It was early in the bleak morning when the party regrouped and set off again to explore Harrowstone. Kendra and Sheriff Caeller had once again joined their expedition, as the seven adventurers made the long trek up and around the hill to the prison’s gates. Upon arrival, Dekhaim and Tataco called a halt, noticing some movement from inside the courtyard. Several figures, skeletal and drenched, were pulling themselves out of the lake that now made up Harrowstone’s eastern wing.
Without wasting any time, Taco stealthed up to the group of figures, now milling around in the bushes before the lake, and came back with a report of five skeletons and a zombie, possibly waiting for something by their odd antics. Yuuko soon devised a plan, in which Tataco and Caeller would sneak up and flank the group of enemies while she distracted them and drew the skeletons close together. Upon her signal, Taco and Caeller would shoot the zombie from opposite directions, while Parva scattered the skeletons with a well-placed bomb.
Nodding his assent, the sheriff sneaked off to the east, planting himself before a crumbled section of wall that offered a fair view of the courtyard within. His face grim, he came back to the party almost immediately with some harrowing news. The zombie apparently leading the group of undead was none other than Professor Lorrimor himself, his jaw crushed but features still recognizable in death.
Shocked and outraged that the forces creating undead would have gone so far as to use his body, Yuuko bade Kendra stay back, so that she wouldn’t see the second death of her beloved father. With Caeller back in place, Yuuko strode up into view of the skeletons and took a defensive stance. Surely enough, the five undead rushed her, leaving the zombie behind, and surrounded both Yuuko and Parva, who had somehow sidled his way up to the melee and was thus rewarded by a pair of claw strikes that dug painfully into his skin. Sighing, Yuuko crushed the skeleton nearest him with her three-section staff, while Tataco picked off his other assailant from his perch in a nearby tree overlooking the battlefield.
Meanwhile, mostly unharmed by the shots fired by Tataco and Caeller, the Professor’s zombie quickly rounded on the sheriff and rushed him, sinking his rotting teeth deep into the other’s shoulder. With a cry, Caeller tore himself from the zombie’s grasp and danced back a step, firing another shot which thudded through his opponent’s body with a wet “shlup”, doing little to slow him.
A bomb thrown by Parva blasted two of the remaining skeletons apart, and Dekhaim, with Banjo, rounded on the other one while Yuuko rushed to the sheriff’s aid, throwing her staff to the ground and unsheathing her katana in the process. Lorrimor lurched forward again as the others approached, lashing out with both his arms and catching Caeller’s shoulder, drawing him close for another bite. Struggling at first, the sheriff then fell into the zombie’s grapple, using the momentum to shove his pistol directly into the other’s ruined mouth and firing repeatedly. Bullets erupted one after another through the back of Lorrimor’s head, and the zombie was temporarily disoriented as Yuuko and Parva arrived to surround him.
Banjo, facing off with the last skeleton, opened his mouth wide toward it. Rather than a bestial roar, what poured forth from the bear’s maw was a bolt of holy fire, searing through the air to strike the skeleton and dissolve it into a pile of bones and choice ash.
Dekhaim, no longer distracted by his opponent, pulled forth his healing wand and rushed to the injured sheriff, charging across the yard and jabbing the stick forcefully into Caeller’s side, flooding him with healing energy. Parva, meanwhile, danced around the zombie with his punching dagger, puncturing Lorrimor’s putrefying flesh with little effect. He finally scored a hit, burying the dagger to the hilt in the Professor’s eye, but even this did not seem to affect the relentless undead’s advance. Yuuko, meanwhile, slashed at the zombie’s back with her katana, her broad strikes having more of an effect than any of the others’ ministrations. Eventually, under a hail of arrows from Tataco, strikes from Yuuko, and Caeller’s bullets, the Professor’s corpse finally collapsed to the ground, unmoving.
Upon hearing of her father’s second death, Kendra was shaken and grim, but bade Tataco use a vial of alchemist’s fire from her pouch to burn his remains so that this might never happen again. With the Professor’s body cremated and the skeletons in pieces, the group entered Harrowstone and continued their exploration of the second floor.
Upon reaching the attic’s landing, the party found that the wreckage from their previous battle was still in place including the corpses of six giant stirges strewn across the floor. Practicing more caution this time, the group agreed to wait at the head of the stairs while Tataco stealthily checked out the rest of the floor. The half-elf was quick to discover that the western half was comprised almost entirely of cellblocks. Further, each cell had a skeletal occupant, an undead which pounded and scratched at the door as he went by, leering at him from barred windows in the heavy iron doors.
After determining that all the skeletons on this floor were safely locked up, Taco returned to the party and bade them to come with him to examine the few other rooms on this floor. A search of the kitchen, storerooms, and empty eastern cellblock revealed nothing, but a spacious, well-furnished cell to the south held the inanimate skeleton of a priest, weights inscribed with holy symbols weighing down his brittle arms and legs. Next to the body was a small journal, which Parva picked up and was subsequently disappointed to find completely empty.
Soon after Doctor Rigeuer picked up and stashed the journal, Yuuko sensed an evil presence behind him. Indistinct, in the shape of a priest covered in holy symbols, the figure’s hand rested companionably on Parva’s shoulder. Worried, but not wanting to start a panic, Yuuko attempted several methods to drive the spirit off, up to bashing the skeleton’s head in which his own holy symbols, greatly worrying Parva in the process, before suggesting that they simply move on.
