The Heroes of Ustalav

Chapter 5

Councilman Hearthmount entered the small library where all had gathered for the reading of the will. Some others whom the party had never met came in with him. Kendra seemed less than enthused with them being there. "Please everyone, come have a seat. I made some tea and cakes for you to enjoy while we go through this difficult reading.”

Hearthmount, being a large man, smiled. “Thank you Kendra, and again allow me to extend my sincerest condolences for the passing of your father. Please, all of you, gather around. By law I may only read this document once, then I must meet with you individually if you have further questions.” The councilman pulled a small parchment from his coat and began to read.

“I, Petros Lorrimor, being of sound mind, do hereby commit to this parchment my last will and testament. Let it be known that, with the exception of the specific details below, I leave my home and personal belongings entire to my daughter Kendra. Use them or sell them as you see fit, my child.

“Yet beyond the bequeathing of my personal effects, this document must serve other needs. I have arranged for the reading of this document to be delayed until all principals can be in attendance, for I have more than mere inheritance to apportion. I have two final favors to ask.

“To my old friends, I hate to impose upon you all, but there are few others who are capable of appreciating the true significance of what it is I have to ask. As some of you know, I have devoted many of my studies to all manner of evil, that I might know the enemy and inform those better positioned to stand against it. For knowledge of one’s enemy is the surest path to victory over its plans.

“And so, over the course of my lifetime, I have seen fit to acquire a significant collection of valuable but dangerous tomes, any one of which in the wrong circumstances could have led to an awkward legal situation. While the majority of these tomes remain safe under lock and key at the Lepidstadt University, I fear that a few I have borrowed remain in a trunk in my Ravengro home. While invaluable for my work in life, in death, I would prefer not to burden my daughter with the darker side of my profession, or worse still, the danger of possessing these tomes herself. As such, I am entrusting my chest of tomes to you, posthumously. I ask that you please deliver the collection to my colleagues at the University of Lepidstadt, who will put them to good use for the betterment of the cause.

“Yet before you leave for Lepidstadt, there is the matter of another favor—please delay your journey one month and spend that period of time here in Ravengro to ensure that my daughter is safe and sound. She has no one to count on now that I am gone, and if you would aid her in setting things in order for whatever she desires over the course of this month, you would have my eternal gratitude. From my savings, I have also willed to each of you a sum of one hundred platinum coins. For safekeeping, I have left these funds with Embreth Daramid, one of my most trusted friends in Lepidstadt—she has been instructed to issue this payment upon the safe delivery of the borrowed tomes no sooner than one month after the date of the reading of this will.

“I, Petros Lorrimor, hereby sign this will in Ravengro on this fourth day of Calistril, in the year 4711.

Kendra thanked the councilman and dismissed him, then took a deep breath and addressed the party. “It will take me a week or so to decide what I wish to do with the estate, and based on the requests of my father you will be hopefully staying as well. I offer you my house as your own; you may stay here without worry of payment.” She moved towards the door. “If you will excuse me, I will go and retrieve the chest he spoke of.”

Cal hopped up from where he was sitting. “Please Kendra; let me assist you with the trunk.” He gave a meaningful look to Idris, as if to say, “Hey, trunk full of evil books! We don’t want anything else bad happening today! Also, it’s probably pretty heavy!”

Idris looked towards Kendra. “I’ll come along as well. This is a day of grief for you and you should not have to bear such a burden.”

Alucard jumped forward with much gusto. "Please allow me to get the box! I’ve not had a proper workout yet this day!” From the back of the room they heard a raspy “Gods he’s obnoxious.”

Piper asked, “Kendra, the girl with the haunted fiddle was supposedly from Lepidstadt. The will said your father had friends there. Do you think there is any connection, and what would you have us do here in the next month?”

