Broken Moon

The Master of the Forest: A Sidestory

Dekhaim stopped and bent over, gasping to catch his breath. It had been many hours since he had followed Sir Banjo Bearington the Third into the forest, and soon afterwards that the wolves had started chasing them. He could see them even now, pacing hungrily behind a thin cover of undergrowth, their red eyes almost glowing in the fading light.
These were no ordinary wolves, Dekhaim could tell. His knowledge of the natural world was mostly unmatched, and no normal wolf would have the stamina or speed to keep up with the pace he and Bearington had set for so long. The rancid stench of rotting flesh that permeated the air further reinforced his concerns. By his leg, Banjo looked up at him beatifically, showing not the slightest sign of exertion. If a bear could smile reassuringly, he would be.
A crash in the nearby trees reminded Dekhaim of his predicament, and he tensed to run again, but noticed suddenly that the wolves had vanished. The forest was eerily silent, save for the padding of huge footsteps approaching slowly. A monstrous bulk blotted out the moon and stars as something enormous pushed its way through the trees and into the clearing. The stench of rotting flesh assaulted Dekhaim’s senses once again, a hundred times more potent than before, as he began to make out the features of the creature before him.
The largest bear he had even seen, larger than a house and just as wide, pawed the ground aggressively. Its red eyes gleamed maliciously from a face that was half rotted away, the skin peeling off in places to reveal the bear’s skull and row upon row of wickedly sharp teeth. Necrotic muscles bunched powerfully beneath its mangy hide as the bear paced slowly forward, its eyes narrowing as it took Dekhaim and his companion in.
“This forest is my territory, whelp,” the bear said in a deep, gravelly voice like a tombstone dragged across metal.
Dekhaim took an involuntary step backward before realizing that the comment was not directed at him. Rather, the monstrous bear was speaking to Bearington Banjo, who even now was rolling happily in the dirt next to him, seemingly oblivious of his assailant.
Obviously annoyed by the other bear’s carefree response, the monster’s eyes flicked back to Dekhaim. “Your blue-skinned friend here will make a fitting sacrifice. Is he blueberry-flavored?” the thing said with a rasping chuckle.
With that, it stepped forward, raising a massive arm as long as Dekhaim was tall and prepared to bring it down with bone-shattering force. Paralyzed by the other’s presence, the Druid could do nothing but watch as certain death prepared to crush him from this world.
It was then that Bearington, still happily rolling in the dirt, tumbled in front of Dekhaim and something round dropped out of his backpack with a clink. A small bronze medallion, bearing the symbol of a blazing sun, now lay on the ground between them and the monster, and banjo batted it around a few times playfully.
The enormous bear froze, then backed away a single step.
“What is this? The mark of the Holy One?! It cannot be!”
The medallion began to glow with an unearthly light as Banjo nuzzled it happily, its brilliance growing to envelop the whole clearing with a brightness as clear as daylight. With a terrible roar, the undead bear shied away from the light, and Dekhaim could see a new emotion reflected in its red eyes. The monster was afraid.
“You haven’t seen the last of me, Holy One!” the bear growled, even as it backed away several paces, “Soon, all of Ustalav shall know and fear the name of Notcho Chiiz!”
With that, the bear turned and fled into the dark forest, crushing trees under its massive paws like mere blades of grass.
Stunned by the events that had just taken place, Dekhaim sat down heavily and looked at Bearington. The smaller bear was sitting on his haunches, his head cocked inquisitively to one side as he smiled his bear smile at the Druid. There was no sign of the medallion.
Suddenly, with a crash of breaking branches, Tataco Taco burst into the clearing, his bow strung and fitted with an arrow. His keen eyes narrowed, taking in the forest around them, but it was clear that his prey was already gone. With a sigh, the half-elf extended a hand to Dekhaim and helped him up and, together with Banjo, the three returned to town.

