Scrivener's Prophecy

The first week or so in Ravengro - a recap from a different perspective

A Wizard's Recap

For well over a week, we have been languishing in the town of Ravengro. Ravengro – such a name pretty well typifies the atmosphere of this backwater area of the world. Nothing says, “Look out; you’re in Ustalav, where werewolves and vampires lurk behind every tree, and the gloom is palpable even for the living dead,” quite like a town with “Raven” as the primary component of its appellation. And this is coming from me, who has been told frequently, since the untimely death of my Sweetybaby, that I languish better than most, and out-gloom even those from-beyond creatures composed of sentient gloom.

Things started off reasonably well – with a funeral. I travelled to Ravengro with Adjunct Kazare (now, as a result of the death by which the funeral was necessitated, a full professor), whose capacity for curiosity is insatiable. We came to attend the interment of a friend, and the man whose good graces provided me a professorship at his university – one Professor Lorrimer. I was incarcerated briefly in a cell neighboring the Professor’s – maximum of two or three hours that I recall – which may seem odd as far as being the catalyst for employment as a language instructor, but which, in retrospect, may be the least weird thing about interactions with him. Even after his death…
And then I met the rest of those whose names were in the will.
A dwarf holy man, and paragon of his kind. If you were to envision the embodiment of “Dwarf,” you would likely come up with Kharak. Plate mail, glorious beard, gruff voice, hard drinking, battle-axe – the very image of, “I am a dwarf, and I am going to try as hard as possible to demonstrate that I am a dwarf.” He also brought his “sister,” who is a gnome. I find this… Unlikely.
A paladin. A skin-crawlingly righteous paladin. A virtuous, upstanding, extroverted paladin . From Ustalav. The irony, given that the entire nation is, I am convinced, beset by Terrible Things against which I have warded myself with garlic, wolfsbane and mirrors for the two years I have lived at the university, is that such a place could produce something this devout without causing a rift between the planes.
A pirate. Really. No, I am not kidding. A pirate. A pirate who, oddly enough, and for reasons I will go into later, I need to ensure has no idea how ridiculous I find having a pirate around to be. Good enough with a gun, though, so I shall give her that. Otherwise, I am sure we would be butting heads frequently, and she would probably not like me. For now, though, I think I am reasonably placed on her good side.
Professor Kazare. A silver-scaled kobold – anomalous, apparently. He has been a wonderful research assistant when on loan from Professor Lorrimer, as well as a subject of study by those more inclined to physiological and sociological experimentation. Now that he is a full professor, though, I expect to see his pet freely walking the corridors of the university, which may serve as a source of amusement.
The professor’s daughter. So like my Sweetykins in so many ways, and yet intriguingly different in so many others. I feel the darkness within me abate before her shining light, and long to share my days with her, releasing the remembrance of my Sweetycakes and moving on with my life as I am sure Sweetybuns would have wanted. By dint of the will, the pirate mentioned above is now Kendra’s (I wrote it! Wrote the lovely name!) adopted sister. I must stay on the pirate’s good side, lest she scuttle my best efforts at wooing. I am not sure how I would handle that…
The first couple of days in town were largely uneventful. Adjunct Kazare and I spent hours discussing myriad arcane theories, when not playing cards. He was rather less shocked than I would have thought when the ghostly presence in the Harrow deck manifested, and instead unleashed his curiosity on her.
Then came the funeral day. Those of us serving as pallbearers (including Kendra’s ex-betrothed – feh) were disrupted in our duty by locals accusing Professor Lorrimer of necromancy. Would that I had more power at my command – burning from within would have been too good for them after making such a suggestion. I, myself, felt a burning within, but it was merely my own fury, and not a force destructive enough to cause those hayseeds harm. Necromancy. NEVER! Never would either of us have any truck with the creation of the undead – I know this from personal discussions with him, and trusted him at his word. Also, one’s power must not be diluted through the creation of such monstrosities – he was wise enough to know that, though it was not something I ever touched on with him.
Gibbs. The chief hayseed, who I decided to have words with later in the evening – out of earshot of the paladin and, indeed, anyone who might report a less-than-diplomatic question and answer session to the paladin – backed down with his tiny mob, and scuttled off. We buried the Professor without further incident, and proceeded to the reading of the will.
