challenge the Beast’s reputation.

As a judge, Daramid has to maintain a keen sense of justice, and she fears the Beast will not receive a fair trial. The people of Lepidstadt have blamed the Beast for too much and for too long, and they want it to pay for its crimes, whether those crimes are real or imagined. In addition, the judge has some concerns about the crime for which the Beast was finally apprehended — the break-in and theft at Lepidstadt University. However, to publicly announce her suspicions could put her at great risk, both professionally and politically. As one of the three justices presiding over the Beast’s trial, she is unable to openly intervene, other than insisting that the Beast be properly defended in court.

“What I really need is a group of people without local bias to uncover the real truth about the Beast and its alleged crimes. The Beast’s legally appointed advocate, a barrister named Gustav Kaple, is hopelessly over his head and needs help — ideally someone to gather evidence about the Beast’s alleged crimes and stand up in court to be questioned by the prosecution. Such speakers must have bravery in spades and silver tongues to match, to ensure that if there is more to the Beast’s story, justice will be done. However, if the Beast is indeed guilty, then I can rest easier at night knowing that we gave it a fair trial.”

Accepting the terms of this agreement, Daramid suggested that the group hurry over to meet up with Gustav Kaple and meet with him and his client. She gave them directions to the nearby Courthouse, telling them that they were expected.

“Wait,” said Ryszard. “How do they know we’re coming?” But the Judge was already holding open the front door and ushering the group outside…


Meet the Beast

Judge Daramid’s directions soon led the group to the Main Entrance of the Lepidstadt Courthouse. Ornate pillars supported a balcony 15 feet above. Beneath the balcony, wide steps led up to a huge, ironbound door. Printed public notices were posted on a wooden board next to the door. Presently, these notices detail the upcoming trial of the Beast of Lepidstadt in long-winded legal language.

Entering through the heavy door, the party was quickly beset by a guardsman who tried to escort them back outside, stating that the trial was not due to begin for another day. name-dropping Judge Daramid quickly changed the guard’s attitude, and they were signed in as Court Defenders and directed upstairs to the Defense Chamber.

Where they met the s-se-seemingly inept, overworked, s-s-stuttering barrister, Gustav Kaple.

Gustav was happy to meet the party and gladly explained the circumstances leading to the Beast’s capture at the University and outlined the legal process involved in the trial:

  • Typically, the clerks arrive early to prepare the courtroom and chambers. Other members of the court arrive as the time approaches 10:00 a.m. The three justices arrive in black coaches with several guards in attendance.
  • 10:00 a.m.: The trial begins.
  • 10:10 a.m.: Opening of the Trial. Chief Justice Ambrose Khard commences proceedings by laying out the rules of the court.
  • 10:30 a.m.: Opening Statements. Prosecutor Otto Heiger will outline his case. Barrister Gustav Kaple then will make his case for the Beast’s innocence.
  • 11:00 a.m.: Witnesses for the Prosecution.
  • 12:30 p.m.: Witnesses for the Defense.
  • 2:00 p.m.: Court Recess.

Gustav then informed the party that the prosecution is using three recent crimes attributed to the Beast to convict the creature of murder:

  • The murder of 10 citizens of the village of Morast a year ago.
  • The slaying of six children in the farming community of Hergstag 7 months ago.
  • The arson attack 4 months ago at the Sanctuary on Karb Isle, which resulted in the deaths of Doctor Brada and his patients and the blinding of the doctor’s assistant, Karl.

Gustav seemed clearly over his head, and had not spoken to any of the prosecution witnesses nor did he have any evidence to show that the Beast was innocent of any charges. He suggested that since the trial would proceed in order of the charges arrayed against the Beast, that starting in Morast would be the most effective route. However, he first suggested that the party check out the scene of the initial crime at the University before proceeding.

The party agreed that the University was a logical starting point, but first wanted to meet with the Beast itself. Gustav did not wish to spend any further time with the Beast than necessary, and it was only the threatening gaze of Torquemada that made the entrance hall guard take the group down below to the jail.

The 8-foot tall abomination sat in an iron chair, bound with no less than a dozen sets of manacles. Stitching held together this grotesque patchwork of flesh and bone, beast and man, though the wires were so taut they looked as though they may fly apart at any moment. Its mouth was twisted in a permanent sneer, and a shock of lank, dark hair clings to its scalp. The creature slumped in its chair, a despondent expression upon its monstrous face.

At first, the party had little success in questioning the Beast. It remained in its chair, and did not respond to any of their questions. However, when asked directly why it killed the children in Hergstag, it quietly responded, “I didn’t do it.”

Although the creature resembled a legendary arcane creation – the flesh golem – the Beast was clearly something else entirely. It was intelligent, and capable of speech.

However, not much more information was forthcoming from the Beast. It refused to say where it was, other than “living in the swamp,” was unwilling to discuss whether it had killed anyone, and was equally close-mouthed about it’s origins.

It simply repeated its refrain, “I didn’t do it.”

Ryszard promised the Beast that they would do their best to see justice done, and they left, heading back to the University of Lepidstadt and the Department of Antiquities.


The Break-in

The front door was closed and locked, but lights could be seen coming from the second floor library, and knocking at the door soon led to another meeting with Dr. Crowl. He was surprised to see the group again, and even more surprised when they mentioned that they were there at the behest of the Court Defense.

Crowl was quite willing to allow the group to investigate the scene of the crime, although he warned them that a good deal of cleaning up has already taken place. The trail of the thief is easy to follow — the Beast broke in through the back door, then passed through the auditorium on his way to the workshop where the Seasage Effigy was kept. The back door to the Antiquities Department was originally locked with a superior lock, but it is clear that the door was recently damaged. The 1-inch-thick iron door was currently locked with a makeshift padlock and only crude repairs have been made.

The simple wooden door leading from the back door foyer into the auditorium had been broken off its hinges, as had the far door leading to the workshop. Paneled in oak, the auditorium contains a sunken, 5-foot-deep central area lined with books, tribal fetishes, and curiosities. A small stage and lectern stood in the center of this area, which is edged with a low oak rail, worn smooth from the touch of years of students gazing into the Master’s lecture room below.

The high–ceilinged workshop/library was lined with mostly empty shelves, and a trio of great leaded windows looked out over the university lawn. A staggering array of books, scrolls, maps, and curios, including shrunken heads, tribal masks, and bits of pottery, lay scattered all over the floor, apparently pulled from the shelves. The room is otherwise crowded with overturned tables, desks, and cabinets.

Torquemada could easily tell that the back door was clearly forced open from the outside, while Haza discovered the remains of fine silver wire and a tiny bell attached to the door, obviously the components for an alarm spell. While several people had walked through the area since the break-in, Torque was able to discern the tracks of a large, heavy creature in iron-nailed boots.

Despite the mess in the workshop, Ryszard noticed that one area in the room appeared to be untouched, in stark contrast to the damage seen elsewhere in the department. Indeed, the pedestal that once held the Seasage Effigy is crowded with small fetishes and delicate mother-of-pearl fish carvings that are undamaged. Meanwhile, Haza investigated the workshop’s windows which had clearly not been opened for many years, as evidenced by the build-up of grime around them. However, a closer inspection revealed that the center window, though now shut, had no such grime, and opened easily while the others were effectively painted shut.

As the night was getting long, the party opted to retire for the night, seeking out food and bed at the Purple Stallion inn, where Kendra and Vincent were waiting.

Good food, good drink, and a good night’s rest awaited.


Pharast 23rd, 4711

The Morass of Morast

As the first rays of dawn began to fill the skies, the party was already awake and preparing for their day. They first headed over to the Courthouse, finding Gustav asleep on a pile of papers. Upon awakening, he listened to their discoveries at the University break-in, but urged them to make haste to Morast, as the trial was to begin at 10:00 AM tomorrow!

Morast was a small hamlet in the Dippelmere Swamp about 8 miles due east of Lepidstadt. The party was able to follow a narrow trail leading from Lepidstadt to the village. The village itself was a miserable collection of 20 or so wattle-and-daub hovels built on stilts above the swamp and connected by soggy wooden boardwalks. The villagers apparently make their livings fishing and occasionally bringing in a blood caiman (a variety of crocodilian with a red-scaled head that is native to the north).

Some general questioning was met with close to open hostility, but the good grace of Paladin Ryszard was able to make some headway with the insular villagers after asking to speak with the village elder Lazne, whom Gustav had said was the star witness for the Morast portion of the trial.

Coming to discover that the village they were talking to currently was the aforementioned Lazne, Ryszard was able to pursue him to retell his tale of the Beast’s apparent attack on Morast.