Smoldering Revenge

The explosion in town square and subsequent rain of zombie parts spooked Dekhaim’s companion Sir Bearington, sending him sprinting into the nearby woods, the gangly, blue-skinned Druid hot on his tail. The noise also drew a crowd from the surrounding buildings, including Sheriff Caeller. Finding nothing but a strewn pile of body parts, he was quick to ask the party exactly what had happened. As a follower of Pharasma, Caeller had certainly heard tell of the undead before, and had indeed feared that this would happen.
In their capacity as deputy sheriffs, he bid the group go north, to the Restlands, and search about for disturbed graves or other signs of undead activity. Yuuko, Parva, and Tataco were quick to comply, leaving the cleaning of the square to the Sheriff and townsfolk.
The Restlands was empty when they arrived. It was only slightly past noon, and the townsfolk were all attending to their various businesses, and so no-one had come to the expansive cemetery to pay their respects. Through unspoken agreement, the three adventurers split up and began to look around for anything unusual among the gravestones.
It was Parva that made the first discovery. An ancient gravestone, the dirt around it undisturbed, bore upon it a chilling inscription.

Parva Rigeuer
“Come to my world, and be as I; as I am now, soon you will be; embrace your end and witness me.”
“Died 4661 AR.”

Understandably shocked at finding his own name engraved on a tombstone, Parva set about running some tests to search for tampering or other tomfoolery, but his results only confirmed that the surrounding area had not been touched for decades. When he turned back to the stone, the inscription was gone, reduced to a mess of scratches and lines worn down by the passage of time.
Meanwhile, Yuuko made her own discovery. A plot of ground before another tombstone, bearing the same date of 4661 AR, was in ruins. The ground buckled and cracked, looking as though something from underground had forced its way to the surface. Indeed, a quick survey of the surrounding area found skeletal footprints leading straight toward town. As the creature they fought before had been a zombie, with flesh still attached, this realization was chilling.
No sooner had they come to this conclusion than the ground before several other gravestones bulged violently, releasing a squad of four animated skeletons, which moved as a group to attack them.
Tataco and Yuuko put Parva between them, an arrow from the hunter’s bow reducing a skeleton’s skull to dust even as Yuuko crushed one coming at Parva with her three-section staff. The remaining two skeletons took the Paladin by surprise by acting in tandem, one slipping behind her and harrying her from both sides. As their claws raked across her, dropping her into unconsciousness, she noted that such behavior was far too intelligent for the supposedly mindless undead.
With Yuuko down, Tataco and Parva stood back to back, the former firing arrows from his bow but to little effect on the skeletons’ loose frames. Parva deftly activated one of his bombs and threw it over one of the skeletons, careful to angle the blast so as not to hit Yuuko’s prone form. Though it was not a direct hit, the ensuing explosion was enough to shatter the skeleton, sending its bones spinning outward to lie scattered across the ground.
Sensing the opportunity, Tataco quickly drew three arrows from his quiver, firing them all simultaneously and planting one each in the skeleton’s eye sockets and nasal cavity. The force of the impact sent its skull barreling away and, with a final screech, its body collapsed to the ground in a heap.
Though worried by what had just occurred, Tataco and Parva wasted no time in hauling Yuuko back to town and the temple of Pharasma. There, for a paltry sum, the acolytes cast healing spells on her until she was awake and in full health once again. While Parva paid the spellcasters from his personal funds, Father Grimburrow approached and delivered them important news. The town council of Ravengro had met in the town hall, deciding that they could no longer overlook the strange events that had befallen their town, and had requested the presence of the travelers as soon as they were able.
On their return, the three met up with Sheriff Caeller, who grimaced at their reports of undead activity in the Restlands, before following them into the town hall.
It seemed the majority of the village was in attendance, including Kendra sitting in one of the back rows, as Chairman Vashian Hearthmount spoke from a lectern at the head of the hall. He addressed the party as they arrived, stating that as friends and colleagues of Professor Lorrimor, whom the town still blamed for this recent string of events, it was their responsibility to investigate Harrowstone and put a stop to whatever dark forces were exerting their influences upon the village. Though harsh, his anger soon broke, and he belatedly admitted that the travellers may indeed be their only hope for Ravengro’s safety.
Hearthmount’s speech was interrupted by a sudden scream, as a string of bloody letters formed on the wall behind him, spelling out the mantra:

“The woman will die again!”

