Starday, Arodus 13th, 4711
The Fires Spread
The fires raced through town hall, licking at the heavy curtains hanging over the windows that lined the walls and the thick rugs covering the floor. Strange shadows leapt across the walls, cast by the manic movements of the dozens of townsfolk clambering for the door. Two such townspeople fell to the fires, having been unfortunate enough to be standing directly under two of the lamps that had exploded. The party was caught off guard by this mass hysteria, but only for a moment.
Ros snapped into action, leaping atop a nearby windowsill and directing the crowd, calming them long enough to evacuate the building in an orderly fashion and avoiding any further civilian casualties. The party pulled the fallen townspeople from the fires, ensuring they survived their injuries before turning to fight the fires. The flame leapt at them, almost eagerly, but their efforts were enough to slowly push it back. The only townspeople who remained to aid the party were Sheriff Caeller and Councilman Muricar—who slipped into the offices in the back of town hall to gather miscellaneous documents before returning to find the others valiantly beating back the fire.
Before they’d seen the last of the fire though, two of the hall’s windows shattered as a pair of flaming skulls, undead creatures cursed with malevolent will, flew into the chamber, one darting for Laurent while the other cornered Ros in a ring of fire.
Laurent called down the holy might of Sarenrae and smote one of the skulls in a single mighty blow. The rest of the party turned to aid Ros—Kendra and Valdís unleashed a barrage of arcane energies on the skull bearing down on their diminutive ally, blowing the creature to cinders.
They quickly dispatched the last of the fires, and when they finally emerged from the scorched but still-standing structure a crowd of awed townsfolk met them with profuse thanks and adulation. Even the generally reserved Councilman Vashian Hearthmount offered some praise, though he remained somewhat withholding despite the adventurers’ heroic deeds.
Laurent remained at the scene for a brief chat with Gharen, who reentered the smoldering hall to replace the documents he’d been trying to save. He indicated that they mostly composed correspondence he’d been having with officials in Tamrivena, requesting aid be sent to Ravengro, but he did not seem hopeful about their prospects. He also said it seemed unlikely that he’d be able to follow through on his offer to grant Laurent a contingent of men from the local militia as Vashian and Councilwoman Mirta Straelock had stated privately that the militia should only be utilized to safeguard the town and surrounding farmland, and they were not willing to risk any resources on the uncertain ground of Harrowstone.
Sunday, Arodus 14th, 4711
The Prison on the Hill
The party woke early to clear, blue skies and a cool breeze. Laurent checked on Valdís and determined that she’d overcome her illness, so the party decided it was finally time to head to Harrowstone. They stopped by Jominda’s and the Temple to pick up a few last-minute supplies and then set out on foot.
They followed the uneven country road past two miles of farmland to the edge of the forest that clung to the sides of the hill atop which Harrowstone perched. The road up the hill was overgrown after decades of neglect, and even on that cloudless day the path was darkened by the tall bristlecone pine trees. Halfway up the hill they heard a howl from somewhere nearby, and Ally whispered to the others that a wolf must be stalking them and calling to the rest of its pack. Laurent said that if they could make it to the Harrowstone grounds before the pack arrived they would probably be safe, as most animals won’t enter a haunted area. They hustled up the final stretch, never setting eyes on their pursuers.
The road approached the prison from the south, its walls still intimidating though its gates hung loose on their massive hinges and one section off to their right seemed to have collapsed into a pond within the prison grounds. Laurent was the first to pass through the aging gates, and was overwhelmed for a split second with a vision of his flesh igniting in crackling flame. The hallucination left him physically unharmed but even the stalwart paladin was shaken after such a vision.
Within the walls they set eyes for the first time on the prison itself, a two-story stone structure worn with age, covered in wooden shingles that in many places had rotted through or been blown away, revealing glimpses of wooden beams beneath in equally poor condition. The front doors hung open, above which sagged a balcony. The main structure of the prison was flanked by two massive stone balconies that ran the length of the either side of the building, though it appears as if the southern balcony had partially collapsed into the same murky pond as the section of the out wall.
