Chapter I: And Evils Imminent
Carrion Crown

“Why all this terror?' said he, in a tremulous voice. 'Hear me.. I come not to alarm you; no, by Heaven! I love you too well- too well for my own peace.” – Ann Ward Radcliffe

Story Synopsis

Professor Petros Lorrimor is dead. He died in mysterious circumstances after abruptly quitting his teaching post at Lepidstadt University and moving to the village of Ravengro with his partner Auren Vrood and his child, Fife. Lorrimor's interest in the area was the foreboding and haunted Harrowstone Prison; he's lifelong ambition was to repair damaged spirits, particularly ghosts who are severely damaged in their transformation from living to dead and creation as ghosts. He believed this damage occurred during the transition from Material Plane to Ethereal Plane and thought there might be a way of making spirits whole again without having to resolve their "unfinished business." Vrood's interest in the prison was less philanthropic; as a member of the Whispering Way he was recruited to manipulate Lorrimor into going to Ravengro and extracting a rare ectoplasmic spirit from the prison walls for purposes yet unknown.

One of their very first days studying Harrowstone Prison they extracted a small sample of the ectoplasm; this disturbed the unnatural energy of the prison causing an undead skeleton to rise and killing local farm animals. The skeleton was quickly dispatched but the residents of Ravengro were suspicious of the pair of paranormal investigators and out of caution Lorrimor insisted they slow their research down.

During this time Lorrimor became suspicious of Vrood's behavior. Multiple times he had caught Vrood reading his private letters and going through his possessions. In addition Vrood was insistent that they not slow down any of their research and pressed Lorrimor to extract the ectoplasm. Lorrimor refused to do that until he could be sure what the effects of removing it would be but Vrood was on a time limit - the Whispering Way had plans that required the ectoplasm and one way or another they would get it. It was during this period that Lorrimor wrote to Eivan Vasylyev, an Irrisen expatriate living in Ustalav whom Lorrimor had been sharing a correspondence, and asked Eivan to come to Ravengro. This was partially because he thought a fresh pair of eyes could offer insight he was missing but also act as a buffer against Vrood who was becoming incessant in his pestering. As fate would have it the letter was lost for several weeks in the mail and did not arrive on time.

Eventually the tension between Lorrimor and Vrood came to a head and Lorrimor accused Vrood of trying to steal his research. Vrood found this ridiculous and with a deadline looming over his head he came clean to Lorrimor. He was a member of the Whispering Way, he had been tasked to extract the ectoplasm for their cause. Vrood explained the ectoplasm was going to be extracted with or without Lorrimor's help but that he had grown to care deeply for Lorrimor and wanted him to join their ranks. Lorrimor feeling betrayed threw Vrood out of their house. Vrood knew telling Lorrimor the truth was a gamble but he was sure that Lorrimor could not resist the opportunity to extract the ectoplasm and would come the night of the ritual despite his initial anger.

Vrood left to report back to his leadership; around this time other members of the Whispering Way, including William "the Beast of Lepidstadt" Caromarc, had begun traveling south from Lepidstadt to perform the ritual to extract the ectoplasm from Harrowstone Prison's walls. Lorrimor was torn, he had no interest in joining a cult dedicated to the undead; his life's work had been to repair and undo the damage caused by the creation of the undead. Yet, he could not bear the thought of seeing the ectoplasm destroyed by less skilled hands or having Vrood lost to him forever. Resolved to reason with the cult, Lorrimor left Fife at home and went to Harrowstone Prison. When he arrived he confronted Vrood and the cult, horrified by seeing them force William into service he originally tried to stop them but eventually the cult compelled him by force to extract the ectoplasm for them. "We should have done this at the start." Alexei Bykov scoffed at Vrood, even as Vrood winced in anguish seeing Lorrimor in pain. Once the Whispering Way had the ectoplasm, Bykov used the Slavebond Thrall to order William to kill Lorrimor with a loose stone from the prison walls. Vrood tried to interfere to stop William but was struck and nearly killed himself. William fractured Vrood's hip, giving him a limp and severe nerve damage. Much of the damage has been healed but the Whispering Way decided it was in Vrood's best interest to go without the necessary healing to repair his injured hip. Vrood has needed to use a cane ever since this night. With the spirit extracted the Whispering Way cult disappeared leaving in their wake an impending supernatural disaster for Ravengro.

Fife was not the child Lorrimor had originally presented them as. Fife is a unique construct created from the body of Lorrimor's dead child who died of influenza two years ago. They had essentially been an advanced homunculus and once Lorrimor died their connection was severed. For reasons not yet uncovered Fife lost most of their memories but gained independence and sentience. Vaguely aware that something terrible had happened and that their father was missing Fife alerted the town authorities who found Lorrimor's body at Harrowstone Prison. There were several reports the night Lorrimor died that the Best of Lepidstadt was in the area. Given the footprints of the Beast and the severe head trauma the sheriff wrote the death off as an anomaly and did not investigate further.

Uncertain and alone Fife was advised by the local sheriff and town councilors a quick funeral was best and convinced them to send out invitations to anyone Lorrimor may have known - they likely were hoping someone might take in Fife and they would be rid of all the outsiders for good.

