Fireday, Arodus 12th, 4711
Over a breakfast of porridge, Kendra shared with Ally, Laurent, and Ros a revelation she had while writing in her journal the night before: the song they’d overheard the children singing in town square—and that she herself had sung as a child—was actually about the infamous five prisoners. They immediately determined the third couplet described the Splatter Man, and the fifth Father Charlatan, but the other three took a bit more deduction. The first couplet contains the phrase “lop her head,” which they guessed meant it belonged to the Lopper, while the second mentioned a pipe and thus must have described the crimes of the Piper of Illmarsh. This left the fourth for the Mosswater Marauder.
It was about then that they all noticed Valdís had not made an appearance, which was strange given that the restless elf was usually among the first out of bed. Ally thought perhaps she’d already set out to gather supplies for the impending expedition into Harrowstone, but noises from elsewhere within Lorrimor Place drew the party’s attention. They found Valdís drenched in sweat and dry heaving in bed, a puddle of vomit on the floor by her side. Laurent diagnosed her with a particularly dire case of filth fever, most likely contracted from their encounter with the stirges on Toilday. He cleaned her up, but, given her condition, the party decided the trip to Harrowstone would have to wait.
Once Valdís regained her composure, still groggy, she related the dream they’d woken her from: She’d found herself in a room she’d never seen before, large, with stone walls and barred windows, and a locked wooden door. Smoke seeped from under the door, filling the room, and though she tried to force the door and squeeze through the window, there was nothing she could do as air grew thin and the darkness closed in around her.
They all agreed she’d dreamed of Harrowstone, but what the significance of the dream might be none could say.
The party, their hopes of delving into Harrowstone put on hold, arrived at the temple that morning, hoping to confirm their information regarding the Mosswater Marauder. The doors to the temple usually remained open all day, allowing parishioners to come freely, but on this day they found them closed and barred from within. Not knowing what else to do, they knocked, and Brother Ruckheart answered, nervously ushering them into the archives, but he explained that with all the strange things going on in town, combined with Father Grimburrow’s taking ill, things around the temple were getting stricter, meaning this would be the last time he’d be able to get them into the archives until conditions improved.
The party accepted this, thanking Ruckheart for his aid thus far, and took full advantage of their last day in the temple. Ally and Laurent followed up on some avenues of research regarding the Whispering Way, while Kendra and Ros continued sifting through copies of prison records for accounts of the Marauder.
Ally and Laurent uncovered pages from the journal of one of the founding priests of the temple—likely one of those who left the secret cache of holy weapons in the Restlands—who had some notes about the Way. She’d written that followers of the Way often venture into haunted areas to perform research or capture unique creatures, though they never leave witnesses, and often take the precaution of crushing a victim’s head so not even a casting of speak with dead can reveal their actions. The others asked Kendra if she knew what in what condition her father’s body had been found but Sheriff Caeller had kept those details from her, telling her it would be best if her final memories of him not be of his present state.
Kendra and Ros also had some luck, discovering a file on the Mosswater Marauder: Only five years before his hometown of Mosswater was destined to be overrun and ruined by monsters from the nearby river, Ispin Onyxcudgel was a well-liked artisan and a doting husband. When he discovered his wife’s infidelity, he flew into a jealous rage and struck her dead with his hammer, shattering her skull and his sanity with one murderous blow. Wracked with shame and guilt, Ispin became convinced that if he could rebuild his wife’s skull she would come back to life—but unfortunately, he could not find the last blade-shaped fragment from the murder site. So instead, Ispin became the Mosswater Marauder. Over the course of several weeks, the cunning dwarf stalked and murdered nearly twenty people while searching for just the right skull fragment. He was captured just before murdering the daughter of a visiting nobleman from Varno, and was carted off to Harrowstone that same night.
Among the People
Late that afternoon, the adventurers wandered the town following up on their research and, in Laurent’s case, scanning townsfolk for signs of demonic or ghostly possession. Their first stop was to speak with Jominda, who mentioned that she’d spoken to Councilman Gharen about Harrowstone, recalling he’d considered himself an amateur historian earlier in his career in the Ravengro council, but he didn’t seem to know anything the party hadn’t already uncovered in their research. However, Jominda had taken a shot in the dark and asked him if he knew anyone whose name began with “V-E,” and though he said he didn’t she thought there was something he hadn’t told her. She also offered the pack a healing kit and have it sent over to Lorrimor Place that evening when she saw the state Valdís was in, an offer the party graciously accepted.