Kendra stopped at the doorway. “I thank you all for your kindness on helping me, but this is something I must do.” With a half-hearted smile Kendra turned to Piper. "I am truly sorry; my father’s… kept a lot of his business to himself. If he knew her, he never mentioned it. Perhaps if you found a name or something, it might help finding out if he knew her. "Kendra moved out of the room to retrieve the box.

Alucard walked back to the corner of the room where Lucian was standing. “I just wanted to help”, he said with a heavy sigh.

“Don’t worry; the day for you to be a pack mule will soon be upon us.” Lucian said with a raspy chuckle.

Cal spoke to no one in particular, “Is anyone else nervous that she insists on going off alone to get the creepy box full of evil books, or has this day just made me jumpy?”

Piper grinned at Cal, “You’re just jumpy I think. By the way, while you were over helping out, did Father Grimburrow mention that girl’s name? It seems too coincidental that she showed up with a haunted fiddle the day Petros is buried.”

“That’s what I was telling this guy!” Cal jerked a thumb at Idris. "The good father is not the most… talkative… of fellows, and to be fair, he had many wounded to attend. It may be worth a visit back there later to see what he knows.

“I would also like to question our friend the Councilman to find out what he knows of the elven girl and when she’s to be sent back to Lepidstadt. Since there are so many of us, I wonder if some of us could accompany her safely back to the asylum and see what they know, and also talk with the professor’s colleagues at the University. The rest of us could remain here with Kendra, assuming that doesn’t violate the conditions of the professor’s will.”

Piper brushed a stray hair from her eye. “He was a grumpy old cuss, wasn’t he? He wasn’t very nice to that poor girl either. How far away is Lepidstadt from here? Could we make it in a day? I don’t know, it felt like, at least from the reading of the will, that we were all required to stay here in town. I would be curious to find out more about the girl too though. I would like to accompany you to talk to the councilman. Seems much more exciting than reading a bunch of dusty old tomes.” She paused. “Are we going to read them?”

She turned to address Lucien. “You should be nicer to your brother. He was only trying to be polite.”

Cal nodded at Piper. “Yes, Lepidstadt is about 100 miles north of here, I believe. You are probably correct that we cannot leave before the month is up. Once Kendra returns, we can go see the Councilman and Father Grimburrow. And no, I’d strongly advise against reading the books. Strongly.

Idris listened intently to the conversation before speaking. "We should stay here in Ravengro, at least for the time being, and seek the truth. There is some evil at work, and we have all seen the danger it poses to the townsfolk here. It is no coincidence that these events occurred today, on the day Petros was laid to rest, and finding answers may lead to Lepidstadt but there is danger here, and now, that we need to protect the townsfolk from.

“Or at the very least, I must. I know not what seas your hearts sail nor what stars guide your souls, but I for one must stay.” And with that, Idris looked away, is if at an imaginary horizon full of adventure as a stray breeze gently blew back his hair. The smell of lavender filled the room.

“Piper, Luc didn’t mean anything by it other than typical brotherly banter.” Alucard replied.

Before Alucard could continue he was cut off. “Lucian! I told you; it’s Lucian! Don’t call me that common sounding drivel or you’ll be no better than those back home! I, um, well, yes, uh, I think I would like to accompany you when you talk to the father about the elven girl. If it’s okay with you all and Kendra, I’d like for Alucard and myself to take care of her until we can bring her back to Lepidstadt. I have friends at the University that should be able to offer her better care than the asylum. As for the books I have to agree with Cal, testing the limits of the professors artifacts is not a risk I’m willing to take again.” As he said this he subconsciously rubbed his face underneath his mask.

Piper rolled her eyes. “Still, you shouldn’t let him speak to you like that.” After Lucian’s rant over his name she stared at him, at a loss for words, then shook her head and held her tongue.

Kendra returned with a medium sized wooden crate. She placed it on the center table in front of the companions. She then pulled an Iron key from her pocket and handed it to Cal. “He left instructions for you to have this.” Kendra then stepped to the back of the room, quietly watching.

