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Haunting of Harrowstone, Part I

In the Beginning Was His End.

So, the town of Ravengro. Sleepy little village. Town. Village turning into a town. Eh. I’ll give it town status. At least it’s on the map for the county of Canterwall, which is more than I can say for some places I’ve been to. Have to say, it’s a bit of a somber. Dare I say it… dead? Then again, I am currently standing in the graveyard outside of town. That always does tend to put a bit of a damper on things, especially when in Ustalav. There’s a reason why they tend to burn most bodies around here. Otherwise, you plant a corpse, out sprouts a zombie, and when you see your first zombie claw it’s way out of the ground… yeah. You burn the bodies. Which is why, of course, I’m here helping to bury Lorrimor. Sans burning. It’s quite an honor to be buried in a cemetery like this. Have to have the priest consecrate the ground, consecrate the body, bless the air, bless the soul… and even then might not be enough. Not sure that ‘honor’ has anything to do with it. More accurately, it’s probably that Lorrimor was a rich bastard who provided a lot to the town, though he was getting a bit nutty late in his years.

Around the gravesite, we’ve got quite the collection of strange folks. People like me, I would assume. Named us in his will. Thus the reason why I’m here. Don’t get me wrong, he paid me well… but it’s not like I ever really liked the old guy. His daughter isn’t bad to look at though, if you go for puffy-eyed and teary. Haven’t really had much of a chance to talk to her though. Seems all she can do to hold herself together, the poor gal. The others, whoever…

First up, we have one Nyles Versh. Uses one of those new firearms – first time I’ve actually seen one in person. Got a sword on him too. Claims to be an honest sailor. If he’s an honest sailor, I’ll eat my hat, not that I wear one. Smuggler, more like. I always wondered how the old man managed to get some of his shadier stuff through port authorities.

Next, there’s Movac. Representative of the church of Pharasma, apparently. They sent a paladin, of all things. I wonder if that’s because they wish to show the old man honor, or if they sent the paladin to really, really make sure that he was truly dead and didn’t succumb to… whatever old professors researching into necromancy, vampires, the undead, ect. ect. succumb to.

Of course, there is also Ilien, a fellow bard. Situation similar to me, to hear him tell of it. Third son of a merchant family, doing what it takes to get some money. Claims to have connections in some of the bigger cities around here. I wonder. Bet I have more connections in low places. Or high places. Some of those gals of Calistria do get around, after all…

Predictably, there had to be one waggly-fingered wizard in the lot. Cadamon Loslimor, third son of the viscount. Great. Not just a wizard, but an aristocratic wizard. If his nose gets any higher up into the air, he’ll be looking up at the sky. Apparently he was helping Lorrimor, studying Ustalavic history. Have fun there. Enough to drive a man to drink, thinking of what happened here before the Shining Crusade came along to clean things up. Apparently he’s got a cozy position in the archives over in Caliphas.

Then there’s the short, ugly, bearded one. Thaegrum. A more dwarfish name I cannot recall. Crafter and purveyor of ales and metal trinkets, to hear him tell it. More likely ale drinker and pot-banger. Bah. I always have a soft spot for tinkers, but all things said I can never bring myself to trust a dwarf.

Then we have the lovely Dahlia. A dhampir like me, from the looks of it. I thought I might try making conversation with her, but she gave me a look like she’d kill me if she tried anything. Looks like she hasn’t learned the first rule of being a dhampir – you have to always stay on the bright side of life. Otherwise you succumb to the bloodthirst, then the citizenry realize what’s happening, and then the torches and pitchforks come out. If the lady gets any more brooding there’ll be bats coming from her belfry. Still though, her being a dhampir, can’t say I blame her. Doubt her story is any more happier than mine.

Providing the funeral services we have the good Father Grimburrow, the head of the local temple to Pharasma. An appropriate name for a follower of the Lady of Graves, and probably the only reason why I was willing to come. Pharasma and her followers hate the undead, and I have every confidence that he has taken care of the body in all ways necessary.

Lastly, of course, there is mild mannered Malk Scarlet, which would be me. Hello self! A dhampir bard, if you can believe it. And if I get one more request for a dirge, I’m going to ruddy well whip someone. I —

Ah. Looks like the funeral’s beginning. Looks like I get to be a pallbearer. Apparently my last job for the old man is going to be hauling his sorry carcass into his grave. Lovely. And this sucker is heavy. Not sure if it’s the coffin or if the old boy put on some weight. Now all we need is something blocking our way so I get stuck standing with this … of course. Great. A mob. Just what every funeral procession needs. A bunch of farmers with torches and pitchforks standing in the way. The leader, I found out later, is one Gibs Hephenus. Only one with any sort of armor or weapon out of the lot. Turns out that he used to be the sheriff around here, and a finer specimen of backwater talking I haven’t heard. Apparently doesn’t want old Lorrimor buried round these parts. Can’t say I blame him. I’d be a bit leery of burying anyone around here, let alone someone like Lorrimor who actually did research into the undead. Still though, doesn’t like it’s going to be much of a problem. Old Gibs is obviously not in the best of shape, and the farmers aren’t exactly the most stolid supporters. A bit of talking from yours truly with some chiming in from the others (who I’m sure were getting tired of carrying this coffin around as well) rather handily dispersed the rabble. Just as well. If it came to a fight, this coffin was getting dropped on the ground, quite unceremoniously. Would’ve hated Kendra to have seen that. Of course, ol’ Gibs said ‘this ain’t over’. Yeah well, I ain’t afeared o’ you, ye old git. Will give the fellow this much though. At least he made it clear his beef was with the old man, not with Kendra. Backed off nicely once his ‘support’ melted away behind his back.

