Journal date: Neyavr 8th, 751 BR
I have often found that I am unaware of what is considered a gift-giving occasion. Such occurred the morning after the townhall, when Lady Beatrice insisted on some sort of “ritual” as a gift to us. She did not wish to explain at first, but I was assured intoxicants were not involved, so I listened to her indirect description of each tea-adjacent beverage and its connection to certain elemental forces. It was a pleasant tea, and Swanhilda also showed no ill impact from consuming alongside me. I did find my mind wandering to the matter of medicine while drinking it, and to her credit this would be on my mind much of the rest of the day so the focus was likely a boon. Do I owe her a gift now?
As all roads were leading to Harrowstone metaphorically, we opted to take the one that led there literally as well. Lady Beatrice tried to insist on travel via carriage, rather than on foot. My suspicions of an infirm state seem to be gaining traction. She did consent to foot travel in the end. On arrival it was agreed this was a scouting expedition, and I will admit I expressed some interest in the engineering of the lift, however I was corrected by Victor that this was only to explore the exterior of structures. At the gates Lady Beatrice balked, becoming unwilling to enter and leaning heavily on Gorig-Nak, so perhaps the walk here was inadvisable. She is not my patient, yet, so I believe I am overstepping by trying to evaluate her condition without a proper exam.
The Councilman’s map was a relative match to what we were able to observe, so we began wrapping around close to the wall heading west. Victor became enamored of the brick manor house south of the main building’s entrance that had been the Warden’s residence. Contrary to his earlier statement he began to head inside, but there was extensive evidence that the structure was unstable, and I advised that he refrain from doing so. In accordance with my estimation, as he exited the doorway he touched lightly the frame and that small movement was enough to crumble a load-bearing wall. I am glad he elected to depart before that occurred.
Dr. Phil and myself were able to see movement on the balcony of the main structure as we continued around, but unable to identify the source, nor did it continue when we turned our focused attention to it. On the other side, as Victor and Dr. Phil approached the stairs leading up to the battlements they also saw movement, rats moving away to watch them. Swanhilda does not care for wild rodent populations – I am unsure if she sees them as competition or uncultured versions of her civilized self. When Beatrice also saw movement on the balcony Gorig-Nak went to enthusiastically climb up and expressed a strong desire to kick whatever shadow had upset her. Trying to steer him away from a harmful situation seemed to bring her back to her senses.
Victor’s attempts to avoid the watchful gaze of the rats was countered by a coordinated swarm of them attacking when he reached the top of the stairs to the battlements. He was prudent and moved the swarm closer to the rest of us so he was not left alone to combat it, though Dr Phil’s burning flasks, as usual, missed the main target and managed to damage Victor again. This is suspiciously common. Ciprian used a great deal of wisdom to remain some distance away from the mass while still damaging the swarm. While the swarm did descend the stairs to the main group we had gathered t still took me some time to reach close enough to use a new ability of mine colloquially referred to as “Burning Hands” – I find this strange as my hands do not feel any of the heat produced so I believe that is a misnomer. In any case, it was able to resolve the matter and allow me to tend to Victor’s copious injuries.
After the medical attention Victor proceeded to examine the towers, one of which reeked of rodent and the other that was completely free of them. I had offered Swanhilda as a first set of eyes, but he opted out of that safe solution. She has often acted as a scout for me, but I believe the group at large does not trust her yet. He was able to find some copper coinage and distributed it amongst us. I suspect a limited amount of copper is nothing of note to figures like Lady Beatrice but it is substantial to my purse in its current state. From the battlements we were able to see the balcony more clearly – it was lined with ruined benches and barred windows along the main building, as well as a large stone block in the center. We were not yet ready to ascend to that area.
The waste receptacle has formed a vile cesspit of stench behind the prison proper. Past that we could see an upper balcony that seemed intact, if mildly sodden and unstable from an engineering perspective, however the doorway led to what appeared to be a rubble filled room. While it would be possible to ascend via climbing, it was a difficult measure to accomplish. Swanhilda could do it with ease, however Victor inquired as to my ability to communicate with her and when it was admitted that I would only get impressions we elected to move on.
I have been able to cast spells, in full view of this company, yet they seem unfamiliar with the fact that she is, in fact, my familiar.
Around the back to the East edge we were able to observe the area that had once been the graveyard, which is now a pond due to collapse and rainwater accumulation. I believe this would be a much more active sight after sunset, due to the nature of the restless dead to date. As it stands, it was a placid, if murky, pond with faint wind ripples through the cattails on the edge. The stairs, as would mirror the first main balcony platform we saw to the west, have collapsed into the pond on this side. It is estimated that the deepest this water reaches is 20 feet.
