In the Palatine Eye

Strange Days in Ravengro

The story so far...

Prologue

On the 23rd day of Erastus, 4711 AR, the venerable Professor Lorrimor was found dead on the grounds of the Harrowstone prison ruins near his hometown of Ravengro.

Over the course of the next few days, his daughter, Kendra, sent out letters to each of four individuals noted in his will:

  • Allynna “Ally” Telerelhûn, a female witch demi-human of indeterminate ancestry who is accompanied at all times by an owl familiar; she was once saved from some magical calamity by the good professor.
  • Laurent D’Avignon, a male half-elf (half-Qadiran) paladin of Sarenrae who was well-traveled in the Inner Sea even before serving as a guard and trusted advisor to Lorrimor for a number of years.
  • Ros, a female halfling rogue who has spent most of her life as a thief and scoundrel but once saved the professor from an out-of-control carriage on a busy city street in Druma, thus earning his lifelong friendship.
  • Valdís, a morose female elf magus, armed to the teeth and untrusting of human authorities after spending years in the River Kingdoms, once survived an encounter with a hungry black dragon, a feat which captured the professor’s imagination for years.

Each of these acquaintances were strangers to Ustalav, having met Lorrimor during his wide travels across the Inner Sea region. Though once close with the professor, they had fallen out of touch and none knew why they had been called to Ravengro. Nevertheless, on the 7th day of Arodus, they all found themselves on a carriage rolling through the pastoral, foggy landscape of rural Ustalav.

Sunday, Arodus 7th, 4711

Trouble on the Dreamwake

In the waning afternoon light, the party emerged from the carriage and set foot for the first time in Ravengro’s town square. As they stretched their legs, a young boy, no older than thirteen years old, approached, asking if they were there for the burial of the professor. Though suspicious of the boy, the party acknowledged this was their purpose, and the boy introduced himself as Pevrin Elkarid. He quickly ushered them through town, north, toward the Restlands, where the rest of the mourners had already gathered.

At the gates of the Restlands they met the late professor’s daughter, Kendra, for the first time, and joined Jominda Fallenbridge, Zokar Elkarid and Councilmen Gharen Muricar and Vashian Hearthmount in mourning her loss. After brief introductions, Laurent and Valdís offered to help carry the professor’s casket.

On their way to the professor’s grave, the procession was interrupted, their way blocked by a group of angry townsfolk led by retired farmer and soldier Gibs Hephenus. Gibs claimed the the professor, a man his friends knew to be a stalwart defender of good, was in fact an evil necromancer and had no business being buried in the Restlands. However, Laurent managed to calm the angry townsfolk down long enough for Zokar, under the influence of a quick charm hex from Ally, to invite everyone for a free round at the Laughing Demon that night. This didn’t put Gibs at ease but with the support of his assembled mob failing he backed off.

The party continued on unmolested to Lorrimor’s grave, where they met Father Grimburrow and said a few sorrowful words before laying the professor to rest.

Lorrimor’s Will

Following the burial service, the party retired to Lorrimor Place with Kendra, its sole remaining resident, and Councilman Hearthmount, who rendered an official reading of Lorrimor’s last will and testament before those named therein:

I, Petros Lorrimor, being of sound mind, do hereby commit to this parchment my last will and testament. Let it be known that, with the exception of the specific details below, I leave my home and personal belongings entire to my daughter Kendra. Use them or sell them as you see fit, my child.

Yet beyond the bequeathing of my personal effects, this document must serve other needs. I have arranged for the reading of this document to be delayed until all principals can be in attendance, for I have more than mere inheritance to apportion. I have two final favors to ask.

To my old friends, I hate to impose upon you all, but there are few others who are capable of appreciating the true significance of what it is I have to ask. As some of you know, I have devoted many of my studies to all manner of evil, that I might know the enemy and inform those better positioned to stand against it. For knowledge of one’s enemy is the surest path to victory over its plans.

And so, over the course of my lifetime, I have seen fit to acquire a significant collection of valuable but dangerous tomes, any one of which in the wrong circumstances could have led to an awkward legal situation. While the majority of these tomes remain safe under lock and key at the Lepidstadt University, I fear that a few I have borrowed remain in a trunk in my Ravengro home. While invaluable for my work in life, in death, I would prefer not to burden my daughter with the darker side of my profession, or worse still, the danger of possessing these tomes herself. As such, I am entrusting my chest of tomes to you, posthumously. I ask that you please deliver the collection to my colleagues at the University of Lepidstadt, who will put them to good use for the betterment of the cause.

