Shadows Over Ustalav

Night Moves
21st October 4711 Evening

Licking her lips Trig settled in with the large tome in a large armchair by the fire in the study. Around her she could hear Ysabot pottering about and removing volumes from shelves, and then sitting down at the Professor’s desk. She started to read…

Meanwhile Christov, Sif and Cerian circled northwards out of the town, moving away from the main streets so as to not attract attention. With the lake mist shielding their progress, and using the lights of the dwellings as a guide, it was not too difficult to hit the low hill north of town which hosted the Restlands.

The gate they found was not one they had entered before. It was only latched and they entered without a problem, lighting their lantern and moving uphill till they hit the path they recognised as the Dreamlands, which they had traversed earlier. Following this round they passed the Professors grave on their left, and then soon after the junction where Ysabot had judged the false crypt to be located.

Checking a stone mausoleum which seemed a likely candidate, Christov shook the metal gate and the lock fell off. Picking it up it appeeared to have been burned away, and then secured back in place strung with some pieces of wire. “I guess this is it”, he said.

A flight of steps led down into a large crypt lined with empty niches—no dead seemed to be interred here. A set of human tracks led down across the dust to the far side of the crypt, which lay beyong a pair of ornamental metal gates, flanked by a pair of gargoyles.

Nervously Cerian opend the gates, and the group descended down a further set of steps to a crypt containing two stone sarcophagi. One of these appeared to have been tampered with. The lid was counterweighted and swung open easily. Inside were a number of items including several sets of arrows, holy water, potions, some scrolls and a well crafted thin wooden box containing a strange wood and brass board marked with numbers and letters, and a pointer. There were also ten indentations of which four were filled with small glass jars with baroque metal caps at either end: these appeared to be filled with an eerie white vapour. Christov shrugged, “Let’s get these back-Ysabot and Kendra might be able to work out what these are.” The second sarcophagus was completely empty.

Cerian crept back to the upper crypt with Sif close behind; she immediately sensed, with her keen half elven vison that somethhing was wrong- low and indistinct shapes were flowing across the darkened floor towards her. She yelled and cut downwards with her curved elven blade-she felt it cut through something before it moved upwards onto her leg.

Seeing Cerians movement Sif ran to her side and swept downwards with her heavy maul- unfortunately missing the shadowy shap entirely and decending with an audible crack on Cerians foot. She screamed in agony and grabbed hold of the adjacent metalwork to remain upright.

Meanwhile another two of the creatures sarted to crawl up Sif’s legs, and she experinced a series of sharp pains in her legs as they bit into her.Ignoring the pain she smashed the one on Cerian, who returned the favour by skewering another. Dropping her weapons she grabbed the remaining squirming, narrow body in one hand and squeezed and twisted. There was a putrid explosion of foul smelling gore, and then the attack was over as quickly as it had begun.

Christov came running up and held the lantern down to their attackers: three huge centipede- like creatures, each perhaps four feet long and several inches in diameter. “Let’s get out of here before more arrive. Can you walk?” he asked Cerian.

Slowly and painfully they made their way out into the silent graveyard, and through the clinging mists back to Kendra’s house, Cerian being supported either side by Sif and Christov.

Back at the house Trig had abandoned her book. She didn’t understand much of it and so had skimmed ahead to a section which appeared to give advice on having sex with corpses, at which point she had decided that this book wasn’t for her. She consoled herself by sneaking into the pantry.

When she emerged upstairs Cerian had been placed on a settee, and she was summoned over. Sucking her teeth she determined that her boot would need to be cut off, and sent for some bowls and hot water. Milly bustled off.

Half an hour later Cerians foot had been strapped, and healing spells cast. She would mend, though currently still had a bit of a limp. Sif owed her a new pair of boots.

The haul from the crypt had been produced, and Kendra and Ysabot were examining them. Kendra exited the room and then returned with four vapour filled jars identical to those they had found. “These were found on my father’s body, and returned by the Sheriff. They are Haunt Siphons- if you twist the top near a Haunt or Undead it negates the negative energy inside them-essentially damaging or killing them.” She also examined a sheaf of arrows declaring that they were enchanted. “Ysabot and I can check more of these things tomorrow – we will need to prepare the correct spells.”

“These potions are for Healing and Restoration” said Ysabot, reading the Alchemist’s Marks on the bottle. She paused.