The next place of interest was a small guard room, with a heavy iron door leading to the western balcony and locked from the inside. The group moved outside, looking around and noting that the guard tower opposite the balcony appeared to be filled with movement. At the same time, Caeller, Taco, and Yuuko noticed a pair of spectral hands materialize behind the party, floating toward them bearing a wickedly sharp, heavily rusted scythe. The three moved to engage, but the ghost seemed to have only one purpose, moving through and weathering their attacks on a direct course for the unwitting Parva. With a violent slash, the scythe rose and fell, cutting a deep gash into the half-elf doctor’s arm and sending him spinning to the ground. As he hit the wood of the balcony, ghostly chains surrounded him and he fell unconscious, breathing shallowly as he struggled weakly against his bonds.
Parva awoke some time later, lying in a coffin with a kindly, round-faced priest standing over him and smiling. The priest explained that it had been 200 years since Parva’s death, and that they had only just pooled the resources necessary to resurrect him. As a foremost scientist of his time, the priest’s order was very interested in the Doctor’s opinion on all of the many scientific advancements that had been made since his death. Still smiling, the priest offered Parva a hand out of the coffin. As he took it, everything went blood-red around him, and Parva found himself staring into a leering, skull-like visage where the priest’s face had been moments before. Just as suddenly, however, everything returned to normal, and he found himself standing on a green plain with the kindly priest, idyllic hills and houses spreading in every direction to a horizon that seemed… off, somehow.
Back in reality, the party had surrounded the headsman’s scythe and, though none of their attacks had much effect, were beginning to wear it down through sheer relentless beating. Banjo called upon the power of his amulet, channeling holy energy that healed his allies and burnt the spectral hands, scouring them with holy fire. The burst of positive energy had also had an effect on the bonds gripping Parva. Dekhaim, noticing this, began to have an idea and forced his way to the Doctor’s prone figure.
The priest was explaining the wonderful advancements in medical technology and the transformations in organic forms when Parva finally found his voice and asked the other for his name. Grinning widely, the priest bade Parva simply call him “Father”, before continuing his monologue. Again, everything went bloody red as the priest’s face transformed into the disfigured skull. It felt as though something was pulling at the edges of Parva’s muddled mind, and he heard distant screams before once again everything returned to normal. The priest, looking slightly annoyed, now asked Parva to join him inside, beckoning to a huge structure bristling with scientific equipment that had surely not been there only moments before.
Dekhaim knelt by the prone figure of Doctor Rigeuer and called upon the powers of nature to envelop his hand with positive energy before touching the inscribed chains. With a flash of power and a sudden snap, the chains fell apart and Parva awoke suddenly, gasping for air. At the same time, the knot of holy symbols at Yuuko’s belt unraveled, each one slowly falling to the ground, their magical aura gone.
Meanwhile, a final blow sent the scythe spinning and finally reduced the hands holding it to an ectoplasmic vapor, the weapon clattering harmlessly to the ground. Tataco picked the scythe up and stowed it for future use, then, after Parva was brought up to speed on recent happenings, he stealthed over to the nearby tower for a better look. Upon closer inspection, the tower was filled with hordes upon hordes of rats, running around and atop each other in a blind frenzy. The party quickly agreed that they did not want to deal with that and, since Yuuko sensed no evil presence from the tower, they returned to Harrowstone to explore the final floor, the prison’s dungeons.
With the stairs down completely blocked by rubble, the only way into Harrowstone’s basement was the deep hole in the prison’s eastern wing, presumably the remains of an elevator system once used by the guards. Determining the depth to be only about 40 feet, Yuuko anchored a length of silken rope to a sturdy collection of rubble aboveground before climbing her way down into a large cavern, dominated by the pool of water below.
Hanging there as she looked about, there was a sudden splashing of footsteps behind her, as though someone running through the water very fast. When she swung about to look, nothing was there but a strange residue on the walls, like a slug’s trail but much larger. Calling to the others, she moved back and forth until she had enough momentum to swing to the edge of the water, landing safely on the rocky ground beyond it. The rest of the group was quick to follow her, each climbing down until they could throw themselves to solid ground, albeit very reluctantly in the case of Dekhaim, with Banjo clinging to his shoulders.
The cavern tapered off to the west, leading to a large, man-made stone chamber beyond. Parva busied himself examining the substance on the walls while the others split up to explore. The slime was unlike anything he had seen before, and its composition suggested it to be wholly unnatural or artificial in origin. Before he could report his findings, a grossly malformed face and melting torso slid its way out from the wall in front of him, its eyes burning with unnatural hunger.
At the same time, three other variants of the same being were pushing themselves out of the walls near Dekhaim, Kendra, and Caeller, moaning in pain and rage as they swiped at their prey, splattering them with horrifying globs of goo and liquefied flesh. Fortunately, whil terrifying in appearance, the creatures were not formidable in combat. Parva and Kendra suffered minor injuries before Yuuko and Tataco leapt into the fray, cutting with katana and scythe and quickly dispatching two of the beings.
Banjo flew into combat with another, in a flurry of bites and claws which tore it to shreds, ripping the ectoplasmic being’s head off even as he managed to lodge a paw in its gaping, toothy mouth, suffering a minor bite for his efforts.
The last creature terrorized Parva, striking him a few times while the doctor fought back with his dagger, scoring minor hits himself against his opponent. As it was weakened, and drawing back for another strike, Dekhaim imposed himself into the combat, striking punching the monster solidly across the face with a fist wreathed in flame, then watching in satisfaction as it fell to the ground, screaming and melting with a face half caved in from the impact.