Joy of joys, we were not so much invited as instructed to stay with Kendra in order to ensure her well-being and acceptance by the community. I believed that I would have ample opportunity to prove myself to her, and I have been doing so since.
That night, I made my way to Gibbs’ house – I may have been a bit abrupt in quitting the dinner table and stalking off into the night, but I believe the appearance of being proactive in defense of her father’s memory impressed Kendra. In hindsight, however, I may have quite forgotten to mention what I was doing, why I was doing it, or where I was going. Damage done, move on. While travelling up the road towards Gibbs’, which coincidentally lies closest to the burned out hulk of Harrowstone Prison, I heard the sound of a cart pass me on the road, spraying gravel and creating grooves in the path. Oddly, there was nothing to be seen, and the sound was audible only when the nonexistent cart was in close proximity to me. I will not say that I swear to have heard it, because that would indicate that I am attempting to convince someone of something that I am not entirely sure of – I heard that cart, period.
Arriving at Gibbs’ house, there was no one at home. I am sure there was not, for I knocked, then spoke loudly, and then knocked again. It was shortly after 9 PM. I set up comfortably on the front porch, watching to see if anything odd was happening around the prison – Gibbs’ view of the structure was amazingly clear, and all approaches were covered. There was nothing. Upon deciding to leave around 2 AM, I knocked one more time, and he answered the door looking groggy, wearing his nightshirt, and with a small amount of blood on his hand. Only very slightly odd in a country like this, but he was in no mood to answer questions, so I went back to the house.
The next day, we were informed that a bloody “V” had been drawn on the monument to Harrowstone’s heroic guards. I immediately stalked off with the sheriff, again, now that I consider it, without really explaining my purpose, and thus potentially seeming aloof and disinterested to lovely Kendra. I have been getting better, but still have a lot to work on… I think she is warming to me, though, and I believe I may have successfully enlisted her new sister in helping me win her heart, as the pirate smiles a lot when I am around.
At the monument, I found the “V,” as well as a rat split down the middle and likely the source of the blood used to write the letter. I considered telling the Sheriff of my encounter with Gibbs, but a spot of blood and a disemboweled rat were thin evidence at best – my guess is that such things are far, far from unusual in scenic Ustalav.
We spent the day researching the prison, checking leads, and generally looking for ways to help the poor, poor town that was suddenly beset by all this ugliness. We had an uneventful time. Well, except for the pirate and the dwarf – they apparently killed some centipedes in a crypt that they were robbing. Professor Kazare was happy about that, as they provided an outlet for his culinary experimentation. I decided against trying “Cooked Bug,” as I am sure he named the dish.
Upon waking the next day, we were informed that a second letter had appeared. This time it was an “E.” Inwardly, my thought was that one of the vast population of creatures of the night that must inhabit this area was simply making its intentions clear: “Ve vant to suck your blood.” Then I chuckled. Then I discarded the idea as silly, as those creatures would not announce their intentions, but would rather sweep over the town and leave us all desiccated husks. Then I shuddered, and decided to double-bar the windows at night.
I took my suspicions to the sheriff and told him that I would watch the monument that night, after he flatly told me that his deputies would not be staying out at night, in the woods, to watch a monument that someone was writing on in blood. Given my own feelings about the country, I could not blame him, and I set about trying to engineer a way to excuse myself from doing so, too. The dwarf’s gnome “sister,” and the gnome bard who had attached himself to her hip (name of Taproot, or something – I’m terrible with names…) obliged nicely, as they believed they would be less noticeable.
So I got to spend some quality time at home that night, practicing languages with Kendra, and trying my best to include the pirate – thus to show my interest in all of us getting along together as a family.
The gnomes returned after having followed – surprise, surprise – Gibbs from the monument to his home. We decided to take the sheriff up to Gibbs’ house, and were successful in finding the evidence we needed to put him in jail. He honestly did not seem to know that he had done anything wrong, and the dwarf suspected possession. So he stayed with Gibbs in the jail that night.
I was jolted from bed by a scream in the middle of the night, and knew immediately it was the pirate. I wanted to show Kendra that I could be a proper protector, and the opportunity to assist her new sister was too fortuitous to pass up – I sprang across the room, out the door, and slammed into the pirate’s door as hard as I could. It did not work, and I developed a rather ugly bruise shortly thereafter. When the door did open, the pirate’s name was written on the wall in blood, and she was terribly shaken. Kendra thanked me for doing my best to safeguard her sister, and I felt the warmth of genuine affection in her concerned smile.