At the same time, the hall’s windows burst inward in an explosion of glass as four flying skulls wreathed in flame entered. The skulls chattered madly, gleefully flitting to and fro and setting the ancient wooden building aflame. Quickly, the Ravengro villagers were on their feet, screaming and pushing toward the exit doors, which Sheriff Caeller wasted no time in throwing open.
Attempts by Caeller and Yuuko to direct the crowd more efficiently to the exit were lost in the confusion, and Parva’s loud proclamation that they would end up just like those trapped in the Harrowstone fire only added to the chaos and panic. Tataco, wasting no time, shot one of the skulls out of the air with an arrow, reducing it to a pile of ash before readying another shot.
Kendra was also at the forefront, casting water spells to douse the flames and mitigate their spread, but several villagers were put in danger as the skulls flew forward and knocked them unconscious, leaving them to burn in the encroaching flames.
Using her prodigious strength, Yuuko grabbed two of the unconscious villages and made her way to one of the broken windows, with Kendra magically extinguishing the fire before her. Her advance was blocked just before the window by a wall of flame and a chattering skull which had flown forward to halt her rescue. Just then, an arrow from Tataco’s bow plucked the skull out of the air, shattering it, as Parva coolly stepped into the flames between Yuuko and the window. The fire licked and burned at the doctor’s clothes and bare skin, but he paid it no mind, showing not even the slightest pain as he helped Yuuko lever the two unconscious villagers outside and to safety.
Meanwhile, the two remaining skulls had knocked several other villagers unconscious and the fire was quickly spreading out of control. Yuuko managed to get Chairman Hearthmount to stop screaming long enough to order him to pick up a body and make for the exit, but just as he was about to comply, a flying skull cracked him across the head and he joined the bodies on the floor.
Sheriff Caeller stepped forward, pulling a battered pistol from his belt and leveling it at one of the skulls, but the shot went wild, nearly hitting the prone form of Hearthmount and jamming the barrel. Tataco, dancing back from the flames, put an arrow through one of the remaining skulls, before stringing another and aiming for the last one. Meanwhile, Parva and Caeller grabbed the bodies of two villagers, as Yuuko hefted the last one and the corpulent body of Hearthmount himself, Kendra’s continued water spells keeping her safe from the flames. As Taco finished off the last skull, the group ran outside with their charges, and had barely made it out the door before the building collapsed behind them into a flaming ruin.
Father Grimburrow was waiting for them as they escaped. His acolytes had already begun treating the more grievously wounded villagers, and carrying the others back to the temple for further treatment. The Father’s expression was as bleak as his namesake, but he informed the party that there had been no permanent injuries or deaths, and thanked them for their heroic response.
Grimburrow echoed the council’s thoughts on Harrowstone, promising the adventurers a sum of 500 gold each if they would investigate the prison and put a stop to the hauntings plaguing the town. With a glance at the darkening evening sky, he cautioned them not to go at night, but to get some rest and begin their explorations in the morning.
