Journal date: Neyavr 11th, 751 BR
As planned, the following day began with our visit to Councilman Muricar. He was curious as to our investigations, and was not surprised at the conclusion that all roads led to Harrowstone. He offered us cigars, which seemed an unusual action for an early morning visit, but there was also pie and tea, so Swanhilda was appeased at the least. Victor began by delving into the famous prisoners.
The two the councilman was most familiar with were the Lopper and the Piper of Illmarsh. The Lopper was Vance Setressil, known for hiding well and for long stretches in unusual places until his target was alone. At that time he would behead the target with a handaxe. This would turn out to be his flaw, as his final victim did not die from the strike. A congenital malady involving a stiffened neck caused a bone to dislodge and deflect the fatal blow. I was interested in the medical particulars of this condition and the result, but it did not seem like the time to ask it.
The Piper was the other prisoner which the councilman had some detailed knowledge of. The actual name of the killer was never discovered, and only the moniker was known. Before he would abduct his victims, he played a dirge on his flute that would torture them. Using lich powder in their meals, he would paralyze these lone victims so they could not resist the torturous tunes. Once paralyzed and distressed by the dramatic music, he would have his pet stirges drink the victims dry of their blood. Illmarsh is in Nova Vaasa, a large domain to the east. In particular, Illmarsh was the most distant settlement from any other – known for their horses and being a damp, unpleasant location. The population was highly insular, with potential inbreeding due to their secluded nature, resulting in mutations that are referred to as the “Illmarsh look” comprising bulging eyes and very long or very short necks. It is unclear if the Piper was pursuing victims of opportunity or some form of revenge killing for past ills. What was clear is that he was a bard and poisoner of considerable in both proclivities.
Aside from the prisoners, we inquired about who else may have had interest in Harrowstone or the Warden. The subject of recent travelers came up as a result, though they seemed inclined to be seclusionary and keep to themselves. It was also advised that Alendru could have information about the Splatter Man, as Alendru had previously been a court magician from the same region. This is apparently something Alendru establishes clearly and repeatedly during every interaction, however I believe my distraction during Victor and Alendru’s conversation may have resulted in a missed piece of information in this case.
Carriages came up again, even though the sisters were not able to find anything the councilman was able to indicate that notable prisoners were transported to Harrowstone directly in carriages, to ensure they made it in a visible manner.
Finally the conversation came around to Doctor Van Richten, a member of town the councilman considered a friend. It appears he was interested in these outsiders that visited, in an almost hostile manner similar to the Gibs reaction to outsiders. No other strong negative reactions stood out to Councilman Muricar. The final detail regarding the travelers was their accent, which appeared to be from Lamordia, and that they may have been the ones that sold the book to Alendru.
We had taken a sufficient portion of the day, as it was approaching afternoon, so we departed and went our separate ways for the lunch hour, as has become something of a ritual. I felt it was prudent to check on Jominda, as the events of the previous day had seemed traumatic for her. While she seemed calm enough, I was able to observe a pistol under a cloth within arms reach, so she was understandably cautious as well. I had hoped to purchase an alchemy kit, as my equipment is still in Paridon as I did not expect an extensive trip as this has become. As a sidebar, I am curious if I will still have a job when I return? The kit was more coin than I had, and I offered services in exchange for material goods, but Jominda established that she was quite proud of her own work that she sells. That seems reasonable, this town was fully able to function well before we arrived, I should not expect to fill a key missing role just by being here, as if I am prima ballerina, I am at best a part of the corps de ballet.
Jominda, however did have a solution in the form of an introduction at the Silk Purse, the moneylender. The woman with the jeweler’s loupe there, introduced as Quess, took note of Jominda’s endorsement of myself, and I was offered a loan. While I dislike debts and imbalance, the interest rate of 4% was reasonable and the offered amount of up to 500 crowns was excessive to my needs. At present I elected to accept a loan of 100 crowns, which allowed me to make the purchase from Jominda and also have funding for other sundries as needed. Quess also had a beautiful display case of jewelry and it was suggested that if our company was to come into money we might partake of a purchase. Swanhilda is more fascinated by shiny objects, so I allowed her to browse. Unfortunately she is also of expensive tastes, as her desire for the ring of feather fall came in at 2000 crowns and the large piece of smoky quartz at 500, though it was an attractive stone. Due to the trusted endorsement Quess referred to me as “part of the family now,” which I am not entirely sure how to interpret.