“Hmm. It’s usually at this point when I’m with a group that I suggest a mutually benefical financial and practical arrangement.” she paused, and pursed her lips.

“Really?” enquired Christov, “And what might this be?”

“Healing potion. Very useful for adventurers-very expensive at 50 gp-assuming the Church or Apothecary has any to sell you.”

“So? It can’t be helped” replied Christov.

“Well it can. I can make these for you for a mere 10 gp fee for several hours of my valuable time. You would need to procure the ingredients of course-either by paying 25 gp to the Apothecary or by collecting them yourself-if you know where to look.”

“Hmm that is interesting. And what are these ingredients?” asked Christov.

“Marshwort, Lady’s Necklace, Starmoss and spiders webs. In the spring you can use frogspawn instead of spiders webs-goes down better.”

“I know all those plants” exclaimed Trig excitedly, “I could go looking for them!”

“I could help you also” said Christov, “Best not to wander out alone.”

“Fair enough-the best place round here is the moor between the Restlands and the lake- it stretches for several miles northward and dozens of miles to the west. As you go towards the lake it contains a lot of small pools and marshy scrub; you can find everything there.”

The group moved into the library and settled themselves around the fire. Milly brought in refreshments and Sif’s fouled garments were forcibly removed for cleaning. When all were settled Ysabot continued.

“I refreshed my memory a bit about the old prison. Like I said the fire was 50 years ago in 4661. It killed all of the prisoners and most of the guards, and destroyed a large portion of the prison’s underground eastern wing, but left most of the stone structure above relatively intact. The prison’s warden perished in the fire, along with his wife, although no one knows why she was in the prison when the fire occurred.”

“There’s a statue commemorating the warden and the guards who lost their lives on the riverbank just outside of town to the south, if you didn’t know.”

“Anyway,it transpires that the fire that caused the tragedy was, in fact, a blessing in disguise. Five particularly notorious criminals had recently arrived at the prison, and a riot had commenced in the lower level. While the commonly held belief is that the tragic fire began accidentally after the riot began, in fact the prisoners had already seized control of the dungeon and had been in command of the lower level for several hours before the fire. Warden Hawkran triggered a deadfall to seal the rioting prisoners in the lower level, but in so doing trapped himself and nearly two dozen guards. The prisoners were in the process of escaping via the supply lift when the panicked guards at the surface accidentally started the fire in a desperate attempt to end the riot,which seemingly killed everyone in the lower levels, and the smoke also killed the prisoners in the upper cells. Only the guards at the surface level escaped.”

“Quite a tale” commented Christov. “I wonder how accurate it is?” Ysabot shrugged.

“It was fifty years ago. There might still be some survivors of that time. Some of the nonhumans live for a very long time, for instance.”

“That’s right”, chimed in Sif. “I met the smith-Jorfa: she is a dwarf. I wanted to talk to her again anyway.”

“Well it seems like we have quite a bit to do” said Trig. “Perhaps we should also just nose around town as well. The Professor seems to imply that some people have been behaving oddly around town anyway. Also he seemed to think the names of people who died in the fire were important.”

“Those records should be in the Town Hall or the Church” said Ysabot. “I’m happy to search through them but I’m not the most popular person with either Father Grimburrow or Councilman Hearthmount.”

“Perhaps I could have word with them” suggested Keryn, “I’m pretty good at talking people round. Then I could let you in and you could do the actual searching.”

And so it was agreed; the next day Keryn and Ysabot would approach Father Grimburrow, while Christov and Trig would search for plants. Cerian and Sif would nose around town and see what they could find.

View
A Sad Business.
21st October 4711 P.M.

Outside the South Gate to the Restlands,the group met with Kendra and a handful of other mourners. A flatbed cart was parked nearby, and the Professor’s casket was loaded onto the back.

Kendra indicated that Father Grimburrow and a pair of gravediggers were already waiting at the site of the professor’s burial— as part of local tradition, they did not accompany the pallbearers from the gate to the grave.

A few others were present: old friends of Lorrimar who had come to pay their respects. These few others comprised the corpulent Councilman Vashian Hearthmount, Councilman Gharen Muricar-an elderly dandy who eyed Keryn, Sif and Ysabot appreciatively, tavernkeeper Zokar Elkarid and his son Pevrin, and Jominda Fallenbridge, the town apothecary and one of the professor’s best friends.