Though rattled by recent events, Parva led the others on a mission to the Pharasmian Temple Library, determined to learn about as much of the history of Harrowstone as possible before the next day.
There, aided by Father Grimburrow and his aides, the three pored over book after book, discovering much about the history of the prison. They learned of the five most deadly prisoners kept there, and shuddered at tales of The Lopper, The Piper of Illmarsh, The Mosswater Marauder, Father Charlatan, and the infamous Splatter Man. Parva also had the foresight to research the Whispering Way, and learned something of their secretive society. Before they left, the three pursued one last topic, and were surprised to learn that the library did indeed contain information on the mysterious Dr. D. It was revealed that a serial killer by the same name was responsible for a series of politically-minded murders across Ustalav almost 200 years ago, and was never caught.
By the end of their research, the night was fully upon them, and they returned to the Lorrimor Place to get rest for their venture on the morrow. Kendra was exhausted from the day’s events and went straight to bed, even as Tataco sneaked out of the manor and into the forest, intent on finding the missing member of their troupe.
Though also tired, Yuuko and Parva were kept awake by the metallic smell of blood which seemed to pervade the second floor of the manor. Yuuko was unable to pinpoint the source of the smell, but Doctor Rigeuer, with his keen senses, quickly found the source to be Tataco’s room. They threw open the door and were greeted by the sight of Tataco Taco’s name, spelled on the wall in drying blood.
Neither of the two knew why such a thing would be in their comrade’s bedroom, and an argument on how to deal with it quickly ensued. Yuuko wanted to clean the blood up, as its very presence in the house offended her, but Parva was adamant that they keep the evidence intact. A compromise was eventually reached in which Yuuko would leave a scrubbing brush and bucket of water in the room, and would clean the mess up after showing it to Kendra in the morning. Throughout all of this, the resident of the room himself was conspicuously empty.
That having been settled, Parva and Yuuko went to sleep in their own rooms, but were awoken after only a few hours by a crash and scream from Kendra’s room. They bolted into the hallway to find Kendra’s door wide open, and the prone body of Gibs Hephenus lying on her floor in a pool of his own blood. Kendra was backed into a corner, staring fearfully at them. As Yuuko went to comfort her, Kendra pointed and they both realized that she was staring not at them, but at something behind them.
The two turned and were met with a tall figure standing in the shadows of the hallway. Shrouded in a dark cloak, he wore a long plague doctor’s mask with smoked goggles beneath a wide, floppy black hat. The man bowed grandiosely and retrieved a note from the breast pocket of his well-tailored suit, which he dropped to the ground before darting out of the room, graceful as a shadow.
Parva retrieved the envelope, which was emblazoned with an elaborate letter “D”, and the realization struck both of them that the murderous Dr. D had just saved Kendra’s life.