The party split, with Ally, Kendra, and Ros following Jominda’s tip and Laurent and Valdís heading to the town jail to ask Sheriff Caeller about the condition in which Professor Lorrimor’s body was found. Still happy to help their investigation, Caeller read the relevant notes from his personal journal, saying that they found the body on the edge of Harrowstone’s grounds, his head crushed by a large stone that had fallen from the crumbling outer wall. The only tracks on the scene appeared to be Lorrimor’s. His body was checked for any other wounds or unusual bruising but nothing was found. The stone was left at the scene, while the body was carted away as soon as an acolyte could be called from the temple to perform the proper rites. They thanked Caeller for the information and felt comfortable in their conclusion that the cult of the Whispering Way was behind the professor’s death, but were left wondering how the cultists might possibly be connected to the ongoing supernatural events.
Ally, Kendra, and Ros found Gharen in his study, poring over a desk covered in notes and various legal documents. They were prepared for some manner of deception, or at least to coax the information Jominda alluded to with a quick charm hex, but he volunteered the information almost immediately: when Jominda had asked him about the name, perhaps because she had just been asking about Harrowstone, he recalled that the wife of Warden Hawkran was named Vesorianna. He recalled that he’d first come across the name when he’d uncovered a beautiful likeness of the woman in the town hall records, and, in his words, he would “never forget a face like that.” It seemed irrelevant, given that she’d been presumed dead since the day of the Harrowstone fire, so he hadn’t bothered mentioning it to Jominda.
Starday, Arodus 13th, 4711
In the morning Laurent tended to Valdís, who decided to sleep in and recover from her fever. The others got a note from Sheriff Caeller allowing them to peruse the town hall records for more information about another of the five prisoners: the Piper of Illmarsh. There seemed to be less information regarding this man than the others, but Kendra cobbled together a few scraps from various sources. Apparently, before he snatched his victims, the Piper taunted his targets with a mournful dirge on his flute. He preferred to paralyze lone victims by dosing their meals with lich dust and then allowed his pet stirges to drink the victims dry of blood. To this day, his true identity remains unknown; though he spent the majority of his murderous career in the swamp town of Illmarsh, he was not a native of that or the surrounding area.
By the time the party was wrapping up their research, a few townspeople were already mingling in town hall’s main room for the meeting that evening. Ally sent her owl to watch the Harrowstone memorial as the party found their places in the meeting room. A few familiar faces arrived shortly before sundown—Jominda, Sarianna, Zokar, as well as Caeller and his deputies, and of course the Council people—but the room was packed with dozens of others, including many farmers from the surrounding land. Even Valdís dragged herself out of bed for the meeting.
Councilwoman Mirta Straelock stepped forward at the head of the room first, quieting the crowd as the last rays of sunlight shone through the open windows of the town hall meeting room. She said she’d spent a lot of time meeting with farmers and investigating the unusual events occurring outside the town proper, and that it was time for all of them to come together as a community to face the evil looming over the town. She then called the sheriff forward to make a public report of his investigations.
Caeller first announced that his investigation of the Harrowstone memorial vandalism revealed tracks belonging to the perpetrator leading from town, meaning that he or she remained among the townsfolk. Because of this, he had decided to implement a curfew of nightfall starting the following evening.
He then announced that his investigation of the Restlands had revealed tampering with one of the crypts, specifically that the lock had been opened with the use of some sort of acid and the occupant of its sarcophagus had apparently been removed. The party immediately recognized this as the crypt Professor Lorrimor had opened and into which they themselves had delved, and though a few nervous looks passed between them it seemed like they weren’t suspects. Ally whispered to Laurent that this must be why the acolytes had decided to lock the temple down for the time being. Caeller finished by announcing that the Restlands would not be open to the public until further notice, and those who wished to visit loved ones would need to be accompanied by an acolyte.
Councilman Hearthmount then stood, saying they would leave the end of the meeting for open discourse but that everyone would need to remain calm. The worst any of them could do, he continued, would be to panic and endanger their countrymen. He also set down general rules for the people while the supernatural threat persisted, including staying out of the woods and keeping their doors and windows locked and their children inside.
He was interrupted by one of the farmers shooting up from his seat, demanding to know why everyone was acting like they didn’t know the source of the evil in town. He pointed at the adventurers and began shouting a tirade about how everything started getting worse when the outsiders started showing up. Another woman on the other side of the room also stood, shouting that her grandmother always said you could spot a witch by their different colored eyes, so Ally, whose eyes were of two different colors, must be a witch, and she must have formed a coven with Kendra and Valdís and cursed the town.
Gharen stood and tried to defend the party, calling Caeller back up to recount their good deeds during the undead attack, but the hall descended into chaos, the townsfolk all shouting amongst themselves. The cacophony was accompanied by a rise in temperature, seeming natural at first given the outburst of emotion in the packed room but rapidly becoming such that it felt like the floor beneath their feet was about to burst into flames. Just then, five lanterns illuminating the room shattered, spilling burning oil on the walls and floor below them. Two townsfolk immediately fell, bodies scorched by the fire, and nearly everyone lost themselves in abject terror.
Only the adventurers seemed prepared in the face of this new danger.