Oathday, Arodus 11th, 4711
The group woke to cloudy day. Ally, Kendra, Ros, and Valdís planned to head back to the temple archives to further research the five prisoners, while Laurent intended to check in with some of the locals. However, as they departed Lorrimor Place, they spotted one of Sheriff Caeller’s deputies running toward the Harrowstone memorial. Naturally, they followed the man.
As they approached, it appeared someone had committed another bloody desecration of the monument. The victim appeared larger than the river rat than the previous incident, and Ally and Ros ended up hanging back to calm Valdís as she was initially certain the killer had claimed the life of Old River. meanwhile, Laurent approached Sheriff Caeller while Kendra sought information from the two deputies on the scene.
The first thing they noticed upon advancing into the clearing was that the letter smeared on the memorial this time was a large “E”. The second thing that drew there attention was that it was a cat that lay slain in the mud. Kendra discovered from Deputy Riff that he and the other deputies were shaken by the bloody scenes and had been hoping the first was just a misguided prank by some local boys or a tribe of goblins moving through the area. He also confided that he wasn’t sure Caeller knew how to proceed, and still seemed convinced this was not the work of some supernatural entity but simply a common criminal.
Caeller for his part was already stretched thin and even though Laurent had built something of a rapport with him he snapped when the paladin questioned him. Caeller demanded to know why Laurent always seemed to be one of the first people on the scene of these crimes. Laurent tried to calm him, but as soon as he mentioned Harrowstone, Caeller stopped him and stated as firmly as he could that, in his mind at least, the idea that some supernatural force connected to the supposed hauntings at Harrowstone was patently ridiculous. He pointed out that there were physical tracks on the scene, and claimed that physical evidence would solve the crime, not theories about decades-old ghosts or ghouls. Caeller ended by saying that if Laurent’s research turned up anything that might provide motive for a living suspect, bring it forth, but he would hear nothing more about the supernatural.
The party lingered long enough to note footsteps leading toward town, but were unable to follow them when they passed through some thick underbrush.
The Splatter Man
Ally, Kendra, Ros, and Valdís went back to the temple archives to continue their research. Kendra, nervous about the apparently increasing supernatural activity, also ordered a couple healing potions from the temple stores.
They focused their research on the murderer they knew only by the monicker “the Splatter Man” based on Shanda Faravan’s vague recollection. They discovered a copy of a court document outlining the Splatter Man’s horrifying crimes: Professor Feramin was a celebrated scholar of anthroponomastics—the study of personal names and their origins—at the Quartrefaux Archives in Caliphas, but an encounter with a succubus twisted his study. Feramin became obsessed with the power of a name and how he could use it to terrify and control. A series of dangerous experiments ruined his reputation, and soon enough he’d lost his tenure and he’d developed an uncontrollable fixation on an imaginary link between a person’s name and what happens to that name when the person dies. Every few days, he would secretly arrange for his victim to find a letter from her name written in blood, perhaps smeared on a wall or spelled out with carefully arranged entrails. Once he had spelled his victim’s name, he would at last come for her, killing her in a gory mess using a complex trap or series of rigged events meant to look like an accident.
The parallels between this description of the long-deceased Feramin’s crimes and the incidents at the Harrowstone memorial were immediately obvious to the researchers, though they were still stumped by the presence of the footsteps at the scene. Ally noted the reports mentioned that Feramin had used his powers to control some of his victims, and asserted it may be possible for his undead spirit to control a townsperson, while the others thought it equally likely that Feramin had manifested physically and was carrying out these crimes himself. They all agreed that a piece of the puzzle was still missing.
And, even if it was Feramin, who could “V-E” be?
While the others spent the day with their noses firmly planted in books and dusty scrolls, Laurent paid a visit to Jominda’s Apothecary. He asked Jominda if she knew anything about the second incident at the memorial, and though she hadn’t, she said it didn’t surprise her Caeller was still convinced this was nothing more than a vandal, as he was originally from Lepidstadt, a city whose elite prided themselves on a rational, scientific understanding of the world—Caeller likely wouldn’t seek a supernatural source for the crimes unless presented with overwhelming evidence.
When Laurent said he was sure some greater evil was afoot, most likely an undead threat, Jominda offered him a potion of detect undead from her personal stash free of charge, thinking this might help him root out this hidden danger.
After thanking Jominda and asking her to keep her ear to the ground about the possible target of the memorial haunting, he headed to the temple, where he sat in meditation, paying respect to Pharasma and then praying for Sarenrae to burn away all obstructions that lay between him and his foes.