Yet before you leave for Lepidstadt, there is the matter of another favor—please delay your journey one month and spend that period of time here in Ravengro to ensure that my daughter is safe and sound. She has no one to count on now that I am gone, and if you would aid her in setting things in order for whatever she desires over the course of this month, you would have my eternal gratitude. From my savings, I have also willed to each of you a sum of one hundred platinum coins. For safekeeping, I have left these funds with Embreth Daramid, one of my most trusted friends in Lepidstadt—she has been instructed to issue this payment upon the safe delivery of the borrowed tomes no sooner than one month after the date of the reading of this will.

I, Petros Lorrimor, hereby sign this will in Ravengro on this first day of Calistril, in the year 4711.

Hearthmount then bid the party farewell, leaving them to retrieve Lorrimor’s chest and examine the tomes within: On Verified Madness, Serving Your Hunger, The Umbral Leaves—each bearing a note indicating that they should be delivered to Montagnie Crowl, a professor of antiquities at Lepidstadt University—and a fourth text bound in deep purple leather and bearing a brass scarab set with a single eye in its center—this tome was locked, and though no key could be found it did have a note attached saying that it should be returned in a discrete manner to Judge Embreth Daramid.

Of more immediate interest, however, was the journal found resting on top of these texts, the words “READ ME NOW” scratched into its brown leather cover. This was evidently the journal of Professor Lorrimor, and skimming through its pages revealed several entries of note, each circled in red ink:

Ten Years Ago:
The Whispering Way is more than just a cabal of necromancers. I see that now. Undeath is their fountain of youth. Uncovering their motivation does not place me at ease as I thought it might. Their desire to be eternal simply makes them more dangerous.

Two Months Ago:
It is as I had feared. The Way is interested in something here in Ravengro. But what could it be?

One Month Ago:
Whatever the Way seeks, I am now convinced their goal is connected to Harrowstone. In retrospect, I suppose it all makes sense—the stories they tell about the ruins in town are certainly chilling enough. It may be time to investigate the ruins, but with everyone in town already being so worked up about them, I’d rather not let the others know about my curiosity—there’s plenty of folks hereabouts who already think I’m a demonologist or a witch or something. Ignorant fools.

Twenty Days Ago:
It is confirmed. The Way seems quite interested in something—no, strike that—someone who was held in Harrowstone. But who, specifically, is the Way after? I need a list of everyone who died the night of the fire. Everyone. The Temple of Pharasma must have such a list.

Eighteen Days Ago:
I see now just how ill prepared I was when I last set out for the Harrowstone. I am lucky to have returned at all. The ghosts, if indeed they were ghosts (for I did not find it prudent to investigate further) prevented me from transcribing the strange symbols I found etched along the foundation—hopefully on my next visit I will be more prepared. Thankfully, the necessary tools to defend against spirits are already here in Ravengro. I know that the church of Pharasma used to store them in a false crypt in the Restlands at the intersection between Eversleep and the Black Path. I am not certain if the current clergy even know of what their predecessors have hidden down below. If my luck holds, I should be able to slip in and out with a few borrowed items.

Seventeen Days Ago:
Tomorrow evening I return to the prison. It is imperative the Way does not finish. My caution has already cost me too much time. I am not sure what will happen if I am too late, but if my theory is right, the entire town could be at risk. I don’t have time to update my will, so I’ll leave this in the chest where it’ll be sure to be found, should the worst come to pass.

It seemed that the worst had indeed come to pass. Bound to remain in Ravengro for a full month in any event, the party resolved to investigate this new evidence that the professor’s death had not in fact been an accident. Given the circumstances, Kendra invited them all to stay in Lorrimor Place as long as they remained in Ravengro.

The Laughing Demon

Despite the troubling revelations regarding the professor’s death, the party, Kendra in tow, thought it best to join the townsfolk at the Laughing Demon to ensure everyone’s tensions had eased since the showdown in the Restlands. Though Gibs remained surly, most others were perfectly happy to let the whole thing go after Laurent bought everyone a round.

Kendra left early, exhausted and still in mourning, and Valdís ducked out not long after, though she lingered in town square to feed Old River, a local dog. It was there she overheard Pevrin flirting with a local girl, telling her about a swimming hole down the river he knew about before they both ran off together.

The Outward Inn

Councilman Muricar made an appearance at the Laughing Demon, but upon spying Ally, Laurent, and Ros, suggested they all head for the Outward Inn to have a drink. They met back up with Valdís in town square before descending into the inn’s basement rathskeller. The scene at the Outward Inn was much more subdued than that gathered at the Laughing Demon, and after meeting proprietor Sarianna Vai, they all relaxed with a drink while Gharen answered a few questions about Ravengro and made eyes at Ally (and Valdís, but mostly Ally because Valdís was tired and grumpy).

