Five people who once had adventured with Professor Lorimar were summoned to the small town of Ravengro in Ustalav to attend the Professor’s funeral and the reading of his will. They were met there by the Professor’s daughter, Kendra, who was not normally part of the Professor’s tomb raiding crews but who had rescued them all years before when the group had been captured and was about to be eaten by ghouls. Kendra asked the five to serve as pallbearers.
Carrying the Professor’s coffin into a nearby graveyard known as the Restlands, the procession was confronted by a bunch of disgruntled local toughs led by one Gibbs Zafanas. They considered anyone involved in the kind of tomb-raiding business the Professor had been known for to be a necromancer or similarly disreputable person and didn’t want him to be buried with their goodly dead. Varik attempted to shame the local ruffians but was quickly rebuffed and violence ensued. Although most of the toughs were incapacitated though relatively nonviolent means, Luthon hit one of the gomers in the face with a goddamn waraxe, nearly killing him. Belatedly, the local priest of Pharasma, Father Grimburrow arrived. The pallbearers elected not to press charges against the defeated thugs although they did elect to threaten them some more. The funeral continued without further incident with several of the group offering eulogies.
At the Professor’s former house, his will was read by one of the local councilmen. He asked his five former companions to hang around for a month to help his daughter set his affairs in order and then bear some of his books to the local university about a hundred miles away. Having done so, they would be paid 100 platinum coins each by Embreth Daramid. The books were:
- A locked book bearing the symbol of the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye, about which they knew: sort of like Masons – Involved in both political and arcane matters – about safeguarding Ustalav’s traditions – known to be against the Whispering Way
- On Verified Madness – Treatise on Aberations tied to the Dark Tapestry
- Serving your Hunger – Holy Text of Urgathoa
- The Umbral Leave – Unholy Book of Zon-Kuthon
Also in the same trunk was the Professor’s journal. Reading it, they learned that the Professor had been investigating a local plot by the Whispering Way involving local Harrowstone Prison when he had died. The Whispering Way was a cabal of necromancers and like-minded people made famous by Tar-Baphon, the so-called Whispering Tyrant and a now-imprisoned lich of immense power. Suddenly the Professor’s “unfortunate” death having had his skull crushed by a falling statue in the prison ruins seemed much more suspicious. Coincidentally such a death would prevent use of Speak With Dead and the Whispering Way was known to make use of such methods.
They knew a few things more about the Whispering Way: They were a sinister organization of necromancers active in the region for thousands of years, known to ally with undead creatures. They had a series of philosophies that may only be transferred via whispers. Chief among their goals are discovering formulae for creating liches or freeing Tar-Baphon. Their symbol is a gagged skull.
The Professor’s journal mentioned that the church of Pharasma of old had hidden a cache of items for fighting the likes of what was in the old haunted prison in a false tomb in the Restlands. The group headed there first to collect these things, which included silver and magic arrows, potions, some vials with the power to trap haunts, holy water, sunrods, scrolls, and a magical ouija board.
They then headed to the Professor’s grave to contact him with the spirit board. Able to put one question to the Professor’s spirit this day they asked how to stop the Whispering Way’s plot. “too late seek motivation phylactery” was the response.
They next did research on the Harrowstone Prison. They learned that the prison had burned to the ground fifty years earlier with all of the prisoners, many of the guards, the warden, and his wife trapped inside. Originally the prison had housed only local criminals, but as word had spread over time of how secure it was and how well run it was, other parts of Ustalav had come to ship their most dangerous criminals there.
At the time of the fire there were 5 notorious prisoners in Harrowstone. After a significant amount of research, they pieced together the following details about them:
- Father Charlatan – stranger danger – Sefick Corvin – travelling con artist who bilked small children by pretending to be a priest of any of a number of faiths – although he himself ws not guilty of murder, his accomplices killed and died trying to get him out of prison.
- The Lopper – an ambush predator of a serial killer who beheaded his victims with a handaxe.
- The Mosswater Marauder – Ispin Onyxcudgel – a well liked artisan/husband – dwarf – he killed his cheating wife in a fit of rage and then murdered 20 people trying to find the missing piece to put his wife’s skull back together, believing that if her skull was reassembled perfectly she would come back to life.
- The Piper of Illmarsh – taunted his targets with a mournful dirge on his flute – poisoned his victims with lich dust and had his stirges eat them.
- The Splatter Man – Hean Faramen – professor of personal names and their origins – He was warped by a succubus – became obsessed with the power of a name and became obsessed with the link between a person’s name and what happens to that name when they died – would have his victims find one letter of their name written in blood until it was complete then kill them with a complex trap or series of events meant to look like an accident.
