Everyone in our little mourning band seemed nervous last night to stay too long in the graveyard with dusk approaching. We headed back to what is now Kendra’s home and decided to stay indoors for the night. Kendra was worried about taking care of some of the estate’s paperwork alone and turned her puffy eyes and lamenting sighs toward Nyles. Our proud pirate friend with a wink to the fellows and a chivalrous arm agreed to accompany her in the morning. We all exchanged knowing snickers and headed to bed. The night seemed to pass uneventfully, until the next morning when we awoke to the sounds of Cadamon attempting to brain Thaegrum. He was still half asleep, ranting about finding the perfect piece, and trying to pull the top of the dwarf’s head off. We calmed the nutty wizard down a bit, and he related a very disturbing dream in which he was searching heads and skulls for a perfect missing piece and felt compelled to find it even upon waking. A few of us woke with some dread, but nothing that severe. Ustalav never fails to instill the creepy.
After we settled the madness, somewhat, we all meandered down for breakfast to discover that Nyles and Kendra had already left for the day. It was a grey morning, with the autumn sky hardly letting any light through the thick clouds. Frankly, as a dhampir, I was relieved not to need my shades. My eyes are rather sensitive, but the silly goggles I wear to compensate can really get in my way. Over breakfast we discussed our next move. Talking over our options, a general consensus led us in Kendra’s footsteps toward the Ravengro town hall. We hoped primarily to find clues to any hinky business that may have led to Harrowstone’s meltdown and the Professor’s murder.
Our trip into town was relatively uneventful. The few locals we passed on the road gave us a wide berth. The usual town accoutrement greeted us: suspicious villagers- check, kids playing in the town center- check, blacksmith- check, general store- check, a couple inns- check, open market- check , gazebo- oh dread, and onto the town hall. It really is a lovely place, all neat, clean and fancy marble columns. While asking for records of the town and Harrowstone, we were directed toward the Deeds office as our best chance at finding what we might be looking for. The clerk and Cadamon had a nice chat, and luckily we did learn a little more than the official word. Apparently the county owned the land that Harrowstone sits on, and, as far as the clerk knew, that hasn’t changed. The Warden at Harrowstone, Hawkrin, kept control up there until the fire. He was a pretty tough warden, but treated everyone in town very kindly. He doted on his pretty wife. Some of the locals thought she was too young and lovely for him, but he was very devoted to her, so it appears there were few hard feelings.
Apparently things were fairly calm up there until a little over 50 years ago when a new group of prisoners were transported in and made Warden Hawkrin’s life tough. They each had a reputation bad enough to give them their own creepy monikers; they were the Piper of Villmarsh, Father Charlatan, the Lopper, Splatterman, and the Mosswater Marauder. Cadamon pried the little clerk for anything he knew about them and he remembered a little about the Piper. He used to play his pipes and call stirges to attack his victims. That sucks. Details about the rest of the prisoners remained a mystery, but their names gave us all a shudder and a few ideas. After these foul fellows turned up for their lifetime stay, they apparently managed to get the better of the warden, by staging a prison revolt, and locked him and the rest of the guards in the basement where they had been interred. The warden’s wife, Vessanora, ran to the lift to try and reach her husband in the basement and set him free. Intercepted on the way she was locked into a workshop. When people finally made it out to Harrowstone, it appeared no one had made it out alive. According to the clerk, the town wants to let the matter lie and pretend there is no disturbance up there. Rumors keep flying, however, about voices being heard up at the old prison. Some even say they hear the Warden still walking the halls. The lack of deaths associated with any of these stories has left the tales mostly laughed off.
We left town hall feeling like we needed to check out Harrowstone in the daylight, Prof Lorrimor was convinced he needed the items we retrieved in the crypt to face whatever was in Harrowstone. Since we had had little luck deciphering what we found, we headed just over the river to the local Temple of Pharasma to ask for Father Grimburrow’s advice. It was definitely the most elaborate place in town. Somber, but not depressing it had the usual plethora of candles, very nicely adorned pews and general lack of monetary humility one expects of the cloth. The Temple also had a series of massive and elaborate stained glass windows, which I’m sure cost a pretty copper or two, depicting the “glorious” defeat of many undead foes by the former ministers of the Temple. They seemed rather vainglorious to me, but who am I to judge? I guess everyone needs their local heroes. Too bad the Professor wasn’t one of them; it would likely save us a lot of headaches.
The good Father, after having us wait for a time, came over to ask how he could help us. Upon showing him the vials we found, his eyes grew large and he asked where we had obtained the Church’s property. We relayed that the Professor had left them for us to continue his work and he refused to let them go. He did explain to us that they are Haunt Siphons, which when they have trapped a haunt change color. He also warned us that were we to use such an item, we should never let the haunt back out as it would be rather more miffed than it was before. Reluctant to leave without the vials, we managed to make a deal with Grimburrow that if we came back after dark we could likely get them back “unofficially”. We agreed to do just that and after a little bargaining over some supplies we decided to swing by the estate and head to Harrowstone before the sun set. AS we left town we heard some children skipping rope and singing a song. Joyfully. The lyrics however were not those that a child should know. The song seemed to carry a nasty message, and as we walked we pieced the horrible ditty and the names of the five prisoners at Harrowstone together.
