Fate of the True Empress

Chapter 3-2: An End to the Haunting

The poltergeist is the spirit of a man bounded in a haunted straitjacket, his corpse bundled up behind a cell, and the malevolent spirits in the jacket is also summoning the other vengeful spirits to the scene. Gabyrs manages to sneak up to the corpse, and releases the catch on the jacket. The jacket slips off the corpse, and then immediately begins to try to latch onto Gabyrs! The rogue twists out of the way, and the jacket falls onto the floor, inert.

The spirit that is freed appears to the party, and advises them to check out the workshop. There the ghost of Arinaa* Hawkran appears, and explains to the party what has happened. When the riot happened, she slipped into the prison to find her husband, and went into hysteria when she learnt that he was trapped downstairs. The guards, for her safety, locked her into the workshop. When the prison went up in flames, the guards escaped and in their apparent haste, forgot about Arinaa.

For the past few decades, her husband had been keeping the spirits of Harrowstone in check; however his influence was weakening, till one day (she’s not sure when, for according to her, "Time has no meaning for me, today flows into yesterday, yesterday into today, all the days are the same unto me.), a young scholar entered the prison ground and performed a ritual. Then she felt the ‘wall’ that kept the vengeful spirits at bay strengthening.

However, a few days ago, a group of strange men appeared at Harrowstone, and walked about its edge, inscribing runes onto the ground, their preparation leading to a ritual, which at its end, whisked away the spirit of her husband, Warden Hawkran. With her husband gone, the restraint placed on the spirits began to weaken, and even though Arinna does her best to fulfil her husband’s duties, she isn’t strong enough.

Koaxia the Cleric wants more than just keep the spirit at bay; he wishes to exorcise them for once and for all. Arinna tells them of a way – the five strongest spirits in the prison are contending against her will, and if the party is able to defeat them, and bring Arinna a symbol of the Warden’s power over the prison, she would be able to cleanse Harrowstone of its curse. The party decides that this is a sound plan.

Arinna informs the party that the properties of those five prisoners are locked away in the Property Room, and there they may find the means to defeat them.

To be continued

Finding the Keystone

Speak with Items

Songs from an Ill Marsh

Contrary Clockworks

Putting Back the Pieces

Catch Me If You Can

The Last Spells of the Splatter Man

A Mystery Man and His Bone Dragon

Notes
1. In the original Harrowstone adventure, the Warden’s wife has a much longer name. Her name acts as a sort of ‘timer’ – if the Splatter Man manages to spell out her name on the vandalised monument (back from 3.1), the spirits will be free. Originally her name is Vesorianna, which gives the party about 10 days to unravel the mystery. But my party is too experienced (in terms of character, and in terms of playing RPGs!) to let things drag that long. Hence the shortening.

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Chapter 3: The Haunting of Harrowstone, session 2

GM’s note: Text that are in italics means additional detail added which may be helpful for context and wasn’t go into during the game itself. Those details will be clarified at the start of the next session…

With the funeral finished, the party returned to Kendra’s townhouse. Lannor arrived with Yassar, a ranger and bounty hunter, and said Artimus sent Yassar because he thought that the party would need help. “And it’s must be very bad if Artimus actually sends help,” she finished, before leaving.

Gibs
Shortly after the burial of Professor Petros, there was a commotion among the townsfolk where it was discovered a monument dedicated to Warden Hawkran and the prison guards were vandalised. Someone has drawn the letter ‘A’ in blood on the monument.