Kendra explained that she would set the pace, and that as the deceased’s closest living relative, had the job of leading the somber procession along the Dreamwake—a gravel pathway that wound through the cemetery. The pallbearers lifted the casket from the cart, and positioned themselves in the procession.

Slowly the cortege made its way along the gravel path, near the crest of the hill rounding a corner onto a path called the Eversleep.The procession ground to a halt.

Ahead the route was blocked by a group of a surly looking locals. The tallest of these toughs was an elderly but wiry looking man, who stepped forward and confronted Kendra.

“That’s far enough. We been talking, and we don’t want Lorrimor buried in the Restlands. You can take him upriver and bury him there if you want, but he ain’t goin’ in the ground here!”

Kendra was swift to respond, her sadness swiftly transforming into anger. “What are you talking about?” she cried out. “I arranged it with Father Grimburrow. He’s waiting for us! The grave’s already been…”

“You don’t get it, woman. We won’t have a necromancer buried in the same place as our kin. I suggest you move out while you still can. Folks are pretty upset about this right now.”

“Necromancy!? Are you really that ignorant?”exclaimed Kendra.

Trig appeared from the rear of the cortege “Please this is a funeral. Please show the proper respect.”

“This witch has brought her Imp along! Get the casket lads!” As Kendra stood speechless half a dozen of the ruffians sped forward, with the ringleader and the remainder egging them on.

Fortunately the four pallbearers had lowered the casket to the ground, and the first of these ran into a right cross from Sif, felling him on his backside instantly. Another doubled over as he ran past a tree, with Trig hiding behind it and punching him in the groin, with a fist somehow now transformed to be as hard as Ironwood.

Keryn stood off to the side and in a well modulated voice, with hidden gestures with her hand in the sleeve of her robe, instructed the townsmen to go home. The subtle hypnotic spell seemed to take effect, as three or four of the ruffians stopped and started to walk off.

Ysabot was confronted by a fisherman, an inept swing of his billy club missing her entirely. “Stand still Witch!” he screamed. He screamed harder when seemingly attacking like a maniac, Ysabot raked at him with her hands, and he staggered back with long nail marks and blood streaming down his face.

Sif headbutted another and the ruffians had had enough. The ringleader had already disappeared.

Through the mists ahead of them an elderly cleric appeared, accompanied by the two gravediggers. “What on Earth is going on here! What is this desecration!” Kendra had her hands over her mouth and appeared to be crying.

Keryn attempted to make the best of it. “These thugs tried to stop the burial. They attacked and we had to crack a few heads.”

“That’s right sir”, Zokar the Tavern Owner piped up from the rear, "It was that troublemaker Gibbs Hephenus and his cronies. "

The priest harrumphed. “Well, let’s get on with it.” The pallbearers picked the casket up again, and the procession proceeded to the burial site. Trig noticed Ysabot kick one of the prone thugs in the head when the priests back was turned.

As the casket was lowered slowly into the ground Father Grimburrow concluded the service. He looked at Kendra “Before we conclude, would you like to say a few words young Miss?”

Choking back her tears Kendra nodded her head to refuse. Keryn stepped forward and cleared her throat.

“We’ve heard some harsh words from ignorant people today-people who know absolutely nothing about the professor or what he did. I do know something about him, and his background as a respected scholar at the University of Lepidstadt.

“But I want to say a few words about how I came to know him. I met him about two years ago, when I was travelling with a merchant caravan in Varisia. The professor was waiting at a small village we had stopped at, where he had organised the villagers who were being attacked by a group of Orc Raiders. They were without hope and he gave them hope. It wasn’t his business-he was only travelling through with a couple of his bodyguards. But when we arrived the problem was almost dealt with. We helped with the wounded, and then the professor travelled on with us for several months, returning towards Ustalav.

“I came to know him better, and even shared a small adventure with him myself. I know he was a good man, a man who helped people and a good friend. That’s all I have to say.”

There was a short silence, and Ysabot noticed Kendra cast a grateful glance towards Keryn. Father Grimburrow nodded, and the casket was lowered carefully into the ground.

One by one the mourners came up to Kendra and gave their formal commiserations. After Councilman Hearthmount had turned away Kendra turned toward the group.

“If you come back to my home now. The Councillor has some short business to attend to but he should be with us in an hour or so for the formal reading of the Will.”