When we regrouped Victor had the suggestion that we dig further into the visitors that gave Doctor Van Richten an unsettled response, unusual for the Doctor, but of course the next day after the stake out planned for that evening. It was critical that we maintain our abilities for the potential conflict if we were caught by the graffiti culprit. Lady Beatrice expressed an interest in the “Emma” engraved on the flask, and Gorig-Nak was well placed to point out that we still had not addressed the matter of the dead pig. I felt it was better to get ahead of the issue, in case it were to be seen in the Van Richten barn or traced back to the field he found it in. As a result he returned the meat to it’s appropriate owner.
The rest of the day passed with relatively little event. I elected to rest to recover my spells, as a measure against potential conflict. Victor was able to determine that the cornfield Gibs maintained nearest the monument was unharvested. This apparently relates to a reluctance to pay for the needed assistance, but fortunately gave us good cover. There was also a patch of light cover in the backwoods closer to the monument, but not sufficient to cover all of us. Splitting the party seemed the prudent choice, so I sent Swanhilda to be closest to the statue, as the most expert when it comes to going unnoticed. Behind her was Ciprian, Lady Beatrice, and Gorig-Nak in the woods. Victor, Dr. Phil, and I were in the field. As we approached the field the bitter wind began gusting sharply over us. While it helped hide the sound of our approach and presence, it also cut deeply even through my thick clothing.
Swanhilda passed out from the cold, and I was forced to use a spell of messaging to alert Lady Beatrice to her location so she could be recovered. I began to contemplate how to acquire winter wear for my familiar. Around two in the morning the cold became overwhelming for the party members in the woods, though I believe Gorig-Nak left as Lady Beatrice’s condition required it, rather than of his own motivation. Those of us in the cornfield remained through to the morning, but nothing was seen, and no letter appeared on the statue.
I was forced to consider that I was seeing patterns where none exists, a common affliction I have seen in my patients at home, one that often leads to presumptive conclusions. Alternatively, we may have been seen by the offender. Further, there may be a pattern, but we were incorrect in our reading of it. As we crept around to try to return home with little attention drawn to our activity, we passed near the Vistani camp, where we were waved in and welcomed.
Alcohol was offered with breakfast, something that seems common in this area of the world. Since Swanhilda was very much asleep, I was able to partake carefully. Tarroka readings were held, and I was able to witness Madame Mvashti conduct a reading for Victor, but Gorig-Nak requested his reading in private. I was conservative with my coin and elected to pass as there was some feeling in the back of my mind that made me believe my luck was too dry to evoke a proper reading. Since luck is a nebulous concept at best I am not sure where these thoughts came from.
On returning to the manor most of the others retreated to their bedrooms for rest. I did not feel a need for this, as I had not expended any spells. Instead I spent time allowing Swanhilda to complete her usual hour of running from hand to hand and engaging in dance practice. That afternoon, when I had completed my rehearsal, I discovered Victor had departed to town, to gather gossip. I elected to speak with Alendru and see if the offer to study the tome was an option. It did hold up, as I minded the front counter and studied while Alendru taught one of his classes. Most peculiar, as I was entering Victor was leaving. We often seem to be of the same mind on many issues and activities. The others ran their respective individual errands until we came together once more. At that time it was decided, based on the additional information Victor had received from his efforts, that we would attempt to locate the campsite of the mysterious visitors that originally sold the tome.
The additional information that was acquired was very interesting. While the accents were Lamordian, it appeared that it may have been an affectation, in lieu of a genuine speech pattern. Additionally, to Alendru, who was Lamordian himself, they lacked the proper appearance that would match the accents. They were described as darker skinned, but still quite pale in a peculiar manner. It has been confirmed they were seen in the daytime, so the lack of coloration to their pallor was not a total aversion to sunlight, such as night-bound creatures would display after long periods of time. The tome itself was to be delivered by the man that originated the transaction with Alendru, so seeing these travellers doing the delivery was a surprise to him. Alendru had pointed out a spot on the book where it appears the cover was treated to remove ink, ink that may have represented a mark of ownership, I will need to look for this next time I am able to study.
Ciprian, an excellent tracker, was easily able to find the remains of the camp. At the site itself there was not a lot that stood out right away, though Phil found some dried meat and I located a remaining piece of dried fruit. Cipiran’s expert eye determined the meat was irrelevant, something acquired at a local market, but the fruit was in fact distinct – discarded due to a blemish it was a piece of apricot, fruit one often finds in Darkon.