Return to the Restlands

When the party departed the Outward Inn it was already late, but their minds returned to Lorrimor’s journal and their curiosity got the better of them. They decided to venture back into the Restlands and investigate the false crypt about which Lorrimor had written.

Under cover of night, led by the Ally’s darkvision, they made their way to the noted location, discovering there a crypt surrounded by a wrought iron gate whose lock had been tampered with, evidently with acid, presumably by Lorrimor. They made sure they hadn’t been followed and then entered the crypt.

Almost immediately, it was apparent Lorrimor was right—there were no family names or insignia to be found anywhere inside the first chamber of the crypt, which would be highly unusual in a real crypt. A stone stair lead below ground to a second chamber, to which the party descended. In this second chamber the party noticed footprints in the thick layer of dust on the stone floor—more traces of Lorrimor. In a sarcophagus in the back of the second chamber, the party recovered a wealth of holy tools and weapons, which they immediately divided amongst themselves.

Ally, while the other three fiddled with some unusual items they found, wandered toward several urns sitting in a corner and was immediately set upon by two giant centipedes. The creatures slithered from a crack in the stone wall, cornering the witch before her allies could make a move. Laurent and Valdís snapped into action but were unable to subdue the monstrous arthropods before one of the latched onto Ally’s arm, injecting her with its venom. Laurent managed to clean the wound but the encounter still left the witch drained.

New weapons packed away, the party made their way back toward Lorrimor Place.

Monumental Desecration

The night was not quite over. Just as the party approached Lorrimor Place, they heard a scream from down the road, toward the river. They rushed to investigate, Ros and Valdís hiding in the foliage while Ally and Laurent rushed ahead, nearly trampling Pevrin and the girl from town square—who they later discovered to be Nadia Avanaki—as they sprinted blindly through the night. When Laurent questioned Pevrin, he pointed the party toward the Harrowstone memorial and continued running toward town.

At the site of the memorial statue, the party discovered a grisly scene: the statue of the Harrowstone guards had been splattered with blood, and more blood had been smeared on the inscription below in the shape of the letter “V”. Nearby they discovered a mutilated river rat, the apparent source of the blood, as well as some footprints, although they could not tell from where they came or to where they might lead.

It was at least two o’clock in the morning by this point and the party decided there was nothing to be done, so they headed again back to Lorrimor Place to get some well-deserved sleep.

Moonday, Arodus 8th, 4711

Research in Ravengro

While Ally stayed in bed to sleep off the effects of the centipede venom (and identify some of the magical items found in the false crypt), Kendra suggested that the rest of the party split up to conduct some research into the two topics Lorrimor seemed most keen on during his final days: Harrowstone and the Whispering Way.

Laurent and Kendra headed off to the Temple of Pharasma, and, after a brief chat with Brother Ruckheart, the acolyte charged with managing the temple stores and maintaining the archives, were allowed access their records. In the dusty, subterranean archives, studying thick volumes by candlelight, they managed to uncover a great deal of information. The Whispering Way is the philosophy of perhaps the oldest cult of necromancy still active in the Inner Sea and was the order from which Tar-Baphon, the Whispering Tyrant, rose to power. However, despite this massive role in history, little is certain about the philosophy itself, as it is only transferred via whispers, and thus never committed to ink and paper.

Trouble With Authority

Ros and Valdís ventured to town hall to research Harrowstone, but were met with far less success than their companions at the temple. They were immediately turned away by an especially abrasive scribe, so they set out to find Sheriff Caeller and persuade him to grant them entry. While asking around town regarding his whereabouts, they spoke briefly with Jominda, who mentioned she’d heard a rumor something had happened at the Harrowstone memorial, and that Caeller might be found there investigating the scene.

This turned out to be true, though this did not resolve the duo’s troubles. Upon finding Caeller, their request that he sanction their access to the town hall rapidly descended into an impromptu interrogation as Caeller’s suspicions were piqued when they mentioned they’d been on the scene late the night before. Not wanting the reveal their raid on the false crypt, they departed at their soonest convenience.

The two wandered about some more, but their misadventures had all but spent the day.

Toilday, Arodus 9th, 4711

The Day of Silenced Whispers

The following day bore much more fruit. Kendra and Laurent again descended into the mildewy temple archives, while Ally, Ros, and Valdís headed north to the Unfurling Scroll, home of the retired wizard Alendru Ghoroven, both groups intending to research Harrowstone.