The Shadow over Ravengro

With Gibs behind bars and the immediate threat contained, the group pondered their next move. Without many leads to work on, Parva produced the thick purple volume that Lorrimor had left in their care, its cover embossed with a golden eye, a scarab, and a strange triangular lock. Their attempts to open it having failed, the adventurers called upon the town smith, a middle-aged Dwarf woman named Jorfa.
The strange mechanism was beyond her skills as a locksmith, but Jorfa assured them that she could force the book open if they so desired, although the book may be damaged in the process. His curiosity overcoming his doubts, Parva warily agreed. With a deft smash from her smith’s hammer, Jorfa smashed the lock on the cover of the book and it sprang open. The Dwarf did not accept payment for the service, pleased enough to see new faces around Ravengro.
Its lock shattered, the book would no longer close. Furthermore, it appeared to be written in some strange coded version of Varisian. Kendra claimed to be able to crack the code, but it would take her several hours. With the book and the group’s blessing, she returned to the Lorrimor Estate to begin translation.
As the day drew to an end, the group retired to a nearby pub known as The Laughing Demon. Run by a fat, smiling man named Zokar Elkarid, the bar prided itself on its sense of morbid humor, serving such specials as “Corpse Chowder” or “Ghost Ale”. After chatting amicably with Zokar, the adventurers ordered a bowl of corpse chowder each, and relaxed while a small band struck up a folk ensemble in the corner.
It quickly became apparent that something was not right with the music as the piper began to dance and spin wildly, his hands gripped tightly upon his flute and his eyes reflecting abject terror. Before the group could react, a duo of huge blood-sucking insects swept down from the rafters and attacked frantically, their wings beating in time to the fevered piping. Zokar, returning from the kitchen with arms full of chowder bowls, was knocked on his side, the bowls shattering and white broth splattering around him. Parva was the first struck afterwards, as a stirge barreled into him and latched on with its sharp legs, driving its thin proboscis deep into his skin and sucking his blood.
Panicked by the giant bug’s attack, Parva attempted to pry it off with his dagger but, as its huge chitinous body swung wildly, only succeeded in stabbing himself in the shoulder. Tataco quickly unstrung his bow, firing at the stirge on Parva and succeeding in punching a painful hole through one its wings. Yuuko followed up on the attack, her katana drawing a curved line through the air as its point passed mere inches from Parva’s face before cleaving the stirge in half, the two pieces falling twitching to the ground.
Dekhaim, keeping his wits, noticed the strange and terrified antics of the piper on stage, and charged with his staff, aiming to knock the man out, but swung wide, the momentum carrying him past the piper and into the wall, where the knob of his weapon punched a hole in the wooden wall and lodged there, immobile. Parva, though still shocked and bleeding from his wounds, seized the opportunity and drove the hilt of his dagger heavily into the piper’s crotch. With a small gasp and a whimper, the man crumpled and hit the floor unconscious.
The other stirge, which had failed to find purchase on any of its targets, was left confused and bewildered as the music vanished. It attempted to escape through one of the pub windows, but an arrow from Taco and quick slash from Yuuko’s katana turned it into a grisly blood splatter across the wall opposite.
Zokar was grateful to the travellers, despite the damage to his bar, and presented them with a free helping of corpse chowder each, along with a mug of his signature ghost ale. As the barkeep worked on putting together the second meal, Yuuko helped Dekhaim pull his staff from the wall, and the group attended to the collapsed piper, who was only now regaining consciousness.
Though they questioned him mercilessly, the man was bewildered, still in shock and claimed not to have had control over himself. According to him, a ghostly tune had echoed to him from across the river and, before he knew it, he was spinning and kicking, mirroring the music on his own pipe without any control over his body. Though dissatisfied with the answer, the group of adventurers was mollified and, after eating their chowder, took the piper into custody and made to deliver him to Sheriff Caeller’s jail for the night.
As they approached the low and forbidding Ravengro jail, a screeching sound like tortured metal met their ears, followed by a resounding crash. The group hurried inside to find Caeller standing facing the cell containing Gibs Hephenus, his hand on his sword. Gibs stood tall and stiff in the center of his cell, the heavy metal cot usually affixed to the wall instead bent at an unnatural angle and shoved violently through the bars of the cell.
As everyone entered, Gibs turned to face them, his face filled with rage and his eyes a stark white with no pupil.
“You shall not prevent our escape! The woman will die again!” he shouted in a deep, booming voice before collapsing to the ground.
Parva and the others rushed forward, but were halted by Caeller, who pointed to Gibs’ prone body on the floor of his cell. The man was crumpled in an odd position, but his chest rose and fell regularly and, as they stood there, let out a brief but audible snore.
Shaken, Caeller agreed to take the piper in and bid the travellers be careful. The recent events had been more violent and frightening than anything he had encountered during his time as Ravengro sheriff, and he worried for the future of the town and all its residents. Bidding the sheriff and flautist farewell, the group returned to the Lorrimor Place and retired for the night. Tataco, not willing to sleep again in his room with the bloody letters scrawled upon the wall, instead opted to rest outside, snuggling up next to Bearington as the cold night overtook them.