Victor’s contribution related to the location of the land itself, being the northernmost domain, but also host to a second domain entirely within its borders, Necropolis. I had read in the past that the old Dark Lord of the region frequently clashed with the Lord of Barovia, in a variety of types of proxy wars. It was Ciprian, however, that had the most details about the Dark Lord in question – Azlin Rex. If you are reading the entirety of this document, you are aware that we previously acknowledged through research that one of the Ebon Fold’s leading goals was to resurrect or bring the return of the lich Azlin Rex. There are some theories that he evolved into a demi-lich, but it is considered unlikely as he does not currently rule Darkon and that is a position he was not inclined to step away from. It is required to truly destroy a lich one must destroy its phylactery and it has not been concluded that Azlin Rex’s was correctly addressed.
Based on these factors, we surmised that it is possible, even probable, that these visitors that had Doctor Van Richten on alert may have been cultists of the Ebon Fold. The timeline of their presence does align with the harm done to the Doctor, as well as the runic ritual conducted at Harrowstone. All that could be gleaned from the camp was done so, and we departed. Our aversion to visiting Harrowstone at night, though I still believe there is some information we will only be able to access after dark, prevented us from our next visit as it was already approaching early evening. Perhaps it is because my vision is not impaired by the dark that I am less averse to the notion of being there when the sun is not up, but it will be dark inside no matter the outside lighting conditions. I did advise that our next trip be planned for all day, including bringing a lunch to prevent a preemptive retreat for sustenance. Lady Beatrice, again, suggested her carriage for that trip.
On discussing plans for the next step, it was also proposed by Victor that we have a second session of watching for malfeasance to the monument. He also prudently suggested searching the manor for cold weather garments, or purchasing them in town. The only set found, that of the Doctor himself, would fit Dr. Phil. The ones in town we found were at a premium price, much more than I had paid for my set in Paridon. However when I inquired about a garment for Swanhilda, a long shot to be sure, she proceeded to play to her charms and the woman we were discussing prices with offered to make her a custom set in two nights. Since the price was two silver, I indicated Swanhilda should pay for it herself. She reluctantly did so, and on return to the manor I restocked her coin purse.
Our plans also outlined a desire to travel closer to the Vistani camp on entering the area, in lieu of potentially being noticed by Old Man Gibs. The wind was a much milder bundle of breezes instead of painfully cold gusts, however Lady Beatrice opted to stay behind, which I approved of. The night passed quietly, with no disturbance, so sometime before sunrise we departed.
On return to the manor the sisters provided hot toddies, and we sat to partake. Strangely for the incredibly early hour a knock at the door was heard, and Laurie went to answer. Her response to the guests in question was a scream upon opening the door. I was the first to see what alarmed her, and I can comprehend why she would have such an expression as the undead were awaiting admittance… most prominent amongst the four our own Doctor Van Richten – sans his lower jaw of course. I surmised quickly that I no longer needed to be concerned that I did not check the coffin.
The sisters both were inflicted with curses, though the rest of us were able to ward off the ill intended omens. However I was, after being moderately effective thanks to the surge of nanites, laid low by Doctor Van Richten himself. Given that my bodily fluids are of abnormal coloration and often emit light, especially after a nanite surge, when I awoke to find Lady Beatrice standing over me in a relatively crowded foyer, I expected repercussions. While she seemed to believe I was most in need of healing, I was able to observe that Lady Beatrice’s condition was in need of more immediate attention. I reminded her of the idiom “Physician, heal thyself” and tended to her wounds, then my own. While it was an immediate need to return Doctor Van Richten to the earth where he was originally interred, before Old Man Gibs felt vindicated, Beatrice insisted on examining the items the bodies carried in a way that was not respectful of the dead. When Victor attempted to defend the deference due the Doctor, she merely responded with “Try me.”
The items found on the bodies were merely the common wares one might bury a body with, symbolic items of their previous life with no actual value. While Dr. Phil, Victor, and a reluctant Lady Beatrice addressed the bodies and their re-burial, Ciprian and Gorig-Nak raced to the church with the sisters in tow, in hopes of having them attended to. I waited in the sitting room, across from Lady Beatrice who was slipping into sleep, certain of imminent consequences for my condition.
