Sunday, Arodus 14th, 4711
Through the Woods
The adventurers, shaken from several brushes with the supernatural, fled Harrowstone for the day. None among their number were terribly injured, but several threats had left them feeling unprepared, especially the poltergeist haunting the infirmary. Laurent reviewed his notes, reviewing his options against incorporeal foes, while Valdís bandaged a few of her remaining cuts and bruises.
The overgrown path that snaked its way down the side of the hill atop which Harrowstone crumbled had darkened somewhat under the afternoon sun, and a stiff breeze raked at the surrounding pines. The party was still on high alert from the prison, and it had not occurred to any of them to stow their weapons. This turned out to be to their benefit, as they did not make it far before a massive stag red deer hurtled across their path, nearly trampling Laurent. The stag was followed by two gray wolves, and while the stag continued charging through the forest, the wolves were startled by the sudden appearance of the party before them and stopped in their tracks.
The wolves sized up the party long enough for Ally to issue a charm hex at the larger of the two, though her magic did not seem to be strong enough to sway the beast. The wolves charged, accompanied by a third that had been laying in wait in the underbrush. One clamped its teeth around Laurent’s forearm and tried to drag him to the ground but the paladin managed to shake himself free and retaliated with his greatsword. Ally issued a command to another, gesturing for it to flee back into the woods, and it obeyed. The last wolf fell quickly thereafter.
Laurent felt a certain kinship with one of the wolves, and after finding that, though badly injured, it was still alive, he tended to its wounds and heaved it over his shoulders. Kendra questioned him at first, but though he could not fully explain his motives, she did not go so far as to stop him from carrying the injured creature back to town and crafting a crude kennel for it out of an old woodshed behind Lorrimor Place.
Moonday, Arodus 15th, 4711
Office of the Warden
The following day the party delved once more into Harrowstone. The journey there was uneventful, though they did notice that the other wolf body was missing from the road where they’d left it—probably carried off by some other predator. Harrowstone was as they’d left it save for a small cluster of crimson and violet flowers that had bloomed amid the tangle of vines that covered the eastern half of the prison’s façade. Ally paused a moment to identify the flowers only to realize that they were in fact a carnivorous variety of flowering vine known as xtabay, known for its ability to emit its pollen as an airborne toxin capable of knocking a man unconscious. She told the others that it likely couldn’t sense them from where they were standing, but it would be ill advised to approach.
Laurent, taking a closer look at this unsettling news, noticed that some unwary traveler had made exactly this mistake: the body of a gnome was hidden under the flowers, mostly obscured by the vines wrapped tightly around its body. While clearly long deceased, he noted to the others that it could not have been as old as the Harrowstone fire.
Once inside the prison, the party took the leftmost door from the foyer, forcing it open through the thick fungal growth on the floor. There they discovered four clerks’ offices, and though Ally thought with a little work they could organize the mess of papers, folios, and ink bottles into something usable to, perhaps, identify where the five prisoners were being held at the time of the fire, the consensus was that their time would be better spend pushing forth.
At the end of this short hall they found a fifth office, peculiar in that they felt the oppressive weight of the prison’s malign aura lifted as soon as they entered, though it looked no different than the rest of the rooms they’d explored. Ros immediately went for a safe tucked in the westernmost corner of the chamber, though she had no greater luck with this lock than any other she’d faced. Laurent gently chided her and investigated a large oak desk at the other end of the room, finding blank letterhead indicating that this was once the office of Warden Hawkran.
Into the Muck
They doubled back to begin exploring the rest of the western wing of the first floor. The first door opened into a hall occupied only by dust. There was another door further ahead, where it also curved to the north, but before that lay a T-intersection with another hall and just north of this junction two more doors presented themselves. Both hung loose from their hinges, though the one to the west appeared to have more forcefully been broken in at some point. The party decided to investigate this chamber first.
What was left of the door mostly crumbled to the floor when disturbed by the adventurers, revealing a large room lined with worn wooden benches and chains nailed to the the stone walls, apparently a holding chamber for new prisoners. A few loose and extremely rusty manacles littered the floor, which was also blanketed by a thin sheet of fungi that looked very much like that in the foyer. This fungi had become almost unbelievably overgrown in the north corner of this chamber, where the party could just make out the bones of at least two humanoid skeletons beneath the muck and fetid growth.
The adventurers tensed, ready for the skeletons to leap out of their bed of fungi and attack, but had sorely miscalculated the threat at hand. Once Ally, Kendra, and Valdís had crowded through the door the mound of fungi itself quivered and slid nimbly across the dungeon floor. Kendra leapt out the of the way but Ally and Valdís were overrun, the animate muck running like a stream of rot and mucus up to their ankles and then sweeping them off their feet. Their allies looked on in horror as the two of them were sucked under the surface of the fungal ooze, knowing they likely only have a few precious seconds to overpower the creature before their friends succumbed.