We reached Kendra’s hoping to find Nyles and found a nasty note hastily written and nailed to the door instead. Not wanting Kendra to be further upset, we removed the note, and realized that we had not seen either Kendra or Nyles in town where they supposedly had gone. Shrugging it off as poor timing, we headed to the former prison. The path up to the abandoned remains of the building had a large statue of Warden Hawkrin. We noticed a large bloody “V” scrawled on the nameplate, and continued toward the front door. One of our nimble, ahem, bards managed to almost become one with the collapsing front gate as we passed through. Mostly unscathed we opened the front door and found a small foyer with a big oak door at the end. Forming a wary line, we attempted to pass through the doorway. Thaegrum just made it through before the door slammed itself shut and horrible screaming faces emerged from the wood. Half of us were startled straight out the front door, while a couple of us struggled hollering to get our comrade free. We managed to get the door back open, the faces disappeared and we chose to continue leaving the door braced open. There were a series of doors along the hall and we tried each in turn. We found a collapsed stairwell at the first and a small chapel through the second. Thinking we could find something of use in the chapel we searched and discovered a swarm of large nasty spiders. After exterminating the vile things we discovered five vials of holy water, a scroll of lesser restoration, and a wand with a decent number of cure light charges remaining – not that it will do Malk or I any good.
There was a door leading out of the room on the opposite wall that we entered. Deciding to risk a little more exploring before the sun descended for the day, we found on the west side of the prison a large courtyard. In the center of the courtyard was a strangely shaped free standing room. We explored further and found that the room seemed to be an old classroom of sorts. Chalkboards lined the walls, and benches fill the center of the room. As we poked around a set of manacles leapt at Thaegrum of their own accord and began attacking him. We defeated the creepy buggers and other than an overwhelming sense of guilt and dread we found nothing else in the room. We decided to leave, when we noticed a small door on the south side of the building close enough to one of the guard towers to possibly be an entrance. Thinking we might gain a better vantage on the ruins, we opened the door. Inside was a small room with no other exits. It appeared to have been the Warden’s office. The dread we were beginning to feel building in the rest of the prison did not seem to extend into here. We took a moment and poked through what was left of his papers and found a large old safe in the wall of the west side of the room. Unable to open the safe and sensing a building malevolence as the sun was going down, we hustled back through the prison the way we had come in. As we distanced ourselves from Harrowstone, we all felt the dread start lifting and we headed back to town.
We realized how important those haunt siphons might be. It was about to time to head back and get them from Father Grimburrow. On our way through the center of town we noticed a mediocre little band playing in the gazebo and a smattering of townfolk gathered for music and drink. We slowly progressed through the crowd when one of the musicians launched into a rather good flute solo and almost immediately a woman starting screaming and collapsed on the ground. Still on edge from our festivities at Harrowstone a number of us noticed a couple stirges starting to attack the crowd and the woman. We routed the foul flighted nasties and thinking about the clerk’s tale of the Piper of Villmarsh, we sternly questioned the baffled musicians about the flutist’s song. They insisted it was nothing special, and we decided to let the matter go. We took the poor woman to Father Grimburrow since we were headed that direction anyway. The acolytes that were milling about the front of the temple saw that she would be taken care of.
Father Grimburrow was not pleased that we had disturbed Harrowstone and said something guarded about people messing about up there. It seemed from his disturbed tone that something may have been taken from Harrowstone that had caused the haunts to return. Pressing that issue and our need to fulfill our promise to protect Kendra we persisted and won back the haunt siphons from the old priest. Deciding to gather a little more information before we headed to the estate for the night, Grimburrow recommended the Laughing Demon Inn as a good place for dinner. We learned little from the proprietor, Zokar Elkarid, but his fare was quite delicious, if named a little hokey for my taste. Heading back toward Kendra’s my comrades seemed a little more relaxed and content. Food and drink never quite quench my own hunger and thirst. Maybe that is why the huddled forms between the blacksmith and the stable did not appear to me to be honestly drunk folks. Or maybe it was that wretched undead stink. Either way they were upon us quickly. Four of them. They were in tattered yet oddly decorous attire. Sometimes I really pity the greedy ignorance of the wealthy. Had they not assumed their money meant they were owed a “proper” burial, we would not now be accosted by their lumbering rotted forms. Ilien began playing a rather rousing ditty and we all leapt into battle. I managed to score a couple fierce blows to our first foes when another group of three shambled in behind us. I don’t know if it was Ilien’s truly inspiring tune or my own fierce joy at ripping the rotting fiends to shreds, but I leapt to the rear of our group ready to end more unlife. No sooner had I seen the other foes, when two of them descended on me with a strength I did not expect. Two blows and I was spent. As Movac, Thaegrum, Ilein and Cadamon attempted to ease my retreat beating the animated remains back into their proper place; Malk faced one of the zombies on his own. Knowing I was not long for consciousness, I backed out of the fight and the rest of my fierce comrades ended the confrontation quickly. After it was over the others noticed a mark on each of the zombie’s foreheads. A series of wavy lines with a closed mouth on top: the Whispering Way… those bastards. We borrowed a cart from the stable and piled on what was left of the undead heaps. If Grimburrow wanted to stick his head in the ground and not see what was coming, maybe we should show him what would be popping out right in his face.
The old man was not pleased with greeting us so late. One looks at the cart and his face fell. No point in denying the obvious. He directed the acolytes to burn the remains and return the cart – hopefully a little cleaned up. The Father tended our wounds and even took the time to do a little studying to bring me back from the brink and help Malk out as well. Maybe we should ask the good father whether he could arrange a portable variety for us.
Our grim adventure had well and truly started.