We found Gibbs dead the next morning. Apparently he died of a fright-induced brain hemorrhage that the dwarf failed to detect. At least the diagnosis of possession was proved correct. Blasted Ustalav…
There was a meeting scheduled for the evening. Everyone in the town hall. Deeply tuned, as I am, to dark vibrations in the tapestry of fate, I determined quite early that this was a bad idea. I kept as close to Kendra as possible, the better to protect her from whatever ridiculous, supernatural disaster was going to befall the town.
When the fire started, as I knew it must, it affected a number of people quite badly. I managed to put out one area, and other folks who could bend the very nature of reality to create water where there was none before were similarly successful in extinguishing areas. I implored Kendra to get out, and then hurried to the aid of a townsperson who was awash in flame. I honestly do not know how people exist without the power arcane at their fingertips, as the mundane instructions that I had received since I was a child on how to put a fire out served no purpose. “Beat the flames out with a blanket or other thick cloth.” That is a load of excrement, as the tapestry I used did not retard the flames at all, and may, in fact, have contributed to the death of the towny. Still, I gave it my best effort. Professor Kazare’s pet was extremely useful, and succeeded in un-barring the doors, allowing the assemblage to escape largely unscathed. I directed the departed soul – that I had valiantly tried to save – to Zyphus, as his death was the meaningless death of the hapless, and made sure that Kendra was safe. Then the flaming skulls came through the windows. I loathe the undead. I loathe them with a heat like… Well, a heat like the flames coming off of the skulls. We eliminated them, and they bear no further discussion.
Outside the building, I was directed by someone – upon recollection, I am not sure who – to go to the monument, where I found even more blood, another letter, and the gutted and strung up remains of the sheriff and his deputy. Not having the means to get them down, nor the desire to disturb the scene, lest evidence be lost, I left them in situ, and returned to the town hall. In an unexpected twist, the town has decided to hire the lot of us – we who partook of Professor Lorrimer’s will – to put to rest the entities that are causing these disturbances. Given the various things that we have done around town, and the generally pleasant nature of interactions with townsfolk, they trust us very much. Perhaps much more than we deserve.
Following the affair at the town hall, which is now a smoking hulk but which remains structurally salvageable, the decision was made to visit the prison. Something about fire in this town; as though the prison fire years ago is trying to inflict itself on everything around.
I got out of it! I got out of it, and was able to spend the better part of the day simply spending time with dazzling Kendra. We discussed the finer points of magical practice, and laughed about the common misconceptions of the Art. Her laugh is musical and infectious, and the day was one of the most pleasant that I have yet had since my Sweetybird was abruptly taken from me.
The others fared somewhat worse. They came back from the prison looking rather whipped, and the gnome of the woods had a rather large (proportionately) brand on her forehead. The pirate had one on her shoulder, and I extended due concern for her well being. She then said that she wrestled a scythe – for which I really had no response other than confused lack of understanding. Between their tales of animated brands, animated scythes, slamming doors, Ticklepie’s skeleton swim, and a ghost whose attitude is on the dour side of… well, my own, I began to believe that regardless of the actual map, we might actually be at the geographical center of classically eerie Ustalav.
Shortly after everyone else had gone to bed, the pirate brought to me the scarab book that I now notice I never mentioned above. She must trust me a great deal, which bodes well for my continued future with Kendra. In any event, there was little of note, save that a network of operatives for a secret society had been studying events like that happening in Harrowstone, and Professor Lorrimer was among their number. I began to believe that we had been collected into one of the more obscure storybook tales of fabulous Ustalav – rather than being stalked by vampires or werewolves, or assailed by endless zombies, or hounded relentlessly by a flesh golem who picks off family members one at a time, it might be that we were twisted by Ustalav’s flexible reality into the pages of a penny mystery. I was mortified, of course, by the low-brow nature of our plight – but I was oddly calm, for the rules in such a setting are largely immutable. There are rules for dealing with hauntings, and if we were to be consigned to solving a storybook ghost tale, those rules would hold firm.
After cooing goodbye to Kendra in the morning, I sallied forth with the rest for the second day of exploring the ruin. I saw the steps they had taken to avoid being further startled by doors (iron pitons wedging them open), and the remnants of the skeletons that had been at Tinderbox. Frankly, I was unsure what the big deal was at that point. There seemed to be nothing indicating a major haunting at that point.
