Thunder and lightening darkened the sky as the group trudged back up to Harrowstone. If they were successful today they would not need to come again, but they viewed the day with a degree of dread.
None more so than Sif; she had kept apart from the others over the last day, ashamed once again of her fear and superstition regarding the undead. Christov and Ysabot seemed to regard them merely as an ordinary hazard, Trig was afraid but still managed to keep her nerve, and Keryn,like Sif, was new to these horrors but had seemed to manage her revulsion rather better than Sif had. Sif realised that her performance had been patchy at best, and she trailed somewhat behind the others.
In the Training Room Christov climbed down with little hesitation, followed by the others. Sif paused at the threshold, afraid to go down, but also afraid to stay in the upper room alone, or to demonstrate her fear to her companions. She climbed down.
Moving westwards towards Reapers Hold, they applied some oil they brought with them to the long disused winch. Slowly they started to turn it, and it opened. The corridor opened into another cellblock, with a central isle of cells surrounded by a corridor, and then more cells. There were skeletons in some of them, but fortunately none of them were moving this time.
Opening a door to the south revealed a large room of ominous import: numerous grisly tools of torment decorated the room, from cages to hanging chains along the walls to a stretching rack, a large wooden tank, and a fire pit in the middle of the room. To the east stood a grim iron maiden, the lid closed and presenting a stern decoration of a tormented woman upon its face. The broken, twisted skeleton of a human dressed in a tattered guard’s uniform lay upon the stretching rack in the middle of the room; the body was surrounded by several discarded knives,branding irons, and pliers. A large, bloodstained wicker basket sat at the head of the rack, and into the mouth of the man was wedged a circular brass badge, labelled ‘Warden’.
“I’m afraid this may be the remains of Warden Hawkram” said Christov. “I fear he did not have a pleasant end.” As gently as he could, he worked the badge free. “We can take this to Versorianna.”
Meanwhile Trig was both horrified and fascinated by the room. Approaching the iron maiden it suddenly swung open, to reveal the bound and gagged form of Kendra, her eyes pleading at Trig for release from her torment. Trig moved forward.
Noticing the sudden movement Christov looked round and saw the same thing, but some sixth sense warned him of the possible danger, and he leapt forward and grabbed the lid as it slowly started to swing shut. The illusion was shattered and as Trig grabbed Kendra’s hand she saw Kendra transform into a rotting skeleton, which toppled on top of her as she pulled backward.
“Ah no, No! Get it off me!” she cried as the two fell in a tangled heap. Ysabot pushed the corpse aside with her staff. “Another Guard tortured to death” she remarked deadpan.
On the Warden’s body they also found a ring of keys. Examining the eastern wall Keryn found another hidden door, and one of the keys fitted this. A stone lined passage shortly dissappeared into a small natural cavern, which appeared once again to have been used for storage. On the other side of this the passage became stone lined again and ended in a door facing eastwards.
“If we open this I think we will be behind that closed southern portcullis” remarked Christov. “And that is the only location we haven’t checked. Be on guard.”
The door swung open into what appeared to be a long cell. This opened out into a larger room with a central oubliette, and surrounded by other cells- much like the location they had encountered the Lopper in. A corridor led out northwards towards the lowered portcullis.
Christov walked over to the oubliette, peeering down, but this time only to a depth of ten feet or so, at which point it was flooded with water. Cautiously the others moved into the room. Finally they were in the Nevermore.
As they watched and waited Sif suddenly saw a letter ‘S’, apparently being written in blood, on the wall near her. The others saw other letters start to appear, starting to spell out each of their names. Not knowing what else to do, Sif yelled and smashed at the stonework with her hammer, obliterating the letter. Dust and loose stone rained down from the ceiling.
“Come on out and fight you coward!” excalimed Christov, ignoring the letters and wheeling round trying to view all corners of the room. Sif noticed another ‘S’ being spelt out, and again lashed out with her hammer, while Keryn had the satisfaction of emptying a vial of Holy Water on the letters and seeing them dissappear.
This time however Sif had smashed a wooden bracing beam, and the effects were catastrophic. The beam collapsed, and along with it a large volume of loose stone and what was apparently a false ceiling. Trig dissappeared under a pile of small rubble, and most of the group were battered by collapsing timber and stone.
Coughing and spluttering Ysabot swallowed an expensive healing potion, while Keryn moved over to recusitate the fallen Trig with one of her spells. Sif dragged herself up and looked around glowering, while Cristov again shouted out a challenge.
“But dear Chrisstov!” hissed a sibilent voice, “I have been here all along. Join me!” Hovering above the pit was a wasted, rotting figure, its eyes glowing with unnatural green light and its hands spread out encompassing green wisps of energy. He gestured and spiralling bolts shot out, hitting everyone except Ysabot. Sif and Christov charged forward, while Ysabot activated one of her Siphons. Large rats scuttled out from the cells and rushed at the group, blocking their approach to the grinning wraith, one of them fastening onto Sif’s leg and biting deep.
The Splatter Man fought a running battle, moving into one of the cells and raining more green balefire at the group, causing Keryn to fall, and the now risen Trig rushed to aid her. Untouched by the Splatter Man’s bolts, Ysabot triggered her last remaining Siphon, while Christov and Sif attempted to battle their way past large rats and rising skeletons to reach the wraith, which darted between cells-apparently through walls, as though they were not here, and pummelled the group with his spells.
Healing Keryn Trig fell once more as another bolt hit her. Christov and Sif swallowed down healing potions. It looked like a close run fight. As soon as she awoke Keryn triggered the groups last remaining Siphon, and still the wraith did not fall. Frustrated Ysabot chanted one of her hexes at the undead wizard, who had now appeared in yet another doorway.