An hour and a half later the group sat in Kendra’s sitting room, and Councillor Vashian Hearthmount arrived. Keryn noticed him cast a raised eyebrow at Ysabot, and something in his demeanour clearly signaled to her that perhaps he didn’t completely approve of strangers being involved in local matters. If this was correct however, he kept these views strictly to himself and produced a scroll case. The seal on it was unbroken, and when be broke the wax a small key clattered to the table. The councilman slowly began to read:

“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 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. 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 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 etc. etc."

The councilman nodded at Kendra, and then left. Kendra cleared her throat.

“Thank you all for coming. I will need at least a few weeks to decide if I want to sell the house or remain here in Ravengro. In the meantime, you are all welcome to stay here in the guestrooms. That includes you Ysabot. I know we don’t always get on but I am aware that my father trusted you, and that you are part of all this. Please be welcome. Please do not any of you feel that you will be inconveniencing me- to be frank I would welcome the company.”

Kendra then went out into another room briefly, and brought in a small chest which she sat on the table. Picking up the key, she handed it to Christov. He immediately put it in his pocket. Everyone waited expectantly for several minutes.

The door opened and Milly came into the room. “Excuse me madame, another guest has arrived.
She’s sorry she missed the funeral but she has travelled a long way I think.” A tallish young woman dressed in brown leather armor stepped in, her hood down to display long red hair. There was something of the Elf about her features.

“Ah I’m sorry I missed the funeral. My name is Cerian-I got you letter in Ardis about a week ago, and came as fast as I could. There were a few delays….” she shrugged apolegetically.

“That’s quite all right Miss Cerian”, responded Kendra, “With the distances involved you were lucky to get here at all. At least my letter reached you.” Cerian was brought in and sat near the fire, while Kendra outlined the provisions of her father’s will. Christov took in the wanderer’s appearance and equipment.

Trig piped up expectantly “Well come on Christov-open the box!” Muttering to himself Christov produced the key, and turned it in the lock. The lid pushed back and immediately revealed a large format journal, in a waterproof stained leather cover. It was bound around with a strip of leather and into this was inserted a piece of vellum with the words “Read me now!” written in a hand which Christov recognised as the Professor’s.

Beneath this was a purple leather bound tome-obviously much older. The cover featured a brass scarab with a single ruby eye set into its centre: the book itself was untitled. Attached to it was a note indicating that it must be delivered discreetly to Embreth Daramid, a judge at the Lepidstadt Courthouse- her address was given for this purpose.The book’s covers were rimmed in polished steel and clasped with a small but intricate lock, the keyhole of which appeared to be for a key with a strange,triangular shaft. The key was nowhere to be found however.

The remaining three tomes also appeared old and extemely valuable. These were tied together with a loop of leather, with another note inserted instructing that that they should be delivered to one Montagnie Crowl, a professor of antiquities at Lepidstadt University. The books were titled ‘On Verified Madness’, ‘Serving Your Hunger’ and ‘The Umbral Leaves.’

Cerian picked up the Journal-a much newer book compared to the four ancient tomes, and flicking through it saw that it was simply a good quality but fairly ordinary travelling journal, going back some twenty years or so, and filled with the Professor’s handwriting. The first thing that struck her was that a number of these had been ringed in red ink- including the final couple of entries-17 days ago. She went back to the earliest entries and started to read.

“Ten Years Ago: The Whispering Way is more than a cabal of necromancers.I see that. 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 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 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 I return to the prison. It is imperative the Way does not finish. My caution has already cost too much time. I am not sure what will happen if I am too late, but if my theory is right, the 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.”

The group sat back and mulled over the diary entries.

“I’m a little confused over this fire he mentioned”, said Sif, “Was this recent?”

“No. He’s referring to the fire at Harrowstone Prison-that took place fifty years ago” replied Ysabot. “Like I said Ravengro was developed to service the Prison, when it was set up to process and execute dangerous prisoners from around the Principality, some 117 years ago. The Town is really a holdover from the Prison.” She frowns “There’s more too as I recall about that fire. I need to get my facts straight though. I’ll look through some books in the Prof’s library if I may, and let you know later on. It’s been a couple of years since I read up on this stuff.” Kendra nodded her assent to Ysabot’s suggestion.

The group seemed to agree that the Professor at least seemed to think that the Prison was haunted, though there was some doubt as to whether he had met his end via spirits or some more direct means.

