I brought Falafel. We ate our fill and returned to the depths of Harrowstone.
Kumnash Gor rejoined the party after a protracted absence – and just in time. The capricious vixen hollered down, into the caverns beneath Harrowstone, “hey, what are you all up to down there?” Smoke still filled the underground chamber from the burning skeletons. Our heroes applied bandages, said their prayers of healing and put salve on their many burns.
After a short rest and some brief discussions of strategy, Kumnash sent his imp, Gra Golar to investigate the northern passage. A soot-stained plaque over the doorway read, “The Oubliette.” Instantly a decapitated fiery skeletal apparition appeared and destroyed the creature with a blow from its ghostly flaming ax. More discussion about strategy. Reluctantly, D’Kar set out to investigate the northern passage. He stepped foot inside the doorway and then leaped back a distance to see if the creature would follow. Follow it did. It rushed out and with two great ax blows, cut D’Kar down.
Others joined the fray from the hiding they sought in the watery room to the east. Briar and Sigra held the passage against the flaming horror – until Sigra pulled back. Luckily the apparition was destroyed fairly quickly with a concentrated attack. Sigra administered healing to D’Kar. The monk consumed a greater healing potion and soon felt much better if somewhat chagrinned about his Polish mine-detector role.
The group pushed ahead into a large central room surrounded by cells and their iron doors. In the middle of the room, a hinged ten-foot-square metal grating covered a dark pit in the floor. A thick rope was tied to the grating and dangled into the pit below.
As Briar and Kriv stepped up to examine the pit, an apparition of The Lopper appeared to rise up from his oubliette with a soul-chilling shriek. It moved quickly among the party, through the stone and iron walls of the cells to attack targets of its choosing – but the weight of attacks from our heroes was too much for it. In the end, which came rather quickly, The Lopper’s apparition was quickly destroyed with spells and blows from magical weapons.
Searching the area with Gedney’s detect magic, D’Kar found a magical stone at the bottom of the oubliette as well as a once-fine longsword and heavy crossbow, now both slightly rusted and decayed.
Turning their attention to the western hall, our heroes passed beneath the soot-covered plaque in the central chamber that read, “The Reaper’s Hold” and carefully set to explore the passages and cells beyond. Peeking into a guard chamber on the left, Briar witnessed three skulls animate from atop a table and take flight. The desiccated corpse of a dwarf lay below them on the floor. As the skulls started screaming, Briar slammed the door. Everyone took their places and then Briar flung open the door – the skulls flew out. Their screams sent Kriv into a state of confusion.
An apparition of a hammer-wielding dwarf leaped from the room and attacked Briar. A heavy hammer blow appeared to knock a ghostly fragment of skull from the paladin – giving him a splitting headache. At the same time, Briar fell to the ground, wrapped in ghostly chains bearing a myriad of holy symbols. The chains tightened and Briar faded.
Meanwhile, Briar saw a vision of a buxom red-haired Paladin of his order. She leaned over a freshly unearthed casket…which he was inside. She informed him that he passed away within Harrowstone some months ago and that his companions left him to rot. The good townspeople of Ravengro found him and buried him with all honors, and she had come to raise him and restore him to his role within the order. They couldn’t afford to lose a warrior such as himself.
When she exhorted him to get up and move, and Briar hesitated to ask some questions, he was suddenly wracked with agonizing pains.
Meanwhile, his comrades battled the hammer-swinging dwarven apparition and flying skulls. They focussed their attacks on one skull at a time and gradually eliminated those, while the dwarf, guessed to be the Mosswater Marauder, took his toll with his hammer.
Briar struggled against another spiritual entity. Perhaps, it was thought, he was battling Father Charlatan? Briar’s will was strong enough to resist with sufficient force to damage the entity, whatever it was.
The last skull went down. The party’s fire and fury turned against the ghostly dwarf – and he didn’t last long. Kriv recovered from his confusion and dealt the killing blow.
Turning their attention now to Briar, a few attacks and some words of prayer were all it took to finish abolishing that fell spirit as well.
Our heroes took a beating, but all were yet alive. Discussion turned to strategies for rest and recuperation. In the midst of that discussion, a woman’s voice called out from the central chamber which had contained the burning skeletons.
It was the spirit of Vesoriana Hawkren, deceased wife of the prison warden. She thanked our heroes for vanquishing four of the worst of the evil spirits which infest Harrowstone. She warned them of the last – the one who in life was known as The Splatterman. She explained that until recently, the spirit of her husband, trapped so near yet so far in the dungeons below, had contained the ghosts. Yet unsettling visitor “men and women in dark robes who spoke only in whispers” came to Harrowstone not long ago and began to work strange magic around the building’s foundations. Unable to leave this room, she was nonetheless able to observe through the walls to the northwest as these strange people inscribed runes along the ground. She also witnessed the sad end of Professor Lorrimor, slain by foul magic wielded by the leader of the black-robed villains —a thin, gray-skinned human who wore a bone breastplate and carried a black staff capped with a skull gagged by a black cloth. She told of how the leader of the cultists bashed in the dead man’s head and face with a fragment of gargoyle from a roof above in an attempt, she surmised, to make the man’s death seem more like an accident. The leader’s name, she heard whispered, was Auren…Auren Vrood.
