Scheduling demanded we play Carrion Crown on Wednesday this week. The third consisted of Annie (Grift), the Dan (Darius Carfax St. James), a Dan (Sir Horace Gunderson), Toby (Solis and his eidolon Gia) and Tyler (Alexandros Callimachi); Hunter ran herd as GM.
Reconvening with the false tomb robbers at stately Lorrimor manor, Darius and Grift share the information they learned from the archives at the temple of Pharasma about the fire at Harrowstone prison, how warden Hawkran and guards died keeping the prisoners from escaping.
A knock at the door reveals Zokar Elkarid delivering provisions for the scullery. Solis takes the opportunity to inquire about the emotional state of the village after the confrontation at the funeral and its cause. Zokar allows it may have something to do with the manor of the professor’s death, having been crushed by falling masonry out at the abandoned prison. No one really visits Harrowstone according to Elkarid, except teenagers taking the “Harrowstone dare.”
“Mr. Wizard? All right…”
“It’s better than Bill Nye, magic guy.”
— Toby, Hunter and a Dan
The group seizes the opportunity for a guided stroll into Ravengro. Elkarid points out sites of civic interest: homes of citizens of note, the notice boards, his own tavern the Laughing Demon and other places. They come across the Harrowstone memorial to those who died in the fire. Solis inquires about the warden’s wife, Vessoriana, and her involvement, but Zokar doesn’t have anything much to say — which is a similar reaction to when Grift wonders if he knows anything about the Whispering Way, besides the name of the Whispering Tyrant.
With all the splendors of downtown Ravengro before them, arcanists Grift and Solis make a beeline for the Unfurled Scroll, Ravengro’s ye olde magick shoppe. They meet the proprietor Allendru, who somehow makes a living selling minor magic scrolls in a farming community that no longer supports a charred wreck of prison. He also happens to have a tome of exceptionally indecipherable content that he hoped to sell to Professor Lorrimor before the accident, which brings Darius to the counter as well, his bookhound’s nose sniffing the air furiously.
“Ravengro doesn’t have a wizarding academy?”
— uncertainty about how Allendru passes his days
Solis attempts to discern something of the tome’s dweomer. The best he can make out is it carries the mark of transmutative and necromantic energies. While the text itself is not legible by anyone on hand, the book happens to fall open to the diagram of an arm in the process of dissection. This piques Sir Horace’s interest curiously, of all possible parties. Perhaps in light of such evident interest in the book, Allendru declares he can’t possibly let it go for less than a thousand gold pieces. Solis extracts a commitment that the mage won’t sell the book to another customer without at least allowing them the opportunity to counter the offer.
Further conversation with Allendru about Harrowstone and the Whispering Way provoke very different reactions. Blase about the prison fire — after all, it was fifty or so years ago — he does recall that the prisoners had seized control of the lower level, in which they had been sealed with the warden and guards. The fire came about from the guards trying to retake control. Allendru strongly refuses to entertain any discussion of the Whispering Way on his premises.
The tour of Ravengro continues with the town hall. Callimachi makes casual conversation with a clerk, yielding a surprising amount of detailed information about the Whispering Way and their practices. Conducting research in necromantic magic and haunted locations, the members seek to raises the Whispering Tyrant. The Way’s members pass on their teachings only via whisper. Their secrecy extends so far as to destroy the mouths of deceased members, so they cannot give up their secrets through spellcasters treating with the dead.
Darius’ ears prick up at that last fact, prompting him to inquire about Lorrimor’s manner of death. The falling masonry just so happened to crush his head, conveniently obliterating his mouth and speaking-related apparatuses.
From there, the adventures make the rounds of Elkarid’s tavern, the Laughing Demon and the village blacksmith, a dwarf of considerable skill. The Laughing Demon’s board of fare is stuffed to the gills with corny names for dishes — as Elkarid believes the best way to deal with a grim world is to keep laughing — like “corpse stew” and “liquid ghost” ale. From the smith, Solis acquires a short bow, to better utilize the magic arrows from Lorrimor’s cache.
“I admire the way you take advantage of the grieving process. I’m going upstairs right now.”
— one con artist to another
Their business concluded, the group returns to the Lorrimor home, finding Kendra returned from her own doings. Grift bats his eyes real pretty-like and mentions to Kendra there’s a thousand gold piece tome at the Unfurled Scroll that her father would have bought. Before Solis can even interrupt to propose a slightly less ruinous plan, Kendra signs off on using household funds to buy the book.
Solis turns his attention to the remaining as yet unidentified items recovered from the false crypt. The crossbow bolts are sovereign against spirits. Darius and Alexandros split the five bolts as best they can.
Horace focuses on the spirit board. He badgers people in turn to take up the brass planchette. Callimachi refuses to truck with spiritualism. Darius steps up to the challenge. He rests his hands on the planchette and asks to whom he is speaking. The archivist’s body seizes, his eyes glow white. The planchette slowly spells out “H E A N F E R A A” before Darius is released from the possession and is literally knocked out of his chair.
Inner reflection and outer discourse reminds the group that is most of the given name of the Splatter Man, one of the notorious prisoners at Harrowstone, a scholar obsessed with anthroponomastics. Emboldened by the promise of more information, Grift takes up the spirit board while Darius stumbles away with a handkerchief to nose, in search of brandy.
“Who killed Lorrimor?” the youth demands as the spirit takes control of his body. The board replies “W H I S P E R I N G W A Y” before ejecting him similarly.
Solis’ turn at the board reveals that not all of the five inmates of Harrowstone died in the fire. With no more takers for a seat at the spirit board, everyone elects to retire for the evening.
Except Grift. He takes a side trip to the scullery for a midnight snack. Passing through the kitchen, a bundle of papers catches his attention. They’re the rubbings taken in the graveyard the day prior. Shuffling through them, Grift shrieks in fright, loudly enough to bring the whole house running.
“How did you know my real name?” he demands, brandishing the sheaf wildly.
“As I am, so shall you be.”
— smug epitaph
When Horace flips through the rubbings brandished in his face, he can’t find one with Grift’s name on it. Solis and Alexandros both aver there were no headstones with Grift’s name when they took the rubbings as part of their deception.
Disquieted by this unsettling occurrence, the household breaks up and retires for the evening.
 The Dan came this week bearing the happy-sad news that come April, he will move away to take up a new profession. It’s a tremendous bummer, because he’s a hell of a role-player and all around neat guy, but there are few jobs that suit someone like him quite so much as this particular one.
 There was a great deal of discussion about how a village of 310 souls could support two magic shops — the other being the apothecary and his alchemical preparations, I suppose.
 This is about when I start wondering how anyone knows what happened in Harrowstone, if they all died in the fire. And why was Mrs. Warden, Vessoriana, in the prison at all?
 I didn’t have to work at all for that information. It was one of those moments where everyone rolls a check because they happen to be in the room, regardless of who’s been talking to any non-player characters — or if specific characters were introduced at all.
 +1 ghost touch bolts, as it happens.
 Also known as Hunter reminded us of the man’s actual name, because all anyone recalled were the colorful, pro wrestling-like appellations: Splatter Man, Marshwater Marauder and so on.