About a year and half ago, villager began to disappear, their homes broken into and their bodies dragged away into the swamp. Sometimes a body part was found, but no complete corpses were ever found. Thus, suspicious fell upon the legendary Beast, for it was well known to rip men limb from limb. Lazne claims that at first the Beast only took lone villagers who were outside at night, but soon became bolder and began to attack houses. These attacks only ended when Lazne organized the villagers and set a trap for the Beast about 6 months after they started. He recalled that night well. The villagers were lying in wait for the Beast, who attacked just after nightfall. Armed with torches, the locals attacked and wounded the creature —a huge, hulking brute about 7 feet tall. The Beast took to the water, but the swampers gave chase in their boats, pursuing it to the village boneyard, where it was attacked by a blood caiman. Lazne grinned as he recalled how the Beast yelled oaths and curses that even the worst whore in Lepidstadt would blush to say as the gator attacked it, and describes the deep bite wound the gator made on the Beast’s shoulder as it dragged the Beast under the water. Although the Beast’s blood tainted the villagers’ burial ground, forcing them to abandon it and build another, the swampers thought it a small price to pay for the thing’s death. Hearing that the Beast actually survived was all that Lazne needed to tell his story to the authorities, and he was looking forward to seeing it burn.

The group asked permission to view the old boneyard, and Lazne agreed, after hitting up the group for a rental fee for the coracles and pilots needed to row them.


Threat from Above

A while later, the party sat in the small boats looking at the old boneyard. It was a tiny, miserable island rising from the swamp, a tangle of trees covering its dour, reed-choked surface. Hundreds of fetishes hung from the trees—simple, roughly humanoid figures made of sticks and bound with twine. Larger fetishes were planted in the ground on various parts of the island, leaning drunkenly in the soft mud.

Most notably, an enormously large nest was spotting high in the boughs of a trio of tangled trees on the northwest side of the isle. It was there the party opted to investigate first. Unfortunately, when they reached the trees, the nest’s occupant peered out at them – it was a manticore!

Manticore

The lion-like creature dove from the next, flinging tail spikes at the hapless party, who struggled to mount an attack. But the manticore did not land, only flying by overhead and flinging more spikes. Around and around the trees it flew, it’s missles striking home again and again. Realizing that melee combat was out of the question, Torque and Ryszard began to respond in kind, slinging arrows and crossbow bolts at the monster while Haza devoted his divine power to healing and restoring his friends. That was a luxury the manticore did not have as it was struck again by arrows and bolts. Finally, and with a final flick of its deadly tail, it turned and fled over the trees deeper into the swamp.

The manticore’s nest was obviously a recent construction, and contained the corpse of a dwarf traveler. The corpse wore a colorful patchwork coat with numerous pockets holding:

  • oil of keen edge,
  • a package of bodybalm
  • a silver hip flask still containing a fine brandy
  • a crimson felt purse containing 31 pp and 22 gp
  • a masterwork shortsword
  • a wand of ghost sound (22 charges)

Now that the immediate threat was dealt with, the group had time to thoroughly investigate the small island. And what they found surprised them.


Clues in the mud

First, Torquemada identifies six graves in the boneyard that appeared to have been tampered with, sagging into the ground as though they had collapsed from below, and leaving wide depressions in the muddy earth. After obtaining permission from Elder Lazne to exhume the graves, under the watchful eye of the Paladin, these six graves were found to be empty, while all of the other graves were undisturbed.

While searching the southern end of the boneyard, Haza came upon the remains of an old camp. Around a small firepit were a waterskin (still half full of wine), the aged remnants of some trail rations, and a curious glass vial. The bottom of the vial contains the dried remains of a green substance that smells vaguely of carrots, which Torque identified as the substance not as a potion, but as an alchemist’s darkvision extract.

Nearby, Ryszard found a swamp coracle hidden in the trees and brush along the southwest shore of the island. Dried blood was noticed in the bottom of the boat, which contained an oar, a moldy leather travel bag with a damp artisan’s outfit (a shirt, breeches, shoes, and a cloth apron) inside, and a vile object that appeared to be a detached human face!

In addition, a length of rope stretches from the boat into the waters below. The rope was attached to a heavy sack. This sack was very large (big enough to hold a Medium-sized humanoid) and had dried blood soaked into its fabric. The sack held some rope, a gag, a rusted lantern, a trio of heavy knives, and a rusted shovel.

Finally, in the undergrowth nearby, Torquemada found a leather-bound case filled with fine tools, made of silver with amethyst handles, lost in the undergrowth nearby. It appeared to be a surgical tool set, such as those used by physicians and chirurgeons.

Nothing else was to be found, but before the party left for the return trip to Lepidstadt, they asked Lazne if the dwarf or the detached human face were at all familiar. While he found the whole proceeding distasteful, morbid curiosity overcame his natural reluctance, and he looked at the corpse, saying that he had never seen the dwarf before. However, when he saw the face skin, he remarked that it looked like the trader Nam Kleben. He was a trader that had started appearing in Morast about 18 months ago, but who had not been seen for a year or so.

The face reminded Torquemada of a creature he once read about during his training. It hailed from the First World – a fey known as a skin stealers. These legendary beings were bent on destruction and gruesome murder. When left to their own devices, these gangly beings are unpredictable and spontaneous; when assigned duties from some higher, stronger power, however, skin stealers rumored to be adept at performing complex assassinations and spy work.

After burying the dwarf corpse and saying a few words to Sarenrae and Iomedae, the group rode with the swampers back to Morast and heading back along the trail to Lepidstadt.

Tomorrow, the Trial of the Beast would begin!

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December 19, 2011 XP
Encounter Type XP
Clix-Clix (Goblin) Non-combat 100
Glubb-Glubb (Advanced Barghest) Combat 1,600
The Feaster in Watery Shadows (Phase Spider) Combat 1,600
Total 3,300
Character XP Total Class Level (Level 5 – 15,000xp)
Ryszard 12,043 Paladin 4
Haza 12,043 Cleric 4
Torquemada 12,293 Inquisitor 4
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The Road Least Traveled

Pharast 18th, 4711

R & R

As the days wound on after the terrible trials of haunted Harrowstone, the party began to recuperate from their experiences. Resting around Lorrimor house and simply walking the marketplace of Ravengro did much to heal their bodies and souls, and soon the thirty day period of watching over Kendra Lorrimor was drawing to a close.

While the threat from the spirits of Harrowstone was gone, the attitude of the townsfolk did not seem much improved over when the group first arrived in town. While the strangeness had stopped in the town, no one seemed to tie that to the group. And since they had done little to broadcast their actions, the party was still treated as outsiders by most of the townsfolk.

The party was able to recover a number of well-crafted items from the old prison, and received fair coin in trade.

Jorfa the smith made good on her promises, and Torquemada and Haza were fitted into their gleaming new armor. Tailor-made to fit perfectly, neither could remember ever owning or even seeing finer pieces of armor. .

Ryszard spent some of his time researching the current ownership and land rights of the former prison, and was told that he would need to visit the Canterwall county seat at the fortress town of Tamrivena. His plans to raze the structure temporarily put on hold, he set about finding other uses for his tithe from his share of the party treasure.

Of the witch Celaphelia, there was no sign, although ominously, each member of the group discovered missing personal items from their rooms…

As the party began to prepare for their trip to return Professor Lorrimor’s books to the University of Lepidstadt and to Judge Embreth Daramid, Kendra began acting peculiarly. Usually quietly reserved, she began to act furtively around the group. When questioned about her future plans, her answers were always cryptically short and evasive. She also started to avoid being in the same room as Torquemada, as if she couldn’t stand to be in his presence.

As the date of departure arrived, Kendra finally revealed her plans to the group – she was taking a sabbatical from Ravengro, and would be traveling to Lepidstadt! When questioned about the wisdom of making such a journey alone, she replied that she had hired a bodyguard to escort her. A bodyguard already known to the party in fact – Vincent DuMont.

Torquemada was not pleased at this announcement, but as Ryszard immediately invited Kendra to accompany the party on the journey to Lepidstadt, Torque could say little when she eagerly accepted. She said she was happy to have the party along for a while longer, all the while throwing quick glances Torquemada’s way, not that he noticed.


Along the Mountain Road

Finally, the thirty days were up, and the group set out early on a sunny Pharast morning for the journey north. The party would be following the Mountain Road, which led from Ravengro through Tamrivena and thence into the county of Vieland to the city of Lepidstadt.pa

The winding road was fairly well maintained, and the party made good time as they left Ravengro and began to wend their way higher up into the hills and mountains of western Canterwall. The cool spring weather of Pharast lent a certain chill to the already cold air, and although the clouds boded ill for the travelers, no rain or snow materialized to dampen the spirits of the group.