Alexius remembered that there used to be a certain Professor who thought someone’s name can be harnessed for magic, and that whoever did the act is within 10 miles of the town. Koaxia decided to go the temple to determine who was responsible for the vandalism. He sent Yassar to obtain material components from the apothecary. A lady’s name Jomindar, she initially refused to sell the ingredients for the rituals as she insisted that she only sell merchandise with “medicial properties only”. Yassar managed to convince her. With the material components, and a liberal usage of Spirit of the Righteous, Koaxia discovered that it was an old man with a limp, who sleepwalked up to the monumental and vandalised it. Yassar later conducted investigation that concluded it was Gibs. The next night they convinced the sheriff to stake out

The Unfurling Scroll
Tracking the lost report, Gabrys made his way the Unfurling Scroll, and there he discovered three of the Reavers’ men at the school-house. Together with Hayate and Sethren (with Kendra hanging back), they took down those men and from questioning Aludren, found out that those men were here to kidnap the children. Sensing that Aludren was not telling the complete truth, Gabyrs and Hayate pressed on the questioning and unearthed that he was once laundering money for the Reavers’ gangs, and decided to wash his hands off and moved on. The Reaver suspected that the man is holding onto a ledger from 10 years back but Aludren denied him. Hayate found it in the principal’s room. While there, Hayate also craved a symbol of the Merchant Prince at Aludren’s compound to protect him. Who’s to know if this act is for good or for weal.

The Will
On the second night at Ravengro, the party had Petros’ will read to them. He entrusted the party with a number of rare and valuable books, and the key to his trunk. Opening the trunk, the party discovered that Petros’ journal was left in there. In circled entries in the journal, Alexius and Sethren realized that the professor has used a Keystone fragment for a warding ritual at Harrowstone Prison, to keep the restless spirits in. He was intending to return to the prison to find a permanent solution to the spirits when he met his end at some individuals who were performing nercomantic rituals near there. The will also mentioned a cache of items at a False Crypt in the graveyards. The party found those cache, but were attacked by Corpse-Eater Centipedes.

Researching Harrowstone
Interesting details unearthed:

  • Five important prisoners were at Harrowstone before the fire happened. They are – the Splatter Man, he Mosswater Marauder, Father Charlatan, Illmarsh Piper and the Looper.
  • Warden Hawkran and all his guards perished in the fire. When his wife, Arianna went to find her husband at the prison, she never returned. It’s believed that she died there too.
  • The Piper was believed to have a flute that was enchanted by the Fey
  • The Splatter Man can be damaged if his spellbook is damaged in his presence (nearby range)
  • The entire eastern wing of the prison has caved in from the fire.

To Harrowstone
On the way to Harrowstone, the party was trapped in a pocket dimension in the swamps. The personification of the ritual is a Hydra, which in the end succumb to the party’s onslaught. At Harrowstone, Yassar investigated a burnt-out manor house, and it happened to belong to the Warden. Inside the crumbling building, Yassar found a portrait belonging to Hawkren and his wife, Arianna. Yassar managed to get it out before the building collapsed. They hid it somewhere safe.

Inside Harrowstone, the party encountered a type of ghosts called Whisperers. They managed to quell the restive spirits. In the warden office, Gabrys found a safe which has 6 healing potions and a pouch of 500 gold, which should be the payroll. There’s a register of guards inside the safe too.

The party was exploring the infirmary when a poltergeist appeared…

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Chapter 3: The Haunting of Harrowstone, session 1

A week has passed since comprehending the murderer of the Underforge. Lannor, a mage who specialized in transportation magic and act as the role of messenger and liasion, delivered a few messages to the party who are resting at the Red Hammer tavern. Professor Petros Lorrior, one of their friends, mentors and their “go to person” for all things arcane and weird, sent word that he knew where to find a piece of the Keystone.

However, the message arrived a week late, and Lannor had another piece of news about Petros – he was dead, and the party were all somehow included in the late Professor’s will. He had retired from his post as a Professor of Death Magic (teaching how to counter Death Magic, more specifically) and went back to his hometown of Ravengro, but died from an accident.

Lannor also gave two pieces of intriguing news to the party. Thanks to the haul found in Riss’ lair, Lorehaven is now able to detect the magical signatures of the Lorekeepers. The Watchers have found two cases when a ritual requiring significant magical energies belonging the Lorekeepers were performed. A minor one was performed 30 years ago, and a major one just 5 days ago.