At Fife's invitation, Eivan Vasylyev, Johannes Avercamp, and Frederick Winslow arrived in Ravengro to pay their respects. Despite the dismissive answers from the local authorities, Fife had a suspicion that there was more going on than just a random death by Beast. They implored Lorrimor's friends to look into the matter further.

Eivan et al. began their investigation by going through Lorrimor's journals and found that on the day of his death in a paranoid state he had stashed a bag at a local crypt. At the crypt they found Lorrimor's notes about Vrood's connection to the Whispering Way and Lorrimor's resolve to go to Harrowstone Prison. Next the group went to Harrowstone Prison and determined that it was a thin spot to the Ethereal Plane and that the twisted souls of the former inhabitants had remained stuck there. Long before it was a prison the location was a church of Aroden that was destroyed by Tar-Baphon's forces when he returned to reclaim Ustalav. The prison was built using old stones of the former church and for years inmates and guards alike reported seeing shadowy knights walking the halls.

Harrowstone Prison was destroyed in a fire that killed nearly everyone who resided or worked there including the warden, the warden's wife Vesorianna, the prisoners, and most of the guards. Because of the location's closeness to the Ethereal Plane and the overwhelming evil of the prisoners who died there Harrowstone Prison was flooded with negative energy that longed to break free; however, evil spirits were not the only supernatural remnants of the prison. The warden's resolve to keep the prisoners from escaping lasted even after death and while on the Ethereal plane was drawn to the spiritual energy of a likeminded spirit, a Knight of Aroden who had died centuries before. Their spirits forgetting entirely who they were in life but remembering their duty dissociated into one another creating a unique ectoplasm that bleed into the Material Plane.

For decades after the fire, the warden had been suppressing the spirits of dead guards, prisoners, even his own wife and a long dead Knight of Aroden. This balance was destroyed when The Whispering Way extracted the ectoplasm, effectively exercising the warden from the prison. The spirits of the prison were no longer were shunted to the Ethereal Plane and began to manifest. Taking the warden's place was Vesorianna, she resolved to take up her husband's duties though she lacked the same power he had to keep the spirits from appearing on the Material Plane. Despite her best efforts Vesorianna was unable to keep the evil spirits completely contained and over time they surely would have broken free. Already some of the spirits were possessing locals and undead such as skeletons and poltergeists threatened to harm anyone who crossed their paths. Some saw ghostly visions, the entire town hall was attacked by flying heads, the body of Lorrimor himself rose from his grave and attacked his own friends and family driven to do so by the hateful spirits of the prison.

Eivan had not prepared mentally, physically, or spiritually to rescue a village from the threat of bloodthirsty undead. He was a bookbinder and part time student. He had met the professor while Lorrimor was visiting Irrisen and they had formed a long distance mentor-mentee relationship. Eivan has special abilities that first manifested as a boy when he was attacked by an ice elemental; he can tap into the planes where ice and air meet and conjure torrents of ice. Lorrimor found this connection to the elemental planes fascinating and encouraged Eivan to practice these abilities and to come to Lepidstadt. Eivan had only been in Ustalav a month when two life altering events happened to him. First, he learned Prof. Lorrimor was dead and he left to his funeral. The second was that a force, unseen and unbidden, had chosen to bestow Eivan with arcane powers, many of which he was not strong enough to use or even understand yet. In Irrisen and some witch covens this entity is understood to be a Patron. An entity of unknown power and insight which invests power into their chosen vessel. Why this Patron chose Eivan is still unclear. Its only means of communicating with Eivan is through meditation with a hand mirror belonging to Eivan's mother. While sitting in dark, eyes unfocused, and mind open, Eivan catches faint pinpoints of bright blue light. At times he thinks he sees a dark face with blue glowing eyes staring back at him but the effect dissolves as soon as his eyes focuses - it must just be his own black reflection. Then the insight comes, spell incantations and arcane gestures; for the time being that is enough to settle Eivan's uncertainty about this anonymous Patron.

When Eivan determined to stop the potential reign of terror threatening to roll down the hillside into Ravengro at great personal risk he found the power in himself and from his Patron growing stronger. He did not have training, money, or the type of positive energy typically used to expel spirits. Often times it took brute force or risky ingenuity to avoid death. Yet, he survived these encounters and on the other side of them found himself able to understand and wield spells he had never dared use before. Eventually Eivan et al. were able to destroy every evil spirit that haunted Harrowstone Prison and keep Ravengro safe.

Yet even with the restless spirits of Harrowstone Prison defeated questions remained unanswered: Why did the Whispering Way remove the ectoplasm? What did they plan on doing with it? Where did they go next? What purpose does this serve Eivan's Patron?

The group was left with some leads: Lorrimor had letters from his colleague Professor Christine Belknap in Lepidstadt referencing The Beast of Lepidstadt being seen further south than normal; he also had letters from Steward Embreth Daramid from the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye warning him that his research might draw the attention of the Whispering Way. There also was one letter from Count Caromarc inquiring about the status of their "project" and troublingly the Count has gone missing.

Opening Song

Ending Song