“We should check this false crypt” suggested Trig, “There might be more stuff we might need if the Professor’s suspicions were genuine.” It was agreed that Sif, Christov and Cerian would check out the crypt-Ysabot gave them directions from the journal description. Meanwhile Ysabot decided she would stay and check out the Professors Library in connection with Harrowstone, while Trig decided that she might check out ‘Feeding Your Hunger’, thinking that it might hold some good recipes. Keryn decided on an early night-she had developed a slight fever and since her return from Harrowstone had been developing a splitting headache.

View
A Busy Morning
21st October 4711 A.M.

With many of the group having traveled the previous day, the majority had a long lie in. The clean rooms and white cotton sheets of the Outward Inn seemed like a great luxury, as had the opportunity for a bath been the previous evening.

Trig was down earliest, and waved over at Isabot who was working her way into a fairly large breakfast. Unusually for her, she ignored the smells of cooking food and marched out of the Inn: she was on a mission.

She had sadly reviewed her wardrobe earlier that morning. Her travel stained indeterminate brown clothing and tooled badgerhide armor, all liberally festooned with acorns, brambles, animal segments and the teeth of wolves, although symbolic of her Trade and extremely practical, simply did not cut it in the world of human formal occasions. She needed new clothes.

After 5 minutes she located the Ravengro General Store. Just inside the doorway an impressive set of human Plate Armor stood guard, and inside was a large collection of everything from frying pans to footwear. A female human eyed her curiously.

“Yes, err Miss. Can I assist you?”

Trig stood on one leg nervously, as the lumbering human towered over her. “Um yes. I , er..am going to a funeral later on today and as you can see”, she gestured sadly towards her dead animal festooned outfit, “I have absolutely nothing to wear. Can you help me?”

The woman eyed Trig. Trig waited expectantly.

“You need a little help is that it?” Trig nodded vigourously. The woman banged the bell and a human girl came out-taller than Trig. The woman said something to her, slapped her on the head and propelled her towards Trig.

“I’m Julia. I’ll help you find some stuff. Here we go….”

The girl took Trig into a side room, and set about opening boxes. After some experimentation she found a pair of formal boots, a hooded black cloak, a long skirt and some undercoats, and a blouse. Trig assumed these were designed for a young human, but they seemed to fit well enough. “How much?” she asked, looking curiously at herself in the mirror.

“That’s 12 gold pices, though you do look very smart Miss.” said Julia dutifully. Trig sighed and counted out the cash.

As she went back into the main shop with her packages the woman called over to her. “This funeral, it wouldn’t be Professor Lorrimor’s would it?”

“Yes it is.” responded Trig.

“I thought so. I wouldn’t go spreading that fact around town if I were you. That man was not well liked.” The woman harrumped.

Trig bit her tongue. “Thank you very much” she said, and left with her purchases.

Sif meanwhile had finished her breakfast, and was having a wander around the town. She was aware that she was attracting many stares, but after glaring at the first few she got bored with this game and simply ignored them.

The sound of hammering drew her to a shop with an anvil sign outside, labelled “The Ravengro Forge”. Unusually she noted that the owners mark bore a Master Smith Mark next to her name- Jorfa. Following the sound of the hammer she went through to a covered area outside where a female dwarf was hammering out what looked like farming implements. The dwarf stopped, and took a drink of water from a barrel.

“I have weapons for sale Warrior, in the side room through there”. She brought out a couple of swords from a nearby rack. “I can sell them like this sword here, or for 300 gp more like this second sword”. Sif saw that the second sword bore a masterwork mark. “If you have the time or money, I can make you pretty much anything.”

Keryn had decided to take a look at the site of the Professors death before the funeral. Setting off at around 9.30 am, she managed the few miles south of town in good time, climbing the shallow hill upon which rested Harrowstone Jail.

As she climbed the shallow hill up to the Prison she noted that the once well constructed stone road had long since fallen into disrepair, unlike the other routes near Ravengro. Cobbles were missing, and in some places the surrounding heathland had grown over almost to the centre of the trail.

Finally she confronted a sagging wood and metal gate set between the pair of stone guard towers which once barred entrance into Harrowstone. However, the gates now hung negligently open,creaking softly in what wind touched the ruined bars.Looking along the side of the ruin she saw that it was largely enclosed by a 20 foot high stone wall, though appparently some sections on the western side had collapsed, and a large pool had encroached across the boundary of the perimeter.