As Petros died 5 days ago, and his burial will be the next day, Lannor arranged for the party to travelled by cargo train to Ravengro. While on the train, clockwork golems ambushed the party. One of the golems head off to engineer’s cabin to derail the train (or worse), and Hayate and Gabyrs gave chase on the rooftop. Koaxia attempted to wrestle a huge Clockwork Golem but failed. Learning that the golem self-destructed upon being incapacitated, Sethren, Alexius and Koaxia wrestled the train compartment door open and pushed out the large clock golem before it explodes. Upon destroying the rest of the golem, the party realized that golems were built by House Cannith.

Upon reaching Ravengro, the party find the place to be insular and unwelcoming to strangers. Ravengro used to provide a prison known as the |Harrowstone Prison and it was rather infamous, as all type of notorious criminals were sent there to be tried and then executed. It burnt down 70 years ago due to a prisoner’s riot, and everyone who was in the prison perished. Koaxia was warned by Father Grimburrow, a priest of the Goddess of Graves and Births, Pharasma, not to breach the topic. He kept emphasizing that there no uprising of undeads or such.

They met Kendra, the Profesor’s daughter, and learnt that as part of the burial rites, they would have to be the pallbearers. Upon questioning Kendra on Petros’ death, the party learnt that he was found near Harrowstone, his head smashed in. The sheriff that led the search party believed that the Professor was killed by a falling gargoyle.

Suspecting Petros’ lawyer, Alexius conducted investigation into him but found him to be clean. Gabrys chanced upon an old contact with the Judge back when he was a triple agent – Shandar. She is now a council woman of the town. Gabrys went to see her (after donning a convincing disguise) and persuaded her to give him leave to search the town’s archive for anything concerning the prison. Gabrys was looking for what happened just before the fire at the prison. He got a reference to the document, but the document was missing, and the town hall was closing then.

Meanwhile, Koaxia befriend Zoltan, the owner of the Laughing Demon tavern, while eating Vampire Stakes (it’s a beef steak with toothpicks stuck into it). From rumours, the townsfolk believed that the prison was haunted.

At night, Hayate and Gabrys were investigating the Professor’s office when the sleep-walking old servant walked into the room. In a moment of carelessness and bad luck, Hayate stepped on a spilt ink pot, waking her up. Gabrys knocked her out, and planted her next to a young chap in the inn.

The next day, while the party was bringing the coffin to the burial grounds, a group of farmhands, local thugs, labourers and such led by an ex-solider, Gibs, stopped the group. They believed Petros to be a necromancer, and wanted to run off the party so that they could dump the coffin downriver. Sethren rebuked them, decrying their attempt to deny burial. Koaxia implied that they would have to face Father Grimburrow’s wrath if they persist in holding up the funeral and Alexius pointed out that they did not have the slightest idea on how to deal with the body of a nercomancer. That last thing he said may come back and haunt him later.

Gibs stomped off in anger, and the remaining mob dispersed. Father Grimburrow was shocked at what happened and was appreciative that no one was hurt. Sethren gave a moving speech about what a friend Professor Petros was, and that it was a shame that his many good deeds in fighting the Undeath went unnoticed and misunderstood.

The townsfolk’s attitude towards the party is now friendly.

Notable NPCs

Father Grimburrow, priest of Pharamsa (Goddess of Graves and Birth)
Councilwoman Shanda
Councilman Gharen
Zoltan, Tavern Keeper of the Laughing Demon
Kendra Lorrior
Petros Lorrior
Lannor, Messenger and Travel Magic Specialist
Gibs, disgruntled ex-solider

Important Lore

Prison of Harrowstone

Important Clues

Golems – was manufactured by House Cannith. Likely to be activated in the train by the two horsemen trailing it.
Shanda – Has a letter allowing Gabyrs to search the town archive
Town Archive – Gabrys was looking for anything significant before the fire 50 years ago and found reference to a file.
Lawyer (Gharen) – Alexius investigated Gharen and found him to be quite ‘clean’ besides the usual scandals.
Zoltan – Friendly with Koaxia
Hayate – Found a warding ritual against undeath when searching the Professor’s study
Father Grimburrow – Remembered Koaxia, warned about bringing up Harrowstone casually among the locals

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Previously, on 13th Age

Session 1, The Darkest Hour (Village of Andra)

Artimus, the party’s liaison with the True Empress , charged the party to investigate the where-abouts of a group of his friends tasked to renew one of the Empress’ Node of Power. The party travelled to the sleepy village of Andra and discovered that it has been overran with ghouls. They managed to find a group of survivor holed up in a chapel belonging to the Silver Sun, and learnt that the disappeared party intended to go down to the crypt.