The distance from Ravengro to Lepidstadt would be about 100 miles. It was well-known that no journey in Ustalav was without risk, but the old Mountain Road was generally regarded as the
best route. This road follows the southeastern foothills of the Tusk Mountains, passing through the towns of Tamrivena and Courtaud before following the Lesser Moutray River up to Lepidstadt.

Kendra used the journey to make numerous excuses to walk beside the Holy Inquisitor of Iomedae, talking about plants, weather, history, monster lore – just about anything Torquemada brought up in conversation had Kendra hanging on his every word.

Not that he noticed.

The first day passed without incident, and the party set up a watch schedule for the evening hours to ensure that danger would not catch them unawares. However, this night passed uneventfully.


Pharast 20th, 4711

Klix-Klix & Glubb-Glubb

It was on the evening of the second day out that danger reared its head for the travelers. Torquemada was on watch, and noticed a small creature watching the group huddles in sleep around their campfire. The night had brought some blowing drizzle and snow, and they had found shelter in an old, ruined cabin. Although the walls and roof were not entirely intact, there was enough left standing to provide a substantial amount of protection from the elements. That, coupled with a roaring fire, made the evenings repose comfortable.

Into this comfort came the intruder. It was, of all things, a small goblin. Holding aloft a small spear, and wearing tattered clothing, it watched the scene from nearby, obviously curious, but seemingly non-threatening.

By now, Torquemada had set about rousing the group. Ryszard was first up, and strode forth to parlay with the goblin. The creature was brash and full of himself, introducing himself as Klix-Klix, ruler of the goblin tribes. Which was, after a long painful series of questions and answers, apparently a tribe of one.

Ryszard invited the creature to share their fire and some wine, and it did so, boisterously accepting their “surrender” and claiming the wine as was his due as victor.

Just then, another figure was spotted lurking nearby – another goblin hiding in the brush nearby. When shown this, Klix-Klix started alarmingly, and screaming tried to flee through a nearby hole in the wall. Ryszard intercepted the goblin, asking what was going on.

“It’s Glubb-Glubb!” shrieked the frightened goblin, still struggling to flee, as the other goblin strode forward into the firelight. Ryszard moved to speak with the new goblin, who threw his spear at his head in response!

Angered now, the paladin drew his weapon and engaged the goblin, who surprised him with the ferocity and speed of its counterattack. As Haza and Torquemada moved to help, Ryszard felt a wave of despair fall over his spirit, but fought back against the mysterious flood of emotion, striking Glubb-Glubb, but not damaging him significantly.

Now a full-fledged battle was on, and the small goblin was landing powerful blows on the group. Clearly this Glubb-Glubb was no ordinary goblin! This revelation was proven true a few moments later, when the goblin disappeared and suddenly reappeared nearby, blinking in and out of existence. The battle continued, with the bloodied party finally getting in a number of strikes on the goblin.

However, now the goblin assumed another shape.

It was no goblin.

Torquemada knew it for what it was.

It was a Barghest. An evil shapechanger from the outer planes.

Barghest

Suddenly, the creature levitated into the air, out of reach of the party below, and dimension doored away into the night.

Was it mortally wounded? Would it return this night? Or the next?

In the confusion, Klix-Klix had fled into the night, and with no sign of the barghest’s imminent return, the party renewed their watch schedule and fell back into troubled sleep.


Pharast 21st, 4711

The Crooked Kin

The third day dawned with no more attacks by the barghest, and the group set off early, arriving in the walled fortress town of Tamrivena in the early afternoon. The people in town and guardsmen were strangely suspicious for such a large city, but Ryszard was able to find his way to the council hall to inquire about the land rights of Harrowstone prison.

He discovered that the property was still owned by the county of Canterwall, and that if he were serious in making an offer to purchase the land and buildings, he would only have to leave a 1,000 gp deposit to start the process. The current listed value of the land and buildings? 20,000 gp.

Ryszard decided that his tithe to Iomedae would be better used elsewhere, and the group bedded down for the night in the comfort of a local inn, the Brown Hare. The price was reasonable, the food hot and filling, and the beds were warm and cozy. Best of all, no goblins or barghests disturbed their sleep.

The next day saw the group leave the city of Tamrivena behind, as they continued along the Mountain Road north. There were a number of travelers on the road, including a caravan of horses and armored guards escorting a wagon carrying tax collectors back to the county seat.

It was near dusk when the party crested a small rise and saw a curious sight ahead. A caravan of nine covered Varisian wagons pulled by nags sat by the roadside. The wagons were gaudily painted and depict a travelling show’s performers beneath the legend, “The Crooked Kin—Ustalav’s Greatest Traveling Cabinet of Curiosities!”

The various members of the troupe appeared to be milling aimlessly around the stopped
caravan. Two women with extremely small heads were distraught and crying, which in turn is causing the a hirsute young boy to (literally) howl inconsolably. A 7’ tall bearded woman and a veiled, robed woman with four arms were apparently trying to comfort them while three brightly colored clowns, an ogre-sized brute, and a dark-skinned Mwangi man with no arms or legs argued nearby.

As the party approached, the performers quieted down, the brute quickly knocking on a nearby wagon. Its rear door opened, and a tall albino man with red eyes and long, white hair that hung below his knees, wearing a tall red top hat, a long red coat with gold buckles, and striped trousers, stepped out.

Introducing himself as Kaleb Hesse, the albino went on to explain that he was the leader of the famous Crooked Kin traveling troupe. While the party exchanged pleasantries, the other performers began to close around behind their leader, obviously waiting for him to speak to the group about something important.

And he did. Kaleb introduced the troupe, and then asked for assistance. One of the Pinhead sisters, Aleece, had wandered off earlier this afternoon into the marsh nearby, and had yet to return. They had called for her, but there was no response, and everyone was beginning to fear that something bad had happened to her. Kaleb went on to explain that no one in the group had the skills to search through the fens as night approached, and offered a reward if the group would assist them in searching for their missing friend and family member.


The Feaster in Watery Shadows

The party set their lights ablaze and found the tracks of Aleece nearby. The tracks ran for about half a mile before heading down into a boggy river valley, and then into a densely vegetated, midge-infested marsh. The marsh was a shallow bog, with high reeds between 6 and 8 feet high that blocked line-of-sight and slowed movement through the murky water further. It was impossible to follow tracks here, so the group spread out, looking for any signs of the girl as they called out to Aleece.

About 100 yards inside the bog, a cramped clearing filled with dismal-looking gray flowers was found. A faint cry of “help, it’s coming back!” was heard, and the party readied themselves as they moved onward, searching for the source of the cries.

Even expecting attack, Haza was taken by surprise when a large spider-like monster with an eerie, humanoid face surrounded by a shaggy mane of fur appeared out of nowhere and bit at the cleric. Sarenrae was with Haza though, and the venomous bite was turned by the heavy armor plates that Haza now wore, and before he could even reach, the creature faded back into the Ethereal Plane from whence it came.

The feaster in watery shadows

Now the party struggled against the sucking mud, trying to regroup as the phase spider began jaunting back-and-forth between the Material and Ethereal planes, striking at the party members and then fading away before reprisal could be made. Torquemada felt the sting of the phase spider’s venom, and felt his stamina falter. Haza and Ryszard were also struck before the party could rally back-to-back, readying their attacks for when the monster next appeared. As it did, everyone lashed out with their weapons and spells, finally harming the magical beast. The fight continued, but now the party had the upper hand, and finally, bloodied, battered, and bruised, the Feaster in Watery Shadows faded away into the Ethereal Plane and did not return.

Sadly, the corpse of Aleece was found nearby, obviously poisoned by the phase spider. Additionally, a number of items were discovered, left behind when the spider fled:

  • a potion of fox’s cunning
  • a magnifying glass with a gold handle
  • a small wooden box containing a set of brass weights
  • a walnuttraveling case with a pair of superior locks and their keys
  • a jar of pickled garlic cloves

Returning to the road with Aleece’s body, they broke the bad news to Kaleb and crew, who were stricken by their loss, but also glad that the party was able to help return her body to them and to chase off the loathsome creature that lured her to her death.

True to his word, Kaleb presented the party with a reward for their efforts:

  • +1 humanoid (shapechanger) bane dagger

Kaleb also invited the party to spend the evening with them, and should they wish it, accompany them to the city of Lepidstadt, where they were headed to take advantage of the crowds that were headed there.

For the dreaded Beast of Lepidstadt — terrifying abomination that has terrorized the people of Vieland for years — had been captured. Hundreds of people were flocking to the city hoping to catch a glimpse of the horror and watch it burn for its crimes.