The next day, Tataco was woken by Sheriff Caeller pounding on the door of the estate. Rounding the corner, he saw that the man’s face was stark white and his hands shaking. Something had happened in town square again, much more brutal than the last time, and the sheriff wanted the group to accompany him down to see it for themselves.
After everyone was roused, Parva finding a translated copy of the book on his doorstep, they set off, leaving Kendra to rest after spending the night awake breaking the code. As they approached the town square, they came upon a grisly spectacle.
Groups of Ravengro citizenry stood apart and around the front of the butcher’s store where, strung up like a hock of meat on a large metal hook, Hoffman’s body swung silently from side to side. His skin was deathly white, and his stomach cut open with surgical precision, revealing a gaping maw with all of the organs removed.
Caeller was quick to fill them in, explaining that he had found the butcher like this today while making his morning rounds, and below him had found a small note emblazoned with a stylized letter “D”. The note, though sinister, meant nothing to him, and he allowed the group to read it as he made to disperse the onlookers and removed Hoffman’s body from its perch.
After going through the paper’s grisly contents, the travellers met once again with Sheriff Caeller who, frightened for the safety of his town, appointed them all deputy sheriffs for the time being, and asked them to help investigate as he attempted to calm the townsfolk down. Bearing their newfound positions, the group’s first action was to question the butcher’s widow. Though recalcitrant, she eventually let on that her son had gone to another town to inform relatives of Hoffman’s death, and hinted that their marriage had not, perhaps, been a happy one. She had heard nothing the night of the occurrence, and had slept soundly until the morning, when Caeller had woken her up after finding her husband’s corpse. When asked whether she had heard him get out of bed in the night, she revealed that she and Hoffman had slept in separate beds in different rooms.
Meanwhile, with the help of Sir Bearington Banjo’s nose, Dekhaim and Tataco found a trail leading from the body to an old house behind the nearby apothecary. A look in the windows revealed the lower level to be unused, with white sheets over the furniture and dust undisturbed upon the floor. As they pounded upon the door to the second floor, accessed via a flight of stairs in the rear of the house, they were accosted by Jominda, the owner of the apothecary. Jominda, though annoyed at having trespassers upon her property, told them that she lived on the second floor, and the first floor was where her parents had lived until their deaths several years ago.
After some pressing, and a bit of intimidation, the apothecary further revealed that she would receive occasional visits from a man who called himself Dr. D, the same as the name signed at the end of the murderer’s note. He would pay exorbitant prices for some of her less-legal stock, mostly poisons of various potency, but she had never seen his face. While in her shop, Dr. D was always covered by a cloak and a long plague doctor’s mask beneath a wide hat, none of his skin or features exposed.
This lead exhausted, Parva decided to read the translation Kendra had provided, but was disappointed to learn that there was very little sinister about the purple book. Known as the Manual of the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye, the tome detailed magical rituals and theories, but read more like a textbook than a piece of cult literature. Deciding to do some more research, Parva left the others at the apothecary and set off across the square to the town hall and the library within.
As he approached the building, the sound of coughing and retching led him to an alley nearby, where he discovered a man in a cloak and hood leaning upon the wall for support. Parva moved to aid him, but the stench of rotting flesh keyed him off just in time, as the man looked violently up to him, revealing a face with half the skin flayed off and rotted in other places.
The zombie gave a shriek and moved to attack him, but Doctor Rigueur was faster, sprinting back across the square and calling for his comrades. Yuuko, Dekhaim, and Tataco moved quickly to assist him, running toward the zombie even as Parva ran away. A well-aimed arrow from Taco planted itself deep in the creature’s skull, blasting through its eye, and caused the zombie to stagger before renewing its pursuit.
Emboldened by the monster’s injury, Parva stopped momentarily and retrieved a bomb from his belt, activating it and hurling it across the square. Though it was a long distance, especially for a thrown weapon, and difficult to aim, the bomb sailed through the air on a perfect trajectory and, like the wrath of science itself, struck the zombie full in the chest before exploding, blasting the creature into nothing more than bloody gibbets that rained down across the square.