As Keryn entered she fealt a sudden rush of claustrophobia and the split-second sensation that her skin was on fire. This sensation immediately dispersed, and she stood shaking her head and blinking.

Stepping under the arch she could see that two guard towers were still intact along the wall perimeter, their wooden roofs collapsed and their crumbling walls thick with ivy, extending a further ten feet above the twenty foot- high wall.

Situated in the grounds between the gate and the main prison building sat a small brick manor house overgrown with thick sheets of gray-green ivy. The roof sagged ominously, and the front door hung askew.

Beyond this loomed under the leaden sky a large two-story stone building. Ivy and moss clung tenaciously to the walls, while above many of the wooden shingles of the roof were missing , exposing the wooden rafters of the upper structure to the elements.This must be the main prison.

Here and there, leering stone gargoyles perched on the eaves, once functioning as drainspouts and decorations but now seeming almost to serve a more ominous role of sentinels. Many of these stone decorations had crumbled away and lay in ruined piles on the soggy ground below: the ground where Professor Lorrimor met his fate. Windows in the building’s facade were narrow and blocked by grills of rusty iron bars. Stone columns supported a slumping wooden balcony over the building’s wooden front doors, both of which hung askew and revealed dark glimpses of chambers within, looking for all the world like a gaping mouth surrounding rotting teeth. Keryn shivered in the cold wind.

“I’d best be getting back. I’ve run out of time” thought Keryn, and briskly made her way back to the town, arriving only ten minutes before mid-day. Hastily changing, her companions hustled her along to Kendra’s house.

Milly was there to greet them, Kendra already having left to deal with the arrangements.Black hooded robes were handed out to Sif, Christov, Ysabot and Keryn, and directions were quickly given out of town to the Restlands.

View
Ill-Met in Ravengro.
20th October 4711

Harrowstone

Ysabot sat alone in the corner of The Outward Inn, a plate of food in front of her, and a bowl of hot spiced wine. Sure at last that in her alcove she would not attract too much attention, she started to eat.

Even though technically a native of Ustalav, Ysabot was something of an outsider, and was well aware that the locals regarded her as such. The general surliness of the local inhabitants was well known, and something of a byword among travellers. Her friendship with the Professor had gained her a degree of acceptance in this small community, but she was well aware of the boundaries and she and her half brother both maintained permanent rooms at the Inn, keeping apart from much of the everyday community.

She mused over the events of the last four weeks: the Professor’s death had been something of a shock. At the time Agrimar and herself had been away on an errand to the south, and by the time she had returned he had been dead for over a week.

And tomorrow was the funeral. She had known Professor Lorrimer since she was a teenager, and had travelled extensively with him. Both she and Agrimar owed him a great deal. Kendra had told her that she had been specifically mentioned in the Professors Will, and that he had left instructions to send out letters to a number of former associates who he knew were in Ustalav- the funeral was being put on hold for several weeks to allow time for them to arrive and attend. One or two of them she had observed before when accompanying the Professor, but she did not know any of them well.

Well the Funeral was imminent now, and if anyone was going to arrive, time was running short. Ysabot sighed. She hated the chill Autumn weather; with the daylight vanishing early and the cold lake mist filling the streets, there was absolutely no incentive to venture far from the blazing fire she sat next too- except when she had business that would draw too many stares of course. A few more cups of wine-and one of the Bards had started playing; a Ustlavian Epic Dirge about a farmers son overcoming death defying odds-well at least she hadn’t heard this one before. It would pass the time for tonight, and tomorrow there was the funeral and the reading of the Will.

The door opened, and two figures wandered in wearing weather stained travelling clothes. One of them seemed vaguely familiar. Beneath their cloaks she caught the glint of armor. Ysabot watched curiously as they made their way over to the Keeper, and her ears caught the name ‘Lorrimer’. The two seemed to be recieving directions, and then they were handed room keys and nodded.

“Hmm…” thought Ysabot, “It seems like they have started to arrive.”

Ysabot pushed her bowl back contentedly and started dealing out her Harrow Deck. With half an eye on the strangers in the corner she dealt out the pasteboard cards, when the door opened letting in a fraction of the chill evening mists, and a person of very peculiar visage indeed-and to Ysabot somewhat familiar.

Just over three feet tall, with wild angular features and even wilder hair, the Gnome would have looked out of place in any social gathering. The segmented and embossed hide armor, decorated carefully with tooled animal motifs, the travelling gear and the oddball accoutrements, carefully augmented with small animal skulls, entwined briars and acorns screamed ‘Wilderness!’to the several pairs of eyes now fixed on her.