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DM Notes on the Haunting of Harrowstone

Building Trust
In “The Haunting of Harrowstone,” the PCs spend quite a bit of time in the town of Ravengro. Unfortunately, as strangers to the town during a particularly bad time, they aren’t initially trusted. Yet as the days roll by, they are faced with numerous opportunities to build upon the town’s trust and, eventually, become well liked by the citizens, earning discounts on purchases, free room and board, or perhaps even greater rewards for their good deeds.

Ravengro’s overall trust in the PCs is expressed by a numerical value — a Trust score. This score is shared by the entire party — acts of individual members can affect this total just as surely as acts the entire group takes part in. When the adventure begins, the PCs have a Trust score of 20. They can raise their Trust score by doing good deeds, respecting the townsfolk, or completing quests.

I will be reusing this mechanic as appropriate. When the party enters areas where their reputation has preceded them, the party initial Trust score will be modified to reflect their previous deeds (or misdeeds).

Individual rewards or penalties are affected by character class, alignment, religion, relevant skill checks, and roleplaying interactions.

The party’s final Trust Score for Ravengro was 21 (Neutral).

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December 4, 2011 XP
Encounter Type XP
Zombies (5) Combat 1,000
Vincent DuMont Roleplaying 1,000
Father Charlatan Haunt 1,600
Gray Ooze Combat 1,200
Blood-Writ Names Haunt 2,400
The Splatter Man Combat 2,400
Defeating the Five and Returning the Badge to Vesorianna Story Award 2,400
Total 12,000
Character XP Total Class Level (Level 5 – 15,000xp)
Ryszard 10,943 Paladin 4
Haza 10,943 Cleric 4
Torquemada 11,193 Inquisitor 4
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The Haunting of Harrowstone

Calistril 22nd, 4711


A Quiet Evening at Home

It was early evening as the party returned to town. It was still early in the evening, so after a quick meal, the group went their separate ways. Haza and Torquemada headed off to the Ravengro Forge, while Ryszard accompanied Kendra as she ran some errands in town. Celaphelia excused herself to go rest and recuperate in her room.

The Forge was ringing with the sound of hammer and anvil when Haza and Torquemada approached, and they soon found themselves face-to-face with the shop owner, the dwarf Jorfa. While gruff and curt, she didn’t seem at all as apoplectic as Ryszard had made her out to be. Both adventurers were looking for new armor, Torquemada requesting a more movement-friendly suit of scale mail, while Haza simply wanted something with a heavier amount of protection of a breastplate.

After some haggling, the dwarf smith agree to forge a new suit of armor for each of them, to be delivered by the end of three weeks. Haza and Torquemada realized that they would have to sell off some of the items they had found in Harrowstone to make the payments, but were pleased to be able to get some upgraded armor forged before leaving for Lepistadt.

Ryszard had meanwhile finished escorting Kendra around town on her errands and had returned to Lorrimor Manor. He was settling in for the night, when he heard a knock at the door. To his surprise, it was Professor Lorrimor. Ryszard was momentarily surprised, and the undead Professor lurched forward and raked at Ryszard’s already scarred face with his dirt-encrusted nails! Starggering back, Ryszard fought off the zombie, all-to-aware that the commotion would surely bring Kendra out of the study to investigate if he didn’t finish this abomination off quickly.

Luckily, Celaphelia heard them first, and found herself at the top of the stairs, watching Ryszard slash at the head of her friend, Professor Lorrimor! He wasn’t dead after all, but alive and being attacked by another party member – shades of the previous betrayal by Torquemada.

Celaphelia flew down the stairs, determined to save the life of her good friend. She cast a hex at Ryszard, who was still struggling with the zombie. Suddenly, through the front door came Haza and Torquemada, finally returned from their earlier errand. They stood in shock at the scene before them – the paladin fighting off the zombie while trying to avoid the witch’s attacks. Finally spurred into action, Haza and Torquemada waded into the fray, siding with Ryszard against Professor Lorrimor. They managed to hack the zombie down while Celaphelia ranted against them, just as the study door opened and a once-again shocked Kendra emerged. Quickly, the group arrayed themselves to shield the sight from Kendra’s eyes, but she was still able to make out a dirty, disheveled figure lying motionless on the floor. Torquemada stepped forward and explained that they had just fought off an attack on Kendra’s life, attempted by an undead zombie that had been given the appearance of her dead father.


Knock, knock…

Into this already chaotic scene came a knocking at the open door. It was the local man hired by Ryszard to guard the gravesite of Professor Lorrimor. Arrayed in breastplate, he stood stock-still at the doorway, staring at the madness before him. He asked what was going on, and Ryszard moved to confront him, offering him his pay and assuring him that all was normal and nothing unusual was going on. He refused to be dissuaded, however, and slowly backed towards the door, stating that he was going to summon Sheriff Caeller, and pulled out a farmer’s sickle to ward off the group.

Ryszard was having none of this, and decided to teach this upstart farmer’s boy a lesson. He stepped forward, lunging for the sickle, intending to disarm the pup and have a little fun at his expense. Unfortunately, the guard moved much more quickly that Ryszard expected, and he was left grasping at air, off-balance, while the guard threw a thunderous left cross into Ryszard’s jaw. His head snapped back, his teeth audibly snapping together as a fine spray of blood misted from Ryszard’s split lip.

No one had expected that, least of all the paladin.

The guard continued his wary retreat, and finally spun on his heel and disappeared through the doorway into the evening darkness.

Torquemada moved with haste, extorting the others into helping take the body with them to bury it elsewhere before the Sheriff arrived and asked too many questions. Celaphelia refused to take part in this scheme and stayed behind with Kendra as the group lugged the corpse out through the back door.

Only to run into the guardsman once again, this time brandishing a lucern hammer at them. He said he expected some kind of trickery, and that it would be best for them to drop the body and await the arrival of the Sheriff.

Once again, Ryszard moved to confront the guard, attempting to outwit him with words, but once again, was sidestepped by the local, who started blowing a whistle that was chained around his neck. Finally, the paladin moved to attack the man, and a battle was joined. After an initial series of blows, the guard dropped his polearm and switched to his sickle again. Ryszard was landing some blows, but appeared to be getting the worst of it, and Haza and Torquemada reluctantly joined in. It was now three-on-one, but the guard still was standing toe-to-toe with the party. All were now battered, bruised, and bloody, and had stopped momentarily to gather their breath when a Deputy appeared around the corner of the house, ordering everyone to put down their arms and explain themselves, and just what was that body doing on the ground?

Ryszard tried futilely to lie his way out of the situation, but the Deputy was having none of it, when suddenly bursting through the nearby trees came a half-dozen skeletal figures, clattering forward with clawed hands and attacking the living indiscriminately. The Deputy went down under their attack, but the party managed to destroy the rest of the living dead, working side-by-side with their former antagonist the guard.

From around the front of the building, sounds of combat could be heard, but first Torquemada rushed into the house, seeking to check on Kendra. He stormed through the house, but there was no sign of her or of Celaphelia. The witch had disappeared with Kendra once again.

There was nothing to be done about it now, and the party moved out front, where the Sheriff and a number of his Deputies were fighting off another wave of undead monstrosities. With their help, the undead were quickly returned to the cold embrace of true death, and it was time for explanations once again.

Surprisingly, as Torquemada finished the tale, the Sheriff grudgingly admitted that he believed him. Maybe it was the candor with which Torquemada spoke, or the irrefutable evidence laying corpse-cold around them – but the Sheriff agreed that the problem was not the party, but the growing evil of Harrowstone prison. He dispatched his men to clean up the bodies and arrange for Father Grimburrow to have them reburied. Ryszard would also accompany the men heading to the Temple of Pharasma, as he had a suspicion that he would find Kendra and the witch there.


Calistril 23rd, 4711


A Parting of Ways

A suspicious that would prove correct. The witch Celaphelia had once again convinced Kendra to run off with her for the safety of someplace else other than in the presence of the party. Harsh words were exchanged, ending with Celaphelia retiring alone to her room for the evening.

Meanwhile, the local guard, one Vincent DuMont by name, spoke with the group about the situation earlier, saying that he did what he though was right, although he was sorry that everyone got roughed up as a result of the misunderstanding.

Ryszard suggested to the group that it might be worth their while to see if Vincent would be willing to throw in with the team, but Torquemada – Holy Inquisitor of Iomedae – stated that he was not willing to split his shares of loot with any allies, no matter what strengths they brought to the table…

With that, the matter was dropped, and Vincent left the house along with the Sheriff and the remaining deputies. Kendra retired to her room, as did the party members.