Directly before the prison sat a squat wooden house, which the party surmised had once been the home of Warden Lyvar Hawkran and his wife, Vesorianna. They made a quick pass through the house, but after seeing that it had been ransacked already—nothing more than a few splintered boards and an overturned wardrobe remained, and numerous plants had sprouted through the floorboards—they departed for the prison itself.
As the approached, several of the party noticed that beneath the thick sheets of ivy that covered the prison there seemed to be a number of strange markings near the structure’s foundations. Laurent also noticed that the balcony above the main entrance appeared to be unstable; though it posed no immediate threat, he recommended they not put too much weight on it should they explore the second floor.
Kendra examined the strange markings, runes of some sort, determining that they were composed almost entirely of characters from the Varisian alphabet and that they were used to perform a ritual that involved both abjuration and necromancy, and though the exact nature of the ritual eluded her, the name “Lyvar Hawkran” was repeated several times. Laurent dutifully copied the markings into his journal for later reference.
The adventurers entered the prison, advancing past a small antechamber into the prison foyer, its floor covered in a carpet of soft fungi. Here they were confronted with four doors, and their first two choices, two doors to the east opened on the same chamber, a massive room lined with benches, a small section at the southern end barred from the large seating area. Laurent suggested first that this might be a chapel, but the lack of holy symbols and the presence of a podium standing before the barred area led them to believe this may be were appeals and sentencing of the prisoners occurred.
Laurent and Valdís lead the way as they entered the auditorium, Valdís casting light on her longsword to provide illumination in the dark chamber. However, the doors behind them slammed shut as soon as those two entered the room, and the temperature immediately dipped in the auditorium, sending a chill straight to their bones.
Ally, still in the foyer with Kendra and Ros, noted that they were witnessing a haunt, a type of undead spirit too weak to manifest as a full ghost but still able to manipulate the physical realm, albeit in a very crude manner. The one before them was a slamming portal haunt, which could be destroyed by sprinkling holy water on the door it inhabited. Kendra drew a flask and followed Ally’s instructions, releasing the door from the wayward spirit.
Laurent and Valdís faced a more dire threat: Laurent caught on the the fact that they were facing a haunting as well, though in addition to the slamming portal, he knew the chill he felt in his bones indicated the presence of cold spot, which could easily sap the strength from even a hardy warrior. He stepped out of its area of influence but Valdís misjudged the haunt, shrugging off the worst of its effects but still suffering as the chill drew the strength from her bones.
The rest of the party kicked in the door and Ros lunged forward and, at Laurent’s direction, hurled a flask of alchemist’s fire at the haunt’s epicenter. The fire did much to combat the haunt but it took Kendra and finally Valdís again focusing their arcane energies on the haunt to dissipate it. Ally noted that while they’d destroyed the slamming portal haunt, they’d merely dismissed the cold spot for the time being, and Laurent noted they’d have one hour before the haunt could summon enough energy to manifest again.
They pressed on to the next chamber, through a jammed door on the eastern wall of the auditorium. This wide room was filled with old dummies and blunted, rusty weaponry, most likely a training area for the guards. This chamber was exposed to the prison grounds as the far wall had collapsed into the mud and water of the pond. A small stream from the pond snaked through the chamber, emptying into a hole that yawned into some dark dungeon below—the opening seemed to have once served as a lift between the ground level and the dungeon, given what bits of machinery remained suspended above the hole. Every surface of the training room not exposed to running water was caked with soot.
For a brief moment as they entered the room, the party believed another hallucination of the Harrowstone’s infamous fire was overcoming them, as flame seemed to rise from the depths of the dungeon, but this was no false vision: three flaming skulls rose from the darkness of the pit, crackling with fire and shooting through the air at the adventurers.
Our heroes raised their weapons, ready for a fight.