Carrion Crown (GGG)
Some small towns grow up around a university, their shops and other offerings catering to a scholastic clientele. Others boast famous festivals or specialized industries that draw skilled artisans and craftsmen. But in the sad case of Ravengro, the town’s claim to fame is a prison. And not just any prison, for Ravengro supported one of Ustalav’s most notorious jails—Harrowstone. Twice a year, a prison convoy rounded up the worst of the worst from smaller, less secure jails across the principality and transferred them to Harrowstone, often to await death by hanging, but always to live out the rest of their lives as prisoners.Already the home of dozens of notorious criminals, the mid-year prisoner convoy of 4661 ar brought a particularly horrendous batch of criminals all at once. Among them were five particularly notorious convicts: the Lopper, the Piper of Illmarsh, Father Charlatan, the Mosswater Marauder, and even the infamous Splatter Man. Not even Harrowstone was adequately equipped to handle these criminals, and as their execution dates drew near, the Lopper and the Splatter Man, working together, picked their moment and staged a desperate attempt to seize control of the prison and, perhaps, escape.Yet while they managed to turn the tables on Harrowstone’s guards and, for a few minutes, held control of the prison, they did not anticipate an act of self-sacrifice by Harrowstone’s head warden, Lyvar Hawkran. Only a few minutes after the prisoners seized control of Harrowstone’s lower level, Warden Hawkran triggered an emergency deadfall that sealed the dungeon and trapped everyone (including himself and most of the prison guards) within the prison’s dungeon, leaving the only way out a supply lift that couldn’t be activated from the dungeon level. It was via this lift that the Warden and other trapped guards initially thought to escape, but before they could make it to safety, they were overpowered by the rioting prisoners and taken hostage. The prisoners attempted to use their hostages to force the few guards who remained on the floor above to lower the lift, but the guards were too well trained. Even with their warden and most of their friends trapped below, they continually refused to lower the lift—further, they set guards around the lift’s shaft above so that any prisoner who attempted the nearly impossible climb would have to contend with crossbow bolts raining down from above. Eager to avoid sparking a panic in Ravengro, the guards holed up and did a masterful job keeping the truth of the riot contained while they desperately tried to work out a plan. Yet several hours later, after Lyvar failed to return home for his customary dinner, the warden’s wife Vesorianna crossed the prison grounds from her home to the central prison. In their panic, the guards had left the main entrance to the prison unlocked, so Vesorianna was able to enter the prison with ease, only to find it strangely empty. Following the sound of shouting, she came to the training room where the remaining guards were gathered near the lift shaft to the dungeon. When Vesorianna learned from the increasingly frantic guards that her husband was trapped with the madmen below, she pleaded with the guards on the ground level to remove the deadfall and stage a rescue. When they repeatedly refused, she went into hysterics. She managed to dodge the guards, run to the lift’s winch, and throw the release, causing the heavy wooden platform to plummet into the dungeon below in the hope that her husband could leap onto it and be pulled to safety. In actuality, the lift crushed several guards and a few prisoners who had been standing directly below it—the horrified Vesorianna was convinced her husband was among them. Taking advantage of her shock, several guards managed to finally apprehend her and swiftly bustled her off to the prison workshop at the other end of Harrowstone, locking her inside for her own safety.The remaining guards worked frantically to keep the prisoners from escaping—with the lift below swiftly filling with eager prisoners, they couldn’t simply pull it back up. And as other prisoners began climbing the chains that connected the fallen lift to the upper level, the guards grew desperate. Knowing that they were about to be outnumbered by lunatics, they made a fateful decision—they began rolling barrels of lamp oil from the nearby storeroom into the hole, hoping to dislodge prisoners from the lift and dissuade them from climbing. But when one of Harrowstone’s most notorious prisoners, the spellcasting murderer known as the Splatter Man, stepped into view and began using his magic against the guards, desperation gave way to blind panic and one of the guards threw a lit torch into the oil-soaked depths, figuring that if the lift were burned, order would be restored. Unfortunately, the resulting conflagration was much bigger than anyone could have expected. The huge oil slick below caught fire and spread throughout the lower cellblock. The ensuing flames incinerated both the screaming prisoners and surviving guards below, while thick plumes of smoke swiftly worked to suffocate those above. The remaining guards on the ground level fled, only realizing much later to their horror that no one had bothered to release Vesorianna Hawkran from the workshop. The town of Ravengro mobilized to extinguish the fire before it spread, but the damage had been done. One of Ustalav’s most notorious prisons was no more.
Furthermore, she can explain that until recently, the spirit of her husband, trapped so near yet so far in the dungeons below, had contained the ghosts. Yet unsettling visitors—“men and women in dark robes who spoke only in whispers”—came to Harrowstone not long ago and began to work strange magic around the building’s foundations. Unable to leave this room, she was nonetheless able to observe through the walls to the northwest as these strange people inscribed runes along the ground. She also witnessed the sad end of Professor Lorrimor, slain by foul magic wielded by the leader of the black-robed villains — a thin, gray-skinned human who wore a bone breastplate and carried a black staff capped with a skull gagged by a black cloth. The cultists bashed in the dead man’s head and face with a fragment of gargoyle from a roof above in an attempt, she surmises, to make the man’s death seem more like an accident.
Later that night, after they murdered the man, the black-robed cultists finished their ritual. Whatever they did, they did so out of sight of Vesorianna’s view through the walls, but she felt the repercussions immediately. It felt like a horrific storm, yet one with no wind that chilled the flesh. This windstorm chilled the soul—it felt to Vesorianna as if her very being was being pulled apart. Yet the horrific sensation passed in an instant… and when it had, the presence of her husband’s spirit was gone. She can only assume that the black-robed cultists somehow managed to abduct her husband’s spirit, for since that hateful day she’s felt no sign of either her husband or the black-robed cultists.What she does know is that every day since that event, the spirits of the murderers and sadists trapped within the walls of Harrowstone have grown more and more powerful. She knows now that her husband’s presence kept the other haunts in line, and that with his ghost gone, they would have escaped to wreak unimaginable havoc, had she not stepped in to do the job her husband, until recently, had done so well.
While she doesn’t know much about the exact nature of the prisoners, their ghosts, or the dangers to be found elsewhere in Harrowstone, she can feel among the hateful dead five distinct and powerful personalities. She suspects that these correspond to the five most dangerous criminals who were imprisoned in Harrowstone at the time of the fire. If the PCs can defeat all five of the prisoners, and if they can bring to her a symbol of her husband’s office over the prison (his badge of office would work best—Vesorianna suspects it’s hidden somewhere in the dungeons below, along with his mortal remains), she will be able to banish the haunts from Harrowstone entirely. Doing so will release her from this world as well, and will effectively end the haunting of Harrowstone for good.