Somewhat self consciously (Ysabot thought) the Gnome looked round the Company, lingered briefly on herself with a hint of recognition, and then stalked purposefully up to the Hostess of the Establishment, Sarianna Vai. Ysabot remembered where she had seen her-six years ago she had accompanied the Professor to look at some ancient standing stones in the forests in the south of Ardis. While they had been camped there they encounted a group of Druids, and the Gnome (‘Tig was it? Trig?’) had been one of them. So this was another of the invitees.

Ysabot saw Trig stand on her toes and pass some coins to Sarianna, and the Diminutive Druidess looked round directly at her, and walked towards her table. Ysabot gestured towards an empty seat.

“We’ve met before I think " said Trig, in her chirpy but resonant voice. “I am Trig-you are EEZ-uh-BOE yes? You knew the Lorrimor?”

“Ysabot, yes. Thats right. We met in the Kerstaw Forests some years ago. I take it you’re here for Professor Lorrimor’s funeral. Sit down, sit down.”

Trig’s food arrived and she set to it with relish. Ysabot watched with concealed amusement, and took another sip of her wine. She noticed some of the other strangers peering at the Gnome with some curiosity, and gestured them over. “You too are here for the funeral yes?”

Three others sat down, introducing themselves as Christov-a tall weatherbeaten man with a heavy Ustalav accent rivalling Ysabot’s.

“Hmm” thought Ysabot, “That looks like an Inquisitors coat he’s wearing.”

The others were Sif,a powerful looking young woman from the Northlands, and Keryn- a Varisian wanderer. All produced identical letters signed from Kendra Lorrimor-the Professor’s daughter, and signed over two weeks previously.

“What’s this all about?” asked Sif. “How did the Professor die in the first place? And when?”

“Hmm it’s, let me see, seventeen days ago now” replied Ysabot. “I was out of Town at the time, on business to the South. He’d been dead a week by the time I got back.”

SEVENTEEN DAYS?!” exclaimed Trig, and they haven’t buried him yet??!"

“Yes well apparently the Prof’s instructions were very specific, and involved sending those letters out. Kendra sent out maybe a dozen all told-you’re the only ones to respond in time. As to the time-well The Priests can Do their Thing with the body so it doesn’t become a problem”

“But his Death” persisted Christov, “What were the circumstances?”

“Crushed to death apparently. His body was found up outside the old Harrowstone Prison. Head smashed in by some falling masonry. Some kids were doing a Dare to go through the gates and spotted the body, and they ran back to tell the Sheriff. A party of men was sent up and they recovered the body. The Prof often went off collecting herbs and such for a few days so it was lucky he was discovered so quickly really.”

“Why would these children be doing a Dare?” asked Sif.

“Harrowstone is an old abandoned Prison outside of Town to the South”, explained Christov,“The local children no doubt think it’s haunted or some such.”

“That’s right” agreed Ysabot," The Prison was abandoned back in 4661- 50 years ago. Amazing the Town survived really, as Ravengro was only founded in 4594 to service the Prison. There’s a memorial to the south of Town."

“You know a lot of things about History” says Trig wide -eyed, “You must be very clever. Do you live here?”

“Well off and on”, replied Ysabot, " My half brother Agrimar and me both maintain a locked chest here at the Outward Inn with our stuff in. When either of us return Sarianna allows us to reoccupy our previous rooms, assuming they’re vacant and we take up occupancy again. The arrangement suits her and us. We both tend to travel about a bit."

“As to the town it’s probably the nearest thing I have to a home yes, though I doubt the locals would be pleased to hear me say it. They tolerate me as a sort of associate of the Professor, but that’s about it. And I’ve had a good go at the Prof’s library in the past so I know a little about the place”

As she spoke Ysabot absent mindedly dealt her Harrow Cards, and one by one started to turn them over, the central card last. As she did so, a gout of flame flared up from the table to a height of nearly two feet, sending the party leaping backwards and knocking over stools and tankards. The two travelling bards in the corner, who had been playing their harp and mandolin in concert stopped suddenly. All eyes were on Ysabot. As suddenly as they had appeared, the flames vanished. Table and cards were unharmed. Sarianna stormed over.