In a compromise between exploration and outdoors observation, it is elected that our final stop would be the original balcony on the west end. Gorig-Nak shared that this area was used for executions as we approached, and Lady Beatrice fell into a sort of fugue state where she reported a vision of a guard passing by the stone block and doing what is referred to as a “double take” when he witnessed the appearance of a scythe that had not previously been there. Gorig-Nak confirmed the scythe was the method of execution used here. When I inquired if she had these visions frequently, in an attempt to understand the nature of either her malady or ability, she became very defensive. I suspect she, too, may be hiding something. But she remained convinced that something ill would befall us if we approached the block. Victor, as appears to be his standard, approached the block.
Glowing forms resolved themselves into forearms withdrawing a scythe from the choking ivy. Lady Beatrice continued to provide information, in that while this appeared to be a spectre it was not, in fact, considered undead. As we approached this corporeal apparition it took umbrage to Ciprian in particular, but in doing so came into my range to allow me to issue it a measure of ill omens, reducing it’s chance to do harm. This caused me to look closer and I was able to conclude it was a haunted object which made it vulnerable to the positive forces that would normally heal someone. Between myself and Victor’s healing potion, this allowed us to defeat the spiritual nature of the object and render it inert. While the haft of the scythe was beyond reclamation, the head behind the verdigris was of master craftsmanship, with proper care it could be restored or remade.
An exploration of the now-safe platform resulted in Victor finding a satchel with some personal belongings, three vials of holy water and a flask that has seen better days with an inscription. I do not believe it is unsafe to consume what was left, but it does seem inadvisable to the flavor palette. This caused Lady Beatrice to ask about making alchemist fire flask, an easy task once I have the resources, though Dr. Phil may already have that kind of set up.
While we covered every nook and cranny of the elevated execution platform, Dr. Phil was able to relay details about the spectacle that was Harrowstone executions. It appears high profile prisoners would be relocated here readily to ensure their end. At the time of the riots there were five “super-criminals” of some notoriety in residence.
- Father Charlatan
- The Lopper
- The Mosswater Marauder
- The Piper of Illlmarsh
- The Splatter Man
This caused Lady Beatrice to remember a skip rope song she had watched children in town perform their exercise to, with lyrics related to these five personalities. It went as follows:
Put her body on the bed.
Take a knife and lop her head.
Watch the blood come out the pipe.
Feeds the stirge, so nice and ripe.
Drops of red so sparkly bright.
Splatters 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.
Victor believes it may be worth asking Councilman Muricar, and I also suggested the memories of Father Grimburrow, for more details on these figures. Beatrice, though she was the one reciting the song, seemed most perturbed by the line “Drops of red so sparkly bright, Splatters spell her name just right”. It caused me to remember that the flapping of the stirge wings in time to a waltz.
Though we had resolved to leave, one last mystery came to our attention as we passed closer to the main building. The ivy and grass had been cleared where the foundation met the earth. In the foundation itself we found etched runes coated in blood – those who speak Barovian confirmed their origin, but we were not able to decipher their purpose, other than seeing the name of the warden, Lyvar Hawkran, repeated in the pattern. It was determined by Lady Beatrice, Dr. Phil, and Victor that this was part of a larger ritual, involving abjuration and necromancy as key components. I recorded the runes for later study. It was Victor’s idea to take them to Alendru, as a purveyor and expert in magical goods and services.
By the time we were back in Ravensgro proper it was mid afternoon, and so we divided to various locations for lunch and continued research. Dr. Phil, Gorig-Nak, and Lady Beatrice went to the Outward Inn. Ciprian seems to be of a ritual that involves the Laughing Demon. Victor and I partook of the ritual of tea with Father Grimburrow again, though first we sat through the afternoon service of religious nature before the service of tea. Victor was perusing a book he found during the service and seemed to be having a much better time than myself. Should I bring a book to occasions such as this?
As Victor had been mauled by rats, which are known to carry disease, and Father Grimburrow was open to providing doses of anti-plague should symptoms manifest. Victor stated that were he to become a “were-rat” he would take his own life. I believe this was meant to be a jest? Father Grimburrow gave me the dossier intended for Ciprian, which was what I had come to check on so my questions were resolved. I had simply hoped to save an acolyte the trip, though Swanhilda is becoming quite fond of these tea biscuits and I may need to invent more pretenses for visits to keep her appeased. Something about these conferences reminds me of sessions with Doctor Van Richten, if I am honest with myself. Is this part of grief? Am I able to grieve?
The conversation between Victor and the Father was interesting to observe, surrounding Harrowstone and the guards. The names of the guards from that final era of the prison will be found in town records, but we were told that the Warden and two dozen guards were down below when the Warden disabled the lift by triggering a deadfall. The guards outside this group did not perish in this event, neither in the riots nor the fires that ended the rioting, however in the subsequent years they have found the ends of their mortal existences through natural forms of decay, disease, and potentially dismemberment or other disasters.
The found flask was property of the executioner himself, which does explain its location. He was doing excess assignments as a headsman and regular guard shifts. With that and the claiming of the anti-plague vials, administered with instructions not to begin the course of treatment until symptoms such as a fever were fully manifested, we departed.