Next morning, the party awoke to find that two more letters had been painted in blood in the town – the letter “O” on the Harrowstone Memorial, and the letter “R” on the front door of Lorrimor House.

The witch Celaphelia was also missing, her bed showing no signs of having been slept in, and all her belongings removed from the premises. Apparently, she no longer would be working with the party or fulfilling the conditions of her inheritance set forth in the Will of Professor Lorrimor.

After breakfast, the party decided to return to the prison and attempt to destroy the remaining evil spirits once and for all. Kendra was escorted to the Temple of Pharasma for her safety, and the group returned once more to the abandoned prison on the hillside.


The Blessed Father

Once more the team ventured into the cold stone walls of Harrowstone, making their way to the upper level. A number of cell blocks were found throughout the upper expanse, but outside of a few skeletons and old, rotting furniture, little of value or note was found. However, in the southwest corner of the floor, a locked door led to a somewhat larger cell. While it was rather spacious, it contained no concessions to comfort. A skeletal body dressed in the rotting remains of a prisoner’s robe lay slumped against the eastern wall, wrapped in numerous chains on which were affixed numerous weights emblazoned with several different holy symbols…

Father Charlatan?

Approaching cautiously, and unleashing a torrent of holy water onto the corpse, the party advanced upon the skeleton, awaiting it’s counterattack.

However, the skeletal corpse was apparently just only a corpse, as nothing happened.

Somewhat disappointing, the group began to search the room for some sign of the presence of the undead spirit, and it was Ryszard who saw the spectre first. Scanning the room with detect evil, he was shocked to see a glowing spirit standing behind Haza, his ring-encrusted fingers clasped onto Haza’s shoulder, and a wicked grin splitting his mouth wide.

Torquemada and Ryszard backpedaled from him, hissing to Haza that Father Charlatan was behind him, but he obviously could not see the spectral figure, and returned to playing with the Father’s skull, having removed it from his corpse and now playing with it.

Father

Torquemada quickly retrieved one of his spirit siphons as Ryszard shot a ghost touch arrow at the vision, but was dismayed to see it pass harmlessly through the ghost. Father Charlatan winked at Ryszard, but then grimaced in apparent pain as a burst of greenish light filled the room from the spirit siphon.

However, it was not enough. Father Charlatan still stood in lockstep with Haza, and a wisp of dark, acrid smoke spiraled up from the burnt-out magic siphon. Haza screamed, and passed out…

Only to awaken in a brightly lit room, comfortably arranged on a feather-soft bed, covered in warm blankets. An older man clad in robes stood nearby, and moved closer when he saw his charge had awakened.

He explained that Haza was in the city of Lepidstadt. He had been brought here months ago and had been in a coma ever since, having been the only survivor of the Ravengro massacre, when the evil spirits of the prison had escaped and rained terror down upon the townsfolk, slay or driving the living from the town.

Haza was unsure of what was happening and started to question the priest, but suddenly felt woozy as a sharp pain lanced through him, causing him to fall back onto the bed…

(Meanwhile, from Torque’s and Ryszard’s perspective, Haza lay prone on the floor of the cell, writhing in pain as ghostly chains appeared and wrapped themselves around his body, constricting and tightening as they watched.)

With a mighty effort of will, Haza sat up again, questioning the man again. The priest explained that sometimes these pains occur in those who had recently been resurrected from the dead. Haza mentioned that the priest had just said that he had been in a coma, and had not been dead, and again pain flared through him. This time, Haza fought it off with all the willpower he could muster, and the priest screamed, his features melting away, as did the room itself, leaving Haza lying on the cold floor of the Harrowstone cell, looking up at his incredulous friends.

They explained what they saw and said that it seemed that the spirit of Father Charlatan had suddenly reared back in pain, melting into mist as the ghostly chains evaporated from Haza’s body as the same time.

Haza understood then. Father Charlatan himself was a haunt, and the spirit had pitted its terrible will against Haza’s in a battle for his soul, but it was Haza who won the fight, and the haunt was disrupted. He hoped that Vesorianna, now armed with the Badge of Warden Hawkren, would be able to prevent it from returning while they hunted down the last of the Five.


The Splatter Man

The group returned to Vesorianna, who was beside herself in both fear and gratitude. She explained that Father Charlatan was no more, but that the Splatter Man was moving against her with greater strength, and unless he were defeated soon, would soon kill her and be free to terrorized the town and the world.

Down into the dungeons once more, the party debated the best way to approach the lair of the Splatter Man. They now knew, thanks to Vesorianna’s increased powers with the Badge, that the Splatter Man dwelt in the Nevermore, but the broken winch and lowered portcullis was a formidable obstacle.

Ryszard suggested they return to the torture room, explaining that there might be a secret passage from that room into the prison cells. Torquemada laughed at this, asking why would the prison architects but a secret passage from the torture room to the cellblock, but his laughter died on the still air as Ryszard tripped the switch that opened the secret door leading from the torture room to the cellblock…

Rough stone walls of a natural cavern dripped with moisture, leaving stagnant pools of water on the uneven floor as the party moved through the passage. It was the paladin who sensed something wrong, as the glistening rock beneath his feet gave way spongily. Suddenly, the ground reared up around his feet and legs, trapping Ryszard in a thick mass of grayish rock that roiled and oozed up his limbs. He screamed in pain as the sharp pain of flesh-eating acid began to burn him, and the party struck out at the terrible creature. Ryszard lashed out with his hand axe, chopping a chunk out of the ooze, but his handaxe came back pitted and smoking from the blow also. Haza attempted to burn the monster with fire bolts, but they seemed to do little harm to the mindless thing, leaving Torquemada to attack with his heavy crossbow. Ryszard fought his was free of the lashing psuedopods, and the ooze was struck down in a flurry of arrows and bolts.

Moving onward, the party found another secret door and entered the Nevermore proper.

Several iron doors lined the walls of this partially ruined cellblock — the doors themselves hanging askew on their hinges, revealing empty cells beyond. Partially burnt wooden support timbers still functioned to the north, while to the south they had collapsed and caused cell walls to crumble as well. Rivulets of water dripped down the southwestern wall to create a shallow pool in this ruined portion of the room, with overflow filling an oubliette hole in the middle of the room nearly to the rim.

Suddenly, Torquemada felt a cold hand upon his heart. On the nearby wall, a bloody letter appeared – a “T”. Torquemada knew that if his name were spelled out in the blood-writ words, he would surely die. Even now, a fog occluded his mind, and his willpower diminished drastically. If he could only erase the letter(s), he would have a chance. Haza and Ryszard felt a touch also, but so far they resisted the lure of the malevolent haunt.

Torquemada fought off the mental assault, even as Ryszard succumbed to the mental drain. And into the chaotic scene, rising up from the dark waters of the oubliette with a hideous shriek – the ghost of the Splatter Man.

Splatter man

Dark energy gathered at his fingertips, as potent magic missles slammed into Ryszard, Torquemada, and Haza. Between the Blood-Writ Names and the Splatter Man, the group was sorely pressed, as the ghost proved resistant to magic as well as weapons. He clearly was the most powerful spirit that any there had yet faced, but Haza had a final card to play. Pulling the rotting spellbook out from his pack – the spellbook once belonging to the Splatter Man himself – he threw the book down and called holy fire down upon it. As the moldy pages burst into flame, so did the Splatter Man. The connection between his previous life and his undeath was strong, and so was the pain that surged through his insubstantial form. Heartened by this, the party pressed their advantage, throwing all their magical and physical might at the staggered ghost. The Splatter Man was at a disadvantage now, and the group knew they could not afford to let him recover. The ghost surged into melee, attempting to use his corrupting touch to destroy the humans in front of him, but he was still disoriented from the destruction of his spellbook. He realized his mistake and started to turn to flee, but it was too late. A final blow slashed through his incorporeal form, piercing his undead heart, and sending him back into the waiting arms of true death.

The Splatter Man was dead. Once again.


Aftermath

With the Splatter Man dead, the imposing will of the haunt also disappeared. It was as if a great pressure was suddenly released, and all felt a warm rush of hope fill their hearts. As they bandaged their wounds, they searched the cell blocks that once housed the evil murderer. At the bottom of the flooded oubliette, a number of magical items were discovered:

Taking these with them, the group returned to Vesorianna, who was literally aglow with pleasure. She greeted the victors, thanking them profusely for their aid, and assuring them that no trace of the Five or any evil spirit or haunt now remained within the prison walls.

As her work was also done, she admitted that her time on this plane was rapidly coming to an end. But not the end of pain and suffering that she would have faced under the power of the Splatter Man; rather this was one of promised release and reward.