We entered the judgment chamber, whereupon we discovered quite a lot of moldy nothing, though persistence brought us to a concealed evidence room containing articles belonging to the worst five of the prisoners held in the prison at the time of the fire. The items were distributed amongst us, though, looking back, this seems to have been a horrible idea. I got a book belonging to the self-styled “Splatter Man.” Ah, Ustalav… You are nothing if not predictable. Sadly, the book began playing at the back of my mind, and I found myself having difficulty concentrating on casting. It was somewhat worse for the others, as we would discover.
Proceeding through the prison, we came across the furnace room which, in perfectly stylized fashion, erupted in ferocious flames and seemed to take on a sinister appearance. It also screamed the scream of hundreds dying by fire, though a more isolated scream seemed to emanate from inside the apparatus. A couple of us got in some licks quickly – I made as good an attempt to disrupt the force driving the furnace as I could – but it still jetted flame at the paladin, burning him moderately. Then everyone bolted. I am not a brave man, but these people that I am with seem to be even less so. I found myself alone in front of the maw of a great steel engine of malign, fiery destruction. There was no room off to the sides – and out of its line of fire – for me to go. I made one final stab at disrupting the entity, and succeeded, naturally; because nick of time victory over the supernatural is so cloyingly common in the storybooks.
I knew that there would be remains in the furnace, because that is how things like this work. After digging them out, and not really having time for the dwarf to hallow the ground, I simply asked him to deliver a short prayer for the dead and then began tossing bones into the lake – conveniently exposed by the shattered wall of the prison. I explained, as they all looked at me somewhat bemused, that in the absence of a grave in hallowed ground, the best way to put the remains to rest would be consigning them to the deep, as in a sea burial. The pirate shook her head sadly, likely in recognition of such a terrible fate. Though not the sea, the disposal of the remains in a large body of water seemed to serve the same purpose, as the weight in the air lifted, and the furnace was cleansed.
We continued on. And found the cells. And that went poorly.
After a quick encounter with some stirges – because everything, EVERYTHING in this lovely country sucks blood – we found the cell blocks. A body that we quickly identified as the so-called “Father Charlatan” was discovered wrapped in weights and chains. It was exactly the kind of thing I had come to expect – a grim fate. Twixster and the paladin left the cell, and began muttering about eerie music. Shortly thereafter, the dead began to move. The dwarf, the she-gnome and I stayed with the chained corpse in, ironically, the least creepy room on the floor at that particular moment. I heard no music. I heard no music, despite the fact that Tiddlyball was playing the flute, and bleeding from every visible orifice. I assume the not-visible orifices as well, which will necessitate a change of shorts.
A couple of shots rang out as the pirate did what she does best – blindly and wildly shooting at anything that startles her… It is endearing, in its own way. The dwarf, perfectly suited to this particular situation, trotted out of the cell to destroy the zombies, fell down comatose, and was wrapped in spectral chains. Typical. I did not choose to leave the cell, though I did try to disrupt the chains at range, and there was some motion there. The paladin, who was now wielding the axe from the evidence locker more than his shinier, more suitable longsword, and whose weapon hand appeared to still be dripping blood from the stirge encounter, swung at the chains as well, and broke several links – though the fact that blood splattered everywhere when he struck chains made, essentially, of nothing, was somewhat disturbing. But, again, typical…
The pirate, engaging in what appeared to be spectacularly mercenary activity, began rifling the dwarf’s pack. Old habits, I suppose… She did try to wake him with smelling salts, which failed. My guess is that she thought that such mundane items would have an effect on the unknowable of the beyond. I was beginning to think that Kendra and I should gently explain these things to her, without making her feel completely ignorant of the peculiarities of the supernatural, but she surprised us – activating a haunt siphon and breaking the atmosphere in the cell block. Everything quickly returned to regular, gloomy gloom, rather than the heightened, “Good lord it’s gloomy” gloom we had been experiencing.
With that settled, we packed up and left for the day. I was very excited to see delightful Kendra after the day we had had, and looked forward to telling her how well things had gone. But then we will have to go back again tomorrow, and hopefully we will experience further success.
Assuming, of course, that the full weight of the cursed place does not land squarely on us as we sleep tonight.

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