Dear Diary, To whom it may concern,
Journal date: Neyavr 2nd, 751 BR
As the Doctor kept a journal that is proving helpful to our efforts, perhaps I should try this exercise as well. If you are reading this, I am dead. If I am not dead, I request that you close this now and return it to where you found it. Thank you.
It appears Doctor Van Richten has kept his promise to take my secret to his grave. At the very least, he is in his grave – though I did not check the coffin’s contents personally – and there is no evidence he shared it prior to the date of his demise. I may need to inquire with the Weathermay-Foxglove sisters, they are his most likely confidants. Difficulty: In doing so I may expose the issue that was not previously relevant to their interest. I will consider this further.
Allow me to begin at a more appropriate starting point.
A missive reached me at the clockworks shop, requesting I attend the funeral of Doctor Van Richten in Ravengro. I believe the feeling I experienced was sadness, as I found correspondence with the Doctor educational and inspirational. I was permitted time away from my professional responsibility, and I was able to arrange care of my regular patients with little distress.
Addendum – Old Mistress Dunham did complain at exceedingly high volume that I would not be personally tending to her arthritis pains. I tried, once again, to explain that she does not suffer from arthritis and it is simply that she dislikes rainy weather resulting in a psychosomatic effect on her knees from an overwhelming desire for attention. She continues to refuse this diagnosis.
Arrival in Ravengro was unceremonious, as I was just in time for the event. It appears several other attendees were also originating in Paridon. Perhaps our return travel can be coordinated to be more efficient. For documentation purposes these were:
- Beatrice Teague – apparently a human female of some noble standing
- Gorig-Nak Dunn – presents as male half-orc valet to Lady Teague
- Victor Caenavon-Smythe – appearance of a human male
Also in attendance was a well-concealed figure identified by name as Ciprian Dragan with a masculine vocal tone and a Doctor Phil Ligree Gold-Bottom, presumably a male human.
From Ravensgro was Zokar Elkarid and his son Pevrin. He owns the local tavern – designated the ‘Laughing Demon’. He is jovial and laughs a great deal himself. Lady Jominda Fallenbridge is the alchemist in town and was present. Councilman Vashian Hearthmount and Councilman Gharen Muricar represented the local political element. Central to the proceedings were the sisters Gennifer and Laurie Weathermay-Foxglove. Twins. Curious, natural forces appear to have made two physically identical but personality disparate individuals. This is a digression on my part.
I was acting as a pallbearer for the coffin as we approached the cemetery where a mob of citizenry had formed, apparently at the behest of an individual referred to as Old Man Gibs. Their objection was to having a necromancer buried with their kin, though what concern there would be since the vessels are no longer occupied was beyond me. Beatrice and Victor attempted to advise them on the logistics of the corpse not being put to rest and potential consequences, regardless of its previous occupation in life. It did not go well. Combat ensued when the coffin was put down properly.
Several individuals had to be laid unconscious before the citizenry could be intimidated over the sway of Old Man Gibs. I am curious what force of personality or powers he could have that would enforce his will so strongly on others. His will was finally totally overridden when the local priest came to intervene, a dwarf called Father Grimburrow. Citizenry was repaired and removed from the premises as needed. The funeral commenced, I attempted to speak a few words to commemorate my emotional status, however I do not think I was accurately able to encapsulate it. Others attempted as well. I do not think they were more successful than I.
It was identified that those of us from outside Ravengro were named in the will and would need to be in attendance for the reading. This required us to regroup at the Van Richten family home immediately after the funeral. We are invited to stay there, which at the time of the offer was presumed to be only briefly, until we returned to our respective homes. That was not to be the case. This is called foreshadowing.
Councilman Hearthmount arrived to read the will, where the numerous volumes the Doctor collected over life were discussed. Aside from the items specifically outlined, the estate was bequeathed to the sisters, his apprentices and closest companions in recent years. There are tomes to be delivered to the University of Ledendorf, with payment upon receipt of 100 platinum to each of us. However we must first spend one month in Ravengro to ensure his apprentices are safe and established before we move on to Ledendorf.
The Councilman departed, leaving funds to pay for our drinks at the wake. We began to inspect the books in the trunk that we were to deliver. On top of any of them was the previously referenced journal. There is also a note with distribution of the Ledendorf tomes, and where we are each instructed to take a book that is relevant to us in some way – I was obviously granted Van Richten’s Guide to the Created but I elected not to show the others. This was a matter between me and the Doctor. Beatrice was confused that she received a guide to Ghosts and stated so openly. The others are unknown to me.
In the journal it is identified that the Doctor had been researching the Ebon Hold for years, an organization that on the surface appeared to be a cabal of necromancers, but is actually a group in pursuit of immortality via undeath. They were active in Ravengro in the recent months, with a connection to the Harrowstone prison that burned fifty years past. Despite his use of supplies found in the Restlands cemetery, the Doctor did not survive his next attempt to explore Harrowstone. The Doctor’s body was found there, the victim of an “accident” that specifically mutilated his jaw. We relocated to his study to continue investigating the Ebon Fold and Harrowstone.