Finally however, Sif managed to get in position, and lashed out with the Guardsman’s Mace. Already weakened by successive Haunt Siphons, the Splatter Man reeled back, intending to disengage through another cell wall and reappear elsewhere.
This time however both Sif and one of Christov’s weapons reached through the doorway and bit home. “No. Noooo you Fools!” hissed the wraith… and then seemed to shrink and collapse in on himself, finally dispersing with a horrific wail. And then once more…. silence.
Ysabot walked over to the oubliette and peered down, then she frowned, and pointing downwards, chanted something unintelligible. The surface of the water broke, and a glittering longsword flew upwards into her waiting hand. “Magical.” she said. “More down there, but I can’t repeat this spell today.”
“That will be Nameless”, said Christov. He stripped off his armour, cast a light spell on his knife and lowered himself down. Down below were several other bodies, one of them presumably the Splatter Man he thought. He detected several other enchanted objects- one of them a warhammer: Jorfa’s presumably. Breaking the surface the others threw him down a rope, and he clambered out.
“Let’s be done with this place for good” he said, his teeth chattering, “But first Versorianna.”
Twenty minutes later they stood back in the entrance foyer, and opened the door to the north. Once more they were stymied by a phantom crowd of terrified people fleeing from the long past fire. As the doors slammed shut once more they re-opened the northern door and made their way to the old laundry, where lay the remains of Versorianna. As they opened the door, once again the phantom figure of the warden’s wife rose up to meet them.
“They are all defeated. Give me the badge” she said in a clear but somehow distant voice. Christov held it up, and it flew from his hand and settled on Versorianna’s breast.
At first they could hear a faint wailing, but then the sound grew louder to a howling crescendo of despair. A cold wind howled through the room and the whole prison, and rotten debris flew about the room, and was sucked out of the high window. As the group held on to old fixtures for support dim faces appeared snarling in the air around them, and then these too seemed to flow like a dark wind out of the prison-and at the centre of this storm stood the impassive figure of Versorianna. With a clatter the debris fell to the floor, and the sounds subsided into nothing.
“It is done” said Versorianna. “The prison is cleansed”. The badge flew away from her and clattered at the feet of Keryn.
“And now I too am free. Finally I can leave this place. Farewell.” Instead of collapsing into nothingness as before, the form of Versorianna seemed to become translucent, and then transparent. And then suddenly it contracted into a small ball of blue fire, which flew out of the window upwards, and then was lost to sight. Ysabot stooped and picked up the badge.
“This is magical now. It wasn’t before” she said. They turned and for the final time, made their way out of the prison.
Stopping briefly at Kendra’s house they went directly to the Temple of Pharisma, and there spoke to Father Grimburrow, telling him all. Rufio stood listening nearby.
“A tragic place” he commented, “And I suppose we should have expected that in this land it would harbour hatred and ancient evil. But now it is over at least.”
“Not quite” said Ysabot. “It was those bastards from the Whispering Way that triggered this chain of events, and it was them that murdered the Professor. I haven’t forgotten them.”
Father Grimburrow frowned. “Your path is a Dark One young woman, and I doubt it will lead to good for you.” His frown softened a little. “Still all of Ravengro must be grateful to you for what you have done. You should also brief the Sheriff… a good man if a little stern. The Mayor..ah, you should just tell him what he needs to know, if you take my meaning.”
“This should probably stay in Ravengo” said Christov, handing over the Warden’s Badge. “Ravengro’s History, Ravengro’s Warden, Ravengro’s Badge. Kendra identified it’s enchantment for us, and apparently it will now allow a casters spells to affect incorporeal undead like the Splatter Man or the Lopper. I hope it won’t need to be useful, but- well…”
The old priest nodded. “We will keep this, and remember Warden Hawkram. Alas from what we now know I fear his rest will be less than he deserves.”
Rufio approached and took the Haunt Siphons, and Father Grimburrow cast a number of spells to heal and restore them, and handed them some additional potions from the Churches stock. As they returned to the centre of town they stopped off at Jorfa’s, and Sif silently handed over the warhammer they had found.
Jorfa took the hammer and bowed. “Your Maul is ready. Kurt has already named it for you-’Jorfa’s Swansong’; not the most heroic name but a Naming is Naming, and that is what it is called. Use it well. It is enchanted and forged from Cold Iron-found deep beneath the earth and as hard as the finest steel-it is also proof against some foes.”
Christov also offered Nameless for sale to Jorfa but she shook her head. “No this blade is worth more than I could pay you for it. If you like I will take it a while and restore it as I intend to restore Thunderclap. Kurt here will provide it with a worthy scabbard and belt, and then perhaps you can take it to Lepistadt: there are many more armorers and folk who live there, and you should be able to sell it for a fair price.”
They also exchanged an enchanted mithril dagger they had found for ’Adder’s Tongue’- the enchanted Rapier Jorfa had previously had for sale. Keryn took it and tied it round her waist.
“And what about you then Jorfa-is this really your last Craft?” asked Sif.
“Aye. No more smithing for me. I’ll overwinter in Ravengro and help manage the business a while, but Kurt is the new Smith here from today, and I’ll be leaving for my own kin in the spring. With the return of Thunderclap you’ve made that possible at last. My thanks.” She bowed.
The Sheriff listened to the tale quietly and nodded. “If what you say is true all this nonsense should calm down in the next couple of days. If it does I’ll start releasing people. I’ll try to keep the extended number of Deputies though.”
“What about Gibbs?” asked Trig.
“Well he’s a scoundrel but if he was possessed he’s not really responsible for his recent actions. I’ll keep him on ice till you leave town though. A spell in jail will do him good.”
Councilman Hearthmount was ecstatic, and paid up the balance immediately.“All’s well that ends well,” he said, and then “And of course you’ll be moving on shortly to Lepidstadt?”