The Professor had known that the Whispering Way were interested in a someone at Harrowstone but did not know who or did not record the answer. The group suspected it might be one of these five.
There was a monument in town to the 25 guards who died in the prison fire in 4661 as well as Warden Hawkran and his wife Vesorianna. A bloody V was found written on the monument in rat blood one morning.
Researching the prison at the Town Hall they learned a few more things:
- Locals don’t enjoy speaking of Harrowstone
- Built in 4594
- The town of Ravengro largely built to house the guards etc. for the prison
- Ot had a underground eastern wing
- Prisoners had rioted and gained control of the prison just before the fire
- The warden triggered a deadfall trapping everyone below, including himself, in the prison
- Guards above started a fire to keep prisoners from climbing out
In town they came across some young Varisian girls singing a creepy jump-roping song:
Put her body on the bed take a knife and lop her head
Something something come out the pipe feeds the stirge so nice and ripe
Drops of blood so sparkly bright splatter 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
Varik scared these girls off for some reason.
Coming up to the prison, they found it largely in ruins. The walls around the prison were covered with many vines and would now be easy to climb. The warden’s house was falling apart and chunks of it fell on Pavlo repeatedly as he searched it. A large pond had overtaken some of the foundation. Circling the prison building itself were runes all around the foundation. These had something to do with abjuration and necromancy magic and included the Warden’s name repeated many times.
With no other apparent clues outside, the group began to explore the above-ground portion of the prison. They were assaulted by a number of haunts and animated objects. They discovered a safe full of fragile potions and spent the better part of an hour very slowly bashing it open with a hammer. After a while they encountered the ghost of the Warden’s wife, Vesorianna. She revealed that the Whispering Way had come and stolen away the spirit not of one of the famous inmates but of her husband. It had been his spirit that had kept the other ghosts contained for the previous fifty years; with him gone, they would all soon be
free. Vesorianna was able to keep them contained with great effort, but the Splatter Man was influencing someone in the town and getting them to write Vesorianna’s name in blood. When it was complete, she would be destroyed and the evil ghosts would be unchecked.
About this time the Splatter Man’s agents wrote the second letter of Vesorianna’s name in blood.
Elsewhere in the building they found the property room. It contained some relatively mundane items taken from relatively mundane prisoners. In a hidden combination vault, they found items belonging to the five famous prisoners:
*A Bloodstained handaxe
*A collection of holy symbols, too intertwined to separate
*A moldy spellbook – Comprehend Languages, Dispel Magic, False Life, Gust of Wind, Illusory Script, Levitate, Mage Armor, Magic Missile, Summon Monster IV
*A smith’s hammer
*A tarnished silver flute
Having exausted exploration of the above-ground part of the prison, the group proceeded into its dungeon. Down the lift they encountered burning skeletons that nearly did them in. Spent, they retreated to Professor Lorimar’s house to rest for the night. In the morning, they found the third letter of Vesorianna’s name written in blood on the side of a building.
Pressing in to the dungeon once more, the group encountered the Lopper, now a wraith with a powerful axe that could open bleeding wounds in the living, which restored his power as they bled. Luthon fought a desperate defense against a burning, headless skeleton of a former guard while the rest of the group focused their assaults on the Lopper himself. It turned out that his former axe functioned as a ghost touch weapon against him; even with this assistance, he was very narrowly defeated. With nearly all spells exhausted and most of the group on death’s door, they once again the group retreated to rest.
The group thought to use the spirit board to ask the dead Professor why the Whispering Way had wanted the warden’s spirit instead of one of the powerful evil spirits within. The answer came back that it was needed for the Carrion Crown. Whatever that is.
Reentering the dungeons the group went in a different direction and quickly encountered a powerful haunt that seemed to write their names on the wall in blood, draining their wisdom constantly as it did. With it, they encountered the Splatter Man himself, now a ghost as well as a very powerful wizard. Pavlo declared that he knew the Splatter Man’s true name and would write it in his own blood as soon as he was done destroying the Splatter Man’s former spellbook. The Splatter Man responded by beginning to rail first the wizard and then his allies unmercifully. The spellbook itself refused to burn, cut, or be scorched by acid, and its powerful curse left its bearer reluctant to spend his horde of spells. Largely ignoring the better defenders in the group, the Splatter Man rained suffering down on the spellcasters, nearly killing two of them. Haunt siphons were used to shut down the haunt, and the Splatter Man himself was finished as his true name was written on the wall as promised.