Dr. Phil was the one to establish the prison was destroyed by fire 50 years ago, and that locals decline to speak of it from assumptions of haunting. Ciprian established that it was built 636 BR – 115 years in the past, and that the fire destroyed much of the underground structure but much of the surface building is still intact. The Warden and his wife died in the fire – though it was unclear why the wife was at the prison at all. There is a statue monument built to commemorate the Warden and guards that died in the fire. Gorig-Nak was the one to find that the fire was a blessing in disguise, as a prison riot had allowed the inmates to take control of the dungeon spaces, though the Warden and guards in question were still preventing them from escaping completely.
In regards to the Ebon Fold, Victor brought forward the information that they have been active in the Western Domains for thousands of years. I read and relayed that agents of the Ebon Fold are often undead or seek alliances with undead creatures and their most notorious member was a now deceased Dark Lord Azalin Rex. While the order predates Rex by an extensive margin, he was often their model once his presence was established. Beatrice was the one who found that their core tenants are a series of philosophies that will only be relayed via whisper, never written or spoken at volume. The details are difficult to discern as a result, they are often found to be formulas for liches or plans for the recovery of Azalin Rex, and their symbol is a gagged skull. To that effect, those who learn too much are murdered, with mouths mutilated to prevent speaking with the dead – exactly as occurred to the Doctor in his “accident”.
This research engrossed the attention of us all, and as a result meals were not prepared as hunger began to make itself known. Due to the wake invitation, we were able to acquire a free meal at the Laughing Demon, as it was the appropriate time to join the celebration of the Doctor’s life. This is a traditional thing that is done after death, I am given to understand. As this is my first funeral I can recall, I have to trust this is true.
There was time to eat our fill and drinks consumed, as well as locals spoken with. I remained preferential to tea – when I have wine Swanhilda will often consume overly much and become ill-tempered. I hate to recall her reaction to harder drinks, such as the Brandy Incident of 749 BR. There were bits of gossip gained from those who are more adept at such interactions. Gorig-Nak learned that the pithy-names for the food at the Laughing Demon may be more than just clever wordplay – being invited back for a ‘Special Tasting’ may result in a disappearance, unless one looks closely at the menu. Beatrice discovered that you can still hear the wife wailing near Harrowstone. Ciprian found that the Executioner of Harrowstone still guards his gallows, even after his death. After our meal concluded we each went to pursue our own areas of informational interest, though I will confess I did take note of what each person was pursuing for my own reference.
Ciprian looked to know about the biggest troublemaker in town and the fast answer was Old Man Gibs, who had a chip on his shoulder after coming back from the war that never went away. I am not surprised to learn this. Gibs lives near the outskirts of town near the Harrowstone Memorial – this is foreshadowing again.
Victor’s pursuit was to ask the bartender what Gibs had against Van Richten, due to the strong response to the burial. It was revealed that Gibs was superstitious, and did not like Van Richten’s disregard for rules, as Gibs wanted everything done a certain way. Gibs became impassioned about the Vistani presence, too.
Dr. Phil seems in need of physical affection, as he kept after something that “rhymes with drugs” and the only element that came to mind for me was “hugs” or “mugs” but the Laughing Demon had plenty of cups. He was directed to Lady Jominda, the town alchemist.
Gorig-Nak is protective of Lady Beatrice, clearly, as he needed to know about the criminal element in town, which must be to protect her. He must have been relieved to find that there isn’t one, the jail is used as a “drunk tank” and there is one full time sheriff. Benjan Caeller is the law enforcement agent, and has no permanent deputies, but four farmhands that help part time – by name they are Leromar, Riff, Trestleblade, and Vrodish.
Lady Beatrice, though, was interested in the Vistani. She would learn they arrived two weeks ago, and similar to our less than warm reception Old Man Gibs has created a great deal of vocal concern about their presence, using his influence over others to continue the sentiment. Fear of the Vistani Evil Eye prevents them from being easily driven away, however.
I am hoping to find a way to proffer my healing services, potentially in exchange for coin, while I am here for the month. My funds are otherwise limited and Swanhilda will not return the two silver in her collar pouch. Father Grimburrow, one of the founding members of the town, is the head priest in the temple of St Ezra – but due to his advanced age he often has acolytes do the day to day tending of those who need healing, and the occasional sale of magic items. Jominda, as an alchemist, is potentially capable of providing some potions or brews of a healing nature. Simple liniments and medicine also come from the general store, run by Luthko Avanaki and his wife Marta.I was cautioned that their five daughters run amok in the store. I will proceed with care if I need to attend any shopping there. Stepping on children is frowned upon.