The party regrouped in the temple late that afternoon, and began to share information but were distracted as several temple acolytes milled about the entrance to the temple and ran to fetch Father Grimburrow from his chambers. Ros and Valdís snuck to the entrance to see what the commotion was, and spied a group of seven dirty commoners headed toward the temple from the north. At first it seemed they might be another angry mob, like the one that waylaid the party in the Restlands, but Valdís spotted something horrifying: it was not flesh but mud that clung to these creature’s bones.
Father Grimburrow pushed his way past the adventurers but his acolytes hung back, clearly terrified. They had gathered several maces from the storeroom though, and gladly handed them off to the party when Laurent recalled that blunt force would be needed to destroy the undead skeletons. Seeing them so armed, Father Grimburrow beckoned them forth, saying, “Come, there is work to be done.”
The scene before the temple descended into battle, the skeletons charging forth, propelled by mindless lust for death. Valdís scorched two of the creatures with her burning hands and Laurent and Ros bashed two more. Father Grimburrow took a step back from the front line and unleashed a wave of holy energy, and all but one of the skeletons crumbled into ash.
However, Grimburrow doubled over, coughing violently. Some malady overtook him suddenly, and after the adventurers dispatched the last of the skeletons Grimburrow’s acolytes gathered him up and carried him back into the temple. He stopped to speak to the party then, saying they must continue up to the Restlands and ensure no more undead abominations emerged before his acolytes had a chance to reconsecrate the grounds.
On their way up they road, they spotted Sheriff Caeller ahead, near the north bridge. He was engaged in combat with one skeleton and a second stood over the unconscious body of Deputy Riff. Caeller dashed the first skeleton to the ground with his longsword and hurled a throwing axe at the one standing over his companion, smashing its skull to bits. Laurent rushed forward to stanch the deputy’s bleeding and the party produced a healing potion to bring him back to consciousness.
Caeller’s thanks for their aid was profuse, and he apologized sincerely to Laurent for doubting his instincts regarding the presence of supernatural evil in the town. Caeller said there were more skeletons that made it past him, toward town, which he and the deputy needed to chase down, but requested the party continue north to head off any further undead.
Squall at the Restlands
When the adventurers arrived at the south gates of the Restlands, the storm had picked up considerably, with winds so stiff Ros could barely move against them. They waited just outside the gates, waiting anxiously for the next turn of fate. They did not have to wait long.
Three corpses rose from the soft ground, these much fresher than the skeletons encountered before. Laurent identified them as zombies, and advised his allies to draw slashing weapons against them. The party advanced cautiously, taking no chances with their unholy adversaries. Laurent called down a bolt of holy fire to smite one of the mindless creatures, while Valdís ensorcelled her longsword and tossed a battleaxe to Kendra, who cast a true strike on herself.
Despite these strong magics, the zombies proved much tougher than skeletons, and withstood several strong blows. The party widdled their numbers down until only one remained, but the horrific scene got the better of Ally, whose monstrous heritage overcame her—she slashed madly at the zombie with her claws, stripping the flesh from its bones. She didn’t bring it down though, and with one blow across the head from the thing’s gamy limb she crumpled into the mud.
Enraged, Valdís finally cleaved the zombie in half, her fervor startling the others, who up to this point had been unsure whether she cared for them. The party expended another healing potion to revive the fallen witch, and moments later Sheriff Caeller arrived with two deputies and several acolytes. Surveying the scene and shouting over the storm, he thanked them again for their service to the town and ordered the acolytes to heal their remaining wounds. He told them he could take it from there, and sent them back to town.
The party made their way back through town, moving slowly so as to ensure no remaining undead lingered amongst the townsfolk. When they arrived in town square, they saw Pevrin posting notices to a pole. When he spotted them, he rushed forward and handed them a copy, telling them an emergency town meeting had been scheduled for that Starday, Arodus 13th, to discuss how best to combat the now apparent supernatural threat. Pevrin personally requested they make an appearance, as he seemed not to trust the local authorities to respond to these disturbing events.
When asked who sent him out to post the notice around town, Pevrin directed them to Councilman Muricar, so they decided to pay him a visit. A manservant seated them in the drawing room and the councilman joined shortly thereafter. Gharen explained that he’d been pushing Vashian on the subject of a town meeting for days but his colleague couldn’t be bothered with it until this day’s events. Speaking candidly, Gharen asked the adventurers assembled before him what they thought the best course of action would be given everything they’d seen and their considerable research. Laurent pounce on this opportunity, requesting he be given command over a contingent of warriors drawn from the local militia, his purpose being an expedition into the Harrowstone ruins. Gharen nodded gravely, saying the party had his full support.