She offered the Badge of her husband as a parting gift to the party, as her form began to ripple and distort. With a final sign of relief and bliss, Vesorianna disappeared, and the Badge of Warden Hawkren slowly drifted to the ground.

The group gathered the badge, and left the unhaunted halls of Harrowstone Prison behind them. Rest and recuperation beckoned, as well as a few more weeks of watching over Kendra before leaving for Lepidstadt, and further adventures…

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November 20, 2011 XP
Encounter Type XP
Cold Spot Haunt 800
The Lopper Combat 1,600
Screaming Severed Heads (3) Combat 405
The Mosswater Marauder Haunt 800
Crawling Hands (2) Combat 400
The Mourning Maiden Haunt 1,200
Stirges (3) Combat 600
The Piper of Illmarsh Haunt 1,200
Skeletons (4) Combat 520
Total 7,525
Character XP Total Class Level (Level 4 – 9,000xp)
Ryszard 6,943 Paladin 3
Haza 6,943 Cleric 3
Torquemada 7,193 Inquisitor 3
Celaphelia 7,093 Witch 3
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Against the Five

Calistril 21st, 4711


The Hunt Begins

… and almost immediately decided that it would be suicidal to spend the night inside this haunted prison. Torquemada proposed using a rope and crowbar, along with Celaphelia’s animate rope spell, to secure the rope above the water-flooded “Hell’s Basement.” And that’s exactly what happened, as the party left behind the cold, damp, and soot-stained dungeon for the warmth and (relative) safety of Ravengro and Lorrimor House.

Kendra was still alive and safe, even though she seemed increasingly concerned about the extended absences her “guardians” had been taking lately, as well as returning to the house at all hours beaten, bloodied, and battered. Reassurances were made, and the party were soon resting from their latest ordeal.

Next morning, the town was abuzz with the latest desecration at Harrowstone Memorial. As expected, a bloody letter “S” was found at the site, as the Splatter Man continued his malicious work against the ghostly Vesorianna.

Refreshed and ready, the group set off again for the haunted prison, and immediately moved inside, returning first to the auditorium to test out a theory. Once again entering the cold room, Torquemada unscrewed the top off of a haunt siphon, and was rewarded by a burst of greenish light that filled the room. A deep sucking sound echoed through the air, and suddenly the cold was gone. The haunt siphon itself now glowed, filled with a green-white ectoplasm that twisted and writhed inside the jar.

Next, the party moved back to the old guard room containing the lift, securing a rope and descending once again to the dark waters below. Heading back to the northern section, they found themselves in one of the original prison cell blocks – The Butchery.


The Lopper

Several iron doors lined the walls of this large, empty room. In the middle of the room, a hinged ten-foot-square metal grating lay over a dark pit in the floor. A thick rope has been tied to the grating and dangled into the pit below.

The group moved to peer into the pit, which appeared to be about 30’ deep and whose floor was covered in broken debris and assorted items. While peering down into the soot-stained hole, Ryszard suddenly screamed in pain as a ghostly transparent axe slashed through his midsection – bright red blood spraying out as the axehead continued in its sweep, matching the deep crimson flow that soaked Ryszard’s clothing. A howling muscular man, bald, with large staring eyes, a wicked grin, and hefting a large war axe shifted in and out of sight as The Lopper manifested and attacked the party once again. Ryszard was still bleeding from the initial attack, and had to staunch the blood before he could act again, while Torquemada and Haza attacked the ghostly prisoner. Celaphelia attempted to Hex the wraith, but was ineffective, as were most of the others’ attacks against the incorporeal monster. Each wicked cut with his axe left deep, bleeding wounds that forced the party to continually deal with those wounds during the combat.

Suddenly, Celaphelia left the room, seemingly leaving the rest of the party to fend for themselves, but Ryszard’s onslaught of ghost touch and magical arrows, Haza’s turning and Torquemada’s Disrupt Undead spells took a small toll on the ghost, but then they noticed that with each successful attack by the Lopper on a party member, he seemingly would heal his own wounds and grow stronger. Torque urged Ryszard to use the silver hand axe found earlier amongst the prisoner’s belongings, as it was believed that this axe once belonged to the Lopper, but it passed through the spectre unimpeded.

The party considered a full retreat, when Torquemada noticed that the transparent figure seemed disfigured by fire. Hoping that what killed him in life would affect him in death, he instructed the party to use fire attacks. Haza responded with a Fire Bolt, which although seemingly still doing less than normal damage to the incorporeal spirit, sent it into a frenzy. Spinning, turning, screaming, and totally unable to respond, the Lopper went crazy trying to avoid the burning flames that enveloped it’s body. Heartened by this, the group resumed their offense. Fire spells, arrows, and positive energy bursts filled the air, staggering and finally destroying the angry spirit.

After catching their breath and binding their wounds, they examined the room. A number of prisoner skeletons were found, some still inside their open cells, while others lay strewn on the floor. Deep inside the pit, a skeleton was found, along with second skull. The objects spied earlier included 120 gp, a broken masterwork heavy crossbow, a masterwork longsword, a magic heavy mace Nightwatch, a stone of alarm, and a ring of keys.

The group set off to search for Celaphelia, finding her back in the lift room, having used a Levitate spell to return to safety. “You said we were retreating,” she argued to Torquemada, who indeed had suggested that early in the combat when the party’s attacks seemed particularly ineffective. No one could argue that point.


The Mosswater Marauder

Now reunited, the group next headed to the west, finding a similar set of guardrooms and a portcullis-barred cell block named the “Reaper’s Hold.” Torquemada used a detect undead spell to discover the presence of four undead in the southern room, giving the group time to prepare their offense first for a change. The intervening door was booted open, revealing a macabre scene. This guardroom contained a single large table with two chairs
astride it and a single sagging cot pushed up against the eastern wall. Several battered cabinets lined the northern wall, with a few arrows and bits of chainmail lying scattered on the floor nearby, yet the most eerie sight was the three fractured skulls sitting on the table next to a heavy hammer. It looked as if someone has arranged the fragments of the skulls in some sort of pattern, perhaps making an attempt to construct a fourth skull from
the broken fragments of the trio on the table. Nearby, the leathery body of a long-dead dwarf, his wiry red hair and beard still strangely vibrant in death, lay slumped on the ground behind the table.

Suddenly, the skull fragments flew up into the air and formed three screaming severed skulls that immediately swept forward through the air to attack the group. They were prepared for this battle, however, and one skull was smashed immediately while the others were sorely damaged. Then, a ghostly apparition arose from the dwarven body nearby – a sobbing dwarf wielding a ghostly hammer as well as a ghostly skull that floated in the air nearby, its cranium laced with cracks and missing a knife-shaped shard of bone along the side. The Mosswater Marauder was continuing his search for the missing piece of his wife’s skull!

The dwarf spirit swept forward with a sob and smashed its spectral hammer into the head of Torquemada, who watched in horror as a shard of bone flew out of his skull after that mighty blow and spiraled into the nearby hovering skull, where it attempted to graft itself into the knife-shaped hole! However, the piece did not seem to fit in the hole, and dissipated into thin air, prompting the dwarf to attack once again.

Weapon attacks and magic spells did not seem to hurt this spirit, though it seemingly flinched each time one of the floating skulls was destroyed. Suddenly, Torquemada made use of a haunt siphon, and was surprised but gratified to see a burst of greenish light emerge, followed by the now-familiar sucking sound as the undead haunt was pulled into the item and contained. The siphon now swirled with greenish-white ectoplasm and the ghostly dwarf and skull were destroyed.

The room was searched, but the dwarven corpse now seemed harmless, and the bits and pieces of armor and weaponry were hardly worth keeping. However, the discovery of a secret door to the south led to a small dust-cloaked alcove containing several armor stands, weapon racks, and a locked wooden chest. The small treasure trove included the following:

  • 6 suits of masterwork chainmail (300gp each)
  • 6 suits of masterwork studded leather armor (175 gp each)
  • 4 masterwork longswords (315 gp each)
  • 4 masterwork heavy maces (312 gp each)
  • 2 masterwork heavy crossbows (350 gp each)
  • 120 crossbow bolts
  • A case of 10 +1 crossbow bolts
  • A magic wand
  • 4 potions of cure moderate wounds
  • A rope of climbing

Taking some of the items found, the party retreated back to the upper level, having suffered extensive damage at the hands of the Lopper.

Having climbed back to the ground floor, the group made their way forward, discussing the idea of returning to town to rest. First though, Torquemada wished to speak with the ghost of Vesorianna, and the group made their way back to her room. She greeted the party warmly, remarking that two spirits were defeated, yet three remained – two upstairs and one down below. Torque had further questions regarding the Warden’s badge of office that she had requested they return to her, and she described it in detail, being a golden shield-shaped badge, about the size of a fist that he wore on his uniform. Realizing they still had not found the elusive badge, the party returned to the dungeons below, investigating the hallway to the south.