Along the way, the party picked up the journal belonging to the disappeared party, learning that a nefarious artifact known as the Soul Star was interned nearby too. The star grants it wearer control over the Grave Wurm, which could quickly digest dead bodies and expel them as ghouls. Heading down to the Crypt, the party discovered Mormegil, a champion of the Dragon Tyrant, had the Soul Star. However, Mormegil was an egomaniac, and the Soul Star, an item of the Damning Chaos, amplified that trait. The Paladin, Sethren, took advantage of that and challenged Mormegil to a one-on-one duel, while the Rogue (Gabrys, among his other many names), faded into shadow, search the looted crypt and found a spike laced with paralysis potion. Catching Mormegil unaware, Gabyrs attacked him unaware, freezing him momentarily, long enough for Sethren to unbuckle the Soul Star from Mormegil’s chest.

Immediately, the Grave Wurm was freed, and its wrath fell upon Mormegil. The worm was slain by Mormegil, and the party had no problems taking down the already exhausted warrior. He was bind and delivered over to Artimus.

Session 2, The Bonesaw Man (Arkios, City of Towers)

Artimus explained why Mormegil was at the Village of Andra. The crypt hid one of the Empress’ Nodes of Power. Those Nodes channel magical energies to those who control them, increasing the potency of rituals performed in their name. As Vjantos and Aegis were ‘sibling’ Empires, both coming from the same source, they each housed each other Nodes – also a precaution in case one Empire decided to invade the other.

After the Frostfell, an event where several white stars dropped from the sky and smashed into the capital and many provinces of Vjantos and created a vast tract of magically twisted wastelands, many of the Empress’ Nodes were lost and were unclaimed, or otherwise unmaintained. The Dragon Tyrant seeks to convert those nodes to his cause, so that he would could crush the Empress one and for all.

No one knew where are the Empress’ Nodes within Vjantos, but an ancient order called the Lorekeepers did. They were scholars, wizards and sages dedicated to the safe-keeping of arcane secrets of the Aegis Empire, and they were persecuted by the Mad Emperor (incidentally, also the Last Emperor and the current True Empress’ great-great-grandfather), so they disbanded and fled.

They did not wish their stronghold, the Lorekeep, to fall into the hands of the Mad Emperor, or into any other opportunists, hence they destroyed the Keystone, a magical tablet which when used with a Teleportion Portal, could allow one to their stronghold.

Artimus had one piece of the Keystone, and a contact of his, a Sanjorian called Jamar, had it. Jamar was a servant and his employer was a descendant of one of the Lorekeepers. The fragment came to Jamar when his master passed, and Jamar was going to hand it over to Artimus.

However, upon arrival, the party met Viktor, an Inquisitor affiliated with the Judge. There had been a series of murders – 14 in all, targeting only Sanjori. Each of the victim had various body parts missing – arms, torsos, legs and the like. Sethren, being Viktor’s ex-partner, was charged with solving the crime (for 90% of commission, of course). Unfortunately, it turned out that Jamar was the 14th victim, and there were clues indicating that the murderer took Jamar’s fragment of the Keystone. The party’s investigation was hampered by Slogar of House Cannith, who owed the foundry where all the victims worked at.

After questioning the locals and gathering clues, the suspicion eventually fell on Riss, a nervous and tense Sanjorian who was a healer and field surgeon. Tracking Riss to his lair, the party discovered that Riss had been building a flesh golem out of those body parts, imbuing it with the power of the Damning Chaos. The party defeated the golem and Riss, recovering the Keystone.

When agents of Lorehaven came to clean out Riss’ lair, they made off with many books and scrolls detailing the Lorekeepers’ rituals. How did Riss come by all this?

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