In attempting to rejoin the others in the town square we encountered Jominda, as she presented herself in great distress. This was understandable, since behind her were multiple zombies in pursuit. Beatrice was able to identify a host of indicators that these were plague zombies, infectious and prone to explosions of contagious vital fluids upon expiration. Members of our party were able to intercede between Jominda and the undead and dispatch them without harming her. Though we were not so careful with each other, as some of the final deaths resulted in effluvia emissions onto others of the group. When the immediate crisis was over, Jominda was able to explain that she had been closing up early when the figures tumbled out of an alley at her.
Our trackers were able to find the footsteps that were backtracked to the river, and while Ciprian was not able to continue along the path, Dr. Phil took off independently to follow the trail. At this time Lady Beatrice began behaving erratically again, making comments that were unsettling and Gorig-Nak was required to remove her. This incited commentary from Victor about her mental instability and comparing it to “chicks” he had been engaged to previously that were “crazier”. I am not certain he is aware that the common factor in his failed relationships may well be himself.
While Gorig-Nak and Lady Beatrice were on their respective distracting errand, Victor and I elected to visit the magical sundry salesman, Alendru, at his establishment known as the Unfurling Scroll. I had been told he was a magical scholar and practitioner, as well as a teacher of arcane arts, so I was very confused by his lack of headdress or hat denoting such. I was distracted by this fact, so while Victor and Alendru were conversing I had trouble following. When there was a moment I requested clarification, and to my embarrassment it was indicated that this is a thing that is only done in Paridon. I have not traveled outside of the realm, to my recollection, so I was not aware that this requirement was unusual. Swanhilda covered my misstep by revealing herself and performing antics in return for cheese. I was grateful that she is more apt at social engagements than I am.
We were able to ask about the runes I had recorded at Harrowstone, which was the primary purpose of our visit. It took some time and examination, so coffee and biscuits were provided. This pleased Swanhilda further. I have to wonder if she is truly a rodent or merely a digestive system with legs that looks to be constantly in use. While he researched we assisted by fetching the sundry items and references he needed. His assessment of the Barovian runes was disheartening, as the ritual appears to be one designed to capture the spirit of Warden Hawkran and abscond with it, which we cannot be sure if it was successful. These runes were recent, and bear a great deal of resemblance to the spell Magic Jar. I am aware of the details of that spell, as it is often used to create certain types of constructs and the matter came up with my discussions of these in talks with Doctor Van Richten. It is surmised that were the ritual successful and the spirit were to be removed, without resolution to the elements that were originally keeping it tethered to this plane, that a void may have been created to detrimental effect. I also posit that the removal of the Warden’s spirit may have created dissonance with the spirit of the wife, resulting in the recent graffiti on the monument, if her spirit is in fact at fault.
Before we left I was able to inquire about the tome of construct creation. I am not able to afford it, but I have interest in doing so down the road if possible. On that contingency, I requested to preview the pages at a later date, to study it in exchange for small favors. It was conceded that this would be possible. Over all, in spite of the drama of the day, this was the one pleasing outcome.
We regrouped at the manor, but it was not until late that Dr. Phil was able to join us, soaking wet and looking half-crazed in his eyes. The zombies, which while put to a pyre on resolution of the combat I was able to retrieve an eye from in case of Carrion Compass considerations, had traveled from the Restlands, but had not come directly as their predecessors. Apparently there were detours, which would be improbable for mindless dead, and I had demonstrated their mindless state during the combat when I attempted to Daze them, so it was likely some other force or master dictated their path. We also discussed the scythe blade and it’s propensity for violence, specifically for the undead. I was able to ascertain that the enhancements are held within the metal, even if reshaped it will retain it’s gifts, so it may be a worthwhile investment for those in our group who engage in melee.
The sisters returned with the results, or rather lack of same, in regards to carriages, accidents, or ghost versions. Not that carriages do not exist in Ravensgro, just that nothing of our interest or connections were found. I was reminded to provide Ciprian the dossier from Father Grimburrow, which he revealed contained details about “Father Charlatan”. Per church records he was the only one of the five notorious prisoners at the time of the fire that was not, directly, a murderer himself. However his crimes were egregious enough, and did result in deaths, to the point where he was to be executed at a landmark location like Harrowstone. He claimed to be ordained in any number of faiths, but was in fact merely Sephic Corvan – a traveling con artist who collected large payments for false miracles and cures. His accomplices under his orders murdered city guards to enable their escape. While his hands may not have been stained directly, they were not clean of innocent blood ultimately.
Before we were able to turn in for the night, Victor attempted to administer the anti-plague prematurely. He was not suffering from any symptoms, though I believe he may have been trying to convince himself he felt a fever coming on. While he is not formally my patient and I cannot control his dosing, I was able to convince him to wait until the appropriate time as dictated by the acolyte that advised him and provided the prescription.
We retired with the intention of visiting Councilman Muricar tomorrow morning. The history of Ravensgro seems to be critical to ensuring it has a future.