PART 2: FROM FORT ENDURANCE TO HOMMLET (Coldeven – Flocktime 578 CY)
[Part 1 here]
2.1 Rest and recovery at Fort Endurance (Coldeven 8th – 14th)
Our intrepid adventurers—Erik (the mountain dwarf fighter from the Lortmils), Althaea (the high elf wizard from the city of Tringlee), and the brothers Godric (the human rogue from the Barony of Shiboleth) and Cedric (the human cleric of St. Cuthbert)—spend several days resting and recovering at Fort Endurance. During this time Cedric begins to teach the Draconic tongue to Althaea. Godric earns a couple of gold pieces by gambling with his special “lucky” cards.
The merchant Gareth Owlfeathers approaches the party in The Hideous Hydra during the evening of the 12th. Gareth explains that he is a merchant employed by the Gnomish trading house Zacklington Jewelry and Exotic Goods (based in Hookhill). While travelling from Hochoch through the Dim Forest he was waylaid by brigands. Sadly, most of the merchant’s goods were lost along with his two guards. However, Gareth escaped with some gems in his backpack, which he still hopes to still deliver to Zacklington. He now is looking for some doughty warriors to protect him over the remainder of his journey. Since the party has to travel in that direction anyway, after some discussion they agree to guard Gareth for the fee of 50 gold coins each.
2.2 Treachery en route to Hookhill (Coldeven 15th – 21st)
The party sets off for Hookhill with Gareth Owlfeathers on the morning of the 15th. After a day’s travel the group reaches the edge of the Dim Forest. Gareth mentions a campsite nearby used by regular travellers, and the group sets up camp there for the night.
Shortly after midnight the party is ambushed! The wererat Illyana Tatranova seeks revenge—and is in league with the duplicitous Gareth Owlfeathers! Two other brigands join in the ambush. Gareth reveals that he is a spell-user and launches an acidic chromatic orb at Althaea. Illyana utters some eldritch words at Godric, but her enchantment apparently fails. In response, Althaea blasts Illyana with some magic missiles. Godric stabs Illyana with his magical dagger of radiant energy. But it is Cedric who manages to finish off the malevolent lycanthrope with a bolt of holy energy. Gareth is rapidly slain as well, and the two remaining ne’er-do-wells flee into the darkness.
The groggy Erik rolls out of his sleeping sack only once the conflict is over.
The party recovers two symbols of Syrul (one bronze and one iron) from the corpses of Illyana and Gareth. They also find a silvered dagger and another dagger with an opal in its pommel. Althaea places Gareth’s battered spellbook into her backpack for future study.
[Symbol of Syrul]
The party completes the rest of their journey to Hookhill without incident, arriving on the 21st.
2.3 Hookhill to Thornwood (Coldeven 24th – 28th, Growfest festival [7 days], Planting 1st)
While staying at The Bored Basilisk in Hookhill, the party is approached by a charming half-elf. Sporting navy blue clothing, a grey cloak, and a closely trimmed blond beard, the half-elf introduces himself as Everetto. He claims to be associated with the Order of Istus of Bissel and produces the holy symbol of Istus—a golden spindle—in support of this claim.
[Istus and her golden spindle]
After buying the party a round of drinks (to the delight of Erik), Everetto explains that he has learned of their recent visit to the ruined Shrine of Istus from a travelling merchant. He asks the party for information concerning the shrine’s precise location. In return for this information, Everetto will give the party a set of maps that cover the Flanaess, as well as five rough cut diamonds (which he claims are worth about 100 gold coins each). So charismatic is the half-elf that the party readily agrees. Afterwards, Everetto produces a lute and sings the “Ballad of the Rain of Colourless Fire” for those assembled in the common room. At the end of the song there is not a dry eye in the place, and Cedric exclaims, “What a great guy—I really respect him!”
The following day the party visits the Zacklington Jewelry and Exotic Goods trading house. There they meet with Zack Zacklington, the gnomish head of the mercantile operation. Zack explains that he has no knowledge of Gareth Owlfeathers. The party sells two of their diamonds to the gnome for 50 gold pieces. Althaea and Erik purchase some silk rope, while Godric obtains some studded leather armour. Althaea also purchases some ink and paper and spends some time transcribing the spell “Silent Image” from Gareth’s spellbook into her own. She then tries to sell Gareth’s spellbook but finds no buyers in the town.
