Nightrealms Carrion Crown

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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