“Ysabot, what the Hell do you think you’re doing!” accused Sarianna. She appeared really angry.“I have enough complaints about you as it is.”

“I didn’t do anything! I don’t know what’s caused it” protested Ysabot, a picture of shocked innocence. Seemingly this didn’t help.

Christov scrutinised the woman carefully. There was definately something very odd about her-almost suspicious. However, as far as he could tell she seemed genuinely surprised-she was telling the truth.

Keryn tried to calm the situation down. “Look no harm is done. I’m sure it was nothing to do with Ysabot. Sometimes those cards have been soaked in Crows Treegum to preserve them. It’s quite warm in here and its possible that with the dryness and the candle on the table the card simply caught fire-like dry tinder.” She sounded utterly convincing and Trig nodded solemnly in agreement.

Semi pacified, Sarianna moved away.“Just put those damn cards away, this isn’t a Fortune Tellers Booth and I don’t want you frightening my customers.” Here she glanced sideways at Trig who had been running round screaming “My hair’s on fire! My hair’s on fire!”. It wasn’t.

“Of course Sarianna Dear” replied Ysabot, pulling a face when Sarianna’s back was turned. The group set the stools aright and ordered fresh drinks. They scrutinised the cards. The card which had apparently been the centre of the incident was The Uprising-depicting a mob of angry peasants with burning torches. “It symbolises chaos and negative change or upheaval” explained Ysabot.

“These cards, they are like Runes?”asked Sif.

“A bit yes.” replied Ysabot, “Like Runes they can have individual meanings, but these can be interpreted in different ways depending on how they are influenced by the surrounding cards. These effects can be complimentary or antagonistic.” Sif listened, feigning comprehension but secretly baffled.

“But this has never happened before?” queried Christov.

“No. Never. It isn’t even a spell, as such.”

“Hmm. I see”. Christov made a mental note. The inn settled down again.

“Before it gets too late perhaps we ought to pay our respects to the Professor’s daughter” suggested Keryn.

“She’ll be pleased to see you” said Ysabot, “So far it has looked like no-one has responded to her letters-except me of course.” Ysabot gave the others directions to a house in the northern part of town, and pulling their cloaks about them the four strangers stepped out into the chill evening mist.

Across the square the lights of the Tavern could be vaguely seen, and all around them lights in houses could be glimsped through the murk. After several false turns and starts, after ten minutes they found themselves outside a reasonably sized stone residence. Mounted on one of the stone gate pillars, each surmounted by an unpleasant looking gargoyle, was mounted a small brass plaque “Residence of Professor Petros Lorrimor, University of Lepidsadt.” The black painted metal gates creaked slightly as they were opened, and lights were on inside the house.

The door was opened by a young woman in a black and white servants uniform. She appraised her unusual collection of visitors." Er, yes?"

“We are here in response to the Professor’s letters, and to offer our condolences” explained Keryn, holding out her copy of the letter.

“Oh Good Heavens!. Please come in. I’ll go fetch the mistress.” The visitors were usered into a well appointed hallway; Trig goggled at the (to her) enormous stairway working up to the first floor of the house.

Moments later the maid re-appeared, with an attractive and well dressed young woman in a dark red dress. “Thank-you Milly, if you could provide some refreshments for our visitors. I am Kendra Lorrimor.” She shook hands with each of the visitors as they introduced themesleves, before elading them through to an adjacent sitting room. Milly re-appeared with a silver trolley and started to pour tea. Trig eyed a large seed cake expectantly.

From her formal attire and puffy eyes-she had been crying- Kristov guessed that Kendra was still very much in mourning. She did at least however, seem genuinely pleased to see them. It became apparent that the vistors were the only ones, apart from Ysabot, to come and pay their respects to her father, and with the funeral scheduled for tomorrow she had feared that the occasion would have had to proceed without any of her fathers friends present. She could add little to Ysabot’s account however, and all that she could say was that she hoped the reading of the Will would explain her father’s motives more clearly-including to herself.

The funeral was scheduled for 1.00 pm the following day, and the mourners should meet at the south gate to the Restlands, just north of the town. She also asked their help as casket bearers-there would be a short procession through to the final site, to which the group readily agreed. It was arranged that they would turn up at Kendra’s house at 12 noon, to recieve the Pall Robes they would need to wear, and then meet at the cemetary gates. After wishing a good evening, the group left the House and returned to the inn, where Trig ate a Second Tea before turning in for an early night.

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