Arrival in Ravengro

The late Professor Petros Lorrimor’s funeral was held on the 30th of Calistria. Being a man of few friends, only the professor’s own daughter and a group of the town’s most prominent citizenry were in attendance for his burial in the Restlands. The ceremony’s beginning, however, heralded the arrival of a quartet of strangers from outside of Ravengro. Three men of various countenances and one girl of far Eastern descent, they were supposedly all called to the town to hear the reading of the late Lorrimor’s will.
It was the three men who accepted the honor of carrying the Professor’s coffin to its final resting place. All of them tall and fit, the coffin’s weight was borne evenly by them and a single villager, a motley group of two half-elves and an odd man with blue skin.
No sooner had they begun their trek across the Restlands, however, than a grizzled old veteran stepped out to bar their way, flanked by many of the town’s hotheaded and traditional youths. Gibs Hephenus, as he was quickly identified by Kendra, exchanged some harsh words with the mob, revealing that they deemed Professor Lorrimor a practitioner of dark Necromancy, and would not have him buried alongside their ancestors.
Irate, the villagers approached with clubs and pitchforks at the ready, but with a few soothing words from Kendra and Yuuko, the Eastern girl called by Lorrimor’s will, the fight left them and the crowd quickly dispersed, leaving a deflated Gibs to face the wrath of Father Grimburrow, who had arrived during the confusion.
Though old, Grimburrow was possessed of a spry strength and a powerful presence, and sent Gibs running back to town with a few well-placed strikes from his walking stick. After apologizing to the group, he led them to the burial site, and they reverentially lowered the Professor’s coffin into its plot. After saying a short sermon to Pharasma, Grimburrow finally realized that something was amiss with the group of travelers. Indeed, the tall blue man, Dekhaim Balust, dressed in odd furs and feathers, was attended by a bear. A small bear, perhaps, but still an odd sight in Ravengro, and wearing a backpack no less.
After being assured by Parva Rigueur, a half-elf from the city of Lepidstadt, that the bear was a holy animal and merely here to bless the ceremony, Grimburrow was placated, and finished his sermon. He then invited the assembled group to say a few words about the deceased Professor, but the only one to step forward was again Kanzaki Yuuko, who spoke a short piece entrusting Lorrimor’s soul to Shizuru, the Empress of Heaven.
The ceremony finished, the remaining villagers dispersed back to their daily duties, save for Councilman Vashian Hearthmount, who approached the group of four travelers and one bear. It was arranged that they would all meet at the Lorrimor residence that night where Vashian, the closest thing to a legal official in the small town, would give an official reading of Professor Lorrimor’s will.
Indeed, after they were led back to Kendra’s inherited manor on the hill south of town, it was not long before the Councilman arrived, bearing a thin scroll case containing the Professor’s will. The majority of the will was directed toward the Professor’s old friends, Parva Rigueur, and one Dekhaim Balust, who was mentioned repeatedly as Lorrimor’s old partner in science, though he had no memory of such a relationship. In addition to leaving them a group of books to be delivered to his colleagues in Lepidstadt, the will also bade them stay and watch over Kendra for the span of a month, for which purpose he had also called Yuuko and Tataco, bodyguards of some particular skill.
The reading done, Councilman Hearthmount excused himself, leaving quickly into the dark and rain, while Kendra gave the group lodgings and bade them stay for a short time, at least, while she decided whether or not to sell the old estate. Being somewhat overwhelmed by the day’s events, she soon retired to bed, the others not long behind her.

It was that night, in Tataco Taco’s room, that a dark force began to make itself known. As he was preparing for bed, the half-elf noticed that the window, closed against the rain merely moments before, was now wide open and filled with bars, trapping him inside. Indeed, the door to the room had been replaced with a heavy steel portal, his bed a mass of vermin-infested straw, and a pot of moldy gruel lying haphazardly upon the floor. Before he could react, a massive pounding echoed through the room, a force hammering upon the walls from all sides, particularly from beneath the floor, from whence Tataco could hear screams and the lick of flames upon the wood.
Bewildered, he turned to see, upon the wall above his bed, streaks of blood spelling out a word, slowly, letter by letter.
He awoke with a start, drenched with sweat in his normal bed, the room returned to how it had been before. However, glaring at him from the wall, his name remained scrawled in blood.

The next day, Yuuko fixed breakfast while the others arose and performed their morning ablutions. Before Tataco could mention the strange occurrence from last night, however, a pounding at the door summoned Parva, who found Benjan Caeller, the town sheriff, standing at the doorstep, surrounded by a ring of worried villagers.
Apologizing for interrupting their meal, the sheriff asked them to come to the town square as soon as they were finished, to answer some questions about a strange event the previous night.
His moment gone, Tataco said nothing more as they finished their meal and, together with Kendra, began the hour-long trek down the hill to Ravengro proper. Along the way, the group encountered a group of ragtag Varisian girls, playing hop rope to the time of a rather disturbing and gruesome rhyme. Yuuko was, with some coaxing, able to approach the children and ask them where they had learned the words, but they assured her that it was something that “all children know”, before scampering off back to the town.