The party plans the next stage of their journey. Godric asks Erik about travelling through the Lortmil Mountains via a dwarven route in order to save time. Shame-faced, Erik confesses that he has been exiled from the clans there, and so the party must travel along the highways instead.
During their journey to Thornwood (the capital of the March of Bissel, also known as “Littlemark”) the party passes a dozen mounted Knights of the Watch.
2.4 Thornwood to Veluna City (Planting 1st to 15th).
Despite being the capital of Bissel, Thornwood is not much more than a fortified town. The party plans to spend little time there. Nonetheless, Erik discovers that the inn, The Tears of Luna, serves a potent liquor with the same name. Moreover, the innkeeper—the halfling Aldwin “the Tall”—mentions that the inn will offer free room and board for three nights to anyone who can drink six “tears” and walk in a straight line for four yards. Confident that he can succeed in this task, Erik chugs down the tears, begins to walk, and immediately stumbles about. Despite this blow to his pride, the dwarf is delighted with the drink and purchases a bottle for later “practice.”
After a couple of days of rest the party leaves the town, travelling along the highway that connects Thornwood to Veluna City. En route the party joins a band of pilgrims, followers of Rao (deity of peace, reason, and serenity) who are journeying from Keoland. Rao’s formal holy symbol is a heart-shaped mask with a calm expression, and is worn Brother Dolphus, a pale Suel priest from Niole Dra. The other pilgrims wear simple white hearts crafted of wood.
[Symbol of Rao]
The party, and especially Cedric, learn more about Rao from the pilgrims, primarily from the erudite Brother Dolphus. According to the holy book of the followers of Rao—The Word of Incarum—in ancient times humans respected the wisdom and reason of Rao. Alas, the “Dark God” came and tempted humans with false promises. Rao took away the light of his soul when humankind turned away from him, and the world was plunged into darkness. Some humans repented, however, and Rao gifted the moons Celene and Luna to the peoples of Oerth to light their way during the night and to help guide them away from darkness and evil. Rao then sent his celestial champion, Incarum, with the Crook of Rao to drive away the fiends of the “Black Sun” (the Dark God). Rao returned the light to the day, but according to The Word of Incarum, true peace will not come until there is a night when neither moon appears in the sky.
Since Rao is an ally to St. Cuthbert (and, according to some legends, transported Cuthbert from another world to Oerth in ancient times), Cedric is keen to learn from Brother Dolphus. In return for a copy of The Word of Incarum, Cedric gives Brother Dolphus one of his copies of St. Cuthbert’s Sayings of the Wise Foole.
On the 15th day of Planting (the month that the Elves call “Blossoms”) the party reaches Veluna City.
2.5. Veluna City to Verbobonc (Planting 15th – Flocktime 2nd)
Veluna City is part of the Archclericy of Veluna, a theocracy devoted to Rao. It also is the largest city that the party has visited hitherto during their journey. Althaea finally succeeds in finding a buyer for Gareth Owlfeathers’ spellbook; she earns 400 gold pieces from the sale.
During an evening at The Purple Worm inn and tavern, the party is approached by a hill dwarf with rosy cheeks, a broad smile, and bright purple hair. The dwarf introduces himself as Yorvick, the “Master of Riddles.” He offers the following wager to the party. He will ask them seven riddles: for each riddle the party answers correctly, he will give them one gold coin; for every riddle that the party fails to answer correctly, the party will give Yorvick one gold coin. Moreover, Yorvick offers to gift the party a magical electrum ring if they manage to answer all seven riddles correctly.
Temped by Yorvick’s offer and confident of their collective wit, the party accepts. To the dismay of the purple-haired dwarf, the party succeeds in answering all seven riddles! The dwarf glumly turns over seven gold pieces along with the electrum ring. The ring has etched upon it the image of a shooting star or comet. Althaea casts “Identify” on the ring and learns that it grants the wearer darkvision. The rogue Godric accepts the ring, as it no doubt will prove to be a boon for his roguish endeavours.
The party then leaves Velnua City and spends the next thirteen days walking the well-travelled highway to Verbobonc. They arrive on the first day of “Flocktime” (which the Elves call “Violets”).