Dr. Phil’s assistant Jeff Digglesworth taught me a ritual of the “smoke break.” He also confirmed that it was neither a dream nor a hallucination. I was saddened by this, because I anticipated repercussions from the revelation of my non-organic nature. Again, none came. Instead he retired to his sleeping chamber, and dawn crawled upon us. The staff arrived for their daily duties, and set about cleaning with hardly a blink to the gore. But they also brought rumors from town that an O had appeared on the monument while we fought. It felt like a distraction was designed to keep us clear of interfering after our watch had ended. I was able to take a sample before the bodies were burned, to help track back the remains to their animator.
Gorig-Nak opted to “fuck right off” and visited the hall of records. Later he would relay to us that he found that no current members of the Harrowstone staff or descendents living in Ravensgro. They had moved away or perished before our current investigation.
The records did detail the final days of Harrowstone and the Warden’s wife, Vesorianna – the riots were inspired by the arrival of the five prominent prisoners named in the skip rope song. During the riots the Warden and twelve of his guards descended to lower levels to try to maintain order and were overwhelmed. His wife was demanding his rescue, however she was difficult to restrain and running on high emotional responses so she was able to send the lift down without proper protocol or safety measures. This crushed guards and prisoners below, as well as allowing prisoners to begin climbing the lift chains, inciting panic in the guards up above. The guards at the top of the lift panicked and attempted to use lamp oil poured down the shaft to dissuade the prisoners climbing – there was something spurring the prisoners on beyond ordinary motivations of escape that would be waylaid by the action of oil descending from above. The wife was locked into a workroom to avoid further interference, but a guard in distress elected to throw a torch down the shaft, igniting the oil. This was the source of the fire, though the conflagration was fiercer than anticipated. As a result the guards at the top evacuated, but did not remember to follow through with removing the wife from her lockdown, resulting in death by smoke inhalation. Those that did survive were shamed by their actions – more than a few guilty feelings resulted in suicides – but the majority simply moved away.
Delving into records of the five notable names, more information was uncovered about the Mosswater Marauder. Ispin Onyxcudgel was a well liked artisan and doting husband – so when he discovered infidelity on the part of his wife his response was to strike her with his hammer in his rage. As a side note, I am finding that strong emotional responses leading to disaster seem to be a recurring theme in all these unfortunate endings. His sanity broke as a result of this action, and he seemed to believe he could rebuild her and restore her. The dwarf could not find one blade shaped fragment, so he killed approximately twenty people trying to get a correctly shaped shard to replace that one from his wife’s skull.
While this investigation took place, Dr. Phil and I attended the monument, to determine the blood type used in the recent addition of O to the collection. While there were no tracks to be found, we confirmed the blood type – chicken – and documented the previous ones we were aware of.
- V: Rat
- E: Unknown
- S: Pig
- O: Chicken
This brings me to a concern. Our observations appear to have delayed the addition of a letter if the earlier pattern observation was accurate. Does the delayed addition delay the entire cycle? Will the next letter appear in two days instead of three? Perhaps we just had the pattern incorrect, if there was a pattern at all?
Based on this information, Ciprian was able to patrol the town and discover the coop the chickens originated from, across the river from Muricar’s residence. But the tracks were circuitous and eventually muddled by joining the main road.
That evening we regathered at the manor, and shared our details. Victor’s concern was that issues should be resolved before the name spelling was completed. Ciprian suggested the next day be a full scale effort to examine Harrowstone, extending into night if needed. Beatrice seemed alarmed by this concept, and I advised that if her condition required it she may stay behind. This did not sit well with her, either. Perhaps I am relieved she is not directly my patient, I anticipate she would be difficult to administer reasonable restrictions such as bed rest. Victor and Ciprian discussed the likelihood of assistance from Father Grimburrow – while not explicitly stated it has been implied that he may be willing to provide healing as long as our requests are not extensive, and that the acolytes may have access to additional magical items. I pointed out that the Silk Purse may have additional magic items for sale, but this seemed to be dismissed.
Interest was shown in healing potions and other alchemical items. With the coin I had acquired and the alchemy set up I had purchased I was able to spend the rest of the day making a few. For what I was not able to construct Lady Beatrice visited Jominda and she was able to purchase her desired compounds at a discount. Victor spent the later part of today in town, I assume making good connections. Ciprian has offered to sharpen our blades in case they are needed as we enter Harrowstone.
As I am writing I sense the others have retreated to their rest states, so perhaps I should power down as well, in preparation for the day ahead that is likely to be harrowing at Harrowstone.