Upon reaching the town square, the reason for the townsfolk’s concern was immediately evident. The Harrowstone Memorial, a tall pillar in the center of town bearing the names of those who died in the infamous Harrowstone Fire many centuries ago, had been defaced, a huge letter “V” scrawled upon it in what appeared to be blood. After some talking, the group was able to convince Sheriff Caeller that they had nothing to do with the vandalism and, somewhat disappointed, the crowd of villagers returned to their daily tasks.
Further examination of the monument revealed that the V was written directly above the name “Hawkran” and, using his skills as an alchemist, Parva was able to determine that it was written in some sort of animal blood, likely that of a chicken. Though baffled by the events, Kendra proved herself a valuable font of information, postulating that the rhyme the children were singing before was a reference to five particularly evil prisoners who were incarcerated at Harrowstone the night of the fire. One of these five, known only as The Splatterman, believed that writing his victim’s name out in blood would give him power over them, and that killing a person just as their name was finished was an act of distinct beauty. Once again, Tataco remained fastidiously quiet on the subject.
By searching the ground around the monument, Yuuko and Dekhaim were able to find tracks leading directly up to the scrawled letter, then back toward the river and the farmland to the South. Acting upon the knowledge that the blood was that of a chicken, Parva, Tataco and Kendra decided to question the nearby butcher, while Yuuko and Dekhaim, with the help of his erstwhile companion Sir Bearington, followed the tracks to their origin.
Ravengro’s butcher, a beefy man named Hoffman, was less than eager to help the outsiders, and only with some coaxing from Kendra did he reveal that he had not sold any chickens that day or the day prior. However, he did reveal that he received his chickens from a farm just south of Kendra’s residence, the same direction that the others had left following the tracks.

Thus is was that both parties converged on a small shack on the edge of a farm bordering the river, the tracks leading directly up to its door. The inhabitant was revealed to be none other than Gibs Hephenus, the rough veteran soldier who had attempted to bar their entry into the Restlands just a day hence. Gibs was flush with alcohol and angry at the intrusion, and only with some very careful diplomacy was the group able to convince him to let them search the premises.
Before long, Bearington dug up a razor and a waterskin full of what Parva confirmed as chicken blood buried behind the log pile behind the house. Though Gibs admitted to the razor being his, he claimed no knowledge of how it had gotten there, and to never having seen the waterskin in his life.
Though his drunken hangover was cured by one of Doctor Rigueur’s alchemical concoctions, Gibs was no more willing to admit to the vandalism, nor would he follow the group to the square to speak with the sheriff. Eventually, they were forced to fetch Caeller themselves, while Tataco and Bearington stood guard over Hephenus’ shack. There, on that fateful hill under the midday sun, Tataco finally divulged the secret of the blood in his room to a backpack-wearing bear.
Fortunately, Benjan Caeller was all too willing to arrest Gibs, reasoning that, guilty or not of the vandalism, he would cause trouble on his own before long if allowed to run loose. When Hephenus refused to go with even the town sheriff, Caeller caught him with an expert punch to the temple that sent him crumpling to the ground unconscious. Together, the group dragged Gibs away and finally locked him in the small Ravengro jail.

Petros Lorrimor's Last Will and Testament

“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 orsell 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 three final favors to ask.
“To my old friends Parva and Dekhaim, I hate to impose upon you, but there are few others who are capable of appreciating the true significance of what it is I have to ask. As you surely 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 the course of 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, posthumously. 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.
“In addition, I hereby bequeath to my old friend and peer Dekhaim Balust the key to our old laboratory in the University of Lepidstadt. I know that I cannot make reparations for what I have done to you, and you will not be warmly welcomed back at the University, but perhaps, now that I am gone, you may begin to set right what we wrought so many years ago.
“Before you leave for Lepidstadt however,, there is the matter of one last favor—please delay your journey one month and spend that period of time 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. I do not expect any physical harm to come to her or yourselves, but to ensure your safety against any beings of darkness who might yet hold a grudge against me and mine, I have also requested the presence of two warriors I met throughout my travels abroad. They have special skills that may be of use to you, should the situation arise.
“From my savings, I have also willed to each of you, colleagues and bodyguards alike, 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 Calistril.”


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