After the drinks were finished, there were coins remaining for our purses and we each set out to pursue our individual interests. I made an effort to slip unnoticed to the Vistani camp, however Lady Beatrice and Gorig-Nak were also in attendance. As a fellow citizen of Paridon, I am suspicious of their position on magical and superstitious elements, and I do not wish to fully reveal the nature of my interests and abilities, as there is a possibility that they are of the… “Burn The Witch” beliefs. However when I hesitated to spend my last two gold on a Tarroka reading, Lady Beatrice generously paid for each of us to receive one. I am now in her debt and will need to take steps to ensure she and her valet are cared for to even the scales.
It was most fascinating to see Tarroka readings in person, my book learnings on them were short of the actual description of mood and mystery. Madam Mvashti, the reader, was quite perceptive and I found a great deal of desire to pursue this path after her example. I was able to wait until the others had left before I inquired about the means to purchase a deck of my own. A guide book sitting on the shelf at home can only take my skills so far. Madam Mvashti was pleased to give me a deck, with the promise of a future favor for her people. I tried to barter my skills in the healing arts, as I suspect many superstitious individuals would turn them away even in times of need. She appeared pleased by this offering, and said she would pass my name amongst her people. I hope to pay off this debt soon. This may be foreshadowing, as well.
I returned to the room I was assigned. It is oddly spacious, I am unclear why a resting body needs such extensive space beyond the horizontal area required for reclining in. Swanhilda, however, appreciates the many things to hide behind and furniture to inspect. Otherwise the night passed unremarkably.
At the morning meal, the staff around us were engaged in a higher level of gossip than would be expected, even considering our presence and the drama of the previous day. Swanhilda was able to get closer and identify that something happened in town that caused a fright for the citizenry. It was Laurie that was able to determine more accurately the defacing of the Warden’s Monument – potentially with blood. As we are to integrate with this town for the duration of our stay, the Weathermay-Foxglove sisters requested that we investigate while they pursued legal matters in town.
The monument is a rather mundane statue with an inscription, and some of the locals milling about it. The only non-mundane aspect was the large V added to it with blood. Close examination revealed rat’s blood. Swanhilda was made unhappy by this. No tracks were found, which is a cause for concern of its own, but without further information about who would have a designation that begins with V we were at a loss. Though as I write I contemplate if this were an attempt to frame or an action by the Vistani? They seem to be avoiding trouble directly and so I do not truly suspect them, but the nearest resident is Old Man Gibs, who is known to have conflict with their presence. I suggested that we speak with him, either to gather what he may have seen or to perceive his potential knowledge through an obvious act of denial.
To make sure we conducted our day efficiently, the cemetery was our next stop as the Doctor had written about supplies we would expect to find there. From the written clues, the large and run-down ossuary seemed the most likely candidate though it was seemingly locked. In trying to find a crack large enough for Swanhilda to enter, the lock itself was found to be a fiction. It has been opened by acid and resealed with wax, a trick Victor assured us was a hallmark of Doctor Van Richten’s approach. I was hesitant to enter in broad daylight, but the area seemed quite vacant of any presence that was not our own.
Before entrance, Lady Beatrice began seeing text that was not there on a tombstone adjacent to the Doctor’s. Per her relayed information: “Come to my world, and be as I; as I am now, soon you will be; embrace your end and witness me.” – Died 701 BR
Those of us not hallucinating were only able to see a name, year of birth, and year of death – which was the same as what she claimed. Jack Parsons perished in 701 BR, the same year as the fire of Harrowstone. She seemed off, but not feverish. I will watch her closely for further diagnosis.
Victor proceeded to… pop the lock, as it were. Inside quickly, to find that though in a state of disrepair and inattentiveness, there were no bones or remains in the mislabeled ossuary. The facade of a foyer had niches unfilled. I was reminded that I should not see without a light source, but luckily those around me had lanterns. A line of clear tracks in the dust lead to the back, a next room holding a sarcophagus.
Inspection of the receptacle would be delayed, when Gorig-Nak stepped back to the front room to act as guard, and was assaulted. From the cracks leading to the earth came centipedes, likely of a poisonous variety. They were quickly dispatched, and I was able to provide some healing for Gorig-Nak as my first step to paying off that debt.
Cleared of interference from arthropods, we proceeded to inspect and open the sarcophagus. Inside was not a body, but instead the indicated stash of goods. Quickly these items were gathered up into a backpack and I made sure to close the sarcophagus before we left.
We had attempted to leave quietly, but it seems that was not possible for most of the group, a fact I will make note of for the future. Swanhilda is sure we were seen upon exiting, so we have agreed that we were paying our respects to the Doctor as a group when we had reason to inspect the ossuary. Inside we found and fought centipedes. This is accurate and truthful, an advantageous thing.
The rest of the day was spent examining and identifying the items back in Van Richten’s library. If this is what the Doctor left behind, I am concerned with what he took that would make these less valuable in comparison.