Once again, a guardroom and portcullis. This area showed significant fire damage, and the corresponding winch for the portcullis was twisted and melted, being unusable in its current condition. Attempts were made to lift and bend the thick steel bars, but the group was ultimately unsuccessful in bypassing the formidable barrier.

Returning to the west, the cell block was entered and searched. A number of skeletons were found, but nothing of worth. A door to the south led to what appeared to be a torture chamber, and the group entered to continue their investigations.

Numerous grisly tools of torment decorated this room, from cages to hanging chains along the walls to a stretching rack, a large wooden tank, and a fire pit in the middle of the room. To the east stood a grim iron maiden, the lid closed and presenting a stern decoration of a tormented woman upon its face. The broken, twisted skeleton of a human dressed in a tattered guard’s uniform lay upon the stretching rack in the middle of the room; the body was surrounded by several discarded knives, branding irons, and pliers. A large, bloodstained wicker basket sat at the head of the rack.

Ryszard sensed great evil in the room, both near the iron maiden and again near the rack. Moving forward to investigate the rack first, none were surprised when the basket’s lid flew open, but what came crawling out was indeed a surprise. For they were hands. Moving, living, hands. Unattached to any other limb, these gross perversions of life scurried forward on bent fingers, nails chittering on the stone flagstones like spider’s claws. With prodigious leaps, the animated hands jumped at the party, wrapping cold hard flesh around the throats of Torquemada and attempting to do the same to the others. Torquemada struggled to remove the crawling hand from his throat, as it dug deeply into his flesh, cutting off his air and making it impossible to speak. Finally, Ryszard was able to pluck the hand away, and Torque and Haza were able to hack the crawling digits to pieces.

Upon the rack was found the body of a hideously tortured man. The body had many broken bones, severed hands, dislocated hips and shoulders, a shattered jaw, and numerous long, thin needles had been driven into his ears, eye sockets, elbows, hips, and knees. In his mouth, a large golden badge had been wedged, clearly the instrument used to shatter his jaw. It was the Warden’s Badge of Office, as Vesorianna had described. And clearly, the man bound to the wrack was none other than the Warden himself. Torquemada gathered up the badge, vowing to return to lay the bones of the Warden to rest after the prison had been cleansed of evil.

Next came the iron maiden, and as Ryszard moved closer to it, he was shocked to see the iron door creak open and reveal it’s contents. Kendra! Kendra Lorrimor was trapped inside the iron maiden, her eyes wide in fear and desperation. Ryszard lunged forward but too late. The door slammed shut and the screams of fear turned to pain and agony. Ryszard fell to the ground, feeling a thousand sharp points pierce his skin simultaneously.

And just as quickly, it was over. The iron maiden stood empty and Ryszard was unharmed.

Moving away, the group discussed leaving and returning to Ravengro. Torquemada made a case for speaking with Vesorianna once again, and the group agreed. Torque spoke with the ghostly woman about her earlier comments on the weaknesses of the Five. She bade him to search the prisoner vault located to the southeast of her room, which the group verified as the storeroom they had investigated earlier. Bemused, Torque first led the group back to the southwest offices, remembering an old locked safe that he was unable to open previously, and hoping that the keyring of chains would provide a means to finally open it.


Of Locks and Keys and Treasure

As it was, a key was indeed found that fit the safe’s lock perfectly. Inside were found a number of outdated documents, along with:

  • 502 gp
  • 4 potions of cure moderate wounds
  • 3 potions of lesser restoration
  • 2 potions of remove disease

Finally, the group returned to the property room as once again searched. Ryszard had remarked earlier about one of the unusually shaped walls, and indeed discovered a hidden panel that opened into a small vault. Inside sat 5 tagged items, clearly once having belonged to the “special” prisoners:

  • A blood-stained hand axe, labeled “Vance Saetressle aka The Lopper”.
  • A masterwork smith’s hammer, labeled “Ispin Onyxcudgel aka The Mosswater Marauder”.
  • A dozen entangled holy symbols on silver chain, labeled “Sefick Corvin aka Father Charlatan”.
  • A masterwork, tarnished silver flute, labeled “The Piper of Illmarsh”.
  • A thick, leather-bound spellbook have become caked with mold. Labelled: “Hean Feramin aka The Splatter Man”.


The Piper of Illmarsh

Inspired by their finds, the group decided to venture upstairs before leaving. They took the stairway leading upstairs, finding themselves in a large hall. Wooden benches once lined this room, but several were now stacked in a jumble and others were overturned in disarray. Obviously weakened by the fire, the entire east wall had collapsed away, creating an unintended entryway to a wooden deck beyond. The view of the lake beyond would have been beautiful if the silence had not so eerie.

It was into this silence that the whirring of wings presaged the arrival of a handful of stirges, who immediately darted forward to probe at the unexpected feast of warm blood. As the group fought off the predatory insects, Ryszard was startled to hear a disembodied, mournful dirge playing while the battle ensued. Suddenly, he was there – the ghostly Piper of Illmarsh, playing on a silver flute, his music filling the paladin with fear. Blood began to flow from his neck, but not from any wounds caused by the stirges, unless they were ghostly ones. The others struggled to find the phantom piper, but a surge of skeletons came bursting from nearby cells, forcing the group to fight no only the incorporeal Piper, but the animated skeletons as well. As the battle continued, the Piper’s song began to wear on the poor bodies of the men, and Haza decided to see if he could fight the Piper’s music with one of his own. Taking the tarnished silver flute from his pack, he tried to play along with the Piper’s tune, and was rewarded by the sight of the ghostly apparition staggering himself. Haza continued, and suddenly started playing the Piper’s dirge in a frenzy. While Haza did not seem to have much experience with playing a flute, the music he now created could only be described as otherworldly. As a man possessed his fingers flew along the flute, blood starting to pool under his nails and in the corners of his mouth and eyes as the song continued. The Piper also writhed under the musical spell created by Haza, but as he twisted and gyrated, his form became more and more frayed, tearing apart as the dirge continued. Finally, in a burst of sound, the Piper seemed to explode into slowly fading fragments, and Haza was able to lower the blood-covered flute from his lips and drop it to the ground.

The Piper was dead. It was time to leave.

Gathering themselves, the group stumbled back down the stairs, leaving behind Harrowstone and returning to their refuge of Lorrimor House.

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November 7, 2011 XP
Encounter Type XP
The Five Prisoners Research 1,900
Animated Straitjacket Combat 1,200
Ectoplasmic Humans (2) Combat 800
Advanced Burning Skeletons (10) Combat 5,000
Vesorianna Non-combat 1,200
Gurtis Vortch Combat 1,200
Roleplaying Award – Torquemada DM Bonus! 250 – Torquemada only
Total 11,300
Character XP Total Class Level
Ryszard 5,062 Paladin 3
Haza 5,062 Cleric 3
Torquemada 5,312 Inquisitor 3
Celaphelia 5,212 Witch 3
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Unravelling the Past

Calistril 20th, 4711


Speaking with the Spirits

Once again, the Sheriff demanded to know what was going on. Kendra was visibly upset, while Torquemada was seemingly confused about the entire situation. Accusations and recriminations were thrown about as the cold winter winds gusted about from on high. The Sheriff was losing patience with the proceedings, but Kendra took him aside and had a private discussion, which ended with the departure of the local constabulary. Kendra herself was still upset, and did not understand what had happened. As the group retreated into the warmth and protection of Lorrimor House, the pieces of the puzzle began to emerge. Torquemada’s last conscious memories were of using the spirit planchette down by the Harrowstone Memorial. He had been receiving disturbing replies when suddenly, next he knew, he was being pinned to the ground by Ryszard.

Remembering his own incident alone in the Restlands when he attempted to use the spirit planchette to communicate with Professor Lorrimor, Ryszard deduced that the spirit board was not useable without danger. Apparently use of the board left one susceptible to being “possessed” by the spirits you were attempting to contact. Where Ryszard had found himself standing in another part of the local graveyard, it was clear that in Torquemada’s case he not only walked away from the contact point without knowledge, but also attempted to attack the party and/or Kendra. Ryszard announced he was foreswearing use of the spirit board, and everyone agreed that it should not be used alone.


Calistril 21st, 4711

The Five

The next morning the party returned to the Memorial and found the spirit planchette where Torquemada had dropped it the night before. Gathering it up, they returned to the house where Torque announced his intention to return to the Harrowstone Prison offices to see what else he could uncover regarding the mysterious five prisoners. He had earlier made the connection between these prisoners and the local children’s Skipping Song, and wanted to delve further into the past concerning these criminals.