The box had two latches and was about 3ft tall by 3ft wide. There were leather straps which also secured it as well as a large pad lock in the center rung.

Cal stepped forward, somewhat nervously eyeing the chest. He released the leather straps and unhooked the two side latches. Then with a small sigh he inserted the key into the lock and turned it. The center latch popped free, and Cal opened the chest. Piper leaned forward, peering over Cal’s shoulder, breathless in anticipation.

As soon as Cal started to open the chest, Lucian ducked into a dark corner and looked as though he was bracing for impact. Alucard on the other hand was standing right next to Piper, trying to peer into the crate like a kid opening a present on Christmas morning.

Within the box were several old tomes and one relatively new one. The newest tome sat on the top and bore the phrase “Read me now!” scratched into the leather cover. Cal closed his eyes and concentrated on detecting any arcane auras coming from the books, specifically the newer one.

Mindartis, shorter than most of the others and unable to see, pushed his way in between Cal and Idris. As the lid of the chest opened, he peered under it and started to reach in. Idris, as if he could see this coming, snatched Min’s hand away from the chest before he could touch the contents, and gave him a disapproving look. “Look with your eyes not with your hands.” Mindartis frowned but took the cleric’s advice and turned his attention back to the chest.

Piper’s hand nearly collided with Min’s as she reached in to grab the book, "This one on the top says “Read me now”! We really should…" she stopped mid-sentence as Idris’s hand came down to smack Min’s. She looked up at the cleric as if she had something more to say, but the opportunity was lost as Cal completed his spell and picked up the journal. Satisfied, Piper leaned back to listen to Cal’s reading.

Detecting no magical aura on any of the tomes, Cal picked up the small, leather bound book that appeared to be a journal. After looking over the inscription on the cover, he opened it and began to read aloud.

Ten Years Ago:
The Whispering Way is more than just a cabal of necromancers. I see that now. Undeath is their fountain of youth. Uncovering their motivation does not place me at ease as I thought it might. Their desire to be eternal simply makes them more dangerous.

Two Months Ago:
It is as I had feared. The Way is interested in something here in Ravengro. But what could it be?

One Month Ago:
Whatever the Way seeks, I am now convinced their goal is connected to Harrowstone. In retrospect I suppose it all makes sense. The stories they tell about the ruins in town are certainly chilling enough. It may be time to investigate the ruins, but with everyone in town already so worked up about them, I’d rather not let the others know about my curiosity. There’s plenty of folks hereabouts who already think I’m a demonologist or a witch or something. Ignorant fools.

Twenty Days Ago:
It is confirmed. The Way seems quite interested in something- no, strike that- someone, who was held in Harrowstone. But who, specifically, is the Way after? I need a list of everyone who died the night of the fire. Everyone. The Temple of Pharasma must have such a list.

Eighteen Days Ago:
I see now just how ill-prepared I was when I last set out for Harrowstone. I am lucky to have returned at all. The ghosts, if indeed they were ghosts (for I did not find it prudent to investigate further) prevented me from transcribing the strange symbols I found etched along the foundation. Hopefully on my next visit I will be more prepared. Thankfully, the necessary tools to defend against spirits are already here in Ravengro. I know the church of Pharasma used to store them in a false crypt in the Restlands at the intersection between Eversleep and the Black Path. I am not certain if the current clergy even know what their predecessors have hidden below. If my luck holds I should be able to slip in and out with a few borrowed items.

Seventeen Days Ago
Tomorrow evening I return to the prison. It is imperative the Way does not finish. My caution has already cost me too much time. I am not sure what will happen if I am too late, but if my theory is right, the entire town could be at risk. I don’t have time to update my will, so I’ll leave this in the chest where it will be sure to be found should the worst come to pass.

As he finished reading the professor’s journal, Cal pondered for a moment. Then he turned to the professor’s daughter. “Kendra, what did you know of your father’s investigations into this Whispering Way? And, please forgive me, may I ask how he died?”


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