Our research in the professor’s library wasn’t all that fruitful, leaving us with no maps and nothing to help describe in exact terms what we might find at the prison ruins. Our morning began with a wake-up from a constable, and the news that another bloody letter – ‘E’ – had been found in town, this time all over the gazebo at its center. This time it was impossible to hide the vandalism from the citizens, who were gathered around, mouths agape.
The sheriff and Councilwoman Mirta Straelock were interested in the idea of us exploring the prison – they seemed receptive to our offers of help. I was still suspicious, but we’d already decided to go to the ruins that day, so it didn’t make much of a difference.
The prison was in a heavily wooded area, surrounded by a wall, and adjacent to a lake (or sinkhole?) that had collapsed the south-eastern portion of the outer wall, and still barred easy entry to the site. We searched the entire perimeter of the wall, and were attacked by four skeletons that rose out of the muddy water – even after thinking over that several times I still cannot determine a specific cause or trigger for the attack. Maybe we got too close, or maybe we were being watched. Nasty as they were, we dispatched them quickly.
In any case, we entered the compound through the open front gates and found the grounds overgrown with gnarled trees, dead brush, and knee-high brown grass, now dead for the season. Overall, the place presented a foul feeling, and I was able to detect a persistent, widespread aura of necromantic magic. Aramond said he could feel the evil from the place, as if the dirt itself had malign intentions. And so we proceeded, exploring the field around the main building, which was partially collapsed, and a side building which appeared to have been the warden’s house. There were also towers built into the walls, with the northern of them seemingly full of rats, from the sounds we heard. I suggested we avoid it; others suggested lighting it on fire. My idea prevailed and we searched the house, instead.
The house was a wreck, and empty of anything of value or interest, and to back outside we went, up to the main entry to the prison. The doors were partially open, and askew on their hinges, but we thought that removing them from their hinges entirely would prevent anyone or thing from locking them behind us.
Inside the foyer, which was about 20×20, there was a font, filled with foul water, as well as four doors: a singles on the right and left walls, and a pair of doubles on the back wall, on either side of the font. Magic emanated from all four doors – necromantic, again, and the whole place, according to Aramond, felt evil. I don’t know how he can feel evil, but I think I can trust him at this point – he’s been reliable thus far.
At this point Rip decided to try and bash through the single door to our left, pounding it mercilessly with his hammer. The door healed itself – I have no other word for it. It bounced back; regenerated; recovered from the mighty blows. I must admit, if only here, that I felt a little sick to my stomach at this point. This place was bad, inside to out.
I had an idea, though, and focused myself so as to disrupt its power, as I’d done against the undead we’d encountered earlier. I don’t know how much impact this really had, but it seemed to weaken the door a bit, and so Rip continued to bash away at it. I think by this point anything living or dead within earshot knew we were here, so creeping about quietly was pointless.
Still the door would not yield…not until Rip had the great idea of simply trying to open it. It opened! How stupid of us. The hall beyond it had three doors along the right wall, and ended in another door and a turn. Again, not wanting to get trapped, we decided to try and remove the door from its hinges – but this time were stopped by the smell and sight of fire beyond – an illusion? It only lasted a moment. Aramond dragged one of the front doors in and we used it to jam this door open, only to watch while the thing battered the stop, sending wood chips flying, as it tried to force itself shut! This place had bad intentions.
The door seemed securely stuck open most of the way, and so we explored the hall and four rooms, which were offices of some sort – prison staff or management of whatever. We collected what papers we could – there were far too many to go through or haul off easily, and so we divided our efforts and looked for names of prisoners or anything else of value.
We did find what seemed like a hastily-written account of prisoners trying to escape and guards and the warden choosing to active a dead-drop to prevent them from doing so, and yet by doing that trapping themselves underground – simply dreadful. And then a fire started, by accident according to this short missive, and there went the place, some 50 years ago.
The last door at the end of the hall had magic behind it, and did not radiate any evil – maybe we could return here for refuge if we needed it? I’d rather seek refuge at Kendra’s house, if that’s any option. Anyway, it seemed like we’d found the warden’s office – which unfortunately held nothing of value beyond a safe, which was stuck in a wall, that we could not open. My cousin Harimon is good at opening things like that – very handy with mechanical things – and for once I wished he were here, even with his stupid jokes and bad breath.
Aramond had noticed, out the barred, filthy windows in the hall, a series of stones in the yard outside, with inscriptions on them. Given that the day was getting long, we decided to take what we’d found and spend some time studying them so that we could get away from the prison before nightfall. One last discovery, from one of the offices (the second one), was a list of some prisoners – seemingly a ‘worst of the worst’ ledger – who were held here when the fire occurred. I quickly wrote down the following names:
- Father Charleton
- The Lopper
- The Mosswater Marauder
- The Piper of Illmarsh
- The Splatterman
Perhaps I could find something about these characters back in town, or in an archive elsewhere.
And so we studied the rocks, which showed a pattern of runes, and emanated auras of both necromancy and abjuration – either something was being held in or kept out, or somehow someone was trying to affect something inside the prison. The rocks ringed the entire building, and trailed off into the water – spelling, over and over, ‘Hawkran’ – the warden’s last name. The stones were recent additions, it seemed, given their placement and how the grass around and under them.
As the sun moved lower in the western sky, it was time to leave. We decided to split up in town: Aramond and Giovanni would buy tools to open the safe from the smith; and Rip and I would pander to the schoolmaster’s ego in search of information about the named convicts.
On the way into town, however, we came across that same group of little girls, singing a rhyme together:
“Put her body on the bed.
Take a knife and lop her head.
Watch the blood come out the pipe.
Feeds the stirge, so nice and ripe.
Drops of red so sparkly bright.
Splatters spell her name just right.
With a hammer killed his wife.
Now he wants to claim your life.
Tricksy father tells a lie.
Listen close or you will die.”
This is a sick town, really – but the word choice was just too close for comfort, considering the names of the convicts.
I think I was successful in piquing the old man’s interest, and was surprised and dismayed, too, to learn that apparently the sheriff was looking to arrest us all, on the order of the councilwoman who’d suggested that we go to Harrowstone in the first place! We ran into the others in town as we made our way – quickly – back toward Kendra’s house, unsure if we should go there now and possibly endanger her.
Our moment of decision-making was interrupted by the breathless approach of one of the constables, running flat-out from the north toward us. Was he here to attempt an arrest? Not this time, as he ran right past us, red-faced and wall-eyed, shouting something about being attacked in the Restlands – the graveyard. Well, that likely meant more undead, and so we hurried north to lend another hand to these rotten people who wanted to bite that hand, then crush it with a rock.
Without much thought – which was probably a good thing, if we intended to save the sheriff and his men – we ran right into the fray, finding several moldered skeletons and zombies surrounding and making quick work of the townies, while a black and swirling…thing?…floated above them. We each did our part, using what what we had and know, to strike. Giovanni was clearly a target of choice for the floating thing, and took several shots from smokey tendrils that seemed to reach out and into him. The rest of us took care of the walkers and then turned our attention to the cloud-thing, with Rip eventually destroying it with one of his undead bane arrows.
Standing in the midst of the gore and destruction, with two constables horribly injured and the sheriff there, covered in sweat, blood, and by the looks of it his own piss, I could not resist, nor contain myself.
“I suppose you want to arrest us now, right?!” I shouted at the fool. Bollocks on this town and its rotten people, Kendra aside!