Later that night, after they murdered the man, the black-robed cultists finished their ritual. Whatever they did, they did so out of sight of Vesorianna’s view through the walls, but she felt the repercussions immediately. It felt like a horrific storm, yet one with no wind that chilled the flesh. This windstorm chilled the soul—it felt to Vesorianna as if her very being was being pulled apart. Yet the horrific sensation passed in an instant… and when it had, the presence of her husband’s spirit was gone. She could only assume that the black-robed cultists somehow managed to abduct her husband’s spirit, for since that hateful day she felt no sign of either her husband or the black-robed cultists. She further said that every day since that event, the spirits of the murderers and sadists trapped within the walls of Harrowstone have grown more and more powerful. She knows now that her husband’s presence kept the other haunts in line, and that with his ghost gone, they would have escaped wreaking unimaginable havoc, had she not stepped in to do the job her husband had done so well.
Vesoriana warned against the last haunt – The Splatterman. She said that he resided down the southern hall – The Nevermore.
Vesoriana also suggested that our heroes make use of the magic items used in life by the five notorious villains. She directed them to their storage closet on the floor above with a warning that the items are probably still instilled with the evil of their former owners.
With the mention of magic items languishing in a storage closet, the conversation came to an abrupt end. Our heroes thanked Vesoriana and then departed for the said secret closet. Once opened, the closet revealed an ax, a flute, a rotting spellbook, a hammer, and a set of silver chains with an assortment of holy symbols.
Our heroes were a bit battered and beaten. Strategy discussions ensued. There was talk of a long rest. There were concerns that another townsperson may die. Some cared, some didn’t. Briar and Kriv were the most concerned on the issue. Kumnash was perhaps the least.
In the end, the group took a short rest, bandaged their wounds and investigated their magic items before pressing ahead.
The last chamber of the west wing held the remains of a torture chamber. It contained an iron maiden which held some sort of magical sway over Kumnash. For a moment, she thought she saw Kendra within…she leaped forward to grab her out but was instead snapped up by the magical box. Searing agony pierced Kumnash – but her will forced the cage to free her.
Meanwhile, the rest of the group explored the remains of various torture equipment. A basket held two animated hands which leaped to the attack – but were destroyed by Briar with a holy smite. The hands appeared to belong to Warden Hawkren, as did the skeleton on the wrack. Pins and spikes pierced eye sockets and ear holes. Its arms and legs were wrenched from their sockets and joints were stretched to breaking. Within the shattered jaw lay the tarnished remains of the warden’s badge. Within its pelvis, a ring of keys.
The badge was sought by Vesoriana to create a ward protecting Harrowstone from evil – once the final evil was defeated. To this end our heroes set their attention. There followed a bit of debate about whether to approach through the front hall or through the secret passage. Our heroes opted for the back door and the more stealthy approach.
Entering into “The Nevermore” things deteriorated quickly. A bloody “G” and a blood-smeared “K” appeared on the walls of the moldering cells. Gedney and Kriv experienced a draining fatigue. Briar destroyed the K and Gedney destroyed the G. In the next instant, a “B” appeared in blood on the wall and an “R” – our heroes scrambled to destroy the letters as quickly as possible but they weren’t gaining ground. In fact, they were growing weaker and more drained with each passing moment. Then they remembered the haunt siphons and used them, one after the other, to destroy the Blood-Writ-Names haunt.
Kumnash noticed a flickering light deep within the water-filled oubliette in the center of the room. A floating specter or wraith with green burning eyes lurked deep within the waters. Gedney thought to taunt the creature by ripping a page from the spellbook of The Splatterman. On doing so, the creature from the depths fired a series of magic missiles into Gedney, grievously wounding and dropping him in his tracks.
Kumnash and Kriv attacked with spells, others attacked as they were able. The wraith targeted Kumnash next with a punishing magic missile volley….and then possessed Kriv. Kriv leaped into the water and began to swim down and down into darkness and a watery death. D’Kar leaped after, swimming down 20 feet at least. He then attacked Kriv, trying to drive the spirit out of his body.
The Splatter Man came out all right. In the instant it departed Kriv, it hammered D’Kar with a blast of magic missiles knocking him unconscious. Briar leaped into the water and attacked with holy fire and ferocity – but missed. Sigra went last and struck the creature with her magical hammer – striking the final blow – and sending the evil spirit off to the hell it deserves.
And that’s where we ended the night. The final evil spirit was vanquished. All were exhausted.
Will Vesoriana be able to use the badge of her husband to protect Harrowstone and thus Ravengro from evil haunts from the decades-old tragic fire? Will Ravengro be cleansed now that Harrowstone has been relieved of its haunting?
Lastly, assuming you safely exit Harrowstone and see to your obligations with Kendra, you have one last errand to complete for Professor Lorrimor. The Manual of the Order of the Palatine Eye is to be delivered directly to Embreth Daramid, a judge at the Lepidstadt Courthouse and three other volumes to be delivered to Montagnie Crowl, a professor of antiquities at Lepidstadt University.