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.