Kendra and Laurent uncovered much information, but it was Ros who uncovered a crucial clue in Alendru’s personal library: at the time of the conflagration at Harrowstone, five especially infamous prisoners were housed within its walls. This clue, a handwritten report, did not go into further detail, but proved illuminating nonetheless.

While Kendra and Laurent were deep in their studies, Brother Ruckheart reminded them that it was the Day of Silenced Whispers, the annual commemoration of the day Tar-Baphon was finally defeated by the Shining Crusade almost 900 years ago. What with all the excitement of the previous few weeks, Kendra had lost track of such things, but told Laurent there would be a big celebration in town square with free food and drink.

Ally, Valdís, and Ros encountered these preparations firsthand as they returned from their research. Many people were already setting up decorations and children were running about. They overheard five young girls, dancing with merriment, sing a tune so strange and macabre they couldn’t help but investigate:

Put her body on the bed,
    take a knife and lop her head.
Watch the blood come out the pipe,
    feeds the stirge, so nice and ripe.
Drops of red so sparkly bright,
    splatters spell her name just right.
With a hammer killed his wife,
    now he wants to claim your life.
Tricksy father tells a lie,
    listen close or you will die.

The girls told Ros the song had always been sung in Ravengro, and it didn’t mean anything, but the three adventurers took it upon themselves to ask around about its strange lyrics. All they got out of the townsfolk was that it had actually only been around for a few decades, though no one was quite sure of its origin.

Around this time Kendra and Laurent met back up with the others. It was nearly time for the festivities to commence, and Zokar and Sarianna began setting out kegs and tables full of fresh breads with jars of jam and other spreads and pork turnovers and other such treats. Pevrin, who had been running around the square helping with the decorations, ran some food to the party before again helping Nadia hang streamers from the façade of the Ravengro General Store.

Father Grimburrow kicked the celebration off, giving a brief oral history of the reign of Tar-Baphon. He then handed things off to Sarianna, who sang a sorrowful ballad recounting the death of Arazni, a warrior-goddess summoned to challenge Tar-Baphon. She charged the Whispering Tyrant amidst a pitched battle but vastly underestimated the lich’s power and was quickly incapacitated. At first it was thought her ultimate fate would never be known, but after thirteen days Tar-Baphon hurled her dead body into the ranks of the Knights of Ozem.

It was during this song that two stirges emerged from a nearby copse of trees, flying over town square in movements oddly in sync with the music. This didn’t stop them from dive-bombing Laurent and Valdís, latching onto their armor and piercing them both with their filthy, spearlike probosces, drawing blood in long draughts. The townspeople scattered, and only a few brave souls remained to see the party dispatch the wayward stirges. One among them was Father Grimburrow, who noted how unusual it was for stirges to be near civilization.

Wealday, Arodus 10th, 4711

Father Charlatan

The party woke early on Wealday, more eager than ever to get to the bottom of the mystery of Ravengro. All five arrived bright and early at the Temple of Pharasma and, after Laurent assured Brother Ruckheart that Ally, Ros, and Valdís wouldn’t cause any trouble in the archives, dove into any document that might shed light on the identities of the notorious five prisoners of Harrowstone.

Before day’s end, they had uncovered an account, written by a young acolyte of the temple, naming the aliases of the five: Father Charlatan, the Lopper, the Mosswater Marauder, the Piper of Illlmarsh, and the Splatter Man. However, it only detailed the crimes of Father Charlatan: Sefick Corvin was not technically a murderer, but had blasphemed against several churches who demanded he be punished to the full extent of Ustalavic law. Although he claimed to be an ordained priest of any number of faiths, “Father Corvin” was in fact a traveling con artist who used faith as a mask and a means to bilk the faithful out of money in payment for false miracles or cures. He became known as Father Charlatan after his scheme was exposed and his Sczarni accomplices murdered a half-dozen city guards in an attempt to make good the group’s escape.

The party stopped off at the Laughing Demon before calling it a day, where they ran into Gharen and Councilwoman Shanda Faravan. After Gharen introduced the group to his colleague, they revealed that they were frustrated with Councilman Hearthmount, though didn’t go into further detail. It also came to light that Faravan had once been a royal accuser, and when questioned about the five prisonersshe mentioned having read something particularly gruesome about the criminal known as the Splatter Man, but could not recall the details of his life or crimes at the moment. Eventually Laurent got the Councilwoman on her own and she confided in him that she had left the royal courts in disgrace after once having made a claim of innocence for a man later proven to be guilty. Ally also spoke with the Councilwoman in private, but did not see fit to share the subject or content of their dialogue with the others.

At the night’s end, the party retired to Lorrimor Place.

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