Traveling once again to the foreboding prison outside of town, the party entered the prison foyer cautiously, but there was no sign of the slamming door haunt that had so stymied the group in previous trips. Once inside, Torquemada dug into the prison records to see what could be found regarding the Five.

As it turned out, there was much to be uncovered regarding The Splatter Man, The Mosswater Marauder, The Piper of Illmarsh, and Father Charlatan, though frustratingly little was found concerning The Lopper.

The group discussed their findings and decided to continue searching the old ruin. Moving further inward past already explored areas, a disturbing new room was found. This stark room contained a low stone bench against the north wall and a ruined desk to the west that sat under three narrow, barred windows. An old brass brazier lay on its side to the south, surrounded by several rusty branding irons. Moving to examine the iron further, the smell of burning flesh filled the air and the irons rose up, their tips glowing red hot as they sizzled through the air seeking the flesh of the living and causing everyone to frantically backpetal away from the hot metal. It was not Ryszard’s lucky day, however, and he howled as the hot metal burned into his face and neck, leaving a ferocious red scar that would later prove unaffected by healing magic.

After this brief flurry, the branding irons dropped to the ground with a clang, their tips no longer red hot, but cold and lifeless as they should always have been. Upon further examination, it was determined that the brands were all the same, and did probably indicate that all prisoners in Harrowstone were so treated upon their arrival.

With little else seemingly in the room, the group continued on to the next room, which appeared to be some sort of workshop. Tangled mounds of moth-eaten fabric sat on several wooden tables, each surrounded by workbenches. Various sewing tools— shears, needles, rolls of thread, boxes of chalk, and other objects lay scattered over the floor, while the arm of what appeared to be a skeleton protrudes from a stained heap of fabric to the west.

“Oh, Hell no!” stated Haza as he slammed the door shut.

“But there may be something important in here,” argued Torquemada, as he opened the door once again and entered the room full of sharp, pointy objects.

There was little to fear from flying implements, but almost as soon as Torquemada entered the room, another manifestation occurred – one of ominous import.


Vesorianna

Rising from the mound of moldering fabric covering the skeleton, a ghostly but beautiful young woman dressed in a tattered but lovely blue dress arose. In fact, much about the ghost was blue, including her hair, the tears that ran from her pale blue eyes, and the clouds of smoke that drifted from her lips when she spoke to the party, asking for their help.

The ghost – revealed as Vesorianna Hawkran, wife of Warden Lyran Hawkran – went on to describe the great evil building inside Harrowstone Prison that sought to escape the grounds, now that the spirit of her husband had been removed "by men and women in dark robes who spoke only in whispers” who came to Harrowstone not long ago and began to work strange magic around the building’s foundations.

Vesorianna spoke of the evil spirits of (coincidence?) 5 prisoners, all of whom were bound inside the prison walls even after death by the spirit of her husband, the late Warden Hawkran. She went on to explain that it was his force of will, so strong even after his death, that kept the spirits of the damned contained within the walls of the prison. However, now that his spirit had been removed by the stranger Whisperers, the unruly undead were striving to break out. It was only the waning will of Vesorianna keeping them under any control, and even as her will weakened, the leader of the original riot, the Splatter Man, was reaching out in an effort to destroy her. Following his M.O. in life, the Splatter Man was using his powers to spell out her name on the statue at Harrowstone Memorial. Once he finished spelling out her name, Vesorianna said that she would perish and the spirits trapped in the prison would be free to roam the earth.

Vesorianna beseeched the party for help, asking them to destroy the spirits of the Five. Torquemada asked why she didn’t herself move directly against them, and the spirit explained that when the riots occurred, she ran to be at her husband’s side. However, after seeing the smoke and fire coming from the dungeon, she was removed to this room by a number of prison guards. It was in this room that she died, and it was in this room that her spirit remained trapped ever since. While able to look out through the walls and move about the room freely, and could sense the spirits of the Five above and below her in the prison, she could do little more to assist the party. She did offer one final glimmer of hope, however. She asked for the group to find and return to her the badge of office held by her husband – it would be anathema to the spirits, as would any other objects that strongly represented their lives before death.

Armed with this new knowledge about the situation at the prison, and aware that time was not on their side, the group assured Vesorianna that they would do as she asked and left to seek out the Five spirits.

Vesorianna had mentioned that there were spirits in the upper and lower levels, but the party decided to continue reconnoitering the ground floor, making sure that no enemies remained behind to harass them further.


1st floor – Laundry, Bathrooms, and Storage goods!

Proceeding down the hallway, a laundry room was found, filled with washboards, metal buckets, and heaps of moldy clothing. A brief search of the room led to an encounter with an animated straitjacket, that rose from a pile of moldy clothes and tried to smother first Torquemada and then Ryszard, but the collection of linen and straps were no match for fine steel and puissant magics.

The next room investigated turned out to be a privy, much to Ryszard’s relief.

Onward around the ruins, the party finally returned to the auditorium where Ryszard has previously detected evil. The evil remained, and while the party tried to discern its source, the temperature in the room dropped precipitously. Torquemada deduced that this was an effect similar to the slamming door haunt encountered earlier, and used a haunt siphon to dispel the cold effect haunt.

Next, the room behind the auditorium was explored. A locked metal door proved to be too stout to knock open, so Torquemada was forced to disable the lock and gain entry, spying a A bizarre collection of antique goods resting upon wooden shelves that lined the room. Several of the items contained tiny tags with labels written in a careful script. While many of the items appeared to be normal personal effects once carried by the prisoner and surrendered upon being incarcerated in Harrowstone, a few choice items were uncovered in a quick search:

  • A set of masterwork thieves’ tools
  • A bronze war medallion from the Shining Crusade
  • An unframed Taldan painting of Stavian I
  • A set of a noblewoman’s silver hair clips
  • A masterwork punching dagger
  • A pouch containing a dozen masterwork shurikens
  • A masterwork silver hand axe
  • A wand of lesser restoration (12 charges).

With a few exceptions, most of the items were left behind, to be collected at a later date when a more thorough examination of the room’s contents would be possible.


Water and Fire

Finally, the group returned to the old guard post and the remains of the lift system within. The yawning black pit stretched beneath them, opening out into some kind of cavernous space before terminating in a pool of dark water. Torquemada volunteered to climb down, and setting up a rope, began the climb. Unfortunately, he slipped during his descent and fell into the cold dark water below.

Glancing around, Torque could see a cavernous chamber that may have once been an underground
cellblock, but it had long since collapsed. The crumbled walls were thick with mold and stained with soot, and heaps of fallen stones and charred wooden beams lined the area. Water dripped and seeped along the walls, collecting in the dark, murky pool in the middle of the room. To the north, the twisted remains of a wood and iron lift lay in a heap in a shallow portion of the pool. To the west, a partially blocked opening seemed to open up after
several feet into a dark but stable tunnel.

Torquemada struggled to swim to shore, but was stymied by the sudden attack of two ectoplasmic humans. His shouts of surprise and pain roused the group who began to make the descent as Torquemada fought off the undead attackers. Haza plummeted into the water and was unable to make any headway in the murky pond while Ryszard and Celaphelia were finally able to help Torquemada subdue the attacking monsters.

There was little else to discover in the cavern, so the western exit beckoned. Beyond it lay a large room. Four dark hallways exited from this large empty chamber, each striking out in one of the four directions of the compass, and each decorated with a soot-caked brass nameplate affixed to the ceiling just above the entrance. A rubble-choked stairway led up in the middle of the room, while ten skeletons dressed in scorched clothing lay on the ground.

The nameplates read as follows:

  • To the north lay “The Butchery.”
  • To the west lay “Reaper’s Hold.”
  • To the south lies “The Nevermore.”
  • To the east once stretched “Hell’s Basement.”

Suddenly, but not unexpectedly, the skeletons arose and attacked the party. What was not expected was when the skeletons burst into flame as the battle progressed. The group was sorely pressed, and it was only the holy power of Haza’s god that kept the undead from slaying the party outright. As it was, a bruised and battered group finally put down the monstrous undead and sought shelter to rest and catch their breath.

They retreated to the north, and found a portcullis and a nearby guard room. Unfortunately, it was not unoccupied, and the curious sight of a headless flaming skeleton armed and seemingly well-versed with a hand axe arose and assaulted the group. Once again, the party was hard-pressed, but finally managed to destroy the blasphemous being.

Retreating into the guard room, and barricading the door, the group set about resting for the night…

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