Don’t really remember much about the burial ceremony. I was more interested in watching the furrows and wrinkles on old Grimburrow’s face as he talked. Anyway, right after the ceremony Kendra came over to talk with us. Apparently she wanted to get the will read as soon as possible. It’s quite a bit of a hike to the mansion though, so she wanted us to get going as fast as possible. Personally, I rather suspect she wanted to leave the gravesite, and the graveyard more than anything else. Can’t say I blame her. Grimburrow stayed behind to oversee the rest of the burial.

On the way there I chatted her up a bit. According to her, Lorrimor was getting a bit strange toward the end. I rather delicately refrained from telling the young woman that her father had always been a bit strange. Well. A lot strange. That he was getting stranger… well. Looks like he was doing more research into the undead. Unsurprising, considering I met the fellow when he asked me about vampires. Still though, turns out that he was looking into the ghosts of Harrowstone.

Damn.

I didn’t realize that Harrowstone is around here. I’d heard of the place, of course. Most people who’ve ever been around has. Used to be one of the best, most secure prisons around. The worst criminals – rapers, murderers, assassins, cutthroats, dread pirates, and the occasional, extremely unlucky sneak thief who really robbed the wrong guy – ended up in there. Of course, the place is closed down now. A bunch of the worst inmates managed to pull off an uprising against the guards, tried to escape. Far as I know, none of them actually got out… but then again, neither did the guards or the warden. They all killed one another in the end. All the prisoners, all the guards, even the warden. Just… dead. And old man Lorrimor was looking into it. Can’t say that I’m surprised, what with his fascination with undeath and all. As we go along further, Kendra drifts off and starts doing some finger-waving over with Cadamon. It figures. Looks like she dabbles in magic, the poor girl. The wizard is rather enthusiastically showing her a few things – they much have some interests in common there.

Finally we arrive at the mansion. Forty-five minutes later. Couldn’t have hitched a wagon, or a carriage, or anything along those lines, oh no. I know that the will hasn’t been read yet, but surely the girl had to have at least some spending money. Judging from the size of this place, it’s fairly obvious her father did. Place is huge. Even has some outbuildings. Servants quarters, I’d guess. Wouldn’t want the hired help daring to think that they deserve living in the mansion.

As we walk up, a carriage arrives. See. Why couldn’t we have gotten one of those? Hells, whoever’s riding that could’ve given us a ri— would you look at that. I think his jowls have jowls. I think I heard someone mutter corpulent under his breath – probably the wizard. That man isn’t corpulent, he’s just plain fat. And from that nose stuck into the air, I’d wager he’s a fat bastard as well.

Looks like his name is Hearthmount. Hah. I dub him Mr. Harrumph. He’s the will reader. Some sort of high muckity-muck councilman, which is probably why he’s so pissy about being here. It’s not like the town has any lawyers (the townsfolk’d probably kill one that tried to set up a practice here), so they had to send for him. Without any further ado, he starts reading the will.

Home and personal belongings to Kendra. Surprise, surprise. Good to see that the young gal will be taken care of.

‘Old friends’. I suppose that’s the rest of us. Wonder what we’re getting out of this. ‘Dedicated my life to studying evil, gaining knowledge to better understand it’. Yes, tell me something I don’t know. ‘I have a significant collection of tomes and grimoires. Any one of which could have led to an awkward situation. The university has many, but some are here. I leave the tomes to you to take to the university.’ So we’re not getting anything from this? That’s what you called us here for? To hire is from beyond the grave to haul some books to the university? ‘However, stay for a month to guard my daughter first’. Uh huh. Keep going.

‘Everyone gets 100 platinum each upon delivery’.

Hallelujah! I knew there was a reason I came. So all we have to do is keep Kendra out of trouble for a month and haul the chest of tomes off to one Professor Montagne Crowl? Sounds like it should be simple enough. Hearthmount leaves in a hurry. Kept making snide comments throughout the reading til the dwarf shut’m up. Probably afraid the little guy will start carving up him like a side of beef. I’ve seen cows with less meat on their bones.

Everyone figures, much the same as me, that if we’re going to haul those tomes we might as well take a look at them first. We snag the key that came with the will and head upstairs, and there’s the chest, right there waiting for us. Inside the chest? Huh. Looks like Lorrimor’s personal journal. Looking over a few of the entries…

‘Whispering Way. Necromancers. Undeath is fountain of youth. Desire to be eternal.’
‘The Way is interested in something here.’
‘Whatever the Way seeks is connected to Harrowstone. Investigate the ruins?’
‘The Way is certainly interested in something… someone in Harrowstone. Who died there? Temple of Pharasma should have records.’
‘Ghosts prevented me from investigating the scribed symbols along the foundation. Tools are here in Ravengro, in the Restlands cemetary. Intersection between Eversleep and the Black Path. False crypt.’
‘Town could be at risk.’