[Electrum Eel # 31. Temple of St. Cuthbert # 41]
The capital of the Vicounty of Verbobonc, the city of Verbobonc is even larger than Veluna City. The party stays at the inn The Electrum Eel [#31 on the city map] a famous—or perhaps infamous—hang-out of adventurers and sailors. While enjoying the service of the innkeeper Flavus, the party meets two mercenaries who recently have travelled from Hommlet: Gurth, a sturdy swordsman, and Twick, a tall but skinny archer. Erik buys several bottles of expensive Celenese green wine and shares the drink freely with the grim mercenaries. In response to this generosity, Gurth and Twick convey the following bits of information:
· “The mercenary Zert is staying at the Inn of the Welcome Wench. He is between jobs, and his sword arm is for hire. He seems like a decent chap.”
· “Some great beast is stalking travellers along the High Road. Travel it with caution!”
· “Burne and Rufus are nothing but lackeys for the Crown of Verbobonc. Once they complete their castle—'Burne’s Folly’—they will reveal their true motivations, and the village will be under the thumb of Verbobonc’s despotic rule.”
· “Travellers give wide berth to the Ruined Moathouse. They report strange noises and lights at night. Perhaps that forsaken ruin is haunted!”
The party thanks Gurth and Twick for this information (but are uncertain as to how reliable it is).
On the second day of Flocktime, Cedric and Althaea travel to the Temple of St. Cuthbert in Verbobonc [#41 on the city map]. As a member of the Church, Cedric succeeds in gaining an audience with Bishop Haufren. Cedric explains his dreams of a rising evil, his visit to the Shrine of Istus, and his current journey to Hommlet. The Bishop is impressed with Cedric’s story and writes a letter of introduction for him to Canon Terjon. In addition to seeking out Terjon once they arrive in Hommlet, the Bishop recommends that Cedric contact the wizard Burne, who is a member of the Church. The Bishop also gives Cedric and Althaea four potions of healing to help them in their fight against evil.
Satisfied with their meeting, Cedric and Althaea return to The Electrum Eel. The party prepares to set out for Hommlet the next day.
2.6. Verbobonc to Hommlet (Flocktime 3rd – 5th)
The party departs from the fine city of Verbobonc during the early morning of the 3rd day of Flocktime (“Violets” according to the Elves). There is a light rain, but the weather otherwise is mild, and the party makes good progress. Godric and Erik take the lead, walking fifteen feet ahead of Cedric and Althaea. The day passes uneventfully, and the rain stops by the evening.
Midway through the following day (the 4th) the party spots a man lying on the road ahead. He appears to be badly wounded, with a bandaged head, and gestures limply at the characters, seemingly imploring them for assistance. While Cedric wishes to run to the man’s aid, his brother tempers his zeal and proposes scouting ahead first. Althaea agrees and proposes using her “message” cantrip to communicate with Godric after a few minutes to learn what he has found.
Stealthily maneuvering behind several trees off the road, Godric sneaks ahead of the group for about 40 yards and discerns four bandits hiding on platforms within the trees around the man lying on the road—no doubt ready to ambush any considerate travellers. Godric communicates this information back to Althaea, who in turn tells Cedric and Erik.
The party moves into action. Godric ambushes one of the bandits, while Althaea and Cedric target others with their spells: magic missile and holy bolt. Erik moves forward to the man lying on the road. Realizing that his ambush has been undone, the man on the road gets up and attacks as well.
Suddenly a large troll appears out of the trees and gestures menacingly at Godric! It is hit by a holy bolt from Cedric and disappears—thereby revealed to a mere illusion, much to the party’s enormous relief.
The bandits eventually are slain by the party, but Erik is held motionless by some kind of spell. Apparently, there is a mage amongst the bandits. With the death of the others, though, the mage seems to disappear—indeed, he or she is never spied by the party. There are signs, though, that the mage was not human, as his platform was much smaller than those of the other bandits. Althaea suspects a gnomish illusionist, although there is no evidence to rule out a halfling of dwarf (or perhaps goblin or kobold). In any case, the party recovers some coins from the bodies of the brigands.
On the body of the brigand who had attempted to lure the party into the ambush, Godric discovers an odd item: a smooth stone with the image of an eye and teardrop on it.
Weary and somewhat battered from the fight, the party makes camp. Worried about the mysterious spellcaster from the ambush, Althaea casts “Alarm” (as a ritual) to help protect the party as it rests. A light rain falls as the sun sets.
The next day the party attempts to track the spellcaster but fails. They cautiously continue their journey.
Near dusk of the 5th day of Flocktime the party reaches—at long last—the Village of Hommlet.