Laurent and Ros slashed at the ooze from the doorway while Kendra blasted it with a burning hands and, when that seemed ineffective, began stabbing at it with her ceremonial dagger. After a few solid hits, the monster must have dimly recognized that it was being threatened, and retreated back into the holding chamber, simultaneously releasing the now-unconscious bodies of Ally and Valdís. Laurent, upon seeing the dire state his allies were left in, charged forward, finishing the ooze creature off for good, but not before it got a solid hit in against him as well.
The adventurers brought Ally back to consciousness and she in turn unleashed her healing powers, but her magic did nothing to instill confidence in either Valdís or herself, and both were left completely covered in a thin film of sticky filth.
A Tangled Web
Kendra and Laurent convinced Ally and Valdís to help investigate one more chamber before retiring for the day. The decided to take a look in the room opposite the one they’d just barely survived, whose door hung loose on its hinges. Valdís attempted to yank it open but something seemed to anchor it in place from within. One more pull and the heavy wooden door fell to the ground, revealing the heavy sheet of sticky, silken webbing that had been holding it in place.
Knowing this must be the product of one or more monstrous spiders, the party steeled themselves and hacked through the webbing and into the chamber. They found themselves standing before a old chapel, rows of warped pews and, at the other end of the chamber, an altar to Pharasma. The entire room was covered in sheets of the iridescent webbing, shimmering with dew, a shaft of light shining from a hole punched clean through the structure of the structure above and refracting through the gossamer and droplets. Kendra noted that it was quite beautiful.
Ros ducked behind one of the pews, attempting to get a better look inside the chamber and scout out any foes, but while scanning the far end of the room a spider the size of her fist dropped from above, onto her shoulder. She swatted the thing away, and Valdís crushed it under her heel, but it was clear the spiders had not abandoned their sanctuary.
The heroes again debated simply leaving the prison and getting a night’s reprieve, but it was then that Laurent noticed a small cache near the altar, and became determined to liberate its contents. Valdís enter the chapel and cleared much of the webbing with a casting of burning hands, but this seemed to stir many of the spiders into action, and a few dozen of those Ros had encountered began streaming down from above.
Laurent, having advanced halfway to the cache, noticed what he deemed to be a more pressing threat than the tiny spiders beginning to swarm around their feet: a spider the size of a dog that had tucked itself, motionless, in between two ruined rafters above. He readied for an attack, and it seemed to understand that its cover had been blow, as it leapt from its hiding spot. Laurent brought his greatsword down on the wretched creature, mortally wounding it, but it managed to sink its fangs into his leg before collapsing a mess of goo and severed legs.
The lesser spiders began swarming in earnest then, covering Laurent and Valdís in such numbers that they could scarcely breath. They slashed at the vermin with their blades but they were simply too numerous for such attacks. Valdís retreated from the room to catch her breath while the others drew on their reserves of alchemist’s fire to douse their tiny assailants in fiery death. Two more dog-spiders descended from above, and Laurent changed through the flame to hold take them on.
Soon the spiders had been dispatched, but now the entire party was covered in the gooey entrails of the spider swarm, and scorched from the alchemist’s fire besides. They emptied the cache, which included several potions and a wand of cure light wounds, then headed home.
After washing up, the heroes decided to get their sleep in early so they could be up by midnight to stake out the Harrowstone Memorial in person and see if they could catch the vandal in action. Rested and ready in the dead of night, they broke curfew and snuck past the town guard, Ros and Valdís positioning themselves on tree branches above while the rest took up positions in the underbrush.
Hours past with nothing to note, lulling them nearly back to sleep. Only the bugs buzzing in their ears, seeming then to be a curse, kept them awake long enough to spy a figure lumbering through the woods. Ally, her eyes blessed with an unnatural predilection for darkness, was able to make out Gibs’s face, though it seemed drained somewhat of its usual character, and he seemed to be drunk from how he stumbled through the brush. As he neared it became clear that much of why he stumbled was the awkward load he carried on his back, though Ally could not make out its nature just yet.
The witch issued a magical missive to the rest of the party, alerting them that the figure was Gibs, and that they should be on guard as he seemed to be up to something. Gibs, unaware of his observers, made his way to the foot of the Harrowstone Memorial and there dumped his load on the moist dirt: Old River, the town dog. The faithful creature was certainly wounded, but it was impossible to tell how far gone he was.
The party immediately snapped into action, Ros and Valdís falling like dark angels from the sky to flank the man while Kendra loosed a bolt and Ally warped the planar fabric around them to summon a celestial eagle to their aid. Laurent, observing a peculiar milky quality in the man’s eyes and detecting an aura of evil where none existed previously, decided it would be best to take the alive, and struck him over the head with the flat of his blade, knocking him unconscious.
Ally quickly revived Old River while Kendra ran to fetch the Sheriff Caeller. Laurent gave him a summary of their battle, and after investigating the scene Caeller revealed that the weapon they’d found on Gibs’s person, an old war razor, was consistent with the clean cuts he’d noted on the mutilated animals from previous nights. He had one of his men manacle Gibs and take him to the town jail, then thanked the adventurers, telling them to go home and get some sleep.