Raising my head from the journal, I ask Kendra how the old man died. ‘A statue fell on him’.

Seriously? A statue falls on a guy? And no one bats an eye? Granted, they didn’t know that he was looking into some crazy cult, but still! Come on, people. Was he so disliked in town that no one even so much of thought of calling shenanigans? When a statue falls on someone, it’s more likely murder than accident. The odds of you getting hit by a falling statue are… well. I suppose if you’ve pissed off a god, it might happen.

What else is in the chest…

On Verified Madness. Apparently talks about the Dark Tapestry. Outsiders. The Old, Forgotten Gods. Lovely illustrations, if you like things that’ll give you nightmares for the rest of your life. “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtan”. Wonder what in the hells that means. Probably something like ‘every night of you I’m dreaming… I guess that’s why I wake up screaming’.

Esoteric Order of the Palentine Eye. Detailed of ancient rituals/ceremonies. A lot of political ramblings too, looks like. Pretty boring text, though the wizard seemed interested in it.

Serving Your Hunger. Looks like Lorrimor was researching into Urgathoa’s ‘holy text’. Quick perusal confirms – Lorrimor’s scrawls are all along the margins. Apparently he really didn’t like their practices, surprise surprise. Urgathoa’s big on the undead.

Umbral Leaves. Looks like he also has a copy of the lexicon of Zon Kuthon. God of pain, woe, and some extremely sadistic cultists.

Small wonder he wants these taken to the university. I’ve fairly sure that even owning Serving Your Hunger or Umbral Leaves is cause for imprisonment in some places. Ah well. Books taken care of, everyone mills about looking a bit confused as to what to do next. Kendra decides to show us around the place. Apparently as guests and bodyguards we get rooms at the mansion. Much appreciated, Lorrimor. Much appreciated. Afterwards, I announce to the others that I’m going to get some food from the larder. Get a bunch of strange looks back. What, a guy can’t eat after a funeral? If we’re going to be going to Restlands right around dinner like we’re planning, then I by Calistria am going to eat while I still have the chance. Only thing that ever puts any sort of stop to the bloodthirst. Well. Doesn’t really stop it, but it does help me ignore that Kendra really does have a rather lovely neck, just right for nibbl—

Ahem.

So, we gathered ourselves and hiked back to Restlands. I wanted to hold out for a carriage, but of course the others wouldn’t have anything of it. ‘Would be too conspicuous’, they said. I think they just like watching me sweat, the bastards. Some time later we reach the cemetery. Crypt was right where Lorrimor wrote it was, and would you look at that. Supposed to be three statues of gargoyles here. Looks like one fell down. Guess we know where Lorrimor died. But did he find anything… Crypt’s lock has been opened by acid. Pretty well camouflaged to make it look still locked, too. We descended down into the crypt. Got a bit stuck at the locked door, but between the paladin and the dwarf, they managed to get it open. Looks like we’re not the only ones who’ve been down here. I can see footprints in the dust. Taking a closer look, seems that whoever it was left, too. Canny bastard stepped in his own footprints.

A short perusal of the crypt reveals two things. One, it’s rather obviously not a crypt. Lorrimor wasn’t kidding when he called it false. Doesn’t match any religious practices I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a good few. I’d guess it was created to hide whatever these tools are we’re fetching. Two, the craftsmanship on the stonework is shoddy as all the hells. The dwarf looks insulted. Nothing angers a dwarf more than poor craftsmanship. Right at the end of the crypt there’s a sarcophagus. The others wanted to hold off investigating it. I, personally, just wanted to get the tools and get out, so I went up to it and looked in.

Empty. Stupidly so. Stupidly so, because the sarcophagus rather obviously has a false bottom to it. Looks like whatever it is that we want is in there. So what do I do? I pull off the false bottom… and promptly get munched on by some of the largest centipedes that I’ve ever seen. Have I ever mentioned that I hate centipedes? Well, I hate centipedes, especially when they’re coming to chew my arse off. So I back off, certainly not screaming pure bloody murder, while the others move forward. There’s a short scuffle as hammers crunch into chitin, that bloody pistol of Nyles’ shooting off right next to my ear, and me flailing wildly with my whip before all that remains of the bugs are stains on the wall. That’s what they get for… impeding our progress. Get it? Get it? Alright, alright, I’ll admit, that was a bad pun.

Anyways, inside we see the two tools we apparently came to get. One bottle, filled with some strange liquid with something else inside… a bit of examination says that they have ‘positive energy’ inside. Something like a cross between a cure or a gentle repose spell, which makes no sense at all. Also, there’s a Ouija board. As if in Ustalav we don’t get enough of the dead already.

Ah well. For now, I sit back and take a rest on the coffin. The bite I got from the centipede is throbbing – might’ve been something in the little bastard’s bite. I have a feeling that whatever else we’re in for, tonight’s going to be a long night.

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Ruan

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