As they wait out the remaining days of the required period of Professor Lorrimor’s will, the group takes some time to piece together what happened those many years ago at Harrowstone Prison. Combining what they have learned from the days of research, listening to local rumors, their time spent with Vesorianna, and some carefully worded questions to the spirit planchette, the Heroes of Harrowstone are able to work out the details and make reasonable guesses to fill in gaps in the story:
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. The mid-year prisoner convoy of 4661 AR brought an especially 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 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.
Left to rot in his cell in The Nevermore, Professor Hean Feramin, the Splatter Man, carefully hid from the guards the fact that, thanks to his Spell Mastery feat, he could still prepare a few spells each day, even after losing his spellbook. Hean was smart enough to know that once he revealed his ability to still cast a few spells, the element of surprise would be lost. He refrained from using his spellcasting directly as a result, and the guards, thinking his lost spellbook rendered him nearly helpless, didn’t monitor his activity as closely as they should have.
Using his vastly reduced spell selection and good old-fashioned trickery and diplomacy, he scrounged together enough spell components and resources to put into action a daring escape plan by recruiting the aid of the prison’s strongest and most violent murderer—the man known as the Lopper.
Working with components and resources smuggled in to him with his food and taking advantage of the near total solitude that imprisonment in Nevermore afforded, the professor was eventually able (after much trial and error) to concoct a single potion of levitation at the bottom of his oubliette. Trusting the Lopper to act according to his nature, Feramin summoned a small air elemental late one night and instructed it to ferry the potion to the north, passing through the two portcullises and avoiding detection by the guards by flying slowly and quietly near the ceiling, eventually delivering the potion down into the northern oubliette and into the Lopper’s hands.
The Lopper, Vance Saetressle, had malingered for months at the bottom his cell in the Oubliette with two broken and poorly healed legs, a result of the “simple justice” of being dropped into the pit by the prison warden after a number of bureaucratic complications kept pushing back his expected date of execution. When the Splatter Man’s potion was delivered to the Lopper by the summoned air elemental, he waited until just before his daily feeding before he drank it. He floated up to the edge of his oubliette above, and when Gurtis Vortch, the guard captain, came to dump the day’s food into the pit, the Lopper was there to ambush him. He grabbed Vortch through the bars of his oubliette’s grating and pulled him prone, then deftly disarmed the guard of his sword and, with a few expert cuts, decapitated him. After fishing the keys to the oubliette’s lid out of the still twitching body’s belt pouch, the Lopper was free. He quickly released the other prisoners from the nearby cells, and the growing distraction was enough to allow the Splatter Man to stage a similar coup to the south.
The riot was soon in full swing as the prisoners within the lower dungeon of Harrowstone were released and they were quickly overpowering the guards positioned in the lower chambers. Of course, not all of the prisoners were swept up into the violence and excitement. The mad dwarf known as the Mosswater Marauder had little interest in rioting or, indeed, in escaping Harrowstone. Once he was freed from his cell in the northern wing, he overpowered two guards and a prisoner and holed up in the Captain’s Office after the other prisoners had looted everything usable from the place. The Mosswater Marauder killed his victims, extracted their skulls, then proceeded to pick up his grisly goal where he left off—attempting to find the correctly shaped fragment among the skull shards to finally repair his wife’s fracture.
For a brief time, the prisoners held control of the prison, but 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.
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, ran to the lift’s winch, and threw 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 throwing crates and barrels of supplies, including the prison’s supply of lamp oil, from the nearby storeroom into the hole, hoping to dislodge prisoners from the lift and dissuade them from climbing. But when 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 could 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 quickly mobilized to extinguish the fire before it spread, but the damage had been done. Ustalav’s most notorious prison was no more.